Home > Night Stalker (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #2)

Night Stalker (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #2)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

Chapter 1

I was on my way to the bus stop after my shift ended when I heard disturbing noises down a side street—loud growling and banging and shuffling of feet, not normal for two-thirty in the morning.

Five vampires had two shifters surrounded and were toying with them. The werewolves had shifted, but it wasn’t helping them very much. It was dark, and I couldn’t see too well, but at least one of the wolves was bleeding from a wound on his shoulder. The other wolf was smaller and partly blocked from my sight by her companion.

It would have been easy to keep walking—it wasn’t my fight—but I had been attacked repeatedly by young rogue vampires, and other people had stepped up to help me, whether I needed help or not. They just did it because it was the right thing to do.

I didn’t have any showy magic like some of my friends. No fireballs or lightning or mini-tornados that I could throw at the vamps. All I could do was wade in and kick some ass.

Turning down the street, I shouted, “Hey! What the hell is going on? That’s not a fair fight!”

The vamps and the shifters all turned to look at me walking toward them. All they saw was a normal-looking young woman. I wasn’t even armed.

One of the vamps grinned and came to meet me. “Hey, pretty lady. In the mood for a party?” He was trying to get me to lock eyes with him, and his voice oozed persuasion.

He was faster and stronger than I was, but I was immune to his charms. I pulled magic from the nearest ley line and routed it to my hands and feet. When he came within reach, I cooed, “Ooo, come to mama, baby.”

The vamp’s posture relaxed, and his grin widened. I hit him in the face and caved in his skull, then I hit him in the chest, driving my fist past his ribs and dislocating his spine. The damage would have killed most creatures, but I figured he’d be back to his normal undead self in a day or two.

Stepping over his body, I came in range of the others. I grabbed the nearest vamp by the shoulder and threw her across the street, where she hit a brick wall hard enough to break bones. A push of ley line magic blew two more of them, head over heels, away from me. The other vamp and the shifters stared at me with their mouths open.

“You have fifteen seconds to disappear,” I said to the remaining vamp. He took me at my word. I turned to look at the other two who still had the ability to walk. They picked themselves up and ran.

“Can you walk?” I asked the wounded shifter. He yawned, vigorously shook his head, and limped past me. His girlfriend followed him, giving me a wide berth.

I followed them out to the main street, reaching it just as the bus went past. I cursed, knowing the next bus wouldn’t be along for another half hour. The wolves took off in the direction I had just come from, and I let them go. It was late, and I was tired. I figured I’d done my good deed for the night.

It was quicker to walk the half mile to my apartment than to wait for the next bus. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining or snowing, and the night wasn’t too cold. But walking at three o’clock in the morning near an area that had never claimed to be a high-rent district wasn’t terribly comfortable, no matter the weather. A car drove by, and the driver slowed. I avoided looking at him, not wanting to encourage him or make him think I was a hooker, and he continued on his way.

After another car did the same thing, I decided to get off the street and cut across a vacant lot to the narrow riverside park that ran on both sides of Sloman’s Creek. I could walk along the jogging trail that would lead almost directly to my apartment.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached my apartment complex, letting the tension flow out of me. I crossed the park to the back door of my building and put my key in the door.

A sound, or maybe just a feeling, caused me to turn. A person stood less than ten feet behind me. I pulled power from the ley line that ran parallel to the creek and through the apartment complex and braced myself for battle.

The dark figure didn’t move or say anything. He—at least six feet tall, so I assumed it was a man—just stood there and watched me. He was shrouded in a black cloak with a peaked hood that shadowed his face. When I also didn’t say anything, or do anything, he slowly backed away, then disappeared into the shadows.

Quickly turning the key, I hurried through the door and pushed it closed behind me. I climbed the first flight of stairs but hesitated at the top, peeking through the window on the second floor. A dark figure stood amongst the trees running along the creek, watching my building.

A few weeks before, a Hunter had watched my apartment from the same copse of trees, repeatedly testing my wards. He had also terrorized not only me but the paranormal and supernatural inhabitants of Westport for months. That man was dead, and very few people knew about him stalking me. I couldn’t imagine that any of them would have talked about me and the Hunter, but one never knew.

