Three: Dmitri

"Get down here," Edward's voice said.

"I'm not on tonight."

"Get down here."

"Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour." Wondering what had Edward so worried, Martin closed his cell phone and got out of bed. He had planned on a light and leisurely breakfast and then back to bed. "Sorry," he said to the girl he was with. "I seem to be on call anyway, and they want me."

"Come back when you're done. We barely got started."

"No, let's reschedule this. I have no idea what's up or how long this will take. Is the night after tomorrow night OK?"

o

"So what's up?" Martin curbed his first impulse to complain: Edward was alone in the back room. Wherever Karelle and Galley were, it wasn't here. Clearly, Edward was in a temper.

"Jan is missing."

"We saw him yesterday. How missing is he?"

"He was due here at 7:00, and before you ask, he turned off his cell phone."

"It's 8:30, all right, almost 9:00, but still, that's late, not missing. Uh, have you talked to his parents?"

"I had Karelle call. His mother said he left Berkeley about 4:30."

"Why? Is traffic heavy?"

"Not coming in. He usually leaves about 5:45, to get here at 7:00."

"Let me talk to Karelle," Martin said. And, he thought, get some coffee and Cambells.

o

"So what else did Doktor Frau Doktor vanderWitt say?" Martin asked. He had found Karelle and Galley in the small kitchen, tucked away between the even smaller employees' lounge and the large dumbwaiter. He was getting a coffee tray ready as he spoke.

"Oh, a lot of stuff. Jan has been away from home a lot recently —the past three, three and a half, weeks— leaving early and coming home late. He's been riding his motorcycle, which worries her. He got admitted to some place back in the Hague, but he really wants to stay at Cal and he and his father are not speaking about it. Boy stuff, you know."

"It's been a while." Martin picked up the tray and returned to Edward.

"So what he's been doing is being away from home on his motorcycle, apparently before and after his stints here, and also at other times. That may be what he's doing now."

"But she doesn't know where? Or with whom?"

"No. Want some coffee?"

"No. Yes."

"Let me see his book."

"You've been patrolling with him," Edward said.

"I want to see what he thinks of what we saw." Martin went over to the book case, picked up Jan's incident book and, sitting at the table where his Cambells waited, began to read.

"He staked out Ann's house?"

"I told him to stop, that you were handling her."

"He's jealous of me, you know."

"What! Why?"

"He sees that you trust me enough to have me handle things on my own."

"That isn't how we work."

"Yeah, you and I know that. He may think you trust me more than you trust him. I think he's also jealous that you're even this interested in a woman." Martin poured himself a cup of coffee.

"She's a player! I'd be this interested in anyone as strong as she is."

"Which I think is a sensible and adult opinion, but one which a 17 year old can't yet appreciate. Come on, Edward, Jan still reacts on a personal and physical level. From his viewpoint, he thought he knew you, and suddenly you're paying attention to a woman; and not just an average woman, but a very beautiful one. He doesn't see her power, or the dangers she may represent, he sees her face."

"Oh."

"Right. The question is, did he stop when you told him to or did he just stop writing about it?" Martin opened his phone and hit the newest speed dial listing:

"Hello."

"Ann, I think I have a problem."

"Where are you?"

"The Lounge." His phone went dead. "I think she's coming," he told Edward.

"Dammit, Martin, I'm not sure this is a good idea."

"From what I saw last time, she's very patient with youngsters, even murderous ones. You and I might get yelled at, we're adults and we should know better, but I think she'll help us find Jan. I'm going to check the door — she may be here already."

She was. Karelle was back at her post and Ann Grove was talking to her. Martin saw Karelle notice him and a moment later, Ann turned around. She was wearing black jeans and a pale green turtleneck sweater, with her hair once more in braids around her head.

"What's the problem?" she asked directly.

"It's not immediate and it does require some explanation," he said. "I hope I didn't alarm you." He held the door to the back room open.

"You were equivocal. I tend to assume the worst. It makes playing catch-up so much easier."

"This is Edward Hopkins, who…"

"Who also was of great assistance at the fountain," Ann said helpfully as Martin hesitated. "How do you do?"

"The problem worrying us concerns the third person with us that night," Edward said.

"Ah," Ann said. "The very beautiful boy."

"Who is absent," Martin said.

"We were wondering if you knew where he was," Edward said, rushing it.

"No, he's stopped lurking around Russian Hill. I haven't seen him in almost a week."

"You noticed him," Martin said.

