Kitty Raises Hell Page 43

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He proceeded to show us, backing up to the point where the fire started and clicking forward, a half second at a time. The flames moved almost like they were alive, dancing, swaying, each step and unexpected flicker captured on a split second of video. When the fireball burst, a brilliant sphere of light expanding out, searing my eyes, it was almost beautiful. Like some cosmic event rather than a destructive earthly force.

Jules hit pause and pointed, his excitement clear. “There, do you see it?”

I’d never have caught it. No one who didn’t have the investigators’ experience in looking for weird shadows, blips, and anomalies in video like this would have seen it.

A human figure stood outlined in the middle of the billowing flames.

It was off-color, a slightly more golden tinge than the fire surrounding it, a heat mirage within a heat mirage, shimmering at a different angle. But it had a head, body, legs, and arms, spread in something like ecstasy.

A frame later, it vanished, melting into the rest of the fire. The image only lasted for a split second. At full speed, the clip just looked like flames changing shapes.

Jules backed the clip up, so that we were all staring at that figure, unreal, undeniable.

“Is it someone in a suit?” I said. “Like one of those fireproof stunt-guy suits?”

“Except that it just disappears,” Jules answered. “Granted, fire does strange things, it’s unpredictable, but it’s right there on the video.”

I should have been happy to see a form, an actual enemy—the demon. We now had an image, a being that reveled in fire, maybe used it to destroy. But that also meant we were dealing with something sentient, with a mind, a will, and a mean streak. My gut felt cold.

Jules, at least, seemed happy at the discovery. “This is proof. It’s proof. ”

“Proof of what?” Ben said.

“The impossible.”

Ben pointed at the screen. “Just so you all know, the insurance company is buying that it was an accident. So I don’t care if there’s the slightest hint of supernatural nastiness going on with this. I don’t care if you find Casper the Friendly Ghost playing with matches. If any of you talk to the insurance company, it was a gas leak due to the age of the building. That’s what’s going on the paperwork, that’s the story, and we’re all sticking to it. Got it?”

Full-on lawyer mode. That was my honey. “Got it,” I said.

From the sofa, Gary shook his head. “A video like that is too easy to fake. It’s not good enough for proof.”

“That’s the trouble,” Tina said. “Everything we discover is too easy to fake.”

For my part, I felt like I was finally looking my enemy in the eye. Not that I could tell whether this thing had eyes.

“But this gives us something,” I said. “It’s a thing. A being. It has a shape. Maybe it has a mind. That means we can lure it out. We can trick it. Trap it, maybe.”

Tina huffed. “I can see us standing there with fire extinguishers blasting it. Why do I get the feeling that won’t work?”

“Maybe we can talk to it,” I said. “Maybe we can just ask it to stop.”

“True to form,” Ben said. “Always ready to talk it out.” His voice was sarcastic, but his smile was sweet.

“I’m not sure I like that idea,” Gary said. “This is out of our league.”

I shrugged. “So change leagues. I want to try another séance. I want to talk to this thing.”

Nobody said anything. If they didn’t like the idea, they could have at least argued with me, but everyone stared, eyes kind of buggy, expressions taut. The anxiety was tangible. We all saw the monster, but nobody wanted to face up to it.

“Come on, we want to lure this thing out. Use me as bait! I’m the focus of all this anyway,” I said.

“That’s exactly why you shouldn’t be acting like bait,” Ben said. “Sure, maybe this thing wants you—so the last thing you should be doing is throwing yourself at it.”

“Aw, honey, that’s sweet. You trying to protect me and all.” My smile was probably a little too sarcastic.

“ Somebody has to,” he said, curt.

We glared at each other a moment, a couple of not entirely happy wolves in people clothing.

“What does your contact say? The one who gave you the protective potion?” Jules said.

“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to get ahold of him. Give me a minute.” I called Grant’s number again. And again, no answer. I needed to find another way to get in touch with him. I had to know if he was okay, so I called the Diablo, the Vegas hotel that housed the theater where he performed. I keyed my way through the phone maze until I reached a real live person at the theater box office.

“Hi, I was wondering when Odysseus Grant’s shows are today,” I said to the clerk.

“Oh, I’m sorry, all his shows have been canceled for the next couple of days,” she answered.

Damn. This couldn’t be good. “Oh. Do you know why?”

“I think it’s illness. I wasn’t given any details.”

Then Grant was in trouble, too. My hair prickled.

“What’s wrong?” Ben said, after I put away my phone. I must have gone especially pale.

“I can’t get ahold of him,” I said. “His shows are canceled. He seems to have disappeared.”

“So no help there,” Tina sighed.

I was about ready to run back to Vegas to deal with this at the source, despite all the warnings. “What about you? Surely you have some kind of... I don’t know, psychic hunch or something? ’Cause that would be really useful.”

Another long and meaning-filled silence descended. Tina blushed, and Jules intently studied the laptop screen.

“I’m still waiting to hear about the psychic-hunches thing myself,” Gary said. “Tina keeps telling me she’ll explain how she’s the only person I’ve ever seen get a Ouija board to act like that when I feel better. Tina—honest, I feel better.”

“Huh. I assumed you all had already had that conversation,” I said.

A loud, insistent pounding on the door started right about then. Good timing there, and I wondered how far Tina’s psychic reach actually extended. Mind control of room service, maybe? Convenient.

Ben went to the door, checked the peephole, looked back. “I don’t recognize him. Young guy, kind of scruffy. Anybody order a pizza?”

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