Over the Hill and Through the Woods
The walk back to the diner seemed to stretch out forever; I was exhausted by the elaborate disposal of our late night supper. Hacking up a body is far more difficult than it appears, vampiric powers aside. The blood of Mac, who had been unfortunate enough to be in my way, still drummed through my body as the traces of his remains chilled on the outside of my clothes. I really hated this part of being a vampire. It wasn't like I could just twitch my nose and simply make all my victims disappear, like a witch.
Damn it! I don't know why. I mean after all, I had looked in the various dark magic books I could find, but nowhere did they tell me how to twitch the corpses away. They must save that for those sky clad meetings of theirs during the summer solstice or something. It was not like I would ever get invited to those gatherings. Witches really did not like us vampires. It probably had something to do with the fact we basically refused to share blood with them. We weren't stupid. Human witches with vampiric blood were not a good combination no matter how you sliced it. I know there were laws on that somewhere.
Harry caught my sulking and said, "Well, Cassandra, that was fun." He looked at me, still sparkling with enjoyment at our dismembering the two fools that had been in our way. He continued with, "I really miss our time together."
Like that would change his life? Yeah, so he missed out on some of our time together, but it was only since his total immersion into politics that he wasn't around as much. J. Edgar Hoover warped him in ways I could not even begin to explain. Harry played within the FBI for such a long time that he never came around to play with me anymore. And since 2001 and the new levels of threats they had detected, he was active pretty much twenty-four seven. Even for a vampire that was more than a full time job. I didn't see how he found time to feed. Ignoring that thought, I fumed on his desertion instead.
My silence slithered between us into the heavy night air. Harry identified my meaning without my adding any more words. We had been a team far too long for him to miss my anger and distress at his leaving me alone while he dabbled in world affairs and creating his various megalomaniacs for fun and profit. A sorrow-filled sounding night bird called out into the distance canyon and was answered quickly by a lonely coyote. The sound depressed me, but I shook it off as we continued upwards.
The path was steep; I hadn't noticed this when we had headed down towards the van earlier. We had intended on checking out the crime scene with our vampire eyes. Meeting up with the idiots on the way down the hill screwed up that plan. The whole evening had been off from the beginning, and finding Harry again just confused me more.
The night was noisy and active while we were still frozen within our time and place. We had been friends and companions in death far longer than Harry had been dabbling in politics. His showing up unannounced had set me back for a bit, but now I was starting to question why Harry showed up only after I had met up with Kirk, the alleged Homeland Security cop. Not that I believed that for a minute, but I had no real facts -- just my gut feelings. Harry rarely showed up without having his own agenda. All of our past aside, he really did take good care of himself and I was just peripheral entertainment. I was under no illusions in that regard.
Harry stopped suddenly. I tensed behind him, expecting something to spring out at us from the brush near the dirt pathway. To our right, shrubs gave way to oaks and pines while shadows played in the moonlight. Had I missed another predator in the distance, maybe the one who killed Greg?
Meeting my eyes Harry firmly said, "You are not merely entertainment to me. You are one of my few friends. Why you are questioning this further illustrates why I had to come when I heard Greg was involved in something. Kirk Grady may not be the most bendable of agents, but he is a good one. Yes, you will get to kill him." Here he smiled, fangs showing, "But not until we find out information from him. He knows something about Greg I don't, yet."
My anger dissolved with those words. Harry wasn't one to lie to me. At least as far as I had always known, and if he said I was going to be allowed to kill the agent then I would. I still was puzzled about something, "How did you know where to find me tonight?"
He still hesitated while distractedly looking over to the base of the trees where a nocturnal creature was scrabbling and foraging for food. I saw the shape flickering enough in the shadows to know it was a possum. The possum did not recognize us for what we were and in response to Harry's glance, snarled and hissed out its anger at being disturbed. Harry's reaction to the animal's baring of sharp teeth was showing his own fangs and hissing in return. Harry scared the white-tailed beast to scurrying away and under low brush out of even our sight. I think the fact that Harry's teeth were a bit longer and sharper made an impression. And then there was that little bit of us probably having a noticeable scent of blood lingering around us as a warning to other predators. Harry finally answered me.
