20th of August 2012
The smell of fresh paint and new carpet in the confined space of the elevator was suffocating. Kip held his ID card against the reader, counting the seconds it took to read the card. When the light turned green, he pressed the button for the highest floor the elevator travelled to. He began to count how long it would take the elevator. How long would it take a threat to reach his new office? He was alone, at midday, most vampires were sleeping. He wanted to examine the building when only a few workers were in it. He wrote a few notes on a small note pad, still counting in his head as the elevator travelled. It had taken the elevator ten seconds to start. So much for the state of the art technology, the contractor they’d hired had promised.
On the seventh floor, a tall blonde woman walked into the elevator. A human representative, the level she entered on was the first hint, and the second was the way she smelled. She smiled at Kip and remained on the other side of the elevator near the buttons. Kip started to breathe slower and focus on counting 35, 36, 37, 38, 3-. He opened his eyes as the elevator came to a sudden stop; they should be between floors. He watched the woman’s long pale finger pull away from the emergency stop button. Even vampire hunters wouldn’t be this brazen… Right? Killing the vampire leader in a government building.
“Are you here to kill me?” Kip looked in the woman’s blue eyes.
“No.” She said. “I need to talk to you.”
“And you couldn’t book a meeting?”
“If you knew who I was and who I’m working for, you’d refuse.”
“How did you get in here?” Kip had his hand in his pocket, on the buttons of the old phone he could use to text Jo, without needing to pull it from his pocket. The large buttons with brail allowed him to text her a shortcode from his pocket; only three others knew it.
“You have a security flaw, that can’t be patched.” She smiled, more to herself than anything.
“Tell me what it is, and I’ll listen to what you have to say.”
“I flirted with a guy from the seventh floor, and he let me in. He would have let me follow him to the moon and back, I think. Funny how men don’t realise that pretty human women can be dangerous.”
“I can see how I mightn’t be able to fix that.” Kip stood alert, ready to defend himself, if necessary.
“Have they told you? Your law enforcement department? The Circle? The people in charge of the Amber Fortress?” She took a step towards Kip. “Have your law enforcers, baby sitters and prison managers told you?”
Kip managed to swallow the lump in his throat. “Told me what?”
“I think you know what I’m about to say. You’ve heard the rumours, developed your own suspicions. The look on your pretty face. How dare they do that to me? How dare they not tell me? Please don’t tell me. Please don’t be about to sa-“
“Cut the crap.”
“My organisation has been given evidence that Leopold Barnett has escaped the Amber Fortress.” She held a micro SD card towards him. “Everything you need to know, including how to contact us, is on this.”
Kip carefully took the card from her. “How can I trust you?”
“He killed your wife. You wanted him executed, but The Circle overruled you. I think you want him dead, just as much as we do.”
“He always escapes justice.”
“We had a spy steal this from The Depository.” She handed him a piece of black cloth. “They mass produce these things, they’re not going to miss one. It nullifies the magic of any object it’s wrapped around. When you locate Maria’s deadly little dagger, we want it.”
“Speaking of The Depository, I’m supposed to hand it over to them when I locate the vampire who owns it. I signed a contract, I’ll be on the hook if they don’t get it.”
“We’ll get you a good lawyer if they come for you.” She met his eyes again. “Isn’t the chance of rotting in one of their prisons worth your chance at revenge?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“We have a replica of the dagger. You use that cloth to sever the connection between the owner and the dagger. Bring it to us, we’ll contact you with a location.”
“This simple piece of cloth is the solution to a problem that’s existed for hundreds of years?”
“That simple piece of cloth as you put it, cost a hundred million dollars and a decade of research to develop.”
“So, they’re not actually mass-producing these things.” Kip crossed his arms and looked her in the eyes. “Surely, you have a more developed plan.”
