I was at my gym with my trainer.
By "gym" I meant my boxing studio. By "trainer" I meant the little old Irish guy named Jacky who talked like a leprechaun.
"Hands up, lass. Up, up!"
"Go to hell," I grunted, as I lifted my heavy hands. Vampire or not, I was nearly mortal during the day, and my hands felt like lead, especially after going through a few rounds on the heavy bag.
But even though sunset was still under two hours away, I had more than enough strength to hit the bag hard enough to rock the little trainer. He grunted through the shockwaves, screaming at me to keep my hands up even as he struggled to hold onto the bag.
"End round!" he shouted, just as I leveled another hard roundhouse. Unfortunately, the Irishman had let his guard down just enough. The punch, although mostly absorbed by the heavy bag, sent him staggering backwards.
"You okay, Jacky?" I cried out, moving over to him and catching him just as he stumbled over my gym bag.
As I held him up, the Irishman looked at me with eyes slightly crossed, sweat pouring down his face. A second later his eyes uncrossed and he stared at me. "Jesus, you're a freak."
"I've heard that before. From you, in fact."
But he was still staring at me. "And how did you get over here so fast?"
"What can I say? Cat-like reflexes."
"Freak-like reflexes," he said in his Irish trill. "I need a break, Sam."
He took his break, and in his office, through his partially open door, I saw him down a few cups of water and what looked like pain medication. He came back, cracked his neck, grabbed the heavy bag from behind, and said, "Round four. Let's do this."
And we did this, with Jacky grunting and taking the brunt of the impacts and screaming at me to keep my hands up. I cursed and punched and did my best to keep my hands up, and all the while I felt the sun slipping slowly toward the horizon.
A quick shower and a few miles later and I was at the Cal State Fullerton library, which was bigger than I remembered.
I had graduated here in my early twenties with a degree in criminal justice. That degree led to a job interview with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where I was eventually hired as a federal agent. A great job, and one I regretted leaving, but it's hard to work the day shift when you're a creature of the night.
The Cal State Fullerton library was epic. Granted, I've never been to other university libraries but I would be hard-pressed to believe any of them could be as big as this one. There were five floors of books, with rows upon rows of aisles that seemed endless. Cubicles everywhere, filled with students connected to iPods, iPhones and iEverything else. The juxtaposition of dusty library with modern technology was striking. Two worlds colliding.
At the information desk, I found a terminal and punched in the name "Archibald Maximus." Or tried to. Typing with these sharp nails was a bitch. A few tries later and I hit "enter" with little hope.
I wasn't surprised. As expected, nothing came up.
I thought about what Fang had said about the university having a considerable occult section and decided to ask someone about it.
That someone turned out to be a flirty young man with a killer smile. He was standing behind a long, curved desk, stacking books.
"Where might I find your occult section?" I asked.
He blinked. "The Occult Reading Room?" Some of the flirt left him. Just some.
I nodded encouraging, and his grin returned and I could see his mind trying to find some angle to use for a come-on line. He found none, and seemed disappointed with himself. That is, if his long sigh was any indication.
"Third floor," he said. "And you're in luck. The room's only open two hours a day and you have about twenty minutes."
"Lucky me," I said, turning. "Thank you."
"I can show it to you, if you like – "
"No, thanks, cutie. I'll manage."
He smiled and nearly said something else but I had already turned away, heading quickly to the bank of elevators, where one opened immediately. As the doors were closing, I caught sight of something so disturbing that I immediately tried to punch the door open. Too late, they closed and I was heading up.
A tall man had been moving purposely toward me. A tall man wearing a bow tie.
The elevator doors opened on the third floor.
I half expected to see the same man in the bow tie appear, but, as far as I could tell, I was alone on the third floor. And if anything, the floor appeared even bigger and more spacious than the ground floor. Row after row of endless shelving that stretched as far as the eye could see, all lit gloomily by halogen lighting that dully reflected off the scuffed acrylic flooring.
Cryptic signs with seemingly random words and numbers pointed in various directions, apparently of use to only those who spoke Librarian.
Since I hadn't yet seen a sign that said "Occult Reading Room" and my time was rapidly running out, I decided to try something new in my bag of tricks: remote viewing.
Or, in my case, nearby viewing.
I closed my eyes and quieted my mind and thought about what I wanted. The Occult Reading Room. Interestingly, the young kid downstairs came into view…followed immediately by the man in the bow tie. I blinked, refocused, and another image came to mind, swimming up from the black depths like a creature from the deep. Except this was an image of a doorway, and it was to my right and up another hallway.
