What? It’s totally still Wednesday.
Kali fit quite nicely into the trunk of Gabriel’s car with room to spare so she wouldn’t be too cramped. Not, Garrison hastened to assure himself, that he cared at all for her comfort, even the slight comfort that breathing room in a tight space might lend her. Human though the girl may be, she was still an abomination that must be dealt with ruthlessly. She was not an innocent child to be pitied.
Except, in some ways, she was. This girl, this incarnation, had no memory of whom she had once been. No real idea of why she must forfeit her life for the greater good and to pay for past crimes.
The demon Azazel had obviously failed in some way when he’d taught the vampire of the past how to preserve her memories and history into the eternal unconsciousness. Once they were safely tucked into the ether, she’d explained to Garrison so long ago, they would never be lost. And, if she were ever to die—as she so obviously had—and return—as she had—her new incarnation would remember the life she had once lived through the memories, which would come to her in dreams.
Except, they weren’t. Or, rather, maybe they were, only Kali didn’t see them as anything but strange nighttime imaginings.
It was hard, Garrison knew, to accept something like this. Magic. Vampires. Reincarnation. He’d had difficulty believing it himself, and he came from a time when magic and spells had been just as commonplace as computers and aeroplanes were today. And yet, he’d never quite been able to bring himself to believe.
Well. That wasn’t exactly true. Garrison had always believed in her. From the moment she’d first told him what she was, he’d believed. It was everything else he had failed to grasp.
Nowadays, the average person was much too skeptical to believe in demons and magic. Those who did believe, or through they did, often were so enchanted with their own fantasies, they failed to see the world that was right in front of them.
Kali, thankfully, was not one of those horrible children who dressed in black and cried over pain that did not exist in their lives. For a young woman whose life had been filled with so much pain and frustration, she was remarkably practical and intelligent, just as they’d been when they first met. She had no time for nonsense such as vampires. Of course she did not believe him.
Garrison drove up the I-5 until he came to a small tourist town nestled at the base of the Grapevine. He could save that hurtle until tomorrow when he was rested, the tank was full, and Kali could sit in the car proper, not the trunk.
Of course, it was obvious threats and pain would not keep her docile. She was, as she used to be, a warrior, ready to defend her freedom no matter the cost to her life.
He’d have to drug her into submission, then. He hadn’t wanted to, although he had prepared for this contingency. Drugs were easy enough to get in this day and age, and there had been many times in the past he’d needed prescription sleep-aids to send him into the land of Nod. After what he’d seen in his life, it wasn’t a surprise. The challenge would be between keeping her sufficiently subdued without overdosing her. His plan was contingent on her surviving four more days.
There were other supplies he needed, so he stopped at a store that was one of those miraculous marvels of modern convenience that sold everything from clothing to hunting supplies. Inside, he purchased first aid accoutrements, food, clothing, undergarments, toiletries, and a book or two to keep the girl occupied on the long drive ahead. He also refreshed his supply of duct tape. He’d prefer handcuffs, since they were harder to get out of, but even this store didn’t sell them.
Motels were plentiful in this area, and Garrison was able to find one that was relatively vacant. It was run down and could be rented by the hour. Kali had to be worn out by now, and he was going to get the drugs in her as soon as possible. However, if she did give him any trouble, he wanted to be isolated as possible. This den of sin would do nicely.
After depositing his purchases in the room, Garrison went to the car and opened the trunk.
Kali opened her eyes right away but didn’t say anything. Nor did she struggle as Garrison took her by the wrists and hauled her into a sitting position. She merely sat there and looked at him from world weary eyes.
He hesitated only a moment before he released her wrists. He wrapped his arms around her waist and gently—probably too gently, lifted her from the trunk and set her on the ground. Tiny thing that she was, she weighed net to nothing. When she didn’t fight him, she really was quite easy to move.
“Where are we?” she asked, shivering.
Garrison wrinkled his nose as the stench clinging to her hit him. She stank of vomit, blood, and dried sweat. Her curls were matted and she had blood caked across her face, arms and clothing. Miraculously, her nose didn’t appear to be broken from when he’d planted it against his car, although her eyes were bruised. She looked as if she’d been fighting for her life, though. He needed to clean her up before anything else. He didn’t want anyone to see her like this.
“Home, for the night,” he said in response to her question. He shut the trunk and took her by the wrists once more.
