Chasing daybreak, p.7
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       Chasing Daybreak, p.7

           Ranae Glass


  Shaking my head I poured myself a cup of hot coffee and opened the laptop Shane had left on the kitchen counter.

  The file was on the desktop labeled ‘Shane is Awesome,’ and proved to be a slide show of images from traffic cameras and ATM machines that ended with Lisa’s car parked outside The Broken Plow, a downtown antique shop. She was feeding the parking meter. With a silent thanks to Shane and Richard, I closed the screen, took another sip of coffee, and plotted my day.

  I started by going over the case files one more time. Before I knew it, noon had come and gone with no word from Tyger. I tracked down the Gamblers Anonymous group’s meeting place. For being anonymous, they really didn’t fly under the radar well. They had a full-page ad in the Yellow Pages. I scribbled the address on a sticky note.

  The group was meeting at the new headquarters for the Church of Redeeming Sacrifice. The CRS, an offshoot of several faiths, was openly opposed to the new vampire legislation some lawmakers were trying to push through. CRS members wanted to go back to the good old days where you could kill a vampire for no other reason than that they were soulless monsters who stood as an affront to God… yada, yada, yada. They weren’t the only faith to come out opposed to the vampires, but they were the only one I knew of actively hunting them down.

  So much for delegating this chore to Shane, I thought grumpily. In fairness, I might have been in a better mood, but I suspected he was spending his free time with his new girlfriend, and she got under my skin. So naturally, in my opinion, any time they spent together was a waste of it. That and Shane was supposed to be my partner. Leaving me to do the grunt work just sucked.

  The meetings were nightly at seven and open to anyone. I loaded up my purse with some of my new goodies and slipped my Glock into my back waistband holster. Pairing my faded denim jeans and white cami with a lightweight jacket just long enough to hide my gun, I was ready. My purse was small, so I could carry either an extra clip or lipstick. When you had to choose between makeup and ammunition, you knew your evening was off to a shaky start. With a quick glance in the mirror, I grabbed my bag and headed out. It was still early, but my first destination wasn’t someplace I wanted to visit in the dark.

  Maybe it was a good thing Shane wasn’t with me after all.

  Walking into Tyger’s motorcycle shop, I was glad I’d chosen the extra clip. One downside to having friends in places like this was that you weren’t always sure they were, in fact, your friends. Would the fact that once upon a time we’d dug mud caves together keep him from telling me to kiss his ass? I was hoping so. That and the fact that I occasionally bailed him out of jail.

  Trying to look more confident that I felt, I walked up to the counter, recognizing the man behind it. It was Brian ‘Tiny’ Rodriguez. He was about 6’9” and 360 lbs. of imposing. He’d earned the nickname Tiny the way a bald man became Harry or my uncle who’d lost three fingers in a sheet-metal accident had become Lefty.

  Tiny’s head was shaved so you got a full view of the snake tattoo that ran up his neck, around his ear, and up to the crown of his skull. Funny, it looked smaller in his mug shot.

  “Hey. I’m looking for Tyger.”

  “You found him,” a voice answered from the back room.

  I leaned over and saw him sitting at a workbench, packing bearings. With one finger, he motioned for me to come in. I did, closing the door behind me.

  Tyger wasn’t quite as impressive as Tiny, but he was close. A comfortable six-plus feet tall, he wore black jeans and a white wife beater smudged with grease and oil. He was ripped like a professional bodybuilder, the muscle so defined it was almost over the top. His freshly shaved scalp was decorated with a tribal tattoo that began somewhere on his back and ran up to his crown where it came to a spear point. He had enough silver hoops in his face to make a TSA agent cry, the largest being a bull ring through his septum. All that aside, when he smiled at me, we were nine again, and he was about to ask to share my pudding cup.

  “Isabel, it’s been a while. How’ve you been?”

  I sat down on the stool across from him. “Good. You? Keeping out of trouble, I hope.”

  He snickered, not looking up from the metal in his hands, but he didn’t answer.

  “I’m here because I need a favor,” I began hesitantly.

  He set the bearing down, grabbed a blue rag, and wiped off his fingers. “What would a solid citizen like you need from a guy like me?”

  I pulled the ring across the bench, scooped a handful of grease, and finished packing the bearings as Tyger pulled the next piece off the old motorcycle. “I need you to get a hold of a car for me.”

  He laughed. “You need me to boost a car for you. Are you kidding? You wearing a wire under there?” A mischievous smile played at his mouth as he pointed a dirty finger toward my blouse.

  I shook my head and wiped off my hands. “I’m on a case. There might be evidence in that car that I need. I just want to borrow it for a few hours.”

  “Hypothetically, I might be able to help you with your case. But it’ll cost you.”

