Authors: Connie Suttle
"Yes, Adam," was all he said, then fidgeted with his bag. We climbed aboard a few minutes later and settled into our seats. Joey fidgeted even more, once we were in the air.
"Did you not feed before coming to the airport?" I asked him.
"Then what is wrong with you?"
"I'm always hyper. I nearly drove my mother crazy—I can't tell you how happy she was when MIT accepted me at sixteen."
"She's still alive." I didn't make it a question.
I knew that look. I'd had it once, myself. I'd stood in shadows, long ago, and watched my parents and my brother grow old and die. "Joey," I sighed. "I'm not going to bite you."
"That's not the story I've heard."
"You're not my type."
"Adam, you're the boogeyman, or haven't you heard?" Joey turned away when he said it.
I ran a hand through my hair. I did know that. I had a reputation; a well-founded one. No rogue got away from me. If the Council sent me after them, they died. Any vampire who killed a human unnecessarily was considered rogue, and if the killing came to the Council's attention, an Enforcer was sent to destroy the rogue. There were twelve Enforcers and I was their Chief. That's why Russell called me boss although we were siblings, turned by the same vampire. He and Will had been standing guard at the cave's entrance, Tuesday night. Likely, the Seer had placed compulsion on them as well, ordering them not to reveal the meeting inside the cave.
"Joey, you wouldn't even be an appetizer for me, so stop being afraid," I told him.
"Wow, Adam, that makes me feel loads better on several levels," Joey huffed, refusing to look me in the eye.
We landed in Memphis six hours later, and I'd arranged for a rental car to be waiting for us. Joey and I tossed our bags in the boot and I pulled the map I'd purchased from my jacket pocket to find directions to the safe house.
The Council had safe houses almost everywhere, and they were usually small fortresses, built of concrete and steel, most of them with basements that could be closed off to keep us safe while we slept through the day. I handed the map off to Joey after committing it to memory, and drove to the safe house.
The ground-level floor of any safe house was mostly for show, unless we wanted to entertain in the evenings. The door into the basement was located in the floor of the master closet, and I pulled it open and went down first. Neither of us needed the lights; any vampire can see quite well in the dark, but I flipped the fluorescents on anyway as I took the steps three at a time to go down. Joey skipped the steps altogether and just gave a good leap, landing on the carpeted floor of the basement.
Two bedrooms lay on one side of the basement, and Joey knew to let me have the largest one. It held the en suite bath, so I walked in, tossed my bag on the bed and then went to check out the fridge in the small kitchen. It had been stocked already by the local vampires; I'd made those arrangements the night before. As far as the night went, it was still early. I herded Joey back out to the car and we drove to the hotel where Merrill stayed a week earlier.
It was the Fremond, so Joey and I headed for the bar. If a vampire wants company for the evening, a bar is their first choice to find someone. I had a description in my pocket, although there were no photographs of Merrill available. Vampires are very reluctant to be photographed. For obvious reasons.
The bartender poured vodka into a glass as we took seats at the bar. He finished mixing the drink and handed it off to the waitress, who walked it to a table nearby. The bartender took our order, then. I ordered a bloody Mary; Joey asked for a glass of merlot. I intended to ask the bartender questions, and preferred not to use compulsion while I did it. I would only employ it if the bartender were uncooperative.
"Do you work here most nights?" I asked the young man as he set my drink in front of me. It had a tall stalk of celery in it, which I promptly removed and set aside.
"I'm looking for a friend. About six-three, black hair, blue eyes. Can pass for Pierce Brosnan's brother."
"The guy from Remington Steele?"
"Hey Shannon!" The bartender called the waitress over instead of answering my question.
Shannon walked toward the bar from a customer's table. "Who was that guy that you slobbered all over? The one who was here last week?" The bartender was doing his best to embarrass her. It didn't appear to be working.
"Oh yeah, Merrick. He was something to look at, but I think he's gay." Joey had to suppress a snicker. I waved a hand in warning at him. He sat up straighter and looked around quite innocently.
"This guy's looking for him. Says he's a friend." The bartender nodded in my direction.
Shannon turned her gaze, and her smile, on me. "Well, you'll do instead, honey," she drawled. I was beginning to wonder if that slow, irritating drawl I was hearing everywhere in Memphis would keep me awake in the morning.
"When did you last see Merrick?" I asked. "I'm trying to catch up with him."
"A week ago yesterday, sugar," she reached out and pulled my tie into her hand, stroking it suggestively.
Gee whiz, Adam, you could have her on the floor right here
, Joey's voice permeated my thoughts. I jumped as if I'd been shot. The waitress backed up, suddenly nervous, but when I failed to make further unexpected moves, she wiggled her way back to me.
"So, nothing since then?" I kept up my questioning while another part of my brain attempted to process what had just happened. I'd heard of mind-to-mind communication between vampires before, but Robert and Albert, brothers and Enforcers for the Council, were the only remaining vampires with the gift. Before that, there were two others, but they'd been staked in the mid eighteen hundreds—during the day while they were sleeping, of course.
"No, sugar. I would have remembered that," the waitress answered my question.
"You didn't see him with anyone else? A date, or anyone from the hotel?"
"Uh-uh. He was all by his lonesome. I tried to get him to take me out to dinner, but he said he was busy."
Busy not getting cooties
, Joey's voice filtered into my head again. At least I didn't jump this time.
"Well, thank you. I'll keep looking, then," I informed the girl and slid off my barstool. I dropped a twenty on the bar and dragged Joey out of the hotel with me.
"What the hell was that about?" I slammed Joey against the wall outside the hotel. Fortunately, the street wasn't busy and nobody noticed.
