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Prologue

Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Thursday, April 9, 1949

 

I strode across the lobby of The Peninsula Hong Kong hotel, shoes clicking on the floor of the magnificent foyer. Ignoring the concierge, I proceeded directly to the elevators. This place contained nice memories. I had been here twenty-one years ago when the hotel opened, the crown of the island, and had amazed the patrons of the Nathan bar by drinking four magnums of ice cold Mumm’s champagne in five minutes. Doing that gives you a very chilly head indeed.

The lift doors opened and I stepped aboard.

“Have you eaten rice today, my son?” I asked the young elevator operator cordially in Mandarin.

“Yes, thank you, father,” he replied politely. I nodded and faced the closing doors. As soon as the car started to rise, he began speaking rapidly in Cantonese.

“The Colonel is on the ninth floor, sir, but you’ll never get near him. Third Houseboy Tang said he was checked five times by armed men before he was allowed into the suite to collect the laundry.”

“Let me worry about them,” I told him in the same language. “Take me to the twelfth. What else do you know about his set-up?” The elevator passed the fifth floor.

“He always stays in this same room. He had it altered five years ago, very quietly. There is a secret door in the parlor, behind the bar. Beyond is a space just large enough for one person to be able to sit. He keeps an armed man in there most of the time.”

“Nice work,” I told him.

As the circle lit for the eighth floor, I pulled the Beretta out of my shoulder holster, checked the safety. The shiny new grooves circling the end of the barrel matched the threads inside the heavy Brausch silencer in my jacket pocket. I slid the gun back under my arm, re-buttoned my coat.

We passed the tenth, then the eleventh, and the elevator came to a smooth stop at twelve. The doors slid open.

“Good luck, sir.”

I stepped out, turned right, and walked across a blue-and-gold carpet to the double doors at the end, keying myself into room 1202. Once inside, I closed the door and locked it. I checked both bedrooms and both bathrooms. As soon as I confirmed the suite was empty, I returned to the parlor.

A pale green carpet with a gold border stretched wall to wall. Near the balcony doors, an oak sideboard contained tantalizing bottles of liquor. I stood next to a large, blocky executive desk with a guest chair in front and a high-backed chair behind it. It faced into the parlor where there were three chairs around a table with a lamp, a brocade couch, and a long, low divan.

I walked past the bar and slid open the glass door leading to the balcony, stepped out into the balmy Hong Kong afternoon and moved to the railing so I could look below.

This room lay directly above Colonel Nishiki’s suite, three stories higher. His balcony jutted slightly left of mine. No others stood between these two, and none stuck out below his. Like mine, his had a small outdoor table and chairs and a brazier on which to burn fragrant sticks of incense.

I stepped back into my room and sat on the long gold-upholstered divan. I removed my watch and turned it so the back faced up, took a dime out of my pocket, inserted it into a groove carved on the watch case, and twisted clockwise a half turn. The crown popped up.

Holding the watch in my right hand, I pressed the crown down with my thumb. The case vibrated for three seconds. When it stopped, I strapped the watch, now useless, back on my wrist.

By pressing the crown, I had transmitted a high-frequency signal, and now the U.S. Hong Kong Field Office was sending a coded radio transmission to the Commander of the 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, giving them the signal to launch their wing of four F-80Cs, America’s new fighter jets.

I sat cross-legged on the couch, closed my eyes, and began to meditate on the universe. I knew it would be at least thirty minutes before the jets could scramble, even though they were waiting for the order.

I drifted, light years away, when a high whine brought me back. I opened my eyes, climbed off the divan, and strode back outside. The sky remained clear. I waited. Now came the distinctive rumble of the F80s’ approach. Swinging one leg over the railing, then the other, I gripped the metal bars, let my feet slide off, and struggled down until I hung by my hands.

I desperately tried to still my swaying body before the jets arrived. I looked up. I could not see them yet, but the noise they were making would cover the sound of my landing. I let go.

