After his dissappearance years ago, Allison finally learns the truth about what happened to her brother, Paul, when she takes a part time job as a clerk at Frog's Comic Book Shop. A year after his death, a fateful twist and an unexpected encounter changes her life and the lives of the Frog Brothers forever.
Categories: Lost Boys
Alan Frog, David, Edgar Frog, Frog Parents, Michael Emerson, OC: Female, Paul, Sam Emerson
Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Supernatural, SuspensePairing(s):
Adult Themes, Blood play, Drug Use, Mild Violence, Other potentially disturbing content
29 Oct 2008 Updated:
31 Dec 2008
1. Chapter 1- Hired Frog by GarlicTShirt
2. Chapter 2- Twice Missing by GarlicTShirt
3. Chapter 3- Minding Shop by GarlicTShirt
4. Chapter 4- Truth, Justice and the American Way by GarlicTShirt
5. Chapter 5- To the Shock of Miss Louise by GarlicTShirt
6. Chapter 6- Night Gallery by GarlicTShirt
7. Chapter 7- The Cask of Max by GarlicTShirt
8. Chapter 8- A Friend In Need by GarlicTShirt
9. Chapter 9- A Frog's Education by GarlicTShirt
10. Chapter 10- Lost in the Shadows by GarlicTShirt
11. Chapter 11- Blood Brother, Pack Brother by GarlicTShirt
12. Chapter 12- Anywhere But Here by GarlicTShirt
13. Chapter 13- Beyond the Boardwalk by GarlicTShirt
14. Chapter 14- The Phoenix by GarlicTShirt
15. Chapter 15- Band of Brothers by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 1- Hired Frog by GarlicTShirt
I never used to be a big believer in Karma. Usually, I just went along with the flow of things. Life was just one joint after another. My older brother supplied them and I smoked them down right along with him. It was how we kept our peace in the turbulent life we led. Our mom and our step dad fought all the time, leaving us to pretty much fend for ourselves, which we did quite well. Things were actually better when the house was noisy and angst ridden…
All that changed when my mom found God. Then, came the weekly ‘Come To Jesus’ meetings. My step father couldn’t hack it for very long. He was the first to go. My older brother, Paul, kept getting into trouble. My mother eventually decided to ‘wash Satan out of the house’ and kicked him to the curb. That left me. I was looking for my own excuse to hit the road and found it the day I turned 18 a year and a half later.
I decided to try to hook up with both my old man and my brother, neither of whom I had heard from since they’d left. My father, as it turned out, had already shacked up with another woman and was helping to raise her two kids. Bully for him. He didn’t look too pleased to see me on the doorstep. He told me he hadn’t heard a single word from Paul, and suggested that I check the county jail!
I was loathe to do this, but knowing my brother’s taste for trouble, I did as he suggested, and checked the hospitals too. No luck. I brought some pictures from home and made them into posters to tack up. Soon, I learned that his picture was competing for space with a ton of others, too. After awhile, I felt defeated. Then, other matters began to take up the majority of my time. I needed to work on getting a job and finding a permanent place to stay. Crashing on friend’s couches was not a long term solution.
The video store on the pier had taken down the ‘Help Wanted sign. A middle aged woman worked there now. There was a new vacancy with boardwalk security, but they wanted someone with experience. Day workers were needed for beach cleanup. But workers had to report daily at 6 a.m. It was already past noon. I sighed and was about to give up when one other ad posted on the bulletin board caught my eye: Part Time Clerk Needed at Frog’s Comics. Apply Within.
The store inside was dimly lit, and smelled like mold, old wood polish, and newsprint. Racks of comics were bolted to the walls and to the floors, displaying comics of every genre imaginable. There were some candy displays near the cash register, and an old, black and white television set with rabbit ears playing some horror movie from a time long ago in the back ground. A zonked out hippie couple leaned against the wall. They appeared to be watching the show, but then again, they could have been watching the movie playing on the insides of their eyelids. I approached them with some hesitation. If they wanted to sleep all day, no wonder they needed a clerk.
“Excuse me, I’m here about..”
“The diet frozen yogurt bar went out of business last summer!”
The voice belonged to a young man with a gruff tone who stepped out from behind a rack. I didn’t see him there moments ago.
“Uh, diet frozen yogurt bar? No, actually, I came here about the job on the bulletin board,” I said.
“Oh, that job. Those two wouldn’t know anything about it. They don’t know anything about anything. If you want the job, fill this out.”
The boy gave me a piece of paper on a clip board. It was an application, but it was the strangest one I’d ever seen. For one, it looked to be hand made. He directed me to a chair and handed me a pencil so I could begin filling it out.
Question :1 Name- Allison Calvert
Question :2- Date of Birth (for real) 10/8/69
Question :3- Do you believe in vampires?
I looked around the comic book shop. At once, I noticed all kinds of different comics, but the ones that were displayed most prominently were the horror comics. With an inward shrug, I wrote:
I guess so.
Question 4: Do you believe in werewolves, ghouls, fairies, demons, witches, ghosts and other supernatural entities?
I guess so.
Question 5: Do you have any experience dealing with any of the above?
Do Religious Fanatics count?
Question 6: What would you do if you were in a dark alley and you were confronted by a supernatural entity?
Question 7: Do you know the proper method to kill a vampire?
A wooden stake through the heart, right?
Question 8: What is Superman’s alter ego?
Question 9: What is Spider Man’s alter ego?
Question 10: Do you think it’s odd that so many people are missing in Santa Carla, and there’s no logical explanation for it?
For this, I put the pencil down for a moment. Then, finally, I wrote,
The first boy introduced himself as Edgar Frog as soon as he reviewed my application. He handed it to another boy, whom he introduced as his brother, Alan Frog. After they took some time conferring together, making important sounding ‘hmmming and hawwwing’ noises, they pulled up some chairs beside me.
“Let me discuss our operation,” Edgar opened, clearing his throat to make sure it sounded good and deep, “You may think that we run a comic book shop for our parents, but this is just a cover.”
“Yah,” Alan conceded.
“But the truth is, we’re fighters for a higher cause,” Edgar continued.
“We’re dedicated to Truth, Justice and the American Way,” Alan finished.
“Okay, how so?” I asked.
“This town is a portal for the supernatural and a haven for the undead,” Edgar explained.
I gazed at him, unblinking.
“We’re totally serious, man,” Alan added.
“Some of the highest officials in town are wolves in sheep’s clothing…and I don’t just mean any old wolf. I mean WEREwolf. We’ve got ghouls teaching schools. Vampires sleeping during the day, werewolves hunting prey, ghosts rattling chains, zombies eating brains…,” Edgar prattled.
“Zombies..??” I asked in disbelief.
“Okay, well, we’ve had no official zombie reports…YET!” Alan stated.
“This is nuts!” I cried.
“Well, if we hire you, you have to take it seriously. Totally seriously,” Edgar said.
I bit my lip. I really needed a job. Bad.
“Okay, well, I really do think it’s weird how people are disappearing without a trace…and no explanation. And, the police really don’t give a crap. But, honestly, I haven’t seen any proof of the supernatural. To be honest, I’ve never even seen any proof of the Holy Ghost my mom keeps ranting about…not to be sacrilegious or anything,” I blathered.
“Good enough for now. Trust me, you will believe. Mark my words. So, come back tomorrow morning. We open at 9 am sharp.”
“So, what about your parents?” I asked, wondering why it was that they weren’t the ones doing the hiring.
“We run the show around here,” Alan said ominously, “You’ll figure that one out too, soon enough.
I glanced at the Frog Brother’s parents. They were still behind the counter, in the exact same positions they’d been in when I’d first entered the store. I could have shoved 50 comic books up my shirt, and they would have never noticed a thing.
Chapter 2- Twice Missing by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 2- Twice Missing
Right away, I began to sort out the customers that came into the comic book shop. By day three, I had them pegged into tidy categories. By far, the ‘Geek Collectors’ outnumbered anyone else. They were the regulars, and the Frog Brothers knew them by name, and knew what comics they came for. If they didn’t have what they wanted in stock that particular day, usually they could tell them when to check back. Next came the tourists. Though comics were the trade of the shop, to attract the tourists, nearly every shop on the boardwalk sold cheap trinkets and souvenirs. Frog’s Comics was no exception. ‘Santa Carla’ T shirts, post cards, shot glasses and pens were stocked in a corner to attract the tourists’ attention. Hopefully, they’d grab a comic on the way out.
The Surf Nazi’s were the next classification of customers, although I would hardly call them customers. They liked to get their merchandise on the five finger discount, and they besieged every damn shop on the boardwalk like a tattooed, mohawked plague. Even the rent- a- cops were afraid of them. Usually, when the Surf Nazi’s showed up, the real police got called. Except with the Frog Brothers. They never called the cops. On day two of my shift, they instructed me on how to deal with any shoplifting Surf Nazi I might encounter.
“Just take this slingshot and fire. What ever you do, don’t miss,” Edgar told me.
“Or, take this pepper spray, and squirt it right in their eyes. Be sure to put these goggles on first,” Alan instructed.
They armed me with my weapons, but neither of them told me what to do once my shift was over. Any dipshit with half a brain knew that the Surf Nazi’s lived for revenge.
The last group that frequented the store was bored teenagers. Since Santa Carla was such a colorful, busy town, there weren’t many ‘bored’ teenagers. Broke, down on their luck, homeless teenagers, yes. But those kids often didn’t have the money to come browsing at Frog’s Comics. The ‘bored’ sort were usually the rich kids with too much time on their hands, and too many tan lines on their bodies. Most of them spent their lazy afternoons catching rays at the beach, getting even more tan lines on their bored bodies until they looked like teenaged Triscuits. But every once in awhile, a stray teen with nothing better to do would wander in. Today was one such day. After a dusty afternoon spent checking in the latest inventory back in the stock room, I found the Frog Brothers both engaged in conversation with the only customer presently in the shop.
“You can’t put a Superman #77 with the 200’s. They haven’t even discovered red Kryptonite yet. And you can’t put the #98 with the 300’s. Lori Lemaris hasn’t even been introduced!” he exclaimed.
“Where the hell are you from?” Edgar jeered, “Krypton?”
“Phoenix, actually. But lucky me,” the boy returned with a gesture, “We’ve moved here.”
I stood back and studied the exchange with some amusement. The teen was wearing a long, linen duster jacket that looked like it was made from his mother’s curtains. Beneath it, he wore such a bright shirt; I thought I’d go blind if I stared at it too long. It was quite obvious, without him even saying so, that he wasn’t from around here.
Edgar grabbed a comic from a nearby rack and waved it under the boy’s nose.
“Read this, Mr. Phoenix. It could save your life.”
I wasn’t able to read the title from where I stood, but I could see the picture. On the front cover was a vampire with a human victim bent backwards. The vampire was ready to sink his fangs into the helpless woman’s neck.
“I don’t like horror comics,” the boy said, pushing the book away.
“You’ll like this. Consider it a survival manual. It could save your life. Our number is on the back. Pray you never need to call us.”
“I’ll pray I never need to call you,” the boy repeated sarcastically.
The customer left shortly afterwards with the unwanted comic tucked beneath his arm.
“What was that all about?” I asked.
“Very important business, that’s what,” Alan answered with a nod.
“Yeah. In fact, it’s time you did some reading of your own. Call it research,” Edgar said. He plucked a couple of comics off the shelf. One of them was a copy of the same one he’d given the customer that had just left. Now that I could see it up close, I could read the title. It was called ‘Vampires Everywhere’.
The Frog Brothers had allotted me a tiny studio apartment up above their shop. I highly doubted their parents sanctioned the deal. But, then again, I’ll bet their parents were too stoned to give a shit one way or another. There was nothing in the way of any real cooking facilities. I had a microwave oven and a small sink. There was a tiny bathroom with a shower stall and a toilet. I had to brush my teeth at the same sink I washed my dishes in. My living quarters and bed quarters were an all in one deal. A corrugated folding door separated my ‘apartment’ from extra attic storage space for the shop. But, it was a place to stay. Half my salary paid for it, but at least my utilities were included in the bill.
The brothers had done much to clean up the place so that I could move in, but there was still quite a bit of their rubbish lying about. Most of it was pretty odd stuff. Now that I knew them a little better (or thought I did at least), I could tell what it was. They had used this place as a storage area for vampire killing equipment. Or, they’d used it as a place to make their weapons. I had no idea where they’d moved their business to now that I’d taken tenancy of their workshop; but frankly, I was in no hurry to ask. In my humble opinion, these two needed a new hobby. But, since I badly needed a job and a place to stay, I was in no position to say so.
The comics they gave me to read were just plain stupid. Firstly, in all the myths I’d read before, I’d heard it took three bites from a vampire to turn a mortal into one. (That is, if one even wanted to go as far as to say there WAS such a thing as vampires in the first place). These comics were riddled with bullshit. HALF vampires? Hell hounds?
I tried to read the crap printed on the cheesy newsprint with a straight face. California really was the land of the fruits and the nuts. My stepfather (and the only father my brother and I ever really new since our biological sperm donor was in jail) was native to Ohio. He was rather fond of that particular saying. Two of California’s biggest nuts worked right here in this comic book shop. The eldest was maybe a junior in high school…yet they were my bosses!
After I nearly broke the antique ‘Laughing Sal’ display while practicing slinging marbles at potential shoplifting Surf Nazi’s (and breaking it would have been no particular sadness to me, because Laughing Sal was a noisy, pain in the ass that badly needed to be silenced….antique or not!), Alan took me out to the alley behind the shop to practice where I wouldn’t cause any harm to paying customers or merchandise.
“Don’t watch your hand. Keep your eye on the target,” he instructed.
I gave it a few more tries, but found that if I didn’t watch my hand, I couldn’t load the damn thing. Slingshots weren’t exactly my area of expertise.
“Here. Try this. A shoplifter comes into the store, and you notice what they’re up to. You don’t want them to know you have a loaded weapon. So, keep your hands concealed behind the counter. You can watch what you’re doing when you load it. Then, raise your hand and let it fly at the last second. Like this,” Alan explained as he let a shot rip.
The next shot I tried was much better, even if it was off target by several inches.
“Well, that might scare them off. But, you want to hit them. Seriously. Here’s why. I know you think we’re nuts, but the Surf Nazi’s are crazier. They pack heat and carry knives and stuff. If they know you mean business, they’ll leave you alone. All of the shop owners around here have little ways of dealing with them. Trust me. The police around here don’t do squat,” he explained.
Once he told me that, he seemed a little saner and a little more mature than I ever gave him credit for. Every shot I fired after his pep talk hit the targets he pointed out.
I earned a break once Alan decided I was a proficient with a sling shot. We ordered sodas at a small snack bar near the comic book shop and sat down at the pavilion seating outdoors. The sun had burned the fog away, and the crowds flocked to the sparkling ocean down at the beach. All together, it was a pleasant day if one could ignore the missing posters tacked to the bulletin boards and taped to the walls of just about every available surface. I sure couldn’t ignore them. My brother’s picture fluttered among the many.
“Hey, there’s a new one. That’s the security guard that works the night shift. He was a real jerk,” Alan commented, squinting at a name below a black and white picture of a beefy man. ‘Vernon Beasley’.
“Went missing a couple of nights ago,” I said, shaking my head. Then, I did a double take. My brother’s picture should have been up there. I had put it up there just a couple of days ago.
Now it was gone.
I lunged from my seat and ran over to the bulletin board, hoping that someone had just jostled it over or covered it. Alan joined me with a puzzled look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“My brother’s poster. It’s gone!” I cried.
“Maybe it fell off. Is this the only board you put it on?”
I shook my head.
“No. I Xeroxed about 10 copies and put them all over Santa Carla. There’s at least four around here, though.”
“Let’s go find them. I’m sure it just fell off,” Alan said.
He was just as surprised as I was to find that the three I had posted on the boardwalk and the two I’d placed on the boards on the wharf were gone. They were just as gone as Paul was.
I was almost in tears when Alan and I returned to the comic book shop.
“What took you two so long? I was about to call out the National Guard!” Edgar sneered crossly.
“Family issues. Someone’s stealing missing posters,” Alan exclaimed. His voice was excited, like he was Freddy presenting a new case for Scooby and the Gang to solve.
I leaned back against the counter while Alan filled Edgar in on all of the gory details. When he was finished, Edgar only grunted a response.
“Yeah, maybe someone is stealing missing posters,” he said in an ominous tone, “Or...maybe someone just doesn’t want to be found.”
Chapter 3- Minding Shop by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 3- Minding Shop
After a thorough search, I found that only two of my brother’s posters still remained tacked up where I’d put them. The one at Day’s Market, a store several blocks away from the boardwalk, still remained pinned to the bulletin board just outside the door. Several more blocks away, my brother’s face was among many others posted at the bulletin board at the AM/PM Mini Mart. I still had the original, and planned to Xerox a bunch more and pin them up again as soon as the Frog brothers paid me again.
“Did it ever occur to you that your brother is the one taking down the posters?” Edgar asked on the afternoon I planned to make the copies.
“Why would he do that?” I questioned with a sour tone to my voice.
“Like I said before, maybe he doesn’t want to be found.”
“Well, I could understand it if my mother’s contact information was on the poster. He’d have nothing to say to her. But, it’s not. My brother and I were on good terms the last time we spoke. I can’t imagine why he’d ignore me,” I replied.
Edgar only grunted and made a pass at a shelf with a dust rag in his hand.
“I think he’s implying that he thinks your brother is a vampire. He seems to think mine is.”
I wheeled around to see the customer from a few days ago standing behind me. He was no longer wearing the jacket that looked like open weave drapes, but he was wearing another shirt that could attract crows in droves.
“That’s because your brother IS a vampire. He has all the classic symptoms. You diagnosed him yourself, might I remind you,” Edgar replied stonily.
I raised my eyebrow. The boy looked uncomfortable.
“I didn’t diagnose him. You did. I just told you how he was behaving….”
“Bad breath, long fingernails, sunlight freaks him out…levitates…what more could you want? He’s a bloodsucker!” Edgar argued.
“HALF!” the boy insisted.
“Did you say levitate?” I interrupted.
Edgar smiled in satisfaction. The boy turned to face me with a look of confusion mixed with defeat on his face.
“I’m really not sure what’s going on either. My brother started ogling this chick who was hanging out with a gang of biker guys. The next thing I know, he’s hanging out with all of them and he starts acting really weird. Now, Edgar and his brother are telling me they’re vampires and he is too. I’m not sure what to think. So, he’s trying to convince you that your brother is a bloodsucker, too?”
I smiled at him wearily.
“No, not exactly. My brother got kicked out of the house a couple of years ago. I haven’t had any contact with him since. When I left home a little while ago, I started looking for him, but I haven’t had much luck. I put some posters up, but someone’s been taking them down. Edgar has his own theory about it,” I explained, shifting a look towards him.
Edgar said nothing. His expression remained as grim as always.
“I’m Allison, by the way. The Frogs hired me a little over a week ago.”
“Sam. Sam Emerson. We moved here from Phoenix about that long ago,” he returned.
I pulled the folded up master poster out of my back pocket and showed it to Sam.
“I know it’s a long shot since you haven’t lived here long, but you haven’t seen him, have you? This is my brother, Paul. The picture is about two years old, though. He could look a little different now.”
Sam studied it carefully. He seemed to puzzle over it for a bit but he finally shook his head.
“No, I don’t think I have. But if I do see him, I’ll tell you right away,” he said thoughtfully.
I smiled at him and returned the picture to my pocket. I could tell Sam was sincere, but it was a response I’d heard all too many times before.
Sam seemed a bit agitated, like he needed to talk to the Frog brothers about something important, but he waited for Alan to finish up with the customer he was serving so he could join us. Then, he pulled one of the comics the brothers had bestowed upon him out of his back pocket and opened it up to a page that was illustrated with a huge dog with gore dripping from his fangs. The words ‘Hounds of Hell’ was splashed across the page in thriller script.
“You said that if my brother is to be returned to normal, we have to kill the head vampire. Well, I think I know who it is. I think my mom is dating him!” Sam blurted.
I only knew what a ‘head vampire’ was from the readings that had been assigned to me by Edgar. It took all the control in the world I had not to burst out laughing right there. These guys really had this kid hooked.
Sam went on to explain how his mother had gone on a botched date with the owner of the video store, and then had stopped by his home earlier today with a bottle of wine for an apology. His dog had been guarding his front door and had charged her, nearly ripping her in two. Fortunately, she had escaped with only a ripped hem, but the dog had nearly torn down the fence she’d jumped over to get to her. He then ticked off a bunch of points to try and neatly tie in how the owner of the video store could be remotely associated with the strange happenings with his brother. I could only roll my eyes.
“We’ll check out Max,” Edgar said.
“What’s so strange about having a guard dog?” I asked.
Neither of the Frog brothers answered me.
I had briefly met the owner of Video Max. He passed out suckers to people that turned in their rentals on time. A tall, geeky guy with round glasses, checkered suits, loud ties, and shoulder pads, there was no damn way he could be anything but a middle aged nerd. But then again, if he could actually get a date, I supposed anything was possible. Maybe Sam’s mother was dating him for that bitchen Corvette he drove around town in. I had to admit, it was one souped up ride.
I left for a couple of hours to go make my copies and hang them around town. When I returned, Edgar and Alan were getting ready for dinner. Not at their own house, though.
“We need you to mind the shop this evening,” Edgar said, pulling a back pack off of the stock room shelf.
So, this was where they’d moved their workshop. Right into the back stock room. Wooden stakes, mallets, crucifixes and all kinds of other vampire extinguishing paraphernalia imaginable was jumbled in messy piles everywhere. The room reeked of garlic, and it was easy to see why. At least three plastic milk crates were stacked in the corner of the stuffy room, piled full of fresh garlic cloves. It was a small wonder the entire comic book shop didn’t smell like an Italian restaurant.
