The Killing Dance (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #6) - Chapter 16

16

The table was the largest of a string of small, black lacquer tables. It blended nearly perfectly with the black walls. My dress matched the decor. I was really going to have to look into something in a different color scheme. The table was set away from the wall, near the railing so that the growing crowd couldn't block my view of the dance floor. It also meant that my back was exposed. I had scooted my chair so that the wall was at my back, but I was very aware that the edge of the railing curved around on my right side, so that someone could walk up and shoot me, relatively hidden from anyone else.

Of course, Liv was with me. She stood at my back, arms crossed over her stomach. All she needed was a sign over her head that flashed bodyguard.

Admittedly, my purse was open. The gun was within reach, and it was tempting to put it in my lap. I was spooked, but that wasn't the point. We had a plan. The plan did not include the assassin being scared away.

I touched Liv's arm.

She bent down.

"You're supposed to be unobtrusive."

She looked puzzled. "I'm supposed to keep you safe."

"Then sit down and pretend to be my friend. The trap won't work if I look like I'm being guarded."

She knelt by me; too far to bend down, I suppose. "I will not risk being given to Sabin. I don't care if your assassin knows I'm here or not."

It was hard to blame her, but I was willing to make the effort. I leaned into her. "Look, either work with the program, or get away from me."

"I obey Jean-Claude, not his strumpet."

As far as I could remember, I'd never done anything in my life to deserve being called a strumpet. "Jean-Claude said if you failed him, he'd give you to the rotting corpse, right?"

Liv nodded. Her eyes searched the crowd behind me. She really was trying to do the job, and the effort showed.

"He didn't say you'd be punished if I got hurt, did he?"

Liv's eyes flicked to me. "What are you saying?"

"If you scare away the hitter and spoil the plan, that's failure."

She shook her head. "No, that's not what he meant."

"He said never to fail him again."

I watched her try to work out the logic. I was betting that logic wasn't one of her strong points.

"Clever, Anita, but if you get killed, Jean-Claude will punish me. You know he will."

I was wrong. She was a lot smarter than she looked. "But if you spoil our plan, he'll punish you anyway."

Fear flashed through her eyes. "I'm trapped."

I felt sorry for her. Pity for two monsters--no three--in one night. I was losing my edge. "If I don't get killed, I'll make sure you don't get punished."

"You swear it?" She said the phrase like it meant more. Giving your oath was not a casual thing to her. A lot of vampires came from times when a man's or a woman's word was their bond.

"I give you my word."

She stayed kneeling for a moment longer, then stood. "Try not to get killed." She moved into the crowd, leaving me on my own, like I'd asked.

The rest of the tables filled up quickly. The crowd spilled around the edges of the room on the raised area around the dance floor. So many people stood at the fenced edges that if the table had been by the wall, I'd have lost my view of the dance floor. Under other circumstances, I'd have appreciated the thoughtfulness. Another bodyguard could come along at any time. I was ready for some company.

The crowd filled the two levels above, standing room only. I looked for Sabin's dark cloak, but didn't see him. The main dance floor was untouched. The way to the floor was barred by half a dozen vampires. They had quietly but firmly motioned everybody back to the sides of the room. Both male and female were dressed nearly identically, black lycra pants, boots, and black fishnet shirts. The women wore black bras under their shirts, but that was the only difference. I approved. Short little skirts or hot pants for the women would have pissed me off. The thought occurred that maybe Jean-Claude had dressed them with me in mind. He knew me too well in some ways and didn't have a clue in others.

I scanned the crowd for Edward and for anything suspicious, but it was hard to pick out any one person in the jostling, laughing crowd. I couldn't spot Edward. I had to just trust that he was there somewhere. And although I did trust him to be there, the tightness in my chest didn't ease.

Edward had cautioned me to be casual, not to look suspicious. Outwardly, I was trying. Inwardly, I was almost dizzy searching the crowd and that painful empty spot to the right and almost behind me where the railing went. I put my hands in my lap and forced myself to look down. If the assassin came now, I wouldn't be looking, but I had to get hold of myself. If I didn't, I was going to be so busy jumping at shadows, I wouldn't be ready when the real thing came. I was beginning to wish I'd let Liv stay.

I took deep, even breaths, in and out, concentrating on the rhythm of my own body. When I could hear the blood flowing inside my head, I raised my face slowly.

I stared calmly out at the crowd and the dance floor. I felt empty, distant, calm. Much better.

