“And when the sun goes hellbound and the moon goes resurrect the night,
I’ll hide within her, not much good has come out of the light.” – To Hell and Back by Metallica
Archive for January, 2012
“Live for nothing or die for something.” – John Rambo
“Your speed means nothing, when it’s death you’re running from.” – The Quick and the Blue by the Megas
He followed her from school, but he kept his distance, head down. He hoped he stayed unnoticed. A cold wind whipped the bandana tied around his shaggy hair and he pulled his dirt splattered duster closer. The trees waved naked limbs, thin as a Holocaust victim, in the air. Bits of rain spit at him from the steel sky overhead. Jack maintained visual contact with the pale girl. He did not want to make her nervous and he did not want her catching on to him. But she did not. With her enslavement to the vampire complete, her attention became his entirely. If the elite group of Hunters – Trent, Travis, Trevor and Quincy, who Jack hoped to join someday – surrounded her and walked her home as human shields, she would have remained oblivious.
The girl turned down a quiet street filled with tidy homes, good sized trees and too many cars. Jack watched her walk up a driveway and go inside a two story home. He moved to a different angle on the house and, a few minutes later, saw the girl silhouetted against an upstairs window. Jack glanced around, saw no one in the darkening day, and shimmied up the trunk of the old oak closest to her window. The deep crevasses in the old bark made the assent easy for his nimble fingers. He climbed from branch to branch until he reached her room. Checking again to make sure no one watched him, Jack climbed closer on a thick limb. He peeked in through the sheer curtains and flushed. The girl lay curled up on her bed in only her underwear. He thanked all the witches in the world the oak retained most of its leaves. Jack shuttered at the thought of saving the girl only to finish branded a peeping tom instead of a hero.
“Can you smell anything?” Jack asked the winged wiznit, Zephyr.
He made his way back to the trunk and sat down with his back against it to wait out the setting sun.
“He is not here if that’s what you mean,” Zephyr said, pom-pom antenna swaying as she peeked out of his pocket, “You better slay him before he starts to feed.”
“I know,” Jack said. He took off his leather, crossbody bag and hung it on a branch. From a secret compartment in the bottom he removed a small, black crossbow, made from synthetic polymers, with silver darts. Crow, his adopted father, gave it to him two years ago when Ronan, the SoulDefending witch, showed no signs of accepting his responsibilities. Crow worried about the human and magical creatures liable to come out of the woodwork with no witch to sense the destruction they visited on human souls. Jack decided to complain about not having his Glock 17 or 19 later. High school principals do not look fondly on gun wielding kids, and Jack was in enough trouble just missing the parent-teacher conference to hunt a vampire.
One by one, as he watched from the trunk, the rest of the girl’s family came home and the sun set. Night rode in swiftly on autumn horses. The house glimmered with love and welcoming light. Jack pushed back the guilt which nipped at the back of his mind for the amount of worry he caused his adopted mother, Olive. He munched on some snacks she had packed for him and focused on the task at hand.
Every hair on Jack’s arms stood up. Zephyr went completely still and Jack felt a small breeze pass over him pressing him against the tree. The scent of summer, flowers, honey and blood filled his nostrils. He recognized the smell of Zephyr’s spell. She had done her best to keep the undead unaware of them.
On the ledge outside the girl’s window, Jack saw a deeper darkness materialize and then disappear.
Jack took the crossbow up and crept out on the branch to the window. Inside the room, the vampire lifted the pale form. Her head rolled back and exposed her neck.
“The window,” Jack whispered tugging on it. “It’s locked from the inside.”
With no time to spare, Jack back tracked down the branch, stood up, and charged. He crashed through the bedroom window with a flying leap. He struck the glass with his shoulder and pulled into a ball. Glass exploded in every direction.
The vampire hurled the girl to the ground in disgust at the interruption and turned.