"Martin," Ann said. "Not only is he very beautiful, he has a BMW K1200LT, which is a very nice, not to mention uncommon, motorcycle."

"I hope you're not angry," Edward said.

"Only if you told him to watch me."

"It appears that was his own idea," Martin said.

"Why?"

"Ann, it's obvious that you are powerful. You claim to be not human, and I hope that's true."

"Why?" Ann interrupted to ask again.

"If you're lying about that, you may be lying about other things, including your intentions. If you're deluded, if you're human but crazy, your behavior may be irrational; and either way, you're still powerful."

"Very good," Ann said, smiling. "However, that statement is true, I am not human; further, my intentions toward you and your friends are not maleficent."

"We're glad to know that. Still, Edward and I have discussed you. We're curious about you, and how you may impact our two communities. That seems to have aroused Jan's interest."

"What is his name, anyway?"

"Jan vanderWitt."

"The son of the Crown's Poet at the Hague?"

"And the Nobel laurate," Edward said. "Them."

"Does that explain the van that showed up on Russian Hill whenever he did?"

"Who this week?" Martin asked Edward.

"I have no idea. Jan didn't mention it.

"Immaterial in any case," Ann said. "All right. How did he get my address?"

"Phone book, on his lap top."

Ann nodded approval. "Sensible and direct. Does he know anything else about me? Beyond what he saw, that is."

"Oh," Martin said. "Shit." He pulled out his own incident book and found the entry about the fountain. "Logan Powell Turner, Gillian Ferguson and that little magic shop on Grand."

"The Porsche," Edward said. "Turner's. Jan made a note of the plate. Apparently he saw the car when he went back for the lion's head."

"Clever boy," Ann said. "Clever boys are always trouble. Is he any good with his computer? Does he know how to search commercial and civic data bases?"

"He taught us."

"Figures," Ann said.

"From what he knows," Martin said, "he could discover the same data about Turner that he found out about you."

"Probably more. Logan is human, with a family and a history. Jan won't have much luck backtracking me. The only real data he has is what Martin reported and my address. Now, Gillian doesn't know anything, Logan isn't really a danger at the moment, at least not magically, but the little shop on Grand is unsavory, to say the least."

"Which Grand?" Martin asked.

"Yes. There are several Grands — streets, avenues, courts, all over the area," Edward said.

"Is Jan logical?"

"Yes and no," Martin said.

"Not always," Edward said.

"Right," Ann said. A piece of paper and a pen appeared on the table in front of her. As she wrote, she spoke: "The magic shop is in South San Francisco, 1550 Grand Street; Logan and Gillian both live in Woodside. Leave Gillian alone, she hasn't talked to Logan since they broke up in March and I don't want to alarm her parents again. If Jan's logical, he might try local shops first, and compared to Oakland or Fremont, South San Francisco is right next to Woodside, at least geographically."

She regarded the two men as she put down her pen. "Which of you is the more skilled at magic?"

Martin and Edward glanced at each other. "Well,…" Martin began.

"I thought so," Ann said. "There aren't even burn-before-capture spells on all these no doubt incredibly incriminating journals."

"Uh, no, there aren't," Edward said. "That sounds like a really good idea, though."

"And Jan?"

"He's never mentioned…" Martin's voice trailed off.

Ann regarded the two men again.

Martin and Edward had no trouble noticing that she displayed an increased level of annoyance.

"I will point out that your young student has gone off, alone and without leaving the customary trail of breadcrumbs, in a pursuit which might involve him with a murderous spoiled brat and an unknown but obviously very unsavory hustler, each of whom may be willing to employ magical tools against anyone who annoys them."

"Well, yes," Edward said. "That would seem to be the case."

"I find your instruction less than adequate," Ann Grove said, very mildly. "The only thing in your favor is that it is very difficult to keep ahead of someone as clever as Jan appears to be."

"He only fools us once," Martin said.

Ann considered him coolly for a moment, then nodded and changed the subject: "Martin, are you willing to accompany me?"

"Why?" Edward said.

"As a witness to my good, or at least neutral, intentions; and to reassure Jan, who may object to being rescued by me."

"Rescued?" Edward demanded quickly.

"Discovered," Ann said, "where he shouldn't be and told to go home. Teenagers are touchy."

"Where?" Martin asked.

"The shop first."

"It's open at this time of night?" Edward said.

"I have no idea," Ann said. "And it really doesn't matter."

"Surely," Martin said.

