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Chapter 19: Vampire Inquisition

“Are you okay?” Lucian questioned Cassidy.

Lucian gave Nadja a suspicious look as he waited on Cassidy’s answer. This occurred when Petru brought her to a stop in the middle of the U formation of the tables.

“I’ve been better,” Cassidy grumbled back with a scowl on her face.

Cassidy looked back over her left shoulder and exchanged looks with David/Cristiãn and then watched as Nadja and Petru took seats in the two chairs to the right of him.

“I apologize for that,” Lucian returned pleasantly. “We will try to make this as comfortable for you as possible.”

“So, there’s a comfortable way of killing someone?” Cassidy questioned with a sarcastic delivery. “That is what you’re planning to do with me?”

“Your future is something that we will be discussing at some point,” Lucian confessed in an apologetic tone. “But that’s not why you’re here now. Right now, you’re here to help us with a concern that we have with your investigation.”

Cassidy was immediately offended by this language. In her mind, they were murderers, one and all. The killing of the nine-people found in the Greenbelt was not a concern. It was an unconscionable crime. By her thinking, they were treating human beings like something that was disposable, and this verbiage gave support to this perception. Her next words gave voice to this impression.

“Concern? So, killing people is not a crime, it’s a concern. You’re concerned that your nocturnal practices will be uncovered. Is that about right?”

“Not completely, Detective. We are concerned about the accusation that one or more of our members are killing mortals,” Lucian corrected. “But we’re not convinced that it’s true.”

“What more do you need?” Cassidy questioned with a look of amazement. “We dug up nine bodies that appear to have died of massive blood loss without any sign of an injury severe enough to account for it.”

This report caused everyone present to go still and silent. The eyes of all present looked back and forth across the room to examine each other. A short moment later Lucian broke the silence.

“This was not in the news reports.”

“The medical examiners were not able to confirm it because of the extreme decomposition of the bodies. And the absence of copious amounts of blood on the clothing has them hesitant to speculate that blood loss was the cause of death,” Cassidy explained. “But I assure you that blood loss and poisoning are the only two possibilities left.”

“So, you haven’t discounted poisoning?” Lucian asserted with a questioning inflection.

Cassidy felt no need to conceal the details of her investigation from anyone here. She was convinced that the killer or killers were in this room. And she suspected that anything she said or did that made her presence useful gave her a better chance of surviving this inquisition.

“Several of the victims had signs of unusual bite marks on their bones.” Cassidy explained.

Once again, the room went silent as the nineteen looked to each other for a moment. Cassidy took a few seconds to take notice of this, and then she spoke again.

“You know this is the doing of someone here. Why are you denying it to me?”

“Contrary to what you clearly think of us, it is not our practice to go around killing mortals,” Lucian explained. “If your assertion is right, then someone here has broken with a pledge that he, she or they gave to all of us.”

“Fine, so what’s the penalty for that, double membership dues for a year?” Cassidy countered sarcastically.

Lucian showed no sign that he was amused or offended by Cassidy’s sarcasm. He waited patiently for Cassidy to finish her query, and then he answered it from behind a bland expression.

“No, Detective, the penalty is much more severe than that.”

“Lucian, she has nothing that proves this,” Dumitra asserted with palms up gestures. “We can’t turn upon one another based upon what this one mortal says.”

“I agree with Dumitra,” Adrianna supported. “We are all that is left of us.”

“Yes,” Flavia eagerly seconded. “We can get past this. Whoever did it just won’t do it anymore.”

“Do you think this is wise, Lucian?” Eugen questioned with a look of concern. “There is the risk that this could put us at odds with each other.”

Eugen, a male vampire, was one of several here that came into the country solely for this meeting.

“Overlooking this breach could set a dangerous precedent,” Stefan jumped in to lecture with emphasis directed at Eugen.

“And overreacting to it could lead to our undoing,” Sorin disputed an instant behind.

“Sorin is right,” Razvan agreed. “Staying united should be our first concern.”

