Blood Lines Chapter Fifteen


'All right, when the lights go out, you go over the wall, across the yard, in the emergency exit and?’’

'Up three flights of stairs and through the first emergency door on my left. I remember your instructions, Detective.’’ Henry stepped back from his BMW and looked down at Celluci who still sat in the driver's seat. ’’Are you certain you can get near enough to the generator?’’

'Don't worry about me, you just be ready to move. You won't have much time. The moment the power goes off, all four guards will move to A Range to start emergency lockup. Vicki's in D;they'll do that last. You'll also have to deal with the other women on the range;it's just turned eight, so they won't be in the cells yet?’’

'Michael.’’

Celluci started. Something in the sound of his name stopped the flow of words and brought his head up. Although he knew the other man's eyes were hazel, they seemed much darker than hazel could be as if they'd absorbed some of the night.

'I want her out of there as much as you do. We will be successful. She will be freed. One way or another.’’

The words, the tone, the man himself, left no room for argument, no room for doubt. Celluci nodded, comforted in spite of himself and, as he had once before in a farmhouse kitchen, he thought that he would be willing to follow? a romance writer. Yeah, sure. But the protest had little force behind it. He wet his lips and dropped his gaze, aware as he did that Fitzroy had allowed it and, strangely enough, found himself not resenting the other's strength. ’’You won't have much time before the emergency system kicks in, so you'll have to be fast.’’

'I know.’’

He put the car into gear. ’’So, uh, be careful.’’

'I will.’’ Henry watched the car drive away, watched until the taillights disappeared around a corner, then walked slowly across the street toward the detention center. His pants and crepe-soled shoes were black, but his turtleneck sweater was a deep, rich burgundy;no point in looking more like a second story man than necessary. He carried a dark wool cap to pull over his hair the instant he started over the wall as he'd learned early after his change that a pale-haired vampire was at a disadvantage when it came to moving through the darkness.

From not very far away came the sound of traffic, of a radio, of a baby crying;people who paid no attention to the knowledge that other people were locked in cages only a short distance from where they lived their lives. Or perhaps they've forgotten they know. Henry reached out and lightly touched the outer wall, sensitive eyes turned away from the harsh glare of the floodlights.

Dungeons, prisons, detention centers-there was little to choose between them. He could feel the misery, the defiance, the anger, the despair;the bricks were soaked in it. Every life that had been held here had left a dark impression. Henry had never understood the theory that torture by confinement was preferable to death.

'They're given a chance to change,’’ Vicki'd protested when a news article on capital punishment had started the argument.

’’You've been inside your country's prisons, ’’he'd pointed out. ’’What chance for change do they offer? I have never lived in a time that so enjoyed lying to itself.’’

’’Maybe you'd rather we followed good King Hal's example and chained prisoners to a watt until it was time to cut off their heads?’’

’’I never said the old ways were better, Vicki, but at least my father never insulted those he arrested by insisting he did it for their own good.’’

’’He did it for his own good,’’ she'd snorted and had refused to discuss the matter further.

Having found the place he'd go over the wall, Henry moved on until he crossed the line between the floodlights and the night, then he turned and waited. He had faith in Celluci's ability to cut the power, more faith he suspected than Celluci had in his ability to go into the detention center and bring Vicki out-but then, he'd had a lot more time to learn to see around the blinkers jealousy insisted be worn.

They were very much alike, Michael Celluci and Vicki Nelson, both wrapped up in their ideas of The Law. There was one major difference Henry had noticed between them;Vicki broke The Law for ideals, Celluci broke it for her. She, not justice, had kept him silent last August in London. It was her personally, not injustice, that drove him tonight- however little he liked what they were about to do.

It probably wouldn't have helped, Henry reflected, if he'd told Celluci that he had attempted this sort of thing before?

Henry had not been in England when Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had been arrested, and between the time it took for news to reach him and the complications laid on travel by his nature, he didn't arrive in London until January eighth;two days before the execution. He spent that first night frantically gathering information. An hour after sunset on the ninth, having quickly fed down by the docks, he stood and stared up at the black stone walls of the Tower.

Originally, Surrey had been given a suite overlooking the river, but an attempt to escape by climbing down the privy at low tide had ensured his removal to less congenial, interior accommodations. From where he stood, Henry could just barely see the flicker of light in Surrey's window.

