Authors: Unknown Author
Tags: #Don Bassingthwaite
She hissed at him in anger, her fangs already visible, claws sprouting unconsciously from her fingertips. “What are you doing here, Matt?”
“Us? We just ended up here after our hunt over on Yonge Street tonight and our prey... decided to go for a little run on the way.” He grinned. “However, I might ask you the same question.”
The hunt on Yonge. Tonight’s penny murder. Here? But they should have committed the murder hours ago. Had they been waiting for her? Miranda forced her sudden terror away. “None of your business.”
Blue had squatted down beside the passenger window. Tango was watching him carefully. Miranda noticed that she still had her knife ready. “This is your pack, I take it?” the changeling asked.
“Yes. Matt, Tolly, Blue — Tango.”
Matt narrowed his eyes as he examined the changeling with his supernatural senses. “Interesting. What is she?”
“That’s none of your business either.” Tango pushed her door open, forcing Blue back out of the way. “I’ll see you, Miranda.”
“Wait a minute.” If the pack had committed Solomon’s murder here, the body — bodies because it was supposed to be a double murder tonight — could be anywhere around. Maybe in Riley’s apartment. How had they known? The paper from her pocket, she realized. The one with Tango’s address. Tolly
read it last night when he was in her room. And he had seen Miranda with Tango that first night at Hopeful. Whatever Tango had just told her, Miranda was still sure that she didn’t want the changeling to know the truth about the penny murders. Miranda got out of the car as well, shoving Matt to one side and grabbing Tolly angrily. The mad vampire came away from the windshield with a sound like a suction cup. “Where are they?” she hissed quietly.
“Abl-abl-abl,” he jabbered. His stretched lips flapped grotesquely. Miranda threw him aside with a snarl.
“Um, Miranda,” said Tango, “why don’t I just give you a call tomorrow?” She was looking down at the ground by the alley between the two halves of Riley’s apartment building. Miranda almost choked. There were dark, bloody footprints on the sidewalk, smearing in the light drizzle of the rain. The pack’s footprints, and they led back into the alley. “This is obviously a pack thing.”
Tolly grinned, his face snapping back to its normal shape, and went scampering into the shadows of the alley like some giant feral cat. Tango turned to look after him.
Miranda started around the car, but Matt caught her shoulder. “She’s not going to be able to call you without this, is she?” He slapped the cellular phone into her hand and smiled. “We had a talk with Solomon tonight. He’s not very pleased with you — for leaving the phone behind, among other things.”
Miranda let the phone slip out of her hand and fall to the ground. She wrenched herself away from Matt and leaped toward Tango. But the changeling was already peering down the dark alley. She froze. Miranda slowed and stopped. Tolly was crouching on some trash cans like a thin, demented angel on a graveyard memorial. Laid out beneath him were the night’s victims, a man and a woman, their broken arms crossed over their battered chests, bright copper laid on their bruised eyes.
“It’s you,” Tango whispered in a gravelly voice. “You’re the ones committing the penny murders.”
“Tango.” Miranda reached for her, but stopped. What would happen if she touched the changeling now? Tango’s hand was wrapped tight around the handle of her knife. Her shoulders were tense. She spat into the blood on the ground. Once. Twice. Miranda let her hands drop. “I...”
“Don’t say you didn’t know.” Tango spun around to
face her. Her features were twisted savagely. “That’s why
you had to come late to Atlanta’s. That’s why you were
at Hopeful. You killed Todd! You killed all of them!” ttj »
“Why?” Tango howled. “Why? I told you the murders disgusted me, and you didn’t say anything.” She sliced out with her knife. Miranda jumped back. “I told you everything, and you told me nothing!”
“Tango, we had to do it!” Miranda crouched, backing away, frightened. I’m going to
Tango had said.
I'm afraid of what might happen when I do.
Now' she had lost control — and Miranda was afraid. “We had to!”
“Had to? No. Had to would mean you fed from them. But you didn’t, did you? You didn’t feed from them. You beat them to death! You didn’t
to do it.”
