Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(16)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(16)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

Five minutes later, I was in her car staring stupidly at my hairbrush that she’d thrust into my hand as she started the engine.

“Why do they do this so early in the morning?”

“It’s part of the test. They want to see if you can show up for early morning classes.”

“They must hate bartenders.”

“Don’t tell me that the Illuminati let you sleep until noon.”

“No, but they didn’t make me tend bar until two o’clock in the morning.” That was a mild exaggeration. I had lived on four hours of sleep for years while I was training. I’d gotten lazy since arriving in Westport.

Her idea of breakfast turned out to be a drive-through where she ordered me some kind of little round sandwich with egg and sausage, a fried potato patty, and a large cup of coffee so hot it seared my mouth. The food only vaguely had a taste.

“Are these things good for you?” I asked after taking a couple of bites.

“Not really, but it will shock your stomach into submission until you finish the test. Then we’ll go get some real food.”

“What about lunch? I have a couple of hours between the morning tests and the ones in the afternoon.”

“I’ll bring you something. You get out at eleven-thirty and have to be back at one, so we don’t have any time to go anywhere.”

“It’s over this afternoon at four-thirty, and I have to be at work at five.”

“So, we’ll have dinner at Rosie’s.”

Lizzy displayed the same kind of cheerful demeanor that Donna had when pounding on me the day before. That made me a little anxious as I presented myself to the registration table at the community college. I wasn’t sure if it was butterflies or the breakfast sandwich, but I didn’t feel great when they plopped the test down in front of me and told me to begin.

When I got to work the following day, I skipped into Rosie’s, planted myself in front of Liam and Sam, and announced, “I passed!”

“Congratulations, Erin,” Liam said, his face as stoic and expressionless as always. I gave him a quick hug, and he briefly responded by putting his arms around me.

“Passed what?” Sam asked.

“My GED. I’m now a high school graduate!”

A number of the regulars sitting at or near the bar called out congratulations.

“I didn’t know you were studying for it,” Sam said.

“Yeah, Lizzy’s been tutoring me, especially in math, and Liam checked all my practice exercises in the science portion. I know a lot more about the chemistry behind mixing drinks now, too. You know, why some ingredients work well together as opposed to others.”

Sam gave me a slightly incredulous look, which he then turned toward Liam, who didn’t react at all.

“When did you have time to do all this?” Sam asked.

“During slow times here at work, mostly.”

I accepted the first couple of drinks that regulars bought me, then started turning them down. I had to sit down and eat something before I got so drunk I couldn’t work. The next couple of hours were a struggle until I sobered up some. If I had accepted all the drinks I was offered, they wouldn’t have needed to embalm me to bury me. But it made me feel good that people were so supportive.

Frankie and Cindy came into Rosie’s at around ten and sat at the bar. Both of them looked tired, and I set their favorite drinks in front of them along with the menus.

“Bless you,” Cindy said. Frankie lifted her glass to me before draining half of it.

“How’s the crime-fighting business?” I asked.

“Sort of like yours,” Frankie said, “never a lack of demand.”

“Yeah, but I’ll bet I get a lot more smiles from my customers than you do.”

Cindy barked out a laugh. Frankie toasted me with her glass again and drained it.

“Another, please.”

While I fixed her drink, I asked, “Where’s Blair? Having such a good time that he couldn’t get away?”

The expressions on both women’s faces killed my happy feeling.

“Digging up bodies,” Frankie said. “That guy who kidnapped the girl? He’s confessed to a dozen more, and he’s still talking.”

“You guys saved that girl’s life,” Cindy said. “Sick bastard is clearing missing-person cases going back two decades.”

“When his lawyer asked me for a deal,” Frankie said, “he wasn’t talking about a reduced sentence. He wanted me to agree that I wouldn’t oppose his client getting a book deal. I think he’s been dreaming about getting caught and being famous.”

“After he finishes talking,” I said, setting her fresh drink down, “just let Josh and me know when and what door he escapes through.”

Frankie’s eyes widened, then she shook her head. “As tempting as that sounds, I’m not even going to joke about it, because I have a feeling you’re not joking. I’ll have the lemon chicken, please.”

