Chapter Two: Getting Off Easy
I have met with the vampire council many times before, but never in the meeting chamber. Despite their fearsome reputation, I have never felt so intimidated when I was with them. Standing before them in the center of the nearly empty room, with a convicted felon by my side would have caused my heart to stutter, if it was still beating. The eleven members of the council were seated behind a long table, with their leader Caleb in the center. He was the only one who wasn't dressed in a fancy suit. Instead, he wore cut off cargo shorts and a ratty old t-shirt. He was blonde and tan, and smiling grandly at us. His smile was almost worse than the frowns of the rest of the council.
Genevieve didn't sway or hesitate. She walked right up to Caleb and leaned on the table before him. He wrinkled his nose and leaned backward. "Clean yourself up, Eve." He handed her his cup of water and a tissue.
She wiped her face. "Josiah tells me you want to talk to me. What do you want to talk about Caleb? How much you miss me, maybe?" She gave him a coy little smirk. "How much you loved it the last time we saw each other? That time in Palm Beach?"
Caleb laughed. "I'm not sure that's appropriate, given the circumstances. You killed a lot of people, Eve."
"So did you," she reminded him.
"But I never made the mistake of being caught, or killing my own kind." He smiled at her and grabbed her hand. He played with her fingers, ignoring the disapproving looks of the other council members. Caleb ran this circus. He could do what he wanted, no matter what the others thought.
"Genevieve, step back," I told her. When she didn't move, I took her arm and pulled her backward. I wanted her throat a safe distance from Caleb's strong hands. "You said you had a deal for us. I would like to hear it."
"Always straight to business with you, isn't it Josiah," he sighed. "Yes, I have a deal. I'm wondering how far Genevieve will go to save her life."
"As far as it takes," I spoke for her. "Whatever it takes."
"Is that right?" Caleb drummed his fingers against the table. "But I'd like to hear from Genevieve herself."
"Whatever it takes," she echoed. Her voice sounded hollow, and just a little bit sarcastic. Caleb didn't seem to care.
"We will grant you your freedom, on one condition."
"That you go back to business as usual. You rejoin your friends in New Orleans, and you continue to do what you always did. Slaughter whomever you want, wreak havoc, sabotage council projects and plans." He looked to me. "And then have your babysitter report back to us. We want to know everything. What you're doing, what the big picture is, who is in charge. Because it would take someone a little more physiologically sound to organize your group than you are, even though I realize you must be rather high up on their totem pole."
"Why are you interested in us?" Genevieve asked.
"Because you and I both know that a group of unhappy vampires out to destroy the council is dangerous. Surely even you can comprehend that."
"No one wants to destroy the council," she said. "None of us care enough about it to destroy it."
"Then I want to know why there are so many of you gathered in this group, and what you do want."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Caleb couldn't possibly think that I would actually go along with this. I had better things to be doing than babysitting my sister and her murdering friends. The disbelief must have shown on my face.
"Is there something wrong, Josiah?"Caleb asked.
"I was just wondering what will happen if I don't agree with this arrangement."
"Then she dies," he spoke plainly.
I sighed. I didn't really have a choice. "I'll do it then."
Caleb clapped his hands together and smiled. "Splendid! Eve?"
"Lovely," one of the other council members, a woman with fiery red hair and talon-like nails painted black said. "Unstable murderer goes back on the street, and we have to continue cleaning up her mess."
Genevieve snarled at her and crossed her arms. "Am I free to go now Caleb?"
In my opinion, a wiser person would have refused. They would have locked Genevieve back in that tiny cell and thrown the key down a drain. If it had been me—and she was not my sister—I would have had her executed for her crimes. I wondered if she realized just how lucky she was getting off.
It seemed that Caleb didn't share my opinions on the matter. "Wait outside, please. Luca?"
One of their bodyguards stepped forward from behind them and took hold of Genevieve's arm. "Why don't we find you something to eat?" he offered. She went with him, blissfully unaware of the potentially dangerous situation she was in.
"She had better be in one piece when I'm finished here," I warned Luca. He rolled his eyes and Caleb laughed.
"She'll be just fine," Caleb assured me. He waited for the door to shut behind Luca and Genevieve, and then the easy smile slipped off his face. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "The rest of you may go," he waved off the council. The redhead scowled in irritation, but the rest looked eager to leave. No doubt they were on their way to spread the news of my sister's release.
