Chapter 36: Love
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
It was highly entertaining watching the look on Martha’s face when she saw me sitting beside my love. She just couldn’t believe it.
Neither could Ned. Poor Ned, he doesn’t really want to be a vampire. He is cute, though. Maybe I’ll just enslave him and try to see if it’s actually possible to make a vampire sexually perform. It will probably kill him. But I’ll have a lot of fun trying.
The washed-up nobody with the warrant, who is she? I probe into her mind, and find that she and this Kammen vampire that supposedly screwed me up are lovers of a sorts. So maybe there really are possibilities with vampires. Her situation is so interesting that I want her now.
You, Sally Truax.
She turns my way, unable to resist.
That’s right, you and me, we’re going to be great friends, along with your vampire buddy.
That makes her smile. Probably the first real pleasure she’s ever felt. No, I can see in her head something she and the vampire did. Ingenious.
I hear Martha’s voice, turn to look at her. She’s speaking to Ned. She says, “Clearly Cross has Love under his control. I know she’ll try to seduce almost everyone, but Cross is below even her standards.”
That’s a raw hit. I get angry, start to get up, but dear Edward reaches over and squeezes my hand. I relax.
Edward addresses Martha. “You’re a rather rude little creature. You don’t even address me with a proper title. It’s Monsieur Cross to you, you pathetic little vampire.”
But Martha’s not paying attention. She’s looking at my latest conquest, the Truax woman. She knows I did something to her. But you’re not going to get her back, Martha.
To my surprise, she doesn’t even try. She turns back to my dear Edward, and says to him, “Corpses don’t need titles.”
Edward laughs. He has a wonderful laugh, though thanks to his condition it is not very hearty. And he says to Martha, “In that case, I will dispense with your title, Martha Fokker. And you with it.”
It had only been a few hours ago that Edward’s sorcerers had caught me at Ned O’Donnell’s house and knocked me unconscious. It seems odd to me now that I had been working against Edward at that point. They say love is blind, and I guess I was.
The next thing I knew, I felt a sharp pain and woke up with a scream, for two different sorcerers were beginning to torture me. I was chained against a wall in a small windowless cell. It was almost antiseptically clean, except for the places on the floor and wall where my blood had spilled when they had cut me.
But then Edward arrived. He was already so noble, I just didn’t see it quite yet. He came through the cell door and looked at his wizards in disgust. Poor followers, they didn’t really understand him. He told them, “Put those things away. I’ll handle this one.” He was so masterful.
The next thing I knew he had his hands on me, and I couldn’t keep my hands off him. Or any of the rest of me. I’d found true love, and it was hard to wait until we got to a bedroom to consummate it.
Afterwards, I just watched him and ran my fingers up and down his naked body. Its gauntness haunted me, charmed me. He let me play with him a while. Then he sat up and said to me, “I’m expecting a visit from a friend of yours, Martha Fokker.”
“She’s no friend of mine,” I replied. Really! Martha! That trouble-causing little squirt has caused me no end of problems. Thanks to her, I’ve probably got a death sentence hanging over my head. Thanks to her, I had to leave London. Thanks to her . . . oh, to hell with her.
“Nevertheless, my dear, you know quite a bit about her. She wants to kill me. Can you think of any way in which she is vulnerable, any way I can keep her from killing me, maybe even kill her if I have to?” Edward gave me his best smile.
Oh, I could think of a way she was vulnerable, very vulnerable, as in it would kill her.
Martha makes a move to lift up her blasting rod to attack Edward. But I had warned my love about Martha’s odd-looking blasting rod, and he is ready for her. He lets go of my hand, lifts the magic mirror out of his pocket, and points it at Martha. Concentrated sunlight: no vampire can withstand it. Not even Martha. I’d already demonstrated that some weeks ago. Edward activates the mirror, and the power of five suns crashes into Martha. It knocks her back, step by step. In seconds she will start to burn.
