Copyright © Susan Stumpf 2016
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, establishments, or organizations, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to give a sense of authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Photography by Rachel Cole
Back cover photo location – Beckley WV
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This book is dedicated to my Beta readers. I appreciate all your time and input.
I stood motionless as I watched Bo crawl through the mud of a small village. He was covered in blood and filth. I wanted to go to him, but I couldn’t. It was as if I was a ghost. I didn’t have a body. I was just a spectator. He was badly hurt and weak, I could tell. I futilely watched while he crawled into a run down looking shack and my being followed him inside, hovering overhead. I watched in horror as Bo reached for a small child and bit her, draining her of her blood. I opened my mouth to scream in horror, but no sound came out. We fed off humans, but not children, never children. This child couldn’t have been more than four years old. I was outraged! The struggle between the two awoke an older sibling, a girl who looked to be around seven or eight. Bo grabbed her and drained her as well. I screamed again trying to will my ghostly being to stop him, to pull him away, to end this horror that was happening before my eyes. Again, no sound escaped my lips, and I could not will my ghostly form to move.
Back in reality, my screams were not silent, and Bo was frantically trying to awaken me from my sleep. I finally awoke disoriented and still screaming. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. I’d been a vampire for five years now, and I hadn’t had a dream or nightmare since. Vampires didn’t dream, or so I thought. I pulled away from Bo’s arms looking at him as if he were a monster. I wasn’t able to shake the terrible feeling of my dream. Bo had just as much of a look of terror on his face as I imagine I did on mine.
“What’s wrong?” he asked for the fifth time.
“I think I had a nightmare,” I replied, backing away from his arms once again.
“That’s impossible,” he replied. “We don’t dream.”
“It was a nightmare,” I said again getting out of our bed.
“What did you see?” he asked, following me to the bathroom.
“I don’t want to talk about it, leave me alone,” I said closing the door between us.
I had hoped a hot shower would make me feel better, but it didn’t. The dream was so vivid it seemed completely real. I remembered dreams. I hadn’t been a vampire so long that I’d forgotten them, forgotten what they were like. This seemed different from what I remembered. It seemed so real. I couldn’t look Bo in the eye, the vision of him feeding on those children stuck with me. So, I headed toward Wu’s place.
After Wu’s grandfather Li died, Wu sold the house that they had lived in together and bought the building across the street from Forever Young Antiques where he now lived with his wife, Persia and her sister Song. Angelus’ vision had been correct, Wu and Persia had twins: a boy and a girl, Cameron and Kimber-li. They were almost five years old now and also as predicted, I loved them dearly.
There was an underground passage adjoining our building to Wu’s. It was a way for us to stay connected and protect each other. I entered the key code to the vault door that opened into the existing sewer system. The dank smell of underground assaulted my senses. I liked that the buildings were connected, but I didn’t like the passageway, it reminded me of a dungeon. It smelled of sewer, green slime was covering the walls and there was a constant dripping sound. It just gave me the creeps. Another key code later, I was inside the bottom floor of Wu’s building. A notification sounded in the building that the vault door had been opened. Completely against protocol, the kids came running to greet me. They screamed all the way with arms stretched out wide.
“Auntie Em, Auntie Em,” they squealed jumping into my arms. It seems my newly acquired nickname was going to stick. They had just recently watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time, and I would now forever be their Auntie Em.
Persia entered the room and chided the children for running to the door without knowing who it was.
“But we knew it was Auntie Em, it’s always Auntie Em,” Cameron said to his mother, Kim nodding in agreement, making her pigtails bounce.
“Your mother’s right, I could have been the big bad wolf,” I said holding up pretend claws and chasing the children out of the room. Persia laughed as they ran screaming. She wasn’t a stern mother. She reminded me very much of Wu’s grandfather, Li. She was quiet and strong, only speaking when needing to. She was elegantly beautiful, and I could see why Wu fell for her so quickly. She had kind eyes and a sweet smile, a genuine Okinawan beauty.
The kids hid behind the couch Wu was sitting on. I could see the top of Cameron’s spiky black hair and the rounded arches of Kim’s pigtails.
“You’re up early,” Wu said to me not looking up from his book.
“So are they.” I said, then I jumped behind the couch, and the twins erupted in screams. They took off to find another hiding place but were intercepted by Persia telling them their breakfast was ready. The children kept vampire hours, it just made more sense. Persia and Song ran the antique store now, so instead of finding a daytime babysitter the kids kept nocturnal hours to spend time with their father. Persia and Song had just recently gotten home from closing the store, so this was typically family time for them. I didn’t usually come over this early in the night and I hated to interrupt, but it wasn’t quite dark outside yet, and I couldn’t stand to be near Bo right now.
I plopped down on the couch next to Wu and inspected the back of the book he was reading. It was a western, of course; Wu and I had very differing tastes. He placed his bookmark and set it aside when Song, his sister-in-law, came into the room and handed him a clipboard.
“You’re ready for inventory,” she said without acknowledging me. For the longest time, I thought she hated me. She didn’t seem to like Bo or Wu much either though. I guess she didn’t really like anybody. I chalked it up to just a grumpy teenager thing. She was very immature for her age. I’d seen her throw childish fits with Persia, stomping her foot and whining in their native language. She had recently turned twenty so maybe she would grow out of it. She wasn’t at all like her sister. Persia was more like a mother to Song, stern yet loving. Their mother had died when they were still quite young. Persia, being twelve years older than Song, had taken on the mother role as their father was away a lot. I guess it caused Persia to mature quickly, having that much responsibility at such a young age.
Both women were beautiful, with long black hair and almond-shaped eyes. Song had a rounder face, and her hair was just a shade lighter than her sister’s. The big difference was in their attitude and demeanor. How could two sisters act so differently?
“Care to help me later?” Wu asked, breaking me from my thoughts.
I nodded. I don’t know why he asked, I always helped him with inventory.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I just nodded again. I knew I could confide in Wu, but I didn’t fully understand what happened this morning, so I didn’t want to talk about it just yet.
I hung out at Wu’s house until after dark and Bo came over. He didn’t like leaving the house before dark, even using the underground passage.
“Ready to go?” he asked, eyeing me cautiously trying to gauge my mood. Bo and I usually went out hunting every night, but I didn’t want to go with him today. I couldn’t shake the repulsive feeling toward him that my dream left.
“Why don’t you two go, I’ll go later,” I said.
Wu raised an eyebrow. He was used to seeing Bo and I fight. Bo was a stubborn, insensitive jerk most of the time, and Wu had seen us yell at each other on more than a few occasions.
“We need to talk about this, Em, what you experienced wasn’t normal,” Bo said fully entering the room and sitting down across from Wu and I.
“Wait, what’s not normal?” Wu asked, concerned.
“She says she had a nightmare, she was screaming.”
“A nightmare?” Wu asked with even more concern. “That is odd. I’ve never heard of a vampire dreaming before. What was it about, what did you see?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said standing up.
“There’s someone at the door,” Song loudly interrupted, but I was glad of it. I knew Bo would try to get me to talk if I stayed in the room, so I followed Wu out to see who was at the door.
It was Menelik. Wu buzzed him in. I’d never met the guy, but I knew of him. He acquired documents for all the local vamps. It was him who had gotten Brian and I our passports when we first went to see Angelus. He was very attractive, with short brown hair and a square jaw. He was wearing a dark blue suit and carrying a briefcase. He was the common definition of attractive, a very professional looking, alpha male type. I took his entrance as my chance to exit, trying to go unnoticed. He nodded to me as we passed. “Miss Polanski,” he greeted. I didn’t like being called that; it made me feel old, but it was better than Emina.
I went back to our place and sat down at my inventory desk in the storeroom to write in my journal. I know that’s so very junior high, but after learning that my memory capacity was limited, I started keeping a journal. In about a hundred years or so, I wouldn’t remember my mortal life. I wouldn’t remember my parents, my Aunt Eileen, or Brian. I didn’t want to forget them, so I wrote it all down. I tried to make sense of what was going on. Maybe it was a fluke, just a one-time thing. Vampires didn’t dream; they just didn’t…so why had I? Why was it something so horrible? Moreover, why couldn’t I shake the lingering feeling of it? I decided not to worry about it; I would put it behind me and not even think about it. I was going to go visit René and listen to her sing at a new club in town. I was going to dress to kill, not literally of course, and I was going to have a good time and not worry about the things that I couldn’t explain.
René and I had kept in contact. She was like the sister I never had. She was still living in my old house, and we spoke frequently. She’d been pursuing her singing career, singing in bars here and there. She was very excited about being hired as a regular at Alӧr, a chic new club uptown. Tonight was her first night on stage, and I promised her I’d be there. I put on a short tight purple dress and some strappy stiletto sandals. The weather was starting to turn chilly, but I didn’t care. “Dress up when you’re feeling down,” Aunt Eileen would tell me when I was younger. I needed to remember to add that quote to my journal. Aunt Eileen had a saying for everything, and it would take me the next hundred years to remember them all and write them down.
I decided to walk to the club. I had a little extra time to kill before René took the stage, and I thought the cool autumn air would clear my head. A group of random hooligans hollered at me, but I didn’t pay them any mind. I knew I looked amazing tonight, but I also knew I could easily rip their throats out if they came anywhere near me. After a few unanswered ‘Hey baby, where you going’ comments they went back to what they were doing, lucky for them.
The club had only been open a few weeks, so there was quite a line at the door. René had put my name on the VIP list, so I would get in with no problem. The inside of the club was very nice. It wasn’t your average dance club. It looked more like a high-class strip joint actually. There were long leather couches along the walls with mirrors everywhere and girls dancing behind silhouette screens. The whole place was lit up with blue, purple, and pink lights except the bar that was lit up in green. I’m pretty sure this place was owned and decorated by the Powerpuff girls. I snickered to myself as I went looking for a table. I didn’t want to sit on the long couches; they seemed to be the questionable morals section.
I was glad I dressed up; everyone here was dressed to the nines. Was I still in east Tennessee or Beverly Hills? The place was filled with men in suits and girls in tiny expensive dresses. I waded through them, found a vacant table, and sat down.
A skinny blonde waitress walked over in a white corset and long black skirt with a split in the side up to her hip and laid her hand on my shoulder.
“What can I get you, darlin’?”
I felt a jolt. She was naked. Wait, she just had on clothes. What was happening? The club was empty now. All the people disappeared. She was naked and having sex with a man in the club; it’s her boss. Wait, how do I know that? I shouldn’t be seeing this. I shouldn’t be here. She’s having sex with him to get this job. I don’t know how I know, I just know. I shook my head; I didn’t want to see this. What’s going on?
“Ma’am,” she said. “Are you okay?” Her clothes were back on, and the club was full of people again. She knocked on the table in front of me, waving her hand in my face.
“What just happened?” I asked, more to myself than her.
“You were totally spaced out; do I need to call you a cab?”
“No, no, I’m fine. Nothing to drink, thanks.”
It happened again, just like with Bo, but I was awake this time. What was wrong with me?
I thought about leaving, I was freaking out a little bit. I didn’t know what was going on but I promised René I’d be here for her. As I was debating staying or going she took the small stage. She didn’t look nervous. René didn’t know nervous, she was a natural. I liked when she sang soulful slow songs but tonight she was singing more upbeat Evanescencey type stuff, understandable given our location. I’d rather see her in a blues lounge somewhere singing, but she was excited about this job so I was happy for her. I tried to push what happened out of my head just as before, but it was hard. It wasn’t just a one-time thing, there was definitely something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what.
I really wish I could drink. I’d wished that so many times over the past five years. Alcohol used to be my chosen method of coping with things, but I knew if I drank anything I would throw it back up in minutes, before it could even get into my system. My stomach didn’t and couldn’t tolerate mortal food. I’d tried it a few times before, taking shots quickly to see if I could feel any of the effects before it came back up…nothing.
One night after a fight with Bo, I went to René’s and wolfed downed six Reese’s Cups before they came back up. They, of course, didn’t carry the usual comfort seeing how chocolate now tasted like bitter mud. I could drink from someone with alcohol in his or her bloodstream but that was unsafe as it usually knocked me out cold within minutes. Sometimes I longed for the mortal comforts I’d always taken for granted.
I tried to focus on René, that’s why I was here. I studied her, focusing on every detail. Her hair was lying in perfect dark red waves down to her shoulders as usual. She was wearing a shimmery white dress that was changing color with the lights as they shone on her. I focused hard on every word and every movement; this helped to calm me down. I don’t know how long she sang but by the time she was done, I was mentally exhausted. When her set was over, she ran up to me squealing like a teenager.
“I’m so glad you’re here, isn’t this place amazing?” She said in her thick Louisiana accent.
“Yeah, it’s great,” I agreed and gave my most convincing fake smile.
“Uh oh, what’s wrong darlin?”
She knew me too well.
“I’m not sure exactly, something weird is going on with me today and I don’t know what it is exactly.
She flagged down the waitress and ordered a couple lemon drop martinis for herself. The waitress eyeballed me as she left probably wondering if one of them was for me since she’d assumed I was beyond drunk and needed a cab already. René sat down in the seat across from me and downed the first drink quickly then left the other to sip slowly.
“Alright sugah, tell me what’s happening.”
“That’s the thing, I really don’t know. I had a horrible nightmare earlier, then just a little bit ago I spaced out and had some sort of vision.”
“But vamp-,” she started, but then looked around to see how close people were standing to us.
“But y’all don’t normally dream do you?”
“No,” I answered.
“What kind of visions are you seeing? Are you seeing the future like that Angelus fella you told me about?”
René’s question hit me like a ton of bricks. The waitress said I spaced out. I’d seen that before! Angelus spaces out when he gets his visions, I’d seen it myself. Is that what is going on, am I having futuristic visions? No, that can’t be it. The waitress was already working here; somehow I just knew that she was doing what she was doing in order to get this job. My vision or nightmare this morning was very old. I could tell by the town, the clothing that Bo was wearing, and the children’s clothing. I shook my head trying to get the image of Bo killing those children out of my mind.
“No,” I shook my head again. “I think…I think I might be seeing the past.”
I propped my elbows on the table and buried my face into my hands.
“What does Bo say about all this? Has he seen anything like this before?”
“I haven’t talked to him about it. I just need to wrap my mind around it first. I just…I feel overwhelmed, out of control. I…I don’t know. Talk about something,” I pleaded, “anything, just distract me please.”
René began to ramble about a cute guy she met but never called and her latest trip to the mall where they were having a great sale and how we really should go out on a shopping trip to take my mind off things and have a girl’s night. I sat and listened to her for a long time. René could talk all night and I could listen all night too, I never got tired of her accent.
“Pardon me,” a man interrupted. I felt his warm hand on the cold skin of my back “Would either of you two ladies…”
He was choking someone! A woman with straight stringy blonde hair, both his hands were around her throat. He was choking her and he was enjoying it. I fought against the vision and shot up from my chair causing it to slide away and fall backwards against the floor.
“Whoa, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to…” He began.
“I’ve got to get out of here!” I interrupted looking at René. The guy walked away mumbling something.
The club was very crowded and I pushed my way through the sea of people. I felt another vision coming and I foolishly used my vampire strength and speed to get out of there as quickly as possible, knocking a few people down and probably causing a scene but I didn’t care.
“Wow Em, you’re really freaking out darlin. You got to get it together,” René said after she caught up to me outside.
“I can’t. I saw that guy choking a girl; he was choking her and enjoying it. I can’t deal with this!”
“You need to get a hold of yourself hun.”
“I need a drink is what I need.”
“Come with me sugah, I have an idea.”
I drove René’s car back to her house, my old house. She’d had about four martinis, and was probably still okay to drive, but I needed the distraction. Bacon greeted us at the door. He lived here with René since he hated Bo’s place and didn’t get along with any of Bo’s guard dogs, not that we had any at the moment. Bo had eaten the last two and was yet to replace them. Bacon was a welcomed site. We sat on the couch and talked while René had a couple more drinks. I thought it was unlike her to consume so much alcohol but it wasn’t my place to say anything. I figured she was just trying to unwind after her first night singing at the club.
We talked about my visions and how they felt, how I seemed to be inside their heads. I couldn’t really read Bo’s thoughts in my dream; I could just feel a sense of great desperation. The other visions seemed to be more intense and less foggy, maybe because I was awake when they happened. We tried to find a common denominator, tried to figure out how and why they were happening, and how they differed.
“So whatever it is, it works with mortals and vampires alike, but you said it wasn’t as clear with Bo?” René pondered aloud.
“It was still clear, well the picture was clear, but his thoughts and feeling weren’t clear to me.”
“Well honey, that sure ain’t nothing new,” she laughed.
“True,” I said. “Maybe it wasn’t as clear because he’s a vampire and the others were mortals. Maybe mortals project a clearer picture because their feelings and emotions are at full capacity.”
“I think you’re on to something,” she said, finishing another drink.
“Let’s try something,” she said getting up from the chair and coming to sit beside me on the couch.
“No,” I said. “I don’t want to have these visions René; they’re always something terrible. I don’t want to see terrible things about you.”
“You need to better understand this Em, whatever it is. You need to know what triggers it so you can avoid it.”
She was right. She sat quietly beside me for a few minutes looking at me in anticipation.
“No,” I replied.
“That guy that walked up touched you though didn’t he? Maybe that’s it. Maybe you have to be touching? Take my hand.”
I reached over and grabbed her hand; it was warm in my cold grip. We sat there for a few more minutes waiting.
“Nothing?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Maybe it’s because you’ve had so much to drink.”
“Well, that’s for your benefit as well,” she smiled.
“Back at Arlo’s, when the boys wanted to really unwind I would drink my fill, then they would bite me. The alcohol is in my blood so if I’m drunk then you can also get drunk.”
“René that’s really nice of you, but when I drink blood with alcohol in it I pass out cold in minutes.”
“That’s alright, you can stay here, and we can do it upstairs so you don’t have to worry.”
“Are you sure?” I asked hesitantly. It’d been a long time since I had a feeder. I’d lived off animal blood mostly, taking on the way of life that Angelus had introduced me to. I liked it that way. Humans were a rare treat. I of course had the occasional human smorgasbord when some scumbag attacked me on the street, but those situations held an uneasiness to them. A voluntary feeder was a rare treat indeed, especially since this offer carried the incentive of the sweet oblivion that alcohol would bring.
“Of course darlin, you’ve obviously had a traumatic day. What are friends for?”
I wasn’t going to argue. I was a bit concerned with how hungry I was, I hadn’t fed tonight and I worried about taking too much blood. I would measure in gulps the way that Niobi had taught me in Bulgaria. I sat down on the bed in my old room. René kept it blacked out, the way I’d left it, for any time I wanted to stay over. She stayed in the other bedroom even though it was smaller. We sat down on the bed. Taking blood from the neck was an intimate thing so I would drink from her wrist. René’s skin was riddled with bite mark scars but it was hard to tell with her pale milky complexion. A mortal may not be able to see them at all, but they were apparent to my vampire eyes.
I bit and drank, careful not to take too much then lay back on the bed knowing the effects of the alcohol would be coming quickly to comfort my troubled mind.
“Feel better sugah?”
“Yes,” I sighed as the room began to spin a bit. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome darlin,” she said and reached down and stroked my cheek. “Get some sleep,” she said.
“No,” I shook my head. “It’s not true,” I said.
“What’s not true Em?”
“You don’t hate your mama René, why’d you say that?”
I faded out of consciousness as I watched René walk out the front door of her house in Louisiana, letting the screen door slam and yelling back at her mother.
I slept dreamlessly the rest of the night and all the next day. René, of course, questioned me about my vision when I woke up. After telling her the details, we determined that it was something that really had happened in the past, not all that long ago. It was when René decided to leave Louisiana and move to Tennessee to become a singer. Her mother didn’t want her to leave and thought she was too young to be on her own. They argued and René left anyway. The details of my vision were perfect. I was able to describe to her the pale blue color of her house, what the porch looked like, the screen door. That she got into a white pickup truck when she drove away. It was like I was really there watching. I could tell that the recollection of the memory bothered René a little, but she was willing to discuss it in order to help me better understand what was happening to me.
She wanted to experiment some more but I refused. The visions were yesterday and I wanted to leave them there, in the past. I never wanted to have any more visions, even if I had to avoid touching anyone ever again. I made the excuse that I was hungry and needed to gain my strength before I tried to deal with the visions, as they were emotionally draining. I dipped into the stash of clothes I kept there in the closet. Stiletto sandals weren’t exactly ideal for running. I found a t-shirt, sweats, and tennis shoes in there. Perfect.
It was a cold, rainy evening, the kind that just made you want to curl up with a blanket and read a book. I really needed a jacket but I would run to keep warm. It’s not as if vampires could get hypothermia, we healed too quickly. It wasn’t cold enough for that anyway. I ran through the forest of wet leaves, traveling easily over the slippery terrain.
I headed to my field; I’d bought a small two-acre field a couple years ago in hopes of having my own menagerie as Angelus did. Carnivorous animals tasted far better but I definitely couldn’t have a field of tigers or panthers so, I had alpacas. They tasted all right I guess, but grain and grass fed animals always tasted a bit bland. I found if I gave them regular treats of sweet potatoes and apples that they tasted a little better. One evening I had found a young teenage boy standing outside of the fence trying to feed them. He was a polite young man and was very interested in the animals. I offered him ten dollars a week to help me take care of them. He looked in on them during the day when I couldn’t and would let me know if there was ever a problem.
I jumped the fence and went inside the barn. I checked the small metal box on the wall where I left his payment; he had been here recently. He’d left me a note. It said he thought he’d seen what he thought were coyotes at the edge of the field but he wasn’t sure. That wasn’t good. Good looking out Jacob, I said closing the box. I made sure they had food and water before going back outside to check the perimeter of the fence.
I knew what coyote tasted like so it would be fairly easy for me to pick up their scent if they were nearby. I could smell it in the air toward the lower part of the field; it was very faint, but it was there. Jacob was right; I was going to go hunting. I briefly wished that Bo were here to help. My sense of smell was getting better the more things I tasted, as he said it would, but I was still learning. Bo’s senses still far exceeded my own. He would be able to hunt them down no problem, He could probably sniff the air and tell me how many there were, how far away, and in which direction.
It was harder to track in the rain, it knocked the scent out of the air, and I considered calling Bo but decided not to. Wu wouldn’t be much help; he was as new to this as I was, so I would hunt them down alone. I usually fed from the alpacas, but I knew it wasn’t going to taste very good following the human blood I had last night. Coyote blood sounded much better. Feasting on carnivorous blood and keeping my animals safe was win/win.
I moved lightly through the woods trying to pick out their scent above the smell of wet decaying leaves. I stepped lightly, making my steps careful and deliberate, not knowing how far away they were. I heard a call off in the distance, thank you; that made it so much easier. I could calculate how far away they were now. I moved more quickly knowing they were further away than I thought.
The scent was moderate so there must be a few of them. I wasn’t sure how many I could take on alone, but I wasn’t concerned. There was little I feared anymore. I slowed down when the scent became stronger, using all my heightened senses to find them. I spotted one off in the distance. All right Em, game time. I slowly crept up on them, as I got closer I counted three. They caught either scent or sight of me because they started to run, but it was too late and I was too fast.
I leapt at them, sinking my teeth into the back of one and able to grab one other by the hind leg. I whipped him around and tried to pin him against the ground to keep him from biting me. It didn’t work; he turned and bit into my arm anyway. As he did, it exposed his neck and I took the opportunity to sink my fangs into him. The third stayed to defend the others rather than save herself and run away. As I was draining the second she came up behind me and attacked, biting into my thigh and shaking her head like a puppy playing with a toy. It hurt, I howled in pain and the sound made her let go.
This mutt obviously didn’t know who she was messing with. I flipped around to stare her down and she leapt at me. I caught her and rolled, pinning her to the ground then ended the struggle by biting her stomach and taking all her blood. Her underside was covered in dirt and mud; it got in my mouth, gross. I was covered in mud, leaves, blood, and wet dog smell. I felt disgusting but at least my herd was safe now.
I would walk back to the antique shop, I was too full to run. Three coyotes were a big meal. All I wanted now was to take a hot shower. I licked the puncture wounds on my arm as I walked. I wouldn’t be able to reach the one on my leg but figured it would heal by itself, probably by the time I got home. When I got to the antique shop, there was a car parked on the street out front and the door was unlocked. There was no one in the storefront but I heard voices coming from the back room. Bo and Wu walked through the door into the showroom with Menelik.
“Where the hell have you been?” Bo asked looking at me disapprovingly.
Bo hated when I stayed away all night. Honestly, this was one of the few times I felt loved by him, knowing that he worried about me all day. To tell you the truth I’ve stayed with René once or twice just to get a reaction from Bo, it always worked.
“What happened?” He asked looking at my filthy clothes and walking over to inspect me more closely.