"Wait," Edward said, but his voice faded out along with the rest of the back room as Ann took Martin's hand.

o

"Did you miss?"

"We're going to look around first," Ann said.

They were on a commercial street, with many shops, both large and small. All the shops ahead of Martin were closed. He checked across the street, then turned and looked back. One shop was lit, with the steel shutters still up.

The sign said:

COFFEE, PASTRIES, ANTIQUES & RARE BOOKS

The shop was in the middle of the block, with closed businesses on both sides. The windows to the left of the door were hung with beveled and stained glass windows and panels, around and through which tables, chairs and a serving counter were visible, while the windows on the right showed only the backs of what Martin assumed were bookcases.

"A filthy, dimly lit, place for books?" Martin said.

Ann Grove laughed softly. "Exactly. The coffee and the pastries will be excellent, the antiques fake or stolen and the books…"

"Yes?"

"Are not for children."

"How so?"

"They offer power without mentioning consequences. Reprehensible idea. Let's slip around the back. There seems to be an alley."

"OK."

Around the end of the block, toward the entrance to the alley, they found Jan's motorcycle. Ann held out one finger. A small clear sphere appeared on the tip. Ann considered the bike then touched the tank. The ball disappeared into the metal.

Did she just bug the bike? Maybe. Am I going to tell anyone about it? Hell, no.

"I wish now I'd waylaid the boy on Russian Hill," Ann said. "I probably could find him if I'd ever touched him, even through these privacy spells."

"Privacy spells?"

"Commercial grade." She glanced around again. "I would have been interested in this place even if your friend wasn't here. I wonder…"

"Yes?"

"Let's go in. I'm getting blurred impressions of five or six people."

"Is one of them Jan?"

"I can't tell. Of course, there could be forty vampires waiting in ambush in there, and I couldn't tell that, either."

"Why not?"

"The magic that keeps you alive and the magic I use aren't very compatible," Ann said. "My five physical senses can detect you, but I have problems sensing you otherwise."

Otherwise how? Never mind. "I haven't heard anything about this place, so I'd guess it isn't a vampire gathering spot."

"Just the same," Ann said, "put this in your pocket." She handed him another transparent sphere, like a clear marble.

"This what you put in Jan's bike?"

"Yes. It's a tag, I can find it anywhere on Earth. At this distance, I can keep track of you in a pitched battle in the dark. Come on." She headed down the alley.

"We're just going to burst in the back door?" Martin asked softly.

"Yes."

"Won't that annoy them?"

"Probably," Ann agreed. "And then they may try to kill us." She looked over at the vampire. "It's the company you keep."

"Nothing personal?"

"That's right."

"I just wanted to know," Martin said.

Ann grinned at him, and knocked on the back door.

The being who opened the door appeared to be composed of layers of crumbling adobe brick. Its face, from where the hair line would be on a human down to prominent ridges above the narrow slits that Martin assumed were eyes, was deeply furrowed. Its mouth was wide and straight, over a square chin. "A demon," Martin thought. There were horizontal creases in its neck, visible until it disappeared into the crew neck of a startlingly normal white cotton, short sleeved, T-shirt, a size too small. Its massive chest pulled horizontal wrinkles in the fabric.

The sides and top of the demon's head were smooth and hairless, while from the crown to the nape grew long shaggy, thick coarse hair, of an oily burnt sienna color. Martin didn't know if the rest of the head was naturally bald or if the door-opener kept it shaved, but the effect was of a mullet taken to really ugly extremes.

Ann stopped abruptly. Martin barged into her. Moving to avoid the vampire crowding her, Ann bumped her hip into the door, slamming it completely open against the rear wall. Martin stepped to his left. Ann glanced back at the door and stepped ahead and to Martin's right as she did so. They had the door-opener between them.

A single low-watt bulb on a cord directly above the door-opener cast the only light. From the door, there was an open space off to the right and ahead. To the left, Martin saw two five-drawer dressers stacked one on top of the other. About 18 inches in front of the two dressers were two pedestal tables, also stacked. Between the splayed feet of the upper table were Victorian glass domes, nearly a foot and a half high, covering a variety of displays and arrangements. Beside the tables, to Martin's left, there was a breakfront facing the back door and over it Martin saw the back of what was either a dresser in the very tall shaker style or the top dresser of yet another stack.

The open space around the door was actually quite small, about six foot square, but it was uncluttered and appeared spacious by comparison to the rest of the room.

"We've come about the motorcycle," Ann said.

"Is sold."

