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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(91)

By:Kim Harrison

“Oh thank God,” I said, slugging the tiny vial of amber liquid back. My lips curled as the bitter concoction slipped down, tasting of ash and willow. Trent’s lips parted, clearly surprised, and I shrugged. He was right. I wasn’t much good if I couldn’t move fast.
Inside, Eloy and Dr. Cordova continued to discuss something, her arms waving in her dramatic fashion, Eloy leaning back, letting her rage, his disdain obvious. Breath held, I waited for something to happen, but nothing did. My wrist still hurt, my ankle still throbbed, and I still couldn’t take a deep breath. “It’s not working,” I said, my estimation of Trent’s abilities fading.
In a quick, irate motion, he took the empty vial. “I haven’t invoked it yet. Ta na ruego,” he said as our fingers touched.
Starting, I shivered as I felt a filmy sheet of numbing gray slither over me, working from my aura in, muffling the pain and storing it up for later. Wild magic tingled along my muscles, and I took a deep, painless breath. “Dude. That’s good stuff. Thanks.”
Trent cracked his neck, and I filed the motion away as him trying to hide his pleasure. The chatter from the earbud was getting intense. Inside, the man at the table was stirring his coffee, the sound of his spoon hitting the table a bare instant after he did it. My heart pounded as he turned halfway to the window, noticing us. His eyes almost black in the dim light, Trent adjusted his rearview mirror to see the Laundromat down the street. “Ready to go?”
I gave my ankle a wiggle and took a cleansing breath. I was going to pay for this in spades later, but for now, I didn’t hurt. “Yes, thank you.”
“I have another when we’re done if you want it. You’ve got an hour until it wears off.”
An hour? Jeez, not much of a spell. “Thanks again,” I said, meaning it.
Trent reached for the door handle, and from between us, that low, deep voice drawled in a smooth, even tone that rivaled Trent’s, “Blockades in place. Beater, approach at personal discretion. All units stand by for cleanup. This is going to be a messy one, people.”
“Wait,” I said, reaching out to touch his knee, and Trent hesitated. “I don’t like the sound of this,” I said as I barely resisted the urge to flip the visor mirror down and look behind us. “They’re going to trash Mark’s place.”
“Negative, that’s a negative,” a sharp voice with a New York accent said. “Black car in the parking lot. Two civilians. Ninety-eight percent confident that it’s the demon and the elf.” 
My pulse jumped, and I grabbed the battery pack to flip on the mic. “What are you doing?” Trent said.
“These guys are good, and a joint venture might be the start of a beautiful friendship,” I said. “Besides, they’re here, and we could use the help.”
Trent looked at the expensive toy in my hand, then nodded. Pleased, I brought the battery closer to my mouth. “Hey, hi, guys. Your plan sounds good and all, but there’s one problem. Eloy knows that’s your man in there pretending to be a jogger slamming down a six-hundred-calorie drink. He’s going to make a bloodbath of the place, and I can’t let that happen. I like Mark, and he’s too nice to get shot.”
“Morgan!” the deep voice barked, then faintly, “Who counted the equipment?”
“I did, Captain,” a faint voice said. “The discrepancy was noted.”
“You failed to inform me that the radio was still active!” There was a slight hesitation, and then, very clearly, hitting every vowel hard, “Morgan, leave the watering hole.”
I could resist no longer. I flipped the visor mirror down, but there was nothing behind us. “Its code name is Junior’s, captain of the-men-who-don’t-belong. Get it right.” Handing the battery pack to Trent, I pulled my bag onto my lap and started looking for a piece of paper. “I’ve been listening to your plans for the last fifteen minutes, and they suck. Eloy is going to shoot your men, if you’re lucky. He’s going to start throwing curses if you’re not. He’s got a vial of my blood, a demon textbook, and fewer morals than the most depraved demon I’ve ever partied with.” Receipt in hand, I shuffled around for a pen. Exasperated, I looked up. “You got a pen?”
Disbelieving, Trent pulled a slim black-gold pen from the console and handed it to me, his fingers not shaking like mine were.
“Thanks.” Clicking it open, I jotted a note. “You’ve been after him for months and failed to catch him. I propose we try together.”
“Drive away, Morgan,” the captain said. “This is your last warning.”
