Kitty Rocks the House Page 52

I arrived at St. Cajetan before dusk, early enough that the main doors were still open, and I got inside.

What used to be the church’s main hall had been converted into an auditorium, but signs of what the space used to be were evident. A wide, domed ceiling in back would have arced over an altar. Simple stained glass filled the windows along the walls on either side. Any religious symbols had been removed. No crosses, no statuary. Folding chairs and tables had been set up as if for a meeting, and two people, one of them with a clipboard, were discussing a schedule. They glanced at me, and I gave a quick smile and left to explore the rest of the building. Stairs led up to a choir loft, which seemed to be used as a storage area for folding tables and cardboard boxes.

The halls and stairways I moved through smelled simple, bureaucratic. Carpets, fresh paint, lots of bodies moving back and forth. The smell of vampire pervaded, but faintly. They could have been anywhere. Stairs led down. The basement held offices for the geology and paleontology departments. A room had been converted to a museum with hundreds of dinosaur-track fossils and casts of fossils. The vampires weren’t here, either. Their hiding place, where they spent their days asleep, was very well hidden. So, I had to wait.

Time passed, the light outside the windows faded. People left the building, locked up after themselves. Nobody checked for strays, so I was able to stay. If I couldn’t convince Rick to stay in Denver, maybe I could convince Father Columban that he was needed here. Then maybe Columban would convince him to stay, since he was the one Rick seemed to be listening to now.

I made another circuit of the building, upstairs and through offices, calling as I went. “Rick? Father Columban? We need to talk.”

Even if they were here, if they didn’t want to talk to me, they didn’t have to. At least I tried.

I returned to the auditorium one more time before heading out, and there they were. Two figures straight out of a gothic novel, the brooding hero in his fitted T-shirt and jeans, the priest in his dark cassock, side by side, standing under the arched roof, watching me. I approached, feeling a bit like I was on trial.

“Hi,” I said, my echoing voice making me even more uncomfortable. “I just want to talk. Rick, I don’t know if there’s anything I can say to convince you how much you’re needed here, that would convince you to stay—”

“If something happened to me, you’d all carry on without me, one way or another,” he said.

“Yeah, I suppose you could say that about pretty much anyone. I’m talking ideals here. Father Columban—can’t Rick join your order and still stay here?”

“He has a mission,” Columban said. “You would not understand.”

Not helpful. I ignored him, returning my attention to Rick. “I know I’m being selfish, wanting you to stay. If you really want to be a priest and go have a crusade, I know I should be happy for you. But you need to know how much you’ll be missed.” If he still insisted that he had to do a wild pilgrimage, I wasn’t above crying and begging.

Columban began to lecture. “This is just one city. For a thousand years, through the Crusades, the Inquisition, through centuries of warfare that engulfed the whole of Europe, when the enemies of light would lay waste to civilization, the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows has stood against the darkness because we understand it. Because who else could oppose it as we have? Rick understands. He was born for this, and he came into this life for this.”

Destiny? Was that what this came down to? “Don’t you think Rick should decide that?”

“He’ll choose the path of righteousness.”

“Yeah, and who gets to define righteousness?”

Not the thing to say to a Catholic priest, vampire or otherwise. He actually pointed at me as he drew breath to launch into another spiel.

Rick had been standing to one side. Now, he stepped between us. “Father, Kitty, please. I know all the arguments already. I must make this decision on my own.” My stomach dropped, and I held my breath. Then he turned to Father Columban. “Father, I’m sorry. I’m going to stay.”

I was sure I had heard him wrong, but no.

The priest stared at him, expression slack. “What are you saying?”

“You’ve gotten along well without me all this time,” Rick said. “You and the order will still be here for centuries. But I’ve only been Master of this city for a few years, and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.”

He was staying. I almost jumped up and down, cheering.

The priest looked at Rick, apparently unable to speak. Rick went on, “I’m grateful to you. I’ve been alone with my faith for so long, and now I feel like I have a family again. Not just my own Family. But I’m not a priest. I’m not a crusader. I never have been. I can hold to my faith without joining your order. I hope you’ll understand.”

“I do not understand. You turn your back on God—”

“No, of course not. But I think my calling is here.”

Columban folded his hands so they were hidden in his sleeves and regarded his wayward student. “I suppose I should be grateful that you feel you have a calling.”

“I always have. And now I can even believe I’m not crazy.”

“You will change your mind someday, when you see what it truly is that we face.”

“Something I’ve learned about our condition, Father—we usually have time to change course if we’ve made a mistake. So maybe you’re right. I hope you’ll let me keep in touch with you.”

Columban nodded in acknowledgment. “Ricardo, will you pray with me? One more time?”

Rick said to me, “Kitty, I’ll join you outside in a moment.”

“Okay. I’ll be there.”

I went outside, carefully closing the door behind me so it wouldn’t make any noise.

According to some people, vampires were supposed to be servants of Satan, minions of hell. That was what some of the stories—urban legends, really—said, and it was a belief that many people clung to. Some people said the same thing about werewolves, and I had a ready answer for them: if I was a minion of Satan don’t you think I’d know about it? Prayers were supposed to be poison to vampires, and maybe they were, to some of them. But obviously not to Father Columban. Or Rick, who’d probably been praying by himself for five hundred years. To me, it was proof that vampires and hell had nothing to do with each other. But the stories about hell—what a great way to mark a group of people that you wanted to keep at a distance.

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