Muscle memory guided Viktor along the dirt path, to a secluded part of the Headland Gardens. Hartright’s number one tourist attraction was the only part of the city that lacked constant surveillance. Viktor sat down on the wooden bench, the ageing wood bowed under him, before it then returned to its original position.
Emily sat beside him with a frown. “Are you trying to break the bench?”
“Simon revealed his hand, regarding the recent activities at my shop.” Viktor handed Emily the bottle of Pure Blood.
Emily spun the bottle between her pale fingers, dark eyes examining the label.
“They know how to up the stakes. Know anyone who can analyse it?”
“I have a contact who just moved to the city. He’d love to study this, and he has access to the best equipment.”
“You also make it sound like he works for The Society… Can he be trusted?”
“Yes. He’ll keep a secret, to have access to knowledge like this. I’m guessing it’s some way to control other vampires.”
“Simon is suspicious about my loyalties.”
Emily put the bottle in her handbag. “There’s another issue we have to deal with. The Society is looking for your dagger.”
“Which means some Silva spy will have access to a search that will lead them to me.”
“A Spy? They could walk straight in and get it. They’re the most influential Clan in the world! We see their true nature, but no one else does.” Emily looked at the ground. “I think they already know you were always a favourite of Abel. If you should be fatally wounded and your precious big brother wasn’t around, who would you give it to? Why your dearest blood brother, Claude.”
“If I gave Benson the dagger it would get him killed. They’ve set up Claude to take the dagger.” Viktor sighed. “How do they expect me to take him back with open arms? He vanished around the time they murdered Abel, then reappeared with connections to them.”
“But remember, Viktor. You are friends with the Silvas’ because you have no idea what they did.”
“You should have taken it.”
“Abel gave it to you. I was on the other side of the room fighting when he died.”
“I don’t want it.”
“What do you want to do? Hand it over to an organisation like The Depository, so they can pry it off you and keep our best weapon against the Silvas’. Not to mention that’s the best case. They’d likely lock you in a secure room and kill you with poison gas or something just to see what would happen if the dagger didn’t have a living host. If the fact that you own the dagger becomes public, turn yourself over to The Society.”
“Aren’t they working with The Depository to find it?”
“You think they’re actually going to hand one of the most powerful magical weapons in existence, to The Depository and trust them not to use it? A weapon I might add, that was created to specifically kill vampires.”
“So basically, we’re going to rely on The Society’s greed, as protection from the Silvas’?”
“It’s common sense, not greed,” Emily said. “What choice do we have?”
“In the meantime, what are we going to do about Simon questioning my loyalties?”
“Simon Silva is a rich, handsome man, and everyone knows you’re gay.”
“I know where you’re going with this,” Viktor said. “I’m not. Even thinking about being in the same room as him, it makes my skin crawl. Everyone overlooks how creepy he is, because of his position in the Silva Clan. Second in charge of the Australian branch, he could almost get away with killing a human in broad daylight.”
“By all accounts, he’s straight and won’t reciprocate. You won’t have to do anything. You need to get close. I can’t. As far as they know, I’m dead.”
“Em, I know.” Viktor reached out and touched her shoulder, giving it a gentle pat.
“I wouldn’t ask you to do this if there was another way. We’re the only ones who still care about Abel. The only ones who can punish those who took him from us.”
“I’ll do it.”
She met Viktor’s eyes. “You need to make everyone think you are in love with him.”
“Benson will hate that.”
“I think we can turn the Clair Clan against them if we try hard enough. The election for City Clan is coming up, and Raphine Clair is a business competitor of Simon.”
“What makes you think she’ll talk to me?”
“You’re a citizen of the city, and she runs the Governing Clan. If you can’t get an audience with her, I’ve overestimated you.”
Viktor stood up.
“Bring Benson to our next meeting. Even though he’s married to Merissa, it mightn’t be too late. It’s time we brought him in on our plan. He might still care about Abel. If there’s anyone who can get to him, it’s you. He loved you enough to follow you into this life.”
“He already reminds me of the sacrifice he made, I don’t need you at it.”
“He does care about you.”
“I thought that too. Since he married Missy, though… he’s changed.” Viktor gave her a sad smile. “He’s not the same brother you once knew.”
Benson was sitting on the living room couch when Viktor arrived home.
“I suppose you missed the news.” Benson turned the TV off. “Arleen said you’ve made a habit of drinking at the Blood Bath’s bar after work.”
“You gonna call me a drunk for having one drink after work?” Viktor put a hand on his hip. “It’s obvious you disapprove. I have less to drink a week than the average vampire has in a single night of drinking.”
“I’m not trying to start a fight. I have news. I thought you should know why Missy and I are back. Now it’s public.”
Viktor walked over to the couch. “I’m listening.”
“We are part of a taskforce ran by The Society. It’s been put together to investigate the high number of missing humans and vampires in this city.”
“Congratulations.” Viktor turned towards the stairs.
Benson grabbed his sleeve. “It was a mistake for me to go to Europe and leave you here. If you didn’t have your shop, I’d send you somewhere else. It’s not safe in this city. There’s things going on that you don’t understand, can’t even begin to understand.”
Viktor pulled away from Benson’s grip. “I’m three hundred and sixty-eight years old, Benson. I don’t need you to baby me.”
“Why the hell are you keeping count?”
“It doesn’t matter. Just stop trying to play big brother. You were never any good at it.”
Benson stood up. “Never any good at it! I threw my life away to become a vampire because of a stupid decision you made. I had a wife and child.”
“Now look who’s stuck in the past,” Viktor retorted. “We had the plague. If I’d never met Abel, we’d have died just like everyone else. You wouldn’t have been able to play happy families with your wife, baby and step-children because you would be dead.”
“Is everything alright?” Richard, their Clan Leader, was standing at his office door.
“We’re not going to kill each other and make a mess of your precious living room if that’s what you’re asking.” Viktor walked past Richard and up the stairs to his bedroom.
Drinking at the Blood Bath’s bar was for convenience more than anything else. Viktor could use the feeding rooms, then sit at the bar with a drink that the bartender recommended that night. Viktor brought his glass to his mouth and took a sip of his whisky. Ice clinked against the cool glass, as he placed it back on the mahogany bar. The live music and open space gave the area a relaxed atmosphere compared to the restaurant next-door, which delivered a luxury dining experience for wealthy vampires who liked to eat human food for pleasure. A place above Viktor’s price range. It also held a contrast to the night club in the basement. Wealth and power were the Clair Clan’s game, and this place was the best representation of it.
“I heard, The Society located this supposedly magical dagger, called the Vampire Killer or something just as cliché. Some Mage, made it to slay vampires, apparently. It’s famous because it has some really powerful spells cast on it. The story, says it can kill anything with a single scratch.”
Viktor closed his eyes to focus on the man speaking. He was sitting on the other side of the bar, with a woman.
The woman responded. “I heard that thing is cursed, my Sire told me about it. None of its owners has lived more than ten years.”
“Power makes beings do risky things.” The man said.
“Where is it? How did they find it? I heard it’s been lost for years.”
“It’s in this city. The name Abel Coleman is being spread around with the rumour about finding it. They are saying he gave it to one of his spawn and The Society, is trying to locate that spawn.”
Viktor smiled, then finished off the rest of his drink. The stage had been set in the perfect manner, and it was time for him to enter. Hopefully, Emily was right about this plan, because there was no going back once he contacted The Society.