“I have a theory, witch. Tell me if this is true,” I spoke to Monica while sitting with my feet propped up on her hospital bed. “I believe you got yourself injured merely to force me to consort with humanity. Am I correct?”
Monica lay still, asleep in a drug-induced coma just as she had been for the past few days. Still, I could envision her response, the playful mischief in her eyes as I voiced my assertion. There would be a wise crack or clever retort issued; something along the lines of it being ‘good for me.’ I would respond simply by scowling at her.
Even lacking her response, I found myself leaning an elbow against the arm of the chair and resting my chin on my palm. Heaviness settled on my soul, pouring its way through my lips. “When I was merely slaying demons, I did not notice it as much as I do right now, but I am disconnected from these people. I have walked among them and watched them, and they have puzzled at me for doing so. I have observed the young and the old – seen both the smiles of children and the agony of the decrepit – and it has left me feeling like an outsider looking in.”
My eyes drifted away as I continued speaking. “It dangles there, like something tangible I should be able to grasp. I have not been able to as of yet, though, and I have no notion as to why.” Sighing, I shook my head. “Little wonder vampires must resort to decadence. We seem numb to everything else.”
Lowering my legs from the bed, I stretched unnecessarily and found myself glancing toward the large windows on the other side of the room. After spending one day sleeping where I stowed my weapons, I attempted the morgue the next day and finally succumbed to fetching my sword and slumbering in Monica’s room the morning after. Her attending physician never discovered my hiding place, but the first time a nurse opened the door to the small bathroom, I had to haul her into the dark in order to glamour her. If anyone had noticed me the next day, they failed to rouse me, and I planned on continuing the practice when dawn arrived again.
During the night, however, I alternated between maintaining a bedside vigil and inspecting the hospital the same way I had that first night. My constant presence seemed not to raise any alarms, but the relative calm was not as welcomed as it should have been. Five evenings of not even a spell brushing past, and I felt increasingly uneasy the longer we lingered. My expeditions lessened, and the strain of remaining confined had begun affecting more than my sense of wanderlust. After stealing a pint of blood on the second evening, I felt my fangs itch again. I would have to seek nourishment before dawn broke.
“I need a cigarette,” I said. “Perhaps venturing outside shall give me a chance to clear my mind.” Standing, I reached for Monica’s hand again, brushing my fingertips across her warm skin. “Stay safe, and inform me if you sense anything amiss. I shall return shortly.” I glanced at her monitors one last time, making mental note of her vitals before lifting my hand and turning for the door. A tempered stroll to the adjoining corridor was punctuated by the typical humdrum of the Critical Care Unit in the background. Within moments of embarking, I found myself staring at the elevator, waiting for it to ascend.
A nurse passing by shot me a curious glance. A portion of me, not far enough removed, admired the sight hungrily while my newly-acquired conscience slapped my focus away from the tempting redhead. I adjusted my suit jacket as the metal doors parted and the portion of me which was yet distracted jumped in surprise at seeing Chloe standing in the elevator.
My old friend blinked at me. “Is that some sort of psychic trick?” she asked.
“Is what some sort of psychic trick?” I stepped into the elevator, pressing the button for the ground floor. Chloe failed to move, which trapped her in the small compartment with me when the doors shut again.
She shifted slightly, folding her hands together. “I was just thinking about you. Was on my way up to check on your girl.”
The admission took me aback. I furrowed my brow while her eyes shifted around, settling back on me when I refused to glance away. Chloe grumbled. “I might have been avoiding you,” she said, “But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been concerned.” She stole a quick head-to-toe survey of me. “You look a little more… pale than you were the other day.”
Sighing, I nodded. “I have been afraid to leave Monica alone. My dietary habits have suffered accordingly.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask what that means.”
“I need to relocate another pint of blood from storage.”
Chloe winced, but recovered quickly as the elevator settled and its doors slid open. We stepped from inside and paused a few paces away from the threshold. The desk where one of the security guards had been positioned was bereft of any occupant, an observation I found curious on first glance.
“Is that where you’re headed?” Chloe’s question brought me back to the conversation. “To ‘relocate’ a pint of blood?”
“Eventually.” My eyes snapped back from the desk to my former co-worker as my hands slid into my pants’ pockets. “I thought I might have a cigarette first, though. Being in the room has left me feeling stifled.”
