As Seymour comes down for his breakfast, I am sitting at the kitchen table. I have made him bacon and eggs and toast, his favorite high-cholesterol meal. He has on a brown robe and is fresh from a warm shower. He smiles at me as I pour his hand-squeezed orange juice from the other side of the table.
"One day you're going to make somebody a great wife," he says.
"Thank you. One day you're going to make a girl have a nervous breakdown."
"You worry about me too much. I just went to the movies. God knows where you were." He picks up his fork and tests his eggs. "Did you get me the morning paper? You know I can't enjoy my food unless I'm fully informed on current events," he jokes.
I speak seriously. "I am your morning paper."
He butters his toast. "What's the matter? Did Suzama predict that I am the next messiah?"
"The scripture is authentic."
"You saw it?"
"A piece of it. Suzama wrote it."
He puts down his butter knife. "But how come you never saw her working on it?"
"I was with her most of the time, but not every second. She could have written it on any number of days."
"But she didn't talk to you about it? And you were her best friend?"
"She never talked about it to me. But Suzama kept her own counsel. I doubt if she spoke to anyone about the scripture. But she left it in a place where it could be found–at a time she wished it to be found."
Seymour considers. "How did you talk Dr. Seter into letting you see it?"
There is an edge to his question.
"Are you asking if I slept with his son?"
"I noticed you were talking to him after you told me to get lost."
"I didn't tell you to get lost. I told you to go have fun." I pause. "I convinced both son and father that I have a similar scripture. They want to see it soon."
"Great. We can make one up this afternoon. We can make papyrus and age it in the sun, then you can give me a lesson in drawing hieroglyphics." He pauses. "It wasn't a very inventive lie."
"It served its purpose." I frown. "I will have to give them something substantial to make them let me see the remainder of the scripture."
"Why don't you just give them me to use as a human sacrifice?"
"Stop that. They are not such a bad bunch." Then I have to smile. "But they are busy practicing with automatic weapons in the desert."
"They sound like a nice all-American cult."
"No, I don't think they're that, but they really do have guns. I heard the Seters talk about them when they didn't think I was listening." I pause. "But those guns might come in handy."
This shocks him. "When?"
"A half hour ago."
"Did she call here?"
He has lost his appetite for his breakfast and sits, staring out the window, his face pale. In the dis?tance is the blue Pacific. Only he and I know how red the water can run when it is diluted with blood. Yet I remind myself that Seymour doesn't remem?ber exactly what Kalika did to him. The time has come, I know, to tell him. Many things.
"How did she get our number?" he mutters.
"Who knows? She gets what she wants."
"If she has our number she has our address. She could be on her way here now."
I shake my head. "If she just wanted to kill us, I don't think she would have called first."
"Why did she call then?"
"She said she wanted to hear my voice."
"Like Hitler used to call home to talk to mom?" he asks.
"She hasn't found the child. She wants me to help her find him."
"But you don't know where the kid is."
"She knows that. Still, she seems to feel I can lead her to the Paula and the baby."
Seymour is puzzled. I can see the question coming.
"You must have some idea what is so special about this child?"
I pour myself a glass of orange juice. I have drunk blood only three times since my rebirth as a vampire, and none of my snacks were any the worse for wear in the morning. I suspect, toward the end of his life, that Yaksha did not need blood at all to survive. Still, it tasted good to me, the warm red elixir, better than the orange juice I now sip.
"This child could be the one spoken of in the Suzama scriptures," I say softly.
Seymour stares at me. "You've got to be kid?ding?"
He is annoyed. "That's ridiculous. All right, I believe in vampires. I believe in you. I even believe in your bad-tempered daughter. But I don't believe that Jesus was just born in a hospital in Los Angeles. I'm sorry but I can't. It's too weird."
"Do you remember what happened to you after Kalika threw you off the pier?"
He hesitates. "Yeah. The water was freezing and I got hypothermia and passed out and you came to my rescue."
"Where did you regain consciousness?"
"Up in the mountains. The next morning."
"You were unconscious for a long time, don't you think?"
"So? What does this have to do with this kid?"
I speak carefully. "Seymour, you did not simply pass out in the cold water. Kalika did not let you go so easily. She threw something at you, a sharp stake. It was shaped like a spear." I pause. "She threw it so hard it stabbed through your spine and out through your stomach."
Seymour stands. "That's not true."
"It is true. I jumped off the pier and helped you to shore, as I told you. But you were on the beach less than a minute when you finally lost conscious?ness."
He is agitated. "Then how did the wound disap?pear? You told me you didn't give me any of your vampire blood."
"At the time I intended to give you my blood. But I was afraid to pull out the stake. I thought it would kill you." I shrug. "So I left it in."
He is breathing hard. "You're not answering my questions."
I stand and step to his side and put a hand on his shoulder,
"You lost too much blood. Even I couldn't save you." I pause. "You died that night on that beach."
He forces a smile. "Yeah, right. I'm Lazarus, back from the dead."
"There was a vial of the child's blood. I stole it from the nurse who was caring for the baby at the hospital. I had that vial with me when I took you up to the mountains."
"Why did you take me up there? You never explained that."
"To cremate your body. You must remember that when you woke up you were lying on a huge pile of wood." I squeeze his shoulder. "Seymour."
He jumps back and trembles. "That's not possi?ble. You're making this story up. I couldn't have been dead. When you're dead you're dead. God damn it, Sita, don't lie to me this way. You're scaring me and I don't like it."
