whoa, yeah, a chapter. I don't know what to say. I am busy with other writing projects right now, so this one is very very back burner. I do feel like I need to finish their story, though, so hopefully it'll get done EVENTUALLY. Thank you for all the encouragement and kind words and even the 'write more!'s because they do help. Also, my sister's bullying.
I woke up slowly to see my clock glaring 12:35pm at me from the white nightstand beside my bed. Thankfully, my room was still dark, despite it being midday, due to my cream curtains. I rolled over and debated about going back to sleep, but decided that I had stuff to get done today. Pushing my black and grey geometric designed covers with a sharp, decisive motion, the cold air rushed in and chased away the desire to just curl up in the warmth and fall back into a dose. I scratched at my hair, noting that my elastic had fallen out during the night, and decided my first step would be coffee.
Sitting up in bed, I grabbed my cell from off the nightstand where it was charging and flipped it open, feeling an odd mixture of disappointment and relief when there were no phone calls or text messages.
Later, my tummy happily satisfied by toast and coffee, I made my way to the giant public library. It was a gorgeous glass and stone building that made my inner architect swoon in delight. Supposedly, it was shaped like a book, with the central glass staircase being the spine and the rest of the building stretching out to either sides like the cover, but as much as I attempted to squint and turn my head to see it, it didn't look much more like a big building to me and my unfortunate lack of imagination. That being said, it was one of my favourite places in the city, and so full of light and sunshine with an entirely glass front, unlike the dark dingy library in my hometown. I shouldered my tote filled with most of my dad's notebooks (and a snack) higher on my shoulder to attempt to make it through the revolving door.
My dad was the one who had introduced me into the business. It was never a big secret in our family what he did, although we did learn from an early age to tell people he worked for an extermination company instead of, y'know, hunt evil things. And when I started to show an interest in it, unlike my siblings both who decided on relatively common careers, Dad happily took me under his wing and showed me the ropes – how to set traps and hunt things that were essentially faster and infinitely stronger than we were. I wasn't the most patient student in the world, but I made up for it by having some unique talents that we both knew about, but rarely actually acknowledged outright. Not only did I have an innate danger warning system that got us out of trouble more often than not, but I had the ability to pinpoint where anyone was at any given time in the world, simply by concentrating. I had no idea how to explain it, but if I though hard about their name or what they looked like, suddenly, I'd just... know where they were.
Needless to say, I rocked at hide and go seek.
One of the most important things Dad imposed on me, though, was the importance of research. The more you knew about something, the easier it was to kill, he always told me. He had a huge library filled with old lore books and his own handwritten black cover notebooks that condensed everything he had found out from said books, or from other sources, or even learnt firsthand.
The last thing he was in the middle of researching, however, he was doing on his own. Whenever I would ask him what it was about, he would brush it off and tell me that he would share as soon as he actually had something concrete together. And although he gave me the same cock and bull story for a good year and a half, I trusted him on it and didn't really consider the fact that there might not have been a 'later'.
I wiped the frown that had settled onto my face at my own thoughts, and surged into the library, the place rather bustling with a quiet energy that I always loved. It was especially busy that day, being a Saturday, so most of the tables near the back were already occupied with students having little laptop conferences, probably working on projects. I joined the queue at the 'reserves' section, patiently waiting until it was my turn at the desk.
I smiled sweetly at the older middle-aged woman behind the desk. "I have some books on hold for McCarthy?"
The woman nodded and disappeared for several minutes into a room in the back, to come back laden with several large, aged books.
I gave her my card and watched as her eyebrows went slowly up as she rang five books on the occult and three more about the history of various monsters. They weren't exactly commonplace books, which is why I had to get them transferred in from other libraries.
My face didn't betray anything and I almost dared her with my stare to say something. It wasn't like I could make a convincing lie to having all these books, and it wasn't any of her business anyway. But she didn't say anything, and simply slipped the receipt of all my books into the top one (labelled 'The Chronological History of the Supernatural and their Creatures') and handed the pile to me.
