The Midnight Within - A Novel by JM Rosenberry (Chapters 1-8 Now Available)




CHAPTER ONE

(Please note that the author will be submitting each chapter as it is written and they will be added to this page)

October 8th

Stepping from the house, Amy shivered against the cold night air. She should have grabbed her coat, but she only wanted a few puffs off her cigarette and a few minutes away from the lights and noise of the party still raging behind the closed door. She began to shiver as she dropped her smoke, stepping on it with one spiked heel and bent down to blow out the candle-lit pumpkins at her feet. If it wasn't so cold out she would have gone for a walk to clear her head and try to forget about the drama of her life. 

The wind picked up, swirling dead leaves around her feet and rattled the branches of the bare trees above her head. It was the perfect night for a Halloween party even if it wasn't yet Halloween. It was the one night she thought she could forget her problems, becoming someone else, someone not so average even, for just one night.

Going back inside, Amy fought the tears that wanted to roll down her cold red cheeks. The sounds of music and laughter spilled from the other room, invading the small kitchen and making her want to march into the other room and turn off the stereo and kick everyone out. She reached  for the bottle of whisky she had left on the counter instead and dropped down on one of the mismatched stools they had gotten from clean up days. 

She was supposed to be having fun, dancing and flirting with her friends. Yet here she was alone in the dark, nursing a bottle of Jack and wishing she could be anywhere but here. No one came to check on her or asked if she needed another drink, not that she needed any more liquor. She never did understand how some of her friends could drink, throw up and continue to drink. Once she hit the wall all she wanted was to eat carbs and pass out. She hated the feeling of the room spinning and hated the s up even more.

Even more iserable she sat with the bottle nestled between her fabric - covered legs and let the tears roll down her face. She ate the last of the king cake, washing it down with the Jack Daniels and wishing she was anywhere but this miserable podunk town.

Outside the window the full orange moon was bright behind the black skeletal trees. Lifting the bottle she wet her lips, watching helplessly as a bright swath of pink fabric and a smear of bright red lipstick on a pale round face danced into her view through the brightly lit square of the doorway. Didn't they know she was there? Did they even care? A hot spike of anger rose up, tightening her chest. The couple falls heavily against the wall, kissing and groping with urgent need and fresh tears wet Amy's cheeks, tracking her cheap makeup and staining the fabric of her renaissance style gown. Why had she been stupid enough her crush to the party in the first place when she knew very well that her so called friend would make a move on him?

She had known what would happen and let it, watching in helpless disgust as they grouped each other without care. Amy hated them for what they were doing to her yet hated herself more for caring so much. Her mind raced: Not for the first time did her thoughts turn to the razor she kept hidden in her bedroom. How easy would it be to take the rest of her pills, drain the bottle and slit her wrists? The party would rage on and then perhaps she could find the peace she was so desperately craving.

~They wouldn't laugh at her then, would they?~

She was so lost in her own little fantasy she never noticed the stranger who had joined her in the dark kitchen until there was the strike of a single match, a momentary glimpse of a sharp-boned shadowy face, half hidden by long black hair and snowy white hands that toyed with the scattering of table decorations. When she went to stand the room seemed to tilt, the floor sliding away from her, bringing her back down into her chair and drawing a short laugh from her dry lips. Had she really drunk so much? And who the hell was this asshole in her kitchen?Shadow man smiled slowly, tilting his head and fixing her with an amber-eyed stare, It was the kind of look you saw every afternoon on TV, just before they cut to the commercial and it made her want to giggle. 

"Why does beauty hide herself in darkness?" He asked with a twitch of his almost too perfect lips. His voice had sent an instant hot ache straight into her groin and reddening her cheeks as she tried to stand once again on weak legs.

" Oh god you scared me? Did Cat put you up to this?" Laughing through her tears and swiping at her wet cheeks she squinted at him to get a better look. She should probably join the others but she was trying to figure out if she knew him or not. She would feel pretty foolish if he was someone she should know. 

"You definitely don't want to go in there." Shadow man chuckled as he flashed her a hungry heart-wrenching smile, his gaze following Amy's to the brightly lit doorway. "It's not going to be pretty. " His voice held the slightest hint of sadness as he dropped his clove into the punch.

" What does that mean?" Before she could move he was in front of her, trapping her between the counter and his well-muscled body.

"I want to help you; I'm here to set you free." His cold fingers brushed gently across her wet cheeks as he locked eyes with her. " I'm the monster that lives in your dreams. The monster who will love you to death. "One strong arm slid around her waist, pulling her hard, into his obvious need. " It's your pain and their ignorance that drew us to you, it was like a beacon calling us home."  His hands moved slowly over the curves of her body, his silken lips brushing the corner of her mouth as the first hard beats of "Closer" cut through the air and the first pain filled screams rose up in crescendo.

"It has begun." He purred into her ear. "Do you still wish to join them?"

