CHAPTER EIGHT – IN THROUGH THE OUT-DOOR
© Sadie Rose Bermingham & Bellora Quinn 2008/9
Congratulations to all you lovely people who have managed to read thus far, and to those of you who harangue us on a weekly basis for the conclusion of this story, here at least is an increment bringing you a step closer to the final denouement. But sincerely an apology; it’s taken forever to get chapter 8 online and I hope that it is worth the wait. We had a little re-write crisis half way through but now it seems to be flowing much more seductively. I hope that you agree.
I will apologise in advance for my Portuguese (or the lack of it) but the parallel amused me.
As usual, we ask that no unauthorised copying or redistribution of our work be undertaken without first asking one of us. If we find out that you’ve whipped our stuff without asking we will find ways of making you hurt that Cole Lagrado hasn’t even begun to imagine.
To everyone else… enjoy. xx Sadie & Bellora
When he was dismissed from Elian Iannopoulos’ apartment Dominic Warren eschewed the offer of a ride home. He needed some air and the space to get his head clear. PJ and Clay were not going to be happy about him leaving Xavier behind. Hell! He wasn’t overjoyed about it either but the way he saw it, if he denied Yiannis, then the Vampire Ancient was perfectly capable of ensuring that neither he nor Xav saw daylight ever again. One did not argue with a vampire of Elian’s capabilities.
So Lord Warren walked briskly back down to the esplanade and en-route he considered his options. And he made a couple of calls that he had thus far been trying to put off.
When a City Cab finally got him back to the Happy Pig, Lord Warren had reached a decision.
“Do you have anywhere else that we can go to?” he asked PJ seriously as he walked into the porn director’s suite without knocking. “Somewhere that no one would think to look for us?”
Clay and Chavez were on their feet at once. Clay, he noted, was armed although he did not draw the small handgun from his hip pocket right away.
“Where’s the kid?” Barclay wanted to know.
“We had to revise our plan,” said Dominic carefully. “He’s quite safe. And don’t keep a loaded weapon in your pants pocket, darling. It’s really tempting fate!”
PJ looked alarmed. “You left him there?”
“Yiannis wanted security on the deal,” the other man reassured him, feeling less confident than he probably sounded. “It’s perfectly understandable. And Xav was fine with it.”
“That boy would walk into hell to get Wylde out of this mess!” Clay barked at him. “This is an insane plan!”
“Yiannis has promised to get Rayne out, tomorrow. I will go back there for him tomorrow evening and bring him, and Xavier, home.” Dominic drew a long breath. “I just think that it would be… sensible to move our location.”
“You don’t trust this Yiannis guy then?” Clay was shaking his head.
“He’s a vampire,” Dom Warren responded sagely. “A old and very cunning vampire too. One never turns one’s back entirely on the Undead, remember that Mr Francis.”
“But Rayne is one of them too,” Chavez pointed out. “You trust him?”
Dominic looked shrewdly at the Hispanic youth. For a moment he held his tongue then shrugged evasively; “I’ve known Rayne since he was Turned. He’s… unusual.”
“Unusual enough for you to fly halfway around the world to help him on the basis of a phone call,” PJ commented, pushing himself to his feet. “But I’ve known him longer than you have Lord Warren and he was kind of Out There as a mortal too” He exhaled a long, weary breath. “So… we gotta run?”
“Yiannis sent a car for us. He knows where we are,” Dominic said casually. “Put it like this, I’d rather not sit around waiting to see if anyone pays us an unscheduled visit,”
“I have a couple of friends in the city that owe me favours,” the ageing porn director sighed. “I’ll give them a ring.”
So it was that by midnight – as Xavier was being taken by Elian for the sixth or seventh time and Rayne Wylde was curling up in the chill darkness of his cell, regretting his impulsive offer to take the boy’s place – their friends slipped quietly from the passenger doors of a cab down on the edge of the Western Addition, just off Divisadero. Silently they melted into the darkness between a pair of shadowy, late nineteenth century buildings; three of them carrying large Samsonite cases, the fourth looking warily behind to check that they were not being followed.
