Leave it to Ingrid to score a 212. She’d probably had it since seven-digit dialing still existed in Manhattan. In the living room, Mozart played on. Ingrid existed simultaneously in several centuries and seemed to feel comfortable that way.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“For whatever you need.” She rested her head against the half-open door. “I’ve been told I am responsible for ensuring your needs are met.” She didn’t explain any further, but she didn’t need to.
Sig had told her she had to do anything I asked.
“Just get him the book,” I said, and slipped the card into my pocket, along with my phone. I hoped I wouldn’t ever have cause to use it.
“I’m dropping you off at the apartment,” I told Desmond once the valet had returned with my car. He began to protest, which I knew he would. “There’s something I need you to do for me, and I don’t have time to argue about it. Please.”
Mollified, he climbed into the passenger seat, and while we drove he waited patiently for me to give him his assignment. I chose to stay silent until we were almost back at the apartment before I continued.
“You need to call Lucas. He needs to ask Jackson who the man was who helped him kidnap me. Then you need to find that man and tell him if he doesn’t pay reparation to me, I will find a goddess to make sure the rule of three comes to bite his witch ass with a vengeance.”
“What. The. Hell?”
“Just trust me.”
He opened the car door and looked over at me. “Do you actually know a goddess?”
He got out and walked around the car to my side, leaning against the window and fixing me with a hard look. “Look. I appreciate that this time you aren’t sneaking out and leaving me passed out on your living room floor, I really do. But, if I ask you where you’re going, will you tell me?”
“Where are you going?”
“To save three sad-sack vampire slayers from the scariest-sounding vampire I’ve ever had the displeasure of speaking to. At an amusement park. In Rhinebeck.” There was more to it, but I didn’t have time to explain my gut feeling about the vampire on the phone being linked to the dead elders. I wasn’t sure why, but something inside me told me the two things were connected.
Desmond straightened. “My life would be so much simpler if I thought you’d made that up.”
“Your life would have been a lot simpler if you’d decided to date Kellen Rain instead of me.”
He frowned, but I couldn’t tell if it was because he was surprised I knew about Kellen’s former love for him, or if he’d been oblivious to it. I regretted saying it, like so many things I’d said recently, and grabbed his hand before he could leave. “Desmond?”
“Yes?” He looked down at me again, his face barely concealing the concern.
“I’ll be fine.”
His tight smile didn’t reach all the way to his eyes. “I know you think so.”
“But if I’m not…” Oh hell, let’s just throw all caution to the wind. Honesty was a contagious disease. Once you started telling people the truth, it was hard to stop. “If not, I want you to know—”
“Say it when you come back, Secret.”
He squeezed my hand, brought it to his lips and dusted my knuckle with a kiss. “I need to call a wolf about a witch. And you have a heck of a drive ahead.”
“Clearly you’ve never driven on the highway with a vampire.” I revved the engine for good measure, which brought a smile to his lips, but it was a smile I’d seen before. Without taking more time than necessary to dwell on Desmond’s sad smiles, I pulled away from the curb and into the dark.
It felt like I was going back to Lucas’s estate. The drive north from the city with its tree-lined highways and alien appearance reminded me of the trip to his mansion. Instinct told me I should take the detour, go out of my way and get the pack. What was so great about being pack protector if I couldn’t get the pack to help me when I needed it?
But the moon was dangerously close to full, and judging by what had happened with Desmond the previous night, the wolves weren’t at their most stable. The last thing I needed was a bunch of moon-drunk werewolves going nuts, exploding out of their skin and ruining all my chances of saving Nolan.
As I drove, I thought more about the connections between my investigation into Holden’s innocence and the arrival of the vampire slayers into my life.
It couldn’t be coincidence that Noriko had found Nolan and me outside of Havana the same night I discovered the truth about Holden, and now everything coming together with a nest of rogue vampires out in the middle of nowhere. There was no way it was a fluke. I didn’t know how Jameson and Noriko were involved, whether their intent was pure or not, or if they were being played to get to me. Noriko had attacked me at Havana because she believed I was a vampire and endangering Nolan. But there was more to it than that.
Like, how had she known to find me there?
Something wasn’t adding up. Once all the dots were connected in some messy Rorschach disaster and all the t’s dotted and i’s crossed, things might not look much clearer but someone would be found guilty and someone would be dead. I was hoping both would apply to the same someone, and dead wouldn’t apply to me. But my job didn’t come with a long-term health insurance plan.