“So, you would have us do nothing?” Stefan challenged with a stern look toward Razvan.

“What else dare we do?” Adrianna questioned as though she was saying the obvious. “This mortal knows nothing. And if one or some of us did these killings then he, she or they will surely think twice about doing it again. It’s over.”

“And what about the rest of you,” Lucian began with a questioning inflection. “Will you think twice, and what will be the result of that second thought. If there is no penalty, does the law exist at all?”

“Lucian, the woman is guessing,” Dumitra softly insisted. “There’s no evidence that those killings were done by anyone here.”

“Except the fact that someone tried to kill her,” David/Cristiãn countered with an absence of conviction.

“There is no proof that it was one of us,” Dumitra disputed sternly.

David/Cristiãn had no emotional of political investment in this argument. His sole concern was the wellbeing of Cassidy. It was this thought that caused him to bring up the matter. He had no doubt that two or more of them there had tried to kill Cassidy. And he feared they would try again if they survived this inquisition.

“I believe that it was,” David/Cristiãn defended with a continuing lack of fervor.

“You’re not thinking straight,” Razvan countered with a perturbed expression.

David/Cristiãn was angered by the remark, but this did not motivate him to challenge it. At this moment, he had no compelling concern about who was responsible for these killings. The bulk of his thoughts were focused on an argument that extricated Cassidy from this situation. It is for this reason that he gave Razvan a glare of disapproval without a response.

“Detective Tremaine, do you have anything that proves someone here did these killings?” Lucian questioned politely.

“Maybe,” Cassidy returned with a hint of defiance. “But why should I tell you?”

“This is your investigation, Detective,” Lucian countered with a frown. “In case you missed it, we’re trying to find the killer too.”

“And what happens to me when you find your killer?”

Cassidy had no expectations of this question or Lucian’s answer. She did not think any help she provided to this discovery was going to affect her situation. Despite this she knew it was the only stratagem available to her.

“That hasn’t been decided yet,” Lucian mildly replied.

“Oh, I think it has,” Cassidy sharply countered.

Cristiãn and Lucian gave Nadja a brief suspicious look after hearing this remark and then turned their attentions back to Cassidy.

“It is within our power to make you forget everything that has happened here,” Lucian assured from behind a calm demeanor.

“But it’s a risk,” Cassidy challenged, “a risk you’re not sure you’re willing to take.”

Once again Cristiãn and Lucian turned their eyes toward Nadja. She responded to Cristiãn’s look with a stoned face expression.

“This is a waste of time,” Stefan roared into the brief silence that filled the room. “If she knew anything we would have heard it already.”

“What if I can tell you who the killer is,” Cassidy argued back at Stefan.

“Do you know who the killer is?” Stefan challenged without delay.

After hearing this question Cassidy hesitated for a moment and gave Stefan a hard stare. She then responded to his query with a terse reply.

“I can find out.”

Stefan returned her stare for a moment and countered Cassidy’s claim with an inflection of dismissive incredulity.

“She’s just stalling for time.”

Cassidy turned to look at Lucian with an expression of desperation and spoke.

“What’s it worth to you? I tell you who the killer is and…” Cassidy paused and looked to David/Cristiãn with a face of fright. “You take the risk.”

Lucian gave Cassidy a momentary visual examination and then suddenly pushed himself up into a stance.

“You forget, Detective Tremaine,” Lucian spoke as he rose from his chair. “I don’t have to barter for anything I want from you.”

In that same instant David/Cristiãn stood up from his chair and tensed at the ready. An instant behind this, Stefan reacted to Cristiãn by rising from his chair and going rigid in his posture. Petru and Nadja, in turn, tensed at the ready. The remaining fourteen vampires showed no interest in being involved in this drama. They noted the heightened tension with shifting glances at the five of them, but they made no physical reaction beyond that.

“Wait!” Cassidy called out with her hands up in front of her. “I can tell you who the killer is. But I need my phone.”

