Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(9)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(9)
Author: Katie MacAlister

"She doesn't seem to be anxious to help us," Marta said, a sob in her voice. "What are we going to do? What if the evil one comes?"

As if on cue, Mattias appeared briefly at the end of the street. I ducked down until I could just barely see him. He stood for a moment in indecision, quickly scanning the front of the church and the street before he made a right turn and hurried off down a cross street.

"I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what it is you want me to do for you. You say an old lady told you to find me? Did she say her name?" I asked, wondering if the woman at the church could have sent the pair after me.

"She was on the ship. She said she would stay there, where her son was, but that we should go ashore and the reaper would show us the way. She said we'd know you by your light, and that there might be another one, an evil one, who did not have a light. You do have a light," Karl pointed out.

"Yeah, and I'm not quite sure how that happened, but given the present situation, I think maybe I'll just move past that point. Where exactly did you need directions to? I'm a stranger here, myself, and don't know too many of the local spots, although I do have a good map."

The couple squatted down next to me as I pulled out the detailed map I had for the area.

"We were going to Canada. To Halifax, to be with Marta's brother and his family," Karl said as they peered at my map.

I glanced at their period clothing, and bit my lower lip for a moment. "Would you mind me asking you when you were on the ship? What... er... what year was it?"

"It was 1922," Karl answered quickly, looking puzzled. "Why?"

I reached out to touch the lapel of his coat. Just as before, my hand met no resistance and passed right through him. "I hate to tell you this, but I don't think your ship made it to Canada. I have a suspicion that it might have wrecked offshore of Iceland, and you're... well, you're ghosts."

"Karl," Marta said in a near wail, grabbing her husband's arm again. "She is not the good one. She is Ilargi!"

"Shhh!" I hissed, peeping over the edge of the railing to see if Mattias had come back. The street, luckily, was clear. "I'm not anything other than really confused."

"Now, love, don't panic," Karl said, patting her hand. "She is a reaper, not Ilargi. We just need to convince her we're worthy of her help."

"Oh, you don't have to convince me of that. I can see you're a very nice couple, and I'm really sorry to have to be the one to break it to you that you're... er... life challenged. And I would help you if I could, but I really don't think I'm the person you're looking for."

"You're not going to show us the way?" Karl asked with a nervous glance at his wife.

Marta stared at me with bleak, hopeless dark eyes that seemed to wring my heart. "You would not leave us to the other?"

"I'm not sure who you're talking about, but I'll tell you what I'll do - you explain to me exactly where it is you're trying to get to, and I'll find out how you get there, OK?"

"But... you know where we're going," Marta said, her eyes moving between her husband and me. She looked strained, somehow stretched, as if she was about to tear apart into a thousand wispy bits.

"All right, then, I'll find out where you're going, and then we'll work on how to get you there," I said, trying to sound confident and calm. "Have you two been wandering around the town the whole time?"

They both stared silently at me.

"Let me put it this way - what's the last thing you remember?" I asked.

"We were on the ship," Karl said.

"Yes, I got that part. But what happened to the ship?"

The pair glanced at each other.

"I don't understand," Karl said. "We were on the ship. The old lady said to look for you, and we found you."

Clearly the trauma of their deaths had left them drifting, both figuratively and literally, and they didn't remember the transition between life and the afterlife.

I made a little face to myself at how quickly I'd become accustomed to the idea of ghosts and an afterlife, but I had to admit, the evidence was even now staring hopefully at me. "OK. We'll just let that go. While I'm looking, why don't you two go down to the café on the main square. I'll meet you there when I find out where it is you're supposed to go."

"Café?" Marta asked.

I gave them directions on where to find it, and reiterated that I would meet them there. "I've got a few things to take care of first," I said, straightening slowly as I verified that the street was clear of Mattias. "But just as soon as I can, I'll try to find someone who knows what's going on. Sound good?"

"And if the other should come, the Ilargi?" Karl asked, clearly worried. "He will steal our souls!"

"That's not good." I made a little face as I thought. "Um... run away?"

That evidently satisfied them, because they nodded and thanked me, drifting off down the street until they disappeared into the night. I noted with interest that the second they disappeared from my view, the glowing silver moon dangling from my wrist changed back into a moonstone hanging on a silk cord.

"Too strange," I told the bookmark. "But right at this moment, I'm not going to try to figure you out. I've got to get myself out of this predicament with Mattias, and much as I'd like to hunker down, staying in one spot might be asking for trouble if he comes back to look closely at the church. Better get a move on, now, Pia."

There's really no use talking to yourself if you're not going to listen to your own advice, so I did as I was told, and crawled up the narrow stairs to the street, glancing around quickly to make sure the woman in charge of the cult hadn't been following us, before heading off in the direction opposite the one Mattias had taken.

The threat of a stitch in my side blossomed to full life a couple of blocks later, leaving me clutching my side and limping (for some reason, limping made me feel better). Holding the paperback books and my bag made it difficult to try to ease the pain in my side, so I dumped the books into the nearest trash can, hesitating for a moment over the pretty moonstone bookmark. Part of me wanted to dump it, as well, and wash my hands of anything to do with crazy moonstone cults, frightened ghosts, and lusty Icelanders, but the moral part of my brain pointed out that it wasn't really mine to throw away, and the least I could do was try to find its rightful owner. It was entirely within reason that whoever it belonged to could help Karl and Marta.

   
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