A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 14: Presumed Guilty

Chapter 14: Presumed Guilty

Dwayne had picked up the scent of the pier wolf and followed it into the isolated homesteads of the hills of Santa Carla. The landscape looked vaguely and unsettlingly familiar to him as he flew overhead. Something had been niggling at his memories, but he had been unable to visualize it. As he drew in close to the source of the scent, suddenly, he had picked up on an overwhelming amount of others’, too. There had to be at least six other wolves on the property…

Including faint traces of the two that had come to the vampire’s hideout that afternoon.

Still, Dwayne was bound and determined to see if he could find out which resident in the home was the wolf he’d encountered on the pier. Quietly, he’d crouched in the crotch of a tree and observed the house. He could tell that the residents of the home had visitors, judging by the car that was parked in the driveway with an exempt license plate. Its engine was still warm. The household’s cars were parked in the garage.

After some time, the front door opened, and two men stepped out onto the porch. They were dressed casually in button up shirts and pressed jeans. The man showing them out was none other than Lt. Mayor Martinez! Dwayne had seen his picture in the paper.

Still, he remained motionless. None of these men were his quarry. But, now he knew that the two men on the porch were the two that had come to the hideout…

Suddenly, those two men began to sniff at the breeze, and Dwayne knew they smelled him just as surely as he smelled them. He had to get the hell out of there. At least he knew who their daytime intruders were, and he knew that the wolf from the pier was a member of the Martinez family. Good enough.

He didn’t bother to toss a glance over his shoulder to see what the dogs were up to. As quickly as he could, Dwayne made for the clearing in the trees, so that he could get as much altitude and distance between himself and the fleabags as possible. That’s when he felt an explosion of pain flower in the back of his head. Then, he felt nothing.

^..^

“I could get in trouble for this, y’know,” Gabe told his audience in quiet tones, as he rifled through the security feeds, checking the dates.

Edgar and Alan Frog looked at him squarely. Their faces were completely unsympathetic. Only Sam Emerson’s gaze reflected any sort of gratitude.

“I understand your predicament; trust me, I do. If it was for anything less important, I wouldn’t ask you to do it….”

“I know. I’ve been looking for Leah every night since she was reported missing. If doing this helps find her, I’d be willing to risk my job. I’m just not supposed to allow unauthorized people to view the tapes. That’s where I can get in trouble,” Gabe stated.

“No one has to know. We won’t tell a soul,” Alan reassured.

“Yeah, well we need to hurry this up. There’s a couple of coppers on the beat tonight. They requested to look over the incident report from the night of the 16th, and I’m sure they’ll start snooping everywhere else, too.”

With that, Gabe popped the tape in the VCR and fast forwarded it until the time frame showed the corresponding one that Alex had logged down in the incident book. At first, the grainy black and white feed showed only a non-descript looking men’s mountain bike leaning against the stair rails down below the arcade, on the beach. Time elapsed, and a shadow was seen approaching the bicycle from the beach. Then, the shadow became clearer a couple of frames later. It was obviously a teenaged boy. In the next frame, Alex was seen confronting him…

Barely.

Gabe cringed. In his haste to shut the Frog brothers up, he’d forgotten about the fact that Alex looked washed out on camera!

“Holy shit! She’s a bloodsucker!” Edgar cried.

“Of course! We should have known it! She only works at night…she wears shades half the time…why didn’t we see it…” Alan moaned.

“She’s not a bloodsucker!” Gabe protested.

“Oh, yeah? Then what do you call her?”

“She’s a half. And she can’t help it…so don’t mess with her. She’s never made a kill, and she has no intention to, so by God, don’t fuck with her. I mean it.”

“You knew about this?” Edgar asked, leveling a deadly gaze at him.

“I’ve known about it for awhile. But like I said, she can’t help what she is, and I’m not going to get into it right now, because it’s none of your damn business. You wouldn’t understand. Besides, I just noticed something else….about the kid. I’m going to back up the tape. Tell me if you guys see it…”

Gabe rewound the feed, and quietly, the four of them squinted at the grainy images.

“His eyes,” Sam commented, “they sort of…glow, like they’re made out of reflective tape or something!”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Alan commented, “Just like his bike reflectors do. And, look, it’s not the angle he’s standing at, either, because in this shot, his eyes do, too. Yet, Alex’s eyes don’t, even though she’s a night stalker…”

“So what does that make this kid then?” Sam asked.

