As Hunt pulled up to the project facilities, she noticed a small group of people standing on the corner across the street. They watched her as she drove past them and turned into the driveway. She thought nothing of it as she swiped her ID card and entered the parking lot. It never occurred to her that they were vampires, or that they were there to investigate the building that Merry had told them about, or that they knew her because Merry had marked her.
A very good choice, one of the vampires said to Merry.
Thank you. I like her. She’s smart, if a bit gullible, but not cocky. I think she’ll make an excellent addition to the family.
I agree, said another of the vampires. And you might even be able to get her to go willingly. After all, she already let you bite her.
Either way, she will be mine, Merry assured.
No one will touch her, came the reply. She is yours, as are all these humans until you say otherwise.
I only want two of them, Merry answered. The rest may be judged by whoever gets to them first, but wait until I call.
Merry brought her thoughts back inside the building and she focused on Hunt to see what she was doing.
Johnson showed up at work with more books for the vampire. He offered to take them to her himself, but Hunt said she would do it. She had always thought Johnson was a bit odd, so she ignored her thought that he was acting differently since the vampire had been captured. She left Athens in the control room and headed down to the vampire’s room. When she got there she knocked, punched in the door code and entered the room. Merry was already sitting up, reading and wearing Athens’ sunglasses. She looked up and smiled when she saw Hunt.
“Hi,” Hunt replied. “I brought you some more books.”
“Have a seat,” Merry offered, waving at the chair.
Hunt sat down and Merry dog-eared her page before closing the book and setting it on the table. She looked up at Hunt.
Hunt gave Merry a puzzled look.
“How did you…?”
“You’re a scientist. All you do is ask questions.”
“Okay,” Hunt said. She thought for a minute. “How old are you?”
“That’s very rude,” Merry replied with a grin. She looked away for a moment, thinking, then replied, “About 340.”
Hunt’s eyes widened. Old.
“You look surprised.”
“Well I… I knew you were old but… I had no idea.”
“Next?” she asked.
“Where are you from?”
Merry cocked her head, questioningly.
“England, obviously,” she replied. “I would have thought you could tell.”
“Just making sure,” Hunt replied. “How many vampires have you sired?”
“This is about me, not my family,” Merry replied, her tone hardening. “They are none of your business.”
Hunt realized she had touched a nerve.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “I suppose you miss them.”
Merry looked away and didn’t reply.
“The last vampire here really missed his sire. The scientists observing him thought that maybe they were in love,” Hunt added.
“It doesn’t work like that.”
This time Hunt didn’t reply.
“Normal humans fall in love. For vampires it’s a much deeper emotion, because of our links,” Merry explained. “You and Alix are in love. Between vampires it’s like having the same soul.”
“We’re not in love.”
“Don’t bother. I can tell.”
Hunt hesitated again, momentarily angry with the vampire for bringing up her love life. A nerve for a nerve, she decided.
“And you,” Hunt replied, “you’re like that with someone, aren’t you?”
Merry paused, then nodded.
“My sire.” She looked away again.
“You miss him,” Hunt said.
“More than you can understand.”
Hunt didn’t know what to say. So much for vampires being heartless killers. This one clearly had feelings.
“What’s it like,” she asked finally, “having a link like that?”
“It’s like being baptized. You can’t see God, but you can feel Him. You know He’s there and you know He loves you. Having a link is knowing where other vampires are at all times without being able to see them. You always know what they’re doing and what they’re feeling.”
Hunt’s shock at the analogy showed in her face.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Merry said. “I was baptized. I am a Christian. I cannot wear a cross because it is sacred and would burn me, but I wish I could. I wish I could go to church and hold the Bible and all that, but I can’t. I can’t touch anything that is considered sacred in any faith and I can’t enter any place considered holy by any faith.”
Hunt was very surprised. A Christian vampire. Well, she’s human, why not Christian too?
“Here, let me show you,” Merry said. “Proof that I had holy water on my forehead once.”
She reached across the table for the water glass. She dipped her fingers in the water and smeared it on her forehead. She winced as a red cross appeared on her skin like a sunburn. Hunt’s jaw dropped as she stared at Merry’s forehead. Hunt was amazed. She hoped Athens could see.
