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datatime: 2022-10-04 21:48:47 Author:uQUNzAQO

I sidled up to a tree, leaned my arm against it, and sighted on his shape in the bright darkness. I pulled off one careful shot and he went down. I wasn't sure how badly he was hit, but I'd hit something. He fired back, and I hit the ground.

Linus's voice rose in a singsong rhythmn that filled the night with echoes and movement as if the darkness itself shivered at the words.

You know how hard it is to make a living as a clairvoyant. So many horrible memories, and you usually end up working with the police for no money. I'd been using my powers to get myself in good with wealthy people who weren't so careful about the law. I'd promise them something, but it wouldn't be real. Then they'd be too embarrassed to go to the police about it. Or couldn't complain that they got cheated out of a stolen object. It worked. I only swindled crooks. It worked.

He's crazy. If he ever finds out I tricked him, he'll kill me and have Linus feed my soul to that thing.

Why are you running away, Howard?

A bullet hit the tree next to my head, and I rolled back into the underbrush. Three more shots hit the bushes where I had been. Niley had a gun, a semiauto that might hold eighteen bullets if he'd modified the clip. Not good. Of course, it might hold only ten. Hard to tell in the dark from this distance.

I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I am really, really sorry. I didn't know what he was capable of. Oh, God, let me go. Let me run away.

Until Niley, I said.

I eased up on the gun more and blinked at him. What are you talking about?

Roxanne appeared on the other side of the tree, just there, like magic. Howard gasped. I don't think so, she said. She opened a mouth full of fangs and snapped them near his face. Howard screamed.

Nathaniel and I lay on the ground at the line of trees, watching. Jason and Jamil were supposed to be on the other side of the clearing. A moment of concentration told me where they were. The marks with Richard were open and roaring. I'd never been so aware of the scent and sounds of a summer night. It was like my skin expanded outward, touching every tree and bush. I was liquid and barely contained within my skin.

Wilkes stood not eight feet from me, to my right. He had a high-powered rifle and was searching the darkness.

Linus's voice rose in a singsong rhythmn that filled the night with echoes and movement as if the darkness itself shivered at the words.

Until Niley, I said.

I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I am really, really sorry. I didn't know what he was capable of. Oh, God, let me go. Let me run away.

Wilkes stood not eight feet from me, to my right. He had a high-powered rifle and was searching the darkness.

They'd chosen the top of a hill that had once been meadow, but some time today they'd bush-hogged all the grass and meadow flowers so that the hill was bare and broken under the moonlight.

Why are you running away, Howard?

A bullet hit the tree next to my head, and I rolled back into the underbrush. Three more shots hit the bushes where I had been. Niley had a gun, a semiauto that might hold eighteen bullets if he'd modified the clip. Not good. Of course, it might hold only ten. Hard to tell in the dark from this distance.

Until Niley, I said.

Roxanne appeared on the other side of the tree, just there, like magic. Howard gasped. I don't think so, she said. She opened a mouth full of fangs and snapped them near his face. Howard screamed.

In the movies there would be an altar and maybe a fire or two, at least a torch. But there was nothing but darkness and a silver wash of moonlight. The palest thing in the clearing was Charlotte Zeeman's skin. She was tied naked to stakes driven into the ground. I thought at first she was unconscious, but her hands flexed and strained against the ropes. I was both happy to see her still fighting and sorry that she hadn't passed out.

Niley stood by Linus. He was dressed in the same suit I'd seen him in earlier. They'd drawn a circle on the ground with something dark and powdery. Charlotte was inside the circle. She was food for the demon, bait.

You're going to get us into that house. You're going to help us rescue Daniel.

You know how hard it is to make a living as a clairvoyant. So many horrible memories, and you usually end up working with the police for no money. I'd been using my powers to get myself in good with wealthy people who weren't so careful about the law. I'd promise them something, but it wouldn't be real. Then they'd be too embarrassed to go to the police about it. Or couldn't complain that they got cheated out of a stolen object. It worked. I only swindled crooks. It worked.

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