Kitty Rocks the House Page 58

“Well then, why don’t you get started?”

I told her about the Long Game, or what I knew of it. That there were networks of vampires, some of who were gathering power, others who opposed them. Roman, his followers, the coins they possessed. They were trying to take our cities from us, and we had to try to hold the line. No matter how much I learned, there was always more I didn’t know. I peeled back layers of the onion, and I always found more underneath. But this was all coming to a head. The two sides would clash. We had to be ready.

“What?” Hardin said, staring at me like I was crazy; or worse, worried that I was right. “Like a literal war? Some kind of battle?”

“I don’t know. Something. Roman’s gathering allies, and they’re everywhere. We’ve been trying to collect allies of our own, but it all seems to go wrong. Columban was supposed to be an ally.” My lips turned in a wince.

“He was wanted for murder.”

“Or was he defending himself against that demon? Did he start the fire, or did that demon, when she tried to attack him?”

Turning thoughtful, she looked away. “I thought I was starting to get a handle on this shit.”

“I don’t think it’s possible.” You thought you knew, and then the universe opened a vortex and dropped a bounty-hunting demon in your lap. What a world. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your Interpol contact has some wind of the Long Game. Maybe even of Roman or some of his allies. Maybe they have some mashed-up coins in evidence.”

She ran a hand through her hair, which was coming loose from its ponytail. “I’ve got enough to worry about just looking after Denver. I don’t know if I can take on any more.”

I said, “If there’s any way you guys can pool information, set up some kind of database, compare cases—”

“You think we’ll find patterns.”

“Yeah, I think you will. I don’t know if it’ll help, but it couldn’t hurt.”

After a moment of thought, she gave a fatalistic nod. “All right. I’m in.”

* * *

I HAD to see Rick. Somehow. The next night, I went to Obsidian and knocked on the basement door. I brought him a present, wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Angelo answered. Instead of his usual smirk and put-down, he stared at me with stark desperation, silently, as if he couldn’t find words. He smelled frightened, sweaty. What had happened to him? The hairs on my neck stood up, but I tried to act neutral. Normal.

“Is he in?” I asked, gesturing hopefully to the back hallway. “In and willing to talk to me, I mean?”

Gripping the door frame, he glanced over his shoulder, turned an anxious gaze back to me. “You have to talk some sense into him, please. He won’t listen to any of us.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He’s packing to leave.” That was the expression he was showing me, I realized: that of a person whose spouse was walking out, and he couldn’t do anything about it.

There had to be a mistake. “But—he told me last night he’d decided to stay—”

“That was before. Please, talk to him.” He grabbed my sleeve and pulled me through the doorway.

Baring my teeth, I snarled and shoved him off, backing into the hallway, away from him. What the hell was going on here?

“Please, Kitty, talk to him!”

“I can’t believe he’d just abandon all his ties here,” I said, but the argument didn’t sound persuasive.

“Rick doesn’t have any ties here,” Angelo said.

“But you’re his Family, you all are connected, surely he’ll listen—”

“None of us are Rick’s progeny. Not directly. Most of us were Arturo’s, and we became connected to Rick through him when Rick took his blood. As far as I know, from everything I’ve heard, Rick has never created another vampire.”

That sounded impossible. “At all? Ever? In five hundred years of existence?”

“Not one,” Angelo said.

The Master vampires gained power by creating minions and maintaining control over their progeny. Rick—he’d traveled through his five hundred years alone. All his power was his own.

“You have to talk to him,” Angelo said. “You’re the only one he listens to.”

“You’re giving me way too much credit.”

“Please, try,” he said, and pointed down the hallway to the closed door of Rick’s office and living room.

My nerves were on fire as I walked the last few paces to that door. Angelo stayed where he was, slumped against the wall, hugging himself, anguished.

I knocked on the door and called, “Rick? Can I talk to you for a minute?” Tried to sound casual and nonthreatening. The paper bag crinkled in my grip.

Time ticked on. After what happened last night, I wouldn’t blame Rick if he decided never to speak to me again. But finally the door opened, and there he was. I looked up, earnest and hopeful, probably close to the sad little puppy I felt like.

He appeared much as he had at the church, though the jeans and T-shirt were fresh. His dark hair was ruffled, as if he’d been pulling at it. The suave aristocrat in the silk shirt he usually showed to the world was gone.

After regarding me blank-faced for a moment, he turned away, leaving the door open. I took that as an invitation. He didn’t say anything, didn’t look at me, just went straight back to his desk at one end of the room. Its drawers were open, and he was putting items into a black canvas duffel bag. Packing, as Angelo had said.

“I brought you a present,” I said, holding up the bag.

“I’m sorry, I’ll probably have to leave it behind. I’m traveling light.”

My throat tightened, and I had to work to talk like nothing was wrong. “Where are you going?”

“Italy,” he said. “Vatican City.” He moved a pair of small, ancient-looking leather-bound books into the bag, then wrapped a chipped clay cup in a scarf and packed it away.

“I thought you said you were going to stay,” I said, pleading.

“I have to tell them what happened to Father Columban.”

“Can’t you call? Write a letter?”

Pausing, he leaned on the desk a moment. A living human would have taken a deep breath, but he gathered his thoughts silently. “I thought it best that I tell them in person.”

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