With all the craziness that had surrounded the last twenty-four hours when I was in Indonesia, I don't really know what I was expecting to happen once I got in the car with the boy's uncle. My offered twenty dollars American was looking pretty excessive when I saw the old man's car. There were the expected scrapes and scraps along the sides that I'd seen on most vehicles on the islands. The drivers in the country were known for thinking that they were the only drivers on the road despite oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The mostly conservative Indonesians were totally nuts when they got behind the wheel. The government had massive visual campaigns to remind the people that speed and basic gravity won. There were utterly totaled cars perched on raised platforms with red splashes down the sides and windows supposedly from fatal accidents near major towns and bad hairpin curves that dropped off into deep valleys. I saw that the car had a wreath of greenery in the front grille of the battered car. Obviously the uncle had taken the time to go to his local temple and get the car blessed.
The boy shoved my duffle bag in the back seat while he opened the door for me to sit in front. He nodded and said, "You be safe." Then fled.
I gathered he wasn't going to come along for the ride as my personal translator. He didn't even talk to his uncle about our financial arrangement, but just ran. I smiled, dropping my backpack at my feet as the older man got in and I waited for him to start the car. He nodded and grinned back then twisted the key, the engine sounded like it had a squirrel caught under the hood protesting the intended journey. The motor didn't exactly hum but more like gargled rocks and oil while coughing out black smoke from the exhaust system. The entire car shimmied as we rattled over the dirt path behind the hotel where the uncle had parked. The various branches and brush added more scratches and scrapes to the already damaged exterior. I was pretty sure the original color of the car was gray but it could've easily been a mix of bondo and primer. The windows were rolled down and the humidity was high so my back was glued to the seat while the man drove like every Indonesian I'd seen. We raced for the curves of the road and I watched out the window while being afforded a rather intense view of the valleys below.
The man, to my utter dismay, pulled out one of the discarded cigarettes from his pocket and lit it up after an especially intense hairpin curve that nearly tipped the vehicle into the gorge below. I kept my mouth shut as he puffed on recycled butt with the sour smelling fumes churning in my belly. I wasn't happy in the least. I kept thinking, "I love you, Uncle Harry." While firmly keeping myself plastered to the seat and hoping to survive the trip, I was happy to hear a whisper back in my thoughts of, "I love you, Emma." I smiled and felt my eyes brim with unshed tears. Normally I wouldn't have reached out to the vampire, but the feeling of impending death made me feel more vulnerable than normal.
Nothing happened as we hurled towards the airport in Bali. I kept expecting lightning to hit us or Indonesian zombies to swarm the car at one of the infrequent stop signs that the uncle bothered to stop at -- most he just drove through as if he was oblivious to the sign. Maybe he was but since I doubted he spoke English it remained a mystery.
He dropped me off in front of the airport and I handed him the twenty I'd promised. He laughed and put it in his pocket allowing me to take my duffle bag from the backseat while he stayed firmly in the driver's seat. I hadn't even fully turned around when I saw a line up of 'porters' who tried to grab my bag before I'd even closed the car door. Laughing, the uncle sped away leaving me to deal with the extortion scheme of the locals. I saw a few other travelers getting their bags snatched from their hands and passed along quickly to the check-in counter. I only had the one bag. I watched one man screaming to no avail while six pieces of luggage traveled the heavily populated gauntlet. Each of the handlers along the route had their hands out for tips. The man was blowing a gasket over what was probably less than ten cents a body. On the other hand I didn't feel like attracting any more attention so I doled out the change in my pocket with a soft smile. Nobody seemed remotely interested in me so I was pretty happy.
I hit the check out counter and was quickly checked in. There weren't any questions about my trip or any meat puppet looks from the airline staff. Since Uncle Harry had booked me into first class not business class, like I'd expected, I was shuffled sweetly over to a plush lounge off the main terminal. There were numerous folks already littering the landscape so I went relatively anonymously into the room. A few businessmen were barking into their phones while some severely over-processed women sat at the lounge's bar and sucked back drinks trying not to move their faces.
Traveling abroad wasn't done in a few hours but took nearly all day if not longer. I'd arrived over six hours before my flight but in the First Class comfort lounge it was like I was in a fine hotel. Snacks and drinks were brought without comment. The staff was discreet and quietly attentive. I could get used to traveling this way instead of painfully popping in and out of places. Uncle Harry's money made the stay in the airport luxurious. If I could always travel in such style I would actually fill my passport up rather quickly I thought.
