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April 15, 2024

Further into the Darkness 9

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Nine

With everyone watching me keying it made me grow uncomfortable at their attention. Harry was already off in his own cyber land not giving any thought to his own group. An idea jumped into my thoughts and I stopped typing saying, "Hey, Caleb, why don't you go find something to eat in the kitchen? You must be starving. Eddie can show you where it is. Isn't that right, Eddie?" I threw a pointed glance to the werewolf letting him see that I'd have absolutely no regrets forcing him if he objected. He paled slightly before jerking upright saying, "Sure, Bethany. Good idea. I think we all could use some proteins and carbs after all that. It's going to be a long day."

Watching two vampires search the web didn't seem to interest anybody so they all reluctantly got up from their seats and headed out of the library. Jasmine snagged the empty tray on the coffee table still looking strangely thinner and as if she had less life force than she'd had last night. It was starting to bug me. I could think of a ton of spells -- active or in hex bags that could cause such effects, but I personally hadn't done the deed. So far, she hadn't asked for my assistance, and I wasn't one to volunteer my talents. It also could be blowback from a Dark Art spell she'd cast, in which case there wasn't a quick fix I could easily supply without knowing more. I shook my head, clearing my curiosity and then I noticed that everyone had fled leaving Harry and me to our tasks.

"Harry, I trust you have enough food for a small army in the kitchen?" I quipped, wondering what Zach would do with the supers. I knew perfectly well that Caleb would be busy socially engineering them into either actively or unconsciously volunteering information about what exactly they were and what they could do. I knew he had skills in that area -- it was one of the reasons he'd been a great escort for me for years. He could be very casual with his surfer lingo and relaxed attitude like he'd been last night with Valerie, swapping tales and surfer locations before they'd left and everything had gone sideways. Something had happened at the suite over on Shelter Island that had changed how they interacted now. But in our past, I'd also watched him discuss history or locations where historical events had unfolded. I'd seen people pull out their cell phones to share vacation pictures with Caleb when he began chatting with them over cocktails and appetizers. His education was layered giving him unexpected depth that was at odds with his laid-back appearance.

Harry softly said, "Check this out, Bethany."

I was expecting some kind of e-mail or report about the assassins or the Council, but to my stunned disbelief Harry was live streaming the newly remodeled kitchen. He'd had his minions and fledglings install all new appliances and also pinhole cameras. The screen was displaying four different angles that he could toggle between another set of unseen cameras. I counted eight different shots that covered the entire kitchen. We both could hear the crew in the kitchen with a little focus -- vampiric hearing so the silent videos ran in front of us in real time. Knowing that the werewolves had equally enhanced hearing and that the witches could cast a spell to listen to us -- neither Harry nor I spoke aloud. Instead I relaxed my mind's barrier to allow Harry access to talk with me unheard by the others.

'On the bottom task bar, do you see the small icon with an old time 35 mm camera? Right-click to get the pull down menu and select a room.' Harry thought directly into my brain. I saw what he had indicated on the laptop closest to me.

I followed his instructions to see that the choices included the kitchen, library, all the bedrooms and the bathrooms, even the hallways connecting various rooms in the old house. Basically, I kept toggling on the choices from the menus and noticed there were cameras in every possible area inside and outside the home. Yeah, Harry had some nifty toys available from his Homeland Security gig.

As I clicked I saw my basement had been outfitted, too. Then I noticed there seemed to be pretty amazing access to satellite cameras over us giving choices of views with a couple block radius along with shots that read thermal signatures and more. Damn spying in the twenty-first century was almost near magic. My skin crawled at the clarity of the super specialized cameras available to Harry. But it all made me immediately jump at the possibilities. I asked Harry in his thoughts, 'Harry, can't we just use this stuff to take out the Council crew and the assassins they sent to kill us?'

'Not enough satellites available to cover the world. I've been able to get some feedback and a few reports. I am receiving info from some of the systems but not enough to help us to any degree. Plus, they can be hacked and as you very well know that they can be fed fake information.' Harry shook his head slowly with real regret.

It was dismal news but not completely surprising. False reports and straight out misinformation wasn't new -- it had been around for a long time. We vampires had used such devices as long as I could remember. History was told by the victors after all. I saw the gang was busy making plates and eating and drinking. I could feel they were all distracted and focusing on absorbing everything they'd seen this morning. I saw on the display that Eddie and Caleb were chatting animatedly and without any noticeable tension next to the sink. Jasmine and Morgan had their heads close together standing over heavily stacked plates by the fridge. Their body language was closed off to everyone else in the room. Morgan was hovering protectively by his partner while she continued to ravenously eat. He, too, was gobbling down a plate of proteins and carbs -- he was fueling for the upcoming conflicts. I noticed Valerie was standing by the large table -- which was missing most of the matching chairs that I could now see were littering the library. She was as far as possible from Caleb and Eddie -- Zach was keeping her company while being physically between her and Caleb. I figured the null had picked up on the extreme tension between them -- it didn't take any special talents -- they weren't in the least discreet.

