Home > Silver Zombie (Delilah Street #4)(3)

Silver Zombie (Delilah Street #4)(3)
Author: Carole Douglas

"So the only way you can call back Killer Dog is to scream 'Leave kitty' for all the world to hear?"

"It did work. And it's not easy to turn a hundred-and-fifty-pound half-wolfhound from prey."

"Nor a hundred-and-eighty-pound man," Ric added with a mock ogle. "Did you have to call out the hounds on me? Where'd they all go?"

I turned with Ric to eye Quicksilver's "aren't-I-really-good-to-listen-to-you?" smiling mug and the desert beyond.

A bright flash of gold was moving across the valley floor, the darker mountains looming behind it.

"What on earth?" I asked. "Some moonlight phenomenon, like the purported green flash at sunset?"

"What under the earth," Ric said, stretching out of his seat to see. "Holy smoke is right. Picture a tomb painting writ large."

"My God. It's not - " I looked again.

Now I saw the smoky flowing cloud that had rushed us was racing to meet the flash of moving moonlit gold that led an army of shadows over the sere ground. A solid-gold royal chariot. Behind that spectacular artifact came the Karnak Hotel's hidden horde of ancient Egyptian vampires taking a run behind their desert steeds, with hyenas serving as their pack of hounds.

"I never noticed these mountains looked like pyramids, from a distance," I breathed. "The royal hyenas just flowed right through us."

Ric nodded as we watched the distant spectacle.

"I never saw the critters personally, but from your description and what we've just seen, the hyenas may have a spirit or ghostly existence as well as a way-too-physical one. They'll sic the Karnak royal vampire chariot corps on us now that we've had a close encounter. Better floor it."

"And Quicksilver just chased them! That dog would tackle Godzilla."

Not to mention a six-hundred-pound white tiger. No way was I telling Ric that Quick had faced off Snow's security shape-shifter, Grizelle, while I was busy erasing Ric's childhood whip scars in the Inferno bridal suite.

Long story, for both of us. Ric hadn't totally recalled his ordeal as mass vampire bait and I was still acting as his lover-cum - private nurse, protecting him as he thought he protected me. Maybe that was love, or maybe it was fooling yourself.

Whatever, I'd discovered even natural hyenas are really ugly customers, more weirdly related to felines than canines, with jaws that can snap and grind bones like the cannibal giant lurking up Jack's fairy-tale beanstalk. The thought of even their spectral forms cozying up to Dolly's paint job ... ick. Hyena ectoplasm must resemble the wet cheesecloth fake mediums spit up in seances.

I was still shaking my head as I revved Dolly down the blessed ribbon of smooth concrete that would take us away from this prickly desert of cacti and khaki-colored carnivores, live and undead.

Ric frowned at my speedometer until I pushed the needle up to ninety. Then he tuned the radio full up on a Spanish-language station, so that trumpets and five-string guitars hailed our return to civilization.

Ric caught me eyeing his profile. "No traffic cops lying in wait until we approach Salt Cedar."

"That's right. Ex-FBI guy likes to take lawless midnight spins out into the desert dark."

"You've learned way too much about my deepest darkest secrets since I was unconscious in Christophe's bridal suite mainlining other people's blood." He smiled his promised revenge. "I'll have to show you some new tricks, then."

"We're heading straight to your home ground."

I checked the rearview mirror, pleased to see only the distant headlights of a semi. "Why were the Karnak vampire armies out for a run?"

"Our scouting expedition to their secret underworld did destroy the centuries-kept herd of human cattle they bred to feed on."

"Only after we released those poor souls to their long-delayed Afterlife," I said. "Howard Hughes is hoping his work with the wine-god we freed will get them all on brewed blood substitute."

"Howard Hughes was a demented genius of a human being and now he's a vampire, Del, not your Big Daddy. You can't trust him."

For a wild moment, I speculated that maybe he could be ... my daddy, that is. Anybody could be, from Hector Nightwine to coroner Grisly Bahr to, hey ... Donald Trump. That's the catch when you're an abandoned baby. You could be anybody. Or anything.

Ric was still in warning mode.

