Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill (3 page)

BOOK: Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill
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The waitress took our order and I finally got down to business. “Not a social call, I take it?”

She shook her head. “I need your help.”

“Bill related?” A glimmer of hope weaseled its way into my voice. Damn that fucking nerd for making me care!

“No. I was kind of hoping maybe you’d heard something.”

“Yeah, but it’s amounted to Jack and shit. I know he hasn’t returned home, to his job, or his parents’ house.”

“Do you think he’s...”

“Well yeah, we’re vampires. Of course he’s dead.”

She chuckled. It broke some of the tension. Maybe now we could get to the point of the matter. It wasn’t particularly smart for us to be socializing in public. I had little interest in getting my ass handed to me, no matter how good the coffee might be.

“It’s Tom...” she started. Immediately, my attention waned. “His sister actually.” The twit had a sister? Now it was even less interesting to me.

“I assume this gets better.”

“She’s run off.”

“So what? Is she, like, six?”

“Seventeen.”

“Okay, well this has been fun,” I said, standing up. “We’ll have to do this again when there’s an actual world-ending...”

“Wait, you don’t understand.”

“Understand what? That she had a temper tantrum because her parents didn’t buy her a car or something?”

“It’s vampires.”

That caught my attention slightly. Normally I could give a shit about such things. I mean, I’m usually the cause of people’s disappearances, not the other way around. Two things stopped me, though. Bill wouldn’t have hesitated for a second to help his friend, and he’d certainly give me shit when he got back if I refused to do the same. Listening to him whine in my ear for all of eternity did not bode well for my continued sanity. Secondly, though I wouldn’t have admitted it under torture by the Draculas, his fucking gimp of a roommate had helped us out on more than one occasion. I probably owed him just enough to hear Christy out.

I checked my watch. Oh fuck it, five more minutes wouldn’t kill me. I sat back down. “Vampires?”

“Yes.”

“Any of mine?”

“No. They’re not from around here.”

“Okay, start talking, but be warned I’m ordering an appetizer too.”

* * *

The waitress brought our drinks while Christy explained. She wasn’t sure if it was coincidence or if some vamps had figured out two plus two and were purposely targeting Tom’s family because of his association with Bill. Either way, his little sister had acquired a new boyfriend in weeks’ past. He’d been stirring up trouble at home, driving a wedge between the girl and her parents...a not entirely difficult thing to do with a teenaged girl.

Tom, still preoccupied with freaking out at the concept of becoming a dad, hadn’t paid it much heed. Couldn’t say I blamed him. The prospect of siring a new generation of dumbass of his caliber could be off-putting to anyone.

Christy had likewise been busy, trying to keep him from turning into more of a dumb fuck than he already was, as well as apparently attempting to build a new mage coven. Hopefully it turned out to be more successful than her last one.

“So how do vampires play into this?”

“I’m getting to that,” she said in between sips of a decaf cappuccino. Ugh, the very thought made me gag. Talk about a sin against mankind. “Two weeks ago, Tom and I went down to visit with his folks. His sister mostly kept to herself, but I happened to see her new boyfriend once when he picked her up. Something about him set off warning signals.”

“Something familiar?”

“Sorta.” She broke eye contact. Before Bill’s doofy charisma had won her over, she’d been firmly in the
kill all vampires
camp. “I didn’t trust myself, though. Things are better than they were when I first found out I was pregnant, but my powers have still been going a little haywire every now and then. I’ve been self-binding myself just in case. It tends to mute everything.”

“Self-binding? If we’re gonna start talking kinks here, then I’m gonna need something stronger. Don’t get me wrong, I like being tied up as much as...”

“No! My powers. I’ve been using a ritual to keep them in check.”

“Oh, well that’s a bit less weird...sorta.”

“Anyway, as I said, everything’s been muffled for me. All I got was a little feeling, like the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The thing is, it kept nagging at me. So when I got back home, I decided to undo the binding and cast a scrying spell.”

“In other words, you spied on them?”

“More or less.”

“We’re back to kinky again.”

She ignored me. “I didn’t get much at first.”

“I take it you kept at it for a while?” I asked, bemused.

“Well yeah, she’s Tom’s sister. I mean, Kara’s probably going to be my sister in law.”

