Notice: The term "shit" is used in this Chapter.
"All Was Quiet"
Before long, it was Thanksgiving. And then it was Christmas. And then it was New Year's. The first semester had passed in a whirlwind of tests, homework assignments, and bad cafeteria food.
The week following my conference with Kaleb Breslin, I paid Rita a visit. I told her only what she needed to know — strictly telepathy. Rita did not know of anything else of which I was capable, and I was not about to divulge the secrets Kaleb had entrusted to me. I didn't bother mentioning Donny, either. Rita was not as open-minded about the supernatural as her superstitious, fraudulent grandmother.
Sharona rambled on about Witchcraft and sorcery, curses and charms, and Rita and I had always dismissed every word. Now, I wasn't so sure that Sharona was as superstitious as Rita and I had originally thought. Sharona may not have possessed anything like our telepathy, but that didn't necessarily mean she was unknowledgeable about the supernatural. If I could believe that vampires were real, then maybe Sharona's ideas of magic weren't so farfetched either.
With October came a series of marathon-meetings that involved a bank, a legal firm, and the world's longest table. With the end of that month came a novel-length document with numerous illegible signatures that stated I had complete access to the estate my parents had left me in their will — stocks, bonds, savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, vehicles, properties … I had access to it all, and starting next year, after my graduation, I would take full responsibility for what was left by my parents.
Throughout those autumn and winter months, I had spent as much time with Ben and Monica as possible. Monica and I went shopping on weekends, spent days at the local spa, and had relaxing luncheons — usually my treat. Ben and I did anything his imagination could muster — countless eating contests (that I let him win), extreme mud puddle jumping, making the perfect snow angels, snowball wars …
However, it was impossible for me to neglect my training. I spent my days in school, at work, and with Monica and Ben, but my nights were consumed with exercises for both my body and my mind. The forest was a natural obstacle course and provided the means for my physical training. The forest also provided a means for a portion of my mental training, but my telepathy was practiced during the daylight hours when I was around people.
When it was time for Old Saint Nick to pay the Sherwood residence his annual visit, Mr. Kringle was especially generous in his gift-giving. Monica received two tickets to Hawaii for a week-long vacation in February, the new washer and dryer set she'd been eyeing, and a locket containing a miniature picture of Ben and me and an inscription that read, "Forever loving, forever loved." And Ben was showered with gifts ranging from remote controlled toys to a new bicycle to the dreaded packs of socks and underwear.
But while my relationships with Monica and Ben flourished, that with Kaleb Breslin remained distant and unacknowledged by both parties. I only saw Kaleb during school hours. Our one-on-one interaction over that span of those months was limited to an overly simple lab exercise that called for partners and the occasional passing in the hallway or classroom that allowed for a quick smile, a "hi," and a "how are you?" The sparks of electricity that passed between us was ever-present and always had me on the slightest of excited edges, planted an extra glimmer of exhilaration in my eyes. But that, too, was ignored to the best of our abilities.
Still, I wondered …
Why would a vampire be after my blood? I hadn't been aware of their existence until Lewis had tried to bite me. And even then, two and two had only equaled three. I had needed Kaleb to unintentionally show me that it equaled four.
Why did Kaleb Breslin even bother to involve himself in the affairs of a vampire? And if Kaleb had been aware not just of vampires, but of a vampire's plans, then he had to be more than just a telepath. But what more could he be? Was I more than a telepath for knowing of their world and being able to defeat such a creature?
If Kaleb was involved in the dealings of vampires, what could his sister possibly be up to? She had yet to return from their previous place of residence. Was she something of equal power to a telepath such as her brother? Or could she be stronger? If she did not prove to be as open as Kaleb, would I be able to subdue her? Would I be able to defend myself against both Breslins if the need ever arose?
But to top off that plague of questions, I was overcome with the notion that everything was connected to my parents' murder. That first day of school, when my nightmare had sprang to life at the sight of the Breslin twins. The dream I had had of Kaleb strangling me. Both Donny's and Lewis' crazed expressions, which mirrored that of my parents' killer.
It was all connected … But the one piece I couldn't fit was Kaleb Breslin.
