Kitty Raises Hell Page 1

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Series: Kitty Norville #6

Genres: Fantasy

Chapter 1

I had to admit, this was pretty cool.

Rick had gotten us onto the roof of the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. We sat near the edge, by a railing on a catwalk near the exclusive upper-story clubhouse. From here, we had a view of this whole side of downtown: Elitch’s amusement park to the west, the interstate beyond that, Coors Field to the north, and, to the south, Mile High Stadium. It felt like the center of the universe—at least, this little part of it. We could look downtown and see into the maze of skyscrapers. At night, the sky of stars, washed out in an evening haze of lights, seemed inverted, appearing around us in the lights of the city, in trails of moving cars.

When Rick had escorted me through the lobby and to the elevator, the security guards didn’t look twice at us. He had a passkey for the elevator. I’d asked him how he got that kind of access, the key and security codes—who he knew or what kind of favors he’d pulled in—but he only smiled. It wouldn’t have surprised me to find out he owned a share in the place. Vampires were like that; at least the powerful ones were: prone to quiet, conservative investing, working through layers of holding companies. They had time.

A constant breeze blew up here. I tucked the blond strands of my hair behind my ears yet again. I should have clipped it up. The air had its own scent, particular to this place and nowhere else: oil, gas, concrete, steel, rust, decay—usual city smells. But under it was the dry tint of prairie, a taste of air that had blown across tall grasses and cottonwoods. And under that was a hint of cold, of ancient stone and caves that sheltered ice year-round. The mountains. That was Denver, to the nose of a werewolf. Up here, I could smell it all. I closed my eyes and tipped my nose into the breeze, drinking it in.

“I thought you’d like it up here,” Rick said. I opened my eyes to find him watching me.

I sighed. Back to reality, back to the world. We weren’t here sightseeing. City sounds drifted to me, car engines, a distant siren, music from a bar somewhere. We had a view, but I was afraid that what we were looking for was too good at hiding for us to find from here.

“We’re not going to see anything,” I said, crossing my arms.

“You may not see anything. I’ll see patterns,” he said. Rick appeared to be in his late twenties, confident yet casual. He tended to walk tall, with his hands in his pockets, and look out at the world with a thoughtful, vaguely amused detachment. Even now, when Denver was possibly under assault, he seemed laid-back. “Traffic on I-25’s thinning out. Downtown’s a mess, as usual. It’s like a tide. In an hour, when the theaters and concerts get out, the cars’ll all move back to the freeway. You watch for things moving against the tide. Pockets of motion where there shouldn’t be anything, of unusual quiet.”

He pointed to a hidden corner of the parking lot, tucked near Elitch’s security fence. Two cars had stopped, facing each other, the drivers’ windows pulled alongside each other. The headlights were off, but the motors were running. Hands reached out, traded something. One car pulled away, tires crunching quietly. A moment later, the other pulled away, as well.

I had a few ideas about what that might have been. It still didn’t seem relevant to our problem. “And what does that have to do with Tiamat?” I asked.

Not really Tiamat, which was an ancient Babylonian goddess of chaos. According to myth, newer gods, the forces of reason and order, rose up against her in an epic battle and destroyed her and her band of demons—the Band of Tiamat—and thereby created civilization. Really, I was talking about the whacked-out cult of her worshippers that I had pissed off on my recent trip to Las Vegas. Last week, I found the word Tiamat burned into the door of the restaurant I co-owned. I figured the pack of were-felines and the possibly four-thousand-year-old vampire who led them had come to Denver on the warpath.

We hadn’t learned who left the message on the door, one of the cult members or someone they’d hired. Rick, the Master vampire of Denver, and I had been keeping watch for another attack, but nothing else had happened yet. I was getting more anxious, not less.

“That? Nothing. I’m just showing you how much can happen under our noses. You said a vampire leads the cult. If a vampire is planning an attack in my city, I’ll see it.”

That was why Rick had gotten involved at all—the cult may have targeted me out of revenge, but Rick would take any invasion by another vampire personally. I was happy to have another ally.

I scanned all the way around, searching buildings, skyscrapers, parking lots, roads filled with cars, people walking to dinner, concerts, shopping. Someone laughed; it sounded like distant birdsong. Maybe Rick really could sense the movements of another vampire from up here, but I wasn’t having any luck. I didn’t have much room to pace, but I tried. A couple of steps along the catwalk, turn around, step back. I couldn’t stand the waiting. The modern Band of Tiamat was trying to kill me with anxiety.

“You know what the problem with this is? Wolves hunt by moving. I want to be out there looking for them. Tracking them down.”

“And vampires are like spiders,” Rick said. “We draw our quarry in and trap it. I like the image.”

I suddenly pictured Rick as a creature at the center of his web, patiently waiting, watching, ready to strike. A chill ran down my spine, and I shook the image away.

“What do you really expect to see up here?”

Absently, he shook his head. It wasn’t really an expression of denial. More like thoughtfulness. “If anything else out there is hunting, I’ll see it.”

I gave a crooked smile. “I can see you sitting like this in the bell tower of Notre Dame cathedral, looking out over Paris like a gargoyle.”

He gave me a sidelong glance, then turned his gaze back to the city. “I’ve never been to Paris.”

Which was an astonishing thing to hear from a five-hundred-year-old vampire.

I sat next to him. “Really? No family trips when you were a kid? Didn’t do the backpacking-around-Europe thing? Did people even do that in the sixteenth century?”

“Maybe not with backpacks. But New Spain sounded so much more interesting to a seventeen-year-old third son of very minor nobility with no prospects in 1539 Madrid.”

This was more detail about his past than he’d ever mentioned before. I didn’t say anything, hoping that he’d elaborate. He didn’t.

“Are you ever going to tell me the whole story?”