The only way they could have tracked me was by magic.

Red had said that reeve hair grabbed like a lasso. The hair was only active during a magic wave. Then the reeves attacked my apartment, also during the magic wave. And finally, they struck at me just when the magic wave had ended. It was as if an invisible magic scent somehow stained Red, then Julie, then me, and the reeves followed it like hounds.

Red, Julie, me. Was there a pattern here? What could've connected us all? Perhaps Red became polluted with some weird residual magic. Julie touched Red, and I touched Julie, transferring the traces onto myself. But residual magic usually didn't survive technology, and the magic had been shifting like crazy.

Maybe I was thinking about it wrong. Maybe the reeves were tracking something specific. Something that exuded a definite power signature. Something that only acted up during the magic waves, a beacon like Whomper. Something that passed from Red to Julie and from Julie to me. But what?

The monisto. Red gave it to Julie, and Julie gave it to me.

I pulled the necklace out and tried to examine it, glancing at the road once in a while. A simple cord, knotted together from dirty shoelaces. There were probably two dozen coins on it. Let's see, a Kennedy half-dollar, a quarter, a twenty-peso coin, a Georgia peach quarter - wow, rare, a token from the mall carousel with a little horse on it, a Chinese coin with a square hole in the middle - where did he get this one? A miniature, dollar-sized CD marked Axe Grinder III, a video game maybe? A rough disk with a loop in the center to pass the cord through. A Republica NC Pilipinas coin, Philippines? A little triangular charm with a loop on top, inscribed with an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol. A round coin, too worn to determine if anything was on it originally. A square bronze charm with a rune on it. A Jefferson nickel...

One of those was special. Which one? It would have to be one of the older-looking ones. Of course, with my luck, the Shepherd could be a crazy numismatist just dying for a Kennedy fifty-cent piece. Maybe I could set a trap with a handful of change. Here, Shepherd, here boy, look, I have a Susan B. Anthony dollar, you know you want it.

I put the monisto away. I could stare at it all night trying to pinpoint the reeve magnet, or I could just ask Julie, the human m-scanner extraordinaire, which one felt weird to her. If I was right.

I felt no protective spells on the monisto. Perhaps Red found something that belonged to the Shepherd, a charm, a magic trinket. More likely, he stole it and added it to the monisto to hide it. Unfortunately, the object emitted magic, and whoever carried the monisto became an instant reeve magnet. If I was right, Red had realized he was being tracked, and he handed that thing to Julie knowing that the reeves would return to claim it. He didn't give it to her to protect her. He gave it to her to shift the focus off himself, to point them to a new target. Kid or not, that was a lousy thing to do.

By the time I pulled up in front of my apartment building, I was pissed enough to thrash him. Red was a problem. Julie loved him beyond all reason, and he pretty much used her whichever way he wanted. I tied the reins to one of the posts in a metal row set up for precisely that purpose. Something was seriously wrong with Red. I understood why: because he was on the street, alone, hungry, bullied, left to fend for himself. But I'd known street kids that grew up into people with a decent moral code. I had a feeling Red's moral code consisted of one line: Red does best for Red.

I ran up three flights of stairs to my apartment only to find a solid door blocking the way. I had no key.

I ran down to the first floor and banged on the super's door. "Mr. Patel?"

Mr. Patel was the nicest super I had ever had to deal with...and also the slowest. Brown like a walnut, with sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes, he moved with luxurious leisure, too dignified to accelerate. Trying to nag him into hurrying up would slow him down to the speed of chilled molasses. It took him a good five minutes to find the key ring, after which he proceeded to climb the stairs with venerable decorum. By the time he finally opened the door and deposited the right key into my palm, I was dancing in place with frustration.

I ran into the apartment, grabbed Esmeralda's books, ran out, slapping the door shut behind me, and rushed down the stairs, passing bewildered Mr. Patel on the way.


A single bulb illuminated its round contours, and the door shone with reflected light at the bottom of the narrow stairwell, like an enormous metal coin.

It should've been locked tight.

I descended the gloomy stairs, one at a time, saber in hand. I had smelled wolfsbane out front. Wolfsbane was used to throw shapeshifters off track. Somebody knew I had Derek with me. If it was directed at me, that is.

Derek slept securely on the landing. I had meant to carry him into my office, but I was tired and he'd been eating his Wheaties. He probably weighed close to one fifty in wolfform. I gave up midway.

Two drops of blood stained the step in front of me. Another glistened two steps lower. I smelled gunpowder. Andrea had fired. Her bullet must have only grazed him, otherwise there would be a body, not just blood droplets. Andrea never missed.

I conquered the stairs on soft feet and stopped with my back to the wall. An odd hoarse breathing echoed through the vault, like a dull saw being drawn against the wood.

I leaned and glanced through the doorway.

A mangled body curled on the floor among shreds of clothes. Deformed or battered, it lay crumpled in a grotesque heap of mismatched limbs, a patchwork of raw beef, red and mud-brown. Another hoarse breath sent tiny echoes scurrying into the corners. Julie was nowhere in sight.

As I stood there, the body turned its head. I saw a clump of blond hair and a single blue eye, the other hidden by a flap of flesh.


I closed the distance between us in a single leap. The dirty patches on her limbs weren't grime. They were fur. Short brown fur, with traces of spots dappling the skin.

Her chest was misshapen, too flat. The skin on her stomach ended abruptly, not torn or cut, but simply falling too short of its goal, as if there wasn't enough of it. The coils of her intestines glistened through the opening. Her left leg melted into a paw, while her right stretched too long, twisting backward. Her jaws protruded, mismatched, her lips way too short, her fangs puncturing her cheeks.

Dear God. The Lyc-V got her after all.

Andrea's left eye focused on me, her iris baby-blue. A long gurgling sound broke free of her throat. "Heeeeelp."

This was beyond me. I've never seen a shapeshifter stuck between forms.

I had to find someone who could help her. Doolittle. But he was back at the Pack Keep. It would take me hours to reach it. Her skin had taken on a sallow, pale gray tint that meant the shapeshifter's body was scraping the last of its reserves dry. Andrea might not have hours.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Articles you may like