|The Girl from Paris
Author: amphorean PM
Vampires are real. That's what Dee discovers when he finds an old, handwritten book in his basement and runs away from home to protect its secrets and hide from his overbearing mom, whose recent divorce is taking its toll. But these vampires are different. This is not Twilight. And the dangerous, mysterious Parisienne is coming... soon.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Chapters: 4 - Words: 10,903 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 03-22-13 - Published: 03-15-13 - id: 3108850
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was intimidating, at first, as Dee began to walk down the road, but the further he got from the house, the more his confidence grew. Soon he was turning down side streets and taking shortcuts as though he knew the neighborhood perfectly. He had looked up a map on MapQuest earlier, and had almost memorized it. Not to mention he had a live map on his phone. It was almost impossible to get lost, but he wasn't going to try. Just in case.
Before too long, Dee had reached the street where the empty house was. He didn't know the exact address of the house, but he could likely figure it out. Whichever house didn't have solar lights in the front yard, he decided, was the one he would knock on the door of. If he happened to get a house that had occupants, he would bolt directly after they had turned on the porch light and before they had reached the door.
Much to Dee's relief, only one house was missing solar lights, and it also looked to be in a pretty bad state of repair. Most of the front windows had boards on them. He still knocked, regardless, but there was no answer.
Dee prepared to force the door open, which would have been difficult if it had been locked. To save himself potential trouble, he tried the handle first and found that it swung open invitingly.
Dee swelled the lump that had suddenly welled up in his throat. He pulled the flashlight out of his back, shone it around the living room to make sure there was nothing dangerous hiding in the shadows, then propped it against the wall so he could see what he was doing. He was surprised to find the house in much better condition than he thought it would be. Experimentally, he flipped on the light switch that looked like it controlled the light in the entryway. To his relief, nothing happened; the house must be totally empty after all.
Dee sighed and put his backpack on the floor so he could hang up his coat. But as soon as he pulled his arm out of the sleeve, he felt a hand on his wrist.
To Dee's credit, he didn't scream. He did jump about a foot in the air, but he didn't scream. Dee's "assailant" raised their hands— the universal sign for "don't hurt me; I won't hurt you".
Dee backed up until he hit the door. He was shaking from the unpleasant surprise. "Who are you?" he stammered.
"Who am I? Who are you?" The person, who Dee seemed almost entirely sure was a man, did something to the wall and flipped the light switch again; this time the light came on. Dee swallowed hard. He was in big trouble now. He should have listened to that little instinct that told him that the house wasn't entirely deserted.
Dee didn't say anything, so the man continued. "What are you doing out so late?"
Still shaking, Dee managed, "R-ran away."
The man crossed his arms. "So you thought the best thing to do was camp out in a house that you had no idea whether or not it was actually empty." Dee shrugged. The guy had a point. He nudged Dee's backpack with his toe. He was wearing socks, but no shoes: he lived here, Dee realized.
"How long were you planning on staying, kid?" the man asked.
"Couple days, maybe?" Dee's voice cracked.
The man was quiet for a long time. Dee wasn't sure if the man was going to murder him, call the cops, or both. Much to Dee's surprise, the man held out his hand. Dee shook it.
"I'm Kieran Foley," said the man.
"D-dee Rosenthal," said Dee, suspiciously. "Am I in trouble?"
"Nah," said Kieran. He picked up Dee's heavy backpack with one hand. "And I'm not a serial killer or anything, I swear."
Dee narrowed his eyes. "Are you, like—"
"Not a child molester either."
Something about Kieran seemed intrinsically honest; Dee decided to trust him. Maybe not absolutely, but enough that it was, he decided, okay to spend at least a couple hours here before seeking out another place to hide.
"Can I still stay here?" Dee asked, surprising himself.
Kieran crossed his arms. "Are you in trouble at home or something?"
"Not yet," Dee said, not exactly lying.
Kieran thought for a moment. "Yeah, I guess you can hang out. If you think it's a good idea."
"I have a pretty good sense of trust."