Holding my heavy armful of books, I looked at the elevator longingly, thought of the gallon of cream I had thrown in my coffee that morning, and sighed, heading for the stairs.
Five flights later, my calves were starting to ache and my arms were getting rather tired, so I simply couldn't help the sigh of relief once I reached the landing and pushed open the glass door that separated the stairwell from the rest of the stacks with my back.
One of the reasons I liked it up on the fifth floor was due to the fact that no one else really liked to hike up that high, and as such, there were several empty tables from which to choose from. I took one close to the window and scattered my books on it, unzipping my hoodie and hanging it from the back of the chair before settling in.
A small pang clenched in my heart when I pulled out my father's notes, as it usually did. His bold, quick writing was slightly helter-skelter, but all it did was remind me of how much I really, really missed him.
It had been four years ago that I found him dead in his office, drained of all his blood and the name 'Henri Blancard' scribbled hastily on a piece of paper underneath his desk. I honestly couldn't tell you what the next few hours were like. I'm pretty sure Mom and Pete took care of everything, but whenever I think back on that day, the memory seems to be coated in jello or something. I remember holding Sandra as she bawled, wondering why I wasn't crying too, but simply being numb for days. The police had nothing to go on and although they did declare it a homicide death by exsanguination, the case quickly went cold.
After a year or so, despite the urging of my brother and sister, I began to look into the case myself, using my knowledge of the 'other' and my innate abilities. Mom seemed to understand and only made me promise to come home again. Taking what money was supposed to be my university fund, I travelled to Quebec to where I knew 'Henri' was... only to find him a seventy-two year old gas station attendant who barely spoke English.
Almost completely discouraged, I followed a seemingly dead end lead that led me down into America to see a man named Calchas...
I brushed off my thoughts and turned back to my dad's research. Apparently, he had been trying to pinpoint the origin of the vampires, which made a little bit of sense. According to a lot of lore, if you killed the first vamp, the entire line would die off. Now, at first that was incredibly appealing to me, as the vamps I had previously hunted were nothing but scum who took pleasure in tormenting innocents and even held harems of human girls to feed from and were generally the sort of pricks that the world would be far better off without.
But over the past year, my opinion had changed. Not only had I met several nice people who just so happened to be vampires, but my best friend was half-vamp, not to mention my boss.
Still, I felt like I owed it to my father to continue his research, even to simply honour his memory.
With that, I opened the first book and began skimming through its contents. The problem with researching supernatural stuff was that it was full of garbage. Half-truths and outright lies and mistakes and I often only found one useful piece of information, if I found any at all, or if I even knew what I was looking for. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack without knowing what the hell a needle was.
I had a little more hope for these books, as they were ones Calc had suggested to me. He had agreed to help me with my dad's research as one of the stipulations for me working for him. Of course, that was after I had tried unsuccessfully to stake him about half a dozen times, absolutely certain that he was the one who had killed my father.
One night, after I had finally traced down where he was living, I managed to sneak past all his security and climb a trellis (which nearly collapsed under my weight) into his window during the middle of the day, expecting him to be sleeping, or at least quite unaware. Turns out, he had laid a trap for me, and I spend the afternoon tied to a chair in his study, howling every single obscenity and epithet I could think of, and when I ran out of the ones in English, French, Spanish, and Polish that I knew, I started making up my own language to insult him in.
When I had finally exhausted myself, Calc finally appeared to explain that he hadn't killed my father, he was a source for his research. Of course, I didn't believe him, but he ended up pulling some sort of vampire mind trick and knocked me unconscious. I woke up back in my motel with a letter addressed to me in my father's writing. Almost in disbelief I tore it open and read the three pages written in my dad's unmistakable scrawl. It basically affirmed everything that Calc had said, even going so far as to say that if there was one person outside our family that he did and I should trust, it would be him.
I cried for three days straight.
