Cristiãn

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Chapter 16: Cristiãn

“Welcome back,” David’s escort greeted Cassidy from her seat in the chair by the door.

Cassidy was startled by the welcome coming from behind. Her mind was in the middle of restoring clarity to her thoughts. She spun around to see the woman that David had escorted into the main room of the club seated on a sofa next to a door. She instantly took note that the room around her had changed. But she was still standing as she had been before the change. A second later she became aware that she was in David’s office.

“How did I get here?” Cassidy demanded from behind a startled expression.

“You walked,” the woman answered as though she was stating the obvious.

Cassidy took a moment to think about that answer, and then she made a move towards the door.

“Don’t,” the woman instructed sharply and with a raise of her hand.

Cassidy came to a stop after the first step. The sharp command from the woman and the raising of her hand startled her. She froze and then the woman continued to speak.

“I am much stronger than you,” the woman advised pleasantly. “You can’t overpower me.”

Cassidy took a moment to consider all the possibilities of what she might mean by this, but her mind could think of only one. Thinking this frightened her more. She tried to shake it off as nonsense, but she could think of nothing to replace her conclusion. Shortly into this internal debate she decided to question the woman on it.

“What are you?”

“I am what you would call a vampire,” the woman answered calmly and without hesitation.

Cassidy caught her breath and took a step back. The woman reacted to this with a smile and then continued to speak.

“Personally, I dislike that name or any name that refers to us as some kind of creature. I prefer to be called an immortal. I think it humanizes us while being technically accurate.”

“You came out of that cave in Romania?” Cassidy questioned with a look of shock.

“Yes,” the woman responded with a word.

“And you killed those men?” Cassidy questioned from behind a look of terror.

“We couldn’t stop ourselves,” she explained with an air of indifference.

“What the hell does that mean?”

Cassidy hollered out this question with a mixture of fear and amazement on her face. David’s escort was completely unfazed by the outburst or the expression. She took a moment so that Cassidy could take a couple of breaths while waiting on her reply.

“Imagine being thirsty, so thirsty that you could drink water from a muddy puddle,” the woman explained in casual speech. “And then multiply that by a thousand.”

To give weight to her words the woman took a long pause, and then she began to speak again.

“Our bodies do not die easily. We were trapped in that cave for twelve-hundred years. To say we were thirsty is an extreme understatement.”

Cassidy pondered this explanation from behind a look of incredulity. Despite all the evidence, and this confession, she was still having trouble believing that this woman in front of her was a vampire. She did not look the way she thought a vampire should look. In every way, she looked no different than anyone else. Her complexion even held a tan. At this moment, her greatest fear was that she was being played for a fool.

“How can you be a vampire?” Cassidy challenged. “Sunlight is supposed to kill vampires.”

The woman took a moment to suppress a laugh just before her reply.

“You know your vampire movies,” the woman spoke with a large smile. “But you shouldn’t believe everything you see on television.”

“Up until now I didn’t believe in vampires,” Cassidy argued back. “I’m still not sure of that. But you’re telling me that’s what you are. Which is it?”

“Your books and movies have a distorted image of us,” the woman began from behind a pleasant demeanor. “Sunlight is bad for us, that’s true. And given enough time it can kill us, but we don’t burst into flames like they do in the movies.”

Cassidy could do nothing but watch this woman with a look of astonishment as she continued to explain with an almost cheerful expression.

“It’s more of a gradual deterioration,” she continued as pleasantly as if she was relating a humorous story. “On a hot sunny day, we could survive in the sun for three, maybe four, hours. The length of time is dependent upon the temperature—and on how satiated we are at the start.”

She paused after speaking this and displayed a shrug and a smile. A moment later she continued to speak.

“It’s a terrible way to die. I think I would prefer to burn up quickly. I once saw an immortal that came close to dying that way. He looked nothing like himself when he came out of the sun. They say it starts with a sudden appearance of age marks and discoloration. The skin dries up and begins to wrinkle. I’m told this can start to become visible after ten or fifteen minutes in direct sunlight. And then after that the blotching starts. The blistering begins about an hour and a half in. That continues for about another thirty-minutes and then the atrophy starts. At that point we’re all but sapped of strength. Moving just hastens our demise. If there is no shelter or sustenance nearby we just lay there and rot to death. It’s an ugly way to go, don’t you think?”

