Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 23

Page 23

“Why not? You believed in her.”

“I know, but I’d never actually seen her. Nobody sees Anna. Because if you see Anna—”

“You don’t live to tell anyone about it,” I finish dismally.

I look up at the sound of footsteps on the brittle floorboards. Some old guy has come in, the kind of old guy with a twisting gray beard that ends in a braid. He’s wearing a very well-worn Grateful Dead t-shirt and a leather vest. There are strange tattoos up and down his forearms—nothing that I recognize.

“You’re a damn lucky kid. I have to say that I expected more from a professional ghost killer.”

I catch the bag of ice he tosses to me for my head. He’s smiling through a face like leather and peering through wire specs.

“You’re the one who tipped off Daisy.” I know it instantly. “I thought it was little old Thomas, here.”

A smile is my only reply. But it’s enough.

Thomas clears his throat. “This is my grandfather, Morfran Starling Sabin.”

I have to laugh. “Why do you goth types always give yourselves weird names?”

“Strong words coming from somebody walking around calling himself Theseus Cassio.”

He’s a salty old dude, and immediately likable, with a voice that belongs in a black-and-white spaghetti western. I’m not put off by the fact that he knows who I am. In fact, I’m almost relieved by it. I’m happy to come across another member of this peculiar underground, where people know my job, know my reputation, know my father’s reputation. I don’t live my life like a superhero. I need people to point me in the right direction. I need people who know who I really am. Just not too many. I don’t know why Thomas didn’t say as much when he found me by the cemetery. He had to be so damned cryptic.

“How’s your head?” Thomas asks.

“Can’t you tell, psychic boy?”

He shrugs. “I told you; I’m not that psychic. My grandpa told me you were coming and that I should look out for you. I can read minds sometimes. Not yours today. Maybe it’s the concussion. Maybe I just don’t need to anymore. It comes and goes.”

“Good. That mind-reader shit gives me the willies.” I look over at Morfran. “So, why did you send for me? And why didn’t you have Daisy set up a meeting for when I got here, rather than sending Mentok the Mind Taker?” I jerk my head toward Thomas and immediately curse myself for trying to be a smartass. My head is not healthy enough for smartassery.

“I wanted you here quickly,” he explains with a shrug. “I knew Daisy, and Daisy knew you, personal. He said you didn’t like to be bothered. But I still wanted to keep tabs. Ghost killer or not, you’re just a kid.”

“Okay,” I say. “But what’s the rush? Hasn’t Anna been here for decades?”

Morfran leans against the glass counter and shakes his head. “Something’s changing with Anna. She’s angrier these days. I’m linked to the dead—more so than you are in many ways. I see them, and I feel them, thinking, thinking about what they want. It’s been that way since—”

He shrugs. There’s a story there. But it’s probably his best story, and he doesn’t want to give it away so early on.

He rubs his temples. “I can feel it when she kills. Every time some unfortunate stumbles into her house. It used to be nothing more than an itch between my shoulder blades. These days it’s a full-on twist of my insides. Way things used to be, she wouldn’t have even come out for you. She’s long dead and no fool, knows the difference between easy prey and trust fund babies. But she’s getting sloppy. She’s going to get herself on the front-page news. And you and I both know that some things are better kept a secret.”

He sits down in a wingback chair and claps his hand against his knee. I hear the clicking of dog toenails on the floor and pretty soon a fat black Lab with a graying nose waddles in to put its head on his lap.

I think back to the events of the night before. She was nothing like I expected, though now that I’ve seen her I have a hard time remembering what I did expect. Maybe I thought she’d be a sad, frightened girl who killed out of fear and misery. I thought she’d trundle down the stairs in a white dress with a dark stain at the collar. I thought she would have two smiles, one on her face and one on her neck, wet and red. I thought she would ask me why I was in her house, and then come at me with razored little teeth.

Instead I find a ghost with the strength of a storm, black eyes, and pale hands, not a dead person at all but a dead goddess. Persephone back from Hades, or Hecate half-decayed.

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