Blood Lines / Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten


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'Oh, my God."

'What's wrong?"

Vicki wet her lips. "Absolutely nothing. You look? uh, good." Henry's costume had been made traditional in a score of movies-turn-of-the-century formal wear with a broad scarlet ribbon cutting diagonally across the black and a full-length opera cloak falling in graceful folds to the floor. The effect was amazing. And it wasn't the contrast between the black and the white and the sculptured pale planes of face and the sudden red,'gold brilliance that was Henry's hair. No, Vicki decided, the attraction was in the way he wore it. Few men would have the self-assurance, the well-bred arrogance to look comfortable in such an outfit; Henry looked like, well, like a vampire. The kind you'd like to run into in a dark alley. Several times. "In fact, you look better than good. You look amazing."

'Thank you." Henry smiled and smoothed the sleeve of his jacket down until only a quarter inch of white cuff showed. A heavy gold ring gleamed on his right hand. "I'm glad you approve."

He could feel the years settling on him with the clothing, feel the Henry Fitzroy who wrote romance novels and was occasionally permitted to play detective submerge into the greater whole. Tonight, he would walk among mortals; a shadow amid their bright lights and gaiety, a hunter in the night. Good lord, I'm beginning to sound as melodramatic as one of my own books.

'I still think you've got a lot of chutzpah going to this party as a vampire. Aren't you taking a big chance?"

'And what chance is that? Discovery?" He draped the cloak over his arm and peered at her in the classic Hammer Films Dracula pose. "What you're looking at here is the purloined letter trick; hiding in plain sight." Dropping the pose, he smiled down at her. "And it isn't the first time I've done it. Think of it as a smoke screen. Halloween calls for a disguise. If Henry Fitzroy is a vampire on Halloween, then obviously he isn't the rest of the year."

Vicki draped one leg over the arm of the chair and smothered a yawn. "I'm not sure about that logic," she muttered. Early mornings and late nights were beginning to take their toll and a four-hour nap in the afternoon hadn't done much beyond throwing her internal clock even further out of whack. Barely more than a year away from the twenty-four hour aspect of police work, she was amazed at how quickly she'd lost her ability to adapt. The evening spent with her weights had gotten the blood flowing a little, washing away some of the fatigue. Henry's appearance had started things moving faster yet.

Henry's nose twitched as he picked up the sudden intensifying of her scent and he lifted one eyebrow, murmuring softly, "I know what you're thinking."

She felt herself flush but managed to keep her voice tolerably casual even as she shifted position in the chair and crossed her legs. "Don't start anything you can't finish, Henry. You've already eaten."

The Hunger had been blunted earlier, a necessity if he was to spend the evening in close proximity to mortals and be able to think of anything except the life that flowed beneath clothes and skin, but Vicki's interest had resharpened an edge or two. "I haven't started anything," he pointed out, not bothering to hide his smile. "I'm not the one squirming in my?"

'Henry!"

'? seat," he finished quietly as the phone rang. "Excuse me a moment. Good evening. Henry Fitzroy speaking. Oh, hello, Caroline. Yes, it has been a while. Working on my latest book for the most part."

Caroline. Vicki recognized the name. While Henry was no more her exclusive possession than she was his, she couldn't help but feel? well, smug. She not only shared Henry's bed, which the other woman no longer did, but she shared the mysteries of Henry's nature, which the other woman never had.

'Unfortunately, I have plans for tonight, but thank you for asking. Yes. Perhaps. No, I'll call you."

As he hung up the phone, Vicki shook her head. "You know, of course, that there's a special circle in hell for those people who make promises to call, then don't."

'They'll probably run out of room long before my time." Henry's voice trailed off. And then again, maybe not. While he continued to dream of the sun, every dawn might be his last. For the first time, he looked beyond the possibility of his death to all the things it would leave undone. He stood quietly for a moment, hand resting lightly on the phone, then came to a decision.

Vicki watched him curiously as he came around and knelt, capturing her hands, opera cloak pooling around his legs. While she had no objection to having handsome men at her feet, she had an uneasy feeling that the situation was about to get uncomfortable.

