Home > The Dragon Conspiracy (SPI Files #2)

The Dragon Conspiracy (SPI Files #2)
Author: Lisa Shearin

1

I was working, but if this was work, then sign me up for triple overtime.

This was my kind of Halloween party—cool jazz, a hot date, and a little black dress I’d paid way too much for, but refused to feel guilty about. It was my treat to me. My first Halloween in New York was shaping up to be one to write home about.

The jazz band was playing “That Old Black Magic.” I wondered if they knew how appropriate that was.

My hot date was my partner, Ian Byrne. No, not that kind of partner; the kind that works with me battling the forces of evil. He was a senior agent; I was the newbie. But his job title didn’t keep him from being the ultimate arm candy.

He was tall, dark, lean, and born to wear a tuxedo.

It was Friday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the night before Halloween and we were posing as a hoity-toity Manhattan couple with an invitation to the season’s most anticipated opening night at the Met’s newest exhibit—Mythos.

Gods and goddesses, beasties and monsters, myths and legends, all safely represented in painting, sculpture, or artifact—all of the thrills with none of the danger.

I say danger, because monsters are real.

My name is Makenna Fraser and I work for SPI—that’s Supernatural Protection & Investigations for those in the know. Those in the know consisted of the supernatural community in Manhattan and throughout the outer boroughs.

SPI was headquartered in New York, but had offices and agents worldwide. It was founded by Vivienne Sagadraco in 1647. And no, that wasn’t the boss lady’s ancestor. It was the boss lady herself. Vivienne Sagadraco was much older than she looked, less human than she appeared, and a lot larger than you could ever imagine.

I imagine there were plenty of people who called their boss a dragon lady and meant it as an insult.

My boss was a real dragon—and a true lady.

Right now, she was . . . Well, “holding court” was about the only way I could describe it.

In her actual form, she’d have cleared the room; every human in the place would have been screaming and stampeding for the nearest exit. But as Vivienne Sagadraco, wealthy socialite and generous philanthropist, she drew a crowd of admirers wherever she went—especially admirers who had a cause or event they needed funded.

A mural of frolicking dryads was currently framing her slim and elegant figure. Whether intentional or not, the mural’s jewel-toned tiles of semiprecious stones couldn’t have provided a more flattering backdrop for her.

Though I shouldn’t have been surprised if she had chosen it on purpose. Not because it made her look good, but because it looked good to her. Dragons loved their sparklies, and Vivienne Sagadraco was no exception.

In fact, it was her love of shiny things (and uncanny investment skills) that was behind SPI’s funding. Monster hunting and protecting humans and supernaturals from one another—and keeping humans in the dark about all of it—took the latest technology, developed and run by the most brilliant minds, and seemingly bottomless financial reserves to pay for all of it. Toss in a financial management staff of scary accurate clairvoyants, and Vivienne Sagadraco’s net worth would probably put the treasuries of many first-world countries to shame. Not to mention it made all of us agents warm and fuzzy to know that our 401k accounts were in the best hands.

Ian Byrne and I weren’t here on a date.

We were here to prevent a robbery.

When it came to art with supernatural provenance, value wasn’t always measured in money. There were a handful of items in the exhibition that could cause a lot of trouble if they fell into the wrong hands.

That’s why SPI was involved.

So while we had some idea of what items the thieves were after, we had no earthly clue how anyone could steal any of them, especially tonight.

SPI had received intelligence that there would be a robbery. Tonight. Smack-dab in the middle of a museum gala with hundreds of people in attendance. As to the identity of our potential thief, none of the supernaturals or humans were behaving suspiciously. It looked like a perfectly normal thousand-dollar-a-head museum exhibit opening on a Friday night in New York. People and not-people were out and about, seeing but mostly being seen, looking at ancient art and artifacts, and admiring the pretties and the sparklies from behind velvet ropes and bulletproof glass.

Stealing anything from this exhibition would be humanly impossible.

Inhumans, on the other hand, just might be able to pull it off.

That was where SPI came in.

Or, more to the point, me.

I’m what SPI calls a seer.

Most of the members of my family could see supernatural creatures for what they really were. We could see through any magical veil, ward, shield, or spell any supernatural could come up with as a disguise. I could identify every supernatural present at this little shindig. It wasn’t in the least bit surprising that supernaturals were among New York’s glitterati. When your life span was measured in centuries, you could accumulate wealth in quantities unimaginable to all but Middle Eastern sheiks, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, or Kardashian divorce-settlement recipients.

What passed for figments of peoples’ overactive imaginations, or things that went bump in the night and day, were SPI’s bread and butter.

Fact meets fiction.

Science meets entertainment.

Myths and monsters. If the museum hadn’t wanted to tap into that, they wouldn’t be officially opening the Mythos exhibition to the public on Halloween.

Most of the supernatural guests were the vampire, elf, and goblin variety. Naturally they were veiled, meaning they had used small magics to conceal their most distinguishing features—or at least those that would be most alarming to humans. That meant fangs for the vamps, upswept ears for the elves, and both of the above plus silvery skin tone for the goblins.

I could see them all, but I’d learned at a young age to keep that knowledge to myself. Most supernaturals didn’t want to be seen for what they really were, especially by a human, which many of them viewed as a sub-creature, dinner, or both. I’d always made it a point to avoid being seen as either one.

An unremarkable-looking, middle-aged couple gazed with obvious disdain and quiet, derisive laughter at one of the promotional posters the Met had liberally spread around town on buses, subway stops, and anywhere else people couldn’t help but notice them.

The couple were vampires.

In honor of the gala, a few of the more popular posters had been expanded into banners and hung suspended from the ceiling in all their glossy glory. In honor of Halloween, and people’s seemingly never-ending fascination with vampires, one banner depicted what the Met’s Marketing department knew humans wanted to see if confronted by a vampire—a breathtakingly beautiful, darkly seductive creature, with just a hint of fang visible, and deep bedroom eyes that assured their victim that their primary intent was merely to boff them silly. Yes, there was that tiny, insignificant thing that involved driving those fangs into the side of your neck and essentially ripping your throat out as they drained your blood and left you to die in an alley, darkened park, bathroom in a SoHo nightclub, or wherever they’d found you when the mood to munch took them. But because you’d be so hot and bothered by their sexy selves, you’d enjoy the hell out of the throat ripping while they did it to you.

   
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