“Well, that I can join you for.” She started off toward the exit without warning. My gait sped to make up the short amount of distance until I took my place by her side. Chloe seemed not to notice. “I don’t want to be aiding and abetting in any thieving. We part ways after the smoke.”
The corner of my mouth curled upward. “I hesitate to point this out, but you have been aiding and abetting me.”
“And it’s not going any further than helping that girl. Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Silence fell between us, not quite uncomfortable, but noticeable just the same. As we reached the exit, the automated doors slid open, inviting a cold gust of wind to collide with us. Chloe strolled to the edge of a ramped walkway before continuing to speak. “I’m sorry if I’m being a little testy, I’m just not used to thinking of you as... Well, you know, a…” She dug in her pockets, avoiding eye contact. “I keep trying to form this mental image of Peter Dawes biting people and I just can’t…”
I lifted a hand to stop her. “Chloe, I know I evoked that name before you and I apologize for the recklessness I used in referring to my former self. I have not been called Peter in some time, though.”
“One of those other vampires called you something else.”
I nodded. “Flynn, yes. The name was given to me by my immortal brother, Robin. We were rather close.” Shutting my eyes, I paused a moment, allowing the sting of my sins to subside as I pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Chloe produced hers and I lit mine before cupping the flame with my hand and protecting it so Chloe could do the same. Tufts of smoke rose heavenward until they dissipated in the wind.
Chloe frowned, resting her arms on a metal bannister. “So, you really did kill Lydia?” she asked.
A frown tugged at the corners of my lips as well. “I am afraid I did.”
“I never wanted to believe it was you. Some… detective came around asking questions and I told him the Peter I knew didn’t have a malicious bone in his body.”
“I am sorry.” Chloe glanced at me and this time, my eyes were the ones which looked away. “I have been… attempting to make amends for what I did. Needless to say, I have many miles left to travel on the path of penance.”
She shrugged. “Some wise people would say it’s at least a good start.”
“Perhaps.” I drew from my cigarette. “Having a conscience following me about has at least helped.”
“How’s she been doing?”
“She is stable.” Our gaze intersected again at the shift in topic. “Breathing well. She should recover speedily if given the chance. I was concerned because she had already lost blood a few days ago.”
Chloe tensed. “Do I want to know?”
“Vampire attack. It is a long story.”
“I see.” Our conversation hit a brief lull, which broke when she stood straighter and shifted her weight. “So what is this thing you do now?”
“Thing?” I perked an eyebrow until it dawned on me what she meant. Indulging in another deep draw from my cigarette, I nodded. “I am a monster who hunts other monsters. Something called a seer. When I was born, The Fates determined I would become a hunter of evil – one who can read the thoughts and wicked intentions of others. My ‘calling’ dictates I am to find and kill immortals who would threaten humanity. I had not yet realized my gifts when you knew me.”
An inquisitive glint surfaced in Chloe’s eyes, seemingly despite herself. “You can read minds?”
“And manipulate objects. They call it telekinesis.”
“Is that all?”
“I do not know. Something tells me I have yet to uncover everything I am capable of doing.”
“You better not read my mind, boy.” Chloe managed a slight curl of her lips.
I chuckled. “Afraid of what I might find?” Winking, I grinned much more readily. “I do not make it a habit to use my gifts unless I need to. I had some issue with using my telepathy at first, but learned how to… control it.”
Chloe shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation and believing it.” Flicking away her cigarette, she turned to face me. “So, did you just wake up one day being able to read minds? Is that what put you on the straight and narrow?”
“Yes and no. Monica brought my gifts to the surface. She thought by doing so, she could reform me from the path that I was on.” I suppressed another sigh. “I must say, though, while she helped me stop being such a murderous bastard, reconnecting with humanity has been the more daunting task.”
“I’m sure.” Chloe hugged her chest, rubbing her arms and reminding me that mortals experienced the cold much different than vampires. Still, the portly nurse did not motion to step inside. “Is that why you were in the hospital a couple of weeks ago?”
“What do you mean?”
“Were you trying to be Peter again?”
“I was attempting to recapture my human side, yes.”
“By doing the things Peter used to do.”
“By retracing the steps I took as a mortal.” As our eyes met, I frowned. “You still look at me as if expecting Peter to burst from the seams and take over this body of death.”
“No, I know better than that.” She placed the transparent lie before me, but I chose to ignore it.
