Darker After Midnight (CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO)

IT WAS LONG PAST MIDNIGHT and the Order had been on patrol from the moment they arrived in Boston. In that time, they'd smashed down the doors of a dozen Enforcement Agency sip-and- strips and known hangouts in and around the city.

Lucan had no intention of calling it a night until they'd raided every last one.

Few of the Agents they'd interrogated had confessed to knowing anything about traitors within their ranks. But there was one name that came up on battered and bloodied lips more than once: Arno Pike.

"His Darkhaven is in the North End," Mathias Rowan reported. Lucan had called the Agency director for a quick rundown on the bastard as Kade, Brock, and Hunter cleaned up the carnage they'd left in the most recent raid.

"Any kin at his place?"

"None," Rowan said. "Pike lives alone, no immediate family. He had a mate until about a year ago, but she died. Says here she was mugged in Dorchester, strangled."

Lucan grunted. "Convenient. Address?"

Rowan rattled off a swanky street in an area of multimillion-dollar brownstones. Lucan typed it into a text on a second phone he carried and sent it out to the rest of the Order's boots on the ground.

"Lucan, look. You know I'm on board with whatever you deem necessary to stop Dragos. And I mean stop him dead. But my dispatch lines are out of control. You've got civilians calling in, terrified of what they're hearing. The word among the Breed population here in Boston is that you've lost your goddamn mind. They're saying you've finally snapped, that on your command the Order is kicking down Darkhaven doors and hauling unarmed civilians into the streets at gunpoint."

Lucan exhaled a ripe curse. "The same shit they've been saying about the Order for years, decades."

"Except now it's true." Rowan's voice sounded weary. "And it's Christmas, for fuck's sake. How long do you mean for this mission to go on?"

"Until I rout Dragos and all his followers out of hiding, once and for all."

Rowan's answering silence stretched long. In the pall of his heavy contemplation, Lucan's cell phone rang with another incoming call. He told the Agent to hang on and switched over to accept the other line.

Niko's voice answered his clipped greeting. "Lucan, we've got Pike."

"Where are you?"

"Southie, down by the Mystic. Rio and I chased the son of a bitch into a vacant warehouse. Want us to hold him for you, or can we start hurting him for intel now?"

"Hold him," Lucan growled. He was already moving, motioning into the sacked Agency club for Hunter to follow him. "I'm on the way now. Bringing along backup for the interrogation. If hurting Pike doesn't get us anywhere, I'll have Hunter bleed the truth out of him."

He disconnected, then informed Rowan of the situation as he and Hunter jumped into the waiting Rover and sped for Southie like a bat out of hell.

Although Arno Pike hadn't suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises in his detainment, the male looked like shit. Smelled like it too. Piss anyway, and a bitter acridness that went beyond fear. Lucan could hardly stand the rank stench that rolled off the vampire as he and Hunter walked into the warehouse where Nikolai and Rio waited with the Agent.

"You're a popular guy, Pike," Lucan said as he approached the male who slumped on a rusted metal chair. "You'd be shocked to hear how many Agents mentioned your name tonight when we asked them who they'd point to as someone most likely to turn traitor to his own race. You're the undisputed winner. Congratulations."

"I can't wait to see what he's won," Niko said, his teeth and fangs gleaming in the gloom of the abandoned building.

"You've overstepped your bounds this time," Pike charged, his voice thin but nonetheless malicious. Sweat beaded on his pale face and throat. His cheeks were sallow and drawn, his lips white, bloodless, as he spoke. "The Order has made many enemies tonight. The Enforcement Agency will not let these unwarranted raids and harassment go uncontested."

"The Agency can contest all they want," Lucan replied. "Meanwhile the Order intends to turn the fucking organization inside out to shake loose the traitors."

Pike started to laugh, wheezing a bit. "You're too late, warrior. You'll never stop him now." Lucan's mind went dark with the vision Mira had shown him. So much blood in the streets. Countless lives lost, Breed and human alike. The screams of terror and mourning, the wails of the dying, filling the night.

Before he knew he'd taken the first step, Lucan was bearing down on Pike where he sat. "What do you mean, I'm too late?" he snarled, fury seething through his veins. "Tell me what you know about Dragos's plans!"

Pike's jaw clamped tight. His bleary eyes were mutinous, stubbornly resistant. "I'll never tell you. You'll have to kill me."

"Not a problem," Lucan growled. "But first, you will talk. Or I promise you, you'll be begging for death."

Pike tittered, maniacal now. "You'll never get anything out of me. Not from any of us who are loyal to him."

God help him, Lucan wanted nothing more than to rip out the male's throat. But he held his rage in check, if only by a fraction. "There are other ways to get what we need from you, asshole."

He nodded to Hunter. The Gen One assassin could read a Breed male's memories through blood. One bite and all of Pike's secrets would be known. Hunter strode forward, baring his fangs as he neared. "Hit him," Lucan commanded blandly.

Hunter took hold of Pike's wrist and struck it hard. He recoiled an instant later, spitting out the blood on a curse. He looked at Lucan, his golden eyes furious as he wiped away the red stains on his mouth. "He's taken poison."

"Son of a bitch," Lucan hissed.

They all stared at Pike, who was laughing now, even as he dropped to the floor and began to convulse. Foam curdled around his mouth as the poison tightened its hold on him. "You're too late, Lucan. Just like I told you." His giggle cut short on a pained groan. He started gasping for air, already in the throes of death.

"Come on," Lucan said, motioning for the others to follow him. "Let's get the fuck out of here."

As they left Arno Pike writhing and dying in the middle of the vacant warehouse, the vampire's taunts echoed behind them.

"You're too late … Dragos has already won."