“Not worried about it,” he said, voice void of any emotion.
He dragged me through the kitchen, a large area behind the bar full of stainless steel appliances and white tile. The air was heavy with the smell of fried food and the sound of sizzling meat; my stomach would have growled had the situation not been so dire. Despite my struggling and shouts, the kitchen staff didn’t spare more than a cursory glance our way.
The guard shoved me through the back door, and I stumbled into the dimly lit back alley. I would have tripped over the cobblestones if the guard hadn’t snagged me by the arm…not that I was thanking him or anything, since they clearly meant to kill me.
“Let me go!” I shrieked as loudly as I could, hoping that someone outside the club—someone who might give a damn—would hear me and come running.
Except my screams seemed to die as they fell off my lips. No echoing off the walls, nothing. The alley was eerily silent; I couldn’t even hear traffic whizzing by in the distance. It was like we were in a bubble.
And yet, I tried again, because it was all I could do at this point.
“Scream all you want, love. Nobody’s going to hear you back here.” A nasally voice caught my attention, and the guard hauled me around, bringing me face to face with a short, bald man sitting on a trash can. He looked me up and down, his mud-brown eyes gleaming with interest as he swung his short legs back and forth over the edge of the can. The guy focused his gaze on my assailant. “Another one, eh?” he asked. “You guys sure seem to be into ‘taking care of business’ lately.”
“Just shut up and deal with her already,” the guard growled.
The guy lifted a stubby hand, and wild fear raced through me as I realized that this little man was somehow going to kill me. Something icy burned around my wrists, and a loud crack split the air as my restraints fell away. The guard holding me startled, and he loosened his grip just enough for me to tear myself away.
“Don’t move!” I shouted, pulling my vampire gun from its holster. I backed away, alternating the barrel of my gun between both men. “I’ll shoot!”
The guard looked at me as though I were a mild annoyance, and the bald man laughed. “Just what do you think you’re gonna do with that, kid?”
I hesitated, thrown off by how blasé the two of them were about my gun. Would my bullets even affect them? “You’re both under arrest for assaulting a police officer. Put your hands up.”
The bald guy shook his head. “It’s no wonder the bossman wants you taken care of,” he said ruefully. “If you’re stupid enough to think that prison cells can hold us, then you don’t belong here.”
He lifted his hand and wiggled his fingers in my direction. Glowing green sparks drifted from his fingers, and I squeezed the trigger reflexively against the attack. Not exactly the reaction I would have to a human suspect wiggling fingers at me, but I learned a long time ago that you don’t give supernaturals the same courtesy if you want to live.
“Oww!” The bald man cried as the wooden bullet ripped through his shoulder. His mud-brown eyes flashed an eerie yellow as he slapped his hand against the wound, and I gaped as golden liquid, rather than blood, stained his fingers. “Damn, lady, just what are you?”
“I’m pissed, and if you guys don’t give me back my other gun, I’m going to—”
I stopped and blinked. The bald man was gone, and so was the hulking guard who’d been standing right next to him. What the fuck? They’d just been standing right in front of me! How could they be gone?
I rushed back inside the building, then skidded to a halt. The kitchen was completely empty. No cooks frying food, no pots and pans hanging from the walls…even the white tile was gone, replaced by stained concrete.
“No, this isn’t right,” I muttered, pushing my way past the double doors and into the club itself.
But the place was just as empty as the kitchen. The glossy bar and tables were gone, as were all the patrons. There was nothing here but concrete, dust, and some small piles of refuse.
I stood there in the middle of the room, completely stunned. I’d never come across anything like this in my life. How had an entire club full of people disappeared between one second and the next?
Wiping memories from objects was one thing, but wiping an entire place from existence was another. Even the building itself didn’t seem the same…the ceiling was lower, and the mezzanine was completely gone.
My cellphone rang, and I jumped as the shrill tone echoed in the empty space. Heart hammering, I pulled it out and answered without looking at the caller ID.
“Brooke Chandler,” I snapped.
“No need to take that snippy tone with me, Chandler,” Detective Baxter scolded. “I’ve had my hands full dragging that perp back to the station without your help, but I thought I’d call you and let you know that we apprehended the suspect. So if you’re still looking for him, you can go home.”
“What?” I gripped the cellphone so hard I was surprised my fingers didn’t leave dents in the plastic. “How is that possible? I just saw Vox a couple of minutes ago.”
“Turns out we had the wrong guy,” Baxter said, and I could hear the shrug in his voice. “Captain Randall said that he’d gotten a phone call with new information that put Vox in the clear, and one of the other detectives was already looking into the new suspect and nabbed him. Kind of sucks that we didn’t get the collar, but what can you do?”
“What can you do,” I echoed, my mind spinning back to the conversation I’d had with Tremaine. He’d stepped away and had a conversation with one of his guards after I’d mentioned Vox was my suspect, and the guard had said he would ‘take care of it.’ Was that what had happened? Had they somehow put Captain Randall onto a different suspect? Anger tightened my chest at the idea.
“You okay, Chandler?” Baxter asked, concern in his voice. “You seem kind of down.”
I let out a breath. “I’m fine, Detective Baxter. It’s just been a long day.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Why don’t you go home and take a load off? I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Sounds good.” I clicked off, then took one last look around the room before exiting through the back alley and making my way toward home.
But not to relax.