April 9, 2010

Artwork by Jack Robbins

Anna checked the time on her watch. It was almost a quarter to four. To think it had only been a forty-five minute train ride that had separated her and David for the past five years seemed silly. She had intended to visit on occasion, but time had gotten way from her.

The platform was crowded with people. She waited patiently for them to clear as she scanned the crowd looking for a face she wasn't sure she'd recognize.

"Anna!"

She turned toward the sound of her name being called.

"I was going to apologize to you for running late, but it looks as if the train was running late as well," grinned a young man as he came to a stop in front of her.

"Oh my! David?" she smiled up at him. He'd grown at least a foot taller and his shoulders were broad and strong. "I barely recognize you," she laughed, taking him in at arms length. "You've grown up while we were apart."

"I have. And you... you look... exactly the same." His smile wavered along with his voice. "I knew you would," he said quickly, "I think I just forgot how pretty you were. I'll have to beat my mates away with a stick," he added.

"How gallant of you, but I'm sure I can handle them."

"I know you can. It's not you I'm worried about." He smirked.

Anna scowled, shook her head then laughed.

"Come on then," David picked up her bags and offered her his arm as they walked to his car. "We are in just a bit of a rush. I promised Bridgette I'd be back by four. She doesn't like to be alone at the house given recent events."

"That's understandable." Anna said.

Bridgette was also a familiar. Second generation. She looked after the house, though despite being senior in line for the position, David was head of the house.

"Is this your car?" Anna asked of the double-parked Alfa Romeo just outside the doors of the station.

"It was a graduation present." David explained. "From myself," he added. "Do you like it?"

"Very much." Anna smiled.

Being the type of familiar that he was made David a very important person in the immortal community. A calling that provided him with certain benefits, including a stately home to live in as well as an ample allowance with which to take care of it as well as himself. And in return he provided a safe haven for those who asked for it, without a lot of questions.

"The fall social is in a couple of weeks," he said, as the corner of his mouth curled into a smile. "Lets make guesses as to how many times you'll be invited to attend this week. I say no less than ten."

"You flatter me," Anna laughed.

"I'm underestimating." David said.

"Will you be attending?"

"Perhaps."

"Is there someone you'd like to ask?"

"No one in particular, no."

"Then perhaps I'll accompany you. I can chat you up to all the right girls and make you look good in front of all the right men. What do you think?"

David laughed. "I think that could either be very dangerous, or very fun."

"I feel bad that I haven't come to visit you in all this time. I told you I would always look after you, and I feel as if I've let you down in that regard."

"We had a rough start you and I, there's no doubt about that, but Anna you saved me. Where would I be now if not for you? Definitely not in Europe, definitely not educated or on my way to becoming a doctor, living in a big house, driving a nice car," David nodded at a couple of guys who had been ogling her from a corner bus stop. "And being envied by others due to the striking young woman sitting next to me."

Anna leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "For calling me young," she smiled.

"What are you now, fifty? Sixty? A hundred?"

"You bite your tongue young man."

David laughed. "I wouldn't even be as well off as those two guys," David said. "Hell, I'd probably be in prison or dead if not for you. I'm living on cloud nine here."

"Did you ever feel that I abandoned you? I stole you away from the world you knew, told you I'd look after you and just as quick as that you were off to a boarding school."

"Do you want the truth?" David said with a furrowed brow.

"Yes, of course I do. And don't spare my feelings, I really want to know."

"Wouldn't you know if I was lying to you?" David eyed her.

Anna sighed. "Not me. Actually I'm not a hundred percent sure Jonas can either. He says he can, but maybe it's just so that people will tell him the truth. You'll never tell the me truth now will you?"

"If you want the truth I'll tell you, I was relieved."

"Relieved? Am I that terrible?"

"Absolutely not, your wonderful. Of course I didn't realize that at first, but your world - this world - is a lot to take in all at once. I had no idea what to expect from it, especially given my particular induction. So yes I was relieved to be away from your terrifying world full of vampires."

"David!"

He knew how much she despised the word vampire.

"Tomãto, tomäto," he grinned.

"Apples and onions is more like it."

David laughed.

"Is that why you didn't write me for so long? Because you were afraid of me?" she asked.