This cheerfully told story about dying from direct sunlight had Cassidy disbelieving again. It all sounded too incredible to be true. By the end of this narration Cassidy was convinced that she was being deceived.

“This is all just some elaborate hoax,” Cassidy disputed with a shake of her head. “I don’t know who you are, but you’re no vampire.”

“Nadja,” the woman spoke with a nod and a smile. “And I am a vampire, Detective Tremaine.”

Cassidy continued to show a face of disbelief as she shook her head for a couple of seconds before speaking.

“So, you’re trying to tell me that you drink human blood?” Cassidy questioned with an I don’t believe you look.

“Blood is blood,” Nadja replied with a shrug. “We’ll drink the blood of most mammals and eat the flesh as well if the blood doesn’t quench our appetite.”

“Then why eat humans?” Cassidy challenged with a stunned look.

Nadja took a moment to note Cassidy’s expression with a hint of a smile. At the end of this she responded to her inquiry as though she was speaking the obvious.

“Because you smell like food.”

“This is ridiculous,” Cassidy argued with herself. “Why eat a human when you can eat a cow or pig or anything else?”

“Because they’re dirty,” Nadja explained as though she were speaking the obvious. “They’re covered with fur and fleas and mud. Why would I want to bite into something like that? Mortals are packaged meat. You smell good. You taste good, and you look good. For immortals, humans are a delicacy.”

“Is that what the nine bodies in the Greenbelt were, a delicacy?” Cassidy questioned with a scowl.

“Absolutely,” Nadja answered with a word.

The more Cassidy heard the more she found it too incredible to believe. She took a step back, turned her eyes to the floor and shook her head in disbelief. As she did this a thought to escape came to her mind. An instant later she raced for the door. Nadja rose to stop her. In that instant Cassidy turned her attention to her. She reached out and tried to stiff arm her off balance. In that same instant Nadja brushed her arm aside, grabbed her by the neck and arm, lifted her off the floor and laid her back across the top of David’s desk. After a few seconds of struggle, Cassidy conceded that Nadja was far too strong and went limp. She looked at Nadja with an expression of surprise and fear on her face. Shortly after this Nadja released her and returned to her seat on the sofa. Cassidy got back up onto her feet after this. Instinctively she brought a hand up to her neck as though she was checking for damage. But she felt only slightly worse for wear because of the manhandling.

“I told you,” Nadja commenced to explain. “We are very strong. Far more so than you mortals. Your strength is limited to your muscle density. Our strength is based on muscle density and blood. We’re like rocket ships. The more blood we burn at any given moment the more powerful we are. The only drawback is that we have a limited supply of blood. When we exhaust our supply, we are as helpless as a baby.”

Cassidy’s effort to disbelieve this claim that they were vampires took a serious hit when Nadja picked her up with one arm. She had no explanation for how this woman overpowered her so easily. She could not help but release her fear of being played for a fool, and then she asked the question that she dared not ask before.

“How are you possible?” Cassidy questioned as she maneuvered to sit on the side of the desk.

“Your knowledge of immortals are perversions of lessons that vampire hunters taught to their apprentices and to villagers. Over the centuries mortals have demonized us. You have labeled us as servants of the devil. But these claims are not true. We are much like you.”

“What perversions?” Cassidy questioned with an intonation of awe.

Nadja took a moment to chuckle at the question. At the end of this she responded to the question.

“Perversions like, our image can’t be seen in a mirror,” Nadja reported while restraining a laugh.

“So, you can be seen in a mirror?” Cassidy questioned with an expression of hopeful anticipation.

“Of course, we can,” Nadja answered with a look of incredulity. “We just don’t like mirrors or anything that reflects light. Vampire hunters taught their apprentices to take notice of anyone that avoided things that reflected light.”

“How about wooden stakes?” Cassidy questioned with a look of dismay.