'No,’’ he murmured to the night, ’’I don't imagine you can sleep, you arrogant, bloody fool, not with the block awaiting you in the morning.’’

All things considered, he decided there was no real need to go over the wall-although he rather regretted the loss of the flamboyant gesture-and moved, a shadow within the shadows, past the guards and into the halls of the Tower. At Surrey's door, he raised the heavy iron bar and slipped silently inside, pulling the door closed behind him. Unless things had changed a great deal since his days at court, the guards would not bother them before dawn and by dawn they would be far away.

He stood for a moment drinking in the sight and scent of the dearest friend he had had in life, realizing how much he had missed him. The slight figure, dressed all in black, sat at a crude table by the narrow window, a tallow candle his only light, a heavy iron shackle locked around one slim ankle and chained in turn to a bolt in floor. He had been writing-Henry could smell the fresh ink-but he sat now with his dark head pillowed on his arm and despair written across the line of his shoulders. Henry felt a fist close around his heart and he had to stop himself from rushing forward and catching the other man up in a near hysterical embrace.

Instead, he took a single step away from the door and softly called, ’’Surrey.’’

The dark head jerked erect. ’’Richmond?’’ The young earl spun around, eyes wide with terror and when he saw who stood within his cell he threw himself against the far wall with a rattle of chain and strangled cry. ’’Am I so near to death,’’ he moaned, ’’that the dead come calling?’’

Henry smiled. ’’I'm as flesh and blood as you are. More so, you've lost a lot of weight.’’

'Yes, well, the cook does his poor best but it's not what I'm used to.’’ One long-fingered hand brushed the air with a dismissive gesture Henry well remembered and then rose to cover Surrey's eyes. ’’I'm losing my mind. I make jokes with a ghost.’’

'I am no ghost.’’

'Prove it.’’

'Touch me then.’’ Henry walked forward, hand outstretched.

'And lose my soul? I will not.’’ Surrey sketched the sign of the cross and squared his shoulders. ’’Come any closer and I'll call for the guards.’’

Henry frowned, this was not going the way he'd planned. ’’All right, I'll prove it without your touch.’’ He thought a moment. ’’Do you remember what you said when we watched the execution of my father's second wife, your cousin, Anne Boleyn? You told me that although her condemnation was an inevitable matter of state business, you pitied the poor wretch and you hoped they'd let her laugh in hell for you'd always thought her laugh more beautiful than her face.’’

'Richmond's spirit would know that, for I said it while he lived.’’

'All right,’’ Henry repeated, thinking, it's a good thing I came early, this could take all night. ’’You wrote this after I died and, trust me, Surrey, your poems are not yet read in heaven.’’ He cleared his throat and softly recited, ’’The secret thoughts, imparted with such trust,''The wanton talk, the diverse change of play,''The friendship sworn, each promise kept so just,''Wherewith we passed the winter night away?’’

'

'? That place of bliss,''the graceful, gay companion, who with me shared,''the jolly woes, the hateless short debate?'’’ Surrey stepped away from the wall, his body trembling with enough force to vibrate the chain he wore. ’’I wrote that for you.’’

'I know.’’ He had copies of nearly everything Surrey had written;the earl's flamboyant lifestyle meant his servants often waited for their pay and were, therefore, open to earning a little extra.

'

'Proud Windsor, where I, in just and joy with a King's son my childish years did pass?'Richmond?’’ Eyes welling, Surrey flung himself forward and Henry caught him up in a close embrace.

'You see,’’ he murmured into the dusky curls, ’’I have flesh, I live, and I've come to get you out of here.’’

After an incoherent moment of mingled joy and grief, Surrey pushed away and, swiping at his cheeks with his palm, he looked his old friend up and down. ’’You haven't changed,’’ he said, fear touching his expression again. ’’You look no different than you did when you? than you did at seventeen.’’

'You look very little different yourself.’’ Although eleven years had added flesh and he now wore the mustache and long curling beard fashionable at court, Surrey's face and manner were so little changed that Henry had no difficulty believing he'd gotten himself into the mess he had. His beloved friend had been wild, reckless, and immature at nineteen. Mere months short of thirty he was wild, reckless, and immature still. ’’As to my lack of change, well, it's a long story.’’