'You're right, I'm not going to call," he began. "But I think you need to know why. I can feed from a chance encounter with a stranger and not feel I'm betraying anything, but when I feed from Caroline I feel I'm betraying you both. Her, because I can give her so little of what I am and you because I have given you all of me."

Suddenly more frightened than smug, Vicki tried to pull her hands free. "Don't?"

Henry let them go but stayed where he was. "Why not? Tomorrow's dawn might be the one I've been waiting for."

'Well, it isn't!"

'You don't know that." At this moment, his death had become less important than what he had to say. "What will it change if I say it?"

'Everything. Nothing. I don't know." She took a deep breath and wished the light were dimmer, so she couldn't see his face so clearly. So he couldn't see hers. "Henry, I can sleep with you. I can feed you. I can be your friend and your guardian, but I can't?"

'Love me? Don't you?"

Did she?

'Is it because of how you feel about Mike?"

'Celluci?" Vicki snorted. "Don't be a fool. Mike Celluci is my best friend and, yes, I love him. But I don't love him and I don't love you."

'Don't you? Not either of us? Or both of us?"

Both of them??

'I'm not asking you to choose, Vicki. I'm not even asking you to admit the way you feel." Henry stood and twitched the cloak back over his shoulders. "I just thought you should know that I love you."

It almost hurt to breathe, everything felt so tight. "I know. I've known since last Thursday. Here." She touched herself lightly on the chest. "You gave yourself to me completely, with no strings. If that's not love, it's a damned close approximation." She got to her feet, moved a careful distance away, then turned to face him. "I can't do that. I come with too many strings. If I cut them all, I'll-I'll fall apart."

He spread his hands. "I'm not demanding a commitment. I just wanted to tell you while I could."

'You have an eternity, Henry."

'The dream of the sun?"

'You told me you've almost gotten used to it." If the effects had gotten stronger and he hadn't told her, she was going to wring his neck.

'I'm sure Damocles got used to the sword, but it's still only a matter of time."

'Time! Jesus Christ, look at the time! That party started half an hour ago. We'd better get moving." Vicki grabbed up her bag and headed for the door.

Henry arrived long before she did, teetering between anger and amusement at her sudden change of subject as he blocked the exit with a swirl of satin. "We?"

'Yeah, we. I'll be waiting in the car as backup."

'No, you won't."

'Yes, I will. Get out of the way."

'Vicki, in case you've forgotten, it's dark out there and you can't see anything."

'So?" Her brows drew down and her tone grew heated. "I can hear. I can smell. I can sit in the fucking car for hours and not do anything. But I'm coming with you. You are not trained in this sort of thing."

'I am not trained in this sort of thing?" Henry repeated slowly. "For hundreds of years I have fit myself into society, been the unseen hunter in their midst." As he spoke, he allowed the civilized mask to slip. "And you dare to tell me I am not trained in this sort of thing."

Vicki wet her lips, unable to look away, unable to move away. She thought she'd become used to what Henry was; she realized, now, she seldom saw it. A trickle of sweat ran down her side and she suddenly, desperately, had to go to the bathroom. Right. Vampire. I keep forgetting. Half of her mind wanted to run like hell and the other half wanted to kick his feet out from under him and beat him to the floor. Oh, for Chrissakes, Vicki, get your goddamned hormones under control.

'All right," her voice shook only a little, "you've had more training than I could ever hope to have. Your point. But I 'm still going to go with you and wait in the car." She managed to raise a cautionary hand as he opened his mouth. "And don't tell me it's too dangerous," she warned. "I won't face anything tonight that's more dangerous than what I'm facing right now."

Henry blinked, then started to laugh. After four hundred and fifty years, he could recognize when he'd been outmaneuvered.

'This is good. This is very good." He looked out into the room filled with powerful men and women and in his mind's eyes saw them bowing before the altar of Akhekh, giving their power and those it commanded into the hands of his god.

George Zottie bowed his head, pleased that his master was pleased.

