The Eleventh Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker
Jonathan Harker had boarded the Amtrak train hours ago at the station on Folsom Street. He’d never been on a train in his life besides BART and the Napa Valley Wine Train but these were part of the instructions he’d been given. He’d have rather gotten on a plane. Jonny wanted to leave of the Bay Area behind. Watching the scenery roll by all too slowly reminded him of her and she was the one person in all the world he desperately wanted to forget, though of course he never would.
He had met Dolengen months ago at an after hours place called “Delirium.” His best friend Bobby had conned him into it. Bobby knew he’d just asked Lucy to marry him but his “wingman” thought he deserved one last night on the town. Bobby wanted to introduce him to two young women he’d just met, Verona and Dol.
It wasn’t long before Verona and Bobby disappeared and almost against his will, he found himself following the raven-haired Dol into a back room containing few other items of furniture besides a bed.
Dol wasn’t a prostitute but she did want something from Jonny, his sex and his blood. Dolengen looked like she couldn’t be older than twenty-five but she had died a century ago in Central Europe and been reborn a vampire.
Delirium was the most unusual club in San Francisco in that it catered to the undead, allowing them to lure warm-blooded men and women into what seemed to be a comfortable social situation, putting their prey at ease so they would hardly notice that they had become sheep the minute they entered…until it was too late.
Jonny thought he had fallen in love with Dol but that was just an effect of their relationship. A person bitten by a vampire and yet allowed to live becomes mentally and emotionally enslaved. He thought it was impossible for him not to love Dol.
But Dol was different. At first, she wanted to continue to feed off of him but something changed her mind. Maybe there was some tiny vestige of humanity within her that survived a century of consuming the blood of the living. She found out about Lucy, even had coffee with her and her sister Mina (although Dol didn’t actually drink her coffee), and then broke it off with Jonny.
It took meeting her mysterious and dangerous master known only as Antonie to end Jonny’s attachment to Dol. It was too late for Bobby. Verona had turned him. His friend was now one of them, but Dol gave him a second chance at a normal life…
…and then took it away.
Dol, Antonie, and a group of maybe a hundred vampires collectively known as the Family all existed in a crypt in the lowest level of a dilapidated waterfront warehouse sometimes called the Demon’s Feast. It was named that by the members of the artist’s collective who illegally lived and worked there, along with others who wanted to avoid the authorities. It was the perfect lair for a group of supernatural beings to spend their days, guarded by human allies.
It also offered a single point of failure, a place their enemies could attack and exterminate them all at once.
Here and now, they’re called the Van Helsings, a centuries old religious order dedicated to eradicating the race of vampires from the face of the Earth. The Demon’s Feast was a fire hazard to begin with so the Van Helsings’ act of arson was easily accomplished. Dozens of people died in the blaze as did most of San Francisco’s vampire population. Only a few of the undead survived. One of them was Dolengen.
She took Lucy unawares posing as a casual acquaintance and tricking her way into their apartment. When Jonny found them together in bed hours later, Lucy was almost dead and Dol was not quite sated with her blood. She took Jonny’s too, enough to enslave him again, or so she thought. Maybe there was something about being taken and then set free that let him resist a second time. Unfortunately, he broke free too late…too late for Lucy that is.
The Van Helsings were scouring the City and surrounding communities for the few vampires that had escaped the fire of the Demon’s Feast and Dol needed sanctuary. That’s what she wanted from Jonny. From Lucy, she wanted an ally or perhaps just a lure for the vampire hunters that would allow her time to get away.
Lucy died on a Tuesday.
Dol set it up so it looked like a mugging gone bad. Her throat was slit and she bled out in an alley late at night. Jonny made sure that she was buried before three days were up. That’s the incubation period. Long after the funeral, he stood by at her grave but not out of grief.
Dolengen knew they’d be coming. To the local authorities, Lucy’s death was tragic but not out of the ordinary. To the Van Helsings, it was a blatant act of war, a challenge screaming, “Come and get me if you can.”
It didn’t bother Dol that she had to leave Jonny behind. Maybe she’d come back this way some day and he’d be useful again. But it was Lucy’s death that startled him back to grim reality. Lucy was dead and Dol had vanished, but Lucy was coming back.
