EXCERPT from EVIL NATURE
Reece stood with his arms folded and stared at Andre’s brother in disbelief. How was he here? Why was he here? It was difficult to get his head around the fact that Jacques was alive, again, and his best friend was dead. Being identical twins made it even harder to deal with because looking at him made the gaping hole in his heart hurt like hell. He even sounded more like Andre now because the hint of French accent he once had was gone. The PI’s scrutinizing gaze remained on the vampire standing in the doorway. “How can you possibly expect us to believe you? Why should we after everything you’ve done?”
Jacques reached inside his unbuttoned, calf-length black jacket and produced a glass vial containing a gray powdery substance and held it at eye level. “Because, my dear Detective, this contains some of my brother’s ashes,” he said, his dark gaze moving from the small bottle in his hand to the four suspicious faces, “and you have a quantity of his blood stored for emergencies. Am I correct?”
“So?” Reece stepped away from the others and stood in the center of the office, his hands on his hips. He wondered how Jacques knew about Andre’s blood. How long had he been alive and why had he been keeping tabs on them?
“So that means with both of those elements and a sorcerer’s assistance we can bring my brother back from the realm of the dead. That is what you want, isn’t it?”
“How do we know what he’s tellin’ us is true?” Ed remained beside Sarah, arms folded, his disbelieving eyes steadfast on their nemesis.
“Because I am living proof.” Jacques spread his arms wide. “How else could I stand here before you now? You saw me die and yet here I am.”
Ed glowered at him. “You’re a liar and a murderer. Maybe you made us see what you wanted us to see. Maybe you’ve been alive all this time just waiting for a chance to scheme your way back into our lives. Andre is dead.”
Sarah gripped his arm and gave him a nervous frown. She didn’t think it was a good idea to antagonize Jacques. They had all been on the receiving end of his wrath once before.
“It has been done,” Nathaniel said.
Reece’s focus moved from Jacques to Nathaniel. “You’re sure about that?”
“What I was told came from a reliable source. Someone who has seen the ritual performed.” He stepped up beside Reece, his eyes never leaving Jacques for a second. He knew how his former master’s mind worked. “Although I have not witnessed it myself, I believe the immortal that provided me with the information told the truth.”
A satisfied smirk spread across Jacques’ pale, handsome face and his left eyebrow arched. “You see. Now do you believe me?”
The PI swung his head around and scowled at the vampire. “What’s in it for you? You wouldn’t be here offering help unless it benefited you. So what is it?”
“How shrewd of you, Detective.” He returned the vial to the inside pocket of his wool coat and stepped across the threshold. “Yes, there is something I want in return. But I shall leave that for another time.” His intense gaze locked onto Reece and he searched the PI’s soul. Would he do what he wanted? “Consider my offer carefully. Would you want to pass up the opportunity to have your beloved friend returned to you?”
“You need to find out Jacques’ agenda before making a bargain with the devil,” Ed told Reece. “Who knows what he’ll want you to do.”
Reece’s serious gaze rested on his ex-boss. “Does it really matter? If I don’t agree to whatever he wants Andre will remain dead.”
“Is it worth your soul?” Sarah asked, placing a concerned hand on the PI’s arm.
“He’ll want you to agree before he tells you what he wants you to do. You know that, right?” Ed frowned at him.
“Yeah, I’m well aware of how Jacques’ mind works.” He folded his arms. “But I don’t see any way around it.”
“Who the hell resurrected that monster anyway?” Ed growled. “Now we have two of them to deal with.” He paced the length of the office then spun around. “Do you think he’s in league with Drac? It’s funny how Jacques showed up after he left.”
“Who knows?” Reece shrugged and stood up from off the corner of his desk. “All I know is if there’s a way to bring Andre back then I don’t have a choice.”
“But you do have a choice,” Nathaniel said.
Reece’s eyes moved to the huge vampire. “What are you saying?”
“You know what I am saying. Do you really want to be in league with Jacques?”
“So you think I shouldn’t agree to his offer and leave Andre dead.”
“Jacques will not bring your friend back immediately. He will test your loyalty first. It could take weeks, months, or even years.” Nathaniel folded his arms across his broad, muscular chest.
