The sound of shrill ringing roused Janice from her sleep. Groaning, she fumbled her hand over her nightstand until her fingers found the cool, rectangular object that was her phone. Opening one eye, she squinted at the number and once she saw who was calling her, she was immediately wide awake.
"Commissioner Alistair," she said, sitting upright. "There's been another murder."
Janice knew this was a fact. Commissioner Alistair wouldn't have called Janice unless there had been another murder. Now that she was on this case, he couldn't leave her out.
Commissioner Alistair grunted gruffly in confirmation. "The call just came in thirty minutes ago. I'll text you the address, be here in twenty."
Janice hung up, then hopped out of bed, heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth and try to tame her hair as quickly as humanly possible.
As she was coming out of the bathroom—tying up her hair because she couldn't tame it this quickly and a bun seemed like the best way to go—her phone dinged, alerting her of the message from Commissioner Alistair.
Janice picked up her phone, staring at the address in horrified disbelief. She knew that address. She knew it all too well.
Janice pulled up to Club Rose de sang with feelings of intense suspicion and wariness. She could hardly believe that someone had been killed at the club she had been in the night before. She had probably seen the killer, probably looked right at him.
Her hands tightened on the wheel as she parked her car.
Or maybe it was Aiden. Maybe he somehow knew a way to kill these girls without getting caught. Janice had seen it happen before. The rich killed just as often as the rest of the world did. The only difference between people with deep pockets and the rest of the world was that the rich could afford all the necessary resources to make their murders disappear.
Janice stepped out of the car, already aware of the dozen of reporters that were arriving just as she was. This time when the officers—who were standing in front of the yellow tape to block the on-lookers—raised the tape immediately for Janice.
Janice looked around at the nightclub, surprised to see how different it looked in the daytime. The air of...something other she had felt last night was gone, replaced by some strange sense of calm. It was like whatever had caused the menacing air last night had evaporated and was gone.
Commissioner Alistair was standing at the right side of the bar, talking to an annoyingly familiar face.
Warily, Janice made her way over to them, eyeing Aiden the way a gazelle might eye a lion. He looked even better in the daylight. Rays of sunlight streamed in through the windows and shone on his hair, making it look almost blonde. His skin was paler than Janice remembered noticing last night, the deep shadows under his eyes were more pronounced, almost like being awake right now was draining him. Probably, it was because he had been up all night with his cult of women and hadn't been able to sleep.
Still, no matter how beautiful he was or how fragile he looked right now, Janice couldn't shake the fact that there was something not quite right about Aiden Mercier.
"Commissioner," Janice spoke up, calling attention to herself once she was close enough.
Both men turned to face Janice. Commissioner Alistair looked weary but partly happy to see Janice. Aiden's eyes widened in surprise for a moment, before an oddly accepting look came across his face, almost as if he were thinking, "Of course she's with the feds."
"You're a cop," Aiden spoke up when Janice was standing by Commissioner Alistair's side. "Why am I not surprised?"
"I'm not a cop. I'm a freelance detective," Janice corrected him.
Aiden raised one perfect eyebrow. "You're Janice Cooper?"
The disbelief in his tone irked Janice in ways that were dangerous for the club owner.
"In the flesh," was her simple answer as she grit her teeth, desperately trying to keep from pummeling his face until he became less attractive.
Commissioner Alistair, who had been looking back and forth between Janice and Aiden, finally spoke up.
"You two know each other?"
"I was studying the files last night and came to the conclusion that all of the girls came here before they were killed," Janice explained, tearing her gaze away from Aiden to focus on the Commissioner instead. "Aiden came up to me. We talked, I left." She turned to Aiden again, this time eyes him suspiciously, her eyes narrowing as she said, "And after I left, apparently a girl ended up dead in your club. Murdered, to be more specific."
Aiden's face became smooth, expressionless.
"I don't know what you're implying, Miss. Cooper, but if you think I had anything to do with what happened to that girl, you're wrong."
And then Aiden turned to Commissioner Alistair.
"I have to do damage control," he spoke to the Commissioner, looking at him and avoiding Janice's heavy stare. "With a body found in my club, it can be bad for business. I'll be in the backroom,"—he gestured up above them where Janice could see a room with glass surrounding it overlooking the club—"if you need me. I'm willing to help any way I can."
Then Aiden turned and, with such grace that Janice felt her mouth fall open slightly, he made his way upstairs, heading into the room and disappearing inside.