“I have no idea. Shelby’s eyes didn’t glow quite like that, so I don’t think he’s a ghoul, so maybe he’s a werewolf,” Edgar said.

“Yeah, but the moon’s not full, so why would he be going wolf?” Alan asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe they all do that on film. After all, don’t photographic chemicals have silver in them?”

Suddenly, a searing pain shot through the back of Gabe’s head, making his vision blur and his heart skip a beat. He didn’t realize that the same thing was felt by every single member of his pack, and that it was a signal that one of their own was in trouble; at least not yet. He also didn’t realize how pale he’d suddenly become, or how blank the expression on his face was. The agony burned through his mind like a mental brand, and when he was finally able to catch his breath, his Sire’s image came into focus. Then, he heard the mental alarms being sent out from his pack brothers. Now they all knew that something had happened, yet they were all frantic, because no one knew exactly what had happened. Oddly, his Sire’s voice was quiet.

“Yo, Earth to Laddie, Come in,” Edgar called.

“Guys, you’d better head on out before the fuzz start poking around. My alerts are going off,” he warned them. His voice sounded distant and difficult to hear over the pounding of his pulse in his ears.

“Laddie? Are you okay?” Sam asked.

“Yah. I’m okay. I just have a headache…I need to get something to eat,” he lied.

“Sure. By the way, do you recognize the kid at all?”

“No. I don’t know who he is, but Alex logged his name as Jake. That’s all the info we have on him.”

^..^

Dwayne woke up to a surreal pain burning inside his head. He tried to reach up and rub the back of his skull, but he found his hands tethered behind his back with handcuffs. This would not be a difficult situation for a vampire to break out of if someone hadn’t gone through the trouble of making him very weak while he’d been unconscious, and Dwayne didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how that had been done. A significant quantity of his undead blood had been drained from his body by means of a syringe, rendering him incapable of any sort of preternatural strength.

The cell he was held in was a basic 6 X 6 with a hard cot, a stainless steel toilet, and a small sink. There was no privacy. Overhead, there was a tiny square of a window that looked out onto the exercise yard. There was no sort of window covering with the exception of parallel iron bars over the window to protect Dwayne from the sun’s rays. He knew his goose would be cooked when the sun rose. Yet the pain searing his head was so bad, he could hardly bring himself to care. Maybe it would be a mercy, but he figured mercy wasn’t something that was afforded to the undead.

He could smell others on the cell block, but they were all mortals, of course; mostly drunks, too. The smell of alcohol and vomit hung strong in the air. It nearly drowned out the warm smell of human blood. In his drained state, he should have been ravenous, but Dwayne couldn’t even concentrate on his hunger pangs through the pain in his head. Every now and then, disembodied voices floated in from other cells; prisoners making taunts to one another, some calling out to guards or demanding phone calls or lawyers; still others moaning their private miseries to themselves and sobbing softly. Dwayne remained curled up on the ground where he’d been thrown in. If he kept his eyes closed, the pain was tolerable….

An image drifted to him of Laddie, sitting in a room with some other people. Laddie suddenly went pale, as though he was in pain, and Dwayne knew that his Childe had felt his distress. He was both heartened and saddened by this knowledge.

Suddenly, the image in his mind’s eye warped, and Laddie was visually transported back in time twenty years; looking just like the nine year old boy he’d been when they’d first encountered him. Instead of wearing his boardwalk security uniform, he was now wearing that brass buttoned coat and the black jeans he always used to wear. Then, Dwayne noticed the others in the room with him. They were still there, as they’d been before, only they were also transported back in time…

And they were familiar, too.

Two of them were the comic shop keepers, Edgar and Alan Frog, now appearing as teenagers, dressed in camouflage clothing….

The other boy wore blue jeans and a light blue windbreaker; his dark blond hair all gelled up and preppy, and a diamond stud in one ear. Something painful was eating at the layers of scar tissue in his brain, and for the first time in years, this boy’s name finally whispered to Dwayne:

Sam Emerson.

The images faded as quickly as they came, yet for once, Dwayne did not forget them. He struggled to reconnect with Laddie, hoping to reassure his Childe that he was okay. Then, he tried to assert himself to his Sire. He was so drained that he had no way of knowing if he had the mental strength to forge an intentional link, but he knew his life depended on it.

