Kitty Saves the World Page 13

“There’s not enough room for all of us in the Jeep—”

“I’ll follow you down, in the Jeep.”

The Jeep had Cormac’s stash of surprises; of course he wouldn’t leave it behind. He arranged things the way he liked while we watched. “I just need a couple more things.”

We went with him back up to his apartment. Turned out, Cormac had collected his weapons. Now Amelia had to collect hers.

Cormac stood back from the table, his arms crossed, frowning under his mustache. The items seemed arcane to me—of course they did. Leather bags filled with who knew what, a couple of books, several amulets on chains laid out. A metal box with the lid open. I stepped forward to see what he’d taken from it, items that had obviously caught his attention.

One was a bronze coin strung on a leather cord, damaged by slashes and hatch marks beaten into it with a hammer. One of the coins of Dux Bellorum, talismans that Roman gave to his followers to identify them, to mark them. I was pretty sure this one had belonged to Kumarbis, the three-thousand-year-old vampire who’d created Roman.

The second item was a pair of goggles, dark glass set in leather on a well-worn strap.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked.

“Yep.”

I’d ripped those goggles off the head of a demon. A real, honest-to-badness demon summoned from some other realm to wreak havoc, an imposing warrior woman with more weapons slung about her person than even Cormac could manage. I was sure she was working for Roman—or for whomever Roman was working for.

Dux Bellorum—the leader of war, the general. But as Cormac once said, who was the Caesar?

“Have you figured out if they do anything?”

“Nope,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t.”

I picked them up. Didn’t put them on, because that would have felt really weird—best not meddle with items stolen from very dangerous demon women. But I held them to the window, looking distantly through the shaded lenses. They were almost opaque. I couldn’t see a thing.

“You want to see what Tina makes of ’em?” Cormac asked, nodding at the psychic.

I offered them to her. Wisely, she approached with caution. “You want to tell me about them first?”

“I’m more interested in what you can tell me,” Cormac answered.

She raised her hand, and I set the goggles across her palm. She wouldn’t close her fingers around them. Eyes shut, her brow furrowed and her lips pursed. Not just worried, she seemed almost in pain.

“No,” she murmured. “I don’t think I want to go there.” She hurried to set them back on the table, then backed away. Hugging herself, she shivered.

Cormac shrugged and put them back into the box.

I didn’t recognize the third item on the table. It was a Maltese cross, a couple of inches across, made of polished bronze, simple and roughly made, strung on a leather cord.

“What’s that?” I asked.

He held it up. It glinted in the faint morning light coming in through the window blinds. “That is an amulet that turns magic spells back on themselves.”

Huh. “That sounds useful.”

“Yeah, could be.”

“And where did you pick that up?”

He turned a rare, wry grin. “Long story,” he said. Experience told me that was all I was going to get out of him.

He considered the items on the table for another long moment, and finally murmured softly. If I hadn’t been a werewolf I wouldn’t have heard it at all. “Bring everything. We never know what we’ll need, so bring it all.” The diction was careful, formal, different from his usual curt speech. “Right, then, in you all go.” He—she—packed the items back into the lockbox.

Tina leaned close to me. “That’s Amelia, isn’t it? That’s who I’m pretending to be?” Her daunted expression no doubt came from thinking about trying to replicate that precise, old-school diction.

“Just be yourself,” Cormac said, and it was definitely him this time, brusque and to the point. “Roman won’t know the difference.”

She seemed thoughtful. “It’s not straightforward possession, is it? There are two people there, two beings. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Amelia and I worked out a deal,” he said.

“Deal—what kind of deal?”

Cormac was loading items from the table—the lockbox, various satchels of crystal and herbs and jars presumably containing potions and whatnot—into a duffel bag and pretended to ignore her. Tina knew better than to push.

We piled outside while Cormac put on his leather jacket, took one last look around the apartment, and locked the door behind him.

I was about to call Hardin when her car, an unmarked sedan, pulled into the parking lot. I went out to meet her.

“This feels like the start of a movie where everything goes horribly wrong,” she said in greeting. She had both hands wrapped tight around a tall cup of coffee. She smelled of office work, too much coffee, breath mints.

“It does, doesn’t it?” I said, grinning. “You’re just in time to get in on deciding what car you want to ride in.”

“Tina’s with me,” Cormac said. “We can figure out just how we’re going to play this.”

That meant the rest of us were not with him.

“Detective Hardin, I don’t know if you remember Tina McCannon?”

Prev Next