Sometime on the fourth day between my eighth pint of ice cream, bawling my eyes out, and taking day long naps, my cell phone rang. I answered it unthinkingly, probably assuming it was my mom, because no one else ever phoned me.
It was Calc, saying that he suspected there was a group of vampires hunting down by the east-side mall. I hung up on him without saying anything, but eventually, my despair and incompetent rage needed an outlet. And there was nothing as cathartic as killing some bad guys.
Eventually, he asked me to do more and more jobs, then offered me a paycheque and help with my father's research. Plus, he hooked me up with June, who at the time needed a roommate, so I could move out of the motel I was currently staying in which was good, as my finances were rapidly disappearing.
I suddenly realised I had skimmed over three pages and not actually read a single thing. I flipped back to the beginning of the book as I mimed shooting myself in the temple. Interlocking my fingers, I stretched my arms out back behind my head, hearing my elbows and shoulders give a satisfying crack. I was still fidgety, though, so I pulled my elastic out of my hair, letting my straight, flat light blonde hair fall to my shoulders. Tousling it with my one hand to relieve the tingles of my scalp, I ran my other finger underneath every line as I read in an effort to try and pay attention.
But again, my mind wandered (I never said I was good at research), mostly back to the events of last night.
I had never ever encountered that many DOIs in my entire hunting experience than I had at that club. Even scarier than the fact that there were so many of them in one place was the look on Calc's face when I told him about them. I chewed the top of my pen absently. June had told me about when she and Tiernay had been looking for his daughter, they too had run into a pit just chock full of DOIs. It was frightening and downright worrisome. Why were they suddenly in such great number? Was this a general trend? Did something suddenly happen to make them all go crazy? And did this mean that Calc –
I jumped and let out a surprised squeak when my ass suddenly vibrated. Slightly embarrassed and hoping that no one had seen that, I pulled my cell phone from my back pocket. My lips quirked. Speak of the devil.
I hit 'Ignore' on the call, and immediately fired off a text.
I'm in the library, can't talk. What do you want?
A few seconds later a double buzz alerted me to his response.
Need you to pick something up for me. Go to the stairwell, there are tons of seats on the fifth floor. No one will steal yours.
With a great put-upon sigh, I followed his instructions , making sure to stand in a place where I could see my stuff and bust in to kick the ass of anyone who tried to take it. I speed dialled him.
"You are totally creepy," I greeted him when he picked up with a 'Hello?' "How did you know that I was on the fifth floor? I could have been on the sixth for all you know." My voice echoed slightly in the tall stairwell, and wondered if the people downstairs could hear me. I lowered my volume, just in case.
"You're always on the fifth, Jess," he explained dryly. "Anyway, I need you to go to a house and pick up a book for me."
"I'm not your slave," I fired back.
"No, I pay you too much for that," he replied. "Think more... personal assistant."
I gave an unimpressed snort.
"Oh, I guess that this VIP 60% off Burberry card is going to go to waste," he remarked in his infuriatingly offhand manner.
A high pitched needy whine emerged from my throat before I could cull it for sounding childish. He knew my weakness for fine clothes, and that I had been wanting that new perfume of theirs for a while now, and used that information mercilessly. Most of me hated the fact that he knew me so well, although a deep down part of me was secretly thrilled. Still, it wasn't a huge job, and for 60% off Burberry...
"This is bribery," I complained.
"Pure and simple," he agreed. "Got a pen?"
After trudging back to my table to take down an address and a book name, I told Calc I'd get it to him by the end of the day. I rushed back to the stairwell and phoned June.
"Hey June, what are you doing today?" I asked, then cut off whatever she was about to say. "EHHH wrong answer. You're coming with me on a road trip."
"I'm watching Gabby today while Matty sleeps." Luckily, she sounded more amused than annoyed, which boded well for me.
I shrugged despite the fact I knew she couldn't see it. "Bring the munchkin. I just have to drive up to Lansdale and don't want to do it alone."
"But Jess," she began to protest.
"But Juuuuuune," I whined back to her, knowing that she'd give in before I would.
