The Forever Ghosts Ch. 01bymadam_noe©
Thank you to all my fans and friends who waited so patiently for a new story. This is a short story in 3 parts, the first prequel to a novel I am shopping around.
The main characters are the center of my novel "The Longest Midnight" and you can see, the titles in these works are a nod to Ray Bradbury, a hero of mine.
There will be at least 1 more short story prequel entitled "Swimming the Dusty River" up soon. I am finishing it as you read!
Under a full moon, my escape was working. I ran through Archer Woods more terrified of the man behind me than the gangs in the area, or the Satanic cults of urban legend. The man behind me was the deadliest predator in the city, and I was his prey.
My legs had been pumping for long minutes, I was in a blessid runner's high, past feeling, but I knew my lungs would give out. Then I would die.
I ran for the cemetery merely because I knew there was a police station across the street, not far. I had no idea just what I'd say. "Hi, I'm Alexis Bindle, the woman who went missing a year ago. Well, turns out my great uncle is a vampire psycho who kept me as his blood slave until my dead great aunt, a ghost, freed me."
Yeah, that'd work great. Still, a year of a padded room and heavy narcotics was better than another day with Nikola.
I was weak, literally damn near drained of blood. I was dizzy, thirsty, exhausted. Still I followed the green lights of the ghosts through the forests. My Great Aunt Irene and her friends carefully avoided trees, toots, branches, and fallen logs for me. They could pass right through and escape faster, for Nikola could consume their souls as easily as my blood, but they were my salvation.
Lights up ahead! Electric lights! My breath came faster in the cool spring air, sweat obscured my vision, but I ran harder. I hit the soft marshy ground of the cemetery with a cry and suddenly the ghosts disappeared.
I kept running but looked to the voice and ran into an old cross. The wind was knocked out of me and I bounced back, landing in a sweaty heap on the marshy ground.
The night sky above me was lit by the full moon and the light pollution of Chicago's south side. Suddenly two guns attached to mean looking cops were in my vision.
"Hands above your head!" The male yelled.
My eyes met the female cops', and hers widened comically. "Shit Bernie, it's that woman, the missing PI."
"Alexis Bindle," I wheezed out. As Bernie pulled out his radio and they sheathed their guns, I closed my eyes and let darkness take me.
When I woke I knew I had been under anesthesia. It was a struggle to swim to consciousness trapped within my body. I ached, I was dry, my head was imploding, and the words around me made no sense. I knew I should understand them, but I just couldn't.
What I meant to say was "Where the hell am I?" It came out "Unnnnnnnhhhhhh maaaawh ehhh."
Hands, pressure at my wrist, a rhythmic beeping grew stronger in my ear.
"Alexis, baby!" I understood that, it was my mother, and I began to weep until darkness took me again.
When I woke fully I was burning. I knew what it was; my blood was low. I opened one eye cautiously and saw a trio of bags flowing into tubes stuck in my right wrist. My left shoulder burned and I couldn't move me arm. I struggled for a moment until a voice stopped me.
"It's dislocated. In a few days you can take it out of the sling, until then, don't move it."
I saw only shadows; it was night, the lights were out, and the blinds filtered most of the dim moonlight. Dim. How long had I been there?
"Two weeks," the voice said, and I hadn't realized I'd spoken aloud.
"What else?" I croaked, and the bed suddenly came to life, lifting me up as a tray was rolled closer.
The bed stopped and two strong male hands held out a glass of water and steadied the straw for me. I drank greedily as he listed the injuries. "Shock, severe blood loss. Lacerations on your neck and wrists. Dislocated shoulder, sprained right knee, bone chip on your right shin. You'll be in here another week or so, on crutches for a few weeks, and your shin will hurt like hell if bumped for a month or two."
The water ran out, making a slurping gurgling sound, and one of the strong hands pushed the call button.
"Yes?" A nurse said from a speaker on the wall.
"We need more water. Miss Bindle is awake."
"Who are you?" I asked the shadow in a hoarse whisper.
"Detective Durand with the Chicago Police. I want to ask you about what happened, but I will wait until you're stronger. Miss Bindle, I do need to ask; we did a rape kit on you and you tested positive for fluids, but not trauma. Were you raped?"
I closed my eyes and turned my head, unsure of how to answer. I had never been raped by a stranger or a date, never even molested as a child. I had always been one of the lucky ones. But in the last year my soul had been raped in every way possible, but I didn't know how to explain.
