Halfway to the Grave

Page 46

"Let's go," he said briefly.

"But what about Charlie? You're just going to leave him and Dean for the police to find, too?" I persisted, getting into the backseat and taking the girl's hand as we sped away.

"Coppers?" A humorless smile played on his lips. "You know that when vampires died, their bodies decomposed to their true ages. That's why they look like bloomin' mummies sometimes afterwards. Just let them try to figure out why a bloke dead 'round seventy years ended up stuffed into a bed frame and torched. They'll be scratching their chins about that for days. And I'm leaving Charlie the way he is for a reason. I want Hennessey to know who did it, and he will, because when we get back to the hotel, I'm going to call around and find out if there's any money on this sod. If there is, I'll claim it, and word will get to him. He'll be nervous, wondering what Charlie told me, and with luck it'll draw him out of hiding. He'll want to shut me up for good."

That was a very risky move. Hennessey wasn't alone in wanting Bones as worm food. From what Charlie had said, there were about twenty other people who'd be happy about that also.

"Where are we taking her?"

"Give me a moment." He flipped out his cell and dialed, driving one-handed. I whispered useless comforting things to the girl and thought of my mother. Once, many years ago, she'd been the victim. This wasn't the same scenario, true, but I didn't imagine it felt much different.

"Tara, it's Bones. I'm sorry to ring you so late... I have a favor to ask... Thank you. I'll be there within the hour."

He met my eyes in the rearview mirror. "Tara lives in Blowing Rock, so it's not that far, and the girl will be safe with her. No one really knows Tara, so Hennessey won't think to look there. She'll be able to give her the help she needs, and not just physically. She's been through something similar."

"A vampire got her?" What a horrible club to be a member of.

Bones looked away, turning his attention back to the roads.

"No, luv. He was just a man."

Tara lived in a log home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was accessible only by a private driveway. This was the first I'd been out of Ohio, and I was awed by the steep cliffs, high bluffs, and rugged scenery. If these were different circumstances, I would have demanded that Bones pull over just so I could look around at it all.

An African-American woman with salt-and-pepper hair waited on the porch. Her heartbeat announced her as human, and Bones got out and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Something unpleasant twisted in me as I watched. Old girlfriend? Or not-so-old girlfriend?

She hugged him in return and listened as he briefly outlined what had happened to the girl, leaving out any names, I noticed. Bones finished with an admonition for Tara not to tell anyone of her new guest or who had brought her. Then he turned in my direction.

"Kitten? Coming?"

I hadn't known whether to get out or stay, but that decided it.

"We're going to meet this nice lady," I told the girl, and carefully supported her out of the car. I wasn't really carrying her-if directed, she would walk. I was just keeping her sheet from falling off and leading her in the right direction.

Tara's face pinched with sympathy as we drew near. I noticed then that she had a scar running from her eyebrow into her hairline, and I was ashamed for my previous, petty reaction to whatever her relationship with Bones was.

"I'll take her," the man in question said, picking up the girl like she was weightless. "Tara, this is Cat."

I was surprised to hear him call me that, but I held out my hand and Tara shook it warmly.

"I'm glad to meet you, Cat. Bones, put her in my room."

He went inside without asking where that was, and once again I reminded myself that it was none of my business.

"Come in, child, you must be cold!" Tara said with a shiver of her own. At four a.m. in these altitudes, it was chilly out.

That also had me glancing down at myself with a mental groan. Didn't I look lovely? With this dress and my heavy makeup, Tara was probably thinking I must be ten shades of a slut.

"Thanks, and it's nice to meet you, too," I responded politely. At least I could show I had manners.

I followed Tara into her kitchen, accepting the cup of coffee she handed me. She poured herself one, too, and gestured for me to sit.

A scream shattered the quiet, causing me to bolt up as I was about to sit down.

"It's okay," Tara said quickly, holding out a hand. "He's just bringing her back."

Over that terrible keen I heard Bones speaking urgently, telling the girl she was safe and no one would hurt her anymore. Soon her screams turned into sobbing.

"It can take a little while," Tara went on matter-of-factly. "He'll let her remember everything, and then put in a mental patch so she doesn't get suicidal. Some of them do."

"He's done this before?" I asked stupidly. "Brought traumatized girls to you?"

Tara sipped her coffee. "I run an abused women's shelter in town. Most of the time I don't bring anyone back here, but every once in a while we get someone who needs extra care. When they need extra, extra care, I call Bones. I'm glad to finally do him a favor. I owe him my life, but I 'spect he told you about that."

I looked at her quizzically. "No, why would you think so?"

She gave me a knowing smile. "'Cause he's never brought a girl here before, child. Not one that didn't need my help, leastways."

Oh! That pleased me, but I quashed it. "It's not like that. We, ah, kind of work together. I'm not his, er, what I mean is, he's all yours if you want him!" I finished in an insane babble.

There was a disgusted grunt from upstairs that didn't come from the girl. I cringed, but it was too late to take it back.

Tara considered me with a clear, unwavering gaze. "My husband used to beat me. I was afraid to leave him 'cause I had no money and I had a little girl, but one night he gave me this." She pointed to the scar near her temple. "And I told him that was it. I was done. He cried and said he didn't mean to do it. Man said that every time after he laid into me, but hell, yes, he meant it. No one hits you 'less they mean it! Well, he knew I meant it when I said I was leaving, so he waited behind my car that night when I went to work. I finished my shift, went out to the parking lot, and he stood up and smiled while he pointed a gun right at me. I heard a shot, thought I was dead...and then I saw this white boy, looking like a goddamn albino, holding my husband by the throat. He asked me did I want him to live, and you know what I said? No."

Copyright © novelfull thefreeonlinenovel.com All Rights Reserved.