James’s Note: I love detective stories. My favorite part is always when the plot gets messy. Right now, Daniel is about to find out what happens when you get too close to the truth. We are also coming up fast on one of my favorite action scenes I’ve ever written. I can’t wait to show you that part.
As we rode, I could tell Israel was still running through the argument with Caesar in his mind.
“You know, Daniel? I wish I could get everyone to see that there’s actually a system where everyone gets what they want. We can have laws that protect the humans from us, and us from each other, without death squads and vampiric executioners. We can have accountability without oppression and bloody revolution isn’t the only way to get it. Believe me, I know all about bloody revolution. They think this is going to look like the revolution I was part of here in America, but they’re wrong. If they do what they want to do, it’s going to look more like the French Revolution. Blood in the streets by the bucketful, and after that, mountains of skulls as the guillotine handles the infighting.”
“We can do this peacefully. We can create a strong enough community that the elders will fear our power. The Guillotine Society wants to fight them with a few motivated vampires, but if all the vampires were banded together, even the elders would hesitate to oppose us. The master vampires are stronger than any of us, but they’re not stronger than all of us.”
I didn’t know if Israel was right. I hoped he was. I was also afraid that wiser and cooler heads like his were usually the first ones to end up on the chopping block.
“How many Masters are there in the city?” I asked.
“If you don’t count the borderline types like me? Only three, and one of them got nailed to a wall. There’s Cuthbar, Conchobar’s brother who hired you. There’s also Anna Pavlovich. She was Conchobar’s lover a long time ago, and from what I understand they have an extremely complicated relationship. She’s been his biggest rival for decades. I think they alternate between trying to utterly destroy each other and meeting up for bouts of angry vampire sex.”
I nodded, my brain whirling like a dervish in a hurricane as I tried to put together this puzzle, who’s pieces were either missing or being hidden under the coffee table.
We were well out of Houston when I realized someone was following us. I kept driving calmly and chatting with Israel, but I started taking a few wrong turns. There’s a simple method to tell if you’re being followed. Start making right turns until you’ve made a block. If the car is still behind you, then it’s definitely following you. I continued on my way, now aware that the nondescript gray van was definitely following me. The problem is, if the person following you is clever, they’ll know you’re aware of them. That must have been the case, because my phone rang.
I answered my phone without altering course as I drove. I know, not very driver safety lecture of me, but if that van was full of what I thought it was full of, then I had bigger problems than distracted driving.
The voice on the phone was cultured and feminine without a trace of an accent. It was also familiar. I had spoken to Anna on multiple occasions. Most recently, during the whole ordeal with the loup-garou. “Listen to me, Witcher man. This doesn’t have to get ugly. There’s more going on here than you understand. If you will agree to drop this entire sordid business, I’ll take you at your word.”
I mouthed Anna’s name to Israel. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for the vampire to get any whiter, but if any more blood drained from his face, he was going to have to feed.
My voice was practically chipper as I said, “Anna! I’m so proud of you for figuring out modern technology. I thought you’d still be sending your death threats via a note tied to an arrow.”
“This is not the time for your wit, Witcher man. I can’t allow your interference in these matters. You’re meddling in the affairs of your betters. I knew your past experiences have led you to overestimate yourself, but I think you will find my displeasure rather harder to deal with than a raging werewolf.”
I sighed. I seemed to do that a lot when dealing with vampires. “Actually, Anna, I think you’ll find that threatening a Witcher man is bad for your long-term survival goals. I’m going to make you a deal. I’m going home, and I suggest you do the same. We’ll just pretend this little exchange never happened. All I’m interested in is the truth.”
Anna sounded incredulous. “You know I can’t do that.”
“Yeah,” I said sadly, “I know.”
I hung up the phone.