Instead, I nodded. “Whatever the matter, I came here because this was the time in my life when my purpose was for good. Monica was using it as an illustration for loving humanity.”
“Do I what?”
Swallowing hard, I looked away. “I do not know. It is a tenuous line at best. There are humans I care about, but humanity as a whole? I am more intrigued by it than I am enamored.” I finished my cigarette, and flicked it in the same direction Chloe had hers. As I exhaled the smoke, I shrugged. “Watching them does not revolt me, and temptations of seducing them have at least waned. I suppose you could say their lives have more meaning these days.”
“Would you ever want to be Peter again… if you could?”
“No.” I spoke the words softly, producing them as though delivering a eulogy. “This side of death, I shall never realize such a thing. If The Fates are pleased, perhaps I could be Peter in the afterlife. That is the best I could hope for.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow. “You’re a walking contradiction, do you know that? I think you put on an air to detach yourself. I think that’s why you can’t seem to ‘reconnect.’” She punctuated the last word with her fingers, forming air quotes. “Personally, I think it’s the vampire side who thinks he’s beyond redemption. I know it sounds a little trite, but miracles happen every day. You and I have both seen enough of them in this hospital to know that’s true.”
I huffed. “I have done nothing to earn a miracle.”
“Does anyone who receives a miracle deserve it?”
“Now you are starting to sound like Monica with this philosophical bullshit.”
“Well, I’ll have you know, you just proved my point.” Chloe smirked.
Furrowing my brow, I studied my old friend while tempted to reach for my cigarettes again. My hand slid into my pocket, and although it made me a liar, I pried into Chloe’s thoughts to discern the intention behind her words. I saw Monica painted as a miracle. The thought inspired a subdued grin as well as the temptation to wax poetic about the gift of a kindred spirit. Just as quickly as the notion surfaced, however, another thought from Chloe’s immediate memory captured my attention.
I issued the question almost involuntarily. “Chloe, who is Julian?”
“Oh, thanks for reminding me,” she began. As she paused to remember the details, her mind filled with detail and painted a clearer picture of the man. He was tall wearing a long coat, possessing a thick, European accent and Germanic features which stirred faint echoes of the man I had once called ‘Opa Fiedler’. Rather than bearing the dark hair of my grandfather Wilhelm, though, Julian possessed dirty blond locks and had approached Chloe with a painted on smile. ‘Have there been any unusual cases in the hospital this past week?’ he had asked, but I read the deadly intent past the false cordiality.
“Fuck,” I said, interrupting whatever Chloe had started to say in response. She furrowed her brow at first, and then let out a tiny yelp when I gripped her shoulders and turned her to face me. “How long ago was this?
At first her eyes widened, her expression befuddled, but as I relinquished my grip, Chloe stammered, turning a pallid shade of white. “F-fifteen minutes? Maybe less? It was right before I came up to see you. I, uh… it was what made me think to check up on you.”
“Bloody hell.” Spinning around, I regarded the hospital building while running my fingers through my hair. My mind reeled. “Fifteen minutes. That is too long. Surely he…” I trailed off, sensing fear take hold of me and twist my stomach into knots. It was the same fear I harbored when I carried Monica from the Council, inspiring the same determination. Without another thought, I dashed for the doors and damned the consequences of using my vampire speed in front of the human populace. If anyone watched my sprint into the hospital, I paid them no mind. I needed to get to the third floor, and fast.
Bypassing the elevators, I slammed past the obstruction between me and the stairs and continued my upward ascent. My feet vaulted them two or three at a time, even when I passed a male nurse who stared as I bounded past. Within seconds the last flight of steps was all but a memory. The door opened and a hallway was all stopping me from reaching my watcher.
That was when I spied him standing next to the nurses’ station.
I skidded to a stop. He stood straight and smirked, as though he knew without needing to be told who I was. ‘Blasted seer instincts,’ I murmured in my mind as he brushed back the folds of his coat and freed a crossbow from a sling. Already loaded, it only needed to be raised. His smirk turned downright vicious.
“There you are, little vampire,” Julian said. “Your executioner has come to deliver your punishment.” Nurses screamed and ducked for cover. Time stood still as he pulled the trigger and a bolt sailed to intercept its target. I had milliseconds to register one last, fleeting thought.‘Son of a bitch. Why does this keep happening to me?’