"So why can't we tell Neferet about this mess? All she'd have to do is make a few calls, like she did last month when Aphrodite had a vision about that plane going down at the Denver airport," Damien said, careful to keep his voice low. I'd hurried back to the dorm, huddled my group together, and given them the short version of Aphrodite's vision.
"She made me promise I wouldn't go to Neferet. The two of them are having some kind of weird fight."
"It's about time Neferet started seeing her as the bitch she is," Stevie Rae said.
"Hateful cow," Shaunee said.
"Hag from hell," Erin agreed.
"Yeah, well, what she is doesn't really matter. It's her visions and the people who are in danger of dying that matter," I said.
"I heard that her visions aren't really believable anymore because Nyx has withdrawn her favor from Aphrodite," Damien said. "Maybe that's why she made you promise not to go to Neferet, because this is all something she made up and she wants you to freak out and do something that will either embarrass you and make you look bad, or get you in trouble."
"I'd think that too if I hadn't watched her having the vision. She wasn't faking it, I'm sure of that."
"But is she telling you the whole truth?" Stevie Rae asked.
I thought about that for a second. Aphrodite had already admitted to me that she could withhold parts of her visions from Neferet. What made me think she wasn't doing that with me, too? Then I remembered the whiteness of her face, the way she had gripped my hand, and the fear in her voice as she joined my grandma in her death. I shivered.
"She was telling me the truth," I said. "You guys will just have to trust that my intuition is right." I looked at my four friends. None of them were happy about this, but I knew that each of them trusted me and that I could count on them. "So, here's the deal, I've already called my grandma. She won't be on that bridge, but a bunch of other people will. We need to figure out a way to save those other people."
"Aphrodite said that a bargelike boat hit the bridge causing it to collapse?" Damien asked.
"Well, you could pretend to be Neferet and do what she does, call whoever's in charge of the barge and tell them one of your students has had a vision of a tragedy. People listen to Neferet; they're scared not to. It's a well- known fact that her information has saved lots of human lives."
"I already thought about that, but it won't work because Aphrodite didn't see the boat clearly. She wasn't even sure it was a barge. So I have no way of knowing how to even begin contacting anyone about stopping it. And I can't pretend to be Neferet. It feels way wrong. I mean, talk about asking to get in trouble. You can't tell me that whoever I call won't call back with some kind of follow-up report to Neferet. Then all hell would break loose."
"Ugly scene," Shaunee said.
"Yeah, Neferet would find out that the hag had another vision, so your promise to keep it quiet would be broken," Erin said.
"Okay, so stopping the boat is out, and pretending to be Neferet is out. That leaves closing the bridge as our only option," Damien said.
"That's what I thought, too," I said.
"Bomb threat!" Stevie Rae said suddenly. We all looked at her. "Huh?" Erin asked.
"Explain," Shaunee said.
"We call whoever those freaks who make bomb threats call."
"That could actually work," said Damien. "When there's a bomb threat in a building they always evacuate it. So it figures that if there's a bomb threat about a bridge, the bridge will be closed, at least until they find out the bomb threat is fake."
"If I call from my cell phone they won't be able to tell who I am, will they?" I asked.
"Oh, please," Damien said, shaking his head like I was a total moron. "Of course they can trace cell phones. This isn't the nineties."
"Then what do I do?"
"You can still use a cell. It just has to be a disposable one," Damien explained.
"You mean like a disposable camera?"
"Where have you been?" Shaunee asked.
"Who doesn't know about disposable cells?" Erin said.
"I don't," Stevie Rae said.
"Exactly," the Twins said together.
"Here"—Damien pulled a big dorky looking Nokia out of his pocket—"use mine."
"Why do you have a disposable?" I studied the phone. It looked fairly normal.
"I got it after my parents freaked about me being gay. Until I was Marked and came here it felt like they were grounding me for life from life. I mean, not that I really expected them to lock me in a closet somewhere, but it's good to be prepared. Since then I've made sure I always have one."
None of us knew what to say. It really sucked that Damien's parents were so psycho about him being gay.
"Thanks, Damien," I finally said.