" Please stop." Amy felt faint, her heart pounding like a big base drum as dark brackish blood splattered the bright yellow wall just beyond the doorway. She couldn't take her eyes off the pale round face or the blood that was now spreading into a pool from the gaping wound in the girl's neck. Was someone really killing her friends? Or was it just a sick joke. A very real looking, sick joke.

" No joke my love, now let me taste you." He breath in her ear was hot, his voice husky with hunger. Before she could protest, he scooped her up effortlessly, drawing her gaze from the carnage back to his handsome face. Oh how she wanted to drown in that gaze, wanted to feel the caress of his strong hands against her heated skin. It was all she could think about as he carried out of the kitchen and up the stairs knowing exactly what room to go to he kicked the door shut behind them.

Long after the screams died away and the house fell eerily silent, Black stood at the window with his back to the room and the dead girls empty gaze. The urge to head North was still gnawing at him. He wanted to see trees and deep green forests, not the endless empty rows of corn and brown fields. No, Going North would wait. Their next job could wait. They had a few other parties to crash first. He glanced at the girl on the bed, feeling let down. He craved a challenge, but like most of his victims she had only given him an empty willingness to please.  Was he getting too old for this? Or did women today really want nothing more than a dark hero to come in and sweep them off their feet. Where was the challenge in that? If he could glitter in sunlight he would not have to hunt, he could just sit back and let them come to him.

" Why do you mourn an empty vessel?" Shatter closed a black nailed hand over Black's shoulder. Behind them the first flickers of orange and yellow began to dance against the wall as the acrid smell of smoke and burnt flesh began to fill the small house.

"Didn't she find comfort in your arms?" This from Shatter's twin, who stood in the doorway.

" To mourn I would have to feel and I have not felt anything but hunger in decades." He let out another amused chuckle as he pushed past the twins and led them back down the stairs.

Casually they walked though the litter of mangled bodies and trash. Stopping at the broken front door, Black bent down to retrieve a single string of Mardi Gras beads. Yet another trinket for the growing pile. His thoughts once again turning to Jackson, seething behind his huge desk for sure. Well it didn't matter, they never played by the rules, Jack should've known that by now. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his cloves, lit a match and inhaled deeply before letting the burning match drop down onto the gas- soaked floor.

Sated and ready for new adventure, never feeling more alive than they did at that moment, the trio of vampires emerged from the burning house. With arms around shoulders and matching sharp toothed grins they stumbled over the leaf-covered lawn in the pre dawn light to the waiting van. For them life was good, there would always be another lost soul, in another town, at another party, waiting for them to arrive.





CHAPTER TWO

There they were again. The white-haired singer and his taller dark haired guitarist who could make even mommy stop what she was doing and turn her head to watch when they came on the little TV in the kitchen, of course mommy would always change the channel to General Hospital, or one of her talk shows, telling Jessie she was not allowed to watch YouTube anymore, although not until after the pair had collapsed into a heap together on the floor of whatever sticky beer stained stage they were on.

Trez, her brother's friend looked a lot like the singer, with his messy white hair and clear blue eyes. Jessie had quite the crush on Trez, a fact that she would deny whenever that nasty Katie Carver teased her about it.  Boys were gross, always spitting, swearing or pulling her pigtails, although her brother Daniel's friend Zakk had a nice brother who was in her class. She liked Alex because he never teased her and had even given her candy on Valentines day. She liked Alex almost as much as the singer with the odd name-Ghost.

Reaching for the milk, Jessie poured it carefully over her cereal and carried it to the sunlit breakfast nook. In all the years she had been getting herself up and off to school by herself she had only spilled twice, a fact she was immensely proud of. On the little TV her favorite band had been replaced by the man with the different colored eyes, her brother's favorite singer. She knew this because of all the posters in Daniel's room and because her step-father was always muttering under his breath about how bad it all was. She didn't know if Nick meant the man who wore bright red lipstick or the posters on the wall. Both of which made her uneasy.

Four bites in she glanced up at the special Micky Mouse clock Nick had given to her on her last birthday. He had talked real slow as he told her that now that she was eight, she was expected to be on time for school all by herself, like a big girl. Jessie hated the clock. She did not need it to get herself up or to school. Of course her mother had scolded her. Reminding her to be gracious and thank him anyway. It was something that if done right, could make the pinched look on Nicks face go away for a little while. Jessie tried very hard to be good and make her parents happy, if only her brother would try to do the same.

Finished she stood up, cast a longing last glance at the TV, walked her bowl to the sink and made her way through the living-room to the bottom of the stairs. Her shoes and backpack sat on the bench by the door. Putting her shoes on she listened for the sounds of movement and was greeted by a long stretch of silence. She didn't want to go up those stairs but she also knew that if Daniel was late again Nick would put him in detention, or worse suspend him from school. Having to go to school and have a parent be your principal was a big deal for Jessie. It protected her from the bullies but while at school, once out of school she was on her own. Luckily they were all afraid of Zakk and Daniel so they left her pretty much alone.

