Law and Murder (Fright Court #2)

By: Mindy Klasky

Fright Court Series - Book 2

Chapter One

As the clock struck midnight, I watched Judge Robert DuBois drink from a steaming chalice of blood.

What? That’s not the way you start your work day?

After seven months as the Court Clerk for the District of Columbia Night Court, I should have been ready for the bailiff to call the courtroom to order. I should have expected the trapdoor to slide back in the courtroom’s marble floor so the defendant could be brought up from the underground holding cells.

But nothing really prepares a girl to come face to face with the vampire defendant who tried to drink her dry.

Okay, so, I’m not really a “girl.” I’m a twenty-seven-year-old woman. A card-carrying supernatural sphinx.

And no. They don’t actually give you a card.

Whatever. I was a sphinx, bred for generations to serve and protect vampires. But I’d only been informed about my otherworldly status eight months earlier, when my ancient Egyptian breeding had barely sufficed to save me from a vampire criminal mastermind intent on killing me. At least when push came to shove against the silver bars of a cage, I’d discovered I was a pretty bad-ass fighter.

So I’d lived long enough to see Maurice Richardson—vampire gangster extraordinaire, scourge of five centuries, most wanted supernatural creature in the entire Eastern Empire—take his seat at the defendant’s table in Judge DuBois’s courtroom.

My heart was hammering in triple time. For the record, a rapid-fire pulse is definitely not a recommended survival strategy with a bunch of bloodsucking fiends hanging around. Even if the courtroom is lined with specially hired security guards, intended to keep the unusually large crowds under control. I consciously tried to calm myself, touching my fingertips to the hematite bracelet that circled my right wrist.

The most virulent vampire in the history of the world actually looked a little like Moby-Dick. Richardson was swamped by his baggy white prison uniform. His feet were shoved into filthy flip-flops, and his ankles were bound by the silver chains required of all vampire defendants. In light of his particular flight risk, he wore silver handcuffs, too. A plain white handkerchief was draped over his hands, protecting his bare flesh from the corrosive metal. In theory, the cotton cloth would fall to the ground if he lurched to sink his fangs into a victim, and the pain of the silver would drop him in his tracks until the bailiff got him in line.

Great theory. I fully intended to keep my distance.

Judge DuBois banged his gavel three times, the sharp reports sounding like silver bullets firing from a gun. The formality was unnecessary. Every single person in the courtroom was already silent. We had ringside seats to the trial of the century, and no one wanted to miss a word.

The judge directed his obsidian eyes to Richardson’s lawyer. “Your opening statement, counselor?”

Werner Brandt rose beside his client. The salamander’s voice was grave as he proclaimed, “Your Honor, we have one small housekeeping matter before we begin.”

Judge DuBois scowled. His blood cordial had automatically expressed his fangs, and he hissed as he countered, “Yes, Counselor?”

“At this time, defendant asks that all potential witnesses in this matter be excluded from the courtroom. In particular, we request Sarah Jane Anderson be removed from the premises.”

There went my heart rate again. But that seemed like a perfectly reasonable response when hundreds of eyes swiveled toward me. There were basilisks and dragons, naiads and chimeras, centaurs and gargoyles, all staring at me as if I were the most exotic creature they’d ever seen, inside or outside of a zoo.

I barely managed to stand before I snapped out a response to Brandt’s outrageous demand. “Your Honor, I shouldn’t have to remind Mr. Brandt that I am here in my official capacity as Court Clerk for the Eastern Empire.”

The salamander’s sparking eyes narrowed. “Your Honor, no one should have to remind Ms. Anderson that the Court Clerk’s primary responsibility is distributing cover sheets to attorneys. In the clerk’s office. Not the courtroom.”

Actually, the clerk’s primary job was managing tens of thousands of files, providing reliable organization and storage to both the humans who used the DC Night Court and the supernatural imperials who relied on the Eastern Empire.

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