Habit of A Lifetime Ch. 05bySadieRose©
28th June, 1999 – Deptford, S.London
When the Evermann strode out of the room where they had been keeping the boy, the sound of stifled weeping followed him briefly, then was silenced by the closing of the heavy fire-door between himself and his captive. Mersen did not look up from the bench where he knelt, industriously cleaning his semi-automatic, although the weapon was so immaculately maintained that it did not require service. Jabez watched him for a little while, understanding that the activity was a consolation to the mortal. Mersen had worked with him for many years but even now, there were some things that the man found hard to stomach.
"Why didn't you tell him the truth?" Mers asked at last, without looking up. "He thinks he's a murderer."
Jabez was silent for a moment, mulling over his lieutenant's words. That Mersen had been eavesdropping on his conversation with the boy they brought back from the Midland Hotel was no great surprise. It was Mersen's job to cover his back, and he did it well. Had he not been listening, Jabez would probably have found reasons to fire him later. The question was unexpected however.
"Wylde 'is' dead," he answered at last, impassively. "I told him the truth. And it 'is' his fault."
"He's as 'dead' as you are," Mers' grumbled, slamming the ammunition clip back into place vigorously. "An' you're still talkin'!"
"Dead enough," the Vampire sighed. "Stripped of his soul and condemned to a life of blood and slaughter."
"Bollocks! What d'you bite him for, if that's your gripe?" The lean, angry mortal sighted down the barrel, out through the mesh-protected window of the warehouse and pumped the trigger mechanism of his weapon with more aggression than he would normally employ to kill a man.
"Because I could not let him go," Jabez answered at once. He saw no point in lying to Mersen. The man had been with him for fifteen years and knew him as well as anyone bar Zelarin ever had. "What was my option? To admit that he has won again... that I must wait alone for another fifty miserable years or more. If Rayne Wylde will love me, living or dead, I regain my soul. I can die a mortal death."
"And what about him?" Mersen did not look up.
Jabez glared at him with narrowed eyes, nonetheless. "You ask too many questions, Mers."
"Because they 'need' asking," the mortal raised his head at last, setting his gun aside. He rubbed his neat, dark moustache with the back of one finger and rose to his feet. Even standing he was more than a head shorter than his employer. "And because 'someone' has to stand up to you."
The Vampire lowered his head, controlling his temper. That was what he liked about Mersen, he reminded himself grimly; the mortal always spoke his mind. He could not recall a time when Mersen had ever been afraid of him.
"Rayne will do what I have done. He will make the best of his situation, or he will fail," he said neutrally.
"And if he 'does' fall in love with you...?" Mersen left the enquiry unfinished.
"His soul has passed on. He is no longer my Neferuaten," the Vampire stated.
"And you are no longer her Akti...Rakti... 'whatever the fuck your name was', either!" Mers' pointed out bluntly. "Does that mean 'he' should suffer for it? And what about the kid? What are you gonna do with that poor little bastard?"
"Shut up, Mersen." Jabez Evermann looked appraisingly down his nose at his bodyguard.
John Joseph Mersen allowed himself a humourless smile and went back to polishing his gun. That was as close as the boss would ever come to admitting he had a point. For now, he thought, it would have to do.
Simon Hathaway was unable to think of anything but the terrible scene that met his eyes when he walked into the Gents toilets of the roadside cafeteria in Perry Barr. The image of Rayne, sprawled where Charley had thrown him on the tiled floor, his shirt open to the loosely buttoned waistband of his black hipsters, blood running down his bare chest and masking his handsome, angular face, left him shuddering uncontrollably. He could not get the picture out of his head.
The singer's extended dog teeth were exposed briefly in a vicious snarl, before Rayne scrambled away towards the washbasins, seeming to deflate a little as he caught sight of himself in the line of mirrors there. He washed his face quickly then, splashing his arms and chest as if ashamed of himself.
In the doorway of the nearest cubicle, a young man in a rumpled suit clutched at the Formica panelling for support, looking very much as if he might faint if they so much as said 'boo' to him. There was blood on his open shirt collar and smeared on his cheek, but apart from this he did not seem to be physically wounded. Charley Collister, who had taken prompt control of the situation from the moment they entered the toilets, now asked if he was okay. Simon had expected big Chaz to walk away and not come back. He was mildly relieved that their driver had elected to stick around.
