Low Midnight Page 4

“You don’t trust me?” Cormac said.

“I’m your lawyer, it’s my job to tell you these things.”

Cormac picked at the edge of a coaster left on the table. “I’m thinking it’s time I follow up the lead in Manitou Springs. Talk to Amy Scanlon’s aunt.” A different road, a new kind of job—he was ready to move on. Maybe this really was what he ought to be doing with the rest of his life.

“You okay with that?” Kitty asked. “You want company? Me being there might make things a little easier.” She was a born diplomat, and for some reason she didn’t think Cormac, in his leather jacket and biker boots, approaching some grief-stricken old lady, was a particularly good idea. Go figure.

“No, I’ll be fine. I’m just getting fidgety. The part of Scanlon’s book we put online might give us something eventually, but I don’t think we can wait much longer.”

Ben turned to Kitty. “You still don’t have anything from Grant? Tina?”

“They’re checking in. You know how this stuff works, it’s hit or miss. More misses than hits, usually. It’s not a science.”

Kitty had a whole collection of contacts, real-deal mediums, magicians, and ghost hunters in addition to the vampires and lycanthropes she knew. She’d met most of them through her radio show. Each of them provided various bits and pieces of information, but they still didn’t have the whole picture—the key to decoding Scanlon’s book, which in turn might be the key to solving an even bigger problem: the vampire Roman.

“Maybe this one’ll be a hit,” Cormac said.

Even though it meant telling this woman that her long-lost niece was dead. And it meant going back to the end of Amelia’s life.

Amelia turned unusually quiet whenever the subject of Manitou Springs came up. They’d both been avoiding it. With his parole over, Cormac was running out of excuses to put off the trip.

He kept himself to one beer and didn’t talk much, but that was usual. Watched Ben and Kitty and their easy way of bantering. They had some friends come through—and not just members of their werewolf pack. Normal people, coworkers and contacts, who chatted and laughed with them. Talked about ordinary things. Ben and Kitty, they had a life. They may have been werewolves, but this wasn’t the first time Cormac felt like the outcast next to them.

Before he started getting too uncomfortable, Cormac bowed himself out. They only argued a little for show, and Cormac assured them that he was fine, he just needed some rest. The usual song and dance. The normality of a life he wasn’t sure he’d ever really get used to.

Chapter 2

AFTER GETTING out of prison, Cormac had moved into a rundown studio apartment off the Boulder Turnpike on the northwest side of Denver. Wasn’t much, but he didn’t need much. A place to sleep, a lock to keep out bad guys. It wasn’t like he hadpeople over much. Or at all.

For a while he’d had a part-time job restocking at a warehouse, mostly to keep Porter happy and give the impression of being an upstanding citizen. He’d had to take time off when he broke his arm a few months ago, and he was long since past the time when he should think about going back. He didn’t need much money, but he needed some. His pre-prison savings wouldn’t last forever. He’d earned a surprising amount of cash doing some freelance detective work for Kitty and Ben, and for the Denver Police Department. The idea of going full time—essentially becoming a supernatural private investigator—had seemed ridiculous. But he was on the verge of thinking that maybe there really was a demand for this kind of thing, and maybe he really could make a living at it. It was just another kind of hunting, after all. He wasn’t exactly cut out for working for someone else.

Back home, very late at night now but he didn’t tend to sleep much anyway, he fired up his laptop. The machine was another gift from Ben, a “welcome home” after prison. Cormac had never had a computer in his life, had never needed one. Well, now he did, he guessed.

Amelia had insisted on putting magical protections on the laptop, a protective rune here and an arcane mark there. Cormac wasn’t sure electronics worked that way, that magic worked that way. It couldn’t hurt, Amelia had said. But it could, if it screwed up the computer’s inner workings.

We had electricity even in my day, Amelia had said grumpily. It’s all wires and power in the end. Making connections and letting in or keeping out energies that might be dangerous. Trust me.

His e-mail account had been strangely free of spam since he set it up.

The current problem: Amy Scanlon’s book of shadows. Amy Scanlon had been a possibly-not-entirely-sane—she believed herself to be a modern-day avatar of Zoroaster—but immensely talented magician. Kitty had inherited her book of shadows, her magician’s diary, stored on a USB drive. Kitty was sure the thing was packed with all kinds of information about Dux Bellorum and the Long Game. That was the real mystery Kitty was trying to solve: Dux Bellorum—Roman, Gaius Albinus, Mr. White, who knew what other names he went by—was a two-thousand-year-old vampire, and he had a plan, which seemed to be nearing its climax. Dux Bellorum—the leader of war. Cormac didn’t often get nervous, but this guy made him nervous. He’d faced him down exactly once, and Roman had clearly been using his long existence to become as adept as inhumanly possible at waging supernatural war. He had a plan to take over the world: the Long Game. Trouble was, nobody knew just how he was going to do it. He was gathering allies, bringing other vampire Masters around the world under his influence. Building an army, with him as its general. Somehow, Kitty had managed to put herself at the head of those trying to oppose him. Cormac had her back.

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