A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 7: Remember the Reaper

Chapter 7: Remember the Reaper

The threesome made the walk back to the shop in relative silence. It appeared that their initial questions were answered, at least. Likely, Leah hadn’t drowned. Nor, had she been sucked dry by a vampire. Instead, it looked like she was werewolf meat.

Sam looked grim as Edgar keyed open the shop doors. He looked half dead, to be exact. But, Edgar supposed he’d feel the same way if he’d been down beneath the pier examining the only mortal remains left of his child. Neither Edgar nor Alan knew just what to say to their estranged friend of their adolescent years.

They unloaded their gear in the back room in a thick silence. Alan browsed the titles of a couple of books on a bookshelf stored back there, and pulled out a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac. Sam supposed this was the reference he’d meant when he stated that he’d ‘check the charts.’ Edgar led the way out of the room, followed by his brother, then followed by Sam. Suddenly, Edgar stopped short, and Alan and Sam nearly ran into him and into each other.

“What the hell are you doing here? We’re closed for the night, can’t you read the sign?” he demanded.

“The sign says ‘closed’, but the door was open. Rather contradictory, don’t you think?”

“It wasn’t open,” Edgar contradicted.

“It was unlocked. Same difference.”

Sam couldn’t see into the interior of the shop with both Edgar and Alan blocking his view. There was nothing wrong with his hearing, though. He recognized that creepy voice, even if he’d heard it for just a few nightmarish moments in his life.

“Yeah, well we’re heading home. It’s been a long fucking day for us ‘mort’s’, and some of us sleep at night,” Alan stated.

“That’s alright. I won’t be taking up much of your time, boys. I’d come back tomorrow, but I’ve been waiting around here for awhile, now. I’m starting to get awfully hungry, too, so I promise I’ll keep it short…”

The voice was edged with sarcasm and laced with innuendo that Sam understood too well. The Frog brothers were right. The vampire Michael fought and tossed on the antlers had survived his ordeal. He was standing in the shop right now. Sam’s skin crawled with revulsion and dread.

“You don’t scare me. So, what do you want besides six good, red pints?” Edgar quipped.

“Information, actually. What do you boys know about werewolves?” David replied, brushing off Edgar’s sarcasm in favor of getting to the point.

“Enough to know that out of the three of us here, you’re the only one that doesn’t have to worry about being a full moon Scooby Snack. Why do you care?” Alan fired.

Sam realized his friend was bluffing. He was trying to fool the vampire into thinking that he wasn’t there. Sam knew to keep his mouth shut at this point. He didn’t dare move. All the comics he remembered reading as a teenager said that vampires had especially keen senses. If he withdrew into the shadows of the back room to conceal himself, the vampire would probably hear him.

What about smell? He did his best to stifle his fears. After all, this particular vampire had been out to get Michael, not him, right?

“I care about an amazing number of things, if it’s any business of yours. I especially care if I smell werewolf scat near my place of residence. Maybe you wouldn’t be able to smell it, but I guarantee you, after one swig of my blood, you’d smell it and lots of other things too….”

Then, the vampire chuckled, as if he was amused at his own wit. Seconds later, he stopped.

“El Paso, as they say in Texas. I ain’t drinkin’ vampire blood, but thanks for the offer, pal,” Edgar sniffed.

“I wasn’t offering. I’d stake myself before allowing either of you into my pack. But, you’re really trying my patience. I’m only here to get some information, and here you boys are hassling me.”

“You’re full of shit. What do you know about the disappearance of Leah Emerson?” Alan fired.

“I’ll tell you what I know. Zilch, except for the fact that one of my boys is being fingered for it, and he had nothing to do with it. From what I understand, the Underground Law Enforcement isn’t even willing to consider any other suspect, and that leads me to one conclusion. It’s either werewolves or ghouls that did in with the kid, and since ghouls don’t eat little girls; that means the dogs are trying to bury a bone.”

Edgar and Alan both relaxed a bit, but they did not relinquish their guard any.

“She sure the hell didn’t drown,” Edgar muttered.

“I’ve got some books in the back on werewolf stuff. I’m not sure how much good it will do you….,” Alan trailed.

“What I’d like to know is if the books contain anything specific on preventing someone who’s been bit from becoming a werewolf…or what sort of things could be expected if blood was exchanged through the bite of a werewolf to another immortal. Why you’re back there checking your stock, why don’t you say ‘hi’ to Sam for me. I know he’s behind you…”

Alan slowly backed into the weapons room, shooting Sam a sympathetic glance. Then, he set about checking their shelves for anything werewolf related.

