The only other vampire I knew – outside of my newly anointed son – had led me to the world's creepiest man, which cost my son two years of his life. As shitty as that sounded, a name had been gleaned, which was more than I started with.
The only other immortal that I knew was Kingsley Fulcrum, a beast of a man in more ways than one. He had an office a block or two from the hospital, across the street from the opulent Main Place Mall, which I was driving past now. The mall gleamed and sparkled and apparently emitted a siren call to Orange County housewives everywhere.
I somehow managed to ignore the call, and soon I was turning into the parking lot of Kingsley's plush, red-brick office building, which brought to mind the last time I was here.
Last week, I had stormed into Kingsley's office, scaring off a wife killer that Kingsley had been set to represent. Exactly. I'd never been more proud. Anyway, the last I heard Kingsley had dropped the piece of shit. Unfortunately for the killer, I had gotten a very strong psychic hit from him. I knew, without a doubt, that he had killed his wife. Now he was on my radar, and I intended to follow through with my threat to make sure that he spent a lifetime in prison.
But that was for another time. For now, I had a son to save.
From what? I asked myself. From an eternity of life? From an eternity of not experiencing death?
No, I answered. From an eternity of childhood. From an eternity of consuming blood. From an eternity of questioning his sanity.
It was mid-day and I was at my weakest and frailest. I also felt vulnerable and clumsy. As I stood there on the bottom floor, inside the glass doors, blinking and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the gloom within, I realized something else. I had condemned my son to a lifetime of shunning the sun.
My son would never again go to the beach, never again go on a field trip with his class, never again play Frisbee in the park. Granted, he never played Frisbee in the park, anyway, but that possibility had been removed.
For now, I thought. Only for now. There is an answer. There has to be an answer.
I moved heavily through the building, all too aware that my legs felt unusually heavy, that each step was an effort, that I did not belong with the day dwellers.
A tall man wearing an outdated blue blazer smiled at me sadly as I boarded the elevator. He asked what floor and I noticed we were going to the same floor, Kingsley's floor. As we rode up together, I touched my brow and winced. Despite my wide-brimmed hat, some of the sun had made it through. There might have been a small area near my hairline where I had missed some sunblock because the skin there was burning. I ignored the pain, knowing it would go away in a few hours.
We rode the elevator in silence. I was aware of the man in the old business suit watching me. I hated to be watched and self-consciously moved away, ducking my head, wishing like hell he would look away, but too weak to do anything other than shrink away like a frightened puppy.
"Pardon me," he said in a thick French accent, leaning in front of me and pushing the button to the floor just beneath Kingsley's offices. "Wrong floor."
The elevator doors opened immediately, and he stepped out. As he did so, he turned and looked at me again. He was a tall man wearing a bow tie. I hadn't noticed the bow tie before. His age was indeterminate, anything from 48 to 78. Then he did something that shocked the hell out of me.
The elevator doors closed and I headed up to see Kingsley.
Like I said, the last time I was here, I stormed Kingsley's office like a mad woman.
Or a desperate mom.
This time I waited patiently in the lobby while Kingsley finished up with a client. Oh, I was still desperate. I was still driven. It's just that I had eased up on the panic button. A few days ago, when I had stormed in here, my son was close to death. Now he was very much alive, although I was faced with a whole new dilemma.
Had I been anything less than what I am now, my son, I knew, would be dead. He would have fulfilled his life mission, a mission that included checking out early, apparently, and the rest of us would have been left to pick up the pieces of our own lives, if that was even possible.
There were a lot of unanswered questions. The use of the medallion was so vague, so strange, and just so damn weird. That I was pinning my son's eternity on a golden coin hanging from a leather strap was mind-boggling and disturbing, at best.
And what was I working so hard for? To ensure that my son would someday die? Where things stood, he would survive and keep surviving forever. Wasn't that a good thing? And how did I know that he would stop growing? Maybe he would continue to grow. Maybe he would reach adulthood. Maybe he would thank me every day for the rest of his life, for all eternity, for sparing him from death, and for giving him great physical gifts, too. Knowing my son, in the least, he would thank me for getting him out of school.
This line of thinking had me confused. Jesus, maybe I should let him be. Maybe with proper guidance, I could walk him through the eternal experience, help him, teach him, guide him. Something no one had done for me. Maybe he would indeed grow into his adult body.
Or maybe not.
I didn't know; I knew so little.
A few minutes later, Kingsley's office door opened and out came a familiar client. The same client I had seen just days earlier. The same client who had prompted a powerful vision of him strangling his wife to death in her sleep. The same coward. The same piece of shit. The same asshole I had threatened to bring down.
It was no threat.
And here he was. Coming out of Kingsley's office.
We locked eyes and I think we both gasped. My stomach heaved at the sight of the bastard. He made a small, whimpering sound and took a step back…into Kingsley, who was standing behind him. Kingsley looked surprised, too. He also looked a little sheepish and embarrassed. I was too stunned to speak.
Kingsley quickly stepped between us, and actually escorted the bastard out of his office. A moment later, my werewolf friend returned, all six foot, six inches of him, and gestured toward his office.
"Let's talk," he said.
Numb and sick, I silently stood and headed through his open door.
He followed behind, shutting the door.
"Have a seat," he said.
I did as I was told, still too stunned to speak.
