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January 30, 2023

Strange Bedfellows 29

By Lydia Manx

Again the diner occupants went silent as newcomers arrived. Harry and I waited to see if they were the vampire council's couriers or more of the neighborhood folks. I was pretty sure they were some sort of vampire-related minion or servants -- they had the right look. The small female was subservient and mousy. Not my first choice as a blood donor but her eyes were busy running around the room searching for something or someone. The man behind her was fairly tall and very thin wearing a black trench coat. His face was gaunt and his eyes watched the woman. At the stillness of their faces and how they held themselves stiffly I decided they were the ones we were waiting for from the council. The way they acted pretty much gave them a vampire stamp without my getting close enough to get a whiff. Harry didn't turn to look at them but I saw his features take on a cautious air. The young couple in the corner were the first to resume talking. I heard the boy ask his girlfriend if she wanted to get married and her soft acceptance.

Harry smiled, "See, nice neighborhood, Natasha, you were worried."

I rolled my eyes and ignored his attempt at humor. We both knew that Kenyon's club, Dark Whispers, was only a few blocks from the diner and that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Vampires and wanna-be vampires could do stupid things when blood lust ran through their veins and the locals were usually the first ones to find that out. Kenyon didn't enforce many rules but his own. His rules made for a nice dynasty but lousy neighborhood. He had let his minion and fledglings harm the humans on more than one occasion.

"Whatever you say, Harry. Hell, it's not my car that gets jacked." I poked back while grinning looking pointedly out the window.

He looked through the pane of glass quickly to see two urban kids strolling by his car very slowly. I waited to see if he was going to dash out when the new arrivals stopped next to our table and the man asked, "Are you Harry?"

Harry didn't flinch so I knew he had already figured out they'd arrived. His eyes shifted back towards the table and he shifted slightly so he wouldn't be tempted to glare at the kids still hanging around and maybe only admiring his car. I felt my lips twitch and ducked my head to my glass of tea taking a small sip so I wouldn't smirk, blowing Harry's cool pose.

Sipping at his own iced tea he looked at them, pointedly ignoring me, and said, "Of course."

They both looked doe eyed at him and were partially frozen by his gaze. He wasn't even trying to glamour them but his power was still affecting them just the same. He dropped his eyes and said, "Would you like to join us?"

"Okay." The man said and nodded to the woman.

The girl quivered and slid into the booth next to me leaving the man no choice. He glared and cautiously sat on the very edge of the booth next to Harry. I wondered how they'd been broken so thoroughly. It was pretty obvious that the vampire council didn't allow them much freedom and they were terrified of Harry. From the slight shaking on the bench seat from the girl next to me she wasn't sure what to do. I guess I wasn't as safe as I thought. I ran my tongue over my teeth and didn't feel my fangs dropped so maybe I was imagining things.

They both followed my tongue roll and I tried to look innocent. I don't think it worked. The man's eyes widened and he looked back and forth between Harry and me.

He gasped and shot a glance at the woman before he blurted out, "You are Natasha, aren't you?"

I didn't know him from any other human. His scent had drifted to me when they had sat down and he wasn't anyone I'd ever fed from. I put his age at mid thirties tops even with vampire help. He was nothing special.

"Ah, yes and that means what?" I was befuddled by the reaction. I didn't think I merited comment in the vampire council world and wondered why this minion thought he knew me. I didn't have to wait because he quickly answered while leaning in to make sure his soft voice didn't carry too far.

"You are Simon's fledgling. Called upon to be in the upcoming nuptials of Renee and Carlos. You are part of history." His voice was filled with awe. I resisted rolling my eyes but my thoughts were plain enough for Harry to jump in and saying, "Yes, and what are your names? You belong to the Militi clan, correct?"

"Yes, Sir. This is Daisy and I am Hugh." I was sure I'd heard those names before when it dawned on me their names were like those cartoon character names from some Saturday morning show. I wondered if the Militi family renamed their minion or it was happenstance. Life did have its comic twists.

The waitress came up with my soup and Harry's salad.

"You two want coffee?" She was happy to see more folks in the diner and was distractedly thinking about the growing tip possibilities. She tried to keep from fidgeting when the workers at the other table nosily dropped some flatware on the floor.

"Do you serve shakes here?" Daisy asked softly. She looked like she could use a real meal.

"We sure do. Make them with real ice cream none of that fake mix stuff. Strawberry, chocolate and vanilla." The waitress pulled out her tablet and waited for them to order.

They both took the menus from me and frantically looked for something to order. They were very nervous. The waitress said, "If you need a minute I can come back?"

"No, this is fine. I'll have the strawberry shake with a burger and chili cheese fries, please." Daisy shoved the menu back to me. I returned it with the rest.

Hugh nodded and said, "I'll have the same but no onions and make my shake chocolate."

"Cheese on the burgers?"

"Yes, please. And no onions on mine either," Daisy looked at us and dipped her head. She was an open book to me and I heard her panicking that she'd overstepped by forgetting that most vampires hated onions. I didn't care since I wasn't planning on kissing either of them. Harry grinned at me and picked at his salad.

