Father Goose and the Black Knight
Chapter 9: Like a brat hot off the grill.
At least she wasnt cold.
Or at least she didnt feel cold. She knew she was cold because she could sense the heat emanating from the living as they walked by and she could reach down and feel her own skin and it wasnt the same. It was cold.
She knew what she was now. Her mind was clear.
The master had had her fooled. With all the chanting and the bleeding and mystic smoke and the mixing of the potion. All bullshit.
It was all bullshit but the blood. Only the blood mattered.
There was a drug, had to have been a drug, she wasnt stupid enough to have been fooled otherwise.
But her head was clear now. She knew what she was.
Shed heard rumors, talk on the street and didnt believe it. Cause, come on.
But her heart wasnt beating and she was still walking along, NOT seeing herself in shop windows, she craved blood and oh, yeah, she had these fangs. She reached her hand up and felt her face for the umpteenth time, felt the fangs, felt the lumps on her face, she wondered if it looked cool or just lumpy.
This no reflection thing. Sucked.
She concentrated, the fangs went in, her face smoothed, felt normal to her hands anyway. She wondered if she was totally pale or had glowing red eyes. Probably not. The other girls, in normal face, had simply looked a little pale. Their vampire faces well, a couple had looked pretty cool, the others, kinda lumpy. She wondered how that got decided.
Shed said it. Vampire. She wondered what else was true. Next thing you knew shed meet an honest man and a whore with a heart of gold. Ba-dump.
She felt her face again. The fangs were out again. Shed found she could stay in normal face as long as she thought about it, but when she lost concentration she slipped back. She hoped that would change with time. She thought she was getting a little better. She practiced, thinking, despite her best efforts not to, The fangs go in, the fangs go out, the worms play pee-knuckle on your snout.
Now that she was going to live forever, maybe shed finally learn what the hell a pee-knuckle was.
Cause that was part of the deal, right? Live forever? Cool. Except she didnt really know what to do, you know, the rest of the week. What was she gonna do for, like, ever?
Still, it was better, being dead. She wasnt cold. Shed been cold all the time on the streets. Except when she was hot. She was still homeless but that didnt matter so much when you werent cold.
She wasnt afraid. She was strong now. Let some asshole try to rape her now.
She was a little afraid. Something was out there, stronger than she was. The night she left the master. Her turn to trail the hunt and shed leaped down on those two cops, something had grabbed her. Something STRONG had picked her up and thrown her and shed ran. Her street instincts kicked in and she ran without looking back, she flat out ran through all the back alleys and short cuts shed learned running from the cops, and shed got away. Shed heard it for awhile, following, but it had missed one of her turns and the sounds of pursuit and faded, but shed still run. And run. Hardly got tired at all.
It was better, being dead. She was a little nervous but not really afraid, not shit-scared terrified like shed been every night she was alive. She wasnt afraid, she wasnt cold.
She WAS hungry.
* * *
I have to go. Hes calling me. I have to go. Please. Hes calling me!
The girl strained against the straps holding her on the bed.
She was climbing the walls, literally, the doctor told Detectives Munch and Tutuola. We had to sedate her. In fact, I think we need to again after you talk to her or shes going to break her arms. Try to be quick.
Amy, Munch said, can you hear me?
And she turned toward him, her eyes wide and pleading. Please, hes calling, I have to go to him, please, you have to help me.
Where do you want to go, Amy?
To him. Hes calling me.
Where are you going to meet him?
I have to go to him, hes calling.
They tried a little longer but got nowhere. They left the room.
Hypnotic suggestion? Tutuola asked the doctor, who answered,
Not really my field, but Ive never heard of hypnosis having an effect lasting anywhere near this long, or this powerful.
This is more like extreme OCD but thats usually something that builds over time, this behavior seems to have come out of nowhere. One moment she was fine, a little traumatized still, but not showing any signs of a breakdown and the next minute, what you see there. To be honest, I have no idea.
We could just release her and see where she goes, Munch said as they left the hospital.