The roar as the planes overflew us became ear splitting—the high whine of the turbines on top of the booming howl of raw power drowned everything else out. I dropped in the middle of this maelstrom, looking down, hoping I didn’t hit the railing and go tumbling over into the bay. As the jets’ passage washed over us, I crash-landed on the Colonel’s balcony.

I hit awkwardly; my left ankle snapped, and my right leg landed stiff, directly on the heel, jamming my knee up and dislocating my hip. I fell onto my side, the bolt of pain from my broken and tortured bones pushing a muffled cry out of me.

All of this occurred silently even as the jets began to peel away, their thunder still reverberating back to us, shaking the hotel, the building’s tall, flat exterior amplifying the concussive sound wave.

The people stationed at the American embassy would get a call about violating airspace by flying too close to the hotel, but they were ready for it and were prepared to say they were terribly sorry—it would never happen again.

I had just dragged myself behind the garden furniture, cursing in Korean and Japanese, when the door slid open. I stopped moving and watched through the legs of a wicker chair.

A man pushed past the curtain and took a step outside. He wore a long red smoking jacket with black lapels and black cuffs. He looked up at the retreating jets, a sneer on his face. He turned and walked back inside, leaving the door slightly ajar.

I waited, catching my breath, feeling the internal engine that repairs my injuries kick into high gear. Clenching my teeth, I popped my hip back into place. Intense pain flashed, nearly forcing a cry of agony from me. After that, a dull ache remained. I tested my ankle. It still hurt, but worked fine.

Cautiously getting to my feet, I remained crouched behind the lounge chairs. On one knee, I pulled the Beretta out, and took the short, precisely machined metal tube from my jacket pocket. I screwed the thick silencer onto the end of the gun. Once the muffler tightened in place, I thumbed the safety off.

With the pistol pointing along my right leg, I crept across the balcony. The afternoon sun shone on the opposite side of the building, so I did not generate a shadow that could fall on the curtains.

As I neared the crack in the door, I could hear voices coming from inside, speaking in Japanese.

“…jets are made by the fat, overfed Americans. They will never be a threat.”

“Don’t be so sure. The Americans may be fat, but their funding is equally substantial. It will only become more difficult to keep up with them if we fall behind early.”

“Surely it’s not so bad as that.”

“Those jets are more advanced than anything we or our allies have, and air domination is war domination. We do not commit as much money to vital research and development as we should.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Return to your post and keep an eye on that elevator boy.”

Footsteps crossed the room. A door opened, clicked shut. I waited, heard the creak of someone sitting in a leather-covered chair. A few more moments. There were no other sounds.

I stepped through the opening, half in and half out, pushing the curtain back with my left hand, the gun extended, the man behind the desk already in my sights. I did not fire. He had not seen me. He was bent over, absorbed in something he was writing. I looked around cautiously. We were alone. The wet bar stood to my left. I would have to walk past it if I wanted to get closer.

The Colonel had mounted his war sword on the wall behind him. I made a note of that.

I crossed the room as silently as a beam of light. When I came into his peripheral vision, he gasped, flinched back in his chair, and dropped his pen. He looked up and opened his mouth when he saw me.

“Make a sound and I will be forced to shoot you,” I said softly.

He closed his mouth.

I recognized him from his pictures, but he had done well transforming himself. He looked his part: a business executive who had made his fortune in the Japanese textile industry and retired shortly before the end of the war. He had put fifty pounds on his spare frame in the last two years, changing his overall appearance drastically, and he had begun to bald. He no longer had a tan, but rather the florid features of a heavy drinker. Drowning his guilt, no doubt.

His eyes gave him away. I saw the same cruel glint that had been the last thing over three hundred civilians had seen—before he beheaded them with his blade.

