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Chapter 20: Dangling the Bait

They were in the vestibule of the Cavern nightclub when Razvan stepped over and took Cassidy by the arm.

“Get the car,” Razvan directed Dumitra as he extended the keys to her.

Dumitra accepted the keys and hurried out the nightclub. Razvan waited inside the vestibule with Cassidy. Getting her inside the car quickly was something that Razvan instinctively knew was important. He understood that the fresh air outside would gradually wash away her trance. Consequently, he knew that getting her in the car quickly was a must. Experience told him that the close confinement of its interior would make it easy for him to control Cassidy.

The car that Razvan and Dumitra arrived in was nearly a block down the street. It took Dumitra a minute to get to it and half of that to get it moving down the street. She stopped in the street outside the front entrance of the club, unlocked the car doors and honked the horn. Immediately after this Razvan came out the front entrance of the club with Cassidy in tow. He quickly ushered a confused Cassidy over to the vehicle and into the back-seat. He then slid in beside her and closed the door. Dumitra began steering the car away from The Cavern an instant after the door was shut.

Cassidy remained within the depths of her trance throughout the transfer. Her stare was fixed and her posture rigid. Shortly after the car began to move, Razvan leaned over and whispered the word “sleep” in Cassidy’s ear. An instant after that she went limp and reclined into a slumber.

“What did we bring her for?” Dumitra queried as she drove. “Cristiãn will blame us for her death now.”

“He was going to blame us anyway,” Razvan disputed.

“But you don’t know that they were going to kill her,” Dumitra countered as she glanced up at the rear-view mirror.

“Be smarter than that, Dumitra,” Razvan argued gruffly. “She tracked us here despite Cristiãn’s efforts to turn her away. Lucian was not going to risk all their lives on the hope that this policewoman could be kept in the dark. Cristiãn’s plan to save her was an improbable dream.”

Dumitra took some affront from the manner of Razvan response, but the feeling bled away across the span of two deep breaths.

“I still don’t understand why you brought her.” Dumitra spoke in a bland tone of voice.

“She’s bait,” Razvan explained succinctly.

Dumitra took a moment to think about this reply from Razvan. She soon understood what he meant by this, but Razvan began to qualify the statement before she could respond.

“Cristiãn will come after us no matter what the others decide. With Detective Tremaine, I can control the when and the where.”

“If we kill Cristiãn, Nadja and Petru will come after us for sure,” Dumitra blurted out behind a look of shock.

“We may not have to,” Razvan responded in a somber voice and an introspective gaze.

“You’re going to try and recruit him,” Dumitra blurted out with sudden awareness.

“If I can,” Razvan agreed introspectively.

“And what if he doesn’t agree to join us?” Dumitra queried suggestively.

“Then we will do what we must,” Razvan grumbled defiantly.

This explanation removed Dumitra’s misgivings about taking Cassidy with them. Up until this moment she had not considered the danger that Cristiãn represented to them. Razvan’s explanation made it clear to her just how much of a danger he could be. It suddenly felt reasonable to her that they take steps to deal with this threat now that they had the upper hand. This was not an easy decision. Cristiãn, like all the vampires, was like a relative that she infrequently visited but still felt at ease in his company. But this kinship came nowhere close to overriding her feeling that it was either him or them.

The ride in the car went on in silence for the next few minutes. Dumitra had no more questions to ask of Razvan, and he had nothing more to tell. She fixed her concentration on steering the car. They both knew where they were going. As Dumitra drove Razvan kept watch out the rear window. His fear had been that Cristiãn would pursue them. Nearly five minutes into their transit he became convinced that this was not the case. It was Razvan’s belief that he should have seen him by this time if he was pursuing. This conclusion gave him the confidence to begin acting on his plan.

“What are you doing?” Dumitra inquired as she examined Razvan through the rear-view mirror.

Razvan had just pulled his cellphone from out of the inside pocket of his suit coat and had started dialing when Dumitra asked this question.

“I’m sending Cristiãn a text,” Razvan explained as he texted into his phone.

“Already?” Dumitra questioned with an inflection of surprise.

“We don’t have unlimited time on this,” Razvan explained. “It won’t be long before someone starts missing Detective Tremaine.”

Dumitra gave this answer a moment of thought and then blurted out the thought that popped into her mind.

“You can’t tell him where we’re going.”

Razvan ignored the comment as he continued to text into his cell phone.