"No problem. When you're done making the call be sure you turn it off and then give it back to me. I'll destroy it."
"And be sure you tell them that the bomb's planted under the waterline. That way they'll have to close the bridge long enough for them to send in divers to check it out."
I nodded. "Good idea. I'll tell them that the bomb's going to explode at three fifteen, which is the exact time Aphrodite saw on my grandma's dashboard clock when she crashed."
"I don't know how long these things take, but you should probably call about two thirty, that sounds like enough time for them to get out there and close the bridge, but not so much that they'll have time to figure out it's a fake threat, and let cars back on the bridge too soon," Stevie Rae said.
"Uh, guys," Shaunee said. "Who are you gonna call?"
"Hell, I don't know." I was feeling the stress settle around my shoulders and knew I was going to have a major headache very soon.
"Google it," Erin said.
"No," Damien said quickly. "We don't want any kind of computer trail. You just need to call the local branch of the FBI. That'll be in the phone book.
They'll do whatever it is they do when freaks call."
"Like track them down and put them in jail for the rest of eternity," I muttered gloomily.
"No, they're not going to catch you. You're not leaving any kind of a trail. They'll have no reason to think it's any of us. Call at about two thirty. Tell them you've planted a bomb under the bridge because ..." Damien hesitated.
"Because of pollution!" Stevie Rae chirped.
"Pollution?" Shaunee said.
"I don't think it should be because of pollution. I think it should be because you're sick and tired of government interference in the private sector's lives," Erin said.
I just blinked at her. What the hell did she just say?
"Excellent point, Twin," Shaunee said.
Erin grinned. "I sounded just like my dad when I said that. He'd be proud. Well, not about the pretending to blow up a bridge part, but the other stuff, yeah."
"We understand, Twin," Shaunee said.
"I still like saying that it's because you're tired of pollution. Pollution's a real problem," Stevie Rae said stubbornly.
"Okay, how about I say it's because of government interference and pollution in our rivers? That'll be the reason the bomb's on a bridge." They looked at me with blank expressions. I sighed. "Because of pollution in the river."
"Ohhh, " they said.
"We'd make dorky terrorists," Stevie Rae said with a giggle.
"I think that's actually a good thing," Damien said.
"So we're in agreement? I call the FBI, and we all keep our mouths shut about Aphrodite's vision."
"Good. Okay. Guess I'll find a phone book and look up the number for the FBI, and then—"
A movement caught at the corner of my vision, and I glanced up to see Neferet escorting two men in suits into the dorm. Everyone went instantly silent, and I heard a whisper of "They're human ... " begin to buzz through the room. Then I didn't have time to think or to listen, because it was obvious that Neferet and the two human men were walking directly over to me.
"Ah, Zoey, there you are." Neferet smiled at me with her usual warmth. "These gentlemen need to speak with you. I believe we can step into the library. This shouldn't take more than a moment." Neferet regally gestured for the suits and me to follow her as she swept from the big main room (with everyone gawking open-mouthed at us) to the little side room we called the dorm library, but was actually more of a computer room with some comfortable chairs and a few shelves filled with paperbacks. There were only two girls at the row of computers, and with a quick command Neferet got rid of them. They scurried out and she closed the door behind them, then she turned to face us. I glanced at the clock over the computer. It was 7:06 A.M. on Saturday morning. What was going on?
"Zoey, this is Detective Marx"—she pointed at the taller of the two men —"and Detective Martin from the homicide division of the Tulsa Police Department. They wanted to ask you a few questions about the human boy who was killed."
"Okay," I said, wondering what kind of questions they could possibly want to ask me. Hell, I didn't know anything. I hadn't even known him that well.
"Miss Montgomery," Detective Marx began, but he was cut neatly off by Neferet.
"Redbird," she said.
"Zoey legally changed her last name to Redbird when she became an emancipated minor upon entrance to our school last month. All of our students are legally emancipated. We find it helpful with the unique nature of our school."
The cop gave a short nod. I couldn't tell whether he was annoyed or not, but I guessed by the way he kept looking at Neferet the answer was not.
