A Novel Partial
Chapter One, a rewrite of a published short story which is a prequel to Those of My Blood
Chapter Two - an unpublished chapter
Plus an Outline of the rest of the novel, Feral Vampire
This is an example of a market-ready novel proposal called a "Partial"
Presented as a free textbook for WorldCrafters Guild students
The novel Feral Vampire is copyright © 1989, 1993, 2001 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, all rights reserved.
STOP: don't read any further until you understand that this is not the complete text of the novel, and that this novel has never been completed. It exists as chapters and an outline - that's all. Feral Vampire, like Vampire Bound, was submitted to several publishers just as the doors closed on Vampire novels - and it never sold, so it was never written. Dreamspy, the novel set out in the Galaxy at the same time as Those of My Blood, probably sneaked through because it is ostensibly a galactic-war story -- but only ostensibly. Actually, it's also a Romance. I still have some hardcover copies of Dreamspy for sale.
Much of the first chapter of Feral Vampire appeared as the short story "False Prophecy" in the anthology Tarot Tales, edited by Rachel Pollack and Caitlin Matthews, Legend, 1989. For 7 years, there was only this British quality paperback that was not available in the USA. Ace Fantasy did a USA edition in mass market, 1996.
The version of the story here presented as a Chapter is a little different from the anthology to provide the springboard into the novel. (BTW: it's a very good anthology of stories illustrating various Tarot Cards -- this one I did illustrates the Hanged Man. The Tarot Card graphics in the British edition have been eliminated from the ACE edition. But they were just drawings of Tarot Cards -- and the Tarot is not defined by any deck of cards. Tarot actually has little or nothing to do with cards. For more on my approach to Tarot, see my SF Review Column, Recommended Books, or my series of nonfiction books on the Tarot, The Biblical Tarot. There will be 6 volumes in the Biblical Tarot series, emphasizing that Tarot is good for many things, but not for foretelling the future.
If this novel ever sells, very, very little of what is in these two chapers and outline will survive the final drafting. The genre of the final product will depend entirely on the market it goes to.
Feral Vampire is set 20 years prior to Those of My Blood and features Titus and his then human love, Gavriella Dean, "Gabby," a beginning Tarot Reader who meets Titus at a Halloween party and changes drastically because of it.
Neither Vampire Bound nor Those of My Blood, nor Feral Vampire are horror genre, though Feral Vampire could be written to be horror by focusing tightly on Gabby's point of view throughout and stopping the story before the happy ending.
So what Genre are these vampire stories? They're not Horror even though they have a vampire in them -- and frankly, they're not exactly Romance Genre even though they are primarily love stories. They are what I have named the genre of Intimate/ Adventure. And that is the genre to which Sime~Gen, as Jean Lorrah and I write it, belongs.
The text is presented here as a text for the student of the WorldCrafters Guild and may be discussed elsewhere in the Workshop, on the Guild Listserv, writers-l, the Bulletin Boards and on the Sime~Gen Listserv (because Sime~Gen is based on the Vampire-as-good-guy Archetype even though it is not ostensibly a Vampire series. Many vampire fans who hate Horror Genre novels love Sime~Gen.)
Students should note that this novel outline is metered to come out to 110,000 words when completed, (see discussion of THEME and Structure on the Workshop as the element that determines length. Theme also determines how many characters you need to tell the story, how many sides of the issue must be examined, which also determines length.) This "outline" below is a selling outline, not the "outline" a writer would use to construct the novel. The writing outline would include some of this, but leave out the things that you could never forget because they're part of the basic Idea you had. The writing outline would include many details and guidelines (like the charcoal shadow-lines an artist places on a canvass before starting to paint) that would only confuse an editor looking to buy the book. See the Workshop posts on outlining.
WRITING STUDENTS NOTE: THE WORDS INSERTED BELOW IN CAPS LIKE THIS or in EXTRA LARGE TYPE ARE NOTES FROM ME TO ME REGARDING THE STRUCTURAL MECHANISMS OF THE WHOLE NOVEL. (I code them as "hidden text" but they accidentally got swept into the HTML so I've left them visible. I started this story the morning of 12/26/88 in Alameda, California, using my daughter N. Gail's Kaypro computer which was actually better than the one I had at home in New York at the time, except the keyboard's keys stuck abysmally. I started by keyboarding in the story False Prophecy so I could write the next chapter. The text has survived so many software and hardware upgrades while many other pieces of mine have bitten the electronic dust that I'm not going to quibble about a few hidden comments soaking through to appear on top of the paint-job. Also, all the italics are gone.
Don't forget to BOOKMARK this page in case you have to leave before you've finished reading.
Oh, I hope I'm doing the right thing!
I have to focus on a theme reflecting ..Titus's main problem, which I'm not sure of yet.
Perhaps the first line is "The Tarot can't foretell the future." and the last line is "Maybe the Tarot can't foretell the future but people can, and it's no special talent, but it's a power to use wisely." Her lesson is about the existence of freewill and destiny, and Titus's is about the existence of esp/The Unseen in general? The tie between them is power use/abuse. Knowledge is power. In Chap. One Gabby is worried about reading Tarot for money which is power abuse and comes to grief because she does.
Titus is worried about abusing Influence by using it on humans.
Bringing her Mazda to a stop at the red light, Gavriella Dean peered up at the rusty highway signs overhead barely lit by the street lamps. Route 59 East, ahead. Route 9W South, to the right.
Yes, this had to be the corner. With New York's crazy right turn laws, she couldn't figure out if she could turn against the red light or not, so she sat there visualizing the Hanged Man Tarot card, suppressing a touch of hysteria. She'd never read Tarot in public before, and to start at a Halloween costume party seemed - well, risky.
THEME HERE SEEMS TO BE LIFE TURNING CORNERS WITH TREPIDATION
Thy Will be done, she prayed, placing her destiny in the hands of God, and made the turn. Maybe she wouldn't find the house. Then she could just go home.
9W climbed and narrowed to a crumbling, two way track lined with tumble-down businesses. Then she passed the sign that said, THE NYACKS'HISTORICAL PRESERVATION AREA, and suddenly there were gorgeous victorian homes on either side of the road, with carefully painted gingerbread, turrets, and roofed carriage porches on the sides.
Ordinarily, she supposed, this area would be beautiful, especially when lit by the perfect full moon now climbing the sky. But many of the houses were decorated for Halloween, some whimsically, some sinisterly. The animated holos of ghosts, witches, and vampires got to her, but she resisted closing her eyes as she passed them. She had been warned.
She counted streets and landmarks according to her directions. Before she knew it, the land to her left dropped away and the road became a narrow ledge cut into the hillside, treetops and roof turrets poking up next to her car. Over them, she could see the Hudson River, and beyond, the dense lights of the city.
Dirt driveways snaked up the steep hillside on her right, and twisted down to the houses buried under the trees on her left. Racks of mail boxes were stationed at intervals. Some were decorated with jack-o-lanterns or ghosts. She almost missed the one she was hunting for - under a holo of a red-eyed vampire bat. But, just beyond it a line of cars was parked against the cliff, left tires barely clear of the white line that edged the roadway. She tucked her Mazda in behind a Lincoln and doused the lights.
Shouldering her bag, she dragged the lace shawl of her makeshift witch's costume around her and walked back to the stairs up to the house. The narrow stair was cut into the solid rock. Modern lights lit the treads and banister, but the stairs looked more than a century old.
She put her head down and climbed, praying If You're sure this is what You want, okay. She was visualizing The Hermit card, staff and lantern lighting her climb to Wisdom, when feet scuffed to a stop beyond her nose, and a man gasped, "Oh! Sorry!" and backed up the narrow stair.
Simultaneously, she backed down, barely stifling a yelp, and had to grab the banister. The stair treads were an odd height and worn unevenly. Suddenly, she was falling backwards.
Hands closed over her arms and she was lifted back up the steps and set down on a landing edged with shrubbery on both sides. She'd never been lifted like that before; all hundred seventy-seven pounds of her five-foot-two body just moved. It made her feel like a ballerina, beautiful and graceful, until she heard the man grunt with the effort as if he'd strained himself.
Heart pounding, she looked up at her benefactor, a slender young man in a Dracula costume with a rental tag showing at the collar. In one electric glance, she took in the blood red satin lined cape, archaic tuxedo and pale white makeup on hands and face that was so well done, it didn't look like makeup at all. The moon glancing off his eyes had struck ruby highlights somehow. It absolutely made the outfit. "Red contacts, right?" she gasped.
He laughed. It was a wonderfully rich sound. "Right. I'm sorry I startled you. My name is Titus Shiddehara."
"Gabby. Short for Gavriella. Gavriella Dean." Her voice was choked and husky, and she thought she might faint.
"Here," said Titus drawing her through the bushes, "come over here and catch your breath. It's still along climb up to the house and witches shouldn't arrive out of breath."
Against her better judgment, her feet followed him into the bushes which were so thick with vines that the wall of growth closed up behind her.
But then they were on a moonlit lawn under a gnarled oak that had to be a century old. Behind them, the windows of the house spilled out light, music and shrieks that turned to laughter. Behind the house, the hillside rose steeply, covered with trees and vines. The only exposed spot was a huge rock that stuck out of the hill, forming a kind of overlook. She could just discern the hint of a foot path that disappeared into the undergrowth, probably leading to the rock.
She couldn't imagine why anyone would go up there. There was no retaining wall around the edge of the rock.
She surveyed the river and the city beyond. The velvet dark was sprinkled with jewels and presided over by the moon which made golden paths on the river. Like a Tarot card.
Titus said with restrained disapproval, "I have to warn you the entire climb from here up to the house is trapped with fun house tricks, some pretty realistic ones, too. Brace yourself, and don't get startled like that again."
She stepped away to get a better look at him. "You were leaving?" She'd arrived a quarter hour early.
"I - didn't care for the atmosphere. The whole house is filled with things that pop out of closets or swoop down from the shadows of the high ceilings. And there are a few people doing drugs already." He flashed her a smile. "I don't suppose I could offer to take you to a movie, or something?"
He hadn't laid a finger on her since he'd dragged her into the bushes. "I'm tempted. Doesn't sound like my kind of party, either. But I gave my word. I'm supposed to be reading Tarot to entertain the guests." Tarot wouldn't work if they were into drugs already, so she was really tempted.