“I had no idea,” Hunt said.
Merry smiled and set the glass back down. The cross faded and vanished.
“Of course not. Why would you know anything about vampires? You’d never met one before me,” Merry answered.
“I’ve read the files on the others,” Hunt said defensively.
“That isn’t knowledge. That is ways to hurt and kill vampires. That has been known for thousands of years. I can look it up in a library. To know about vampires, you must ask one questions, and to know a vampire, you must be one.”
Hunt nodded slowly.
“You’re very confusing.”
“Do you believe in God?” Merry asked.
“Well, I was raised Christian...”
“I've never been to church in my adult life. I'm a scientist. I believe in science.”
“That doesn't answer my question,” Merry pointed out.
“No, it doesn't,” Hunt agreed. “I guess that I don't think that science and religion are opposites or that they can't coexist... Yes, I believe in God, or at least some sort of creating force. But beyond that, I'm not sure. For instance, I don't believe in angels.”
The vampire smiled. Hunt got the impression that Merry knew perfectly well whether angels existed or not.
“That's okay,” Merry said. “Angels believe in you.”
Hunt was completely stumped. She looked away from the vampire for a moment to collect her thoughts.
“Okay, uh... what about demons then? Are they real?” Hunt asked.
The vampire nodded.
“Demons, devils, evil spirits... whatever you want to call them... are very real. I've never personally encountered one, but I know others who have.”
Again Merry nodded.
“So I've heard, but again, I've never encountered one.”
“I have,” Hunt volunteered. “Or at least, I'm pretty sure I have. I haven't ever been able to come up with a concrete explanation, and believe me, I’ve tried, so...”
Merry waited patiently for Hunt to continue.
“When I was in university I lived in an apartment building near campus and the elevator would do weird things. I'd walk into the lobby from outside and the elevator doors would open, even though no one was getting off or waiting to get on. Even stranger is when it would do it for me when I'd leave my apartment on the 12th floor. I always said 'thank you' when I got in, just in case it was a spirit or something. I didn't want it to think I was ungrateful and drop me.”
Hunt looked at Merry, waiting for the vampire to laugh at her, but Merry looked completely serious.
“How long did you live there?”
“And it did it the entire time?”
“That is interesting. You can almost rule out a mechanical problem because you'd hope that within three years appropriate repairs would have been made. Did anyone else ever experience it, that you know of?”
“Not that I know of,” Hunt replied. “But I never really asked anyone, not even my various roommates. I mostly kept it quiet. I didn't want people to think I was crazy.”
“I think that's what a lot of people who experience the paranormal are afraid of. They feel that asking for help or advice will make people laugh at them or question their sanity. And I hear stories of people who have been brave enough to ask for help only to be turned down by those they trust. It's unfortunate. My friend Ryan had terrible experiences as a child and had to face them alone because no one believed him. When he told me about them, he was so desperate to make sure that I believed him that he insisted I read his mind and confirm it, even though I assured him that I took his word.”
“Wow,” Hunt answered. “It must have been comforting to him to have you believe him so strongly. And to know for sure that you knew he was telling the truth. I know it's certainly nice to know that you believe me. I kinda expected you to laugh.”
“I would never laugh at something like that,” Merry assured her. “I trust you, Amy. I believe you.”
Merry smiled. She rubbed the right side of her neck absentmindedly.
“Is that… your link?” Hunt asked.
Merry touched her neck again, then nodded. Hunt reached up slowly and Merry moved her hand away. Hunt’s fingers touched Merry’s neck, connecting her to Merry’s link and Merry closed her eyes. Hunt felt like she was being sucked into a vacuum at 100 miles an hour and she jerked her hand back. After a moment Merry opened her eyes and she put her hand back on her neck.
“Whoa,” Hunt said.
“What’s it like to be immortal?”
“I’m not immortal.”
Hunt didn’t know how to reply.
“What’s the difference?”
“You can’t understand,” Merry answered. “When a vampire is sired, they are given eternity, not immortality.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand.”
“Well, there’s only one way I can make you understand and I don’t think you’ll let me, so…” Merry replied, grinning.