“Would Andre want to return knowing the price you had to pay?” Sarah’s concerned eyes stared into his.
Reece gave a heavy sigh and tears stung the backs of his eyes. “I want my friend back.”
“You have other things to worry about,” Ed told him. “What about the Charlotte situation?”
“I honestly don’t know, Chief.”
“You’ll forgive her, won’t you?” Sarah asked. “You know she wouldn’t intentionally do anything to endanger our lives? She was under Vlad’s influence.”
“Yeah, I know. But it still doesn’t change anything. Andre and Arianne are dead.” He walked over to the window, leaned against the frame and gazed out at the night.
“You still love her, don’t you?”
Reece eyed the priest over his shoulder but didn’t reply.
The next afternoon, Sheriff Lozano was in his office trying to call Reece to no avail. He frowned at his phone and gave a heavy sigh. Why isn’t he picking up? He tried Andre’s cell. No answer there, either. The sheriff had some well-earned vacation time coming and planned to visit Los Angeles. He wanted to organize a time to meet with the PI and his team as he had found something significant he wanted to share with them. He’d discovered certain information while doing some research that would rid the world of monsters once and for all, at least the otherworldly kind. There would always be human monsters. Lozano was pleased to be able to offer his assistance. He’d learned a lot while working with Reece and his team and wanted to return the favor. He sighed again and stared at his phone willing it to ring. Maybe they were working a case and couldn’t answer right now. Lozano hoped that’s all it was, knowing what they did for a living.
The sheriff opened his laptop and typed in the airline he’d chosen to fly with. He had a couple of days to organize himself and wanted to get to LA as soon as possible. He knew he’d be putting himself in harm’s way, but he had to tell them what he’d uncovered, and maybe assist while he was there. Now that he was aware of the creatures roaming the streets during the day and after dark he couldn’t ignore his instincts any longer. He had to be involved in ridding the earth of such abominations. He’d come to believe it was his calling.
His official cell phone buzzed and vibrated across his desk pulling him away from his thoughts. He snatched it up and pressed the button hoping it was a return call from Reece. “Sheriff Lozano speaking?”
“Don’t involve yourself in matters that don’t concern you,” the gruff male voice warned on the other end of the line.
Lozano pulled the phone away from his face and stared at the screen. Unknown number. He pressed it back to his ear. “Who is this?”
“Not important. What you need to know is that your friends are indisposed.” He gave a throaty chuckle.
“What does that mean?” The sheriff sprang from his chair and stepped out of his office looking for one of his officers to do a trace on the call. His eyes roamed the long, windowed corridor. He spotted Simpson and waved his arm in the air to attract his attention.
The officer spotted him and hurried along the hallway. “What is it, boss?”
Lozano covered the phone. “Can you get a trace on this call? I want to know the location ASAP.”
“Sure thing.” The officer nodded and rushed into an empty office.
The sheriff removed his hand. “Where are they?”
“The master has already eliminated some of them. It’s only a matter of time before they are all dead. That’s why I’m telling you to stay away from LA. If you come here you’ll have a target on your back.”
Lozano wondered who had died. He wasn’t concerned for his own safety. “When you say he’s eliminated some of them, you mean he’s killed them?”
“Tell me who?” Lozano pressed. He hoped it wasn’t Reece or Andre. Maybe that’s why they weren’t answering their phones.
“You’ll find out when you get here. I assume you’re still coming.”
“Yeah, I am.” Now more than ever he needed to get to LA.
“You’ve just signed your own death warrant.” The line went dead.
“Hello?” Lozano sighed and dropped the phone into the top pocket of his uniform shirt.
Simpson rushed out of the office. “The switching center couldn’t determine the exact location of the call, boss. They said the phone’s signal was bouncing off the cell towers near the destination but not close enough to pin point it.”
“Dammit! Thanks Hank.” The sheriff spun on his heel and headed back to his office. He needed to move his vacation time forward so he could be on a flight out tonight.
Sitting at the terminal waiting to board, Lozano thought he’d give it one last try to contact Reece before he flew out. The line rang for a long time and he was about to ring off when the PI answered.
“Hello, Sheriff, what can I do for you?”
“Is everything ok? I had a strange, anonymous call telling me Dracula had killed…”
“He did.” Reece gave a heavy sigh.
Hoping it had been a lie, Lozano was taken aback by the reality of the news and it took a few seconds for his mind to make sense of it. “Who died?”
The PI sighed again. “I’d prefer not to discuss it right now. It’s… I’m still trying to process it myself.”
The sheriff had to respect his wishes even though he wanted to know. “Ok. I understand. The reason I called is I’m on my way to you and…”
“Don’t come here, Sheriff.” Reece’s warning was resolute. “There’s nothing you can do.”
“I have vacation time up and I’m coming. I don’t need your permission.” He heard the boarding call for his flight. “Look, I gotta go. I’ll see you when I get there.”
“Sheriff?” Lozano had rung off. “Shit!” Reece tossed his cell phone onto the coffee table.
“What did Sheriff Lozano want?” Sarah asked.
“He’s flying here tonight.”
“Why?” She sat down on the sofa and let out an exhausted sigh.
“He said he had some vacation time and wanted to spend it here.”
“How long will the flight take?”
“Maybe an hour or so.” Reece frowned at her. “Why?”
“I think one of us should be at the airport when he arrives.”
“She’s right. We have no clue where Dracula is right now and we have Andre’s brother to deal with again,” Ed told him. “Who knows what either of them is up to?”
“Lozano said he received an anonymous call about what happened here. He wanted to know who died.”
“Then we sure as hell need to be at LAX when he flies in,” his ex-boss said, hoisting his heavy frame out of the armchair he’d been occupying. “If they know about him his life is in danger too.”
“We don’t know the flight details,” Reece said, folding his arms.
“Easily solved.” Ed got on his cell phone. After a five minute conversation he turned to the PI. “Southwest Airlines, terminal one, 8.05 PM.”
Charlotte remained cloistered away in the spare bedroom. She knew she’d have to face everyone soon enough but didn’t have the courage to right now. She couldn’t bare that Reece wouldn’t look at her and her heart ached for him. He’d lost his best friend and it was her fault. They had been happy before all of this, ready to commit to a life together, and it had all changed in a moment. How could she explain it to Tommy? A single tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away.
Once the new drama they were facing with Andre’s brother was resolved she would try to reason with Reece. She had to know if there was any hope for them. A sob stuck in her throat. How could she live without him if he decided what she had done was unforgivable? A knock echoed into the compact space and Charlotte’s eyes moved to the door, her heartbeat ticking up a couple of notches. Was it Reece? “Come in.”
Sarah poked her head around the opening. “I just wanted to let you know we’re going to LAX to pick up the sheriff. He’s flying in tonight.” She pushed the door back and stepped into the room. “Will you be ok?”
Charlotte nodded. “Yes.” She waited a beat then said, “How’s Reece doing? Is he all right?”
“He seems to be holding up ok.” Sarah crossed the room, sat on the side of the bed and gave Charlotte a pained look. “I know how much you’re both hurting. I wish there was something I could do.”
“The fact that you’re still talking to me helps. I don’t think the others feel the same way.”
Sarah wrapped her fingers around Charlotte’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “They know it wasn’t your fault. It’s just going to take some time for that to sink in. I believe it will all work out, eventually.”
“I wish I could be as confident.” She heaved a heavy sigh. “I don’t want to lose Reece. I love him so much. It breaks my heart that he won’t speak to me.” Another tear slid down her cheek. “Will you talk to him? Tell him how sorry I am? Tell him I love him?”
“I have tried, Charlotte, but he doesn’t want to talk.”
“What can I do to make him understand?” More tears slid down her face.
“Just give it some time. The expression ‘time heals all wounds’ really does work.”
Charlotte gave her a curious frown. “How much time?”
“As much as it takes. This kind of emotional distress can’t be rushed.” Sarah stood up and walked to the open doorway. “I have to go. We won’t be long.”
“That’s ok. I’ll probably sleep, if I can.”
The priest nodded and smiled then closed the door.
Charlotte buried her face in her pillow and burst into silent tears. She didn’t feel as though she belonged here anymore. She felt like an intruder.
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© 2019 M. A. Anderson
Bella Luna Books, Australia
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