She sighed and I did a silently victorious fist pump. "Okay, fine."
"I'll pick you guys up in like half an hour, okay?"
"Okay, see you then."
I hung up and immediately began tucking my father's things back into my bag, trying to be quick but careful as the last thing I wanted was to rip something. Once all the notebooks were safely stashed and I had pulled on my hoodie and slung my tote over my shoulder, I piled the books on top of each other and promptly decided that I had done my exercise for the day and rushed over to the elevator, my bag banging against my hip rhythmically as I half-jogged.
After I had dropped off my books back with the lady at the reserves section, with a request that they again be put on hold for me, I drove over to Tiernay's apartment.
June and Gabby were waiting outside, June having a firm grasp of on the little girl's hand. She was looking smart as usual, with a soft yellow top over her tan pants with a dark brown puffy vest and matching cream scarf and wool cap pulled over her curly red hair. Gabby was looking sort of like something simply threw up pink, with her pink and green daisy tights and a pink sweater and pink scarf, holding onto a similarly pink dressed doll, but somehow through all that, she managed to look adorable as only a five year old could. If only I were still young enough to wear pigtails.
June waved to me as soon as she saw my car and I pulled up beside them.
"Hey," June greeted me when I reached over and unlocked the doors. "Do you think we need Gabby's carseat?"
"Nah, we'll be fine," I assured her as June buckled the little girl into the back seat. June had warmed up to motherhood in a way that Mar and I had always known she would. She climbed in the front, dropping the large beige bag embroidered with light green ivy in the corners on the car floor between her feet. It sounded quite heavy.
"What on earth do you have in there?" I asked with a raised brow at it.
"Everything," June replied dryly, buckling her seatbelt up as I pulled back out to the road. "So, where're we going?"
"I told you, to some guy's house to pick up a book," I replied, merging onto the highway. The address that Calc had given me was way up in this little summer home suburb, the one with the huge mansions on several acres overlooking the lake.
Gabby began talking in the backseat, and I glanced back at her curiously.
"She's just talking to Strawberry," June explained. She obviously anticipated my next question, because she added, "That's her doll's name. Now, what book?"
I shrugged, not taking my hands from the wheel. "Some book I don't know the name of. Something something codex."
"And who are you getting it for?"
I threw her the most 'are-you-kidding?' look I could manage while still keeping an eye on the road. "Who do you think?"
She gave that little smile she always did when she was imagining something romantic. I barely refrained from outwardly rolling my eyes.
Everyone and their mother had bets on Calc and I. I know they all thought that I didn't know that they knew, but I did. Truth was, I had thought about it a couple times. But not only had I just gotten over thinking he was my father's killer, but he was now my boss. Plus, he didn't seem to be actively pursuing me either. So I made sure I kept those two thoughts in the forefront of my mind, and I was perfectly fine.
"So tell me about this shiny new exhibit," I said, turning the topic.
June took the bait as I knew she would and immediately launched into an excited conversation about the new Rococo something or other showing at the art museum she worked at (practically ran, in my opinion, but June was far too nice a person to see how much she was being taken advantage of). I nodded in all the right places although all I really took away from her babble was that it was old and 'ornate'. Still, it got her mind off of the Calc thing, so I considered the conversation switch a success.
It was right around when Gabby started fussing that we reached the house. Or I suppose, we reached the big gate in the wall around the property. The house itself was hidden up the driveway, surrounded by tall trees and some nicely manicured bushes. I rolled down my window at the little intercom thingy and pressed the white button.
We waited. June distracted Gabby with juice from her big beige bag. I pressed the button again, this time a little harder than probably necessary.
"Well, screw this," I said, more than a little peeved. To have driven all the way out here, wasting half my afternoon, only to be ignored? Calc was going to get an angry earful.
I was just putting the car into reverse when I voice finally spoke up from the speaker.
"Hi," I said through my teeth, attempting to sound polite. "This is Jessica McCarthy? I'm picking up a book for Calc."
There was another long pause, but then the gate swung open.
