A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 4: Beyond the Sea

Chapter 4: Beyond the Sea

Jake Martinez heard the alarm bleat, and moaned. He cracked an eye open. It was 6 a.m. His clock continued its insistent beeping until he smashed his fist upon it.

He felt like shit.

Still, he had to go through the motions of getting ready for the morning, and lying in bed feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t help any. Vague images of the night before shifted through his sleep fogged mind.

Where had he gone last night; and what had happened?

He slid into a pair of blue jeans and pulled out a T-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt to wear. But, when he went to pull the T-shirt on over his head, he was met by instant pain as the cloth slid over the front of his face.

“Oh, crap!” he moaned.

Waves of dizziness poured over him, forcing Jake to take a seat on the edge of his bed. When he was calmed, he looked at his hands. They were normal looking, mostly. Only a few bristly hairs remained. No more claws…for now.

He knew he didn’t have ears on the top of his head anymore, either. Noises registered, and he could hear them with ears that were now situated on either side of his head. The rest of the house was getting ready. His younger twin sisters, Gabriela and Miranda, were beginning their usual tussle over who got to use the bathroom to get ready first. They had both gone out last night with his folks. At thirteen, they still needed supervision at night.

But when they’d been ready to go, he hadn’t been. At fifteen, the shift from human to wolf was an uncertain thing. Hormones affected it. He hadn’t even begun the transformation when his old man had come home from work last night. On hunt nights, his Dad didn’t linger around the office shooting the breeze with co-workers. He got his ass home early to avoid wolfing out in public.

Yet the girls were already sprouting tons of fur, and Gabby already had her ears. Miranda’s eyes were glowing. They were both hungry. Mom had been waiting patiently, telling them..

“Soon. Soon your father will be home and we can go.”

But Jake wasn’t anywhere near ready, even when his parents let themselves go all out wolf. His sisters weren’t going to wait for his slowpoke ass, either. So, his old man had told him to meet them at the clearing in the woods when he was ready.

Too bad he hadn’t. The shift had occurred suddenly, like it was apt to do in teenagers. Jake felt the rush, and then scooted out the back door, licking his new wolf’s chops in anticipation. (Anyone visiting the Martinez home would think the flap in the kitchen door was for pet dogs. It wasn’t…it was the family’s easy access wolf exit. No pawing of door handles required.) He had kept his nose low to the ground, searching for the scent of his pack, but was soon overcome with the need to hunt NOW! The lush winter landscape of the hills and the sparse forest in the hills of Santa Carla rushed beneath his padded paws. He knew to avoid the streets and the public areas…

But the public areas were where the food source was at.

It was still early in the evening when he arrived on the beach. Around him, the smell of prey wafted in the sea breezes. It came from all directions but one; that being the sea. So, he hunkered down below the pier, gazing hungrily out at the sand drifts. Finally, he got lucky. The girl that appeared on the beach and greeted him was small game, but she was game enough. Chasing her down wasn’t hard; nor was dragging her far beneath the pier. But when he bit into her, his mouth exploded in pain. He could feel sparks shoot up around his teeth, singing his tongue, forcing him to let go. With nothing else to do but wonder what had happened and wait for his wounds to heal themselves, he’d hunkered down in the sand beside his intended meal.

Then, HE came. One of those vampires Jake had heard so much about. Before long, he found himself in a challenge for his food; one he felt he might have been able to win had he been able to bite the offending vampire. But alas, Jake was already in too much pain and shock. The vampire was able to throw him off, and a wary standoff had taken place until the police siren sounded.

Jake might have howled to sound out his troubles, but he knew the way Santa Carla worked. His dad had told him that roughly two thirds of the Santa Carla P.D. was werewolves…but they were all off rotation on full moon nights, of course. The police up on the pier were ‘morts’, and were not his friends. There was only one thing left to do, so he turned tail and fled. There was no more hunting for him that night. He ran straight home, scampered in through the door flap, and dashed to his room. He didn’t want his parents or his sisters to come home and see him like this.

It looked like they would anyways. Sighing, Jake finally braved a look in the mirror.

