The Eldritch Conspiracy

By: Cat Adams

(The Blood Singer Novels)



1

We were running out of time.

We’d crawled into the tunnels two hours ago, planning to be underground for only an hour. We’d planned to use the drug lord’s own ATVs—parked in the main tunnel—to haul ass across the border, arriving in the United States near Calexico. It wasn’t a great plan, but better than waiting for the cartel to tear apart the village looking for us.

But things had changed. Roving groups of guards had forced us into the side tunnels. Luis had assured me they would lead us to the same place and that the trip would only take a little longer. But we’d gotten turned around twice and now there was only an hour left before sunset.

“I need to rest, Celia. Please, can’t we stop and sit down for a second?”

Serena’s whisper made me flinch and I stole a moment to look at her face. She was nearly as pale as the vampires I feared would rise when night fell, and I didn’t doubt she was in a lot of pain. I eased some of my irritation by remembering what it had felt like to walk with a broken leg in a makeshift splint.

“We don’t have much time, Serena. We have got to get you to safety.” My voice was likewise a whisper. It wasn’t just that she was a nice person who deserved to get home to her family in Milwaukee, which she was—but she was the last employee of MagnaChem’s Mexico City plant and if she didn’t make it out alive, I didn’t get paid my full fee.

She let out a small noise that was part whimper and part swear. She stopped walking and I had to as well unless I planned to drag her. I couldn’t carry her—the tunnel simply wasn’t big enough. We had to crouch slightly to keep from banging our heads on the support beams, and two people barely fit, standing side by side. Raising a hand to push the sweaty hair from her face, Serena began to beg. “I know. I do. But just five minutes. Please. Don’t we have a charm left?”

Maria turned and looked at me with concern. We did have one. But there was a problem. “Yes, but we only have one Blackout charm left and we need it to cancel the noise of opening the tunnel exit. We’ll be vulnerable when we crawl out if anyone hears.”

Serena nodded and bit at her lip, then took a deep breath of stale air and stepped forward, leaning heavily on me, trying not to drag her shoe through the hard-packed dirt because noise echoed down here. I could tell she was mulling over the situation. I’d carried her in the main tunnel, when I thought we were going to use the ATVs. The main tunnels were smooth and wide, with concrete floors and excellent lighting. But this branch was almost claustrophobically narrow, the chiseled stone broken only occasionally by hand-fitted support beams of raw wood. The dim lighting was from low-wattage bulbs strung on wires along the ceiling, about half of which actually worked. The ventilation wasn’t great, either. I was sweating heavily enough that the blouse beneath my jacket was sticking to my body and my bra was soaked.

Going into the tunnels where local priests told us the vampires live had been crazy. But desperate people take insane risks. After six weeks in Mexico, “desperate” was definitely a word that described me.

Ahead of us, Luis raised his hand and stopped cold. I likewise stopped while he listened. If I weren’t so tired, I could have amped up my hearing. One of the nice things about being partially a vampire was having enhanced senses. But I was just so damned tired. It was all I could do to keep trudging along. Even my adrenaline rushes only brought me back to near normal.

After a long moment, Luis eased backward and lowered his voice to where he could barely be heard. “We’re nearing the main tunnel again, but there are guards. If we stay here for five minutes or so, they’ll pass and then we can reenter the good tunnel.”

Beside me, Serena let out a relieved breath. So, she would get her rest after all. I took a breath and helped her to a sitting position, making sure her leg remained as straight as possible. It was swelling badly but there wasn’t anything we could do until we got to a doctor or healer. I’d long ago expended every charm in my medkit on the others I’d already gotten to safety, ferrying them one at a time across the border.

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