Avalon 6.6 The Count, part 6 of 6

Xanthia brought everyone into a large room and had seats brought in, arranged like a big living room.  They had a table that looked to seat twenty on one side of the room, and that triggered Lincoln’s mouth.

“We haven’t had supper.”

Alexis nudged him.  “We imagined finding an inn or something.”  She did not want to put Xanthia on the spot, but Xanthia clapped her hands and gave instructions to her women.

She finished with, “And I want meat. Kill the fatted calf.”

“Not on my account,” Alexis said, and smiled.

“I know,” Xanthia commiserated. “But Major Decker needs to keep up his strength.”

Decker shrugged and looked at Lyscus and Harpatha who stayed with them.  He also looked at the half-dozen guards spaced around the outside of the room, by the doors. Xanthia noticed.

“Come to the table,” she said, and went to sit at the head of the table.  She thought, and pointed.  “Katie and Lockhart to my left.  Alexis and Lincoln, and Major Decker.  Captain, your officer can sit beside Decker and discuss military things.”

“An honor, your highness,” Harpatha said, with a bow, though he did not appear entirely comfortable sitting next to the giant black man.

“On my right,” Xanthia continued. “Let’s put Boston and Sukki, with Elder Stow.  Millie and Evan can sit next beside the captain, and Captain, I apologize.  Evan is a scholar not given to military thinking.”

“Quite all right,” Lyscus said, and bowed like Harpatha.

Xanthia clasped her hands and smiled at the arrangement.  She sat, so everyone else sat, and almost immediately, some young men and women came in with trays of cut vegetables and fruit, plates, knives, and goblets for the pitchers of rough beer or even rougher wine.  Elder Stow avoided the alcohol, since he had no capacity to keep from getting drunk.

Cyrus came in with the food, followed by four counselors, and everyone stood again to pay their respects.  They expected the counselors to be military men, but were surprised to find them the city administrator, the administrator of the grain warehouses with the chief tax collector and a governor of one of the cities in Southern Mesopotamia.  Cyrus rubbed his head, like all the administrative work might be giving him a headache.

Xanthia’s introduction of the travelers was interesting. She began with Evan, disguised nothing about them being from the future, and said straight out that Elder Stow and Sukki were human but not human.  She said Boston was an elf, and Cyrus raised one eyebrow, like he expected as much from his sister.  Katie was an elect.  Lockhart started as a policeman—captain of a city watch.  Alexis got introduced as a woman of magic.”

“Wind, and healing,” Alexis interjected.

“Lincoln keeps the historical record, including a record of future history, so no questions allowed about that. Major Decker is a true military man.” He was right then checking to see that the guards around the room stood up straighter and looked more alert as soon as the king entered the room.  “And, of course, you know Captain Lyscus and his first officer Harpatha.”

Lyscus bowed.  “Majesty.” Harpatha joined in the bow after a moment, though he had yet to swallow the food he stuffed in his mouth when the king entered the room.

Cyrus gave Lyscus a hard, practiced look. “Captain, is it?”

Lyscus looked unfazed.  “Her highness is generous,” he said.

Cyrus let out a wicked little grin that the travelers appreciated but seemed to unnerve the administrators. “Sit. Eat,” Cyrus said, as the servants brought in more food.  Cyrus sat, so everyone sat, except Xanthia.

Xanthia proposed a toast.  “To my big brother and the taking of Babylon without a fight.”

Cyrus frowned and explained better. “We fought a couple of battles before the city.”

“But not in the city,” Xanthia interrupted

Cyrus raised his eyebrows.  “Near enough, little sister.”

“All right,” Xanthia lowered her eyes before she rephrased her toast.  “So, for entering the city and taking over without spilling buckets of blood.”

“She can’t stand the sight of blood,” Cyrus said, with a slight grin as he sipped his drink.

“Especially my own, as the Storyteller says,” Xanthia agreed.  “I don’t know how Doctor Mishka does it.”

“Well enough,” Cyrus said, and reached for a shoulder where the people guessed he had been wounded, and Mishka healed him.

Xanthia spoke again as she sat. “By the way, I got the same gnomes as last time to care for your horses and things, so you should have no worries there.”

“I wish I had known,” Katie said. “I would have left my rifle with the horse.”  It presently sat in a chair near to hand.  She paused, before she stood and grabbed her rifle.  “Enemies.”

Boston stood.  “People.  Dead People.”

Decker got up next.  The door crashed open.  Decker fired his rifle without a breath, then Katie joined him.

Two dozen men and women had to crash through the chairs in the living-room area to get at the table. Most had knives and swords. Several took down the two guards by that door.  Necks got sliced, and the people paused to revel in the blood.

“Vampires,” Alexis said, dredging up the knowledge from somewhere in her past.

Xanthia, Sukki, Lincoln, Harpatha, and two of the four administrators screamed against the sound of gunfire. Then things got really confusing.

Vampires stood again as the bullets Decker and Katie shot got pushed out of their bodies.

People shouted.  “Go for the head… Bullets don’t work… We need stakes…”

Lockhart’ shotgun boomed in the face of two vampires.  Boston shot fireballs from her fingertips and Alexis raised a wind that kept the vampires from overwhelming them.

“Go for the head… We need wood weapons… Stake the heart…”

Lyscus came with two administrators and Cyrus to stand with Harpatha.  They were all armed, but the four guards remaining in the room tried to get in front of them.  Decker, Katie, Sukki, Lincoln, and Lockhart all pulled their knives.

“You have to take the head… Metal swords won’t work… It’s the necromancer…”  Someone noticed the man watching from the doorway.

