They had to get off the road. The car was a wreck and it would draw unwanted attention. The windshield was gone. The headlights were shattered and the hood was indented. The interior fared no better. There was blood and gore all over the back seats, on the ceiling, and all over Serf. He’d tried wiping as much off as he could, but when he looked at his reflection in the rearview, he felt he’d done a derisory job.
They were almost there, halfway across the bridge and passing its summit, descending into the city. And Cityside never looked so good to Serf. He stared at the metropolis through the naked window. Drizzle flicked his face. He blinked rapidly and batted away the rain from his eyes. Above, black storm clouds soared past and congregated over Woodside. Ahead, the once shrouded sun beamed its remaining illumination upon the city’s steel, pallid spires.
During the trip back, Serf had spent more time thinking than worrying. He had to get a new vehicle. He had to get to a phone. For that, they’d have to get to Servanah’s apartment. He had to reach his men, have them locate the priest, and pick up the car he’d leave behind.
He made the turn off the bridge and entered Cityside, already looking for a car. Several blocks later, he thought he saw a suitable replacement and pulled up alongside it. “Wait here. We’re changing cars.”
Serf got out.
Seconds after breaking in, he got it to start. He left it running while he went back to the ruined car parked alongside it. He opened the rear door and did the same to its replacement. Lucien scampered into the new vehicle’s back seat and promptly stained the upholstery with bloody paw prints.
Before Serf closed both sets of doors, he caught a glimpse of the mangled carcass, and the sight aroused him. Froze him in place. Then he remembered where he was and how exposed they were. He headed back to the driver’s seat. They peeled away from the curb.
They drove down a destitute strip where dilapidated structures hung like hauntings leaning into the traffic. Arches of corroded stone and blackened brick. Neither empty nor abandoned were these edifices. The region was home to many a fallen, both mortal and demonic.
Serf knew where he was going. And knowing where you were going helped. Few street names depended from the darkened lampposts.
“Lucien,” Serf said, when they reached Servanah’s building. “We’re here.” He drove around to the back of the building.
“We must hurry,” Lucien said, looking past Serf and out the window, at the sky. “Sundown is near. I’ll not have Astor hinder my hunt.”
Serf got out and opened the back seat. “Stay close.”
Together, with Lucien by his side, transformed into a wolf, they entered via the rear entrance.
They took the stairs six flights up and made it to her apartment without incident. Now that Serf was back at Servanah’s, buried thoughts rose from their graves: the guilt he felt for submitting, the pleasure he took from it, the need of it. He missed Servanah so much. He felt himself rise below. But Lucien’s bark killed desire.
“Contain your lust. You ripen the air with it. Come! The way is clear!”
Sunlight streamed through the skylight and spotlighted the wooden spikes still staked to the wall.
As Serf entered, Lucien shoved him aside and scampered past. Serf grabbed the doorframe and avoided the spill.
“Contact your men now!” Lucien roared. He’d picked up Servanah’s scent. He saw it too, diminishing, fading red wisps floating before him. Looked more orange and pink than red. He followed the thickest of the thin, the strongest of the streams to the living room.
Serf rubbed his shoulder wound as he stepped inside. He’d thought it was worse than it actually was. He felt the skin knitting beneath his fingertips as his body sewed the wound shut. He’d never healed this fast and was grateful for Bailien’s blood.
Scent wise, there wasn’t much left. Visually, there wasn’t much left either. Lucien sniffed the air anyway. The fur quivered along his muzzle. Then, his fur bristled. He’d caught a coruscating scent, then a flash of Servanah’s grimacing face. Lucien froze. Allowed the faint scent to engulf him and submitted to the vision.
Underneath the skylight, Serf sat on the bed, phone in hand. On the second ring, Larson picked up.
“Where are you? Been trying to reach you all day,” Larson said.
“I’ve had a busy one.” Serf mentally smirked at the understatement. “I need you and Sands to handle some things.”
“No problem. But I’ve got some news you might want to hear.”
“What is it?”
“We’re outside the City Morgue. The place is wrecked. Looked like something flew right through the building. God only knows what the interior looks like. Happened sometime before sunup. Might be your guy.”
Serf couldn’t believe his luck. His time serving as a chaperone might be over. “The morgue? That’s Sloth’s domain.”
“Yeah,” Larson said. “Their men have the place locked down. Detective Boris Loffkar’s in charge here. Works for Laszlo. Of course, he won’t let us in.”
Serf knew who Boris was. He was enthralled to Laszlo, Sloth’s coven leader within District one. “Don’t worry about getting in. Boris will let us in once we get there. Hunting a Recreant takes precedence over everything else.”
“I told him that, but he didn’t want to hear it. Says he’s not budging until he hears from Laszlo. What do you want us to do?”
“I’m at Servanah’s. I need you to handle some things for me. Got a vehicle I need off the road, and a person located. Name’s Purgeon, Father Randolph Purgeon.”
“A priest? What do you want us to do once we find him?”
“Don’t know yet. Keep him in place for now.”
Lucien was lost in the vision, frozen in place, as stiff as rigor mortis. His claws grasped the ground. The fur along the entire length of his frame bristled. His jaw was clenched, lips pulled back, eye sealed shut; drool descended in streams and fell from between his fangs. A low growl made his throat undulate.
As suddenly as it had started, the vision ended. He’d seen everything, beginning with Raguel descending from the skylight, to when he’d killed Servanah and left with the mortal in his arms. They’d been speaking in the vision. But Lucien hadn’t heard what they’d said. That power was reserved for the Winged-Ones. Lucien’s envy merged with his wrath. He missed his rank. Missed his wings. Unjustly taken. An undeserved penance.
The Recreant had fed off two vampires. One more before addiction.
He looked to the window. The sun was falling. There wasn’t much time. He didn’t understand why Raguel was hunting the dead. Nor did he care. Retribution was his only concern.
“Serf!” he roared. “Come here!”
Slower than Lucien would’ve liked, Serf entered the room.
“Have you called your men? The Recreant’s fed twice.”
Serf knew what that meant. “I’ve called my people. They’ll have the priest in no time. And if the kid’s with him, we’ll have her too. But I’ve got better news than that.”