Kali limped slowly after him. There was fear written across her face as they approached the door to the room. “I thought you weren’t going to rape me.”
The one thing she had no need to fear was the once she was preoccupied with. “I told you once, Kali, your virtue is safe with me. I will not violate you in such a manner. However, we need rest and you need medical attention.” He unlocked the door and pushed her ahead of him.
“So take me to the hospital.” She collapsed almost as soon as she crossed the threshold.
Garrison let her be on the floor as he locked and bolted the door behind him. “I think not.” He hesitated a moment before he bent over and picked her up.
She made a small noise of protest as he adjusted her body against his, but did not struggle. In fact, she relaxed against him as he carried her across the room. Her eyes slid shut and she allowed her face to rest against his chest, and a small sigh, the puff of air caressing his neck.
It should have been strange. It should have been unexpected, this display of something so much like trust. And yet… so little had changed. This Kali was so much like the one he had known all those years ago. She even smelled the same underneath the vomit: that powdered musk combined with an earthy, clean scent that reminded him on the night. Holding her, like this, was familiar, too. Something he had done years ago.
Perhaps, in some distant way, explainable only by magic, she remembered his embrace as well. Or, more likely, she was just exhausted.
“Where did you shoes go?” he asked as he set her on the closed toilet lid.
She rubbed her nose, dried flakes of blood falling off her skin. “I took them off at the bar so I could get my pants off. G-Gabriel took me out of there without giving me the chance to put them back on. Because. Because you started killing people.”
He winced and started the bathwater. Thus far, he hadn’t actually killed anyone, although the guilt still ate him. He was an excellent shot and had practiced for years so he could complete this mission with as few deaths as possible.
Not that this care would matter once the public saw what he would do to Kali. If the police captured him, Garrison had no doubt he would be put to death. The horrors he would have to visit upon her would ensure the death penalty no matter how careful he was with the lives of others.
Of course, he doubted he would ever be tried in a court of law. The Followers would get to him first. They would show him no mercy.
Behind him, Kali sniffed. He glanced over his shoulder to find her staring at the ceiling, her jaw clenched. A tear slid from her eye and she flicked it away with a sharp movement.
“You killed him,” she said. Her voice was painful to hear, rough from her screaming and choked from tears she tried to hold back. “That boy. Gabriel.”
Gabriel had been seventeen when he’d been turned, hardly older than she. That had happened over two thousand years ago. Theoretically, a girl as young as she should see him as well older than herself, simply due to the wisdom and maturity he’d gained through the years. However, Gabriel simply refused to lose any of the innocent purity that was characteristic of him and made him seem so young, no matter how many years went by.
“Gabriel is not dead,” he said after a moment.
“Right,” she said with a snort. “Because when you smash someone with your car, pump them full of bullets, and pummel them with a crowbar, all they need is a nap and some chicken soup. He’ll be fine.”
“Nothing about Gabriel is natural. He might spend an hour or two recovering, but he’ll be fine. That is what vampires do.”
She snorted again. “Vampires. Right. I forgot.” She chewed on her lower lip before she asked, “So, how do you kill a vampire?”
“Not with bullets, cars, or crowbars.”
“You need a cross and wooden stake, right?”
He turned and sat on the edge of the bathtub. “A stake works, but only if you get it right through the heart. A cross doesn’t kill. It’s used as defense. And it depends on the vampire Gabriel is a Follower, so crosses wouldn’t affect him.” The very idea of a cross hurting the very devout Gabriel almost made him smile.
“What’s a Follower?”
“The Followers of Kali are her children and those created by her children.”
She sighed and lifted one hand to her forehead in a familiar gesture. Vampires don’t get headaches, but some of Kali’s followers could try the patience of a saint. Kali of old had adopted the gesture whenever she was profoundly irritated. “And what is the difference between a Follower and a regular vampire?”
“Followers life by the code of laws set forth by Kali in thirty-three A.D. Other vampires don’t. That is really the only difference.”
She looked at him as one would a madman. With an expression that clearly said she was regretting even thinking the question, she asked, “Anything important about the year thirty-three A.D., or did you… did she pull it out of thin air?”
“There is a significance. It’s very soon after Kali claims she met Jesus Christ.” He took a deep breath, wondering if he should utter the next blasphemous part; the part that, at one time, he had almost believed. “The man whom Kali also claims may or may not have gotten the idea for his divine birth from one of her more… earnest children.”
