The voice on the other end said, “Yes, sir,” again with the same, precise intonation he’d used before. It was Florin Ablu. How long ago had Vladislav hired his family? Perhaps 300 years ago. Maybe a little longer.
As Vladislav came to that conclusion, Florin added, “Sir, do you wish me to assign this to your children? Earlier you said they should stay out of the public eye for fifty years, but I believe that Maria and Alexandru regularly feed on a number of the Nine’s employees.”
“All of my children have been ordered to cultivate useful sources in the world. I know I said they should avoid attention, but this is necessary. Make it clear to all of them that I want to know everything and if they balk, tell them that in this matter, you speak with my voice. Is that clear?”
“Yes, my lord,” Florin talked quickly, his voice higher than normal. “I will tell them to gather everything they can and I will contact every one of them and not just Maria and Alexandru.”
“Excellent, but make sure that they understand that they should still do their best to avoid attention. I don’t want them to be found any more than I did before.”
“Yes, sir,” Florin said, his voice lowering to his normal range, “I’ll start immediately.”
“Do that,” Vladislav said and hung up.
Placing the handset back down into its brass cradle, he decided that it was time to prepare. Getting out of his chair, he left the room, walking through the spiderweb of identical hallways toward his lab.
The young woman walking toward him smiled. With shoulder-length dark hair, light skin, and red lipstick, she reminded him of all too many women that he’d fed on over the years, many to their deaths. The clothes were modern—frayed jeans with holes and a black shirt with sleeves made out of a material so thin he could see the roses tattooed on her right bicep.
She was young, healthy, alone, and he was hungry. He had blood in the lab, but this would be warm. The pain started the moment he started wondering how he’d do it. It shot through his chest and up into his head. Forcing a smile onto his face and keeping the scream inside, he concentrated on letting his breath flow in through his nose and out through his mouth.
She stopped smiling and looked up at him, “Are you okay, Doc?”
Letting his smile widen as the pain withdrew, he said, “I’m fine, my dear.”
Now that he was back to himself, he knew who she was. Mistress Madness had changed out of her costume. If he’d been less hungry, he’d have recognized Lindsay’s scent.
Lindsay peered up for a little longer and smiled again, “You do look better now. Well, I was going out to Starbucks. Do you want anything?”
He smiled, “They don’t serve what I want.”
She laughed, “God… Of course, they don’t, but I suppose you can get that anywhere, can’t you? You live in a world of living snacks.”
He let out a breath, remembering to breathe in through his nose, “I don’t do that anymore.”
“Too bad,” she said, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like.”
Smiling, he said, “Don’t trust your public entertainment. Vampires don’t want your love. We want your blood, and if we see something worth keeping, your immortal servitude.”
“I’ll keep that in mind in case I meet any other vampires,” she stepped around him, touching his shoulder as she passed, “You seem okay.”
“Thank you,” he said and turned as she passed. “I think I’d like a grande Chai.”
She nodded, “Hot or iced?”
“Got it,” she said and turned away.
He seemed okay? He shook his head as he walked toward his laboratory. He was an immortal undead monster. The only reason he hadn’t fed on her was that he’d ensorcelled himself with a working too difficult to remove when he was hungry enough that he wanted to. If he expected to work off his debt to society, he couldn’t leave a string of dead bodies and new vampires behind him, could he?
All the same, she’d have been a good candidate for his family. She’d earned a doctorate in chemistry by the age of 25 and she kept her head in a fight. Her naïveté about the undead would have disappeared when she rose again.
Casting those thoughts from his mind, he walked towards his lab, thinking through his plans. What did he need to work around? Agent Spitz had an anti-voice buzzer on a necklace around his neck. While useless against vampiric hypnosis, they might have hidden more defenses inside it. Spitz also wore a cross. Vladislav doubted that Spitz had enough faith that it would be effective, it still made him uncomfortable and if Spitz had more of a spiritual connection than expected, it might hurt. It might also be some sort of relic. If so, that would be a problem.
He’d be surprised if Spitz’s bullets weren’t silver. What else? He didn’t know. He’d have to wait for Florin’s reports.
Whatever defenses Spitz had, Vladislav knew that he could defeat whatever sorcery or technology that weak, little man had collected.