Kieran grinned but did not show his teeth. "Follow me, then," he said.
Dee did follow Kieran, who showed him down the hallway and to a set of stairs. "I live down here," Kieran explained, as they were on the third step from the bottom. Dee went very quiet. A short passage from the Tome of Hunting echoed in his mind: The vampyre preferrs to remain in subterranean spaices, which remind it of the grave. But he reminded himself that vampires could not possibly exist, and he certainly hadn't just stumbled upon one. He shook his head to clear it. Don't be silly, Dee, he thought.
There was a futon in the corner, facing a television set that had an old PlayStation hooked up to it. There were two controllers, red and blue, but only the red one was sitting on the edge of the futon. The blue one was coiled up neatly and resting atop the PlayStation. The TV displayed a pause screen for Spyro.
"No way," Dee said. "I played Spyro in, like, third grade."
"Retro games," said Kieran. "I have a bit of a collection. Want to play?"
Dee could hardly refuse the nostalgia rush brought on by seeing the amicable purple dragon on the screen. "Sure, thanks."
"Go ahead and sit down. Want some coffee?"
"You aren't going to drug it, are you?" Dee asked, but he was only joking. If Kieran thought the joke was in bad taste, he didn't say so.
"You can come watch if you want. It's just a Keurig."
"We have one of those," said Dee, absently. The high-tech coffee maker. The PlayStation. The vampyre often collects gadgets of all sorts in order to pase the time.
"Cool," said Kieran. He was already halfway up the stairs.
Dee was surprised that he didn't feel more suspicion towards this man he'd never met; normally, he'd have shouted stranger danger and called his mom or at least pretended to text someone so he didn't look entirely alone. Maybe coming into the house with no backup plan was kind of stupid, but he had lucked out. He couldn't explain it at all, but something about Kieran was just… trustworthy. Dee felt like he'd known him for a long time.
Part of the Tome of Hunting had detailed "thee vampyres psychic influences" on its prey; Dee wondered if that wasn't the cause of his sudden trust of the stranger. Vampires, he recalled, exuded a calming force that made their prey less likely to struggle the longer it spent in their company. It was how they kept humans for years and years and made them into beautiful, eternally young consorts the minute they hit the vampire's preferred age.
Dee didn't want to wonder what might happen if he ended up away from home for a few centuries rather than a few days. But it was definitely a possibility; and for that reason, he made sure to examine his emotions at any given moment.
Dee played through several levels of Spyro before it occurred to him that Kieran— or 'the vampire', as his mental monologue had taken to referring to the man— had been gone for far longer than it would take to make a simple cup of coffee, especially if he didn't have to boil the water himself, et cetera.
Dee grabbed the heavy flashlight from his bag and went up the short flight of stairs. The kitchen was just ahead, on the left; they had walked past it on the way in.
Two mugs of coffee sat forgotten on the counter next to the coffee maker. Kieran was staring out the window at something.
"Kieran?" Dee asked. Kieran jumped and whirled around and pulled the curtains over the sink closed.
"Yeah? Yeah. Shit. Sorry. I thought I saw a dog in the street or something."
Dee nodded, but Kieran didn't seem convinced that Dee wasn't suspicious.
"I think the coffee probably got cold."
"It's cool. I beat Toasty."
"Hate that level," Kieran muttered. "You still want that coffee, kid?"
"Nah," said Dee. He hadn't particularly wanted it in the first place; he really preferred tea. "How about we play You Ask, I Ask?"
Kieran smiled; maybe he was thinking of an inside joke. "Answer truthfully, et cetera?" he guessed.
Kieran dumped the cold coffee down the sink and ushered Dee back downstairs. Dee checked his phone idly while Kieran converted the futon from a couch into a bed and sat, cross-legged, on one end of it. He patted the other end.
