It’s 10pm and a dapper figure in an expensive Saville Row tailored suit and carrying an Italian leather briefcase strides easily through the drizzling rain, heading for the entry to the Stafford Clegg building on the Avenue of the Americas.
“Evening, Don. How’s the missus and ankle-biters?”
The security guard on duty laughs easily – he knows the eccentric Brit by sight.
“Oh, hi there Mr. Buchanan! They’re doing good. Working late again?”
“’Fraid so, old chap. Time and tide and all that tosh, what?”
The guard shakes his head, chuckling. He doesn’t understand what Buchanan says half the time but the guy is always polite and actually pays some attention to the lowest of the building staff – something a few of the other high-flyers could try to copy.
“You take care, Mr. B. Try to stay out of this shitty weather, you’ll catch a cold or sumthin’”
Oh I’m hardier than I look, Don. This dashed weather reminds me of home, quite. Toodly-pip.”
With that, Buchanan walks inside, nods to the desk clerk with an “Evening Jimmy” and gets into the express elevator. There he presses the lower of the two buttons, shooting him straight up to the 44th floor of the towering glass-and-steel temple to Mammon. The lift musak is an insipid orchestral arrangement of “Rock The Casbah” and he shakes his head ruefully. What has the world come to?
The man who exits the executive elevator has a very different demeanor from the man the security guard thinks he knows. Grim-faced and purposeful, he pauses by his secretary’s desk – she’ll be home with her family right now, he almost never sees her – and puts a smashed sat-phone in a large yellow envelope then scrawls on the outside: “Had an oopsie. Get a new phone for me, same model, and have the numbers from this POS transferred. Send it by courier to my place tomorrow evening. Thanks, B.”
This accomplished, he unlocks his own office, with its card and key locks, then slips inside. In the dark, wood-panelled sanctum, he sighs and slumps behind his fine mahogany desk before switching on a single desk lamp. A stack of files and memos sit in his in-tray but he ignores them.
“If it were done, it were best done quick,” he breathes and hit’s a transatlantic number on the secure landline, the one that bypasses the switchboard, from memory. It’s to a particular phone in a particular study in an expensive part of central London. One, forty-four, one-seven-one…
The phone at the other end rings twice, the ‘briining-bring’ of a British phone, and then clicks as it is picked up. Buchanan waits impatiently while the other end hisses and clicks, a sign of its encryption meshing with his own phone’s, and then speaks.
“Sire, your servant Buchanan here.”
A melodious voice, richly baritone, making the listener think of warmed brandy and fine cigars, answers him. The voice of the fabulously wealthy and powerful creature who made Buchanan what he is, grooming him from an early age. Vampire Strategoi of the Clan Ventrue, Sir Edward Stafford.
“Buchanan, dear boy. Report.”
“Yes Sire.” Buchanan visibly gathers himself, then begins. “I tried to take your advice to ‘hurry slowly’ but events here in New York have a pace all of their own. Since we last spoke I and my coterie have succeeded in bringing together the various Clans of the Camarilla – representatives of the Ventrue, Toreador, Tremere, Nosferatu, Gangrel and Brujah have all agreed to hold an Elysium at the Carnegie hall sometime in the near future. We have also made contact with the Giovanni Family, and they have sent us an emissary to work with our coterie. But the Sabbat have become aware of our work. Their ruler in the city, called Jaffar, became involved in our own attempts to end a feud between the Nosferatu and the Toreadors – and members of the Tzimsce have attacked my coterie twice.”
“Still, we have been successful in ending that feud – a small agreement after the manner of Persephone in Hell did the trick…
“Hah!” Interjects the old English powerbroker, “I knew your Classics would serve well, boy.”
“Yes, Sire. And I have become the…” Here Buchanan takes a deep breath. “’Special Arbiter for Sectarian Diplomacy for New York City‘, by order of both the Syndicate, current Camarilla Prince, and this Jaffar. Obviously Jaffar sees his own advantage in not having the boat rocked. No doubt you’d heard that the current Primogens and Prince had arranged a truce between the Sabbat and themselves?”
Sir Edward pauses a second, then says, “I had, boy, and it stinks of rank defeatism if you ask me. Still, I wasn’t on the spot and just maybe a Justiciar would consider that they saved the Camarilla remnant in the city rather than betrayed it. I wouldn’t count on that, though, if I were them.”
Buchanan gasps. The possibility of a visit from a Justiciar sent by the Inner Circle hadn’t occurred to him. Is the old and wily vampire trying to hint one is in the offing? The Elder breaks his chain of thought, though.
“Now, boy, tell me about your own good self. I hear tell you’re set on climbing the tree to the very top.”
There’s no getting away from it, the old bastard knows already.
“Yes, my Sire. With your permission, of course, I feel that this city needs a Prince who can strengthen the Camarilla, one who has a vision. I see no-one else capable of the task.”
“Hmmph. Well, I wouldn’t have Embraced you if you didn’t have ambition worthy of a Ventrue. If you can do it, boy, then all the best to you. You’ll be a credit to the Clan and to me if you can. Just be careful you don’t fall from a great height.”
Buchanan, visibly sagging from relief, responds, “I will do my best not to fall, my Lord, and to bring you credit. For now, things are chaotic but going in the right direction. I should be able to cement my position if I can entice enough of the powerful Camarilla to back my plans – and much there depends on finding a missing Toreador girl.”
“Oh, and Sire, I took the liberty of giving your number to the current Ventrue Primogen’s lieutenant, one Caulinn McManus by name. The current Primogen is distracted and vulnerable, too interested in kine affairs and not attentive enough to those of the Kindred. His second would be a far better representative of our Clan in this city, someone who knows how to get things done. I’d appreciate your talking to him.”
“Ah, you mean the Primogen who has been so lax as to bring his business adventures to the attention of the kine authorities?” He chuckles. “I’ll speak to your man McManus, if he calls. Rest assured, m’boy, he’ll know which side his bread is buttered by the time I’m done.”
“Thank you, my Lord. I am indebted to you.”
“Yes you are, Buchanan my childe. Don’t forget that in your rise. Oh, and I’ve decided that the Stafford Trust, one of my vehicles, will be buying a 20 percent share in that medical research thingy of yours. You have my confidence, for now. Don’t make me regret that. Now bugger off, there’s a good lad, and remember ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it’, my son.
And the line goes abruptly dead.
Thinking furiously, brow furrowed distractedly, Buchanan turns to more mundane matters and the pile of paperwork on his desk.