Chapter 8: Keeping Secrets
Chapter 8: Keeping Secrets
Shelby Frog stood outside of her government-issue Town and Country, staring at the broad expanse of sea and sky. Each night would be a little longer than the next for another week or so. After the solstice, the days would gradually get longer again. It was the same repetition year after year, of course, and Shelby wondered how long she would actually be able to endure the repetition of time, season after season, for eternity.
Did thoughts like those ever enter into the minds of vampires, or did they just live night to night, not caring about the things that changed in life, and the things that were inevitable. Did they think themselves truly immortal? Was there such a thing? After all, Armageddon was bound to destroy the world one day, be it the will of a higher power, or just nature taking its course. When that day came, Shelby felt mildly comforted knowing that she would be moldering deep beneath the Earth by then. Maybe David and his boys would be sitting in their cave when the time came, forced to stare the end of time face to face.
Did they think about where their souls would go when that day came? Was there a hell?
Sometimes, Shelby didn’t believe that there was. How could any place exist that was worse than what she’d lived through most of her life while a ghoul abused her body? Of following yourself around while you watched someone else live your life? How could anything be worse than waking up next to the man you’d been married to for eight years and realizing you hardly knew him…or more like, he hardly knew you? That you hardly knew yourself anymore?
In her thirty four years, she’d been ghoul free for only the first twelve. For the remaining twenty two years, a demon had plotted out every major decision in her life….for its own purposes. It hadn’t cared that she dreamed of being a veterinarian when she grew up. It hadn’t cared when she lost all of her friends in the seventh grade because she wasn’t nice to them anymore. (Sticking a spider in her best friend Trish’s hair had been the last straw…Trish had been morbidly afraid of arachnids, and the fear demon in Shelby hadn’t cared about her friend’s phobia. In fact, it had fed from it.) Fear demons only cared about one thing, ultimately. They weren’t called fear demons for nothing. Now, Shelby found herself struggling to play it straight to all of her co-workers that still believed she was a ghoul, while keeping her fear and distaste of them buried so they couldn’t taste it. One day, she figured one of them would catch on. After all, her life was so filled with doubt and anxiety right now, it would be a miracle if she could keep it swallowed long enough to make it to her maternity leave.
And now, she was forced into a meeting with David; one of those spectral haunts that always lingered in the darkest shadows of her soul.. David could taste things almost like a fear demon, because he had the ability to touch minds. If he cared to, he would be able to look right into Shelby and read everything like a book. He would know that she and Edgar were at fits and starts. Sometimes, she sensed that her husband mourned the loss of the ‘Shelby he’d known before’. Other times, he was strangely caught up in discovering the ‘New Shelby’, because he was figuring out that she might be someone he liked. Then, there were the times in between; the times when they stared at each other with a hint of recognition, but little more.
Edgar didn’t completely trust her yet, even though he was relatively certain that the demon was gone. Try forcing trust on a man who’d spent eight years in marriage being dominated by a ghoul he hadn’t even known was present. He detested the dark elements in life, and it sickened him to think that he’d actually been married to one…Had loved one, blindly! Yet, he had developed something that he might have lacked in his younger days. Now, he had compassion for those left in the aftermath. One didn’t just go into a house and slay vampires, or rid a woman of an evil presence in her body without there being victims; people whose lives had been torn apart by the horror before it was vanquished. Edgar’s love allowed him enough compassion to see that the demon had been wearing his wife’s face, but the person inside now didn’t deserve the wrath for the consequences wreaked by the ghoul. He was giving Shelby the best chance that he could. She was grateful to him for it. Despite their occasional awkward silences and questioning looks, they were discovering that they still had common ground. It was a start.
Maybe they’d get through this. After all, it wasn’t like they could go to a marriage counselor and discuss their troubles truthfully. Now, the biggest question that remained was the one growing in her stomach. One day, Edgar would probably come right out and ask her if there was any possibility that the child wasn’t his. She knew she couldn’t lie to him if he did. He deserved to know the truth, no matter how painful it was. Shelby just couldn’t bring herself to tell him on her own.
Most likely because it was best to deny the whole thing for as long as she could. Keeping neutral about it might prevent a certain vampire from thinking he had any reason to snoop around in her personal life.
