Monday, July 13, 2009

Blood is Thicker than Water: Fighting at the Voodoo Ceremony

“Oh goodness, Polly,” Andrew said. “They’re bringing Abby out.”

Father Stewart and I watched from a tree where I had brought him only seconds before. My search for Shalimar had led us to the voodoo ceremony in progress. My niece was about to debut as a sacrifice. Two undead creatures dragged Abby into the circle when Shalimar called for her. Abby had obviously put up some resistance. An ugly bruise was darkening on her cheek, and the vampires who carried her forward were not without their own bruises, scrapes, and fingernail marks where she had been at them. I had never thought her fits as a child would be useful training for anything until now. Abby was yelling at Shalimar and the vampires with a string of obscenities that would make Father Stewart blush. Shalimar seemed largely unaffected.

Shalimar had a voodoo bring her forward a tray of knives. She took some time in selecting what she thought must be the perfect knife, a silver dagger. After examining the dagger’s cleanliness and pricking her own thumb on the point, Shalimar motioned for the vampires to bring Abby closer.

Father Stewart drew out his crucifix. “Your move, Polly. Do you still want to risk your control?”

“I have some will power,’ I said, “but I remember how it was when I was among them before. If I show any signs of weakening or helping them, remember Andrew, you must get Abby out of their clutches.”

“I promise that. Let’s go.”

I grabbed Andrew under the armpits. We flew over the voodoos and the vampires quickly. I dropped Andrew into the circle. A surprised Shalimar dropped her dagger. Andrew Stewart, in spite of his mild-mannered appearance, proved himself a daredevil. He splashed holy water in the faces of the vampires holding my niece. Then he pulled Abby close to him and wielded his cross, holding the vampires at bay. The holy relic even caused Shalimar to keep her distance. He gave Abby a bag of powder.

“Sprinkle this in a circle, girl!” he demanded. “It will keep the evil sorcery out!”

Abby, hands shaking, sprinkled an uneven but full circle. Shalimar’s eyes were black with anger, but her tone was casual. “You can’t hold us out forever, priest.”

“I don’t have to,” said Father Stewart. “Only until morning. Pity you killed all the locals. They could easily have crossed the circle.”

In the sky I swooped away. Abby and Andrew were safer than they’d be with me for the time being. I had to find the others and finish the job we’d started. Shalimar would find some wily way to get through Father Stewart’s circle sooner or later, and I wanted to keep that from happening. We needed Mr. Forte and his gun. Instead I found the one person I did not want to see. Rather, I should say he found me. Marcus swooped upon me from behind, his finger nails razors cutting into my back.

“Traitor!” he yelled. “I created you, and now I take your life.”

The wound knocked the wind out of me and I tumbled from the sky. My concentration deserted me and the ground came up dizzily to meet me. By the time I scrambled to my feet, he was ready for me, a vampire hundreds of years older, ready to use every skill at his disposal to make sure I had a suffering destruction.

“You wanted her place with Shalimar, and with me, didn’t you?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t understand.”

“You killed my sister!”

His grief was genuine. I had come to think of the vampires as monsters, but that doubt I had felt that afternoon at Marie LaVeau’s house was on me again. No vampire truly chose his fate. At one time or another they were all victims. Marcus looked very vulnerable. Yet, I remembered how I’d been deceived by Marcus. That had cost me my life. If I wasn’t careful, this could cost me my existence.

“I didn’t kill your sister, Marcus,” I said gently. “Shalimar did.”

“You lie!”

“I saw your sister’s body. I was looking for Abby when Dalia took her away. The apartment reeked of Shalimar’s essence. Marion had been there too, no doubt tracking Dalia down. Think. Could I kill your sister? I can barely control my powers. I’m no vampire yet.”

The logic of this beat heavily upon Marcus, but logic would not carry the day against several hundred years worth of loyalty. “I don’t believe you.”

“Then, I give you leave to kill me.” Those words were out of my mouth before I had time to judge their wisdom. I felt a great deal for Marcus, as though he were my first real love. I wanted to truly be with him, as much as one undead could be with another. I gambled that perhaps he felt similarly toward me, because I didn’t want to believe he’d just used me.

He looked into my eyes and I let him. He was in complete control. He grabbed my hair and pulled my head back, exposing my neck. His nails taloned, and I closed my eyes, waiting for the strike that would end me. It didn’t come.

“Leave, Pauline,” he said heavily. His hand slid out of my hair.

“I’m sorry, Marcus.”

He would not face me. “Just go.”

I shot into the air. The night wind stung my back. I wiped tears out of my eyes. In the distance, Benjamin Stewart flagged me down.

“We need you,” I said, landing gently. “Father Stewart and Abby are trapped."

His cape wrapped around us, and we appeared in the circle by Abby and the priest. Abby’s face brightened when she saw me. I nodded cursorily at her. Shalimar laughed.

“A magician? Come now, Pauline, is that the best you can do? I can do tricks like that one in my sleep.”

Benjamin faced her. “Do you not recognize me?”

“I recognize you,” said Shalimar coldly. “Dalia told me that you had switched allegiance. When I am through with you, Benjamin, you will wish you had not been born.”

Benjamin laughed at her, a joke only he understood. The rest of us, friends and enemies, were startled by his laughter, uncommon with the morose man.

“You’re blind, Shalimar. Look closer.”

Father Stewart’s smiled at Shalimar with condescension. Her derision faded into an epiphany. She broke out of the circle and ran.

Confusion reigned. The rest of our troops picked that moment to arrive. Samuel Forte’s spirit gun blazed out of the night. Hyland and Father Stewart fought their way through the vampires, and Benjamin and Marie LaVeau practiced their magic. I decided to stay out of the way, especially away from Mr. Forte’s gun.

When the mayhem subsided, we had carried the day. Only Shalimar, Marcus, and Marion were unaccounted for. The time had come for us to enter the LaVeau home and take it back.

I wandered to Benjamin. I wanted to ask why Shalimar had been so frightened, but I thought perhaps I should be more discreet. “Where is Mr. Doyle?” I said, examining the scratches on my arms. “I could certainly use a doctor. What has happened to him and Mr. Simpson?”

Benjamin ignored my questions. “We should go inside,” he said.

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