Chapter 9: Slay Bells Ring
Chapter 9: Slay Bells Ring
‘Later on…If ya wanna’,
We can dress like Madonna,
Put on some high shade
And join the parade,
Walking ‘round in Women’s Underwear…’
Paul was prancing around the sunken ballroom, in his usual high spirits, singing an off color Christmas carol that had Leah laughing loudly.
David would have been more amused by his Childes’ antics if he didn’t have so much to think about. The books were piled up on the small parlor table before him, and he thumbed thought them all, looking for any help on the specific elements that come into play recently. He also had a copy of that morning’s Santa Carla Sentinel.
True to Shelby’s words, the Coast Guard had netted the remains of what appeared to be a female victim of some sort. Early speculation indicated they might be the remains of that missing Greek Tourist, who’d come to town late in September, and had disappeared the first week of November. Apparently, the tourist, Eleni Vardalos, had been an avid surfer and para-sailor. She was supposed to be doing a write up for the Greek travel agency for which she worked. Vardalos never went home.
He had no particular cares about any tourists, Greek or otherwise. One couldn’t always tell where victims came from. When someone was marked as food; that was it. But, over the years, the Boys had come to learn that foreign tourists made lousy kills if one was after more than just blood. They rarely carried cash or coin on them; preferring Traveler’s Checks and credit cards to fund their vacations. Neither was good for transferring liquid assets from a victim to a vampire. Both credit cards and traveler’s checks often required and ID to be presented at the time of purchase and payment.
Not that this was a major hindrance to the Boys. They’d all learned, by now, how to acquire more cash from their victims than what could be kept in a wallet or a purse. Most folks avoided carrying a great deal of money on their persons anymore. Still, ATM cards were no problem if a vampire got the chance to mentally coerce the victim into giving up their PIN numbers prior to their death. Before the victim was reported missing and a stop could be put on their bank accounts, David and the others could have hit ATM machines all over town and cleaned out the account.
Dirty, but necessary. In fact, this sick little scheme kept David with more money on hand than his side job with old Gus Martin. Unfortunately, the cold months brought fewer tourists, which then meant less money.
Unless, of course, one was like Paul or Marko, with at least semi-respectable jobs they each had. Where Marko tended bar at the Seafarer, business was brisk, and his tips were more than usual most nights. Paul still hadn’t received any word about getting a promotion, but his base wage at the call center, where he worked at a sex hotline, paid decently for someone that had no worries about rent or utilities.
Dwayne was making a modest amount of money on the jewelry he’d made and consigned to a couple of local shops. He’d have enough to support his own means for the frequent fast food runs the Boys made; where a good majority of all of their money was spent. Even though blood was their dietary mainstay, a few mortal habits died hard. David smoked regularly, Paul had to have his pot stash, and Marko craved junk food. Dwayne was a bit of a gambler, David knew. He liked to hustle pool games. If the boys decided that a trip to the snow was in the works for a weekend, Lake Tahoe was the place to go, and Dwayne would lose himself for hours at the poker tab.les…or on the slopes doing a bit of nighttime snowboarding. David liked to gamble too, but he had to admit; his eldest Childe had a gift he didn’t there.
There wouldn’t be any trips to Tahoe for Christmas this year. It was less than ten days away, and they had some problems on their hands.
In the off chance that one of his boys had offed this tourist, David needed to know about it. Forewarned was forearmed.
“Paul, why are you still singing that retarded song?” David demanded. It was the third round in two hours that Paul had belted out.
“I’m wrapping presents. You’re supposed to sing when you wrap presents,” he replied.
“What? You’re wrapping fucking presents?”
“Yep. If you’d like, I can sing ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.’”
“Spare me. Can’t you see I’m trying to read?”
“Sorry. Wasn’t paying attention.”
“I like his singing! Do you know Jingle Bells?”
This came from Leah, who was now trying to make her own jewelry creation from some cast off supplies Dwayne had given her.
“Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robin laid an egg…The bat mobile lost its wheel and the Joker got away-Hey!”
“Keep it up, Paul. I’ll have you singing ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” David growled.…(and Paul knew exactly which two his Sire meant.)
“How come he’s always in a bad mood?” the girl asked, wrinkling her nose at David’s sarcasm.
‘Cuz we’re bugging him. Here, why don’t you put the bows on these?”
“Paul, when will I get to go home? I don’t want there to be no Christmas…”
Paul glanced at David. The child still had no idea as to why she was being sequestered in this strange place with these guys she didn’t really know. She’d been told a story; one about the dog that bit her maybe being sick, and she shouldn’t go home until they knew she wasn’t sick and could pass the illness on to her Grandma and Great Grandfather. A far fetched story for certain, but a few vampiric mind tricks had made the story seem completely reasonable to her. Similar tactics had been employed on Laddie once to keep him compliant.
“There’s gonna be a Christmas, kiddo. You’ll see,” Paul promised her.