A vampire came up to the railing in front of my table. Willie McCoy was dressed in a suit so horribly green it could only be called chartreuse. Green shirt, and a wide tie with Godzilla crushing Tokyo on it. No one would ever accuse Willie of matching any decor.

I smiled. I couldn't help it. Willie had been one of the first vampires to ever cross that line from monster to friend. He scooted one of the chairs around so his back was to the open space. He sat down like he hadn't done it on purpose. I didn't have to pretend to be happy to see him.

He had to lean a bit into me to be heard over the crowd's rising murmur. I could smell the sweet scent of the goop he used to slick back his short hair. Him being this close didn't even make me tense. I trusted Willie more than I trusted Jean-Claude.

"How ya doing, Anita?" He grinned enough to show fang. Willie hadn't been dead three years yet. He was one of the few vamps I'd known before and after death.

"I've been better," I said.

"Jean-Claude said we were to bodyguard you, but to keep it casual. We'll drift in and out. But you looked spooked."

I shook my head, smiling. "That obvious?"

"To someone who knows ya, yeah."

We smiled at each other. Looking into Willie's face from inches away, I realized that he was on my list. The list that Stephen was on. If someone killed Willie, I'd hunt them down. It surprised me to realize that any vamp had made the list. But Willie had, and come to think of it, I guess, so had one other vampire.

Jean-Claude appeared on the far side of the club. Speak of the devil. A spotlight hit him from somewhere. It had to be coming from a fly loft, but it was hidden away so that it was hard to tell. A perfect place for a high-powered rifle. Stop it, Anita. Stop tormenting yourself.

I hadn't truly realized how crowded the opening would be. Edward by himself searching for one lone assassin in this mass of people would have been poor odds. Maybe the vamps and werewolves were amateurs, but their extra eyes couldn't hurt.

The lights began dimming until the only illumination was the spotlight on Jean-Claude. He seemed to glow. I wasn't sure if it was a trick or if he was making his own light from the skin outward. Hard to tell. Whichever, I was in the dark with an assassin, maybe, and I was not a happy camper.

Hell with it. I put the Seecamp in my lap. Better. Not perfect, but better. The fact that just the touch of a gun in my hand made me feel better was probably a bad sign. The fact that I missed my own guns was a worse one.

Willie touched my shoulder and made me jump enough that people near us glanced back. Shit.

He whispered, "I got your back covered. Easy."

Willie would make great cannon fodder, but he wasn't up to protecting me. He'd been a bit player before he died, and dying hadn't changed that. I realized if the shooting started and the bad guys were using silver bullets, I was worried about Willie. Worrying about your bodyguard is not good.

Jean-Claude's voice rose through the darkness, filling it with a sound that caressed my skin. A woman standing near the table shivered as if she'd been touched. Her date put his arm around her shoulders, and they huddled in the dark, surrounded by Jean-Claude's voice.

"Welcome to Danse Macabre. The night will be filled with surprises. Some wondrous." Two smaller spotlights hit the crowd. Cassandra appeared balanced on the railing on the second floor. She swept the coat back, revealing her body, stalking along the inches-wide iron bar like it was the floor, nearly dancing. Wild applause broke out. The second spot hit Damian on the first floor. He glided out of the crowd, swishing the embroidered coat around him like a small cape. If he felt silly in the outfit, it didn't show.

He moved through the crowd with the spotlight following him. He touched a shoulder here, ran his hands through waist-length hair, put his arm around one woman's waist. Each one, man or woman, didn't seem to mind. They leaned into him or whispered in his ear. He came to a woman with long brown hair parted in the middle. She was dressed rather modestly for the crowd. Navy blue business skirt and jacket. Her white blouse had one of those big bows that are supposed to look like a tie but never do. Of the women around Damian, she looked the most normal. He circled her so closely that his body brushed her. She jerked away from every touch, eyes wide with fear I could see, even from across the room.

I wanted to say, "Leave her alone," but I didn't want to yell. Jean-Claude wouldn't allow anything illegal, at least not in front of this many witnesses. Bespelling a group of people wasn't illegal. Mass hypnosis wasn't permanent. But one on one, it was permanent. Which meant that Damian could stand under the woman's window and call her out some dark night, no time limitation.

Willie was leaning forward in his chair, his dark eyes on the woman and Damian. He didn't seem to be looking for assassins right that second.

