Archive for vampire

DJB: Kiss and Tell

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 23, 2011 by vampirony

When I first caught a scent of the Carpathian early in the evening, I had followed it out to the street expecting that a fight would ensue. I found myself facing yet another new condo complex under construction just across from the Hyatt. If its originality was already marred by just advertising luxury condos, it looked like a wine bar was nearing completion on the ground floor. Imagine, a wine bar in Bellevue. I’d have turned up my nose if I hadn’t been actively sniffing with it.

But after that first very strong whiff, the scent faded and I was standing there for far too long being buffeted by toxic car fumes. Unable to ascertain its direction further and unwilling to hunt it down, I’d taken up watch back in the Wintergarden, grabbing a magazine.

At first, waiting was a blessing. It meant I had more time to assimilate the bounty from my blood gorge the night before. I could feel my cells bathing in it. It made me feel strong, fast, nimble, lethal. In other words, I felt little like my normal self. I was a terrible vampire, in the traditional sense, and I had plenty of time sitting in the Wintergarden, surrounded by the vacuous space of modern hospitality architecture, to rue my decision of not letting Valerian help.

I wondered if my pride and anger had gotten the better of me and, in doing so, would be the worst for Sophie. Stretching out my senses, I tried to hear her, feel her but we were not that acquainted yet, not in this lifetime. When she was my Helene, I could discern her heartbeat as if it were the thundering of hooves from miles way.

I pushed those thoughts away before they dragged me back into reverie. Here I was, spoiling for a fight I did not want to have, impatiently wanting to see Sophie. But did I want her to see me like this, blood gorged eyes, barely controllable fangs? Maybe not.

After a mind-numbing article about Marrying Mr. Wrong and a rather more intriguing one about six ways to simultaneous climax that I intended to file not too far back in my mind, I really needed to see Sophie. I realized I fit too horribly close to the first article to even spare a hope of the second. When last we’d talked, we’d argued…in Turkish. The time before, I had run out of her office after collapsing in her lap. I wasn’t having a very good run.

And now that I recognized her, now that I remembered bits of our past together, it pained me even more. Not to mention the fact that I was depending on some security guard and my own limited vampire senses to let me know if Sophie was in danger.

By midnight, I’d worked myself into such a fuss, that I had to get up and stretch my legs. And then I just happened to walk past the elevator for her tower when the doors opened. And then I just happened to get into the elevator with someone else going to the twelfth floor. When we stopped on that floor, an odd thing happened.

“Oh wait, I forgot they moved me to a suite, guess they are doing some work on this floor. Ha ha. Sorry, buddy.”

I paused for an instant as the young man pressed the button for the 21st floor. But then I stuck out my hand to catch the door just as it was sliding shut. The man gave me a strange look.

“Beg your pardon, I just got my new room key from downstairs,” I slipped out the door without another look. No need for expending any extra Vox.

As I stood in the hallway, I realized how quiet the floor was. The man had been right; there seemed to be no guests on this floor. Save for one. I heard a faint slow heartbeat, a woman’s heart, toward the very end of the hall and I headed towards it.

I didn’t know what I would say. I should apologize. Shouldn’t I? I should tell her I would make it ok. I would tell her about the Taint, break the Conclave confidence. Then she would know why I needed to do this. She would understand.

As the room numbers counted down, I realized that she would not understand, she would not condone, she would not give up on her principles. I fervently hoped that somehow, this situation would be out of my hands. But I knew what I had to do. I had to protect her and hope for the best.

I knew her door from the sounds of her heart beating and her breathing just inside. I saw an evening paper lying there pushed partly under the door. When I picked it up, something fell out. It was a business card, with one black side and one white. On the white side, there was a single black symbol: a tied satin ribbon. On the other black side was the phrase written in white letters: “Gypsy Twin Irregulars.”

It made no sense to me so I pocketed the card and got out the card key Morena had given me. I breathed in first and knocked softly, head listening. Her breathing was even, uninterrupted by my knocking. I slipped the key in the door, watched the lock sensor light turn green, and turned the handle, pushing the door open.

There was a breakfast cart in front of the bed and the lamp beside the bed was on. Sophie lay on the bed partially obstructed from my view by the cart, outside her covers, in a heap. She was fully clothed so I stepped inside, softly closing the door.

“Sophie?”

Again, her body gave no response and I cautiously approached the bed. There was something in the way she lay that looked unnatural, like she’d fallen face forward unintended. I sat on the bed beside her, brushing her hair away from her face. Her mouth was open, pressed against the bedcovers. A sort of worry quickly overcame me but I was gentle when I grabbed her shoulders and drew her back against my shoulder. Her head lolled to the side and I used my hand to turn it toward me, all the while the sense of concern growing. Her heartbeat remained constant throughout.

I smelled around her head, her hair, and finally her mouth and something quite off struck me. A medicinal smell. Somebody had drugged her. Maybe even a poison. My head turned toward the food cart and the most obvious choice was the champagne glass, completely drained of its contents. I reached over and picked it up, putting it to my nose. Orange juice and champagne but no hint otherwise. I would’ve tried to taste it but there was nothing left.

I set the glass and looked at her again, lying limp in my arms. I laid her carefully back on the bed, warring with myself over what to be done. Her heart rate was solid…but I didn’t know if that would last. Had someone meant to knock her out or poison her? There was only one way to tell.

I leaned forward, both hands braced alongside her head, and kissed her. I couldn’t taste anything from her lips so I took liberties and opened her mouth, tongue exploring the tastes. The sweet taste of citrus made my eyes shock open with light for a moment and I lifted my mouth from hers. I couldn’t taste any poison and I immediately felt guilty. I’d wanted to do that but had not envisaged our first kiss with her unawares.

My hand turned hers over in mine, my thumb moving over her wrist, feeling her pulse. As if I needed any more assurances that she was fine. Drugged indeed, but nonetheless fine. Perhaps she’d taken something herself. Not that I believed that. The drug had obviously hit her suddenly.

But what kind of a lout was I? Under pretenses of protecting her, I had snuck into her room and then, worst of all, taken advantage of her. No, this wasn’t what my Helene deserved.

But she wasn’t my Helene. I did not know her like I had known that other version of her from years ago. And she did not know me. I was a perfect stranger who barked at her in a foreign tongue and collapsed into her lap. I claimed to want to protect her but here I was invading her privacy. I rose, tucked her carefully under the covers, pulled them up over her, took one further liberty brushing her hair carefully aside, then stood looking over her.

Would she know to call me for help? Would she even need help?

I picked up the receiver on phone by her bed. It took me a few moments to understand how to dial out, but I pressed the numbers and heard my cell ringing. I took my headset out of the pocket and put it on as I heard the call connect through. I then set the receiver on the nightstand. If something happened inside the room, I could hear it and be here straight away.

I gave her one more long look.

“Next time, Sophie Quinn, you will ask me to kiss you.”

I left her room then, slipping the card key in my pocket in case of the most dire of circumstances and headed back to the elevator to wait in the lobby. I pressed the down button and when the elevator opened, it was the same young man as before.

“You look like she said no,” he spoke.

“Huh?”

He smirked. “You know, the bar on the 21st floor is much better than the one in the lobby. Closer too for catching an elevator in case she calls you back.”

I stood there stunned while the elevator doors slide shut. Then I pressed the button up and waited for the next elevator.

Every Plan Has Its Loose End

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by vampirony

The walk from the Hyatt over to the office only took Morena twenty minutes and it gave her plenty of time to think. And she really wished she had brought her gun. But she realized her gun was a crutch and she needed to unlearn what she’d learned about how to fight if she was ever going to hold her own against a vampire.

She recollected how Lucy and Jesper had fought and the speed alone had been insane. Before she’d even recognized an action, the two had moved on to a parry and another block. Super speed super sucked for humans to have to deal with. She wasn’t sure how a kukri was supposed to counter that.

As she approached the building from the back of the lot, the first thing she noticed was a cluster of crows around the dumpster making an insane racket. She didn’t see Nick’s motorcycle as she bounded up the stairs. At the landing, she paused with her hand on the doorknob, turning back around to look back down at the dumpster. The birds were calling up to her in perfect unison. It creeped her out.

It was no wonder. It looked like some kids had been having some fun roughing up the dumpster. It had been flipped over on its side and there were quite a few holes punched into the bottom. It was hard to tell more but the ground just there looked like someone had dug something up. She couldn’t see much better; the streetlight right over that part of the parking lot was out.

