"No, sir, she's not-" Gabriel looked up as I walked into the shop. "Wait. She's here."
I took the phone, thinking it might be Tony or Elizaveta. "This is Mercy."
"This is John Beckworth, I'm calling from Virginia. I'm sorry, I forgot how much earlier you are than we."
The voice was familiar, but the name was wrong. "Mr. Black?" I asked.
"Yes," he sounded a little sheepish. "It's Beckworth, actually. I just got off the phone with a Bran Cornick. He suggested that there is some trouble in the Tri-Cities."
"Yes, we have something of a... situation here." Either Adam had called Bran yesterday, or Darryl had remembered the Blacks/ Beckworths and talked to him this morning.
"So Mr. Cornick said. He suggested that we fly to Montana early next week." He paused. "He seemed less intense than Adam Hauptman."
That was Bran, quiet and calm until he ripped out your throat.
"Are you calling to make sure he's safe?" I asked.
"Yes. He wasn't on the list of men you gave me."
"If I had a daughter, I'd have no qualms leaving her with Bran," I said sincerely, ignoring the question of why Bran's name wasn't on the list. "He'll take good care of you and your family."
"He talked to Kara, my daughter," he said, and there was a world of relief in his voice. "I don't know what he said, but I haven't seen her this happy in years."
"Ms. Thompson, if there is ever anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to call."
I started to automatically refuse, but then I stopped. "Are you really a reporter?"
He laughed. "Yes, but I don't cover celebrity sex lives. I'm an investigative journalist."
"You have ways of finding out about people?"
"Yes." He sounded intrigued.
"I need as much information as you can get on a man named Cory Littleton. He has a website. Fancies himself a magician. It would be particularly helpful if you could find out if he owns property in the Tri-Cities." That was a long shot, but I knew that Warren had checked out all the hotels and rentals. If Littleton was here, he had some place to stay.
He read the name back to me again. "I'll get what I can. It may take a few days."
"Be careful," I said. "He's dangerous. You don't want him to know you're looking."
"Is this connected to the trouble Mr. Cornick was telling me about?"
"Tell me how to contact you-probably an e-mail address would be best."
I gave him what he needed, and thanked him. Hanging up the phone, I noticed Gabriel's eyes on me.
"Trouble?" he asked.
Maybe I should have worked harder to keep Gabriel out of my world. But he had a good head on his shoulders, and he wasn't stupid. I'd decided it was easier to tell him what I could-and safer than if he went looking.
"Yes. Bad trouble."
"That phone call last night?"
"That's part of it. Warren 's hurt badly. Samuel and Adam are missing."
"What is it?"
I shrugged. "That I can't tell you." The vampires didn't like people talking about them.
"Is he a werewolf?"
"No, not a werewolf."
"A vampire like Stefan?"
I stared at him.
"What? I'm not supposed to figure it out?" He shook his head reprovingly. "Your mysterious customer who drives the funky bus painted up like the Mystery Machine and only shows up after dark? Dracula he isn't, but where there's werewolves, there certainly ought to be vampires."
I laughed, I couldn't help it. "Fine. Yes." Then I told him seriously, "Don't let anyone else know you know anything about vampires, especially not Stefan." Then I remembered that wouldn't be a problem. I swallowed around the lump in my throat and continued seriously. "It's not safe for you or your family. They'll leave you alone as long as they don't know you believe in them."
He pulled his collar aside to show me a cross. "My mother makes me wear this. It was my father's."
"That'll help," I told him. "But pretending ignorance will help more. I'm expecting a couple of phone calls. One from Tony and the other from Elizaveta Arkadyevna, you'll know her by her Russian accent." I'd intended to close the shop for the day, but I didn't have anything to do until Tony or Elizaveta called me back. If it had taken two weeks for Stefan and Warren to find the sorcerer, I was unlikely to find him by driving up and down streets at random. There are over 200,000 people living in the Tri-Cities. It isn't Seattle, but it's not Two Dot, Montana, either.
I couldn't concentrate on my work. It took me twice as long to replace a power steering pump as it should have, because I kept stopping to check my phone.