Grabbing her backpack, the pink one with the Hello Kitty and Lost Souls stickers, she headed up the stairs, wishing she would see her mother in her tattered blue robe but the landing was empty and both bedroom doors were closed. She was going to miss the bus for sure now but that was ok with Jessie. It was a beautiful fall day and she could enjoy the decorated houses on the way. Daniel's friend, Mia always went all out for Halloween, decorating her small duplex with a mock graveyard and lots of skeletons. It was easily the best decorated place in town. She loved to imagine being able to do that to their house but Nick didn't like decorations, saying that it was offensive to others, and a waste of money. Whatever that meant.

Lingering outside Daniel's door, she wondered if her mother was even awake yet. Now that mommy worked nights, they hardly ever saw her; even on her days off she would be out with Trez's mom on a cocktail lunch and they wouldn't see her until late at night. It made Jessie feel sad but Daniel always told her not to feel bad, that some parents just didn't know how to be parents. She didn't understand that either but loved Daniel for trying to cheer her up and was happy to have him around as much as she did. She knew she was lucky, that's why it was so hard to deal with Nick and his moods. Nick was something she was not going to think about right now either.

Trying to be quiet Jessie inched open Daniel's bedroom door. It was always so dark in there and the posters made her feel like they wanted to reach out and grab her. Daniel hadn't always liked his room this way but when they moved from California to Minnesota, he had begun to like new music and had a new set of friends. He was still nice to her though so she hadn't minded the change. Going into his room now made her want to run screaming down the hall to her own pink bedroom, filled with her favorite dolls and stuffed animals.

Trying to be brave, Jessie pushed open the door, stepping  quickly across the threshold. Careful not to trip on the messy piles of cloths and scattered junk. Approaching the side of Daniel's bed she whispered loudly. " Danny? Are you up? You can't be late for school again."

Aware of her prescience, Daniel curled his naked frame tighter into a ball under the black blankets. The last thing he wanted was to be in school but if he didn't respond to her, she was apt to start poking at him. He managed to get one hand free and wave her away, but she kept talking.

" Get up Danny. Please. " Jessie grabbed the blanket.

" You don't want detention do you? Nick said you would be kicked out of school if you missed again."

Daniel rubbed his face as he sat up, letting the blanket falls away from his chest. "Why are we whispering? " He asked as he ran his black nailed hands through his messy black hair. He must have looked very bad for her to pull away from him with such wide blue eyes. It dawned on him then that she was seeing the fresh bruises from the night before.

"Did Nick do that?" She sounded scared as she edged backwards toward the open door.

"No kido, Zakk and I were roughhousing again." He hated to lie to her but didn't want her to know how bad things between him and their step father had gotten.

" You better go before you miss the buss and have to go to detention with me."

That seemed to ease the tension and make her giggle.

" Too late, snot-head. I already missed the bus. " Sticking out her tongue Jessie ran from the room, Halfway down she stopped, turned round and called up the stairs to him. " Don't forget you said you would help me carve my pumpkin tonight."

"I won't. "

" Promise! "

" I promise! Now go . "

Daniel listened to Jessie Pound the rest of the way down the stairs before grabbing a pair of jeans from the floor and slipped out of bed; still, only half awake. Reaching down into the pile of discarded cloths for an unwrinkled Korn T-shirt, pulling it down over his head he stepped to the full length mirror and grinned at the outline of his new nipple ring under his shirt.

Britt would pitch a fit but he didn't care, he loved it.

Quickly finger combing his hair, he grabbed his smokes and headed toward the bathroom. It had been yet another drunken night downtown with friends when they had stopped to look into lighted shop windows at one of Mia's new paintings and, Zakk had spotted a tattoo shop across the street, The rest was history. It might have been the perfect night had Nick not been waiting for him when he got home. Daniel's relationship with Nick was strained to stay the least and it didn't help that Nick was also the principal at the high school. Nick was on almost every committee in town and well liked by everyone. From the outside they were the perfect family, which was complete bullshit. The only reason he had not moved out was because of Jessie. As far as he knew Nick had not laid a hand on her and Daniel was afraid that would change if he did leave home for good.

Going down the back stairs he crossed the bright kitchen to grab a bagel off the counter. Zakk would be there at any moment, leaning on the horn if Daniel didn't come out right away. His hand was on the knob when Shannon Demorte spoke from behind.

" Hey Dan. We need to talk." She held a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and an ice pack in the other. She looked worse than he did and he wondered when she had gotten so old and washed out.

Shannon had once been the pride and joy of Hakke, otherwise known as that decaying little shit splat of a town on the other side of the lake. She had been prom queen, and all around star, until falling in love with the local bad boy, gotten knocked up and left town before she could graduate, only to return with, two kids and a divorce behind her. Now bitter, angry and looking more like a bag lady instead of a prom queen she was about to lay into her teenage son.

