Kitty Rocks the House Page 11

“Roman has allies,” Rick said, still regarding the other vampire. “We’ve always known that. Obviously, they’re powerful allies, to stand against the Catholic Church.”

Columban couldn’t exactly admit that out loud, could he? Well then. “So what you’re saying,” I said to him, “is that you need all the help you can get.” He didn’t twitch a muscle in response.

After another long pause, Rick said softly, “This war just keeps getting bigger, doesn’t it?”

“You know how much good you could do with us,” the priest said.

“I always thought I was doing some good here,” Rick said.

“You are,” I said. The priest glared at me.

“The battle is larger than this one city.” Columban rose and smoothed his coat. “Your faith is strong. It could not be otherwise, to last so long. Think about what I’ve said. I’ll give you time,” he said, and turned to the door.

Rick stood with him, raising his arm, as if he might reach out to the other vampire. “Stop. Wait. I have so many questions.”

“I will answer them, in time.” He glanced at me, Ben. The werewolves. He wasn’t going to say anything in front of us.

“How can I reach you?” Rick said.

“Think about it. You’ll know where to find me.” Columban smiled, touched his forehead in a salute, and walked out.

Rick started pacing, back and forth along the length of the bar. He made three passes before I asked, carefully, “Rick?”

“I am astonished,” he said, stopping, giving a short laugh. His cheeks were almost flush, whatever blood he had borrowed rushing through him. “It’s been five hundred years, but when I close my eyes I can smell the incense, hear the chanting voices echoing off the stone walls.” And he did so, closing his eyes, tipping his head back, his nostrils flaring as if he really could take in the scene he described—the inside of a church.

“Then you think he’s telling the truth,” I said.

“Who would lie about something like that?” Rick said, his tone wondering. “No one would believe it.”

On the other hand, I didn’t want to trust anyone who could walk in here and get Rick so agitated. This couldn’t be that simple, that straightforward. I looked at Ben—what did the lawyer think?

“In any other case I’d say do a background check on the guy,” he said. “But I have a feeling that isn’t going to be too helpful here. You can’t exactly call up the Vatican and ask for references.”

If only. Rick was staring into a far distance. He looked like someone who’d just had a religious experience. Which might not have been too far off. He murmured, maybe to himself, not intending anyone to hear, “This is what I get for isolating myself for all this time. I cut myself off because it was the only way to maintain some kind of … of morality. I’d never considered an alternative. That there might be others. My God.”

Was that a curse or a prayer? “I wish I could offer you a drink,” I said.

“I wish I could take it.” He shook his head a little, as if waking up from a dream, and strode back to the table, slumping into the seat. “I’m sorry. I suddenly have a lot on my mind.”

“What are you going to do?” Ben asked.

He hesitated a long time, hands resting lightly on the table. “I don’t know. Do—do you mind if I sit here, just for a little while? I need to think.”

“You want us to leave you alone?”

He pursed his lips. “If you don’t mind staying…”

He wanted company. He’d been essentially on his own for five hundred years, and now he wanted company.

I drew a pitcher of beer, brought over two glasses, and Ben and I sat at the table across from him. None of us said anything. Rick’s face was lined with worry, revealing something of the older man he never would become.

Half an hour passed, then Rick stood. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ve imposed on you enough. I should be going.”

I said, “It’s no imposition. Rick, if there’s anything we can do—”

“I know, and I appreciate it. For now … I need to consider this all. Kitty, Ben, good night.”

I unlocked the front door for him, and he swept out into the night. Ben came to stand beside me, and we both looked after him, though Rick had vanished almost immediately, lost in shadows.

“Should I be worried?”

“Rick can take care of himself,” Ben said.

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“All right. I’m worried. This sounds like a scam. What are we supposed to do about it?”

I didn’t have an answer to that.

* * *

THE NEXT afternoon, I called Cormac. His cell phone rang, and rang, and rang, and I waited, because I knew he’d answer eventually. I pictured him driving in his worn, veteran Jeep, calmly hooking the hands-free in his ear, keeping his gaze on the road. Stuff happened, and him hurrying wouldn’t change it. I had to smile. Didn’t matter what happened or how much time passed, some things never changed.

The line clicked, and he finally came on. “Yeah?” A background hum indicated that yes, he was driving.

“You busy?”

“Why do you ask?” he replied.

Nobody could ever give me a straight answer. “I have another job for you.”

“Tracking down or spying?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Is there a difference?”

“I suppose not.” He sounded like he was grinning, which meant he was making fun of me.

I let it go. He smiled seldom enough, let him have his fun. “There’s a new vampire in town. I want to find out if he really is who he says he is.”

“Is he one of your conspiracy friends?”

“I’m not even sure I know what that means. But no, he just showed up at New Moon last night without an invitation or anything. He said he’s a priest.”

“Vampire priest? Is that even possible?” he said.

“I’d love to find out. His name’s Columban, and he said he’s on a mission from the pope.”

“Huh,” he said, which was about as surprised-sounding as he ever got. “Why’s he here?”

“He’s trying to recruit Rick.”

“And is Rick inclined to be recruited?”

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