Chapter 25: Denouement
Cassidy started listening to the messages on her cellphone after she merged onto the I-95. She deemed only one of them to be of enough importance to make a return call. After listening to all the messages, she dialed out to her parent’s home. The call picked up after three rings.
“Hi, Mom,” Cassidy began. “I’m going to be late getting home today. Can you or Jared go get John and Cynthia?”
Cassidy listened to her mother’s reply and began responding to it a few seconds later.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, but I’m going to be really late. But I’ll be there.”
Cassidy listened for a short time more and then responded again.
“Okay, thanks, Mom, and tell Dad I’m sorry for being late.”
The two of them said their goodbyes after this, and then Cassidy put her cellphone down and concentrated on her driving. It was her father’s birthday. She, her brothers and their families were scheduled to be there for dinner. She suspected Jared was there or on his way. His shift with the NYPD would not start until 11:15 at night.
Cassidy had given no thought to her father’s birthday for most of that day. Her life or death fears had marginalized all her personal commitments with exception for her children. The events of this day had her worried for them far more so than usual. The thought of dying made her ponder who would care for them, and how well they would do the job. She feared that James was ill equipped to be a good father, and the advancing age of her parents made them an unlikely alternate. The thought of one of her brothers stepping in for the job was an even less likely scenario in her thinking. This worry repeatedly entered her thoughts over the course of the day, but it was not the only fear concerning her children that she entertained that day. She also worried what their lives would be like if the city, and possibly the world, became infested with vampires. It was this concern that gave her the strength to confront the vampires alone.
Cassidy was not sure that she had brokered a successful agreement with the vampires. She knew that the possibility of them increasing in number was more possible now that she knew of their existence and their identities. She feared that an expansion of their numbers might be a reflex response to the threat that she represented to them. This fear notwithstanding, she knew this was the only course that had a chance of preventing their growth in numbers. She had no doubt that Razvan and Dumitra were going to develop their own clique of vampires in secret and expand the weight of their influence within the world of humans. And she feared that exposing the existence of the vampires to the world would incite all of them to barter their capacity for turning mortal humans into immortal vampires in exchange for shelter and security.
The fact that the vampires allowed her to drive away with this knowledge about them did give Cassidy hope. She took this as evidence that they trusted her to keep her word. But this did not convince her that they would not change their mind later. She also feared that Razvan was not bluffing. If he did arrange for his dossier to go public after his and Dumitra’s demise, then the other vampires would have no reason to be preferential to her and every reason to despise her.
Cassidy wrestled with these fears and thoughts all the way back to Staten Island. The rush hour traffic made the drive twice as long as it would have taken an hour earlier. She first went to her home to shower and change her clothing. The exertions of the day made her feel poorly cleansed for a social engagement. She raced through this preparation as quickly as she could. A half an hour later, she hurried out of her house, got into her car and drove off without an instant of hesitation between each act.
It took Cassidy just under ten minutes to make her way to the block where her parent’s house was. The traffic made this slightly longer than normal, as well. A couple of seconds after turning onto the block she watched the car behind her do the same. She had been aware of this vehicle for the past several minutes, but she thought nothing of its presence. The drive was short and the car simply looked to be traveling the same route as she for a portion of her journey. It was only during the last minute that the car became interesting enough for her to give it special notice. It had moved up in the traffic to be separated from her by one car, and it followed her into the right lane. She could not see who was in the car, but she could tell that there was more than one person inside.
Despite the identical lane change, Cassidy was not convinced that there was a need to go on the defensive. She chided herself that it was just a coincidence and made her right turn onto the narrow residential street where her parents lived. When the car followed her onto this residential side street her concern rose substantially. When she saw who was inside, her concern elevated to alarm. Her fear caused her to consider driving past her parents’ house and leading them away. She quickly decided that this would be a wasted effort. This decision came about because of the belief that the occupants of the car following her either had the address of her parents, or had the means of acquiring it now that they knew what block to examine. She also suspected that they followed her from her home and that confronting them was the best way to protect her kids.
