Kitty Saves the World Page 48

“And Herculaneum, you said that’s where the name comes from,” Grant asked.

“Yes. If Roman went to retrieve it, we assumed that meant he was getting ready to use it.”

“Speaking as another magician, I make three assumptions: that he needs to be in the appropriate location in order to use the spell. He cannot cast from a distance. Second, the spell has a timed delay, since I assume Roman intends to survive the eruption. He’ll need time to flee.”

The floor shook, like someone had installed a coin-operated vibrating bed under it. Dishes in the cupboard clinked, the ceiling fan in the living room swayed, the refrigerator made a disconcerting rattle. It only lasted a couple of seconds, but we all grabbed tables and counters and looked around, eyes wide, wondering if the house was going to fall on us, if maybe we should run.

“Just an aftershock,” Tina said when everything went quiet. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah,” Ben said, lip curled. “Who’s worried?”

“And third,” Grant said, not missing a beat, “this isn’t an easy spell to cast. He used it two thousand years ago to great effect, and presumably put it aside and didn’t use it again. Or used it rarely—half a dozen times, perhaps, if we blame every catastrophic volcanic eruption near a populated area over the last two millennia on him. He’ll need time, space, and resources. We can use that against him. We don’t know enough about the spell to counter the magic, so we must find him. The source of it all.”

“We tried that last time. It didn’t work so well,” I said.

The front door banged open, and we all jumped, again, because every loud banging noise was going to make us jump for weeks from here out.

Cormac walked in a moment later. My first impulse was to hug him just as hard as I’d hugged Grant, but I resisted. Tina got as far as jumping up before restraining herself. Cormac looked even more prickly than usual at the moment, frowning, taking in the room at a glance as if confirming that everything was okay. His gaze finally rested on Grant.

“You’re Odysseus Grant,” he said, then looked at me for explanation.

“Yeah,” I said. “Anastasia gave him a tip.”

“Anastasia?” He didn’t sound confused so much as disbelieving.

Grant stood. “And you must be Cormac Bennett … and Amelia Parker?”

This time, Cormac scowled at me. I said, “Once I started calling him for advice about deciphering books of shadows, I sort of had to explain everything.”

He waved me off. “Everybody okay?”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “We’re just trying to figure out if this is Roman’s next move and what we’re going to do about it.”

“Same as always, stake the bastard first chance we get.”

“I think we’re on about our fifth chance,” I said. “It’s not working.”

Grant said, “He’ll need to go to Yellowstone, and he’ll need help, a place to stay, minions—do you know any of the vampires in that area, who he might call on for help?”

“There aren’t any,” Cormac said. “At least not any established Families. There might be a few loners, but the population up north isn’t big enough to support vampires. Denver’s the only city with a good-sized Family in the region.”

I stepped back, hand on my head. Thoughts fell into place, rattled me—like an earthquake. “That’s why Roman’s been so interested in us, why he’s worked so hard to get the city under his control.” He’d sent minions, vampires, magicians, over and over again, to undermine me and Rick, to put his own people in place. And I thought he was just pissed off at me. “I guess it’s nice I don’t have to take it personally anymore.”

“Well, he’s finally got Denver,” Cormac said. “At least, his enemies aren’t in charge anymore. He’s using Denver as his base, he’s got to be around somewhere. Kitty, you know all the vampire hideouts in town?”

“Only some of them,” I said.

“Then we start there. He’s bedded down in one of them. We’ll work in teams and cover more ground.” Cormac took charge of what was turning into a physical assault plan. That was his area of expertise anyway.

We collected weapons, discussed tactics. Ben and Cormac shared what they knew about hunting vampires, and it turned out Grant knew something about it as well. I made a list of vampire-owned locations in town. Roman would never bed down in a place I knew about—he’d have a secret lair set up somewhere. We’d run all over the place—in a town that was in chaos from a natural disaster—and never find him. I was daunted.

We were going to need help, so I called Detective Hardin. Her line was busy—of course it was, the police were probably stretched to the breaking point. But this—this was important.

I shouldn’t have worried; a few minutes later, she called me. “We’re all on call, running around like chickens with our heads off. Please tell me you and the rest of the gang are okay.”

“Angelo was killed last night.” And I killed him … “Roman’s probably in town. Want to help us go after him again?”

She hesitated a moment. Probably going over her vast list of fires to stomp out. Which crisis would she move to the top of the list? “Hell yeah, I do. I’ll see who I can round up to help.”

“Bring stakes.”

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