"Thanks for the enthusiastic greeting," I muttered as I followed the long tree-lined drive up to a circular type parkade already littered with cars. The house itself was gorgeous. A slightly sprawling complex hidden amongst the dappling shade of elm trees, it had a sort of stone brick front and ground to ceiling arched windows that instantly put me in mind of old castles. And money. It had peaked roofs and from the outside I couldn't tell whether it was two stories, or simply had an incredibly lofty ceiling. It wasn't built tall, but long, and I rather wish I could see the back.
"Oh wow," June said, putting my thoughts into words.
I unbuckled my seatbelt. "Do you guys want to stay here or come with me? I'm hoping this isn't going to take too long."
"I think we will at least get out and stretch our legs," June replied, already undoing her own seatbelt.
I nodded, and got out of my car, but stopped and stood for a minute, just looking at the mansion. Sighing in repressed jealously, I gathered myself and headed up to the front door. It opened just as I raised my hand to knock, not seeing a doorbell anywhere.
Standing there was a large golden skinned man with dark, almost black hair swept back into a small ponytail, but in his case, it looked on the verge of sleezy as opposed to regal and inspiring. Or perhaps I just preferred shorter hair. He was wearing a black suit vest over his white collared shirt and tie that barely looked like it did up around his giant neck, and his black pants bulged at the thigh whenever he moved. In any case, despite the Italian greaseball stereotype hair, he did look tough and like someone I didn't really want to mess with. His bicep was probably the size of my thigh.
Squinting warily at his giant non-butler-esque guns, I managed to give him a brilliant smile. "Hi. I'm Jessica. I'm here to pick up the book. Mr. McPhearson?"
Giant Butler raised his eyebrow imperiously. "It's Lord Phaerson. He's in the study," he grunted. "Follow me."
"Ugh," June said from behind me as I walked into the foyer. I jumped and looked at her, slightly surprised. I hadn't realised she had followed me in, but she had, holding Gabby in her arms and a pinched look on her face.
"What?" I inquired as Giant Butler gave us both an exasperated look. I fell back into step behind him and June followed suit. We were lead down a plushly carpeted hallway that seemed to just go on forever. The place was intensely decorated. There was a painting in a golden frame on seemingly every spare inch of wall, and a variety of tables held Asian vases and Greek sculptures and all sorts of different odds and ends. The ceiling arched high overhead, answering my initial question outside about whether or not there was a second floor. I noticed some odd scuff marks up near the ceiling, and briefly wondered how they managed to get up there.
"This place," she said with a frown, waving the arm not holding up Gabby around vaguely and bringing my attention back to her. "It's like... a hodgepodge of fifty different styles jammed into one place. All expensive and rare, I'll give you, but absolutely no taste. It's almost disgraceful."
"June," I hissed at her warningly, jerking my head at the guy in front of us. "While I'm sure they appreciate your critique of their decor, this is probably neither the time nor the place. I can't get that book if we've been kicked out."
June flushed slightly, but had a slightly mulish set to her mouth, that I knew from experience meant she would still stand by what she said, even if just in her head.
"June, what are we doing?" Gabby asked, her arms hooked around June's neck. "Is this a big house?"
"Yes, it is a big house," June replied to her, her stubborn look melting into a smile as she looked down at the girl. "Do you see all those paintings on the wall? Aren't they pretty? Which one do you like the best?"
So it begins, I thought in amusement to myself. June was going to turn Gabby into a little artiste like her if she had any say in it.
"In here," the golden giant butler said, forming words for the first time since the foyer, ushering us into a room.
A similarly large brown haired man sat behind the desk, writing with, I kid not, a quill pen. He stood, also wearing some sort of jacket-less dark blue suit, although he was tieless and a lot more decent looking, if you went for the bodybuilder types. It wasn't just his clothes, though. This man exuded some sort of overwhelming aura of regal power that I suddenly found myself feeling skittish and uncomfortable, like I was meeting the Queen or something.