It only took her moment to make the connection, with heartened him. Yes, she had the memories, even if she didn’t believe them. “Gabriel.”
He nodded. “Never mix Greek slaves and devout Jewish women, you said. To which I replied…”
“Never doubt the visions of the pure, for through them the Lord often speaks.” Her eyes went wide, hands flying to her mouth as if to take back the words.
“You remember.” It wasn’t a question.
She shook her head. “No.” Her head shook again, then she said, “Isn’t that, like, an affront to your religion? Gabriel said you’re a priest. How can you believe God may have spoken to a vampire?”
“It’s no more an affront than a vampire being Catholic.”
“Gabriel was Catholic?”
He smiled at her and tested the temperature of the water. “It’s a long and complicated tale, but, yes, Gabriel considers himself Catholic. It’s how we met, actually. His pursuit of religion brought us all together.”
“I think have time for a long story.”
“I’ll tell you after you bathe. Here’s a change of clothes and all else you may need.” He indicated the bag he’d set on the floor. “I’ll make you something to eat.
Kali tugged at one of her matted curls. She looked so sad and lost, confused and hopeless. So unlike the confident vampire he had once known.
He wanted to comfort her. He hated that feeling.
“I’ve first aid supplies in the other room. When you’re clean, I’ll bandage the worst of your injuries.”
“Why are you being so nice to me? You’re just going to kill me, right?”
“Yes, but not for four more days. I see no reason for you to suffer.” Then, before she could ask any more questions, Garrison left.
There was no stove in the room; it was much too cheap for something like that. However, there was a microwave. Garrison opened a can of soup and dumped it into a plastic bowl. He was desperately trying not to think about Kali or what he would have to do to her. He’d done it once before; it’d been gruesome and heart wrenching and he’d been unable to sleep without dreaming of it for decades after. Doing it again would kill him.
Death was not something he feared, not anymore. It was something he longed for.
Shaking the images from his mind, Garrison turned on the news, anxious to see if any of their exploits had made it to the news. Nothing should have. Garrison had put spells in place to keep a shroud of mystery over his actions. He hadn’t counted on the security guard, though. He’d assumed and figured into the spell there would be some fatalities besides Kali, but not a security guard. Those who worked within the law had the unfortunately tendency to remember more details even when under the influence of a masking spell. With his luck, the next person he shot would be a police officer.
More than the law, though, he feared the Followers. They had a personal investment in Kali far greater than any body of law. Not to mention the fact any Follower, save Gabriel, wouldn’t hesitate to tear Garrison limb from limb the moment they laid eyes on him. It wouldn’t kill him, of course, but regeneration wasn’t pleasant.
The microwave beeped. Garrison removed a steaming bowl of soup and set it on the sticky table pushed to one corner of the room. He then removed the bottle of sleeping pills from his bag, studied it, and dropped in three. His mind wandered on what was left to be done as he stirred the pills into the soup. It would take two days to get to the church. The drugs should mute any spell the Followers had put on Kali to track. He had to keep her drugged and docile long enough to get her there.
He might need more pills.
Time crawled by as Garrison watched what passed for news in this century. Finally, Kali emerged from the bathroom. Her wet hair was a tangled mess, bruises and scratches marred her skin, but she was clean. She wore a green dress that loosely flowed down to her knees, engulfing her lithe body enticingly.
“Do you have a comb?” she asked. She sank regally into the chair across from him.
He nodded. “I made soup,” he said as he rose. He found the comb quickly and brought it back.
Kali looked at the soup, her mouth forming “thanks” before she bit her tongue. She drank the soup down in a few gulps, before taking the comb.
“There are crackers, too” Garrison said as he watched her pick through the tangles in her hair.
She simply nodded.
Taking that as assent, Garrison got the crackers and a bottle of water for her. He didn’t know how long it would take before the drugs took effect. She didn’t weigh much, so hopefully it would be soon. It was disturbing to see her so pale and subdued. Kali was a warrior, a goddess. This bruised, battered, silent girl disturbed him.
Especially since she still managed to look at him as if she were a queen and he were a lowly insect.
She yanked the comb through her hair viciously. “Why haven’t you killed me already? Dragging it out is just stupid.”
“Ill advised, perhaps. But everything is complicated. The delay is necessary, especially since I have to kill you on your birthday.”
