Fabian sank back into the cushions of the sofa. He closed his eyes, as if far away from Claude and me, then opened them. "There is something about Tristan that I never found out. He never revealed to me how, or when, he became a vampire. Whenever I ask, he puts me off. He is an enigma: he kills humans, but he also protects them. If anyone tried to kill Isolde, it would release a fury in him that would make even me afraid. He saved all of us, and brought us together, and that makes me think there's a humanity in him that's missing in a lot of humans."
I asked a stupid question. "Was Tristan 'Tristan'?"
Fabi smiled, "Yes, he was. Over the years we'd lose touch with each other, but we've always managed to find one another. Tristan is close to my age, vampire-wise. I think he was made around the time that Rome invaded Gaul. The vampire who made him must have been very old, Tristan has been a sun walker the entire time I've known him. How he was able to pass that on to me, I don't know. I'm just glad it happened, I don't have to hide in the night. Eventually you'll meet other vampires in this city. It's a good place for us, lots of rainy and cloudy days, short summers and early falls. I wouldn't tell anyone about your being able to tolerate daylight, some unscrupulous vampires traffic in sun walkers' blood.
"I don't understand Rainer, if he knows what Tristan will do to him. What makes him so foolish as to try to attack Isolde?"
"Revenge. Pure and simple revenge," was Fabi's immediate answer, "Maybe for having been made a vampire, maybe just for being born. I don't know, we have never known much about Rainer. Right now I'd like to find out where he is, but it will have to wait until we can get you settled. Tristan told me he wants you back in school tomorrow. Tomorrow night when we hunt, we will hunt for a German vampire who doesn't seem to know better."
"Come Steven," Claude dragged me away, "Plenty of time to find out more than you want to know. Let Fabi wallow in his past for the moment. Plenty of time to ask him questions, though he might be no better than Tristan when it comes to answering them."
I went back to my room and finished organizing my books, my computer, my movies. Things didn't feel right the way they had when Tristan and Isolde were here. It was like we were existing in a vacuum. Sure, I now possessed two older, self-appointed older brothers, but if that were the case I was missing my mother: Isolde.
I picked up a book that I was reading for my Roman history class, and turned to the chapter that I had left off. I started reading, and realized that I was reading the story of the German hero Arminius who had defeated the Romans in the Teutoborg Forest. I had read half of the chapter when something struck me, and I started feeling sick to my stomach.
Rainer. Rainer who seemed to hate Tristan as much as he'd allowed himself to become dependent upon him. Rainer who seemed to hate everyone, but what had Fabi said? Rainer was the way he was because he wanted revenge. If I was right, if, he could have become a vampire around the same time as Tristan. That meant that as a vampire he might be older than Fabi.
I did a cheat and looked up Arminius on Wikipedia. According to the article, Germanicus defeated the Germans twice. Tristan was a Gaul who fought with the Romans, Fabi was a Roman, so did Rainer torment Isolde because he hated Tristan and Fabi? Or all Romans in general? Had he seen Tristan during the battle? Oh God, had he recognized Tristan and Fabi when he met them? If what Rainer wanted the most was revenge, maybe it was revenge against all Romans, or maybe Tristan and Fabi in particular.
"I don't want to believe this," I said to no one in particular. This was too crazy. Tristan and Fabi were intelligent, and what's more, they had lived through this era. I couldn't be thinking something they hadn't already considered. I wondered if it would do me any good to ask Fabi, or maybe it would be better to wait until Tristan returned and confront him. All I really knew was that I was being confronted with too much information, overwhelming information.
I had no idea that something horrendous was going to present itself and drive the mystery of who Rainer really was out of my mind.
Interlude: How I Imagine it is for Tristan and Isolde:
The bright winter sun shines down on Tristan and Isolde as they stroll along the beach on Santorini. The days seem endless as they wander around the island, exploring ruins and marveling at the freshness of the colors of the frescoes that had been preserved by the pyroclastic eruption that destroyed the little island of Thera. The plume of smoke that rises from the sea is a reminder that the volcano is not dead and could come once again to life.