Finally, I broke down and called Zee again-but there was no answer on his phone. Elizaveta still wasn't answering her phone either, nor was Tony.
I started on the next car. I'd only been working on it for a few minutes when Zee walked in. From the scowl on his face, he was upset about something. I finished tightening the alternator belt on the '70 Beetle and scrubbed up. When I had most of the grease off my hands I leaned a hip on a bench and said, "What's up."
"Only a fool deals with vampires," he said, his face closed up into a forbidding visage of disapproval.
" Littleton ripped Warren to bits, Zee," I told him. "It probably killed Stefan-and Samuel and Adam are missing."
"I did not know about the Alpha and Samuel." His face softened a little. "That is bad, Liebchen. But to take direction from the vampire's mistress is not smart."
"I'm being careful."
He snorted. "Careful? I saw your trailer."
"So did I," I said ruefully. "I was there when it happened. Littleton must have found out that Marsilia asked me to find him."
"You obviously found him last night-not that it did you any good."
I shrugged. He was right, but I couldn't just sit around and wait for Darryl to call and tell me they'd found Samuel and Adam dead. " Marsilia seems to think I can deal with him."
"You believe her?"
"Uncle Mike did."
That took him aback; he pursed his lips. "What else did Uncle Mike say to you?"
The stuff about heroes was too embarrassing, so I told him what Uncle Mike had told me about the effect of demons on werewolves.
"Uncle Mike visited me this morning," Zee told me.
"Then we both went out and visited some other friends." He hefted a backpack at me.
I caught it and unzipped the bag. Inside was a sharpened stake as long as my forearm and the knife Zee had loaned me the first time I'd visited the seethe. It was very good at slicing through things-things a knife had no business cutting at all, like chains for example.
"I got the stake from a fae who has an affinity for trees and growing things," he said. "It's made from the wood of a rowan tree, a wood of the light. She said that this would find its way to the heart of a vampire."
"I appreciate your trouble," I said, skirting around an outright "thank you."
He smiled, just a little smile. "You are a lot of trouble, Mercy. Usually you're worth it. I don't think that knife will do anything to the vampire when his magic is still working. But once he's staked he will be more vulnerable to it. Then you can use it to cut off his head. Zzip."
I reached down to the bottom of the bag, where something else was hidden. I brought it out into the light and saw it was a flat disk of gold. On the front was a lizard, and on the back were marks of some sort that might have been letters. Both the lizard and the lettering were battered.
"A vampire is not dead until its body is ashes," Zee said. "Put this on its body, after you've cut off the head, then say the medallion's name." He took it, brushed his fingers over the lettering, and, though I don't think the lettering actually changed, I could read it. Drachen.
It had been ten years ago, but I had taken two years of German in college. " Kite?" I said incredulously.
He laughed, the smile flashing wide on his narrow face. "Dragon, Mercy. It also means dragon."
"Do I say it in German or English?" I asked.
He pulled my hand forward and put it in my reluctant palm, closing my hand upon it. " Macht nichts, Liebling." It doesn't matter.
"So if someone says either word it burns whatever it's touching to ashes?" I hadn't meant to sound quite so appalled. How often did I really hear the word in everyday life anyway?
"Would I give you such a thing?" He shook his head. "No. Uncle Mike has given it your name, no one else may invoke it, and even then it takes both word and desire."
"So I have to say it and mean it," I said. I imagined if I was holding it against a vampire, desire to burn the creature to ashes wouldn't be hard to come by.
I leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "This will help a lot."
He frowned at me for the kiss. "I would like to do more, but it is verboten. Even in so much as we have managed there is risk."
"I understand. Uncle Mike told me."
"If it were just risk to me, I would go with you to fight this thing. It is the whole of the Walla Walla Reservation who will suffer."
Because of the violence shortly after the fae had revealed themselves, most of the fae who were not still hidden, had voluntarily relocated to one of several fae reservations, where they could live in safety. Zee lived there; I'm not sure about Uncle Mike. But I did know that the Gray Lords weren't above killing one fae to ensure the good behavior of others.
"I do understand," I told him. "Besides, didn't you tell me once that your talents are not much use against vampires?"
His eyebrows lowered even further. "My magic would not help. But strength I have-I am a blacksmith. I worry for you who are so human-fragile."