Okay, so it wasn’t as bad as it had been last night. Still, his mouth was reddened and raw, and the inside of it still hurt like hell, too. How was he going to explain this at school?

A knock sounded on his door.

“Who is it?” Jake asked, steeling himself.

“It’s your father. We have to talk.”

Busted.

The door opened and Jake’s father stepped through the door. He was already dressed for work in one of his sharp looking business suits. No one in Santa Carla would ever guess that the Lt. Mayor was really a werewolf….unless they already knew better. Or, unless they looked closely. The older a werewolf got, the harder it was to regain human form after the full moon. David Martinez appeared to be a middle aged man of Hispanic descent during the day, but at night, things got hairier except during the new moon. However, during the full moon times, even during the day, Jake could see flecks of silver floating around in his father’s brown eyes. He wore sunglasses everywhere during these times. His mother’s eyes didn’t do that, even though she didn’t look much younger. Jake never asked, but maybe his father was really much older than he looked.

“Where were you last night? We waited for a very long time…we were worried. Even the Elder was worried,” his father said. His tone of voice was mixed with concern and that parental sternness that told Jake that his old man was definitely upset and disappointed with him.

Then, he got a look at his son’s face.

“What happened to you?”

“I-I don’t know,” Jake stammered, “I got hungry and distracted, and the next thing I knew, I was down on the beach. I found some prey, but when I bit into her, it burned!”

Talking caused him more pain than he cared to admit, but he did not wish to show this to his father.

“Did you look to see if she was wearing any silver jewelry or fastenings on her clothing before you bit in?”

“She was just wearing a sweatshirt and jeans! I saw nothing!” Jake protested.

His father bent close and examined the injuries.

“Those are silver burns. That’s what happens when you get into close contact with silver. ‘Morts’ like their silver jewelry. You should never bite where they could hide it. We’ve gone over this. Bite the head or the chest; kill the victim, and then rip away the clothing as you eat. That way, you’ll avoid this sort of thing,” he lectured.

Jake nodded. Of course, it made perfect sense.

“I take it you weren’t able to finish off your meal. Tell me, son, and this is very important. Did you kill your victim?”

“I don’t know, Dad. My mouth was fried up so bad; I couldn’t even close it, let alone bite her head. I hid beneath the pier with her and waited to heal so I could finish her off. But, then….This vampire comes out of nowhere and steals my dinner!”

“Vampire? Oh, really?”

“Yeah, a big tall guy with big, tall fangs and a bad attitude. I attacked him, though, and opened up a can of whoop-ass on his back, but I couldn’t chew him up no matter how hard I tried. Then, there were the police sirens….”

His father seemed to genuinely be listening, and Jake felt the first pricks of hope surge through him. Yeah, okay, his old man wasn’t too bad when it came to talking about stuff, but usually he was busy, and sometimes, he could get short tempered. This morning, he wasn’t. Either the hunt had been good last night, or he really believed him.

“No victim is worth going up against vampires and the police, especially when you’re injured. Now, what did this vampire look like?”

“I told you…he was tall with huge fangs and glowing yellowish-orange eyes. And long disgusting fingernails that don’t belong on anything that looks like a human.”

“What else? Hair color? Age? Race?”

“Oh, he was dark haired, and he looked a little older than me, I think, and he might be Latino, but I think he was mixed. His hair was kind of long, too. Oh, and he was wearing a leather jacket. I ripped it up good. And…he had a wolf’s tooth earring that he said he got from killing some werewolf before.”

The more Jake told; the more hopeful he felt that he wouldn’t be spending the next 50 years in some sort of housebound purgatory. His dad seemed awfully interested in this vampire. Telling the story as detailed as possible was worth the pain in his mouth if it kept his old man from remembering that he disobeyed a pack rule. One didn’t go off on their own to hunt unless permission was granted from the Elder. The Elder was the leader of their local pack. He was so damn old; he lived in the woods like a real wolf because he couldn’t regain his human form anymore. That eventually happened to all werewolves.

“The vampire took the prey?”