^..^

David wanted to kick himself, incinerate himself and stake himself for being so foolish. He should have known that the dogs would have gone for Dwayne, yet he’d been so hell bent on getting to them that he hadn’t thought of what they’d really been after. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought they would have tried anything so rash.

He knew when it happened when he heard the distress call from his entire pack simultaneously and felt the pain sear through his own mind. It had been just like the afternoon when Marko had been staked in the sleeping lair…somehow they had all known and felt his agony, even though they’d all been asleep.

David had no idea where Dwayne was or exactly what had occurred. All he knew was that his Childe was hurt and unable to respond to him. And, he knew that the rest of his pack was sick with worry…every last one of them; including Laddie and Alex.

The last communication David had with Dwayne, he’d told him that he’d located the trail of his pier wolf and knew where he lived. Though David hadn’t gotten an exact location from him, he did know that Dwayne had been up in the hills. The visual picture he’d flashed his Sire had shown David that the location was somewhere close to Old Man Martin’s house. David was torn between heading up there and heading to the hideout to check on the wellbeing of his other fledglings. After a quick mental check with Marko and Paul, he ascertained that they were worried, but otherwise alright. He communicated to them to keep their mental channels open for any messages from Dwayne, and also to do anything they could to reassure Alex and Laddie that he was taking care of things. Then, he flew off in search of his lost Childe.

About a third of a mile from Old Man Martin’s house, David picked up the scent of the pier wolf. He followed it, knowing that this had to be the path Dwayne took. Before long, he came to a large, ranch styled house. There were no cars parked in the circular driveway, but lights were on inside. David smelled wolf so strongly that he wanted to gag. All of the trees in the back yard were marked, and a tire swing hanging from a large oak was nearly mauled by chew marks. Yet there was no huge dog chained in the yard that could have done that sort of damage…

He circled around, keeping a safe distance off the ground to avoid being seen by anyone coming outside. There was no sign of Dwayne anywhere. The scent of the pier wolf was mixed and mingled with the scents of so many other wolves now that he nearly lost it; but David faintly detected other smells that were vaguely familiar. They resembled the wolves that had come to the hideout earlier, but with so many other wolf scents, it was hard to tell.

Finally, David did detect the scent of his Childe, once he found the right tree. Dwayne had been here, for at least a brief time. His hand had touched the bark; his feet had found purchase in the crotch of the tree while he’d watched the house. But, for all David knew, it could have been hours ago. Dwayne’s smell was fading. Since the undead had cold blood, their scents didn’t linger long. A couple of hours at most. Only if they marked their territory in the way of a werewolf would their presences last longer, and from time to time, they did so…particularly to keep werewolves at bay. Sometimes, it was necessary to speak a werewolf’s language.

Knowing he would find nothing more here, David backed away and conducted a search of the nearby area. The pier wolf’s scent grew weaker, but the collective scents of many werewolves grew ever stronger. The hills were full of them, David knew, and their pack gathering place was deep in the woods nearby. He tried to shut the smell of wolf out of his head and concentrate only on the smell of vampire, with little success. Finally, it wasn’t what he smelled that roused his suspicions. It was what he saw.

One of the trees near the clearing had a chunk of wood blasted off of it like it had been blown away by a bullet. David landed beside the tree and searched the ground nearby until he found the offending shell. Then he reached down and picked it up to examine it; and dropped it on the ground almost as quickly as he touched it.

The son of a bitch burned like hell! His fingers were blistered from the contact as though he’d touched sunlight!

“Oww, Fuck!” he cried. Then, he bit his lip as he heard his voice reverberate loudly around the clearing like a shot.

A tiny bead of grayish liquid remained on the tip of one of his fingers, and David knew what it was, even without sniffing at it. It would have no scent anyways, save for the gunpowder used to propel it out of the chamber. Damn Holy water!

A feeble push entered into David’s mind as he took to the air, and he knew it was Dwayne. Only a fuzzy image of a darkened room presented itself, and a garbled message about being worried about sunlight entering in through a window. David tried to push back, but a barrier of pain blocked him. If he was physically with his Childe, he would be able to work him through the pain, but their distance was too great. David was able to sense one other thing, too. Dwayne was very weak; most likely because he’d been drained. Even a lowly half vampire had more strength than his Childe had right now.

David still had no idea where Dwayne was at the moment, but he knew one person who could find out. And that person had approximately 7 hours to locate his Childe and deliver him safely from a pain free, windowless existence, or someone’s head was going to roll.