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Veil of Midnight (Chapter Nine)

The city of Montreal, named for the broad mount that afforded such a royal view of the Saint Lawrence River and the valley below, glittered like a bowl of gemstones under the crescent sliver of the moon. Elegant skyscrapers. Gothic church spires. Verdant parkways, and, in the distance, a shimmering ribbon of water that nestled the city in its protective embrace. It truly was a spectacular view.

No wonder the leader of the Montreal Darkhaven chose to settle his community near the summit of Mount Royal.

Standing on the baroque-style limestone balcony off the mansion's second-floor drawing room made the old hunting lodge outside the city seem a thousand miles away. A thousand years away from this polite, civilized manner of living. Which, of course, it was.

The wait to meet with Edgar Fabien, the Breed male who oversaw the Montreal vampire population, seemed to take forever. Fabien was well known around the city and rumored to be very well connected, both within the Darkhavens and their policing arm known as the Enforcement Agency. He was the natural choice for a delicate situation like this.

Still, it was a gamble that the Darkhaven leader would be willing to cooperate. This unannounced late-night visit had been a spontaneous thing, and a very risky one at that.

Just by coming here, he was declaring himself an enemy of Sergei Yakut.

But he'd seen enough.

Endured enough.

The prince was sick and tired of licking his father's boots. It was time for the tyrant king to fall. Lex turned at the sound of footsteps approaching from within the drawing room. Fabien was a slim male, tall and meticulously dressed, as if he'd been born in his tailored suit and shiny leather loafers. His ash-blond hair was slicked back from his face with some kind of perfumed oil, and when he smiled at Lex in greeting, his thin lips and narrow birdlike facial features became even more severe.

"Alexei Yakut," he said, coming out onto the balcony and offering Lex his hand. No fewer than three rings sparkled on his long fingers, gold and diamonds to rival the glitter of the city outside. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long. I'm afraid we're not accustomed to receiving unannounced guests here at my personal residence."

Lex gave him a tight nod and took his hand out of Fabien's grasp. The Darkhaven leader's private home wasn't exactly going to turn up in any Montreal tour guides, but a few questions posed to the right people in town had led Lex there without too much trouble.

"Come in, please," the Darkhaven male said, motioning for Lex to follow him back into the house. Fabien settled himself onto a fancy settee, leaving room for Lex on the other side. "I must admit, I was surprised when my secretary told me who had come to see me. A shame we've not had the opportunity to meet until now."

Lex took a seat beside the Darkhaven male, unable to keep his eyes from traveling over the endless luxury of his surroundings. "But you know who I am?" he asked Fabien cautiously. "Do you also know the Gen One who is my father, Sergei Yakut?"

Fabien gave a mild nod. "Only by name, alas. I am remiss in not having made formal introductions when you folks first arrived in my city. However, your father's bodyguards made it clear when my emissary inquired about a meeting that your father was something of a recluse. I understand he enjoys a quiet, rural life outside the city, communing with nature or some such." Over the steeple of his bejeweled fingers, Fabien's smile did not quite reach his eyes. "I suppose there is something to be said for living with that kind of…simplicity."

Lex grunted. "My father chooses such a life because he believes himself above the law."

"Excuse me?"

"That's why I'm here," Lex said. "I have information. Critical information that needs to be acted on quickly. Covertly."

Edgar Fabien leaned back against the cushions of the settee. "Has something…happened out at the lodge?"

"It's been happening for a long time," Lex admitted, feeling a queer sense of freedom as the words spilled out of his mouth.

He told Fabien everything about his father's illegal activities, from the blood club and the boneyard full of his victims' remains, to the keeping and frequent killing of his human Minions. Lex explained, not quite truthfully, how it had been eating him up to keep this secret for so long and how it was his own sense of morality – his sense of honor and respect for Breed law – that compelled him to seek out Fabien's help in putting a stop to Sergei Yakut's private reign of terror.

It was excitement – thrill at the depth of his courage – that put a quiver in Lex's voice, but if Fabien took it for regret, so much the better.

Fabien listened, his expression carefully schooled, sober. "You understand, I'm sure, that this is no small matter. What you've described is…problematic. Disturbingly so. But there will be certain factors that will come into play on this type of investigation. Your father is Gen One. There will be questions for him to answer, protocols that will need to be observed – "

"Investigation? Protocol?" Lex scoffed. He shot to his feet, awash in both fear and fury. "That could take days or even weeks. A fucking month!"

Fabien nodded apologetically. "It could, yes."

