?

Log in

 
 
31 August 2016 @ 03:10 pm
But the Horror of the Shade: Chapter Three  


Chapter Three

Nina put the patient chart back into its slot and bid Mrs. Carmichael goodbye. She walked to the nurse’s station and made a few notes before clocking out. Today had been one of those rare days when she didn’t want to bite someone’s head off for abnormal stupidity. She’d take it. Last night’s transformation had been particularly stressful for some reason, she could only fathom it was because of Mitchell’s fear regarding Eve biting Tom.

Tom hadn’t appeared to be anything other than himself this morning and Annie said she hadn’t noticed anything off the few times she’d popped into the basement to check on him. Tom was rather adept at adjusting from transformation, however; he had been a werewolf a lot longer than she or George, having been bitten as a child. Nina didn’t like thinking about it because even the idea of a child having to go through what she went through was too much. She’d been relieved to tears on Eve’s first full moon when nothing happened and each subsequent full moon after that was an even stronger feeling of relief.

Tom had been up and dressed by the time she and George had gotten back to the house and was eating breakfast like nothing had happened. There was nothing unusual about the bite marks on his hand and he hadn’t reapplied his bandage. Nina was hopeful that meant Mitchell’s fears were groundless but she wasn’t discounting the possibility, not yet. The supernatural had fooled her too many times.

She went downstairs and stepped outside into the shadows just past sunset, the old urge to have a fag reasserting itself as it seemed to do whenever she passed the smoker’s area. Her last cigarette had been over five years before, but there was something about a group of people smoking that made her want one again. Mitchell smoked at the house all the time and it never bothered her, yet here it did.

She did spy Mitchell leaning against the building under a streetlamp and talking to some people she’d never seen before. She stopped for a moment and watched them, something niggling at her. They definitely didn’t work at the hospital and it was an odd group of people. A couple of elderly men, a twenty something looking man, a little girl, and an older woman. They were all different races and their clothing looked expensive.

Mitchell hadn’t noticed Nina and he seemed to be arguing with one of the men. Suddenly he smiled and laughed, clapping his hand on the younger man’s back. The older man smiled and put a fatherly hand on Mitchell’s shoulder, but the smile was quickly lost as the man appeared to push Mitchell to his knees and spoke a few words.

Mitchell looked shaken and Nina wasn’t sure if she should interfere or not. There was something about the group that made her leery yet angry.

As Nina watched the little girl glanced over and stared at her, making Nina feel rather peculiar. Nina was just about to go over there, feelings or no feelings, when Mitchell got up and walked away, toward Nina.

“What on earth-” she began when he got within earshot, but he shook his head at her.

“Not now,” he said. “Meet me around the lorry entrance in ten minutes.”

He walked straight past her and Nina stayed where she was, half torn between tearing after him and interrogating the people he’d been talking to. She stole a glance and they were all gone, all but the girl, who was still staring at Nina. Nina shuddered and went back inside the hospital, trying not to walk too fast, but anxious to get out of the girl’s eyesight.

Once inside she felt better, like she was herself again. She was still rattled and ended up going upstairs, telling Laura and Rosario goodbye for the second time and then going out the back way.

Mitchell was waiting for her, his leather coat on over his scrubs, smoking nervously. She wondered how he could bear wearing the coat in this heat.

Nina stopped in front of him and put her hand on her hip expectantly.

“You got the car?” he asked. She nodded and still waited. “Let’s go,” he said.

Nina was afraid simply because Mitchell was acting like a skittish colt.

The car was parked halfway down the street and they got into it in silence before Mitchell pulled out and she was about to start a tirade when Mitchell put up his hand to stop her.

“Give me five minutes until we’re near the edge of town, Nina,” he said.

Nina wasn’t used to Mitchell asking for things so she did as he asked. He drove recklessly, taking an unnecessarily long and winding route to get them home, backtracking several times. It was obvious he thought the people were following him and that told Nina everything anyway.

Mitchell finally slowed down once they got to the city limits and then took a deep breath.

“The Old Ones are in town.”

“I got that much,” said Nina. “Is that little girl an Old One?”

“Hetty,” Mitchell said, nodding. “Very old, very respected.”

“She’s a child,” Nina said, even though she knew that it didn’t matter how old you were when you were turned. Mitchell simply nodded. “What did they want?” Nina asked, since that was the important question.

“They, they want Eve,” said Mitchell.

A spike of terror pricked Nina’s heart even though she’d known that was what the answer was going to be.

“And?” she asked, her voice deceptively calm.

“I told them to go to hell,” said Mitchell. “But they won’t stop.”

Nina nodded, her mind already swimming with ideas, trying to figure out how she could possibly keep Eve safe. She was having difficulty.

“What are we going to do?” she finally asked, because when push came to shove, she usually deferred to Mitchell in situations like this now.