Her eyes narrowed. “No, really. You shouldn’t feel obligated to get me anything.” The last word was disrupted by a yawn.
Garrison didn’t reply.
“Why on my birthday?”
“In this culture, eighteen is the age you are legally considered an adult.”
“I’ve been legally considered an adult for almost two years. I was emancipated when I was sixteen.”
“There’s still a difference.”
“Was I … eighteen the first…” She stopped talking. Blinked. Looked down at the empty soup bowl. “I thought it tasted weird.”
Garrison went to her and lifted her into his arms. She was heavy and loose-limbed, unresisting.
“No” he said. “You weren’t eighteen. But you were considered an adult by your people when you first became a vampire. I thought it was significant that you be an adult in this time, too. At least legally.” He lay her on the bed.
She shut her eyes, her chest rising and falling slowly. “I wish you… wouldn’t.” She sighed. Her breathing evened out and, after a moment of stillness, Garrison knew she was asleep.
Garrison got the duct tape and rolled Kali onto her stomach. He pulled her arms behind her and taped her wrists together, then did the same for her ankles. On the unlikely chance she woke tonight and needed anything, she would have to wake him.
He’d bought her a green dress. It hadn’t been a deliberate choice on his part, but perhaps his subconscious had chosen it for him. After all, she’d been wearing green the first time they’d met. Over the years, whenever he’d pictured her during unguarded moments, he’d always see her in that dress, exactly as she’d been the moment their eyes had first met.
It’d been early summer in the year 1862. The evening had been mild and clear, unusual for Ireland in June. Garrison was in the sacristy, reading his Bible, when he heard a noise coming from the chapel.
The church had been deserted for hours now. At this time of night, Garrison should have been alone. His deacons had retired to their homes in town, the church being too small to have its own rectory. Garrison himself lived in a small house behind the church. He usually stayed in the church quite late, though, in case there were stragglers on the road or an unfortunate who needed sanctuary.
He had nothing to fear. He was a priest and, more than that, he lived a good and righteous life. Death did not frighten him and pain was fleeting. If someone unsavory was waiting for him in the chapel with ill intent, Garrison would meet his fate serenely.
“Hello?” he called, entering the chapel. “Is anyone there? I…” He stopped abruptly when he saw the woman kneeling in the front pew, deep in prayer.
She was beautiful. Breathtaking. A noblewoman, judging by her dress which was a deep hunter green damask that pooled around her slim figure, skirt rippled and deep like the land of Eire herself. Her dark hair glinted in the light of the candles, upswept and held in place by sparkling jewels that could not quite hold each curl in place. Her hands were clasped in front of her, face upturned, wide brown eyes quietly contemplating the figure of Christ hanging above the altar.
Garrison’s breath caught at the serene expression on her face. It was like gazing upon the face of the Madonna in her perfect innocence. The lady was utterly still as Garrison watched her, seeming not even to breathe. It was a holy moment of stillness, time itself halting for them.
Finally, she let out a sigh, raised her rosary to her lips, and kissed it. Crossing herself, she stood and turned to face Garrison.
“Father,” she said with a shallow curtsey.
“My lady.” Garrison wondered what she was doing at his small, provincial church. She was made for a more cosmopolitan setting than this, for a grand cathedral, for Canterbury or Notre Dame. Not his church, with its wood floor that allowed dirt to seep through the cracks and windows that never kept the chill away. “Have you come to confess?” he finally asked awkwardly.
She smiled and shook her head, curls dancing in the candle-light. “I don’t confess, Father.”
“It’s good for the soul. And required by the Lord.”
“My soul is untroubled. And I find that, if I do choose to unburden myself, the soul of my father confessor is quite troubled when I am through confessing my sins.”
He frowned. “I am sure your exaggerate.”
She only smiled in return.
The lady was enchanting. He found himself caught by her, lost in her eyes, longing for her touch. She was an angel, a goddess, and he would die…
He staggered when she looked away, eyes closed. His head spun and the unbearable longing for her faded.
“I apologize,” she murmured. She shook her head sharply before looking at him once more. This time, her eyes, previously strange and almost fathomless, had become normal, if lovely, eyes.
“My name is Kali, Father Pike. I’ve come to beg a favor of you.”
He gestured for her to sit. “What can I do for you, my lady?”