Eventually I’d come up on the losing end of a fight. My close encounter with Peyton in the spring had proven that.
So I was without the pack, without Holden, and hanging on to a wing and a prayer, so to speak. If Desmond couldn’t get Jackson to help him contact the witch, I was screwed. If the witch didn’t understand what I needed, I was screwed. Not since the Clinton administration had anyone been as hypothetically screwed as I was.
I pulled onto an old road in bad need of repair. Why anyone had built an amusement park near Rhinebeck was beyond my comprehension. Rhinebeck felt like Connecticut: the Sequel, with its rambling farm-style houses that were well overpriced for the average farmer, quaint antique shops and old country charm. It was where middle-aged city-goers came to stay at a bed-and-breakfast and watch the leaves change color in the fall. No one wanted to come to Rhinebeck to ride a Ferris wheel and eat corn dogs and stale popcorn, at least not all the time. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds were a popular August attraction, but someone had thought having an amusement park three seasons out of the year was a brilliant plan.
When New Yorkers crave a taste of their youth, they go to Coney Island, not Rhinebeck.
The Rhinebeck Amusement Park closed eighteen months after it opened, and that had been three years ago. Most of the rides were auctioned off to traveling amusement shows or placed in storage for use at the Dutchess County Fair each year. It was a huge story in the papers for an entire summer.
What remained was a ghost town.
It had been featured the previous fall in a photo spread for Vogue—models in Alexander McQueen and Gucci draped over rusting metal bumper-car pavilions and in doors of haunted houses. Patrick Demarchelier had done the photography and it had all been trés chic.
I drove the BMW under an unlit neon archway, which had once announced Amusement in bold pink and orange letters, but no one was laughing now. The parking lot was unkempt and sprawled long and dark in every direction. The pavement had begun to crack from disrepair, and grass cropped up through the crevices.
A ten-foot-tall chain-link fence wrapped around the entirety of the blackened park, and beyond it were the handful of reminders of what had been before. The husk of the Ferris wheel, which no longer had its passenger buckets, was an eerie iron wheel against the purple blue of the night sky.
The haunted house sat off the midway a few paces, recessed from the fun and looming with sinister promise. My money was on it for the nest’s home base. Vampires love clichés, and nothing was more clichéd than a haunted house. It was a beautiful mockup of an old Victorian home, and it reminded me a great deal of the Addams family mansion. Which was probably intentional.
I parked the car next to an early nineties red Jeep Cherokee that had seen better days. This had to be Jameson’s car because there were no other signs of life in the parking lot. When I shut the engine off and killed the headlights, I took a moment to adjust to the quiet and let myself drink in the scenery.
Outside the car the silence felt heavier somehow.
I’d expected the sounds of screaming, or fighting, or any indication I’d come to the right place. There was only the sound of wind whistling through torn canopies and the constant smacking of a screen door beating against a wall. I took a sniff of the air and got back a big whiff of fear.
Fear, blood and vampires.
I was definitely in the right place.
The front gate was still chained and padlocked, so no one had gotten in that way. I tugged at the lock once to be sure, but it didn’t budge. I didn’t want to waste any time looking for a secondary entrance or checking for holes in the fence. Not when my path in was right in front of me. I hooked my fingers through the chain links and got a foot up on the locked chain, using it for leverage. I scrambled up the few necessary feet, then swung my legs over the top of the fence, getting snagged in the thigh by a loose bit of metal, which cut deep enough to make me bleed.
I dropped to the ground, landing in a crouch, then stood to investigate the wound. A thin beaded line of blood had sprung up, but it wasn’t serious. It would heal quickly, and in the meantime I had just announced myself to any hungry vampires who hadn’t heard me pull up.
Checking my gun, I flicked off the safety and chose to keep the weapon out and ready rather than tucked into my pants. The steel frame glinted merrily in the moonlight. Loaded with fifteen silver rounds, the gun was pretty pleased with itself. I hoped it knew something I didn’t, because I didn’t have any extra clips.
To my left the old bumper-car area was now reduced to a fenced-in concrete pad with broken glass on the ground from the bulbs that had once lit the overhead rafters. To the right was an aisle of abandoned concession carts promising popcorn, lemonade, hot dogs and cotton candy. The signs had begun to fade over years of dormancy, and the air lacked the cheerful smell of any carnival foods. Behind the bumper cars was the Ferris wheel, and beyond it all was my destination.