" We just don't know what to do with you any more. "

" Can we do this later? I'm late and you know how Nick loves to put me in detention." 

Crossing his arms, Daniel leaned against the counter and gave her his best petulant stare.
His mother rolled her eyes at him. She could see he was trying to piss her off and it was working " Your father and I are really worried about you. You're out late every night, if you bother coming home at all. Your skipping schools and hanging out with that Myiah girl.

"It's Mia." Daniel dropped his gaze, examining his black painted fingernails. " Myiah is that playhouse DJ. "

"Whatever, I don't like it. Why would a thirty-year-old woman want to hang out with teenagers? Are you sleeping with her? Is she your dealer?"

Offended he picked up the lunch money Jessie forgot to take and said frostily, "She's more of a mother than you will ever be and Nick can kiss my white ass."

Shannon's fingers tightened reflexively around the steaming mug, her lips drawing down into a thin line. "Your smart mouth is another thing I don't like, Nick and I are worried sick and don't know what to do any more."

Daniel slipped his shades on, forced a weak smile for her and said, "You could try getting rid of him, he's a prick and you know it."

His mother dropped her angry gaze as she sipped at her coffee. She was trying to choose her words carefully. "Sure he can be a jerk but you don't understand him or even try for that matter. I would love for you to just try a little harder to follow our rules. "

" Nick is NOT my father and I am not going to follow HIS rules." Daniel exploded. "Maybe I should move out." Hurt that she blamed him for everything that was going wrong in her life he tossed the bagel onto the counter and stormed out to Zakk's waiting car in the driveway.

It was going to be a very long day. Unless he didn't go to school. It wouldn't be the first time he had ditched and probably wouldn't be the last. He was surprised that Nick had not thrown him out but that was because his mom did a pretty good job of convincing Nick to give him one more chance.

" How much do you not want to go to school today? "

Zakk ran a blue nailed hand through his faded blue hair and grinned over at his best friend. " About as much as I want a root canal. Why? "

" Because if I show up late, and we are going to late very late then Nick's going to put his boot in my face. He's been threatening to have me suspended and sent away. I really don't want to deal with it on such a nice day. "

It was going to be a beautiful day in the seventies with sunny skies and the first real color arriving on the trees all around the lake. There was no way either of them would have enjoyed sitting in class on such a nice October day. It was a day for hanging out in the park or cruising around town.

" You got something in mind? " Zakk produced a joint, lit it and handed it over to Daniel. He eased the mustang out into the street and headed towards the lake. He never needed an excuse to skip school and his mother wouldn't notice if he did. Zakk had always had decent grades when he applied himself which wasn't as much as the adults in his life wanted from him but he didn't care, as soon as they graduated they were out of here anyway. His dream was to be a chef somewhere in a big city cooking for one of the greats.

Disdain was a decently sized small town on the north end of lake Minnetonka. A quiet upper class suburb of the twin cities, but it wasn't all upper class, the side of town that Zakk and Daniel came from was more middle class than upper. The shops on the lake were trendy but if you went a few blocks in then you found your less expensive bookstores, junk shops and family owned eateries.

Lake Street was always busy in the summer with the influx of tourists but once school started it got pretty quiet in Disdain. The lake people closed up their cabins, headed home while the townie's got ready for fall and Football. It would be great if Zakk fit into that school pride thing but he had never been a small kid and his love of Horror had put him on the outside for most of his life. He was lucky though, he had grown up here. It was Daniel who had been an outsider, from California no less. Living with his mother and sister in a trailer at first and then with Nick after he married Daniels' mom. It made a great story to tell at fancy school functions except for one minor detail. Daniel was considered a delinquent. Of course that just made the gossips in town talk even more and it had drawn attention away from Zakk until he and Daniel had become friends.

Now it was looking like Daniel would be sent away yet here they were headed anywhere but the school. They passed the shuttered shops, banks and fancy bakeries. If they were to keep going he could drive all the way around the lake, passing dozens of small towns just like Disdain. It was depressing and Zakk needed to get out of the car. Pulling into a parking lot he didn't need to speak to Daniel to let him know this was their destination. Daniel could either sit in the car or follow him.

Shouldering his backpack Zakk took the keys from the ignition and got out of the Mustang. Luckily the gates of the Disdain memorial cemetery were open.



CHAPTER THREE

Jackson Carver was a busy man who didn't have time for silly games and Jack had reached his breaking point. He had waited long enough and should have put a stop to it a long time ago.  He should have sent a clearer message to the gutter punk that had caused his family so much trouble. He didn’t have time to deal with his daughters drama when he was trying to reach his deadlines and with his business partners breathing down his neck he was out of time. 

Outside his office window the sun was sinking, the buildings of downtown awash in the brilliant pinks and oranges that only  autumn in Minnesota could create. It had been hot all week, hovering in the nineties, but inside his dark office Jack was almost cold. Turning his broad back to the window, he moved back to his huge oak desk and dropped into the soft leather seat with a quiet sigh. He watched the tiny droplets of water drip down the side of a glass of highball in front of him before bringing the amber liquid to his lips. 

