Blood Lines / Chapter Six

Chapter Six


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'Did you have the dream?"

Henry nodded, his expression bleak. "A yellow sun blazing in a bright blue sky. No change." He leaned back against the window, hands shoved deep into the front pockets of his jeans.

'Still no voice-over?"

'No what?"

'Voice-over." Vicki dropped her purse and a bulging shopping bag on the floor and then flopped down onto the couch. "You know, some kind of narrative that explains what's going on."

'I don't think it works that way."

Vicki snorted. "I don't see why it shouldn't." She could tell from his tone that he wasn't amused and she sighed. So much for easing stress with humor. "Well, it still seems essentially harmless. I mean, it's not actually compelling you to do anything."

She didn't see him move. One moment he was at the window, the next leaning on the arm of the couch, his face inches from hers.

'For over four hundred and fifty years I have not seen the sun. Now I see it in my mind every night when I wake."

She didn't exactly meet his eyes; she knew better than to hand him that much power when he was in a mood to use it. "Look, I sympathize. It's like a recovering alcoholic waking every morning with the knowledge that there'll be an open bottle of booze on the doorstep that evening and having to live all day wondering if he'll be strong enough not to end the day with a drink. I think you're strong enough."

'And if I'm not?"

'Well, you can stop with the fucking defeatist attitude for starters." She heard the arm of the couch creak under his grip, and kept going before he could speak. "You told me you didn't want to die. Fine, you're not going to."

Slowly, he straightened.

'I wasn't here for you this morning and I'm sorry about that, but I spent most of the day thinking about this whole thing." Celluci's phone call had given her confidence a boost when it had needed it most. She'd always managed to keep up her half of that relationship and she'd be damned if this one would defeat her. And in return for your trust, Henry, I'm going to give you your life. She pulled her purse up onto her lap and dug a hammer and a handful of u-shaped nails out of its depths. "I've got a blackout curtain in here." She prodded the shopping bag with the toe of her shoe. "I bought it this afternoon from a theatrical supply house. We'll hang it over the door to the bedroom. After you go out, I leave. The curtain will block the sunlight coming in from the hall. From now on, until your personal little sun sets, I tuck you in every morning and if the time comes when you can't stop yourself from heading for the pyre, I stop you."

'How?"

Vicki reached into the shopping bag. "If you go for the window," she said, "I figure I've got about a minute, maybe two, before you get through the barrier. You proved rather definitively last summer that though you heal quickly you can be hurt."

'And if I should try for the door?"

She smacked the aluminum baseball bat against the palm of her left hand. "Than I'm afraid it's a frontal assault."

Henry stared at the bat for a moment, brows drawn down into a deep vee, then he raised his head and gazed intently at Vicki's face. "You're serious," he said at last.

She met his eyes then. "Never more so."

A muscle jumped in his jaw and his brow smoothed out. Then the corners of his mouth began to twitch. "I think," he told her, "that the solution is as dangerous as the problem."

'That's the whole idea."

He smiled then, a softer smile than she'd ever seen him use. It made him look absurdly young and it made her feel strong, protective, necessary. "Thank you."

She felt her own lips curve and the knots of tension slip out of her shoulders. "You're welcome."

Henry set the points of the last nail against the curtain and pushed it into the wall without bothering to use the hammer. Behind him, he heard Vicki mutter, "Show-off." The curtain was an inspired idea. He wasn't so sure about the baseball bat although clubbing him senseless had a certain brutal simplicity to it he could appreciate in the abstract. When it came right down to it, he still felt Yield's presence would be enough to remind him that he didn't want to die.

Stepping down off the chair, he twitched the edge of the curtain into place. It extended about three feet past the door, similar, in form at least, to the tapestries that used to hang in his bedchamber at Sheriffhuton to block the drafts. Hopefully, it would be more effective.

Vicki had laid the bat on the bureau where it gleamed dully against the dark wood like a modern mace awaiting the hand of a twenty-first century warrior. There had been a lord at his father's court, a Scot if memory served, whose preferred weapon had been a mace. Just after his investiture as the Duke of Richmond, he had watched in open-mouthed awe as the man-who mostly certainly had to have been a Scot-reduced a wooden door to kindling and then defeated the three men behind it with identical strokes. Even his majesty had been impressed, clapping a beefy hand on his bastard's slender shoulder and declaring heartily, "You can't do that with a sword, boy!"

