Darkfever / Page 43

Page 43


Steampunk was the theme of the night at Mallucé’s: Victorian-style clothing tweaked in edgy ways, ripped, distorted, and blended with Goth, Rivet, and Punk—although I admit sometimes I have a hard time picking up the subtle details that differentiate the individual pockets of the Dark Fashion world. I think you have to live in it to get it.

We left the Porsche with an Unseelie Rhino-boy valet at the door, whose glamour looked like unvarnished deathpunk to me. In contrast, I did indeed resemble a perky rainbow.

Mallucé’s lair was a monstrous, rambling affair of brick and stone that was a mishmash of various types of Victorian architecture, leaning heavily toward Addams Family Goth, with an embarrassment of turrets and porticos, wrought-iron balustrades and battlements, oriel windows and transoms, and enough ornate cornices and brackets to dizzy the eye, not to mention baffle the soul.

Four tall stories were stacked haphazardly on top of each other, cresting in a black roofline against the cobalt night sky that made no sense, but leapt whimsically from flat to dangerously steep and back again. Trees with skeletal limbs, badly in need of a trim, scraped against slate, like oaken nails on the lid of a coffin.

The house rambled over an acre and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to learn it had upward of sixty or seventy rooms. On the top floor, strobe lights flickered beyond tall narrow windows, in tempo with raucous, driving music. On the lower floors the ambience was different: black and crimson candles were the light of choice, and the music was soft, dreamy, and voluptuous.

Barrons had given me a good bit of background about our soon-to-be host on the way over. Mallucé had been born John Johnstone Jr. to old British money some thirty years ago. When the senior Johnstones had died in a suspicious car accident, leaving their twenty-four-year-old son sole heir to a several-hundred-million-dollar fortune, J. J. Jr. had turned his back on his father’s vast financial empire, sold off one company after the next, and liquidated all assets. He’d cast off his embarrassingly redundant name, gotten it legally changed to the singular, romantic Mallucé, dressed himself in the height of refined steampunk, and presented himself to Goth society as one of the newly undead.

Over the years, several hundred million dollars had bought him an extensive cult of true believers and hardcore groupies, and in some quarters, the name Mallucé was nearly synonymous with Lestat.

Barrons had never met him face-to-face but had seen him on several occasions in the trendier nightclubs. He’d made it his business to track Mallucé’s interests and acquisitions. “He goes after many of the same artifacts as I,” he told me. “Last time he tried to outbid me in an exclusive Internet auction—a wealthy recluse in London, Lucan Trevayne, disappeared and within days a large portion of his collection was up for grabs on the black market—I had a hacker standing by who took down Malluce’s entire computer network at the crucial moment.” Dark eyes glittering, Barrons smiled, a predator relishing the memory of a cherished kill.

But his smile faded as he continued. “Unfortunately, what I’d been hoping to find in Trevayne’s collection was no longer there. Someone had beaten me to it. At any rate, Mallucé must have learned of the Sinsar Dubh in the years preceding his father’s death. The senior Johnstone dabbled in artifacts and there was a considerable uproar in the antiquities world some time back when photocopied pages of what most believed to be mythical—indeed, a joke of an icon—debuted on the black market. I have no idea how many photocopied sets are out there, but I do know Mallucé saw the pages at some point. The undead fuck’s been getting in my way ever since.” Barrons said “undead fuck” as if he strongly wished Mallucé dead—not believed him undead.

“You don’t think he’s a vampire,” I said in a hushed voice, as we picked our way through room after room of stoned-looking people draped across low-backed velveteen divans, passed out on brocade chaises, and sprawled in various stages of undress on the floor. We were searching for an entrance to the sub-basement, where a dazedly compliant sloe-eyed Goth-girl had told us “the Master” would be. I tried not to notice the rhythmic thrusts, grunts, and moans as I stepped carefully over half-naked tangles.

He laughed briefly, a hollow, humorless sound. “If he is, the one that made him should be drowned in holy water, defanged, gelded, skinned, staked, and left to blister agonizingly in the sun.” He was silent a moment, then, “Feeling anything, Ms. Lane?”

I didn’t think he meant embarrassment about what I’d just stepped over, so I shook my head.

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