He and his men called it baseball. Four people—men, women, children—were placed at four corners on their knees, blindfolded, hands bound behind their backs. They were the bases. The ‘hitter’ stood in the center of them, his sword held high. If he could hack off all four heads with four strokes, it was a home run.

Colonel Nishiki and his men had become proficient at hitting home runs during the war.

His gaze was calculating as he took in my automatic pistol. I sat in the guest chair on the other side of the desk. His cigarettes sat on top. He pointed to them. I nodded.

I crossed my legs and laid the Beretta on my thigh. I straightened the crease at the knee of my pants, pulled my pack of Players out. We both lit up simultaneously. I snapped my stainless steel Zippo shut and placed it on the desk, its mirror-like exterior giving me a tiny view of the room behind me. I slid my pack in my pocket, tilted my head back, and blew smoke at the ceiling.

He shook out his match and tossed it in the ashtray. He had one book on his desk. It didn’t look as if it had a title. The edge of a thick card stuck out of the pages, with a gleaming gold border. He took a long puff, hands steady. He closed his eyes momentarily. The smoke hissed out between his lips.

We locked eyes. For over a minute we smoked and stared.

“How did you get in here?” Now that he knew I was not going to kill him outright, his voice was relaxed, even amused. The voice of a man who has an ace up his sleeve.

I continued staring at him, silently smoking.

“You have come to kill me? Why?”

I tapped the ash off my cigarette and let it fall to the carpet. A flash of irritation crossed his face. Such impertinence. I decided then to kill him as slowly as his flabby body would allow.

“I am a retired business owner. Who am I to you?”

I shook my head.

“I tell you, you have me confused with someone else, young man.” He tried to appear relaxed and confident, but he still sat straight up, not leaning back. His eyes cut to the wet bar. I could imagine his rising panic and fury at the thought that his sentry might have fallen asleep.

I continued to smoke my cigarette. When I had taken my final puff, I exhaled, opened my mouth, tossed the butt in, and swallowed.

He blinked. He hesitantly took another puff and leaned forward. As he stubbed his cigarette out, the crystal ashtray wobbled under his now shaking hand.

I picked the gun off my thigh and pointed it leisurely at him.

The man in the secret room never made a sound, and the Colonel never gave anything away on his face. But I saw movement in the Zippo and knew the guard was positioning himself behind me.

“You are making a very bad mistake, my foolish friend,” the Colonel said. He leaned back comfortably and steepled his hands. “Would you like to tell me your name while you still can?”

I cocked the pistol.

“Stop,” said a voice from behind me. I felt the barrel of a gun touching the back of my neck. With the pistol pressed against me, the man reached over my shoulder for the Beretta.

I pushed the chair back into him hard and twisted to my right, falling to the ground. As I came up on my knees, he fired.

The bullet caught me in the chest, slamming me backwards. I crashed into the wall next to the bathroom, slumped sideways into the doorway. My head hit the frame hard enough to cut my forehead. Warm blood seeped into my right eye.

I sat up. The shooter already loomed over me.

“Good night,” he said in Japanese.

I looked into the single eye of his .45 automatic as he pulled the trigger. The bullet snapped my head back, and my whole body went rigid as the metal object plowed into my brain. I shook and consciousness left me.

I heard a buzzing in my head. Not unpleasant. A soft drone. Soothing. A white light beckons me. I feel a presence. Mama? Marguerite? I turn…

Crash. Return of light and form. Shiver. Back. Sounds. Alive.

“What were you doing in there while he had me covered, you fool?” The voice growled, full of menace. I heard a slap. And again.

I was twisted to the side, my body still crumpled in the doorway to the bathroom. My eyes were open. I was careful not to move them. I could feel drying blood on my forehead. My body tingled as the internal mechanism of my repair process mended my wounds. I told it not to heal the hole in my forehead. How my body knew what I meant, I did not know. I only knew I could control my repairs by thinking about them.

“Please, Colonel,” the man said. Another slap.

“Don’t call me that! Have you lost your mind as well as your vigilance?”

