Bloodlinks
174 pages
English

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174 pages
English

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Description

Two years ago Garreth Mikaelian was turned into a vampire by the seductive Lane Barber. He tracked her to a small Kansas town and when she tried to kill him, killed her. He thought. But a call comes from his old partner in San Francisco that seems to indicate Lane is still alive. Garreth goes to San Francisco to find out. He determines that she *is* dead. But now someone is killing vampires and friends of vampires and trying to frame Garreth for it. Is it the vampire who created Lane? Or maybe his partner’s new partner who seems to know Garreth is a vampire and hates him for it? And as Garreth searches for the true killer, is a suspense novelist researching a new book an ally or foe? Garreth Mikaelian thought he destroyed Lane Barber, the woman who made him a vampire. But did he? When he returns to San Francisco to see, he is relieved to find she is dead. But someone is killing vampires and friends of vampires...and trying to frame Garreth for it. Is it another vampire who wants vengeance for Lane’s death? Or a detective who appears to hate vampires and knows Garreth is one? He needs to find the killer before the frame traps him...or he becomes the killer’s next victim.

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Publié par
Date de parution 15 novembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781771459778
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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1
Bloodlinks
A Garreth Mikaelian Mystery Book #2
by Lee Killough
 
Digital ISBNs
EPUB 9781771459778
Kindle 9781771459785
WEB 9781771459792
 
Print ISBN9781771459808
 

 
2 nd Edition
Edited by Jessica Poettcker
Copyright 2012 Lee Killough
Cover art by Michelle Lee
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author'simagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges thetrademarked status and trademark owners of various productsreferenced in this work of fiction, which have been used withoutpermission. The publication/use of these trademarks is notauthorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademarkowners.
 
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rightsunder copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may bereproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, ortransmitted, in any for, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior writtenpermission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher ofthis book.
Chapter One
 
He dreamed of death, and Undeath. HomicideInspector Garreth Mikaelian pressed against the wall of an alley inSan Francisco's North Beach, held by the hypnotic gaze of glowingred eyes. Red light glinted in the vampire's hair, too...not abeautiful woman, but Lane Barber used her clothes, body language,and long legs — seeming even longer in high-heeled boots that madeher tower above his five-eight — to appear beautiful.
“You're going to like this, Inspector,” shewhispered. “You’ll feel no pain.” She tipped back his head and hercool lips moved down his jaw to his neck, sending a wave ofpleasure through him, even when the kisses became bites pinchinghis skin in hard, avid nips. “You won't mind a bit that you'redying.”
Her mouth stopped over the artery pounding inhis throat. She bit harder. A distant sensation told him her teethbroke his skin, but he felt no pain, only a slight pressure as shesucked. A spasm of intense pleasure lanced through him. Catchinghis breath, he strained up against her mouth.
Presently, though, as cold and weaknessspread through him, concern invaded the ecstasy, a belatedrecognition she was sucking his blood. Sucking his blood! At leasttwo other men connected to her had died of exsanguination. He triedpushing her away, but to his dismay could not move. Her body pinnedhim against the wall despite his greater weight. The fear sharpenedto panic.
Use your gun, you dumb flatfoot , avoice in his head snarled.
Her grip blocked him from reaching theweapon. Abandoning pride, he sucked in a breath to yell for help,but her hand clamped over his mouth. In desperation he sank histeeth into it...bit deep. Her blood filled his mouth...scorchingtongue and throat as he swallowed in shock at the liquid fire ofit.
The vampire sprang away, ripping his hand andthroat in her retreat. He collapsed as though drained of bone aswell as blood.
She laughed mockingly. “Goodbye, Inspector.Rest in peace.”
Her footsteps faded away, leaving him facedown in his growing pool of blood....listening helplessly toheartbeats and breath that slowed, stumbled, and stopped.
Garreth woke shaking.
Shit. What made him dream that? As if thememory always lurking in the back of his mind while wide awake werenot enough.
Memory, not mere dream.
And a year and a half since that 1983 attackhad blunted none of his remembered terror, nor the horror thatfollowed.
Waking up in the morgue.
Realizing Lane made him a vampire, too.
Struggling to hide it from everyone else.
Then worst of all, being responsible for thenear fatal shooting of his partner Harry Takananda...because hecould not enter a dwelling uninvited, not even that of a murdersuspect.
He had Lane’s blood on his hands, too, thoughhe killed her in self-defense. Learning her real name, MadelaineBieber, he had tracked her here to Baumen, the little Kansas townof her birth, to arrest her, only to have her come after him with abow and arrows. Arrows, after all, being wooden stakes. It had beenas terrifying and desperate a night as being in that alley. Andsurviving had to be followed by manipulating the evidence to hideLane’s identity and sex and have her buried without an autopsy as aJohn Doe.
Now... Garreth folded his hands behind hishead and lay staring at the ceiling. Destroying Lane — Mada,rather, as he was careful to call her here — had not magicallyrestored his humanity. So now he lived on. Hiding what he was.Making a tolerable life for himself and even still managing to be acop.
A uniformed officer again, true — a glanceacross his studio apartment above Municipal Court Clerk HelenSchoning’s garage found his tan shirt, dark brown trousers, andballistic vest hanging in the open closet — but patrolling from8:00 pm to 4:00 in the morning suited him just fine.
His father accused him of burying himself.Maybe. There were far worse places to be buried than Baumen...wherethey attributed his oddities to being from California, and thesurrounding hills pastured cattle who never missed the blood hetook to fill the quart bottles in his bar fridge.
Some vampire lore was myth. He did not haveto drink human blood.
So what made him dream about Lane’s attack? Aconscience afraid of complacency? Despite every swallow of blood,every lung-paralyzing whiff of garlic wafting from the PioneerGrill, and every dawn reminding him he lived a lie. Daylight didnot fry him as happened in the movies, just — contrary to theweightlessness its name suggested — tried to crush him.
Speaking of which, not an ounce of itremained outside. He felt only darkness beyond the apartment wallsand blackout curtains...and heard none of last night’s rain thataccompanied him to sleep at dawn. If only winter’s early sunsetsand long nights could last all year.
Thirst tickled his throat.
Garreth swung onto his feet, smoothed thesheets over the flannel mattress pad with its thin packets of earthsecured by the quilting, and folded up the sofa bed.
In the bathroom he shaved without turning onthe light to keep his eyes from turning red in the mirror. Vampiresdid have reflections. But while familiar grey eyes and sandy hairlooked back at him, the face could still catch him by surprise...astranger’s, thin and boyish instead of the square one he spent somany years seeing.
As he pulled on his uniform, the tickle inhis throat flared to full-blown hunger. He filled a coffee mug,noting he would soon need to refill the bottles, and leaned againstthe counter sipping the blood. Grimacing. Blood should be blood,yet animal blood lacked something...like drinking watered-downtomato juice when Hunger wanted the peppery zing of a BloodyMary.
Hunger he forced himself to ignore. He couldnot give in to it, would not turn people into cattle as Lanehad! Though the Hunger never gave up. Could that be the source oftonight’s dream, an attempt to shake his control?
“Well it won’t work! This is all you get.Ever!” He emptied the mug in a gulp and rinsed it out. “Acceptthat.”
If only he and the Hunger could.
 
