Sudden shouts battled against the sound of the wind. I peered down the block. Teen-formed Immortyls, sewer rats, closed a circle around a tall male, who held his hands high above his head. From the direction of the wind, I couldn’t yet ascertain this stranger as mortal or Immortyl. Best to investigate. I ran toward the disturbance, wrapping my fingers around the Glock strapped to my hip.
A shrill whistle split the air. Two of the sewer rats lunged for the stranger. He crouched and pirouetted on one leg, letting loose a rapid succession of kicks that knocked his attackers sprawling onto the sidewalk. A rat named Tommy growled and launched himself at the stranger. To my amazement, the stranger leapt high into the air and hovered there for a moment like a falcon before lashing out with both feet. Tommy’s head snapped backward, and he flattened against the pavement. The remaining rats hung back.
The slender figure of a boy maybe eighteen or nineteen touched down and crouched again, poised to strike. No mortal could perform such maneuvers with this speed and agility, not to mention almost ballet-like grace. The Immortyl’s face betrayed raw emotion, indicating he was new to the blood, probably not much older than his form suggested. Eamon, the rat pack leader, drew and aimed a pistol at him. The stranger raised his hands above his head once more.
I gave a sharp whistle for Eamon to stand down. “What’s going on here?”
Eamon lowered the gun and spit on the ground. His forever-twelve-year-old face scrunched up. “We found this one skulking about,” he said. Even after a century and half in New York his speech still gave away his Dublin origins. “Says he’s come from the chief elder’s house.”
The wind kicked up harder. Long, auburn hair whipped about the newcomer’s face. He shivered, hugging an Indian-styled shirt around him. Traces of black kohl and sienna rouge clung to his eyes and mouth, as if he’d scrubbed the paint off in a hurry. The make-up and impractical clothing pointed to origins more exotic than the russet hair and milky complexion suggested. His story sounded plausible. However, the odds that this kid had escaped the chief elder’s compound near Calcutta and made it all the way to New York on his own were unlikely. No slave had ever left there of his own accord.
Kurt had stood trial at the chief elder’s court for inciting rebellion. He’d told me that the chief, Kalidasa, employed state-of-the-art security, as well as vampire-eating tigers. The place was a veritable fortress. Still, there was always a first time, and this newcomer had held his own against Eamon’s band.
I had to admire the kid for standing up to Eamon and his thugs.
The pack leader and I didn’t care much for one another, but he’d fought for Kurt in our recent war with a rival elder. For political reasons, I forced myself to take a civil tone with him. “Did you bother to ask his business before you ordered an attack?” I called to the newcomer, “You--come here.”
The boy lowered his hands and slinked forward. I’d never seen a man move quite like this, with delicacy just brushing the feminine, yet suggesting coiled up, sinewy strength like a jungle cat. Instinct prompted my hand to reach for the Glock concealed on my hip. The kid had danger scrawled all over him in big garish letters.
“Is this true?” I asked.
“I ran away from court,” the boy replied, his speech tinged with a Scottish burr. “I’m seeking refuge here.”
The plaintive tone struck a chord in me. I sized him up again. His winsome looks didn’t belong to the usual brand of vampire assassin, but to a household slave chosen for his decorative value. Still, his swift feet could kill if given the chance. Wouldn’t it be just like Giulietta to send death in such an appealing guise?
“Kurt’s counselor, Chase Powers, can vouch for me,” he continued. “Take me to him.”
“You know Chase?”
“We met in India during Kurt’s trial. He said I’d be welcome here. Please Miss. You have to believe me. I’ve come such a long way and got nowhere else to go.” Desperation filled the spooky, green eyes. They almost glowed, more like a cat’s than a man’s. “There’s probably a bounty offered for my return by now.”
“What did you do?”
“It’s not what I did. It’s what I am.” He held out his hands. Henna tattoos snaked around the wrists and tops, elaborate whirls and spirals. “The marks of my order. I’m an adept of the ancient arts.”
He was an adept? I’d always imagined these temple devotees and de facto courtesans as Indian in origin. I gave the boy a closer look. His clothing had seen better days, but the sinuous way he moved made them a fashion statement. You couldn’t deny the perfection of feature and figure required of his order. He stood out from Eamon’s mangy lot like an emerald in a box of Cracker Jacks.