Kenyon let Tim into the office, gesturing to Jim curled in the corner underneath the tribal mask. The carved face on the wall was livelier than the pale vampire on the floor. Tim waited to hear what Kenyon wanted from him. The bartender wasn't a vampire but a blood donor for the club and notably pleased to be in consideration for the next turning. Kenyon had developed a few showy ceremonies and subtly manipulated the various wanna-be vampires to vie for his approval and rewards. They all knew who was up for consideration at all times and worked day and night to be Kenyon's favorite. Since he needed to replenish the ranks soon Kenyon figured he needed to test the humans for loyalty.
From what Kenyon had seen in Jim's mind he had only turned female vampires. Knowing that, Kenyon had decided to let Tim earn some more points and take care of the wayward vampire. Tim was worthy, being pretty apathetic and unbothered by ethics or reality, as far as the vampire could tell.
"Tim, we need to keep Jim high and dry for a few nights. And set up some cameras and keep track of who tries to visit. He's not allowed any visitors -- vampire or human." Kenyon spelled it out for the bartender.
Tim nodded and asked, "You want me to pick a place or use one of the club's?"
"Why don't you surprise me with your ingenuity and find somewhere off the beaten path? Once you have it set up give me a call on my private line. Tell only me where it is." Tim nodded and hoisted Jim easily over his shoulder. Heading for the back door he asked, "Do I keep him chained or in a five point restraint?"
"Both, and Tim, add in some heavy use of crosses. Jim here has an unholy fear of the things. They won't cause him much pain if you keep them about a foot away. So please make sure they are at least six to eight inches from him at all times." A smile sliced across Kenyon's face unnerving Tim a bit. Audibly gulping, Tim nodded and pushed down his fears.
Tim left, still scenting the air with fear. Kenyon wandered back into Dark Whispers, bored. He didn't want to go up against Eddie without Jim. Charlotte must have found out by now he'd lied to her all those years ago. She would need to cool off a few days or he'd be fighting for his life, not just her. She did hold a grudge.
He saw Ginger Matthews was talking to a small girl and writing in her book while nodding. The girl wasn't one of his blood donors and he didn't recall seeing her around much ,so he wasn't too worried she could be telling anything of value to the woman. Still, he slipped into the teenager's mind. She was underage in the club on a fake ID that Jane hadn't caught. The girl was nervous but the woman put her at ease by listening and being calm. She'd been in Dark Whispers a half dozen times and yet to see anything odd other than her gym teacher hitting on one of the young men. Stanley wasn't that good a teacher, so she had put the information up on her blog and the rumors were already starting. Other teenage nonsense fluttered through her mind.
Dismissing them he wandered back to check on Jane. Finding out she had been letting minors slip in and out didn't bother him as much as her mood. Fake IDs were part of the business and he didn't fang them if they were minors as a rule. Not on purpose. Lately it seemed everything was more complicated. Give him the old days when a bribe would get him out of trouble with the vampire council members, or giving up some land if money wasn't enough to please them. He needed to get his forces lined up to invade Eddie's or repel the vampires Eddie sent to his club. The lines had been drawn for a war whether or not Eddie knew it. Charlotte was given to him and Eddie wasn't allowed to interfere. Someone would pay. Someone always paid -- eventually. It wasn't going to be him.
Same night back at Eddie's
Yawning, Charlotte wandered back into the biker bar feeling surprisingly refreshed. Eddie hadn't been teasing, he really did own the building next door and the rooms were more than plush. She finally felt safe. She could have sworn earlier that she smelled Kenyon when she headed into the building with Eddie, but could find no scent of him now. She breathed in deeply as she walked between the buildings, to her immediate regret. The area was little more than a giant cesspool at the best of times and at dusk that aroma had baked all day into the buildings leaving the alcohol laced urine soaked surfaces a tad riper than she wanted to inhale. Not a trace of Kenyon flooded back to her.
Kegs was nowhere to be seen, but she could feel him in the bar. She figured he was in the basement with Legs trying to keep her quiet if she was even conscious, which somehow she doubted. Somehow Eddie didn't strike her as foolhardy and Legs awake and mumbling wasn't very likely. Besides Charlotte wasn't close enough to Legs to feel her had she even wanted to find her. Some things were best left alone and Legs definitely fell into that category.
Eddie was behind the counter pouring drinks for a few of his vampires. He saw her arrive and nodded a noncommittal hello. Charlotte watched the half-dozen or so sullen vampires in front of him slam back shots and guzzle the foamy beer just had they had when they were human. Nothing they drank helped numb or alter them, but Eddie was more than happy to pour to give them the illusion of humanity. The witches hadn't helped the mood in the bar, but the alcohol seemed to be making them calmer or at least as calm as vampires ever got.
