Chapter 12

THE MOMENT I STEPPED DOWNSTAIRS, ANDREA grabbed me. A pink flush painted her cheeks. She seemed agitated. Agitated wasn't good.

"We need to talk. Derek, you, too."

Everybody needed to talk to me. I was getting sick of talking. "Before we do that, I've got something to show you."

I led her to the loup cage. The volhv sat upright, tied to the chair. His eyes were closed. He looked passed out.

Andrea's eyes widened. "Who is that?"

"That's a volhv."

The volhv's eyelashes trembled. Wakey, wakey.

"The one who kidnapped Kamen?"

"No. The one who kidnapped Kamen was an elder volhv. This one is more like middle management, powerful but not up there yet."

Andrea arched her eyebrows. " Aha. How did he get all beat up?"

"He hassled me about meeting with Evdokia."

"Were you in a bad mood or something?"

You have no idea. "Yeah. You might say that."

Andrea pursed her lips. "Why does he look like a hidalgo pirate? I thought Russians were blond."

"And we all carry a bottle of vodka in our pocket and wear a fur hat year-round." The volhv opened his black eyes. His gaze snagged on Andrea. He blinked and stared, stunned.

Oh boy.

"Pretending to be passed out," I said.

"Just resting my eyes." He was still looking at Andrea. "It's nice in here. Peaceful." A slow smile bent the volhv's lips. "Although if you would like me to model a fur hat for you instead, we could come to an understanding." Andrea barked a short derisive laugh and left the room.

"Does she work here with you?" the volhv asked.

"You--never mind," I told him, went out, and locked the door behind me for good measure.

Andrea crossed her arms. "The nerve. Did you see those eyes. Pow!"

Yeah, pow. "You wanted to tell me something?"

"Yes. Derek, too. Kitchen?"


The three of us landed at the kitchen table. Ascanio sauntered in and leaned against the wall.

"De Harven's records are pristine," Andrea began "Everything checked out. He did four years in the Army. I found his DD214, the discharge papers, and called it in to the National Personnel Records. They said it would take two months to confirm, so I called it in to a buddy of mine in the Military Supernatural Defense Unit. He says everything on MSDU's end comes up roses. I also found de Harven's NCO evaluations and his pay stubs."

A man might falsify his discharge papers, but he'd have to go an extra mile to fake pay stubs and performance reports.

"Orlando PD confirmed he was a cop," Derek said. "I talked to two people who knew him. They said he was a good cop. Dedicated."

"We went through de Harven's apartment." Andrea opened an envelope and pulled a Polaroid out. It was a picture of a digital painting. A sunrise died down over the sea, leaving ragged gray clouds in its wake. In the center of the picture a lone rock jutted from troubled water, supporting a white spire of a lighthouse that sent a brilliant beam of light toward the horizon. The caption under the image said, DARKNESS REIGNS AT THE FOOT OF THE LIGHTHOUSE.

"Is this supposed to tell me something?" I asked.

"It's a lighthouse," Andrea said in the same voice in which people usually said, "It's a murder."

"It's a very nice lighthouse. Lots of people have paintings of lighthouses." Where was she going with this?

Andrea dug in the envelope and pulled out a picture in a frame. Two rows of teenagers stood in their graduation robes. Andrea pointed to a dark-haired kid on the left. "De Harven." She stabbed the blond kid on the far right. "Hunter Becker."

I waited to see if she shed any more light on it.

"Hunter Becker!" Andrea repeated. "They were in the same high school class!" "Who is Hunter Becker?"

"Becker the Gory? Lighthouse Keepers? Boston?"

"I would've preferred Becker the Easily Surrendering or Becker the Quite Reasonable, but beyond that his name tells me nothing."

Andrea sighed. "The Order suspects the existence of a secret society called the Lighthouse Keepers. They're well organized and really well hidden."

"A secret society?" Derek frowned. "What, like Masons?"

Andrea huffed. "Yes, just like Masons, but instead of getting together, putting on silly hats, and getting drunk and sponsoring charity events, they get together and think up ways of killing people and destroying government buildings. They hate magic, they hate magic users, they hate magic creatures, and they would love to exterminate the lot of us with extreme prejudice."

Well, that pretty much covered everyone in this room.

"Why?" Derek asked.

"Because they hold technological civilization to be the perfect state of humanity. They think magic is dragging us into barbarism and they must preserve the light of progress and technology. Without it, we would all descend into darkness." Andrea shook her head. "Three years ago Hunter Becker blew up a medmage hospital in Boston. Dozens dead, hundreds injured. They tracked him down and he walked out straight into a SWAT unit, clenching a gun in each hand."

Suicide by cop. Always a good sign.

Andrea held up the Polaroid, pointing to the caption. "This was written on the wall of his safe house. That is what in our business is called a `clue.' "

Thank you, Miss Smartass. "Excellent work, Miss Marple."

She bared her teeth at me. "Kate, these people are fanatics. That stunt in Boston took a lot of teamwork. The hospital was developing an experimental magical treatment for the blue flu. They had several virulent variations of it in their labs, guarded better than Fort Knox."

She counted off on her fingers. "Someone built several bombs with an elaborate fail-safe. Someone bypassed three levels of security. Someone distributed the bombs on separate floors in restricted areas with limited access. Finally, someone had given Becker access to the building across the street, which was the local police station. It was estimated that at least six people were directly involved in the bombing, some of whom had to be hospital personnel. Nobody except Becker was ever discovered, and the only reason they found Becker was that he had been injured by debris and left a blood trail. None of the people were planted, Kate. They actually worked there. Since then, the Order has found two other instances of terrorism, all involving teams of covert operatives. That's how these people operate: they recruit young and activate their members as the need arises."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Articles you may like