Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 4 - Page 35

I pushed that helpful thought out of my head and decided it was probably our ghost. I'd read about ghosts who set houses on fire. Wasn't Hans Holzer's Borley Rectory supposedly burned down by its ghosts? But then I was pretty sure that Hans Holzer had been proved a fraud at some point...

"Well," I told Chad, "that tells us that our ghost is vindictive and intelligent, anyway." He looked pretty shook-up, clutching the plans in a way that would make any historian cringe at the way the fragile paper was wrinkling. "We might as well keep exploring, don't you think?"

When he still looked scared, I told him, "Your mother will be home sooner or later. When she comes upstairs, we can have her let us out." Then I had an idea. I slipped my phone out of my front pocket, but when I called the number I'd saved for Amber, I could hear the phone in her bedroom ring.

"Does your mom have a cell phone?" She did. He punched the number in, and I listened to her cell phone tell me she wasn't available. So I told her where we were and what had happened.

"When she gets the message, she'll come let us out," I told Chad when I was finished. "If she doesn't, we'll call your dad. Want to see what's in the last trunk?"

He wasn't happy about it, but he leaned on my shoulder while I finagled the last lock.

We both stared at the treasure revealed when the last trunk opened.

"Wow," I said. "I wonder if your parents know this is up here." I paused. "I wonder if this is worth anything?"

The last trunk was completely full of old records, mostly the thick black vinyl kind labeled 78 rpm. There was a method to the storage, I discovered. One pile was all children's entertainment -  The Story of Hiawatha, various children's songs. And a treasure, Snow White complete with a storybook in the album cover that looked as though it had been made about the same time as the movie. Chad turned up his nose at Snow White, so I put it back in the correct pile.

My cell phone rang and I checked the number. "Not your mom," I told Chad. I flipped open the phone.

"Hey, Adam. Did you ever listen to the Mello-Kings?"

There was a little pause, and Adam sang in a passable bass, "Chip, chip, chip went the little bird... and something, something, something went my heart. I assume there's a reason you asked?"

"Chad and I are going though a box of old records," I told him.

"Chad?" His voice was carefully neutral.

"Amber's ten-year-old son. I have in my own two hands a 1957 record by the Mello-Kings. I think it might be the newest one in here - nope. Chad just found a Beatles album... uhm, cover. It looks like the record is missing. So the Mello-Kings are probably the newest thing here."

"I see. No luck hunting ghosts?"

"Some." I looked ruefully at the closed door that was keeping us prisoner. "What about you? How're negotiations with the Mistress?"

"Warren and Darryl are to meet with a pair of her vampires tonight."

"Which ones?"

"Bernard and Wulfe."

"Tell them to be careful," I told him. "Wulfe is something more than just a vampire." I'd only met Bernard once, and he hadn't impressed me - or maybe I was just remembering Stefan's reaction to him.

"Go teach your granny to suck eggs," said Adam calmly. "Don't worry. Have you seen Stefan?"

I touched my fingers to my neck. How to answer that. "I don't know, he might have bitten me last night," somehow didn't seem the right thing to say. "He has been making himself scarce so far. Maybe tonight he'll stop in to talk."

I heard the door open downstairs. "I need to go now, Amber's back."

"All right. I'll call you tonight." And he hung up.

Someone ran up the stairs and into the bedroom. "Your mother's home," I told Chad, and began replacing the records. They were heavy. I couldn't imagine what the whole trunk might weigh. Maybe they packed the trunk when it was already in the attic - or had eight strapping werewolves to carry it.

"It's locked," I told Amber, as she rattled the door. "I think there's some kind of a catch on your side."

She was breathing hard as she pulled the stairs down.

Her attention was all for Chad, and she didn't bother with speech as her hands danced.

"We're fine," I interrupted her. "You have some neat records here. Have you had them valued?"

She turned to stare at me, as if she'd forgotten I was there. Her pupils were... odd. Too large, I decided, even for the dim attic.

"The records? I think Corban found them when we bought this house. Yes, he checked them out. They're nothing special. Just old."

"Did you have a good time shopping?"

She looked at me blankly. "Shopping?"

"Amber, are you all right?"

She blinked, then smiled. It was so full of sweetness and light that it gave me cold chills. Amber was many things, but she wasn't sweet. There was something wrong with her.

"Yes. I bought a sweater and a couple of early Christmas presents." She waved it away. "How did you get stuck here?"

I shrugged, replacing the last records and pulling the trunk shut. "Unless you have someone breaking into your house to play nasty practical jokes, I'd say it was the ghost."

I stood up and started past her to the opened door. And I smelled vampire. Could Stefan be staying here? I paused to look around while Chad thundered down the attic stairs leaving his mother and me alone with the smell of vampire and fresh blood.

"What's wrong?" Amber said, taking a step forward.

She smelled of sweat, sex, and a vampire who was not Stefan.

"Was shopping all you were doing?" I asked.

"What? I had my hair done, paid a few bills - that's it. Are you all right?"

She wasn't lying. She didn't know she'd been a snack for a vampire. Today.

I looked at the daylight streaming through the windows and knew I desperately needed to talk to Stefan.

Chapter 7

I WAITED UNTIL DARK, THEN QUIETLY SNUCK OUT THE back door and into the yard.

"Stefan?" I called, keeping it quiet so no one in the house would hear me.

It wasn't as stupid as all that to call for him. He'd come here to keep an eye on me. It made sense that he'd be nearby, somewhere. Watching.

I waited for a half an hour, though, and no Stefan. Finally, I went inside and found Amber watching TV.

"I'm going to bed," I told her.

Her neck, I noticed, was bared to the world without blemish - but there are other places a vampire can feed. My own neck sported a scarf, one of several I'd picked up that afternoon on a Goodwill shopping spree that Chad and I had taken. The only thing I'd found resembling a lamb had been a barrette with a cartoon sheep on it. Not something to invoke the protection of the Son of God.