“Twelve-hundred years ago, metal utensils were very expensive,” Nadja explained with a toss of her hand. “Vampire hunters used wooden stakes as an augment to the weaponry they used to kill us.”

“I don’t understand,” Cassidy contested with a slight shake of her head.

Nadja displayed no reluctance in clarifying further and commenced to do so almost at once.

“When we’re impaled through the heart while asleep we cannot wake up. The vampire hunters knew this. When they came across a location where several vampires were known to take their rest, it was common for the hunters to drive wooden stakes through our hearts while we slept. This way they could keep their knives and swords with them while they searched for more of us. This was the quickest and quietest way of incapacitating us.”

Again, Cassidy shook her head as she verbalized her confusion.

“I would think pounding a stake through someone’s heart would make enough noise to wake someone up.”

“To say that we sleep like the dead is an overstatement, but not by much.” Nadja explained with a look of indifference. “When sleeping, our senses are almost disconnected. We are very vulnerable when we’re asleep. Even when we do hear something it takes us several minutes to rouse to it.”

Cassidy took on a confused look after hearing this answer. Her first thought was why did they not die when something was driven through their hearts. A second later she remembered that a vampire’s heart did not beat. This memory confused her more.

“But what is a stake through the heart doing, if it’s not killing you?” Cassidy questioned with a ruffled brow.

Nadja took a moment to smile at Cassidy’s confused expression, and then she responded.

“Contrary to your vampire movies, our hearts do beat. Blood does flow through our veins. But the pace of our heart beat is dictated by how active we are at any given moment. When we are asleep our hearts beat about once every twenty minutes, and we do not breathe at all. Therefore, humans began to think of us as being dead, because we sleep like the dead. When a stake or any object is impaled through a vampire’s heart it loses the ability to pump blood. When we’re awake, we simply take the stake out and our body immediately begins to heal the wound. But when we’re asleep we can’t take it out and the absence of blood flow prevents us from waking up.”

This explanation astonished Cassidy. Once again, her mind struggled with the implausibility of what she was hearing, but her thinking continued to fall short of a reasonable alternative. She took several seconds to assimilate all that she had just heard, and then she spoke again.

“And the rule about vampires not being able to enter a house if they’re not invited?” Cassidy spoke with an eagerness to hear the answer.

“Just another stupid mortal myth,” Nadja answered with a smile and a shake of her head.

“So, you can enter a house without an invite?” Cassidy spoke with a questioning inflection

“Of course, we can,” Nadja returned with a look that said she thought the query was absurd.

“Then why did they say that?” Cassidy questioned with a hunger for the answer in her voice.

“The rule is, never invite a vampire into your house,” Nadja answered with a dismissive wave of her hand.

Cassidy interpreted the wave off as an indicator that there was more to this answer. She promptly addressed this suspicion with another question.

“Why?”

“Our ability to mentally control mortal’s is at its greatest in enclosed spaces,” Nadja explained with a slight show of reluctance.

“Why is that?” Cassidy asked from behind a look of curiosity. “What makes you so powerful in enclosed spaces?”

“Pheromones,” Nadja answered in a word. “We didn’t know this in the ninth century, but now we do. Our pheromones are intoxicating to mortals. They enable us to turn humans into puppets. With a thought, we can characterize the effect we want them to have and radiate them out profusely.”

A thought germinated in Cassidy’s mind and grew bigger and stronger the longer she thought about it. She took her time thinking this over. The longer she thought about it the more incensed she became with the idea. Finally, her infuriation found a voice.

“Is that what he did to me, David or Christian, or whatever the hell his name is?”

“Cristiãn,” Nadja corrected.

“I don’t care,” Cassidy railed back at her. “Did he use these pheromones to seduce me?”

“I don’t know,” Nadja responded coolly. “Would he need to?”

Cassidy interpreted this answer as yes, and her rage doubled with the thinking. The tenor of her next remark reflected this feeling.

“So, is this just kicks for the two of you? This is how you and your boyfriend have a good time?”

“Me and my mate enjoy classical, rock and country music, movies of all types and soccer,” Nadja countered with an edge in her tone.

“Your mate?” Cassidy questioned from behind an expression of fury.

