Chapter 24: Ivy (I)
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
I sat in the dark. I’d been a ghost for years. Ghosts don’t get tired. And yet so persistent are the old rhythms of body and mind that I felt tired. Everything I’d worked for was in ruins.
The room was in the basement of a branch library. The basement had been used to store excess books at one time, but was now vacant. It was rarely visited by anyone. And with the spell I had set up, no one would come down here.
There were two coffins I’d set up on the floor. They were all that was left of my dreams. In one was Shylock Kammen. In the other was the girl who had become his victim. And both were seriously damaged, possibly beyond any repair.
Oh, foolish sorceress! She had thought herself so smart, that Make Love Not War, as she was now calling herself. She had used her powers to seduce Shylock, not realizing what he was, not knowing that she was destroying his self-control, not understanding what she had unleashed. And the result was a dead woman. I did not need to open her coffin. I could visualize her. I could see the marks where the nylons Shylock had used for a gag had cut into her flesh. I could see the signs of torture on her. I could see the cuts by which he had dismembered her. And I could see the gaping wounds on her neck and chest where he had drunk her blood until he killed her. She died horribly. And she had been so mangled that she would have been unable to walk and catch prey during the First Thirst. She would have died from lack of blood, a mindless creature tortured by thirst. I used sorcery to bolt the parts of her body back together as best I could. I had no idea how much of it would revive with her, how much would just die. But it was all I could do.
In the other coffin was Shylock Kammen. He was no longer the man I had known. All the work I had done over the years to make Shylock a good man had collapsed. That foolish sorceress had fatally weakened his self-control. And now he could not live with what he had done, nor could he reject what he had done. His mind was in chaos, at war with itself. He might never be sane again.
Too late. It had taken me too long to trace Shylock when Make Love Not War put her spell on him. He had lost all control by the time I found him, and was tearing the clothes from her when I found him. I got him to stop, told him to get control of himself, sent him out of that foolish sorceress’s presence, told him to go to the library where we usually met. I didn’t bother to check that he’d fully regained his self-control until it was too late. I had been too busy probing Love’s mind for the information Shylock had wanted, and then trying to erase any memory of what had happened, what she had done to Shylock, what I had done to her.
Too late, again. I had felt death nearby, and feared for Shylock. I left the sorceress asleep and went hunting to see what had happened. I found Shylock in a room on the second floor. He was sitting there, naked, staring in horror at the remains of the girl. And there was blood everywhere.
Her name was Jenny Roberts. She liked being bitten by vampires. (Indeed, Ned O’Donnell had been one of them.) She had been told there was a vampire visiting Love. And when she saw Shylock leave Love’s room, she accosted him and asked him if he wanted to bite her. What little control Shylock had reestablished collapsed in the face of that temptation. He went with her to her room, and ended her life. And I was too late, once more. I cleaned up the room, took them away, but it was too late.
But that had been my great fault, my fatal fault with Shylock, always being too late. Despite what Shylock believed, despite what I made him believe, I had not loved him when I began shaping him, not even when I seduced him. He had been an interesting experiment, nothing more. It had been necessary to fake love, passion, and pleasure to conduct the experiment; I had done so. And then when I was faced with death at the hands of the sorcerer Mitchell Foster, whom Edward Cross had sent to kill me, I realized that I had fallen in love with my creation. I allowed myself to be quickly killed, so that I could live on and help Shylock. But it was too late to tell him so, to really love him, for I had become just a ghost. Too late!
Too late, I knew what Shylock had been trying to find out. Normally, I could not have taken over Love’s mind and explored it. But her own magic had made her submissive and vulnerable, and that made it easy. I now knew where Martha Fokker was. I knew what Martha Fokker was. And with that I understood what was really going on in Chicago, what the “war” between sorcerers was really about. At least it was not yet too late to use that information, to avenge Shylock by doing what he would have done himself, if he could.
Everything that had happened since Martha Fokker came to Chicago was because of one impossible fact. Martha Fokker wasn’t just a vampire. She was a sorceress, too.
I had spent precious minutes exploring Love’s mind to confirm that simple impossible fact. Martha Fokker was a vampire. But she still had her soul. And she could and did practice sorcery. Love knew this from experience, there could be no question there. How Martha could be a vampire and have a soul, Love did not know. Nor did she know if Martha had been a sorceress or vampire first. It had happened before she knew Martha.
So the sorcerer Edward Cross was hunting, the sorcerer who was helping Martha, was actually Martha herself. No wonder he could never find the sorcerer he was looking for. Who would have thought a vampire was a sorcerer? And the sorcerers’ war was a phony. Cross might think a sorcerer was using the vampires to get at him. But he was simply wrong. Martha was uninterested in Cross, or indeed in any aspect of high politics among sorcerers. And the same was true for Make Love Not War. Indeed, both of them had the strongest reason for avoiding sorcerer politics altogether. As I had found out from Love’s memories, she and Martha had engineered a major violation of the Conventions when they first met in 1874. They had set the hand of every sorcerer against them if that fact ever became known. And they knew well enough it would come to light if they ever ventured into politics.
I knew what Martha was. I knew where she was. I knew something about her that I could use for blackmail, if I needed to. Shylock would have wanted to see the vampire cops accepted back into the Chicago Police Department. I was going to force Martha Fokker to help that happen, even at the cost of her life if need be.
Make Love Not War had used a teleportation spell to send Martha back to her apartment in Madison, Wisconsin. I would wait for daylight, and then I would strike.
It was nine in the morning, and I was standing outside an apartment building in Madison. According to Love’s memories, Martha actually owned the building, having bought it before she took up residence in it. Martha apparently had a great deal of money. How she got it, that was something Love didn’t know either. Love only bothered with money when she needed it.
Martha’s apartment was on the fourth floor. From the ground, it looked like any other apartment. But as I floated up and stood on her balcony, I could sense a magical barrier against physical entities entering the apartment. It was no obstacle to me, and I strode inside.
Martha’s coffin was on the floor in a heavily curtained room, closed. Martha was careful. There was yet another magical barrier around her coffin, designed to keep magical spells from crossing into it. But that wouldn’t stop me, either. I was going to threaten her with impalement. I started walking toward the kitchen to look for a suitable instrument, when I noticed there were six sharpened stakes against the outside wall in the room. That was curious. What did Martha want with sharpened stakes? It mattered not to me, though. I took one of the stakes, walked over to her coffin, pulled up the lid, and positioned the stake directly over her heart.
“Martha,” I called.
End of chapter twenty-four