I watched the woman's face go blank of all expression, until she was like one asleep. Her empty eyes stared at Damian. He took her hand and leaned against the railing. He rolled both legs over, ending on his feet, still holding her hand. She took two hesitant steps to

the railing edge. He put his hands on her waist, under her jacket, and lifted her high in the air, effortlessly, setting her down on the dance floor in her sensible black pumps.

The spotlights on Jean-Claude and Cassandra died until the only light was that on Damian and the woman. He led her to the center of the dance floor. She walked, looking only at him as if the rest of the world no longer existed.

Dammit. What Damian was doing was illegal. Most of the crowd wouldn't pick it up. Vampires were allowed to use their powers for entertainment purposes so even the media, if they were inside, would be okay with it. But I knew the difference; I knew the law. Jean-Claude had to know I'd recognize what was happening for what it was. Was she an actress? A plant for the show?

I leaned into Willie, close enough to brush the shoulder of his suit. "Is she an actress?"

He turned startled eyes to me, and I could see that the pupils had been swallowed by the brown of his eyes. Down a long dark tunnel there was a hint of fire.

I swallowed hard and eased back from him, glad of the gun in my lap. "It's real, isn't it?"

Willie licked his lips nervously. "If I say it is, you're going to do something to mess up the show. Jean-Claude will get mad at me. I don't want him mad at me, Anita."

I shook my head but didn't argue with him. I'd seen what Jean-Claude did to vamps that angered him. Torture was putting it mildly. I had to find out what was going on but without disrupting things and drawing more attention to myself than I wanted tonight.

Damian stood the woman in the center of the light. He focused her face on something we could not see. She stood there, empty and waiting for his commands. He stood behind her, folding his arms around her waist, rubbing his cheek against her hair. He undid the bow at her throat, and the first three buttons of her blouse. He rubbed his lips along her exposed neck, and I couldn't take any more. If she was an actress, fine; but if she was an unwilling victim, this had to stop.

"Willie?"

He turned to me slowly, reluctantly. His hunger made him want to watch. His fear of what I was about to ask made him slower.

"What's up?"

"Go tell Jean-Claude that the show is over."

Willie shook his head. "If I leave your side and you get wasted, Jean-Claude will kill me. Slow and painful. I'm not leaving your side until I'm supposed to."

I sighed. Fine. I leaned over the railing and motioned one of the vampire waiters over to me. He glanced off in the dark as if he could see Jean-Claude, even though I couldn't, then he walked over to me.

"What is it?" he whispered. He leaned in close enough that I could smell the mints on his breath. Nearly ever vampire I knew used breath mints.

I still had the Seecamp naked in my hand. I figured I could afford to get up close and personal with the new dead, so I leaned in and whispered back, "Is she an actress?"

He glanced back at the little tableau. "Just a volunteer from the audience."

"She wasn't a volunteer," I said. There had been a half dozen people that would have volunteered, but the vampire had chosen the one who was afraid. That extra little bit of sadism--they just couldn't resist it.

"Tell Jean-Claude that if he doesn't stop this, I will."

He blinked at me.

"Just do it," I said.

He walked around the edge of the dance floor, vanishing into the darkness. I could sort of follow him, more an impression of movement than anything else. I couldn't see Jean-Claude at all.

Damian passed his hand above the woman's face, and when his hand came away, she blinked, awake at last. Her hands flew to her blouse, eyes frantic. "What's happening?" Her voice carried, thin with fear.

Damian tried to take her in his arms, but she drew away, and all he caught was a wrist. She strained against him, and he held her easily. "Let me go, let me go, please!" She reached out to someone in the crowd. "Help me!"

The crowd had gone very quiet, quiet enough that I could hear the voice of her supposed friend, "Enjoy it. It's just part of the show."

Damian jerked her around to face him, hard enough that there would be bruises. As soon as her eyes met his, her face went blank. She sagged to her knees, still held by one wrist.

He raised her to her feet, gently now. He clasped her against him and drew her hair to one side, exposing a long line of neck. He turned in a slow circle as if they were dancing, showing her bare flesh to all.

Willie leaned forward, tongue dancing over his lower lip as if he could taste her skin already. Willie was my friend, but it was good to remember that he was also a monster.

The vampire waiter was coming back. I could see him moving towards me.

Damian curled his lips, exposing fangs. He thrust his neck back giving everyone a view. I saw his neck muscles tense and we were out of time.

