Eddie and I exchanged glances. "I won't tell," I said. "But you really should let her know. I mean, I guess there's no harm done... but you shouldn't have that kind of lie between you."
Lee looked miserable. "I know. Thank you."
When he stepped aside, Eddie shook his head at me. "I don't like him lying. Not at all."
"Lee trying to save face is the least weird thing going on here," I said.
I found out then that Jill could walk from one side of the store to the other and back without falling over. It wasn't pretty, but it was a start. She was still a long ways from looking anything like the runway models I saw on TV, but considering she hadn't been able to stand in the shoes at first, I supposed she'd made considerable progress. She started to take off the heels, but Lia stopped her.
"No. I told you. You have to wear these shoes all the time. Practice, practice, practice. Wear them home. Wear them everywhere." She turned to me.
"And you - "
"I know. Make sure she doesn't break her neck," I said. "She's not going to be able to wear those all the time, though. Our school has a dress code."
"What if they were in a different color?" asked Lia.
"I don't think it's just the color," Jill said apologetically. "I think it's the stiletto part. But I promise to wear them outside of class and practice in our room."
That was good enough for Lia, and after a few more words of advice, she sent us on our way. We promised to practice and come back in two days. I told Jill I'd meet up with her later, but I don't know if she heard. She was so caught up in the idea of Lee driving her home that pretty much everything else went past her.
I drove over to Clarence's and was met at the door by Adrian. "Wow," I said, impressed at his initiative. "I didn't expect you to be ready so quickly."
"I'm not," he said. "I need you to see something right now."
I frowned. "Okay." Adrian led me deeper into the house, beyond where I normally went, which made me nervous. "Are you sure this can't wait? This thing we've got to do is kind of urgent..."
"So is this. How did Clarence seem the last time you saw him?"
I thought about it. "Well, I know he's been tired. But usually he seemed okay."
"Yeah, well, he's not 'okay' now. It's gone beyond just tired. He's weak, dizzy, and confined to his bed." We reached a closed wooden door, and Adrian stopped.
"Do you know what caused it?" I asked, alarmed. I'd been worried about the complications of a sick Moroi but hadn't expected to deal with it so soon.
"I have a pretty good idea," said Adrian, with surprising fierceness. "Your boy Keith."
"Stop saying stuff like that. He's not 'my boy,'" I exclaimed. "He's ruining my life!"
Adrian opened the door, revealing a large, ornate canopied bed. Walking into a Moroi bedroom wasn't something I was comfortable with, but Adrian's commanding look was too powerful. I followed him in and gasped when I saw Clarence lying on the bed.
"Not just yours," said Adrian, pointing at the old man.
Clarence's eyes fluttered at the sound of our voices and then closed again as he shifted into sleep. It wasn't his eyes that held my attention, though. It was the pale, sickly pallor of his skin - that, and the bloody wound on Clarence's neck. It was small, made with just one prick, like it had come from a surgical instrument. Adrian looked at me expectantly.
"Well, Sage? Do you have any idea why Keith would be draining Clarence's blood?"
I swallowed, scarcely able to believe what I was seeing. Here was the last piece. I knew that Keith had been supplying the tattooists, and now I knew where Keith was getting his "supplies."
"Yes," I said at last, my voice small. "I have a very good idea."
CLARENCE DIDN'T WANT to talk to us about what had happened. In fact, he adamantly denied anything was wrong, claiming he'd scratched his neck while shaving.
"Mr. Donahue," I said as gently as I could, "this was made by a surgical tool. And it didn't happen until Keith visited."
"No, no," Clarence managed in a weak voice. "It has nothing to do with him."
Dorothy stuck her head in just then, carrying a glass of juice. We'd called for her shortly after my arrival tonight. For blood loss, the remedies were the same for Moroi and human alike: sugar and fluids. She offered the glass to him with a straw, her lined face filled with concern. I continued my pleas as he drank.
"Tell us what your deal is," I begged. "What's the arrangement? What's he giving you for your blood?" When Clarence remained silent, I tried another tactic. "People are being hurt. He's giving out your blood indiscriminately."
That got a reaction. "No," said Clarence. "He's using my blood and saliva to heal people. To heal sick humans." Saliva? I nearly groaned. Of course. The mysterious clear liquid. Now I knew what gave the celestial tattoos their addictive high. Gross.
Adrian and I exchanged glances. Healing certainly was a use for vampire blood. The tattoo I wore was proof of that, and the Alchemists had worked long trying to duplicate some of the blood's properties for wider medicinal use. So far, there was no way to synthetically reproduce it, and using real blood simply wasn't practical.
"He lied," I replied. "He's selling it to rich teenagers to help them with sports. What did he promise you for it? A cut of the money?"
Adrian glanced around the opulent room. "He doesn't need money. The only thing he needs is what the guardians wouldn't give him. Justice for Tamara, right?"
Surprised, I turned back to Clarence and saw Adrian's words confirmed on the old Moroi's face. "He... he's been investigating the vampire hunters for me," he said slowly. "He says he's close. Close to finding them out."
I shook my head, wanting to kick myself for not having figured out sooner that Clarence was the blood source. It explained why Keith was always unexpectedly here - and why he got so upset when I showed up without warning. My "fraternizing with vampires" had had nothing to do with it. "Sir, I guarantee the only thing he's investigating is how to spend the money he's been making."
"No... no... he's going to help me find the hunters who killed Tamara..."
I stood up. I couldn't stand to hear any more. "Get him some real food, and see what he'll eat," I told Dorothy. "If he's only weak from blood loss, he just needs time."