Lucian struck out with the iron, catching Darian across the throat.
Darian clutched his neck, hissing and howling. Then he turned and ran, stumbling through the stones.
He came to a dead standstill, amazed at the strength of the voice in his ears.
It came again.
Sophia! Damn her, damn her, damn her.
Darian was gone. He had found shelter.
Easy enough, here in the midst of the dead. He closed his eyes.
Saw the hospital. Concentrated on it...
He was in Rick's room. The young cop's head was twisted to the side. Fresh, tiny puncture wounds marked his throat.
He pushed an emergency button.
"Code blue!" he shouted. Hospital personal began filling the corridors. He eased back into the shadows, watching as they went to work.
Jade sat in the front of Sean Canady's car, staring at him as he awkwardly tried to explain himself.
"Do you understand?" he asked her.
She shook her head. He was a tall man, built like a linebacker, just beginning to go gray at the temples, and very handsome and appealing. His size alone should have made her feel secure. And she did feel secure with him.
She was very tired, of course, which didn't make it any easier to understand him. Shanna had tried to listen, but apparently it had been too much. She had fallen asleep in the backseat.
"Jade?" he persisted. "Are you getting this?"
"I'm not sure. There were some really terrible murders here a few years ago. Prostitutes, pimps... and the murders were solved. And it stopped. And these murders are very much like those, but, of course, it isn't the same murderer. But the murders must be approached in the same way."
"The killers are very dangerous."
"Um. I'd say that's fairly obvious."
He reddened slightly. It wasn't exactly a flush, but he'd reddened. "I wish Maggie were here," he muttered.
"Your wife? You wish your wife were here?"
"She can explain better."
"Is she a cop?"
"No. But if I try to explain, you're going to think I'm crazy."
"Oh, Lieutenant. I'm starting to think we're all crazy."
Canady hesitated for a minute. "What do you remember from Edinburgh?" he asked her.
She tensed and stared straight out of the window ahead of her. "A lot of blood and horror. There were coffins in the vault, and corpses that were just in their shrouds on the shelves. And they all suddenly seemed to be awake, coming after people...."
She shook her head. "I suppose they were rigged. It's so hard to remember. But I'm certain that the tour guide ripped open Sally Adams's throat with his teeth. I saw it, and it was no act."
"Your tour guide is busy again, Miss MacGregor," he said softly. "And ..." He paused, looking at her, then back at the road. "And you're just going to have to take a few crazy precautions, that's all." She stared at him. "You believe in vampires, don't you?"
"What I believe doesn't matter."
"Oh, great! You're going to give me that horseshit! I got it from a half a dozen cops and shrinks while I was still in Edinburgh-"
"What you do is what matters," he interrupted.
She exhaled, staring at the road herself. "Did you think that Rick Beaudreaux had been attacked by a vampire?"
He didn't answer right away, and she touched his arm. "Is that what you think has happened to him?" He flushed, looking uncomfortable. "I ... well, I ... Rick really looked pretty good. I think he has an awful flu bug. He seems to finally be shaking it."
Jade sighed with relief.
They had reached her house. Canady parked in front, reaching back to shake Shanna's shoulder.
"We're here," he said softly.
"Shanna has her own place."
"She's staying here tonight. So am I."
"Really, Lieutenant Canady. What will your wife say to that piece of police business?"
"It isn't police business," he told her. "My wife insisted I stay." She could have argued with him; she didn't want to. She was really exhausted. She'd spent the night awake with a stranger in her bed. She'd spent the day awake at the bedside of the man who should have been spending his nights in her bed.
"Fine. I'll put Shanna on the convertible couch in my office. And you-"
"A pillow, blanket, and a floor in the parlor will be fine."
"I have a convertible couch there, too, Lieutenant Unless you prefer the floor. Shanna!" Her sister roused herself. "I hope you have an extra toothbrush, Jade. If not, I'll have to go home. I think I could bear a crazed killer before sleeping with my teeth, the way they feel!"
"I have toothbrushes," Jade said. She always had plenty. She was forever leaving them behind when she traveled.
