I lead us to the subway station to get to our next destination. The train rattled into the platform and Walker didn’t say anything until the train started moving again. “How do you know when to not shoot first?”

I smiled as I sat across from him. “I don’t shoot at all unless they are trying to kill me. Most confrontations can be handled without violence. It’s easier if you have contacts of the species you are hunting to help out. I know all the Alpha’s here in the City. I may not have a personal number for them all, but I know who to contact in case I need it. Same goes for the vampire Prince’s. I don’t like Desmond much, but if necessary I can get him involved. But more importantly I know people even Desmond will listen too. Even the CCB has people you can call in every city in the world.”

“How the hell did you make those connections?”

I smiled. “I walked the streets. I listened. I asked questions. I made people trust me. The rogue wolf leader I knew from when I was a kid. I met the son of Il Cane shortly after I finished my first hunt. I met Desmond through a baby vampire who was ghouling his friends. Thankfully we got his friends clean, but Desmond taught the vamp to behave himself. I don’t approve of his methods, but he’s not dead dead so I’m okay with it. Dominick, I met through Liam who I hunted because he went nutso on a train while high on some drug or another and partially shifted.”

“Just don’t shoot first ask questions later. Ask the questions before you even get in that situation.” I recommended.

“How do you know we won’t get into a shooting match now?” Walker asked.

“I don’t. But the place we are going is a safe haven. Violence is kinda prohibited. The owners will shoot you no questions asked.”

Walker laughed. “Go figure.”

I stood up as the train came to a stop and we left the train car to head up to the street level. We were in the heart of vampire territory now. Vamps weren’t up yet, still daylight. Though there were a few daywalkers in New York, but not many. Most of the New World daywalkers lived in Sanctuary – a place you have to travel through the shadows to get to. But that’s what the rumors were and I’d never actually seen it. Though Ant said it was real – his father lived there. I believed Ant.

The building we walked up to was a typical residential apartment building. But most of the windows were blacked out. Vampire kiss’ tended to use this joint more often than other species. But it was safe for anyone who needed it.

The front door was unlocked and I pulled it open with ease. “Wow. Didn’t expect it to be easy to get in.” Walker said with awe in his voice.

“It’s a safe haven, can’t lock doors for that.” The hall way was empty but the room at the end of it was bustling. It was a common area for the building – a tv room and game room rolled into one. It reminded me of the common area in the dorms back at the Academy. But we didn’t go there. We took the stairs up to the third floor where our would be dragon accomplice was billing his cell phone too.

I knocked on the door. We waited. I knew we’d have to find the manager. Thankfully I had an in here too. “Let’s go find the proprietor of this lovely establishment.”

“You know way too many people.” Walker interjected as we walked down the stairs to the common room.

“I don’t really know that many people. I just know the right places for supernatural activity.”

“Does your father?”

“I have no idea. He hunts differently.”

“Shoot first, asked questions later?” Walker asked.

“Yep.” We stepped into the common room and nearly every eye in the room turned towards us. Only one pair didn’t. I headed for him.”

The man sat in a chair and stared out at blank wall. He looked lost in whatever thought he was having. I waited for him to acknowledge me standing next to him.

He asked, “What brings you Venatori to my humble abode?” He sounded like an old vampire in the creepy 50s films.

“Are you putting on a show for my friend?” I asked.

A small smile split his lips and his fangs showed through. “Maybe.”

“Don’t scare him too much, please.”

Armand stood up in that graceless motionless way that old vampires could sometimes. Armand blinked at us gray white eyes of the blind. He was blinded by holy water when he was a boy. He was the only daywalker I knew who didn’t live in Sanctuary. “What can I do for you my boy?”

“We need to get into an apartment on the third floor. The Dragon is using the occupant for some reason and I need to figure out what that is. Valentino has been delivering messages here from him.” I said.

“Follow me.” We followed.

Armand didn’t knock he didn’t use a key, his hand passed through the door and he unlocked it from the other side. It saves having to have a master key I supposed. I’d seen vampires do similar tricks before.

