Winter's Nights: Eternity

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Night One

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Present Day

The sign above The Red Rock nightclub glowed brightly as Merry walked past the long line-up towards the door. She hadn’t aged a day, and even her hair was still the same red-brown it had always been. She was wearing clothes that she would never have dreamed of wearing when she was the age of the girls around her, most of whom were wearing less than she was, and her dark eyes glistened like they always had – full of fire and sharp as an eagle’s.

She made her way to the bouncers at the front of the line. She winked at them and grinned her mischievous grin, and they immediately let her in. She entered amid the unhappy cries of the people in the line and was hit by the wave of blaring music. She moved her body to the music as she made her way through the crowd. She found a quieter space at the back and dug out her cell phone.

Davide lounged in one of the semi-circular booths near the back of the club. He too looked exactly as he always had. Even his dark hair, which Merry liked that way, was still tied back in a ponytail. His arms were stretched out along the back of the seat and two twenty-something girls were cuddled up to him, one on each side. They moved away from him when his cell phone rang. He dug it out of his jacket pocket and answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hello, my love.”

“Merry?”

“Who else?”

“Baby I want you.”

“I know you do.”

“Come to me,” Davide ordered. He stretched out to her through their link, and found she was much closer than he’d expected. “Where are you?” he asked.

Merry wrapped her arms around his neck from behind him and leaned close to his ear.

“Wherever I want to be,” she replied, grinning.

Their cheeks touched for a moment, then she pulled away. She pocketed her phone as she pushed her way back out into the crowd. Davide hopped up. He pushed the table out of his way, spilling the girls' drinks, as he hurried after her. Merry headed for one of the back doors leading to the alley and disappeared outside. Davide plunged after her, but she was nowhere in sight.

Davide sighed in despair; then he felt her. He whirled around and caught Merry around the waist with both arms. She grinned at him as she wrapped her arms around his neck, and he smiled back. They kissed, and for a moment the longing between them disappeared.

It returned when Merry pushed away from him. Davide looked Merry up and down, loving how she looked – her hair, the top layer tied back so that her widow’s peak was more noticeable, her grin, her tight black t-shirt and her low-riding black jeans.

“Let’s go somewhere,” Davide suggested.

Merry shook her head. She slipped her ring into Davide's front jeans pocket, initiating a game.

“You’re busy,” she replied, referring to the girls he’d been with.

“You know you’re the only one I want,” he answered.

“I know,” she said.

She pushed away from him and turned to leave. Davide caught her wrist and gripped it tightly – too tightly. Merry’s notoriously short temper flared and she whirled around and kicked him in the stomach, knocking him backwards several steps and releasing his grip on her arm as he doubled over.

When Davide looked up again, Merry was gone. He swore under his breath and reached out to her through their link again. She was close, on a nearby rooftop, but he doubted that she was simply waiting for him. She was waiting for him to give chase, and although he knew he would catch her eventually, it could take hours. He had a way to make her come back to him – he could pull on their link until she was in such pain that she could hardly breathe and moving towards him was the only way to relieve it – but he had sworn never to do that again. Besides, Merry was right, tonight he had other business. And she would eventually come back to him; she always came back to him.

Davide remembered what had happened when Merry had made him really mad and he had pulled hard on their link. Merry had been away from him for a long time and had been resisting his orders to return and he had had enough. He started to pull hard on their link, causing pain to surge through Merry’s body and forcing her to return to him. The only way for her to ease her pain was to move towards him, but as she did, he continued to pull harder.

By the time Merry reached Davide, she could hardly stand. She stood in front of him and reached out to touch him but he stepped backwards, dropping Merry to her knees. His anger vanished as he saw her anguish and he released the link.

Merry fell over and Davide rushed to her side. He knelt beside her and scooped her limp body up onto his legs. He gently brushed the hair off her face and she slowly opened her eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks and Davide hugged her. Merry hugged him back with all the strength she had left as he whispered in her ear, begging for forgiveness.

She had forgiven him without hesitation. It was her fault and they both knew it. Sires expected a certain amount of obedience from their sired. They deserved it, for giving their sired eternity, and Merry had disobeyed for too long. Davide, as both Merry’s sire and her jealous lover, had become enraged and had hurt her to get her back. She didn’t blame him, but he couldn’t believe what he had done to her. It had taken her several days to recover physically and much longer to recover mentally. Davide hadn’t lost his temper since, and Merry would never resist him like that again.

Merry waited on the rooftop for several minutes before hopping back down to the ground. It was five stories down, but it was an easy jump for a vampire. She landed in an alley and made her way around the side of the building to the street. She headed off down the sidewalk, away from The Red Rock, towards another club she liked, The Pony.

Barely a block from The Pony, Merry stopped dead in her tracks. Over the din of voices and music from the club she could hear a deep, male voice giving orders to a woman. His words sparked Merry’s temper, making her eyes flicker red momentarily, and she moved towards them, ready to teach the man some manners.

“Hey fatty!” Merry shouted at the man when she found them.

He was holding the woman against the wall by the wrists. They both looked over at Merry.

