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Authors: Tanya Huff

1 Blood Price (4 page)

BOOK: 1 Blood Price
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Terri Neal sagged against the elevator wall, took a number of deep breaths, and, when she thought she’d dredged up a sufficient amount of energy, raised her arm just enough so she could see her watch.
“Twelve seventeen?” she moaned.
Where the hell has Monday gone, and what’s the point in going home? I’ve got to be back here in eight hours.
She felt the weight of the pager against her hip and added a silent prayer that she would actually get the full eight hours. The company had received its pound of flesh already today—the damned beeper had gone off as she’d slid into her car back at 4:20—so maybe, just maybe, they’d leave her alone tonight.
The elevator door hissed open and she dragged herself forward into the underground garage.
“Leaving the office,” she murmured, “take two.”
Squinting a little under the glare of the fluorescent lights, she started across the almost empty garage, her shadow dancing around her like a demented marionette. She’d always hated the cold, hard light of the fluorescents, the world looked decidedly unfriendly thrown into such sharp-edged relief. And tonight. . . .
She shook her head. Lack of sleep made her think crazy things. Resisting the urge to keep looking over her shoulder, she finally reached the one benefit of all the endless hours of overtime.
“Hi, baby.” She rummaged in her pocket for her car keys. “Miss me?”
She flipped open the hatchback, heaved her briefcase—
This damn thing must weigh three hundred pounds!
—up and over the lip, and slid it down into the trunk. Resting her elbows on the weather stripping, she paused, half in and half out of the car, inhaling the scent of new paint, new vinyl, new plastic. and . . . rotting food. Frowning, she straightened.
At least it’s coming from outside my car. . . .
Gagging, she pushed the hatchback closed and turned. Let security worry about the smell tomorrow. All she wanted to do was get home.
It took a moment for her to realize she wasn’t going to make it.
By the time the scream reached her throat, her throat had been torn away and the scream became a gurgle as her severed trachea filled with blood.
The last thing she saw as her head fell back was the lines of red dribbling darkly down the sides of her new car.
The last thing she heard was the insistent beep, beep, beep of her pager.
And the last thing she felt was a mouth against the ruin of her throat.
On Tuesday morning, the front page of the tabloid screamed “SLASHER STRIKES AGAIN.” A photograph of the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs stared out from under it, the cutline asking—not for the first time that season—if he should be fired, the Leafs being once again at the very bottom of the worst division in the league. It was the kind of strange layout at which the paper excelled.
“Fire the owner,” Vicki muttered, shoving her glasses up her nose and peering at the tiny print under the headline. “Story page two,” it said, and on page two, complete with a photo of the underground garage and a hysterical account by the woman who had found the body, was a description of a mutilated corpse that exactly matched the one Vicki had found in the Eglinton West Station.
“Homicide investigator Michael Celluci,”
the story continued
, “says there is little doubt in his mind that this is not a copycat case and whoever killed Terri Neal also killed lan Reddick on Sunday night.”
Vicki strongly suspected that was not at all what Mike had said, although it might have been the information he imparted. Mike seldom found it necessary to cooperate with, or even hide his distaste for, the press. And he was never that polite.
She read over the details again and a nameless fear ran icy fingers down her spine. She remembered the lingering presence she’d felt and knew this wouldn’t be the end of the killing. She’d dialed the phone almost before she came to a conscious decision to call.
“Mike Celluci, please. What? No, no message.”
And what was I going to tell him?
she wondered as she hung up.
That I have a hunch this is only the beginning? He’d love that.
Tossing the tabloid aside, Vicki pulled the other city paper toward her. On page four it ran much the same story, minus about half the adjectives and most of the hysteria.
Neither paper had mentioned that ripping a throat out with a single blow was pretty much impossible.
If I could only remember what was missing from that body.
She sighed and rubbed at her eyes.
Meanwhile, she had five Foo Chans to visit. . . .
There was something moving in the pit. DeVerne Jones leaned against the wire fence and breathed beer fumes into the darkness, wondering what he should do about it. It was his pit. His first as foreman. They’d be starting the frames in the morning so that when spring finally arrived they’d be ready to pour the concrete. He peered around the black lumps of machinery. And there was something down there. In his pit.
Briefly he wished he hadn’t decided to swing by the site on his way home from the bar. It was after midnight and the shape he’d seen over by the far wall was probably just some poor wino looking for a warm place to curl up where the cops would leave him alone. The crew could toss the burn out in the morning, no harm done. Except they had a lot of expensive equipment down there and it might be something more.
He dug out his keys and walked over to the gate. The padlock hung open. In the damp and the cold, it sometimes didn’t catch, but he’d been the last man out of the pit and he’d checked it before he left. Hadn’t he?