A stiff wind kicked up, blowing last night’s storm system away before it had a chance to bring much rain. Now, the air was crisp and damp with the sea. Shelby’s fingers were starting to get very cold, but she didn’t feel like waiting inside the car. Her thoughts couldn’t stifle her outside. It was easier to get a handle on herself and focus on mundane things like the breeze, how cold it was, how loud the sea sounded from the bluff…
“You really shouldn’t stand so close to the cliff. The ground’s unstable, you know…”
The voice was David’s. Strangely, he sounded no different on the phone than he did in person. She could always hear his voice, so clearly…even in her dreams.
“I’m not planning on falling off unless you’re planning on pushing me over,” Shelby replied. She kept her back turned to him.
“Why would I do a thing like that?” David asked.
“To get a thrill. Who knows? What do you guys do for fun when you know you’re going to live forever?”
She finally turned to face him and regarded him quietly.
“Well, I’ll tell you one thing we don’t do. We don’t kidnap little girls.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Things are not looking good for Dwayne, though. I told you, the Commish wants to fry him. The Coast Guard found some remains this afternoon, but they’re not those of a child. They’re fairly convinced that they belong to that Greek tourist who went missing last month. The Commish has ordered a detailed autopsy to be performed on her, so if you or one of your boys nailed Eleni Vardalos, you’d better say so now….”
“What’s a missing Greek tourist got to do with a kid?” David asked.
“I told you. Martinez and the Commissioner want you guys out of here. If an autopsy can substantiate that the victim died as a result of one of you boys defying my Uncle’s edict, then things could get much uglier. The more fuel he gets to add to the fire, the happier he’ll be.”
“Tell your damn Commish that I don’t like Mediterranean food. Too spicy,” David quipped.
“I didn’t mean you specifically, David. Frankly, I doubt any autopsy would prove which one of you did the deed if you did. At this point, I’m not even sure a cause of death can be determined…unless they’re able to tell from a bunch of sodden bones that a person was drained of all their blood before they were dumped into the sea,” Shelby stated.
“Why don’t the boys in blue look for some nice gnaw marks on the bones? The sort a dog with a real Cujo complex would leave?”
“I would if it was typical for werewolves to dump their leftovers in Davy Jones’ locker. But, that’s not their way.”
“Just what do werewolves do with the leftovers? Give the bones to their pups to chew?”
“No. Think about it, David. You give a dog a bone, and what does it do?”
David smiled at her. Nice logic.
“So, what am I supposed to do about my Childe? He didn’t hurt anyone that night. Has anyone checked the area out really good, and combed it the way it ought to be combed? Someone like your husband, maybe?”
“We both know he went down there last night. I understand he saw some incriminating evidence, too. Before the Commish finds out through some round about way, I would like to go down there myself tonight and photograph the area. That way, there’s a record of the crime scene before he can order his men in there to clean it up.”
“I’m surprised he hasn’t already,” David remarked.
Shelby opened her car door and retrieved two cameras. One was a standard 35 mm with a flash. The other was a digital camera.
“Do you know much about photography?” she asked.
“Only about enough to know that no matter how nicely I comb my hair, I still won’t show up on that 35mm of yours…”
“Then, you take this. All you have to do is point and shoot.”
Shelby tossed him the digital and strapped the other camera around her shoulder. Then, she glanced at David with a slight look or apprehension.
“I can’t risk parking my car on the wharf. People will recognize me….”
“You’re not afraid of a little air anymore, huh?”
“I never was.”
The idea of allowing David to touch her after what she remembered repulsed her, yet it sent an odd shiver down her spine, too. Shelby bit her lip to keep from betraying any emotion, even though she knew damn good and well that David could reach into her thoughts any time he wished.
She was wearing a long, dark, brown leather coat, which concealed her condition quite well, even if it sucked at keeping out the cold. David gave her a slight, challenging smile as he slipped the digital camera into his jacket pocket. Then, he pulled her to him and swept her up into the winds.
It was easy to be fearless of heights when all one could see below was a swiftly moving blur. David’s flight seemed completely unhampered by carrying her extra weight, and she fervently hoped that he didn’t notice the extra 13 pounds her pregnancy had caused her to gain so far. She hardly felt their landing.