"That's why I'm taking one of Marsilia's vampires with me," I told him.
My cell phone rang before he could say what he thought about that. I picked it up and looked at the caller ID, hoping for Tony or Elizaveta. It was Bran. I considered not answering it, but he was all the way in Montana - all he could do is yell at me.
"Hey, Bran," I said.
"Don't do it. I will be there tomorrow morning."
Bran said he wasn't psychic, but most of the werewolves were convinced otherwise. Moments like this made me agree with them.
I was tempted to feign innocence, but it was too much work. I was tired, and I doubted I was going to be able to sleep until Adam and Samuel were safe at home-or until Littleton was dead.
"Good," I said. "I'm glad you're coming, but both you and Uncle Mike told me demons are very bad news for werewolves. What happens if you lose control?" It didn't even occur to me that Bran wouldn't know who Uncle Mike was. Bran just knew everything and everyone.
He said nothing.
"We don't have enough time to wait for you," I said. "If Samuel and Adam are still alive, I have to find them before nightfall."
He still didn't say anything.
"It doesn't matter if you object," I told him gently. "You can't stop me, anyway. With Adam missing, I'm the highest ranking werewolf in town-since he declared me his mate." Fancy that. And I wasn't even a werewolf-not that I expected my mythological rank to stand up without Adam around. Still, Bran of all people would have to follow his own laws.
"I'm not helpless," I told him. "I have my very own superhero vampire/sorcerer-slaying kit, and the vampires have given me one of their own to guard my back." Going after Littleton was probably suicidal, even with a vampire to back me up-it hadn't helped Warren any-but I wasn't going to sit around and wait for Adam's body to show up in Uncle Mike's garbage.
"You trust this vampire?"
No. But I couldn't tell him that-and I knew better than to try to lie to Bran. "He wants Littleton permanently dead." I was sure of that much, I'd heard the anger in Andre's voice, the hunger for vengeance. "He was a friend of one of the sorcerer's victims." I could almost say "sorcerer's victim" fast enough that I didn't think, "Stefan," or "Adam," or "Samuel." A victim was someone nameless and faceless.
"Be careful," he told me, finally. "Remember, the walkers may have taught vampires to fear them, but there are still lots of vampires, and only one walker."
He hung up.
"He's right," Zee told me. "Don't get too cocky."
I laughed. It came out sounding tired and sad. "You saw my trailer, Zee. I'm not going to get cocky. None of your people know where he is?"
Zee shook his head. "Uncle Mike is looking into it, but he has to be careful. If we find anything, we'll tell you."
The phone rang again, and I answered without looking at the number. "Mercy."
"You need to get over here." Kyle spoke very softly, as if he didn't want anyone to overhear him-but he was in a werewolf's house.
"They can hear you," I told him. I could hear Darryl saying something in Chinese. It was a very bad sign that Darryl was speaking Chinese because he only did that when he was really ticked off. "I'll be right over."
I turned toward Zee.
"I'll work the shop today-and tomorrow, maybe longer," Zee said. "And you won't pay me."
When I started to object, he raised one hand. "No. I cannot hunt Littleton, but I can help this much."
Fixing the trailer was already turning next month into a macaroni-and-cheese month. If Zee donated his time, at least it wouldn't be a ramen noodle month. I kissed his cheek again and ran for my car.
Remembering the fate of the wolf who'd tailed me yesterday, I drove exactly five miles an hour over the speed limit down the highway. Getting a ticket would eat up a lot of time.
My cell phone rang again as I drove past the traffic cop who was parked on the other side of the bridge over the train tracks. This time the phone call was from Tony.
"Hey, Mercy," he said. "I got all six messages. What did you need?"
"Is there anyway you could get me a list of all the violent incidents the police were called to over the past month? I need it for all the Tri-Cities, not just Kennewick."
"Why?" The friendliness had left his voice.
"Because there might be something causing them, and it might help stop it if I can find out where the incidences are taking place." I watch TV. I've seen the way the police track serial killers-at least in detective shows. It made sense that demon-caused problems might center around the demon. Stefan had apparently run into success using that method.
If I ever become a serial murderer, I'll be very careful to kill people in a pattern that centers around a police station-and not my home or work.
"We have a map," he told me as I turned down Adam's road and put my foot down. Sure the speed limit on the road was thirty-five but I'd never seen a police officer out here. "Why don't you come over to the station and I'll show it to you-if you answer a few questions."
"All right," I said. "I have a few errands to run first. Can I meet you in an hour or so?"
"I'll be here," he said, and hung up.
Honey opened the door of Adam's house before I got to the porch.
"They're upstairs," she said unnecessarily. Darryl was still saying something rude in Chinese.
No, I don't speak Chinese, but some things don't require translation.
I ran up the stairs with Honey on my heels.
"I talked Darryl into coming downstairs after Kyle called you," Honey said. "But just a few minutes ago Warren tried to get out of bed and Kyle yelled at him. So Darryl went back up."
I'd have asked for more details-like why Warren and Darryl were arguing in the first place, assuming it wasn't Kyle and Darryl-but there wasn't time.
The guest room door was open. I stopped just outside and took a deep breath. When you walk into a room with two angry werewolves (and I could hear two growls), it is a good idea to be calm. Anger just exacerbates the situation-and fear can make both of them attack you.
I shoved the last thought to the back of my mind, tried to think serene thoughts, and walked in.
Warren had shifted into his wolf form-and he looked no better than he had last night. Splatters of his blood crusted the sheets, the walls and the floor.
Darryl was still in human form and was struggling with Warren. It looked like he was trying to hold him in the bed.
"Lie down," he roared.
In the pack, Darryl outranked Warren, he was Adam's second and Warren, Adam's third. That meant Warren had to do what Darryl told him to.
But Warren, hurt and confused, his human half submerged under the wolf, had forgotten that he was supposed to submit to Darryl's authority. It should have been an instinctive thing. That Warren wasn't listening to Darryl meant one thing-Darryl wasn't really more dominant, Warren had been faking it all along.
Under these circumstances it was a very, very bad thing. A wounded werewolf is dangerous, the wolf nature superceding the human control-and a werewolf is a very nasty creature. Much, much nastier than his natural counterpart.
The only reason Warren hadn't killed everyone in the house was because he was half dead and Darryl was very, very strong.
Kyle was standing against a wall, as far as he could get from the bed. His purple silk dress shirt was ripped and the skin under it torn and dripping blood. The expression on his face was worried, but he didn't smell of fear or anger.
"You're the highest ranking wolf," Honey whispered. "I told Kyle to call you when Darryl just seemed to irritate Warren. He was all right with Kyle until a few minutes ago."
Hadn't I just told Bran that I outranked Darryl? But Honey, like the rest of Adam's wolves, knew I wasn't really Adam's mate-and even if I was, my authority would be law-not real. Not as real as it would take to help Warren control his wolf. But Honey watched me with faith in her eyes, so I had to try.
" Warren," I said firmly. "Lie down."
If I was the most surprised person in the room when Warren subsided immediately, Darryl was a close second. I've always thought it was stupid, the way female pack members take their rank from their mate. I thought it was one of those dumb things that the wolves' human halves tacked onto nature to make life difficult, something the human part of the werewolves paid attention to, not the wolf.
Darryl slowly let go of Warren and sat on the end of the bed. Warren lay limply where he'd been, his splendid brown coat ragged and coated with blood, some old, some fresh.
"Well," I said, to cover up my confusion. "It's a good sign that he can shift-and he'll heal faster in this form." I looked at Kyle. "Did he say anything about why Samuel and Adam left?"
"No," Kyle frowned at me. "What did you do?"
I shrugged. "Werewolf politics," I told him.
"How did you do this when I could not?" Darryl asked.
I looked over and saw that his dark eyes had lightened to yellow-and he was staring at me.
"Not my fault," I told him. "Adam didn't even ask me before he claimed me as mate before the pack-I certainly didn't think it was anything more than a way to keep me from getting eaten. As far as dominance goes, you and Warren will have to sort things out when Adam gets back." I looked back at Kyle and asked him again, "How badly are you hurt?"
Kyle shook his head. "Just a scratch." He raised his face to me. "Am I going to howl at the moon, too?"
I shook my head. "It's not that easy to become a werewolf. He'd have had to nearly kill you. A scratch wouldn't do it."
Kyle was a lawyer-nothing showed on his face. I couldn't tell if he was relieved or disappointed. Maybe he didn't know either.
"We're going to have to move him down to the safe room," I told Darryl.
The safe room was a room in the basement that was reinforced to withstand a full grown werewolf. If Darryl wasn't dominant enough to make sure Warren stayed quiet, the cell was the only alternative.
"We can leave him on the mattress," suggested Honey. "Darryl and I can carry him down the stairs."
Which is what we did. Kyle and I followed, and I explained what we were doing as quickly as I could.
Warren didn't object to being imprisoned, but we had trouble keeping Kyle from following him.
"He didn't hurt me on purpose," he said, standing just inside the cell door. "I was trying to help Darryl keep him down."
"It'll get worse before it gets better," I told him.
"He didn't hurt me before."
Which let everyone in the room, except Kyle, know just how much Warren cared about him. Even a crazed werewolf won't harm his mate.
"I don't want to have to explain to Warren why we let him eat you," I said. "Look, you can sit in this couch right here and stay all day."
There was a little sitting room outside the cell, with a couch, matching easy chair, and big-screen TV.
"It'll only be for the day," Darryl said, his voice still a little growly, making me glad we weren't closer to a full moon. "He'll be well enough to be on his own tonight."
Warren and his wolf might have accepted me as Adam's mate, but I doubted Darryl did-and finding out that Warren was dominant to him was going to make him touchy for a while. A long while.
We left Warren in the cell, with Kyle leaning against the silver-coated bars. It wasn't the smartest place for him to wait, but at least he wasn't inside.
"I have to go," I told Darryl, once we were upstairs. "I'm still trying to locate Adam and Samuel. Can you handle it from here?"
He didn't answer me, just stared down toward the cell.
"We'll be all right," said Honey, softly. She stroked Darryl's arm to comfort him.
"They won't accept him as second," Darryl said.
He was probably right. That Warren had survived being a homosexual werewolf as long as he had was a tribute to his strength and intelligence.
"You can sort it out with Adam when he gets back," I said. I glanced at my watch. I had just enough time to call Elizaveta before I left for the police station.
I didn't leave a third message on her answering machine. It might have annoyed her.
When I got off the phone, Darryl said, " Elizaveta left town after Adam found Warren. She said it was too dangerous for her to be here. If the demon got too close to her, it might be able to jump from Littleton to her, which, she told us, would be a disaster. She gathered her family and took a trip to California."
I knew that Elizaveta wasn't a Wiccan witch. Her powers were inherited and had nothing to do with religion. That she was so afraid of a demon told me that she had already had some dealings with the powers of darkness-otherwise the demon wouldn't have been able to take her over without an invitation.
"Damn it," I said. "I don't suppose you have any ideas on how to kill Littleton."
He smiled at me, his teeth very white in the darkness of his face. "Eat him," he said.
"Very funny." I turned to leave.
"Kill the vampire and the demon goes away," he told me. "That's what the witch told Adam. And you kill a vampire by staking him, cutting off his head and then burning him."
"Thank you," I told him, though it was nothing I didn't know. I'd been hoping Elizaveta would have some knowledge of the demon that would make it easier to kill Littleton.
After I shut the door behind me, I heard Darryl say, "Of course, eating him would work, too."
The Kennewick police station was not too far from my shop, right next to Kennewick High. There were a bunch of high schoolers crowded into the small entryway, mobbing the pop machine. I waded through them to the glass fronted booth where a young man, who looked like he'd have been more at home with the kids on the other side, sat doing paperwork.
He took my name and Tony's, then buzzed me through the first door into an empty waiting room. I'd never been inside a police station before, and I was more intimidated than I'd expected. Nervousness always made me claustrophobic, so I paced back and forth in the air-conditioned room. It smelled strongly of whatever cleaner they'd used, though I expect that wouldn't have bothered anyone with a less sensitive nose. Beneath the antiseptic smell, it smelled of anxiety, fear, and anger.