 
 
 
Chapter Two
 
Beyond the landing outside his door, drippingoaks in Helen’s back yard and swamped low areas beneath toldGarreth the rain had continued most of the day. A clear skystretched overhead now, however, with a silver dollar moon in theeast. And in a twist typical of Kansas’s capricious weather,instead of the wintry reminder in last night’s temperatures theyhad air warm and balmy as spring.
So...a beautiful March evening...no need forhis winter jacket. He snagged his slicker before locking up,however — being Kansas, before the end of the night they might havemore rain — and walked the three blocks to work with the slickerover his shoulder. At the police department’s end of City Hall, thekeypad by the rear entrance admitted him to the hallway betweenChief Danzig’s office and the locker room. After a stop in thelatter to buckle on his duty belt and collect his briefcase, hecontinued on into the office.
Lingering uneasiness from the dream gave wayto contentment as he surveyed the room... desks, files, form rack,radio rack, cork-panels on the walls shingled with notices andwanted posters...smelled familiar odors: the smoky taint ofLieutenant Kaufman’s cigarettes, coffee simmering down to tar,faint scents of urine and disinfectant that managed to leak downfrom the four cells upstairs. Layered, today, with the smell of wetboots rather than the aroma of chocolate chip cookies Sue AnnPfeifer, their dispatcher, usually brought but had given up as shetried another diet. No matter that he smelled her blood scent andthat of the one officer present, Sergeant Nat Toews — pronounced Taves — here he stopped being a fraud. He was home, justwhat he claimed to be, a cop.
Nat, long and lanky, easy to imagine onhorseback at the head of a posse, raised a hand in greeting withoutlooking up from his typewriter. “Be with you in a minute.”
To brief him on wants and warrants and theday’s activity.
“Not yet!” Sue Ann called from the far sideof the communications desk separating this section of the officefrom Dispatch and the front counter. “Garreth, babysit the radiofor me while I go to the john!”
She headed for the locker room.
Garreth piled slicker, briefcase, and ballcap on a desk and circled the far end of the communications desk toSue Ann’s chair. “So, what’s today been like?”
“Very, very soggy until about five.” Natpulled a report from the typewriter and zig-zagged a finger downit, proof-reading. “A fender bender at Dillons, some trafficviolations, a forged check at the Sport and Spinner, a couple ofdomestic disturbances — neither very serious — and a bicycle theft,otherwise pretty quiet. Maggie’s still out taking the theftreport.”
Maggie Lebekov, their female officer and oneseventh of the sworn force...and several of the reasons he likedBaumen.
“Got a couple of BOLO’s, neither local.”
Garreth saw them posted by the radio, onestate, for a bank robbery suspect from Topeka and one national fortwo men suspected of robbing a South San Francisco bank, duringwhich a guard and customer were killed, and of subsequentlymurdering a highway trooper in Nevada.
While listening to the radio traffic ofpolice and sheriff departments in the surrounding counties, Garrethchecked other notices around the desk. Descriptions of stolenvehicles; a list of warrants; several pictures of missing children.Also the picture of a missing hunting dog and the name and faxnumber of a sheriff’s dispatcher in Stony Creek, Arizona, with thenotation: send recipe for chili-chocolate cake . That had tobe a connection Doris Schoning, their night dispatcher, madethrough skip, radio signals reflecting off layers in the atmospherelate at night...sometimes originating from very distantsources.
“ Five, Baumen .” A voice from a localsource, Officer Ed Duncan.
Garreth keyed the mike. “Go ahead, Five.”
After a pause, Duncan came back in a deepvoice: “ Yo, Mama, your voice is changing. I warned you all thatred meat would put hair on your chest .”
Nat rolled his eyes heavenward.
Garreth cut off the nonsense. “What do youneed, Five?”
Duncan’s voice returned to normal. “ What?Oh...a new case number .”
Garreth read it off Sue Ann’s clipboard.
He finished logging the call in time for SueAnn to reclaim her chair. “Thanks a ton, Garreth. I’m supposed tobe drinking lots of water with this diet and it makes me pee allthe time.” Her plump face twisted wryly.
“ Six, Baumen,” the radio said. “ I’m10-7 .” Maggie, going out of service.
Shortly she came through the rearentrance...curly dark hair, slim and tautly fit. After a visit tothe locker room she reappeared minus her duty belt and slicker,laid her briefcase on a desk, and giving Garreth a warm smile,tossed him car keys. “It’s ready to go, including a full gastank.”
Nat said, “One last thing. There’s a blooddrive in Bellamy this coming Wednesday and Danzig ‘encourages’ usall to participate.”
Not an order, but everyone knew how muchDanzig, who would go, liked his department demonstrating publicspirit.
The briefing over, Garreth picked up his gearand started out.
“Beware the ides of March,” Sue Anncalled.
Garreth glanced back, feeling his neckprickle. Not her usual be careful out there or staysafe . “It’s only the seventh, Sue Ann. The Ides are thefifteenth.”
She grinned at him over the communicationsdesk. “Oh? I didn’t know that. It just seemed like a coolintellectual kind of thing to say.”
It might come of impulse for her, but aftergrowing up with his Grandma Doyle, who had Second Sight, combinedwith last night’s dream, it felt threatening.
So while he accepted Maggie’s word about thepatrol car being ready, he still checked the equipment in thetrunk, and the shotgun locked in place above the windshield. Thenhe tossed his slicker in the passenger foot well, laid hisbriefcase on the passenger seat, and switched on the ignitionpreparatory to testing the lights and siren.
All hell broke loose. Above him the sirenscreamed. Red and white lights flashing across the building and theother cars in the lot told him the light bar was on, too, and theleft turn signal. Both the car and police radios blared at topvolume and the windshield wipers scraped across the windshield atfull speed. The air conditioner blasted him with icy air.
A knee cracked against the steering column inhis startled jump.
With the pain, initial panicky confusion —what did he turn off first? — gave way to rational thought. Heswitched off the key, then opened the door to lean out and glareback at the department's rear entrance at a wickedly grinningMaggie. The car had been ready for him all right.
“You’re dead, Lebekov!”
She thumbed her nose at him... “Take it outon me later!” ...and jumped back inside.
Meaning she intended to be waiting for himwhen he came home after the shift. Nice. For that, she was alwayswelcome to pull a practical joke.
Smiling, he shut off all the switches beforestarting the car again.

