Vanished (Greywalker Series #4)by Kat Richardson
The toughest case yet for Greywalker Harper Blaine...
Why did Seattle investigator Harper Blaine-as opposed to others with near-death experiences-become a Greywalker? When Harper digs into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father's early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. Forced by some very demanding vampires to take on an/b>… See more details below
The toughest case yet for Greywalker Harper Blaine...
Why did Seattle investigator Harper Blaine-as opposed to others with near-death experiences-become a Greywalker? When Harper digs into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father's early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. Forced by some very demanding vampires to take on an investigation in London, she soon discovers her present trouble sin England are entangled with her dark past back in Seattle-and her ultimate destiny as a Greywalker.
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When I was a kid, my life seemed to be run by other people's designs and not bymine. Once the time was ripe, I escaped from the life other people pushed me into andmade my own. Or so I thought. Now it appears I was wrong about…well, everything. ButI’ll get to that later.
Two years ago, I died for a couple of minutes. When I woke up, things hadchanged: I could see ghosts and magic and things that go bump in the night. You see,there is a thin space between the normal and the paranormal—the Grey—where thingsthat aren’t quite one or the other roam. It’s not a place most people can visit; evenwitches and psychics only reach into the surging tide of power and the uncanny and haulout what they need. But once in a while there’s someone like me: a Greywalker, with afoot on each side of the line and fully immersed in the weird.
Sounds cool? Not so much. Some of my friends in the know are fascinated by it,but to me it’s more frequently a royal pain in the ass. Because when I can see themonsters, they can see me, and if they have problems, I’m the go-to girl. I’ve been aprofessional private investigator for ten years, and it’s a job I’ve come to practice on bothsides of the veil because ghosts, vampires, and witches just don’t take no for an answer.Since I’d died, I’d made my accommodation with the Grey and I thought I had it prettywell figured, even if some things were still a mystery to me, like, “why me” and “howdoes this stuff work?” It just did, and I did my best to get along. Until May of this year,when things got rather personal, starting with strange dreams and a phone call from thedead.
It started just like it had in real life: The man belts me in the temple and it feelslike my head is caving in. I tumble out of the chair, onto the hardwood floor. In the dreamI can see its pattern of dark and light wood making a ribbon around the edge of the room,like a magic circle to contain the terror.
I grope for my purse, for the gun, for anything that will stop him from beating meto death this time. I am still too slow. He rounds the edge of the desk and comes after me.I roll up onto my knees and try to hit him below the belt.
He dodges, swings, and connects with the back of my head. Then he kicks me inthe ribs as I collapse again. This time I don’t shriek—I don’t have the air—and that’show I know something’s changed. It’s not just a memory; it’s a nightmare.The man’s foot swings for my face and I push it up, over my head, tipping himbackward. As he falls, I scramble for the door into the hall. This time I’ll get out. Thistime I won’t die.…
But he catches up and grabs onto my ponytail—an impossible rope of hair a yard,a mile long and easy to grip. Was it really so long? I can’t even remember it down to myhips like that. But in the dream it’s a lariat that loops around my neck and hauls my headback until I’m looking into the man’s face.
But it’s my father, not the man who beat my head in. Not the square-jawed,furious face of a killer, but the bland, doe-eyed face that winked like the moon when Iwas tucked into my childhood bed. He read me Babar books and kissed my cheek when Iwas young. Now he calls me “little girl,” and slams my skull into the doorpost.I don’t fight back this time. I just wrench loose, leaving my long hair in his hand.He lets me go and I stumble toward the ancient brass elevator, my legs wobbling and mypace ragged. I feel tears flooding down my cheeks, and the world spins into a narrowingtunnel.
I see the elegant old elevator at the end of the tunnel, the gleaming metalgrillwork shuffling itself into shape, as if it is formed from the magical grid of the Grey.