“No, sir.”

Pounding footsteps. Three more men strode into the room.

“What the hell happened?” the first one said. “Sir?”

“How did this man get in here?” the Colonel asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Then why are you standing there? Find out! Somebody is going to wish the day never happened!”

I could see their shapes out of the corner of my eye, all of them standing next to the desk.

“What do we do about him now?”

The phone rang. My gun lay on the desk in front of the guest chair.

The Colonel picked up the phone. “Yes?” As he spoke, he looked at his men, waved them out, and nodded. They left the room quickly, the clicking of the door marking their exit.

“No,” the Colonel said into the phone. “Do not send anyone up. It was a loud champagne bottle. We are drinking mimosas. No. I forbid it. My guards will not allow your security men to enter. Do you know who I am? Correct. Now do you understand? Good. Please send up a boy with a large, empty dining cart. He is to leave it with my men. Not at all. Thank you.”

He hung up the phone and stubbed his cigarette out. After a look at me, he walked around his desk and went behind the wet bar, bent down, and came up with a bottle of Wild Turkey and an ice bucket. A tumbler came next. He reached for the ice, hesitated, pulled his hand back. Grabbing the whiskey, he twisted the top, breaking the paper seal, and poured two thick fingers of the dark liquid into the tumbler. He tossed it back, downing the large shot in one gulp.

The glass rattled as he set it down, his face scrunched from the burn of the liquor. Slowly, the lines of his face relaxed. Now he added ice to the glass, poured more whiskey over the cubes, and returned to his desk.

I had four, maybe five minutes before the houseboy arrived with the cart that the Colonel undoubtedly planned to use to get rid of my body. Then this room would be filled with men, and I would never get near him.

Straightening up slowly, I slid silently up the doorframe until I sat up with my legs in front of me. The Colonel relaxed in his chair, eyes closed, touching the cold, sweating glass to his forehead.

I stood quietly and managed to take the four steps to his desk and sit down in the guest chair without making a sound. I wiped the blood off my forehead and ordered my body to repair the wound.

The Colonel lowered the glass, took a sip, opened his eyes. I gazed into them. He made a sound—“Guk!”—and coughed. His glass slipped from his fingers and fell into his lap. I heard the thump as the leaded crystal hit the carpet.

I leaned forward and retrieved my gun from his desk, set it on my thigh. I pulled my pack out, shook a cigarette from it, and picked up the Zippo. I lit the cigarette and exhaled.

“I am afraid we were rudely interrupted, Colonel,” I said.

“But…you…” He looked back at the bathroom door, seeing the splatters of blood on the doorframe and linoleum floor. “How…?” His eyes widened as he gaped at my forehead. I could feel the itching sensation as the gunshot hole closed. His complexion turned waxen and pasty.

“Have another cigarette,” I said. “I guarantee you will not die of lung cancer.”

He leaned forward and shakily lit another of his foul Chinese gaspers.

“What are you?” he whispered.

“A kami,” I said, using the Japanese word for spirit, or ghost. “And I have come to collect a debt.” I puffed, exhaled. “A blood debt.”

“Please,” he said. “You have the wrong—”

“You escaped the International Military Tribunal, but you were recognized—quite accidentally—by an attaché to US Naval Intelligence stationed here in Hong Kong.” I casually flicked ash off the end of my cigarette. “You really should have stayed someplace less luxurious, Colonel. But that wouldn’t do for you, would it? I am afraid your taste for elegance has left you exposed.”

“And now you are here to kill me. Is that it?”

“No,” I said. “I am here to make sure that the justice meted out to you, Colonel Nishiki, is sufficiently painful.” I ground out my cigarette and stood, leveling the gun on his chest. “Stand up.”

He rose slowly, his smoking jacket dark where he had spilled his drink, drops rolling down the satin fabric and dripping onto the floor.