"Right, okay," said Dee, folding his legs up. "You ask one, I answer it, then I ask one. First one not to answer is the loser." It would be easy, he supposed, to ask 'the vampire' if he actually was one, but that probably wouldn't end well for either of them. The Tome had a chapter even more frantic than the others in which the author detailed what had happened when a rare human-collaborative vampire had revealed its true nature to the group of hunters with which it was working. Apparently the vampire had been too trusting of the humans, which made sense to Dee. Vampire hunters, he had come to learn, were notoriously unstable if it turned out that one of their numbers happened to be a vampire.
"Alright, I'll start. How old are you really?"
"Seventeen," Dee admitted, realizing a moment too late that he should probably have lied about his age just in case his sense of trust turned out to be misplaced. "But my birthday is in, like, three months," he added. "Same question?"
"I'm nineteen," Kieran said. Sure you are, thought Dee. As if sensing Dee's distrust of that statement, Kieran continued, "But people tell me I seem older."
"I thought you were, like, thirty."
"You also thought I was going to kill you."
"For, like, two seconds, I guess."
"Why do you trust me so much?" Kieran asked. Dee's freak-out meter instantly careened into the red zone. That was definitely a vampire-like question. Barring that, it was definitely a serial killer question.
"You don't have people-skin tacked to the wall, and I don't see any Death's Head caterpillars anywhere," Dee said. "So that's something, I guess."
"Do you trust everyone who isn't Buffalo Bill?"
"That was technically two questions. And Buffalo Bill was a terrible character for so many reasons."
"And I'm no Clarice Starling."
"Also granted," Kieran said.
"So technically I don't have any reason to not trust you. Do you have any?"
"Sure, lots." Kieran grinned but did not show his teeth. He looked very pale in the yellowish glow of the TV.
"Are you going to answer that question?"
"That," Kieran said, "was technically two questions."
Dee picked at his jeans. Upstairs, the doorbell rang. Weird— he hadn't noticed a doorbell when he'd come in.
Kieran swore under his breath. "Hide," he said— almost growled. Dee began to ask why, but Kieran was already halfway up the stairs and something in his tone made it seem like questioning him right now was a bad idea. Dee managed to squeeze under the futon and arrange the blanket in such a way that he could see out but he was fairly certain that no one would be able to see in.
Dee saw a pair of sock feet— Kieran's— and a pair of leather shoes. It was too dark to determine the color.
"…a lot of PlayStation recently," said Kieran.
"I can see that," said the other person. Probably a man. "With two controllers?"
Shit, thought Dee. Whatever reason he had me hide for, it's gone now.
"Uh, yeah, I've been trying to fix the blue one. It broke a couple months ago."
There was an awkward pause. Maybe the other man was nodding.
"Rigel, uh—" Kieran began, but the other man cut him off.
"Don't 'Rigel' me."
"Mr. van Lukas—"
"Oh, god. That's worse."
"Rigel," Kieran said again, in the same tone he'd started with. Even though he sounded conciliatory, Dee could nearly see him grinning with the little victory. "I didn't invite you here, you know."
"So you must have had some reason for coming here."
"And there's a good reason you didn't come during the day."
Vampires. Vampires. Holy shit.
"And there's a very good reason you came downstairs despite the fact that there is literally nothing of interest down here.
"Foley," said the man— Rigel. The way he pronounced his words reminded Dee a little bit of someone trying and failing to mimic a German accent. "I did not come to play hide and seek with ein Buch."
Dee nearly jumped out of his skin. Buch— book, right? This was so not a coincidence.
"What makes you so sure this person you're looking for is here?"
"Foley." Rigel's tone was like that of a parent scolding their child. It was softer when he spoke again, but still just as sarcastic. "Kieran. What sort of idiot, precisely, do you take me for?"
"He's under the bed, isn't he?" Rigel knelt down and flipped the blanket up onto the futon. "Get up, boy."
Dee, too paralyzed with fear to do anything else but listen to the man, crawled out from beneath the bed and stood nearly at attention.
"I'll admit, that was certainly clever— hiding the book, staging the house, all that. But you've always been bad at forethought, Foley."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Kieran.
"You are oblivious, yes. But not that oblivious."