 
 
 
Chapter Three
 
Reflex turned Garreth left out of the parkinglot, heading the two blocks to Kansas Avenue, mainstreet, whilereflecting on blood. To please the boss and play his role, ofcourse he intended to endure daylight and go to the blood drive.Donate, though? Hell no. Lane believed a virus created vampires. Ahealthy person’s immune system destroyed the small inoculationsreceived in saliva during a bite, but with continued inoculations,or if virus-rich blood entered a weakened body — as when he bitLane’s hand then bled out — the virus took over. Renovating itshost, creating an instrument for its survival and reproduction.Except no way would he assist the latter. So he counted on hisvampire-low blood pressure to once more excuse him fromdonating.
At Kansas Avenue, Garreth crossed its twosouthbound lanes and halted on the Maple Street crossing of therailroad spur running up the middle of the street. A good vantagepoint for a quick survey of the downtown area while listening forhis number on the radio. This being Thursday, the stores stayedopen late, giving Baumen more traffic than most weeknights. Farmfamilies in particular took advantage of the evening hours, andshoppers from Lebeau — a wide spot in the road at the north end ofthe county — who opted for Baumen over driving all the way down tothe county’s biggest town, Bellamy. So cars, vans, and a largenumber of pickups filled parking spaces on both sides of the streetand along the tracks.
On the radio a Bellamy deputy ran aregistration check. A Russell deputy reported an open pasturegate.
Not all the vehicles belonged to shoppers, heknew. During the week customers in the bars and members of the VFWup the street danced more than they drank, but as the one amclosing time approached he would still watch for drivers who seemedunsteady.
He fingered his gear shift, debating whetherto drag Kansas as the local teens would tomorrow and Saturdaynight, checking for expired tags and suspicious behavior. Or remainhere for a bit, which still met Chief Danzig’s dictate to “maintaina presence”...keep visible to the public.
So many of whom he knew by now. Automaticallyhis internal file ID’d passing faces. Denise Schaller: daughter ofSchaller Ford’s owner Daniel, driving her vintage T-birdconvertible, top down tonight. Gene Eberhardt in his Dodge RAM, whomarried the boss’s daughter to become virtual owner of GfellerLumber. Jeremy Spicer, sixteen, in his chopped and lowered matteblack ‘39 Ford, dressed in black, too, hair slicked back, trying tolook badass.
As he passed Garreth he revved his engine tolet the pipes roar. Just show, knowing full well his father wouldconfiscate the car keys and ground him for a moving violation.
And, oh goody...Officer EdwardDuncan...weight-lifter, crack marksman, and swaggeringly proud ofhis faint likeness to Robert Redford.
Duncan pulled onto the crossing and brakedwith his window opposite Garreth’s. The biceps of the arm restingon his window strained his uniform sleeve. “Yo, Frisco.” He paused.“Um...” Paused again.
Garreth blinked. Uncertainty? From Duncan? Hewaited. This had to be good.
Finally: “What do you know about the Brit intown asking about your grandmother?”
Meaning Mada Bieber...the root of the lie helived. A chill erased any amusement at Duncan’s discomfort. “WhatBrit? What kind of questions?”
“You don’t know?” That brought back theDuncan he knew...smirking...clearly pleased at being one up. Beinganother victim of Lane’s arrows had not bonded Duncan and him theway shared peril often did. “He’s a writer researching a book aboutWorld War II and he wants to know where your grandmother is so hecan ask her about her experiences over there then.”
The chill became a jolt of fear. Beware theIdes of March. How did he know Mada had been in Europe then? How much did he know about her time there? “Did you tell himshe’s dead?” True enough...just the where and when being a lie.
Duncan snorted. “Of course. That’s why I toldhim to go see her mother.”
Anna Bieber. Could this guy tell Annasomething indicating Mada had been in Europe at the time everyonearound here needed to believe she was in Sacramento giving birthout of wedlock to his father?
Than anger shot through the fear. “You sent astranger to a old woman who lives alone!” However false hisrelationship to Anna, he had become as fond and protective of heras if he were really her great-grandson.
Duncan went defensive. “It isn’t like he’s anaxe murderer, just a writer.”
“I still want to check him out.”
Garreth gunned the car north to the nextcrossing, then west toward Anna’s house.
Expose Sacramento as a lie and the truthabout him and why he really came here could come out. He cringed atthe thought of everyone feeling betrayed, played for fools. Butmost desperately, he wanted to prevent Anna discovering what amonster her beloved daughter had become.
 
 
 
