Kitty Saves the World Page 15

“Huh. I want to get the hell out of here, but I don’t think it’s from any magical protections keeping me out.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I smelled lizards and rattlesnakes, and the dust made my skin itch.

We didn’t smell anything unusual. If Roman had followers in the area, they were well hidden, or so entirely human that we didn’t notice them.

We met up with Hardin, who’d stayed by the road, and walked back to the cars. I caught her patting her jacket pockets and scowling. “I picked a hell of a week to try to quit smoking,” she muttered. “I’m going to be reaching for a pack for the rest of my life.” Finally, she stopped looking for the absent cigarettes, crossed her arms, and scowled.

After our survey, we retreated to an innocuous fast-food restaurant for another bad meal and last-minute planning. The mundane noises and goings-on around us seemed out of place, disconcerting. How could things possibly be normal? The place smelled like rancid grease. Most fast-food restaurants did. Cormac was the only one of us who ate much; the rest of us picked at fries and stared sullenly at a diagram he was drawing on the back of a napkin.

Cormac had sketched out the general layout of the parking lot, picnic tables, and outbuildings, and marked X’s where everyone would start out. We’d keep the Jeep hidden, since it was recognizably Cormac’s. Hardin would drive it off site, then keep watch over the outskirts of the area. Ben’s sedan was nondescript enough it could stay—ostensibly Tina would have had to get herself to the location somehow. Ben and I would patrol closer in, but still out of sight. Tina would be the only one visible, the lone magician here to make a deal. Cormac would be close by, in hiding, waiting to make the ambush. The place was officially closed after dark. We shouldn’t have anything in the way of innocent bystanders.

“It doesn’t matter how well you’re hidden, he’ll be able to smell you,” I countered.

“No, he won’t,” he said, and didn’t elaborate. Cormac had a few tricks he wasn’t sharing, then. Fine.

The plan: Tina would engage Roman, keeping him in one place long enough for Cormac to shoot him. Easy. Yeah, right.

“If you shoot wrong, a crossbow could kill me just as well as it could kill him,” Tina said, her expression screwed up in concentration.

“That’s why you’re going to duck. Just as soon as he starts talking, get under a picnic table,” he instructed.

“Have you been practicing with that thing?” I asked. “Please tell me you’ve been practicing.”

He looked at me sidelong. “Trust me.”

“I do,” I said, and he arched what seemed like a surprised brow. Like he wasn’t sure.

Earlier, Ben suggested we fit Tina with a Kevlar vest in case of any misfires. Cormac nixed it. “If she’s wearing armor he’ll know something’s wrong. This is supposed to be a job interview, she’s supposed to be a magician. She has to act like it.”

He took this moment to pull out a bundle of Amelia’s amulets—a Thor’s hammer, an ankh, some bracelets, odds and ends that were actually magical, that might really protect her, but were also the kinds of things a magician would wear as a matter of course. Tina was also wearing a cross, but hidden under her shirt. Because she wasn’t supposed to know Roman was a vampire, and we didn’t want him to know we knew.

This had turned into a Rube Goldberg plot, where we thought we knew what Roman knew, but knew he knew we knew, and we had to work around that. We were second-guessing our second-guesses.

“This isn’t going to work,” I muttered. “It has to work.”

“I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure,” Ben said.

I narrowed my gaze at him. “That’s a nerd quote, isn’t it?”

“I love you, honey,” he said, and kissed my cheek. I smirked back.

That did raise the question, though. “Would a nuclear blast kill a vampire? Or would it leave this burned-out, living husk behind? Or would it work like sunshine—it’s the same process of fusion essentially, right? So would it burn them just like exposure to sunlight? Hm.” Not that I wanted to try the experiment at all, but maybe I should ask Alette if there’d been any vampires in Hiroshima seventy-odd years ago.

“Write that down for the show,” Ben said. Yeah, that would make a good ten-minute topic.

“Take this. Just keep it in your pocket,” Cormac said, handing Tina the mirrored cross amulet. “He tries throwing anything at you, this should protect you.”

“Should?” she said, uncertain, running her fingers over the smooth surface. I wondered what she saw in it. “Wow, this is really old,” she murmured.

“You can still back out of this.”

“No, I want to stop this guy as much as you do.”

Cormac nodded, satisfied.

“We likely to get hassled by the cops?” I asked Hardin.

“I checked in with a friend at the local PD, and they do regular car patrols along the highway, but it’s not one of their high-crime areas. We should be okay, unless one of the locals calls in weird activity.”

“It’s worth the risk,” Ben the attorney said. “They can’t pin anything worse than misdemeanor trespassing on us if we get caught in the park after dark, if we’re not doing anything more illegal than that.”

“Is conspiracy to murder a vampire more illegal?” I asked. The excuse we’d give to anyone who called us on why we were at the park after dark was way down on my list of things to think about right now.

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