Blood Lines Chapter Fourteen


There were four messages on Henry's answering machine. Two were from Mike Celluci for Vicki. One was from someone named Dave Graham for Celluci;apparently nothing had changed. With a growing sense of unease, Henry wondered just what nothing referred to. The fourth message was from Tony, for him.

'Look, Henry, I know Victory says you're okay, but I want to hear it from you. Call me. Please. ’’

He'd barely hung up after reassuring the younger man when the phone rang.

'Fitzroy? Celluci. Have you heard from Vicki?’’

Henry's grip tightened on the receiver. The plastic groaned. ’’No,’’ he said quietly, ’’I haven't. Why?’’

'I've been trying to get her all day. When she contacts you, warn her to lay low. Cantree's got a warrant out for my arrest and he might have one for her.’’

Cantree. The man Henry had watched ensorcelled. According to Vicki, Celluci had been vocal about his belief in the mummy around the station so it wasn't surprising Tawfik had decided to silence him. Henry frowned. Tawfik had no contact with Vicki though.

'What does Vicki have to do with this?’’ he demanded.

'Cantree knows how close we are, Vicki and I.’’ The emphasis was unmistakably a deliberate dig. ’’He won't believe for a minute that I didn't give her all the details on something I felt that strongly about.’’

Henry fought his way through a wave of jealousy and barely made it out the other side. ’’How do we know he doesn't already have her?’’

'I gave Dave Graham, my partner, your number. If she's picked up, he'll let me know.’’

'Graham left a message. He says nothing's changed.’’

'Okay. Cantree doesn't have her. You stay put in case she calls. I'll stay in touch. Once we know she's safe, we can make plans.’’

'Do not presume, mortal?’’

'And don't bullshit me, Fitzroy. Can you find her?’’

Could he track the call of her blood, with so many other lives around? ’’No.’’

'Then stay put! Look,’’ Henry heard the effort it took for Celluci to force reason into his voice, ’’if you hit the streets, we'll have no way to pull together again. Vicki can take care of herself.’’

'Not against Tawfik.’’

'God damn it, Fitzroy, she's not up against Tawfik. He's using Cantree now to?’’

'What about Trembley?’’

'He didn't have his bully boys in place then. I know how these guys work. Once they have an organization set up, they don't dirty their own hands anymore.’’

'Tawfik is not some petty crime boss, Detective.’’ Henry bit the words off and spat them into the phone. ’’And you have no idea of how the mind of an immortal works.’’ Ignoring anything further Celluci had to say, and that seemed to be a great deal, Henry very carefully hung up the phone. Vicki lived. He would have felt the absence of her life.

Come to the corner where we first met, Tawfik had told him. And I will find you.

Find me, Henry thought back at the memory, give yourself up into my hands, and you will tell me where she is.

The world had taken on a tint of red.

For a few hours at least, it was over. Vicki lay back on her mattress and tried to relax her muscles enough to sleep. Although she regained more control with every hour, the twisted ridges across her back refused to unknot. She didn't blame them.

Angel Lambert was pretending to have slipped a few gears in order to get out of a trip to Kingston and the Women's Penitentiary. The right diagnosis would send her to the relative comfort of a hospital and a short time later back out on the streets. Her bragging had been very explicit. Of course, the bragging had come after Lambert had assured herself that Vicki hadn't been placed on the range as a police spy.

'Maybe they figure'd that 'cause you aren't on the force no more you'd be safe.’’ Arms crossed, Lambert had walked a slow circle around her new cell mate. Vicki tried to keep her in sight, nearly fell over, and gave up. ’’ 'Course, drug-gin'you seems to be goin'just a bit far.’’ Making sure Vicki saw what she was about to do, she lashed out, kicking Vicki hard in the calf, the toe of her sneaker sinking deep into the muscle.

Vicki tried to avoid the blow but couldn't get her leg to respond in time. She grunted in pain and made a grab for Lambert's throat.

