Part 2 of 7
Part 2 of 7
!!See part 1 for disclaimer!!
Richard emerged from the restroom with a somewhat abashed look on his face, wiping across his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Sorry about that,” he muttered, returning to his chair.
“Don’t worry about it, big guy,” Faith just said, “you had ample reason to.”
As a matter of fact Faith herself had spent some time paying homage to the great porcelain god not too long ago and she didn’t have pieces of ancient rotting vampire flesh bouncing around her stomach like Richard and the other lycanthropes. No, she just had pieces of rat bastard.
Interestingly enough it was not the thought of her having torn a huge chunk of meat out of a living human being that had made her stomach turn. No, it was the thought of having a little piece of a bastard like Fernando inside her. All that remained of that sorry excuse for a human being (to use the term loosely) was better off flushed than digested.
Richard, for his part, was uncomfortable enough with his beasty side as it was. Having been part of a big killing frenzy that ended up with a Master Vampire torn to pieces and eaten by at least a dozen different lycanthropes was probably not his idea of a good time.
“May we continue then?” Jean-Claude asked, the slightest hint of amusement audible in his voice.
“Sure,” Richard waved his hand. “By all means.”
They are in Jean-Claude’s office in a strip club called ‘Guilty Pleasures’, one of several businesses he owned in St. Louis’ so-called Blood District. For the time being it served as Jean-Claude’s daytime retreat, seeing as his usual hangout underneath the Circus of the Damned had uninvited house guests that no one in his right mind wanted to be under the same roof with.
“As I was saying,” Jean-Claude continued, “the death of Padma cut short our planned meeting with the Council last night. I was only informed that the meeting would be postponed, no further information was given.”
Faith was profoundly grateful for that. Last night she’d come closer to death than she’d been since dear little Buffy had stuck a knife in her gut all these years ago. Padma, the Master of Beasts, had hunted her with an entire mind-fucked bunch of were-animals in tow and nearly beaten her to death after she killed his living son. Only the intervention of Richard and his werewolf pack had saved her.
Padma was rotting in hell right now and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy in her opinion. She’d only gotten glimpses of what he’d done to were-animals throughout the centuries, thanks to the god wolf in her head, but that had been more than enough. She didn’t regret his death. She only regretted that it was bound to make all their lives that much harder.
That was why they were here right now. “They” being pretty much all the supernatural big shots of St. Louis. Jean-Claude and Richard had been involved from the start, representing the vampires and werewolves. Rafael was the Rat King and he’d been one of the people Padma had tried to take as trophies when the Council had first come to the city.
And then there were the several dozen lycanthropes Padma had mind-fucked to aid in his hunt for Faith last night, who between them represented pretty much every shifter group in the area. As a result there were some more guys here. A cross-dressing guy who apperently lead the were-hyenas, a nervous-looking punk-rocker who lead the were-leopards, an entirely too mild-mannered-looking man who was the boss of the were-lions, as well as some guy who was apparently a bear, who spoke for those shifters who were too few in number to have their own group.
Faith had already forgotten most of their names, but most of them were pretty pissed about what had gone down last night. She understood all too well. No one liked having his people used as cannon fodder by some high and mighty bastard.
“Shortly after I woke this afternoon,” Jean-Claude told the assembled people, “I received a letter from the Council. They invite us - us being Monsignor Zeeman, Mademoiselle Faith, and myself, along with whatever entourage we deem appropriate - to a, as they say, formal dinner to discuss the unfortunate demise of the Earth Mover. Tonight.”
Everyone waited for him to say more, but he didn’t.
“That’s it?” Richard finally asked. “Not a word about what went down last night? Nothing about Padma’s death?”
Jean-Claude shook his head. “Nothing. It would seem that, officially at least, the Council envoys do not consider Padma’s death to be a matter in need of any deliberation, or they would have mentioned it in their invitation. Unofficially, though, I have no doubt that the matter will come up sooner or later, seeing as Mademoiselle Faith was specifically invited, despite not having been present during the Earth Mover’s death.”
“You sure are a wordy fellow, aren’t you?” Faith said, smiling.
“He just likes to hear himself talk, that’s all.” Richard told her.
Jean-Claude gave them a slightly miffed look, but didn’t seem to mind a touch of humour all that much. For a moment the vampire and the werewolf locked eyes and communicated without words. By now Faith had the two of them pretty much figured out. The two of them would never be friends. That was pretty much impossible, seeing as they had loved the same woman for quite some time. They’d never go out for a night on the town together, but they would have each other’s back in a fight.
Kind of like her and B, Faith mused.
“You know that Traveller fellow best, JC,” Faith finally said. “Any chance that he’s really just gonna let this thing with Padma go?”
Jean-Claude rested his chin on his folded hands, a deep frown on his forehead.
