Inside the Royal Ontario Museum, visitors ebbed and flowed like tides through the rooms and around the exhibits. Museum staff guided, directed and assisted where needed while bored guards tried to stay alert for inadvertent vandalism and unsupervised children on rampages.
A group of six Asian men and women, middle-aged to elderly, filed through the ticket purchase area and into the great hall at the center of the building. They clustered together, reading the banners and signs on the various exhibits, talking together, and after a few seconds, headed into the wing for temporary exhibits. The banner over that archway read, "Ancient Shipwreck: The Chinese Discovery of North America."
They threaded their way through the slow-moving lines of visitors drifting from display case to display case until they reached one labeled, "A Sailor's Personal Possessions." There, among mending needles made of bone, tiny votive statuettes of the sea goddess Ma Tsu and personal grooming articles, was a round bronze mirror, its back to the viewer. The back had been formed in the shape of a Taoist wheel, with a clear gem in the center. The label read, "bronze mirror used to ward off evil spirits when going ashore in a strange land."
The faces of all six men and women glowed greedily as they gazed at it. At the whispered word of one of the men, they linked hands and closed their eyes, their lips moving. The other museum guests, uneasy, stayed back from them and avoided that case. There were far more interesting displays in the room, anyway.
Had anyone looked closely, they would have seen the clear gem wink and flash, though the museum lights were steady.
Outside, in a nearby alley off Bloor St., a body appeared.
Vicki and Henry approached the museum's entrance. The lines to get in were long; the new exhibit of a medieval Chinese ship found off Vancouver Island was hugely popular. Henry steered them away from the queue. "We can go right in," he said. "I'm a member."
"Yeah, but I'm not," Vicki said, eyeing the long line.
"It's all right. You're my guest." Henry grinned at her.
As they mounted the stairs, Vicki said, "I didn't know membership allowed you to bring a guest."
"Mine does," Henry said mysteriously. They reached the ticket-taker, and Henry withdrew a card from his wallet and smiled at the bespectacled and overweight woman. This woman looked at his card and glanced at Vicki. "She's with me," Henry said.
"Good evening, Mr. Fitzroy," the woman said, her manner changing from professional disinterest to almost fawning. "So nice to see you." Her second glance at Vicki was appraising.
When the two of them were within the main hall and well out of the woman's hearing, Vicki asked, "Did you just use some hoodoo on that woman?"
"Hoodoo?" he replied, sounding faintly insulted. "I don't have hoodoo—"
"You have charm. I know." Vicki looked around. "Let's go to the special exhibit. I've seen all the regular ones."
"It's that degree you have in History," he said. "It gives away your essentially romantic nature."
"It was a minor in History. Hardly a degree. And you ought to know how rarely history was ever romantic."
"Ah," he said, leaning in close to her ear, "but a love of history almost always is. Trust me, I'm an expert in these matters."
"I'll trust you might be an expert in history. So, tell me," she said, as they passed beneath the banner saying 'The Chinese Discovery of North America,' "did the Chinese find the New World before Columbus?"
"How would I know?" Henry replied innocently. "We didn't have CNN International."
Mike walked through the door of "Vicki Nelson, Private Investigator," barely managing the doorknob because his hands were full of Chinese takeout containers. He nodded at Coreen. "Vicki in?"
"Hi," Coreen answered, nodding, her heavily made-up eyes fixed on Mike's food. She came out of her seat and followed him into Vicki's office.
"Hey Vic," Mike said, setting the food down. "Hope you haven't had dinner."
"'Lo, Mike," said Vicki. "Chinese. Do we have a murder to solve?"
"Funny you should ask," Mike said. "We do, but I don't think we're ready to solve it yet. This," he indicated the food, "is a bribe."
Vicki nodded approvingly, opening a container. "It's a step up from donuts, I'll give you that. What are you bribing me for?"
"You just bribe with donuts 'cause you're cheap."
"Hey, you like donuts." Vicki picked up a pair of chopsticks.
"I want you to take a case. You'd be a police force contractor. I have permission to pay your fee."
Vicki dug into the Mu Shu Beef, and raised her eyebrows at him. "You'd have to have gotten that authorization from Crowley," she said. "Still can't solve the hard ones without me, can you?" She popped food in her mouth.
Mike waited until she was done with her mouthful of beef. "Actually, it's your partner we want."
Vicki plopped the box down on the table and jammed her chopsticks into it. "What? What for?"
Coreen opened a box and reached for chopsticks. "Put that down," Vicki said. "We haven't accepted this bribe yet."
"It's just dinner," Coreen replied.
"It's the principle," Vicki said, her gaze locked on Mike. "What do you want Henry for?" Her tone held a warning, and even Coreen looked up at the two of them. The last time Mike had wanted Henry it had been to give him to Mendoza.
"Hear me out," Mike said, spreading his hands. "We've had a rash of young men going missing. Young men of a certain age. Henry's age."
"Henry's age," Vicki said with a set to her jaw. "You mean 488?"
Mike gave her an impatient look. "I mean his apparent age. The missing have all been young, but adults, so Major Crimes wasn't involved."
"Why is Homicide involved?"
"Now there's a body. The first kid to vanish, Luc Johnson. He was found in an alley near the museum, which is also the general area the men have all been in when they vanished. Crowley authorized a set-up and we sent Evans in as bait. Did you know Evans?"
"Don't remember him."
"Well he looked the right age and he vanished, too. Wearing a wire and a tracker. We've lost a cop, Vicki. He could be dead already, or he could be being held. Two other guys are still missing, too."
"This hasn't been in the news," Coreen said with horror.
"It wouldn't be at first," Vicki told her absently, "that would tip them off that we know where it's happening."
"You know what our next step has to be," Mike said. "We can't sit on it any longer. We hold a press conference, let the public know there's a danger and cordon off the whole area. Maybe shut down the museum. It's the only thing nearby."
"And Crowley won't risk any more cops."
Mike looked uncomfortable. "I pitched the idea of using Henry as a last ditch effort before we have to go public. I said he has training, he's experienced, he's been working with you, yadda yadda. I got Crowley to go for it."
"Because the force wouldn't be risking anyone they actually care about," Vicki said.
"Hey, that's not fair. Not to them or me. You know the force has to care about every citizen of the city, and I know Henry is no lightweight who could be taken down by some thug putting a bag over his head."
"Thank you, Detective," said Henry from behind them.
All three other people in the room jumped and chorused, "Don't do that!"
Smiling slightly, Henry strode forward to stand at the desk and look down at the food. "But Chinese food is not the currency I deal in." He looked sidelong at Mike.
Mike's mouth fell open, "I—am—not—" he said.
Vicki and Coreen exchanged wide-eyed glances. Henry smiled broadly. "I didn't think you would," he said. "So, I'm curious. What did you think would induce me to work for you?"
"Now wait," put in Vicki. "This proposal is for a contract with the firm, and I am senior partner in this firm. You," she said to Henry, "don't go making side deals, and you," she addressed Mike, "do your negotiating with me. Is this clear?"
Both men looked at her with varying degrees of bemusement.
"I'm not working for him," Henry said.
"No one says you have to. But let's at least hear the offer. If I know Mike, he didn't come empty-handed, and I don't mean Chinese food and my fee."
Henry moved away from the desk, Coreen fading back to let him pass, and stood with his back to them.
"Hello," said Mike. "Still here in the room."
"So what else is on the table?" Vicki asked him.