It had been a long day of meetings and interviews, some of which he found quite pleasurable, others not so much. He had several interviews with a dozen young, eager looking girls who dressed more like they wanted to work at a strip club than his office, all of them more than willing to do whatever needed to be done to get ahead. Leaning back in the big leather chair, he growled softly as he slowly tried to work the cramps out of his stiff fingers before rubbing fiercely at his temples. He could feel another one of his headaches coming on, the ones he only got when dealing with some nastiness or other, and this was looking like a real stinker. He was so close to closing a deal on a new property and now he had to deal with Britt’s constant tears. 

If only the boy had learned to stay away from his daughter there wouldn't have been a problem. Had he just slunk back to the gutter he'd come from, Jack would not have to take matters into his own hands. Not that he would ever dirty his own hands; he had other ways of getting it done. Britney was his princess after all, It was his job to protect her at all costs. What father wouldn't? She was the daughter he thought he would never have after having three boys before her. It broke his heart to see her cry and drove him crazy to watch her deal with such heartache. 

Yes, he should have put a stop to it from the start, should have tried harder to keep them apart, but the harder he pushed her to stop seeing him the more she wanted him in her life. It was starting to affect his business. Diverting Britt's attention away from her job, and Jack could not have that. He needed her to keep working, but the gutter rat had made her doubt her ability at what Jack knew she was perfect for. Not even her sister brought in the amount of money that Britt could and it was all about to fall apart. If only there was a fix for raging teenage hormones. 

This was a problem that needed to be dealt with carefully he could not risk being tied to whatever misfortune happened to the boy. Unfortunately he couldn't just disappear either. Too many people knew Daniel and knew how much Jack hated him. The kids of Disdain would start to talk if anything happened to one of their own. It didn't help that there had been a string of unsolved murders around their small community, making people see bogymen hiding in their back yards. The last thing Jack wanted was unnecessary attention.
     
 Luckily he could call in a favor that no one could trace back to him. He didn't like going this far unless he had no other choice. Unfortunately he had to make sure no one knew what he was about to do. His phone rang and he snapped into the receiver.

" No! I need you back here." He scowled at the phone, eyes narrowing. "NO! I won't wait. I don't care who you want to check out. Come back right away."  Jackson's cheeks burned as he stared at the phone. If only he could reach though the receiver and throttle the man on the other end. He was tired of their games and wanted them to do what he said without asking so many bloody questions. Well he would just have to make them want to come back. "Trust me, you will like this one and I won't tell you how to do it either, just that it needs to be done soon. I'll even double your money."
He rubbed at his temple again, eyes closing as his smile slipped. Perhaps it was time to end his partnership with them after all. He would decide after they arrived and after they had taken care of the gutter rat.  Hanging up he went back to the blue prints spread out over the top of his desk. He had a meeting with Vlad and the others in an hour and as much as he wanted to skip it he couldn’t ignore this one. There was a knock at the door, his secretary peered in at him with a meek smile. 

“ Sorry to bother you but there is a Detective Cooper here to see you. “ 

“ Tell him I am busy.” 

“ Tell me yourself. “  Cooper pushed past the girl with a tight smile. 

“ I don’t have time to talk Detective. I’m late for a meeting. “  

“ If you would return my calls I might be inclined not to bother, but you seem to always be busy Jack. “ 

“ So tell me what you want. “ Jack narrowed his eyes at the other man.

 To say Jack hated the man was an understatement. Cooper seemed to be everywhere at once and Jack was beginning to think that Daniel was not the only one who needed to disappear. 

“ I just wanted to follow up on a few things. “ Cooper opened his notebook to squint down at the notes he had jotted down.  “ The last time you saw your oldest son Sam was over a year ago? “ 

“ I can’t tell you the last time I saw him detective. We were not close. “ 

“ From what I understand he was last seen out at the Haunted Farm. Your farm to be exact. “ 

“ That’s right. He and his brothers were playing in a band that night and he never made it home to his mother. “ 

“ Now his mother is not the girl’s mother? Correct? “  

“ No. And I don’t have a relationship with her or my other sons. “ 

“ Who still live in Disdain? “ 

“ Do you have a point Detective? “  

“ Well it’s really strange that your son vanished from your property and a few years later another young man also vanishes into thin air and he was also last seen at that same property." 
 “
“ You know as well as I do that Thane had a history of run ins with the law. Are you really surprised he left town without telling his uncle? As I recall you were investigating him for Rape and battery correct? “
   
“ Chester, The uncle is your hired hand? Who lives on the property right? “

“ And was cleared if I am correct. “  

“ Yes. Did your son know Thane? Were they friends? Enemies? How did he get along with the other boys? “

“ No one got along with Thane except that little twink he always ran around with. “ 

“ Trez. His name is Trez and he’s a good kid from what I’ve seen. “

“ Don’t you have better things to do, Detective? “  

“ If it were my kid that went missing….”  Cooper stood up, tucking his notebook back into his pocket. 

