Incarnatio (Darkyn #8)

Chapter 7

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At the door he turned on her. “Don’t come around here again, or I’ll call the police on you.”

Alisa stood outside the glass doors and watched his fat ass twitch as he waddled away. She was tempted to go after him again – twenty bucks wouldn’t buy her shit, and he was married with a couple of kids – but there was no time for that. She could already feel the edge coming back, and if she didn’t turn over some fast cash, by tonight she’d have the sweats and the shakes.

She hadn’t turned tricks on the street since she was a kid, but it was a short walk down to the beach. Too damn early for serious trade, of course, but there were always tourists looking for a cheap fuck.

Once she found a stretch of sidewalk not being worked by one of the regular street girls, she unbuttoned the front of her dress down to her sunken waist and slowed her pace to a seductive saunter. She’d always been good with the street trade, cheap pricks that they were. Guys who cruised the beach liked skinny redheads who could suck hard. Today they must have been down in Miami, she thought after an hour with no takers. The only drivers who braked gave her a look and then took off. After another wasted hour she moved further south, but soon discovered that this end of the beach was almost deserted.

Alisa sat down on the edge of a short driveway wall in front of an abandoned building and swiped her hand over her sweating face. All she needed was another fifty bucks. That would get her twenty Vikes, enough to take care of her for the night. She’d give George some jewelry to hold as security until she made enough to pay the rent. She was almost sure she still had that strand of real pearls one of her johns bought so she could shove it up his ass. All she needed was fifty. Two tricks, maybe three.

A young, dark-haired whore in a sparkling red cocktail dress came from behind Alisa and sat down beside her.

“I’m working this end of the strip, kid,” she told her, but the girl only looked at her with her big dark eyes. “Get lost.”

The girl reached out and brushed a trickle of sweat from Alisa’s cheek. Normally she would have knocked the kid on her ass for daring to touch her, but Alisa didn’t feel so good now.

“I’m sick,” she complained as she turned her head away. “I need my pills but I don’t have enough money to pay for them.” She took out her cigarettes, lit two and passed one to the girl. “You got any cash? I’m good for it.”

The girl took a drag, released the smoke and smiled.

What do you want?

Alisa could have sworn she didn’t hear the girl speak, but the words echoed inside her head, bouncing back and forth like the throb of the vicious headache she’d gotten from all the walking.

“I want my pills.” She jumped as the girl took hold of her arm, but the cool hand felt good on her feverish skin. “I need money. You got any cash I can—“

What do you want? The voice asked again, and this time Alisa was looking straight at the girl, and saw that her lips didn’t move.

Some animal instinct inside her told her to get up and run, but other feelings welled up and quickly smothered the panic.

“I want to forget,” she heard herself say. “The money. The booze and the drugs. All the things I’ve done for them. I can’t stand it anymore.”

The girl touched the side of her neck, running her fingers over the tiny twin scars there. At the same time, the voice in her head asked Do you remember who gave these to you?

“The best trick I ever had,” Alisa said, and sighed. “He had a thing for biting me. And he dumped me for a cop, if you can believe that.”

If you tell me what you know, I will give you what you want.

Alisa felt a confusing sense of relief. She didn’t mean pills, but that didn’t seem to matter anymore. “You want to know about Lucan?”

Yes. The girl leaned forward and gave her a soft, sweet kiss before taking her by the hand. Come inside and tell me everything.

During his human life, Jamys had taught to track and hunt game by his uncle, Gabriel Seran. Gabriel had taken him into the forests of Provence, and shown him how to use his senses and his intuition, and think like the creatures they pursued. In a few years Jamys had become so adept that he brought meat to his family’s table every time he returned from the hunt.

“Honor the hunt and take down only what you need,” Gabriel had cautioned him. “To kill for pleasure wastes what God provides and defiles your talent.”

That talent had changed after he and Gabriel had risen to walk the night. While he and his uncle had been given other abilities, both of their senses had also been enhanced, become almost painfully acute. Whether God had cursed them, or they had been infected and altered by what Alexandra Keller called the Kyn pathogen, Jamys and his uncle remained two of the best hunters among their kind.

Tonight Jamys set out to find the nameless Kyn who had desecrated the helpless dead, and cast doubts over his own reasons for coming to Lucan’s territory – but first he had to deal with Lucan’s seneschal, Rafael, who had been tracking him since he’d left Infusion.

