“You’re late,” Nellie said, looking at her watch and up at Beau standing in the door of his flat.
“He’s always late,” Dr. Paine said.
“Any luck?” Beau asked.
Nellie shook her head.
“We’ve waited here for an hour for you,” she said. “We’re famished.”
Outside, Beau asked Dr. Paine, “Are we taking my car or yours?”
“Mine,” Dr. Paine said quickly. “Nellie would have to ride in my lap if we take yours.”
Beau nodded and climbed into the backseat of the Doctor’s car. He leaned forward so the two could hear him as Dr. Paine pulled out from the curb.
“Let me guess, you two didn’t find out anything,” Beau said.
Nellie turned around with a raised brow. “Not on his friends. It’s as if they didn’t exist. How did you know?”
“Did you, Doctor?” Beau asked.
“I didn’t either,” Beau said. “The Chief asked Records to look, but the Organization has no information on them. So I took a train to Cambridge. Vance’s file is still there. But when I asked to see the files of the other eight, they were missing.”
“That’s odd,” Nellie said.
“I have a theory that covers the known facts,” Beau said. “I suspect his companions are more connected to this than we earlier had imagined.”
“That makes no sense,” Dr. Paine said. “Why wouldn’t Vance’s file be missing as well if that were true?”
“Because he’s their bait,” Beau said.
“I don’t follow,” Nellie said.
“When I was in Spain in ’36 to fight for the Loyalists, there was a captain who would send out his most aggressive newest recruit as a scout,” Beau said.
Nellie and Dr. Paine looked at each other briefly. Beau had left Massachusetts with another companion from their Arkham days, Wade Clark, a pilot. The Chief had sent Clark with other agents to Palestine. Beau had never talked about his experiences in Spain. Until his relationship with Lucy, it was the only thing Nellie or Dr. Paine had ever known him to keep secret from them.
“The Captain would build the new soldier up, telling him how much confidence he had in him and how important he was to the unit, and his bravery was needed to lead the others. Then he’d send the soldier as a scout far enough ahead that he’d draw the fire of any snipers waiting in ambush and the other soldiers in the company would know where the enemy was hiding and could attack them.”
Beau stopped. He hadn’t thought about Spain in a long time, but in talking about it he could smell the dry grass and feel the heat of the sun and see the flashes from rifles in the shade of the trees across the field. He’d been one of the Captain’s “scouts,” one of the few to survive. Most died, cut down in the first shots of their first battle before they had the chance to learn better. Beau had known better, but he had done it because he followed orders until the day came he could not.
“Beau,” Nellie said quietly.
Beau resumed as if there had not been a pause. “Vance is their live bait. Let’s say you’re delving deep into dark, forbidden knowledge and you have plans, long-term plans to gain power. You form a secret society of like-minded people. If you were highly intelligent, you also might think beyond the immediate future. You’d want someone like Vance clever enough to avoid the detection of the police but who would eventually draw out the ‘opposition’ so you would know who they were.”
“If such a group existed, couldn’t they simply use a divination spell?” Dr. Paine asked.
“Magic doesn’t work that way,” Nellie said. Dr. Paine had tried to avoid learning about the dark arts out of a nearly superstitious fear that such knowledge of the supernatural would harm his rational, scientific reasoning. “A specific target is required to focus a spell upon.”
“Have either of you had a sense of being followed or watched?” Dr. Paine asked.
Beau shook his head. “But that does not mean we’ve not been. They could be very good. They even could have followed us to HQ. It’s not like I’ve been taking any precautions. Have either of you? It’s been a long time since we had anyone hunting us. I know I’ve grown careless.”
Nellie made a derisive sound. Dr. Paine gave her a pointed look. “Now is not the time,” Dr. Paine said.
Nellie sat back and stubbed out her cigarette. “He could be right,” she said. “There have been times I’ve thought I’ve been watched, as if I’m being stalked by an unseen enemy.”
“You have a history of being paranoid,” Dr. Paine said.
“And I’m still alive, thank you very much,” she said with a flash of irritation.
Dr. Paine pulled his car into a parking space. He leaned over the seat. He rubbed the back of his hand under his chin. They didn’t speak as they walked down the street and into the Italian restaurant, lit by bright red and green signs. The place was busy, but they managed to find a table near the back of the narrow building. Dr. Paine walked to a phone booth along the wall near the kitchen.
The Night Officer answered, “Office of Plumbing Measurements and Standards.” Dr. Paine gave the pass code for the day and asked if anything unusual had occurred. The Night Officer told him no. Dr. Paine asked him to double the guard on the Chief and to call in extra security. He explained Beau’s theory.
“Take care,” the Night Officer said as he rang off.
Dr. Paine waved their waiter over and ordered for the table. The waiter nodded and headed for the kitchen.
A bottle of wine and a basket of bread were brought out. Dr. Paine filled their wine glasses.
“Any news?” she asked.
“No. But if Beau’s right, they might not act right away. They could be more subtle than that.”
“And you called me paranoid,” she scoffed. “I’m better now.”
She had been treated for paranoia at Arkham Asylum, four terrible months that still haunted though it had been five years ago.
Beau drank his wine slowly. He was exhausted. He hadn’t seen Lucy in two days and was surprised not to have heard from her.
“Beau, Cyrus Vance has killed again,” Nellie said in a low voice.
“Full moon isn’t until tonight,” Beau said. “Are you sure it was him?”
“Yes, I went to the scene myself. Perhaps he feared we were on to his next target,” she said.
“How old was she?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” Nellie said.
Beau cursed under his breath. He was lost in his thoughts when the food arrived, three plates heaping with spaghetti.
Beau twirled the spaghetti around his fork and took a bite. The pungent taste of garlic filled his mouth. The cook had put more garlic in than usual and Beau took a long drink. Dr. Paine and Nellie ate quietly, the forks on their plates the only sound from them.
Beau began to ask them if the cook had put too much garlic on their dishes as well, but their expressions told him the answer. Their faces were blank masks, the looks he had often seen them assume before they killed someone. If he had drank of Lucy’s blood and begun the earliest stages of transformation into a vampire, that garlic would have acted as poison to his system and killed him. Lucy had only drunk from him once and he had never tasted her blood. But how did they know about his relationship with her? Had they followed him? He resumed eating behind his own blank mask. He took an extra large amount on his fork and made a point of chewing it slowly while making eye contact with Nellie.
“Lucy was at your apartment,” Nellie said as if she had read his mind.
“And you thought there was a chance that she had turned me and I should die because of it? After all we’ve been through together?” He kept his voice down despite his anger.
“You’re a fine one to talk,” Nellie whispered back. “Keeping it secret that the deadliest vampire in Europe had returned to London doesn’t put you in the right, Beau. She could have come after me.”
“She didn’t though, did she?” he retorted.
Dr. Paine raised a hand in a conciliatory manner. “We couldn’t take a chance, Beau,” he said.
“So you’d prefer me dead than undead?” Beau asked.
“I’m glad you’re neither,” Dr. Paine said.
Beau shook his head and stood. He drained his wineglass, put it down hard and walked out.
Nellie and Dr. Paine looked at each other. “We had to know,” Dr. Paine said.
“Yes,” she said noncommittally. “He knows we had no other choice. We cannot have newly created vampires terrorizing the city. God knows why the Chief allows Lucy to exist, but she’s got to be the sole exception.”
Outside, Beau walked down the sidewalk downcast, unaware of the eyes following him from the rooftop.
Continue to Chapter 10.