Rachel Seeker leaned against the mossy tombstone her parents shared, waiting there with a shovel. She had been returning to Feywood Cemetery every year on the night of their deaths, the 13th of November, for as long as she could remember, and ever since her only brother had disappeared thirty-six years ago. Before that, they used to visit their parents' graves together. This place, after all, was the last place she saw him. When he had asked Rachel to uphold a most horrible deal.
She was in her late fifties now, though still able to go toe-to-toe with even the fastest and fiercest prey. Stringy locks of grey dashed the sides of her black hair, unkempt and loosely tied at the end. She wore a double-breasted bridge coat, buttoned and extending down to a pair of steel-toed boots. Her mouth was wiry-thin, and eyes locked on the horizon of the graveyard.
The sun had only been down for an hour; she'd give it more time, she thought. One year, she waited up to five hours and told herself she wouldn't do that again. That was in the early years, though. Nights where it felt easier to be optimistic about things. Nights that now only seem to come around once in a blue moon, or not at all. Tonight felt like one of those nights, she thought. Though there was only so much optimism to be had when killing your undead brother, even if he deserved it.
Rachel and her older brother, Jack, had lost their parents at an early age, both raised by their dad's parents instead. Their grandparents were eccentric, claimed to have come from a long line of vampire hunters: A line that her Grandfather Owen said stretched back to the early 1600s, starting with Amadeus Von Seeker, the first of their clan. Rachel had always found her grandfather's tales amusing but had always regarded them as just that, tales. When she had grown up and finally left for college, her brother stayed behind to start his training, much like their grandfather had himself in his younger days. Rachel had often thought about what if she had taken more interest in her family's line of work back then. Perhaps, there would have been a better chance at a better future for them all.
Then, as if from nowhere, a tall man wearing a checkered suit and black tie appeared, walking down from the hill and onto the gravel path towards her parents' graves. He appeared young, perpetually stuck at the spry age of twenty-four, yet walked with a cane and arched back. His skin had an almost sickly blue hue to it, and though he hadn't physically aged at all, there was something in his eyes that said he was tired. Tired of everything.
"Rachel," he nodded; his voice carried an iciness but was otherwise how she remembered it. He did not smile, not a bit.
Rachel held herself high. She was surprised to see him again after all these years. She thought she never would. She had almost wanted to hug him; it was her lost brother, though Rachel would never show that. Not after their history. "Did you get all dressed up tonight for this?" She asked. She wasn't sure what to say. It had been thirty-six years. "Um, I'll be honest, I'm surprised to see you here."
"Yeah. Well. It is our parent's death day." Jack replied, planting himself at the foot of their graves.
"What stopped you the other forty years?"
Scratchy leaves scattered and danced along the grounds and headstones of the graveyard. Branches could be heard swaying above them as a cold silence passed over.
"I wasn't ready yet."
They both lingered a moment longer on their parents' grave.
Rachel turned. "Didn't stop me. I did what you asked. I've been coming out here every year for at least the last thirty-six."
"Well, thank you for upholding your end. Not everyone's as eager to put their own brother in the ground."
Rachel laughed. She laughed like she was young again, wrinkles disappearing from her face and a wild spark in her eye. "You think I kept coming out here for you? For your deal? Is that why you're here tonight? You want me to put you to rest? Why now? Why after all this time?"
Jack's feet shifted uneasily, resting against his cane. "I was wrong. I was wrong to leave Grandpa Owens and Grandma Alice. I was wrong about joining up with the Dumont's, the Fiends of Colorado," his voice sunk, "I was wrong to turn my back on our family and our secrets. And I have wronged so many. . ." He would be speaking from the heart if it were still beating. "I'm in some trouble right now. Some deep shit. They'll be coming to finish their work soon."
"What kind of trouble are you in?" Rachel demanded, sisterly-like. "Who's coming after you?"
"The Nine." That was all that Jack said. It was all he had to say to Rachel. Anyone who knows anything about vampires in America knew about the Nine, the kings, and queens of the Midwest. Years ago, Rachel had put an end to one of the organization's schemes of snatching people up from the Ozarks for their blood farms. The Nine were just that. Nine all-powerful vampires, lords and ladies of high society that had successfully infiltrated public politics, technology firms, and other corporations with large amounts of money and political sway. They were not to be reckoned with. They were one reason why their grandfather had been so secretive with their training throughout the years.
"It's true, y'know; there are fates worse than death." Jack turned to his sister with a half-smile. His teeth were smashed up, fangs missing, gums practically pulverized.
Rachel was surprised he could still speak. "Did-did they. . ."
"They did. They took my wings too. You should see their guys, though." His ugly-looking grin grew in size. Even if misguided or face smashed to bits, Jack still had his pride.
"Rachel," he said, "if you don't uphold our deal, they'll flay me next, and I won't get far. I'd rather not spend the next hundred years on fire in the sub-basement of some department store."
"You'd rather not, huh?" She said, staring daggers out her eyes. "Those aren't very strong words."
His smile faded. Another silence passed as leaves again whirled by.
"Jack," she said finally, shaking her head, anger seeping from her voice. She had wondered if she would ever have the chance to confront him about it. "Because of you, because of your actions, Grandpa Owen and Alice died sooner than they would have had to." Her eyes and voice filled with old hate, one forged of fire and spilled blood. "Why the fuck should I help you after all this time?"
Jack's eyes widened, his face melted away. "Please, I had no idea the Fiends would want anything to do with them!"
"Oh, yeah?" She didn't believe him. She had to say it. It was now or never. "How fucking stupid can you be? I got a letter in the mail one day telling me to come down there, didn't know who it was from. I show up, open the door, and there's blood. There was blood everywhere, Jack." Rachel trembled as if the scene was forever painted on the back of her eyelids. "I knew it wasn't me who messed up."
"Rachel, please, I know. I know." Shadows in the gauntness of his face. "For what it's worth, I never said much. Only that I was once a son of the Seeker clan, and I've been paying dearly for it ever since. I'm so sorry." His eyes dropped to the ground. "I'm not asking for forgiveness, I– "
"I know what you're asking for."
Rachel reached into the depths of her coat and pulled a rather large, very old-looking stake from it. Its base was wrapped in leather, silver rings sheathed around dark-colored oak leading up to a finely sharpened point. It was their family heirloom.
"Ah." Jack rolled his head up, appearing almost amused now. "That old thing? How fitting, huh?"
"Yeah, this old thing." She said. She knew her brother knew what it was.
"Grandpa was going to give me that at the end of that year, y'know?"
"Yeah. And now it's mine."
"You never wanted to be a hunter!"
Jack frowned. "It's still not too late. You can do whatever you want to. It's never too late." He rested his hand on his sister's shoulder. "You just gotta do me in last, then quit!" He smiled again, mouth ugly as sin. "You gonna bury me next to mom and dad?"
"Nice. Hopefully, maybe, I'll see them where ever I go." Jack turned his back to Rachel.
Rachel held the stake in her hand, raising it above her head. She had done it a hundred times before.
And then she brought it down.
She spent the next couple of hours digging into the sweet-smelling earth, burying her brother beside her parents. A final resting place that she may someday well join. She would like that, she decided. She had no family left, the last remnant of the Seeker clan. She had even less now than at sunset.
She grabbed the shovel, buttoned her coat, then looked around at the other headstones. She snatched a few roses from a neighboring bouquet and placed them on the freshly moved soil, staring at the graves for the last time. She'd be back the next year. This time no longer waiting.
Rachel turned to leave the grave, walking off onto the gravel path, up the hill, and back into the night. Nine more to go, she told herself.