And then she stops. Stops and starts advancing forward. It is hard to see in the glare, but she has her sorceress’s wand in front of her. And she isn’t burning!
I panic, clutch at Edward, foolishly dragging down his arm. The ray spills away from Martha. And at that moment she fires a blast of energy at Edward.
Had it been her blasting rod, Edward might have been hurt. But Martha must be weakened, and she is using only her wand. Edward is so strong, he just shrugs it off, knocks me to the side, and lifts the mirror again. The beam hits Martha and holds her. And then I see just how resourceful Edward really is, how brilliant. The power of the ray begins to increase. It doubles, quadruples. Martha roars, shaking the building. But it begins to force her back again.
I understand what Edward had already figured out, smart as he is. Because I had used it on her before, Martha was ready to counter the concentrated sunlight, but only at the intensity at which I had used it. By stepping the power up as he could, Edward is overcoming Martha’s prepared defenses.
Edward shouts to me, “Take care of the other two before Martha thinks to use them.”
So smart. I’ve already got Sally under my control, so I stand up and take over Ned’s mind, too. It is simple. They will do nothing. No, better than that: I make them turn and watch Martha being destroyed.
Martha is falling back under the intense beam. She has stopped roaring. I think I can see her face despite the glare from the beam. It is still unburnt, but Martha knows what is happening to her, and it shows: fear and rage play across her face as she falls back one step, and then another. Soon she will back into a wall, her defenses will collapse under the pressure, and it will be over.
And then someone else appears out of nowhere, at the end of the table nearest me. I don’t know her. She’s just a girl. I reach out to take control of her. But I can’t. Instead, I can feel something happen to me. What’s happening to me? And then I heard a voice in my head.
I’m freeing your mind of Edward Cross’s control.
What control? What do you mean? I’m in love with Edward.
For how long? When did your thoughts change from fearing him and wanting to avoid him?
It’s hard to think back. I was different then, wrong. I did fear him, then, as late as this afternoon. But that was then.
And this is now. You know a more powerful sorcerer can control you. What Edward Cross has done to you may be gentler than what Jacques of Marseilles did to you, but it is still of the same kind.
I don’t like to think about what Jacques did to me. And that Edward did the same . . . but he’s Edward. I love him. And how the hell is this woman reading my thoughts? How does she know about what Jacques did to me?
Because I’m really two people acting together. You see before you Nora O’Donnell, who is sister to Ned. But I am also the spirit of Ivy McIlwraith, and am drawing on her power.
That’s another person I could do without. Why should I listen to you?
How long have you loved Edward Cross? And how long have you hated Martha Fokker? Did she not help you escape Jacques’ clutches? What has Edward done for you, that you should love him?
If Martha hadn’t worked with me, neither one of us would ever have escaped Jacques. But she causes me so much trouble. And maybe Edward hasn’t done that much for me . . .
. . . except brainwash you.
Shut up! I suppose you want me to throw in with Martha, for your precious brother.
Not exactly. Look at what is going on between those two. Look.
I look. There is Martha, desperate, falling back ever so slowly, rage contorting her features into a vicious creature. And there is my beloved Edward. But he is so changed. His brow is so furrowed, his eyes practically popping out of his head as he strains to push the magical beam of sunlight to a high enough power to destroy Martha. Even with all his power, and the sunlight at his command, Edward is barely winning.
They are completely committed to each other’s destruction, now. And, truth be told, I do not want either of them to win.
Edward Cross is cruel, and Martha Fokker is vicious. If Cross wins, Martha and her children will all be destroyed to appease his wrath, and he will be free to torture and inflict harm to the end of his life. And Martha is not much better. Surely she will slaughter Cross’s sorcerers to the last man. And she feeds off her blood lust. She may not be able to stop herself.
I’d seen that. Martha hadn’t been able to stop herself in London. For that matter, she really hadn’t been able to stop herself here in Chicago. I’d had to devise that concentrated sunlight trick to stop her.
I have not the power myself to resolve their struggle. But you do, Love, with my help. Tell me, which one should win?