"Computer records," Mike said. "I ran you, Henry. I know how empty your trail looks. No school records, no medical records. You just appear out of nowhere. What's more, what there is, is out of joint. You look about twenty, but you've been a resident as an adult for almost twenty years. I can be in a position to make you a history in almost every government database."
Henry turned around. "I don't have a problem with documents, Detective. I have four centuries of experience as an artist. You think I can't forge any document I need?"
"How long will documents matter? It's the digital age, Fitzroy. How are your hacking skills coming along? You need a digital existence. I'll give you one. That's my offer."
The two men looked at each other for a long moment. Henry glanced at Vicki. "I suppose good police relations are valuable to a PI," he said.
"Don't do this for me," Vicki said.
Henry gave her a small smile. "Why would I change now?" He looked back at Mike, his smile fading. "What do you need?"
Henry and Vicki paid Mohadevan a visit at the morgue. She was in the back laboratory performing an autopsy, but an assistant let them wait in the main room with the body of Luc Johnson. Fluorescent lights lit the room which, in daytime, was lit by diffuse daylight from a wall of curtained windows.
"Cause of death: ammonia poisoning," Vicki read from the report. "Well, that's different."
Henry pulled back the sheet and looked at the young dark-haired man. An autopsy seam ran down his torso. "Should he look this pale?" Henry asked.
Mohadevan entered the room, her smock and gloves splattered with red and yellow liquids. She snapped off the gloves and shot them like rubber bands into a waste bin, removed the smock and picked up a salad in a plastic container from a nearby desk.
"Hello, you two," she said. "I heard you were on this case." She took a bite of the salad and joined them. "Mr. Johnson isn't telling me much about where he's been, I'm afraid."
"Ammonia poisoning?" Vicki said again. "You can call it a homicide from that?"
Mohadevan nodded. "He has bruising that indicates a struggle. See these chemical burns around his nose and mouth? The ammonia was inhaled, not ingested, and in a concentration that could only happen from prolonged exposure to an industrial-strength dose of the chemical."
"Days. First it made him unconscious and very sick, then it gave him irreversible brain damage."
"Still, he could have fallen in a fertilizer factory or something and passed out."
"Do you really think this was an accident?" Henry asked Vicki, sounding surprised.
Vicki smiled sheepishly. "Just habit. Playing Devil's advocate with the coroner."
Mohadevan smiled around another mouthful of salad. "Sometimes coroners operate on instinct, too," she said. "Though for the inquest I'll cite the bruising and the fact that the body was found in an alley nowhere near a fertilizer plant."
"Should he look this pale?" Henry asked. "I know you remove the blood, but . . ."
Mohadevan sighed and gave him one of the quizzical glances she often gave Vicki's new partner. "Ammonia poisoning. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Vicki looked up. "Rajani? This is us, remember?" She waved a hand between herself and Henry. "What else have you got?"
"It's in the report," she said, "though no one would know what to make of it. The protein molecules of his hemoglobin have broken down."
Vicki shook her head uncomprehendingly.
"The protein that makes red blood cells red. The molecular bonds are broken throughout his body. You're right," she nodded to Henry with another curious look. "Even with his blood removed, residual hemoglobin should give his skin more color than this. But something has destroyed the energy holding those protein molecules together."
"What could do that?" Vicki asked.
"And leave the body intact? Nothing I know of."
"What does hemoglobin do?"
"It binds with oxygen and carries it where it's needed to keep a person alive."
"So this molecular energy is gone," Henry said. "This man has had his life force taken?"
Vicki gave him an exasperated look.
"You could say that," Mohadevan agreed. She ate another mouthful of salad. "I'm saying ammonia poisoning."
Henry left the museum at closing time with a crowd of people, separated from them and strolled alone along Bloor, through dark parking lots, across grass and behind buildings. He wore a radio transmitter and carried a small transponder on him. Police officers in unmarked cars were sprinkled throughout the area around the museum. Vicki and Mike sat in a car in the alley where the body had been found.
"So, this partnership still working out for you?" Mike asked.
"He's useless in the day and I'm useless at night. We're a perfect team."
"Is that self-pity I hear from Vicki Nelson?"
"I was going for ironic juxtaposition."
Henry began singing a bawdy sea shanty under his breath. The words came across the police channel clearly.
Next came a company
Of the Prince of Wales' Hussars
They piled into the whore house
And they packed along the bars.
"Did you tell him we're not the only ones hearing this?" asked Mike. "Every car on this assignment is picking him up."
Many a maid and mistress
And wife before them fell.
But they never made the waitress
From the Prince George Hotel.
Vicki struggled to stifle her laughter. "He knows that," she said. "What's the matter? You don't think the guys will like it?"
One day there came a sailor.
Just an ordinary bloke.
A-bulging at the trousers.
With a heart of solid oak.
Mike sighed and looked at his watch. "Two more hours of this. Man, I hope someone vanishes him quick."
At sea without a woman
For seven years or more.
There wasn't any need to ask
What he was looking for.
Vicki sipped her coffee and looked innocently out her window.
The evening ended uneventfully. No one tried to attack Henry and after three hours they called a halt. One guy could only believably spend so much time making circuits of the same area.
Mike drove out of the area to the pre-arranged meeting place and he and Vicki got out of her car to meet Henry beneath orange-toned halogen street lights. "Well, that was fun," Henry said. "This police work is so invigorating."
"We'll try again tomorrow night," Mike said, nodded to Vicki and headed for his own car. Henry slid into the driver's seat.
"Hard to know whether to be relieved or disappointed, isn't it?" Vicki said.
Henry started the car and turned back toward the museum. "I like walking in the night," he said. "And it's not so certain we got nothing out of it."
"What do you mean?"
"Someone watched me every time I came down one alley. They were on the fire escape behind a wall."
"Oh yeah? Why didn't you tell Mike?"
"I don't like Mike." Henry passed the mouth of an alley and parked. He adjusted the rear-view mirror in order to see behind them, and Vicki toyed with the side mirror, though her night vision was too poor for it to matter. "I thought we might try it your way."
"My way? You mean wait for the bartender to lead us right to the girl?"
Henry's smile flashed in the gloom. "I knew you were smart."
"You really have some things to learn about playing on a team."
"I'm on your team."
"And we're playing on Mike's right now. So you won't mind if I tell him what you find out."
Henry shrugged. "Tell him whatever you like."
They didn't have long to wait before a single figure, a woman, small and slim-figured, exited the alley. "That's her," Henry said. The woman walked half a block to a darkened business, a bakery, and entered by a side door.
"What was she doing in an alley all evening?" Vicki mused.
"Shall I follow her into the bakery?" Henry asked. "Maybe she lives above it. I don't mind."
"Down boy," Vicki said. "I've got the address. I'll talk to her tomorrow."
Vicki learned from Mike that the bakery was owned by a Tibetan man named Tsepon Gyaltsen. The owners of local businesses in the area had all been questioned following the disappearances, including him. Mike was unimpressed with their lead. After all, a woman had a right to spend the evening on a fire escape if she cared to. It didn't mean she was watching Henry. Mike and Dave had a meeting with the Director of the Royal Ontario Museum, so Vicki visited the bakery alone.
The bells on the door jingled as she entered, and the smell of fresh bread greeted her. The small front shop was lined on two walls with glass cases displaying the baked goods, leaving a narrow passage behind for the employees. A break in the cases led to a door into the interior of the house. The register stood at the far left on a counter, with a young Asian woman standing near it. The left wall of the store was for small tables, and at one of them sat an elderly Asian couple and a young man. The woman held a glass of water for the young man, urging him to drink, but the young man merely stared into the distance, his head tipped at an angle, oblivious to her.
