Moon Child (Vampire for Hire #4)

Chapter 2

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Chapter One

The ocean swept beneath me.

The waxing moon reflected off the ripping currents, keeping pace with my swiftly racing body. White caps appeared and disappeared and once I caught the spraying plume of a grey whale surfacing.

Some mothers would fault me for leaving my son's side, I knew this. Some would even fault me for saving the life of a little girl while my son is sick in the hospital, that I should be by my son's side at all times, no matter what. I get it. No doubt some would feel that I should be beating down doors looking for a cure, not resting until my son is healthy again. I get that, too.

Below me, a seagull raced just above the surface, briefly keeping pace with me, until I pulled away. I dropped my right wing, angling to starboard. The beaches appeared, and soon the exorbitantly expensive homes. A party was raging in the back of one of them. I passed in front of the moon, and I spied one or two of the party-goers looking up, pointing.

But I'm not like most mothers. In fact, I would even hazard to guess there are very few of us, indeed. I could see my son's imminent death. I could see the doctors failing. I could see it, feel it, hear it.

And not only that, I knew the hour of his death, and it was approaching.

Fast.

The beachfront homes gave way to marshy lands which gave way to beautiful condos and hillside homes. I swept over UCI and into a low-lying cloud which scattered before me, dispersed by my powerfully beating wings.

I had a decision to make. I had the biggest decision of my life to make. So I had to think. I had to get away, even for just a few minutes to sort through it. I had to know that what I was about to do, or not do, was the right decision.

Until I realized there was only one answer.

I was a mother first. Always first, and if I had a chance to save my son, you better damn well believe I was going to save him.

I flapped harder, powering through the cloud and out into the open air. My innate sense of navigation kicked in and I was locked on to St. Jude's Hospital in Orange.

Chapter Two

It was late when I swept into the parking lot.

I circled just above the glow of halogen lighting, making sure the parking lot was indeed empty, before dropping down next to my minivan.

To think that this hulking, winged creature owned a five-year-old minivan with license plates that were about to expire was laughable. No, it was incomprehensible.

I wasn't worried about security cameras. They would capture nothing…except maybe a car door opening and closing…followed later by a spunky, thirty-seven year old mother who may or may not fully appear in the image, depending on whether I wore make-up. Without make-up, the camera would capture only the curvy outline of empty clothing.

Of course, knowing that I did not appear on camera prompted me to remember to wear make-up, including a light coating on my arms and backs of my hands. Still, no doubt there were hundreds of surveillance videos out there of an unseen woman. Want to know how to find vampires? Check surveillance video.

For now, though, I alighted near the van's cargo door, which itself faced a listless magnolia tree. The tree was surrounded by some low bushes and curved pipes that I assumed had something to with the hospital's plumbing. But what the hell did I know?

The area wasn't quite big enough to accommodate a hulking, mythical monster, and I ended up trampling some of the bushes, breaking a branch and denting one of the pipes.

Life goes on.

In my mind's eye, I saw the woman in the flame, watching me calmly, waiting. I focused on her, and she seemed to move toward me, or I to her. I was never sure which. The feeling that came next was difficult to describe, since there really was no feeling. As if awakening from a short nap, I gasped lightly, and raised my head. I was on one knee, which was digging into a small spider plant that had seen better days. I fluffed up the little plant and stood. Next, I reached under my fender and found the small hide-a-key that I kept there.

Shh. Don't tell anyone.

I unlocked the minivan and slipped inside. My clothing was still there, and a few minutes later, after a quick dusting of foundation, I emerged from the minivan, purse in hand. The transformation from giant monster bat into a concerned mommy was now complete.

My life is weird.

I checked the time on my cell. It was just after 2:00 a.m. I would say the vampire's hour, but the truth is, any time between sundown to sunup are the vampire's hours.

My daughter Tammy was staying with my sister, and no doubt they had all gone home by now. After all, Anthony appeared, to all those concerned, to be fairly stable. It was only me and my heightened extrasensory perception that suspected that not all was as it seemed.

