Isolde opened the drapes, letting the winter sun stream in. I did not trust what Tristan had said, I covered myself with an afghan. Instead of something catastrophic happening, as I’d feared, the feeble warmth of the winter sun felt good. It warmed my body and I didn’t feel as cold as I had.
The sunlight illuminated the art that was on the wall that I hadn’t noticed the night before. My mom was an art dealer, and I had learned more from her than I would from an Art Appreciation class. The walls here were covered with works by Dega, Mucha, Monet, Klimt, Picasso, Lautrec and watercolors by Maxfield Parrish. There were also vases and small pieces on shelves that were of museum quality. I swore that I saw an Egyptian statuette, Greek vases and busts, and there were even Anasazi pots of exquisite design.
Isolde must have left while I was absorbed in the sun and the artwork, for she had reappeared, with her hair dried, and dressed in trousers and a cashmere sweater. She smiled as she saw me look at pieces that would have easily fit into a museum’s collection, and fetched a small fortune at Sotheby’s or Christie’s.
“You know about art?” She gestured towards the treasures that filled the living room
“Yeah, my mom is a dealer. She taught me a lot. Where did you get all this stuff? Even if Tristan has been around for a long time, it’s still not easy to collect antiquities. And that Egyptian statue? Egypt has been regulating the trade since the beginning of the twentieth century. And Anasazi pots are hard to come by legally. Oh, sorry.” I felt awkward, not having meant to say that.
“But they can be.” Isolde threw some clothes at me, Tristan’s again, I assumed. “I think I’ll take you with me to the next auction. Take your shower; I’m going to wake the boys. Let’s get you out of your fraternity. You’ll be much safer living with us--there’s plenty of room. The boys look your age, so they’ll have no trouble blending in. You’ve all hunted, so you don’t need to worry about the blood lust. Now go, and let me wake them. The sooner you do this the better.”
I took a shower and dressed again in their luxurious bathroom. Tristan and Isolde seemed to be satisfied only with the best. My parents were well off, comfortable, though not wealthy, so I didn’t grow up with luxuries like Egyptian cotton towels and expensive artwork on the walls of my house. My mother owned a few pieces, but that was it.
When I came downstairs to the living room, Fabi and Claude were drinking coffee and smoking the foul-smelling Gauloise cigarettes that Claude and Tristan favored. Rainer was nowhere to be seen.
Isolde’s face wore a look of worry and fear. Tristan and Claude were talking to her in French, but she kept shaking her head. She looked as if she were about to cry and I wished that I could put my arms around her and hold her, tell her everything would be okay, and that if it was Rainer, I’d kill him before he had a chance to even get close to her.
Tristan squeezed her tightly, then poured a glass of cognac and handed it to her. She shook her head and pushed it away. He pressed it into her hand; so she took it and drank obediently. He looked at me over her head, holding her tightly.
“Rainer is gone, he must have left while we were sleeping. I am not surprised, but I will confess that I did not expect it. It worries me that I don’t know where he is. He’s told me in graphic detail what he’d like to do to Isolde, I told him what would happen if he touched her. I have kept an eye on him, but evidently not close enough.”
“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” This was what Isolde had said and it sent chills up my spine.
“I thought I kept him close enough, but she is paying the price for my carelessness. I am afraid he has gone to ground, but for how long I don’t know. He has disappeared before, but until we know where he is, I am taking Isolde to Greece. He frightens her, I should never have let him stay.” He kept stroking Isolde’s hair as he spoke.
“We may not reach Greece directly, but I will tell you when we get there. Do not worry about anything, Steven, Fabi will take care of everything. After all these years we still do not know much about Rainer, but Fabi is older than you think, and a powerful vampire. Rainer may be anywhere, but he and Claude will find him. At the very least they can protect you.”
“Don’t hunt alone, Steven. Claude, Fabi, I am entrusting him into your care. Rainer won’t try to challenge the three of you.” Tristan pulled Isolde closer to him, then released her, watching her as she went upstairs to pack their suitcases. “We’ll be gone a month, maybe less. I will contact you, I just cannot say when. I am sorry that I have to leave you so soon, Steven. You are not ready to be on your own, but Fabi and Claude will take care of you.”
Fabi pulled my arm. “Come on, Claude and I will help you.” I was full of questions, but he shook his head “no” before I even opened my mouth. When the three of us reached the garage, he opened the door of the BMW. “It’s easier for Tristan right now if you don’t ask any questions. Isolde is frightened of Rainer, and we don’t know where he is. When he first came here, he tried to attack her. Tristan finally made it clear to Rainer if he ever touched her again, he would kill him. I think your coming to live with us made him angry. One more vampire to keep an eye on him, one more threat. He couldn’t bear that.”
