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May 20, 2024

Further into the Darkness 11

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Eleven

Caleb looked utterly confused by how quickly we all dropped the subject of Jasmine's frailness and the as of yet unknown Miguel. I know I figured that Harry and Morgan were going to figure out what was happening with Jasmine -- Zach did look intrigued, so I decided that it was now their problem. If Jasmine faltered Harry could deal with her.

"Okay, then," Eddie snarled; he realized that he too would not be getting an answer to who Miguel was at the moment, so he switched back to the Jason problem. "What does Bethany do about Jason?" Eddie spoke quickly before someone else jumped into the fray.

We all looked to Harry. I knew this was now a group decision. I didn't see Harry letting me go off with a bag of money to see if Jason was on our team or setting me up to be executed.

Harry looked to me and asked, "Bethany, do you want to meet with Jason?"

My brain was still tumbling through all the possibilities and I had a few pointed questions for Harry before I could make any decisions. Looking around the coffee table, I first risked mind speaking with Harry -- I didn't want or need a battle to erupt between all of us. I had enough enemies already thank you very much; I didn't need to add another set of opponents. As it was we were all stretched thin and trust hadn't been earned -- too many conflicting personalities and hidden agendas.

Dropping my mental barrier, I reached out with my vampiric mind speak to Harry, 'Are you ready for difficult questions? I need true answers. If you want secrets between us and them, tell me now.'

Harry's thoughts were warm and far too open. It felt like I was home -- odd given how long since I'd actually had a place that I could call my home.

'Bethany, nothing can be kept secret. Lines are being drawn. I was not kidding I need you to be with me.' Comforting words but I wondered if they were true.

Harry easily intercepted my concerns, 'Anything -- just ask. Your past hasn't been spilled, just the basics about your dual nature -- they need us and we will need them.'

Audibly I sighed out my frustrations before speaking aloud to the group.

"Harry, you knew that Jason was reporting back to the Vampire Council. How can we now trust him?" I asked a softball question while putting it out in the open that Harry knew of the connection to the Council and that it was something I hadn't a clue about and that Harry hadn't bothered to tell me. Gee, awkward much?

The group all looked startled, but nobody interrupted or interfered. It really wasn't smart to get between vampires as a general rule -- these witches and werewolves were Harry's not mine -- but they didn't try to sweet talk me or make lame excuses for Harry's behavior. I waited for Harry's answer, curious on how the spin would go. His access to both the vampire world and the government underbelly was extensive.

With everyone's gaze on him Harry carefully weighed his reply before saying, "We can trust him. Until we can't or if slash when that happens, I'll personally destroy him. But I don't think Jason is working for the Vampire Council anymore. If he'd been still working for the Council, he wouldn't have stayed in San Diego. There are still human smuggling tunnels that go under the city between Mexico and California. There are tons of tunnels operating running drugs, humans and large enough to drive cars through them."

He had a valid point. And from his human career he was informed about the constantly created tunnels that were used in both directions. Every now and then a news story would come out revealing a large underground cavern from one home beneath the border into a sewer system or shack. Taking Harry at his word I nodded.

"Okay, then I need to meet up with Jason tonight -- and find out about any and all necessary Council plans that he is privy to -- then, what?" I wasn't thrilled at the idea of a meeting, but it did seem necessary. I heard all the humans, weres, and witches breathing out with what sounded like total relief. Something relaxed in all of them after hearing my question. Slowly I became aware that I was the one they were totally afraid of, not Harry. Internally I winced thinking of the recent damage I'd done to Bob and his psychopath buddies. By now all of them must have seen the news reports and thought I was a loose cannon.

It made me reflect that I wasn't always how I am today. Long time ago I attempted to live a "proper" life in the New World. My Master wanted to stay below the radar; having worked long at being part of the elite vampires in Europe, he knew what it took. He'd survived a few purges in the centuries and the experiences gave him insight to what mortals saw as dangerous and what was perceived as innocent and good. He had all of his minions follow specific roles fitting into the then modern society. We could walk briefly in the sunlight -- he more than me. The clothing of the upper classes pretty much covered me head to toe either way. Parasols were a French affectation that the colonies had adopted in major towns and young growing cities.

I took up parlor games, reading the poets and authors of the times. Sipping beverages while neighbors came to gawk at all the expensive furnishings and dishes that we used for daily visits. My time was carefully monitored during daylight hours by our neighbors -- we were constantly on display. I hated every second of it but buried myself in the written words my Master brought to me. I was a spectacularly caged bird.

