Kitty Raises Hell Page 13

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Stricken, he murmured, “I don’t believe you.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to find out like this. I wish—” Of course I wished it had all turned out different. That wasn’t the right thing to say. I shook my head. “T.J.—everyone here called him T.J.—never told me anything about his family. I didn’t really know anything about him, other than his life here. It never occurred to me that he was hiding. I have so many questions—”

“Do you have proof? Is there a grave? A death certificate? I should have been able to find a death certificate.”

He’d died in a werewolf battle, in the hills. The body had vanished, dropped by the other wolves down some dark hole where no one would find it. The pack cleaned up its messes precisely so there wouldn’t be a trail for the police, or people like Peter, to follow.

“No. I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you tell the police this?” He was growing angry, his face flushed, puckered from grief, from a struggle not to cry. So he did believe me, deep down. At some level, he must have suspected how his search would end.

“Because it wasn’t their business.” I smiled sadly at the harshness of my tone. What a bitter assessment of the situation. It must have sounded shocking. “Because they’d need the same kind of proof, which I didn’t have. I didn’t want them to keep asking questions.”

“But if he was killed, if someone killed him—”

“The man who killed him is dead, if that helps.”

By the stark expression of shock he wore, I guessed it didn’t. No—I’d watched the man who killed him die, and it didn’t help me at all.

I was about to ask him more about T.J.—where had he come from, what other family did he have, why didn’t he want to be found? But Peter, his gaze down, pushed away from the table. I wanted to hear everything, but I’d had a year to live with T.J.’s death. Peter had just learned about it. He wasn’t ready.

“This is crazy,” he said. “I’ll find out what happened. What really happened.”

His long strides carried him to the front door in moments. I let him go. What else could I do?

I stayed put to finish my soda, but I was having trouble getting even that past the lump in my throat. I covered my eyes with a hand when the tears started.

“Hey, you okay?”

Through a gap in my fingers I saw Shaun standing next to me.

“Headache,” I muttered.

By his smirk I could tell he wasn’t convinced. I scrubbed my already reddened face and looked at him full on. “That guy who was just here?”

“Yeah? Hey, if he hurt you I’ll—”

Aw, wasn’t that sweet? “No. Apparently, T.J. has a younger brother. That was him.”

“Oh. Oh, shit.” He sank into the chair opposite me.

“Yeah.” I smiled stiffly. Shaun had known T.J., too.

An unplanned moment of silence, of grief, followed.

Shaun said, “What did he want?”

I sighed. “To find his brother. I told him he couldn’t. The guy has a right to be upset.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Not a lot I can do. But if he stops by again, be nice to him.”

Chapter 5

I had a lot to put out of my mind before the show on Friday. T.J.’s brother haunted me.

The Band of Tiamat’s recent attack was at the front of my mind, aggravating because of how little I could do about it. All I knew: They had sent something against me, and it involved fire. And maybe a vampire conspiracy, if Rick was right. I had to hope Rick or Grant found something out. Or wait until it struck again and we learned more about it.

I thought about calling Gary and canceling the Friday gig with the Paradox PI team. Maybe the house was really haunted, maybe it wasn’t. I wasn’t sure I could deal with another confrontation with supernatural weirdness, in either case. But as cliché as it sounded, staying home and cowering would have felt like losing ground. Would have admitted that whatever attacked us had gotten to me. I didn’t want to do that.

If we ignored it, would it go away? Despite what my mother told me about my big sister’s teasing, that never worked. But I hadn’t yet let the scariness in my life interfere with the show. In fact, I sometimes thought having the show to focus on saved my sanity. I needed my sanity right now.

Ben insisted on coming with me to meet the Paradox crew. I didn’t even have to ask. Safety in numbers. We could watch each other’s backs.

I did a little research about Flint House on my own before heading out on Friday night. The death of the investigator hadn’t made it into major news outlets, so it took some digging into publicly released police reports to discover anything about it. A short investigation determined that the death was accidental—he’d fallen down the stairs. That sort of thing didn’t draw any attention or raise any eyebrows, but the paranormal community jumped on the story and ran with it.

The usual background applied: The house was a hundred twenty years old, a stately Victorian, built by a silver mogul with more money than sense, and bad luck followed him. Several of his children died of illness or injury. His wife committed suicide. He went mad and died young. The house was sold, and the new owner immediately began reporting the usual haunting symptoms: strange noises, drops in temperature, voices in rooms where nobody was talking. That owner moved out and rented the house to a couple who within the year died in a messy murder– suicide situation. The house was sold again, and again, and now it had stood empty for almost ten years, because no one was willing to live there.

The body count piled up over the years. Every death could be attributed to normal, nonsupernatural causes, but this went beyond the law of averages or mere coincidence. Consensus among those who studied these things: The house was killing people.

It stood in an older part of Denver, west of the freeway, in one of those neighborhoods that started out as the wealthier side of town, lined with lots of Victorian houses; then went downhill, the houses falling into disrepair and the yards becoming choked with weeds; then became the really bad part of town; then slowly underwent a gentrification that was turning it into the artsy part of town.

The house wasn’t the nicest on the street, but it wasn’t the worst. The pale green exterior could have used a coat of paint, and rather than lawn the yard held a forest of shrubbery that hadn’t been pruned back in a decade. Two stories and an attic, with a round window, looked out on the street. The place was dark. I wished the Paradox crew hadn’t told me it was haunted. It would have looked perfectly normal, otherwise. Now it did look rather sinister.

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