This section of the stock room was sealed off with a curtain hung on a string, so I had never seen what was behind it before.
“We close up shop at ten. If we’re not back by then, just lock the doors and roll the wooden doors together. We’ll come in through the back,” Alan instructed, “But we should be back before then.”
I nodded mutely as I watched Edgar place a folding mirror and a vial of water into the back pack.
“Holy water,” he grunted to me.
“Oh, yeah. Right,” I replied, unsure of what else to say.
A short time later, the brothers left, and I was on my own.
For the majority of the evening, I had no one but an occasional customer, Laughing Sal, and the ‘wakka wakka wakka’ of the Ms. Pac-Man game in the corner to keep me company. I had no idea where Mr. and Mrs. Frog were. La-La land, most likely. Watching the minutes tick by on the clock only bored me stiff. Reading the various comics was only slightly more entertaining. The reception on the black and white TV was total crap, and after a few minutes, I decided it was a waste of my energy to try to adjust the rabbit ears any more, so I gave up. No wonder the Frog brothers had such fertile imaginations. There simply was nothing better going on in their wasted, young lives. With a yawn, I pulled out an emory board and began scratching down my scraggly fingernails. Perhaps some of the brothers’ paranoia was working its way off on me, but lately, I found myself paying far more attention to the state of my fingernails than I ever used to. I also found that punching buttons on an antiquidated cash register broke them faster than anything else I ever thought possible.
The bell above the door jingled just as I finished with the pinky nail on my first hand. I looked up, and immediately, my pulse sped up. I knew those Mohawks, Skin heads, muscle shirts and tattoos anywhere. Surf Nazi’s! My gum nearly slid down my throat, and my throat almost constricted around it, but a quick chomp saved me from needing one of those bozo’s to Heimlich me. I’m sure they would have just let me choke anyways.
Their eyes roved around the store, and I could tell they were searching for the brothers. This gave me a moment to slip my emory board below the counter and make a grab for my sling shot and whatever amount of marbles I could quietly get my groping hand around. There were three of them in the store, but I could hear voices outside, and I knew that they rarely traveled in groups this small.
Finally, the one in the lead approached the counter. He wasn’t the one I was used to seeing leading the group, but I wasn’t well acquainted with the Surf Nazi’s. In fact I liked to steer way clear of them whenever possible.
“Hey, cutie pie, where’s the two pint sized retards that are always here?” he asked me. His eyes never left my chest the whole time he spoke. I wanted to pop a marble right between his eyes right then and there, but I gritted my teeth and resisted the urge to start a fight I wasn’t sure I could get out of alive.
“Not here,” I replied, wishing I didn’t have to say that. Great. Just tell them I’m alone here.
“Ah, so you’re in charge tonight, huh?” he asked. He gave me a surly smile that showed a gap between his two front teeth.
“That’s right,” I said, keeping my tone of voice level.
“When will they be back?” he asked, trying to close the distance between himself and me by leaning his bulk on the counter.
I moved back a bit.
“Later tonight,” I replied tensely.
“Well, sweet thing, you wouldn’t happened to have seen Greg and Shelly around, now would you have?”
I gave him a puzzled look.
“Sorry, I’m kinda new here. I don’t know who Greg and Shelly are,” I said.
“That’s why my buddies and I need to talk to your little dweeb friends. They do know who Greg and Shelly are. So maybe we’ll just wait around…”
The two other guys sniggered and started flipping through the racks of comics, while Head Mohawk continued to stare me down. My hand twitched on the slingshot as my mind debated whether or not they were breaking any laws. Technically, loitering was against the law.
Suddenly, there was a noise outside that sounded like a thousand roaring lions thundering past the shop. The comics on the front rack fluttered to the floor. Then, a few moments later, shouting and swearing could be heard. The Surf Nazi’s jumped to attention.
“It’s those damned Lost Boys again!” one of them swore.
“Great. We’ll get kicked off the boardwalk again,” another one cursed.
The three of them high tailed it out of the shop to join the rest of their friends who’d been waiting outside. I stuck my head outside the shop and could only see a swarm of Surf Nazi’s having it out with a group of bikers down by the Arcade. Already, security was intervening. Both groups of boys were broken up and sent out of the immediate area, from what I could see. It looked like Mohawk and his friends wouldn’t be back to pester the Frogs. At least not tonight.
And it looked like I would be stuck with a mess to clean up.
With a resigned sigh, I got to work returning all of the comics back to the racks before Edgar and Alan returned from their dinner.
Chapter 4- Truth, Justice and the American Way by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 4- Truth, Justice and the American Way
Over the next few days, it seemed that the Frog brothers and Sam were enmeshed in some secret plans that must have had something to do with saving his brother from the clutches of evil bloodsuckers, and little to do with ringing up customers at the store. This was where I came in. Most of the mundane day to day tasks were left up to me. One would think that their parents would run the business while the brothers would put in a few hours at the shop and spend the rest of their dwindling summer vacation doing what teenaged boys do. Not in the Frog household. The parents burned incense (and God only knows what else), occasionally chanted a few Mantras, and spent the rest of their time sleeping standing up. I learned to regard them as human ornaments.
When customers weren’t browsing the racks in the store, I went out to the back alley and practiced shooting marbles at aluminum can targets with the slingshot. I felt it was prudent to prepare myself in case of another Surf Nazi shop infestation. I wore my grungiest clothes, skimped on the make-up, and let my hair hang limp. Yet, strangely enough, in the days that followed, they had yet to return. Maybe the new security guard had banished their kind from the boardwalk for good, I reasoned.
The brothers had been gone since dawn. As usual, they’d made plans to meet Sam. This meant I’d be opening the shop. A note had been slid under my door informing me of their plans. They also left a cryptic message. ‘Allison: If we don’t return, tell Mom and Dad we did our best to see that Truth, Justice and the American Way Triumphs.’
Whatever. But, part of me was really worried. What in the hell were these guys up to?’
I poured myself a bowl of cereal and got my carton of milk from the mini fridge I had plugged in my studio. It had been nearly a week since I’d bought it, so I checked the date to make sure it was still fresh. Luckily, it was. But something else caught my attention. A picture on the back of the carton showed a missing kid. The kid was a local boy of about 10 years old. I hadn’t seen him, unfortunately, or I would have notified the authorities right away. But why hadn’t I ever thought to put Paul’s picture on a milk carton? I wondered how one went about doing such a thing. I decided I’d follow up on it. No one could tear down a milk carton picture!
I didn’t hear a peep from the brothers all morning or afternoon. By evening, I was really concerned. I wondered to myself how their parents could look so nonplussed. From time to time, I even got angry. How could they leave me here all day without even coming in to relieve me for a lunch break? Weren’t there laws against that? Still, I couldn’t fault a 15 and a 16 year old for that. Really their parents should be responsible, and frankly, their parents were not responsible. Over and over again, I reminded myself that I should just be thankful that I had a job at all. At 6 o’clock, when my stomach threatened to eat itself, I wrote a sign that said ‘closed for 30 minutes’. Then, I rolled the doors shut and went out the back and onto the boardwalk to find something to eat. One bowl of Frosted Flakes at seven in the morning was not enough to last all damn day.
The boardwalk closed at midnight during the summer. I sincerely hoped the brothers would be back by then. Still, labor laws being what they were, only Edgar would be able to help man the shop until closing. But, by eleven, neither of the brothers had even called to report where they were. At least not to me. If their parents knew where they were, they hadn’t said anything. Hell, they hadn’t even acted half alive all day.
At midnight, I closed up shop and cleaned up. Then, I headed up to my attic studio and prepared to spend a sleepless night worried about the brothers. I gazed at the note they left me. All this time they’d been talking about vampires and stuff, and I had shined them on. They couldn’t really be serious, could they?
Somehow, I managed to doze off. A fifteen hour shift would exhaust anyone. A knock at my door stirred me out of my sleep. I glanced at my clock. It was 10 minutes after three. Stiffly, I rose and went to the door. When I opened it, Alan stood there.
“Thank God!” I cried, “You’re back!”
Alan nodded curtly, and I let him in. It was only then that I noticed that he was covered from head to toe in soot. Beneath the soot, his face was smeared with army war paint. His T-shirt and his beret were caked stiff with some sort of dried gak that I couldn’t even begin to recognize. He looked like a battle weary soldier that had returned from a ten year tour at the trenches. His grim expression worried me.
“Where’s Edgar?” I asked.
“Downstairs,” he replied tiredly.
“Where have you guys been all day?”
I was beginning to sound like the mother these guys were lacking.
“Truth, Justice and The American Way triumphs. We kicked some night stalker ass. Totally annihilated them. Nailed the head vampire, and saved Sam’s brother, too,” Alan explained. He ignored the chair I offered and remained standing, looking at me awkwardly.
“Well, then, that’s good, right?” I said.
Alan had one of his hands jammed in his pocket. He brought it out, closed in a fist. Shifting from one foot to the other, he looked at me, clearly perplexed about something.
“Yeah, except what?” I asked.
He huffed out a deep sigh.
“I uh, don’t know how to tell you this, Allison, but I saw your brother tonight,” he stated.
“You saw Paul?” I asked.
Before Alan could answer, Edgar stormed in.
“Have you told her that her brother is a suck monkey?” he asked.
I suddenly decided I didn’t like the expression on Edgar’s soot caked face one bit. It was all fire and brimstone, and it worried me even more than Alan’s hesitant, nervous look.
“What the hell are you babbling about?” I demanded.
“I haven’t told her that,” Alan replied, looking at his clenched fist.
“Figures. You leave the tough jobs to me.”
“I didn’t leave anything to you. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet.”
I glared at both of the brothers in turn.
“What’s going on?” I insisted.
“Do I have to repeat it? You’re brother is a suck monkey, in case you didn’t hear it right the first time. It’s why he’s been missing so long. It’s why the posters you’ve been putting up all over town have been vanishing, too. But now, you don’t have to worry, because he’s not a suck monkey anymore,” Edgar stated.
“Are you telling me that my brother is a vampire?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve been saying it all along, but…now it’s a fact. Or, was a fact. Now, he’s a dead vampire, though.”
My mouth dropped open.
“God, Edgar. Could you be any more crude?” Alan cried.
“Listen, he died a long time ago. Who knows how long ago? When he took his dark communion. That’s when he really died. So, now he’s free. She should be thankful that his soul is no longer morally bankrupt; and that…”
“We’re talking about my brother here!” I yelled.
The Frogs quit arguing and turned to face me. I sank into the chair that I had only so recently offered Alan. My heart was racing, and suddenly, my palms felt clammy.
“Tell me exactly what happened. No bullshit,” I said.
Between the two of them, a tale emerged that sounded like a pile of steaming bullshit. It started with how they spent the morning in a cave hauling out a pair of ‘half vampires’ and staking one of a group of four ‘full vampires’ sleeping suspended from a bar in the back. This woke the other three and angered them. They could not pursue them out of the cave, however, because it was daylight. Come nightfall, however, the Frog brothers related that the vampires knew to pursue them to Sam’s and his brother’s house. They aimed to get the stolen half vampires back and seek revenge for their fallen pack brother. And, according to their yarn, my brother was one of the three that came for revenge.
“I didn’t recognize him in the cave. It was pretty dark back there, and he was hanging upside down,” Alan said mournfully, “I didn’t even really recognize him in the bathroom at first. He was coming at us with a face full of fangs, you know. He called Edgar out, and they said some stuff back and forth. Just before Edgar tossed some holy water in his face, I thought to myself…Holy shit…that guy kinda looks like Allison’s brother! After it was all over, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe….so when we came back here I looked at the poster you have up in the shop. Sure enough, it was him. No doubt about it.”
“Yeah, no doubt about it alright. Your brother was a bloodsucker!” Edgar parroted.
I sat on the chair with my arms crossed, not wanting to believe a single word these two said. How could any of it be possible?
“My brother is NOT a vampire!” I insisted.
“She’s not handling this too well,” Edgar stated.
Alan stepped forward and bit his lip. Then, he gently took one of my hands and turned it so that the palm was upturned. Once it was properly positioned, he opened the fist he’d been clenching the whole time and deposited something into my waiting hand. Edgar craned his neck over, plainly curious to see what his brother had given me. I glanced at Alan first, and then into my palm. There I saw a silver ring, a couple of assorted bangle bracelets, and a dagger earring. My hand began to shake uncontrollably and a gasp tore from my throat.
The bracelets meant little to me. The ring was obviously sized to fit a man’s finger. But it was the earring that did me in. I knew it belonged to Paul. He’d gotten his ear pierced several months before he’d been kicked out of the house. Mom had practically had kittens when she’d seen the silver stud glinting in his earlobe one evening. For six weeks, he’d worn the hypoallergenic ‘trainer stud’ so that his hole would be the correct size and not become infected. Then, he’d gone out and bought a pair of earrings he liked. He’d selected the dagger. Naturally, he only needed one. The other one was left behind in his room somewhere, and was likely there even to this day. Mom had hated the whole deal, thinking that pierced ears on men was un-Christian. She’d ranked Paul about it daily.
“I’m sorry if this hurts you,” Alan said, “But you have to know the truth. We’re not lying to you. And you’re brother is better off for it. He’s in a better place now.”
The room started to spin and suddenly, it felt entirely too claustrophobic.
“You killed my brother?!” I cried between sudden, spasmodic seeming heartbeats.
“No, something else killed your brother, Allison. He was already dead. Long dead,” Edgar answered.
“Oh, God! Get out! Just get the fuck out!” I yelled.
I put my head in my hands and felt nothing but cold metal against my hot face. All I could hear was shuffling footsteps, and then the door closed, and the Frog brothers were gone. For the longest time, I sat there, unable to do anything but sit. No tears came yet. On my dresser, my brother’s face still smiled up at me from the master poster. How was it possible that all my years of searching and hoping could be dashed to bits in just a few moments? Quietly, I laid the jewelry that I knew belonged to Paul on the dresser next to the poster and crawled into bed. When dawn came, I was still staring at them.
Chapter 5- To the Shock of Miss Louise by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 5- To the Shock of Miss Louise
I didn’t stick around the hell hole that had become my place of employment and place to live for very much longer. For a few nights, I moped in my studio undisturbed. The Frog brothers knew better than to bug me, I suppose. Even tactless Edgar found some common decency and gave me the privacy I needed.
I had enough food in my mini fridge and my canned and boxed food larder to last for a few days. When it ran out, I would have to make up my mind about what to do. Some scavenger’s instinct guided me to eat the perishables first and save the portable goods for eating on the go. In addition to my food, Paul’s jewelry, my clothes, and a few other miscellaneous personals to stuff in my duffel bag, I had amassed a whopping $287.15 in savings from my summer’s employment. Unless I found another job quickly, I’d live like a princess for a week in hotels. Princesses didn’t have to pick up their towels after showers or make their beds. Then, my cash would run out and I’d live like a bum for the rest of eternity beneath the boardwalk or at least until my luck changed.
I thought about the ‘Day Workers Needed’ sign that I’d still seen posted on bulletin boards around the boardwalk. It was a hire on sight deal, and paid $4 per hour. No one was guaranteed work, but to those who were hard up enough to show up for 6:30 clip board call each day, ready to pick up trash on the beach, it seemed like a decent deal. I was hard up enough. All I needed to get by was enough money for a hotel room and a few bucks for food each day. The rest would work itself out later.
As it turned out, I never even needed to hold a stab stick and a trash bag and patrol the beach like an inmate on roadside garbage pickup, like I so envisioned myself doing. Once again, the Mighty Hands of Menial Tasks intervened, and I do mean Menial Tasks. Still, I suppose my next job was a step up from having teenaged, self proclaimed ‘Awesome Monster Bashers’ as bosses, even if it paid minimum wage. When I finally ventured out of the studio and past the stoned statues of the Frog brothers’ parents, duffel bag slung over my shoulder, Paul’s dagger earring in my ear, and his ring on a chain around my neck, I didn’t look back. I had no idea where the brothers were, and frankly, I was glad not to run into them. I didn’t want to quit to them in person. I figured my lack of presence spoke for itself, chickenshit or not.
The comic book shop was one of the last stores beneath the shelter of the arcade. The midway soon opened up, and I found myself in the open air, surrounded by a press of people. I felt immediately agoraphobic. The first enclosed building that drew my eye was the old carousel. A relic from the early 1900’s, it still had the original painted wooden horses and the calliope music playing. The song was ‘To the Shock of Miss Louise’. I drifted towards the carousel and immediately noticed a sign tacked next to the ‘This Ride Take 3 Tickets’ declaration. The sign read ‘Part Time Employment Opportunity-Apply at Main Office’.
I found the main employment office within 15 minutes and had a job application in my hand and filled out ten minutes later. Though I highly doubted I was the only person applying for the position, I was the only one there at the time. The application was nothing like the one I’d filled out at the comic book shop. When I turned it in, the receptionist took it back to a personnel assistant, who called me into her office for a mini interview. Apparently, the fact that I worked for the Frog brothers scored some sympathy points. She understood why I was looking for another job without me having to go into details. By afternoon’s end, I had a new position as a part time carousel operator. I would attend a brief training and sign papers the next day and begin work the day after tomorrow.
Weeks passed uneventfully. The crowds thinned as summer ended, and after Labor Day, the boardwalk was only open on weekends, which sucked. My savings had just about dwindled down to nada, and what I was earning was no longer going to sustain my hotel expenses. Shit was getting hardcore. The merry-go-round wasn’t cutting it anymore. Yet there wasn’t much work to be had anywhere else, either. I was down to my last week of carefully scraping nickels and dimes, and pounding the pavement every spare moment in between shifts. Then fate threw another curve ball my way.
Sunset came early in late November. Folks flocked to the boardwalk for those precious days just before and after Turkey Day, and business was brisk. Though it was just past six, it was already dark out. Little kids were still up with supper stained shirts, shoving their tickets at me with their grimy hands. I let them on the carousel and watched them fight with their siblings over which horses they wanted to ride. Never in the crowds of people teeming to get on did I see any of the Surf Nazi’s that had troubled me at the comic book shop. And never did I see my brother, either. But, I always looked for him. I never stopped. I still carried his well worn and creased poster in the back pocket of my 501’s like a talisman, even though I’d been told he was dead.
The last guy to come up was a man of medium build dressed all in black. He wore two coats and had a light blonde, mullet cut hair style. His walk was slow and deliberate as he approached the turnstile, and I noticed immediately that he had nothing in his black gloved hands.
“It takes three tickets to get on the ride, Sir,” I told him automatically.
“Who says I want to ride?” he asked, giving me a smirk with his pale lips.
“If you don’t want to ride, then what are you doing here?” I asked uncertainly. He sure didn’t look like the sort who had a kid on the merry go round that he would be taking pictures of.
The guy gave a chuckle, and then he stopped, growing serious all the sudden.
“I need to talk to you…Allison. When do you get a break?”
I instantly balked, wondering how this creep knew my name. But then, I realized that I was wearing a name tag that only advertised it to the world.
“What do you need to talk to me about?” I asked, feeling a flush creep up my cheeks.
His hand reached out and traced a line up my jawbone to my ear. Then, his fingers tweaked Paul’s dagger earring. I jerked my head away.
“I need to talk to you about your brother,” he said.
My stomach felt like I was on an elevator that had suddenly plunged three levels down. All I could do was look into his strange, light blue eyes and nod ‘Okay’. He smiled at me and made a motion towards a bench across from the carousel building where he would be waiting for me.
He wound up waiting until my shift ended at 10:00 because it was too busy for me to leave for a break. I was mildly surprised to find him there. A gigantic, gleaming, black Triumph was parked alongside the bench.
“The boardwalk is closing,” he said, as if I didn’t already know, “Let’s take a ride.”
“I don’t ride with people I don’t know,” I told him curtly.
“The name is David. You don’t know me but your brother did. You can trust me.”
David’s voice was kind of rough, yet slick as oil at the same time. Playing on my vulnerabilities worked rather well even though I had no good reason under the sun to trust him at all. Without any more hesitation, I slid behind him on the seat of his bike and wrapped my arms tightly around his waist. He started up the engine of the motorcycle. The vibrations shook through my body and shockwaves traveled up my spine and jarred my molars. This was going to be one hell of a ride.
We tore along the sands of the beach for awhile, scaring the shit out of me and a few parties of people daring the cold weather to enjoy bonfires on the sand. Somehow, David managed not to hit anyone as he sped by, and somehow, I managed to hang on. Since there wasn’t any speed limit posted, he didn’t have to obey any. By the time he pulled onto the paved road, the tips of my ears felt like they were about to freeze off, and my face was frozen in a near permanent expression of shock and horror. David couldn’t have been faring any better, as he wasn’t wearing a helmet and he was getting the full brunt of the oncoming winds in his face. I couldn’t hear if he was snuffling back snot from a sudden runny nose over the sound of the motor, but I knew that the wind that hit me was causing me to sniffle. It must have looked so glamorous when David finally pulled to a stop in front of a huge cliff side house in a secluded area.
As we climbed off the bike, I fished around in my pockets for a tissue. Not finding one, all I could do was sniffle and follow David past the whitewashed gate and up the long wooden walkway to the front porch of the house.
David fumbled around in the flower beds and I looked around, marveling at what I saw. This place was pretty ritzy. Santa Carla was full of rich folk’s homes. Some were even built right on the cliffs over looking the ocean. This home was one of those deals, so it seemed. David didn’t look old enough to have loads of money unless it was in the family. This brought me to my next conclusion. Maybe this was his folk’s house, and he still lived with them. Anyhow, it didn’t look like anyone was home, as there were no cars parked in the curving driveway out front, unless they had their Beemer’s or the Benz’s stashed in the three car garage. But, if anyone was home, why was David searching for what I assumed to be a spare key in the flower beds?
