MY VAMPIRE'S HUSBAND
As we stepped out of the car, the dusty smell in the air instantly bringing the remembered pain and death with it, Alanna and Imogen walked out of the front door. Ben jumped a little at seeing them stride through the loosely hanging screen, but Teren and I had felt them, and only looked over, interested at what they'd found.
Carefully stepping around the missing floorboards, Alanna shrugged. "It's clean. No trace of, well, much of anything really."
Imogen shrugged her shoulders. "It looks the same as when mother and I sterilized it." The warm, grandmotherly woman had said that so matter-of-factly that a chill went down my dead spine. She and Halina had cleaned up the incident, erasing all signs of foul play for what the human world would have considered murder. Well, manslaughter at best.
Teren frowned and looked around the empty property. I held my arms to my chest, wondering if my son was close. Did Malcolm bring him here, or leave him where he'd tucked him? Teren stepped forward, sniffing the air. I did as well and I sensed it in the wind blowing our direction, that faintly familiar scent from the movie theaters and that abandoned building's parking lot. Malcolm was here.
A growl burrowing from his chest, Teren stepped forward. Walking behind him, feeling on edge, we stepped over to where a fluorescent lamp post was shining a pool of bluish light over the dark ground. It was attached to an equally decrepit barn, the light itself the only sturdy looking thing on the weathered behemoth.
Staring through the cracked opening of the doors, Teren's growl grew louder. My silent heart wanted to race as nerves flew through me. Was my child with him through those doors? The group of us fanned out in a wide semicircle around the doors, giving Malcolm enough space that he didn't feel cornered. Ben stayed close to Teren's side, his trusty stake in one hand, his heart-containing backpack in the other. Alanna and Imogen stood farther back, near the edges of the circle, closing off any real escape the man had...from their direction at least. Knowing Malcolm was good at evading traps, I figured he had about five other ways to leave this situation, if he needed to.
The look on Malcolm's face as he stepped out of the building clearly showed that he believed that too. There was no fear of us in the worn vampire's features. Just a tiredness that betrayed how much he wanted this to be over with too. I hoped that after tonight, it would be, for everyone.
His eyes slowly taking in all of us, he softly muttered, "I see you brought the Calvary." His eyes locked on Teren's as he stepped directly underneath the light streaming from above; the spotlight he'd always craved. "Do I frighten you that much?" His lips lifted in a cruel, satisfied smile.
Teren didn't react to his goading, only stepped forward, his entire face a stone mask. "Where's my son?"
Malcolm sighed, rolling his eyes. "That's all I ever hear from you. It's so...repetitive." Narrowing his eyes, he raised an eyebrow. "Where's my heart?"
Teren grabbed the bag from Ben and tossed it at Malcolm. He'd tossed it pretty hard and it smacked the vampire in the chest. Malcolm smirked as he clutched the bag to him. "That wasn't very friendly. Not exactly a nice way to treat your business partner, is it?"
He unzipped the bag while Teren grit his jaw, his eyes darkening as he stared at the man who'd ripped our family in two. Opening the bag, Malcolm met eyes with Hot Ben. Ben lifted his chin, clutching his stake tighter. A slow smile spread on Malcolm's face. "Well, hello, human. Are you the bodyguard?" He nodded at the stake Ben was clutching so tight his knuckles were white.
When Ben didn't answer, Malcolm swung his eyes back to Teren. "Interesting choice."
Exhaling as calmly as he could, Teren forcibly said, "Let's just get this over with so I can get my son back."
Malcolm concentrated on the open bag. "Alright, alright. People nowadays...so impatient," he muttered. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out the human heart that we were trying to pass off as Gabriel's. A cold smile lit his face, the bluish light cast from the lamp making him seem even more devilish. "Ah, hello there Gabriel. Sorry we had to meet up again this way."
