The car kept sputtering and hissing but nothing blew up and flames didn't engulf the car. Harry came to where we were clustered and said, "I guess we won't be driving that car anymore this evening."
Talk about your understatements. I did think it was time to figure out how to get a bit further down the road before anyone else could come to help us. Anyone fleeing the town could be tainted already. But then I was hungry. As if my thoughts caused it a station wagon came slowly down the road. Cinda ran to the highway and waved her hands trying to flag down whoever was passing. It worked. Watching Cinda I stood up and began to brush off the snow. The driver had motioned for her to come around to the window. All I could see was a dark shape and a glove beaconing her to the other side. I was tempted to run up but needed to make sure it was safe. My fangs were still filling my mouth but it was not noticeable if I wasn't smiling. Since smiling wasn't currently exactly high on my list of current activities I wasn't overly worried about it.
I quickly looked to see what Harry was doing. He was bent close to Erika muttering something and touching her face. Her eyes blinked open, filled with confusion and pain. Once she saw Harry she bit back a sob.
"Where are we?" Her confusion was apparent while she was trying to keep the fear out of her tones.
"In the forest just off the main highway," Harry was calm while touching her body checking for injuries, I assumed. As she winced and uttered a sound of pain it did seem that he had found a spot or two. He nodded and disregarded Cinda at the highway talking to whoever stopped for her. I guess he wasn't overly worried.
"Is that person safe?" I finally asked while seeing Cinda nodding and gesturing to us down the hill.
"Does it matter?" Harry flashed his fangs and I grinned back revealing mine. I guess he had a point or two there. We waited for Cinda to come back for us in the forest. Erika, to my surprise, had begun to look less pale and was blinking at me.
"Help me up, please," Erika asked nicely, another shock. I put my hand down and let her pull herself up from the base of the tree. Cinda was now running down the hill excited by something. Once Erika was standing she released my arm and began to brush off the various bits of the forest clinging to her. The blood smell had begun to fade around her. Her injuries must have stopped bleeding. I felt my teeth recede nearly to their normal length. Harry, too, had let his fangs go back for now. Cinda reach us out of breathe and thrilled.
"You know who is driving that station wagon?" She clasped her hands eagerly and waited for us to reply. Like we had a clue?
Erika impatiently answered, "No. So can we get a ride?"
Exasperated Cinda said, "You're no fun! Lynn, it is Art from Vivian Carter's church. He was leaving town to head over to Chicago for the weekend when he saw us. He doesn't seem to know anything is wrong in town, but he told me Vivian died."
Oops, in all the chaos I forgot to tell her I already knew that. But then I would have had to explain far too much more about Junior Bartell and how it was that I overheard about her death. I kept my face still while Cinda chided Harry to hurry.
Art Ruby was quite the character. He had showed up in our town a half dozen years ago, without much more than a smile and the will to work. The church Vivian belonged to took him in and with little explanation, Art was absorbed into the town. He was a bit creepy to me but then I had turned him down nearly every month for the past year when he would ask me out on a date so I had to admit I may have a bit of bias.
Reluctantly I followed the slowly moving line up to the waiting station wagon. I was less than happy about all of this. A long ride in a car with Art was certainly not my idea of fun. Then it dawned on me all we really needed was the transportation not the current driver. I kept a smile inside at that thought while Harry turned and said to me, "Later, we really need to talk, Gwendolyn." That sounded like I wasn't going to be draining Art any time soon.
Art had got out of the vehicle as we trudged up the snowy embankment. His face was shadowed by his brim hat and a brightly crocheted scarf, obviously one of the church ladies had taken a fancy to him, covered his mouth and part of his cheeks. The snow had not let up but increased if anything. We were all getting pelted as we continued towards the highway. The forest was no longer blocking us from the touch of winter. I saw that Art was getting peppered with a mixture of the icy snow and the stray flakes blowing around from the frosted trees. We were all silent as we went up the slope.
Cinda yelled out, "Hey, Art, thanks so much for stopping." Like he had any choice with her nearly jumping out in front of his car? With a smile to Cinda he quickly opened the backdoor of the station wagon as she approached the car.
Erika was struggling with the pitch of the slope and slightly moaning with her steps. At least I no longer could smell her. Harry was between her and me thankfully taking away the temptation of her wounded status. I watched Cinda toss herself into the backseat after Art had opened the door. Harry gently put Erika in the front seat and slid in next to Cinda. I followed Harry and noticed that Art had already walked around to the driver's seat without saying a word to me. I must have been flattering myself to think he even cared about me anymore. I hung my head in embarrassment at my ego. It served me right for being so arrogant in thinking that he even noticed me anymore. Come to think of it he hadn't asked me out in two months. Maybe he had moved on and found someone interested in him.
Once we were all inside I heard a familiar sound from the back end of the station wagon. Loud purring and complaining from a cat, I turned and adjusted it to two cats. Both El Diablo and Banshee had been curled up in the small space with blankets and pillows.
Art turned at my gasp and said, "They were hanging out at your mom's house when I swung by to see if you wanted to go to the meeting tonight. They insisted on coming with me," he looked slightly embarrassed at being bullied by cats. Knowing these two cats I was rather surprised he still had a face. Banshee leaped over the seats to bash her head against my side and continue her litany of issues. I scratched the top of her head while looking at Harry with amazement.