Indeed, I knew my son had only hours to live. If that.

I had taken some of that time to come to a decision.

And I had made my decision.

With the waxing moon overhead shining its silent strength, a strength I seemed to somehow draw from, I turned and headed for the hospital, knowing the staff there would allow me in to be with my sick son.

A sick son, I thought determinedly, who would be sick no more.

Chapter Three

"Hello, Samantha," said Rob, the front desk security guard. Rob was a big guy who probably took steroids. You know there's trouble when the night shift at a children's hospital knows you by name.

I said "hi" and he smiled at me kindly and let me through.

At the far end of the center hallway was a bank of elevators. As I headed toward it, I heard a vacuum running down a side hallway. I glanced casually at the cleaning crew working away…and saw something else.

Crackling, staticy balls of light hovered around the cleaning crew. Many such balls of light. I knew what these were now. They were spirits in their purest forms. Some called them orbs, and sometimes they showed up on photographs. Many non-believers assumed such orbs were dust on the lens. But the camera could never fully capture what I could see. To my eyes, the balls of light were alive with energy, endlessly forming and reforming, gathering smaller particles of energy around them like mini-black holes in outer space. But there was nothing black about these. Indeed, they were often whitish or golden, and sometimes they appeared red. And sometimes they were more than balls. Much more. Sometimes they were fully formed humans.

As I swept past the hallway, a cleaning lady looked up at me. I smiled and turned my head just as one of the whitish electrified balls seemed to orient on me. Soon it was behind me, keeping pace with me.

I just hate being followed by ghosts.

And as the elevator doors closed in front of me and I selected the third-floor button, the ball of white light slipped through the elevator's seam and joined me for a ride up.

It hovered just in front of me, spitting fire like a mini sun. It moved to the right and then to the left, and then it hovered about a foot in front of my face.

The elevator slowly rose one floor.

"It's not polite to stare," I said.

The ball of light flared briefly, clearly agitated. It then shot over to the far corner of the elevator and stayed there for the rest of the ride up.

The doors dinged open and I stepped out onto my son's floor.

Alone.

Danny was there, sleeping.

He was sitting in one of the wooden chairs at the foot of the bed. His head had flopped back and he was snoring loudly up at the heavens. Probably irritating the hell out of God. One thing I didn't miss from living with the man was all his damn snoring.

Well, that and the cheating.

My son wasn't snoring. He was sleeping lightly. A black cloud hung over him, a black cloud that only I, and perhaps others like me, could see.

And it wasn't so much as hovering as surrounding him completely, wrapping around his small frame entirely. A blanket, perhaps. A thick, evil blanket that seemed intent on obliterating the bright light that was my son.

The lights were off, although I could see clearly enough. The energy that fills the spaces between the spaces gives off an effervescent light. These were individual filaments, no bigger than a spark. By themselves, the light didn't amount to much. But taken as a whole, and the night was illuminated nicely.

For me, at least, and others like me.

The frenetic streaks of energy often concentrated around the living, and they now buzzed around my ex-husband, flitting about him like living things, adding to his own brilliant aura, which was presently a soft red with streaks of blue. I have come to know that streaks of blue indicated a state of deep sleep. The red was worry or strong concern. So, even in sleep, he was worried.

Worried for our boy.

Danny was a bastard, of that there was no doubt. He had proven to be particularly nasty and sleazy and underhanded. He was also confused and weak, and neither of those qualities were what I needed in a man. I needed a rock. I needed strength. I needed confidence and sympathy.

Not all relationships are meant to last forever, I had read once. And forever is a very long time for a vampire.

I stepped through the room and over to Danny's side. His snoring paused briefly and he shivered inexorably, as if a cold wind had drifted over him.

Or a cold soon-to-be ex-wife.

I touched his shoulder and he shivered again, and I saw the fine hair along his neck stand on end. Was he reacting to my coldness or to supernaturalism? I didn't know, but probably both. Probably some psychic part of him was aware that a predator had just sidled up next to him. Maybe this psychic alarm system was even now doing its best to awaken him, to warn him that here be monsters.