"Do you read at a lot of parties?"
"No. I'm just doing this as a favor to my boss. I've been reading for other people for about a year, but not at parties." She pulled the lace shawl up, wishing she'd come in a business suit instead of letting her sister talk her into the costume. At least she'd have been warmer.
"Gabby, they've already got a lot of readers. I don't think they'd miss you."
"Maybe I can get away early. But I really have to do a couple of hours at least. I did promise."
There was a squirming discomfort in her stomach, a warning she was about to do something she'd regret. She never picked up strange guys. That was how women became police statistics.
But when she'd consulted the cards over coming to this party, the theme that ran through every layout was Hanged Man, Hermit, and Lovers; putting trust in the Higher Powers, following the path to Maturity, and facing temptations or finding real inner harmony through relationships. But there'd also been a number of Fives tangled through the whole issue, along with the Nine and Ten of Swords. Whatever was due to happen would hurt a lot. But she'd learned long since that challenges like that led to worthwhile triumphs.
"Well," allowed Titus, "in that case, I'll wait." He guided her back onto the stairs, warning her of hidden obstacles he'd tripped over when he'd discovered the secluded spot. They went up the long, long stair together, Titus alerting her at each trap. She didn't tell him how much she appreciated his help, and then immediately regretted it when he delivered her to the door and vanished into the crowd.
Oddly enough, despite the cobwebs and skeletons decore, Gabby's queasy discomfort vanished also. That man's the temptation I'm here to resist. She could already tell that resisting wasn't going to be easy.
The host, the man who had financed her boss's venture into newspaper publishing, was standing in the entry foyer beside a real, satin lined, teak coffin wearing a fabulous Dracula costume, complete with appropriate dentition. But she'd never seen a Dracula with gray hair, spectacles, and an ample waistline before. Well, why not?
As she introduced herself, Gabby realized that Titus had lacked the fangs, but their host had omitted the contacts.
She'd been told there was to be a Dracula contest later. There were already ten or fifteen Draculas in the living room behind the man she was facing.
"Uh - yes sir?" The unmistakable odor of pot wafted through the spray-can-cobwebs. Well, if it's just pot . . .
"Please follow Mr. Simon. He'll show you to the room we've prepared for you." He intoned the words with silken menace, and laughed diabolically, then turned to the couple entering behind Gabby, Dracula-and-nightgowned-victim.
He was really enjoying the act, she realized, as she followed the man in the caterer's outfit. As she saw others wearing identical black jumpsuits with red cummerbunds carrying white towels over their left arms, passing large trays among the guests, she realized he was a real waiter, not a costumed guest. I'm way out of my class here!
Installed in what had been a small bedroom, decorated now as a gypsy tent complete with little round table and crystal ball, she ordered a virgin Mary, then cleared the crystal ball off the table. It was a real one, probably costing more than she made in a week as a features editor. She put it on the floor in the corner and tucked it behind a fold of the cloth which draped the walls. She discovered a small attic window and grunted it open a crack. The cramped room was already stuffy.
Then she saw the antique china bowl on a side table by the door. A huge sign over it, shaped like a hand raised in benediction, read, CROSS MY PALM WITH SILVER AND I'LL REVEAL YOUR FUTURE.
She yanked the sign off the table so hard the whole table collapsed. She grabbed the bowl just in time, and discovered the table was just a folding cardboard parson's table draped with a round cloth. She set it up again and put the bowl back upside down.
A gypsy woman swirled into the room, beads rattling. Immediately, her hands went out to right the bowl. "Cheesy little tables. You'd think a place like this could afford better props! What happened to your sign?"
"Excuse me?" Gabby had no idea who the woman could be.
"I work next door here. Cynthia. Where's your sign? They did give you one?"
"Uh - look, I don't do this for money. Ever."
Cynthia's whole demeanor changed. Gabby retreated a bit, sensing she'd offended the woman. Then Cynthia put one arm around her shoulders and said confidentially, "Look, if you take that attitude, you'll undercut the trade. It makes us all look bad - especially if you're any good. Are you?"
"Well, my clients keep coming back . . . ."
"So. You are good. Well. You know, it's all right to take money for a Reading if it's the only way you can support yourself - which is the way it is for most of us here. And these kind of people - well. They're not going to listen to free advice. If they have to pay for it, what you tell them will make an impression. You do tell the truth, don't you?"
"Yes," she answered uncertainly.
"You wouldn't want it ignored just because you sold it cheap?"
"So. There. You see? That's settled. Where did you say that sign was?"
"I'll - uh - I'll take care of what needs to be done."
Summoning all the courage she'd ever owned, Gabby ushered the woman out the door. People were milling around in the hall, comparing the readings they'd been given.
Cynthia disappeared into the throng, and Gabby snatched the little table and folded it up, hiding the bowl underneath the heap of material, hoping it would blend into the decore. Then she asked a blessing and protection for her working space.
She wouldn't take money. She had a job - though she might not have tomorrow morning if she just picked up and left. She was behind in her car payments and had no idea how she'd scrape together next month's rent, but her teachers had warned her repeatedly of the dangers of going commercial.
A voice asked, "Are you reading?"
It was a woman with too much makeup and too little dress covering her hips. But other than that, she looked normal. "Yes," said Gabby, "I was about to start."
The woman held her drink away and turned to display the red sequined outfit. "Like it? I'm the Virgin Victim of Dracula. His cape is lined with the same red sequins."
"Oh. Very impressive." She wondered how many "virgin victims" the Draculas had brought. Gabby settled at the round table and spread out her silk reading cloth, then began shuffling her cards. "Have you ever had a Tarot reading before?" There was no alcohol on the woman's breath. At least there was a chance this one reading would work.
So the evening began. Before and after each reading, Gabby had to explain that there was no charge, that if the reading proved of value, then the recipient could make a donation to their own favorite charity, but even that wasn't necessary. She got very tired of that speech.
Three clients and an hour later, she had to ask for a NO SMOKING sign. After that, she fell into the natural trance in which she did her best reading, and words started to flow as the gestalt pattern of each card layout became perfectly clear. Words flowed from her, describing by analogy and anecdote, explaining by parables she originated on the spot, elaborating and embroidering on each card's inner meaning for those who would listen. And a moment after she picked up the cards to reshuffle, she had forgotten what she'd said.
The clients made little impression on her. They were patterns in the cards, classic problems in living life, layers and crosscurrents of power struggles in domestic affairs, knotty choices of vocation or job, serious quests for spiritual enlightenment.
At one point she realized she needed to use two different decks, so she moved onto the floor where she could sit in lotus and spread out the work. taking the most portentous card from the first layout as significator for a second reading, she used the deck she had drawn and colored herself for the second reading. Comparing the two readings, she could penetrate the mists of the client's subconscious, and finally understand where the anguish was coming from.
"No, that's not what you want," Gabby said. "That's what others want of you. What is it you, yourself, need?"
The client, a young, skinny woman dressed as a Dracula, broke into sobs. "You're right! My God, you're right!"
Gabby looked up and realized she had a huge audience peering down at them. "Somebody get a box of tissues." Then she put her arm around the client and talked her back to composure. It took six tissues. She'd hit a nerve.
The onlookers had been friends of the client, most of them privy to the actual problem. Gabby, herself, didn't know and didn't want to know the personal details. "It's all right to kibitz, and it's even good to watch if you've never seen this done before. All I can do is describe the general pattern of the seeker's current life-crisis. I can't reveal anything really private. I can't foretell the future. I can only describe the decisions already made, where they might lead, and the options still open. I can't even tell what's the best solution. I can only describe the problem in terms of the value system inherent in the Tarot."
"Can I go next?" asked someone.
"Certainly." It was a young man in a Harlequin suit who folded his long legs tailor fashion and sat next to her.
After that, she lost track. The crowd around her never thinned, and though many broke into astonished sobs during the readings, there was never a lack of volunteers. As usual with a group, the readings began to fall into a pattern echoing her own most recent pattern, of Hanged Man/Hermit/Lovers laced with varying combinations of 5's and the themes of the 9 and 10 of Swords. As the crowd around her had heard her repeat the instructions to the seeker many times, she eventually left them out.
It was close to midnight, and she had just organized the people waiting into a line, promising to get to them in order when one of the waiters brought her another Virgin Mary and announced, "Ms. Dean, it's time for your break." He raised his voice. "She's entitled to half an hour now."
Suddenly, there was a space around her, and contrite murmurings of how tired she must be. Very quickly, the room emptied. Actually, she felt no strain. She was, however, stiff from sitting so long, and she discovered she'd been sitting in the cold draft from the window. It felt good to get up and move. And then she saw the table by the door.
The bowl was back in place, and it was half full of currency, tens, twenties, and even a few crisp hundreds. It looked like more than a month's salary.
What am I going to do? Not even wanting to touch it, she pushed out into the crowded hall where people were milling about or waiting in line at the other doors. Some of the Draculas now wore prize ribbons pinned to their lapels.
She found the lavatory when someone came out. She went in, glad that her makeup, wallet and necessaries were in a leather pouch tied to her waste, part of the medieval flavor of the witch's costume. Refreshed, she emerged to find their host was working up and down the hall, making sure everyone was happy. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
She plastered herself against the wall to let him pass, but he spotted her. "Ah, Ms. Dean, you've become quite a hit!" He reached into his breast pocket and produced an elegantly printed envelope which he presented to her. "Your fee. Only a token compared to what you've been collecting."
Pushing the envelope away, she shook her head. He drew her hand up and curled it around the envelope. It was a thick package. "I'm so grateful to Tom for getting you to come. You're worth more than any of the others. I won't forget the favor." With a raised eyebrow and a nod, he was gone into the crowd.
Clutching the envelope, stunned, she felt large, strong hands came onto her shoulders, kneading the tension she hadn't realized was there. She stifled a yelp, and spun to find Titus behind her. "Oh! You shouldn't do that!"
"I think you need it. You've been working harder than anyone, and with far better results. Ready to leave yet?"
"Oh, I can't." This man is the temptation I have to resist. But there had never been all that many personable men interested in her.