There’s a vague human figure inside, beyond the half-formed doors. There never wasanyone there before.…
I stagger and fall to my knees at the elevator door. The ornate brass gates slideopen and I tumble into the lift, sprawling like a broken toy at someone’s feet.He’s much too tall from my position down on the floor: a giant blue denim treecrowned with silvery hair. My dream vision zooms up and in, and something tightens inmy chest until I can feel it strain to the breaking point.
Will Novak, my ex-boyfriend, looks down at me with a cool glance. “Oh. It’syou,” he says.
The too-tight thing in my chest pings and breaks. Pain lashes through me like theunwinding mainspring of a broken clock.
I woke up with a scream in my mouth that twisted into shuddering tears. I huddledinto my bed and cried, feeling that something had been wrecked or wrenched apart in away I didn’t understand. I wished I was cuddled up with Quinton in his safe little holeunder the streets and not alone with the lingering desolation of my nightmare.I’m not much for emotional outbursts. They’re counterproductive and ugly andthey tend to put someone at a disadvantage. Even alone in my condo I felt a littleashamed of weeping like a brat, and I was glad the ferret wasn’t going to tell anyone. ButI still felt bad about it.
The dream was a bad start to a bad day filled with unpaid bills, lying clients,dead-end investigations, and ghosts behaving badly. So with the past and my death on mymind, I guess it wasn’t such a surprise that I got a phone call from a dead boyfriend. Thedead seem to have a thing about phones.
I didn’t recognize the number, but that never stops me. I answered the phone,“Harper Blaine,” like usual.
“I think you have the wrong number.”
“Ahhh…no. I had to whistle pretty hard, but I think I got it right.”
Whistle? What the—?
“Hey,” the voice continued, “you know how to whistle, don’t ya?”v
I couldn’t stop myself from finishing the quote. “You just put your lipstogether…and blow.” That was Slim Browning’s line from To Have and Have Not.
Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart. My favorite film. It was someone else’s favoritefilm, too.…
He laughed. “I knew you wouldn’t forget.”
A chill ran over me. “Who is this?”
“You’re disappointing me, Slim. It’s Cary.”
“Cary…?” I echoed, feeling queasy.
“Malloy. From LA.”
Cary Malloy had mentored me through my first two years as a professionalinvestigator. We’d broken the rules about interoffice romances. Then he’d died in a caraccident on Mulholland Drive. Two fast cars racing on the twisty road with a distractingview across the nighttime basin of lights; a bad curve; Cary’s car parked on the shoulderas he observed a subject’s house, pretending to admire the view; one car swinging a littletoo wide, sliding out the side of the curve…I hadn’t been there, but I always felt as if Ihad, as if I’d heard the sound of the cars colliding, scraping across the road in showers ofsparks and the screech of metal. The two cars had tumbled over the cliff, milling downthe canyon side as the third rushed away into the darkness.
The subject had called it in. After all, it had happened right across the street, andthe small fire started in the dry chaparral by hot metal and spilling gas was a menace. Theentangled state of the burning cars made it plain both drivers were long dead by the timeLA County Fire arrived. The residents of the canyon had simply stood at the edge of theroad and watched. There was nothing else they could do.
My silence gave my thoughts away, I suppose. Cary’s voice said, “Yeah…dyingreally bit.”
My own voice shook a little when I replied, “That’s what I hear. Umm…why didyou call?”
“It’s complicated.” I could almost hear him shrug. “But, look, I have to tell you—“
He choked and coughed, his voice straining now. “Have to say, it’s not what youthink.”
I could hear a noise, a crackling sound.
“You don’t know what you really are, Slim. You need to come here and look intothe past,” he muttered, his voice fading as if he was moving away from the phone.“There’re things…waiting for you.…”
“Cary? What things? Cary!” I shouted at the phone, feeling tears building andtrembling over my eyelids.