"Were you able to find anything while you were here?" Commissioner Alistair wondered, calling Janice's attention to him. "Our detectives realized that girls went missing after they came to Club Rose de Sang, just like you did. They weren't able to find anything, though. Did you?"
Janice sighed and shook her head.
"All that I gathered from this club was that there was sort of a weird atmosphere, but you and I both know you can't book killers based on atmospheres."
Commissioner Alistair nodded once, sighing a little as if he wished this case were as easy as that. He began leading Janice toward the bathrooms which were located at the far left of the club. Surprisingly, it was the male bathrooms that were warded off with yellow tape.
One of the officers standing by handed Janice and Commissioner Alistair gloves before opening the door and letting them through.
The bathroom was unexpectedly nice. Janice expected cracked floors and dirty urinals which was kind of typical for most male restrooms. Instead, this restroom was clean. The walls were a polished dark marble, the urinals were all shiny and the stalls completely cleaned. The body lying in the middle of the bathroom made no sense among the beautiful scenery. A pretty dark-skinned girl—a girl because she was clearly no older than eighteen—was lying face down in a pool of her own blood. The red making a surprising contrast against the white floors. Her face, which was turned to the side, was visible and it was clear that she, too had her eyes stolen like the others. Blood flowed from the spot where her eyes should be and had dried on her probably once soft cheek.
As Janice knelt beside the girl's body, she could see two barely visible prints and the slightest indent of teeth between the two points. Dried blood flowed from the wound and it was all Janice could do to not shout at something. This killer had claimed another life and she had been here. She couldn't stop the guilt she felt as she wished she had stayed longer.
As she surveyed the girl's body, she looked up at Commissioner Alistair who was staring down at the girl with an annoyed disapproval, no doubt wishing he had been able to save her in time. The same thing Janice wished.
"Was her blood drained, too?"
Commissioner Alistair nodded in answer to Janice's question, sighing.
"Forensics swabbed for DNA, but there's not going to be any. You know as well as I do, this son of a bitch doesn't leave any trails. Only that he picks his victims here."
"In Club Rose de Sang. Aiden Mercier's club," Janice mumbled.
Commissioner Alistair could hear the tones of doubt in Janice's voice and raised his eyebrows in question.
"You don't trust Mr. Mercier?"
"After all the things I've seen, Commissioner, I don't trust anyone."
"Well, you'd better not let him hear you say that. His father owns half of London, his mother owns half of France, and now that he and his brothers are in New York, they've taken this place by storm."
Janice couldn't hide her mild surprise at hearing he had brothers. She wondered idly if they were every bit as beautiful as he was, but she doubted it. Aiden Mercier's beauty was one of a kind.
She shook that thought off, though, turning her thoughts back to the matter at hand.
"Have you looked at security footage?"
Commissioner Alistair nodded once. "I looked it over after I examined the body. I assume you'll want to see it before we take the footage in for evidence."
"You assume right."
Commissioner Alistair and Janice left the body behind. Janice allowed herself to take one more glance back. She could see another dark brown-skinned woman in this girl's place. Holes where her eyes should be, body cold and her face slack with death.
Janice shook it off and followed Commissioner Alistair up the flight of stairs that led to the glass office the overlooked the club. Commissioner Alistair knocked twice, waiting for Aiden to murmur it was okay for them to come in before he pushed the door open.
The first thing Janice did was take in her surroundings. The room was neat, but Janice had expected as much. From what she'd seen of the club so far, Aiden Mercier liked to keep his surroundings neat. It's decorated with high-end furniture, mostly in a gold and white theme. There's a large oak desk in the corner of the room, most likely where Adrien took care of all his paperwork.
And the man himself was facing Janice and Commissioner Alistair with raised eyebrows, a drink in his hand. He had his back to his desk but was leaning against it, almost like he needed the support.
The fact that he somehow managed to look like he was heading to a photo shoot in the middle of a murder investigation was mind-boggling to Janice. Not a lock of caramel colored hair was out of place, his eyes—like frozen emeralds—somehow smoldered as they stared straight at Janice. He was incredibly pale, though. Janice wondered how she hadn't noticed that before and then she remembered she had been far too distracted by the rest of his beauty to take note of the color of his skin.
Now that she gazed at him, she saw his flawless skin was very, very pale. There was a flush of color in his cheeks, the only proof that he was alive, but honestly, Janice had seen corpses with more color to them.