Donny and Lewis were obviously associated with my parents' murderer — which meant that my mother and father had been killed by a vampire. Donny hadn't attacked me at random. Someone had been pulling the strings — Donny's "master." I was an expert at making myself unnoticeable, unapproachable, and unappealing. I wouldn't have drawn his attention without being pointed out by someone else — someone out to finish the job he'd started eleven long years ago …
Yes, that part of the puzzle fell together with a fair amount of ease. But Kaleb Breslin …
This boy — this telepath — put his life on the line for me — a stranger — and took on a horde of vampires. He could match all of my skills but one. He had knowledge of the supernatural that surpassed my own by an immeasurable margin. And he offered me future assistance.
I could be sure of only two things … One, Kaleb was a telepath and then some. Two — and this was subject to change — Kaleb was on my side.
But for the time being, it seemed that all was quiet.
Months later, Kaleb was still reprimanding himself for that morning in the forest. He had gotten into a competition with a human and had almost exposed his entire race. And then he had offered her help in the future is she was ever in need of it. What was he thinking?…
Kaleb had been keeping tabs on Donny and those who were with him that night at the mall. The two male vampires that had run off before Kaleb had joined the fight went about their business as per usual. Nikki had given Lewis the boot, and Lewis had left the city in search of new hunting grounds. Donny had disappeared without a trace.
All of the vampires in the adjacent city were now well aware of Kaleb's presence so close to their home. None so much as breathed in the direction of the Breslin territory without a Final Death wish.
Kaleb also asked his sister to keep him up-to-date in her dealings with Richard's House. She had dealt out Final Deaths to nearly a quarter of the Valentine Household. Richard was infuriated, but could do nothing due to Danica's superior rank in the Clan. She not only outranked Richard, the head of the Valentine House, but also had the consent of the Clan Elders and the Heads of the Clan to eradicate any vampire in the Valentine Household accused of and proven to be unnecessarily draining mortals of their blood without the intention of turning them. In simpler terms — Danica was to eliminate any vampire that was killing humans, which went against the Clan Code.
Aside from those general reports, Danica also relayed to Kaleb any news she received pertaining to Donny, who had run home to his master, Richard. Richard was equally furious with Donny's inability to "handle such a simple mission," drilling into him that "there would be hell to pay" for the both of them if it "wasn't taken care of — and soon."
Danica questioned Kaleb as to what had been going on while she was away. He told her only what she needed to know — that Donny had been sent to kill a human and that Kaleb had intervened to prevent a killing on the Breslin territory. He did not reveal Alexandra Sherwood to his sister — he would not until the time was right, when he could give Danica accurate information and a full report. Kaleb was still trying to find the connection between Alexandra Sherwood and the vampire society.
Alexandra Sherwood was a telepath — most likely descended from a Witch Coven — who was also capable of reaching incredible speeds, handling mammoth weights and had lightning-fast reflexes and unnaturally heightened senses. Aside from her telepathy, Alexandra possessed the common abilities of a vampire — but she was, without a doubt, a human. Which brought Kaleb's theory of Alexandra being bitten in years past and having microscopic amounts of venom left in her bloodstream back into play.
So, how was Alexandra connected to Richard Valentine?…
No, not Richard … But whoever wanted Richard to "take care of" Alexandra. Donny's puppeteer was a mere puppet himself. Whoever it was that pulled Richard's strings wanted Alexandra dead.
Was she once prey who had escaped? Had she offended him in some manner? Had her ancestors — be they Witch or human — offended him in some way? Or did the Grand Puppeteer just want a new pet with mystical powers and a mouth-watering taste?
Regardless of the reason for Alexandra being wanted by a vampire, she would become the target of another attack "— and soon."
But for the time being, it appeared that all was quiet.
"Hey, Ben!" I wrapped the six-year-old in a hug.
"Hi, Alex! Look what I made in awrt class today!" A piece of white construction paper was thrust into my face, a grinning Benjamin Sherwood standing beneath it.
Drawn in colored crayon was a scene from our very recent holiday festivities. In the upper, left-hand corner was the bottom half of a pine tree, under which were tiny, multi-colored boxes that were meant to be Christmas gifts. The center of the page was dominated by a table with a variety of foods atop it — all of which were colored orange. On one side of the table, a large, circular mass that was a swirl of purple and brown — which I took to be myself — was laid out on the floor with tiny "x's" for eyes. On the other side was a small, smiling stick-ish figure wearing a yellow crown. I took this to be Ben.
"Dat's me," Ben said, pointing at the stick figure. "And dat's you, Alex, after Kwistmas dinner."
I laughed as I took another look at the picture, recalling what had actually happed that night.
