We were in my minivan as I caught Fang up on my trip to the college, about twice seeing the gaunt man with the bow tie, and about removing the book from the library –
"You mean you stole it?"
"Big picture, Fang."
I next told him about the copyright date, and his eyes narrowed in what I took to be disbelief, and so I reached into the glove compartment to show him the book…but it was gone.
I frantically riffled through the overstuffed glove compartment, pulling out a clump of napkins, insurance papers, bills I still needed to pay, some of Anthony's drawings and…nothing.
"It was here, in the glove box. I just put it in here an hour ago." Stunned, I now looked through the backseat and on the floor between Fang's feet. Had someone broken in and stolen just the book? Did I ever even have the book? Was I losing my friggin' mind? "I don't understand what's happening."
"I don't either, Moon Dance. Tell me more about the book."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
I sat back in my seat, completely shaken. Maybe I shouldn't have been so worked up, especially considering the contents of the book. It was, after all, not so much a book, but a personal message to me. And so I told Fang about it, about how the author appeared to be speaking directly to me. About the advice it contained.
"It was all very spiritual stuff," I said. "It seemed to apply to me directly."
Fang was looking at me through narrowed eyes again. Dubiously, as some would call it. "How so?"
I shrugged. "A lot of advice about staying in the 'light,' about not giving into my 'dark nature.' That those who have been granted premature power have a special challenge in keeping that power in check, to use it for good."
"He's talking about you being a vampire?"
"Not in so many words. The book was very vague about what kind of powers, but it seemed to be directed to anyone who had found themselves in my position. But it could have just as easily been written for a – "
"Sure. Or anyone else who suddenly finds themselves in a position of power or authority."
"Wild. But why do you think it was written for you?"
"Hard to pinpoint. It just felt directed at me. It gave a lot of advice, too, too much to talk about now in your ten-minute break."
"And it was copyrighted today?"
I nodded. "Fang, you said that a young guy came in and told you about the Occult Reading Room."
"Tell me more about him."
"Like I said, he was a young guy. He came in and soon we were talking about Cal State Fullerton's baseball team. They're in the finals again this year – how their program can consistently put together some of the best teams in college – "
"Yes, right. He finished his beer and mentioned he had to get back to work in the Occult Reading Room at Cal State's library."
"He said it like that? Not, 'I have to get back to work'?"
"Yeah, you're right. At the time, I thought it been a little specific, but I blew it off because he had my interest."
I knew about Fang's interest in the occult. His knowledge of the arcane had come in handy more than once.
He went on, "So, he told me more about the collection; in particular, its thoroughness on nearly all esoteric subjects."
"And he wasn't wearing a bow tie?"
Fang smiled. "Hardly. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five."
"Blue eyes and a pointy beard."
I was thinking about that when my cell rang. I fished it off my van's charger. Danny. "I have to take this," I said to Fang.
"No prob," he said, and leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "I have to scoot anyway. Love ya."
And before I realized what I was saying, I said, "Love ya, too."
When he was gone, I answered the phone, and Danny didn't waste any time getting to the point. "What the fuck did you do to our boy, you goddamned monster?!"
"Calm down, Danny."
"Don't tell me to calm you down, you goddamn freak! You changed him, Sam. You fucking changed him. That's why he's so cold. That's why his body temperature is dropping."
"And that's why he's alive, Danny."
"Fuck you, Sam. This is too much. This is just too fucking much. Unbelievable. I hate you, Sam. I hate you more than I've ever hated you."
He went on like this for a few more minutes. I tried to speak, but couldn't get a word in edgewise. Finally, when he took a breath, I said, "He was dying, Danny. He was dying. Do you understand? He would be dead now."
"You don't know that. How could you know that? You didn't give him a chance. He could have pulled through."
"No, he wouldn't have. I saw his death, Danny. I saw it as plain as day."
"Better he dies a human than be a freak like you."
"You don't mean that – "
"Go to hell, you bitch. I will never forgive you for this or forget this, and I am going to make it my life's fucking mission to drag you down to hell where you belong."
He clicked off, no doubt angrily, just as I received another call. It was from a restricted line. Restricted lines often meant one of two things: telemarketers or cops. In this case, it was the cops. In particular, Detective Sherbet.
"Samantha," he said simply.
"We have a situation here at the hospital. I need to see you asap."
"What's wrong? Is it my son?" My voice instantly went from calm to nearly hysterical.
"Your son is fine, Sam. No, this is something else, and we need to see you asap."
I was sitting with Detective Sherbet in the hospital break room, or one of its break rooms, after a very tense ride from Hero's. My frantic mind had imagined every conceivable, horrific scenario, each one worse than the other.
But never had I imagined this.
The hospital was in complete anarchy. Police everywhere. A mother weeping uncontrollably. Nurses frightened. Doctors frightened. Hell, everyone looked frightened. A very grave Sherbet had shut the break room door behind him and sat across from me.
Detective Sherbet and I had become close over these past few months. Not so close that I had disclosed to him my super-secret identity, but pretty damn close. Sherbet, no idiot, was aware that some really freaky shit was going down in his city. He knew I was connected to it, and in fact, might be the freakiest of them all. To his credit, he had yet to confront me about who – or what – I might know. Rather, he'd been approaching this from the outside, nibbling away at the edges. Perhaps his approach was a good one: absorbing small details at a time.
Sherbet was a big man, but not as big as Kingsley or my new detective friend out of Huntington Beach. If anything, he looked like a panda bear: salt-and-pepper hair, way too round around the middle, serious yet playful. And, if necessary, tough as hell.
"We have a child missing," he said simply. We were sitting at a round and heavily scarred table. His belly, I noted, actually rested on the edge of the table.
My own stomach sank. "What do you mean?"
"A patient, a child, was kidnapped not too long ago by an unknown male."
My heart froze. "When?"
"Just over thirty minutes ago. Kidnapped here, from the hospital."
"Oh my God."
"The hospital is on lockdown. No one in or out. Absolute insanity." As he spoke, Sherbet was watching me closely. The muscles along his hairy forearms moved just under his thin skin, as he clenched and unclenched his fists. "The city of Orange isn't my beat, but the guys here are good friends of mine. When a child goes missing all available hands come running. When I first heard the report, I thought of your son here."
"But he's okay." I knew this because I had already checked on him.
He nodded. "Sam, the boy was kidnapped from your son's old room."
"I don't understand."
"Your son, from what I understand, was recently moved from ICU to immediate care." I wasn't following but he continued on. "Another boy took your son's room. Within thirty minutes, he was gone."
"Oh, my God."
Through the closed doors, I could hear someone barking an order. A child was crying somewhere. In fact, many children were crying.
Sweet Jesus. What was going on?
Sherbet went on, "The parents were down in the cafeteria getting some coffee and preparing for another all-nighter when they got the news."
"Were there any witnesses?" My voice sounded hollow and distant.
"Oh, yeah. A man comes in claiming to be an uncle. Charming, smooth as hell, apparently. Says everything right. Front desk lets the bastard right in. Same with the nurses up here. Against protocol left and right. Heads will roll. Yet these same people don't remember letting the guy in. I don't understand any of it."
"They don't remember letting him, but they let him in?"
"Something like that."
"As in no memory of doing it?"
"Right." Sherbet frowned at me. The muscles of his forearm continued to undulate.
"What happened next?"
"You'll never believe it."
"Try me," I said.
"Better I show you."
He led me out of the break room and over to the room I was so familiar with, the same room my son had occupied for the past few days. Except now there was something vastly different about the room.
The entire window was missing.READ MORE >>