“Now—”

I heard a strange sound behind me, like an electric crackle. I instinctively hunched and turned toward it.

A man stood in the middle of the room, leaning forward, his right hand extended toward me. The barbed shuriken flew halfway across the room before I saw it coming. I turned my head to the side, but one of the steel points sliced my face, laying my cheek open. I grunted and dropped the Beretta. I stepped to the right, crouched defensively.

My mind raged in turmoil: where had this man come from? Had there been two men in the secret room? No. The room was too small for that. And that sound…

I felt my muscles tighten as the poison from the throwing star spread through my body. I took several gasping breaths. Curare. My lungs were shutting down.

The Colonel took his military sword off the wall and drew it out of its scabbard. The steel made a low, metallic hiss as he did. “Do you play baseball, Mr. Assassin?” he asked.

I fought off the toxin, but continued to pretend I was in respiratory distress, my legs shaking slightly.

The Colonel walked around the desk and stood in front of me. The other man walked over next to him, a tall man dressed all in black, skin-tight cotton, only his mouth and eyes visible.

“On your knees,” the Colonel said, gesturing with the sword.

I fell to my knees, gasping, hand at my chest, eyes pleading.

“I don’t know how you survived, but it must have been a freak shot,” he said. “Let us see if you can re-attach your head.”

He lifted the blade high. As the sword whistled down in a powerful arc, I leaned back, lying flat, feeling the heels of my shoes digging into my shoulders. The blade whirled over me. I continued with my motion, flipping over, pushing up with my hands and landing on my feet. I picked the heavy glass ashtray off the top of the desk and threw it at the Colonel, hitting him in the chest. He grunted loudly and fell to his knees as the ashtray thudded to the carpet. The sword jangled as it slipped out of his hand.

The other man had a second poisoned star in his hand, primed to throw it. He did not. “Who are you?” he asked.

I was intrigued, but I had a job to do. If this man hesitated, fine. I dove to the carpet, curled my hand around the butt of the Beretta, and fired at him just as he threw his shuriken. My gun made a soft spitting sound and a blue hole opened up on the man’s forehead. He jerked backwards, falling flat. His throw sailed high, hitting the desk, and remained stuck in the wood.

The Colonel was still reaching for his sword when I swung the barrel of my silenced gun around on him. He gave a cry of fear.

Voices in the corridor outside and footsteps pounding toward us told me I had no more time. I shot the Colonel in his right hand and stood quickly. I took two steps and picked up his sword.

“Please, can’t you leave me in peace?”

“Yes,” I said. He gave me an uncertain smile. “You may have that. The peace of the grave. Perhaps then, your victims will have it, too.”

He tried to fall out of the way, but I had seen men try that for centuries. I leaned to the left, brought the sword straight down, and chopped off his head.

I dropped the blade on the floor and ran to the sliding door, jumping over the body of the tall man on the way. The door burst open behind me just as I pushed through the curtain.

“Stop!” a man shouted in Japanese. I continued onto the balcony. Two shots boomed out. A stabbing pain heated my back and I flew forward, landing on my chest. I scrambled up, knowing I could not afford to let them catch me.

The sliding glass door crashed the rest of the way open. I jumped on top of the railing, looked down at the filthy water, and the boulders below the surface.

“Stop!” someone shouted again. More gunshots, too many to count. I dove forward as two bullets hit me in the back and three hit me in the rear.

Even as the water rushed up to me and I approached the rocks, knowing how much this was going to hurt, I spread my arms wide, chest out, and kept my feet together in a perfect swan dive.

Chapter 1

Malibu, California, Present Day

Friday, January 23, 5:18 p.m.

 

I lay in bed with a vampire, waiting for her to wake up.

The sun set in two minutes. The room radiated warmth, softly lighted by the fading rays outside the open door.