Surrey flung himself down on the bed and with difficulty lifted the shackled leg up onto the pallet. ’’I'm not going anywhere,’’ he pointed out with a sardonic lift of ebony brows.

And he wasn't, Henry realized, not until his curiosity was satisfied. If he wanted to save him, he'd have to tell him the truth. ’’You'd gone to Kenninghall, to spend time with Frances, and His Majesty sent me to Sherifbutton,’’ he began.

'I remember.’’

'Well, I met a woman?’’

Surrey laughed, and the laughter held, in spite of his outward calm, a hint of hysteria. ’’So I'd heard.’’

Henry was thankful he could no longer blush. In the past that tone had turned him scarlet. This was the first time he had told the story since his change;he'd not expected it to be as difficult as it was and he walked over to the desk so he could look out into the night as he talked, one hand shuffling the papers Surrey had left. When he finished, he turned and faced the rude bed.

Surrey was sitting on its edge, head buried in his hands. As though he felt the weight of Henry's gaze, he slowly looked up.

The force of the rage and grief that twisted his face drove Henry back a step. ’’Surrey?’’ he asked, suddenly unsure.

'Vampire?’’

'Yes?’’

Surrey stood and fought to find his tongue. ’’You gained immortality,’’ he said at last, ’’and you let me believe you were dead.’’

Taken completely by surprise, Henry raised his hands as though the words were blows.

'The death you allowed me to believe in dealt me a wound that still bleeds,’’ Surrey continued, his voice shredding under the edge of his emotion. ’’I loved you. How could you betray me so?’’

'Betray you? How could I tell you?’’

'How could you not?’’ His brows drew down and his tone grew suddenly bitter. ’’Or did you think you couldn't trust me? That I would betray you?’’ He read the answer on Henry's face. ’’You did. I called you the brother of my heart and you thought I would give your secret to the world.’’

'I called you the same, and I loved you just as much as you loved me, but I knew you, Surrey;this is a secret you would not have been able to keep.’’

'Yet after giving me eleven years of sorrow you trust me with it now?’’

'I've come to get you out. I could not let you die?’’

'Why? Because my death would cause you the same grief that I've carried for so long?’’ He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, his throat moving in an effort to suppress the tears that trembled on the edge of every word. After a moment he said, so softly that had Henry still been mortal he would not have heard, ’’I'll keep your secret. I'll carry it to my grave.’’ Then his head came up and he added, a little louder. ’’Tomorrow.’’

'Surrey!’’ Nothing Henry said would change his mind. He begged;he pleaded;he went down on his knees;he even offered immortality.

Surrey ignored him.

'Dying to have revenge on me is foolishness!’’

'The Richmond I knew, the boy who was my brother, died eleven years ago. I mourned him. I mourn him still. You are not here.’’

'I could force you,’’ he said at last. ’’I have powers you can't defend against.’’

'If you force me,’’ Surrey said, ’’I will hate you.’’

He had no answer to that.

He stayed and argued until the coming sun forced him away. The next night, he entered the chapel of the Tower, opened the unsealed coffin that held the severed head and trunk of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, kissed the pale lips, and cut free a lock of hair. His nature no longer allowed him tears. He wasn't sure he would have shed them if it had.

''Sat Superest, it is enough to prevail.'’’ Henry shook himself free of the memories. ’’I should have taken Surrey's motto as my own, shoved it down his throat, and carried him out of there flung over my shoulder.’’ Well, he was older now, more sure of himself, more certain that his way was the right way, less likely to be swayed by hysterical reactions. ’’I should have let him hate me, at least he'd have been alive to do it.’’ Vicki, he knew, would not have been so foolish. Had she been in the tower in Surrey's place, first she would have worried about getting free, then she would have hated him.

And she was unlikely to protest against this rescue tonight.

If she were in her right mind.

As Henry tried not to think of what the drugs might have done, the floodlights went out.

Vicki had spent the afternoon using sound and touch to discover the boundaries of her confinement. Surprisingly enough, with her eyes removed from the general equation and used only to peer at specific close-ups, she seemed to get around better, not worse. She hadn't realized how much she'd come to rely on other senses over the last year until they were all she had to rely on. Without her glasses, her vision-or lack of it-had become more of a distraction than a help.

