Darkness Dawns

Page 45

“What is it?” Roland asked, still frowning.

“A list of the vampires’ victims.”

“He keeps track of them?” Sarah asked.

“No, he picks them. Everyone on that list is linked to kiddie porn, either as a buyer, a seller, or a producer, and has either recently gone missing or is dead. Sebastien is telling the vamps whom to feed on and making sure the deaths don’t appear to be vampire related.”

Étienne shook his head in disbelief. “How the hell is he controlling them?”

Sarah cleared her throat. “Doesn’t the medical examiner or whoever examines the victims notice the lack of blood in the bodies?”

“Sure,” Marcus said. “But vampire slaying isn’t something that typically comes to mind when investigating apparent homicides, suicides, or accidents.”

Roland nodded. “They usually assume the victims were killed and bled out in an unknown location before the bodies were dumped elsewhere. That sort of thing.”

Lisette stared at the map. “It must have taken him the full twenty years to gather so many. They should all be mad by now.”

“Unless he’s turning them himself,” Roland pointed out grimly. “He could have infected them all only recently.”

Chris sat down once more. “Or not. All our digging turned up something else I found interesting. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure he’s making them eat food.”

Everyone looked at him as if he were nuts.

Except for Seth.

Seth frowned and continued to stroke Nietzsche, who purred like a Harley-Davidson.

“I sent my ops team out to surveil the place this afternoon—”

Roland scowled. “Then he knows we’ve found him and could have already relocated.”

Chris shook his head. “They were quiet and stayed out of sight. He never knew they were there.”

“He’s immortal. Have you forgotten our heightened sense of smell?”

“We aren’t amateurs, Roland,” Chris bit out. “They camouflaged their scent.”


Sarah was with Roland. Immortals had noses like friggin’ polar bears. She found it hard to believe Chris’s men could have gone undetected.

“They bathed. No scented soaps, shampoos, or deodorants. Wore clothes washed in fragrance-free detergent. Then hid whatever scent remained with cover scents and animal urine.”

Sarah wrinkled her nose in disgust and saw Lisette do the same.

“Animal urine?” Marcus parroted.

“Sure. Hunters do it all the time. Trust me. No one knew they were there.”


“What did they see?” Marcus asked.

“A truck delivering a big-ass load of groceries. Mostly fresh vegetables and fruits. My hackers went to work again and found out Julien Marston has a standing order with the supplier. Every two days enough food to feed an army is delivered. According to his payroll, you’ve cut the number of humans serving Sebastien from thirteen to four but the deliveries keep coming. And even if you hadn’t, it would be too much for the humans to consume so quickly. Clearly the food isn’t solely for them.”

But vampires didn’t eat food. Roland had told her the bloodlust struck them so fast and hard, they lost interest in any other form of sustenance.

“He’s trying to save them,” Lisette declared sadly.

“Will that work?” Sarah asked the table at large. “Will eating food keep them sane?”

All eyes went to Seth.

“No. We tried that. Several times. Those who were already mad only consumed food when forced to through starvation, and it made no difference. Neither did denying them blood straight from the vein and instead feeding it to them in a glass or bag. Once the madness claims them, they’re lost.”

“And the newbies?” Chris asked.

Seth shook his head. “If we caught them within weeks of being turned, feeding them food didn’t prevent the madness from striking. It merely slowed the descent. If they were fortunate, they could have four—possibly five—years, but they were painful ones. The unceasing battle for sanity was exhausting. They had to be watched constantly. And, if they slipped and tried to harm a human, they were tortured by memories of it during their lucid moments. They cannot be saved.”

A somber silence fell, ultimately broken by Chris.

“So what’s the plan?”

Sarah couldn’t see any remotely palatable way to end this.

Roland’s hand tightened around hers an instant before he spoke in a cold, determined voice. “We extract Sebastien, then raze the compound.”

The faces of Roland’s immortal brethren were grim in the aftermath of his proclamation. He didn’t look at Sarah, afraid of the condemnation he might see in her beloved face.

What a cold-blooded bastard she must think him.

As the other Immortal Guardians exchanged troubled looks, Roland braced himself for the moment she would withdraw her hand.

