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May 27, 2024

Further into the Darkness 4

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Four

"No, Bethany, I can't see that they are even aware of your little, local 'social cleansing' project. The news of those humans hasn't been picked up by the national news yet. The bodies are being attributed to a territorial drug deal gone fatally sideways. The bar you were in the other night shockingly has had many locals come out of the woodwork to smile for the cameras while telling how they all knew those men were bad. Scattered stories made local stations and some online spots with people telling how they 'were bad men who deserved what they got' coupled with tales of under tipping, scary and mean men who terrorized the bar. Various sound bites bouncing around social media all with similar accounts. Add in that you policed their bodies well -- the coroner didn't find anything unusual in their initial reports filed. It appears the Council doesn't know anything about you or any other vampire being responsible." Harry didn't pause from his research, but he obviously had gone through some local reports to have a quick answer.

Again, I was sitting in front of Harry feeling like last night's dinner in Del Mar had been a carefully orchestrated ambush. He'd used an e-mail to initially connect with me implying that I'd missed something at the murder locations that would cause the Vampire Council's executioners to be hunting me. Now, he just casually told Eddie, his werewolf I must add, that there weren't any reports out there that remotely tagged me or any vampires. I remained calm while inside I was seething.

I could've been long gone and read the damn proclamation from a sandy beachside cabana in Brazil. But, no, here I was in the middle of some fucked up Harry master plan. I kept quiet while watching Eddie furiously inhaling a plate of rather rare to full out raw meat. Trust Harry to know what sorts of eats to have on hand. The different kinds of hunks of rib meats had the bones intact. Eddie began to crack the bones like crab legs and audibly suck out the marrow. Not remotely pretty but Eddie had burned his way through massive amounts of his body's reserves changing natures from human to werewolf. Add in my little whammy of a command making him flip back to his human form. He was obviously starving for proteins. Gee -- sorry, not sorry.

"Thanks, Harry. It was lovely having the dinner by the ocean with your baby witch, Valerie, I think you said was her name. Oh, I wonder if she's conscious yet? Perhaps we should call?" Yes, I sounded more than a tad snarky and honestly, I really didn't much care at this point.

"Oh, Bethany, don't you worry about her. I have a few companions picking Valerie and Caleb up as we speak. They should be arriving momentarily." Harry didn't even do me the courtesy of looking up from his hacking. I didn't have to look over to see to know that he was deeply combing through the under belly of his cyber world. I didn't bother to say anything -- it wouldn't help. But I admit I was damned curious who -- hell, what -- would be escorting my friend, Caleb, here. Even in the library I knew that the sun was up and tinted windows aside -- sunny San Diego wasn't ideal for young vampires. The one who'd pulled away in Harry's SUV when we'd arrived at the house late last night with Violet hadn't been old in terms of vampire years. Rather than interrupt Harry in his quest for more data, I turned my focus to Eddie who was gobbling up almost all the food he'd brought with him from the kitchen. I saw a few stray vegetables he hadn't demolished and wondered how Jasmine would feel about that. Mentally I shrugged and figured it wasn't my problem.

"So, Eddie," I drawled out. He was startled at my directing comments his way and I saw his eyes momentarily flicker -- he froze with a large half gnawed bone in his fist, "Why don't you tell me a little about yourself?"

I bit softly at the inside of my cheek, he looked absolutely horrified by my attention. He frantically chewed at the meat that was in his mouth while he tried to think of what I wanted him to say. Harry kept his head down and wasn't helping the werewolf at all. Then I swore I saw a lightbulb above his head flick on as he thought of something even more terrifying. Yes, I could have just as easily have vampirically commanded him to tell me anything without 'asking' but pushing him like I'd done when I made him return to his human nature. Horror was etched deeply on his rather handsome face while he pretended he was working on food. As I had seen his throat move when he swallowed, I knew he was killing time. Yeah, it pretty much sucked to be him.

I could feel the pressure change in the house as someone came inside the home from the front part near the almost completely abandoned street -- I hadn't been there in a while but I figured the yard had been cleaned up there also. Harry looked up long enough to say, "Eddie, go greet our guests and round up more chairs for us, please."

Smiling without fangs I said, "We'll catch up later then, Eddie, if that's okay with you?"

Eddie didn't waste a second launching himself out of the chair to do Harry's bidding. He threw me a look and didn't reply. I sketched him a finger wave that had him out the door like I'd lit a firecracker underneath him. I stifled a chuckle and let him fly out the door undisturbed for now. I wasn't going to forget my questions any time soon and his panic amused me. Until it didn't. I'd not forgotten that all this crap was Harry's machinations and from what he'd just told us it could've been avoided. For some unknown reason Harry wanted me to be a part of the problems in California. I could've easily been on a slow train or another means of traveling and long gone from the Council's drama. Harry said he'd needed my connections on the West Coast but I couldn't think of who he thought I knew that was even remotely useful in the current situation. Harry knew tons of vampires and non-vampires. Me, I came to dinner with an educated surfer. He was the one running with witches and werewolves.