  I sighed. “How much?”

  “Please, girl. I don’t want your money.”

  “Then what do you want?”

  “I need a new security system here in the shop. See, last month the books came up short by a couple of hundred bucks. I need to know who’s cookin’ the numbers, you feel me?”

  I nodded. “I assume you keep everything on your computer?”

  “Of course.”

  “All right, show me.” I really didn’t want to test my new keystroke recorder just yet, but I supposed it was a fair trade, much better than what I’d thought he was going to ask for. It was a good thing I’d packed my gadgets.

  I installed the device and turned it on.

  “There,” I said closing the computer back up. “We should have some answers soon. Now, for your part of the deal.”

  I took out one of my business cards, wrote Robert Welch’s address and the plate number on it, and handed it to him.

  “It was good to see you, Patrick.”

  He cringed. “Don’t let anybody hear you call me that. And Isabel, take care of yourself.”

  I nodded. “I will.”

  The office was quiet when I got back. I didn’t intend to stay too long, but I needed to change out of my tall leather boots into less conspicuous-looking footwear before the GA meeting. But whenever I stopped at the house, I had to check the machine. There was message from my mother wanting me to come over for dinner. Apparently, Phoebe had a new boyfriend Mom wanted me to discreetly investigate. Mom thought he was “shifty.”

  I sighed and jotted down his information.

  The next message was a man’s voice crackling through the machine.

  “Isabel. I just thought you should know I’m out on bail. We should get together, grab a drink. Maybe I’ll swing by your place some time.” Then the caller just laughed and hung up.

  A shiver shot up my back. I recognized the laugh. I’d heard it through a closet door just before a house was set on fire with Shane and me inside. It was Billy Young. I was on the phone with Reggie in a matter of seconds.

  He answered his cell with, “What’s up, baby girl?”

  “Reggie, were you gonna mention that the arsonist I helped catch was out on bail?”

  I could hear him sit up in his squeaky desk chair. “I didn’t know he was.”

  “Well, he called my place today. Said he’d stop by some time.”

  Reggie cussed. “You need me to get a car out there, keep an eye on things?”

  I thought about it. Suddenly, the gun in the small of my back felt really good.

  “Naw. I’ll let Shane know, but I’ve got pretty good security here. Just do me a favor and find the SOB, okay? And when you do, haul him in for harassment. I’ll press charges if I need to.”

  “Okay, sugar. You be careful now, a’right?”

  “Always am.” I hung up the phone.

; Shane walked in the front door a minute later with Mercy in tow. I could hear her annoying voice well before her face came into the office.

  Mercy had been young when she turned, only nineteen according to Shane, and she still acted like a permanent teenager. In a leaves-nothing-to-the-imagination red sundress and wearing dozens of bangle bracelets, she flowed into the room as if she were a movie star walking the red carpet. My hand twitched at my back, wanting desperately to shoot a few holes in her pretty face.

  “Isabel, so nice to see you again,” she said with a Southern drawl so strong that she could pass for Scarlett O’Hara in a remake of Gone with the Wind.

  I ignored Mercy. “Shane, Young made bail somehow. Slippery little weasel. Keep an eye out in case he comes snooping around here, all right?”

  That was when I noticed he was holding her hand. My trigger finger twitched again.

  “I will. But if you’ve got a second, we need to talk to you about the initiation next week.” He led Mercy to a chair in the sitting room.

  “Uh-huh,” I managed, sitting as far away from them as the small room would allow.

  “You see,” Mercy began, the words rolling out of her mouth like molasses, “the Council has decided to welcome our Shane into vampire society. They plan to hold his initiation during the annual vampire ball. It’s tradition that his sire and a member of his human family attend. As his sire is no longer available…”

  That was a nice way to put it, I thought. ‘No longer available.’

  “…I will be acting in her stead. We were hoping, since Shane’s human family isn’t able to attend, that you might act as his family for the evening.”

  I looked from her to Shane. Was this some sort of joke? The expression on his face told me it wasn’t. The look was half embarrassed, half hopeful, and all Shane. I wanted to refuse him, I really did. But something in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t let me, couldn’t bear to disappoint him or let him down. Even after all we’d been through.

  “I’m really going to regret this,” was my answer.

  Mercy clapped merrily and Shane smiled, nodding with a subtle bow of his head that I returned.

  “It’ll be perfect. We’ll get you something suitable to wear, of course,” Mercy rambled on until my eyes glazed over.

  I decided to get the hell out of there before Shane could manipulate me any further with his puppy-dog eyes. With a less-than-heartfelt goodbye, I was out the door in a flash. I’d rather have taken on a pack of rabid honey badgers than spend another second making small talk with Mercy.
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