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Sam felt like throwing her weapon and badge at him. "You think I'm lying to you about this?"
"I know Dwyer's been dogging a transfer back here for the last two years. He's kissed ass from here to Homestead to get an assignment to Homicide." He sat down behind his desk and folded his hands. "I'd say, yeah, he's coming back for you."
Some of the panic inside her loosened. "You partner us, I'll be dead in a week."
"I'm not assigning him to replace Quinn," the captain said. "You'll get Suarez, and Ortenza can have Dwyer while I work out how to bust him down to patrol. Until I do, you need to keep your mouth shut about this."
She had been harassed, stalked, assaulted, and shot three times because of one unbalanced cop with a grudge, but she couldn't tell anyone. "Right."
Garcia held up a hand. "I'm on your side, Brown, but that's not enough. You have to see it through their eyes." He nodded toward the squad room. "You're young, attractive, and you've made rank faster than any man here. Some of the squad already think you're a slut for promotion. You also levied a sexual harassment against your own partner, and when that didn't stick, you went for attempted murder, and wore a wire."
And the squad would believe whatever Dwyer said over her. That was the way it was. "Dwyer made me want to puke from day one. As for my rank, I earned it with my brain, not my ass."
"I know. Which is why you're going to keep your head down until I can boot this nutcase off my squad." He produced an ugly smile. "You're not the only one who's had to swallow shit to make rank."
"Dwyer isn't just shit, Captain." She looked at the bullet-wound scar creasing the back of her left hand and got to her feet. "He's psychotic. The real deal. Whatever you think about me, don't underestimate him. I did, and I almost lost a kidney."
"I'll handle it."
"You do that. But if I turn up dead, do me a favor. Don't believe him when he says he didn't kill me." She walked out of the office.
When Sam got to her desk, Harry handed her the sheet she had printed out on the nightclub. "Guess what?"
She couldn't think about Dwyer, or she'd spend the rest of the day emptying her stomach in the nearest toilet. "I don't know, what?"
"That building with the nightclub just changed hands." Her partner nodded toward the sheet in her hand. "Check out the name of the new property management company."
Sam focused on the sheet, and found the paragraph about the sale of the property. "I'll be damned. Lucan Enterprises."
"Yeah." Harry grinned. "So, are we going dancing tonight, honey, or what?"
John Keller had felt the air change as soon as the bus passed Orlando. What had been cold and dry in Georgia suddenly softened and warmed, easing the tightness in his chest. By the time the Greyhound pulled into the Hollywood station, he was tired, hungry, and hopeful.
Tired and hungry were nothing new, but the hope was something he hadn't felt in a long time.
The driver, a lean black man with distrusting eyes, took John's one suitcase from the cargo bay and set it down in front of him. "You got a place to go, my man?"
John nodded and reached for the case.
"I just wanted to say how I appreciate you looking after the old lady," the driver said, nodding toward the frail, elderly woman being escorted from the station by the middle-aged daughter who had come to meet the bus.
Helping the lady in and out of her seat and escorting her to the tiny restroom on the bus had been simple courtesy, nothing more, but the other passengers had stared at John as though he had lost his mind.
"It wasn't a big thing. Have a safe trip back," John told the driver, and then paused as the man held out a business card. "What's this?"
"My brother's got a roofing business in north Broward. Steady work for a man who ain't afraid of heights." The driver gestured toward the northwest. "You need a job or something, call him, tell him Maurice said you're okay."
John took the card and shook the driver's hand. "Thank you."
"Like you said, no big thing." Maurice grinned, flashing gold caps. "You take care now, my man."
John walked into the station and stopped at one of the vending machines to get a can of soda. He studied the card and wondered if he might have to make the call to Maurice's brother. The bus ticket to Florida had left him with seventeen dollars in his wallet. If Mercer didn't show up, it was enough to buy a couple of meals, make some long-distance phone calls, or rent a cheap room for the night. After that he would hit bottom: broke, homeless, and unemployed.
It didn't frighten him. Hitting bottom had been a regular occurrence in John Keller's life since leaving Chicago.
Working his way to Florida had been harder than John had expected, but the economy was on a downslide, and no one wanted to hire a grim, quiet ex-priest with no practical job skills. He had been forced to spend a month in Kentucky working labor-pool jobs and living in a homeless shelter simply to save up for a bus ticket here.