Ben had challenged me to an eating contest — who could eat the most gingerbread cookies. I'd eaten about half of the feast Monica had prepared, and wasn't sure if I could handle any more food. About five gingerbread men in, I clutched at my stomach and threw myself to the floor, surrendering. (Truth is — I could've eaten the entire platter of cookies and the rest of the turkey, too.)
I handed Ben his artwork. "It's a true masterpiece. Keep it safe so that we can hang it up at home, okay?"
Ben nodded, and I opened the car door for him. Once I was in the driver's seat, Ben struggled to hand me something else.
"What's this?" I asked, reaching back to take the envelope. My name was written across the front.
"I dunno. Da man said to give it to you."
"What man?" I questioned, an icy edge creeping into my voice as I suspiciously eyed the envelope.
"I dunno." Ben shrugged. "He came up to me at weecess, gaved me dat, and tolded me to give it to you. So, I did."
I turned to face Ben and eased my mind into his, gently searching for the image of the man who had approached Ben at recess. Donny … That son of a — How dare he contact Ben!
With a low growl, I whirled back around to face the steering wheel, ripping the envelope from whatever it encased. I threw the shredded paper aside and unfolded the brief letter — more of a note.
It has been too long since our last encounter, my sweet child. Eleven years, isn't it? My, where does the time go? And you — you, Alexandra. You have grown into such a lovely young woman. You're eighteen now, correct? You look exactly like your mother, and you have your father's eyes. Oh, how you have grown …
And I see that you have adopted a new family as well. The Sherwoods, yes? Monica and Ben? Wonderful people, Alexandra. You have done well in life. But I fear that you and I have unfinished business, my dear, and I don't like to leave lose ends untied.
I shall be in touch.
P.S. I do hope that Monica enjoyed the champagne.
I stared at the page stretched taut between my hands, reading and rereading the note as I vaguely remembered Monica coming home from the office Christmas party with a gifted bottle of champagne.
I was right — Donny was connected to my parents' murderer. And now, their murderer was coming back to finish the job. But I still didn't understand why? Why did my parents have to die? Why did he have to come back for me? Why here? Why now, after all these years?
And whoever the hell this "V" was, he wanted to make sure that I knew he was watching. He knew where I was and who I was with. He could get to Monica or Ben or me at any time.
My eyes snapped up from the paper, and my head swiveled to look at Ben.
"Alex, can we go home now?"
I blinked slowly, holding back the thoughts and words that threatened to overwhelm me. "Uh, yeah, Ben. We can go home."
"Kaleb? Kaleb, they're gone! They're gone! Just like that! All of them! The whole House! They've just … vanished!"
"Dani — Dani, calm down. Tell me what happened." Kaleb attempted to soothe his sister, but her words continued to stream through the cell phone at an alarming rate. To human ears, Danica Breslin's voice would have sounded like that of a singer on a cassette tape on fast forward.
"They're gone, Kaleb!"
"Who's gone, Dani?"
"The House! The whole damn House!" Danica shouted in exasperation.
"The Valentine House?"
"Yes, the Valentine House! At what other Houses have I spent the last four months upholding and reinforcing the Code?!"
"What happened, Dani? Give me details." Kaleb sat himself in a chair, his mind amess with thoughts of distress.
"I don't know what the hell happened, Kaleb!" she snarled. "I was out tracking last night, I come back this morning, and the whole damn House is empty! The House, the grounds — everything! The entire Household just up and left while I was away!"
"Did you search? Did you look for —"
"This isn't my first mission, Kaleb! Of course I searched for traces of where they've gone! They didn't leave a damn thing except for the bodies of whichever of my men got in their way last night."
If Richard's House had gone into hiding, that meant something big was about to happen. And Kaleb, although he still could not discern what connection Alexandra Sherwood had in all of this, had the feeling that this put her in immediate danger.
We had ourselves a major time-jump here. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in January. HAPPY NEW YEAR! -throws confetti- This Chapter reviews what happened over those months we missed and kicks off the rest of the story. Now, we're getting to the meat of the Fic. The next Chapter will be particulary informative, so pay close attention. And here are a few previews to keep you reading: from here on out, Alex and Kaleb will have a lot more one-on-one stuff; Danica shall finally arrive; someone will not live to see the sequel; and Alex will make a particularly tough decision.
That's all for now. No telling when the next Chapter will be up. I've got finals, an AP Exam, a concert, a graduation ceremony, the final issue of the paper and the newsletter, and oodles of other fun stuffs to worry about.