A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 3: The Devil Inside

Chapter 3: The Devil Inside

The sleeping child passed the night oblivious to all that happened around her. Dwayne returned, then later, Paul and Marko. Conversations ensued; they were filled in on all that had happened. Yet David kept his little secret to himself for now.

He knew the girl’s identity. He’d known it the moment Dwayne had laid her out on the floor.

The last time he’d seen little Leah, he’d brought a delivery to Old Man Martin last summer. The girl had been there; had answered the door, and had hovered around while he and the old fart did business. David had scanned her mind at the time, learning who she was.

She was the daughter of the younger Emerson brother, the brat with the dog and the bow and arrow. How it was that sniveling little Sam had managed to grow up and produce offspring was one of life’s greatest mysteries. David thought the lad had some feministic tendencies the few times he’d seen him, but one could scarcely judge all there was to know about a person simply by the way they dressed. Besides, it had been the eighties.

Fate was evening up the score. Two decades ago, at the ripe age of seventeen, Michael Emerson had nearly become a vampire. Fate had been cheated. Tonight, eight year old Leah Emerson was a were-child. As far as David knew, there was no half-werewolf clause. Either you were, or you weren’t. No in-betweens.

Yet, he wondered about the silver necklace she’d worn. Had it offered her any protection at all besides preventing her from becoming dinner? David had no books around the hideout concerning werewolves. In fact, he rarely read at all if he could avoid it. What he knew about werewolves could fill his shoe. They wolfed out at the full moon, attacked any mortal creature they came across while in this form and ate it, and reverted back to their human form during the day. They could be killed by beheading or a shot to the heart with a silver bullet. Any mortal creature bitten by a werewolf that survived the attack became a werewolf themselves. And, most importantly, he knew, if you see one, regard it warily. If it makes any aggressive moves, kill it. The vampires and werewolves of Santa Carla had an uneasy truce in existence. No werewolves came sniffing around their hideout, though they could likely find it easily enough if they wanted to. Similarly, David and his boys didn’t go on wolf hunts. They knew the places the wolves congregated on full moon nights, and they didn’t go there. So, any aggression would mean a territory dispute. There could be no disputes. Any invading, attacking werewolf that escaped the Boys would surely be ripped apart by the local wolf packs. Period.

David shook his head wearily before he retired to the back portion of the hideout to rest. There was only one place to bone up on werewolves besides the public library. (And surely, David was not in possession of a library card. Even if he was, he’d maybe get in one good hour’s time to find any books before they shut the doors for the night. There were definite disadvantages to being a vampire). He’d have to sniff around the Frog Brothers, without dumping his hand as to why. Surely, he could invent a reason…perhaps a story about smelling werewolf scat in the area and wanting to learn more about how they demarcated territory….

That sounded good enough. He’d take care of it when he felt the time was right. After all, he had about a month before Leah went through her first change…he hoped. Maybe he wouldn’t even need to keep her around that long.

^..^

Leah awoke, with no idea as to whether it was day or night. She had no idea where she was. She only remembered that dog on the beach…

That turned out not to be such a nice doggy after all.

Her mind reeled with memories that seemed only half real. Well, some of them only seemed half real. The others were strange and floaty…they made little sense. She remembered going to feed the sea lions, but being disappointed when the fish she tossed over the rail only got swept out to sea. No sea lions came for them. It didn’t take her long to get bored. Glancing at her watch, she realized she still had ten minutes. She also had a couple of fish left. What if she went down to the underside of the pier and fed them from the beach? Maybe they couldn’t see the fish from where she was standing….

She’d been joyfully rewarded to see a bull and a cow that had pulled their massive bulks up onto the framework of the pier, so she’d tossed them her remaining fish and watched as they splashed down into the water after them. Then, she’d realized she was out of fish and out of time. Gran was waiting for her. So, she’d turned to head back, leaving the water and the sea lions behind her. That’s when she’d heard whining. It was coming from right behind her. Dog whining…

She turned to find a big dog regarding her silently. It was whining, like maybe it was lost. The dog looked to be some wolf like breed; the sort her dad told her he used to have when he was a kid. Leah didn’t think he was a….Siberian Husky? Right, that’s what Dad had said Nanook was, but this dog was kind of wolfie like a Husky. Dad talked about Nanook like he missed him a lot. Maybe, if this dog was lost, Dad might like him…

“Hi, doggy! Where’s your owners?” Leah had called breezily.

The dog stopped whining. Then, he bared his teeth at her. Leah only had a moment to gather her legs up under her before the dog charged.

She ran mightily. The dog was herding her up onto the rocks. Leah scrambled over them in a mad dash for safety, but then, one foot got caught between two boulders. She was thigh deep in water and was unable to run very fast at all. With water swirling all about, she couldn’t bend down to tug her shoe free, so she yanked her foot free from the shoe.