Hunt understood that.
“No, you can’t make me a vampire just so I can understand what you’re talking about.”
“Would you choose it, vampirism, over death?” Merry asked, her tone more serious.
“That’s a very personal question,” Hunt replied.
“In other words, you’re not going to answer.”
Hunt shook her head. Merry didn’t push her. She didn’t know herself what she would have answered if Davide had asked her before he bit her.
Hunt knew that by refusing to answer she had ended the conversation. She didn’t mind; she had enough things to think about already. The difference between immortality and eternity was going to bother her for days. She stood up and left, leaving Merry to her books.
Hunt went back to the control room and recorded everything that Merry had said in her file. She made a special note about the cross on Merry’s forehead – that was something that none of the vampires before had shown or mentioned. When Hunt put the file back on the table, she saw the bag of things that had been retrieved from Merry’s pockets when she was taken into custody.
Hunt dumped the bag out on the table and spread the things out so she could see them. There was a silver cell phone, turned off, a set of keys, unmarked, eighty-seven dollars in cash, two bottle caps (obviously not from bottles that Merry had drank, since they were from alcoholic drinks, which vampires can’t drink), and a silver Zippo lighter with a white tree on it, but no cigarettes.
Hunt turned on the cell phone and waited while the digital page loaded. The opening message, personalized by Merry, read: Carpe noctem. Hunt wasn’t sure, but she guessed that it was Latin for “Seize the night”. She smiled – that was exactly this vampire’s sense of humor. Hunt pressed the menu button, hoping to access Merry’s phone book and call logs, but she had the menu password protected. Hunt pressed another button, but it was protected too. Hunt even tried to dial a number, but that wouldn’t work either. Hunt turned the phone off and put it back down on the table.
Next she picked up the lighter. She flipped it open and tried to light it, but the wick wouldn’t light. Maybe it’s out of lighter fluid, Hunt thought. She slid the striker out of the case carefully and peered inside where the fluid should have been. She was surprised by what she saw, very surprised.
“Alix,” Hunt said. “Look at this.”
Athens turned away from the computer screens and swiveled in his chair to see what Hunt was holding. He squinted his eyes as he stared at the lighter, confused by what he was seeing.
“Is that cocaine?” he asked.
“I think so. I’m not sure. I’ve never seen it this close before,” Hunt replied. “Why would she have cocaine hidden in her lighter?”
“I have no idea,” Athens replied as he rolled his chair closer to take a better look. “You think she’s a junkie?”
“She’s not showing any sort of withdrawal symptoms, but maybe the tranquilizers are affecting that.”
“Can cocaine even do anything to her?”
“Shall we find out?” Hunt asked.
Hunt had a zero tolerance for drug use. She had threatened Athens with his life if he ever did any drugs, and he was pretty sure she would carry out her threat, so he wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do. He nodded anyway. Hunt put the lighter back together and headed out of the room. Athens turned back to the computer screens and watched the monitor.
Hunt stopped at one of the labs and prepared the cocaine for injection and loaded it all into a syringe, then headed down to the holding cell. Merry was surprised to see her back so soon, but she put her book down none the less. Merry moved to the edge of the bed, prepared to either stand up or for Hunt to sit down. Hunt didn’t speak; she just tossed the lighter to Merry. Merry caught it deftly, glanced at it, and knew exactly why Hunt had come down. Hunt pulled the syringe out of her pocket and Merry leaned back, narrowing her eyes into a glare behind her sunglasses.
“They’re your drugs,” Hunt said, “I just wanted to see what they do to you.”
Merry didn’t reply. Hunt wasn’t sure why. She expected either an angry or a sarcastic reply. She softened slightly, realizing that provoking Merry probably wasn’t a very good idea. Besides, she might be assuming the wrong things about Merry. Hunt sat down in the chair and set the syringe down on the table.
“Let’s start over, okay?” Hunt suggested.
Merry leaned forward again.
“I found cocaine in that lighter, which was in your pocket. I’m wondering why you have it and what you intend to do with it,” Hunt said, sounding far too much like a patronizing school counselor for her liking, but she couldn’t help it.