Seeing Vicki's notice, the elderly man gave the woman a shake of his head, and she put the water down. They both watched as Vicki approached the register. The young man reacted to nothing.
"Hi," Vicki said to the young woman. If she was the same woman she and Henry had seen the night before, Vicki couldn't tell; her night vision was too poor. "My name's Vicki Nelson. I'd like to speak to Mr. Tsepon Gyaltsen, please."
"He's not available. I'm sorry."
"Then I'll talk to you. I'm working with the police. I'm investigating a homicide. Can you tell me where you were last night after 9:00?"
"Me?" The young woman's gaze flicked desperately toward the people at the table. "I—I was here."
"You live here?"
"Then I'm sure there are others who saw you here last night."
"I'll—get my uncle," the woman said. "He's down at the ovens."
Vicki smiled tightly. "You do that."
The young woman went through the rear door. Vicki looked around at the bakery. The old man and woman stood and cleared away their small paper plates, while the young man stared at nothing. Then, never looking at Vicki, they coaxed the young man to a standing position, and then urged him toward the rear door, one of them on each arm as he shuffled. They passed into the interior of the building, leaving Vicki alone in the store.
Vicki drummed her fingers on the counter. She'd always believed that being nosy was a big help to detective work.
She followed everyone else into the interior of the house. Just inside the door she found a hallway that stretched ahead of her, and a staircase on the right. She heard voices down the hallway, and a few steps took her to stand before an open door. The two elderly people and their young charge were in a large bedroom, the couple fussing over the young man, urging him to sit. The woman saw Vicki and spoke in an alarmed tone, in a language Vicki assumed was Tibetan. The man whirled.
"What's wrong with him?" Vicki asked.
"Nothing is wrong!" the man answered. "Go away." He shut the door in her face. To her right, the young woman and a middle-aged man wearing an apron approached.
"What are you doing here?" the man demanded.
"Thought you might want someone to keep an eye on the till out there," Vicki said calmly. "Mr. Gyaltsen, I presume?"
"Go, go!" He made shooing motions with his hands. "Back in the store."
Vicki obliged, the other two following her and talking in low tones. Out in the bakery store, Vicki turned to face the man. Three more people had entered the store in Vicki's absence, and the young woman moved behind the glass cases to wait on them.
"Mr. Gyaltsen, my name is Vicki Nelson and I'm assisting the police in investigating a homicide."
The other talking in the room ceased.
"I've already spoken to the police," Gyaltsen said.
"You were questioned about the disappearances. Young men going missing in this general area of town?"
Gyaltsen said nothing. Behind him, the face of the old man appeared in the entranceway to the house.
"One of those men has been murdered. His body was found not too far away from here. Now it's a homicide case. Would you tell me, please, where you and your family were three nights ago after about six o'clock?"
The old man's face disappeared. The other people in the store left without making any purchases. The young woman watched them go then drifted closer to Vicki and Gyaltsen. Gyaltsen also watched them go before replying. "We visited the ROM that evening, officer," he said tightly.
"I assume you can prove that?"
Gyaltsen looked rattled. "We were with some friends. If I am suspected of something, I believe the security monitors at the museum will show us all there."
"No doubt," Vicki said. She pulled out a card. "Call me if you think of anything that might be helpful." She glanced around. "The number, if the print is too small to read, is 555-5337." She repeated the number loudly, pointedly calling into the interior of the house. She smiled at Gyaltsen. "Thank you for your time."
Vicki's cell phone rang. "Vicki, it's me," Mike said. "Learn anything?"
"They're definitely hiding something. I didn't even need my lie detector to see how nervous everyone got when I said I was looking into the homicide."
"What do you mean, your lie detector?"
"Henry. He can tell me if someone's heart speeds up at something I say."
"Oh," Mike said.
"You guys questioned the baker before. Do you know what's up with the autistic guy?"
"What autistic guy?"
"Well, I don't really know he's autistic, but there was a, like, twenty-year-old man, totally out of it. Two grandparent types didn't leave his side, and the three of them hustled out of the room when I started asking questions."
"Nope. Wasn't there before. We questioned everyone in the house. Probably a recent immigrant. Gyaltsen's been in this country for forty years, but I bet he still has family in Tibet. Did you see the girl?"
"Maybe. There was a girl who could have been her. Henry would know."
"I bet he would."
Ignoring the sarcasm, Vicki asked, "How about you guys? Any luck with the museum director?"
"Not much. He's not aware of anything unusual around the museum. The only thing new in town is this Chinese exhibit. I'm going to talk to its curator in a few hours. A guy named Chumbay Jokssari. Want to come? Dave's got a doctor's appointment."
"Is that a Tibetan name? Doesn't sound Chinese."
"You could be right. I'll run him."
"Let's meet with him tonight, instead. I think Henry may have some pull with the museum."
"No, Vicki, I'm not waiting for Henry. Do you do anything without him anymore?"
"Hey, you're the one who said the department wanted him."
"As bait, that's all. Meet me downtown if you want to come."
Vicki was on a city bus when her cell phone rang again. "This is Vicki."
"Ms. Nelson?" asked a female voice. "My name is Mary. You were just at my uncle's bakery."
Vicki sat up straighter, cursing the bus's engine noise. She plugged her other ear with a finger. "Hello, Mary. Good to hear from you. What have you got to tell me?"
"I'm afraid—I'm afraid they're going to find another body. I want this to stop. Can we meet?"
"Sure. Can you come to my office?"
"No, I can't. I can't. Meet me at the Reference Library in special collections, room A. Three o'clock."
"Mary, I want this to stop, too. Can you tell me something before there's another death? Help me stop it."
"I can't. And—you wouldn't believe me. Maybe I shouldn't have called. I'm sorry."
"Mary, wait! Please! You called me for a reason. You didn't go to the police, you called me. You'd be surprised what I can believe. I'll meet you. Please come. But give me some idea now. Something to help us stop any more deaths. No matter how crazy it sounds. You can do it."
"Have you ever heard of the wish-fulfilling jewel?"
"The wish . . .?"
"The wish-fulfilling jewel. They have it at the ROM. I have to go." The connection died.
The museum held an entire wing of administrative offices, including a portion of a hallway for the offices of visiting administrators. Chumbay Jokssari's office was there. On the way, Mike and Vicki passed a large ornate display called the Royal Patrons' Circle donor wall, thanking all their largest contributors. Vicki stopped, scanning it.
"What?" Mike asked.
"Just looking for someone."
Mike raised his eyebrows, but joined her in scanning the names.
"Okay," Vicki said and they continued on.
Unlike the offices of many academics, Chumbay Jokssari's office was meticulously neat, as was the man himself. He greeted them politely, shook both their hands, and invited them to sit. Mike introduced Vicki as his "associate," and started in.
"Dr. Jokssari, we're investigating a homicide that happened three nights ago near the museum.
"How unfortunate. How can I help?"
"Have you noticed anything unusual or out of the ordinary in the museum operations lately?"
"As you know, Detective, I and my staff are not the regulars here. We came from Vancouver with the exhibit. I'm not sure how familiar any of us would be with the ordinary versus the not ordinary."
As Mike asked the routine police questions, Vicki looked around the room. On the man's wall he had hung framed diplomas and other awards and honors from the historical and archeological communities. There were newspaper headlines trumpeting the find of the sunken Chinese ship, and the small article about Dr. Jokssari being hired as head curator for the exhibit of the ship's contents. There were also family photos and a beautiful painting of wind-swept snowy mountains. Vicki stood to go closer and admire it.
