Misguided Angel Page 30

PART THE THIRD

DEMING CHEN, MERCY-KILLER

New York

The Present

TWENTY-SIX

An Angel Descends

As many of you know, two weeks ago, in an attempt to save Victoria Taylor, I chose to remove the wards that guard our Coven for a very brief period. However, we were unable to retrieve her in time, as I myself was attacked by a blood spell in the glom." The young Regent looked over the assembled Venators and Conclave members with sad eyes. Her voice was grave.

"I survived the more insidious effects of the spell, but Victoria was not so lucky. She was murdered."

The room remained silent for a long time. No one spoke or made any kind of noise: no nervous coughing, no impatient scraping of a chair. From her seat in the back, Deming Chen watched the Blue Bloods carefully. She was impressed by their ability to hold their emotions in check, but she sensed fear and anger from the assembled group.

This was not a good sign. It meant as Regent, Mimi Force did not have the backing of her Conclave. It was a pity, as anyone who could deflect a blood spell without a mark on her must have had very powerful protection at her disposal, and was worthy of respect and admiration.

When Mimi had first gotten in touch with her, Deming was shocked to find that the rumors were true, that the New York Coven was being led by someone so early in her cycle, and carried the spirit of Azrael, no less. Things really must be dire if the Coven had the Angel of Death at its head. Deming had met Mimi Force only once before, during the Four Hundred Ball almost two years ago, when the newborn flock revealed their immortal identities.

Deming liked Mimi well enough, although the memory of the Blue Bloods' long-ago insurrection was still sharp in her mind, as if it had happened yesterday. Azrael and Abbadon had led the campaign against the Almighty--had helped the Morningstar assemble a legion of the best and brightest. We are the gods now, Azrael had told them. The rule of Paradise can be ours. The great and mighty warrior queen had flattered and persuaded them, had convinced them they had been chosen personally for their strengths. How could they refuse?

Deming looked around: this was a sorry group indeed, filled with the elderly and the untested. Some of the Conclave members looked like they were way past the time for their cycle to be over, while some, like the Regent, were only coming into their full powers and memories.

Not that she should be so critical, as she herself had just celebrated her seventeenth birthday.

That the Blue Blood ranks had been reduced to such a state was troubling, to say the least. News was bad all over: the European Coven was in a communication blackout after what had happened in Paris; they refused to send word or share information, fearing other traitors in the community. In South America, the Conclave had declared martial law, and inter-Coven transactions shut down. Deming had expected more from the North American delegation--New York was famously the most powerful stronghold of the vampires. This was where Michael and Gabrielle had made their home. But the Uncorrupted had disappeared to who knows where, and no one knew when and if they would ever return. The vampires were on their own.

Deming drained her coffee cup. It had been an eighteen-hour flight into Kennedy Airport from Pudong, and she had spent the entire time poring over the Venator reports, re-reading every log, scrutinizing every decision. The Truth Seekers had operated by the book, and she could not find fault in their actions, but this junction required more from them than routine operations. She tried to hide a yawn. She had barely slept and could feel a giant headache forming. You'd think as immortals they would be immune from jet lag, she thought ruefully.

At the front of the room, the Regent was calling her name, and she realized with a start that everyone was looking at her. "Please allow me to introduce Venator Deming Chen. Time and again, Deming has proven to be one of our most effective and efficient Truth Seekers. I'm sure many of you remember that she, along with her twin, Dehua, was instrumental during critical victories in our history: the Egyptian Terrors, the Crisis in Rome, and the Monumental Schism are only a few of the battles her sword has helped us win. We are grateful that her Coven was kind enough to send her to help us on this case."

That was quite an introduction, akin to reading a resume, really, but Deming was used to it. As Kuan Yin, Angel of Mercy, she was highly sensitive to emotion and mood, and back in Shanghai was famous for her talent at reading a person's guanghuan or, in the Sacred Language, affectus, the color representation of one's interior barometer that was undetectable to the eye. She was one of two vampires (her sister was the other) who could see it without the help of the glom.

Red Bloods had a name for it as well, but those charlatans who purported to read a person's

"aura" were doing nothing but guesswork. You had to have angel sight to be able to read the real thing.

Deming stood and joined Mimi at the podium. "Six months ago, a vampire from our Coven was kidnapped," she said, taking a remote control from the table and pulling up two photographs on the back screen. It showed Victoria, tied and blindfolded on one side, and a dark-haired girl bound in a similar manner on the other. "Liling Tang's father is one of the richest men in China, and Liling's abductors demanded twenty million dollars for her release. Because of the money issue, naturally we concentrated on the humans in our community. However, in the end, we discovered she was taken by one of us. A Blue Blood."

The assembled group did not stir. It was almost as if they had expected it, and Deming soldiered on. "Her location was hidden by a masking spell, but after a thorough investigation, we were able to figure out where she was being held, and rescued her before the appointed deadline."

She continued. "I've gone over Victoria's file. According to the Warden overseers, Victoria arrived at the party at eleven p.m. After that she was never seen anywhere again.

Otherwise the Wardens would have picked up on her glom signature when she left. Therefore, whoever took her was at that party, which means whoever did this was someone close to her as well--someone from her inner circle. Someone from Duchesne. Someone she trusted."

"Deming will be enrolled as a senior at Duchesne," the Regent announced. "She will infiltrate Victoria Taylor's close group of friends, those who had been at Jamie Kip's party on the night in question. As we do not want to cause unnecessary fear or panic, this must remain a strict undercover operation."

"I've got a question. How did you find Liling if her glom signature was masked?" Ted Lennox asked. Deming had met him the night before; he had picked her up at the airport with his brother.

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