Read Pomegranates full and fine Online

Authors: Unknown Author

Tags: #Don Bassingthwaite

Pomegranates full and fine (7 page)

“I have specific targets, but not specific people. When I tell you, where I tell you. Tonight I want you to kill a man from a bar in the gay district. Tomorrow-night, the same, and from the same bar. After that, I’ll be in touch. Any man, any bar, it doesn’t matter. Your choice.”

“Or Matt’s.”

Solomon shrugged. “Or Matt’s, but with your supervision. The body has to be found tomorrow. There must be no witnesses to tie you to the victim. And there can be no sign that vampires were involved.”

“So we can’t drink from him?” Miranda scowled. “I’ll have trouble explaining that away to the pack.”

“You won’t have to. Like I said, I’m hiring them.” He held out his hand. David stepped out of the shadows carrying a briefcase. His sudden appearance startled Miranda into growling. She didn’t like the cold, blond man. He disturbed her. Solomon took no notice of her discomfort. He never had. Miranda had no illusions that she meant more to him than David did. “No drinking

— no spilled blood at all if you can help it. I don’t want anyone to suspect vampires.”

“Who would?”

“Other vampires.”

Miranda nodded slowly. He didn’t want the Sabbat to interfere. “All right. But why use us at all, then? You could do this yourself.” She gestured. “A little

magick...”

“Magick doesn’t work that way so easily. Vampires are much better at killing than I am, and I know I can trust you.” He took her hand again and touched her fingertips to his lips. “Besides which, I thought you might enjoy it.”

Her fingers tensed. Solomon pressed her sharp fingernails against his upper lip, reveling in the brief spark of pain. Miranda’s fingers relaxed again and she pressed back for a second longer before withdrawing her hand. “Wake the others. I want to go through this again in front of them. I don’t want them wondering why they were knocked out and I wasn’t.”

“That should be obvious. They were the ones who were stupid enough to attack a mage. Not all of us humans are as helpless as we look.” Solomon smiled, a vicious expression that blossomed like a slash across his handsome face. He released the magick holding the rest of the pack. The vampires stirred. Matt yelped at the pain from his broken nose.

Miranda’s smile matched Solomon’s.

CHAPTER THREE

“Oh," cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura,

You should not peep at goblin men.”

Tango opened the door of the bar called Hopeful. It was noon, and the place was just opening. The interior was surprisingly bright at this time of day: there were big windows at the front, facing out onto the street, and a slanting skylight in the back. The skylight was shaded with heavy cotton blinds to keep out the strong noon sun, but enough light came through to cast hazy illumination across the bar. Hopeful was well-kept. So many bars depended on the shadows to make them look good.

True to Riley’s words, one wall was covered with posters from nightclubs around the world. Risque ads for Pan’s were featured prominently.

Her plane had gotten into Toronto so late that there hadn’t been any point in trying to get things done right away. She had caught the first shuttle bus she saw to a hotel near the airport and checked in there. In the morning, she had rented a car and driven into the city. Even late in the morning, traffic was heavy, and trying to find a place to park downtown had been hell. Literally. She had eventually found one on the second-to-lowest level of an underground garage, though she had practically had to sell her soul to pay for it. At least the parking attendant had been as polite as any other person she had talked to in Toronto. Once she found Riley’s place, she would turn the car back in and walk. Or take the subway. Anything but drive again. Until she found Riley, however, she did not feel like dragging her luggage around with her.

It would have been convenient if Riley had been listed in the phone book, but of course he wasn’t. Tango had tried every alias she had ever heard him use and had come up with a blank on every one. With no address and no phone number, the pooka’s mention of Hopeful was the only lead she had to go on. Though there was an alternative. An unpleasant alternative.

She could find the Toronto court of the Kithain. If Riley was indeed the court Jester, then someone there would know where he lived. Tango had heard enough gossip about the Toronto court to know where they were generally to be found. A district called Yorkville, up north of the downtown core. But Tango didn’t want to seek the help of the court just yet. Her initial anticipatory enthusiasm for the renewed company of other Kithain had long since waned. She wasn't sure that she really even wanted to stay in Toronto at all now. She would find Riley or wait for him to come back, take her revenge, and go home to San Francisco. She didn’t feel in the mood to put up with the games of the Kithain court. And if she went to the court for help, she would have to admit that Riley had tricked her into coming to Toronto. No doubt that would amuse the Kithain to no end.