"You're from Tibet, is that right?" Vicki asked, making it sound like a polite question inspired by the painting.
"Yes," Jokssari said, "my family and I fled to Vancouver in '59 after the rebellion."
Vicki's gaze wandered to the old-fashioned book cabinet below the painting. On top of the cabinet was a black, cone-shaped hat, with the bottom edge turned up. The topmost shelf of the cabinet had its wooden door closed, covering the contents. Only that shelf was hidden. Vicki, who had always believed that being nosy was a big help to detective work, calmly attempted to lift the door of the shelf, and, finding it locked, turned the key.
"Ms. Nelson," cried Jokssari. "What are you doing?"
On the shelf were four glass jars, each with an ornate metal lid, and each holding a skull. "What have we here?" she asked.
"They are skulls, Ms. Nelson," Jokssari said with annoyance. "Human skulls if you must know." He looked back at Mike. "Since you are investigating a homicide, I suppose I should tell you, those are the skulls of my parents, an uncle, and my older sister. In Tibet it is our custom after the funeral to make a shrine of our loved ones' skulls. Since I know such a thing is rather abhorrent in this country, I'd rather not have to explain it." His gaze at Vicki was unquestionably hostile.
Vicki stared right back. "Then maybe you should have left them in Vancouver," she said.
"Is there anything else I can do for you, Detective?" Jokssari asked, while still looking at Vicki.
Mike ignored the dismissal, and flipped through his notebook. "Do you know a man named Tsepon Gyaltsen?" he asked.
Now Jokssari did look at him. "No. Should I?"
Mike put his notebook away and stood. Vicki joined him.
"One more thing, Dr. Jokssari," she said. "Have you ever heard of a wish-fulfilling jewel?"
At that, Jokssari stared at her, color slowly fading from his face. "No," he said. "Such a thing sounds very useful. Where did you hear of it?"
"Just heard it somewhere. Thank you for your time."
After the detectives had left his office, Jokssari picked up his phone and dialed.
Outside, in the hallway, Vicki said, "Well, he's hiding something."
"Oh yeah," Mike replied.
Vicki had Mike drop her off at the Reference Library on Yonge and waited in the small, seldom visited room Mary had specified. She didn't show. Vicki checked any other room Mary could have meant instead, but saw no one who looked likely. She studied her cell phone, but the number Mary had called from was blocked. After an hour and a half she headed for her office.
Vicki came through the door with two coffees in her hands. "Coreen, tell me you've found something. I've lost my informant."
Coreen looked up from the computer. "About a wish-fulfilling jewel? I've got something. The Dalai Lama. His followers refer to him as the wish-fulfilling jewel. They say when you see him you can make a wish."
Vicki set coffee down on the desk with a frown. "So I'm looking for the Dalai Lama," she said disbelievingly.
Coreen smiled. "I'm thinking, no. I'm not the expert, but he doesn't seem like the murderer type."
"And, since he's not in the country, I'm guessing he has an alibi."
Coreen nodded, still smiling. "He's not the only one, though. Lots of lesser Lama types get called that. And sometimes Buddhism in general is called the wish-fulfilling jewel. It seems to stand for anything really good. Like, 'My teacher is better than having a jewel that grants wishes.'"
"I see," Vicki said and sipped her coffee. "Toronto has some high-ranking Buddhist leaders," she mused, "but Mary said the museum has it. And she didn't think I'd believe her, which makes it sound . . ."
Coreen brightened. "Magical. Supernatural."
Vicki took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "Yeah. Of course." She raised her head and replaced her glasses. "Wait a minute. How widespread is this saying? Would any Buddhist know it?"
Coreen looked thoughtful, and glanced absently at her screen. "Maybe not everyone. Lots would, though, I think. Especially in Tibetan Buddhism."
"Tibetan Buddhism." Vicki pressed her lips together, nodding. "I just talked to a man, a scholar, a world-recognized expert in medieval China, who is originally from Tibet, and when I asked him if he'd heard of a wish-fulfilling jewel, he said no. No mention of the Dalai Lama, nothing."
"That's kind of funny," Coreen said. "I mean, even if he had something to hide, there'd be nothing wrong in admitting he'd heard the saying. It's pretty common."
Vicki smiled. "One of the first lessons of interrogation, Coreen. If your suspect is surprised by a question, they'll deny more than they need to. Big clue there."
"So, what is the wish-fulfilling jewel? I didn't find any other references to it on the internet. Just as a metaphor."
"Don't metaphors usually refer to something everyone knows about? Maybe at some time in the past, there was a legend or something. Or even, I hate to say it, a real magical jewel."
"In the past!" Coreen jumped up and pointed more or less in the direction of the museum. "The past! And it ended up on a wrecked ship from China. A wrecked medieval ship from China."
Vicki nodded at her. "You just earned your pay for the week," she said. "Now find me a description. A legend, something. And some reason why young men are disappearing and then turning up dead."
As she spoke, a second body appeared in the same alley as the first, at the same location.
Mike and Dave were in the car when they got the call to report to a homicide scene in an alley near the museum—the same alley where Luc Johnson's body had been found. When they arrived, Crowley was on the scene, as well as a small army of forensics and police crowd control. TV cameras were rolling.
Crowley met them at the crime scene tape, as they ducked under. "Can't keep this quiet, anymore," she said tersely. "Your operation didn't work. I'm calling it off."
"Wait, Captain," Mike said. "Can you just withhold the information that the men have gone missing from this general area? That might be enough."
She shook her head, her gaze on the TV reporters. "This is costing a lot in overtime, Detective, since you insisted on doing it at night. And that information will come out." She looked at him, and chewed a lipstick-free lip. "One more night, but that's all."
As Mike and Dave approached the group surrounding the corpse, Dave said, "I suppose you'll want me in my own car again, so you can partner up with Victory?"
"I told you," Mike said, "I just want more coverage. I don't even know if Vicki's coming tonight."
"Sure," Dave said. "I get it, brother."
Vicki and Henry walked toward the museum in a light rain, Henry holding an umbrella over them both, which gave him an excuse to stay close within Vicki's personal space. "The ROM has one of the best collections of Tibetan manuscripts in the world," Henry said. "I remember when they acquired them."
"I checked, you know," Vicki said. "The only kind of membership that lets you bring a guest is the highest level of patronage."
"$1500 a year or more."
Henry nodded. "And I'm allowed to browse their archives," he said, as they mounted the stairs to the VIP entrance. "I called ahead to get you access."
"But I looked for your name. You're not on their patrons' wall."
"I wouldn't let them put it up." He looked at her with eyes glinting with mischief. "Influence is worth the price; too much notice can be dangerous."
"Is that why you won't come with me? I thought you didn't want to be seen with me because you're playing bait and we have some suspicions about the exhibit."
Henry smiled at her. "Vicki, I love being seen with you," he said. "But I'd rather not meet the upper level administrators. I don't mind the ticket takers, but you'll be escorted by Gina Trelane, an Assistant Director. Those people stay on the job long enough to notice I don't look old enough to be me."
"Mike was right. You could use his help."
Henry frowned. "I don't need his help."
"But you won't turn it down, right?"
"I have to go," Henry said, turning the umbrella over to her. "I'm meeting your ex-partner for tonight's adventures. Here's my card. Ask for Gina Trelane."
"Be careful," Vicki said.
Henry looked pleased. "Thank you," he said.
