Home > The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)(2)

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

"I want you to know... that what you did was incredibly brave," he said, not meeting my eyes. "I know you and Keith were - are - friends, and it couldn't have been easy to turn him in. It shows just how committed you are to our work - something that's not always easy when personal feelings are involved."

Keith and I weren't friends now or then, but I supposed I could understand Tom's mistake.

Keith had lived with my family for a summer, and later, he and I had worked together in Palm Springs. Turning him in for his crimes hadn't been difficult for me at all. I'd actually enjoyed it.

Seeing the stricken look on Tom's face, though, I knew I couldn't say anything like that.

I swallowed. "Well. Our work is important, sir."

He gave me a sad smile. "Yes. It certainly is."

The door had a security keypad. Tom punched in a series of about ten digits, and the lock clicked in acceptance. He pushed the door open, and I followed him inside. The stark room was dimly lit and had three other people in it, so I didn't initially notice what else the room contained.

I knew immediately that the others were Alchemists. There was no other reason they'd be in this place otherwise. And, of course, they possessed the telltale signs that would have identified them to me even on a busy street. Business attire in nondescript colors. Golden lily tattoos shining on their left cheeks. It was part of the uniformity we all shared. We were a secret army, lurking in the shadows of our fellow humans.

The three of them were all holding clipboards and staring at one of the walls. That was when I noticed what this room's purpose was. A window in the wall looked through to another room, one much more brightly lit than this one.

And Keith Darnell was in that room.

He darted up to the glass separating us and began beating on it. My heart raced, and I took a few frightened steps back, certain he was coming after me. It took me a moment to realize he couldn't actually see me. I relaxed slightly. Very slightly. The window was a oneway mirror. He pressed his hands to the glass, glancing frantically back and forth at the faces he knew were there but couldn't see.

"Please, please," he cried. "Let me out. Please let me out of here." Keith looked a little scragglier than the last time I'd seen him. His hair was unkempt and appeared as though it hadn't been cut in our month apart. He wore a plain gray jumpsuit, the kind you saw on prisoners or mental patients, that reminded me of the concrete in the hall.

Most noticeable of all was the desperate, terrified look in his eyes - or rather, eye. Keith had lost one of his eyes in a vampire attack that I had secretly helped orchestrate. None of the Alchemists knew about it, just as none of them knew about how Keith had raped my older sister Carly. I doubted Tom Darnell would've praised me for my "dedication" if he'd known about my sideline revenge act. Seeing the state Keith was in now, I felt a little bad for him - and especially bad for Tom, whose face was filled with raw pain. I still didn't feel bad about what I'd done to Keith, however. Not the arrest or the eye. Put simply, Keith Darnell was a bad person.

"I'm sure you recognize Keith," said one of the Alchemists with a clipboard. Her gray hair was wound into a tight, neat bun.

"Yes, ma'am," I said.

I was saved from any other response when Keith beat at the glass with renewed fury.

"Please! I'm serious! Whatever you want. I'll do anything. I'll say anything. I'll believe anything.

Just please don't send me back there!"

Both Tom and I flinched, but the other Alchemists watched with clinical detachment and scrawled a few notes on their clipboards. The bun woman glanced back up at me as though there'd been no interruption. "Young Mr. Darnell has been spending some time in one of our Re-education Centers. An unfortunate action - but a necessary one. His trafficking in illicit goods was certainly bad, but his collaboration with vampires is unforgiveable. Although he claims to have no attachment to them... well, we really can't be certain. Even if he is telling the truth, there's also the possibility that this transgression might expand into something more - not just a collaboration with the Moroi, but also the Strigoi. Doing what we've done keeps him from that slippery slope."

"It's really for his own good," said the third clipboard-wielding Alchemist. "We're doing him a favor."

A sense of horror swept over me. The whole point of the Alchemists was to keep the existence of vampires secret from humans. We believed vampires were unnatural creatures who should have nothing to do with humans like us. What was a particular concern were the Strigoi - evil, killer vampires - who could lure humans into servitude with promises of immortality.

Even the peaceful Moroi and their half human counterparts, the dhampirs, were regarded with suspicion. We worked with those latter two groups a lot, and even though we'd been taught to regard them with disdain, it was an inevitable fact that some Alchemists not only grew close to Moroi and dhampirs... but actually started to like them.

The crazy thing was - despite his crime of selling vampire blood - Keith was one of the last people I'd think of when it came to getting too friendly with vampires. He'd made his dislike of them perfectly obvious to me a number of times. Really, if anyone deserved to be accused of attachment to vampires...

... well, it would be me.

One of the other Alchemists, a man with mirrored sunglasses hanging artfully off his collar, took up the lecture. "You, Miss Sage, have been a remarkable example of someone able to work extensively with them and keep your objectivity. Your dedication has not gone unnoticed by those above us."

"Thank you, sir," I said uneasily, wondering how many times I'd hear "dedication" brought up tonight. This was a far cry from a few months ago, when I'd gotten in trouble for helping a dhampir fugitive escape. She'd later been proven innocent, and my involvement had been written off as "career ambition."

"And," continued Sunglasses, "considering your experience with Mr. Darnell, we thought you would be an excellent person to give us a statement." I turned my attention back at Keith. He'd been pounding and shouting pretty much nonstop this whole time. The others had managed to ignore him, so I tried as well.

"A statement on what, sir?"

"We're considering whether or not to return him to Re-education," explained Gray Bun.

"He's made excellent progress there, but some feel it's best to be safe and make sure any chance of vampire attachment is eradicated."

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