Lambert leaned easily back out of the way. ’’Well, well, well. Got doped up and got yourself in trouble, eh? Heard the guard say you were in on a juvie skinbeef. You know what that means, don't you? They're not gonna care if you pick up a few bruises. In fact, they're hopin'you will. That's why you're in with us. We got us a bit of a rep for playin'rough.’’ She leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms, scratching a little at her biceps. ’’I saw your eyes when you recognized me, so I know you're in there. And I know what you're thinkin'. You're thinkin'that as soon as that drug wears off you're gonna clean my clock. Not a bad plan, you're bigger than me and you got all that fancy training, but,’’ she smiled, ’’I got something you don't. Natalie, come around where our new friend can see you.’’

At five ten, Vicki didn't look up at many women, but Natalie Wills was huge. Even slouched she had to top six feet;if she ever straightened up, she'd probably hit six six or six seven. Her frizzy halo of blonde hair emphasized the rounded curves of her face and her pale blue eyes bulged slightly out of the sockets. At some point in the past, her nose had been broken, at least once, and improperly set. Through the space between slack lips, Vicki could hear heavy adenoidal breathing. Her breasts and belly stretched the limits of the jail uniform. It looked and moved like fat but Vicki wasn't willing to give any odds that it actually was.

'Natalie's my friend,’’ Lambert purred. ’’Aren't you, Natalie?’’

Natalie nodded slowly, the corners of her mouth twisting up in what Vicki assumed was a smile.

'Natalie's very strong. Aren't you, Natalie?’’

Natalie nodded again.

'Why don't you show our new roommate how strong you are, Natalie. Pick her up.’’

Enormous hands closed around Vicki ’’s upper arms with a grip that painfully compacted muscle down onto bone. Her shoulders rose first, but the rest of her body soon followed until her feet were six inches off the floor.

Oh, great. Darth Vader in drag.

'Very good, Natalie. Now, shake her.’’

After the first few seconds, it seemed as though Vicki's brain had broken free of its moorings and was slamming around independently inside her skull.

'Drop her, Natalie.’’

The floor seemed much farther away than she knew it was. Her knees cracked painfully hard against the concrete and she fell forward, just barely managing to get an arm between her face and the floor. If she'd had anything in her stomach, she'd have lost it.

'You puking down there?’’ Lambert inquired, squatting down and grabbing Vicki's hair. ’’You puke in my cell and you lick it up.’’

'Uck uf.’’ Her voice still wasn't clear, but she figured Lambert got the point when her fist twisted around, nearly removing the handful of hair.

'Once that drug wears off, you'll be out of here next time the shrink's by. That'll be Wednesday at the earliest. You and me and Natalie, we're gonna have a fun two days.’’

Two days. I can take two days of anything.

But lying there, listening to Natalie's moist breathing, Vicki wondered if she could. It wasn't the physical abuse- if that got too bad, the guards would intervene, even for a skinbeef, and by morning she should be in better shape to defend herself-it was the sheer hopelessness of the situation. She'd been swept up and slotted neatly into the system and the system didn't like to admit it had made a mistake. The shrink would get her out of Special Needs, but that would only land her in another cell just like this one in another part of the jail. From there she could talk all she wanted, but her court date would never come up and like Lambert said, ’’Who the hell's gonna believe you? A cop gone bad;a juvie skinbeef, a doper. In here, I've got more credibility. ’’

It was almost as if she'd been dropped into her worst nightmare.

Two days in here, but how long until I'm out?

And what about Henry and Celluci? Had Henry betrayed her? Had Celluci been taken? Not knowing made everything worse.

Her eyes filled with moisture and she angrily blinked them dry. Then she frowned. Refracted in a tear, she seemed to see two tiny pinpoints of glowing red light. That was impossible. She couldn't see anything.

Although the cells went no darker than a gray and shadowed twilight, lights out for Vicki had meant the end of what little sight she had without her glasses. Lambert had quickly recognized the handicap and set about taking full advantage of it. Surprisingly enough, when there was no longer any point in struggling to see, Vicki found things a little easier. Sound and smell, and the movement of air currents against her skin were a lot more useful than her deteriorating vision had been although, unfortunately, not useful enough to avoid the constant attacks. Natalie could have played the game all night, but Lambert had soon gotten bored and ordered the larger woman to bed.

Natalie liked hurting people-her strength was the only power she had-and Lambert liked seeing people hurt. Vicki sighed silently. How nice for them that they've found each other.