Nadja made no reply. She returned Cassidy’s gaze with a scowl on her face. This went on for a few seconds, and then Cassidy broke the silence between them.

“So, is murdering people just an instinctive act? No thought, no emotion, we’re just food to be consumed,” Cassidy spat out from behind a look of disgust.

“When I kill, emotion is always involved,” Nadja defended with a flare of anger.

In the face of this reaction Cassidy took a moment to back away from this exchange. At the end of this she spoke with less venom in her tone.

“And what about your mate, when Cristiãn kills, is there anger involved, or is it just sport for him?”

“We are no different than you,” Nadja countered defensively.

“You’re nothing like us,” Cassidy seethed out. “You manipulate us without any regard for the life that you’re destroying. And that bastard, Cristiãn, is the worst of all of you. He likes to play with people’s lives before he kills them. As far as I’m concern you’re all murdering psychopaths.”

“You don’t know anything about us, Detective Tremaine,” Nadja countered with a hint of ferocity. “You don’t know what we’re about. You don’t even know why you’re still breathing.”

Nadja took a deep breath to give time for her words to have weight, and then she spoke again with more than a little rancor in her voice.

“And you should speak better of my brother when you talk to me.”

Cassidy was taken aback by the revelation that David was her brother. She took a long pause, with a startled expression, to consider this. At the end of this she spoke with less anger in her voice.

“Your brother?”

“Yes, my brother—Cristiãn is not my mate, and you should know that he’s the only friend you’ve got in here.”

“Friend,” Cassidy challenged with an intonation of shock. “He—he brainwashed me with those pheromones.”

“He kept you near him to keep you alive,” Nadja disputed loudly.

“How was attacking me inside the warehouse keeping me alive?” Cassidy retorted with fury.

“My brother didn’t attack you,” Nadja countered with a flash of temper.

“I was there,” Cassidy disputed with anger in her voice. “I heard someone call to him by name.”

“You-stupid-mortal, what you heard was a warning call that my brother was coming,” Nadja explained with a heavy inflection of irritation in her tone. “He saved your life. And that wasn’t the first time.”

Cassidy could not deny the possibility of the scenario that Nadja just suggested. She took a long moment to replay the events that transpired in the warehouse. As she did this Nadja took notice of her demeanor changing to reflect the possibility that this alternate interpretation was true.

“What are you doing here?” Cassidy questioned after a long moment of thought and with a stunned expression. “Why did you all come to The Cavern today?”

“We’re having an—inquisition,” Nadja pondered out.

“An inquisition,” Cassidy repeated with a questioning inflection.

“Yes, a vampire inquisition,” Nadja returned with confidence this time. “We’re looking for a killer.”

“The Greenbelt Nine,” Cassidy blurted out with a sudden awareness.

“Precisely,” Nadja confirmed with a nod.

“You don’t know who killed those people?” Cassidy stated with a mixture of query and surprise in her voice.

Nadja took a moment to note that Cassidy was starting to grasp the situation before responding.

“We want to know the answer to that question just as much as you do.”

“I don’t understand,” Cassidy reported with a puzzled expression. “Why wouldn’t these—local vampires just tell you that they’re slaughtering people?”

“If vampires are doing these killings, it’s probably not all of them,” Nadja explained with hand gestures and a slight shake of her head.

“I saw them,” Cassidy roared back with a look of astonishment. “This nightclub is just a vampire version of a flytrap. They wine and dine humans, get them to relax and when they get them alone—they’re—they’re using these—pheromones to drug them into submission.”

Nadja briefly displayed a mild expression of amusement in response to Cassidy’s outburst.

“Yeah, but they’re not killing them,” Nadja countered with a smile.

“Then what are they doing?” Cassidy questioned with an inflection of amazement.

“They’re just having a little fun.”

Cassidy took on a look of incredulity in response to this answer.

“Fun!” Cassidy nearly shouted back. “They’re paying hundreds of dollars weekly just to chit chat with the locals?”

Nadja’s amusement with Cassidy returned. She took a moment so that her urge to grin could ware off and then she began her response with a smile.