His royal father and that half-remembered lord had long since returned to dust. Although the mace quite probably still hung over a lowland mantel between the stag heads and the claymores, it no doubt had been centuries since it had been lifted in battle. Henry ran one finger down the smooth, cool length of aluminum.

'Penny for your thoughts?"

He could feel Vicki's unease in spite of her matter-of-fact tone. He could almost hear her thinking, What do I do if he decides to get rid of the bat? Or more likely, knowing Vicki, Would a kidney punch break his grip if he decides to hold on? "I was just considering," he told her, turning slowly, "how battle has become a stylized ritual with forms that change to fit the seasons."

Both her brows arced above the upper edge of her glasses. "Oh, there's still plenty of real battles going on," she drawled.

'I know that." Henry spread his hands, searching for the words that would help her to understand the difference. "But all the honor and the glory seem to have been taken from reality and given to games."

'Well, I'll admit there's very little honor and less glory in having your head bashed in by some biker with a length of chain or having a junkie in an alley go for you with a knife or even in having to take your nightstick to some drunk trying to do you first, but you're going to have to go a long way to convince me that honor and glory ever went along with violence of any kind."

'It wasn't the violence," he protested, "it was the?"

'Victory?"

'Not exactly, but at least you used to know when you won."

'Maybe that's why they've given the honor and glory to games-you can fight for victory without leaving an unsightly mound of bodies behind."

He frowned. "I hadn't actually thought of it like that."

'I know." She ducked under the curtain and out into the hall. "Honor and glory mean bugger all to the losers. Prince, vampire; you've always been on the winning side."

'And what side are you on?" he asked a little testily as he followed her. She hadn't so much missed the point of what he'd been trying to say as completely changed its direction.

'The side of truth, justice, and the Canadian way."

'Which is?"

'Compromise, for the most part."

'Funny, I've never thought of you as a person who compromises well."

'I don't."

He reached out and took hold of her wrist, pulling her to a stop and then around to face him. "Vicki, if I said I was tired, that I've lived six times longer than the natural human span and I've had enough, would you let me walk out into the sun?"

Not bloody likely. She bit back the immediate emotional response. He'd asked her the question seriously, she could hear that in his voice and see it in his face, and it deserved more than a gut reaction. She'd always believed that a person's life was his own and that what he did with it was his business, no one else's. That worked fine in general, but would she let Henry choose to walk out into the sun? Friendship meant responsibility or it didn't mean much and, come to think of it, they'd settled that once already tonight. "If you want me to let you kill yourself, you'd damn well better be able to convince me that dying does more for you than living."

She'd gotten angry just thinking about it. He heard her bean speed up, saw muscles tense beneath clothes and skin. "Could I convince you?"

'I doubt it."

He lifted her hand and placed a kiss gently on the palm. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a very pushy person?" he murmured against the soft skin at the base of her thumb, inhaling the blood-rich scent of her flesh.

'Frequently." Vicki snatched her hand away and rubbed it against the front of her sweatshirt. Great, just what she needed, more stimulus. "There's no point in starting something you're not going to finish," she muttered a little shakily. "You fed last night from Tony."

'True."

'You don't need to feed tonight."

'True."

It always annoyed her that he could read her physical reaction so easily, that he always knew and she could only guess. Occasionally, however, the question became moot.

'I am too old for frenzied fucking in the hall," she informed him a moment later. "Stop that." Walking backward, she towed him toward the bedroom.

Henry's eyes widened. "Vicki, be careful?"

She tightened her grip and grinned. "After four hundred and fifty years, you should know that it won't pull off."

'I had dinner with Mike Celluci tonight." Henry sighed, and lightly traced the shadow of a vein in the soft hollow below Yield's ear. Although he'd taken only a few mouthfuls of blood he felt replete and lazy. "Do we have to talk about him now?"

'He thinks there's a mummy walking around Toronto."

'Lots of mummies," Henry murmured against her neck. "Daddies, too."

'Henry!" She caught him just under the solar plexus with an elbow. He decided to pay attention. "Celluci seriously believes that an ancient Egyptian has risen from his coffin and killed two people at the museum."