Jack slammed into the floor, followed through on his roll, and came up on his feet just as the vampire snatched him up. He threw Jack across the room and he smashed into a mirror. More glass shattered around him. He dropped down onto a desk cluttered with makeup, perfume, and metal frames. A million tiny nerves fired warnings of pain throughout his body.
Shouts filled the house.
The vampire shifted, appearing right in front of Jack, and wrapped his cold fingers around Jack’s throat. He pinned him against the wall with one hand leaving Jack’s feet to dangle. Pressure built up in Jack’s neck as it supported his whole body weight. His feet drummed the wall looking for purchase. The icy fingers smashed his windpipe as they change to hard talons tipped with long claws.
“I always appreciate a reason to kill off an entire family,” the vampire drawled, “after I have drained the blood of the daughters. Thank you for providing me with an excuse. I would have done it anyway, but now I will feel better about it.”
Unable to talk, Jack flipped off the vampire.
The vampire smiled showing his fangs while his talons cut into Jack’s neck. Blood trickled down into Jack’s white t-shirt. The vampire leaned in and sniffed him.
The vampire started, “You have a strange mixture of smells around you boy, and you are not afraid. Who are you?”
“He is my godson.”
The vampire spun around. He jerked Jack with him by the neck and held him like a shield in front of his body. Jack could not breathe. Spots darted around his vision.
“This weak animal is your godson? You must be weak as well. Who are you, human lover?” The vampire hissed. He grew taller, pulling the night up around him like a cloak. A wave of cold fear rolled away from him filling the house. The family in the rooms around them cowered in fear unable to talk with the emergency response teams on the phones.
“I am Fortunatus,” he said. His eyes flashed in the dark, two chips of star blue ice. He met the fear swelling up from the vampire holding Jack, with his own ocean of damned experience. The temperature in the room plummeted as the two male vampires vied for supremacy.
Fortunatus pushed mentally against the vampire and he took a step back. Jack sensed his opportunity. He brought up the crossbow and focused his mind on finding the sweet spot though the panic of his air deprived brain. When the tip of the silver arrow touched the vampire’s chest, Jack pulled the trigger.
The waves of fear snapped back, air filled Jack’s lungs and he crashed to the floor as the vampire crumpled. Ignoring the disintegrating monster, Jack crawled over to the girl. Zephyr flew from his pocket and cast a spell of light on herself to drive back the darkness. Jack watch the color return to the girl’s face. He reached up and pulled a pink throw off her bed and covered her up.
Fortunatus shifted to the pile of ash, once his kind, “He was young, which was fortunate for you.”
“I don’t care if he was young or not,” anger boiled in Jack, “They took my cell away at school and she was going to die if I didn’t do something. You could tell this was it. The whole family would have died.”
Sirens filled the air. Fortunatus pulled out his cell and dialed Crow’s number. A wave of dizziness passed over Jack and he dropped down on the bed. Fortunatus shifted to his side. Jack heard him talking, but it seemed far away. He could not comprehend what Fort said or if it had anything to do with him. The sirens grew louder while Jack’s world grew smaller. Fortunatus’ white face swam into view.
“You have a large piece of glass imbedded in your shoulder and one in your side as well as the wounds on your neck. I wish to take you to the hospital but the police are here. Are you able to stay awake and focused?”
“Don’t have much of a choice do I?” Jack said. His voice sounded funny. It echoed in his skull.
“Zephyr, please go wait outside to meet Olive and Crow. I will be outside too. I will retrieve your book bag.”
Within seconds, Fortunatus and Zephyr where gone and the room filled with policemen. Jack laid down his crossbow and put his hands up as high as he could. Pain raced through him as they walked him downstairs to wait for an ambulance. He asked to speak with Detective Blaine. The responding officer rolled his eyes, but did as Jack requested. He talked for a minute on his phone and then handed it to Jack.
“Jack?” A tired voice said in his ear.
“Was it a vampire?”
“His current condition?”
“She’ll be fine now.”
“Who is there and who is coming?”