She sat, smoothing the wrinkles from her skirt as she did. Her feet dangled above the floor when she did, too short to rest them. “There is a young man who lives in my household. He wishes…” She sighed and brushed an errant curl back from her face. “He wishes to become a priest.”
“I see,” he said, not seeing at all. “It is a noble profession. One I am very fond of. Do you want me to counsel him on what to expect?”
“No, Father, thank you. Unfortunately, it is quite impossible for him to achieve his dream. You see, he has certain… limitations. Limitations that prevent him from fulfilling the duties that are required for a priest. Or even to train as one.
Understanding dawned. “You wish me to dissuade him, then.”
“If reality won’t, I hardly think you could,” she replied, voice dry. “I’ve struck a compromise with him. I told him I would find a priest who could teach him theology, answer his questions, perhaps teach him the rites and prayers, everything a priest would do, if he stops asking to be allowed to actually enter the priesthood, which he knows is impossible.”
“You want me to teach him, my lady. Surely a cardinal or bishop would be more suitable, especially for someone of your station.”
“I’ve searched months to find someone I felt would be suitable. I’m not looking for someone with status or prestige. I want someone with an intellect and sensitivity to accept Gabriel’s particular needs. You are that person. You’re open and accepting and never judgmental. This is the first time you’ve seen me, Father, but I assure you, I have studied you for some time now.”
It was disquieting and flattering to hear, to realize he’d been watched by such a woman without him knowing.
“What is wrong with the boy?”
“He is allergic to sunlight.”
He lowered his eyebrows. “Allergic to sunlight.”
“In a manner of speaking. Nevertheless, it makes it impossible for him to function in normal society. Hence, his dream of becoming a priest can only be that: a dream.” She moved closer to Garrison. “I know you have duties, but I was hoping that there might be some evenings you had free to instruct Gabriel. You will, of course, be compensated in any manner you choose.”
“I require nothing, my lady.”
“Not gold, not silver, not anything to beautify your church?”
“God himself is glorious, is he not?”
She smiled. “That he is. Although, perhaps, he is more glorious when the rain does not fall through the roof of His house.”
He looked at his leaky roof and sighed. “Perhaps.”
“Father. will you teach him?”
“I will. But you needn’t pay for the roof.”
Her face lit with the beauty of her smile. “Thank you. And it would be my pleasure to do so anyway. My good work, as it were.”
Garrison nodded his thanks, then boldly took her hand and kissed the back. “When would you like me to being his lessons?”
“As soon as you can. Gabriel quite ardently desires to gain a deeper understanding of his Lord.” Her expression grew wry. “Once he sets his heart on something, it is all he can speak of.”
“I understand. I have a brother who is much the same. Once something has captured his interest, he can speak of nothing else for days, even years. Shall I call on you tomorrow, then?”
“I will send a carriage for you at sunset.”
“My lady, if you tell me where to go, I can walk there myself. I feel more comfortable, and there is no need…”
“There is a need,” she interrupted. “You won’t be able to find my home without assistance. I will send a carriage.” She tilted her head. “Tomorrow then.” She smiled again, then slid her hand from his, saying, “Good night.”
“Good night,” he repeated, watching her all but float from the church, all beauty and elegance. She was radiance herself, and now…
Still radiance, still beauty, Garrison mused as he watched her, asleep on the motel bed. But more the child than even Gabriel was. Even so, this child knew the darkness of the world. she’d been through so much already in her short life. A mother who hadn’t wanted her, a father she’d never known, and a family that didn’t know how to treat the precious jewel they’d been entrusted.
Garrison sighed and rubbed his eyes, a headache throbbing behind them.
No. No, she wasn’t a jewel. A seed, perhaps, born of Satan and spat up from hell through the legs of a whore. Born and grown and, if she fulfilled the destiny she’d foretold for herself over a hundred years ago, would die only to rise again as a so-called goddess.
“No,” Garrison said out loud. He shook his head. “It will not happen. Not again.”
He rose from his seat and went to the other bed. In the days to come, he might have to ration his sleep and keep himself awake with stimulants to watch over her. But, tonight, Kali was sedated, the vampires were off his trail, and the spells Garrison had cloaking them would keep the police diverted. Tonight, at least, he could sleep.
If you’d like a sneak peek at chapter 5, drop me your e-mail and I’ll send it to you!