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New Orleans,

Above Aunt Sally’s Tavern & Bbq

March 28

Purcell fetched an ice-cold bottle of lemon water from the mini-fridge the SB had so thoughtfully provided for the surveillance team. Of course, since the surveillance team had been abruptly recalled to Alexandria, they no longer needed the mini-fridge or anything it contained. Purcell, on the other hand . . .

In a few days, a paperwork snafu would be discovered at HQ and agents would be reassigned to New Orleans, but by then Purcell would be long gone and they’d have two less subjects to watch—Heather Wallace and S.

Purcell returned to the canvas chair parked in front of the window and sat down again, breathing in the tangy aroma of barbeque wafting in from the tavern below. Twisting the cap off the bottle of water, he took a long, throat-chilling swallow of the icy lemon water as he returned his attention across the narrow street to the club with the black iron letters reading 666 above its green shuttered door.

There’d been no movement since Lucien De Noir had walked out the front door an hour or so earlier dressed in well-fitting black trousers and a black button-down shirt clearly tailored for his tall and powerful physique.

Looks like S’s sugar daddy has errands to run, Purcell mused. Wonder if it has anything to do with last night’s fire?

De Noir had folded himself in behind the wheel of a forest green and road-grimed SUV, then driven out of view.

Purcell scanned the club’s empty, ivy-looped balconies, with their baskets full of deep green–leaved ferns and white and purple little flowers hanging from the intricate scrolled ironwork. Heavy curtains masked each set of French doors and windows.

Snatches of conversation swarmed up from the tavern’s outside tables below, buzzing like bees against Purcell’s mind.

You been out there? Seen the destruction? It’s awful. They say it was terrorists.

What kinda terrorists blow up a goddamned cemetery? What would be the point?

Exactly. Maybe it was some kinda scientific project gone awry.

A scientific project in a cemetery? Run by who? George Romero?

I’m just saying. Witnesses talked about seeing a ring of blue fire.

Purcell found it interesting that wherever S went, disaster, ruin, and death seemed to follow like loyal hounds padding behind their pack leader.

The center in D.C., Seattle, Damascus, here. Enough to make a man wonder.

The club’s door swung open and Heather Wallace, dressed in hip-hugging black jeans and a short-sleeved moss green sweater, paused in the doorway, one hand on the handle, the other hand behind her. Purcell had no doubt that a gun was tucked into the back of the FBI agent’s jeans and that her fingers were wrapped around its grip

She studied the street, looking for stakeout vehicles, tourists with the wrong stride, anything or anyone out of place. Her gaze shifted up as she scanned the windows in the buildings on Purcell’s side of the street.

Purcell eased back from the window like a long afternoon shadow. He counted to ten, then chanced another glance.

Wallace had stepped outside and was being followed by a guy wearing faded jeans and a black wife-beater, with tribal-style tattoos black-inked along his neck and sculpted arms, his hair a horse’s mane of red braids. Together, they walked down the tourist-thronged sidewalk to a black and dented van parked against the curb.

Purcell identified the guy as Jack Cheramie, aka Black Bayou Jack, the drummer for Inferno.

Wallace unlocked the vehicle, slid the door open, and hopped inside. A moment later, she shoved a lidded carton with worn seams into the drummer’s muscled arms before jumping out of the van with a carton of her own.

Touching the rim of his networked Ray Bans, Purcell toggled the binocular lenses into place and studied the black marker–scrawled numbers on the cartons, knowing they and everything else he viewed was being transmitted to Díon.

WALLACE, SHANNON, CASE NO. 5123441.

Purcell frowned as he mentally scrolled through his knowledge of Wallace and her family. If he remembered right, her mother had been murdered some fifteen or twenty years ago. He wondered why Wallace was looking into the case file on her long-dead mother and how she happened to be in possession of the files in the first place.

Late afternoon/early evening sunshine sparked fire in Wallace’s red hair as she scanned the street again, across, down, and up. Purcell wondered if the FBI agent was always this careful or if she was feeling particularly paranoid today.

After a moment, Wallace slammed the van’s door shut, re-locked the vehicle with a tap of the smart key, then returned to the club with Cheramie.

Flipping the regular lenses back into place on his sunglasses, Purcell relaxed against the sun-heated canvas back of his chair, the warmth soaking in through his Hawaiian shirt. He plucked the bottle from the window sill and took another long sip of the lemon water.

Díon’s plan was simple.

We’re not going to kill S, we’re going to break him.

He planned to bash S’s sanity to little tiny pieces with several crowbars: Heather Wallace was one, a little girl named Violet Sullivan another, and the skin-peeling, angel-freeing lunatic priest named Matthew Moses was a third.

All Purcell needed to do was wait for the right moment, the perfect opportunity, to grab Heather Wallace, transport her to the Doucet-Bainbridge Sanitarium in Baton Rouge—S’s old stomping grounds—hand her over to angel-freeing Father Moses, then make sure S knew where to find her.

And wait for him to come claim his property.

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