One vampire head plopped to the floor, but the four guards did not last long.  Elder Stow shot at the two who tried to sneak around to the side of the room. They collapsed when large sections of their bodies burned away.  There was no guarantee, though, that those bodies would not regrow.

Twenty vampires with knives and swords paused and faced ten defenders plus two women of magic—eleven defenders, as Xanthia went away and Diogenes came to stand in her place.  The necromancer shouted.

“Rush them.”

“No.”  The word sounded like thunder.  Marduk appeared, looking like a wrinkled, crippled old man.  “These are my friends.”  He waved his hand, and all of the vampires, apart from the necromancer turned to dust.  Marduk added a word for the man, as Muhamed watched the farm wife crumble.  “You don’t belong here.”  Marduk waved again, and Muhamed joined the woman on the ground, returned to dust.  Marduk threw his hands to cover his face and vanished.

“He didn’t look good,” Boston breathed.

“N-no,” Diogenes said, and went away so Junior could fill his boots.  As the son of Ishtar, Junior had some authority in that part of the world.  He reached out with his thoughts and found the two left in the gate with the nephew.  They were all dust, and he brought that dust to the palace.  He found the others inside the palace, and they were all dust, and no one else had been infected.  He gathered all the dust from the gate, the palace, and the room, and filled a large clay jar. He broke off a wooden chair leg and planted it in the jug.  It immediately sprouted.  Then he spoke.

“I have removed Ashtoreth’s power from the dust, but there is some residue in the formula to burn off.  This will be a cedar by the front gate as a reminder.”  He sent the jug away where it became buried outside the gate.  “The tree will grow, but live a normal life and die when it is of age.  For the record.  That is why wood, some living substance is needed to pierce the heart of a vampire. Metal won’t work.  Wood will absorb the elixir and prevent the heart from healing.”  He went away, and Xanthia came back and invited everyone to return to the table.

Alexis spoke as she sat.  “Father told me vampires first came from Babylon. It gave me nightmares as a child.”

“Suddenly, I’m not so hungry,” Lincoln said, as servants and soldiers came to remove the dead.  Everyone laughed, but it sounded like nervous laughter.

###

A young woman came to the pool of water in the morning before dawn, when the light first began to touch the horizon. She heard yelling down by the gate, but ignored it as none of her business.  She filled her jug with water but paused when she saw something in the pool. She set down her jug and fished out a clay flask.  Two older women came up beside her, talking away.

“Yes, my distant cousin is come all the way from Damascus,” one said.

The young woman ignored them as well, and tried to take the lid off the flask, wondering if it might be some perfume. It would not come.  It took a second to figure out it screwed off.  She lifted it to her nose and one of the older women bumped her elbow.  A couple of drops of liquid spilled into her water jug and the rest went into the pool as she dropped the flask.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said.  The young woman said nothing.  She pulled the flask out of the pool and hurried away, while the two older women quickly filled their own jugs from the water in that spot.

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MONDAY

Avalon season 6, episode 7, Yeti begins, where the travelers arrive in the Himalayas in the very early spring, in search of Rajish, the defender.  The episode will be posted in only 4 parts over a single week.  That means there will be posts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so don’t miss it.  Until then, Happy Reading

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Avalon 6.6 The Count, part 5 of 6

The travelers entered Babylon with their escort, and marveled at how the people went about their normal and ordinary business.  It felt hard to believe they were a conquered city.  Cyrus and his Persians only came into the city two days ago.

Lyscus and his second in command led the way.  Katie and Lockhart followed.  Evan, on Cortez, with Millie holding him, and Alexis on Misty Gray, with Lincoln behind her came next in line, and kept up a fine conversation.  They pointed out any number of things they remembered from Labash’s day, and several things that appeared changed.

“So, you have been here before,” Lyscus commented to Lockhart, who heard the suspicion creep back into Lyscus’ words.

“Seventy-five years ago,” Lockhart responded.  Lincoln figured it out.  At twenty-five, Labash had another thirty-five years to live the Kairos’ typical sixty. Then, if Xanthia was forty, added to the thirty-five, meant they jumped seventy-five years coming through the time gate.

Harpatha turned his head, and with big eyes he said, “I almost believe you.”

Katie offered a bit more information. “They are just talking about what is the same and what has been changed over the last, seventy-five years?”  She looked at Lockhart.  He nodded.

“Lincoln’s estimate,” he said.  “Of course, it is hard to tell.  We spent most of our time here up on the Ziggurat. The hanging gardens were just drawings and not built yet.”

“I wonder if Ninlil is around,” Katie said, softly.  “I wonder if she and Enlil ever reconciled.”

“I wonder if Marduk is still around,” Lockhart responded.  “He did not look too good last time we came through.”

“I miss my friend Enki, and his glasses,” Boston shouted up from behind Alexis and Lincoln’s horse, where she and Sukki were not allowed to dawdle, being followed by Major Decker and Elder Stow, and a dozen of Persia’s finest horsemen.

Alexis scolded Boston for eavesdropping as they came to the palace and stopped.  Lyscus got down from his horse with a word.  “Stay here.  I will announce you and see what the king says.”

Lockhart also got a word out before Lyscus ran up the steps between the guards.  “Tell Xanthia it’s Lockhart and Boston needs a hug.” Lockhart figured he better add that before Boston shouted it and got into deeper trouble with Alexis.

They did not wait long before a woman with light brown hair and only a little gray came running out of the palace, followed by several other women and several more guards.  She stopped at the top of the steps and threw her arms open.

“Boston.”

Boston leapt down from her horse and ran, zig-zagging between the guards before they even knew what was happening. She flew into Xanthia’s arms.

“You are mom age this time,” Boston said.

“Are you kidding?”  Xanthia laughed.  “My youngest is ten, but my eldest has a child of her own.  I’m grandma age.”

