Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blood is Thicker than Water: Aunt Polly Investigates the Scene

We arrived at the Cliffington Hotel, one of New Orleans’ more exclusive guest residences. I felt Dalia was there. It was typical of her. Her pampered tastes would want the best she felt she could have, what she felt she deserved. We went in and were immediately approached by a curious clerk.

“Excuse me,” the clerk said, “but is one of the guests expecting you?”

“Yes,” I said. “A Miss Dalia?”

“Last name?”

I didn’t know Dalia’s family name. “I can’t remember.”

“Then,” said the clerk condescendingly, “I can’t imagine ‘Miss Dalia’ would be expecting you. Perhaps you would like to leave?”

I almost said something to the clerk that would have made my hotheaded niece proud of me, but Father Stewart intervened.

“You see,” Father Stewart said, “our visit to Miss Dalia is a church visit. An important one. Her younger sister is newly arrived in the city, and Miss Dalia wished us to visit her. You remember her?”

“Yes,” said the clerk, less friendly than before. “Perhaps you can tell the police more about her, since they are searching for her now.”

“What?” The exclamation escaped my lips. Why had the police become involved? What had Dalia done to Abby?

We were taken to a small room where we were questioned about my niece. Apparently there had been a murder upstairs and the police had identified the body as Dalia’s. I was disappointed in a small way, for the vampire in me wanted to pay Dalia back for my humiliation from earlier in the morning with lumps and bruises. When the police discovered we didn’t know anything, they let us go and decided to call us back for more questioning if they needed it. We left the hotel, Father Stewart and I both knowing we had to get upstairs to look into that hotel room.

“I think, Polly old girl,” said the Father, “that it’s up to you to get upstairs and see what you can see. Do you think you’re up to it?”

“I can fly up there, but technically I have to be invited into a room before I can enter it.”

“Ah, but the beauty of it is that this particular place belongs to no one owner. It’s a hotel. Entry should not be restricted.”

“So you suggest that if I go into the hotel with that frame of mind, I should have no problem getting in?”

“It is an opinion,” said Father Stewart.

I concentrated on floating up to the window after making sure the street was clear. I found myself hovering outside. Now if I could just figure out how to mist under the sill! I concentrated hard. Nothing happened. Harder. Nothing. Then something popped inside of me and I was a tiny bat. Apparently I had mastered shape shifting.

“Very good Polly!” said Father Stewart, looking up. “Now, how will you get in?”

I squeaked at him. This shape wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I tried one more time. Something popped again. I felt strange, floaty, and I oozed underneath the sill. On the other side, I became myself again, but only after looking to see if the police had quitted the site. One constable remained on guard. I hit him on the back of his head, knowing myself to be stronger than before. He took a slight nap on the carpet. When I had time to concentrate, I knew why I was on pins and needles. I smelled blood.

Actually, it wasn’t quite blood. It smelled sickly sweet, like the vampires smelled, slightly rotten. Ichor, that substance that runs through a vampire’s veins because of the borrowed blood. I swept into the room where the smell came from. I looked under the sheet that they had covered the body with. What I saw under there was brutal.

There was very little of the body left that was recognizably Dalia, except for the golden tresses that spilled onto the floor. Her body had been split open. The chest cavity gaped and a pool of slimy ichor gelled on the floor. Most appalling was her face and the condition of her skin, which had the consistency of grey ash. Her face had deteriorated to that of a hag’s. Part of it had turned to powder on the floor, leaving the skull exposed. I turned away from the body, fighting down the bile that fought its way into my mouth. Throwing up was a human reaction. I was dead, and I didn’t want to find out what would happen if I were sick.

A search of the apartment yielded no signs of my niece, but every evidence that other vampires had been there. Shalimar’s essence called to me in a way no other did. Her blood sang in me and made me what I was. Andrew and I could waste no more time here. We had to find Shalimar and my niece before the night, before she could be sacrificed. I only hoped that perhaps the others, the ones in the swamp would find her quickly, since they were there already.

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