Vicki shook her head and continued to the VIP entrance. There, she was ushered into a comfortable lounge, where an attendant took her umbrella. The man gave Vicki's leather jacket a glance but Vicki waved him away from taking her coat. She shoved her hands in her jacket pockets.
A well-dressed woman in a skirt suit approached with a professional smile. "Ms. Nelson," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm Gina Trelane. Mr. Fitzroy told me to expect you. So nice to meet you."
Vicki shook her hand. "Vicki, please," she said. Gina Trelane gave Vicki a more muted version of the look of speculation she'd received from the ticket taker the evening they'd come to the museum before.
"I understand you're interested in books and manuscripts that deal with Tibetan folklore and mythology." She led the way into a "staff only" hallway. "Our collection has some of the best source documents . . ." She continued extolling the virtues of the ROM's Tibetan collection until they stood within a storage room with metal shelves full of books and papers.
"Now over here are the books on—" Trelane stopped, staring. Before her was an empty metal shelf, its businesslike bracket bookend tipped on its side. "They're gone. All of them." She sounded shocked.
Vicki stepped around her, scanning the shelf's vicinity, comparing the dust on it to the dust elsewhere. "How often do you inventory this place?" she asked. "And how often do they clean?"
"I'm sure they're here, somewhere," Trelane said, with a not-quite successful attempt at sounding reassuring. "No one comes in here but administrative staff."
"These were taken recently," Vicki concluded, and looked around the room. "And you don't even keep security cameras in here."
Trelane lost some of her professional demeanor. "Well, what would we need them here for?" she snapped. "I'm sorry, Ms. Nelson, I need to speak to some people. Would you like to wait in the lounge while I—"
"That's all right," Vicki said. "Here's my card. If you should happen to find them, call me right away."
While she waited for a cab, Vicki called Mike. She got his voice-mail and left a message.
"Mike, I'm going back to the bakery. All the books on Tibetan legends have gone missing from the ROM. Probably today. It has to have been Jokssari, tipped off when I asked about the jewel. There's something in those books. I'm worried now about Mary. Whoever she is, she's the one who gave me the tip about the jewel. I thought she just got cold feet, but she might be in danger."
Vicki snapped her phone shut and waved to the taxi that pulled into the museum's winding drive. She got in, gave the address of Gyaltsen's bakery, and asked the driver to wait for her.
The business was closed, so Vicki went around to a side door and banged loudly on it. Eventually it was answered by the elderly woman she'd seen there before. "Yes? We're closed," she said in heavily accented English.
"I need to speak to Mr. Gyaltsen," Vicki said firmly.
"He not here," the woman said, and started to close the door.
Vicki blocked her. "Then let me see Mary."
"No Mary here."
"You mean she's not home?"
"No Mary here."
Vicki forced her way into the small entryway. "Hey!" yelled the woman. "You go. Go away!" She grabbed Vicki's arm. Vicki shrugged her off.
Vicki looked up and down the hallway in the part of the house that was behind the store. She headed for the door where she had seen the woman with the autistic man earlier. Behind her, the woman started yelling in what Vicki assumed was Tibetan. The door opened as she reached it, and there stood the old man, holding a baseball bat.
"Whoa," Vicki said, putting up her arms. "I'm just looking for Mary. Mr. Gyaltsen's niece." Behind him, in the room, was the autistic man Vicki had seen before. And sitting on the floor, staring, a second young man in the same state.
"He doesn't have a niece," the man said, waving the bat. "Now get out of here. I'll call the police!"
"No," Vicki said with confidence, "you won't. You don't want the police. And if you try to hit me with that, I promise you'll get more than you bargained for. What's going on here? If she's not his niece, where is the young woman who was here when I came before?"
The man came forward, lowering the bat, but with an eerily menacing expression on his face. "There is no young woman. No Mary. No niece. Now you'd better leave or I promise you, you'll get more than you bargained for."
From the floor above came the sound of feet and male voices, and then the footsteps began to clatter down the stairs. Pushing past the old woman, Vicki left.
Safe in the departing taxicab, on her way to join Mike, Vicki got out her phone. There was a message from Coreen. She called her back.
"Coreen, it's Vicki. Have you got something?"
"I've got these books from the museum—" Coreen began.
"Wait a minute, you've got the books? The stolen books? Coreen!"
"They're just borrowed. I told you, I have a friend—"
"Yeah, your klepto friend at the museum. I remember. Coreen, he stole an entire shelf full of books. This is a police affair, now."
"No, he didn't. He only borrowed the two books that were in English. What good would the ones in Tibetan do us?"
Vicki blinked. "You're sure he only took two books?"
"Sure, I'm sure. I've got them right here. He said he left the others."
"Good grief," Vicki sighed. "That means your thief was faster than Jokssari's thief. Well, be grateful for small blessings. What did you find out?"
"Okay, there was a Tibetan legend about a wish-fulfilling jewel. But it only answers certain wishes."
"What kind of wishes?"
"It's a love story. There's this girl who is in love with this goatherd she's known since childhood, but her father betroths her to a rich man."
"Coreen, what kind of wishes?"
"Okay, I'll skip the middle part. Eventually, after a lot of unimportant stuff, the lovers marry, but then he goes off to war and gets killed. She's devastated of course, and the sound of her weeping bothers the gods. They send a sorcerer to find out what her problem is and shut her up. The thing is, the sorcerer falls in love with her, so he tells her he'll give her a way to get her husband back but then she has to marry him as payment. She agrees and he collects her fallen tears and does some magic to make them into a beautiful clear jewel. All she has to do is wish on the jewel for her husband to return to her, and if his soul hasn't been reincarnated yet, he'll come back to her."
"Why do I have a feeling I know how this ends," Vicki said.
"It's not as bad as you think," Coreen said. "For her anyway. Her husband comes back, body and soul, and she marries the sorcerer. Later she figures out how to ditch the sorcerer, but that's another story. They keep the jewel in the family, where it will always bring young men back from the dead, if they haven't been reincarnated yet."
"What if they have?"
"Ah ha," said Coreen. "That story's in the other book, and it's every bit as bad as you think."
Vicki's taxi pulled up to the corner near, but not too near, Mike's stakeout location. "We're here," the driver said.
"Coreen, I'll call you back," Vicki said. She hung up and paid the cab driver. She walked around two corners, every nerve on edge, and found Mike parked in a backstreet parking lot for a copy business. She slid into his passenger seat.
"Nothing so far," Mike told her.
"Mike, where is Henry?" Vicki asked, peering at the little tracking screen. "I'm calling this off."
"It was one thing when we thought it was the mob or some white slavery ring. But it's gotten—complicated. Again."
Mike rolled his eyes. "Oh God, what is it this time? Ghosts? Zombies?"
Vicki told him what Coreen found. "And Mary's gone missing. Her people are denying she even exists. I'm canceling our contract. Henry's safe from thugs, but he's got no special protection from—this stuff."
"Now, Vicki, wait. Will you hear me out? You're jumping into Tales from the Crypt when all you've got is a legend and a voice on the phone with a crazy tip. You don't even know for sure that this Mary is the woman you saw, let alone that she's not just a highly imaginative prankster."
The police radio crackled. " . . . lost contact. Can you confirm?"
"What's that?" Vicki asked, holding up a hand for quiet.
"Affirmative," said a different voice. "I've lost him, too. 213, do you copy?"
The small screen which had held a blue dot indicating Henry's location, was blank. Mike grabbed his radio. "This is 213. I copy. All units close in," he ordered. "I'm calling Broken Hook. Broken Hook." He reached to change the broadcast frequency. "Henry, do you hear me? Henry, answer me, dammit. Where are you?"