I ignored his first question and answered the second.
“There were coyotes hanging around the field, I took care of them.”
“By yourself? Why didn’t you call me for help?”
“I handled it,” I said pulling away so he wouldn’t touch me and I walked past him.
“What’s he doing here?” I asked nodding my head toward Menelik, who was standing with Wu.
“Business,” Menelik answered instead of Wu.
“Are you alright Em?” Wu asked.
“Fine,” I answered.
“Did you sleep ok?”
I knew what he was getting at and I didn’t want to talk about it, especially in front of someone I didn’t know very well.
“Fine,” I answered hoping my tone would silence Wu; it did, but not Bo.
“No more nightmares?” Bo asked.
Oh gee thanks a lot Bo, I said in my head.
“Have you ever heard of such a thing Menelik?” Bo asked.
“They aren’t nightmares,” I said. “They’re visions, and I don’t want to talk about it,” I said giving Bo the meanest ‘you better shut your mouth’ look I could.
“It’s her immortal gift,” Menelik said matter of factly, as if it was no big deal.
“Ah,” Bo said like it all made sense to him now.
“Your immortal gift,” Menelik repeated. “Some vampires obtain special skills within their first decade of being created.”
“Only some vampires?” I asked. “So I’m the lucky winner? Oh yay, lucky me!” I said with heavy sarcasm.
“It’s hard to say how many obtain them because some gifts are far more subtle than others. Some vampires run a little faster than others, some can sense danger, others have more miraculous gifts like you and I,” he said.
“This isn’t miraculous, and this isn’t a gift, it’s a curse!”
“All gifts take some getting use to.” Menelik said.
“Anytime someone touches me I see horrible things that they’ve done! There’s no getting used to that!” I yelled at him.
Bo walked over to try to calm me by taking my arm.
“Don’t touch me!” I said to him, pulling away.
“Em baby, go take a shower. You’ll be far less cranky once you’re clean. We can all go up to my office and talk when you’re done.”
I shot Bo a seething look but I knew he was right. I got cranky when I was wet, cold, and dirty. I would go clean up, then see if there was anything else Menelik could tell me about my immortal “gift”.
I did feel much better after a hot shower. I wanted to take a very long shower but I didn’t. I couldn’t stand the thought of Bo, Wu, and Menelik talking about me while I was gone. I inspected my wounds before I got dressed. The one on my arm was nearly healed, just a little red still. I was able to lick that one with my magic vampire spit, as I called it. The one on my thigh wasn’t healed, but it had stopped bleeding. I debated for a moment trying to spit on it or spit on my hand and wipe the wound, but the thought just grossed me out so I didn’t, it would heal eventually. I decided to just throw my clothes away; they were torn, bloody, and covered in mud and dog hair. I put on some yoga pants and a lacy black and pink camisole to try to feel a little more girly after rolling in the mud.
Cameron and Kimber-li were downstairs watching cartoons and of course asked me what happened. I told them I had an exciting story to tell them later. I went up to Bo’s office and the guys were talking about cars thankfully, but I had the feeling that they were talking about me until they heard me coming then changed the subject.
“Well, you smell better,” Menelik said as I walked into the office. I shot him a look. Who was this guy to comment on my smell? You don’t know me dude. Bo got up from his desk and tried to take my arm again as he asked how I was feeling; like I was sick or crazy or something. I didn’t like that feeling. I pulled away from his grip and sat on the couch between Menelik and Wu. He walked back to his desk looking pissed off and rejected.
“So how do I make this stop?” I asked getting right to the point. Nobody said anything for a few seconds.
“Umm, you can’t make it stop Miss Polanski,” Menelik said.
“There has to be a way,” I argued. “Like I have to drink the blood of a virgin mermaid or something, right? I mean, there’s a way to make it stop, we just have to find it.”
“I’m afraid not Em,” Bo said this time.
“Immortal gifts can’t be undone; you can only work at developing them so that you can gain better control over them.” Menelik explained.
“Stop calling it a gift! If it were a gift I’d definitely be returning it pronto. I hate it and I want rid of it!”
“It may be hard to understand now but you can find a way to use it to your advantage.”
“Before you said miraculous gifts like you and I, what do you do?”
“I have the power of persuasion,” he stated with a smile. I glared at him; no wonder he thought these were “gifts”.
“Oh ok, yeah, that must be terribly hard for you, being able to make people to do whatever you want them to. What’s going on in my head is far less glamorous!”
“I have the power of persuasion, not compulsion,” he corrected. “I can’t make people do what I want, it’s not that powerful. There has to already be a desire to do whatever it is. I can only increase what desire is already there, no matter how minuscule. For instance, I couldn’t make you have sex with me unless you already want to, even just a little bit. I can then increase that desire until you decide to do it,” he said as he grabbed my hand and kissed it. My first instinct was to pull away and punch him in the face but I had a better idea. I wanted to give him a glimpse of just what it was I was dealing with here.
“Well let me tell you, there’s about a vampire’s chance at noon of that happening buddy.” Then I closed my eyes while he was still holding my hand. A vision came to me and I jerked my hand away from him after just a few seconds.
“Bloody shame your “gift” doesn’t always work for you and you sometimes have to shoot mortals point blank in the head and get your grey pinstripe suit all covered in blood and brain matter though right?” That shut him right up. Everyone was quiet again for a little while.
“Do you always see bad things?” Wu asked, finally breaking the silence.
“Yes,” I answered, “always.”
“You can’t really say always, it’s only happened a couple times right?” Bo said.
“Well, I saw this guy blow someone’s brains out, I saw René scream that she hated her mother, I saw a guy at the club strangle a chick, and the waitress screwed a guy to get her job. So yeah, it’s all been horrible…every time!”
“What about me Em, what did you see with me?” Bo asked.
I had purposefully left that one out. What René did wasn’t all that bad and the other people I didn’t care about; but with Bo, it was horrible. Seeing someone I cared about, someone I love, doing something that horrible. I didn’t want to speak of it.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’m done,” I said getting up from the couch and heading for the door. Bo got up and with vampire speed beat me to the door putting his arm up against the frame.
“Tell me,” he demanded.
“Get out of my way Bo.”
“Dammit Emina, if I’m going to lose you over this stupid vision of yours, you’re going to tell me what the hell it was!” He yelled as he smacked his hand hard against the doorframe. He leaned in close to my face.
Bo’s temper didn’t scare me at all. Mine was equally as fierce. Without thinking, I yelled back in his face.
“Kids Bo, you killed a couple of kids! They were just babies, and you slaughtered them!”
“Regeneration,” Menelik mumbled to Wu.
“What?” I said, though I wasn’t even sure why, I didn’t care what he had to say.
“Regeneration. Bo was hurt in your vision wasn’t he? He was injured.”
“Yes,” I answered thinking back to the vision of Bo practically crawling into the run down house. He had blood all over his shirt, down his chest and stomach.
“I’d bet he was mortally wounded, well mortally wounded if he were a mortal,” Menelik said, then chuckled.
I didn’t find anything about this conversation funny.
“You regenerate faster if you take younger blood, its more pure, makes you stronger faster, and helps to heal you more quickly.”
“That doesn’t make it ok!” I yelled at them. I was mad and didn’t want to talk to any of them anymore, even Wu who had been mostly quiet. I smacked Bo’s stomach with the back of my hand which made him drop his arm from the doorframe and I went out. He didn’t try to stop me, and none of them spoke again, at least that I could hear.
I went downstairs to be with the children. They were still on the couch watching an animated movie and I sat down with them to watch the rest of it. I got very nervous when Kimber-li crawled onto my lap but I didn’t have a vision of any kind. I guess a child so small hasn’t yet done anything wrong; they have no skeletons in their closet. It was very comforting. After the movie was over, I told the kids the story of how I hunted down the coyotes so they wouldn’t kill my alpacas. Then Wu came to take them home. He didn’t say anything to me but looked at me sympathetically, smiled and winked as he always did. I smiled back. Wu was always very understanding.
I slept there on the couch dreamlessly, but when I awoke, Bo was sitting on the other end of the couch looking at me.
“Let me ask you a question.”
“All right,” I said not fully awake yet.
“Have you ever been injured Em, seriously injured? Before becoming a vampire I mean.”
“No,” I answered.
“Then where the hell do you get the audacity to judge me for this? If you’ve never been truly injured, never feared for your life, never been shot multiple times in war, never even seen war, then how can you say that you would not do the same thing if your life were on the line?”
“I would never kill a child!” I said defensively.
“If your life depended on it you would!” He fired back.
“Your life didn’t depend on it Bo, you’re immortal.”
“That doesn’t save me from the sun. Sure, I could’ve taken a human adult and been well again in a couple of days, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. I took a child to regenerate quickly to have the strength to find refuge from the sun. You’ve been a spoiled human that’s never seen hard times such as those. I crawled for miles in the mud, in excruciating pain to find something to regain my strength and you want to judge me for my choice? You want to shut me out and pretend that I’m a monster. Don’t forget you’ve killed people too Em, it’s the nature of the beast.”
Bo got up and walked away leaving me feeling very small and petty. I suppose he was right. You never truly know how you will react in a situation until you are in it. Perhaps I was being too hard on him. Perhaps extreme circumstances require extreme measures. I still didn’t know if I could touch him again; I didn’t want to see more things like that from his past. I knew that it wasn’t unlike Bo to feed from prostitutes after being with them. How could I watch that? I’m not sure I would ever be able to touch Bo again. What kind of relationship can you have with someone if you cannot touch them?
Bo had gone upstairs and I sat on the couch painting my toenails, not because they really needed it, but just for something to do that would occupy my mind. I usually wore deep dark colors but I felt like I really needed something bright and happy so I painted them a bright orangish-yellow. I was sitting there waiting for them to dry when I heard Bo yelling from upstairs.
“Well that’s great, that’s just great; perfect timing, as usual. Go ahead then, she’s downstairs.” Bo had left the upstairs door open and through it appeared Korin, the most abrasive of the Bulgarian sisterhood, and behind her was Aleena, the kindest of the mortals that lived with them.
I wasn’t incredibly surprised to see them. I’d gotten a post card from Angelus about a week ago, all it said was “Come to me, we must talk.” I’d replied to him via postcard saying, “I can’t hop on a plane every time you want to talk, it gets expensive. Get a phone!” It was like him to send a personal messenger instead of getting a phone though. I was happy to see them; all the Bulgarian family were very friendly, although Korin had a bit of a cold edginess to her but perhaps it was just her Russian accent that made her seem so.
Aleena came down the stairs smiling at me and I tensed as she hugged me, hoping I didn’t get a vision. I didn’t hug her back, but stood there cringing like the hug was physically painful. Thankfully, I got nothing.
“I see I am late,” Korin said in her hard accent. She didn’t speak English fluently but she seemed to have a pretty good understanding of it. Aleena spoke none at all, that I was aware of anyway.
“I hoped to get here before the visions started.”
“Angelus saw this coming?” I asked.
Korin nodded and held out both arms to me in what seemed like an ancient greeting, but if I was remembering correctly she was just a little over a century old. I hesitated to take her arms but she nodded as if she understood my hesitation and I let her grab my arms.
I felt the static of a vision coming and I loosened my grip but she did not. Instead, she closed her eyes and leaned her head against mine. The vision sunk in but all I could see was grey, it was like the side of a building; I could see nothing but a wall, I felt nothing.
“I can help.” She said and released my arms and leaned back smiling, well smiling as much as Korin did, it was more of a grimace.
“How did you do that; how did you block the vision?”
“I will show you, come home with us. I can help.”
So, Angelus had sent them to retrieve me, not send me a message.
“I’m not going to Bulgaria. I have obligations here, I can’t.”
Korin looked at Aleena and spoke in Bulgarian, Aleena’s native language.
“Ok, we stay in America.”
I smiled. It would be nice to have them here, especially if Korin knew how to block out these visions.
“How do you know how to block the visions?”
“I lived with someone who was the same, Yefim. He taught me much. I will show you.”
Her English had improved in the last few years since I’d been to visit them. We sat down on the couch. I was being a horrible hostess; I knew they’d just gotten in from a couple days of flying but I didn’t offer Aleena anything to eat or drink, I didn’t offer to take Korin hunting, I just wanted to know what she knew about my new “gift”.
“Tell me what you see?” She asked, and I explained the visions I’d had thus far.
“So you have visions when touched but not when you touch?”
“Yes, I think so.” I had assumed that, but wasn’t sure. That’s why when I grabbed René’s hands on the couch I didn’t see anything but when she touched me later, I had a vision.
“The longer you touch, the farther in time you go back, yes?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“It sounds to be so; Yefim was the same. Quick touch is one day, one week, maybe one year, longer touch can go much farther in time. Like with Bo, you had been touching for a long time while laying in bed, yes?”
I nodded, that made sense.
“Do you want to test it to be true?” She asked holding her hand out ready to touch my arm.
“No,” I pulled back. “No, I think you’re right.”
“Why are these visions of such horrible things, will they always be horrible things? Will I never see anything but hate and murder?”
“It looks to be that way,” she answered not sugar coating things at all, but Korin wasn’t that type.
“Perhaps you are prone to see the worst in people.” She stopped there and thought for a moment, trying to find the English words I imagined.
“Perhaps your touch penetrates the frontal lobe of the brain, and only touches where memory and regret overlap.”
That was a pretty precise guess, I thought. It didn’t sound like a guess, or like something she thought of on the spot. I wondered if it was Yefim’s theory and I also wondered who he was to her. She seemed so hard and cold, I just couldn’t imagine her in love, but I guess she must have loved him if she learned to build a wall in her mind for him. I wondered if Bo could build a wall for me.
“So how do I teach people to build a wall so I won’t have visions?” I asked.
“It is better to ready yourself so that you won’t receive visions.” She replied.
“Wait, I can do that? How?”
She was silent for another minute trying to find the words.
“You must get close to yourself.” She said.
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t know the word,” she said in frustration. “Close your eyes,” she said. “Imagine, dark house, you don’t know who or what, but you are standing in a room, you know someone is there but you don’t know where. There is danger, you feel…close to yourself.”
I opened my eyes finally understanding what she meant…I think.
“Nyet, keep closed.”
I closed my eyes again; I guess we weren’t done with this little exercise.
“Do you feel close to yourself, you feel like you’re protecting yourself?”
I think the word she was looking for was expectant, on edge, vigilant, or something like that.
“Yes,” I answered.
“You are ready for attack, you are waiting, and your defenses are up, yes?”
She reached out and grabbed my arm and I admit I jumped a little, but I didn’t feel a vision coming on. She let go and I opened my eyes.
“Awesome, so if I stay on guard and vigilant all the time, then even if someone touches me unexpectedly I can block it out?”
“Vigilant, yes, that is the word,” she said.
“That sounds exhausting, being constantly on edge. That must’ve been why I didn’t get a vision when Aleena hugged me tonight; I was expecting it, cringing, waiting for it.”
“Da,” she nodded.
Sometimes her Russian would slip out when she was talking but it was okay. I watched Captain Planet when I was young, the wind girl was my favorite, so I could follow along just fine. Next Korin had Aleena mentally picture a wall and also “get close to herself”. She was supposed to hold tight to the mental picture of the wall no matter what, to focus hard on every detail of the wall and think of nothing else. Aleena then grabbed my arm and I felt the staticky tingle of a vision but all I got was a wall, brick this time, beautiful bright red bricks. Our little session was interrupted by Aleena’s stomach growling loudly.
“Izvinete,” she said and blushed a little. I only had a few snacks here for the kids, goldfish crackers, raisins, and things like that. So, I texted Wu and told him I was coming over with company for breakfast.
It was fully dark outside so we went upstairs and crossed the street rather than take the tunnel entrance. Bo was at Wu’s also. Things definitely haven’t been the same since I started having visions. I knew this was driving a wedge between Bo and I. You can’t have much of a relationship with someone you’re afraid to touch. The future of our relationship rested on my ability to block these visions. What if I couldn’t do it? What if being near Bo was too distracting and I couldn’t concentrate enough to block them? Could I keep this up forever? Maybe Bo and I would never have a normal relationship. What would that mean for our future together if I couldn’t? Maybe I was doomed to forever see the evil in people’s hearts, what would that do to me?
“Well…?” Bo said when we walked in. I’m not sure what he was expecting me to say. It was time to try out my newly learned defense mechanism. I missed touching Bo. Sure, I was a little upset still about my vision but mostly I just didn’t want to see anything else like that again. I walked over to him, scared to death, and I mentally prepared myself. I put up my defenses and pictured walls; I knew that was something he should be doing, but I did it all. I shouldn’t get a vision at all since it was me initiating the touching, but that was just a theory at this point and I didn’t want to take any chances.
Here goes nothing…well, here goes everything really, I told myself. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him, then gave him a little kiss before quickly letting him go. I didn’t want to press my luck by holding on longer. It wasn’t a warm loving hug, it was more like how you hug that distant cousin that you don’t really like, but it was a start. Maybe this could work…maybe.
“Well, I guess pretty boy’s flunkies being here isn’t such a bad thing after all,” he smiled. That smile meant the world to me at that moment. I could touch Bo! I could hug him and kiss him, and he was happy that I could. Bo never voiced his emotions, or verbalized how he felt, so I’d learned to pick up on subtle cues and still, I frequently had trouble deciphering them.
I’m pretty sure he was happy and relieved that we would be able to work through this. Only time would tell if I could keep this up; if I could do this forever. Our carnal relationship would be an even bigger challenge. Could I learn to hold it off with a longer embrace, with a more intimate setting? There’s no way I could concentrate while Bo was doing what he could do in the bedroom. That would be impossible, but time would tell.
I introduced Korin and Aleena to Wu and Persia, they welcomed them into their home. Song was being her regular snooty self and didn’t say anything at all. The kids were at the table eating what looked like pancakes and sausage. Persia invited Aleena to sit down and eat. Persia was such a sweet and gracious host. Aleena sat and ate with the children who were completely amused that she spoke a language that they had never heard before. It was funny to watch them having a conversation anyway.
“I’ve got a ninja turtle costume for Halloween,” Cameron told her.
Aleena said something in Bulgarian.
“I’m going to be Raphael, he’s my favorite. Do they have Ninja Turtles where you live?”
Aleena said something else. Neither one understood the other but that sure didn’t stop them.
I was going to take Korin hunting but wanted to ask Wu about sleeping arrangements first. I asked Wu if Aleena and Korin could stay with him, as he had more living space.
“No! Absolutely not!” Song shouted from behind him. “We don’t know them; they could kill us in our sleep.” She said and Persia shot her a look. “You’re going to let strangers around the kids?” Song asked her sister. “We don’t know them; we don’t know anything about them.”
“Perhaps Aleena can stay with us and Korin with you,” Wu said trying to compromise.
“Yes, that would be fine,” I said.
“So she can eat both kids by herself,” Song scoffed.
“She’s mortal you idiot,” I said shooting Song a look.
“Emina!” Bo yelled at me for calling Song names. I now glared at him. He knew I hated my real name and she was being an idiot.
“Aleena is of course welcome to stay here,” Persia said looking sternly at her sister who exhaled loudly then stomped off like a child.
I took Korin to the barn to feed. It wasn’t far from our place, about a thirty-minute run. It felt amazing to run. If you told me I would ever say that back when I was a mortal I’d tell you that you were crazy. Running really was enjoyable now. I didn’t get tired, I didn’t get winded, and I never got that pesky cramp in my side. Running made me feel wild and free. Korin must feel that way also because she kept pace with me no problem. She ran more like a parkourist; she liked jumping on top of obstacles and even flipping off a couple. I preferred to run unopposed and uninhibited, I enjoyed the speed.
When we got to the barn Korin asked what Song’s problem was. I told her she was always like that, just a childish brat.
“Some are scared of our kind and always will be,” Korin said.
“I don’t think she was scared though, I felt that she was mad. It was like I could feel the anger radiating off of her body. Is that part of this gift also?” I asked.
“It was not so with Yefim, but you may be different. All gifts are a little different.”
I showed her inside the barn and we walked to the feeding board I created, much like the one they had at her place. I had the names of all the alpacas with switches that turn from green to red next to each name. I had fourteen total, twelve females and two males. I wasn’t incredibly creative so the names of the females were the months of the year, and the male’s names were Christmas and T.G. for Thanksgiving. Again, not very imaginative, but it helped me keep them in order.
I flipped switches next to August and September from green to red, red means bled. I reached in a bin that contained apples that Jacob brought from a tree in his backyard, he kept me well supplied. I handed a couple to Korin and took a couple for myself. August and September were easy to identify, August was a beautiful gold color and September had a dark brown patch across the top of her head. All of them wore collars with nametags though because they weren’t all as easy to tell apart. November through February were all cream colored and without the collars it would be very hard to tell the difference.
We ate our fill then sat in the barn and talked till close to sunrise before heading back. Back at Wu’s, the kids were having so much fun playing with Aleena. You could tell she was the type that loved children and children loved her. I wondered if she would have the chance to have her own one day. Her living situation was unique, eight women living with one man. Angelus called the girls his wives’ so did he um, have relations with all of them? Was Angelus able to still have children or was he far too old? Maybe that well ran dry a couple centuries ago. I briefly wondered what Angelus might be like in bed; he probably quoted poetry the whole time. I laughed to myself then shook the thought from my head. I’m glad nobody around here could read minds.
It was time for kids and vampires to go to bed. I usually read to the kids every night but tonight they asked if Aleena could. We appeased them even though Aleena couldn’t read English. The kids wanted the same book every single night. Zim Zala Bim…every night, Zim Zala Bim. I had the book memorized. Aleena sat holding the book and turning the pages. She said something in Bulgarian on every page, probably just describing the pictures and I “translated”.
“Zim Zala Bim,” I said from the doorway, not even needing to look at the book.
“I’m magic Jim….” I continued.
After quoting the whole book, Aleena and I tucked the kids in. She smiled at me as we walked out of their room. Her huge brown eyes were sparkling with happiness. I really hoped she would have her own kids someday, she was a natural.
Wu showed Aleena where she would be staying and I took Korin through the vault door and sewer system back to my place. Korin would be sleeping on the couch, which meant I would have to sleep with Bo. This worried me. I could put up my defenses while I was awake but I couldn’t do that while I was asleep. Bo was acting a bit strange as we got ready for bed. He wasn’t speaking but was eyeing me cautiously. I didn’t even pretend to know why. It may take me the rest of my immortal existence to really figure out this man. Sometimes his actions were a total mystery to me. He didn’t seem to want to talk so I put up my defenses, got close to myself, leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I rested my face against the side of his for a moment and breathed in his scent, kissed him one more time, and said good night.
I hope Bo didn’t take offense, but I put one of my pillows in between the two of us so our bodies would not be touching. I hope he understood. I laid there thinking about everything I’d learned today and drifted off into my deep vampire sleep.
I woke up with Bo on top of me; he was naked and looked incredibly serious. He was thrusting but I couldn’t feel anything at all, that wasn’t right, but then I floated to the side, a bodiless entity and saw it wasn’t me he was thrusting upon, this wasn’t our room. I looked and he was with another woman, a prostitute I figured. She had long black hair and a big pointy nose, she was tall and skinny. Rage filled me as I stood there watching my boyfriend of nearly six years screw someone else!
“It’s a vision” I told myself, “I’m not really here. I’m having a vision, Bo is touching me. Wake up Em,” I told myself. “Wake up!” I turned and thrashed as violently as I could in the vision hoping my physical body was doing the same. I had to either wake myself up or knock Bo away from me so the vision would stop.
It didn’t work. I watch Bo reach orgasm and rest his head on the prostitute’s chest, there wasn’t much to rest his head on if you asked me.
“Don’t worry darling, your secret is safe with me,” she said,” running her fingers through his hair. Bo picked his head up and plunged his fangs into her neck while she beat her fists against his back in protest. I felt angry but yet morbidly satisfied as he got up to leave. “That’s what happens when you mess with my man,” I said in my head. I was hoping now that was over I would wake up…not so.
My vision went dark then picked back up again in my house, well…my old house, René’s house now. I was hovering up near the ceiling; it was surreal seeing myself down below sitting on the couch.
“Gees, Bo! Don’t you ever knock? What if I was doing something really embarrassing?” the me down there said.
“Like dancing around your room serenading me in your underwear? In that case, I’ve already seen it.”
“Uhh, I was not dancing! …was I?”
“No,” he laughed, “but you were serenading me in your underwear.”
“Don’t remind me. I don’t want to know anything I did, I don’t want to know anything I said, I just don’t want to know.”
“Like how you yelled Charlie’s name across the bar, flipped him off, then stuck your tongue down my throat.”
“Shhhhh…I said I don’t want to know.”
“Wu wanted me to bring you this, he said it would make you feel better, it’s tea.”
