When Darkness Falls


Page 27









"But you... just left!"


"I had to."


"But-"


"I wasn't in great shape myself."


She drew her fingers around the rim of her glass. "You knew what was going to happen," she accused him.


"No, I was afraid something might be about to happen," he corrected.


"You're not a cop."


"No."


"Obviously," she muttered. "If you were a cop, you would have stuck around to speak to the other cops."


"I told you. I was hurt myself."


"You know what? I don't think you're real. Even now. Even sitting there right next to me. You'll puff into thin air again any minute-"


"Jade! Lucian!"


They were suddenly hailed from behind. Jade turned quickly, astounded that anyone she knew might know Lucian. It was Daniel Thacker. She stared at Lucian, who shrugged. His eyes spoke eloquently: See, I'm real, I'm here!


Danny was a bit into his cups. He looked young and flustered, blond hair a total wreck, green eyes a startlingly pretty color, they were so surrounded by red.


"God, is it good to see you two!"


He put an arm around them both. His beer was in his right hand. It sloshed perilously in his glass. She thought that Lucian's immaculate black jacket was about to get soaked in hops. The beer settled.


"Danny ...," Jade murmured. "You know Lucian?"


"Sure do." Danny set his beer down and offered Lucian a hand, grinning. "Hey, Jade, Luke here is thinking about writing. I think he should join our Wednesday group." Danny leaned close to Jade, saying in a conspiratorial whisper, "He's loaded, you know. Old European aristocracy. We could use him!"


She arched a brow to Lucian. Was that true?


"I'd like to join your group. Sure," he said.


"We're not really a group," she said quickly.


"Oh, hell, yeah, suddenly she and Mr. Hotshot Durante are on all the best-seller lists, and we're not a group anymore."


"Danny, you are drunk as a skunk!"


"Yeah, kind of," Danny admitted, looking very sober for a minute. "Only, that could give a really bad name to skunks."


"Maybe I should get you home," Jade said.


"You get me home?" Danny protested. "No, you can't be alone. Even here, even in Derrick's place.


There's bad stuff going down."


"Danny, it's New Orleans. I'm afraid we have lots of bad stuff going down."


"No, we have corpses."


"Dead people usually are corpses, yes, Danny."


"Usually," Lucian muttered. "You're right, Jade, we need to get Danny home."


"You don't know what I saw, Luke, Lucian." Danny's eyes looked glazed. He punched Lucian lightly in the shoulder. "You don't know what I saw."


"I think I do," he said quietly.


Jade stared at him. "Tell you later," he said with a shrug.


"Will you?" she demanded. "Or will you just disappear?"


"I won't disappear."


"Damned right, I'm not going to let you disappear. We'll get Danny back, and then you'll come up to my place."


Lucian hesitated, his head lowered for a moment. When he looked up, she felt a strange flash of heat shoot down the length of her spine. The uncanny blaze, red against the darkness, had appeared in his eyes again. "That's an invitation, I take it?"


"It's an order!" she murmured, though she realized that he didn't take orders.


Not unless he chose to.


Danny put both his hands on Lucian's face, forcing him to look his way, into his eyes. "She has to be, like, really, really, careful, Luke," Danny slurred out.


"Danny, what the hell did you see?" Jade asked.


"It must have been a very bad day at the morgue," Lucian murmured. "Let's get you home. I think we're all pretty safe tonight."


"Oh, yeah?" Danny looked at him trustingly. "How do you know?"


"Intuition," he said.


Lucian stood. Danny wasn't small, but Lucian seemed to tower over him. Of course, Danny was falling down around him, almost as if he were boneless, or melting.


She'd known Danny a while. Several years. Through his trials, his romances, his heartbreaks-bad days at the job. They'd all been out together, drinking, celebrating.


She'd never seen him drunk like this.


She started to put money on the bar; Lucian had already done so. She stared at him.


He shrugged, a half smile in place. "The least I can do is buy you a drink." Danny wagged a finger at her. "And he's going to protect you."


"From what?"


