Chapter LXIII: Family Secrets
Entering the hallway, I waited as the man stood to attention, opening the door. It opened into a large reception room, elegant marble veneers casting light around the hall, giving it a bright, airy feeling. Several people stood watching each other silently in the centre of the room, obviously distrustful of the others. I paid them little attention however. I only had eyes for the men standing by the double doors at the other end of the room.
I could easily sense that these men were vampires. Obviously of the Giovanni clan. There skin was pale, even compared to other vampires, the aesthetically bankrupt pallour of a maggot ruining whatever semblance of humanity the men had. They were chosen for their good looks, yet there was unmistakably something of the grave in these two. Furthermore, some sort of unfamiliar magic was at work. My usually acute hearing was dulled, my ears unable to pick out more than indistinct mumblings where I should have been able to hear a spider tapping across the floor. One of the vampires looked at me, and spoke in heavily accented English.
'Mayah apologies, but you cannot proceed througha this door.' He looked at me more closely, eyes narrowing, and he glanced at the other vampire guarding the door. The other vampire nodded, not taking his eyes off me. I stepped back. They had been able to tell that I was a vampire, and not Giovanni. They didn't move against me though, staying by the doors. I returned to the centre of the room immediately, not wanting to risk anything when I was so close to the sarcophagus. Biding my time, I made small talk with the woman by the piano.
'Evening. Nice place, don't you think?' The woman made a noise at the back of her throat, dismissing my comment.
'Contest? What contest would that be?' The woman relaxed, understanding from my tone that the question was genuine.
'So in that case, you wouldn't mind telling me about it. Or your name.'
'I'm sure I would', I crooned, exuding warmth and reassurance. 'You can confide in me.'
'Well...' She hesitated still, watching the other two suspiciously.
'Don't worry about them, I promise. Nothing will escape these lips of mine.'
'I hit a jogger, last month. Didn't stop. Next thing, the guy's fucking dead. I'm sure they're gonna track me down, and if my name is smeared in the press, there's no way I'll be allowed in on the power. That's why I need to win this time. With that power, I'll be able to make the charges go away.'
'I see. Well, it certainly would help if there was a way that someone could keep them out of that circle...' I left the hint hanging in the air.
'I'll see what I can do', I responded with a wink. I first approached the man standing across from her.
'Victor. Victor Rosselini.' I responded warmly, shaking the man's hand.
'Property', I responded ambiguously, but Adam didn't inquire further.
'Oh yeah? Sounds interesting. Mind if I ask what it is?' Adam looked at me with a grin, eying Mira gleefully as she stood watching him moodily. I turned briefly to the man leaning by the stairs, who looked at me while rolling his eyes, turning to his watch.
'Sorry Adam, I left my chequebook at home.'
'You sound a little desperate', I said slowly, looking at him carefully. 'I'd hate to get pulled onto a sinking ship.' Adam shook his head, looking less sure of himself.
'I'm really not convinced, and I'm not about to blow that kind of money on something that's not staying in the black. Sorry.'
I looked at him conspiratorially, and gestured for him to move closer.
'Well...thing is, it seems that Mira had a little car accident a while back. You wouldn't have heard of any hit and runs lately, would you?' Adam looked at me, eyes widening, smile coming to his lips.
'You know, suddenly my financial situation doesn't seem so bad', he replied. 'In fact, I think Mira's life will be becoming very unpleasant sometime soon!' He chuckled, sliding the ring off his finger, and handed it to me as he unfastened his watch. 'You've done me a great favour. Let me repay you by letting you in on the biotech firm.'
'I'll think about it', I replied, shaking his hand. As I walked towards the bored-looking man, I winked at Mira from out of Adam's line of sight. Her response was almost imperceptible, a slight twitch of the lips, a flittering of the eyelashes. I leaned against the wall with the second man. 'You look like you're having the time of your life.'
'You don't seem too thrilled with the competition.'
'Are you saying you wouldn't use the information if you had it?'
'I see. And what dirty little secret lies in your family closet then?'
'Me? I'm an atheist. Doesn't sound like much, but this is a good Catholic family. I don't think Uncle Bruno would be too pleased about that.'
'That's nothing. Do you know Mira killed a guy in a hit and run?'
'No shit.' Chris looked at me, eyes wide. 'Oh wow. There's no fucking way she'll get in, not with something like that hanging over her.'
'Yeah. And it get's better. Looks like Adam is about to go bankrupt.'
'Good thing you didn't. I think you're a shoe-in for this position though Chris, good luck to you.'
I returned to Mira.
'What did you find out?'
'Oh, not much. Adam is about to go bankrupt.' Mira grinned viciously.
'That's what I wanted to here. With the Giovanni family, power means money. If you haven't got money, you haven't got power. He's fucked. What about Chris?'
'Chris? Well, the only problem he has is that he's an atheist. No spirituality or sense of the supernatural with that guy.'
'Not as good as Adam, but you never know what might give you the killing edge in this game.' Mira slipped me $200, and winked. 'You've been a lot of help. If I get this position, I know who to thank.'
'Why not tell me a little more about Uncle Bruno? I've only met him the once.'
'Really?' I focused on Mira, exerting my will, charm exuding from my body, ensnaring her with its Siren song. 'What rumour is that?'
'The core of our family, they never age. They're secretive...whispers of blood magic and a kiss. Whatever it is, they pick the best of us for it. I'd do anything to be picked...'
'I see...' I leaned in, smiling broadly. 'Want to know another secret?' Mira leaned towards me eagerly. I got close to her ear, and whispered the words.
'I told them all about your little secret, killer. Adam and Chris, they know what you did. And Chris knows all about Adam.' I enjoyed the sensation, the rush, I experienced, watching the woman's mouth drop. I enjoyed the knowledge that this posionous, incestuous little families dirty laundry was being dragged out for everyone to look at, to analyse. I enjoyed the next words.
'I told them about you, and I told you about them. And there's not a goddamned thing any of you can do about it. You either rat each other out, and you're fucked. Otherwise, you keep silent, and it's all up to chance. Good luck, killer, and thanks for the cash.' I leaned back, smiling maliciously at her. She stood, as pale as the vampires by the door, her hands shaking. She was so stunned, she couldn't even reply. I tutted at her sympathetically, cocking my head.
'Performance anxiety? Don't worry. You'll be just fine.' I laughed, turning towards the last woman I hadn't spoken to, a beautiful creature in white.
It may not have been a killing blow to the new generation of Giovanni, but it wasn't a flesh-wound either.