“Let go of me,” Cristiãn commanded as he struggled against the restraining arms of Lucian, Augustus and Stefan.

Cristiãn had been pinned to the floor for nearly three minutes. Nadja and Petru watched as he struggled to free himself, but they gave no assistance. The remaining twelve vampires were standing about in the middle of the U formation of tables. They alternated their attentions between Cristiãn’s struggle and Razvan’s exit from the club. But they did nothing to change either of these events. When Razvan and Cassidy did leave the club, they gave all their attentions to Cristiãn.

“Let him go,” Lucian instructed as he got up off his knees.

Stefan and Augustus followed Lucian’s command and simultaneously released Cristiãn. They quickly stood up and backed away from him. All eyes went to Cristiãn. They were eager to see what he would do now that Cassidy was gone.

“Get out!” Cristiãn demanded an instant after he got up onto his feet.

Lucian stepped over and confronted Cristiãn. He glared at him with an imperious look of defiance. Augustus and Stefan took up positions immediately behind Cristiãn.

“Be careful, Cristiãn” Lucian advised coldly.

“I want you out of my club,” Cristiãn grumbled out with less belligerence.

“Cristiãn,” Nadja called out in a pleading voice.

Nadja did not know what would happen if her brother continued to blatantly challenge Lucian to his face. She feared that half of more of their number were interpreting his actions as a threat to the whole. If this was true she knew that a life or death vote could go against him.

“I’m going after her,” Cristiãn roared back at his sister.

“We’re all staying here until I say we leave,” Lucian ordered with certitude.

While scowling at Lucian, Cristiãn said nothing. He knew that there was no chance of him fighting his way out. He also understood the motivation behind Nadja’s plea. He began to back away from his defiant stance as this understanding became more pronounced in his own mind.

“Cristiãn, there’s nothing you can do,” Nadja implored with a look of grave concern. “She’s gone. Let her go.”

Cristiãn gave his sister a dejected look after hearing these words. He knew that any chance he had of following Razvan was fading away fast. He desperately wanted to escape to his car so that he could pursue Razvan. But this thinking was restrained by a consequence that he feared would come to pass. He knew that any effort to do this forcibly was not only futile, but it could endanger his continuing existence and that of his sister’s. He reasoned this thinking because of his belief that Nadja would fight for his life at the expense of her own.

Shortly into this standoff Lucian noticed that Cristiãn was starting to resign himself to the inevitable. He saw in Cristiãn’s growing downcast demeanor evidence of his acceptance that Cassidy was too long gone for him to save her. It seemed extremely unlikely in Lucian’s mind that Razvan would take Cassidy to his home, and he suspected that Cristiãn was thinking the same. When Cristiãn turned his eyes down to the floor Lucian began to think that the storm had passed and that it was okay to change the subject to the problem of Razvan and Dumitra.

“Cristiãn, it’s over,” Lucian put forth softly. “I need you to tell me that you understand that.”

“You should not have let him take her,” Cristiãn fumed in reply.

“Did you really think we were going to let her live,” Lucian returned with a look of incredulity. “She wasn’t even supposed to be here. Detective Tremaine has proven herself to be too much of a risk.”

“Lucian, we foreswore the killing of mortals,” Cristiãn challenged sharply.

Lucian took a step forward and gave Cristiãn a scowl as he spoke.

“She was a threat, Cristiãn.”

Cristiãn returned Lucian’s scowl with a look of anguish. After a moment of silence, he responded with an intonation of resignation.

“I could have protected us. Isn’t this why we came together, to police ourselves and to protect mortals from beings like us?”

“We came together because that’s what we had to do to survive,” Lucian railed back at Cristiãn. “Mortals come and go. You know this. They wither and die. That is the truth of their existence. You can’t get attached to them.”

“Cassidy Tremaine was not in the twilight of her life,” Cristiãn roared back. “She has a family—children. Are we so special that mortals are insignificant by comparison? Is this what we have become, the overlords of the humans?”

“That is who we must be if we are to survive,” Lucian shouted. “We are immortals. By that fact, we are more than they. And so long as they are a threat to us, we must do what we must.”

“How divine we are,” Cristiãn returned with a mixture of sarcasm and conciliation in his tone. “Immortality has given us the power to subsist off our inferiors like parasites.”

Lucian paused to fume over these words. He held an angry stare at Cristiãn for several seconds, and then spoke in a soft voice.