“Still pretty, though,” Boston said.

Xanthia laughed again and invited everyone inside.  The travelers took their weapons with them, along with whatever things they did not want the Persian soldiers and servants to lose or break.

###

When the sun set, Muhamed watched while the man went to the gate and lied to the man’s nephew.  “There is violence in the village,” he said, with just the right amount of fear and trepidation in his voice.  “We thought to find help and food behind the city walls.  We are hungry, having walked twelve hours.  You see, we have children and crippled old ones.”

He told a masterful lie.  If they sent one to the village to check, they would find plenty of signs of violence; dead bodies and blood splattered about. The guards could help by letting the people into the city, and could help further by becoming blood-food for the people, who were indeed hungry.  The people did walk twelve hours as well, even if it was at night and they rested all day.  Pointing out the children and crippled old lady just iced the cake, as people in the future say.

The gate opened.

“Of course.  Old man.  Uncle, come in.”

Within an hour, the guards all died; drained of blood, the shriveled corpses left where they lay.  There would be no alarm until the morning soldiers came on duty.  Only the nephew survived, temporarily.  He would join them.  He would eventually die, but only so a demon could take the immortalized flesh.

The young woman, who managed the crowd, looked to Muhamed to make the decision.  They were strong, now.  They did not need to drink the blood often.  Their bodies would ordinarily be nourished by regular food, like any other flesh.  But the blood was necessary, since their bodies could no longer make new cells. It was necessary to keep the elixir of life circulating to every cell in their bodies.

Muhamed did not take long deciding. “We go with the original plan. The people from the future are the only ones who pose a threat to us.”

The young farm wife pulled the flask of elixir from a pocket in her dress.  “We don’t need this, now,” she said, and tossed it into the pool where the excess water from the cistern collected before it dribbled down into the canal.  Muhamed looked at her like he had a contrary thought.

“We need to turn a few Persians,” he said.

She nodded.  “But now that the elixir has gotten into our systems and infects the blood as soon as we ingest it, we can turn Persians without the need for more elixir.”

Muhamed shrugged.  “This body remembers the formula.  It needs a spark of magic to make it work, but that should not be too hard to obtain.  We can make more, if necessary.  Come here.”

She stepped up and smiled.  “Do you want to have sex?”

He hit her hard enough to knock her to the ground and crack her jaw.  She shook her head against the dizziness.  Her jaw healed itself instantly, while she continued to smile up at him.  It appeared an idiot’s smile, like she wanted to egg him to more violence, to hurt her again. He yelled at her.

“You don’t do the deciding,” he said, and gave her a look of deadly anger, which made her smile all the more. He glanced at the pool.  Most of the lazy women filled their water jugs from the pool rather than using the bucket to bring up fresh water from down below. Fresher water, he scoffed.  The whole system seemed ripe to spread all sorts of diseases.

“We may find a place to rest when the day returns,” the woman said, and lowered her eyes as she stood.  She accepted her place in the hierarchy.

“Send two of the lesser ones when the nephew becomes one of us.  He will know of a place.”  He looked at her submissive position and thought how Muhamed had such a wonderful, twisted, wicked view of women.  Women were less than second-class creatures, to be used and abused at will.  “Gather the rest of the lesser ones.  We will find the palace.  If the enemies from the future are not there, the guards will know where they have gone.”

Avalon 6.6 The Count, part 4 of 6

When Muhamed woke, he found the young farm wife sitting beside him, watching him sleep.  His booby-trap by the curtain looked undisturbed.

“Good evening,” she said.

“Have I slept until dark?” he asked. “I had not planned on sleeping that long.”  He sat up and turned from her.  He felt the clay bottle with the last few drops of his elixir still in his vest pocket, and his knife still hidden in his cloak.

“The darkness fell a half-hour ago.”

“Good.  We need to go talk to people, to see if my work had any effect.”

“No need.  I have already talked to many,” the woman said.  “There are thirty of all ages ready to follow you to Babylon, to destroy your enemies.  Shall we go?” She seemed anxious.

Muhamed shook his head.  “You may have eaten, but I suspect it will take all night to walk to Babylon.”  He pushed his booby-trap aside and went into the other room.  The meat, bread, and broth looked untouched.  He shrugged.  These people did not exactly have a refrigerator.  He looked at the cup of water, and this time, he thought to skip it.  The woman noticed, but did not seem to care one way or the other.

“I will tell the others we will be ready, shortly,” she said, and stepped outside.

When Muhamed had eaten his fill, he questioned the broth.  But he checked again, and his few drops of elixir remained.  And besides, he told himself the vegetable broth, now cold, had not moved since supper.

He did not have to wait long.  The woman returned, and he rose to see what volunteers she managed to get him.  Outside, it looked like an ordinary enough crowd.  She was right.  They came in all ages and sizes.  One looked like a crippled old woman.  One little girl looked like a five-year-old.

“These are the result of your elixir. They suffered all day, but when the elixir expanded and came to rest in every part of their body, they came alive. They are ready now to kill whomever you wish.”  The woman smiled in such a way, Muhamed almost told her to stay in the village with the people until he sent for her.  He imagined moving on, alone, but he suspected they would follow and do who knew what.

“Does anyone know the best route and what gate we would best enter without causing suspicion?” he asked, as he considered losing the crowd once they got to the city.

“We have discussed this,” the young woman said.  “One man’s nephew oversees a small gate in the north.  We will go there.”

“Good.  Good,” Muhamed said.  “Lead the way,” he said, and two men and a woman went out front.  He followed, and decided he did not want to look closely at what damage and mayhem these people committed when they came alive, as the young farm wife called it.  He saw one old man, pale and lifeless, sitting against a wall.  He saw blood splattered on the wall, but he told himself it was just mud.  He told himself the man was sleeping, just sleeping.  He did not look up again until they left the village behind.