Kyn scent was nearly impossible to erase, but Jamys knew how the Kyn tracked each other, and began his ruse by doubling back over his own steps in order to confuse the direction of his path. After retracing his steps several times, he ducked into an alley that stank from mortals using it to relieve themselves, where he deliberately walked through the two standing puddles of urine. From there he jumped up onto a third-floor fire escape, where he opened the window and shed enough scent to make Rafael believe he had entered that room.

Again he leapt to a window ledge in the opposite building to do the same there, then to the fifth floor of the first, and continued to leap back and forth and mark each landing until he reached the roof, where the wind coming from the ocean blew steadily. He didn’t walk across the flat tarred roof panels, but jumped from the building’s edge to the top of a cooling tower, then from there to the roof of the next building.

It took jumps to and from six other buildings, but by the time he had finished he felt sure that the wind had scoured away most of the scent he had left behind in the air. By the time Rafael finished searching the rooms in the buildings where he had left his scent and moved onto the roof, Jamys felt sure even the slightest trace of his scent would be gone.

Once he climbed back down to the street, he hailed a cab and had the driver take him to the bistro where Samantha had found the dead mortal. He didn’t make the mistake of trying to enter the restaurant – leaving any scent trace there would only reinforce the lady’s belief in his involvement, but had the driver stop a block away. As soon as he paid and got out of the taxi, he realized two things: he couldn’t smell any trace of Kyn scent but what Samantha and Rafael had left behind, and this was the same spot where he had seen the beautiful female who had tried to approach him.

Jamys went to stand where the girl had, and crouched down beside the postal box she had touched. Many, faint mortal scents clung to the painted metal, but one stood out, strong and distinct, a mixture of a single female’s musk mingling with several males’ seed. There was also something else in the scent, something that he didn’t expect – the bitter, metallic aroma of very old blood.

Jamys breathed in to fix the complex scent in his head, and turned until he picked up the trace. It did not lead toward the restaurant; from here the girl had abruptly changed direction and walked south.

“You know if they find you down here,” a wry voice said, “they’re going to think you did it.”

Jamys turned to see Chris parked at the curb in a much smaller car than the one she had driven from the train station.

“Don’t look so surprised,” she added as she leaned over to open the passenger door. “If someone accused me of doing something this nasty, the first thing I’d do is prove that I didn’t. Get in.”

He would have to send her away, and climbed into the car to do so. Before he touched her, however, she held up one hand.

“Don’t try to shazam me and send me home,” she said. “I’m not here because of Sam or Luc. I’m here for you.”

He set his jaw and stared through the windshield.

“You think you don’t need help, fine. But I’ve got wheels, I know the beach, and I’m the only person who knows for real that you’re innocent.” She nudged him with her elbow. “How hard would it be to think of me as your tresora for the night?”

He took hold of her wrist. The one who did this is dangerous.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I work for the most dangerous lord in these parts.” She watched his face. “Tell you what. I’ll stay in the car and drive you where you need to go. I won’t even get out.”

He needed to return to the walkway, where the scent trail was strongest. But as he opened the car door, he knew she would simply follow him. To protect her, he would have to compel her to leave him and forget everything she had seen – but he couldn’t bring himself to send her away. Back in the club, she had defended him. In this strange territory, she was the only friend he had.

“You think that girl in the red dress who stepped out in front of that cab is part of this, don’t you?” she asked, startling him again. “I saw her when it happened; I just didn’t make a big deal out of it because I know how you guys attract women. I think you’re right, too. She was with a young guy in a retro suit. Sam said the dead guy was wearing the same thing.”

Chris’s eye for detail had made the connection between the girl and the victim, and that decided the matter for him. He closed the door.

“Which way did she go from here?” she asked. When Jamys pointed south, she said, “Okay. When you need me to stop, just put your hand on the dash, and I’ll pull over.” She put the car in drive and merged back into traffic.

Jamys opened the window and leaned out, letting the air wash over his face. It was more difficult to track from a moving vehicle, but not impossible, and the scent of the girl in the red dress was so unusual that he followed it easily. When the trace began to thin, he placed his hand on the dashboard and Chris pulled over.

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