“Which is?” Adam said through the speaker.
“Crack some skulls.”
“Sounds like my kind of plan.”
With that, Giguhl and I made our way across the street. It was late by mortal standards, nearing two in the morning. But I could see dim lights from near the back of the house. As we neared the rickety front steps, I could also hear the occasional bark of laughter or the impact of glass shattering. A radio somewhere deep inside the structure played grating music—the kind preferred by people whose senses were so numbed out by drugs they needed to be overwhelmed to feel anything.
Giguhl shifted on my shoulder, his claws digging into my clavicles. “I have a bad feeling about this joint, Red.”
“Drug dens are rarely happy places, G.” I rapped my knuckles on the door, putting a little English on it so it would be heard over the racket of the music. After a few moments of pounding, the door flew open.
I stepped back as the odor of urine, vomit, and unwashed bodies blasted me in the face. The vampire who stood before me looked like Iggy Pop, only with faded red hair. The bad hair life wasn’t due to needing a salon visit. Instead, the effect of the drugs he was getting from the humans he fed from was leeching all the color from his body. If he’d been human, it would have sucked all the life from him, too, but I wasn’t really sure that was worse than an eternity of addiction.
“What the f**k do you want?” he demanded. His lips were ashy and chapped, and his fangs were gray.
“Hi there,” I said in my most chipper voice. “The Reverend around?”
He squinted at me, noting the cat on my shoulder. “You the fuzz?”
I tilted my head and smiled. “Any policeman you know walk around with a bald cat?”
He sucked on his rotten teeth. “I thought I might be seein’ things.”
“Understandable.” I waved a hand. “But no. I’m not a cop. The Rev?”
“He ain’t here.” He started to slam the door, but I caught it.
With a tight smile, I held the door open. “Then maybe you know my friend Cadence? She’s about yay big.” I mimed a height slightly shorter than mine. “With brown hair and blue eyes.”
He smacked his pale lips in disgust before yelling over his shoulder. “Yo, is there a Cadence here?”
A faint voice carried down the stairs. Female. Cadence? I’d never met her, so I didn’t recognize the voice, but then I could barely even make out the words. But apparently the drugs hadn’t hurt Iggy’s hearing.
“Who wants to know?” he echoed the shouted question.
“Sabina,” I said with patience.
Iggy screamed my name up the stairs. A few seconds later, he cocked his head to listen. Then, with a resolute nod, he slammed the door in my face.
“Well, that’s that, then,” I said. I spoke into the walkie-talkie. “We’re a go. In three…two…”
Bam! I kicked in the door with my heel. Luckily I’d traded my stiletto boots for the more practical, low-heeled variety or the move might have broken my ankle.
I expected a flurry of reaction—bodies flying, screams, the usual. Instead, Giguhl and I barreled into the foyer and found it totally empty. With my gun drawn, I rushed toward the back of the house. Here and there, vampires lay on the floor like blinking, languid cats in pools of sunshine. Only it was nighttime, the pools were yellow but definitely not caused by the sun, and something stronger than catnip had those dudes tweaking.
I’d often wondered why vampire drug addicts didn’t cut out the middle man and just insert the drug of choice directly into their own veins or lungs or whatever. But I guess something about the narcotics mixed with blood made the effects stronger. Regardless, a vampire junky is just about as uncomfortable to be around as a human one, only vampire junkies have the added bonus of predatory instincts, superhuman strength, and immortality to go along with their need for speed, as it were.
When no one so much as gasped at our entrance, I figured we were safe heading upstairs to try and meet up with Adam and Brooks. None of these lazy sons-a-bitches was capable of a rear attack.
“Put me down, Red,” Giguhl whispered.
“Trust me when I tell you, you do not want your bare paws touching these floors.” Each step I took was accompanied by a wet sucking sound as my soles struggled to free themselves of the sticky human stew covering the rotten wooden planks. “Just hold tight and keep your eye peeled for Cadence.”
When we reached the top of the steps, Adam was just reaching the same level, only from the attic. He looked around, eyes wide. “Remind me to shower in rubbing alcohol when we get back.”
“I’ll get your back for you,” Brooks said, patting the mage’s shoulder.
Adam rolled his eyes but a smile flirted with the corners of his mouth. “Let’s split up. You guys take the two rooms at the front of the house. Brooks and I will get the rear.”
I nodded and took off toward the first room I came across—a bedroom, filled with filthy bodies. In the corner, two lumps grunted under a ratty blanket. Junkies needed love, too, I guess. With a sigh, I realized that, just like downstairs, the inhabitants were a mix of human and vampire—no mage in sight.
“Cadence?” Giguhl whisper-yelled. I thought about correcting him. After all, he was usually under strict orders to keep his trap shut in cat form. But I would bet cash money this was not the first time many of these people had witnessed a talking, hairless demon cat. The only difference was this one wasn’t a figment of their scrambled minds.
A groan made my ears perk up. Over in the corner, I saw a flash of dirty brown hair—instead of vampire red—as a person rolled over. Was that a random vampire moving in her sleep or Cadence trying to stay hidden? No choice but to wade through and see.
I tiptoed through the garden of junkies, picking my way gingerly lest I step on a hand or a foot or a needle still attached to a vein. Finally, I was close enough to see my target in the corner. Nope, not Cadence. Not even female, as it turned out. Although, to my credit, it was pretty hard to tell. Everywhere I looked, there were bodies emaciated to the point of androgyny.
“Do you see her?” Giguhl whispered.
I shook my head. “Let’s try the other room.”
I expected more of the same in the next room. However, when I opened the door, I realized I’d stumbled onto the main feeding room. While the areas I’d witnessed so far seemed to be the lounging spaces, this place was where the real action happened. Iggy was there, sitting in the corner, feeding off a teenaged boy—probably a runaway. If the rude vamp noticed us, he didn’t show it. Instead, his eyes rolled back in his head, showing nothing but the whites as the drugs from the teen’s blood hit his own bloodstream.