He chuckled then stuck the container under his arm, reaching his hand back in the bag. Pulling out the knife, he sniffed it. I tried not to tense, to not give anything away, but we'd washed the blade and it only smelled of soap, not human blood. Malcolm tossed it to the ground, uninterested in the weapon. Finally his fingers closed around the Polaroid photos. Snatching them, he dropped the bag to the dirt at his feet.
He raised an eyebrow at Teren as he prepared to flip through them. "Shall we see your handiwork, then?" I made myself not hold my breath. If he didn't buy the pictures...
Focused on the slightly blurred figure of the dead man in the picture, Malcolm's brow bunched together. He held it an inch from his face and I nearly wanted to scream with all the tension pricking my body. After a long moment, he pulled it back and lifted his gaze to Teren. "Remind me to never piss you off, vampire."
Teren growled and I heard his words clearly in the sound - too late, I'm already pissed.
Malcolm smirked at the show. Seemingly satisfied with the photos, he tucked them in his jacket. Glancing around at everyone studiously watching him, he popped open the container lid. Teren, getting restless and anxious, took another step forward and tossed his hands out to the side. "You got what you wanted. I did it, I killed him. Now, where's my son?"
Malcolm retreated a half step. "All in due time, Adams. I still haven't tested the merchandise." He pulled the lid off the container and the scent of blood hit my nose. It was similar to human blood, sweet and tangy, but with a foreign, comforting note in it. Malcolm leaned down to sniff it, then smiled. Reaching in, he held the wet thing tenderly, just like he'd said he'd wanted to. As Ben made a disgruntled noise and looked away, Malcolm ran his tongue over it. Even as a vampire, even knowing that he'd basically licked our tasty version of a lollipop, the sight still made me cringe, and I looked away too.
Malcolm purred though. "Ahhh, vampirically delicious." I glanced back at him to find him giving Teren an appraising eye. "You did well, Adams. I am surprised. I thought for sure I'd have to start sending you pieces of your brat to get you to do this."
Teren stepped right up to him, his face heated. "You son of a bitch."
Malcolm took a step back, holding his arm out at Teren. "Hey, I didn't. We had a deal, you lived up to it. I'll tell you where he is and then we both go our separate ways. Agreed?"
Teren backed off, relaxing his stance. "Agreed," he nodded.
I tensed, waiting for the words from him that would tell me where to go, waiting for him to confess my son's hiding place. Malcolm opened his mouth to speak, the heart straight in front of him, in his still outstretched hand. His eyes narrowing, he closed his mouth. Bringing the heart back up to his face, he turned it over and over, looking for something. My breath hitched on me and I took a step forward. He knew where Julian was, he had to tell us.
Glancing up at Teren, Malcolm's entire face hardened up. "What is this, Adams? Some sort of joke?"
Teren blinked and took a step back. "What do you mean? It's a heart, Gabriel's heart."
Malcolm tilted his head and held up the bloody organ. "Really? This is the heart of the man you murdered, the man you staked?"
Teren opened his mouth to speak, then his eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. I didn't understand why until Malcolm spoke again. "If you staked this heart, where's the hole?" His brow furrowing in anger, he tossed the thing at Teren's feet. The dirt coated the organ instantly, the perfect, intact, holeless organ. We'd missed something in our charade and he'd noticed.
Malcolm shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out the photos as everyone in the semicircle tensed. "And don't tell me you took his head off, because I can clearly see that you didn't." He tossed the photos on the ground too. Taking an angry step forward, he poked Teren in the chest. "Did you just walk up and rip it out of his chest?" He pointed back down to the heart, "Because that looks cut out to me!"
With both hands, he shoved Teren's shoulders. "Whose heart is that? What did you do!"
The universe not working with us, the wind shifted. I could smell it, so certainly the ancient vampire before me could as well. Gabriel had indeed shown up. He was behind us, remaining hidden downwind. He was no longer hidden.
