The loud banging jolted me awake, more than a little confused. One second, Theo and drizzled honey, now, the library floor. If there was one good thing about being pregnant, it was the crazy sex dreams.
I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes when the door swung open, light flooding into the room. Next to me, Theo grumbled and turned over, his eyes squinting tighter closed. I sat up on my elbows, blinked to clear my vision. I was pretty sure I’d locked the door before Theo and I took our impromptu nap.
When I saw Elizabeth on her knees with a tiny sliver of metal in her hand, I was even more sure.
“Elizabeth. Didn’t we have a discussion about breaking and entering last week?”
She blushed, but didn’t look the slightest bit chagrined. “Last week was about finding out the contents of the bottom desk drawer. This is actually important.”
“You couldn’t knock?” Theo muttered, rolling back over and sitting up. I’d discovered while Theo was a great person to wake up to after a full night’s sleep, he was not a great person to wake up to after one or two hours of sleep. The crankiness usually wore off in the first ten minutes but until then, total grouch.
“I did knock. You two were out cold.” Elizabeth stood and I blinked again. What she wore could loosely be called a dress. I thought it would be better as a t-shirt but I guess I’d gotten old and domesticated. And no way in hell you’d catch me in four inch heels unless it was an absolute necessity.
Little dress. High heels. And now that I was really awake, I could see her makeup. Date night.
Rian was going to flip out. Absolutely, thoroughly flip out.
Theo stood, stretched and yawned. I knew he was awake when he sucked in a breath, breathed out a curse. “Rian is going to flip out.”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed and I resisted the urge to roll mine. I couldn’t smack Theo because I was still on the floor but I did kick him. A little. “I really don’t give a fuck what he thinks. Furthermore, he’s not the reason I picked the lock.”
I raised a hand for Theo to lift me up, curiosity and concern going head to head. Concern, because Elizabeth’s idea of cursing was generally limited to hell or damn. Curiosity, because Elizabeth wouldn’t have woken us up, let alone picked the lock, unless it really was serious. “Alright, we’re awake. What’s going on?”
Elizabeth turned on her heels and walked away. Theo looked at me and I shrugged. I didn’t have any more of a clue about what was going on than he did. I combed my fingers through my hair, tried to look less like a disaster - just in case I had visitors - as we left the room and followed Elizabeth down the hall.
Instead of leading us to the informal parlor, Elizabeth opened the door to the formal parlor. I don’t go in there unless I absolutely, positively have to-because it’s scary. There are all these somber photos on the wall of previous leaders of the Covenant, going back to the first female of my family line. The entire room is full of heavy, baroque furniture in blacks and reds, thick heavy drapes at the windows, the only light from the fireplace and the candle lit chandelier.
Serious freak out territory.
I wasn’t surprised to see Rian and Lies there. I really wasn’t even surprised to see Samuel and Jackson. Lies and Elizabeth liked to double date, although while Elizabeth had an ever changing lineup, the only person Lies went anywhere with was Samuel. My surprise came from seeing Duprees there. He looked as somber as any of the pictures on the wall, although his face held a degree of puzzlement.
Considering the fact Theo and I wore pajamas, Rian his clothes from earlier, and the other four looked like they were about to hit a night club, I could forgive the puzzlement.
“Detective Duprees. I hope you’ll understand when I say I didn’t expect to see you again quite so soon.”
“And I hope you’ll understand when I say I didn’t expect to see you quite so soon either. But when Elizabeth opened the envelope and saw the contents, she made the best decision and called me.” A clear plastic bag containing a sheet of paper sat in his lap. Even from across the room, I could see the writing was in red ink.
“Maybe we could start at the beginning. Or as close to the beginning as we’re going to get.” Theo guided me toward one of the uncomfortable looking pieces of furniture and I eased down to the surface, although it was like sitting on a piece of hardwood covered with thin fabric. “Jude and I were asleep, so we’re a little behind on current events.”
“A courier dropped off an envelope addressed to Jude. I was going through the mail while Lies and I waited for the guys, and so I opened the envelope, shook the paper out.” Elizabeth ran her hands up and down her arms as if chilled. Duprees stood quickly, shedding his jacket and slipping it over her shoulders. She gave him a quick smile of thanks and he smiled back, his dimple popping out.
Rian seethed from his chair next to the fire. It was a quiet seethe, but still obvious. Jackson seemed confused but he’d been at the house often enough I knew he looked that way about half the time.
“It was an envelope addressed to the Covenant in general, in care of you, Ms. Henries. I hope you’ll understand why I took the liberty of opening your mail when you see the contents.” Duprees pulled another clear plastic bag from one of his pockets, held it out to me. Theo took the bag, turned it face up.
Red ink, fluid and smooth, covered the page. The color of the ink varied from dark red to an almost pink color and it looked like the pen had caught in some places, leaving little drops. I raised my eyes to Duprees, eyebrows going up in question.
“Sorry. Open the bag and smell the envelope. Don’t touch, just smell.”
Furrowing my brow, I did as instructed, pulled the edges apart, and held the open bag to my nose. I gagged, assaulted with the smell of rust and iron, and pushed the bag at Theo. He sealed it shut again while I fanned the air around my face, attempted to get the smell out of my nose.
Not ink. Blood. And if I had to guess, I’d say Deiadre’s.
I closed my eyes as my stomach roiled, leaned back into the sofa. I felt overheated, my throat painfully dry. “Water and a lemon. Now.”
The words weren’t fully out of my mouth before I heard the door open followed by the clatter of heels on hardwood. Either Elizabeth or Lies, probably Lies, because she moved faster in heels. Theo shifted me until I could lay with my head in his lap. The room fell quiet. Jackson’s fervent statement broke the silence.
“Dude. I’m so glad guys can’t get pregnant. That just looks like it sucks major rhino dick.” Someone choked back a laugh and a voice that sounded like Duprees muttered, “Jesus Christ Almighty.”
“I’m not going to ask what you know about rhino dick, major or otherwise. Detective, I’m going to guess whatever’s in the other bag is also written in blood. Why don’t you do us both a favor in the interest of time and just read it aloud?”
Silence. I sighed, exhausted even though I’d just taken a nap. “Detective, we keep very few secrets here. And if this is even remotely along the lines of what Marie Therese talked about earlier, the Covenant will definitely find out.”
I heard the tapping of approaching heels and sat back up, opened my eyes when the footsteps stopped in front of me. Lies handed me a glass of ice water and a sliced lemon and I took them like I was doing a shot of tequila. After draining half the water, I handed her back the glass and looked at Duprees. “We’re waiting.”
He looked like he wanted to argue, but decided not to. Picking the baggie up, he cleared his throat before beginning to read.
My dear readers,
I trust this letter finds you in reasonably good health. Little Deiadre certainly isn’t, but I’m sure you know that by now.
I could blather on about why I’m doing this, boring you to the point of tears, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I’m doing this because I can and as you’ll soon find out there’s very little you can do to stop me. I’ll be amused by your efforts, so please, do try, but be prepared for failure.
In case you’re wondering, little Deiadre was surprisingly tart. I’d expected a sweeter taste, considering her lack of experience, but I suppose her forays into hoodoo, that thoroughly American backwoods tradition, added a little flavor twist. I’ll have to take such things into account in the future. One wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of bottling all that lovely liquid up only to have it turn to a vinegary mess within a year.
Now, don’t worry your heads about this. As I’ve said, there’s very little you can do to stop me, so there’s no need to give yourselves wrinkles.
I’ll be in touch soon.
I opened my mouth to say something, probably an expletive, but Elizabeth beat me to the punch.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.