Home > The Trouble With Vampires (Argeneau #29)

The Trouble With Vampires (Argeneau #29)
Author: Lynsay Sands

Prologue

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Hi . . . um . . . I’m not sure if I should be calling you or the police.”

“Is this an emergency?”

“It might be. I’m not sure . . .”

“Just tell me what’s happening, son. Is someone there sick or injured?” When the boy didn’t respond at once, the operator asked, “Are your parents arguing and it’s scaring you? Are they getting violent?”

“No! No. It’s our neighbor. Well, not really our neighbor, but his cousin who’s visiting. He . . . er . . . he’s sick . . . I think.”

“You think?”

“No. He is. He’s sick. And I think he may be dangerous. I’m afraid he’ll hurt Mr. Purdy.”

“Mr. Purdy?”

“My neighbor.”

“Right. And you think this cousin who is visiting him is sick and dangerous?” the operator asked, doubt obvious in her voice. “If so, why hasn’t this Mr. Purdy called instead of you?”

“I’m worried maybe his cousin won’t let him.”

There was a long pause, and then the operator sighed and asked, “What kind of sick is dangerous, son?”

“He . . . er . . . I think he might be suffering from Renfield syndrome.”

“From what?”

“Renfield syndrome,” the young voice repeated reluctantly.

“What’s that?”

“It’s . . . er . . .” The boy paused, and when he continued, there was a grimace in his voice. “It’s a sort of vampire personality disorder. The—”

“Vampire!” the 911 operator squawked. “You think your neighbor’s a vampire?”

“No! No, I think his visiting cousin thinks he’s a vampire. That’s what Renfield syndrome is and—”

“Honey, there is no such thing as vampires,” the 911 operator said over the boy’s explanation.

“But he—”

“There’re no buts here, kiddo. You need to cut the nonsense and get off the phone. You can get in a lot of trouble for crank calling 911. There are real people out there who need help and calls like this might prevent them getting through. Someone could be dying while you’re wasting our time with this prank.”

“This isn’t a prank,” the boy said earnestly. “I really think he thinks he’s a vampire. He has fangs and—”

“And I really think you need to stop watching horror movies and take yourself to bed. I’m writing down your number, boy, and if you call again, the police will be dispatched to your house and they could arrest you for this. Don’t call again.”

A sharp click sounded. It was followed by a dial tone.

One

“You shot me!”

“Yeahhh.” Pet drew out the word on a wince. “Sorry about that, kiddo. It was an accident. I was shooting at the mutants and your big butt got in my way.”

“Yeah? Well, this is an accident too,” Parker snapped, turning his gun on her character.

“Oh, come on!” Pet squawked, quickly moving her character behind the cover of some trees to avoid the rapid-fire spray of bullets. “It was an accident,” she protested. “Jeez. I thought we were on the same side.”

“You shot me first,” Parker pointed out, making his character rush after hers.

“Friendly fire. You’ll never make it out of the next level without me, Parker. Just—” A shriek from downstairs caught her ear, and Pet lowered her game controller and glanced toward the bedroom door.

“Is Oksana watching TV or some—?” she began, but stopped when the shriek ended and the housekeeper began shouting, “Home invasion! Home invasion!”

“Crap!” Dropping her game controller, Pet jumped up from the floor and rushed to the door. Once there, she hesitated though, and then cracked it open to listen. A frown claimed her lips when she heard the deep rumble of an unfamiliar male voice below and then silence.

Reaching for her cell phone, Pet glanced around for Parker and scowled when she saw that her nephew hadn’t moved. The eight-year-old was busily shooting her video game character while she was distracted.

“Parker!” she whispered anxiously as she punched in 911 on her phone. “Stop that! We have a situation here. Didn’t you hear Oksana yelling home invasion?”

“She always yells home invasion,” Parker said with a shrug. “Oksana forgets to close the front door after checking the mail, grabbing the newspaper, or sweeping the front porch. Everyone from neighbors to delivery guys have come in afraid something was wrong ’cause the door is open. When they do, she shrieks home invasion every time. She even yelled home invasion when Mr. Purdy’s cat came in yesterday. It’s her thing.”

“Oh,” Pet breathed, relaxing a little. She didn’t hit the call button on her phone, but she didn’t delete the numbers she’d entered on the keypad either. Oksana still hadn’t spoken again. Pet was debating whether she should call out and ask if everything was okay, or keep their presence in the house a secret and tiptoe to the end of the hall to get a look at who was in the entry, when she heard a soft whisper and then a deep male voice boomed, “Hello? Neighbor!”