Dee couldn't take it— the two of them bickering as if he weren't even there. It reminded him of his parents. "Are you vampires?" he blurted. It was the first thing that came to mind.
The basement was very silent for about two seconds, and then Rigel and Kieran tried to talk at the same time. Kieran was babbling about something and Rigel was mostly trying to shut him up. After Kieran's speech had run its course, Rigel sighed sarcastically.
"At least you didn't tell him anything."
"Technically, we're—" Kieran began again, but Rigel cut him off.
"Yes, we are. Vampires, I mean."
There were at least a million things he could have said, but Dee only nodded dumbly. Any of those things would probably made him sound either unintelligent, terrified, or both. He was certainly not unintelligent, but he was at least a little afraid.
"Let's go to the kitchen," Kieran said, breaking the silence. Rigel started towards the stairs, but Kieran flung his arm across the other man's— vampire's— chest to block his was. "Guests first," he said, and his voice carried the tiniest hint of a threat.
Dee tottered to the stairs and made his way shakily up them, followed by Kieran and then Rigel. He was kind of grateful that Kieran had stood up for him, but Rigel's insistence that there was some greater plot going on unnerved him.
Kieran turned on the kitchen light, probably for Dee's benefit. If what the Tome of Hunting said was true— and taking its advice had worked for Dee so far— then the two vampires had no need of light to see, and in fact it probably hurt their eyes a little bit. Dee smiled a little; Kieran was willing to make things easier for him and more difficult for the other vampire, which was always a good thing.
Now that Dee could see clearly, he noticed that Rigel, who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, was dressed in black straight-leg jeans and a red zip-up hoodie. He wore leather dress shoes, which contrasted weirdly with the casualness of the rest of his outfit. His hair was bleach-blond and cropped short. Little round glasses were perched on his nose, grandfatherlike. Dee had a feeling he was a lot more dangerous than the average grandpa.
"Have a seat, gentlemen." Kieran's voice, though soft and low, was dripping with sarcasm, and it frightened Dee. "Tea?"
"Don't start with that schieße," Rigel said, his tone cutting. Then he paused, as if reconsidering. "Something from the freezer, perhaps."
Kieran narrowed his eyes at Rigel. "Dee, come with me."
Rigel chuckled to himself. "And it would have worked, too."
Dee followed Kieran out of the kitchen and down the hallway to the garage, where a large deep freezer hummed gently against the wall. Kieran opened the lid and plunged his arm in up to the shoulder. The freezer was deeper than it looked, apparently.
"Frozen blood?" Dee guessed.
"Gross. But yeah."
"Why am I not dead?"
"Long story. Hold this." Kieran handed Dee a cold bundle wrapped in a towel. Whether the towel was to protect against the cold or the sight of what was wrapped in it was open to interpretation.
Dee cradled the bundle in one arm like a child— the baby from Eraserhead, maybe. His other hand rested almost unconsciously on his hoodie pocket, where the Tome of Hunting was still nestled. "Does he want—"
"Yes." Kieran closed the freezer. "Shush. If you've read it then you know he can hear us."
Dee lowered his head and held the bundle more tightly and followed him back to the kitchen. Rigel hadn't moved since they had left.
"Set those on the counter," Kieran ordered, softly. Dee didn't see any point in protesting.
"Sit, Rosenthal," said Rigel.
"Rigel, he's my guest."
"So?" Rigel snapped. He turned to Dee. "Sit, my boy."
Dee looked to Kieran for a moment. The vampire nodded, and Dee took a seat across from Rigel at the table, which seemed very small because someone— something— so dangerous was at the other end of it. Kieran was behind the other vampire, tinkering away at the countertop.
"You have something we want," said Rigel slowly. His German accent made the g sound like a k and the w's a little like v's. "You'd be very wise to give it back. I don't know precisely how you came to have it nor what value you see in keeping it, but I do know that you have no claim to it and it belongs to us."
Something slushed sickeningly into a pot on the stove. A burner clicked on shortly afterwards. Kieran was heating the blood from the freezer.
