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September 26, 2022

Strange Bedfellows 41

By Lydia Manx

"Simon, have you heard of this 'Cynthia' before?" Harry arched an eyebrow at the smudge that was the remnants of Geoffrey-the-clueless-vampire. I really hadn't planned on killing Geoffrey so quickly and the rug would have to be replaced or professionally cleaned to completely get all the bits of vampire out. Looking at the large area rug I knew it wasn't some cheap knock-off Harry had purchased at a flea market, Costco or another type of warehouse store. Hell, it probably was older than the damn vamp that died on it.

Simon shook his head and asked, "Natasha, my child, have you heard of any new vampires from Arizona hanging around Kenyon's club?" I was Simon's eyes down in Kenyon's territory and reported to him anything unusual. Lately everything had qualified as unusual so I didn't blame him for asking.

"No, Sire, Dark Whispers has had some vampires that arrived that came from up in Northern California last month, and a few weeks ago some came from back East, but I can't recall any showing up from Arizona." I racked my brain to remember if there'd been unidentified vampires 'new' to the scene in the past few weeks. I didn't remind him that I'd passed on the alleged names of those two sets of vampires. There had been plenty of odd vampires and some stray werewolves, but nobody from the desert that I could recall. It wasn't easy, because Kenyon tended to attract all the wrong elements, and for me just figuring out their vampire hierarchy levels could be work at times -- it wasn't like everyone told the truth. Hell, Kenyon had been keeping his own little 'dark secrets' from the council and Simon.

Before I had decapitated Geoffrey, newly turned and now completely dead, I'd been privy to his sick demented thoughts. I naturally shared them with Simon and he gave me the permission to execute the rogue. Harry had already told the council and they'd said that there weren't going to be any repercussions as the vamps created hadn't been approved. Well, except for the dry cleaning bill for the stain left by Geoffrey's demise. I went to the kitchen and grabbed a towel from a hook on a shelf. Slowly I cleaned up the Civil War sword I'd used on Geoffrey. It really was a nice weapon. Renee had gifted both Harry and me with some Confederate swords when we helped her in Kentucky with the werewolves. I was happy to finally see how nicely mine was balanced. The hacking I'd done earlier when we'd been attacked by the Torrey Pines beach had been so rushed I really hadn't got the feel for how the blade felt in my hand. The craftsmanship was superb and there were only a few nicks on the blade from use. Once I had cleaned up the sword I went back to the living room.

Setting the sword on the nearest end table, I perched myself back on the arm of the sofa where Simon sat across from Harry and waited to find out why my Master had flown down. I could feel the sun cresting outside and stifled a yawn. The metal roll-down security shutters that covered all the windows kept the sun from peeking in but still I could feel it. Some things never changed. The sunrays didn't instantly kill us but they weren't the most comfortable things for vampires. The newer vampires didn't have the same luxury of withstanding sunlight, but then they had yet to earn much more than table scraps of information on surviving their new states. Survival of the fittest at its absolute finest is how I always thought of it. (We vampires were a clannish lot admittedly.)

Simon trailed his fingers over my left hand and I sighed.

Harry asked him directly, "So why did you fly down, Simon?"

"Because this territory is getting out of hand. I can't believe how Kenyon has run it into the ground and the attempted kidnapping and possible murder of you and Natasha a few hours ago just proves it." There was no way he knew ahead of time we'd just been in a staged accident when he left Northern California, but neither Harry nor I bothered to point that out.

"True, but Kenyon's been overreaching his area for a long time now. Jessie and Buddy's deaths were just the tip of the iceberg. I don't know why these Arizona vampires are now wandering the street,s but they seemed pretty arrogant. I don't think they expected us to fight back, which proves they weren't told very much about us." Harry paused as something else crept into his mind, "And someone had told them where to find us."

That thought had long crossed my mind, but since I couldn't reattach the dead vampire's head and question him I kept my mouth shut. My mistake was in not thinking to ask about that specifically before I'd swung my sword, but by then he'd pissed me off and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I knew that I hadn't been in contact with anyone in days and Harry had arranged the all flights from Kentucky and the ride from the Palomar Airport. That clearly put the informer squarely into Harry's camp and from his growl I knew he'd concluded the same thing.

Simon just waited. I watched Harry pull out his cell phone and start text messaging someone. Two minutes later his phone rang.

"Yes?" It was Harry's turn to wait. I could hear the caller gasping and snapping -- there was another vampire with the caller. Simon caught my eyes and nodded while he continued to lightly fondle my hand and wrist.

"I am sorry, Harry. We didn't realize that Peter was related to anyone in Arizona." A soft, cultured voice spoke and I could hear the years of education in his words. Despite that, the vampire who'd called Harry sounded really pissed off underneath it all. I could hear a scream from the other vampire who I was assuming to be the one named Peter.