Yeah, assuming she knows wheres shes going. Gotta figure for the other two girls he was waiting for them. Probably not too far away cause no one was watching. But now Wed have to stay real close, no way hed show. And if we stay back well, who knows what could happen. He could just shoot her from a distance if he thinks she does know something.
The brass wouldnt go for it anyway. If we lost her, heads would roll.
They took a walk around the hospital, looking for white vans, anything that looked hinky, without really knowing quite what that would be.
* * *
A cartoonist would have drawn a black cloud over Stablers head. Maybe with a little lightning.
He has to be part of it, Stabler was insisting. How else did he know? You gonna tell me hes psychic? He knew cause he was taking them himself.
Weve had a car out there all day. No ones left the house.
So he has a partner.
Why not just take the girls, then? Why tell us?
Just too late for us to do anything about it.
We were in time for one.
Maybe his partner screwed up. Look, that place is just wrong. They have to be hiding something or why go to all that effort to set us up? We have to get inside there.
On what grounds? Enough, Captain Maddux said. We have nothing on them. Everybody we talk to says the sun shines out of Harris ass. They have pictures of us assaulting a suspect, though Im telling you now if the shit hits the fan Im blaming overzealous New York cops and sending you home. So, for now, were going to just back the hell off the Cleveland Home for Gifted Girls. Now, what else do we have?
Thats just it, Captain, Benson said. Theyre all weve got.
* * *
He was cute. He was more than cute, he was beautiful. Tall, broad shoulders , dimple on his chin, walking along in his perfect suit talking on his cell, like one of the models in the fancy shop windows downtown, the kind of guy she could never even think of approaching, she stepped forward. Hey, mister, she said and saw the disgust on his face as he reached into his pocket, retrieved a quarter and threw it at her.
She dodged the coin and grabbed his arm, spun him around and threw him down in the deeper darkness at the base of building, then she was on him, hand on his chin pushing his head back, exposing the neck and,
It was like fresh strawberry ice cream, like a hit of JD right after you open the bottle, like a brat hot off the grill with German mustard and onions, it was all good things to eat ever, it was like fire in her veins, filling her with his heat as she drank, as he fed her, his pulsing heart literally pushing the blood into her mouth.
And then it was beating slower, she could feel him trembling beneath her, and then she had to nurse at the wound, pull the blood out, suck out the last drops as he sagged and stilled beneath her, and she sat back, trembling herself now. She reached down and closed his eyes, caressed his hair, still so pretty. Ah, well.
She sat back, stood. The night seemed brighter somehow, the air crisper, the sounds sharper. The master, that bastard, he would have denied her this, fed her on short sips of blood gone cold in the potion bowls.
NOW she was a vampire.
She had needed this, her first feed.
She wanted another.
Hey, hey, where do you think youre going, a voice called out, she whirled, searching, searching, finally looking up and seeing the young man perched on the fire escape Scratch that, young vampire, about her age, a little older maybe, nineteen, twenty. Thats how he looked anyway, maybe that didnt mean anything anymore.
You cant leave that there, he said.
Why the hell not?
Well, because I live here. If youre going to wave a red flag and dance around in the moonlight going Here Slayer Slayer, dont do it under my door, thank you very much.
He jumped lightly down to stand beside her. He was wearing jeans and a black silk shirt open over a Rolling Stones t-shirt. Black curly hair reached down to his collar, he had a tiny little soul patch. He was kind of cute.
You are fresh, he said. Sire didnt even stick around to give you the basics. Thoughtless bastard. Okay, pick it up.
He nodded toward her late meal. Look, first rule, clean up after yourself. Well, first rule, dont make a mess, but if you do make a mess, clean it up. Vamp can have a nice time in this town, but you gotta keep a low profile.
Pick it up. Go on, youre strong now, remember?
And she was, it was easy, she bent, pulled it up, draped it over her shoulder, the guy started off walking and she followed.
Why keep a low profile. Van Helsing gonna stake me?
That bonehead. Hardly. But the Slayers will getchya if ya dont watch out. Hold it a sec, he held up a hand, took a few steps forward, stopped and listened, waved her forward. Drama queen, she thought.
He led her on a couple of blocks, then down an alley to a manhole cover. He reached down, lifted and shifted it aside, she moved to dump the body in.