Now David understood why Paul was wrapping presents. He shook his head and sighed. Things were going too far. Maybe it was time to clue his pack in on Leah’s identity.
“I like you guys, but I miss my family. It won’t be the same…”
“Don’t tell me you’re worried about Santa Claus not finding you here. He will.”
The girl relaxed a bit, but still looked melancholy and doubtful.
“You mean to tell me that you still believe in Santa Claus?” David chided.
“Why not! Vampires are real, why can’t Santa be?” she replied.
“Vampires…whoa, girl!” Paul cried with a mocking smile and a disbelieving shake of his head.
“Yes, vampires. I saw a vampire one night. A real vampire. Only he didn’t suck my blood.”
“Well, see; that should tell you right there that you didn’t see what you thought you did,” David said, “After all, if you really had seen a vampire, he would have sucked your blood.”
“He didn’t. He just rescued me from the mean dog and brought me here. I can remember it now,” Leah said. Her voice sounded a bit bloated with bragging.
Once again, Paul and David glanced at each other. What to say now?
“So, then, tell me Leah. If you believe in vampires; what about werewolves? Do you believe in them?” David asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what. There is such a thing as a werewolf. That’s what Dwayne saved you from on the beach.”
“If that was a werewolf, how come I’m not one?” the girl shot back.
“That’s what we’re waiting to find out. No you know why you can’t go home. We can’t let you leave until the next full moon. If you wolf out, you’ll be a werewolf, and it would be too dangerous for you to live with your family. You’d kill them. But, if you don’t wolf out, you go home.”
“Why could I stay here then, instead of home? Aren’t you afraid of me if I turn into a werewolf? Leah asked. Her tone suggested she clearly did not believe David.
“You said it yourself, kid. You’ve seen vampires. Werewolves don’t eat vampire meat.”
Leah appeared to be caught off guard. She regarded David quietly, (which to him was a blessing, since the kid was always babbling about something), and then turned her gaze to Paul, who was trying valiantly to curl some ribbon on a package with a pair of scissors.
“Are you guys really vampires? You sleep all day long. You’re never awake during the day…”
David gave the child a small, impatient grin.
“Didn’t you just get finished saying that you saw a real vampire?”
“I-I don’t know what I saw…I was just waking up from that dog bite. I could believe it if you were a vampire, but Paul and Dwayne are too nice to be vampires,” she finished, chewing her lip nervously.
“What, you don’t like me?” David asked, mock concern affecting his tone.
“Paul?” she questioned. Already, she’d learned that the best way to get direct answers was to ask one of the ones that really seemed to care about her. David always acted mad at her, and Marko mostly ignored her. Maybe because he was busy working lots…
Did vampires work? How could they?
She whimpered almost indiscernibly her eyes full of pleading.
‘Great, David,’ Paul thought to himself.
“Come here, Leah. It’s time we had a little talk,” he cajoled her.
“You can’t be a vampire, Paul! You eat Chinese food and stuff!” she cried.
“I’m a Chinese Food vampire. Well, actually, I love Tia Maria’s fried burritos the best, so I guess I’m a Burrito Vampire. And Dwayne is a fried fish vampire, cuz his favorite is the Sea Shanty…Marko’s actually the Chinese Food vampire.”
“So then David’s a bloodsucking vampire?”
Paul sighed sadly.
“We all are, sweetie. But we’re not like the creepy ones in Salem’s Lot, see. We don’t go chasing around after little girls for dinner. We won’t hurt you.”
“I don’t know what Salem’s Lot is…” Leah trailed, looking somewhat nervous, “I thought what I saw was a-a dream!”
“Then why did you say it was real, Leah?” David challenged her.
“Get off her case already! She’s just a kid!” Paul cried.
David set his book down and gave his youngest Childe a dangerous look.
“You guys are like the vampires in the game my Daddy made. He won’t let me play it, but Ryan plays it all the time at Uncle Mike’s house….So does Chris and Zack when Aunt Star isn’t around….”
“Your father made a game about vampires, did he?” David asked, suddenly interested in the girl’s inane chatter.
“Uh-huh. You have to kill all these vampires before you can get to where the Head Vampire has the family hostage…It’s hard. And spooky…”
David cracked a real smile.
“So, tell me. Do these vampires look anything like…say….us?”
Leah nodded solemnly.
“I Think so. It’s like Ryan’s video game came to life…”
“Cool…I think I want a copy of this game….We can check it out at Laddie’s. He has a few of those game systems for those games, hasn’t he? By the way, who’s Ryan?” he asked. He made an effort to soften the tone of his voice. It made the girl more cooperative.
“My cousin. Ryan’s my cousin. He’s bigger than me, though…I’m not even sure he’s a kid anymore ‘cept that he still has to do chores and stuff. Chris and Zack are a little older than me.”
Having something else to talk about seemed to calm the girl down, and restore her to her usual babbling self.