The dog was treading water after her. She had no idea dogs could swim so fast! Running was even more difficult with one shoe on and one shoe off. It was only a matter of time before the dog caught up with her. He nailed her by the hood of her sweatshirt, and was suddenly hauling her with him. Sand and rocks slid beneath her exposed back, but she couldn’t scream. The collar of her shirt had been yanked up so close to her throat, she could barely breathe. She knew her skin was getting scraped up good and raw, but all she could do was flail her arms and legs and try to grab on to anything within arm’s reach. There had been nothing.

By the time the dog had finished dragging her, Leah was close to fainting from lack of air. But, the dog wasn’t finished. She felt him close his jaws around her shoulder; she heard her bones splinter beneath the massive pressure, and she felt a flare of pain explode through her being unlike anything she’d ever experienced in her short life.

“HE’S EATING ME!” her thoughts screamed in her head.

Then, he bit her again, and Leah’s world went black.

Where was she now, and how had she escaped the killer dog on the beach?

Leah sat up slowly and a blanket fell away from her. She rubbed at her eyes and glanced around. It was very gloomy in this room. The only illumination came from some candles and two kerosene lamps that had been left burning for her benefit. She didn’t know this, of course. There were no windows or doors…

Wait. There was a door. A double door, to be exact. It was old fashioned looking, with ornate carvings on it, and cast iron handles. Leah wondered where it led. It was the only entrance or exit she could immediately see in this spooky old place.

She was lying on a couch. It was the old fashioned kind, with crimson upholstery and claw like legs. There were at least four other chairs in the room, too. They were mismatched. One was a wingback chair. Another was a velvet cushioned chair that looked like it belonged in some old granny’s parlor. Another looked like a padded dining room chair; the kind the Dad would sit in at the head of the table. Then there was a velvet beanbag chair. Leah liked that one. Then, there was the wooden rocker with a padded foot stool. There was a tie-on cushion attached to the seat of the rocker. Leah liked that, too. She wondered who all these chairs belonged to.

Her eyes drifted around, taking in other sights. There was a half completed paining on a rickety wooden easel. An electric guitar leaning against the dining room chair, and an open, folded over bag of Cheeto’s stashed beside the bean bag chair. Still, her questions were left unanswered. Where was she?

Maybe all that bad dog stuff had been a dream? Still, how could it be that she was now in some weird, dark, creepy place instead of at Gran and Great Gramp’s house?

It made no sense until she looked down and saw the condition of her sweatshirt. It was tattered, torn, bloodied and dirtied. Instantly, her hand flew up to her shoulder; searching…feeling…

And finding nothing.

There was no evidence that any wolf-dog had bit her whatsoever! Yet, when she prodded the area, she could feel soreness, like there was a big, ugly bruise down there that she couldn’t see.

Leah was immensely puzzled. How could something like that heal up so fast?

Her fingers were also quick to detect that something was missing. Suddenly, her eyes flooded with tears. Her necklace was gone! Stupid dog!

Aunt Star had given her that necklace when she’d flown out to Phoenix for her visit last summer. It was a belated birthday gift, and it meant the world to Leah, especially since Leah admired Aunt Star. She was so pretty. She’d also gotten her mom’s permission to let Aunt Star pierce her ears, and now, she had two little amethyst studs in her ears. They were her birthstone. Her birthday was February 4, and soon, she’d be nine. Leah’s hands flew up to her earlobes. The studs were still there, at least.

Sighing, Leah glanced around her gloomy enclosure again. Then, she tested her weight on trembling legs. Those Cheeto’s left by the bean bag chair looked awfully good, and she was hungry.

She managed to make it off the couch and halfway across the room when she heard a noise. It was coming from overhead. Looking up, she noticed a tunnel for the first time. Then, she saw…

A dog’s snout. Sniffing…..

Then, his head poked through. He glared malevolently at her, baring his teeth and growling. Leah shrieked.

Suddenly, she knew where she was. The wolf dog had brought her home to his hideout!

Leah was afraid to twtich, afraid to breathe. The dog regarded her silently, as if daring her to move. Finally, Leah did move. She had to get out from underneath his fiery gaze.

The dog barked and snarled into the room, filling it with an unholy noise. Leah shrieked again and rolled for the safety of the couch. Only this time, she huddled beneath it. She’d managed to snatch one of the blankets that she’d been wrapped in, and she buried herself in it the best she could, cocooning herself from any danger she could imagine. If you couldn’t see it, it wasn’t there.

Finally, the dog was satisfied, and he stopped his infernal barking. Silence filled the gloomy room once again, only to be disturbed by the occasional, hitching breath of the frightened child hiding beneath the couch.

^..^

Thorn licked his lips in satisfaction. He’d feasted on enough fear from that kid in a few minutes to last him a few days….

Too bad he couldn’t jump her. She was tainted goods. Her mortal blood was dying. Immortal shells were only good for temporary jumps.

As for the body he inhabited now? Well, it wasn’t such a bad swap. The mortal shell of a dog wasn’t the best existence, per se, but this particular dog was going to live a very long time. His life was being extended by vampiric plasma. As long as he received his infusions, he’d live indefinitely. It wasn’t the same as a werewolf or vampire body, where there was no mortal blood. The dog’s body was still mortal, and could be killed by mortal means, if anyone thought to do so. But, as long as he received his transfusions, he wouldn’t fall prey to sickness or the ravages of old age.