An amateur, he searched the web and thought he knew how to kill a vampire. He stood by her grave as the sun dropped below the western horizon. The third night began as the fog rolled in. He held a gym bag containing several wooden tent pegs and a rubber mallet. He knew Lucy would have to break out of her coffin, the barrier the law required the coffin to be encased, and then claw her way up through six feet of earth.
He was ready. Well, no, he really wasn’t. But he thought he was.
At first he thought he’d fallen asleep, but he was still standing. He’d dropped the gym bag at his feet. The fog was a thick shroud for the gravestones and he was shivering.
“Jonny. I’m back.”
It was Lucy’s voice, but he was hearing it in his head.
“Didn’t you miss me, Jonny?”
He did miss her. He missed her with a horrible emptiness in his chest, but he couldn’t let her come back, not like this. She wouldn’t have wanted to come back this way. This was all his fault. If he hadn’t let Bobby talk him into meeting him at Delirium or if he’d walked in, taken one look at Bobby with Verona and Dol, then turned around and left again, none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t have gotten involved in Dol’s world, wouldn’t have dragged Lucy down into it.
Lucy would never have become a vampire.
One hand plunged upward through loose dirt and grass, and then the other emerged. She slowly dug her way out, covered with the mud and filth of the grave, her pale skin and hair clotted, her white gown torn and soiled.
Lucy’s eyes shined with a malevolent light and he could feel himself being drawn to her.
“I knew you’d be here, Jonny. I knew you would wait for me.”
“I…I had to come.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought of the gym bag. He had to break eye contact, get the mallet and stake. If he didn’t, she would take him, too.
“I love you, Jonny. I always will. I’m so glad you’re here. Now we can be together, not for a lifetime, but forever.”
She stood up and bared her fangs. They were going to get married. She was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, till death do you part. Now death had parted them and it threatened to join them again forever in blood.
They burst in from all around. Two or three grabbed Jonny and pulled him back while the rest assaulted Lucy.
“No, wait! Don’t hurt her!” It was like someone else was talking with Jonny’s voice. He had come to kill her but now the only thing he could think of was saving her.
“Shut up and stay still.” The man’s voice was as rough as his hands. Jonny was trying to escape but he and the other guy were too strong.
There was lights, he caught a whiff of garlic, then it was an overpowering odor. He could hear Lucy cough and choke. Another smell. Burning flesh? What kind of light was that?
“Jonny! Help! Please!”
She was screaming, begging him for her life. He managed to get his head up. He couldn’t see her clearly. There were too many people surrounding her, holding her down. The lights were burning her. The only one making any noise was Lucy. The others worked with cold, silent efficiency.
“No! Not that! Jonny! Jonny, I love you!”
He heard a loud thump and then she screamed, blood flooding her throat as they burst her heart with the stake. A second thump. A third. She mercifully stopped screaming.
An electric motor. A saw. Oh God, her head. They cut off her head.
“You don’t need to see this, kid.”
Jonny went limp. There was nothing else to do, not anymore. She was gone, really gone this time. What they called the second death, the final one. Now Lucy was free. They had saved her. He thought that’s why he was there, but he came because he loved her. They were there because it was their job.
The train’s next stop was L.A. Then on to Tuscon, El Paso, across Texas, and finally to New Orleans. That’s where they’d train him. The trip would take three days which would give him time to think. They also wanted to give him enough time to change his mind if he was going to. Jonny knew he wouldn’t. Dol and her kind had taken everything from him including a part of his soul. She could have turned him as well as Lucy, and it was a mistake that she didn’t.
When Lucy died the first time, Dol had made an enemy of Jonny. When she died a second time, he found allies who were her enemies, too.
Jonathan Harker, an ironic name given everything that had happened to him, had pledged himself on Lucy’s soul to the Van Helsings. He would let them turn him into one of their soldiers. He only hoped among all of the undead he planned to destroy, Dolengen would be one of them. He wanted to look into her eyes as he drove the stake through her black heart.
