As quickly as it started, it was over. In a flourish of shadow and movement, the scrawny vampire exploded in a vicious tunnel cloud of dust and ash, and the magic that held Mike in place released him. He threw up his arms, ducking his face against the onslaught of debris raining over him. When he stood and looked around, the intervening shadowy figure had disappeared.
Crandall cursed up a storm, pushing himself to hands and knees fifteen feet away. Mike hurried to him, and with a hand under his arm, helped him up. Crandall continued a litany of profanity that would make a trucker blush as he brushed ash off his face and out of his hair.
“What the fuck was that?” Crandall said. “I had it under control.”
“I know,” Mike said. He scanned the area, tensed and waiting for the other creature to return.
Mike’s attention snapped back to Crandall. “Yes,” he said. “He was right, you know. Two against two that night in the club shouldn’t have ended in our favor. So yeah, you know what you’re doing.”
“It would’ve been more in our favor if Angelo hadn’t stepped in.”
Normally, Crandall grousing about something like that would bring an amused smirk to Mike’s expression, but his thoughts were stuck on what had just passed. “I think that was Judas,” Mike said, giving voice to his concerns. “If he can do that, we’re in way over our heads. More than I originally thought.”
“He did that freeze thing? Fucking cheating bastard.” Crandall sneered at Mike’s hand still on his arm. He pulled away and stomped off in the direction of Mike’s Mustang.
Mike followed. Crandall climbed in and fastened his seat belt before Mike dug his keys out of his pocket. When he climbed in, he started to speak, but Crandall held up a hand an inch from his face. “Don’t, Mike. Just shut up for a while.” Crandall shifted to face the passenger window and stared through it hard enough to make Mike wonder if the tension would shatter the glass.
Crandall didn’t say a word, and Mike, though he wanted to discuss it, knew better than to push Crandall when he withdrew. If it had been a reasonable hour, he’d have dropped Crandall off at the apartment and sought out Ash or Dragon. He’d have to talk with them soon enough, but it wasn’t worth waking either of them at three in the morning. It could wait. If only the entire mess could wait. Like a hundred years.
In silence, they left the car in a back lot and crossed the cold, dark parking lot. Mike, on edge, jumped and started at every little city night noise following them to the building. Crandall stared straight ahead, striding quickly, but remained nonresponsive to Mike and the night.
In the apartment, Crandall beelined to the coffee table. He lifted its cluttered surface and reached underneath to retrieve a carved wooden box. Once he returned the table top to its normal position, he threw himself down on the sofa and, balancing the box on one thigh, opened it and plucked out rolling paper and a bag of weed.
“Aren’t you tired?” Mike asked. He tossed his keys on the stand by the door and shrugged out of his coat. He glanced over his shoulder, but Crandall’s attention was on the task at hand. His head bowed, his shoulders hunched, and his hands moving in slow motion. “Crank?”
“No,” he said low and quick; his lips barely moved.
“Okay.” Mike crossed the room, pausing a moment in front of Crandall. When Crandall didn’t acknowledge him, Mike continued into the kitchen. He admitted to himself that Crandall was probably right. He felt exhausted, but his mind was churning possible outcomes with Judas, and none of them were good. Or even tolerable. Sleep wouldn’t come any time soon.
Mike stood staring into the fridge until the scent of Crandall’s toke drifted in to tease him. Beer wouldn’t cut it. He slammed the door shut and reached into the cabinet over the fridge where he kept the skull-shaped bottle of vodka Dragon had given him two birthdays ago. He’d barely touched it, preferring beer to anything harder, but if there was ever an occasion for oblivion, tonight must be that night.
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