All night long, Muhamed felt more and more afraid.  The old ones did not complain.  The ones he considered children did not run and play, or do anything he expected from children.  They did not stop for food or rest, and he dared not make them stop.  He felt exhausted when about two hours before sunrise, they arrived at a copse of trees within sight of the city gate.  The farmer’s wife said they could rest there, and hide from whatever morning traffic might come to the gate.  They would go when the nephew came on duty in the late afternoon.  It sounded reasonable, but Muhamed put his back to a big tree when he sat, so he could keep his eyes on the others.  He feared to sleep, but he felt so worn, he could not imagine how he could keep himself awake.

Muhamed did wake, just before the sun came up.  Several men held him while they tied his arm and legs.  He saw the farm wife with his clay jar of elixir.  She held it up and smiled.  He tried to protest.

“It will do you no good.  You don’t know how to use it.  You haven’t the magic of Ashtoreth to make it work…” They gagged his mouth, and he fell silent.  Then the farm wife spoke.

“I will explain this in a way that you may understand.  This elixir has expanded into every cell in my body.  I can heal any wound.  You can cut me, puncture me, even my head or heart, and I can heal.  The only system not functioning correctly is the making of new blood cells.  It is like nature herself is fighting back against me.  We should be anemic, pale, weak, and as cold as death.  But we have found, if we drink the blood of the living, we can assimilate it into our systems.  You see?  You have made me virtually immortal.  And now that I have the elixir, I can bring more of us into flesh and blood. and we will at last be able to destroy all that is.

Muhamed’s eyes got big.  His mouth continued to protest, but all anyone could hear was muffled noises.  His modern mind told him such creatures did not exist.  It was not possible.  It was not real.  Thus, in the modern way, he denied the very reality that stared him in the face. Vampires did exist, and he created them.

“The farm wife smiled.  “It is so much more frightening and satisfying when the victim knows what is happening to him.”  One big man tilted Muhamed’s head to the side.  He screamed.  He yelled for help, a kind of automatic reflex word.  But no one was there to help him.  She bit his neck to puncture the carotid artery—the easiest, most blood-filled spot on the human body, and the blood dutifully began to flow.  She drank some, and some of the others had some, but she stopped the feast before Muhamed died.  She spit on the wound, and the wound closed up.

“Open it,” she said.  Two men grabbed him, and one removed the gag and forced his mouth open.  They did not need to do much forcing.  He felt so dizzy from lack of blood and oxygen to the brain, he almost passed out. The young farm wife leaned over and spit blood into his mouth.  He swallowed much of it, his own now tainted blood, though he gagged and could not swear some of it did not end up in his lungs.

The gag got replaced, and Muhamed felt the infection of blood and elixir filling his body.  He cried as the woman spoke.  “Now we wait until sundown.”  Muhamed died, and some unspeakable evil entered his body.

The Elect 11, part 4 of 4: Decapitation

David and Emily took Anna home, which thrilled her since it meant she did not have to stay a week in a motel and eat out every meal, and especially since it allowed her to watch the bowl games she was otherwise missing.  Emily shook her head and wondered what it was about football that could be so mind numbing.  Dad enjoyed the company, especially when they rooted for opposite teams.  Mother certainly had no interest in football, but she did not mind giving up the kitchen one evening so Anna could cook a Chinese feast.

“Better than take out,” Tyler praised.ac anna fight

Anna and Emily were called out on several occasions, and David drove.  Emily brought her sword.  Anna carried her case with her spear in two pieces.  David had an army knife, but he mostly stood back and watched in awe, especially when Anna and Emily devastated a colony of five.  The vampires had taken refuge in the basement of a neighbor’s house since the neighbor was in Europe over Christmas.  They imagined they were safe, but as Anna said, they were still too close to home.

“The hard part is the children,” Lieutenant Anthony admitted, but he was getting his squad into shape and even Marion did not hesitate to behead a six-year-old that looked at her with puppy-dog eyes.  “Like night of the living dead,” the Lieutenant concluded.

It was New Year’s Eve and Anna was thinking that things were well enough along she could afford to return to her antique shop and Emily could afford to return to school.  “He has my number and yours if we are needed,” Anna said.

ac emily sword 1“I understand,” Emily agreed, but she was still concerned and her face showed it.  Thus far, Brad, Duncan and Hoover had not been found.  She feared as long as they were at large, this epidemic would never be cured.  She spent one whole day on the phone talking to people who had been even remotely friends with one of the trio, but none of them could give her a lead on their whereabouts.  Emily imagined they had some secret hideout where they met after school or over the holidays and summer vacation.  She guessed they were now using that place as a home base.  She assumed it had to be somewhere near one or more of their houses, or near the school, but her searches thus far had proved fruitless.

“Don’t worry,” Anna assured her.  “They will be found.”

“You know, I never liked Brad,” David admitted.

“Me neither,” Emily said.  “But it took me a while to figure that out.  Excuse me.”  She stepped outside to the front porch.  She wanted to call Pierce and wish him a happy New Year.  She sat on the porch swing.  She focused on her phone.  She never imagined that Brad and his companions would attack her house.

Emily ducked, but the rock grazed her shoulder.  As she scrambled for the front door, the three vampires moved to cut her off.  “Help!” she yelled, but doubted she was heard over the touchdown.  She did then what she had never done in her life.  She screamed.

Brad, Duncan and Hoover all paused at the scream, like their brains were trying to interpret the ab vampir attacksound.  Then Brad spoke, but it was not Brad.  “Time for that beating we promised,” he said, and the three jumped her and dragged her down.