“Well, I’m sure that they’re siphoning off an ounce or two of blood here and there, but they’re not killing anyone.”

Cassidy was perplexed by this answer. The explanation jibed with her understanding that the people the booth 3 vampires associated with were frequent visitors.

“But why would they let them do this?” Cassidy questioned after a moment of pondering.

“We can be an addiction,” Nadja answered at a level just above a whisper. “When it comes to dispensing pleasure, there’s no drug in existence that’s a match for us. We can excite your passion to a whole new height of arousal.”

Nadja paused so that Cassidy could assimilate what she just said, and then she began to speak again.

“Inducing pain and pleasure is something we do with equal facility. But when mortals are in the afterglow of euphoria, it’s easy to convince them to forget the parts that we don’t want them to remember—you’re puppets to us.”

Cassidy took a moment to consider this answer before speaking again.

“But if you can do all of this, then what’s stopping you, or any one of you, from killing whoever you want?”

“Because it’s against the rules,” Nadja explained in a stern voice.

“You have rules against killing?” Cassidy questioned an instant behind her.

Nadja took a moment to restrain herself from laughing at Cassidy’s surprised expression. After this she responded as though she was speaking the obvious.

“Mortals—yes,”

“Why would…,” Cassidy started to question the reason for this rule and then stopped herself. “I don’t understand this. I don’t understand any of it.”

“No, you wouldn’t, would you?” Nadja spoke as she shook her head in dismay. “This doesn’t fit inside your comic book version of vampires.”

Cassidy was more than a little vexed by this response and intoned as much in her reply.

“Explain it to me.”

Nadja paused for a moment to consider the request, and then she commenced to explain.

“By the year eight-hundred and seventeen the vampire hunters had hounded us to near extinction. As far as I knew at that time there were only twenty-seven of us left. We lived in a town near the Carpathian Mountains. The mortals there gave us safe-haven provided we did not kill anyone they knew and for the occasional odd jobs that only we could do.”

“They knew what you were, and they let you live among them?”

“This was not an uncommon arrangement back then. Within a region of Dacia vampires were known denizens of the area. Going back nearly a thousand years there had to have been two, maybe three hundred vampires that existed there at one time or another. We all started out as someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, friend, neighbor. Life was very different then. There was no anonymity. Once you were turned it became common knowledge to everyone who knew you. And on top of that we were handy to have around. Nearby warlords were reluctant to expand into the area for fear of evoking the wrath of the Strigoi.”

“So, you killed, you just didn’t kill your neighbors?”

“Uh—not for the most part. Why would we. Like I said, they were family and friends, at least in the beginning. We could eat meat, but we preferred blood—straight from the vein of a living mammal. Farm animals were sufficient, but we didn’t care for biting into them—disgusting. Besides, we prefer blood. We would just bleed them a little bit and drink it from a cup. And we weren’t above siphoning a little blood from a human on rare occasions.”

“Rare occasions…?” Cassidy questioned with a suspicious look.

“Every once in a great while one of us would siphon a little too much blood from someone,” Nadja explained with a toss of her hands. “Needless to say, that did not go over well in the community. And then there was the occasional rogue vampire who found it difficult to live within the rules. I suspect killing humans gave them some kind of thrill.”

“So, when the humans decided they had enough they started killing you,” Cassidy concluded out loud.

“Oh, the mortals were killing us from the beginning,” Nadja corrected. “Hate or jealousy was the usual motive, but it was fear of us that turned it into a widespread practice. By the ninth century killing vampires was a skill honed by hundreds of years of practice. Back then it was a well-known fact that it was best to kill a vampire while we slept. So, we feared to go to sleep.”

Nadja added that last part with a hint of anger in her voice.

“Eventually all vampires over stayed their welcome,” she continued a moment later. “Family and friends died. The number of accidental and deliberate killings kept climbing. And generally, the community didn’t care for it when we turned a favorite son or daughter into one of us. And there were the many—many failed attempts to turn humans into vampires. When I say failed, I mean the human died.”

“Why did they die?” Cassidy queried with a frown of confusion.

“Much of what we did back then was trial and error,” Nadja explained with a flare of indifference.

Cassidy was made more curious by this answer and promptly submitted a new question.

“Is it hard to turn a human into vampire?”

“No,” Nadja returned with a shrug. “We just didn’t know then what we know now. Back then this was all magic, a gift from the gods or a curse from demons. Back then we would fatally wound a mortal, feed them some of our blood and then recite incantations and prayers to different deities as we watched them die. If they revived within four to five hours, it worked. Now we know that it’s important to introduce our blood into the body very shortly before or very shortly after the moment of their deaths.”

“Death—you have to kill a human to turn one into what you are?” Cassidy asked with a stunned inflection.

“Oh yes, dying is part of the process,” Nadja replied quickly.

Once again Cassidy was not sufficed by the answer and submitted a second question on the subject.

“Why is that?”

Nadja took note of Cassidy’s need for a precise explanation and set herself to the task of giving her one.

“Vampirism is a virus, but it’s a very weak virus. The human immune systems can fight it off with ease. But when the body dies, the immune system shuts down. The vampire virus has free reign after that. When that happens, the human body comes under new management. The critical part in the turn is in the moment of the introduction of the virus. If you introduce the virus too soon the immune system kills it. If you introduce it too late the degradation to the brain and nervous system progresses too far for the virus to reactivate them.”

Nadja paused to allow that explanation to sink in. After this she added a remark from behind a contained grin.

“If we only knew then what we know now.”

“What would have been different?” Cassidy questioned with a look of curiosity.

“There would have been thousands of us. Maybe even tens of thousands. We would have taken over. It’s not like we can have children.

“And why can’t you have children?” Cassidy quickly asked.

Once again Nadja noted Cassidy’s elevated interest and coolly set off to suffice it.

“Our vampire bodies treat any alterations to our physiology as something to be corrected—no pregnancies. Because of this limitation our numbers are determined by how many mortals we turn into vampires and by how many of us are killed by mortals. Over the one-hundred years prior to our mishap with the cave, the killing of vampires became a widely-accepted practice. What made it even worst was that it was a practice that was being fomented by religious leaders. We were demonized, and characterized as sub-human monsters. They killed us on sight. They needed no more justification than the fact that we were vampires—criminal offenses were optional.”

Cassidy stared into the space between her and floor as she pondered all that she heard. Several seconds into this she looked up and asked another question.

“How did you end up in that cave?”

“Vampire hunters,” Nadja spoke up quickly. “A hundred or more, raided the farming town where we were living—hiding. Nineteen of us made it to the cave and hid beneath the shelter of its darkness. The hunters feared to follow us there, so they brought down the mountainside and buried us alive.”

Nadja paused to smile while she reminisced about something, and then she continued.

“A whole new world grew up around us while we slept in that hole in the ground. Imagine our delight when we learned that the humans of this time did not believe we ever existed. And it wasn’t just that. A thousand years ago, people were born into their station in life. You could never be any more than what fate decreed you to be. But in this time, you are who you become. It was like we were given a second chance. We no longer had to hide because everyone believed we were myths—works of fiction. We were free to live in a world where wealth and comfort was simply a matter of money, and we’re very good at making money. Why would we risk exposing ourselves? Why would we risk starting a new vampire purge?”

Nadja allowed her last two questions time to ruminate in Cassidy’s mind. After this she spoke with a definitive tone.

“We live by a strict set of rules. The survival of all of us depends upon everyone adhering to the rules. We have no prisons. We don’t issue fines or corporeal punishment. The penalty for breaking one of our rules is death. Whoever killed those humans is hiding from us every bit as much as he, she or they are hiding from you.”

Cassidy processed all that she had heard into a clear understanding of who these immortals were. For the first time since she began to consider that these individuals were vampires she was conflicted about what to do about them. They had suddenly become less monstrous. Within an instant her disgust for David faded away, and then she asked a new question.

“Who was Constance Ofella?”

Nadja displayed a brief look of surprise. This was not a name or a question she was expecting to hear coming from Cassidy. The surprise was short lived and Nadja commenced with the reply.

“Constantia Ofella is a girl from my childhood and from Cristiãn’s. She and Cristiãn became very attached, but we were young. They were young. Cristiãn grew to love her—very much—and she him, I believe. But we were poor farmers back then—tenants of a wealthy lord. The lord had a son, and he took a fancy to Ofella. By reputation the son was known to be an—unpleasant person. Despite this Ofella’s farther betrothed her to the son of the landlord, and she had no choice but to respect his wishes. Their marriage separated Cristiãn and Constantia from each other. Cristiãn was not even allowed to speak of her in affectionate terms or the feelings they once, and continued, to share. To do so could have cost him his life. She was Cristiãn’s one and only love.”

Cassidy noted that Nadja had brought the story to a close, but she was not satisfied by this end. She wanted to know more and pushed for it with her next question.

“What happened to her?”

Nadja hesitated to reply for several seconds, and then she did, somberly.

“Four years later Ofella took her life to escape her marriage.”

Cassidy took this reply with a look of dismay. She pondered over it for nearly a minute. Nadja looked on without speaking a word.

“When… how did he become a vampire,” Cassidy hesitantly questioned to break the silence.

Nadja gave the question little thought as she enlivened with anticipation of her response.

“About a year before Ofella’s death I fell in love with a vampire. It was deemed improper for a mortal and a vampire to wed. Mortals forbade it because such a union produced no children. Immortals frowned upon it because they were doomed to outlive such a mate. But Petru and I were very much in love, and as it tended to happen in these cases he turned me into a vampire. It took me many months of pleading to overcome his resistance. He feared he might kill me. But he knew I would die anyway if he did not try. I was by then in my twenty-seventh year of life. Back then that made me a spinster. This was six years past Ofella’s death. Cristiãn was a wreck by this time. His grief transformed him into a wine soaked beggar. He had nothing, no farm, no money, no future. But he was my brother, my twin, and I loved him then as I do now. So, to save him from himself I had Petru turn him into a vampire.”

“Why didn’t you do it?” Cassidy questioned with a confused expression.

“When a vampire turns a mortal, a bond is formed between them” Nadja commenced to explain with an earnest look. “Between two heterosexual members of the same sex this bond makes them siblings of a sort. In each other’s company, they have a kind of telepathic connection. We now know now that this is because they are receptive to each other’s pheromones. It enables vampires with this connection to communicate basic feelings and ideas. This is the only time a vampire is affected by the pheromones of another vampire. But this bond is even more pronounced when it is made between heterosexuals of the opposite sex. The two vampires become lovers.”

Nadja paused for a moment to allow that thought to sink in. She continued after this with a pronounced look of enthusiasm.

“Our pheromones act as an aphrodisiac that fuels the passion between us. We feed off each other’s arousal. It’s extremely—exhilarating. We never tire of each other’s affection. Quite to the contrary, we are addicted to it. Vampires mate for life, and we are careful to avoid making more than one mate. That usually leads to someone getting killed. So, you can see how inappropriate it would have been for me to turn my own brother.”

Cassidy immediately understood this and backed away from any further inquiry on the subject. Her thoughts turned to something that she remembered Nadja saying at near to the beginning of their conversation. The comment resonated in her thinking. There were other remarks that Nadja made that took precedence, but they had since been answered. Her next inquiry grew in importance because it was the only question she had at this moment.

“What did you mean when you said it wasn’t the first time that David—Cristiãn saved my life?”

“Last Thursday,” Nadja began as though she was trying to spur her memory, “when you left The Cavern and went to Radu and Dominique’s late night party.”

Cassidy was instantly confused by this. She had no memory of going to a party after leaving The Cavern that night. Her immediate thought was that Nadja was mistaken or misinformed. Her hesitation to respond was motivated by her reluctance to contradict her.

“You don’t remember this,” Nadja advised with a smile and a questioning inflection. “Your memories are incomplete, Detective Tremaine. Allow me to help you with that.”

Nadja went still in her seat as she held her stare at Cassidy and said nothing. Several seconds into this Cassidy became confused by this change in Nadja’s demeanor. Shortly after that her mind slipped off into a trance.

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