“I took it from a junkie. She was going to die so I took her drugs and called 9-1-1 for her. I put them in the lighter to hide them.”
“Why did you take them?”
“There are few places in this world that I haven’t been, few things I haven’t seen and done, and few foods I haven’t tasted. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out the allure of drugs.”
“Do they do anything to you?” Hunt asked.
“Barely. I get the point of the drug, the sort of feeling that it must give a human, but nowhere near the full effect. Regardless I still don’t understand why humans use them. All they really do is poison you.”
“So you don’t use them as an escape?”
Merry shook her head. “There’s no escape for me. I am what I am. I accepted that a long time ago.”
Merry fingered the lighter.
“You want to see if I react to cocaine?” Merry asked.
“You haven’t done it before?” Hunt was surprised.
Merry shook her head again. “I’ll do anything once, not twice.”
Hunt nodded, half understanding, half simply agreeing. Merry handed the lighter back to Hunt, then took hold of the syringe and pulled the guard off with her teeth.
“You want to stand up now and go over by the door,” Merry said. “I don’t know what this will do.”
Hunt was determined to stay. She hooked her fingers around Merry’s and they both curled their hands into fists. Hunt glanced at Merry’s eyes and found that she was close enough to faintly see them through the dark lenses. Merry was looking back at her.
“You don’t have to do this,” Hunt said.
“You can let go anytime,” Merry replied. “And if I hurt you, get out of the room.”
Hunt nodded. They both looked down at the syringe. There was enough in it to kill a normal human easily. Merry had no trouble finding a vein. She slowly slid the needle into her arm and injected the cocaine. When the syringe was empty Merry set it back down on the table. They both waited for Merry’s heart to beat enough to spread the drug.
The first thing Merry noticed was her vision clouding slightly. Next came a twitch in her neck and the strong desire to blink, which she did, trying to clear her vision. Her ears began to ring and her muscles tightened, causing her to squeeze Hunt’s hand as her hands began to shake. Hunt reached up and gently pulled the sunglasses off Merry’s face, revealing her bloodshot eyes. Merry tried to focus her eyes on Hunt’s face, but she couldn’t. She closed her eyes and looked away, feeling slightly nauseous because of her inability to see properly.
The shaking became worse and Hunt winced as Merry’s grip tightened again. She could feel Merry’s fingernails digging into her flesh. She hoped that Merry didn’t draw blood – she was afraid that Merry might lose control if she did – but she was determined not to let go, no matter how much it hurt. Merry’s mind became slightly cloudy and she gripped her forehead with her right hand, pressing her thumb and ring finger into her temples. Hunt reached up and put her hand on Merry’s, wrapping some of her fingers around Merry’s wrist. She could feel Merry’s muscles and tendons flexing and relaxing.
Merry forced her eyes open and she looked at Hunt again. She saw that Hunt was in pain and tried to release her hand, but Hunt held on. Merry found that she was regaining control of her muscles and the shaking was stopping. The ringing in her ears faded. Pain and euphoria twisted in her mind and became blurred together.
Hunt moved Merry’s hand off her head and saw that Merry was pale. She was about to suggest that Merry lie down, but she was too late. Merry’s eyes rolled back in her head as she blacked out and fell forwards.
Hunt caught Merry’s limp body and shivered slightly when she realized that Merry’s head was resting on her shoulder and her dark hair was brushing against her neck. She leaned Merry backwards onto the bed and laid her down. Merry’s eyes fluttered open as Hunt lifted her legs up onto the bed. Merry groaned.
“I don’t feel so hot,” Merry mumbled.
“You don’t look so good either,” Hunt replied.
“I think I’ll have a little nap,” Merry said sleepily.
“Sure,” Hunt said.
Hunt went to the bathroom and got a cool, wet cloth and draped it over Merry’s forehead.
“Thanks,” Merry said. “I just need a few minutes to clear my head. You can come back in a bit.”
“We’ll see,” Hunt said.
Hunt picked up the syringe and lighter and left the room.
After sleeping for just over an hour, Merry awoke feeling perfectly fine. Her body had destroyed all the drugs in her system. She picked up the book she had been reading earlier and started reading again.