"The creatures of the night."


She stared at Lucian. "And how do I know that he's not one of the creatures of the night?" Lucian stared back. "You don't. Shall we go?"


She didn't need to help with Danny . Lucian had an arm around his back, and Danny was clinging to Lucian's shoulder. His feet were barely touching the ground.


Outside, the jazz played on. Neon lights burned. Laughter filled the streets.


The bathe a beauty for a buck sign began to flicker.


The usual Friday-night cacophony reigned.


Sean Canady burst into the old family manor on the outskirts of New Orleans where he lived with his wife and child.


She was standing in the entry, waiting, as if she had been aware that he was arriving at just that moment.


Sometimes she still had that ability.


Her hands were folded before her; she was trying to appear serene. Her agitation was in her eyes.


He held dead still in the doorway.


"You know?" he said.


"I tried to reach you at the station."


"I was at the morgue."


"And the battery is dead in your cell phone."


"You could have tried Jack's number."


"I needed to talk to you first."


He strode across the room to her, lifting her chin. He loved his wife. God, he loved his wife. He kissed her lips long, hard, before saying more.


Then he drew away.


"They're back," he said simply.


She nodded.


"How do you know?"


"Lucian was here."


"Lucian?"


"Want a drink?"


"A big one."


She started walking toward the right-side parlor. He followed.


It was a hell of a fine mansion for a police officer to live in. It was Maggie's family estate, thought he would one day inherit his own. It was down the road a bit, inhabited by his father, who he prayed would live long, hale, and hearty.


She poured him a large Scotch.


He accepted it and walked toward the fireplace. "I was at the morgue all day because the automobile accident that's been written up in the papers wasn't an accident at all." She poured herself a drink and sipped it. "Not an accident? The car went halfway through a tree; the kid had been drinking-"


"Oh, yeah. All kind of alcohol and drug levels in the blood. But he was dead before he went into the tree."


"But-"


"The head was nearly off because it had been serrated after death. Serrated with the broken glass from the windshield."


She didn't speak. Her mouth formed an O.


"Where's Lucian?"


She shook her head. "He wanted to talk to you, but you didn't get back, and he was restless and insisted that he had to go. But he promised he'd be back."


"Is he worried about the MacGregor girl?"


Maggie frowned. "The MacGregor girl? The woman from New Orleans who survived the night in Edinburgh?" She shook her head. "He didn't say. He was there, as we suspected. He knows who ...


destroyed all those people in New York. He talked a bit at first, but he was in bad shape, and I made him rest. I thought you'd be home ... and he was too restless to wait. I couldn't make him stay." Sean set down his glass on the coffee table, ran his fingers through his hair. "Then he's gone to find her." He looked up suddenly.


"The baby?" He referred to their ten-month-old infant, Brent.


"He's fine, sleeping, secure in his room."


Sean exhaled slowly.


"Sean, Lucian seems to think that he's wounded this fellow badly. That he's hurt, in pain, and will have to move on somewhere else until he heals."


"Maggie, you're sure you don't know where he went?"


"No, he didn't tell me, but .. . Lucian could be anywhere, Sean. You know that. But he'll come back.


He wants to see you. And he .. ."


"He what?"


"I think he, I think he needs ..."


"You?" Sean queried tightly.


She shook her head. "I think he needs us."


Sean was quiet for a minute, hands on his hips. He flexed the muscles in his shoulders, trying to ease the strain.


"He's got to know," Sean said softly.


"Know what?"


He looked at his wife. "Just who the kid was who was killed in that crash."


* * *


Danny's little place was a studio above a sex shop- dining room, kitchen, and living room all combined. The bath was fairly large and nicely modern, and off to one side.


Danny dozed off a few times on the walk home. Lucian all but carried him. Jade pointed out the way.


The store windows in front of Danny's were full of impossibly shaped mannequins dressed in leather thongs and corsets. They carried whips and wore masks. Edible panties in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry were advertised.


Jade walked by a dozen sex shops a day, every day of her life. She seldom gave them a second glance.







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