After the incident in the showers, Lambert had returned triumphant to the soap operas, but Natalie followed close on Vicki's heels, her adenoidal breathing occasionally drowning out the constant roar of the four televisions and intermittent roar of the women who watched them. Commercials seemed to have the greatest effect-Vicki wondered if maybe it was because the plots of commercials were understood by the greatest number of the inmates.

Every now and then, Natalie would reach out and viciously pinch a hunk of Vicki's flesh. Her muscle control still affected by the residue of the drug, Vicki hadn't the speed or coordination to avoid the snakelike strikes. The fifth time it happened, she slowly turned and beckoned her tormentor closer.

'The nect time you do tha',’’ she said, forming the words as carefully as she could, ’’I'm gona'grab you'wris', pull you close, and rip you'ear off. Then I'm gona'feed it to you. You unnerstand?’’

Natalie giggled, but the intervals between the pinches became longer and finally she wandered away to watch Family Feud. Vicki wasn't sure if her threat had worked or if the large woman had just become bored and moved on to another victim.

By suppertime Vicki had decided there was only one way out. Back in behind the shower there was an emergency exit;it wasn't particularly visible from the inside and most of the inmates weren't even aware it existed, but nine years spent on the police force gave Vicki an advantage. The Metro West Detention Center was the only detention center for women in the city, and while the numbers were climbing every year there were still far fewer female police officers than male. Female cops spent a disproportionate amount of time at Metro West.

Trouble was, the door opened in, there wasn't a handle or any real way to get hold of it, and the lock was a huge solid metal presence.

That any half decent cracksman could have open in a heartbeat and a half, Vicki decided after a quick fingertip examination. Of course, lock picks and opportunity might prove a little difficult.

After supper, during cleanup while they were locked back in the cells, Vicki sat cross-legged on her mattress and probed thoughtfully at the cotton ticking. The mattresses on the bunks were slabs of solid foam, absolutely useless for anything except as a barrier between body and boards, but the extras, the ones thrown on the floor were old army surplus issue. They weren't very thick, they weren't very comfortable, but they did appear to have metal springs. In time, she could work a piece free and?

Except, she didn't have time. The shrink would be doing examinations tomorrow afternoon and she'd be sent off Special Needs to one of the regular ranges-with the mummy in control she had no hope of being set free. It wouldn't be as easy to escape a regular range-or for that matter, to survive one. More of the inmates were likely to recognize her and fatal ’’accidents’’ were not unknown when cops found themselves on the other side of the system. She'd obviously have to convince the shrink she belonged right where she was.

Vicki grinned. Her playing crazy would drive Lambert crazy for sure.

'What the f*k are you grinnin'about?’’

Vicki turned toward Lambert's side of the cell and her grin broadened. ’’I was just thinking,’’ she said, carefully maintaining control of each word, ’’how in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man, or in this case, woman, is king.’’

'You're f*kin'crazy,’’ Lambert growled.

'Glad you think so.’’ She didn't see Lambert's expression, but she heard Natalie come off her bunk and felt the air shift as the large woman moved toward her. Oh, shit?

She fought the nearly overwhelming urge to scramble away. It wouldn't prevent the inevitable. And I am not going to give Lambert the satisfac? The open-handed blow flung her head back and almost knocked her over. Vicki rolled with it and came up facing the fuzzy column of blue that was Natalie, trying to ignore the ringing in her ears.

Off to her left, she heard Lambert laugh. ’’So she's showin'fight, eh? This is gonna be interestin'. Hurt her, Natalie.’’

Natalie giggled.

'All right, cleanup's over!’’ The cell doors opening added percussion to the guard's announcement. ’’Everybody out! Roberts, put your clothes back on.’’

'Itchy, boss.’’

'I don't care. Get dressed.’’

Natalie paused and Lambert joined her in Vicki's limited field of vision. ’’Later,’’ she promised, patting a massive biceps. ’’You can hurt her later. Meanwhile, I think she should sit with us to watch Wheel of Fortune.’’

Oh, God? ’’I'd rather be beaten unconscious,’’ Vicki growled, trying to free her arm from Natalie's sudden crushing grip.

Lambert leaned close so Vicki could see her smile. ’’Later,’’ she promised again.