Neither regret the absence of the warmth of the summer weather. It is as if they have the island to themselves, not having to share it with tourists. Isolde has lost the hunted look that she had when they left, and she has gained some weight. She no longer looks so fragile, as if the slightest touch would shatter her into a million tiny pieces.
Tristan is always watching for signs of the old ones who haunt these small islands. He sees shadows blending into the ruins, ducking into the deserted doorways and alleyways of the ruins they visit. He has no wish to encounter any of his own kind, he only wishes to protect Isolde. He sees them there, though, always watching. He is wise enough to know that he is still not the oldest of vampires, there are those far older than he, hiding in old temples and crypts, coming out only at night.
It is easier to be here on Santorini where he never traveled in the old days. Going to Greece and Rome will be harder for there he has many memories. The old places of his memories are long gone, torn or scattered, or only the Forum, the Coliseum, and a few of the old temples and palaces are left. How many of his old acquaintances are there, he wonders. He would like to avoid Rome so he can avoid the memories, but Isolde loves Rome and Milan.
Tomorrow they will leave for Crete to visit the ruins at Knossos. From there they will make their way through Greece, ending their journey at the Great Lion Gates of Mycenae. After that they will travel to Milan and Rome, before making their way home at last.
"We can skip Rome if you want," Isolde interrupts his thoughts, "We can always fly from Athens to Paris, or London. I know how painful this is for you, how many memories it evokes, no matter how the world has changed."
He squeezes her, crushing her to him. "It is one and the same to me, my love. The world as I knew it is gone. I never came here, but Alexandria, Rome, Athens, Cairo, even Paris and London were once Roman cities. There is not much in Europe that Rome did not touch. It is hard to see how the world has changed."
Isolde, too, has seen the shadows, but she will not tell Tristan. Neither will she share her fear of Rainer with him, knowing it is likely that the boys could not find him. She will be safe now in the shelter of her house, and Tristan will keep his vigilance. Tristan will never know of the fears she keeps from him. Or that she knows how painful it is for him every time they travel to the Mediterranean, that he has to struggle to keep his memories at bay. For the moment they have each other and that must be enough. They turn and walk back towards there hotel, stopping only to visit the ruins buried by the volcano for one last time.
That, at least, is how I imagine it for them, the good and the bad. I am glad Tristan took Isolde away, she can't see that we have not been able to find Rainer, but neither has he come back to the house, which for now will have to do. It will be better when she comes home, we miss them and the house seems emptier without Isolde here.
I have gone back to school, as she wanted. It took a lot of explaining and maneuvering to get back to my classes after a week's absence, but I did it. I have to prove to my professors that I am serious about wanting to resume my studies. Strangely, being a vampire has helped that. I have developed powers of concentration I did not possess before, and when I focus on my studies it is with an intensity that is new to me. I had a half finished paper that was due, and to my surprise I finished it in a single night, earning a "B" instead of the "A" I would have received had I turned it on time. The mysteries of math have revealed themselves to me, and chemistry has become a fountain of new discoveries as opposed to the battleground it was before.
I am even thinking of changing my major to archaeology. I will never have to worry about money again, so why not study something I have always been interested in, instead of business administration, which I hate. I have already chosen classes for next quarter which reflect my new direction, and I will meet with an advisor so that I can change my major. I know this will delight Isolde, though she has never said anything to me. I feel like my life is starting to open up.
Fabi often sits with me while I do math. It amazes him how different, yet similar, it is from when he learned it as a young man. Once in a while he can help me solve a problem and it is a source of delight to both of us. Every day we boys learn something new from each other. I have been an only child all life and now I have two older brothers, and all the feelings and frustrations that comes from having siblings. This new life of mine suits me in a way I would not have imagined.
And it is almost bearable being a vampire.
I feed early this night. Fabi and Claude are out carousing by the airport, which means they are pimp hunting. Though I, too, have become a killer, it sometimes surprises me to see how bloodthirsty they are. They aren't like that when they take me hunting.