I am patient. "Just before I lit the wood, a strange feeling swept over me. I was looking down at you and I was holding this burning lighter and I couldn't stop staring at your face and thinking how you shouldn't be dead. Then I remembered the vial of blood, and I took it out of my pocket and poured some over your wounds and some down your throat. Then I walked away and stood behind a tree and prayed to God that everything would be all right." I move to his side again and put my arm over his shoulder. Both our eyes are damp. "And you were all right, Seymour. It was a miracle. You were sitting there and everything was perfectly all right." I kiss the side of his face and whisper in his ear. "I wouldn't lie to you about this, you know. I don't lie to those I love."
He is still shaking. "But I don't remember any of this."
"Maybe that is part of the miracle. Maybe it is for the best."
He looks at me with a sad little boy's face. "She really killed me?"
"And that baby's blood brought me back?"
He is awed as well as shocked. "That must mean …" He can't finish.
"Yes." I bury my face against his chest and dry my eyes on his robe. "I can't let my daughter get to him or to Paula. I just can't. I have to stop her and the only way I can do that is to kill her."
Seymour strokes my hair. Now he comforts me. We make a fine pair.
"Can she be killed?" he asks.
I raise my head. "I think so. Even Yaksha could be killed."
"But she is more powerful than Yaksha. You said so yourself."
I turn away and look at the ocean out the window.
"She must drink blood to survive," I say. "She has needs that only mortal flesh can fulfill. A portion of her must be mortal. She must be vulner?able."
"To the fire of automatic weapons?" He is recov?ering from the shock. His inner strength never ceases to amaze me. But he is a believer now, even if he won't admit it. Perhaps Lazarus argued that he had never been dead. For God's sake, Jesus, it was just a bad cold. Yeah, well, why do you smell so bad, Laz?
I continue to stand with my back to Seymour.
"I have thought of enlisting their aid," I say. "But to do so I would have to tell them an awful lot, maybe even what I am. I might have to give them a demonstration."
"You don't want to do that. They'd kill you after they killed Kalika, just to be on the safe side." Seymour considers. "Kalika is described in their scripture?"
"That's a perceptive question. Yes. But they haven't let me read that portion of the scripture. I only know of their knowledge of Kalika because I eavesdropped on their conversation."
"Did they call her Kalika?"
"The Dark Mother. It is the same difference." I grimace. "They have a horrible opinion of her."
"No doubt. Especially if Suzama was as accurate as you say." Seymour scratches his head. "You can't tell them that you're a vampire and knew Suzama personally. You would have to drink some blood in front of them to get them to listen to you after that, and then they would go running for their guns. But if you're able to describe Kalika in clear enough terms, they might believe you enough to check her out. How many of them are there?"
"Two dozen, which is a small army if they have the guns I think they do."
"You can give them some of your high-tech weapons."
"I've thought of that as well," I say.
"The only problem is that you don't know where your daughter is."
"That may not be true." I explain how Kalika spoke of her wonderful view, and the large pool below her. Yet this tip only seems to disturb Seymour.
"She mentioned the view," he says. "She went to the trouble to stand out on a balcony when she spoke to you. She knows all about your phenome?nal hearing. And she probably knows how few places fit the description of her current residence. Does this add up to something in your mind?"
"A trap, of course. She might be lying in wait for us."
"She might be lying in wait for the entire Suzama Society. If she was watching you last night, she might suspect you will turn to them for help."
"I don't know if she takes them seriously. She called last night's lecture boring." I pause. "Plus she promised she wouldn't kill unless it was neces?sary."
"Oh, that's a relief. I feel a whole lot better now. The Mother of Darkness promises her vampire mother she's not going to get rough unless she gets pushed around. If I understand you correctly, the Suzama Society thinks it is their destiny to kill Kalika. Well, your daughter's not going to stand around and let them fill her full of lead."
I shake my head. "Kalika is many things, but I don't think she would have said such a thing to me unless it was true."
"By that reasoning you should believe she has no intention of harming the child."
"No. Obviously she intends to kill the child. She has killed to try to get to him. She is not some star-struck devotee who wants to gaze upon him in wonder. But her promise to me was something else. In fact, she asked if there was anything she could do for me."
"Still, the Suzama gang will have to hit her hard and quick if they're to survive."
"Agreed. But should we go to them for help? Should we risk their lives? Do we have the right?"
He shrugs. "It's their decision."
"Don't be so flip. No matter what you or I tell them, they won't understand how deadly Kalika is until they come face to face with her."
"I meant what I said. Their decision would not be flip. This is something these people believe in. They have dedicated their lives to it. Also, if all this is true, look at what's at stake? If this baby is the Big Guy then the world needs him. Kalika must be stopped, and I have to say no price is too high to stop her."
I nod sadly. "You said something similar when she was just a baby."
"Yes. And you wanted to give her a chance to see who she turned out to be." He pats me on the shoulder. "I'm sorry I have to put it that way. I just think we have to get a hold of all the firepower we can. Let's try to track down Kalika today. If we find her, and we live, then we'll go talk to Dr. Seter. Hell listen. It's just a question of how far you have to go to persuade him."
"Is there anything I can do for you, Mother?" There is pain in my voice as I speak next. "This child is special, there can be no question about that. But to me, Kalika, even if she is evil, is special as well." My head hangs heavy. "I don't know whether to pray for success or failure."