Black Water

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Chapter 12

Mr. and Mrs. Brown left early Sunday morning to drive back to Rhode Island. Kenny never did get a chance to ask his father what language those words were in: blood of my blood, blood of my enemies. He dreaded the inevitable confrontation with Johnny.

Strangely enough, Johnny had vanished some time yesterday afternoon, apparently. He never showed up to terrorize Kenny or Lisa after their meeting with Kenny’s father, and even after they had gone to bed, Kenny had a hard time falling asleep because he kept wondering when Johnny was going to appear. Instead, his father appeared, knocking then opening the door almost simultaneously. Kenny, who had finally been on the verge of sleep, jerked awake, disturbing Lisa beside him. “Dad!” he said in surprise.

“Sorry to wake you,” his father said softly, peeking in. “What’s wrong with your arm?”

Kenny glanced down. The blanket had fallen, and his bandaged right arm was clearly visible in the faint moonlight from the bedroom window. “Oh. Nothing. I hurt it at work,” he lied, relieved that the bandages covered the worst of the lacerations.

Lisa turned around, her eyes opening wide as she registered who was in the room. It wasn’t who she had been expecting, either. Her nightgown covered the angry redness of her neck, and belatedly Kenny realized he had forgotten to ask his father about that aspect of vampire lore, too. Why didn’t the vampire’s bites leave puncture wounds? In retrospect, he was glad he hadn’t asked that question. Obviously, the vampire’s bite could leave deep, ragged wounds. His own body was proof enough. There was nothing to say that his father would have known anything different, and if he had asked such a question, he might have thrown up a red flag and raised his father’s suspicions that all was not as it seemed. Better to just forget it.

“We’ll be leaving in the morning,” Mr. Brown told them. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get the wrong idea from our talk. Go ahead, get married. I won’t pressure either of you about kids. You know the truth. If you don’t pass down the family traditions, so what? There’s always Robert in Boston. Who knows? Maybe Crystal will take an interest in it some day.”

“Crystal!” Lisa shook her head. Crystal would never want to become a hunter, although Mr. Brown couldn’t know that. “I thought you needed someone from your bloodline.”

“She’s got a fair share of the family blood,” Mr. Brown replied. “And she’s a smart kid. She’d do well, if she had the interest. Anyway, don’t you two worry about it. That’s what I came to say. I’ll talk to Robert. Good-night. See you in the morning.”

Lisa turned to face Kenny in the dark. She could just make out his features, and knew that his eyes were still open. Neither one of them was going to get much sleep. “What do you think?” she asked softly.

“About what?” Kenny turned his head, and his eyes gleamed faintly as they caught the reflection from the moonlight.

“About what your father said—about us?”

“Are you saying you’ll marry me?” Kenny kept his voice light.

“Maybe.” Lisa smiled. “Crystal’s not going to become a hunter, though.”

Ken let himself laugh quietly. No, he didn’t think Johnny would be too crazy about that idea. He wondered where the vampire was. “Where did he go, do you think? I figured he’d be right here waiting to see what we found out about the hunters.”

Lisa shrugged. Kenny could feel the movement through the blankets. “I don’t want to talk about him now.” She wriggled closer to Kenny. It had been weeks since they’d been intimate, with all the anger and mistrust and—Johnny—between them. “In fact, I don’t want to talk at all.” Lisa drew the high-necked nightgown over her head and tossed it to the floor.

Kenny refused to let his eyes linger on her reddened neck. They both had scars, inside and out. He gathered her willing body into his arms and stole a quick glance at the door. He really should get up and lock it, but he had other things to do.

Johnny didn’t stay away for long. He appeared Sunday night just as they were putting away the supper things. Since Crystal was with them, he didn’t press Kenny for answers immediately, but Kenny was well aware that the reprieve, if that’s what you could call it, would be short-lived.

“I had an interesting talk with Mrs. Brown,” Johnny commented as he leaned against the kitchen table. “Grandma. Is it true you two are getting married?”

Kenny and Lisa exchanged glances. “Ah, well, not exactly,” Kenny replied, thrown off by the vampire’s abrupt question. When had Johnny talked with his mother?

Lisa contradicted him. “Maybe. If the offer still stands,” she amended, gazing warmly at Kenny.

“Good.” Johnny slid off the edge of the table and beat Kenny to his chair in the living room.

“You stay away from my mother,” Kenny said, pointing a finger at Johnny. But he pulled Lisa down next to him on the couch. “And stay out of our personal life.”

Johnny laughed. “Oh, no, it’s too late for that! Your personal life is my business, if you intend to have any sort of life at all.”

“Is that a threat?”

“Yeah, it’s a threat.” Johnny leaned forward. “Go get married to Lisa. You’ll live longer.”

Crystal looked up from her place on the floor where she had been drawing as she usually did while she watched television. She smiled at Johnny and his empty threats.

Lisa noticed that Johnny’s face looked flushed with blood. That meant he had probably fed well before he came over. But even so, he didn’t look well. There was a tightness around his eyes and, even relaxed, he seemed on edge. “Johnny, why are you still here?” she asked, tired of all the posturing. “You need to rest.”

Johnny’s face darkened. “Have you been telling secrets, Lisa?” he asked softly.

Kenny glanced at Lisa. Had she been keeping secrets from him? He’d thought they were finally past that after last night. Unconsciously, he pulled slightly away from Lisa on the couch. Johnny noticed, and relaxed a fraction.

“No,” Lisa said. She had felt Kenny move, and her heart sank. Why did she always put her foot in it? She had been concerned about Johnny, that’s all. Now Kenny was back to not trusting her again, and she really couldn’t blame him. The whole marriage thing had been a smokescreen for Kenny’s father, but at the end, Lisa had actually been considering it. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Kenny backed out now, because he realized he still couldn’t trust her? “I just meant that you should sleep. Nothing else. You look tired.”

Kenny, surprisingly, supported her. “She hasn’t told me your resting place, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m not worried,” Johnny replied evenly. “Now, what did Grandpa have to say? Or do I need to go have a little talk with him myself?”

“About that language?” Kenny knew the time had come. “I never got a chance to ask.” He rapidly continued, as Johnny started to rise up out of his easy chair. “But I have other information for you.” Kenny felt ashamed that he let Johnny scare him into obedience. He was supposed to be the man of the family, the protector, not some weak guy who did anything to save his own skin.

“Blood of my blood, blood of my enemies,” Crystal sing-songed, and they all stared at her. Kenny and Johnny, because they understood, and Lisa, because she didn’t.

“How do you know that?” Kenny asked, thinking that maybe his father had taught it to her. He had mentioned possibly training Crystal to become a hunter when she was older.

“It’s the first language,” Crystal replied, “before the other ones. It’s the one we listen to, when it is spoken.”

“We? Who is ‘we?’” asked her mother.

“Vampires,” Crystal said, closing her drawing pad.

Even Johnny was shocked.

“You’re not a vampire,” said Lisa. Johnny had told her that Crystal had the potential, because of her mixed blood, to become a vampire, but she was not a born vampire, like Johnny, or like a child of her and Kenny’s combined bloodline might very well be. Lisa knew Johnny wanted to convert Crystal, later, when she was older. But she also believed him when he told her it would be Crystal’s decision. He would not force it upon her. Crystal’s words had chilled her.

Crystal said another lilting phrase in that unfamiliar language, and this time, only Johnny stiffened, his eyes taking on a faraway look. It was the phrase for the blood-offering, when it was made out of love and not as a prelude to battle. Crystal gave Johnny a knowing look, and smiled. His hunger surged.

“Why do I get the feeling that you don’t know much more about yourself than we do?” mused Kenny out loud, catching Johnny’s start of recognition when Crystal recited the phrase. Kenny didn’t understand what she had said, but he recognized the language.

“Because I don’t,” snapped Johnny. “If I did, I wouldn’t need you, now would I? And if I didn’t need you, believe me, you wouldn’t be alive.”

That put a new slant on things. It meant Kenny had power over the vampire. “Why don’t you know? You’re over three hundred years old, aren’t you? Do you even know where you vampires came from?”

In an instant, Johnny was out of his chair and inches from Kenny’s face. His eyes were flat black. “Don’t push me,” he hissed. The hunger that Crystal had aroused grew as he held the hunter in his gaze. The hunter’s blood was potent, and he wanted it. With a disgusted cry, he stepped back from the couch and threw himself into his chair again. It wasn’t time. He was stronger than his hunger. “Tell me,” he said, staring without seeing at the TV screen.

Kenny couldn’t completely control the shaking that came over his limbs. The vampire might look like a teenager, but he wasn’t. Lisa put her hand on his arm, and Kenny took a deep breath. He could do this. “The family came here to get away from the vampires in the old country.”

“After you tried to kill them,” Johnny said. They had had this discussion already. He needed to find out more.

“Not me,” Kenny muttered, uncomfortable at being lumped in with those other hunters, even if he was descended from them. He wouldn’t have committed murder of innocent human beings. “That’s why I didn’t know about what happened before. My father knew, from his father, but it was his brother who was supposed to carry on the hunter line, not him.”

“Yet you’re the hunter,” Johnny observed. He laid his head back against the chair and closed his eyes.

“Someone had to carry on the traditions,” Kenny replied, annoyed. “My uncle left the family before I was born—some sort of disagreement with my grandfather, which is why my father took over the task of keeping the family records. My father told me about it the other night, because I asked. He said our blood goes back thousands of years when our ancestors were pagans and performed blood rituals. He wasn’t sure if that’s what caused the vampirism, but it’s been in our blood since the beginning. He told us,” Kenny glanced at Lisa, who was listening intently but didn’t speak except to squeeze his hand, “that our ancestors bred the vampires for war, and when it became too inconvenient as time went on, they tried to get rid of them. That’s the long and the short of it.”

Johnny was silent for so long that Lisa thought he had fallen asleep. She jumped when he finally spoke. “Inconvenient.” He grimaced, and opened his eyes. “Why did this uncle of yours leave?”

“I’m not sure,” Kenny admitted. “It had something to do with his being a hunter. He didn’t agree with my grandfather, and so he left. I never did hear exactly what the disagreement was about. He lives near Boston. His name is on the list. My father is going to contact him again.”

“Why?” Johnny asked suspiciously.

Kenny flushed, and glanced once more at Lisa. “Because Lisa and I can’t have kids, and someone needs to learn the family history. Dad said he’d get in touch with Uncle Robert. Maybe one of Uncle Robert’s kids would be willing to learn the traditions, even if Uncle Robert himself wasn’t.”

Johnny laughed softly. “Why can’t you let it go? Didn’t you ‘kill’ all the vampires?”

“Not counting you, yes,” agreed Kenny. “Who knows about the vampires in the old country?”

“Uncle Robert,” Crystal piped up, busily scribbling on her sketchpad once more.

Johnny bent down. “Can I see that?” he asked, taking the pad from her fingers. She had drawn a map outlining the United States on the left and Europe on the right—with the islands of Ireland and Great Britain outlined in black. That wasn’t the picture Johnny was interested in. He flipped the pages until he found the one showing the highway with a river on the left and a building stretching across the road, with taller buildings in the background. “Boston,” he said, finally recognizing the place.

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