Ben drove to work Monday morning paying little mind to the stalled traffic on the I-10 for once. His mind was preoccupied with everything that had happened the past few days. It was enough to make a guy cut and run, really. His grandfather was alive and since Ben was almost 32 he was technically almost 2 years older than him.
Mick St. John was his grandfather. Mick St. John was vampire. He drank blood to survive. It was surreal. Would anything make him drink blood just to keep on living?
He tried to put himself in Mick’s shoes, no easy task. How would he have dealt with it all? Wouldn’t he have run away too? Could anything on this earth have made him run away from Michelle? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Ben thought about the allure Beth had used on him; it was real, he had to admit that. She played a simple parlor trick though - would it make you walk away from something so important in your life? From someone?
He didn’t know.
The traffic inched along and Ben sighed, frustration ticking away in his head making his fingers tighten so much on the steering wheel that they throbbed. He made himself let loose a bit and stretched in the seat, trying to relax a bit. He flipped on the radio and worked his way through the channels trying to find something to soothe him but in the end turned it off as it was just more noise rolling around in his head.
Carl Davis had known. Carl had told Mick about the fingerprints; he had to have been the one. He should feel pissed as hell at Carl and yet he didn’t. It had opened doors he’d never imagined; of course, he wasn’t sure he wanted them open but things happen for a reason, he believed that. Well, most of the time anyway.
He didn’t need a grandfather, the same way his mom didn’t need a dad. But there could be other reasons this had happened and if nothing else this explained a whole bunch of things that were driving him nuts.
His phone buzzed and he answered it and listened as information about an unidentified vic in the morgue. Guess he was heading there before he went to the office.
Just great, a dead body before 9 am. You had to love it, didn’t you?
The vamp smell was all over the guy but Guillermo couldn’t find anything that looked like vamp bite. He’d called Mick who was heading over to check it out.
Human male, somewhere around 40 maybe, no identification, looked like a homeless guy and smelled like it too. If you didn’t smell the vamp smell that is. The coroner had done the prelims on him and now Guillermo was doing his own. He heard the door open and Mick walked in, followed closely by Carl Davis.
Great. That’s all they needed, Davis crawling all over this.
“Hey, G, how’s it going man?” Mick asked, looking at the guy on the table.
Guillermo almost made a caustic remark about Mick’s new diet since one of his best customers wasn’t buying any longer but since Carl was here he kept his mouth shut, waiting for a more private time.
Carl seemed relaxed; strange for that guy who was usually all business. And then Guillermo caught the scent of vamp on him too. A lot of vamp. He breathed in deeply and frowned for a moment, puzzled. It wasn’t Mick’s scent for sure and it wasn’t a casual encounter either because it was female.
Mick saw Guillermo’s puzzled expression and grinned. “He knows about us, Guillermo. His girlfriend is family.”
Guillermo’s eyes narrowed as he assessed what Mick had just said; he wasn’t joking but Davis? Dating a vamp? WTF? Strange things going on today for sure.
Carl smiled too, not sure what to say so he just looked at the body. “Exsanguinated? Vampire?”
Guillermo winced at his words and then hissed at vamp tones to Mick, “Tell him to watch what the hell he says in here.”
Carl watched Guillermo’s mouth moving but couldn’t hear a thing. “Carl, we try not to use the word around here too much, especially when there are so many other people around,” Mick said, glancing out the door to all the people walking in the hallway.”
“Um, sorry. Didn’t think; Guillermo, it’s all pretty new to me. I’ll take care from now on.”
Guillermo nodded and said, “Yes, bled out through a slice over his artery in the neck. Almost totally drained, 80 percent probably.” More quietly he said, “No puncture wounds, even in the wound.” He spread the wound apart and showed that there wasn’t any marks inside the vein either.
“Yeah, but the smell is all over the guy,” Mick said, inhaling deeply. “Not a new family member either.”