He walked in the safe house an hour before dawn. It hadn’t taken him long to find his prey. She was a cocktail waitress working at a dive bar. No cameras in the parking lot and being an employee her car was far away from the building. It was easy and she wouldn’t remember a thing except feeling weak and having a strange injury on her throat.
Sean Becker was ashamed now, but he had been excited, thrilled, elated right before he attacked. He was a dangerous predator, a skilled and stealthy killer, well-practiced in his art. Her blood smelled delightful and it tasted amazing.
But like Icarus flying too close to the sun, his mania melted like candle wax after his lust was satisfied. He walked around for hours afterward depressed even to the point of suicide, though he wasn’t sure how he’d accomplish that. Maybe just walk out into the desert and wait for sunrise.
Instead, he was standing in a living room of another temporary shelter. He could hear Raquel’s regular breathing coming from the back bedroom. She was asleep. For a moment, he had the impulse to go into her room, maybe just to watch her, maybe to take her up on the invitation she made earlier.
“No,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head. “I can’t.”
Sean reached into his jacket pocket and noticed he had a text. He’s set the ringer to silent when he went out. No use having his phone ring, giving his position away. It was from Artemis addressed to both his cell and Raquel’s:
Made it to L.A. Will notify when I have news.
Short and sweet, kind of like the cocktail waitress. Couldn’t have been more than five foot two, curly red hair, on the chubby side, big boobs revealing lots of cleavage. Why did he even notice those details. She smelled of cigarette smoke and stale beer which only bothered him after he was finished with her. Her green eyes were courtesy of contact lenses.
He sat on the sofa where Raquel had found him hours ago. Sean remembered how she had actually invited him to “take” her, not just her blood but her body. The taking was incredibly sensual. He was turned on even when the victim was a man, although he knew he wasn’t gay or bi. If he hadn’t been in an open parking lot, he might have even raped the waitress.
Why did he think these things? He didn’t want to hurt anyone. His anonymous victim didn’t deserve to be violated, none of them did. For that matter, there were several pints of human blood in the refrigerator so he didn’t have to take a person at all. He did it because he was frustrated, angry, and confused. So much had happened so fast. Finding out about the curse, his Mom, Marishka dying.
No. He took a victim because he was a hunter and he liked it, Heaven help him.
He was a monster.
Artemis was pushing his luck but by now he was used to it. Dawn was only an hour away but he had to see him. Not half a dozen people knew about this place and even fewer knew about the prisoner. Augustine Barcelona or what there was of him was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to various monitors. An IV was plugged into a vein through a shunt. He’d already been through one surgery and would need at least one more. Mariskha had done a very professional job on his face. He was lucky he had part of one left.
“When can I talk to him, Doctor?”
The surgeon was one of several medical professionals used by the Coalition. Willis Tate wasn’t needed often, but when called he was well paid, not just for his expertise, but for his silence.
“Several days at least but I’d prefer you wait at least a week before you start in on him. The trauma was massive and it’s a miracle the shock and blood loss didn’t kill him.”
“The information this man possesses is vital to our continued survival, Dr. Tate. We don’t even have to drug or torture him for it so his medical…”
“Yes, I know how you plan on getting him to talk, Artemis.” Tate slammed his medical case shut. “The two nurses here should be able to take care of him for now. I’ll be back before nightfall to check on him again.” In a few days he’ll be strong enough for the next surgery. He’ll never be the same again, poor bastard, but I can make sure he lives.”
“Thank you. I know this can’t be easy for you.”
Tate glared at the vampire in the dimly lit room. “No, it’s not.” Artemis looked over at Augustine’s heavily bandaged face as he heard Tate’s footsteps recede. One of the nurses was sitting on the other side of the bed pretending to monitor his patient’s condition. The other was in the outer room watching Augustine’s vitals on the repeater equipment. Neither one were particularly comfortable when Artemis or the others were near but it was a necessary evil, one of the many they had to tolerate.
Artemis walked over to his foe’s bedside with feline-like grace and silence. “Welcome to my parlor, Augustine.” He licked his lips momentarily revealing his fangs. He had waited for this opportunity for years. Colton Boudreaux’s number one lieutenant was now in his power. Artemis was going to take every possible advantage of him. Once he had drained every last bit of information out of the vampire hunter he would also deprive him of his life. Augustine would never join the Coalition even if he was turned. Instead, he was destined for a shallow grave in the desert or a watery resting place at the bottom of the Pacific weighted down with chains.