'I will move amongst them for a time. You may introduce me as you see fit. Later, when they hold thoughts of me and I can touch their ka, you will bring them to the room I have prepared, so I may speak with them one at a time."

Henry had no need to use any persuasion to get into the Solicitor General's large house on Summerside Drive nor did he expect to have to use much to stay. Arrival at this type of party implied the right to attend. He nodded at the young man who opened the door and swept past him toward the greatest concentration of sound. Servants did not require an explanation, something modern society tended to forget.

The huge formal living,'dining room had been decorated in subdued Halloween. Black and orange candles glowed in a pair of antique silver candelabra, the table had been covered by a brilliant orange cloth, the flowers both in vases and in the large centerpiece were black roses and the wine glasses were black crystal-Henry assumed the wine had not been colored orange. Even the waiters, who moved gracefully among the crowd with trays of canap¨¦s or drinks, wore orange and black plaid cummerbunds and ties.

He took a glass of mineral water, smiled in a way that set the server's pulse pounding, and moved further into the room. Many of the women wore floor-length gowns from a variety of periods and just for an instant he saw his father's court at Windsor, the palace of the Sun King at Versailles, the Prince Regent's ballroom in Brighton. Smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle from the front of his jacket, he wondered if perhaps he shouldn't have taken the opportunity to indulge in the peacock colors this age normally denied to men.

The costumes on the men ranged from flamboyant to minor variations on street wear-unless the brown tweed suit stood for something or someone Henry didn't recognize. Two additional vampires glared at each other across the broad shoulders of a Keystone Cop. Having joined their various police departments before the height requirements had been relaxed, all the police present were large, usually tall and burly both. A couple, after years of patrolling a desk, had added an insulating layer of fat. The politicians scattered throughout the crowd were easily spotted by their lack of functional bulk.

Henry was not only the shortest man in the room, by some inches, but he also appeared to be the youngest. Neither mattered. These were people who recognized power, height and age came a distant second.

'Hello, I'm Sue Zottie."

The Solicitor General's wife was a tiny woman with luminous dark eyes, and a coil of chestnut hair piled regally upon her head. Her dark green velvet Tudor gown added majesty to what had been labeled more than once in society pages as a quiet beauty. Instinct took over and Henry raised the offered hand to his lips. She didn't seem to mind.

'Henry Fitzroy."

'Have-have we met before?"

He smiled and her breathing grew a little ragged. "No, we haven't."

'Oh." She meant to ask him what police force he was with or if, perhaps, he was a junior member of her husband's staff, but the questions got lost in his eyes. "George is in the library with Mr. Tawfik, if you need to speak with him. The two of them have been in there for most of the evening."

'Thank you."

She'd never felt quite so completely thanked before and walked away wondering why George had never invited that lovely young man over for dinner.

Henry took a sip of his mineral water. Tawfik. His quarry, it seemed, was in the library.

It was cold in the car with the window open, but sightless, Vicki couldn't afford to block off her other senses. The wind smelled of woodsmoke and decaying leaves and expensive perfume-she supposed the latter was endemic to the neighborhood-and brought her the noise of distant traffic; a door, fairly close, opening and closing; a phone, either very close or beside an open window, demanding to be answered; a late trick-or-treater imploring his mother to cover just one more block. Two teenaged girls, too old for candy, reviewed the day as they walked down the other side of the street. As her eyes got steadily worse, her hearing seemed to be getting better-or maybe she just had to pay more attention to what she heard.

Vicki had no doubt that based on sound alone, she'd be able to pick these girls out of a lineup. One pair of flats, one pair of heels; the soft shirk, shirk of polyester sleeves rubbing against the body of a polyester jacket; the almost musical chime of tiny, metal bangles, chiming in counterpoint so they each must be wearing a set. One sounded as if she had a mouth full of gum, the other as if she had a mouth full of braces.

'? and like she was just pressing her breasts up against him."

'You mean she was pressing her padding up against him."

'No!"

'Uh-huh, and then she has the nerve to say she really loves Bradley?"