"There's no time for that now! Don't you get it? I am handing my father to you on a platter – all the evidence you would need for an immediate arrest is right there on his property. For fuck's sake, I am risking my goddamn life just by standing here!" "I am sorry." The Darkhaven leader held up his hands. "If it's any comfort to you, we would be more than willing to offer you protection. The Agency could remove you once the investigation begins, take you someplace safe – "

Lex's sharp bark of laughter cut him off. "Send me into exile? I'll be dead long before then. Besides, I'm not interested in going into hiding like a whipped dog. I want what I deserve. I want what I am due, after all these years of waiting for handouts from that bastard." It was impossible to mask his true feelings now. Lex's rage was on a full boil. "You want to know what I really want from Sergei Yakut? His death."

Fabien's gaze narrowed shrewdly. "That's very dangerous talk."

"I'm not the only one to think it," Lex replied. "In fact, someone even had the balls enough to attempt it just last week." Narrower and narrower went those cunning little eyes. "What do you mean?"

"He was attacked. An assailant stole into the lodge and tried to sever his head with a length of wire, but in the end he failed. Of all the damned luck," Lex added under his breath. "The Order feels it's the work of a professional."

"The Order," Fabien repeated airlessly. "How are they involved in any of what you've described?"

"They sent a warrior here tonight to meet with my father. Apparently they are trying to warn the Gen Ones about the recent slayings among the population."

Fabien's mouth worked for a second without forming words, as if he wasn't sure what question to tackle first. He cleared his throat. "There is a warrior here in Montreal? And what is this about recent slayings? Whatever are you talking about?" "Five dead Gen Ones, between North America and Europe," Lex said, recalling what Nikolai had told him. "Some one seems hell-bent on picking off the whole remaining first generation, one by one."

"My word." Fabien's face was the picture of astonishment, but something about him was bothering Lex.

"You didn't know anything about the killings?"

Fabien rose slowly, shook his head. "I am stunned, I assure you. I had no idea. What a terrible thing." "Maybe. Maybe not," Lex remarked.

As he stared at the Darkhaven leader, Lex noticed a sudden stillness coming over the vampire – so still he had to wonder if Fabien was actually breathing. There was a subdued but rising panic in his raptorlike eyes. Edgar Fabien held his body in check with rigid precision, but from the look in his shifting gaze, he looked as though he wanted to bolt from the room.

How intriguing.

"You know, I would have expected you to be better informed, Fabien. Your reputation around the city paints you as quite the player. With all your Enforcement Agency friends, are you trying to tell me that none of them clued you in? Maybe they don't trust you, eh? Maybe they have good cause."

Now Fabien met Lex's gaze. Amber sparks flashed in his irises, a telltale sign of a pricked nerve. "Just what kind of game are you trying to play here?"

"Yours," Lex said, sensing an opportunity and pouncing on it. "You know about the Gen One slayings. The question is, why would you lie about it?"

"I don't publicly discuss Agency issues." Fabien all but spat his reply, puffing out his thin chest with self-righteous indignation. "What I know or do not know is my own business."

"You knew about the attack on my father before I mentioned it, didn't you? Were you the one who called for his death? What about the others who've been killed?"

"Good Christ, you are mad."

"I want in," Lex said. "Whatever scheme you're involved with, Fabien, I want in."

The Darkhaven leader expelled his breath sharply, then gave Lex his back as he casually walked over to one of the tall bookcases built into the silk-papered wall. He smoothed his hand along the polished wood, chuckling idly. "As illuminating and entertaining as our conversation has been, Alexei, perhaps it should end here. I think it best if you go away and calm yourself before you say anything more foolish."

Lex charged forward, determined to convince Fabien of his worth. "If you want him dead, I am willing to help get it done." "Unwise" came the hissed reply. "I can snap my fingers and have you held on suspicion of intent to commit murder. I may still, but right now you're going to leave and neither one of us will speak another word of this conversation."

The drawing room door opened and four armed guards filed inside. At Fabien's nod, the group of them surrounded Lex. Given no choice, he started to leave.

"I'll be in touch," he told Edgar Fabien with a light baring of his teeth. "You can count on that."

Fabien said nothing, but his shrewd gaze remained fixed on Lex with grim understanding as he walked to the drawing room doors and gently closed them tight.

Once Lex was out on the street alone, his mind began to churn over his options. Fabien was corrupt. What a surprising, and sure to be useful, bit of information. With any luck, it wouldn't be long before Fabien's connections were Lex's as well. He didn't particularly care how he had to acquire them.

He glanced up at the beautiful Darkhaven mansion and all its pristine luxury. This was what he wanted. This kind of life – lifted high above the filth and degradation he'd known under his father's boot heel. This was what he truly deserved. But first he would need to get his hands dirty, if just one last time.

Lex strolled along the tree-lined, meandering road and headed back down into the city with renewed purpose.

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