But he’d already faded away, and the flat, dull hum of the dial tone was the onlysound from the phone. I put the receiver down and pressed my hand over my mouth,squeezing my eyes shut against the burning of saltwater tears. Coming on the heels of thenightmare, this was too much. But I wasn’t going to cry. Not over Cary Malloy. Notagain and after so much time. I wasn’t twelve anymore, and blubbering wasn’t going tohelp anything.
I wasn’t crying when Quinton came tapping at my office door a few minutes later,but I must have looked pretty horrible. He glanced at me and slid in, locking the doorbehind himself as he dropped his backpack on the floor. He crouched down beside mychair and tried to catch my eye.
“Is the ferret OK?”
I frowned in confusion. “What? Why are you asking that?”
“Because you look like your best friend just died. What’s wrong?”
“I just got a phone call from a guy who’s been dead for eight years.”
“That’s never bothered you before.”
“I used to date him. He died in a car wreck.”
Quinton straightened and leaned on the edge of my desk. “That is a little weirderthan normal. What did he want?”
“I’m not sure. He wasn’t very clear. He wanted me to come…someplace and lookinto the past. He said things aren’t what I think—he said I’m not what I think. And thenhe faded out.”
“Was he always a cryptic pain in the ass, or is that new since his death?”I had to snort a laugh—it was kind of funny imagining clean-cut, preppy Cary inthe role of oracular spirit. “No! He loved spy novels, but he himself was about as crypticas a bowl of cereal. He didn’t hide information; he just kept his mouth shut if he didn’twant things to get out.”
“But he called you. After eight years. Maybe I have some competition here.…”I made a face. “I don’t think so. But that’s not the only weird thing. I dreamedabout my death last night.”
Quinton looked uncomfortable and sat down on the edge of my desk so he couldavoid looking me straight in the eye. “You mean…in the future?” Some things still freakout even Quinton, I guess.
“No, I mean when this all started two years ago; when I died in that elevator,” Iexplained. “I don’t see the future.”
He gnawed on his lower lip and thought a bit, holding my hands in both of his.
His grip was warm and comforting, loosening a tension in my shoulders I hadn’t noticeduntil it slid away. “It’s an interesting coincidence. Do you think it’s more than that?”
I made a face and shook my head, slightly disgusted with the direction my thoughts were turning. “I have decreasing confidence in coincidence. Freaky Grey eventsalmost never ‘just happen’ together. It’s like a pond where the ripples of one event canset off a whole series of others.”
Quinton raised his eyebrows expectantly but said nothing.
I sighed. “All right. I have the feeling that something’s building up. There’s a lothappening around here lately with the ghosts and vampires and magical things. I havethree open cases right now involving ghosts, and Edward’s been sending moreinvitations—of various kinds—for me to come to work for him. You know how much hewants to control me.”
“Yeah. The vampires have been kind of restless lately here in Pioneer Square,”Quinton added. “Do you think that’s something Edward’s doing to get to you?”Edward Kammerling was the leader of Seattle’s vampire pack; he was also thefounder of TPM, one of Seattle’s biggest development groups in a city historically run bydevelopers of various stripes.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t see how he’d benefit from drawing attention, doyou?”
“No,” Quinton confirmed, shaking his head with a grim set to his mouth. “Buteven with the stunners I gave to some of the homeless to drive the bloodsuckers away,there’s definitely more biting going on. But it’s kind of hit and run—I’m not seeing apattern, just an increasing frequency of attacks.”
Quinton had developed cheap, battery-operated shock prods that he called“stunners” that incapacitated vampires for a few minutes. The jolt was not strong enoughto kill them but enough to give the near-victim a head start on running away. He’ddistributed them to some of the more-stable of Pioneer Square’s indigent population toreduce their chance of being an unwilling vampire lunch. Most of the “undergrounders,”as we called them—the homeless who lived in the hidden spaces under the city or simplypreferred life below the rest of the world’s radar—didn’t always know their assailantswere undead and they didn’t care. They just wanted to be left alone, like Quinton himself.He was their personal mad scientist.
