Georgie Elliott laughed at my suggestion that he meet me in a bar.
"Now, now, Alanna -- that wouldn't do much for my reputation. There's always some free-lance photographer out there looking for the perfect picture to splatter across the newspapers and online sites. Come up to my room," he told me while rattling off the number. High rent district of suites with pricier views, I knew from my past life in Los Angeles. The Bonaventure Hotel certainly hadn't lost any of its charm over the years in the least.
Agreeing even though I thought it was odd that he felt it was okay for me to go up to his room but not be seen with me in a bar. It was his call and I did want to get away from that weird feeling of someone spying on me. It was a sure bet that there was somebody out there who had been tracing my life for a quite a while. It wasn't like I didn't have enough evidence of that by now.
I wasn't alone in the elevator ride up to Georgie's room but didn't think that the two gray-haired ladies were in disguise or up to anything other than the overuse of marginally priced perfume and ill-fitting polyester suits. Their conversation was about visiting one of their high school friends earlier and how they were looking forward to the class reunion. I mentally took a stab at the year and figured it had to be at least their fiftieth reunion but given most Californians' obsession with face-lifts that was just a random guess. Their voices belied their taunt cheeks and surprised eyebrows carefully sketched on in unnatural shades of brown. Their bright red lips made me uncomfortably aware of not having any makeup on at all.
They got off on the floor before mine. I didn't see them immediately dashing down the hallway to the staircase so they could follow me to Georgie's room to snap incriminating pictures for the net or news. I shook my head at my worries and headed off the elevator to the guru's quarters.
I knocked softly and the door was opened slowly. I don't know what I'd been expecting but Georgie Elliott wasn't anything like the stereotypical crazy eyed cult leader. His eyes were bright blue and puffy around the edges from crying. His hair wasn't the long hippie scraggly style that the newspapers always printed with the headlines about members giving away their money and lives tragically in some backwater town off the map until the fatalities stacked up. His hair was sandy brown and a tad longer than a business cut but nothing remarkable. His face wasn't some hollowed-out piteous deranged set of features but just an ordinary man. A sad man at that but he cared enough about Katherine to fly down to check on her.
"Please come right in," Georgie greeted me and invited me inside with a simple gesture.
Georgie also wasn't exactly staying in the cheap suites, but I'd known that on the ride up. I kept my opinions to myself as I noticed the level of lushness of the hotel's suite and the extremely nice view. His slight smile at my glance was disarming and boyishly charming. I saw why an adult was still able to get away with the childhood nickname of Georgie. Peter Pan had nothing on this man.
"What can I say, I get some rather sizeable donations and one of my fellows had built up hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotels, shall we say favors?" His voice was light and he thankfully wasn't using his cult speak. But the emphasis on 'fellows' was definitely important. That was what he called his flock members, I'd noticed. I didn't quite understand if he was alluding to something like hotel frequent flyer miles or more along the lines one of his cult members was one of the heirs to a hotel chain. Not wanting to ask, I just nodded.
He shut the door behind me and latched the safety lock with a final sounding thunk. I resisted jumping out of my skin because I didn't want anyone busting in on us either. His brief smile as he passed me going into the body of the room made me roll my eyes at his back as I gathered that he'd caught my involuntary flinch.
"So Alanna, you certainly know how to bring hell on earth into your world, don't you?" His voice was no longer playful and he sat on one of the plush couches while looking directly into my eyes.
I found a chair and met his gaze, "Well, it's not like I went out and planned to have such an interesting life."
"No, that's true. But you had things that the Hagens needed." His twinkle was stamped out and anger rose up. I was seeing the fire and brimstone side. I was clueless what I'd done to deserve it. I'd just met the man.
"Again, Georgie," I put a backspin on his name with a little of my teeth, "how was this my fault?"
I really hated being scrutinized by some cult nut.
"Did I say it was your fault?" He countered while still locking gazes. I didn't squirm but snarled, "No, but you sure as hell are putting some major blame in your tone."
Which was true.
"After the vampires in Las Vegas, you didn't think there would be any repercussions?" He silkily slipped out with to my horror.
Angrily the Vampire listened to the conversation in Georgie's suite.
How the hell did he know about her being in Vegas? All the vampires are truly dead except for me. Damn that Dew Drop bitch she was hiding something. She kept laughing at me and I couldn't probe her mind. Even when I started getting rough with her I just figured she had an abusive ex and was used to it on the tawdry side. There weren't any humans there. I'd have sensed their thick rich blood. Hell, Vegas is too crowded. Was there another heartbeat?
I need to check some things out now. I will get one of the fledglings come and take over monitoring Alanna. Sissy should be good. She's well fed and obedient. Besides she has seen what happens when she crosses me. I hate sharing prey. Alanna's all mine and I have worked for years to ripen this piece of meat. Where'd I put that damn cell phone?