Now here I was, feeling like the caged bird from my past. Harry had known me then. I wasn't that young vampire anymore. My slaughtering of those human predators hadn't been pretty, but it wasn't the act of feral, rogue creature that the executioners had open orders to incinerate and totally annihilate without any trial. I had been furious to hear the men rationalize raping and later killing innocent drugged women. Hell, most weren't much older than twenty-one -- at least that's what their fake IDs said on them -- that they were legal. Bob taught his gang the sick methods to incapacitate semi-drunk girls. My vampire skills let me read all their thoughts and past 'conquests' as they could remember them. My anger did get the better of me, that I do admit. I didn't kill anyone who didn't deserved killing.

Harry answered me, "Bethany, let's set the meet up for tonight. We can't know what that will bring until you are in front of Jason and talking. But just know that you won't be alone. Between all of us there isn't anything that can happen to you. We must first get Jason's information."

"Fine, Harry. But answer me this -- Did he reach out to you for help in the past twenty-four hours to leave the country?"

I tried to keep my suspicions out of my voice. It was a natural segue I thought but from his look I was obviously mistaken.

"What? I would've said something if Jason had reached out to me." Harry's voice was even and seemingly calm, but his eyes weren't nearly as serene. He hadn't thought that I'd pick up on that so soon -- he still thought I was the same vampire from back a couple hundred years ago with my Master picking out my dresses along with books for me to read.

Caleb jumped in with, "Alrighty then, how do we actually protect Bethany in Balboa Park? It's huge, like over a thousand acres with tons of hiding places." All valid points. Caleb didn't know me quite as well of Harry, but he did know from our shared past that the deescalating of situations was never in my wheelhouse. Nope, tools in my arsenal were far more varied than average vampires, Masters or fledglings. My tools were fast and fierce but necessary to survival.

Jasmine stopped eating long enough to say in a flat voice, "And let's not go anywhere near the Lily Pond." I sensed that there was more to that story from the way both Harry and Morgan looked startled by her comment. I hadn't even begun to figure out where to meet him yet. Or much less what would be the ideal spot, and then we had to add in how much portable cash I needed to get from Harry. No way was I paying Jason another dime of my monies now -- he was Harry's pawn and possible problem.

Tapping my index finger against my lips while I let my brain wander mentally over the large historic park. The zoo was a jewel in the crown of the area but having two werewolves with us seemed like a huge NO. True wild animals in the enclosures would react to roving predators outside their cages. That territory issue would come into play -- lions roaring alone would be noticed by nearby mortals.

I flipped around for possible locations -- plus and minus columns in my mind racing for a spot. I remembered that there were these small little cottages in Balboa Park. I envisioned the delightful houses and quickly discarded the notion -- too many places available to hide around them. But I have to admit that the Spanish style architecture was appealing to me. My brain dwelled on the houses; I knew that they had been added in the 1930s for the California Pacific International Expo. No, they really wouldn't work because during various weekends the small, cute houses were opened to the public. The houses had celebrations, sweet treats and hosted gatherings by people from all over the world. Humans went to meet up with fellow ex patriates and swap recipes for food and take overs of lost country lands. Definitely not somewhere we'd be able to blend in while dealing with possibilities of attacks more than likely. I had no interest in brainwashing a bunch of innocent humans who got in our way after the bodies dropped -- I mean "if" bodies happened to drop.

The museums were also out -- again too popular and too many chances for us to be noticed by mortals -- hell, cell phones would put us online in seconds. The museums were pretty elaborate and I had used them in the past for meetings, but I didn't think we all could walk around undetected and unobserved. The museums were in different buildings that lined a major street that wound its way through the Park. Some of them had exhibits I swore were damn near as old as the 1900 buildings around the property. I knew they changed out the various displays -- I'd yet to go tour the cannibalism exhibit -- it probably had long moved on to a small town in the Midwest. I toyed with suggesting the meeting in the nearby building that had hosted the Secret Postcard show but I figured it was too subtle a jab at us supernaturals and once I gave it a thought, I didn't even know if that was still set up and open.

The entire park had been constructed for the Panama-California Expo held in 1915 closing in 1916. Instead of tearing down the buildings and gardens the place grew and was a destination spot for future generations of humans. I knew there was a huge homeless population that lived in and amongst the structures and elaborate flora and fauna. I'd spent a few nights prowling for blood offerings as had Jason. I'd met him there before, but I was wary of his suggesting that location, especially after canceling on meeting me at the carousel.

"Can we suggest another spot to meet him?" Zach spoke again. I wondered if he could read me better than I thought. That would suck in totally all the wrong ways for me.

Harry replied, "No, Zach, we really need to meet up with Jason somewhere we can grab him. Bethany has met with Jason there many times. If she suddenly switched the spot to meet up, then Jason could blow her off and give up her location to the Council to protect himself. He wasn't on her side before; this would definitely tip the scales. She can always figure out his mindset once they are in the Park. If she shifts it away, he might run instead of come."

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-08-23
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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