It’s been several weeks and Franc was still no closer to finding Kori, he had been convinced that he would have come home by now, whatever silly flight of fancy that Kori had had should have burnt itself out by now, they always did. Not that Kori was a particularly flighty person, he got ideas in his head and followed them for a while till he either lost interest or realised that whatever it was wasn’t what he was looking for, didn’t scratch the itch that he had, but none of his ideas had taken him away from home before and the note he left just didn’t sit right with Franc. Kori was meticulous with his handwriting, he never scrawled even when he left a post-it to remind Franc to buy milk he wrote with the utmost care, not even the queen would be able to fault his handwriting, To Kori it was an art form! Therefore, a messy chicken scratched note was so far out of character that it was definitely a cause for concern.
Nobody would take Franc seriously, not their friends or the police, Franc hadn’t actually been to the police yet as his friends had convinced him not to. They said that as Kori is a grown man who can come and go as he pleases the authorities wouldn’t be able to do anything so now Franc was out of ideas and Whit had been strangely absent, yes he had sent him some text messages and emails with updates on what he was doing to find Kori but after the flowers and the coffee he had not seen him face to face. It was confusing as he had been so happy that Franc had text him and agreed to meet but now it felt like he was avoiding him and he couldn’t work out why he would. Maybe he thought it would be more professional but he had said that he wanted to get to know him in order to get to know Kori and he was sure that you couldn’t get to know someone over a single coffee and a couple of messages. It was weird but what was weirder was the fact that it bothered him, it bothered him that he apparently meant nothing to Whit and it also bothered him that he felt bothered about it, he didn’t even know him! It was true that he felt like they had met before but he was sure that they hadn’t, besides he had no time for another man, he had a man, he just needed to find him and bring him home again.
Life went on not quite as usual but it did go on. His friends had not heard anything from Kori and they were getting fed up with him, they thought that it was high time he gave up and moved on! Franc hadn’t told them about Whit as they already thought that he was flogging a dead horse with his search who knows what they would think if he told them about the unusual man who appeared just when he needed someone to help him, a man with a magnetism that he had not encountered before, certainly they would think she was crazy for entertaining the idea of asking him for help! Franc hadn’t told them about the Whit as they already thought that he was flogging a dead horse with his search who knows what they would think if he told them about the unusual man who appeared just when he needed someone to help him, a man with a magnetism that he had not encountered before, certainly they would think he was crazy for entertaining the idea of asking him for help!
Franc spent all of his free time visiting places that Kori had liked or places where he had wanted to visit in the local area, he had not wandered far in case he came home. He had also spent some time trying to figure out where he might have encountered Whit before as he was now convinced that they must have met at some point, but where? He had had many interests over the years, time travel, alternate universes, space travel, mythology, science and had attended many lectures and conventions on the various subjects but he cannot remember ever meeting him, a thought occurred to him, about a book, one that he had a little difficulty in finding due to its small print run, did Whit mention it? He couldn't remember but for some reason despite not having thought about it let alone reading it for several years, it had been in his mind recently. Was it his search for the book that had bought him in contact with Whitfield? Was that why he had remembered the book recently? Probably not. The book had been an attempt to satisfy his yearning his wishing for proof of things and wanting things that probably weren’t true to be so. Science hasn’t yet proven that aliens or fairies etc. either exist or don’t so he can still believe that they might, maybe that is what Whit represented to him at the moment, belief in the unbelievable, his need to believe that Kori was safe and would return home soon.
He paced around the house because he couldn’t sit still long enough to concentrate on anything, not wanting to go out because there wasn’t anywhere he could go that he hadn’t been to a hundred times already, exasperated because he couldn’t think of anything else that he could do. Franc slumped himself down onto his sofa with his head in his hands and elbows on his knees. “I give up! I don’t know what to do anymore!” He said aloud “I wish I could help you Kori, why? Why didn’t you talk to me? We could of worked something out, made a plan, gone to the police, anything!” He sobbed
There was a knock on the door Franc jumped he wasn’t expecting anyone, he hastily wiped his face on his shirt, for a brief moment hope engulfed him only to wrench itself away as he realised that Kori wouldn’t knock. He got up to open the door when whoever was on the other side knocked a second time.
“Whitfield! Hi how are you? Do you have any news?” Franc asked surprised at seeing him on his doorstep.
“Hi, I'm no sorry I haven't made any progress but that's why I'm here really, sorry I haven't been around lately, I've had some issues to work through.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“No, no it's okay.” Whit responded thinking that yes quite possibly he could help with at least one thing but he wasn't going to tell him that, ever.
“Okay if you’re sure. So…um…”
“Ah yes my reason for being here, we are going to talk to some people about Kori, I need you there if that's okay?”
“Yeah sure let me get my keys and I'll be right there.”
“Good, good I'll wait here.” He said stepping through the front door before being invited.
“I’ll drive if you don't mind.” Whitfield wanted to drive because he didn't want to tell Franc that they were going to visit Kori’s parents, he knew that he wouldn't come if he knew.
They drove along in silence for ten minutes or so, during this time Franc admired the real leather interior of Whitfield's Porsche Spider.
“The private investigating business pays well does it?” Franc asked, breaking the silence that hadn't been uncomfortable but he felt the need to talk having not really spoken to anyone in a while.
“It’s fair I guess, why do you ask?”
“Well this car, it wasn't cheap was it?” The question rhetorical.
“No I guess not, I invested well when I was younger, I don't really need to work, not for the money anyway.”
“So why do you work?”
“To keep me busy and it falls in line with my other interests.”
“Oh what are they?”
“Um nothing really just a hobby. Do you want to get some breakfast?” Whit quickly changed the subject. He hadn't quite got himself under control it would seem, he almost slipped up again!
“Yeah sure if we have time?” Franc let his curiosity slide, for now.
“Yes we have time, we are early.” Whit was glad that Franc had not pushed the matter of his hobbies, he couldn't tell him that investigating helped with recruiting. He also lied about being early, there was no appointment, he wanted to catch Kori’s parents unawares, from what he had learned about their homophobic ideas he knew that they wouldn't speak to them if he had given them any warning that they were on their way to see them.
They pulled up to a Little Chef restaurant went inside and found a seat.
“I used to come in these places all the time as a kid.” Franc remarked as he ran his eyes over the menu.
“So where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” Whit replied enigmatically.
“Really? It's like that is it?”
“Only this one time, it's sensitive, I can't tell you more till we get there.”
“Hmm okay.” The suspicion plain in his voice and face but he didn't have time to pursue it as the waitress arrived to take their order, a full English for Franc having realised that he was a lot hungrier than he had realised and a coffee for Whit.
“Are you not eating?” Franc enquired.
“I ate this morning before I picked you up.” He stated.
They sat in silence for a while, Franc feeling a little uncomfortable with Whit watching him eat but he was hungry so he ate quickly. He was soon finished and Whit picked up the bill before he could offer.
“You didn't have to buy my breakfast Whit.”
“I know but I am the reason that you are out here so I'm happy to.”
“Okay but I'm getting us lunch.”
“That's a kind offer but won't be necessary.”
“You have to eat and to be honest I have missed having company at meal times.”
“We’ll see.” He acknowledged as the left the restaurant and continued their journey.
After an hour of driving they pulled up in front of an unassuming detached cottage sitting in its own small patch of land surrounded by woodland on one side and fields on the other. Whitfield shut off the engine as Franc turned to look at him with a face like thunder.
“Why the fuck are we here?”
“It's worth a shot isn't it?”
“No it fucking isn't! They do not care!” Franc shouted throwing his hands in to the air as much as the confines of the car would allow.
“Look you don't have to speak to them, I just think that they should know and you never know he might have reached out to them.”
“Ha, he won't have but feel free to waste your time, I just don't understand why you had to waste mine as well.” Franc slumped down into his seat, resigned to the fact that they weren't going anywhere but to the front door of Kori’s parents’ house.
“Jesus, I’ve been persecuted in my time for what I am but I have never come across such hatred from one human to another, I mean just a mention of their son and they immediately shot me down! For fuck sake I thought they might be at least a little concerned that he was missing!” Whitfield ranted as they pulled away from Kori’s parents.
“I know! What do you mean by ‘for what you are?’ enquired Franc.
“Huh? Oh you know being homosexual, well I’m bi actually but that’s not the point, you know what I mean.”
“Yeah I do, only too well.”
The conversation lapsed into silence as they continued along the motorway towards home, both deep in thought, each of them turning over in their minds how societies views on who a person can and should love have changed over the years. Franc was glad that he was born in a time where it wasn’t illegal for him to love another man and Whitfield remembered when it was safer for him to be an Advanced Human than it was for him to be gay. During those years he had longed to go back to a time when love was love and it wasn’t a problem to be with either sex, fortunately times had changed, not entirely for the better as he now couldn’t reveal his true nature but at least he could fuck whoever he wanted without others batting an eyelid about it.
“So what now?” Franc broke the silence.
“Well they are obviously a dead end so it’s back to the drawing board, I’m going to go and see Matt and hopefully he’s had better luck than us today.”
“It’s about time!” Whitfield stated as he walked in uninvited, having discussed things with Matt he had decided that the only way to sort things out was to push forwards so after deliberating on what he was going to say to Franc and how he turned up on his doorstep with the intention of going for broke.
Franc closed the door and turned to face him. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s time to tell you what I want, what you want.”
“You know what I want, I don't understand?”
“There is a conversation we need to have and I intend to have it now. I would love a coffee thanks.”
“No! Just no! you can’t come in here and tell me what to do after coming into my life with your offers of help and then disappearing with only the odd text to tell me you were still doing stuff, I don’t want to have a conversation with you!”
“Apologies for being so abrupt, just hear me out okay? I need to explain, I wouldn't normally behave like this, like I have over the last few days, weeks and I think telling you everything will help, both of us.”
“Fine.” Franc went to make the coffee, dumbfounded by Whitfield’s strange behaviour and his audacity! Where does he get off inviting himself in and demanding coffee and conversation? And what happened to ‘when he was ready!’ apparently he no longer mattered, the weirdo gets what the weirdo wants! On the other hand, if he can help like he says he can then maybe he should give him a chance and wasn’t he just contemplating on how he felt a connection to this strange man? Returning to the lounge Franc placed a tray with coffee, sugar and cream on to the coffee table that Kori had picked out in Camden market when they had spent a joyous weekend in London shortly after they had first moved in together, such a happy time but now a bitter sweet memory.
“Thanks, again I’m sorry for being so abrupt but I do have a fair bit to tell you and I’m sure that you will have many questions and some things have come to light recently that mean I have to speed things up a little.” Whit said as he helped himself to his coffee with cream and two sugars.
“Oh yeah, okay, whatever I only haven’t kicked you-.”
“Out yet because you need my help, I know.”
“How? How do you know? I don’t even know if I want your help yet!”
“You have been on my radar for some time now as I may have mentioned the first time we officially met and I think it’s now time to bring you in.”
“Bring me in to what?” confusion evident across Franc’s features.
“You haven’t remembered have you?”
“No I haven’t remembered anything, I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to remember or what it is I supposedly searched for that would make anyone interested in me.”
“Some of the things I have to say will hopefully jog your memory and to be honest I think that it is safe for me to tell you these things without you fully remembering first.”
“Why is it okay now but it wasn’t before?”
“I had to give you a chance to remember on your own and as I have just said some things have been bought to my attention which have forced my hand somewhat. We have very few rules and one of them is not revealing ourselves to people who haven’t actually searched for us.”
“Who are you? Some sort of secret society? The Illuminati?”
“No not them, now the telling is the tricky part, you have an open mind it is true but what I have to tell you may be difficult even for you to accept.”
“Really? You’re a serial killer that likes toying with his victims? Not so hard to believe I’m afraid.” Franc laughed nervously.
“I’m not a serial killer; you have nothing to fear from me.”
“Well of course you would say that!”
“Seriously Franc that’s not it, please can we be serious?”
“I think a brief history of my people is the best place to start.”
“I think your name and who you are would be a better place!”
“Of course, my name is Whitfield, as to who I am, that will become apparent during my narrative. The evolution of our species started at the same time but took slightly different paths.”
“Are you saying that we are different species? Are you some kind of alien?”
“No not an alien just a different type of human, I will get to the differences shortly please just listen and I will answer your questions afterwards.”
“Alright I will try not to interrupt, please continue.” Franc was trying to keep an open mind but at this time was finding it kind of difficult and still not convinced that Whitfield was not a mad man.
“Thank you. You need to know our history, our true history before you can make your decision. It’s one of the rules that I will get to later after you have made your decision. Our evolution runs parallel to yours until, as far as we can tell, the jump was made from Neanderthals to early humans, where you have your missing link we have ours. We don’t know what caused the split between what was to become you and us but something did change. My species has lived side by side with yours for as long as humans have been on the earth. Fundamentally, we are the same, we are human to all intents and purposes, and where we differ is that we are stronger, faster and more resistant. We do not suffer from illness or disease and we do not age. We do not reproduce as standard humans do and we cannot survive without consuming the life force of your species. We heal faster from injuries and can survive most injuries that would be fatal to you.”
“Right, okay, so what you are telling me is that there are two different species of humans and that one is weak and the other is strong. You consume life force? What like chi?”
“Blood, we must consume the blood of standard humans to live, we can eat food as you do but it will not sustain us and we will eventually starve to death if we are unable to consume standard human blood.”
“Uh huh so what, you’re a vampire? I was right you are insane!” Franc said rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
“I did tell you that what I had to say would stretch even your openness to believe.”
“Yeah but vampires? Really? I mean come on they are mythological beings, fairy tales!”
“You once believed that beings similar to me existed, admittedly they were the creatures of legend rather than reality but you did believe.”
“A childish hope, you’re crazy and I’m still not convinced you don’t know anything about Kori's disappearance so unless you start telling me the truth I think you should get out of my house!” Franc stood up and headed for the door. “I think it is beyond time for you to leave!”
Halfway through his second step, he was lifted from his feet and found himself on the other side of the room, winded and unable to draw breath, Whitfield’s hand was constricting his airway holding him with his feet dangling six inches off of the ground. “What the fuck?” he wheezed “How did...?”
“I told you we were stronger and faster than standard humans, are you starting to believe me now? I need you to understand, to believe.”
Franc tried to respond, his mouth gaping like a fish out of water as he tried unsuccessfully to draw breath to speak. Whitfield let him go and he stumbled to the sofa sucking in great a lungful of air as he went his heart racing, he had never seen Whitfield or anyone else for that matter so intense and did he see fangs? It must have been the lack of oxygen playing tricks on him. Whitfield was gone.
‘Huh? What the hell? I thought he was going to tell me about himself? Where the fuck did he go he hasn’t told me anything yet!’ Franc thought confusion raging through his system. After regaining some semblance of normality regarding his breathing and racing heart Franc walked over to the door and peered out as it had been a couple of minutes he hadn’t expected to see Whitfield outside but felt the need to look regardless. Coming back inside he moved over to the window, opening it he leant out and breathed in deeply the scents of lilacs and honeysuckle that was prevalent in the early afternoon summer air.
“Sorry about that, I don’t normally use such extremes to get my point across.”
“Jesus H Christ! You scared the shit out of me! What the fuck are you doing loitering outside my window?” Francs heart was again going ten to the dozen if Whitfield didn’t stop scaring him like this he was likely to have a heart attack!
“Sorry Franc, I didn’t meant to scare you, again, I was just regaining my composure, look I will leave you alone for a time so that I can ground myself and you can think over what I have told you so far.”
“But you haven’t really told me anything, come back inside and we can talk, have a beer or whatever. What do you say?” Despite the impossibility of what Whitfield had told him so far, Franc could see that he needed someone to talk to and he was intrigued as to what else this strange but interesting man had to say.
“No, I…I can’t, I’m not ready, I…I’ll be back…soon. I need to talk to someone, he may have some information regarding Kori.” With that Whit was gone.
Franc turned back into his living room, something Whitfield had said had struck a chord within his mind he wasn’t quite sure but what he had said sounded familiar, like something he had seen or read before. He stood outside the front door and lit a cigarette, Kori didn’t like people smoking in the house. As he smoked he thought. A book! Franc knew that he had read something similar to what Whitfield had said but was it a book he owned or had borrowed? Returning to his living room he headed straight to the book case that dominated one wall of the large room, he hated to part with any book that he had bought, Kori could never understand his obsession with the written word, he did enjoy reading but wasn’t as consumed by it as Franc was. Having quickly scanned through the books on the shelf Franc realised that what he was looking for wasn’t here so he moved into the spare bedroom in which two walls had been taken over by bookshelves, again he did not find what he was looking for, not that he could remember what the title of the book he was looking for was but he knew that he would recognise it when he saw it, he didn’t know how just that he would. It wasn’t in this room either, there were no bookshelves in the bedroom that he shared with Kori but there were a couple of boxes under the bed that contained books, if it wasn’t there then he was lost, he needed to find that book, he didn’t know why just that he had to, it wasn’t a case of confirming that the stranger had read the same book it was more than that he knew that he would be unable to rest until he had found it. The last box of the six that were under the bed, his last chance it had to be here, it just had to!
With a sigh Franc sank back and sat on his heels clutching the book in his hands, he had found it, this book that had seemed so important to him just moments ago, the last book in the box titled ‘The Genealogy of Vampires’ it made no sense to him, the urgency which he had felt once he had started to look for it and looking at its plain cover with a drawing of a man and woman showing the barest hint of fangs he couldn’t fathom why he had needed to find it. Well he had found it so he took it back to the sofa and flicked through the first couple of pages until he reached the table of contents, turning to the chapter on vampire history, skipping the introduction and forwards, he started to read.
Franc sat curled up on the sofa totally engrossed in the book that he had found after Whitfield’s last visit a cup of coffee sat cold and forgotten on the coffee table with a half-eaten toasted cheese and onion sandwich congealing on a plate next to it. A knock on the door disturbed his reading, Franc thought about ignoring whoever it was but changed his mind when they knocked a second time. Reluctantly pulling himself up from the sofa book in hand and eyes glued to the page he made his way over to the door dragging his eyes away from the book in order to open the door. He was surprised to again see a delivery driver standing on his front step peering around a large bunch of flowers, yellow roses this time.
“Francino Martinelli?” The driver asked as he juggled the flowers and his clipboard.
“Yes that’s me.” Franc returned, the confusion evident on his face.
“Good, good sign here please.”
Franc took the proffered clipboard, found the pen dangling from its string attached to the clip holding the delivery notes in place and signed his name in the indicated spot. He took the roses from the driver as he handed him back his clipboard thanked him and closed the door. He took the bunch into the kitchen to find a vase wondering who could have sent him flowers again, he hoped that they were from Kori this time but feared that they weren’t. Looking through the cupboards he found the one and only jug that they owned that was big enough having used their only vase for the previous bunch of flowers and arranged as many of the flowers in it as he could, it was not big enough to take the whole bunch so the remainder he spread out between a couple of slightly oversized pint glasses which he then took into the living room and placed them on shelves and corner tables that he could make space on. Whilst arranging the roses he found a card hidden among the blooms returning to the sofa he opened the small envelope, pulled the card out from within and read the note:
Far from relieving Franc of his confusion the note only made things worse. He couldn’t get his head round this strange man who had so suddenly appeared in his life at a time when he desperately needed a friend who didn’t instantly dismiss his panic over Kori, yes he was a little weird and had some crazy ideas but he was the only person that was willing to help him find the man he loves. Should he give him a chance? What if he was the reason that Kori left? Strangely he didn’t think so he didn’t know what had changed his mind or why he felt that he could trust him, maybe it was the vulnerability that he had shown the previous day, it had seemed so genuine as well as his guilt at pushing his point across and scaring him. Franc picked his mobile up off of the coffee table and typed a text message out: ‘Okay I will listen, give you another chance to convince me that you are not the cause of my pain. I still don’t trust you. F.’ He pressed send before he could change his mind and swapped his phone for the book hoping that he could once again immerse himself in the words and not think about what the consequences of what he had just done might be. Just as he reached the end of the first sentence his phone trilled indicating a text message, he retrieved the device from the coffee table and took a deep breath before opening the message praying to which ever Deity may be listening that he hadn’t just signed his death warrant, ‘That’s great kiddo! I’m so glad that you are willing to give me another chance, I was scared that I had frightened you off! Did you like the flowers? I hope that wasn’t too forward? When did you want to meet? Luv Whit’ The text rambled a bit and Franc got the impression that Whitfield was relieved that he had made contact, it made him feel a little better about sending it although not totally alleviating his fears, now all that was left was for him to take the next step, somewhere public just to be on the safe side, although if he had wanted to kill him then he could have easily done that yesterday when they were alone in Francs home, still it is better to be safe than sorry!