Willie looked up as if realizing the shit was hitting a different fan, but there was no time.

I shouted, "Don't do it, Damian." I pointed the gun at his back, about where the heart would be. When a vamp gets around five hundred, one shot to the chest, silver bullets or not, doesn't always guarantee a kill. But we would by God find out if he bit her.

Willie raised his hand toward me.

"Don't, Willie." I meant it. Just because nobody else was allowed to kill him, didn't mean I couldn't.

Willie sank back into his chair.

Damian relaxed enough to turn his head and look at me. He turned so that the girl was in front of him like a shield. Her hair was still back on one side, her neck still exposed. He stared at me, running one finger down her naked flesh. Daring me.

A dim spotlight shone on me, and the illumination built as I walked very carefully to the two steps that led down to the dance floor. Vaulting the railing might have looked better, but it made it damn hard to hold a target. I could probably have made the head shot from the railing, but with an unfamiliar gun, it was too risky. I didn't want to accidentally shoot the woman in the head. Killing the hostage is always frowned upon.

The vampire waiters and waitresses didn't know what to do. If I'd been some schmuck off the street, they might have tried to jump me, but I was their master's beloved, which made things a little sticky. I kept a sort of peripheral eye on them. "You guys back up and give me some room--right now."

They all glanced at each other.

"You don't want to crowd me, boys and girls, so move it!" They moved.

When I was close enough to feel confident that I could make the shot, I stopped. "Let her go, Damian."

"She will not be harmed, Anita. Just a little fun."

"She's unwilling. That's against the law, even for entertainment purposes, so let her go, or I'll blow your fucking head off."

"Would you really shoot me in front of all these witnesses?"

"You bet," I said. "Besides, you're over five hundred years old. I don't think one shot to the head will kill you, not permanently at least. But it'll hurt like hell and may leave scars. You wouldn't want to spoil that beautiful face, now would you?" I was getting tired of holding one arm out. It wasn't that the gun was heavy, but it was hard to hold a one-handed pose for long without starting to waver. I didn't want to waver.

He stared at me for a space of heartbeats. He very carefully, very slowly licked the side of the woman's neck, strange green eyes staring at me the whole time. It was a dare. If he thought I was bluffing, he'd picked the wrong girl.

I let my breath out until my body was quiet, and I could hear my pulse in my ears. I sighted down my arm, down the gun, and... he was gone. He'd moved so suddenly it startled me. I moved my finger off the trigger and pointed the gun skyward, waiting for my heart to stop pounding.

He was standing just at the edge of the light, leaving the woman empty-faced, waiting. Damian stared at me.

"Are you going to interrupt our entertainment every night?" he asked.

"I don't like it," I said, "but pick a volunteer, and I have no quarrel with you."

"A volunteer," he said, turning in a circle to view the audience. They all stared at him. He licked his lips, and hands went up.

I shook my head and put the gun up. I took the woman's hand. "Release her, Damian," I said.

He glanced back at her and did it. Her eyes flew open wide, searching frantically like someone awakened from a nightmare to find it real. I patted her hand.

"It's all right. You're safe now."

"What's happening? What's happening?" She caught sight of Damian and started sobbing hysterically.

Jean-Claude appeared on the edge of the light. "You have nothing to fear from us, fair lady." He glided towards us.

She started screaming.

"He won't hurt you," I said. "I promise. What's your name?"

She kept screaming. She was taller than me, but I touched her face, putting a hand on either side, forcing her to look at me. "What's your name?"

"Karen," she whispered, "my name's Karen."

"We're going to walk off this dance floor, Karen, and no one will hurt you. You have my word."

She nodded over and over, breath coming so fast I was afraid she was going to pass out.

Cassandra walked into the light, but stayed back. "Can I help?"

Jean-Claude had not moved since Karen started screaming. He just looked at me, and I still couldn't read his expression.

"Yeah," I said, "I could use some help."

Karen shied away from her. "She's not a vampire," I said.

She let Cassandra take her other arm, and we led her off the dance floor away from the light. Jean-Claude stepped onto center stage, and his voice followed us into the darkness. "Did you enjoy our little melodrama?" There was a puzzled silence. His voice was like fur wrapping the crowd in the dark, breathing in their fear, giving them back desire. "We do not tease here at Danse Macabre. Who would like to experience the reality of Damian's kiss?" Someone would take him up on it. Someone always did. If anyone could salvage the show after the woman's hysterics, Jean-Claude could.