Walker stared in open amazement. “Damn.”

“It’s not so fun when you are whisked away in the shadows and wind up in Italy or something. Gut wrenching not cool.” I knew that from experience.

Armand smiled as he opened the door and let us walk inside. It was a studio apartment and it was clearly being used by someone making bombs. There was no hiding it. There were chemical bottles on the table with C-4 wrapped in paper bags waiting to be used. Even Armand gasped. “This is worse than violence on my premises.”

“Do you know who lives here?” Walker asked.

“Emerson. Gideon I think is his last name.” Armand said.

“So same guy who owns the phone.” Walker noted. “What’s he bombing though?” He walked over to the table and looked at the papers lying on it. Underneath all the printed bomb making instructions was a map of the city’s infrastructure. Walker cleared the map of obstruction and saw several x’s marked on it.

Armand was looking around the apartment. While we examined the map. I asked, “Do you remember what it was that Naomi said The Dragon was doing?”

“Ruining human society.” Walker said.

“No, she didn’t phrase it like that. She said something about money and power. What if she didn’t mean the kind of power that you get from taking over human society. These are x’s. I think are power substations. Blow one up and half of New York City goes out. Blow them all up and the City will be dark. It will cause chaos until they are repaired.”

Walker sighed, “We can’t hit all these locations quickly. We need more hunters.”

I nodded in agreement. “We need hunters who can remove bombs or at least contain them. Fire Magnus and fire squad members would likely be the best ones to get out here.” Walker put his finger on the nearest X. “This is the one I would do last. We should go here. We don’t know how long he’s been a this. But power hasn’t gone down yet.”

“I’d put them on a remote detonation and do them all at the same time.” I said.

Walker looked up at me. “Have you thought about blowing things up before?” He grinned.

“No. Nothing so mundane. I once planned a war scenario in our Strategy class in the Academy using New York City as a basis for my world take over. It’s what I did.”

Walker raised an eyebrow, “What else did you do?”

I smiled. “You think someone took my ideas?”

“No. Well maybe, but what else would you do to take over the world.”

“My goal wasn’t to take over the world. It was to disrupt it and by taking out every substation in New York City, the stock exchange would be down for an indeterminable amount of time and if not relocated quickly chaos would ensue. We were paired in teams. Another team took out all the power plants in the United States using coordinated attacks.” I grinned, “The teacher didn’t much like our plans. Said it was too far fetched. And this after the coordination of 9/11.”

Walker nodded. “She used your demonstrations as examples of excellent planning and great foresight two years after you took it.”

“So we go here before he takes out the substations then. Coordinated attacks.” Walker grinned.

“Alright.” I called Dae’lin and told her the plan. She sent teams of hunters out to the other locations marked on the map. We would stop this plot by The Dragon. But we needed to find him. And I didn’t think these little things were going to get us anywhere near him.

Armand stood outside in the hall and frowned at us as we stepped outside closing the door behind us. “I will need to alert the enforcers of this.”

I nodded. “I understand. Vampire territory. I need Emerson alive if possible. I don’t know if Tony will do as I ask since he’s breaking vampire law not dragon law at the moment. But please tell Tony things are bigger than just one dragon blowing things up. He knows how to find me if necessary.”

Armand nodded. “Il Suo Compagno will heed you Venatori, as do we wall when you ask, upon penalty of Del Figlio.”

“Cari send’s Ant to do her dirty work now?” I asked.

Armand laughed. “No. Il Cane gave New York City to Del Figlio. He is Master here.”

“Why did she do that?”

“I am nothing but a pawn in the night. The queen does not consult with the pawns. Her knight however makes peace with the Venatori. He was rewarded. The Prince is not happy Del Figlio rules now.”

“Desmond always thought he could control Cari. He’s never been successful in controlling her son.” I smiled. “Thank you for your assistance Armand. How can I repay you?”

Armand laughed. “Has my price ever changed young Venatori?”