Colton was about to board his flight at SFO for New Orleans. He’d be home in a little under four hours from now. After Augustine’s presumed capture, he had aborted the op. It was all but over anyway and a relative success. Approximately one hundred vampires were executed in a single stroke. True there were also human casualties, but collateral damage was always part of war. He had long since stopped feeling pity for the bystanders.
The various team members would take different routes out of the area and arrive at varying destinations. They couldn’t afford to be tracked and after such a public op, it was best to lay low for a while. Colton was sure they hadn’t completely purged the Bay Area. There were always a few independents who managed to slip through the cracks. However they had successfully broken the back of one of the most powerful vampire families on the West Coast. That was worth something, even if Antonie, Dolengen, and most likely Marishka had gotten away.
He still had trouble believing the Coalition had hit their safe house just to rescue the hostage. Could they have known Augustine was going to be there? No, impossible. He’d decided to make a visit at the last moment and the attack had been too well-organized to be conducted on the fly, at least from what he gathered by watching the news reports. The old woman had to have been the target. Was Marishka directly involved or was Artemis trying to recruit her using this ploy?
Regardless, Mariskha was no longer under the Order’s influence. Her reputation didn’t suggest she would operate well as an independent, and since her bridges had been burned, quite literally, with the Family, the Coalition was her only other option. Just what Colton didn’t need, another vampire on the side of Artemis. If the Coalition did have control of Augustine, it was only a matter of time until he cracked unless he could find a way to commit suicide. Rosalee’s capture had been an inconvenience but Augustine’s was a disaster. The moment Colton was on the ground again, he had to reorganize everything. This wasn’t something you did over the phone or with texts. Their security and their lives were at stake. The Cardinal had already approved his tentative plan. Now if they just had enough time.
“Orders from Colton. We’ve got to shut it down here and move her, Stan.”
“Krista, we haven’t had enough time with her and you know it.”
“Can’t be helped. Augustine’s been compromised and we’ve got to throw everything, every place he knew about out the window.”
Rosalee Wing was entering her second week of deprogramming. There were times when she started to feel like herself again, and then she’d go to sleep and dream about him. She loved and hated Artemis. Sometimes she masturbated while fantasizing about him draining her blood from her throat on the pavement in that filthy alley in San Francisco. She couldn’t let her deprogrammers know about that last part. They might increase her drugs again.
“Come on, Rosy. Do you feel up to a little trip? I’ve already packed your things.”
“I guess so, Krista. Did something happen?”
Krista helped her to her feet. It was afternoon but Rosalee took frequent naps. She finished her second transfusion yesterday. It was supposed to dilute the chemical reason for her obsession and devotion to Artemis. It was effective, and combined with the drugs and talking therapy, she had a good chance of being freed from the vampire’s influence.
It was going to take a while. About 68% of victims who underwent the treatment fully recovered. Rosalee didn’t like to think about the other 32%.
“Okay, here let me help you. Stan’s put our bags in the car. We’re headed for the airport.”
“Where are we going, Krista?” Rosalee felt her head clearing and her legs were stronger under her.
“A nice, straight shot from Denver to Chicago, Rosy. Ever been there? Oh, watch the step.” Krista opened the door for her as they stepped onto the front porch.
“Probably. Hard to remember right now but the job takes you all over.”
“Oh don’t I know it, honey.”
Krista wasn’t old enough to be Rosalee’s mother but maybe an older sister or aunt. Even if they were the same age, she had a maternal personality. It’s part of what made her a good deprogrammer. She liked taking care of people. Stan, on the other hand, was just turning thirty, strong, almost stoic. He liked taking care of vampires as in extermination. Rosalee was glad to have the both of them with her.
“Here you go.”
Stan was holding the back door open while Krista helped Rosalee in. “That’ll do it. Don’t forget to buckle up.”
The door shut and then Stan held the front passenger door open for Krista and when she was settled, he walked around the front of the car and got in the driver’s seat.