Hang on. He stripped off the dead mans watch, searched through his pockets and pulled out a wallet and removed the cash which he counted quickly and divided it in half, one set of bills in each hand, which do you want, right or left? He asked.
Both. My kill, she answered.
You were gonna toss it. Shouldnt give you any.
Okay. Left, she said and took the bills. You got the watch.
You want it?
She shook her head. Not really.
Shame about the suit but, not really my style. In it goes.
She dropped the body in the hole. She thought she heard movement. The guy slid the manhole back and they started away. Yeah, she could definitely hear movement. And bones crunching.
Yeah, the guy said. Pretty cool, huh? Pretty damn efficient. Feel free, just be careful, not too often and, you know, be discreet. Id hate to lose it.
Yeah, she said. Cool.
He was looking at her, he reached out and took the edge of her shirt and wiped her chin.
Youre a bit of a mess, you know, why dont you come up my place, get cleaned up and Ill show you .
Oh, for Christs sake, she thought. Men. Males. Theyre all the same. Beyond the fricking grave and they just want one thing.
Hey, easy, he said, its not like that.
Yeah, right, she said and began striding away.
Hey, he called after her. Jimmy.
She stopped, turned, looked at him. Carla, she said and turned and ran.
* * *
Mathers open the door and welcomed the bedraggled woman in. Cynthia, my dear, you made it, do come in.
Yes, sir, she said.
A hot bath, some soup, a good nights sleep, how does that sound?
Good, good. Were going to have such fun, Cynthia, you wait and see, such fun.
* * *
He got away.
Shed picked another handsome one, after all, why not? Shed waited outside the health club, chuckling to herself at her little pun, health food at the health club, ha ha, shed waited as a couple of the big musclebound guys went by, not really her taste, ha ha, and then he came and she knew he was the one she wanted.
She laid down and cried out to him, Help me mister, and when he leaned down shed gone for his neck. And missed somehow. Shed been going a little slower, shed thought to savor this one, shed hesitated, and bit and missed his neck and sunk her fangs into his shoulder, still a taste explosion to be sure but it didnt have the same shocking effect on her victim and he fought back, which had surprised her. Shouldnt have, really, now that she thought about it, but it had, and hed wriggled free of her teeth and punched her face, knocked her on her ass, shouted,
What the fuck you little bitch, and for a moment she thought he was going to attack her, but then apparently he saw her face, turned and ran.
Shed caught him, two steps and a leap and she was on his back and biting into the back of his neck and he was screaming like a little girl, like a little girl with really good lungs anyway, then suddenly she had been pulled back and Jimmy was there. Do you have a fucking dust wish or what?
She turned, her meat was getting away.
Fine, follow me or stay and be staked, your choice, and hed turned and ran, and after just a short moment she went after, running hard to keep up until suddenly he stopped in front of a boarded up storefront.
Give me your shirt.
Oh, for Gods sake, he said and ripped her shirt off and began hurriedly using it to rub the blood off her chin and neck, then bundled it up and threw it down amongst some trash at the buildings base, and hed banged on the weathered playwood, shouted, Hey, morons, free virgin blood party at Willys place, and someone yelled back, Fuck off, you stoner freak, and then they were running again, two blocks more where Jimmy leaped up to the firescape and began scrambling up and on her second try she made the leap and scrambled after. Then on roof hed stopped and held up his finger for silence and peered back down the street. Then hed slipped off his black silk shirt and wrapped it around her and together they hunkered down behind the short rooftop wall and peered over the edge.
Now watch, hed whispered.
They waited, waited. She was just beginning to wonder if this whole thing had been some bullshit scheme of Jimmys, when he pointed, whispered, There, see her, and she hadnt at first, then suddenly she did, saw the girls, two of them gliding silently through the various honks and squeaks of the city at night, trotting down the center of the street, heads up, peering into the darkness.
And over there, Jimmy said, and pointed and she saw two more girls stalking, there was no other word, stalking down the street two blocks over, and Carla felt a shiver run down her spine.