'The two people who died of heart attacks?"

'That's right."

'And you believe him?"

'Look, if Mike Celluci called me up and told me aliens had him trapped in his house, I might not believe him, but I'd show up with a flamethrower just in case. And as you're the closest thing to an expert on rising from the dead I know, I'm asking you. Is this possible?"

'Let me get this straight." Henry rolled over on his back and laced his fingers behind his head. "Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci came to you and said, There's a mummy loose in Toronto, murdering janitors and Egyptologists. And let me guess, he can't tell anyone else because no one else will believe him."

'Essentially."

'Are you sure this isn't just an elaborate April Fool's prank?"

'Too complicated. Celluci's a salt in the sugar bowl kind of guy, and besides, it's October."

'Good point. I assume he gave you his reasoning behind this stu? ouch, unusual idea."

'He did." Tapping out the points on Henry's chest, Vicki repeated everything Celluci had told her.

'And if PC Trembley confirms that there was a mummy, what then?"

She wound a short, red-gold curl around her finger. "I was hoping you could tell me."

'We help him stop it?"

'How?"

'I haven't the faintest idea." He heard her sigh, felt her breath against his chest, and lightly kissed the top of her head. "Did he ask you to speak to me about it?"

'No. But he said he didn't mind if I did." He'd actually said, Use a ghoul to find a ghoul? Why not? But under his sneer there'd been a sense of relief and Vicki had gotten the feeling that he'd been waiting all evening for her to ask, unwilling to bring it up himself. "He had to go to a hockey practice or I'd have suggested he tell you all this firsthand."

'That would have been a fun evening."

Vicki grinned. Celluci's reaction would have been louder and more profane but essentially similar.

Henry sat down at his desk and turned on his computer. Over the hum of the fan he could hear deep, slow breathing coming from the living room and, under that, the measured beat of a heart at rest.

'Don't expect me to stay around every night, " Vicki had warned him, yawning. "I expect most of the time I'll show up just before dawn to tuck you in. But, as long as I'm here, you might as well do some writing and I might as well get some sleep. " She'd led the way out of the bedroom, pillow tucked under one arm, blanket under the other. "I'll sack out on the couch. The airflow's better out there and you won't have to sleep surrounded by blood scent."

It was a plausible, even a considerate reason, but Henry didn't believe it. He'd seen the lines of tension smooth out of her back as they'd left the room. He listened to her sleep for a moment longer, then shook his head and turned his attention to the monitor. The book was due the first of December and he figured he was still a chapter away from happily ever after.

Veronica paced the length of her room in the Governor's mansion, silk skirts whipping around her shapely ankles. Captain Roxborough would hang on the morrow unless she could find some way to prevent it. She knew he wasn't a pirate but, even though the Governor had been more than kind, would her word mean anything once everyone discovered that she'd made her way to the islands disguised as a cabin boy? That Captain Roxborough had discovered her and that he'd?

She stopped pacing and raised slender fingers to cover her heated cheeks. None of that mattered now. "He must not die," she vowed.

'I can't seem to get away from dying at dawn," Henry muttered, pushing back from the desk.

Last spring, the dawn had caught him away from safety and he'd raced the sun for his life. He still bore the puckered scar on the back of his hand where the day had marked him.

Would it happen as quickly as that had, he wondered, or more slowly? Would it be instantaneous as his flesh ignited and turned to ash, or would he burn slowly in agony, screaming his way to the final death?

He forced his mind away from the thought, listening to the even tempo of Vicki's breathing until he calmed. There had to be something else he could think about.

'Celluci seriously believes that an ancient Egyptian has risen from his coffin and killed two people at the museum."

He'd been to Egypt once; just after the turn of the century; just after the death of Dr. O'Mara when England had seemed tainted and he'd had to get away. He hadn't stayed long.

He'd met Lady Wellington on the terrace at Shepheard's. She'd been sitting alone, drinking tea and watching the crowds of Egyptians making their way up Ibrahim Pasha Street when she'd felt his gaze and called him over. A recent widow in her early forties, she had no objection to keeping company with an attractive, well-bred young man. Henry, for his part, had found her candor refreshing. "Don't be ridiculous," she'd told him, when he'd expressed his sympathy on her loss, "the nicest thing his Lordship ever did for me was to drop dead before I was too old to enjoy my freedom. " And then she'd stroked the inside of his thigh under the cover of the damask tablecloth.