“They won’t miss one. Now if I say it once more slowly, you might get it.” She pointed her finger at him. “You get close to the dagger owner. Make them trust you. Take the knife. Send an email to the address on that card. You give us the dagger. We will take care of the rest. You don’t need to know anything else. Got it this time?”
“I thought vampires were supposed to be smart, you especially. Clearly, your intelligence has been overestimated.”
Smart? Her idea was idiotic, to begin with. Did her puppet masters understand the politics of her request at all?
“We only want it for research purposes. We’re not going to kill anyone with it other than Barnett.” She looked down at her dark red fingernails, as though she was bored. “If you don’t do it, we’ll get someone else, and we can’t promise they will be as clean.”
“I’ll do it.”
She handed him the replica dagger with a smile.
Kip looked at the dagger before he put it in his leather case. “How do you know what it looks like?”
“It used to belong to our order before your kind stole it. We still have Maria’s original sketches, she placed one hell of a preservation spell on them. Everything you need is on that card.” She pressed a button on her headset. “Extract me.”
The teleport mage took her from the elevator in the second it took Kip to blink. She had no idea just how deep Kip’s hate for Leopold ran. How long they’d been connected, killing Marion wasn’t the worst thing he’d done to Kip. He added teleporters to the list of security threats.
Kip ignored his phone as it rang and used his sleeve to rub the emergency stop button as he pressed it. The elevator started moving again. The first thing he saw when the door opened was Jo, his bodyguard, standing just outside the door, her arms crossed, her mouth a thin line. If she discovered there was someone else in that elevator, she’d want to escort him everywhere.
Kip waited for her to speak first. “Allen panicked when you were late. You were signed into the building, but he couldn’t find you anywhere on the security feed. Then he noticed one of the elevators had stopped and its cameras weren’t working. The emergency stop button was pushed on purpose. What happened?”
“I accidentally hit it with my elbow.”
“And you didn’t call or answer your phone?”
He hadn’t heard his phone; the woman must have had a signal jammer on her. “I knew someone would get me eventually.”
Jo stared daggers at him. “No one got you. You pressed the button to start it again. What you just said is so stupid.” She let out a growl of frustration and walked off.
Kip followed her.
She started speaking again when she noticed him following her. “Someone from The Depository is on hold in your office, they think we’re stalling.”
They took the private elevator to the floor to the top level, which held his office. A direct elevator to his floor was a huge security risk. A threat would have to pass the law enforcement offices to access the level that held his office.
Kip walked straight into his office and picked up his phone, giving his sectary, Mildred a quick wave as he passed through his reception area.
The call lasted all of ten minutes. Kip hung up and looked at Jo and Allen, who had both taken the time to walk into his office before shutting the doors. Jo had her arms crossed again, and Allen was leaning against the doors.
Allen was the first to speak. “Why did you just tell her we don’t know where the dagger is? You got a memo about it being located yesterday.”
“What have I told you about reading my emails?”
“It’s my job.”
“I didn’t know reading the Leader’s emails was in the job description of the Head of Network Security. Last I checked they had software to check for security risks in emails.” Kip turned on his computer.
“Why are you suddenly so pissed? You never had a problem with me reading the emails until now. We’re supposed to be a team.”
“I told them that we didn’t have the Dagger because I’ve decided to keep it. We can make better use of it.”
Jo scoffed. “You read that contract The Depository made you sign when they asked you to help find the dagger. There’s no deciding to keep it. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I’ve made my decision,” Kip said.
“All this time, I thought you were preventing Esmeralda Silva from taking the Leadership position. Now I realise you were just keeping the chair warm for her.”
“Don’t Joanna me. Have fun being The Depository’s dog after they take you prisoner. Sorry in advance, for having no desire to visit you.” Jo pushed past her brother and stormed out of the office without another word. Allen followed her, the second he regained his footing, mouthing ‘sorry’ at Kip.
Kip pressed a button on his phone and called Mildred’s desk. “Once Sara Armstrong arrives in the city. Ask her to come to my office.”