She knew she needed sleep, but she didn't think she'd be able to find it;she ached in too many places, supper had congealed into a solid lump just under her ribs, the mattress seemed to be deliberately digging into her shoulders and hips, and the smell of the place coated the inside of her nose and mouth, making it hard to breathe. Mostly she didn't think she could sleep because despair kept chasing its tail around and around in her head.

Finally exhaustion claimed her and she drifted off to the sound of plastic against concrete as two cells down a woman struggled against padded shackles and banged the hockey helmet she wore over and over against the wall.

* * *

Henry's fingers tightened where they rested against the concrete light standard and under the pressure the concrete began to crumble.

Tawfik! Here I am!

'Hey, buddy, can you spare a?’’

Who dared? He turned.

'Holy Mary, Mother of God.’’ Under stubble and dirt, the drunk paled. His nightmares often wore that expression. One filthy arm raised to cover his eyes, he staggered away, muttering, ’’Forget it, man. Forget me.’’

He was already forgotten.

Henry had no time to spare on thoughts of mortals. He wanted Tawfik.

He could feel the Nightwalker's anger. The brilliance of his ka was aflame with it.

Find me!

He stood at the window and stared down at the street. Although the angle of the hotel cut through his line of sight, he knew exactly where young Richmond waited. His passion thrust his ka forward with such force that Tawfik barely had to reach out to touch it. Surface thoughts were still all that were open to him, but those thoughts boiled with enough raw emotion that, for tonight, the surface was entertaining enough.

'Such a small city this turns out to be,’’ he murmured, lightly touching the glass. ’’So you know my lord's plaything and the police officer who sent her to find me-who appears to be giving my hunting dogs a good run.’’ Tawfik suddenly remembered the doors he had been maneuvered past on his walk through the chosen one's mind and he smiled. Two of the doors had just given up their secrets. How noble that she had tried to protect those close to her. ’’I imagine all these little interconnections have twisted her up far worse than I ever could. My lord must be pleased.’’ If his lord even noticed;very often subtleties were ignored in favor of blind gorging. Tawfik sighed. He had realized long, long ago that he had sworn himself to a god without grandeur.

FIND ME!

'You can rant and rave all you like, Nightwalker. I am not going down there. You're not thinking right now, you're only reacting. Thoughts can be twisted. Reactions, especially from one with your physical power, should be avoided.’’

The Nightwalker, he was amused to note, had not grown beyond the possibility of love. How foolish, to love those who were fed upon. Like a mortal declaring himself for a cow or a chicken?

He took one last look at the burning, brilliant ka that he so desired and then closed his mind to it, removing temptation. ’’We'll straighten things out later,’’ he promised softly. ’’We have the time, you and I.’’

'Graham. What?’’

'Any word on Vicki?’’

Dave Graham raised himself up on his elbow and peered at the illuminated numbers of the clock. ’’Jesus Christ, Mike,’’ he hissed, ’’it's two o'clock in the f*king morning.'Can't it wait?’’

'What about Vicki?’’

Curling around the receiver so as not to wake his wife, Dave surrendered. ’’There's no warrant in the system. No one's got orders to pick her up. They're keeping an eye on her place, but they're watching for you.’’

'Then they've already got her.’’

'They who? Cantree?’’

'That's who he seems to be using.’’

'He?’’

'Never mind.’’

Dave sighed. ’’Look, maybe she's got nothing to do with this. Maybe she just went to Kingston to visit her mother.’’

'We were working on the same case.’’

'A police case?’’ Dave took the long silence that followed his question as an answer and sighed again. ’’Mike, Vicki's not on the force anymore. You're not supposed to do that.’’

'Have you talked to Cantree?’’

'Yeah, right after I talked to you this morning.’’

'And?’’

'And like I said in my message, nothing's changed. He still wants you. I don't know why. He said it had something to do with internal security, that I wasn't to ask questions, and all would be made clear later on. He's got me doing scut work out in Rexdale.’’

'Did he seem strange?’’

'F*k, Mike, this whole thing is strange. Maybe you should just come in and straighten it out. Cantree'll listen.’’