Publicly, they were as discreet as the society of 1903 demanded. Privately, she was just what Henry needed after the incident with the grimoire. He never told her what he was and she accepted the time he spent away from her with the same aplomb as the time he spent with her. He rather suspected she had another lover for the daylight hours and found himself admiring her stamina.

On the nights he had to feed from others, he stayed away from the English and American tourists and slipped into the dark and twisting streets of old Cairo where sloe-eyed young men never knew they paid for their pleasure with blood.

And then he began to feel watched. Although he could identify no obvious threat-dark eyes watched all the visitors and certainly seemed to watch him no more than the rest-the skin between his shoulder blades continued to crawl. He began to take more care moving to and from his sanctuary.

A moonlight climb to the top of the Great Pyramid had become "the thing to do" and it took little pleading for Henry to agree to accompany Lady Wallington on her expedition. The city had started to feel like it was closing around him, as if it were some large and complicated trap. Perhaps a few hours away from it would clear his head.

They stepped out of the carriage onto moon-silvered sand that drifted up against the base of the monuments like new fallen snow, its purity broken by the pits that marked vandalized tombs or sunken shrines. The light had erased the patina of age from the pyramids and they in turn cast dark bands of shadow across the features of the Sphinx so that he looked both more and less human as he gazed enigmatically down on the night. Unfortunately, flaring torches and crawling bodies marred the pale sides of the Great Pyramid and the sounds of their progress carried clearly on the desert air.

'Hot damn, ain't we there yet?"

'While I admire Americans as a breed," Lady Wallington sighed, tucking her hand in the crook of Henry's elbow, "there are a few individuals I could gladly do without."

As they approached the pyramid, they braced themselves for the charge of self-styled guides, antiquities peddlers, and assorted beggars who stood clustered around the base waiting for the chance to part foreigners from their money.

'How strange," Lady Wallington murmured, as the men remained where they were, peering out at them from under their turbans and muttering to themselves in Arabic. "Although, I suppose we can manage quite well without them." But she looked rather dubiously at the monument as she spoke, for in full evening dress the three to three and a half foot steps would not be easy to navigate without assistance. Most of the women already climbing had two men pulling from above and another pushing from below.

Henry frowned. Under the scent of dirt and sweat and spice, he could smell fear. As he leapt up onto the first block and reached down for Lady Wallington's hand, one of them made the sign against the evil eye.

Lady Wallington followed his gaze and laughed. "Don't mind that," she explained as he lifted her easily up onto the next level, "it's just that in the torchlight your hair looks redder than it generally does and red hair is the mark of Set, the Egyptian version of the devil."

'Then I won't mind it," he reassured her with a smile. But the smile would have meant more if he hadn't seen the knot of men melt away the moment he'd climbed beyond the range of a normal man's vision.

Over the years, the top of the pyramid had been removed, leaving a flat area about thirty feet square at the summit. Breathing a little heavily, Lady Wallington collapsed onto one of the scattered blocks and was immediately surrounded by natives who tried to sell her everything from bad reproductions of papyrus scrolls, guaranteed genuine, to the finger of a mummy, undeniably genuine. Henry, they ignored. He left her to her purchases and wandered closer to the eastern edge where, past the obsidian ribbon that was the Nile, he could see the twinkling lights of Cairo.

They came from upwind, moving so quietly that mortal ears would not have heard them. Henry caught the sound of hearts pounding in a half dozen chests and turned long before they were ready.

One man moaned, grimy fist shoved up to cover his mouth. Another stepped back, whites showing all around his eyes. The remaining four only froze where they stood and over the stronger stink of fear, Henry caught the smell of steel and saw moonlight glint on edged weapons.

'An open place for thieves," he remarked conversationally, hoping he wouldn't have to kill them.

'We are not here to steal from you, afreet," their leader said softly, his voice pitched so that none of the other foreigners on the pyramid would hear, "but to give you a warning. We know what you are. We know what you do in the night."