THE NEXT MORNING:
At 11.30 precisely the next morning two men strode through the arrivals hall at San Francisco International airport. One was short and wiry, his iron-grey hair closely cropped in a military buzz-cut and his neat moustache the same. He wore mirrored shades and a dark, close-fitted jacket and pants with many pockets, that would probably have been considered combat gear if they were khaki instead of charcoal black. The small man carried a long, narrow, black canvas bag over one shoulder. gaziantep escort His companion drew the eye by his sheer size – and the watching eye mysteriously slipped over him and away just as quickly. He was well over six feet tall and broad in the shoulders but narrow of hip and waist, clad in a perfectly tailored charcoal grey suit, cut to show off his physique. Most striking of all was the long, straight fall of pure white hair, tumbling down his back to his waist, smooth as a freshly ironed curtain. In spite of this feature there was nothing remotely feminine about the tall man. His strong boned face was the colour of old gold, chiselled and handsome, with a prominent nose and a firm jawline. Eyes the colour of sunlit amber glittered keenly beneath a smooth, high brow. He might have been any age from thirty to sixty, it was impossible to tell.
He had no luggage, nor did he seem inconvenienced by this. As the mismatched pair walked out onto the concourse, the smaller man hailed a cab and they headed downtown.
Just around the time that Cole Lagrado was meeting with three of his Peers, trying to assess who most wanted his allegiance and attempting to strike a bargain over the wilful Fledgling he had inherited, that Fledgling’s Sire sat down in a cafe on the Embarcadero opposite Dominic Warren. Lord Warren was trying his very hardest not to fling himself at the huge, white-maned Vampire. The hunger lurked behind his eyes like a persistent fog.
“You should have called me first,” Jabez Everman said softly as the lean, nervous, besotted mortal sitting across the table from him in a booth to the rear of the restaurant, stirred his tea for the fifteenth time. “Yiannis is a clever fellow but he has his own agenda. Not a sociopath like Coelho Lagrada-Diaz, but even so.”
He sighed impatiently. By the rear doors his mortal bodyguard Jonjo Mersen paced a few steps back and forth, describing a small triangle on the tiled floor as he kept a shrewd eye on proceedings. Dominic glanced at the smaller man knowing that, however innocuous he might seem, he was probably armed to the teeth and, given the circumstances, not just carrying weaponry that was fatal to humans.
“I needed to assess the situation before I called you,” Lord Warren argued quietly. “I have the hardware in place to take them on but my friends don’t have the tactical experience for this kind of battle. They’re loyal and brave but they’re not mercenaries.”
His gaze flickered to Mersen who was still pacing casually by the door, never taking his eyes off the principal. Hard to believe really that this small man could inflict so much damage, but Dominic had seen him in action. It was impressive.
“I understand, Rabbit,” said Everman impassively. His use of Dominic’s childhood nickname told the mortal that he was not seriously angry about being summoned although his expression remained severe. For his own part, Lord Warren only permitted a handful of people to call him by that name and most of them were family or close friends. He felt a little rush of warmth inside. “You hoped that the vampires would fight among themselves and eradicate the problem for you. Lagrada does not work that way. He will make things difficult for Yiannis if he does not co-operate. Their truce is an uneasy one. Elian Iannopoulos is an older vampire, he has no love for Lagrada-Diaz. He considers the fellow a coward, one who hides behind others whilst he extends his reach over the city.”
“Why is Elian Iannopoulos not the Master of Frisco then?” Dominic wanted to know. The question had been troubling him since his meeting with the Ancient on the previous day.
“Yiannis likes to operate alone,” his companion explained with a small quirk of the lips that softened his severely handsome face for a moment. “As do I. I could have been Master of any number of cities in my time, and so I have been. But generally such a title brings more trouble to my door than plaudits. I can live without that, Rabbit, as I am sure Yiannis would agree.”
“So he makes a show of bending his head to Lagrada-Diaz and resents him for it?” the mortal speculated.
Jabez Everman looked back at him shrewdly. His almond-shaped, amber eyes shimmered like a desert sunset; serious and unblinking. Dominic felt himself begin to drown in that gaze, then it flickered away from him casually, watching Mersen pace his small, precise triangle of the tiled floor.
“Do you think he resents it?” the vampire asked at last. He answered his own question before Dominic could open his mouth to speak. “I believe that, to Yiannis, Coelho Lagrada-Diaz is no more than a speck of fly shit on his sleeve. He tolerates the fellow because it is his prerogative to do so. Did you know, by the way, that Coelho is Portuguese for Rabbit?”
He smiled again, pleased with this piece of deduction. Dominic laughed incredulously.