This marked the third time Aliena had stayed with me during the day. When the sun rose, vampires dropped into an unconscious fugue and became as helpless as creatures could become. For that reason, they always slept in places too difficult for mortals to access, like mountaintops, deep caves, or parts of the forest no one visited. By staying here under my supervision, she placed her life in my hands.

We were in my Malibu home, in a guest bedroom I had decorated especially for her. In addition to the huge four-poster bed and Tiffany lamps, the modifications included blacking out the one big window in the room and changing the glass to a high-security, bulletproof composite that could not be broken.

The door leading to the rest of the house had a computer-controlled lock. A glass security panel on the wall next to the door served as the knob. To open the door, Aliena pressed her palm against the plate. A security scanner read her palm imprint and compared it with the examples in its memory. Once it confirmed her identity, it would lock or unlock. Once closed and locked, the door sealed the room from any possible intrusion. A matching scanning plate lay outside, at shoulder height against the wall.

I was the only other person allowed access by the scanner, but I entered only if Aliena permitted it. She had not allowed it before this morning.

I reclined on my side, under the blankets. Aliena faced me, also on her side. Her thick mane of honey-colored hair spread softly on her pillow, spilling over her left cheek. Her pale complexion shone unblemished and unlined, and she looked peaceful as she slept. I stared at the sexy mole above her upper lip.

In all the time I had known her, she had never given me the location of her daytime sleeping place, so I had never before seen her wake up. I wondered if she would stretch in her sleep, or if her face would twitch, or if she would blink when she came to life.

She didn’t do any of those things.

I watched, and one moment she slept. The next, her lustrous brown eyes opened and she looked at me. No blinking. No sleepiness.

I smiled at her, reached over and pulled her close. Her yielding, cold, curvy body pressed against mine. I kissed her lightly on her icy lips. “Good evening,” I said.

She reached one arm up and wound it around my neck. “This is nice,” she murmured. “I could get used to it.” She closed her eyes and snuggled against me. “Mmmm, you are so warm.” Then she looked up at me suspiciously, raised the covers, and looked down at her body.

“What?” I said.

“Just checking.” She lowered the blankets.

I did not like her implication, so I decided to tease her.

“Of course, any time today, I may have undressed you, played with your magnificent body for two hours, and then put your pajamas back on.”

She gave me a stern look, her smooth brow now creased in a frown. “Did you?”

“No.” I waited. “I played with it for three hours.”

She wound her other arm around my back and crushed me to her. I howled as she cracked two vertebrae and broke three of my ribs.

“That is not funny, Sebastian,” she said fiercely in my ear.

“Okay,” I said, the pain of the broken bones immediate agony, “no more jokes! I promise!”

She released me. I rolled onto my back, rubbing my chest gingerly and grimacing at the stabbing, broken-glass feeling of my internal engine repairing my spinal column.

Note to self: do not tease Aliena when she wakes up. She’s cranky in the early evening.

“I am so looking forward to the program at 49 tonight,” she said, still on her side, now with her hand supporting her head. It relieved me to see she had gotten over my pain so quickly.

When I didn’t say anything, she stroked my chest, climbed on top of me and pressed her hips into mine, leaned down and tongued my neck. “You promised, Sebastian.” She breathed against my skin, sending shivers through me that contrasted with the fading pain of my injuries.

“Yes, I promised.”

She smiled and hugged me—gently this time. She jumped out of bed, her Bugs Bunny pajamas swaying, walked over to the wardrobe, and opened the doors. My ribs and back ached, but they were nearly repaired, so I swung my legs out of bed. I had joined Aliena just a few minutes earlier and had gotten under the covers fully dressed, except for my shoes.

“Hamilton called again yesterday,” I told her, lacing a brogue. “He wants to talk to us.” I work as a consultant to the LAPD, and Steve Hamilton is the detective with whom I usually work.

“He is very sweet.”

“No,” I said, without thinking.

She turned around. “You do not tell me no. I will not take him, but that is my decision, not yours.”

