Black Water

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Chapter 28

About a week later, Johnny walked in on an argument between Lisa and Kenny. As soon as they saw him, they both stopped talking. Lisa sat at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, while Kenny leaned against the sink.

“Trouble in paradise?” Johnny asked flippantly, pulling up a chair so that he faced Lisa across the table. She gazed listlessly at him before lowering her eyes. No help there. Johnny turned to Kenny, eyebrows raised.

Kenny scowled. “Not your business,” was his clipped reply. But he didn’t say anything else, and neither did Lisa.

Johnny leaned back in his chair, eying the two of them, and grinned. “Don’t mind me,” he said.

After a few more minutes of stony silence, Kenny began pacing, his frustration getting the better of him. “I can’t believe you didn’t get an address,” he said to Lisa. “Or at least a phone number.”

Johnny sat up straight.

“I couldn’t think.” Lisa’s voice was strained. “He came in so unexpectedly and talked so quickly, I didn’t have time to ask a lot of questions.”

“So you just let her go?”

Johnny stiffened. “Where’s Crystal?” he asked ominously.

He’s her father!” Lisa cried out. “What was I supposed to do? I had to let him take her!”

Kenny resumed pacing with a disgusted snort, and Johnny shot to his feet. “What happened?” he ground out, his hands on Lisa’s shoulders before he even thought about it.

That got Kenny’s attention. He strode over and pulled Johnny away from Lisa. “Outside,” he said, but his tone said leave her alone. He didn’t give Johnny time to argue. “I’ll tell you what happened.”

“No,” Lisa interrupted. “Stay here. Anything you want to say to him, you can say in front of me. I know you think I messed up. I did mess up. I’m sorry.”

Kenny took a deep breath. “You might as well sit down, kid,” he said to Johnny. “Keep your cool. Crystal’s gone.”

Johnny took his chair back, jaw set, eyes black, but he didn’t speak.

“That damn father of hers found out somehow that Lisa and I were getting married, and suddenly he decides to act all parental and wants to see his daughter. He showed up here this morning while I was at work and took her.” Kenny’s voice betrayed his outrage. He started pacing again.

“It wasn’t that clear-cut,” Lisa said. “He told her he wanted to have a father-daughter vacation, and she said she would go with him. He barely spoke to me.”

“And you let her go,” Kenny said. “Didn’t matter that you hadn’t heard from the guy in over four years, that he didn’t send you a cent in all that time, or Crystal so much as a birthday card, or any sign that he cared about his daughter at all.”

“I didn’t need his money,” Lisa responded, glancing covertly at Johnny. He stared straight ahead, listening but not reacting—yet. She bit her lip, and continued. “Crystal said she wanted to go.”

“That’s the problem!” Kenny exploded. “First, him.” He pointed at Johnny. “You let a vampire near your daughter, and now you let her go with that—deadbeat! You’re her mother—you’re supposed to protect her from stuff like that!”

Johnny did react to that. He laughed, darkly, and Lisa choked back her tears to stare at him in surprise. “Lisa had no hope of protecting Crystal from me,” he said. “As to the other, I should have killed him years ago. I still might.”

“Good,” Kenny said, holding Johnny’s eyes with his own. “I’ll help you.”

“Where did they go?” Now that Johnny knew who had Crystal, he could relax a little. Crystal was still a child, but she had an old soul. He didn’t fear for her safety, but he did want her back.

“I don’t know.” Lisa started crying, softly, quietly.

Kenny had resumed his position by the sink, and he sighed. “He’ll bring her back,” he said. “That was never the point. I didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t a good mother—it’s just—he’s not a good father!” he said in exasperation.

“He wouldn’t hurt her.” Lisa sniffed and wiped at her eyes.

That wasn’t the point either, in Johnny’s opinion. He agreed with Kenny for once. That man didn’t deserve to be Crystal’s father. “Wait here,” he said as he started upstairs. He had an idea.

He rummaged around in Crystal’s nightstand until he located her latest sketchpad. Sure enough, there was a new picture in it. He had no clue what it meant, but maybe Lisa or Kenny would know. He brought it back downstairs. “This is where she is,” he said, tossing the book on the table in front of Lisa.

Lisa picked it up and Kenny stood over her shoulder. She smiled, then gave a little laugh. “No wonder she went with him.” When Kenny still looked puzzled, she explained. “Lake George. When she was little, we used to go there every summer. She used to love the water park. See? That’s what she drew.”