"Miss Redbird," he continued, "we have received information that you are acquainted with Chris Ford and Brad Higeons. Is this true?"
"Yeah, I mean yes," I hastily corrected. Clearly this wasn't a good time to sound like a silly teenager. "I know ... well, knew both of them."
"What do you mean by knew?" Detective Martin, the shorter cop, said sharply.
"Well, I mean that I don't hang out with human teenagers anymore, but even before I was Marked I didn't see Chris or Brad much." I wondered what he was so uptight about, and then I realized that because Chris was dead and Brad was missing that my talking about them in the past tense probably sounded really bad.
"When was the last time you saw the two boys?" Marx asked.
I chewed my lip, trying to remember. "Not for months—since the beginning of football season, and then I just went to maybe two or three parties and they were there, too."
"So you weren't with either boy?"
I frowned. "No. I was kinda dating the Broken Arrow quarterback. That's the only reason I knew any of those Union guys." I smiled, trying to lighten things up. "People think Union players hate BA players. It's not really true. Most of them grew up together. A bunch of them are still friends."
"Miss Redbird, you've been at the House of Night for how long?" the short cop asked as if I hadn't tried to be pleasant.
"Zoey has been with us for almost exactly one month," Neferet answered for me.
"And in that month did either Chris or Brad visit you here?"
Totally surprised, I said, "No!"
"Are you saying no human teenagers have visited you here at all?" Martin fired the question quickly.
Caught off guard I sputtered like a moron and I'm sure looked completely guilty. Thankfully, Neferet saved me.
"Two friends of Zoey's did see her during her first week here, although I do not believe you'd call it an official visit," she said with a smooth, adult smile aimed at the detectives that clearly said kids will be kids. Then she nodded encouragement at me. "Go ahead and tell them about your two friends who thought it'd be fun to scale our walls."
Neferet's green eyes locked on mine. I'd told her all about Heath and Kayla climbing the wall with the ridiculous idea of busting me out. Or at least that had been Heath's idea. Kayla, my ex-best friend, had just wanted me to see that she'd staked a claim on Heath. I'd told Neferet all of that, and more. How I'd kinda accidentally tasted Heath's blood—until Kayla had caught me and totally lost her mind. Staring into Neferet's eyes I knew as sure as if she'd said the words aloud that I was to keep the little blood-tasting incident to myself, which was more than okay with me.
"There really wasn't much to it, and it was a whole month ago. Kayla and Heath thought they'd sneak in and bust me out." I paused to shake my head like I thought they were totally crazy, and the tall cop jumped in with, "Kayla and Heath who?"
"Kayla Robinson and Heath Luck," I said. (Yeah, Heath's last name really is Luck, but the only thing he was particularly lucky about is not getting picked up DUI.) "Anyway, Heath is kinda slow sometimes, and Kayla, well, Kayla's really good at shoes and hair, but not so good at common sense. So they hadn't really thought out the whole 'Hey, she's turning into a vampyre and if she leaves the House of Night she'll die' issue. So I explained to them that not only did I not want to leave, I couldn't leave. And that was about it."
"Nothing unusual happened when you saw your friends?"
"You mean when I went back to the dorm?"
"No. Let me rephrase the question. Nothing unusual happened when you saw Kayla and Heath?" Martin said.
I swallowed. "No." Which wasn't actually a lie. Apparently it's not unusual for fledglings to experience a vampyre's bloodlust. I shouldn't so early in my Change, but my Mark shouldn't be filled in and I shouldn't have the added decorative tattooing of an adult vamp either. Not to mention the fact that no other fledgling or vamp had ever been Marked on the shoulder and back like I had. Okay, I'm not exactly a normal fledgling.
"You didn't cut the boy and drink his blood?" The short cop's voice was like ice.
"No!" I cried.
"Are you accusing Zoey of something?" Neferet said, stepping closer to me.
"No, ma'am. We're simply questioning her to try and get a clearer idea of the dynamics of the friends of Chris Ford and Brad Higeons. There are several aspects of the case that are rather unusual and ..." The short cop rambled on and on while my mind raced.
