"Leave us," Nelson commanded his troops, seeing how they weren't exactly happy with me.
Still, I felt guilty about Katherine's death despite Nelson's taking the blame. I was finding out that everyone who'd known me was either dead or off the map. Katherine had come down from Oregon to make sure I was okay when Nelson had heard we were looking for her. His wife, a friend and coworker years ago to me, was murdered while trying to help. Detective Paul Colton was in the hospital and Michael Stockwell, the supposed friend of Paul and 'good cop', apparently had caused the ambush of Katherine while faking his own abduction, according to Nelson. Since I hadn't heard from the mechanical voice with any more taunts or instructions it was entirely likely that Nelson had been telling me the truth. All of it had resulted in Katherine's arrival and subsequent death. There was no way I'd ever be good with that.
"Alanna and I need to discuss some things." His voice was tight and his eyes blazed with emotions. He was keeping it all together by mere threads of control. I wasn't looking forward to seeing him snap.
Reluctantly they filed out and Cooper made sure that Nelson had the glass of water that he'd mixed a packet of something into moments ago. I wondered if Nelson was even aware of the additions to the water he drank. I could still see Cooper standing just outside the hole-filled door. He wasn't quite out of listening range. I was torn by two impulses. One to let Nelson know his water had something extra, and the more careful impulse to keep my mouth shut. Silence won out since Nelson was already halfway through the glass by the time I looked up; it wasn't going to make a difference either way. I couldn't control everything. Life had certainly hammered that lesson home on a regular basis in the past few years.
"You asked about the vampire minions. I heard Bobby blurt it out. I didn't recognize him at first but he was one of the people who tried to join my group a few years ago. He's changed his look a bit since then. When he spoke I heard the same arrogant self-involved tones that turned me away from him back then. His father had died the year before in the vampire related incident in Las Vegas." My stomach plummeted as I figured out immediately that Bobby's dad had been one of the humans slain in front of me. Nelson was aware of that connection, as he and his group apparently watched from spy cameras the slaying and hacking up of humans and vampires alike. He'd also confessed to watching me crawl away broken and horrified, yet he'd sent nobody to help me because he said it was too fast and that the vampires out numbered the humans in record numbers. I still had my doubts but with the death of his wife I wasn't as suspicious. With everything I thought I knew, and what I was finding out, it wasn't in my nature to trust much of anyone or anything.
"What did he mean by his statement that I was married into the vampire minion's family? The Hagens are vampires?" I was confused.
Shaking his head Nelson said, "No, they live to serve vampires. They get to have a certain level of protection. For this they must supply blood, money if need be, and whatever else a vampire wishes."
I wondered at what a vampire wished from humans. My only brush with them had been more than memorable enough but I hadn't seen anything attractive in the least about them. But then what'd I know, given how I just staked one and watched them tear each other to pieces with a manic level of violence and glee.
"What did the Hagens want with me? I wasn't ever told about vampires." I was trying to figure out how I was pulled into that mess. Hell, given the past few days it seemed like they were still trying to pull me back. Randa wasn't surprised when I visited and I know that Marge had been watching from the upstairs window. They also had sent Randa. I think. Not exactly sure of anything I just tried to get as much information as possible from Nelson.
"Is Randolph even dead? Is he now a vampire? Will he come for me? Are Randa and Marge considered minion?" I had even more questions than I liked. The fact that I was taking the word of Nelson that he even hated vampires. For all I knew I was being played. But I'd take the information he offered and crosscheck it as life gave me the opportunity. I just knew I'd have ample opportunities to verify the truth from the lie. I smiled nicely and nodded as I waited for any sort of answers.
Nelson's face was still grief-stricken from the news of Katherine's murder. With his men out of the room it was like he'd relaxed a bit and his emotions were coming to the surface despite his firm control. But he did take the time to answer me while his guards kept the cops and hotel personnel outside. I knew the privacy would only last so long no matter how important Nelson was.
"No, Randolph is dead from all I have had reported to me. He won't ever be turned into a vampire. Minions rarely are worthy of the conversion in most vampiric families. Randa and Marge are definitely minion from everything we know. His family wasn't producing properly a decade or two ago and they were causing their vampire to fall out of favor with his vampire leaders." I noticed he was answering the questions backwards. In my experience that rarely was a good thing.
"Randolph won't come for you. His vampire will happily take you if given the chance. We won't let that happen." Nelson met my eyes with a fire in his that was both intense and scary.
I asked again, "Why me? What did I have to offer? I never even knew vampires existed until Las Vegas." That was well after I'd already left Randolph Hagen and his odd family.
He dipped his head, "Alanna, you were to be a monetary sacrifice and bring the family's vampire back into the good graces of the council. Vampires like their pageantry and sacrifices. I think it's all they exist for some centuries. We humans bore them. I've heard them say we are simply stupid sheep ripe for the picking and there was no game left in us anymore. That is why they create such slaughters as you were a witness to in Las Vegas."