My consciousness returned quickly; my eyes snapped open.
I hung a right and followed a row of books to the south wall. Once there, I headed north and soon came across the very same doorway I had just seen in my mind's eye.
The sign above said "Occult Reading Room," and as I stepped through the open door, I was distinctly aware of the faint sound of an elevator door opening.
The Occult Reading Room was surprisingly bright.
A young man with bright blue eyes and a short beard that came to a point was manning the front desk. He looked up from the pages of an old book that looked like it belonged on the set of a Harry Potter film. I glanced down at the open page and saw various diagrams and words that I was certain were not in English. Then again, I was never very adept at reading upside down.
"I'm looking for information about a man."
He pointed to a card catalog on a nearby wall. "We're still in the process of computerizing the card catalog, but everything we have is in there."
He smiled warmly. "You have no clue how to use a card catalog."
"I haven't used one since high school, and even then I didn't know what I was doing. Mostly I just needed a place to hide my gum."
He shook his head. "You're not chewing any gum now, are you?"
He grinned. "Then come on."
At the card catalog, he patiently showed me how to search under "subject." I thanked him and he had just returned to his epic tome, when I heard footsteps approaching in the outer hallway.
From my position at the card catalog I had a view of the entrance into the Occult Reading Room. No one was there. Indeed, the footsteps seemed to be receding now, perhaps heading down a side aisle.
I debated following, but remembered the reading room would be closing in just a few minutes.
The creep in the bow tie had me on edge. Had he been the same tall man I had seen in Kingsley's building? I didn't know, but I could count on one hand the number of men I had seen wearing bow ties this last year. Hell, in the last five years.
And now I had seen two in one day.
Coincidence? I think not.
And, yes, I thought back to Fang's words: "There are no coincidences, Moon Dance."
Although my sixth sense was always a little sketchy during the day, I wasn't picking up on any danger. Still, I stepped briefly outside and scanned the hallway. No one there.
Back at the card catalog, I found the drawer labeled "Ma-Mi," and started flipping through the ancient cards, my sharp nails and heightened dexterity making it easy to whip through them rapidly.
My blurred fingers stopped on a name that I wasn't entirely prepared to see. In fact, I had already given up the search as a lost cause. But there, on the yellowed piece of paper, were the words: Archibald Maximus: My Life as a Mystic, Alchemist and Philosopher.
"Unbelievable," I whispered.
Dazed, I jotted down the Dewey Decimal Numbers and proceeded to hunt through the reading room. The energy in the Occult Reading Room, I noticed, was off. I wasn't sure why, truth be known, but I wondered if it had something to do with the room's darker contents. Indeed, as I read some of the spines of the books, I could see why:
A Compleat History of Magick, Amulets and Superstitions.
Vampires: Alive and Well and Living Among Us.
Magick in Theory and Practice.
Curse Tablets and Binding Spells.
Lycans: Our Wolf Brothers.
Additionally, there were countless books on alchemy, magic, demonology, divination, Satanism, freemasonry, Middle Eastern magical grimoires. Books on East Asian magical practices, Tibetan secret practices, books on the Tarot and raising the dead. Some of the books looked ancient, so old that I was afraid to touch them. Many of them were surrounded by a darkness visible to my eyes, similar to the darkness that had surrounded my son. Sometimes I heard whispering as I went down the aisles, as if I were not alone.
One book in particular radiated a blackness so dark that I gave it a wide berth. Even still, as I stepped past it, I heard whispering in my ear, "Sister, come to us…"
Shaking, I finally reached the aisle I wanted. Ignoring the slithering, psychic chattering that now seemed to come from everywhere, I quickly ran my pointed nail along the books' spines, praying like hell that the book I needed would be there.
Not this row. I scanned the next one and the next.
And there it was. I literally breathed a sigh of relief.
I carefully removed the narrow volume. The book was clearly ancient, bound in leather and written in what appeared to be vellum, sheep skin. The title was clear enough and written in modern English, which surprised me since the book was obviously bound centuries earlier.
But I didn't have time to think about it.
The young man behind the desk was now carefully stacking his books. As he turned away from me, I quickly slipped the narrow volume down the front of my jeans.
I made haste, exiting via a different route, ignoring the beseeching cries from some of the darker books. At the desk, the young man smiled and asked if I had found what I was looking for.
I said maybe, smiled, and exited the Occult Reading Room, noting for the first time that the aura around him was violet and utterly beautiful.
On the way out of the library, walking a little funny, I didn't see the man with the bow tie.READ MORE >>