It doesn’t take long for Nijmege to elicit the assistance from the man who originally murdered the Sweet Butcher hundreds of years ago.
“You heard me,” Bertrada Nijmege’s voice literally snarled over the phone.
His brain stuttered to a halt, and the world seemed to wave before his eyes. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, hardly aware of his surroundings, the birdsong outside, or the warm breeze floating in from the open veranda windows.
“Well?” Nijmege demanded.
The words jumpstarted his thought processes again. He took a deep breath, only then realizing he’d stopped breathing at the news. “Are you sure?”
She snorted over the phone line. “Of course not, Valmont. That’s why I’m calling you. Lionel might be content to let things ride until the locals can confirm her status, but I’m not.”
Valmont realized his hands were shaking, and he made a fist of the one not holding the phone. His knees trembled, and he took two steps to the nearest chair, sinking into it. “What do you want?” He knew what she’d say before she responded.
“I want you to go to Seattle and find her.”
His shoulders sagged. He stared at his sandaled feet, the terra cotta tiles of the floor, wincing at the reflection of early morning sunlight from the veranda. “The Prophecy isn’t true, Bertrada. She can’t come back.”
There was a long silence. “When has Mahar ever been wrong?”
He had no argument to that. Though the oracle had only prophesied a half dozen things in her long life, all had come to pass. Except this one. “And when I do find her?”
“If she is who we think she is, bring her to me.” There was an oily tone of satisfaction in Bertrada’s voice, the sound of potential debts being paid. “I’ll take it from there.”
Valmont hung up without responding. He straightened in the chair, bringing his eyes up to stare unseeing at his surroundings.
Ever since Mahar had prophesied Elisibet’s return, he’d waited. Just after the assassination, self-loathing had driven him to the bottle, driven him to the slow suicide of alcohol and drugs. Eventually he might have gotten far enough along to take his life in his own hands, but Mahar had dashed that. She’d said that Ninsumgal Elisibet Vassilas would return someday, reborn to create more chaos and confusion, to destroy her people even as she reunited them. Valmont had set aside the bottle then, set it aside to wait for the time when Elisibet returned to the world.
He had killed her once. He’d do it again if it came down to it.
Putting aside a sudden desire for a drink, he pushed to his feet. Time to pack.