Cassidy pointed to her cell phone that was still atop Lucian’s table along with her gun. Lucian, Stefan and many of the other vampires gave it and Cassidy a suspicious look. A couple of seconds later Stefan responded to this request.

“We’re not giving her the cell phone,” Stefan insisted with a look that suggested he thought the request was absurd.

Lucian ignored the comment and directed his next words at Cassidy with a casual delivery.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen, Detective.”

“If you want to know who is responsible for those killings than you’re going to have to give me my cell phone,” Cassidy argued.

“This is ridiculous,” Dumitra blurted out. “What could she have on her cell phone? She just wants to call for help.”

“If she knew who did the killings she would have said so.” Razvan supported.

“I don’t know who did the killings,” Cassidy argued at Razvan in her defense. “But I have a way of finding out. I need my cell phone to do this,” Cassidy insisted as she turned her attention toward Lucian.

Lucian took a moment to visually examine Cassidy. At the end of this he took the cell phone into his hand.

“Tell me,” Lucian instructed as he held up the cell phone.

At that instant Cassidy knew that Lucian was not going to allow her to hold the cell phone in her hand. She breathed out a sigh of frustration, and then she began to speak.

“Log into the phone, 2-2-9-7-1-5.”

Lucian gave the instruction a moment of thought and then complied with it. Shortly the cell phone screen was illuminated. Lucian took note of this and then showed it to Cassidy as he spoke.

“Now what?”

“Tap the messaging app at the top left corner of the screen,” Cassidy answered.

Lucian paused again to consider the request and then did as he was told. When a list of messages appeared on the screen he gave them a glance and then looked up at Cassidy.

“Okay, next?”

“There should be a message in there from Nina Chan,” Cassidy answered. “It’s probably at the top of the list.”

“Yeah, I see it,” Lucian replied after a brief look at the phone.

“Open it,” Cassidy directed.

Lucian did this with a touch of his finger. He then took a moment to read it to himself.

“What does it say?” Cassidy questioned when she noted that he had read it to himself.

“Here is the phone number,” Lucian read aloud as he looked down at the cell phone. “And there’s a phone number beneath the message.”

Lucian gave Cassidy a what next look after reading this message. She responded to this look with an immediate, short, concise response.

“Touch the number with your finger to dial it.”

Lucian considered this instruction from Cassidy. A few seconds later he asked the question that this study prompted.

“What does this connect to?”

“The killer,” Cassidy answered with an arch of her eye brows and a shrug. “If I’m right that call is going to ring into a cellphone belonging to someone in this room.”

A stunned silence filled the room for several seconds. Confused expressions covered the faces of most there. The eyes of many searched out for the face of someone there that understood what Cassidy meant by this. At the end of this time Dumitra spoke boisterously into the silence with a look of incredulity.

“So what, she knows one of our cell phone numbers. This is supposed to be her proof that one of us did these killings?”

All eyes turned back toward Cassidy after this exclamation and question. She responded to this with a slow scan of the room, and then she brought her attention to a stop on Lucian’s face.

“Albert Haynes and Andrew Lantz had one thing in common that caught my attention,” Cassidy began behind a fixed stare at Lucian. “They made repeated calls to prepaid cellphones that were only used to call other prepaid phones. We were never able to find out who owned those other phones. But we did find a pattern. And we found something else.”

Cassidy paused after this last remark while holding her stare on Lucian. And then she continued to speak.

“Within the last month before Albert Haynes’ death he made two calls to a prepaid phone that was inside this club. We learned that the cellphone he called couldn’t be tracked because it’s no longer in service. But we did track down the store where it was purchased from. After that we collected phone records from every cellphone sold from that store over the previous three months.”

Once again Cassidy paused to give weight to her words, and then she continued.

“When we cross matched those calls with Albert Haynes phone records we learned that he made or received calls from two other prepaid phones from that store. We also found a cellphone from that store, that’s active now, that has the same call pattern as those phones. It only makes and receives calls from and to other anonymous prepaid phones.”

