Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(15)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(15)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

Blair presented the search warrant and made the guy sit in the living room, with Cindy watching him.

Jo wandered around the house, then said, “Let’s try the garage.”

Blair, Bailey, Trevor, Josh, and I followed her out to a side door of the garage. I grabbed the doorknob, applied some ley energy, and ripped it out of the door. Feeling around, I found the light switch.

The lights revealed a fairly new pickup truck and a thirty-year-old muscle car with its engine in pieces. Lots of tools and a large workbench filled most of the back wall. I wandered back there, and after inspecting the area, pulled one section of the workbench away from the wall. It slid easily, in spite of its obvious weight. The wheels under the legs probably helped.

When I did that, the floor under the bench fell away, revealing a set of stairs.

“Aw, crap,” Blair said. He shouldered me aside and went down the stairs. I started down after him but stopped when he yelled, “Dan, call an ambulance.”

The girl he carried out of that room under the garage was naked, with bruises on her face and arms. Her blonde hair was dirty and snarled, and she had a shell-shocked expression.

Blair’s face was grim. “Dan, I don’t think she’s the first girl he’s had down there. Tell forensics that I want every fingerprint, every hair, isolated.”

I turned to Jo, who nodded. Pulling a small potion bottle out of her purse, she stepped up to Blair and the girl.

“Drink this, honey,” Jolene told the girl. “It will make you feel better.”

The girl opened her mouth, and Jo poured in the contents of the vial.

I had two choices. Go back in the house and kill the bastard, or take a walk around the block. Josh was staring at the house with a stony expression, and I could hear his teeth grinding together. I grabbed him by the arm and said, “Come walk with me.”

By the time we got back, the ambulance had arrived and the house’s owner was handcuffed and was sitting in the back of Cindy and Dan’s police car.

“I need that drink now,” I said.

“Yeah,” Josh answered. “Me too.”

Chapter 12

With an effort, I hauled my butt out of bed before noon. After a quick breakfast, I packed a change of clothes and a couple of potions into my backpack and caught the bus to the area where Michaela’s sword club was located.

The nearest bus stop to the club was about a mile away, but the weather wasn’t too nasty, so the walk gave me a chance to stretch my legs and wake up.

When I arrived, I discovered that my initial sparring session with the dhampir was an event. Michaela and Donna were accompanied by five of their dhampir sisters, plus David Cunningham. It also seemed as though there were a lot more people at the fencing facility than the week before.

“Mademoiselle,” Gilles greeted me, bowing to kiss my hand. “I am so pleased to see you again. Come this way and let us choose a sword for you.”

All of the walls were lined with racks of weapons. One wall had wooden swords, axes, and knives. I discovered that the wooden weapons were bored out and filled with lead to give them a realistic weight. I chose a sword, and then Gilles led me to another room, where he helped me find a thick, quilted gambeson, or long coat, and a fencing helmet that fit. I felt like one of those kids I often saw about town, so swaddled in winter clothing that they could hardly walk.

Gilles matched me against Michaela first. She wielded a wooden katana that was a bit longer than a standard sword, and her practice movements showed she was quite comfortable and proficient with it.

How proficient I soon learned. I knew the dhampir would be faster and stronger than I was, but that didn’t truly prepare me for a blow to the ribs that knocked me off my feet.

“You know, it’s not really fair that I can’t use my magic,” I said as I struggled to my feet. “Without it, I’m only human.”

“Should I fight with one hand tied behind my back?” Michaela’s predatory grin added insult to the taunt.

I grinned back at her. “Both hands, maybe?”

She dealt out another fifteen minutes of punishment until she got overconfident. All it took was one opening, and Gilles wouldn’t let her continue after I bashed in her helmet with an overhead blow.

He gave me exactly five minutes to catch my wind and then set Donna against me. Instead of a katana, she had chosen an arming sword similar to mine but longer. I could have told her that was a mistake. With her advantage in reach, she didn’t need the longer blade, which would just slow down her strikes. She wasn’t as quick as Michaela, but she proved her strength by driving me to my knees when I blocked one of her blows.

I finally took her down by ducking under her blade, spinning around her, and delivering a double-handed cut to the backs of her legs. She dropped to her knees, and I gently stabbed her in the back.