“Don’t get your jockstrap in a knot,” I said, grimacing when the tip of the pen broke through the paper I was using my leg to write on. “He kicked my ass a couple of times, too. He and Cordova are a potent team. Apart, neither of us is effective, but together?” Nervous, I clicked the pen closed. DON’T CALL I.S. OR FIB. GET OUT ASAP. SORRY ABOUT THE MESS. R.
The radio was silent, and I added, “I propose we work together on this. What do you say? Frankly, I’d like to prove to you that I’m a team player. My demon magic, your guns. Work with me, gentlemen. I could be your new best friend.”
Again, a long silence. Fidgeting, I handed Trent his pen back. Sure, I’d said we needed to work together to get him, but the truth was, I was more interested in showing this very dangerous underground group of well-funded humans that I was not the enemy. Once they took care of HAPA, I might be next on their list.
“What do you propose?” the captain’s voice said, and my eyes closed briefly in relief. Beside me, Trent made a small sound, as if he only now realized what I had been doing. Not as oblivious as you thought, eh, little cookie maker?
“Eloy wants me, Captain, above all others,” I said. “With us distracting him, you can get your men in there without him and Dr. Cordova killing everyone. I suggest you do it.”
Breath held, I waited. Beside me, the scent of mulled wine became stronger. Trent’s foot was twitching, and he stilled it.
“You may approach the suspects,” the captain said, and I exhaled loudly, meeting Trent’s eyes and smiling eagerly. “Engage at will. You will stand down when we take the premises or you will be shot. Is that clear?”“Crystal,” I said, and Trent clicked the mic off.
“I see what you’re trying to do,” he said as he dropped the battery into his belt pack and affixed the earbud to his left ear. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”
My tension heightened, and I opened the door. “They know I exist. Better this than trying to be mysterious and threatening. I tried that and landed in Alcatraz.” Relishing the lack of pain, I got out. It was a false sense of well-being, but I’d take it. The thump of the door shutting echoed, and I realized I hadn’t seen another car since we’d pulled in. The-men-who-don’t-belong had cleared the street. Even the I.S. had trouble with that.
My boots were nearly silent as I quickly moved to the front of the car, wanting to get in fast. The man in the corner in his jogging outfit was watching us, his lips moving.
“Please tell me you’re not trusting this?” Trent said mildly, meeting me step for step.
“Not for a second.”
His hand dipping into his jacket pocket, he pointed a fob at his car and locked it. The shiny vehicle beeped, and I looked at him. We were on a run, and he was worried about his car?
“Seriously?” I said, and he half smiled at me as he reached in front of me to grab the door handle. Adrenaline scoured through me as I was forced to hesitate while the glass door opened and Trent gestured for me to go first. The chimes rang, and I boldly walked in, my tight shoulders not relaxing at all as the coffee-scented air enveloped me. Eloy’s eyes landed on us, and he cut Dr. Cordova’s harangue off short.
I gave the man in the jogging suit a bunny-eared kiss-kiss, and Trent chuckled at something coming in over the earbud. “We never did decide how we were going to do this,” Trent said as he took my arm when Mark looked up, his first enthusiastic hail dying away when he saw it was me. “What do you have in that bag of yours?”
“My phone, a hair pick. My keys.” I slipped my note into Trent’s hand and smiled at Mark. “Can you get this to Mark for me?”
Trent’s grip on my arm tightened as the note slipped into his fingers. “You don’t have any charms at all?” he whispered through his clenched teeth, leaning in so his breath tickled my ear even as he smiled confidently at Dr. Cordova, spinning in her chair to look at us like we were stupid. “What do you plan to do? Spill coffee on them?”
I kept smiling. “I was having pizza at Detective Glenn’s house,” I said tightly, my lips hardly moving. “I didn’t think I needed any charms. I’ve got my usual. Splat gun, magnetic chalk, plus the charms you gave me. What have you got?”
“Nothing you’re going to like. You lead, I’ll follow.” 
That surprised me, and I gave him a sideways smile that he mirrored before I focused on the two people at the table. Plan A it was. Go in brash and come out bashed. “Hello, Cordova, Eloy,” I said, refusing to address her as doctor. “Nothing like a good caffeine buzz before kidnapping and mutilating more people, eh?”