Kitty Saves the World Page 26

Deep breath. Stay calm. Keep it together. “I need to talk to Angelo,” I said, with some growl at the edges.

“You can’t,” he enunciated and dropped me. Didn’t even bother to give an extra shove or smack, just dropped me to the pavement. Ben came to my side, and we faced the vampire together. We could be calm, we weren’t going to lose it.

“Well. You mind passing on a message?” Braun didn’t say anything, which could have been a yes or a no. Might as well interpret it as a yes. “Tell Angelo I need to talk to him. It’s important. Please.” Because I could be polite, even if I did bite off the word with a clack of teeth.

The beautiful clubbers in line were staring. They couldn’t possibly have any idea what was really going on.

“Come on,” Ben said, pressing my back to steer me away. We stalked off without another glance.

“I still have to talk to Angelo,” I muttered.

“Of course you do,” Ben said. “That’s why I’m going to run interference while you sneak in the back.”

We owned a bar. Or, we used to own a bar. Never mind. I knew how these buildings worked. Every one of them had a back entrance, a delivery bay, an emergency exit, all of the above. This would teach me to try the front door ever again.

Braun or one of his buddies might be tracking us, making sure we stayed away. Just in case, we circled around a couple of blocks, cut over, and came at the club from behind. I moved fast, trotting easily, channeling Wolf. Ben was at my side.

Psalm 23 wasn’t a restaurant proper. Except for the vampires, of course. It didn’t have a kitchen with a back door standing open to the alley while bussers carried loads to the Dumpster. But it did have a stockroom, and that door was propped open. A couple of staff—a bartender in a smart shirt and creased trousers, a cocktail waitress in a short dress—were leaning on the wall, talking and smoking over their break. They weren’t vampires; they might not even know they were working for vampires. This was just a job at a nightclub.

Ben trotted forward without telling me the plan first. He just expected me to play along, which gave me something of a warm fuzzy feeling that he trusted me. We were a team. We could do this. I stood back, waiting.

“Hey!” he called to the two staffers. “I’m really sorry to bother you, my car died in the intersection. I just need some help pushing it to the curb, do you guys mind?” He gestured over his shoulder and gave them an earnest expression.

It worked. The two stubbed out their cigarettes and followed him around the corner. Coast clear, door open and waiting.

I went inside and took a breath of air—no one was hanging out in the stockroom—good. Slipping in, I found a dark corner, a shadowed space behind a shelf full of boxes of what looked like napkins and other paper products. No one was back here. No one had seen me. The music, standard thumpy Euro-electronic dance music, sounded muted.

Once I got to the main part of the club, I wasn’t going to be able to blend in, not in my grubby clothes. The trick in that kind of situation was always to brazen it out and act like you belonged, no matter what. I pushed through the door, down a hallway past restrooms, and emerged into open space. The place was all shadows, blues and chrome, little tables with lights on them, a dance floor tucked away, a couple of bars with lights shining under the bottles. All very chic and sci-fi. This late, the place was pretty crowded.

I couldn’t use my nose to find Angelo. The whole place smelled like vampires. I spotted a couple of vampires I recognized, very elegant women with pinned-up hair and complicated makeup, leaning up against a column on a raised section near the dance floor. They scanned the crowd, almost as if they were standing guard rather than looking for a snack. I’d be staying out of their way. I started my circuit going the other direction, cutting through a group of drunk frat boy types and skirting past the front door just in case Braun happened to glance in and see me.

Rick used to hold court at a little bistro table in a back corner, alongside the more sedate of the club’s bars. The space of quiet was all his own; he could keep an eye on things and not be in the way. Unobtrusive, understated. Tonight, that table—his table, I thought of it—was empty. Whenever I came to see him here he’d offer me a drink. I’d usually take him up on it, and we’d sit and talk. I didn’t recognize the bartender tonight. Made me sad all over again.

I finally found Angelo—he was here, and holding court in his own distinctive fashion. A little obvious, really. I should have known. He was on one of the raised sections near the dance floor and DJ booth, the first place all gazes would go to when they came in through the front door. A semicircular black leather booth with a chrome table loomed over everything like a throne, and Angelo sat in the middle, babes in skintight dresses and too much hair on either side of him, cuddling. He was sipping from a crystal goblet that I was absolutely sure was filled with blood, because of course it was.

I didn’t know if he actually enjoyed being ostentatious like this, or if he did it because he thought this was what vampires were supposed to do. This was what people expected from vampires. Why be subtle?

Even better, the place was arranged in a series of platforms and hidden staircases so there was no easy way to get to him. He’d have plenty of time to watch me coming. Well, that was okay. I marched straight across the floor, sending dancers stumbling in my wake, jumped a railing, hopped up a set of stairs, and stopped in front of his table. I crossed my arms and waited. The women were human. The glass did indeed contain human blood. He probably kept it there to impress and intimidate people. It made me want to pour it over his head.

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