The bark of laughter held little humor. ’’The only hope the whole city, maybe the whole world has is that I don't get picked up and I don't go anywhere near Frank Can-tree.’’

'Right.’’ It was two o'clock in the morning;he had no intention of getting into conspiracy theories. ’’I'll keep ears and eyes open, but there's not much I can do.’’

'Anything you see or hear?’’

'I'll leave a message. Not that I'm likely to see or hear anything out west of God's country, I mean, we're talking Rexdale here. You'd better get going in case they've got a trace on this call? Mike? I was joking. Celluci? Christ?’’ He stared down at the receiver for a moment, then shook his head, hung up and wrapped himself around the soft, warm curves of his wife.

'Who was that?’’ she murmured.

'Celluci.’’

'What time is it?’’

'Just after two.’’

'Oh, God?’’ She burrowed deeper under the covers. ’’They catch him yet?’’

'Not yet.’’

'Pity.’’

By breakfast, Vicki had regained most of her muscle control;arms and legs moved when and where she wanted them to although the fine-tuning still needed work. Attempting to use her fingers for more than basic gripping of utensils was chancy and stringing more than two or three words together tied her tongue in knots. Thinking beyond her present situation, trying to analyze or plan, continued to wrap her brain in cotton, and thinking about her present situation did no good at all.

Without her glasses, breakfast was a heap of yellow and brown at the end of a fuzzy tunnel. It tasted pretty much exactly the way it looked.

She couldn't avoid eating sandwiched between her two cell mates, nor could she miss noticing how the other women on the range steered well clear of them, allowing them to move to the front of the food line as well as claim an entire pitcher of coffee. Natalie's strength combined with Lambert's viciousness placed them firmly on the top of the pecking order. The more coherent of the other inmates regarded Vicki with something close to relief, their expressions proclaiming not so much better you than me as at least when it's you it isn't me.

Protecting her food as well as herself turned out to be more than Vicki was capable of. Egged on by Lambert, Natalie lifted most of Vicki's breakfast and, under the cover of the rickety picnic table-that tilted alarmingly under every shift in weight-pinched her thigh black and blue. Natalie thought the whole thing was pretty funny. Vicki didn't, but the attacks came in from the side and she couldn't fight what she couldn't see. The meal became a painful and humiliating lesson in helplessness.

Locked back in the cell during cleanup, she kept her back against the wall and tried to force her eyes to function. Unfortunately, it didn't take Lambert long to map the limits of her vision. Trying to duck away from the wet end of a towel dipped in the toilet, Vicki felt a sudden kinship with those kids in school yards whom everyone picked on just because they could.

When they were let back out into the range, she groped her way past the row of tables and tried to talk to the guard. She knew where the duty desk should be even though she couldn't actually see it.

'Hey?’’

'Hey what?’’ The guard's voice offered nothing.

'Ine?’’

'No. No! NO! NOINO.'NO! NOOOOOO!’’

Natalie. Standing right behind her. Although she knew what the result would be, Vicki tried again. ’’You go?’’

'NO!NO!NO! NOOOOOO!’’

She didn't think of this on her own. Lambert put her up to it. Teeth clenched so tightly her jaw ached, Vicki was willing to bet that the noise would go on indefinitely.

'Look!’’ she finally screamed, as she shoved impotently at the woman bellowing a hundred and twenty decibel accompaniment to everything she said. ’’I don'belon'he'!’’

All at once iron rods slammed up against Vicki's face as Natalie shoved her, and for an instant the guard loomed into focus. It wasn't kon***son. It wasn't anyone Vicki knew.

'So tell the shrink,’’ she suggested. Her expression teetered between boredom and annoyance. ’’And back away from those bars.’’

'Mine for two days,’’ Lambert told her as Natalie led Vicki back to her side.

They spent the morning watching game shows. Vicki sat in a kind of stupor, thankful, given what she could hear over the noise of forty women in an area designed for eighteen, that she couldn't see the televisions. Middle America rejoicing in the glory of frost free refrigerators would've pushed her over the edge.

