Det. Jack Barlowe closed the email from the Galway Gardaí when his desk officer knocked on his office door. He waved the young man into the room.
“Detective, you’ve got a visitor,” he said. Leaning on the door jamb, he whispered, “she’s hot.”
“Thank you for coming downtown, Ms. Dolan.” Barlowe frowned as Iona stepped around the blushing officer. “Please excuse Carter, he’s an idiot.”
Iona took the offered chair, sitting across the desk from Barlowe. “I wanted to help find out what happened to my uncle Liam.”
Barlowe studied the young woman, trying to find a crack in her carefully constructed armor. “Yes, about that.”
He swiveled his chair around to a desk printer, and grabbed a copy of the email he was reading when she arrived. Opening a manila file on his desk, he spread out more report pages, then cast his gaze on Iona.
“I contacted the authorities in Ireland, hoping to get some background on Liam Dolan.” He tried to make eye contact, but Iona was staring at her clasped hands, held tightly in her lap. “Dolan was an only child. His parents are both dead, there’s just a distant cousin living in Cork. There’s definitely no niece.”
Iona remained still.
“What I don’t understand is, what’s your game?” Barlowe slid the printout across the desk. “Dolan didn’t have any money, nothing of value. Why the charade?”
Without picking up the paper, Iona leaned in to read the report. Sitting back, she silently berated herself for her sloppy work. Being nearly dead dulled her thought processes, and she made a potentially lethal mistake.
She had to make this decision with only her gut impression of the detective.
“Do you believe in the bogeyman?” Iona took the leap. “Do you believe that there is true evil in this world?”
“I’ve seen a lot of bad people, do a lot of very bad things,” Barlowe said. “Yes, I do believe in evil.”
Pointing to his reports, Iona punctuated several points, stabbing at the paper with a well-manicured finger tip.
“According to an emergency room full of doctors and nurses, when Dolan was brought in, he was alive. The two EMTs said he was talking to them in the ambulance on the ride to the hospital. He was babbling, but talking. The Old Man who hit him, swore Dolan walked into traffic, and another half a dozen witnesses at the scene backed up his account of the accident. Then Aldridge insisted that all forensic indications say Dolan was dead at least 24 hours before he was brought in.”
Barlowe shrugged, “I can’t explain that, not yet.”
“It’s not Dolan you should be looking at, it’s the doctor who worked on him.” Iona closed the file folder. “Dolan was already dead.”
“A bogeyman?” Barlowe asked. “You expect me to believe Dolan was, what… a zombie?”
Iona laughed, a deep, throaty siren song. A sound that convinced Barlowe he could believe anything she told him.
“Not something as ridiculous as a zombie,” Iona laughed again. “No, he was a host for a human parasite. Dolan, and now Dr. Marshall Payne, for want of a better term, were possessed by a body snatcher name Quentin Renalt.”
All the air was sucked out of the room, and Barlowe struggled to find his voice.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Abigail Merrick, and I need your help to capture Renalt.”