I guardedly watched my companions but didn't see anything to make me worry. The time quickly flew and soon so was I. I got on the plane without any other incident. Once airborne I glanced down at Bali, thankful I'd been able to leave without encountering another meat puppet or their master. I didn't plan on going back any time soon.
The rest of the trip home was fairly unremarkable. I made it back to show Uncle Harry the passport stamps in and out of Indonesia and the various stops in between and I carefully told him all about what I'd seen. There wasn't anything to pull me back to Indonesia in any time in the foreseeable future and there was far more that frightened me. Uncle Harry agreed and soon I went back to my usual mishaps.
* * *
I finished recalling my trip to Indonesia, now perfectly clear that it had been a major foreshadowing for the various events heading down the pike towards me. I kinda knew that I'd started something that rippled through time. How far the waves traveled back then I hadn't a clue.
Looking around the dirt cavern I was currently sitting in, I wondered at my various life choices. I'd left Uncle Harry's place not even two months ago. Riley, the sardonic were-beast, had brought over slabs of raw bacon to help us remove an artifact I'd found off the beaten track that had become stuck on my arm. I hadn't stopped popping in and out of the sites I'd already found once I got back from Indonesia. I knew that I'd seen some weird shit but then hell, I grew up seeing weird shit from day one. Uncle Harry had been proud of me for staying the course in the dense tropical forest and with all those crazy meat puppets that creeped me out but that didn't mean I was going to suddenly become some sort of 'normal' human.
Once I'd landed in England, I went to a favorite spot of mine and popped out of England and right over to America. I just didn't want to take another flight even first class. That way I'd figured if anyone had trailed me from Bali they would be busy looking around England and Europe not stateside.
I spent two days in Uncle Harry's lair then my fingers started itching and I headed out with a quick goodbye. He didn't chastise me much and let me run, knowing we were linked and if I ran into any real troubles I'd reach out for him. The two days or so I was at Uncle Harry's it had been just us, so I told him about everything I'd seen and felt. Had there been any visitors, I doubt that I'd have revealed all that I'd observed and noticed. Riley kept away, so I wasn't forced to deal with the were-beast and whatever issues he had with me.
The first week or so I was totally overly cautious. I double-checked all my notes before I popped into any new site and was ready for fangs or bullets when I landed. Nothing happened. The second week I wasn't dropping my guard, but admittedly I wasn't as nutsy with my security. I didn't always have a complete plan for exiting the sites, but still I was far more careful than my past visits to spots under the soil.
Uncle Harry'd made me promise to check in live or in our thoughts every Friday night. No matter what -- he said if I missed a check-in he'd send Riley to pull my ass out of where I'd gone. I didn't doubt it. I didn't know exactly what it was he held over Riley's head but he definitely had something on the werewolf to make him do whatever he wanted.
I also had avoided my Florida home since back in the states. I wasn't willing to risk running into the batch of bounty hunters sent out after me. Not to mention the freelancers who wanted the two-and-a-half million currently being offered for my dead corpse. Nobody said anything about bringing me 'in' alive. That gave me pause more than one dark and stormy night since I'd heard about it. Uncle Harry had told me that there was a band of witches out for me because of that little bracelet incident -- the cursed bracelet I'd picked off an unresisting body somewhere under Kentucky or Tennessee that ended up clinging to my arm like a stalker. He'd also informed me that the woman had been stuck underground to keep the little slice of history private and my discovery of the body had started a whole new bit of interest in legends of a link between vampires and witches. I regretted not popping into my place and picking up some of my favorite things. I didn't have a clue if I'd ever seem my home again. Or Uncle Harry's lush California mansion. He didn't consider it a mansion but from what I'd heard from whispers and comments over the years Harry had some serious real estate back in the day. Being a vampire had its drawbacks, what with having to pretend to die every ninety or so years not to mention having to relocate at the more chaotic times.
My life wasn't as clear-cut. I wasn't anything recognized in the known supernatural pantheon. Disney hadn't made any cute movies with folks like me in the cast or even the background shots. I was unique. Being unique had its drawbacks. Serious drawbacks. Things like my face being plastered across the supernatural universe with a major price on my ass. Not even my head -- literally my dead corpse. I gathered nobody wanted to see me mobile and living and breathing, just dead. I wasn't thrilled by the news, but it wasn't like I could turn myself in and demand clemency. All I could do was duck and cover and hope to stay off the radar long enough for the interest in me to fade.
No, I wasn't holding my breath over that because I knew damn well that supernaturals had as much time on their hands as they could find. The constant flexing of the universe and the longevity of the creatures meant that the price on me could keep rising rather than dropping.
Some days it sucked to be me.