Archangel's Prophecy (Page 45)
As it was, the three seemed to be enjoying their task, their conversation peppered with laughter. The first one to see her spluttered to a stop in the middle of a sentence. “Elena!”
She halted, looked at him more carefully even as his coworkers paled. Sharply pointed face with bright brown eyes and pink-flushed white skin, a height just over five feet, a small dark brown goatee . . . and an ability with cards that had made a pauper out of her one long-ago January.
Smile cracking her face, she held out a hand. “Phineas. It’s good to see you.”
Phineas took off his glove, shook her hand with open enthusiasm. “I heard you became an angel. Thought me mates were having a good laugh at old Phineas’s expense at first.” Breaking their handclasp, he peered around at her wings. “Blimey.”
“You still fleecing innocent hunters out of their earnings?”
“I’m an honest man now,” he said with a grin that was as infectious now as it had been when they first met. “I even cheat honestly.”
Elena remembered why she’d liked Phineas, despite his cardsharp ways. “Introduce me to your friends.”
“These miscreants aren’t friends,” he said with a scowl. “They’re silly boys I’m breaking into the real world.” The younger vampires grinned despite the dark words. “Andreas would go mad if he had to deal with their idiocy.”
That explained what Phineas was doing here. He’d completed his hundred years of service decades ago.
“The one with the ridiculous fluff on his upper lip is Vernon, and the one who thinks purple is some kind of color for a shirt is Tepe. The youth of today.” A shake of his head. “What brings you to us, then?”
Phineas’s face fell at her explanation. “Sad business, that. Harrison’s a good man.”
One of the “silly boys” choked back something before bending to industriously shovel away at the snow again. “Too late, Tepe.” Elena kind of liked the purple shirt he’d paired with a thick black coat that boasted a gold zipper. “You may as well tell me.”
The younger vampire looked at Phineas and waited for his “Go on” before saying, “Look, Harry’s all right—I actually like him now, but back when I was newly Made, he’d been a vampire for . . . what? About a year?” A glance at Vernon, who nodded. “And honestly, he was a total asswipe.”
Vernon found his voice, his words coming out in a puff of white as his breath froze in the cold air, his bushy mustache—nothing flufflike about it—coated with shimmering flecks of frost. “Before he tried that dumb escape attempt, he thought he could get into Andreas’s good books by snitching on other vampires.”
Elena stilled. “Did he snitch on anyone who might hold a grudge?”
The two vampires looked at each other, then nodded in concert. A gold stud glinted in Tepe’s ear, catching the light and hitting Elena’s eyes for a flashing second.
“Jade’s not at the house anymore,” he said, his skin as dark as Vernon’s was pale. “Man was on a post-Contract job deal, but Andreas didn’t renew his employment after it expired, and I think it had to do with what Harrison told.”
“Well spit it out, then.” Phineas lightly slapped the back of Tepe’s head. “What did Harrison have on this Jade man?”
“Had to do with money.” Tepe leaned his hands on his shovel, dropping his voice as if afraid of being overhead. “Jade was stealing from Andreas.”
“Feckin’ idiot. I’m surprised boyo’s still alive.”
“He’s alive now.” Vernon shuddered. “I don’t think he was that alive the months he spent hanging in the woods with his flesh scraped from his bones on a regular basis with a f*****g kitchen carving knife.” The vampire crossed himself with every evidence of true faith. “You couldn’t pay me enough to make Andreas that angry.”
That kind of torture, Elena thought, could very well make an enemy of a man. But, in her eyes, Harrison hadn’t snitched in telling his angel of fraud in his home; no, he’d been loyal despite the fear he must’ve had of the older and more powerful Jade. “What’s Jade’s full name?”
“You won’t say it was us that told you about him, will you?” Tepe whispered, his shoulders hunching in. “Jade’s mean.”
“Raphael has the best spymaster in the world. I’ll let Jade assume I got the information that way.” No one would dare threaten Jason.
Both vampires blew out relieved breaths before Vernon said, “He just uses the name Jade. Never had a last name the whole time I knew him.”
Tepe tugged at the lobe of his bejeweled ear. “I heard he hangs out in the Quarter a lot, but I think he might live outside it.” A glance at Vernon. “Remember that time Claire said she ran into him and he talked about moving out of the Quarter?”
“Oh yeah.” Vernon pulled off his knit cap to scratch at his bald head. “She was too scared to ask for details, though—and she’s in Prague on training now. You could call her. Her last name’s Vargas.”
Elena made a mental note of the detail. “Does he have money?” Wealth or lack of it would influence which areas the vampire could afford.
“Yes, I think so—I mean, he had to pay back what he stole, but I always figured he must’ve had more money stashed away. Jade’s pretty old.”
“Older than Phineas, for sure.”
Phineas pointed his shovel at the two. “I’m a young whippersnapper as far as you’re concerned.”
“Yes, Phineas.” The two grinned before Tepe returned his attention to Elena. “That’s all I can think of that could’ve gotten Harrison into serious trouble. Everyone else he snitched on only got a slap on the wrist. Andreas isn’t so bad if you’re just goofing off. He only cares about actual betrayal, like with Jade—or if you run.”
“I don’t think the money thing was snitching, to be honest,” Vernon added. “I mean I’d tell Andreas, too, if I thought someone was stealing from him. Not right to come into your angel’s home and be a thief.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I’d tell, too,” Tepe said after a thoughtful pause. “But Harry didn’t stop at the big stuff. Like, he told when I took off for a couple of hours to see a friend without getting official permission. I don’t think Andreas was too impressed with him for that.”
“Andreas is a warrior under all the elegant manners.” Phineas leaned on the top of his shovel. “He’d have seen that kind of telling as disloyalty between comrades.”
“Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.” Tepe bit down on his lower lip, frowned. “Can’t think of anything else useful except that Harrison ran soon after the Jade thing, and you know the rest.”
“Do you think he ran because he was scared of Jade?” That would put a whole different slant on Harrison’s escape attempt.
“No way.” Tepe shook his head hard. “I mean, Jade’s a psycho, but Andreas is stone-cold terrifying. Harrison could’ve gone to Andreas if he was scared of Jade, and Andreas would’ve handled it. Harry just thought he could have the near-immortal life without paying the price.”
“We even felt sorry for him after he was brought back,” Vernon admitted. “Andreas was pissed.”