The Hunters’ Guild were the enforcers, assassins, and spies for the Order of the Illuminati, a secretive group of mages who first organized in the early fourteenth century. Over time, they amassed wealth and power, and worked their intrigues inside of governments, religions, and corporations, always advancing their agenda to someday rule the world in a magiocracy.

I had been one of them—the Illuminator’s own Hunter—until I betrayed them, delivering an artifact to the Illuminator that revealed the Truth in all things. That artifact had destroyed the Order, burning their City and all of its inhabitants in a magical apocalypse. Only those outside the City had survived that night, and I had run, knowing that if I was ever found, death would be the reward for my treachery.

I went back down the stairs and walked the length of the hall to the stairs at the other end. After climbing to the third floor, I walked back to my apartment overlooking the creek. My wards were intact and showed no alarms, so I entered the apartment but didn’t turn on any lights. I crept to my bedroom window, looked out, and saw the man still standing there.

I didn’t know what to do. I could call the cops, or some of my friends, and try to trap him. But would he stick around and wait to be trapped?

In the end, I checked my wards again, and satisfied that no one would be able to get through them, I undressed in the dark and slipped between the sheets. As tired as I was, it didn’t take long to drift off to sleep. But the dreams about dark shadowy figures weren’t what I would have preferred.

I was about an hour into my shift the following evening when a guy I’d never seen before pushed through the doorway, looked around, then came over and sat at the bar.

“What’s your pleasure?” I asked.

He didn’t answer right away, craning his neck to look at the taps, then surveying the bottles displayed behind me. His survey stopped, and his eyes widened slightly. I knew he’d hit one of the posters with the bar’s rules.

Rosie’s Rules

Cash only—no cards, no checks, no promises

No display of weapons

No loud arguments

No fighting

No release of bodily fluids

No conjuring

No bewitching without the subject's permission

No shifting

All artifacts must remain secured

NO POISONS, POTIONS, INHALANTS or EXTRACTS not sold by the bartender

Killing a paying customer will result in a lifetime ban

His eyes slid back to me. I set a menu in front of him and pointed to the beer list.

“Specials tonight are oysters at half price, the soup of the day is beef barley, and the entrée is beef Wellington,” I said. “Get you anything to drink?”

Newcomers often had a difficult time understanding what they’d walked into when they found Rosie’s. I had, so it didn’t bother me to be patient, and it wasn’t very busy yet. He had made it through the door, though, so nothing on the list of rules should have come as too much of a shock.

“A Murphy’s,” he said, “and a shot of Powers.” His voice was harsh, gravelly, and I thought I detected a hint of a brogue.

I sized him up while I poured his drinks. Tall, with broad shoulders, and a weathered face that was crowned with grizzled salt-and-pepper hair. If he wasn’t a magic user, I’d have pegged him as early-to-mid fifties, and the years hadn’t been easy.

I brought his drinks and asked, “Will you be dining with us?”

“Uh, yeah. Can I have a minute?”

“Not a problem. Take as long as you like.”

I started to move away, but he said, “I heard you have a vampire problem around here.”

I shrugged. “Depends on what you call a problem, I guess.” I personally had run into a number of problems with vampires, but most people were luckier.

“Wondered if anyone is paying bounties on them.” It was sort of phrased as a question, and I found the implication disturbing.

“Not that I know of, and the police probably wouldn’t approve. They get all upset when citizens find headless bodies in the morning.”

He grunted.

After a while he ordered dinner, had another couple of drinks, and paid out. I didn’t think anything more about it until later that evening when my favorite cop came in.

“Business or pleasure, Lieutenant?” Jordan Blair was head of the DA’s Paranormal Crimes Unit. He wasn’t a magic user himself, but he was a sensitive. Late thirties, with olive skin and short dark hair, he was good-looking and also entirely average. I often thought he’d be good at undercover work, because people would completely overlook him.

“Seeing you is always a pleasure,” he said, smiling as he sat down.

I shook my head. “I didn’t know Blair was Irish. I think hanging out here has infected you with the blarney. Coffee or alcohol?”

“A Smithwick’s and a shot of Powers,” he said.

I gave him a menu and went off to pour his drinks. When I brought them back, I asked, “Have you ever heard of people offering bounties on vampires?”

His head snapped up from perusing the menu. “Where did you hear that?”

I scowled at him. “It’s not polite to answer a question with a question. Especially when you’re off duty.”

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