Angels stood high on pedestals, their wings clipped and broken by time and the elements. Madonnas in prayer looked over lichen-covered tombs. Great oaks were spread throughout, casting a cooling shade over the grounds. The land had been built up. Here, farther along the Mississippi, they were on higher ground than in the city of New Orleans. And the long-dead, original owner of the property had planned his family cemetery well; he’d brought in dirt and built it up, so that an incline formed from the rear of the house. Gravesites dotted the landscape.

All the way up to the crypt.

“Let’s go, shall we?” Sean said lightly.

They started through the graveyard. Pierre began saying a Hail Mary.

Jeanne joined him.

Jack stumbled and nearly fell as they walked over a broken angel, fallen to the dirt. The wind rose; they heard a strange keening, and realized it was the sound of the air rushing around the many tombs and their funerary art.

They stopped at the crypt. Once it had been protected by iron bars, but the bars had been ripped away.

Double oak doors protected the inner realm.

Lightning lit the sky; again, it seemed that thunder shattered the very earth.

Sean pushed open the oak doors and played his flashlight over the interior of the tomb.

There were eight coffins there, all on open shelves, four to each side of the door.

“Shall we?” Sean murmured.

Jack set his duffel bag down and searched in it for crowbars. Pierre stepped forward, taking one. “Jack, guard the lady and child, please. I’m far more familiar with corpses.” Jack looked at Sean, who nodded. He took a crowbar himself and lit into the first coffin.

This fellow had already turned to dust.

He heard Pierre working behind him, heard Jack breathing hard, heard an awful pounding. Their hearts.

The second man retained just a bit of flesh, stretched tightly over his bones. His clothing was elegant, mid-eighteenth century.

The third man had already been decapitated. And a stake lay where the heart had been. Sean shivered, but said nothing.


“Nothing but the truly dead, so far,” Pierre said.

Sean broke into the fourth coffin. He was startled, stepping back, when he found a young woman there.

He’d seen her, somewhere, some time. He didn’t know her, but...

Yes, she’d worked in Jackson Square. He’d seen her reading tarot cards when he’d talked to Marie Lescarre.

“Who—” he began.

Her eyes flew open. She stared at him with huge, soulful eyes. “Oh!” she breathed. “Oh...” Staring at him, she slowly smiled. He backed away, caught by the look in her eyes. “Lieutenant, thank God!” she said. She lifted her arms to him. “Help me, help me ...”

“My God!” he muttered. Another woman Aaron had taken and made a prisoner. A future kill. A stockpile for his hunger. He had to get her out.

“Sean, no!” Pierre warned sharply.

And then he knew. Knew before she raged upward, fangs brilliantly white and visible. Yet, as her hands caught his shoulders, her mouth closed. She doubled over, screaming in a rage.

He threw her back into the coffin.

“Don’t hurt me,” she whispered. “I’m old, really old, I’ve been around forever, I don’t kill—” she said forlornly, her voice tremulous.

“You were about to take a good bite out of my neck,” Sean said.

“He wants you dead. I’d happily kill you!” she hissed suddenly.

Sean gritted his teeth. She looked so alive. So natural.

Like Maggie. Was this murder? Was he killing the already dead?

“I will kill you!” she charged suddenly, starting to rise again.

Jack swept by him with a stake, lunging to set it against her heart.

And push it through.

She let out an unholy scream, loud, more shattering than the crack of thunder.

They stared at her. She must have been old, as she had said. She seemed to crackle and fade to dust as they stared at her. Her flesh leathered, stretched taut over her bones, cracked. Soon, she was little more than gray skin over bone.

None of them could pull their eyes away. They just stared.

Until they heard the sound of clapping.

They spun around.

Aaron Carter had emerged from the last coffin on the other side of the crypt. He was smiling, amused.

“The great vampire hunters have killed a debutante. Bravo!”

“The tarot reader? Oh, yeah, poor girl. How many corpses can we accredit to her?” Sean asked.

“Oh, this century, she’s not been here very long. She rids the streets of the homeless and runaways. Ah, but you have seen her before. Years ago, she was one of the freshest, sweetest little things you might have imagined. Rich, quite a catch. Ah, well ...”

“You’re heartbroken, I can see,” Sean said, his own heart slamming against his chest, his breathing coming fast and furious.

“She protected me; she adored me, you see. She served me well. She is another debt that you will pay.