My assumption proved to be correct, and moments later, David produced a key, and while I stood there still sniffling, he unlocked the front door and motioned me inside.
“There’s no power,” he said, “The utilities were cut off a couple of months ago.”
“Huh?” I asked, staring at all the state of the art appliances he led me past in the kitchen. The Kenmore double door refrigerator with a built in ice maker looked brand new. The stove was one of those nice gourmet deals with gas burners. To my delight, I found a roll of paper towels neatly hung on a dispenser, and I grabbed one and proceeded to blow my nose.
“I said, there’s no power. I use the fireplace to cook food when I feel the need,” he explained again, as if I hadn’t heard him the first time, “But, there is water still. The delinquency notices have only just started coming. I figure they won’t shut it off for another month or so. Maybe I can dig up some money and pay it. Who knows.”
As I stared at him in disbelief, David started rounding up some emergency candles out of an all purpose drawer in the kitchen and upeneded them up in empty beer bottles. Then, he pulled out a Zippo lighter and ignited the wicks. Suddenly, I was having doubts about this being his parents’ house. But if it wasn’t theirs, then who’s was it?
David smirked at me in the semi-darkness.
“This house is now mine, by default,” he answered, as if he could read my mind, “At least until the City of Santa Carla decides to auction it off. When they do, there isn’t much I can do to stop them. But that will be a long day in coming. There’s lots of legal red tape that will stop them from putting it on the market or doing anything else with it. So, for now, it’s mine.”
I cocked my head in puzzlement. Honestly, I had no idea what the hell he was babbling about.
“You may remember one certain video store owner by the name of Max. The Frog brothers bragged about killing him not too long ago, am I correct?” David asked.
I nodded, and a chill coursed down my spine that had nothing to do with the lack of heating in the house.
“Well, this house and everything in it belonged to him. I’m the eldest of his ‘sons’, but of course, none of that ‘adoption’ is on paper. So, that’s how I inherited all of this.”
I was beginning to get an understanding that made my legs start to shake, even though I’d never really believed a single word the Frog brothers had spouted to me before. I wasn’t sure I did now, either, but there was something oddly hypnotic about David’s eyes and the way he could look right through me and into me. There were suddenly many questions I wanted to ask, but my tongue felt glued to the roof of my mouth. David’s lips lifted in a slight smile and he motioned with his head towards another room in the house.
“Come with me, Allison. I have many things to show you,” he said.
Chapter 6- Night Gallery by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 6- Night Gallery
With a beer bottle candle holder apiece, David led me through the house. The flickering light revealed many eclectic sights, but I doubt any of them were what David intended to show me. The dining room table was still set as though a dinner had been interrupted, even though the food dishes had been cleared hastily away. What remained was two candlesticks with burnt wicks, a half empty bottle of wine, two empty glasses, a pot holder and a plate warmer. There hadn’t been any dishes in the sink as far as I could remember from my trip to the kitchen, but I remembered the gleaming stainless steel dishwasher. They were probably stacked in there.
“Max had a date with Lucy Emerson on the night of his untimely demise,” David explained, “He never came home to finish cleaning up.”
“Sam and Michael’s mother, right?” I asked. I had never heard her called by her first and last name.
“The one and only,” David replied with a sour expression.
“Wait. I thought he went over to their place.”
“Well, he did. And then he invited her over here for a bite to eat the next night. That’s when all hell broke loose.”
I nodded my understanding. Two separate dates. The gaps in the story were coming together, even if they still were unbelievable.
All around the dining room and living room, eclectic décor abounded. Max had a fondness for neo modernism, I soon learned. Neon signs shared space with concept art on the walls, and geometric rugs were thrown on the floors. A huge picture window in the dining room would have given the dating couple a romantic view of the cliffs outside while they ate by candlelight. I shivered and thought of that poor woman. She had no idea that she was being romanced by a vampire. But then again, I wouldn’t have suspected anything. I wasn’t completely convinced I believed in them either. I might have, however, started wondering if Max wasn’t as geeky as I imagined him to be when I first met him. After all, a guy with a house like this and a car like I’d seen him driving around town in just might have something going on. Only his taste in art and his wardrobe left something to be desired.
There was a wooden sliding panel door that led down a hallway, presumably to the wing that held the bedrooms. David slid the door and stepped into the hall. I held back, not quite trusting the darkness that seeped in around me. David’s form suddenly seemed like a black shadow that blended in with all the blackness around me until my eyes adjusted to the new lack of light. There were no windows in the hallway. David held his candle up and lit some tapers that were in wall sconces at intermittent intervals. Suddenly, the hall lit up and I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
I noticed an immediate change back here. It was as if a different person inhabited the back of the house. Instead of bright white paint with blazing neon colors that punched the senses silly out front, back here, the colors were the classics of an old English manor. The walls were a dark burgundy with mahogany wood trim, and judging by the money spent in this house, I’d lay the odds on genuine mahogany, too. The ceiling was even mitered with mahogany accents. No wonder it had looked so dark upon entering. The floors were carpeted in a plush hunter green that my Nike’s sunk into. Along the walls were paintings in gilt frames.
The first one I stopped at was of a young girl with a sad face and soulful brown eyes. Her pale skin had just a spot of color in her cheeks, and her lips were blushed a soft pink. A gauzy wrap was positioned around her just to expose her neck and her youthfully white shoulders. She looked eternally timeless, like she could be a girl from any era, but I could see the Giant Dipper rising up behind her in the background as she sat on the beach.
“Max was many things…business man, art collector, wanna be Cassanova…but he had a good many years to practice his abilities as a painter. You see, it bugged him that he couldn’t see his reflection in a mirror anymore or have pictures taken of himself any longer. So, he decided he’d make a painting of each of his fledglings once they drank the sacrament,” David explained.
“The sacrament?” I asked.
“More on that later,” he replied, “That’s Star. She was only with us a short time. But…long enough.”
His tone suggested that things didn’t work out so well with Star. I didn’t ask him to go into details. Instead, I turned my attention to the picture next to hers and saw that it was of a heartbreakingly young boy of about 10, dressed in an old fashioned, double rowed button up coat.
“Laddie,” David said.
My heart froze. I’d seen that kid on the milk carton!
“Max kidnapped little boys?” I cried in horror.
“No, Laddie was lost. We found him.”
“And what did you do with him?”
“We kept him until it was time for him to go home,” David returned firmly.
My breath was shaky in my chest. ‘Kept him until it was time to go home’. Did that mean that Laddie was safely home now? I sincerely hoped so. I didn’t want Laddie’s folks to know the heartbreak I knew, even though I honestly hadn’t given a thought to the child on the milk carton or his parents since the day I’d seen his picture. My thoughts on the matter had only been for my own concerns. Guiltily, I shoved those thoughts away and moved to the next picture in the row. A mysterious looking young man with long, curling, golden hair stared back at me from sleepy looking eyes. His lips were upturned in a mischievous little smile that almost wasn’t there. Though he looked somewhat small boned and delicate, his arms were crossed over his chest, and his eyes had a fire that suggested that he wasn’t someone that should be easily messed with. The jacket he wore had many colorful patches. I noticed lots of skulls mixed in with them. He even wore a skull earring dangling from his earlobe, like he had an early fascination with death. Max’s skill at bringing that jacket to life was amazing. Each color stood out. The many highlights in the boy’s hair stood out, too. But his skin was so pale. I found myself backing away as I contemplated this.
“That’s Marko,” David said, his voice dropping an octave.
“Marko?” I repeated.
“He never had a chance. Those murderers came and took him out in his sleep. What a rotten way to go, wouldn’t you agree?”
I thought back to the Frog brothers. Was David referring to them? Yes, he must be. Had they said something about sneaking into a cave and staking one of them? My mind was such a jumbled mush. But David had not said ‘STAKED’. Before I could work it out any further, he gripped me by my shoulders and physically turned me until I faced the opposite wall. There, I found myself staring face to face with a handsome young man with either Hispanic or Native American features. Flowing locks of ebony fell down around his shoulders, framing his face. A lone fang earring dangled from his ear. The only thing he wore on his chest was some strange necklace with an old brass key dangling from it and a leather jacket opened at the front. His eyes were dark and brooding. Though he didn’t look as pale as Marko, he didn’t quite look as dark skinned as someone with Hispanic or Native heritage ought to unless he was of mixed blood, which was entirely possible.
“That was Dwayne. He was my second in command, and he went down that night, too.” David said.
I swallowed hard. The way he was talking now, David sounded like he was talking about a street gang.
The next picture over was of David himself, leaning casually against his bike with a cigarette in one hand. Another was parked behind his ear. The smirk that I’d seen so many times tonight was on his face, and the brilliant blue of his eyes stood out even more so on the canvas. This Max was quite the talent.
“You know, they say an artist’s work goes up even more in value when they die,” I told him, scrutinizing the painting carefully.
“Well, why don’t you judge for yourself,” he told me with a hint of sarcasm as he took hold of my shoulders and wheeled me around to face the first wall once again.
Suddenly, I knew why he’d faced me away. Positioned a few feet away from Marko’s picture was the gilt frame with Paul’s painting in it. My breath left my body in a shaky exhale and my heart skipped a beat or two.
My brother’s face stared down at me as if he’d never walked out of the house one day to never return. All of his jaunty humor was captured in his happy go lucky expression and the twinkle in his blue eyes. The blonde rocker’s mane that he’d laboriously grown out over several years was now exactly as he’d always wanted it; teased and ratted to the sky. I could tell he was proud of it. I was too.
How ironic that it had been his younger sister to show Paul all the ‘chick’s tricks’ to ratting hair. He’d learned the ‘upside down spray’ from me, and also the knowledge that the best fluff comes from a rat tail comb. They don’t call them ‘rat tails’ for nothing…
And when all else fails, and no comb is available, spray it, shake it, and fake it. Oh, and never leave home without a can of Aqua Net. It looked to me like he never forgot Little Sis’s tips to Rock n Rat success.
It also looked like all the things that Mom never let him wear at home were on his personage now. Fishnet, bondage accessories, studs, his dagger earring, and maybe a few things I couldn’t see like tattoos and piercing some places sisters weren’t meant to know about. I could only imagine him listening to all the CD’s that Mom said was the devil giving Satanic messages to all the kids that listened to them backwards. (And I’ll bet Paul figured out a way to hear them backwards, too).
Slowly I approached the painting and reached out a trembling hand towards it. Paul had his jacket slung over one shoulder and a hand casually placed on one hip. He was standing on the ruins of what looked to be an old fountain, with a booted foot propped on his ghetto blaster. Tears blurred my vision and I wiped them away. Then, I looked down, and looked back up at the picture. He was so utterly Paul, but when I looked again, I could see now that something was not quite right.
Either Max wasn’t quite the painter I’d first thought he was, or he’d made my brother a couple of shades too pale, too. It was more like an extremely lifelike wax sculpture of my brother was posing for the painting. I tilted my head, and then stood back, taking in the other paintings on the same side of the wall. They all had that effect. Then, I turned to David and looked at him.
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked with a smile.
Maybe it was the candlelight playing tricks on me and distorting things. But David seemed just like those paintings. Who knows. Maybe I did too. Shaking my head, I sniffled and fished the paper towel out of my pocket and wiped my nose.
“Nothing. Is this what you wanted to show me? That Max knew my brother?”
“Oh, it’s only the beginning,” David said.
The hallway elled around, and David led me out of the picture gallery. It was only when we’d left the paintings behind that I had the presence of mind to ask him why there were only two paintings on one side of the wall and four on the other. There had been two blank spaces.
David made a face.
“Let’s not go there,” he said.
“Let’s go there,” I said.
“Later,” he told me.
A door at the end of the second hallway dead ended at an imposing mahogany door. David lifted the carpet up where it joined at the baseboard and located a key. Then, he inserted it into the lock, opening the door into a huge, foreboding master suite. The first thing I noticed about the canopied king sized bed was that it was curtained all in black. The curtains went all the way around the bed to ensure that there were no seams. Then, I noticed the windows. They were the huge, two story deals that are common with ritzy Cliffside homes, to ensure that the occupants get nice seaside views. But here, the owner had gone to great lengths to ensure the opposite. The windows were covered with heavy teakwood blinds that must have cost a fortune, and room darkening, heavy drapes that would plunge a room into total blackness, day or night.
“Oh, my God!” I muttered.
For the first time, I was really starting to believe that the Frog brothers might have been onto something. This was the first real indication that something was definitely NOT RIGHT about the former occupant of this house. If he wasn’t a vampire, then he must have had a serious allergy to sunlight.
David went straight to the closet and opened it. Then, he moved aside several pairs of immaculately shined shoes of assorted varieties. Some were wing tipped, like my grandpa would have worn. Some were standard blacks and browns. Then, there was a pair of jogging shoes, a pair of beach combers, a pair of Birkenstocks, some penny loafers, hiking boots, and some house slippers. This guy’s taste ranged from stylish to acceptable to outright nerdy! Either way I looked at it, he had more shoes than any man I’d ever known.
“If the power was on, I’d show you his revolving closet rack. It spins around on a track,” David told me, wrestling a few cellophane wrapped suits out of his way. Then, he stooped down and located the handle of a trap door located on the floor of the closet beneath the jumble of shoes. He gave it a mighty yank, and the door sprang open, revealing a set of stairs leading into a dark abyss below the floor.
“Ladies first,” he said with a smirk.
“Hell no,” I balked.
“Suit yourself,” David replied, giving one of Max’s outfits a tug as he rose from his knees and began his descent down the steps.
“Ha Ha, very funny,” I called after him.
Chapter 7- The Cask of Max by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 7- The Cask of Max
Basements are dark and creepy places, and I had no idea why I so gamely followed David down into the one beneath Max’s closet. Maybe I thought that because Max’s place was so well kept, I wouldn’t be expected to encounter gross cobwebs, rats, or fungus below floor level. The truth was, two candles did little to illuminate what was or wasn’t there. My imagination filled in the rest of the blanks. Soon, I was swatting away spider webs, jumping at imaginary rodents, and hearing the skittering of all kinds of juicy bugs. The smell was just as dank as any moldy cellar I’d ever been in. Truth be told, the only cellar I’d ever visited was the one my grandmother stored her canning jars and did her laundry in. That gave me plenty of experience to know that basements and cellars were not fun places.
“Stay by me. I know you can’t see well,” David told me. His declaration did little to ease my discomforts. Then he pulled up a wooden crate and motioned for me to sit down. I did with a heavy thud.
David waved his candle around to illuminate the room a bit and show me what was there to see. I was a bit relieved when the flame revealed no crypts with moldering bones or shelves with broken, spoiled, canned goods. There were no festooned cobwebs or rat turds, either as far as I could see; which wasn’t far. What I did see was racks of wine bottles. Lots of racks.
“Max prized himself as a wine connoisseur, you could say. He collected specialty wines from all around the world; and several local varieties as well. But those aren’t the wines I care about,” David told me in a sinister tone.
He directed the flame of the candle to several bottles of wine that had been emptied. They lay piled on the ground in a heap like jumbled bones. I gazed at him in confused wonder.
“He’s added a special ingredient to at least one of these wine bottles. I know he has. It’s how he made me. I finally figured out that I’ll never know. I’ve already been made. I need another way to figure it out. Once I find even one bottle that’s been laced with his blood….”
My look turned from puzzlement to shock.
“Is that what you drug me down here for? Taster’s choice?”
David gave a sinister laugh.
“What will happen to me if I find this laced bottle for you and take a drink of it?” I demanded.
“You’ll be like me,” he told me flat out.
“And that is…”
“You’ll never grow old, Allison. And you’ll never die. As long as you feed.”
“Feed on what?”
David didn’t answer. Instead, he looked at me intently with his vivid blue eyes.
“Listen to me and listen well. I need to know which bottle is laced to bring back your brother and the rest of my pack. It’s the only way. You can save them. It will take time. But if you refuse, Paul’s death is on your head.”
“That’s not fair! I didn’t kill him!” I balked.
“No, but you can save him, Allison. Why would you refuse?”
“Because it’s crazy. Vampires aren’t real!” I cried.
David closed his eyes for a moment. He seemed to take a deep breath. Then, he opened his eyes and looked at me again.
“Don’t make me show you how real they are. Allison, I can show you how your brother died. Every detail. Do you want to see it?”
David didn’t wait for me to answer. Suddenly, my mind was filled with an image I would never forget. I saw the Frog brothers advancing on Paul with stakes and pistols filled with water. Then, I saw him turn the tables and knock them out of their hands, pulling them towards him by the collars of their shirts. Only his face was distorted. He didn’t look so much like the brother I knew. Fangs sprouted from his gums and his eyes blazed amber. His fingernails were much longer than they should be, and his whole face looked feral and wild. I gasped as the image played through my mind. Edgar threw bathtub water in Paul’s face. The water burned him, yet he seemed to recover some from it. The boys screamed and freed themselves, yelling and holding onto each other as they flailed on the bathroom floor. Then, in came a huge dog. He growled and lunged, shoving my brother into the tub full of burning water. Paul screamed and thrashed, but was unable to free himself.
I glared at David, shaking and gagging.
“You just had to, didn’t you?” I yelled.
“Join me,” he said, “We’ll bring your brother back and get revenge on the Frog brothers. They deserve it.”
“How can we bring him back?” I asked, remembering the horrid image that played through my mind.
“Max’s blood. He planned to make a big happy family. He wanted to initiate Michael, Sam and Lucy. That was his plan. He wanted to do it with his blood. Give them wine, like he did with the rest of us. So, he stored the wine down here, naturally, until he was ready to use it. As long as his blood survives, we survive. It’s how I lived through what happened to me. And if I lived, the others can too. We just have to find the bottle he put it in. We make you with it and pour the rest on the remains of the others to bring them back,” David explained.
“Why do you need me?” I asked, drying the angry tears that had sprung to my eyes after witnessing the images that David had planted into my head.
“Two reasons. First of all, two tasters are better than one. Secondly, I’ve already been made. So, any discovery of a bottle of wine that makes you into a half will automatically be the key we need to find. We’ll not need to look any further. Get it?”
“How will I know if a bottle of wine makes me into a half?” I questioned.
“Trust me. You’ll know,” David said.
I’d read enough from the Frog’s dorky comics to know what a half vampire was. Now, David was confirming it. I made a grimace. Then, I shrugged. But, before I could commit myself to chugging weird wine, I had one last question.
“What happens to me after this? Suppose we find this magic bottle and I ‘join you’?”
“Then you’ll be my Childe,” David replied with a smile, “I’ll show you the ropes.”
“I won’t have to worry about finding another job?” I asked.
To this, David tipped his head back and laughed.
“Being a vampire means you sleep all day and party all night. You’ll see. It’s fun to be a vampire,” he replied.
He was right, in one respect. The more wine I chugged, the tipsier I got. Soon, I was staggering all over the cellar, and I didn’t care if I bumped into cobwebs, rats, or anything else. We slept down there the next day as we didn’t find the magic bottle. I woke alone and lit the candle fearfully. Soon, I was comforted in a circle of light, gazing at my watch. It was half past 7. I had no idea where David was. Thankfully, I hadn’t slept past my shift as I had the night off.
I got up and stretched and found a note when I did so.
“Went to go get you some chow. As soon as you’re up to it, get to the racks. David.”
“Boy, he doesn’t waste any time!” I thought to myself. My stomach rumbled in anticipation. I wondered what he was eating. Then, I figured I’d better get to work if I didn’t want to be on his menu.
The Napa Chablis tasted really good. I found a couple of racks devoted to just those varieties, and I hit them good. Then, I decided to meander over to some French Cabernet. The first one I tried tasted like ass, and it was hard not to spit it out. The second bottle wasn’t too bad, but it was nothing like those nice Napa wines. I was thinking about scouting for more of them when I had to remind myself that I wasn’t on a cheese and wine tasting tour. Then, my hand found a bottle of wine that wasn’t sealed. A cork was tightly plugged in the top and it was full up to the top and labeled, but it had no factory wrapping. I pulled it off the rack and examined the bottle. It was one of those snotty French vintages; very dark in color. I had to wrestle with the cork for a few minutes as I mislaid the corkscrew. Finally it popped out, and I sniffed the wine, immediately suspicious of the contents. It smelled like regular old wine.
For a few minutes, I deliberated. Should I drink it? I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Would I shrink or grow extra large? Then, I remembered David’s words: You can save Paul.
My heart fluttered wildly. Finally, I upended the bottle and chugged. The taste was bitter. Immediately, I knew it wasn’t just wine. There was a coppery taste, and I had an instinct to SPIT IT OUT! But some instinct made me swallow.
But after I did, strangely, I wanted more.
I allowed myself another sip, and then another. It started to taste good. Then, once again, David’s words came back to me in a warning that we’d need the rest to save the others. Especially Paul. I corked the bottle and closed my eyes. Immediately, I wished I hadn’t. Colors began to swim around. Mostly, I saw red. When I opened them, the cellar seemed overly bright. I could suddenly see in Technicolor!
“Fuck!” I cried, gasping loudly.
My voice echoed around the basement like a gunshot, scaring the shit out of me.
I heard something that sounded like a regiment of soldiers thundering towards me. It took me a second to realize it was just David returning with dinner.
“Feeding time. I brought Chinese,” he told me. His voice held a reminiscent tone I didn’t understand. Nor did I particularly care about it at the moment.
The smell was cloying, and it took me several minutes to get used to it. I sat with my eyes half closed and my hands over my ears. The offending bottle of wine was corked in front of me.
“Aren’t you even going to thank me for thinking of your comforts?” David asked.
“Aren’t you even going to thank me for finding the fucking bottle?” I growled.
David immediately forgot about his errand and stooped down in front of me. He took my chin and lifted it up to gaze into my eyes.
“You found it?” he asked.
“It’s right in front of me. That’s the one,” I told him.
“Without a doubt?”