And then suddenly the girls seemed to catch a scent, hear a sound, something, they all turned as one, facing, Carla suddenly realized, the boarded up storefront where Jimmy had dumped her shirt.
And then the girls were running, too fast for Carla to track them all, but she didnt have to really, because already they were gathered around the store. A white van pulled up and came to a stop a little further down the street and a man and two women got out, the man walking strangely, Carla peered and realized he was leaning on a cane.
Holy shit, Jimmy whispered.
And then one of the four original girls disappeared behind the store while the other three took up positions in the front, there was strangely still moment, then a crash from the back of the store.
And the plywood front burst outward and vampires were spilling out into the street, only to look up and see the three waiting girls close in.
Carla was frozen. It had happened so fast. Vampires. Dust. She was cold.
Dont fucking move an eyelid, Jimmy whispered through clenched teeth as the man and two women came forward to talk with the girls.
Carla could hear laughter.
And then the group had turned, the four girls joining the three others in the van which started up and turned and was slowly gone, Jimmy sighed and rolled over on his back.
But Carla still couldnt move. In her mind she saw the four girls catch the scent and turn as one. She saw dust.
Jimmy sat up, he was tugging at her. Hey, baby, whats wrong, its over, all over, and Carla realized she was crying. Whats wrong? Jimmy asked again.
I just thought the fear was over, Carla said softly. I had just thought that I would never be scared like this again.
* * *
Munch came awake and fumbled for the phone. Yeah, Munch, he grumbled.
Detective John Munch? a voice said.
This is 911 Dispatch. Youd asked to be notified if we had any reports of attacks by girls or attacks involving biting?
Well, I got a double hit for ya. The vics at the Shoreline Med Center emergency room.
May I? Munch asked.
Sure, the guy said. Help yourself.
Munch pulled up the edge of the bandage and stared at the two deep puncture wounds centering an oval of smaller teeth marks.
Munch listened as the guy, big guy, toned, told how hed leaned down to help this girl and shed attacked, bit him, strong, freaky strong, something wrong with her face, got on his back and this other guy pulled her off
So Im just hauling ass, I dont know what the fucks going on there and I dont want to, you understand? Munch nodded. And I go flying around the corner and nearly slam into this guy, I mean, Im having a real weird night here. First the girl and now this guy, looks like villain in a pirate movie, eyepatch, scar. Got this girl with him, all black leather, biker chick, except hot, and the chick slams me up against the wall, not rough or anything, just holds me. And then the guy is looking at my shoulder and nodding, like he sees two chick bites every day before breakfast, and hes telling me its cool, Im fine, and he reaches into this leather satchel, comes out with, I shit you not, an antiseptic spray that stings like a bitch, let me tell you, and this bandage, he peels off the back and slaps it down on the bite and its so good that when I get here the nurse takes one look and asks me how come Im coming to the emergency room if I already been to a hospital.
How did you get here?
The guy and his chicks took me in this white van, did I tell you there was other chick, all the time this is going on shes got this notebook or PDA thing and shes asking me questions about the girl and where she ran and stuff and talking on a cell at the same time
Did you get their names?
No, they brought me here and I got out of the van and turned, you know, to thank them and stuff and they just took off. Do you think Ill need rabies shots?
Munch said, I have no idea.
* * *
Faith carried the new Watcher down the hall toward Xanders bedroom. Im going soft, she thought, fast. At this rate Ill be cooing at puppies and buying a stuffed animal to sleep with by the end of the week.
Shed been quite prepared to hate the bitch. If Faith wasnt careful, that face brought on a bad case of the What ifs which wasnt the girls fault, but so what. Life, not fair. Plus the snooty accent and nose-in-the-air attitude, whats not to hate?
AND she was already making cow eyes at Harris. But then they all did, didnt they?
Who would have thought, back in the day, Xander Harris, ladykiller? Theyd made a couple of stops before starting patrol proper and shed seen it. Hed put on a decent shirt, for one thing, and that made all the difference.