“Ryan buys all those games that say ‘rated M’ or rated ‘T’ so that his brothers can’t play his games. But they do anyhow. He even let me play a couple of times. He just won’t let Brett play any, ‘cuz he’s just too young. He’s only three. And Ryan said I could only play if I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone. Now that I did, he’ll probably never let me play again…”
“So, what’s this game called, Leah?” David asked.
“Murder Capital of the World,” she answered.
“Do any of the vampires suck burrito blood?” Paul asked, trying to lighten the mood some.
“No, they ride around on motorcycles and suck real blood.”
For some reason, this sounded hysterical to Paul, who finally started laughing.
“Well, just think about it, Leah. You could be the big inspiration for your Daddy’s next game. He could make a game about vampires fighting werewolves…just for you,” he finally gasped.
“I’m not a werewolf!” she insisted loudly.
“No, but that dog that bit you was; and you know what happens to people that get bit by werewolves, don’t you?” David said, picking up one of the other books he’d borrowed from the Frog brothers. He held it up so that the girl could clearly see the front cover. It featured a man with a human body, but the face of a demonic, snaggle-toothed werewolf.
Leah shrank away from the picture, biting her lip in an effort not to cry.
“David, you’re freaking her out,” Paul said.
“Party’s over, little girl. Now you know what we are; and now you know what you are. That’s why you can’t go home.”
The child began to cry.
“I-I am NOT!” she wailed.
“Hey, come here,” Paul told her, motioning for her to assist him by waving a gift that still needed its ribbon curled. Finally, she obliged, even if it just meant that she could be standing further away from David and his nasty book.
“Babe, we don’t know if you’re going to wolf out or not. See, you were wearing a silver necklace that may have protected you from that. You can have it back as soon as we know if you’re really a werewolf. If you are, the necklace will hurt you to wear now. But, if it protected you, we’ll know by the next full moon. If you don’t wolf out, you’ll get your necklace back and get to go home, okay?”
“Is the full moon after Christmas?” she asked through her tears.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to spend this Christmas with us. But, don’t worry. We’ll make it fun. Alex…you met her, right? Well, Alex says she’s going to bring over a whole big batch of Tamales on Christmas Eve. She makes them with her aunt this time of year. And, we’ll have presents, too. Even vampires like presents,” he told her reassuringly.
“But what about my Mommy and my Daddy and my Grandma and Great Grandpa?”
“They’ll save your presents. You know they will. In fact, when you go home, they’ll be so happy that they’ll buy you twice as much.”
This seemed to comfort her, yet it drew a fresh torrent of tears, too. Spontaneously, she crawled up onto Paul’s lap and buried her head in his chest. Paul accepted her company warmly; setting the gift he’d been trying to decorate for the last half hour, and wrapping his arms lightly around her.
“Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer…” he began to sing.
David watched the scene with a feeling that he wanted to call disgust, but he knew it wasn’t. Somewhere in Paul was a tender heart he lacked. For all he knew, Paul was still half-kid, and expected Santa Claus to drop in with a ton of presents for the girl. He obviously had what it took to calm her down.
Paul was meant to be a father. David wasn’t. Sighing, he gathered his books up to take to the top portion of the cavern where Thorn kept his vigil unless Dwayne was home. He could get some reading done up there and wonder when his oldest Childe planned on getting back. With so many politicians out after his hide, David didn’t want Dwayne out and about much. Yet, he needed to hunt, so David made him promise to hunt out of town. That was likely the reason he hadn’t returned yet. He might even wait around for Marko’s shift to end at the Seafarer, so they could hunt together.
Once in the upper portion, David set about reading by candlelight. Every now and then, he’d stop to find Thorn staring a hole through him. Stupid dog.
He found he was no more able to concentrate on anything worthwhile up here than he had been when Leah was playing questions and answers in the ballroom.
Thoughts bled through the text he tried to read, and some of it didn’t make much sense. He found himself re-reading passages to make sense of them. This was one time where having merely a ninth grade education got the better of him. Still, struggling with the long winded texts was better than concentrating at what was really eating at his mind.
Maybe he needed to develop more patience with that kid. True, he hated her father, and had no real feelings for the girl either, but he knew something now that he hadn’t known when Leah had first been brought to the cave.
David was going to be a father, and not in the vampiric sense. All those pointed lectures he’d dished out to his boys hadn’t done him a lick of good. Worse yet, his child would be raised in the home of a man who hated vampires with a passion. His child would grow up and call Edgar Frog ‘Daddy’. He wanted to rip Edgar Frog’s throat out right then and there!
But why? Someone had to raise this kid, because he surely couldn’t. There would come a day, of course, and Shelby had best get used to that idea now…
The Frog’s would get his child for the first 18 years of its life. But, once the child reached adulthood, David would be ready, like Paul had been, to accept his responsibilities with Alexandra. Then, that child…son or daughter…would be born into darkness and live the life any child of his would be destined to have.