“We have to put this behind us,” Lucian insisted as he extended his hand. “I need to know that you will harbor no resentment towards us because of this mortal.”

Cristiãn gave a prolonged melancholy stare at Lucian’s face. He then turned his eyes down at his hand with a mixture of resentment and defeat in his demeanor. Shortly into this he glanced at Nadja and noted in her expression a hope that he would accept Lucian’s hand. He then turned back to look at Lucian and took his hand.

“This includes Razvan and Dumitra,” Lucian declared while shaking Cristiãn’s hand. “There can be no retribution.”

An instant after hearing these words Cristiãn snatched his hand away with a look of shock and anger on his face.

“You are mad, Lucian. I will never forgive them.”

“This has nothing to do with forgiveness,” Lucian returned. “This is a situation that concerns all of us.”

“They broke the covenant,” Cristiãn argued. “They have forfeited any right to your protection.”

“They are Strigoi,” Lucian declared forcefully. “They cannot be sanctioned for termination without a group vote.”

“A little while ago you were ready to kill them,” Cristiãn railed.

“That was then,” Lucian roared. “You cannot go after them.”

“I will have their…”

“Cristiãn!” Nadja shouted out before her brother could complete his statement.

Cristiãn turned to look at his sister. Her face was a mask of terror. He knew exactly what she was thinking, Lucian was considering if he should live or die. Shortly into this examination he heard the voice of Sorin speaking to him.

“Cristiãn, if you’re not going to consider the group then think of your sister.”

Cristiãn turned about and saw that everyone was looking at him. He was several seconds into an examination of their faces when Lucian spoke again.

“You need to convince us that you’re not going after Razvan and Dumitra.”

Cristiãn paused to consider this request. He thought it very likely that Lucian would call for a vote for his death if he did not agree to this. And he believed there was a 50/50 chance that he would lose that vote. He could see that Stefan and Augustus were already positioning themselves to carry out the execution.

Despite the 50% probability, Cristiãn was reluctant to say the words. At this moment, what he wanted more than anything was Razvan’s head in his hands. After a few seconds a feeling of defiance welled up within him like a burst of energy within his chest. The bloom of this defiance reached the tip of his tongue within seconds, and then it subsided. He looked to Nadja and Petru and saw in them what he valued more than his own life. He feared that they would come to his aid and suffer the same fate. After a few seconds of thought he looked to Lucian with a disheartened expression and spoke.

“I won’t put my sister at risk. You have my word.”

Lucian gave Cristiãn a long study. He searched for signs of deception in his manner, and then he examined the other faces in the room. He suspected that any effort to kill Cristiãn now would fall short of the votes needed. Nadja and Petru’s votes would be an automatic no. And he suspected that Cristiãn’s verbal concession had won over three or four others. To avoid exposing this split, Lucian chose to accept this reply.

“Okay, Cristiãn,” Lucian began with a stern face. “I will take you at your word, but don’t make us regret it. Because if we do, we will not forgive, and we will not forget.”

Everyone feared that Cristiãn was lying. They had this concern because exposure only meant that the terms of their existence would change to a life on the run. Their time as vampires made them adept at this, and hiding was something they did far better than any mortal had yet to imagine. Their six decades of familiarity with this age provided them the wherewithal to be elusive in this time. Consequently, the danger that came with their exposure was not an automatic death sentence for Cristiãn’s sister. This fact gave several of them cause to doubt that he would keep his word, even to protect Nadja. But Cristiãn was the only one that knew for sure that his promise was indeed a lie.

“So, what do we do about Razvan?” Stefan asked after a prolonged silence.

Everyone was standing about in the interior of the U formation of the tables. All eyes turned to Stefan after he spoke this question. After a moment of thought Lucian began to annunciate an answer.

“While he has these files there’s nothing we can do.”

Cristiãn threw up his hands in bewilderment an instant after Lucian spoke these words.

“Then what are we doing here?” Cristiãn questioned from behind a bewildered expression. “The inquisition is over. We know who did the killings. Our business here is finished.”

“No, it’s not,” Lucian countermanded with a monotone delivery. “We have to discuss this.”

Cristiãn suspected that Lucian was just trying to keep him there until Razvan and Dumitra were well away. They all knew that Razvan was not going to take Cassidy back to his home, and none of them had any idea where he would take her. Because of this, it was clear to everyone that Cristiãn had no chance of interceding on Cassidy’s behalf.