“Why not, Rosy? Sounds like fun. When you’re feeling better, maybe we can go shopping.”
“I guess, Krista.” Something serious had happened and they were hiding it from her. What about all the medical equipment? Did Stan pack it and send it ahead or were they going to leave it behind? It would be sloppy to leave clues, but this was happening too fast. Another security breach? Who had the vampires taken this time?
Rosalee looked out the window at the passing scenery as Stan pulled onto the Parkway. If they were leaving, it meant they weren’t safe here. She didn’t remember there being any deprograming centers in Chicago. It would probably be dark by the time they got there. She was afraid of the dark, afraid he were out there waiting for her in the shadows.
But it also excited her.
Dawn Soto watched the Sun dip lower to the horizon from her kitchen window. It had been three days since she’d gotten back home. She took another sip of her tea. Three miserable days and nights. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Marishka, coughing up blood, telling her Mom how much she loved her, almost falling apart on her lap.
They had been college roommates once, back when they were both young and stupidly innocent. Marishka had gotten involved in that stupid cult which Dawn had no time for or interest in. She should have paid more attention. If she’d seen just how much influence their leader Anthony Zerba had over her, maybe she could have done something.
Then again, maybe not. Anthony Zerba turned out to be the vampire Antonie, the one who ran the Family in San Francisco before the Van Helsings burned them out. Marishka had betrayed the Family to the Van Helsings but only because the vampire hunters had taken her Mom hostage.
No, that wasn’t the only reason. She realized that the Family and the Van Helsings weren’t all that much different. Both were vicious, cruel, murderous, and demanded perfect devotion from their members. Marishka didn’t want any part of either of them. That’s why she came to Dawn for help after forty years of enslavement.
She had failed. The Erebus Field was experimental and Dawn hadn’t invented the treatment for something as extreme as vampirism. It still amazed her that the field in combination with chemotherapy had let Mariskha see daylight for the first time in four decades.
The treatment also killed her or made her vulnerable enough to be killed. Was it prolonged exposure to sunlight, the three bullets in her chest and gut, or were the chemicals Dawn pumped into Marishka’s veins toxic? It was probably the field’s power supply. It was limited and when the power died and the field collapsed there was no hope left. Even then, Marishka kept going, kept trying to save her Mom’s life.
Now they were both dead.
Dawn picked up her phone and texted her son Andrew.
Doing anything for dinner? I'm buying.
She was surprised when he answered right away.
Just finished latest film project. Starving. Tai Pan?
His favorite Chinese restaurant on the Peninsula.
Sure. When can you get here?
Give me an hour Mom.
Okay. I love you.
Love you too. Ciao.
Dawn stared at the last four words on the screen. She had seen so much pain and death in such a short amount of time. She needed to hold onto who she loved. She’d need that kind of strength to face what was coming.
Jonathan was in the lounge car looking out the window. He took another sip of his beer not really tasting it. Halfway between El Paso and San Antonio. He remembered the Alamo from grade school but this wasn’t a vacation. He was on his way to be trained as a soldier in a secret army fighting an enemy no one thought existed in real life. He had faced that enemy. One of them was his fiancée. He watched her die twice. Was he ready for this kind of life?
The phone he was given vibrated in his pocket.
“Change of plans, Harker. Get off the train at San Antonio. You’ll be met.”
“Why? I thought I was going to New Orleans.”
“Like I said, change of plans. We move places and schedules around for security reasons. Nothing to worry about. Just get off in San Antonio and we’ll take care of the rest.”
“Sure. Okay. Thanks.” Jonny heard the connection go dead. “San Antonio. Maybe I’ll get to see the Alamo after all.” He didn’t care about that, though. Returning the phone to his pocket, he realized he’d put himself under the control of people he didn’t know and wasn’t sure he understood. He knew he couldn’t trust Dolengen and the family of vampires, but could he trust the Van Helsings?
“Anton Vladimirescu Naga. I haven’t seen you since I was a little boy. Why are you here in Talnakh?”
“I am called Antonie now. It was kind of you to invite me into your home, Gennadi. Your generosity is like your father’s.”