And what do you children know about love? Vicki wondered, as they moved out of earshot. Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry VIII, the Duke of Richmond, says he loves me. What do you think of that? She sighed. What do I think of that?

She dragged her fingernail against the vents in the dashboard of the BMW, then sighed again. Okay, so he's afraid of dying, I can understand that. When you've lived in darkness for over four hundred years and then start dreaming about daylight? A sudden thought struck her. Jesus, maybe he's afraid of dying tonight. Maybe he thinks he can't deal with the mummy. She fumbled for the door handle but stopped herself before she actually got the door open. Don't be ridiculous, Vicki. He's a vampire, a predator, a proven survivor. A friend. And he loves me.

And I'm going to drag up that goddamned non sequitur every goddamned time I think about him from now on. She raised her eyes to the heavens she couldn't see. First Celluci and his wanting to have a "talk" and now Henry and his declarations. It isn't enough we have a mummy rampaging around the city? Do I need this?

It's just like a man to want to complicate a perfectly good relationship.

Sliding down on the leather seat until her head was even with the lower edge of the window, she closed her eyes and settled down to wait. But only because there wasn't anything else she could do.

With the lights in the hall turned down to a dim orange glow-extending the Halloween motif out of the actual party area-the curve of the stairs threw a pool of deep shadow just outside the library door. Shrouded by the pocket of darkness, Henry wrapped himself in his cloak and leaned back against the raw silk wallpaper to consider his next move.

According to Sue Zottie, the Solicitor General and Mr. Tawfik were in the library-but he could sense three lives on the other side of the wall and there was nothing to suggest that any of the three had just broken free after millennia of confinement. All three hearts beat to the same rhythm and?

No. To an identical rhythm.

The hair rose on the back of Henry's neck as he pressed himself farther away from the light. Hearts did not beat so completely in sync by accident. He had, in fact, heard it happen only once before, in 1537 when, faint and dizzy with loss of blood, he had pressed his mouth to the wound in Christina's breast and drunk, conscious of nothing save the heat of her touch and the painful throbbing of his heart in time with hers.

What was happening in that room?

For the first time, Henry felt a faint unease at the thought of actually facing the creature who had been so long entombed. The time of change had been the most powerful, all encompassing experience in his life, not only in the seventeen years before but in the four hundred and fifty-three years since, and if the mummy could call that kind of power to its control?

"You think you're up to this wizard-priest?" Celluci had asked.

His answer had been scornful. "I am not without resources."

He had defeated wizards in the past, relying on strength and speed and force of will, but they had followed rules he recognized and had not come with their own dark god.

'You think you're up to this wizard-priest?"

The voice of memory had grown sarcastic and Henry's brows drew down. He certainly wasn't going to give Celluci the pleasure of seeing him give up without a fight.

The three hearts paused, then two began again in tandem and one beat to a rhythm all its own.

He had to get into that library. Perhaps through the gardens?

Then the single heartbeat approached the door and Henry froze. The knob turned, the door opened, and a woman with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair stepped out into the hall. Henry recognized the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario from a recent newspaper photograph although the picture had not managed to capture either her very obvious self-assurance or her sense of humor. The cavalier costume she wore suited both.

As Henry watched, she brushed the feather in her hat against the floor in a credible bow and said, "You'll have my complete support in this, George. Mr. Tawfik. I'll see you both at the ceremony and I'll tell Inspector Cantree you want to see him now." Then, grinning, she replaced the hat and headed down the hall toward the party. She didn't appear to be enchanted.

There were now only two heartbeats sounding in the library-Tawfik's and the Solicitor General's-and they sounded as one. Through the open door, Henry heard a low voice ask thoughtfully, "And what is Inspector Frank Can-tree like?"

'He won't be easy to convince."

'Good. We prefer, my lord and I, to work with the strong; they last longer."

'Cantree believes that independence yields greater results than conformity."

'Does he now."

'They say he's incorruptible."

'That in itself can be used."

