Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Rick stared at the phone in his hands. He’d been sitting in the dark for hours, not daring to leave the basement. Rasul and Karin were resting toward the back, lying on the cold concrete. He realized it was the first time he’d seen vampires like this. He’d seen his Mom ‘resting’, as she called it and even his Dad once, but they’d been in coffins or beds. This felt different. ‘Dead,’ he acknowledged.
“Asshole!” Rick swore softly, thumbing the phone screen. He couldn’t believe Hunter had blown him off. Motion would have provided some relief from the growing tension he was feeling. He looked at the phone again, wishing he could call his Mom. ‘She must be frantic,’ he thought, and in the next instant, he thought of his daughter. “Your Mom wouldn’t be very happy with me,” he whispered to his child, so far away.
It hurt to think of Brigid, but he did anyway, pulling the memory of her face together. He thought of her hair and the gap in her teeth. He thought of her eyes and realized he couldn’t quite recall their color. His chest clenched. ‘I’m losing her!’ his head screamed, but in the next instant, he pulled himself together. Instead, he thought of how Brigid had looked on the boat, her face turned to the sky. It made things easier, thinking of her in all the places they’d known: Boston, and Aunt Fran’s bedroom, Chester and Bon Temps.
“Why are you here?” he could hear her asking.
“For you,” he whispered into the dark.
“You’re lying,” she scolded. “You’re doing this for yourself and no good will come from it.”
Rick’s fingers itched, and he realized it had been weeks since he’d held a fiddle. The last time he’d played was in Chester for Peter’s memorial, and he felt the ache of needing the comfort of music. “You’ve lost your way,” he acknowledged.
Rick looked around the basement, but then he sighed. “Mom,” he whispered. He’d thought he was so grown up. He’d run ahead of her most of his life. When he thought Brigid was in danger, he didn’t hesitate to make his own plans, never thinking of how it might impact his Mother. She’d gone through her own hard times, and that included making a life that included his Father. “I didn’t always make that easy, did I?” he asked aloud.
Rick found himself thinking about Chester. His Mom could have lived anywhere, but she chose to raise him there. He’d had sunshine and woods to run in. She’d worried each time he launched into some new adventure, but she’d never held him back. He thought of the paths he’d explored and the lake where he sailed. “I want Diana to know those things,” he told the dark.
“Bon Temps has those things, too,” Brigid whispered back.
“I can’t go back there, Brig,” he explained. “You died there. So did Peter.”
“You need your family,” Brigid answered. “So does our daughter.”
“Family.” Rick glanced toward where he knew Karin was lying. He didn’t know when it happened, but he did see her as his sister. “And Pam,” he nodded. He thought of Bon Temps. Uncle Jason was there. The Hermosas were only twenty minutes away and Mustapha Khan… “But it wasn’t safe,” he reminded himself.
“What in this life is?” Brigid laughed.
His stomach growled and he felt that odd, thin feeling that signaled his need to feed on more than just food. Sighing, he pocketed the phone and walked up the stairs, careful to slip through the door, letting only the slightest sliver of light through. He’d figured out the way to avoid most windows getting to the kitchen and the bathroom and he used that route now. Where there were shades, they’d drawn them, but there were still places a person outside could look in and see him. Rick walked slowly toward the refrigerator and checked out the back before opening the door. He grabbed one of the sandwiches and a bag of blood.
“Just more vampire shit!” he swore, and then shaking the bag slightly, joked, “Blood! The breakfast of champions!” He walked to the microwave and tossed the bag in. He closed the door and caught his reflection. His fangs had descended and he just stared.
“Your vampire shit,” he could hear Brigid say.
“My parents are vampires,” he told the face staring back at him. “I am mostly vampire.” The microwave beeped and as he took out the bag and shook it, he said, “And my daughter will probably be vampire, too.”
“Time to accept who you are.” He wasn’t sure if it was Brigid’s voice or his Mother’s, but he knew they were right.
Bernard turned up the radio. If he focused on the music, dancing in his seat, and tapping time, he could almost keep his excitement in check. His car, his beautiful Cadillac, was purring down the road, taking turns smooth as silk, gliding over bumps in a way that reminded him of sailing. ‘Night is young and the music’s high…’ wailed the song. When the chorus rolled around, Bernard sang out loud, ignoring the strain in his voice. “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen!”