“Why would you care about any of that?” Edgar asked with his eyes narrowed.

“This won’t go down without a fight. One of my boys has never faced a werewolf up close and personal. He also tends to be the most impulsive. I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up getting bit in the ass…so I want to make sure he doesn’t start howling at the next full moon….”

Edgar grunted and muttered something under his breath that sounded like ‘so stake him and spare him the trouble,’ but Sam couldn’t be sure.

Alan returned with his arms laden with books. Sam grabbed a couple from the top of the stack to prevent them from slipping to the floor. Then, he grimly followed his friend into the main enclosure of the shop, where the vampire waited.

If the Santa Carla Public Library was short on books about lycanthropes, it was because the Frog brothers owned them all. Between the two of them, Sam and Alan carried at least a dozen books, which they stacked on the counter by the cash register. There were even two fictional works, which David found amusing.

“The best authors spend a great deal of time researching their subject matter. Don’t laugh,” Edgar told him soberly.

David fastened his icy gaze on Sam, who was now perched on the seat that Edgar’s son had been occupying earlier.

“Well, then. Which would you recommend?” he asked him, never breaking his calculating stare.

“Any of these books that could tell me the most painful and permanent means of killing a werewolf would be my choice,” Sam answered quietly.

“Sounds like my choice for good bedtime reading, too. It seems we agree,” David told him.

“Must be kind of hard for a bloodsucker to read a bedtime story while hanging upside down…’ Edgar muttered again in a voice that was barely audible.

“You’re just full of them tonight, aren’t you?” David cracked.

“Look, I told you. Maybe it’s early for you, but it’s late for us. We’ve been here all day, and we’re tired. Pick your books already,” Alan prompted.

David said nothing, but he casually glanced through the books, peeking between the covers of a few of them.

“Pick this one. It’s got a little bit of everything,” Edgar suggested, indicating a medium sized volume, “And don’t bother with this one. It’s packed with all kinds of werewolf myth origin crap that will bore the shit out of you. This book here is another good pick. The author actually treats the subject matter like its real and not a myth, but he tends to get long winded. And, if you’re looking for something that might protect your bloodsucking buddy, this might be a good choice. It’s not just about werewolves. Sometimes, having a reference right there that compares the similarities and the differences between various entities is a help. This book is kind of like that.”

David selected the three recommended books and favored the Frog brothers with a dry smile.

“See, was that so hard?” he asked.

“Don’t let the door hit you where the wolf should have bit you,” Alan replied caustically.

“Say ‘hi’ to Michelle for me.”

Alan could barely mask his fury. Sam had no idea what that last exchange was about, but at this point, he was too tired and upset to care. His last toot of coke had worn off some time ago, and he was starting to feel dragged.

David’s unsettling gaze fell on Sam one last time. One corner of his lip twitched up in something that could have been a smile. Then, he nodded, turned, and strolled out of the store with a casual air of cool confidence.

^..^

‘Two Frogs down and another to go tomorrow night,’ David thought to himself as he straddled his bike.

He’d shown up at the shop right at closing, knowing that the brothers would still be inside, counting out the till and straightening out the racks of comics before they went to their respective homes. He’d arrived a few minutes too late, and had found no one inside. Then, he had sighted three distant figures making their way down the beach, towards the pier. At the time, he hadn’t known that Sam Emerson was the third member of the expedition, but he knew the Frog brothers forms. He knew the way they walked; Edgar with that cocky gait; and Alan with a more casual shuffle…unless he was agitated. Then, he got stiff as a board.

He was going to have to do something about Shelby’s husband, eventually. That mouth of his really needed to be ripped off of his face. Even worse, he was one of the few mortals that had learned to block most mental maneuverings. Alan Frog was obviously the more suggestible of the two of them, and alone, he was actually rather easy to work with.

Then, there had been Sam Emerson. David had watched as the threesome returned to the shop about an hour and a half later. He hadn’t recognized the younger Emerson brother by sight as much as he had by scent.