“I don’t know, Dad. I left her with him. I figured if he wanted her so bad, he could have her and risk getting caught by the cops. Besides, biting her hurt me, so I figured maybe the same thing would happen to him. Justice served.”

“Vampires only have adverse reactions to the silver in photographic chemicals and the silver backing on mirrors. It’s why they can’t see their reflections. If he drained her, silver or not, she’s as good as dead now,” his father explained.

“Well, he looked pretty hungry to me, so I’ll bet he ate her…”

“I’ll be taking your report to the City Council. They need to know about this. Those damn vampires are supposed to stay away from the boardwalk…I take it that’s where you were?”

“Around and about,” Jake replied.

“As for you, I guess you can’t go to school looking like that. Next month, when the moon comes, we’ll be making sure you leave with us. From now on, you don’t hunt alone. Do you understand? The Elder will have to know about this, and I’m sure he’ll have some sage advice for you.”

“Yes, Dad.”

“And, you’re not to be playing video games while your home today. I suggest you make sure your homework is finished from last night, because I’m sure you’ll have lots of make-up work.”

“Yes, sir.”

With that, his father left, and Jake flopped back on his bed and sighed. It could have gone a lot worse, he supposed….

He could have been grounded for life instead of relegated to a day of homework and no video games….and hunt restriction.

But, it beat going to school.

^..^

The story made the paper the following morning. The headline that greeted Santa Carla Sentinel subscribers stated: Los Gatos Girl Missing; Feared Drowned.

Gabriel Thompson had gotten a missing child alert sometime past eight o’clock last night. He didn’t know what bothered him more; the fact that a child had vanished, or…

The girl’s name. He knew Leah Emerson; at least he knew of her. Her father, Sam, was Michael’s brother, and one of the young teens that had damn near destroyed all of the Boys. He’d been the one that had launched the arrow right through the heart of his Sire and sent him on a collision course with a plugged in stereo system and about 20,000 volts of electricity.

Even still, Gabe harbored no hard feelings towards Sam Emerson. After all, he was only defending himself. Surely, Dwayne would have killed him if he hadn’t gotten lucky with that bow and arrow. Not to mention, of the three younger teenagers that night, Sam Emerson was the most level headed. The other two; the Frog brothers, had wanted to stake Gabe merely for being a half vampire. Sam had shown no inclination towards such violence. He’d only wanted to protect his family.

When Gabe had first gotten the alert, he and the one other swing shift guard on duty, Tiffany, (the girl he’d bought his ball python from), had taken the alert seriously, of course, but they didn’t suspect the worst. The kid would turn up. Lots of kids went missing for a little while and their parents alerted security. It was different when the APB came from the police.

As far as he and Tiffany could ascertain, the kid was not on the boardwalk. Santa Carla P.D. had even sent two officers down to assist. By the time his swing shift was about to end, the kid still hadn’t been found. Then, Tiffany was dismissed, but he lingered. Alex was working grave that night. She clocked in and he informed her of all that was going on.

At 11:15, the two officers were called away. They told Gabe that some evidence had been found that suggested that the kid may have slipped into the sea. The Coast Guard was being called in. He and Alex were told to check in if they saw something, but otherwise, they were leaving.

With the exception of the arcade, the boardwalk was closed. It was highly unlikely that a lost kid was still hanging around, especially without alerting someone. A total of three security guards and two police officers had combed the area and found no trace of her. Gabe wasn’t clued in about the ‘evidence’ that was found to suggest that little Leah may have fallen into the ocean.

Gabe stuck around for quite awhile, unable to just give up and go home. He couldn’t. After midnight, the patrol cars were gone. The beach was dark and shadowed, and the full moon illuminated the gently swelling waters of the sea. Somewhere out there, the Coast Guard was dragging the area for the body of a child.

He thought about his own disappearance twenty years ago. Months had passed before he was reunited with his family. They had probably given him up for dead, although no one ever told him that. He wondered if the police had searched for him, or if the Coast Guard had patrolled the waves, looking for his sodden, drowned form. Did they even bother to search hard back in the days when missing posters decked the bulletin boards like a decoupage wall? Maybe they didn’t, and that’s why he’d been ‘permitted’ to be missing for so long. This was long before Amber Alerts. Milk carton pictures were about as advanced as it got, and Gabe learned later that his picture had been featured on many. Still, many people didn’t bother to study the back of milk cartons, and ultimately, they wound up in the trash.