"H...he 'bit' me!" the young fellow was stammering now, putting a hand to the side of his neck. When he drew it away, he seemed surprised that there was not more blood.
As Rayne turned from the basins still dripping, his body randomly gore-spotted (although his features were now back to normal) Charley scowled his disgust at the singer.
"You've blown a fucking fuse, Raymonde! What happened this time, eh? Your teeth slipped whilst you were nibbling his fucking ear?" The burly fellow held up a dismissive hand at once. "Don't tell me!"
Rayne pulled down the roller towel, rubbing his face with it, apparently disinterested. He wiped his hands and dabbed ineffectually at the spots of blood on his chest and shirt collar with an unfeeling smile. Simon stared at him numbly, consumed by the awareness that Rayne was conceding defeat; that he was 'glad' they had caught him in the act. He felt ill, recalling Ray's behaviour in the flat just yesterday; wondering how close he had come to ending up like this poor, startled bastard in the cubicle.
"Sort 'im out some money for the dry cleaning, Chaz," the singer muttered dispassionately, running both hands back through his dishevelled hair.
"You what? You seriously think we can push him a fiver and hope he'll keep his mouth shut?" Charley exploded, glaring at Ray incredulously. "After what happened to Matt? You're a bloody lunatic, Wylde!"
Simon felt his recently consumed dinner lurch in his stomach at the memory of Matty's pale, unconscious face on the morning after Rayne allegedly attacked him. Beside him, the singer merely shrugged his slim shoulders.
"What's to argue about? He's alive; He's not hurt. He's just a bit... shop-soiled." Rayne was still picking at the spilt blood on his shirt, refusing to look at either of them.
The young man in the toilet stall made a small, nervous, negative-sounding noise in the back of his throat. He sat down rather heavily on the seat of the WC, still shaking. Charley snorted disbelievingly through his nostrils at Rayne Wylde. "You reckon you can get away with this? Forget it! You are 'fucked', Raymondo!" he announced at last.
Rayne leaned back almost languidly against the edge of the washstand to survey the older man through his lowered eyelashes. Glibly, he pointed a finger at the Rep; "'Actually', Chaz love, 'he' was the one who got fucked!"
Charley Collister went for him like a raging bull. His flying back-hander caught Rayne a tremendous, crunching blow across the face and the singer staggered sideways, blood gushing from his broken nose, through his fingers. Charley flexed his right hand with some satisfaction.
"That's better," he remarked insouciantly, as though he had just straightened the younger man's hair or buttoned his collar for him. "Now, 'you' are going to apologise to our friend here and sort this out on your fuckin' own. 'I'm 'goin' out to the car to finish readin' my paper. If you've not sorted it in five minutes, I'm leavin' without you. Capiche?"
Rayne straightened, with his back to the wall, his fingers still curled protectively over his smashed and battered face. All the same, he nodded his head once.
"Good," their burly driver grunted, glancing at Simon now. "You comin' Hathaway?"
Simon shook his head struggling for words. "Maybe... um... maybe one of us should stay. You know... Just in case..." he faltered at last.
"Your funeral," Chaz remarked grimly.
He wanted to ask precisely what the other man meant by that, but Charley was gone before he could even open his mouth. Rayne closed his eyes briefly as the door swung shut, tilting his head back against the wall behind him, and then he leaned over the sink and spat a little black blood out of his mouth. Simon blinked; already the blood on his face was drying and coming off like a fine, dark powder, as it had from his wrist back in London. Rayne splashed his face and rinsed his mouth cautiously, then pinched the bridge of his nose between the forefinger and thumb of his right hand.
"If this heals crooked, I'll fuckin' 'have' him!" he muttered to himself bitterly.
The Rep whimpered, still cowering in the toilet cubicle, not daring to make a run for it. Simon moved towards him, contemplating obscurely that there was safety in numbers. "What happened...?" he forced out lamely, at last.
Pale green eyes, like ice in chartreuse, looked sidelong at him and Rayne said; "You can 'see' what fuckin' happened, Si."
"He bit me," the young man said again, more adamantly this time.
"I got carried away. Sorry." Rayne did not sound as much.
"You're all right though?" Simon was trying to examine the guy without unnerving him any more than necessary.
"Only 'cause you came in when you did," the Rep exhaled tremulously. "God knows what he would have done!"
