September 10, 2010

Artwork by Gustav Klimt 1862-1918

Some days just feel longer than others. This one was competing for the all time record. There was no clock in the room I was in but if I had to guess, it was well past three A.M. I was bruised, I was tired, and I was cranky.

The day had started out as a relatively normal Saturday. My roommate had gone to her parents for the weekend. I cleaned, did laundry, ran errands. Later, I went to a movie with Parker, and hung out at his place after. He dropped me off around eleven.

As soon as I shut the door behind me someone grabbed me. I tried to scream but his hand was over my mouth so tightly I couldn't. In fact I could barely breath. I struggled, but to no avail.

"Look, I'm not here to hurt you but I do have a gun." he said. "If you promise not to scream, I promise not to shoot you. Deal?"

It's hard to trust someone who first tells you they aren't going to hurt you then tells you that they might shoot you. I was slowly suffocating as it was, so I nodded. He let go and I gasped and stumbled away from him. I wanted to run, but I wanted to not get shot more.

He flipped on the living room light. It was bright.

"What do you do next?" he asked.

I had been asking myself a similar question. I was thinking: try to survive, call nine-one-one. But I wasn't about to tell him that. So I responded with: "What?"

"You come in. You set down your purse. You flip on the light," he said, terse. "Where do you go next?"

I don't normally turn on the light. It's my apartment I know my way around in the dark. But I got it then, he was trying not to raise suspicion in case someone was watching. This seemed kind of stupid to me because as far as I knew I didn't I have a stalker but if I did, hopefully they would know I always went to the bathroom to brush my teeth when I got home late. "Bedroom," I answered.

He stepped forward, grabbed my arm and yanked me toward the hallway. I tried to pull away, but he was a lot stronger. He picked me up and flung me over his shoulder.

"Put me down!" I yelled.

"I can still shoot you from this position," he said.

I shut up.

He knew exactly which bedroom was mine, which was a little disconcerting and flipped on the light. He set me down near the bed. I avoided looking at him hoping it would up my chances of survival. "What do you want?" I asked.

"It's okay to look at me," he said. "I'm not going to kill you. I'm a familiar, like you."

Familiar? I had no idea what he was talking about.

"I thought you were going to be at your boyfriends house all night," he said.

"He's not my--" I started to say but stopped myself. "What do you want?" I repeated.

"I need to deliver a message to your Master," he said.

"My what?" I mean, who talks like that?

"Your Lord," he clarified as though this were another perfectly normal thing to say. "I need the Line of Lineage box, it's writings and the sapphire necklace. I know that's how you call him."

It's one thing to possess a collection of writings that would suggest a multi-generational fascination with something supernatural, but it is another thing entirely to have your life threatened by some nut-job who is under the impression that it's somehow real.

I looked at him then. He looked surprisingly normal for a criminal/crazy person. He had sandy blond hair and brown eyes and was wearing blue jeans, a green T-shirt and a navy jacket. I didn't see a gun, but that didn't mean he didn't have one. "How do you know about that?" I asked.

"Uh," he paused, looking uncomfortable. "You know your mother is the worst kind of person don't you?"

I knew. "They're not here," I lied. "They're in a safety deposit box at the bank. I guess you'll have to wait until Monday."

"I don't think so," he said and started towards me.

My only thought was escape. Fight for flight and I hadn't seen any signs of a gun so I hit, kicked, bit and threw things. I had fear and determination on my side, but he was a much better fighter.

"Stop it," he kept saying. "Stop!" As if that was actually going to work.

I was beginning to feel like I was making some headway when the doorbell rang. Half a second later I was being thrown into a wall. I hit my head and the world went dark. I don't even remember hitting the floor.

Now, I was sitting at a police station, drinking bad coffee and lying to the police because what was true involved something I'd been asked to keep secret. And was also pretty unbelievable.

The door opened. "Miss Finley?" asked a man with a manila folder whose broad shouldered physique suggested his shirts - at least the upper half of them - came from the big and tall section. "I'm Detective Carter," he said as he closed the door to the small interview room behind him. "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

"I've already given my statement. Detective Sommers just went to find my friend to give me a ride home."