Witness to? Hell, I was nearly part of the massacre. Sole surviving human near as I could tell but then I never heard of anybody surviving a vampire attack outside the throw away papers on the end caps of the grocery aisles next to glossy spreads on diets and celebrities. For all I knew there were tons of living vampire victims walking around to tell the tales but kept their mouths shut. I know that I had until recently.
I listened and filtered through what he'd just told me. Monetary sacrifice? Randolph married me for my money? It was all I could do to not vomit. I had worked hard for my wealth and I didn't even consider it much in the grand scheme of what was out there when I was catering in Los Angeles. He could have found far deeper pockets than mine. But it came crashing into my brain with nearly lightning speed I had been alone with nobody to inherit. I was probably 'easy pickings' for Randolph armed with his private investigator's report. Sickened, I was stunned by the depth of deception Randolph had used to try to ruin my life. Who was I kidding? He had ruined my life and the lives of my friends.
My eyes flickered up to see Nelson watching me carefully.
"Okay, I was the 'cash cow' for the vampire family. I didn't die or give Randolph much money. So why are they after me now?" I tasted bile in the back of my throat. I had to swallow what I wanted to say at first, in order to respond to Nelson in an even voice, "Should I be worried?" I must have succeeded because Nelson nodded casually and answered, "I think they are after you now because you escaped."
Okay, that made a certain kind of sense but why the delay? But then I recalled my paintings being sold and it came to me that maybe they thought I had a lot more money. I did, but had no intentions of sharing with the Hagens, that was for sure.
"So how do they think killing me will get them money?" I was trying to distance myself from the image of my death but chills were running up and down my spine at the notion.
"It's not about the money anymore, Alanna, it's about the chase and kill. They'd figure a way to get the money transferred; vampires have those sorts of connections. We have found them in our research." The grim news was logical. Nelson wasn't any happier telling me than I was hearing, but I needed to figure out how to beat the vampire and his minions even if they were my ex-family. I had tons of bad in-law jokes rising to the surface of my mind, as I was nearly giddy and growing somewhat hysterical.
Nelson rose and put a hand on my shoulder.
"You aren't alone anymore. For Katherine I will teach you how to survive them all. I am sorry I didn't get to Las Vegas in time to help you with the last encounter with the vampires but now we need to get out of this hotel and find out where Michael Stockwell is hiding. He's the key to finding your vampire." I shuddered at hearing Nelson say I had a personal vampire. It was a bit eerie.
The movement caused a reaction on the other side of the door. Cooper broke in without knocking and his gun was drawn. Nelson stepped around and stood in front of me. Cooper holstered his gun saying, "More are on their way up. Not so friendly sorts."
"Cops or vampire's minions?" Nelson asked.
"Cops but they are carrying pricier guns than the previous set of boys in blue and they have nicer shoes." That seemed to mean something and the men moved. Cooper jogged to the closet and began pulling out the satchels of weapons. David was right behind him and Keith was standing with his back to the room in a nearly complete blockage of the ruined doorway. Keith had substantial shoulders and width. All muscle and nothing shook he was so tightly wound. Nothing they did made me any happier. Nelson nodded and grabbed a satchel while heading for the adjoining room.
"How far are they?" Nelson asked while dialing on his cell.
"Not far enough. Heading up in the elevator." Cooper looked out and down the hallway from the other room's door. He nodded the all clear and quickly the team moved Nelson and me with a military precision brooking no argument. Soon some of the other larger men were blocking the view of us leaving and Keith followed, making sure we weren't being followed. We hit the stairwell and headed up one floor. Quickly Nelson confirmed something on his cell. He looked at the numbers and took the lead. A doorway opened halfway down the hall.
"In here, Nelson," a petite blonde pulled Nelson in and the rest of us followed. She closed the door and leaned against it saying, "Well, you were right again. I shouldn't be surprised by now."
She giggled which startled me given the weapons still in the hands of the men. Then I looked around the even pricier rooms and had to think to physically shut my mouth. The satchels were tossed next to the door and the men all slumped onto the couches unasked. It seemed something had shifted and they now considered me less of a threat. I guess running from cops could do that.
"Lindsey, you did great. What's the cover story for this room?" Nelson went to the bar and mixed himself a glass of water with a packet Cooper tossed him. That answered my question about Cooper unknowingly slipping Nelson something. Nelson had to take whatever it seemed pretty frequently. I must have had a puzzled look on my face.
Nelson laughed saying, "This? Oh, Alanna, you really are a suspicious sort. Katherine warned me that you caught everything." A flash of pain then he said, "These packages are a mixture of vitamins and low dosage of aspirin. I am prone to headaches." He looked upset at having to admit such a weakness.
Yeah, we'd had enough traumas to give anyone a headache. Lindsey wasn't very tough looking with her big blue doe eyes and gamin-like features. She slouched over the sofa and gave Cooper a big wet kiss on his cheek saying, "Why are you pouting? Someone steal your toys?"
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