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May 13, 2024

Night Time 33

By Lydia Manx

I doubted the local A&P carried bottles of blood so I shrugged my indifference. Harry said, "Art, after you do that why don't you find out from these nice folks if there is anyplace still open in town?" The motels were on the outskirts of a moderate sized town from the signs we saw on the highway right before we left the road.

"Oh, you don't need to go far," Kitty spoke up while bringing keys from beneath the counter. Jasper looked over our identification comparing our faces to the pictures slowly. I wouldn't have the first idea what a fake driver's license even looked like but Jasper sure wasn't taking any chances. He was slow in returning Erika hers.

Interrupting Kitty telling about the local store Jasper said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

He was staring hard and had deep lines cut into his forehead as he was working over whatever memory was replaying in his brain. Erika's mouth tightened as she tried unsuccessfully to ignore the man. Jasper said, "You used to live around these parts back about twenty years ago now didn't you?"

That caught all of our attention. Erika glanced over at Harry with her eyes wide. Jasper tapped his finger on the pictured id and said, "Don't remember that name. Something like it but not that exactly." His face drew in as he gave it more thought. Erika didn't say a single word. I knew what Jasper was trying to remember. Hell, everyone but Art on this side of the counter knew.

Art interrupted with, "What time does that store close?"

Kitty brightened up, "It doesn't. We run it behind the motel. Truckers show up all hours and we open it for our guests." This seemed to be her area of expertise. Looking relieved by the interruption Erika said, "Hey, why don't I go get our stuff out of the station wagon and let Art go shopping?"

Cinda chuckled softly and said, "Do you want any help?" She remembered the cats and asked me for my key which Kitty had finally slid across to each of us after looking at the registration cards and where Jasper had assigned each of us. I handed off my key and looked to see what Harry was doing. He was busy trying to catch Art's eye. Unsuccessful he said, "Art, I need you to pick up some things." I wondered what Harry could possibly need given he was a vampire like me. I wasn't hungry. I was very thirsty. This couldn't be a good thing that was for sure.

"I got it!" Jasper exclaimed while Erika and Cinda were heading for the door. Erika snapped her spine firm and froze in place.

The tension in the lobby was addicting. I could feel the fear and waited to see what Jasper 'got' exactly. Art was still pretty clueless about the undercurrents but then he was so busy trying to be invisible I was wondering how much of his story earlier was creative writing and how much of that imaginative fiction would stand up to any close scrutiny. I noticed nobody said anything in response to Jasper's declaration.

He cackled. I didn't think Erika could have got any stiffer but I was wrong. Cinda paused and Misty flipped in and out. The green orb sparkled defiance and then I think Cinda pushed Misty out because she wanted to watch the fireworks.

"Your daddy used to bring you along for the ride. You couldn't have been more than ten. He took you everywhere back then," Jasper paused to catch his breath and have another drag from his cigarette. That in turn was followed by a severe coughing fit that left him dead white and gasping. We all waited. Erika slowly turned back towards the innkeeper. It was like his knowledge had forced her to stop. Kitty didn't know why everyone was so quiet and tense but fluttered her hands uselessly at us. Nobody was going anywhere. There was something horrible and compelling about this man and his recall.

And he certainly did recall a young Erika. I could tell as she shuddered slightly. Since there wasn't any air coming in from the outside as the door was still tightly shut and Jasper had used good thick weather stripping along the threshold. It was the fears dancing along her skin. I did my best to not inhale deeply but let little whiffs of the terror ripple over my body. Harry came next to me and put a companionable arm around me. I was now shuddering nearly as much as Erika. Mine was hunger and hers was fear. She was slightly feeding me but more than not just whetting my appetite for what I really wanted. Cinda growled softly in the back of her throat at the display of apparent affection was being shown. She failed to realize that once again Harry was keeping me grounded and from leaping over the counter and slaying the two old people with the knife burning a hole in my side and in turn my brain.

"Yeah, it must have been over twenty years ago. Your daddy used to drive up from somewhere down south about every six months and brought you with him in the summer. Your hair was much lighter back then," here he looked closely at Erika nodding as if he recognized the exact shade of hair dye she used. She squirmed at the perusal but did little more than that. Jasper cautiously drew in some more of his cigarette before continuing, "Your dad sold something -- don't tell me now let me guess," there was no way in hell Erika was venturing a single sound. She didn't want to risk exposing any more of her personal history than this dying man already knew.