When we were alone, Caleb leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the table. "I swear, the girl gives me more migraines than any other criminal in our world. Always running around, getting in with the wrong crowds, diving into trouble faster than I can snap my fingers.
"I've got to warn you Josiah, I think this is the last time I can bail her out. You saw the rest of the council—they're furious. They think that I am only releasing her because I couldn't stand to see her die, and they're right. I'm too attached to her, and everyone knows it. If I let her go again after this, you and I both know that I'll be asked to leave the council. And if I refuse to leave, they will have me killed."
"I understand," I said. "To tell you the truth, I'm a little shocked that you let her go. Genevieve is a menace, plain and simple."
"She's your sister," he reminded me.
"She's a killer."
He sighed. "I know. This is why I need you to stay with her. I would go if I wasn't under so much scrutiny here, and every member of her rebel group wouldn't recognize me immediately. You're perfect for the job. You've spent the last hundred years in Asia and Africa and the Middle East, so almost no one but me knows who you are or what you look like. You're nearly invisible, and therefore the perfect person to spy on them."
"What do you need to know?"
He smiled at me, chilling and predatory. "Everything."
I nodded and moved toward the door, assuming our meeting was over.
"Oh, and Josiah?" he called after me. "Don't fuck this up. One wrong move and both of you are dead."
On my way out of the manor, I had to step over a maid who was lying face down on the floor, in a puddle of blood. I groaned. "Evie!"
I found her on the porch, sitting with Luca. She was chattering a mile a minute at him, this time about the Russian revolution. Luca nodded as she spoke, looking genuinely interested.
"Let's go, Evie. We need to leave before Caleb finds your mess…"
"Sorry," Luca said, standing up. "That one was my fault. She insists she isn't hungry."
I did not believe him, but let it go. Genevieve followed me like a lost puppy dog across the estate, holding her arms up and brushing them through the weeping willows that lined the driveway. I stuffed my hands in my pockets and hummed to myself quietly, hoping anyone who saw me would think I was nonchalant and at ease. I was the opposite, of course. However, if I have learned one thing in my very long life it is that appearances are everything. If I behave nervously, my enemies will exploit that. If I look happy, they will attempt to crush my contentment. Life consists of a never-ending show, and as the star it is out of the question for me to give up my act. My survival depends solely on the quality of my poker face. I imagined that Evie's must be quite good, considering she's lived for so long without following a single rule that our kind has lain before her.
"So how long have you been sleeping with Caleb?" I asked her. She didn't answer.
When I was absolutely sure that there was no one following us I broke out in a sprint. Vampires run much faster than the average human, and I considered myself faster than the average vampire. Genevieve kept up easily, and I had a feeling that she could have passed me up at any time with ease. Babysitting her was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought.
She was my only living relative and all I knew of her was what had been documented in the reports on her crimes. We were turned within years of each other but split up long before that. I left to fight in the Civil War for the south in eighteen sixty two, and drifted from brothel to brothel in Atlanta after the war ended for over a year. By the time I came home, my father was well on his way to drinking himself to death and Genevieve was long gone. I had always assumed that she ran off with a boy and lived out her life somewhere up North, despite the wild tales of my savage baby sister I heard from the slaves. I only learned that she was alive when Caleb informed me of her imprisonment. I was still adjusting to the idea of her being alive at all, much less a hardened criminal.
Genevieve was so different from the little girl I had known all those years ago.
We ran twenty miles through the swamp to the edge of New Orleans. Somewhere along the way I realized that I could not bring her back to the rebels yet. She needed food, rest, and new clothes. I decided that food should be at the top of that list. At the first roadside bar we saw we went in and sat down. I ordered myself red wine and a soda for Genevieve, and was stared at by the other patrons as I waited for our drinks. In my black Armani suit and leather shoes stained with mud from the swamp, and Genevieve's bloodstained rags, we stuck out painfully next to the blue collar workers who frequented the bar.
In an attempt to attract as little attention as possible, I sat in a booth in the very back of the bar and made Evie sit between the wall and I. We waited for the perfect victim, which ultimately was a woman so strung out on crystal meth that she could hardly function. I instructed Genevieve to wait for me outside behind the bar and made my move on the woman. I flirted with her for a few moments as she eyed my clothes and Rolex wristwatch. It took minimal effort on my part to convince her to come home with me.