"Listen, Gabby," he said leaning over to speak softly into her ear as he worked on her back, "some people here are dealing. This is a Wall Street crowd, very high class, very elegant, but still, the place could be raided. I don't want to get caught in anything like that and neither do you."
"Dealing," she repeated, stricken. She turned and noted inanely that the rental tag was gone from his collar.
She wanted to grab her Tarot bag and go. It was plausible that someone here would be dealing. She'd done many readings indicative of substance and power abuse. Still, she hadn't seen it with her own eyes, and this man was the temptation she had to resist. He'd certainly found her most sensitive button, too. He was just the sort of man no sane woman would get involved with; so sexy she could hardly stand it, so insightful he found her buttons before they'd even had a single date, and so manipulative he'd push those buttons shamelessly. What sort of marriage could that lead to? Besides, she didn't want to get married. She was a career woman on the way up. Wasn't she?
"Titus," she said, knowing she should keep it formal but unable to remember his last name, "I can't. I promised at least ten more people."
"You should make them come to your office."
"Good psychologists don't give away free samples."
"Oh, no. You've got it all wrong." She explained she was only a features editor for an Advertiser distributed free to home owners in Bergen County, just across in New Jersey.
He eyed the knot of people beginning to collect outside her door and the fervent, animated discussions developing among them. "I'd say you're in the wrong line of work."
"Titus, people always behave this way about the Tarot because the results run so completely counter to everything we think we know about reality. The Tarot works. Come on, try it, you'll see."
This time she took his hand and tugged him through a barrier, not shrubbery but people. It parted before them and closed behind them. As she entered the room, she tossed the envelope into the bowl, noticing that there was as much in there now as there had been when she'd left the room. She realized she'd vaguely hoped somebody would steal it.
The floor had been cleaned up, and her things were set up on the table again. She shrugged. She had, out of habit, put all her cards away and wrapped them, so there was no harm done. Titus went with her as far as the client's seat, but as she moved around the table, he balked.
"No, no. This is ridiculous."
"Suspend your disbelief," she suggested.
"I'm an astrophysicist here for a convention. This just doesn't fit my concept of reality. Not at all."
Maybe that's what's so strange about his aura. She realized the queasy feeling was back again. Perhaps it meant he was a heavily repressed psychic, or a deeply disturbed person. There was no denying the rich sexual attraction she felt, but it would be a bad mistake to get involved, especially knowing how incompatible they were. Besides, if he was not from around here, she'd never see him again after tonight. She was glad she'd declined to go out with him.
Then she looked up at him, and he was looking down at her as if she were beautiful. She had to say something or she'd seem to be staring. "Why aren't you wearing a prize ribbon? You're certainly the best Dracula I've seen."
She was immediately embarrassed at what her mouth had said of its own accord, but he responded levelly, "I didn't expect to stay for the contest, but I'm glad I did."
"Oh, why?" She was enjoying just being near him and despite the cluster of people politely hanging back by the door, she wanted to prolong the experience.
"I hadn't realized so many more Draculas would turn up."
It wasn't the flirtatious response she'd expected. "Are you a connoiseur of Draculas?"
"No, I was just looking for someone. He hasn't come, and the atmosphere is even worse now. Are you sure you wouldn't like to go somewhere for coffee? There's a Denny's up on Rt. 59."
She was ready to go simply because he hadn't invited her to a bar or a dance hall. Temptation. "Titus, I hate to point this out, but I'm part of that distasteful atmosphere. I don't think you'd really care for the company of someone who interprets the world in terms of occult principles."
"No, no!" Leaning closer, he said confidentially, "The atmosphere I referred to was the alcohol and drugs, and the people who need that to have fun or make fortunes trading on others' weaknesses. It is dangerous to stay here."
"Then I guess you'd better go. I did promise the others in line."
He withdrew. She was overwhelmed with a sudden regret and had to grit her teeth not to call out to him. He paused and turned back to her, frowned, then said, "I'll just watch you work for a while. Okay?"
He wants to protect me! It wasn't the way most men reacted to her, and it felt oddly thrilling to be so valued. But then she took another look at him as he turned to inspect the crowd. Sideways, he looked like Frank Sinatra in the oldest movies - so thin a strong wind would blow him over. Mafia Muscle wouldn't even notice him. But even that cynical observation couldn't erase the thrill warming her inside.
Then a black woman in a diaphanous ghost costume complete with clanking chains came forward. Gabby remembered the costume and began shuffling.
The work picked up as it had left off, and she forgot all about Titus. Occasionally, though, as one client left and another sat down, there would be a break in the wall of bodies through which she glimpsed someone putting money in her bowl. She began to wonder if she could take it all home. Maybe, if it was still there at the end of the evening it would mean she was properly entitled to it. After all, she'd never done so many readings in a row, nor worked so hard at them - nor had she ever been so fiendishly accurate.
She began to enjoy the working a new way. A peculiar gratification swept through her each time she spread out the cards and drew forth a precise statement of the problem. At some point, the queasiness denoting Titus's presence vanished but she hardly noticed. She'd hit a breakthrough in her skills. For the first time in her life, she felt she was worth any amount of money, praise or respect offered her. And she saw that as she became more accurate, her clients left more money in the bowl. She could see a mound of green paper heaping above the rim.
Aware of the spellbound awe of her audience, she began to strive to increase the effect. Occasionally, now, she began to miss. One client simply could not make sense of what she said, and with another, she found the cards would not synthesize into a meaning. But even when she had to give up, disappointing a client, others came forward eagerly.
They were on the third box of tissues,and the crowd had thinned, the dull roar of noise from down stairs having abated significantly, when five burly Draculas stalked into the room. Three of them spread out as one approached the empty client's chair. Unobtrusively, people drifted out of the room, but Gabby hardly noticed when the last of them left her alone with the four men.
Through the open window she heard doors clattering and cars staring up, people laughing and calling to each other.
THIS CROOK SHOULD SHOW SIGNS OF HAVING BEEN INFLUENCED,
BUT GABBY DOESN'T RECOGNIZE THE MEANING UNTIL LATER.
THE FERAL HAS TO BE WORKING ORGANIZED CRIME.
The man before her reached in to his breast pocket, fumbling with the ribbon and pendant of a replica of a Royal Order, and brought out six one-thousand dollar bills. He placed three of the bills on the table before her. "It seems you can actually do this witch stuff. So tell me what's going to happen at 4 a.m. today, and the other three bills are yours, too." He fingered the bills he still held.
I could be completely out of debt. I could afford to go back to school. But she said, "The Tarot can't predict the future."
He leaned closer, looming over her. "Now you and I both know that's not true. You've already done it accurately for several people tonight." He exuded the same kind of quiet menace that her boss and other powerful men did. It didn't mean he was the one who was dealing. It could be about some insider trading on the Tokyo exchange.
She swallowed hard, her mouth dry. Suppose I can't do it? Or suppose I get it all wrong?
He moved the deck of cards in front of her. "Do it."
Hands shaking, she shuffled the cards and set them down for him to cut, muttering the instructions with her mouth while her mind was frantically invoking Protection. The familiar routine steadied her hands and the shroud of the reading trance settled over her. She snapped each card face up on the table in a Celtic Cross. The pattern coalesced as crisp and clear as any she'd seen that night.
Devil crossed by the Tower, with the Moon beneath and the Page of Swords behind.
He's dealing drugs and there's a spy in his organization who's set him up. Violence, shocking revelations. It was just supposition, but it was the only interpretation that fit both the circumstances and the archetypical meanings of the cards in pattern.
She exposed the Five Swords above, and Judgment Reversed in front of him. Nine of Wands Reversed in the 9th, and in the tenth, World Reversed.
He fears failure, is beset on all sides, is pitied and hates it, knows he's beaten. Deep down inside, he wants to be caught, but is terrified of what will happen then.
All at once, she realized her mouth had been babbling words, and she clamped it shut as one final word exploded into her consciousness. Suicide. If he fails, he plans to kill himself!
She found herself gazing into hard, black eyes set in a face gone suddenly pale beneath a Florida tan.
What did I say aloud? She had no idea.
"Who!" he demanded. "Who's the police spy?"
Her throat emitted strangled noises.
His hand slapped the table, bouncing the cards. "Who!"
She forced her eyes back to the cards, expecting the images to be ten disconnected entities devoid of meaning. But the story was still clear. "A young woman you admire and trust, the one person you'd never suspect." Oh, God! Why did I say that?
He subsided into his chair, shocked wonder suffusing his face. "Of course! I should have known. All the clues were there and I couldn't see it." His attention snapped back to the cards. "What will happen if I just don't show?"
She swallowed and gritted her teeth, wishing desperately for Titus to walk in, then awash in relief that he wasn't there, she said, "I don't know. How could I possibly know? I can't foretell the future." Her voice broke into a squeak.
"Look at the cards. Tell me!" He was sweating. When she didn't move, he slapped the second three bills down on top of the first and reached into his breast pocket again to pull forth another three. He waved them at her as if she were an informant holding out for a higher bribe.
She wanted the money. She suddenly realized she'd been wrong all evening. The challenge wasn't to resist Titus. The challenge was to resist abuse of power. Overwhelmed with shame, she recalled the ruddy glow of pride she'd felt when the crowd around her had murmured in awe. And there had been greed, too, as she saw the money being heaped into her bowl.
When she lowered her eyes again, the cards were just bits of colored paper. It would serve her right if she could never read again. She shook her head. "I don't know. Nobody can know. If I said something, it would be a lie." She pushed the money back across the table at him. "I was only guessing, and I was probably wrong." Relief sighed through her like a mountain breeze. Truth was its own reward.
He sat back and stared at her, stone faced.
She gave the money another little shove, and began collecting her cards.
On the periphery of her vision, she saw his hand move, flashing a heavy gold ring and watch. The next moment,hard hands gripped her wrists and she was yanked to her feet.
One of the men slammed the door of the room, while simultaneously, a hand clamped over her mouth and she was pinned against at tall, hard body. "She knows too much!"
"No. She's a charlatan like all the others. She was just guessing. It's not hard. Most everyone here knew we had a shipment coming in tonight."
"Well, if she didn't learn it from her cards, she certainly knows it all now. We have to make sure of her."