“Discuss what?” Cristiãn returned with an intonation of irritation. “Razvan and Dumitra have made their escape. We now have no chance of stopping them from executing their plans.”

Lucian glanced about the room with a bland expression for a couple of seconds and then he responded to the question.

“I know that, Cristiãn,” Lucian responded with an intonation of annoyance. “But we do need to discuss how we are to proceed.”

Cristiãn knew that this was a valid subject of converse. But he also knew it was a waste of time. He expected nothing of significance to be said and nothing of merit to be concluded. But this thinking notwithstanding, he resigned to the inevitable.

“Okay talk,” Cristiãn returned dejectedly.

Cristiãn briefly shook his head with an expression of frustration on his face. He had given up on the hope of catching Razvan and Dumitra, it was far too late for that. He knew that calling them on the phone was the only chance left to him. His plan was to threaten Razvan to the point of intimidation. He now knew that this meeting was going to delay this by an hour or more. At this moment, he could only hope that Razvan would not harm her before he could make this call.

Almost immediately talk of a likely breakup of their vampire union became the topic of the group’s discussion. From the start, Lucian, Elisabeta, Stefan and Helga were strongly in favor of maintaining the rule of the majority. The position of the others was undecided. Two minutes into their talks a contentious split emerged on how they should proceed from there. Five of the seventeen vampires strongly believed that they should trash the covenant that they made with each other. Their position was based on the thinking that Razvan and Dumitra’s withdrawal from the union made these rules obsolete. Lucian, Elisabeta, Stefan, Helga, Augustus and Alina were strongly opposed to this. Cristiãn, Nadja and Petru were in support of this thinking but with far less vehemence. The arguing on these two positions grew to the point that all other subjects and business had become unwanted distractions.

Cristiãn, Nadja, Petru, Adriana and Sorin were standing together on the outer rim of this discussion. The discussion was approaching the five-minute mark when Cristiãn’s cell phone began to vibrate. Everyone near him heard the prolonged throbbing from the inside pocket of his suitcoat. Cristiãn reluctantly pulled this distraction from out of his inside suit pocket. After activating the cellphone, he began to read the text message on it with a growing look of surprise.

“Something wrong?” Adriana questioned.

Cristiãn momentarily ignored the question as he reread the text for a second and third time.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” Cristiãn halfheartedly assured without looking up from his cell phone.

As Cristiãn pocketed the cellphone his gaze went down towards the floor, and his mind was busy pondering the purpose behind Razvan’s message. When he looked up from the floor he saw Adriana, Sorin, Nadja and Petru examining him.

“A supplier,” Cristiãn dismissed nonchalantly. “He’s reneging on his delivery date. It’s not a problem.”

Adriana and Sorin accepted this answer without any thought of doubting it. Nadja was suspicious of the answer because of Cristiãn’s distracted expression. Petru knew it was a lie because of the feeling that Cristiãn’s pheromones were engendering within him. Shortly after giving this answer, Cristiãn looked up to give his sister and brother-in-law looks of concern. A moment later he turned and setoff for the collection of turned over tables and chairs, the broken dishes, the silverware and the scattering of raw meat that was on the floor.

“Where are you going?” Lucian questioned sharply.

All converse stopped, and all eyes turned to Cristiãn after Lucian said this. Cristiãn stopped and turned about immediately after hearing the question. With sarcasm in his tone, Cristiãn began his reply a second after that.

“This discussion is getting a little long. And since it doesn’t appear to be winding down, I thought I should fulfill my duties as host.”

Lucian knew that there was a rear exit to the club. His fear was that Cristiãn was about to make use of it, and this answer did little to dissuade him away from this concern. But he also knew that Razvan and Dumitra were well away. He shortly concluded that this was a good opportunity to learn if Cristiãn was going to be true to his word. He thought it better that they find out now while they were there in the city rather than later on when they were gone.

“Okay,” Lucian acknowledged after a moment of thought.

Lucian watched as Cristiãn set himself to the task of up righting tables and chairs. Shortly into this he turned his attention back to the discussion, and nearly everyone else followed his lead. Nadja and Petru were the only exceptions in this. They both kept Cristiãn fixed in the corner of their eyes. After he finished righting the tables and chairs, they continued to watch as he walked back to the kitchen doors and disappear behind them.