I must have looked a little wild-eyed by the time Tony came to get me, because he took one look and asked, "Mercy, what's wrong?"
I started to say something, but he held up one hand. "Wait, this isn't private. Come with me." Which was just as well, because I wasn't sure what I was going to tell him.
As I followed him down the corridor, I decided that the problem with deciding to bend the rules was trying to figure out just how far I could bend them.
The fae weren't going to step in against Littleton, at least not yet. The werewolves, according to Uncle Mike and Bran, didn't stand a chance. If the vampires were asking my help, it was a good sign they didn't know what to do about him either.
Bran had said that eventually sorcerers fall victim to their demon and all hell breaks loose. It just might be that the KPD would be the people on the front lines when that happened.
On the other hand, if it ever got back to the seethe that I told the police about their existence, I might as well kill myself right now.
Tony led me to a smallish office room, and shut the door behind us, closing out the sounds of the department. It wasn't his office. Even if it hadn't smelled like someone else, I could have told from the wedding picture on the desk. It was about thirty years old, and both of the smiling young people in it were blond.
Tony sat on the edge of the desk, set a manila file folder he'd been carrying beside him, and waved me vaguely to one of the chairs against the wall. "You look like something the cat dragged in," he said.
I shrugged. "Rough morning."
He sighed and tapped his finger on the folder. "Would it help if I told you I have here a report from a concerned citizen who called in at 7:23 this morning. It seems that her nice young neighbor, one Mercedes Thompson, had to fire her rifle in order to drive off a bunch of hooligans last night or early this morning. One of our patrolmen stopped by to see the damage." He gave me a somber look. "He took pictures."
I gave him a wry smile. "I was surprised at how bad it was when I saw it this morning, too."
"Is this because someone saw you talking to me yesterday?"
It would have solved a lot of problems if I let him think that-but I prefer not to lie. Especially when that lie might start a fae - hunt.
"No. I told my neighbors it was probably just kids-or someone angry with my work."
"So they came after your trailer with can openers? How long were they there before you came after them with the rifle?"
"Am I under arrest?" I asked brightly. Shooting a rifle where I lived might be illegal, I'd never checked it out.
"Not at this time," he said carefully.
"Ah," I settled back in the uncomfortably chair. "Blackmail. How fun." I tried to see the best way through this. Honesty was always the best policy.
"Okay," I said finally, having decided how much I could tell him. "You were right. There is something that's causing people to become violent. If I tell you what it is, however, I won't live to see tomorrow. Also, even if you know what it is, you won't be able to do anything to stop it. It is not a werewolf, and not a fae. Nor is it human, though it might appear that way."
He looked... surprised. "We were right?"
I nodded my head. "Now, let me tell you this. It came last night and ripped my trailer to pieces, but it couldn't come in because I didn't invite it. You have to invite evil into your home-that's one of the rules. I shot it four times with my Marlin 444, loaded with silver. I hit it at least three times without even slowing it down. You need to stay away from it. Right now it's in hiding. The rise in violence is just a-a side effect. If you bring it out into the open, there will be a lot more bodies. We're trying to contain it without getting anyone killed. Hopefully very soon."
"Who is 'we'?" he asked.
"Some acquaintances of mine." I looked him square in the eye and prayed that he'd leave it there. The heavy emphasis I used was straight out of a gangster movie. He didn't have to know how underpowered we were; the police would be even more helpless than Andre and I.
"I promise I won't lie to you about the preternatural community," I told him. "I may leave things out, because I have to, but I won't lie to you."
He didn't like it, didn't like it at all. He tapped his fingers unhappily on the top of the desk, but in the end, he didn't ask more questions.
He got off the desk and walked over to a cabinet mounted in the wall behind my chair. I moved when he opened it and pushed back the doors to reveal a white board in the center and corkboards on the inside of each door. On one of the corkboards someone had pinned up a map of the Tri-Cities and covered it with roundheaded colored pins. Most of the pins were green, some were blue, and a double handful were red.