Vicki swore and pounded the dashboard as Mike started the car.
"Finally, we've got something," Mike said, pulling into the back street at hazardous speed.
Vicki gave him a glare. "You mean, finally something's got Henry."
Henry heard the footsteps and heartbeats behind him, but, since he hadn't heard them just moments before that, he was curious about where they'd come from so he decided to let them grab him. A rope net dropped over him and a second later someone shoved a towel soaked in some chemical over his face. He struggled for a moment, then went limp.
Three men dragged him like a vampire's meal into the deeper shadows of the alley side of a building. Just beyond the three walls enclosing a trash dumpster was a low door, nondescript and barely noticeable. Henry was carried through it like the day's catch, in the net, while the men spoke in a language he didn't know. The tiny passageway beyond the door led steeply down underground. The temperature rose sharply as they descended, and the air smelled of gas fires and yeast.
His captors carried him into a chamber with banks of glowing ovens on either side, unlocked a side door and dumped him inside. They followed and began disentangling him from the net. One man bound his ankles and wrists with duct tape while another affixed a new towel to his face with a strap; Henry was meant to stay drugged. A woman spoke to them in pleading tones from somewhere over Henry's right shoulder. They responded shortly in this other language, then left the room and locked the door.
Henry rolled onto his back as if he'd just fallen over. From under his cracked eyelids he could see the room. It was small and square, with a chair, a little table, and a mattress on the floor. The only other person there was the young woman who had watched him from the fire escape. She sat in the chair with her hands duct-taped in front of her.
It took little effort to scrape the towel from his face against the floor, and Henry sat up. The woman widened her eyes and glanced nervously at the door. "You're not drugged?" she said.
"Apparently not," Henry said. "Was that ammonia?"
The look she gave him was disbelieving. "My uncle uses it in his bakery," she said. "It made the others very sick." She continued to stare at him.
"Good thing I didn't breathe it, then." Henry shoved the towel into a corner with his taped hands. He smiled confidently at the woman. "I'm Henry. What's your name?"
"Mary," she said. "Are you a policeman?"
"Not exactly," Henry replied. He pulled out his electronics and peered at them. "I suppose these don't work from underground." He looked more keenly at her. "Why? Was there a policeman here?"
Mary looked distressed. "I—I can't say. I should yell, you know, and tell them you're not unconscious."
"Why?" Henry asked. "You're a prisoner, too."
"Not—they won't—I'm just being punished."
"What for?" Henry ripped his hands apart, easily shredding the duct tape, but leaving gray cuffs on his wrists. Mary gasped. Henry split the bonds on his feet too, with just the strength in his legs.
Mary began to cry. "I am in so much trouble," she said.
Henry was at her side in an instant, crouched comfortably beside her chair. "It will be all right, Mary, trust me. Where are we and what's going on?"
"No, I can't," she cried, rising to her feet. She rushed to the door with a cry in another language. In a twinkling Henry stood before her, blocking her way. Mary froze.
"You want to tell me everything," he said in a stronger voice. "You can trust me, and you know it will make you feel so much better to tell me."
Mary looked dazed as she yielded to Henry's persuasion.
"Now, why was I kidnapped?"
"They want to use you to balance the scales when they bring back old George's son." Mary spoke in a rush. "Someone has to die, you see. A life for a life. In the old days it was someone in the family, another young man, but now this ngagspa, this sorcerer, has found a way to make it other people. He's brought back my two brothers. I never knew them. They were killed years ago in Tibet. Now everyone wants their sons back. But another man close to the same age has to die, for each one returned."
"They might be disappointed to try using me," Henry said.
"Do you—believe me?" Mary asked.
"Of course I do," Henry said with his most winning smile. "You're too pretty to lie." Henry pressed his ear against the door for a moment.
"But," Mary blinked, "that's what the sorcerer said. I saw you last night, walking where his men could easily get you here, but he said you weren't suitable."
"Who is the sorcerer?"
"His name is Dr. Jokssari."
"Ah, yes. And what does your uncle have to do with him?"
"I don't know why I'm telling you this," Mary wondered.
Henry met her eyes and said deliberately, "But you are telling me."
"Yes," she said, yielding again. "My uncle owns this bakery with these underground ovens, right beneath the street. That passage you came through used to be a vent, but we don't use coal anymore, they're all gas ovens and they vent somewhere else. So my uncle lets the sorcerer's men use this place to take men off the street."
"And then what happens to them?"
"Somehow Dr. Jokssari makes sure when we wish on the jewel that these men are taken instead of young men from our families. I suppose he does some magic with them."
"And the jewel kills them."
Mary nodded. "If you cause trouble you'll be next. You'll go for Old George's son the monk who the Chinese worked to death. Old George sold everything he had to pay for it."
Henry wrinkled his nose. "Jokssari does this for money?"
"Oh, yes. My uncle gets a cut."
Henry took her wrists and ripped the duct tape between them. He had more difficulty than he had had with his own, since her wrists couldn't take the stress his own could.
"Why do their bodies show up near the ROM?"
"Because that's where the jewel is. It's in the exhibit. The sons appear in their families' homes. My brothers—my brothers have no souls anymore but my parents don't care." She shook her head, released from Henry's influence as he turned toward the door. "What are you going to do?" she asked, looking at her freed wrists in amazement.
"I'm not going to wait to be part of some magic ceremony. We're going through this door." Henry turned back to her, spotted her coat on the back of the chair and went to fetch it. She watched with wide eyes as he put her coat on her and smoothed her long hair out from under the collar. Then he wiped a tear from her face and left his hand there.
Speaking gently he said, "Mary, listen to me. As soon as we're out, you go straight up to the street. It should be crawling with police about now. I'll come if I can, but you go anyway. I may have to stay and deal with the sorcerer's men. Understand?"
Mary nodded, new tears on her cheeks. "I've betrayed my family," she said.
"Believe me," Henry said, "there are worse things."
Mike, Vicki and a dozen other police officers converged on the alley. Mike hardly had to give the order. "Look everywhere. Under everything. And knock on every door. Stay together!"
"Mike, look." Vicki pointed. "It's that bakery." She clenched her jaw. "Gyaltsen better be home this time." His raincoat flapping around his legs, Mike trotted to catch up to her.
Henry kicked the door down, not hiding the face of his vampire nature as he used his superhuman strength. The door slammed into the dirt floor with enough force to make dust rise in a cloud from the floor.
He stood in a room sweltering with the heat leaking from banks of glowing ovens, each with a red digital display. To his left were the steep narrow stairs he'd been brought down and to his right the startled faces of Tsepon Gyaltsen and three other Tibetan men. Two of the men made warding gestures with their hands, but Henry had them both incapacitated before they recovered from the shock of seeing him. The third man swung a heavy iron bar at him with great force, but Henry, faster than a human, ducked it and tackled the man, slamming his head against the metal door of an oven.
Henry turned to the fourth man, Gyaltsen, who stood with his back pressed to the wall, as far from Henry as he could get. Beside him, on the floor, two more men lay in a heap, hands and feet duct-taped together, and towels stinking of ammonia strapped across their faces.
"What have you done?" Henry demanded, his darker voice filling the room. Behind him Mary moved, not leaving as he had ordered her to, but he didn't turn his face toward her. He stepped to the bound men and started removing the towels from their faces.
"What are you?" Gyaltsen asked, making similar protective motions with his hands. "A demon?"