I could not seem to stop making mistakes tonight. “You’re right. I apologize. I did not mean to say it that way. I just meant he has a high enough profile and a real value to me as he is.” I opened my mouth to add more when she laughed, a tinselly giggle.

“You may stop your analysis. I would never drink Detective Hamilton. I prefer him alive. Whenever he is near me, I can feel his desire washing over me in waves, and I find the sensation enjoyable.”

“I’m sure.”

She gave me a sad smile. “I wish he could let me have a small drink. I would even let him squeeze my bottom for that.” Aliena did not have a bottom. She had a booty. A can.

I knew the experience of being on her bill of fare. The first night I encountered her, in 1864, I had played the role of dinner—one of those Aliena had decided to consume completely. Vampires rarely killed their ‘meals’ since mortals would notice if too many people died of exsanguination. But Aliena was hungry that night and had taken me with the intention of draining me dry. Only my prodigious ability to replenish my blood saved me.

Hamilton had never been touched. He knew nothing of my immortal nature, and remained unaware of the existence of vampires.

“He hasn’t seen us in a month,” I continued, “and we did run out on him last time. I know he has many questions.”

“Yes,” Aliena said, shucking off her pajamas, “I’m sure he does. And most of them will be questions I would rather not answer.” She moved some of her clothes around. She kept the rest of her garments and personal belongings in an apartment she owned in Studio City.

She reached for a towel off the top shelf of the armoire, standing on her toes. Comfortable with her nakedness—even though she had been born in the seventeenth century, a time when nudity was nearly as bad as blasphemy—Aliena thought nothing of undressing in front of me. I loved her bare body, but her curves were ridiculously sexual, making it difficult for me to remain casual. Although she and I were dating (sort of), we had only reached the kissing and hugging stage, so the excitement of seeing her nude was tempered by the frustration of not being able to touch her.

In spite of her incredible body, her beautiful face made her unforgettable.

She padded across the room, her movements smoothly feline, her feet hardly seeming to touch the thick carpet.

“We will have to work with him again,” I said, “and he’s not going to forget.”

She disappeared into the bathroom. “I am not so sure I want to work with him again, not after last time,” she said, her voice echoing.

I could understand that. On our previous case, she had almost been raped and killed by the very serial murderer for whom Hamilton and I had been searching. Oh, and this killer had also been a sorcerer who wanted to cut Aliena’s heart out so he could use it in magical rituals. It was what you’d call a traumatic experience.

The shower began running. “He has some hard questions for me too, you know that,” I said. “I am going to do what I always do when it comes to questions about my nature.”

She came back to the door with the towel wrapped around her. “Lie?”

“Of course. It makes up for all the other times when I tell the truth and it makes me look bad.”

She frowned. “I’ve never heard you say anything that made you look bad.”

“That’s because you’ve known me for less than a hundred and fifty years.”

She gave me a look. Then she removed the towel and slowly closed the door.

 

 

After her shower, dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, Aliena flew off to get someone to eat. We agreed to meet at 49—her favorite club—at midnight.

I turned on the TV and switched to a football game replay. Five minutes later my cell buzzed. I muted the game.

“Montero.”

“Sebastian, it’s Hamilton.”

Speak of the devil. “Yes, Steve. What can I do for you?”

“I’m over in Brentwood,” he said loudly. I could hear other voices in the background, some shouting. “We’ve got an interesting one. I’d like you to take a look.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

After unsuccessfully attempting to acquire a football-shaped meteorite from NASA, Greg Mongrain decided to write science fiction and fantasy stories with a paranormal crime twist.

Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik and two books by my fellow Scout authors, "The Spirit Tree," by Kathryn A. Hearst, and "Perdition," by PM Drummond.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Tarot cards have always fascinated me. They have a magical, otherworldly aura that's not quite safe.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I write the sorts of stories I'd want to read. Is there any reader who doesn't like a little mystery mixed in with the story?

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