He wondered how old Rick was. He couldn’t be much older than seventeen. He was thinner than Leif, but his arms still looked strong. ‘You can dance, you can jive,’ and in Bernard’s mind it was Rick twirling him, wrapping him up close.
Until last night it had been so simple. Bernard had it all figured out. The people from Louisiana would kill Russell Edgington and he’d happily transition to Rasul’s rule, living the life of a trusted advisor. No one would make fun of him anymore or remind him he’d failed, but now nothing was simple.
‘Leif!’ Bernard glanced in the rear-view mirror. “It isn’t him, you know,” he told his reflection. ’Not fair!’ his reflection seemed to answer.
It was better when he could tell himself Leif and Eric Northman were different people. He could almost believe the Viking killed Leif. In a way, he supposed Eric Northman had killed the man he knew that night. Leif had been kind and giving. Eric Northman had used him, overturning Bernard’s life for his own ends. The Bernard who was wrapped in silver and forced into that coffin stepped out with no way to return the hurt he’d felt, but now? “I do believe in karma,” Bernard nodded.
Bernard glanced at the speedometer, estimating the time it would take to reach the house where Rasul and Karin the Slaughterer were waiting. ‘And Leif!’ his reflection reminded him.
He’d tell them Hunter and Heidi were held up by an errand and they’d meet up at the Club. Karin or Rasul would try to call, but there would be no answer. They’d turn to him, asking what was going on, but all Bernard had to do was shrug. He remembered Heidi’s phone still sitting on the bed stand when he left. ‘Where was Hunter’s?’ the face in the mirror asked. Bernard felt a chill come over him. It was possible Hunter had his phone on him. If Heidi found it, she’d use it to call the Slaughterer and Rasul, warning them. ‘Don’t be silly!’ the face laughed. ‘Heidi’s not calling anyone! She’s too busy trying to turn Eric Northman’s nephew!’ Bernard giggled, imagining the mighty Eric Northman hearing he’d lost another relative. There were pictures of them at the funeral for the human woman, the Viking and his she-bitch Queen. Sookie Stackhouse had been a mess, which she always was, but it was the look in Northman’s eyes that captured Bernard. He’d seen pain. “Oh yes!” he laughed out loud. “This one will hurt, too!”
‘Not as much as losing his own son,’ his reflection reminded him.
“I hope dhampirs can be turned,” Bernard worried.
‘He’s still part human,’ his face shrugged. ‘Maybe it will go faster. At any rate, he’ll be your child, your own, to do with as you please.’
“Who’s your Daddy, now?” Bernard giggled at his own joke.
‘He’ll be so sweet!’ Bernard’s reflection crooned. ‘He’ll be happy.’
“But, not at first,” Bernard whispered in reply. Some part of him didn’t like the idea of having to force Rick, but as quickly as his conscience pricked, it melted away and Bernard found he couldn’t help smiling. The bag in the back held the clothes he’d bought so long ago, wrapping them in tissue to preserve them. The dark slacks would fit Rick like a glove and the soft blue sweater would hug his frame. ‘It will bring out his eyes,’ Bernard’s reflection purred.
“He’ll cry the first time,” Bernard warned his reflection.
‘Which is why you should turn him first. Then it’s your command. He’ll come around. He’ll be perfect,” his face assured him. ‘Your Leif.’
“Leif,” Bernard giggled.
Bernard turned onto the street, pulling himself together. There were still steps in the dance he’d have to navigate before he’d have the opportunity to pull Rick from the club and return him here. The little house was perfect. It had a dark basement and leftover furnishings. He’d tuck Rick here and not return to the Palace until things were well in hand. ‘You’ll be a hero,’ his reflection pouted as he pulled into the driveway.
“I’ll still be a hero when I return with my child behind me,” Bernard preened.
‘Or in front of you,’ his face laughed. ‘On his knees.’
“Leif!” Bernard sighed, then lifting his chin, turned off the car and opened the door.
“Let’s go over this again,” Karin growled. “Where are you going to be?”
“At the table where Bernard puts me,” Rick answered. He tried not to think about how he looked. Bernard had trimmed his hair and then slicked it back. The sweater was a little loose but the pants were so tight across the front they left little to the imagination.
“Which table?” Karin quizzed Bernard.