“Are you all right, you don’t look so good,” that me said to him.
“I just woke up but I’m still tired,” he replied.
Liar! I thought. I’d seen what he was just doing.
“Did I keep you out too late?”
“No not at all, I got back well before sunrise. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll just take it easy tonight.”
“Sounds good to me. I was about to watch a movie if you want to stay.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “What are we watching?”
“One of my favorites,” he said.
I remembered this; it was years ago when Bo got sick. I remembered it scared me and I thought he was dying. So, that was the prostitute that made him sick that night. The other me got up and went into the kitchen to make the tea. Bo leaned back on the couch and watched me walk out of the room. He was checking me out!
“Mmmmh, sexy little thing,” He mumbled under his breath after I was gone. Well, well, well, it turns out the boss had as big of a crush on me as I did on him back then. I hovered overhead while we watched the movie silently. I noticed that the two of us glanced over at each other throughout the movie. I’d thought at the time that it was only me looking at him but he was also sneaking glances at me. We looked like two teenagers on their first date. That is, until he vomited the fountain of blood.
Agh, how long was I going to be stuck in this vision? This was by far the longest one I’d ever had. Were the whole last few years going to play out before Bo stopped touching me? We were back at Bo’s place now and I had just figured out that Bo didn’t have a toilet. I watched as my then me went upstairs, but my ghostly body stayed there with Bo. He grabbed his phone and made a phone call while I was gone.
“Hey baby, it’s Bo. I’m not going to be able to make it tonight, I’m sorry. Yes, rain check.”
Who was that? I wondered. He called her baby. So, Bo was screwing some chick, then comes to my house to flirt with me, then has to make a phone call to cancel a date with someone else. What a jerk!
The vision faded out and didn’t fade back in, oh thank goodness. I woke up to Bo stirring just a bit in his sleep. His foot had been stuck in between my ankles and he’d finally moved it. I pulled my feet up close to me, turned to my side, and with both legs pushed Bo hard off the bed into the floor. He landed with a thud followed by a groan.
“Agh, what the hell Em?” He said groggy and wiping his eyes. “What was that for?”
“Because you’re a jerk, a two timing…no, scratch that…a three timing, man whore of a jerk and I hate you! How many girlfriends do you have?”
“Em I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” he said sitting up in the floor and rubbing his face with both hands.
“The night you got sick and threw up blood all over my house. You were with a prostitute, a pretty ugly one too, and then back here you made a phone call to some chick calling her baby saying you were going to have to cancel. Who was it?”
“I don’t know Em, that was like six years ago” He sighed loudly. Bo didn’t like to be woken up.
“I wasn’t seeing anybody back then; one crazy woman in my life was more than enough for me,” he gave a half-hearted crooked smile.
“Then why did you call somebody baby when you cancelled?”
He sat there for a minute scratching his head, thinking.
“That night I got sick at your house?” He asked and I nodded. “I had a buy in that night, in a poker game at Baby’s pool hall,” he recalled.
I’d heard of the place.
“Oh…okay, well, you still screwed a hooker! An ugly hooker! I’m glad she made you sick.” I didn’t mean that but I said it anyway.
“Em, that was before we were together,” he stated, tired and annoyed. He was right, that was before we were together. I really hated it when I got mad and Bo pointed out that I really had no right or reason to be mad. He crawled back into bed. “Just go back to sleep Em.”
I exited our bedroom knowing it was still a few hours before sunset, still early enough that it would trip the silent alarm. Persia and Song usually didn’t respond to the alarm like Wu always used to. I was surprised when Song peeked her head through the door at the top of the stairs. Perhaps they were just being cautious since we had visitors. I gave her a thumbs up and she disappeared without a word. I grabbed an extra blanket and sat down on the big leather chair next to where Korin was sleeping on the couch. I let the arms of the chair cradled me like a baby and tried to go back to sleep.
While I was laying there I tried not to think about Bo and focused on what Korin was teaching me. I thought of something genius and when we all met up hours later, Aleena was pretty happy with my idea. I pulled up Google translator on my laptop so she could join in our conversation. Aleena enjoyed being part of the conversation also. We talked about my vision last night and Korin told me that from what she knew, the visions usually seemed to stem around regret. So according to her, Bo must have regretted being with the prostitute, puking in my house, and probably also missing the poker game and that is why they all ran together. After switching back and forth between English and Bulgarian a few times on the laptop I went over to Wu’s house to borrow one of their laptops.
I played with the kids for just a minute and they told me Wu was in his office, Menelik was there also. I didn’t like him. I didn’t know why he was hanging around recently; he just always said it was business. I didn’t know what kind of “business” he had with Wu but I wished it was over. I couldn’t explain why I didn’t like him, I just didn’t.
“Hey there Joan of Arc, how’s the noggin?” He said to me when I walked in the office. I glared at him.
“Don’t talk to me,” I knew I was being rude but I didn’t care. I didn’t like him calling me names especially if I didn’t know why. I had no clue why he would call me Joan of Arc. I didn’t know much about her, except she was some crazy French chick. I guess he was just calling me crazy. I asked Wu to borrow his laptop, he handed it to me and I was about to leave when René walked in the office.
“There you are,” she said to me.
Menelik stood from where he was sitting and held out his hand to René.
“Menelik Imani,” he introduced himself. I’d never known his last name, what kind of name was Imani? Menelik Imani, say that five times fast, it sounded like a weird song.
“René D’ancanto,” she said back smiling and shaking his hand.
I felt something coming off of one or both of them, interest, intrigue, attraction, something. I stepped in between them and pointed my finger at him.
“No!” is all I said and grabbed René by the arm and led her out of the room.
“Oh sugah, who was that? He was down right yummy.”
“No,” I repeated and she laughed at me. I took her back to my place and set up the other laptop with Google translator, not bothering to introduce anyone because René had stopped here first looking for me and the girls had sent her over to Wu’s. I hadn’t checked in with René and she was worried about me, rightfully so.
“Okay Korin, I’m seeing emotions, well…feeling emotions. Not my own emotions,” I corrected. “I’m sensing emotions I guess I should say.”
“Like I said, every gift is different. Yours is similar to Yefim’s but no two gifts are exactly the same.”
“Why don’t all vampires have gifts, why only some of us?” I asked.
“What is a gift really?” she asked rhetorically. “Perhaps we all have our gifts.”
“What do you mean?”
“Wu is very compassionate for a vampire, perhaps that is also a gift just not as apparent.”
Wu had always been very warm and kind, him becoming immortal hadn’t changed that. I used to think it was Bo’s vampirism that made him cold and unloving but it was just the way he was. That was his personality.
“How do you know when something is a minor gift or just the way a person is?” I pondered out loud. “Like with Wu,” I continued, “he’s very warm, loving, and compassionate. Bo said vamps rarely stick around to raise their children because they lack that bond. Wu loves his children dearly so is that a gift or is it just his personality?”
“It’s hard to say what is a gift, and what is not,” she repeated.
That concept didn’t seem to bother anyone else in the room, but it bothered me. I wanted a hard line. Either something is or something is not. I wanted it to be black or white; I didn’t want a gray area. I thought about Bo’s disease detection, well his whole sense of smell really. It was always better than mine. He said it just took time to get a nose for things, that it was easier to pick up on things once you’ve experienced them, but maybe that wasn’t so. Perhaps it was his gift. Maybe all immortals had gifts, you just had to figure it out. This concept made it a little more black or white in my head and it didn’t bother me as much. Korin pulled me from my thoughts; she wanted to move on to projecting my visions today. I didn’t want this power at all, let alone be able to have visions from people I wasn’t even touching.
Although humans were far easier to read, Korin had me practice on her. I wasn’t sure I would see much from Aleena anyway since she was such a sweet girl. I couldn’t imagine her doing much wrong in her life and René was just stopping by. Korin on the other hand had a whole slew of murders for me to witness, all were men. I didn’t see much regret in these murders and I started to wonder about our regret theory. Even though Aleena could communicate with us via laptop now, she was still mostly quiet. I thought about just switching to Russian so Korin wouldn’t have so much trouble finding the words she wanted, or…I just remembered I had an old laptop in the closet; Bo had gotten me a new one for Christmas a couple years ago. Three translators seemed like a bit too much chaos though. We worked most of the night and I was finally able to project this power and obtain visions from a few feet away but I couldn’t pull them from across the room; the subject had to be close by. I was mentally exhausted and Korin telling me that they needed to be leaving the next night didn’t make me feel any better. She suggested we go eat. I felt too tired to eat but Korin and I went outside anyway.
As we walked I could sense anticipation rolling off of her.
“Do you want to ask me something?” I asked, not fully trusting in this new aspect of my powers.
“Yes,” she smiled.
Because I could feel a bit of hesitation coming off of her also, I thought perhaps she was going to ask me again to come back to Bulgaria with them but she didn’t. I was a little more shocked at her request.
“Would you mind if we took a human tonight?”
The Bulgarian sisterhood was a household of peace and tranquility, they fed off well cared for animals and didn’t kill their food. I was surprised at this request.
“I don’t get out much,” she whispered. “So I know I have to take the opportunities when they are presented.”
“Sure,” I said not wanting to disappoint her.
It wasn’t long before dawn so we wouldn’t have time to head into the bigger cities and this early in the morning there wouldn’t be many punks or hoodlums out. They were what I went for when I took a human, a scumbag that made the world a little bit better of a place with their absence. At least that’s what I told myself to feel less guilty about killing. We would probably have to go for a homeless person. We headed toward the part of town that would produce a vagabond or two. We found one huddled in a cardboard box down a dark alley. Killing the homeless wasn’t my preferred method but it’s what you did in a pinch. I justified it as merciful since they were likely to freeze to death during the colder months.
I let Korin make the kill. According to my visions she was quite good at it. She had killed so many men. I imagined her kills as vicarious revenge toward the one that turned her and left her laying in the street, teaching her nothing of what she’d become. She said it was Yefim that took her in and taught her about what she now was.
We were pressing our luck just a bit when we made it back not long before sunrise. Much later than I was used to around Bo, who was overly cautious. I really expected Bo to say something about being out so late but he was quiet again tonight. I could feel an emotion coming off him but I didn’t know what it was exactly, worry maybe. Maybe he thought I was going crazy too and I wondered again what Menelik meant.
“Why would Menelik call me Joan of Arc?” I asked.
“She was like you,” he said.
“How so, I thought she was just a crazy French lady?”
“Joan was one of us, an immortal, one of the most famous of our kind. She also had visions but hers were of the future if I recall.”
I sat there thinking about that. I wasn’t aware that there were any famous vampires at all.
“She was documented to have been fatally wounded a few times but always miraculously recovered.” He continued. “One time being a silver tipped arrow from a crossbow through her heart. Some say it narrowly missed, but our kind know why they would try such an attack and also know it wouldn’t work. Eventually she was captured and burned alive. Rumor has it she had to be burned three times and still there was supposed sighting of her after that.”
“Who are the other famous vampires?” I asked curiously.
“You’ve heard of them, Vlad Tepes, Elizabeth Bathory, Jack the Ripper. Sometimes history does get a few things right.” The only name I recognized was Jack the Ripper, unless Vlad Tepes was Vlad the Impaler, I’d heard of him too. He was supposedly the original Dracula but I knew the original had been Cain, cursed by God.
“So the girls are leaving tomorrow?” Bo asked, pulling me from my thoughts about ancient vampires.
“Yes, they are headed back home.”
“Shouldn’t you be packing?”
I looked at him a little hurt.
“Do you want me to leave Bo?”
“Of course not, but weren’t they sent here to fetch you? Isn’t that why they came?”
He was right. Angelus had sent them here to get me to come back with the promise of helping me better understand and control my gift. I put up my defenses and grabbed his hand.
“I’m not going anywhere Bo, this is my home.”
He shook his head.
“You’re drawn to him, its gift polarity. I’m going to lose you.”
According to Bo, vampires with miraculous gifts acted like magnets, those with similar gifts were drawn to each other. I wouldn’t ever admit it but he might be right. I was oddly drawn to Angelus, not in the way of attraction. I was drawn to his mind, his knowledge. I secretly craved it, but I would never admit that to Bo.
“That’s preposterous Bo. Menelik has a miraculous gift and I can’t stand that guy!”
“He’s the flip side of the magnet,” Bo said. “I said those with similar gifts. Some gifts attract, some repel…like magnets”
“How do mine and Menelik’s gift oppose each other?”
“I don’t know Em, but if I had to guess, maybe it’s because he projects his powers out and you draw yours in. I’m really just guessing.” That made sense, I guess, because I was definitely repelled by him.
“But he doesn’t seem to hate me. I really don’t think there is much to this theory Bo.”
He actually looked like I had talked him out of it. That has to be a first. Bo was always the educated one between us. When a guy is three hundred years old he tends to think he knows everything.
“How many immortals have you known that have had miraculous gifts?” I asked.
“Not many at all, that I can remember anyway. Miraculous gifts were more common in the past; they are far more rare these days.”
“Why is that?” I wondered aloud.
“Nobody really knows,” he said. “Because nobody knows what causes the gifts. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. I don’t have all the answers.”
We both knew there was someone out there who did have answers. Well, more answers than most…Angelus.
I kissed Bo goodnight and told him I was going to sleep in the chair again to avoid any more horrible dreams. I felt a slight wave of sadness sweep over him but he didn’t show it on his face. I hugged and kissed him again.
“I love you Bo.”
“Get some sleep,” he said in return.
Silly girl, I thought he might actually say it back this time. Bo had said those words perhaps twice in the last six years. Sure he said things like “I feel the same, ditto, you know I feel the same way” That kind of run around. Bo just wasn’t a lovey, affectionate guy and that was sometimes hard for me to process. I plopped down on the big leather chair.
“How bout you La-z-boy, do you love me?” I threw my arm around the top of the chair and gave the headrest a big smooch. Turns out Korin wasn’t asleep yet and was looking at me like I was an idiot.
“Go to sleep,” I said in a harsh whisper then laughed at myself. She smiled, shook her head, then closed her eyes. I wished there was a way to keep in touch with them. Laying there trying to fall asleep I had another genius idea. I was going to have to call this my thinking chair.
At sunset, the girls were ready to leave. I dug my old laptop out of the closet, sat down with Aleena, and set up an email account that all of them could use. I made them a username and password and explained to her via Google translator what to do to get it set up at home. I wasn’t sure if Angelus would be mad about this or not. He liked to keep life simple over there, no TV, no internet, etc. but if he was mad I’m sure it would be with me and not Aleena. I could handle Angelus, plus I knew the girls would love keeping in touch like this.
“If Angelus objects, tell him I said he’s being a stuffy old crow.” I used the name from my first conversation with Angelus. Maybe if they all stood together they could sway him…maybe. I drove them to the airport and hugged them both goodbye.
I went home to get ready. I promised René I would come back to club Alӧr tonight and hear her sing, if they would let me back in the place that is. I’d caused a bit of a ruckus last time I was there. Maybe they wouldn’t remember me. I dressed differently this time, although I could still get visions through clothing, skin to skin contact was more powerful. I wore a short tight long sleeve brown dress with tall black boots, and left my hair down, brushing my waist. I think maybe the man at the door recognized me, he was eyeballing me cautiously. The sex waitress definitely recognized me. I was glad it wasn’t as crowded tonight being a weekday. I made my way over to where I had sat the last time, but somebody was at the table I was at before, somebody I recognized.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted. Menelik was sitting there at the table in his fancy blue suit looking all dashing and arrogant.
“Why Miss Polanski you’re looking ravishing this evening. How are you?”
“Shut up! Why are you here?”
“Same as you I’d wager. René invited me to come hear her sing.”
“You stay away from her,” I said glaring at him. His attitude just screamed playboy, I didn’t want him toying with her.
“Would you care to dance Miss Polanski?”
“What? No!” Did the guy not get that I didn’t like him at all?
“Are you sure?” He asked staring at me. We did have a little while before René would be up to sing and this was a great song.
“Well, okay…but don’t touch me!” I said.
We made our way to the dance floor and after a moment of dancing, I looked at him.
“Hey! Did you just dazzle me?”
“Dazzle you?” He asked.
“You know, compel me…to dance.”
“I cannot compel Miss Polanski, I can only persuade,” He smiled.
“That’s not right,” I protested.
“Pipe down princess; it wouldn’t have worked unless you didn’t already want to.”
Princess? Nobody had ever called me princess before. It sounded demeaning, like I thought I was better than everyone else.
“Don’t call me that,” I said.
“Which one, princess or Miss Polanski?”
“Then what shall I call you, Joan?”
“Em! My name is Em.”
We danced for the entirety of that song and then the next two songs as well.
“You’re a fine dancer Miss…” he stopped himself “….Em.”
“You don’t like me much do you?”
“No, I don’t,” I stated plainly.
“Why is that?” He asked.
“Well, Bo seems to think that it’s because our gifts repel each other like magnets.”
“A magnet huh,” he said and grabbed my hand. I quickly put up my defenses. He spun me then pulled my back to his chest and whispered in my ear.
“So if I were to flip you around what would happen, Em?” I could feel his breath on my neck, on my ear. I pulled my hand from his, turned, and gave him a shove. I thought about decking him but the bouncers were already eye balling me. If I didn’t behave myself I would likely be permanently banned from this place.
“I told you not to touch me,” I hissed as I walked past him back to the table. He was right behind me.
“My apologies Miss Polanski,” he said pulling the chair out for me.
“I don’t like you,” I said “…and stop calling me that.”
“Yes ma’am,” he say and nodded his head with a devilish smile.
“I don’t like you.” I said again.
“I believe you may have mentioned that already.” He smiled again.
I really hated this guy. He was sitting there beaming at me not even caring that he was exposing his fangs with his GQ model smile, his perfectly square jaw line, and perfect hair. He was gorgeous and he knew it. That annoyed me. I much preferred the cute guys that didn’t know they were cute. I found modesty very attractive. I smiled as I thought about Bo when he first wakes up at night with his hair disheveled and looking absolutely adorable. Menelik must have thought I was smiling at him and my expression instantly turned back to a scowl.
We sat in silence until René came on to sing. She was about halfway done with her set before Menelik broke our silence.
“She’s completely gorgeous AND talented!”
“…AND has a very protective and deadly best friend.” I added.
He just scoffed at me. It did make me feel a little better that I could feel admiration coming off him as he watched her. She finished her set and came over to us. She was wearing white, skintight leather pants and a sleeveless silver furry puffball of a sweater with silver stilettos. She looked just like a Barbie.
“You’re amazing,” Menelik said kissing her hand.
Oh the emotions rolling off the both of them were enough to give me a headache. I spent the evening acting as chaperone to the two of them, shooting Menelik a look any time he touched her. They looked like Wall Street Ken and pop star Barbie. I was mentally exhausted by the time I headed home. That seemed to be a trend now days, mental exhaustion. I hoped I would get used to it.
By the time I arrived home I was too tired to eat. I knew this would make me weak but I didn’t feel like hunting or driving out to the barn. All I wanted to do was take a hot bath and sleep. We had a few bags of blood that we kept on hand if we were sick or injured, but I was just being lazy. I would use one of the bags tonight and probably feel guilty about it tomorrow. In times like these, Bo would feed on one of his guard dogs. We didn’t have any at the moment; the replacements were still being trained, not that I would have taken a dog instead. I got attached to the dogs, and usually yelled at Bo when he did eat them.
Unfortunately blood was downright disgusting cold and you couldn’t microwave it, that made it taste funny. We use to warm it using a double boiler but now we had the bottle warmer from when Wu’s children were smaller, which worked perfectly. I would like to say that I elegantly sipped the blood from a wine glass looking sexy and sophisticated like Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire but that’s not the case. The blood loses its temperature so fast, so you must chug it quickly before it gets cold. Once I was done, I went to the bedroom ready for that hot bath and some sleep. When I opened the door however, I noticed something was different.
Now, let me tell you, Bohuslav Pavlock is hard headed, stubborn, insensitive, a little cold hearted, and way too guarded with his emotions but sometimes… sometimes, he gets it right. We had a new bed, one of those dual control sleep number looking ones and down the middle between the two sections of our new king sized bed was a divider. It was nylon and mesh, by no means the Great Wall of China but it would keep a wandering foot or arm from coming over to my side and causing horrible nightmares. I smiled and my heart swelled. Yep, his words might not always say “I love you” but sometimes his actions did.
I heard the upstairs door open and I knew it was him. I ran to him and threw my arms around him and kissed him. I didn’t think to put my defenses up but my theory was testing out that unless I tried to have a vision, it only happened on “accident” if someone touched me unexpectedly. I seemed to be completely safe from them if I initiated the contact. I kissed him a long time before he pulled away.
“You know, I just ate,” he said and gave me a flirtatious smile.
“So did I,” I said smiling back.
Female vampires didn’t have to have recently fed in order to have sex, but it sure made it more enjoyable. Male vampires, contrary to all the books and movies, were not the infamous lovers they were portrayed to be. It made no sense, especially the stories where we were supposedly dead. We of course, weren’t dead, our hearts beat, just slowly. We were just… different. How could a dead body, one without flowing blood, without a heartbeat, get an erection? It was completely illogical.
Okay, horny vampire right in front of you, focus Em. I was lost in my rambling A.D.D. thoughts when Bo touched me unexpectedly and my head began to tingle. I knew the feeling well now. I stepped away from him.
“We can try this but there’s something I need you to do for me first.” He looked at his watch. I knew we only had about thirty minutes after he ate, depending on how much blood he had taken to…um, accomplish our mission, per say. I explained to him how to build a wall in his mind to block out the visions and we practiced a couple times then went to the bedroom. I may have completely ruined the mood a couple times in the process when he would get a little distracted and a vision would begin to flash and I would yell, “The wall Bo, the wall!” Not exactly ideal sex talk but necessary unfortunately. We had to stop a few times and refocus, so neither of us could relax completely to fully enjoy ourselves. This would take some getting used to but I would call tonight a success. We went to sleep, Bo in East Berlin, and me in West.
Despite my warnings, Menelik wasn’t going to leave René alone, and they were now officially dating. I didn’t like it, not at all. For one thing, I watched the guy in a vision shoot someone in the head. Granted I didn’t know the reason and ideally that meant he regretted it if that theory was true, which I wasn’t sure it was. Plus, the guy just reminded me of a used car salesman, he was just too smooth and charismatic. He seemed like a playboy, love ‘em and leave ‘em type. I voiced my concerns to René like any good friend would do, and she dismissed them, like any girl smitten would do. I couldn’t tell her what to do or who she should date, so I would sit back and help her pick up the pieces of her heart if it came to that…and beat the daylights out of Menelik also.
The two of them came by one night to invite me to a Halloween party and I declined.
“That’s what I thought you’d say,” she said. “But I thought we would ask just in case. It’s this Friday in case you change your mind.”
She knew I wouldn’t. I used to love Halloween, now it was just the anniversary of Brian’s death. I’m surprised that René still enjoyed Halloween since she’d also attended the party at Arlo’s mansion where she nearly lost her life. That night, she lost her home and her boyfriend, all to a fire set by Brian and I trying to rescue Wu. I really missed my best friend. I wondered what he would say about my newly developed gift, “Yeah Em, that’s totally whack yo,” was my guess. I missed him! He was always unusually warm and smelled like cologne and cigarette smoke but he was gone and there’s nothing I could do about it.
I tried to focus on more positive things. Wu and I had promised to take the kids out trick-or-treating and they were incredibly excited. Cameron hadn’t stopped talking about his ninja turtle costume since Persia bought it for him weeks ago. Kim being the exact shadow of her brother of course, wanted to also be a ninja turtle but a girly one with a green tutu and a tiara. Cameron objected saying there was no such thing as a girl ninja turtle and Persia told him perhaps that story hasn’t been written yet. Wu bought a rat mask and a monk robe to be Master Splinter and the children had begged me to be April O’Neil. So, when the night came, I dressed in all yellow and carried around a microphone…anything to make those kids happy.
Wu and I took the children to René’s house, which would serve as our trick-or-treating headquarters. I knew it was a nice quiet neighborhood. We took the children door-to-door gathering sacks full of candy that I knew Persia would hide away and give to them one piece at a time; she was a good mom. Once the bags were full and the children were exhausted from running with mobs of other kids throughout the streets, Wu and I carried them back to René’s house. There they dumped their bags of candy out on the floor and traded their favorites back and forth. It was time that most children would be getting ready for bed but since Kim and Cam kept vampire hours it was time for their lunch. Wu and I took them to McDonalds.
The kids were sitting there enjoying their Happy Meals when a very large balding man walked over and began talking to them about their costumes. He complimented both of them and asked them about their Halloween night. I sensed something strange about his attention towards them, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it bothered me. For the first time since Korin showed me how, I reached out for a vision.