When Nikola would come to me every night I'd fight him, claw, bite, do whatever I could. But when he bit me, drew my blood, my body responded to it the way it was designed to. When he would slip into my body I would be begging, and when he would leave I would weep in shame.
The door opened and lights flipped on, turning my eyelids red for a moment. "Detective, you'll have to leave now," a stern man said.
"No buts. Leave, Detective."
I opened my eyes and true terror kept me from screaming.
Detective Durand was a vampire.
She was shaking. Shaking with rage, anxiety, happiness, and fear. Alex was alive. So many had thought she was dead. Donna had been with her almost every day for twelve years, and after college and her time in the army, she and Alex, her best friend, had gone into business together. Guilt was there too.
The night Alex had disappeared she had been working a case that Donna had passed off to her. She'd had a date, begged Alex to take it. It had been ugly. A young woman killed, the police either unwilling or unable to find out who had fired from the car, killing the young college student. Donna had narrowed her focus to a pair of up-and-coming drug dealer brothers, independents trying to make it in a world ruled by organized gangs.
It had been a stakeout she'd planned, when Robert had called her for a date. Alex had been free, and taken the duty. When she hadn't come home in the morning, Donna had found her car. There had been signs of a struggle, bloody footprints that led into the Domingo house. Inside Donna had found the brothers dead, their throats torn out as if by wild dogs, their drugs and cash untouched.
And Alex's trail went cold.
She moved the car, changed the schedule books, gave a report to the grieving mother that the Domingo brothers were guilty, and dead. When 48 hours passed, Donna had brought her father, a criminal lawyer, down to the station with her to file the missing person.
Alex was tall, athletic, beautiful. Her unusual career as a PI had grabbed the attention of the media and life had become a circus. Donna did what she could to hang on to the house they shared, Alex's car, and keep life normal.
Everyone had thought Alex was dead. The cops, the reporters, their scant few friends, even Alex's parents had thought so, but Donna had never given up hope.
Almost thirteen months of sleepless nights had passed as she searched for her best friend and partner. Thirteen grueling, heartbreaking months. And all the time she'd been so close.
The same incompetent police now said she'd been held in a house near Archer Woods, raped, beaten, tortured. Donna was killing mad, scared for her friend, and worse, scared everything had changed. Would Alex be the same person?
Donna slapped herself soundly, the smack echoing down the hallway. Nurses, Doctors, patients all stopped to stare. Donna knew she made an odd picture, all of her five feet were stuffed into worn leather pants, her bike jacket, a t-shirt from her father. She'd long ago stopped worrying about her hair and makeup when darker things had taken precedence. Now her long dark hair was in a full Jewish afro, her thick glasses dominated her face, contrasting her biker babe look with bookworm presence.
Inside Alex was about to be discharged. Three weeks she had been back, and not once had Donna been able to walk in the door. She clutched the handle now, took a deep breath, and opened it.
Alex was in a wheelchair facing the window. Her straight golden hair had grown incredibly long, tied up in a ponytail out of the way of the wheels.
Donna walked slowly around to see an air cast on her friend's knee. Her clothes hung from a terribly thin frame, a green sweater and old jeans Donna had seen her wear a thousand times. Now it was like a shroud.
Alex's face made her wince. A black eye had swollen the left one almost shut, her lip was split open, and there was a hollow haunted look to her.
Trembling as she waited to see the rage cover her friends face, Donna held her breath. But When Alex turned, she smiled, winced, and broke into tears.
Donna grabbed her and hugged her tight in return until Alex grunted in pain. Donna pulled back and wiped at her tears, cleaning her glasses on her shirt.
"Donna, you look so different."
"I'm a a bit more natural. No more expensive hair products, makeup, or contacts. Business has sort of dropped off."
Alex sucked in her breath. "It's still in operation?"
Donna nodded and pulled back to rest on her knees. "Still going. I searched for you every day. I'm so sorry, Alex, it's all my-"
"It's not your fault. Donna, I know who took me, and I would have been taken no matter what."
Donna blinked. "But you told the police you don't know who did it."
Alex turned back to the window. "Because I'm going kill him."