“This one,” the smaller vampire answered, stabbing the place on the map he’d drawn. “That gives us a straight line to the back door. As soon as the trouble starts, I’ll grab Rick and take him out the back.”
“I can fight!” Rick protested again.
“You can,” Rasul nodded, “but, it will be close in the bar. Get out the back and make sure no one comes in from there.”
“With Hunter and Heidi up front, we can contain the perimeter. Believe me,” and Karin stroked the second sword she carried, “Rasul and I can handle anything that’s inside.”
“Sit down,” Rasul ordered Rick and then said, “Look up.” He applied eyeliner to both Rick’s eyes. “Better. You have lipstick in that kit?” and he took the light pink from Bernard. “Don’t forget, the King’s seen you before. Bernard will have to greet him. Stay at the table and look away. We can’t help the way you make us feel to be around you, but if you focus on being bored…”
“Or in love with me,” Bernard giggled.
“Or in love,” Rasul grinned, “It helps. It’s when you focus that we feel it best…”
“Or worst,” Karin nodded. “It’s that dhampir radar of yours. And after it starts and you’re outside, stand back from the door. We want the bystanders to stampede out. It will be full moon, so they’ll almost have to shift. Let them! Confusion will trigger the rest and we should be done and out of there before they gather themselves.” It wasn’t subtle, the change in her expression as she turned to Bernard. “I don’t like this! We should have heard from Heidi by now.”
“I can’t explain it!” Bernard protested. “All I know is she said they’d meet us there. Hunter was supposed to get something, but didn’t.”
“He texted me he overslept,” Rick confirmed.
Karin started to move forward but Rasul cut her off. “We need to go, Karin. We’ll try her again from the car.”
Karin took the driver’s seat and Rasul jumped in beside her. That left Rick in the backseat with Bernard. Almost immediately, the small vampire’s hand was on his leg. “Stop it!” Rick hissed.
“You stop it!” Bernard hissed back. “If we’re going to sell this, you need to look like you’re enjoying it.”
Rasul turned around. “He’s right,” he told Rick. “You cringe every time Bernard gets close. Vampires don’t miss much. No one’s judging you, but you have to make this look believable.”
“I’m told it’s enjoyable,” Karin teased. “As a vampire, you should enjoy love in all its forms.”
“Shut up!” Rick hissed, but he made an effort not to flinch when Bernard placed his hand back on his thigh.
“Better,” Bernard told him. The next fifteen minutes were increasingly awkward. Bernard’s hands were everywhere. He stroked Rick’s chest and entwined their fingers. “Try kissing me,” he suggested.
Rick was about to protest, but Karin barked, “Just do it!”
It was different. Where Brigid’s lips had been soft, Bernard’s were firm. Rick closed his eyes, trying not to think about what was happening. “Relax!” Bernard whispered. “Just go with it. You’re doing fine!”
The next time Bernard nipped at his lips and Rick found himself giving in. His mouth opened and the smaller vampire’s tongue slipped inside. Bernard was accomplished and almost before he knew it, Rick felt himself harden. He pulled away, blushing. “See?” Bernard smiled. “That wasn’t so hard!”
“We’re here,” Rasul announced.
‘Here’ was a spot two blocks away. Karin and Rasul would make the rest of the way on foot. Bernard and Rick would drive up in the Cadillac, looking like a couple on a date. “Signal us as soon as you’re settled,” Karin reminded Bernard.
“Of course,” Bernard shrugged. “Give me time to do the meet and greet. I heard Russell has guests. They may be with him. As soon as the waiter finishes bringing us our orders, I’ll send the text.”
“Take care of yourself, Arseling,” Karin told Rick.
Rick gave her the same reply he always did, “Only Thalia can call me that!” She stared at him a long second and Rick said, “I’m okay! Just take care of yourself.”
“Count on it,” she told him, then Rasul’s hand was on her shoulder and they were gone.
“All right, Sweetie!” Bernard grinned. “We’re on! Now, this is how it’s going to go. I’ll drive. That way they’ll know you’re new. Everyone knows I like them butch, but if you’re new I wouldn’t want you to drive my baby too soon!” and the smaller vampire stroked the steering wheel the same way he’d been stroking Rick’s thigh earlier.
When Rick started to pull on the seatbelt, Bernard giggled. “Really? Honey, we’re vampires… and vampire’s friends. No, you need to scoot right over here and show your claim on me.”
