3: What Price?
Garrett felt a little better after his meal. He was lying down on a twin bed in a small room. The feel of the place was warmer here – the shades of the walls promised friendliness and welcome. Flannel sheets lined the bed, the maroon shade complimented by the gender neutral patterns of a thick comforter.
He shifted his head, feeling he pillow adjust to comfort him. Looking across from him he found a small desk, three large vidfiles listed on the screen and awaiting his viewing.
Indoc files, he was sure.
I'm not ready for that just yet.
He was still processing what he'd gotten himself into. It was going to be hard to keep his secrets close to the cuff and make a successful run at his choice in life-paths.
Garrett had met several dhampirs – well, not met, seen. His mother always kept him out of direct sight. He and his young friends would watch them, awed to the core by the aloof nature and cold demeanor of the vampire hunters.
Friends whispered of dhampir powers – and though Garrett was never sure whether they were just trying to spook him, or whether their tales hinted at a deeper truth, the words intrigued him. They would tell him how dhampirs could compel the unwitting, walking them to their death or garnering information in their pursuits. They possessed strength and speed that spoke of their supernatural parentage. Yet they were able to walk around in the daylight, unaffected (or affected very little) by the orb hanging bright overhead.
He hoped that there was a large grain of truth in their words.
The warlock was especially curious about the ability to compel others to do his bidding – or to forget. It was something that might help him get through the examination without resorting to his warlock talents. Though it would effectively get him through the process, using such talents would guarantee his discovery as a hoax.
From the conversations he caught so far, more than a few here were adept at picking up on magic use – or residue – from a room. He didn't need to tear down what little trust he had built up to this point by an incautious act of magic.
But, that dhampir ability was another dilemma altogether. He'd never used such talent. His mother only taught him in the development of spells, incantations, and summons. He was lost on where to even begin to try to develop that recently discovered other half of his heritage. Katharina was most likely just as clueless on how to help him in that arena.
So how the hell was he supposed to practice such a skill?
"Daemon," he swore in the still air around him.
A beep startled him. He sat up so fast, his head started pounding again, reminding him of the wound on his forehead. Willing the pain away, Garrett moved to his door, passing his hand over the activation device.
The man standing before him was unfamiliar. Garrett had to look up to meet the man's face – a bit of a shock for a young man who stood head and shoulders above most people in these times. The visitor blocked the entire exit with the frame of his body; wide shoulders were tense and ready for any inevitability. The warlock hoped it was just a habit of his and not some indication that Garrett was in trouble.
Like Samantha, this soldier was dressed in a tight fitting battle suit. Unlike her, every holster strapped to the suit was filled with a weapon of some sort.
"Yes?" Garrett didn't belie the unease that strummed across his nerves.
The man stepped through the frame without invitation, forcing Garrett back and driving his defenses into overdrive. Once through the frame the stranger straightened to his full height, trailing a hand with which he closed the door. In his other hand he held a pack.
Garrett was unable to guard his reaction to that. The pack was his mother's.
"We found this in the warehouse." The man's voice rang through the small space, compressing Garrett's eardrums until they threatened to burst. "Do you recognize this?"
"It belonged to my mother." Garrett wanted to lie, but he had already given himself away. Compounding the slip with an obvious fib would make things a whole lot worse for him.
"There are some items within the pack that we have questions about."
"Such as?" He followed the question with, "I don't know that I can answer much. She was as secretive about what was in that bag as she was about her past."
"Have a seat, please." He motioned to the bed, stepping into Garrett's personal space once again and forcing him to comply.
Garrett wanted to blast him for such an aggressive tactic, sitting on it only because of his long term goal. He looked back long enough to mark where the mattress was and ensure grace in getting seated, before regarding his interrogator again.
"What did you find?"
The man crouched, setting the pack on the floor and flipping open the flap. The first thing he pulled out Garrett knew well: a spell book that went levels beyond his already massive power base.
"What would your mother be doing with an incantation tome?" The man's voice was edged with violence.
Garrett managed a fine look of incredulity. "I have no idea."
He met the man's gaze, still shaking his head in the negative.
"I would only be able to venture guesses."
Silence thickened as the man tested his expression and body language for lack of sincerity.
"She had an eye for the arcane, ancient things, pre-holocaust items. Books are so rare in these days that it might have caught her eye. She wasn't above stealing." He threw on an inquisitive expression. "Do you think she might have stolen it? Do you think that is why she was killed?"
"Human's can't perform the required magic. Such a book would do her little good."
"That doesn't answer my question," Garrett growled, anger and pain making his statement more sincere. "Do you think she might have been killed because she stole the book?"