 
Chapter Four
 
The Mustang in Anna’s driveway had EllisCounty plates. Garreth eyed it — a rental from Hays? — while keyinghis mike. “Seven, Baumen. I’ll be on high band at 513 Pine.” Withthe radio’s sound low enough to be inaudible to human ears.
Sue Ann knew the address, so she would givecalls to Duncan if possible.
Out of the car, he hurried up the walk andonto the porch, tucking his ball cap under his arm.
Anna answered his knock...thin with age butstill straight-backed and sharp-eyed. Her face lighted. “Garreth!What a nice surprise.”
Garreth smiled back at her through thescreen. “I understand you have another visitor.” He pointed at theMustang. “And I hear he’s British.”
Her brows rose. “Ah. I should have known.”She shook her head. “Always the policeman...so suspicious andprotective. Not that I don’t appreciate it.” She pushed open thescreen door. “Come in and meet him. His name is Julian Fowler.”
Garreth followed her through the hall to thediningroom. Fowler sat at the table with one of Anna’s photo albumsopen in front of him and a teacup off to the side.
He stood as Garreth came in...an athleticallylean six feet, middle forties, pale blue eyes, and the kind ofEnglish face probably pink-cheeked in his youth but with age, hadgained character and masculine edges. Looking very writerly in aturtleneck and tweed coat with leather patches at the elbows. Alsolooking familiar, though Garreth could not place him.
The Englishman’s gaze raked him, too.
“Mr. Fowler,” Anna said, “I’d like you tomeet Mada’s grandson, Garreth Mikaelian.”
The visual autopsy ended abruptly in a broadgrin. “Really. Splendid!” He pumped Garreth’s hand, strength in thegrip. “Anna was just telling me the story: deathbed revelation byyour grandmother that your father isn’t her natural son but born toa girl who roomed with them during the Depression and abandoned thebaby; you deciding to try finding the girl and tracking her here byan address on a letter. Then on the night you finally met her andhad the kinship confirmed, she vanished. Now you think she’s dead?Why? How did it happen?”
Garreth rescued his hand. “Let me ask you aquestion. You’ve come to ask about my grandmother’s experiences inWorld War II. How do you even know she was over there?”
“She told him,” Anna said. “He’s metMada.”
Garreth’s gut lurched. Where? When?
Fowler nodded. “In Nice, 1948, whilst thereon holiday with my parents. She and they struck up a friendship andsat on the hotel terrace evenings swapping war stories before shewent off to sing in the club where she worked. My father flew forthe RAF and my mother was a nurse in London during the Blitz. Madahad been trapped in Europe by the war and her stories were aboutdodging the army and struggling to survive. She even managed toescape a concentration camp at one point. And I hung on every word,absolutely gobsmacked by her. Now I want to hear those storiesagain...and the ones I missed by being packed off to bed. I waseight years old.” He sat on the edge of the table, foreheadfurrowing. “You’re certain she’s dead?”
Anna’s breath caught.
Garreth saved her from answering. “I’m afraidso.” Then changed the subject. “So she told your parents she camefrom here?”
Fowler shook his head. “She was vague abouther background...creating mystique. No...I learnt covertly.” Hesmiled ruefully. “Being so taken with her I’m afraid I spied onher, and one time when she mailed a letter I managed a peek at theenvelope.”
Garreth eyed him skeptically. “You rememberedthe address all these years?”
Fowler shook his head again. “Soon afterwardI fell seriously ill, and when I recovered, I remembered almostnothing of that holiday. But going through my mother’s effectsseveral months ago, I found photos of Nice and suddenly mymemories, including that of the address on her letter, came rushingback. The war stories inspired the plot for this new book.”
Garreth started. Now he recognized the man asa picture on the dust jacket of a book his first wife Judith hadread. “You’re Graham Fowler.”
The Englishman shifted his shoulders, as ifembarrassed. “Guilty. Julian Graham Fowler, actually, but mypublisher insists I write as Graham because he thinks it soundsmore fitting for a writer of thrillers.”
“So World War II will be a different subjectfor you.”
“Not really. The war drives the action butthe story is about a young woman from a sheltered, insularbackground being exposed first to the sophistication and desperateglitter of pre-war Europe, then caught up in the violence of thewar. She struggles through privation and terror until finally,stripped of all innocence, honed into a hard, shrewd woman by theneeds of survival, she triumphs.”
Anna beamed. “Mada to a T!”
He nodded. “Based on her at any rate. So I’vecoming looking for her. But have arrived too late it appears.” Hesighed. “How did she die?”
“In an apartment fire in San Francisco,”Garreth said.
“She fell that night after talking toGarreth,” Anna said, “and got amnesia from a concussion. Onlyinstead of not knowing who she was, she thought she was one of herstage personalities. What did you say it’s called, Garreth?”
“A fugue state.”
She nodded. “So she didn’t understand whatshe was doing here and hitchhiked to California to go to the clubwhere she sang when she used that name. She explained it all in aletter she wrote when she got her memory back, to let me know shewas alive and what happened.”
A letter actually written by Harry’s wifeLien to create the illusion of Mada alive and distant from the JohnDoe buried here. She abetted his cover-up, he knew, hoping it wouldhelp rebuild the life shattered by Lane’s attack. Even withoutknowing the extent of that damage, and what Lane made him.Everything else he could tell her, but somehow, not that.
Fowler frowned. “What about the apartmentfire?”
Anna’s eyes filled with tears. “It happenedthe day— ”
“The day she mailed the letter,” Garrethfinished for her. “And we heard about the fire the day after theletter arrived here.”
“A friend she had been staying with calledme.”
Lien, again.
“Is she buried here?” Fowler asked. “I’d liketo visit her grave.”
Tears choked Anna’s voice. “There’s no grave.They couldn’t identify her body.”
Fowler straightened. “Then maybe she didn’tdie. Maybe the amnesia— ”
“Can I talk to you outside?” Garreth said itthrough gritted teeth, heading for the door.
Fowler followed him onto the porch. “Have youtried looking— ”
Garreth wheeled on him. “ Of course wethought of repeat amnesia. We spent months hunting her, checkingevery hospital in the bay area, every address in the state whereAnna remembers Mada living, every friend she ever mentioned,looking for her by every stage name she used.” Not true, though hetold Anna so. “Her picture was circulated nationwide as a missingperson. We never found any sign of her.”
“Can you put me in touch with her friend, theone who called?”
What was it with this guy? “No! What the hellare you trying to do? Can’t you see how much you’ve upsetAnna...making her wonder all over again if Mada escaped the fire.Mada is dead! Accept that as we have! Go create your heroine withthe stories you remember.”
Fowler stepped back, blinking. Finallyappearing to hear the anger in Garreth’s voice. “Oh. I am so sorry.You’re quite right. What must you think of me. I don’t mean to beinsensitive. Sometimes when a book grabs me I forget— ” Hegrimaced, shaking his head. “I must apologize to Anna.”
Garreth stepped between him and the door.“I’d rather you just leave. I’ll give her your regrets.”
Fowler stared down at him for a moment, faceexpressionless, then he nodded. “I understand. Tell her I’m sosorry to have distressed her.”
Garreth watched him climb into the Mustangand drive away before going back inside. “Are you all right?”
Anna wiped her eyes. “Do you think there’sany chance— ”
“No. She’d have remembered something by now and called you.”
After a moment Anna nodded. “Yes. Thank youfor coming over.”
He gave her a hug. “Always...any time youneed me.”
 
 
 