“Really?”

“Well maybe...someday,” she replied, blushing. It was cute in a deer in the headlights sort of way. “Anyway, the guy must’ve been real careful because I didn’t see anything that would have set me off.”

“Until…”

“I was scrying again two nights ago and found Kara and her mother in the middle of a massive blowout. I really just caught bits and pieces, but it was mostly about his age.”

“College boy?”

“He’s definitely a bit older than her.”

“She wouldn’t be the first girl to fall for a guy a few years her senior.”

“I know. I have no idea what she sees in him, though. From the glimpse afforded me, he’s nothing special. If anything, she’s out of his league.”

“Stupid and teenage girl tend to go hand in hand.”

Christy nodded knowingly. “Anyway, the boyfriend showed up and got into it, too. That’s when I caught it. It was only for the briefest of seconds, and I thought maybe I was just seeing stuff considering all the craziness we’ve been through the past couple of months…”

“He snacked on the mom?”

“Nothing that obvious. But his eyes turned black for just a moment. Too fast for either of them to notice, but I did.”

“So what did you do?”

“I jumped in my car and drove down there.”

“Wait, why didn’t you just teleport? I’ve seen you do it before.”

“Like I said, I’ve been binding myself lately. It takes a while to fully shake off. I wasn’t quite up to snuff to travel that way. I could’ve made it but would have been too tired to do much else if trouble started.”

“Okay, fine. I don’t need the details. So you and Tom…”

“Just me. He can get a little over-protective about his sister and, well, if things got ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.”

“Or fucking things up?”

She stared me in the eye for a moment before averting her gaze again. “Maybe a little of that.”

Hah! Good to see she wasn’t completely blinded by love. “And?”

“And I was too late. His sister was already gone, run off with that...”

“Filthy beast of the night?” I arched an eyebrow.

“Sorry.”

I put my cup down. “Did you ever consider that maybe he’s legit? Vampires aren’t all bloodsucking monsters. I mean, there’s Bill and…” I racked my brain thinking of another good example. Oh fuck it. “…and Bill. But I’m sure there are others like him. I mean, for all you know, they might really have something.”

“Don’t you think I considered that?” Christy asked, her tone clear she felt slightly insulted. “I know that in many ways you’re just as human as I am.”

I was tempted to correct her in that I wouldn’t fall for a dorkus like she had, but I stopped myself short. That wasn’t entirely true. Still, that was the ancient past, another life. I pushed aside those thoughts, avoiding that particularly gruesome memory lane.

Even so, it bugged me a bit. There was something disturbingly familiar with Kara’s story. I’m sure it’s that way with a lot of girls who wind up seduced by our kind. Here in the city, we tend to forgo the lovey dovey shit and just lure our victims into a dark alley. Of course, half the time they’re already hopped up on one drug or another. But not every place was like here, was it? In other parts of the country they tended to move a bit slower. It still seemed like a lot of work for a meal, though.

“So what about the situation convinced you otherwise?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“While I was down there, I did some asking around about this guy.”

“Just asking?”

“I may have befuddled a few minds in the process.”

“When you've got it, flaunt it.” She smirked. Maybe we weren’t so different after all.

“Something like that. Anyway, it wasn’t too hard to find out that he was from out of town…way out of town.”

“How far?”

“Vegas.”

“Really?” My curiosity piqued again. “Been a while since I’ve been out there.”

“But you know people, right?”

“Well, yeah.” I rolled my eyes. Hell, I had an in with one of the Draculas, our ruling council. One didn’t get much more in-the-know than that.

“Good, because that’s why I’m here. I’m heading out there and I need information.”

“You’re flying to Las Vegas?” She nodded. “That might not be too smart. What if you…”

“I won’t. That’s why I want your help. If you can find out how many there are and how old the coven master is, that’ll give me enough to at least not go in completely blind.”

“Whoa there!” I put my hands up. “Even assuming I wanted to rat out a den of vamps to you, they’re probably just passing through. It’s a popular tourist spot, even with my kind. They could be...”

“They’re not. In fact, I know where they are.”

“Scrying again?”

“Partly. But I really didn’t need to. I broke into the apartment where this guy had been staying and found a couple packs of these.”