He didn’t say anything for a minute and she wondered if he was struggling to think of something or going to lie to her like he used to.

“I don’t know,” he finally replied, which was the worst answer of all.

***

“They want what?” George asked, aware that his voice had reached octaves known only to dogs.

After such a quiet few weeks, the knowledge that the Old Ones were in town and wanted Eve was almost as surprising as him hearing about it for the first time.

“George, try to calm down,” said Mitchell.

“No,” George said, smacking his hand on the table. “Mitchell, this is my little girl we’re talking about and I’ll be as bloody panicky as I like.”

“Do you want to help Eve or not?” asked Nina.

“Of course I do,” George snapped and felt guilty about it, but also didn’t bother to apologize.

“They’re just vampires, yeah?” said Tom, looking from one person to another. “We just kill ‘em and it’s fine.”

“Tom, no offense to the warfare you learned from your dad,” said Mitchell, “but these vampires have survived for hundreds of years and they’re a little bit harder to kill than your ordinary vampire.”

“I still say they can die as easily,” said Tom.

Mitchell looked like he wanted to argue the point some more, but George didn’t think that would be profitable.

“What did they say, Mitchell?” he asked.

“They said that they’d heard I was still friends with you and wanted to know if I could introduce you and pave the way for negotiations.”

“Negotiations?” asked Annie. “What would that even mean? They just want Eve, right?”

“But vampires are old fashioned blowhards,” said Nina.

“It’s true, we are.” Mitchell nodded. “They will make reparations for the loss of your child,” he said, obviously trying to sound more posh.

“Sod their reparations,” said Nina. “Was that it?”

“Pretty much. After I said no, they said they’d ask again in a few days and that would be my last shot.”

“I know I shouldn’t ask, but did they specify the last shot of what?” asked Annie.

“Of doing this the easy way,” said Mitchell.

George closed his eyes and tried to picture a blazing sunshine on a white beach, a place vampires would despise. He would take Nina and Eve and they would go there. If Mitchell and Annie and Tom wanted to tag along, they could. Mitchell could just wear a big hat all the time. It would be funny, George liked the idea.

“Then we need to leave,” he said. “There’s islands in the Caribbean, let’s go.”

“You don’t understand, George,” said Mitchell, waving his hand for emphasis. “You can’t run from them, they’re not ordinary vampires. They will hunt you down forever once you’re their prey. If they can’t follow you themselves they have humans in their employ who can and will. There’s no running, mate,” he finished in a softer tone. “Not long term anyhow.”

“What other options do we have?” asked Annie, linking her arm through Mitchell’s.

“This isn’t your problem,” Nina said, her voice strained. “So if you need to…”

“As if I’m going anywhere while my niece is in danger,” said Annie. “Nina, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Someone once told me I couldn’t live without help,” said Mitchell. “Sound like anyone you know?”

“I like to kill vampires,” Tom said, with a shrug.

George had to laugh, but he felt very touched even though he’d known exactly what each of them would say. They’d been friends and lived together for too long. They were a family.

Nina nodded, not looking surprised either.

“I’m grateful,” she said, “but we still need to decide how to handle this.”

Mitchell paused for a moment and then spoke hesitantly.

“I say I meet with them.”

“And tell them what exactly?” George asked. “Yes, you can have the child, just leave everyone else alone? No, you can’t have the child, now come and kill us all?”

“Knowledge is power,” said Mitchell. “If I don’t know more about what their plans are, what they want Eve for; I can’t come up with a proper strategy.”

Nina shuddered and drew a deep breath.

“You all know how I hate admitting it, but I agree with him.”

“Sometimes I think you two always agree,” said George slightly under his breath.

It was true, too, because Nina and Mitchell fought like hell sometimes, but they almost always came to the same conclusions. It was a bit condescending how they looked at him and Annie sometimes like they were children who needed corralling. Still George would rather have it that way than have to live without either of them.

“That sounds solid to me,” said Annie. “I mean, I’ll stay here with Eve obviously and make sure I can get her to safety as needed.”

“I’m staying with you as well,” said Nina. She looked at Annie and smiled. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Annie, and there’s nobody better for a fast exit, but I don’t want to leave her side.”

“But I’m going,” said George, determination in every syllable. If Mitchell thought he could handle this without at least one of Eve’s parents, he was dreaming. “I have a right to be there, Mitchell, don’t argue.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Mitchell said. “She’s your kid, I’m just the interpreter.”

George slumped a little, somehow the knowledge he would go up against the vampires with Mitchell at his side was as reassuring as the old days when he’d thought Mitchell could protect him from anything.

“I’ll stay here?” Tom asked like a question, looking back and forth between them all like a kid unsure where he was supposed to be.

“Sure,” said Annie.

“We don’t even know when this will be, do we?” asked Nina.