It took me a moment to stretch out to him, standing a few feet from me. My scalp tingled and I was horrified, as I saw a child locked in a dog crate. I got the feeling that the child was not his own. This vision busted that theory of the visions branching from guilt. He enjoyed the feeling of power over the small boy; he didn’t feel guilty about this at all. I shivered and felt nauseous. The vision was broken as the man walked away from our table and out the door.
I had to do something; I wasn’t sure if the child was in his home still or if this vision was from the past. I had no way to gauge how far in the past I went when I reached out for a vision. I wasn’t going to take that chance though. I stood up and watched the man get into a small white Chevy truck and throw a Happy Meal into the passenger seat. I excused myself and told Wu that I had to go and I would explain later. Outside, the man had backed out of his spot and was at the end of the parking lot waiting to pull out into traffic. I ran over as quickly as I could and slipped into the back of the truck from the passenger side, hoping he didn’t see me. We weren’t driving long; we made a few turns and finally pulled up in front of a house at the end of a cul-de-sac. As soon as he stopped, I slid out of the back of the truck and hid behind it.
The man walked up to the house and waddled his way up a couple steps then through the front door. I looked around for witnesses. I really regretted wearing bright yellow right now; it wasn’t exactly inconspicuous stake out apparel. I ran quickly to the front of the house, hid behind one of the tall bushes, and looked through the window. I saw the man open a dog crate, throw the Happy Meal inside, and shut the door back. Seriously, this guy was keeping this poor kid right there in the front room! He walked back into one of the other rooms and came back in a dirty white t-shirt and underwear. He sat down in a recliner and turned on the TV, Spongebob.
I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do but I walked up to the front door and knocked. I heard him say to the boy if he wasn’t quiet he was going to hurt him. He opened the door just a crack, a small gold chain was across the top.
“What do you want?” He asked me.
“Vengeance,” I said and kicked the door as hard as I could. The chain broke and the man stumbled backward and fell onto his back on the dirty carpet.
“Who are you? I know you; you were at McDonald’s. What are you doing here? Are you a cop?”
“No, I’m a superhero,” I smiled.
I watched the man struggle to get up then I pushed him back into another room which ended up being a very dirty, nasty kitchen. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink and there was trash everywhere. How could anybody live like this? I thought about biting and draining him of his blood but that gave me the shivers. This man disgusted me. I didn’t want his blood in my body, so I reached up and snapped his neck. His lifeless body fell to the kitchen floor with a loud thud, knocking over a kitchen chair as he went. I knew what I had just done was murder, plain and simple murder, not for food but because he was a monster.
I went back into the living room and squatted down next to the dog crate. The little boy was scared and huddled in the corner of the crate. He was dirty, his eyes were red, he looked sick, and reeked of urine. I think he was only about five or six years old. What kind of monster keeps a child locked up like this?
“It’s okay sweetheart, I’m here to help.”
“Are…are you really a superhero?” He asked.
“Well, sort of. Do you know the ninja turtles?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Well, I’m their friend April O’Neil. They were busy so they sent me here to help.”
He didn’t look like he believed me but that was better than, ‘hey kid, I’m a vampire/antique dealer and I have magical visions which led me to this house to save you.’
“Who was that man?” I asked.
“I don’t know, he was a bad man. He did bad things to me.”
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know but I want my mommy. Can I go see her now?”
I opened the crate and helped him out. He was only wearing a blue T-shirt and some Batman underwear. I pulled a blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped him in it. I grabbed a cordless phone out of its dock on a small table next to the recliner where the man was sitting and we went outside to sit on the front step. I didn’t want him walking into the kitchen and seeing the man dead on the floor, he’d been traumatized enough. I had the boy call 911 and tell them he was lost and needed help. I told him the address that we were at and told him like all superheroes, I needed him to keep my identity secret. I told him I was going to make my getaway but the police would be here soon to help him. I knew even if he didn’t keep my secret, all he could tell the police was that April O’Neil from the Ninja Turtles had saved him.
I told Bo what I’d done when I got home and he said it was a good thing I didn’t bite the man as it would make for a suspicious police report. Hopefully, they would just think the man fell and broke his neck and maybe wouldn’t even care how he died since he was a kidnapper and a pedophile. I was happy to rid the world of such a monster. I hoped that little boy was home safe with his mother and this whole ordeal wouldn’t have any lasting effects on him. It made me want to run to Cameron and Kimber-li and hold them close, make sure they were safe, but first I needed to eat. I went to the barn; I’d had enough violence for the night. I fed peacefully and sat there in the cold silence with my herd for a while. I really despised this gift of mine, but tonight I was able to save that little boy; it was hard to hate something that had led to such good.
Bo showed up at the barn to check on me, he’d been out hunting. He rarely ate with me, but we usually met back up here. He enjoyed the thrill of the hunt too much. He enjoyed stalking and running down his prey, bobcats especially. Although humans tasted far better, I have to admit, there was something thrilling about running through the woods hunting. There was an exhilaration to pouncing on something wild and killing it. It was a rewarding experience. Bo sat down beside me and asked if I was ready to go home and go to bed. I was, but I had some very important business to attend to first…
“Zim Zalla Bim, I’m magic Jim….” I read later, as I held Wu’s children extra close that night.
November 1st, the big auction night. Bo had been talking about this auction in Knoxville for weeks and he was like a little kid at Christmas. It was Bo, Persia, and I in the box van traveling west on the I-40. It was a pleasant trip. Persia wasn’t much of a talker. She sat in the cargo seat and to tell you the truth I forgot she was even back there. Bo and I sat up front equally as quiet. In fact, I don’t think anyone spoke the whole way there. The auction house was packed tonight, wall to wall. People were bumping into me left and right but thankfully, no one touched me long enough to invoke a vision. I kept up my defenses anyway but soon got tired of that so I spent a lot of time outside in the parking lot. Just beyond the rows of cars I found a picnic table and laid there on it for a while looking up at the stars. This of course, reminded me of Angelus.
Toward the end of the auction, the crowd started thinning out so I went back inside. I found Persia standing along the side wall and I went to stand next to her. We watched Bo bid back and forth against a tall gangly looking man. Every time the man bid, Bo outbid him and the man was furious. Bo ended up winning. In fact, Bo won most of the things he came for and the back of the van was full, mostly from a large trunk that had big brass lion-like gargoyles on it. The thing reminded me of the chest from Raiders of the Lost Arc with the gold winged creatures on the top. It gave me the creeps and I secretly hoped we sold it quickly because it looked like something you would center a scary movie around.
Back home, we parked in the alley beside the shop and carefully unloaded everything into the storeroom. Once finished, we went downstairs to rest. I got Persia a bottle of water from the fridge. Some of that stuff was pretty heavy for a mortal, especially for a tiny little thing like Persia. She may have only weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet but she held her own. Any woman who could give birth to twins without drugs was tougher than she looked. After a few minutes of talking about the success of the auction, we took the tunnel over to Wu’s. We were laughing about how the man I was now calling Ichabod Crane had gotten so mad that Bo kept outbidding him on the African pende mask. The man’s face was turning bright red and he was actually shaking.
Wu quickly walked into the room looking concerned and a bit confused.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“I guess there’s something wrong with the alarm system. The notification that the door was open didn’t sound; I didn’t know you were here till I heard you laughing.”
Wu walked over to the control panel next to the door and hit a couple buttons.
“Hmm, it’s turned off,” he said. “We’ve told the kids not to mess with it.”
“I’ll talk with them about it,” Persia said.
We sat down on the couch and Bo told Wu how the auction went, going into boring detail of the things he bought. I still wasn’t much into antiques but some things did spark my interest. I liked anything from ancient Greece and all the tribal things from Africa, the masks, little stick men, and stuff like that. Everything else was still boring to me, especially anything Elizabethan. That word was my cue to leave a conversation every time. I went down the hall to play with the kids but Persia was still having her talk with them about the alarm system. She was telling them how important it was, how it was off limits, and it wasn’t a toy. I didn’t want to interrupt her parenting so I went back to join Bo and Wu who were now talking about the creepy trunk.
Persia came in a few minutes later and said the children swore they hadn’t touched it. She was calling in Wu for parental reinforcements. Wu called the children in and questioned them about the alarm system. They both still denied touching it, but I sensed an emotion coming off Cameron though. It wasn’t necessarily guilt or deception, I didn’t think. Well, maybe a little bit of guilt but it felt more like indecision. I decided to step in, not something I usually do when there is disciplining going on, but I was curious.
“Cam, come here baby,” I said. “Give me your hand.”
I closed my eyes and tried to relax, a moment later I had the answer.
“They weren’t playing with it, but Cam saw Song pressing buttons and didn’t want to be a tattle tail. He didn’t know if he should tell you or not.”
“Wow!” Cameron said, his eyes wide in surprise. “Auntie Em, you’re magic.”
“She’s a witch!” Song spat from the corner of the room. Persia scolded her in Japanese. Song said something back and then Wu interrupted them.
“Why did you turn the system off?” Wu asked her.
“I didn’t mean to turn it off. I was just messing around with it. I didn’t know I left it off. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t feel sorry to me. Instead, I felt fear coming off of her. I think watching me read Cameron’s thoughts truly frightened her. She never really seemed okay with vampires in the first place, so a vampire that could practically read your mind must have really freaked her out. I figured it was time for me to go home.
At home, I fired up my laptop and was just a little surprised to see I had an email from a familiar addy, it was the one I created for Aleena and the rest of the girls to use to talk to me: Belehouse8.
Oh Em, what is it that you have started here?
Oh boy, it was Angelus. Here we go…
I wish you would have come to me so that we could help you better understand your emerging gift. I digress that this is a more effective way to communicate and everyone is very excited to do so. You will find that I am not uneducated in the ways of technology; I simply find that life is more pleasing without it. I prefer to live simply, taking joy in the little things in life. I plan to limit access to this technology but you will be hearing from us :)
Wow, a smiley face, I just got an emoji from Angelus Beledonte. I wonder how many people could say that. Well, that wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t as mad as I thought he would be. Of course, Angelus wasn’t one to get angry. He was probably the calmest, most peaceful person I knew, well, him and the girls that lived there. I had seen Angelus kick a little butt though when I was there and it had surprised me, but he was completely calm while doing that also. He later apologized for me witnessing such violence. He was a peace loving man and he attributed that to his long life. I guess it would be hard to live millennia if you were a hot head with a bad temper.
I did hear from the girls via email every few days there after. The translator on the email worked pretty well, some wording didn’t exactly make sense but I was able to figure it out. Korin asked about my gift and I told her I was learning to deal with it. I admitted it had actually come in handy on a couple occasions, but I didn’t go into detail of what exactly happened with the kidnapped little boy. You always hear rumors about the government monitoring everything you say on the internet, but I let her know I was able to extend my gift and reach for a vision from someone standing near me and was able to help a child because of it. I told her Bo had found a solution to the sleeping situation and that it was working nicely. Maybe I could get used to this gift, it would take time; good thing I had all the time in the world.
That’s what I thought anyway. Isn’t that what we all think, even as mortals we think we always have one more day. A vampire for sure has all the time in the world, right? That is unless someone breaks into your house and tries to kill you. It was about midnight and I was downstairs on the couch reading an email from the girls. Bo had gone out and when I heard the door on the stairs open, I’d assumed it was him. Very few people had the access code, so I just kept on reading.
“Hey babe,” I said. “We should think about a trip back to Bulgaria in the spring. The girls were just telling me…”
In that instant someone slipped something over my head and I could hardly see. It was a dark material but I could see speckled light fragments through the porous cloth.
Whoever it was grabbed me and I felt multiple hands on me. There had to be at least three or four people grabbing me, pulling me. They lifted me up off the couch and wrapped something around my body restricting my movement. I kicked and squirmed but every time I broke free of one set of hands there was another set to take its place. I didn’t make it easy for them as they carried me up the stairs, they actually dropped me once and I banged my hip hard against the stairs. They carried me outside and threw me into a vehicle and then sat on me, seriously two guys sat right there on my body like I was a bus seat. I stopped squirming. I was going to conserve my energy, bide my time, and then kick a little butt when the opportunity presented itself. My body was still, but my mind was racing. We didn’t drive long, maybe thirty to forty-five minutes when the vehicle stopped and I heard doors opening and closing.
“Come on guys,” one said. “We gotta kill her quickly and get back to help the others.”
Oh crap, I’m in trouble! What others? What was going on?
Once they got me out of the vehicle and stood me up, I tried to break free once more. I was able to take a few steps before being tackled to the ground, my face slamming against the pavement. They tried to pick me up and carry me but I kicked and flailed until they stood me up again and forced me to walk. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know of anyone who would want to hurt me, let alone kill me. I realized these men had been touching me for some time now but I hadn’t had a vision. I think it’s because I was too on edge, my defenses were up without me even willing them to be. I tried to calm myself down a little bit, deep breath in, deep breath out. The men took me inside a building; we walked and turned a couple corners, walked down a few hallways, then went down a set of stairs.
Come on Em, breathe. I told myself. Funny how so many times I tried so hard not to have a vision, to block them, and now that I needed one, I couldn’t calm myself down enough to let it happen. I forced myself to calm down and my heartbeat to slow, and finally my scalp began to tingle. There was a man on each side of me so I wasn’t sure which one I was receiving the vision from, but I saw an old lady outside in the sunshine, she looked kind and sweet, perhaps in her seventies. She was hanging clothes up on a clothesline.
“Eddie honey, will you hand me more clothes pins?” She said.
“Sure Ma,” he said, but instead he came up behind the woman and wrapped a pair of pantyhose around her neck twisting them around the back and choking her until she was dead. He unwrapped the pantyhose then yanked one side of the clothesline down and wrapped it around the old lady’s neck and left her lying on the ground so it might look like an accident. He was doing it for the inheritance; He was smug and satisfied with what he done.
That vision gave me some beneficial information. The fact that I knew not just what he was doing, but exactly how he was feeling told me that I was dealing with mortals. When I got visions from immortals I could see their actions, but their feelings weren’t nearly as strong. I heard the creak of an old metal door and through the cloth covering my head I could see large flames.
“Throw her in quick,” one of the men said.
“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, you shouldn’t have strangled your own mother for the inheritance. What kind of son are you?”
This got the exact reaction I was hoping for. Stunned, the man to my left stopped walking for a second and I took that opportunity to pull back and drive my shoulder into him. He hit a wall and began to fall to the ground clawing at me, pulling the hood off my head as he did. What they had wrapped around my arms was just a single strand of what looked like electrical cord; it was nothing to get loose of it.
The man at my feet was wearing a black suit and so was the man behind me. I turned around and punched the one behind me in the nose and heard the pop of cartilage as the impact broke his nose and blood began to pour. He backed away against the other wall, tears coming from his eyes and blood gushing from his nose. Eddie, the mother killer, began to get up, so I leaned on my left leg and kicked him hard in the midsection with my right, sending him back against the wall and probably breaking a few ribs. Wu taught me that move. There was a third man over by a large furnace; we were in the basement of an industrial type building. He had opened the door to an incinerator for the other two men to throw me in, which must have been the creaking sound that I heard.
I reached out to that man with my vision trying to get something to use against him, anything. He must’ve been too far away because all I got was him walking through a door and calling the name Elva. I didn’t know if that was a person or a dog but I was going to use it.
“You can’t overpower me,” I said. “I will kill you. What will Elva do without you?”
“Witch,” he said.
What the hell, this was the second time I’d been called a witch this month. Okay well, maybe he thought a witch was scarier than a vampire.
“Zim zala bim, Menelik Imani,” I said, that being the first thing that sounded like “magic words” that came to mind. I threw some imaginary magic his way with the flick of my fingertips.
“Now, if you lay a single finger on me your penis is going to rot and fall off.”
I’m not sure if he really believed that or not but he took off running. It wasn’t until I picked Eddie up and plunged my fangs into his neck that the other man with the broken nose decided he didn’t want to mess with me and also left. I drank about half of him, knowing blood would give me strength and energy but not wanting to be so full that it would slow me down. I didn’t want to leave behind vampire evidence so I dragged Eddie’s limp body over to the incinerator, careful not to get too close, and threw him inside.
“That’s for that sweet old lady,” I said as I shut the door.
I had no idea where I was or the layout of this building. I’d been too preoccupied with trying to get away, and trying to calm down to get a vision, to pay attention where we were going. Not being able to see how I got here added to my confusion. All I knew is that we had gone down some stairs. I walked cautiously out of the furnace room looking around every corner, not knowing if the other two men had left or were waiting to ambush me. It’d been their job to kill me and get back to do something else and I didn’t know if they were going to leave that first job unfinished.
I started down a hallway; there were a couple openings on each side. I closed my eyes and listened. I heard feet scuffling in one of the rooms to the left, the second one I think. I walked that way carefully, staying close to the wall. There was a shard of glass on the floor so I kicked it out ahead of me to see what the hiding man would do and sure enough, a pipe swung out the doorway but I wasn’t there for it to hit me, so he ended up hitting the doorframe…idiot! I grabbed the pipe and pulled, but he pushed just as I did and the pipe jammed me hard in the ribs. He tried to jab me again, but two could play that game. I pushed it back at him but pushed much harder than he had and the pipe punctured his stomach just under his ribs.
I hadn’t meant to kill the guy, but to be fair, the guy was trying to kill me! He stepped out of the room and I pushed him against the doorframe.
“Who are you and why are you trying to kill me?” I demanded.
He couldn’t answer, he just gurgled and blood began coming out of his mouth. I realized this was the same man that I had broken his nose; his shirt was bloody before, now it was soaked. He fell to the floor, dead. Nice, now I’ll never figure out what the heck is going on. I continued down the hall and found the stairs. I finally made my way outside. After looking around, I was pretty sure this was the old newspaper plant uptown.
I reached for my cell phone but it wasn’t in my pocket, it was back at home on the table next to my laptop. I had no money for a cab; I was going to have to run home. I was wearing sweat pants, a t-shirt, and my fuzzy white thong slippers. Why am I never dressed appropriately when things go wrong? I still didn’t know what was going on and I desperately needed to get a hold of Bo or Wu. I had no change for a pay phone, not like those were abundant these days anyway. I would have to find someone and ask to use their phone.
I saw some teenagers sitting in the parking lot of a shopette down the street. One of them had his phone out texting.
“I need to use your phone please.” I said to him. He looked at me defiantly.
“Please, it’s an emergency.”
“What’s in it for me?”
I put my hand on his shoulder and hesitated just a moment before I answered.
“Well Jeremy, I won’t tell your mother that you’re secretly screwing the babysitter.”
I didn’t know how old this kid was exactly but he looked too old to need a babysitter, perhaps he had a little brother or sister.
I love that instant of shock where the mind is trying to process what exactly just happened, if you act quickly you can do anything in that moment. I grabbed the kid’s phone.
“I’ll give it right back,” I said, but he was still standing there dumbfounded. I realized just then that I hadn’t memorized a phone number since 1998, I didn’t know Bo’s phone number, I didn’t know Wu’s phone number, they were all programmed into my phone; all I ever did was hit the button next to the name or the picture. I knew the antique store’s number so I tried that, no answer. René! I knew René’s home phone number, it was my old home number after all.
I dialed it, but no answer there either. I left a message that something was going on but I didn’t know what, that someone was trying to kill me and I didn’t know why. I said I was uptown and would be back as soon as I could but she needed to warn Bo that something was going on. I handed the kid back his phone and started running…in my fuzzy slippers.
It took me about an hour to get back home running through the woods. My slippers didn’t slow me down as much as I thought they would but I had a few nicks and scrapes on my ankles from sticks and rocks. Once home, I ran downstairs as quickly as I could. René and Bo were both standing down there talking and pacing.
“There you are!” René rushed over and hugged me. “I got your message, we’ve been worried sick!”
“What’s going on Em?” Bo asked.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s over yet.”
“Let’s go over to Wu’s,” Bo suggested. We both knew that Wu’s place was far more secure than ours, he had security cameras and coded door locks. You better believe that I put on some pants, tennis shoes, and a jacket before we went over there though. For once in my vampire life I was going to be dressed for trouble. We gathered everyone into the kitchen and I told them what happened, how I was taken from the house and driven to the newspaper plant uptown where the three men tried to throw me into a furnace.
“Mommy, why would anybody want to hurt Auntie Em?” Cam asked Persia.
“I don’t know baby,” she replied giving him a squeeze. Cam was scared, I could feel it. Persia and Song were throwing off worry. I could feel that Song was especially worried about me; that made me like her a little bit more. I know she didn’t like me all that well but she was obviously worried about me at the moment. I couldn’t read René’s emotions she was feeling too many at once. Bo and Wu were a little harder to read, but they were radiating with anticipation and anxiety, it was coming off them both in waves like a heater.
“How did they get in?” Wu asked. I hadn’t even thought of that. The upstairs door had been closed; they had to have the access code in order to open it.
“They didn’t open it by force, they must have had the code,” I said.
“But how…” Wu began, but stopped when we heard a noise. It sounded like something metal sliding across the floor. There was a loud bang and a flash of light that physically hurt. It singed my skin and burned my eyes. I couldn’t see and my ears were ringing. There was an onslaught of commotion, lots of footsteps, I heard Kimber-li scream for her mother. I heard Bo let out a growl of attack followed by two gunshots. Then something knocked me over into René and we both hit the floor.
“No! Em, Em!” René screamed as someone pulled her out from underneath me. I reached for her.
“No, not that one,” I heard a man say. “Just these and that one there, let’s go.” Someone grabbed me by my feet, pulled me across the floor, and once again someone slipped something over my head and tightened it around my throat. It wasn’t a bag this time, it was heavier. I was being abducted for the second time in one day. I couldn’t do much to fight back, my skin was still burning and I felt disoriented. My arms and legs were being restrained. These guys were far better at their job than the ones earlier today. Persia was screaming and crying and I heard another man say that she had to get down or he was going to shoot. The commotion died down as I was thrown over top of someone’s shoulder and carried away. They stood there in the living room a few minutes and then I heard a woman speak.
“Okay, I’ve got it, let’s go.”
What were they after, and why were they taking us?
The cool air outside hit my scorched skin and made it feel a little better, I was starting to heal. I heard the same male voice from before barking orders of who would go in what vehicle and the man that was carrying me slammed me butt first onto a metal floor. He gave my feet a shove and then I heard a door shut. I heard other doors shut outside the vehicle I was in. My hands were bound behind me so it absolutely killed my wrists when the man slammed me into the vehicle. I threaded my body through my arms to bring my battered hands in front of me.
When I laid down to do so, I felt someone next to me. Bo groaned when I touched him. I felt around on his body, his shirt was wet with blood; I didn’t have to see to know that, I could smell it. He’d been shot in the stomach. I tried to ask if he was okay but I only got mumbles out. I reached up with my bound hands and felt what I could only describe as a Hannibal Lecter mask/muzzle covering my face and head. It restricted my jaw, I guess to keep me from attacking. These people were efficient, and obviously knew a thing or two about abducting vampires.
I couldn’t lick Bo’s wound to speed the healing, I couldn’t even ask him if he was okay. The ringing in my ears had finally stopped but my skin was still raw to the touch. I couldn’t tell if I was still blinded with this mask over my face. I had a feeling it was pitch black inside the vehicle anyway, which was now moving. It drove for hours and I was left to wonder who all they had taken and why. It sounded like they had left René and Persia and I assumed Song also. They were leaving the mortals and taking the vampires, but what about the kids? Had they been taken or left behind? I hoped they were safe.
After what felt like an eternity, I leaned over on Bo, who had been unconscious this whole time, and fell asleep. I dreamt of being back in Bulgaria through Bo’s eyes, he did a lot of pacing while we were there. He seemed anxious and worried but because he was immortal I wasn’t picking up much emotion through the vision, I only knew this because I knew him. I was just glad it wasn’t another horrible nightmare.
I only vaguely remember being taken out of the vehicle; they were moving us in the middle of the day, when we were weak and tired. A vampire didn’t have much fight in them in the middle of the day. I hoped they knew the sunlight would kill us. These guys seemed to know a lot about vampires though. The flash bangs they used had to have been a very powerful UV light. They knew to move us during the day, and then there were these vampire muzzles. Yeah, these guys knew exactly what we were and exactly how to handle us. Who were these people? I remember the mask being taken off me before I fell asleep again on the hard ground.
I awoke at what I assumed was sunset and inspected my surroundings. I was in a jail cell; it was small, dimly lit, and completely bare. There was a cinderblock wall to my rear and my left, then iron bars in front of me and to my right. Bo was in the adjacent cell to my right. I crawled over to the bars and called his name, but he didn’t wake up. I knew a bullet wound wouldn’t kill him, but he would be sleeping a lot to regenerate. He needed blood, I wasn’t sure if he had eaten last night but I knew he needed more to heal. I sat there for hours alone with my own thoughts wondering who had done this and why. I sat there all night thinking. Bo didn’t wake up, and no one else came by all night. I felt the drowsy pull of sunrise and fell asleep once again on the cold hard floor.
