A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 10: Silent Amends

Chapter 10: Silent Amends

Commissioner Vic Erickson had the preliminary report in his hands. The coroner had already done the autopsy on the remains of the body that had been drug in by the Coast Guard. Remains was hardly a good word to use. The report suggested that the corpse had been in the water for nearly a month. There was little skin left. Any clothing the victim had been wearing was washed away, along with any concrete identification. Dental records and possibly, some analysis of any bone marrow found in the bones would be the only way to identify the victim. Fortunately, forensics had been lucky in obtaining international cooperation with the investigation. The remains did, in fact, belong to the missing Greek tourist, Eleni Vardalos. Dental records from the woman’s native country had been provided, and a match was made.

Still, there was no evident cause of death. No one could stipulate foul play at this point in time. Tox-screens were still pending to see if traces of drugs could be found in what was left of the tourist. What made the commissioner frown was the fact that the cervical bones; those of her neck; were not sufficiently traumatized to suggest that her death had been a result of a vampire attack. There was not enough flesh clinging to the area to provide any incriminating bite wounds. Frankly, there was no real sign of trauma at all to the woman’s bones. As far as the coroner was concerned, pending further evidence, her death looked like a drowning.

Erickson had dug into the woman’s past to see if she’d been traveling with anyone. Apparently, she’d been alone. It was her employers that had grown concerned with Vardalos’s lack of contact. She was supposed to be keeping in regular touch with the travel agency she was writing the article on Santa Carla for. When she’d missed some critical deadlines, they’d asked the American Embassy for help. Eventually, Santa Carla P.D. had gotten involved. Santa Carla P.D. confiscated the woman’s lap top computer and all of her personal possessions left behind in her hotel room. She’d disappeared with a camera that had been given to her by the agency to take photos to accompany her article. Apparently, she was the agency’s ‘Off Season’ travel writer, which meant that she reviewed destinations during their off seasons to help consumers find bargains and things to do when prime touring season had past.

The camera, of course, never turned up. It was likely at the bottom of Davy Jones’s locker, and any evidence of what had resulted in her end was on the ruined film in the bottom of the sea….

Or not. If it was vampires, the doomed travel writer could have snapped pictures all she wanted; and not a one of those fang faced hooligans would have showed up on film.

It looked like the death of Eleni Vardalos was simply going to be locked up into the accidental death files. There was nothing yet that could incriminate any of those damn vampires in her death.

The kid still hadn’t turned up. The Coast Guard did say that it could take months for a body to wash ashore, and it could take equally as long for them to find the missing dead at sea. They had better resources than the Santa Carla P.D. for performing search and rescues, or search and recoveries, but even they had limits. The Pacific was a mighty big place. Erickson was beginning to think they’d find Amelia Earhardt’s bones before they found Leah Emerson’s.

Off the record, Erickson had gone and questioned Jake Martinez himself. Jake was a good kid. His grades were halfway decent, he was respectful to those in authority, and he was truthful about what had happened that night. Not to mention, he was very contrite. The kid had learned his lesson. In fact, Erickson believed the kid felt bad that he had attacked a child in his feeding frenzy. He promised to never hunt without his pack again, which was a lesson Erickson wanted to make certain the boy understood. Lots of people were covering up his mistake, but young Jake had confessed without any prompting and seemed willing to take any punishment meted out to him. Erickson hoped a good slap on the paw was all this kid would get.

^..^

Christmas time was usually a festive time around the Martinez household. Just like other kids, the Martinez children made out their lists of things they hoped to get, and their parents selected what was appropriate, wrapped it up, and stuck it under the tree. Jake was enrolled in a voc-ed class at high school, working for a modest amount of money as a tutor in the computer lab. For the first time in his life, he had a bit of money to spend on gifts this year. Sadly, his spirit was in the dumps.

Jake had read the papers. He knew that there was a little girl missing, and that he was responsible for it. Hunting was one thing….

But he wished he hadn’t gone for a little girl. All around town, posters of the child he’d bit were plastered on bulletin boards. Occasional news stories came on in the evening. In the town of Los Gatos, where the girl was native to, a prayer vigil was being held, and at her school, little kids wore yellow ribbons tied to their jackets to commemorate Leah Emerson.