I sipped the tea and watched the waitress scurry over to the construction workers to check on their meals while handing them another fork and knife from a side table she'd automatically grabbed to replace the silverware on the floor. They asked for refills and more bread. After picking up the dropped fork and knife she left the check with the newly engaged couple and went into the back to place the orders. The diner grew louder as the patrons settled into the newcomers at our table. The biker was still talking orders with the gal who'd made the delicate music box.

We sat and let the silence stretch between us all. I wasn't ready to play with them and found myself distracted by the other people in the coffee shop. The angry man in the corner finished up his chapter and his meal. He didn't wait for the waitress to bring a check but tossed down money. He ambled past the construction workers and nodded to one saying, "Glad to see you got a job finally, Ken. It's been a while."

Ken was the blond both the waitress and I had noticed, naturally, and he grinned up, "Wondered if I'd ever see the inside of another job site. Unemployment doesn't exist for us and it was getting bad. Thankfully, business is rebounding a bit. You doing okay?"

The man nodded to Ken without answering, then continued towards the door. He was still thinking his dark thoughts of murder and mayhem at work. The idea of killing them all was growing stronger the more he gnawed at the notion. He was a ticking time bomb for sure. Pulling his overcoat lapels up around his ears, he tucked his book under his arm and went outside.

We looked back to the Militi clan minions and waited to see how they wanted to handle the relic. I didn't have any desire to touch the box much less Solomon's Fang nestled snugly inside but they wouldn't necessarily be influenced like I'd be by the strongly magically enhanced tool. I wasn't going to risk touching the relic by mistake. Even though I wasn't sure what the dark magic was nevertheless I still knew it was there. I probably could have asked Harry but I didn't want to know. Some things were best left alone, I'd found over the years and vampiric relics topped that list for me of things to avoid playing with, much less trying to use. Nothing good ever came from powerful old objects like the Fang.

Hugh nodded stiffly and said, "Thanks for letting us know you'd found it." His voice sounded strained. Something was off about him. It took me a second then it hit me like a train. He was vampirically glamoured. I watched Harry's eyes tighten slightly and I knew that he'd seen what I'd seen. A strong Militi Master vampire was riding inside his human. The voice was smoother and the man was quivering slightly. The whites of his eyes were ribboned with thick veins of blood as the pressure of the vampiric presence was pushing through. Daisy's eyes rolled back slightly and she began to whisper in a deeper voice.

Her Militi Master vampire was very old and I could feel the waves of power flowing out, puddling in my throat. The vampire in Daisy was ancient. Her voice was nearly inaudible. I was straining to hear what she was trying to say when everyone stopped talking. The waitress came up and dropped off the shakes unaware of anything unusual. We all waited until she went back to the construction workers table before speaking.

Mechanically both minions sipped from their frosty tall glasses. There was no enjoyment on either of their faces. It was obvious that they were vampire marionettes on very long strings. I wondered at the Master behind each of the humans. They seemed to recognize Harry from the way Hugh smiled after he finished half the shake in a single sip. The man would have a nasty headache freeze I wagered once he was returned to his consciousness. But it wasn't yet.

"Ah, Harry. How good of you to come in person." The voice said. Something had switched and Hugh was acting less stilted. The vampire had settled into the human and was popping his knuckles slowly. That triggered a look on Harry's face. It was of mild disgust. Thankfully Hugh had dropped his eyes to admire the turn of his wrist and missed the look. Harry wasn't fond of the vampire.

"Of course, it is proper." Harry had dropped his features back to their usual remote interest.

"The Fang has been out of our control far too long. I am gratified to have it back in our hands." The voice wasn't familiar to me and I couldn't smell much of the vampire on Hugh but I knew that Harry knew the Master.

Daisy nodded, still robotic, her vampire didn't seem as smooth with the strings as Hugh's. She had finished all of her shake and said, "Yes, Harry, it was proper. But then you always do what's proper don't you?"

The woman's mouth pulled back in an odd shape then it dawned on me it was the vampire's attempt at a smile. It was mildly disturbing and vaguely familiar. Then she turned to me and whispered, "Natasha, you look as delicious as ever. How is Simon these days?"

My throat tightened and just like that I knew the vampire riding Daisy. I hadn't thought I would have ever forgotten her scent. I dry swallowed my spit and exhaled softly.

"Camilla, glad to see time is treating you well." I acknowledged the old vampire with a slight nod. Daisy's vampire Master used to reign in Canada with an iron fist and a pack of wolves. Not werewolves but actual wolves that she trained and rewarded with chunks of the humans she'd drained and tossed aside after they were empty. Her territory ran from sea to sea and at times dipped down into the United States. Simon and she had some sort of arrangement that allowed encroachments he'd never allow another Master. I had only met her once. It wasn't something I thought I'd ever forget. Apparently I had forgotten her scent.

Harry said, "I see you've been using some of the relics."

It dawned on me then that Camilla had deliberately cloaked her scent with some ancient bit of magic. Harry nodded slightly and added, "How is it effecting your nightmares? I heard the Cup brought with it more than its share of dark hauntings."

To be continued ...

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-10-12
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