“Jan. You honor me. How good of you to come.”

Horatio Ballard made a half-hearted attempt to lift himself out of his chair as Jan Pieterzoon entered the drawing room. Jan crossed the room quickly and shook his hand. The corpulent Ventrue invited Jan to join him in an adjacent high-backed leather chair.

“A pleasure. Good seeing you again, Horatio.”

Horatio motioned for a nearby servant to bring a beverage for his guest. Jan immediately signaled that he appreciated the offer, but politely declined the unfamiliar vitae. This greeting ritual was common in their clan.

“And how is our fine friend the Reverend doing?” Horatio began.

“He’s as delusional and dangerous as ever. You’ve seen the reports.”

“I have spent quite a bit of time poring over them, yes. So, you don’t think there is anything to these prophecies of his?”

Jan looked at him quizzically, concealing his irritation. “Do I think the Lord Almighty speaks to us through a shaggy thin-blood from Kentucky? No. He’s convincing enough to be very dangerous. But he’s deranged. He’s a fraud, like all the charlatans before him. Fortunately, we control him now.”

“Of course. Very good. Yes. Yes, I’m sure you’re correct.” They regarded each other. Horatio took a moment to sip from his glass and began again, seeking another conversational tack. “I invited you here because there is another matter which I felt needed to be brought to your attention. Are you familiar with the activities of the anarch gang that has been causing so much trouble lately?”

“Germaine’s group? I’ve heard about them  a bunch of anarchs, setting cars on fire and making noise. Not exactly part of my portfolio.”

“No? One of our primogen, Critias, has impressed upon me the gravity of this situation. I hope you'll take a look at the information I’ve gathered together.” Horatio took a thick leather folder and slid it across the table. He watched with interest for several minutes as Jan flipped through the pages, reading over reports and press clippings, examining photographs.

“Strange. Since when did anarchs get religion?”

“I don’t know. Would you agree that this is a serious problem?”

“Yes. Once rumors like this get started, they spread like wildfire. This one already seems to be burning out of control. Anyone made a serious attempt to stop them?”

“Some of our associates tried, in Philadelphia. Two Kindred were destroyed, and four more are still in torpor. There were also three traitors who went anarch and left town with the gang. We need this dealt with, I fear. Quickly and quietly, before things get even further out of hand. I know you have friends in high places, and I hope you’ll be willing to seek their intercession on our behalf.”

“I’ll do what I can.” Jan’s gaze had not left the bundle of documents on the table while he spoke. “Sightings in L.A, San Diego, Atlanta, Louisville, Baltimore. They’re on the move…”

“Not surprisingly, yes. They’ve made enough enemies to feel a need to stay on the run. Bloodhunts have been called, and there’s been some saber-rattling talk about the Red List. They must know we’re coming for them.”

Jan considered this, and then shook his head slowly. “No. They’re not running. Germaine’s looking for something. Or someone…”

Yvette crashed into the side of the car, shattering the window, the impact caving in the side panel. She crumpled away from the parked vehicle and fell to the pavement, pain screaming up her spine. The loud honking of the car alarm further disoriented her until someone silenced it with several ringing blows from a steel pipe.

Rough hands grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled the young Toreador to her feet. Yvette looked into the face of the gang leader, Count Germaine.

“Helena. Where is she?”

Yvette felt the Beast rising within her, urging her to lash out. She gritted her teeth and fought against the pain to push it back. This was not a fight she could win if she lost her self-control.

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“Really? Helena. Helen of Troy. Priestess of Narcise. I hear she’s quite memorable.”

Gemain’s hands were already clamped on her shoulder and elbow. They twisted until her left humerus broke with a loud snap. Yvette gasped at the rushing waves of agony as the Brujah worked the bone fragments back and forth.

“Montreal! I heard Helena left for Montreal. Two or three weeks ago.”

“That’s better.”

As Germaine released her arm, Yvette shifted it back into alignment and directed her vitae to the injury. She scanned the small crowd of Kindred that surrounded her, surprised by their varied appearances. A few of them bore the obligatory Brujah leathers and piercings, but there were also a few Kindred wearing business suits, some in party dresses, and even a stately pair of women in evening gowns.

“You guys are Menele's goons? You'll never find Helena. She'll know you're coming from miles away.”

“We aren't anyone's goons. We want to find Helena because we want to survive. And guess what? You're in luck, because you get to come with us.”

Yazid Tamari watched through the office window, a pair of binoculars in his hands. The portly Seraph observed in utter stillness as Germaine tossed the young Toreador into the back of a black SUV, his only motion the movement of his head as he visually tracked his targets. He lowered the field glasses after counting the anarchs as they climbed onto their motorcycles and into the backs of their trucks.

A whispered voice drifted from the darkness next to him. “Now?”

“No. Not yet.”


“Soon. Very soon.”