 
Chapter Five
 
He no sooner let Sue Ann know he was back inservice than Duncan’s voice came on the radio. “ Five to Sevendirect. 10-43 high school parking lot. ”
Duncan sat against the front fender of hispatrol car when Garreth pulled into the parking lot. “How’d it goat your great-grandmother’s?”
Garreth grimaced. “Not good. The guy upsetAnna going on about Mada maybe escaping that fire and disappearingbecause of more amnesia.”
Duncan shook his head. “I never should havegiven him directions there.”
Garreth shrugged. “If you hadn’t someone elsewould have.”
“Yeah. So...” Duncan grinned. “...I don’tfeel bad pointing out you owe me for taking all the calls while youwere there.”
Of course...Duncan being Duncan. Not thatGarreth had heard all that much traffic on his radio. Still, whyspit into the wind. “Yes, I owe you. But look, this Fowler seemslike the obsessive kind, so will you keep an eye out for his carand make sure he doesn’t come back?”
“Sure thing. I won’t even add it to thefavors you owe me.”
Joking or not? Hard to tell with Duncan.“You’re a prince.”
Duncan appeared not to hear the irony. Hepulled his ball cap down to his eyebrows at a jaunty angle anddrove out of the parking lot with a salute.
Garreth went back to work, too. Through acontinuing warm evening he answered a loud music complaint, had ahomeowner unwind his dog’s tie-out from around a tree so the dogwould stop barking, took a report on hit-and-run damage on a car inthe bowling alley parking lot, unlocked a car at the Conoco afterthe dog inside stepped on the door button while the owner went into pay for her gas.
All the while wondering about Julian Fowler.The writer’s interest in Lane seemed particularly intense. Morethan might be expected toward a research source. Unless it was theway Fowler wrote...or because recovering the memory of her afterall these years came with the crush he had as a boy? If he wentdigging for information on her in Europe, how much could heuncover? Surely many hotel records had been lost in the war. Moreto the point, if he did learn anything contradicting the story ofher being in Sacramento, would it get back to Anna?
“ Baumen, Five. See Ellie Pfaff ,” cameover the radio.
Followed almost instantly by: “ Five toSeven...payback .”
It figured Duncan wanted to duck this call.Garreth keyed his mike. “Seven, Baumen. I’ll take the call.”
No need to ask the address; they all knew it.Since her husband died a year ago, the elderly widow calledregularly...thinking a face looked in a window, hearing a prowlerin the yard or suspicious sounds in the house, smelling gas. Theynever found anything, of course, except, once, squirrels in theattic. He had encountered the same situation on patrol in SanFrancisco, lonely people grasping at a means for company.
In San Francisco, he had been as annoyed asDuncan was by what seemed a waste of time. Here he found himselfmore patient. Maybe because in the first few visits he realized notonly how vulnerable she felt without Virgil and her daughtersliving in other states, but that she feared dying and lyingundiscovered for days because no one missed her. It made himgrateful his Grandma Doyle and Anna had plenty of family aroundthem.
Tonight Mrs. Pfaff swore someone was in herattic. “I heard a loud crash and when I ran up there I couldn’topen the door. Someone locked it from the inside.”
He climbed to the attic door. Sure enough,the door refused to open. He had a way to check the otherside...though not with Mrs. Pfaff watching.
“Can you find me a screwdriver? Both a flatblade and a phillips head?” The equivalent of sending an anxioushusband of a women in labor off to boil water.
As soon as she disappeared down the stairsGarreth took a breath, gritted his teeth against the pain to come,and leaned against the door.
Wrench!
As always, passing through doors this way,every cell of him felt ripped apart. He stayed on his feet as hestumbled into the attic, but doubled over, pulling in slow, carefulbreaths while waiting for the pain to ease. Cursing silently. Thisnever failed to feel worse than he remembered.
But he had no time for whining. Mrs. Pfaffmight be back any minute. He forced himself upright and turned tocheck the attic. And there was the culprit blocking the door...notan intruder but a chest of drawers lying on its side. A collapsedleg on the chest and a carton on the floor with magazines spillingfrom it told the story. Someone had set the carton on the chest andeventually it proved too much weight for the loose leg tosupport.
Garreth set the chest upright again, proppingit with a pile of the magazines...and pulled the attic door open asMrs. Pfaff appeared up the stairs.
He smiled at her. “I didn’t need thescrewdriver after all, just brute force to push the door open. Letme show you what the problem was.”
Once she felt reassured about the attic, forgood measure and hopefully to prevent another call tonight, hechecked the rest of her doors and windows. All secure, as heexpected...following suggestions he made not long after joining thedepartment here.
His greatest nightmare was encountering thesame situation that almost killed Harry: being barred from adwelling he needed to enter. To arrange invitations in before somecritical situation occurred, he had suggested the department offerfree home security inspections...which he volunteered to conduct onhis own time. Recognizing good PR when he saw it, Chief Danzig gavehim the go ahead and Garreth estimated that between the securitychecks and wangling admittance when on calls, he now had access toninety per cent or more of Baumen homes.
Leaving Mrs. Pfaff he reminded her — onceagain — that Megan and Hunter Casey across the street had urged herto call them any time.
While he sat in his car making notes for hisreport, Duncan’s patrol car rolled down the street and haltedbeside him. “Have fun with the old bird?”
Garreth hid his annoyance by continuing towrite. “She did have a problem in the attic. Not threatening but Itook care of it.”
“Meanwhile...” Duncan grinned. “...you missedfun with a bird of a whole different feather. Amy Dreiling at theBeergarten...celebrating her freedom to drink legally.Over-celebrating it, that is...blitzed and putting on a show on thedance floor that was about to be come one the Beergarten isn’tlicensed for.” He sighed. “I almost hated to end it. But...I hadher girlfriends drag her to the can and make her street legalagain. I hope hizzoner Mayor Dreiling appreciates that tomorrow hisniece is going to be embarrassed about tonight but still able toface her family and friends.”
Garreth looked up from his clipboard. “Youdidn’t let them drive home I hope.”
Duncan scowled. “Of course not. I didn’t evenlet them try walking. I poured them into Ralph Sewing’s taxi andgave him Amy’s car keys to hand over to her father at thehouse.”
Duncan was not always a jerk.
Garreth hated to ask, but... “So, given yourfun compared to mine, are we even?”
Duncan considered, and winked. “I’ll let youknow.”
 
 
 
