The security alarm screamed.
Falling on hands and knees, Peter scrambled for the gun case and opened it. Tigris sped out of the office.
The siren made his head throb, but he managed to push the ammunition clip inside the handgun and climb to his feet. Shoulder banged doorjamb, and he spun catching the wall with one hand. Two quick gunshots from below, and he ducked. Every other step down the stairs sent a rush of pain up his leg. On the second floor landing, he spotted movement rushing out of the light at the bar and into the green glow of the exit sign.
He fell to one knee at the edge of the balcony beside the stairs leading down, and he held the pistol in both hands aiming as he scanned the restaurant. The high ground offered protection and a great view of the entire bottom floor from the stage, through the dining area, the bar, and to the entry where shattered glass covered the floor.
Movement, and Peter aimed towards the wall near the kitchen door. Creeping along the wall, Tigris held a fire extinguisher like a club. Peter aimed ahead of her at the open kitchen door. He thought he heard something crash inside the kitchen. The screeching alarm pounded into his head.
A figure emerged from the kitchen, and Tigris swung the fire extinguisher. The intruder ducked into a roll, and a book slipped from his grasp sliding across the floor. Peter nearly squeezed the trigger, but Tigris followed closely making the shot risky. The intruder snatched the book and scrambled away from the swinging fire extinguisher. Tigris moved like a whirlwind wielding the canister, but the thief sped away and melted into the shadows. Nothing had passed through the front door; the thief had disappeared.
Pointing his gun towards the ceiling, Peter descended the stairs. All Peter could think about was the composition book from Steve Reynolds. That had to be what the thief had taken.
“Vasir,” said Tigris, growling.
“The bird that got away.”
Rushing into the kitchen, Peter went straight to the freezer. He threw the door open and his heart sank.
The canister was gone.
The alarm fell silent.
Tigris padded through the kitchen.
“That thief stole the canister,” said Peter. He hadn’t given the thing all that much thought, and now that it was gone, he felt bad about not doing something sooner. If it was worth the trouble of stealing, it must hold some value.
Screwing up her face, Tiger showed him her confused look.
“The one from your Steve Reynolds,” said Peter, “along with his notebook full of chemistry.”
“What was in the canister?” asked Tiger.
“Two bags of blood and a serum of some sort,” said Peter. He tried explaining the nearly clear solution, the bubbles, but he hadn’t examined it closely.
“Vampire ice,” said Tiger. Eyes narrowing, her expression turned dark. “Only thing worth stealing.”
“What is vampire ice?”
She opened her mouth wide and tapped her finger on her fang.
“A venom?” He stared at her fangs imagining venom shooting into a victim like a snake bite. “Are you trying to tell me you’re all venomous?”
Tiger shook her head. “No, it’s rare.”
Peter couldn’t imagine why Steve Reynolds had left him Itoril venom, or what it would do for Kandice Knight. Maybe it was something else, a special recipe. That would explain the chemistry in the notebook. Whatever it was, exactly, he could understand its value. Anything rare, potent, or desirable was worth stealing.
“But how would this ice thief know about the canister or the notebook?”
“Boss Peter,” said Tiger, “one of your employees squealed like a piggy.”