Lunch was a repeat of breakfast, although Natalie moved to her other side and therefore pinched her other thigh. A woman with a bad case of the d.t.''sthrew her plate against the bars and two others began screaming random profanity. Someone began to howl. Vicki kept her gaze locked firmly on her plate. Misery seasoned every mouthful.

After lunch, things quieted down as the soap operas came on. Lambert sat enthroned by the best of the four televisions with Natalie enforcing at least a localized silence.

'That's my husband, you know. That's my husband,’’ an elderly woman called pointing at the screen. ’’We have thirteen children and a dog and two?’’ A squawk of pain cut off the litany.

For the moment, Vicki appeared to have been forgotten. Moving carefully, she headed for the showers. Maybe if she scrubbed the stink of the place off she'd feel less wretched.

The concrete barricade that separated the showers from the common area rose from the floor to waist height and dropped from the ceiling to just above her shoulders. Everything in between was exposed to inmates and guards.

No one's going to be looking at your tits, Vicki, she told herself running one hand along the damp cement. You're just another piece of meat. No one cares.

A number of the stalls near the entrance were already full. In one, the flesh-colored blur separated itself out into two people. Anything that happened below the level of the barricades happened in as close to privacy as was available.

Stripping off shoes and pants and underwear wasn't so bad, but the flesh on Vicki's back crawled as she shrugged out of the shirt, and pulling the T-shirt up over her head left her feeling more exposed and vulnerable than she ever had in her life. She hurried in under the minimal protection the water offered.

Lost in the heat and the pounding of the spray, she almost convinced herself that she was safe at home and just for that moment things didn't seem so hopeless.

'Good idea, Nelson, but you shouldn't be by yourself. You're still unsteady on your pins and sometimes people fall in the shower. Terrible place. So easy to get hurt.’’

Lambert. And, as usual, not alone.

Vicki tried to twist her arm out of Natalie's grip. Natalie's answering twist nearly dislocated her elbow. The pain shot scarlet flames up behind her eyes and burned the fog away. Despair turned suddenly to anger.

She didn't stand a chance. She didn't care.

It didn't last long.

'What the hell is going on in there?’’

'Nothing, boss,’’ Lambert purred. ’’My buddy fell down.’’ Below the guard's line of sight, her foot pressed lightly on Vicki's throat.

'She okay?’’

'Fine, boss.’’

'Then pick her up and get out of there.’’

Natalie giggled, reached down, and pinched Vicki's stomach. Hard.

Vicki flinched but ignored it. Her head still rang from its violent contact with the tiles, but for the first time in what seemed like centuries, she was thinking clearly. Lambert and Wills were minor annoyances, no more. Her enemy was a three-thousand-year-old mummy who'd taken the law and twisted it and trapped her in the spiral he'd created. He was going to pay for that. She didn't know who he'd hurt to find her, Henry or Celluci, but he was going to pay for that, too. In order to make him pay, she had to be free and if the system wouldn't free her, then she'd have to do it herself.

'Thank you,’’ she muttered absently, as Natalie dragged her upright.

People had broken out of detention centers before.

* * *

'Another beautiful day in the Metro West Detention Center. Thanks, guys, we can take her from here.’’

The young woman fought against the shackles, hissing and spitting like a large cat. The guards ignored her, hooked their hands under her arms and dragged her away.

'F*king pigs!’’ she shrieked. ’’You're nothing but f*king pigs and I hope I f*king knocked your goddamned tooth out!’’

Dave Graham sighed and turned to face his temporary partner. ’’Did she?’’

'Nah,’’ Detective Carter Aiken dabbed at the corner of his mouth and winced as his palm came away covered in blood, ’’but she split my lip.’’

'Not a bad right cross.’’

Aiken snorted. ’’Easier to appreciate it from your angle. There's a crapper at the end of the hall, I'll be right back.’’

'What're you going to do, stick your head in the toilet?’’

'Who said anything about my head?’’ Aiken sucked the blood off his teeth and his brows rose dramatically. ’’I've had to piss since we left division.’’

Dave laughed as the other man disappeared around the corner and leaned back against the wall. He liked Aiken. He wished they'd met under better circumstances. He wished he knew what the hell was going on.

'Well, hello, stranger.’’

