I was driving north on the 57 Freeway.
I checked with my sister and my son was still sleeping contentedly. The doctors seemed pleased that he was stable, but there was still mild concern, most notably that his body temperature had now dropped to 97 degrees, one degree lower than normal.
This didn't worry me. My son was going to make it, and the doctors were going to have a conundrum on their hands, much as they had with me, in a different hospital, over six years ago.
My sister asked what I was up to, and I told her that it was a very important case, a matter of life and death. She understood, but just barely. Her husband, who was watching Tammy and her kids, would be picking her up soon. I made it a point to be there when the sun set.
After all, tonight would be my son's first night as…something far different than he was before.
I exited on Orangethorpe and worked my way over to Hero's in Fullerton. I checked the time. Fang should just be showing up to work. I was right.
As I dashed in from the blistering heat, gasping and clutching my chest, I saw the tall bartender doing something very unbartender-like. He was texting. Just as I stepped into the bar, my cell phone chimed.
I paused just inside the doorway and fished out the cell. It was a text, of course, from Fang. It read: Good afternoon, Moon Dance, how are you?
I wrote: I could say I'm fine, but that would be a lie. By the way, the guy at the end of the bar needs another beer, so quit texting and start working.
I hit send and waited.
Fang had just spotted the guy at the end of the bar, who had just motioned him over, when his cell phone vibrated. Fang paused and read the screen, and I watched with some satisfaction from the doorway as his mouth dropped open. Then he started looking around until he spotted me. I waved, and he shook his head.
"I was beginning to think you were everywhere, Moon Dance," he said.
"Is that a bad thing?"
He winked. "Not for me. Hold on." He drew the guy a draft of beer and came back. "I think our connection is growing stronger."
"How so?" I asked.
"I was texting you as you came in."
"Could have been a coincidence, and is texting even a word?"
"If not, it should be," he said. "Anyway, there are no coincidences, Moon Dance."
I grabbed a stool at the far end of the bar. Privacy, for me, is always good. I said, "That would sound deep if it wasn't bullshit."
"Bullshit, huh? Then how do you explain that for the past half hour I've been feeling increasingly…troubled."
"Maybe you had some bad Chinese."
"Not bad Chinese, Sam. And how would you explain that I've felt incredible grief coming from you. Wave after wave of it. I sensed that something profound had ended."
I thought of my relationship with Kingsley. "Ended?"
He shook his head. "Crazy, I know. But, to me, I felt a finality to something, as if something emotional and tragic had ended. Of course, I assumed it was something to do with your son."
Jesus, my connection with Fang is growing. "My son is fine," I said.
He narrowed his eyes. "How fine?"
I nodded, confirming his suspicions.
His jaw dropped. "You really did it?"
I nodded again.
"And how is he?"
"He's fine. He's great, in fact."
Fang leaned on his elbows. The grisly teeth around his neck – definitely not shark teeth – clacked together with the sound of knuckles striking knuckles.
"But you're not fine," he said.
"My job's not over."
He nodded. "The medallion."
I caught him up to date, noting the striking difference between the way he handled the news and the way Kingsley had. There was no judgment in Fang's voice. There was only concern for me and my son.
He said, "And so the ending I felt was the end of your relationship with Kingsley."
"Maybe," I said.
"No, you're not. I'm sure you're glad he's out of the picture."
Aaron Parker, aka Fang, shook his head. "I would not be much of a friend if I wished for you to experience pain on any level."
Now I was shaking my head. "Not as much pain as you might think. Kingsley is an amazing man, as you well know, and he was there for me when I needed him the most, but…it was bad timing. I was just dealing with the end of my marriage. I wasn't ready to start a new relationship."
"And he wanted to start one?"
"He wanted something, more than what I could give him. But it's not that."
"It's ideological," said Fang, picking up on my thoughts. In fact, I could even feel him in my thoughts.
"We're just too different," I said. "Apples and oranges."
"Vampires and werewolves."
I smiled at that. Fang smiled, too, and I sensed his strong need to reach out and touch me, but he held back. One relationship had ended. Now was not the time to push for another. Perhaps not for a long, long time.
