"Hello?" she said. "Police? You need to send a patrol car to–"
Myrnin took the phone away from her with a casual swipe of his hand and said, "Never mind. Everything’s fine now, no problem at all. Thank you for protecting and serving. Please don’t mind her at all." And hung up.
"Hey!" Claire lunged for the phone. He held it up out of her reach.
"If you send human police after him, they’ll be handy snacks," he said. "And they will also die, if they’re lucky. Come on." He grabbed her wrist and dragged her along at a quick-march pace. He was using a little bit more force than he should have, and Claire tried not to wince. She’d already been grabbed way too much at that particular collection of bones.
"What just happened?" she asked. "And don’t tell me it was just a random vamp attack."
"It wasn’t," he said. "And we’ll talk when we’re there. Not before."
They were coming up on the guard checkpoint now, and the uniformed policeman stepped out to give them a once-over. He nodded and waved them on. Myrnin didn’t even slow down, so neither did Claire.
"Where are we going?"
"To talk to Jason, obviously."
"I believe it’s connected. Jason is a pawn on the board, and we need to confirm just whose pawn he is. It’s thought that you might be able to extract that information from him."
"Wait–you…you want me tointerrogate him?"
"Talk to him. You established a rapport with him before; he may say things to you he would not to vampires. As a fellow human, you’re already advantaged."
"Let’s just say that he’s developed a deep distrust of vampire kind."
"What the hell did you do to him?"
Myrnin didn’t look at her. Now they were walking down a wide sidewalk, spacious, framed by tall dark trees on both sides. Pretty in daylight. A prime ambush place in the dark. But there were vampires out strolling in the moonlight, living their lives in an entirely weird and alien sort of way from what she knew.
Here, that awful skeletal thing wouldn’t attack. It wouldn’t dare.
She suddenly, badly, wanted to be back home.
"Myrnin? Whatwas that?"
He didn’t say another word, all the way to the building where Jason was being held.
Being in a vampire stronghold, essentially alone, was horribly unnerving…especially since Claire realized that she’d sneaked out a window, and nobody, not even Shane, knew where she was. That hadn’t been the best plan ever, probably.Note to self: in the future, leave an I-know-who-killed-me message. Morbid, but practical, at least in her social circles.
This wasn’t the clean, sterile confines of the building where Amelie had her offices–although that was funeral-home creepy–but a different building, a windowless structure that didn’t have the chilly elegance of marble and thick carpeting. It was more…functional. Bare walls. Harsh lights. Plain floors.
And it smelled like disinfectant, which was very frightening.
There was a plain wooden desk in the entry hall, and a vampire Claire recognized–one who’d originally had dark skin, but vampire life had lightened it to an unsettling ashen gray. He was blind in one eye, and when he saw her, he smiled, all teeth.
She’d first met him in the library at Texas Prairie University, and he’d tried to kill her. Not a very nice vampire at all, in her experience.
"It’s the apprentice vampire hunter," he said. "Good. I was getting hungry. Thanks for bringing me lunch."
"She’s with me, John," Myrnin said, and waggled his finger. "No snacking. And, besides, you’d have to ask Amelie’s permission first. Which you wouldn’t get, you know. You’re on probation for your last, ah, incident concerning a Morganville resident with a pulse."
The vampire shrugged and looked disappointed. "Fine. What do you want?"
"None of your business, John. Just do your job and be quiet," Myrnin said, and pulled her along. "This way."
They passed through avery thick steel door, one that slammed shut with a finality that made Claire shiver, and then through a series of barred gates that looked thick enough to discourage even vampires. Some were warped. Some even had fingerprints pressed into the metal where vamps had tried to bend it. Unsuccessfully, it looked like.
They all locked behind her, cutting off any possibility of retreat. Yeah, that note she didn’t leave was
looking more important all the time. Claire furtively eased her cell phone from her pants pocket and checked the reception.
Zero bars. Of course. She couldn’t even text for help.
Myrnin glanced back at her as they walked down the long, featureless hallway. Well,featureless was wrong–it was meant to be featureless, but, in fact, it had all kinds of scratches, gouges, and chunks torn out of it. Probably by people and vampires struggling to get free. Definitely not design features, because one of the gouges held a spark of red that, as Claire looked closer, became a torn-off, red-painted fingernail tip.
"Are you all right?" he asked her. She nodded, determined not to show him how unnerved she felt. "It’s just down here."
He paused in front of just another doorway, one without a knob. It had a keypad next to it, and Myrnin entered some numbers and pressed his thumb to a glass plate. The door popped open with a hiss of air, as if it had been pressurized inside.
No sound at all, other than that.
Myrnin swung it open and stepped inside first–in case, Claire guessed, Jason was waiting with some blunt object, or, knowing Jason, a sharp one. But he needn’t have bothered, because Jason was sitting braced against the wall, knees up, on the small, narrow prison bed. He was dressed in glaring white hospital scrubs, stenciled with the word prisoner on the front and, she supposed, the back.
He looked up at them, expressionless. Beneath the tangled mop of dark hair, his face was still and set, his eyes as blank as stones.
"Hey, Jason," Claire said. She sounded nervous. Well, she was. "Is it okay if I sit down?" The only place to sit was on the bed. Jason didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no, either, so she sank down on the end farthest from him. "Are you okay?"
He shrugged. It was just a very, very small movement of his shoulders, hardly anything at all. His dead-looking eyes moved quickly toward Myrnin, then back to her.
Jason was dangerous; she knew that. She’s seen him hurt Shane; she’d seen him do worse than that, too.If I get up and leave, nobody would blame me, she thought.Not even Eve.
But the thought of Eve, crying and miserable, made Claire find the last, fraying threads of resolve and hang on tight. She looked at Myrnin, who was standing in the corner, near the door. "Would you mind waiting out there?" she asked him.
"Outside of this room."
"You’re quite certain."
She wasn’t, but she nodded, anyway.It’s a sad day when Myrnin is the safe choice, she thought. Apparently, he thought so, too, because he gave her a long, troubled look before pressing his thumb to a glass plate inside the room and opening the door.
After it had closed behind him, Claire looked back at Jason. "Better?"
For a second, she thought she saw a ghost of a bitter little smile, but it was gone before she could be sure. "You think they’re not watching?" he asked.
"I’m pretty sure they are. Sorry."
He shrugged again. "Doesn’t matter. Why are you here?"
"Myrnin brought me."
"He thought I’d talk to you."
"Yeah, I guess."
Jason slowly shook his head. "Got nothing to say."
"Jason–this is serious. This isn’t just something that’s going to land you in jail for a while. This ismurder . InTexas. They don’t fool around in this state, never mind in this town."
This time, she didn’t even get a shrug. Just a blank stare.
"They want to know who put you up to it. Who hired you to steal the blood back from Doug?"
"The guy you killed," she said, staring him straight in the eyes. "My friend."
That made him flinch, just a little. Barely a shiver, but there. "Sorry," he said. He didn’t sound particularly sorry, though. "You’ve got the wrong guy. Didn’t do it."
"They’re pretty sure you did."
"They’re always sure, but that doesn’t mean they know. You think they care who actually did it? Their idea of justice is to haul in the usual dickheads and throw somebody to the wolves. Doesn’t matter who it is."