"Thank you." I couldn't think of much more to say. I was still wondering at the meeting he thought I was going to and why had he gone to my house when everyone in town knew I was staying at Cinda's place. But then with Vivian dead maybe he hadn't got all the news. That still seemed pretty impossible but then impossible was the new order in my world.
Banshee pushed harder into my fingertips and I enjoyed the simple pleasure of petting the cat while Cinda fill the silence with questions. Erika had thankfully stopped moaning but I still felt a pull to fang into her neck and drain her dry. This was not good. Art wasn't far from my thoughts either. But Harry pretty much had said no to both of them. I guess there was some sort of damn rule book for vampires. Not like it would be found at the library or anything but I kept my mouth shut and just let the conversation wash over me while savoring the texture of the cat's fur and her responsive purr.
The miles slid under the wheels with me pretty much tuning out everything but the hypnotic feel of the cat's fur under my fingers and the rumbling vibration of her purring at my side. I was finding that Banshee calmed my temptation to bite and drain the car's occupants. El Diablo grew jealous of the attention I was giving his partner and hopped over the seat and landed in the middle of my lap. I revised the cat's size from about twenty pounds to well over twenty pounds. He ignored my groan of discomfort and began to circle in my lap and knead roughly for the right spot. Harry smiled and commented, "See they are your cats."
I refrained from smacking him because I was busy now pushing El Diablo down and moving his active tail from my face. Cinda looked at the two cats and said, "Wow, they really do like you, Lynn."
Art directed another comment at me while looking at me in the rear view mirror, "Lynn, sorry about your mom. So where are we going?"
Draining would certainly save on conversation was my first thought. Harry must have read the thought in my eyes because he said softly, "Enough of that."
"Enough of what?" Art was confused by Harry's comment. I smiled slightly and said, "Oh, he was meaning my petting the kitties. He gets jealous when my attentions stray from him." I moved my hand off Banshee's head and over to Harry's thigh. Art dropped his glance from the mirror and went back to concentrating on keeping the car on the road.
I heard Cinda's gasp of annoyance at my cute reply and action. She was still claiming ownership of Harry but in actuality now I was closer to Harry then she would ever be. Misty kept Cinda from being much more than a vampire servant from what Harry had passed on to me in my slam quick vampire lessons. I really wish there had been a book I could have studied or something. Mentally I noted I needed to look into that, it was possible that there were books out there for me to read. Harry and I hadn't exactly had time to do much talking about my future as a vampire.
I had no way of explaining my new nature and pattern of thoughts to Cinda. Misty got some of it but Cinda was still hung up on my palm on Harry. It served my purpose because Art stopped asking me annoying questions. Erika wasn't doing much for the conversation flow but groaning when we hit bumps.
"Gwendolyn and I need to see a family friend just outside Chicago. We really appreciate your help, Art." Harry's voice was rumbling sincerity and pushing Art's buttons with the command tone. I knew that now to be a vampiric trait. I could hardly wait to get a chance to use it.
Silence fell as nobody wanted to really question Harry. Cinda fumed and it dawned on me that I still had my hand on Harry. Oops. I slowly began to withdraw my hand and Harry caught it before I could fully remove it from his leg. Trapping it beneath his he smiled at me and said, "Oh, please, don't." He winked at me and I watched Misty push Cinda aside, "Gee, do we get to watch you two make out, too?"
I blushed bright red. Harry laughed and said, "Not this time. Right Gwendolyn?"
Art's eyes hopped around as he refused to look in the backseat. Misty growled out, "Spoil sport, Harry!"
His laughter boomed around the air while Art tapped the brakes. Down the road a deer was stopped in the middle of the lane transfixed by the headlights. Our car slowed down gradually with little sliding but was still heading straight for the animal.
Erika mumbled, "Damn, not again." She reached into her jacket and pulled out her gun. To Art's horror Erika rolled down the window and shot at the deer. She didn't hit it but it leaped out of the road and off into the brush. The smell of gunpowder burned my nose and my ears were still ringing when Harry said, "Was that absolutely necessary?"
"Yes, I can't take another accident." She was right but that offered little comfort to my senses.
Art was looking a tad upset by the firearm being brandished around in his car. He turned to Erika yelling, "What the hell was that?"
Drolly Erika said, "Gunfire. Come on big guy, you have shot at more than your share of deer I would bet my badge."
Misty snickered and said, "Oh, Art has more than a nodding acquaintance with guns. Don't you, Art?" She was nearly vibrating with happiness at whatever tidbit of information was spinning in her head.
Art snarled, "Shut up, you freak."
"Calling me a freak? Damn, that is pretty funny. Hey Erika, you still living I see. You have a spare smoke?" Misty held out a hand for the cigarette Erika reluctantly parted with from her dwindling supply. Harry shook his head and offered Misty a light from his lighter. I noticed Misty never troubled Harry for cigarettes but liked to snag Erika's instead. Once she had her cigarette lit she began in on Art with both claws.
"Want to tell Special Agent Erika Thomason how you grew to be so familiar with guns? Or want to wait until she has a chance to run your name through whatever database the FBI is using now?" Misty blew a cloud of smoke over Art's head while grinning widely.