With my arm slung over her shoulders, I led her outside and around the building.
"So what kinda car do ya drive, mister?"
"A Rolls Royce," I lied smoothly.
"Oh goodness, well isn't that nice." She smiled, probably planning on stealing my keys after we slept together.
"Well, where is it?" she asked when we rounded the corner.
I pressed myself against her, distracting her from the very empty parking lot. I leaned down as if I were about to kiss her, and she closed her eyes and arched her neck. I bit her quickly, and silenced her yelp by breaking her neck. She tasted dirty and tainted, no doubt because of the drugs, but she was better than nothing and we didn't have time to bury the body of someone with an attentive family. This woman would not be missed, and could be left on the cement. Genevieve emerged from the shadows, her eyes dark with hunger.
"Here," I said, holding out the limp corpse for her to take.
Genevieve leaned toward the woman and sniffed her. She crinkled her nose in disgust and jerked away. "No, thank you."
"In your condition you really can't afford to be picky about it, Evie."
She shook her head and backed away; as if she was afraid I might smack her or force her to feed. I shook my head in frustration. A perfectly good meal was laid out in front of her, and she wouldn't take it. She had been drinking stale, room temperature blood for weeks; she should have been famished. But she didn't want to eat, and I had gone through the trouble of killing a person for her and now the blood was getting cold and it was going to go to waste. Even meth addicts had to be better than what she had been given at the manor.
My patients were dwindling fast. I remembered Genevieve as a stubborn child but this was ridiculous. She should have been kissing my feet, thanking me over and over again for my assistance in her freedom. If I had not happen to call Caleb about a business matter, and he had not inquired about the similarity in our names she would be dead. I was the only one willing to take on defending her, or taking responsibility for her. She owed me.
Genevieve rocked back on her heels and stared down at the bloody mess at my feet. "You shouldn't feed on drug addicts," she advised me quietly. "It's not safe."
"Don't be ridiculous. That's a myth."
She shrugged. "I warned you," she said in a singsong voice.
"Superstitions do nothing but cause you to be afraid of the world. You're old enough to know that."
She turned away from me and walked toward the road. Her jeans dragged on the ground, frayed at the ends and almost covering her bare feet. From the back a large stain on her shirt was visible. I couldn't tell if it was dirt or dried blood.
"Where are you going Evie?" I called, striding to catch up.
"To find a payphone," she replied. "I need to call Cam."
"Cam?" I threw my hands up in the air. "Who the hell is Cam? Some figment of your imagination? Or yet another husband, maybe?"
"What are you talking about?" She looked so completely clueless, so confused. She probably had no idea just how crazy she was.
"Never mind," I said. "But you don't need a payphone. I have a cell." I pulled a little black cell phone out of my pocket and held it out to her. She shook her head at me.
"I need a payphone."
I followed her along the side of the highway, at a distance so that I could text my secretary and tell her to put all meetings for the firm on hold for now. With any luck, I would be finished in a few days.
After half an hour, we found a gas station. Genevieve went straight to the payphone and slipped a quarter into the slot. She punched in a number quickly and drummed her fingers against the phone as it rang.
"Hello?" a male voice grumbled, sounding only half awake. Genevieve's face brightened instantly.
"They let me go."
"Genny?" He sounded shocked.
"Yeah." She grinned and twirled the cord around her fingers. "I can't talk for long—I'm on a payphone. But we're headed your way. Actually, we're in New Orleans now."
"My brother and I." Her eyes met mine. "You'll get to meet him."
"Is he a…?"
"So he can hear…"
"Everything you're saying."
"My thoughts exactly."
He sighed. "I'm staying on Bourbon Street. The hotel we stayed in during Mardi Gras last spring. Room two-fourteen."
"Okay. We'll be about twenty minutes."
"Good. And Genny? How much does he know?"
"Oh God. This will be fun," he said, seemingly sarcastic.
"I know. Bye."
She slapped the phone into the holder and frowned at me. "He can't see me like this. I need new clothes."
"Why would he care?" I asked. "It's mostly blood."
"Because Cam is human," she said seriously.