Kitty Goes to War Page 22

I shrugged. “I didn’t say it was easy. Look, you have a lot to think about. I’d like to come back and talk some more. Maybe bring a friend. Figure out what we have to do to spring you guys. Is that okay?”

“Why are you even asking?” Tyler said. “You can do whatever you want. You’re the alpha here, right?”

I smiled. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure you’d admit it.”

“You—you’re more like Captain Gordon than Van,” Walters said. His voice seemed like an intrusion—startling, unexpected. He was still slouching.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said. “I’ll see you guys in a day or two.”

“It’s not Van’s fault,” Walters said. I stopped, my hand almost to the door to knock for Shumacher. “It’s mental illness, isn’t it? We’re all crazy. It’s not Van’s fault.”

Frowning, I nodded. Maybe they’d decide for sure at his court-martial.

Shumacher, her ever-present clipboard tucked under her arm, let me out of the cell. I felt Tyler and Walters watching me until the door closed behind us. We walked to the office she’d taken over.

“It’s hard judging any progress with just talking,” Shumacher said, sighing as she set down her clipboard and leaned on the desk.

I shrugged. I tended to get a lot out of talking. “I’m going on instinct here. I’m just trying to get a feel for them. Whether there’s… I don’t know.”

“Whether there’s any hope for them?” she said.

“Yeah. That.”

“And?”

“I don’t know. I want to get a second opinion. Tyler—I think he’s actually doing well. But Walters isn’t engaged. They’re a long way from being well. But I’d like to talk to them again.”

Shumacher looked for a moment as if she was going to say something, but then pursed her lips, holding back words. When she smiled, it was a mask. “Let’s make our next appointment, then. I look forward to it.”

She didn’t think they could be rehabilitated. She’d given up on them. That gave me a burning desire to prove her wrong.

I MADE a different sort of appointment for that night, at Psalm 23.

The nightclub always made me anxious. I preferred meeting Rick, the Master vampire of Denver, at my place, New Moon. But he’d said this was more convenient tonight. I wondered what problems he was dealing with. At least he was almost always willing to talk to me when I asked. I could brave the club every now and then.

I went straight to the bouncer at the front door, bypassing the line—a line, even on a weeknight. I wasn’t dressed nearly well enough to gain admittance—at least I wasn’t wearing a T-shirt with my jeans—which meant I was going to have to pull rank. The bouncer tonight was one of the vampires, an unassuming Secret Service–looking guy. Stronger than someone with linebacker muscles, but he didn’t look it. And he wore dark sunglasses at night, natch.

He watched my approach all the way up the block. I watched the rim of his sunglasses and put my hands on my hips.

“What do you want?” he said.

“I’m here to see Rick.”

“What right do you have to demand this?”

I glared. Alpha werewolf, Master vampire, need to talk, blah blah. I went through this bullshit every time I dealt with the vampire minions.

“He’s expecting me.”

“He didn’t tell me.”

“That’s because I’m pretty sure he considers me to be on a ‘come on in’ basis. He shouldn’t have to tell you. But, you know, if you want me to check on that for you…” I pulled out my cell phone. I had Rick on speed dial.

His lips twitched—a frustrated frown. “He’s too indulgent with you wolves.”

“Yeah, yeah, heathen animals, whatever.”

He stepped aside just as I was about to push past him, or rather, try to push past him. We both got to look surly.

Psalm 23 was the kind of place that provided the seed of truth to countless vampire stereotypes. The place was beyond posh, all chrome, blue plush carpets, and black leather booths, where the beautiful people standing at the bar and draping themselves over railings by the dance floor seemed like accessories, part of the decor rather than patrons. The club attracted a young, eager, suggestible clientele. A lot of Rick’s vampires came here for drinks just as eagerly. An experienced eye could spot them—the pale, appraising gazes, surveying the interior like they were picking out their lobster from the tank at a high-end seafood restaurant.

I found Rick inside, sitting at one of the bars near the wall, surveying his domain, the crowd on the dance floor, couples at tables sipping glowing neon drinks in martini glasses, impervious to the thumping beat of techno music.

“Your minions are very aggravating in their self-importance,” I said to him.

Rick was handsome, unassuming, with fine old-world features, dark hair swept back, and an often-amused smile. He wore a blue silk shirt, dark trousers—simple and elegant. He was urbane without being pompous, confident without being arrogant.

He said, “You know how prejudices become entrenched in older generations, how it usually takes younger generations to grow up with new outlooks to establish new attitudes? Imagine how entrenched some prejudices can get after hundreds of years.”

Damn kids, get off my lawn, covered a very large lawn then, didn’t it?

“You’re pretty laid back for being five hundred years old. What’s your excuse?”

“I’ve always had something of an antiauthoritarian streak. Pretty good trick for someone born under a monarchy, isn’t it?”

More stories, more stories… I almost forgot my own issues, hoping he would say more about his history in Spanish colonial America. He’d claimed once that he’d known Coronado. I still hadn’t gotten that whole history.

And I wouldn’t get it this time.

“Can I get you a drink?” he asked.

I requested something sweet and glowing in a martini glass. With a raised hand, Rick summoned the bartender and made the request, and in a moment I had a pink and fruity drink to cling to.

“Now, what do you need?” Rick said.

I always needed something from him, it seemed, even if it was just advice. It was silly not to take advantage of the advice of someone with five hundred years of experience.

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