Home > Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(7)

Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(7)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Chapter 4

There were a couple of people out walking dogs, but they were too far away to get a good look at us as we hurried down the sidewalk toward the White Whale. When the van doors closed behind us, I slumped in my seat, nearly sick with relief. Shadow was already at my shoulder, snuffling me for injuries. I gave her a distracted pat, then leaned forward to start the van, holding my breath until we had made it down the street and around the corner. Any second someone was going to notice the smoking building.

“No one’s going to buy your story,” Molly said from the passenger seat. She’d been so quiet since my arrival at the house that I almost jumped. “Twelve girls pass out at the same time and nobody wakes up when the fire starts?”

“No, they’re definitely not going to buy it,” I agreed. “Especially if the bodies don’t burn all the way and the coroner doesn’t find any smoke damage in their lungs. But my job isn’t to conceal crimes, necessarily; it’s to conceal any Old World connections to crimes. Meanwhile, the evidence we added will confuse things, slow down the police.”

She nodded, hugging the small backpack in her lap. Shadow gave her a quick sniff. The bargest had only met Molly once or twice, but it seemed like she instinctively understood that Molly was a friend. When it was clear no one was going to pet her or ask her to kill something, she yawned and went back to the dog bed.

I wasn’t sure where we were going, so I cruised aimlessly down Adams Boulevard, watching my speed. Adams forms one of the borders of campus, and will take you halfway to the ocean if you let it. I drove west for a few miles, past all the campus activity, until I was sure we were too far to be spotted by the fire department or campus police. Then I pulled into the parking lot of a twenty-four-hour 7-Eleven. I looked at Molly, not sure what to say.

I had so many questions—about the murders, of course, but also about how Molly had gone from living the life of a West Hollywood heiress to a punk college student. I searched for a place to start, and when nothing elegant came to mind, I blurted, “Did you sell the house?”

“Rented it out. I had been there too long,” she reported, looking a little sad. I understood. Vampires can only stay in one place for a decade or so before someone starts asking why they never age. But Molly had loved her Hollywood bungalow. If she’d rented instead of selling, she probably intended to go back in twenty years or so and pose as her own daughter. It was a pretty common way for vampires to hang on to property. I felt oddly relieved—I kind of loved that house.

“And USC?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I’ve always wanted to try college. I was taking film classes at night.”

Molly had loved movies as long as I’d known her. “Why didn’t you get your own place?”

“I had my own place,” she insisted, a little defensive. “There’s a little one-bedroom apartment in the basement. I told the girls I had EPP. Most college students are half-nocturnal anyway.”

Erythropoietic protoporphyria is a very rare immune system disorder that made you basically allergic to sunlight. The few vamps who still tried to pass in human society often claimed to have EPP. For the longest time I’d actually thought the whole disorder was invented by vampires, but one day I saw a photo in the newspaper of a little girl with EPP smiling from beneath a beach umbrella.

Photos. I thought about all the framed pictures in the foyer of Molly’s place. She wasn’t telling me something. “Dashiell knew about this plan?”

A pause. “Dashiell knew most of it,” she said at last. “I told him about the night classes.”

“But not how close you were to those girls, I’m guessing.”

Molly’s shoulders hunched. “No.”

I winced. Mass murder aside, Molly had obviously gone native—gotten so involved in leading a human-style life that she’d let herself get in too deep. As mistakes go, this was not small, especially for a fairly seasoned vampire like Molly. Once you hit a hundred years or so, you’re expected to follow the rules. And as long as I’d known her, Molly had kept her head down and followed the rules.

I wanted to ask her why she’d suddenly let herself fall down the rabbit hole, but it seemed too much like an accusation, and this wasn’t the right moment for it. Besides, who was I to accuse her of screwing up? It wasn’t like I’d never messed up myself.

But I couldn’t think of anything else to say, and the van filled with pregnant silence. Fidgeting, I tossed the baseball cap into the back and pulled my hair back into a loose bun with the hair tie on my wrist. “I didn’t mean to,” she said at last, her voice trembling. She was talking about the murders now. Her eyes were glued to the dashboard in front of her. “It’s like . . . it wasn’t me. I mean, it was me, I was doing it, but I didn’t . . . want to. I didn’t have control.”

“Of course you didn’t,” I said stoutly. “I never actually thought you meant to kill those girls.”

She lifted her head to look at me in surprise. “Really?”

“Molly, remember when you came along with me to clean up that body that was left on Will’s doorstep? She’d been mauled by a werewolf. And you . . . mourned for her. For the cavalier loss of life.” I gave a little headshake. “I’ve seen you be a little callous about pressing humans or even hurting someone, but I know you, Molls. That wasn’t you.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice breaking. Brushing the tears from her eyes, she cleared her throat. “But Dashiell’s not going to see it that way.”

“I know.” Willingly or not, Molly had committed a very splashy mass murder, no pun intended. It would be all over the news in a few hours, and Dashiell knew where Molly had been living. He would immediately make the connection, and then buy the simplest explanation: that Molly had lost control and killed her roommates. Even if Dashiell did believe someone had forced her, he was the leader of the supernatural community in an enormous city; his priorities were containment and politics, not justice.

Then I remembered the Trials. They were supposed to start in less than twenty-four hours, and the whole Old World would be watching to see how our weirdly peaceful city handled this mass murder. Dashiell would have to lay down a death sentence . . . unless Molly could prove what had really happened.

But even if there was a way to do that, there was no time.

“It’s not a coincidence, is it?” I said, thinking aloud. “This happening the night before the Trials?” Whoever had forced Molly to kill her friends wanted her to get caught, go on trial, and be executed before she had a chance to prove her innocence. It wasn’t a bad plan, if you wanted Molly dead and didn’t think you could do it yourself. Oh, and if you didn’t object to the brutal deaths of twelve human kids. A lot of vampires wouldn’t mind that at all. They didn’t kill for sport, but they didn’t spend a lot of time mourning the loss of human life, which was fleeting by definition.

“No. It’s not,” Molly agreed.

“Do you have any idea who did this to you?” I asked, my voice coming out desperate. “Who hates you this much?”

She shook her head. “I can only think of one person, and he’s been dead for years.”

“Are you sure?”

Her face darkened, and though she was human next to me, I could still see the predator lurking in her eyes, reflected in the neon lights of the store. It shouldn’t have been creepy, but it very much was. “Believe me,” she said. “I’m absolutely positive.”

Shit. “So what do you want to do?”

“I have to run,” she said bitterly. “I don’t know where I can even go at this point, but if I want to live, I have to run again.”

Her voice broke, and her shoulders hunched. I reached over and laid a hand on her arm. She was right, of course: there was no way we were going to find out what had forced her to kill those girls before Dashiell heard about it.

I’d had to restart my life once, and at the time, it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I couldn’t fathom how vampires went through it over and over, especially considering how complicated it was for them to travel.

   
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