"I found it," Dee said. His knees had stopped shaking, but he was white-knuckling the edge of the table. Being in this stranger's house, even if he was trustworthy due to supernatural means, was stressful enough, though the video game had helped to normalize things a little. But knowing that these two people weren't technically people at all catapulted things directly into the danger zone. "It belongs to me."
"That is so… human," Rigel muttered. "Very well. Here's a human tactic for you. We can compensate you for it."
Kieran shook his head, indicating that Dee shouldn't accept the offer. A fraction of a second later, Rigel turned around. Dee thought for a moment that his gesture had been given away, but Rigel only said, "How's it coming along?"
"Not as quickly as you'd like, I'm sure." Kieran's words were laced with double meaning.
Rigel growled a chuckle, then turned back around. He fished in the pocket of his dark red hoodie for a moment and produced a crumpled, folded fifty dollar bill. Placing it squarely in the middle of the table an flattening it out, he murmured, "I think you dropped this outside."
"Cute," Kieran chuckled.
"My wallet is in my backpack," said Dee, matter-of-factly, taking great care to enunciate each word.
Rigel adjusted his glasses. "It's yours anyway. As a show of good faith."
Kieran whirled around and plucked the bill off the table. "Thanks," he said, tucking it into his pocket.
Dee managed a stilted giggle.
"Listen, Rigel," Kieran said, leaning heavily on the back of Rigel's chair. "You're not welcome here, the book rightfully belongs to the kid 'cause it was rotting in his basement after your goons lost it, and you still owe me another 250 on top of this. Cut the Kuhscheiße and either get out or stick around for a while without threatening my guest."
Dee could almost tell that Rigel was very deliberately refraining from throwing his chair backwards and attacking the other vampire. He enunciated very clearly: "Wo ist der ficken Tee?"
The pot on the stove was bubbling gently. Kieran detached himself instantaneously from Rigel's chair. He carefully poured the hot liquid into an intricate metal pitcher that Dee hadn't even seen him retrieve from anywhere. He briefly entertained the possibility that it had come from thin air.
Kieran nearly slammed the empty pot down in the sink. He ran water in it, which was precisely Dee's idea of how to do dishes. Then he dutifully took a teacup and a mug out of a cabinets and carefully poured the "tea" into them. He set the teacup in front of Rigel and kept the mug for himself. "I'd offer you some, Dee, but I really doubt you want it. You want anything else, though? Cocoa? That coffee I owe you? Actual tea?"
"That's okay," Dee muttered.
Rigel looked at Dee over the rim of his teacup, unnerving him more than a little. Rigel licked his lips and took a long drink. Dee swore he could almost see the vampire's fangs, and almost hear them click against the porcelain. He shuddered.
"You're freaking him out, Rigel."
Rigel gently and soundlessly put his teacup on the table as if he hadn't heard what Kieran had said and had simply come up with the idea all on his own. He announced, "I'll be staying here for as long as it takes to convince you—" he twisted around in his chair to look at the other vampire— "to give me the book."
Kieran crossed his arms. "I'm not the one who needs convincing."
"So you do think it should rightfully be in our possession?"
"I never said that."
"Your rhetoric skills are rusty."
Kieran stared at the back of Rigel's head for a long, awkward moment. Dee sensed that maybe they had been friends once, but now they could hardly hold a civil conversation without making thinly veiled threats on each other's lives. Obviously something had happened between them. Dee wanted to find out what— maybe not right this second, but eventually. Maybe he would pretend that he wanted to go home and ask Kieran to call him when the other vampire had left. Yeah, right. Mom would love that: an older guy (Much. Much older.) calling the house at god knows what time at night. She didn't even know he was gay.
Breaking the ice now would probably leave them all floating in chilly waters with no hope of escaping conversational hypothermia. So Dee waited in the straight-backed chair, biding his time until one of them said something and he could try to jump in without getting himself killed.