Bo woke up the next night. His body had pushed the bullet out but he was still healing. He had a lot of questions I couldn’t answer, where are we? Who took us? All I knew was that we drove pretty much all night and they moved us during the day so that meant we had to be pretty far from home. No one came in this night either and I wondered if anyone would come, maybe they were just going to leave us here to rot. Close to dawn, I was hungry, really hungry. This was the second night without food.
“Can vampires starve to death?”
“No,” he answered.
That made me feel a little bit better.
“What will happen if we don’t eat?”
“In a few more days, we will become frantic, vicious, attacking anything that comes near us. After a couple weeks we will start to go dormant, like hibernating, until a food source comes nearby.”
“How long can we hibernate?”
“As long as need be, a food source will always come along… eventually.”
I sat thinking about that for a few minutes, wondering if the walls of this place would be falling down with age before a food source presented itself. How long would that take, a hundred years? Then a horrible thought came to mind.
“If we are vicious and frantic, attacking anything that comes near us, will we attack each other?”
“Yes Em, eventually we will.”
That thought sent a shiver down my spine, what a horrible thought, being so hungry that I would attack and kill the man I love or he attack me. No, I wouldn’t do that. My thoughts slipped to a documentary I watched of a plane that crashed in the Andes Mountains and the survivors were forced to eat the bodies of the dead passengers in order to survive. They ate the flesh of their friends and loved ones. That was different though, I told myself, they were already dead, and they didn’t kill them to eat them. I wouldn’t kill Bo, would I?
“Bo?” I said again, it took him a moment to answer this time. He was falling asleep, it was close to dawn. I looked up to see if he was still awake and he opened his eyes to look at me.
“Yes, Em,” he sounded a little annoyed this time. Bo got cranky when he was tired.
“I promise not to eat you.”
“I will make no such promise,” he said and gave me a devilish grin and winked at me.
“Bohuslav Pavlock, this is no time to make jokes.” I scolded.
He smiled again and closed his eyes. I decided to let him sleep this time. I stayed awake despite feeling the coming dawn pulling at my heavy eye lids, wondering how long they would keep us down here and where here even was. I fell asleep wondering how long it would take before Bo and I eventually tried to kill each other. I tried to convince myself otherwise, but I knew that it would happen eventually. I thought back to after the fire at Arlo’s house, I was starving then. I had woken up hungry and vicious, not caring who or what it was that I ate. Turns out, I ate one of Bo’s guard dogs. Is that how it was going to happen? I would be out of my mind with hunger and not even realize what I’d done till after I’d done it. Would I kill Bo before I knew what was going on…or would he kill me first?
I awoke to a heartbeat drumming in my head, I was starving and I smelled blood. I heard a clicking noise on top of the heartbeat and they all blended together forming a chant in my head: need blood, need blood, need blood. I was tired and disoriented, so it took me a moment to realize that someone was walking towards us down the hall.
“Bo,” I called. “Bo, wake up, someone’s coming.”
He laid there sound asleep as a woman in a lab coat and kitten heels walked up to my cell. I hadn’t noticed the metal cradle on the front of the cell next to the door until she slipped something in it. She walked over to Bo’s cell and as she repeated the action, I saw what she was putting in the cradles; it was a bag, an IV bag of blood.
I stood up and went over to it; the woman eyed me cautiously as she walked away. I was dizzy, weak, and hungry.
“Bo! Bo, wake up, they brought us food!”
Bo had gone one more day than I had without food, he hadn’t fed yet that night we were taken. I knew how hungry I was so I knew he was even hungrier, and he was injured. He needed this blood badly. I called his name a couple more times but he didn’t wake up. I felt like it was early, maybe the sun hadn’t even set yet and Bo was a bear to wake up anyway. I could drink my blood and just wait for him to wake up to tell him his was there, but I wasn’t sure how well he had healed yet. He’d hardly moved since we got here and too much moving could impede his healing.
I took my bag of blood and walked over to the wall of iron bars that separated us. I knelt down on my knees and even though I was hungrier than I ever had been, I laid the bag of blood flat on my hand and tossed it over to Bo. It landed right where I aimed and smacked him in the face. That woke him up. He didn’t hesitate to ask what just happened or what was going on, he just sank his teeth into the bag and drank it down. He then ripped the bag open and licked it clean. The poor guy was starving.
“There’s another one in that metal cradle by your door.” Bo needed it more than I did. I would give up eating for him to heal faster.
“How’d it get here?” He asked.
“A woman in a lab coat brought it,” I answered.
“Well, that’s a good sign,” he said.
“How is that a good sign?”
“If they wanted us dead, they wouldn’t bother feeding us.”
“Have you had any?” He asked me. I thought about lying and saying I had so he would drink both, but it would take him just a split second to figure out I was lying. I shook my head.
“You need it more than I do,” I said.
He tried to get up and groaned.
“Just lay there for a few minutes,” I scolded him. “Let the blood heal and energize you, then you can get up.”
He actually listened to me and laid back down.
“You need to drink this other one Em, you need blood too.”
“How about I just take half, and you take the other half,” I bargained.
“No, take the whole thing, get your strength up, and when that lady comes back, read her mind.”
“I don’t read minds Bo.”
“Well probe her brain, whatever it is that you do. Get inside her head and figure out where we are and what they plan on doing with us.”
That was an excellent idea and I felt bad that I hadn’t thought of it while the lady was here, but I only had one thing on my mind and that was blood. I wondered when she would come back, hopefully soon because this wasn’t much blood. It looked like it was only about twelve ounces, about as much as a rabbit. We needed more than that to survive. These people had to know that. Maybe that was their purpose, to starve us, to keep us weak, but it didn’t make much sense to me to keep a couple starving vampires around, sounded kind of dangerous to me.
Bo laid there and went back to sleep and I tried to be patient. It was maddening to be this hungry and see food right there in front of you, just out of reach. After a couple hours, I really thought about taking off one of my shoes and throwing it at him to wake him up, I didn’t.
“Bo,” I whispered. “Bo,” I said a little bit louder…still nothing. “Bo!” I shouted and he finally woke up. “Hey, how are you feeling?” I asked sweetly.
“Better,” he answered. “How long have I been out?”
“A couple hours.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I think I can get up now.”
“Only if you think you can manage,” I said, but I really hoped he could because I was going out of my mind over here. The more I thought about the blood just sitting over there, the hungrier I got.
He groaned when he got up and held his stomach where his shirt was covered in dried blood. When he stood, he held up his shirt and I discovered he’d been shot not once, but twice. The wounds were healing. Bo told me that our bodies first push the bullets out then begin to heal. The wounds didn’t look too bad but he would heal much faster with a steady supply of food. He walked gingerly over to the cradle, got the blood, and walked it over to me.
“Drink up sweetheart,” he said.
Aww, Bo was being sweet, perhaps we should be abducted, held prisoner, and starved half to death more often.
The thought of biting into the bag seemed a little odd to me so I opened the bag and just drank it. It was cold and it gave me a shiver. Cold blood was horrible but I wasn’t complaining. I would’ve eaten anything right now and I thought back to that first vision of Bo feeding on the children in that village. I couldn’t imagine being this hungry and injured, having to crawl through the mud to reach something to eat and find shelter. I couldn’t imagine how tired and scared he had to have been. I wondered if it was close calls like that that made Bo so frightened of the sun. I really couldn’t blame him in a situation like that. I’d been really hard on him for what he’d done. I should probably apologize but something pushed to the forefront of my mind…this blood tasted funny.
I worried for a second that maybe they were trying to poison us. Could vampires be poisoned? The sun, fire, and UV light were the only things that were a danger to us that I knew of, everything else in the storybooks were a myth. Mortals felt better if there were multiple ways of killing us or fending us off; there weren’t many, so they made some up.
“Bo, did this taste funny to you?”
The blood had a chemical taste to it that I couldn’t describe.
“It’s just the ACD, it’s an anticoagulant, its fine,” he answered.
I felt much better after drinking the bag of blood. I also ripped the bag open and licked it clean. I wanted more! This was just an appetizer. I hoped the lady would come back soon.
Bo and I talked about what I would do when the lady came back. I had to be relaxed which wasn’t a problem. There wasn’t any impending danger so I didn’t think I would have trouble with that. The only problem I could speculate would be the lady being too far away from me to pull a vision and the possibility of being too hungry to concentrate depending on when she finally did come back. I scooted up toward the front of the cell so I could be closer to her and stayed there, slept there. Just when we were starting to think that she wouldn’t come back again, she did. It was hard to tell how many days had passed because we slept so much, our bodies conserving energy. We guessed it was three days just as before.
As soon as I heard her coming I tried to focus, to reach out to her, knowing she was much too far but trying anyway. She’d given me the blood first last time but this time she walked past me, eyeing me like I might attack her. She slipped the bag of blood into Bo’s metal cradle and as she did, a vision started coming to me though it was hard to hold onto, it faded in and out, probably because she was so far away. This was the farthest that I’d ever attempted to reach out for a vision; she was at least ten feet away. I was having to concentrate very hard to hold on to the images.
“Move away from the front please,” she said, but I couldn’t do that or I would lose the vision. More images came flooding to me as she got just a little closer.
“Move away or you won’t get fed,” she said.
I still hadn’t found the answers I was looking for but I couldn’t stop now. I had to keep searching her memories, but if I didn’t stop and move away I wouldn’t be fed and I was so hungry. I had to hold on. Finding out what was going on was more important than food; I kept reaching, searching.
“Please,” Bo said. “She’s so weak, she can hardly move. She’s no danger to you.” We could both see that she didn’t believe him. She started to walk away.
“Please,” Bo said again. “Will you put her bag in my cradle and I’ll give it to her. I’ll move all the way to the back, please, she’s so weak.”
The lady walked over and placed my bag into Bo’s cradle. This bought me extra time. Bo was a genius.
“Thank you,” he said and the vision was broken as she walked away.
“Well…?” Bo asked, once she was gone.
I thought about all I’d seen in the lady’s memories. I looked at Bo with a heavy heart and told him all that I saw.
“We’re never going to get out of here Bo. This is some kind of government vampire research facility,” I told him. I went on to tell him what all I saw in the vision. It was full of torturous acts: they cut, burned, shot, and stabbed vampires to see how quickly they healed. They took countless amounts of blood. There were doctors and scientists everywhere walking around in lab coats, with clipboards, looking into microscopes, typing on computers. I saw so many vampires restrained to metal tables and people doing all kinds of horrible things to them. They pulled the fangs from one to find out if they would grow back. I didn’t see anyone I recognized, I didn’t see Wu. He was probably sitting in a cell just like this one somewhere also waiting his turn.
“So we are just sitting here starving, waiting to be tortured,” I told Bo sadly. Bo sat there thinking, letting that sink in.
“Is there any way that we could escape?” He finally asked.
“No, this place is Fort Knox. There are coded doors, keycards to swipe and things like that. That’s what makes me think it’s a government facility, its high tech. There’s no way we could get out of here. I have the feeling it was specifically designed to keep vampires in.” We sat there for a long time, neither one of us talking. I reached my hand through the iron bars and he scooted over to hold it. We sat like that for a very long time; until I grew tired of blocking the relentless visions.
It wasn’t until the next day that either of us spoke and it was Bo that finally broke the silence.
“You didn’t see them actually killing them though, right?” He asked picking up on yesterday’s conversation like there hadn’t been twenty-four hours in between then and now.
“No, no killing, just experimenting it looked like.”
“So what do they do with them once they are done experimenting?”
“I don’t know Bo.”
“Maybe they let them go,” he suggested.
I was surprised at his optimism. Bo was usually the pessimist in any conversation.
“And you still don’t know where we are, how far we are from home?”
“No,” I answered. He was quiet for a very long time after that. Bo was thinking, trying to find a way out of this, but there really wasn’t one. I had a feeling that this might be the end of us.
We were surprised the next morning when lab coat lady returned. It had only been two days this time, not three. Perhaps Bo telling her that I was too weak to move had convinced them to feed us more often. I was happy about that. It was a tiny bright spot in this storm we were in, the eye of the hurricane. She walked up to my cell and I scooted back from the door a little bit more; I wasn’t as close as I’d been the other day but I didn’t know how close was too close. I tried to probe her brain, as Bo called it, and just got more of the same spotty bits of medical procedures. I decided instead to read her emotions, which was easier to do and didn’t tire me out as much.
There was no emotion coming off her, the woman was like a robot. She was strictly professional. As she slipped the bag into the metal cradle, I tried to trigger an emotional response from her.
“Thank you,” I said.
She didn’t say anything in return and her emotions didn’t change, still cold and hard, all business. Wow, who were really the cold-hearted monsters in the building, the vampires, or the mortals? We drank our cold, bagged blood and sat on the floor near one another. We both felt better, a little more energized, since it’d only been two days since we last ate.
The next day we were laying there in the floor, not really talking, just lost in our thoughts. We did a lot of that. There really wasn’t much else to do. I was staring at the marks I’d been making on the wall with a tube of lipstick I’d found in my jacket pocket. I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway. We weren’t sure if it was completely accurate, we may have lost a day in there somewhere, but there were ten marks there now. Ten days of lying in the floor or pacing our cells waiting, we weren’t really even sure for what.
“I bet you wish you’d run off to Bulgaria now don’t you?” Bo said out of the blue.
“…and miss all this fun? Not in a million.”
“Right.” He mumbled.
“I’m not going to run off to Bulgaria Bo.”
“You did once,” he said.
I thought about that for a moment. He had to be referring to when I went there after Brian died and I thought Bo was also dead because he’d been missing for days after the fire.
“I thought you were dead! I went to Angelus for answers.”
“He wants you to stay with him you know.”
“I know, but that’s not what I want.”
There were a few minutes of silence.
“What do you want Em?”
“I have what I want Bo. I’m happy with my life with you, and with Wu and the kids. I’m content…or I was until these visions came along. They kinda threw a wrench into my happy life.”
Bo didn’t say anything else after that and I spent most of that night wishing that my miraculous gift could’ve been mind reading instead.
The next day the blood lady came again but this time she brought two bags for us each. Bo and I just looked at each other. We determined that this was not a good thing. We figured they were perhaps feeding us extra in preparation of taking us upstairs. Can’t have a frantic starving vampire around all those humans, wouldn’t want to put the poor dears in danger while they’re torturing us. The lady always brought blood in the vampire morning, right before sunset. I could feel dread coming off of Bo and I felt the same way. About two hours later eight men came downstairs with the handcuffs and Hannibal Lecter masks. I ran over to the side of the cell, reached out to Bo, and hugged him the best I could through the bars.
“It’ll be okay Em,” he said as he cradled my face in his hands. I’d never seen fear in Bo before, although this emotion-sensing thing was new to me. I didn’t think Bo ever felt fear but he felt it now. I wasn’t sure if it was for me or for himself, perhaps both. We were ordered to lie down on the floor.
“I love you Bo,” I said before I let go of him.
“I love you too Em.”
It took fear of death, torture, and our impending doom to get him to say those actual words. The men restrained us and slipped the masks over our heads, tightening the straps around our throats. We didn’t fight back, there was no point. There were eight men and just two of us. Even if we could get past them, we didn’t know where to go or how to get out, especially since we were blinded by the masks. There was nothing we could do but go along with them.
The men led us down the hall, up some stairs, through a couple doors, and down more hallways. I listened hard trying to hear anything important, although I didn’t figure it’d do me much good. I didn’t figure seeking visions from these men would do me much good either. I seriously doubted I could calm myself down enough anyway; my heart was beating at mortal speed. I couldn’t help thinking about all the experiments I’d seen in the lady’s mind. I wondered what they would do to a female vampire since we seemed to be fairly rare; most vampires were men. I shivered at the thought. I had to push these thoughts from my brain. Could vampires have anxiety attacks? I didn’t think so, but I was more scared in this moment that I ever had been in my whole life, as a mortal or a vampire.
We came to a stop and I felt a cool breeze a moment later. Oh boy, they’re transporting us again. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? This place was pretty bad; I couldn’t imagine them taking us anywhere worse. Maybe they were splitting us up, I wanted to call out to Bo but the mask was so tight on my jaw and throat there was no point. One of the men stepped behind me and was fiddling with my restraints. He freed my arms and as he did, he gave Bo and I a warning.
“There are multiple guns aimed at you right now, don’t do anything stupid.”
He then loosened the strap around my throat, took the mask off, and gave me a little shove. We were outside in front of a building. Was this a joke or some kind of test or something? They couldn’t possibly be letting us go.
I looked over at Bo who was looking back at me, just as surprised as I was. Neither one of us was sure what was going on. All eight men were standing around us in tactical swat team looking clothes and guns of different varieties pointed at us. So they were just going to let us walk away? We both took a couple cautious steps forward. I was afraid they were going to gun us both down, fill us full of holes just to see how quickly we recovered. I thought maybe this was just another cruel experiment. We took a few more steps before looking back at the men, who were still unmoving. Should we start running? That would make it harder for them to hit us and then maybe we could get away. There was a tree line not far off to the left and a road straight ahead. The right side was blocked by the building we just came out of and a blue sedan parked under the awning. The building was beautiful brick and glass, glowing gold and green. You’d never think what kind of awful things went on inside. A man stepped out from the driver’s seat of the car and spoke.
“Well Miss Polanski, do you still hate me now?” The driver smiled broadly.
“Menelik!” I don’t know what on earth possessed me to do so, but I quickly walked over and hugged him.
“Quick, both of you get in the car before they change their persuaded minds about letting you go.”
Once Bo and I were in the car and a safe distance away, we both let out a sigh of relief.
“I owe you one Menelik,” Bo said, clapping him on the shoulder from the back seat. “What was that place?”
“It took a lot of digging and research to find out, but you also know I have impeccable resources. To the general public it’s The Veil Corporation, a research facility for non communicable diseases. It’s an annex of the CDC. To us immortals it’s the NAVRC, the North Atlantic Vampire Research Center. It’s a government owned and operated facility designed to study vampires and discover what makes us tick.”
“I didn’t know the government knew that we existed,” I said a bit confused.
“Yes, they’ve known for some time now but they, of course, deny our existence and just want to study us, like aliens.”
Wait, was he saying that aliens existed? My mind started wandering to little green men, Roswell, and an episode of the X-files I’d seen a while back.
“What kind of game are they running?” Bo asked and I wasn’t sure I understood what he meant by that, but I guess Menelik did.
“Testing and research, the place is high tech and tighter than a drum.”
“How did you get in?” I asked.
“I walked in the front door, it’s like any other research facility, you can walk in and volunteer for a study, and they will pay you.”
“I don’t think anybody would volunteer for the stuff that I saw,” I said, getting a shiver thinking about them pulling out a guy’s fangs.
“They do most of their work through volunteers but they do have their own little swat team to collect people of interest.”
“And they just let you walk right in the front door and request our release?” Bo asked.
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Why are we people of interest? You said the swat team collects certain people of interest, why us?”
“They actually didn’t want you at all,” Menelik explained as he drove. “That’s how I was able to arrange your release. They weren’t after you; they took you both just as a precaution.”
“Wu?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Wu and the kids.”
“The kids! They took the kids? We have to turn around. We can’t leave them there; we have to go back!”
“I tried!” Menelik yelled back defensively. “I can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, remember. I was able to convince them to let you two go because they didn’t really want you guys anyway. They want Wu and the kids, badly it seems. There’s no way they will release them until they get whatever it is they want from them.”
“What do they want from them?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
My mind was swirling, wondering what they would want with Wu and the kids, what made them different than anybody else. Wu, of course, was an Antecedent so that made him special, but there were dozens more like him. What would they want from the kids? Oh no, what were they doing to the kids? I hated to think of it. They’re twins. That made them special. I wondered if there were any other twin seeds out there. It had to be rare, I bet that was it. They wanted to experiment on twin seeds and maybe Wu to see if he could produce more twins.
I knew that twins didn’t run on Wu’s side of the family, Persia said it was on her side. They didn’t take Persia though, when they took us. I wondered if they were going to figure that out and go back after her, maybe try to make them produce more twin seeds, harvest her eggs or something like that. No, there are lots of humans capable of having twins, they wouldn’t need her specifically.
“Where are we headed?” Bo asked and I looked out the window to see if I could tell where we were, but I couldn’t.
“Albany, it’s not far. René is waiting at a hotel and there is also a safe house there.”
I looked out the window at the countryside and passing trees.
“Albany? This is New York?” I asked.
“Upstate,” Menelik said like I was a total idiot. I guess New York wasn’t just one big city like I thought it was.
“Where are we now?” I asked.
“Close to Saratoga Springs,” he answered. “Have you two eaten, did they feed you there? Do we need to stop before we go see René?”
He was concerned for René’s safety, I felt it. I didn’t know if I liked that or not. It was good that he was concerned and wanted to keep her safe, but did that mean things were getting serious between them? I didn’t know if I liked that or not either, but serious was better than him just toying with her. Which is what I thought was going to happen. I guess I should cut the guy some slack since he did just rescue us from the dungeon of doom back there.
Bo told him that we did need to eat and that they only fed us sparsely. It was still fairly early in the night so there were still people out and about. I knew better than to suggest that we find an animal to feed on. We were starting to get closer to the city and I knew we both needed a lot of blood to compensate for almost two weeks of practically being starved. I was hungry, really hungry. Bo was also still healing so I knew both of us would have to take a human each. Neither of us had the strength for much of a fight so we would need easy victims, there would be no baiting of hoodlums tonight. Bo suggested hookers and I shot him a look. He reasoned that girls like that were never missed when they disappeared, plus they made easy targets.
“No thanks, hookers are obviously your thing,” I said thinking back to the vision I had of him with one.
“Em, I’m too tired to argue with you.”
“Then don’t,” I said opening the door of the car. Menelik had pulled into a parking lot of a gas station.
I got out, looked around, and went walking off by myself down the street.
“You shouldn’t go alone,” Bo called out after me. I didn’t say anything back. He could come with me if he wanted to, but I wasn’t eating a hooker. You’d think Bo had learned that lesson too, since he’d gotten sick from one with some kind of disease. Bo’s disease detection was amazing but it wasn’t perfect; why risk getting sick from diseased blood? I sure didn’t want to spend the next twenty-four hours puking up tainted blood. I guess that was just an old habit of his. Prostitutes had been around since the beginning of time and made easy targets, and of course as Bo put it, he wasn’t always “just hungry”. I’d rather eat a homeless person any day of the week.
I knew I was weak and may not be able to handle myself in a fight, especially if there was more than one person, so I had to try and stay out of trouble. I walked down a few alleys looking for a homeless person sleeping, with no luck. At the end of one of the alleys, I saw a scruffy brown dog sniffing around a dumpster. I didn’t like killing to eat, but I knew it was a necessity, and if I took some blood now I would have more energy for a struggle if one occurred. Reluctantly I called the dog over. My heart sank a little as he wagged his tail, trotting over to me.
“I’m sorry buddy, but maybe this is better than a life of digging in dumpsters, practically starving.”
I drained him then patted his fur a few times. I could tell the dog had been living off trash because he was skinny and tasted awful, I told myself it was a mercy kill. I wondered how long it would take me to become desensitized to killing. I think Bo had said a couple decades. I walked down another alley and there was a homeless man down this one. As I approached I sensed something was a little off, the man smelled funny, not just the regular homeless stench but something else. I decided it wasn’t a good idea and passed him by. As I did, I thought I heard someone speaking behind me but I didn’t see anyone. Perhaps a guardian angel telling me to pass this one by.
I rounded the corner to see the tail end of a drug deal, perfect. Drug dealers were rarely reported missing either. The buyer and seller parted ways and I followed the dealer down the street and waited for my opportunity to get him in a less public place. He was a young man, maybe early twenties. He was wearing a puffy jacket, baggy pants, and a hat turned backwards. He had tattoos on his face and neck, your run of the mill hoodlum. He walked to what looked like a small park-like area; there were scattered park benches and decent tree cover. He sat down on one of the benches, pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket, and began trying to count it in the dim street light.
I quietly snuck around behind him as he lit a cigarette; if I took him by surprise there would be less of a struggle. His neck would be the easiest target, but that usually got messy, I preferred to drink from the wrist. As I began walking up, I realized it would be impossible to do so quietly. The leaves on the ground gave me away and the man turned to look at me. Change of plans.
“Excuse me,” I said. “…mind if I bummed one of those cigarettes from you?”