Carl inhaled himself, trying to smell what they did but all he got was dirty body, urine and possibly garbage too. Guy was a street person so it was possible. He might not have been able to smell vamp on him but the other smells were sickening and he turned his head away and shuddered, drawing in a deep breath to try and clear his head.
Mick and Guillermo both saw and ignored Carl’s a response. This guy didn’t smell pretty for sure, vamp scent or not. All three men looked up when the door opened again and Ben Talbot walked in.
He stared at Carl for a moment and then cast his eyes down instead of looking at Mick. Curious, Guillermo thought. What was that about? Ben’s scent was confused and maybe a bit uncomfortable.
“The guy bled out?” Ben asked without preamble, looking at the body.
“Yep. No bite marks, but vamp is all over him,” Mick said in hushed tones.
“Okay, I’ve just about had it with you guys. What the fuck is going on? First, Davis and now you too, Talbot? You dating a family member too?”
G was clearly pissed; the anger was rolling over him in waves. “No, he’s not G. But he knows.” If Ben wanted G to know about their relationship it would come from him, not Mick.
“What is this, published somewhere?” Guillermo pulled the sheet up when the door opened once again and Beth walked in.
“Beth, what are you doing here?” Mick asked.
“I was at Buzzwire and it came over the wire. We’re not covering stories just yet, but…” she said wearing a huge grin.
“You were curious?” Mick laughed.
“Well…” Her blue eyes twinkled. “Guillermo, you look great! How have you been?”
“I’ve been better,” he mumbled, looking around the crowd in the room.
“Ah, I think I understand,” she said. Carl had Cami’s scent all over him and Ben was clearly a bit uncomfortable about all this. “Carl, how is Cami? You two have a good weekend?”
That explained a lot, Guillermo thought. Cami? Petite little blond at the wedding? Cute! She and Davis? Suddenly he decided Carl might just be okay. But there was still something about Talbot.
Guillermo pulled the sheet on the John Doe again and Beth inhaled the scent of the victim in deeply, focusing on what happened. She had inherited Mick’s ability to scent the past sometimes and this one was coming in clear as a bell.
“The vamp was a male, tall too, 6’4 or so. A black guy, large build. Older than us anyway.”
Ben and Carl looked at Beth curiously while Guillermo listened intently. Mick watched his wife, proud as hell of her. She had picked up more than he had.
“You, you guys can do that?” Ben asked.
“Sometimes, Ben,” Beth answered, still trying to focus. “He wasn’t killed where he was found; it happened in a house somewhere. The blood was collected in a basin.” She shuddered as she ‘saw’ what happened. The blood, wasted and poured out. Blood was life, sacred, for humans and vamps alike; to waste it was an affront to all, a heinous act of disrespect. “The vamp didn’t drink the blood, he dumped it out.”
“My god,” Carl muttered, closing his eyes at the thought of what had happened.
All five of them were quiet, each thinking their own thoughts. Finally Ben spoke up, “Why, why would a va - someone do that?”
“They obviously have some issues Ben,” Mick said. He knew that those issues were a sign of a rogue vamp, but it wasn’t normal for an older vamp to go rogue. Which made him more dangerous because it was likely premeditated.
“Beth gave us a good description though,” Carl said and then it occurred to him, they couldn’t formally use it because they couldn’t explain it. “Which doesn’t help at all does it?”
Four sets of eyes met his in acknowledgement of that statement. “Not unless we can come up with an eye witness somewhere. Still, the description is fairly unique in the vamp community anyway,” Mick said.
“Do you all have a, um, communications network, or something like that?” Ben asked.
His question made both Mick and Beth smile, thinking back to her one time question about a ‘vampire club’. It just made sense even if it wasn’t a reality.
“Not exactly Ben. But we’ll ask some questions, see what we come up with.” Beth and Guillermo both nodded at Mick’s words, even though it was unlikely that they’d come up with something like that.