Gabby's heart slammed against her ribs. She could hardly breathe, but she prayed with all her might. Are You really sure this is what You want? I'm sorry for what I did. I've learned a lesson. Isn't that enough? Do I have to die, too? And aside, in her mind, the thought came, Oh, Titus!
If she hadn't tried so hard to read her own future in the cards before she came, she'd probably have gone with him instead of into the house, and none of this would have happened. The cards can't foretell the future. Why can't I learn that?
The man before her nodded to one of his men. "Take care of it." He went to peer out the little window which had a view of the steep slope behind the house. "Up there. See the rock? Drop her over the edge of that. Get some liquor into her first. Regrettable accident." He turned. "Anybody seen a phone on this floor?"
He went out and before she knew it, Gabby was wrapped around and tied securely by her sister's shawl. Somebody's silk handkerchief was tied around her mouth. That hurt. Her mouth was already dry, her voice husky with overuse. But she struggled anyway. She managed to kick the money bowl over as they dragged her out of the room. It made a satisfying crash. But nobody came. Nobody noticed as they carried her down the narrow, twisting back staircase, and past the dark and deserted kitchen. The fifth man, the one she'd been reading for, joined them and led the way out the back door.
Vines and branches slapped her face, cold dew mixing with the hot tears that dripped from her eyes trailing backwards up her forehead because she was upside down.
She found herself being carried up the steep path she'd spotted from the front garden. Where it passed under the trees, the underbrush had been cut back forming a tunnel. A very dark tunnel. She struggled, hoping the man carrying her would trip and fall. Her moving weight did cause him to stagger. He slung her to the ground and slapped her face. "Stop it, or we'll all have at you before we dump you."
She glanced at the leader, who was carrying a large bottle of liquor. He seemed disinterested. Well, it would take up some time. Anything for a reprieve. It was a nice, logical thought but when the man shouldered her body once more, she couldn't bring herself to further defiance. What's wrong with me? People survive rape!
Before she could talk herself into it, she was rolled onto a cold, hard surface that was almost smooth. It sloped to one side and she rolled involuntarily, which brought the panorama of the Hudson River into view. There were fewer city lights now, and moonlight was coming from the west. But it was still breathtaking. Oh, Titus!
When she looked to see what her captors were doing, she found them passing the bottle. The last one wiped his mouth and let out a gusty sigh. "Too good to waste on her."
"Let's get this over with," said the leader as if he really didn't want to kill her. "Take the gag off and hold her mouth open."
One of them moved behind her and propped her up, cutting the gag and tilting her chin back. "Pour."
Another man held the neck of the bottle up to her mouth. "Drink. It'll make this easier on you."
Liquor gurgled into her mouth. She gathered it in her cheek, and when the man holding her clamped his fingers over her nose, she sprayed the stuff out hard. Even without swallowing it, the fumes triggered a coughing fit.
Someone slapped her face.
"Take it easy," said the leader. "We don't want to leave any evidence of a fight. I want this done perfectly."
The one holding her head shifted his grip and one hand crept down her back toward her buttocks. "Drink, girl, or you'll get it right in there!"
She yelped and surged away from his stiff finger, glad of the layers of thick skirt she wore.
Both hands came back to her head again. "Pour!"
Her head was forced back. She saw the five men in vampire costumes silhouetted against the stars as they bent over her. Higher up the sheer mountain, a very large oak leaned out above the rock. There was no wind, but the branches shook as she fastened her eyes on them and tried to pray. I said do what You will with me. I meant it. Honest.
Deep in the shadow, there was a figure hanging from the biggest branch. It looked human.
Without warning, the oak heaved and a blood curdling scream split the air. The man holding her jerked back, gasping, and the others turned. There above them, blotting out the sky, was a huge bat with red eyes and needle sharp teeth gleaming in the moonlight. Teeth and talons dripped thick, red blood. As it fell on them, engulfing them in a putrid stench, it screamed again.
She could feel the gust of wind from its powerfully beating wings. The sense of horror that washed through her made her previous terror seem like a silly illusion.
The man behind her dropped her. The liquor bottle fell and broke. The creature screamed again. In a mad scramble, the men ran. And something was settling down to eat her.
Without transition it seemed, Titus was bending over her, rubbing her wrists and patting her face. "Gabby? Gabby, are you all right? Wake up. Come on. You can do it. You only fainted. It's all right now."
She was untied and Titus's Dracula cape was laid over her like a blanket. "I must have passed out. You'll never believe what I thought I saw."
"What did you see?"
"It - " No, he'd never believe it. She didn't believe it. "Where did you come from?"
"The tree. I jumped down yelling, and those men ran."
She struggled to sit up. "Men. It wasn't a nightmare. It really happened. They were going to kill me. You were right. There were dealers here." That much was real, but the rest - the whole house had been thick with smoke. God alone knew what sort of mixture she had in her blood by now. Small wonder she'd hallucinated.
"Can you walk, Gabby?" We'd better get out of here. They might come back."
She got up and took off his cape. It was too long. No matter what she did with it, she'd trip on it. "Come on. My car's out front," she said, trying to sound brave. She doubted she even sounded sane. Shock. It's shock.
He took her hand and led her down the dark, twisting trail as if it were broad daylight.
There were still lights on in the house. "Titus, I'm not going back for my things. Where's your car?"
"Don't worry about me. Just get yourself out of here."
They picked their way around the house as quietly as they could, then dashed down the long flights of steps to 9W. Panting, afraid they'd been heard, she paused, one hand groping in her belt pouch for her car keys. "Titus, how can I thank you for saving my life?"
"By not dying now. Are you sure you can drive?"
She held out the car key. It wasn't shaking. Yet. "Sure. They didn't get any liquor into me. But what about you?"
He walked her to the Mazda. "Don't worry about me. Just get yourself away. I have my own transportation."
As she unlocked the door, he opened it and eased her into the driver's seat. He leaned over and brushed her forehead with his lips. "Go!" He closed the door quietly.
Feeling beautiful again, she started the motor and eased away from the wall, catching sight of him in her right side mirror. The red lined cape was billowing in the wind like wings, and a stray bit of moonlight made his eyes glow red. She thought she saw a shimmering aura around him that throbbed with power. It had to be an optical illusion. It wasn't at all like any aura she'd ever seen before.
COMPARE TO THE AURA OF THE INFLUENCED deal
Oh, come on! Don't be ridiculous. The combination of passive drug smoking with liquor fumes must have warped her brain.
"I jumped down yelling and those men ran." Fifty yards away and picking up speed, she glanced into her rear view mirror again, suddenly unable to understand why she had believed it when he'd said it. Why had she scoffed at the thinness of his profile while forgetting that he'd lifted her up the steps quite easily? And what had he been doing in the tree? She was a reporter. She didn't fail to ask obvious questions like that.
She was also not stupid. She couldn't fail to see the obvious answer; he was a real vampire.
Her skin crawled and she clamped her chattering teeth together, determined to get home before she had any kind of reaction. At least she was headed south into New Jersey. She'd pick up Route 4 at the G.W. Bridge and be home in no time. Then she could shake and cry until dawn.
Vampires disintegrated at dawn and reality returned full force. That's what I need. A dose of reality.
Titus was probably the police spy she'd thought was the Page of Swords. That was why he was able to handle those men so well. He was trained for this kind of thing, and he just wanted her out of there so the bust would go down smoothly. She'd see the whole thing on Eye Witness News in the morning.
And she'd never see him or anyone from that party again, including her boss. She'd call in her resignation in the morning, borrow some money from her mother, take off for California.
She clung to that resolution all the way home.
END CHAPTER ONE
(this is JL writing notes to myself again) I have to focus on a theme reflecting Titus's main problem, which I'm not sure of yet.
Perhaps the first line is "The Tarot can't foretell the future." and the last line is "Maybe the Tarot can't foretell the future but people can, and it's no special
talent, but it's a power to use wisely." Her lesson is about the existence of freewill and destiny, and
Titus's is about the existence of esp/The Unseen in general? The tie between them is power use/abuse. Knowledge is power. In
Chap. One Gabby is worried about reading Tarot for money which is power abuse and comes to grief because she does.
Titus is worried about abusing Influence by using it on
IT MUST BE BEFORE 4 AM - AROUND 2AM WHEN THEY PART.
BE SURE TO USE AGAIN THE QUEASY FEELING SHE GETS WHEN tITUS IS AROUND
At two thirty in the morning, there were no parking places on Gabby's street. She had to park around the corner and walk to the dilapidated three family house where she had the attic apartment. She tiptoed up the stairs, not wanting her tread to wake everyone.
She showered, rinsed out the dirty and torn witch's costume, and was still too overwrought to sleep. In nightgown and robe, she pulled out her suitcases and emptied her closet and drawers into them. Everything still fit. Since she'd moved out of her mother's house, she hadn't had the money to buy clothes.
While she worked, she made lists of things to do before leaving town. She'd have to store her dishes, tv, stereo, and microwave at her mother's. Everything else would fit in the car, which needed servicing. She could be in LA or maybe San Diego by the end of next week.
Even though her mind kept up a patter of orderly planning, another part of her was gibbering, arguing, screaming to jump in the car, drive straight down to Newark and get on a plane using her credit card. Of course, organized crime could trace her through the card use.
She told herself the thought was paranoid. Why should they bother?
Every time the old house creaked or a board popped, she could think of a thousand reasons why they might. She schooled herself not to listen to the noises.
By the time she latched the last case, her hands were shaking, her stomach was queasy, and her plans had crystallized. As soon as it was late enough, she'd drive straight to her mother's, borrow the money she'd need, and hit the road. Everything else could be handled by phone or mail, leaving as little trace as possible.
She had started packing the contents of her desk and a few light housekeeping essentials into boxes when there was a thumping in the hall.
There shouldn't be anyone on her landing this time of night. Heart in mouth, she froze in the middle of the living room, eyelids peeled back so far her eyeballs felt cold.
The door handle moved.
Like a horror movie.
She pulled her robe around her and crept toward the door. "Who is it?"
A man's voice grunted.
With her hand on the door handle, she felt the strength of the one on the other side. She grabbed the telephone closer to the door and punched in a number at random. "I'm calling the police!"
"It's Titus!" the voice groaned. Titus' voice. "Gabby, please. Let me in!"