Oh, how that kid had changed. Well, he supposed all kids did, with the exception of the Frog brothers, who just simply evolved. David hadn’t spent much time in the company of Sam Emerson twenty years ago; at least not personally. His first real glimpse of the kid had come at Michael’s house the night of their last confrontation. He hadn’t been thinking too much about the boy whose ankle he’d grabbed in the cave after Marko had been staked. Now, of course, he knew it had been Sam’s, but back then, he had been in a blind blood rage, further complicated by the burn that he’d gotten when his arm had gotten dragged into a beam of sunlight.

David had watched as Sam had struggled to wake Michael after Dwayne had kicked him in the face while swinging from the chandelier after they’d all flown in through the fire place. Then, he watched the struggle ensue between this scrappy, puny mortal, and Dwayne. He had to admit, the kid had balls. He’d kept his cool; even more so than Michael had. Quite impressive for a pubescent brat.

His more intimate knowledge of Sam Emerson came from the mind of his older brother, Michael. In Michael’s mind, Sam was the All American Perfect Kid. Despite having something of an inferiority complex to his younger brother, Michael still loved him dearly. Most of the stuff Sam did that annoyed Michael didn’t really annoy him much at all. He just pretended to be annoyed because older brothers were supposed to be. It was clear to David that Michael didn’t want the pack anywhere near his kid brother. Too bad Max had other ideas.

Sam Emerson today was a shell of the boy he’d been. David knew that the loss of a child weighed heavily on his mind, yet other issues had been taking their toll on him long before Leah went missing. Sam still looked young. He was one of those people that would stay young looking until they woke up one day and were suddenly old. His taste in clothing had settled down considerably. He wore a nice Rolex watch, too. The punk had money. After seeing so many mental pictures of young Sam in Michael’s mind wearing such bright, garish clothes, his wardrobe change alone had made him difficult to identify by any other means but scent.

When David scanned his mind, he was rather surprised to find a mental framework that wasn’t unlike Michael’s had been. Maybe they didn’t look too much alike on the surface, but beneath the skin, they had much more in common than the same parents. Apparently, Sam compared himself to his older brother and felt that he came up short. Interesting…

But not. Somewhere beneath that cocaine induced, grief enhanced catatonia was a calculating little puke that had blown his eldest Childes’ thoughts into a scattered array of broken glass. He’d stolen Dwayne’s memories the night he’d lobbed that arrow through his chest and sent him sprawling into that damn stereo. Dwayne’s recollections of the past had more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese, and he was still unable to remember the events that had happened at Michael’s house twenty years ago unless he was tanked on a good dose of Sire’s blood. Soon enough, though, he’d forget again…

The thought made David shake with rage. Grief of no grief, he’d wanted to yank Sam Emerson’s head right off his shoulders and scramble his brains around a bit more than he was currently scrambling them himself. Yet, David had developed plenty of restraint. He could wait. How fortunate the little bastard had come to town. He hadn’t realized the extent of his anger towards the younger of the two Emerson’s until tonight. Up till then, he’d focused his rage primarily on Michael and Star.

For now, David felt content that fate was finally lining things up properly. The Frog brothers had admitted without saying that they felt that werewolves were responsible for Leah’s disappearance. (He’d read that in Alan’s thoughts). He could manipulate that fact, in addition to what else he uncovered in these books, to clear Dwayne of any wrongdoing. He had a lot of reading to do between now and the time he was scheduled to meet with Shelby tomorrow night. Shelby had contacted him earlier that evening and told him of the City Council meeting that had been held the night before, and what had come of it. The bastards were trying to blame Dwayne. Someone had seen him on the beach that night, and David suspected he knew who it was….or at least what it was. Somewhere in town, there was a werewolf with a big, burned mouth.

Though David still wished Dwayne had turned his back and walked away, the thought of the town filling up with more werewolves because Leah Emerson was allowed to roam free was not a cheery thought. Dwayne had done what he had to do, and now it was up to David to protect his Childe.

He had to do so without anyone suspecting that they actually did have the kid.

Eventually, only Sam Emerson would be permitted to know the truth, David decided. Then, he’d take that secret with him to his grave. Maybe he’d toss the kid in with him as an added bonus.

^..^

David returned to the hideout with the books, only to be confronted with a surprise. Sitting in the sunken ballroom were Laddie and Alex. Apparently, those two had just decided to show up unannounced, unless Alex had called Paul on his cell phone and let him know they were coming…

But he doubted it. Paul would have made excuses as to why the two of them should stay away for now. He could be reckless and impulsive, but Paul wasn’t stupid by any stretch.

