Home > The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(4)

The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(4)
Author: Lisa Shearin

“Old World, ancient, and black magic.” Rake sounded concerned. If my badass, dark mage, goblin superspy, maybe boyfriend was concerned, I should be terrified.

“Can you make light?” I whispered.

“Maybe, but I shouldn’t.”

“Maybe?”

“Light isn’t all that’s being smothered here.”

My blood went cold. When a mage at Rake’s level couldn’t use his magic, the situation was officially FUBAR. Many of the guests were either mage-level talents or supernatural beings like vampires, whose magic was part of what they were. That someone had tossed a metaphorical blanket over their magic to keep them from fighting back or even defending themselves was beyond terrifying.

No power—either engines, lights, or magic.

And suddenly no deck beneath our feet.

The yacht groaned like a living thing as the kraken pulled it nearly on its side. Rake and I slid down the deck and into the water. I made a grab for the railing, which was now in the water, but missed. I went under, swallowing what felt like a double-lungful of the Hudson.

I fought my way to the surface, coughing and gasping for what air I could find. My feet were now bare, my shoes probably sinking to the bottom of the river. Better them than me. Rake surfaced next to me, smoothly treading water. He got an arm around my shoulders and held my head above water while I coughed and sputtered.

I looked to where the yacht had been. All I could see was a yacht-sized blackness, and all I could hear were screams. We were outside the smothering darkness—if that was better than being in the water with a kraken, a horde of swamp creatures, and who knew what else.

Until tonight, I didn’t think vampires could cross running water, and I had no clue what would happen if one took an involuntary swim in a river. I saw one of the vampire guests bobbing nearby, doing a decent job of treading water, meaning vampires didn’t melt when they got wet. Though come to think of it, that was the Wicked Witch of the West.

The last swim Rake and I had taken together had been in a Hellpit full of molten brimstone. Rake’s magic had been all that’d been between us and instant flash frying.

Whatever brushed past my legs just then felt big enough to make the shark in Jaws look like a guppy. I knew the Hudson had some salt water in it, but I’d never heard of sharks coming this far upriver. Though compared to the kraken, I think I’d prefer it to be “only a shark,” regardless of size.

The whatever-it-was brushed my legs again, and I shrieked and kicked out.

Rake swore and bobbed under the water, nearly dragging me with him.

“You felt it, too?” I asked when he surfaced.

“Yes, you kicked me.”

“Sorry.”

Then Rake’s eyes went wide. Seemed I wasn’t the only one who’d just had a close encounter.

“I really don’t want to stay here for a second pass.” My teeth were beginning to chatter. I was chalking it up to cold water and night air rather than terror, but if I could get away from the things now circling us, anyone could call it anything they wanted.

“I wasn’t going to suggest it. I will, however, make us unappetizing.” Rake took a deep breath and gazed down into the water. I didn’t feel any less potentially tasty, but several large splashes and sudden shifts in the water beneath us said our new acquaintances abruptly took their attentions elsewhere.

The shouts and screams didn’t lessen; but over that, and getting closer, was a sound I wanted to hear. Sirens. The captain must have gotten off a mayday before the power was cut.

Let’s hear it for the Coast Guard.

Rake raised his eyes to mine. “Let’s hope that spell holds.”

“What did you do?”

“Made us scarier to them than they are to us.”

“That’s some serious scary.”

“And it’s just an illusion.”

At this point, I’d gladly take it.

The blanket, curtain, whatever parted just long enough to show me the Persephone on its side, with a pair of swamp creatures carrying a slumped figure between them. They slid off the yacht and into the river with their prisoner.

The kraken released the Persephone, but instead of its tentacles sliding off into the water, it actually righted the yacht, as though it had gotten what it came for and put its tub toy back the way it had found it, before vanishing into the depths.

The water was flowing again as it usually did, as if a kraken hadn’t just tossed around a hundred-and-fifty-foot yacht like a buoy. The moon came out from behind the clouds, shining down on nothing but water—no kraken, no swamp creatures.

It was just another date as usual with Rake Danescu.

3

THE NYPD was definitely on top of their “protect and serve” game tonight.

A crime had been committed on board the Persephone tonight, and the damaged mega yacht—aka floating crime scene—that belonged to the obscenely wealthy kidnap victim—aka a powerful and influential tax payer—was being escorted back to port. The Persephone was full of witnesses, some injured, others traumatized, who were also powerful and influential, though not to Bela Báthory’s level. It was enough that we were going to get treatment reserved for royalty or heads of state—after we had given our statements.

The police weren’t going to get much from anyone on the yacht. Most of the guests were supernaturals, and by necessity were very adept at explaining the impossible with the mundane. The kraken became an underwater cable that must have come loose from its moorings and the fish men became SEAL-type kidnappers in high-tech dive gear. The supernaturals had gotten their story together before the Harbor Patrol had arrived, leaving the panicked mundanes raving about sea monsters.

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