Liv came to help, I think. Karen took one look at the muscle-bound

vamp and fainted dead away. She was not a small woman, and it surprised both Cassandra and myself. She sagged to the floor. Liv started to come closer, but I waved her off.

A woman from the crowd came towards us, hesitantly. "Can I help?" she asked. She was about the same size as Cassandra and me, small, with long reddish hair that swung to her waist, straight and fine. She was dressed in a pair of dark brown dress slacks, the kind that run large and have cuffs and are usually linen. For a shirt she wore only a vest with a silk camisole under it.

I glanced at Cassandra. She shrugged. "Thanks, if you could take her feet." Cassandra could have flung the woman across her shoulders in a fireman's carry, but most lycanthropes didn't like to show off their strength. I could have carried her, too, even if she was so bloody tall. I could still have carried her for a short distance, but not fast, and not too far.

The woman shoved her clutch purse under one arm and took the unconscious woman's feet. We got moving a little awkwardly, but we managed to get a rhythm and Cassandra took us to the women's rest room. Or I should say, lounge. The front part had a couch and a lighted vanity. It was white and black, with a mural on the wall that was from a woodcut that I knew, entitled "Demon-Lover." The demon in this version looked suspiciously like Jean-Claude, and I doubted it was accidental.

We laid Karen on the black couch. The woman who was helping dampened some paper towels without being asked and brought them back. I laid them against Karen's forehead and neck. "Thanks."

"Is she going to be all right?" the woman asked.

I didn't answer, because that all depended on Damian. "What's your name?"

The woman smiled almost shyly. "Anabelle, Anabelle Smith."

I smiled up at her. "Anita Blake. This is Cassandra." I realized I didn't know her last name. Jean-Claude always called his wolves by only their first names, like a pet. "I'm sorry. I don't know your last name."

"Cassandra is fine." She shook Anabelle's hand. They smiled at each other.

"Should we report what happened to the police?" Anabelle asked. "I mean that vampire was going to force himself on her. That's illegal, right?"

Karen stirred on the couch, moaning.

"Yeah, it's illegal," I said.

Anabelle raised an interesting point. I could report it to the cops. If a vampire acquired three complaints against him or her, you could get a death warrant issued, if you got the right judge. I would talk to Jean-Claude and Damian first, but if they didn't give me the answers I wanted, maybe I should go to the cops. I shook my head.

"What are you thinking?" she asked.

"Nothing worth sharing," I said.

The bathroom door opened. Raina walked in wearing a cream-colored dress as short as my own. The dark hose and stiletto high heels made her legs go on forever. She wore a fur jacket in a dusty red, probably fox. She was the only shape-shifter I'd met who wore real fur that wasn't her own.

She'd pulled her auburn hair on top of her head in a soft bun with loose strands of hair curled artfully around her face and neck.

Karen chose that minute to regain consciousness. I wasn't sure she was going to like her wake-up call. I knew I didn't.

I stood. Cassandra moved in front of me and a little to one side, not blocking me, but closer to the danger than I was. I wasn't used to anyone guarding me. It felt odd. I could take care of myself. That was the point, wasn't it?

"What's happening?" Anabelle asked.

Karen was looking around, eyes going wide again. "Where am I?"

"Anabelle, can you sit with Karen, please?" I smiled when I asked, but I didn't take my eyes from Raina. The door had closed behind her, and there wasn't enough room to maneuver, not really. If Cassandra could hold her for a even a few seconds, I could get the gun out, but somehow I didn't think Raina had come to fight. I think she'd have worn different shoes.

Anabelle sat on the couch and literally held Karen's hand. But she was watching the rest of us. Hell, it might be a better show than what was outside.

"What do you want, Raina?" I asked.

She gave a wide smile with her lipsticked mouth, baring small, even white teeth. "It's the ladies' room, isn't it? I came to powder my nose. And to see how our frightened guest is doing." She took two steps into the room, and Cassandra moved in front of her, blocking her way.

Raina stared down at her. "You forget yourself, wolf." Her voice held a low edge of growl.

"I forget nothing," Cassandra said.

"Then stand aside," she said.

"What did you mean by our guest?" I asked.

She smiled at me. "I am Jean-Claude's partner in this little enterprise. Didn't he tell you?" From the look on her face, she knew the answer and was enjoying it.

