The last email for me to deal with was the latest one from Jason -- my own personal headache. I needed to discuss my reply with Harry. So many things were different now than just a few hours ago. Kenyon's game play had evolved beyond a mildly obnoxious rogue vamp on an ego trip. I glanced up just in time to see Harry and a half dozen or so folks were heading down the hallway towards the library, then over to the pocket door that led to the basement stairs and down to where we all were. A few of the others had cut off from the group and headed to the bedroom where Valerie's remains were half in and out of a failed salt circle. Cremains would be a more accurate description -- pretty much dust. There also was a pair from the larger group that had remained in the living room with Eddie's corpse. They had come prepared and brought with them a rather distinctive black zippered bag with thick straps and handles. I noticed they treated Eddie's body with respect, but they quickly had him zipped up inside and carried him out the front door to a newly-arrived vehicle. I was glad Harry's men and women weren't going to be torched in the soon to be lit fires.
Despite all the modern advancements in forensic sciences and investigations a properly heated fire was one of the best ways to handle the awkward questions that easily arose from any hints of irregularities in death. Extremely high temps were the ultimate equalizer when it to skin, fur, and oddly-shaped bones. Supernatural creatures tended to fall into such categories of 'oddities' if left for the unwashed masses to discover. With the Vampire Council hot on our trail, it didn't pay to leave them any lovely clues or even hints of where we were heading or how many of us remained. Harry's clean up boys and girls knew their craft. They literally swept up Valerie's ashes with small, delicate brushes and put them into a few large Ziploc bags. The remains from inside the salt circle went into one bag and the dust from outside the ring went into another bag. It looked like they'd done this before and I barely resisted looking at Harry. I knew without peeking that he had a slight pensive look on his face and a bit of pride at the professionalism of his team.
The crews in the SUVs with Eddie's corpse and Valerie's cremains left in the late arriving vehicle. I saw the black wagon had the mortuary design on its side. The sweeping S-shaped scrolls called landau bars became identified with horse-drawn hearses and now were ingrained in human minds as part of funeral processions and were on the vehicles that carried dead bodies to the mortuary. That alone gave the driver more leeway at times and usually caused humans to glance away with respect, superstition, or abject fear. The three SUVs were still parked on the lawn and I knew at least one of them would be taking us unless Harry had another car coming to pick us up. He caught my thought and answered aloud, "No, Bethany, we aren't going in those vehicles, there's another one on of the way for us."
I was glad to hear that. I had no desire to be crammed in shoulder to shoulder with all these strangers -- much less the others Harry had brought earlier. Morgan and Jasmine were not fans of mine in the least and Zach, as a null, probably wouldn't be able to handle me being too close to him either. Even though Caleb had come with me, he definitely wasn't mine anymore. No, Caleb was more Harry's now than he'd ever been 'mine.'
As for Harry -- what could I say? Harry came with a whole list of issues between us. I had no desire to unpack that barrel of monkeys at the moment -- no sir. Harry's thumbs had continued to fly over his cell phone as he plotted and planned. I, on the other hand, was still glancing at Jason's most recent email. I sighed deeply -- unnecessarily, as Harry had already tilted down to read my email on his laptop I still possessed.
"I see that Jason's still angling to get you to meet him on his terms. He doesn't give up easily, does he?" He stopped tapping on his cellphone long enough to render comment.
"No, but come on, how the hell does he think he could get me to go where he wants? 'Come into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly. How stupid does he really think I am?" I growled out. Caleb was actively listening I could tell. He really was getting on my last nerve. I know it wasn't fair -- he just had the basic human nosiness -- coupled with way too much new info about the world. Supernatural creatures being real. Yeah, he was fascinated alright -- way too spellbound in my opinion. That in humans often proved to be decisively fatal I'd long ago concluded.
Harry chuckled and said, "Just reply to meet you at the Lily Pond by midnight or don't bother you ever again. Nothing more and nothing less. Don't argue or promise anything."
He was right -- I didn't need to plot or plan -- he'd do that for me unasked if he hadn't already launched an offensive. Harry adored his campaigns and time hadn't changed that in the least. Without replying to him, I shot off a quick reply -- per Harry's advice -- and launched it before I could change my mind or start second guessing myself.
