Pity about the hamster-trail tunnel out there, in that case.
These kinds of places usually had security on duty, but there was a noticeable lack; I figured that the cops had already been around and instructed evacuation, and the security guy had scurried along with them.
I walked over to the touch screen and paged through the floors. Blank… blank… an import/export company… blank… blank… Drake, Willoughby and Smythe. Seventh floor. I took a look around the lobby. It was built for impressing visitors, not views, so there weren’t many windows. That was good. I spotted a camouflaged door behind the empty security desk. When I tried the doorknob, it was locked; I braced myself and kicked half a dozen times before I got the lock to yield. It looks easier on TV, trust me.
The room behind was small, bare except for a cot, desk and chair. I sat Cherise down on the cot and took her hands. “Wait for me,” I said. “Don’t leave here unless you have to, okay? It’s a windowless interior room; you’re pretty safe here.”
She nodded, pale and looking young enough to braid her hair and sell Girl Scout cookies. I couldn’t help it; I hugged her. She hugged me back, fiercely.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” I said. I felt her gulp for breath. “It’s going to be fine, Cher. Who’s the tough girl?”
“Me,” she whispered.
“Damn right.” I pulled away, gave her a smile, and watched her try to return it.
She was scared to death. Had reason to be. I was trying not to indulge in a complete, total freakout myself.
I left her there, kicked off my shoes, and hit the stairs.
When I got to the seventh floor, I was wheezing and flushed and the place the cougar had slashed me was throbbing like a son of a bitch, but the bleeding was still minimal. Still, I was willing to bet that I was looking like a wrathful Amazon. Frizzy hair, bloody, ripped shirt, and I hadn’t had the time or energy to shave my legs in days.
The mostly intact jeans were all that was saving me from complete embarrassment.
I gasped until I was sufficiently oxygenated, then adjusted the weight of my purse, dropped my shoes to the ground and stepped back into them. And yeah, okay, I straightened my hair. Because when you’re going to confront someone like Eamon, every little bit helps.
The last thing I did was take the stopper from David’s blue glass bottle. I left it buried in the bottom of my purse. Now or never, I told myself. I had no way to hedge this bet. I had to take some things on faith.
The frosted glass doors at the front advertised, in small, discreet type, the investment offices of Drake, Willoughby and Smythe. Lights on inside. I pulled on the ice-cold metal handle and the glass swung open with a well-balanced hiss.
Beyond was a reception area, all blond wood and silver, with a giant picture window at the back. The contrast was eerie and terrifying… the cool indifference of the interior design, the roiling primal fury of the storm outside, smearing the glass in sheets of rain. The glass was trembling, bowing in and out. There wasn’t all that much time to waste.
There was a second set of glass doors, these clear instead of frosted. I shoved my way through them and into a hallway lined with a dozen offices.
Light spilled out the open door of the one at the end.
I walked down the expensively carpeted last mile, passing reproductions of old masters, framed documents, alcoves with statues. At the end of the hall I turned left and saw the name on the door.
The office was a triangle of glass, and his desk sat at the pointy end, sleek and black and empty of anything but a blotter, a penholder, and a single sheet of white paper. Very minimalist.
Sarah was lying on the black leather couch close to the left-hand wall. She was awake, but clearly not fully conscious; she was still wearing the bathrobe, and he hadn’t bothered to fully close it. At least, I thought with a wave of sickness, he hadn’t fully opened it. That was a little comfort.
Eamon was sitting on the arm of the couch, watching me. There was a gun in his hand.
It was pointed straight at Sarah’s head.
“Let’s not waste time,” he said. “This storm could make our little, petty differences seem mild. Hand it over and we’re finished, thanks, ta, bye.”
I opened my purse and took out the lipstick case I’d taken from Shirl’s demon-infected Warden friend. I flipped it open to show him the bottle.
“Open it and make him appear,” Eamon said. “I hope you’ll forgive me if I say that I don’t want a free sample of Eternity for Men instead of what we agreed on.”
I took the small perfume sample bottle out, unstopped it, and told the Djinn to appear. He obliged, not that he had much choice; he came out as a youngish-looking guy, dark-haired, with eyes the color of violets. Blank expression. I felt a resonance of connection, but nothing deep and certainly nothing strong. Djinn were, of course, powerful, but on a scale of one to ten, he was maybe a three.
“Back in the bottle,” I told him, and he misted and vanished. I put the stopper back in and raised my eyebrows at Eamon. “Satisfied?”
He cocked his head, staring at me with those deceptively soft, innocent eyes.
Oh, he was a clever one. He knew there was something wrong.
“I’m not a bad judge of people,” he said. “And this is too easy, love. You’re taking this too meekly.”
“What do you want me to do? Scream? Cry? Get my sister killed?” I clenched my teeth and felt jaw muscles flutter as I tried to breathe through the surge of helpless fury. “Take the fucking bottle, Eamon. Otherwise we’re all going to die in here.”
He caressed Sarah’s hair with the barrel of the gun. “Threats don’t serve you.”
“It’s not a threat, you idiot! Look out there! We’re in a goddamn Cuisinart if these windows go!”
He spared a glance for the storm, nodded, and held out his hand. Long, graceful fingers, well-manicured. He looked like a surgeon, a concert pianist, something brilliant and precise.
“Throw it,” he said.
I pitched the bottle to him, underhanded. He plucked it effortlessly out of the air, and for a second I saw the awe in his eyes. He had what he wanted.
Now was the moment of risk, the moment when everything could go to hell. All he had to do was pull the trigger.
He looked at me, smiled, and thumbed the stopper out of the bottle. It rolled away, onto the carpet, and the Djinn misted out again. Subtly different, this time. Paler skin, eyes still violet but hair turning reddish, and cut in a longer style that made him look younger and prettier.
“Pity he isn’t female,” Eamon said critically. “What’s your name?”
“Valentine, can you keep these windows from breaking?”
The Djinn nodded. I opened my mouth to warn Eamon he was making a mistake phrasing it as a question, but he didn’t need me to tell him that.
“Keep the windows from breaking,” Eamon said, and the order clicked in. The glass stopped rattling. Outside, the storm continued to howl, but we were about as safe as it was possible to be. From broken glass, at least.
Eamon let out his breath in a trembling sigh, and I saw the hot spark in his eyes.
“You’re only human,” I told him. “You don’t have the reserves of power to fund him for anything more powerful than that. Don’t be stupid.”
“Oh, I’m not interested in the world, I assure you. One person at a time is my motto.” He gave me another fevered, glittering smile. “You kept your bargain.”
“Yes,” I said. “I did.”
“You know, I’m sorry I’m going to have to do this. Valentine, kill—”