John took a long drink from the ice-cold can of Pepsi and felt too many eyes watching him. He didn't blame the passengers waiting for their buses or relatives to arrive. It was getting dark, and night brought out the caution in people. He'd lost more weight, so much that now his worn, thriftstore-bought clothes hung on him, and he badly needed a haircut and a beard trim. He probably looked like a bum. If Mercer showed up, he might not even recognize him. He was a ghost of his former self.
At least I'm not a vampire.
His sister, Alexandra, had become one. It was ironic, in the sense that John had worked for years to keep his sister out of his life, using his vocation as the wall between them. John had once thought he and Alex might someday reconcile their difficult relationship, once he had overcome his shame over his past mistakes, and she stopped pretending she was an atheist, in order to hurt him.
Before John could begin the healing process, he had been lured from his sister and his calling as a parish priest to become an initiate of Les Frères de la Lumière, the Brethren of the Light. He had gone to Rome for his training, where the former Catholic priests had brainwashed, brutalized, and virtually tortured him. Not, as John had been told, to transform him into a warrior of God. No, John had been taken simply to be made into bait for his sister, for by then Alexandra had already sacrificed her humanity to play physician for her immortal vampire lover and his kind.
Now that his little sister had become something beyond his understanding, something that made a mockery of everything he had believed in, John didn't know what to do. Most of his beliefs and all of his faith had died over the last year. Still, John could not have a relationship with a creature that fed off the blood of the living—even if she had been his sister.
We are on opposite sides of this thing. We can never be brother and sister again.
John had left the priesthood, because as repulsive as the parasitic needs of the Darkyn were, the horrendous practices the Brethren used to hunt, torture, and kill them were just as horrific. He did not know what Alex and the Darkyn intended to do, but the Brethren's mission was clear. They would do whatever was necessary to win the centuries-long struggle to wipe out the Darkyn. John knew they were not above using anyone—street thugs, runaway children, or even other Darkyn—to hunt down, torture, and kill the vampires.
These are demons sent up from hell itself to torment mankind, Archbishop Hightower, John's sponsor and mentor, had told him. They use whatever they can to manipulate us, to turn us against one another.
Alex hadn't done that. To date she had stayed away from John, and the one time they had been alone together since her transformation all she had asked for was a vial of his blood. She claimed she needed it to keep searching for a cure for herself and the Darkyn, whom she believed were victims of an ancient viral mutation.
Hightower had warned John that he was a target of the Darkyn. If these creatures have Alexandra, then the Order is the only thing that can keep you safe now. He had given him incriminating photographs the Darkyn had taken of John when he had been out of his mind on drugs, so much so that he had raped one of the female Darkyn working for the Brethren. They won't rest until you are back in prison.
John hated to admit it, but he missed Hightower as well. He didn't trust the archbishop, and sometimes he despised him, but Hightower had wielded tremendous positive influence over his life. The last time he had seen his mentor, Hightower had paid him the ultimate compliment: You're the closest thing to a son that I'll ever have.
His adopted parents had died while John was in the seminary. Alexandra was as good as dead, and his mentor had betrayed him time and again. That was why John had contacted Mercer. All he really had left in the world were a few friends, like Mercer Lane.
"Father John Keller, please come to the ticket booth," a woman said over the PA system, making him swivel toward the glassed-in booths at the far end of the station. A man in a plain dark suit stood next to the middle window and was scanning the faces of passengers walking in from the bus lot.
John had met Mercer Lane at a Benedictine conference two years ago. Mercer had transferred from his parish in Manchester to America, and had been looking for a post in Florida. His wry, self-deprecating humor had made an otherwise dull event lively, and John had corresponded with him for several months after the conference. Those happy memories made John seriously consider walking out of the station and sparing his friend any involvement in his complicated life.
Then Mercer saw him, and John was caged by the genuine smile that appeared on his face as he hurried over.
"Saints, John, you look like the devil himself with that beard." Mercer embraced him as a brother might and stepped back. He had long, floppy light brown hair and the patrician features of the youngest son of an old, moneyed family, which was exactly what he had been before becoming a priest. "How was the ride?"
"Fine, Merc. I'm glad to see you, too." He picked up his case. "Are you sure this won't be a problem?"