The kid was using the small parlor table in the room as a surface on which to color some pictures. Dwayne had sacrificed one of his sketch pads to her, and a couple of pencils, too. After a hunt the night before, he’d tossed her a pack of color crayons. Apparently, the girl was a budding artist. She loved to draw horses. For an eight year old, her drawings weren’t half bad.

Paul had taken some of his own money and gone to a 24 hour Wal-Mart. There, he’d bought the kid another sweatshirt, a pair of sweatpants to match, a long sleeved T-shirt, a package of socks, a package of girl’s undergarments, and a pair of shoes. He’d also grabbed up a toothbrush and her own hairbrush. Leave it to Paul to think of something like this…he’d spent a couple of stints in juvenile hall and a period of time in a boys’ group home as a mortal teenager. He knew how important having a few essentials was.

David supposed he should offer to split the cost of the items with him, since Dwayne couldn’t. The $1800 dollars Dwayne had earned over the summer by selling his painting of Thorn on the beach was pretty well spent. So far, though, Paul hadn’t requested any donations from his Sire or from the only pack brother he knew that had a regular income besides himself. He seemed to want to do it out of the goodness of his heart.

It was always Paul and Dwayne taking care of the young ones, he thought. They’d been Laddie’s primary male role models as well, although Star had seen to most of his mothering. David simply had little patience with kids. He’d grown up an only child, and had never spent much time around them. Marko was similarly awkward around kids. He’d been the only son; his only other sibling was a sister who had been two years younger. Marko didn’t remember spending any more time around small children in his life than David had.

Dwayne was a natural big brother, since he’d been the eldest of six other siblings. Often, his mother had left him in charge of their care when she worked. Though Paul had grown up as an only child, he’d spent his childhood wishing for a sibling to talk to. In the group home, he’d found that some of the younger boys there looked up to him. He got to play big brother for real and decided he liked it.

Still, this girl was no Laddie. It was plainly obvious, by her second night in the cave, that she truly was the spawn of Sam Emerson….at least the Sam Emerson David had encountered twenty years ago. She talked too much and she never shut up! Mostly, it was about stupid little girl stuff, but sometimes, David would prick his attention towards her inexhaustible drabble if something about her Daddy came up. Or about Uncle Mike and Aunt Star…

David kept his book stash concealed for the moment. Then, he eyeballed the two unexpected guests sitting on the couch. Alex’s expression was neutral, but Laddie looked pissed. He had obviously gotten finished with throwing a very un-Laddie like fit.

“I see you’ve met our guest. Have you been properly introduced?” David asked the two youngest members of his pack.

“Yeah. Dwayne told me what happened. What the fuck? Why couldn’t someone tell me? I’ve spent countless hours combing the boardwalk looking for her, when you’ve had her all along….” Gabe sputtered. He eyed David head on and didn’t avert his gaze.

“I’m not asking you to agree with my decisions. The day you become head of your own pack, you may understand why things are the way they are. Until then, I expect you to keep your mouth shut,” David chastised.

Alex cleared her throat nervously, and David fastened his intense gaze upon her.

“What is going on, exactly?” she asked.

“Little pitchers have big ears. In about 25 days, they’ll be very big. Now isn’t the time to discuss it,” he told her.

The two on the couch exchanged glances. They had only been told an extremely watered down version of the events surrounding Leah’s discovery due to the rated G audience in the room. Suddenly, the idea of a wild dog attack by an animal that looked sick made sense. Laddie looked sick to his stomach.

“Have you turned her?” he asked.

“How can we? There’s no telling what we’d get,” Marko replied from his beanbag chair.

“Tonight isn’t a night for questions. It’s a night for learning answers. So is tomorrow. I’ll have a better grasp on the situation by then, hopefully. Not a word to anyone, you two…” David warned.

The two mortal (or at least, half mortal) members of the pack left a short time later. Laddie still looked mad, but schooled. David trusted that he wouldn’t spill his guts. There was no other choice. Of course, David realized that this was a sensitive situation for him to confront, but if there was ever a time for Laddie to prove his loyalty to the pack, now was it. The others would then be left to judge how much influence Star really had over him as a youngster.

Star’s name left a bad taste in David’s mouth. She’d gone traitor. Time would provide a way to deal with her mutiny. He only hoped he wouldn’t have a similar axe to grind with Laddie.