Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(4)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(4)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

I had three nights off and nothing to do but chase the same thoughts around my head over and over. Needing someone to talk to, I called Lizzy, who knew more about my business than anyone but Sam.

“Can I buy you lunch?”

“Nope. Got a meeting with a study group. I’m free for dinner, though.”

“Deal. Pick me up at my place.”

Lizzy called around five to tell me she was on her way, and I met her in the parking lot.

“So, what fancy place are you taking me?” she asked when I got in. The look on my face must have been priceless, because she laughed her butt off.

“Tell you what,” she said, “I’m going to turn you onto the best cheap seafood place on the West Coast.”

We drove downtown, then out to the port, then turned south. Past all the big merchant ships and then past the big ocean trawlers, we came to an area with lots of smaller fishing boats. On a street parallel to the water, one side had old houses, and the water side was lined with bars and restaurants. Everything looked kind of old and a little ramshackle, but I noticed a lot of expensive cars parked along the street. Lizzy found a tiny place to park between two luxury cars and fit her Mini-Cooper in as slick as could be.

We walked back to a place called Daddy Jack’s Oyster and Crab Shack. The building looked as though someone had nailed boards haphazardly to a rickety frame and not bothered to paint it. A chalkboard outside on the sidewalk had the day’s specials.

Inside was a completely different story. It wasn’t white linen and crystal chandeliers but fresh, clean wood and no hint that the building might collapse at any moment. A hostess led us to a high-top table for two overlooking the bay and left us.

“There’s the menu.” Lizzy pointed to each of the three chalkboards on the wall. “Cocktail and beer specials, main menu with dessert, and the raw bar. Best place in town for raw oysters. Everything’s fresh, right off the boats. My dad knew Daddy Jack, and he also knows his son, who runs the place now.” She leaned forward and whispered. “He’s a witch.”

For seafood, the prices were very reasonable. I found out how reasonable when they brought our crab claw appetizer. It would have been a meal in itself for one person. And when they brought our entrees, I took one look at my fish stew called cioppino and knew I would never finish it.

“You can get a take-out box,” Lizzy said, pulling one of her crab legs apart. “Here, taste this.” She put a raw oyster still sitting in its shell on my plate. “You don’t come from the coast, do you?”

“Middle of nowhere,” I said, picking up the oyster with my fork and dipping it in the cocktail sauce, like she was doing. “Literally. Nothing but trees as far as the eye can see. We had some fish, mostly trout, musky and walleye, but anything like this would have had to come in frozen. Red meat and fowl were more the order of the day.”

I braced myself and popped the oyster in my mouth. Strange texture. Strange taste, but good. I saw she was watching me closely, so I smiled. “That’s good!”

“Where in the middle of nowhere?”

Rather than play the game with her, I pulled out my phone, googled a map of the Northern Midwest, and showed her.

“There.”

She blinked at it, then turned her eyes up to me. “There isn’t anything there. That’s the middle of a national forest near the Canadian border. There aren’t even any roads.”

“I told you. And what would someone say if you tried to show them where your fairy mound is on a map?”

“But the fairy mound isn’t on a map. It’s actually not in this reality…” her voice trailed off. “In the middle of nowhere?”

“Yep. But where I showed you on the map is how you used to get there. Now it’s gone, and not even a memory remains. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Lizzy grinned. “That’s where Mistress Chantelle’s School for Seductresses, Spies, and Assassins was? Who did you practice on? Bear shifters?”

I sighed. “No, each other and the masters. But the year I was eighteen, they took me out into the world and gave me intensive practical training. Mostly in Europe, but I spent a lot of time in New York, Washington, and South Florida, plus a month in South America.”

The grin disappeared. “The Illuminati are real? And you were one of them?”

I nodded. “I was a Hunter. The City of the Illuminati, their base of operations, was destroyed shortly before I came to Westport. I thought that all of the big wigs—the members of the council and the leaders of the Hunters’ Guild—were dead. But Laurent tells me that the second-in-command of the Guild survived, and Master Rudolf knows me. He may know I’m in Westport. And last night, I met a man who I’m sure is Illuminati. He might even be a Hunter.”

“Not good,” Lizzy said. “So, are you going to Salt Lake City to tend a bar for George Flynn?”