Decent shirt, eyepatch, scar, silver-headed walking stick hed chosen to replace the lost cane, the shoulders that had certainly filled out, that grin. The girl in the magic shop theyd stopped in had wet her panties, literally, sometimes Slayer senses had their downside. The clerk at the drugstore pressing the change into his hand, in the street heads were turning. She didnt think he noticed. She watched. Wood had made her hypersensitive to guys who kept too close an eye on the mirror, especially the mirrors in ladies eyes, but she should have known better with Harris. He probably just figured that giggling and twirling their hair was just what non-Slayer type women did all day.
So Faith had been ready for a little Id-hate-you-if-I-could-be-bothered-to-notice-you action, but then Ms. Travers had stood up so very earnestly to give her first pre-patrol briefing and given a twenty minute talk on the history and use of brands and tattoos in binding spells, followed by another fifteen minutes on Sallys Baby or Alis baubles or something like that and Harris had had to slide his chair back so he could sit behind her and give everybody the stink-eye to stop the giggles. And Faith herself had betrayed the very core of her own nature and confiscated a paper airplane.
And then Travers had brought out a big marked up map of Cleveland and begun to explain how based on her statistical analysis of reported slayings she had determined an optimal patrol plan and Harris had had to move in and explain that the evening patrol routes had already been worked out. Mostly using a system of darts and blindfolds to maintain a random quality, but she expected Harris would break that to her gently, over time.
Shed managed to borrow camo cargo pants, an over-sized tee-shirt and cross-trainers from the girls, and shed still be at the rack choosing a stake if Harris hadnt simply handed her one and dragged her out the door.
And then of course theyd run into the lucky escapee and wiped the nest and she had been so excited, bouncing around the van with her little PDA trying to get each girl to give her blow by blow of each slay and being totally befuddled and a little hurt that the girls were much more involved in debating whether left-over lasagna was better cold or reheated.
So you could be very very annoyed with her, but hate her, not so much.
Then Travers had dozed off at the table and practically face-planted in her bowl of French vanilla and so here they were, walking down the hall, Faith carrying Travers and Harris going ahead to open the doors like they were mommy and daddy putting baby to bed and didnt that feel weird. And scary.
Harris was saying something about moving Travers into his room, he would move downstairs and sleep in Clems Room till something better was worked out, and Faith said wasnt there an open room upstairs and hed said yeah, but he wanted to keep the upstairs just for Slayers.
So Faith offered to move up there herself, and hed said no, he meant just for the girls, a space free, except for the occasional emergency, of adult supervision, and Faith had to take a moment to digest that, because if there was one thing shed never considered herself to be, it was adult supervision.
If youd do the honors, hed said nodding toward the bed while he crossed to gather and take his G and T fixings out into the office. Faith began to undress the exhausted Watcher and thought about simply going back to Harris and telling him not to be stupid and go downstairs but move in with her now since they both knew damn well thats where they were heading.
But for once Faith didnt want to hurry. She had been alone and angry for so long she wanted to stop and savor the sudden sense she had of being home, maybe for the first time ever.
And she had to get it right. Just Friends was out the question, she knew from the twisting in her gut and the itching in her fists at each twirl and giggle that she couldnt stay and watch him hook up with some other woman. But she had to get it right, if she couldnt make it last with Harris
She looked down at the Travers pale body, so fragile stripped of its tweed armor, and thought, someones hitting the gym, starting tomorrow. And someones going to learn to keep her damn cow eyes to herself.
And she slid the blanket up and tucked her in.
The phone in the office rang and Harris answered, Yes?
Faith cocked her head and listened to the unfamiliar voice on the phone: Mr. Harris?
The girls in the files, with the brands, you know who I mean?
Two of them have disappeared.
Im sorry to hear that.
The third one is in the hospital, chained to a bed and insisting someone is calling her.
Can you help her, Mr. Harris?
He paused a moment, then said, Yes.
Shes in the secure section of County General, room 309. Theres one cop on the door, two security guys on the floor, steel bars on the window. Two rent-a-cops patrolling the grounds, will you need help getting in?
No. If this is some kind of setup, there will be hell to pay.
No setup, Mr. Harris. Just help the girl. Please.
And then he was standing in the doorway, leaning on the jamb and sighing.
Wake her up, he said. Ill get Caridad and Jacquie.
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