Cassidy paused again to make sure Lucian understood what she was saying. She then continued to explain.

“And I tracked the metadata from that cellphone to this location.”

Cassidy came to a stop after this message and studied Lucian for his reaction. He and the other eighteen vampires in the room were stunned by this report. Eyes shifted back and forth between them. The silence between them lasted for little more than a quarter of a minute, and then Cassidy added a final remark.

“All you have to do is dial that number.”

Lucian looked from Cassidy to the cell phone in his hand. He paused to think about what he was about to do. He was an instant away from initiating the call when Razvan spoke up.

“Think about what you’re doing, Lucian. If what this mortal says is true, then you could undo our alliance with that call. We are all that is left of us. We have come a long way together. Knowing could do more harm than good.”

“I agree,” Sorin spoke up in support. “A warning may be enough to end this behavior.”

There were looks and nods of agreement from most of the vampires. Stefan and Helga looked to be decidedly opposed to this thinking. Radu and Flavia were quick to nod their heads in support. Adriana indicated a tacit agreement with a slight nod of her head. Lucian gave this reasoning a moment of thought, and then he spoke.

“And doing nothing may convince another that the rules mean nothing. How do we enforce it tomorrow if we don’t do it today?”

Lucian scanned all the faces in the room to see if they understood what he was thinking. A few seconds later he continued to speak.

“We made a covenant. We all knew what could happen if we did not abide by it. And we know what we promised to do if anyone broke with this covenant.”

Lucian gave the faces in the room another slow scan, and then he continued to speak.

“If we do not enforce the covenant, then we run the risk of it being ignored altogether.”

Behind these words, Lucian gave the room another slow scan. The demeanor of most appeared to be noncommittal either way. Stefan and Helga continued to appear to be in support of enforcing the covenant. David/Cristiãn, Nadja and Petru looked to be disinterested in what was decided. Cassidy continued to hold her focus on Lucian as she waited for him to press his finger to the cell phone. Several seconds into his examination of the room Lucian initiated the call.

All ears were suddenly listening to hear a cell phone ringing. All eyes began searching the room for a reaction by another person. For a long moment, there was silence. Everyone there was on the verge of believing that nothing was going to happen, and then the faint sound of vibrating resounded into the quiet that filled the room. The vibrating pulsated on and off. Soon the eyes and ears furthest from it traced the sound to a general area. Those closes to it turned their eyes to the person that the sound was coming from.

“Razvan,” Lucian called out after noting that he was at the center of everyone’s attention.

For a brief time, Razvan returned Lucian’s look with the mixture of a smirk and a scowl in his expression. At the end of this he stood up, turned his attention toward Cassidy and spoke.

“I should have broken your neck in that warehouse.”

Dumitra stood up behind this statement and directed her scowl at Cassidy.

“You missed your chance,” Cassidy returned with a mixed look of satisfaction and defiance.

Razvan burned his stare into Cassidy for a couple of seconds before responding to her retort.

“Don’t count on it, Detective.”

There was a moment of silence behind this exchange, and then Lucian began to speak.

“Dumitra, you too?”

“The covenant is dead, Lucian,” Dumitra exclaimed from behind an expression of brazen rebellion, “dead like the world we left behind. We should not be restrained by rules from a different era—none of us!”

“We agreed to continue the covenant,” Lucian roared back at her.

“That is before we knew about this time, this world,” Razvan spoke as he stood up.

Razvan stepped around his table and stopped in front of it. Cassidy instinctively moved two steps back from him. David/Cristiãn took a step forward in her defense. Both movements were ignored by Razvan. His attention was busy panning across the many faces in the room. Several seconds into this he began to speak again.

“The rules have changed. We are no longer limited by an inherited social class. In this time, we can have anything we want—everything we want.”

Razvan paused to blaze a scan around the room.

“This is a time when the market rules all, and we have the ultimate commodity—immortality,” Razvan finished forcefully.

