"Probably no one in the world knows more about ghosts and the afterlife than the ghoul queen of New Orleans. What if there's a spell that could boot Kramer right off this plane of existence?"
"Then Marie would want too much in return for it, not to mention practicing black magic is against vampire law," was his immediate reply.
"Since when did you worry about being law-abiding?" I scoffed.
His dark gaze was steady. "Since I fell in love with you and assumed Mastership of a line. If it was proven that we practiced black magic-and I don't trust Marie not to mention it-the Law Guardians could sentence us to death. That's a chance I'm not willing to take, Kitten."
I disagreed that Marie would tattle on us, but I remembered all too well how lethally efficient Law Guardians were when it came to death sentences. I'd briefly been under one of those, and only some quick thinking combined with misdirection had prevented my head from parting company with my shoulders less than five minutes after a Law Guardian pronounced that sentence.
The only other way Marie could help us would be to give me another wineglass full of her blood, but for me to admit that my Remnant-summoning powers had run their course held its own set of unacceptable consequences.
Damn. Back to square one: trying to catch someone who was made of air and for all intents and purposes, immortal. You don't have a chance in hell, an insidious inner voice whispered.
Fuck you; pessimism never helped anyone, I told it.
"All right," I said, forcing a smile. "We concentrate on finding the women and let Kramer or his accomplice come to us once we do."
And if they do, that relentless inner voice continued to taunt, you're going to need a helluva lot more than burning sage to save the day.
Yeah, I knew that, too. But I'd resolved to believe that things would work out, and that was what I was going to do.
On October 14, while all of us were in the family room watching a movie to break up the monotony of more fruitless waiting, my new cell phone finally vibrated with a text. I almost leapt up from the couch to read it, praying it wouldn't be a wrong number, then let out a whoop.
"Elisabeth sent over an address! Let's move."
Bones was already on his feet, Spade and Denise following suit, but Ian shot me a piqued look.
"You don't mean all of us, do you? The movie's not over."
"You've seen this one before," I replied in disbelief.
He shrugged. "Watching Snape make fun of Harry is my favorite part."
"Let him stay," Bones stated. "He can watch over Tyler while we're gone. You can rouse yourself to do that if need be, right, mate?"
Ian's mouth curled at the heavy irony in Bones's voice. "Probably."
"I'm not going?" Tyler sounded disappointed, but his thoughts indicated otherwise. Ian, watching over me? Finally, this situation's looking up!
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, Tyler, you're staying here with Ian. Try not to let it upset you too much."
It won't, he thought, but said, "I'll manage," so mildly that Bones let out a snort.
I went to the refrigerator and grabbed multiple packets of sage, handing them out to Spade, Denise, and Bones. It felt weird to be loading up on plants instead of silver before a potentially dangerous situation.
My mother marched over, holding out her hand with a challenging glint in her eye. "You're not expecting me to stay behind, too, are you?"
"Um . . ." I hedged.
Actually, I had, thinking that Tyler would do better with my mom here to protect him if by chance Kramer showed up. Hell, if the ghost attacked during the climactic scene with Snape, Harry, and Dumbledore, Ian might not even stop watching the movie to heal any mortal injuries the medium received.
"Tyler would feel safer with both of you," I began.
"The hell I would," Tyler cut me off, glaring. Cock-blocker! rang across my mind.
If I'd still been human, my cheeks would've been flaming. I'd been called a lot of names in my day, but never that one before.
"Fine," I gritted out, hoping Tyler's horniness wouldn't end up being the death of him. "Mom, you're coming. Here's some sage."
She took it almost in surprise, like she'd been expecting me to argue. I wanted to, but between Tyler's mental berating and the fact that I didn't want to leave my mother with only Ian to protect her if Kramer showed up, kept me quiet.
Next I passed out lighters until everyone had several. Then I went to get the final protection against a possible spectral attack: Helsing, who gave me a baleful look when I hustled him into his carrier.
Sage, lighters, and a pissed-off kitty might not look like the most conventional ghost-busting arsenal, but so far, they'd proven to be the most effective.
Elisabeth and Fabian flew into our car even before Bones had it in park.
"You must hurry, he just left!" she said, her accent even thicker with her agitation.
"Which apartment?" I asked.
She pointed at the left-hand corner of the building. "One of the top ones."
Bones's brows went up. "You don't know the number?"
"It's difficult to get such details while trying to remain unseen," Fabian replied, rallying to Elisabeth's defense.
"How many can there be?" I asked Bones, with a philosophical shrug.
He got out of the car. "Appears we're going to find out. Charles," he said, as Spade pulled up alongside us, "stay here and keep some sage burning. With luck, we'll be right back. Fabian, Elisabeth, keep a lookout for Kramer in case the sod returns while we're here."
"What about me?" my mother asked from the backseat.
"You're staying with the car," I told her as I got out, hefting the pet carrier along with me. "No offense, Mom, but your people skills suck."
She huffed in indignation. Bones flashed me an appreciative grin that she couldn't see.
"Keep it running, Justina. We may need you to fetch us in a hurry," he said, his tone very bland.
That explanation mollified her until she thought it through, which didn't happen until we were already up the second flight of stairs of the apartment building.
"You can run faster than that!" I heard her shout from across the parking lot.
Spade's reply was swallowed up by sounds from the occupants in the building, but I caught the hint of his laughter, which meant he'd belted it out without restraint.
"She's got to be steaming," I noted in amusement.
Bones's smile was shameless. "How regrettable."
We climbed the last flight of stairs to the third floor. Several apartments were clustered in the general area Elisabeth had indicated. Because it was right around dinnertime, it sounded like all of them were occupied, too. No narrowing it down that way.