“Three-bean chili for me,” Cindy said. “If it makes you feel any better, he won’t last a month in prison.”

Chapter 13

Three days later, a major storm blew in from the northwest with high winds, sleet, and freezing rain. The streets looked like black mirrors, and the news told of a seventeen-car pileup on the freeway and a seven-car wreck closing one of the bridges.

Needless to say, business at Rosie’s was quiet. Sam hung around, debating with himself whether to chance the drive home or spend the night in the upstairs apartment.

Around nine o’clock, he decided to send Liam home early. That’s when I got a phone call from Michaela.

“Is Liam still there?” she asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Don’t let him leave. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

I told Sam, who was as puzzled as I was. Forty-five minutes later, Michaela came in, dressed in the same outfit as she’d worn when she assaulted the Waste Disposal yards and recaptured them from Rodrick Barclay. She had four of her sisters with her.

“You said you know a finder,” she said without any preamble.

“Yeah?”

“Can you get hold of her? I’ll pay.”

“What’s going on?”

She cast a glance in Liam’s direction, then grabbed me by the arm and dragged me away from the bar and into the ladies’ room.

“Sheila and Charity have been kidnapped,” she said. “I got a call, and the bastard threatened to kill them unless I did what he asked me to.”

“And what was that?”

“Lure Laurent into an ambush.”

That startled me, and I barked out a laugh. “And if that doesn’t work out the way he wants? Damn!”

“Exactly.”

“Who is he?”

“Hell, I don’t know. I didn’t recognize his voice, but I did recognize Charity’s. He put her on the phone, and she said he hurt them. When he came back on the line, I told him I would fry his balls and eat them. He laughed and said they were dhampir and he hadn’t done any permanent damage.”

I had never seen Michaela so upset. She was angry but also frantic with worry.

“I’ll call Jo,” I said. “Do you have anything of theirs? Hair, skin cells, blood would be best.”

“Yeah, I have all of that, and I brought it with me.”

I called Jolene, and she said I should bring Michaela and her specimens as soon as possible. Then I talked with Sam and Liam and filled them in.

“Call me if you need help,” Sam told me. I gave him a hug and started for the door.

“I’m coming with you,” Liam said, taking off his apron.

I glanced at Sam, then asked Liam, “What is your magic?” I knew Liam was a mage but had never asked anyone what his affinity was.

“He’s a ley line mage, like you,” Sam said. “He casts the strongest shields I’ve ever seen.”

Liam nodded. “I pull energy from the ley lines.”

I walked over to him, grasped both of his arms, and looked up into his face, almost a foot above me. “You do exactly what I tell you to,” I said. “Understand? You protect yourself, and you protect our friends. No heroics. Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Let’s go.”

We drove in three cars to Jolene’s house. The streets were treacherous, so it took us about an hour. Josh and Trevor were there when we arrived.

Jolene banished everyone but me from the garage, and I helped her set up what she needed to cast the spell. I watched as she took some hair and a vial of blood Michaela provided and cast a tracking spell for each of the two missing dhampir. When she finished, she handed me one of the tracking mirrors she had prepared.

“We don’t know if they’re being kept together,” Jo said.

We gathered everyone in the living room, and Jo explained how the tracking mirrors worked. Then Trevor explained our plan of attack.

“We do a lot of personal retrievals,” Trevor told Liam and the dhampir. “The important thing is to get the kidnapped women out alive. Don’t get trigger happy, don’t get angry, don’t freelance. Let Josh and Erin and me go in. We can shield ourselves, but we can’t shield you. Back us up and come running if we call you. But we don’t need ten people getting in each other’s way and doing stuff that’s going to get the hostages hurt. Okay?”

The tracking mirrors led us to a residential area south of the river, only a couple of miles from Trevor’s house. The neighborhood was comprised of nice, upper-middle-class ranchers and split-levels with manicured lawns and trimmed hedges. The trackers zeroed in on a place with a black van in the driveway and only a couple of lights on in the house.

Trevor did a reconnaissance with an electronic device and reported back that he couldn’t find any evidence of an alarm system or any other electronic detection. Jolene cast a spell.

“Only three people in the house,” she said. “The two women we’re tracking, and one more person.”

   
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