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As if he’d issued an invitation? “Thanks for seeing me.”

“Perhaps we’ll sit over here. Would you care for coffee? Tea?”

“No, thank you.”

He issued a curt nod and Anne knew without looking over her shoulder that Persephone had vanished sure as a shadow chased away by the light. And as they processed over to some silk-covered chairs, she was aware that her hand was beginning to sweat.

“You will sit here,” he announced as he pointed to a seat that appeared to be no different from any other.

Yeah, except for the wire that was running out the back and into the floor. She would have chosen another, but she was willing to bet that whatever he had had installed there was the same in all of the others . . . except for the one he picked.

As Anne sat, she wondered what was being monitored in her body. How much was being recorded. There were ways now that people could measure the slightest deviations in skin temperature, weight shift, breathing.

She sat on the very edge of the cushion. “So about those fires.”

The man smiled slowly, and it was only then that she realized his eyes were the color of his decor, the color of dangerous fog on the sea.

“Won’t you sit back and relax, Inspector Ashburn. We aren’t in any kind of hurry.”

Anne glanced back at the double doors she’d entered through. “My boss is expecting me back in the office ASAP.”

“He’ll wait.”

Chapter 28

As the engine’s brakes squealed and Company 17 pulled up to an apartment building with a second-story burn, Danny hopped down to the pavement and went for the lines in the back.

“Dannyboy, you’re on clear.” Captain Baker nodded at Moose. “You, too.”

“Roger that.”

He and Moose got their tanks and masks on and then went for the equipment, pulling up the panels. As the lineup of axes and tools were revealed, Moose palmed two long handles and turned to Danny.

The sight of the axe made Danny sweat underneath his turnouts. “I’ma take the Boston.”

“Why? We need axes to get through doors—oh. Sorry.”

Don’t dwell on it. Just keep going.

Danny grabbed a tool that had a metal piercer on one end and looked forward to using it to pry down rafts of Sheetrock. Besides, one axe was enough. They didn’t both need one. It was better this way, more efficient.

As they jogged over to the front door of the apartment building, he kept going with the list of reasons why there was a strategic imperative for him not to have an axe.

Residents were funneling out of the entrance, some still in bathrobes even though it was by now eleven thirty in the morning. Most were elderly and he anticipated a lot of cats. The building’s alarm system was going over, the shrill warning making his ears ring. The smell of smoke was in the air and he cursed.

This was a hot one, he thought. He could tell by the scent.

An old guy with Albert Einstein hair and a robe that looked like it had come out of Archie Bunker’s closet stopped in front of Danny.

“I told her that kid was going to kill her. Be careful—I don’t know if he’s got a gun.”


“Her grandson. Bad news. Been with her for the last three weeks. Has someone called the cops?”

“You better get moving.” Danny nodded to the slow-up the guy was causing. “We’ll handle everything.”


As the man kept going, Danny hit his communicator. “Two-fiver-eight-seven, over.” When he was acknowledged, he said, “Confirm NBPD arrival, over.”

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