I knelt on the other side of him, across from his friend. The knife was sticking out of his chest like an exclamation point. I'd stabbed my share of vamps in my time, and I knew a heart blow when I saw one. Blood welled out around the blade, soaking into the dark-haired one's clothing. It was bleeding a lot. Which meant either he'd fed tonight, or it was a bad injury, or both.
"I didn't realize the knife was silver until we disarmed him. I'd have come back sooner."
Smith said, "We got company."
"Sooner or later," a voice said behind us, "it matters not." Malcolm was behind us. Other church members were behind him. You always get gawkers, I guess.
"It matters," I said.
"He is dying, Anita, and nothing we can do will save him."
I looked back at the hurt man and caught the look in his friend's blue eyes. Blue eyes framed by the blue of his shirt collar. "I've seen vampires survive worse."
"You have seen master vampires survive worse. He is not a master."
"He gets power from his line, his master," I said, "it isn't always about personal power."
"Truth and Wicked have no masters, do you?"
The blond looked at Malcolm, and there was such hopelessness in his face. I couldn't even make remarks about the names. I mean, who gets named Truth and Wicked? But in the face of such raw pain, I couldn't do anything but say, "If you have something important to say, Malcolm, say it."
"They are masterless, Anita. The master that made them died, and the sourdre de sang that created their line was destroyed, too. They survived the destruction of their line, but it weakened them."
I looked up at the blond's face, Truth or Wicked, I didn't know which he was. He was staring at Malcolm, but the look in his eyes said it was the truth. "If you had blood-oathed them, they'd have a master right now."
"I allowed them into my church. Most masters would kill them."
The vampire on the ground answered, "They fear us," in a strangled voice.
The blond said, "Don't talk, brother, I will talk for you. They fear that if other vampires knew we survived the slaying of our entire bloodline, then others might wonder if they could kill those that enslave them, too, and survive."
"Brother?" I said.
The blond looked up at me, fresh tears giving his blue eyes a reddish cast. "Truth is my brother."
Shit, I thought. "Is Malcolm right, if we remove the knife will... Truth not heal it?"
"Once, yes, but the death of our line did weaken us. When a silver weapon is used, we heal like a human."
I looked down at the hilt sticking out of the vampire's chest. "If he was human, he'd be dead already, he's not."
"He is dying, Anita, can you not feel it?" Malcolm said.
I put my hand on the vampire's chest, near the blade, in the cooling blood in his clothes, and I concentrated. I felt his energy, for lack of a better word, fading.
He took a deep gasping breath and had trouble getting the next breath.
"Shit, he's bleeding to death." He was losing so much blood his body was beginning to shut down. Shit. I looked at the blond. "If we just sit here, he will die. If we pull the blade out, I may be able to save him."
"How?" the blond asked. I just couldn't think of anyone as Wicked, not as a name.
How? That was the question. If Jean-Claude were here, we could blood-oath him. Of course, now with the marks wide open between us, Truth could take my blood and be bound. Primo had found that out by accident, now it had possibilities.
"I'm going to contact my master, the Master of the City. If he agrees, I've got an idea." I called in my head, "Jean-Claude."
I had a sense of movement around him. He was in the club. "Oui, ma petite, you rang?"
I didn't use words, I let him riffle through my head in a kind of shorthand. We ended with him feeling amazed. "The Wicked Truth here in America."
"You know them?"
"They are the only vampires in our history to purposefully hunt down their line and murder them."
That threw me. "What, why?"
"I knew their master, and his master, the sourdre de sang. They were warriors, ma petite, such warriors. They were to battle what Belle Morte is to sex."
"So, are they too dangerous to bring on board?"
"Do you know what happens when the source of a line goes mad?"
It seemed like a trick question, but I said, "Something bad."
He laughed inside my head, and it made me shiver. "All in their line suddenly began to slaughter people without pay, without politics, or motive of any kind. I was still with Belle at the courts. I know that the council was planning on sending assassins, but two of the vampires in the line took action. They saved us from coming to attention in England, and for that the council was grateful, but they slew their source of bloodline, their creator, and that is a death sentence among us."
"So why aren't they dead?"
"Because some on the council interceded. I do not know why, or even entirely who, only that Belle voted for them to live, but they were masterless and sent to roam as they would with the hand of any master that met them turned against them. If they could slay their fountain of blood and survive, then most considered them too dangerous to survive."
"How do you feel?"
"What are you offering, ma petite?"
"Remember what happened with Primo?"
"You will feed Truth, and he will be bound to me and to you, is that it?"
"They are not the brutes of the Dragon's line, but they are warriors that have survived centuries with every hand turned against them. I met them once when their master came to the courts. They were men of honor."
"What does he say?" Wicked asked.
I held up a hand. "He's thinking about it."
"No one will risk it," Truth said in that horribly strained voice.
Jean-Claude breathed through my mind, shivered over my skin. I moved my hand back from the wounded vampire, so the effect didn't spread. I opened the marks between us wide, and he filled me. He spilled through my body, over my skin. His power hit mine, and it was like flame laid into some huge waiting bonfire. It spilled my head back, bowed my spine, and spilled out from my skin. It went out and out and out, and I could feel every vampire in the hallway. Feel them like individual lights in the dark, as if with closed eyes I would know them all.
"Back, my children," Malcolm's voice came distant, as if he were talking through the roaring in my head, "we must leave this place to her black magic."
I opened my eyes and knew instantly that my eyes had bled to brown fire edged with black.
"What's about to happen?" Smith asked.
I looked up at him, and he let out a surprised yelp. He licked his lips and stared at me, pale and frightened.
"If you don't want to watch, then go back to Zerbrowski."
Smith shook his head. "I'll stay."
"You won't like it," I said.
He was fighting not to hug himself, and I remembered that he could sense the energy of shapeshifters. Nothing like being a little psychic in the middle of a metaphysical event. "I don't like it now, but I've got your back, at least against anything that a gun will stop." That last made me think he might be more sensitive than I'd thought. He knew there were dangerous things in the hallway now, but nothing that guns could help with. That was almost too smart. I'd have to be careful around Smith with the metaphysics; he might figure out more than I wanted him to know.
I turned back to the two vampires. "I am Jean-Claude's human servant. We truly are blood of my blood to each other."
"What do you propose?" Wicked asked.
"The knife comes out, then I let Truth feed, and we blood-oath him to Jean-Claude."
"He would truly take us?"
"He said yes."
Wicked looked down at his brother. "Do you agree to this? To being bound to another master?"
"Felt her power, her call," he had another of those gasping fits, "if this is servant, then the master must be more."
"Is that a yes?" I asked.
Wicked nodded. "But if you take my brother, you have to take me, too."
I simply knew that Jean-Claude was okay with that. There was no need to ask. "Agreed, though whether I can feed you both tonight is a different question."