“Get away from her.”

The man and woman both looked shocked. The man was huge: tall and muscular, if fairly overweight, and Merry was only of average height and build. She was half his size, and much less threatening looking, but she had no fear. Being a vampire gave her strength and speed beyond belief. She’d been able to move or break anything she’d ever tried to, and she could move as fast as the human eye.

“You talking to me?” the man asked, a hint of disbelief in his voice. He released the woman and began moving towards Merry.

“Yeah I am, tubby,” she replied. “You see any other blimps around here?”

The man fumed. He swung his fist at her, but she moved backwards and he missed by six feet.

Merry smirked.

“Vision problems, lard boy?”

The man grew angrier. Again he advanced on Merry. This time she ducked under his arm and punched him across the side of the head. He staggered sideways into the wall of the building. Insane with fury, the man threw himself at Merry.

A single punch to his jaw sent the man flying backwards. The back of his head hit the brick building with a sickening crunch. Blood and skull fragments remained on the wall as the man's limp body slumped to the ground.

Merry glanced down at her hand and flexed her fist. It didn't even hurt. She turned to the woman, who had edged towards the bloody body, but before she could speak to her, the woman screamed.

Merry grimaced. She glanced down the alley and found that it was a dead end – no way to escape without further revealing her powers. Merry turned towards the street, where a crowd had formed in response to the woman's scream.

Merry took a step towards the crowd, intending to push her way through and disappear into the chaos of the street, but her plan was foiled by a pair of uniformed police officers pushing their way through the crowd towards her.

“What's going on here?” demanded the first officer.

“Holy...!” the second officer exclaimed as his eyes fell on the man's body.

Both officers immediately gripped their guns.

“What happened?!” the first officer demanded again.

The officer's gaze was on Merry, but the poor lighting prevented her from making the eye contact necessary to access the man's mind through vampire hypnosis. Merry pointed calmly at the man.

“He attacked that woman,” she said. “I hit him and when he fell he hit his head on the wall.”

The second officer had moved over to the body and the other woman. He spoke to the woman but she didn't answer.

Merry's eyes flickered towards the crowd. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but there was something different about one of the onlookers. The first officer spoke into his radio and drew her attention back to the police.

“This is unit 724 requesting backup...”

Garlic!

Merry's attention returned to the crowd as the strong scent of garlic reached her nostrils. A shiver ran down her spine. She scanned the crowd, searching for the source, but as her eyes began to water she knew that the garlic was no coincidence. Someone in the crowd had a concentrated form of garlic and had released it on purpose.

Merry put her hand on her forehead to hide her eyes. Her skin itched and her airways burned as the garlic poisoned her. Sirens and strobe-lights brought more police officers. The first officer spoke to Merry again.

“Are you alright, miss?” he asked. His voice was guarded, like he was suspicious of her.

“I'm just a little upset,” Merry lied. “I'd like to go home.”

“Sure,” the officer replied. “Soon. We just need you to come to the station for a bit and give a statement.”

The officer took hold of Merry's upper arm. As much as she wanted to, Merry didn't resist. Two more officers flanked the first as they loaded Merry into the back of a waiting squad car.

Free of the smell of garlic, Merry relaxed and returned her attention to the crowd. At last she spotted the person she had been looking for.

The man stood alone talking excitedly on his cell phone. He didn't seem to be the slightest bit upset that there was a dead body just a few feet from where he was standing. Merry couldn't hear his words over the noise of the crowd and the police, but she could read his lips. The words startled her.

“I found one.”

Two police officers climbed into the front of the car, blocking Merry's view of the man. As the car pulled away from the curb, Merry's eyes met the man's. His lips read the squad car number into the phone. Merry lost sight of him again as the car turned around a corner.

Merry settled back into the seat. She wasn't the slightest bit worried about being taken to the police station. The vampire could punch straight through a brick wall without breaking the bones in her hand and bend steel bars like cheese. Not that it was at all likely that Merry would have to use force to escape the police station. She intended to simply make eye contact with someone, slip into their mind, and influence their thoughts so they would release her. And as a last resort she could simply reach out to Davide with her thoughts and he would make a phone call and someone powerful would arrange for her release.

The strange man with the concentrated garlic who had been talking on the cell phone intrigued Merry and gave her yet another option for escaping the police station: judging by the man's interest in the squad car number, he had been arranging for Merry's release into his custody. Merry expected that by the time they arrived at the station, the arrangements would be made and all she would have to do is wait.

Merry wiped her eyes again and was glad that her vision wasn't blurry anymore. The concentrated garlic formula bothered Merry. The man and whoever he had been speaking to on the phone obviously knew that vampires were real and that they were allergic to garlic. How did they know? And what else did they know about vampires?

In the back of her mind a memory flashed to life and she remembered speaking to a vampire who had lost one of the vampires she had sired mysteriously. She had felt him die after he had been in the same place for about a week. She hadn’t been worried about him, and he hadn't called out to her for help, but to have him die so suddenly upset her. He had been staked, meaning he had been murdered, meaning that someone had found out he was a vampire. This had bothered the vampire community for a while, but there were no further incidents, so it was forgotten. But maybe the young vampire had been captured by the strange man and his associates and they had killed the young vampire. And the reason that there hadn’t been any further incidents was because no others had been caught – until now. Merry was confident and curious, and she decided she wanted to meet these humans who knew the vampires' secrets. She wanted to show them what a real vampire was made of.

At the police station Merry was stripped of all her possessions before the two officers escorted Merry to an interrogation room and left her alone. Merry closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds around her. Interrogation rooms are only soundproof for humans; Merry could pick up all sorts of conversations happening throughout the building and even out on the street. It was fairly quiet, for a big city police station, so Merry was able to catch snippets of conversations about herself. As she suspected, there was already a federal warrant out for someone matching her description and a witness had identified her as having been placed in the back of car 724. The Feds were already on their way to the police station.

One of the detectives wasn't about to let the Feds have all the fun. He wanted his time with the girl who could kill with a single punch, whether the Feds said not to be alone in a room with her or not.

The interrogation room door opened and the detective and his partner entered the room. They both sat casually down across the table from Merry.

“So, miss….”

“Merry. Short for Meredith.” (She hated when people assumed it was “Mary”.)

The man nodded.

“So where are your parents, Merry?”

“They’re dead.”

“Oh, I’m very sorry.”

Merry nodded.

“Where do you live then, Merry?”

“I have a place.”

“Is it near the alley we found you in?”

“Sort of.”

“What were you doing out there, Merry?”

“Clubbing.”

“By yourself?”

Merry nodded.

“Kind of late to be wandering around alone, isn’t it?”

She shook her head. It was nearly four in the morning now, but that was still early for a vampire.

“Why were you in the alley?”

“I heard the man yelling.”

“So you went to investigate.”

Merry nodded.

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“There wasn’t time.”

“You weren’t scared?”

“I fear nothing.”

The man nodded and wrote something in his notebook.

“Can I go?” Merry asked.

“Not yet.”

“What’s your last name, Merry?” the second man asked.

“Smith,” she lied. She had a title, but she’d never had a last name.

“And what’s your birthday?”

She made one up. She couldn’t remember her real one. And she was over three hundred years old.

“I think you’re lying, Merry,” the man said as he sat down across from Merry and tapped the papers he was holding on the table. “But that’s okay.

The man was about to continue when a knock at the door drew the men's attention. The second man rose from the table and opened the door. He spoke with the person on the other side of the door.

Merry caught the first man's eyes with hers and slid effortlessly into his mind. I'd like to meet the Feds in the lobby, Merry said to him. It's safer to meet them in the lobby. The man nodded without breaking eye contact with Merry. His face was a blank stare. Merry blinked, releasing his mind.

“The Feds just pulled up,” the second man said.

“Come, Miss Smith,” the first man said as he stood. “Let's go meet them in the lobby.”

The second man looked completely baffled as his partner waved Merry out of the room. He followed them as the detective led the way to the lobby, confused by his partner's actions.

Merry strode confidently between the detectives, ready to meet these humans who knew about vampires. She wanted to meet them in the lobby in case the situation was more dangerous than she had anticipated. The closer she was to the doors, the easier it would be to escape if she needed to.

The Feds stepped through the front doors just as Merry and the two detectives stepped into the lobby. Merry smiled as she saw the man from earlier flanked by only two young men. Her eyes met the man's. He wasn't smiling. His eyes widened.

Merry tossed the two detectives sideways, sending them sprawling on the floor. All three Feds raised guns. The man in charge fired a tranquilizer dart as both of the younger men fired non-lethal take-down bean bags.

Merry dodged the first bean bag and caught the tranquilizer dart in her hand, but took the second bean bag in the chest. She had seen similar non-lethal weapons on television and knew that the blow would have fractured her ribs and winded her had she been human. The bean bags were typically filled with a dry form of pepper spray, which wouldn't bother the vampire much.

The tranquilizer dart fell from Merry's hand as she realized that it wasn't pepper powder that covered her clothes and filled the air around her; it was garlic. Reacting exactly the way a human would to pepper spray, Merry dropped like a stone, gasping and clutching her face. The garlic burned her eyes and throat, leaving her blind and struggling to breathe.

Rough hands grabbed Merry's hands and feet and attempted to clamp heavy shackles to her wrists and ankles. She had very little time to decide whether to fight the men while blind and nauseated or let them capture her. She chose to submit and face the consequences, then focused her attention on not vomiting.

When the shackles were in place, the two younger men lifted Merry off the floor and carried her outside to a waiting van. They shoved her onto the seat and secured the wrist shackles to the seat between her knees and the ankle shackles to the floor.

The men vacated the van and slammed the doors shut. Merry heard thumping on the side of the van. Powerful fans that sounded like jet engines to Merry's sensitive ears circulated all of the air out of the van and filled it with fresh. The force rippled Merry's clothes, tousled her hair, and stung her skin.

As the fans slowed, Merry drew a deep breath and was relieved to find all the garlic gone. Her vision began to return and she looked up when the van doors reopened.

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