Charlotte slid onto a stool at the opposite end of the counter and waited for Eddie to make his way back. Another bartender showed up and took over the pouring duties. Freed up, he met up with Charlotte on her side of the bar and sat on the stool closest to her, furthest from the rest of the vampires.
"Fancy meeting you here." He dimpled while waving his bartender away from them. Charlotte grinned.
"Yeah, I heard good things about this place. It seems the owner has a certain style." She felt lighthearted, bantering for a change.
"Sure good to know. So, what kind of trouble you been up to since last time we met?" Eddie asked.
Sighing deeply Charlotte answered, "You mean this morning? Nothing much."
Eddie grinned and tapped her nose saying, "Nice try. Let's go a bit further back in your social calendar shall we?"
"Well, Florida was quite lovely this season." Charlotte said flippantly.
He shook his head softly. "Yeah, I heard more than just the fish were biting."
She shrugged, "Nothing too big. But hey, I did run into some old friends of ours. Remember Giselle and Theo?"
"Yes, Charlotte, I do. And they called me two days ago. They said that you'd popped in for a visit." Eddie didn't fill in the dead air that followed his comment.
Charlotte was relieved to hear that Eddie had heard from them. It meant they were still alive. He was waiting for her to reply.
"Sure did. Most definitely a charming club, Green Eyes. There is air of jasmine scented death that surrounds the club. Warm feeling of Florida mixed with edgy death around the corner, you'd like it." Charlotte lobbed softly to Eddie.
"Since it's currently shut down, with no expected opening date anytime soon I'll just have to take your word for that, now won't I, Charlotte?" With that he admitted to her that he knew what was going on with the couple. She avoided asking any follow up questions, since it wasn't going to end happily if she had to explain her Florida trip. That reminded her that Jim had to have hit town by now.
"Eddie, I do have a question." Charlotte decided to see if she had been imagining feeling Kenyon earlier, since they seemed to be playing twenty questions.
"Shoot, what's up?" Eddie met her eyes and ignored her redirecting the conversation.
"Did you feel Kenyon here last night?" She asked straight out.
Eddie tipped her face to his. Looking deeper he asked, "Why do you ask?"
"No reason, I just sort of thought I felt him earlier but I can't tell anymore if it was him or if I was just chasing shadows. You know what I mean?" Charlotte replied.
It was Eddie's turn to sigh. "Yes, I do. Charlotte, he is always around here. I don't know a night or day that goes by he doesn't either send over one of his humans or pop by himself. He has done this since I have known you. Didn't you know? He's constantly sending out sweepers and vampires to spy on my and mine. I am surprised you didn't smell his trace when you drove up."
Charlotte knew that the magic-wrapped humans had dampened her ability to read but hadn't realized how much. That she really hadn't paid enough attention to Kenyon's little games was gradually dawning on her. And it was coming back to bite her on the ass. Shuddering she said, "Sorry, Eddie, I didn't know."
He laughed loudly, "Honey, it isn't always about you! He has kept an eye on me because he knows I have been building my own little vampire army. Kenyon had to pay attention to the competition. Your showing up hasn't really done any more damage. I told you yesterday it was okay for you to be here."
She felt foolish but didn't reply. She figured it would be better if she didn't argue her worth. He wasn't mocking her, just letting her know how things stood. Hanging her head, she kept her mouth shut for a change. Eddie waited and saw she wasn't going to continue so he did.
"Charlotte, things aren't always what they seem. You know this. How often have we used misdirection and tricks to get what we need? How many humans think you are just their best friend? Yet the next day they can't recall what you did the night before? We operate outside the lines. We don't exist, remember?" Eddie wasn't smiling just talking.
"I know this. Why are you telling me this?" Charlotte tried to keep the whine out of her tone but wasn't so sure she succeeded. From the lifted eyebrow on his face, she probably didn't.
"Because you aren't acting like a vampire. You are acting like a human." He raised a hand stalling her sputtering. "I'm not saying you don't fang in and do your best draining whenever the mood suits you. But you let Kenyon run you out of town and leave behind your vampires. The fact you stole from vampires means you have been amongst the sheep too long. Humans have dictated your behavior. You need to dip into the pool of vampires and be like us again. Predators not prey."
Charlotte shuddered slightly.
"It wasn't your fault." Eddie tried for a lighter tone, less judgmental, seeing the frown on her face.
A rough laugh escaped Charlotte. She didn't recall anyone holding a gun to her head making her steal from the banks. Eddie grinned, "Okay, maybe you made a few bad choices."
"Like the poorly planted attorney?" She said in a whisper. That was what started her hell with Kenyon.
"That certainly didn't help much now did it?" Eddie met her eyes with a dimpled smile.
"No. But Eddie, what should I do?" Charlotte asked in another whisper. She didn't want any of his vampires hearing her. They weren't paying any attention to anything but the drinks in front of them. Witches definitely threw vampires off their feed -- so to speak.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-05-21