Crows? Really? When there’s a dangerous vampire that Jesper is probably fighting right now? She shook it off and went through the front door of the office.

The office was dark but something immediately felt off.

“Nick?”

She stepped lightly over the wooden floor, stopping at the desk to flip the lamp on. That was when she noticed a sliver of light from the doorway of one of the examination rooms down the hall. She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out her Asp. Her gun might be her crutch but she wasn’t stupid to not carry anything at all.

With a flick of her wrist, the Asp snapped open into a 16” black chrome baton and she slowly headed down the hallway.

“Nick?”

She got to the slightly ajar door, took a breath, and then kicked the door open, blocking the entrance, eyes darting around the room. There was a small exam light on but the room was empty. She listened quietly for a moment and then, hearing nothing but crows squawking, she relaxed. She spotted a folder sitting open on the exam table and entered the room to take a look.

It was a collection of papers that looked like Sophie’s case notes. Instead, it was some sort of timeline that looked like a record of her life. Correction, lives. Morena picked up the folder and began to read, marveling at the concept that anyone could really reincarnate, let alone remember their pasts.

She shook her head. She certainly didn’t want all that baggage to drag around. She had enough in this lifetime.

Just then, the door slammed shut and Morena jumped. She quickly crossed to the door but when she turned the knob, the door didn’t open. It was locked. A shiver went up her spine and started her scalp tingling.

“Nick?” She knocked on the door. “Nick, are you out there?”

She was quiet for a second but couldn’t hear anything. She wrestled with the doorknob and then, unsuccessful, pounded on the door, “Is anyone out there?”

She got her cell phone out and say that there was no signal in the room. She recalled Nick being particularly proud of being able to fulfill some of the stranger requests in the exam rooms, like no wireless coverage, virtually soundproof, lightproof. It was meant to hold vampires and keep them safe. As she walked around all corners of the room and still no signal, she realized it was going to keep her in too.

She continued to pound on the door in futility for about five minutes but was already silently cursing one important point: Nick was good at his job.

“Shit! Nick!”

Universe 1 Vampire Psychologist 0

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on June 20, 2011 by vampirony

The first response from the Universe I received after our little chat came as a knock on my door just an hour after sundown. I had slept all through the day and awoke groggy and drooling into my pillow. I raised my head from the pillow and watched as a paper was pushed under my door. It would’ve seemed strange at this hour had I been fully in my mind.

But as I was still woolgathering from dreams spanning the centuries, I just figured it might be worthwhile to check out the paper. So I crawled out of the covers, switched the bedside lamp on, and shuffled over to the door in my premium hotel slippers, curious to see the Universe’s response to my defiance.

There was a room service cart complete with a coffee service, an ample silver lidded tray, and an orange bubbly drink in a champagne flute. Confused, I checked down both directions of the hall, seeing no one. Looking back at the cart, I saw a card and picked it up.

“Miss Quinn,

For being one of our frequent stay guests, here’s breakfast on us!

The Management”

With that, I shrugged and wheeled the cart into my room.

I got comfortably seated on the bed and uncovered the tray. Pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs dusted with cheese, heart slices of bacon, a fat sausage link, wheat bread lightly toasted, and country potatoes steamed and smelled delicious as I set the tray lid aside.

The Universe had decided to respond to defiance with…breakfast. I smiled just as my stomach growled. A hot version of the most important meal of the day seemed just the thing, even if it was almost 11 PM. I was about to spear the sausage link when I took note of the bubbly orange concoction.

I took up the champagne flute and sipped it.

The Universe toasted my defiant spirit with a Mimosa. I knocked it back, felt it burn all the way down to my empty stomach and resolved to relieve the discomfort with a mouthful of banana pancake. Which I followed with that speared sausage link, and proceeded to challenge the sin of gluttony with wild abandon.

It didn’t take but a few moments before I felt very sleepy. At first, I’d thought it was all those carbs hitting my stomach like anchors showered in fairy dusted powdered sugar but after my eyelids kept drooping, it became as clear as it could in my befuddled mind that the fairy dust was not of the naturally occurring dietary kind.

With the knowledge that dumb arrogance would be trumped by belligerent righteousness, I groaned as I toppled over in bed, my whole body going numb. My eyes spotted the empty champagne glass, as if in a spotlight of a cosmic boxing ring. In this corner, the Universe, aka The Management, intended to strike back with sugary carbohydrates and spiked Mimosas.

“Shit,” was all I could manage before I fell back asleep.

57 Channels and It’s So On

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 20, 2011 by vampirony

Just after sundown, Alex the night guard had sat behind his close circuit TVs in the Hyatt Regency’s security office watching while Morena talked to a tall, athletic-looking, fair-haired guy wearing shades in the lobby. He had smirked, wondering who Corey Hart was, wearing his sunglasses after dark. After a few minutes, Morena had quickly turned and exited, like she was in a hurry. A few moments later, the tall guy had made his out of the lobby towards the hotel bar only to come back about twenty minutes later, looking rather nervous and, well, shifty.

Alex had once been one of Morena’s students in her Personal Protection Pistol Class that she had taught at the Bellevue Gun Club. Honestly, he’d signed up because one of his D-Day Reenactment buddies had told him this total babe was the teacher. Within ten minutes of the class, she had a smart ass student flipped over on his back near to kissing her boots, while she spun and shot off a perfect round. Hot for Teacher had never been so true but she turned out to be a cool chick, great at what she did and appreciative of his former turn in the Service.

Not that they hung out. But once and awhile, he’d run into her at the range and she always said hello. Not interested but hello. That was fine with him. He appreciated the honesty and not being treated like a pariah. So much so, he liked to keep an eye out for her, go out of his way to walk her to her car when it was late, opening the door when she was hauling her rifle case in.

There was a rumor that she was not only ex-military, ex-Secret Service, but also that she was ex-CIA. Or maybe not so Ex. She kept a network that was for sure. He’d heard that bust up at her bar in Ballard a few days ago hadn’t even been written up because she still had friends in the Force. So it wouldn’t have been unheard of if she’d come and asked him for a favor.

What had been intriguing was that his supervisor at his security firm had beat her to it, telling him that she would be seeking him out tonight, even switching his work location to make sure he was working the Hyatt. Occasionally, his firm did fill in work when companies had temporary security needs or training.

This landed him perusing Hyatt security cameras and wondering who this fool in the shades was. That wouldn’t be a hint of jealousy, would it? Crazy. The dude had kissed Morena on the cheek before she stormed out.

Hmm, this guy’s bad news. Looks like he’s waiting for something.

He was about to get on his cell and call in when the phone rang. It was his supervisor.

“Hello?”

“Sidewinder, time to report in,” the voice said.

“Oh, yeah, there’s this jerk off loitering about. Is this your guy? You want me to send Rob and Brock down?”

“Was he with Morena?”

“Uh, yeah but she left–.”

“Then no. He’s not our guy. He’s fine. Brock’s got road duty and Rob, well, he’ll be busy later. Send up the gift.”

“The gift? Now? It’s not morning.”

“Now, Sidewinder.”

Alex shrugged. His supervisor also did reenactments but always for the Axis side. Still, the guy had a lot of street cred and had helped him out with shifts and things for awhile. He was one to be trusted.

“Ok, Ritterreiter, I’m on it.”

He hung up his cell phone and picked up the house phone. “Yeah? Hospitality?”

The Running of Errants

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2011 by vampirony

The vampire Skovajsa, once the human called Vasa Skoda, was having a very frustrating night. Although not know for his patience, he had decided that the bonding of this human Sophie Quinn deserved a bit of wooing. She obviously wanted more than just a simple generic trinket of diamonds that he’d picked up in a pinch from a nearby jeweler. The song had lied. Diamonds were not best friends to all girls.

His own pride also dictated that anything belonging to him would wear his unique style. That was why he’d arranged to have a special piece made with what he considered his symbol, a crown, joined with what seemed to be hers, an infinity symbol.

He’d noticed the amulet around her neck when they’d first met, assumed her vampire male had given it to her. It was said that sometimes it was better to acknowledge a woman’s ex, even as he was meant to be replaced by one older, stronger, more worthy. It would be so obvious that she was choosing the best once she compared the paltry leather strapped silver amulet to the magnificent piece that Skovajsa intended to give.