“Zeph and Fort are here, everyone else is coming.”
“Alright, I’m on my way. Give me back to the officer.”
Jack looked up at the young man, “He wants to talk to you.”
Everything seemed to fade for a time until Fortunatus, Olive, and Crow stepped into his field of vision. Relief filled him and the weight of the evening slipped from his shoulders. He heard Crow talking to the police, Olive bent over him, and Fortunatus stood guard by the door. Jack felt more comfortable now than he had all day at school. This was where he belonged, with these people. He wondered how Detective Blaine had managed to get them into the crime scene, but he decided he did not need to worry about it. They were here and they would handle the situation.
Olive took his hand and warm sunshine filled him, washing him of the rough day, healing his wounds. She laid the two glass shards on the table. With a kiss on the forehead, she went off to check on the girl and her family. Crow handed him a bag of fast food and Jack’s stomach growled with ravenous hunger. Fortunatus shifted up behind him and slipped Zephyr back into her pocket inside his duster.
Detective Blaine arrived and took over the investigation, but hours passed before they could go home.
“The school is pretty mad,” Crow said. He cut into his rare stake and blood poured out on his plate.
Back at home they sat around the old, U shaped bar, etched with years of living, with more food – pizza and beer made life better. Three dogs, four cats and two skunks gathered around Jack’s feet. They waited for some tidbit to fall which they could eat. Zephyr sat next to Jack’s plate on a wine cork with a tiny cork table Jack had carved for her covered with bread and honey.
“Not as mad as I am,” Olive said. Once human, she still enjoyed human food on occasion.
“They took my cell phone,” Jack said around a mouth full of pizza.
“Use your head and find another phone,” Olive said.
“Fort found me. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“You can’t always count on him finding you.”
“Um…yeah…he’s like y’all, forever living.”
Olive groaned and rubbed her eyes, “Listen to me. I sound like a mother.”
Crow laughed and put his arms around her.
“That’s cause you are,” he rested his hand protectively over her round womb.
“Okay,” Jack threw up his arms, “if y’all get mushy then the lecture is over.”
He grabbed his plate and started to get down from the bar.
“No it is not,” Olive pushed Crow away.
“Thanks, kid,” Crow muttered.
“Look, both of you, I’m sorry for being irritated. Jack, what you did was good and brave.”
“Thank you,” Jack gave a little bow.
“I helped too!” Zephyr said around a finger which she had dipped in honey and stuck in her mouth.
“Yes, and I am disappointed with you, too. There are still a lot of fluctuations in the magic world right now. A lot of ripples still rolling out from Manson’s death, and we don’t know where it will end. Between that and the twins it makes me very edgy and worried. There should not be a vampire in this area. It would be foolish for one to come into Crow or Fortunatus’ territory. The fact that he did, and he did it enough times to truly endanger that girl concerns me. The lines of magic still fluctuating are fluctuating around you, Jack.”
“I know that, but there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t make it stop. All I can do is be who I am.”
“Olive,” Crow said, “We can’t protect him from the world he was brought into, anymore than we will be able to protect the twins.”
Something about what Crow said got Jack’s attention more than any of Olive’s mothering. The haunted note in his voice and the faraway look in his eyes gripped Jack. Crow had fought a desperate battle to protect Jack, Olive, Zephyr, Stan, and Rose against Manson. Jack understood, in part, what Crow had seen and how much regret he carried. The list of names, magically tattooed on his arm as his family died, proved his past pains.
Olive sighed, “The last thing I am going to say is, Jack, you need to do better in school.”
“Why?” As soon as he spoke, he knew he sounded like the rest of the dumb teens he dealt with every day. He wished he could take it back.
“Cause there is magic flowing that way.”
“What?” Jack said, caught off guard, expecting another lecture.
“I am not sure what, just yet, I need to call Pathfinder, but I felt it when I got there tonight, big time. It might just be the fluctuations around you coalescing; it could mean a new witch is coming into being.”
