After lunch with Jesse, I headed back to my place to change clothes and check my email. After that I grabbed a cab and went to Kruise's to check in. Tonight was going to be our stakeout session, with Nix and I sitting outside the country-western bar and Dayle and Kruise off to look over the night club. I kind of wished that we could trade, because I knew Nix would want to talk about Jesse, and I wasn't sure I what I should tell her.
Things were still quiet at the apartment when I got there. Nix was napping on the couch, and it didn't look like anyone else was home. I snuck in on tiptoe, trying not to wake my friendly vampire.
"Chill, Trey, I'm awake."
"Oh." I clopped into the living room, making sure my shoes were loud against the tile by the front door. "Better?"
She laughed and sat up. "Good thing I'm awake. If you had done that while I was asleep I would have attacked you before I knew who you were."
I dropped into the recliner. "Reflexes that tight, huh?"
"Yeah." We both went quiet, just looking at each other. "Is she --"
"She's fine. Please don't ask me anything else."
Nix nodded. "Right. I'm supposed to give Dayle a call. She was bringing burgers home for all of us, so we didn't have to worry about making dinner."
I looked at my watch. "It's still early, not even five yet. What time are we heading out?"
"About nine, I think she said. With the snow it'll be cold, and I don't know how crowded the bars are going to be, but . . . " she trailed off.
"We might want to go a little earlier. It gets dark sooner than that, and the cold may force our stalker to strike a little sooner. The reports aren't exactly specific on whether she's wearing a coat or not, but if she isn't, she'll probably want to be in sooner."
Nix tilted her head. "No, I don't think so. I don't think she'll notice the cold. If we're right, and it's a young vampire that's on the verge of starving, then the only thing she'll feel is the hunger. The cold won't be a factor for her."
She nodded. "I remember being in that state a few times. The elements didn't register, just the need to feed."
I cocked an eyebrow at her. "You went on a few rampages, Nix?"
That got a smile from her. "I don't think there's a vampire over a hundred that hasn't gone on a quote, rampage, unquote, at some point in their life." She shrugged. "There comes a point when we think we can control it, that we can go without, we don't need it. Then we ignore the warning signs, and --" she sighed.
She shrugged again, letting her head drop against the back of the couch."People die, Trey."
It was the closest she'd ever come to admitting she killed anyone without cause.
"So, vampires are really bloodthirsty creatures, they just have more control over it as long as they feed a lot."
Her head came up and she glared at me. "That is not true."
"But you just said --"
I broke off as the door opened. Dayle came in, Kruise behind her. They were carrying several bags of burgers from Willy's, this new place over on 4th Street. I could smell the burgers, and even though I'd eaten a good lunch with Jesse, my stomach growled.
"Thought you'd be a while longer, Dayle." Nix stood from her seat to help grab bags.
"Me, too, but the meeting wrapped up sooner than I thought. Kruise called for a ride, and we stopped for dinner on the way home. Hope you guys are hungry."
Nix nodded. "I'm starving. Did you remember to make mine rare?"
I pointed at her and grinned. "See? Bloodthirsty."
I dived behind Dayle as Nix lunged for me.
Kelsey called to see if she was needed. We told her we'd keep in touch, and if she checked out the clubs again, that would help. Then we bundled up and headed for our cars.
Nix had picked up her BMW earlier that day. It was parked beside Dayle's PT Cruiser, which still had a dented rear door.
"Dayle, I'm sorry about that. I'll pay to get it fixed."
"That's good, 'cause otherwise I was going to have to lie to the insurance guy."
"Well, Trey pointed out that telling him the truth may get me locked up."
Nix looked confused. "What do you mean?"
I put an arm around her. "A vampire kicked in my door. Would you believe that story?"
She looked at me and nodded. "Yes."
Kruise and I laughed and Nix stared at us.
"What's so funny?"
I could only laugh harder as I climbed in the car. I could see Kruise doing the same and Dayle saying something to Nix, who blushed. She waved at Dayle, then got in the driver's seat.
"Funny, Trey, real funny."
I just grinned.
We drove to JD's in relative silence, with only a few comments here and there. She said she didn't like driving in snow, and as I expected it was getting pretty heavy. Stopping on the way, we filled up with gas, hot chocolate, and candy.
"Never run a stakeout, Trey, without an adequate supply of sugar."
I expected that she'd park in the parking lot, but she passed it by and pulled up at a metered spot on the street.
"Why not? If we have to leave quick, I don't want to have to deal with sliding around a bunch of parked cars."
After that we were pretty quiet for a while.
It took her a full hour to actually ask the question I'd been waiting for.
"She's really okay?"
"Yeah." I finished my bag of M&M's and tossed the wrapper in the trash.
"Is that all you're going to say?"
"What else would you like me to say, Nix? She's hurting, it's been a rough few months, and I think she's finally, in the last forty-eight hours, been shocked back to reality."
"But -- "
"But, do I think she'll want to see you?"
She blushed and looked away. "Yeah."
I waited a moment before answering. "She said to tell you she needed time."
Her eyes slid closed and she grimaced as she heard the echo of the words she'd spoken to Jesse.
"At least till the weekend. She has to work late all this week."
She almost spun in her seat to look at me. "Really?"
"This is Wednesday."
"So -- maybe Friday?"
I sighed. "Nix, call early on Friday and leave a message, but don't expect anything, okay? Let her make the decision."
She nodded and turned back to watching the snow.
I started my second bag of M&M's.
"Dayle had an idea."
"Yeah? About what."
Nix took a deep breath. "She said I should just give Jesse a beer."
I looked at her. "How would that help?"
"She said to put some of my blood in it."
In my mind I heard Jesse telling me how out of control she'd felt, and how much it scared her, and what it took to break free. I remembered her telling me how the one taste of Nix's blood made her feel, and how her response to it was like to a drug, and that it was addicting.
I heard her tell me how Shelby had injected her with heroin against her will.
And I lost it.
"Don't you even fucking dare!" I knew I was shouting, but I couldn't stop myself. "Jesus Fucking Christ! How can you even think of doing something like that? You're supposed to be in love with her!"
Nix looked shocked. "Trey, I --"
"No! I swear to god, Nix, you even try to do something like that and I'll stake you out in the sun to burn to death! You EVER do something like that and I'll tie you to your bed and set fire to it!"
Now I could see fear forming in her eyes. "Please, Trey, I'd never --"
"Fuck you, Nix! Don't you know how hard she's fought? Don't you get it, that she doesn't need you to take her choices away? She needs you to be there, to care, to fucking love her, not to own her or - or top her! She doesn't need a fucking Mistress!"
"TREY!" Nix reached for my arms, but I jerked free and opened the door.
I jumped out and started walking, still hearing what she said in my mind.
Next thing I knew she was pulling me against the wall, holding me there. "Would you stop? Listen to me!" I fought her, but her greater strength won out, and soon I was just dangling from her hands, my breath coming in gasps, the steam a constant plume into the night sky.
"Let me go."
"Not until I know you're calm." She lowered her head to look into my eyes. "Trey, what just happened? I said Dayle made the suggestion. I never said I considered it."
I raised my eyes to hers. "You didn't?"
She shook her head, blonde hair flopping over her forehead. "No. I do love Jesse. I'd never do that to her." Gently, slowly, she released my arms, keeping her hands on my shoulders just in case. "I remember our conversations, Trey. I remember telling you that I regretted letting her taste my blood, that it made her passive, and I wanted the aggressive Jesse. Remember?"
I nodded, still breathing hard.
"That hasn't changed. I don't want her to be my slave, I want her --" she stopped. "Hell, if she'd have me, I'd take her as my Mistress."
I coughed, the cold air making my throat ache with every breath. "But, last night . . .?"
She chuckled, hesitantly. "I knew she wouldn't do it. I saw it in her eyes when Shelby told her to bite me."
"No." She shook her head. "Jesse's not a slave. I know it, and she knows it. She forgets it sometimes, 'cause she loses confidence in herself. But I knew even before I stepped out of the shadows that Jesse didn't belong to Shelby anymore. She needed one more thing to break free completely, and Shelby telling her to drink my blood was it."
I stared at Nix, my head hurting and spinning. I realized that she knew Jesse a hell of a lot better than we had thought.
And she really did love her.
"Can we get back in the car? It's cold."
She laughed and pulled me into her arms. "Oh, Trey, what am I gonna do with you?"
I shook my head, not knowing.
It wasn't till she pulled back that either of us realized I was crying.
"Are you okay?" She wiped away some tears before they froze to my cheek. I nodded, but I think she knew I wasn't.
She kept her arms around me as we walked back to the car.
Our stakeout started about 9:15, and it wasn't until nearly midnight that Dayle called on her cell. There'd been no movement from either location, none of us had seen anything, despite occasional walks around the parking lots and even ducking into an alley or two. I was freezing even though we were back in Nix's car with the heat on; the snow had soaked through my boots and socks.
"Hey, Dayle, what's up with you?" She waited, glancing at me while my teeth chattered. "Nothing? Yeah, we haven't seen anything either. I'm thinking it's a bust tonight, and we should pack it in. I'll drive Trey home, and we can try again tomorrow night."
I nodded, thinking it was the best plan I'd heard in a while.
My eyebrow rose of its own accord.
"Well, I don't know about Trey, but I could use a little relaxation. I'll meet you there."
I was wondering if I wanted to go with them.
"Right. See you soon, Dayle." She hung up and turned to look at me. "It's a bust at their end too, so they're heading to the Shadowbox. Dayle needs to feed."
"Kruise asked if we wanted to join them. I'd like to, but --"
"Yeah." I nodded. "I'd like that. As long as there's something warm to drink."
"Oh, yeah." I wiggled my toes. "And if we can get one of those rooms upstairs so I can take my boots off, that would be good, too."
She laughed. "I'll see what I can do."
The Shadowbox hadn't changed a bit, save for the fact that it was December, and the snow was flying. There was the requisite Christmas holly on the door, enough to remind me that it really didn't feel like Christmas yet, or rather I didn't feel Christmasy yet.
Inside the bar, the music still pounded away, but tonight it was something other than Tori Amos, and I couldn't recognize it. There were more people here, and the curtains to the back room had been pulled open, letting the light spill further in while the music overflowed.
Dayle and Kruise were at the bar, where Dayle was laughing with the bartender, who obviously knew her. Kruise was looking a little nervous, and when she saw me she seemed to sigh a little almost in relief. I winked at her as we came up.
"Hey, Nix, haven't seen you for a while. Scotch on the rocks, right?"
"Hello, Dee. Yeah, Scotch will be good, and a hot toddy for my friend here; she's still half frozen from the cold."
The bartender, Dee, recognized me from the last time I'd been in, searching for Nix. She waved at me and smiled, then moved off to fix our drinks.
"Glad you decided to come with us, Trey." Dayle's voice was warm, and I had the feeling Kruise told her it was my idea that they come here tonight. She put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. "I know Kruise feels better with you here."
I looked from her to Kruise, who, after that first relieved gaze, had avoided eye contact with me.
"You glad I'm here, Kruise?"
She finally turned and nodded. "Yeah, I am." She hugged me, whispering in my ear. "I'm scared, but I'm damn glad you talked me into this."
"Relax, babe, it's not like she's going to change or anything. She's still Dayle."
"I know, but --" She broke off and took a deep breath. "I'm still glad you're here, pal."
I nodded. "I'm always here for you, Kruise, you know that."
Kruise chuckled. "I know."
The four of us got a table together, and Nix let me have the chair closest to the heat vent so I could warm my feet. Dayle kept shooting looks over to Kruise, who was studiously ignoring them while playing with her beer bottle. Like me, she liked to peel the labels, and even though this one was coming off in tiny pieces, it was still coming off.
Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. "For fuck's sake, Dayle, would you just take Kruise back into the room with you and find someone to feed from?"
They both looked up at me, stunned. Nix was laughing so hard, she almost snorted scotch out her nose, which would have really hurt.
"You're both sitting there like it's some great big awful thing -- I've been in there, there's nothing that scary. Just go do it, you jerks."
The two of them looked at each other, and Dayle chuckled a little. "Wanna join me, Kruise?"
Kruise looked up at me, then turned to her lover. "Is it stupid that I'm kind of nervous?"
"Hell, no. Trey was when Cam and I took her back there."
I coughed a few times and looked down. Nix was chuckling, obviously enjoying the situation. Dayle just looked back and forth between us.
"You -- and . . ." she trailed off after a minute.
"Yeah, Dayle, me and Cam took Trey into the back and fed off her."
When I finally raised my eyes, Kruise was watching me, amusement marking the grin on her face.
"I told you guys about that," I said in my defense.
She nodded. "Yep. And Jace punished you for it."
My face went hot remembering, but there was also a flare of pain inside. I looked away, sipping my drink.
Kruise must have realized what she said, cause she leaned forward. "I'm sorry, Trey; I didn't mean to bring that up. Are you all right?"
I nodded, not trusting my voice. She leaned a little further and kissed my cheek. "We'll talk about it more, I promise."
After another nod, she hugged me lightly, then stepped away from the table with Dayle.
I watched the two of them as they headed for the back room, Dayle's arm firmly around Kruise's shoulders.
"You want another drink, Trey?"
I cleared my throat and stood. "I'll get it, thanks, Nix."
It was starting to clear out a bit around the bar as people either left for the night or headed into the back or upstairs. Dee was pulling a few beers for a few people, and when she finished, I was the only one left.
"Hey, Trey, need a refill?"
She fixed me another warm drink, and I offered her a ten for it.
"Nah, keep it. On the house."
"No problem." She leaned forward, letting her arms rest on the bar. "Hey, uh, last time you were in, you ended up sitting with Tess and Cam, didn't you?"
"Yeah." I sipped my drink, relishing the warmth. "I was looking for Nix, but I was glad to see them right about then."
"I'll bet." Dee chuckled a bit, but then her face turned serious. "Uh, the reason I asked, Trey, is -- well, I was kind of wondering if you'd seen Cam lately."
I shook my head. "No, she's in
She looked surprised. "She is?"
"Yeah, her and Tess left, what nearly a month ago?"
"But," the look on her face turned to confusion, "Cam didn't leave with Tess."
"Sure she did."
"No, she didn't. She was in here a few days later, by herself."
I stopped and stared at her. "What do you mean? When?"
"Jeeze, I don't know, about three weeks ago? I asked her about Tess, and she said she'd left."
I took another swallow of my
drink. "Oh. Well, no, I haven't. Why?"
She shrugged. "Well, I felt kind of bad about what happened, and hearing that it happened at a couple of the other clubs as well -- I just wanted to pass on a word of apology if I could."
"Why? What happened?"
Dee was starting to look very uncomfortable. "I -- you know that Cam's not really a vampire, right?"
I nodded. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"These people," she motioned at the vampires in the bar, "they can get real stuffy. Clannish, kind of superior if you know what I mean."
"Well," she seemed definitely upset now, "some of them got to feeling a little superior to Cam that night she came in. They took her back outside, down the alley a little ways." She shrugged. "I figured they just meant to scare her, you know? Just put a little respect in her or something like that."
The cold from my boots had risen to my stomach. "What did they do?"
"They beat her. From what I heard, pretty bad. Left her lying on the ground bleeding. Told her they'd do it again, and more, if she tried to come back here. Said this place was for true vampires, not for some half-breed nosferatu."
I had to swallow several times, as the ice had moved its way up to my throat. "They told her she couldn't feed here?"
Dee nodded. "From what I hear, this isn't the only place, either. Rumor has it that most of the clubs, if not all, were made off limits to her." She raised her hands. "Now, it's not official policy, and if she comes in, I won't let anyone mess with her again. But," she shrugged, "yeah, a lot of the regulars at the different clubs said she wasn't welcome. From what I've been told, she took several really good beatings, and hasn't been seen since."
"And this all happened right after Tess left town?"
She nodded once more.
I stared into my drink.
Tess left, I remembered, on November tenth. She left a message on Dayle's machine the night before, saying that she was leaving, and she wasn't sure when she'd be back.
Saying that she was leaving. Not they.
Numb, I turned and walked back to the table, sitting down next to Nix without even looking at her.
"Trey? You all right?"
"The first attack was the seventeenth of November."
She nodded. "Yeah, that's what Kelsey said."
She stared at me. "What?"
I looked up at her, and something must have showed in my eyes, because she gasped and moved back an inch.
"Trey, what's wrong?"
"How long does it take for a vampire to go crazy, Nix?"
Her eyebrows drew together in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"I know who the stalker is."
When I told her the name, she
stared at me in shock.
End Part Eight
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