Kitty's Big Trouble Page 5

He gazed over the dining room and bar, waiting for me to respond. I’d already finished my beer or I would have taken a long drink. “I’m flattered, I think.”

“If you want my advice, you’re narrowing your focus too much,” Rick said. “Don’t just look for the secret vampires and lycanthropes. Look for people who might have hunted them. People like your friend Cormac.”

Now there was an idea. “You’re not going to give me any hints about where to start, are you?”

“Think about it for a minute. If I met Doc Holliday, who else do you think I might have known?”

Western history wasn’t my strong suit, but my knowledge was better than average. I remembered the stories of the Wild West and the O.K. Corral, and a few choice Hollywood treatments of the same, and my eyes grew wide.

“Wyatt Earp?”

Rick just smiled.

Chapter 2

AFTER MY TALK with Rick, I called Alette, vampire Mistress of Washington, D.C. Because that was how little sense of decorum I had.

“Whatever you want to know, I probably can’t tell you,” she said, an amused lilt to her matriarchal tone.

“So does that mean you don’t know, or you know but won’t tell me?”

“Ask your question, and we’ll see.”

“Was General Sherman a werewolf?”

She paused a moment, and I imagined her sitting in the refined Victorian parlor of her Georgetown home, phone to her ear, smiling an indulgent smile. I was asking a favor; I couldn’t force her to tell me. I depended on her kindness. Her tolerance.

“I can’t say,” she said finally, which made me think she knew, and that the answer was yes. Not that I would ever get her to admit that. I let out a growl, and she chuckled. “Did you expect me to say anything else?”

“I had to try,” I said. “I always have to try.”

“Yes, you certainly do. Have you asked Rick?”

“Asked him first. He didn’t know anything about Sherman, but he did bring up Wyatt Earp. I don’t suppose you have any good dirt on him, do you?”

“Well, I don’t know about dirt…”

She told me a story.

In the early 1870s, a group of vampires had traveled west and settled near Dodge City, Kansas, hoping to take advantage of the lawlessness, of people traveling anonymously across the plains—cowboys on cattle drives, prospectors, traders, settlers. They could feed without consequence, kill as they liked, with no one the wiser. But someone noticed, and their den was burned to the ground and all of them killed. The established East Coast vampire Families heard of the slaughter but never discovered who was responsible—though truth be told they were relieved that the anarchic vampires had been disposed of. Shortly after, Families began sending their own representatives west to establish enclaves in the burgeoning cities, to prevent such lawlessness from happening again. Alette let drop the information that Rick had already been in the region for decades and that the eastern vampires were startled to find one of their kind of his age in the lawless West. I’d have to ask him about that.

The timing of the fire that destroyed the anarchic vampires coincided with the time that Wyatt Earp spent as deputy marshal of Dodge City, and rumor had it that his law-enforcement activities extended to the supernatural. I thanked Alette for the tidbit and promised to keep in touch.

Research into ghost towns and fires in 1870s Kansas followed, and I marked likely spots on a map. Not that burned vampires left any hard evidence behind. I was never going to find solid proof, a diary or letter in Wyatt Earp’s handwriting stating, “Yes, I killed vampires while I lived in Dodge City.” But I hoped to get … something. That was how, a month later, Ben, Cormac, and I ended up standing in the middle of a stretch of prairie about fifteen miles northeast of Dodge City.

Getting Cormac out here had been a challenge in itself. He was on parole after serving time for a manslaughter conviction and officially wasn’t allowed to leave the Denver area for the time being. But we were family—Ben was Cormac’s cousin, and I was Ben’s wife. So that made us cousins-in-law. Or something. We explained to Cormac’s parole officer that we were going to visit a dying relative. The story must have been convincing, because Cormac got permission to leave, but we had to make a lot of promises about getting him back to Denver to check in and sign a lot of papers taking responsibility if anything happened while Cormac was with us.

We’d jumped through all the hoops because I’d wanted his perspective out here. And, if I had to admit it, the perspective of the ghost he’d picked up in prison—a nineteenth-century wizard named Amelia Parker. She was either haunting him, had possessed him, or was just along for the ride. It was a long story.

I asked, but Cormac said she hadn’t known Wyatt Earp herself.

“It’s not like the movies,” he said. “Not everybody knew each other.”

“I know that. I figured it was worth asking.” I was getting frustrated with everyone treating me like this quest was naïve and silly. It was easy to get frustrated, standing on a stretch of grass that went on for miles with only 140-year-old rumors as a guide.

While he might be an American hero, Earp hadn’t been the nicest guy in the world. His name came up in a lot of court cases involving things like running prostitution rings. Much like Sherman and his nervous breakdown, Earp had some missing time in his history, a couple of years when historians couldn’t quite track down where he’d been or what he’d been doing. One account had him hunting buffalo across the Great Plains.

I had a feeling he’d been hunting something. Not that I had any hard evidence.

Late afternoon, the summer sun was setting, casting a warm golden haze over a landscape of rolling hills, rippling grasses, and a copse of trees leaning over a trickling stream. Birds fluttered, and a swarm of gnats hovered nearby. I could almost smell the sunshine—ripe grass, rich soil, life thriving just out of sight.

Sweating in the sticky air, we’d hiked a couple of miles off the end of the dirt road where we’d had to leave the car. I had a GPS navigator, and according to the coordinates, there used to be a farmstead around here. We fanned out to search for evidence.

“What are we looking for again?” Ben said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Timbers, foundations, scraps.”

“Fire,” Cormac said. His expression was unreadable behind his sunglasses. He wasn’t carrying guns, but he looked like he should have been. He wore a leather jacket over a T-shirt, worn jeans, scuffed biker boots, determined scowl—ready for action. In the pockets of the jacket he was probably carrying something that he—that Amelia—could use as weapons. Amulets, charms, potions, spells. I didn’t know what all she could do, through Cormac’s body. Cormac would appear to be the wizard to anyone who knew what to look for. You had to really know Cormac to recognize that he wasn’t always the one in charge. I tried not to think too hard about it.

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