If she could get the answers she needed here, from humans instead of Kithain, things would be immensely simpler.

Hopeful was still mostly empty at this hour. There was a small cluster of men, looking tired and talking quietly, around one end of the bar. Tango walked up to the other end. She raised her hand to signal the bartender, then thought better of it. He looked as tired and quiet as his patrons. Instead, she waited patiently. It was only a moment before he noticed her and came over. “Sorry about that. What can I get you?”

“Club soda.” The bartender nodded and started to pour her a glass. “And I’m looking for someone. He may be a regular here.”

Club soda splashed across the counter as the bartender’s hand shook. Some of the other men looked up. The bartender grabbed a cloth and hastily mopped up the spilled liquid. “Jack Elliott?” he murmured without looking up at Tango.

“No.” Tango glanced briefly at the men at the far end of the bar. Most of them were already turning away. One continued to glare at her, until another put his hand on the angry man’s shoulder and whispered something to him. The man’s hostility collapsed and he looked away with tears in his eyes. Tango heard an uncomfortable cough, as if someone were trying to suppress a sob.

“Oh. Sorry.” The bartender put her club soda down in front of her. He looked at it for a moment, then grabbed a wedge of lemon and stuck it on the side of the glass. “Sorry,” he said again.

“It’s okay.” Tango picked up the lemon and squeezed its juice into the soda. “His name’s Riley — at least that’s probably the name he’d give.”

The bartender nodded understandingly. “Lots of guys don’t feel comfortable using their full names around here. What does he look like?”

“Scrawny. Short red hair, thinning on top. Glasses. Kind of geeky. Probably wears ballcaps a lot.”

“Yeah.” The bartender swiped his cloth across the counter again. “I know him. He comes in from time to time. Drinks whiskey sours, but he’s not exactly what I’d call a regular.”

Tango smiled. “Do you know where I can find him?” “Sorry.”

“How about one of the other guys? Do you think they would? Was there anybody he came in with regularly?”

“A good-looking blond guy. Very quiet, didn’t drink.” The bartender glanced over his shoulder. “One of the guys might know your friend, but this isn’t a good time to ask.” He dropped a pen and a napkin on the bartop and shoved them toward her. “Leave your number. I’ll ask them. If they know or he comes in, I’ll give you a call.”

“I don’t have a number right now. I’m just visiting town. How about if I just come back in later? My name’s Tango. I saw a noteboard by the door — can I leave a message there asking people who know him to talk to you?”

“Sure. I’m Todd. If you’re going to put something up, I think I can get you some better paper.” He rummaged around and came up with an old, electric-blue flyer. “Use the back of this.” As he watched her write out a description of Riley, he asked hesitantly, “Do you mind if I ask why you’re looking for him?”

“I was supposed to meet him, but I haven’t been able to get in touch with him.” It was mostly the truth.

Todd sucked on his lower lip. “When was the last time you talked to him?”

“A couple of days ago,” Tango lied. She looked up.

“Why?”

“Just concerned.” Todd paused and added, “I don’t want to get you worried, but one of our regulars — Jack

— was found murdered in a park this morning. If your friend is missing...”

Riley might have been murdered as well. Todd’s concern for a stranger was touching. “I don’t think so.” She put down the pen and looked over her message. “I’m sorry about Jack.”

“Thanks. I hope you find your friend, Tango. I’ll keep an eye open for him.”

There were tacks on the noteboard. Tango put up her message and sighed. No luck at Hopeful. She left the bar and went back out to the street. The air was hot and muggy, the white light of full sunshine blinding. She pulled a pair of sunglasses out of her pocket and slid them on. “Excuse me,” she said to a woman walking past. The woman paused briefly, looking at her with a distant, polite gaze as though the exchange was distasteful. “How do I get to Yorkville?”

