B ones took one look at my condition and began beating the dark, foul‑tasting substance out of Kramer. I’d done a fair job against him myself, but Bones was a lot stronger and hadn’t used up most of his energy healing himself from being burned to kingdom come, let alone been overwhelmed by unexpected voices. I would have loved to keep watching, but I still had things to take care of.
“I need to make sure Francine’s out of the fields,” I said, speaking up to be heard over Kramer’s groans of pain. “She’s covered in gasoline; if she runs into the wrong section of field, it could kill her.”
That wasn’t a concern for me anymore. I was pretty sure any part of my skin that formerly had gasoline on it had been burned off.
“Go,” Bones said, his arm so tight around the Inquisitor’s throat that it would kill him if he weren’t already dead. “I’ve got him.”
I didn’t waste my time running through the fields but mustered up my sagging energy and flew, making sure to keep low enough to see. With the glow from the fire and some of my skin peeking out from under the soot, it was possible anyone looking in my direction might spot me, but hopefully they would think it was a trick of the flames.
With my new vantage point, it didn’t take long at all to spot the trench carving itself into the cornfield that was caused by someone running. I swooped over, not aiming for Francine when I descended because I knew better. Sure enough, I bounced around in a landing that made her scream from fear and run in the other direction, but I got up and grabbed her before she went out of sight again.
“Francine, it’s Cat!” I said, hearing from her thoughts that she didn’t recognize me. After a few good shakes of her shoulders, she lost that terrified blankness in her gaze.
“Cat?” Her face crumpled, and I picked up words like “hideous” and “zombie” as she tried to absorb my appearance now with what I looked like before. “What did he do to you?”
“Burned me like a hamburger on the Fourth of July,” I supplied, glad there weren’t any full‑length mirrors nearby. “It looks worse than it is, but we need to get you out of here.”
I propelled myself into the air high enough to see which direction the road was, then dropped back down, wincing because I hadn’t slowed my descent enough to make that painless.
“All right,” I gritted out, cursing whatever I’d done to my ankles. “Let’s go.”
I carried her as I ran through the field toward the road. She could walk, but this was much faster. Once she was safely on the road, crying with relief when she saw Lisa a ways up, I headed back to Bones. This time, I didn’t need to hover above the fields to pinpoint where I wanted to go. I could feel his power reaching out to me, drawing me nearer like a beacon.
When I reached him, I saw with relief that he still had Kramer in a viselike grip. While I didn’t think the ghost was strong enough to wrestle himself away, I was worried about his poofing away, if he could transform himself back to vapor at will. But then I saw what was in Bones’s hand and I laughed out loud at the stunned look on the Inquisitor’s face.
“How do you like the Taser? That was Tyler’s idea after seeing you zapped into flesh when you were fucking with our electricity.”
“I don’t think he fancies it much at all, do you?” Bones asked, pressing its prongs into Kramer’s side. The ghost jerked, eyes bugging in a way that confirmed it hurt.
Well, then it was an effective and fun tool.
Bones tore the Inquisitor’s black robes from him, revealing wrinkled, pasty flesh that I wished was covered back up. Kramer unleashed a torrent of curses at this, but both of us ignored him.
“Do you want to put this on?” he asked, holding the robe out to me.
I looked at it with loathing. “I’d rather stay naked.”
The barest smile touched Bones’s mouth. “Of course. Hold him for a moment.”
I kept a solid grip on the ghost while Bones took off his shirt. Kramer kept up with his threats against me, my family, my friends, my ancestors, and anyone else the Inquisitor could think up. With his shirt off, I saw that Bones had more Tasers strapped to his upper arms. We should have enough voltage to keep Kramer from attempting to dematerialize, if he even had that ability before the sun rose.
I’d passed Kramer off to Bones and slipped his shirt over my head when two other large objects came beaming toward us from the sky. Ian and Spade, I noted, the latter carrying Tyler. No wonder the medium looked even less pleased about flying than usual.