I jammed those feelings deep down as I heard the butler introduce me (adding June and Gabby on as 'plus friends') and saying that I had arrived for the book.
Just then, though, June's cellphone went off. She gently set Gabby on the floor in order to free her hands to grab it out of her bag and pulled it out. Everyone turned to look at her as she answered it, and she noticed just in time for her to stutter her 'Hello?' as her face went bright fuchsia. Grabbing Gabby's hand, she stepped out into the hallway as she assured whoever was on the phone that she and Gabby were fine. It must have been Tiernay.
Lord Phaerson glowered slightly, whether at me, June's cellphone, or that was his default expression, I don't know. "I don't usually hand my property over to your kind," he spoke, his low voice coloured with a slight sneer, "but I do owe Calchas a favour." He nodded to his butler who bowed slightly and disappeared out the door again.
I raised an eyebrow, reminded again why I hated vampires. The lot of them were elitist prigs. Like if one had lived an extra hundred years they had a perfectly viable excuse to be a douche. "I'll try and make sure my kind doesn't just use your book to start one of my primitive human fires," I replied through a sweet smile.
His look darkened, but he was interrupted from saying anything when the door opened again. I turned, expecting Golden Butler, but instead, a pretty girl who looked a few years younger than me poked her head in. I frowned slightly, recognising her from somewhere, but couldn't place her face.
"Marla and Callum are here for dinner, Daddy," she chirped cheerily, her hands busy putting her long auburn hair up into a messy bun. "I let them in cause I don't know where – oh! There you are, Graham."
She leaned back from the doorway as the door opened wider and the butler came back into the room, nodding at the girl. "My lady."
"Breydon and Ena are making dinner tonight," the girl continued, smiling at the butler before turning back to her father, "and Ransley is still coming, but I don't think Loella is because she said she had prior plans. And I don't think Marlow's coming either; you know how he feels about Justin." Her face took on a slightly crestfallen look but then recovered and perked up. "But I wanted to tell you and Graham that dinner's going to be ready shortly."
While the girl prattled on to her father, the butler handed a giant tome to me, which I took with a slight 'Oomph', it being heavier than it looked, and began to examine. I was surprised the pages were still together, held the way they were by three large leather straps. The cover was darkly smudged with obvious stains of undeterminable origin (blood? Soot? Coffee?), but still legible, Véþormr's Codex embossed across the top although most of the gold paint that had filled the letters had chipped away with time.
Phaerson looked like a man who was upset, but didn't want to show it. He gave his daughter a small smile. "That's nice, dear. I will be done here in a few minutes."
The girl smiled prettily and disappeared again, and I hiked the book under my arm. "Well, thanks for the book," I said loudly, not really caring about their dinner plans. "I don't know when you'll get it back; you'll have to ask Calc."
I turned to go as Phaerson made a noise and waved his hand dismissively, turning back to his desk and whatever he had been writing when I arrive. The butler stepped aside from the door. June was taking her phone back from Gabby as I strode confidently back into the hallway, not bothering to wait for Golden Graham there to lead me back.
However, not a step out of the door I nearly collided with a short, dark-haired girl in a pale yellow sundress.
"Watch where you're going, Amazon," she snapped at me, her green eyes flashing behind a thick pair of black-rimmed glasses as a man with blond hair wearing a long coat and a fedora helped her to steady herself. I bristled for a moment, but then noticed the green vinelike tattoos that snaked down every one of her limbs and something clicked in my brain.
"Ohhh, you're Marla, aren't you?" I asked, remembering Calc telling me vaguely about the super-witch who could control plants. I think I drove her vampire boyfriend around at one point too, back when I had first started working for Calc. And she had asked Mar for some life magic at the club once. Talk about a small world.
She gave me an annoyed look, and something clicked in my brain again and I snapped my fingers. "Ohhh, that's where I recognised her from. That's Alanna and Justin who performed at the theatre a while back there. The one that the demon interrupted?" I looked to June to confirm it, as she was the one who had organised the whole concert.
