Kitty Saves the World Page 42

When Rick was Master, I could just knock on the door, talk my way in, and have a lovely conversation or three with my friend. Now, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Angelo was dead. Something had happened, something had changed, the balance in this Long Game had shifted. I had no vampire allies in Denver.

Ben called Cormac. “It’s not like he’ll be asleep,” he explained. “And he’ll be pissed off if we don’t ask him for help for something like this.”

He was right on both counts. I listened in, and the hunter answered on the second ring and didn’t sound at all sleepy. He and Amelia were night owls. Actually, I wasn’t sure Amelia needed to sleep at all.

After just a few words, Ben donned a wry look and held out the phone. “He wants to talk to you.”

Great. That meant I’d have to tell him we faced down Ashtoreth without him.

“Was that really Roman that called into the show?” he said. Before “What’s wrong?” even.

“Yes. I don’t know what it means.” I sounded numb. Still processing the last two hours of my life.

“What’s happening?” he said.

“Angelo is dead. He ambushed us outside KNOB, and I killed him. Then Ashtoreth showed up.”

He hesitated. I got the feeling he didn’t know which part of that to be more astonished at. He said, “Not that I’m not happy at how it turned out, but if you faced down Ashtoreth, how the hell are you still here?”

“I’m not entirely sure. Someone flashed a light at her and she got distracted.”

“Someone?”

“Men in Black. I don’t even know. They said the pack is okay. Somehow.” I wasn’t making any sense.

“What was Angelo doing at KNOB?”

“Trying to get rid of me. He had a coin, he’d signed on with Roman.”

“Jesus. But you killed him?”

“And smashed that coin to pulp,” I said, putting my hand on it where it lay against my chest. I didn’t tell him about the broken arm. It was getting better.

“Are you and Ben safe for now? Are you being followed? Watched?”

Yeah, Cormac wasn’t going to be happy about this. “We’re headed to Obsidian.”

He paused, and said, flatly, “Why?”

“Because Angelo’s dying words were ‘Obsidian.’ Something’s there.”

“Yeah, a mess of vampires who’ve probably gone crazy with no Master to control them. They’re going to blame you.”

“Yeah. So. Want to come help?”

“I’ll be right over.”

*   *   *

BEN HAD been hanging out with Cormac long enough that he knew the score and kept a whole kit in the trunk: not just a crossbow and spears, but a spray bottle of holy water, a pile of garden stakes, and wooden javelins. It would be the kind of thing I would tease him about, if we didn’t seem to need an antivampire arsenal so often. He also reloaded the Glock from the box of ammo in the glove compartment. Ben was a paragon of practicality.

The front of Obsidian was entirely nondescript: double glass doors between display windows containing antique furniture and gilt floor lamps. The door didn’t have an open or closed sign, and didn’t display hours. If it wasn’t for the sign above the windows, you’d never know this was a business. I was sure that was the idea. The stairs to the vampire lair were around the corner from a loading dock.

“You know what we’re looking for?” Ben asked. He had the crossbow and bolts; I had a couple of stakes in my good hand and the spray bottle tucked under the bad arm.

“No. But it makes sense, if Angelo had sided with Roman, that would give Roman a base of operations here. So we’re looking for Roman, the Manus Herculei, the Holy Grail. Whatever. To be honest, I’ve always wondered what was in the back room of this place.”

“What do we do, knock?”

I did so, rapping knuckles on glass. Nothing happened. “We move on to the back, I guess.”

“I was afraid you’d say that.”

We stepped carefully. A couple of streetlights gave us a pretty good view of the front of the building, but the back parking lot, with its cracked pavement and lone Dumpster, was mostly dark. It was the kind of place I’d been told not to walk alone when I was in college.

His voice dropped to a whisper. “Hey, Kitty—smell that?”

The place was a vampire lair—it always smelled like vampires, so my hackles were already up. But the scent Ben picked up was fresher—and moving. We stopped, back to back, looking around, even though in the dark we likely wouldn’t spot them until they were right on top of us. I might have caught a flash out of the corner of my eye, then another. Movement. We were being watched.

Since they weren’t attacking—hell, they weren’t even appearing to lord themselves before us, all smug and superior like—I kept on toward the back, trying out a service door next to the loading dock. It was locked. Maybe Cormac could break us in when he got here.

The only door left to try was the one to the basement lair. Heading down those stairs would get me cornered, trapped. Besides, I was pretty sure anyone I wanted to talk to was up here, watching us.

“Hello?” I called. “By chance does anyone have the key to the gallery? You know, so I can maybe look around?” Hey, it was worth a shot. “They’ve got to be just as nervous as we are,” I murmured to Ben when nothing happened.

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