“ I told you. My boys and I are not close. Brittney and Katie don’t even know they have brothers.” 

“ Isn’t that a shitty thing to do? Keeping secrets from your own children? “ 

“ Not when it’s for the best. Now if you don’t mind, I am late for my meeting. If you need me to answer anything else just call. “

“ Yeah, I shouldn’t need to contact you again unless I find out something else. “ 

   Cooper paused to look at all the photos of the girls that were scattered around the office. You would never have known that Jaxson Carver had almost led the perfect double life.  How far would he have gone to protect his secrets. He said it himself, he had not been close to his sons so how easy would it be to silence someone who might have wanted to strike back at the man who abandoned him? 

“ Good night Detective. “  

“ I’ll be in touch.”  Copper nodded as he left the office.


 Jack waited a few minutes before he reached for his phone. The gutter punk was not the only problem to be taken care of anymore. He slipped his coat on and stood up. He had a lot to figure out and the sooner he got the meeting over with the sooner he could focus on other things. It really would be taking out two birds with one stone. Rubbing absently at his temples he shut the lights off and left the office.



CHAPTER FOUR

  
Mia was almost asleep on her sun warmed stone when the snap of a broken branch caught her attention. Cracking open one heavily lined eye, she squinted toward the sound of someone moving slowly towards her. She was not about to move for just anyone and was relived to see a familiar head of blue moving though the branches. 

Stretching she sat up and swung her feet out over the large stone she had been laying on and put on her happy face. She had known her peace would be broken eventually. It always was when she visited the old overgrown cemetery In the middle of town.

Just in case it wasn't who she thought it was Mia reached for her camera and a smoke from her dress pocket. Some of the older townie's had a problem with people hanging out here, even though it was a long forgotten and neglected place. She preferred the old abandoned theme park out by the Haunted Farm but that was over an hour to get to so she tended to hang out here instead. 

Lighting up, she toyed with the camera until the visitors came into view. " Well look what the cat dragged in. " One long purple braid fell into her face as she leaned forward to snag the bottle of wine from the base of her stone. " Aren't you a little early for the party? " She asked, wetting her lips as Zakk and Daniel crossed the grassy space in front of her.

"What's that? A little hair of the dog? " Zakk joked, hefting his weight onto the stone next to Mia's and tossed the butt of his smoke into the urn at his feet. The color was high in his chubby cheeks as he watched Daniel drop his long black patchwork coat onto the ground at the base of Mia's perch. 

" So what brings you out here on a Friday morning? You didn't call in another bomb threat did you?" 

"We blew up the school." Daniel grinned throwing his head back to look up at Mia's upside down face.

"I must have slept through it." Laughing, she nudged Daniel in the ribs. She did not like the troubled look on his face and didn't need to ask but did so anyway. " Nick again?" 

" Nope, mom this time. I need to follow their rules or get out. " Daniel pulled the hair over his eyes as he slouched down against the cold stone. His lower lip jutted out, making him looks like a scolded child. 

Mia's heart went out to him, having met his parents a few times she understood the look. She too had been dealing with a shitty father for a while now, except Daniel's father was not famous like hers was. "I have space you know." She said it with an offhandedness that left you wondering if she was talking about helping him out or just her way of saying, I know how you feel. 

Daniel's response was to tug on the laces of her Doc Martin boots in a silent reply of thanks. They all knew she didn't have space for another person in her small duplex. Wanting to lighten the mood Daniel took the joint from his pocket, he had been saving it for later but the second he had gotten in the car he had known they would not be going to school that day. He lit the joint, inhaling the fragrant smoke with practiced ease, hi eyes following a spider up the side of their shared stone. 

Relaxing he held it up for Mia. She gave them a what the hell shrug of her shoulders and reached down. Their fingers touched and Mia's heart skipped a beat. She felt as if she had been stuck by lighting but the sky was clear. Dizzy she fell backwards and kept falling. All she could think was oh shit Toto I'm not in Kansas anymore. It had happened once before, when she was about to board a plane, yet somehow this felt different, more real somehow than the vision she had at the airport. She had taken a later flight out, finding out later than the plane she was supposed to be on had gone down over the ocean. 

In this one she was pushing through a crowd of kids, and catching snatches of a song. Halestorm or Evenesance she guessed. Either way it was some girl-fronted band at top volume. Smoke and sweat hung heavy in the air like a thick mass of webbing, making her want to escape this crowd. Luckily she spotted a staircase and pushed her way to it. She would have thought she was at carnival except for the fact that this was someone's house and not a balmy New Orleans night. 

