Dante’s compound was what had once been Devon’s foremost psychiatric facility. A madhouse, in other words. Olivia was unsure if he had bought it out of nostalgia or a wicked sense of irony. What was more sure was the brutal practicality of such an arrangement. High walls, guard towers, windowless rooms, all par for the course.
She took the other Olivia with her that night when she went to visit Dante, the sight of her strangely comforting. The ghouls at the gate of Dante’s compound didn’t blink an eye at her twin, but waved her car through, the gate sliding closed behind them.
There was a sense of creeping dissonance, Olivia felt, like the madness was closer to the surface than usual. The lights in the malkavian clubhouse were out, too, the only people about were Dante’s guards and retainers.
She found him in the parlour, in a comfortable chair next to a dying fire, his expression pensive.
“Dante?” What if that wasn’t the real Dante, what if the Justicar had killed him, and stolen his face?
He looked up from his thoughts. “Ah, Olivia. Welcome.” There was little of his usual ebullience there, no manic gleam in his eye. Think fast.
“Where are the others?”
“Out,” said Dante. “On business. Things as they are, it’s probably for the best.”
Had he disposed of the others, too? “When we first met, what was it that you said to me?” A leading question, a test.
Dante shrugged. “Honestly, Olivia, I don’t remember. I’ve said a lot of things to a lot of malks.”
Olivia’s blood chilled. She couldn’t let him know she knew, or he would rid himself of her as well. How had he tricked the retainers?
“You wanted to speak to me about something?” Dante prompted.
“I’m sorry,” Olivia managed a smile. “I’m just so glad you’re safe.”
Dante waved his hand. “I’m always safe.”
“You know what I mean.” Olivia shook her head. “We picked up your friend in Thornwood, by the way. Didn’t know you were into blondes.”
Dante turned back to the fire with a sniff. “I’m not.”
“Mhm.” Olivia folded her arms.
“But she’ll probably call on you at Goodwin, just so you know,” Dante seemed to smirk, his face half-shadowed in the firelight. “Wouldn’t want her surprising you. Anything else?”
“You’ll probably find this out for yourself soon enough,” said Olivia. “But I’ve invited some house guests of my own to stay with me.”
“It may surprise you to learn this, Olivia,” said Dante. “But I do not spy on your tower. I find you yourself a vastly more effective source of information on what goes on in there.” He sighed. “More waifs and strays?”
“Thornwood locals,” Olivia admitted. “The hirsute kind.”
Dante seemed amused at this. “Farbeit from me to govern what goes on in your own home.”
“So, what happened? With the Justicar, I mean.”
Dante looked pointedly at the other Olivia. “Can she be trusted?”
Olivia raised an eyebrow. “Sure. As much as any mortal can be.”
“Then she can wait outside.” Dante waved a hand. You have to pretend you trust him. Olivia nodded to other Olivia, who inclined her head in turn.
“That super-secret, huh?” Olivia took a chair across from Dante’s. The embers of Dante’s fire glowed softly in his fireplace.
Dante put his hands behind his head. “Honestly, it’s just a little sensitive.”
“So what happened?”
“Well,” Dante smiled. “Since Cain took it upon himself to give the little Archon Eyes’ file for some reason, which had my name on it, and since our friend the Justicar was looking for me, I decided to go over to Kristina’s for a little sleepover. Imagine my surprise when the Archon is there too! Of course, I try to keep out of his way, and he flies off the next morning. As Cain tells it, since Mr Justicar couldn’t find either of us, he decided to go face down Eyes in the park by himself, whereon he expired. A sad, sad tale.” Dante shook his head. “We lost track of the Archon about the same time, over the park. One moment his phone said he was there, the next – poof!”
Olivia gave Dante a sideways look. “You know, you can’t just disappear everyone that comes to Grimouth from Rome. What’re you going to do with the next one?”
“Well then,” said Dante. “That’s a very good question. The grown-ups and I have been talking, and it looks like Rome might not be a part of the equation for very much longer.”
“You’re planning on secession?” Olivia blinked. “Who to?”
“Oh, you know.” Dante waved his hand. “The other side of Rome.”
“And what will the other side of Rome want?”
“Well, I can’t tell you what they want,” said Dante. “But I know the type of food they like to eat.” He frowned. “You should go back to your tower now. It’s bad if you don’t.”