I love Edward. I owe Martha. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. You decide.
No. You know them both better than anyone else. It is for you to decide. What do they want, Love? Besides killing each other?
I don’t know, I told you. No. Wait. Let me think. If I can think. How do I know what I’m thinking is what I’d really want to think? Do I really love Edward?
That’s for you to decide. But right now, tell me, what does he want?
Now that I think about it, that’s easy. Edward wants power. I can see that in him. He’s dying, but he will cling to his power in Chicago at any cost.
What good does it do him?
I don’t know. He just is that way.
I don’t really understand Martha. She wants to get Ned back on the police force. I think she’s still mad about Vic getting killed last year. She was in love with him, or as close as vampires get to that. Otherwise, she usually just wants to be left alone.
And what is to keep her from going on another rampage?
Nothing. Cripes, what am I? Her keeper?
Had Edward Cross not suspected Martha of threatening his power, he would not have attacked her, and she would not have attacked them. This whole conflict is pointless.
Tell that to them. Just look at them. That’s all they can think of, right now. You said it, yourself.
Then what can you offer them instead?
No. What do you do, Love? What are you good at? What can you give them? What do you want from them?
Nothing. I . . . wait, I think I see what you’re driving at. I’m in love with Edward.
Because he made you so.
Doesn’t matter. Shut up, you asked me to think this through and that’s what I’m doing. I’m in love with Edward, I don’t care how or why. I want him to be in love with me. And if he was in love with me, he’d have something other than power he wanted, and he’d be willing to settle this business.
And Martha . . . hmm, that’s tougher. I wish she wouldn’t get out of control the way she does. It always causes trouble for me. It causes trouble for her, too. She even admits it. She knows it’s what causes her to do stupid things. Hell, the time she almost bashed Ned’s head in, she was crying afterwards because she’d hurt him. Maybe if she was more in control, less violent, or less hasty or something. But I don’t know how to do that.
But I do. I spent the last few decades as a ghost helping Sherlock Kammen control his sadistic tendencies.
Yeah, well what a success that was. No, forget that. I just saw what this cop Sally here thinks of Kammen. He’s got her in love with him without enthralling her. But your work wasn’t perfect, was it?
No. But Martha thinks she can improve on it for Kammen. Perhaps between what I know and what she knows, we can improve on it for her. Even if the work was imperfect, it might help.
Well . . . I suppose. How do we do this?
You go to Cross and begin. I’ll support you.
I break our little magical mental dialogue and go over to Edward. Dear Edward. Or Edward Cross the damn head sorcerer here. I don’t care which any more. I just want him to love me. And I want Martha to be less vicious.
I put my hands on Edward’s head and begin using sorcery on him. Immediately I feel more sorcerer’s power flowing into me, power with a great deal of knowledge and design behind it. Nora and Ivy join forces with me and we reach into Edward’s mind. He wasn’t expecting us, he’s too committed to fighting Martha, he can’t stop us. So we begin to change him. And then, through him, we change the magic of the concentrated sunlight into a beam of our own sorceresses’ power to reach out to Martha. It’s almost too much energy for me to handle, I feel light-headed. I’m not sure I can really do this. And then it’s over, just like that. I drop my hands, slump down in the chair beside Edward, feeling drained and tired.
Edward looks over at me. He smiles, even looks a bit shy. He says to me, “I have an idea of something we can do together, Love. Are you interested?”
All of a sudden I feel a lot better. I smile back at Edward, one of my more enticing smiles. He deserves it.
But what of the others in the room? What of Martha? I look around. I had dropped my control of Ned and Sally when I treated Edward and Martha. The two cops look like they’re collecting their wits, perplexed and unsure about what happened. Martha is sitting on the floor, looking stunned and tired. The girl, Nora, is seeing to her. I turn back to Edward. “What about them?” I ask.
Edward shrugs. “Let them find their own pleasures.” He stands up, takes my arm, and we leave. I don’t look back.
End of chapter thirty-six