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Path of Destruction - 2

Kara and I sat in the booth across from Stokes in the all-night diner, sipping on strong coffee. The fluorescent lighting made everyone's skin look pasty, as if the diner was a hangout for the undead. About half the booths were filled with people you usually don't see during daylight hours.

Kara smiled at Stokes. "It's good to see you again, Detective."

Stokes grinned. "I owe you my life for getting me out of that place. Lawrence would have never let any of us out." His expression suddenly grew serious. "How are Madeleine and Clifford?"

Stokes had been there when both Madeleine and Clifford were made into vampires. Madeleine by Shiva, and Clifford by Kara. Kara still fought with guilt over doing that to Clifford, but they both knew it was their only chance to escape from Lawrence. And Clifford would follow his daughter into Hell to protect her.

"Madeleine is missing," I said. "For almost a month now."

"Clifford and Étienne are convinced she was kidnapped by Shiva," Kara said. "And is being held against her will."

"But you don't believe that," Stokes said.

"No," I said. "We think Madeleine went with Shiva willingly."

"So she and Shiva are responsible for this murder spree," Stokes said.

I nodded. I looked for our waitress and saw her talking with four teenagers in a booth across the room. Three boys and a girl, all dressed in black with long trench coats. I started counting their facial piercings when one of them looked at me, his eyes cold and dark. I could sense vampires, and they weren't vampires. Yet something wasn't right. Not entirely human. I looked away, back to Stokes. The gloomy lighting and late night atmosphere must be getting to me.

"Knowledge of vampires and werewolves is spreading," Stokes said. "Nobody is going public with the information yet, but rumors are that the president knows. They're afraid to start a national panic. We're under a lot of pressure to stop Shiva. He's not trying to hide anything. He's trying to flaunt his existence."

"I wouldn't underestimate him," Kara said. "He may be a sociopath, but he never does anything without a good reason."

Our conversation was interrupted by the four teenagers across the room. One of them yelled at the waitress. "I ordered my steak raw, and I bloody well want it raw!"

"Sir, we can't give you raw steak. It's rare."

The teenager grabbed the waitress's arm. "Maybe I should take a bite out of you. That would be raw."

I sighed as Stokes stood. This was going to be a long night.

posted 2005-06-29 00:00:00