"Then we'll see the proprietor," Ann said.

"Is busy."

"Fetch her."

"You go. Now."

A silent movement in the dark behind Ann caught Martin's eye. "Behind you," he said.

Ann was already turning, a sword appearing in her hand as a twin of the door-opener stepped out of the darkness with a sword of its own.

Swords yet. Martin lost track of what Ann was doing because he focused on the door-opener as it drew a 9 millimeter automatic.

Right. He grabbed the weapon and the hand and twisted hard. The twist was easier than he expected. He dodged the door-opener's other fist which was coming at his face and hit its chin with his elbow.

The door-opener tried to knee him and Martin turned, blocking the knee and again twisting its hand. He kneed it in its stomach and hit its chin with his elbow again, finally taking the automatic and hitting it on the naked top of its head with the weapon. It began to sink to the floor. As Martin watched the first demon, the second demon fell past him to land on top of it. He scarcely noticed because he was watching the door-opener's right hand untwist a full turn and a half. Huh. He looked over at Ann, who was watching him with a small smile of approval. Her sword was bloody. He glanced over the second demon: it was bleeding from a slash across its sword arm and where an ear had been.

"Aaaaagh," it said.

"Oh, be quiet," Ann said. "You're a sputthe, you regenerate. Now, I want the proprietor, and I want her now."

"Eto starik!"

"English!"

"Is not a her, is a him."

"Fine. Who is he?"

"Dmitri Romanov."

"Really? Dmitri Romanov! I want to talk to you!"

From the darkness behind her came the sound of a door opening. Keeping one eye on the pile of demons, Martin looked beyond Ann.

A large man, both tall and fat, and totally hairless, came forward. He was wearing a 16th century boyar's costume in figured purple velvet with cloth of gold and fur trim, which, Martin realized, looked very strange without the customary long beard and furry hat.

"Vasha?"

"Ofon'ka?"

One surprise after another. Apparently she knows him. Since Ann seemed to be dealing with events in a satisfactory manner, Martin kept quiet and in the background.

Ofon'ka started off in Russian and Ann again insisted on English, saying: "In English, please, Ofonasii Liubinovich."

"As you say, Varvara Denisovna. This is quite like old times."

Varvara Denisovna?

"Why Dmitri Romanov?"

"Why not? The customers like it, and I use it with the help because otherwise they get confused. Why didn't you use the front door? It's more polite and it saves wear and tear on my stock and there is this tiny spell which announces who you are."

"Next time I will. At the moment, I've come looking for a young man."

"We haven't opened the bidding on that item yet," Dmitri said.

"Dmitri," Ann said, slowly. She frowned slightly.

"But there is no reason why we cannot arrange a private sale."

"You misunderstand. The boy is a friend of a friend, and I mean to return him."

"Vasha!"

"And you can't keep the motorcycle, either."

"A man must live, Varvara Denisovna!"

"I shall point out the obvious and remind you that you are not a man."

"Still!" Dmitri said with a wave his large hands.

"Where is the boy?"

"In my office." Dmitri seemed to deflate slightly.

"Show me."

Martin cleared his throat. Ann glanced back at him and the two sputthes on the floor beyond him. "Dmitri, do something about your help."

"Short of killing them, what do you suggest?"

"Whatever will keep them out of our way," Ann said.

"Begone. Go to your basement. Don't come back until you are presentable."

Ann nodded and waited while the two sputthes disappeared down one of the narrow aisles. Martin watched them go, then turned to Ann, who followed Dmitri as he returned to his office. Martin followed her; after a moment's consideration, he still carried the automatic.

Half of Dmitri's office was as old boyar as his clothes: rugs on the tables and the chairs, candles everywhere one could be put and a large fireplace, with Jan standing frozen to one side. Unlike Logan Powell Turner, Jan did not move even his eyes. He seemed not to be breathing. Ann Grove glanced at the boy, then ignored him.

Other than that strange immobility, the boy appeared unharmed. His color was normal, and the candlelight glinted off his black leather jacket and all the chains. Martin hoped Ann was right not to be worried. He felt slightly out of his depth.

Dmitri watched Ann looking at the rug on what was either a wide backless bench or a low table. "Do you still have the Ardabil?"

"Of course," Ann said, sitting down on the bench and resting her sword across her knees. Martin stood behind the bench.

"Ah."