Jake wondered what her fate was. That vampire had obviously taken her. Had he killed her? What had that vampire said that night when they’d confronted each other? His memories were scattered. Jake had been in some serious pain. Still, he remembered that the vampire had talked to him. He just couldn’t recall much of the conversation. All he remembered was the wolf’s tooth dangling from the vampire’s ear, and that the vampire had bragged to him about killing a werewolf to get it. Even though Jake was completely healed now from his ordeal that night, his memories of it were dim. That was not unusual when one went wolf. Instinct ruled intellect at those times, and it was intellect that recalled memories.

Jake had no notion as to why he felt the child might still be alive. The clue might be in the conversation from that night that he couldn’t recall. Or, maybe he was feeling some sort of odd pack connection. Whatever the case, he read the newspaper every day to see if a little body had been found. So far, only a grown woman’s body had been.

The Martinez family drove to a stand in town where Christmas trees were sold. While his parents and sisters went from tree to tree, deciding which one would grace their living room that Christmas, Jake tried to put on a smile. He tried to participate. To the rest of the family, he looked like ‘Everyday Jake’; a bit prone to adolescent mood swings…maybe feeling a bit embarrassed at his age to be seen with his family selecting a tree when he might be wishing to hang out with some friends. Abuela Juanita was making tamales by the ton. She brought some over a couple times a week to make sure the family never ran out. Jake usually adored them. This year, his appetite was flat for tamales or anything else. Still, he did his best to eat his share and make appreciative noises over Abuela’s efforts. He didn’t want to talk about what he felt inside.

Later, that evening, they went Christmas shopping. Jake had his money and his list of things to get for his loved ones. Miranda and Gabby were too old for toys and dolls now, but he found himself lingering at the children’s section anyways. He found a stuffed, white kitten that really meowed when batteries were put inside. Looking around to make certain that none of his family members were around, Jake put the kitten in his cart and hurried to a check out line. He was the first to complete his shopping, and he was already waiting patiently for his family when they finished up. The stuffed kitten was in a bag, safely hidden from prying eyes.

For days, Jake debated what to do with the kitten. Several times, he questioned himself over why he’d bought it in the first place, but deep down, he knew. Gaby had seen it in his room finally, and teased him about having a girlfriend he was buying a present for. He’d lied and told her his school was having a ‘Toys for Tots’ giveaway, and he’d bought it for the charity. That shut Gabriela up. With such a story made up, Jake knew he needed to get rid of the stuffed pet, and he decided that he would do so that very night. He waited until the house had settled down, and he knew everyone was asleep.

His father’s bouts with night time insomnia rarely troubled him this time of the month; close to the new moon. Therefore, he was unlikely to get caught as he slipped out of his bedroom window, toting the kitten in his backpack. Fortunately, the Martinez house was a ranch style with only one floor. His bike was in the back yard beside his sister’s. Making as little noise as possible, he opened the gate, unlocked his bike, and pedaled away from the house.

Jake hadn’t figured on the amount of time it would take to ride from his house, up in the hills on the outskirts of town, to the beach. It hadn’t taken him long to get there on four paws, but the bicycle ride took an hour. He also decided not to leave his bike anywhere near the pier. It could possibly alert the Po-Po’s to his presence if they found it while he conducted his business. Still, there was no way he could ride a bike on the loose sands of the beach and expect to make any progress. Therefore, brought it down the steps where the boardwalk emptied onto the beach, and chained it to the stair rails. Now, he would have to walk almost half a mile to get to the pier, but at least his destination was not readily detectable.

There were a couple of rumpots huddled close together around the remains of a small campfire just beneath the pier. They each had a tattered blanket wrapped around their miserable forms, and an empty bottle of booze between them. Jake carefully sidestepped around them, but neither stirred. Before long, he had found his hideout. Jake knew right where it was. Once he got to the blood stained boulder, he pulled the stuffed kitten out of his backpack and set it down by the rock. It was the only way he had of paying respects to the girl he’d nearly killed, and making an apology at the same time. The vampire’s words had come back to him. He had told him ‘I don’t eat little kids and werewolves shouldn’t either…’

Only the words hadn’t been said aloud. The vampire had thought those sentiments, and through the bond of a similar unholy blood they shared, somehow Jake had heard them.

So, maybe the vampire hadn’t killed the child after all. If not, then where was she now? If the child was alive, she would now be a pack sister to him. One day, she’d come back. When she did, Jake wanted her to know she’d be accepted.