She never did understand about Maggie ... but you understand now, don’t you, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“By tonight you’ll be dead, and she’ll be mine.”

“I don’t intend to die,” Sean told him.

“I think I’ll get rid of the old geezer first,” he said, referring to Pierre. “Then the young man. The emotional young Jack Delaney, your Irish lackey there. I think I’ve seen the boy before, and I think he’s seen me, and he’s been a fool at every go ‘round—”

“Murdering asshole!” Jack responded, staring at Carter with a violent rage.

“Watch it, Jack,” Sean warned. “He wants you angry.”

But Jack was watching Aaron as if he were staring into the face of pure evil. “This time, you die. We’re prepared for you, you fool—”

“You’re the fool!” Aaron thundered, his anger suddenly showing. “You’re prepared, you’re prepared!

You know nothing.”

Jack had done away with one of the undead; he was feeling confident—and acting from an uncontrollable anger. He raised a stake, flying heedlessly at Aaron with a cry of rage.

“No, we take him together—” Sean cried.

Jack never reached Aaron. The vampire ducked the blow, rose, and lifted one arm, sending Jack flying across the crypt. Jack cracked against stone, fell to the ground. Sean pulled his .38 and started firing, knowing that it slowed the vampire down. Aaron turned, coming at him. Sean dropped the gun, and raised a stake. Aaron grasped the weapon before Sean could drive it home. They struggled. Sean saw Pierre coming at Aaron; Aaron saw him, too. He turned enough to strike Pierre so hard that he flew against the old coffins and crashed down to the floor with wood splintering down on him.

Then Aaron turned his full attention back to Sean. The stake was a shaft between them. Sean felt ridiculously like Robin Hood fighting with Little John to cross a bridge.

But this bridge meant life or death.

Grinning, Aaron used his superior strength and slowly pressed the stake downward. He opened his mouth. His fangs dripped. Still having to struggle with the stake, he was taking his time, but he nearly reached Sean’s throat. He began to laugh; the sound was deep, husky, amused.

Then the laughter faded. Aaron Carter stopped. Sean felt the strength against him suddenly wane. Aaron was weakening. It was the garlic. Sean took the advantage, thrusting backward with the stake.

Aaron staggered backward against the wall of the tomb, shaking in fury. He started to cough, gagged, choked. Then he inhaled deeply, staring at Sean.

“By God, you’ll pay, she’ll pay! You don’t know just how you’ll pay!” he swore, shaking.

Then he turned, stumbling from the tomb. Sean pushed himself from the wall, following Aaron Carter out into the day. The clouds had come closer to the earth. The very air was gray. The rain began.

“Carter!” he cried.

But the vampire was gone.

Or so he thought.

The wind suddenly picked up. Like a massive hand, it whipped against him. “You will die, Canady bastard!” he heard. A voice? A hiss on the wind.

And that was all. He was slammed back against the stone of the tomb. His head struck. He felt the intensity of the pain for just a moment.

Gray surged around him.

The sky grew darker, darker into an ever-deepened shade of gray.

And then it was black.

The phone was ringing. Maggie heard it, as if it were a long, long way away. She was so tired. She fumbled around to find the receiver.


“Maggie, my darling.”

Instantly, she was awake. Aaron’s voice. She sat up. Looked at the clock. It was day. Sean was gone.

Panic filled her.


“Maggie, my love, yes.”

“Where’s Sean?”

“Lover boy?”

“Talk to me. Quit mocking me, or I’ll hang up on you.”

“If you do, another Canady dies.”

She clutched the phone tightly, biting into her lower lip. “Do you have a Canady with you now, Aaron?”

“Umm, maybe.”

“Do you have Sean?” she almost screamed.

“I have a Canady.”

“Which Canady?”

Maggie felt herself shaking. She didn’t know where Sean was; he had tricked her to save her. Aaron wasn’t dead. He sounded strong and well, and vengeful.

“Where are you?”

“Where am I? Well, I was resting nicely at my own home until I was disturbed by your friends.”

“What happened?”

“To your friends? Why, nothing, as yet They destroyed my beautiful young creation, Lilly Wynn. But then, she was always a substitute for you.”

“She was your own descendant, you fool! Where is Sean?”

“Oh, I imagine he’s hurrying back to you. But that will do him little good.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re coming to me. Now.”