“You told me yourself that I’d know,” I said.
David examined me carefully and smirked. Then he lifted the bottle and took a small sip for himself.
“We have a winner,” he declared.
Chapter 8- A Friend In Need by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 8- A Friend In Need
My first kill was an act of household preservation. There was little time to even think about it, really. It was do it, or lose our precious running water. No running water would mean no showers or (more importantly, since the showers were cold), no flushing toilets.
Apparently, there had been a bill that David either hadn’t seen, or he ignored. Two days after my arrival, a tag was put on the front door, declaring that water service would be stopped if a princely sum of $158 wasn’t paid within 48 hours. Between the two of us, we were only able to scrape up $96.08 by 3 pm on the cut off day. I drug my weary self with all the cash we’d gathered down to City Hall to beg for a little more time. In the politest of tones, the clerk told me that A) since the bill was not in my name, and B) since I did not have the entire amount, C) I could kiss her ass. Defeated, I slumped onto the next bus that took me back to my new home and dozed most of the way. I did a lot of sleeping during the day, now.
I didn’t look forward to telling David that we’d have no water when he woke up. The shadows grew long and evening approached. At ten minutes to five, a utility company pickup pulled up outside the house, and a man got out. He had his crowbar to reach inside the cement housing where the shut off valve was. My mouth started watering, and before I knew it, I ran outside, practically flying down the long wooden walkway. Before the man could lift up the cement lid, I tackled him and pinned him to the ground. There was no thinking about it. I gave him no more chance to argue for his fate than the clerk gave me at the customer service window. His blood didn’t taste like blood, either. Oddly, it tasted like water.
Only when I realized what I’d done did I have a moment of clarity. The front of his uniform was covered in blood, and I was sure I was too. His truck was parked right out front. The crowbar was still clenched in his dead hand. My head was beginning to spin, yet oddly, I felt no remorse. I only felt like a wild cat with an overwhelming sense to hide my dead prey from any other nearby predators that could be lurking about. I sat there contemplating my options. There was a body and a truck. I had no idea what to do with either.
“Good job, Allison. You’ve taken care of one problem for me.”
David’s voice sounded behind me, and I snapped my head around. A growl worked its way out of my throat, and I crouched over the body. None of these things were even my intent. David chuckled and stooped down.
“Now I don’t have to take you out on a hunt. That’s a first.”
I pushed myself away from the stiff and stared at him with some shock and disbelief.
“We have water still,” I told him flatly.
“Not for long. They’ll send another idiot out here tomorrow or the next day. We need to think about other options.”
“You mean, we’re homeless?” I asked.
“Not tonight. But, someone’s bound to come asking questions about this guy’s disappearance. They keep records of service men’s routes. Eventually, the police will poke around here. I don’t want to be here when they do,” David explained.
“Maybe I should have just let him turn it off. He kinda died for nothing then.”
“Nope. He died to turn you. Welcome to the Shadows. Now, I’m going to get rid of him. You wash up. Then, we’ll deal with the truck,” David said.
With no gas or electricity, I was forced to clean up with cold water. But, it was better than no water at all. Perhaps the sap didn’t die for nothing after all. Worse was the fact that I felt little in the way of remorse. True to David’s word, he took off with the dead serviceman and dumped him somewhere where he wouldn’t be found. Then, he returned for me. I had no idea why he cut a length of garden hose and stashed it in the truck, but he summoned me to get in, and I did as I was told.
We drove along an isolated stretch of road that wound along the cliffs by the sea. Though there weren’t many cars, what few there were wouldn’t see much by all the fog that was drifting in from the coast. I felt totally lost, but David seemed to know where he was going. At last, he pulled over on the shoulder of the road and parked well away from any visible traffic.
“Stay here,” he told me.
I watched the fog swallow him up. The flapping tails of his trench coat vanished from view about 10 feet away from the headlights. Yet, I could still hear him not far away. A few muffled curse words and some dragging noises issued from the damp darkness, and then I could hear David’s footsteps approaching the truck again. When he appeared in the wash of the headlights, this time he was towing a motorcycle.
I opened up the passenger side door and stepped out, clearly curious. Where did he get this? It certainly wasn’t his Triumph. That was parked in the garage back at the house. Before I could ask, David gave me a look that said he intended to tell me what I was dying to know.
“This is for you to borrow until Paul returns to us, so I suggest you take good care of it. I’d just hate for it to go to waste. Bad things happen to batteries on bikes and cars that aren’t used. We all had keys to each other’s bikes in case of roadside emergencies and such. I’ve been coming out here every now and again and cranking up engines to keep the batteries charged. But Paul’s gas tank is just about on fumes, and Marko’s is below a quarter. I thought I’d top off the tanks with as much as I can get from your utility man’s truck before we send it for a cliff dive. What a shame to waste good gas,” he explained.
I could only stare in mute shock at this bike that he was telling me was Paul’s. The bike I remembered him leaving home on had been a McGuyvered contraption practically held together with spit, chewing gum, chicken wire and rolling papers. This was a sleek pussy cat of a machine that put that illegal, patchwork, home baked crotch rocket of his to total shame.
“Do you know how to ride? If you don’t, I can teach you. It’s not hard. You’re smaller than Paul, but you’re built similar to him; tall and lanky. For a girl, you’re taller than most. You should be able to handle it.”
“I can ride,” I whispered.
I wasn’t Evel Kenevil, but I had been able to drive and stay on the back of that piece of shit he’d had before, and that was a major accomplishment. It had been like steering a lawnmower capable of going 100 miles per hour. David laughed again.
“That bike died 2 days after he joined the club. It couldn’t take the sand. This baby can take anything,” he said proudly, as if he was its owner. With fatherly affection, he patted the seat. After that gesture, I was easily able to imagine all the punishment Paul dished out to it, and I smiled. It would have a gentler ownership with me, but it would be just as cherished.
The garden hose was brought out for siphoning, and I got my first lesson in sucking gas out of a tank. Clearly, sucking was going to be in my future for a very long time to come. City vehicles were kept well equipped for emergencies. The tank was huge since the truck was not a small one, and it was ¾ full. There was an empty gas container in the back. All of the gas I could siphon went in there. David fueled up the bikes. Motorcycle tanks were not very big, so I learned. Though Paul’s was nearly empty, and he said that Marko’s was only a quarter full, the last bike belonging to the vampire he called Dwayne still had quite a bit of gas in it. There was fuel left over when we finished, which he allotted for his Triumph.
The last task remaining was to dispose of the truck. We did this by driving it to an even more isolated place along the coast. David took over from here. He climbed into the cab, rolled down the window and drove over the cliff. Moments before the truck hit the water, he flew out, avoiding any sort of injury to himself. I watched in awe from the safety of the top of the cliff. Though I could not be hurt by such a maneuver, my immortality was not something I was accustomed to. Besides, I had never taken to the air yet.
We returned to the house on the back of my brother’s bike. It felt good to be in touch with a part of him, but I was impatient to see HIM again. The bottle of wine was specially labeled with an indelible ink marker that David had found and placed in a kitchen cabinet away from all the other bottles of wine in the cellar. It was ready for when we’d need it.
“So now that we’ve got the wine, when can we use it?” I asked.
David flopped down in one of Max’s dining room chairs and drummed his fingers on the table. He had thoughts shifting through his mind, and in the few hours that it had been since I had made the change to ‘full vampire’, I was starting to get an idea just how shifty his mind was.
“I’m working on it. Here’s the deal. I was injured that night. Very badly. I was impaled on some horns.They thought they killed me. But, the horns missed my heart. I lost a great deal of blood, though, and lost consciousness. I was mistaken for dead and buried. We were all buried, but not together. Each to our own grave. After a good amount of time, I restored myself and unburied myself. Then, I thought that the others might have done so, too. I went back to our old hideout but only found one body. It was Marko’s. He was the first one of us to fall, as I explained. His body has done some minor healing, but not much. Marko was staked through the heart, so his wounds would have been more severe than mine. So were those sustained by Paul and Dwayne. So, I realized that they must still be healing underground. I tried to find their graves and couldn’t. There’s only a handful of people that know exactly where those two are buried, and two of them are within easy reach of us. They WILL show us,” David said. His eyes suddenly lit up with a feral glow as he explained this to me.
“Then what are we waiting for?” I asked. My voice became an excited squeek.
“Timing. It’s all a matter of perfect timing.
With that, he got up and took the bottle of wine from the kitchen cabinet and uncorked it. I was afraid he’d drink it since he hadn’t fed that I was aware of. Instead, he just sniffed at it for a moment, savoring the aroma. Then, he beckoned me down the darkened hallway. We passed by all the paintings and the closed doors that were spaced along the walls. David then paused at one of the doors and opened it.
I followed him into a rather ordinary looking guest bedroom that was decorated in bland shades of beige and forest green. Like the master bedroom, much thought had gone into barricading the windows from any light. Stretched out on the double bed was a thin figure covered in a blanket up to his chin. Wavy blonde hair spilled out over the pillow and down past the blanket in a golden tumble. But his face was sunken, pale and hollow, and he didn’t stir at all when we entered the room.
“This is Marko,” David told me.
I tried not to look horrified. What was on the bed looked nothing like the young man wearing the animated jacket in the painting.
“Marko, this is Allison. You probably remember Paul talking about her. She’s his little sister, and she’s just joined our club,” David introduced, grabbing my hand and pulling me forward. From beneath the blanket, he produced Marko’s pale, slim hand and slipped mine into it. Marko didn’t seem to care one way or another whether or not I’d joined the club or even if I was in the room. But I humored David and kept hold of his hand while David took the bottle of wine and uncorked it again. With a tender, fatherly motion, he lifted Marko’s head off the pillow and put the bottle to his lips, tipping it slightly. Wine dribbled out the corner of his mouth, staining his chin. David patiently tipped his head back further and repeated the process to ensure he’d get some down his throat.
“This isn’t working too well,” he muttered, laying Marko’s head back down on the pillow.
I thought to myself that it should be obvious that dead people don’t eat or drink, but I kept my yap shut.
Next, he twitched the blanket down and lifted up the holey tank top Marko wore, exposing a gory, gaping hole in the middle of his chest.
“Uh, GROSS!” I cried.
David snapped a dirty look my way, and I snapped my lips shut. Somehow, I figured my little outburst didn’t score me any points. Still, chest cavities were supposed to have organs in them. I’d seen an autopsy flick in school that had really grossed me out because they’d shown the heart and the lungs and all the nasty organ stuff. But, for some reason, this was worse. I almost wished the nasty stuff was there, because I expected it to be.
David directed a trickle of wine right into the hole. Suddenly, the limp hand that I held twitched around mine. My eyes went wide in shock.
“H-he grabbed me!” I cried.
“Marko?” David called.
There was no immediate response, but I looked down at my hand. His fingers were still lightly curled around mine. I directed David’s gaze to my hand with a slight motion of my head. There he could see the change for himself.
He decided to shake a few more drops into the hole and then patch it up. Then, he took a place at the other side of Marko’s bed and took his other hand. I looked around the room. For the first time, I noticed a book, a newspaper, and a sleeping bag rolled up on the floor. Now I knew where David took up residence during the daylight hours. It’s also, I realized, where he spent some of his hours during the night. He kept a very close vigil over his friend. He would do the same for Paul when we found him. If anything, it made me feel a little bit better about the company he’d been keeping over the last few years. Obviously, he had friends that cared a great deal about him.
Chapter 9- A Frog's Education by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 9- A Frog’s Education
Further plans to excavate my brother and Dwayne had to be put on hold for awhile. Other priorities took precedence. We needed to find a new place to hole up. Though David and I didn’t own much, and it was assumable that Marko didn’t either, Max sure did. We wanted to loot as much of it as possible for ourselves. Especially the wine. What if we’d overlooked more bottles with blood in it? Even if we hadn’t, free wine was a great boon.
David found a new place soon enough. It was a derelict, boarded up, smaller Victorian house with a half basement below the main level. Located in the seedy part of Santa Carla commonly known as the ‘Flats’, it looked as though bums, drug addicts, and hookers used the top levels on a frequent basis. That was not our concern. We were interested in the basement. It would have to be barricaded to prevent any mortals from invading our place of rest during the daytime hours. Any that lingered when the sun set would be easy meals.
Eventually, the City would do something about this blighted property, but for now, it would serve our purposes. It was perfect. No windows allowed any sunlight in. The external doors were bricked over by some long ago owners and so covered in overgrown foliage that it was hard for us to even locate them. Inside, we were able to seal the one internal door with a series of complicated deadbolts that unlocked from the inside only.
Transporting our loot was a drag. We took turns. One would stay and keep watch on Marko while the other would fly a load out to the new place. Marko still hadn’t roused a whole lot. His eyes fluttered open and closed a few times, and he’d fed on a mortal David brought him once. But he had yet to say anything.
Food was a major concern this time of year. It was one reason why David opted to wait until later to raise the others. When the Christmas holidays came, there might be a brief surge in tourism around here, but it wouldn’t last long. The boardwalk was deserted most of the time, and that meant the beaches were too. Marko needed to feed properly to heal quickly. I knew exactly what he meant. As a new fledgling with an insatiable appetite, I had to go occasional nights without feeding. It was torture. The few times I had to go two nights in a row without feeding, I had about as much energy as Marko. David wisely knew that two more healing vampires would tax the meager food supplies around here far too much. It would be better to raise them up when there was plenty to eat. Late spring would replenish the stock around here quite nicely.
On the Saturday evening just before the New Year, David heard noises in the top portion of the house when we woke up. He left our den and returned a few minutes later with a struggling drug addict who’d been trying to cook up his dope in the kitchen. Pity for him there was no gas to power the stove. Pity for him the basement was also inhabited by ravenous vampires, too. David looked between me and Marko as if he had a choice to make.
“Give him to Marko. I can go get mine,” I said.
The dope fiend looked clueless until David shoved him in front of where Marko was stretched out on a pile of blankets on the floor. Marko remained still for a few minutes until David shoved the man’s neck beneath his nose. The smell of warm pulse stirred Marko at last. The victim never saw the fangs or the orange eyes. He only felt pain as his flesh was torn into and his blood was drained. David held him there until Marko took every last blood from his veins. My stomach rumbled as the smell hit my nose. Damn, I was hungry!
“Go on and hunt. I’ll catch up with you later,” David told me.
I nodded and made a beeline for the door. The boardwalk was my destination. Hopefully, I’d score a kill since it was a tourist weekend.
My intuition proved right, and it wasn’t long before I was able to lure some half drunk fellow away from a payphone and onto the beach away from the view of any bonfires to do him in. Once I knew my kill would be making his next call at the bottom of Davy Jones’s locker, I hunkered down in my employee issued ‘Santa Carla Beach Boardwalk’ windbreaker and made for the back alleyways behind the boardwalk shops. Though I’d taken a few minutes to clean myself up some, I had no way to see my reflection to know how I looked. It was best if no one saw me until I could get to a dark place out of the danger of public scrutiny before I took flight.
I heard a familiar noise before I saw anything. It sounding like something small and hard hitting the back fence. An old memory flitted through my mind, and I realized that it was the sound of a marble hitting the target that the Frog brothers had painted on the alley fencing immediately behind their shop. I hadn’t realized I’d gotten so close to their place. Inwardly, I cringed. Of course, I knew I had a beef with them and wanted to confront them. But I knew which one was likely to be out here practicing with a slingshot. He wasn’t the one I felt the majority of my anger towards.
Still, he could be useful. Both of them had been there, and either one of them could help. Maybe it was better this way. Alan would likely be more cooperative anyways. Still, when all was said and done, I would prefer it if David killed him, or let Marko have him. I wanted Edgar’s hide.
Alan’s instincts were honed keenly. He wheeled around to see me standing there observing him.
“Allison!” he cried, gazing at me in disbelief, “Long time, no see! Where have you been?”
“Oh, I um, just got off work,” I said, indicating the stenciled windbreaker I still wore. Only boardwalk employees got them, so I knew he’d have little trouble believing me. The boardwalk was just closing up for the night, too, making my lie a bit more believable.
“You got a job on the boardwalk? Doing what?” he asked.
“Operating the carousel. It’s just part time,” I replied, “Not much work now that it’s winter.”
“You never said that you were leaving us,” Alan said. His voice sounded mournful.
“I couldn’t stay. I’m sure you understand,” I replied.
“Sure, I guess so. I just wish you’d told me you were going. I could have given you your last pay. And…say goodbye. It hasn’t been the same without you.”
I tried to smile at him, but my smile faltered. For the first time, I could sense whispers in his confused, befuddled mortal mind. The little twerp had a crush on me! I was at least three years older than him, and he knew it, and was swallowed up in feelings of dorky inadequacy. For a few moments, he shifted his weight from leg to leg, staring at the slingshot in his hand. This made my task just a bit easier. I could now use what I knew to my advantage if I played my cards right.
“It’s nice to see a familiar face,” I told him, “Things have been kind of hard. Work’s been slow. To be honest, I kinda missed you guys too.”
I was really stretching it to indicate that I missed any of Edgar. But it wasn’t so far off the mark to admit that Alan hadn’t been such bad company in the time I’d worked for the Frogs.
Alan’s face lit up like a Roman candle.
“Do you think you could ever come work for us again? I really miss you!” he said.
“I don’t know about that, bud. But I’m sure I could come around sometimes,” I agreed. I figured it was a smart move to leave myself an opening so that I’d have easy access to these guys when the time arose to make my move.
“That would be great! I promise I won’t let Edgar talk about things that upset you.”
I nodded my head in sage approval. Alan had no way of knowing that Edgar would soon be chirping like a bird if I had my way. But I had no way of knowing that while I’d been out and about, David had decided that his appetites could no longer wait. He’d scouted the beach and made himself a dandy kill. Then, he must have picked up on my scent while on his way back.
Alan surprised me while I was hearing the whispers of David’s presence in the back of my mind and calculating what to say to make my escape. He threw his arms around me in a hug. This was so uncharacteristic of the stoic, brooding, awkward boy that I worked with this summer. My arms found their way around his waist in an awkward return of his warm, mortal gesture. Then, I heard David’s voice whisper in my mind:
“Do What??!!” I thought back.
“Bite him, dipshit!”
“I can’t kill him! He’s one of the ones that knows, right?”
“Did I say kill him?”
Suddenly, I got it. Alan’s cooperation would be ensured if he was one of us. My fangs extended, and I found his tender neck while his arms were still wrapped around me. His body tensed and jerked in my hold.
“Allison? NOOO!” he cried out.
Warm blood gushed out around my fangs. Alan thrashed in my arms for a bit, flailing and shoving against me. His protests became more and more feeble. Finally, David interceded, prying him away from me with arms that were like a crowbar. He gashed his own wrist open and let the blood drain right into Alan’s slack jaws. After a few minutes, Alan regained some strength, thought I doubt he was aware of his own actions. He took David’s arm and held it up to his mouth, greedily slurping and sucking at all the blood that welled from the cut.
When he finished, he looked groggy and half witted. I knew exactly how he felt, as I remembered how I’d felt after I’d drank from the laced bottle of wine.
“W-what have you done?” he stammered, looking at me from glassy, half lidded eyes.
“Alan, you didn’t think I’d let my brother’s death go without revenge did you? How would you feel if it was Edgar? Cheer up, buddy, I didn’t have it in my heart to kill you. Goes to show you that vampires aren’t the brutal, heartless killers you make us out to be,” I told him.
“But, I thought we were friends!” he cried. His voice was full of a teenager’s angst at betrayal.
“We still are. And we’ll be even better friends. You’ll see.”
“I don’t want to be a suck monkey!” he wailed.
“Shut your lip, or your brother will be out here in 5 seconds with a nice sharp stake and a pistol of holy water. Then, you’ll know Paul’s pain,” I warned him.
David lit up a smoke and smirked at Alan.
“I don’t suggest you go back inside, unless you want to make your family your first menu choice. That wouldn’t bother me any, of course, but I know your brother packs a wicked punch. If you’re going to face him down, I’d rather you were fully turned first.”
“I’ll never be fully turned. Never!” Alan hissed.
“You say that now. But just you wait. You’ll get pretty miserable starving. Then, you’ll slowly go crazy. Then, you’re body will turn on its own internal organs and start feeding on them. When you’ve completely emaciated yourself to the point of utter madness and pain, you’ll have no wits left to resist. Then, trust me, you WILL make your first kill,” David explained.
Alan gazed at him in shocked horror. Then, he hooked his fingers down his throat and tried to make himself vomit up all the vampire’s blood he’d just gulped down. David only laughed at him.
“Go ahead and try the Karen Carpenter trick. But it’s too late. My blood is in your veins. You’re one of us now,” he told him.
Chapter 10- Lost in the Shadows by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 10- Lost in the Shadows
Alan was brought back to our new retreat and kept under close watch. To my surprise, Marko looked more awake than I’d ever seen him. He was propped against one of the cemented walls of the basement with a pillow cushioning his back for added support. A pair of headphones was positioned over his ears, and he appeared to be listening to some music on a walkman, but he slipped them off when we brought Alan down the steps.
His eyes popped open in surprise when he saw who we drug down into the basement.
“Why’d you bring him here? He’s one of the little bastards that staked me!” he rasped. His voice sounded hollow and weak. I wondered if it was because he was still missing half his lungs.
David gave that preternatural, creepy grin of his.
“Never fear, Marko. Revenge is sweet. What’s the worst thing that could happen to a vampire slayer?” he asked.
Marko looked at him with dull, listless eyes.
“Beats the shit out of me. Better yet, let’s beat the shit out of him.”
“He’s one of us now. Wait til his stake toting brother finds out. It’ll be a thrill a minute. You’ll see.”
“If I recall right, this one was the guy toting the stakes. It was his brother that hammered it into my chest,” Marko hissed.
“It’s all the same,” David said dismissively.