Used for what? Henry wondered. There was something in the tone that reminded Henry of his father. He didn't find that at all comforting. His father had been a cruel and Machiavellian prince who could play tennis with a courtier in the morning and have him executed for treason before sunset. Still motionless, he frowned as he watched a large man in a pirate costume walk down the hall on the balls of his feet, carrying himself as though he were perpetually ready for a fight, his expression just to one side of suspicious. Bearing and attitude both said "Cop" so strongly that Henry doubted the man had ever been of any use undercover.

The newcomer paused in the doorway, one beefy hand dropping to the pommel of the plastic cutlass that hung at his hip. Instinct seemed to be warning him of a threat within the room and his tone was carefully, aggressively neutral. "Mr. Zottie? You wanted to speak with me?"

'Ah, Inspector Cantree. Please, come in."

As Cantree stepped over the threshold, Henry raced forward, letting the heavy folds of the cape slip from his shoulders to the floor. Over short distances, he could move almost fester than mortal eyes could register but not while dragging meters of fabric behind him. Sliding between the burly Inspector and the door, he sped shadow silent into the room, along a book-covered wall, and behind a floor-to-ceiling barrier of heavy curtain.

Convenient, he thought, his back pressed against glass, his feet turned to either side so as not to protrude, his entire body motionless again. Over the sound of three heartbeats, he heard the door close, the hardwood floor contract beneath the Inspector's weight, but no hue and cry. His entry had gone unnoticed.

He felt something. It brushed against his ka with all the innocent strength of a desert storm, almost dragging him from the light trance he'd been maintaining for most of the evening. Before he could begin to react, the barrier wards, set up more from old habit than perceived necessity, diverted the touch and only by lowering them could he hope to find it again.

For an instant, he weighed what he did tonight against such tantalizing potential and, regretfully, left the wards in place. His lord perceived this evening as the initial gathering of a core of acolytes-which it was, in addition to an initial gathering of a more secular power-and his lord would not look kindly upon personal indulgences during such a time.

The touch had been undirected, accidental, therefore it would have to wait.

But the glorious memory of it lingered in the back of his mind and he vowed it would not have to wait long.

'Inspector Frank Cantree, Mr. Anwar Tawfik."

Henry slid the curtains apart a centimeter, movement masked by the quiet sound of flesh touching flesh.

'Please take a seat, Inspector. Mr. Tawfik has a proposal that I think you'll find very interesting."

He watched the Inspector lower himself onto an expensive leather sofa and saw Solicitor General Zottie move across the room to stand beside a wing chair, its high back barely a meter from his hiding place, completely hiding Anwar Tawfik from Henry's line of sight.

This is beginning to feel like some cheap horror movie, Henry mused, where the creature rises out of the chair to face the camera at the end of the scene. I guess I wait for my cue. He'd make his move after Cantree left the room and before another high ranking official took the Inspector's place. Zottie was merely mortal and could be quickly dealt with. As for the mummy-if Tawfik was the mummy-it had proven itself to be a taker of innocent lives. Henry didn't particularly care what its reasons were. The time for it to die was millennia past.

From where he stood, he could see Cantree's gaze flicking constantly over the room, observing, noting, remembering. It was apparently a habit all police officers acquired, for Henry had seen both Vicki and Celluci perform variations on the theme.

Then Tawfik began to talk, his voice low and intense. To Henry it sounded like law and order generalities, but obviously Cantree heard something more. The movement of his gaze began to slow until it locked on the man-on the creature-in the chair. Certain words began to be repeated and after each the Inspector nodded and his expression grew blank. A rivulet of sweat-the library was at least ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house-ran unnoticed down his face.

Unease danced icy fingers along Henry's spine as Tawfik's cadence grew more and more hypnotic and the key words occurred more and more frequently. It was magic, Henry could sense that, however much it looked like something less arcane, but magic completely outside his understanding. A working for good or evil he could have sensed, but this was neither. It just was.

When all three hearts beat to an identical rhythm, Tawfik paused, then said, "His ka is open.

'Frank Cantree. Can you hear me?"

'Yes."

'From this moment on, your primary concern is to obey me. Do you understand?"

'Yes."

