Black Water

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Chapter 9

“Wake up.” Johnny nudged the sleeping hunter with his foot. “I want to talk.”

Kenny rolled over at the insistent small jabbing in his sore ribs, stiffening when his eyes focused on Johnny. Slowly, he sat up. “What?”

“You heard me.” Johnny flipped the blankets down, exposing the hunter’s bandaged arms, chest and legs. “I want to talk to you.”

Kenny closed his eyes. “Go away,” he said, too tired to be apprehensive. “I’m sleeping.”

Johnny poked his foot into the hunter’s side once more, eliciting a grunt of pain from the man. “Wake up.” He didn’t wait for a reply, but sat cross-legged on the bed uncomfortably close to Kenny.

With a scowl, Kenny pulled himself upright and pulled the covers across his knees, putting a little distance between them. “All right, I’m awake. So talk.”

“That thing you said, blood of my blood, where did you learn it? That language. What else can you say in that language?” Johnny’s eyes bore intensely into the hunter’s.

“I told you. From my father, who heard it from his father, and so on. Everything we know about vampires is passed down by word of mouth. There are no written records, except for the list of names of the immigrants who came over on the first ship. I learned to speak that phrase, exactly like that, but nothing else that I can recall. Why? Does it mean something else to you?”

Johnny shook his head. Blood of my blood, blood of my enemy. The words flowed through his mind in that ancient language, so familiar, yet nothing else remained in his memory. The language wasn’t Gaelic, and it wasn’t Norse either, although Johnny wasn’t sure how he knew that. “You’re wrong about what it means,” he replied softly. “I’m not your enemy, and you weren’t always mine.”

Kenny frowned, but before he could reply, Johnny stood up. “I’ve got to go. Crystal’s school play is tonight and I’m helping with the scenery.” He paused in the doorway. “Would your father know more about that language? Maybe I should be talking to him instead of to you.”

Wide awake now, Kenny stared at the vampire. In the light, the creature appeared young, harmless, just the sort of boy who would be going to help out at a school performance. Not what vampires typically were noted for, in Kenny’s opinion. “That’s tonight?” He struggled to get out of bed. He should be bringing Lisa and Crystal to the school play, not the vampire. Johnny didn’t move, and after a few seconds, Kenny sank back down. He couldn’t go—he was still too banged up. People would ask what had happened to him, and he wasn’t ready for that yet. “Tell Crystal I said good luck,” he said, watching as the vampire nodded and disappeared from sight. He might as well go back to sleep.

He heard noises from downstairs, then the door slammed and the car started up. After that it was quiet. Too quiet. Kenny had a hard time falling back asleep. He didn’t want the vampire to confront his father, but Johnny was right. Kenny really didn’t know all that much more about vampires, but his father did. He had asked his father to come to Lisa’s for Thanksgiving, thinking at the time that he would be able to enlist his father’s help in defeating the vampire. Now, he was not so sure it was possible. What did Johnny mean, they weren’t always his enemies?

Light laughter woke Kenny up again. He had been having dreams of Thanksgiving dinner, with his mother passing the potatoes to the vampire, and the vampire passing cranberry sauce back, only it wasn’t cranberry sauce—it was blood. He shivered, and got out of bed. Enough sleeping for a while. He would probably be awake for the rest of the night. Vampire hours, he thought sourly.

“How was it?” he asked, as he limped downstairs. Crystal beamed with happiness, still dressed in her Pilgrim costume for the fifth-grade number, a re-enactment of the first harsh winter. The kindergarteners had done the First Thanksgiving, but the other grades had portrayed different scenes, including the voyage on the Mayflower, which had led up to it. He wondered what Johnny had thought of the play, since he had similar experiences in his early years as a colonist. It wasn’t something he could easily ask the vampire about, however.

“Great! Everybody stood up at the end and clapped, and we had to come back out on stage and bow! The whole school!”

“I’m sorry I missed it.” He meant it. This whole vampire thing had affected him beyond just the physical toll to his body. He had also pushed both Lisa and Crystal away from him and so he missed moments like this, which made them a family. Ironically, the vampire had stepped right in and insinuated himself in their little family group as if he belonged. “How did you explain him?” He jerked his thumb at Johnny, who was putting his jacket on a hook by the door.

“I said he was my cousin from Rhode Island,” Crystal said, her eyes twinkling. “He kind of is.”

Kenny thought to himself that they were just lucky none of the original ‘Historical Society’ group had kids in school. They might have recognized Johnny as the vampire they had tried to kill four years ago, and then there would be all kinds of trouble. But Bill Lovall was dead, and Betty didn’t have any children. All the rest of them probably wouldn’t have recognized Johnny even if they had seen him there. They all thought the vampire was dead.

Johnny smiled, and sat on the floor next to Crystal, who had turned on the TV. Lisa had gone into the kitchen to make some hot chocolate. Kenny, seeing his easy chair was vacant, slid into it with a sigh. “I’m probably going back to work tomorrow,” he said, as Lisa came back in with the hot chocolates. He accepted a cup, and watched as Crystal sipped hers. Lisa didn’t offer the vampire any. Nobody reacted to his statement. “I ought to go home tonight, then,” he continued. “To get work clothes. Can’t exactly go like this, can I?”

Lisa looked up. “You have work clothes in the closet,” she said. “Why don’t you stay and just go to work from here tomorrow, if you feel up to it.”

Kenny shrugged. “Fine. I’ll stay.” He felt pleased, as if he had won an argument, and for a moment he met the vampire’s eyes. He grinned, and took a sip of his hot chocolate. Vampire didn’t know what he was missing.

