You may know me best as Meredith Nic Essus, princess of
faerie. Or perhaps as Merry Gentry, Los Angeles private
In the fey and mortal realms alike, my life is the stuff
royal intrigue and celebrity drama. Among my own, I have
confronted horrendous enemies, endured my noble kin’s
treachery and malevolence, and honored my duty to
royal heir—all for the right to claim the throne. But I
turned my back on court and crown, choosing exile in the
human world—and in the arms of my beloved Frost and
While I may have rejected the monarchy,
cannot abandon my people. Someone is killing the fey,
has left the LAPD baffled and my guardsmen and me deeply
disturbed. My kind are not easily captured or killed. At
least not by mortals. I must get to the bottom of these
horrendous murders, even if that means going up against
Gilda, the Fairy Godmother, my rival for fey loyalties in
But even stranger things are
Mortals I once healed with magic are suddenly performing
miracles, a shocking phenomenon wreaking havoc on
human/faerie relations. Though I am innocent, dark
suspicions of banned magical activities swirl around
I thought I’d left the blood and politics
in my own turbulent realm. I had dreamed of an idyllic
in sunny L.A. with my beloved ones beside me. But it
time to wake up and realize that evil knows no borders,
that nobody lives forever—even if they’re magical.
The smell of Eucalyptus always made me think of Southern
California, my home away from home; now it might forever
entwined with the scent of blood. I stood there with the
strangely hot wind rustling through the high leaves. It
my summer dress in a tangle around my legs, and spread my
shoulder-length hair in a scarlet web across my face. I
grabbed my hair in handfuls so I could see, though maybe
being able to see would have been better. The plastic
pulled at my hair. They were designed so I didn't
contaminate evidence, not for comfort. We were surrounded
a nearly perfect circle of the tall, pale tree trunks. In
the middle of that natural circle were the bodies.
The spicy smell of the Eucalyptus could almost hide the
scent of blood. If it had been this many adult human-
bodies the Eucalyptus wouldn't have had a chance, but
weren't adult-sized. They were tiny by human standards,
tiny, the size of dolls; none of the corpses were even a
foot tall, and some were less than five inches. They lay
the ground with their bright butterfly and moth wings
as if in mid-movement. Their dead hands were wrapped
wilted flowers like a cheerful game gone horribly wrong.
They looked like so many broken Barbie dolls, except that
Barbie dolls never lay so lifelike, or so perfectly
No matter how hard I'd tried as a little girl, their
remained stiff and unyielding. The bodies on the ground
stiff with rigor mortis, but they'd been laid out
so they had stiffened in strangely graceful, almost
Detective Lucy Tate came to stand beside me. She was
a pants suit completewith jacket and a white button-up
that strained a little across the front because Lucy,
me, had too much figure for most button-up shirts. But I
wasn't a police detective so I didn't have to pretend I
a man to try to fit in. I worked at a private detective
agency that used the fact that I was Princess Meredith,
only American-born fey royal, and back working for the
Detective Agency: Supernatural Problems; Magical
People loved paying money to see the princess, and have
hear their problems; I'd begun to feel a little like a
show until today. Today I would have loved to be back in
office listening to some mundane matter that didn't
need my special brand of help, but was just a human rich
enough to pay for my time. I'd have rather been doing a
of things than standing here staring down at a dozen dead
"What do you think?" she asked.
What I really thought was that I was glad the bodies were
small so that the trees covered most of the smell, but
would be admitting weakness, and you didn't do that on
rare occasions you got to work with the police. You had
be professional and tough or they thought less of you,
the female cops, maybe especially them.
"They're laid out like something from a children's
down to the dancing poses and the flowers in their
Lucy nodded. "It's not just like, it is."
"Is what?" I asked, looking at her. Her dark brunette
was cut shorter than mine, and held back by a thick band
that nothing obscured her vision, as I still fought with
own hair. She looked cool and professional.
She used one plastic-gloved hand to hold out a
plastic-wrapped page. She held it out to me, though I
not to touch it even with the gloves. I was a civilian,
I had been very aware of that as I walked through all the
police on the way to the center of all this activity. The
police were never that fond of the private detective, no
matter what you see on television, and I wasn't even
Of course, if I'd been human they wouldn't have called me
down to the murder scene in the first place. I was here
because I was a trained detective and a faerie princess.
without the other wouldn't have gotten me under the
I stared at the page. The wind tried to snatch it from
hand, and she used both hands to hold it steady for me.
was an illustration from a children's book. It was
faeries with flowers in their hands. I stared at it for a
second more, then looked down at the bodies on the
forced myself to study their dead forms, then looked at
"They're identical," I said.
"I believe so, though we'll have to have some kind of
expert tell us if the flowers match up bloom for bloom,
except for that our killer has duplicated the scene."
I stared from one to the other again, those laughing
faces in the picture and the very still, very dead ones
the ground. Their skin had begun to change color already,
turning that bluish-purple cast of the dead.
"He, or she, had to dress them," I pointed out. "No
how many illustrations you see with these little blousy
dresses and loincloth things, most demi-fey outside of
faerie don't dress like this. I've seen them in three-
suits and formal evening wear."
"You're sure they didn't wear the clothes here?" she
I shook my head. "They wouldn't have matched perfectly
without planning it this way."
"We were thinking he lured them down here with a promise
an acting part, a short film," she said.
I thought about it, then shrugged. "Maybe, but they'd
come to the circle anyway."
"The demi-fey, the small winged fey, have a particular
fondness for natural circles."
"The stories only tell humans not to step into a ring of
toadstools, or a ring of actual dancing fey, but it can
any natural circle. Flowers, stones, hills, or trees,
this circle. They come to dance in the circle."
"So they came down here to dance and he brought the
clothes?" She frowned at me.
"You think that it works better if he lured them down
to film them," I said.
"Either that or he watched them," I said, "so he knew
came down here on certain nights to dance."
"That would mean he or she was stalking them," Lucy said.
"If I go after the film angle, I can find the costume
and the advertisement for actors for his short film." She
made little quote marks in the air for the word film.
"If he's just a stalker and he made the costumes, then
have fewer leads to follow."
"Don't say he. You don't know that the killer is a he."
"You're right, I don't. Are you assuming that the killer
"Should we be?" she asked, her voice neutral.
"I don't know. I can't imagine a human strong enough or
enough to grab six demi-fey and slit their throats before
the others could escape or attack him."
"Are they as delicate as they look?" she asked.
I almost smiled, and then didn't feel like finishing it.
"No, Detective, they aren't. They're much stronger than
look, and incredibly fast."
"So we aren't looking for a human?"
"I didn't say that. I said that physically humans
do this, but there is some magic that might help them do
"What kind of magic?"
"I don't have a spell in mind. I'm not human. I don't
spells to use against other fey, but I know there are
stories of magic that can make us weak, catchable, and
"Yeah, aren't these kind of fey supposed to be immortal?"
Our Past Week of Fresh Picks