At the end of the 1960s, Yorkville had been the center of Toronto’s drug culture. Hippies, students, radicals, and drug dealers had gathered there. They’d philosophized. They’d protested. They’d hung out. Under cover of darkness, in the smoky havens of coffeehouses and behind the walls of once-elegant homes turned into flophouses, they’d left reality behind. Drugs had circulated freely — or almost freely. Somebody had to be making a profit somewhere. That somebody had been the Unseelie Kithain of Toronto. At least so went the rumors that Tango had heard. The court had ridden the drugs of the psychedelic counterculture to power in Toronto; a brief power that had lasted only until the good citizens of the city had had enough. The police had moved in and cleared the hippies out of Yorkville.

That brief power had been enough, though. The Unseelie were still in Yorkville. Tango walked along the street that had given the district its name, and felt the presence of other Kithain brush against her nerves. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there, congregating somewhere just out of sight. After fifteen years, the feeling was an unfamiliar thrill.

Yorkville, like the hippies, students and radicals of the sixties, had aged. It had acquired money and influence. Now it was one of the trendiest parts of Toronto. The once-filthy flophouses had been restored, if not to their original elegance, then at least to a kind of acceptable modishness. No one lived there, of course. Instead, the buildings housed fashionable restaurants, stylish clubs and expensive shops. The only signs of protest were the second- and third-floor offices of special interest lobby groups, their names posted on engraved brass plaques. Where hippies had hung out, there were sidewalk patios. More patios clustered on rooftops and balconies. Alleys between the buildings had been renamed “lanes” and “mews” and boasted tasteful street signs. In their shadowed depths lurked more shops. Everyone wanted a place in Yorkville.

Tango turned down one of the mews and crossed over to another street, letting her instincts guide her toward the other Kithain. Kennings, like so much other magic, didn’t come easily to her. In her youth, she had known Kithain whose talents in kenning were so strong that they could sense the tiniest drop of old faerie blood in humans, or feel the lost remnants of dancing circles buried under the asphalt of parking lots. Of course, those had also been the first Kithain to sink into depression, sick and dying, poisoned by the mundane Banality that sought to erase the last remnants of enchantment from the world.

Sometimes it was good not to be too sensitive.

She turned again, walked another half-block, and stopped. She cursed. The other Kithain felt farther away now than they had before. Tango resisted the urge to think that such a thing was impossible. Nothing, or almost nothing, was impossible around Kithain, and especially around the concentrated Glamour of a Kithain freehold. It was entirely possible that the feelings she had been chasing were like echoes, ricocheting around Yorkville before fading away.

She sat down on a bench, letting the flood of humans that crowded Yorkville wash past her. Teenagers in fashionable clothes bought with their parents’ money. Students from the university a few blocks away. Thirty- and forty-somethings in business suits and dresses, in spite of the heat. Hip tourists in summer clothes, laughing and chatting brightly, bumping into people. Locals walking in little pockets of polite isolation, never touching anybody, apologizing to the tourists who bumped into them. Tango watched them as the tingling feelings of Kithain presence waxed and waned. She took a deep breath. She was thinking like a human... or an old grump. The court was hidden with Kithain magic. She wasn’t going to be able to find it or even another Kithain simply by looking.

Tango stood up, closed her eyes, and spun around three times. Then, trying to ignore the stares of the tourists, she apologized to the businessman she’d bumped, and went into a gourmet ice-cream store. When she came out again, a cup of ginger ice cream in hand, a Kithain was parking his car outside the store. Tango stared, then closed her eyes with a quiet groan.

The Kithain was tall, lean and young —- maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. He wore a white T-shirt that set off his deep tan to perfection and clung to the flat muscles of his torso as his sun-faded jeans clung to his legs. His face, sharp and sculpted, was without flaw. A diamond stud flashed in his ear. His hair was like Rumplestiltskin’s straw under the sun. He was driving a vintage white Mustang convertible. Even without kenning him, Tango knew that his fae seeming would be as handsome and perfect as his human seeming. He was a sidhe, one of the aristocracy of the Kithain, very likely one of the nobles of Duke Michael’s court. As arrogant as a unicorn with a poker up its butt, and twice as proud.

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