Emily fought back, but they had her in an awkward position between the swing and the wall where she could not get any leverage.  They hit her, and if they focused on that they might have seriously hurt her, but instead they were focused on trying to sink their teeth into her and she only had to hold off their faces.

The front door opened and Anna and David each tackled one.  David landed on Hoover in the front yard, but Hoover was strong enough to push him off.  Anna kicked hers off the porch and let her half-spear do the talking.  She easily separated Duncan’s head from his shoulders, and she let her spear swing wide as Hoover tried to stand.  Her arm was not long enough.  She sliced Hoover’s neck but most was untouched.  The vampire might have healed its neck if David had not been there with his army knife to finish the job.

Emily shoved Brad back.  He hit her hard and turned her head.  The punch slammed her into the wall.  She hit him back, harder and he crunched against a porch column.  Emily saw Tyler standing there with her sword in his hand.  She grabbed it as Brad realized what happened to Duncan and Hoover.  He turned to run, but Emily was faster, and her arms were long enough.  Brad’s head ab columbus police 1popped off with one swing.

Wicked!” Tyler yelled as Marion, the policewoman came running up the front lawn.  A second police car came roaring in, siren, lights and all.  Marion made a quick assessment, whipped out her badge and flashed it at the officers.

“Marion Hartley,” she said.  “Department seven.  You two need to watch these stiffs and make sure they don’t get up.”  Marion got her phone out.  Emily already had hers out.

“Anthony, we got the trio,” Emily said.

“Three more bodies fit for the fires of Hell,” Marion said and both phones closed together.  Emily stared down at Brad’s face.

“Hard to believe I actually dated that guy,” she said.

“That had to be fun.”  Marion responded with a large dose of sarcasm.

“Not.”  David agreed.ab watch football

Anna was already back inside.  They saw Anna clean her blade like it was an everyday occurrence.  “What did I miss?”  Anna asked.

“My team scored again while you were out,” Emily’s father rubbed his hands together.  “Twenty-eight to seven.  That means you owe me twenty-one cents.”

The Elect 11, part 3 of 4: Explanation

David, Emily and Anna Lee sat quietly in the police interrogation room where they waited and wondered if the police might provide lunch.  Anna had said to let her do the talking and Emily was inclined to agree.  David hardly knew what to say.  Thus far, Anna had said little more than hello and the kind of pleasant things about the weather and such questions as a person new in town might ask.  Emily gave most of the pleasant answers.  David stayed quiet for most of the trip from the airport.  He preferred to keep his eyes on their police escort, and on the road.

Now in the room, David sat in his fatigues and examined the forty-year-old woman closely.  For all of her age, different appearance, cultural differences—being both Chinese and from New York City—he concluded that there was something very Emily about her.  He eyed his sister Emily, her all-American, mid-American self, and concluded there was something shared with this woman in ab in room 2return, only he had no idea what that might be.  He was about to ask when the door opened.  Lieutenant Anthony, an older man in a suit, and a policewoman with a steno pad and pen came in with an extra chair.  The policewoman sat by the door.  Anthony stepped up to the table with some folders in his hands.  The older man stepped up beside him.

“Sit down, Lieutenant, sir,” Anna invited.  The older man sat, but the Lieutenant was not inclined to do what he was told.  He slammed his folders on the table and leaned toward the group.

“Damn it, you need to start giving some answers.  I need more to go on than you have given me.”

“How about sit down and shut-up,” the older man ordered, and Lieutenant Anthony reluctantly sat.  “Miles Hilton,” the old man introduced himself, kindly.  “His boss,” he added with a thumb in the Lieutenant’s direction.

“I will tell you everything,” Anna said sweetly, though it was clear she meant everything they would need to know.  “You have heard of the Men in Black?”  It was a rhetorical question but Lieutenant Anthony answered.

“Fairy tale.”

“Well, Emily is a new but valuable member of an even more secret organization.  We deal with things that normal channels cannot hope to handle.  You may need to call on her when she is in town.  She may call on you at some point so you need to be ready.  And you need to not question what she tells you, no matter how outrageous it sounds.”

ab in vampires“But vampires?”  The Lieutenant simply could not wrap his mind around it.

Anna turned to Mister Hilton, a person more her age that she felt she could commiserate with.  “Maybe Mister Anthony is not the best choice for a liaison.”

“He would be my choice,” Mister Hilton said.  “I spoke to your Tomlinson in New York.  He explained a lot, but Anthony needs to hear with his own ears.  Let him see a few things and he will get on board.”  Lieutenant Anthony looked at his boss, like he did not appreciate being talked about when he was in the same room, but he said nothing.

“Vampires.”  Anna started again.  “Demons cannot infect a host body unless given permission.  When they have someone alone, they offer death or eternal life.  Of course, it is a lie.  The person dies when the blood is drained and the demons move in.  It is the demon that lives in the body that is then somewhere between life and death.  Tradition calls them the living dead, and it is not a bad description.”

“Eternal life or death?”  David spoke up.  “What kind of a choice is that?”

Anna nodded.  “But you would be surprised how many people would rather die than live, as they imagine, demon infested.  People are not so stupid, at least that was true in the past.  This recent idea that vampires can have souls and can be lovers and all sparkling inside has not helped one bit.  The truth is, vampires are incapable of love.  The normal, human feelings and emotions die with the person.  Vampires can fake it for a time around family and friends, but it is only to help them get into a position to feed.  But believe me, demons cannot love.  They can only lie, steal, kill and destroy.  It is their nature.”

