Some people had attack dogs. Ghastek had attack lawyers. If he got his hands on the boy, he'd find a way to remove the necklace. Even if he had to behead the child to get it.
I couldn't let the People get the boy.
"That's nice," I said. "I have a simpler solution. Take the necklace off the child now and I won't kill you."
"Wait a God damned minute." Amanda's father moved to stand between me and his wife. "Everyone calm down. Just calm down."
"Give me the boy and nobody gets hurt," I told them. "Nobody here will stop me."
"That child is wearing our evidence," Ghastek said.
Curran's eyes lit up with gold. He leveled his alpha stare on the woman. She flinched.
"Give me the child," Curran said, his voice a deep inhuman growl.
"Fine." Aurellia shoved the boy toward us. "Take him."
Curran swept the boy off the floor and picked him up. Ghastek's face fell. We'd won this round.
"Give me back my son!" the man demanded.
Curran just looked at him.
"It's in the boy's best interests to stay in our custody," Ghastek said. "We have better facilities."
"It's not your facilities I doubt," Curran said. "It's your ethics and your intentions."
"What does that supposed to mean?" Ghastek narrowed his eyes.
"It means the necklace is more important to you than the boy," I said. "You'll slice the flesh off his neck to get it."
"That's a gross exaggeration." The Master of the Dead crossed his arms. "I've never murdered a child."
"Oh it's never murder when you do it," I said. "It's a regrettable accidental casualty."
"You can't do this!" Amanda's father thrust himself before Curran. "You can't take my son."
"Yes, I can," Curran said. "We'll keep him safe. If your wife decides to explain what's going on, I'll consider returning him."
"Go f**k yourself," the golden-haired woman said. "Crawl back into whatever dark hole you came out of. I have no care for you or your kind." She turned and walked out of the restaurant.
Her husband froze, caught for a moment between his son and his wife. "This isn't over," he said finally and chased after Aurellia.
"Give us the boy," Ghastek said, his tone reasonable.
"I don't think so," Curran said. "If you want to examine him later, you're welcome to visit the Keep."
Around us the People tensed. In the corner two vampires leaned forward.
I unsheathed Slayer. I had a lot of practice and I did it fast. The lawyer woman jerked back. The opaque blade smoked, sensing the undead. Come on, Ghastek. Make our night.
Ghastek sighed. "Fine. I'll make the necessary arrangements later."
Curran headed out through the door. I waited a second and followed, walking backward for the first two steps to make sure that no undead would come leaping out of darkness at Curran's back.
The door of Arirang swung shut behind us. Ghastek's voice called out, "Alright, people, back to work. Let's process the scene tonight."
"What's your name?" Curran asked.
The boy swallowed. "Roderick."
"Don't be afraid," Curran told him, his voice still laced with snarls. "I'll keep you safe. If anything threatens you, I'll kill it."
The boy gulped.
A giant scary man with glowing eyes and inhuman voice just took you from your parents, but don't be afraid, because he'll kill anything that moves. Kick-ass calming strategy, Your Majesty.
"He might be less scared if you stopped snarling and turned off the headlights," I murmured.
The fire in Curran's eyes died.
"It will be okay," I told Roderick. "We just want to take off that necklace, and then you can go back to your parents. It will be okay. I promise."
If the necklace snapped his neck, there wasn't a damn thing I or Curran or anybody else could do about it. We had to get him to the Keep's infirmary.
We headed into the parking lot just as Andrea pulled up in a Pack Jeep.
Doolittle bent over the boy, studying the necklace with a magnifying glass. Dark-skinned, his hair salted with grey, the Pack medic looked to be in his early fifties. Doolittle was the best medmage I had ever met. He brought me back from the edge of death so many times, we stopped joking about it.
There was something so soothing about Doolittle. Whether it was his manner, his kind eyes, or the soft Southern accent, tinted with notes of coastal Georgia, I didn't know. The moment he walked into the room, Roderick relaxed. In thirty seconds they had struck a bargain: if Roderick stayed on his best behavior, he would get ice-cream.
Not that Roderick had to be bribed. It took us almost an hour to get to the Keep and the entire ride over, he did not say a single word. He didn't move, didn't fidget, or do any of the normal things a seven year old kid would do in the car. He just sat there, quiet, his brown eyes opened wide, like he was a baby owl.
Doolittle pressed his thumb and index finger just above the necklace, stretching the skin. A vein stood out, burrowing from the gold band under the skin into the muscle of the neck like a thin root.
"Does it hurt when I press here?" he asked.
"No," Roderick said. His voice was barely above whisper.
Doolittle probed a different spot. "And now?"