What was going on? I hadn't cut Heath; I'd scratched him. And I hadn't done it on purpose. And "drinking" his blood wasn't exactly what I'd done— it was more like I lapped it up. But how the hell did they know anything about it? Heath wasn't very bright, but I didn't think he'd run around telling people (especially not detective people) that the chick he had the hots for drank blood. No. Heath wouldn't have said anything, but—
And I knew why they were asking me questions.
"There's something you should know about Kayla Robinson," I said suddenly, interrupting the short cop's boring tirade. "She saw me kiss Heath. Well, actually Heath kissed me. She likes Heath." I looked from one cop to the other. "You know, she really likes Heath, as in wants to date him now that I'm out of the way. So when she saw him kiss me she got pissed and started yelling at me. Okay, I admit I didn't act very mature. I got pissed back at her. I mean, it's just wrong when your best friend goes after your boyfriend. Anyway"—I fidgeted, like I was embarrassed to admit what I was telling them—"I said some mean stuff to Kayla that scared her. She freaked out and left."
"What kind of mean stuff?" Detective Marx asked.
I sighed. "Something like if she didn't go away I'd fly off the wall and suck her blood."
"Zoey!" Neferet's voice was sharp. "You know that's inappropriate. We have enough problems with image without you frightening human teenagers on purpose. Little wonder the poor child spoke to the police."
"I know. I'm really sorry." Even though I understood Neferet was playing along with me, I still had to work at not cringing away from the power in her voice. I glanced up at the detectives. Both of them were staring at Neferet with wide, startled eyes. Huh. So, up until then she'd only shown them her gorgeous public face. They had no idea what kind of power they were dealing with.
"And you haven't seen either teenager since then?" the tall cop asked after an uncomfortable pause.
"Only once more, and then it was just Heath alone, during our Samhain Ritual."
"Excuse me, your what?"
"Samhain is the ancient name for a night you would probably best know as Halloween," Neferet explained. She was back to stunningly beautiful and kind, and I could understand why the cops looked confused, but they returned her smile as if they had no choice. Knowing Neferet's powers—they might not. "Go on, Zoey," she told me.
"Well, there were a bunch of us and we were having a ritual. Kinda like a church service outside," I explained. Okay, it was nothing like a church service outside, but no way was I going to explain circle-casting and calling the spirits of carnivorous dead vamps to a couple human cops. I glanced at Neferet. She nodded encouragement. I drew a deep breath and mentally edited the past as I talked. I knew it really didn't matter what I said. Heath didn't remember anything about that night—the night he'd almost been killed by the ghosts of ancient vampyres. Neferet had made sure that his memory had been totally and permanently blocked. All he knew was that he'd found me with a bunch of other kids and then passed out. "Anyway, Heath snuck into the ritual. It was really embarrassing, especially since ... well ... he was totally wasted."
"Heath was drunk?" Marx asked.
I nodded. "Yes, he was drunk. I don't want to get him in any trouble, though." I'd already decided not to mention Heath's unfortunate, and hopefully temporary, experimentation with pot.
"He's not in trouble."
"Good. I mean, he's not my boyfriend but he's basically a good guy."
"Don't worry about it, Miss Redbird, just tell us what happened."
"Nothing really. He crashed our ritual, and it was embarrassing. I told him to go home and not come back, that we were through. He made a fool out of himself and then passed out. We left him there, and that was it."
"You haven't seen him since?"
"Have you heard from him in any way?"
"Yeah, he calls way too much and leaves annoying messages on my cell. But that's getting better," I added hastily. I really didn't want to get him into trouble. "I think he's finally getting it that we're through."
The tall cop finished taking some notes, and then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic bag that had something in it.
"And how about this, Miss Redbird? Have you ever seen this before?"
He handed me the bag and I realized what was in it. It was a silver pendant on a long black velvet ribbon. The pendant was in the shape of two crescent moons back-to-back against a full moon encrusted with garnets. It was the symbol of the triple Goddess—mother, maiden, and crone. I had one just like it because it was the necklace that the leader of the Dark Daughters wore.
Bomb threat because of pollution LOL
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