“So is my stupidity for staying in this frozen hell, but the pay is good for mining engineers. Come back for old time’s sake, Antonie?”
“Climate or the fact that the daylight hours are so short here this time of year. Yes, my father told me what you were when I became a man. You feasted on the denizens of the Norilsk Gulag every winter from before I was born until Khrushchev died.”
“Your Father was my friend. I hope you are too. I need a place to hide.”
“The hunter is now the hunted. Fear not. The Vasiliev family has long been allies with the undead. How long will you be with us? This is later in the season than is usual for you.”
“Not long and yes, the timing is unfortunate. I experienced some reversals in America, California to be specific. I will be here only a few weeks. I need to make some contacts, rebuild alliances. Do you know of anyone?”
“There are always a few here, though with the approach of spring, they will move south.”
“Good. Put me in contact with them. Oh, and I have not eaten yet.”
“The processing plants are working double shifts so you should have plenty of opportunities when they get off in about an hour. In the meantime, I will put out some feelers and prepare someplace to shelter you during the day, Antonie.”
“Excellent. Such warm hospitality makes me miss drinking vodka with my Russian friends, Gennadi.”
“That just means more vodka for me, Antonie. Of course you could always have, what do they call that drink, a bloody Mary?” Both of them laughed.
“In my case dear Gennadi, it would be more like a bloody Misha or Nikita.”
Gennadi had been allied with the Russian vampires since his father’s death. This miserable mining community north of the Arctic Circle had limited amenities and even the top soil was toxic with heavy metals, but it also made a good place for the undead to hide throughout the dark winter. He was well paid, both in money and favors and the gratitude of a vampire is something to be cherished. He would be glad to make arrangements for his father’s old friend. It couldn’t hurt business.
“What a beautiful little boy. How old is he?”
“He just turned three.” Cathy Becker was volunteering at the San Francisco Opera. She and Richard lived well with their two children Kim and Sean in their Pacific Heights Victorian and Cathy had become involved in a number of charitable projects. This event would help raise money for the UCSF Pediatric Oncology Center.
Kim was having a sleepover at her friend Joanie’s house but Sean loved coming to the Opera with her so he could run up and down the aisles, oblivious to the presence of some of the greatest performers on the planet rehearsing just a few yards away.
Cathy turned toward the young woman who had spoken to her and froze. She didn’t know her name but two decades of growing up in the Family taught her to recognize what she was.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
“Mama Sallie just wanted to see how you and your little boy were doing. It’s Sean, it’s it?”
“He’s just a child. I suggest you leave Ms…”
“Leave Marishka, and tell Mama Sallie that I don’t need to be bullied.”
“To tell you the truth Cathy, I’m actually on your side.”
“Now why don’t I believe that?”
“It’s true. I’ve always wondered if anyone could leave the Family and have a…normal life.”
“That obviously won’t happen to you, will it?”
“No need to state the obvious.”
Cathy heard a taunting in the vampire’s tone but just for an instant, she had a hurt look on her face. Sometimes they remembered their old life and even missed it. Maybe she was young enough to have loved ones who were still alive.
Both women heard running feet rapidly approaching. “Hi Mommy. Who’s the lady?”
Sean collided with Cathy’s legs and came to an abrupt stop. He looked up at Cathy smiling and then over to Mariskha. “Who are you?”
Marishka knelt down and tousled Sean’s curly brown hair. “My name’s Marishka. I came to say hi.”
“Hi. Your hands are cold.”
“Please stand up.” Cathy’s voice carried the same chill as did Marishka’s flesh. The vampire complied.
“He’s such a sweet boy.”
“Never touch him again or I swear I will find you and…”
“Hush now. Not in front of your little boy. I was just leaving anyway.”
“Stay away, Marishka.”
She looked down, “Bye-bye, Sean.”
“Bye-bye, lady.” Sean waved his whole arm back and forth as the mocha colored woman started walking backward.
“Cathy.” A voice was calling from near the front of the auditorium. “Can you come here a sec?”
She looked behind her. “Be right there.” Then she bent down and held Sean by both shoulders. “Come with Mommy now.”
“Can’t I play some more?”
“Not now. I don’t like you talking with strangers.”