"And don't let the big, loin-clothed lug you freed from two thousand years of pillar duty under the Karnak lull your defensive instincts. That wine-loving Shezmou dude had a double role in ancient Egyptian mythology. His other specialty was Lord of the Slaughter. So, before everybody in the Vegas vampire empire can get nicely-nicely civilized via some Hughes invention, they still have to seek prey."

"What's out here to prey on?"

"Isolated ranches. I imagine the worker vamps can subsist on herd animals without killing them, if they have to, and the twin Pharaohs would get first dibs on any human herders."

"What about the Zobos and your horses?"

"The silver barbed wire will repel them."

"Vampires? I thought it was werewolves that silver bullets can hurt."

"Silver is one of the oldest vampire repellents. It fell out of favor in the days of the cross and holy water, but ancient Egyptians wouldn't be subject to Christian symbols. Silver recovered much of its mojo after the Millennium Revelation."

I touched my hip. My own silver familiar often went undercover as a slim chain.

"Your newly silver eye?" I asked.

"Yet to be seen," he answered, "but promising."

"Silver barbed wire. Where'd you get that stuff?"

"Custom-made. I have contacts in the Mexican jewelry trade on both sides of the border."

"Sterling silver? Isn't that metal too soft to make effective barbed wire?"

"I gave it the evil eye after it was nailed down around the compound."

"So you've ... used ... your silver iris?"

"Sure. If you got it, use it. My concentrated stare produced a cool blue aura around the wire. Then it hardened like your silver familiar did when you touched Cocaine's albino lovelock and it morphed into a solid form. My amped-up wire proved diamond jeweler's saw-and torch-resistant, just like Snow's pretty-pretty white hair. I'm betting this wire now has some supernatural power that makes predators of the paranormal sort back off."

"And how do you know this wire is impenetrable?"

Ric grinned as widely as Quicksilver. "First, my Taxco amigos tested it with saw and torch. Second, I have a feeling silver is our lucky charm. Even your super-dog has those changeable silver circles on his collar. Time I shared the bounty, babe."

"You know I hate to be called that."

"Yeah, but you're hogging the driving and you can't do anything about it now. Or this."

His hand returned to my inner thigh and didn't look to be leaving until we hit Vegas. Gotta say the bouncy road feel wasn't hurting anything, either. Dolly's vintage shocks were set to velvet vibrate. That Ric. From comatose to cocky after just two dangerous missions. Delilah the secret sex therapist was very happy.

"Where does your silver body jewelry thingy go, anyway?" Rick asked, "when you wear that skintight super-suit?"

This was the man who so memorably removed my new werewolf salsa club duds and twenty-four-year-old virginity in front of his bathroom mirror (before I started seeing dead people in looking glasses) asking. I blushed anyway, but only the half-man in the moon could see that with us zipping down the deserted straight-pin road at almost a hundred miles an hour.

"When you got cozy with what would be my bikini wax job - if I had one - eight miles back," I admitted, "the silver familiar, ah, migrated to a less active erotic zone. Sometimes it doesn't like crowds."

Ric's rhythmic caresses stopped. "Living up to its name, I see. But I don't see. Where?"

While he examined me for a clue, I watched the speedometer. It took a mile, less than a minute, for him to get it.

Ric sounded smug. "Elementary, my dear Watson. I detect two new symmetrically placed oversize silver studs on the chest of your catsuit. Hmm, spiked studs. Muy provocative. Your familiar isn't being shy, Del, it's upping the erotic ante. However or wherever that outfit opens and shuts, I'm going to take my time finding out."

Behind us a huge sigh and agitation on the leather upholstery indicated that Quicksilver was settling down on the backseat for a resigned doggy snooze before he spent the night on outside patrol. He'd always been an ultrasmart and sensitive dog.

Chapter Three

ONCE THE GOLDEN glow of the Las Vegas Strip was unfolding like a fan on the horizon, I checked in with my landlord on my hands-free cell phone.

Actually, I checked in with his butler. He was the one who'd fret about my whereabouts.

I didn't even need to worry about waking him up, because he was one of the celebrity zombies known as a CinSims. You really can't wake up William Powell from The Thin Man and My Man Godfrey films, among other classics, since the actor has been dead for decades and his various acting personas have been grafted onto contemporary zombie bodies at select Las Vegas entertainment locations.