Martin looked around. The other half of Dmitri's office was full of display cases, glass cabinets, and a large glass counter with stacks of velvet trays on the top and on all the inside shelves. On the wall behind the counter was a large semi-circular fan rack of display panels, with jewelry pinned on every available space. Behind the open panels on one side, Martin saw a door in the interior wall.

"Your friend is very silent."

"Perhaps he has nothing to say," Ann said. She turned to meet Martin's eyes and he saw one corner of her mouth softly pleat, as if she were controlling a smile.

"He is a vampire."

"I am aware of this." Ann turned back to Dmitri.

"And has he a name, this silent watcher?"

Ann considered for a moment: "Molchan Grigor, then."

Dmitri shrugged and changed the subject: "I am already out of pocket over this affair, you know, Vasha, what with the advertisements, the pastries, the additional security... The least you could do…"

"Is buy something at an outrageous price?" Ann asked. "Very well."

"Ah," Dmitri said again, but in a totally different tone. "I have a very nice icon…"

"No, I don't think so, Dmitri. Not today," Ann looked around, then rose and went to the counter. Martin stayed where he was. Dmitri followed her.

"What are you looking for?"

"Something for a friend, in rubies."

"For Molchan Grigor? For your son?" Dmitri asked, taking a stack of velvet trays and lifting off the top two.

Her son?

"How is the boy?" Dmitri continued.

"He's away. For a woman. I missed her birthday."

"Ah, a somewhat wider selection. Men have become so drab of recent years, there is really very little to be done with discreet rings or cufflinks and tie clasps. For a lady I have rings, pendants…"

"This tray," Ann said, tapping the second from the bottom.

"What? Are you sure?" Dmitri lifted the other trays off the one Ann wanted to see.

Ann glanced down and laughed. "Yes. I want this." She held up a heavy gold chain supporting a ruby cross. The cross was made of four five-sided stones. Each stone was basically a narrow table cut rectangle with one double mitered end that fit with the other three stones in the center. "Now, this is genuine."

Which makes it stolen?

"Of course. Eighteenth century court work, in the simple style, from Burmese rubies and Siberian alluvial gold. Commissioned by a dowager for her granddaughter on her wedding."

"Provenance?"

"Well…"

"How long have you had it, Dmitri?"

"Since the early twenties, last century. I bought it from the granddaughter's great-granddaughter. You weren't in Paris after the Revolution, were you? There were many such sales."

"Not that one, no. How much?" Ann smiled.

"One hundred thirty-six thousand dollars, giving you the professional discount, of course."

"I'll take it." Ann put down her sword, and handed him a plastic card. "Unless you prefer gold?"

"VISA is acceptable."

Ann slipped the cross and the credit card into her pocket. Dmitri seemed much happier and offered them wine in painted glass goblets. Ann accepted with a smile. She took up her sword, and it vanished from her hand. She returned to her bench and sat.

Martin guessed peace, or at least a truce, had been declared, but he did not put down the pistol, merely putting the safety on, and letting his hand drop.

The wine was heavy and sweet. It wasn't to Martin's taste but he sipped again anyway, not wanting to offend Dmitri in any way since it seemed as if they were going to leave without any more fighting. Ann, however, settled more comfortably on her bench as if she had all the time in the world. Apparently they weren't done yet.

"Dmitri," Ann began, "how does it happen that you acquired the boy?"

"A fit of pique, I admit. He lied to me, which annoyed me."

"Lied to you about what?"

"He said he was a friend of a very good customer of mine. He lied. I called my customer, who said he has never heard of him."

"Logan Powell Turner."

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Did the boy also mention a woman called Ann Grove?"

"Oh, Vasha, no."

"My current use name." Ann sipped her wine. "One other thing I must mention: My current position involves official oversight."

"Oh. I didn't realize…"

"And Logan came to my attention via the misuse of certain magical tools, which might have resulted in death for many mortals and a certain amount of destruction. In public."

"Oh." Dmitri didn't quite glance at the door behind the counter.

"So you can see that I meant it when I forbade him this shop."

"I do see."

"My advice to you, Dmitri Romanov, is to avoid Logan for the next five years. That means no more phone calls, no mail orders and no Internet sales; in fact, no contact in any form or by any medium."

"He is a very good customer, Varvara Denisovna."

"He lacks control," Ann said, "and, if adequately supplied, he could become a nuisance, which would annoy me considerably. If he is kept harmless, if I am not obliged to chase after him to halt massacres or to prevent noticeable disasters, I will have plenty of free time; time which could be used to shop, for example."

"Ah. Of course you would. Quarterly shopping?"