She dropped the phone and scrabbled at the locks on the door, fumbled to get the inside key into the lock, and finally yanked the door open. Titus had been slumped against the door, and as she opened it, his body fell across the threshold. She leaped back with a squeal.
Whimpering, he mumbled, "May I please come in?" There was blood all over his face and hands.
Instantly, she was on her knees beside him. "Dear God, what happened to you? Can you move? I don't think I can lift you inside."
His hand groped for purchase on her wrist. "Help me."
He tried to pull himself in, and she dragged him the rest of the way. With the door closed, cutting off the frigid draft, his shaking and moaning subsided. Shock. Elevate the feet. Keep him warm. "I'll call an ambulance."
She grabbed for the phone, but he kicked it away. "No!"
"You need a doctor!"
His voice was stronger this time. "I'll be all right. Gabby they control the hospitals!"
Her imagination supplied the image of them. Which means he's not with the police.
The man had saved her life. She bent to examine the wounds. "Is anything broken? Have you been shot?"
"No, just scratches. I'll be - " He broke off with a gasp as she pulled the blood stiffened jacket and new, bright blood flowed.
"You have been shot!"
"No. The business end of a garden rake."
As the stiff material came away in her hands, she saw it was in shreds.
"Just hide me until morning, and I'll be out of here," said Titus.
"It was the dealers, wasn't it? You went to spy on their business."
"Yes, I was there. The police got them." He twisted with a grimace and reached his right hand up to her face, one finger extended to touch her between the eyes. "Most of them."
Regardless of the risk, I have to call the police. It was her last truly coherent thought. His voice continued, a cascade of soothing sound that seemed to make compelling sense. She didn't understand why she was doing as he asked, but she never thought to question her motives.
She helped him up onto the sofa, which was vinyl covered. Then, she stripped him and bathed his wounds with warm water, not bothering with disinfectant or soap, and gave him her robe to wear.
Titus rolled his head aside to eye one of the large bay windows, gray with approaching dawn. "What time is it?"
"A closet. Gabby, you must have an inside closet with no windows?
He struggled up. "That will do." His arm came heavily onto her shoulders. "Help me."
She supported him and guided him to the bedroom. "You think they'll shoot you through the windows?"
"No. I'm pretty sure no one could have followed me. I wouldn't put you in danger. Surely you know that."
She knew it beyond any doubt. "But what's an astrophysicist doing - you're not a dealer, too? A rival?"
They stopped in the bedroom door as Titus raked the display of suitcases, the empty closet and drawers with shocked eyes, but said, "No! Please believe me, Gabby. I wouldn't ever get mixed up in dealing."
The patent absurdity struck her like a douche of cold water. "But you are mixed up in it. Just look at you!" Suddenly, the world took on the bright, hard edges of normality. The sharp contrast was frightening. Everything she'd just done for Titus seemed like some kind of bizarre charade, a mere pretence of help.
Once again, his voice lowered and hit some resonance that set her bones humming, leaving his words indistinct but his meaning perfectly clear. "No, of course I won't tell anyone what you're about to tell me."
"Good. You see, I'm a real vampire. But I try very hard not to hurt people. I'm here to chase down a vampire who enjoys killing. He is mixed up in drugs. He was about to kill a woman who had infiltrated his organization, a police spy, so I tried to stop him. I got caught, but she got away. Then the police arrived and in the fight, my man escaped and so did I. You're going to protect me in your closet until sundown, and by then I'll be healed. We're safe here until then, so don't worry. After that, we'll go our separate ways, and you'll never see me again."
A large bubble of hysteria rose into her throat but could not erupt past the invisible choker that paralyzed her tongue. Delivered with a straight face, that story would easily have won the "Most Humorous" category in the Dracula contest.
QUESTION: do I want all this information right up front, or do I want her to figure it out a piece at a time? I think I want to hit her with it all at once and not play the game of "is he or isn't he". It's a genre.
At his behest, she brought him the two pillows off her bed and he made himself comfortable on the closet floor. As he closed the door, he flashed her an engaging grin. "Sundown."
She stared at the thickly layered paint on the door. I've got a vampire sleeping in my closet.
She glanced at the window. Trees were etched against the brightening sky. It was 6:39 a.m. and she had a vampire sleeping in her closet. A very polite vampire who said please and thank you, hadn't sucked her blood and hadn't ravished her in her own bed.
She was suddenly possessed of a violent urge to yank the door open, certain there would be nothing there.
Her hand froze on the knob, and for all her will, all her years of discipline, she could not turn that knob.
In a pleasant, conversational tone, Titus said, "I won't be sleeping very deeply, Gabby. But I do need to rest. I know I can trust you."
Her bones ached. Her stomach churned. She let out a strangled sound that might have been agreement and plunged out of the bedroom. She ended up in the kitchen, leaning on the table, watching the red ball of fire rise into the sky. An astrophysicist was a little like an astronomer, and probably worked nights, too.
As the sun cleared the horizon of city buildings and haze, she remembered the purely physical feel of her hand on the closet doorknob, the locked resistance in her muscles, not the knob itself. No. Not in her muscles. In her mind.
She dragged in one sobbing gasp and slumped into a chair, burying her face in her hands. Her whole world conception turned inside out. Her breath exploded from her in a thin wail. "No. It can't be. Hypnotism. Illusion. Whatever. It's not what it seems." No real vampire would just calmly admit to it and settle down into a closet for the day. What about the "native earth" requirement?
But he had said he wouldn't sleep deeply.
Lips compressed, she shoved herself to her feet and went into the living room to retrieve the phone handset. Pulling up the antenna, she tiptoed into the bedroom, grabbed up the jeans and shirt she'd intended to drive in and eased the bedroom door shut.
She'd call her sister and confess she'd ruined the costume. She always felt better after talking to Marlene.
Fully intending to tell her the whole story, she poked the number into the phone, triumph stretching her lips into a grin as she met no resistance. The phone rang once, twice, then a pleasant voice recited the time, date, and weather report, suggesting another number to call for air travel weather, domestic and international.
When the message began repeating, she held the handset at arm's length and stared at it. She knew no such service number. Had never dialed it before. And she knew she'd dialed her sister's number correctly. Surely they couldn't have jiggered her phone line to divert her calls?
She hung up, got a dial tone, and carefully re-entered the number. The same urbane synthesized voice came on again.
She hit the off button. She tried her mother's number and was connected to a religious message service.
She was only dialing a local number. She hadn't dialed enough digits to get toll service numbers.
Or had she?
When she put the phone down, the world seemed normal. But when she picked it up, her memory became hazy. She didn't notice it until she'd given up telling people about Titus and put the phone away. Only after her mind cleared did she realize it had been clouded.
As she struggled into her clothes, she thought, Maybe it's not the phone.
She decided to call and cancel her gyn appointment since she would be gone by then. She looked up the number on the slip of paper tacked to the wall, and carefully poked it into the phone. The gyn's answering service came on, and using her phone buttons as instructed, she told their appointment computer to cancel her appointment. She hung up, called back, and checked to make sure her name was no longer on the schedule. It's not the phone. It's me. Him, rather.
Numb, she dropped onto the sofa.
The numbness wore off to leave stark terror, sharp edged and real, in its wake. The sun rose and the shadows of neighboring houses crept into the windows.
Finally, her mind began to work again. She made herself some coffee and toast, and spread out her Tarot cards to consider what to do.
Whatever he was, he had power over her. But, politely, he had used it in a very limited way. He had only protected himself. She was able to handle her personal affairs routinely. He had seen her packed bags and promised that she'd be free to go with the coming of sunset.
She believed him. Maybe that was his power. But if he hadn't meant it then why had he left her able to cancel her appointments? If he's going to kill me, he'd want no one to be looking for me for a while.
To test that, she decided to call her mother and ask for the loan she needed, make an appointment to pick up the check tonight. She entered the number. Her mother answered promptly.
"Mom. You were right."
"About what this time?"
"This is a dead end job. There's absolutely no future for me here. I've decided to go to LA, get a job, then reapply to UCLA. They accepted me before. No reason they wouldn't accept me again, especially as a California tax payer. But I need some money. If I leave tomorrow, I can be settled and establish residency in time to apply next year."
Since most of the plan had been her mother's idea originally, she had no trouble negotiating the loan, a check tonight and a more substantial sum when she had opened a bank account in California.
She solemnly promised to call her mother every day she was on the road, using her mother's phone credit card number.
Not one word stuck in her throat.
She called her sister and told the answering machine to look for the costume, in lamentable disrepair, at their mother's, and sketched her itinerary.
She called her boss, resigned with deep regret, telling him he had inspired her to go back to school. It was the literal truth. She didn't, however, give any hint of where she intended to go. She said she'd pick up her last check in the morning. The words didn't stick in her throat.
What I do tomorrow is no threat to Titus. He's not going to kill me.
She changed her mind and had her boss send her last check to her mother's post office box.
She called the bank and told the computer to close her savings account and dump all the money into her checking account and suspend all automatic payment of her bills.
She called a friend in LA and arranged herself a place to stay when she got there. She could sleep on the floor for a few nights. She even gave an estimated arrival date.
Everything she did regarding pulling out and arranging her future went without a hitch. The times she was tempted to say anything about a vampire, even in jest, her throat closed over the words in a way that made the reality of the unreal too believable.
When she'd done everything she could think of, she went back to the cards. The theme this time was the Tower, the Devil, the Chariot reversed, and the Magician reversed laced through with minor arcana indicating risk, combat, and anger. She'd seen worse readings about going to the dentist. But floating through the layouts, she kept noticing the Knight of Swords and the Knight of Wands.
Well, she was going to just up and leave, and that would probably upset a lot of people. Staring at her notebook where she'd jotted down the three layouts, she wondered why nothing seemed to define Titus. And then she saw it.
Interpreting the layouts as Titus's readings, which was legitimate considering how she'd been concentrating on him as the problem, she knew with one of those clear, intuitive leaps that had begun coming to her at the party, that Titus's enemy, the killer vampire, had already traced Titus to her, had found out where she lived - would probably attack. Maybe tonight.
Her first impulse was to jump in the car and go. But again, the wordless compulsion seized her, leaving her glued to the kitchen chair. She had to protect Titus all day.