'I don't know what you're talking about." The protest was purely instinctive; Henry didn't expect to be believed. Even as he spoke, he realized from their bearing that they did know what he was and what he did and that the only option left was to find out what they intended to do about it.

'Please, afreet?" The leader spread his hands, his meaning plain.

Henry nodded, once, and allowed the persona of slightly vapid Englishman to drift away. "What do you want?" he asked, the weight of centuries giving his voice an edge.

The leader stroked his beard with fingers that trembled slightly and all six carefully kept from meeting Henry's gaze. "We want only to warn you. Leave. Now."

'And if I don't?" The edge became more pronounced.

'Then we will find where you hide from the day, and we will kill you."

He meant it. In spite of his fear, and the greater fear of the men behind him, Henry had no doubt they would do exactly as they said. "Why warn me?"

'You have proven yourself to be a neutral afreet," one of the other men spoke up. "We do not wish to make you angry, so we try a neutral path to be rid of you."

'Besides," the leader added dryly, "our young men insisted."

Henry frowned. "I gave them dreams?"

'Our people had a civilization when these people were savages." A wave of his hand indicated the tourists, Lady Wallington among them, still haggling over souvenirs. "We have forgotten more than they have yet learned. Dreams will not hide your nature, afreet. Will you take our warning and go?"

Henry studied their faces for a moment and saw, under the dirt and malnutrition, a remnant of the race that had built the pyramids and ruled an empire that had included most of northern Africa. To that remnant he bowed, the bow of a Prince receiving an ambassador from a distant, powerful land, and said, "I will go."

We have forgotten more than they have yet learned.

Henry drummed his fingers on the edge of his desk. Somehow he doubted that much more had been learned in the ninety odd years since. If Celluci was right and a mummy did walk the streets of Toronto, a mummy who brought with it the power of ancient Egypt, then they were all in a great deal of danger.

'Slumming, Detective?"

'Just seeing how the other half lives." Celluci leaned on the counter at 52 Division and scowled at the woman on the other side. "Trembley and her partner in yet? I need to talk to them."

'Good God, don't tell me one of you boys from homicide is actually working at six fifty in the a.m.? Just let me circle the date?"

'Bruton?" It wasn't quite a warning. "Trembley?"

'Jee-zus, take a man out of uniform and he loses his sense of humor. Not," she reflected, "that you ever had much of one. And you always were a son of a bitch in the morning. Come to think of it, you were a son of a bitch in the evening, too." Staff-Sergeant Heather Bruton had shared a car with Celluci for a memorable six months back when they'd both been constables, but the department had wisely separated them before any permanent damage had been done. "Trembley's not in yet. You want to wait or you want me to have her give you a shout?"

'I'll wait."

'Be still my beating heart." She blew him a sarcastic kiss and returned to her paperwork.

Celluci sighed and wondered if Vicki had known who'd be on duty when she suggested he talk to Trembley. Just the sort of thing she'd think was funny?

'? so then she says, 'Aren't you going to arrest him, Mommy?'"

Trembley's partner laughed. "How old is Kate now?"

'Just about three. Her birthday's November." She turned from Harbord Street onto Queen's Park Circle. "And can you believe it, for Halloween she wants? oh, fuck!"

'What?"

'The accelerator, it's stuck!"

The patrol car sped over the bridge and into the curve, picking up speed. Trembley swerved around a tiny import, fighting to keep control. She pumped the brakes once, twice, and then the pressure was gone.

'Shit!"

She stamped the emergency brake into the floor. Abused metal shrieked under the car.

Trembley's partner, the fingers of one hand dug deep into the dash, grabbed for the radio. "This is 5239! The car? Jesus, Trembley!"

'I see it! I see it!"

She yanked the wheel hard to the left. Tires squealed against asphalt. They passed behind the College streetcar with only a prayer between them.

'Throw it into reverse!"

'That'll fuse the engine!"

'So?"

The world slowed as PC Trembley suddenly realized that the car was not going where she steered it. The wheels had turned, but the car, drawing dark lines of rubber behind it, continued to head for the concrete memorial at the corner of the Toronto General Hospital.

The world resumed its normal speed just before they hit. Trembley's last feelings were relief. She didn't think she could stand dying in slow motion.

