“How are you going to make me do that?”

“You’ll come—when you figure out where I am. And who I have with me.”

“Where are you?”

“Surely you’ve realized. I’m at Oakville. The Canady Plantation.” Maggie felt as if she turned to ice. “You haven’t—”

“Ah, what have I done? Well, so far, not much. I stopped by Montgomery Enterprises to pick up a few of your friends. Chocolate and spice. One is Angie, the other... Cissy, I believe. Black is beautiful. I told you there would be a double-header. And as to Canady, for the moment, I’ve just knocked the old man on the head. Daniel, that’s his name, right? If you’re not here, alone, in half an hour, I’m going to do the girls first. My finest imitation of my Jack the Ripper days. Then I’m going to use my pinkie nail to slit a deep hole in the old man’s carotid artery. I’m going to drink him dry. Then I’m going to leave a piece of him in every single room for his son to find. Naturally, as soon as I can, I’ll kill Sean the cop as well.

Maybe Sean’s younger sister will show up as well with her little ones. Yum. She can become my last kill in the Jack the Ripper mode— she can be my Mary Kelly.”

Maggie listened in cold horror. She gave herself a shake. Damn Sean! He had given her something to make her sleep. She had to shake it off.

And she had to reach Aaron.

She swallowed hard.

“Aaron, I will kill you,” Maggie told him.

“No, my love. This time, I think you will do whatever I say. Your thirty minutes have started. All right, well, I’ll give you thirty-five. I’m going to be kind enough to allow for traffic.” The phone went dead in Maggie’s hand.


Mamie was desperate.

She felt safe enough, and it had actually been fun—being guarded by the police for a change rather than being hounded by them. Every eight hours, the shift changed. A different muscle-bound, handsome young officer came to look over her.

But early this morning, the call came. Tough old Libby Warren who ran a house of top-notch girls out on the highway, twenty miles due west of the city, had disappeared. Her bar man had seen her with a tall, handsome fellow with pale skin and Ray-Bans, and then she had disappeared with him. But not before she had told her bartender to call old Mamie, since Mamie had said she had just the right girl for the fellow.

Well, she shouldn’t have done it. She shouldn’t have listened to Maggie, telling her that she was a vampire, too, that she could fight him when no one else could. It was obvious. Libby was dead. Libby hadn’t reached her, and it was a good thing, because if she had sent Maggie after the fellow, Maggie might be dead now, too.

But she had to tell Sean Canady. She tried calling the station; they wouldn’t tell her where Sean was.

They wouldn’t tell her where his partner, Jack, was, either. She tried Sean’s home in the city, and his father’s fine plantation. She tried his beeper number, but he didn’t respond. Finally, she decided she just had to move herself.

The boy watching over her then was maybe twenty-five. Tall as Mike Jordan, handsome as Lucifer.

Copper-colored, with the most gorgeous eyes she’d ever seen. She asked him to take her down to headquarters.

“Mamie, I was told to keep you here at the restaurant. We’re in a controlled environment here, there are more officers patrolling just outside—”

“Well, honey, what would you have at police headquarters if not a whole bunch more police officers?”

“I’ve been told to watch you here. You’re to stay here unless Lieutenant Canady tells me differently—”

“That’s just it! I need to reach Lieutenant Canady!”

“You just need to be patient, Mamie.”

She sniffed loudly, turned her back on him, and began to plot. She tried all the numbers Sean had given her again, then she decided to call Maggie.

She was surprised when Maggie actually answered the phone. Her voice was tense, sharp, as if she expected someone else. “Mamie! Mamie, what is it?”

“Why, honey, I just had to let you know that I think Carter has killed an old madam out on the highway.

He suspected something right away, I’m sure. I was trying to find Lieutenant Canady—”

“Mamie, I know where Aaron Carter is. I’m going after him now.”


“Mamie, tell Sean I loved him, please.”

“But, honey—”

“Mamie, I don’t know where he is. I was supposed to be with him ... he and Jack went out to the old Carter/Dixon ruins. I think he’s still alive. But Aaron Carter has some friends of mine and Sean’s dad and

... and I’ve got to go, Mamie. Stay safe, stay with the police.”

“Wait, wait, you’re going after this madman alone—”

“Not a word, Mamie! You’ll get someone else killed! This is my disaster, and I’ve got to end it!”

“Wait, honey, wait—”

“I can’t talk. I don’t have time. I answered the phone because I thought it might be Aaron again. I’ve got to go, Mamie.”

“Honey, I’ve got to help you—”

“Then pray for me, Mamie.”

