“I’m told there are a few. Fortunately for us, the agent was not in uniform.”
“Just the feral. Ibarra and Aoibhe killed it and gathered a few younglings to help them remove the corpses and attend to the scene.”
“What about the border patrols?”
Lorenzo shook his head. “No one reported a breach.”
The Prince scowled. “Double the border patrols immediately and call a meeting of the Consilium after sunrise.”
“The local police received reports by telephone. Officers are at the scene, but our contact has delayed the face-to-face questioning.”
“Exactly what was reported?”
“Witnesses saw a man dressed in black threatening a woman. She escaped into one of the apartment buildings. Then the man attacked another man, killing him. There were reports about Ibarra and Aoibhe, but those reports have mysteriously disappeared.”
The Prince took a moment to process the report. “The woman was threatened by the feral?”
“So I’ve inferred.”
The Prince’s eyebrows knitted together. “Why isn’t she dead?”
“Witnesses claimed it didn’t approach her. She must have been wearing a talisman.”
The Prince rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “Do we have names for these witnesses?”
“We cannot erase the event without arousing more suspicion. Have our contact see to the interviews personally. Remind him to check for cameras or telephones that might have taken photographs. He can amend the reports, if need be.”
Lorenzo bowed. “Yes, my lord. And the woman?”
The Prince forced himself not to react. “If she’s wearing a talisman, no one will be able to approach her. I’ll investigate the matter personally.”
The lieutenant gazed at him curiously.
“What about the dead agent?”
“Aoibhe has probably burned the corpse by now. Tell our contact to focus everyone’s attention on the missing person investigation that will no doubt ensue and to plant evidence that links the scene to organized crime. That’s plausible enough. The witness reports and physical evidence should support a knife attack, rather than a feeding. If an unruly witness were to disappear . . .” He gave Lorenzo a meaningful look.
“And the other woman?”
“What other woman?”
“The woman you left in the club.” Lorenzo gestured toward the door.
The Prince startled, for he’d forgotten her.
“Find out her name and address and ask one of the guards to escort her home. She is not to be touched by anyone.”
“As you wish.”
The Prince dismissed his lieutenant and instructed the security guard to return to his post. Then he ran in the direction of Santo Spirito, as if the very forces of hell were chasing him.
In the Prince’s experience, coincidences were rare. That was why he flew with great speed to Jane’s building.
It was possible another woman had evaded the feral because of a talisman. It was possible a policeman other than the one he’d seen following her had been killed.
He wanted to ensure she was safe, although he took great care to conceal his movements. He didn’t want to draw more attention to her and he certainly didn’t want it known that some relics had no effect on him.
Maximilian and his allies would have declared the Prince’s tactics paranoid and unnecessary. But there was a reason why his coven had lasted so long. There was a reason why his principality was safe, while others around the world were threatened or even destroyed. He kept his secrets secret.
What humans did not know about, they couldn’t fight. Certainly they couldn’t recruit the coven’s enemies without knowledge of the coven itself.
There’d been a time when he and his kind were well-known in Europe and had not lived in secret. Then came the Black Death, poisoning their food supply. His brethren had shrunk in numbers, some being destroyed in their hungry, weakened state while others quit Europe for unblighted parts of the world.
Then the Curia had emerged. It was a mysterious group, formed by human beings, but wielding limited supernatural powers. It had tried to eradicate his kind and had waged a war against them. When the war ended, neither side won, although both claimed victory. The uneasy truce that emerged between the European covens and the Curia required the covens to live underground, in shadowy, secret societies. Any public exposure was perilous.
With the rise of the Enlightenment and the triumph of science over the supernatural, first-person accounts of encounters with his kind became stories, and the stories eventually became myths. The Curia intervened to protect the public from what lay hidden in their midst only when provoked. The covens did their best not to provoke it by attracting attention.
Thus, the Prince jealously guarded his city, even to the point of killing to secure it. The feral and its witnesses threatened his world, as did whoever escaped the feral.
And if it were Cassita . . .
He surveyed the piazza from the building next to hers.
He could have chosen a better vantage point, that of the church nearby. But despite his ability to walk on holy ground, he couldn’t do so unscathed. He tended to avoid the pain, unless it accompanied his daily triumphal climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. And he only visited the dome before the sun set and his brethren awoke.
From his vantage point, he could see the police. They’d cordoned off an area in front of Jane’s building, erecting tents to stave off the rain. He saw one of the officers wheel a black Vespa toward the tent. The Vespa looked familiar.
Keeping to the shadows, he leapt to the ground at the back and walked to Raven’s building. He unlocked the back door and swept inside, out of the rain. The stairwell was illuminated but empty.
Brushing the rain from his blond hair and face, he held his breath. The woman in the apartment next to Jane’s had cancer. He’d smelled the stench before and it was most unpleasant. He didn’t relish inhaling it again.
As he gazed at the staircase, he contemplated cutting off the electricity to Jane’s apartment.
Truthfully, he both wanted and did not want to speak with her.
He wanted to shake some sense into her and force her to leave the city. But he also wanted to ascertain that she was safe and that she hadn’t volunteered any information to the police. These goals would be difficult to achieve without speaking with her and, he admitted ruefully, frightening her.