Kitty Rocks the House Page 17

He backed up, and the candle flared to life again. He walked a little ways farther down, following the line of an invisible circle, moved toward the building—and again the flame died. He tried it two or three more times, and each time he crossed that invisible threshold, the candle went out, or relit.

“That’s really weird,” I said, unnecessarily.

“Yeah, Amelia saw markings, there and there.” He pointed to black squiggly marks, one on a corner of the church, another on a nearby tree, and a third on the back of a NO PARKING sign near the street. I’d have figured they were random graffiti tags, if I noticed them at all. But now that he’d pointed them out, they had a pattern—pairs of stylized letters, medieval alchemical or zodiac signs maybe.

I tried to visualize what the candle told us was there in spirit. “Someone cast a protective circle here,” I said. “Protecting against what?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Cormac said. “May be nothing. May be a habit of his.”

“You’re sure it’s Rick’s vampire friend that did it?”

“Because we don’t know any other vampires who are magicians, right?”

My shoulders unconsciously bunched up, an imitation of hackles rising. He was talking about Roman, who’d spent part of his two thousand years as a vampire learning how to work magic. Guy could do it all.

“Are you saying Columban is with Roman?”

“I’m just saying that vampires and magic aren’t mutually exclusive. And that this guy knows how to cover his ass and doesn’t seem to need any help doing it. The symbols are European, medieval—it’s what I’d expect from a vampire working for the Vatican.”

“So he’s a vampire Catholic priest and a magician. I’d have assumed those would all be mutually exclusive.”

“I don’t think we can make any assumptions. Guy’ll do what he needs to do.”

Didn’t really make the situation any better.

Cormac continued, “This is just a defense against a supernatural threat. Won’t stop someone with a stake, if it comes to that.”

“He may have mundane servants for that,” I said. “So no, we’re not staking him. This is Rick’s problem.” For now. I really had to let him know about Hardin’s police sketch.

“We know where he’s most likely staying, now. We can keep an eye on him.”

That would have to be enough. I looked over the building. It probably had a basement or cellar, or at the very least a windowless utility closet, locked and protected. People moved around here all day, never knowing about the vampires lurking here.

We returned to the Jeep. I mulled possibilities. Not knowing what to expect next made planning ahead difficult. Was Columban worried about something specific? Did I need to be worried about it, too? Or was this a general precaution? I asked, “Would a protective circle like that work if the church were still consecrated? Still a church, I mean?”

“If it were still a church you wouldn’t need the circle. But then, the vampire wouldn’t be there.”

Maybe that was why Columban did it, and for no other reason. He couldn’t use a real church, but he could make a facsimile of one.

Cormac asked, “If Rick decides to go with this guy and leave Denver, what are you going to do?”

I couldn’t imagine such a thing. Rick leaving Denver—Rick was Denver. He’d been around since before there was a Denver. He couldn’t leave Denver. I almost blurted the words, unthinking. But Columban represented something Rick thought he lost centuries ago. I remembered the way he looked that night, as if the universe had rearranged itself around him.

“Try to talk him out of it?” I said. I honestly didn’t know what I’d do if Rick left. Try to be happy for him.

I had a bigger question. We were supposed to be working to oppose Roman together. The only way this whole opposition thing worked is if Rick and I were in it together. If Rick left to become some kind of vampire priest, I’d be on my own. Would vampires like Nasser even listen to me, then?

“You should know,” I said. “Hardin’s looking for this guy, too.”

“I’m not telling her about this,” Cormac said, with the contempt he held for all cops.

“That’s what I thought. I need to hold her off until I can get ahold of Rick.”

“She won’t hear it from me.”

Cormac drove me back to work, waiting until we were in the parking lot at KNOB to ask, “Heard there’s a new werewolf in town.”

I looked at him, startled. “How do you know about him?”

“Keep my eyes open, that’s all.”

Cormac hadn’t been at New Moon last night, I was sure of it. Had Ben told him? “Are you spying on us? On New Moon?”

“Like I said, just keeping my eyes open. So, how’s that going?”

I slouched in the seat and growled. “It’s fine, everything’s fine,” I said, noncommittal. He gave me a sidelong look.

“When’s full moon, Saturday? He going with you?”

“What, you thinking of tagging along, just in case?”

“I could.”

I glared at him. “And how exactly would you accomplish that? You think you’re going to dig some of your silver bullets out of storage and sit on a hillside playing sniper?” That was exactly the kind of thing he’d have done in the old days, before his time in prison. Now, as an ex-con, handling firearms could get him thrown back into prison. Ben and I seemed to treat the threat more seriously than he did. Or he was purposefully pulling our chains. I would never know. “No. We’ll be fine.”

“You change your mind, call.”

“We can handle it. This is normal pack stuff. Everything’s fine.”

“You keep saying that.”

He was worried. This was his way of saying he was worried. So I didn’t snap back at him. This time, instead of saying everything would be just fine, nothing to worry about, I said, “If we need you, we’ll call.” Which was all anybody wanted to hear from family in the end, wasn’t it?

* * *

“GOOD EVENING, this is Kitty Norville and in case you didn’t know, you’re listening to The Midnight Hour. Cutting edge, controversial, and all that good stuff. I know what you tune in for, and I’m here to make sure you leave happy. Tonight I’ve got a couple of guests on the show, calling in from their respective offices to discuss with me a brand-new book making the rounds: In the Blood, a memoir by a guy named Edward Alleyn. That’s Edward Alleyn, vampire, in what might be the first widely published vampire memoir ever. I should also mention that the author claims to be Edward Alleyn, the Elizabethan actor who starred in the great plays of Christopher Marlowe, which means he’s been alive for some four hundred years, and he wants to tell us all about it. The book is stirring up a lot of heated discussion in some quarters. It’s been called a window into the Elizabethan age, as well as the century’s lamest hoax. What do you think? Have you read the book, and was it really written by a four-hundred-year-old vampire celebrity, or is it some ghost writer’s shameless bid for publicity? I’ve found a historian and a literary scholar who’ve both read the book and have come to different conclusions about the author’s claims. For all our edifications, I’ve brought them here to discuss.”

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