My father wasn’t particularly difficult for me to find. There was a…I suppose one could call it a psychic bond, between us. There was a similar bond between my siblings and I, though they were of different mothers we all shared the same father. That was the way of half-blood siblings. You could only share the one parent, and by and large, if there were siblings at all, it was a father who bore the damned blood.
Twins were possible, I suppose, of a vampiric mother. I’d never seen it happen, but that didn’t exclude it. There were lots of things I’d never seen happen that I knew to be true. Like that headless chicken that lived until it choked to death. I’d never seen it, but it was true nonetheless.
I had to focus to capture the feeling of the bond. Really, if I was more careful in its cultivation, I’d have an early warning system against my father, but I was always lazy about the powers of my vampiric half I didn’t use day to day. Daddy hated that about me.
He had made his home in a downtown hotel. He was ever so predictable. I found his room with little trouble. Aramis opened the door with a confused smile on his face.
“This is most unexpected, Caspian.” He sniffed. “Surely, though, you could have showered first?”
“Fuck off. I’m here to talk.”
He raised his manicured eyebrows. “Ah. This should be entertaining then. Do come in.”
Daddy was in the suite’s open sitting room. It was very modern, just his taste.
“Caspian, my dear boy. Have you at last decided to join us?” He held a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
“I’m here because there is a second master vampire in Chicago, and I prefer it not become a battleground.”
He took a puff of the cigarette. “Really? I suppose you’ve no other choice now that Mulligan won’t work for you.”
I gritted my teeth.
“He called me, of course. He was quite concerned about my baby boy.” Daddy put out the cigarette and set down the glass before rising to his feet. “You are quite correct, Caspian. There is another master in the area. I fear he followed me here. You may remember him from when you were a boy. Jonah Swift.”
I felt like I’d been dunked in ice water.
“By the look on your face,” Aramis said, “I take it you remember him.”
“How could I forget?” I sat down in the nearest chair. “Fucking, Jonah Swift.”
“Language, Caspian,” Daddy scolded.
I rolled my eyes. “I think we have bigger things to worry about than my language. If it is Jonah Swift—I can’t take him on my own. Hell, you can’t even take him on your own.” I looked at my father. “Or you would have, a long time ago.” I switched to Bulgarian, my mother tongue. I’d always found it easier. That was half stubbornness on my part and part simple difficulty. Learning new languages always took me twice as long as any of my siblings.
Daddy shrugged. “That is true.” He sighed. “That is a man I would gladly eviscerate.”
Aramis looked at me. “It would take more than one master vampire to kill Jonah Swift.” He looked to our father. “It has been tried before.”
“Yes,” Daddy said. “I recall it quite clearly.”
“Where is Briony?” I asked.
“Switzerland,” Aramis said. “Placed in the care of Lady Anne.”
Briony, my dear sister. She I still loved, in spite of her choice to become full-fledged. It hadn’t been much of a choice in truth. After what had been done, she would not have survived any other way. I had been lucky. Not hurt nearly as bad, I hadn’t been forced to make that choice on that day.
“Jonah will not let us be in this place,” Daddy said. “We have avoided confrontation in the past, but I do not see that happening here.”
“It’s far past time he paid for his crimes,” Aramis said. “Of that there is no doubt.”
My father nodded. “The how is going to cause difficulty. He is some two hundred years my senior in mastery, even with you and the others at my side, I do not know that we can defeat Swift and his entourage.”
Vampires masters could be anywhere from two hundred years in age and up. It was not age that determined a master vampire, but actions. You could kill another master vampire and take the power of their blood, or drink from a master of certain age. Half-bloods could achieve master of a sort, but
the how was a mystery to me.
“We could ask for help,” Aramis said. “Perhaps Caspian could take the step. As a full blood, you would be far better suited to killing Swift.”
“I will not.”
“Not even to kill Jonah Swift?” Aramis leaned over me and touched my shoulder. There was a scar there covered by shirt. “After what he did to Briony? After what he did to you?”
“I want him dead, yes. But I will not sacrifice my humanity to do that.”
“I forgot how pompous you could be,” Aramis said. “Such a bleeding heart in you.”
He grabbed me by the hair and jerked me up out of the seat. “Have care, brother. I am not as fond of you as Father is.”
“Put your brother down, Aramis.”
He obeyed. I fell to the floor and clipped my head on the coffee table. The blood dripped down my forehead and onto the plush white carpeting. The smell made Aramis’ eyes flash gold. My father leapt forward and picked me up. He licked the blood off my forehead and then kissed the wound.
“Aramis, don’t pick on your baby brother.”
Aramis rolled his eyes and walked away, muttering under his breath about favoritism. Daddy looked me in the eyes. “You have always been so stubborn my son. It’s a wonderful trait, you got it from your mother.” He pulled a vial of red tinged oil from his breast coat pocket. “Your mother who gave her life for you. A gift you should not waste.”