Upwind from the clouds of greasy black smoke, Celluci stared at the wreck of the patrol car, the heat from the fire lapping at his face. If by any miracle either officer had survived the impact, the explosion when the engine ignited would have finished them off. The blaze was so intense that the fire department could only let the flames burn out, concentrating on keeping them contained.

In spite of the early hour, a small crowd had gathered and the flower seller, who had been just about to set up on that corner, was having strong hysterics under the care of two paramedics.

'Funny thing," rasped a voice by Celluci's shoulder.

He turned and glared down at the filthy man swaying beside him. Even over the smell of the accident, he stank.

'I seen it," the man continued. "Told the cops. They don't believe me."

'Told them what?" Celluci growled.

'I am not drunk!" He staggered and clutched at Celluci's jacket. "But if you could spare some change?"

'Told them what?" Celluci repeated in a tone honed over the years to cut through alcoholic haze.

'What I seen." Still holding the jacket, he turned and pointed a filthy finger at the car. "Wheels was goin' one way. Car was goin' nuther way."

'It's barely light now, how could you have seen that then?"

'Was layin' in the park. Had a wheels-eye view."

It wasn't much of a park, more a garden planted on the median strip, but the trail of black rubber scorched onto the road passed right by it. Celluci followed the line to the wreck and then followed the smoke until it became a part of the overcast sky, spreading over the entire city.

The wheels were going one way.

The car was going another.

With a cold hand closing around his heart, Celluci ran for his car. It had suddenly become very important he see Trembley's occurrence reports for Monday morning.

'Jesus Christ, Celluci," Staff-Sergeant Bruton snapped, phone receiver cradled under her chin and three people clambering for her attention, "this is not the time to bother me with a missing fucking occurrence report, you? What?" She turned her attention back to the phone. "No. I don't want to call back. I want you to find him! Do not put me on ho? damnit!" She scrawled her signature on a preferred form, glared through the chaos and shouted, "Takahashi! Get that other line! Now then," she jabbed a finger in Celluci's direction, "if you need that report for a case, you call later. You hear me? Later."

'Sarge?" PC Takahashi held out the phone, his hand tightly over the mouthpiece. "It's Trembley's husband."

The hieroglyphs that had been etched into the paint of the toy police car had been completely obliterated and the small piece of paper folded three times toward the heart and then slipped into the front seat was no more than ash. He slid a magazine under the smoldering remains and lifted it out of the tub with a trembling hand. It had been a very long time since he'd worked that spell and, as burning down the hotel had not been part of his intention, he'd carefully set it up so that any random power would be contained. Because he'd forgotten that the fuel these cars relied upon was highly flammable, his foresight proved fortunate. As it was, the shower curtain appeared a little singed. He would have to have it replaced.

Dumping the nearly unidentifiable bit of metal into a crystal ashtray in the living room of the suite, he collapsed, exhausted, into a chair. Although there existed easier and less draining ways to accomplish the same purpose, the morning's work had, while removing the last two memories of his mummified form, proven that all his old skills were still intact. A quick trip to the station and a short chat with the young man on the desk had taken care of the written records last night.

In the old days, he wouldn't have dared to take his power as low as he had this morning. But in the old days with the gods gathering up souls almost at birth, he wouldn't have been able to feed with the ease he now could. Later, perhaps around lunch, he'd take a walk. According to Dr. Rax's ka, there was a school of sorts for very young children not so far away.

'You're late."

'I was down at 52 when the accident call came in." Celluci shrugged out of his jacket and dropped into his chair. The accident had happened at College and University, three short blocks from Headquarters; everyone in the building knew about it; half of the arriving day shift had been there.

'Was it as bad as they say?"

'Worse."

'Jesus. What do you think happened?"

Celluci glared across the desk at his partner. "The team who died in that crash were the uniforms on the scene Monday morning at the museum."

'Christ, Mike!" Dave leaned forward and lowered his voice. "We are not in some bad monster movie here! There never was a mummy, but if there had been it wouldn't be getting up and killing people and it sure as shit wouldn't be causing car accidents. I don't know where you're coming from with this, but could you just drop the bullshit so we can get on with our work?"

'Look, you don't know?"