Alan was tossed in a heap on the cold floor, where he pulled himself up and slunk against the opposite wall, hugging his knees to his chest protectively. I felt a moment’s pity for him, but I didn’t dare let it show. His dark eyes found mine in the shadows of the basement. They were full of betrayal and spite. I pursed my lips. He’d get over it soon enough. Maybe now, he knew a little of how I felt. At least his brother wasn’t moldering in a cold hole below the ground somewhere. I pushed that thought into his mind and wondered if a half vampire could pick up on mind feeds yet.
The next night, David chanced to take Marko out for a feed. Marko was wobbly and hardly able to walk, but he needed to exercise. David supported his weight easily as they made their way up the stairs of the basement. I was left alone with Alan.
Alan had spent the daylight hours cuffed to the pipes of the ancient water heater so he couldn’t escape. David had snagged some handcuffs long ago from a boardwalk security guard he’d offed, and kept them around for who only knew what. They happened to come in handy for securing Alan so he couldn’t escape while we all slept. Half vampires weren’t typically awake during the day either, but a desperate one could be if needed. Alan certainly fit the bill as desperate.
Now that it was nightfall, he’d been released, but he was still under watch. If he tried to make a run for it, I could easily outrun him, even if I was a girl.
“So, this is David’s big revenge, huh? I’m supposed to off Edgar?” Alan pouted glumly.
“Something like that. But listen. I know of a way for you to avoid all that,” I told him in a conspiratorial whisper.
Alan’s eyes flickered towards me uncertainly. I knew he no longer trusted me, but I still had another ace up my sleeve. He still couldn’t deny his old crush on me. Feelings like that didn’t die overnight. In fact, it pissed him off that he still thought I was pretty, especially since I was a bloodsucker that had betrayed him. Still, teenaged boys’ feelings were pretty flimsy things to build foundations on, so I knew I had to tread carefully. I took my ponytail down and casually shook my hair out so that it fell down in waves around my shoulders. Then, I unzipped my windbreaker and removed it, giving it to Alan to wear. The result gave him an eyeful of my body clad in 501 jeans and a tight, black turtleneck top. It was a cheap trick, but it was just the thing to get his teenaged mind off his woes and onto what I wanted him to pay attention to. Sort of.
“Here’s the deal,” I continued, “David really just wants Paul and Dwayne back. That’s it. You tell him where you and your brother buried their bodies, and I’m sure he’ll agree to be lenient with Edgar. He really can be reasonable. After all, you are his Childe now.”
“How do I know he won’t just kill us both?” Alan pressed.
“Well, he can’t kill you. Not if you make your first kill,” I told him, “And just think how proud David would be of you if you did!”
Alan squirmed uncomfortably. I heard his stomach rumble. Knowing he was already hungry, I continued on with my tactics.
“Maybe, if you do make your first kill, AND tell us where the others are, David will be so happy, he’ll forget about Edgar. I know I will,” I told him.
I smiled at him, knowing that I was being truthful. If David’s plan worked, and Alan was able to reveal Paul’s burial spot on his own so we could revive him, there would be no more reason to pursue Edgar. Sure, I’d always have anger towards the little shit, but to keep a promise to a new pack brother, I’d be willing to let my grudge drop. As long as I got what I wanted.
Alan wrestled with what I told him, while I gazed intently at him.
“You lied to me before. You never told me you were a bloodsucker!” he stalled.
“That’s not lying. That’s withholding. It’s not the same,” I said.
He lowered his gaze and pulled his dog tags out, flipping them around while he debated some more. I waited patiently, knowing this wasn’t an easy decision for him.
“Is it painful when my body dies?” he asked.
“Nope. You won’t know a thing. You’ll be asleep when it happens,” I told him.
“Do you always think about blood?”
“Certainly not any more than you’re thinking about it now.”
Alan’s hand made a protective fist around his dog tags. I knew I’d hit a nerve. Yeah, he was thinking about blood all right.
“Does it taste…disgusting?”
“No worse than what you drank last night.”
“I don’t remember drinking it last night,” Alan replied, making a face.
“Yeah, you were pretty out of it,” I answered, “But when the moment hits, you’ll be in such a frenzy, you won’t know what you’re drinking then, either. Trust me.”
“I don’t want Edgar to turn against me,” he debated.
“Then you can always turn him. What’s one more vampire around here?”
Alan looked at me.
“Edgar would drop himself chest first on a stake before going vamp.”
“Did you ever picture yourself considering it?”
Alan shook his head.
“I guess I’m considering it, aren’t I?”
I stood up and held out my hand.
“It sure beats having your body suck your organs dry, doesn’t it?” I asked.
He left my windbreaker downstairs and let me lead him up the basement steps.
“Can we stay away from the boardwalk? I really don’t want to eat someone I know,” Alan said.
“Sure. Maybe we can find some bum down at the bus depot,” I answered.
We found something better than a bum. There was a guy picking people’s pockets while they waited to board the bus. Then, he took what he stole and made a sprint for the liquor store across the street.
“There’s our man!” I cried, watching in disgust as the thief discarded the wallets in a trash dumpster outside the store. He stashed the dough in the pockets of his jeans, “He’s a good kill, ‘cuz he’s loaded too!”
Alan looked at me in horror.
“Man, times are hard. We need that money!” I chided him.
Alan stared at him for a moment as the pickpocket unloaded a second wallet. I nudged him in the ribs. He turned his gaze to me.
Two orange balls of flame stared back at me. His fangs were elongated already, and his face was distorted. The only vestige of humanity remaining was in his hesitancy to run across the parking lot and rip into his intended victim right then and here.
“You’re doing this to save Edgar,” I told him.
Alan needed no further prodding. He flew across the lot and had his victim pinned against the dumpster with his fangs buried in his throat before the bastard even had a chance to scream. I rocked back and forth on my heels and watched with amusement. A late night customer came out of the store to see the last of Alan’s rampage. That customer became my supper.
Once we filled our pockets with the cash from both the victims, I showed Alan how stiffs were disposed of in Santa Carla. They became fish food. We cleaned ourselves up on the beach. I felt satisfied, almost. Part one of the deal had been fulfilled. Alan was now a full vampire. But what about Paul? I knew we’d have to wait to bring him and Dwayne up, but I still wanted to know exactly where he was. What if something happened to Alan before spring? I had as much as ensured Alan that I wouldn’t touch Edgar, but as long as he was allowed to patrol the town with stakes and holy water, any of us and all of us was fair game.
“I’ll show you,” Alan told me, breaking into my thoughts.
Suddenly, I realized that my thoughts couldn’t be shielded from him any more. I’d have to be more careful.
Alan learned to fly a lot quicker than I did. In fact, he seemed to be astutely aware of all the cool things vampires could do long before I had any of it figured out. Of course, he knew that vampires existed long before I figured it out, too. After a few failed attempts there on the beach, he soon had flying down to a science. At least I was able to give him the pointers he needed so that I didn’t feel completely stupid.
Once he was airborne, we flew over and past the boardwalk and well out of the city limits to the hills that were just below the coastal mountains. There were a few larger houses out this way that had gracious allotments of property. Alan swooped down into a field behind a two story, shingled house that only had a few lights on inside. I doubted any of the inhabitants of the home could see our shadowed figures out here in the dark.
“We’d better hope Sam’s dog is inside,” Alan muttered to himself more to me.
“We can fly if he’s not,” I said.
“Yeah, well just be warned. That dog knows the smell of a flesh eater. He won’t hesitate to attack.”
Though it was dark, I could see the expression on Alan’s face quite clearly when he said the words ‘flesh eater’. It was as if the shock of what he had become still wasn’t setting so easily with him.
We poked around for quite some time. The ground looked all the same to me. We had to sidestep horse patties on quite a few occasions. The thought of my brother’s grave getting shit on by horses rolled my stomach. Just when I was convinced that Alan had forgotten just where they’d dropped the bodies, he made a declaration.
“Over here. This is it. See how the grass hasn’t grown over this area very much?”
He pointed to the dirt beneath our feet. Sure enough, there was a large square of land where his finger indicated. The ground didn’t look freshly disturbed anymore, but it was a little sunken looking like there’d been holes dug some time ago, and those holes had been filled in. Some grass had grown over the area, but it was much shorter and greener than what was growing in the surrounding areas. By this spring, though, after the winter rains, I doubted there’d be a whole lot of difference. It would be hard to find the sunken spots beneath the new growth, too. There was only one solution.
Scanning the area, I found several rocks. Because it was dark, and there were no spectacular looking rocks to mark the graves with, I opened up a vein in my wrist and stained the rocks with splashes of my blood. That would mark them until I could return with a permanent ink pen to make squiggle marks on them that would be recognizable by me, but go unnoticed by any of the property owners that came out here before we came to unearth Paul and Dwayne. The permanent marker wouldn’t get washed away in the rain. Fortunately, the weather forecasts predicted a dry spell for the next several days. I had a little time to get this done.
I puzzled over why David hadn’t been able to find the graves when he rose up. But if he’d only healed for a short time, the graves of my brother and Dwayne might not have had time to settle as they had now. Since Alan had pointed them out, it looked pretty obvious to me that these were graves. Or holes. Big holes. At the very least, one would think that this was a pet cemetery. But if David had come up a few months ago, the holes wouldn’t look freshly dug, grass would have just started to grow, and there might not be sinking. Not to mention, the dirt he’d displaced from his own grave might have covered over the others. There were a hundred possibilities. All that mattered now was making it look like nothing was disturbed, yet making it possible for us to find these graves again in later visits.
We arranged the bloody rocks in a haphazard fashion that only mattered to us. Then, Alan drug me reluctantly away from the site of my brother’s resting place. I thought to myself that I should be putting something a bit more respectful than rocks down. But, then again, maybe that sentiment only applied if you were paying respects for someone you truly believed was dead beyond the shadow of all reasonable doubt.
Chapter 11- Blood Brother, Pack Brother by GarlicTShirt
Whoops, I think in all the update confusion,this chapter got erased. Sorry to all of you folks that have read this already. I'll have a fresh chappy posted soon!
Chapter 11- Blood Brother, Pack Brother
In cities in the Midwest and on the Eastern seaboard where it snowed, Mother Nature dictated the seasons. On the West Coast and the South West where it rained all the time or was primarily arid, the calendar did. But in towns like Santa Carla and other similar traps, there were only two seasons; Tourist season and Off Season. Tourist Season started on Memorial Day Weekend and extended through Labor Day Weekend. Off Season was the rest of the year.
Our smallish ‘family unit’ did as well as could be expected in the meager off season months. Marko didn’t show a great deal of improvement in his healing until Spring Break, when the high school and college kids were out on the beach at night in droves. David explained that his injuries required him to feed more than once a night for optimum healing, and this we witnessed when we hunted as a group.
Mostly, though, David took us out individually. This was to reduce the odds that our activities would be detected. He explained that during the summer, we would hunt more as a pack, but for now, it was best to keep our numbers small.
Relations between Alan and David were tense, at best. I certainly didn’t blame either David or Marko for not completely trusting him. Yet, on the other hand, Alan had so far been completely cooperative. He showed me the graves of my brother and Dwayne on the second night of his initiation with little struggle. Since then, he largely kept to himself. David and Marko were excellent at excluding Alan from many pack discussions to the point of it being intentional. Though I wanted to be angry at Alan too, my real beef was with Edgar. Alan had paid his penance.
One night, Marko was divvying up some cash that he’d pocketed after he ate several guys that left a late night showing at a strip club.
“Paul would have had the time of his un-life,” he laughed, “You, me and Allison should go there some time and knock over some of the strippers. I’ll bet they’re loaded. All that dough they shove down their G-Strings…”
“We’ll be sure it’s the first place we hit when we get Paul and Dwayne back with us. A welcome back party,” David commented as he coolly accepted his allotment of money from Marko.
Marko slid $28.02 my way.
“Not bad, huh?”
“No, not bad,” I replied, “What about Alan. Doesn’t he get any?”
Marko made a face.
“When Paul and Dwayne are back with us, Alan will be entitled to a 1/6 share. But until then, NO,” David replied.
I bit my lip, unsure of what to say. Marko fielded another glance my way.
“Don’t feel so bad. Whatever Alan gets, Alan keeps. I don’t want any of his handouts.”
“That’s a great way to foster loyalty, guys,” I said.
“Loyalty is like respect. It has to be earned,” David replied.
Alan went out hunting alone that night. He had the good sense to stay away from the boardwalk or any well populated areas of Santa Carla. Edgar had put up missing posters everywhere. Still, Alan felt that his brother wouldn’t feel that bloodsuckers were responsible for his disappearance. They had supposedly killed them all. In fact, they had been investigating a werewolf case in the weeks before Alan went missing.
“It came to our attention one of Sam’s teacher’s name is Irving Hunt. Get it…I. Hunt? The guy’s picture is in the yearbook, and Edgar thought he looked sort of strange, too. He had a full beard and beady looking eyes. The night you found me was a full moon night. We were supposed to do a stake out. Me and Edgar both have our driver’s licenses now…,” Alan told me one night.
“Please tell me you weren’t going to stake out a teacher’s house in your parents’ Mystery Machine!” I gasped when he explained this to me, referring to his folks’ beat up relic of a Volkswagen bus. It reminded me of the van driven by the Scooby Doo gang.
“No, Edgar actually got a car. But, it’s a piece of shit. It needed some work done, and he had it at the garage getting fixed. He and Sam went there to pick it up….but in case it wasn’t done yet, he was going to call me at the shop, and yes, if it wasn’t ready, we WERE going to do the surveillance in the Volkswagen. I was going to have to go pick them up in it. Edgar wanted to see if this Irving Hunt looked any hairier on a full moon night…”
“Oh, lord!” I slapped my forehead with my hand. Then I turned to look at him.
“Hey, I thought you were 15. How can you have a license?”
“I turned 16 in October. That’s how I have a license. And Edgar’s 17. He turned in September.”
Memorial Day Weekend finally came, and we staked out the piece of property that had become known as ‘The Emerson’s Place’.
I was becoming somewhat familiar with the inhabitants of the house. Besides Sam, the boy in the open weave curtains and the overly bright clothing, there was his older brother, who dressed rather plainly by comparison, their middle aged mother who had a penchant for dating middle aged vampires, and her grizzle faced, eccentric father. How did I know he was eccentric? One only had to notice the décor on the outside of the house. The dead coyote swinging from a pole and the Native American totem pole were dead giveaways. So were the lit Christmas lights when it was almost June.
Besides the four of them, there was also the dog. The four legged resident of the house was supposedly the one that was directly responsible for my brother’s death. He was also the one that could ‘knew the smell of a flesh eater’ according to Alan, so he was the one we had to worry the most about. If he smelled us on the property, he would most certainly betray our presence. David wanted everyone there to believe him to still be dead. It would keep the idea of the others possibly resurrecting themselves out of anyone’s heads. That way, they wouldn’t go disturb the graves and burn the remains.
Usually, we only staked out the site very late at night. The only times I had ever been at the Emerson place at any other time, I went only with Marko, and I kept a safe distance away. He pointed out Michael and Lucy to me, as he had seen them before. He’d never met the old man. David hadn’t either. Alan was the one who clued us in as to who the old man was.
Once we settled on a night, we all had a good idea what the family’s regular schedule was like. We knew where the graves were and had them marked. Food was plentiful and readily available. Marko was healed, and Alan and I were well fledged enough to not require constant attention. It was time. We grabbed the bottle of wine and found two shovels from the rickety shed in the overgrown back yard of our current residence. David also suggested we get a couple of sheets from the beds upstairs. I was sent to retrieve them. This was not a pleasant task since I knew what sort of things happened on a regular basis on the sheets upstairs, but I found two of the cleanest ones I could manage and brought them with me. They would have to do.
There was lots of fog down by the coast, but hardly any up in the hills. I wished it would hurry up and move inland to help disguise our activities from the main house. It was two in the morning, and I doubted anyone was awake inside, but it was hard to tell. David said he was impaled on antlers belonging to an old fart who did taxidermy inside his own house and grew pot outside of it. That sort of freak could be awake at any hour.
Alan was given one shovel and I was given the other.
“Start digging,” David commanded.
“What sort of ass makes the ladies do the grunt work?” I grumbled, sticking the shovel in the earth.
“The Head Sire, that’s who.”
After I scooped a few piles of dirt into a little mound, Marko came and took the shovel out of my hands.
“Really, David. Making her dig up her own brother? Tacky,” he said.
“Blood brother, Pack brother. No difference to me,” David responded dryly.
“Big difference. He’s both to me,” I scoffed.
The whole time, Alan continued to dig, wordlessly concentrating on the task at hand. His hole was getting pretty deep. David walked over to the side of it and peered down.
“I don’t see anything,” he said in a barely controlled tone of voice.
“Well, we buried ‘em pretty deep. Didn’t want them climbing back up to get us,” Alan responded.
Marko huffed in frustration.
“This hole has got to be six feet. Are you sure it’s the right place?”
Alan was starting to look concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fairly sure. It’s the only place that looked right. But we didn’t use headstones. We just dug holes and dropped ‘em in, y’know?”
David glared a hole through Alan.
“I thought you said you knew where you buried them!”
“Why don’t you just yell a little louder and announce to the whole world that we’re here!” Alan sounded back.
He tossed his shovel down and glared stonily at it as it fell to the ground. Then, his eyes widened, and he stooped down beside it.
“I told you guys this was the right place. Wasn’t one of your buddies wearing this?”
He bent down and picked up something and held it up. David, who was standing above the hole he stood in, reached down and snatched it from Alan’s hand. His face clouded over, and a look of something I couldn’t quite read came over him.
“It’s Dwayne’s,” he said.
I recognized it as the fang earring that Dwayne wore in the painting.
David pocketed the earring and jumped down in the hole.
“Move!” he ordered to Alan.
Alan retreated and got out, leaving David alone to examine the hole that Alan had excavated. I stood a careful distance away and watched as David poked around with the shovel. After awhile, he climbed out, and then repeated the process in the hole that Marko had dug. Finally, he ordered the entire area between the two graves to be excavated. When nothing turned up, he backed away and heaved a frustrated sigh.
“They’re gone,” he announced.
“Gone as in…Dead?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Allison. I don’t know. Damn it. There’s only one way to permanently destroy the remains of a vampire, and that’s with fire. I don’t smell fire. Does anyone else?”
I shook my head, and so did the others.
“Wouldn’t the smell go away though?” I asked.
“The fuels that are used soak into the ground. They can smell for years. There’d be signs of fire, too. Scorched grass. Bare earth…no, there was no fire here.”
“So then, maybe they just got up and walked away,” Marko suggested.
“Yeah, right. When? We’ve been staking this place out quite a bit,” Alan answered.
“Not every night,” I said hopefully, “M-maybe that’s why the graves looked all sunken when we found them. Cuz they were empty!”
“It doesn’t explain HOW they were able to. What about the wine? HOW were they able to heal?” David asked.
Alan appeared to be doing some rapid calculations.
“Death Breath went with holy water. Man, that was nasty. But I’ve never seen it in any comic I’ve read that holy water actually kills. Only repels. It repelled him pretty damn good, I have to say…better than I would have thought, but it’s possible he could have survived it after all…”
“Are you referring to Paul as Death Breath?” I asked, with a hint of amusement.
Alan smiled sheepishly.
“Uh, as for the other guy…well, maybe Sam’s aim wasn’t as dead on as he thought, but even if it was, if Marko could heal from a big, huge hunk of wood going through his heart, maybe a small arrow isn’t such a big deal.”
“Possibly so, but Dwayne also damn near blew apart. The stereo, remember?”
“Well, according to some of the comics I’ve read, bloodsuckers are pretty damn near indestructible. I think the only one who doesn’t stand a chance is Max. We buried his ashes. Ashes don’t come back,” Alan said. His tone of voice was quite smug.
“So where does this leave us? They could be up and about, and they have no idea where we are!” I cried, exasperated.
“Don’t panic,” David said, trying not to sound impatient, “I have a few places to check. And I’m sure wherever they are, they’re together.”
Chapter 12- Anywhere But Here by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 12- Anywhere But Here
David first decided to check out their old hideout as soon as dark fell the next night. We had a glimmer of hope when we first arrived. The bike that had once belonged to Dwayne was missing. Someone had come and taken it from its hiding place in the few weeks it had been since he’d last been there to bring Marko’s bike to him and turn the engine over on Dwayne’s to keep the battery charged. We dared to hope that it had been Dwayne himself, and not some random thief that had gotten lucky.
I quickly figured out why David decided not to use the old hideout as a headquarters any longer. As we trudged across the rickety wooden foot bridge that led to the mouth of the cave, I realized that Alan was quite familiar with the surroundings. Much more familiar with them than I was. I figured if he was, then his brother Edgar was, too. This must be the place where Edgar and Alan attacked Marko while he slept.
Marko was the first inside the dark entrance. I shivered as I looked around. I could see nothing. Even though my fate was officially sealed for all eternity as a creature of the night, this place was giving me a case of the heebie jeebies. I was instantly relieved when Marko lit a torch and stuck it inside of some oil drums to ignite some fires. Suddenly, the interior of the cave lit up to reveal a room that was not typical for a cave. I realized that this place wasn’t just a cave. It had once been a grand hotel.
Old, faded carpet covered the ground. It looked to be the color of dried blood. In some places, it was worn clean through. There was a beat up old sofa, a four poster bed, a twin sized mattress, and an old fashioned wheel chair haphazardly strewn about. Many posters were taped to the walls. One was of Jim Morrison. A couple of surfboards were propped up against a decorative pillar. Yet there were no signs of habitation.
Marko stood in the middle of the room with a dejected look on his face.
“Man, even the birds are gone,” he muttered to himself.
“Birds?” I asked.
“Marko made friends with the pigeons that roosted here,” David told me with a half smirk on his face.