'You will protect my interests above all else. Do you understand?"

'Yes."

'You will protect me. Do you understand?"

'Yes." But this time after the single syllable of assent, Cantree's mouth continued to work.

'What is it?"

Although independent movement should have been impossible under the conditions of the spell, Cantree's lips curled slightly as he answered. "There is someone standing behind the curtains behind your chair."

For a heartbeat, the scene hung in limbo, then Henry threw the curtains aside, charged forward, came face-to-face with the creature rising from the chair, and froze.

He got a jumbled impression of gold leather sandals, a linen kilt, a wide belt, a necklace of heavy beads that half covered a naked chest, hair too thick and black to be real, and then the kohl-circled eyes under the wig caught his and all he saw was a great golden sun centered in an azure sky.

In blind panic, he wrenched his gaze away, turned, and dove through the window.

Although she knew it was impossible, that the night for her was as dark as it would ever get, Vicki suddenly felt that it had grown darker still; as if a cloud had covered the moon she couldn't see and the shadows had thickened. Senses straining, she slowly got out of the car, allowing the door to close but not to latch. A quick tug would turn on the interior light and enable her to at least find her way back again.

They pay high enough taxes in this neighborhood, you'd think they could manage a few more streetlights.

The night seemed to be waiting, so Vicki waited with it. Then, from not so far away, came the sound of breaking glass, the violent snapping of small branches, and, approaching more quickly than possible, leather soles slapping out a panicked flight against concrete.

There was no time to think, to weigh her move. Vicki stepped away from the car directly into the path of the sound.

They both went down.

The impact drove the breath out of her lungs and her jaw slammed up with enough force so every tooth in her head shuddered with the impact. She took a moment to thank any gods who might be listening that her tongue had been tucked safely out of the way even as she grabbed onto what felt like expensive lapels. During the landing, her head bounced off the pavement, the glancing blow creating an impressive fireworks display on the inside of her lids. Somehow she managed to keep her grip. Not until cold hands grabbed her wrists and yanked them effortlessly away did she realize who she held. Or more accurately, had held. "Henry? Damnit, it's me, Vicki!"

Sanctuary. The sun was rising. He must reach sanctuary.

Vicki twisted and, barely in time, wrapped herself around Henry's right leg. If she couldn't stop him, maybe she could slow him down.

'Henry!"

A weight clung to his leg, impeding his flight. He bent to rip it free and a familiar scent washed over him, masking the stink of his own fear.

Vicki.

She said she would be there when the dawn reached out to take him. She would fight with him. For him. Would not let him burn.

Sanctuary.

The tension went out of his muscles and his fingers loosened where they crushed her shoulder. Tentatively, she let him go, ready to launch herself forward should he start to run again.

'The car's just back here." Actually, she'd kind of lost track of where the car was but hoped Henry would turn and see it. "Come on. Can you drive?"

'I-I think so."

'Good." Other questions could wait. Not only did the echoes of her skull hitting the sidewalk make it difficult to hear the answers, but from the sounds that had preceded his flight, Henry had just left a house full of police officers by way of a closed window. They'd be playing the chase scene any second and that would lead into a whole new lot of questions there were no answers for.

Ms. Nelson, can you tell us why your friend turned into a smoldering pile of ash in the holding cell at dawn?

One hand held tightly to his jacket as Henry surged toward the car, continuing to grasp it until her other hand touched familiar metal. She scrambled to get into her own seat the moment she figured out where it was, then watched him anxiously-or rather watched his shadow against the lights of the dash-as he started the engine and pulled carefully out of the parking space. She had no idea why people weren't boiling out of the Solicitor General's house like wasps out of a disturbed nest, but she certainly wasn't going to complain about a clean getaway.

'Henry??"

'No." Most of the raw terror had faded, but even Vicki's presence wasn't enough to completely banish the fear. I can feel the sun. It's hours to dawn and I can feel the sun. "Let me get home first. Maybe then?"

'When you're ready. I can wait." Her voice was deliberately soothing even though she really wanted to grab him, and shake him, and demand to know what had happened in there. If this is Henry's reaction to the mummy, we're in a lot more trouble than we thought.

