Archangel's Legion

Page 49

“Yes.” Walking to the table just inside the atrium, he opened a flat black box to retrieve a neatly folded shirt. “Will this do?”

Elena took the item of clothing and tried to hone in on the scents trapped within the fabric.

Raspberry and ginger, with a hint of mint.

A pretty, refreshing scent but it wasn’t from the shirt. “If you’d step back past the doors.”

“Of course.”

Waiting until the wind swept away the raspberry and ginger, she took another deep breath.

An astringent chemical . . . disinfectant, softened by a delicate caress of lilies.

“I need the secondary sample,” she said. “You made sure to take it from a different location?”

“Yes, the shirt was from his washing basket, and this T-shirt is from his gym bag.”

The second test returned the same reading, the disinfectant not a taint but part of Sidney’s scent, as interpreted by her hunting abilities.

“Thank you.” Returning the T-shirt, she walked off the edge of the roof, snapping out her wings before she could even begin to fall. Her next destination was the home of Sidney’s mortal family, the address part of the background report attached to the hunt order. All vampires with living relatives eventually went home, the smart for a clandestine visit, the stupid to stay.

Sidney, it turned out, fell into neither group.

“I haven’t seen him since he took up that filthy habit.” Words spit out by the elderly woman who answered the door, her hazel eyes watery with age but her cheeks hot spots of color. “Drinking blood is the devil’s work.” She slammed the door in Elena’s face.

Not taking the woman at her word, Elena circled the small, neat house without picking up even a sliver of Sidney’s scent. “I guess home isn’t sweet for you, Sid,” she muttered, hauling herself up the fire escape ladder to the second floor. She’d become expert at low-height takeoffs in an effort to balance out her inability to do regular and easy vertical takeoffs; and having done the latter once today already, she wasn’t going to risk another unless it was a life-or-death situation.

Now, she gritted her teeth and got herself airborne before she kissed pavement. Once in the air, she ignored the other addresses in the prehunt report and headed instead to a particular section of Central Park: the Blood Theater.


Sidney was a man proud enough of his opus that he’d put his name on it—someone like that wouldn’t be satisfied with disappearing into the mist, bereft of an audience. No, every instinct she had told her he’d have hit the Theater as soon as he could.

“Do you know what it’s like to watch a woman get her head torn off?”

Shutting down the resurgence of memory before it could incapacitate, she winged her way across the green space at the core of Manhattan. About to land in the correct section, her brain suddenly poked at her to consider the situation . . . and maybe part of that poke came from the echo of her father’s words, though she couldn’t think about that now.

As soon as she landed, she would become vulnerable in a way that—ironically—she’d never been as a human. Her wings would make it hard for her to run at speed, dodging between the trees near impossible. A vertical takeoff would also not be a viable option if the hunt went bad, since she couldn’t get aloft fast enough. Added to that, the Theater was in an isolated section of the park and, while night hadn’t yet fallen, winter darkness was starting to edge the light in the sky.

It’d be nice to think no vampire or angel in the territory would dare lay a hand on her, but there were always the outliers—and the mortals. If a group of hopped-up junkies took out her heart or injured her internal organs badly enough, she’d die, her immortality tenuous yet. Then there was the risk Raphael’s enemies had agents in the city just waiting for Elena to make herself a target.

“Yep,” she said to herself. “Landing right now would not be the most intelligent thing you’ve ever done, Elieanora P. Deveraux.”

Holding a hover—she was definitely getting better at that, thanks to the exercises Aodhan had taught her—she considered her options. It’d have to be the Guild, the Tower already stretched. “You have anyone who can back me up?” she asked Sara. “I’m at Central Park.”

“Gimme a sec.” A rustling, the phone going silent, then, “Deacon’s in the area with Slayer, and he has a crossbow. Why take a crossbow on the dog’s walk, I hear you ask? Because my beloved does not know how to leave home without being armed to the teeth.”

Elena laughed, Sara’s affectionate words giving her the respite she needed from the horrific images Jeffrey’s revelation had burned into her brain. “You know I’d never turn down Deacon.” Sara’s husband might no longer be an official member of the Guild, but they all knew he was one of them. “Wait, what about Zoe?”

“With my parents—they’re in town and spoiling her like only they can.” Elena could hear Sara’s smile. “Deacon’s yours long as you need him.”

“Thanks. I’ll call him to arrange a meeting spot.”