Marko flashed a look to David that looked half annoyed, half embarrassed. He probably wished that David hadn’t shared that little bit of intimate knowledge in front of Alan. I wanted to tell him that pigeons typically weren’t nocturnal creatures, and any present could be sleeping, but I wisely decided to keep quiet.
Alan paid no mind to the conversation whatsoever. As usual, he was investigating off on his own, poking around the rear portion of the enclosure.
“I’m going to check in the back,” he announced.
“No, you’re staying out here. I’m checking,” David retorted gruffly. Then, he inclined his head towards Marko and made a slight motion towards the back, indicating that he wanted Marko to accompany him. I stood still, making no move to invite myself along. Instead, I watched the two of them disappear down what looked like an old elevator shaft into parts unknown.
“They’re going to check the sleeping lair,” Alan told me in a near whisper.
“I figured as much,” I replied.
Since it was night, I didn’t figure that either of them would be back there unless they still required healing sleep after their previous ordeal. If that was the case, I could also understand why David was so protective of them. He had been the same way with Marko as he’d healed. I felt bad for Alan, yet at the same time, Alan and Edgar had been among those who had visited all the suffering on David’s pack.
“I think this is wasted effort,” Alan told me in hushed tones.
I turned towards him and gazed at him solemnly.
“They’re gone. Maybe they’ve even left town. Why would they hang around here? My guess is this. They came back here once to look for Marko. They found he was gone. They figured that he either got up himself, or something carried his body off. Maybe they think David is still alive and did it. But at the very least, they know this place isn’t safe. Mortals know about it. They came here, found out what there was to know, picked up the bike and split. They sure the hell aren’t gonna hang around and wait for my brother to figure out that they aren’t dead and stick it to them again. It’s only a matter of time before Edgar finds out about us! And trust me, he will. As long as people are disappearing and dying in Santa Carla, Edgar is going to suspect that there’s vampire activity. He’ll figure it out before long, ” Alan explained.
I set my jaw stubbornly.
“Why would Paul just up and leave town without the rest of his pack?”
“If he figures that’s what they did, he’d have no choice. I’m telling you, if we don’t find them soon, it’s what I plan to do. I’m not sticking around here for Edgar to find me. You don’t know him like I do.”
“Well, that’s great for you, Alan, but I want to find my brother!” I argued.
“Allison, you’re forgetting something. Paul doesn’t know you’ve joined the ranks of the undead. But under ordinary circumstances, it’s not something he’d stick around Santa Carla waiting for you to do. Hell, you two lived in the same town for what…three years, and he didn’t even bother to send you a birthday card. Maybe it’s time you knocked him off his pedestal a bit!”
“Fuck you, Alan!” I cried, turning my back on him.
Marko and David emerged from the back with cobwebs in their hair and grim expressions on their faces.
“Let’s go,” David said in a short tone of voice.
Before we left, David draped one of the two jackets he wore on the back of the old wheelchair as a signal that he’d been there recently. In a couple of nights, he planned to return and change the signal.
Our next plan was tour of the Boys old haunts, including a flyover of the boardwalk. We decided we’d make several passes at different intervals of the night to include any time when they might be out hunting. Our own kills were made during this phase.
The lighthouse perched out on Hudson’s Bluff was a great place for the boys to party, since it was really only accessible by the Coast Guard, unless one could fly. An isolated outcropping of rock jutted out into the ocean, and here was where the lighthouse had been built. Too many windows kept it from being a hospitable place for vampires to make a daytime nest, but it was a suitable place to drink beer, smoke weed, and listen to loud music without fear of discovery. When we got there, though, the only inhabitants of the lighthouse were a few nesting seagulls and some rats. Rats could magically get anywhere, I supposed.
Next on the agenda was a train trestle over a tributary river. David led us to the tracks and spent some time walking up and down them, looking to see if Dwayne had parked his bike anywhere nearby.
“Paul doesn’t have his bike. Maybe they flew out here,” Marko suggested.
“It might be a bit early yet. We’ll just have to wait and see,” David replied. He had a suspicious twinkle in his eye that I wasn’t sure I liked.
“A bit early for what?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” David said ominously.
We stood in the darkness, right between the track rails, waiting for something that I had no idea of. David took the cigarette from behind his ear, lit it, and began puffing away. Alan cast a nervous glance my way. I looked down at the tie beneath my feet and scuffed at it with the toe of my sneaker. I was still pissed at him from his comment to me back at the cave.
The ground began to hum beneath my feet. In the distance, I heard a whistle, and I realized that a train was on its way. David casually flicked the lit butt of his cigarette away and gave a small smirk.
“Everyone down,” he announced.
“Down where?” Alan asked.
“Down below. Marko?”
Marko gave a short wave and dropped off the side of the trestle. David peeped his head over.
“Anyone under there with you?”
“Nada,” Marko reported.
I looked over to see Marko clinging to some supports beneath the trestle.
“Now, kids, like I said, everyone over, or you’ll be squashed like bugs,” David ordered.
I looked up to see the train bearing down on us with remarkable speed.
“Yes, that’s right. Here comes the choo choo!” he said.
Without another second’s hesitation, I scrambled over the trestle and grabbed onto the supports. Alan followed suit. David joined us just as the train began to pass overhead. Suddenly, the supports started to rock and vibrate violently, thrashing us about. Marko and David looked like they were having the times of their lives. I felt like I was having my arms ripped out of their sockets. Alan looked seasick.
“I’m gonna spew!” he moaned.
“Then let go,” David told him.
“Oh, yah, right!”
Alan released his hold on the bar. I watched his descent and decided I’d had enough arm wrenching trauma as well. I unlatched my hold on the supports and let myself fall. Before long, Marko and David drifted down to join us on the banks of the river.
“You guys called that fun?” I asked.
Marko was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Obviously, he did think it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
David’s mood quickly returned to a more somber one. He turned to me.
“We are now 0 for 4. I’d suggest the video store, but I already know it will be a complete wash. So, now, I’m going to ask you to tell me if you know of any places where your brother used to hang out when you were growing up. Did he have any secret place he used to go to get away from it all?”
I huffed and blew air out of my cheeks.
“His head,” I finally managed to say.
“That’s no help,” David scoffed.
“Well, no, I’m serious. Our mom was a total watch dog. If we weren’t home when she got off at 4 o’clock, there was hell to pay. Of course, we had gotten home an hour before and had plenty of time to get loaded out back, so it was easy to escape her holy roller bullshit by tuning it out, but she kept us busy all evening with chores, homework and family Come to Jesus meetings. If Paul went anywhere, it was in the middle of the night, maybe. The trouble didn’t start with him ‘til after he graduated. Then, Mom couldn’t keep such tight controls on him. He would go to his friend’s houses. Sometimes stay the night. That’s when he got his ear pierced and brought home that bike…refused to come home for prayer meetings and said swear words in the house. Mom was afraid he’d gone the way of the devil, and about six months later, she kicked him out. So, I can’t think of any secret places that he went to so he could get away from it all. The only private places he had were his room and his head,” I explained.
“Doesn’t sound likely he’d go anywhere near there, either, then.”
“Hell no. I wouldn’t either,” I replied, “What about Dwayne?”
“Dwayne’s not a local boy. He’s from New Mexico.”
“Maybe they went there,” I suggested flatly. I sincerely hoped not, but anything was possible.
“Dwayne, maybe, but not Paul. If folks started turning up dead on an Indian Reservation, Paul would be the first one blamed, regardless of whether he did it or not. White men and Indian Reservations don’t mix well.”
“Besides, Dwayne hated it there. He was of mixed blood and got a lot of shit for it. I don’t think they’d go there anymore than Allison says that Paul would want to go home,” Marko added.
“Another point well made,” David said.
“So what now?” Marko asked, looking tired, defeated, and dejected.
“We watch and we wait. Kill patterns. Edgar Frog isn’t the only person in this town that can pay attention to kill patterns. We also need to keep our mental channels open. They could call out to us at any time if they smell our scent signatures.”
David lit up another smoke and looked lost in thought.
“Each of us needs to keep a careful tally of the victims we kill. Gather up ID’s if possible, descriptions if not. We’ll match them up to reports in papers, newscasts and flyers. This way, we can keep track of all the ones we take down vs. all the ones that disappear by other means. We’ll discount any reports of mangled bodies found, since we do not mangle our victims and leave them lying around, or any reports of bodies found that obviously have a human killer. There’s four of us, and two of them. But, they are likely still healing. We, however, still have two relatively new vampires in our pack. I figure their food needs will still be roughly one half of our needs…”
“Correction. You had four. Now you have three. I’m leaving town at sunset tomorrow,” Alan said.
Both Marko and David looked completely surprised. I didn’t, even if I was shocked at his bold announcement.
“Is that so?” David countered in a cloud of smoke.
Alan nodded somberly.
“I can’t wait around for Edgar to discover what’s been done to me. The longer you guys stick around here, the more danger you put yourselves in, too. You know what he’s capable of. And if he could get others to believe his bullshit before, he can do it again. Hell, all he has to do is dial up Sam, his brother and that loony grandfather of theirs…If Dwayne and Paul have any sort of smarts, they picked up and cleared out.”
“I’m not afraid of Edgar Frog. You shouldn’t be either,” David replied.
“If you’re not afraid of him, then why don’t you sleep in your old cave?” Alan asked.
“You know, I have half a mind to cleave your head right off your body, you smart mouthed little…”
I moved in between the two with a stealthy step.
“Stop, you two. This isn’t solving anything. David, Alan has a point. I’ve seen the back of the Frog brother’s shop. There’s weapons galore. Edgar is fanatical about killing vampires. I know that, and I didn’t even know him all that long. He’s as nuts about hunting vampires as my mom is about finding Jesus. I’m serious. It really is better if he doesn’t know what Alan has become, or that any of you survived that night. It will only cause problems. Do you really want to spend the rest of eternity dodging stakes? Maybe you think you can take him out with the snap of your fingers, but three of you went up against him last year and wound up losing your head vampire and taking a dirt nap, need I remind you….”
“I went up against Michael, who was not completely mortal at the time. Not Edgar. Had I been matched against Edgar, I would have snapped his head right off,” David fumed.
“Are you saying that my brother…”
“Don’t even go there, Allison. You said it yourself that he failed. And you’re right. Paul failed. But he was unfairly matched against Edgar, that putz over there, a dog, and a bathtub full of holy water. It wasn’t a fair fight,” David justified.
“Fair or unfair, Edgar is very resourceful. That’s the point I’m trying to make. He has ways of making the odds unfair. Like staking a sleeping vampire. How fair is that?” Alan added.
“Maybe Alan does have a point,” he conceded, “What’s to stop him from finding out where we sleep one day and burning it down around our ears?”
“You, that’s what,” David said, pointing at Alan.
“Sorry. I’m not going to stick around here just to be your bargaining chip. You’ve made it plain and clear that you want nothing to do with me. I’ve been completely cooperative in every way possible. But its obvious Paul and Dwayne are not here. So here’s where I get off the carousel. I hate to tell you guys, I would make a lousy bargaining chip anyways. Edgar wouldn’t hesitate to stake me without even thinking twice about it if he knew what I was. He’d rationalize it by thinking he was saving my soul from an eternity of night stalking. Better dead than sucking red, in his book.”
“So, hot shot, just where do you think you’re going to go, then?” David asked.
“I don’t know yet. But somewhere. Anywhere but here.”
His jaw was set stubbornly, and his arms were crossed in an air of defiance. He meant every word he said.
“I am your Sire. I won’t have you going out there alone. It’s too dangerous. Where ever you go, you’re taking Allison with you. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Together, you can continue to look for Paul and Dwayne. I know that Allison will help keep you on track and keep you motivated.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but then realization dawned on me. I understood what David was doing. He didn’t want Alan to forget his purpose. By sending me along, he knew I wouldn’t let Alan get distracted. My motivation to find Paul was as strong as Marko’s and his own.
“Whatever,” Alan muttered insolently.
Chapter 13- Beyond the Boardwalk by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 13- Beyond the Boardwalk
It wasn’t until we left Santa Carla that Alan and I were able to truly experience the freedom of what it meant to be undead. The months we spent with David and Marko were restricted and carefully watched. Paranoia was abundant. At all times, we had to concern ourselves with anyone in town who might recognize David, Marko, or Alan. Though I was a new face in the pack, danger was present for me by association. Not to mention, Edgar knew me from when I’d worked in the shop. No one was safe.
Once Alan and I broke free, the paranoia didn’t leave immediately. We drifted to nearby towns, unsure of what to do and how to go about ordering our new lives. David left us with the most basic instructions on survival. ‘Avoid sunlight, of course. Avoid revealing your true nature to any mortal you don’t intend to kill. And, if no mortals are around to service as food, animals will do in a pinch’. Armed with his meager tips and Alan’s plethora of vampire lore, we set off without a map and basically without much of a plan, either.
Not far from Santa Carla, we lucked into some cash from some wallets we’d stolen from mortals we’d killed, and we decided to take a bus to the Bay Area. We were situated in a farming community not far from Salinas, where illegal immigrants came in droves to harvest the crops. They made great, easy meals. Alan checked the pockets of the fellow he’d just drained and grimaced. He only netted five dollars in cash and a fake social security card. I fared a little better. My victim had eleven dollars on him. Combined with what we’d already gathered, we now had enough for two Greyhound bus tickets.
“Why San Francisco?” Alan asked.
“I don’t know. I think it’s just some place Paul would want to see. I could be wrong, but he’d dig the Haight Ashbury district and all the clubs and stuff. The have a kick ass Hard Rock Café…he’d want to see that…Oh, and Alcatraz…”
“Do you honestly think Paul is into sight seeing?”
I sighed heavily.
“Maybe. Think about it. Do you think David is? The whole time we were with David, it was like…did we dare question him? Something tells me that Paul wouldn’t have either. If there was something Paul wanted to do, he wouldn’t have done it unless David wanted to do it,” I said.
“You have a point there,” Alan conceded.
“I wish we knew Dwayne better. Then, we’d know what sorts of things Dwayne was into. If they’re together, they’d compromise on stuff. Do some things Paul likes, then do some stuff Dwayne likes.”
Alan looked thoughtful for a moment. Then, he sniffed. A moment later, he sniffed again. I noticed his eyes were watering profusely. Just as I was about to ask him what was bothering him, my eyes began to water, and the smell hit me, too. It was garlic! Oh, Lord, I’d forgotten just where we were!
“Alan, we have to leave town as quickly as possible!” I told him.
“Why?” he asked, rubbing at his eyes.
“It’s Garlic! We’re in Gilroy! It’s the Garlic Capital of the World! A breeze must have started blowing the scent this way. Man, I’m going nuts!”
Alan smacked his head.
“Of course. I should know that! Let’s get the hell out of here!”
We didn’t succeed in finding Paul or Dwayne that night. In fact, we probably only succeeded in finding the one place in the world they’d never go.
In retrospect, perhaps it was a mistake for David to cut us loose so soon. Despite my burning drive to find Paul, inbred curiosity to experience the world with my newly enhanced senses and abilities was too great a temptation to pass up. There was never a place we went that I didn’t look. But, there came a time where I stopped looking for places to look. I simply ran out of ideas. Paul became an elusive shadow that I resigned myself to chasing for the rest of eternity. It was nothing new, really. I had been chasing him every day of my adult life.
As I slowed the search for my brother, Alan eventually stopped running from his. He would always be on guard for Edgar, as Edgar would loom over his shoulder like the shadow of a mountain until the day he died. But as weeks lengthened into months, and months into years, we found ourselves more comfortable staying in one place for longer spells. It gave us a chance to absorb the nightlife and acquaint ourselves with the party scenes. Soon, Alan and I found that we developed a liking for mortals that drove flashy cars and hung out in trendy clubs. They usually had wads of cash in their wallets and were loaded with all kinds of designer drugs. These could be sold for more money, or enjoyed later as an extra perk, if we so chose. We were still quintessentially vagabonds, but Robin Leach had nothing on us. We were living the lifestyle of the Rich and Famous. It was a life I had never dreamed I’d experience. All for the price of sucking a few necks…
During this time, it occurred to me that my brother and his friend were doing precisely the same thing. Without David dictating his every move, maybe he was enjoying all of the luxuries that being a bloodsucker could provide. I convinced myself that it was just a matter of time before our paths collided. In the meantime, I sugarcoated those fantasies with just about any kind of powder I could snort in addition to large quantities of weed. And, of course, buckets of blood. Alan was never one to criticize my habits. He was doing exactly the same things.
Though we did occasionally move from town to town, we never really did leave California, except maybe to try our hand at the casinos in Nevada for a couple of nights. Life was simply a gory smorgasbord of fun, and there was no need to. Therefore, we never completely lost contact with David or Marko. It seemed they seldom left California, either. Since David had sired Alan, he was easily able to keep mental tabs on his whereabouts. This annoyed Alan nearly to the point of drinking.
“It’s like being under Edgar’s shadow again,” he confided in me one night.
“David is nothing like Edgar,” I told him.
“No, you’re right. They’re polar opposites. Yet they’re both very controlling. It’s just that I never realized how confined I felt with Edgar until I was free of it,” Alan explained.
“See, then, we did you a favor.”
“Some favor. It’s like hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Alan snorted.
“At least David cut you free,” I reminded him.
“No he didn’t. He still keeps a finger on me. And by doing so, he keeps one on you. In fact, he gave me a message….”
“Oh, brother. What sort of message?” I asked.
While I waited for Alan to answer, I gazed out of the windows of our high rise hotel room out onto the city below. The heavy drapes had been parted to reveal the vast panorama of busy streets teeming with humanity. I could almost feel the throbbing of their pulses and taste their warm blood.
“He’s getting very impatient with our progress. He thinks that after so many years, we should have some word by now…”
“He should talk,” I scoffed.
“That’s exactly what I told him,” Alan said with a sly grin.
“Well, what else did he say? Anything?”
“Yeah. He wants to meet with us.”
I rolled my eyes. What did David hope to accomplish by wagging his finger at us? If he planned to shame us into looking harder, he should surely know that guilt was not a vampire’s strong suit. But instead of arguing, I turned away from the window and sighed. I knew it was pointless to put up a fight. Alan didn’t need to hear it. David would keep hounding him until we both agreed.
“Where does he want to meet?” I asked. Though I was being a good sport, I still couldn’t hide the annoyance in my tone. David’s impromptu meeting was putting a cramp in my party plans.
“He and Marko are staying in Vallejo. He says to meet up there tomorrow night, in a club called The Elbow Room.”
I knew where Vallejo was. It was not far from San Jose. However, I had no idea where The Elbow Room was. I supposed it was some skanky downtown dive. David liked hole in the wall places. We had one night to pack up, get to Vallejo, and figure out where this joint was.
Once we got to Vallejo, we settled into new rooms and located The Elbow Room in the local yellow pages of the phone book. Hotel rooms were good for always having phone books on hand. While we made our kills, Alan and I scouted the area and found the club easily enough. Just as I suspected, it was a dive in the downtown district. There was no sign of Marko or David, but we weren’t expecting there to be until tomorrow night.
The next night was a Saturday. For a downtown cesspool, The Elbow Room was surprisingly busy. The sounds of a live band could be heard drifting out of the open doors. A bouncer sat at the front, waiting to peek at patron’s ID’s as they entered. Alan and I took out our wallets and patiently waited our turns. This was nothing new to us. Though neither of us had ben 21 at our turnings, by now, we had both legally passed our 21st birthdays without dispute. Anyone who doubted it by our looks had only to look at our licenses. We were admitted without incident.
Inside the club, it was close and hot. I could smell mortal blood pumping through veins, and my mouth watered. Alan and I had little trouble finding a table to sit at, though. Many of the customers were seated elbow to elbow at the long, oak wood bar watching a sports game on TV. No wonder it was called The Elbow Room. The majority of the people were on the dance floor, enjoying the music of the live band that was playing. I soon found my toes tapping in time to the beat. The band wasn’t one I’d ever heard of, but they weren’t half bad.
“What time did David say he was going to be here?” I asked. Part of me hoped he wouldn’t show up. Then, Alan and I would be free to mix and mingle with the crowd. We could dance, drink a little alcohol, and then later, drink a lot of blood.
“9:00,” Alan replied.
I glanced at my watch. We were fifteen minutes early, but we’d gotten here early on purpose. Some bars started charging cover fees around nine or ten on weekends. We had no desire to pay extra to meet up with David.
It was hard to see the door from our vantage point, but there was no real need to watch it. David and Marko would be able to find us easily enough, despite the crowd. We had changed very little in the time that had passed. There wasn’t much that our different hair styles and clothes could change. Alan no longer wore head to toe combat clothes. The only relic he still retained was his dog tags around his neck. I no longer had feathered hair and 501’s. My favored style now was the ever popular ‘Jennifer Aniston’ look like she wore in that show ‘Friends’. Many women wore it, so I blended in nicely and didn’t look too conspicuous. I dressed a lot like that, too.
Nine o’clock rolled around, and still there was no sign of David or Marko.
“Great. Figures they’d decide to pull the ‘Fashionably Late schtick,” Alan grumbled.
“They’ll be here. Let’s just order some drinks,” I said dismissively.
We did just that, whetting our appetites with some Bloody Mary’s. Another half hour passed in tense silence. Suddenly, my mind shifted gears and I started to worry. What if something happened, and David and Marko were in trouble? I thought of them being impaled on the tip of a stake or burnt up in a sealed room, and my throat constricted.
Alan looked up at me over his empty glass all the sudden; and his eyes were round and filled with a fearful expression.
“David just sent me a message. He says we should get out of here.”
“Did he say why?”
“He said to try and take the back exit if possible to avoid being seen. He and Marko can’t come in here. They just saw my brother come in with someone that looks like he could be Sam Emerson!”