He didn’t say anything but pulled a cigarette from the pack and held it out to me. I took it, put it in my mouth, and asked for a light as well, as I moved in even closer. As he held the lighter up and flicked the flame to life, I spit the cigarette out and bit into his wrist hoping he didn’t catch my hair on fire. Fortunately he dropped the lighter when I bit into him. He put up a minimal fight, he didn’t even say much, and I briefly wondered if there was something wrong with him. Usually I was getting cussed out while I was draining a man but not this time; but I wasn’t complaining. Completely full and satisfied, I sat down next to the guy and pulled his arm around my shoulder in case anybody walked by. Now, I thought…where do I hide the body?
This guy smelled like cheap cologne, I hoped I wasn’t getting the smell of it on me. There weren’t any people around that I could see, so I moved the guy’s arm and let him slump over. As he did, that big wad of cash fell out of his jacket pocket. I picked it up before the wind blew it away. Hmmm, what to do, what to do? This guy wasn’t going to need it anymore, he’s dead. I was going to stash the body, preferably in a body of water somewhere. No need for all this cash to go to waste, right? If I just left it here, it would all blow away. I felt just a tad guilty as I stuffed it into my pocket. Murder the guy…yeah sure, no problem, but take his money, that was questionable. I laughed at myself for my distorted logic. I wish I had my cell phone but it was still sitting there at the house, next to my laptop. I should’ve grabbed it. I could just pull up a map of the city and find a good place to dump the body.
Right on cue, this guy’s phone bing-bonged from his jacket pocket, perfect. I pulled it out and brought up a map based on the “my location” setting. This little park was overlooking a golf course on the other side of a fence; I guarantee it had a pond. Bo taught me that water was the perfect place to hide a body. It covered up the fact that it had been drained of blood pretty well. Swift water was preferred, but there wasn’t a river close enough that I would want to carry a body to, so the golf course it was. I wondered if it was part of a country club. Some hoity toity rich guys in their ugly pants were going to pee themselves looking for their balls one day. I laughed out loud at the thought.
Okay, it was time to take druggy Joe here for a walk. I put his arm back around me and tried to do this Weekend at Bernie’s style, but that didn’t work too well, so I had to throw him up over my shoulder. I walked him over to the fence line, struggling a little bit since I was still pretty weak. I was feeling light headed too, probably since it’d been so long since I had a decent meal. I tried to throw the guy over the tall fence but he hit the top and fell back down on top of me; I couldn’t help but laugh. Here I was in the middle of the night trying to throw a dead body over a fence so I could throw him in the pond of a golf course. I tried throwing him again with the same result; I had to change up my tactic. Third time was a charm; I got him over, and then jumped over myself. I didn’t want to lug this guy all over the golf course looking for a pond. I’d never played golf before, but from what I understood the courses were pretty big. I leaned him up against the fence and looked around. I could see a building off in the distance with lights on it and next to it was a carport with golf carts…bingo.
I ran over and was happy to discover that all the carts had the keys in them. They were however, secured with one of those plastic wrapped metal cables. One little tug and the eyelet securing the cable to the wall came right out, a mortal could’ve done that. I started one up, it was louder than I wanted it to be, but oh well. I drove over to the fence, picked up the body, then proceeded to go joy riding all around the golf course. These things were faster than I thought they would be. I actually jumped a hillside and druggy Joe fell out of the cart, which I thought was hilarious. At the top of the next hill I found a large pond and I was a little sad that my joy riding had come to an end, this had been fun!
Being a still body of water I needed something to weigh the guy down with. I briefly thought about just taking the golf cart off the course the few miles to the river, but decided that probably wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t have anything to tie to the guy so I figured I’d use the golf cart. I removed his boot laces and used them to tie him down to the cart, then gave the cart a push into the pond. Unfortunately, it got stuck just a few feet into the water and I had to get my shoes wet pushing it further in. I went back to the park bench to make sure there was nothing incriminating left behind, there wasn’t. So, I pulled out the wad of cash and began counting it.
“Thief!” I heard from behind me.
“Well, he wasn’t going to be needing it anymore,” I told Bo as he approached.
“What are you going to buy me?” He asked.
“Well, we do need some new clothes,” I said seeing how we’d been wearing the same clothes for almost two weeks and hadn’t showered in as long. Good thing vampires didn’t really get B.O.
“I think I’ll buy you a nice, tight pair of jeans,” I smiled.
“I hate jeans,” Bo said. I knew he did. I’d only ever seen him wear them once, maybe twice since I’d known him. He said they were uncomfortable. He wore what I guess you would call slacks or black dress pants, he was always business casual.
“I know, but your butt looks amaaaaaazing in them,” I said and smiled.
“Em, how are you feeling right now?”
I didn’t know why he was asking, I was feeling pretty amazing actually. I had a full belly and was content.
“I feel great, why?”
He leaned in and sniffed my neck long and slow.
“Mmmh Bohuslav,” I said, wrapping my arms around him and running my fingers through his hair.
“Em, I think you drank drugged blood. It’s very faint but I can smell it. Did the guy you fed from not smell funny to you? You avoided the man in the alley, so I thought your detection was getting better.”
“Hey! Were you following me?”
“Of course, you’re weak and I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Aw Bohuslav, I love you too,” I said and kissed him. I did notice then I was growing increasingly dizzy.
“You said something in the alley didn’t you? I heard you. What did you say?”
“I did, I said good girl.”
I smiled at his praise but he didn’t look too incredibly proud now.
“What was up with that homeless guy, he smelled…I don’t know…weird.”
“You did well. He was diseased; I believe he had HCV-HIV.”
“That’s a lot of letters Bo, what does it mean?”
“It’s a co-infection Hepatitis and AIDS, pretty nasty stuff. If you’d drank from him you would’ve been sick.”
“Sicker than you were that one time?”
“Any one thing doesn’t make us sicker than another. Tainted blood is simply rejected from our bodies. We throw it up, we are a little weak, then we get over it.”
“Oh,” was all I said. “This guy didn’t smell wrong, or different; all I could smell was his nasty cheap cologne. I did think it was odd he didn’t put up much of a fight though.”
“Yeah Em, he was high. You have to be more careful! Drugged blood can make you do careless things. Where did you dump the body?”
“In the lake on the golf course,” I pointed.
“Was it deep enough? Did you weight it down?”
“Yes, I tied him to a golf cart and pushed him in.”
“You stole a golf cart? The clubhouse probably has security cameras Em, did you check for them?”
“No,” I answered.
“No, because you’re high. You’ve got to be more responsible Em.”
“Geez okay, relax…DAD!” I said rolling my eyes. It’s not like I could smell the drugs on the guy. I didn’t have a super vampire sniffer like Bo did.
“Yeah well, don’t think I don’t want to turn you over my knee right now young lady.” Bo said with a devilish smile.
“Oh really?” I pulled Bo to me. “Then whatcha gonna do?”
Bo proceeded to show me exactly what he was going to do right there on that park bench. The drugs in my system were causing my visions to be more like hallucinations while he was touching me and I wondered what that guy I drank had been on. Bo was graciously trying to picture a wall but holes kept appearing and the pictures were moving like a blurry laser show. I couldn’t really make anything out. The crazy light show was making me a bit nauseous and I hoped I didn’t throw up the blood, it had been so much work to get rid of that body, and I didn’t want it to be for nothing.
Although it made me enjoy what was going on a little bit less, because I was tense and distracted, I reluctantly put up my defenses the best I could instead of fully relying on Bo holding the wall in his head. This worked a little better and the nauseating light show subsided. I would hold down the blood, thankfully. Bo and I walked back toward the car. While we were walking Bo reached down and held my hand. This was an unusual gesture for Bo, since he wasn’t an affectionate guy at all.
“Wow,” I said, not really meaning to say it out loud. I blame the drugs.
Bo stopped walking and gently pushed me up against the building we were walking beside.
“I thought that was it,” he said stroking my face. “I thought I’d lost you.” He kissed me long and deep. Okay, was I hallucinating again? Was Bo really being all sweet and romantic? I wasn’t sure what was real at this point, my head was all fuzzy.
We walked back to the car and Bo tried to put his arm around me as we rode, but I was exhausted from keeping my defenses up and the dancing lights were too much; I pulled away hoping he didn’t feel rejected and sat rubbing his leg instead. Menelik drove for a little while before pulling up outside a Target. I tried to get out so I could go pick out some new clothes but Bo told me I had to stay in the car because I was high and a liability, to which I replied, “aw dad.” As I watched Bo walk into Target, I thought for sure this had to be a hallucination…Bo going inside a department store to go shopping for clothes.
“You can call me daddy,” Menelik said from the front seat.
“Shut up Menelik!” Our truce hadn’t lasted long.
I fell asleep while Bo was shopping and didn’t wake up till we were at the hotel. I didn’t think I’d ever taken a nap as a vampire; I must be sleeping off the drugs. I felt a little better but the elevator at the hotel did make me woozy. As soon as we walked in René ran over to hug me. I wasn’t prepared for her to touch me, but at least my vision wasn’t a crazy light show of neon figures anymore. I kind of wished it had been; it would’ve made the vision harder to see.
“Ew, ew, ew, ew!” I said pushing her off me. “Don’t touch me, y’all are gross.”
I tried to shake the vision out of my head; I hated seeing things I really didn’t want to see. Everybody just stood there looking at each other for a minute. I grabbed the bag of clothes Bo bought me and headed toward the bathroom.
“If y’all will excuse me, I have to go wash that vision of foot porn off of me.” As I walked past Menelik I pointed my finger at him “you’re gross.” He smiled and winked at me.
“Don’t mind her, she’s a little loopy from something she ate,” Bo explained as I shut the bathroom door.
To shower and change clothes felt amazing. I took the longest shower of my life; good thing hotels had plenty of hot water. As I got out and dressed, I was surprised at Bo’s choice of clothes for me. He had actually done a great job of picking something out. He got me some dark gray leggings, a black tank top, and a black blouse with small gray and pale pink roses. He didn’t buy me any new underwear because he wasn’t sure what size to get, so I would go commando. I was just happy the tank top had one of those built in bras. René talked my ear off while it was Bo’s turn to shower. He didn’t take nearly as long as I had. When Bo came back out, he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I’m sure my mouth dropped open.
“Shut the front door,” I said, and then pretty much attacked him.
“Now who’s being gross?” Menelik said as I pushed Bo into the bathroom for a little make out session before we had to leave for the safe house.
The safe house wasn’t far from the hotel. They were both near the airport so we left the car with René and walked there. Safe houses can be identified by a symbol on or around the door; to me it looked kind of like a pointy lethal rose. Bo called it the vampire glyph. Menelik knocked on the door and said the required sentence; it was kind of like a secret password: first name, last name, then: requesting refuge from the sun.
“Menelik Imani requesting refuge from the sun,” he told the man at the door.
“Ages?” The man asked. This meant they were pretty full. Older vampires got priority.
“One hundred and seventeen,” Menelik answered. I hadn’t known he was that old.
“Two and three quarter’s centuries,” Bo said. Wow, I really felt like a baby now. “Umm…yeah, I’m like thirty.” I said feeling inferior. “And she’s with me,” Bo added, putting his arm around me.
I’d asked Bo once what kept vamps from simply lying about their age in order to get a room and he said that it was completely taboo, that vampires never lied about their age; they just didn’t do it. Maybe that’s why there aren’t many female vampires.
This safe house was one of the nicer ones that I’d seen. It was clean and well built. I’d only been in ones overseas thus far and those seemed to be run down and falling apart. It was like they were just abandoned buildings claimed as safe houses, where as this one looked a little more like an actual hotel, just darker and creepier. Bo offered to sleep on the floor or the chair but I told him we would work something out. I pushed the mattress onto the floor for Bo then piled the blankets on top of the box springs to cushion it for me and it worked out fine.
The next night we went back to the hotel to discuss our options. Bo was trying to talk Menelik into going back to the VRC. He wanted to try and convince them to let Wu and the kids go again, but Menelik reminded us for about the tenth time that he can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. I personally didn’t want to go back to that place, I saw the things that they did and it scared me. I didn’t want Wu and the kids to be stuck there, but I also didn’t think there was anything we could do. It was a high tech, high security, government facility. It would take the kind of spies you see in the movies with fancy gadgets to get in there and get them out. We just couldn’t do it.
Neither Bo nor Menelik seemed frightened of the place, but they hadn’t seen what I had. Menelik said he’d watched multiple vamps walk in and out of the place with no trouble at all. I guess being dragged there tied up and blindfolded gave us a different perspective.
“Bo, these people shot you for crying out loud! What if they just lock us back up as soon as we walk through the door?”
“Menelik said they didn’t want us, they had no interest in us. We were just a nuisance that had to be detained at the moment. I think if they wanted to do anything to us, they would’ve done it while we were there.”
“Yeah, and you don’t think showing back up is being more of a nuisance that maybe needs to be permanently detained, so we won’t bother them any more?”
“We’ll have Menelik with us this time; perhaps he can convince them otherwise.”
“Well, I don’t have that much faith in his abilities!”
“Gee thanks,” Menelik chimed in.
“What if they don’t want to be convinced?” I added.
“I think we should go and just see. We aren’t going to be starting any trouble, we are just there to talk. If they don’t want to let them go now, then we find out when, if ever, they do plan on doing so. Menelik said people walk in and out of there; I don’t think we will be in danger.”
“Tell that to the guy that shot you…twice. I don’t want to go.”
“Em, we need you. We need your ability to read people. If we are in danger you would be the first to know. You’ll know what they are thinking.”
“I can’t read minds Bo, I read feelings and see visions, it’s not the same thing.”
“Yeah, and that’s better than nothing. We will be safer if you come with us. We need you, I need you baby, please.”
Bo was playing dirty. He knew he could get me to do just about anything if he called me baby.
“Okay, yeah sure. Let’s go back to the dungeon of doom, sounds like fun,” I said sarcastically.
We would hunt tonight and go back tomorrow evening. The VRC was about an hour away so we didn’t want to go so late in to the night. I continued to try to talk Bo out of going back. I was afraid they would decide to lock us back up or worse, just one of us. I was afraid that by being a female vampire, they would want to do experiments on me. Maybe they would take Bo since he was so old? Maybe blood was more special the older it was, more pure or something like that. What if they found out we had gifts? Would that make them want to study us? Menelik had the power of persuasion and I could read feelings and see into people’s memories. How unique were those gifts? Did these people even know that vampires had gifts? I felt a little betrayed by the vampires going into the facility. They were selling our secrets. They were traitors to our kind.
On a related note, what was this facility doing with all the information they collected? What were they planning on doing with it? It was information collected there, I’m sure, that led them to create such weapons as the UV flash bangs they used on us and the Hannibal Lecter masks. I wondered if their findings were used for defensive or offensive purposes, seemed like the latter to me. So, vamps were going into this place and selling our secrets for money. I guess even immortals weren’t impervious to greed.
It was obvious that I wasn’t going to change Bo’s mind, so the next night we all got into the car and drove back to the VRC. Bo, Menelik, and I would go inside and René would wait in the car. We were going to rely on Bo’s natural ability to negotiate that came from decades as a business man, my gift to sense if we were in danger, and Menelik’s gift of persuasion to get us out of it, if need be. I was scared to death. This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, not including walking into Arlo’s mansion, the first or the second time. I felt like we had no defense here. If they wanted us, they were going to take us, and there was nothing we could do about it. Let’s just hope and pray that they didn’t want us.
I warned Menelik we should try and hide our abilities the best we could in case they made us more appealing to them. He agreed and the three of us got out of the car parked out front and walked back toward the brick and glass building. Inside the glass doors there was a long desk with two women about my age sitting behind it looking very clean and professional. One was on the phone and the other greeted us cheerily.
“Do you have an appointment?” She asked.
“No,” Menelik said. “We’re here to see Mrs. Riner.”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Riner,” she corrected, “is busy. If you like, we can schedule you an appointment with her for later this week.”
Menelik leaned his elbow on the desk and started laying on his oozing disgusting charm and throwing some persuasion in there too, I’m sure.
“You remember me don’t you sweetheart,” he smiled. “Yeah you remember me,” he smiled again. “I was here just a few days ago. I know I remember you. How could I forget that stunning white blouse and blue skirt you were wearing, you looked gorgeous. I don’t know why a beautiful woman like you is working here; you should be off modeling somewhere that’s for sure. Anyway, when I was here and Mrs. Riner asked me to come back but I forgot to schedule an appointment, such things forgotten in the presence of such beauty. I really need to see her, is there any way you can squeeze us in?”
Wow, that was a total load of absolute crap, but the girl was blushing and smiling and it seemed to be working. She did a little typing on her computer then said that Dr. Riner was in between appointments right now and she might be able to squeeze us in. She nodded to a security guard who was standing in the corner by the doors and told him where to escort us. The guard led us down a hallway and we followed.
The man led us to a large office and left us sitting there. The office had a cold, professional feel to it. The whole building did really, and I wondered for a moment if I was picking up feelings from the actual building like it were a person. I wasn’t, but briefly wondered what that would be like, not cool if a building was haunted or something. I walked around inspecting the office. There was a large solid oak desk with two wooden chairs on our side, and a large leather one on the other side.
“Em, you need to sit here with me so you can feel her out,” Bo whispered. I didn’t feel much like sitting, I was too nervous. I just nodded and would pace the floor until the dean of vampire torture made her appearance.
“Bo, look.” I’d noticed a couple small monitors on the wall, one behind the desk and one on the opposite wall.
“Thermal imaging,” Bo said. They were reading our body temperatures. It was really cool. Our bodies were blues, yellows, and greens.
I kept glancing back at those screens as I paced around the office. The space was very impersonal. There were no family pictures, no homemade paperweights, no paintings. There was a large bookshelf full of medical journals and a few metal, modern art looking decorations on the walls. The only thing remotely inviting was a small potted tree in the corner, but even it was plastic. There was one personal touch, being a slew of framed diplomas and certificates on the wall behind the desk. I didn’t want to get closer to see what they were; I thought it rude to go behind someone’s desk. That was their personal space. I could make out her name on one of the diplomas, Beth C. Riner, it was Harvard Medical School. I hadn’t met this woman but I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to like her. Her office was so cold, I was sure she had a personality to match.
We’d been sitting in her office for about fifteen minutes and I was starting to wonder if this chick was ever going to show up. I asked Menelik how long he had to wait last time and he said he’d been taken right to her, in a different office further down the hall. Menelik had given up his pacing and sat down on a small uncomfortable looking green couch on the left wall. I was amusing myself by standing in front of the thermal monitor and rubbing my hands together to make them turn orange and red, so it fully caught my attention when a full orange and red body appeared on the screen.
“How did you get in here? The woman demanded.
“Hello again Mrs. Riner,” Menelik said from the couch.
“You,” she said. “Who let you in here?”
“I asked the receptionist nicely,” Menelik flashed his million dollar smile at her, but she seemed unaffected by his charms. She wasn’t a young impressionable girl like the receptionist. She looked like she was maybe in her early fifties. She had shoulder length blonde hair and was wearing a dark blue skirt suit. The hard set of her mouth and wrinkle of her brow told me she’d probably worked for the government for a long time and probably made many hard decisions. The only emotion I was getting from her was hard cold unrest.
“You need to leave; I have an appointment in just a few minutes.”
“We’d like just a moment of your time please ma’am,” Bo said. She looked at Bo for a moment, I guess deciding if she would listen to what he had to say or call security.
“Make it quick,” she said, sitting in the chair behind the desk. Bo introduced us as I sat in the chair beside him to get closer to her. The only emotion I was getting off her was unrest, she was stressed out. I hadn’t heard whatever it was that Bo asked her, I was too busy trying to read her emotions, but her response sounded like it was a memorized script.
“We here at the VRC strive to better humanity through the collection of data and information to further understand vampires and their differences from that of mortal human beings. We also work towards learning from this information in order to educate ourselves and others for the benefit of us all, humans and vampires alike.”
That sounded like a very Hitler mentality. They were going to “better humanity” by torturing and experimenting on us.
“That sounds very diplomatic, but the fact of the matter is, you broke into our home and abducted our family.” Bo replied.
“Yes well, it was brought to our attention that a member of your,” she paused just a second, “family, had some vital information that would be very valuable to us.”
“So you just kidnapped innocent children?” I accused, speaking for the first time. At the word children, I felt the slightest spark of regret… interesting. I also felt a split second of longing. She didn’t regret kidnapping the kids, she regretted not having children of her own. She’d wanted kids, but never had any.
“I assure you, the children are safe and are being well cared for.”
“Yeah the guys that broke into the house with assault rifles and shot Bo seemed the very warm and friendly type,” I said sarcastically.
“I admit the collection team can be a bit aggressive.” She replied.
Was this chick for real? Okay, time to do some memory probing before we ran out of time.
“What vital information are you after exactly?” Bo asked.
I really wanted to know the answer to that myself, but I had to tune them out and concentrate.
I focused hard on Dr. Riner and felt the familiar tingle. I was in her home. It was as cold and empty as her office, no pictures of children or family on the walls; everything was cold and hard, just like her. She was looking very different than she did now. Her hair was wet from a shower and she was wearing flannel pajamas. There was a man there, I assume it was her husband, and they were arguing. He was complaining about how much she worked, they were talking divorce. No wonder I was reading so much stress from her. I was hoping I would see something useful, but Bo squeezing my leg quite hard pulled me from my vision. I wasn’t sure why he’d done it, Dr. Riner was still talking. Maybe she was saying something I needed to hear.
“We are indeed gathering information and researching the possibility of an anti-vampirism vaccine in the case of someone being turned who does not wish to be.”
Menelik spoke out from the corner, “You’re afraid the vampires are going to turn someone of importance and try to take over the world. That’s kind of a cinematic over exaggeration isn’t it?”
As he spoke, Dr. Riner’s emotions turned from stressed to annoyed. That wasn’t good for us.
“Shut up Menelik!” I said before she could respond to him. Menelik shot me a look, but he knew I was getting the inside scoop from over here, I knew her emotions.
“My apologies ma’am,” Menelik said. “I’m sure you will forgive me,” he said giving the deep stare of his persuasion.
“Yes Menelik, please stop.” Bo said and squeezed my leg again. I didn’t know why he was squeezing me.
“Dr. Riner, we just want our family back, please.” I said specifically using the word family to try and play on her emotions of losing hers, even if it was just her husband. Perhaps I could pull at that string.
“I’m afraid our research isn’t finished. We will return your family as soon as our testing is complete, unharmed, you have my word.”
This was going nowhere. I tried to enter her mind again but Bo flat out elbowed me in the ribs.
“What?” I said in a harsh whisper. He discretely pointed at the thermal imaging monitor and my head was fading from an orange color back to blue.
“What is your vampire gift Miss Polanski? What are you trying to use on me right now?” Dr. Riner asked.
Oh crap! Time to go!
“I think we’ll be leaving now,” I said standing up.
“I don’t think so,” she said, also standing and hitting a button on her desk that made a buzzing sound. I wasn’t sure what it did.
“You don’t really want to keep us around sweetheart.” Menelik said walking over to the desk. “We aren’t very interesting at all.”
I watched as Menelik’s head turned orange on the monitors as well.
“My thermal scan tells me differently,” she said and then a few men came through the door pointing guns at us.
“How about you, Mr. Pavloc, are you going to give me any trouble?” Dr. Riner asked.
“No ma’am,” Bo answered.
“Then you are free to go,” she said to him. “Escort Mr. Pavloc outside,” she said to the men, “and take these two downstairs for PET scans please.”
“No!” I screamed and ran to Bo’s side. One of the men fired on me and I felt something sink into my ribs. I looked down and there wasn’t a wound oozing blood as I expected, but a tiny pod sticking in me. I pulled it out and there was a small needle on the end.
“I’m sorry Em,” Bo said and caught me as my legs gave out on me.
“I told you this was a bad idea Bo. You never listen to me.”
I awoke lying on a table inside of a large machine. My arms were restrained.
“Miss Polanski please hold still, we’re almost finished,” a voice said over an intercom. Well, excuse me, I would hate to impede your torture, I thought to myself. A few moments later, a nurse came over and freed my arms. I sat up and still felt a little woozy from whatever sedative they shot me with.
“Are you all right to stand?” The nurse asked.
“No,” I answered. “I’m dizzy.” I was surprised that she even cared to ask. I looked around the room; it was a regular looking exam room, white and clean. Menelik was sitting in a chair by the door just on the other side of a large glass window and there was a security guard standing next to him.
The nurse stood there with me for a few minutes then suggested that I try to stand. She escorted me into the other room where Menelik was waiting.
“I told you guys this was a bad idea!” I yelled at Menelik. “Now look at us, what the hell are we going to do now?” The nurse backed away from me a little, a bit leery of my outburst.
“Geez, calm down Em,” Menelik said. “We’ll be out of here in a couple days. They said they are just going to run some tests and let us go.”
“Well, what if I don’t want to be a lab rat? What if I don’t want to be poked and prodded and experimented on?”
“We don’t have much choice sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me that.” I snapped.