^..^

Alexandra Melendez was not having the easiest of nights. Two shop owners had reported thefts in their stores, and they were blaming boardwalk security for being lax on their patrols. Each had complained about it at to the head of security, Gabe Thompson. But, the owner of Buried Treasures, one of the boutiques that had been stolen from, had also confronted Alex about it while he was closing up shop for the night. She had to inform him that boardwalk security was not responsible for patrolling the interiors of the stores, and that he should have some of his own loss prevention measures in place. The owner had then gone off on a rant about how useless she was, how useless boardwalk security was in general, and how she had been rude to him. He planned to report it to her boss the next day.

At the time, Alex hadn’t been rude to the shopkeeper, just businesslike. Still, as his tirade escalated, Alex felt her fangs descend. Her eyes would start flaming next. She knew she had to get away from him, or he’d be dinner. She mumbled something about checking the log books because she knew that a couple of young teens had been apprehended for suspected shoplifting earlier that day, and if any of the recovered merchandise was his, she’d be sure to let him know so he could identify and claim it. Then, she excused herself and made a bolt for the security bunker, where her soda bottle laced with her Sire’s blood awaited. When Alex had calmed down and was ready to resume her shift, the shopkeeper was gone.

Next, just after midnight, she’d been escorting arcade employees to their cars. One of the young men in the group made a pass at her. Though she was able to back out of that situation without going fang, she was still quite agitated. She still had six hours left of what was turning out to be a shitty night on the clock.

Alex had to admit, it was getting harder every night to resist the calling of her nature. Still, she had made some promises; to herself and to her boyfriend. Her mother had married Dean a few months back, and would only continue working at Video Max until her maternity leave. Dean made enough money to support the family without her income, so Maria could be a stay at home mom for the first time in her life. Still, someone was needed to train the new manager, and Maria had promised Lucy she would stay on as long as needed to do so. Alex had promised herself that she would not make her first kill before her new sister was born. An ultrasound that Maria had undergone just a month ago had revealed the baby’s gender, and now, baby Isabella was more than just a generic lump in Maria’s stomach. Alex couldn’t wait to see her, and she was going to be her mother’s back up labor coach. That way, she’d get to be there the minute her sister was born. If little Isabella chose to make her grand entrance into the world during the daylight hours, Alex had to refrain from making her first kill if she planned on being present.

Then, there was the promise that she’d made to her boyfriend. She and Gabe had been secretly dating since the summer; secretly as far as their workplace was concerned, at least. Since he was her supervisor, they both felt it necessary to keep the nature of their off the clock relationship private. Away from work, though, they kept no secrets. Maria was aware that Alex was seeing him. She thought him a nice enough young man, but she had some concerns about his age. Gabe was nine years Alex’s senior. In the end, though, Maria refrained from interfering. Alex was an adult; she would be twenty in April. And, Gabe treated her well, had a job, and wasn’t into drugs or drinking. They seemed happy together. Therefore, Maria realized that age wasn’t everything.

Of course, Maria didn’t realize that there was much more that the couple shared. Gabe had been given vampiric plasma from his Sire, to hold him over until the time came to reinitiate him into the pack. They both suspected they knew why Gabe hadn’t been reinitiated yet, even if nothing official had been said about it. David’s decisions ruled supreme, even if Gabe was Dwayne’s Childe. Apparently, David didn’t feel that Dwayne was up to the task yet. Neither Alex nor Gabe understood his logic. Dwayne looked and acted fine to them. Yet it had been Marko, Alex’s Sire, who’d finally clued them into what was going on. He explained to them that both Dwayne and Paul had suffered the worst injuries from the attack in the summer of ’86. Apparently, even though the two fledglings couldn’t see it, both of them were still healing. Dwayne had memory problems that ranged from mild to moderate depending on his need to feed. Paul required more sleep than the most vampires typically should, and if he was injured in any way, his body was slower to heal. His skin was also very sensitive, and he was forever cutting the tags out of his shirts to keep them from scratching his skin. Whatever the case, with those two, David did not feel they were strong enough to deplete their systems of the blood it would require to fledge a new pack member. Therefore, Gabe was given small amounts of blood plasma to sustain him until Dwayne was ready to assume his full duties as Sire. The blood plasma kept Gabe from ageing or getting any major illnesses. It would not, however, assure him immortality in the event of a serious accident or a physical attack on his person.