Étienne cleared his throat. “Am I the only one suffering qualms about killing vampires who have never harmed an innocent?”

Marcus sighed heavily. “No.”

“How do you know they haven’t?” Sarah queried, drawing Roland’s surprised gaze.

She was still holding his hand.

Chris held up the list of pedophiles. “Trust me, Sarah, no one on this list is innocent.”

“Yes, but you’re assuming they haven’t killed anyone not on the list. Is there some rule that prevents vampires from killing more than one person per night? Fifty-seven is a large number to keep track of. Couldn’t some of them have strayed without Bastien knowing it?”

Roland had had the same thought. “If they were careful not to get any blood on them so he couldn’t discern two different scents … yes.”

“We don’t know for sure that he would even object,” Lisette said slowly. “He has lived with vampires for two centuries. I know it is unpleasant, but we must consider the possibility that in some ways he may have come to think like them.”

“He certainly shares their hatred of immortals,” Marcus said.

A high-pitched ring pierced the air.

Chris pulled a cell phone from his pocket and gave it a glance. “Excuse me. I have to take this.” Rising, he held the phone to his ear and strode into the living room. “Yeah?”

“Sebastien’s approval or disapproval makes little difference in terms of our goal here,” Seth spoke. “I want him taken alive and handed over to me. The others are to be destroyed. If we let them live and do nothing until they lose their tenuous hold on sanity and kill, hundreds of innocents could fall victim before we manage to hunt them all down. That is unacceptable.”

Everyone murmured their agreement.

When Chris returned, Roland was debating strategy with the others while he drew soft circles on the back of Sarah’s hand with his thumb.

“Well, Sarah was right again,” Chris announced, reclaiming his seat. “Andy got his hands on several of the police reports filed for the dead pedophiles and kiddie porn peddlers and Bastien’s vamps are unquestionably cheating on their diet.” He tapped the list of victims. “Several of these freaks were married and the vamps sent to feed on them killed the wives and children for dessert.”

Shit. “How the hell have we not heard about this?”

“None of the victims lived in the Triangle or the Triad.”

The Triangle was made up of the neighboring cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Triad consisted of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem.

“And they were spread out and camouflaged in enough different ways that no correlations have been drawn between the deaths.” Sarah looked to Roland. “I wish I had been wrong.” Giving her hand a supportive squeeze, he returned his attention to planning their attack.

The hallway outside the mystery woman’s bedroom was empty when Seth appeared in it, the sheaf of papers Chris had given him clasped in one hand. A quick look inside showed him the room, too, was devoid of her presence.

No big surprise there. The poor girl still wasn’t sleeping.

Worried about her continued insomnia, he had reached out very subtly with his gifts and determined that it was no longer that she was unwilling to sleep. She couldn’t sleep. Not until she felt safe. It seemed to be some sort of subconscious defense mechanism she was helpless to extinguish.

He, David, and Darnell had all trodden carefully around her and made themselves appear as harmless as possible. He didn’t know what else he could do to reassure her.

Of course, she was a tiny thing, barely reaching five feet. It was a little hard to look harmless when one was at least a foot and a half taller than her and outweighed her by a good 100, 120 pounds.

Seth strode down the hallway and began making his way downstairs. The only sounds of life came from the great hall, which—except for the stone walls—now resembled a modern living room. Following them, he saw David standing in the shadows outside the entrance and started to call out a greeting.

David glanced up and placed a finger to his lips.

Seth instantly altered his approach, silencing his footsteps as he joined him and peered into the room.

Darnell was perched on the edge of the sofa, fingers and thumbs working a Playstation controller. On the large-screen television, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft took a running leap from a ledge and grabbed the end of a rope that dangled over a dark, cavernous room.

The mystery woman stood beside the sofa, out of arm’s reach as she always did, eyes glued to the screen.

“See,” Darnell said with a boyish grin, “I told you she’d make it.”

Seth was shocked to see her eyes light up with what would have been a smile if her lips had moved.

“Now I’ll make her swing, jump to the next rope, swing again, and land on that ledge over there.”

Looking doubtful, she returned her attention to the screen and leaned against the arm of a recliner arranged perpendicularly to the sofa.

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