So on this night, before he finally made her his, bonded her to him for all times and gained the valuable information she contained in her passably tolerable visage, he would appeal to her romantic side with offerings of gold, jewels, flowers, and, at the end, wine. The special wine. His own blood.

He admitted to what seemed to be butterflies of anxiousness. His last episode in bonding, however inadvertent, had ended…poorly. The creature he had begun with, while beautiful in form, had lacked considerably in lifeforce, essence, style. Not that this human Sophie had any discernible style. She seemed to favor the same jeans and t-shirt only opting for chino shorts in this latest heat wave.

And frankly, her form was underwhelming by modern standards. Short, doughy, curves in the wrong places…brunette. Her one redeeming physical feature was her very long statuesque neck. And her blue eyes were a sort of pretty. But he’d seen the remarkable nature of the ultimate makeover on many television programs and was convinced that once undertaken, she would not degrade the impact of his flawlessness. After all, style could be applied, substance need to be intrinsic.

And what a wealth of knowledge she was. Rumors abounded on her reincarnated lives, lending her centuries of vampirical experience. She would help him greatly, help him find others of worth so he might expand his capabilities.

But it demanded the right touch, the right offering. And so instead of heading straight to her hotel room, 1234, of the Hyatt, he headed into downtown, needing to run a few errands, the first picking up his “Crowned Eternity” necklace at Gilbert’s Jeweler’s, near Pioneer Square.

Which was where things began to go wrong for Vampire Skovajsa. As he entered the shop after hours at his appointed time, the dark curly haired woman behind the counter was not as he expected. He approached while she continued to jabber away on her cell phone, while blaring music in her other ear.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe he said that. That’s ridiculous!”

Skovajsa put both hands on the counter, straightening to full height and impressiveness. He reminded himself that he needed to remain calm tonight, of all nights. It would not serve to lose his cool in front the human Sophie and he had noted that his calm, once lost, was nearly impossible for him to recover.

Excuse me,” he said, pushing just a little Vox in it to gain her attention.

The tousled haired woman stuck her finger out at him. “Just one second.” For a blink, he didn’t know if she’d said it to him or her phone. Then, she tapped an earpiece on her other ear and the music leaking out of her ear reduced to a dull hum. She twisted the phone receiver from her mouth and settled her dark almost black eyes on him.

“Can’t you read the sign? It is after hours. Unless you’re this….” She glanced down at a guestbook in front of her, finger tracing the page. “Victor Bella?”

“Yes, I am. I’m here for my package,” brow furrowing. The Vox didn’t seem to work although he wasn’t at all practiced in using just hints of it.

The dark haired woman, perched on a stool and strangely dressed for the weather in a black turtleneck, gave him the once-over with her eyes, hovering just at his waist.

“Hmm, I’ll say you need to a pick up for your package.” Then she spoke back into the phone. “What? Oh no no no no. That’s just wrong. You tell that fuckin’ little fish faced rat bastard—“

“Ma’am, I really am in a bit of a hurry.” He suddenly felt unwell. It was really bright in the small store. The lights were blaring at him and reflecting off of all the glass and mirrors. He was suddenly sweating in his leather jacket, blinking his eyes.

Ma’am, who you calling ma’am? Alright alright, if you’re going to just keep interrupting,” she said. “Tommy, I gotta go. Yeah I know, some dude that couldn’t be bothered to keep normal hours. Yeah, call you in a few. Buh-Bye.” She smacked the phone down on the counter and slide off the stool. Then she stood there, tapping long fingers on the glass. “Well?”

Skovajsa was confused, digging a finger under his collar. “I’m sorry, who are you? Where is Mr. Gilbert?”

She tilted her head, “Mr. Gilbert spent the last five days straight fashioning your, uhum, package, the last two nights of which he spent refashioning part of it to change moons into that boneheaded ‘8’ symbol because somebody didn’t like his original design and changed his mind last minute. So Mr. Gilbert spent some quality time with Mr.’s Beam and Bitters and went off to bed.”

“I see.” He looked up at the ceiling lights, blinking furiously. “Have you changed your lights recently?”

“Why yes, Mr. Twenty Questions. Just got them installed today. They use natural light to better show off the brilliance in the diamonds, best in the Emerald City.” She laughed. “But yeah, they can be a bit much. Why don’t you put these on?” She reached plastic glasses that looked like Roy Orbison’s sunglasses to him and he gladly put them on. While he still felt uneasy, the light wasn’t directly in his eyes and he felt better for it.

She waited for him to respond. He waited for her to do something. “Am I supposed to say something?” Really, human females were so tiresome to predict.

“A claim ticket would be nice. And your ID. I don’t mind handling Mr. Bella’s package but would like to make sure I give it only to him.” She smirked as if she’d made some sort of joke.

“Oh,” he got his wallet out and produced his ID, handing it to her.

She lifted it up so it was aligned to her view of his face. “Not a very good picture, is it?”

“What?”

“No one’s driver’s license picture is any good. I think they practice taking bad photos at the DMV. Ok, your claim ticket?”

“But you already know that I am..Viktor Bella. You should just hand over my package.”

Her hand went to her hip and she leaned forward, all slender 90 lbs of her. “Look, pal, my uncle didn’t spend forty years sweating in cramped dirty musty basement cupboards of New York giving his hand toiled artwork away for free out of the goodness of his heart. The store policy on your receipt clearly states both ID and claim tickets are required for pickup.”

Skovajsa the Vampire could feel calm ebbing away as his cool dissipated under the premium lights of the store. Harridan. He took in a deep breath, ready to unload a torrent of Vox right in her face when she spoke again.

“Unless, of course, you have your receipt.”

He huffed the air out. Where had he put that? In his preoccupation of the last few days, he realized that instead of filing his receipt away with the rest of his financials, he’d left it in his wallet. He fished it out and handed it over, one eyebrow raised to see what else she would throw his way.

She unfolded it carefully, raising the ID in one hand and the receipt in the other, examining. Then, a shriek rang out, causing Skovajsa to jump back from the counter.

“BARTY!”

She lowered the paper and ID, gave him a shrewd look, and tossed her head around. “Barty! Customer here for a pickup!”

A muffled sound was heard from beyond the showroom towards the back room. What shuffled through the door looked like half man, half metallic spider with crutches and braces everywhere on its 4 foot minus frame. “Yes, miss?”

“This kind gentleman is here for his package. Go fetch it.”

The man named Barty looked utterly confused and nearly incapable of movement. “Um, name?”

“Yours, mine, or the customer’s?” the woman replied snidely. “Look, it should just be on the back desk. Uncle Gilbert made this after hours appointment special.”

Barty’s head turned as far as it was able to the back room while his bottom lip jutted out in a way that suggested he didn’t quite know where the package was. And as Skovajsa was about to pitch a fit of his own, the woman flew after the retreating Barty, her white sparkling flip flops making as much racket as she was chattering after him as the two employees went into the back to find the necklace.

Skovajsa decided patience could be found when someone serving his own interests was verbally flogging a fellow human as savagely as the woman was doing to Barty. So he waited and nearly an hour and a half of his patience which involved minutes of finding the right package (after two wrong ones were offered), inspecting the workmanship (which was excellent, by any judge of taste), having to try several of his credit cards while the Versa machine went down, then the computer, then the cash register locked, finally paid off as he made his way to the door and was about to step out when the woman called to him one last time.

“Sir!”

“Yes,” he tensed.

“Would you like complementary gift wrap for that?” She smiled. “Any special lady deserves extra special presentation.”

Skovajsa sighed and resolved to the next half hour of selecting just the right presentation. It was the gift of a lifetime and he couldn’t explain how the exasperation resolved into pride and anticipation with his elegantly wrapped, one of a kind offering.

He was so satisfied with himself that he thought she couldn’t possibly refuse him. As such, he was later than he’d wanted, now staring at midnight, and he was about to skip the flowers part of his offering when he ran right into Mariner’s late night game traffic. With the crowds, there was no direct way of getting Eastside without being seen or messing up his perfectly coiffed hair, so he called the specialty florist to rouse her from bed.