"What?" Joey wasn't lying. I can tell when someone is lying to me.
"I heard your voice in my mind. The first time you said, and I quote: 'Gee whiz Adam, you could have her on the floor right here.' Does that ring a bell? I have nearly perfect recall, Joey Showalter."
Joey gasped and struggled in my grip. I had my arm across his throat, and I'm sure my eyes may have been the blood-red color of an enraged vampire.
"Adam," Joey choked out, "I was just thinking that. Can you read my mind?"
He wasn't lying now, either. I let up and Joey slipped from beneath my arm. I hadn't hurt him; it's hard to do that with a vampire, actually, but I'd scared him, for sure.
"Come," I grasped the collar of his shirt, almost ripping it, and pulled him along with me. I found a deserted alley nearby and took my hands off him. "Do it again," I said. "Think something at me, like you did before."
Joey tried, at first with no success. I threatened him again and he backed against the wall of a nearby business.
Back off, asshole
, came in clearly.
"I heard that, young Joey," I grinned maliciously at him. "Call me asshole again and I'll slap you to the Mississippi River and back."
Leave me alone, jerk. I never wanted to do this, anyway
Well, you're just going to have to, aren't you?
I tried my hand at it and Joey's eyes widened in surprise.
"Holy crap," he whispered, his eyes round with astonishment.
"You heard that?" I had to know.
"I think you blasted a few of my brain cells with it."
"Come on," I grabbed his shirt again, ripping it this time. I just let go of the torn fabric and got a better grip, dragging him with me toward our parked vehicle. "What other records did you get for me?" I decided to ignore the mindspeech ability for the moment—that would require careful consideration on my part, after all.
"There's a restaurant—Francis' Barbecue, I think." He gave me the address. We drove there but they were closed. "We'll come back tomorrow," I said as we stared at the card listing the hours on the restaurant's door. I reached out for Joey again.
"Hey, watch it," he said, fending off my hand. "Why don't you say something like, 'Joey, are you ready to go, now?,' and I could say something like, 'Yeah Adam, let's do that,' and then we could walk calmly to the car, and I'd even get in with you, instead of you ripping my clothes off here in the street."
"Fine. Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah." We walked to the car and Joey climbed in without a word.
He was silent on the way to the safe house, too. I glanced at him a few times, but his face was set and his arms were crossed tightly over his chest. He'd worn a nice dress shirt and a pair of slacks with Loafers tonight. I hoped I hadn't ruined his one decent outfit.
He didn't say anything when we arrived at the safe house, either; he merely stalked into his bedroom and slammed the door. Thankfully, the door and frame were metal; it would have splintered, otherwise.
I called the number the Seer had given me after Joey locked himself inside his bedroom. The Seer answered on the third ring, so I let him know we had a witness and records that placed Merrill in Memphis seven days earlier. I told him we'd keep him informed if anything new came along and hung up. I had a cell phone with me, but the thing was too bulky to carry around. Usually I left it in my bag and only used it when I was forced to.
Dawn was still four hours away, but I didn't want to leave the house again with Joey in the temper he was in. I preferred not to be forced to chase him down in addition to Merrill. I pulled out a book I'd brought with me and settled down to read.
* * *
"Merrill, I'm in a phone booth in Memphis," Joey said into the pay phone. "Chessman's in the shower and I don't have much time. He found a waitress in a bar at the Fremond who remembered you."
"Don't worry, Joey. She doesn't have any important information she can give away."
"Well, we're going to that barbecue restaurant tonight. He'll be questioning those people, too."
"Don't let him hurt any of them."
"Like I could stop him. I gotta go," Joey hung up and raced back to the safe house.
* * *
Friday, April 9th
Joey was helping himself to a unit of blood when I walked into the kitchen to feed myself. He finished and dropped the empty bag into the compacter. "Still not speaking to me?" I asked.
Go to hell
, Joey sent.
Some would say we're already there
, I shot back. "Are you coming with me willingly tonight, or am I throwing you over my shoulder and carrying you?" I added aloud.
He gave me a sullen look. "I'm coming," he said.
"Good. Let's go." I grabbed the keys to the car and walked up the stairs, Joey right behind me.
We returned to the barbecue restaurant and were seated at a table. A waitress brought us water and asked if we wanted anything else to drink. We both said water was fine. I had to place compulsion on this one to find out if she or someone else had been working the night in question. She replied that she'd been off work that evening, but another waitress who was working the other side of the restaurant had been there. I told her to call the other waitress over. She went obediently.
The second waitress came to our table and I placed compulsion on her, too. She remembered the man, she told me.
"Nice looking man, for sure, with a bit of an accent. He had a plate full of barbecue."
"He didn't have a date who ate the order instead?"
"Oh, no. He ate all of it himself," she drawled.
Joey was watching this exchange worriedly.
Are you sure you put compulsion on her? I don't think even the toughest vampire can sit down and eat a plate full of barbecue
. I think if Joey could have gotten queasy, he would have.
We could eat when we had to, to appear normal, but it would come right up later; our systems wouldn't process it, and we'd have to get rid of it, somehow. Barbecue would be nasty in the extreme coming back up.
Yes, I'm sure. There must be some explanation for this, but I'll be damned if I know what it is
Joey shook his head in confusion. The waitress went on to tell us that the man paid by credit card and tipped very well.
We drove back to the Fremond, then, and talked to the desk clerk. I placed compulsion on him and Joey was a blur as he jumped behind the desk and started browsing the hotel's computer. He printed a copy of Merrill's bill; it had been paid with his bankcard, but room service had been placed on an American Express.