"It takes all my willpower, Sam," he said, tracing his finger along the scarred bar top in front of my hand, "to not touch you."
"I just need a friend," I said.
"I know," he said. "And you have one. Always."
I was on my second glass of wine, even if the first one did little more than upset my stomach. I haven't had a good buzz in half a decade, and I suspected my days of being buzzed were long gone.
Being buzzed was overrated, I thought. Now, flying high over Orange County was a different story.
There are some benefits to being a creature of the night.
Fang and I got back to the subject of my son. He said, "I'm still fairly involved in the vampire online community. I'll ask around about our friend Archibald Maximus."
"You're still hanging out in chat rooms?"
"They seem so…five years ago."
"Don't knock them, young lady. It's where I met you, after all."
Years ago, confused and lost, I had joined a vampire IM chat group hoping to learn anything I could about the undead. I hadn't expected to learn much of anything, let alone create such a deep and lasting friendship.
I said, "Well, I don't have a lot of hope."
"We'll see what turns up. Remember, you never know who might be popping into some of those chat rooms."
"Like me," I said.
"Right, like you. Sometimes I come across the real deal."
"How do you know they're the real deal?" I asked, suddenly feeling a pang of jealousy for reasons I couldn't quite understand but wasn't in the mood to probe very deeply.
"Oh, you know. I've made it my life's ambition to find vampires."
"And to be one."
Fang glanced at me sharply. Last week, the handsome freak asked me to turn him into a vampire, so that we could live together, or some cheesy crap like that. Not that I didn't believe him, but I was suspecting he would do anything – anything – to be a vampire. Fang's story was…interesting, to say the least. Interesting and disturbing. Born with a rare defect, his canine teeth had grown in exceptionally long, so long that he had lived with the "vampire" stigma during his entire adolescence and most of his teen years. Childish insults, mostly, but with such ferocity and frequency that he came to believe he was vampire.
In an act of passion and violence, his teenage girlfriend had ended up dead and Fang had gone on to have one of the most memorable trials to date. O.J. Simpson with teeth, as some called it.
Later, Fang would escape a high-security insane asylum…and kill two guards in the process. His whereabouts were presently unknown to law enforcement, a secret he had entrusted to me, much as I had entrusted one to him.
We all have our secrets.
Fang, or Aaron Parker, had never lost his passion for vampires, even when his two massive canine teeth had been gruesomely removed in the insane asylum – teeth that now hung around his neck to this day. Six years of online chatting and one bang-up job of stalking on his part later, and here we were. Friends with issues. Friends with secrets. But most important…friends.
His request had caught me off guard, and I would consider it later, but for now I could only think about my son. He understood this, of course, which wasn't hard to do since he was powerfully and psychically connected to me.
He grinned at that last line of thought. "I can think of no other person I would rather be powerfully and psychically attached to, Moon Dance," he said, using my old chat room username.
"You've been reading my thoughts," I said.
"It's not like I can help it," said Fang. "So, from what I gather, you don't find me such a bad guy."
"No," I said. "But you have your issues. Scary issues."
"I could say the same thing about you."
"Touche," I said, although I thought his comparison wasn't quite fair. I had never asked for any of this.
"And neither had I," said Fang, picking up on my thoughts.
"Victims of circumstance, you had said."
"Something like that," said Fang. "We are what we are."
"Fine," I said. "But be discreet with your inquiries."
"Of course," he said.
I thought of my son. I didn't have to check my watch to know that the sun would be setting in a few hours. I seemed chrono-kinetically attuned to the sun. Soon, Anthony would be waking up after sleeping through his first day. I wanted to be there for him.
"Chrono-kinetically?" said Fang, picking up my thoughts.
"It works," I said.
He grinned. "Hey, it just occurred to me that you might want to take a look at Cal State Fullerton's library."
"Apparently they've got quite an occult department there. You know, books. Real books. With paper and dust and ink. A guy was just in here going on and on about their extensive collection."
"Maybe," I said, standing, leaving my wine half-finished. Always the pessimist these days.
"Where to now?" he asked.
I thought about it. I had a few hours before Anthony awakened. I said, "I need to beat the shit out of something."READ MORE >>