"How much did Peter share with his family in Arizona?" Harry was amazingly calm at finding out that he'd been betrayed. While Simon looked unruffled by the disclosure I wondered if Harry's troubles weren't news to him. I knew my Master had been around for more than one Byzantine, convoluted uprising and many betrayals in his life times.

There was a long scream of pain and some mumbling from the other vampire -- Peter -- and then nothing.

"Sorry, Harry, he isn't making much sense. He has collapsed for now. I will work on him and call you back once I have some concrete information." Harry snapped his cell shut, sighing.

"That wasn't much use. Peter has been with me for over eighty years. I think we'll need to move." Harry looked at Simon waiting for his input.

"I assume we are good until this evening?" My Master continued trailing his fingernails over my skin. I wanted to purr my pleasure but was content to simply bask in his aura. There was a steady feeling of love and caring caressing me from the inside out. I was hoping we didn't need to leave but it wasn't up to me.

"Certainly. But instead of using the master suite and guest room I am going to suggest we head to the guesthouse." I must have looked pretty confused since I hadn't noticed another building on the property.

Laughing Harry said, "Grab your sword, Natasha, and I'll show you where I mean." Simon had a smug grin plastered on his face and from that I gathered he'd already seen the guesthouse. I went for the front door, assuming we'd be dashing to the guesthouse from the doorway. I had been given the codes to get in and out of the security system and the shuttered windows were coded the same. Before I could punch in the numbers Harry stopped me with a chuckle.

"No, we don't need to go out that way. Follow me."

Simon trailed a hand down my spine as I passed him to follow Harry. I shuddered and dipped my chin. He wasn't curious in the least where Harry was taking us so I assumed he'd already known about the guesthouse. We walked into the kitchen and over to the pantry. Harry opened up the door to reveal a large shelf-lined closet. There were various canned goods and bottles of water on a few shelves immediately at the entrance. Still following like a good fledgling, I watched Harry slide a shelf over and toggle a switch. There was a mechanical twang and the wall to the right of the door opened to reveal a stairway. Harry pushed a button on the wall just inside the pantry and I saw a dim set of lights flicker to life. A small landing gave us just enough room to slide the pantry wall back into place before descending. Harry was still in the lead. There were about twenty steps that went straight down and then we were in a small basement. I looked around to see a few doors. Harry ignored two of them and continued to the furthest wall and opened the door outwards.

Something shifted in me at the musty smell of the hallway now opened up. With no lights to guide us but the ones in the basement we left, there was an eerie glow that backlit us as our eyes adjusted to the dimness. The hallway went maybe thirty or so feet then gave way to a dirt tunnel. I felt like we were walking backwards through time to somewhere back in the 1900s. Harry pushed a panel and a string of bare bulbs lit up the tunnel. The raw light was overly bright at first and my brain was busy catching up with the information being fed to me. Harry had a wine cellar dug into a niche a few feet in on the dirt pathway that went maybe ten or twenty paces. The wines weren't as dusty as I would expect but then I saw the wooden frames that held them in place had notches. Someone, and I doubted it was Harry, given how busy he was, took the time to turn the bottles seasonally according to what I observed. The bottles gave the tunnel a medieval tone that wasn't broken by the next cutout. Harry had actual coffins shoved into the sides of the walls running down the hall like the old catacombs of Europe.

Keeping my thoughts to myself I slowed automatically as we came to the first set of coffins. There weren't any vampires inside but they weren't unused. Catching my thoughts Simon said, "I see you keep the traditional beds for visiting dignitaries."

Harry laughed, "The council expects it. I rather find coffins confining not to mention dreadfully uncomfortable myself."

Simon nodded. As far as I knew there weren't any such comforts in any of Simon's houses, but from his smile I could've been mistaken. It was so weird to see over ten coffins cut into the sides of the hallway as we continued walking away from the main house. We passed a few closed doors. Harry didn't mention who or what was behind them and I wasn't going to ask. My mind was still spinning with the old-fashioned guest beds that I really wasn't going to find out he had a complete dungeon or worse. A whole new level of appreciation for Harry flowed over me while we steadily walked deeper into the earth. The corridor had a gentle slant and I found myself wondered how deeply the basement had been dug. Soon we stopped at one of the doors and Harry pulled out a key and opened it. Yet another set of stairs but this time they went upwards. I was sandwiched between Simon and Harry as we ascended the steep stairs.

The staircase was walled in yet I could feel the dirt pressing against the old boards. There were no lights and my eyes were pushing to figure out how many steps were left when Harry slowed down and I bumped into him. Another landing with a shut door to be unlocked greeted us at the top and Harry opened it to reveal yet another space that seemed to be a closet. Slowly Harry toggled a switch and the closet wall in front of us slid away and all I could see was darkness. Harry didn't immediately turn on any lights and waited for Simon and me to get completely inside the room. Then he shut the door to the staircase and we were in utter darkness. Silence stretched and pressed in on us. Harry was waiting for something, and all I could do is wonder what new hell had we walked into this time.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-06-07
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