"You're the demon here," Henry said, starting on the duct-taped bonds. "You and Jokssari. This is murder. And bringing back the dead? It's an abomination."
"So you know we can bring back the dead," Gyaltsen said in a shaking voice "Your dead. There must be someone you've lost, someone you'd give anything to see again. A man. A friend, a brother. Stand with us and you'll have him again, I swear it by all my ancestors. There must be someone whose loss meant the end of your world."
"Dozens," Henry said. "And they all have their reward in Paradise. Only evil would tear them back from that." He turned, glaring at Gyaltsen, curling his lips back from his fangs.
"No, no . . ." Gyaltsen cried, features gone slack with terror. Henry moved toward him.
"Leave him alone," Mary yelled. Henry turned to her, but not fast enough to see the weighted net she hurled at him. It wrapped him again as it had on the street, but this time he had nothing to gain by pretending it could hold him. He ripped it apart.
But in the few seconds it took him to free himself, Mary and her uncle acted. Mary rushed by Henry to stand with Gyaltsen. "Not that way," she said. "There are police."
Still shaking, Gyaltsen pulled an electronic device out of his coat pocket and pressed some buttons. Then he and Mary fled through another door—this one ordinary sized—that was oriented toward the bakery building.
Henry freed himself just as the door closed behind them, but he hesitated. Every digital readout on the ovens had cleared and then reset to the number ten. Now they were counting down to zero. Henry turned back as fast as he could, to pick up the unconscious men. Gas hissed into the room as the readouts reached two.
Henry had managed to haul the two men to the door, when the displays reached zero and the entire chamber beneath the alley blew up.
In the city above, the alley exploded, sending policemen and asphalt rubble flying into walls. A column of burning gas lit the whole area.
Mohadevan got the call to expect an influx of bodies to the morgue, and she turned on the morgue television. The officer who had called her believed that none of the dead were police, but couldn't be sure. The explosion had happened right under the feet of a major departmental operation.
The TV news eventually made it clear that any dead would be found under the rubble, and that recovery was delayed by the need for Enbridge Gas to deal with their ruptured lines. The injured above ground were going to the hospital, and no officers' conditions were reported as being life-threatening. Leaving instructions to be called as soon as anyone knew more, she went home.
She was back at work in the late afternoon when the bodies began to arrive. They were trundled in on gurneys, still encased in black body bags. She directed them to the back laboratory, where they were lined up like a batch of burned loaves out of the oven. She and her staff went to work on them, photographing and autopsying as time allowed as they came in. They were all men: three Asian and three Caucasian.
She unzipped the third bag herself, and froze, looking at the young man's face. Two of her staff members joined her to assist, but she shooed them away, telling them to begin on another body. She stared a moment longer, then slowly, thoughtfully, she zipped the body bag back up, and went to the phone.
"This is Vicki," said the voice on the phone, less crisply than usual.
"Vicki, I'm so glad I reached you. This is Rajani. I am so sorry. Did you know your partner has arrived here at the morgue?"
"Henry? Thank God. Would you put him on?"
"Wait, what time is it? Oh, shit."
"Vicki, are you all right? Where are you?"
"I'm still at the hospital." She sounded distracted, but then her tone turned focused. "Rajani, please, this is very important. Was—is—is Henry burned?"
"No, despite the gas explosion, none of the men I've seen are very burned. Vicki, were you and Henry there? I didn't realize that. I'm very sorry."
"Oh God. I've been out of it all day. How could I—have you told anyone who he is?"
"Not yet, but, of course—"
"Don't. Please, don't. You haven't—autopsied him, have you?" Her tone held dread.
"No." Mohadevan glanced around the room. None of her staff were within hearing range of her desk. "Vicki, remember, this is me? What's going on?"
Vicki's sigh of relief was audible over the phone. "I'm coming down. I'll be there as soon as I can get out of here. Rajani, I can't explain right now, but please trust me. Don't tell anyone who he is, don't process him at all, just put him straight into a locker. Please, please, please. I can't tell you how important this is. Just for the afternoon. Will you do it?"
"I can't delay this any longer than the afternoon."
"You won't have to. I swear it."
Mohadevan was silent for a moment. "I will do it," she said.
"Thank you," Vicki said fervently.
As the earth turned, showing a new face to the sun and letting its other half rest from the bright rays, the city of Toronto slid across the terminator, into shadow. The heart of Henry Fitzroy beat once, then after a long pause, beat again. As his heart rate increased, he took one breath of close, stale air, smelling of chemicals and death. After a few more small breaths and one deep, he woke.
And tried not to panic. This was not rubble he could hope to eventually dig out of, this was a coffin, a tomb. The air was bad; he stopped breathing but his heart beat wildly with fear. He'd been buried "alive" before, and not just after his official death. It was not suffocation he feared; it was worse—the slow, agonizing death from Hunger, and the raving madness that would come before. Desperate to do something, he struggled against the plastic shroud he was in.
He found a zipper. As he worked it down from its back side, questions—logical, reasonable questions—took control of his thoughts, vying with the panic. Shrouds don't have zippers, so what was he in? He took another breath, this time with the outside of the plastic pressed to his nostrils. Many scents, but one belonged to Rajani Mohadevan. He tried to still himself enough to listen to his surroundings, but his racing heartbeat was too loud.
Then his dark night of fear split open to the rays of joy. He heard Vicki's voice, and very near his head. His world snapped back to normal.
"Henry? Henry, are you awake?" She sounded worried.
Henry lunged unthinkingly toward her voice, and hit his head. He barely stifled the cry he wanted to give her, stifled it because he still couldn't be sure of their situation. What came out was a very un-vampirelike gulp. He forced himself to calm and answer her.
"Vicki," he said, hoarsely, "get me out of here." He took a breath in order to speak louder, but a pneumatic hiss interrupted him, and then fluorescent light hit his eyes. He made out Vicki's face below the opening, and behind her, her large eyes larger than ever, the face of Dr. Mohadevan.
Were there other people in the morgue? Henry didn't care. He launched himself out of the locker, less gracefully than he would have liked, because the lower half of his body was still tangled in a body bag. Vicki spared him the indignity of sprawling on the floor; she caught him by the upper body, and they both staggered together.
For one glorious moment, Vicki held him. Henry almost kissed her, but he remembered that his history with kissing women who freed him from prison was not good, and the memory was enough to cause him to quickly recover his balance. Vicki let him go.
One side of her head was bandaged. On the other side her dirty blonde hair was pulled into its usual ponytail, this one lying on the nape of her neck instead of at its usual jaunty angle. There were dark bruises under her eyes, but she wore a relieved smile. She had never looked more beautiful to him.
"Warrior princess," he said.
No, now she had never looked more beautiful to him. Flustered. "You're welcome," she said. "You all right?"
He smiled. "Better now."
They both turned to face Mohadevan. The room was empty of other people.
"I told her the truth," Vicki said. At Henry's look she added, "About the drug you took to simulate death. As part of our operation."
"I see," Henry said. "I thought we were keeping that to ourselves."
"Well, I had to tell somebody something, since you were going to wake up."
Mohadevan had been watching them both closely. "Interestingly, Vicki tells me she doesn't remember the name of this amazing drug. It seems surprising to me that the two of you would so casually use such a thing without doing enough research into it to at least know its name. And what doctor would administer it to you? Perhaps, Henry, you remember the name of this drug you took?" The smile she gave him was clearly disbelieving.
