Halfway to the Grave

Page 70

Bones arched a brow at me but said nothing, and climbed behind me on the bike as we sped off.

Their shouts behind us faded with the distance.

Chapter Twenty-Two

WE DROVE OVER UNPAVED ROADS AND through the trees to avoid being seen. In the distance, I occasionally heard sirens. Even though I was in front, Bones controlled the bike. He maneuvered it around trees at speeds that normally would have made me throw up from fright. Now I wanted him to go faster.

When we approached the highway, he stopped. It was dark now, shadows swallowing up the light. Bones laid the bike down on its side and covered it with a few branches he yanked off a nearby tree. The freeway was about a hundred yards away.

"Stay here. Won't be a moment," he promised cryptically.

Puzzled, I watched as he walked out toward the road. When he reached the shoulder he stopped. There was moderate traffic, it being after seven and most people already having arrived home from work. From where I stood I had a clear view of him, and his eyes began to glow that penetrating green.

A car approached and Bones fixed his glare on it. It swerved for a moment, and then began to slow. He stepped out into the middle of the road as the car headed straight toward him, and the light from his eyes blazed brighter. The car stopped only a foot shy of him, and he jerked his head toward the shoulder, where it obediently rolled.

Bones waited until it came to a full stop and then opened the driver's door. A man in his forties sat with a dazed expression on his face. Bones pulled him out and walked him over to where I stood.

In an instant his mouth clamped onto the man's neck, and the hapless stranger let out a small whimper. Bones released him after a few moments, wiping his sleeve across his lips.

"You're tired," he instructed him in that resonating voice. "You're going to lie down here and go to sleep. When you wake up you won't fret about your car. You left it at home, and you went for a walk. You want to walk home, but only after you've rested. And you are very, very weary."

Like a child the man curled in a semicircle on the ground and rested his head on his arms. He was asleep instantly.

"We needed a car they weren't looking for," Bones said by way of explanation. I followed him to the new vehicle. When we were back on the highway, I turned to him.

"Show me the note." Since we'd been riding on a motorcycle before, I hadn't asked, fearing it would be lost in the hundred-plus-mile-per-hour wind from our speed.

Bones gave his head a little shake and pulled the note out of his belt.

"You won't understand it. They knew I would."

Carefully I uncrumpled the paper that held the only clue to my mother's whereabouts:

Recompense. Twice past day's death.

"Does it mean she's still alive?"

"Oh, that's what it's supposed to mean. If you trust them."

"Do you trust them in this? Is there some kind of...vampire code not to lie about hostages?"

He glanced over at me. The compassion on his face didn't lend comfort.

"No, Kitten. But Hennessey might figure he has a use for her. Your mother is still a lovely woman, and you know what he does with lovely women."

White-hot fury coursed in me at the picture he painted, but it was an honest one. Lies wouldn't help me, but the truth might save her, if I could control my anger and be smart, for once.

"When are we supposed to meet them? I assume they've designated a time? What do they expect?" Questions were bubbling in my mind faster than I could ask them, and he held up a hand.

"Let me find a place to stop off first and then we'll talk. Don't want the police chasing us and making a bad situation worse."

Mutely I nodded and folded my arms across my chest. Bones drove for another twenty minutes or so, and then got off an exit and pulled in to a Motel 6.

"Wait here for a moment," he answered the puzzled look I threw him. After I waited for ten minutes in the car, he came out and pulled around to the back of the lodging. We weren't in a very upscale neighborhood, and I glanced around at the predatory looks that flicked to us from some of the people loitering in the area.

"Come on, we're this way."

Ignoring everyone else around him, he took my hand when I exited the car and led me inside Room 326. The interior looked as uninviting as the exterior, yet it was hardly my main focus.

"Why are we here?" Obviously romance wasn't the reason.

"We're off the road for a bit, less attention to attract, and we can talk without interruption. No one here will notice anything much beyond a drive-by shooting. Also, you can wash the blood off."

With barely a glance at my red-caked hands, I looked back at him. "Do we have time for that?"

Bones gave a light nod. "We have hours. They want to meet at two. That's what the 'twice past day's death' part means. Midnight is the death of every day, and they chose two hours past it. Guess they were giving you plenty of time to hear about your grandparents and contact me."

"How considerate." My voice was thick with hatred. "Now tell me what they're offering, if anything. Me for her? Does he want the bait who almost got him killed?"

Bones led me to the edge of the bed and sat me down on it. My whole body was stiff with rage and grief, and he squatted in front of me and took my bloodstained hands. We hadn't turned the lamp on, but I didn't need it to see him. His hair was nearly white in the moonlight and the contours of his face looked like marble brought to life.

"You know Hennessey doesn't want you, Kitten-he wants me. He's given no thought to you beyond how he could use you. You realize, luv, they would be making your mother spill any details on you they could. With luck, they won't be asking the right questions. I didn't believe you myself when you told me what you were, it was only seeing your eyes that convinced me. Even if your mum is coerced into telling them, chances are they'll think she's raving and pay it little heed. They would have no doubt broken in to your apartment by now looking for you. Those detectives probably saved your life by coming by this morning and scaring you into leaving. They'll find your weapons, but they could easily assume they were mine and I kept them there for convenience. They want me, and I'll go to them. But they won't be expecting you. This is our only advantage."

"Bones, you don't have to do this. You can tell me where she is and I'll go. As you said, they won't be expecting me." She was my mother, so no matter what, I was going, but he didn't have to get killed trying to save her when she might not even be alive.

He dropped his head onto my lap a moment before replying.

"How can you even suggest that? First of all, this is my fault for getting you into this, because I should have stuck to my instincts and never allowed it. Then, I should have just killed Danny that night like I intended to. At the very least if I would have stolen his mind about how his hand got injured, he wouldn't have given your name to the police. But I was angry, and wanted him to know who did it and why. Of course I'm going. Even Hennessey, who hasn't the slightest idea that I love you, knows I will. Doesn't matter if she's already dead and there's nothing to be gained from it but vengeance, I'll still go, and I swear to you, I shall rip off every hand that touched her or your grandparents. That much at least I can do for you. The only thing that frightens me is the thought that you'll see me as a monster again, because it was vampires who did this."

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