She stared at the cards. A reader couldn't really read for themselves without running grave risks, and she'd gone as far as she could go. She knew from experience that she'd get no more from the cards herself. She needed help.
She picked up the phone again to call her teacher.
Her hand froze on the phone as it had on the doorknob.
He's reading my mind! The shriek of irrational panic subsided, and she realized it could just be the suggestion he'd implanted. After all, he'd said he didn't believe in the cards - imagine, a vampire that rejects the psychic world! - so he wouldn't believe that Shawna would throw the cards a time or two and have the whole story before her. She might not use the word vampire, but she'd describe the essence of him. She was that good, and Gabby knew it, and so denied herself the help she most needed.
After another cup of coffee, she put the cards away in her handbag and returned to packing boxes. She had rented the place furnished, so there wasn't much that actually belonged to her. She labeled boxes for her mother to ship later, and some to take. She was pulling down the shower curtain when there was a knock at the door.
In a panic, she ran to the door and started to shove an empty book case in front of it. "Who - " Her voice squeaked. "Who is it?"
"Marlene. Who else at this hour?"
It was nearly three in the afternoon. With a sigh, she shoved the bookcase back and opened the door. "What are you doing here?" She couldn't help it when her eyes darted to the bedroom.
Marlene swept into the room. She always entered a room with a sweep, and this time it was enhanced by the lush fake fur coat she flourished and dropped onto the vinyl sofa. But the theatrics were such second nature to Gabby's baby sister, that she didn't miss the panicked glance at the bedroom.
Pulling an envelope from her purse, Marlene waved it and sidled toward the closed bedroom door. "Mother asked me to bring you this check. This is such a lovely time of day in this apartment. You should keep the bedroom door open to let the sun in from that window." She shouldered the door open, leaning on it just right to unstick it. But the glance inside was anything but casual.
Disappointment turned to grim disapproval as she saw the pile of luggage in the middle of the bed. "Mother told me about your harebrained scheme. What's the family going to do with you so far away? You could just as easily go back to Columbia."
"I hated Columbia, and they hated me. Look, let's not rehash old arguments. My mind's made up."
"Can't be. Yesterday, you were planning to help me make a New Year's party for the whole family, and today you're leaving tomorrow. That's not a decision, it's an impulse."
Sorely tempted to tell all, Gabby found her mouth stuck shut, and a rising urgency to get her sister away from the bedroom fought with an insane need to lie to protect Titus. She'd given up lying when she'd taken up the Tarot.
She took her sister's elbow and dragged her across the living room into the kitchen. "Come on, we can argue over coffee, and clean out the refrigerator."
She dropped the check into her purse and spent the rest of the afternoon convincing her sister with lie after lie that just happened to be true. As they talked, they loaded most of boxes into Marlene's husband's Audi which she had just picked up from the shop.
There was a bundle of clothes on the way to the cleaners in the trunk. That had to go on top of the boxes because it had to be dropped off before Marlene went home. Gabby carried the laundry bundle upstairs and shoved it into a dark corner behind the rickety recliner that was missing a leg. Marlene's husband was about the same size as Titus.
Over the intervening hours, she genuinely forgot what she'd done and why.
Gabby never knew how she managed it, but she got Marlene to leave before full dark. Wiping tears of farewell from her cheeks, she went back into the apartment, locked the door, and leaned on it as her eyes watched the slice of sky visible above the bay window. A star appeared.
Switching on the overhead fixture, she saw the laundry bundle and panic seized her once more. Why - how - did Marlene forget that! Why did I hide it away? Her stomach churned. It had been hours since she'd thought of Titus.
A deep, male voice said, "My gratitude is as boundless as the cosmos."
"My God!" she squealed.
Titus, still wearing her bathrobe open over his tuxedo pants leaned over her, one hand propped on the wall by the door. He seemed pale, drawn, but the gashes in his side looked like year old scars, and the ones on his face and hands had disappeared. "Gabby, I'm sorry to have given you such a fright last night. You deserved better of me than that."
His hand floated out toward her face in an affectionate gesture. She jerked away. He froze.
"I won't hurt you."
"Get out." She was surprised she had the ability to voice the order. "Get out and don't ever come back. The invitation is withdrawn. Get out of here. I'll - I'll strew the place with garlic."
"Would you? Could you?"
Deep inside she knew she couldn't act against him. The imperative to protect him was stronger than she'd realized. "Maybe not, but I won't have to. Whoever did that to you last night," she gestured to the scars, "is going to be here soon."
He grabbed her shoulders so fast she couldn't react. Staring into her eyes, he demanded, "How do you know?"
The rest of the room blurred away, and all she saw were the eyes, all she felt were his hands on her shoulders - neither cold nor hot, just hands stronger than any she'd felt before. What spilled out of her was the absolute truth, though it's the last thing she'd have said. "I saw it in the cards."
His breath gushed out of him in a warm cloud - not the stale stench of the Undead, just breath. Breath he had been holding with tension. He breathed regularly, not just when he needed to speak.
She slipped out of his loosening grasp and jackknifed over the recliner to fish out the bundle of laundry, turned and threw it at him. "Here! Take these and get out of here. Now! Because I'm leaving!"
She charged past him into the bedroom to collect her suitcases. Turning back to the door with a case in each hand, she pulled up short. He stood blocking the door. Over one arm lay the shredded remains of his formal jacket.
"You told everyone you read for at the party that the cards can't predict the future."
"They can't. But everyone is psychic to some degree, we just can't access the knowledge of distant events in the present. Discerning them through the Tarot isn't predicting. It's not fate. You can be gone before he gets here. Then, too bad for him."
"I don't need Tarot cards to tell me I've got an enemy. And it doesn't take a fortune teller to divine that I need help." He advanced into the room, still blocking her way out of it.
She retreated. He stopped.
With his left forefinger, he rubbed the top of his forehead. "What I've already done to you is inexcusable - "
"I'll excuse it if you'll just leave."
There was real misery and genuine conflict in his eyes, his tone, his general aura, He was trying very hard to do something he believed to be right, but he wasn't sure he could manage. Gabby had no idea where that insight had come from, but she'd learned to trust her judgment about people. She edged to the side, trying to get a clear shot at the door. "Why can't you just leave?"
He looked at his feet as he whispered, "Hunger."
"Hunger?" He's going to kill me. Then she prayed, Don't you think that's an awfully steep penalty for screwing up a temptation lesson?
"Hunger. I'm too weak to face him again, and I expect he'll find me before I reach safety tonight. I can't leave here in this condition, though I'm convinced we're safe here. At least for a while. Gabby, help me, please."
"That's a strange thing to say to someone you plan to kill."
"Kill?" He charged forward, tossing his jacket on the bed and brushed the suitcases out of her hands, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her to his chest all in one motion. "No! No, you don't understand. All I need is a little of your blood. Less than you'd give to the Red Cross. And I'll pay for it with the pleasure that is your due for such a precious gift."
She glanced aside at the open closet door, the pillows still visible on the floor. The edges were sharp. She checked her memory of what he'd said. It seemed clear enough. And now that he held her, the queasy feeling abated.
His arms were warm, strong but gentle. His lips brushing her forehead sent thrills coursing through her whole body. She buried her nose in his shoulder and just wanted.
The intensity of that unheralded desire was a shock. It was so different from anything she'd ever felt before that she hardly recognized it for what it was before it was too late. She pulled back, and was not quite surprised when he let her go. "What if I say no?"
"Would you do that, Gabby? I ask so little. I would not leave you weakened. You'd be strong and ready for your trip."
"How do I know that?" But the cards had given no indication of real evil. And even now, the fog of perception he had used to force her to protect him was not in evidence.
"My word is not sufficient?"
"After the way you've forced me to help you, and prevented me from asking for the help I need - "
"Gabby, we have laws among our kind. If I had not silenced you, they'd hunt me down and kill me for endangering all of us. I had no choice in what I did to you. I've only a little choice now. Refuse me, and I will leave and take my chances."
"You mean, find someone else?"
"Something I've found recently. I much prefer volunteers."
It was the slickest manipulative pitch she'd ever heard.
He moved in close again and stroked her cheek before she could shrink back. Sensation suffused her whole being and she groaned deep in her throat. His finger outlined her lips and she couldn't help tilting her head up to him. His touch trailed down her neck to her open collared shirt, then hesitated, asking permission.
Despite herself, she leaned into the touch, giving permission. She couldn't have denied herself at that moment to save her life. She no longer cared if she died, she had to have what he promised.
His perfectly groomed fingernail slid over the outside of her bra, toyed with her nipple until her whole breast ached and then welcomed his hand as it worshiped the weight of it. "You see," he murmured into her ear, "there is much I have to offer in reward. And I ask so little."
She wanted to claw at him, climb onto him, force him not to stop now.
He pushed away, holding her at arm's length, his eyes meeting hers. "I am so hungry."
It was artless, the conflicts tearing at him so near the surface that she could see them. She pushed her own desire down and asked, "What do you want to do, bite my neck?"
He grimaced, his sensuous mouth making a straight line as he shook his head, loosed her arms, and picked up his jacket. The inside pocket yielded a ziplock bag with a tourniquet and some sealed packages of disposable needles, the kind used to collect blood donations. He held the bag for her to see. "Nothing so dramatic. A couple of glassfuls will suffice."
She stared at the prosaic tools and for the first time really believed she was dealing with a true vampire, not legend, myth, or maniac, but the real thing, the fact behind the fiction. And the world remained clear around her. That, more than anything, convinced her.
She had seen his power to coerce, and a moment ago had been thoroughly seduced. Yet still he held back, asking. "Well, all right, just this once. But never again."
"If that's what you want."
"What do I have to do?"
He took her into the kitchen where she sat at the table with her arm out while he tied the tourniquet, thumped the vein like a professional, swabbed the skin and inserted the needle. She had to look away as her blood, deep red, dripped into a jelly glass. Her arm was cold. Her back hurt.
His hand spread over the ache in her back and rubbed, making a delicious warm spot. "Not much longer now," he crooned, and she could hear the barely restrained greed in him. "There!" The needle was gone with a cold sting of alcohol, and the tourniquet released with an audible snap. He was gone before she turned her head back.
Her arm was crooked up around the alcohol swab. The needle had been deposited in the trash. "They'll think I'm an addict!" she muttered without real panic.
She bared her elbow to look at the wound. What have I done? Fed a vampire? But he wasn't the legendary kind, the kind supposed to be Evil and Undead. He was just a man with strange needs and even stranger powers.
If she had cold-shouldered Titus outside the house, he wouldn't have been there to save her life. If she hadn't gone to the party, she wouldn't have needed her life saved - but she would probably have lost her job. Yet, that's just where she was now anyway.
There was no sound from the living room. Thinking he might have just left, she got up and went to the door. The bathroom door was closed, and water was running. She hadn't actually seen him drink. He could have flushed it all down the toilet. The whole thing might have been some sort of charade.
Then she remembered how she'd tried to clean the stage makeup off of his face last night. That pasty whiteness was his natural complexion. And he was no albino. In fact, the albinos she knew had a lovely translucence to their skin. Titus looked like he was wearing zinc oxide coating all over his body.
She was about to turn back into the kitchen hoping he'd just leave now when the bathroom door opened. He had stripped and redonned her robe, and as he moved toward her there was no doubt in her mind that he had drunk the blood and it had restored him to vitality as it would only to a vampire.
She couldn't say what it was about him, exactly, but he appeared more robust, calmer, stronger. He glided toward her now, and only by contrast could she see that before, his gait had been hesitant, shuffling, as if he were in pain. Now, he exuded controlled power.
His arms came around her and before she knew what had happened, she was in his arms, cradled against his chest as if she weighed no more than ninety pounds. "Did you think I'd forgotten my promise?" he breathed as he tilted her through the narrow bedroom door and gently set her on the bed.
His mouth covered hers, eager and willing, yet hesitant, asking permission. His whole attention seemed to be on her, seeking to learn what she wanted. Never had a man approached her this way before. All at once, the aching returned to her breasts.
From there a warm flush spread to everything else he touched. There was no mistaking his own intense arousal, but it seemed merely a reflection of her own, escalating at every thrilling stroke of his sensuous fingers. With tentative, dancing touches, those lithe fingers opened her clothing and began peeling it away, an inch at a time.
When he unhooked her bra, she gasped and he stopped. Then, slowly, he leaned down and kissed her again, silently stating his case. Deep inside, she knew this was her last chance to say no. She didn't want to, but she knew it would be prudent.
He shifted his weight until the physical evidence of her effect on him throbbed against her thigh. His right hand came to rest on her groin, perfectly still as if he'd forgotten what he touched as his whole attention focused on her lips and tongue.
She had never been so aroused in her whole life. She was dimly aware she was being seduced, but the experience seemed more important than any other consideration. After all, he wasn't forcing her. The edges of the world were still clear. It was her own decision, and she wasn't going to deny herself something this special.
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. His right hand began to move, and she realized that until that moment, she hadn't even begun to be aroused.
It went on for a very long time, longer than any man had ever spent on her before. Never once did she feel she had to hurry or miss out completely. It was almost as if he enjoyed simply being aroused as much as she did.
As the tension mounted and mounted, she began to wonder if he was incapable in some fashion. She worked one hand down between them and began to repay the intimate caresses.
He gasped, paused, and melted into her touch with a groan. She had him in total surrender. If that was what she wanted. She could pick the position and the time. No man had ever let her do that before. Still, his knowledge and skill outstripped her own by so much, she'd always wonder what she'd missed. "Go on," she whispered. "Do it. Your way."
Panting, he encircled her hand with his own and gently removed himself from her grip. "Not yet, Gavriella. You're capable of so much more." His hands and lips began another detailed study of her whole body, front and back, and ended with her feet, where attention centered and deepened.
Just when she thought she couldn't stand it any more, he moved up to lie beside her, then eased over her and entered without any help. Pure orchestrated sensation rose in every shred of her being. His lips covered hers once more, and gently, carefully, he teased her to the absolute apex, a condition she could never have imagined in her wildest dreams, a state no romance writer had ever evoked for her with the purplest prose.
Then it happened to both of them, simultaneously. But, in that ineffable, unspeakable moment, she felt his seed flood out from him onto her thigh.
The golden glory was tarnished, but still the greatest experience of her life. It became even greater when he didn't simply roll aside and begin to snore. He stayed with her, petting and stroking, thanking her body, appreciating it as much now as when he'd wanted something from her. This must be what it's like to be loved. By the light of the street lamps, she could see the same wonder reflected in his eyes.
When he eased himself to her side, and propped himself on one elbow to toy with her hair, she breathed, "Why! Why didn't you finish it right?"
He kissed her. "Neither of us could afford any unwanted complications. I didn't think you were protected."
"I'm not." She had taken that into account when she'd acquiesced, but at the time it had seemed a reasonable risk. Actually, she realized, it wasn't. "Still . . . ."
Suddenly, his arms were around her again, and he whispered into her ear, "Gabby, I can't tell you what you've given me. You've opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me. I promise, when this is all over, I'll look you up again, and if it's what you want then, you will have it just the way you want it."
"You won't be able to find me," she mumbled, her whole body and mind unraveling into deep relaxation.
"Don't worry about that."
He stroked her back, and she tumbled into sleep feeling more safe and protected than she had ever felt before. The entire experience had redefined what sex was about for her, and now she wasn't sure that was a good thing. Would any man ever measure up again?
Some undefined time later, she woke, aware she'd been asleep only by the fact that she was waking. She was alone in bed, the pillows restored for her comfort. It was still pitch dark outside, but she'd packed her alarm clock so she had no idea what time it was.
No light came through the crack under the living room door, but she heard Titus moving about. She didn't want him to leave like that, so she got up, found her robe neatly folded at the foot of the bed with her clothes. She flung the robe on and tucked the bundle of clothes into the crook of her arm, intending to shower and dress, then leave. She should have gotten them both out of there at sundown.
In the living room, by the streetlight, she found Titus just cinching up the waist of the borrowed brown pants using a strip torn from the black cummerbund he'd been wearing. Everything hung on him like a sack, but at least he was decent.
She crossed to him. "I wanted to say thank you."
"Oh, no, it is I who should - " He broke off, whirling toward the door in a crouch. "Gabby, get dressed!"
"What - "
"Do it!" He flitted across the floor and plastered himself to the wall beside the door, one ear pressed to it as if listening. The street light picking out planes and shadows on his lean features.
Heart pounding, she skinned into her underwear and pulled her clothes on, shoving her feet into a pair of running shoes she'd left under the sofa.
Titus nodded. "It's him. Get your coat. I have to get you out of here."
He pulled open the closet door beside the bathroom, but that was the linen closet. She grabbed a fleece lined jacket from the shelf under the table where she kept her purse, slung her purse over her head and slid one arm through the strap. "Who is it, the killer vampire?"
"No. My father. Let's go!"
She started for the door, but he took her arm and swung her around. "No! This way."
He had the living room window open and was outside, standing on the roof of the porch with his hand out to her before she knew how he'd done it. She'd often contemplated using the roof as a fire escape, but it was almost a two story drop to the ground from the bottom of the slanted roof.
She closed her jacket over her purse, which contained everything of real value, including her mother's check. She'd long ago concluded that she was going to be running for her life, and somehow, she trusted Titus, even if he did have a facetious streak. His father! Really!
With one hand gripping her wrist and the other her elbow, he somehow levered her out of the window. Then he paused to close the window and plastered himself against the side of the building pulling Gabby up beside him.
She held her breath as a shadow flitted through a distant, neighboring yard. It was a very tall, reed slender figure. It disappeared between two houses, heading for the back yards.
Meanwhile, a car purred to a stop at the end of the block and double parked. Four men got out, shutting the doors very quietly. Gabby clutched at Titus's arm as the men started toward them.
Titus breathed into her ear, "Where's your car?"
"Up around that corner they're blocking. About half a block up that street."
He sighed. "The car I used ran out of gas up on Four."
The idea of a vampire discommoded by running out of gas almost made her laugh.
"We'll have to take their car, then," he said.
The four men approached, scanning the bushes in every direction but never looking up. They moved up the steps very quietly, and opened the door as quickly as if they'd had a key. No sooner was the last one inside than Titus turned and swung Gabby up in his arms. Before she knew what was happening, he took two strides and stepped out into thin air.
If she'd had any warning at all, she'd have screamed on the way down. But before she could draw breath, Titus's feet touched the ground and his knees bent, absorbing the impact. By the time her buttocks touched the cold pavement, it was only a minor thump - less than if she'd fallen on the stairs.
"Shit!" she said. "How did you - "
His hand clamped onto her mouth. "Shh!" He bent to her ear. "Simple physics." His other arm gave her a confident squeeze, and then he was helping her to her feet. Pulling her behind him, he began to make his way through the yards, keeping bushes and trees between them and the double parked car. A feeling of unreality englobed her, and she could almost believe she was acting in a movie.
A distant part of her mind noted that the car they were about to steal from the drug dealers was a TransAm. They'd never have had a chance in her Mazda.
Steal from the drug dealers. Something kept the natural panic that thought engendered at a great distance. She was glad. Panic could be fatal right now.
As they came abreast of the car, she could see the man left inside to guard it.
On a sudden thought, she dragged Titus back into the bushes and put her mouth to his ear. "What if those four men come back!"
"Don't worry. My father will take care of them. Now, let me concentrate."
Father. He meant it! "Why are we running from your father?"
"You don't want to know. Now, hush!"
In a few moments, the driver of the car lazily opened the door and eased himself out. He left the door open and wandered haphazardly up the street. They waited until he was nearly half a block away, then dashed for the car.
Titus took the wheel, motioning her around to the other door. As she closed her door, Titus spun the car around in a tight U turn, slid into the right turn at the corner and gunned the motor as guided the car down the middle of the street.
"How did you know that man would leave the key in the car?" she asked when they made it onto the Garden State without any sign of pursuit.
"I used Influence - the power of my kind that so distresses you. I'm sorry, but there was no other way to avoid killing him."
Killing him. Titus said the words as if he had every reason to believe it would have been just as easy to kill a man who was, very likely, a professional killer. She changed the subject. "Where are you going to let me off?"
