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Dark Carousel (Dark #30)(3)

By:Christine Feehan

“What are we going to do, Charlie?”
Charlotte took a deep breath and then squared her shoulders. “We’re going to get as much information as possible in as little time as possible, and then we’ll leave. See if they follow us. If I can figure out the location of the body they staked, I can call in an anonymous tip to the cops and name them as the murderers.”
“You want to go back to the table and sit with them?” Genevieve asked, her eyes wide with shock.
Charlotte nodded. “We can’t let on that we’re onto them. We have to just play it off like I was suddenly sick or something. I’ll think of an explanation.”
Genevieve took a breath and then slowly nodded. “Okay. I can do that if you can. But let’s leave as soon as possible.”
“Agreed. We’ll have to get out in front of them and then find a way to watch to see if they try to follow us out. Turning the tables on them is going to be dangerous, Vi. If they’re following us, then they want something. Murdering that man has to be connected.”
Genevieve swallowed hard. “Did you recognize him? Was it someone we know?”
Charlotte tried to focus on the murdered man. He’d been about forty. Dark hair. His face had been twisted with pain. His eyes alive with terror and excruciating agony. She would see those eyes in her sleep. She shook her head, trying to still the shudder that ran through her body. “I don’t know. He looks vaguely familiar. It’s possible he was on Matt’s crew. My brother had a lot of employees. When I sold the company, some of them were laid off and they were angry. I got a lot of threats.” She ran her hand through her thick hair. “I just can’t place him. He looked . . . terrified. In so much pain. I don’t understand what they were doing to him.”
“They drove a stake through his heart? You mean like they do to vampires in movies?” Genevieve asked. “Because when Grand-mère and your brother were murdered, the blood was drained from their bodies and their throats were torn. Someone might interpret that as being killed by a vampire.” 
Charlotte’s eyebrows shot up. “Now we’re really getting outside the realm of possibility and into complete fantasy.”
“I didn’t say there are vampires, only that someone nutty might think that there are.” Genevieve sighed. “Okay, I’ll admit, when I saw Grand-mère, for a moment I entertained the idea that there were such things.”
Charlotte put her arm around her friend in an effort to comfort her. “I’m sorry, honey. I know that was horrible for you. Anyone would have thought that after seeing her like that. Let’s hope there isn’t anything like a real vampire out there, because the way our luck has gone, it would be after us.” She tried for a little levity, although with the bile still forming a knot in her throat, she didn’t feel in the least like laughing.
Daniel, Vince and Bruce, the three handsome men who had spent the evening flirting with every woman in the place and with Genevieve and her in particular, were vicious, cold monsters. She took a step toward the door.
Genevieve caught her arm. “Wait. Wait just a minute, Charlie, and let me rethink this. I know I was the one pushing for us to get out of hiding and to try to find whoever murdered your brother and my grandmother, but maybe I was wrong to make us a target. These men clearly are murderers, and if you don’t think they’re the same ones who killed our families, then we shouldn’t draw their attention any more than we already have.”
They were staying in the restroom far too long. “We don’t run. That’s what we promised each other,” Charlotte reminded her. “We’re never going to be free if we don’t find out who murdered the ones we loved. Lourdes won’t ever be free. You were right, Genevieve. I was the one trying to hide. Being responsible for a child threw me, but we’re strong. We’ve stuck together through everything so far, and we can do this.”
“They aren’t going to get away with it, are they?” Genevieve said, trying to pour steel into her voice. “We’ll find out who took our families, and we’ll do it together.”
Charlotte looked up at her friend’s beautiful face. There was determination there. Fear, but courage. She nodded. “Damn right we will. Let’s get out there and take back control. They think they have it, but we’re good at what we do.”
Genevieve glanced at herself in the mirror. “Charlie?” She hesitated. Long lashes veiled her eyes. “What if there is such a thing as a vampire? What if these men are killing them?”
Charlotte opened her mouth and then closed it. Genevieve didn’t deserve a derisive response. She needed to think about what she said carefully. Logically. “First, honey, if there were vampires, after all this time, wouldn’t the world know about them? And secondly, the man they killed was no vampire. I saw his death. I saw him. I felt him. He was just as human as the two of us. Maybe they believe they’re killing vampires, but I don’t see how. And driving a stake through someone’s heart, vampire or human, while they’re alive and conscious, is just plain sadistic. We can’t take any chances with these men. We have to find out what they want, and we need to be very careful. If they’ve targeted us, we need to know why.”
Genevieve took a deep breath and then nodded. She’d been the one to insist they come out of hiding and act like they were alive again, but it was Charlotte who was more the warrior woman. When it came down to facing danger, it was Charlotte who stood in front of her.The two of them made their way back to the table, threading through the crowd. All three men waited for them, eyes examining them carefully as they approached.
“Why is there always a line for the ladies’ room and not for the men’s?” Charlotte asked, and threw herself into the chair beside Daniel. “Every time. It’s crazy and makes me tempted to march into the men’s room and do a takeover with a bunch of like-minded women.”
“What happened to you?” Daniel asked. He sounded charming. Solicitous. Worried, even. But he couldn’t hide the cold alertness in his eyes. The suspicion.
She had to touch that glass again without a reaction. Charlotte flashed an embarrassed smile. Deliberately she inched her fingers toward the glass from which he’d drunk. “I’m violently allergic to something they put in some of the alcohols. I should have been more careful.” She wrapped her palm around the glass right where she thought his prints were and began to slowly push it away from her, making a show out of it.
Much more prepared this time, when the jolt came, she rode it out, seeking to go deeper into the tunnel to find more memories. To see if these men had murdered her brother. She caught images of Daniel following Genevieve and Grace from a store. That was how he found their home. The three men had changed places frequently while following the two women so that no one car had been close to them for any length of time, which explained how Genevieve, always so careful, hadn’t spotted a tail. It also explained how they had come to follow Grace.
There, in the tunnel, Charlotte found that there were two older murders, both committed by driving a stake through a man’s heart. All three men were present. She didn’t feel anything but a grim hatred emanating from them. Her brother wasn’t one of the victims. Still, one of the murders took place in France. She recognized the gardens where Daniel had staked his victim.
The three men were serial killers. The bodies couldn’t have been found, or the murders would have been splashed across every news station imaginable. She knew she couldn’t keep her hand around the glass much longer and maintain her embarrassed smile. Genevieve looked so anxious, her face pale, her gaze studiously avoiding the three men but centering on Charlotte as if her life depended on it.
As if she knew the men would see her desperate fear, Genevieve leaned toward Charlotte. “Are you certain we shouldn’t leave? The last time you drank anything that affected you so adversely, I had to take you to the hospital.”
Charlotte was very proud of her. Genevieve might by terrified, but she was thinking all the time. She’d said the perfect thing to reinforce Charlotte’s explanation. Slowly, she let go of the glass, having pushed it halfway across the table. 
“I’m all right, Vi. I just took a little sip and knew instantly something was wrong.” She shrugged. “I should have spit it out, but I didn’t want Daniel to think I was spitting all over him.”
The men laughed, although she could tell it was forced. She wasn’t certain they were buying her little charade. She leaned back in her seat. It was time to change the subject and do a little digging. “Vi and I met in France and have been best friends ever since. Where did the three of you meet? You obviously have been friends for a long time.”
“School,” Vince answered immediately, turning his attention to Genevieve. He ran his finger from her bare shoulder to her wrist. “Grammar school. I love that sexy little French accent you have.”
Bruce nodded and leaned toward Genevieve. “How long have you been in the States?”
Charlotte was grateful for Genevieve’s French accent. It always managed to be a conversation changer. As a distraction, it worked very well.