“My Portuguese isn’t that hot, Jabez. Are you trying to suggest that we have some common ground?” he chuckled.
“It was a nickname, the same as it is for you, Lord Warren,” the Everman purred, still smiling contemplatively at him across the table, making Dominic wish with all his heart that this was a social meeting and they could forget about warring vampires and just go to bed. He wanted Jabez inside him more than anything in the world right now. Jabez Everman clearly had other matters on his mind. “Don’t you wonder how a fearsome opponent like Lagrada-Diaz came by such a nickname?”
“I presume it has other connotations in his homeland,” Dominic laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know, Jabez. Tell me.”
“His family name is Diaz,” Jabez said quietly in a tone that prompted his companion to demonstrate that he was not completely ignorant.
“From the Latin, dies. It means Days, I know that,” Dominic sat back in his seat. “How does this have any relevance to our dealings with him?”
“When he became as he is now, he was one of those who turned his back on the light,” Jabez Everman explained patiently. “At the same time he turned away from his traditional name. Lagrada-Diaz; loosely translated it means ‘the place where the sun is launched…’ the point of daybreak, I suppose.” The vampire shrugged his shoulders slightly as if apologising for his lack of linguistic skill. Dominic nodded, encouraging him to go on, which he did. “He shunned the daylight, hiding himself away in the tunnels and passages of his family’s vast estate near Braga. There he lured others to him, and he Turned or bred many creatures that would come to serve him. In Braga they called him Lagrada da Noite, the Birth of the Night. But those who grew to hate and fear him called him Coelho, the Rabbit, because he would not show his face and he hid underground, coming to the surface only to destroy those who opposed him, and breeding others just like him.”
“Woah… woah, woah!” Dominic Warren sat forward as something occurred to him. “He’s Nocturne?”
“He will not walk in the daylight,” Jabez said pacifically. “I cannot guarantee that it will harm him. It is what he believes.”
“But if he’s spent centuries in the dark, or in artificial light…?” the mortal narrowed his eyes shrewdly.
“Technically we only have to lure him into the light to weaken him,” his companion agreed with a wry smile. “Before we do that, I would prefer that we address the whereabouts of my troublesome Fledge.”
Dominic steadied himself with a long intake of breath.
“I… er… I’m not altogether sure where he is right now, but tonight should hopefully be a different matter,” he said with a forced brightness that his Undead companion unfortunately saw clean through.
“And where will he be tonight?” asked Jabez Everman coolly.
“Um… well… if everything goes according to plan, he’ll be with Yiannis.” Dominic looked uneasy again.
“Then that is where we shall begin.” Jabez said decisively. He gestured with a raised finger in the direction of his mortal bodyguard.
At once Mersen was by his side, still wary for any suspicious activity in their vicinity. Even through the mirrored sunglasses Dominic was conscious that the small, dangerous Irishman was giving him the evils.
“Do we have night hunting equipment?” Jabez was asking.
“I have the night-sights, Boss,” Mersen answered gruffly. “And about five boxes of the exploding rounds.”
Dominic rose to his feet with a grave smile.
“Gentlemen,” he said with a magnanimous gesture. “I think I may be able to raise your contribution there.”
Xavier woke not knowing he had fallen asleep. He hadn’t meant to, but he had been exhausted. He shifted on the bed and realised his wrist was chained to the bedpost.
Great! He seemed to have traded one prison for another, albeit a more comfortable one. He shouldn’t have come here with Dominic. Lord Warren could have convinced the Elder vampire to help Rayne without him. He was supposed to have been just eye candy, not the deal-sealer. He snorted, guessing that it had been rather naïve of him to think so, but Dominic had seemed like a nice guy and he hadn’t been thinking about anything but doing what ever it would take to get Rayne away from Lagrado.
Little irritants began to make themselves known. He had to piss. He was sticky with dried sweat and semen. He was hungry and thirsty.
He tested the give in the chain. He could get off the bed but that was all. Goddamn it, it would serve the smug bloodsucker right if Xavier pissed on the floor. Bastard! He pulled on the chain, tried to compress the bones of his hand in order to get it through the manacle but the cuff was too tight. The chain actually led behind the mattress and the idea occurred to Xav that he might be able to somehow get the bed frame apart and maybe slide the chain off that way.