June was scowling deeply. "'Interrupted?' It knocked down half the theatre. Stupid demon."
"Anyway," I said, turning back to the couple, noting in amusement how the witch was scowling again, but her vamp seemed to be trying not to smile. "Nice to see you again, kinda." I brushed past them, not really wanting to get into another pissing match with the ornery witch. Plus, now that the book was in my hands, I kept seeing visions of Burberry in my head.
I dropped June and Gabby back off at Tiernay's house and made brunch plans for the next day, and I headed off to Calc's place, knowing in my weird way that that's where he'd be.
I barged my way into the Victorian styled house up near the north end of town, not surprised to find it unlocked.
"Calc!" I yelled, throwing my bag by the door and shucking off my shoes. "Using your bathroom!"
When I emerged again, I found Calc sitting on a stool at the dark granite top island of his kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee. A second cup, steaming and full of cream sat on the counter next to him. The kitchen was huge and on the corner of the house, with windows making up every wall that didn't have a cupboard on it. He had apparently gotten some sort of tinted glass, because although I could see outside, it was like looking through a pair of sunglasses. Probably pretty smart for a vamp.
I sat down across the way and grabbed my cup as well as a slice of banana bread he had obviously laid out for me and began to chow down.
"I got that book for you," I told him after washing it down with a cup of coffee.
He raised an eyebrow. "Thanks." We were both silent for a few more minutes as I enjoyed my well-earned snack, until he finally said, "Well, can I have it?"
"Oh right!" I took another sip of my coffee and stood up from the island and went and got my tote, grunting with the effort. It was starting to get mighty heavy with all the books in it.
I set it on the island with a 'thump' and took out the big leather tome, but instead of handing it to him, I held it up above my shoulder.
"And my bribe?" I asked, raising my eyebrows at him.
Giving me an amused look, Calc held up a small card in between his fingers, which I snatched at greedily, humming happily as I pressed it lovingly to my cheek before tucking it away in my tote for safekeeping. Appeased I handed the tome over to him. He nodded as he took it, but then set it aside and continued to drink his coffee.
I sat back down, trying to pretend I wasn't writhing with curiosity. I had taken a peek at it in the car, and found it indecipherable. It looked like Viking runes, mixed with some strange English letters. I couldn't make heads or tails of what it was about, much less what Calc needed it for. I knew there was a lot Calc kept from me, and for the most part, I didn't care, as it probably didn't involve me anyway, but this time I was at least partially involved.
When it became apparent that Calc, despite having asked for the book, wasn't even going to look at it, I got fed up and took my coffee to his living room and turned on his giant TV, switching it to a real estate show before settling down in his big comfy couch.
When I suddenly jerked awake again, not only had the show switched to some home improvement one, but I was suddenly covered by a thick white quilt that was making me entirely too warm and cosy. I pushed my arm out from underneath my blanket into the frigid air of the outside world to check my watch.
I groaned and slammed my head into the soft back of the couch as I discovered that I had been asleep for a good few hours. This wasn't the first time I had fallen asleep at Calc's. Sometimes I snoozed there after a particularly rough night when I didn't want to drive home, or was too exhausted to.
I wasn't the only transient to his couch, however. As much as I liked to think that I was unique, I knew that Calc had dozens of people working for him, probably more. I had run into a couple of them on occasion, murmuring awkward greeting as we both either relayed information to Calc, received jobs, or simply crashed at his place. They weren't all just vampires, either. I knew for a fact he had a couple witches that worked for him, easily recognised by their wrist tattoos, a few Loups (werewolves like June), and at least two other humans like myself.
Still feeling a little dopey and rumpled, I stood and stretched, throwing the comforter towards the other end of the couch. My stomach grumbled and I headed for the kitchen to satisfy my post-nap hunger.
To my surprise, Calc was still sitting in the same spot still with a cup of coffee in front of him, although he was talking about a patrol route to someone else on his cell. He also had a pad of paper, the tome, and his laptop spread out in front of him in a strange sort of mirror of my own position earlier that afternoon. He noticed that I was awake and quickly ended his call.