“There’s a lake? Can you show me on a map?” Johnny asked.

“Why? You can’t go up there!” Lisa turned anxious eyes towards him. “He will bring her back. You don’t have to go get her.”

“I am going.”

Kenny surprisingly came to Johnny’s rescue. “I’ll go with you,” he said. “Just to make sure he’s taking good care of her—and to find out when he’s planning on bringing her home. Among other things.” He and Johnny shared a look. “Give me five minutes to throw some clothes into a bag,” he told the vampire. “You go do whatever you need to do. We won’t get up there till after midnight and we still have to find a place to stay.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Johnny told him. But he slipped out the kitchen door and disappeared into the dark. “Five minutes.” His voice drifted back.

Kenny wondered what he could do in five minutes, then decided he really didn’t want to know.

“I’ll come, too,” Lisa said.

“No. You stay here. Johnny and I got this.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Lisa muttered, but she sat back down. “Don’t let Johnny hurt him.”

“Why the hell not?” Kenny asked.

It was closer to fifteen minutes before Kenny and Johnny took off in Kenny’s SUV. Lisa had given Kenny directions to the campground where they used to stay when Crystal was little. There was no guarantee that Sam had brought Crystal there this time, but it was a safe bet if he were trying to recreate the past. Lisa sighed to herself, and put on the kettle for a cup of tea. It wasn’t all bad with Sam. She had loved him, once. And although he was a distant and uninvolved father, she had no doubt that he loved Crystal too. She hoped he survived the next few days.

Even late at night, the village by the lake was busy. They had driven down a long hill that ran right along the lake, which was huge compared to the lake in Lockwood. Johnny caught glimpses of it between the trees and the lit-up motels, inns and cabins that lined the road. He hoped it would grant him the rest he needed, if he could ever find a way to ditch the hunter and slip under the water unobserved. Didn’t these people ever sleep?

Kenny drove right by the water park from Crystal’s drawing, and took a left turn shortly after. Once they turned, the lights grew dimmer and signs of life grew fewer. Johnny felt himself relax against the leather seat of the car. He could still see flashes of the lake through the trees every so often. Kenny pulled into a campground and left the engine running as he went inside a still-bright cabin near the front entrance. He came out a few minutes later with a key on a green plastic ring. “We have Cabin #17,” he said, waving the key.

They drove in silence down a curving dirt road past several identical small cabins until they found the one with #17 stenciled on the door. “This is where I get out,” Johnny said. “I’ll find you when the sun goes down tomorrow.”

“Whatever,” Kenny replied, expecting it. “Just don’t leave a trail of dead bodies behind you, all right?”

Johnny smiled in the darkness. “Whatever,” he agreed. The lake lay somewhere to his right. Crystal slept somewhere nearby, in this campground or one like it. Tomorrow they would find her. As tempting as it sounded to hunt for blood among the teeming vacationers, Johnny would rather just sleep. To be contrary, he turned to his left and disappeared.

Lake George was long and narrow, relatively speaking. Even the narrow part was far wider than Johnny’s lake in Lockwood. He emerged the next day on the far shore, in a place he wasn’t likely to be seen, and made his way through the woods back to Kenny’s campground. It wasn’t quite dusk, but close enough that the sun didn’t burn him too badly. He would have to take in some blood soon, though.

“Did you find them?”

Kenny sat in a tall-backed wooden chair outside his cabin poring over some maps and brochures of tourist attractions. He looked up when Johnny approached. “Lisa was right and wrong,” he said. “I didn’t see any signs of them in this campground, so I spent the day at the water park. I spotted them at the big slide.” He shrugged. “Crystal looked like she was having fun. I didn’t get closer. I figured you would want to be there too.”

Johnny grunted in agreement. “Where are they now?”

“In a motel near the village. It’s right on the beach. I left when I saw which room they parked their car by and came back to get you. Ready to go? Oh, and Lisa said not to hurt him.” He grinned tightly at Johnny’s dark expression. “I’m just the messenger,” he added. “But Crystal might have an opinion on the subject.”

Night had fallen when they got to Lake George village and Kenny hunted for a parking space. They finally dropped off the car and walked down the crowded street, dodging tourists with dripping ice cream cones and teenagers who didn’t care who they bumped into as they made their way from shop to shop, laughing and talking. Johnny felt his hunger stir every time someone brushed by him. “Wait here,” he said to Kenny, indicating an ice-cream stand where people were lined up to get their cones. “Get something to eat. I’ll be right back.”

Johnny melted into the crowd without waiting for Kenny’s reply. He wouldn’t have listened anyway. It didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for—an older man, sitting on a bench a little apart from the stream of tourists. There were several shopping bags at his feet, and he had his eyes closed. Obviously, he had been waiting there a long time. Johnny sidled up to him and sat down next to him on the bench. When the man didn’t stir, Johnny bent down as if to pick up something that had fallen on the ground, using his body to block what he was going to do from the distant foot traffic. He grabbed the man’s wrist, turned it in, and bit. The man never woke up. Johnny straightened up, turned the man’s wrist back over so that the redness wouldn’t show, and propped the fallen parcel he had supposedly picked up in the man’s slack hands. “Sweet dreams,” Johnny murmured as he got up to leave.

Kenny was watching him from the street. “What?” Johnny asked, as he walked past. “He’s not dead.”

“I can see that,” Kenny replied. “I didn’t say anything.” He fell into step beside Johnny. It was the first time he had seen Johnny actually attack anyone, other than himself, for blood. It wasn’t as violent as he remembered. It was more like the offering. “Does it hurt them?” he asked, curious.

“Not unless I want it to,” Johnny said.

By mutual consent, they made their way to the motel where Crystal and her father were staying.

Kenny knocked at the door, and Johnny let him, standing just off to the side. They could both hear the TV in the background and some muttering, and finally some shuffling before the door, still chained, opened a fraction. Clearly, Sam Porter wasn’t expecting any visitors. He recognized Kenny immediately, however, and reluctantly took the chain off and opened the door. “What are you doing here?” he asked with a frown.

Crystal, sitting cross-legged in her pajamas on one of the beds, bounced up happily. “Kenny!” she said. “Is Mom here too?”

“You left without telling Lisa where you were taking Crystal,” Kenny said, directing his remarks to Sam. “Not a phone number, not when you were bringing her back, nothing. What the hell were you trying to pull?” He stomped inside and left the door open behind him.

“Johnny!” Crystal’s smile widened as she saw the figure framed in the open doorway. “You came, too!”

“She’s my daughter. I have the right to take her on vacation without reporting to you or anybody else,” Sam Porter replied.

“You think so?” Johnny spoke in a low voice, his eyes darkening dangerously.

“Who are you?” Sam glanced from Johnny to Kenny. “How did you know where to find us?”

Crystal answered. “He’s my friend Johnny. Don’t you remember? I told you all about him when I was little.”

Sam shook his head in confusion. “You mean the kid from the lake? The one you used to tell stories about. . . .” His voice trailed off as he stared at the kid in question, the kid who looked exactly the same as he had five years ago when Sam had last seen him at the cottage. Impossible. Crystal, who was just a little girl then, had said he was a vampire. Impossible.

Johnny grinned, allowing the tips of his sharp teeth to show. “You should have believed your daughter,” he said. Kenny folded his arms and moved to close the door behind them, right before Johnny lunged and knocked Sam Porter back onto the second bed.

After a second, Johnny pulled back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Kenny saw the slashes in Sam Porter’s throat just before they faded to an angry red rash. So that’s how it works, he thought.

“He’s got family blood,” Johnny said disgustedly. A month ago, that wouldn’t have stopped him. Now, in a way, it made things easier. He could make the man forget, like he had done to Lisa’s father years ago. As long as he stayed away, Sam Porter wouldn’t remember him or vampires. He didn’t deserve to get away so easily. Blood of my blood. The phrase was becoming troublesome.

Crystal said gently, “He’s my father.” She stared down at the man lying unconscious in his bed and ran her hand lightly across his forehead. “I guess he’s not ready to know about you.” She smiled up at Johnny. “Do you like the lake? I thought you would.”

Kenny and Johnny ended up leaving the next night, after impressing on Sam Porter the importance of letting Crystal’s mother and him know exactly where and when he would be taking her, if he ever wanted to take his daughter anywhere again. Sam had woken up groggy and confused, remembering his conversation with Lisa’s fiancé but nothing about Johnny. It was as if Johnny had never been there.

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