'Know what? That there's a lot of strange things going on in this city? Sure I know, I've arrested some of them. But there's plenty of perfectly normal, human slime out there so don't go borrowing trouble." He studied Celluci's expression and shook his head. "Like money through a whore's hands? You haven't listened to a thing I said."

'I heard you," Celluci growled. He realized that nothing he said in turn could convince the other man that another world existed outside-or more frighteningly, inside-the boundaries he'd lived with all his life.

'Hey, you two; Cantree wants to see you in his office."

'Why?" Celluci scowled at the messenger even as Dave was getting to his feet.

She shrugged. "How the hell should I know? He's the Inspector, I'm just a detective." She skipped back out of the way as Celluci stood. "Maybe he just got a look at your last expense report. I told you that you should've kept receipts."

Inspector Cantree glanced up as the two detectives came in and indicated with a jerk of his head that they were to close the door. "It's about those deaths at the museum," he said without preamble. "I've looked at the reports. I've had a talk with the Chief. Leave it."

'Leave it?" Celluci took a step forward.

'You heard me. A heart attack isn't a homicide. Leave it to the B & E team. I want you helping Lackey and Dixon on the Griffin case."

Celluci felt his hands curl into fists, but because it was Cantree, probably the one cop in the city he respected without reservation-and that carried a lot more weight than the man's rank or position as his immediate superior-he kept a tight hold on his temper. "I have a hunch about this?" he began, but the Inspector interrupted.

'I don't care. It isn't a homicide, therefore it isn't any business of yours. Or your hunches."

'But I think it is a homicide."

Cantree sighed. "All right. Why? Give me some facts."

Celluci's lips narrowed. "No facts," he muttered, while Dave stared at the ceiling, his expression carefully neutral. "Just a feeling."

'All right." Cantree pulled a pile of folders across his desk. "I'll give you some facts. We've had seventy-seven homicides in this city so far this year. A teenage girl found dismembered in the lake. A man knifed behind a bar. A doctor killed in the stairwell of her apartment building. Two women bludgeoned to death in a parking garage in middle of the fucking afternoon!" His voice rose and he surged up out of his seat, slamming his palm down on the folders. "I don't need you making murders where there aren't any. As far as you are concerned, the case is closed. Do I make myself clear?"

'Perfectly," Celluci told him through clenched teeth.

'As a bell," Dave added, pulling his partner toward the door and keeping a tight grip on his elbow until they were back in the outer office. "Well, I guess that's that," he said, caught sight of Celluci's face, and rolled his eyes. "Or maybe not?"

'Nelson. Investigations."

'Cantree pulled me off the case."

Vicki dropped her bag and, balancing the receiver under her chin, shrugged out of her jacket. She'd barely gotten in the door when the phone rang. "Did he say why?"

'He said, and I quote, 'I've looked at the reports. I've had a talk with the Chief. A heart attack isn't a homicide. '"

'And you said?"

'What the hell could I say? If I told him I thought there was a mummy involved, he'd think I was crazy. My partner already thinks I'm crazy."

In her mind's eye she could see him shoving the curl of hair back off his forehead and forcing his fingers up through his hair. "You still think there's a mummy involved?"

'Trembley's occurrence report for Monday morning is missing."

'And Trembley?"

'Is dead."

Vicki sat down. "How?"

'Car accident on the way back to the station this morning."

'I passed the site coming home, but I had no idea Trembley was? involved." Emergency teams had just managed to get close to the slag. The bodies had been burned beyond even retrieval. "I talked to a couple of the uniforms. They said the car went out of control."

'I have a witness who saw the wheels pointing one way while the car continued to go another." Celluci took a deep breath and she could hear the tension in it humming over the wires. "I want to hire you."

'You what?"

'Cantree tied my hands. You don't work for him anymore. Find that mummy."

She recognized the obsession in his voice. She'd heard it there before and as often in her own. Obsession made a good cop. It had also broken a few. "All right. I'll find it."

'Keep me informed every step of the way."

'I will."

'Be careful."

She saw again the melted remains of Trembley's car. "You, too."

Hanging up the phone, she frowned, remembering. I've looked at the reports and I've had a talk with the Chief. "Now why," she asked of the empty apartment, "would Inspector Cantree have talked to the Chief about a departmental matter?"

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