I shrugged. “A bit.”
“Y’all been to The Court of Two Sisters yet?”
I shook my head.
He paused, looking up from his task. “How ’bout Acme Oyster?”
“Cher, please tell Alodius you been to Tipitinas?”
My eyes shifted left.
“What have y’all been doing with your time?”
“Well, I did ride a trolley and visit Jackson Square.”
He clicked his tongue and shook his head, which made his jowls swing hypnotically.
“I’ve been busy with some personal issues.” Why did I suddenly feel the need to defend myself to the man?
“Darlin’, if y’all don’t mind a little piece of advice?” He paused and waited for my nod.
“We all got personal—” he pronounced it “poisenal”— “issues, but that can’t stop y’all from enjoying life.”
I remained silent, allowing the odd man’s wisdom to sink in. Was he right? I had to admit my life always seemed to have more than its share of drama. Was I using that as an excuse to avoid enjoying myself? I always thought I’d have time to pursue things I wanted once things settled down. But there was always something new to worry about, some new crisis to manage. Despite getting his point, I wasn’t convinced.
After all, it felt wrong to play tourist when my sister was having the exact opposite of fun. But wasn’t it Maisie who just a couple short weeks ago had encouraged me to grab some happiness for myself? Then I’d argued that as an immortal I had nothing but time ahead of me. Her response had been to point out that with so many people wanting me dead, nothing was guaranteed, especially my immortality. Of course, back then she wasn’t being held against her will or on the receiving end of her psychotic grandmother’s fangs. So maybe the living-it-up could wait.
Alodius handed the packages over the counter. “That’ll be forty for the blood and twenty for the chicken feet.” He winked. “The advice I threw in gratis.”
“Okay, well, thanks for the blood and stuff.”
He waved away my appreciation. “My pleasure, darlin’. You go enjoy this beautiful night.”
I smiled. I’m not sure he’d consider casing a house for signs of vampire life romantic, but it was close enough, I guess. “Actually, we’re on our way to take a stroll through the Garden District.”
He smiled. “Well, now, that’s good to hear. Y’all have fun!”
Ten minutes later, we parked the Gremlin next to a cemetery wall a couple of streets away from the address Mac had given us. Giguhl perched on Adam’s shoulder as we walked toward Prytania Street. We approached slowly, keeping our eyes peeled for hostiles. It was after midnight, so most of the houses on the block were dark. But up ahead, a warm glow filtered through large trees shielding the houses from the street.
I checked the street number on the white Greek revival on the corner. “The next one’s our target,” I said, pointing. “G, think you can sneak up to one of the windows without being noticed?”
The cat looked at me with pity from atop the mage’s shoulder. “That was a joke, right?”
I rolled my eyes. “Just don’t get caught, okay?”
“Yes, Mom.” With that, the cat hopped off Adam. His pale ass glowed in the night, making it easy to follow his trail until he disappeared behind the heavy branches shading the house.
“You picking up anything?” Adam asked.
I looked toward the mansion, using all my senses to try to search for some clue that Lavinia might be inside. Muffled rock music reached my ears from nearby. My nostrils perked up when they caught a whiff an unmistakably pungent scent. “Someone’s smoking some quality Mary Jane nearby, but that’s all I’m getting.”
“Hmm,” Adam said, keeping his eyes glued on the house. “Stay alert anyway. There’s no telling what G’s going to find in there.”
As if on cue, the cat’s moon-pale form raced out of the shadows. I bent down to catch him. Tremors shook his body. “What happened?”
He wouldn’t look up as he continued to shake. A muffled whimper escaped the ball of skin in my arms. “Giguhl?” I jostled him until he looked up.
I expected fear in his eyes. Instead, the damned cat smiled like a Cheshire and a braying giggle escaped his tiny mouth.
Adam and I exchanged frowns. Either what he’d seen had been so shocking it drove him insane, or Mr. Kitty had some explainin’ to do.
“Y-you guys aren’t gonna believe this shit,” he gasped.
Adam shifted impatiently. “Are you going to tell us, or do we have to guess?”
“Oh, you’d never guess this one.” More laughter.
“Giguhl,” I snapped. “Pull it together. Did you see any vamps?”
The cat made a valiant effort to get his amusement under control. Finally, he shook his head. “Nah. Mac’s source was totally wrong about that. This is even better than bloodsuckers.”
“Well?” Adam and I both shouted.
“C’mon, you’ve got to see it to believe it.”
The demon jumped down and ran off, looking back over his shoulder every now and then to make sure we were coming. Adam and I exchanged a leery glance.
“Come on,” the cat hissed from the darkness.
Left with no other option, Adam and I trudged after him. Even though Giguhl claimed there was nothing to worry about, I drew my gun. Adam, too, scanned every inch of the area for ambush. Finally, we pushed the creaking black gate open. When no silhouettes darkened the front windows, we crept inside. A flash of gray caught my eye as Giguhl rounded the corner of the house. I banked right and ducked under branches to reach the side of the house.
The music I’d heard earlier shook the house’s foundations. It was a shock to hear the harsh electronic notes of industrial music coming from a house that could have graced the cover of Southern Living magazine.
When we finally reached Giguhl, he crouched on the wide stone sill of a window. “G,” I whispered. “Be careful.”
“Don’t worry,” he said in a normal speaking voice. “These douchebags wouldn’t hear us if we arrived banging drums.”
Frowning, I inched toward the rectangle of light in front of the window. Adam fell in next to me, his body tense. I leaned forward to peek around the edge and almost fell. Adam caught my arm. He might have shot me a curious look, but I was too busy trying not to piss myself.