"I guess it slipped his mind," I said. "Why aren't you part of the show then?"

"I'm a silent partner," she said. She pushed past Cassandra, body brushing the smaller woman. She knelt by the couch. "How are you feeling, my dear?"

Karen stammered, "I just want to go home."

"Of course you do." She glanced up and smiled. "If one of you would help me get her to her feet, there's a cab waiting to take her anywhere she wants to go at the club's expense. Or did you want to ride home with your friends?"

Karen shook her head. "They aren't my friends."

"So wise of you to realize that," Raina said. "So many people put their trust in the wrong people." She stared at me while she said the last. "And they get hurt, or worse."

Anabelle had moved away from Raina. She was staring at all of us, clutching her purse. I don't think she understood everything we were saying, but she obviously was not having a good time. One good deed and she was already being punished.

"Can you stand? Why don't you help me?" Raina asked Anabelle.

"No, let Cassandra help you," I said.

"Afraid I might eat your newfound friend?"

I smiled. "You'll eat anything that can't get away. We all know that."

Her face tightened, anger flashing through her amber brown eyes. "In the end, Anita, we will see who eats what." She helped the woman to stand.

Cassandra whispered, "Jean-Claude told me to guard you."

"Make sure she gets into a cab that really is going to take her home. Then you can follow me around for the rest of the evening, okay?"

Cassandra nodded. "Jean-Claude won't like it."

"I'm not too happy with him right now, either," I said.

"A little help here," Raina said.

Cassandra sighed, but she took Karen's other arm, and they helped her through the door. When the door closed behind them, Anabelle let out a long sigh. "What is going on?"

I turned to the lighted mirror, leaning my hands on the vanity top. I shook my head. "It's too long a story, and the less you know, the safer you'll be."

"I have to confess I have an ulterior motive." I watched her through the mirror, and she looked embarrassed. "I didn't just help out of the goodness of my heart. I'm a reporter, freelance. A quote from the Executioner would really put me on the map. I mean I could name my price, especially if you explained what just happened here."

I bowed my head. "A reporter. Not exactly what I needed tonight."

Anabelle came up behind me. "It was real on the dance floor, wasn't it? That vampire--Damian, right? He was really going to do her, right there, as part of the show."

I watched her face in the mirror. She was vibrating with eagerness. She wanted to touch me. You could see her hands fluttering, nervous. It was a big story if I corroborated it. It would serve Jean-Claude right if I did.

Something went through Anabelle's eyes. Some of the brightness leaked away.

Several things happened almost simultaneously. Anabelle jerked my purse, the strap broke, she took a step back, and drew a gun from an inner-pants holster under her vest. The door opened, and three laughing women entered. The women screamed.

Anabelle looked at the door for just a heartbeat. I drew a knife and turned. I didn't try and walk those two steps to her. I dropped to one knee and lunged my body like a line with the knife as the point. The knife entered her upper stomach. The gun moved towards me. I used my left hand to sweep the arm away. The shot went wild, cracking the mirror. I shoved the knife upward, under her sternum, shoved it until the hilt met flesh and bone, and jerked the blade up and sideways.

Her hand convulsed on the gun and another shot hit the carpeted floor. The silencer made each shot seem muffled, almost anticlimactic.

She sank to her knees, eyes wide, mouth opening and closing. I ran my hand down her arm and took the gun from her. She blinked at me, eyes unbelieving, then she fell abruptly as if her strings had been cut. She twitched twice and died.

Edward was at the door, gun out, pointed. He stared from me to the fresh corpse. He took in the knife still protruding from her chest, the gun with silencer in my hand. He relaxed, pointing the gun at the floor. "Some bodyguard I turned out to be, letting you get dusted in the ladies' room."

I stared up at him. I felt numb, distant with shock. "She almost got me," I said.

"But she didn't," he said.

I heard men's voices shouting, "Police! Everybody stay where they are. We'll check it out."

"Shit," I said softly and with feeling. I laid Anabelle's gun by her body and sat back on the carpet. I wasn't sure I could stand right then.

Edward holstered his gun and moved back from the door to join the crowd that was pushing forward to see the show. Just another part of the anonymous throng. Yeah, right.

I sat there beside the corpse and tried to think of something to tell the cops. I wasn't sure the truth was an option I could afford right now. I began to wonder if I was going to see the inside of a jail tonight. Watching the blood soak the front of Anabelle's vest, it seemed likely.