Misguided Angel Page 31

"We sent a DeathWalker into the glom."

The room buzzed at this information. "A glom-induced coma? To hide the spirit trail?

But the potential damage to the soul is . . ." Ted shook his head. "You'd have to be really crazy or really brave to do something like that. Who'd you find to carry out such a risky operation?"

"I did it myself," Deming said coolly. It was either her or Dehua, and Deming had always been the stronger of the twins. She hadn't allowed her sister to take the risk.

The crowd murmured its approval. DeathWalkers stripped their immortal spirit to its very essence, and in doing so mimicked death. With no trace of her spirit in the glom, she had been able to go underneath the masking spell and find the physical location of the hostage.

The Regent tapped her lectern. "Are there any more questions?" She looked around.

There were none. "I don't have to remind you that this information is classified to the Conclave and the Venator team originally assigned to the case. No one else in the Coven must know we are conducting an internal investigation. As far as they are concerned, the Conspiracy has taken care of the security breach posed by the online video. The mainstream world remains blissfully ignorant of our existence. Victoria's disappearance has been explained as a transfer to a Swiss boarding school. The Taylors have been alerted to the situation and are cooperating."

The meeting ended, and as Deming collected her things, the Regent walked to her side.

Deming was struck by Azrael's beauty. It was said among the vampires that only Gabrielle was lovelier, although it had been a while since Deming had seen her in the flesh. Deming had not been in cycle when Allegra was still active. The Regent's translucent skin had the creamy freshness of youth, a radiant vitality in contrast to heavy sadness in her emerald green eyes. "You have everything you need?" Mimi asked. "How are the boys treating you?"

"Venator quarters are a dump. Just like back home." Deming grinned. "But I'll manage."

"Glad to hear. Remember, at school, I don't know you. So please don't take anything I do or say personally."

"I'll try to keep that in mind," said Deming. She made for the door, but she got the sense that the Regent still had something she wanted to say, so she stuck around.

Mimi waited until the room was completely empty to speak. "There's another thing. It's come to my attention that there are those among us who believe that as community we pose too much of a target. Venators loyal to me have discovered that Josiah Archibald and several other Conclave members are planning a coup to disband the Coven. They're going to shut down the Repository, move the House of Records underground, and take half of the registered families with them. I've let them think I don't know anything about their plans. But I need to find the killer. If I can figure out who's behind the videos, I can regain their trust, calm the opposition, and make the Coven whole again."

Deming nodded. Mimi had not mentioned this when she'd debriefed her on the assignment, and it was a shock to learn the New York Coven was in such jeopardy. But then, no other Coven had lost as many immortal lives. "The blood spell that hit you--do you think the Conclave had something to do with it?" Deming asked.

"The Venators aren't completely certain yet; they're still breaking down the mechanics of the spell. But right now it's our best guess that yes, it was intended to get me out of the way."

Mimi bowed her head. "The Conclave had access to my Repository log. Somehow they found out I was planning to take down the wards."

"Do you think they were involved in Victoria's abduction?"

"No. Of course not. But they used it as an opportunity to attack me."

"Can I ask how you deflected the blood spell?"

The Regent sighed. "I'm not sure myself. As far as our doctors can tell, it just passed through me--neutralized on impact. As if I were wearing a bulletproof vest."

"Whatever it was, you were very lucky. I've seen victims of blood spells. It's not pretty,"

Deming said, sparing Mimi the details: the scraping of remains, the consequent blood burning that was a mercy, since the immortal spirit had been blasted into nothingness. Blood spells were nasty little devices, a way to harness the glom and unleash its effects on one person, targeting the molecules in the vampire's blood. "Anyway, Coven disbandment seems a rather radical proposition," she observed.

"They're trying to get rid of me because they know I would never allow it," the Regent said, looking up with her eyes bright. "Every vampire for himself? No more cycle births? Don't they remember what it was like before? If Charles was here they would never even attempt something like this."

"Don't worry, I'll find your killer," Deming said, putting a hand on Mimi's arm.

"Good." The Regent had a covetous look on her that Deming didn't fully understand until she realized that Mimi was jealous of her. Jealous that Deming had been able to save her hostage, whereas Mimi had fallen short--and as punishment, her Coven's very foundation was imperiled. It was surely not what she had wanted to accomplish when she had removed the wards.

"It wasn't your fault, what happened to Victoria," Deming said. "You shouldn't blame yourself. Don't worry. I won't fail. I never have."

Mimi shook her hand. "Make sure that you don't. What the Elders don't realize is that if they succeed in disbanding us . . . there is a very real possibility that we will never rise again."

TWENTY-SEVEN

The New Girl

The room she had been assigned was a small one that faced the shaft, so that the window opened to a view of a brick wall, five feet away. In Shanghai she had command of a top-floor penthouse, although pollution in the city was so bad she almost had the same view there as here: a gray darkness. The Lennox brothers, who lived on the top floor, had offered their help, but she had refused them for now. She worked better alone.

Deming grabbed her bag and left the building, planning on taking the subway uptown.

The pressure on her to deliver was intense, but she savored the challenge. There was nothing she liked more than a zero endgame, especially since she had no intention of losing. Colleagues in Shanghai had called the Chen twins arrogant, but she didn't see it that way. The twins were different from the rest. Like the legendary Kingsley Martin, they did whatever it took to get results. They were cold and ruthless, and would stop at nothing to get to the truth. Which was why the Coven had felt comfortable in sending one of them to New York, since they got to keep the other.

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