“They’ll get in touch with me,” said Mitchell, nodding slowly. “They have their ways, probably at the hospital.”

“Eve does not leave this house from now until this is over,” Nina said firmly.

“They’ll have watched us first,” said Mitchell. “I tried not to give them too obvious a road back to the house or let on who you all are, but if I know them, they knew all that before they came.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Annie.

“I mean, nobody else should really go anywhere alone,” said Mitchell. “People alone are easy prey. Being leverage against the rest of us would not be good.”

George hadn’t really thought about that, but it made perfect sense. Great, now he had to worry about everyone else just as much as Eve. He was getting sick and tired of the vampires messing up the perfect, very non-threatening life they’d built for themselves.

“Bollocks,” he said succinctly.

***

A crack of thunder sounded throughout the house. The intense summer heat had finally culminated in a storm, rain pouring down in the muggy air. Nina busied herself in the laundry, the type of task that could keep her from going mad. Annie usually raced everybody to all the chores in the house. How she did that and also managed a thriving business could probably only be explained by the fact that she didn’t sleep. But today Nina wanted to do something with her hands. There was a lot to think about and she would go mad if she just sat and thought.

White and darks and whites and darks. There was George’s favorite shirt, one of a seemingly endless amount of pairs of Mitchell’s fingerless gloves, several of Tom’s undershirts, and Eve’s yellow sundress. She’d worn it on a picnic they’d been on and got jelly down the front. She’d cried and cried because she both hated messes and loved the dress. Nina had forgotten to put it in the wash and she wondered if it was ruined now, she’d have to ask Annie. For the moment she held it and stared at it, the symbol of a little girl in danger, and she didn’t know whether to be angry or cry.

Tom solved her quandary for her by coming into the room and meandering around too casually, picking up something here and there, and then giving her sidelong glances.

“What’s the matter, Tom?” Nina said, actually grateful for the distraction.

“Nothing really,” he said, acting like he was looking for a pair of his denims.

Nina watched him out of the corner of her eye for a moment.

“You’re shaking,” she said once she realized it.

“Am I?” he asked, looking at his hand. “Naw, just a spasm.”

“You are shaking,” she said, turning and giving him a once over. “You know it, too.”

He looked sheepish and finally nodded.

“I don’t feel too well, honestly.”

Nina automatically went into diagnosis mode and asked him all the normal questions she’d ask any of her patients. His answers weren’t illuminating or encouraging.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Bit odd,” he said. “Hot and then cold. My bones are aching fierce. I can…smell things, see things. Like when…when I’m a wolf.”

She put her hand on his forehead and he did feel like he had a temperature. She didn’t want to jump to conclusions but she reached for the hand Eve had bit and he pulled it out of her grasp.

“Whatever’s happening will come out eventually,” she said, feeling sorry for him. “Let me help you.”

Tom looked at her for a minute and then slowly put his hand back in hers. Nina held it up to the light and couldn’t speak.

The bite mark of Eve’s, though it had never been deep, was white and deep like the scars they all bore from their initial meeting with a werewolf.

“I guess summat did happen,” said Tom.

Nina had the odd desire to laugh.

“I think so,” she said. “We’d better tell the others.”

“Do we have to?” he asked.

Nina paused and studied him for a moment. He never did like being the center of attention, but he was clearly very uncomfortable.

“Why wouldn’t you want to, Tom?” she asked, trying to be gentle.

“They’ll make a big fuss,” he said. “I don’t want nothing to happen.” He stopped and then asked in a low voice. “What will happen to me?”

Nina sat down and pulled him along with her. As if she had the answers to that question.

“You’re going to be okay,” she said. “You think I would let anything happen to you?”

“We don’t always get a choice,” Tom said, shrugging.

“You’re right,” said Nina, thinking back to the many things that had happened to her that were out of anyone’s control. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to make it easy for it to happen.” That earned her a small smile and she continued on after a sudden thought came to her. “I don’t know Eve’s destiny, not really. But she was made by werewolves to hurt vampires. How could her bite to another werewolf be bad? If anything, something wonderful could happen to you.”

Tom looked hopeful at that.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he admitted.

“Neither did I till just now,” said Nina.

“Sure glad you did,” he said.

“Me too,” she said.

An explosion of sound entered the room in the form of an excited Eve who wanted to go out and play.

With some relief, Nina wouldn’t be able to let her go outside, because of the storm if nothing else.

“You hear that?” Tom said, pointing upwards.

“Baby, there’s a storm,” said Nina. “You don’t want to get all wet, right?”

Eve solemnly shook her head, she hated getting wet, bath time especially.

“We’ll play inside,” said Tom.

“I get Daddy and Unca John,” said Eve, clapping her hands and running out of the room again.

Nina watched her go, swelling a little with the emotion inside of her, both the love and the worry.

“No, nothing bad could come from that,” she said silently to herself.