Cathy looked up and Marishka was nowhere in sight. She whispered, “That bitch.”
“Cathy. Just for a second.”
“Be right there.”
She turned around again and Sean had vanished.
“No!” She sat up in bed and looked at the clock. It said 4:31 a.m. “No, it didn’t happen that way.”
Cathy got up, used the bathroom but then didn’t feel like trying to sleep again. She went into the kitchen and put the coffee on and gazed out the window. Her house overlooked St. George, such a sleepy, reserved place compared to when she lived in San Francisco.
Marishka had visited her for the first time at the Opera House when Sean was a toddler, but he didn’t disappear. When she looked down, he was still standing next to her and the vampire had gone. Unfortunately, she came back and more than once.
Now, with Sean a victim of the curse, now that Cathy had to face the full consequences of her failure, it was as if it weren’t enough for Mama Sallie. The old woman, well, she looked a lot younger than Cathy did now, still had her claws in Sean’s life and in her’s. Marishka wondered if anyone could get away from the Family and live a normal life.
“No. No, we can’t. But I’ve got to end this somehow.”
She had been out of the life for a long time but she still had friends. It was still early enough. She got up, pulled her phone off the charging cord and made a call to someone she never thought she’d talk to again.
They weren’t in Chicago proper but within about ten miles of downtown. Rosalee had played it cool with Krista and Stan. She was getting better, becoming her old self again. The vampire’s hold on her was waning. That’s what they believed and sometimes she believed it too, but that was usually during the day. The night was always harder. Krista said she was so proud of her for staying strong at night.
They didn’t know. She could never tell them.
New place, new names, new identities, same purpose. If you belong to the Van Helsings long enough, you pick up all kinds of skills, including pick-pocketing. Rosalee had actually lifted Krista’s cell phone from her jacket pocket after she’d taken it off. She’d forgotten to take it out when she got back from the market. Stan was the one who usually made contact with the other units, so she wouldn’t miss it for a while.
Stan was playing solitaire on his tablet and Krista and Rosalee were watching some reality TV show. Rosalee excused herself to use the bathroom. She’d have to do this fast so they wouldn’t become suspicious.
“It’s me. I’ve missed you, Baby. I’ve got news. You’re right. They’re changing everything around, moving safe houses, reassigning people, new IDs, new cells, everything. Here’s the address where they’re holding me now.”
“Get up and drink this.”
Sean knew the sun must just be setting. He was conscious but still mentally fuzzy. He focused his vision and saw Raquel standing over him holding a pint bottle of blood, vintage, O negative as if it really mattered. “What? What’s going on?” He sat up and took the container in his hand. She turned her back to him. She didn’t like to look.
“We’re leaving. New orders. I bought another car today. It’s all packed. Time to blow this circus for the bright lights of L.A.”
“Artemis?” He paused between gulps.
“He’s probably still getting up, too. One of his lieutenants. It’s time to get back together again. We’ve had enough vacation time.”
Sean stood up. “I’m done.”
Raquel faced him and saw the empty he was offering her. Since that night, he’d stayed in and accepted the bottles like a good little vampire. “We’ll take it with us and ditch it on the way out of town. The place is wiped clean.
“What are the details? Why does Artemis want us back now?”
“We’ll find out once we get there. Right now all I know for sure is they’ve got a high level Van Helsing named Augustine prisoner and he’s singing like a nightingale.”
I’ve leveraged two previously written stories and incorporated their contents here. The first is Lucy Died on a Tuesday which tells how Jonathan Harker joined the Van Helsings after Dolengen turned his fiancée into a vampire and then subsequently killed a second time by Van Helsing operatives. The second is Sheltering Night, which is a flash fiction piece (I expanded it slightly here) showing Antonie hiding out at the site of what used to be a Soviet gulag and now a mining community and one of the most toxic places on the planet.
I also brought back Rosalee Wing and tried to show the difficulties in “deprogramming” someone compromised by a vampire. Mariskha makes an appearance in a flashback with the promise of future (flashback) visits with Cathy and little Sean. Not a lot of action in today’s story, but the scene needed to be set up for our characters. Next chapter things will start popping again.
Here are the previous chapters in the series: