Laws of the Blood 4: Deceptions: Deceptions

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

LAWS OF THE BLOOD: DECEPTIONS

 

An
Ace
Book / published by arrangement with the author

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©
2002
by
Susan Sizemore

This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

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ISBN:
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AN
ACE
BOOK®

Ace
Books first published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

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Electronic edition: MARCH, 2003

 

For Team LOTB—Jane, Marguerite, Terri, and Chris—who get to see all my typos, missed words, grammar disasters, forgotten plot points, and research screwups before anyone else. Thank you, ladies, for making me look good . . . even if I do pout when you point all this stuff out.

 

Law: For each city, there is but one Enforcer, whose word is to be obeyed in all things.

Prologue
 


L
ISTEN—”

“Not here.”

“You don’t even know—”

Sara put a finger over Gerry’s lips. “You’ve got that fanatical look in your eye again.”

“I—” he said around her finger.

Why did he have to be this way? Why here? Gerry Hansell wasn’t any good at giving up. About every six months he brought the subject up to Sara. “Come on,” she said. “Outside.”

Sara stood, lunch bag clutched in her hand, and marched Gerry through the crowd in the cool interior of the building. It was always crowded, full of tour groups, but since it was such a huge place, the hordes of tourists went almost unnoticed. She came here because she lived in the neighborhood, and it had become a convenient meeting place for her and her colleagues.

They went out into the muggy summer air and down a long flight of steps to the herb garden. It was a quiet place, redolent of sun-warmed lavender, almost deserted, but for the black squirrels that spotted them the moment
they sat on a bench near a wall fountain. Sara was too soft not to toss cold greasy fries to the little beggars out of her fast food bag as Gerry started up again.

“We ought to talk to her. We can make it work.”

“She doesn’t want to hear it, and no, we can’t.”

“You could talk to her. She listens to you.”

“Nice wheedling, kid, but it doesn’t match the facts. She’s the boss. I live to serve.”

“So do we all, but you’re—”

“Her liaison, carrying out her bidding without power or influence.”

Gerry laughed.

Sara frowned at him. They had other things to discuss; things they could actually do something about. But instead of putting a firm damper on his enthusiasm for this particular subject, she asked, “What do you want to try this time? Put together some polling numbers? I can just imagine the phone calls to focus groups. ‘On a scale of one to ten, sir, do you believe that vampires exist?’ ”

“Yes,” he answered with ringing enthusiasm.

“ ‘If vampires exist’,” Sara continued the imaginary poll, “ ‘would you, A) Stake them through the heart, B) Expose them to sunlight, C) Use them in medical experimentation, or, D) Allow them to run for Congress.’ ”

“We wouldn’t want vampires in Congress,” Gerry answered. “They’re all Republicans.”

“Fiscally conservative does not necessarily translate as Republican.” Sara defended their mistress and all their mistress’s kind. “The point is, we can’t poll public opinion of—” She looked around the quiet garden. “—vampires.”

“The point is,” Gerry said, “that the time is not
coming
when there is nowhere left for them to hide, the time is here.” He slapped a hand down hard on the bench for emphasis. “They need to face it.”

“They won’t.”

“The world has grown too small, technology is too pervasive. Discovery is inevitable. They should do it on
their own terms. They have to come out before somebody without their best interests at heart does it for them. We need to introduce the idea to the public slowly, build a positive image.”

“Positive image?”

“It can be done.”

Sara knew Gerry was not joking, and the thought terrified her. “Death by cigarette can be made palatable, Gerry, sexy. You can make people ignore their mortality with a big enough ad campaign. But let the public know that immortality is possible for a tiny, tiny, minuscule fraction of the population, but nobody else can play, and that minority of immortals won’t stand a chance.”

“We can make it work.”

“Right. Let’s see, how do we sell the public on accepting a small group of psychically endowed immortals whose very existence depends on their periodically hunting, killing, and eating mortal victims?”

“Televise it.”

He was joking this time. She was sure of it, but she didn’t answer. Sara crumpled up the greasy paper bag and began shredding it into tiny little pieces. “Let’s talk about that census data, shall we? You do have the information I asked for, right?”

“With the grudging cooperation of every nest I contacted, I do indeed have most of the information on the local population.”

Sara noticed that she was holding the crumpled shreds of the paper bag tightly in her fists and wondered what to do with this mess. “Most?”

Gerry shrugged. “I am a humble, vulnerable—delicious—mortal servant. No way am I approaching any of the strigs in this town.”

“There are no outlaw vampires in the area.” Sara laid down the party line.

“Which is why you want me to find out how many there are.”

“Our mistress asked for a census, starting here. We live to obey.”

“To a point. No one’s calling me an Uncle Igor, darling.”

She sighed rather than snarl the answer that came first to mind. She wanted to remind her fellow slave that he belonged to the vampire who let him taste immortal blood, but she was aware that her hunger to serve and protect the strigoi community was a deeper commitment than that of many who served the rulers of the underneath world. She’d been accused often enough by fellow staff members of being ambitious, of wanting to be a vampire when she didn’t have the psychic gift for it. She knew there were those who said she served so devotedly because she hoped loyalty could somehow win her a pair of fangs. That wasn’t true, she told herself. The snide remarks and whispered accusations were the result of envy of her position. Still, she was not going to give in to frustration and snap Gerry’s head off because she didn’t think he was showing proper subservience. She was not going to leave herself open to accusations of being an Uncle Igor.

Sara let the balled up paper fall to the ground and rubbed her sweating palms on the edge of the bench. Her muscles were very tense, and she made herself relax before speaking again. “You’re right,” she told Gerry. “Finding out if there are any strigs in the area is not either of our business.” She sat back on the bench, made herself enjoy the shade and the lavender-scented air. She wouldn’t let herself think about the hunger inside of her. “Let’s concentrate on what we mere mortals can do.”

“Fine,” he answered. “But I’d rather talk about vampires revealing themselves to the world.”

“I know—and I don’t care. Give me the numbers, Gerry.”

Chapter 1
 

“Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

—Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.

 

A
N OWL HOOTED over his shoulder. There was no other sound anywhere in the Walking world. Nothing but the dark of vision spread out before him, pregnant with possibilities, the details as yet hidden. He could go or stay. Staying was safe, sane, normal. Falconer took a deep breath, though he neither heard nor felt himself do so, and stepped onto a path lit by moonlight. He automatically memorized details as he walked farther and farther beyond his body. The woods on either side of the narrow asphalt path were thick, but he could hear traffic all around the wooded area. Night sky held a sprinkling of stars and lots of low-flying airplanes. The nearby sound of rushing water masked some of the city noise in the distance. He found it hard to move, even though he knew he was Walking and nothing should have gotten in his way. It wasn’t like he was really there. This just felt more real than usual, that’s how he knew it wasn’t a dream.

Falconer came upon the man suddenly. One instant Falconer was on the path, the next he was standing by the creek, looking at a man outlined by moonlight. The man was standing up to his waist in the center of the
fast-moving creek. Falconer automatically memorized details despite the darkness. The man in the water was young, with long dark hair, wearing a denim jacket over a dark shirt. Good looking in an unremarkable way. Then he turned his head and looked straight at Falconer. There was no mistaking that he saw the Walker in the woods.

Falconer changed his mind immediately about the young man’s looks being unremarkable. People with fangs and glowing red eyes were anything but unremarkable.

He didn’t normally wake up with a start, but he blinked and told himself the reaction wasn’t unwarranted. After all, he wasn’t supposed to go Walking outside of business hours, but his subconscious never had taken orders very well. He wasn’t happy about it, as he didn’t want to bring his work home with him. Falconer was unpleasantly surprised to find himself in bed, to realize that he had been sleeping. He let himself hope for a moment that he’d been dreaming, but he knew the difference.

It was a windy night, and the bedroom curtains weren’t completely closed. A tree outside the house was caught in the light of a streetlamp. The combination threw stiff tentacle shadows across the wall and ceiling and the top of the chest of drawers covered with framed family photos. The long-dead people in the pictures seemed to move in a dance with the wind. On another night Colonel Michael Falconer might not even have noticed; tonight the moving shadows seemed like an invasion. They seemed to claw toward him as he stared in sleep-drugged fascination. His thoughts spun, his senses followed. The dizziness eventually became so bad he had to rush to the bathroom to throw up. Walking always made him nauseated, but rarely to this extent.

When he came out of the bathroom a glance at the clock told him it was eleven in the evening. He’d only been in bed for about half an hour before his dreaming self strayed into the psychic territory where the
subconscious moved in the real world. Falconer guessed he’d suffered stronger side effects than usual, because what his mind had done had been unintentional and uncontrolled. He hoped it never happened again. He certainly wasn’t ready to go back to bed and risk falling into the same nightmare.

And maybe that was all it had been, a dream of Walking, no matter how real it had felt. After all if he’d been Walking he wouldn’t have seen—

No. Not going to think about any of the dream images. He wasn’t going back to bed, either. He was weary and still a little dizzy, but habit almost drove him to sit down and start making notes—but he was at home. The Georgetown row house he’d inherited from his mother was nowhere for him to carry on classified activity. And it didn’t feel big enough to hold him at the moment, either. It felt—creepy. He needed fresh air, the open sky. He needed to run. The least he could do was get dressed and go for a walk.

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