But Danny kept on snoring, although goose bumps now cropped up along his forearm.

I shook him gently and his snore turned into a sharp snort and I briefly worried that he would swallow his tongue. Then next he did what any woman would want to see.

His eyes opened, focused on me, and he screamed bloody murder.

And he kept on screaming even as he leaped backward falling over his chair, which clattered loudly to the floor. He landed on his back with an umph, as air burst from his lungs. He kept on trying to scream, but only a wheezing rasp came from his empty lungs. He scuttled backwards like a clawed thing at the bottom of the ocean.

I stood there staring down at him, shaking my head sadly, knowing that he had attracted nurses from here to Nantucket.

"Are you quite done?" I said, standing over him and shaking my head at the pathetic excuse for a man.

He clutched his chest and stared at me briefly, and then he seemed to remember where he was. But he was still having trouble breathing, and that was scaring him, too.

"Just calm down," I said, kneeling next to him and taking his hand. "Calm down, you big oaf, and relax. I'm not going to eat you. Yet."

I patted his hand as he continued clutching his chest. And then his lungs kicked into gear and he took a deep breath, sucking in half the oxygen in the room.

"Sorry," he said weakly, as running footsteps sounded in the hallway. "You scared me."

"Ya think?"

I stood and pulled him up with me. Perhaps a little too roughly. He flew up to his feet and seemed surprised as hell to find himself standing.

He looked around, mouth open. "Jesus, Sam. You never cease to amaze me."

Just then a nurse rounded the doorway, hitting the lights. She looked first at Anthony in his bed, and then at us. She saw the toppled chair and our proximity.

"It's okay," I said. "I just startled Danny."

"I was sleeping," he said, lamely. He shot me a glance. "You know, nightmares."

The nurse studied us some more, then came over to Anthony's side and checked him out. Satisfied, she left, although she looked back one more time as she exited.

Danny studied me for a moment or two and seemed like he wanted to say something. His hair was mussed and there might have been a welt developing on the side of his head. Whatever he wanted to say, I really didn't want to hear it. Instead, I looked over at Anthony, who had stirred a little during the commotion. He almost appeared to be watching us, except his eyes were still closed.

"How is he?" I asked.

"The same, I think. He woke up about an hour ago and asked where he was. I told him he was still in the hospital and that he would be going home soon." Danny looked away. "And…he shook his head and said he was sorry and that he loved me." Danny fought to control himself. "I asked him what he was sorry about…and he said for…being a bad boy and for…leaving us. He said he has to go but that everything will be okay."

"He said that?"

Danny covered his face and nodded, words briefly escaping him. After a few deep breaths, he tried again. "Jesus, Sam, what the hell is he talking about?"

"He was probably just dreaming."

"But he was awake. He was looking right at me. And he didn't look sick, either. He looked…peaceful. Good God, he was even smiling."

"Calm down, Danny – "

"But what's happening, Sam? Is he dying? Does he know that he's going to die or something?"

"Don't talk like that."

Now Danny was shaking. Violently. He was going into shock, or something close to shock. No doubt a thousand different emotions and chemicals had been released into his blood-stream. I reached for his shaking hands and this time he only slightly recoiled.

"I can't lose him, Sam. I can't. I don't know what I'll do without him. He's my baby boy. My little partner. He's everything to me, Sam. Everything. I'll quit my job to spend more time with him. I'll do anything to have him back. Anything. Jesus, we can't lose him."

His words continued on, but they had turned hysterical and incomprehensible. Before I realized what I was doing, I pulled the big oaf into me and hugged him tight.

But I did not share his tears. Not this time.

Unlike him, I knew there was hope.

When Danny had cried himself out, holding onto me a bit longer than I was comfortable, I showed him to the door and told him to go home and get some rest and that everything was going to be okay.

He paused only briefly at the doorway, checked his pockets automatically for his cell, wallet and keys, then nodded once and slipped out of the doorway, wiping his eyes.

I briefly watched him go, then I turned back to my sick son.

Who would be sick no more.

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