Hunt eventually made her way back to the vampire’s room. This time she brought Merry’s keys, cash, and bottle caps and spread them out on the table beside Merry’s bed. Hunt sat down and waited for Merry to finish what was obviously an exciting chapter – the vampire hadn’t even looked up when Hunt entered. Finally Merry put the book down and turned to Hunt.
“This is a good book,” Merry said.
“I see that,” Hunt replied.
Merry turned her attention to the table. She snatched up the cash and counted it quickly, then offered it to Hunt.
“What’s the price of freedom around here?” Merry asked.
“More than that,” Hunt replied.
“Name a price. I’m the richest person you’ll ever meet.”
“I believe that,” Hunt nodded. “But no, you can’t bribe me.”
Merry shrugged. She tossed the money back onto the table and picked up the bottle caps. Hunt watched her polish them with the tail of her shirt before asking about them.
“Where are those from?”
“The bar,” Merry replied, smiling.
Hunt gave her a look. Merry shrugged again.
“Okay, why do you have them? You didn’t drink them.”
“Of course not. I just picked them up off a table.”
“For a friend. She collects them.”
“A vampire friend?” Hunt asked.
Merry’s smile faded, reminding Hunt that she wasn’t supposed to ask about other vampires.
“No,” Merry replied, “a human friend.”
“You have human friends?” Hunt was surprised.
“I have you.”
Hunt was silent. It really did feel like they were friends – like they’d known each other for much longer than a few days. There was something else – something about the way Merry had said the words, almost like Merry considered Hunt to be her property.
Hunt blinked. Merry had waved her hand in front of her face to draw her attention – Hunt had been staring at her blankly.
“Tired?” Merry asked.
“No, I just…” Hunt wasn’t sure what to say.
“If I didn’t like you, Amy, we wouldn’t be talking,” Merry said. “If I didn’t like you, you’d be dead.”
Hunt leaned back, afraid for a moment, but Merry continued to smile.
“You’d just… kill me?”
“You’re holding me against my will. What would you do in my place?”
“I wouldn’t kill you,” Hunt insisted.
“You’re lying,” Merry replied. “You wouldn’t enjoy being locked in here anymore than I do and you know it. Besides, you’ve already killed me a hundred times in your mind – choosing different ways depending on what weapons you have and what I’m doing.”
“Don’t lie,” Merry ordered, her tone hardening slightly. “We’re enemies – we do think about killing each other.”
“I thought we were friends.”
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Merry quoted.
“So which am I?”
“We’re close,” Merry replied. She leaned forward so that she was only inches away from Hunt. “Very close.”
Hunt stood up and backed away. Merry remain sitting.
“You have something I need,” Merry whispered.
Hunt suddenly remembered the bottle of blood she had tucked in her pocket earlier. She drew it out slowly with her left hand and Merry’s eyes followed it. Merry stood up and Hunt backed away further. Merry advanced on the scientist as her eyes began to glow and her fangs extended behind her smile.
Hunt ran into the wall. She stared wide-eyed as Merry came right up close to her. Hunt frantically dug out her garlic spray with her right hand and raised the can towards the vampire’s head. Merry brushed Hunt’s hand away uncaringly with her left hand, then gently rested it on Hunt’s collarbone and pressed her back against the wall.
Hunt could feel Merry’s hot breath on her face and she could see her eyes glowing through the sunglasses.
“Are you afraid of me, Amy?”
Hunt didn’t know how to reply.
“I promised never to hurt you in this room.”
Hunt wanted to look at the camera but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from Merry’s. She was afraid if she turned her head Merry would bite her neck. Merry ran her tongue across her front teeth.
“Open the bottle,” Merry commanded.
Hunt maneuvered the garlic spray around in her hand so that her thumb and index finger were free, then cautiously brought her hands together in the tiny space between her and Merry. The cap was on tight and Hunt strained to open it. The can of garlic spray slipped from her fingers as she finally managed to loosen the cap.
The can hit the floor and Hunt let the bottle cap follow it. She tried to steady her hand as she raised the bottle up. Merry leaned back and returned her gaze to the bottle. She put her hand under Hunt’s forearm and guided it up. Hunt pressed the mouth of the bottle against Merry’s lips and watched fearfully as the vampire began to drink. Merry ran her hand down Hunt’s arm towards her hand, tilting the bottle up more and more, then finally took the bottle from her and finished it off.
Hunt watched the last few drops fall onto Merry’s tongue. Merry closed her eyes, turned away, and pressed the back of her hand against her mouth. She crushed the bottle in her hand, then slowly opened her eyes again. Hunt could see that the glow was gone from behind the sunglasses. Merry turned to her and smiled.
Hunt was still shaking. Merry released her and dropped down to pick up the bottle cap and garlic spray. She recapped the bottle as she stood, then raised the can of garlic spray up near Hunt’s face.
“You dropped this,” Merry said.
Hunt took it and put it back in her pocket. Merry tucked the empty bottle back into the other pocket of Hunt’s lab coat. Merry continued to smile as she slowly reached up and touched the cool tip of her finger to Hunt’s quivering lip, stilling it.
“Shh,” the vampire whispered.
Merry’s smile grew wider. She lowered her hand and turned away from Hunt. The scientist stood frozen while the vampire picked up the books she had thrown on the floor and piled them neatly on the table beside the rest of her things. Merry hopped cat-like up onto the bed, then turned and sat down cross-legged.
It took Hunt a moment to realize that Merry was playing with her lighter and she automatically checked her pocket for it even though she knew it wouldn’t be there. She looked back at Merry.
“I hope you’re taking care of this,” Merry said. “It’s custom made.”
Hunt stepped forwards cautiously.
“Come sit down,” Merry said, patting the bed beside her.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Amy,” Merry insisted, her tone clear and honest. “I was just playing with you. I’ll keep my word. Now come sit down.”
Hunt obeyed. Merry held out the lighter for her to see and pointed at the design. Now that Hunt looked at it closely, she could see an arc of seven stars above the white tree and there was a tiny diamond in the center of each star. Hunt took the lighter.
“Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree,” Merry quoted. “From my favorite fantasy novels.”
“So you… had a constant reminder of them made up?” Hunt ventured.
Hunt nodded. She glanced at the lighter again, then slowly returned it to her pocket.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” Merry said sincerely. “Please, relax.”
Hunt shook her head. “I’m trying. I…” She turned to Merry, finally able to look at her face again. “That wasn’t nice.”
Merry raised an eyebrow. “I’m a vampire, remember? I don’t do ‘nice’.”
“It was sure ‘nice’ of you to save that woman’s life,” Hunt commented. “And ‘nice’ of you to heal my arm.”
“Yet you still don’t trust me,” Merry said, sounding sad. She turned away from Hunt, mostly just pretending to be hurt.
“I do!” Hunt insisted. “I just…”
“Don’t,” Merry finished for her as she turned back to face the scientist.
“I’m just still a little afraid of you,” Hunt explained. “But I do trust you to keep your word.”
“Do you? Or are you just saying that?”
“I do,” Hunt maintained. “I’ve never met anyone like you and even though I know you’re a killer I know you won’t break your promise. Vampires are cocky and seductive and playful and cruel, but I know you aren’t a liar.”
Merry smiled. Hunt forced herself to smile back. Merry turned back to the table and the contents of her pockets. She stacked up the two bottle caps, then stacked up the coins, then rearranged her keys so that they lay nicely on the table.
“You like things to be organized,” Hunt commented.
“Do I?” Merry countered. “Or am I just doing it because I know you like things to be organized?” Merry turned to Hunt and cocked her head. “You’re the scientist.”
“And you’re driving me up the wall,” Hunt replied, shaking her head. “Everything you do, everything you say… I can’t predict you.”
“And that bothers you.”
“Well, yes,” Hunt admitted. “I got into science because it was rational and inevitably predictable.”
“But vampires aren’t predictable, no more than humans are,” Merry replied. “I am not a science experiment. I am not a guinea pig or lab rat. I am human – more so than you realize, and perhaps even more so than you are.”
Hunt didn’t know how to reply. All the research said that vampires had to be a different species from humans – the physical differences were so enormous that the similarities were ignored – but when Hunt looked at Merry, when she spoke to her, when she really watched her, Hunt knew that Merry was human. The differences were so small that they should be ignored and the similarities were so incredible that Hunt was almost afraid to admit that she could be so much like the ancient murderer sitting beside her.
“I have an idea that will make this easier for you, Amy,” Merry said. “We will trust each other and it will explain things for you.”
“What? How?” Hunt asked.
“Bring me a notebook and a pen,” Merry said. “I will write things down that I cannot say and when the time is right I will let you read it.” Merry paused. “But… you must not touch it until I give it to you.”
Hunt considered the proposition. What did she have to lose?
“Sure,” Hunt nodded. “That sounds great.”
“I am trusting you not to read it,” Merry stressed. “Don’t break my trust.”
“I won’t,” Hunt insisted. “I keep my promises too.”
“Good. And you’ll make sure that no one else tries to read it?”
“Yes,” Hunt promised.
Merry nodded. She was smiling. Hunt smiled back. Wow, Hunt thought, a vampire’s notebook. I’m going to get to read a vampire’s notebook.
“I'll keep it in the closet in the bathroom,” Merry suggested. “You make sure no one ever goes in there except me and you.”
Hunt nodded in agreement. She was about to speak when she noticed that something was wrong with Merry. The vampire looked perplexed. She flared her nostrils and looked away from Hunt. Hunt was confused. She watched the vampire keenly. Merry sniffed the air.
“What’s wrong?” Hunt asked.
Merry turned back to her and opened her mouth to say that she wasn’t sure, but no sound came out. Merry’s eyes began to water and she gasped for air as her lungs seized up. Hunt stared as Merry’s nose started to bleed and the vampire buried her face in her hands.
Garlic! Hunt realized with a shock. She dug her hand into her pocket and pulled out her garlic spray. The can was wet – it was leaking!
“Oh God! I’m sorry, Merry!” Hunt said as she stood and hurried towards the door. “Vent the room!” she shouted into the camera as she punched in the code and pulled the door open.
Once she was outside and Merry was safe from the garlic, Hunt leaned back against the door. She swore under her breath. The can must have ruptured when she dropped it and she hadn’t thought to check it. Hunt shook her head and hurried up to the control room.
“What happened?” Athens asked when Hunt came into the room.
“Garlic spray leaked,” Hunt replied.
She was furious with herself for being so careless. She had stopped in the laundry room to get rid of the spray can and her lab coat and had scrubbed her hands until they were red, but she was afraid she still smelled like garlic.
“How is she?” Hunt asked.
“She’s in the shower,” Athens replied. “She was coughing but I think she’ll be okay. Did it leak on anything in the room?”
“I don’t think so,” Hunt answered. “God I hope not.”
“If it did she’ll notice and she’ll say something.”
Hunt nodded. Athens stood up and patted the chair he’d been sitting in.
“Sit down,” he said. “I’m going to work in the labs. Page me if you want to go back down to see her but there could be garlic on your clothes.”
She sat down in the chair. It was warm from Athens sitting in it, which Hunt found comforting.
“Want me to bring you a coffee?” Athens asked.
Athens nodded. His eyes lingered on Hunt. He hadn’t noticed before when she had her lab coat on that she was wearing his favorite of her shirts. It was his favorite for a reason he could never tell Hunt. Athens left the room but glanced back once.
Merry emerged from the bathroom, her long hair still wet, and walked over to the camera.
“Amy?” Merry asked.
“I’m here,” Hunt replied. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. Just cleared out my sinuses, that’s all.”
“Are you sure?” Hunt asked. “Did any garlic spill in the room?”
Merry turned and sniffed the air, concentrating hard. She turned back to the camera.
“No, it’s all gone,” the vampire answered.
“I’m really sorry,” Hunt said.
“It’s not your fault,” Merry insisted. “And I’m fine, really. No harm done.”
“I feel terrible,” Hunt admitted.
“Don’t, please Amy,” Merry replied, sounding sad. “I’m the one who should have noticed sooner and you being upset hurts me more than the garlic.”
Hunt wasn’t exactly sure how to reply. It was touching, really, to have the vampire say that.
“I’m just mad at myself,” Hunt finally said. “I’ll get over it. But I won’t be back down tonight – I’m worried there might be garlic on my clothes.”
“Alright,” Merry nodded. “Can we still talk though, like this?”
Hunt considered it. She really preferred being there with Merry, but she supposed that this would have to do.
“Sure,” Hunt replied. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Whatever you want, Amy. You're the scientist,” Merry replied as she moved the chair over closer to the camera and sat down.
Hunt searched her mind for a good question to ask the vampire. Her eyes fell on the stack of books in Merry's room.
“What's your favorite book?” she asked.
Merry smiled. Hunt could imagine that the vampire could probably remember every word of every book she'd ever read.
“The Bible is my favorite,” the vampire replied. “In the original languages preferably, although the King James Version reminds me of my childhood. If you're talking about more recent books, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a good one. I also like fantasy novels, like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series... anything with dragons and elves. I try to indulge in a variety of genres, and, as you've seen, I can read several novels a night.”
“Do you ever read books about vampires?”
“Yes,” Merry admitted. “I suppose it's a selfish fascination, but I've always wanted to know what humans thought about us. I read every story, every novel, and every supposedly non-fiction book I can find. I also watch a lot of movies. You humans are very imaginative: half-vampires, vampires that sparkle, vampires that can become bats, vampires that have to sleep in their native soil... Very creative.”
“I've read a lot of vampire books too,” Hunt answered. “Before I got this job and found out you were real, I'd never really been interested in the supernatural, so I had some catching up to do.”
“Do you enjoy reading?” Merry asked.
“Yes, although I don't find a lot of time to do it anymore,” Hunt replied.
“What's your favorite book?”
“I don't really have one,” Hunt admitted. “I really enjoy Michael Crichton's works, so maybe Jurassic Park. The whole concept of messing with genetics kinda hit home for me.”
“He was a very talented author,” Merry replied. “A very diverse mind, although nothing about vampires. I was sad to hear of his passing. The world lost a brilliant man the day he died.”
Hunt nodded, then remembered that Merry couldn't see her.
Merry waited patiently for Hunt's next question.
“Have you ever been to any of the places that the famous vampire novels are set?” Hunt asked. “Transylvania? New Orleans?”
“Oh yes,” Merry replied. “I love to travel, especially to places with beautiful scenery or rich history. I've even been to Forks, Washington. The rain forest is stunning, and it's so dense that I can walk around in the middle of the day without fear of the sun. And there's a very nice flower shop in Forks. The manager is a very friendly lady.”
“You never cease to amaze me with your knowledge and experience,” Hunt replied.
“Living for centuries doesn't always make a vampire wise,” Merry said, “but I love learning. One time I sat and read and entire set of encyclopedias front to back without a break. It took me days, but I finished it.”
“That's a little extreme. You must have been tired,” Hunt answered, “and grumpy.”
“I actually passed out,” Merry admitted. “Luckily another vampire was nearby and she came to check on me. She carried me back to her hotel room where I stayed with her and her sire until I recovered. They remain some of my dearest friends.”
“Wow, that could have turned out badly,” Hunt commented.
The vampire nodded.
“Yes, it was a learning experience in itself. I haven't done anything like that ever since.”
“You must have a very good memory,” Hunt commented.
“I remember things well,” Merry clarified, “if that's what you mean. Not all my memories are good though. And I never get to forget anything – good or bad.”
“A blessing and a curse.”
The vampire nodded. Hunt yawned. She glanced at her watch.
“I think it's bedtime.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow night then,” Merry said.
Hunt spent a few minutes recording things into Merry’s file. Every night she gained so much information on the vampire – every time the vampire spoke Hunt learned something new.
Hunt yawned again just as Athens returned from the labs.
“G’night Merry,” Hunt said into the speaker as she and Athens prepared to leave for the day.
“Noctem,” Merry replied absentmindedly as she turned the page in the book she had resumed reading.
Hunt turned off the lights and Merry took off her sunglasses. She continued to read in the dark until she had finished the book, then she tossed it to the floor and went to sleep.