I shook my head and offered Armand my left wrist. He took it in his hand and turned so he could feed easier. Before he bit, he chuckled, “One day it will be from your neck I feed.”

“Unlikely, Armand. The last vampire I let bite me there ended up in my bed. I do not think you swing that way.”

Armand laughed as he pierced my wrist with his fangs and sucked. The euphoria of a vampire’s bite was the reason that vampires had been romanticiszed throughout the centuries. They were killing machines, but the sex and the allure of the bite is what drew people to them. There were religions based around the bite of a vampire. The Eternal Chruch was the most famous.

I closed my eyes and thought of my blue eyed boy. I would not think of bedding Armand – not when I had something better to look forward too.

Armand withdraw from my wrist and was chuckling at me. “That was a first, my young Venatori.”

“What was?” I asked.

“A glimpse into your mind. You never share so deeply. Del Figlio would have blushed.”

“Ant can’t read my mind while he feeds Armand.”

“He was pretty in your mind. Those blue eyes, I’ve seen before in your head. Dreams or visions I couldn’t tell, but before today they were there.”

I frowned. “Are we even?”

Armand nodded. “We are. I love the magic in your veins. I can survive for days upon this one feeding.”

“Glad to be of service Armand.” I gave him a flourishing bow before heading for the stairs.

Walker fell in beside me with a curious look. But he didn’t start speaking until we were blocks away. “All those Italian names means Vampire heirarchy right?”

I nodded. “Il Cane is the Council’s Enforcer – Cari Giovanni. Il suo Campagno is her mate – Antonio Giovanni. Del Figlio is her son Anthony Giovanni. Ant is Master of New York City it seems while Desmond is Prince.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” Walker asked as we headed for the substation closest to Emerson’s apartment.

I shook my head. “No. And yes. They are technically the same thing. But you know there are three kinds of vampires right?” Walker nodded so I continued. “Cursed vampires don’t have masters or princes. They are usually fairly weak but they are usually the ones we hunt. They fall neither under the Council or the Elders. Masters of cities or regions are Primeval – Cari and now Ant being the exceptions to that rule. The Elders allowed them control of a region because they are Masters in their own right and while not technically living vampires they share their blood. A Prince is what the Council sets up for the embraced bloodlines. They are who are supposed to control the cities vampires. New York City is unique that it has all three types of vampires. Places like Denver and Dallas the Embraced vampires run out all other vampires. San Francisco and Detroit are run solely by Primeval vampires they let lesser vamps in they only kick out those that would hurt their power.”

“How do you know all this?” Walker asked. “It’s not things we learned in the Academy.”

I smiled. “I told you I listen. Everyone wants to talk about themselves. All you have to do is ask.”

“Why do you let vamps bite you? Aren’t you afraid you’ll die?” Walker asked.

“The first time I got bit yeah. It wasn’t a pleasant bite, it was meant to kill me but it didn’t. The second time I offered the son of Il Cane my blood as a peace offering. We ended up in bed despite his orientation. He can’t control the bite’s allure as well as he should because he is primeval, but not primeval. He like Cari is one of a kind. Ant was born a vampire, but because he was born of an Embraced vampire with all the bloodlines including primeval he can’t walk in the daylight, another of the side effects of his birth is he can’t control the power of his bite. And I don’t have a problem with men and when I pushed the seduction farther he went with it.”

Walker laughed. “So you turned a straight guy gay?”

I shook my head. “No. I believe the term is heteroflexible.”

Walker and I continued walking he sighed. “There is so much I don’t know.”

I laughed. “And why would you know anything about alternative ways of life unless you were curious about them.”

“How did you know?” Walker asked.

“That I like men?” I asked. Walker nodded. “My first hard on was for a guy. But my first sexual encounter was with a girl.”

I nodded towards the direction we needed to. “The substation is around that corner. Split up or stick together?” I asked.

Walker looked around. “We’ll find him faster if we split up. Meet up here in 20 if we can’t find him?”

“Sounds good.” I went left and Walker went right. We moved silently like we’d been trained.

The Last Phoenix (in order)