Guillermo and Mick both knew that the guy was either a drifter or just new to LA. Among three hundred or so vamps in LA someone might have spotted him. “The guy could be a drifter,” Mick said. “Carl, Ben, can you two run checks and see if similar crimes have turned up somewhere else?”
Both men nodded, knowing that they would work together on it. “Yes, we’ll let you know what, if anything we find out.”
When Ben and Carl said goodbye and stepped out into the hall Ben said, “Carl, how about a cup of coffee?”
Carl was a smart cookie; he knew that Ben had some things to say and he also knew it was just better to get it over with. “Sure, usual place?”
“Sounds good. See you there,” Ben said, heading down the hall, his long strides taking him quickly from view. Carl sighed suddenly glad that the weekend had been so damn good because this Monday morning sure was starting out like crap.
Guillermo, Mick and Beth stepped into his small office off of the procedure room and he shut the door and glared at them both. “You mind telling me what in the hell the ADA and a cop are doing knowing the secret?”
“Come on G, there are other cops that know and a couple that are vamps themselves,” Mick said, his attempt to placate his long-time friend failing.
Beth watched closely, hoping that she wouldn’t need to intervene. Guillermo was angry, really angry and while Mick was staying cool, she hoped it stayed that way.
“The ADA Mick? Why the hell would you tell HIM?”
“I didn’t exactly. He is, well, some new information came to light.” Mick sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, hesitant to tell Guillermo anymore of the tale.
Beth had no problem telling though. “Ben Talbot is Mick’s grandson Guillermo. We just found out.”
“Grandson? You gotta be kidding me.”
“No, I’m not. It’s a long story, but it’s true.”
“So that mean’s let’s just go out and tell the world the family secret?”
“It wasn’t like that Guillermo, so just relax.” Beth eyed him boldly, just daring him to make another flippant remark.
“Whatever,” he said, turning away. “I have things to do.”
“Fine. We’ll get out of your hair and let you get to them. G, if you decide you want to chat about it come on over for a drink,” Mick said, seeing Guillermo’s back stiffen.
Finally he turned around and nodded at Mick. “I’ll do that Mick, see you.”
“See you, G,” Mick said as he opened the door. He placed his hand on Beth’s back and guided her out of the office and into the hall.
“What makes him feel like he has the right to get so pissy about this?” Beth said, angry herself. This was Mick’s life and Guillermo was acting like he had a giant poker up his ass.
“Beth, I hadn’t told Guillermo because he had a family when he was turned and from a distance he watched them all die. You have to remember that all vamps didn’t make the choice like you did. His wife and baby were killed in the raid, it’s hard for him.”
The news stunned her; she’d had no idea what Guillermo’s past was. She felt bad and knew that eventually she owed him an apology. When both of them were in better frames of mind that was.
As they walked into the parking garage Mick said, “Going back to Buzzwire I take it?”.
“Yeah, just wanted to play my hunch on this one.” She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss. “See you later?”
“You got it, babe.” He watched her get into her car and drive off and he couldn’t help the little skip to his heart at the sight of the woman he loved more than life itself. He’d never survive if anything ever happened to her.
Ben was sitting in the booth at the back of the coffee shop, waiting on Carl to get there. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say to his friend, but he knew that they had to clear the air between them.
He reached for the sugar and added a generous helping to his coffee, which was unusual for him. He was mindlessly stirring it when Carl sat down in the booth.
“Hi, Ben,” he said, watching a Ben blinked a couple of times as if trying to focus.
“Hey, Carl, thanks for meeting me. I uh,” he began, at a loss for words. “I know that you told Mick about the fingerprints, Carl.” The words tumbled out in a rush as he said them.
Direct approach Carl thought, but that was okay. He counted Ben as a good friend and this was probably for the best. “Yes, I did.” He met Ben’s eyes evenly.
“So you, um, knew about them?”
“Yes. Actually, Cami is a family member.”
“Family member? Is that what they call it?” Ben said, scoffing at the ironic metaphor.
