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Twenty‑six

 

B ones and I waited next to the Cathedral of the Epiphany, one of its tall steeples casting the shadow of a cross over where we stood. I told myself that was a good omen even though I couldn’t shake my tenseness. At eight in the evening, the area wasn’t as busy, but enough people were around that I worried about more than Tyler’s safety if Kramer showed up. Earlier today, we’d checked Dexter and Helsing into a kennel. It wasn’t a long‑term solution, but it was the best choice until Spade could arrange to pick them up. The pets, like Francine and Lisa, would be safer away from me.

Toward that end, we’d spent last night in an abandoned meatpacking facility in the Stockyards, keeping sage burning on the cold cement floor all evening. Even though it was miserable, and none of us slept, we couldn’t justify getting a hotel room and endangering anyone unlucky enough to be in the rooms next to ours. Bones made some calls, and tonight we’d be in a rented house without any close neighbors, but not until we spoke to my uncle. There were some important questions that only Don could answer. He better show up, I thought, glancing at the clock on my cell phone. I wouldn’t put it past my uncle to stand me up if an opportunity arose for him to follow Madigan without being detected.

My concerns were laid to rest when I spotted a ghostly figure floating over the park’s rolling hills, wearing a business suit instead of an old, mended tunic. I didn’t know what made certain clothes appear on ghosts–Don hadn’t died in a business suit, after all–but that wasn’t what I was burning to find out. He’d barely gotten within earshot before I started in on him.

“How long did it take from the time you started looking for me to when you popped up on our lawn yesterday?”

“Hello to you, too, Cat,” my uncle replied with a faint shake of his head. Tyler sidled over, squinting in the direction I faced. Must’ve figured out from my question that a ghost was here even though he couldn’t see him yet.

“Lives depend on your answer,” Bones told my uncle crisply.

Don gave his eyebrow a few thoughtful tugs. “It was around five in the morning, Tennessee time, when I began to concentrate on you like you told me to. What time was it when you saw me?”

“A little after two in the afternoon.” With the time change, that was about ten hours. Far, far longer than when I first had Marie’s blood and Fabian attempted to find me. That took him anywhere from minutes to less than an hour to zoom to my side, depending on how far away I was.

Bones gave Don a speculative look before turning his attention to me. “He’s not used to navigating by ley lines and he’s not nearly as powerful as Kramer. Best to assume it would take the Inquisitor half that time.”

Five hours. God, that wasn’t enough time to get anything significant done before the ghost found us.

“We were at the meatpacking plant longer than that last night,” I pointed out, hoping Bones was wrong.

“And he could’ve been there, waiting to see if Spade and the others joined up with us,” he replied.



Good point. Why would Kramer tip his hand if it wouldn’t net him anything he wanted? Bones and I weren’t his main targets; those women were. Kramer certainly hadn’t let on that he’d found the town house until Ian blasted away with Francine. No wonder nothing had happened when Bones and I took Lisa from her house. Kramer already knew where we were headed. The fucker was probably laughing the whole time he watched us, thinking we were making it easier on him by keeping both women under the same roof.

Well, at least he wouldn’t be laughing now. If Kramer had been watching us all last night, he’d know the others hadn’t met up with us, and it wouldn’t take him long to figure out that they weren’t going to. When that happened, I expected him to express his displeasure in his usual way–trying to murder all of us.

“Oh, there he is,” Tyler remarked. “You’re the old guy from the cave in Ohio. Howya doin’?”

“I’m dead, how do you think I’m doing?” my uncle replied sourly before floating closer to me. “What happened yesterday, Cat?”

I let out a short laugh. “The same ghost from that day at the cave dropped by, and as you can tell, his mood was the same, too.”

The suspicious look Don gave me was one I remembered well from the early days when I worked for him, and I didn’t know about our family ties. “What did you do to make him so angry?”

“What did I do ?” I sputtered, so outraged by the question that I couldn’t even begin to formulate an answer.

“I don’t have the patience for this today,” Bones growled, running a hand through his hair. “All you need to know, Williams, is that we’ll be surrounding ourselves with burning sage until we catch this sod again or you can’t locate her by concentrating, whichever comes first.”

Even if my reaction hadn’t been enough, the edge to Bones’s tone should’ve told Don to tread lightly because we were both on our last nerves, but my uncle seemed oblivious to the warning.

“That won’t work,” he stated. “Cat knows I need a way to get to her if something comes up at the compound. How am I supposed to do that if every place you’re staying at is smoked out like a Christmas ham?”

Did he not notice what happened at the town house yesterday? I wondered in disbelief. “We don’t have a choice. If Madigan pulls any new shit, Tate and the guys will have to handle it on their own. If there’s a life‑or‑death emergency, go to our cabin. A vampire’s there who can get a message to us.”

That was the best I could do. I didn’t expect Madigan to make a lethal move against the guys, but if he did, I’d act. In the meantime, Don would just have to accept that he couldn’t drop in on me until the last of Marie’s power was out of my system, and we didn’t need to burn sage twenty‑four hours a day anymore.

My uncle stared at me like I’d grown two heads. “It’s really that easy for you to shuck me off? I might not be solid, but I thought you still considered me to be your family.”

I sucked in a gasp, feeling like he’d just punched me in the gut. Before I could release that breath in my defense, Bones’s voice lashed out.

