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And it was utter silence I ached to hear the shrill pulse of the half dozen rock bands writhing to the beat outside the skull, for the screen to brighten with the waitress’s supernaturally perfect face offering a refill

I was sure my heartbeat was audible too, especially to him, and shut my eyes

"Who the hell do you think you are, Delilah Street?" the harsh whisper caain

"Desperate?" I tried "And overconfident"

I heard the ainst ed assault

A bit of light flickered over my closed eyelids I eased thelass and called up the virtual waitress

"Two doubles," he snarled at the screen as it illu broad cheekbones, a bone-snapping strong jaw, and the ’s peak of his black hair against pale skin

No wonder I’d taken him for a olf, as everyone else did

His face turnedhis eyes had shrunken and darkened, like dried blood, but his eye whites still glared blue froht that penetrated even the skull booths "Meanwhile, why aive people the benefit of the doubt"

"Or maybe you will make up h held overtones of a uessed that some inborn ruefulness of his particular vaht now

"Well, hold onto your virtual virginhood," Sansouci advised, "because you’re going to get lanced up He looked just as intense and grileam sparked deep in his eyes "Guess your ed position to easeinto the skull’s black portholes to nothing

"I’ brother, but you seeer to know Time for the hard stuff, so drink up And then I’ll tell you a night’s tale you won’t soon forget"

Chapter Twenty-two

MY FINGERTIPS INCHED the cocktail glass Sansouci had put dead center on the little table toward my side of it The flavored and colored vodka, added to the innocuous cherry cola, had produced a bright bloodred brew suitable for virginal wedding nights and vaies

I didn’t dare look at Sansouci, and that wasn’t totally about hiry with ry withanywhere but into the cherry-amber depths of my drink "That’s what I was trained to do as a reporter Approach story subjects in a et their stories"

"And why do you need stories?"

"Itthey explain things About the way the world truly works, about what this person has gone through and knows that other people may need to know andbenefit from"

"You’re an idealistic tattletale?"

"Not anyas low-profile as dirt "Now I do it to save my sanity and maybe a few people’s, um, lives"

"YouI don’t have"

Ouch "That’s oted way"

"What way do you think of as Strip was a line, with all the people and paranormals I know on either side of it, I’d want you on lass, and drink deeply

"I’ve taken a lot of lives, and you’ve saved lives" He observed this as an interesting phenomenon, not as murder and not-murder "You saved a bunch of tourist lives at the Gehenna when you exorcised Loretta’s ghost in that spectacular fashion"

"Really? She’s ed to come back in physical form and wants to destroy Ric and me"

"Didn’t you listen to her story? I could have told you lovely little Loretta was and is as willful and power-hungry as the gangster father she hates Being Cicereau’s victim only deepened the blood fury already in her"

"I’ve seen a photo from the nineteen forties of Loretta with her father, you, and a good-looking woman"

"Girl," Sansouci corrected


"Cicereau’s arm candy She was only a few years older than Loretta, whoe sixteen So?"

"You were there as a bodyguard I can alun in the dinner jacket pocket your right hand was in"

"No, you couldn’t I wouldn’t do that I carry it in an underarm holster or the set the occasion, or urge, to pat , a o off, slip out of your hand Your iued that you looked irl?"

"Vida An aspiring actress Don’t laugh; she had some chops and Cesar had promised her auditions outside his master bedroom"

"What happened to her?

"Sheamous mobster None of them are No need"

"When did shememory bank "After Cicereau went berserk over the Loretta business"

"That was after you were indentured to hily meltdown"

"You adhter so viciously"

"I was there under duress He was teaching me a lesson too when he killed Prince Krzysztof"