Black Heart Page 64

“Yeah, and Titania is a very creative torturer,” J.B. said.

A shadow passed over J.B.’s face, and I knew he was remembering when Titania had captured and punished him for not making me fall in line.

The thought of a mother harming her own son made me sick. I put my hand over my belly, felt my child safe and secure inside me. I could never hurt my kid. I really did not understand immortals at all.

I rubbed my face. “Let’s think. Obviously it would be dumb to go charging into Titania’s court. She’s got the advantage there. But it’s also the most likely place where she would hold Bendith, isn’t it?”

J.B. looked thoughtful. “Not necessarily. She has bolt-holes scattered all over the place. She even has some in Chicago. I’ve met with her here a time or two, back when my mother was alive.”

“It’s unlikely that she came here herself to collect Bendith,” Beezle said. “She would have sent some flunkies to take care of the problem.”

“Especially because this is considered Lucifer’s realm,” Nathaniel said. “The old ones are very careful not to cross into one another’s territory without permission.”

“So Bendith might be here,” I said. “Then again, he might not.”

“Let’s work the problem,” J.B. said. “We’ll eliminate her known addresses here, and if we can’t find Bendith that way, then we’ll do it your way.”

“My way?” I asked.

“Yeah, we’ll illegally cross into Titania’s territory, tear up some monsters, burn down a few buildings, threaten the queen, and grab Bendith and leave,” Beezle said.

I really wished I could argue with him, but that was probably the way it would work out.

“Where is the most likely place Titania would take Bendith?” Nathaniel asked.

“She keeps a condo in Water Tower Place,” J.B. said.

I shook my head. “Too visible. There are shoppers and tourists all over that area. If Bendith tried to make a break for it, he could easily disappear into the crowd. We’re probably looking for something more out of the way.”

“Hmm,” J.B. said. “I think there’s a place on Damen, down near that Kinzie Industrial Corridor.”

I knew the place J.B. was talking about. There was a whole lot of nothing that way. There were some condos built by hopeful developers who wanted the area to turn into a happening neighborhood and some large warehouse buildings. Foot traffic was light, and most people drove through that part of the city without stopping.

“If she wanted to stash him for now and move him later, that would be the place,” I agreed.

“And we’re all sure that Titania is the one who took him?” Beezle said. “We could be heading out on a wild-goose chase.”

“We have to start somewhere,” I said impatiently.

Beezle held up his hands in surrender.

“Let’s go,” I said.

We took to the sky, heading west toward the industrial corridor. The city below looked more or less normal. Maybe there were fewer cars on the streets than before. Maybe the pedestrians walking on the sidewalk were a little more alert, a little less involved in their smartphones. But all in all, it seemed like Chicago had snapped back pretty well after the vampire attacks. The resilience of the human mind is an amazing thing.

None of us spoke as we flew. My own brain was too busy working to talk.

We had all been so preoccupied by my momentary descent into darkness that we’d forgotten three important facts. Someone had put the Cimice in J.B.’s building. Someone had set an explosive in the building. And someone had put layers of protection in the structure.

Given the number of enemies that I had, it was by no means a sure thing that the same person had set the explosion and planted the Cimice. Since Titania already had an association with the insects, then she was the obvious suspect regarding the eggs. But she wasn’t the only suspect.

My own darling uncle Puck could have put the Cimice in J.B.’s building for some twisted reason of his own. Or he could have been working at Titania’s behest.

The explosives were a different story. There was something very unsubtle, very un-fae, about an explosion. It felt more like something a demon would do.

And that opened up the probability that Focalor was out and about trying to cause trouble. He was still pissed at me for humiliating him in front of Amarantha’s court. I’d also killed Azazel, his partner in rebellion, and caused him to completely lose status in Lucifer’s court by exposing his treachery.

Yeah, Focalor was a good bet for planting the explosives. But how had he known I was in the condo? Or was he trying to get at me by hurting J.B., and the plan backfired because of the protective spells on the building?

And who had set the protective spells in the first place?

Too many questions, not enough answers.

Nothing big was happening, as it had been when Azazel was massing his troops or when the vampires attacked. There was no obvious problem for me to attend—as Beezle had said, I was a soldier without a war. But all these little things added up made me uneasy. And I still wanted to know why Puck had wanted me away from the city for a few months, killing Cimice on a foreign world. He had plans of his own, and I hated to think that I had inadvertently helped him fulfill those plans.

I felt the kind of anxiety that you feel when you know a storm is coming, and you can’t do anything about it.

We seemed to be on the leading edge of something huge. All the players were moving into position, but I didn’t know yet what part I was to play in the game, or where the other players were going to move next. I was never good at predicting what immortals might be up to at the best of times, but I felt more blind than usual.

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