He shoved the mattress off and flipped the box spring up. The frame was made of solid cherry, the joints screwed in place. Unless the vampire had a screwdriver hidden in the nightstand he wasn’t going to get the frame apart. He didn’t get a chance to look. The door came open and the burly vampire that had been guarding the door last night came into the room.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Redecorating. What the hell d’you think I’m doing?”
The big vampire stared at him, not knowing how to respond to sarcasm. Xavier was guessing he was hired muscle both before and after he was turned.
“You got the key?” Xavier asked, looking innocently at him. “I gotta piss.”
The big guy’s expression changed slightly, the confusion clearing as his eyes slid over Xavier’s naked body. Xav sighed; he was not going to do this guy any favours. If he wanted it he was going to have to fight for it. The vamp came closer, but didn’t try anything, he just took the key out of his pocket and slowly unlocked the cuff on Xavier’s wrist. Must have had orders from Elian to behave, Xavier thought with no small amount of relief.
He was allowed to use the bathroom, and the vampire even let him take a shower, although he wasn’t allowed to do it unobserved. When he asked for something to eat and said he was thirsty, he was out of luck. Apparently Elian hadn’t expressly told his guards whether he could have food or not, so it was not. Xavier tried to reason with the bonehead and then cussed him and called him an idiot, but got nowhere. The best he could do was grab a drink from the sink faucet in the bathroom before he was hauled back to his new prison. Then he was chained back to the bed, the box spring and mattress were replaced on the frame and he was left alone.
He watched the day go by outside, wondering if Elian had got Rayne free or not. He also finally let his mind touch on something he’d been avoiding. The revenant, the starved rotting thing that had fed from him… Elian said they were starving Rayne. Was that what he meant? That Rayne would be like that thing? Would he bring back a crazed decaying corpse?
Xavier shuddered. No! No, he couldn’t do that again.
He touched the cross that hung around his neck like he was a devout Catholic. He wasn’t. He wasn’t even Christian. But this was one cross he could believe in, or rather what was tucked away inside it. Xavier shook his head. He could not let something dead and rotted touch him again, not even if it was Rayne.
Lagrado’s men shackled Rayne for the journey back to his new keeper’s lair. Tight iron bands were fastened around his ankles over the thin, supple leather of his boots, attached to one another by a very short length of chain so that his stride was no more than a foot in length. His arms were wrenched behind him and laced from the elbows to his slim wrists into a sheath of something that felt like kevlar, strong, bullet-resistant material that would hold his struggles for the time it took to transfer him. A double cuff was then locked into place around his wrists and another chain attached from this device to the hobble between his feet.
Rayne thrashed and hissed at them as the burly pair held him down and secured him. In turn they taunted him with threats of the things that Elian would do to his ass once he was naked and chained to the Elder’s bed. Rough fingers seized a handful of his dark hair and jerked his head back hard. When he opened his mouth to scream abuse, the other thug forced a rubber-clad, iron bit-gag between his teeth, hooking it behind his extended fangs and buckling the restraining straps tightly at the back of his head. His curses were muffled and incoherent from then on but no less vehement.
When they blindfolded him he felt cold fear grip his heart. Nothing freaked him out quite so much as not being able to see. His other senses, whilst enhanced by Turning were never quite enough to compensate. Rayne pleaded with them now, begging them wordlessly to take the blind off but he was ignored.
Strong hands pulled him to his feet and he was walked, slowly and awkwardly from the room. He could hear that his fate and Warren’s were still being discussed. One of his guards asked a question and Elian answered it; “Take him to the car and put him in the trunk. There are restraining rings welded into the chassis there. Secure him from his collar and fetters, that should be sufficient to hold him for a short journey.”
Then he was dragged, stumbling and muttering wordless venom, from the audience chamber and out into a long corridor. At one point, from the disorienting sense of movement even though he was standing still, he knew that they were taking him up – he thought it felt like up – in an elevator. Then suddenly he was stumbling on a short flight of steps and a door opened letting him feel the momentary relief of cool, fresh air on his face.
He heard a bleep and then a solid ‘thunk’ as the car was unlocked and the boot lid rose smoothly, almost inaudible to mortal ears, but he was conscious of it. Rayne struggled as they pulled him towards the vehicle and in the end they hefted him off his feet and dumped him unceremoniously in the broad, deep trunk of the car. Chains were hooked onto his collar and attached to a loop in the bodywork of the vehicle so that he could not get up again. His feet were restrained in the same way and then the lid was slammed down.