Twenty minutes later she had both couches made.
"I'm still not sure why we're doing this," Shanna said, decked out in one of Jade's flannels, new toothbrush in hand
. "My place is very secure."
"We're all to tired to risk more than one place," Sean said.
Shanna grinned and shrugged at her sister. "He does carry a big gun." Canady was looking at Jade without saying anything. She had a feeling that he didn't believe that his big gun was worth much in this situation.
"Well, good night, all," Shanna said, turning toward the bedroom.
"Do you need anything else, Lieutenant?" Jade asked, watching him kick off his shoes to settle onto her parlor couch.
"No, I'm fine."
He removed his jacket. As she watched in amazement, he took a number of vials from his jacket pocket and set them on the coffee table by the couch.
He caught her staring at him and scowled.
"Holy water?" she queried skeptically.
"You got it."
"Can you really believe-"
"You were there in Edinburgh," he reminded her, lying down.
"Just so long as that gun is loaded, too," she said.
His eyes were already closed. "It is."
"Good night, then."
"God night. If there's anything... anything that bothers you at all ... come get me."
She went into her own room, leaving the door ajar.
It was too much. There was a cop in her parlor with holy water. Rick was getting better, but still barely holding his own. And she was so, so tired! Sean had called about Lucian; then he hadn't said anything about him, and her room still seemed to carry the sensuous scent of Lucian's aftershave. . . .
And she hadn't seen him since he had disappeared again, and the cop hadn't explained him in any way either!
She started to head back out to the parlor, then shook her head. Tomorrow. Tomorrow there would be plenty of time.
She crawled into bed.
At first she thought that her mind was going to be racing so quickly that she'd never sleep. Never.
But her eyes closed.
And almost immediately she drifted.
Peter MacGregor sat by his wife's side in the ambulance, amazed that anyone could have gotten so ill so quickly.
He held her hand, just staring into her face, seeing the ashen color there. He couldn't lose her. He couldn't. He'd loved Janie, his first wife, loved her with all his heart. And they'd gone through months and months of sickness, and he had stayed with her, and in his heart he had believed that she would get better, that just the strength of their wanting it to be so could make it so. She had been brave, Janie.
Smiling her way through pain. Taking care always with what she said to him, and to her daughters. He would have loved her until the day he dropped dead himself, had she lived. He still loved her, would always love her.
But now Liz ...
His mind fought against this.
It was just unfair. Totally unfair.
They reached the hospital. Liz was whisked from the ambulance and into the emergency room. He tried to follow.
A doctor stopped him.
"Sir, we'll do our best for her if you leave us to it right now.''
The doctor was strong. Peter didn't realize at first that he had been shoving him until he stopped doing so. "Really. Let us work," he said softly.
Peter nodded. The doctor pointed out a waiting room right by the door through which they had taken Liz. He sat down, bewildered.
He had tried both the girls after the cops found him at the newspaper office. He'd tried Jade earlier, and then Shanna, because the two were so close, always together. He'd wanted his daughters to come home.
There were too many murders across the country.
They were too much like what had happened to his eldest daughter, involving too many of the same people. It had all been bad enough.
And then the discovery that right here in New Orleans a kid had been killed, and it hadn't been an accident, and that kid had been in Scotland as well.
He groaned aloud. He still hadn't reached the girls. The twins were with his next-door neighbor.
He didn't understand what had happened to Liz. Had she been attacked? Had she just acquired a fever and torn off her own clothing in a delirious desperation to get cooler? He ran his fingers through his hair.
He needed to try his daughters again.
He dialed Shanna's number first. It rang and rang, and then the machine picked up. He set down the receiver. He groaned softly, getting ready to dial Jade's number.
He paused. There was someone standing in front of him. A priest ... his priest, Father Dunwoody. He was sixty, gray-haired, and pleasant mannered. A great priest, a perfect priest, he wore the cloth well.
"Peter, are you all right? You look like hell." He even had the trace of an Irish accent. "Liz is bad. She's in there right now."