It was a party of some sort, Halloween or a masquerade ball, by the look of the costumes. Whatever it was it was making her claustrophobic; she needed to find a way out but every which way she turned was blocked by a party goers. When the sounds of breaking glass and screams began to drown out the music she knew she had to move, Whatever was going on she wanted no part of it. Up the ornate staircase she went, finding herself in a long empty hallway littered with empty cups and trash. At the end of the hall was a closed red door. Mia made her way down the hall. Her fingers closing around the knob. 

From another door Zakk jumped out at her, making her scream. He was wearing one of those ornate animal masks and laughing. His finger pointing, back toward the staircase. More screams floated up from below filling her with fear. She screamed again when the door flew open and a half naked girl almost took her down. 

'No. wait! " Mia yelled to her as she rushed past. "Don't go down there! " 

"Better her than us." Daniel spoke from the now open doorway. Confused Mia turned her head to see what Daniel was talking about and realized it was his ex girlfriend Britt who had rust past her and the still laughing Zakk. He had removed his mask, dropping over the railing and did not see the impossibly tall figure standing in the shadows behind him until he stepped into the light. His long white hair was unkempt and he had the most piercing blue eyes Mia had ever seen. He grinned at them before grabbing Zakk and cutting his throat with one long sharp claw. Blood began to flow freely from the wound, yet Zakk continued to giggle. Britt screamed, dropping the clothing she had clutched to her chest and backed away as the man shoved Zakk over the banister rail and out of sight. 

Mia screamed as well struggling to free herself from Daniel's grip as another figure came up the stairs, moving fast he grabbed the naked Britt, pulling her to him. Ignoring her screams he flashed white fangs and eyes of glowing blue. That's when Mia realized they were twins. Monstrous bookends covered in blood. 

Daniel let go of Mia's arm, calmly stepping past her with a look of recognition, as if he knew who they were. The second twin reached out, pressing those long claws deep into the skin of Britt's creamy white breast, drawing blood.  "That one is mine." The taller twin snarled as the other stopped feeding from the thrashing girl. Licking at his bloodstained lips he locked eyes on Mia and Daniel. " I want to know if they taste as good as they smell? " 

Desperately Mia grabbed for Daniels arm, trying to pull him into the room. If she could get him into the room they could go out the window but Daniel was resisting her. The one holding Britt let go and began to advance down the hallway. From the same door Zakk had first come out of came yet another figure. He was shorter than the pair by almost a foot with long shining black hair and amber colored eyes. He was dressed in a fine black coat, purple velvet pants and high black boots and his voice was soft and seductive as hell. " Stand down shatter." Black closed a white hand over the one he called Shatter's arm and gave Mia a heartbreaking smile. " She is not the one." 

"I want her." Shatter snarled, bristling at the black haired one.

"It's the boy we want. She's just a pawn." 

Shatter grinned, his bloody clawed hand going to Daniel's throat. "I will have them both." His blue eyes were icy with madness as he slid his well-muscled arm around Daniel's waist, pulling him closer. 

"Get the hell away from him!" Mia screamed again. 

"What took you so long.?" Daniel said with a wicked smile of his own. That's when the door slammed shut on her, leaving her to desperately bang on the door. 

Without warning she was falling backwards again, leaving Daniel and the monsters behind. Mia awoke with her head in Zakk's lap her heart still racing as she tried to sit up and got dizzy again.

" Please don't go. "   Mia clutched at Daniel's arm scaring the crap out of both of them. 

" I'm right here. Are you ok? You hit your head when you fell. " 

" Just swear you won't go. " 

" OK, I swear we won't go anywhere. " Daniel helped Mia sit up, looking worriedly over her head at Zakk, He was worried about the bump to the head but she seemed ok, brushing him off as she reached for her cloves. " Can I get a ride home? " 

" Will you go to the walk in? " Zakk was holding her purse and camera. 

" No, I want to go home. " 

Without another word they followed Mia to Zakk's car. Both of them were worried about her, had been for some time. She was pale and a bit too thin but if they brought it up then she would tell them to get bent. They rode in silence for the few blocks to her tiny rented duplex. Mia brushing them off as she went inside. The boys waited a few minutes and then followed her in. They didn't speak as they settled into the Livingroom, knowing that when she was ready Mia would open up to them. 

" I love you but I don't need a babysitter. " Mia came into the Livingroom with a cup of tea and curled up next to Daniel. They had decided to watch some schlocky horror movie about some metal heads who raised Satan with their music. She rolled her eyes and grabbed the remote from Daniel's hand. 

" Hey! That looked good. " Daniel tried to get the remote back but Mia slapped his hands away. 

" Out! Go play in the sunshine. Go mow my lawn or something. " 


Laughing she kicked at him until he stood up with a hurt scowl on his face. She hated to kick them out but she really wanted to nap and knew that with the boys in the house a nap would never happen. So they stood up, still looking worried and tried to hang around some more, but Mia was having none of it and sent them on their way. She turned on Dr. Phil and promptly fell asleep, this time there were no bad dreams.