He straightened and turned. The Auxiliary Sergeant with her arms full of computer printout looked familiar but? ’’Hania? Hania Wojotowicz? Hot damn! When did you make sergeant?’’

She laughed. ’’Six weeks ago. Actually, six weeks, two days, four hours and,’’ she checked her watch, nearly losing the pile of papers, ’’eleven minutes. But who's counting. What are you doing way out here? Where's Mike?’’

Obviously, she hadn't heard about Celluci. Fine with him, he was getting tired of talking about it. ’’Temporary duty. You know how it is. What about you?’’

'Detention's having a little trouble with the OMS. Their computer program,’’ she continued when he looked blank, ’’the Offender Management System. I've come to try and straighten it out.’’

'If anyone can do it?’’ When they'd first met, Hania had been brought in to crunch the data gathered as part of a massive manhunt after a homicide down in Parkdale. As far as he was concerned, what she could do with a computer should be filed somewhere between magic and miracle. Even Celluci, who'd been heard to suggest that all silicon should go back to the beach where it belonged, had been favorably impressed. ’’How bad is it?’’

Hania shrugged. ’’Not very. In fact, I've done my part, all that's left is for someone to enter all this,’’ a nod of her head indicated the printouts she carried, ’’back into the system.’’

'Good lord, that'll take days.’’

'Not really, most of this paper is blank. It's all personal possession lists and not many people book in here with luggage. Well, there are exceptions?’’ She flipped a page back and grinned. ’’Listen to this. Four pens, four pencils, a black magic marker, a plastic freezer bag containing six folded empty plastic freezer bags, a brush, a comb, a cosmetic case containing a lipstick and two tampons, seven marbles in a cotton bag, a set of lock picks in a leather folder, a magnifying glass in a protective case, three notebooks half full, one notebook empty, a package of tissues, a package of condoms, a package of birth control pills, a screwdriver, a Swiss Army knife, a fish-shaped water pistol, cotton swabs, tweezers, a pair of needlenose pliers, a pair of wrapped surgical gloves, a small bottle of ethyl alcohol, a high-powered flashlight with four extra batteries, two u-shaped nails, $12.73 in assorted change, and a half-eaten bag of cheese balls. Now I ask you, what kind of weirdo carries all that in her purse?’’

It took Dave a moment to find his voice. ’’No ID?’’ he managed at last.

'Not a thing. Not so much as a Visa statement. Probably pitched it just before she got picked up. They do sometimes, but you know that.’’

'Yeah.’’ They did sometimes. He didn't think they had this time. ’’Who do they say belongs to all this?’’

'They don't. But I can find out for you.’’ She started down the hall. ’’Come on, there's a terminal in here we can use.’’

He followed blindly. He knew exactly what kind of weirdo carried all that in her purse.

'Dave? Detective-Sergeant Graham? Are you listening to me?’’

'Yeah. Sorry.’’ Except he wasn't. He couldn't hear anything over Celluci's voice saying, ’’Then they've already got her.’’

'Fitzroy? Celluci. I'm assuming that if you'd managed to find Vicki last night you'd have changed your message to let me know.’’ And if you found her and didn't change the message, the tone continued, I'm going to rip your head off. ’’Stay put tonight. At least until I call. I'm going to try to get into her apartment and have a look around-no one disappears without leaving some kind of evidence-but after that we need to talk. We're going to have to work together to find her.’’ The last statement landed like a thrown gauntlet even through the tiny speaker of the answering machine.

In spite of everything, Henry smiled. You need my help, mortal man. Time you admitted it.

'Hi, Henry, it's Brenda. Just a reminder that we need Love's Labor Lashed, or whatever you've decided to name it, by the fifteenth. We've got Aliston signed to do the cover on this one and he promises no purple eye shadow. Call me.’’

'Celluci? Dave Graham. It's quarter after four, Tuesday, November third?’’

It was now six twelve, eight minutes after sunset.

'? Call me the instant you get this message;I'll be home all evening.’’ His voice grew strained, as though he couldn't really believe what he was saying. ’’I think I've found her. It isn't good.’’

Henry's fingers closed around the chair back and with a loud crack the carved oak splintered into a half dozen pieces. He stared down at the wreckage without really seeing it. This man on the phone, this David Graham, knew where Vicki was. If he wanted the information, he would have to take the message to Michael Celluci.