“But I can send the police—tons of them!”

“No! He’ll kill someone immediately if I don’t go alone.”

The line went dead.

Feeling sick, Mamie stared at the phone. The old ruins, she mused. She was suddenly afraid. Well, Sean was at the ruins; the killer was not. She had to find Sean as fast as possible.

Mr. Good-Looking wasn’t going to let her out of his sight.

“Officer?” she called softly.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I’ve Lieutenant Canady on the phone.”

He walked toward her, nodding. When he had nearly reached her, she creamed him across the temple with the receiver. Big, broad, and beautiful, he fell without a whimper. “Sorry, honey,” Mamie said softly.

“But give me a normal man, and I can deal with him every time!” She slipped out of the restaurant the back way, glad of the rain and the ceaselessly gray day. The cops were trying to keep dry. Still, she carefully avoided the police on the streets. With her coat high around her face, she made off in her bartender’s car.

Once out of the French Quarter and on the highway, she gunned it.

He felt ...

The rain. Light, soft, touching his face. He was sleeping, his head was heavy ... hurt ...

Someone was touching him. Maggie. No, not Maggie. Not a gentle touch. Someone was slapping his cheeks.

“Honey, honey, you have got to wake up! Lieutenant Canady, it’s me, Mamie.” Mamie!

The grogginess vanished. He sat up, feeling his head. He groaned aloud; the pain was still there, but his mind was sharp and he was feeling a growing sense of alarm.

They had found Aaron.

And Aaron was gone. Pierre and Jack were on the ground beside him. Jeanne was sitting with the boy, sobbing. The boy was staring at them all as if ...

“I think the white girl there has lost it, Canady,” Mamie said. “She’s been clinging to Bessie’s kid—and don’t that boy look spooked!—and crying away. Jack is out cold, but don’t fret, he’s alive, and the old geezer over there is breathing, as well. But you’ve got to move, get some kind of help. Maggie was on her way to Ashville—”


Sean leaped to his feet, nearly knocking Mamie over. He automatically reached for her. His head was still spinning.

“Be smart now, Lieutenant—”

“Yeah, I’ll be smart. Shit!” He looked around at the others, then at Mamie. “You’ve got to take charge here. I’ll call for help on the radio—watch out for Bessie’s kid. He’s like a rabid dog.”


“He’s at Ashville. And Maggie is after him. Alone.”

Mamie didn’t try to stop him again. Sean grabbed a duffel bag and started running around the graves to reach the cars at the front of the house.

Mamie looked at Bessie’s little boy. Such a precious little thing.

He hissed at her.

“Don’t you mess with me, young Isaac! I’ll slap you clear to China, little man!” The hissing stopped instantly.

Mamie felt good. Then she looked around herself. At the dark graveyard. At the tomb. At the open coffins.

“Oh, shit!” she said aloud.

And she prayed that help would come fast.

* * *

The rain had stopped.

The darkness of the day remained, a warning that the rain would come again.

The massive front doors to Ashville stood open.

Maggie jumped out of her car, running up the steps, not taking the caution to slow down until she reached the doors themselves. She’d been so afraid, she’d been tempted to will herself here, to come in mist, and yet, she knew she would need all her strength.

Lightning slashed across the sky, eerily illuminating the doors that stood open like a gaping entry to a black pit of hell. There was an ominous rumble of thunder on the air. The storm clouds billowed in shades of gray, darker gray, and black. All blue was gone from the sky.

She stepped through.

She nearly tripped over a body, and panic tightened her throat. She couldn’t see, because the darkening sky outside provided no light to the interior of the house. Blindly, she stumbled down, praying that she had come upon Daniel or her friends while they were still alive, and not mutilated corpses.

The body was cold. She almost cried out, but in the pale daylight filtering through the door, she was able to see at close range that the corpse did not belong to Daniel Canady, Cissy, or Angie. She gasped out loud, feeling tears spring to her eyes as she saw Aaron’s greeting: Another woman. The only blessing was that the woman was a stranger.

She had been savagely killed. She was dressed in elegant, bloodstained undergarments—stockings, garters, spiked heels. Her legs were at an awkward angle. She lay in the entryway of the house with her throat slit ear to ear, nearly beheaded. A note lay upon her stomach. “Practice, Maggie. This one’s a meal, I’ll have to dispose of the body later, since I needed her to greet you while she’s not part of my artistry. The next killings will truly be my experiments in terror. You were scared, weren’t you? Where are your pretty little friends, chocolate and vanilla? I love a black-and-white shake. They are beauties. I can scarcely wait to taste them.”