"Are you talking about killing the ones that won't take the oath? Anita, they've got rights."
"I know that, Zerbrowski, better than most." I was cursing Malcolm, cursing him for the mess he'd started. Even if the murderers weren't his people, it was only a matter of time. Vampires are not people, they don't think like people. I realized that Malcolm was trying to do with the Church of Eternal Life what Richard had tried to do with the Thronnos Rokke Clan. Both of them were trying to treat the monsters like they were just people. They weren't. God help us, but they weren't.
Jean-Claude whispered, "We will need to send envoys to the church and see how bad it truly is."
I didn't answer, because I was pretty sure who one of the envoys would be. Me.
I started up the ladder, and only when Zerbrowski whistled did I remember what I was wearing under the skirt. "Blake, you have a very nice..."
"Don't say it, Zerbrowski."
"Because if you say it, I'll put you on the ground."
"Ass," he said.
"I warned you," I said.
When we were both on solid ground, I footswept him into a convenient patch of mud. He cursed me, everyone laughed. He said, "I'll tell Katie you were mean to me."
"She'll be on my side." And she would be. In fact, I knew Katie Zerbrowski well enough to know that her husband wouldn't tell her he'd told me I had a nice ass. She'd consider it rude.
Jean-Claude's echo in my head was, but you do. I told him to shut up, too, and this time he listened. "Dawn is near, and I must rest. We will speak again when I wake."
"Pleasant dreams," I whispered.
"The dead do not dream, ma petite." And he was gone.
The security guy hadn't liked stripping. I told him he could do it in privacy with just me and the nice officers watching, or he could do it on one of the stages. His choice. He'd looked like he didn't believe me, but wasn't willing to risk it. He was clean, no vamp bites. On the one hand, shit, because a master vamp is harder to catch, harder to keep, and harder to kill. On the other hand, great, because the list of vamps that could do this was pretty small. Or it was if I understood the deal between Malcolm and Jean-Claude. Okay, technically it had been a deal struck between Malcolm and Nikolaos, the old Master of the City. Having met her, hell, having killed her, I'd sympathized with vamps flocking to the church and not wanting to owe her a damn thing. But Jean-Claude had honored her treaty with the church, on a few conditions. One, no master-level vamps allowed in town without running it by Jean-Claude. So either Malcolm had reneged on the deal, or he didn't know that he had someone that powerful in his community. Or neither Malcolm nor Jean-Claude had felt someone that powerful enter their territory. If that last were true, we were in deep, deep trouble, because that would raise the power level to something none of us would want to deal with.
Or had Jean-Claude approved a master for Malcolm without understanding that there would be no blood oath to keep control of it? I had so many questions that my head hurt, and no way of getting them answered until Jean-Claude woke for the day. I drove back to St. Louis in dawn's early light, happy I had sunglasses with me. Happy that I wasn't driving directly east. The indirect brightness was bad enough.
The Circus was closer than my own house, so that's where I went. I bunked there sometimes to have a date with Jean-Claude, but often just because it was closer to crash. My eyes were so tired they burned, and my body had that achiness that feels almost like you're sick, but is just your body using up all its reserves to keep you awake and moving.
I pulled into the employee parking lot of Circus of the Damned at nearly 8:30 in the morning. There were three other cars in the lot. One was Jason's, and I didn't know the others on sight. But it had to be people who didn't just work here, but also lived here, and knew how to drive. That narrowed it down. I thought Meng Die drove, and maybe Faust, but I just wasn't sure, and was too tired to care.
I walked across the parking lot in the fast growing light, and fought off an urge to hunch my shoulders. I used my key on the back door, and I pushed my way into the blessed dimness of a storage room.
I locked the door behind me, leaning against it for a second or two. Not long ago there hadn't been a lock on the back door at all, you had to have someone let you in, but I'd had them put in a better door, reinforced steel, with a lock. Without the lock they'd had to keep someone in a little lookout up near the roof. The lookout would send someone down if the person at the door needed in. I said it seemed silly, since there was a lock on the outer doors in front. It just made it harder for the employees to get in, and besides there was a small window just before dawn when sometimes the lookout was empty, and that was often when I was trying to get inside. Banging on the door at dawn just got discouraging.
I made sure the door was secure behind me, then I wound my way through the boxes that were always there, to the big door that led to the stairs. The stairs went down, a long way down. I was tired enough that if there'd been an elevator I would have taken it. But there wasn't. The stairs were actually part of the defenses of the Circus. One, it was a lot of stairs, so you had to be fairly serious to go down them. Two, there were places along the way that we could set up ambushes if we needed to. Three, the stairs were oddly made, as if whatever they'd originally been made for hadn't walked on two legs, or at least hadn't been the size of a human being. If you didn't know what awaited you down below, you might start wondering what used these stairs. Actually, just vamps and wereanimals, but our enemies didn't know that. Jean-Claude encouraged the rumors that there were other things down here, bigger, less human things. Fine with me, keep your enemies scared and guessing.
By the time I got to the big iron door at the bottom, my vision was blurry from lack of sleep. I dragged my keys back out. The key to this door wasn't hard to find. It was the only huge, old-fashioned key on the ring. It looked like a giant among dwarves compared to the modern keys.
I put the key in, and the lock moved, smooth and well-oiled. The hinges were just as quiet, though probably if I had only been human strong I might have had to struggle with the weight of the door. It was meant to withstand battering by bigger things than hands.
I closed it behind me, and locked it, and set the big bar in place. If anyone else was dragging their ass in this late, they were out of luck. But you were usually safe this far after dawn to set the bigger lock in place. The fact that it hadn't been set probably meant Jean-Claude had figured I'd come here for the day.
I passed through the long, silky curtains that formed the walls of the living room. I actually didn't give much attention to the gold and white and silver furniture, or the painting above the faux fireplace. Sleep was the only thing on my mind, now that the outer door was locked.
I went to Jean-Claude's room, but I should have known better. I found him and Asher curled under the sheets. Both of them beautiful in death as in life. Asher's golden waves lay like metallic foam upon a white pillow. His eyes were closed, so I couldn't see his pale blue eyes, like the eyes of a Siberian husky. As pale a blue as Jean-Claude's were a dark blue. Asher lay on his side, so that the unscarred side of his face was up to the light. They'd left a light on for me, probably. Without a light, the room was dark as a cave. No windows. Jean-Claude lay spooning against Asher's back, one arm over the other man's waist, his hand trailing along the scars on the right side of Asher's body. Asher had been the blond beauty to Jean-Claude's brunette once, then some well-meaning church officials had captured him and used holy water to drive the devil out of him. Holy water acts on vampire flesh like acid on ours. Those same officials had burned Asher's human servant and love, Julianna, at the stake. Christianity is a fine religion, but some of the things done in the name of it aren't so nice.
I touched Jean-Claude's face, moved a stray lock of his hair behind one pale shoulder. His skin was cool to the touch, and would just get colder. I kissed Asher's forehead, and it was like kissing the dead. Vampires didn't sleep at dawn, they died. They truly were animated corpses. I just wasn't sure what exactly animated them.
I couldn't sleep in the bed with two corpses. The cooling flesh just creeped me out. I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to sleep with a vampire, I mean really sleep. Which left me wondering what bed to use. If there'd been a couch in the room, I would have used it, but there wasn't. Until I'd asked, there hadn't even been chairs. When you've got a bed this big, I guess who wants to sit in a chair?