The police in the unmarked car were easy to avoid. They appeared to have little interest in the job they were doing and paid the shifting shadows just back of the sidewalk no attention at all. As for getting into the apartment itself, well, he had a key. The door opened quietly before him and closed as quietly behind. He stood silently in the entryway and listened to the life that moved about at the end of the hall. The heartbeat pounded faster than it should and the breath was short and almost labored. The blood scent dominated, but fear and anger and fatigue layered over it in equal proportions.

He walked forward and paused at the edge of the living room. Although it was very dark, he could see the kneeling man clearly.

'I have a message for you,’’ he said, and took a perverse pleasure in the sudden jump of the heartbeat.

'Jesus H. Christ,’’ Celluci hissed, surging to his feet and glaring down at Henry. ’’Don't do that! You weren't there a second ago! And besides, I thought I told you?’’

Henry merely looked up at him.

Celluci pushed the curl of hair back off his forehead with a trembling hand. ’’All right, you have a message.’’ His eyes widened. ’’Is it from Vicki?’’

'Are you ready to hear it?’’

'God damn you!’’ Celluci grabbed the lapels of Henry's leather trench coat and tried to drag him off his feet. He couldn't budge the smaller man although that took a moment to sink in. ’’Damn you!’’ he swore again, anchoring his grip more firmly in the leather. ’’If it's from Vicki, tell me!’’

The pain in the detective's voice got through where anger alone wouldn't have and shame followed close behind. What am I doing? Almost gently, Henry pulled Celluci's hands off his coat. She won't love me more for hurting you. ’’The message was from Dave Graham. He wants you to call him at home. He says he thinks he's found her.’’

One breath, two, three;Celluci groped blindly for the phone, the darkness no longer a protection but an enemy to be fought. Henry reached out and guided his hands, then moved quickly to the extension in the bedroom as he dialed.

'Dave? Where is she?’’

Dave sighed. Henry heard the soft flesh of his lower lip compressed between his teeth. ’’Metro West Detention Center. At least, I think it's her.’’

'Didn't you check!’’

'Yeah, I checked.’’ From the sound of his voice, Detective-Sergeant Graham still didn't believe what he'd found. ’’I better start at the beginning?’’ He told how he'd run into Hania Wojotowicz and how she'd listed the contents of the purse, how she'd called up the inmate file, how the description had fit Vicki Nelson even though the name had said Terri Hanover. ’’They picked her up on a skinbeef, Mike, against a twelve-year-old boy. You've never read such a crock of shit. She was on something, they don't know what, so they stuck her in Special Needs.’’

'They drugged her! The bastards drugged her!’’

'Yeah. If it's her.’’ But he didn't sound like he had any doubts. ’’Who are they, Mike? What the f*k is going on?’’

'I can't tell you. Where is she exactly-now?’’

The pause said Dave knew exactly why Celluci asked. ’’She's still in Special Needs,’’ he said at last. ’’D Range. Cell three. But I didn't actually see her. They wouldn't let me onto the range. I don't know it's her.’’

'I do.’’

'This has gone too far.’’ He swallowed, once, hard. ’’I'm talking to Cantree tomorrow.’’

'No! Dave, you talk to Cantree about any of this and you'll be ass deep in it with the rest of us. Just keep your mouth shut for a little while longer. Please.’’

'A little while longer,’’ Dave repeated and sighed again. ’’All right, partner, how long?’’

'I don't know. Maybe you should take that vacation time you've got coming.’’

'Yeah. Maybe I should.’’

The quiet click as Dave Graham hung up his end of the line sounded through the apartment.

Henry came out of the bedroom and the two men stared at each other.

'We have to get her out,’’ Celluci said. He could see only a pale oval of face in the darkness. I'll do anything I must to get her out no matter how little I like it. I'll even work with you because I need your strength and speed.

'Yes,’’ Henry agreed. The ’’detention centers’’ I know are centuries in the past. I need your knowledge. My feelings here are not important;she is.

The silent subtext echoed so loudly between them it was amazing it didn't alert the police watching the building and bring them racing inside.

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