The Eternal Vampire

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We go to my car and she gets into the passenger seat. “Take me to the University District,” she orders, she doesn’t even bother to ask. I start the car and look at her, just to annoy her. “What?” she says.

“I thought you lived in Pioneer Square.”

“I do, but I need to keep an eye on my kids. It’s cold at night and I have to make sure they have a place to stay. We can get the young ones into a shelter, but it has to be soon. The rest of us will bed down in an abandoned building we know about. I don’t want to leave them on the street.”

I look at her, she’s not what I expected. There’s a kindness, almost a tenderness in the way she feels about the street kids—most humans don’t even care.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she demanded.

“Well, you were such a bitch to me, I didn’t think you’d care about those kids, guess you fooled me.”

She doesn’t answer, just tells me when she wants me to let her out. I half expect her to slam the door but she doesn’t. I watch her walk down the half-lit street until she disappears.

I speed home in the little Boxster, driving too fast but I want nothing more than to as far away from the “U” District as I can. I have had enough of these strange vampires for the night.

At home I put on Mozart to try to calm my nerves, and pour myself a good two fingers of cognac. “Breathe Steven,” I tell myself, inhaling the scent of the amber liquor. I tried to lose myself in the music, instead I listened for the rumbling sound of the Jag’s big engine.

Mozart was not working, but to my relief, Claude and Fabi arrive home shortly after me, Fabi bounding up the stairs as he always did, Claude following more slowly.

“What is this, little brother?” Fabi asked, “What was it that was so important that you pulled us from our night’s recreation?”

I held out the photo of Isolde. Claude took it, examining it, then Fabi snatched it from his hand. “Dio,” he breathed as he looked at the picture of a young Isolde, her Audrey Hepburn looks staring into the camera.

I looked at the image again. The resemblance to Audrey Hepburn was there, the delicate bone structure, the large expressive eyes and the quirky mouth. Tristan must have changed her looks for her safety, but he could not change the spirit of them. How in the world could someone have beaten her nearly to death?

“He says his name is Mark King and he’s looking for his wife. He wrote his phone number on the back of her picture.

Fabi whipped his cell phone out of his pocket. “I need to tell Tristan about this. I’m going to have to try a few places. They may still be on Santorini, or they may be in Rome, or Paris, or Milan. It’s early morning in Europe now, they’ve probably left the hotel and gone to breakfast. I hate to disturb them, but I have to talk to Tristan to let him know what’s happened. From now on, Steven, you do not go anywhere alone.”

Claude poured himself a glass of Chateau Margaux, and added to my cognac. We sat and listened to Fabi as he spoke in his rapid-fire Italian, then on another call, switched to French. How many languages did the little Roman speak, I wondered? He seemed to move easily from Italian to French to Greek, then back to English.

He had success, at last, when he tried the hotel in Milan. When he reached Tristan, he put the cell on speaker so that we could hear, but he reverted from English to the archaic Latin that he and Tristan sometimes spoke.

When he hung up, his handsome face looked troubled. “Tristan is going to make reservations for the earliest flight they can get from Milan to New York. They’ll spend the night so Isolde can rest, then they’ll fly home the next day. Steven, I am sorry this happened to you, it should not have been you who had to speak to this person, but nothing can be done. You’ll have to miss school, I want all of us here in case he shows up again.”

“Well, there’s more,” I told him, “I think I’ve had news of Rainer. Someone who sounds like him is haunting the “U” District, calling himself Johann. The description sounds like Rainer, but I haven’t seen him, and he’s not the only German criminal in the world.” I pause before I continue, “And there’s more, I met a coven of vampires tonight, They live in the tunnels under Pioneer Square. Rainer came to them asking for sanctuary but they turned him away. They called him a “rogue”, they said that he kills his own kind.”

The expression on their faces is not reassuring. I guess that means they know about that.

Fabi sighed, “This is not good. We have an agreement with them, we leave them alone in return for the same courtesy. We had dealings with them when we first arrived in Seattle but we haven’t heard from them in many years. How did it they find you?”

“I was kidnapped from the “U” District, I guess they wanted to get a look at me. Rainer told them that Tristan had created a new vampire. They asked me some questions that I tried not to answer and eventually they let me go.”

Fabi looked at Claude who shrugged his shoulders. He reached into his pocket, pulled out one of his foul-smelling Galoise and lit it. “Well, little brother, all the more reason why you should always have one of us with you. They don’t really know much about Tristan or me, but they suspect that we are very old and therefore to be feared. It is good that they recognize that Rainer is dangerous and they turned him away, but it would have been more convenient if they had let him stay because we would have known where to find him. The most we can hope for now is that he leaves the city, or preferably, the country.”

“Tristan does not want Isolde to know what happened,” he said, “She’s been through enough. Let her mind be at ease, he said, and I agree. First Rainer and now this, maybe life has been too peaceful. We thought we had solved the problem of Rainer, we never dreamed a husband would show up. He can’t have her declared dead for another two years, maybe there’s another woman in the picture now and he wants to marry her.”

“But Isolde doesn’t even know what happened to her. Now that he thinks he knows where she is will he try kill her?”

They looked at me and I know we have the same thing on our minds. “Mark King” has no idea what would happen to him if he harmed so much as one hair on Isolde’s head. Tristan would kill him and then hide the body so carefully that no one would find it. He’s taught me that clever vampires never leave a trace of their kill.

I slept poorly, and woke when the first light of dawn shone through cracks in the curtain. I took a shower but the hot water beating on my muscles failed to help me wake up. I went downstairs as if in a dream to make a pot of coffee.

When it finished, I poured a huge mug and added a little cognac as Tristan often did. Only then did I grab a notebook from the huge roll-top desk in Tristan’s den and sat down to try to make sense of things.

How ironic that Tristan had named her Isolde! I’d read Tristan and Isolde my first year of college, but could recall little of it. Tristan had been Irish and had fallen in love with Isolde, or Iseult, but she was fated to marry King Mark. I remembered snatches of it, mostly the story of how they were being bled, and flour had been sprinkled between the two beds that held them. Tristan could not contain himself and leapt across the gap so that he could join Iseult in her bed. How absurd it seemed.

I wondered if Tristan was his real name, or one he had adopted. It was natural, when he found her, that he named her Isolde. “Tristan and Iseult” were a tragic couple as was much of Mallory’s Arthurian legend, surely he did not intend that kind of fate for her.

“King Mark.” “Mark King.” The irony of it was not lost on me. The man had had a hard, mean look on his face, it did not surprise me that he could beat a woman almost to death. Was he hoping that he had succeeded? If so, Isolde’s life was in danger if she recovered her memory. After all, it could happen, sometimes amnesia was permanent, but often the victim’s memory did return. If that happened, what would Isolde think?

“What is this?” I heard a voice behind me and turned to see Fabi take the notebook out of my hands. “Tristan and Iseult”, he said, “I remember this, vaguely, but I am more familiar with Roman myths. Tristan may have read it.” He handed the notebook back to me, “What are you hoping to find out with your scribbles?

I threw the book down on the couch. “Nothing, I can’t see anything but coincidences that mean exactly nothing. I think, no, I know, that Isolde may be in danger.”

“Et moi aussi,” he replied in French, “A part of me wishes that Tristan would let us take care of this, but she’s his lover. It will be good to have them home again.” He patted me on the shoulder, “I wish your transition could have been less eventful, but it cannot be helped. I am looking forward to their return, then I will worry less for you.”

He disappeared into the kitchen, and soon I could hear him talking in French on his phone. Like a good soldier, little Roman had a way of dealing with things that I lacked. He never panicked, even now he was probably plotting out a strategy. It was the unforeseen that was our enemy now, and we knew the unexpected could pop up its ugly head at any moment.

The next day we received a phone call from Tristan. Could Fabi pick him up in an hour or so? They had caught an earlier flight, and Isolde was anxious to get home.

Fabi’s cell was on speaker and I could hear Tristan’s voice. “It should not take long for us to get through customs. I’d like to avoid traffic.” Fabi smiled, and agreed, then hung up.

“I’ll go get them, you two stay here in case we have our visitor.” Our visitor had shown up the previous night, his Camaro parked beneath a tree while he stood on the sidewalk and stared at the house. Someone must have told him Isolde lived here, but did not know that she and Tristan were gone.

Just as Claude was about to go outside and deal with him, the stranger had gotten into his car and driven off. “Keep driving and don’t come back,” growled Claude, his patience lost, not willing to let this unwanted intruder disturb our peace.

It seemed like forever, but at last, we heard the Jag pull into the garage and familiar footsteps coming up the stairs. They were home and soon Isolde was holding me, her Chanel #5 filling my nostrils. I forgot about Rainer, I forgot about Mark King or even the strange vampires who’d kidnapped me. Tristan and Isolde were home at last and now my world, though threatened, felt right.

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