Strangely, she was perfectly agreeable to opening up for him at the late hour so he turned his black Escalade down Alaska Way towards lower Queen Anne. It wouldn’t get him out of the city sooner but he might as well use up the time while the traffic cleared to improve his case. Of course, his florist Vicki kept insisting in adding these ugly pussy willow stems to the bouquet and seemed to have installed the very same Diamonique lights in her store so he kept those ugly Roy Orbison glasses in place, even as they seemed to hum a bit.

Another hour lost but with a gorgeous bouquet of lilies and roses, and yes, the damn pussy willows that he intended to yank out on his own but traffic had cleared and he used all 403 horses in his Escalade to cruise across the 520 bridge. He was feeling relieved as if this evening had been some sort of trial and he had survived it with his calm intact.

Until, that is, the red and blue flashing lights jumped into his rearview just as he was taking the Bellevue Way exit. Skovajsa the Vampire, having lived for many years had never received a speeding ticket or parking infraction of any kind so gave himself a calming breath as the cop approached. He had to say, he was little impressed with the figure approaching. The man was smallish and his pants seemed quite ill-fitting. It actually made him smile, almost as if it was some sort of jest in this night of all nights.

The officer approached sideways and did not exactly step up to the window as Skovjasa lowered it. “License and registration, Mister.”

Skovajsa, full of humor and pride from knowledge that this fellow would be easy prey to the Vox, had thoughts that maybe he’d make this fool dance the jig down the centerline in the middle of traffic.

Aren’t you a little short for a state trooper?” he remarked, Vox issuing with vigor from his voice.

The officer stepped up to the window, facing him with dark aviator sunglasses and these odd earpieces that seemed familiar, before flashing him full in the face with some sort of halogen torch that seared his eyes, making them tear up.

“Laugh it up, jackass. Now hand me your license and registration so I can properly write up your ticket for going forty over the speed limit and talking back to an officer of the law.”

No, this night was not going as Skovajsa had planned. As he got out his wallet, it was only going to get worse as he realized the woman from the jewelry store had never handed back his ID. The officer appended driving without a license to the ticket with a smile and a relish, seemingly as impervious to Vox as everyone else he’d had contact this night had been.

Perhaps it might make more sense for a bite to eat to settle himself. He began to look at the officer in a new light.

“You do realize that this registration is three months expired?”

His fangs began to extend all on their own. “No, officer.” His hand moved to the door handle.

Just then, a road construction crew with a portal light generator pulled over on the opposite side of the off-ramp and the crew began to unpack, the lights shining right into his windshield, causing his to shield his eyes, removing his hand from the door.

“Sonofabitch!” The officer called over to them. “You can’t just set up like that without a flagger!” The officer tossed his id and registration into the car, tearing the ticket off the pad and tossing it in the window as well. Then he took several steps back, across the pavement. “Oh, Hell! Move along, move along!” The officer waved at him angrily to get out of the way.

Skovajsa, assessing the situation, realized with so many witnesses and his recent spat of luck, maybe he should take this opportunity to consider his errand run concluded and get moving towards tonight’s goal. So he put the SUV in drive and got the hell out of there.

The officer watched Skovajsa race away and picked up not his 2-way but his cell phone. He dialed a number and paused, waiting for the call to connect.

“Yeah, Ritterreiter, package is coming your way.”

Sunglasses at Night

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 13, 2011 by vampirony

The sun had been full down for fifteen minutes. Morena, decked out in all black, elbows resting on the top of a counter, except for the electric blue of her earphones stuffed into her ears, checked her watch one more time. One of the hotel staff stared at her from reception. The sound of Lincoln Park blared from her headphones. She turned her eyes to him just as he thought to go speak to her about it. She raised an eyebrow at him as if to say, “Yeah? Come try it.”

She frowned, checking the time on her phone, about to text, again, when she finally spotted Jesper striding towards her from across the hotel lobby. His movements seemed tight, controlled, like some sort of caged animal. There was an aura around him that almost looked like the heat coming off scorching pavement.

It was the blood doping. He’d explained. He’d be at maximum capability stuffed to the proverbial gills with fresh blood. A lot of it hers. And it had hurt like hell. Still, it made him damn sexy to look at. Except he had to lose those ridiculous sunglasses.

He paused next to her, seemingly taking in the lobby while she remained, holding up the counter as it were. She studied him, wondering what else got revved up by that much blood in his system.

“It’s the bite, you know.”

“What?”

He turned his head towards her. “I can see the way you’re looking at me. Sense it. It’s just a side effect of biting my shoulder, drawing blood.”

She lowered her elbows off the counter but remained where she was. “Sure. What’s with the sunglasses?”

He stared her in the face and lifted the shades to show her. The iris of his eyes was a golden red color.

“Oh.”

He dropped the shades back and place and turned his head.

“She had any visitors?”

“Naw, no one’s gone up or called her room. Alex, the security guard on duty, woulda called me if so.” There was something in the way his head was turned, the look on his face; it was like he was only half paying attention. “What?”

He turned his head slowly to her. “Listening.”

“For what? You couldn’t hear her from here. She’s on the 12th floor.”

Morena saw his eyebrows go up and down.

“You are shitting me, right? You can hear 12 floors up right now?”

A smile crept across his face. “Just this floor. And maybe one more up. Or two.”

Morena stared for a moment. She wasn’t sure what she would’ve done if, per chance, this nasty vampire dude had shown up. She’d given the Kukri, the only weapon she knew of that could help humans deal with vampires, to Sophie. She’d even decided that carrying her piece actually made her react in too human of a way and left it at home. She thought she might felt naked without it, especially after having a good portion of her blood drained the prior night.

“How are you feeling?” Jesper asked, as if reading her damn thoughts again.

She felt wonderful. Like she had just done some amazing cleanse and all the bad juju had been drained out of her and was being replaced by the bright, shiny, new. She couldn’t help flash him a smile.

“It’s your marrow. You’re feeling it regenerate your red blood cells.”

“Way to spoil an oh so fresh feeling.”

“When the cells regenerate—“

Morena held up her hand. “God, Soph was right. Once you guys start talking, can’t shut you up.” Before he could interject anymore vampire wisdom, she fished an electronic card key out of her skinny jeans and handed it to him. “Room 1234.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I got this.”

It took Morena a moment to understand what he meant.

“No, seriously, I got this.”

He put it all into the look that passed between them. Whether it was because this had now turned personal between him and Sophie, or because he would likely be fighting another vampire, he didn’t want Morena involved further.

Her face showed her disappointment. She was in this with him. She wanted to see it through.

“Nick. You need to make sure he’s safe. Watch over him. I’ll take care of Sophie.”

It took a moment. From inside, there was this thread that wanted to follow him anywhere in the world that he might lead. It was the bite. She knew that. Residual influence from direct contact with his blood. Whatever he had taken from her in blood, he had kept his promise. There was no binding in it, no charm, no intended influence. He had further seen to it that Camille didn’t even remember what had happened or that she had ever thought vampires existed.

But then there was Nick. He probably would be rolling into the office at any moment with no clue what Hell was about to be stirred up in Downtown Bellevue. For Jesper was convinced the Carpathian would attack this evening and he had done everything to be prepared. And now, it was time for her to play her part.

She nodded, stuffing her hands in her pockets. He exuded such vampiric strength and confidence; she had no doubts that he could handle whatever Bad Vamp could dish out. But still, you never knew what could happen in combat.

As she was about to say something, to reach out to him, he stepped to her and kissed her check.

“It’s going to be alright.”

She nodded, her eyes getting misty. Then, before a tear escaped her eye, she turned on her heel and heading out into the night.

Jesper took his cell phone out of his pocket and proceeded to send her an email. It would probably take a few minutes to get to her but, by then, she would be able to do nothing to change his fate.

Morena,

If I fail, it was not because of you. If he finds you, severe the neck, clean through. Then cremate the body, to be sure. Do not bury anything but ashes.

I was not deserving of such a friend.

-J

He caught a scent on the air. It was time to go. It was time to fight.

Remembering How It Started

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by vampirony

October 1883 Darcie Sherbourne meets Lord Percival Valerian. February 1886 She dies.

Late Fall 838 A young Darjeeling woman of the aristocratic caste meets a Rakshasa prince, becoming engaged weeks later. Early Spring 839, day of her wedding, she dies.