She pulled a book of matches from her handbag and tossed it on the table in front of me. I glanced down casually at it and my eyes widened in surprise.

No fucking way.

I blinked and looked again, hoping my eyes had been playing tricks. There was no mistake. The words were as plain as the fangs in my mouth:
Pandora’s Box
.

My breath caught in my throat as the name sank in. Memories, long since repressed, surfaced. It was like someone had kicked in a locked door inside of my mind.

Why that place?

 

Chapter 5

“Fear not, Lucinda my dear. This shall remain our little secret.”

“Thanks, Uncle Colin. Mom probably thinks I’m waiting tables. She’d die if she knew...”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of, I assure you. You’re a young, independent woman making her own way in the world. You should be proud of yourself. Now why don’t you join us? You look like you could use a drink.”

“Are you sure it’s all right? I don’t want to interrupt.”

“Nonsense. Of course we don’t mind. Have a seat. Allow me to introduce you to my friend Jeffrey Pemberton. We were just out celebrating his recent promotion...”

* * *

“Sally? Are you okay? Yoo-hoo, anyone home?”

“Huh?” I replied stupidly, pulling myself out of the memory.

“You zoned out for a second there. Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” I said, still a bit shaken. “It’s just that I know that place.” Goddamnit! Why the hell did I just say that? It’s not like Christy was anything even close to a confidant. Hell, I barely knew the chick.

Fuck! I thought I was finally past all that. The day I finally gave Jeff the last sunburn of his life was a new start for me. Why was it having an effect on me now?

“You’ve been there?” Christy asked, grasping the obvious.

Screw it. I decided to cut to the chase. Playing games at this point was meaningless. “That place is bad news. It’s a meat market, in more ways than one.”

“That’s what I was afraid of. Do you think...”

“I
think
Tom’s sister is in deep shit. If this vamp is connected to Pandora’s Box, then best case scenario is she’s shaking her goods on a stage for some questionable clientele.”

“Worst case?”

“You’re looking at her.”

There was silence between us for a moment. Comprehension finally dawned on her face. “Oh...OH!”

“Here’s the deal. I’m in, but my help doesn’t come cheap.” And with that, I somehow committed to action before common sense could remind me just how much this was not my concern. The goings-on with the coven must’ve rattled my brain more than I thought.

Christy eyed me dubiously. “How much...”

“Not money,” I said. If only she knew what the coven’s portfolio looked like. “If I help you, I get Tom. He gets turned and serves me for all eternity.”

“What?!” she screeched, spewing coffee and attracting the attention of the nearby tables.

A bemused smirk was my reply.

“That wasn’t funny!”

“Sure it was. You should have seen the look on your face.” As if I’d use him for anything other than perhaps one-time target practice. He’s one of the few humans I’d be terrified of putting the bite on. With my luck, his idiocy would be contagious and I’d spend the next century drooling on myself and playing with plastic dolls.

“So what do you really want?”

“Only one thing: silence. I’ll help you, but you don’t mention this or anything you learn to anyone
ever
.”

She considered this for a moment. “Agreed. We could seal our pact with a blood oath, if you want.”

Blood oath? That sounded interesting...perhaps for some other time, though. I’ve always considered myself an old fashioned girl when it comes to deals anyway.

“No need. I’ll take your word for it, with the caveat, of course, being that if I hear otherwise...” I didn’t need to finish. Christy knew enough about me to know that I wasn’t exactly afraid to get my hands dirty. With a baby coming, she wouldn’t be going out of her way to make more enemies than she needed.

Besides, even if she did blab, it’s not like I wouldn’t lie my ass off about it anyway.

She nodded, then got down to business. “Tell me what you know about that place.”

“I can do better than that.”

“How?”

“Easy. I’m going with you.”

 

Chapter 6

Christy was smart enough to not ask about the hows or whys of my reply. Hell, she was probably just glad to not be going alone with her idiot boyfriend. Performing a half-assed rescue mission straight into the heart of a powerful coven wasn’t a particularly bright idea for anyone, no matter how much magic they might have at their disposal. That she was over three months pregnant meant she probably wasn’t at her peak.

BOOK: Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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