Jed woke later than usual, feeling groggy. The guest room at Kristina’s mansion was understatedly stylish, all clean lines and small black furniture, no windows. His mind swam into focus. Alistair! He needed to find him. He flipped his phone open, but found he had no signal.
“Ah, you’re awake.” The ventrue primogen was waiting for him as he left his room. “Everything to your satisfaction, I hope?”
“Yes, thank you.” Jed gave a curt bow. “I don’t suppose you know where Alistair is?”
“Your justicar?” Kristina gave a tight-lipped smile. “I’m afraid not, darling.”
“I need to find him. He might need my help.”
“Oh, of course.” She met his eyes. “You should come back and stay again tonight.”
Jed nodded, unsure why he was agreeing. “Yes,” he said. “I will.”
Jack passed another handful of crisp paper money to his latest informant. It had been a profitable night, from an information point of view. Less so for the finances of Olivia’s retainer, but that didn’t bother him one way or the other. The night was overcast, a fine drizzle falling, and the streets were unusually empty. Jack found an alcove where he could stand in the dry, and rummaged in his pocket for the phone Olivia had given him, dialling for John.
“Hello?” The ghoul picked up within a couple of rings. Must be a night person, Jack mused.
“I have the information you wanted.” Jack paused. “But it’ll cost you. More than cash.”
He heard John grunt on the other end of the line. “Sure. I’ll talk to Olivia about that thing you wanted.”
Jack smiled. “Sounds good.”
“The information?” John prompted.
“Right. So, you’ve got an imperial fuckton of vampires in the city, bet you already knew that, right?” Jack chuckled to himself, hearing the faint sound of John’s fingers clicking on his keyboard. “That accounts for all the murders that’ve been covered up lately. You’ve got Camarilla, you’ve got Sabbat, you’ve got a fuckload of independents; Ravnos, Setites, weirdo bloodlines, some chick with a magical voice is running a nightclub. Setites are up to some kinda big-ass thing, and the justicar that just came to town is about to throw down in the park with some big bad Nagaraja by name of-” Jack stopped as a chill permeated the air, creeping from his shoes up his spine to the back of his neck. “-did you feel that?”
John’s typing stopped, and when he spoke, his voice was expressionless. “Yes. What is it?”
“I don’t know. Figure I’ll find out.”
Jed flew once more over the city of Grimouth, the night’s precipitation soaking his clothes and making his wings slick and heavy. Alistair’s rooms in the Prince’s tower had been stripped, professionally cleaned, no sign the justicar and his manservant had ever been there. A coverup. Jed fumed. If Jack hadn’t called him to tell him about the fight in the park, he might never have found out in time.
He circled the park, seeing nothing but the grass and the trees under him. Perhaps Alistair and Eyes hadn’t yet arrived.
Then he heard it. Alistair’s voice, cutting through the damp night air. “Jedivan!”
“Alistair!” Jedivan called, swooping low onto the grass and still seeing no-one. An illusion, he thought. Someone has lured me here, and they are toying with me with Alistair’s voice. Unbidden, his beast rose in his craw, and he was helpless against it.