It wasn’t an entirely horrid situation for a fear demon to be in. As long as no one murdered this dog, and as long as the dog stayed away from traffic, things weren’t too bad.

He just had to make certain his guardians didn’t figure out the secret, which meant that he had to play nice with the two that had been responsible for his bumping in the first place.

Well, that was alright. It wasn’t the first time he’d had dealings with David. It wouldn’t be the last.

^..^

“Hello, little one, where are you?”

David entered the sunken ballroom through the double doors that led to the secret passageway where the Boys now had their sleeping lair. Behind him followed Dwayne, Paul and Marko, who were every bit as curious to see how the kid had fared through the day.

There was nothing on the couch except one blanket. Glancing around the room, David could not detect the child’s presence anywhere…at least not by sight. He could smell her, though. She was in the room somewhere.

“She wants to play hide and seek,” Paul said, beginning a random search of the room. Like David, he too could smell the girl. He hoped it wasn’t just a lingering trace he was detecting, and that she had managed to get herself into the upper chamber somehow. Not a good situation, if Thorn found out about it.

Dwayne wasted no time with words. He knew there was only one place the kid could be hiding without Thorn making an unholy raucous, and since he was quiet, it must mean that the girl was….

Under the couch.

“She’s right here, guys,” he said, once his suspicions panned out. There she was, huddled up in the blanket that Marko had given Alex, crammed under the couch. Two sky blue eyes stared out at him with an expression glazed in terror.

“Come on out,” David coaxed her.

The child stared at him wordlessly, but after a moment, she shook her head.

“Come out, little one. No one wants to hurt you, here.”

Once again, she regarded him silently. Then, she burst out in tears. Pitiful wails filled the enclosed space that the child lacked the self control to try to stop.

“Dog!” she cried, “T-the d-dog will get meeeee…”

“No, no. That dog isn’t a problem. You were found and taken away from there…”

“He’s Up There! He found me! He’ll get me if I come out!”

“That’s not the same dog. That’s Thorn, our watch dog. He was just barking because he doesn’t know you. It’s okay. See, if that dog ever tries to come back and hurt you, Thorn will take care of him. You’re safe here…”

This came from Dwayne, who was crouched beside the couch.

“So, you see; its okay. You can come out,” David said.

The child’s sobs quieted, and a few minutes later, she finally braved poking her head out. When no dog came charging at her, she rolled the rest of herself onto the dusty, old, tiled floor. Then, she blinked at looked at the four young men assembled before her. After a few minutes, she narrowed her eyes at David.

“I’ve seen you before, I think,” she told him.

“It’s possible. I’ve been around here quite awhile. Now, let’s get you introduced, shall we? The gentleman that found you last night is Dwayne. He’s right there.”

Dwayne gave the child a small, sad smile. The girl’s mouth opened as though she was about to say something, but soon, David had her distracted.

“This here is Paul, and this is Marko. And I’m David. Now, what’s you’re name?”

“Leah,” she answered simply.

“Good enough. Leah, it is. Well, then, Leah, it looks to me like you need some food. Marko, go get us all some dinner. Paul, Dwayne, why don’t the two of you dig around and see if you can’t find this kid a T-shirt and a hairbrush. That sweatshirt of hers is ready for the dust rag pile.”

“Right-O. Hey, Marko, looks like you’ll be coughing up another T-shirt. Anything the rest of us has would fit her like a tent,” Paul remarked.

“Shit, like mine wouldn’t,” Marko responded, heaving himself into the tunnel that led up….

Up to where Leah supposed that mean old dog was.

“It’s alright if it’s too big. It just has to stay on,” David said.

The two others disappeared to do their assigned tasks, leaving David alone with Leah. The girl had been watching the others, but she had been concentrating on David’s features, trying to remember where she’d seen him. Finally, it came to her.

“You delivered that skanky old skunk to Gramps. I remember you now,” she told him.

David chuckled lightly and lit up a smoke.

“That’s right, I did,” he replied, exhaling his puff.

“Smoking’s bad for you. You’ll get lung cancer.”

“So it says right here on the pack, little girl, but knowing that doesn’t stop me.”

“You could make me sick from second hand smoke…”

“So don’t breathe,” David told the child.

“How am I supposed to not breathe?” Leah asked indignantly.

“You can start by shutting up. This is my house; I’ll smoke if I want to. You don’t like it? Don’t breathe.”

Leah slumped back against the couch cushion and sighed.

“Where am I anyways? When can I go home?” she asked.

Now it was David’s turn to sigh. He had no patience with kids, and this one was not silent like Laddie had been. He knew she could be useful to help shock some of the missing memories back into his eldest fledgling’s head, but he had no idea just how. At this point, maybe it would just be best to let sleeping dogs lie, take the kid up top, chop off her head Highlander style, and toss her into the sea.

But that would be no fun. He wanted to see the missing posters, and he hoped they would flush out bigger prey.

Maybe Michael Emerson would be very upset when he learned his niece had vanished.