“Other than Ronan?”
“Why would he be at your school?”
“We want you to watch for it,” Crow said.
“Finally a point to being there! This I can do,” Jack said glad to have something useful to do. It gave tomorrow a reason other than avoiding all the hormonal teens trapped in one place together.
“It’s like going undercover!” Zephyr said with a smile.
“I got your phone back with permission for you to keep it on vibrate due to family emergencies,” Crow held it out.
Jack grabbed it out of Crow’s hand and opened the text Fortunatus had sent him.
How are you?
Jack looked up at the vampire, incredulous.
“Damnation, Fort! All this could have been avoided, but no, you had to ask how I was!”
Fortunatus smiled. He twisted the stem of his blood-filled wine glass in his long fingers. “Consider it a test of your manhood.”
Jack groaned, “I don’t need my manhood tested and I have to study.”
He climbed off the stool and headed to his desk. Now an antique, it once belonged to a young man named Guinness. He died over fifty years ago, but Jack felt a strong connection to him akin to an older brother. Not to mention the random secret hiding places Jack found, each with an “I was here” note. Inside one hidden slot in the bottom of a drawer, Jack had found a pile of drawings Guinness had done of his wife, West. When Jack showed them to Crow, tears came to his eyes. Awkward. But Jack knew it meant a lot to his adopted father to see them. Both Guinness and West’s names graced Crow’s list of names tattooed on his arm, the living memorial to Manson’s murders.
“For school?” Olive said. Jack caught the twitch of a smile at the corner of her lips.
“Yeah, school,” he laughed.
He pulled out his Glock 17, his back up Glock 19, and his hand-held crossbow and started cleaning them. He practiced taking them apart and quickly putting them back together. Hours later, Jack pushed back his books, yawned, and decided to head to bed – this dual life exhausted him. After finishing his weapons training, he spent the early evening reading books on the history of vampires and magic. After he worked out, he studied the far less interesting human versions of history, math, grammar and science. His head felt ready to burst.
Fortunatus came in around 2am from checking on the attacked family and sent him to bed. As Jack headed to his room, Fortunatus tilted his head and sniffed the air. Zephyr stood up on his shoulder and Jack’s hand hovered over his Glock 17.
“It seems some of you classmates are outside.”
Jack looked at him, “What?”
“They are outside, whispering and laughing.”
Jack shut the rest of the lights off in the kitchen and office –all one open room with the bar bisecting it. He stepped up to the window and peeked around the edge of the curtain. Front and center, Sundance lead a group of guys and girls up into his yard. They carried several packages of toilet paper.
“Olive is gonna love this when she wakes up.”
“What are they planning to do?” Fortunatus asked.
“They are TP-ing my house.”
“For what purpose?”
“Probably because Little Miss Sundance found a guy who doesn’t think she is that beautiful, and doesn’t trip over himself to get to her.”
“She is one of the popular youths?”
“She IS the popular youth. How much would I have to pay you to go out and scare the crap out of them?”
“Nothing,” Fortunatus said, “but as entertaining as it would be, I will not. They are innocents too, Jack. It would be breaking the code you are trying to learn for me to use my own dark powers to scare them.”
Jack sighed, “Yeah, I know, but it sure would be funny.”
He waved good night to Fortunatus and headed to bed. Despite the teens outside he fell asleep in moments.
He sniffed the air of the lush field while strange constellations swirled over head. He ran on all fours, his sharp claws digging into the fragrant earth as he propelled himself forward on muscular legs. The wind whistled through his large ears and dark fur. Smells filled his nose – life, blood running through the veins of small creatures. He ignored the temptation to turn aside and hunt them. He must continue his mission, he must find someone…
Abby Jones manages to take a genre I have no interest in and waves a tale that I can’t put down until I have finished it. She has all the ingredients of what makes a good story for me; good winning over evil, characters with great odds to overcome, and layers upon layers in the plot. Each book makes me look forward to the next with great anticipation