Authors: Tanya Huff
CARL HAD AN AWARENESS OF HIS OWN POWER THAT WAS ALMOST VAMPIRIC.Â .Â .Â .
All this is mine
, it declared.
You are nothing unless I choose to make use of you
Vicki almost killed him before she brought the sudden surge of rage under control. “I am nothing like you,” she snarled, ignoring hands that clawed at her wrist. “I only want to ask you a few questions.” A silk-covered heel caught her just below the knee. “Stop it.”
Carl stopped. He glared at her through narrowed eyes, fingers wrapped around her wrist, chest rising and falling in short, shallow breaths.
Death is my weapon
, his expression said.
Vicki let more of the Hunger rise, barely stopping it from breaking free. “Organ-legging. Are you doing it?”
“No.” His answer was little more than a breath rasped out in denial. But for all he might deny Death in the silvered eyes that held his, he couldn't lie to them. Nor could he look away.
“Do you know who is?”
, his gaze dared.
Do your worst
Frustrated, she threw him to the bed. He bounced, rolled across the quilted red satin bedspread, and come up firing a .22-caliber automatic pistol.Â .Â .Â .
The finest in Fantasy and Science Fiction
by TANYA HUFF
available from DAW Books:
BLOOD PRICE (#1)
BLOOD TRAIL (#2)
BLOOD LINES (#3)
BLOOD PACT (#4)
BLOOD DEBT (#5)
SMOKE AND SHADOWS (#1)
SMOKE AND MIRRORS (#2)
SMOKE AND ASHES (#3)
The Confederation Novels:
THE HEART OF VALOR (#3)
A CONFEDERATION OF VALOR
VALOR'S CHOICE (#1)
THE BETTER PART OF VALOR (#2)
The Keeper's Chronicles:
SUMMON THE KEEPER (#1)
THE SECOND SUMMONING (#2)
LONG HOT SUMMONING (#3)
SING THE FOUR QUARTERS (#1)
FIFTH QUARTER (#2)
NO QUARTER (#3)
THE QUARTERED SEA (#4)
WIZARD OF THE GROVE
OF DARKNESS, LIGHT AND FIRE
DAW BOOKS, INC.
DONALD A. WOLLHEIM, FOUNDER
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
ELIZABETH R. WOLLHEIM
SHEILA E. GILBERT
Copyright Â© 1997 by Tanya Huff.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art Copyright Â© 2007 Lifetime Entertainmant Services.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1056.
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HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Sean “Sebastian” Smith, who not only mapped out the city but brought it to life.
.Â .Â .
“HOW are you feeling?”
The young man attempted a shrug but didn't have the energy to actually lift his shoulders. “'M okay,” he muttered, watching the doctor warily. The incision throbbed, and he was too tired to take a piss without the huge orderly holding his pecker, but he wasn't going to tell the doctor that. Some people said he had authority problems. So what.
He had his money; all he wanted now was a chance to spend it. “When can I go?”
“Leave,” he growled.
“That's what I came in to tell you.” Her face expressionless, she stepped away from the bed. “You'll be leaving this afternoon.”
When she was gone, he swung his legs out from under the covers and carefully lowered them to the floor. Straightening slowly, he released the rail and stepped forward. The room whirled. He would have fallen except that a beefy hand wrapped around his arm and effortlessly kept him upright.
“You walk too fuckin' quietly, man,” he said, turning to face the orderly. “Damn near scared me to d.Â .Â .”
The last word got lost in sudden pain as the fingers tightened.
“Hey, man! You're hurting me!”
“I know.” Something glittered in the depths of soft brown eyes, something usually buried beneath an expression of unquestionable docility.
The setting sun brushed molten gold over the waves of English Bay, gilded a pair of joggers on Sunset Beach Park, traced currents of gleaming amber between the shores of False Creek, shone through the tinted glass on the fourteenth floor of the Pacific Place condominium tower and into the eyes of a young man who sighed as he watched it set. Nestled between the mountains and the Strait of Georgia, Vancouver, British Columbia, enjoyed some of the most beautiful sunsets in the worldâbut that had nothing to do with the young man's sigh.
Lifting a hand to shade his face, Tony Foster stared out the window and counted down the minutes. At 7:22
, his watch alarm began to buzz. Pale blue eyes still locked on the horizon, he shut it off and cocked his head back toward the interior of the condominium, listening for the sounds that would tell him the night had truly begun.
Lying in a darkness so complete it could only be deliberate, Henry Fitzroy shook off the bindings of the sun. The soft sound of the cotton sheet moving against the rise and fall of his chest told him he had safely survived another day. As he listened, the rhythmic whisper became lost in the heartbeat waiting in the room beyond his bolted door and then in the myriad noises of the city beyond the walls of his sanctuary.