The fluid contained the powdered remnants of my mother’s heart. The only thing that could turn a half-blood, into a full blood, the heart of their human parent. It was a choice, however, and not something that could be forced. You had to want it, and I did not. Otherwise, Daddy would have just shoved the stuff down my throat centuries ago and had done with it.
“I can’t.” I shook my head. “I can’t.”
“You’re afraid of changing, I know that but it is not so great a change as you think. Do you not drink of mortals? Do you not require blood? It is not so much a difference.”
“Except I do not need to kill to live.” I met his eyes. “I can walk in the sun. I can eat and drink and be…human. I can’t give that up. You’ve forgotten what it’s like.”
“Perhaps that is true.” He slid the vial back into his pocket. “Know now, if Jonah Swift comes for you again, he will kill you.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I somehow doubt that, Caspian.” He sighed and backed away from me. “I do not wish to see my children in pain, Caspian. I don’t want you to get hurt. Swift will hurt you. You know that.”
“I’m stronger than I was then. I’ll survive.”
“I dearly hope so. Meanwhile, take this.” He handed me a sleek silver cellular phone. “My number is programmed in, as is Aramis.”
I took the phone. For the first time in a very long time I felt—I don’t know. A sense of family? Whatever was between us, there was one thing we always agreed on. Jonah Swift deserved to die. He was a twisted, evil creature. The worst sort of vampire. The sort I put down without reservation or secondary consideration.
Except this vampire was so much more powerful than anyone I knew.
“I should go,” I said. “I’m sure they’re missing me at work.”
“Work. Of course.” Daddy nodded. “Go on then.” He paused and then approached me, placing a hand on my face. “I am pleased you came to see me, Caspian. I have missed you.”
I bet. I nodded. “I’m doing this for Briony.”
We parted. I left the hotel feeling very odd indeed. An amicable meeting such as this had not occurred in decades. Daddy and Aramis and I did have this one thing we could always agree on. What happened to Briony, what happened to me. I knew Jonah was the reason I hated vampires as much as
I did. I had hated them to some extent prior, but his actions compounded that hatred. He took my sister from me. He took the last shred of innocence from me.
He tore my family apart. Certainly Daddy and I never saw eye to eye on the whole issue of my going full blood, but we’d been close once. Sure, he wasn’t the best father. He had a tendency to bite me when I pissed him off and his idea of father son time was hunting prostitutes through the London fog, but there have been worse fathers.
Aramis wasn’t even a terrible brother, he was just the oldest and hated that I was the baby. I could understand that. It was pretty typical sibling rivalry. Briony used to be the glue, used to keep the peace. But now…now Briony was barely sane. She had constant care. I had not seen the Briony I knew in a very long time. I missed her, more than I would ever say.
My phone rang as I exited the elevator at the hotel lobby. “Wayland.”
“Where are you?” It was Raimes. He sounded pissed.
I considered for a moment what my answer should be. “I found a lead.”
“It’s generally advised that you work leads with your partner, rather than behind his back, Wayland.”
I shrugged before remembering I was on the phone. “Uh—sorry?”
“Right. Get your ass back here so we can go over the case. The inspector is very concerned.”
That was code for pissed off. “Be there soon.” I hung up and put the phone in my pocket. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. I was in uncharted waters here. Staying. Talking to my family. Trying to work together. It was like walking on Mars.
I made my way back to House Six warily. Knowing that Swift was in town made me more than a touch nervous. I wasn’t stupid, which meant I was smart enough to be terrified of Jonah Swift. I made it to the house without incident, but I couldn’t help feeling an itch between my shoulder blades.
Raimes was waiting for me when I arrived. It was starting to become a routine.
His polo shirt of choice today was sky blue and his slacks were tan. I noticed something out of place, however, as he strode up to me. The right sleeve of his shirt rode up and revealed the black of a tattoo on his arm. From the glimpse I received, I recognized it as the strokes of the Hebrew language.
They made up some part of a larger design that was hidden from view. All right, now I was most curious. Perhaps more curious than I had been in years. Raimes was a perplexing fellow.
“You are the worst partner I’ve ever had,” Raimes declared. “You must be proud.”
I raised my eyebrows and shrugged.
“Well, if you did have a lead, what is it?”
I considered for a very long moment. If I brought the Night Shift in on this, it was possible we had a chance to take Jonah Swift. They had many a resources. They took down Ulrik, and he was nothing to sneeze at. That had been accomplished with aid of magic, something vampires were incapable of commanding. With a spellcaster on our side, it was much more likely we could kill the bastard.
I took a deep breath, and made a choice I had not made in a very long time. “A name. Jonah Swift.” I looked Raimes in the eye. “Master vampire.”
Raimes raised his eyebrows. “You’re sure of this?”
“Well, that’s something then. I suppose we should check the archives, see if he has any known exploits?”
I nodded in response.