Shelby couldn’t say it had been unpleasant to be in the vampire’s embrace; sailing through the air, yet she stumbled away from him quickly as soon as they touched down on solid ground. Then, she looked around carefully, making certain that no one was on the beach. Cars could be heard on the pier overhead as it was not terribly late. They would have to be quiet and quick. She pulled a flashlight from her deep coat pocket and stepped under the pier’s framework. David followed behind, keeping a very leisurely pace. Shelby could sense his presence more than she could hear his footsteps. Was this vampire stealth? The nameless lump in her stomach began its restless flops and kicks, signaling that it was awake for the time being.
Suddenly, David made a beeline for the section of the pier up higher above the shoreline. His pace wasn’t so leisurely anymore.
“Do you smell it?” he asked at the same time she was nearly overcome by a powerful stench.
Shelby put her hand over her mouth to keep from retching. She was rarely morning sick anymore, but strong smells could still set her off.
“That’s a werewolf’s markings. You look like your going to hurl. Can you stomach this?”
She nodded, her hand still clamped over her mouth. It wouldn’t be a good thing to contaminate the scene with vomit. He turned and continued onwards, until he reached a large boulder deep beneath the pier. Then, he turned back to Shelby.
“Now’s the time for pictures,” he told her, pointing at the rock.
The smell permeating the area was still strong, but slowly, Shelby was becoming accustomed to it. She pulled out her camera and started taking pictures, trying not to think about what she was seeing. It was disturbing, in more ways than one. Perhaps fear demons did have some desire for human blood; a desire that stained Shelby’s mortal shell. Or, perhaps something else was suddenly making her stomach spasm with nausea tinged hunger pangs. Something that she’d best not think about at the moment.
“How many do we need?” David asked, casually snapping off a few more pictures with the digital she’d loaned him.
“We’re done,” she whispered.
She couldn’t take one more minute beneath that pier.
Five minutes later, Shelby was safely on the beach, threatening to hurl up the
remnants of the annual Children’s Charity Christmas Luncheon she’d enjoyed hours earlier. Her mouth had suddenly gotten dry, and then too wet; and she spat a couple of times and gagged. A cold sweat broke out on her forehead as she fought down her gorge. David stood nearby but upwind, keeping a wary lookout while fiddling with the digital camera. When the sick spell finally passed, she stood upright and took a deep gulp of the night air. Her knees were still weak, and her mouth was suddenly dry again. Somewhere in her purse was a roll of mints, but her purse was locked in her car.
“Most mortals can’t smell the markings so strongly. They might catch a whiff or two, but only a dog owner might know that the smell was vaguely canine,” David told her, “Maybe you’re still attuned with stuff like that because of that demon…”
“I know I am. My doctor says that my vision is better than 20/20. I never knew it could be better than that,” she responded shakily.
“I want copies of the pictures you took. Just in case the dogs in the Hall try any funny stuff. Can’t have them tampering with our evidence, now can we?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem. Edgar knows someone who will develop them and keep his mouth shut.”
She finally had enough presence of mind to put the lens cap on her camera and pack it back into its carry case that she still wore slung around her shoulder. Then, she slipped the flashlight back into her coat pocket.
“This camera is neat. I want one,” David decided verbally.
“Now you know what to ask Santa for, then.”
He actually laughed a little at her sarcasm before lifting her into the air again. Shelby’s stomach turned and flopped in protest, but the further from the pier they got, the less intense her distress was. She felt another odd hunger pang squeeze her insides, which the baby must have felt. The pangs were answered by a few good baby thumps. Tonight, her stomach just seemed to have a life all of its own. As if it was possessed by some demon…or other unworldly sort of being.
Once again, the descent was gentle, and Shelby was deposited neatly by her car. Her mouth suddenly watered for one of those mints in her purse again. Good, a nice, normal craving…
“You could have just given me the cameras and told me what you needed. There was no reason to subject yourself to that,” David told her. The normally smooth tones of his voice bordered on sounding as though he was lecturing her.
“I had to know for myself. You say its werewolf, and now, I believe you without a doubt, which confirms my suspicions that the Commissioner is covering something up. They all are.”
“So are you.”
Shelby knew his accusation had nothing to do with the investigation.
“I’m not covering anything up. My biological functions shouldn’t concern you,” she replied curtly.
“Are you sure?” David asked.
“The baby is Edgar’s. Don’t get any funny ideas.”
In a sense, she genuinely meant it. Legally, the child would be his, regardless of paternity, unless he contested it.
David said nothing, but he moved closer to her to hand her the digital camera. She should have known better than to trust him. No sooner had she pocketed the small camera, David reached out with a gloved hand and gave her a very gentle shove against the side of the car.
“What have I told you before, Shelby? You can’t hide things from me, so why bother trying?”
“You don’t know anything more than I do, which is nothing.”
“We’ll see about that, David replied.
Once again, he reached out at her. This time, he took hold of one of her cold hands. Even though he was wearing his black, leather gloves, Shelby felt a surge of electricity at his touch. Though she wanted to, she realized it was useless to try and pull away. His arctic stare was fastened on her face; she didn’t see the slightest hint of a shift come over him. Yet when he placed her index finger between his lips, she knew what he was about to do even before one of his fangs pierced her skin. He used only enough force to break the skin and nothing more. At once, her heart began to flutter oddly, and her pulse throbbed in her ears. It was almost as though her body was subconsciously willing all of her blood out of that one tiny puncture for him to taste. Her back fell limp against the side of the car; her feet barely managed to support her weight. All the while he gently sucked at her finger; David never broke eye contact with her.
Finally, he released his hold on her finger, making her fingertip trace a delicate trail on his bottom lip before he relinquished her hand. A faint trace of red was left behind, which he purposely let her see him lick away with the tip of his tongue. Not surprisingly, it was impossible to tell that he’d pierced her finger by looking at it. The puncture mark was healed. But she still felt a sting of pain where he’d left his mark.
David smiled at her; a very faint smile that betrayed absolutely nothing.
“I know something you don’t, now.” His tone was almost taunting.
Shelby’s face flamed.
“It’s not a joke. Don’t play games with me. I’m tired of being played with!” she cried.
“No one’s playing games here. I’m not toying with you. I’m telling you the truth. And, of course, if it is mine, you’re absolutely right. There’s not much I can do about it, now is there?”
“If it’s yours…but you said you know something I don’t. Am I to take it that you know the paternity of this child simply by tasting my blood?”
“If I Sire anyone; either a Childe or a child, I’d know it. The blood tells many secrets,” he replied.
“Only if you were drinking the baby’s blood, which is simply disgusting…”
“Your baby communicates with your blood. It lives off of it like a vampire. An umbilical cord is nothing but a blunt fang connecting it to you. It feeds and grows…its how we all start out. Ironic, isn’t it? We spend the first nine months of our lives in a vampiric existence…yet are born mortal….”
She didn’t want to consider it. The thought that she’d been like a vampire while in the womb didn’t set well with her since she had spent a better part of the next thirty four years of her life as a ghoul. Suddenly, she felt very tired.
“Go on home, Shelby. Grow your little mortal,” he urged her. He could sense her exhaustion, and perhaps, for the first time, he even had some compassion for it.
“The pictures. Where do you want them?”
“Stick them in an envelope and tape them behind my license plate like you did with those documents. Pretty clever.”
“Right,” she replied.
“I may need to meet with your again before long. You see, it’s very important to me that Dwayne is cleared.. I won’t let him be banished. So, I’ll be relying on you to be my eyes and ears.”
“Yes, David, I understand. Just keep in mind that you’re not the only one raising a family here.
David didn’t look too sympathetic at that remark. Instead, he unbuttoned her coat and pulled it open, searching for the swell that indicated pregnancy. It wasn’t easy to see beneath her carefully chosen suit, but when he located it, he placed both of his hands on her stomach, one on each side. Instantly, Shelby felt a rolling jab inside. David smiled another one of his twisted, sardonic smirks that was his trademark. Of course, he’d felt it too.
“Go home now,” he told her. All traces of humor were gone from his face. Suddenly, Shelby saw a strange light come into his eyes. They took on a shine that was much more feral than usual, and she understood. She had been hungry earlier that night, but now it was his turn.
Without a word, she climbed into her car. David didn’t try to stop her. In fact, as soon as her engine caught, he was gone. He left without telling her what he knew.
Did she want to know?