“Why the blood?”  Mister Hilton asked.ab in room 1

“Because, though I am not a doctor, the human system that regularly replaces and makes blood in our bodies is one thing that shuts down rather quickly at death.  Vampires need blood to keep their bodies alive as we do and what they cannot make, they take.  When demons move into a body that has been completely drained, where the person has died, they need to feed right away.  For every minute delay between awakening and feeding, the body dies a little more and the brain in particular shuts down.”

“So if you can keep a new vampire from getting the blood it needs it will eventually die.”  Emily said, though it was a question since she was not entirely clear on the subject herself.

Anna nodded again.

“But crosses and stakes?”  Lieutenant Anthony was trying.

“The cross is a powerful symbol of judgment.  Demons fear it.  The sun does not hurt them like in the movies, but they hate the light.  They are creatures of darkness.  Metal weapons conduct whatever spiritual energy they need to heal.  They can completely heal almost any wound, and rapidly.  Natural wood does not conduct the energy to heal. Stuck in the heart, it will interrupt the flow of blood, but the vampire will not die instantly.  They may struggle for a minute or more, and if they can pull the stake out, they can still heal themselves.  Beheading is the only sure way to cause instant death.  A body without a head is not worth inhabiting.”

ac anna 1“So what do we do?”  Mister Hilton leaned forward.

“We follow them home.  Demons know just about everything.”  She turned to face Lieutenant Anthony.  “They will say things to you, intimate, personal things, twisted and distorted truths about your life to cause you pain and make you doubt yourself.  Do not listen.  Meanwhile, what the vampire actually knows is contained in the brain of the one they inhabit.  They are instinctively drawn to home, work, and friends because it is all they know.  That is their flaw.  They are brilliant, but have absolutely no common sense.  I once asked a man if he was filled with demons.  The man answered, “No, there are none of us in here.”

David and Lieutenant Anthony laughed, but it was a nervous sort of laughter.

Anna pulled out a photograph with a business card attached.  “George Marcos,” she named the man.  “He was infected in New York but lives here in Columbus.  His family may already be dead or infected.”

“Infected?”

“Consider it a plague,” Anna said while Emily brought out her pictures.  She was up late scanning them out of her yearbook and enlarging them to print.

“Brad Marcos and his buddies Duncan and Hoover.  They were the ones that attacked the two women and infected the one that went after my little brother.”ac em bro 1

“He is fine,” David interjected.  “Mother dragged him to the doctor’s this morning or he would have been here.”

“Better not,” Anna said.  “I don’t mind the military, but this is not for high school gossip.”

“Or any gossip,” Mister Hilton agreed.

Emily spoke up.  “I think Brad and his friends were infected Thanksgiving.  That is at least a month of activity.”

Lieutenant Anthony was thoughtful and turned to the policewoman by the door.  “Marion?”

“Fifteen since the first of November, all drained of blood,” Marion reported.  “I could check back further.”

“I did some checking, too.” Mister Hilton interrupted.  “We had a special unit on the force that handled things like this in the past but it was especially quiet for the past twenty years and they did mostly regular police work and eventually retired.  I am guessing it is time to get things up and running again.”  He looked at the Lieutenant.

Lieutenant Anthony looked thoughtful.  He had another question.  “So how do we identify the infected ones?”

Anna put the same thoughtful expression on her face.  “They hate the sun, though it does not kill them like in the movies.  They hate the cross.  There are ways, like when a family reports that one member has suffered a complete personality change.  But to be sure, the only sure way is to catch them in the act, like Emily did.  That is standard police work.  It is best to catch people in the ac marioncommission of the crime.”

“Marion?”  Lieutenant Anthony turned his head again to the door.

“I’m not being your bait,” Marion responded.

The Elect 11, part 2 of 4: Home

Emily was glad to be home, but terribly bored.  It was the day after Christmas and she was sick of football.  It was also two in the afternoon and she was still in her pajamas with her long slipper-socks with the pebble bottoms.  Mother had gone out to make returns, a time honored family tradition.  The rest of the family declined.  Dad opted for football with David who was still home from Thanksgiving and probably would not be deployed again until February.  Tyler also opted to stay home and spent an hour sliding around the kitchen floor in his slippers, scaring the cat.  Emily could not slide in her slipper-socks because of the no-slip bottoms.  Too bad, because sliding around the floor felt more and more like something to do as the football went on and on.ac emily pjs

“Hey!  What is this!  Wow, is this real?”  The shout came from upstairs and Emily immediately knew Tyler was into her things.  She ran.  David followed her.  Dad was not moving, except maybe by crowbar.

It was what Emily feared.  Tyler had her sword out and was swinging it around the room.

“Sorry about the lamp,” Tyler said.  He had already busted it, accidentally.

“Give me that!”  Emily yelled, but Tyler was not going to do that.  He was too busy playing Obi-Wan.  Emily ducked, caught Tyler’s hand, ripped the sword from his grip with one hand and with her other hand pushed him rudely to her bed.

“Hey!”  He never saw it coming.

“This is real,” Emily said as she looked for her sheath.  It was on the floor behind the bed.  “This is not a toy, and I’ll be taking your desk lamp in place of my broken one so screw you.”

“Can I see that?”  David stepped up.  “I’ll give it right back, I promise.”

“Where did you get it?”  Tyler wondered as he rubbed his chest.  She kind of hit him to the bed more than shoved him.

Emily pulled the sheath out from the space between the bed and the wall before she handed the weapon to David.  “I got it from a friend who is more than four hundred and seventy years old and he made it by hand so it is not only real, it is one of a kind.”

David looked at the weapon closely and made no comment on what his sister said.  Tyler laughed.  The phone rang, and Emily rushed downstairs.  “I’ll get it.”  Not that there was any danger that her dad would answer the phone.  The call was not what she expected.

ac nyc anna phone“Emily Hudson?  This is Anna Lee from New York.  We met at Latasha’s house.”