I can't hunt with them. When I do, it's like I'm watching my two best friends, no, my brothers, turn into monsters. They are lightening quick when they strike their prey, no snake could be so fast. They sink their canines into helpless victims, tossing them into alleys or dumpsters so no one will see them. I know they're hunting the worst of the worst. They have shown me big rolls of bills in their pockets, the packages of heroin. I've seen the girls these monsters exploit, but I still shudder to watch how quickly and carelessly my friends kill.
I have toyed with the idea of raiding hospitals and blood banks so that I can have a ready supply of blood without having to kill, but it is my nature is to stalk my prey and kill. I never considered this when I consented to let Tristan restore me to life as a vampire, I was only thinking of pay back for Julie. Now the full weight of my decision has come back to haunt me. I never envisioned myself as a killer, but this is what I have become.
A sound starts as a light tapping at the door, then grows to a more insistent knock. I ignore it to see if it goes away, then the knocking becomes almost a pounding. I close my new laptop a gift from Fabi, and look up at the clock. Ten o'clock, neither early nor late, but too late for someone to be knocking at a stranger's door. We encourage no acquaintances, but if we did, they would never be given knowledge of this house. We live as anonymously, as obscurely as we can to discourage curiosity.
The knocking won't stop. I get up from the table and go to the front door. I peer out the peephole to see who it is, but I do not recognize him. I wish that Claude and Fabi were home, they would know how better to deal with this. I wish the stranger would stop knocking, but no such luck.
I stand in front of the door for a few moments, thinking, "go away, go away," but to no avail, so I open the door just enough to address the visitor on the other side.
I don't like his eyes. His hard, blue gaze takes my measure, wondering who I am. I know in an instant he is not here by accident, and I don't know if I could make him leave as Tristan would. He, in turn, is looking up at me and dismissing me as only a kid, one who he could take with no trouble. He has the look of a hard, mean man, though his looks belie it, he is of medium height and well formed, and maybe in the old days I would be fooled by him into trusting him.
"My name is Mark King. Have you seen this woman?" He thrusts a picture into my face. He has no manners, he hasn't even waited for me to speak in my own home. "Someone said they saw a woman who could have been her, here, in this neighborhood. She's my wife, I've been looking for her for the past five years, even since she disappeared. Her name's Estella," he continued eagerly.
I school my features, hide my feelings, for the face in front of me is Isolde's. I must not give her away, I must do everything I can to keep her from this man. It is Isolde, but with longer, darker hair and no glasses. The photo is a face shot, you can see her smiling for the camera, but the smile is not meeting her eyes. I remember how Tristan told me he found her, how he gave her back her life as he gave me mine. Poor Isolde, did she have an inkling of her fate when she met this man?
Tristan will want to know of this. I do not want to give too much away and encourage this stranger, but if he is the one who tried to kill Isolde, I want him to pay. He is solving my problem and writing his name and number on the back of the picture. I wonder why. Does he suspect something? Does he know that Isolde is here? Does he think we know her whereabouts? What makes him think I would tell him anything?
"Here," he hands the picture to me, "If you see or hear anything, call me at this number. I haven't heard from my wife in five years and this is the first news I've had of her." He can see me looking at him, and there is nothing friendly or encouraging in my eyes, but he is choosing to ignore it. "Thank you." He says and foolishly turns his back on me.
I wait until he has left the yard, then quietly close the door. My canines are aching, they have never done this before. I want to run after him and seize him and drain him dry, but too many eyes are watching in this suburban neighborhood.
I pull out my iPhone and text Fabi and Claude. 'COME HOME NOW, IT'S IMPORTANT". Shoving my phone in my back pocket, I grab my jacket and head down to the garage. I do not know how long they will take to respond, but it will be half an hour or more before they get home. Just enough time for me to take the little Boxter out of the garage and drive to the U-District. I am going to grab the first kill that I can, no matter whether they deserve death or not. I am going to sink my fangs in their neck and drain them dry while I pretend they're the man on the porch. And if he comes back, I am going to suck him dry before he can harm my beloved Isolde.