Black Water

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Chapter 10

Lisa took the rolls out of the oven last. Everything else was ready. “Here we go,” she said as she placed the basket with the rolls on the table. Kenny had carved the turkey under his father’s critical eye and was busy passing the platter. Lisa smiled. This is what Thanksgiving was supposed to feel like, surrounded by good food and family. Kenny looked nice in his long-sleeved brown dress shirt and slacks, even with that silly turkey tie. Her smile faltered as she remembered the reason for his long sleeves—his arms and legs were still scarred from Johnny’s attack.

Crystal had dressed up, too, in the dress she’d worn to get her school pictures taken last month. The blue brought out the color in her eyes. Lisa’s own sweater shone with red, green and gold reminiscent of falling leaves, which fit in beautifully with the autumn theme, even if she wouldn’t have bought it for herself. When else was she going to wear it? Still, the gesture was sweet. She had found it on her dresser this morning. Lisa caught Kenny’s eye and blew him a kiss.

“Would you like some cranberry sauce?” Mrs. Brown held out the plate to Lisa, who blinked, but took it, spooning herself some before passing it along to Kenny. He shook his head and passed it on without taking any.

“I hear you two are interested in getting married,” Mr. Brown commented, helping himself to mashed potatoes.

Lisa choked on her wine and heard Kenny coughing alongside of her. Married? Was that what Kenny and his father had been discussing in the den? She had thought it would be about their family secrets, and she hoped Kenny would have sense enough not to mention Johnny, but she wasn’t sure. The fact that they weren’t all dead yet made her think somehow that Kenny hadn’t done that. Lisa had no doubt that Johnny was listening from somewhere nearby, even though it was broad daylight.

Kenny’s father continued as if he hadn’t said anything unusual. “Maybe later this weekend you and I can have a little talk. I know Ken’s been filling you in on some of the family background, but I think it’s time you heard the whole story. Crystal, we’ll save all that boring stuff until you’re older. This is grown-up talk.”

Crystal shrugged, and took a sip of sparkling apple juice from her wine glass. “Sure,” she replied. “I don’t need to hear about all that stuff now.”

Lisa glanced at her, then over at Kenny, who shifted his gaze uncomfortably between his father and his plate. Crystal already knew about ‘all that stuff.’ So did Lisa, but she’d listen to what Kenny’s father had to tell her. Maybe she would learn something new that could help Johnny. She glanced at Kenny again. Had he really told his father they were talking about marriage? More importantly, did he really mean it?

“Dessert, anyone?” she asked brightly, moving to clear some of the dirty dishes.

Mrs. Brown’s pie was a hit, although nobody ate more than a little piece. The girls all chipped in to do the dishes, dismissing Kenny’s offer to help. They shooed him away to watch football and he didn’t take too much convincing. Lisa sighed. It was so easy to forget they had a vampire in the other room.

Kenny excused himself to use the bathroom when a commercial came on. He had learned some startling facts from his father earlier in the day regarding his family’s ancestry, which is why he was glad his father had offered to bring Lisa up to speed too. He just hadn’t expected him to do it at the dinner table! To blurt out that he and Lisa were talking about getting married! Not that they hadn’t ever discussed it, of course they had, but not lately with everything else that had happened. He hadn’t thought that his father would repeat what was, in actuality, just a ploy to get him to talk about the family secret.

Something slammed him against the bathroom wall, knocking the wind from his lungs and making him see stars. “You didn’t find out what I asked,” growled an ominous voice. “Do I need to go ask him myself?”

“No. Damn it, let go!” Kenny pushed back, nearly falling forward as the pressure against him suddenly eased. “Give me time. I just found out something really big. Before we went in to dinner, my father told me why there’s no record of the family before we came to this country. Remember I told you we don’t keep written records? The information is handed down by word of mouth? Well, he’s agreed to tell me, and now Lisa too, about it. So wait, and you’ll have your precious information.”

“Why?” Johnny growled, taking a step forward until his face was inches in front of Kenny’s. He wasn’t going to let this go. “Why is there no record before then?” Kenny could see the sharp points of the vampire’s teeth, and a knot of fear formed in his stomach.

“They killed some people, some of your kind of people,” Kenny hedged, not wanting to say ‘vampire’ to the vampire’s face. “A lot of your kind. They came here on that boat to flee any of your kind that might have survived to retaliate against their families, and to escape the authorities who thought that they had murdered innocent people. They deliberately broke all their ties to the old country so they couldn’t be traced.”

Johnny’s face turned ashen. He backed up until he hit the opposite wall, then he turned and, to Kenny’s eyes, disappeared. Kenny let out a shaky breath, and returned to the living room to watch the rest of the game. That’s why the hunters had been so upset to find out that vampires had followed them to this country. That’s why they had tried to track and kill vampires through the subsequent generations. To finish what they had started.

In his little cubicle, Johnny raged as memories poured over him, memories that old Jack had deliberately withheld from him in the days following their escape on board the ship that also carried his murderers. He had been very near death on that voyage and for a long time after. He remembered nothing of the voyage. Only now, with Kenny’s revelations, did he recall some of what had happened before Jack dragged him aboard ship to save his life.

The village Kenny spoke of was in the far north of Scotland, where it had been isolated for centuries. Johnny had been born in that village. His was not the only village with the old blood; other remote villages carried pockets of the pure blood, which sometimes gave rise to another one like him, a born vampire. Over the years, outsiders intermarried with the family, so that by the seventeenth century, there was Celtic blood and Norse blood mixed in with the Pict. Every now and then, the strain bred true. Those with the old blood were entrusted with the secret of their vampire brethren, and still followed the ancient code of blood offerings and protection.

“Blood of my blood, blood of my enemies,” Johnny muttered darkly. “They broke the pact.”

He still didn’t know why it had happened. He remembered waking suddenly from his sleep in the loch, with Jack frantically pulling at his arm trying to drag him from the water. He wasn’t sure how many years had passed this time. Jack was a made vampire, chosen and changed like he was planning to do with Crystal, to be his companion and guardian. He was family, from the same strain as the hunters, Johnny realized suddenly. He would have had to be, to have survived the change.

The village was burning. People were dying. He could smell their blood, and it spiked a hunger in him that was hard to ignore. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Were they under attack? Jack tried to drag him away from the village, but Johnny knew his duty, even if an offering of blood had not been formally made. What was the blood already spilled if not an offering? He ran to the village, looking for the enemy, and found only family.

Shock made him slow, and one of his kin, his protectors, stabbed him in the back with a pike, then continuously stabbed him again and again, or perhaps there were many of his brothers stabbing him, until he was weak with blood loss. They threw him onto a pile of burning logs, and that was all Johnny remembered until he awoke, with Jack, in a new place, without most of his memories. He shuddered, and the rage bubbled to the fore. Those people may have had his blood, the ones who died, but they were not vampires. They were family. And the ones who killed them were family also.

What had happened? What had changed? It couldn’t have just been his village, because there would not have been enough of them left to fill an entire ship. Johnny slowed his breathing to calm down. There were so many unanswered questions. How had Jack managed to get them on the ship full of the very people who had tried to murder them? Why did he do it? What about the others, the other vampires in the other villages? Were they attacked also? What about his father, or the vampire he thought of as his actual father? Was he still alive?

The sky was still bright, or Johnny would have gone right then and there to feed in Lockwood. What did it matter if he took innocent blood without being offered? The pact was broken. He had been feeding on human blood for years, unwittingly breaking the taboo he had not been able to remember until just recently. What did it matter anymore? The ones he called hunters had broken it already. He should just kill them all, right now.

But he couldn’t. There was Crystal to consider. And Lisa. He liked Lisa. And now there was more to find out about just what had happened in Scotland to his people, and to him. Right now, his only source of information was Kenny and his father. So, lucky for them, they would get to live a little bit longer. The mother was fair game, however. And if he remembered rightly, she was tasty.

Johnny snatched Mrs. Brown between the kitchen and the pantry, where she was heading to put away the cookies no one had eaten for dessert. She never saw him, and he made sure to make her mark underneath her neckline where the slight redness wouldn’t show. He really liked this time of year because almost everyone wore high-necked clothing, and he could afford to be less careful than usual. He left Mrs. Brown sitting on the pantry floor with the package of cookies in her lap.

“You might want to get Mrs. Brown a glass of orange juice,” he commented to Lisa as he strolled past her. She shot him a horrified look, and rushed over to the pantry. He heard her gasp, and chuckled. It was always fun to get under Lisa’s skin.

On his way back upstairs, Johnny paused at the entrance to the living room. Kenny looked up to see him framed in the darkness, and he blanched, which made Johnny smile grimly. Well he should. Johnny pointed at Kenny’s father, who was engrossed in the game. Kenny nodded. When his father turned around to see what Kenny was looking at, Johnny was gone.

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