There were memories floating around, still unbound to a life, still as of yet unidentified in time. Some, more terrifying than others. Thick, rusty chains and screams echoing in a damp, stone dungeon, somewhere, sometime in Paris. The sounds of sheep bleating in the morning mist, before the heat of the day. Yards and yards of raw silk bundles stretched out before my bamboo cane in Japan. The sporadic memories that welled out of me all started from a single spring.

Late summer, 2006, a small community college in Ohio, a woman recovering from a tragedy sneaks into a special lecture for an advanced comparative religions class. Dr. Kaga, a world renowned expert on religious meditation, PhD in Cognitive Psychology, was speaking on internal alchemy, the Taoist practice of developing the mind and spirit for immortality. He led the half full lecture hall in a series of breathing techniques which left most of the students becoming very sleepy and yawning.

I, on the other hand, had collapsed in the back of the room, not to be found until after all the students had left and Dr. Kaga was collecting his things. He had heard my cell phone chirping. He had kindly helped me into a nearby chair and assured my panicked husband Dan that I would be safely sent home.

“Do you remember what happened?” he asked me.

“I’m sorry?”

“What were you doing when you collapsed?” he asked politely. He reminded me of someone I knew. But that would be impossible. Maybe someone I knew from a movie or television show. This was before I knew of my pasts.

I touched the back of my head, feeling for a bump. “I was doing your breathing.”

“Would you mind showing me? Those techniques are not known for causing young ladies to faint. Perhaps you were not exhaling properly.”

It was an odd request but as I was a student on scholarship taking a few summer courses and sneaking into much more expensive talks, the least I could do was humor him. So I began to breathe and black closed in on me once more.

When I came to, I was on my back again, this time with my legs raised up in the chair I had been previously sitting in. When I tried to sit up, Dr. Kaga gently pushed my shoulder back to the floor.

“I’ve called an ambulance. They should arrive shortly. Have you had a head injury recently?”

I broke out into a cold sweat. “Please, please no more doctors.” I agitatedly kicked the chair away and tried to get to my feet.

Relax,” he said.

I want to see no more doctors,” I hissed back.

He started and sat up bolt straight in his seat. I stopped struggling, realizing that I felt awful, my head was splitting open and nausea welled up. Purse strap wrapped around my wrist, I clamored to my feet, forgetting my backpack, and made a quick exit to the nearest bathroom, just outside the lecture hall. I threw up in the nearest toilet and then spent a few minutes chilling my fevered brow on the outside of the bowl while it flushed.

Feeling marginally better, I made my way to the sink, rinsed my mouth out, and then splashed my face with some water. I popped a couple of breath mints into my mouth, and then fished my makeup bag out of my purse. As I searched for my powder, Dr. Kaga opened the door a crack and called to me.

“Is it ok to come in?”

“Yes.”

He stepped inside, walking with great quiet and care toward the sinks to stand just behind me. I’d made it to applying lip gloss before he uttered another word.

“Do you remember anything you said while you were under?”

“Excuse me?”

He took a measured step towards me. “I don’t want to alarm you. Nor would I like you to faint again. Especially since I cancelled the ambulance request. But you were not speaking English before. It was Japanese. Do you remember that?”

He stood close, just behind me. I think he was readying himself to catch me if I fell again.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I substitute teach Spanish at the school sometimes but I don’t know any other languages besides that.”

He caught my eye in the mirror in a way I’ll never forget, his whole demeanor becoming calm and soothing, like a confessor or a priest. The palm of his hand touched the middle of my back, not with pressure, but just touching there, offering support, understanding, solace.

I felt a panic rise up.

He said something in what I assumed was Japanese. But it sounded foreign.

I shook my head.

“May I?” he pointed to my makeup bag.

I nodded, not even knowing what I was giving him permission to do. I just stood there, his right hand against my back, his left digging in my makeup bag, my left hand holding the lip gloss cap, my right holding the gloss halfway to my parted mouth.

“Sometimes, it’s better to let other parts of the brain work on a problem for awhile.” He brought out the eyeliner pen, the kind with an end like a little paintbrush. He took off the cap and handed it to me as I set down the lip gloss cap in the sink.

He stretched my left hand with the eyeliner pen out and touched it to the mirror while my eyes were riveted to his face. He was humming. Or maybe singing. I could almost make out the words.

“Did you really cancel the ambulance? No doctors are coming?” The eyeliner pen moved against the mirror as he stepped back, just his right hand still on my back. My head turned to follow him, my body remained straight forward.

He had the kindest eyes and a very nice baritone. His lips started to move into words and he seemed to finish a verse before assuring me. “Yes, no doctors.”

My right arm dropped the gloss into the sink and rested there.

“But you’re a doctor.”

“Not that type.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m crazy too.”

His eyes flicked to the mirror and then the most genuine smile formed across his tan, wizened face. “No, I believe you are most sane, Ms. Quinn.”

“You just met me and I fainted in your lecture. Because of breathing. Why would you think that?”

“Because an old soul reaching forward into a new life is a very rare and beautiful thing, Ms. Quinn. It should be cherished and nurtured so that it may come into its full bloom. But sometimes, it needs quiet to lose itself enough to be heard.”

He gestured to the mirror and I turned my head back to see black eyeliner arranged in a most beautiful design. And my left hand holding the pen.

“Wha—What does it say?” I asked in hush tones.

As it turned out, Dr. Kaga hadn’t known exactly either. It had taken his expert several weeks to decipher. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered too much. The dam had been cracked and Dr. Kaga had been able to help me control the damage by lowering the proverbial reservoir of water. Weeks of narrative therapy let some of the most pressing memories out while allowing me to sketch others into existence, making them available for translation.

By the time the winter had arrived and I couldn’t drive the hundred miles to school every day, Dr. Kaga and I had developed on online correspondence, sending me the translation of what I wrote along with the description on how old it was.

An expert in Japanese writing identified the early kanji characters phrased with some local Japanese spoken influence and dated it circa 410 CE. Kofun era, when it was rumored that writing first began in Japan. It was the earliest identified memory I had from all those we freed that autumn.

There were two books most important in my life. The first was the Memento, its format dictated to me when I gained possession of it sometime after all that. There were the fact pages, scribbled notes over the years. Stories and myths here and there. Then there were the more emotive pages, like Lucy and Maurice’s. But timelines, dates, descriptions of who I was when I met them, no, that wasn’t in there.

That information lay in my case notes; simple leather bound volumes of ruled paper. The first volume started as the record of my narrative therapy which I had extended to include my own treatment of vampires. In two years of searching for clients and doing what I could, two years of my own stories had gone ignored. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten what had kept me sane. It was the ability to let the memories out to blossom.

So I wrote an entry in my notes, one just for me, only about me. It began like this:

July 26th, 2009

Not able to divine treatment for Case #13-4, afraid this is a lost cause. The paradox of how to save a vampire may be to let another perish. Discovered today I know Turkish. Perhaps the recent memories of spices and sand came from that place. Must remember to investigate.

Realize these feelings for Case #13-5, Jesper, run deep. We have met before. God help us both stick around long enough to remember it.

And it was at that moment, I took particular notice of the Kukri that Morena had left with me. It was as if the thing held itself up and said Hi! Remember me? I picked it up and felt a queasiness move all through me. It was obviously an anti-vampire weapon. It was ridiculous to think I would have a use for it.

No, the absurd thing was that in this case I was beginning to believe the most heartfelt and profound action would be no action at all. To let the Universe have its way with me, bend me to its needs and whims.

You hear that Universe? I’m not going to fight you. You have me in an untenable position. Instead of moving a piece, I prefer to let my clock run out, force you out of hiding your purpose.

It was about that moment a cacophony of crows could be heard outside. It raised the hairs on the back of my neck so that I went over and opened the door, looking out. Under a streetlight, I could see a crowd of them fighting around the dumpster toward the back of the lot. There seemed to be about twenty of them. Almost four and twenty.

Hmm, but no pies. I put my hand to my throat and remembered that my necklace was still missing. I’d given it to Nick to give to Lucy when she awoke from her Rigor Dormitus. It seemed an age ago. It was just one week. I should call her, make sure her ears were healing.

I closed the door, went back to my desk, and a memory came back to me. When Lucy was little, she would leave me gifts on days when I had to be awake during the daylight hours. She’d hide it somewhere I could find it and wrap a black ribbon around the gift so I would know it was from her. A silver spoon. A posy of lilac. She was my dark little cherub and I could always count on her leaving me something. She’d once found a knife bayonet in the forest and wrapped it in a black lace ribbon.