I looked at Georgie and I knew my mouth was gaped open. Without uttering a word I shut my lips firmly. There couldn't have been any other humans there. How could anyone have watched what I did and not come to help me? And that last vampire was too busy killing off his own kind to give me more than a passing glance. His eyes were rolled back and blood red so I wasn't even sure he did see me. When I crawled out of the slaughterhouse of a room my left arm was broken and I was scraped from head to toe not to mention covered with lots of blood and bits and pieces of things I couldn't even begin to explain.
"No," he said, "I wasn't there. We had cameras in the ballroom. We knew something big was up because of the number of vampires from around the world who'd gathered that week in Vegas. Not the top echelon we were expecting but enough middle level and lower level vampires to tick on our meters. They can't simply hop any plane and head to Las Vegas in the middle of July without some planning."
Something inside me snapped.
"To hell with you!" I stood up and spun.
What could this idiot tell me? He saw me at one of the weakest moments of my life and just now was making mention of it? He could have said something on the phone, like he'd caught a glimpse of me a few years ago, and gave me some kind of warning.
Fury raced over me as I remembered that was just after I'd left Randolph. Not like it was something I could ever be able to erase from my brain much less my nightmares. I walked into Vegas and got to have the pleasure of watching one of the most horrific slaying of humans and vampires alike, not even seen on film. Live with sounds of real screams and the sucking and tearing of limbs from bodies. The smell as humans were torn apart and their entrails roiled out of their stomach and their hearts ripped from their chests. Or what the vampires did to each other once the true mayhem began. Bloodlust was something I'd heard used when talking about spree killings and war-torn countries with their wretched genocidal battles but not something I expected to be in the middle of in Las Vegas. Granted, I survived but where was I supposed to go afterwards? I knew better than going to the cops for real problems with an ex-husband and somehow given my persona non gratis I didn't think my dialing nine one one would endear me to anyone. And there weren't any news reports of the massacre. None, nowhere ever after that night -- which I knew because I had looked. Which just further reinforced the currently fashionable marketing line, 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' Boy, they had that one right on the money, so to speak.
Once I had my arm fixed at the hospital I headed out of that town as soon as I could in the daylight. I spent my nights in the local churches with a vial of holy water in my good hand wide-awake. I draped a rosary over my cast with the cross firmly worked in between my fingers. It seemed like it took forever for my arm to heal long enough for me to leave Nevada.
Shuddering, I was almost to the door when Georgie said, "We couldn't find you afterwards. I'd sent Katherine and she looked everywhere she thought you'd ever been to and we thought that you were permanently 'gone'. None of our cameras caught you when you fled the casino. It wasn't until this week when we heard about Randolph we began a closer watch of Rachel. That led us to you."
My hand dropped. It sounded like there had been a whole caravan of folks following me since Michael showed up at my door. So who had Michael? I turned back and asked, "Since you followed Michael to me perhaps you can tell me where he's at and who has him?"
"As of ten minutes ago he should have been picked up by one of my fellows." He smiled at me. Nope, no pointed teeth in his smile and after my time watching those creatures use theirs it was pretty much something I noticed on a person. But admittedly he wasn't nearly as innocent and Peter Pan-like either as I'd first thought. My world had shifted off its axis yet again.
His cell phone chirped and he flipped it open, "We good?"
Words on the other end were excited and undecipherable from my end. I was frustrated. Georgie's end was just grunts and agreeable sounding noises -- I didn't have a clue what they meant. I sat back down in the chair and waited to hear what he'd say.
"Fair enough. Later." None of the cult speech from Georgie as he hung up. My brain made a leap and puzzle pieces snapped into place.
"Oh my god! Your cult is a fraud." I looked at him with huge eyes.
Laughing ruefully Georgie said, "You got me. It's all a big front. We don't get bothered by folks once they wander in whether intentionally or by mistake and we do freak speak. Katherine looked past it all. She was seeking direction and had noticed odd things about the Hagens. She'd heard rumors and found us. It took her time but she convinced me she was for real. And since the Hagens hadn't even been on our radar we found her news helpful and sent some field agents down to double check the data. She had been accurate in that there were abnormalities but not what she ever thought."
I was more than interested now. Abnormal was the least of how I would term the Hagens but that wasn't what held my attention. The whole cult being fake was topped by the fact vampires weren't freaking out Georgie. I kept myself well out of sight for years and now everything seemed to have come crashing back on me with a vengeance.
"Okay, first, tell me is Michael okay?" I found Georgie shaking his head. My breath hitched as I jumped to the natural conclusion he was dead. Seemed like everyone was turning up dead or nearly so once they had contact with me.
"Sure he's okay. He's part of it all." My heart pummeled. I was numb beyond belief.
"Yes, I'm sorry to say. My fellows reported that he wasn't being held anywhere and Paul's beating was a necessary betrayal to suck you further into their games." Georgie was looking extremely sad. Still I couldn't believe Michael had just been pumping me for information. Nothing made sense anymore.