“Yes, of course,” Emily said, though she was not entirely sure which of the elect she was actually talking to.

“I have reason to believe there is a danger on its way to Columbus, if it is not already there.  I will arrive at ten tomorrow morning.  Is there a chance you can meet me at the airport?”

“Yes, of course.  Just give me the information.”  Emily wrote furiously on the pad beside the phone.  “Can I ask what exactly the danger is that you are referring to?”  Emily wrote the word vampires in big black letters on the pad.  “What?  Local police?  No, wait.  Lieutenant Reese Anthony.”  She grinned when she gave the man’s name.  “He already talked to Miriam at the FBI.  There was an incident over Thanksgiving.  I don’t know what Miriam said to him, but he let me go.  What?  No, he is the only one I know.  I never got involved with the police before Lisa.”  Emily looked up and saw David hovering over her shoulder.  “Maybe I should tell you when you get here.  Yes.  See you at ten.”  Emily hung up the phone.

David handed the sword back and said just one word.  “Vampires?”

Luckily, Emily did not have to answer as the phone rang again.  “Hello?”  It was Susan and she ac susan phonewanted to take in a movie.  Apparently, football was no respecter of persons and Susan just had to get out.

“I’m driving,” David said.  He was not going to let her escape without answering some questions.

“But that means Tyler will have to come, too,” Emily whined like Jessica.  She had learned the technique well.  David just stared at her until she squirmed.  “Better get dressed,” she said.

Susan, Emily and Lori sat in the back.  Tyler was up front with David driving.  Susan and Lori were not thrilled about Tyler being there, but they did not mind David coming along.  Emily decided she did not mind Susan, Lori and Tyler all being there.  It kept David from asking too many questions.

The movie was the latest blockbuster, not exactly a Christmas movie.  When they got to the fight scenes, Emily thought it was too fake for words, but she imagined David thought the same thing having been in combat, or near enough.  When it was over, Tyler suggested the diner across the street.  Of course, Tyler had no money with him, but that was fine.  Emily would cover for her little brother and be repaid, or as the saying went, take it out of his hide.

They stepped out of the theater together and heard the woman scream.  Emily ran in the direction of the scream and David came right on her heels.  They found Emily’s ex-boyfriend, Brad and his companions Duncan and Hoover and they had a woman backed up to the trunk of her car.  The woman had pepper spray in one hand.  Her other hand was up against her neck where she was bleeding.  There was a second woman, but she was on the ground and looked unconscious, or dead.

ab park fight 3Emily grabbed the back of Duncan’s shirt and tossed him over the hood of the pick-up, head first into the fender of a parked car.  She kicked Hoover in the stomach and hit him hard enough to send him sprawling.  The boy tripped over the woman on the ground and landed face down on the asphalt.

David shoved Brad out of the way and bent down to the woman on the ground.  He tried to check her breathing and then tried for a pulse.  He looked up at Emily and shook his head.

Emily ducked.  Duncan’s sucker punch from behind missed.  She kicked back and caught him where he would certainly feel it.  David did not duck as quickly.  Brad’s punch grazed David’s shoulder, but David was well trained by the army.  He punched Brad in the knees before he stood and landed a better punch on Brad’s face.  Emily leapt to David’s back and Hoover stopped where he was.

Tyler came to the corner of the lot followed by Susan and Lori.  “Too many people,” Brad yelled and he, Duncan and Hoover ran off into the shadows.  The woman with the pepper spray started to faint, but Emily caught her and in the process saw the two puncture wounds in her neck.  David pronounced his findings regarding the woman on the ground.ab park fight 5

“She is dead.”

“Susan, call for an ambulance!”  Emily yelled, but Susan already had her phone out and was calling.

When the ambulance came, the medics confirmed David’s diagnosis.  They put the body of the dead woman in the ambulance while they worked on the other woman.  She had lost a great deal of blood and they got her on a stretcher and hooked up to an I. V.

Naturally, Tyler’s curiosity took him straight to the back of the ambulance to look at the dead body, so he was there when the woman sat up, starving for blood.

“Help!”  Tyler got that much out as the woman went for his neck.  David moved first and yanked the woman off his brother, but she simply turned toward Susan and Lori.  Emily had her knife out by then.  She had strapped it to her ankle just in case, and she jumped.  She sank her knife deep into the dead woman’s chest and the woman stopped moving before she appeared to laugh.  Emily nodded, remembered her zombie training, pulled out her knife and promptly took the woman’s head off.  That killed her for good.

ab park fight 4Naturally, the police pulled up right then.  Lieutenant Reese Anthony came bounding out of his car, saw the beheaded woman on the ground and Emily standing there with a knife in her hand, but Emily had learned.  She cleaned her knife, even if it did not have much blood on it, and she set it down before the Lieutenant arrived and grabbed her.  He turned her roughly, though she did not resist, and he slapped handcuffs on her.

Everyone started yelling at the Lieutenant.  One of the officers with him was so startled by the crowd reaction, he pulled his gun.  Even the medics were yelling at him.  He turned away.  “Shut them up,” he said to the officers present and got out his phone.  He had to walk around the corner to hear anything.

“Hey, people.  Calm down.  It will be alright,” Emily said.

“But Emily, you should not be in cuffs.”  David was her defender, but his voice was calm and that also calmed the police.

“You saved our lives,” Lori said, emphatically.

“Yeah, that lady was trying to eat me,” Tyler added his thoughts.  He had his hand up to stop the bleeding from his own neck.  One of the medics came up, looked at it, and then took Tyler aside to work on the wound.  The other medic came up with a word for the police.