“You didn’t have to kill sidhe, did you?” Miranda shouted in her own defense.
She said the words without thinking. It was utterly the wrong thing to say. She regretted it instantly. Tango’s eyes went narrow. She hurled herself at the vampire. In a second, Miranda was fighting for her life, meeting the changeling with claws and fangs. But Tango was fast. She stepped in and dodged out, slashing with her knife. She forced Miranda back. The pack was whooping and yelling in the background. A long cut burned across Miranda’s forearm as she tried to block a blow. She slipped down to one knee.
The pack was silent suddenly. Tango brought her knife up.
Miranda summoned the shadows desperately. Darkness swooped in, black as the pit of her soul. Tango screamed — the shadows wouldn’t stop her. She still knew where Miranda was. Or rather, she knew where Miranda had been. Miranda threw herself to one side. The changeling’s knife swept down without meeting resistance, putting Tango off balance. Miranda scrambled to her feet and fled, her heart suddenly hollow.
Tango’s rage followed her into the night.
twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life Began to listen and look.
The bright sunlight of midafternoon came streaming down on Tango’s face. She groaned, first flinging an arm across her face in an effort to block it out, then rolling over and burying her face in the pillows of Riley’s bed. Trying to go back to sleep. The stresses of the morning and the night before had exhausted her.
After Miranda had run away, Tango, still riding the wave of her anger, had turned to the other vampires and advanced on them. The vampire in the leather jacket
— Matt — had taken one look at her, then called the others off. A smart move. The pack had piled quickly into Miranda’s car and gotten it going, either through the luck of Miranda’s keys in the ignition or a quick hotwire. Tango had been left behind on the curb, screaming her anger at them. She had thrown Miranda’s fallen cellular phone after them, hurling it hard enough to send it crashing through the rear window of the car. And then she had sat down on the curb, head in her unsteady hands, and slowly pushed back her terrible rage.
She felt betrayed. Miranda had lied to her. Tango had thought that she could trust the vampire. She had seemed so different from other vampires that Tango had known. Eager. Vulnerable. That Miranda had been part of the penny murders the whole time sickened her. That she had thrown the secret of Tango’s own past back in her teeth disgusted her even more.
Her anger and lust for the vampire’s death had felt good.
Tango shivered. It was almost as it had been in those first years after she had stopped being Shiv. She wanted the Rapture so badly it almost seemed like her need was trying.to take control of her body. She locked the Rapture away once more, reminding herself of her promise. She wouldn't kill again. Ah, her soul whispered,
but wouldn’t it be nice, too?
Those dark desires seethed beneath her skin.
She had walked over to the mouth of the alley, forcing herself to look at the couple that the vampires had murdered. They were beaten to death, their facial features virtually unrecognizable. That was death. Ugly. Not transcendent. Not beautiful. There was no Glamour in it.
Because it wasn’t done right.
Tango had gritted her teeth and looked up at the apartment windows that faced into the alley. They were dark. No one was stirring. Could everyone really have slept through the murders and the fight? If they hadn’t, could they really have been ignoring them so coldly? She had gone inside to call the police from Riley’s apartment, then back outside to wait for them and to keep watch over the murder scene.
It had taken the arrival of the cruisers and ambulances to bring the apartment building to life. The police had strung yellow plastic tape everywhere, dropping the big rolls over their nightsticks so they could unwind them more easily. Officers had started going door-to-door inside. Detectives had sat Tango down inside a van and she had told them her story -— or at least the story that she’d figured out while she was waiting for them to arrive.
She had been out with friends. They had dropped her off farther up the block. She had been walking into the building when she had seen the bloody footprints on the ground and heard arguing from the alley. She had seen a woman and three men. And the bodies. She had hidden until they were gone, the woman running away and the men driving off. Then she had called the police.
It was a simple story, and plausible. There were no heroic confrontations, no claims to have seen the murder itself. No mention that the murderers were vampires, of course. Tango was pleased with the story. She had debated whether she should tell the police anything at all or just phone in the murder as an anonymous report. In the end, she had gone with the story, if for no other reason than that it gave her a chance for some revenge on the vampires. Now the police would have accurate descriptions of the murderers, and even if they didn’t catch the vampires
— Tango sincerely doubted that they would — the descriptions would make things very difficult for Miranda and her pack.