The man looked confused for a moment, realizing that he had lost momentum on the inquiry by Garrett's flipping the accusations back onto him. "I suppose that could be the case."
Once more confusion passed over his features.
He shook himself out, taking a deep breath and sighing. "The other thing found in the bag is much more perplexing than the book."
With that statement he withdrew what looked like a stylized funnel. It was about seven to twelve inches in length. The funnel was unlike most in that it did not taper from a wide mouth down to a narrower neck. From an angled point the diameter grew larger until it was about an inch and a half from edge to edge. There it narrowed sharply ending in a small neck.
"Do you have any idea what this is?" The man sounded boggled by what it might be.
"It looks like a funnel." Garrett shrugged. "What is so weird about that?"
In reality it played a very sinister role in how Garrett stayed alive all these years. Though he was able to eat human food a majority of the time, there were periods, about once every two to three weeks, where he needed blood. He hadn't previously connected that need to the idea that he was a dhampir… his mother did an excellent job of playing off that habit as something taught rather than something instinctive.
His mother had shown him that tool, something she had fashioned herself with her craft. The narrow neck at the top of the device fit into most bottles. The needle like tip of it was to puncture the chest of victim with little effort, piercing the heart or the aorta and sending the life giving fluid into the waiting receptacle.
He'd only had to use it once in their retreat from his father, an awkward attempt at best to subdue and drain his victim's blood into something he could carry with him. He was glad now that the bottle they had used last had been lost. Such incriminating evidence was more than he could explain away to these people.
As it was, this was going to be difficult to give a reason for.
He realized with a barely hidden jolt that he would be needing the device in short order – he couldn't allow this Victor Sierra soldier to keep it.
Perhaps he could sway the man to forget about the device ever being found.
"Considering there was trace amounts of blood on the inside of it… we're curious as to this particular funnel's purpose."
"I can assure you that I don't know." He tried to impress a thought into the man's mind, that what he was holding was innocuous and best left with Garrett.
The man shook his head, as if ringing had developed in his ear. A small spark of hope lit up in Garrett. Maybe he didn't need training to use his aptitude. He was such a natural at his warlock gifts that it was possible that the dhampir talents would be just as easy to master.
"Positive." He tried to impress the mind before him once again. Forget you saw this and be on your way. Leave it behind.
"I'm going to have to turn this over to Keeper. There is a lot of strange stuff going on around you." He turned away and started heading for the door. "We just want to be sure."
"I'm not your enemy." Garrett said. "I don't have any weird ulterior motive here – if that's what you think."
The man smiled. "You would be surprised how many people say that."
Garrett barely concealed a snarl of frustration. His try at compulsion seemed to have been an utter failure.
The man rose from his seat and headed for the door. "Thanks for your time. This has been rather… illuminating."
He wanted to lunge after the soldier, stop his retreat and retrieve what rightfully belonged to him. Garrett knew he couldn't even do that, there were camera nodes all over the place in here. Somehow he could sense each and every one of them around the space. Committing murder in front of so many cold calculating eyes would do nothing but get him killed.
A beast was howling inside of him to go after the operative.
Garrett closed his eyes and forcefully calmed himself. There would be a way out of this – there had to be.
Surprisingly, Garrett was allowed to head into town for one last furlough before his training officially started. Samantha accompanied him, his tour guide, and most certainly his chaperone. The woman looked much different out of uniform. In fact, he hardly recognized her when she showed up at the door. She was wearing a skirt that barely covered her endowments, fishnet stockings with four inch stiletto heels.
She tugged on the lower edge of her maroon half top, even though she had nothing to be ashamed about regarding the shape of her body. Victor Sierra insisted on a work out regime and stringent training, and in Samantha it showed. Well defined muscles peeked between the concealing clothes, flexing and smoothing in a way that was mesmerizing.
She flirted with her hair a moment, seeming to will it into the intricate coif that surrounded her face. Small semi-precious stones glittered and shined even in the damnable orange light just outside the door, peeking around the curls and pins allowing her 'do to defy gravity.
Dark makeup complemented both her dressed to kill outfit and the shade of her skin and hair. Samantha was beautiful… in a sinister and dangerous kind of way.
He bet himself she was a man-eater at heart.
She was much more chatty than his previous encounters with her, and her personality proved one he could not only relate to but one that he could come to like in time.
As his tour guide, Samantha took them to a bar that was well off the beaten path.
"I like this place," she murmured as they slid into the murky interior. "I like it because I can truly get away from work here."
"I thought you liked your job," Garrett asked.