When Rick didn’t react, Bernard took his hand. “Over here!” he scolded, and waited until Rick scooted right next to him on the bench seat. “Good!” Bernard praised. “Now, you need to put your hand here!” and Bernard placed Rick’s hand firmly over the bulge in his pants.
“What the hell!” and Rick snatched his hand back.
The happy Bernard was gone and the nasty Bernard was suddenly on full display. “Do you think this is some kind of game?” he hissed. “I’m putting everything on the line for you people! If we drive up there and anyone recognizes you, I’ll be killed. You know that, right? Look at everything I’ve done for you!”
“You’re right,” Rick stammered. “I’m sorry.”
“You should be,” Bernard growled. “Now,” and he grabbed Rick’s hand and placed it over his crotch again. “Start working, and I want to be hard by the time we pull up!”
It was the longest two blocks Rick could remember. Bernard didn’t look at him, but he did bark instructions. It wasn’t as if Rick hadn’t done it himself more times than he could remember, but giving a hand job to someone else threw him. “Stop!” Bernard ordered as they were pulling into the parking lot. “I’ll cum and that will spoil the effect. You really are very good at that!”
As he put the car in park, Bernard leaned over and pulled Rick’s face toward him. “Remember,” he smiled. “They’re watching!”
The kiss between them was long and Bernard slipped his own hand into Rick’s lap, grasping and stroking Rick through his pants. “There,” he said after a long minute. “Now we’re matching sets.” Bernard stroked Rick’s lips with his thumb as he said, “This is how it’s going to go. Get out of the car and come around to open my door. I’m the lady in our relationship, and you’ll treat me like one. I want you to take my hand. Keep me close, and Rick? People know I like to be admired, so keep your eyes on me and your hands touching me at all times.”
Rick felt a little nauseous. He almost peeked into Bernard’s head again, but the vampire’s hand was back, squeezing his cock. “I bet you can do wonderful things with this!” Bernard simpered.
Rick pulled back. ‘Just do it,’ he ordered himself. ‘It will be all over in an hour.’ “I’ve never had any complaints,” he replied.
Bernard’s eyes widened but then his smile turned up. “I’ll bet you haven’t!” he giggled. “Well, come on, Lover Boy. Time for the show!”
“I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before.” It was Billy from the Palace. He was outside, chatting with the bouncer.
“You know I like them blonde,” Bernard replied and then purposely grabbed Rick’s hand, making it look as if the dhampir had been getting too bold. “Later, Lover!” he pouted. “We’re in public. Remember!”
Rick looked dazed, but he managed a cheesy grin. “Later!” The word stumbled from Rick’s mouth as if it had cost him.
Bernard could see Billy wasn’t impressed. He gave Rick the up, down and eyeroll past. “Who’s here?” Bernard asked.
“Everyone!” Billy was much more interested in the bouncer and was trying his best to elicit a response, pressing the bouncer’s arm and making noises to show his appreciation.
“Is my table open?” Bernard asked, squeezing Rick’s hand hard to remind the young man to play his part.
“What do I look like?” Billy asked, “The Maître D? I’m sure your friend here can knuckle drag his way in to find out.” Billy glanced over Rick again. “What is your problem, Bernard? Can’t you do better than cherry picking?”
Bernard turned slightly, cupping Rick’s package. “But, oh, what a cherry!” he laughed. Billy tittered in return and Bernard walked into the club. Once they were inside, he turned to Rick. “Well, that was awkward!”
“I’m trying,” Rick assured him.
“Try harder!” Bernard hissed. He stared up at the young man until Rick understood. The kiss this time was much better, and the way Rick’s arms held him almost felt as they should.
Bernard made much of the kiss, fanning himself and using it as an excuse to look around. It didn’t take but a minute to see Russell standing at the far end of the bar, Betty Jo beside him. “This way,” he told Rick, taking his arm and steering him toward the nearby table. It wasn’t exactly the right one; the right one was already occupied, but this one still had a good path to the back door. They settled and a waiter was beside them in an instant.
“Blood for me,” Bernard ordered, “AB if you have it, and a Gin and Tonic for my friend.” Bernard placed his hand over Rick’s, and he was pleased to see Rick pick up the cue, turning his own hand palm up so they could entwine fingers. “Heavy on the gin, right Lover?”