Shrugging, I began to see Harry's worker bees were dumping fuel around the upstairs in rooms we'd never gone into during the past few hours. I could smell the oily, acidic aroma of a mixture of accelerants. Knowing Harry, it was a special designer blend that wouldn't read as a torch job but instead it would read to investigators as nothing more than an old house with faulty wiring or some such nonsense. All the 'amenities' Harry's teams had put around the home were systematically being boxed and removed quickly. Floor by floor, room by room the cameras and extras were disappearing from the home. Watching it happen it reminded me of a reverse 'home improvement show,' as it were. The new rugs, furniture and kitchen dishes and pans were all removed in record speed. I saw on one of the outside cameras that a box truck had joined the vehicles on the lawn -- it backed up and someone had rolled out dollies along with other needed supplies to empty out the house. There were large lumbering shapes I easily identified as werewolves in their human forms. They quickly put the house back to the crappy, abandoned shape it had been in for years before Harry did his random improvements unnoticed by me.
"Harry, you realize it's still bright and sunny outside?" I wasn't a fan of driving around working on my epic suntan. Yes, yes, yes, I could deal with some sunlight, I just preferred not to drain myself if I didn't have to. I knew Harry could deal with the sun but I wasn't sure how Morgan and Jasmine were going to feel. Her spell on Morgan masking his vampirism with a strong werewolf vibe had to be seriously fractured by now.
Harry chuckled and pointed to the back yard that used to be my favorite entrance. An SUV that I hadn't seen before was backing up on the weed filled dirt while aligning the vehicle's passenger doors with the back door. Two large men had quickly exited the automobile and pulled out a pop up tent from the back. It was promptly assembled shading anyone who exited from the house. Smart move I immediately thought. I resisted glancing over at Harry who I knew was smirking as his minions worked.
Caleb looked up from the laptop and asked, "Harry, we heading out now?"
"Seems like a good time to hit the road, Caleb. Bethany, if it's okay with you my crew will disassemble your little torture chamber before torching the house?" Harry asked -- for Caleb's benefit since I knew perfectly well it hadn't been for mine. Harry looked sincerely into my eyes but I saw the glint of humor riding behind his words.
Again, I simply nodded my approval. All the while I knew perfectly well that it wasn't truly meant to be a request much less a question for me but one of his statements masquerading as polite questions or random convo. He truly sounded so delightfully sweet and caring -- ha! He really had it nailed when it came to verbal games. I'd forgotten how good he was at those oh-so-pretty conversational gambits. I softly bit the inside of my cheek careful not to draw blood as I wondered where all this was going. My mind was tumbling in a hundred directions. I felt like I was back in my past before I'd been changed into a vampire by my Master. A naïve yet powerful witch living with my family forced to flee mass execution by scared humans, all those centuries ago in Europe.
Harry went over to Morgan and Jasmine and began gently guiding them out to the waiting SUV. Morgan growled, "Harry, can you guarantee me that Jasmine will be safe?" Harry closed the distance between them and began to murmur a reply in a very soft voice. Honestly, I didn't bother to try to hear because it didn't matter to me. We had more important details to square away. As far as I was concerned Jasmine had long chosen her path and there wasn't a damned thing I could do or would do to protect this witch.
Caleb flipped the laptop he'd been using closed and hoisted his backpack over his shoulder. I simply shut the one I had and handed it to Caleb. I looked around the basement, Harry's crew were rapidly taking apart the cages. There wasn't anything I could see much less think that I needed. I had long grown used to moving with little more than the clothes on my back and my bank account numbers in my head. I trailed behind everyone leaving the basement with Harry. His detailing torching crew were not joining us but busy with the deconstruction of my basement.
Zach had silently joined Caleb just before Caleb cleared the threshold. Zach had a lost look on his face. I was pretty sure he was well outside his comfort zone as a null and Caleb was the closest to normal in our little group. The two were busy talking in hushed whispers. Again, I didn't bother to eavesdrop but I saw Morgan was actively listening. He was overly protective of Jasmine before the last few hours, and the chaos hadn't helped quell his worries at all. Once we were underneath the canopy, I noticed a smaller SUV had pulled in behind the first car. Harry directed everyone inside the larger SUV while shaking his head at me when I went to find a seat. Once Caleb was inside Harry closed the door and tapped the roof briskly.
Instead of us going with them, he waved the vehicle off and then the second car pulled in allowing us access to the new SUV without going into the full sun. A driver exited the front and opened the door allowing Harry to fold himself into the back seat. With a grin he put a palm out to me and beckoned me to join him. I didn't argue but got inside without a word. I noticed as the driver shut the door that there wasn't a second minion waiting in the front. Nope just us -- driver, Harry and little old me. I found it interesting and somewhat telling. I wasn't sure what it was that Harry wanted to tell me in private but I was pretty sure that he'd be pushing me into something. I bit back a sigh and waited while the pop up tent was placed next to the back of the house, where obviously it was being left to burn once the torching commenced. Wherever we were heading I concluded there would be underground parking or a fully covered parking lot. I caught a slight grin on Harry's lips acknowledging his plan. Some things never changed.
9 January 2022
Del Mar, California