"Kitty, you must remember her. You were always fairly partial to kids. Her daddy drove an old blue truck. Something coughed out of Detroit back in the day when they were still worth spit," as if that was something any of us knew. Harry smiled slightly and tightened his palm on my shoulder. I think I had begun to sway with all the emotions flowing. Cinda was positively delighted to be watching the piercing of Erika's carefully constructed facade. The Special Agent didn't look so special right then, she looked like she wanted to sink through the floor and disappear. That not being an available option she remained frozen in the lobby.

Finally answering her husband Kitty said, "You know my memory isn't what it used to be." Her voice was soft and broken revealing such intimate details to perfect strangers. Jasper huffed out his disappointment in his mate's failures and resumed his memory.

"Fair enough, but this little girl used to run up and down the stairs pigtails flying behind her while asking for all sorts of things and you would fetch and carry for her." He seemed to feel that if he could put enough words out there that someone would be forced to help him draw the memories out for Erika to be destroyed. It was tearing at her even with the barebones of his recollection.

Kitty shrugged and bowed her head in shame. The wig slipped a little more off kilter making her a comical figure in midst of the growing tension wrapping around Erika. Art softly chuckled earning him an elbow deep into his ribs by Cinda. She was completely wrapped up in the story unfolding. He grimaced and shut up.

"Come on now, you surely must recall us?" With that I knew why Jasper was trying to push Erika so hard. It wasn't at all about her and her childhood memories but rather someone to give him validation for his slowly decaying memories as he got closer to death. It was just the odd chance we had picked the same motel Erika's father had all those years ago that created this scene. As death was only a season or so away at the most Jasper wanted to remember the better times in his life. The times in his life before now with death as his constant companion and his own wife who had forgotten all the good things that had happened in the past.

Quietly I spoke, "Erika, come on you must remember how fun it was to come here. I guess with all the new highway you must have thought it was a different place." I had thrown Jasper a bone and he chewed at it and said, "Oh, that's right. Back then we used to be off a smaller road and we were the only motel for miles. Come to think about it we also painted the place back about ten years ago."

He beamed at me thanks for helping him push memories back at Erika. She was no longer as pale. My words had given her the tools she need and she was smart enough to catch on that Jasper hadn't figured out her folks had been murdered but was just remembering a gentler time in his life. Watching her face carefully as she picked and discarded various memories was interesting.

She finally exhaled and said, "Oh wait, I do remember."

We all could see that she had. In fact, most of us had figured out she remembered the moment Jasper began to question her. But now she was no longer stressed but lighthearted and laughing, "Kitty was called Sissy by you back then," Jasper gasped, he hadn't figured the memories would go both ways. I wondered at the name change in his little family. A whiff of fear drifted to me from Kitty. I guess there was some secrets they thought were hidden.

Kitty laughed and said, "Oh my, I had forgotten that. It was my family nickname for me since I was a baby. It took me years to break Jasper of the habit of calling me Sissy." She blushed at the concept and I could hear the lie in her voice. Interesting what you found off the main highways of Middle America. I could tell there was a major story behind the Sissy-Kitty change. But then I wasn't here to reveal their secrets and Erika had begun to banter back and forth with Jasper. They chuckled about something I missed while I had been watching Kitty tug her hair back in place. Art sighed as his entertainment was done and asked Kitty to help him in the store. Harry handed Art some money he had quickly removed from his pocket and got a bob of the head for thanks from Art as Kitty led him back through a door in the corner I hadn't noticed.

Harry took his arm from around my shoulder and I saw Cinda smile out of the corner of my eye. She followed after Kitty and Art saying, "I'm going to get the car keys and begin to move our stuff inside before the storm completely hits."

Looking out the window I could see the snowfall had increased in the time we had checked in to the motel. Cinda ran for the door. She was back a minute or so later. After grabbing all of our room keys she went out the front door. She didn't seem to mind the wind nearly blowing her back inside when she opened the door laughing she said, "Okay, a little help please."

Harry nodded okay to me and I joined Cinda. The wind was whipping around at a fevered pitch and the cold was chilling. We linked arms and headed for the station wagon. It was now iced over with snow. She was still laughing even with the bitter cold cutting through us while we continued to go to Art's car in the lot. "Lynn, can you believe that? It was too funny. I mean we know Erika had a past but we picked the same place her daddy used to take her on road trips. How bizarre is that?"

It was a typical Cinda conversation where I did not need to participate in any manner. She prattled on about what we both had just seen as if I hadn't been there with her. I ached for a minute with the knowledge that these times were going to be far and few between as I had changed. Savoring the Cinda rambles we pushed into the snow filled wind for the car. Most of her conversation rolled off of me and I shook my head at how much my life had evolved and how different we both were now.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-03-27
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