Henry responded with his own most winning smile. "Of course I do. It was seeds of henbane and senega root in a decoction of foxglove, mixed with sweet wine and garlic. The same recipe Friar Lawrence gave to Juliet, though the exact proportions are my own, and a trade secret."
Mohadevan blinked. Vicki blinked.
Vicki recovered. "Well, we should be going," she said, as if it were time to leave a party.
Henry nodded. "I've got a lot to tell you," he said.
"No, I'm afraid no one's going anywhere," Mohadevan said genially. She nodded toward the laboratory door. "If you walk through that door you are a corpse walking through a room full of my staff." She slid the shelf in and closed the door of Henry's locker. "I can get you out of here privately, but first I want to hear what you have to tell Vicki. The two of you can just sit down over there."
Henry and Vicki exchanged glances. "Rajani," Vicki said, "how long can you keep your staff out of this room?"
"I'm the boss. They'll stay out as long as I tell them to. You. Sit."
Vicki shrugged and Henry followed her lead. They sat.
Henry told them almost everything that happened in the bakery oven chamber, including what Mary told him, but not explaining his own ability to free himself and Mary, and he claimed the ammonia didn't affect him because he held his breath, which was little more than the truth. Nowhere in his story did he mention taking a decoction of foxglove with henbane seeds, senega root, wine and garlic, but Mohadevan took it all in stoically.
Vicki shook her head when he was done. "You know, I'm no expert, but doesn't this all seem a little non-Buddhist? Killing people to bring people back from the dead?"
"Tibet is an ancient land," Mohadevan said, "like India. There are things there that are much older than Buddhism. And it's a land that's been scourged and traumatized recently. Who can say what might have been awakened?"
"You're taking this rather well," Vicki said. "Do you believe this is possible?"
Mohadevan smiled. "What I believe can change from day to day. And today," she looked at Henry, "is an Easter morning. What I do believe is that your Mr. Gyaltsen is responsible for the deaths of these five men in his bakery, at the very least. One of those men is Officer Evans, by the way. Did you know him?"
"No," Vicki said, but she and Mohadevan shared the moment of grim resolution that always accompanied mention of the active-duty death of a policeman.
"Can we go now?" Henry asked.
Mohadevan stood. "This way. There's a rear exit."
As they went through the door into a loading dock area beyond, Vicki paused. "Rajani, will you have any trouble explaining a missing body?"
"What body?" she answered, solemnly tearing up a paper form. "It happens all the time." The door closed.
As Vicki turned away from the building, she commented to Henry, "Am I the only one who finds that unnerving?"
"I find the whole place unnerving," he said. The cool night air eddied around them and the nearby traffic hummed as they walked down a loading ramp.
"Are you all right? Really?" Vicki asked. His hair was still salted with concrete dust and his nice clothing was in tatters.
Henry ran a hand through his hair. "I hate being buried alive. It's happened before." He took a deep breath of the night air, and turned to touch the bandage on her scalp. "I am so glad you were there. Are you all right?"
"Mike and I were both knocked out, but nothing worse."
He smiled into her eyes. "So, what do we do now? Summon a posse and arrest the bad guys?"
"Not anytime soon, I'm afraid," Vicki said. She gazed out at the busy street and moved them both into a stroll. "While everyone who had any idea what was going on was out of it, Gyaltsen and Jokssari rabbited. Jokssari took a mirror from the exhibit with him. Collection inventory reports say it had a clear jewel in the center on the back."
"What about Mary?"
"Gone too. What are you looking so pleased for?"
"If she's with them, we should be able to find them. I put the police transponder in her coat."
Vicki halted and turned to face him. "What? Henry!" Her face lit with excitement and the scent of the chase.
Henry tried, but failed, to look modest. "If she's, you know, wearing the coat."
The police closed in on the trio at a private boat dock on the lake. They were just in time to prevent them from using a large motorboat to escape across the U.S. border. Mike, one arm in a sling, oversaw their arrests, and Vicki rode along. She watched as Mike personally inserted a handcuffed Dr. Jokssari into the back of a squad car. Then he joined her where she stood by a marina shed, while the other officers finished a search of the boathouse.
"Did you get the mirror?" she asked.
Mike slid it from his pocket to hers. "I got it while the guys were admiring his skull collection."
Vicki grinned. "Ghouls."
Mike gave her a tight smile with a cock of his head. "Speaking of which, I notice Henry didn't care to come along. Is your new partner not interested in following a case through to the end?"
"He wanted some personal time."
"Personal time? What the Hell does that mean?"
Vicki shrugged. "It's personal."
"Okay, okay. I don't really know, but he was clobbered under the same explosion that killed five other guys. He didn't lose a lot of blood, luckily, so he healed. But, then . . ." She wobbled her head, then winced.
Mike looked aghast, then controlled his expression. "He has to go chomp on someone. So, right now, he's home in bed sucking on some . . . victim."
Vicki glared. "He doesn't harm anyone, Mike. Stop it."
"And you know that," he said, pointedly rubbing his neck.
"Haven't we finished this argument before? And didn't you lose the right to complain about his needs?"
Mike closed the mouth he'd been about to make further protests with, and dropped his arm from his neck. He scowled out over the lake. "What will you do with the jewel?"
"Henry knows a Rinpoche who might be able to neutralize it. Then it will be safe to give it back to the museum. You know, Henry broke this case for you. You get the collar and the points with Crowley. You are going to get him his digital identity, right?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll do what I can."
"Good. He wants a law enforcement certification. Say he completed a police academy in Regina, or something."
"Joking! I'm pulling your leg, Mike. Can't you tell anymore?"
Mike rolled his eyes. "It's time to get out of here."
The full moon feast was over at the Temple, and the celebrants had all taken their pot-luck dishes and gone home. The altar area, ornately festooned with incense burners, statues, wall-hangings, bells, gongs and other brass items, was still charged with the energy from the evening's chanting. An elderly priest with a shaved head in an orange robe and wide red sash placed the mirror, jewel side out, in the lap of a seated Buddha. Mary's parents strung colorful Tibetan prayer flags all along the low rail separating the altar area from the rows of chairs. Behind them, their sons sat listlessly. A few other friends and family took seats around them.
At the back of the room Vicki and Henry watched as the priest re-lit the candles and incense and began more low chanting. The Tibetan couple knelt on a rug near the altar and lifted spindle-held cylinders which they spun like rolling pins in their hands.
"What are they doing?" Vicki asked Henry, nodding toward Mary's parents.
"Prayers for a good reincarnation for the murdered men. Trying to make amends. They're not the first to do evil things out of love."
"Is there no way they can get their sons back? I mean—"
"Their souls? Vicki, no, don't even think it. Their sons are in a better place." Henry fingered the small cross he often wore at his wrist.
"You don't believe in reincarnation."
Vicki shrugged. "What do I know? I used to think I knew how things worked, but then I met a vampire."
Henry showed her his perfect teeth. "It doesn't mean everything you know is wrong, it just means there are even more things in Heaven and Earth . . ."
They both watched in silence for a while, as the hypnotic chanting and tinny sounds of small bells swelled.
Vicki said, "I can't believe you pulled Friar Lawrence's potion out of the air and got away with it."
Henry looked at her somberly. "Juliet drank that so she could leave everything she knew and be united with the only thing that mattered. She woke up alone in a tomb, too."
"I do know the story," Vicki said dryly. "And I looked it up. Friar Lawrence never says what was in that drink."
"No? It didn't make it into the First Folio, then. He said it in the performance I saw."
"Well, when Mohadevan notices it's not in there, you can explain that to her."
Henry shushed her with a finger to his lips.