Misguided Angel Page 18

Around the table sat members of the Conspiracy, the subcommittee that handled human-vampire relations and disseminated false information about the vampires into the human world. Conspiracy members included several best-selling novelists, one of whom had popularized the amusing idea that instead of burning to death, vampires smelled like roses in the sun, as well as film producers who kept the slash-and-behead theory alive and well in numerous blockbuster horror movies. More than a few were annoyed to have been pulled from their lucrative jobs for an emergency meeting. The Conspiracy had not met as a body in many years.

Seymour Corrigan, Conclave Elder and head of the Conspiracy, opened the discussion.

"Any ideas where this might have come from?"

"Looks like one of your jobbers, Harry," joked Lane Barclay-Fish, the author of Blood and Roses and said mastermind of the floral-smelling vampires conceit. He turned to Harold Hopkins, the executive producer of a popular vampire soap opera currently running on a prestigious cable network.

"Not me--in my show the humans only use our blood as vitamins. You know, long life and all that," chortled Harold, a bald vampire who wore sunglasses indoors.

Warden Corrigan cleared his throat. "I fail to see the amusement in this enterprise."

"You guys, Seymour's right, this isn't funny," Mimi said. "This is a video from a real party. That's one of us up there, not one of Harold's overpaid actresses." It galled her that after everything that happened, they could still be so glib when one of them was missing. She knew they were just covering up their fear, but it was in poor taste.

"Right, right," Lane apologized. "I say we let the Red Bloods think it's a movie trailer.

One of Josie's, maybe."

Josephine Mara was the hottest young director in the business. She had the pinched, stressed look of someone perennially on deadline. In the past year she had helmed several

"underground" horror films to major success. It was easy enough to make horror films. As a vampire she didn't need to pay for special effects. She just created them. "Sure, why not?"

Josephine smiled thinly. "I'll say it's a follow-up to Eidolon Memory," she said, naming her most recent hit, a haunted-house ghost story set in a girls' boarding school.

"Remember when one of the familiars penned a tell-all memoir in the 1800s?" Harold asked.

"Yes, thank God we got her publisher to categorize it as a novel," Lane said, nodding.

"What was that woman thinking? And that title! Longing for Love Forever, jeez. Lord Byron has a lot to answer for."

"He did have quite the taste for the ladies. Bite 'em and leave 'em. Meanwhile, the poor lady is stuck with the yearning and all that. Must be difficult. A pity." Harold shrugged.

"I miss the old days, when it was so easy," Lane sighed. "Remember when we came up with Count Dracula? That was fun. Sent scores of tourists to Romania! Red Bloods will believe anything."

"That was a good prank," agreed Annabeth Mahoney, who had created a popular video game called "Blood Wars," which pitted vampires against each other. In Mimi's opinion, sometimes the Conspiracy played too fast and loose with disseminating untruths that were a little too close to the real thing.

"Gentlemen, ladies," Mimi interrupted, clearing her throat. "As much as I'm enjoying this trip down memory lane--or rather, manipulated memory lane--this is not just a security breach.

Even if we're able to convince the Red Bloods this is yet another Hollywood fiction, it shows that whoever put this together knows too much about us, which puts us all in danger. That's hellfire up there. And one of our own is missing." Mimi turned to the twin Venators seated to her right. She'd pulled Sam and Ted Lennox from their previous assignment to work on this one.

"Sam, what do we know so far?"

Sam took the mouse and clicked on an icon on the screen, minimizing the video and pulling up a photograph of a pretty, red-haired girl. It was the same girl from the video. "The Blue Blood in question is Victoria Taylor. Seventeen. Duchesne senior. She was last seen at a party thrown by Jamie Kip at his apartment, where this video was shot. Nothing irregular in her Transformation as far as the Committee can tell. Blue veins at fifteen, the hunger, all that. No deviant behaviors, no aberrant actions in her history. We checked the Rep Files. Family is solid Coven stock."

He clicked on the mouse again to show another photograph. This one was of a good-looking boy with messy blond hair and dimples. "This is her human familiar, Evan Howe, sixteen, Duchesne junior, also missing since the night of the party. Ted, you want to take it from here?" he asked his brother.

"Sure." Ted pulled a reporter's notebook from his coat pocket and began to read from it.

"So far, the video has been circulating on the Internet, and to Lane's suggestion, it's already happened. The Red Bloods think it's a movie trailer."

The members nodded.

"So we've been puffing up that idea by spreading rumors that a movie called Suck is coming out. It's a documentary, handheld, horror type of thing. So far, the public seems to be buying it. Apologies in advance to the more talented members of the group--I wouldn't presume to know how to do your job. Sam and I had one of the tech people jazz up this footage, and this new trailer is making the rounds on the Web now, too."

Sam clicked on the mouse and the horrifying video played again. At the end, it displayed a tagline. " Suck," it read in bloodred letters. "Coming to theaters near you."

"I'll get it up on my IMDB profile as soon as possible," Josephine agreed. " Suck . . . I like it. Good title."

"So that covers the security risk, at least," Sam sighed. "But on to the real issue. We believe this is a genuine threat and that Victoria has been taken by hostiles. We haven't gotten a bead yet on where she is or who's holding her. Her parents are in Mustique for the season.

They're flying back today, but they haven't seen her in months, and as far as I could gather, they don't seem to know very much about her day-to-day life."

Typical Blue Blood parents, Mimi thought. Since their "children" weren't their children at all, most vampires had very loose family connections. Mimi was always grateful that Charles and Trinity, no matter that they were only her cycle parents, had been more attentive than indifferent.

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