I downsized the program and went back to the Dark Web for my investigation. Harry had his methods while I had mine. He had said that he needed me for my local connections. I wasn't sure how he thought I could be any help -- he had tons of connections but I figured out that I had better be useful or there wasn't any reason for me to be around -- and I didn't see escaping Southern California as a viable option any longer -- instinctively I knew the borders were being watched. The announcement had been up online for nearly twenty-four hours. Knowing how many vampires had been created by rogues or fallen Masters that could've read online or been told about the purge meant quite a few would be running to the various borders as quickly as possible, hoping to avoid detection or capture by executioners or even getting killed outright.

In the past European conflicts hundreds of years ago I had seen it happen. Like rats scurrying off a sinking ship the vampires, fledglings and minions would be escaping and trying to get out of range from the coming battles. The Council actually counted on that reaction from the rogues -- they would have their spies and watchers. When fleeing death in order to be successful I always found that I needed careful planning, money, trustworthy assistance and damn good luck. I didn't see much chance of all those items being easily aligned for them in order to have that happen. Harry had already mentioned from his own searching that the Council had been planning this for a while -- the deck was stacked against those running thinking they'd find sanctuary much less be able to find freedom from prosecution for their crimes.

My fingers flew deep into the website I thought would yield me something, hell anything that could possibly help me. I didn't have Harry's insane speed, but I wasn't that bad -- thanks to my vampiric speed and years of keying. I dug through sites that Jason had introduced me to years ago. Like anything in vampire time some of the sites were long abandoned and a few '404 NOT FOUND', a couple fatal error screens and then I found others were now completely overrun by teens learning the web and asking stupid questions. It was rough going and I was growing frustrated.

So far, I resisted checking my e-mail accounts from Harry's computer. He had told me he had excellent protection in place, but I wasn't keen on the notion of voluntarily giving him my passwords and logins. He was after all a collector of data and a Master gamer. Not having my mental barrier up between us, I still jumped when Harry thought into me, 'Bethany, I already have all your logins and passwords. How do you think I sent the Davy Martin e-mail directly to your LanaL gmail account? Besides Jason checked his JimmyO account just a half hour ago.' I slammed the mental barrier down abruptly denying him further access to my wayward thoughts.

Biting back a heartfelt sigh I looked up to find Harry watching me. My automatic cutting the thread of thoughts between us hadn't been gentle. Picture a thick, steel door slamming in your face stopping millimeters from your nose -- the air push and the feeling behind the door being shut -- hit you mentally with rejection and visually blank metal shutting off anything you could see to help. It wasn't a nice thing to do but I was feeling raw and more than a little hunted. Harry had been long aware of me and where I lived. I didn't need to speak aloud or in thoughts to have this confirmed.

Mentally I shook myself hard. I was reacting, not acting -- prey behavior not predator much less apex predator. Harry always had his elaborate and Byzantine systems of information. The labyrinth of his infrastructure in his vampire world was rivaled in his role in the hierarchy of his Homeland security career. Asking him any questions would be useless at best -- frustrating either way. But Harry's frank admission did make perfect sense -- he always tried to have as much information available before embarking on any campaign. Why I had thought he'd treat me any differently was on me -- my conceit, even arrogance that we had a unique and different connection due to our shared history was a mistake on my part. My bad, as millennials would say when they fucked up.

Finally, I talked myself into checking my LanaL gmail account. I felt Harry's eyes drop back to his searches once he figured out I wasn't going to speak aloud to him or mind speak. I felt like it had been years since I'd read my e-mail but in real world time it had only been a day or so. After clearing up Bob and his crew of misfits and their nest -- not vampires but human predators -- from the area near one of my houses, I'd received a bit of attention on the local news. Thankfully there weren't any mentions about anything remotely supernatural but how horrifically the bodies had been slain.

One of my Master's vampire associates -- here is where it got wiggly -- Jason, who is now sorta mine but not that I traditionally claim him as it would mean I was making my own clan without the Vampire Council's approval -- reached out and contacted me the other night. My Master had a way of picking up orphan vampire strays during his decades of pillaging and plundering in the Old World and New World wars. After my Master left this earth with his final and true death, Jason was unofficially mine. Seasons changed and I made rather interesting choices, while he lived in Southern California, contacting me off and on during those years; and over time, I had made my way West ending up in San Diego. So, the night I'd spent hunting and utterly obliterating the psychopath Bob's gang hit the local news and local paper. The activities were noticed by Jason and he recognized a few of my darker trademark games with sociopaths. He e-mailed me asking me if it had in fact been me. He'd also warned of Council-owned executioners on their way.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-08-09
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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