“Sure thing Miss Polanski.”
I shot him a look.
The nurse spoke to the security guard and told him I was to go down to Dr. Sparks now.
“No,” I objected. The security guard tilted his head and rested his hand on the strange looking gun at his side.
“Don’t go giving me any trouble now girly.”
“Em,” Menelik interrupted. “These people aren’t evil scientists or anything, doing weird experiments; they are just doctors doing their job. They are just collecting information, that’s all. Would you just calm down.”
“They kidnapped me and my family, they shot Bo… twice! They locked us up in a dungeon for weeks nearly starving us to death and now they’re wanting to poke around inside my brain. I’m not okay with that!”
The security guard let out a loud sigh, walked over and took me firmly by the arm.
“Come on girly.”
I was surprised that I wasn’t too worked up to have a vision but as I struggled against his grip, a vision came to me as he pushed me out the door and led me down a hallway. He was human, and putting off boredom and exasperation. The vision set in as a pretty teenage girl was trying to leave the house but the security guard was telling her she wasn’t leaving the house dressed like that and to go upstairs and change. It was the typical father/daughter struggle. The girl screamed that she hated him then stomped off upstairs. A single tear fell down the man’s cheek as he sat back in a recliner. I felt bad for the guy; I remembered being that age.
He let go of my arm to touch a button on the elevator and was about to grab it again.
“Please don’t, I’ll behave, I promise. I won’t give you any trouble.”
The man nodded and we stepped into the elevator that held another security guard sitting inside. I guess the elevator isn’t a good place to be one-on-one with a vampire. I spoke to him as we rode, I couldn’t help myself.
“She doesn’t really hate you, you know, your daughter. She’s just at a difficult age. Don’t worry, you’re doing a good job.”
“You’re one of the psychic ones huh?” He looked over at me and his eyes softened. “Thanks girly.”
“Em,” I said, so he’d stop calling me girly.
“Turner,” he said back. “They aren’t going to hurt you here. Your friend is right. They just take samples, run scans, and perform a couple different tests. They don’t kill your kind.” The elevator door opened and Turner motioned for me to step out, I did, then followed behind him.
“I’ve seen this place through different eyes Turner, it’s not so harmless,” I said looking around. Turner led me around the corner and into an office.
“Have a seat girly.” I guess knowing my name wasn’t going to put an end to that.
“Are you going to stay here?” I asked.
“I’ll be right outside,” he smiled reassuringly. He had a crooked smile that was incredibly charming. He was nice looking for a middle-aged man. I decided I liked Turner. He did as he said he would and stood just outside the door.
A few minutes later, a grouchy looking old man that looked like a bridge troll walked in and introduced himself as Dr. Sparks.
“These electrodes are going to measure your brainwave patterns,” he said and tried to stick something on my head, but I backed away to look at it. He leaned forward and forcefully pushed it onto my temple.
“Sit still,” he ordered and continued to stick little things on my head with cords coming from them. I wanted to shove them all down his throat.
“What do you do; what’s your power?” He asked and I just glared at him. I wasn’t going to talk to this guy.
“Fine, have it your way,” the old man said.
He turned the machine on and it made my head feel fuzzy. It felt like a vision was coming but one never did. The old man started typing on a keyboard and I felt a sharp, shooting pain in my head and I winced, then came another, and another.
“This hurts,” I said but the old man just sat there staring at the screen in front of him. The pains got worse.
“Stop, you have to stop!” The man did nothing. “Turner!” I yelled, then grabbed a handful of cables and yanked them out of the machine.
“Stop that!” The old man yelled. As I kicked the machine into him, Turner stepped through the door, drew his gun, and shot me.
I awoke to the drum of a heartbeat and the smell of old spice; it was Turner, I knew it was. The drumming in my head meant that I was hungry.
“Stay back Turner, I’m hungry. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Well, maybe I did. I vaguely remember him shooting me with another one of those sedative darts.
“It’s okay girly, I’m not inside with you. There’s food right there next to the bed.”
I sat up and looked around. I was on a bed in an all-white room. It looked like a room of the psych wards you saw on TV. He was right, there were four bags of blood sitting on a small metal table by the bed. I grabbed one and sunk my teeth in, quickly downing it, then did the same with the second. The last two I was a bit more civilized, and pried open the tops and drank them. Can one be civilized while drinking blood? I wondered. I laid back on the bed and let the blood energize me.
“Sorry I had to take you out girly, but I thought you were going to kill the doc.” I looked past my feet to see Turner’s salt-and-pepper hair and crooked smile peeking between the small square of bars on the door.
“It’s okay. I wanted to kill him, I might have killed him. I don’t know what he was doing, but it hurt.”
“Yeah, nobody is real sure what happened there, it wasn’t supposed to hurt. He said you weren’t being very cooperative though.”
“How long have I been out?” I knew it had to be a little while judging by how hungry I was when I woke up.
“Two days. They already let your friend go.”
“What about Wu and the kids?”
“I’m not sure who that is hun. I just wanted to check to make sure you were okay.”
I was out for two days? That means the machine did some kind of damage to me and my body went into preservation mode to heal itself. Great, these jerks gave me brain damage.
“Turner?” I wasn’t sure if he’d walked away already.
“Will you stay a while please?”
I felt alone now that I knew Menelik had been released and even though he really got under my skin, I wish he was still here so I didn’t feel so alone. I’d always been a loner, but right now I felt like a scared little girl. I think Turner thought of me that way also because he did stay right there outside the door, just as I asked.
“If they let Menelik go, does that mean I’m free to go as well?”
“I’m not sure girly, I think they had another test or two to do on you before they were going to release you, but it shouldn’t be long.”
I wanted out of this place. Although it wasn’t proving to be the torture chamber I thought it was, I couldn’t shake the feeling of doom this place gave me. I wanted to go home. I was laying there dozing and thought I must be somehow dreaming because I heard a familiar voice, a voice that didn’t belong in this place.
“Open that door!” The familiar voice demanded.
“It’s okay Fred, you can open it,” I heard Dr. Riner say.
I looked up to prove my mind wrong, the voice I’d heard couldn’t be right, maybe it was the brain damage that Dr. Bridge Troll gave me. No, my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, walking into my room was… Angelus Beledante.
I swear, Angelus just needed wings, he looked like an Archangel. Serene and angelic but still someone you didn’t want to mess with. His long, pale blonde hair was hanging down past his shoulders and falling in his face. His walk meant business and he looked pissed off. I’d never seen him in real clothes before. He always wore the clothes the girls’ made him. The stuff that looked like hospital scrubs or karate gi’s, plain, simple garments. Today he was wearing a charcoal suit with a pale blue shirt underneath and he looked downright delicious. Whoa, down girl. The guy is like seventeen, remember. Well… really, he was like a thousand years old, that made it okay right?
“Em, are you all right?” He asked, cradling my face in both his hands. I just nodded.
“Come on, I’m getting you out of here.”
“Wait, Wu and the kids!”
“They’re coming too,” he smiled.
“I made a deal,” he said, taking my hand and helping me off the bed. He pulled me to him and hugged me. Angelus always smelled like rain and wind; he smelled like a storm. I hadn’t noticed Lyuben followed him in the room as well. She also hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks. She smiled at me, revealing the deep dimples on her dark skin. She had the most amazing smile I’d ever seen. Her smile was different than before, she now had fangs; Angelus had turned her. She was a mortal when I last visited them years ago. I wondered when that had happened. She wasn’t dressed nearly as fancy as Angelus, she was in black pants and hoodie.
Turner was standing by the door; Dr. Riner had to have been talking to him a moment ago.
“Fred?” I said as we approached him.
“First name, military men have no use for such things,” he smiled.
“Goodbye Fred,” I said and hugged him, then followed Angelus out the door.
“Goodbye girly,” he said behind me.
That wasn’t goodbye though. It looked like it was going to be one of those awkward situations where you say goodbye, but see the person for the next thirty minutes and you’re not sure if you should say goodbye again. We weren’t getting out of here as quickly as I’d hoped.
“If you’ll follow me Mr. Beledante,” Dr. Riner said, stepping in front of him.
Outside the door in the hallway was Niobi. If they were trying to be inconspicuous, they weren’t going to accomplish it with her around. She was a six-foot tall woman with jet-black hair and bright red highlights. She was ignoring the long shirt with leggings rule, and was wearing a black and red leather vest instead with a black shirt underneath, and tall boots. Honestly, she looked like a superhero. Wonder Woman would have only wished for a costume this awesome. She looked like Lady Deadpool from the comics.
We all followed Dr. Riner downstairs and I wasn’t sure what was going on. As we walked, everyone turned and looked at us, whispering. I wondered if they all knew who Angelus was. We finally stopped at an office where a girl in a lab coat was inside looking very nervous; I wondered if she knew what was going on or if she was just as confused and out of the loop as I was.
“We still need to get the sample from Miss Polanski, then we will get your sample,” Dr. Riner said.
“No.” Angelus said forcefully. “You’re not going to touch her again, you’ve done enough.”
“Mr. Beledante, we still have a job to do here and…”
She stopped short after Angelus gave Lyuben a nod and she waved her hand in the air. Dr. Riner grabbed a hold of Turner’s arm and just stared straight ahead.
“You’re not going to touch her.” Angelus repeated.
Dr. Riner was acting normal again a moment later although I wasn’t exactly sure what Lyuben had done to her. I guess she had an immortal gift as well. It was all new to me, but I guess this wasn’t something we would discuss via email.
“Mr. Beledante if you do that again, I will be forced to call security.”
Angelus smiled a sinister smile at her attempts to flex her power.
“Lyuben will be all too willing to blind them as well.” Then he said something in Bulgarian to Lyuben who smiled her glorious dimpled smile.
“Listen, I am in charge here and…” Dr. Riner started but Angelus interrupted her.
“Let us get one thing straight,” he said stepping towards her. “I am volunteering a sample as a courtesy, on good faith. I have destroyed greater beings than you with a flick of my wrist. I could destroy this building and everything in it, then simply take what is mine. Such wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them must share in the guilt for the dead. There are many innocent lives in this building. So, for their sake and yours, I would advise that you sit down and shut up.”
Dr. Riner did indeed sit down and shut up; she’d been outmatched. Checkmate you insufferable witch. I admit, I was seriously turned on. I’d never seen Angelus exercise his power like this. I’d never seen him so serious, so powerful. He took off his suit jacket and started rolling up his sleeve, and I swear my heart skipped a beat. He’s seventeen and has eight wives, I reminded myself, all of which you are good friends with. I wondered for a second if Lyuben would blind me if I asked her to, because I was enjoying the view a little too much.
The girl in the white jacket gathered her needed materials to take Angelus’ blood. The girl’s hands were shaking out of fear or anxiety but I also thought that she found Angelus very attractive. She must know from whom she was about to take blood. Was Angelus that renowned? I guess so. Angelus put his hand on top of the girl’s as it was shaking and he leaned in and whispered something to her, I couldn’t hear what it was, but it did calm her down.
She took four vials of Angelus’ blood then stuck a long Q-tip in his mouth and swabbed the inside of his cheeks. She leaned in very close to get the sample and blushed horribly while she was doing it. I glanced over at Lyuben to see her reaction. She had none. I guess she was used to sharing her husband with other women and the fact that this girl was obviously crushing on her husband didn’t seem to bother her. Niobi was standing guard outside the small room. Angelus stood back up and put his jacket back on. He took me by the arm and said we were leaving; thank God. I wouldn’t care if I never saw this place again. We made our way back upstairs and out the front door, Dr. Riner and a couple security guards following us the whole way.
“Wait,” I said. “What about Wu and the kids? Where are they?”
“They will be out momentarily,” Dr. Riner said.
“How do we know they are actually going to hold up their end of the bargain?” I said to Angelus. “How do we know they will send them out?”
“Oh they will,” Angelus said confidently. “…and Dr. Riner, you will no longer take our kind against their will, am I understood? I will be watching.”
Dr. Riner didn’t say anything, she didn’t agree but she didn’t argue either. Would she stop kidnapping vampires of interest to gather information? I didn’t think so, but only time would tell. In front of the building where Menelik’s car had sat just days ago was a shiny black GMC Yukon with blacked out windows looking like something the Secret Service would drive. Lyuben got inside but Niobi stood at the back of the vehicle vigilant. Angelus and I stood beside the car waiting for Wu and the kids.
“Are you alright?” Angelus asked cradling my face in his hands again.
“Yeah, I’m just glad to be out of that place. Why are you here, how did you know to come?”
“We are connected Em, my mind sees you.” He explained.
“What did you see?”
“I saw you locked away in bars. I saw a probe in your mind,” his brow furrowed at the recollection of the vision. “I saw an explosion of static in your mind.” Angelus grabbed me and hugged me.
We surpassed the appropriate length of a friendly hug a few moments ago and it was becoming just a tad awkward.
“Thank you for coming for me,” I said, thinking that if I started speaking he might release me. He pulled away slightly but didn’t let me go. He hooked his finger under my chin and made me look at him.
“How could I not?”
Then he kissed me. I admit, I didn’t fight it. I may have even kissed him back a little bit, but I did push him away after a few seconds. If Bo knew, he would be furious, and two of Angelus’ wives were here probably watching us right now. How would they feel? No, this wasn’t right. I backed away from him and his eyes were still closed.
“Blagodarya,” he whispered.
“Angelus, I…I just don’t think…”
I didn’t know what to say. He opened his eyes, then reached down and took my hands in his.
“When you touch someone’s life it is a privilege. When you touch someone’s heart, it is a blessing. When you touch someone’s mind, it is an honor. When you touch someone’s soul, it is a triumph. When you touch someone’s spirit, it is a miracle. You have touched all of these things. You complete me Em. Do you not see that? You see the past, I see the future; together we are a whole. We see the whole picture and I need you by my side. Come live with us, come home.”
I didn’t know what to say. I think this was pretty much a marriage proposal. Were eight wives not enough for him? Hi, my name is Emina Polanski, I’m the ninth wife to Angelus freakin Beledante… no, I don’t think so. I realized something then though, about him seeing the future and me the past. I hadn’t had a vision lately. I didn’t have one the whole time Angelus was holding me. I wasn’t blocking him. Was he immune to my power? I hadn’t been picking up feelings lately either, or had I? I didn’t think so. I knew the nurse downstairs was hot for Angelus, but was I picking that up off her feelings or was it just obvious, like intuition. Were my powers gone? I hadn’t had a vision since Turner’s daughter, since before…the machine.
“What’s wrong?” Angelus asked. He could see that my expression had changed.
“My gift, I think it’s gone. I think that machine, whatever it was, I think it shocked away my gift.”
Those jerks really did give me brain damage! I was hoping that Angelus had some magical words of wisdom, but I was distracted by the final emergence of Wu and the kids. I ran toward them as both kids ran toward me. As soon as Kim was in my arms, we heard a gunshot and I fell over on top of Kimber-li to protect her. I looked around but saw no shooter, no security guards, no swat team rushing at us. I did see Angelus fall to the ground then Niobi jumping on top of him, but then everything went black.
Kimber-li screamed in my arms and I heard Cameron call to Wu. There was a lot of shouting because no one could see. Lyuben had blinded us all. If we couldn’t see, then neither could the person who was shooting. I think Angelus had been shot, I saw him fall to the ground before everything went dark. He’d certainly shook things up in there but it didn’t make sense for them to shoot him. They knew he was immortal, unless they shot him with some special kind of bullet that could kill him. That sounded like something they were capable of doing.
“Auntie Em, I’m scared. I can’t see!” Kim said.
“I know baby I can’t either, but it’s okay, my friend is doing it so the bad people can’t see us.” I said to her. “Lyuben!” I then shouted.
“Em,” Niobi called to me. “Follow the sound of my voice.”
I picked Kim up and cradled her in my arms, prepared to run blindly to the car.
“Wu?” I called behind me.
“I’ll be right behind you Em, go.”
We hurried to the car and when I was about an arms length away from Niobi, my vision returned. Lyuben was projecting her gift outward from the car and we were now inside the perimeter.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Angelus has been shot,” Niobi told me. She had already put him inside the car. I opened the door and had the kids get in.
“Who shot him; who’s shooting?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let’s just get out of here.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Niobi got into the passenger seat. I expected to see another one of the girls behind the wheel, but it was a man I didn’t recognize. Angelus was lying across the middle row of seating and Lyuben was tending to the wound on his left shoulder blade. Wu and I had to climb in the back row and hold the kids on our laps. No one spoke for a long time. The ride was quiet and the kids eventually fell asleep. I didn’t know where we were going and I didn’t care as long as it was far away. When we pulled up at the safe house, Wu finally broke the long silence.
“I’m going to take the kids and get a hotel room.”
I looked at him confused.
“René has a room already; you could stay with her, but why?”
“They won’t let me in a safe house Em, I’m mortal again.”
My mouth dropped open in surprise. I hadn’t noticed in all the commotion, but his skin was back to the healthy tanned color of his oriental origin. I didn’t pay any attention to the faint regular paced heartbeats when the children were around, I assumed it was theirs. Wu was indeed mortal again. I was about to ask why and how but Niobi spoke before I could.
“You are with us, they will let you in. Yaya is mortal and has traveled with us thus far.” I assumed Yaya was the driver. What kind of name was that? It had to be a nickname.
We parked the car and walked up to the door of the safe house. Niobi walked with her arm around Angelus’ waist. He was okay as far as I knew, but his body was trying to slip into preservation mode; He needed rest. He gathered his strength and stood tall at the door then knocked. I knew I was about to see something special. Angelus didn’t say what he was supposed to say; I’d never seen that before.
“Angelus Beledante,” was all he said when the man slid open the window. He wasn’t “requesting refuge,” he was announcing his arrival. His presence trumped everyone inside. He probably could’ve requested that the whole house be evacuated and used only by him if he wanted to. The man at the windows eyes widened and I would’ve loved to have taken a picture of it.
The man opened the door wide and held his arm out for us to come in.
“My humans are staying as well, and the children are seedlings. No harm will come to any of them, am I understood?”
The man nodded. I knew the children would be safe here. It was completely against the vampire laws to kill or harm a seed. I guess Wu was now a seed again too, but he was past the age of when most are changed, so he was old enough to be considered a traitor to vampire kind by the extremists. I had no idea what that Yaya guy was, but if Angelus and the girls trusted him enough to travel with him, them I did too.
“I want one room for us all,” Angelus requested, “multiple beds.”
“Wait here, I’ll arrange it right away,” the man said.
A few minutes later, he returned with a woman and another man and said our room was ready. All three stared at Angelus like he was royalty. I knew Angelus didn’t travel much and this was probably the only time in their immortal lives they would ever see him.
“Can we get you anything?” The woman asked just before we reached our room.
“Yes,” he answered. “We need four feeders, and food for the mortals also.”
“We need some large syringes and a dry ice cooler,” Wu added.
Angelus looked around to see if anyone else had anything to add.
“…and cookies,” Cam added from behind Wu.
“and cookies.” Angelus smiled. “Thank you,” he nodded at the woman.
We all went into the room except Yaya who I guess would be standing guard all day outside our door.
The room was packed full. There was a queen size bed that was already in the room, in the floor was another queen size mattress and then two double size mattresses, all on the floor. I don’t know why they didn’t move the beds in as well. Perhaps they thought it would take too much time to take them apart and reassemble them and they didn’t want to keep Angelus waiting that long. The arrangement seemed fine with everyone. Kim and Cam were currently jumping on the full sized mattress in the right corner of the room. Finally feeling like I could relax and breathe, I grabbed Wu, pulled him to me, and hugged him.
“You know, if you could stop getting yourself kidnapped that would just be stupendous because I’m getting a little tired of having to come rescue you all the time.” Wu pulled away and gave me the sincerest thank you then hugged me again.
It wasn’t long before the feeders came. They brought food for Wu and the kids as well, gas station sub sandwiches and chips, and of course some cookies. Wu sat the kids down for a picnic in the corner while the rest of us fed. I got to see Angelus feed which was something I’d wondered about, but not seen before. He used his finger prick, which looked like a lethal banjo pick on his thumb, to puncture the girl’s wrist then he drank from the hole. A couple thousand years of biting his prey had worn his fangs down to mortal length. I had a feeling he was a little embarrassed by this fact so I didn’t stare. Again, I started to wonder if I was picking up emotions or if I was just assuming things. I wasn’t feeling things with the certainty that I had before.
I wasn’t sure what that machine had done to my brain. I have to admit, I wasn’t too heart broken to see my gift disappear. I was starting to adapt to it and I knew I would eventually learn to live with it, but I wasn’t sad to see it go either. I pulled my full sized mattress over in front of the door to clear a path to the bathroom and sat down. Angelus was lying on the real bed and Lyuben was sitting next to him. Niobi was on the big bed on the floor; I assumed she would share it with Lyuben since it was right there next to Angelus.
Wu had just tucked the kids in over at the mattress in the corner. I didn’t know if he was going to try to squeeze onto that mattress as well or if he would sleep next to me. He could now that my gift was gone; it wouldn’t be a problem. I hadn’t told anyone but Angelus that it was gone and really, I wasn’t certain that it was. I guess I should try to find out for sure.
I called Wu over to me. He kissed the kids’ foreheads, came over, and sat down next to me.
“Grab my arm Wu.”
He reached over and grabbed my forearm, and we both waited. I got nothing.
“Nothing?” Angelus asked from across the room. He and the girls were watching us.
“No, nothing,” I said.
“What happened?” Wu asked me.
“They hooked me up to some kind of machine and it hurt, it shocked me and I haven’t had a vision since.”
“Have you tried to reach for them?” Angelus asked. I see Korin had filled him in on every aspect of my gift.
“No,” I answered.
“Try,” he said.
I closed my eyes to concentrate; although it made me uncomfortable knowing everyone in the room was staring at me. I tried hard to concentrate on Wu’s thoughts. Everyone was sitting there in anticipation hoping and wishing that I could do it, that my gift wasn’t gone, but really I didn’t know if I wanted it back. If I was able to reach for a vision and get one, would my gift come flooding back? I tried anyway, just so I would know for sure if it was gone. I felt the tingle a little, but lost it again. I sat there for a few more minutes trying, but I got nothing more than just a little tingle, no visions. It was gone, this was bitter sweet for me. I liked being special and doing things that others couldn’t do, but it was no secret that my relationship with Bo had suffered tremendously as a result of this gift. I saw things I didn’t want to see and any kind of physical contact was difficult for us. Maybe things would go back to normal, but I had no idea where Bo was.
I finally gave up reaching even though Angelus tried to persuade me to keep trying. I was already tired and reaching for visions that never came was exhausting. I changed the subject and asked Wu to tell us what happened while he was at the VRC. He was inside for quite some time and I wanted to know how and why they changed him back into a mortal. We all sat listening, except the children who had already fallen asleep, as Wu told us the horrible story of what happened and why.
Wu was a man of few words, like his grandfather, so he didn’t go into great detail of his experience. What he did tell us was enough to set my mind spinning. He told us that he lost track of how many times he had been turned and then unturned. They took multiple syringes of blood then made him drink a small cup of blood and he became mortal again. They took more blood and changed him back. They did this repeatedly and Wu was completely unaware of how long he’d been inside the VRC. I couldn’t imagine going through that over and over again. The change was a traumatic experience just the one time. Going through it repeatedly had to be taxing on his body.
“How did they change you back into a mortal? How were they able to do that?” I asked.
“When they came for us, when they took us, they also got into the safe and took grandfather’s blood. That is how.”
I sat thinking about that for a few minutes.
“So it’s true then, it really does work?” I looked over at Angelus but I think he’d fallen asleep already.
“Yes,” Wu answered. “Not only that, but once mortal, I could drink my own blood taken when I was immortal and be changed that way as well.”
Okay, it took me a moment to wrap my mind around that concept. So, they gave Wu Li’s blood and changed him back into a mortal, then took vials of his mortal blood. Then gave him Antecedent blood to change him back into a vampire, only to make him drink the vial of his own mortal blood and become mortal again. I had trouble wrapping my mind around it.
I could see why the VRC had wanted Wu so badly. This kind of information and technology would be priceless to them. If they could harness the power to unchange any vampire, they could completely wipe us out if they wanted to. Could they do that? Wouldn’t they have to have the blood within that family? However, perhaps just as any Antecedent’s blood can change any seed, perhaps any unchanged seed can change an Antecedent. Maybe it was possible for an Antecedent to have a child, drink from that child, and be mortal again. If the VRC unchanged all the Antecedents, there would be no one who could make more vampires. It would be the end of the immortals. What if the vampires were already aware of this, maybe this was why there were seed hunters. They wanted to change as many as possible to get their numbers up to prevent a forced extinction, not a natural one.
“Wait,” a thought suddenly hit me, “how did they even know you had Li’s blood?” I asked.