"Cut the amateur dramatics, already!" Rayne growled at him, still pinching his nose irritably. "Are you wounded? No! Are you dead? Not a bit of it... 'unfortunately'!" He rolled his vividly green eyes and turned back to the mirror, examining his damaged face.
"You bastard! I'll sue!" the Rep threatened, finding the energy to pull himself to his feet now.
"For what?" Rayne turned from the basins with a gleam in his eyes. His nose seemed to be healing quite rapidly, Simon thought. Beside him, the younger man took a step backward. "You've no sign of physical injury. The blood on you is all your own. 'You' solicited me for sex in a public place and 'that's' what I'll tell the police if they come knocking. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
From the way his face drained of colour, Simon could be sure that the young fellow understood perfectly. He probably had a wife, maybe even children. Whipsnade's drummer tried not to think of what would have befallen them if he had not survived. But then... Matty was still alive, so was he. Were they being unnecessarily hard on Rayne?
"We'll sort out the damage to your suit," he heard himself saying, rationally. It was as if another being had taken over control of his body. His mind was whirling as he reached into a back pocket for his wallet and counted a handful of twenties; the money he had taken out at a cash machine this morning in case of emergencies.
Well, this 'was' an emergency.
At finish, they had to go and find another cash machine. The Rep (Alastair McCaughtrie, he introduced himself as Simon keyed in his pin number and Rayne leaned against the wall beside the machine looking thoroughly disgusted) insisted that his suit was worth nearly two hundred pounds! Ray had plenty to say about that, though he muttered most of it in a dark undertone, all that was clearly audible being the words "'Marks and fuckin' Sparks'!"
When they got into the Mercedes some twenty minutes later, Charley turned over the engine without another word. They were back on the M6 before he announced; "When we get back to the Smoke I don't 'ever' want to see you again, Wylde. Is that clear?"
"Crystal!" Rayne told him, stretching out insolently on the back seat. Then he folded his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.
Simon sat across from him in stunned silence, just staring at him as he slept, for what seemed to be an impossibly long time.
29th June, 1999 – Soho, London.
'Flesh for Favours' resided in a faceless, five-storey warehouse building on an alleyway off Old Compton Street. A small, brass plaque by the featureless metal fire doors was all that identified Khaled Zelarin's UK business enterprise. Jabez Evermann had never been there before but he had deftly plucked the whereabouts of the club from the mind of the blond boy he had taken from the Midland Hotel, last night as he fed from the youngster. Today he had left the youth sleeping; rest was the best form of regeneration for his red blood cells right now. He would bring the child something to eat later in the evening, if his schedule permitted it.
Mersen, his mortal driver and bodyguard, parked the Lexus illegally at the farthest end of the street from the doors and as he disembarked, the tall, blond Vampire leaned in at the driver's window briefly.
"I might be a while. I'll call if I need you."
"You're sure you wanna go in there on your own, boss?" Mersen looked up at him with a little frown; part disapproval, part genuine concern. They had worked together for many years now and the man knew him and his secrets as well as anyone currently alive.
"These creatures are 'my' kind, Mers'. You can't help me against the likes of Zelarin." Jabez smiled humourlessly.
"I've tackled Vamps, boss," Mersen reminded him stoically.
"I'm prepared to wager my mortality that you never took on a being quite so old, or so malevolent as the serpent in 'this' cage," the blond creature told him evenly, shaking his head. "Look after my car, Mers'... and come for me when I call."
A panel slid aside in one of the heavy, double doors when he rang the bell for the third time. Narrowed, red-tinged eyes glared balefully out at him.
"I am not here to buy your sordid commodities. I have come to speak with Zel'Arin," Jabez said in frigid tones.
The eyes did not waver, nor did they blink. "'E's not 'ere!"
"Then I will wait." The Evermann held that resentful stare until the bristling fledgling finally averted its venomous gaze. "Tell your master that I have something which belongs to him."
The panel snapped shut with a clang. Jabez leaned in the doorway nonchalantly. He hugged his long, dark, wool coat snugly around himself, however. One day the Gods would see fit to release him from this freezing hell-on-earth. He prayed that the day was not far off.
After a double handful of minutes, he rang the bell again, keeping his thumb obdurately on the button until the panel snapped back once more and the same pair of hate-filled eyes glared out at him. The Fledge was brethren to him... of a kind. They shared a Sire; Jabez could feel it in his veins, just as surely as he knew his own heritage. He did not doubt that this miserable creature felt their kinship also; and hated him for it. There was precious little love lost between the offspring of a Vampire's Immortal Kiss. Another blood brother was nothing more than further competition for sustenance in most cases.