Billy Bob kon***ey from Tulsa, Oklahoma, had just bought a vowel when the lights went out, cutting Vanna off as she turned the first of four e's. The range erupted into complete and utter pandemonium.

'Everyone just stay calm!’’ The bellowing of the guard could barely be heard over the sounds of terror, rage, and hysterical glee. ’’Get back in your cells. Now!’’

Vicki had no idea how much the others could or couldn't see, but from the sound of it even those with normal night sight were nearly blind. The guards, she knew, would be racing for A Range where all four of them would be needed to coordinate a manual lockup. O Range would be unobserved for the next few minutes.

My kingdom for a set of lock picks. A God-given chance and I can't use it for anything? Jesus! She scrambled backward as the picnic table lurched sideways under the sudden shifting of weight across from panicked inmates. This thing's being held together with spit and prayers.

'And where the f*k do you think you're goin'?’’ Lambert demanded. ’’I say when we leave. Natalie, bring her back!’’

'Can't see!’’ Natalie protested, wood groaning with relief as she stood.

'So what? Neither can she!’’

Vicki felt the surge of air and stepped sideways out of the way. ’’ 'Trust me, he said, and come. I followed like a child-a blind man led me home.'’’

'What the f*k are you talking about?’’

'It's a poem,’’ Vicki told her, easily avoiding Natalie's next rush;the large woman displaced a tropical storm's worth of air. ’’By W. H. Davies. He was saying, I believe, that when everyone's blind, the people with the practice have the advantage.’’ She smiled, bent, and used Natalie's momentum to heave her up and across her shoulders and into the air.

The crash of splintering wood told Vicki her enormous tormentor had just smashed through the abused table. ’’I hope? that? hurt,’’ she panted as her knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor trying to get her breath. Good God, she's got to weigh close to four hundred pounds;isn't it amazing what adrenaline can do.

Her fingers brushed against a six-inch sliver of wood and, still fighting for breath, she picked it up. Given the spread of the debris, the table had been completely destroyed by the impact. Jesus H. Christ. This thing could've killed somebody! She sat back on her heels and tried to break the fragment across the grain. It bent but it didn't even crack. I don't think this is pine? Just like the city to buy oak picnic tables for a detention center and then let them fall apart. Her heart suddenly began to slam against her ribs, her heartbeat drowning out the chaos around her. Oak. Hardwood. A splinter with a thin, flexible tip.

No. No way. That lock's big and clumsy, sure, but only an idiot would try to pick it with a chunk of wood. No.

Why not?'

It's not like I've got a lot of options.

As Vicki stood, she brushed up against another body standing so close they were all but breathing the same air. Small, powerful fingers dug into her forearm.

'Natalie's going to f*king rip you apart!’’

The emergency generator would be kicking in soon and Vicki knew she didn't have much time, but there were some temptations it would take a saint to resist.

'You shouldn't have come this close,’’ she said, yanked Lambert's hand loose, twisted the arm up and around, and kicked her, hard, in the direction of her enforcer. A strangled grunt, a curse, and a cry of pain told her the target had been hit as she hurried toward the showers.

She found the concrete privacy barrier by crashing into it, and, limping a little, groped her way along its rough edge.

They're finished with A Range by now, probably well into B. So little time?

The area between the barrier and the wall was less than ten feet wide. Vicki launched herself across the gaping chasm it represented in the dark with no thought of caution. Preventing a few more bruises wouldn't pay for another night spent behind bars. She hit the wall with enough force to bounce back, then began searching frantically for the hidden exit.

The crash of steel doors sounded over the confusion behind her and she jumped, almost dropping her sliver of wood.

If they've already moved onto C Range?

Finally her fingers found the lock and she dropped to her knees in front of it.

And while I'm down here, I might as well say a prayer as I don't have a hope in hell of? son of a bitch. The first tumbler fell.

Christ, I could practically pick this thing with my fingernails. I get out of here and I 'm going to have a long talk with someone. Those picnic tables are death traps and this lock is a joke. Odds are good the men's detention center gets decent upkeep.

The second tumbler fell.

This is a disgrace.

She could hear one of the guards yelling something about tranquilizers. He sounded close.