Less than two minutes later, she landed beside Deacon’s tall, heavily muscled form a short walk from her target location. “I appreciate this,” she said, after lavishing affection on Slayer, the huge black dog who was Zoe’s adored best friend.

“No problem.” Quiet green eyes that Elena was certain missed nothing, even though his stance was relaxed, Slayer leaning against his leg. “Where are we headed?”

“Blood Theater.” Nothing special during daylight hours, that particular part of Central Park transformed into a decadent, sex-laced vampire haven at night, one mortals were advised to avoid unless they intended to become well-fucked dinner.

Deacon retrieved the crossbow he’d slung over his back. “Hardware has a good deterrent effect.” The instant the crossbow was in Deacon’s hands, Slayer turned from playful, tail-wagging pet to a silent menace.

“Yep.” Retrieving the longer blades from her thigh sheaths, she made certain the gleaming edges showed beneath her fists. “I don’t want to draw blood, but some of the younger ones are morons.”

A faint smile on Deacon’s lips as they set out along the narrow path to the Theater, the snow packed down as far as Elena could see. Given, however, that it hadn’t snowed since close to dawn, the crushed snow was probably evidence of the previous night’s debauchery, not a more recent event. The Theater was apt to be empty at this time of day and if she was right, and Sidney had made an appearance there, she might be able to pick up a trail.

Despite the high possibility she and Deacon were alone in this part of the park, she didn’t drop her guard, aware of every rustle, every tiny sound, then the distinct lack of it. “No birds,” she murmured sotto voce.

“Yes.” Deacon went back-to-back with her without any further discussion, her wings pressed against the dark green of his trench coat, while Slayer padded silent and dangerous in front of them.

Weapons held with open aggression, they turned right off the main access path and onto another that spilled them into the small clearing with a natural dip that turned it into a miniature amphitheater. Elena’s nape itched with the certainty of the eyes on them, instinct verified by the fresh lines of scent in the air, but no one appeared out of the deep pools of shadow between the trees.

Watery blood. A lot of it.


“I smell it.” If someone was dead inside the Theater, he or she hadn’t been dead long enough for the carrion birds to have become aware of the feast, the area devoid of the sounds of their feeding. Either that, or the birds had been held off on purpose, because beneath the snow-diluted blood, she caught the scent of disinfectant softened by lilies.



“I have you covered.”

Shifting position, she made her way into the dip and to the gruesome sight that awaited. Sidney Geisman had lost his head. Literally. It was currently spitted on a crude wooden spear carved from a hacked-off branch, the vampire’s eyes orbs of bulging red and his tongue a grotesquely swollen black where it hung out of his mouth.

It was too cold for flies, the bloody snow below the head pounded into ice. The rest of the vampire’s body lay discarded a short distance away. She could see indications of arterial spray on the nearby trees, the blood having turned a putrid brown that nonetheless stood out to her enhanced vision. What interested her more were the multiple gaps in the pattern, as if this execution had had an audience that would’ve been sprayed with Sidney’s blood.

Breathing through clenched teeth, the cold paradoxically intensifying the miasma of scents for her, she stepped close enough to the head to read the note stabbed into Sidney’s forehead with what appeared to be a metal nail file. Inventive. The note consisted of a single word written in blood: DISEASED.

Oh, fuck. Fuckety fuck fuck!

Continuing to breathe through her mouth, she crossed to the body and began to check Sidney for any visual signs of disease. It didn’t take long to find the sores on his hands. They were small, barely formed, so the infection had only just dug into his cells when he’d been killed. Which meant either there was now another carrier in the city or—best-case scenario—Sidney had been hoarding bottled blood in anticipation of his escape.


When she heard only silence in response, she remembered he’d mentioned he might be leaving the city to meet one of his senior angels. Digging out her phone from the pocket where she’d stuffed it, she called Tower operations, using the direct line that meant she’d get either Aodhan or Illium.

It was Aodhan who answered. Not wanting to say too much over an unsecure line, she simply told him she needed him in the Blood Theater. He didn’t ask any questions, saying that he’d be there within minutes.

That done, she began to walk the scene to see how many useful scents she could identify.

Aodhan arrived with the encroaching darkness, his wings glittering brighter than the snow. She saw immediate comprehension on his face when she pointed out the note. The vampires in the city were turning on one another—if this continued, it could spiral out into indiscriminate paranoia, painting the city bloodred.

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