"The security footage," Janice spoke up, trying to distract herself from the way it felt to have his gaze on her. "I need to see it."
Aiden's gaze slid down Janice's body slowly, appreciatively. He made a humming noise and drank slowly, his eyes lingering a little too long on her chest.
"What will you give me for showing the footage to you?" He asked, his voice like a seductive purr.
For a moment, Janice was flustered. She was surprised at being so flustered as it had never happened to her before. Commissioner Alistair was the one who broke the flustered silence, though, saying, "With all due respect, Mr. Mercier, it's very important that Miss. Cooper sees that footage. This is a murder investigation after all," while looking back and forth between Janice and Aiden.
Janice got ahold of herself at the Commissioner's words and snapped back to the matter at hand, chastising herself for being flustered during a time like this. She forced herself to see the image of a young woman who had meant the world to her without eyes, drained of blood. Then, she forced herself to see all the other women that had been stripped of their lives, too. That steadied her.
She glared at Aiden, annoyed. Janice didn't know how the hell he had managed to fluster her of all people, but she knew she couldn't let it happen again. She had been flustered last night and because of that, she had let her guard down. Her broken defense had resulted in a young girl being killed last night. Too many lives were at stake here.
Aiden, seeing the seriousness on Janice and the Commissioner's face, sighed slightly and pushed off of the desk, setting down his drink.
"Follow me," he instructed, brushing past them brusquely.
Aiden led the Commissioner and Janice back down the small flight of stairs toward a door located near the far left of the club, almost hidden from the dance floor, the bar and the areas that had been littered with people when Janice had been here earlier. Reaching into the pocket of his coat, Aiden fished out a pair of keys and slid said keys into the lock. He twisted it and the door opened, revealing a room covered with monitors that all displayed different parts of the club. There were four people inside, two men and two women. Their uniforms led Janice to believe that watching the security footage was their job.
There were two other cops in the room, too. Most likely, they were there to ensure that Aiden's staff didn't tamper with any evidence. As Janice, the Commissioner and Aiden filed into the room, the door behind them shut with a soft click, alerting Janice it was a door that locked automatically. Probably, the door was to keep out drunk clubbers who wanted to hook up and mistook this door for a janitors closet or something.
"Mr. Mercier," one of the women exclaimed, straitening herself up in her seat. The expression on her face was that of a woman who clearly wanted in a guy's pants. She nudged the other woman who was already sitting up straight, focused solely on Aiden.
Aiden gave them a smile and the two women looked about ready to melt into a puddle on the ground. Janice couldn't help but feel annoyed. Then, she was annoyed that she was annoyed.
"We're here to review the footage from last night," Janice spoke up, her voice sharp. "Pull it up, please."
One of the male workers slid his chair back to his work station and began typing away at his keyboard. Janice walked to stand over his chair, crossing her arms over her chest and narrowing her eyes in concentration as the footage came up.
There was a lot of dancing, drinking and making out going on but nothing incriminating. And then, Janice saw the victim come into the club. She was beautiful. Her dark skin glowed over the yellow dress she wore, making it seem like the color had been made just for her. Her thick, natural hair was twisted intricately away from her face and her makeup was very natural, save for the obvious highlighter on her cheeks.
The girl was moving toward the bar, pushing her way through the crowd. Nothing of interest really occurred at the bar, just the girl ordering her drink, her drink being sat in front of her, her drinking said drink and gazing around the bar. Her movements reminded Janice a lot of her own movements that same night. The girl was looking for something, for someone.
Then, Janice watched as the girl seemed to spot someone. She got up out of her seat, walking quickly toward the other side of the room, her face bright. Janice watched as one of the other cameras showed her walking into the men's room before showing nothing.
They all waited and waited but the camera showed nothing. No one came out of that bathroom. Not the girl or any guys. It was only about thirty minutes later that a guy went staggering into the bathroom, staying only a couple minutes before he rushed back out, clearly yelling for help.
The male worker paused the security footage right as the Commissioner spoke up.
"There's no footage of anyone entering that bathroom," he spoke, grimly. "The cameras didn't catch anyone except for our victim. Whoever that guy was, she knew him."
No one spoke after that. The air in the room was heavy with tension as the gravity of this situation really soaked in. And try as hard as she might, Janice couldn't shake the fact that Aiden Mercier knew more than he was letting on.