Oh, shit? Her hands were slick with sweat and she could feel the wood beginning to splinter.

Okay.

The guards were definitely in C Range. It suddenly got harder to breathe.

Almost.

Someone appeared to be putting up a fight.

Give 'em hell, slow them down, and?

That wasn't Natalie she could hear breathing behind her? No. Just the echo of her own desperate sucking in of air that tasted of shower mold.

There?

Although unlocked, the heavy door stayed securely closed and Vicki realized she had no way to pull it open.

'NO!’’ One knuckle split with the force of the blow and then she had to scramble back out of the way as the door flew open toward her.

She couldn't mistake the arm that wrapped around her and kept her from falling, nor the embrace she suddenly found herself enfolded in. With adrenaline sizzling along every nerve, she fought to get free.

'Goddamnit, Henry!’’ Something started her trembling violently. It felt like anger. ’’What the f*k took you so long?’’

The sound of the shower had been going on for a long time. When it finally shut off, the two men looked at each other across the width of the living room.

'You've known her longer,’’ Henry said softly. ’’Is she okay?’’

'I think so.’’

'It's just she doesn't seem to be?’’ He spread his hands.

'Feeling anything?’’

'Yes.’’

'It's all there. It's just all locked in behind the anger.’’

'She has every right to be angry.’’

Celluci scowled. ’’I didn't say she didn't have.’’

During the ride back to Henry's condo, Vicki had spat out the bare bones of what had happened to her. Both men had listened quietly, both recognizing that interrupting with either questions or passions would stop the flow of words completely. When she'd finished, Celluci had immediately begun making plans to take care of Gowan and Mallard, but Vicki had glared through the spare pair of glasses he'd brought for her and said, ’’No. I don't know how or when, but the pay back's mine. Not yours. Mine.’’

Her tone left little doubt that Gowan and Mallard would get exactly what they had coming.

And then she'd added, ’’I want Tawfik, ’’ in such a voice that even Henry had found himself chilled by it.

They turned toward her as she limped into the living room, wet hair slicked back, the bruise that discolored one side of her face a sharp contrast to the pallor of the other cheek. The hand smoothing the front of her sweatshirt was wrapped in gauze.

I've seen holy fanatics, Henry thought, as Vicki crossed over to the window, wearing exactly that expression. Again, the two men exchanged worried glances. She moved, not as if she might break at any second, but as if she might explode.

'Before we begin,’’ she said to the night, ’’order a pizza. I'm starving.’’

'But we still don't know,’’ Celluci pointed out, waving a piece of gnawed crust for emphasis, ’’how Tawfik found out about Vicki.’’

'Once Cantree told him about you, it wouldn't have been difficult for Tawfik to have lifted the information from his mind.’’ Henry paused in his slow pacing and looked down at Celluci. ’’Cantree would believe that anything you knew, you would have told Vicki and Tawfik must have decided to tie up the loose end.’’

'Yeah? Then why such an elaborate scenario?’’ Celluci tossed the crust into the box and straightened, wiping his hands. ’’Why not get rid of her the way he got rid of Trembley? Kapow and it's over.’’

'I don't know.’’

'It seems to me that you spent at least as much time talking with him as Cantree did. How do we know you didn't say anything?’’

'Because,’’ the pause filled with something very close to menace, ’’I wouldn't.’’

Celluci fought a nearly irresistible urge to drop his gaze and continued, his voice beginning to rise. ’’We know he can mess with people's thoughts-the staff at the museum are proof of that. How do we know he didn't lift her from your mind?’’

'No! I would never betray her.’’

Celluci ’’s eyes narrowed as he realized the source of the pain that shadowed Henry's protest. No, he wouldn't betray her. He loves her. He really loves her. The son of a bitch. And he's afraid he might have done it. That Tawfik might have lifted Vicki out of his head. ’’Would you have even noticed him doing it?’’ The question needed to be asked. He wasn't just twisting the knife. At least he didn't think he was.

'No one walks uninvited through my mind, mortal.’’ But Tawfik had touched him just by existing and Henry had no real idea what the wizard-priest might have picked up. For all his declared certainty, this showed in his voice. Celluci heard it and Henry knew he did.