"This isn't all of them," he said. "A couple of weeks ago a few of us wondered if there was a pattern to the violence, so we pulled all reports of violence since April. The green pins are usual stuff. Property damage, arguments that get a little hot and someone calls them in, someone bangs his girlfriend around. That kind of stuff. Blue is where someone ended up in the hospital. Red is where someone ended up dead. A few of them are suicides." He put a finger on a cluster of red near the highway in Paseo. "This is the murder-suicide at the motel in Paseo last month." He moved his hand to a green pin all by itself near the east edge of the map. "This is your trailer."
I looked at the map. I'd expected to get a list of addresses, but this was exactly what I needed-and not. Because there was no pattern I could see. The pins were scattered evenly around the Tri-Cities. Denser where the population was heavier, light in Finley, Burbank, and West Richland where there weren't so many people. There was no neat ring of pins like you see in the movies.
"We can't find a pattern either," he said. "Not an overall pattern. But the incidences do tend to come in clusters. Yesterday it was East Kennewick. Two fistfights and a family disturbance that roused the neighborhood. The night before it was West Paseo."
"He's moving around," I said. That wasn't good. Where was he keeping Adam and Samuel if he was moving around? "Is there a time of day that the violence is the worst?" I asked.
I looked at the pins again, silently counting the red ones. They were short of Uncle Mike's count-and I don't think either of them knew about the family who died during Daniel's experience with Littleton.
"Did you learn anything?" he asked.
"Hunting serial killers is easier on TV," I said sourly.
"Is that what we're dealing with?"
I shrugged, then remembered Littleton 's face when he killed the woman at the motel. "I think so. Of a sort. The incidental violence is really bad, Tony, but this monster likes to kill. If he decides he doesn't need to hide anymore, it would be very bad. What can you tell me about serial killers?"
"I haven't seen one here," he said. "Doesn't mean we don't have one we don't know about-but there are things we watch for."
"Most of them start with easy victims for practice."
Easy like Daniel? I thought.
"I have a friend in the Seattle PD who tells me his whole department is waiting for someone to get killed. For three years they've had neighborhood pets turn up dead. They're patrolling extra heavily near their at risk populations: the homeless, runaways, and prostitutes."
I shivered. Had Littleton been a killer before he became a sorcerer and a vampire? Had he been a vampire first or a sorcerer? Had he been evil, or had he been made evil? Not that it mattered.
Someone knocked on the door. Tony reached past me to open it.
"Come on in, Sergeant," he said. "We're finished here. Sergeant, this is Mercedes Thompson. Mercy this is Sergeant Owens, our watch commander. This is his office."
Sergeant Owens was lean and fit, an older, more cynical version of the smiling young man in the wedding photo. He held out his hand and I shook it. He kept mine a moment, examining the traces of grease I could never quite get out from under my nails.
"Mercedes Thompson," he said. "I hear that you had trouble last night. I hope there is no recurrence."
I nodded. "I expect they got it out of their systems," I told him with a faint smile.
He didn't smile back. "Tony tells me that you have ties to the werewolf and fae communities and you've agreed to help us out."
"If I can," I agreed. "Though I'm probably more qualified to tune up your cars than to give you advice."
"You'd better be a very good mechanic," he said. "My people put their lives on the lines. I don't need bad advice."
"She fixed Sylvia's car," Tony said. In addition to being Gabriel's mother, Sylvia was a police dispatcher. "She's a very good mechanic, her advice will stand up."
In point of fact, Zee had fixed Sylvia's car, but that was beside the point.
The Sergeant relaxed. "All right. All right. We'll see how it goes."
We were back in the hall, when I stopped.
"What?" Tony asked.
"Take off the pins for the incidents at night. We need the daytime violence," I told him. His very presence would cause violence. "This thing moves around at night, but I don't think he can move during the day."
"All right," he said. "It'll take a while. I'll get a rookie on it. Do you want to wait?"
I shook my head. "I can't afford to. Would you call me?"
I thought he'd drop me back at the waiting room, but he escorted me all the way out. This time the little entryway was empty of students.
"Thank you," I said as I got in my car.
He held my door opened and saw what Stefan had done to my dash.
"Somebody hit that," he said.
"Yep. I have that effect on people."
"Mercy," he said somberly. "Make sure he doesn't hit you like that."