“The same way they knew the security codes to get into your house and mine, and the combination to the safe…Song told them.” What?! Wow, I knew that Song wasn’t very fond of vampires, but I never would’ve imagined that she would sell out her own brother-in-law or nephew and niece! I wondered if they experimented on Cameron and Kimber-li also. They probably did, my poor babies. I wanted to hurt them, hurt them all…everyone at the VRC. Well, maybe not Turner, but everyone else and Song, especially Song! How could she do this to Wu and the kids? I wondered what would happen once we got home. I wondered if Wu would kill her, if I didn’t do it first.
Wu got out the syringes that he’d requested when we arrived and filled two with his own blood and put them inside the cooler that they also brought. He said he was going to keep reserves of his own human and Antecedent blood just in case.
“So you plan on changing back?” He was the only person I’d ever known, maybe the only person in existence, to become immortal then change back.
“Yes, I feel I can better protect my family as an immortal,” he answered.
“Angelus will change you back,” I said.
“I know, but let’s let him regain his strength first.”
I was hoping we would be headed home the next night but we didn’t. It felt like it’d been years since I’d been home. In reality it had been almost a month. I couldn’t imagine how Persia was feeling right now with her husband and children both missing, not knowing if they were alright. I wondered if René has kept in touch with her. I’m sure she has. This would certainly be a bittersweet reunion for Persia, having her family back only to discover it was her own sister who caused all this.
I thought back to the night we were taken and I remembered that Song was especially worried about me. Knowing what I know now, I think she was worried about my power, not my safety. I’d shown her my power just about a week before we were taken and it scared her, she called me a witch. Then something clicked; the guys that took me and tried to kill me also called me a witch. I bet Song arranged for them to kill me to get me out of the way so I wouldn’t know what was coming.
How could she have so much hate for us? I get that she didn’t like me or Bo, but Wu was family now. What about the kids, how could she want to harm them? Dr. Riner had used the word “cure,” maybe she just wanted them cured. She feared our kind and didn’t want her own nephew or niece to become one of us. Geez, this was playing out just like one of the X-Men movies. Where’s Hugh Jackman when you need him?
The next night, Angelus and the girls went out to hunt and I really wanted to go with them to see them in action. I wanted to see how they did it and if Angelus could teach me any age old hunting secrets but I didn’t want to leave Wu and the kids in the safe house by themselves. I was sure they would be okay, but my instincts told me not to leave them unprotected. Now that Wu was mortal again, he had his limits. He was by no means weak; the guy could kick some serious butt. I’d seen him take on a vampire even as a mortal back in the day and hold his own. Our two groups parted ways, the Bulgarians to hunt and the Americans to chase down some cheeseburgers.
I left Wu and the kids inside of a fast food joint. Wu was scarfing down multiple bacon cheeseburgers and telling me through his full mouth how much he missed real food. I was jealous, a bacon cheeseburger sounded amazing. I walked down a couple streets thinking about my mortal life. I missed food, I missed being normal, I missed Brian. I thought about all the times we stayed up all night eating pizza, playing video games, and laughing until our stomachs hurt. How different would my life be right now if I hadn’t taken the job with Bo? It’s crazy how much little choices in life can impact your whole existence.
I hadn’t walked down a whole block before some young punk was spouting obscenities at me and demanding my money. I was in a mood, so I admit, I played with my food. I let him put up a fight so I could practice some of my moves that Wu taught me over the last couple of years. When he realized I was too skilled for him he tried to run away. I grabbed him and bit. I wasn’t careful about his disposal; I simply threw him into a nearby dumpster. In a big city like this, it would probably be a while before anybody found him anyway. If Bo knew this, he would undeniably scold me. I stood there for a moment to see if he would step out of the shadows to do just that, but he didn’t.
Where was Bo? I hadn’t seen him since Dr. Riner caught on to my gift. Was he just going to leave me there? Did he go back home? No, Bo wouldn’t do that. He was probably back at the hotel with René and Menelik trying to devise a plan to get me out. I didn’t think to ask the safe house keeper if Bo stayed there last night. I would go pick up Wu and the kids, then go to René’s hotel and see if he was there. Wu and the kids were just finishing their ice cream sundaes when I got back to the restaurant. Wu was taking full advantage of what little time he had to be mortal.
It was only a few blocks to René’s hotel but we took a cab instead of walking. It was cold and windy outside and the kids didn’t have coats. Once there, it took a few minutes for René to answer the door and I didn’t want to know why. I’m glad my gift was gone so I wouldn’t find out. René hesitated a moment and waited for me to nod before she hugged me. I didn’t feel like explaining that my gift was gone. I did, however, want to yell at Menelik and give him a big fat “I told you so,” but I would do that later.
“Where’s Bo?” I asked.
René and Menelik just looked at each other.
“What, where is he?”
“I haven’t seen him since yesterday,” Menelik said.
“Where did he go?”
“I don’t know,” Menelik answered. “He may have went back home.”
“What? So he was going to leave me in that horrible place and just go home?”
“He knows you got out Em,” René said. “He also knows who got you out. He’s pretty upset.”
“Why? What does it matter who got me out, as long as I got out? You’d think he’d be happy I was out of that horrible place.”
“Bo’s a proud man,” René said. “It was a pretty big blow to his ego for Angelus to come rescue you instead of him.”
“Well what the hell was he doing to rescue me? He just stood there while they shot me, while they took me, and did nothing!”
“There was nothing he could do Em,” Menelik spoke in Bo’s defense. “Was he supposed to take on half a dozen armed guards? If he would’ve done anything, he would’ve been shot as well. He did the smart thing and walked away so he could get out and try to come up with a plan to get us out. He sat outside that place the whole time we were in there, tracking everyone’s movements trying to come up with a plan.”
“Well excuuuse me, but since I’d been locked up in that place for the second time this month and this time they hooked me up to some kind of machine that fried my brain, I was pretty grateful to anyone who came to rescue me!”
“Yeah, very grateful,” Menelik said.
I didn’t know what he meant by that comment, but I was done with this conversation. I just wanted to go home.
When dawn approached, Wu had the kids stay there at the hotel with René while the rest of us went back to the safe house. Wu was going to have Angelus change him and he didn’t want the kids to see him lying in anguish in the bath tub as the change took place. I hated waiting on other people when all I wanted was to go home. If I had a vehicle or money for a plane ticket, I would’ve already left. I hated New York now, and never wanted to come back. The only vehicle we had was Menelik’s, so I had no idea where Bo went, or how he got there. So unfortunately, I was at the mercy of everyone else. I had to wait until either Menelik was ready to leave or hitch a ride with Angelus’ group.
I was hoping one or the other of them would want to leave the next night. I thought Angelus and the girls might come home with us and stay for a few days, but Angelus said they were leaving to attend to some business.
“What kind of business?” I asked.
“I’m going to go pay a visit to your friend Turner.”
“You’re not going to hurt him are you? I liked Turner, he was nice to me…even though he shot me with a sedative gun.”
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” he said. “I’m not going to hurt him; I’m going to employ him. I want eyes on the inside of that place.” I wondered what Angelus would do if they continued taking vamps against their will.
I said goodbye to him and the girls, and once again, Angelus asked me to come live with them. I declined of course, I couldn’t leave the kids. They had become such a big part of my life that I couldn’t live without them. I finally had the family I always wanted. I had a sister and a best friend in René, a brother and confidant in Wu, and love for Bo that would never die. I’d found what I’d always longed for, a place where I belonged. Bulgaria was nice and I did feel something that seemed to pull me in that direction, but my family needed me. Plus, I also had some business of my own to attend to back at home. I really wanted to kill Song, or at the very least hurt her for all that she had done.
Wu was up and about quicker than I expected. The poor guy had gone through the change so many times this month, then yet again last night; he had to be physically exhausted. We hunted on the way back to the hotel. I’d grown tired of killing people. Granted they tasted good, but I really wanted to run through the woods and chase down an animal of some kind. The city just wasn’t for me. City vampires didn’t know what they were missing. Upon reaching the hotel, I was happy to see that they were packed up and ready to go. We were finally going home. For me, it wasn’t nearly soon enough.
We were going to make the trip in one night. If Bo were still with us, we would definitely be stopping for a night along the way. Bo wouldn’t push his luck like we planned to. It was a twelve-hour drive but we could make it in ten or less. Menelik drove like a mad man. I assumed he could mentally persuade a cop to not give us a ticket if we were pulled over. We would arrive home just an hour or so before sunrise. I wondered if Bo was home already. I didn’t like not knowing where he was or if he was okay. Sure, he was acting like a hardheaded child, but I still worried about him. If he hadn’t disappeared, I wasn’t sure how we would all have gotten home; the car was jammed full as it was. It was a long drive but it felt amazing to arrive home.
I couldn’t describe the feeling of walking through the door of Wu’s house. It felt so good to be home! The children ran to their mother’s arms and she cried as she held them. This happy reunion was short lived though, as Song also walked into the room.
“The kids need to go to their room,” I said. I hated to cut their time with Persia short, but they didn’t need to see what was about to happen.
“No, I want mama,” Cameron whined.
“Do as you’re told,” Wu said sternly. The kids headed to their room as Persia looked back and forth between Wu and I and asked what was going on. As soon as she got those words out and the kids were out of sight, I lunged at Song with vampire speed knocking her to the ground. I bent down, picked her up by the neck, and slammed her against the wall. Persia ran to Wu’s side asking again, what was going on.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” I said. “Your miserable sadistic little sister here sold us out. She contacted the VRC and told them that Wu had his grandfather’s unchanged blood and that he could use it to turn mortal again. She sold his secrets, then, she tried to have me killed so I couldn’t see it coming. Finally, like all that wasn’t bad enough, she had your husband and children kidnapped and tortured.” I then turned to Song, “does that about sum it up?”
Persia looked to her husband for confirmation.
“It’s true,” he said to her. “That’s how they knew all the key codes to get in and the safe combination. It was Song.”
“Song, how could you?” Persia asked, stunned.
“They were going to cure them, so they wouldn’t become monsters. I was helping! What would father say if he knew that you married this…thing. That you gave birth to these abominations…” She wasn’t done talking, but I squeezed her throat and picked her up off the floor a few inches when she called the kids abominations. I didn’t want to hear anything else she had to say. Those were going to be her last words ever spoken. I squeezed even harder and her face began to turn red.
“No, please,” Persia begged. “Please don’t kill her. I know what she has done is awful, but don’t kill her. She is still my sister, please.”
I didn’t loosen my grip, but I turned to look at Wu, I felt this was his call. Song was his wife’s sister, his sister-in-law. It was he who had been taken and tortured. I felt like it was his decision to make. He had better make that decision quickly though, because Song hadn’t had a breath for a while and I wasn’t letting up. I prepared for his word either way; I would either crush her throat or let her go.
“Let her go Em,” Wu finally said. I let her unconscious body fall to the floor.
“I won’t let this go unpunished,” he said.
“I understand,” Persia whispered.
Wu leaned down and bit Song’s wrist. He took a lot of blood and I wasn’t sure what he was doing. He then bit his own wrist and dripped it into her mouth. He was going to change her!
“What are you doing?” I asked. It didn’t make sense to me to make someone who hated us so badly nearly invincible.
“She will become what she hates; I can think of no greater punishment.”
Wu knew my concerns before I even voiced them.
“We can’t trust her, I know that. I will send her away. Help me,” he said.
When he said send her away, he meant literally. We took Song’s body to a cargo-shipping yard and put her inside one of the containers headed overseas. That’s why he drained her blood, to weaken her. She wouldn’t have the strength to break out, or even be conscious until she was far from this place.
The sky was beginning to lighten by the time we left the ship yard. We weren’t going to be able to make it all the way home. The sun was going to peak over the horizon at any minute, which meant instant death for us both. We had to abandon the car just inside the city and take to the sewer system. This was the latest either of us had ever been out. While walking through the maze of sewer tunnels Wu let out a loud sigh. The poor guy had been through so much lately. I reached down and took his hand.
“Do you think I made a mistake?” He asked.
I didn’t want to say it but I did, I really did. I didn’t think giving someone who hated us so badly that much power was a good idea. Giving her strength, speed, and immortal life just sounded like a recipe for disaster.
“She’s going to be pissed when she comes to.”
“Perhaps, but perhaps she’ll realize that we are not monsters after all.”
“What if she comes back? What if she wants revenge?” I asked.
“Then…we’ll be waiting,” he answered.
I hated the sewer, but we had no other choice. The pull of dawn was draining us of energy and I hoped we didn’t run into any kind of trouble in our weakened state. Thankfully, we were able to eventually find our way to the underground vault door. I crashed there at Wu’s house; I didn’t have the strength to go back over to my own. I hadn’t even thought to check and see if Bo was there.
The next night, I did go over to check on Bo, but he hadn’t been home. I was getting very worried. It took him almost another full week to return. He had walked home from New York! When he stepped through the door, I ran to him and wrapped my arms around him, despite the fact he was a total mess.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in a kind of monotone snippy voice.
“Where else would I be?” I asked.
“With your boyfriend in Bulgaria.”
Seriously, how many times could we have this same conversation over and over?
“Do you want me to leave you Bo? Do you want me to go to Bulgaria? Is that what you want?”
He didn’t say anything, he just pulled away from me.
“Listen to me,” I said stepping in front of him and pointing my finger into his chest. “I want to be with you. I choose you Bo. I’ve always wanted you, even when I wasn’t supposed to.”
“How can you still want me? You’ve seen all my sins, all my ugliness, and you will continue to see all the evil I’ve done in my life. How can you want that?”
“I want you, all of you, just the way you are. You’re not perfect, but you’re mine and I love you. How long will it take for you to realize that?”
“…at least a couple centuries,” he said and pulled me toward him and kissed me.
“Seeing things won’t be so much of a problem anymore, my gift is gone,” I told him.
I went on to tell him about what happened at the VRC, with me and with Wu also. How Song was behind it all, and what happened once we got home. He shuttered when I told him about Wu and I having to take the sewer home. I thought for sure he would scold me but he didn’t. He was silent, taking all the information in. I knew he was thinking the same thing as I was, what if Song comes back for revenge? Wu was right, we would just have to cross that bridge when and if we came to it. For now, things were back to normal. It felt great to lay in bed with Bo and cuddle up to him again. I had missed our physical relationship. We happily took down the Berlin wall in our bed and slept completely entangled with one another, the way it should be.
I was standing in the woods watching Bo and Menelik but I wasn’t sure what they were doing. They were looking at something, watching something and handing a pair of binoculars back and forth. They were talking also but I couldn’t hear their voices; I couldn’t hear anything. Why can’t I hear? I was standing right there, I wasn’t too far away. I looked to see what they were looking at. We were back at the VRC. Noooo, not this place again, I hate this place! It was me they were watching. I was far away but I could see that it was Angelus, the girls, and I walking out of the VRC then standing there by the car. Oh crap, no Bo, please don’t watch this, no! Bo was watching through the binoculars as Angelus hugged me, then kissed me.
I watched Bo sit up and pull the binoculars from his face, crushing them in his hands. Their voices were cutting in and out now intermittently. Bo was pissed and cussing at Angelus as Menelik was trying to calm him down. I couldn’t hear full sentences, just every few words. Bo picked up a rifle that had been propped up against a tree. Whoa, what was he doing with a gun? He held it to his shoulder and looked through the sites.
“Okay, she’s clear,” I heard Menelik say.
I looked past them to the VRC, at myself rushing toward the children and BANG! I sat straight up in bed and pushed Bo’s arm from off of my chest. I was breathing heavily and felt disoriented. Bo shot Angelus, it was Bo. I’d had a vision. I looked around our dark bedroom and the voice of Carol Ann in the poltergeist movie echoed in my head…..they’re baaaack.
******* SPECIAL REPORT*******
This is a special report from WKLN news. There has been an explosion at a government facility in upstate New York. The building is a CDC research center for non-communicable diseases. Emergency crews are on the scene, and the fire has been contained. The number of casualties is unknown at this time, but it has been said that the fire alarm sounded minutes before the explosion, which saved countless lives. Officials say that not everyone made it out of the building, however. Among the unaccounted for is the director of the CDC annex, Dr. Beth Riner. It is too early to say what caused the blast, but numerous problems were reported this evening with the computer and security systems. A representative from the CDC has issued a statement reassuring the public that there is no danger of contamination from the disease samples held inside. Although, there is a sense of panic among the eye witnesses saying that they experienced a moment of temporary blindness just before and after the blast occurred. We will continue to follow this story and pass along any further updates as they become available.
March 17, 11
My immortal gift is returning. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
March 20, 11
Should I write about our time at the vampire research center? Is that something I want to remember? Should I let the passing time of my immortal mind let that memory crumble away like the walls of an ancient city? No, it’s significant. So many things happened there. Our time at the VRC changed us, it changed us all, and not for the better. I think we are all a little less trusting now, Wu especially. His wife, Persia, feels guilty. She feels partially responsible for what happened. It was her sister that betrayed us all. Song hated vampires, hated them so much that she would have her own brother-in-law, niece, and nephew kidnapped and tortured. They promised Song a cure. They said they were going to cure Cameron and Kimber-li. Granted they were only half vampire, but in being so, they have the potential to later become Antecedents and create more vampires themselves.
It took a long time before the kids would talk about what happened to them there. Like Wu, the doctors at the VRC changed them back and forth from vampire to mortal and continuously took blood samples. It traumatized them. I thought they could benefit from counseling, but its not like you can take them to any regular old shrink and say ‘hey, we were all kidnapped by a vampire research swat team and held prisoner. We are all vampires and the kids are half vamp seeds. They were pretty traumatized by being turned immortal then mortal again, can you offer some advice please.’ We’d all be committed! There were no vampire shrinks that I’d ever heard of because immortals emotions weren’t much of a problem.
March 25, 11
I’m not sure how to help the twins. They’ve had nightmares since the whole thing happened. Wu said they frequently wake up screaming. They also have what I guess I would call separation anxiety. They want to be with Wu and Persia constantly. Mainly they can’t stand to be separated from each other. I’ve heard that’s a normal twin thing anyway, but the trauma of what happened just seemed to magnify that in them. The first time Persia and Wu tried to separate them was something I’ll never forget. They were both screaming and crying. Kimber-li pretty much had a panic attack. It was horrible and I don’t know if they will ever recover from what’s been done to them. The VRC traumatized us all. That will be all I have to say about it.
I sat at my desk flipping through the pages of my journal. That was years ago. I try to write as much in my journal as possible. I know it will be another century before the memories of my mortal life start to fade away. I made a mental note to go back and add the first two digits of the year to all my dates. I will forget what century these were written in eventually. I still haven’t accepted the fact that I’m going to forget important people and occurrences in my life. The thought of forgetting my parents bothered me. I didn’t want to ever forget them. I held strong to the memories I had of my mother cooking breakfast on Sunday mornings. The way her hair was always falling down out of her messy bun high on her head and into her face. She would always try to blow it back up out of her eyes, but it would fall right back down again. Memories like these were priceless. I wrote down every one of Aunt Eileen’s sayings that I could remember. There were things that I just couldn’t describe in words that I knew would eventually be forgotten. The way Brian smelled, that combination of cologne and cigarette smoke. The feeling of security I got when I was in my father’s strong arms. Those things simply can’t be put into words.
I flipped past a post card I received from Turner. He was the security guard at the VRC who was so nice to me. Angelus had given him my address and instructed him to send me word that he was okay. I guessed it was so I wouldn’t be mad at Angelus for blowing up the VRC. Angelus didn’t want me to think that he’d killed Turner since I’d become so fond of him while I was there. It was a post card from Coastal Carolina University. Angelus had paid for his daughter to go to college there in exchange for some inside information about the facility. That information was used in the destruction planning of the VRC. Angelus never admitted to blowing it up, but we all knew it was him. He had warned Dr. Riner on our way out that she was to stop taking vampires against their will to experiment on them and that he would be watching. Eye witnesses at the center had reported momentary blindness when it happened and that just so happened to be Lyuben’s gift.
I never told Angelus, or anyone else, the truth about who shot him back then in the parking lot. I thought it better if it remain a mystery. Telling him that Bo shot him out of jealousy wouldn’t help their already rocky relationship. I was furious with Bo when I found out through a returning vision that it was him who shot Angelus. That turned into a knock-em-down, drag-em-out tirade. It was probably the biggest fight we’d ever had as a couple. Sure, Angelus had kissed me and kind of asked me to marry him, but shooting him was a bit excessive. A gun shot was, by no means, fatal to a vampire but it was just rude. You don’t go around shooting people if they make you mad. It’s just not polite. I knew Bo was jealous over Angelus but I never thought it was bad enough for him to do anything like that. Immortals felt things more than Bo would ever have me believe they did. I had to feel it for myself before I would truly know what muted feelings meant. I still felt love and hate, just not to the extremes as I once did. Being immortal was like taking a valium; you were just more resilient to life’s woes.
I kept in frequent contact with all our Bulgarian friends. Angelus and the girls were always there to help. Korin was particularly helpful in regards to my immortal gift, as she had once lived with a man that had a gift very similar to mine. My visions returned slowly. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, if I was relieved or disappointed. It was nice to be special, to do things that other people couldn’t do, but it wasn’t a pleasant gift. I always experienced other people’s pain, fear, and regret. My gift emanated from physical touch and manifested into visions, like nightmares while awake. They were always awful things. Korin had a theory about why; she thought my gift touched the part of the brain that processed those emotions. Why oh why couldn’t I have a gift that touched the part that dealt with happiness? Having my brained fried, or whatever it was that they did to me at the VRC, was a bit of a blessing though. Well, I wasn’t sure if it was from the brain frying or if maybe time had just allowed me to get a better handle on my gift, but now, I very seldomly had visions that caught me off guard anymore when people touched me unexpectedly.
I’m still not safe from nightmares though. Bo and I had to put the Berlin wall back up in our bed and we’ve gotten used to it being that way. I was hoping that part would go away, but it never did. I’ve been a vampire for thirteen years now. For me, time still seemed to pass quickly. Bo said after a hundred years it wouldn’t seem to anymore. Wu’s twins are now twelve, and it’s been seven years since we all escaped the VRC. I was afraid for a long time that Song would return to get revenge on Wu for turning her into what she hated most. It was a fitting punishment but a risky one. I sometimes wondered if she was still living. I imagine that since she detested vampires so much, she probably set herself on fire when she realized what she had become. Her betrayal still carried a sting for us all, something I didn’t care to forget.
I turned another page. I put pictures in my journal also. So, I guess it’s more of a scrap book than a diary; telling myself that made me feel less juvenile about it. I was currently staring at a photo of Brian and I, him with his arm around me. His hat was turned around backwards and you could see just a little blue hair poking out. We both had our tongues sticking out.
It took a long time for me to let go of the guilt of his death. It was Arlo that killed him, but it was me who insisted on going into that house knowing how dangerous it was. Brian would have never let me go in alone. He was just that kind of friend. The kind of friend that would stay up all night covering your windows and waiting for dawn to make sure no sunlight got into your room. He was the kind of friend that would offer an arm to bite when you’re newly turned and still leery of killing. The thought of the way Brian’s blood tasted made my mouth water. Okay, time to eat! I closed my journal and went to change.
We vampires seldomly feed on humans, it’s just too risky. People file missing person reports and if too many of them pop up at once the police start throwing around the idea of serial killers. Animal blood works just fine. I still had my herd of alpacas that I take care of and use as feeders. I preferred this way of eating like I learned from my friends in Bulgaria. I would much prefer the blood of leopards and tigers, like they had, but that was impossible around here. Carnivores tasted far better than field grazers, but you take what you can get.
Feeding my alpacas regular treats of apples and sweet potatoes made them taste a little like oatmeal I thought, from what I could remember anyway. It was bland, it didn’t carry the spice or flavor that other animals did. On my way to the field I thought again about Brian’s blood and how tempting it was. The nicotine in his bloodstream gave me a high that I really enjoyed. It made my body hum. My mouth filled up with saliva again. Okay, tonight I’m breaking the rules, tonight I’m going to take a human.
Danger is lurking in the shadows
Tensions are high and chaos ensues as Em and her family seem to have more questions than answers when it comes to life, love, and their future. The children are exhibiting unheard of traits and it’s clear that no one can be trusted to keep their family’s secrets. Drastic measures must be taken to safeguard their way of life, but the children have been keeping some secrets of their own.
Susan Stumpf is a multi-genre, independent author who brings a realistic gravity to her stories. Her characters are relatable and wonderfully flawed, like herself. She is an Air Force veteran and West Virginia native. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and an over active imagination that has prevented her from ever watching scary movies alone. In between novels, you’ll find her working with her husband and two children on their farm in southern West Virginia. When she’s not chasing kids or shoveling manure, she enjoys movies, reading, hiking, camping, and kayaking.
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