Now, this one glowered at him defiantly.
"Mister Zelarin sez 'whaddaya want?'"
Jabez was fairly certain that his Sire had said nothing of the sort, but he maintained his composure.
"If you let me in, I can tell him myself, can't I?" he remarked coolly.
The intercom to his left crackled into life unexpectedly and he turned his head to examine it, even as a familiar tone rode the static rustle to his ears.
"Akhenaten, you never change! So, stop playing games and tell me what it 'is' that you have."
"I have one of your boys. Your imprint is all over him," Jabez retorted, feeling his skin prickle oddly as he heard the cold, unemotional voice of his vampiric Sire. They had not spoken in many moons but still Zelarin left him feeling charged with an anger he could not channel away.
"And why should 'that' concern me?" Zelarin retorted, managing to project a chill, even through the electronic system of the speaker on the wall. "I can replace a mortal boy anytime it pleases me. Do as you will with him."
"I already did so." Jabez leaned closer to the grille, keeping his tone quiet and neutral. "His blood and seed were delicious. You trained him well. I tasted your taint upon his lips and his body." He bent his head, controlling the slow burning anger inside him. "Why send a concubine... and a mere boy at that, to do a man's task?"
"What on earth are you rambling about now?" Zelarin drawled silkily. His voice, distorted by the machine, was an icy breeze stirring dry, dead leaves.
Jabez suppressed the urge to shudder. "You know full well! Keep away from the singer, I'm warning you."
"Or you will do 'what', precisely?" A cold, disembodied chuckle emanated from the grille. "Oh... do go away, Akhenaten! You bore me. In life, you had precious little imagination. Three thousand years has taught you nothing. The boy is an irrelevance. He failed me, and he will be punished for that failure. Whether he receives his chastisement from you, or from another of my children... it is of no great concern to me."
In the shadowy doorway, the tall, white-maned Vampire seethed quietly. His long, powerful hands clenched into fists in the deep pockets of his expensive coat.
"Zel'Arin, I am warning you... touch the singer again and I will see your dust blow on the wind!" he snarled.
"Empty threats, 'Evermann'," his nemesis sighed theatrically. "How many times have we stood at this place before? You cannot touch me now, and we 'both' know it." Before Jabez could even verbalise a response to this remark, he added; "Paul, Mister Evermann is leaving now. Do not delay him further."
The speaker cracked and died. With a malicious glint in his reddened eyes, the Fledge slammed the viewing panel closed once more. Silence enveloped the doorway and Jabez Evermann fumed for a moment then turned on his heel and stalked off down the alleyway plotting bloody murder as he went.
It was dark when they finally glided into a lay-by off a quiet road, over a hundred miles from Perry Barr and central Birmingham. This time Charley was less restrained when he yanked his emotionally exhausted employer from the back seat of the limousine. Simon crawled out and slumped against the flanks of the Merc, watching numbly as the big man systematically beat Rayne bloody. His colleague did not even try to resist. He was on his knees by the time Charley hauled him upright and virtually threw him against the raised grass verge by the roadside. From the car, Simon heard Rayne whimpering in pain and felt cold inside. As a boy he had once held Ray and listened to him cry after the beatings, and worse, dealt to him at the hands of his Uncle Bryan. The sound took him back sixteen years to Dymchurch, and left him feeling sick and helpless again.
Whenever he wondered what the hell he was doing here, his thoughts always came back to that same memory. He and Ray had grown up together in that little seaside town in Kent where everyone knew everyone else's business. Si's parents disapproved of his friendship with Ray much of the time. His mother told him repeatedly that Ray was a bad influence, but Simon did not care. Rayne Wilde (he did not begin to spell the name with a 'y' until his late teens) lived up to his parental surname. He was crazy, and funny, and quite simply the best friend that Simon Hathaway had ever known. He did not give a damn what anyone else thought of him, and he was just like his mum and dad in that respect. Lily Wilde was a painter, she loved nothing more than taking her easel out onto the marshes or down along the coast to make her sketches and watercolours. She wore her hair long, like the hippies and put flowers behind her ears. When she walked Rayne and his sister Skye to school in the spring and summer, she never wore shoes and her long, peasant skirts swished around her ankles like colourful banners, proclaiming her independence.