Harry continued towards me. With a slight smile, noticeably absent of major fangs for now, he sat on the opposite end of the couch while saying, "Gwendolyn, I won't hurt you."
I nodded slowly not willing to risk opening my mouth for fear of a never ending scream being the only sound I would be able to make -- also fearing I wouldn't be able to stop once I started.
"Truly, the reason I am here is to make sure you aren't harmed." He sounded sincere. And even I knew how sincere men could sound while lying to your face. I bit back a sigh and waited to see what more was going to happen. I wasn't disappointed.
"Gwendolyn, Frances did you a disservice and allowed you to be harmed while you slept, in your dreams and in real life. For that she had to pay. Evan alerted me a few weeks ago that this town had been overrun by rogue vampires and their minions causing unexplained deaths and erratic behavior. When the opportunity arrived with the Shaw girl's kidnapping, I came as quickly as I could. The murder was done by one of the minions. Connie Shaw never stood a chance of being found. But I used the excuse to come check on you and find out what Evan had reported. I found while wandering the town that most of the town had been compromised in one way or another. Then the murders began."
He was acknowledging that he had been in my town or near my town before the deaths of my mom -- and, it sounded like, someone else. He had said 'murders' not 'murder'.
Here he paused and looked at me saying, "The mayor's death was not a heart attack."
All I could think was, "Louella was some sort of vampire?" Harry seemed to read my mind as he chuckled saying, "No, not Louella."
I was so happy I could amuse him. Somehow I never felt less like laughing. I thought I saw Frances twitch. Harry looked over at the form and said, "Evan, call someone and dispose of this now." Evan ran out leaving me alone with Harry.
"Gwendolyn, you don't have to fear me. Really I am here to protect you and get you away from this band of vampires. They have poisoned your town." He was ever so serious. I was still skeptical.
"What about Cinda?" I figured I may as well ask.
Here he laughed loudly and said, "You mean Cinda-Misty?" It was all I could do to nod. I caught a glimpse of those teeth. They looked pretty unremarkable now and not a spot of blood was visible on either Harry or his clothing. It was like Frances just died nice and neatly without any help. Must have fallen down the stairs, I guess. I shook my head to clear the hysterical voice dancing in my head.
He calmed down and said, "She is protected by her otherly self. She holds no attraction to the vampires or the minions. Her step into the wild side of life and death is feared by them and she will not be harmed. I could do nothing to protect her mother since I hadn't realized until too late how strong these vampires are. I apologize for that. I have sent someone to clear her mind and bring her comfort in her trauma. She will be okay -- Margie is a strong woman."
For some reason his answer reassured me. I knew he was being as truthful as he could in his reply and I was comforted knowing that Margie would not feel more pain from her rape. I still was angry that it happened but had little control over what others did. Harry confirmed that Cinda wasn't crazy but truly had some connection with the dead. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad yet. But it was Cinda so I would chew on that later when not being challenged by a vampire to pick sides and such. I was terrified but nearly numb now.
Evan quickly returned from making his phone call saying to Harry, "Sir, she is going to the morgue and will be incinerated. Junior Bartell was more than happy to do anything necessary. There won't be anyone to ask anything -- he promised to do it himself. I called two other friends and told them Frances stormed out of here last night and I have no idea where she was. I begged them," here he looked somewhat ill by having to humble himself with his friends, "to let me know if she showed up at their houses. They made all the appropriate sounds but obviously will not be calling me with any such news."
He looked very relieved to know his wife was being taken care of so well in her final resting place. Near as I could figure she would soon just be dust at the bottom of a crematorium. I felt my stomach flip flop another round and Harry nodded his approval of Evan's quick thinking. Oh, this was not good. Harry was still on his end of the couch and Evan had walked past his wife without a glance. She was gone to him no matter what story he came up with -- it didn't matter.
Standing in front of me he asked, "So did he explain what we are going to do?"
Why didn't that sound like I had any sort of choice? I shook my head slowly negatively. I still was afraid to utter a word. I was positive I would not be able to form words. I wanted to just be away from them. This was too much to think about and I was so tired.
Harry said quietly, "Don't worry so, Gwendolyn, it will be fine. You were born to be one of us." Okay, which us? The vampire or the ghoul -- that thought flitted around my head before chilling my soul. I wasn't one to read scary stories or go see the latest horror film; so much of what I was guessing at came from scattered babblings of Cinda. I was less than happy to have all this in my head. The little stories heard in the past now took on a life of their own. I don't know what were worse -- the horrors that Harry was alluding to, or the ones currently dancing in my imagination.
Harry nodded to Evan to back away a bit and began, "Gwendolyn, your father Seth McKay was one of my blood brothers. I grew up with him and we were turned together. Your mom was one of the most delightful, bewitching people we ever met. Seth was enthralled by her from the beginning. But regardless of what you were told he did not father you. He couldn't, as a vampire. Instead he had another step in for him and create you. Your mom started to question him from the moment she became pregnant with you, because certain things didn't add up. That was unfortunate. Then she was noticed by one of the vampire hunters when she was with Seth one night. He was slaughtered and she was allowed to raise you. Now she has been murdered."