“You’re mad, Razvan,” David/Cristiãn inserted into the conversation with insistence. “You know what will happen. That has not changed.”

“It has changed,” Razvan disputed with a sudden clench of his hand into a fist. “There is no controlling us in this time. There is no stopping us.”

“You’re wrong,” Lucian spoke with a look incredulity. “Things will go back to the way they were before. But this time the mortals will turn the world upside down to rid themselves of us.”

“Is that what you’re afraid of, Lucian,” Dumitra challenged coolly. “Or are you afraid of losing your station as the leader of our small band.”

Lucian showed no sign that he was offended by the slight, but Stefan’s passive expression promptly turned into a grimace. Razvan took advantage of the moment of silence that this remark created and turned about to examine everyone in the room as he spoke.

“This is our time,” Razvan pleaded. “We make the rules. There’s an opportunity here, and we need to seize it.”

Razvan looked around him to see if his passion had roused the other vampires to his side. In most of the faces he saw noncommittal expressions, and in the others, he saw rejection. After this moment of silence Lucian turned his attention to all in the room with a slow pan and began to speak solemnly.

“Razvan and Dumitra knew the risk and took it. They endangered us all and broke with the covenant that we all agreed to. The covenant is more important than any one or two of us. It has been the means of our survival for more than one-hundred years before we came to this time. If we do not protect it, we cannot expect it to protect us.”

Lucian paused after speaking these words and scanned the faces of all around. At the end of this he made a final declaration.

“I vote for death.”

Seconds after casting this vote, Lucian began to look around the room for the decision of the others. Elisabeta followed the lead of her mate after a look from him. Stefan and Helga were quick to add their votes to the termination column. After these the votes came slower. The remaining thirteen vampires submitted their votes with varied degrees of reluctance, but all acquiesced to the decision of the first four. Razvan and Dumitra noted this result with looks of shock.

When the last vote was casted, Lucian turned to Stefan and gave him an instruction with a gesture of his head. Stefan moved over to the stage and picked up from it a five-foot long, ten-inch-wide and five-inch-thick polished red oak case with a decorative brass handle, four matching hinges and two matching latches. He then brought the case to Lucian’s table, set it down there and commenced to unlatch it. When the case was unfastened Stefan gently swung open the lid until it was lying flat on the table. Inside the case, cradled in a black cashmere cushion, was a stainless-steel broadsword with a decorative brass handle. The sight of it provoked an instant shock of silence from everyone within the room. After a moment of this Razvan spoke up without any visible or audible sign of distress.

“This is not going to happen.”

“Razvan,” Lucian stressed as he began his retort. “You knew the consequences when you started down this path.”

Dumitra stepped around the table to stand by her mate. Her face was a mask of incensed anger. Several other vampires in the room rose to their feet in response to the heightened tension. Dumitra nervously glanced around to see who among them were prepared to assist Lucian and Stefan in this execution.

“Yes, Lucian,” Razvan softly countered with an undercurrent of defiance. “I knew what the consequence could be. That is why I prepared for this day.”

No one except Dumitra seemed to know what Razvan meant by this. They looked at him with questioning expressions as they waited for clarification. Their eyes followed his movement as he put his hand inside his pants pocket and pulled out of his cellphone. He held it up for a moment so that all could see it, and then he spoke with a glib delivery.

“This is my smartphone. I love these things. They can do so many things—hold a thousand songs—movies. It’s a library in your pocket. Oh, and email—I love email.”

“Where are you going with this, Razvan?” Lucian questioned with a frown.

“It’s my turn to make a call,” Razvan countered with a smile.

Razvan took a few seconds to negotiate the keypad on his cellphone. At the end of this time he held up the cellphone for all to see once again.

“I’ve just sent an email to all of you,” Razvan announced to the room. “I think you should read it before you do something that you’ll regret.”

