The Prince Plays His Aces
Well, we got the sarcophagus into Wesley"s garage and then I went out and fed. Again. I had lost a lot of blood in my fight, but I was intact. I said good night to Wesley and took a few nights off. I needed to heal. I didn"t realize how close I had come to the Final Death until I took a good look at my wounds. That Kuei-Jin pair had hurt me a lot more than I realized.
After resting a few nights, I went back to see Wesley. It turned out that he had not been idle. He had been researching the sarcophagus.
"You see that sunburst set of holes on the top?" he said. "That is really a keyhole. The ancients had a sophisticated set of keys and locks on these things. We can"t open it until we find the key."
"Well, it"s good you didn"t open it," I said. "I was told by everyone not to. But I have a pretty good idea where the key is."
"Yep," I answered. "But to hell with that for now. I think we can pay her a visit at any time and take the key if she won"t give it to us. I want to find out just how much LaCroix knows. I didn"t trust him much when this started, and now I don"t believe any damn thing he says. I want to head downtown and have a talk with him."
"Good luck," Wesley said.
I took my car to Santa Monica, spent a day there, and then took my cab downtown. "Prince LaCroix pays." I was getting tired of hearing that. I decided that very soon my driver and I were going to have a heart-to-heart conversation. I entered the prince"s building and got a surprise.
The lobby looked as if it had been under attack. Bullet holes were everywhere. There were blackened sections, as if explosions had gone off. The furniture was missing. I guessed that it had been damaged in whatever had happened and needed to be replaced. Like I said, it appeared as if a small firefight had taken place. The place was loaded with armed security guards. I stated my case, one guard checked the computer, made a call, and I was told to head on up to the penthouse. I hit the elevator and enjoyed my ride. LaCroix was waiting for me.
"The nerve! The unmitigated gall!" he shouted. He looked like he was hysterical. "Who do the Sabbat think they are? They attacked me in my own building! Did you see the lobby?"
"Yes, I did."
"Well, my enforcer and some of my loyal supporters took care of them," he said, looking very smug. I doubted if he did any of the fighting. "They never made it past the lobby. We are pointing the police in the direction of a gang fight. Now, I have an assignment for you."
"Which is?" I asked.
"The Sabbat are hiding at the old Hallowbrook Hotel, about three blocks away. It is scheduled for demolition. I want you to go in and clean them out, once and for all."
"The Sabbat," I said, keeping my anger in check. "I have to go right into their headquarters. Am I going to get some sort of help on this?"
"No, you will be on your own," LaCroix said. "Wipe them out. Eliminate them once and for all. Oh, what progress have you made with your search for the Ankaran Sarcophagus?"
"The Giovanni"s have it," I answered. There was no way I was going to tell him that I had it. "It is somewhere on their estate."
"Well, you may return when you have recovered it," LaCroix commanded. "You have two tasks to complete. Do not come back until you have finished them to my satisfaction."
I turned and walked away. LaCroix did not know that I had the sarcophagus. My driver had kept his mouth shut. Was he really working for LaCroix? I wondered.
"Oh, and I have ordered the Blood Hunt on Nines Rodriguez for the murder of Alistair Grout," LaCroix said. "It is in effect even as we speak. Nines, of course, has gone into hiding. But it will be only a matter of time until he is found."
I pivoted on a heel. "Sebastian! I told you that I was not sure it was Nines! Why in the fuck did you order the Blood Hunt?"
"It is of no matter," LaCroix said. "Someone must pay for Grout"s death. Nines is as good as any."
I said nothing. I stormed out of the building. Sebastian LaCroix had set me up nicely. He thought that the Giovanni would get me, but I got them first. Of course, he still had a chance with the Sabbat. And now I was a target for the Anarchs. The bastard! Okay, don"t panic. He obviously knew nothing of Wesley.
I figured I would cover my back first. Wesley and I would take out the Sabbat. Then I would have a talk with Maxmillian Strauss and listen, very carefully, to what he had to say. Somewhere I would work in a conversation with my driver. Hopefully, if this plan worked, I would have only two enemies to deal with. Ming Jaio and LaCroix.
I did not know it, but Wesley and I were about to set up a classic chess move. We were going to perform a knight fork. Wesley and I were the knights, and Ming Jaio and LaCroix would be the threatened opposing pieces. It was almost time to force the exchange.