“Don’t you dare attack her. If you’d been forthcoming with what you knew about Madigan, it’s very likely we’d have no need to keep sage lit around us because that ghost would be locked in a trap.”

Don bristled. “Now wait a minute–”

“No, I won’t,” Bones said, his anger blazing forth. “It’s obvious that you knew Madigan had connections with other vampires, and yet you didn’t inform us. If you’d been honest, we could’ve anticipated his actions instead of being caught off guard at the cave. But no, you chose to keep silent about that.”

“You don’t understand. I . . . can’t tell you everything about him. Not yet,” Don said roughly.

Bones stabbed his finger through my uncle’s chest. “Keep all the secrets you fancy about things that don’t endanger her life, but it’s clear Madigan has an interest in her and an agenda beyond climbing the corporate ladder. Either tell us everything you know about him now or stay away from your niece.”

Don backed up at the vehemence in Bones’s tone. So did Tyler. I admit to flinching because his aura crackled with enough power to make it feel like I was standing in a sandstorm. I’d only seen Bones more upset one time, and that incident was still burned on my memory.

Bones turned to me then, his gaze dark and steady.

“I’m sorry for how that will hurt you, but I can’t have him near when he’s withholding information that might get us killed. What if Madigan had showed up at the cave with his vampire associates instead of juiced‑up humans? What if he had informed our enemies where we were? We had no idea the sod had connections to our world beyond the team members I sired, yet Don knew, and he kept it to himself.”

Back at the cave, I’d also noticed that Don hadn’t looked surprised when Madigan proved to have soldiers hyped up on vampire blood that didn’t come from Tate or Juan. In the midst of everything that had happened, I hadn’t had a chance to question him about it to see if I was right, but now there was no need. My uncle’s guilty yet defiant expression confirmed it all.

“You need to spill what you know before anyone else gets hurt, or worse,” I said, drilling him with my gaze.

“If I tell you everything, he’ll just kill Madigan because that’s all he knows,” Don snapped with an accusing wave at Bones. “But killing him before I find out what I need to know might end up costing innocent lives. You want that kind of blood on your hands?”

Bones’s laughter cut the air like a whip. “Know whose blood I care about? Hers. And those women the ghost is after, I care about their blood, too. So you’re right that I’ll kill Madigan if he’s a threat to them. In truth, if we weren’t so busy, I’d be tempted to kill the sod so he couldn’t interrupt us the next time we attempt to trap that ghost.”

Don’s expression was wary now, as those flatly delivered words clued him in to how serious Bones was. “You can’t do that. Cat, promise me you won’t let him do that.”

I thought about the years I’d known Don. He had some truly noble qualities, and I knew he loved me, but he’d always been secretive and somewhat Machiavellian in his actions. I’d been okay with that back when I worked for him, but I wasn’t okay with it now, considering how it had endangered me and Bones in this latest incident.

Bones was right–Madigan’s unknown vampire ties meant he could’ve brought a far more dangerous entourage with him to the cave. Plus, if we’d known that Madigan was more than a puffed‑up suit, we would’ve picked a place that had no ties to my former team. I thought of everything I’d read in the Malleus Maleficarum about what Kramer did to those who were at his mercy. About Elisabeth’s face as she described her rape, torture, and death, and Francine and Lisa being the latest in a long line of women Kramer had marked for the same horrific fate.

My mouth hardened. “Either you come clean with us about Madigan, or Bones is right. You need to go.”

“How can you say that?”

I hated the betrayal in Don’s voice. I loved him like the father I’d never had, so it struck me right in the heart, as did the repelled look he gave me.

“Every Halloween, three women are kidnapped, raped, tortured, and burned alive by the ghost that Madigan’s interruption prevented us from trapping,” I replied, meeting the gray gaze that was identical to my own. “Bones and I might not get another chance to trap that ghost, and if we don’t, many more women will die.” I drew in a breath for courage. “I love you, Don, but you can’t keep treating me like an employee on a need‑to‑know basis. Even if you don’t trust Bones to react rationally to whatever you know about Madigan–and I disagree with that–after all we’ve been through, you should at least trust me. I’ve more than earned it.”

Bones slid his arm around me, his aura changing from dangerous spikes of anger into strength, pride, and compassion. Those emotions flowed over me and through me, seeping into the very fiber of my being until it felt like we’d melded into the same person.

Don’s expression hardened into a stubborn mask that I well recognized, and I knew with deep sorrow that my words had fallen on deaf ears.

“I can tell you this–Madigan doesn’t have ties to the undead world like you’re thinking. Any vampires he’s getting blood from are his captives, not his allies, and no, I don’t know who they are or where they are.”

He didn’t say anything else. He just dissipated with that mixture of stubbornness and how‑could‑you still stamped on his features. I blew out a long, slow sigh, leaning in closer to Bones’s embrace.

“Looks like that’s another problem we need to deal with,” I said. If these captive vampires were random Masterless murderers, then Madigan could keep them and tap their veins like tree trunks for all I cared. But if they were innocent vampires snatched up while minding their own business, or they belonged to a powerful Master who might take revenge on their capture by wiping out my entire former team, we needed to act.

Right after we found a way to lock up a homicidal ghost, that was.

“Indeed. Madigan’s playing on dangerous ground, and so is your uncle,” Bones said, his tone still edged in anger.

Tyler patted his shoulder in a comforting way. “Family. Aren’t they a motherfucker sometimes?”

That summed it up so well, there really was nothing else left to say.

 


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 405


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