April 23, 2010

Artwork by Lauren T. Hart

She couldn't help but wonder if she'd been right not to trust Bridgette, or if Bridgette had become the next victim of the rogue immortal, though sending a note on ahead didn't exactly fit the M.O.

Professor Ambrose had been a dead end. David had found few notable events in what they could discover about his life. He was born in Greece, later moved to England with his mother, and had recently authored a book on Greek Mythology - which Bridgette had purchased just a few days earlier. The author biography had confirmed the information that David had found. Nothing about him, his life, or his known associates suggested he had any link to or knowledge of the immortal world.

David had been wrong on the number of his friends asking her out. It only took four rejections for the word to get around that she was neither good-natured nor, particularly sociable. Her aloof disinterest in the merriment of college boys did more than make her an unpopular addition at social events. It had the added benefit of keeping her mind free from distractions, as well as giving her the appearance of being someone, or more specifically, being reserved for someone of note in the immortal realms. Assuming, of course, that anyone was watching.

"Stop trying to convince your friends I'm worth the effort of liking," she scolded David after defending her to one of his friends who had called to suggest that he not bring her to the fall social.

"Why not?" David asked.

"Because I'm not," she said. "The only guarantee that comes from knowing me is that it won't be for very long. You being the exception to that rule of course."

"That must be very lonely for you." David said.

"I don't mind being alone. Spend too much time with mortals and eventually one of them will shoot you in the back."

David sighed. "What ever will you do when I'm dead and gone?"

"Let someone else worry," she smiled.

It was hard to know if her plan to lure in the rogue by setting herself up as bait was working. Until they struck or further evidence surfaced elsewhere all she could do was wait. She didn't mind waiting; it gave her time to practice.

She made David accompany her dress shopping on the day of the dance. After scowling in the mirror at half a dozen different dresses, she finally settled on green. It matched her eyes.

On their return they discovered a paper wedged under the doorway on the front stoop. It was a notice of temporary closure for renovations. She'd seen several like it not far from where the fall social was being held, while scouting ideal locations to discretely eliminate a rogue. It had the words 'LETS MEET - DUSK' scrawled across it in blood. Immortal blood. It was easy to recognize by its sweet scent.

"What are you doing?" David asked as she set the paper in the kitchen sink to light it on fire.

"Burning it, of course."

"Wait. Why don't you taste it first? Maybe you can find out more about what you're up against."

Anna pursed her lips and lit the match in her hand. "I don't consume blood, David."

"Not even to give yourself a possible advantage?"

"I have enough vices as it is." She turned away from him and lit the paper on fire, it burned slow and calm until it hit the blood then the flame burst upward consuming what remained of the paper in seconds. When the flame died, she turned on the sink and rinsed the ashes down.

"Anna," David started to say, but she cut him off.

"We must never compromise our standards of who we are, and who we want to be, David," she turned to face him. "Do you remember that night we met?"

"Of course I do."

"Do you remember how hungry you were? How good the food smelled? How much you wanted it?"

"Yeah. I could smell it from the bathroom. I had to stop myself from running up to the nearest plate of food and eating whatever I could grab."

"I felt the same way when I entered that room with you and your friends. But that isn't who I wanted to be."

"You talk as though it's an addiction." David said.

"It can be, but it's rare to crave what we've never known." Anna said. "Some habits are best not to start."

Anna had spent most of her time over the past five years learning how to be an inconspicuous member of society. She worked at a shop in the afternoons into the evening, in her spare time she read. She knew people, her coworkers and neighbors, but didn't really socialize outside of passing pleasantries. The last social event she'd attended had been a lifetime ago when she was Miranda Grant. She'd hobnobbed with gangsters, hustlers, politicians and criminals. The University hosted a far higher caliber of people. They were well educated, well mannered and she was relatively sure that other than herself, they were unarmed.

"Good Evening, Miss Parker," a pleasant voice greeted her. It was Professor Ambrose.

"Good evening, Professor," she smiled and introduced David to the Professor.

They exchanged pleasantries then David excused himself to greet a couple of his friends who were keeping watch from a wall near the hor'deurves.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" Professor Ambrose asked.

"Oh yes." Anna lied with a smile.

"I've never really enjoyed these kinds of social events either." Professor Ambrose replied. "I'd rather get to know a person, than be acquainted with a lot of people."

"Agreed." Anna replied.

They chatted for a while about school, about Greece, about his book and about his class, which she had not signed up for, because if truth be told, the subject held little interest for her. Eventually one of the other professors came to pull Professor Ambrose away to meet someone else.

