Kip’s dark brown eyes snapped open. He put the pen on his desk and ran his hands through his dark hair. He glanced over at the pile of documents he still had to read and sign. After using his handkerchief to wipe hair pomade from his fingers, Kip placed a piece of grape bubble gum in his mouth. He hadn’t slept since they’d left New York. He pushed it. Even for a vampire, this little sleep was dangerous. He ended his four hours of overtime by turning off his computer and leaving the office.
Jo lay sleeping on the reception couch. Kip woke her up, and they left together. Jo was head of his security detail and primary bodyguard. Kip had turned Jo and Allen, in the 1400s and had called in a favour when he found himself forced into this job.
The top floor only had three offices, an office that would belong to the in-residence, representative of The Circle. The Circle were a body of vampires that watched over the Leader; they made all the final decisions. For the most part, it was Kip’s job to sit still and look pretty while he did the grunt work of leadership. The third office belonged to Sara Armstrong, the current head of The Society’s intelligence department.
The next night, Kip walked in on a man who was sitting in front of his desk, feet resting on it. “Who the hell are you?” Kip pinned the door open with his hand, so Jo could see and hear him. “How did you get in here?”
“You really need better security. Anyone could have walked in here. Doors unlocked, no secretary at her desk, or guards at the main door.” The man said.
“The door wasn’t unlocked.”
Jo walked into the room, hand on the handle of her taser, blue eyes narrowed at the intruder.
He pulled a key card from his suit pocket and waved it at Kip and Jo. “I lied. That stuffy old bird who thinks she’s in charge of The Circle gave me a key, and your pretty little secretary let me in here.” The man extended his long arm towards Kip, fingers outstretched. “I’m Gilchrist Melville.”
Kip wasn’t going to walk across the room and shake his hand; he wasn’t giving the prick the satisfaction. “You have ten seconds to explain yourself.”
“Emperor Cynbel sent me to examine how your government works. When Jane Archer founded The Society, she signed a treaty with our pack to gain their support. It allows us to send a representative to trail you and see how your government works. The Emperor was recently alerted to the treaty’s exitance and decided to send someone.”
Cynbel was the Leader of the oldest werewolf pack in the world. Kip walked towards his desk. “Drink some tea in the waiting room, while I call ‘that stuffy old bird who thinks she’s in charge of The Circle’. Mildred and Joanna will make you comfortable.”
Kip sat down once Jo walked Melville from the office. He picked up the phone and speed dialled Ruth Ward’s office.
“I see you received our generous gift from the wolves,” Ruth said as soon as she answered.
“They found the treaty in a document storeroom. They’re in the process of digitising all of their records. I’m not sure how they misplaced something that gives them that much power over us.”
“And it’s real?”
“Yes. We have a copy and expected this inevitability. The wolves should keep better records.” Ruth said. “I was with Jane when she was deciding if she should sign it, I’ve been waiting all these years, and it turns out they lost their copy.”
“What should I do?”
“Play nice and give him anything he wants.”
“That’s your advice?”
“Fax me a copy of that treaty.”
“If I must,” Ruth said. “Goodbye, Dear. I have another appointment due any minute.”
Kip held the phone next to his ear for about thirty seconds after she hung up. He slowly lowered it back to its cradle.
He took a few minutes to himself before he flicked the speakerphone on and called Mildred’s extension. “Please, tell Mr Melville, I’m ready for him now and bring me a pot of tea.”
Kip scheduled his meeting with Sara, long after Melville had gone home for the day. He met her in his home office. Surveillance equipment was getting more and more discrete, who knows what that wolf could have left in his office.
“Word around the water cooler is, Geoff, is pulling together a Task Force to deal with the abnormally high amounts of missing in this city.” Sara stopped picking at her bright red nails to look Kip in the eyes. “Is it safe to have so many reputable investigators in one city?”
“I thought he was only bringing Merissa Leak and Benson Crumble in.”
“There’s been talk of bringing others in and pitting them all against each other for a faster result. Blood in the water and all that rot.”
“If Geoff wants the best private investigators on our payroll to kill each other instead of solving this case, then it’s a brilliant idea. Plus full-time law enforcement officers take the private investigators as an insult.”
Sara took a sip of her coffee and laughed. “It would be a blood bath.”
“You have operatives on that, right?”
“Yes. I can’t imagine you called me in to talk about that, though.” Sara smiled. “I have a feeling this meeting is about the little memo I had sent your way.”
“What can you tell me about it?”
Sara placed a grey manila folder on the desk in front of Kip. “As you know. We’ve found the current owner of the Dagger known as the Vampire Killer.”
Kip opened the folder to reveal a photo of a young, average looking vampire with grey eyes and tawny hair. “Is this a recent photo? He should sue the person who gave him that haircut.”
“Viktor Crumble, second Spawn of Able Coleman. Born in London, turned in 1666 at the age of twenty-one. Currently owns and manages a cake shop by the Gardens called Sweet Cupcakes. No true competition for the Plaza Bakery, yet funded by Simon Silva’s business benefactor fund.”
“We need him to come to us.”
“Does that mean you’re going to keep it?” Sara asked. “If you were going to hand it over. You’d get The Depository to send operatives over there and be done with it.”
“Your reasoning was convincing. Keeping the Dagger will be of the benefit to vampire kind.”
“You just needed to pull your head out of your arse to see the big picture. The Dagger shouldn’t be locked in some dusty room. With the right hands pulling strings, the owner can achieve great things.”
He didn’t need to steal the Dagger and kill Leopold himself if he could convince Viktor Crumble to murder Leopold. Viktor would take the fall and be locked in the Amber Fortress or arrested by The Depository. Kip would be blameless, and he wouldn’t have to worry about a vengeful, Viktor coming after him. Play his cards right, and the man would think that killing Leopold was his idea.
“What are you smiling about?” Sara was looking at him as though she was trying to read his mind.
“There’s no chance his other Spawn have it?”
“Emily Coleman is dead, Benson Crumble would have already given it to The Depository and Abel wrote about his distrust of Claude in his last diary. All the evidence we’ve collected points to Viktor being the current owner.”
Kip sent her on her way and sat at his desk with a glass of whisky. The Circle would never vote to execute, Leopold. His death was worth the price of screwing over one man. Viktor would give his life to The Society for the greater good.
Kip opened the task-force file Geoff had given him. The solid oak desk in his home office was covered with the newspapers he’d brought home for the weekend. He wanted to read them free of the prying eyes of the wolf.
The Circle had already approved the list of investigators. Kip was glad to see that the only private investigators on the list were Merissa and Benson. The list was the standard fare of Law Enforcement operatives with good records and useful skills. The only vampire Kip didn’t know was the new Head of Violent Crimes, Henriette Barker. Her arrival sparked something in Kip. He wasn’t sure if it was the timing of her arrival or her patchy past, maybe both. Sara’s operatives could investigate, so he sent a quick email and moved back to the list. Sebastian was the forensics consultant. He could keep an eye on Henriette, an angle that she might not expect. His finger rested on Sebastian’s name. A plan took form in Kip’s mind as he took another sip of alcohol.