Kitty's Big Trouble Page 39

“It’s my city, after all,” he said.

“You never did thank me for that.”

“Is that all you really want?” he said. “Well then, Anastasia dear, thank you for helping me win San Francisco.”

She rolled her eyes and scowled. “Too late.”

“Oh, Anastasia, it’s never too late. We have all the time in the world.”

Of course they did.

Chapter 13

THE SPOT BURNED into the map was back in Chinatown, not far from where we’d originally met Anastasia. If the Dragon’s Pearl had up and wandered away, it hadn’t gone far. At least, not far in linear distance. What we couldn’t tell was if the pearl was accessible, resting on a shelf in a back room at street level, or if it was hidden in one of the winding tunnels that Grace and her strange key had access to. If that was the case, I couldn’t quite trust the spot on the map.

Henry borrowed the car and driver to take us that far. We crammed in and rode in silence until we reached the corner that Grace picked for us to begin quest part two—Stockton Street this time, a block over from Grant, and the not-as-touristy section of Chinatown. The traffic lights hanging above the narrow intersection glowed red, but there were no cars in sight. Old brick and concrete facades stood around us like sentinels, watching, waiting to pounce.

Ben had acquired one of Henry’s Havana shirts, red with cream embroidery. He was fidgeting in it; it wasn’t a good look for him. I’d rather have seen him in a retro suit with suspenders, maybe a fedora. But hipster it was.

“What do you suppose he’ll do if I manage to get this one all bloody?” he said.

“Thank you?” I answered, and he grumbled.

The air had turned cold—winter cold, it felt to my Colorado bones. The damp in the air made the temperature clammy, insidious. I shivered; Ben put his arm around me, and I huddled close.

Grace and Cormac consulted the map.

“I just pointed the way,” Cormac was saying. “This is your show now.”

“If this is a trap, it’ll get us as soon as we head underground,” she said.

“Do we have a choice?” Cormac said.

Anastasia glared at them. “Just find me the pearl—I’ll worry about the trap.”

Grace shot back, “If I’m supposed to be in the lead I’m damn well going to worry about a trap.”

“Just go,” the vampire said.

We started walking. Grace had the map now and kept glancing at it, then at the buildings. She turned a corner, and another, and into an alley, where a set of stairs led down to a basement door. Here we go again.

“I have to admit, I’m missing my nine mil right about now,” Cormac muttered.

“Not that it would do you any good against vampires,” Ben said. “Or in the tunnels.”

“No. But sometimes I just want to hear something go bang.”

Henry acted like he was on a tour, hands in pockets, strolling along looking at all the interesting buildings. “I’m not sensing any trouble. Everything seems normal to me.”

I wasn’t sure I’d recognize normal any more if it bit me in the ass.

“Where are we going?” Anastasia asked.

“This is the spot on the map, at the mouth of the alley,” Grace said. “But there’s nothing here, so we have to go underground.”

“There’s not much underground here, is there?” Henry said. “The tunnel system’s an urban legend. The real tunnels were all destroyed in the earthquake back in ’06. The previous ’06, I mean.”

“I don’t care how long you’ve been here, how long you’ve been alive, you don’t know Chinatown,” Grace said. She glanced back at Anastasia. “None of you do.”

“I’ve known Chinatown for a hundred and fifty years,” Anastasia said.

“But it’s not the same. You act like China hasn’t changed in eight hundred years. All you know is what you think you know, but that isn’t always what’s real.”

Anastasia sneered at Grace, the puny mortal who had only a fraction of her years. She must have really hated needing the magician’s help.

Grace wasn’t done. “What about your ancestors? You keep holding mine over me, but what about yours? I bet it’s been centuries since you’ve made any offerings to them—that’s why you’re having all this shitty luck. Maybe you should be heading to a temple—”

Anastasia reached and caught hold of Grace’s neck. Grace gasped, and I jumped, lunging forward to grab hold of the vampire’s arm.

“Anastasia, stop,” I said.

She glared down at Grace, imperious and dispassionate, while Grace blinked back, struggling for breath. I squeezed Anastasia’s arm. “Let go.”

She did. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t. Grace slumped against the wall.

“I have stepped outside the cycle,” the vampire said. “I have no descendants to burn offerings for me, so I burn no offerings for anyone else.”

“Your ancestors remember you. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been dead, they’re still watching—”

The vampire shook her head and turned away. She murmured, “I’m sorry, Grace Chen. I shouldn’t have touched you.”

Grace would have been justified in walking away right there. But she reached into her bag and, frowning, said, “Let’s get this over with.”

We all turned to the door. Cormac tucked his cross and stake back into his jacket.

Grace pulled the candle and lantern from her bag and handed them to Cormac, who lit the lantern while she shouldered open the door at the base of the stairs. The second oil lantern had evidently been abandoned. Once again, the candle was our only light. We entered a dark tunnel.

“Where does this go?” Henry asked, and Grace shushed him.

Grace led, and Cormac and Anastasia kept close to her; Henry, Ben, and I followed, constantly glancing over our shoulders. The flickering candlelight created shadows, in which I was sure I saw demons.

I’d have thought I’d eventually get used to the feeling that ghosts were moving at the edges of my vision; that tingling feeling had settled into my spine and it wasn’t any more comfortable now than it had been at the start. This wasn’t my world down here, and I got the impression that I wasn’t welcome. None of us were. We’d escaped the tunnels last time—that didn’t mean we would again. A rat in a maze must feel like this, closed in, only able to see the paths in front of you and behind, wishing you could somehow see above it all, to see what terrors lurked ahead.

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