"Biannual. Don't press your luck."

Stick and the carrot. Her technique seemed to be working well enough. Dmitri Romanov was smiling and looked much happier.

"I always enjoy your company, Vasha, and I look forward to seeing you in the fall."

"November, I think. Now, just remove the stasis spell from the boy, if you would, and give me the keys to the bike, and we all will be gone."

"Certainly, certainly. After rough beginnings, it is always a pleasure to do business with you, Varvara Denisovna." Dmitri handed her a set of keys, with a little bow.

"And with you, Dmitri Romanov." Ann inclined her head to him and turned to the boy.

Jan came to himself with a start, looking wildly from Martin to Ann and back. Before he could speak, Ann flicked one pale hand at him and, catching Martin's eye, walked out the door. Jan followed her, somewhat stiffly and jerkily, and Martin followed him.

Outside, Ann said, "Quickly." She took Jan's hand and ran lightly down the alley, Jan running along after her.

"I thought we had a sort of truce," Martin said very softly, easily keeping up with her.

"We do. However, the boy and his ride are still merchandise, and the problem is hijackers and disappointed shoppers, not Dmitri or his help. They won't interfere one way or the other." They had arrived back at the motorcycle. Ann offered Martin the keys, asking: "Can you ride this?"

"Sure."

"We'll meet you back where we started." She watched the streets as Martin slipped the gun into his waistband, put on the helmet, started the bike and headed away. Martin glanced back once; Ann and the boy were there, but as he watched, they vanished.

o

Half an hour later, Martin pulled up in front of the stairs to the No Mirrors Lounge. Jan was sitting on the lowest step.

"Hi," Martin said. "Why the hell did you get such a damn big motorcycle?"

"This is America. You have wide open spaces and purple mountains. The terrain is more diverse than that of home. I wanted something that could handle everything."

"It will that, and it certainly does go like a dream."

"I'm suspended," Jan blurted.

"I'm not surprised. Is Ann still here?"

"No. She said she had to be somewhere at midnight and teleported away. I think she's a witch or a pumpkin."

"Or she could just need to get a video back to the store." Martin spoke lightly, but he was disappointed. There were a number of things he wanted to ask Ann.

"Listen, she uh, she…"

"What?"

"She yelled at me."

"OK."

"No, it wasn't. Listen…"

"Still listening."

"Have you ever heard the expression '16 will get you 20'?"

"Sure."

"Oh. OK, what do you say it means?"

"The numbers refer to years: Sex with a 16-year old will get you 20 years in prison. Haven't you seen the signs: Sex with a minor is a felony?"

"I thought that was about girls and getting them pregnant so they go on public assistance. I mean, I don't have to worry about that."

"No, it's everybody under eighteen."

"So why isn't it '17 will get you 20'?"

"I don't know, it's always been sixteen, while officially and lawfully it's 18. It's a cautionary saying, a slogan; like 'Use a gun, go to jail'. Don't try to make sense of it, just be discreet until your next birthday. Remember, the consequences are always worse for the adult."

"I thought she was making all this up."

"She told you all this?"

"And some other stuff. I'm going home. I'm not to come back for two weeks."

"Fine. Did she also touch on the stupidity of going off without leaving any indication where we might start looking for you when you ran into trouble?"

"Yes. At length. So did Edward. So did Karelle. I didn't see Galley, or he might have done, too." Jan scowled at Martin, took the helmet the vampire held out to him and rode off.

o

"And as we left, I'm pretty sure I saw a fantod, but I couldn't stop to get a good look," Martin said. "I came straight back and met Jan on the steps." He opened the low cupboard under the wall map of San Francisco and took out the private brandy and two glasses.

"What she said was that the two of you walked in, there was some fighting, some talk, and the three of you left." Edward accepted a glass of brandy, but did not drink.

"Basically, yes."

"She knew the proprietor?" Edward asked.

"Apparently, possibly not recently. She never commented on that, and I didn't have a chance to ask."

"You believe her."

"Every word. I don't know what she is, I don't know what she intends, but so far, she has been absolutely straight with us."

Edward nodded, and took a sip of brandy. "Oh, she said you could leave the tag with Karelle, if you didn't want to carry it around or have it at your place. What tag?"

"This," the vampire said, taking the clear marble out of his pocket. "She says she can find it, apparently in some sort of extrasensory way."

"And therefore you? I wish she'd give one to Jan."

"It would have been useful," Martin agreed and said nothing more.