Annabelle was here. I knew it the moment I stepped out into the vestibule.
I could smell her.
Her scent was different from other vampires. She carried the common vamp scent, and then there was a rotten undertone to it, something I hadn't encountered with the ugly ancient I had killed upstairs. I could only attribute the scent to her close relationship with the demon, Eurynome. Brad had hunted for her for a long time. From the way she smelled, I had a feeling Eurynome had her feeding off of corpses after he turned her. I almost felt sorry for her and checked myself - Bad mistake! Still, I hoped I was never reduced to crawling through war zones and plague cities feeding on the dead to stay alive.
Annabelle was smart enough to not come through the front entrance. The family and friends of the deceased would not know her. I figured she must have come through the back entrance or through the hearse garage. Whichever way she came in didn't matter at this point. She was early and that could spell trouble if Brad and Aldrin were in the midst of cleanup and she surprised them.
I excused myself as I made my way over to Jack and whispered in his ear, "Annabelle" and raised my eyes so he would know where I thought she went.
"Weapons are in the car," I whispered.
He nodded his head to let me know that he understood I was going after more weapons. I had stupidly left my knives and sword in my bedroom, thinking I would be able to get them before she returned.
Leaving through the back entrance of the funeral home, I spotted a BMW with tinted windows parked in our family parking space. I slipped out without being noticed and did the vamp speed thing to Brad's car hidden in the woods. I removed the brush enough to access the back of the car and cursed when I remembered the trunk on a Lamborghini is located on the front of the car.
"Why couldn't he have backed in?" I mumbled to myself.
I reached under the car to try to find something other than the bumper to grab onto to pull the car out of the trees.
"I've already got them," Brad spoke to my mind.
I stood up straight and said out loud, "If you knew I was coming to get them, why didn't you let me know sooner?"
"Because I wanted you away from there when Annabelle came," said Brad behind me.
I whirled around to face him and was so glad to see that he was okay I threw my arms around his neck and held him against me.
"I'm okay," he said as he pulled me tightly against him with one arm, "but we haven't much time. Your father is back there by himself."
By 'father' he meant Aldrin.
"I brought you your knives and sword."
I pulled away from him and looked down at the arm he didn't have around me suddenly realizing why he only held me with one arm. I was so glad to see his face, I hadn't noticed he came armed and with a bag.
"What's in the bag?" I asked.
"You can't fight in this," he said looking me up and down.
I held out my hand for the bag and he gave it to me. It took me seconds to change and put my skimpy skirt and jacket in the bag and fling it in the backseat of the car.
While I was dressing I had time to look Brad over. I hadn't seen him in complete battle gear before. Dressed all in black, he wore a turtleneck black sweater, black pants, and black long coat with a long split up the back, and black boots. The coat, pants and boots were made of leather, but the places where the material needed to bend at his joints, were joined with a strong flexible material that looked very much like leather but wasn't. Out of necessity, his boots were made from very supple leather. He wouldn't need to remove them when he morphed into full vampdemon.
Brad was reading me while I looked him over so he opened his coat to give me a better look. Hanging from his belt was a knife. Like mine, the blade was silver. Tucked in his coat pockets were holy water, crystals and a handful of bracelet rosaries. He had an antique bronze crucifix in an inside pocket of the coat. I wondered why he had it and why he carried it there.
"It's mine," he said answering my thoughts. He held it out to me and I took it from him to feel it. "It was given to me by my mother when I became a priest. I didn't have the heart to part with it."
I marveled at the depths to this vampire that he would keep something that not only tied him to his lost humanity, but to his lost God as well. The bronze cross was intricately carved with the figure of the tortured Son of God. I wondered how much more torture Brad would have to endure for a God who would allow his own son to die such a hideous death. I fought my anger toward Brad's God.
"Save your anger for evil, Dawn," said Brad. He took the crucifix from my hands. "God is not evil. What was done on the cross was done out of love."
"Someday you're going to have to explain that," I said.
"Let's hope we have a 'someday,'" he said. He turned away, took a few steps and stopped. His head fell forward and stayed that way while I stood where I was and waited. I couldn't read him and wondered what he was thinking and what he expected of me.
With his head still down, he reached a hand back for mine. "Come, we need to head back," he said. He turned back around when I took his hand and looked at me with a mixture of love and renewed resolve. "Starting now, we fight side-by-side," he said.
Brad and I returned to my apartment by way of the skylight. The bodies were gone but there was no sign of Aldrin, nor of Annabelle, though we could smell her; she had been in the apartment recently.
While in the apartment, we didn't speak as we checked out the rooms. We could read the other's high alert status with questions. 1. Where was Annabelle and what was she up to? 2. Where was Aldrin and was he alive?
We caught Aldrin's scent in the elevator. Blood on the elevator floor was his. Brad and I knew Aldrin wouldn't risk blowing our cover with humans by showing up injured during a funeral. But why would he leave the apartment if he knew we would return?
"Maybe he wanted to make Annabelle think we were gone?" I said.
"Maybe it's a trap," said Brad.
"Where the hell is she?" I said more to myself than to Brad.
"There's a possibility she could be waiting for nightfall," said Brad. "She has more recruits on her side, since as she invades territories, she wipes out potential enemies."
We took the stairs to the lower level. We didn't dare walk on them so we floated down to the lower level landing soundlessly in front of the basement door. Looking through the glass on the door, we could see that all of the lights were out - not a good sign.
Brad and I shifted back into "reading" mode automatically, so as not to be heard.
He opened the door and breathed in the air.
"She's here," I read from him.
I picked up a heavier scent of Aldrin. "So is Aldrin," I transmitted back.
"We've got to help Aldrin," I said.
"She'll expect that."
"We can't just leave him," I said. "The man is my father!"
"The man is a vampire," said Brad. "And he knows the risk. If I am killed, this territory will be taken over by not Annabelle, but Eurynome. Aldrin wouldn't want that."
"Why did we come down here if we weren't going to help him?"
"We had to know."
"Where she is and if Aldrin is alive."
"She could be draining him!"
"And you'll let her?"
"Well I won't!" I started forward.
Brad grabbed my arm. "Yes, you will."
I glared at him. I didn't know I had feelings for Aldrin until I considered he might be in trouble. The thought of Annabelle using my father as bait and feeding off of him was making me crazy.
"Do you think he would want you to be drawn into a trap on his account?" asked Brad. "Think about it. He holds me accountable for your protection. I made him, but YOU are his daughter."
"You're right," I said. "But I hate this...this helplessness."
"I know," he said. "But right now we must go. We've got to make plans."
"What about Eurynome?"
I could feel Brad's revulsion at the mention of the demon. "I don't know," he said.
We floated back up the stairs to the apartment.
Brad couldn't get a signal on his cell phone from our location. Most of Camargo was what the locals called a 'dead zone' so he used my private line in my bedroom. When he was done, he hung up the phone and grinned.
"Annabelle's in for a surprise," he said.
TO BE CONTINUED...