“No wonder they’re late. Well, let’s not panic. We’ll just take it slow, easy and causal, and make for the back, just like David suggested. He’s been to this club before, so he would know if there’s a way out in the back,” I told him.
Alan pursed his lips. His eyes darted around nervously. We slid out of our seats and threaded our way through the throngs of people. I was glad it was packed. We moved stealthily yet casually as though we were in no big hurry. My eyes were trained on the back of the club, glued to the sign that read ‘Restrooms’. Somehow, I figured the back exit would be situated there.
I heard them before I saw them. Somewhere behind us, they were in the crowd. Edgar’s voice had changed little over the years and still carried that gruff tone that was too old for his age. He was carrying on a conversation with the male companion who was presumably Sam Emerson.
“I know there’s suck monkey activity in this area. It’s been going on for some time. This time, I think I finally have a bead on them…”
“What makes you think you do this time? You’ve been saying this for years, and you have yet to uncover a single vampire…”
“Call it instinct. Not to mention, the body the cops found two nights ago was only half burned. Bite marks to the neck. Very suspicious…”
I nearly froze in my tracks. It seemed like David and Marko were getting a bit sloppy in their kill disposals. Still, there was no time to stop. We moved onwards. I could tell that Alan was nearly frantic. Before I could say anything to calm him, he ran headlong into a waitress carrying a tray loaded with drinks.
“Hey, watch it!” she cried, trying mightily to right the upset beer bottles.
Alan flashed her an angry look and growled deep in his throat. The waitress looked at him with dismay.
“Never mind. Sorry,” I muttered. Then, I tugged on his shirtsleeve, trying to lure him away.
It was too late. Edgar and his companion had already seen the commotion. His eyes had already locked with Alan’s. Edgar was pushing his way through the crowd; knocking customers around like they were bowling pins in an alley. Moments later, he stood before us, gaping in disbelief.
“Alan? What the hell? What are you doing here?” he demanded. Though he spoke coherently, his face was still frozen in a look of utter disbelief.
“There’s no time to talk about this Edgar. I have to go,” Alan told him softly.
“Have to go? Go where? Are you nuts? Alan, where the hell have you been? I’ve been searching all over creation for you! I was afraid you’d been mauled by werewolves!”
A few customers standing around stopped and looked at Edgar like he had lobsters crawling out of his ears. I supposed it was a look he was rather accustomed to, because he seemed rather undaunted.
“As you can see, I’m fine. Really, Edgar, I’ll talk to you about it later. A crowded club is hardly the place,” Alan insisted.
“Fine. Let’s go outside then.”
Alan shifted a glance my way and I shrugged. I knew we weren’t going to get rid of Edgar easily. Besides, I really wouldn’t have minded filing my fangs on his neck. Of course, I kept that to myself. Some things were better done than said. A moment later, I nodded.
“Who’s that, your girlfriend?” Edgar asked with a little bitterness in his tone.
“She’s a girl friend. You remember Allison…she used to work for us.”
As we pushed our way out of the club, Edgar squinted at me.
“Yeah. I remember you. You just up and left after we told you that your brother was a suck monkey. When did you make amends with Alan?”
“A long time ago,” I answered smoothly.
We stood in the back alley beneath a sodium vapor lamp that illuminated things considerably more than the dim atmosphere of the club. I could see quite plainly that Edgar’s companion indeed was Sam Emerson. He had changed some, but he was still easily recognizable. He quietly stood by Edgar, studying Alan and I without speaking.
“So, what happened that night, Alan? Why did you leave?” Edgar pressed.
“Long story. Short on time,” Alan told him.
“Look. If a werewolf bit you, maybe there’s something I can do to reverse it. We can work on this. Why did you hide from me? Did you think I wouldn’t understand?”
“Uh, uh, Edgar, maybe it wasn’t a werewolf that bit him. Notice how neither of them has aged at all…” Sam finally said, gently nudging his friend.
Edgar said nothing for a long moment. Then, he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
“Nah. There’s no way Alan would ever take the dark communion. Getting bit by a werewolf would keep him young looking for a very long time, y’know…Preserve him. Like a mummy. Only a live one…”
“Yeah, but you said there’s been vampire activity in the area,” Sam pointed out.
“Hmm. Good point, Sam. Edgar would be right,” I said, “There has been vampire activity in the area…”
Both of them stopped yammering and looked at me. I smiled at them sweetly. Then I let my fangs extend.
“Holy shit! She’s one of them! Let’s get her!” Edgar cried.
“I don’t think so, Eddie,” Alan said. His tone was cold and businesslike. A hiss then issued from his throat, and his own fangs dropped.
“Alan, what the hell? No! How could you!” Edgar demanded. His face colored red with indignation and anger.
“Some things in this life aren’t a choice. But when fate hands you lemons, you can either pucker up and cry, or make lemonade. I chose to make lemonade,” Alan replied through a mouthful of fangs.
“Becoming a suck monkey is a choice. You don’t have to kill. You chose to!” Edgar volleyed.
“You think you know everything. But you don’t know shit!” Alan snarled.
“I know that I’m disappointed in you. My own brother is a shit sucking night stalker! You’re weak! You couldn’t resist! All this time I’ve been looking for you, tearing out my hair..and yes, even blaming myself and crying for you, you’ve been murdering innocent people and sucking their blood! Imagine that! What a waste!”
Edgar’s face was getting redder by the second. Sam was vainly trying to pull him back, and smartly so. I realized that Edgar was teetering on the edge and about to explode, and that Alan wasn’t far behind. Granted, I wouldn’t mind one bit if Edgar found death on the end of sharp fangs, but I didn’t want them to be Alan’s. Frankly, I didn’t think Alan could handle carrying that guilt into eternity.
“My choice was made for me. It was kill or be killed. You always said that you’d rather be dead than suck red. Well, you know what? Maybe it’s time to put that to the test. Let’s see what you choose, huh, Edgar?” Alan growled, advancing on his brother.
“NO! Alan, NO!” I cried. I made a move to lunge in between the two, but Alan’s hand shot out and he shoved me back.
“This is between Edgar and I. Stay out of it,” he told me firmly.
“Don’t make me do this, bro,” Edgar said, pulling a sharp wooden stake out of the pack strapped to his back.
Alan only laughed. It was a horrid, bitter sound.
They advanced on each other again, circling round and round. Then, simultaneously, they pounced on one another. My eyes met Sam’s. We both knew what we had to do. He moved to grab Edgar, and I to grab Alan. A tug of war ensued. I knocked the stake from Edgar’s hand and then managed to pull Alan a part of the way back. Sam wriggled most of the way in between the two warring brothers. But, in the brief span of time where Alan had the advantage because Edgar no longer had the stake, a fateful miscalculation was made. He lunged unexpectedly. His fangs sunk into Sam’s neck.
Sam yelped and went down on his knees, slapping and pulling madly at Alan’s hands. I screamed Alan’s name to no avail. Finally, I smacked him hard across the face. The blow knocked him to his senses, and he released his hold on Sam’s neck. He still had Sam in a chokehold, and I forced him to look at me.
“If you still want to do this, it’s up to you. But I want you to think about it,” I warned him.
Sam looked like a frightened deer caught in the headlights, but I felt no pity for him. If Alan elected not to finish the job, I’d have no problems doing it for him. I just didn’t want Alan to live with the guilt of it.
Alan pushed Sam away roughly and looked down at the ground.
“Now you know what I am. Get out of here. Both of you. If I ever see you guys again, I can’t promise you’ll be so lucky,” he said.
“This isn’t over, brother,” Edgar said. He nearly spat the word brother.
“You can bet that this isn’t over.”
But at least for tonight, it was. Sam had two bleeding puncture marks in his neck to attend to, and I had Edgar’s stake, and I wasn’t certain if he had any other weapons in his back pack to use on us. If he did, maybe he lacked the spirit to. But I had no plans to stick around and find out. Edgar could die another night. For now, I yanked Alan to his feet and urged him to come with me. Together, we fled from the alley. Our retreat was too swift for any mortal to follow.
Chapter 14- The Phoenix by GarlicTShirt
I have to ask for a pardon here for poking some fun at The Tribe. Please don't throw tomatoes at me!
This is almost the end. Hope you like it!
Chapter 14- The Phoenix
Luna Bay, California 2008
Alan became an island within himself after that fateful night outside the bar in Vallejo. The inevitable had happened. He’d finally run into Edgar, and he was now eternally reminded that there was never going to be an escape from his past for as long as Edgar lived. His brother would hunt him down with stakes and holy water, demanding that he reconcile his soul and free himself. He also knew that Edgar’s scope now extended well past Santa Carla.
I stuck with Alan and watched his gradual mental decay. Really, I had to. I had only the faintest links to David and Marko since I had technically been sired by Max’s blood. Our mental links were strong when close, but faint over a long distance. I needed Alan to keep me informed to their whereabouts.
He did, even if he didn’t care to. All Alan cared about was outwitting his brother. Outwitting him meant finding crafty ways to stay two steps ahead of him in the Vampires vs. Mortals game.
Our Halcyon nights were gone. My job was now to keep Alan grounded in reality the best I could and continue my search for my brother. My efforts began anew as soon as I realized to what extent Alan’s mental faculties were narrowing. The lavish lifestyle soon stopped as Alan deemed he should save most of the money he got from his kills. When he finally saved up enough, he bought a car. It was a stylish black sports model. The car wasn’t enough, though. In the game to stay ahead of his stake whittling brother, Alan started outfitting it with all sorts of sensors and small cameras on the outside, and monitors on the inside so that he’d have a clear view of the outside world. Then, he sealed up every window so that no sunlight could get in.
“See. Now we can ride around when it’s light out, and make a daytime escape if necessary,” Alan proudly announced to me when he completed his creation.
“Great, Alan. But not practical. It’s not even street legal. There’s laws on how much window tinting people can have. You’ll get pulled over by the first cop that sees you in this,” I commented.
“Let ‘em try. I’ll run them over,” Alan replied. He showed no concern.
“Wonderful. Well, I guess we can take your tomb car and drive on over to this town called Luna Bay. I’ve been paying attention to the obits and the crime stats. This town has seen a dramatic increase in unexplained murders and disappearances in the last couple of years. I think we should check it out.”
“Luna Bay. Never heard of it,” Alan sneered.
“It shows promise. It’s a seaside community, like Santa Carla. It doesn’t have a boardwalk, but it does have the kind of climate and population that Paul would be attracted to. Surfers, beaches, all that stuff….,” I continued.
“Yeah, well Santa Monica, Oceanside, Long Beach, and Santa Barbara are all seaside towns too, but we never found him there…”
“Yeah, but they’re all in Southern California. The climate isn’t right. I don’t know. Go with me here. My instincts say this is a place worth checking out. The crime stats speak for themselves.”
Alan looked less than thrilled to chase after my elusive dream with me yet another time. Especially to a place that had something going on, even if it wasn’t vampires. I had to wonder why.
“What’s going through that head of yours?” I asked in a sour tone.
“Do I need to spell it out for you? High profile vampire activity means Edgar is likely to make an appearance there if he already hasn’t.”
“Fine. I’ll take care of him for you. I’ll have your back like you’ve always had mine. I consider us partners. We’ve stuck together for 20 years now. It should count for something,” I told him.
Alan made sure his car was well fitted with alarm sensors that would keep nosy humans at bay wherever we parked it. The cameras also kept a recording of anyone that approached the car if Alan programmed it to do so when he was away from it. All he had to do was activate a keychain remote. He could then watch the activity all from a Bluetooth link on the display in his cell phone. It was rather ingenious.
We rode into Luna Bay, and I half expected to see a town laid out just like Santa Carla. I was sorely disappointed. The only way this place resembled Santa Carla was that it was by the ocean, and there were a lot of surfers hanging around. Lots of surfers meant lots of parties. But, the beach was pathetic in comparison. There were only a few expensive houses perched out on cliffs overlooking the vast ocean. They were the only things worth looking at. The rest of the town was flat and boring. The beaches were scrubby and somewhat featureless. Maybe they had more character and flavor just outside the city limits. My spirits flagged for a bit as Alan circled the city, looking for a decent hotel to stay at. But I didn’t let them flag for long. Those stats were exactly what I’d been looking for.
Alan’s communications with David had informed him of our current whereabouts. Also, he asked if he and Marko had ever been up this way. David didn’t even know where the hell Luna Bay was, which was good for us. None of the kills could be attributed to him or Marko.
“So, where’s our ever distant leader?” I asked as Alan pulled into the parking lot of a seedy looking Motel 6. There were no more times spent in posh, apartment style hotel rooms. Now, it was dump city, so that Alan could continue the expense to retrofit his car. But, at least this particular dump had a secluded back parking lot. It also had wireless internet, according to the sign posted in neon out front. This was a good thing. My most technological purchase had been a laptop computer. I could keep track of all things newsworthy and gruesome much easier via the web than in any time before.
We nicknamed Alan’s car ‘Kit’. It did practically everything BUT talk. Once Kit was parked behind the dumpsters, we grabbed our luggage from the cramped trunk. Included in our belongings were the sleeping bags we zipped ourselves in each morning just in case the drapes didn’t offer enough protection from the sun’s rays.
“David and Marko are sucking the State Capital dry,” Alan finally answered after a long pause.
“Sacramento? Bleh! Why are they there?” I asked as Alan unlocked the door to our room.
“Why are we here?”
“Killings? They have a lead?”
“No, not that he told me. More like scouting for places that Paul and Dwayne might hang out. They’re having some Headbanger’s concert at Arco Arena tomorrow night, and they have a Hard Rock Café there…”
“Gotcha,” I responded. It was as good a lead as any, I supposed, though I figured at this point, they really just wanted to check out the Monsters of Rock concert as badly as Paul or Dwayne might have wanted to.
I loaded up my computer and did a quick scan of Sacramento’s crime stats. I came up with nothing promising. It was the sort of town that was large and heavily populated. Someone died there every night and it was no big thing. Most mysterious deaths were attributed to random gang violence. Sacramento and its surrounding cities were known as gang havens. Sadly, the problem was getting to be a widespread issue all over California. It made tracking vampire type killings a real chore. I supposed Edgar had his work cut out for him, too.
Just for kicks, I typed ‘Frog in Santa Carla, California’ in the Google Search Engine. Besides a multitude of kinds of frogs that lived in Santa Carla, there was an entry for Frog’s Comics on the Municipal Wharf. I was mildly surprised to see that it was still in business. Did Edgar run it, or was it still in the hands of his fruitcake parents? Next, I typed ‘Frog in Vallejo’, the town we’d run into Edgar and Sam in. Nothing noteworthy came up. A few tries and towns later, I typed in ‘Frog in Luna Beach, California’ and blinked when something came up. Technically, many entries did, but only one caught my eye. I scrolled past the frog species that could be found here and clicked straight on ‘Edgar Frog’s Surfboard Shaping’. A local address was listed. I smacked my forehead with my palm. What the hell was Edgar doing HERE? Well, obviously, the answer was right there in front of me. He was shaping surfboards. I briefly wondered if I should tell Alan. Instantly, I thought better of it. I wanted a chance to get down to the mystery of who was doing the draining here in Luna Bay. That wouldn’t happen with Alan tugging my sleeve, pulling me out of here because he did not wish to have a run in with Edgar. I jotted down the address, making a note to avoid it at all costs if Alan was with me. Maybe I would pay Edgar a private visit later before we left town. It would be worth it to me to blot this plague out, avenge my brother’s suffering, and get my partner back to his normal self.
“So. Where do you want to start looking for other bloodsuckers?” Alan asked.
It was a good question. I really hadn’t the slightest idea.
“I don’t know. We’ll scope out the town tomorrow evening and see what’s going on. Maybe we’ll find a party on the beach or something. Someone may know something. Or maybe we’ll see something,” I said hopefully.
“That’s some plan,” Alan remarked sarcastically.
“Got a better one?”
“No. Guess not.”
“Then I guess we’ll stick with mine,” I retorted.
The next night, we sped along the costal road in Kit. The windows were unblocked and rolled down to allow the sea breezes to blow in and freshen up the interior. We had just made it to the beach on the far side of the town when the smell of fresh blood hit us.
“Mmmm, Mmmm, smells like good home cookin’,” Alan commented, licking his lips.
“Smells like a fresh kill, and I’ll bet you it’s not a Great White attack,” I said with a gleam in my eye.
Alan parked Kit on the shoulder of the road, and we clambered onto the beach, in search of the grisly scene. Before long, we heard screaming that led us right to it. Four vampires were massacring a campfire gathering of themselves and some college co-eds. The college girls were the dinners.
“There’s four of them. How right could I be?” I hooted quietly.
“Any of them look like your brother?”
“It’s hard to tell from this distance.”
For a heartbeat, I wondered if David and Marko had lied to us. Maybe they weren’t in Sacramento after all. Maybe they’d already found this place, had reunited with Paul and Dwayne, and were conducting nightly kills without us. Anger flushed my cheeks as we crept closer. Then, I realized that at least one of the vampires in the group was not recognizable as any of the vampires I’d previously met or seen a painting of. His skin was too dark. The others were all Caucasians. One of them stood up and trumpeted a loud gathering call. He had long, blood caked hair. For a moment, I froze. It couldn’t be…
As the others gathered around him, I realized I was right. This vampire was not my brother. Even though Paul was lanky, this guy was even thinner; his face more chiseled. He reminded me of a fang faced Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons. Though it was spattered with gore, I could also now tell that his hair was about a shade and a half too dark. His chin sported stubble of the same color.
“Neither one of them is your brother. Are you happy now? You’ve answered your question. Now let’s split,” Alan said in a voice just a fraction above a whisper.
Darkness settled over my heart. I didn’t want to admit defeat. But he was right. Wordlessly, I nodded. My eyes watered and I kept my face averted so Alan wouldn’t see the stinging tears of my disappointment.
“Hey! You! Welcome to our party, you two! Why don’t you both come on over…”
In addition to the crude invitation, there were lots of sniggering and cat calls. I could tell that these guys were being sarcastic at best.
Once again, my legs turned to lead. Those vampires had heard our voices on the breeze. Maybe they’d even picked up our scents. They probably thought we were mortals out for a stroll, who happened upon their gory little campfire. They were in for a surprise.
“Why don’t you suck my dick, beyotch!” Alan called back crudely, grabbing at his crotch.
“ALAN!” I hissed at him
For someone who was afraid to take on his brother, he was certainly showing terrible judgment here! Four on two was not good odds.
The four boys on the other side of the fire whistled, hooted and snickered. Seconds later, they were no longer on the other side of the fire. I felt them touch down near us before I ever saw them leave where they’d stood moments before. My fangs extended, and I felt my eyes begin to glow red hot. My nails lengthened into deadly talons; hardening as they grew. Alan’s transformation was complete at the same time. The sniggering stopped as soon as the four vampires confronting us realized what we were.
“Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve faced down another vampire and won,” one of them remarked.
“Just be sure to get their heads,” their slow talking leader said.
Alan nodded to me. This guy didn’t seem like he had much going on between his ears, but Alan probably knew more about killing bloodsuckers than the whole rest of us put together.
“Eyes. Blind them. Heads. Rip them,” he mouthed to me.
I remembered back to my slingshot lessons at the comic book shop. Alan’s instructions hadn’t failed me then. I sure hoped they wouldn’t fail me now.
“I’ll take the chick!” one of them yelled. He wore a skeleton patterned jacket that I thought was hideously tacky.
“Fine. You’re mine. Come and get it, asshole,” I growled through my fangs.
He advanced on me and jumped. I prepared for the strike. Soon we were wrestling on the sand. He made swipes for my throat. I alternately made for his throat and his eyes. The gang leader was after Alan’s hide with a vengeance. Alan seemed to be holding his own. Then, one of his cronies joined in the fight. It was two on one. Before long, my fight became two on one when the Jamaican fellow decided to toss his two cents worth into our fight.
“You know what? I’m gonna gut you, and my friend here is gonna film it. That’s how we do things in Luna Bay. On digital film,” Skeleton Jacket hissed at me.
“Here’s how I do shit where I come from,” I hissed back. Then, I turned around and poked my two fingers into his Jamaican friend’s eyes, effectively blinding him. His blood squirted from the sockets while he howled, but his screams didn’t last long. In a push of strength, I stood up, grabbed my victim in a choke hold, twisted his head hard, and pulled it from his body. The sickening sound of tearing bone and flesh jolted Skeleton Jacket back into action.
“Film that, asshole!” I cried.
“You Fucking Bitch!” Skeleton Jacket yelled. He lunged at me again.
Suddenly, a voice sounded over a rise of sand that sheltered the scene of our scuffle from much of the rest of the beach.
“Who ordered the stake?”
I caught a flash of someone I never expected to see. It was none other than Edgar Frog, dressed in full on combat regalia. He held up two sharp wooden stakes. I didn’t have much time to ponder the matter, because Skeleton Jacket was still pissed about his friend’s demise, and he wasn’t letting up. He had my hair in his hands and was twisting it to get to my neck. My bloodied hands were groping to get into his eyes. Yet as I fought, I saw one of the vampires engaged with Alan break off with that fight and move to confront Edgar. Moments later, he staggered back, speared on the end of a stake.
Edgar pulled something else out of his backpack, and I never knew what was coming. Suddenly, Skeleton Jacket’s head exploded! Liquid backlash flew all around. Some of it hit me. It stung like a thousand bees. I dropped to my knees in front of Skeleton’s headless corpse, screaming. I could see flesh on my hands bubbling and sizzling.
“Pop goes the weasel,” Edgar said.
Wounded, but not out of it, I staggered to where Alan was still fighting with the group’s leader. Edgar beat me to them. Alan had his hands wrapped around the leader’s throat, ready to make the final twist and pull. Just then, Edgar pulled out his second stake and delivered a fatal blow right in the man’s chest. Alan glared and howled his outrage.
“You stole my glory, you bastard!” he hissed.