“I hadn’t even thought of that,” I said. “See why I wanted to talk to you?” I shook my head. “I haven’t heard a word from Flynn since he left Westport. I mean, when I warned him that Laurent wanted to kill him, he said I would always be welcome, but how much should I trust a vampire? Lizzy, I’m not just afraid for me. If they suspect I told anyone about them, it will be a blood bath. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill you, Jo, Trevor, Sam—hell, even Blair and Frankie and her father.”

“There are a lot of places you could easily disappear,” she said. “Pick a smaller town like Corvallis or Eugene or Bend. They can’t search every city in the country.”

That would mean leaving the only friends I’d ever had. Running was the last resort, even if it was the smart choice.

“But, what would I do without you?” I asked, and got a toothy smile as a reward.

We brainstormed through my options all during dinner.

At one point, Lizzy said, “Suppose that Illuminati guy is here for a reason other than you.”

“Huh?” I intelligently responded.

“What if he’s here because of Nava and Meitzner? Or because that Rudolf guy is looking for a safe place to regroup and build a new base of power, like Laurent?”

“Why would he be interested in Westport?” I asked.

“Why did you come here?”

The ley lines. Two major ley lines intersected east of the city, just inside the boundary of the national forest. The Fae had a fairy mound almost directly on that intersection. At least a dozen minor ley lines snaked through the city, including one that ran right under Rosie’s. The city was a nexus of magical energy.

The City of the Illuminati had also been built where two major ley lines crossed. That had provided the fuel that torched the city. But Rudolf wasn’t there, so he couldn’t know that. All he could possibly know was that the city disappeared—as though it never existed. The only witness to that conflagration was me.

“The ley lines,” I said. “The same reason the Fae are here.”

She nodded. “The city being here is convenient, also. It gives the Fae a place to observe and interact with humans but still have a wilderness around them. The city isn’t so large as to create other problems, the wind off the ocean blows any pollution away, and the national forest keeps humans from surrounding the Fae. When you stop to think about it, the city has natural boundaries that keep it from growing much larger. The national forest to the east, the mountains to the north, the rugged coastline to the south, and the ocean to the west.”

“And you think Rudolf is interested in this place for the same reasons?” I asked.

“With the Illuminati destroyed, and him the only one left from the ruling clique, why do you think he would consider you important? He doesn’t know what destroyed the rest of the Order. How many Illuminati were there?”

“Seven or eight thousand, including North America, Europe, and South America. There are regional headquarters in Bavaria, outside London, and in Ecuador. Major cities such as New York, Washington, and Los Angeles have large contingents, and there are operatives, such as Nava and Meitzner, scattered all over the place.”

“And how many were killed when the city was destroyed?”

“Probably between five and six thousand. The last time I heard someone mention the City’s population, that was the estimate.”

“And of the two or so thousand left, you are the most important person he should be worried about? Why?”

I thought about it. Rudolf couldn’t know I had the book, the History of the Illuminati, that held all their secrets. It had been missing for three years before I found it, and in spite of all their efforts, none of the Illuminati had known where it was. And he couldn’t know that I was responsible for the destruction of the City. Would Master Benedict have called Rudolf to tell him I had gone back to the City? It appeared that Benedict’s primary and immediate focus when he gained possession of Strickland’s crystal was to destroy it.

“How many other Hunters are floating around the world as free agents?” Lizzy asked. “Is Rudolf searching for all of them?”

“You’re making a lot of sense,” I said, “but I can’t just assume that he isn’t going to target me. If he finds out I’m the one who killed Nava and Meitzner, he may decide I’m part of a conspiracy against the Illuminati.”

“You’re paranoid.”

“Absolutely. And so are the Illuminati.”

Chapter 4

My conversation with Lizzy managed to kickstart my brain and get it working again. Instead of drowning in fear and indecision, I managed to step back and review all of the information I had.

I knew there were factions inside the Columbia Club. Two prominent pillars of the community, Daniel Nava, the district attorney, and Charles Meitzner, the mayor’s chief of staff, turned out to be members of the Order of the Illuminati. There were others who I thought of as Illuminati sympathizers and who were still alive. But I had little insight into the club’s membership and who those people might have been.

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