I was wrong about the time it would take me to get to the Night Life building. I made it in 8 instead of 10. A new best. The fate of my home at stake probably had something to do with it. The doors to the elevator hadn’t opened fully when a hand reached in and grabbed me and tugged me down the hall. “Let’s go.” He said.
But it wasn’t Ant’s voice. Ryan was back. Did that mean Cari was back? Was this war? Shit!
Ryan chuckled, “Calm the fuck down man. Cari isn’t here. Ant came and got me as an emissary for Il Cane. More clout this way since I can speak for her in all matters. Where as the son is not linked and all that.”
I shook my head, “So you are being compelled?”
“To to them it looks that way. What human ever obeys a vampire of their own free will?” Ryan asked.
“They don’t know Cari’s herd very well.” I said flatly as Ryan tugged me into a dark room.
He wrapped something around my eyes. “We can’t have you puking your guts out when we land. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and put your faith in Ant. Trust the shadows.”
“You are telling me this now? After five years?” I asked.
“Ant thinks it’s amusing that the big bad Mors Praetor gets sick in the shadows. But today is not a time for weakness. You must be strong.” I could hear the amusement in Ryan’s voice. He thought it was funny too.
“Tell me why this is so different than usual?” I asked. “I’m always saving someone or another when I ask favors.”
Ant answered from the farthest corner. “Because, this time it isn’t for an individual. It’s not even for the supernatural. This time Nox, it’s official Clandestine Providence business.”
“Still no different.” I shrugged.
Ant chuckled at me like I was some naive kid. I guess to him I was. He was eight hundred and some odd years old I was still a baby compared to him. “You’ll understand one day. But it doesn’t matter now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and trust me.”
“For the record, Ant. I always trust you.” I did as he instructed and closed my eyes and took a deep breathe and thought about trusting Ant while we stepped into the shadows. He was my guide and my anchor. And for some reason I felt something click inside, like I felt Ant in a whole new way.
We emerged on the other side of the shadows and I expected my stomach to lurch but nothing happened as I took the blindfold off. I glared at Ant and chucked the blindfold at him. He gave me a sideways grin in apology catching the offending piece of cloth in his hand.. He wasn’t sorry but he was guilty of exactly what I was accusing him off. “What was that for?” I asked
Ant grinned at me playfully, “It makes you look foolish.” But his smile vanished and he got serious, “But it was there to make sure you kept your eyes closed.”
I nodded. I guess that was fair. It was all about perceived strength. I asked, “Where are we?”
“I brought us down into the heart of the tunnels.” Ant said. Ryan took up position on my side and Ant on the other.
“I thought you were emissary here.”
Ryan grinned, “I’m just proof.”
I sighed. They were laying something apparently so big at my feet and they laughed at me in the process.
Ant chuckled, “We aren’t laughing at you, Nox. Just remembering what it is like to be young.”
“And naive.” I added.
There was a brisk breeze that I knew was a vampire moving faster than my eye could see. “You think that frightens me?” I asked.
There was no answer.
More speeding sounds emerged from the shadows and coalesced into dark forms in the shadows around us. I asked Ant, “I thought cursed vampires followed the myths.”
“Isn’t speed one of them?” He asked and I sighed.
“I guess.” I said as I waited for the theatrics to display. Berenstain was a famous actor. People said he was a vampire. He never aged, he was pale and he only filmed at night. All true, but Bernstein denied it all publicly destroying any hope that he was such a fictional creature, and proving it by standing in a shaft of sunlight with the help of SPF one million and a keen magic spell.
I grew tired of the charade so I wove a ball of light that lit the tunnel intersection we were standing in. The vampires winced from the light though they didn’t burn. Some of them took a few steps closer to look at the glowing orb. For those who were curious I wove small orbs and smiled, “They won’t hurt you, you can touch them.” I said.
I watched as the cursed vampires touched the glowing orbs like they were tender babies. Some of them probably hadn’t seen light in centuries.
“Neat trick,” a familiar voice echoed from shadows outside the reach of my light.
“I’m sorry. But I tire of the games, lives are at stake.”
“Lives are always at stake when you come down here.” Bernstein’s voice echoed in the chamber.
“I’m only hear to ask that you don’t kill the Venatori who come down into your home to look for bombs that a dragon has placed.”
When I said dragon there was near unanimous hiss from the surrounding vampires. “Why should we agree.”
“If the dragons expose the supernatural to the world, then you will be exposed and every man who ever thought to be a vampire hunter will hunt you down.” I said. It was only a half truth.
Bernstein laughed. “Yes and the Venatori will be impressed for all the deaths they’ve caused.”
“Vampires have no rights in human lands. Venatori either. It would be to the slaughter house for all of us. They don’t know how to contain us anymore than the Venatori know how to contain us. But he’s planting bombs in your home. He’ll disrupt not only the human world but every soul in this city. Your power, your water, your homes will come under scrutiny.”
“And Il Cane sends the dynamic duo as reinforcements?”
I shrugged. “They are here only to show you the peril we are all in.”
“So they won’t kill us if we kill you?” At the suggestion the entire room took a single step closer.
“I don’t know if they will or not. But don’t think I’m so easily killed.”
But Bernstein didn’t take to heart what I’d said. With a flick of his hand he converged on me. Their vampire speed made them just blurs to my eyes. But I didn’t need to see them or need to do much more than think what I wanted. Before they were on top of me I sent out a blast of air around the three of us and knocked every vampire back the way they came.
They lay on the ground incapacitated, some holding their stomachs and others cradling their heads. “Next time, I won’t be so gentle and it will be laced with fire. Vampires burn rather easily.”
With another flick of his wrist all the vampires were gone and the russian actor stepped into my lights. “You will forgive the games.”
I shrugged. “If you promise not to hurt the Venatori who come looking for the bombs.”
He nodded. “I will do one better, I will send out my people into the far reaches and scour the earth for these bombs.”
“I have a map of what I assume are the locations.” At least some of them anyway.
“That would be most helpful.” He handed me a small device and as I took it I realized it was a cell phone.
“Even the vampires are more tech savvy than the Venatori.” I sent the vampire my contact information and the maps that Sage had given me. “You can distributed them as necessary.”
“And if we find this dragon before you?” Bernstein asked.
“I’d appreciate it if you kept him alive long enough for me to ask him if there is anything else I should know.”
I shrugged. “He’s violating your treaties with the supernatural creatures. He’s yours. Who am I to interfere.”
Bernstein looked at me and said, “Mors Praetor.”
“That gives me carte blanche on anything I want?” I asked.
“You are Justice and Death. You are the one we come to when there is conflict. Or at least to Il Cane to mediate for us to you.”
“We’ll discuss it when we have him then.” I said. Which seemed to be enough for the vampire.
He blinked out and whispered in the echoes of the chamber, “I will be in touch.”
Ryan chuckled. “That went well, where to Nox?”