In a way, I wondered if the Kukri was from her, via Morena. Except no ribbon. I wondered if she’d forgotten all about that or folded the memory away. It seemed such a small thing to remember. Like a lover’s kiss hidden behind a veil.

I wrote both memories in the case notes. Then after a quick text to Lucy, I managed to down a few bites of the food that Nick had left behind. An inscribed anti-vampire weapon. Turkish fluency. A vampire orphan.

Maybe he wasn’t responsible for the killing around here. Maybe something else was going on. Maybe there was another vampire involved.

The crows made a bunch of noise as if to argue that thought. I wasn’t in a position to know. I sighed. I hated waiting as much as I hated failing. But there was nothing for it. When one has no clear action to take, the only action is stillness.

I packed the kukri with me, tossing it into the same non-specific bag as I’d found it along with my case notes and my laptop. Back at my hotel room, I started a hot bubble bath, took as much Melatonin as was safe, followed by one of the little bottles of merlot in the mini-fridge, soaked until I felt drowsy, and slid into Egyptian cotton sheets that reminded me of nothing.

Alright, Universe, your move.

DJB: J’Adoube

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on May 21, 2011 by vampirony

“I need your help.”

Morena’s response was immediate. “What can I do?”

I hadn’t asked Valerian for help. For whatever reason, I had pushed the Panic button and not followed through. There was not going to be some cleaner team of fifteen military trained Conclave sanctioned assassins coming to Seattle rid it of a dangerous Carpathian vampire. I was left to my own devices. And my own choice of allies.

I projected through the phone line. This was the trickiest bit in a Vampire’s existence, revealing one’s abilities unaltered by charm or influence to a human. No softening the strangeness. I’d been interacting with her in this way, albeit with more subtlety, since we met, most of our online interactions mixed with a bit of presence to make sure she was discreet. But not in any way she would be aware.

I came all the way through, my mental projection taking shape in her apartment moments before my bare feet felt the seam in the boards of her old wooden floor. I groaned at the effort; it hurt like Hell. My body strained as thought became form, bone, muscle, flesh. My skin sweated, my scars itched, and I felt nauseated, shaking and panting like a junkie in front of her.

She dropped her arm, still holding the phone, shock and awe written all over her face. I had just materialized out of thin air in her apartment. As much as she probably would have questions about what else I could do, this was exactly what I needed her to know that I could do.

“How?”

“Through…your phone.”

She turned her head, raising the device as if it had sprouted hair and was sending secret signals to satellites. I dropped to a knee, struggling with the aftereffects of transformation and her attention returned. She ran over to catch me before I completely collapsed. I needed to get much better at this very quickly. Like now.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

I smiled. “I could sure use a drink.”

symbol_wedge-color

Morena set her phone down, all emotion tied down, perfectly calm, resolute.

“Camille is on her way.”

She tied her hair back. I hadn’t asked it of her. It didn’t feel right to do so.

I sat on the floor, shivering under a blanket. She’d brought me the lemons like I asked but in this state, I felt unsure of the results and wary of being knocked unconscious. It was four in the morning. Which meant it might take Camille a little while to get here.

Morena kneeled beside me, her hand on my bare shoulder.

“This would be for her,” I explained.

She nodded. “I know.”

“Then why?”

“Because she’s someone worth protecting. Like Nick is. And Camille.” She got closer. “I get the sense you’re going to need a lot more than you planned. And I don’t want to put Camille at risk in any way.”

I nodded but kept her gaze. She moved closer.

“What about the girl vampire?” I could smell the basil in her blood. My fangs grew against my apprehension. I shook.

“Lucy? She’s gone dark. I think she’s helped as much as she could. I left the kukri with Sophie.” Morena sighed as she sat down, pulling the front of the blanket down. “I’m not sure how it’s supposed to help but Lucy said it would.”

“Morena, I don’t want this.”

“I know. That’s why it’s ok.” She needed more Vitamin D in her diet. Her blood was low in it. Perils of life in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’ll hurt. I don’t have the strength now to prevent that.”

She smiled and it was the most sincere I’d ever seen her. “Good,” she said softly, her brow creasing. “I think I need it to hurt.”

With that, she eased into my lap, her arms sliding around my naked back, her head turned away, carotid artery pulsing beneath my face. I brushed my lips against her throat all on instinct before catching myself. Before the fog took over, there were things she needed to know.

“Try to stay calm. If your heart races, it’ll be harder for me to stop because of the adrenaline in your blood. Long, deep breaths.” My hand weakly cradled her head as she better positioned herself.

“Like Yoga.”

I licked at her skin. Her heartbeat remained steady. Good.

Her hands clasped together behind my back as she was anticipating her own weakness from anemia. I couldn’t help but smile. She felt it.

“What?” she asked.

She wasn’t expecting it which was what I wanted. My fangs slipped into her skin like needles, causing the smallest cry. It was almost an out-of-body experience for me; I felt such hatred for myself wash over me.

“Please,” she croaked. My anger at having to do this crashed against her and she felt it all. “Think of Sophie. This is for her.”

At the sound of her name, as the blood rushed into me, I pictured the woman I knew as Helene, gone from my world and my thoughts for so long. Too long. She sought only to help others, through all her lifetimes, the purity of her soul and her beliefs constantly challenged by the world she lived in. In this lifetime, she was Sophie Quinn, Vampire Psychologist. And she was not mine.

But she needed protection, as did her wards, one of which now trusted me beyond all else that, with this offering, I would be able to protect them all. I forced myself to relax into what I was, what Sophie needed me to be right now.

The steady rhythm, Morena’s heart pumping blood directly into me through tiny slits in her carotid. Her hands clenched, her cries becoming more vocal, and I pushed her mouth against my shoulder as I felt renewed vigor flowing into each of my cells. She bit into my shoulder hard, breaking the skin. I didn’t really know how much pain she was in and, for a little while, I lost all caring. Several breaths later, her mouth released and her cheek slid against my shoulder.

With sustenance came clarity. I needed to be careful, not to take too much. That was why we called Camille. Morena was worth more than her weight in blood in a fight to come. After a few moments that felt like forever, I felt her grip slacken around me. I retracted my fangs, licked her skin clean. The two slits were imperceptible. She lay in my arms, very quiet, her pulse a little weak but her heart strong, her bone marrow already at working to replenish. On my shoulder, the tiny break in the skin where her teeth had drawn blood had already healed. I tucked the blanket carefully around us. Unintentional and the effect very likely temporary but it would help her recover more quickly.

“Jesper,” she whispered.

“Yes?” I brushed the sweat from her brow.

She turned her head to me, eyes clear but fatigued. “Make sure Camille doesn’t feel anything.”

All new strange abilities aside, there was one thing that remained constant and I knew full well how to use that, especially after the influx of rich, strong, vibrant blood.

I am Vampire.

“Don’t you worry,” I promised her. “When I’m done, she’ll never remember she ever met a real live Vampire.”

DJB: Insults and Injurious Thoughts

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by vampirony

symbol_wedge-colorValerian had once given me a protocol to use in the event and only in the event of an emergency. The protocol included a way to contact him, even in his most private chamber of his redoubt. Over the years, I suspected the technology attached to the protocol might have changed but the accessing it was the same.

An iron lockbox welded with no remaining seams covered in raised silver gilding. The silver would cause some burnt flesh to most vampires. I had chosen to keep it secret that it had no effect on me. The nature of the box was to ensure that it took quite some effort to get into.

It took me only a second to punch my hand through the box and tear into it after I’d flown back to my condo. Sophie’s reaction be damned. This was an Emergency. She was going to get herself killed. And I couldn’t let that happen, no matter what she believed.

The anger released in getting into the box calmed me enough to think about our fight. It was an old one. The book and now the old grievance, argued in the old tongue. The memories were still mostly locked away, but not the feelings, not the emotions. I hadn’t felt this on edge, this unsettled in a long while, emotions rumbling under the surface waiting to erupt. I had approached her in anger, not directed at her, but at the threat she continued to protect.

The Carpathian. When she’d spoken, I felt more than saw the need in her eyes to fix wrongs done long ago, her desperation to repair the past. I could not help her with imperfect knowledge. She did not know what to do. I had to help her see that only way out was through.