I was shocked. The man I thought was my dad wasn't and I noticed Harry hadn't mentioned who was. Also, my so-called 'dad' was a vampire. Then why had the McKay family sent my mom all that money? They must have known that I was not their son's. Oh, hell, were they even related to Seth? All these thoughts warred for space and confused I finally whispered, "Why are you telling these things to me?"
"Because you are vulnerable now and must be saved. The town will not make it. I have seen this happen before and it never ends well. You have to come with us." Harry was serious.
I kept silent and tried to think what I should say. Nothing came to mind. The scream trapped in my mind was growing in volume. A knock at the door saved me having to reply. Evan briskly walked to see who it was. I heard the distinctive seal laugh of Junior and Harry saw my eyes go huge at the thought of being caught with a corpse not of my making or related to me. Standing quickly Harry indicated a recessed door in the corner of the room and without a thought I jumped off the couch and went there at his silent bidding. He closed me inside what seemed to be the butler's pantry from what I could see before he quietly shut the door leaving me in the dark. Wax and wood smells cloaked me as I could hear the men greeting each other over the body.
"Sir, I didn't know you would be here," Junior sounded very humbled and still as slimy as ever. Evan offered drinks and didn't comment on my being missing from the room. That made me breathe a bit better. My ear pressed to the door, I listened carefully.
"Not a problem, so you will take care of this matter quickly?" Harry was solemn.
"Yes, definitely. She will be finished within a few days. I would run her tonight but already have a client using the facility." Junior tried to be soft spoken and respectful but even through the wood I could hear the tones of a happy man who loved his job. I shuddered glad he didn't know I was here. I had the definite feeling he would use it as an excuse to try to push me to make expensive decisions about my mom's impending burial. I wasn't ready to face that quite yet if ever.
Evan cordially inquired, "Anyone we know?"
"Vivian Carter. She had a heart attack early this morning and her final wishes were a fast cremation and internment. She had paid for it all well over a year ago. She must have been told she had a bad ticker back then." Junior was gloating at pre-selling the service. Harry said, "No warning? She suddenly died then?"
An ugly thought crossed my mind that maybe she was part of the murders Harry was alluding to earlier. Evan said, "I will look into that if you would like."
A murmur of male voices and I wondered myself. I had just seen the woman at the beauty shop a few days ago. She didn't seem ill at all. But if she was already in the fire I doubted there was any sort of investigation they could do other than ask leading questions. Junior gathered that something may have been wrong with her death but probably didn't care much. He already had his money and she was pretty old. And it sounded like she was already well on her way to being baked into ashes.
Harry said, "Well, no matter. So you are taking care of her immediately for us. Let me help you with the costs a bit." I noticed Junior didn't refuse whatever amount of money Harry held out.
There were some ugly sounding thuds and harsh scrapings that I thought were pretty disturbing. I shut my eyes for a minute while they continued to grunt and thump. When I opened my eyes I found they had adjusted to the dim room and I could see some of what was there with the light leaking in around the doorsill. I was correct in my guess about the room and quietly opened the drawers set into the cabinet along the back wall. A drawer in the middle was filled with various serving knives and spoons. One of the knives usually used for slicing small pound cakes caught my eye. I pulled it out. Brushing my thumb across the blade I could tell it was sharply honed. I picked up the sheath cover for the knife and slid the blade inside. After a moment of thought about stealing, I overrode my ethical dilemma with the knowledge that life had become far too weird to not be armed. I slid the weapon deep into my jacket pocket for easy access should the need arise. The sounds in the other room had ceased. Or at least I couldn't hear them anymore. I leaned closer to the door to find it abruptly missing as Harry pulled it open. I caught myself from falling and stood upright. My heart was thumping madly and I couldn't see anyone behind him.
"It's all clear. You can come out now. They left together." I didn't find that overly comforting at the moment. Harry continued, "Junior wasn't sure he could handle her on the other end and Evan wanted to make sure nobody saw the body." I found the whole thing disgusting.
"I realize, Gwendolyn, all this must be upsetting but you need to know what will happen if you stay here. Those creatures who are invading your town are feeding off everyone to one degree or another. Sooner or later they will turn a few town folks and without proper instructions or care they will begin to go feral. Newly turned vampires have a voracious appetite. If there aren't any strong vampire leaders or if the young vampire is even stronger than the one who made it, there begins the chaos. And from what I see already, the vampires here are not strong enough. That they would allow you to be bitten and bruised unasked while in your sleep is against all the rules. There will be many deaths before the week is out." Harry was completely serious.
My stomach was churning again as I heard Harry admitting that something unusual was happening to me and apparently the whole town. I didn't have any food inside me or I think I would have been vomiting. Suddenly it hit me I hadn't eaten much in the past day or so. Harry was nodding as if he could hear my thoughts.
"You aren't smoking and you don't eat much anymore do you?" He asked me.
"How did you know?" I was shocked.
"Because you have been bitten and your body wants the change." Harry calmly replied while my heart was thumping at a rapid rate.
"What about what I want? This is all too strange. Harry, I just want my life back." I gulped out.
"Your life is over. You won't have it back ever the way it was. That's gone. Sorry, it wasn't something I did -- it was just what happened. I want you to know your life will get better." Harry was sincere and I was sick.
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