'Enough.’’ Vicki threw herself up out of the armchair, wiping grease off her mouth with the palm of her hand. ’’It doesn't matter how he knew about me. It's over. The only thing that matters now, and I mean the only thing, is finding Tawfik and taking him out. Henry, you said that the woman who left the Solicitor General's library before Cantree went in said she'd meet him at the ceremony.’’

'Yes.’’

'And Tawfik himself told you it was essential for the gathered acolytes to be sworn to his god as soon as possible.’’

'Yes.’’

'Well, since we know that his first group of acolytes have been pulled-at the very least-from the upper ranks of both the metro and the provincial police forces, we'd better stop him before this ceremony happens.’’

'How do we know it hasn't?’’

Vicki snorted. ’’You tell me. I've been a little out of touch the last couple of days.’’

'The party was Saturday. Tawfik spoke with me Sunday.’’ Had it only been two days ago? ’’Monday?’’ Was that why he hadn't come, Henry wondered. Were they already too late?

'For what it's worth,’’ Celluci offered, ’’Cantree was home last night.’’

'How do you know?’’

'I watched his house for a while.’’

'Why?’’

'I thought I might ask him what the f*k was going on.’’

'Did you?’’

'No.’’

'Why not?’’

'Because I remembered what happened to Trembley and it occurred to me that lying low might be a healthier plan. All right?’’ Celluci threw the question at Henry, then followed it with, ’’Might have been more useful if you'd done as thorough an interrogation on Tawfik during your little stroll. Or were you too busy being creatures of the night together that you forgot the's.o.b.''sa killer?’’

’’I am as immortal as you are, Richmond. I will never grow old. I will never die. I will never leave you.’’

Celluci read the thought off Henry's face. He flung himself up out of the chair and across the living room. ’’You bastard, that's exactly what happened, isn't it?’’

Henry met the rush with an outstretched hand and Celluci rocked to a halt as though he'd hit a wall. Just for a moment, Henry wanted to make him understand. And then the moment passed. ’’Never presume,’’ he said, catching the other man's gaze and holding it, forcing him to stand and listen, ’’that you know what I do or why I do it. I am not as you are. The laws I follow are not the laws that master you. We are very, very different you and I;in two things only we are the same. Whatever Tawfik and I spoke of, whatever my reaction to him, all that has changed. He has hurt one of mine and I will not have that.’’

As Henry dropped his hand, Celluci staggered forward. He had the strange feeling he would have fallen had Henry not continued to hold his gaze until he steadied. ’’And the second thing,’’ he demanded, stepping back and shoving the curl of hair back off his face.

'Please, Detective,’’ Henry purposefully lowered his lids, allowing Celluci to look away if he chose, ’’do not attempt to convince me you have no knowledge of the other? interest we share.’’

Brown eyes stared into hazel for a moment. Finally, Celluci sighed.

'If you two have finished,’’ Vicki snapped, leaning back against the windows and crossing her arms, ’’can we get on with it?’’

'Finished?’’ Celluci snorted quietly, turning and walking back to the couch. ’’Something tells me we're just getting started.’’ He pushed the pizza box out of the way and dropped down, the couch springs protesting the sudden weight. ’’Look, ceremonies don't usually happen on a whim. Most religions have schedules to keep.’’

Vicki nodded. ’’Good point. Henry?’’

'He said, soon. Nothing more definite.’’

'Damnit, there's got to be somewhere we can find out about ancient Egyptian religious rituals.’’ Her eyes narrowed. ’’Mike?’’

'Uh-uh. The closest I ever got to ancient Egypt was doing a little overtime at the Tut exhibit. And that was years ago.’’

'Oh, you've been a lot closer to ancient Egypt than that.’’ Vicki smiled. She never thought she'd be grateful he'd cultivated the woman. ’’What about your friend, Dr. Shane?’’

'Rachel?’’

'If there's anyone left in the city who'll know,’’ Vicki pointed out, handing him the phone. ’’It's her.’’

Celluci shook his head. ’’I don't want to bring more civilians into this. The danger?’’

'Tawfik is at his weakest now,’’ Henry said quietly. ’’If Dr. Shane can't help us stop him before he completes his power base, then you won't be able to keep her safe, not from what's likely to come.’’

'Rachel? It's Mike. Mike Celluci. I need to ask you a couple of questions.’’