“The Traveller is probably the most even-handed and neutral member of the Council. Which, to be honest, isn’t saying all that much. Still, it is known that he and Padma were far from friends. So I guess it is possible. I would not rely on it, though.”
“They must feel pretty confident,” Rafael said, taking part in the conversation for the first time, “seeing as they’ve given us pretty much carte blanche when it comes to who we’ll bring along.”
From what Faith had learned about Rafael and his rats from the wolf pack, they didn’t share the aversion to guns and other modern weapons that most supernatural creatures seemed to have. Many of his people carried guns and knew how to use them.
“We could go in there with an entire army,” Rafael continued. “Might just impress them a bit.”
Faith nodded. “Maybe. JC, if worst comes to worst... can we kick their asses?”
This time Jean-Claude didn’t need to think, he just shook his head. “Non, I very much doubt it. With the loss of Padma they might no longer be able to turn the city’s lycanthropes against us, but they still hold a lot of power. I would say the Traveller alone could kill every single one of us without too much effort.”
Faith could hear the god wolf growl inside her head. The thought that any enemy might be beyond their power to defeat did not sit well with the big bad wolf, but both it and she were smart enough to know that it was true. Faith was still aching all over. Her advanced healing powers, aided by an all-day pack pile, had gone a long way towards healing the many wounds she had received last night, but she wasn’t anywhere near a hundred percent.
So it seemed she would just have to play nice with the big, big bads. She could do that. Be nice. Maybe. Possibly. For a short time. With some effort.
Oh, who was she kidding. This would be a disaster.
“There is one other matter we must consider,” Jean-Claude said. “The St. Louis police department is looking into the death of Mr. Gerald Hauser, the unfortunate driver of Mademoiselle Faith’s limousine last night.”
With a start Faith realized that she’d barely spent any thought on the poor man who had taken a bullet yesterday for the simple crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A wave of guilt overtook her for a moment.
“Did he have any family?” she asked in a low voice.
Jean-Claude nodded. “Mr. Hauser left behind a wife and two children. I’ve already sent my condolences. As a small compensation I’ve made several calls to insure that Mr. Hauser’s life insurance policy is paid out in full and with no delay.”
“Do the police know the circumstances of his death?” Rafael asked.
“No, they do not. There is no record of where Mr. Hauser was headed last night and who his passenger was, but my being his employer is a matter of public record. There will be questions at the very least.”
“We don’t really want the police involved in any of this Council business, do we?” Richard asked.
“It would be most unwise,” Jean-Claude agreed. “I will try to have this matter dealt with by my lawyers, but if the police find any clues of what really went down last night, they might come to question several if not all of the people present here today.”
Faith nodded, figuring that, at the very least, her finger prints would be found inside the limo and as a licensed bounty hunter her prints were in the police database.. If enough of the car had survived for there to be any, they’d probably look her up soon.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we?” she finally said. “Murderous super vampires first, police later.”
“I agree,” Rafael said. “We should figure out who’s going.”
The look in his eyes clearly said that he considered himself part of the entourage and no one better argue. Earlier he had told Faith that he was in her debt for helping rescue him from the Council and that he wouldn’t soon forget it. So she wasn’t surprised he’d be along.
“I would propose a small party,” Jean-Claude said, hands folded in front of him. “The Council won’t be impressed by numbers, only by power.”
Faith looked around the room, assessing the various players here. Both Jean-Claude and Richard were pretty powerful, though both were still hurting from the shattering of the triumverate. Rafael was a heavyweight as well and she figured he knew how to handle himself in a fight.
The same probably couldn’t be said for the hyena guy. Narcissus, she remembered. He felt powerful, too, but from the look of things he wasn’t really a fighter. She didn’t see him volunteering for this thing.
The leopard guy, Zane or something, was out of the running as well. Faith was getting a feel for this whole alpha and dominance crap and Zane wasn’t alpha. He was strong, maybe he’d be one someday, but he wasn’t there yet. If he was the most powerful leopard around, the kitties were probably not in the best shape.
She dismissed the lion and bear guys as well. Both didn’t feel that powerful to begin with and didn’t seem interested in fighting, either.
“I’ll go,” Richard said. “Shang-Da and Jamil will be with me.”
Sylvie, his second-in-command, seemed about to protest being left behind, but Richard silenced her with a glance. Faith wasn’t sure whether he didn’t want her there because she’d nearly been raped the first time or because the wolves needed a leader in case he didn’t come back.
“Well, I was specifically invited, so I guess I’m in.” Faith looked around for more volunteers.
“I will bring two of my own bodyguards as well,” Rafael added.
“Damien shall accompany me,” Jean-Claude said. “So there will be nine of us.”
“The Fellowship of the Ring we ain’t,” Faith deadpanned.
TO BE CONTINUED