Kitty Rocks the House Page 62

I could watch people all night, leaning back in the booth and sipping my soda, Wolf resting contentedly for once. Half the people on the floor were dancing and texting at the same time, which made for a pretty neat trick. More songs followed, and it didn’t seem possible but each seemed more iconic and nostalgia-inducing than the one before it. Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Blondie …

Next to me, Cheryl wiped at her cheek and sniffed. More tears followed.

“Hey,” I said, leaning in.

Her face grimaced in a vain attempt at a smile. “This is making me maudlin.”

I hadn’t meant to make her cry. I just wanted to get her out of the house. “We can go—”

She kept talking. “You know I think it’s been twenty years since I heard this song? How did that happen? What have I been doing all this time?”

“Living?”

“It seems like I should have done … more.”

I put my arm across her shoulders and pulled her close. We sat like that through the next dozen songs, until around midnight, when the music starting turning harsher, more industrial and less New Wave, and Cheryl was ready to go home.

* * *

A COUPLE of weeks later, Cormac called and said he’d found something.

The first time he came over to the new house, he never really said whether he liked it. He looked around at the spacious living room, out the sliding glass door to the great outdoors, and said, “Awfully domestic of you.”

“I thought that was the point,” I said. Cormac had never been very domestic, and I couldn’t imagine him ever choosing a house in the suburbs. I felt a little bit of a pang at that thought, at the long lost might-have-beens. We’d traveled a long way since then.

“And next time you break your arm, we have a guest room for you,” Ben said.

“I hope I never break a damn thing again.”

By this visit, his arm was out of the cast and sling and in a neoprene brace. He still kept it close, favoring it. He was supposed to be going to physical therapy to get it back to its former strength and usefulness. I bugged him about it, asking if he was actually going, and he never gave me a straight answer. I hoped that Amelia was making him go. It was her arm, too, in a way.

Times like these, it was almost like they were married, which was an odd thought. I didn’t dwell on it.

We sat on stools around the island counter in the kitchen and ate pizza. That had been another consideration in choosing this house—wilderness was nice and all, but we had to be in range of pizza delivery. After eating and small talk, Cormac pulled a book from a jacket pocket—a thick hardcover with a fraying cloth binding. I couldn’t see a title.

“I’ve been reading up on that thing that attacked the church. What I have isn’t real satisfying,” he said. He looked down, watched his fingers tap the edges of the cover. “It’s a demon, but that’s a catchall term. Lots of supernatural beings get called demons if people don’t know what else to call them, or the name is untranslatable. This one didn’t do much to identify herself—she might even have been a human magician if it weren’t for the smoke, and the way she escaped—”

“Wait, she escaped? She’s not … gone?” I didn’t say dead, which might not have meant much, depending on her origin.

“She got pulled back to wherever she came from,” he said.

Ben asked, “So what is she?”

Cormac pursed his lips like he didn’t want to answer. Then he said, “Amelia thinks she was one of the fallen.”

“Fallen what?” I said.

“Fallen angels.”

We stared at him, absorbing that little tidbit.

“You’re serious,” Ben said finally.

Cormac opened the book to a page he’d marked and started reading, following the line with a finger. “‘Such place Eternal Justice had prepared for those rebellious, here their prison ordained in utter darkness…’”

The tinted goggles she wore, because even the nighttime glow was too bright for her. Disbelieving, I said, “That’s Paradise Lost. Milton.”

“It’s just an idea,” he said.

“She was from hell? Actual, real, capital H hell?”

He said, “You like to talk about how a lot of the stories are real, or at least have a seed of truth that inspired them. Maybe it was something like her and wherever she came from that started the stories. Not sure it really matters. Whoever summoned the demon to go after the vampire priest—some brand of ceremonial magician most likely—is probably the one holding Roman’s leash. That’s your Caesar.”

The rabbit hole got a little deeper. “And who is that?”

“I did some hunting around at the church. Didn’t find anything.”

“You hire an assassin so no one can trace you,” Ben said.

“Yeah,” Cormac said. “I’d have assumed it was Roman who’d summoned her, if she hadn’t said anything.”

“There’s really nothing we can do but keep on keeping on, is there?”

“You can be damn careful is what you can do,” Cormac said. “Amelia’ll put up protections around the house, your cars, the restaurant, the radio station.”

“I’ll let Angelo know—his places will need protecting, too.”

“Angelo,” Cormac said. “Then Rick really did leave?”

I looked down, studying abandoned pizza crusts left in the cardboard box. From the outside, nothing in Denver would look like it had changed. But the vampires I talked to, Angelo and his minions, were subdued. Wounded, almost. From their perspectives, they’d been abandoned. It didn’t matter if Rick had a mission. Me, I just missed my friend. I assumed he’d arrived in Italy all right, but I hadn’t heard from him yet. I wasn’t sure I would.

Taking the silence as his answer, Cormac shrugged, ultimately unconcerned. “See if this guy wants my help first. What are the odds?”

Angelo probably wouldn’t want Cormac’s help any more than Cormac wanted to give it. “So much for the great alliance,” I muttered and took a long drink of beer.

Cormac said, “I’m not sorry for what I did.”

“I’m not expecting you to be,” I said.

“Does anyone want another beer?” Ben said, getting up and heading to the fridge. A diplomatic interruption.

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