He hated the way he woke, hated the extended vulnerability of his slow return to full consciousness. Every evening he tried to shorten the time he spent lying helpless and semiaware. It didn't seem to do any good, but the effort made him feel less impotent.
He could feel the sheet lying against his skin, the utter stillness of the air.Â .Â .Â .
And a sudden chill.
Which was impossible.
He'd had the air conditioner disconnected in this, the smallest of the three bedrooms. The window had been blocked with plywood, caulked, and curtained. The door had flexible rubber seals around all four sidesânot air-tight by any means, but the cracks were far too small to allow such a rapid change in temperature.
Then he realized that he wasn't alone.
Someone was in the room with him. Someone with no scent. No heartbeat. Fleshless. Bloodless.
Demonic? Possibly. It wouldn't be the first time he'd faced one of the Lords of Hell.
Forcing a sluggish arm to move, Henry reached over and switched on a lamp.
Sensitive eyes half closedâeven forty-watt bulbs threw enough light to temporarily blindâhe caught one quick glimpse of a young man standing at the foot of his bed before the faint, translucent image disappeared.
“A ghost?” Tony propped one leg on the wide arm of the green leather couch and shook his head. “You're kidding, right?”
“Cool. I wonder what he wants. They always want something,” he added in answer to the question implicit in Henry's lifted red-gold brow. “Everyone knows that.”
“Come on, Henry. Don't tell me in four-hundred-and-fifty-five odd years you've never seen a ghost?”
One hand flat against the cool glass of the window, the other hooked in the pocket of his jeans, Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, once Duke of Richmond and Somerset, remembered a night in the late 1800s when he'd watched the specter of a terrified young queen run screaming down the hall to beg her king once more for a mercy she'd never receive. Over two hundred years before, Katherine Howard had attended his wedding to her cousin Mary. He hadn't gone to hersâher marriage to his father had occurred four years after his supposed death. Made a queen in July, 1540, she'd been beheaded in February, 1542, nineteen months later.
She'd been young and foolish and very likely guilty of the adultery she'd been charged with, but she hadn't deserved to have her spirit trapped, replaying over and over the soul-destroying moment when she'd realized she was going to die.
“Whatever he wants,” Henry said without turning, “I doubt that I'll be able to give it to him. I can't change the past.”
Tony shivered. The centuries had gathered about the other man in a nearly visible cloud, wrapping him in a shroud of time and memory. “Henry, you're freaking me out.”
“Am I? Sorry.” Shaking off his melancholy, the ex-prince turned and managed a wry smile. “You seem somewhat nonchalant about being haunted.”
Glad to have him back, Tony shrugged, a trace of the street kid he'd been lingering in the jerky movement. “He's haunting you, not me. And besides, between living with you for the last two years and dealing with the weirdos at the store, I've learned to take the unexpected in stride.”
“Have you?” Not at all pleased with being compared to the weirdos at the video store where Tony worked, Henry's smile broadened, showing teeth. When he heard the younger man's heartbeat quicken, he crossed the room and wrapped an ivory hand around a slender shoulder. “So I've lost the ability to surprise you?”
“I didn't say that.” Tony's breathing grew ragged as a cool thumb traced the line of his jaw.
“Perhaps not exactly that.”
“Uh, HenryÂ .Â .Â .”
He shook his head. It was enough to know Henry would stop if he wanted him to. More than enough, considering he
want him to. “Never mind. Not important.”
A short while later, teeth met through a fold of skin, the sharp points pierced a vein and, for a time, the dead were washed away with the blood of the living.
The warm evening air lapping against her face, Corporal Phyllis Roberts cruised along Commissioner Street humming the latest Celine Dion hit and tapping her fingers against the top of the steering wheel. Although the new Ports Canada Police cars had airconditioning, she never used it as she disliked the enclosed, spaceship feeling of driving with the windows rolled up.
Three hours into her shift, she was in a good mood. So far, nothing had gone wrong.
Three hours and fifteen minutes into her shift, Corporal Roberts stopped humming.
Turning into Vanterm, as of this moment her least favorite of the harbor's twenty-seven cargo and cruise ship terminals, Corporal Roberts squinted to make out the tiny figures of three men dwarfed by the bulk of a Singapore-registered container ship. The pole lights that turned the long wooden pier into a patchwork of stacked containers and hard-edged shadows washed away features so thoroughly she was almost on top of them before she recognized one of the men.
Leaving her cap in the car, she picked up her long, rubber-handled flashlight, touched her nightstick, more out of habit than any thought she might have to use it, and walked toward them. “You night-loading, Ted?”
Ted Polich, the shortest of the three longshoremen, jerked a balding head upward at the gantry crane that loomed over the dock like a mechanical bird of prey. “Controls have stiffened up and the son of a bitch is jerking left. We're trying to get it fixed tonight, so it doesn't slow loading tomorrow.”