"I do, but… well lets just say I prefer the mundane in my off time."
"So what's the big deal about this place?"
"None of the others come here." She escorted them beyond the group of tables that took up a majority of the free space. In the back were three sets of beaded curtains separated by a foot thick partition from the neighboring sections. Without even asking she parted one curtain and waved him inside. "Barnes? Give us a pitcher of maltere, and two glasses."
She flopped down on a divan next to him and smiled. "They only talk about work, and I really hate that."
"So you're saying now's not the time to ask about what I can expect?"
Her look said it all. "Not tonight – right?"
She smiled a little.
"Where you from originally?"
She looked at the flame on the floating candle on the low table between the billowy divans and chaises, leaning forward to toy with it. Her gaze flicked over to him. "I was from the Mexican Territories, right around Rosarito. When I got old enough, I decided that that posh little place just wasn't my style. I liked action and danger, and the area just didn't have it."
Garrett smiled devilishly. "Can't say I've heard of someone wanting to escape the lap of luxury. I've heard the Mexican territories are the place to be – providing you're lucky enough to get a visa."
"Grass is always greener…"
"…on the other side." Garrett nodded agreement."Have you ever even seen grass?"
"Only in my dreams."
She smiled with a sincerity he hadn't seen from her yet. The expression made her face that much prettier.
The pitcher of maltere arrived in short order and was gone again as quickly. Before Garrett knew what happened, there were three of them sitting on the table and all of them empty.
The more he and Samantha talked, the more he came to like the woman.
"You really are cute." Her voice was clear, but her eyes had the glassed look of someone who had drunk way too much.
She leaned closer to him, sinking near completely away in the softness of the cushions. Her smile held promise of special attention as her hand climbed up his inner thigh.
She's fast, he thought, but smiled in a way that encouraged her.
He twisted toward her, returning the favor and finding that the stockings she was wearing were crotchless. Very fast…
Garrett, despite his earlier assessment, was shocked by this confirmation.
Still, he wasn't against the innuendo, and continued to allow his hands to illustrate places on her he couldn't see.
His response was intense – his arousal so quick it was painful.
Samantha's hands were already under his shirt, and he thought he heard a seam rip. She slid over to sit on his lap, facing him and pressing her suddenly exposed breasts into his face. He needed no more invitation than that, grabbing one and suckling the other. Both actions drew a cry of ecstasy and a growl of satisfaction out of the woman.
"Y'know, I always did like my men younger." Her whisper sounded loud in his ears.
Garrett's eyes strayed to the beaded curtain – the only thing keeping visitors out of here. Such a voyeuristic concept made his desire and lust that much stronger.
Though not the most experienced at sex games, he'd been with a few women in the coven. His first was older than him by many years. Sexual games were considered to bring greater power to a witch or warlock, and sex was encouraged any time after puberty hit. It didn't dawn on him how long it had been since his last. Pent frustration, her willingness to give over to him, and the voyeuristic situation made the sex much more intense.
Somehow he lasted longer than he thought was going to be possible. Samantha teased him by making him slow down, allowing him to fall from the peak. Continuing such a cycle allowed her to catch and then pass him. She cried out loudly, and was he possessed of his usual caution he might have been concerned that it was overheard by others outside this small room.
As it was he was more fixated on his own rise toward orgasm. She wanted him to stop, surely used to being in charge, but he continued driving into her, drawing cries from the woman. He was pushing her past her tolerance, and yet somehow she kept from fainting. He nearly broke her back as he spent himself, clutching her to him as the familiar pain and pleasure mingled inside him.
When they both had come back down again, Samantha retreated to the bathroom to clean up. Garrett took the time to step out of the smoke of cigarettes and other inhaled drugs that permeated the air of the bar. Just the second hand exposure to them were making him dizzy, and he wondered as he took great gulps of the relative freshness outside, if they had contributed to Samantha's spontaneous seduction.
Shaking his head, he countered that. She'd done this before – many times.
Though it was refreshing to get a lungful of the less choked air, it didn't match the freshness and chill of the air outside the ant farms humans chose to live in.
Radiation was no longer a true problem for the human population. Most would know that if they attempted to leave, to travel even a few miles under the atmosphere. But after so many hundreds of years living with its threat and the subsequent mutations that resulted, they were no longer willing to take the chance.
The domes had become security blankets, allowing them to ignore the world that still existed out there. It was comfortable, leaving them falsely secure under their plasteel enclosures.
Garrett focused as a hulking figure cut through the still thick crowd moving around this seedy little section of Denver. The man was familiar, though it took Garrett a few moments to figure out why.
