Misguided Angel Page 28

Ted opened the book and pointed to an illustration on the left-hand page. It was a symbol divided into three parts. The first showed two interlocking circles, and the second, an animal on four legs. The third symbol was a sword piercing a star.

"Lucifer's sigil," Mimi sighed, pushing the book away. "So this is the Silver Bloods' work after all. Of course."

"Not exactly," Sam said. "It's actually the second symbol that worries us."

"What is it?" Mimi squinted at the image. It looked like a furry little creature of some kind. . . . Like a . . . "It's a lamb, isn't it?"

"Yes."

They didn't have to say anything more. Mimi knew her history as well as they. So that's what the three images on the video meant. They corresponded to the symbols on the triglyph: the mating animals stood for union, the ram's head for the sheep, and the snake was yet another symbol for Lucifer. The lamb symbolized humanity. The Red Bloods. A human flock. With Lucifer at its lead. The symbol for union joining the two, lashing them together.

The Silver Bloods were in cahoots with . . . humans? She felt sick. It didn't make sense.

Nothing did.

TWENTY-FOUR

The Vanity of Mrs. Armstrong Flood

On Sunday afternoon, Mimi met Oliver at Duchesne. "Are you absolutely certain this is the place this time?" she asked, as they ran up the darkened back stairway.

They had so little time left before the crescent moon rose. This was a farce; she did not even know why she had allowed herself to be talked into this. But if there was a chance to save Victoria without taking down the wards . . . they had to hurry.

When they had arrived at the school, Mimi quickly got them in without setting off any alarms. As Regent, she had the keys and codes to all the Blue Blood strongholds. The dark, empty building had struck her as surprisingly melancholy. She had never been in the school during the off-hours and was surprised to find how quiet and hollow it seemed without its students. She had always thought of Duchesne as a lively place, and now understood that its heart lay in its student body. Without them, the school was just an empty vessel, a stage set.

"I can't have another Carlyle on my hands. Wendell Randolph wants my head on a platter for disrupting his hotel. We had to do a huge memory wipe on all those Red Bloods. Messy. I think the actor wants to sue. He got a scratch on his forehead. His face is insured, you know."

"Actors," Oliver said, as if it were a curse word. "Just get one of the Conspiracy members to give him a part in their new film. I figured we should try everything before you had to take the wards down." He looked out the window at the sky, where the moon was still hidden. "We've got, what . . . fifteen minutes?" he asked, huffing as he led the way.

"Just about." They were cutting it close, but Mimi had promised the Lennox boys they would have every minute until the crescent moon rose, and they had asked her to meet Oliver and give them this one last chance.

It would take an instant to call off the wards. All she had to do was say the words and they would see Victoria immediately. She had made her decision, but now that the time to act was coming upon her, she was starting to have doubts. Should she risk the safety of the entire Coven for the life of one vampire? Charles had never done so, and neither had Lawrence when he was Regis. Why on earth was she Regent? She wasn't ready to make these kinds of decisions!

She might be centuries old in blood, but in this cycle she was only seventeen.

Oliver caught his breath for a moment. "Anyway, in answer to your question, we're here because it's one of the places Victoria could be. Sam and Ted are already at the other."

"Other?"

He nodded. "I'll explain in a bit. Remember the Carlyle pattern?"

"Are we back to wallpaper again?" Mimi snapped.

"Hear me out. The pattern on the wallpaper was produced by William Morris in 1880. Its reprint was exclusive to the Carlyle Hotel. No one else in the world is supposed to have that wallpaper. But it kept bothering me--why did that pattern look so familiar? I thought I'd seen it before, and not just at the Carlyle."

"Okay."

"Then I did some digging up on the history of the hotel. Did you know it was owned by the Floods? The same family who gave their mansion to the Duchesne School. Mrs.

Flood--Rose--was a leading tastemaker back in the day. It wasn't unreasonable to assume she had picked out that wallpaper personally. It took a lot of trouble to reproduce it--they practically had to buy the factory that did it. And so it got me thinking--if she loved it so much--maybe . . ."

"She put it in her bedroom," Mimi finished. "Victoria's in the attic, then? All this time?"

"That's my guess. Or in their Newport mansion, which is where the boys are. It's a museum now, so I thought it was best if we took this place and sent them there. That way you don't have to answer to the Preservation Society of Newport if things get messy, like they did the other day."

"Good thinking, but you know if you're wrong, I'm having your memory wiped and you'll never work for us again."

"Promise?"

Mimi and Oliver flew up the stairs to Mrs. Flood's bedroom. The top-floor classrooms had been abandoned several years ago, after too many of the Red Blood students swore they had seen or heard ghosts. Silly humans, there was no such thing as ghosts! Only apparitions set off by vampires fooling around in the glom. But in order to appease the human population, the area had been sealed off by the administration. It did make for a good place to hide someone, since the distraction spell kept the area clear of humans while the vampires chalked up any strange activity as consequence to the spell. But to think that all along, Victoria had been here--just underneath their noses--was almost insulting. It was if whoever had done this was taunting them.

Mimi pressed her ear against the door. She could hear something--a terrible grunting noise and a shuffling. She pushed against the door. It was held by a massive blocking spell. Crap.

Spellcasting and unmaking were not her areas of expertise, aside from that one time when she had dabbled in the Dark Arts.

"Try an exploder," Oliver suggested.

"I am," Mimi said, annoyed that she hadn't thought of it earlier. She focused on the doorknob and visualized it disintegrating into nothingness, blasting open, and allowing her inside.

The doorknob shook and shivered but the door remained locked. The terrible grunting noise grew louder, accompanied by a fearful, low moaning. Victoria? What was happening behind the door? Mimi's heart began to pump. She could feel waves of fear emanating from behind the doorway.

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