“Good. I’ll let them know we’re on the way, don’t go anywhere.”
“Okay.” I’d put some measure of faith into Raimes, I’d trusted him with Jonah’s name. Now…I hoped I wouldn’t regret it.
Spending six hours in a dusty basement looking through files with Tobias Raimes was…interesting. I hadn’t spent any real time in the man’s presence—while he was awake—to know all that much about him. I learned he liked his coffee black with a dash of nutmeg, that he chewed on his thumb knuckle while he was thinking and that he looked absolutely fetching with dust in his hair.
He was a tidy person though, he wore gloves while handling the more fragile documents while I mashed away on the ancient computer where some files had been transferred. I think that was part of Zebra-girl’s job.
I learned he liked Indian food, which was fine by me, when we ordered supper with the rest of the staff at House One. We took a break from the files to eat at a clear table outside the archives, I suppose getting curry on the files would have been bad.
“So,” Raimes said between bites. “Have you always been this chatty?”
I gave him a look, and made a second strange decision that day. “No.” Used to be a time when I was relatively gregarious.
I don’t know what prompted him, but he reached over and put a hand on my arm. “You lost someone, didn’t you?”
I considered carefully. Was I about to go three for three? I hadn’t confided in—anyone—in years. I didn’t want to on the surface, but my mouth opened and I said, “Yes.”
Raimes nodded. “Me too.”
We were a lot alike, I realized. We were both keeping secrets. We both had tattoos. I took a breath and decided to see if I could get any further information about my partner. There was no one else around.
“So, what are you?” I looked him in the eyes. I dropped my voice into the range for beguilement. The blood I’d transferred to him would still have some effect on him, that sort of thing lasted a couple weeks. Only the strength waned away.
He quirked an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“I’m a hunter.” I put a hand on him. “What are you?”
He blinked. “I…”
“Hey, you guys were like looking for a Jonah Swift, right?” Zebra-girl interrupted. Damn her.
“Yes,” Raimes replied.
“Here, I found this in the cold cases.” She plopped the dusty thing down. “You’re welcome.” She sauntered off, high heeled boots clicking against the concrete floor.
I slid the file toward me, pushing aside my dinner plate, and opened it up. There was an artist rendering of a familiar face right on top. “That’s him.”
Raimes took a peek. “He doesn’t look like much.”
“Looks, deceiving, etcetera.”
“Huh huh.” Raimes slid the picture out. “I’ll fax this to the houses, make sure everyone has a good look at him.”
I watched Raimes walk away and considered the possibilities. There weren’t all that many kinds of things that were resistant to the hypnotic gaze of a vampire. Raimes being human narrowed those possibilities down somewhat. He could have some fey blood, but typically there was a smell to that.
He could be wizard of some sort, but again, there was a smell to that. My instinct was that he had some sort of psychic ability. That could be any number of things, though.
I sighed and looked back at the file. Jonah Swift had passed through Chicago once in the eighteen-nineties. He’d racked up a body count of nine before disappearing. He would have gone to Italy after that. I swallowed. If he’d been stopped then…I’d still have my sister. The old anger at Jonah blossomed in my chest. I stood up and gripped the chair I’d sat in. The wooden top rail broke in my hands.
I looked down, somewhat surprised. I hadn’t done anything so demonstrative of my strength by accident in years. I sighed and took the chair out to a dumpster.
I wasn’t dumb enough to go out looking for Jonah Swift on my own. I wasn’t powerful enough. I don’t even think as a master I would be strong enough. As full blood master vampire? Perhaps Daddy and I could take him together if that was the case but master vampires were not known for working together. It’s why Aramis never attempted to make the progression, he wanted to stick around.
After Briony made her deathbed choice, Aramis had been as enraged as I was—once I recovered enough to know what had happened to her. Aramis had made his choice years before. Even as a full blood, Briony hadn’t been able to heal completely. She had her moments of lucidity, but my sister has I had known her was gone. My brother though, he wasn’t much changed from when we were kids. He was always seeking our father’s approval, always playing the role of eldest son.
Aramis even loved me, in his own way, I loved him too even. He was my brother and he
had made my slow recovery more bearable. Entertained me, brought me food. He’d been a real nursemaid. Partly, I think, to distract himself from our maddened, newly crossed sister locked in the cellar under Daddy’s supervision. I think he’d been happy I wasn’t broken like Briony.
While I pondered, I walked, and I realized as I took a break from pondering that I’d wandered out of the underground parking structure the dumpsters were located in, out onto the street. I took a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t thought about these things in a long time, I hadn’t wanted to think about them.
I don’t think any sane man wishes to dwell on those sorts of things.
I frowned when I caught the scent of something peculiar and looked about myself.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I spun around, fangs out in an instant as I recognized the scent.
“Hello, Caspian.” Jonah smiled and then grabbed me by the neck with one hand. “I’ve missed you.”