"I'm sorry, Gabby. I can't do that."
End Chapter Two
In Chapter Three, Titus convinces Gabby that it is safer to stay with him than to try it on her own.
There are three factions of vampires involved in the situation as well as the drug dealers, an international importing cartel.
Titus's vampire father, Abbot Nandoha, is a member of the Tourist faction, vampires who regard humans as cattle to be fed from as suits their amusement. Tourists often kill humans. Titus is trying to desert the Tourists to become a member of the Resident faction, vampires who regard humans as neighbors and feed only with permission. The Residents are developing an artificial blood source that should soon replace the need for human blood.
Tourists and Residents have currently formed a shaky alliance to hunt down and kill a vampire who has "gone feral." He is literally insane with blood lust and behaves very much the way a vampire of classical horror literature would behave. He needs torture and death in order to feed. There is no cure for this condition, and so he must be killed.
As the story opens, the feral, who is going by the name of Raoul Duremberger, has used his position at the head of a large radio pager company to cut into and take over a large portion of the drug import market on the East Coast.
Normally, the vampire communities agree on little, but one thing they never become involved with is organized crime. Drugs, pornography, gambling, or prostitution are all too dangerous to their annonymity because of constant police scrutiny. If the feral is discovered to be a vampire, it could start a witch hunt that would wipe out the small community of vampires on Earth.
Titus's father, Abbot has been assigned by the Tourists to work with Titus as a condition of Tourist cooperation with the Residents in this hunt for the feral. Vampire protocol requires that the factions not try to recruit from one another, and Abbot has accused the Residents of "stealing" his son's loyalty. Abbot has demanded the chance to win Titus back to the Tourists point of view.
For this reason, Titus had to be sure that Abbot didn't catch up with Gabby at her house because Abbot would have the right to take her from Titus's protection and abuse her. Titus can protect her from all other vampires except Abbot.
Titus thinks that the humans who came to Gabby's apartment were sent by the feral, but he has no idea how the feral located her.
Gabby figures that anyone who wanted to know where she lived would simply ask the host, who would refer them to her boss, who had no reason not to give out her address because he knew that she needed more money than he could pay her and would jump at the chance to make something on the side.
She relates her experience reading Tarot at the party and asks if that was the feral. Titus says, no, there were no other vampires in that house, but there were several dealers who had been "Marked" by the feral.
He explains that vampires can place a mark in the psychic aura of the humans they have claimed. This warns off other vampires. He admits he did so with her when he used his power, his Influence, to prevent her from speaking of him and to charge her to protect him during the day. So she has nothing to fear except from Abbot.
She observes that if her client at that last reading was a minor boss working for the feral, he could expect an ugly death for his failure, and he irrationally blames his failure on her.
She feels she ought to turn herself in to the police. Titus says that Abbot would find a way to silence her permanently if she did that. Even the inside of a maximum security cell wouldn't protect her from Abbot.
There is such fear in him that she believes him.
So by the time they stop for gas, she's no longer intent on escaping.
Titus takes her to Silver Spring, Maryland, where they ditch the car in a wrecking yard and walk several miles into the residential district.
In the basement of a suburban home, the Residents, commanded by a female vampire known only as Connie, have set up their field command post.
It is a high tech dream which leaves her gasping at the ease with which the vampires can penetrate and manipulate official files, records, and transmissions. They also communicate with their allies, the Tourists, who have their command post set up in Alexandria, Va.
They discover how Abbot found out where Titus was, and Titus has to listen to Abbot's opinion of his sloppy technique in stealing that car. But don't worry, Abbot took care of all five of the men and wants to meet with Titus to plan their next move.
The complication is now that the feral and the men who work for him are convinced that Gabby is some kind of freak who really can foretell the future. If they can't capture and use her, then they want her destroyed so nobody else can.
Abbot tells Titus that the only place where she could be safe is in the Tourist's command post.
To Titus, this seems such an obvious ploy that he stalls Abbot off and gets Gabby aside to ask her what she wants to do. Gabby is reassured of Titus's good intentions by his consulting her, and, when he asks about how she really knew they were in danger in the apartment, she again asserts that she saw it in the cards - but that's not foretelling the future. The attack plans were already in progress when she discerned their effect on her.
Connie and the others in the Residents' command post are not as quick to dismiss her ability with the cards as Titus was and is. Connie says that modern science can't account for everything the vampires are able to do, so as a scientist, Titus should be more willing to investigate with an open mind.
With perfect scientific skepticism (not scorn, but genuine curiosity aroused by Connie) Titus asks her to consult the cards about what's currently in progress and where she would be safest.
Exhausted - she has slept only in the car on the way down - she has trouble focusing. She can't tell if she's reading the cards or just making up her mind, but she says she'd be better off staying with Titus, wherever he goes.
He has to go meet Abbot before sunrise. But she hasn't had any sleep. So in the end, she stays in the Residents' house. She sees Titus preparing to risk being caught out by daylight. The vampires use layers of sunscreen lotion, contact lenses, and specially formulated sun glasses if they have to brave even a cloudy day. Titus would have been in dire straits indeed had she opened that closet door.
She forgives him for using his Influence to freeze her hand on the closet door knob. In his place, she'd have done the same.
She wakes just after dawn to the sounds of battle and loud, shattering explosions. The feral's human operatives are attacking and have destroyed the command post. She escapes out an upper story window. Hanging by her hands from the window sill, she is about to drop into the bushes below when she hears Titus's voice below her.
He catches her, and then she, Titus and Abbot flee together. Some of the Tourists are also helping other Resident vampires escape the burning building before the fire department arrives. Some of the vampire survivors are dead, though Titus says they are only dormant and will awaken again when their wounds have healed.
Gabby learns here of both the strength and the weakness of the alliance with the Tourists. The Tourists have fewer scruples about forcing humans to their will, and so were one step ahead of the Residents in anticipating the raid. But now that some Residents are permanently dead, and some "dormant" she learns how a vampire goes feral.
After being temporarily dead, the vampire wakes with a ravenous appetite and must feed on the blood and mind of another vampire. If allowed to wake and feed on a human, the vampire developes an insatiable craving for humans. No matter how many humans he kills, though, he cannot satisfy the craving because it is for the unique experience of feeding on his own kind. Once feral, the vampire cannot obtain satisfaction from vampire blood either. He is doomed.
When a dormant vampire wakes and feeds on a vampire, that one becomes his father. Abbot fed Titus his blood when Titus first woke in his grave, buried by accident.
The vampire who parents another vampire thusly gains great power over the "child".
So, the Residents are anxious to keep the helpful Tourists away from the dormant Residents lest the Tourists parent the dormant and cause them to adopt the vicious ways of the Tourists.
When Gabby observes this hostility and discerns the cause, she begins to realize just what she's gotten into. A simple horror novel would be easier to deal with.
As the fire equipment is rolling up, the vampires scatter, and Connie bids them goodbye with the admonition to Titus to retain his objectivity. Abbot, Titus, and Gabby hide out during the day and, that night, they take a plane for Phoenix, Arizona where Titus is a grad student and teaching assistant expecting his Ph.D. and an appointment as lecturer. Due to the climate, there aren't many vampires there, and he doesn't intend to stay.
But with Titus's local resources, they are able to make contact with Connie and the main organizers who have regrouped in Berkeley, California, which is also a Tourist headquarters. With new information on the movement and intentions of the feral, a new plan has been devised.
Abbot and Titus are to go to Boca Raton, Florida, where the feral is about to supervise a big import delivery. They are promised more information when they get there. Meanwhile, several other Tourist/Resident teams are assembling in Boca. They believe they will have the feral trapped this time.
In the course of all this, Titus has used Influence on Gabby quite heavily at times, leaving her with a distorted and nightmarish sense of reality, a genuine confusion about what's real and what's not, what she believes and what Titus (or Abbot) wants her to believe.
Titus is wavering in his commitment to the Residents' way. Abbot's praise and approval is heady stuff for him, and Gabby sees his high ideals slipping away. She comes to distrust him, but realizes it is still a battle for his soul, and decides to go to Boca with the two vampires.
Despite Influence, there is nothing they can say or do to dissuade her. She has developed some techniques for fighting Influence unless it is chokingly thick.
But when they get there, they discover it is a trap for them. Their information lines are cut. Gabby tries the cards once more, and pulls out an accurate estimation of what is going on around them. They narrowly escape one trap only to fall into another. Gabby's interpretation of her reading was off, but the actual cards predicted events accurately.
In the confusion, Gabby is captured by the feral.
He tries to use her abilities by Influencing her, but she can't read the cards under that kind of coercion. She does learn, however, just how restrained Titus has been in his use of Influence. Understanding the nature of the feral, she understands why Titus had to do the things to her perceptions that he did do.
And the feral, despite his condition, actually does respect Titus's mark of ownership to a certain extent.
Gabby is able to manipulate the feral, misdirect, and hold his attention until, acting on a signal that she manages to send about their location, Titus, Abbot, Connie and the others take out the human slaves to the feral's will, and actually confront the feral.
In the end, Gabby is the one who delivers the death blow to the feral, not out of the loathing and hatred she came to feel as his captive, but in order to protect Titus.
When it's all over, Titus repledges his loyalty to the Residents, and rejects Abbot once and for all.
A card falls to the floor. The Hanged Man: complete reversal of the way of life.
Gabby decides not to let Titus erase his Mark. She will remain one of his stringers, those who feed him blood, until he can live on artificial blood. Besides, no law says she has to move to LA to go to school. She can study just as well in Arizona.
Gee I'd really love to get to write this book. It's better than I remembered.
The 4th book in the tetralogy, Those of My Blood, Dreamspy, Feral Vampire, Blood Justice, is about all 3 sets of characters from the first three books, coming together to meet on Earth's Moon, creating an alliance to fight off the galaxy's determination to be rid of Earth and the crossbreed Vampires once and for all. That's one I'd like to write, as well, because I'm still interested in what will happen when Gabby and Inea square off over Titus's Undead body. I love Love Triangles.
Go To: WorldCrafters Guild, Writers, Workshop, Sime~Gen Fiction Pages, or Sime~Gen Inc. top page.
The novel Feral Vampire is copyright © 1989, 1993, 2001 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, all rights reserved.
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