“It could be another faction war.…” I suggested. When I’d first fallen into theGrey, I’d discovered that vampires jockey for position constantly. At the time there’dbeen at least three individuals who wanted Edward’s head on a plate and were looking forways to get it. One was now dead—or re-dead if you prefer—one was apparently bidinghis time, and the other was currently holding to an uneasy agreement I’d helped tohammer out.
“Could be,” Quinton admitted. “But who knows?” Still knitting his brows, hemuttered to himself, “I wish I knew when ghosts were more active. If there’s a rise inparanormal activity…”
“Then what?” I asked.
“Huh?” he grunted, jerking out of his thoughts. “I’m not sure, but I’d like toknow. Maybe there’s a correlation between ghost activity and vampire activity, or maybethere’s something more personal here. I mean, if your dead boyfriend thinks there arethings you should know and if there’s a rise in paranormal activity at the same time, I’dthink that’s significant. But we don’t know what it’s indicative of. I wish I had somemore equipment.…”
Quinton was having a geek moment—that sort of glazed-eyed mental gymnasticssession that ends in the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the Super Soaker andthe resulting battalion of wet cats. I left him to it while I pondered what he’d just said.
There was a lot more going on in the paranormal than usual. Cary’s strange callonly highlighted the fact that the activity seemed higher around me, something I’d beeneither missing to or ignoring. It was unwise for me to turn a cold shoulder or blind eye tothat sort of thing. Usually I don’t put a lot of trust in the words of ghosts—they tend to lieor know only a fractured, incomplete version of the truth, just like live people. But Caryhad more weight with me when alive than most people, and his sudden call had comewith the freight train impact of the dream that preceded it. If that was a coincidence I’deat the proverbial hat.
“I’m going to Los Angeles,” I announced.
Quinton twitched from his reverie and raised his eyebrows at me. “Why?”
“Because I can’t think of any place else Cary could mean by ‘here’ when he said Ineeded to ‘come here and look into the past.’ There’s too much of my past coming up allat once, too much strangeness, for his call to be meaningless. I know this isn’t the besttime to go,” I added, stopping Quinton before whatever words forming on his lipsdropped into the air, “but if there’s really something going on that will affect me, maybe Ishould get a jump on it first.”
“You sound like you think I’m going to argue with you.”
He shook his head. “Oh no, Harper. I’m not getting between you and a case. Iknow better.”
“A case? This isn’t a case. It’s me.”
“Even worse. If you think there really is an answer in your past to what’s goingon now, or to why you are what you are or how you got that way, I know nothing willstop you from pursuing it. I’m not going to throw myself in front of a runaway train. I’llhold the fort here and I’ll look after the ferret, and we’ll take on whatever’s going on inSeattle when you get back. I think Chaos and I can manage that.”
Chaos, my pet ferret, adored Quinton and his many pockets. Quinton was morethan capable of keeping tabs on the strange and otherworldly while I was away. Hecouldn’t do much more, but unless hell literally broke loose and rose to the surface ofSeattle’s streets, I didn’t think he’d have to.
I bit my lip, uncomfortable about heading back to the place I’d escaped from andnot sure I liked the idea of being a “case,” or having to look at my past, or tracking downan old, dead boyfriend to find out what he was talking about, or dealing—as I would haveto—with my mother, either.
Maybe all that showed on my face. Quinton gave me a crooked smile and leanedforward to kiss my cheek, murmuring, “The sooner you’re started, the sooner you’redone, right? And then you’re back with me, and whatever’s wrong, we’ll fix it.”That did put me over the edge, and I clutched him close and kissed him back veryhard. I could feel the pent up tears flow down my cheeks and a juddering sensation shookmy chest. Why does love feel like hiccups? I snuggled into the warm sensation for amoment before I got back to the drudgery.
I’d have to rearrange my schedule, but no matter how much I didn’t like the idea,it appeared Los Angeles and my mother were inevitable.
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