"A little perhaps, but it was your letters that changed my mind about you. And you never abandoned me; you sent at least one a week. I didn't read them at first, I just stuck them away under my bed, and then I realized that I actually looked forward to them, even though I wasn't reading them. And you kept writing, even though I didn't write back. So one day I pulled them all out - there must have been upwards of twenty of them - and I sat on my bed and read them all, one after the other. You had nothing but concern for me. That was the day I realized how lucky I was to have you and that we really were a family."

"Concern?" Anna said, bemused. "I thought I was being quite shrew with you in those letters, especially when you weren't writing me back."

"You were," David laughed, "No need to worry about that. But I think you nag because you care." David jibed. "Am I wrong?"

"What a terrible thing to say!" Anna said trying to suppress a smile and laughter with her mouth agape. "True or not, I do not appreciate being called a nag."

"I do apologize," David said quite seriously. "I didn't mean to offend. Will you forgive me?"

"Of course I forgive you." Anna sighed. "But what now, now that the terror finds you again, you must hate me for that."

"I could never hate you Anna." David said. "What's happening here is not the same. These are innocent people whose lives are being taken. I wasn't sure at first, but I think whoever is behind it, is trying to send a message."

"A message? Not madness?"

"The house is clearly marked, and as I mentioned to you in the letter, one of the victims, the first victim, lived directly across the way."

"Yes," Anna recalled. "Did you know her?"

"I'd seen her out with the children from time to time. She was the Landry's live-in Nanny. When the children weren't dressed for breakfast they suspected she might have fallen ill. It was Dr. Landry that found her. Said he'd never seen anything like it. The second victim was an old woman named Elise Bedeau. Neighbors noticed all her door and windows open one morning. Police found her. The third victim, I knew, his name was Walter Greene. He was... sympathetic to the needs of some of your kinsmen and frequented a great number of socials at the house. That was when I decided to take a look at the houses old guestbooks, I found Elise Bedeau's name listed many times."

"And the nanny's?"

"No, nothing."

"And you're positive there are no other alternatives as to who could be behind this?"

"What could be an alternative? All three victims were drained of blood and then decapitated - post mortem. Not a mark on them otherwise. You know of another creature that can accomplish that? I'd love to hear your theories."

"Do you have to say it like that?" Anna grimaced "Creature?"

"We're all creatures Anna."

David wasn't kidding when he said the house was clearly marked. A large stained glass window at the front of the house portrayed a large blue peacock; the lower right corner bore Argus's personal symbol, a single peacock feather with an eye at its center.

Anna shuddered when she saw it.

"What is it?" David asked, alert.

"It's nothing." Anna said. "A chill in the air that's all."

"I know this isn't really your world either," David said, stopping at the front door. "It's only Bridgette and myself here at the moment. We did have visitors earlier this month, but they moved on rather quickly when the murders started. Of course I can always put you up in a hotel if you'd prefer."

"Don't be silly." Anna feigned a smile.

"Come on then, I'll show you to your room."

David led her to a room with a locked door. He unlocked the door, handed her the key and ushered her in with a wave of his hand. The room was large, and lavish. Exquisitely decorated with fine furniture, art and antiques.

"It's beautiful." Anna eyed him, suspiciously. "Do all the rooms look like this?"

"No." David said plainly.

"Then why did you bring me to this room?"

"Where else would I put you?" David smiled innocently.

"Where's your room?"

David pointed toward the other end of the house. "Closer to the kitchen."

"And Bridgette's?"

"Same."

"Why not put me near you?"

David cleared his throat. "This wing of the house is reserved for the Elite and those directly under their auspices."

Anna scoffed.

"Anna, you give his name as your own, you wear his insignia. It's my duty to respect that." David said.

Anna brushed her hand over the replacement locket Jonas had given her, adorned with a lily as her eyes scanned the opulence of the room, and she wondered who had stayed in this room before her. Her eyes caught sight of a row of decorative plaques. Each embellished with what she could only assume were Elite symbols. A shield with lilies, a sword, an Ouroborus looped around an apple, a heart pierced through with three swords, a stork, a beetle, a feather and several others. But her eye caught hold of the largest one at the center, a bright blue peacock, embellished with sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.

"David," she said. "I have an idea. I'll need you to gather some things for me."

"Of course," David replied, "Anything you need."

If David was right about whoever was behind these killings, that they were trying to send a message, then it could be assumed that their message was intended for Argus.

She wondered why the all-seeing king hadn't come to handle this situation, but she could guess the answer. He had no concern for life, especially human life, so fleeting in the immortal world, so common and ultimately... so expendable.

 

Chapter 15 - Business & Pleasure

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart