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No one chooses to go through eternity alone.
Chapter 1: Family, Friends and Vampires
It was a pleasant Wednesday June in New York City. By mid-day, the temperature was in the upper 70's, tufts of bright white clouds drifted across a light blue sky and a soft breeze washed through the city. The crowd of people who were attending the NYPD Medal Day Ceremony at One Police Plaza enjoyed the weather as they watched dozens of police officers receive honors for their successes and heroism. One of the officers being commended was Detective Cassidy Tremaine.
Attired in her dress blues, Cassidy went up on the stage to be honored for her work in the Greenbelt Nine investigation. In addition to her commendation, she was rewarded earlier with a promotion to Detective Second Grade. The successful conclusion of that investigation was a major local news event, and it briefly made Cassidy the most renowned police officer in the NYPD. The sensational crime coupled with Cassidy's shooting of the accused perpetrator in self-defense were major news stories that had only recently subsided from the collective consciousness of the city's inhabitants.
What was not known to nearly everyone was that Cassidy had help in resolving the Greenbelt Killings case and that the true resolution was a secret that she was keeping from all other humans. The only people who knew the truth of that investigation besides Cassidy were the vampires she was hiding from the world. It was the Vampires of Dacia who helped Cassidy uncover the identity of the killers. In exchange for not revealing their existence, the vampires promised Cassidy they would not kill humans or make any more vampires. Their agreement was less than two months old at the time of today's ceremony.
"So, how does it feel to be a decorated police officer?" Margaret Tremaine questioned just after giving her daughter a hug.
Cassidy's parents, Margaret and Daniel Tremaine and her children, seven-year-old Cynthia and six-year-old John were the only members of her family in attendance for the ceremony. Cassidy's two brothers, Aaron and Jared, were either at work or preparing to be. Other close relatives missing from this event was a retired NYPD uncle, two NYPD first cousins and an out of state aunt who was once married to a now retired NYPD officer. The job of NYPD police officer was a commonly held profession among Cassidy's relatives living in New York.
"Feels the same, mom," Cassidy answered.
Cassidy stepped into her father's embrace while Cynthia and John stood by with looks and smiles that advertised their eagerness for her attention.
"You did good, baby," Daniel affirmed during his brief hug of Cassidy. "You earned this."
"Thanks, dad," Cassidy returned with a pleasant smile.
Cassidy added an extra moment to her father's hug after hearing his approval. Her profession as a police officer was a perennial conflict between them. Daniel never approved of his daughter's decision to become a police officer and that disapproval gave Cassidy cause to work all the harder. Their differences notwithstanding, the Tremaines were an affectionate family. Large family dinners during birthdays and holidays was the norm. They came together to celebrate important events in their lives whenever possible. Cassidy's recognition ceremony did not make the cut only because most of her nearby relations planned to attend the dinner at her parent's home.
"Come here," Cassidy encouraged as she reached out for Cynthia and John.
Cassidy's daughter and son gleefully rushed into her embrace. Cassidy held both up against her person as she leaned down and kissed their foreheads, one after the other.
"How did I do?" Cassidy questioned with a smile.
"You were great, mom," Cynthia responded excitedly.
"Yeah!" John supported in a sing-song delivery.
Cassidy snuggled her children a little tighter while rocking them back and forth. She was pleased and tickled by the admiration her children were bestowing on her, but any serious thought about the accolades caused her to be embarrassed. Cassidy could not help but think that they would not be giving her a medal if the truth of what happened was known.
"Well, I'm happy you got the commendation and the pay raise, but I wished they'd let you stay at the 32nd," Margaret gently commented.
"Manhattan South Homicide is a great move for me," Cassidy promptly validated.
"But the commute is going to make things harder for you at home," Margaret disputed in a voice laced with worry.
"I'll manage," Cassidy assured her with optimism.
"It's like I've always said," Daniel countered. "Trying to have it all doesn't work. You have to choose one thing and commit to it."
"Dad, I'm not going to have my life decided by the limitations others put on theirs," Cassidy lectured argumentatively.
Daniel shook his head with a huff as he turned partially away from Cassidy. His frustration was matched by a scowl from Cassidy. In that moment, off to her right, Cassidy saw a shocking and unexpected sight. Margaret was about to say something to diffuse the budding disagreement between her husband and daughter when Cassidy spoke first.
"Excuse me, I—I see someone I need to say hi to. I'll be right back."
Daniel, Margaret, Cynthia and John gave little attention to Cassidy as she made her way through the crowd of people who were still hanging around just after the ceremony. Daniel and Margaret started talking with each other, and the kids found intrigue in their surroundings. If they had been watching, they would have seen Cassidy work her way to the edge of the gathering to where Ronald and Brooke standing. Sorin and Adrianna were the names they were given over 2000 years ago in Dacia before they were turned into vampires. The names they were known by now were Ronald Hollis and Brooke Chapman. Cassidy saw them observing her in the distance, and that is what caught her attention. She approached them with a growing fury. It was Cassidy's hope to never see them again. Their presence here, at her commendation ceremony, while she was in the company of her family, angered her.
Ronald and Brooke watched Cassidy's approach with smiles while standing in the shadow of a wall. Ronald was wearing an expertly tailored suit and sunglasses. Brooke was wearing an attractive pants suit, a wide brim hat and sunglasses. When Cassidy came to within three steps of arm's distance, Ronald and Brooke began to applaud her with soft claps of their hands. Cassidy came to a stop after two more steps.
"Congratulations," Ronald expressed with a modest amount of enthusiasm.
"What are you doing here?" Cassidy questioned as she glowered at Brooke and Ronald.
"We're here to see you get your well-deserved medal, of course," Brooke returned with a slight look of amazement.
"I told you to stay away from me and my family," Cassidy hissed beneath her breathe.
"We didn't think you really meant that," Ronald countered as though he was speaking the obvious.
Cassidy's eyes widened in disbelief that Ronald had just said that. She took a moment to search for the words to express her outrage and was cut off from the process when Brooke began speaking with an inflection of exasperation.
"Okay, before you make a big deal out of this, I need to ask you for a favor."
The tenor of Brooke's speech angered Cassidy more than the message. She took a moment to fume at the speaker.
"What do you want?" Cassidy spat out testily.
Brooke reached into her purse, pulled out a folded paper and extended it toward Cassidy. She then gave Cassidy a few seconds to open and examine the document.
"I have a jury summons," Brooke declared with an intonation of incredulity.
After several seconds of reading, Cassidy refolded the document and extended it back to Brooke.
"So, what about it?" Cassidy bewilderedly asked.
"Get me out of it," Brooke insisted.
"I don't work for the county let alone in the commissioner of jurors office," Cassidy argued back as loudly as she dared.
"Well, there must be something you can do," Brooke disputed with a half step forward.
Cassidy held her ground, crossed her arms, let out a huff while seething at Brooke. Finally, she took a half step forward so that she could say her next words without raising her voice.
"You want to live like everyone else. Well, this is part of that package."
Brooke absorbed Cassidy's words, and then she resigned herself to the inevitable: asking was not going to get her what she wanted.
"Fine," Brooke declared. "I guess I'll just have to use other means to get out of it."
The phrase, 'other means,' triggered an alarm in Cassidy's brain. Her suspicion was that Brooke was talking about using her vampire abilities to do something underhanded.
"You can't do that," Cassidy emphatically warned as she inched forward.
Brooke showed no sign that she had given any weight to Cassidy's warning and began speaking with an air of indifference.
"Can you see me in a courtroom, in the daylight, all day, day after day, with all those blood bags seated around me?"
Cassidy took several seconds to give Brooke an angry glare before speaking.
"Text me the details," Cassidy commanded with an angry scowl.
Brooke took out her cellphone and photographed the jury summons with a smile. Her expression of triumph angered Cassidy even more than before, and she fumed as Brooke tapped into her phone. A moment later, Cassidy's phone briefly vibrated. Cassidy took out her phone to note that Brooke's text had just come in.
"I knew you'd come through for me," Brooke pleasantly spoke.
"Try not to rot on the way home," Cassidy sarcastically replied before turning away.
Contrary to myth, Cassidy knew that vampires did not burst into flames in the sunlight. The idea that they did was a corruption of the reality that sunlight is unhealthy to vampires. The corruption was the result of centuries of retelling of the myth that sunlight caused vampires to burst into flames. Cassidy's recent adventure with vampires taught her that vampires had a lethal sensitivity to sunlight that played out over time. It took the sun an hour, roughly, to produce the first lesion on a vampire's body. Eight hours in the sun was enough to kill every cell in their bodies. She also knew that frequent intakes of food, especially blood, could produce an equilibrium that sustained their youthful appearance indefinitely when they were in the sun. Ronald and Brooke's presence at the ceremony told her that they were sufficiently fortified against the effects of the sun for the duration of the event.
"Is he awake?" Charlie Panko asked as he stepped through the front door of Jeremiah Kingston's home.
"No, not yet," Jeremiah answered as he closed the door behind Ben Dalby. "Take it to the kitchen."
Both Charlie and Ben were carrying multiple grocery bags filled with packaged meat. Jeremiah followed them into the kitchen where he began stuffing his refrigerator with meat. Keeping the refrigerator stocked with meat was a weekly chore that Charlie and Ben started doing the day after their encounter with Detective Cassidy Tremaine.
Charlie Panko and Ben Dalby were Tony McGuire's enforcers, bodyguards, bill collectors and now grocery shoppers. They did Tony's bidding, no questions asked. Charlie and Ben tried to kill Cassidy nearly two months earlier on Tony's orders. Since then they have been serving as Tony's eyes and ears while he remained hidden in his childhood friend's guest bedroom.
Tony McGuire was an entrepreneur and a criminal for the whole of his adult life. Stealing cars in his late teens and early twenties generated the startup money for his first automotive repair shop. The chop shop he ran from his late twenties to his early forties produced much of the financing for his used car sales lot and his McGuire's Lounge, but none of those business ventures gave him the wealth and power he craved. His automotive repair shops and his used car sales lot were modest successes and his lounge could barely stay afloat. Tony was in his mid-forties when he decided to venture into the criminal enterprise of designer drugs.
Jeremiah Kingston was Tony's partner in crime, on and off. Jeremiah's strong math skills made him a useful tool when it came down to working the numbers. Their friendship started in high school and was nurtured by their mutual tendency toward making money through criminal enterprises. Several acts of grand theft auto were their first mutual criminal venture. The different paths they took after high school kept them mostly separated over the next ten years. The income Jeremiah accrued as the bookkeeper for Tony's chop shop provided the money for his own legal business as a general contractor. As the owner/operator of Kingston Renovations LLC, Jeremiah was a moderately successful businessman, but he was not opposed to making tax free money, and working the numbers satisfied that urge while keeping him on the periphery of Tony's illicit enterprises. When Tony went into the criminal enterprise of producing and selling designer drugs, Jeremiah happily agreed to work the numbers for him. Their joint participation in the designer drug enterprise was now more than a decade old.
"Anything new," Jeremiah questioned as he shoved meat into his refrigerator.
"Nah, the cops aren't thinking about Tony," Charlie answered.
Tony's reason for hiding from the police was because of his kidnapping and attempted murder of NYPD Detective Cassidy Tremaine. Immediately after this event occurred, Tony went into hiding. At first, he used Jeremiah to keep watch for any indication that the police were looking for him. He feared that Charlie and Ben might be on the wanted list too, they all participated in the kidnapping and attempted murder of Cassidy Tremaine. After three weeks of silence from the NYPD and the local news media, Tony sent out his two henchmen, Charlie and Ben, to canvass the streets for news about any police activity involving him and/or his businesses. Over the whole of this time there had been no news of any police interest in Tony, and he was perplexed by this.
Tony spent many hours contemplating why Cassidy Tremaine did not report his attempt on her life to her superiors. His thoughts settled on three theories: Detective Tremaine was being controlled or manipulated by the Dacia Vampires; Detective Tremaine wanted the Dacia Vampires to turn her into one of them; Detective Tremaine did not want the world to know that the Dacia Vampires existed. Tony knew that either of these reasons mandated that Cassidy did not report the kidnapping and attempted murder, and after a month of nothing, it was clear that one of these possibilities was likely true. At this point, Tony's continued diligence to hiding was primarily motivated by his second reason for hiding.
"He's coming," Ben spoke up in a hurry.
As Ben was speaking, Jeremiah and Charlie were listening to the sound of movement on the house's second level. There was only one person that it could be, and they all listened as Tony made his way to the stairwell and then began his descent. Several seconds after leaving the bottom step, Tony appeared in the doorway to the kitchen and continued through to the refrigerator.
"Hey, boss," Charlie greeted.
Charlie was not sure how he should greet Tony at this time of day. It was always at the start of night when Tony awakened from his twelve-hour sleep. Good morning did not seem appropriate to him, and good night seemed equally unsuitable.
"Any news?" Tony asked as he opened the refrigerator door.
All eyes were fixed on Tony from the moment he appeared in the kitchen doorway. The habit of staring at him started with his transition into a vampire. But the attention he was getting was motivated beyond the fact that they knew he was a vampire. His appearance was drastically different from what it was when he was mortal. Tony McGuire was 62 years old, but since his change into a vampire he looked to be in his mid-twenties. At each first sighting, Charlie, Ben and Jeremiah were reflexively astonished by the look of him. It was Tony's new appearance that was his second reason for staying out of sight.
"No, boss. There's nobody looking for you or talking about you. She didn't report it. She couldn't have."
Tony gave little attention to Charlie's report. He expected to hear what he heard, and his attention was mostly focused on the unwrapping of a rib steak that he had in his hand. Tony had the meat unsheathed in the time it took him to cross the room and seat himself at the kitchen table. He immediately began ripping into the raw meat with his teeth. The toughness of the steak encouraged more aggressive biting which excited a rapid growth of his canines and fingernails to noticeable lengths. The sight of this never failed to amaze Charlie, Ben and Jeremiah. Tony finished consuming a large chunk of meat and then paused to look at Charlie.
"I think it's time I went shopping," Tony announced with a smile.
"Shopping?" Jeremiah questioned with a frown.
"Yes," Tony returned as though he was still pondering the decision. "I'm going to need some new clothes," he continued with a smirk.
Charlie, Ben and Jeremiah required no explanation for that statement. Tony was easily fifty pounds lighter than he was when he was mortal. His drooping clothes was evidence of his once much larger physique.
"Yeah boss," Charlie agreed with enthusiasm. "You do need new clothes."
Tony responded to Charlie's concurrence with a smile that was near to a grin before speaking with a sly undertone.
"It's time for some changes."
Tony turned his attention back to the meat in his hands and made savage bites into it. Charlie and Ben were always intrigued by the sight of Tony eating raw meat, but the event held no fascination for Jeremiah. The sight of Tony devouring raw flesh would eventually nauseate Jeremiah causing him look away for relief.
Jeremiah Kingston was always a slight man in stature. He never had an athletic build or an inclination to participate in sports. The only competition he was interested in was business. Jeremiah was all about making money, and he was not above doing it in a deceitful, dishonest and unethical way. Generally, women thought he was funny looking, which hindered his love life in his teens and early twenties. He saw money as the cure for the deficiency in his sex life and pursued wealth with even more vigor for just that reason. His business success and his large four-bedroom home helped to secure him a trophy wife, but marriage did not confine his sexual appetite and that ended the marriage before the procreation of children. When he was not pursuing one woman to be his wife, Jeremiah entertained his proclivity for prostitutes and doped-up, strung-out women who were either unwilling or unable to repulse his advances. In a word, Jeremiah was a lecher.
"How's the meat, boss," Ben queried after a moment of silence.
"It's cold," Tony grumbled with meat still in his mouth.
Everyone there knew better than to ask if Tony would like the meat heated. They had learned on day one that the answer to that was decidedly no. Tony always wanted the meat raw even if it was just taken from the refrigerator.
Tony finished eating the meat that was in his mouth and then ripped another bite from the steak. While chewing, Tony gave Ben's question more thought. By the time he finished swallowing, an addendum to his answer was ready to be voiced.
"That's another thing that's going to have to change."