I could hear sets of footsteps heading for the library where we were patiently waiting in silence for Eddie to return. Looking around at the area with fresh eyes I saw only empty bookshelves inserted into the room, a large built in desk along one wall, a fireplace, empty of anything but burnt scoring on the bricks and rocks that created the space. The library had no windows and that was why I appreciated that Harry had chosen this location for us to gather. Well, that and I knew how to exit the room quickly if needed. The hidden pocket door that opened into the basement stairs was not far away.

Looking around I calmed myself with that knowledge while I was getting curious how many creatures had arrived with Caleb and Valerie. The soft voices were mostly masculine -- I could also hear the weighty steps indication Eddie had remembered to have them pick up chairs as suggested.

Thankfully, the library wasn't a tiny room like many of the homes built in the late 1890's to the early 1920's that made up the neighborhood. During those eras there were many homes built or relocated from other parts of the country into the growing city of San Diego. Rich prosperous people wanted to show their wealth with lavish homes and gardens. All that Harry had put inside the room prior to our arrival was a brown leather couch, a matching chair, two side tables and a matching coffee table that had laptops currently being used set up for Harry's use. There were also lamps -- floor lamp and tabletop -- that had been brought to the party -- so to speak. I had to admit the addition of the Persian rug that dampened the echo in the empty library was appreciated. Oh, I forgot he'd also filled the room's closet with unknown bags of clothing along with a set of dark towels we'd already used. That wasn't the full extent of Harry's preparations for my arrival; I forgot to mention he also bought the damn house, reconnected the power -- or spliced into the lines I was already pirating down in the basement from my illegal remodel slash squatting. Yep, Harry had connections I couldn't touch.

The steps abruptly ceased as everyone arrived outside the room. I kept my temper in check -- just barely -- while Harry continued to search for more info. The pause stretched a beat and even through the thick wood door I could hear a murmur of conversations between two of the males. One voice as immediately recognizable to me as Eddie in his human form. His voice was rumbling in his chest as he replied negatively to another unseen person. I didn't hear the words but the tone -- sharp and not happy with the question -- was easily discernable to me. I didn't bother trying to listen and the door was cautiously opened inward -- scents of earth and fur greeted my nose identifying werewolf and witch -- nothing I hadn't already known. There were layers of otherness I hadn't identified yet.

A chair matching the one Eddie brought a few minutes ago proceeded the first male entering the library. I felt a shift of power between Eddie and the man. It wasn't anybody that I recalled having ever met. The man stiffened as his blue eyes fell on Jasmine -- the unknown Nordic-looking werewolf almost leaped into the room once he'd dropped the chair he'd been carrying behind the sofa with an audible clunk. Oh, joy -- yet another werewolf added into the mix -- from the fury on his face, the witch was important to him. He dropped to the side of the couch -- half-standing not quite kneeling -- next to Jasmine where she had fallen. She was still slumped on the cushion and he pushed her reddish-brown hair from her face with a delicate touch, his hands traced down her cheek to her firm jawline while he softly called to her, "Jasmine. Jasmine, honey?" And naturally Jasmine was unresponsive.

"What the fuck, Harry?" The Viking-looking werewolf spit out while continuing to softly touch the witch as if he could will her to wake up.

Just then Caleb shuffled in looking extremely wary and more than a bit confused. He, too, was carrying a chair and the witch Valerie who was also lugging one kept jabbing at him with the furniture while she kept talking at my surfer, "Go, Caleb -- get your damn ass into the room, now. These chairs aren't light." Gone were the sweet flirtatious tones she'd been using last night at the restaurant. My poor surfer buddy wasn't looking happy, but Eddie, who was holding the door open, kept waving the latest 'guests' into the library. He was right behind Valerie, looking utterly pissed off. The final body to tromp in was another large male -- from initial glance he wasn't a witch or werewolf -- yay! Carefully I breathed in the man's scent as he approached with his seat. He didn't waste any time setting it down and sitting down facing Harry about two feet away from me. The others were still standing around looking like they didn't quite know what to do. Taking another breath, I tried to catalogue what was in the air. I wasn't sure precisely what he was. Human at some point but his energies were all over the place and somehow 'off' to me. It was a puzzle for later -- I wasn't willing to open myself up at this moment with any of my other senses. I couldn't miss the thick and nasty anger rolling off the newest werewolf in the library who was also filled with fear and danger.

These latest editions to Harry's entourage were extremely strong. I was suffocating on the intensity of all their energies. Caleb pulled his chair into the room and placed it between mine and Harry seated on the couch across from me. He threw me a wide-eyed look and tried to relax as he sat next to me. It was then I saw he'd kept his backpack over his shoulder and once seated he oh-so-causally placed it between our chairs -- it was open and I could see his gun on top of other things he'd brought with him last night. I nodded that I noticed and respectfully didn't say anything. He puffed up slightly at my nod and sat back casual surfer style.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-07-05
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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