“Well, out in public anyway. Ben, you gotta be cool about this,” he cautioned.
“Yes, I know, keep the secret. I’m not about to tell anyone. Hell, it’d probably get me locked in the loony bin anyway.” He took a sip of his overly sweet coffee as Carl ordered his own cup. When the waitress walked away Ben said, “How long have you known about it?”
“Not for too long. I mean, I suspected by the time Mick and Beth got married, but it wasn’t until a little later on that I was positive. When Mick and Beth were in Seattle I flew up there and confronted them about it.” He shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“It boggles my mind,” Ben said awkwardly. “I mean, who would have believed it? They are real.” He stopped talking as the waitress approached the table with Carl’s coffee.
“Yeah, well it is true and I’ll fight like crazy to protect them Ben,” Carl said, hoping that Ben would feel the same way.
“Because of Cami?”
“Partly. Ben, Mick is an upstanding guy, you know that. He’s a good guy who just happens to be…”
“A family member?” Ben suggested and for the first time a slight smile pulled the corners of his mouth upwards.
“Your grandfather?” Carl countered.
“Yeah, that too. That’s the hardest part of all this.”
“I can understand that. You could do worse.”
“I had a great grandfather Carl. Mick will never replace him.”
“And I’m sure he’d never want to. He was so happy to know that your grandmother had married a great man and that his daughter had a happy life.” Carl sipped for moment and then added, “Look Ben, none of you can change what happened in the past; all you can do is decide what to do in the future. I meant what I said, I’m going to protect them because I’m going to join them one day, you might as well know that.”
“You're joking, right?”
“No, I’m not. Cami is my forever, and I’m jumping at the opportunity to love her eternally. Just give Mick a chance, okay?”
“A chance? I don’t even know if I know how to do that. I don’t know that I want to do that.”
“You don’t have to consider him family, in the true sense of the word. Just, as a, as a person. You know that Mick is a on our side; the fact is that there are other, family members that aren’t exactly on the good side and we need men like Mick and Kostan to help keep them in line.”
“That isn’t exactly something I want to contemplate Carl.”
“Well, you’d better because what we saw this morning ought to tell you that we need their help.” He leaned across the table and said in a whisper, “Human’s aren’t capable of dealing with them effectively. We need them, Ben.”
Ben nodded. Carl was right, as much as he hated to admit it. Damn, he needed to talk to Mick about…stuff.
Why was that thought so unsettling?
Yoshi knocked on the door of Heroku’s private meditation room. “Heroku san, Rose Hampton is here to see you.” She bowed slightly as Heroku rose to his feet and nodded at Yoshi.
“Thank you, Yoshi. Please offer her refreshments and I will be there momentarily.”
“Akimi is seeing to her needs, Heroku san.”
“Ah, very good.”
Yoshi bowed again and left the room, leaving Heroku alone. He wasn’t sure why he felt nervous but he always did when he met with one of the thirteen. Rose was a very accomplished doctor and quite sociable, by the standards of the thirteen so he could only be glad that it was her that they had sent here.
In the living room Rose stood looking at one of Heroku’s treasured paintings. It was painted by Ishaq almost 800 years ago. It was painted on a sheer wood panel and had stood the test of time quite well.
“Rose, how very good to see you,” he said, bowing low to her.
She walked across the room and smiled at him. “Please Heroku, you know that I do not like being bowed to all the time.” She kissed him on the cheek and smiled impishly at him. “You are well?”
“Very good, thank you. The world is treating me well. And you?”
“Quite well myself. I’ve actually been here in LA for a while; I’m running a women’s clinic here at the present time, but I’ve been very busy at that so I do apologize for my tardy attendance on the matter you brought to Shinji.” Her blue eyes watched as he digested the news. She knew that Heroku could often grow impatient waiting for action on matters but then he was still young. He would understand more when he was older. “Tell me more about this young lady Heroku; it’s been a very long time since we’ve found a descendent.”
To be continued…