"I think he stopped to get a cup of coffee," Carter offered. "I was just hoping to ask you a few questions while you were here. It shouldn't take very long, but if you'd prefer, I could talk to you another time. I could come to your place tomorrow if that works better for you."

"Let's just get it over with." I grimaced.

"I really appreciate it." Carter said as he flipped open the Manila envelope and began thumbing through it.

I let out a long breath as I reached for what was left of my coffee. "So I'll sleep when I'm dead," I smirked and tossed back what was left. One swallow. And it was cold.

Carter looked confused, or maybe it was concerned, by my words. "It's funny that you should say that," he said.

Typically a statement like that would be an opener for an ironic or coincidental anecdote, but Carter didn't continue. Maybe he was waiting for an inquisitive response from me but most of my thoughts were on a small locked chest that I hoped was adequately hidden. What little attention remained in the room was simply too tired to care.

"Would you mind briefly recounting what took place?"

"I was at Parker's for most of the evening. He drove me home around eleven."

"Is that typical or do you usually spend the night?" Carter interrupted.

"Really?" I huffed. "I was at my friend's house for most of the evening. My friend drove me home, to my apartment - where I live and sleep - around eleven."

"Sorry." Carter wedged in while I took a breath.

"When I came in, someone grabbed me. It was a guy, he was wearing dark clothes but other than that it was too dark to make out much. I screamed. We fought. He pushed me into the wall. I hit my head and fell unconscious. When I woke up Parker was there. He called the police."

"Don't you have a room mate?"

"She's visiting her parents."

Carter set the folder on the edge of the table and put his hands on his hips, making his upper body appear even more out of proportion to his lower half. "You know, I imagine it must have been very frightening to be attacked the way you were." Carter said.

I shrugged. It hurt. "Everything turned out alright."

"But your attacker escaped."

"And my apartment manager said she's going to install a security system. So we'll all be safer now."

"Are you aware that your friend Parker made another phone call before he called the police?"

"And I should care about this why?" I responded.

"I just find it a little strange, that's all. There were a few discrepancies in his background as well as in his story. I was hoping you might help me answer some of those questions. Help me fill in some of the blanks."

There was something about his tone that made me want to punch him. He couldn't possibly have a clue as to what had really happened, but even if he did, I wasn't about to change my story. It seemed much more likely that some of Parker's more felonious activities were what Mr. All Arms was on about.

"Let's see," I sighed. "Background. He's from Indiana. He's one of my best friends. He's a Computer Sciences major, he's really smart, and one of the nicest guys I've ever met. As far as his account of what happened I wasn't with him the entire time, and I've already told you what I know."

"Why do you think he came back?" Carter asked.

"I left my phone in his car."

Carter smiled and nodded. "That's interesting. That's not what he said."

I don't know what Carter was after; I really had left my phone in Parker's car. I shrugged and shook my head. "That's what he told me."

"Fair enough," Carter nodded. "Now, is Parker his first name or last name?"

"First." I replied, annoyed. "His last name is Hughes."

"And the name Ashe is... a nickname?"

It was hard not to feel annoyed by someone with arms too large for his body asking me stupid and redundant questions. "Yeah, but only his mother calls him that."

"I see." Carter nodded.

"Does he have any other family?"

"He has a sister. Her name's Anna."

"Have you ever met either of them?"

I shook my head.

"You said earlier he was one of your best friends." Carter said. "Help you move best friends or, take a bullet for him best friends?"

I leaned forward. "Look, Detective..."

"Carter," he supplied.

"It's been a very long day. I'm running real short on patience at the moment, so if you have a point, could you just get to it already? I would really appreciate it."

Carter smirked, flipped open the folder and slid a photo of Parker across the table to me. "Is this him? Is this your friend?" he asked.

The photo looked like it had been taken from a long distance and enlarged, but it was definitely Parker. I didn't know what 'Muscles' end game was, but whatever Parker might be involved in I didn't want to get him in trouble. I yawned and slid the photo back across the table. "So, no point huh?"

