THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 6.5 - A LENS OF ETERNITY

Cole entered through the side door at the Nitelife. As usual, he waited for it to click securely closed, but it seemed to be acting up again. The bar had jammed. He snarled, gave it a swift kick and decided to tell Fergus so he could sort out the repair post haste.

Ascending the stairs, two at a time, Cole moved to the first floor. There he entered a long hallway and walked swiftly to the last door on the right.

Inside, an office - the hub of the Nitelife - its fittings all gleaming chrome and smoky glass, sprawled out over 200 square feet. Two leather sofas sat adjacent to the large semi-circular desk where a PC monitor and a laptop were both operational. Fergus, busy as ever, was tippy-tapping the keyboard and clicking the mouse. Wall-mounted CCTV monitors lined the wall in three rows of four behind the desk, images flickering.

Tony sat on one of the sofas, one leg crossed over the other as he read The Chicago Sun-Times. He nodded a greeting to Cole, who answered, acknowledging him by name.

The computer whizz looked up as the watcher strode across the floor. “He couldn’t resist, could he?” he asked, noting the watcher’s foul mood.

Cole ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated. “Nope. He couldn’t wait until later; he just had to go and check her out. Damn it!” Removing his coat, he draped it over the back of the sofa. “Is he back?”

“Yes, about fifteen minutes ago. I guess he just didn’t trust his pet,” Fergus smirked.

“He doesn’t trust anyone,” Tony opined from behind his newspaper.

The other two mumbled agreement, Fergus also omitting a small laugh.

“That side door is fucked again,” Cole stated, hovering near the laptop.

Fergus glanced up at him. “Ok, I’ll see to it.” He noticed the watcher’s fingers almost brushing the laptop keys. He smiled knowingly. “You want to see them again?”

Cole shuffled back and pulled up the spare chair. He sighed, resigned. “Yes.”

Fergus propelled himself over on his wheeled seat and punched in the password. His middle finger swam over the touchpad until he located the folder he wanted. A couple of more clicks and the gallery held within opened on the screen. He shunted back to his monitor and left Cole to look at the collection downloaded from Becky’s laptop.

The photos were in no particular order, so he just kept hitting the right arrow key to flick through. Without exception, all were engaging - from panoramic views of cities, coastlines and countrysides to buildings of architectural significance and beauty.

A few even told a little story like the ones Becky had taken of two children playing, their faces laughing, free, innocent. Somehow she had captured the boys’ essence; as if their souls were trapped within a lens of eternity.

They were hunkered down at a rockpool. A collection of shells lay at their feet with the odd young crab which must have scuttled over the rocks. Another photo of them slid into view, this one in the dunes with a dog; the mongrel looked happy they were throwing a stick for it to chase.

The final one of the boys depicted them receding from the camera, almost silhouetted, probably heading home. Their arms were draped, loosely, brotherly, around each other’s shoulders. A hard day’s playing had ended, and they seemed happy as their dog trotted by their side. The setting sun reflected in the sea and sand, the colours warm gold mixed with fuschia. Cole lingered a little, allowing a special memory of his childhood to swirl around in his head. Then he hit the arrow again.

Next up were photos of Becky and Cain together. “She’s so beautiful,” he said, unintentionally aloud.

“I suppose,” Fergus responded, smiling. “If that’s your type.”

Cole nodded. Using the key shortcuts, he enlarged the photo, particular attention now paid to the tall, dark-haired male. Cole smirked as he noted Cain was not one to smile often. Miserable bastard, he thought, somewhat amused. The watcher zoomed in some more, honing in on the vampire’s eyes. And then he saw it; the sorrow - pushed to the back of a tortured mind, but still evident. Pain, anguish, guilt -they were all drowning within the dark, ancient eyes.

Cole kept tapping the key. A series of photos following an ice cream saga graced the screen. Becky was smiling, laughing mostly, and surprisingly the father of vampires was smiling too; beaming in fact. Cain was holding an ice cream cone - mint choc-chip, going by the colour, and the lime-coloured sweet was dribbling over his fingers. Whatever joke the two shared, Cole could not even hazard a guess, but a certain ‘mood’ emanated from these pictures which had not been as visible in the others.

The last one in the album was now on display. Cain, behind Becky, had his arms wrapped around her, feeding her the mint-choc chip. A blob of ice cream was on her nose. The couple were laughing. But when Cole focused on Cain’s eyes once more, he saw a different truth in them, one which caused a vice to tighten around his heart.

He pushed back, elbow on the chair-arm, fingers toying with his chin. He spun on the seat and looked at the monitors on the wall behind the desk. CCTV at its finest. Three screens were blank.

“Everything OK?” Fergus asked.

Cole’s eyes flitted between his two cohorts. Tony lowered the newspaper on hearing Fergus’ question looked up to see what was going on.

“Yes,” Cole replied. Then a moment later, he flicked his hand, dismissive, and uttered, “No.”

“Well, which is it?” Fergus asked.

Cole stood, abrupt and walked over to the CCTV monitors, studying them, looking for signs of the rest of the brood. “Where are the others?” he asked.

“Downstairs somewhere, I think,” Fergus replied. “Luke said he had a job for them.”

“Three screens are out,” Cole said, suspicious, pointing to the digital array on the wall. “Which ones are they?”

Fergus tapped the keyboard, and the control panel for the CCTV popped on his screen. “The alley, side door and the den, but it’s never worked properly anyway.”

“We should get down there.”

“Why?” Tony ventured. “It’s just maintenance, a phonecall can sort that. Fergus, make the call. Besides, we don’t use the den anyway, it’s just surplus.”

Cole faced the two vampires, his eyes full of suspicion, doubt. “Allegedly. None of us checked the den because Luke always ensured other areas were utilised. Damn it! Why didn’t I think this through before?”

The other two shrugged, still unsure of the relevance.

The watcher gritted his teeth, annoyed, as another, more insidious realisation hit home. “I think he is going to implement Plan C.”

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