When we got to my frat house, Fabi got out of the car and looked around at the girls. “You gonna give all this up to live with us? You got some pretty women here, paisan.” The looks he gave the girls were frank and obvious, and most of them could not resist smiling at the sight of the handsome Italian. He sighed, distributed boxes to us, and we went upstairs.
I climbed the stairs with my usual clatter, but Claude and Fabi moved so silently you would have sworn they weren’t there. At one point a member of the fraternity came in, and both froze, seeming almost to blend in the walls. They came to life again when we were alone, and I wondered if I could do that trick someday.
I was amazed at how little I actually owned. My notebooks, my books, my laptop, a boom box, clothes, my iPod, and my toiletries, all fit into a few boxes. When my stuff was packed, I had the eerie feeling that I never had existed. For the first time, I thought of Julie and wondered what she would have thought of all this. Would she have wanted me to die with her, or did her soul call to Tristan to find me to save me? All useless questions that did me no good.
We left the fraternity as quickly as we could, Fabi looking regretfully at the girls. We put my things in the trunk and he started the car, gunning the engine for effect. Claude said something to him in French and they both laughed. I wished they would speak English. I could speak passable Spanish, but these European vampires made me feel like an alien in my own country. My high school French was good enough to understand a little, but not enough.
“So what’s so funny?” I was feeling a little irritated, as well as anxious for Isolde. All I wanted to do now was go home and see if she was all right.
“It would lose something in translation,” said Claude, He smiled at me and shrugged his shoulders. My high school French only went so far, and I wished that I could understand that rapid-fire French.
A thought was growing inside my head. Fabi was supposed to be Italian, but the cadence of his words did not sound that way. There was something different about the way he spoke, like his accent was both Italian and not Italian. I realized that I hadn’t really found out how long he, Rainer, and Tristan had been vampires. Claude had said Tristan had changed him on the march back from Russia, but he was the only one who had given me a time frame. It felt like they were deliberately withholding information from me.
It was too much to think about, so I let it go for now. I didn’t want to think about anything, I just wanted to get back to the house; it was too soon to call it home and make sure Isolde was all right. I wished that Fabi would drive faster, even though it was a short drive from Greek Row to the Ravenna District.
When we got home Fabi said, “I have to talk to Tristan,” and disappeared into their room. It seemed odd that he should be disturbing them, but the bedroom door opened and he was admitted. It was a long time before he came out and it worried me.
“Come on; let’s get your room ready. The little Hun has disappeared, so Tristan is giving you his room.” Claude was trying to distract me and I both appreciated it though I wished he’d leave me alone. I went along with it because it was a way to distract myself.
I took sheets, pillows, and even the rug out of the room. Fortunately, he’d had nothing on the walls. I didn’t want any reminder of him. I feared the little German vampire, and I had visions of him turning up to drain my blood while I slept. I think I would have felt safer with him under Tristan’s control.
Setting up my new room took maybe half an hour. Claude found a new rug to cover the hardwood floor, and I replaced the bedding. My books and boom box went on the shelves, but this room did not feel like my own. When we finished we went back to the living room, and I tried the rich-tasting red wine Claude was so fond of. He kept looking towards Tristan’s bedroom, waiting for Fabi. He put his arm briefly around my shoulder. “It’s going to be all right, mon ami, both for you and Isolde. Tristan and Fabi are powerful vampires. They are our secret weapons in this war against the little Hun. It will be all right, I promise.”
Fabi came down at last, turning down Claude’s offer of a cigarette. “I think he’s taking Isolde to Santorini, I don’t know for sure. He wants somewhere that she can be safe and relax. Rainer may try to follow them, but Tristan will do all he can to keep him off the scent. If we see him, we’re to kill him.” His words sounded so matter of fact, it gave me a chill.
A thought was playing over and over in my head. Claude had said that Tristan and Fabi were powerful vampires. What made them so powerful? Was it longevity? I had seen Fabi enter Tristan and Isolde’s room. Did he have a relationship with Tristan that set him apart from the others?
I’d only been a vampire for two days, but I wanted to know more about what I was and the ones who lived with me. I was a member of the family now, and I wanted to ask questions. Tristan intimidated me by virtue of the fact that he made me; he seemed like a father, not a brother. He was the head of our vampire family. Isolde might be in danger, and knowing these things felt very important.
Fabi seemed to be close to my age, or at least gave the appearance. He had an easy manner and was not as intense as Tristan. There were things I wanted to know, and he seemed the most approachable, so I decided to take a chance.
“Fabi,” I started, but he cut me off.
“I know what you want to know. My story is tied with Tristan’s, and if I tell you about me, I also tell you what I know about him. Maybe another time I wouldn’t, but things have changed. I’ll tell you what I know, and what Tristan told me. Claude knows some of this, but not all. We are a team now, comrades, and I don’t want any secrets kept from you.”
I sat quietly and waited for him to begin.