Carter smirked again. "The guy in this photo called himself Ashe Lake. It even sounds made up doesn't it? He had a sister named Anna too." He tapped the photo with his forefinger as he spoke. "But what's really interesting about this photo... is that it was taken eight years ago."

Eight years ago.

My face felt flush and I suddenly felt as if I were going to be sick. I hoped it wasn't noticeable.

"What no quickie comeback? No scoffing? Nothing? Not even a doubtful chuckle?" Carter chided sounding satisfied. "No. Because... You know."

It's one thing to possess a collection of writings that would suggest a multi-generational fascination with something supernatural, and then have your life threatened by some nut-job who is under the impression that it's somehow real. But it is another thing entirely to have the fantastical confirmed by a... well, at least reasonably level headed source. The ginormous biceps were a little on the sketchy side of reason, but still.

I knew I couldn't fix my lack of response. Anything I said now would just make things worse. I had to get out of there. I tried to look calm and annoyed - that part was easy - as I stood, picked up my purse and started for the door.

"Do you have any idea what you've gotten yourself mixed up with Eden?"

I should have kept walking. But I didn't. I turned back. As if I needed to warn him. "Do you?"

Carter stood. "They can't be trusted," he said quickly crossing the small space. He placed his massive arm on the door preventing me from opening it.

"I'm not above screaming." I said.

"I'm not the bad guy here." Carter said. "Look, whatever you know - whatever you think you know, believe me there's more. There is a much darker, much scarier side. Whatever he's said to you, I promise you, he doesn't care about you. He can't. What has he told you? What did he promise you? Immortality? Protection?"

"I'm leaving now," I said, turning the handle and pulling on the door. It didn't budge.

Carter pulled a business card from his pocket and let go of the door. "I'm taking a huge risk here, Eden. I know how serious they take secrecy. My life is in your hands. All I ask is that you be careful and think it through. And if you need anything - a way out - just call."

I took the card and shoved it in my purse as I yanked open the door and stormed out. One thought over-rode everything else as I paced toward the lobby passed the friendly and not so friendly faces of strangers: Nothing was as it seemed and I had no idea who to trust.

Parker - or whoever he really was - was talking to Detective Sommers in the front lobby.

"What, did you get lost?" Sommers asked.

At first I thought he was talking to me, but I quickly realized that he was looking at some one just over my shoulder. I turned. Detective Carter had followed me. I hadn't even noticed.

"It's called a bathroom break Sommers - look into it." Carter chided. "Have we met?" he asked Parker. "You look really familiar to me."

Parker shrugged. "Eden? Are you alright?"

His voice trailed in my head. Except for my name. The sound of his voice saying my name echoed all the way back to my grandmother's funeral.

"I need to go home." I managed.

It was quiet for most of the ride, which gave me a lot of time to think. I watched him, analyzing his movements and mannerisms for something that would set him apart as something not human. There was nothing.

"It's totally cool if you want to stay at my place for a couple of days," he offered.

"I need to get something from my place," I said.

The sun was just coming up as he walked me into my apartment. I went straight to my room and pulled the Line of Lineage box and journals from their hiding place in my box springs. I left the journals on my bed and returned to the living room with the box. Parker - or whatever his name was - was on the phone.

"Eden?" He turned.

I set the charred box down on the coffee table. "I know who you are," I said.

"I have to go," he said into the phone then hung it up.

As hard as I tried I couldn't stop the tears.

His eyes searched mine as he came to stand in front of me. "It's going to be okay," he reassured.

He pulled me close and gently kissed me. Then he tilted his head and moved slowly toward my neck. I didn't know what to expect but I trusted him. I wanted him.

I felt the warmth of his breath and the pressure of his lips. I barely felt the bite. In the next moment every thought was lost, all of my pain was gone and everything felt right in the world.

As my blood flowed into his mouth, a part of me knew it was wrong. I needed my blood. It kept me alive. A larger part of me simply didn't care. And then he stopped and kissed me once again, more passionate this time. "Sleep," he said as he pulled away from me.

I remember nodding, and then the world became dark.


Chapter 37 - Another Thing Entirely

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart