By the time she joined Suzan in the basement lab, Ellen had changed into her favored Chinese robe, her hair down and around her shoulders in soft waves. When Suzan glanced up from her notes, she noticed her lover’s face, no longer serene and beautiful, but pinched and worried.
“What is it, Ellen? What happened? I heard you at the door with someone.”
“Detective Mears stopped by.” Ellen took a seat on the stool near the doctor. “He inquired about our guest last evening, Mr. Lundegard.”
Pushing back from the table, Suzan sucked in a nervous breath. The knot of anxiety in her stomach that had grown overnight now swelled into a ball of near panic. “I knew it! I had a feeling he would show up here.”
Trying to calm down, she forced herself to think in rational terms. “Of course, he can’t prove a thing. There’s no body, no physical evidence whatsoever. You always see to that. I mean, we see to that now.”
“Darling!” Leaning over, Ellen caressed Suzan’s arm, her touch warm and tender on the doctor’s cold flesh. “You’re right: the detective has no proof that I, we, had anything to do with Lundegard. Yet I’m very much aware that my situation, our situation, has become terribly dangerous. The world has changed so much in this last century. It’s become too transparent with everyone snapping pictures and sharing everything on the Internet. I feel as if I live in a fish bowl, my every move liable to be recorded and scrutinized. It’s just not safe for me to continue on as I have for so many, many years. Now I must find a way to end this hideous part of my life.”
Suzan wanted to offer her lover more than just mere words, inane platitudes of comfort and even hope where hope seemed dim. “Something will be done, darling, trust me. I’m working on it as we speak.”
With a resigned sigh, Ellen sat back. “I know, I know, but I can’t stand the fact that I must continue on as I have while you are blessedly free of this curse! How shall we go on? It’s like an alcoholic living with a sober partner. I feel guilty and ashamed to drink in front of you because I know of your disgust for my habit. So I must drink in private, in secret.”
“No, no!” Suzan shot up, tipping over her chair. “I’m not disgusted because I know it’s not a habit, but a wretched curse, something you can’t help! I’ll find a way to set you free, I promise!”
“My, darling,” Ellen whispered. “I know in my heart that you will succeed...and do so as soon as possible. Then again, I can’t wait any longer. I have no more time. The world encroaches too fast. That’s why I must ask you to inject me with the serum now!”
“But...but...I can’t.” Suzan stumbled back as terror seized her, the terror of the unknown. She had come so far, gained so much, and now circumstances beyond her control, beyond her lover’s control, threatened to take away everything. “I can’t give you the serum without a clue as to what it will do to you. It might prove dangerous, with terrible side effects!”
“And what I’m forced to do is not a terrible side effect of my immortality? Oh, darling!” Ellen grabbed hold of her lover’s hands and squeezed. “Understand that I’m desperate! I want us to be together, but not unless I can cleanse my soul and join you in sweet, blessed freedom! Think about it! You are pure, untouched, and I am an animal with a dark, ugly urge to kill.” Ellen lowered her voice to a desperate tremor. “All this time, throughout centuries, I’ve existed in a selfish, hedonistic vacuum, without remorse or guilt for what I’ve done. I never thought of the consequences of my actions because I couldn’t help what I had become...and always will be. What is it that they say in the serenity prayer? Accept the things you cannot change. I accepted my life and acted accordingly.”
As her lover tightened her grip, Suzan grimaced, her fingers squeezed as if in a vise, enough to cause pain. “But my life,” Ellen continued, “is no longer tolerable, not to you, not even to me. Yet I must continue on this wretched path. Think about us in realistic terms! What kind of life could we possibly have with me constantly assuaging my blood lust while you live without such a desire, where you perceive what I do as murder no matter how much you say and think otherwise?”
Tears welled along Ellen’s lashes and threatened to stain her pristine cheeks. “Please, my darling, if you love me, set me free...before it’s too late!”
Suzan knew that desperation compelled people to say things, consider things and do things beyond the scope of rational thought and reason. She realized this more than ever. The laws of science and nature had ceased to exist for her, and she now had to make her way through the perilous jaws of the unknown and the supernatural. She had suggested that as a physician she had access to blood banks, and therefore could provide Ellen with all the sustenance she needed. But Ellen had been practical enough to point out the pitfalls of such an arrangement: there was only so much blood to take and only so many places to take it from; and Suzan ran the risk of losing her license if caught. Eventually the doctor would have to cease her efforts in the D.C. area and search elsewhere for a supply. In the end, they both agreed that such a venture could only hurt not help them.
“You must understand,” Ellen continued, almost breathless. “If I don’t take the serum I’m afraid of what I might do. I’ve had a strong desire to kill the detective because he stands in the way of our happiness.” Suddenly, Ellen took hold of the lapels of Suzan’s lab coat and wretched the doctor to her, so close that Suzan smelled the desperation and fear on her lover’s breath, felt it stream from her pores. “I’ve never been so afraid,” Ellen confessed, “so very much afraid! When someone like the detective becomes a threat, I have to react and eliminate the danger. I would have to kill him. And you know what will happen if I do...”
Suzan knew all too well. If she had feared that the serum would have an adverse effect on Ellen before, she now feared for her lover’s welfare and safety should Detective Mears find enough evidence to convict her of the three murders. Worse yet, if the police discovered that Ellen had killed Aiden Mears, one of their own, she would either be condemned to some asylum or be sentenced to death.
Ellen would go mad if she had to be locked away; would rather die than be denied her need to assuage a natural, if not spiritual, hunger given to her by the gods as a gift rather than a curse. Without it, she would suffer terrible pain, wither, shrivel, and even die. Suzan had seen patients going through drug and alcohol withdrawal during her residency at a county hospital; but in Ellen’s case, she knew that her lover would suffer a slow, horrible, tortuous breakdown. Just the thought of Ellen, her greatest love, suffering so terribly fomented her decision.
“Yes, yes! I’ll do it, we’ll do it together! Just let me work on the serum a little more so that I feel better about its effects, positive and negative.”
“Please, do it tonight,” Ellen begged as she pulled back, her face damp and flushed not with fear but with the beginnings of hope. “You’ll work all afternoon, won’t you, so we can try the serum tonight? We must do it tonight. Oh my, darling! Think about it: no more worry and threats from the outside! I’ll never have to touch Detective Mears; he will simply go away from lack of evidence. And we will then be left alone, to love freely, blissfully and privately.”
“I’ll have the serum ready for this evening, as early as possible.”
“Bless you, my darling! I love you madly!” Ellen’s kiss contained just that, love plus her gratitude and devotion.
Now Suzan’s own excitement, love and hope destroyed the terror that grew inside her like a cancer, worked as well to smash her fear into tiny, benign atoms. In her new state of being, she felt So how could she possibly fail?