Inside the box, it was lined in black velvet with a single scrap of vellum. I fished out the ancient paper and tossed the box aside. On the paper, in simple handwriting, were a number and a location. The number was an old style phone number, from the 30’s. The location was 9 Universitat Luzern. Switzerland.

I did a quick online check and came up with a phone number. Then I used my computer to dial it. Once the line was picked up, I forced myself through the line into the room. It gave me a few seconds before I would be discovered, my form taking the time to solidify. In the meantime, while the receiver was being brought to someone’s ear to answer, I overheard the conversation.

“The child was already lost. I had to do the unthinkable to protect her.”

The voice was familiar, smoothly accented South American. But it was the voice of the reply that I well recognized. As my form materialized, my vision took shape as well. Valerian, head bowed, hand clutching something to his chest, spoke as if to himself.

“I’m still cleaning up the wrongs I did you in the past only to find troubles are drawn to you in the present."

“My Lord, we have an unexpected visitor.” Aubry didn’t bother to put the receiver completely up to his ear as by now, I had materialized right in front of him.

Valerian turned to look at me, but his mind still clung to the memories of his past. I knew the feeling and suspected more than ever that Valerian had a direct relationship with Sophie. I believed her now about her past lives. In what lifetime had the two of them met?

“Jesper. Not an unexpected surprise.” He stared at me for a moment, giving me the sense that he read me cover to cover.

“Sir, he called the Luzern line.” Aubry carefully set down the receiver of a very antique phone alongside its base. The room was his private chamber, alright, but not in Switzerland. It was his castle in Prague that the number had been forwarded to. Layered in baroque opulence, Bianchi looked like some Latino Ken doll posed uncomfortably on a red velvet chair.

Valerian spun his whole body towards me and his eyes flashed black for a moment as he commanded, “What has happened?”

I felt Vox buffet against me in a way that showed me only a glimmer of the power this Carpathian held. Sophie was right. I’d seen many things in my years but beside some sanctioned combat, I’d never seen the full fury of a Carpathian unleashed. Perhaps it was easier not to know the depths of evil my brethren were capable of. It had always been easier to turn my head away, distance myself from all those concerns.

But right now, Sophie was in the middle of it with an orphan, half mad Carpathian animal and she needed help. And somehow, I suspected that this Carpathian owed it to her.

I shrugged off the Vox and commanded in kind, “Tell me about the Vampire killing in Seville.”

Valerian stared, caught off-guard. But his face sobered and he sighed.

“I’ll fetch tea, my Lord.” Aubry left the room through a curtained doorway.

Valerian spread an arm to Bianchi, “Alejandro, you’ve heard of our scribe, Jesper Bretton.”

“Si, senor. Mucho Gusto.” He stood and bowed.

My brows drew together from the formality of it. But another word from Valerian cast some light on the situation.

“Bianchi had been keeping an eye on our Vampire Psychologist when she first surfaced from her slumber. Before she had to abandon her home in Ohio.”

“Then you already knew what she was doing, what she was up to. You didn’t need me to investigate her.” It felt like a betrayal deep down. He’d sent me to do work that had already been done. What game was he playing at?

“Alejandro, perhaps you might give us a moment? Jesper has not been brought up to speed.”

Bianchi nodded simply and withdrew, leaving me with the vampire who had me spying on the Vampire Psychologist.

“You lied to me.”

“You were never told to investigate her background. Simply to learn what you could about her current circumstances.” He moved slowly over to his seat, the black dress robes encumbering his movement, weighing him down. He sank down, weary, his hands spreading over the arm rests, gripping them. He breathed heavily and he finally let me read his face. After a moment, I could really tell what was going on.

“You’re protecting her. You sent me to see that she’s safe.”

“She has a tendency to get involved in situations…beyond her capabilities.” His finger drummed on the armrest in a building rhythm. I could see the tension in him finally, as if the day had worn him down. Aubrey, as if on perfect cue, arrived at his master’s chair, passing him a cup that Valerian drunk down rather quickly. As he handed the empty cup over to be refilled, his hands had stopped their nervous movement and he’d seemed to grip himself.

“But why?” I asked.

“Because you are the only one I can trust her with.”

It didn’t make any sense. If he valued her so highly, Xi would make a better guardian. I wasn’t half the vampire in strength or speed that he was, that any Carpathian was.

“I can see what you’re thinking and it’s true. I might’ve sent a better warrior to guard her life but I couldn’t trust anyone but you with her soul.” He sipped from the cup again, then set the cup deliberately back on the saucer. “She’s at it again, trying to save another Carpathian, isn’t she?”

“Tell me about Seville.”

He set the saucer down and settled deep into his chair. “A bottle of the Taint, disguised as wine. One of my agents was sent to retrieve it, trace its lineage. Alphonso. He reported the rumor of an abomination, one taken by the Taint. The rumored seems to be true.”

“And this abomination, it was made from your own elixir. Your own blood?”

“Yes, the sins of my past.”

I stepped toward him in the room, suddenly angry beyond anything I’d felt in a long while. “Did you know it would find her? Did you?”

“No. I had not seen that.”

“And there’s no helping this thing, no way to balance it, as she would say.”

Valerian’s eyes met mine at hearing the words. “No,” the words exploding with more force than perhaps he meant. Then, more softly, “No, I know of no cure for such a creature.” He shuddered through a sigh. “But there’s no telling her that. You must know that about her. That’s not how she learns. She’s not much on talking about things, she wants to feel them, touch them, understand how they work. And so you show her, thinking it is so wholly separate from who you are and how you feel and then she’s crawled right under your armor, under your skin to where you live and breathe. Reminding you that you still do live and breathe.”

I knew exactly what he meant. She thought she knew it all, thought there was always another way, another hope, even for those whose cause was lost. But I didn’t like hearing all this from him, as if he could teach me about my Helene. The fog was lifting on a lifetime spent in spices and sand, one spent in love and loss. I may not have begrudged another for feeling some semblance of what I did for her but there was no quarter given for one who claimed to know her better.

“You wanted the recipe for some tea, Mr. Jesper?”

As I moved to take the proffered paper from Aubry’s hands, I saw a muscle twitch in Valerian’s jaw. He saw me as a tool, sent to become a guardian, that was clear enough. He had felt certain that her charms would work on a vampire like me, a romantic like me, in ways that were predictable. He was playing the puppeteer and I vowed to cut the strings the first chance I got.

“I wouldn’t take that draught just yet,” Valerian warned. “Oh, Aubry may act as if it’s nothing but you’re not ready for that remedy. He’s just angry that you violated our laws in charming him to reveal secrets.”

When I looked in Aubry’s face, I saw the fierceness just underneath the veneer. But it was only what Aubry meant me to see. If he had wanted it, there would’ve been no warning at all. I read the recipe from the paper and handed it back to Aubry, who crumbled it up into dust, eyes seething.

“I tried to explain to him how you did it to protect our mutual friend but you see, that’s the rub. If you can’t trust your friends to behave, then who can you trust?”

I straightened and bowed, “You have my utmost apologies. If you’d like to call me out, I completely understand.”

Valerian sat upright in his chair, as if strike by lightning and full of fervor. “We’ve no time for that. You have a job to do. I expect you to do it.”

I swallowed hard and then nodded. I was no match for Valerian or his horror if it came to that. And as much as I trusted that he did want her protected, I had no idea what connection lay between Sophie and this particular Carpathian. I would have to turn over a lot more rocks to find those answers.

I started to release my hold on the connection through the phone but Valerian had some parting words for me.

“If I didn’t know you better, Jesper, if I thought you had skeletons in your closet and weren’t the closest thing to a blank slate we Vampires can be, I’d think you were utilizing Sophie’s services for yourself. And I’d perish the thought.”

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The Point of Failure

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on May 12, 2011 by vampirony

The first of Buddhism’s noble truths is simply this: suffering exists. Not a particularly mind-blowing concept, considering the state of the world, and I had never had troubles with that. The next truth also had always made sense to me: suffering arises from worldly attachments and desires. Self-evident when you look at all the wars and strife caused by this guy over here wanting what that guy over there has.

Even the third and fourth truths get no argument from me: ending suffering comes from releasing those attachments and that can be undertaken through following the Eightfold Path. And like any follower of a faith, the difficulty lies in the execution.