I touched the broken vinyl where Stefan had put his fist. "He won't," I told him.
"You're sure I can't help you?"
I nodded. "I promise that if that changes, I'll call you right away."
I stopped at a fast food restaurant and ordered lunch. I ate a couple of cheeseburgers and a double order of fries, though I wasn't particularly hungry. I hadn't had any sleep, so staying alert meant fueling up-the large, caffeinated soda would help, too.
When I was through eating, I got in my car and drove around, thinking myself in circles. I just didn't have enough information to find the sorcerer, and I needed to find him before dark. Before he killed Samuel and Adam-I refused to believe they might already be dead. He hadn't had time to play with them yet.
Why had Marsilia sent me after Littleton knowing I was too stupid to find him?
I jerked my car over to the side of the road and parked it abruptly, too busy thinking to be safe driving.
Never trust a vampire. It was the first thing I'd ever learned about vampires.
Despite her performance at Stefan's trial, Marsilia claimed she had believed Stefan when he told her there was a vampire who was a sorcerer loose in the Tri-Cities. She could have sent the whole seethe after him-instead she'd sent Stefan and Daniel. No, Stefan had chosen Daniel. She'd expected Stefan to pick Andre. As had Andre, for that matter.
Even after she believed Stefan dead, she still didn't send the seethe after Littleton. Instead she sent me with Andre. Me. I was suppose to find Littleton, or so she said. Andre was to keep me alive while I did so-or follow me around so Marsilia knew what I was doing.
Andre thought that Marsilia meant to see if she could take control of Littleton rather than kill him. Was that what Marsilia wanted him to do? Was that what he'd been supposed to do if he'd gone hunting with Stefan?
If Marsilia told him not to kill Littleton, he wouldn't. She was his maker and he couldn't disobey her-though apparently Stefan could.
I rubbed my face and tried to clear my thoughts. Knowing what Marsilia was up to might be important in the long run, but it wasn't going to help me find Littleton.
Littleton wasn't leaving any traces for me to follow.
"So what do you do when you're out hunting and you can't find any tracks or scent?" I asked aloud. It was a basic question, one that Samuel used on new werewolves who were ready to go for their first hunt.
"You go to places that will attract your prey," I answered. "Come on Samuel, that's not going to help. I don't know what attracted the sorcerer here in the first place."
To know how to find them, you have to understand your prey.
Some little thought nudged at me. Littleton was not from the Tri-Cities. He'd been traveling though when he ran into Daniel. He'd come back, and Stefan and I had found him. He'd been waiting for Stefan. Why?
Then it hit me.
I'd read the Faust story in several versions, from Benet's 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' to Marlowe and Goethe. Sorcerers sell themselves to demons for knowledge and power. There was nothing in Littleton 's actions that I could see as a search for knowledge or power.
Demons crave chaos, violence, and death. Littleton brought that in abundance, but if the demon were directing his actions wholly, there would be more bodies. Demons are not patient creatures. The demon would not have let Warren go, would not have let Stefan and me go that first night.
But Littleton was a new vampire, and new vampires do what their makers tell them to do.
So what would a vampire get from Littleton 's actions?
Littleton had almost certainly killed Stefan and Ben, and nearly killed Warren - but I was pretty sure that the wolves were collateral damage. No one would have predicted that the werewolves would get involved at all.
So, what could Daniel's disgrace and Stefan's death gain a vampire? Stefan had been Marsilia's favorite. Was the sorcerer an indirect attack on Marsilia?
I drummed on the steering wheel. If the seethe had been a wolf pack, I'd have been able to interpret her actions better. Still... she sent Stefan out and pretended it was punishment. Pretended for whose benefit? If all of the seethe were her get, obedient to her will as Andre told me vampires had to be, she wouldn't have had to pretend at all. So maybe she was having trouble controlling her people.
Maybe someone sent Littleton here to destroy her, to take over the seethe. How did a vampire become the leader of a seethe? Could Littleton 's maker be in the Tri-Cities? If he was, could he hide from the other vampires? I needed more information. More information about Marsilia and her seethe. More information about how vampires worked. And I knew only one place I might get it.
I started the car again and headed for Stefan's menagerie.