Kitty's Big Trouble Page 25

I tried to acquire some veneer of dignity despite the fact that I was still too close to turning Wolf for comfort. And that I was spattered with blood. Rounding my shoulders, I went the few steps down the hall to the closet with the safe. Both the room and the safe were still open.

I held myself still and began breathing softly, taking air through my nose, smelling the space and what had been here.

Mostly, I sensed what I expected: old stone and grime, a century’s worth of salt air lingering, the cold steel of the safe, smoke and wax from Grace’s candle. Werewolves, humans, and vampires. We’d been walking around on top of each other’s scents, which blurred together. I heard a distant pattering, like raindrops or the footsteps of mice, always at the edge of hearing. Mysterious gazes, always at the edge of seeing. I listened for the sound of a crying baby, and didn’t hear it. I hoped Grace was safe.

I knelt closer to the safe, putting my nose right up to the steel. A trace of Grace’s human scent lingered on the handle and combination dial. I even stuck my head inside the safe and took a few deep breaths, hoping to catch a trace of the artifact itself. I only smelled more steel, more dust. If I’d had to guess what had been here, I’d have said it had always been empty. Scary magical items should smell like something, shouldn’t they?

“Find anything?” Ben said.

I shook my head. “You want to try?”

I stepped aside and let him go through the same routine. After a moment of searching he muttered, “I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”

“Let me,” Cormac said, moving toward us around the bodies. He carried the hurricane lamp and its golden halo of light from the storage room with him. We got out of the way and watched.

He took some kind of stone from his pocket, keeping it partially hidden in his hand. It had something magical to it, no doubt. Since his release from prison, he’d replaced his collection of guns with amulets and talismans.

If he was using magic, it meant Amelia was probably in charge now, which made me bristle. It didn’t matter if Cormac seemed all right with the arrangement. I didn’t like the idea of him being used.

He passed the amulet over the safe as if it were some kind of Geiger counter.

“What’s he doing?” Anastasia asked, moving next to me.

“He’s kind of a wizard, I guess,” I said.

“Kind of?”

“It’s hard to explain.”

She glared unhappily.

Straightening, Cormac pocketed the stone amulet. “Something magical was there but it’s gone now.”

“I don’t suppose it left a trail?” I asked. He shook his head.

“It’s a trap,” Anastasia said. “This has all been a trick, and I fell for it—”

“I’d just like to point out that we’re not the ones lying dead on the floor,” I said. “If this is a trap we’re not the only ones who got stuck.”

The silence drew on as we contemplated that unpleasant thought. Once again I started pacing, as if that would make the corridor larger, as if a way out would appear before my eyes. My shoes, coated with blood, started sticking to the floor. The stench of blood was making it hard for me to think.

“We need to get out of here,” I said. “Find Grace and start over.”

We moved forward, back the way we’d come until we reached the intersection.

“Left,” Cormac said, before I could ask if anyone remembered which way we’d come.

“I knew that,” I muttered.

We turned and went on, strung out in single file in the narrow hallway, which my imagination was making narrower, and darker. This section seemed to go on a lot longer than I remembered.

“Aren’t there supposed to be stairs here?” I said. “I remember there being stairs.”

“Did we take a wrong turn back there?” Ben said.

“It wasn’t wrong,” Cormac said.

“But there were definitely stairs.”

Finally, we came to the next intersection. But this one didn’t branch off at right angles as the others had. Instead, the hallway split in a Y. It may have been my imagination, but the stone seemed to give way to dank earth, as if the passage left the city and continued on in wild, underground tunnels. I smelled dirt and mulch coming from the way ahead.

I stated the obvious. “We haven’t been here before.”

“So we took a wrong turn,” Ben said.

“This is much, much more than a wrong turn,” Anastasia said, her voice muted and anxious. She stood outside our small circle of light and her features were shadowed.

I faced her. “Do you know something or is that just more doom and gloom?”

Cormac said, “It’s that we can’t get out of here without Grace leading us. She’s got the key to the place. Until we find her, we’re stuck.”

Chapter 9

I BACKTRACKED, LETTING the others follow me as they would, until I came to that first intersection. Or what should have been that first intersection, the one that led to the closet and the storeroom where we found the nine-tailed fox. The light was almost nonexistent now, and I was seeing the place through wolfish eyes. Maybe that was why I didn’t recognize it. I couldn’t have taken another wrong turn. I heard the others come up behind me, stepping softly, breaths echoing against the stone. The light from Cormac’s lantern pressed forward like a wall.

Crouching, I took in the smells. I caught the other werewolf pack, their maleness and foreignness; their ill intent in hunting us, all musky and sour, full of adrenaline. I took in our own smells: the chill of the vampire, Cormac’s human warmth, the familiar scent of Ben. I thought I even caught a hint of Grace—a trace of what her store smelled like, retail scents of cardboard packaging and money overlaid with the smoke from her candle. But when I tried to follow it, her trail vanished, as if she had simply taken off from the spot and flown away.

There should have been pools of freshly spilled blood, its odor wafting through the tunnels. I only smelled the drying blood smeared all over Ben and me.

I pressed my hands against the rough brick. It was hard not to feel as if the walls were closing in on me, or imagine unseen gazes of otherworldly spirits drawing closer, the skittering of movement growing louder. It was beginning to sound like laughter.

“What have you gotten us into?” I said to Anastasia. Growled, rather.

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