"It was nice talking with you again, Professor." Anna said.

"It was very nice talking with you again, Miss Parker." Professor Ambrose said.

She wasn't standing alone for long before David came over. "I think the Professor has a crush on you," he said.

Anna eyed him dubiously.

"I believe you rather enjoyed his company as well."

Anna scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous," she scowled catching a brief glance of Professor Ambrose, who was nodding agreeably and looking thoroughly bored by the conversation. "It's rather stuffy in here, don't you think?" she said flatly. "Let's take a walk before it gets too dark out, shall we?"

David offered her his arm.

Dark grey clouds overhead had just begun to drizzle and colored the world dull and cold. Neither had thought to bring an umbrella, but it was a short walk, less than three minutes at a casual pace and most of it was made under the shelter of verandahs. The building in question was nestled back between two other buildings. Secluded. Private. Perfect for an ambush. A tack and bit of torn masking tape confirmed they were indeed in the right place.

"Wait here," she ordered loosing her senses as she swung the door wide and went inside.

David lit up a cigarette and strolled casually to the edge of the verandah, to play lookout.

The entryway was functional, filled with construction materials, ladders and the skeleton of a staircase. Directly to her right was a long dark corridor. She took a few steps down the hall and stopped to draw the sword strapped neatly to her left thigh. She took a few deep breaths, mentally preparing herself for what may lie ahead.

The rain began to pick up, and then she heard what she though might have been voices behind her. She strained to listen. Someone was talking to David.

"Who is she?" the voice said.

"I don't know what you're talking about." David's voice sounded strained, choked.

Anna doubled back down the hallway, taking refuge in the shadows; she peered out through the open doorway.

A man in a brown argyle sweater held David by the throat, pinned, against a pillar.

"Don't play games with me," Argyle said, terse. "My bite is worse than my bark." His eyes glinted in the dim light, his snarled mouth revealed long sharp incisors, and the wet of the rain made his smell, which was something akin to highly peppered salmon, more pronounced.

"You don't have to die tonight kid. Just tell me what I want to know."

It would only take one slip on her part, and half a second for the snarling Argyle to injure David beyond repair. A noisy step, her scent on the wind, a glint of light off her blade, there were so many things that could go wrong. She knew she was only going to get one chance.

"It's not my job to ask questions." David said. "I can't tell you what I don't know."

"What a shame," Argyle sighed, "I really thought you were worth more to them than that."

Anna leapt forward through the doorway, bringing the sword up to strike as she went. A glint of light caught the edge of the blade. Argyle turned but it was too late. The edge of the blade met the side of his neck and sliced clean and deep.

Argyle reached upward, grasping at his head, desperate to keep it in place. Anna lifted her foot and gave him a solid kick. She reached for his head as he stumbled. Taking hold of his hair she kicked him again, knocking him off balance. She swung the sword again, this time completely severing his head from his body then tossed it away onto the grass.

"Are you alright?" She rushed to David's side.

"He was," David nodded, "he was letting go." He said then turned and threw up.

"Well, I guess that answers one question," said a voice from the doorway behind her.

Anna spun, her sword at the ready.

A man in a blue blazer stood before her, a similar sword to her own was gripped in his hand, which hung casually by his side. "You're one of the tyrant's butchers. What is it he calls you? His Elite?"

"I do not fight for Argus," Anna said.

"All evidence to the contrary." Blue Blazer smirked.

"Oh? Then perhaps you ought to be more thorough in your evidence gathering."

"Like you were? Is that why Bridgette is dead?"

"If Bridgette is dead, it's news to me. I sent her away because her fear was becoming a liability."

Blue Blazer chuckled softly. " Humans really are fallible and weak, aren't they? Just as well, she was next on my list, then him."

Anna took a calculated step between David and Blue Blazer.

Blue Blazer smiled broadly, his eyes on David. "He must be something very special to you, if are willing to defend his short, and ultimately meaningless existence."

Still keeping them in his sites, Blue Blazer strolled to where Argyle's head was lying in the grass wet with rain. He took a lighter from his pocket and flicked it open. "Alas poor Yorick, he really was a fool." He said as he lit the head on fire.

She felt the heat despite the distance.

"So impetuous. So rash." Blue Blazer pocketed his lighter and slowly ambled back toward them. "So, the Big Bad Wolf has fallen in love with Little Red Riding Hood, has she? How precious. How tender. How unfortunate," he sighed. "You say you do not fight for Argus, but are you loyal to him? Will you keep his law even as your love fades into old age and dies?"

Anna and David glanced toward each other, but said nothing.

