"What's wrong?" Micah whispered, as if he'd felt some tension in me.
I touched the silky warmth of the skin just inside Nathaniel's hip, that soft pocket of flesh that frames the groin. Nathaniel's hand on mine, holding me close to him, as his breathing evened back into deep sleep. I snuggled in against him, until my breath danced along his neck, and he snuggled harder against me. "Nothing," I whispered, "nothing at all."
Micah spooned himself in at my back. His arm going underneath my pillow, and a little under Nathaniel's. Micah's other arm went over my waist, and because Nathaniel was so close to me, his hand ended up resting on Nathaniel's hip. "Ah," he whispered, "no clothes."
"No clothes," I said.
He whispered against the back of my neck, and it half-tickled. "That a problem?"
"No," I said, and moved my head a fraction down my pillow so I could breathe in the scent of Nathaniel's neck.
"Yeah." And I was, because it felt too right to be wrong.
The raid on the vampire condo got national attention. A mixed blessing. Headlines ranged from "Condo of Death," to "Police Raid Ends Vampire Serial Killer's Rampage," or the most popular, "Vampires turned serial killers, next on Channel..." The reports were so similar it didn't much matter what local channel it was on. I just stopped answering my phone for a few days. The interview requests were national, and a few international. I wondered if anyone on Mobile Reserve was getting this much attention. If they were, I hoped they were enjoying it more than I was.
DNA came back, and my worst fears were confirmed. Three of the vamps killed matched the earlier victims' bites, but that left us with five unaccounted for. Five serial killers still at large. Serial killers don't stop killing, not unless they're locked up, or permanently dead.
They'd fled St. Louis, the way they fled New Orleans, and Pittsburgh before that. They'd killed policemen in all three towns. Their kill count was more than twenty, and they were still out there.
There'd been a gap of of nearly three months between the killings in Pittsburgh and the killings in New Orleans. Barely a month between New Orleans and St. Louis. They were escalating, less time between killing sprees, more victims of choice, though St. Louis had managed to get away with the fewest dead among our police. How did we get so lucky? Jean-Claude got a letter.
The writing was beautiful, calligraphy, on heavy vellum paper with a watermark. The note was from Vittorio's Gwennie:
Jean-Claude, Master of the City of St. Louis,
I have left Vittorio. His madness has grown beyond anything that I can excuse or take part in. I cannot live as he lives anymore. If he finds me, he will kill me. I have fled with another younger vampire of our kiss, Myron, and Vittorio will not forgive the betrayal. Vittorio is seeking another city now. You have driven him out, but he will find another hunting ground. His madness does not let him rest for long now. His only release seems to come when he kills the people that he sees as taunting him. I saw your Asher at Belle's Court after the church was done with him; let me say only that Vittorio was not so lucky. He is a ruin of a man now. No, he is a monster. He has let the holy water that ate his body eat his mind, as well. Everything I loved in him is gone, lost to this mind sickness.
I hope you found the little that Myron and I could do to assist the police, helpful. We moved the bodies so that they would be found sooner. It was all we could do with Vittorio so close. Myron was the one who left the policeman alive, so you would know that the girl was taken. Myron was also in the church as one of our spies. He knew that you had the address from Cooper before he died. He did not tell anyone, but me, for the rest are trapped in Vittorio's evil dream. We did all we could to help you, and your human servant. Please believe that. If we survive, I will try to contact you again. I truly expect that Vittorio will find us before the year is out. But sometimes it is better to live a short good life, than an evil long one.
Most Sincerely Yours,
The letter solved some of the mystery, but it left the biggest part unanswered. Where was Vittorio? How long until he found another city to stalk? I was a federal officer, that meant when he resurfaced, I'd get to see it, if I wanted to, or if the local vampire hunter called me in on it. Denis-Luc St. John is still in the hospital in New Orleans. I talked to him on the phone, let him know what happened to the vampires that nearly killed him. He wants a piece of them when they resurface. Good for him, I'm kind of hoping to be left out of it. Is that cowardly? Maybe. If I thought I was the only one who could track them down and save the world, I'd do it, but I'm not the only cop in the country. I'm not even the only vampire executioner with a badge in the country. Let someone else have the fun for a change. I'd had about as much fun in the last few years as I could take. I'll go if I'm asked, but I'm not volunteering. There are always more bad guys, always. There's no way to win the war. You can win a battle here and there, but the war is always ongoing. You kill one villainous bastard, and another one just as bad, or worse, crops up. It never seems to end.
We have a meeting set up to talk to Malcolm about the blood-oath situation. Unfortunately, the no-blood-oath policy is countrywide, not just in St. Louis. A f**king disaster waiting to happen. Several of the vamps that were at the church the night I killed Cooper have approached Jean-Claude to change masters from Malcolm to him. Avery Seabrook and Wicked and Truth are among those jumping ship.
Marianne did another tarot reading that duplicated the last one. It being identical means we're still working through it. I still don't know who's supposed to help me, someone from my past. Everyone that is helping seems very much my present and future.
The Dragon has given Primo permission to stay in St. Louis and would like to talk to us at a later date about council business. A mixed blessing that.
I've contacted the police working on the Browns' case. They've agreed to have an officer fly down with some of the boy's personal effects, which means they are stumped. Evans has agreed to look at the stuff. Barbara Brown sent me a card saying how sorry she was she hurt me.
I can't fix the world, but I'm making progress on my life. Some nights it's enough to come home alive and crawl into bed beside someone you love, who loves you back.
I found orchids that were the same greenish-gold as Micah's eyes. A bouquet of them is sitting on the coffee table in our living room. Micah says he's never gotten flowers before. Nathaniel got a frilly white apron, like no one's mother ever really wore, and a string of pearls. I found him lying on the bed running the pearls over and over through his fingers.
For Jean-Claude pure white orchids in a simple but elegant black vase. He put them on the coffee table in his living room. Yellow roses for Asher, though they paled beside the gold of his hair. Richard and I aren't back to the flower-giving stage yet. And, truthfully, he never did see much point in he, himself, getting flowers from anyone.
Damian nearly started a riot at Danse Macabre the first night he went to work after we became a true triumvirate. He seems to have gained powers that are more Belle Morte's line of vampire than Moroven's line. He's enjoying his new-found sex appeal. I'm not sure Damian is exactly in the boyfriend category, but he is my vampire servant, and he deserves better than he's been getting from me. I gave him an envelope with a gift certificate in it. A certificate to a furniture store. He can decorate the basement as his room until we can have an apartment built over the garage for him. We had a basement-cleaning party one night; Nathaniel's idea. Basically invite a lot of friends over and make them do grunt work, then feed them pizza afterward. Well, okay, the wereleopards, werewolves, wererats, and humans got pizza. The vampires got something a little less solid. No, Jean-Claude did not come help clean up the basement, but surprisingly, Asher did. So did Richard. He behaved himself all the way up to refreshments, then he couldn't stand me opening a vein for Asher. He didn't argue, he just left. He's trying.
We're all trying. I'm trying to remember what I thought I was doing when I started hunting vampires and helping the police. I used to think I was doing something noble. That there was a reason and a purpose to it. I used to know that I was the good guy. But lately, it feels like I'm just shoveling one pile of shit, so another one can takes its place. Like the bad guys are an avalanche, and I'm trying to stay ahead of it, by shoveling. Maybe I'm just tired, or maybe I'm wondering if Mendez was right. Maybe you can't be one of the good guys, if you spend most of your time shooting people to death. I don't know what bothers me more, that I can shoot someone in the face who's begging for their life, or that legally there's no other option. I don't mind killing to defend my life and the lives of others. I don't mind killing if the person has truly earned it. I'd cap Vittorio in a heartbeat. But what if the girl in the condo had told the truth? What if because her master told her to do something, she had no choice? What if away from the bad guy, she's not a bad guy? Oh, hell, I don't know. The only thing I know for certain is that it isn't my job to worry about how the poor bastard turned into a killer. It's my job to make sure they never kill anyone else again. That's what I do. I am the Executioner. Murder someone in my town, and I'm the one that you get to see. Once.