Rick did seem to be getting into the swing of things. He lowered his lids, lifted Bernard’s hand and said, “You know what I like, Bernie!”
“Don’t call me that!” Bernard snapped, but then catching himself, added, “You know that’s between us!” He purposely tapped Rick’s lips until the young man opened, and then he inserted his finger, inviting Rick to suck on it. They looked in each other’s eyes. It was a good moment.
The drinks were brought, and Bernard sighed. “Well, duty calls. I’ll go bend the knee to His Majesty. As soon as I start walking back, you can text Karin and Rasul… but be discrete!”
“I got it,” Rick told him and then leaned over to kiss him when Bernard pursed his lips.
‘He’s going to be just perfect,’ Bernard thought, leaning into the younger man, enjoying how his hesitation was evaporating. “Such a darling!” he sighed, then rose and turned toward the King.
He couldn’t help the extra sashay in his step. All done now. All he had left was to tell the King about Rasul and Karin. They’d be killed as soon as they entered the Club. Bernard would use that time to spirit Rick outside. He’d probably have to knock the dhampir out first. He was stronger than Rick but it would be better to have him wake up back at the house. ‘Maybe I could kiss him again,’ he thought, recalling how lovely Rick’s warm mouth felt but then Bernard dismissed the idea. He had a sample of what Rick could provide, but it would be all that and more once a Maker’s Command was in place.
“Bernard.” Betty Jo’s voice was cordial, but the way she stepped between himself and the King said it all.
“You look marvelous!” Bernard gushed. “And you’re going to feel even more marvelous when I tell you what I found out!”
“Bernard,” Russell nodded from behind his Second. “I see you have a new friend.”
“Gorgeous, isn’t he?” Bernard couldn’t help but glance back. “He is just my type.”
“What’s this about information?” Betty Jo asked.
“It’s important,” Bernard stage-whispered, by which he wanted them to know he was important. “Really for your ears only. Wouldn’t want to panic people.”
Betty Jo’s eyes narrowed and Russell took a step in his direction. “Well?” the King asked.
“There are people coming here tonight,” Bernard hissed quickly. “They plan on assassinating you! They are agents of Eric Northman!”
“Agents!” and Betty Jo’s hand dropped to her waist.
“Northman?” and the King’s hand dropped as well.
It was then the woman beside the King turned. “I wonder if your information is accurate,” she said.
The King looked at her. “Thalia, what do you know about this?” he demanded.
There was a crash at the door, and the bouncer was flying in, hitting against the bar hard. In an instant, Karin the Slaughterer was standing in the open space, and Rasul was right behind her, a curved sword gleaming in his hand. “It’s them!” Bernard screamed, and then “Protect your King!” to the stunned customers standing around them.
The guards Russell brought with him were fast, but the woman called Thalia was faster. She seemed to be everywhere and nowhere in an instant. Bodies were falling and around them the sickening, stomach-dropping feel of mass shifting started. ‘Move!’ the voice in Bernard’s head ordered.
“You bastard!” Rick was charging at him, but Bernard had no time for nonsense.
“You’re mine!” Bernard hissed, and just as quickly, he struck Rick across the face. The young man’s head snapped back and in the next instant, Bernard struck him at the temple, and Rick dropped like a stone. Bernard had to admit the dhampir had some heft to him, and he found himself shifting the unconscious body twice before he managed to carry Rick out the back door and around to the car.
As she stood outside, Karin’s feeling that things had gone sideways didn’t go away. She’d tried texting and then calling Heidi, but had no response. She watched Bernard driving away with Rick and she flexed her fingers, trying to ignore her paranoia, but it was no use. Every sense was tingling. “What’s wrong?” Rasul asked.
“It’s just a feeling,” she told him. “I think we’re in danger.” She expected Rasul to ask questions, but instead he said the right thing.
“I trust your feelings. We shouldn’t wait here. Let’s go.” They skirted along the shadows, watching for guards or cameras. There was one moment when they headed up the gutter, praying it would hold so they could walk the last few yards over the rooftops. The music from the Club was everywhere, making it hard to hear the more important sounds, like the scrape of a shoe or the whir of a camera gantry.
They stood in the shadow of the elevator tower watching Rick and Bernard walk in. The bouncer went back on duty, another smaller vampire trying to hang off him. “Over there,” Karin whispered. At the next corner there were two vampires lounging against a car. As Rasul and Karin watched, a set of Weres crossed the street and started up the sidewalk toward them.