“That’s not a neighbor.”

Pet jumped a good foot in the air when Parker spoke those solemn words right next to her. Clutching her chest, she briefly closed her eyes before letting out a slow breath and asking, “How do you know?”

“Because no one in the neighborhood has an accent like that. At least I don’t think anyone does,” he added with a frown.

Pet hadn’t noticed an accent. It had only been two words for heaven’s sake. How had he picked up an accent in two words? She gave her head a slight shake. The kid was just . . . different. Super smart and different. Letting her hand drop from her chest, she said, “Well, could it be a new neighbor then?”

“I guess,” Parker agreed dubiously.

“But,” Pet added, debating the matter aloud, “it’s hard to imagine Oksana mistaking a neighbor for someone committing a home invasion.”

Parker arched his eyebrows. “You heard the part about Mr. Purdy’s cat, right?”

Pet merely scowled and shifted her feet as she listened anxiously for Oksana to say something. When there was nothing but silence, she glanced to her phone and then hesitated. She didn’t want to call the police only to find out that it really was a new neighbor just checking on them. Sighing, she asked, “Do you have a phone in here?”

“Yeah. I got a cell phone for Christmas.”

“A cell phone?” she squawked. “You’re like eight. Who the hell buys an eight-year-old a cell phone?”

“Mom and Dad,” he said with a grin.

“Right,” she said with disgust, and then added, “Fine. Then grab your cell phone and stay here. I’m going to go downstairs and see what’s happening. But if I say ‘Spidey, come on down,’ lock your door, hide, and call 911. Okay?”

“Spidey?” he asked, wincing slightly. “Seriously?”

Pet rolled her eyes at the complaint. “If they know your name is Parker Peters, they’ll just think it’s a nickname. Get it? Parker Peters? Peter Parker? Spiderman?”

“I got it before you explained it,” he said with derision. “But it’s just so juvenile and lame.”

“Are you calling me lame? An hour ago I was your favorite aunt, and now I’m lame?” she asked with amazement, and then realizing this wasn’t the moment for such a discussion, muttered, “Whatever. Look, sweetie, this is serious. Just call 911 if I call you Peter then, okay?” She waited for him to nod, and then turned and eased the door open, pausing only to hiss “stay here” before easing out of the room.

The hallway was surprisingly dim for seven o’clock in early June when the sun stayed up until nine or so, but it was light enough to see still. Pet had crept about halfway to the stairs at the opposite end of the hall when a voice called out, “Hello?”

The voice this time was female . . . but not Oksana’s. Pet paused to snatch up a crystal vase from a side table, hid it behind her back, and moved to the railing that overlooked the front door entry.

Her eyes widened slightly when she saw the group of people crowding the large entry. Four men and a woman surrounded Oksana, and every one of them was dwarfing the housekeeper, who was a few inches taller than Pet’s own five foot two. They were also all staring up at her, she noted, and then her gaze settled on the couple next to Oksana.

Pet felt her shoulders relax as she recognized the pair; Marguerite and Julius Notte. They’d been on the front porch talking to Pet’s sister, Quinn, when she’d arrived that afternoon, and had stuck around long enough for introductions before heading back to the Caprellis’, where they were staying for a couple of weeks. They were house-sitting while the older couple visited their daughter in Texas.

Pet’s gaze slid to the other three men now, and her eyebrows rose slightly. All of them were big, but while two were just tall and muscular, the third was a complete behemoth, taking up twice as much space as anyone else in the entry. He was the biggest man Pet had ever seen, and that was saying something. She dealt with a lot of jocks in her work, but not one of them could have measured up to this guy. The shoulders on him! Good Lord! She’d heard black was supposed to be slimming, but the black T-shirt he wore just seemed to emphasize the width and muscle it was stretching to cover. His black jeans, on the other hand, were making his hips look tiny, or maybe they just were tiny in comparison to his shoulders. She followed the line of the jeans down to the black Doc Martens he wore and then ran her gaze back up again, taking in his shaved head and the fact that he wore rings on every one of his fingers. They could have been mistaken for brass knuckles except that they were silver. All told, the guy definitely didn’t look too safe to be around.

   
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