"Do you remember what it was like before the oppression of Argus? Before we had to hide our true nature? Do you remember what it was like to be a God?" He eyed her tentatively.

"Immortality does not give us dominion over man."

"So you came later." He scoffed. "How fortunate you are to have survived the death squads, the Elite, the holocaust of Argus. I can't help but wonder why you survived. What makes you so special? Was it simply your willingness to follow?"

Anna didn't respond.

He lifted his sword and spun it in circles in his hand. His movements are elegant and sure. "Or are you someone's pet? Who protects you little girl? Argus? One of his... Elite? Do they know about your little love affair?"

"You're grasping," Anna said. "If you have a message I'll see that it's delivered. But I will not tell you anything."

Blue Blazer smiled broadly. "You've told me enough already. The reign of Argus is coming to an end. When it does, my queen will rise up, and Immortals will once more take their rightful place as Gods and Goddesses among men. Join us. Stand with us against Argus. The world can be yours. And your love," he motioned to David, "can live forever. Would your master offer you that much?"

"Why did you kill those humans?"

The Blue Blazer licked the rain on his lips "Death is a beautiful thing. You cannot imagine the ecstasy and exhilaration of it. Not until you've truly tasted it. Perhaps when you tire of this one..."

Anna stepped between Blue Blazer and David again.

Blue Blazer scoffed. "Bridgette gave us the names. She thought that Argus would care about them."

"Six?" Anna asked.

"Not all were in town, not all have been found, and not all of them had knowledge of our kind. I guess that makes Bridgette just as big a fool as Yorick. No matter. It will make it much easier to claim this area for my queen if I can dine without creating such a spectacle." He lifted his sword and examined its edges. "The only question now is you? Will you join us? Will you fight against the oppression? Or will you continue to be a victim to it?"

"With you, with your queen, I would become a Goddess? A ruler of mankind?"

"Yes."

"And she would grant immortality to anyone I choose?"

"I can change him now if you like."

"Can you?" she eyed him.

He smiled and nodded.

"And humans would worship me? Worship us?" She motioned to David.

Blue Blazer smiled broadly. "Yes. As immortals reclaim their rightful place on Earth, all of these things will be yours."

"Not interested." Anna said.

Blue Blazer's sword swung so fast she barely had time to react. She blocked and turned, barely missing the tip of his blade. "David run!" she yelled. "Stepping to block Blue Blazer as he moved to step around her.

He was stronger than her, faster and far more skilled a swordsman than she could ever hope to be. He stepped forward, she stepped left, but Blue Blazer anticipated her move and spun his blade back around. The sword caught her, slicing deep into her side.

She screamed.

"It doesn't have to be this way." Blue Blazer said.

She took a few quick steps away from him, clutching her side as blood issued forth freely. It would have been a fatal blow had she been someone - something - else. She glanced around the small grassy area, planning her next move. David, fortunately, was nowhere to be seen.

She turned and ran. Blue blazer chuckled and followed after her. She was aiming for cover behind a large pillar, but her feet slipped on the wet grass as she made the turn and she fell, hard.

Blue Blazer grabbed hold of her hair and dragged her towards what was left of Yorick's skull, still burning, despite the rain. "Might as well give Yorick the chance to be useful," he said as he thrust her towards the burning skull.

She tucked her body in, trying her best to twist her injured side away from the flame as she reached beneath her skirt and freed the .45 Colt Defender strapped to her right thigh. She twisted again, bringing her gun up and taking aim at center mass. She fired seven rounds directly into his chest.

Blood trickled from his mouth, as he chuckled "You can't kill me with bullets."

"No," she said, "but it'll slow you down."

He lifted his sword and lunged toward her. She fired her last round. It hit the center of his forehead. He stumbled forward. She dropped her gun and rolled out of the way as he fell.

She gripped her sword and lifted Blue Blazer's head by his hair. He caught her leg in his hand but it was too late for him. She swung the blade slicing clean through his neck. His body slumped forward, blood gushed from his wounds and burst into flames from the heat of Yorick's smoldering skull. She let go of the skull and raced away from the flames. Blue Blazer's body erupted in a burst of fire that knocked her forward onto the wet grass. She turned just as a second explosion erupted. Yorick.

She clutched her side with one arm and shielded her face from debris with the other as the verandah collapsed, engulfed by flames. The fire danced toward the edge of the rooftop, turning the rain into steam. She wondered how long before she would have to answer for this mess.

Then David was there, shouting at her, "Get up, Anna! Get up! We have to go!"
 

 

Chapter 17 - Worth Fighting For

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart