MC Ch. 33

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Chapter 33: Martha (IV)

I arrive back in the library basement not long before sunrise, only to find Ivy isn’t around. That’s odd. She likes to be kept up to date on what I am doing, and never seems to miss a chance to criticize, to boot. I’m sure she’ll be around at sundown. Soon enough. But this means I’d have to get up when Sally Truax arrives to see Kammen. That will be two days in a row I have to be active in the daytime. I can do it, hell, any vampire could do it as long as he stays out of the sunlight, but it’s a strain.

Truax looks to be a reliable ally. She’s a cop, professional, she has contacts, and she wants Kammen. Nora O’Donnell, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. Oh, she is her brother’s loyal sister, no doubt. And I’m thinking she might be just the right person to help rehabilitate Jenny Roberts. Jenny needs someone who understands young girls and vampires, and Nora is the first and has a brother for the second. Besides, Nora would be more trustworthy than Love, who is my next best candidate. Still, there is something uncanny about Nora O’Donnell. Her blood tastes especially sweet. And the sorceress’s spell hadn’t rested quite properly on her. Though that could be because I had bitten her. I haven’t ever seen a sorcerer try to put a spell on one of my prey before, so I have no basis for a comparison.

Kammen and Jenny are sufficiently full of blood, and resting about as well as they can, all things considered. Sleep tight, kids. And I compose myself to sleep.

ii.

I wake up with an awful start about one in the afternoon. It takes me some time to figure out what is wrong. Some sort of sorcery has attacked Nora O’Donnell. It has stopped. Nora hasn’t been killed by sorcery, I am fairly sure of that. It didn’t feel like she died. But she is gone. I can’t sense her at all. And it’s daytime, which means I can’t go out and check without weakening myself more than I want to, seeing I have to face Cross tonight. This is when I could use Ivy. Where the hell is she? Nowhere.

And then it hits me. Ivy gone. Nora gone. What if, somehow, Cross is picking off my allies? Who else could he get? Probably not Ned, he’ll have taken steps to hide himself after last night. Truax is coming along this afternoon, or not, be easy to check up. What about Love?

Well, I’m awake, and Truax isn’t due for two hours. Time to use my sorcery for teleporting. It takes me most of an hour to set up, mainly because I need to protect myself from light if Love has opened the drapes in her bedroom.

She hasn’t. There’s a bit of sunlight leaking in, nothing I can’t handle or dodge. And there Love is, asleep, and there’s no one in bed with her for a change. I give her a whack on the sole of her left foot.

“Owww!” She sits up. “What the . . . oh, Martha.” She looks around. “What are you doing up here in the daytime?”

“Checking to see if you are all right.”

Love gives me a searching look. “Why?”

“Because I tortured one of Cross’s sorceresses last night, and she revealed that Cross is definitely gunning for me. Another one of his went after Ned O’Donnell and his people, and killed several of them before they took him down.” I couldn’t help smiling. My vampire offspring had taken down a sorcerer! “And Ned’s sister Nora and Ivy McIlwraith are both missing. I have to assume Cross is gunning for my allies.”

Love gets up, naked, and starts pacing the room with an annoyed look on her face. I expected as much. She finally turns and says to me, “Well, why shouldn’t I be safe? How would he know we’re connected?”

Gee, thanks, Love, express some concern for the rest of us. “If he got Ivy McIlwraith, need I remind you that she knows who you are?”

Love looks even more annoyed. “Yeah, you do need to remind me, because that damned ghost erased my memories of our meeting.”

Uh-oh, sore point. When I told her what happened to Kammen and Jenny, what ticked off Love the most? Not that her own sorcery went astray and almost turned her into Kammen’s slave and victim. No, what really irked her was that Ivy had completely eradicated all of Love’s memories of the events. I switch to safer arguments. “Forget Ivy. If Cross’s sorcerers got their claws into any of the vampire cops I brought here, or if Ned ever mentioned you to his sister, guess what? You’re exposed.”

“Shit.” Love flops back on her bed, lying on her back.

“Besides, I want you to do something for me. I bit Nora O’Donnell the other night. About an hour ago, she was attacked by sorcery, and I can’t find her anymore. I want you to go to her house and find out what happened.”

Love lets out an exasperated sigh. “No. If something did happen to her, there will be other sorcerers there. I’m not getting into a fight over Ned O’Donnell’s sister, who’s probably dead if you can’t find her.”

I had only half-expected a refusal, so I had to think for a bit before I said, “I’ll tell Ned you wouldn’t help his sister.”

She turns her head to me, disbelief on her face. “That’s supposed to persuade me?”

“Well, yeah, Love, it’s Ned.”

She turns her head, stares at the ceiling. “I am not besotted with Ned, unlike some people I know.” After several seconds, without saying a word, she gets up and starts putting on her clothes. Just before she pulls her sweater over her head, she turns to me. “Understand this, Martha. I am not doing this for you or for Ned. I’m doing it because I feel sorry for anyone that has to put up with you two. And what does she look like?”

I give Love a description, tell her the address, and then add, “What sort of weapons are you taking?”

She’s putting on her shoes, as she says, “Was I carrying any weapons in Marseilles? In London? In New York?”

I shake my head. “I was hoping you’d learned. At least take a blasting rod.”

“If I had one.” She turns to leave, turns back to give me a glance. “Look, Martha, I’ll be careful. You know me,” and she smiled. “Make love, not war. Ciao.” And she leaves.

Yeah, I know you, Love. That’s what I’m afraid of.

iii.

I’d opened a teleportation portal coming here, and there’s a portal I set up in leaving Madison. It’s easy to connect the two, so I’m able to go to Madison and pick out an evening gown, worn only once, from my wardrobe there. And then it’s back to that library basement, to wait for Truax.

I’m still bothered by the absence of Ivy. I’m going to have to go out tonight, and Jenny and Kammen are going to need blood. I know roughly how to do the small blood thefts/transfusions for those two, but I’ve never done it before myself. Looks like I’ll get practice, like it or not.

Worse, I’m feeling unusually tired. I’ve been studying myself, and this confirms what I’ve been seeing. Using sorcery is tiring me out, unless I’m acting out of anger or rage, or let myself indulge in those emotions. I’m able to keep myself under control so far . . . if torturing Cross’s sorceress at Scratch’s place counts as under control. Probably not. Damn. I was doing OK until I pulled the knife out of her the first time, more than OK.

Truax arrives just on time, fortunately not in uniform. I get to the door before the ward-off spell Ivy set up would drive her off, and let her in. She looked washed out at Scratch’s, and she doesn’t look much different here. But when I prop open Kammen’s coffin, her face comes alive. Love, concern, worry, lust, tenderness, horror, all play across her face. She gets down on her knees by his coffin, looks at him a long while before saying to me, “He looks as if he’s in agony.”

“Yeah, well . . .” I think of several things to say, all of which are true and all of which will make Sally Truax feel worse. Oh, to hell with it. “I’m going to wake him up and stand back. He shouldn’t see me with you here.”

Truax looked at me questioningly. “Why not?”

“Oh, because I threatened to torture and kill you to make him interested in living.”

I would have thought Truax would have been dismayed or gotten mad at me. Well, maybe she is mad, her voice sounds much harder as she asks, “Did it work?”

“See for yourself. I’ll wake him. He’ll still be paralyzed. But be careful going anywhere near his fangs. He’s not fed directly from a person since he was down here. I don’t know if he can control himself.”

I wake Kammen, and step back. Truax leans over and starts talking to Kammen in a low voice. I don’t listen. I go take a look at Jenny, try to stay out of Truax’s sight without leaving the basement. I hear some crying. I hear Truax letting Kammen drink from her, and resist the impulse to intervene. It lasts only a short while. Good. Kammen is regaining some control, at least with Sally Truax.

After about another twenty minutes, I go over, and almost ruin everything. Truax and Kammen are quietly talking. Kammen even looks peaceful, until he sees me. And then his face flushes red with anger, and he lets out what can only be described as a keening note. It’s a weird noise some vampires can make, not me. And it’s dangerous. Truax begins to turn pale and looks as if she’s going to pass out. I shout at Kammen, “You’re hurting Sally Truax!”

He stops. And that agonized look that was on his face comes back again. I think of anything I can say, and tell him, “I’ll get Truax home safe, Kammen.” He looks a little less unhappy. I put him to sleep, close the coffin.

Truax is still recovering from that keening. It’s as if she stayed awake but lost all consciousness, and is regaining it piecemeal. Finally she comes to, and in a panic looks over to Kammen’s coffin and then to me. “Is he all right?”

I shake my head. “My fault. But he turned it off when he realized he was hurting you.”

That makes her feel better. She asks me about it, asks to see Jenny, asks me what I’m going to do about her. I tell her about my idea of Nora taking the job on, and she says she wants to be part of it, too. And then I tell her about what happened with the vampire cops, and tell her I’m concerned for Nora, and would she come with me to the O’Donnell place? And she agrees.

iv.

We approach the O’Donnell house carefully. Carefully enough for me to spot the sorcerer observing the street before he could see us. I catch him unaware and forcefully interrogate him. Sally Truax coldly notes that I didn’t read him his Miranda rights. I have to ask what Miranda rights are. Once I know, I repeat them to him and then kill him.

There are three sorcerers in the O’Donnell house, according to my deceased informant. And there’s something weird just outside the front door, some sort of magical distortion, that looks something like a collapsed teleportation portal. Is that what happened to Nora? Or Love, for that matter? Caught in a collapsing portal? Still, it’s my best way to attack the house. It will help mask my approach if anyone there is especially sensitive to sorcery or vampirism.

I confer with Truax, and we come up with a plan. She is to go to the front door, pretend to be a family friend, while I stand to one side of the door and jump in when she’s allowed to enter.

I sneak up until I’m against the wall, to the right of the door. And then Truax marches up the front steps and rings the doorbell. An unfamiliar person, definitely not one of Ned’s family members, answers the door.

At that moment, the plan goes haywire. The distortion finishes collapsing, and lets off an astonishing amount of magical energy. It’s like an explosion, and it’s directly behind Sally Truax. There’s no way she can step out of the way, not with the screen door still closed in front of her. The full impact of it hits her.

Normal humans can’t handle magical energy. If they can, they are by definition sorcerers. Sally is not a sorceress. The energy goes into her body. An aura of light builds up around her. She levitates a foot above the steps, and begins twitching uncontrollably with every muscle of her body. If that were to last even a minute, it would kill her.

The moment I see her start to levitate, I move, as quickly as I can, to go around the house. I do not want to be the nearest sorcerer when Sally’s body discharges that energy. It will not be pretty . . . for the sorcerer. And I can use the distraction. I swing around to the back door, which opens to the kitchen.

An explosion and two screams, one male, one female. I slam through the back door with my blasting rod drawn, scan the room, move to the living room. Ned’s parents are sitting there as if they are taking naps in their chairs, and a worried sorceress is staring at whatever is going on near the front door. I blast her dead, and cross the room toward the front of the house.

The front door doesn’t come into the living room. Instead, there’s a small landing, which opens to the living room on one side, a closet on the other side, and a staircase to the second floor opposite the front door.

The first thing I see is that the front door is off its hinges and leaning against the closet door. The screen door is nowhere to be seen. And Sally is lying on the landing floor. There’s a thick layer of ashes underneath her. That’s all that remains of the sorcerer who came to the door. The energy discharged from Sally’s body burned him to cinders.

Sally shakes her head, starts to get up. I step forward onto the landing to help her. And almost immediately, another stranger appears at the top of the stairs on the second floor, and points a blasting rod at Sally. I have no choice but to move forward in front of Sally and try to fire before the stranger does.

I don’t.

The blast sends me flying out the door, and then before I know it some residual effect of the distortion spins me around and sends me back into the house at high speed. I slam into the staircase going up to the second floor, and the impact shakes the house so much it knocks the sorcerer off his feet. He comes tumbling down, bangs into me, and we both roll down the last few steps into the ashes on the landing.

We roll free of each other. I’m a vampire, and tougher, but I took the full impact of hitting the stairs. So it looks like it will be a fifty-fifty proposition whether I can get up before he can. And I have no idea where my blasting rod is.

I hear a sudden thudding noise and a groan. I stagger to my knees and look. And there, standing less than a foot away, is Sally Truax, with her gun in her hand, held so she could use it to club the sorcerer in the head. I say to her, “That shouldn’t have worked.”

Sally smiles. “Tell that to him. You OK?”

I shake my head. “No.” I think I’ve broken a few things. Time for food. Before Sally can react, I scramble over, collecting my blasting rod in the process, and sink my fangs deep into the sorcerer’s chest, between the ribs, straight into his heart. And I drink. And drink. And it tastes very, very good. It is the blood of mine enemy. It is mine.

I finish. There is not one drop of blood left in him. He is my victim. He will not be allowed to live again. I get up, walk over to the fireplace, seize the fire iron, walk back over, and plunge it into his heart. And then I take it and smash it repeatedly into his head until his brains are splattered. I toss the iron away. I don’t need it anymore.

I look up. The Truax woman, Kammen’s prey, is pointing her gun at me. I laugh at her. And then I feel another vampire approaching. It is one of mine. It is Ned. I ignore Kammen’s prey, go back through the living room, ignoring his parents, who still look asleep, through the kitchen to the back door, and out into the yard. Ned lands, transforms.

“What are you doing here, Mother?” he asks.

“Waiting for you to help me destroy Cross,” I say. “There were sorcerers guarding this place. They may have taken Love and Nora.”

Ned looks beyond me, speaks to the person behind me. “Who are you?”

Kammen’s prey answers, “I’m Officer Sally Truax. You’re Ned O’Donnell?”

Ned nods, turns to look at me. “What’s happened to you, Mother?”

Kammen’s prey answers first. “She got that way while she was drinking the blood of one of the sorcerers.”

I turn and look at her in annoyance. Maybe I should take her as my prey. After all, Kammen belongs to me. So does Ned. Kammen’s prey realizes I want her, and starts to come to me.

And then Ned spins me around. “What’s the matter with you, Mother? She’s some other vampire’s prey.”

“Kammen’s,” I tell him, “and so mine.” But I’m not so sure. I turn to look at her. She’s caught in my enthrallment, but not coming any closer. Her name is Sally Truax. You let her talk to Kammen. She clubbed the sorcerer. You’ve already drunk your fill.

I let Sally go. I stand there, count to one hundred under my breath. I can’t think in a raging blood lust. I need to think.

“Ned, Sally, I’m OK.” Oh, really? “Well, as OK as I’m going to be.” I look at them both. Their looks express uncertainty. Too bad. If they won’t help me I’ll spill . . . no, wait, no. Think, Martha, think.

I draw myself up to my full height. It’s 4’10”, nothing to brag about, but it will have to do. “Ned, Sally, tonight I am going to pay a visit to Edward Cross. And then we are going to rescue Nora and Love, and kill Cross. Tonight. It will be all over before the sun rises.”

End of chapter thirty-three

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5 Responses to MC Ch. 33

  1. E. J. Barnes says:

    “Is that what happened to Nora? Or Love, for that matter?” — not Ivy?
    I’m confused as to who is where when Martha sees Sally lying on the ashes of the dead sorcerer. Is Sally inside the door or still on the outside steps? Is the stranger with the blasting rod at the top of the *stairs inside the house* rather than at the top of the *steps at the front door*?
    The sequence with Martha losing control, being in a fugue state, almost attacking Sally, had me gasping for breath.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      1. Ivy’s not a material being. Martha doesn’t think that Ivy could have gotten caught up in a collapsing teleportation portal. She has good reason for thinking this, but she’s wrong.
      2. This is why authors need editors, so a big thank you here. I wrote that knowing exactly the configuration of the house, and therefore not bothering to explain it satisfactorily. The key is that this episode involves the outside front steps, the inside staircase to the second floor, and the landing in-between them. I have rewritten this section to explicitly clarify the layout.
      3. Yeah, Martha’s having trouble keeping herself under control. She lost this struggle in London back in the 1880s, and Love had to yank her out of the city. We’ll see how she does this time.

  2. crimsonprose says:

    Good action. Visuals – sfx – great.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      I’ve been inspired by Russell’s action scenes to try my hand at them, just as your influence led to Nora’s confrontation with Father Quinn (as I was rereading about Kerrid’s interpersonal problems while preparing that chapter).

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