Low Midnight Page 19

“Yeah, I know those stories. Kind of like the ones about your dad. I mean, we all heard about him going after weird shit—werewolves, vampires, you know?—but this was years ago and we all thought that was bullshit, just crazy stories to make him come off even scarier than he was. But then—well, it was all true, wasn’t it? And we heard all the stories about how you picked up where he left off, hunting monsters.” He had a disturbing gleam in his eyes.

Cormac didn’t have a clue what those stories looked like from the outside, or what someone like Layne saw in them. “That was a long time ago. I haven’t been hunting in years.”

Layne clearly didn’t believe him. That grin suggested they were both in on a secret. “Can I ask you something? What if I wanted to get in on that? I figure there are a lot more of them than we ever thought. If you’re not hunting them anymore—teach me to do it. I’ll get in on the action.”

The thought of someone like Layne going after Kitty and Ben made Cormac want to shoot the bastard. And this was why it was probably just as well he didn’t carry a gun anymore.

“Why?” Cormac said flatly, first thing to come into his head. Might even have been Amelia who said it.

Layne shrugged like it was obvious. “Someone’s got to. The more the better, right? It’s them or us.”

In the space of about a second Cormac thought up, mulled over, worked out, and then rejected a plan to agree to teach Layne how to hunt the supernatural—and then teach him flat-out wrong, so that the first time the guy went up against a vampire or lycanthrope it would be sure to end very badly for him.

“You know,” he said, “Some of my best friends are werewolves.” Layne chuckled, clearly not sure whether or not he had just made a joke, so Cormac moved on. “Tell me about what’s up on that plateau. You hunting vampires up there?”

Layne’s grin went feral. “Let me introduce you to the man who’s going to make things happen.” He pointed to the sullen man of the group, still hunched up in his coat like he was out in the cold. He glared back at Cormac. “Cormac, this is Milo Kuzniak.”

Cormac’s first thought: the guy was a vampire. Milo Kuzniak had been in his thirties over a century ago, he couldn’t still be alive—unless he was a vampire. But the broad daylight outside said no, he wasn’t, unless he’d come up with a way to make himself immune to daylight. Now there was an unhappy thought.

Or maybe Cormac had been spending too much time with monsters.

It’s a coincidence. Has to be, Amelia thought.

He hadn’t found any pictures of the old prospector Kuzniak and couldn’t guess if this guy, who appeared to be in his late twenties, had any physical resemblance to him. He had dark hair cut short and around face, crooked teeth, and a hungry look in his eyes. Even hungrier than Layne.

“I knew another guy named Kuzniak once. You from around here?” Cormac said, offhand, because he had to say something.

The guy licked his lips as if thinking, maybe wondering if he was giving anything away. “Yes. My great-grandfather homesteaded out here. I’m named after him.”

A perfectly reasonable, normal explanation. “You inherit anything else from him?”

He gave a lopsided shrug. “This and that. You really hunt vampires?”

“Once or twice.”

Kuzniak donned a contemptuous grin. “There’s no vampires around here.”

“Then I’ll leave the garlic and holy water at home,” he said. Given the kind of company Kitty and Ben kept, he always had a stake at hand, tucked into a pocket inside the sleeve of his jacket. If he really wanted to be a jackass he could slip it out, twirl it around his fingers a couple of times, make some kind of threat. But this was all just posturing. Instead he said, “You’re going after the gold, aren’t you?”

Kuzniak’s expression shut down, and he looked to Layne, who just smiled. “See? I told you, the guy’s smart. Worth having on our side. I’m telling you, Douglas Bennett’s kid—he’ll know things. He can help.”

“I know everything we need,” Kuzniak argued.

“If that was true, we’d be done with it all already, wouldn’t we?”

This pit was getting deeper and deeper. Cormac had the thought that maybe he should just walk away. It wasn’t too late.

If he knows what the first Milo Kuzniak knew, then he might know what killed Crane. We stay. Cormac guessed that Amelia wasn’t even thinking about passing the information along to Judi and Frida—she wanted to know, all for herself.

“What about it, Bennett? You in?”

“For a cut, I assume,” he answered.

“Sure. Even cut like the rest of us. Assuming you can do the job I’ve got in mind for you.”

That meant all the rest of the gang’s cuts just shrank, and none of them looked happy about it. Likely, Layne was pitting them against each other. A little friendly competition among subordinates looking for promotion. This was exactly why Cormac preferred working alone.

This ought to be fun. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Layne’s two heavies went to play pool at a crappy, beat up pool table. The younger Kuzniak moved down the bar, glaring at Cormac like he was planning what curse to cast on him, and Cormac was thinking it was about time he got out of here. But Layne kept staring at him. Hero worship, just about.

“What?” he finally said to Layne.

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