Andrew Joseph Minyard doesn’t know a thing about Nathaniel Wesninski until he’s sent to kill him.
That’s perhaps more unusual than one would suspect, knowing Andrew. His general disinterest is well known, but he has a personal stake in knowing the movers and shakers of the magical families on the East Coast.
Know your enemies, and all that. Andrew didn’t used to have those, until he met Kevin Day and finally picked a side that wasn’t himself and his best interests. Now he kills people for righteousness, or what the fuck ever.
“The Wesninskis have a new leader,” Wymack tells them, hands folded on his desk like this is very serious news. “It’s Nathan’s kid, apparently. He’s cleaned house. Or it might be more accurate to say that he wiped the old circle off of the map entirely.”
Like he always does, Kevin goes pale at the mention of one of those families. Wymack flicks him a glance before continuing, “It’s not immediately clear where he stands on the old family alliances, but it makes sense for us to move now while he’s unsettled.”
Andrew can see where this is going already. “I didn’t realise we were killing off children now.”
Wymack shoots him a level look. “He’s twenty-two. Barely younger than you.”
“Well, I suppose that’s alright then,” Andrew replies agreeably. “When do I leave?”
“Hold on. Didn’t he kill his own father?” Nicky cuts in. “Shouldn’t that require a little more investigation than ‘when do I leave’?”
Dan waves a hand. “He’s a mage. Killer or not, he won’t be able to protect himself against non-magical weapons.”
“Don’t worry Nicky. I don’t like to be too well prepared,” Andrew says. It’s not meant to be soothing.
That’s how he ends up crawling through an upper-storey window of the Wesninski mansion, cursing mages and rusted locks. The house is probably warded - Andrew couldn’t say. To him it’s just like breaking into any other house.
What he does notice is the complete emptiness of the building. While mages don’t often have non-magical defence - and Andrew would be a lot less successful if they invested in some attack dogs, or even burglar alarms - they do generally at least have people. But every room he passes - soundlessly, of course - has its door flung wide open to display its total emptiness.
Every instinct he has is screaming. For a moment, he wonders if Wesninski has cleared out of the house entirely. But, despite the limited information for this trip, Andrew knows Wymack wouldn’t send him on a wild goose chase. The mage is here.
He creeps down the stairs, sticking close to the wall. It’s a broad staircase, gaudy even in the near-darkness. Apparently the elder Wesninski had more money than taste.
The lounge is no more elegant, and still empty of people. Beyond it, though, light falls from the doorway. Andrew creeps towards it, palming one of his knives.
Apparently, all his quiet was wasted. The person through the door is waiting for him - and this, having met Nathan, is definitely his son.
Twenty-two he may be, but Wesninski looks like a kid. With his fair falling into his face as he slouches against the kitchen island, he looks nothing like someone who could have killed Nathan and the entire rest of his circle in one fell swoop. Any tracery of magic in him isn’t detectable to Andrew though - for all he knows, the air could be singing with it.
The only giveaway that this man isn’t as normal as Andrew is the curling tattoo emerging over the collar of his t-shirt. It’s a mage-mark, and it’s large. Even Kevin, the most powerful of the Foxes in terms of sheer strength, doesn’t have one that extends so far across his skin.
“You’re AJ Minyard,” Wesninski says. He looks excited about that. Andrew didn’t realise he was a groupie. It’s the danger of being a contract killer - being known by your signature. Andrew is Andrew, except when he’s AJ and earning his keep in blood.
“Usually, your kind is throwing spells by now,” he replies blandly. Not that it ever helps them.
“That would be a waste of time, though. Wouldn’t it?” Wesninski says. “You’re immune.”
Well then. “You’re smarter than you look,” Andrew informs him.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you’re so successful,” Wesninski shrugs. “I need to send a message to Kevin.”
Wesninski isn’t following the script. Andrew glances at his watch - usually they’d have gotten past the initial failed attempt to blast Andrew off of the face of the earth with magic and moved onto either running - unusual, mages didn’t like to run - or begging. “Do I look like a messenger to you?”
That earns a thin smile. “Oh, I’m sorry. Is that demeaning?”
“If you think I’m here for that, then you’re confused,” Andrew says.
Wesninski throws his arms wide. “Well, go ahead then. You know I can’t fight you. And it’s not like I can run.”
Fuck’s sake, Andrew didn’t come here for a conversation. Still, though - he throws a glance at Wesninski’s legs. “Too lazy for it?”
“Not exactly. I know you probably don’t care for magical theory, so the short explanation is that right now I can’t leave this house. Hence wanting to speak with Kevin. The best I could do is hide in a closet, and I can’t imagine that would deter you.”
“As sob-stories go, you might want to try ‘but I have children and a wife’,” Andrew advises.
“As if that would help me.” Wesninski rolls his eyes. “That’s fine. I wasn’t expecting you to help me for free. I’ll give you something you want in exchange.”
Andrew really should have just killed him instead of saying a word. Corpses are so much less trouble. He raises an eyebrow to signal that his patience is wearing thin.
“If you want a chance at getting anywhere near Riko Moriyama, you’ll help me,” Wesninski says.
That’s an interesting offer. “What makes you think I care about that?”
“Do you think it isn’t common knowledge in the upper circles about what happened between him and Kevin?” Wesninski says. “Plus you’ve been working your way through all the high blood families over the last year. I figured a Moriyama must be right up there on your wish list. Particularly that one.”
He isn’t wrong. “I’m not here to make a deal with you.”
“Are you sure about that?” That smile again. It’s really a wonder someone so irritating hasn’t been killed already. “I have access to the Moriyamas now, whether they like it or not. I think you’d like to make use of that. Better move fast, though - you aren’t the only one who wants to kill me.”
Riko would already be dead if he were easier to get to. And Nathaniel now has his father’s seat on the council, even if he killed for it - succession is muddy and ugly amongst mages at the best of times. He’d hardly be the first to do it that way.
He’s right. Andrew could use that. Getting into Castle Evermore is difficult, and Nathaniel has a free pass through the front gates. If he could smuggle Andrew inside…if he were willing to do so…
“What’s in it for you?” Andrew asks.
“What, you mean besides you not murdering me tonight and me getting out of this fucking house?” So sardonic. “I don’t like the Moriyamas any more than you do, Wesninski blood or no. I don’t care if I die, as long as Riko goes first.”
It seems their interests all line up. Andrew can deal with Riko at last, and might even get a shot at the other Moriyamas in the process. He smiles a little bit, feeling his face cracking.
“Well, Nathaniel. Looks like you might be useful to me after all.”
Wesninski makes a face. “I go by ‘Nate’.”
“I really don’t care,” Andrew tells him. “I would say ‘wait here’, but I suppose that’s irrelevant, isn’t it? I’ll come to you.”
The with a message or a knife is unspoken but clearly implied. Nathaniel - Nate - smiles thinly.
“Better hurry,” he says. “Offer ends if I’m dead.”