Every vampire in The Cavern took a pause to be confused by what they heard. At the end of this, and at their own moment and pace, each of them retrieved their smartphones to examine the email that just came in. The bustle of movement came to a stop when all of them arrived at the same email and the file attached to it. Nearly a minute later, when they were all in the middle of silent examinations of the file’s contents, Lucian looked up with a stunned expression.

“What is this?”

“That’s you,” Razvan answered in a casual voice. “That’s all of you,” he continued as he looked around the room. “That is why you’re not going to kill us.”

Lucian looked at the email for a few seconds more, and then he looked up at Razvan with a new question.

“You’ve been keeping files on us?”

“I’ve been compiling files on all of you for more than thirty years,” Razvan answered casually. “You’re looking at those files right now.”

Razvan paused to give weight to this statement. Over the course of this time a silence brought on by shock filled the room. At the end of it Razvan began to speak some more.

“You’re right, I did know the consequence, and I took steps to make sure that when we died you would all share our fate.”

Razvan paused again and watched as Lucian returned to examining the file attachment that came with the email. At the end of this he began responding to the questions he suspected was going through Lucian’s mind.

“It’s all in there, names, addresses, photos, fingerprints—blood test reports. It’s all in there and it all goes public if we’re not here to stop it.”

Every vampire in the room was shocked to hear Razvan say this. Another four of their number stood up in response. It was more than a betrayal. It was a threat to the existence of all of them. Every vampire there knew that such a study would expose them to the mortals if it ever went public. They all had at least one previous identity over the course of the past thirty years. And they all knew that their blood had distinct differences with the blood of mortals.

“I can’t believe you did this,” Lucian complained from behind a look of incredulity.

“You say this even though, a minute ago, you were ready to cut off our heads,” Dumitra roared back at him with rage.

“We made a pack!” Stefan growled into the debate. “You pledged to abide by the covenant!”

“The covenant is no more, Lucian,” Razvan insisted from behind a point. “We will no longer be controlled by old rules. We are free of your covenant, Lucian.”

As he continued to speak, Razvan turned about and considered the eyes of every vampire in the room, one after the other.

“We are all free,” Razvan loudly stressed with defiance. “We are vampires, and this time—this world is ours to do with as we please. The rules of the past are no longer relevant.”

“You are mad, Razvan,” David/Cristiãn shouted out with an intonation of amazement. “The covenant is more important now than it ever was.”

“Stop whining for these mortals, Cristiãn,” Razvan growled as he turned toward his critic with a glare of rage. “They’re food. They’re not pets.”

“You know what will happen,” David/Cristiãn disputed in a strident voice. “We cannot do this.”

“That was in the past,” Razvan retorted without hesitation. “This is a different time—a different world. Things will be different this time.”

“Yes, they will be worst,” David/Cristiãn argued with a look of wide-eyed amazement. “…much worst.”

“I agree,” Lucian bellowed into the debate. “Sooner or later the mortals will turn on us.”

“By then it will be too late,” Razvan countered with a look of confidence.

Lucian had no response for this, nor did anyone else in the room. They all knew what Razvan meant by that statement, and none of them could be sure he was wrong in this assessment. Cassidy watched and listened to this debate with interest and confusion. She had no idea what the thinking was behind most of their remarks, and she was eager to learn what they were. It was her hope that the discussion would continue to go on. But the prolonged silence that followed Razvan’s last remark suggested to her that it was coming to an end.

“Who’s with us?” Razvan questioned all within the room after several seconds of quiet.

There were shrugs and glances in response to this query, but no one stepped forward to his call. Razvan briefly waited for someone to step forward, and then he turned his attention to Lucian.

“Now what, Lucian? What will you do?”

Lucian gave the question several seconds of thought. He examined the expressions of everyone there and noted they were waiting on his reply. He then took a moment to look at the cellphone in his hand, and then he looked to Razvan as he gave his response.

“Don’t do this, Razvan. This behavior endangers us all.”

“I am Strigoi,” Razvan declared with a mixture of defiance and relief. “I will no longer suppress what I was meant to be.”