When Cristiãn reached the seclusion of the kitchen his passive demeanor quickly changed into a look of a man in a hurry. He raced over to the spice cupboard, flung open the doors and began to search the large selection of herbs and seasonings. After a prolonged search, he found the seasoning he was looking for. He quickly brought the bottle over to the kitchen center island and set it down. He then went to another cupboard, procured a fold top sandwich bag from a spool inside it and brought it back to the center island.

Immediately after doing this Cristiãn began pouring the seasoning into the sandwich bag as delicately as he could. The powder that floated up from this action instantly began to make him cough and gag, and his eyes began to water. Despite this, he suffered through the task and was done in a matter of a few seconds. At the end of this act he had just enough seasoning in the sandwich bag to fill one-fourth of a small salt shaker. He quickly closed the bag and the bottle. He stuffed the sandwich bag into a small cellphone pocket in the lower left lining of his suit coat. And then he restored the bottle back inside the cupboard.

The sound of Cristiãn’s movements in the kitchen was mostly indiscernible over the sound of the multiple conversations. At first Lucian ignored this silence. His concern began to intensify two minutes into it. He was another minute away from going into the kitchen to search him out when Cristiãn walked back into the room.

Cristiãn came back into the main room of the club with a large tray in one hand and a towel in the other. When he got back to the spill area, he began to pile the broken plates, glasses, silverware and bits of raw meat on top of the tray. This activity was of no interest to anyone there except Nadja and Petru. While everyone else ignored him, Nadja and Petru continued to watch Cristiãn do this with surreptitious glances. During one such look, Nadja saw Cristiãn put something on the tray that was not supposed to go there. Petru was less interested in what he saw. The pheromones coming off Cristiãn’s body told him that he was actively working a deception. He also noted from Nadja’s pheromones that she had just caught sight of something. He promptly shifted his gaze toward her, and she returned his look from behind an expression of concern.

“Is something wrong?” Sorin questioned Nadja with an inflection of concern.

“No, no,” Nadja quickly responded with a shake of her head. “I’m just wondering where this is going to lead to.”

“I think it’s going to end badly,” Adriana expressed with a dismayed shake of her head.

Instinctively, Nadja turned her attention back toward the debate to give cover to her brother. Adriana and Sorin followed her lead. As this was happening Cristiãn began wiping up the wet spots on the floor with the towel. When he finished doing this he stood up and setoff for the kitchen with the tray on top of his hand and the towel draped over the top of it. By this time the diverging positions of the main group of vampires had turned their discussion into a shouting match. It was under the cover of this verbal contest that Cristiãn gathered up Cassidy’s gun and cellphone, and slipped away to the kitchen.

Nadja and Petru were the only ones to see him leave the room. They helped him in his escape by saying nothing as he moved away. He was also helped by the expectations in the others that Cristiãn would be the last to leave the club. He was expected to lock up behind them when they left. Cristiãn was counting on this expectation to give him the time he needed.

When he was back inside the kitchen, Cristiãn set down the tray, pocketed Cassidy’s cellphone and gun, and then he hurried over to the rear entrance to the club. Quietly, he unlocked the door and slipped out into the alleyway behind The Cavern. After quietly reclosing the door, Cristiãn hurried around to the front of the club and setoff for his car. A dozen seconds later he was inside it. After a few more seconds, the car was racing down the street. As he drove, Cristiãn took his cellphone out from the breast pocket and read the text again.

Call me if you want to see your girlfriend alive.

After reading this for the second time, Cristiãn accessed the cellphone app and dialed out for Razvan.

“Where are you?” Razvan questioned through the phone connection in place of a greeting.

“I’m in Manhattan—I’m in my car,” Cristiãn responded tersely. “Where is she?”

“Are you alone?” Razvan questioned without thought for Cristiãn’s inquiry.

“Yes, I’m alone,” Cristiãn answered with insistence. “Now tell me, where have you taken Cassidy?”

Once again Razvan ignored Cristiãn’s question and spoke back to him in a calm voice.

“There’s a Quik Park on North 3rd Street and Kent Avenue in Brooklyn. Park your car and then wait on the southeast corner of 3rd and River.”

For a short moment, nothing was said. Cristiãn concluded that none of his questions were going to be answered over the phone. Razvan waited to hear Cristiãn’s agreement to his instructions. When it became clear that he was not going to say anything Razvan commenced with his closing remark.

“And Cristiãn, be alone.”

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