'Do I go after him, Master?"

'No. You are tied into the spell and the spell is not yet finished." He spat the words out, the power of his anger crackling almost visibly around him.

'But the others?"

'They can hear nothing that happens within this room. They did not hear the window break. They will not interrupt." With an effort, he forced his attention back to the multilayered spell of coercion he had been in the middle of evoking. "When I have finished with the Inspector, then you may search the grounds. Not before."

Inspector Cantree tossed his head and sweat began to soak through the armpits of his costume. His eyes rolled back and the muscles of his throat worked to produce a moan.

'It didn't hurt the others, Master."

'I know."

The ka that had touched him earlier with its magnificent, unending potential for power, had been within his grasp and he had been forced by circumstance to let it get away.

That did not please him.

But now he knew of its existence, and, more importantly, it knew of him. He would be able to find it again.

That pleased him very much.

* * *

When Vicki finally saw Henry's face in the harsh fluorescent glare of the elevator lights, it gave nothing away. Absolutely nothing. He might as well have been carved from alabaster for all the expression he wore. This isn't good?

Three teenagers-in what might or might not have been costumes-got on in the lobby, took one look at Henry and stood quietly in their corner, not a word, not a giggle until they got off on five.

And every cloud has a silver lining, Vicki mused as they filed silently out.

The last, finding courage in leaving, paused in the doorway and stage-whispered back. "What's he supposed to be?"

Why not?

'A vampire."

Hennaed curls bounced on sequined shoulders. "Not even close," was the disdainful judgment as the elevator door slid closed.

Vicki used her keys to let them into the condo, then followed close on Henry's heels as he strode down the hall and into the bedroom. She flicked on the light as he flung himself on the bed.

'I can feel the sun," he said softly.

'But it's hours until dawn."

'I know."

'Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a mummy?"

Henry glared at her from under knotted brows. "What are you talking about?"

'Huh?" Vicki started and lowered her arm. She'd been doing a painful fingertip investigation of the goose egg on the back of her head. Fortunately, it appeared that her little meeting with the pavement outside the Solicitor General's house had done no lasting damage. And a concussion would be just what I need right now. "Oh. Nothing. Just thinking out loud." The party had put them ahead only in that they now knew what they'd only suspected before; the mummy was ensorcelling the people who controlled the police forces of Ontario, acquiring its own private army. No doubt it intended to set up its own state with its own state religion. It had, after all, brought its god along.

They had a name, Anwar Tawfik, the man she'd helped out of the elevator at the Solicitor General's office. She couldn't prevent a twinge of sympathy, after three thousand years in a coffin, she'd be violently claustrophobic, too. Still, I should've dropped the son of a bitch down the elevator shaft when I had the chance.

She banged her fist against her thigh. "I don't think it can succeed at what it's attempting, but a lot of people are going to die proving that. And no one's going to believe us until it makes its move."

'Or a good while after it makes its move."

'What do you mean?"

'Who does the average citizen call when there's trouble?" Henry pointed out.

'The police."

'The police," Henry agreed.

'And it controls the police. Shit, shit, shit, shit."

'Very articulate."

Vicki's smile was closer to a snarl as she shifted position on the edge of the bed. "It looks like it's up to us."

Henry threw his forearm up over his eyes. "A lot of help I'll be."

'Look, you've been dreaming about the sun for weeks now and you're still functioning fine."

'Fine? Diving through that library window wasn't what I'd call fine."

'At least now you know you're not going crazy."

'No. I'm being cursed."

Vicki pulled his arm off his face and leaned over. The spill of light from the lamp just barely reached his eyes but, in spite of the masking shadows, she thought they looked as mortal as she'd ever seen them. "Do you want to quit?"

'What?" His laugh had a hint of bitter hysteria. "Life?"

'No, you idiot." She wrapped one hand around his jaw and rocked his head from side to side, hoping he couldn't read through her touch how frightened she was for him. "Do you want to quit the case?"

'I don't know."

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