"Turn it in to Keeper, my ass," he growled, as he recognized the man and the pack he carried from earlier this evening. He still had Katharina's things.
Why he would spirit the pack out of the Cathedral?
Not that it mattered, as Garrett recognized the opportunity presented him. Without thinking, he fell into the soldier's wake, intent on getting his mother's possessions back.
Bastard, Garrett thought. He understood implicitly now. Profiteering. The guy was looking to make some extra cred.
As he moved further from the bar, he slowed just a little. His absence was going to be missed – especially if Samantha was in charge of keeping him in line on his last night as a civvy.
"Better to beg forgiveness."
As he tailed the soldier, he noted the man ducking into another bar along the main road. He glanced back, trying to keep tabs on where he'd have to return when his business was done. Moving through the bar, the soldier didn't glance to either side, making a direct line for the bathroom on the other end of the establishment. More leisurely, Garrett followed.
He slowed more as he approached the entrance of the men's room, hearing voices slipping into open air.
"What is so damned important, man?" One voice uttered. "This is real odd – you meeting me like this."
"I have something of value to trade," the voice of the soldier said eagerly.
"The last time you said that, I took a loss."
The soldier went on, missing or ignoring the disappointment in the other's voice. "I figure this is something the coven might want back. And you know, I can't be seen with this shit. I'm supposed to have turned it in."
"VS is certainly going to string you up by your balls if they catch you selling evidence for profit. You know that, right?"
"The coven pays well enough that I am willing to risk it."
"Let's see what you have," his contact sighed with bare tolerance for the situation.
"A witch killed someone for this thing."
Garrett heard leather slide across fabric.
A startled breath met the sound. More eagerly the other said, "I can see why."
"What is it?"
"What do you think it is?"
"A spell book."
"Not just any spell book, this is the Carcarium. I've only seen pictures of it."
The soldier chuckled, "I knew it!"
"This is the possession of the Chicago Coven. How did you get a hold of it?"
"I told you, a woman was traveling with her son through town…witches killed her because she stole it from them."
"Does anyone else know of this?"
There was a slight pause. "I kept it aside after I found it. No… no one knows. How much you gonna give me for it?"
Garrett felt the power build even before the soldier became aware of it. "Daemon!"
He flung himself away as the invisible wave crashed into the wall opposite and knocked plaster from it. The patrons of the bar seemed unaware of the magic just deployed in the men's room. Garrett regained his feet as a slim blond walked out of the head, through the bar, and exited to the street, all as if nothing of significance happened inside. The warlock studied the individual, committing his face to memory and taking note that he only had the book and not the special funnel which had also been within the pack.
Gathering his wits about him, Garrett slipped into the bathroom, taking in the scene. Nothing about the bathroom was disturbed, if you discounted the lifeless Victor Sierra soldier lying in the middle of the floor. The warlock scrambled for the pack pinned beneath one shoulder of the corpse.
Searching through the remains of his mother's life, Garrett pulled the funnel out, his hunger flaring as the thing came within his view. His eyes strayed to the fresh kill. He didn't hesitate, stabbing the funnel through the chest cavity and into the heart. He leaned over the soldier, sucking hard on the neck, pulling the quickly congealing blood into his mouth, and swallowing as fast as he could.
He needed to be done and out of here in short order. Surely, a patron would be in need of a piss soon.
When the hunger dissipated, he yanked the tool free, wiping the blood on the backpack and slipped the device into the back of his pants. He left when that was finished, trying to look guiltless as he stepped back into the street and retraced his steps to where this evening's foray started. Overall he was satisfied, happy that he hadn't had to put into practice the ploy in his head – happy that someone had taken care of his light work for him. He would have to get his mother's book back though, eventually.
He stepped back into the bar, seeing Samantha headed his direction.
"Where'd you go?" She tried to sound as if she'd been abandoned. It almost covered up her worry that she had lost her assignment for the evening.
"The smoke was too thick. I was outside breathing something a bit cleaner."
A smile broke out on her face. "I don't know, at least you can smell what's killing you in here."
"Did you miss me?"
"Oh yes." She leaned in and wrapped him up in an embrace, kissing his lips in a lustful way. This much at least he knew was sincere.
A/N: This was a long one... not sure that I'm going to leave it as is... it may get broken apart and made two chapters in the book. I want to paint Garrett as a completely different kind of soul than Cabal...
Cabal is so straight laced and goody-two-shoes comparatively speaking. Garrett is much raunchier, much more in one's face than Cabal ever was or ever will be. This also made Garrett harder for me to write, because identifying with him is HARD! LOL!