Kingsley moved around his office with an ease and speed uncommon for a man his size. He sat in his executive chair and studied me for a long moment before speaking. I could not look into his eyes.
"Well, I suppose I should thank you for not playing Whack-A-Mole with my client's head," he finally said, and I could hear the gentle humor in his voice. He was referring to an inadvertent joke he'd made the other day.
I didn't smile. Not now.
He took in a lot of air. Unlike me, Kingsley seemed to need normal amounts of oxygen. I know this because I had listened to him snore once or twice. Listened, of course, was putting it mildly. Experienced, perhaps? His snoring was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It sounded like the bombing of a small village.
He filled his massive chest to capacity, which put a lot of pressure on his nice dress shirt, especially the buttons. I was prepared to duck should buttons start flying like so many bullets from a Gatling gun.
He studied me like that for a moment, his chest filled, button threads hanging on for dear life, and then finally expelled. He leaned back and crossed his legs, adjusting the drape of his hem.
"Don't judge me, Sam," he said. I noticed he looked away when he spoke.
"Who's judging?" I said. "I'm just admiring the fine handiwork of your shirt."
"Every man deserves a fair trial, Sam."
"And every defense attorney deserves a hefty payday."
"This has nothing to do with money, Sam."
"Say that to your mansion in Yorba Linda."
"My home is the result of a lot of hard work."
"And a lot of freed killers."
Perhaps in frustration, he closed both hands into boulder-like fists, and as he did so, his knuckles cracked mightily. Jesus, he was an intimidating son-of-a-bitch, but I was not easily intimidated.
"What do you want, Sam?" he asked.
I found myself wanting to lash out, too. I found myself wanting to storm out and flip him the bird. How…how could a man represent such scum? And how could I ever respect such a man?
The answer was easy: I couldn't.
I continued saying nothing. I just sat there, battling my emotions, knowing that Kingsley might be the only person I knew who could help me find Archibald Maximus, but hating that I needed his help.
And in my silence, Kingsley must have spotted something. His thick eyebrows knitted and he sat forward a little. "Unbelievable," he said.
"You did it, didn't you?"
"Did what?" But I knew what he was talking about. Kingsley was closed to me, as were all immortals, apparently, but we both were experts in reading body language.
"You turned him, Sam, didn't you?"
"I saved him."
He looked away, shaking his great head. "And you have the nerve to come in here and accuse me of being selfish. You, who condemned your own son to an eternity of childhood."
"What was I supposed to do, goddammit? Watch him die?"
"There's a natural order to things, Sam."
"And we're not natural?"
"No, we're not."
"And part of that natural order is to let my son die?"
He said nothing, but I saw his brain working. The great attorney was looking for a counter-argument, but I would be damned if I was going to listen to an argument for my son's death.
"Look," I said. "I don't know much about much, but I know one thing: I'm a mother first. I am a mother and that is my baby in the hospital. He was sick and I had an answer. It might not have been the best answer, and I sure as hell don't expect to win any 'Mother of the Year' awards. I also don't understand what the hell happened to me, or what the hell even happened to you. I have no clue the power and magicks behind what keeps us alive. But if this fucking curse, this disease, that I live with every day can somehow save my son, somehow keep my life from spinning completely and totally out of fucking control, you damn well better believe I'm going to utilize it, because it sure as hell has taken a lot from me, Kingsley."
He was nodding. "Okay, now that you've justified turning your son into a blood-sucking fiend, what are you going to do now?"
"I'm going to find someone who can help me."
"Help you how? With the medallion?"
"Yes. I have a name."
"Where did you get the name?"
"It doesn't matter," I said, and debated storming out of the office. Instead, I kept my ego in check for my son. "Have you ever heard of someone named Archibald Maximus?"
There was no recognition on his face. "No," he said. "You don't forget a name like that."
"Do you know anyone who could help me?"
"I pointed you to the only person I knew who could help you," he said.
That had been Detective Hanner. I sensed Kingsley's hesitation. Did he know someone else? I sensed that he might, but he didn't say anything else. Instead, he was now looking at me like I was the biggest piece of shit he'd ever seen. Probably with the same expression I had been wearing just a few minutes earlier.
"I don't know who else to turn to," I said, biting the bullet. "I know you don't agree with what I've done. Quite frankly, I don't agree with a lot of what you've done, either. But let's put aside our differences for now, okay? I made the best choice I could. I did what I thought was right. There's a chance, a very small chance, that I can return my son to mortality without any lasting repercussion or effects. But if I hadn't done what I did, there was a hundred percent chance that I was going to lose my son. I gave him a chance at life, Kingsley. Was it selfish for me to keep my little boy alive and expose him to something he never asked for? Yes, it was. I agree. I'm horrible. But my son is alive, and there is a chance to return things to normal. Normal is all I'm asking for, Kingsley. Please help me."
He looked at me for a long moment, and the fact that he had to decide whether or not to help me, crushed my heart almost completely. I didn't want a man who had to decide whether or not to help me, even if he didn't agree with my choices.
Finally, he sighed and nodded, and said, "I'll see what I can do, Sam. But I make no promises."
I smiled even as my heart broke. "Thank you, Kingsley."
As I left his office, Kingsley wouldn't look at me. I said goodbye and he merely nodded. If I was a betting woman, I would bet that our relationship was over.
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