“God forbid,” the corporal muttered. A huge increase in Pacific Rim trade had the port scrambling to keep up. “Where is it?”
“Up by the bow. It's caught in one of them eddies between the dock and the ship.” Falling into step beside her, Polich shoved his hands in the pockets of grimy overalls. “We figured they'd send the city police.”
“Sorry. You're stuck with me until we know for sure you saw what you said you did.”
“You think we made it up?” asked one of the other men indignantly, leaning around his companion to glare at the cop.
Corporal Roberts shook her head and sighed. “I couldn't possibly be that lucky.”
Bobbing up and down in the narrow triangle between the bow and the dock was the body of a naked man, his back a pale, flesh-colored island, the strands of his hair sweeping against it like dark seaweed.
Polich nodded. “That's what I said. You figure he's a jumper?”
“I doubt it.” While they did occasionally get jumpers off the Lions Gate Bridge, they hadn't had one yet who'd stopped to take his clothes off. Pointing her flashlight beam at the water, she slowly swept the circle of illumination over the corpse. Bruises, large and small, made a mottled pattern of purple against the pale skin. Not very oldâ
and not going to get any older
, she told herself grimlyâhe hadn't been in the water for long.
“Funny what makes some of 'em float and some of 'em sink,” Polich mused quietly beside her. “This guy's skin and bones, should'a gone right to theÂ .Â .Â . God damn it! Would you look at that!”
The other two longshoremen crowded in to see.
Flung forward, Corporal Roberts tottered on the edge of the pier, saved at the last minute from a potentially dangerous swim by a muscular arm thrust in front of her like a filthy, cloth-covered, safety rail. Breathing heavily, she thanked Polich and snarled a warning at the other two.
As they backed up, too intent on the body in the water to be properly penitent, one of them muttered, “What the hell could've happened to his hands?”
Sunset the next night occurred behind cloud cover so heavy only the fading light gave evidence that the sun had set at all. At 7:23, Tony turned off his watch alarm and muted the inane conversation filling in a rain delay for a Seattle Mariners' home game. Who wanted to hear about a shortage of organ donors when they were waiting to watch baseball? He never
he'd miss Fergie Oliver. Leaning back in his chair, he glanced down the hall, listening for the first sounds of Henry's return and straining to hear the rattle of ghostly chains.
As the sun released its hold and his senses slowly began to function, Henry sifted through and ignored a hundred familiar sensations. An impossible breeze stroked icy fingers across his cheek. He willed his arm to move and switched on the lamp.
The ghost stood where it had the day beforeâa nondescript young man, needing a haircut and shave, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Its edges were indistinct and although Henry could see writing on the shirt, he couldn't make it outâwhether because the writing hadn't fully materialized or because the items on the, dresser behind the ghost's semitranslucent torso distracted him, he wasn't sure. As far as Henry could remember, he'd never seen the young man alive.
He half expected the specter to vanish when he sat up, but it remained at the foot of his bed.
It's waiting for something
. If a noncorporeal being could be said to have posture, the ghost's stance screamed anticipation.
“All right.” He sighed and leaned back against the headboard. “What do you want?”
Slowly, the ghost lifted its arms and vanished.
Henry stared a moment longer at the place where it had been and wondered what could have possibly happened to its hands.
“It had no hands at all?” When Henry nodded, Tony chewed his lower lip in thought. “Were they, like, cut off or ripped off or chewed off or what?” he asked after a moment.
“They just weren't there.” Henry took a bottle of water out of the fridge, opened it, and drained it. The growing popularity of bottled water had been a godsend; while blood provided total nourishment, all living things required water, and the purifying chemicals added by most cities made him ill. Bacteria, his system ignored. Chlorine, it rebelled against. Tossing the empty plastic bottle in the recycling bin, he leaned on the counter and stared down at his own hands. “They just weren't there,” he repeated.
“Then I bet that's what he wantsâvengeance. They always want vengeance.”
Raising an eyebrow at Tony's certainty, Henry asked just where he'd acquired his knowledge of what ghosts always wanted.
“You know, movies and stuff. He wants you to help him take revenge against the guy who took his hands.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?”
“Jeez, Henry, I don't know. You worked with Vicki; didn't she teach you nothing?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Okay, anything.”
Vicki Nelson, private investigator, ex-police detective, ex-lover, vampireâHenry had worked with her for one short year before fate had brought them as close together as was possible with his kind and then had driven them apart. He'd been forced to change her to save her life and forced, by the change, to give her up. Highly territorial, vampires hunted alone. She'd returned to Toronto and her mortal lover. He'd made a new life for himself on the West Coast.
Had she taught him anything?
Did any of it have anything to do with handless ghosts?