The next morning, the newspaper said everything that the pair of cops hadn’t told him. One of Leah’s shoes had been found lodged between two boulders at low tide, but the police speculated that the tide was much higher hours earlier when the girl had been there. Even though the Coast Guard failed to find her body, the police were, at this time; suspecting that the case was a drowning unless other evidence presented itself.

‘Bullshit,’ a quiet voice whispered in his head.

Something wasn’t sitting right, even if he couldn’t deny the facts. He reviewed them in his mind. ‘ Kid is reported missing after she doesn’t return from feeding sea lions. This happens around 6 o’clock to 6:30, but the police aren’t called until 7:30 or so, because Lucy Emerson went out to look for her on her own first before panicking. The fuzz shows up by quarter to eight. At 8:13, I record the police contact to the boardwalk security in the incident report, and then we start looking for Leah.’

He stopped here, and thought. Only two hours or so had gone by since the kid reportedly went skipping out the door, until Gabe himself was notified to search for her on the boardwalk. These, of course were the earliest hours of the evening.

For some reason, his mind reverted back in time twenty years past. He’d been missing all freaking day, wandering around the boardwalk like a vagrant dog. No one had paid him any mind until Star and Dwayne ran into him. What time had that been?

He couldn’t be sure. All he remembered was that the month had been April, and he’d just returned to school after Spring Break. It had been full on night when he’d been discovered, and night came later in April than it did in December. Still, he guessed it was around eight or nine that he’d been found. The boys were still in the mood to goof around, but were getting ready for their nightly head count. Gabe hadn’t known any of that then, but he figured it out later when he learned of their true nature and grew accustomed to their habits. Usually, after they got up, they farted around on the boardwalk or did stupid shit like hang off of bridges while the train passed overhead, or they raced their bikes until later in the evening. They never got serious about hunting until the boardwalk closed, unless they went somewhere else that night.

Regardless of the season, he doubted their habits would change that much. Sure, they’d be awake by six o’clock on a winter’s night, but he highly doubted that they’d be out hunting just yet. No, they probably wouldn’t even be ready for that by eight. Therefore, the one ghost that haunted his mind was starting to fade a bit.

Gabe doubted one of the boys had run across Leah and taken her to the hideout as a ‘pet mortal’. In fact, hadn’t they realized the damage that had been done to him by turning him so young? (Well, turning him at all without finishing the job… When the head vampire at the time of his turning, Max, had died, all half vampires like himself, Star, and Michael reverted back to normal…..if there was any such thing as normal after you’ve had Sire’s blood swimming around in your veins for who knows how long). Gabe would never be normal, and he doubted that Star and Michael were either. So, why would the Boys turn around and do that to a little kid again, knowing what it did to him?

Because Leah was Sam Emerson’s daughter!

Once again, he rebelled at the thought. Yet, a part of him hoped that the child was with them instead of with the sharks at the bottom of the Pacific. After all, the Boys had done him no intentional harm, and his days with them had been among the happiest in his childhood. Unfortunately, he didn’t think Sam Emerson would feel the same way.

He wondered if he should pay the Boys a visit. It had been awhile since he’d done so; a month perhaps. Alex was off the next night, so maybe they could go together. Gabe decided he’d run his thoughts past her and see what she thought. Though he didn’t expect her to understand what he’d been through as a child and how it could relate to what was happening now, she had been on shift last night. Like him, she’d been fervently hoping the girl would be found and had been crushed when the police were called away. Alex was also a firm believer in instinct. And, since she was a half vampire herself, her abilities to mentally link with the Boys was a little stronger than his. Maybe she’d be able to sense if they seemed agitated or secretive.

With one, last disgusted look at the paper, he crumpled it up and made to throw it in the trash. Then, he changed his mind. There was a picture of Leah with the article, and he decided to keep it around. It might come in handy. Something told him that she was more likely to be seen around town than under the sea.