The weather turned colder right before Thanksgiving. It even snowed a few inches, and the cold weather made the snow stick on the ground. The lake, while not frozen, definitely wore its winter face. Johnny slept under the water for three days straight, to regain his strength. He didn’t think three days would make much of a difference in Crystal’s conversion. Still, when he came out of the lake, his hunger was fierce for a taste of her blood. Maybe it had been a mistake to stay away so long. He wasn’t sure he could control himself when he saw her. If he took too much, she could die.

Before he approached Lisa’s house, he made his way to one of the newer developments on the outskirts of town. The new WalMart there was already thronged with early Christmas shoppers. Johnny threaded his way through the brightly lit parking lot, waiting for his meal. This would be a little tricky. He followed a group of teenagers to the far end of the lot, then waited until all but one had driven away. Must be shift-change time. The kid probably couldn’t wait to go home and eat supper. Well, Johnny felt the same way. He took the kid just as he was putting the car into reverse, deftly sliding in the unlocked passenger door and striking before the kid realized what was happening. When he was done, he eased the car back into its space and turned off the key. The kid would be all right for the half-hour or so it would take before he regained consciousness. Johnny was proud of himself that he had not taken too much after all.

He walked into the store, feeling really good for the first time in weeks. It was bright and loud and full of humanity. He came out with a shopping bag full of new clothes, even a pair of boots, and a hat, scarf and glove set for Crystal, which would please her mother, as well as a high-necked sweater for Lisa. He didn’t bother getting anything for the hunter. He glanced over to where the kid’s car was parked, and noted that it was already gone.

“Crystal.”

She scrambled off her bed, scattering papers everywhere, and hugged Johnny. “You’re back,” she said, smiling. “You look better.”

Johnny felt the burning desire for Crystal’s blood begin deep in his throat, and he knew his eyes were dark with it. But he returned her smile. He could do this. The kid’s blood filled him still and blunted the edge of his hunger. “I feel better.” Before he could regret it, he pierced the center of his palm and let his blood well up. He offered her the first taste.

Crystal accepted, then used the small knife she kept hidden for the purpose to do the same to her own palm. She made the cut slightly longer than usual, and Johnny had to drink quickly before her blood spilled over. It was enough, and the burning dissipated, although it never really disappeared anymore.

“Did you draw any more pictures lately?” Johnny asked, curious to know if Crystal’s pictures would trigger more memories for him.

“Just one,” she replied, reaching across to take her sketchbook out of the same nightstand drawer where she kept her small paring knife. She showed him the picture. A highway curved alongside a flowing river. In the distance were tall buildings, and one of them stretched right across the highway. Johnny was disappointed. He did not recognize the picture, and it did not stir any more memories for him.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he murmured. “I’ll be right back.”

He grabbed the present he had bought for Crystal, and the one for Lisa, and brought them back down to Crystal’s room. “I got these for you. Your mom will be happy that your ears are warm when you go outside.”

“Oh, does that mean we’re going outside? Tonight?” Crystal’s eyes sparkled.

“If you want to.”

“Yes!” Crystal tried on her new hat and gloves, and tied the scarf around her neck. “Let’s go!”

“Coat,” Johnny reminded her. With a small pout, Crystal reached for her coat, too, and Johnny nodded. She might not feel the cold as keenly as before, but she still wasn’t ready to go out in the elements without one. “Okay, let’s go!”

They ran through the woods, scattering snow, until they were both covered in it and Crystal began to shiver. Then Johnny brought her back, entering the house quietly through an unlocked upper window. “That was fun!” Crystal said, as she hung her soaked coat on a chair by the radiator.

Johnny hoped the coat would dry by morning, or they’d both be in trouble. He smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

“I have a half-day tomorrow,” Crystal reminded him. “Then it’s Thanksgiving.”

Kenny’s parents arrived on Thanksgiving morning, just as Lisa was putting the turkey in the oven. Mrs. Brown brought a pie, home-made, and cranberry sauce. She sat in the kitchen with Lisa and Crystal while Crystal told her all about her school play. Mr. Brown cornered Kenny in the living room.

“Want to tell me what’s going on?” he asked in a stage whisper. There was no one else in the room except the two of them. “You borrowed the list, and asked me to come here today, but then you didn’t return any of my calls. Why did you want the list?”

“Sit down, Dad,” Kenny said in a normal tone of voice. “Nothing’s going on. I just thought it was time I took more of an interest in the family business, if you know what I mean. Lisa and I have been talking, and the more I explain about our family, the more questions I have myself. So I thought I would start with the list, since that’s where it all started, and go from there. I was hoping we would have time this weekend to talk.” Kenny hated lying to his father, but what choice did he have? And actually, he did want to know more about vampire hunting for his own sake. Until he had come face to face with an actual vampire four years ago, he hadn’t really taken any of the things his father had taught him seriously.

“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Mr. Brown’s eyes darted around the room. “Why now?”

“I told you, Lisa and I have been talking. . . .”

Mr. Brown stared at him until Kenny looked away. “All right,” Kenny’s father said. “She knows about the family blood. Is that why you wanted the list?”

“Knowing about it and believing it are two different things,” Kenny replied. “She won’t marry me because we can’t have kids. I wanted to show her I wasn’t just making it up.” It was easier to bend the truth than Kenny had thought. Everything he told his father was true, but it was not why he had taken the list. The one piece of information he couldn’t reveal to his father was that the vampire was still alive. “Dad, why don’t we have any information about the family before they came here on that ship? Why does everything start there?”

Mr. Brown folded his hands in his lap and sighed. “I was wondering when you would ask that.”

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