The detectives believed her completely. They had taken her down to the division offices as soon as the story was out of her mouth. She had repeated it again and again, for every conceivable purpose, staying as close to the original story as possible. When all of the detectives and investigators working on the case seemed satisfied, she gave an official statement. When all the forms had been signed and oaths sworn, she had sat down with a police artist to create composite pictures on a computer. Miranda had been too easy to describe. Tango was surprised and a little disgusted that she could remember so many details of the other woman’s face. Matt and Blue were more difficult. Tolly was the hardest of all because his face had seemed so inhuman. All she could really remember was long blond hair and a pierced tongue. The police artist had seemed satisfied anyway. “You’ve given us more than anyone else so far.”
“Anyone else? There have been other witnesses?” “Just a few people who saw strangers with the victims or in the area.” The artist had smiled. “You didn't hear any of that from me, though. The detectives warned you not to talk about this with anybody, right?” Tango had nodded. “Don’t forget that.”
Tango had almost laughed. Who was she going to tell? And why should she? The truth was far stranger than anything the police could have believed.
It had been almost noon by the time the police had finished with her and said she could leave. They had had to let her out through the entrance to the division’s underground parking garage; the street in front of the division offices was a mass of protesters. Not just gay activists this time, but a cross-section of Toronto’s population. Word of the double murder was out, and people were more frightened and nervous than ever. So were the police. The young constable who had escorted her out of the division advised her not to hang around , the area too long.
“Expecting another riot?”
He had nodded and brushed a hand through his close-cropped hair. “Not even the veterans can remember seeing things this bad. If we don’t get a major breakthrough on this soon....” He exhaled loudly. “I was in the crowds when the Jays won the World Series the first time. That was friendly. If the murders keep up for another couple of days, I think we could be seeing something on the same scale, but not friendly at all.”
Tango had taken his advice, not out of concern for her safety, but out of sheer exhaustion. There had been a small crowd of thrillseekers outside the apartment, gawking at the yellow tape, when she had gotten back. Inside, she had flicked on the noon-hour news for just a moment as she undressed and showered. One television station had been carrying a live feed of the restless crowd outside of the division offices. The newscaster had been making the same predictions for the future that the constable had. Another channel was showing scenes of the alley outside Riley’s building as the murder victims were taken away, the newscaster reporting that the police were allegedly interviewing a witness. Tango herself, of course. The gray-haired commentator on a third station had been sanctimoniously lamenting the loss of decency, morals and manners in Toronto the Good. Disgusted, Tango had switched him off in the middle of his diatribe, walked into the bedroom, pulled down the shades, and fallen into bed.
The sun was warm on her back, but she
pulled down the shades.
She came back to full alertness instantly. Someone had been in the apartment. Someone
in the apartment. Tango could hear them moving around. She could also smell coffee, eggs and bacon. Pulling on the first pieces of clothing that her hands encountered, she slipped out of bed and over to the door of the bedroom. From there she could see into the kitchen. And she could see the plump, older Kithain who was bustling around between the cupboards and the stove.
“Epp!” she snarled loudly.
The boggan jumped, then tried desperately to recover her composure. “Good afternoon, Tango.” She reached for a pot of coffee. “I don’t suppose you’ve had anything to eat today, have you?” The pot shook in her unsteady hand.
Tango stalked into the kitchen, striving to keep the worst part of her anger at bay. The kitchen was spotless. Every surface, from sink to counter to floor, gleamed brightly. Colorful flowers were arranged in an old wine bottle. There was toast in the toaster, an omelette in a frying pan, and bacon keeping warm in the oven. On the table, a single perfect orange shone in a ray of sunlight like some rogue advertisement for Florida. There was a place set at the table, as well. Epp picked up a mug and poured steaming coffee into it. She offered the mug to Tango.