Finally, I couldn't contain my curiosity anymore.
"What is it?" I asked, dragging a stool over with my foot and plopping down on it opposite of the island to him, propping my elbows on the counter and resting my chin on top of my hands.
He didn't look up. "What is what?"
I waved my hand vaguely in front of me. "The book. I couldn't read a word of it."
He gave me a cocky grin. "I would be surprised if you could. It's ancient Norse translated into Anglo-Saxon."
I pulled a face and stood back up, hunger back in full force. "And what are you doing with something like that?" I asked, going to the fridge and, ignoring the vegetable bins filled with bags of blood, scrounged around the odds and ends of food left by others before pulling out something that looked like chicken alfredo. Cracking the lid, I sniffed it and decided it smelled fine, so I slammed it into the microwave.
"Reading it," Calc answered cheekily.
The microwave beeped and I took out the plastic container, tentatively lifted the lid to let the steam rise.
I sat back down at the counter after grabbing a fork from the cutlery drawer, slowly eating my acquired dinner as I squinted at him accusingly.
He seemed to feel the heat of my stare.
"What?" he asked, exasperated, not looking up.
"Tell me," I said simply, not letting up on my death squint or my intimidatingly slow chewing. Although, I had to say that whoever had made the alfredo was genius. The dish was absolutely delicious, garlicy and cheesey and all around excellent. Too bad they had left it in Calc's communal fridge.
"You don't want to know," he replied.
I wasn't about to let that answer stand. I upped the wattage on my laser beam stare. "Teeellll meeeee."
He slid a piece of paper towards me, with Calc's name on top, a series of numbers, and an ornate P on the bottom. I took it in surprise with how easily he had caved.
"A friend of mine sent me this," he explained offhandedly. "I'm trying to decode it."
I stared at the letter in absolute confusion, until I noticed that all the numbers were paired. I nodded sagely, as if I had understood all along, even though understanding was just dawning on me. "Oh, it's one of those book codes then, right? Where the first number is the page and the second is the word?"
Calc nodded and took it back from me. "So it's just a matter of breaking the code and translating it."
"And how do you know that it was this book?" I continued, hoping that Calc's explaining mood held.
"It's our agreed book whenever he's in trouble," he replied, scratching out another word after flipping through the big book. He gave me a wry smile, but I could see that little crease between his brows again. "Pavel knows about 50 PhDs' worth of dead and extinct languages. He also tends to memorise books."
My brows went into the air. "Someone needs a new hobby," I commented dryly as I shovelled the last bit of noodles into my mouth, almost sadly. I'd have to find out who had left that and make them give me their recipe. It had hit the spot tremendously.
"You're telling me," he agreed with a small chuckle, writing down another word.
I washed up the tupperwear in Calc's huge stainless steel double sink, leaving it to dry in the rack along with the dishes already there, probably left by someone else earlier. Then, not really knowing what to do, but not wanting to go home before I found out what the letter said, I went back to my stool, although instead of sitting down, I put my forearms on the counter and leaned way over to read upside-down what Calc was translating.
"I'm just an average man with an average life," I murmured as I read, a frown slowly starting to pull down my eyebrows. "I work nine to five; hey, hell, I pay – I bet you the next words are going to be 'the price,'" I guessed.
He looked at me in surprise. "How did you know that?"
My frown deepened as I sat back onto my stool. "I know this from somewhere, but I can't remember what." I pushed my fingers into my temples as I attempted to think. "Ugh, it's there, it's on the tip of my brain..."
Calc reached over to his silver and black laptop, typing something into it. A grim look came over his face.
"What, what is it?" I asked, dropping my hands.
Calc spun the laptop towards me, and I read the first line of the Google page where he had typed the words into the search.
Somebody's Watching Me.
"Well," I said simply. "That's not good, is it?"
"No," Calc replied seriously. "It's not good at all."