Therefore, Alex had pledged to Gabe that she would wait to make her first kill until he’d been brought over into darkness again. She knew that Gabe would feel hopelessly alone if he had no one to spend his solitary daylight hours with him. Though he was not a half vampire, and did not crave blood, he understood Alex’s desires. He had been like her once in his childhood. He knew ways to help her cope. Someone had been kind enough to help him cope when he’d been young, and he passed on those techniques, hoping to keep Alex with him until his Sire was strong enough to blood him. Alex sometimes felt that Gabe was the only person that kept her sane.

At one thirty, while conducting a perimeter rounds check, Alex caught a strange glint of metal on the stairs outside the arcade, leading down to the beach. She turned on her flashlight as she headed over. A bike was parked down on the sand, chained to the handrail. She played the beam of her flashlight over it, taking in the details. It was a men’s mountain bike. The silver paint was in excellent condition, as was the seat. Both tires looked to be inflated. Obviously, this wasn’t a bike that someone had just dumped here. (And if it was, why bother to chain it up?)

Then, her keen vision detected a shadow on the beach. This time of year, most people did not have bonfire parties, so it was rare to see someone out on the beach at this late hour. The shadow was making its way from the water’s edge, slowly up towards the boardwalk. Soon, the person was caught in the beam of Alex’s flashlight, and she could see the individual clearly. He was a young man; a teenager, perhaps. His dark hair was tossed by the breeze, and he had a blue back pack strapped to his shoulders. He froze in the flashlight’s beam, and looked as though he was debating whether or not he should make a run for it. Still, he kept glancing at the stairs, and Alex then knew for certain that the bike belonged to him.

“What are you doing out here this late at night?” she called to him.

The boy didn’t answer, but he slowly advanced towards his bike, having decided that bailing out wasn’t the best course of action.

“N-nothing. I just couldn’t sleep,” he stammered once he reached the steps.

Alex glanced warily at the back pack. Runaway? Spray paint tagger?

“What’s in the back pack, Junior?” she questioned in a firm tone.

“N-nothing,” he stammered again.

“Hand it over,” Alex ordered.

Surprisingly, the boy turned the back pack over without a fight. Instead of finding cans of spray paint or indelible ink markers that kids used as graffiti tools, she found nothing. Absolutely nothing; not even any swiped merchandise from Buried Treasures or Taffy Time, the candy store that had reported thefts.

“What was in here?” she asked him.

“Nothing, okay? I like to come to the beach and see if I can collect shells sometimes when I can’t sleep, but I didn’t find any interesting ones. Can I go home now?” the boy pleaded.

“I’m afraid not. The cameras have picked you up, and there’s a recording of the two of us talking right now. I’m going to have to make an incident report.”

“An incident report! But I didn’t do nothing!” the boy protested.

“You are aware that being on boardwalk property after closing is considered trespassing, aren’t you?”

“But I wasn’t on boardwalk property! I was on the beach! That’s public property!”

“Your bike is on boardwalk property. Look, don’t make this hard on yourself, okay? I just need to take down your name and write this down in the incident report. Then, if you’d like, I can call your house and have someone come pick you up. It’s not safe for people to be out here alone.”

“No! Don’t call my folks. I don’t want anyone to know I left the house! Please!”

Alex pulled out her notepad and a pen. The boy was busily twirling the combination lock on the chain to free his bike.

“What’s your name?” she asked him.

“Why do you need my name? I swear, I wasn’t doing nothing wrong!”

Alex sighed, and when she took her inhale, she noticed a strange smell. The scent was quickly caught on the breeze and scattered, but she detected it nonetheless. Unfortunately, she could not identify it except to say that it smelled strongly of dog. Wild dog…

“Don’t make me call the cops,” she warned.

“Jake,” the boy finally mumbled.

“Jake…what?”

“Martinez. Can I go now?”

“How old are you, Jake?”

“15,” he replied.

“I really should have the police escort you home,” she told him.

“NO! I’m fine, okay? I’m going home now. I just want to go home. Will you please stop hassling me, now?”

The boy finished with his lock, and looked up; casting a pleading glance to Alex.

Alex wasn’t certain, but she thought she could see flecks of silver dancing around in his deep, brown eyes.

“Go home, Jake, and don’t let me see you down here after closing again, or I will call the cops next time.”

She followed behind Jake as he pushed his bike up the steps and onto the midway. Then, he straddled his bike and took off; pedaling as fast as his legs could carry him.

In his retreat, Alex smelled that scent again. Definitely dog.