Malcolm released the grip he'd taken on Teren's shirt and backed up a step. "No, no, no...you didn't." His eyes flashed to Teren's. "You tried to trick me, with your son's life on the line?" Shaking his head, Malcolm stepped back again. Teren reached out for him, but Malcolm lunged to the edge of the barn. All he had to do was slip back through the slotted door and pick one of his many preplanned escape routes - then he'd be gone, along with any hope of finding my son.
Malcolm's face paled when Gabriel finally dropped the charade and let his presence be known. He slowly stepped out of the darkness, his glowing eyes announcing his arrival. "Malcolm," he intoned deeply, "I believe we have a few things to discuss."
Malcolm started shaking a little, maybe being closer to Gabriel than he'd been in awhile. He shook his head, backing up another step. "I have nothing to say to you, Gabriel." His hate filled eyes shifted to Teren. "But you! You just signed your kid's death warrant! You will never find where I stashed that brat!"
Malcolm took another step back and everyone took a step forward. Teren ran his hands through his hair, witnessing the worst case scenario happening right before his eyes. His face was torn. I understood. I was torn myself. Malcolm was either going to escape, or in the struggle to escape, he was going to get killed...and then our son was dead too. He was right, our attempt at deception had just insured Julian's death. A sob started to rise in me, but I held it in.
Teren ran his hands back through his hair again, looking around at everyone closing in on Malcolm. "Wait," he muttered, his hands coming out as if to hold back his family. "Everybody, just wait," he tried again.
It wasn't working, everyone was intent on not letting Malcolm get away. Seeing this, Malcolm twisted to dart through the barn, to his escape. My dead heart lurched with despair, but a sudden streak in my head collided with Malcolm at the door. A wicked grin on her face, Halina crouched low before him, her growl ripping through the night. Malcolm skittered away from her, into the center of our ever-shrinking circle. Panicked, he twisted in the circle, not knowing how to escape it. I saw my son's fate tied up with his, but I stepped forward too. He couldn't escape...he just couldn't.
Teren stayed where he was, on the inside of the circle now as Gabriel filled in his spot along the edge. "Wait, please," he said, his hands alternating between running through his hair, down his face, and up into the air, to try and hold back his family. As he twisted around to look at everyone, he seemed a mirror image of the alarmed Malcolm.
Both on the inside of the circle, Malcolm finally directed his fear at Teren. "You're dead, Adams! You and your son are both dead!"
He grabbed Teren's shirt and Halina lurched forward. Teren held out his hand to her. "Stop, just stop. Everybody stop!" he yelled.
Alanna and Imogen paused along with me, but Ben, Halina and Gabriel crept forward still, hands ready for action. Malcolm squeezed Teren's shoulder. "I hope you find death enjoyable...since you and your son will be experiencing it with me," he hissed at Teren.
My hands came up to my face as I saw all of this going horribly wrong. Gabriel was going to kill Malcolm before our son's location could be revealed. Even if he did get Malcolm to spit something out before he staked him, there was no way he'd tell us the truth now...Malcolm would rather die than let Teren have the satisfaction.
Teren realized this too and broke away from Malcolm. He backed up to Ben, his finger coming out to point at the frazzled vampire trapped between us. "You want blood! Is that what you want!" Twisting, Teren grabbed the stake from Hot Ben's hands. I didn't even have time to wonder what my husband planned on doing with it. Glaring at Malcolm, he yelled, "Then I'll give you blood!" and he blurred over to Gabriel.
Spinning, he sank the stake into Gabriel's chest, as far in as he could get it, then he pushed it a little farther. Gabriel's mouth dropped open in surprise as the front of his shirt immediately stained red. He choked and sputtered, looking at Teren in disbelief. Then he sank to his knees and fell facedown to the ground. Even in the bluish light, I could see the dirt around his chest stain and darken as his life's blood seeped out of his damaged heart.
It was the one thing that even the undead still needed...a heart, and Teren had just taken Gabriel's, for real this time.