Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Vampire Queen, Part Three

My phone buzzed. I rolled over, half asleep. Rachel punched my shoulder.
Yeah, we’d missed each other. I grabbed the phone. “Tom Jurgen here.”
“Ahh …” Anemone’s voice whispered in my ear. “I knew you’d be ready. Your girlfriend is home. She’s so hot.”
            Oh hell. I sat up, checking Rachel’s blinds. The sun was still up. How did she—
It didn’t matter. “Stay away from her.”
            Rachel lurched up. “Who are you talking to?”
            “Nobody.” I pushed my phone close to my ear. “So what do you want?”
            “What you asked for. A meeting. At 10:30 tonight. The building at 1400 LaSalle. They’re tearing it down, but you can get in. Bring someone who can actually speak for your kind.”
            “Wait—” Was I hearing her right? “You’re ready to talk? And you can actually shut this all down? The attacks?”
            Rachel grabbed my shoulder. “Who is it?”
            “I can make a deal.” Anemone’s voice was clear and quiet. “Maybe not the one you’d like. But we can end this.” She hung up.
            “Hey!” Rachel punched my shoulder. Just like old times. “What’s going on?”
            “What time is it?” I looked at her clock radio. Only 6:15. “I need to make some calls.”
            “Right.” Rachel groaned. “The cops again?”
            “The new queen. Maybe.” I looked for my shoes. “She goes by Anemone.”
            “What?” Rachel stood up, her face flushed. “You’re not talking to that bitch, are you?”
            I froze. “You know Anemone?”
            “I’ve heard of her.” She pulled at a pair of shorts. “She’s dangerous.”
            I’d met Rachel when she was leading a support group for survivors of vampire attacks. “So she knows who you are. That explains …” How she knew Rachel was home. Oh god. “What do you know about her?”
            “She’s old. She’s powerful. She doesn’t need to drain a body, she just needs a few fast gulps.” Rachel shuddered. “One girl said she only chewed on her neck and then licked the blood that came out. But she told her that name—Anemone. And later I asked around. Carrie, and other people.”
            Rachel’s friend Carrie hated me. But I needed all the information I could get. “What did they say?”
            “Stay away.” She ran across the room, opened a drawer, and pulled out a big silver cross. Then another one. “You need this? I’ve got lots.”
            “Uh, I’ve got my own. Thanks.”
            Then she yanked a wooden stake out of a bottom drawer. “What time’s the meet?”
            “Uh, 10:30.” I picked up my phone. “Like I said, I need to make some calls.”
            “The cops?” Rachel twisted a T-shirt over her shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry about Dudovich, but you know how I feel. I’m coming with you.”
            We’d had this discussion before. I couldn’t argue with her. Not any more.
            I called Hughes. “It’s 10:30 tonight.” I gave him the LaSalle street address.
            Hughes put me on hold for a moment. Probably telling Hawkins or someone to check out the address. Then he came back. “Do you trust this vamp, Jurgen?”
            “Hell, no.” I looked at my cross on the night table next to Rachel’s bed. “But it might work. Right now it’s the best shot we’ve got. But someone has to be able to negotiate an agreement that will stick. You, or the commissioner, maybe not the mayor—”   
            “It’ll be me.” Hughes groaned. “It has to be me. Goddamn it.”
            “Sorry.” As much as we argued, I knew he was a good cop who only wanted to do his job.
            “Yeah.” I heard him started typing at his computer. “It’s almost 6:30. That gives us three hours to get ready. We’ll see you there.”
I made sandwiches. Roast beef and cheese for me, tomatoes and avocado for her. And a lot of coffee.
            The sun went down. Vampire time. I made sure the windows were locked.
            Rachel chewed her sandwich. “Mmm. Thousand Island dressing?”
            “Only the best for you.”
            She swallowed. “We still have to talk.”
            I’d known this was coming. “Look, I’m going to quit. After tonight. It was different with Dudovich there. But now …”
            “I don’t care about Dudovich!” Rachel pushed her chair back. “I mean … shit, I’m sorry. That came out wrong.” She punched my arm. Gently. “I know she was your friend. And I’m sorry.”
            I nodded. “Yeah. It’s okay. I just keep flashing back to it. I should have done something different. I could have . . . I don’t know.”
            “Look, whatever happened—and I wasn’t there, but . . . “ Rachel squeezed my hand. “I’m just glad you’re still here. All right?”
            I couldn’t think of anything to say. Except the obvious. “Rachel, I love you.”
            Rachel glared at me. “Well, of course you do. Jerk.” She slugged my arm.
            Her punch was almost better than a kiss. Although I liked those too.
            Then she folded her arms. “So now what?”
            I looked at my phone. “Now we wait. It’s only 7:30, so—”
            “No, you idiot.” Rachel looked ready to fling her cup at me. “About us.”
            Us. “Well …” What the hell did she mean? “I want to be together. Somehow. Uh …” Oh god. Okay. “Do you want to get married? If you want me to drop to my knees, I’ll—”
            “Oh god, no!” She turned away. “Don’t ever say that again.”
            Wait—was Rachel crying? “Uh, hey, I’m sorry. What did I—”
            “Shut up!” Rachel pounded the table with her fist. “Just stop it right now! I can’t … I don’t want to … don’t you know anything, you asshole?”
            Apparently not. So I did the only thing I could think of, and it scared me almost as much as confronting a vampire.
I stood up and pulled Rachel in a hug.
            I expected a punch to the arm and a slug in the stomach. Maybe a kick. But Rachel just wept, her arms around me, so I held her as close as I could.
            Then she pushed me away.  “Okay. I’m … okay.” She grabbed a napkin to wipe her eyes.
            I backed away. “You want more coffee? Or a beer?”
            “I want …” Rachel ran a hand through her red hair. “I want ice cream. And a pony. And world peace. And I hate you so much it hurts.”
            Ouch. “Well, I’ve got ice cream.”
            Rachel rubbed her eyes. “I didn’t mean that. I mean yeah, I want ice cream and a pony and all that. Not—not the other thing.”
            I glanced at the kitchen, trying to remember what I had in my freezer. “Chocolate? Vanilla? Neapolitan?”
            “Well, chocolate of course. Don’t you know anything about women? And more coffee. And …”        
Rachel stood up and kissed me. “And I’m coming with you.”
I stiffened. But we’d had this argument before. “Sure. Let me get you that ice cream.”

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