“Patrols,” Rasul said.
“Means Russell’s here,” Karin nodded. They watched a while longer, timing the rounds and how the teams passed each other. Karin glanced at the area below them. “No Heidi.”
They waited, silent, but then Rasul asked, “Do you trust him?”
“Russell?” Karin asked, then realizing who Rasul meant, she shook her head. “No, Bernard’s scum. He’ll roll whichever way the wind blows, but I don’t think he’s dangerous. If he was a problem, Rick would have told us.” She looked around again, “You know… he would have read it.”
Beside her Rasul made a sound. “You mean look in Bernard’s head? What makes you think Rick would do that?” When Karin glared at him, Rasul explained. “He’s just like Eric! He thinks he knows more than he does. You saw him in the back seat! He’s struggling with being attractive to males. He’s afraid of what he’d see in Bernard’s head, and he’s too arrogant to look anyway.”
Karin had to struggle not to react. “That can’t be!” she hissed, but deep down, she feared Rasul was right.
“Did you ask him?” Rasul was looking at her rather owlishly, and all her instincts started to howl.
“No,” Karin answered, and then, “No!” and without thinking further, she jumped, trusting Rasul to follow her.
It was a stupid move, but instincts honed by years of practice and her own luck seemed to hold out. The surveillance teams were at their widest point apart. The bouncer didn’t get any further than ‘Hey!’ and Karin had him off the ground and through the front door. The vampire who’d been playing with the bouncer melted into the scenery. Karin glanced at Rasul, trusting him to watch her back as she strode into bar.
The longer of her two swords was already drawn. She saw Bernard, registered him calling to those around him to attack her. “Asshole!” she cried, but in the next moment, one of the King’s guards was on her. Rasul was behind, but fighting off the first of those who’d been watching the street. Karin’s sword plunged into the wood bar and stuck and the hilt of her second sword got caught in her waistband. It was just a second, but she looked up to see Betty Jo raise her blade. ‘I’m seeing my own death,’ Karin thought, and then, without missing a blink, Betty Jo’s head was off. The King’s Second didn’t even register surprise. Karin watched Betty Jo’s body slowly fall sideways, and then she saw someone she didn’t expect. Thalia had been behind Betty Jo and it had been Thalia’s sword that delivered the blow.
“What are you doing here?” Karin asked.
“Rescuing you!” Thalia answered, and then turned to parry the next blow.
They were back to back, blades moving. Karin found herself laughing, the freedom of battle upon her. She warbled her battle cry and across the bar, Rasul answered.
Russell was old, and in his time, he’d been a fierce fighter. Karin knew to hang back, giving Rasul his opportunity to confront the King. Her job was to distract those who would guard the King long enough for the King and the would-be King to engage, but the bar was a swelter of bodies. Weres were shifting. There were bats and owls beating themselves against the ceiling. A badger ran into Karin’s shins, almost knocking her over, and somewhere close a wolf howled.
“Noisy,” Thalia grated.
“How did you know where to find us?” Karin asked between strokes.
“I knew you were blaming Russell,” Thalia answered.
“We were that predictable?” It was the worst thing any assassin could say about themselves. “We deserve to be finally dead.”
They were forced apart. Across the room Karin saw Rasul locked in battle with the Mississippi King as she turned to meet the next attack. She knew Thalia wasn’t far. She could tell from the way the bodies were falling but it still seemed to be a long time before they were close enough to exchange words again. “He didn’t do it, you know,” Thalia shouted.
“Who didn’t do what?” Karin asked.
“Russell,” Thalia clarified. “He didn’t kill Peter, or Brigid. He knew they were there in Bon Temps, and he was spying on them but he didn’t order their deaths. It was the Fae who were behind it.”
Karin felt her arm tire. ‘A lie.’ People around her were dead, and all for a lie.
“Where’s Arseling?” Thalia called. That got Karin’s attention. She looked around, then started fighting her way toward where her brother was supposed to be seated. There was a shout behind her and she turned long enough to see Rasul pull his sword from Russell Edgington’s body. “Long live the King!” Thalia shouted, and around her swords started to fall. Karin used the sudden break to run out the back door but she knew what she’d find. The alley was empty and Bernard’s white Cadillac was gone.