“Damn again.” It had just become a very good thing he’d stopped by.
Hinges screaming in protest, the gate swung open.
DeVerne waited for a moment at the top of the ramp, to see if the sound flushed his quarry.
A belly full of beer and you’re a hero
, he thought, just sober enough to realize he could be walking into trouble and just drunk enough to not really care.
Halfway down into the pit, his eyes growing accustomed to the darkness, he saw it again. Man-shaped, moving too quickly to be a wino, it disappeared behind one of the dozers.
As silently as he was able, DeVerne quickened his pace. He’d catch the son-of-a-bitch in the act. He made a small detour and pulled a three foot length of pipe from a pile of scrap. No sense taking chances, even a cornered rat would fight. The scrape of metal against metal rang out unnaturally loud, echoing off the sides of the pit. His presence announced, he charged around the dozer, bellowing a challenge, weapon raised.
Someone was lying on the ground. DeVerne could see the shoes sticking out of the pool of shadow. In that pool of shadow—or creating it, DeVerne couldn’t be sure-crouched another figure.
DeVerne yelled again. The figure straightened and turned, darkness swirling about it.
He didn’t realize the figure had moved until the pipe was wrenched from his hand. He barely had time to raise his other hand in a futile attempt to save his life.
There’s no such thing!
he wailed silently as he died.
Wednesday morning, the tabloid headline, four inches high, read: “VAMPIRE STALKS CITY.”
He lifted her arm and ran his tongue down the soft flesh on the inside of her wrist. She moaned, head back, breath coming in labored gasps.
He watched her closely and when she began to go into the final climb, when her body began to arch under his, he took the small pulsing vein at the base of her thumb between the sharp points of his teeth and bit down. The slight pain was for her just one more sensation added to a system already overloaded and while she rode the waves of her orgasm, he drank.
They finished at much the same time.
He reached up and gently pushed a strand of damp mahogany hair off her face. “Thank you,” he said softly.
“No, thank
” she murmured, capturing his hand and placing a kiss on the palm.
They lay quietly for a time; she drifting in and out of sleep, he tracing light patterns on the soft curves of her breasts, his fingertip following the blue lines of veins beneath the white skin. Now that he’d fed, they no longer drove him to distraction. When he was sure that the coagulant in his saliva had taken effect, and the tiny wound on her wrist would bleed no more, he untangled his legs from hers and padded to the bathroom to clean up.
She roused while he was dressing.
“I’m still here, Caroline.”
“Now. But you’re leaving.”
“I have work to do.” He pulled a sweater over his head and emerged, blinking in the sudden light from the bedside lamp. Long years of practice kept him from recoiling, but he turned his back to give his sensitive eyes a chance to recover.
“Why can’t you work in the daytime, like a normal person,” Caroline protested, pulling the comforter up from the foot of the bed and snuggling down under it. “Then you’d have your nights free for me.”
He smiled and replied truthfully, “I can’t think in the daytime.”
“Writers,” she sighed.
“Writers,” he agreed, bending over and kissing her on the nose. “We’re a breed apart.”
“Will you call me?”
“As soon as I have the time.”
He reached over and snapped off the lamp. “That, too.” Deftly avoiding her groping hands, he kissed her good-bye and padded silently out of the bedroom and through the dark apartment. Behind him, he heard her breathing change and knew she slept. Usually, she fell asleep right after they finished, never knowing when he left. It was one of the things he liked best about her, for it meant they seldom had awkward arguments about whether he’d be staying the night.
Retrieving his coat and boots, he let himself out of the apartment, one ear cocked for the sound of the dead bolt snapping home. In many ways, this was the safest time he’d ever lived in. In others, the most dangerous.
Caroline had no suspicion of what he actually was. For her, he was no more than a pleasant interlude, an infrequent companion, sex without guilt. He hadn’t even had to work very hard to have it turn out that way.
He frowned at his reflection on the elevator doors. “I want more.” The disquiet had been growing for some time, prodding at him, giving him little peace. Feeding had helped ease it but not enough. Choking back a cry of frustration, he whirled and slammed his palm against the plastic wall. The blow sounded like a gunshot in the enclosed space and Henry stared at the pattern of cracks radiating out from under his hand. His palm stung, but the violence seemed to have dulled the point of the disquiet.
No one waited in the lobby to investigate the noise and Henry left the building in an almost jaunty mood.
It was cold out on the street. He tucked his scarf a little more securely around his throat and turned his collar up. His nature made him less susceptible to weather than most, but he still had no liking for a cold wind finding its way down his back. With the bottom of his leather trench coat flapping about his legs, he made his way down the short block to Bloor, turned east, and headed home.
BOOK: 1 Blood Price
9.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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