After parking her car in the space nearest to her parents’ house, Cassidy unbuttoned her dress coat and took her handgun out of its holster. She checked her weapon to make sure that a round was in the chamber and then she put it back. The holster was affixed to her belt just above her right hip. Her dress coat concealed it from view. As she did this, she watched the vehicle following her pass by and begin to back park in an open space three car lengths ahead. Cassidy quickly stuffed her father’s birthday present in her left overcoat pocket. She then hurried out onto the sidewalk and took a stance facing the car with her coat unbuttoned. She fixed her stare on the vehicle so that the occupants would have no doubt that she knew they were there. The front doors of the car began to open a second after the engine shut down.
Nadja stepped out from the front passenger side doorway. A second behind, Petru did the same from the front driver’s side. It was late in the afternoon. The sun was halfway below the horizon. The entire block was bathed beneath the shadows of the row of buildings on the west side of the street. Despite this sun block, Petru and Nadja wore sunglasses. Petru closed his door, moved around to the passenger side and settled into a lean against the back half of the car. While he was doing this, Nadja closed her door and started moving toward Cassidy.
“What do you want?” Cassidy called out when Nadja came to within five yards of her.
Nadja came to an abrupt stop when she saw Cassidy thrust her hand beneath her overcoat and onto the grip of her gun.
“Hey! Don’t shoot,” Nadja exclaimed as she brought her hands up—chest high. “I come in peace.”
Cassidy showed no sign that she was either convinced or amused. She kept her hand on her gun and asked her question again—from behind a cold stare.
Nadja’s first response to the question was to glance to her left and then to her right in a way that suggested she was uncomfortable with shouting her answer.
“Permission to approach?” Nadja queried without the effort of projecting her voice.
Nadja lowered her hands after saying this and waited on a reply. Cassidy was hesitant to answer one way or the other. Nadja noticed this and began to speak again.
“If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t do on a city street in the daylight,” Nadja expressed as though she was speaking what was obvious.
Cassidy considered the remark for a moment and then took her hand off her gun grip and dropped it to her side. Nadja smiled pleasantly at the sight of this and then walked calmly forward. She stopped a foot away from Cassidy.
“Thank you for saving my brother,” Nadja spoke at near to a whisper.
Cassidy consider the gratitude for a moment and then spoke to it in a bland voice.
“I didn’t do it for him.”
This answer provoked a wide smile from Nadja that was barely holding back a grin.
“What are you grinning at?” Cassidy questioned with an intonation of annoyance.
This question reinforced Nadja’s mirth. She took a moment to let it subside a bit and then she responded to the question.
“Oh, it’s just that I now know four women that my brother has been willing to give his life for, me, my mother, Constantia and now you. I find that very amusing.”
Cassidy was slightly flustered by this answer. She had no glib or dispassionate response for this remark. The idea that Cristiãn was willing to die for her melted her façade of indifference. Nadja took a moment to notice, and then she began to speak on a new subject.
“Lucian is very excited about this deal you made with us.”
“Deal?” Cassidy returned with a look of confusion.
“Yes,” Nadja returned with a smile. “He’s looking forward to working with you.”
Cassidy looked to be more confused behind this reply and reflected this in her retort.
“Working with me?”
“Yes,” Nadja responded with a hint of excitement in her voice. “Some of us were really worried that all hell was going to break loose. But now that we have you to keep the unrulily members of our alliance on the reservation, we’re breathing a little easier.”
“And what is that supposed to make me, your vampire agent?” Cassidy questioned in a challenging tone.
“If you like,” Nadja answered with a mixture of mirth and indifference in her manner.
“I don’t like,” Cassidy nearly growled back.
“Well, like it or not, I think you’re stuck with it,” Nadja returned with a slight shake of her head. “Razvan and Dumitra would never have done what they did if this agreement with you had been in place. They broke the rule because we were no longer a threat to them. But you—Detective Tremaine—are a threat that none of us will dare challenge. Lucian is quite pleased with that.”
Cassidy had no reply to this. She understood what Nadja was saying, but it was not a situation that she wanted to be in. And it was not a situation that she could just casually dismiss. She took several seconds to ponder what she may have gotten herself into. In the middle of this contemplation, Angela Holtz hurried up and stopped alongside and between the two of them.
“Cassidy!” Angela greeted with an abundance of excitement. “It’s been so long. How are you doing?”
Angela Holtz was an acquaintance that grew up in this neighborhood with Cassidy. Their association as children was limited due to a two-year age difference, but they were aware of each other and had many childhood friends in common.
“Hi Angela,” Cassidy greeted with a meek smile and a nod.
“I heard your name spoken on the news a few days-ago. I turned to a friend and said I know you,” Angela continued to gush with enthusiasm. “It’s so good to see you again. I heard that you were a police officer like Aaron and your little brother, but I didn’t know you were a detective.”
“Yes, almost two years now,” Cassidy returned with a marked absence of enthusiasm.
Cassidy maintained her close face to face stance with Nadja as she responded to Angela with turns of her head to her right. This fixed posture between them soon caused Angela feel out of place. She glanced at Nadja several times as she spoke and smiled profusely. After this last low energy remark from Cassidy, Angela looked toward Nadja with a broad smile. Nadja returned the look while briefly tipping her sunglasses down to display how annoyed she was with her. Angela quickly noted her displeasure and reacted.
“Well, it was great to see you again,” Angela spoke nervously. “Bye.”
“Goodbye,” Cassidy returned with a look toward Angela as she began to walk away.
Cassidy turned her eyes back toward Nadja immediately after saying her farewell to Angela. They looked at each other for several seconds without saying anything. Cassidy was waiting to hear everything that Nadja had to say, and she wanted to see her drive away. When a slight smile curled up on Nadja’s face, Cassidy tired of the wait and spoke.
“Is there anything else?”
The question incited Nadja to smile even more. It was Cassidy’s defensiveness that was causing her to be much amused. She took a moment to contain her glee before speaking.
“You know, Detective, you’ve made some friends, and I am not the least of them.”
“I have enough friends,” Cassidy countered in an angry tone.
Nadja reacted to this remark with a wisp of a grin, and then she responded to it verbally.
“None the less, you’ve made some new ones. And if this gamble works out, I wouldn’t be surprised if the alliance agreed to turn you into an immortal.”
“No thanks,” Cassidy returned sharply.
“Are you sure about that?” Nadja countered with a smile. “I’m believe I can convince my brother to do the honors.”
Cassidy hesitated to respond to this. She had no desire to become a vampire, but her affection for Cristiãn stopped her from saying no decidedly. This conflict had her befuddled. After a moment of thought she began her response.
“I have a family. I have children,” Cassidy blurted out with intonation of insistence. “That’s too much for me to give up.”
Nadja reacted to this reply with a pleasant smile. She held it for several seconds as she examined Cassidy with a look of approval. At the end of this examination, she began to speak in a pleasant tone of voice.
“Elisabeta was fifty-seven years old when she was turned into a vampire. Lucian was seventy-two. They were married mortals for thirty-two years before they were turned. A vampire turned Lucian, and he turned Elisabeta. Before our incident with the cave, they had been mated immortals for more than four centuries. They are the oldest of us. The change gave them back their youth and their vigor. It sustains us at the peak of our vitality. Vampirism is a cure for most things that would kill a human. That includes decrepitude.”
Nadja paused to give weight to this last statement, and then she continued to speak as before.
“Trust me, Detective Tremaine, there will come a day when you will have nothing to lose. And if I’m around when that day comes, I may ask you this question again.”
Nadja paused to give weight to her last statement and to give Cassidy a knowing look.
“Between now and then I suggest you think about your answer,” Nadja finished with a smirk.
Cassidy did not know what to say in return. She looked on at Nadja with a bewildered expression. Nadja held her smirk and gaze on Cassidy for several seconds. At the end of this time, she turned and walked away. Cassidy watched as Nadja and Petru got back into their car and drove away. When they were gone from sight, Cassidy pondered all that she heard for several seconds, and then she turned about and went into her parents’ house. Inside, she found her children, siblings, sister in-law, niece, nephews and parent’s eating at the dining room table.
“Happy birthday, Daddy,” Cassidy greeted a few seconds before hugging her father and kissing him on the cheek.
As Cassidy was sitting down at her parent’s table to celebrate her father’s birthday, an event related to her was occurring in another location. Inside a large freezer chest in an illegal drug lab setup in the basement of a small apartment building that was situated next to a two-door auto repair garage, Tony McGuire was waking up.
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