“He’s not dead til you take the head,” Edgar said flatly.
“Here. You can have it!”
Alan pulled the leader’s head from his body and spit on it. Then, he hurled it violently at Edgar. Edgar neatly stepped aside and narrowly missed being hit by the tumbling head.
“I come in to help, and this is the treatment I get?” Edgar sneered.
“Would you have helped if you knew it was me and not some innocent human victim putting up a fight?” Alan retorted bitterly.
Edgar looked thoughtful for just one moment.
“Probably not. All you suck monkeys deserve to fry.”
“Go to hell,” Alan growled.
“Takin’ you with me,” Edgar said.
“C’mon then. Give me all you’ve got! Show me what a big, bad slayer you are!”
“My pleasure,” Edgar spat. He pulled yet another weapon out of his pack. It looked like two huge cloves of garlic tied to each end of a leather shoestring. He started to swing it around. Alan snickered. Edgar tossed and missed. Alan looked at me. For the first time, he realized I was injured. Maybe something in him snapped. But at that point, he took the initiative and lunged at his brother.
The rationale that had been with me thirteen years ago in that alley in Vallejo completely left my mind. Tonight, I couldn’t stop Alan from doing what he felt had to be done. Edgar needed to die. I wasn’t in the condition to interfere much anyways. The holy water spray that had killed Skeleton Jacket had doused me pretty good. Bits of balloon and vampire guts from my former foe were caught in my matted hair. I could only see out of one eye. My hands had been sprayed too. Now, they looked as though they were made of molten candle wax. The pain was beyond comprehension. I couldn’t even think of passing out from it. It was the only way that I knew that I wouldn’t die from my injuries.
Alan told me once that Edgar had a way of making the odds unfair. For a moment, it seemed like Alan was winning the fight. He had far more strength than Edgar. But twenty years of vampire hunting and thirteen years of mourning a lost brother gave Edgar a bitter edge that Alan couldn’t bargain for. Alan had Edgar pinned on his side and was about to close in on his neck and seal his fate for all eternity. Resourceful as always, Edgar reached up with his free arm and pulled the stake from the chest of the pack leader he’d just killed. All I could do was watch in horror and shout out a warning.
Alan lifted his head and glared at me. Doing so caused him to shift ever so slightly. At that moment, Edgar brought the stake down and stabbed his brother in the back with it. Alan howled and his body stiffened. I watched as he convulsed and jerked on the ground. Edgar’s face was an unreadable mask.
“YOU FUCKER!” I howled.
“You’re next!” Edgar vented.
I heard a wet gurgling noise. Then, I heard my name.
“Allison. The car. Let’s go,” Alan rasped.
There was a silence louder than words. Edgar realized at the same moment I did that Alan wasn’t dead. At least not yet. Adrenalin flooded my body, and I rushed to Alan’s side, lifting him up to his feet. Edgar was in hot pursuit of us as we fled to where Kit was parked, but even in our wounded conditions, we were faster. The car was well fortified, and once we were inside of it, we were safe from Edgar’s attempts to try to annihilate us. He did by launching a series of holy water balloon grenades at us as we sped away.
I had to make a stop at the Motel 6 to gather our belongings. Neither of us had made a kill that night, so we had no more money to pay the bill. Though check out time was officially 11 am, we wouldn’t be awake at that hour. So, now, I had to find a place for us to sleep that wouldn’t cost us anything. I didn’t know squat about Luna Bay. I could only see out of one eye. And I was in charge of driving a tomb on wheels carrying myself and a severely injured vampire around in a town where his stake toting brother would be more than happy to finish killing him. I debated getting the hell out of Dodge. But, I was not far from falling apart myself. Worse yet, Alan needed to get that stake out of him in the worst way. I needed to find a place to hide us and Kit. Edgar had seen the car and knew what it looked like. Wherever we hid for the day, the car could not be seen from the street.
Luck finally smiled on me when I drove into the business district. I found some old warehouse. Or, maybe it was an abandoned meat packing plant. I had no idea what its function used to be, but I knew what it would be tonight. The place looked abandoned, for sure. There were old broken windows here and there. The ones that weren’t broken were dusty as hell. I had no idea if it was light proof. But, even if it wasn’t, Alan and I could make do. We could sleep in Kit if necessary, or in our sleeping bags all zipped up. For once, I was thankful that Alan had invested all his money in this car.
There were some wide, sliding doors. They were locked up tight. I would have to levitate in through one of the broken windows so I could unlock the doors to slide them open and drive the car in. Alan was more pale than usual, and he had fallen completely silent. I could tell he was still awake, as his eyes still moved around when I told him I would be right back. He said nothing, though. As quickly as I could, I entered the building. There were dusty crates and shipping canisters stacked everywhere. Fortunately, there was enough room to park a car. At the far end of the room, I could squint with my one good eye and make out a trap door of some sort. Parked near the trap door was a pair of motorcycles. I thought nothing of it as I sprung the locks and rolled open the doors. Then, I hopped inside of Kit and pulled inside the warehouse. I didn’t feel relieved at all until I had rolled the doors closed and locked them behind us. There was no way Edgar would find us now. Alan and I could heal up. Then, we could decide what to do from here.
I slumped exhaustedly against the steering wheel for a few minutes. Then, I turned to Alan.
“I gotta get that out of you,” I told him.
Alan sat leaning over his knees because of the stake jutting from his back. He closed his eyes. I bit my lip. Then, I put my blistered hands around the stake and gave it a mighty tug. Alan howled out as the stake came free. Blood gushed from the wound. I frantically looked around for something to stick in the hole. Finding nothing up front, I realized I’d have to get a shirt to tear up from our belongings in the trunk.
Alan’s blood just kept coming.
“God, stop bleeding already!” I yelled. Then, I popped open the trunk and raced around the back, pawing around through our luggage I ignored the pain that flared in my hands as I did so. When I found a shirt, I ran back inside and stuffed it in the stake hole in Alan’s back.
“Knicked me in the ticker, I think,” Alan panted.
“I think so too. Here. Drink,” I told him. I gave him one of my wrists and bellowed in pain as he clamped down on it.
It was only when Alan’s blood flow started to slow that I realized we had company. I could hear something moving around outside the car. I grabbed Alan’s cell phone from his pants pocket with my free hand and tuned in to the cameras mounted outside so I wouldn’t have to turn the ignition on to see the monitor displays that the car had. Strangely, the display on Alan’s phone showed nothing. But my ears told another story. I had no choice but to start the car to roll down the protective window barriers so I could squint out. I saw two men; one brunette, and one blonde. The blonde stood a bit behind the brunette.
Both of them only gave me a precursory glance. Then, they zeroed in on Alan. Instantly, their features shifted. They became as fearsome looking as the vampires we faced on the beach. Alan’s face suddenly contorted and he stopped feeding, but his look was one of surprise. Weakly, he grabbed for a button as two vampires tried to batter their way into the car. I didn’t know what the button was for, but I pushed it anyways. To my surprise, I soon learned it was connected to a microphone. Alan could talk to people outside the car without having to open windows. I supposed this might come in handy if he decided he wanted fast food during the day and wanted to order it at a drive thru. I wondered how he’d get the food into the car…
“I’d cut it out if I was you guys. Especially you, Twisted Sister. Take a good look. You’ll see I’m one of you now. If you look real close, you’ll see I’m with someone. Maybe you’ll even recognize her,” Alan said in wheezing tones.
Both men pulled back. They were still fang faced and orange eyed, but even through all of that, I suddenly recognized the face I’d been searching all over the state for more two decades now. My good eye welled up with tears, and they ran down my ruined face.
“Paul!” I yelled through the microphone.
I knew he didn’t recognize me by sight. But he knew my voice. His fangs retracted, and his eyes began to shift back to the ocean blue I’d always remembered them to be. Slowly, he approached the car again.
“Allie?” he called softly, “What the hell?”
I opened the door and got out of the car. My steps were on shaky legs as I walked towards him. He held out his arms to me, and when I collapsed into them, I no longer felt any pain. All was well; all was as it should be. I felt all along that Paul wasn’t dead. Now, there was no doubt about it.
Chapter 15- Band of Brothers by GarlicTShirt
Chapter 15- Band of Brothers
As soon as Alan was healed enough, he was able to send a message to David through his Childe’s bond and let him know that a sweet reunion would soon be at hand. It took another full night for him to feast on blood donated to him from our newly found pack brother, Dwayne, before he had the strength to do it. In the meantime, Paul nurtured me, allowing me to feed until the bulk of my pain faded and I was able to see out of my blinded eye. Unfortunately, Paul gave me some bad news. The holy water burns would leave scars that could take months to completely fade. The blemish from Alan’s stake wound might also take that long to vanish. Injuries inflicted from weapons known to cause mortal harm to vampires took much longer to heal from. So, I would look like a refugee from a burn ward for a time, and Alan would look like a patched up tire. But at least we were still in the game.
David and Marko were given the coordinates to the warehouse where we were holed up. On the third night, they showed up; hopeful expectation and skepticism showing in their expressions at the same time. Their long wait was over just a few short moments later when Dwayne opened the sliding metal doors at the sound of the agreed upon knock and allowed them in.
“Do you have any idea how long we’ve been looking for you?” David asked.
For a moment, I could have sworn I saw his eyes welling up with tears. Then again, it could have been a trick of the dim lighting. The warehouse had no power, so we used candles to provide interior lights.
“Same here, bud. We thought you guys had just forgot us. Left us for dead,” Paul replied.
“No. I’d never leave any of you for dead,” David replied, “But I have to admit. I’ve been in the dark since Max croaked. I’ve felt completely cut off. Our mental links aren’t as strong without his living blood to tie them together.”
“I wondered if that could have something to do with it. We went back to the cave and found that Marko was gone. We figured that either you came and got him, or he wasn’t as dead as we thought he was…so Dwayne and I have been trying to communicate with him. We’ve gotten zilch, except the feeling that he wasn’t dead.”
“Yeah. We had no idea what happened to you, but we sort of had the feeling that you weren’t dead either. But that’s as far as we got,” Dwayne added.
“And, I had no idea you turned my sister!” Paul exclaimed.
David gave a sinister chuckle at this.
“I didn’t figure you’d mind, Paul. Her assistance proved to be invaluable in locating you.”
Paul turned to me and gave me an amused smirk.
“So, who’s idea was it to turn this twerp?” he asked, jerking a thumb at Alan.
“I’ve been what I am for two decades now. Haven’t I proven myself yet?”
“Give him a break, guys. He went up against his own brother, twice. If that’s not dedication, what is?”
Marko gave him a sly smile.
“Welcome to the pack, buddy. It’s high time I told you that. I know there may be some rough water between us in the past, but I’m willing to put it aside if you are.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it was all part of a different life,” Alan replied in a level tone.
Paul didn’t look too convinced as he quietly regarded Alan. But, then his face split into a smile.
“You know, I still haven’t forgotten the way you and your brother screamed like a couple of pussies in the bathroom that night. But I don’t have any ill feelings left over for you. After all…it WAS the DOG that dropped me in the tub….”
“Yeah, yeah, I think I make a better vampire than a vampire slayer,” Alan muttered sheepishly.
“But, seriously, you’ve been palling around with my baby sis, taking care of her all this time?” he asked.
I cleared my throat.
“I’d say it’s been a 50/50 deal,” I answered.
And, truthfully, I meant it. It had been Alan who’d taught me a lot of what I needed to know about fighting. And it had been me who’d kept him focused. I plotted our strategy while he plotted our defense. All in all, it had been a very equal partnership.
“What made you two come to a dump like this anyways?” Dwayne asked.
“The itch up Allison’s ass,” Alan replied.
“Kill patterns,” I answered.
Both of them looked confused and amused at the same time.
“I tracked obits and crime stats on my lap top. Then, we’d travel to the towns that looked like they might be vampire hot spots based on what I found,” I explained.
“It’s the same kind of chum that probably drew a shark like my brother to these waters, too,” Alan added moodily.
“I’ll just bet,” Dwayne said. His tone was acid, and his eyes flashed.
“It was bound to happen. It was just a matter of time,” Paul said.
“So what were you guys hanging around here for then?” David asked.
“Long story. I may need to roll up a joint for this,” Paul replied.
He pulled out a baggie and started to do just that. In fact, he rolled several, which was my clue that we were in for a very long story.
“Does this have anything to do with those four idiot vampires that got toasted on the beach?” I asked.
“It has everything to do with them,” Dwayne replied.
“What vampires?” Marko questioned.
“Just wait. I haven’t explained the story yet, because I wanted to wait until we were all together. These two told me about a fight they had with some other vampires two nights ago. Edgar got involved in it. The four vampires all bit the dust, and Alan and my sis got hurt. Well, as soon as I light this doobie, I’ll tell you the story about these four vampires and who they were.”
Paul lit the joint, took a long hit and passed it to David. Then, he started in on his tale.
“The leader of that group of dickweeds was Shane. Shane Powers. Turns out, he was some big time surf champ, but I didn’t know that. Nor did I give a shit. To me, he was just one thing. Another meal. We split Santa Carla shortly after we dug our way up and figured out that Marko had split. We figured you two were together; and holed up somewhere…or that you’d left town. Anyhow, Mikey and the gang were still there, and neither Dwayne nor I were strong enough to deal with them. I was in a real bad way, cuz I was having to heal up on the inside AND the outside. Basically, my existence was all about feeding and sleeping for some time. Well, Dwayne brought us here. He figured it was far enough away from Santa Carla to be safe, but close enough to where you guys might stand a chance of finding us easily enough. It was small enough to where it wasn’t likely to be some other vampire’s territory. And, it was big enough to support two vampire’s needs, especially since tourists come here to surf…”
“Good thinking. I can understand that,” he agreed.
“Well, shortly afterwards, the shit hit the fan,” Paul continued, “See, I couldn’t really go out in public, cuz those holy water burns made me look butt ugly. So, Dwayne would go make a kill. Then he would bring me some human. One night, he brought Shane in. Shane was knocked out cold. But when I bit into him, the fucker woke up. Instead of dying nicely like other pansy ass mortals, he decided to fight back. The asshole BIT me!”
There was a collective moan around the room. Marko began to howl.
“You SIRED a vampire?” he laughed.
“Shut the hell up, curly top! It was a total accident! But, yeah, essentially, that’s what happened. And, you know it’s not exactly cool to kill one of your own. So, I couldn’t do him in. Not without good reason to. So, we had to fledge him.”
“But then he started getting too big for his britches,” Dwayne added.
“The dude had a king sized ego. Thought he knew it all from A to Z. He was nothing but attitude. Truth is, he didn’t know squat,” Paul said.
“Funny. He talked like he took the short bus to school…or like he was on something,” I commented.
“Yeah, that was Shane. A major dweeb. Anyways, one night, he went out and decided he was going to make a Childe of his own. At this point in time, Dwayne and I decided it was time to high tail it out of Luna Bay. Three was a crowd, but four was pushin’ it. We knew that we’d be attracting some seriously unwanted attention with kill rates if we had four hungry vampires munching off the population around here.”
“But Shane decided he wanted to call the shots. He didn’t want to go,” Dwayne explained, “So we told him to fuck off.”
“You two just up and left him?” David asked.
“Yep. We had other plans. By then, I was completely healed up, and Dwayne and I wanted to try and hook up with you guys. Shane wanted none of it. He knew that you were our pack leader. I guess he didn’t want to have to submit to your authority if we ever did find you. So we had a parting of ways. Well, nothing happened for some time. But, unfortunately, that little shithead was my Childe. And I also knew he was a bad seed. Before I could say skunk bud, he was making more fledglings. Maybe I should have done something about him long before. But Dwayne and I recently learned that Edgar Frog moved his mobile surfboard shaping shop here….so we had no choice. It was time to put a stop to Surfin’ Shane’s bullshit,” Paul finished.
“How did you plan to do that?” David asked. His eyes were lit up in obvious curiosity.
“We were going to exterminate his little pack of lowlife bottom feeders. And, if he didn’t submit to our authority after that, then we’d have no choice but to take him out, too. In that case, it would be justified, because he had become a danger to the pack,” Dwayne answered.
“But you two and your Rambo Wanna Be brother solved that little problem for us. Now, we just gotta deal with him,” Paul said with a sigh of relief and a huge cloud of pot smoke.
“Or not,” Dwayne sighed.
“What do you mean ‘or not’,” David asked, cocking his head at an angle.
“Well, we’ve been keeping tabs on ol’ Edgar Frog over the years. More or less. We kinda figured a little something out about his type…”
Dwayne let us ponder on his words for a few minutes while another joint circulated. The quiet way he reflected made me think he had more intelligence than David ever thought of possessing. But then again, I didn’t know him very well. At the very least, I figured he was the brains of him and Paul. Paul was a lot of things, but academic wasn’t one of them.
“Yeah, go on,” David finally urged.
“He’s had his head buried in comic books and hero ideals all his life. It’s his way of achieving immortality without having to be a vampire. He knows he’ll kick the bucket some day. So, he’s made sure that his life’s work won’t die when he does,” Dwayne finished ominously.
Alan groaned lightly.
“Yeah, that sounds like Edgar alright,” he agreed, “But if you’re insinuating that he’s taken a partner, I think you’re wrong. He was working alone the night we ran into him. Maybe he and Sam worked together in the past. I dunno, maybe they still do…”
“Negative. Emerson Jr. dropped off the scene about 10 years ago. Maybe it was a bit longer. Not sure why, but Sam is doing his own thing now as far as anyone knows, and his own thing is definitely not vampire hunting,” Paul interjected.
Alan and I swapped gazes and snickered. Maybe that incident in the alley in Vallejo scared Sam off of any more field work.
“Okay, then what are you hinting at?” Marko asked, clearly confused.
“He did recruit. After Sam Emerson, Edgar got to someone else. Someone on the inside,” Dwayne said. His eyes went darker than their normal inky brown, and a chill went up my spine for some reason.
“Who the fuck is it?” David asked.
David’s face managed to go scarlet for a moment. Then, his ever calm exterior returned.
“Are you sure it was Edgar Frog that got to him, and not Star or Michael?”
“Dude, we don’t even know what the hell happened to Star or Michael. They just went ‘POOF’. Just like all the good hair bands, y’know? But someone got to Laddie, and we’re pretty sure it was Edgar. He knows all the same shit. We had a run in with him about 5 years ago. Maybe he’s forgotten who we are. But he knows WHAT we are, and he tried to kill us. I’m tellin’ you, Laddie’s conversion reeks like a Frog job to me,” Paul explained.
“This happened 5 years ago? How’d you know it was Laddie? My God, he must be all grown up now!” David exclaimed.
“He is. And we didn’t recognize him until Dwayne scratched him with one of his nails and smelled his blood. Even after all this time, it still has a little of that smell…Bet he doesn’t know that…”
“What did you do?” Marko asked.
“We left. To me, he’ll always be little Laddie. I just couldn’t…do it…I used to ride him around on the back of my bike….,” Dwayne said.
Laddie’s attack on Paul and Dwayne had occurred in Monterrey, a coastal town between San Francisco and Santa Carla. No one knew where he was now, but we knew where Edgar was, and we knew that Luna Bay was not a safe place to stay. We debated killing him outright. But I found my laptop was able to access someone’s unsecured connection nearby, and I did a quick search on vampire hunters, just for the hell of it. Discarding any references to ‘Buffy,’ I was amazed at how many chat rooms and discussion forums there were that were dedicated to the topic. An hour later, I hit pay dirt when I found a forum that Edgar Frog himself moderated. Of course, one was required to register and jump through ten thousand flaming hoops to prove they were not a suck monkey before they would be granted access to it. But, it was proof to me that there was a thriving community of avid vampire hunters out there. It was also a warning that any attempt on Edgar’s life would send out a public outcry that could have them and their zealot offspring chasing us into the next several eternities. Dwayne was right. In his own way, Edgar had achieved his own sort of immortality as the martyr of all modern day vampire hunters.
“So, what next?” Paul asked.
David lit up the ever present cigarette he had stashed behind his ear.
“I say we get the hell out of this Santa Carla Wanna Be shit hole. What do you all say?”
There was all around murmurs of agreement. Though this place was as secure as a bank vault, it just didn’t feel like home.
“Where to, then?” I asked.
“Well, I can’t think of any place better than home. In my book, if anyone challenges us there, we have a right to defend ourselves,” David said.
No one said anything at first, but honestly, it seemed as good a plan as any. At least we knew that Edgar wasn’t there..at least for now.
“Will it support all six of us?” Alan asked.
“Max thought it would support that many,” Dwayne said, “So I don’t see why not. There’s towns around Santa Carla to hunt in. We should do fine as long as were smart and clean up after ourselves.”
“Where will we sleep?” I asked, “That basement wasn’t big enough for all of us. It’s probably not even there anymore.”
“The old hotel. I’m thinking lightening won’t strike twice. And we’ll make sure it won’t. We can get a hellhound…take some other precautions…”
David looked thoughtful as he considered the options. The rest of us passed restless looks around. With a plan in action, we were anxious to get moving. But I had a surprise in store for Paul.
When we finally arrived in Santa Carla, Paul got the keys to his bike back. I had kept it in storage when I didn’t use it. Though he’d gotten another one to replace it, he was overjoyed to see the old beloved one that he’d torn up the boardwalk on in the old days.
The six of us moved back into the cave, and soon, the sound of rock music, hooting, hollering and laughing filled the caverns again. To protect us while we slept, two hellhounds were brought in to watch over us. We would never sleep easy, but there had never really been a day in my immortal life when I had. What mattered most to me is that I was surrounded by my band of brothers. Separately and together, we had all passed tests of loyalty. Now, we were all bound by our bonds of blood and immortality.
At long last, my search was over for my missing brother. How strange it was that all the while I was searching for one, fate gave me four more, and an eternity to spend with them.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.