Settled into the little house I stared at the TV. I hadn't seen TV while I'd been "gone" and the new shows amazed me. Donna, now a vegetarian, had made me sloppy joes for dinner. I was fifty pounds lighter than I had been before, and according to my doctor twenty pounds lighter than the minimum I should be.
They smelled like heaven, covered with American cheese, pickles, S. Rosen buns, and on the side were thick-cut fries and mayonnaise for sipping them. The pop next to me was Mountain Dew, packed with caffeine and calories, and it tasted like sugary slime to me.
I knew if I bit into the joes I'd taste dead cooked flesh only, the chemicals in the bun and cheese, and in the fries the formaldehyde used to preserve the white color inside.
I'd been back a week, and I hadn't told Donna any more than I had in the hospital. We'd taken the phone off the hook, closed the shades to keep the press at bay. Donna stopped working when it was too difficult to safely get the car out, and we had Dominick's deliver our groceries.
I had hated my prison before, but now I welcomed it.
I didn't want to see my parents, I didn't know what to say. So many family secrets had come out I couldn't face my mother. If only she had told me, if only she had warned me, it all might have been prevented.
If only I had known it wasn't all in my head, that I really did see ghosts. That my mother had too, and crazy Aunt Irene who'd they sent to the looney bin had been as sane as anyone could be. That this ability would make vampires hunt me.
I took the full can of Dew next to me and hurled it at the wall. I wanted to scream, I wanted to run, but every move pained me. I knew the fastest cure to heal, grow strong enough for my revenge; vampire blood.
So many times Nikola had drained me, beaten me bloody, and then fed me his own blood until I was whole and healed. Without it I didn't stand a chance, but if I got close to Nikola or his sycophants I was dead meat.
"Alex?" Donna appeared in the doorway. When she saw the foaming can on the floor, the pool beneath it and spray on the wall, she sighed and left. Returning with a paper towel she began to clean wordlessly, hiding from me.
I scared her, I unnerved her, and I hated it. Donna was the bravest soul I knew, the woman who had made me braver, stronger, and now she was terrified of me.
"Alex, why don't you eat? You need to eat."
"I can't." I bit my lip, unsure of just how much I wanted to tell her.
"Tell me then, what will you eat? What is it you want?"
I felt the tears gather as she faced me, standing up to my stony silence and brooding. "Blood," I whispered, and just like that, the story spilled from my lips.
It was a chilly February in Chicago. Valentines Day was in full denial of the snow and slush, and so was Donna. Her scum ex had called at the last minute for a date, so lonely ol' me I had agreed to take over her stakeout.
The Domingo brothers were bad, as bad as they came. Their house was always full, and Donna hadn't been able to get inside and take pictures she needed. Information had come that they were both going to be out for a while leaving the house empty. I was to wait for them to go, then take a picture of the car they kept hidden, and their gun collection.
I had a thermos of hot cocoa, the radio set to Q101, the alternative station that was blissfully devoid of any love crap that night. It was early, had been dark not even an hour. The Domingos had dates and should have been heading out soon.
Even in the scruffy Back Of The Yards neighborhood I saw flower deliveries, couples hand in hand. I was lonely, horny, and nauseated by it all.
Something grabbed my attention, but I didn't know what. I looked around and the dark street corner was empty. Even in winter the neighborhood had life, it was like being in the forest and noticing the animals all fell silent.
I went for my gun but my window exploded, broken glass and a fist plowed into my face.
I struggled but the door opened wide and I was grabbed and hauled out. Held by my coat, I faced the Domingo brothers. Javier, the smaller one, punched me while Sal held me up. My head rocked back, and the scant light dimmed even as I felt blood pouring down to the ground.
When I woke I was bound in a dark room. It smelled of chemicals, and I knew they'd been cooking Meth inside it. My gun was gone, the knife in my boots, even the steel-tipped boots were across the room. I wore only my UIC Sweatshirt, jeans, and the novelty socks Donna had given me for Christmas.
I wasn't dead, so that meant either they were going to question me, or question and rape me before killing me. Neither prospect appealed, so I tried to breathe calmly and formulate a plan. I couldn't breathe through my nose, it was broken and filled with blood, and as I breathed through my mouth I felt a painful click that told me that too was broken.
The Domingos were built like pro wrestlers and were known to sample their own goods, and many drugs fueled psychosis and strength. So if I was going to get out, I had to use my head.
