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

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

“Why Westport?” I asked. “I know the Masters of the City in both Atlanta and Dallas were killed. They had the same kind of leadership void as Westport, and for an ancient one such as your master, those should have looked like better opportunities.”

He looked away, refusing to look me in the face. “I don’t know. He chose here.”

Yeah. His reaction seemed to confirm one of my suspicions. In spite of all his power, I had Gabriel Laurent pegged as a coward. He had run rather than fight when I killed his master in Austria. He had chosen manipulation rather than direct confrontation with his foes in Westport. From what I had heard, the vampire wars in Atlanta were burning hot, and a vampire-shifter feud in Dallas was so nasty that paranormals in Westport were concerned about it spilling into public notice.

“Well, I’m sorry about your sister,” I said, “and thanks for the warning.”

I silently cursed Laurent. I had done his bidding, and his promises to me turned out to be empty. Lesson learned. Sam was right, never trust a vampire.

I circled around him so I could continue toward home. I had taken about five or six steps when I stopped and turned.

“What’s your name?”

“David Cunningham.”

“And your sister was Stephanie Cunningham?”

“Yes, that’s right. Our father was Marcus Cunningham. You killed him that night in Vienna.”

I didn’t know the names of a lot of the people I had killed, and I sent a lot of vampires to the final death in Vienna. I wondered if their father knew he was killing their mothers when he impregnated them. The chances were the women hadn’t known that a mother never survived birthing a dhampir.

Chapter 3

In exchange for the extra hours I put in on Samhain, Sam agreed to give me the following Sunday evening off. Lieutenant Jordan Blair had asked me to the opera, La Boheme, and I said yes.

Blair had season tickets, and I had gone to the opera with him once before. And as before, he invited me to one of the nicest restaurants in town prior to the performance. The tough cop that I knew when he was on the job became a sophisticated and urbane escort on such occasions, and I enjoyed his company.

I also knew that he wanted more in the way of a relationship. I had put him off because I was more attracted to Trevor, but that had gone south in a big way. Then Michaela Gallagher, rich heiress and gorgeous dhampir, had told me she occasionally dated Blair, including trips to the opera and to bed. That made me a little skittish. I wasn’t opposed to sex, in fact I really craved it, but I wanted a steady lover. Getting hit on multiple times every night as a bartender tended to put a bit of a tarnish on bed-hopping and bed hoppers.

A big payday from the DA’s office for some undercover work had given me freedom to do a little shopping. I had splurged and found myself having to choose between four dresses for the occasion. On a mad whim, I wore the teal, the slinkiest of the bunch, mid-calf length, with a wrap-front and plunging neckline, camisole straps, and a slit halfway up my thigh. I told myself it would be foolish to totally rule out a romantic relationship. Maybe he could convince me.

I still didn’t own any real jewelry, but the costume pieces I had chosen didn’t look nearly as cheap as they actually were.

Jordan picked me up at my apartment and seemed to have a difficult time keeping his eyes on the road as we drove downtown. He took me to the same restaurant as he did the first time, a favorite of his and a place where he was known.

On my previous trip to La Maison, I had ordered the halibut, but that night there was a duck special that pushed all my buttons, and I ordered that.

Looking around, I spotted Francis Jones sitting at a table across the room with an older black couple and a white man. The minority population of Westport was rather small, and they were the only black people in the restaurant.

“Are those Frankie’s parents?” I asked.

Jordan twisted in his chair, then turned back to me. “Yes. Would you like to meet them?”

“I think it would be courteous to thank her father personally,” I said. The big check from the DA’s job that bought the dress I was wearing had come from Franklin Jones’s law firm. He and other members of the Columbia Club, the secretive group that was a front for the city’s paranormal council, had paid a reward for helping to break up a ring offering bounties for the heads of vampires and werewolves.

The food was wonderful, the wine Jordan ordered was a perfect complement, and I didn’t even think about turning down dessert. A silky chocolate raspberry tart accompanied by a cordial and coffee left me ready for a nap.

But Jordan looked at his watch, called for the check, and said, “If you want to thank Franklin, we should hurry.”

He paid the bill, and we stopped by their table on the way out. Frankie was six-feet tall, and it was immediately apparent that she got her height from her father. Her mother was no taller than I was.

“Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Jones,” Jordan said, “my companion this evening is Erin McLane.”

“Ah, Miss McLane. Frankie’s told me so much about you,” Mr. Jones said.