“Damn, that hurts!” Donna cried, toppling over.

“And you think the beating you’ve been giving me doesn’t?” I responded.

She let out a bit of a giggle. “Yeah, but I’m bigger than you are. I’m supposed to win.”

That elicited a roar of laughter from Gilles.

When we limped into the locker room to shower and change clothes, the first thing I did was dig one of the potions out of my pack and down it. The magic spread through my body like a cool breeze, dulling the pain from the bruises and loosening my muscles. After a couple of minutes, I was able to strip without wincing at the slightest movement.

The potion didn’t heal all the bruises, though, and the dhampir were appalled at the black-and-blue marks all over my body. The bruise Michaela had left on my ribs was almost the size of my head.

“You know, Gilles won’t know if you cheat a little,” Michaela said.

“What do you mean?”

She shook her head. “You don’t have to cast a shield like a suit of medieval armor. Just a light one near your body so you don’t take the full impact of the blow. You can do that, can’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but he said…”

Michaela’s and Donna’s laughter cut me off.

“Didn’t you ever disobey your parents?” Donna asked. “Surely, you didn’t do everything you were told to do.”

I stood there in the shower, letting the water pour over me, and blinked at her. I didn’t remember much about my parents, but to disobey one of the Illuminati Masters? It was practically unthinkable. Trainees who got even a little bit disrespectful sometimes just disappeared.

“Oh, my God, she never did!” Michaela burst out laughing. “Look at her face. She’s a good girl! It never occurred to her to break the rules.”

Donna walked over, put her hands on my shoulders, and turned me around.

“Girl, you’d better do something. Another couple of workouts like this, and you won’t be able to get out of bed, let alone defend yourself. Don’t be stupid.” She half-turned so I could see the bruises on the backs of her legs. “These will be almost gone tomorrow, but you’re not going to heal that fast, are you?”

“Gilles won’t let you spar with humans any more than he’ll let us,” Michaela said. “It wouldn’t be fair. You’d beat them up worse than this in less than five minutes.”

I didn’t tell them that the punishment they had delivered was nothing compared to my early days training to be a Hunter. It took me two years before I won a match, and there were numerous days when I literally couldn’t even get out of bed to crawl to the toilet. The healers spent a lot of time with trainees like me just making sure we didn’t die.

But what they said made sense. I could at least spare myself a lot of pain, and having no magic of his own, Gilles wouldn’t be able to detect a light, tight shield.

We dressed and Michaela offered me a ride home. When we came out of the locker room, David Cunningham was waiting for us.

“Are you all right?” he asked me.

“Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?”

He didn’t act very reassured and followed us out to the parking lot. I got in Michaela’s car, and when I looked back as we drove away, he was still standing there.

“You’ve got an admirer,” Michaela said.

“Yeah, but I’m not interested.”

“He’s actually pretty nice,” she said. “Young and uneducated, but I think if he manages to tear himself loose from Laurent, there’s a lot of potential there.”

I thought that sounded a lot like me. Just what I needed—a clone of myself, wandering around together loose in the world for the first time, trying to figure out complicated and incomprehensible technology, such as how a coin-operated washing machine worked. I wasn’t sure if David and I together were any more capable than Liam and Sheila.

Lizzy dropped into the bar that evening about an hour after I started my shift.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

I frantically searched my memory, trying to figure out what I had spaced out. We hadn’t talked about anything recently that I could remember committing to. I finally gave up.

“Uh, ready for what?”

“Your test! Your high school equivalency test tomorrow!”

“Oh. Oh, yeah, I’m ready.”

She gave me a skeptical look. “You have to be there at eight-thirty, and you have to be on time, or they won’t let you in. I’ll pick you up at seven, that way we can stop and get some breakfast and pour some coffee into you. So, don’t go hanging around here after work tonight. Go home and get some sleep.”

“Your kids are going to hate you.”

She preened, her smile bright enough to light up the whole bar. “I certainly hope so! It won’t be any fun otherwise.”

And so, the following morning, feeling like death warmed over after four hours of sleep, and still sore from the beating I took the day before, in spite of another healing potion, I faced Lizzy’s smiling face when I opened my door.

“You’re not dressed yet? Throw something on. We have to go.”

“I just woke up.”

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