She laughed and doodled a sarcophagus in the margin of the acquisition report she'd been spending the evening with. ’’What? Don't I even get dinner this time?’’

'Sorry, but no.’’

Something in his voice drew her up straight in the chair. ’’It's important?’’

'Very. Did the ancient Egyptians have specific dates when the priests of dark gods would perform important ceremonies?’’

'Well, there were very specific dates set during the calendar year for the rites of Set.’’

'No, we're not looking for their version of Christmas or Easter?’’

'Hardly that, Set is a dark god.’’

'Yeah. Well, it's not Set we're concerned about. If one of the lesser dark gods needed to hold an unscheduled rite, when would it happen?’’

'It might help if you gave me some idea of why you needed to know.’’

'I'm sorry, I can't tell you.’’

Why did she know he was going to say that? ’’Well, it could happen any time, I suppose, but a dark rite would most likely be held during the dark of the moon, when the eye of Thoth is out of the sky. And probably at midnight, when Ra, the sun god, has been out of the world for the longest time, and will still be gone for an equal amount of time.’’

'Where?’’

She blinked. ’’I beg your pardon?’’

'Where would the rite be held?’’

'Does this god of yours not have a temple?’’

'The rite involves creating a temple.’’

Involves creating a temple? Present tense? Police work in Toronto was stranger than she thought. ’’Then the rite would have happened wherever the priest wanted the temple to be.’’

From the sound of his voice, his teeth were clenched. ’’I was afraid you were going to say that. Thanks, Rachel. You've been a help.’’

'Mike?’’ The pause before he answered told her she'd barely caught him before he hung up. ’’Will you tell me why you needed to know this when you've finished whatever you're working on?’’

'Depends.’’

'On?’’

'On who wins.’’

Rachel laughed at the melodrama as she settled the receiver back on the phone. Perhaps she should see Detective-Sergeant Celluci again;he was certainly more interesting than academics and bureaucrats.

'Depends on who wins,’’ she repeated, bending back over the report. ’’He even sounded like he meant it.’’ The sudden chill that brushed against the fine hair on her neck, she credited to an overactive imagination.

Vicki turned to look out the window and frowned. ’’It's the dark of the moon tonight.’’

'How do you know?’’ Celluci asked. ’’Maybe the moon's behind a cloud?’’

'I start my period two days after the dark of the moon. It's Tuesday. I start Thursday.’’

Hard to argue with. ’’Yeah, but the dark of the moon happens once a month,’’ Celluci pointed out.

'Tawfik said soon.’’ She wrapped her arms around her body and winced as the motion pulled one of her multiple bruises into a painful position. ’’It's tonight.’’

'We're in no shape to take him on tonight.’’

'You mean I'm not. We don't have a choice.’’

Celluci knew better than to argue with that tone. ’’Then we still have to find him.’’

'He must have told you something, Henry.’’ The city stretched out below her, offering a thousand possibilities. ’’What else did he say?’’

'Nothing about the location of a temple.’’

'Wasn't there something about a mountaintop?’’ Celluci asked.

'In a manner of speaking. He said, 'With no need to hide, I will shout Akhekh from the top of the highest mountain.'’’

'Well, we're a little short of mountains in this part of the country. High or low.’’

'No.’’ Both of Vicki's hands pressed flat against the glass as she suddenly realized what had caught her attention. ’’No. We aren't. Look.’’

Her tone pulled both men to her side without questions. Her eyes were wide, her breathing labored, and her heart beating so hard, Henry was almost afraid for her.

'What are we looking at?’’ he asked softly.

'The tower. Look at the tower.’’

The CN Tower rose at the foot of the city, a shadow against the stars. As they watched, a section of the revolving disk lit up as though a giant flashbulb had gone off inside. It only lasted for an instant, but the light left an afterimage on the eye like a film of grease.

'It could be anything.’’ Not even Celluci believed the protest, but he felt he had to make it. ’’There're often lights on the tower.’’

'It's him. He's up there. And I'm going to bring him down if I have to bring the whole goddamned tower down with him.’’

Up above the observation deck, two of the red airplane safety lights hovered strangely close together.

Almost like eyes.

Share Novel Blood Lines Chapter Fifteen

#Read#Novel#Blood#Lines#Chapter#Fifteen################