No windows in the large room so I was in a basement or attic. The noises outside the door were of a faint TV set or radio broadcasting a soccer match in Spanish, and the brothers talking in low voices, also in rapid Spanish.
The bonds were tight, they'd used ties like cops did around my ankles and wrists, and nylon rope around my body. The floorboards were cold, my ass was asleep, and my face was screaming.
I doubted in the sweatshirt and looking this way I could pull off a seduction, doubted even less I would willingly do so, but maybe I could convince them I wanted in.
I tried to school my face into a tough sneer but the muscles were paralyzed. I straightened my back as much as I could and waited.
The sound of wood splintering exploded outside the door and a gun went off. There was yelling, crashing, the sound of a struggle, and then an inhuman snarl, sounding like a wolf in a movie. A high pitched scream rang out and another gun shot, before the sick, wet slam of a body falling into blood.
Then silence. My blood froze. The Domingos were at the top of the food chain, and if they were dead, I did not want to meet their killer.
The door opened and I sucked in my breath. He was tall enough to duck under the door, broad enough in the shoulders to fill it, and startlingly handsome. His skin was dusky, but he wasn't mixed race or Hispanic; he looked more like a relative on my mother's side.
He wore all black, matching his long hair and dark eyes. Behind him I heard the unmistakable trot of a happy dog leaving.
"Alexis," he breathed in a sultry accent that reminded me of my grandparents. The sound of Hungary, the sound of old wisdom and youthful exuberance.
"Are you hurt?" He asked and crossed the room startlingly quickly.
"N-no," I replied.
He bent to untie me and his scent was spicy, earthy, there was an almost magnetic pull to him.
He ripped six layers of rope open with his bare hands and pulled the ties off like they were rubber bands. For even the cops it took large wire cutters to get them off, I thought, and then he had me on my feet.
"Who are you?"
"I am your guardian angel," he purred, and scooped me up.
I'd seen it done in movies, but at 5'11" and 190lbs, I had never been carried as an adult. He let me grab my boots, and then took me into the hall, up the stairs to the main floor.
The men lay dead, their throats torn out. I wondered about the dog, but closed my eyes to burrow into his shoulder, hiding from the blood. I smelled it, it had filled my vision, and I felt sick, but my hero had an impressive erection pressed to my hip.
Out in the night he stopped. "Do you trust me, Alexis?"
I looked into his eyes, dark like the deepest ocean, and I felt drugged. Perhaps it was those eyes, or the blood loss, but I nodded. By the time I noticed what he'd done we were fifty feet in the air. I shrieked and clutched at him as he laughed, a deep rich sound.
We flew until I recognized Archer Woods, and we touched down on the south side, were the houses were large and old. He landed in the backyard of a Victorian, and I was pleased I hadn't passed out.
When he set me down I was shaking, my knees were weak. "How did you do that?"
He smiled down at me, an odd smile that flopped my stomach. "I have many skills."
He led me into the kitchen which was Spartan, and sat me on an old bench. "Wait here, I will get you something to help you heal."
I collapsed into myself, knowing I had lost too much blood. I hoped it was something to pack my nose, and then he'd get me to a hospital, though we'd better take a car. Speaking of which I'd left mine back there, along with my gun, knife, and purse.
No, my purse was on the counter. He must have brought it. I struggled to my feet and found my gun and knife inside it. Had the Domingos put them there, or had my mystery man somehow known what weapons were mine?
He came back in with a smooth stride I'd only seen on runway models. He held a wine glass filled with a dark vintage that was almost brown-black in the dim light.
"Wine? I don't think a blood-thinner would be good right now." He set it in front of me, and I noticed the liquid was thick, coating the glass as it sloshed. "That's not wine, is it?"
"It is a remedy, a very old one. It will help you to heal."
"I need a hospital, not folk medicine. Look, thank you for getting me out of there, but-"
"I will take you to a hospital. If you promise to drink this."
I sniffed at it, it smelled metallic and yet oddly...sweet and savory. "It's not a roofie colada, is it?"
Hey gave me a puzzled look as if the term meant nothing to him. "Drink, and you will feel better."
I picked it up, sniffed more, and it smelled delicious. I took a test sip and winced, slamming the glass down and coughing. "This tastes like blood!"
"Root vegetables and tomatoes can do that. It has been canned for a long time. It is good, see?" He took a large sip and almost shuddered with pleasure. "Safe. Drink, now."