“Ever see a dead person get up and walk around?”  The police scoffed and shook their heads.  “Well, I have.”  The medic pointed to the decapitated corpse.  “Good thing she was here, whoever she is.”  He pointed at Emily and walked away.ab park fight 2

“Wait a minute,” Emily said with a smile.  She had been straining for some time, but there was a snap and she pulled her hands to her front, still cuffed, but the cuffs were separated.  One cuff had most of the chain links.  “Loose link,” Emily said with a smile.  The police looked very confused as Lieutenant Anthony came back around the corner.  He saw Emily had her hands free and shook his head.  He already had the key out.

“I should run you in for questioning in a murder,” he said as he unlocked Emily’s cuffs.  “But my boss says I am supposed to cooperate with you and your people.  He got a call from the mayor, from the FBI and from Washington.  Who the hell are you and your people?”

“Later,” Emily responded quietly.  “When we pick up Anna at the airport, she may explain.”

Lieutenant Anthony stepped back and pointed to the dead body.  “You decapitated the damn woman.  What the hell is this?”

David was the one who answered.  “Vampires.”

“Looks like an epidemic,” Emily added as she rubbed her wrists.

“Bullshit!”  Lieutenant Anthony was not buying it, but the medic returned with Tyler and ripped back the tape that held the gauze to his neck.  Tyler protested, but the medic’s words were clear.  “The woman in the ambulance is suffering severe blood loss,” he said.  “And look at this.”  He showed Tyler’s neck where there were the characteristic puncture wounds.  He put the gauze back in place as his partner called.

“Time to go.”  the partner got in the ambulance front seat.  They had a quick trip to make to the hospital.

ab park fight 1“Vampires,” one of the police officers said in a hushed voice.

“What am I supposed to do with this dead body?” Lieutenant Anthony asked, not to say he never dealt with a dead body before.  He was thinking that surely the woman had family somewhere.

“Cremation is the traditional answer,” Emily said in answer to the rhetorical question.

“Awesome!” Tyler spouted.  “Am I going to turn into a vampire?”

Emily shook her head.  “Stupid movie.”

The Elect 11, Christmas: part 1 of 4

Matthew clicked off the lights and carefully closed the door.  The sign on the door said ‘East & West’ in bold letters, and underneath, in smaller print, it said ‘Antiques & Collectibles’.  The Manhattan store fit snuggly on the border between Little Italy and Chinatown.

“Another day without an incident,” Matthew said to himself with a smile.  “Keep it up and I might be able to pay my rent this month.”  He rattled the door to be sure it was locked, turned the collar of his coat up against the wind, and walked off whistling Jingle Bells.ac nyc winter 1

The man across the street, who stood in the shadows of the night, watched every move.  When Matthew disappeared into the crowd, the man looked again at the body at his feet.  The card he held had the symbol of a simple circle with three squiggly lines that came out of the top of the circle.  The man now knew what that symbol stood for.  The man had also met the owner of the East and West and he now knew something special about her.  The thoughts moved slowly, sluggishly through his dead brain, but after a while he smiled.  He imagined what might be in that hole-in-the-wall shop.

###

Anna Lee slipped out of the taxi in front of her antique shop, one of a million nondescript places in New York City.  It kept her afloat financially, and allowed her to pursue the artifacts and special pieces that most of the world had forgotten.

Anna picked up her duffle and slung it over her shoulder.  She picked up her large, square but very thin case by the strap handle and started toward the door to the stairs that would take her up to her rooms above the shop.  The big, thin case she carried looked like an artist’s case that might hold canvas, palate and paints, but the ancient Chinese inscriptions on the outside of the box suggested something else.

ac nyc winterAnna paused and stared before she figured out what was wrong.  A light got left on in the back of the shop, one that should not be on.  Maybe Matthew left it on when he closed up, she thought.  That was not a problem.  She would just go in and turn it off.  She fumbled for the keys in her purse and eventually found them under some tissues.  She opened up, but did not get past the entrance.  She stopped.  She smelled something and immediately bent down to open her big, square, thin case.

A person was going through the jars that Anna kept hidden behind the counter.  Anna did her best to sneak up close enough to stop the person quickly, but did not succeed.  The person must have smelled her in return when he turned and let out an unearthly scream.  He swung a fist at Anna’s head.  Anna ducked, swung back and connected with the hip bone where it sounded like something broke.  The person shrieked again and kicked out.  This foot struck home and Anna found herself flung back into a glass case that shattered.  Luckily, her thick winter coat absorbed the broken glass.  She rolled free as the person tried to leap on her, heedless of the glass shards.  When it bent down, Anna swung from the floor.  The half-spear with the axe-like head swung true and the person’s head fell to the floor.

Vampires have a peculiar smell.  Anna always likened it to the smell of lavender and death.

Anna got out her phone.  She told Matthew he was going to have to get the cabinetmaker in theac nyc anna 1 morning.  She left a message on police Detective Tomlinson’s phone.  “The rash has broken out again.”  The mortuary picked up.

“The usual cremation?”

“Yes, the fires of Hell,” Anna said, and she looked at the business card taken from the vampire’s pocket.  It was George Marcos, that nice tourist from Ohio she met recently in the gallery in Soho.  It did not take much to put it together.  She hated to leave New York, but Tomlinson had a whole staff trained to deal with this kind of outbreak.  She did not know about elsewhere.  She fingered the plane ticket she took from the vampire’s pocket.  It was a ticket to Columbus, Ohio.

************************

Emily is going home for winter vacation…to Columbus Ohio.  You know, she could use a rest after first semester.  Stick with the holiday chapter…be sure to come back tomorrow, wednesday and Thursday for The Elect, Freshman Year.

Happy reading

a a hr calvin 3