 
Chapter Six
 
Midnight. For the next four hours herepresented all the law and order in Baumen. They had reserveofficers on call in case of emergencies but no immediate backup.Fortunately, they rarely needed it.
A quick sweep of town located Fowler’s caroff south 282 at the Starlite Motel. Just overnight, Garreth hoped.A swing through Pioneer Park at the north end of town found anempty car in the parking lot and moans of a carnal nature comingfrom the direction of the bandstand on the park’s island. A coupletaking advantage of the warm night for sex al fresco .Garreth left them undisturbed, recognizing the car as belonging toa middle-aged widower whose grown children had started domesticdisturbances over their father’s attentions to a similarly-agedwidow, feeling it disgraced their dead mother’s memory.
Radio traffic faded to time checks from areaagencies. To that accompaniment he turned west to cruiseneighborhood streets. They all seemed quiet, his the only vehiclemoving, and all but a handful of houses dark. A light shone in thediningroom at Anna’s. Was she going through the photo albums shepulled out for Fowler? If so, he hoped it was not with renewedgrief for Mada.
As one o’clock neared, he returned downtown.With the bars and VFW closing, he passed each several timeswatching patrons leave. The exodus appeared orderly, with no oneunduly under the influence. So before he parked to rattle doorknobsalong Kansas — a tradition Chief Danzig honored as demonstratingthat the city’s tax dollars supported police who did not just rideround in patrol cars but took a hands-on interest in the securityof local businesses — Garreth headed out to highway 282’s curvearound the east side of town to check businesses along there.
Wal-Mart and Dillons looked buttoned down forthe night as he drove around them, their parking lots empty, evenbehind where couples sometimes parked. Nothing moved among thelights inside the Hammond greenhouses or inside Gfeller Lumber’sbuilding. He did take time to shake the yard gate and check itslock. The few cars remaining at the American Legion hall belonged,he knew, to cleaning personnel. He expected to find the same at thebowling alley.
But as he started to pull out of the hall’slot, a T-top Corvette with the roof panels off roared up thehighway past him. Given tonight’s lack of traffic, dry road, andmoonlight providing good visibility, he could forgive a littlespeed...but this idiot had to be doing at least seventy.
He flipped on his light bar and gunned afterthe speeder. Instead of pulling over, however, the Corvette pulledaway. Double idiot, choosing to run. The Corvette might outdistancehis Crown Vic, but not the radio. Or maybe the driver thought alocal cop had to give up the chase at the city limit. Surprise.
They passed the city limit and crossed theSaline River with the Corvette still accelerating. And no morecurves between here and the Rooks County line to slow it down.
Garreth buried his foot on the floor to keepup and keyed his mike. “Seven, Baumen, I’m on 282 north of Baumenin pursuit of a speeder, silver T-top Corvette, local N-Nora — oh, shit !”
Even focused on the Corvette, he registeredthe pale shape coming out of the hay field on the left andidentified it as a deer headed for the highway.
The Corvette’s brake lights flared as thedeer, a big buck, appeared three or four hundred feet ahead...acouple hundred feet too close at the vehicle’s speed. Garrethyelled into his radio for Fire Rescue and a tow truck as theCorvette slammed into the deer with a sickening thunk ofmetal meeting flesh.
Amid fishtailing and flying front endshrapnel, it carried the deer for another couple of seconds, thenGarreth saw the animal slide across the hood and smash into thewindshield. Not stopping there, to Garreth’s horror it bounced,rolling up the windshield, landing on the car roof with legsthrashing down through the open panels.
The vehicle’s rear end slewed off the highwayto the right and across the narrow shoulder into the borderingditch. Spinning the front end around toward Garreth before tippingover onto the driver’s side in the ditch.
Garreth bailed out of the patrol car with hisportable radio as soon as the Vic stopped rolling and leaped intothe ditch. Landing knee deep in water from the day’s rain. A glancepast the buckled hood knotted his gut. Beyond the shatteredwindshield, the driver sagged sideways, head dipping into thewater, apparently unconscious...female from what remained visible,with lacerations on her face and scalp.
As he scrambled along the vehicle, Garrethmet a flood of blood scents, animal and human. Tipping over hadflipped the body of the deer, now dead, off the roof, but its hindlegs remained inside. Garreth jerked it free and heaved itaside.
A male struggled in the passenger seat. “Helpme get out of here.”
Garreth gave him one quick glance: earlytwenties, dazed eyes, also bleeding from multiple lacerations onhis head and face.
“I have to help your girlfriend first.”Garreth worked his legs down between door and driver to lift herface clear of the water, at the same time holding her head to keepher neck steady. He would hate to save her from drowning only toleave her paralyzed. Now he just needed to hold her here until helparrived.
He risked moving one hand to key his radio.“I need that ambulance!”
“ It’s on its way ,” Doris Schoning cameback.
But how long before it arrived? The girlmight drown from other than water. Her nose had flattened...brokeneither by the deer or collision with the steering wheel. Herbreathing seemed less respiration than spasms, each accompanied byopen-mouthed, liquid bubbling. Blood from her nose filling herthroat, maybe going into her lungs. Each breath brought a blast ofblood scent, igniting hunger in him.
The passenger groped for his seat belt. “Helpme out. I feel like I’m gonna fall.”
Garreth grabbed his wrist. “Don’t! Wait forhelp.” He could not catch the kid’s gaze, so he hoped the kid wascoherent enough to pay attention and obey. “What’s your name?”
The kid took a moment to think. “Todd.” Thenstruggled in Garreth’s grip.
Garreth clamped tighter. “The thing is, Todd,you release your seat belt and you just might fall on top of us.That could kill your girlfriend if she has a neck injury. So whydon’t you grab the edge of the window up there. See if you can hookyour elbow over it and hang tight for a while longer.”
The girl’s chest heaved, struggling to pullin air, while the gurgle of her breath worsened. Cold ran throughGarreth. Where the hell was Fire Rescue! Her airway needed clearingand needed it now ! If only he could pull her out and lay heron her side to drain the blood...but if she had a neck injury...“Doris, where’s the EMT!”
“ They’ll be there any minute. ”
Any minute...but any minute might be toolate. The kid continued fumbling for the seat belt and Garrethclamped a hand over his wrist again while listening to the girl inanguish. Any minute she might drown in her own blood.
She choked.
The blast of blood scent increased hishunger....and brought a solution for clearing her throat.
One he instantly rejected. No, he couldnot do that ! He would not touch human blood. Dared not. Therehad to be another way!
Desperately he peered through the shatteredwindshield toward town, but saw no flashing lights of emergencyvehicles.
The girl’s chest jerked. By moonlight he sawher face darkening with suffocation.
His gut knotted. All right ! he shoutedsilently, though to whom Garreth had no idea. Fate, perhaps, orLane’s ghost. Just this once...to save a life, not take it...andspit out the blood, not swallow it.
“Todd, don’t be alarmed but I have to giveyour girlfriend mouth to mouth.”
He twisted down to her face and fastened hismouth over hers, sucking. Reminding himself not to swallow...to—
Then the blood filled his mouth.
Every cell of him screamed in joy. The hot,salty-coppery liquid flowed over his tongue with a richness animalblood never had. A richness the Hunger had been craving since themoment he woke in the San Francisco morgue. It snatched control,would not let him turn away and spit.
He swallowed.
The blood burned like fire in his throat, buta fire that cooled, not seared, soothing the other fire of thirst.And from it warmth spread outward through the rest of him, warmthand a crackling surge of energy. Awareness of everything around himfaded to the distant edge of perception. Garreth sucked andswallowed again, and again, ravenously, greedily relishing everydrop.
Dimly, he heard a nearing siren. The chest ofthe girl heaved, finally drawing in a breath.
A hand touched Garreth’s shoulder. “We’lltake over now.”
Fury boiled up in him. No, not yet! He clungsnarling to his prey. The hand shook him. “Mikaelian! We’ve gother!”
The sound of his name broke through theHunger controlling him. Horrified at himself, Garreth flung himselfaway, scrambling backward up the ditch until stopped by the pasturefence. Barbs on the wire pricked his arms and legs. He welcomed thepain...concentrated on it to forget the taste lingering in hismouth. Taste he wanted to be as loathsome as the beast the Hungermade him, taste he wanted to reject. But the taste sang inhim...and the Hunger rejoiced.
The scene became a swarm of vehicles andactivity: EMTs examining the victims and putting cervical braces onthem before the arriving wrecker pulled the ‘vette back onto theroad where Fire Rescue could cut the victims free; the ambulancearriving and taking both to the hospital — bloodied but alive andthe girl regaining consciousness, thanks to them actually wearingtheir seat belts. This being county jurisdiction, Sheriff’s DeputyMarvin Herbert drove down from his convenience store in Lebeau.
Garreth watched it all from somewhere outsidehimself, his mind churning, urging him to flee this new nightmare.After tasting human blood, could he still force himself to drinkanimal blood, or would the Hunger control him now? Already,smelling blood in the EMTs, wrecker driver, and deputy had histhroat tickling with thirst again.
He vaguely heard Herbert ask him somethingand grunted an answer, then Herbert said, “It’s a shame to scrapthat.”
“The car?” Garreth watched its remains beingdragged up on the flatbed.
“Car?” Herbert’s snort shook his belly likeJello. “A Corvette ain’t a car, son. It’s plastic . Though her daddy loves it, god knows why, and isprobably gonna ground Alexa for life...if he doesn’t kill her. No,I mean the buck. That rack had twelve points before it hit thewindshield!”
Garreth glanced toward the deer carcass, thenscowled up at the deputy. “The buck? It’s the victims— ”
“Who matter,” Herbert finished for him.“Yeah. But now I’ve finally got your attention, tell me why you’relooking like that buck likely did in the headlights. You must’veworked accidents before.”
He produced a shrug and grimace. “I...I’mjust coming down from the adrenaline.”
Herbert eyed him a moment or two longer, thenslapped his shoulder. “Well, take ‘er easy. Remember, aside fromthe buck and Hot Wheels, no one died here.”
But maybe control of his existence had.
 
 
 
 
Chapter Seven
 
If working the rest of the shift on automaticcounted as taking it easy, he did...writing up his accident reportand faxing a copy to the Sheriff’s office in Bellamy, rattlingdoorknobs downtown, checking for a prowler, shushing a barkingdog...all with a minimum of conscious attention. The rest of hismind strained to forget drinking the girl’s blood, or make thememory as repellent as the mental image of him fastened to hermouth. In vain. No matter how Garreth tried to block it, he tastedher blood over and over...every deliciously salty copper drop. Andhe wanted more. Craved it.
By the end of the shift, fighting memory lefthim exhausted...dragging as though he patrolled in sunlight. But heshuddered at the thought of going to bed and the dreams he mighthave. So he started walking...with no destination in mind, justkeeping on the move while his mind churned. There must be a way toblock the memory...put this behind him so he could sleep, and go onas before, drinking just cattle blood.
Even thinking that, however, he suspectednothing would block the memory. How did someone forget ecstasy?So...since he craved the blood, treat it as an addiction...likealcoholism. Acknowledge the thirst but refuse to yield to it. Liveone meal at a time. This time I will drink cattle blood. It isenough . Yes...that should work.
A crunch of gravel underfoot broke into histhoughts. Looking around, he found himself on the entry drive ofMount of Olives cemetery. Yes, of course his feet brought him here.And they carried him in past obelisques and other ornate headstonesof the older graves near the gate that bore names like Dreiling,Pfeifer, Pfannenstiel, Wiesner...and Bieber...to the far southwestcorner. To a grave bristling with the short canes of a pruned rosebush but no headstone...just a metal stake with a laminated cardreading: John Doe 10/31/83. Lane’s grave.
Scraps of paper and a plastic bag fromWal-Mart had blown into the rose bush and stuck on the thorns.Kneeling beside the grave, Garreth gingerly peeled each free,trying to avoid snagging himself, until the canes stood cleanagain.
The memory of Maggie’s voice whispered in hishead. “ I don’t understand, Garreth. The man tried to kill youand Ed Duncan. Why are you looking after his grave ?”
Being unable to tell her he came as Anna’sproxy, he always replied: “He wasn’t born a monster and has amother somewhere who would want it tended.”
Here he pictured not the killer vampire butMada, the child she had been, that Anna loved...intelligent, amagical singing voice, yet tormented, her unusual height and quicktemper making her a pitifully easy target for the ridicule of otherchildren. Until anger drove the grown child to beg a vampire namedIrina for the vampire life, then used it to take revenge on thehumanity she despised.
When the bush bloomed, blood red AmericanBeauty roses covered it. What more fitting for Lane?
Too late he realized the mistake of thinkingher name. The reason for tonight’s wandering came flooding backthrough him and he imagined her standing before him, tall,red-haired, sheathed in a glittering red siren dress. Smiling insatisfaction. “ Wasn’t tonight instructive? See, lover, that’swhat this life is about. Human blood is what we’re meant todrink. ”
He shook his head. “It’s just a choice, likeprotecting people or killing them.”
Her lip curled. “ Really? But you want it,don’t you. You want it so much...not that pathetic cattle blood. Behonest. Admit it and embrace your nature fully .”
“You’d like that.” He jammed the paper scrapsin the bag. “To have me become like you. Well, I won’t.”
“ We’ll see .”
The eastern sky began to lighten, bringingthe weight of day. Garreth pushed to his feet. Time to go.
Crossing to the nearest drive, the sound ofrunning footsteps reached him...and a man in sweats appeared out ofthe morning mist. So intent was his effort, though, and hisexpression one of gazing inward, that he passed without seeingGarreth. Julian Fowler. The scent of his blood curled hotly offhim.
Garreth retreated from it, swallowing thehunger it brought.
That movement registered with Fowler. Hestarted violently and flung around white-eyed, then let out a gustybreath of relief. “It’s you, Officer Mikaelian. You gave me a bitof a turn. Disheartening, isn’t it? We think we’re such civilized,rational beings and then something moves in a misty cemetery and wejump out of our bloody skins.”
“Yet you chose to run through thecemetery.”
Panting, sweating, and away from Anna, Fowlerseemed less threatening.
“True...and I blame it entirely on AlistairMoore.”
Garreth blinked. “Who?”
Fowler laughed. “A spy character of mine whowas to have used marathon running as a cover. A cousin withjudgement I trust read the rough draft of the first Moore novel andsaid it was codswallop, that I hadn’t any idea of the realities oftraining for and running in a marathon. So I took up running tofind out. As I’ve learned golf, horseback riding, rock climbing,lock smithing, brewing, scuba diving, photography, and the violin.I’ve interviewed serial killers, burglars, and embezzlers, andtaken a turn as a bartender, waiter, and kitchen navvy in theinterest of research.” He grimaced. “My cousin proved correct and Ichanged Moore’s sport to golf. But I’ve kept running because Idiscovered it’s excellent for freeing up the mind to think throughplots. The cemetery choice...” He paused. “Call it eccentricity butI enjoy cemeteries. The history they reveal about a place,monuments like your War Memorial at the entrance, unusualheadstones, and such...like that.” He waved a hand.
Garreth turned to look, and carefullycontrolled his body and face. Fowler pointed at Mada’s grave.“There’s no headstone.”
“No, but I fancy that’s a rose bush on thegrave. Do you know that’s how legend says you keep a vampire in hiscoffin?”
Fowler knew about that? Garreth’s neckprickled. He made his tone casual. “I thought it’s garlic and astake through the heart.”
“So claims popular lore,” Fowler said, “butone has to wonder how well a wooden stake will hold a creature thatcan supposedly turn itself into mist to slip out of coffins andunder doors. Real vampire lore, not the cinematic rubbish,advocates covering the coffin or grave in mountain laurel or roses.The thorns supposedly have magical power against vampires,stemming, I suspect, from Jesus having worn a crown of thorns.”
“I take it you’ve studied vampires?”
Fowler smiled wryly. “And werewolves, ghouls,zombies, ghosts, banshees, and anything else going bump in thenight. I started my writing career as a paperback horror novelhack...under another name I hasten to add. Even then I realizedthat while time may bury many sins, those of writers live onforever on bookshelves. Speaking of blood, however, do I see someon your uniform there?”
Garreth glanced down. He had stains on thesleeves and front of his shirt...both deer and human from thescents...probably on his trousers, too, though there, evidence ofthe accident showed as wrinkling from water in the ditch.
“From nothing serious, I trust. One doesn’tthink of violence in a peaceful village like this.”
The bald pitch for details irritated Garreth.“An injured animal. Enjoy the rest of your run.”
Leaving Fowler staring after him, he trudgedtoward home.
A block north of the cemetery, a siren burpedbehind him. When he turned, Bill Pfannenstiel rolled up beside him,a grin on his beefy face.
“I think you’re in trouble, amigo. Maggie’sgot a BOLO out on you.”
Garreth stared at him in dismay. Maggie!Shit! “I forgot she was coming over.”
Pfannenstiel winced. “If I was you, I’d thinkof a better excuse. I forgot never goes down well at myhouse anyway. Hop in; I’ll give you a ride.” He keyed his mike.“Let Maggie know I found him, Doris.”
“ Where was he? Is he all right? ”
Pfannenstiel eyed Garreth a moment. “He wasjust walking...and he looks okay.” He hung up the mike and put thecar in gear. “There’s paper towels under your seat if you don’twant Maggie knowing you’ve been to that grave again.”
Garreth started. How— The thought broke offas a glance down spotted the mud on his hands and trousers. He torea sheet from the roll and scrubbed at his hands, and at mud on theknees of his trousers. Pfannenstiel’s laid-back manner and donutgut made it easy to forget his sharp eyes and knowledge ofeveryone’s business.
“You’ve never asked why I go.”
Pfannenstiel glanced sideways at him with athoughtfulness that prickled Garreth’s neck. Then Pfannenstielshrugged. “Not my business. And...here you are, home. Just leavethe bag; I’ll dispose of it.”
The car braked at Helen’s driveway...whereMaggie’s Bronco with its SHE-PIG tag sat parked down infront of his side of the garage. A face peered between the drapesof the French doors onto the deck above the garage doors.
Pfannenstiel gave him a thumbs up. “Goodluck.”
Garreth stared after the patrol car. DidPfannenstiel know, or suspect, something about John Doe, justchoose to let it alone? According to Nat Toews, thirty years in thedepartment had taught Pfannenstiel, like Lieutenant Kaufman, hiscousin, where all the bodies were buried. Maybe who they were, too?Or was Garreth Mikaelian still looking over his shoulder, as he hadwhen Lane first turned him...always wary of pursuit.
And speaking of wary. He glanced up at theFrench doors, waved at Maggie still peering out, and took a deepbreath. Time to face the fire.
The door jerked open as soon as he reachedthe landing. Maggie launched through it into his arms. “Thank god!I was so worried! When you didn’t come home I called the stationand Doris said you’d seemed in a daze all night. What happened atthat accident? Where did you go after you got off?”
He barely heard her through the pulsepounding in his ears. The explosion of hunger in him at her bloodscent brought back the taste of the girl’s blood and made him dizzywith craving. With Maggie’s neck so close to his mouth, his fangsstarted sliding down. In a surge of panic he almost thrust her awayfor her own protection.
Instead, he made himself ease her loose andbackward into the apartment and closed the door. “Look, I’m sosorry. I didn’t mean to worry you. It’s just been a shitty day andI had to clear my head.”
She frowned. “So why didn’t you come home?Isn’t that what we have each other for, to talk out the jobstress?”
How did he answer that? “I...yes...I wasn’tthinking.”
After a moment, she nodded. “What you need isa shower to relax you, then we can talk.” She started unbuttoninghis shirt.
Panic surged in him again. Shower together,she meant, which almost always ended in soapy sex. Welcome anyother time. But tonight he could not, dared not...terrified... certain ...he would be unable to fight hisusual urge to bite as they peaked.
He backed away. “I’m sorry...tonight I’m notup to that.”
After a moment she nodded and pointed at thecouch, not yet unfolded into a bed. “So we’ll just talk.”
No...he needed to keep his distance from herblood. Carefully, he said, “Maggie...I’m exhausted.” And hoped helooked it, with the sun rising and weight of daylight pressing onhim.
Maggie’s forehead furrowed. “You mean youdon’t want to talk. Why don’t you ever want to talk?”
He heard himself go defensive. “We talk allthe time.”
She shook her head. “No, mostly I talk. Unless it’s something ‘safe,’ like amusing war stories, booksand movies, world events, maybe an anecdote about your childhood.But never anything like what happened tonight that turned you intoa zombie on duty and sent you walking around town for over twohours before coming home. Then you dive behind a wall. What is ityou’re so desperate to hide?”
Garreth swallowed a groan. She was not goingto let this go. Tell her something, then, anything that mightsatisfy her for tonight. The smell of her blood suggested a goodlie.
He sighed as though surrendering. “There’snothing to hide. I just didn’t want to say anything because...thegirl driving the car was wearing the same perfume Marti used to,and I smelled it on me the rest of the night.” Imagined he smelledit now, and the pang at the scent curling though his memory —Cinnabar? — reminded him that three years had not ended the wrenchof losing his wife. “It was like dragging a ghost around. I had towalk it off, not bring that here to you.”
Maggie eyed him bleakly. “I think the ghostcame anyway.” She headed for the door. “I’ll let you go tobed.”
Though he wanted her gone tonight, hewondered if he inadvertently pushed her too far. Which might bewise...break off the relationship. How could he ever risk sexagain? And yet, she was bright, fun, good company...and arelationship that helped him still feel a little human. Could heafford to lose that?
 
 
 
 
Chapter Eight
 
He dreamed of fire. He stood in the shade ofa tree at the edge of Pioneer Park’s island. High overhead a summersun blazed in a heat-bleached sky. Lane lounged on the railing ofthe bandstand, a blood-red dance costume cut to her hip bonesshowing off her showgirl legs. Even in the shade her hair shonerich mahogany, and her eyes gleamed red as fire.
“Come here to me, Inspector,” she crooned.“Blood son. Lover. I need you. We need each other.”
“The hell I need you,” he yelled at her.
He wanted to leave the island, but the woodenbridge to shore lay in the full blaze of the sun. Just looking atit made him feel weak. If only he could find his trooper glasses.Somehow he had mislaid them, though. He searched all his pockets invain. Had Lane taken them?
“But you do need me, lover,” she called. “Youdon’t want to be all alone.”
“I’m not.”
She laughed. “You’re referring to your littleshe-pig? Don’t be foolish. See that?” She pointed.
Following the direction of her finger, hecaught his breath. Maggie stood at the shore end of the bridgestaring balefully at him. In her hand she held a box of kitchenmatches. She struck one.
“What are you doing?” he called.
“You don’t want to talk to me? You prefer theghost of your dead wife or communing at the grave of that psycho?Fine.” She tossed the match onto the bridge.
“Maggie! Don’t!”
“Prove it’s me you care about.” She watchedthe plank start to smolder. “Come stamp out the fire.”
Garreth tried, but the moment he stepped intothe sun, it struck like a sledgehammer. He reeled back, blinded bypain.
She tossed another match. A second plankcaught fire. “I don’t see what’s so difficult. There’s still timeto walk over the bridge to me. Anyone can do that. Anyonehuman.”
But Garreth could not. The sun held himpinned in the shade of the tree. He could only stand and watchhelplessly while his link to the shore went up in flames.
“You see, lover?” Deceptively soft armswrapped around him from behind. Fangs nipped his ear. “You’re mine.I’m the only one who’ll have you. I’m the only one who understands.Now aren’t you sorry you killed me?”
 
 
 
 
Chapter Nine
 
Over the weekend Garreth wondered if he stillhad any kind of relationship with Maggie. When he saw her at thestation Friday evening she smiled and spoke to him with just thepoliteness of colleagues.
Lighting Sue Ann’s eyes with avid curiosity.She asked him nothing, however, and judging by her frowns, Maggiefrustrated attempts at questioning, too.
Remembering the burning bridge dream, hewondered if Maggie expected him to make the first move. If so,what? Asking might run him into the kind of trap his first wifeJudith used to set. “

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