When I’d first learned of the Path, back in my life in Darjeeling, following it seemed part of the moral duty to which we all belonged, to be right in understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. But as I came back again and again, as I understood more, as I felt I’d progressed further along the Path, certain things slipped askew.

I hadn’t needed Bruno’s nostalgic Italian vacation ad to tell me that Skovajsa was our vampire cannibal of cyberspace lore. I hadn’t even needed the vampire in question to bring up Seville. I’d known it the moment he’d given me the present and started talking about the stars and the sun.

He’d followed me. He’d seen Jesper. Somehow, he’d figured out that Jesper was worth acquiring.

This sobering thought had spun around in my head the entire cab ride back to the office in Bellevue. What did real psychologists do when one patient threatened to…uhum…harm another. I’m not sure Dr. Kaga would have any worthwhile advice for me. Slipping further off the board, away from right mindfulness.

I had shuffled through the door of the office expecting to put my head in my hands, maybe cry a little, and spend another sleepless night wondering what on Earth I could do about this impossible situation. I certainly hadn’t expected Morena, Nick, and Jesper bantering back and forth like school kids waiting for the school bell.

I froze.

Jesper‘s face went from smile to scowl in an instant and with a whoosh!, he was standing in front of me as if he’d been there all along. As low as I felt, with him towering over me, sniffing with barely controlled rage, I wasn’t ready to see him. And yet, I wanted to see him so much. I was horrified and glad he was here all in one untidy bundle. I wanted a hug.

“You’ve been with the Carpathian,” he seethed.

I looked up at him, no hint of professionalism on my face, just the raw, naked emotions. I knew this rage. Had seen it so often over my lifetimes. There was supposed to be a point in reincarnating, that you would, at some point, figure out how to change your fate, amend your ways, and stop making the same mistakes. I wasn’t learning the lesson. Slipping away now from right effort.

The rage slid off his face. “You’re afraid.”

“Not afraid,” I said simply, lowering my head. “I feel helpless.” Please, no crying. “I don’t know what to do,” I breathed low, so only he could hear.

He put his hands around my shoulders, his grip gentle and kind, all the previous anger a memory of some other vampire at some other time. He breathed deeply, as if trying to control the emotions, fighting what his instincts would tell him.

“You must tell me about him. I can smell death all around you.”

I shook my head a minute amount. “I can’t. You know that.”

I felt his hands tighten around me for a moment. Then, he moved his hand to lift my chin towards him. Having him so close when I really wanted him even closer, it was hard to put on any shell to ward off these feelings. My eyes sought his. There was an awareness there I didn’t expect.

“How can I protect you if you don’t let me?”

But it’s you I’m trying to protect. I wanted to tell him. I was trembling wanting to tell him. I was sick to my stomach with it. Slipping away from right livelihood.

“If I told my patients about one another, I wouldn’t be much good at gaining their trust, would I?”

He dropped his hands from me in a huff. “You don’t care if anything happens to you. You’re not afraid of that.”

“Was I when I first met you? When you threatened to bite through my arm?”

He grimaced, his words suddenly sounding foreign, “Oh but that was different!”

No different. I’m trying to help him like I’m trying to help you.”

You don’t think all the deaths, the disappearances around here are because of him?”

It doesn’t matter. I’m sworn to try and help if I can.” The calm was ebbing away, replaced with a building frustration. He was right but there was nothing for it. I was a lapse Buddhist. I preached nonviolence, balance in all things. This aberration that Skovajsa represented was a moral dilemma that my teachings had no answer for. What do you do when that which you hope to help is beyond all help? What answer do you have then? Slipping away from right action.

I had none and the only answer I knew Jesper could offer was death. Jesper stepped toward me, not as a threat but as a means of letting his will be known. I hated the posturing. It reminded me of Valerian. Kill or be killed. “He’s a Carpathian, likely an orphan. You don’t know what he’s capable of.”

That touched a nerve. “Oh, I think I am most intimately aware of what a Carpathian is capable of! More so than you’ll ever know!

Slipping further away from right speech.

He swore something under his breath that sounded Russian. Again, the awareness of what it was he’d said, of where I might have learned to speak Russian, was just outside my grasp. Like the answer to this problem.

Sophie, you’re belief in your faith is admirable,” he sighed. “But do you not consider the innocent ones you would leave behind?”

That cut deep. Ready for a salvo of bravado from him, his empathetic question cut me to the quick, left me breathless. Tears were welling. I had sacrificed everything to save the ones I loved from the harm of what seemed to be my singular destiny. To minister to the undead. To try and bring them balance so that they might be freed. Slipping away from right intention.

I would never have left my daughter if the danger to her had not been made so abundantly clear by…

“Sophie?” Jesper grabbed my arm as I swayed. No, I couldn’t go there yet. Not yet.

I looked up at him. His face held such concern; his touch was firm yet gentle. The wound was not intentional. “You want to help me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Tell me what you know about a vampire killing in Seville.”

I’d stumped him. He swiveled his head at me, confused.

“Then there are still things that a vampire cannot tell.”

I stepped away from him.

“This is what you would ask of me.” He released his grip.

I met his question with silence. He had enough of a network to know that I was a Vampire Psychologist. He had admitted to consulting some others about me. Whether he was hiding more from me now, I had no knowledge. But I knew what his answer to my conundrum would be. And I could ill afford such consul. It would cost me my soul and make all my previous sacrifices for nothing. Slip…

He looked to Nick and Morena, who seemed frozen in space. They would not take a side now that their teacher had asserted some sort of authority. His gaze returned to me and the disappointment there caused them to flash amber. But he turned silently on his heel toward the door.

Morena stood, “Jesper, wait.”

He paused for a moment. When she didn’t continue, he walked out the door and as the door shut, a loud whoosh rattled the door.

The room returned to silence and I moved to lean against the desk, catching my breath. It was the closest I’d ever come to breaking the confidence of my practice and it hurt like Hell that I hadn’t. I surmised that somewhere in our exchange, Jesper and I were setting boundaries that would continue to be challenged. That is, if we continued to interact.

“I hate it when Mom and Dad fight.”

“You said it,” Morena agreed. I lifted my head to see the confusion on their faces. I’d seen that look before, from kids in my class in Ohio when I, the authority figure, had let them down. It was a horrible look and I felt ashamed.

“Especially in Turkish,” added Morena.

“Huh?” I didn’t know Turkish. Not that I recalled.

“At least that’s what it sounded like,” she said. Nick strode over as she continued. “You, uh, were a bit harsh with him, don’t you think?”

“Funny, you of all people accusing me of that,” I replied. When I looked up at her, there wasn’t anything mocking or sinister in her face. She waited for me to explain. They both needed me to explain.

“Right intention depends on a commitment to harmlessness. It’s one of our fundamental teachings.” I pointed to Nick’s amulet.

He held up his hands. “Don’t get testy with me. I wear this because my Gran gave it to me on my eighth birthday. I just try the best I can and figure it’ll all work itself out in the cosmic wash.”

I hadn’t realized my voice had been that way. I was exhausted, tired of not knowing what to do. And the weight of too many lifetimes weighed on me. I pinched the bridge of my nose to try and sharpen my thoughts.

“I don’t think you’re much up for teaching tonight,” Morena said.

I laughed, almost manically. “No, no you’re right about that.”

I sighed but couldn’t say more. Maybe because I was fighting back tears. My thoughts kept replaying the disappointment on Jesper’s face. This is what you would ask of me.

Morena grabbed Nick by the jacket and started pulling him toward the door, ignoring his momentary protest. “Come on, let’s give her some peace.”

I laughed again, coming a little unhinged each moment.

Nick halted at the door, “Hey, don’t you want to grab your bag?” He pointed to a small khaki knapsack tossed on the settee.

Morena took a rather long, measured look at me, hands on her hips, and shook her head. “No. Teach might find it more useful to her at this point. I suspect she’ll know just what it’s good for.”

They left without another word. It took me a few moments to sum up my evening. Bad patient left feeling encouraged that he might bind me to him. Good patient left feeling I didn’t trust him. Both trainees thinking I’m some crazed nut.

I walked over to the settee, pondering all the meditations I might use this evening to find a handhold back onto the Path. I was so absorbed in that thought that I absentmindedly reached into the knapsack and pulled out the object inside without much thought.

The Crimson Kukri was in my hand and it occurred to me that I was either going to pass this test or die trying.

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