What does it say when the only person who worries about your well-being like a father you can always count on isn't actually a real person?

Quicksilver and Ric listened hard to my end of the conversation.

"Godfrey? Yes, we've stayed out really late, but we're safe and sound." ...

"Master Quicksilver will be fine. Ric has a smart house but Quick is smarter, so we can always use the extra security." ...

"Yes, we're heading to Ric's place. Master Quicksilver and I are doing an overnight. Tell your boss I'll check in with him in the morning." ...

"After breakfast, Godfrey, yes." ...

"Indeed. We are being 'deliciously scandalous' and will 'enjoy ourselves.' Yes, maybe even champagne, but certainly Brimstone Kisses."

I winked at Ric as the phone's ultraviolet glow faded with my conversation.

"Brimstone Kiss." Ric mused. "That's the Inferno Bar cocktail you whipped up for the Humphrey Bogart Casablanca CinSim when you were trying to ply him with booze to save my hide. Is my liquor cabinet likely to stock the right ingredients?"

"If you have OJ in the fridge and orange brandy on hand, I can mix up a Brimstone Kiss."

"Brandy? Nope. You'll just have to rely on my homemade brews and kisses."

By then we'd arrived and Ric's garage door was opening at Dolly's approach as its interior light went on. Luckily, Ric's Vette was a space saver. Dolly could glide her three thousand-plus pounds right in. She's a big girl and proud of it.

Ric and I were entering the connecting courtyard before the system could close the garage door after us, so Quicksilver lingered behind to ensure nothing even as low and slender as a rattlesnake had slipped in unnoticed.

I loved the moonlit courtyard and the soothing splash of its copper fountain recycling water to the lush foliage. It felt so Old Mexico. Ric loved the stucco wall niches between climbing vines dripping blossoms and rich scent, where he could back me into the dark for butterfly and brimstone kisses.

Quicksilver whined impatiently and then lapped noisily at the fountain pool. He was big enough to sound like a herd of thirty water buffalo.

"I bet he's jealous," Ric said, turning to stare at the wolfish lapper.

Quick stared back and stopped drinking, wearing his innocent-dog look.

"Why don't we leave him on guard duty out here?" Ric suggested.

I walked over to Quick, who promptly sat and gazed at me with his limpid baby blues. My hand brushed his head and neck, fingering the silver medallions on his collar, now all sliced in half, like the moon.

"Okay?" I asked.

Could a dog roll his eyes? Mine did. I took that as a yes.

Ric and I walked through the heavy hacienda-style wooden front door as it opened for us. Ric's house might not contain the Enchanted Cottage's invisible helpers, but he had high tech.

"I don't see any ritzy liquor cabinets," I mentioned as Ric took my hand and hustled me through the dim living room.

"We don't need liquor. We're running on liquid silver."

"You actually like sharing a bit of my silver magic. Concealing your one silver iris most of the time isn't a drag?"

In the dark living room Ric stopped to grasp my upper arms, even then his palms unable to stop caressing my velvety, metal-studded suit.

"I like us sharing everything. What's not to like about you saving my life if the only side effect is a cool silver eye I can cover with a contact lens?"

"Maybe your eye doesn't reflect an aspect of my silver talents. Maybe the color was leached from your eye, rather than added. I didn't even know I had any silver mojo until I came to Vegas."

"Delilah, querida. I really don't care about the why and wherefore of my quirky eye right now. What I don't know is how Christophe's rescue party kept their hands off you in this thing. Mmm, that warm velvety black stretchy stuff embedded with all those silver metal mega-goose bumps except here. ... What's the matter? You're holding back."

I felt like such a fraud for not telling Ric I might have brought him back from the dead with the leftovers of Snow's Brimstone Kiss, not my own determined CPR.

"I'm ... not used to such blatant booty calls."

Ric laughed, a rich and wonderful sound I thought I'd never hear again only a few days ago. "Shy Delilah," he crooned. "Don't you know that's even more seductive? Yeah, this is a booty call. We're going into the lighted bathroom and you're going to strip me na**d, shy girl, but then we'll go into the dark bedroom and I'm going to make love to you in that suit like you've never had it before."

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