“We don’t want to interrupt,” I said, “but I wanted to thank you in person for what you’ve done for Westport and to make the city safer. I appreciate your generous support.”

Franklin nodded. “We appreciate your courage in helping us to sort things out,” he said. “Let me introduce Gavin Edmundson. Gavin is a representative of a group in Washington, D.C., the Potomac Discussion Society, and a colleague of an old friend of mine, Gerald Quigley. Gerald recently passed away, and we were reminiscing about him.”

He turned to Edmundson and said, “I believe you met Lieutenant Blair earlier today. He has been instrumental in trying to impose some order on the supernatural elements here in Westport. And Miss McLane is a newcomer to our fair city, but a very welcome one.”

Edmundson was seated, but I guessed his height at a little over six feet. He had broad shoulders and a slender, athletic build. His objective age was late forties, but as a mage, he could have been anywhere between sixty to over a hundred. His dark hair showed no signs of gray or of receding. That color was saved for his cold gray eyes, the eyes of a predator.

“Yes,” Edmundson said. “Hello, again, Lieutenant. Are you also with the police, Miss McLane?”

My mouth was so dry that it took me a moment to answer. “Uh, no. I just try to help them out when I can. I guess you could call me a concerned citizen.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you.”

I smiled and tried to hold onto my composure. I had killed Gerald Quigley a few months before as part of my final mission for the Illuminati. A strong mage, a hydromancer, Quigley had an unfortunate attraction for young women who weren’t his wife. In a hotel room in Washington one night, I used ley line magic to stop his heart. I had also killed the rest of the members of the board of the Potomac Discussion Society, including the head of the board, William Strickland.

Jordan and I got our coats, walked out, and then shared his umbrella as we traversed the short distance to the opera house. I was kind of thankful for the rain, as it made conversation difficult. My head was spinning, and I was sure I must have been as pale as a ghost.

There was only one explanation for Edmundson using Quigley’s name and that of the private club as an introduction in Westport. Edmundson was Illuminati. If not a Hunter, then he had at least been sent by Rudolf Heine.

Although I was not in Heine’s direct chain of command, he knew what I looked like, and he would have been informed of my mission in Washington. After I finished that mission, I essentially disappeared for a month before I surfaced at the City of the Illuminati and handed Master Benedict the artifact that destroyed him. Sometime during that month, Heine had gone to Washington and avoided the disaster. He could have gone there for reasons other than looking for me, but that seemed to be too much of a coincidence.

I barely paid any attention to the opera and was quiet while Blair drove me home.

“Thank you for the wonderful evening,” I said as I jumped out of the car.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “You’ve been awfully quiet.”

I put my hand on my stomach. “I think I overate. Not feeling too great. I hope I didn’t spoil your evening.”

From my balcony, I watched the rain for a while, a million thoughts spinning around my mind. And when I finally went to bed, I had a hard time getting to sleep.

It was drizzling the following morning, but I went for a run anyway. People told me that if I waited for nice weather in Westport, I might get outside only a dozen times before spring.

I tried to process the information I had received that week in a logical manner. One working assumption had to be that Rudolf Heine knew the Scorpion was in Westport. A second assumption was that he sent Gavin Edmundson to Westport, whether in response to what he tortured out of Stephanie or because his Illuminati contacts in Westport had gone silent. Daniel Nava and Charles Meitzner were definitely silent and would be forever more.

Would Franklin tell Edmundson that Nava and Meitzner were dead because they kidnapped Frankie? Would he tell him I was the one who killed them? How much would he tell Edmundson about me? How much had he told other members of the Columbia Club? I knew that some members of the club were Illuminati sympathizers, or maybe pawns. And no one knew if Nava and Meitzner were the only actual members of the Order.

If Edmundson had come to Westport hunting for the Scorpion, tales of me would certainly catch his attention. Try as I might have, I had done a lousy job of keeping a low profile. I should have passed Rosie’s on by and got a job waitressing near the university or something. Anywhere not frequented by paranormals and supernaturals. But what was I supposed to do? Let vampires munch on me and the other women I’d rescued? Blair was the one who first brought me to everyone’s attention.

Trying to talk to Frankie to ask her to talk to her father, and for both of them to be circumspect concerning me, held its own problems. Earlier that year, the Potomac Discussion Society lost six board members in less than a month, two of whom were obviously murdered. I shouldn’t have known anything about that or the Society—or Gerald Quigley and his sexual predilections, for that matter.

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