There were expressions of relief by some, rage by some and indifference by the rest. Lucian held an angry stare on Razvan for a few seconds, and then spoke in a matching temperament.

“Get out, Razvan.”

A look of relief quickly spread across Dumitra’s face. She looked to Razvan with a faint smile on her face, and then she took his arm as she spoke.

“Let’s go.”

Razvan held his ground despite Dumitra’s urging. He casually turned his eyes to Cristiãn and let them stay there for a few seconds. He then turned his eyes toward Cassidy.

“She comes with me,” Razvan announced to the surprise of most and the shock of David/Cristiãn.

This demand took Cassidy by surprise. Her eyes widened from shock at the instant she heard the words. Dumitra was nearly in as much shock as her. She clearly had no idea why her mate wanted to take Cassidy with them.

“She’s not going anywhere with you,” David/Cristiãn proclaimed unconditionally.

Razvan was unimpressed by David/Cristiãn’s refusal to let Cassidy leave with him. He gave David/Cristiãn an indifferent glance and then turned his attention to Lucian.

“Detective Tremaine comes with me,” Razvan spoke with gentle insistence.

“Why? What do you want with her,” Lucian queried back from behind a look of curiosity?

“It’s not happening,” David/Cristiãn countermanded an instant behind.

Razvan ignored this remark and kept his attention focused on Lucian as he responded to his query.

“I have a use for her.”

“And why should I care?” Lucian countered angrily.

“If I fail in my felonious pastimes—if I get caught or killed, it will come back on all of you. I need her to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Like I said, she’s not going anywhere with you,” David/Cristiãn roared into the discourse.

Razvan kept his attention on Lucian as he waited for his answer. After several seconds of consideration, he gave Razvan a go-ahead nod.

“No!” David/Cristiãn roared while rushing toward Cassidy’s side.

In that same instant, Lucian lunged forward to intercept Cristiãn. His proximity to Cassidy made this easy. He rammed into David/Cristiãn’s chest and brought his advance to a sudden stop. An instant behind this David/Cristiãn shoved Lucian aside and started toward Cassidy again. Before he could reach her, Stefan rammed into him from his left. With Lucian’s help, they forced Cristiãn off course. The three of them tumbled onto the two tables at the bottom of the U formation and then over them. Elisabeta and Helga quickly backed away from the scuffle and the sudden flow of tumbling tables and chairs.

Petru thought to come to David/Cristiãn’s aid. He quickly stood up, but then he drew back from a step he was about to make when Eugen and Sorin stood up in response. Several seconds later David/Cristiãn began to twist away from the restraining grasps of Lucian and Stefan. Before he could finish this effort Augustus, the largest of all the vampires there, dove into the fray and helped Lucian and Stefan pin him to the floor. David/Cristiãn continued to squirm under their restriction while repeatedly calling out, “let me go.”

“You’re with me,” Dumitra spoke with a smile after stepping over to confront Cassidy.

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Cassidy refused as she took a step back.

Cassidy prepared herself for a fight. She looked to Nadja and then Petru to see if they were going to give assistance. She noted that they looked to be uncommitted to either plan of action. A second later, Cassidy turned her attention back to Dumitra. At that same moment, she began to lose all awareness of the here and now.

“Razvan!” David/Cristiãn yelled out with rage from his position pinned to the floor. “Don’t do this.”

Razvan gave David/Cristiãn a look as he listened to his request. He then turned around and started for the vestibule and the front entrance. Dumitra followed behind with a mindless Cassidy by her side. She led her along with a gentle tug of her arm. When Razvan stepped into the vestibule entryway David/Cristiãn called after him with a furious tone of voice.

“Razvan, if you hurt her I’ll tear your head from off your shoulders.”

Razvan looked back for a moment at Lucian, Stefan, Augustus and David/Cristiãn’s tangle of bodies. Several seconds later he turned about and followed Dumitra and Cassidy into the vestibule.

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