He didn't have to wait long. Kieran collected Rigel's nearly empty teacup in the blink of an eye, seemingly before the other vampire was even finished with it. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but the cup definitely didn't seem totally empty.
"Sitting room," he said, tersely. "Now, if you please."
"I don't suppose I have much choice in the matter?" Rigel said. His words were clipped and sounded somehow angrier in his German accent than they would have otherwise. Perhaps he was miffed about the teacup.
"No," said Kieran. Speaking in such short sentences, he seemed suddenly much more dangerous than he had before. Dee wasn't afraid for himself, though; he still trusted the Irish vampire almost intrinsically. No, he was intrigued to see what would happen if Rigel decided not to listen to the owner of the house he had basically invited himself into.
Dee never got to find out what would happen, because Rigel went without much of a fight at all. Kieran wouldn't let Dee into the sitting room by himself (or rather, with the German vampire) and told him to stay put at the table until he had washed up the tea set and his mug.
What Dee (and Rigel) did not know was that the sitting room had been soundproofed sometime in the 1980s. Kieran had dabbled in rock music for a while and the neighbors had complained about how loud his band was. The only logical course of action was not to move, but to soundproof the entire basement.
It had made sense at the time.
"Come here," Kieran said, his voice low even though he was almost certain he could not be heard by the other vampire. Dee obediently shuffled to Kieran's side. Well, obedient to curiosity, at any rate.
"He'll be back up once he figures out we're being awfully quiet. Soundproof room. Anyway, he's more dangerous than you think he is. Don't allow yourself to be alone with him: believe me, he'll try."
"Couldn't I just go home?"
Kieran stared into the dishwater. Some of the bubbles popped as he collected his thoughts. "No," he said finally. "Not yet. He'll only follow you."
Dee hadn't thought of that, but it made sense. When it was still dark outside (and it would be for several more hours) then Rigel could just follow Dee home and take the book, probably killing Dee and his mom in the process.
"Can I ask you something?" Dee sat on the countertop.
Kieran looked up from the dishes, holding the teacup in midair. "Yeah?"
"Is there any particular reason I'm not totally terrified right now?"
Kieran shrugged. "You're just an accepting person. The idea that things like me exist doesn't bother you, I guess."
"I'm not going to wake up screaming when my subconscious sorts it out, am I?"
"Probably not. It's usually one way or the other when humans find out about us." He paused, then continued, to himself. "Listen to me. 'Humans'."
Dee was quiet for a minute while Kieran washed the dishes. Then he spoke. "Not that I've met many vampires, but you don't seem particularly, you know, deadly."
Kieran smiled, exposing weirdly endearing oversized incisors. Dee had been expecting fangs, but the lack of them was not an entirely disconcerting development. Something about a buck-toothed vampire made it hard to be afraid.
"You haven't seen me try to kill him yet," said Kieran, handing Dee the clean, dry teacup. "Just set that on the counter."
"Sure," said Dee, placing the cup on the other side of his legs.
Kieran finished washing the saucer and saucepan, then started on the "teapot". If the fancy metal pitcher the "tea" had been in was still hot, it didn't seem to bother him, and if it did, then he didn't say so. Dee passed the time by looking around the kitchen.
There was an overflowing recycling bin in the corner, vomiting paper onto the hardwood floor. A little curtain over a doorway probably marked the entrance to a pantry of some kind, though what a vampire would keep in a pantry Dee wasn't sure. There was a brand new Keurig coffee maker on the far end of the countertop.
"All finished," said Kieran. Then, in a lower tone: "It's been a really long time since someone has sat on the counter while I washed dishes."
Dee looked at his shoes. Kieran was very quiet and still for a moment, then all at once he stirred and pulled back the curtain to the little window above the sink. He peered outside for a moment, then let the curtain fall neatly back into place.
"Come on," Kieran said. Dee didn't think it was prudent to ask who had been the last person to sit on the countertop. He followed Kieran out of the kitchen and down the narrow stairs into the basement. He almost avoided thinking the dark stairway was a giant mouth waiting to swallow him up.