"I wasn't following you. When you get home you will hear a message on your answering machine telling you I would see you after I took care of a bit of business in town. One bit of that business was my seeing who Kirk had gone to meet. He hadn't left any word with his handlers who he was investigating until this morning when he reported the death of his lead suspect. He was basically covering himself in case he screwed up his own private little investigation."
Here he looked inward and went on, "I also had what looked like a pretty good lead on the Lani woman that Greg was supposed to meet. She had been spotted by some friends of a couple of Goth kids from the club at a New Year's Eve party. Maybe. I questioned the couple who reported what they found out about a friend seeing her and found they had been higher than a kite when they were told by someone who may have glimpsed her. No guarantees they were right or wrong. But it had to be checked. Kenyon had sent Greg on the same errand but he hadn't showed by the time I finished asking them."
I laughed and said, "And they remember meeting you?" It was a common trait to wipe the minds of the humans whenever close contact with vampires.
"Didn't need to, they pretty much chemically lobotomized themselves years ago. I just plumbed what was there and they actually may have heard about her. They refused to give up their friend because neither of them could agree on the name of this mystery friend. But then the call came in about Greg. Also I had my report about Kirk who was running around asking too many questions."
Our stopping on the trail to talk was causing the local animals some trauma. The various normal night noises had stalled and was broken only with infrequent but nervous chattering from birds and squeaks from other unseen prey. A coyote off in the distance had found some of its kind and was singing out the news. I could hear the dogs from the van starting to whine and cry at their handlers. We looked at each other and picked up the pace. The dirt was solid, it hadn't rained in a while, and the stench of our clothing masked the pine drenched night we had enjoyed earlier. As we crested the canyon we saw the diner in the distance.
We were wrong. Kirk had not left the diner after I fled to meet up with Harry. He was still framed in the window writing frantically on a notepad while talking on his cell phone. I noticed he waved Rosie over to refill his coffee again. I guess he got over his aversion to caffeine. Harry and I stopped just behind the tree that he and I had initially met up at earlier.
"Damn, I had counted on his being gone before we got back." I said. I was upset as Harry at seeing Kirk there in what I considered to be my diner.
"Much like the crime scene," Harry looked at me indicating our clothing with a quick wave of his hand, "I don't think either of us are ready for humans."
As we talked in soft voices we saw Kirk get up, shut his cell phone and animatedly gesture to Rosie. She shrugged, went behind the counter and grabbed her purse and walked over handing him something unseen by us. He tried to give her some money she tilted back her head in laughter and waved him off. He left quickly.
Once he got outside the mystery of what Rosie gave him was solved. He paused long enough to light up a cigarette. Since I hadn't smelt tobacco on him when I met him I knew that was what Rosie gave him. She waved to him as he headed for his car.
"He doesn't usually smoke," Harry acknowledged my pointed look. He added, "In fact he only smokes when really upset or worried."
We watched him as he paced by his car and dialed a number on his cell phone. He was still smoking, the scent of tobacco drifting over as we watched him puff on his cigarette. The way he put his right hand up to his face and pulled on the cigarette I knew his first stop would be to the liquor store to buy a pack of his own. Holding his cell phone with his left hand, an annoyed look crossed his features while he waited for something. His side of the conversation floated to us in the night.
"Hello, Cassandra, are you there? Please pick up. I need to talk with you."
How many Cassandras did this guy know? Better than even odds he was calling my answering machine. We listened as he went on, "Okay, when you get this call me back. It's about your cousin. Oh, wait don't call my office, call me back on my cell."
He rattled off his number into my answering machine.
Harry and I looked at each other while Kirk shut his phone and got in his car, tossing his still lit cigarette to the gutter first. He started his car up and raced out of the parking lot.
"Okay, for littering alone -- death," I muttered, semi-serious, while stomping out the smoldering cigarette. Harry and I quickly exited the lot before Rosie could notice us. He walked me back to my place.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-09-24
Image(s) are public domain.