They landed with a smooth grace that made me jealous. Unlike Bones, who now only had on a pair of pants and boots, all three men wore long trench coats. Spade took one look at me, and his was off before he’d gone another step.
“Thanks,” I said, putting it on more because I was cold than any concerns about flashing my butt if Bones’s shirt rode up.
Ian, ever tactful, had another form of hello.
“Christ, Reaper, with your bald head and all that soot, you look like a mannequin someone attacked with a blowtorch.”
“Ian, if I weren’t holding this sod, you’d be on the ground right now,” Bones gritted out.
“I’m not holding anyone,” Spade said, and whacked Ian hard enough to make him stagger.
I ran my hand over my head and winced when all I felt was smooth skin. Well, what did I expect? That my hair had been fireproof?
“Please tell me there’s a neat vampire trick that can help me grow this back quicker?”
“There is, and you’re lovely with or without hair,” Bones said, actually making it sound sincere.
Tyler held open his coat in flasher style, grinning when Kramer let out a fresh spurt of curses at him.
“Look what I brought for you, ghostfriend!”
I no longer had any worries about our having enough Tasers for the long trip. Tyler’s coat was stuffed with them, as were his pants pockets and the holster straps around his shirt. “That’s why they brought me,” he went on. “Didn’t want to be packing as many themselves in case they had to fight, but I’m weighted down with them. Now that it looks like you’ve got things under control, let’s pass these puppies out.”
I took a few Tasers, filling up the folds and pockets of Spade’s coat. Ian and Spade divvied up the rest, testing a few out on Kramer just for kicks, it looked like.
“We need to check on Lisa and Francine,” I said.
We found them right where I had left them, far enough up the street to be away from the mass of activity that was now taking place at the entrance to PumpkinTown. I was just telling them to head over there so they could get treated by the ambulances that were arriving when I heard something crash through the fields about a hundred yards away. I caught brief snatches of yelps over the approaching sirens, crackling flames, chaos from the Halloween guests, and constant rustling noises from the cornstalks. But it was the mental screams and distinct patterns of white noise that identified who was out there.
I didn’t need to see her to know that Sarah was going deeper into the fields, not toward the safety of the roads. The fire department might get here in time to save her, but then again, they might not. With Sarah’s broken ankle and internal injuries from Kramer’s kicks, there was a good chance she wouldn’t outrun the flames or would be overcome with smoke. Sarah had looked forward to watching me, Lisa, and Francine burn, but despite its being poetic justice, I couldn’t sentence her to the same fate.
“It’s Sarah,” I said, squaring my shoulders. “I’ll go get her.”
Spade was off like a shot before the last word left my mouth. A few moments later, I heard a scream. Saw a streak of movement going straight up until that scream faded away, and I couldn’t follow them with my gaze anymore. And then, about a minute later, I heard a rush of panicked thoughts right before something fell from the sky at a great speed, landing in the field with a thump I more sensed than heard.
Spade came plummeting down far slower. He landed without a single hitch in his stride, a dark little smile playing about his lips.
“Turns out she doesn’t need your assistance,” he said, tone as casual as if he’d just helped Sarah cross a street, not dropped her from at least a mile up. Spade was usually chivalrous to a fault, but try to kill his wife, and you wouldn’t have a former eighteenth‑century nobleman on your hands. You’d have a lethal, avenging vampire.
If possible, Francine and Lisa turned even paler. They might have hated Sarah for what she did, but this was a little too much for them to handle at the moment.
“Tyler, can you take them to one of the ambulances so they can get treated?”
I wanted to stay and keep an eye on Kramer, though Bones had him well under control. Besides, the way I looked would draw too much attention if I got around people.
“Come on, sweethearts, let’s get you fixed up,” he urged, putting an arm around each of them. Then he winked at me. “Catch you later at the homestead. Spade said he’d send a car. Dexter’s going to flip when he sees me.”
“Is it over?” Francine asked, and the same question repeated in Lisa’s mind.
I looked at Kramer, still muttering threats and thrashing in Bones’s grip even though both got him nowhere. “It is for you two. You won’t see him again. We’ll take care of the rest.”
With a last, long look at us, Francine and Lisa let Tyler escort them down the street to wait for one of the ambulances. I was eternally grateful that it seemed Kramer had been too busy following me and setting up his ambush to have spent it torturing them, but they were still the worse for wear. They had deep lacerations on their wrists and ankles from struggling against the metal restraints, and that was just what I could see.
“Do you feel up to coming with us, Kitten?” Bones asked. His aura wrapped around me in strong, soothing bands even though his hands were still full with a livid ghost.
I had no hesitation in my response. “I’ll need someone to carry me, but I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
I was still too weak from healing the many injuries I’d received to fly myself, but I wanted to be there when Kramer was sealed into his prison. Hell, I wanted to dance around it, chanting.
More noise drew my attention to the sky. I’d expected to see firemen, policemen, and ambulances descend on the farm, but I was surprised to see a military helicopter land in one of the cleared areas of the street. It was far enough away from the remaining flames for the churning air from the rotors not to fan them, but close enough that I recognized one of the men who exited it.
Bones’s head whipped in that direction, lips tightening when he saw the brown‑haired vampire shouting orders to the other, helmeted soldiers who exited after him. They were too far away to see us, but as if Tate could feel our stares, he turned, looking right at us.
“You go, I’ll deal with him,” Spade muttered.
We did need to leave. The trip to Ottumwa would take almost four hours, and if Tate was here, Madigan probably wasn’t far behind, but I put a hand on Bones’s shoulder.
“Let’s wait a minute,” I said, motioning to Tate. “If he calls anyone else over, we’ll leave.”
Tate trotted over after a last shouted command, slowing down to stare at Francine, Tyler, and Lisa when he drew abreast of them. Then he resumed his brisk pace, his indigo gaze flitting between me, Bones, and the cursing ghost between us.
“Cat, your hair . . .” he began.
“If you think I look like shit now, you should’ve seen me when I was on fire. But enough of that. Why are you here?”
His features tightened at my brisk overview of being burned, but then they turned stony at my question.
“Madigan confiscated some amateur footage a week ago of you throwing a car off yourself, so he knows you’re in Iowa. He’s hot to get his hands on the ghost who killed his men, and he knows you’re after it, too. So we’re supposed to keep a lookout for you.”
“Was the footage from a cell phone video?” I wondered irreverently.
Tate nodded. “Those things fucking annoy me.”
He’d get no argument from me on that one. “Someone reported seeing a flaming person fly through the air with one of the 911 calls about the fire,” Tate continued. “We were deployed to investigate if it that was hysterical witness exaggerating, or if something supernatural was involved.”
“You will all be thrown into the eternal lake of fire!” Kramer shouted. I slammed my elbow into his face without bothering to look at him. From the zzzt! sound that followed, Bones zapped him again.
“So Madigan’s after me because he wants revenge for his murdered soldiers,” I mused.
Tate grunted. “No. He wants you to trap the ghost, then have us steal the trap so he can use the thing later as a weapon. Stupid bastard thinks he could control it.”
“And what are you intending to report to him?” Bones asked, his aura changing to icy, warning currents.
Tate shrugged. “That I didn’t see any vampires here but me.”
Kramer continued with his ranting about how we were all going to suffer, burn, beg, etc. None of us paid any attention to him, which enraged him more.
“This is the ghost,” I said, noting the shock that crossed Tate’s expression as he looked at the very solid Kramer. “We need you to make sure your team stays here for a while so no one follows us.”
The slightest smile crossed his face. “Then again, maybe I did see something suspicious on the far end of the field. Might take hours to investigate.”
I smiled back. “Thank you.”
He cast a final glance at Kramer before heading back toward the helicopter. The dangerous currents eased from Bones, changing into waves of determination.
“Let’s finish this, Kitten.”
I looked at Kramer and, for the first time, saw fear in the Inquisitor’s green gaze.
“Yes, let’s,” I drew out with supreme satisfaction.