CHAPTER FIVE

Detective cooper slid  his solid frame into an empty booth just as Winters fire hit the stage. Ordering a beer and burger he flipped though his notes inside the tiny dive bar that sat on the edge of the lake.  Rock's was surrounded by high end shops yet the tacky dive bar didn't feel out of place and Cooper wondered how they managed to stay open without being cannibalized  by some chain place. 

It was early on a Fri night, a week since he had spoken to Jack at his office and yet Cooper couldn't seem to let go of the missing Guitarist or the simple fact that no one seemed bothered by his disappearance.  He had been told more than a few times  by the Sargent to stop digging and let it go. There was no indication of fowl play and the higher ups were getting annoyed with him. 

Sam had split. Simply up and left. Poof gone, as did Thane.  Well Detective Cooper wasn't buying it and that's what brought him out to Rock's on a busy Friday night.  He sipped his beer and listened to the band play.  He had to admit they were good and the crowd they drew were a good mix of younger collage age kids and older adults.  He studied the singer as he stalked across the stage, trying to see Jack in the kids features.   Rem had spiky blond hair and dark brown eyes.  He Had Jack's lips and maybe his bone structure.  The drummer, Blaze had his fathers chin and cocky grin.  He didn't have any photos of the boys with either parent and wasn't sure if he had any photos of their mother at all.  

What he did have was a few band photos of Sam who was also a good looking kid with a strong Jaw line and a penetrating gaze.  He chewed his dry burger as he studied his notes.  Sam had last been seen at Britt's birthday party on Halloween night. She had hired them the week before and Cooper wanted to know if either of them had known they were half siblings? 

 He knew he should be working on other cases but this one really bothered him.   

" Hey there, Andy.  Need another drink?  "   Katelyn Jade slid into the booth with a couple of beers and a bright smile.  "  Don't you ever stop working? "   

Copper smiled and held up his half full bottle to the young redheaded school librarian.  "  Yeah when I take a shit. "  He noted that she was wearing a black shirt with white lettering.  BLS it read across the front. Not a winters fire shirt.  Most of the people around the bar had on the same shirts.  Some of the townies worried it was a gang but Copper knew better.  BLS stood for Black Label Society. A band that made him turn off his radio if it came on in the car.  He was a Jazz guy and loved Billy Joel. 

" So what brings you out here on a Friday night?  Got a date? "  She grinned impishly at him. 

He couldn't tell if she was flirting or not, probably not since she had no problem getting dates. " How well did you know Sam Fire? "   He tried to sound offhanded but her expression told him otherwise.  It also told him she was going to lie. 

" Sam who? "   Her cheeks colored as her eyes moved to the spot on the stage that he would normally have stood. 

"  You know who I am talking about. "   So she had known him intimately, it was all over her pretty face and he had to admit that he was a bit jealous.   " Did he go to your school?  Do you remember seeing him there before he disappeared? "  

" They dropped out once they made their first record. "   

"  And the las time you saw him did he say anything strange?  Act differently? "  

"  No.  We had a fight. " 

" About? "  

"  Another guy.  What is this about anyway? "   Her brown eyes darkened with deep emotion.

"  Did you also know Thane Wolf?  "  

"  Come on Andy.  Yes I knew Thane as a student at my school.  No I was not sleeping with him. He was gay and you know it. "  

" Gay enough not to rape someone? "   

"  That's bullshit.  Thane didn't touch Mia. "    

"  You know this for a fact?   He had a rap sheet longer than the constitution. "   

"  So maybe Thane killed Sam and split.  Ever thought of that, Detective? "   

Seeing how upset she was, Cooper drank from the second beer and ordered them another round.  " Top of the list. "   He grumbled as the band ended their song and came off the stage. 

Remmy went right for Kate. Hugging her over the booth. "  Hello Detective. Surprised to see you out so late. " 

"  You can call me, Andy and I was wondering if you had a minute to chat."   

" I have enough time to hug my favorite girl and take a leak. "   Kissing Kate's cheek he took her beer and went towards the front. 

Blaze appeared where Remmy had been. Smiled sweetly at Kate and tipped his hat to Cooper before also vanishing into the crowd. 

" Charming. "   Cooper muttered as he put a few bills down for a tip.   

" They are actually very sweet. "  Kate said, getting up from the booth.  

"  I bet.  Just remember that if you think of anything or need anything you have my number. "  

"  I will keep that in mind. "  

He watched her as she rejoined her friends, then left the building.  He didn't feel like staying to see if  they would speak to him and with his head pounding he really just wanted to get some much needed sleep.  He could always go out to their rented cabin after a good night sleep and a decent breakfast. Calling it a night he left the dive bar and headed for home. 



CHAPTER SIX

~ New Orleans, LA ~

Black's hooded gaze fixed on the white-haired singer up on the tiny stage as he tried to get the image of the woman out of his head. Who was this woman named Mia, and why was she haunting his dreams? Mia, the name beat inside his head like a mantra, driving him mad and she was not the only one. He had dreamed of quite a few people from his past and they all seemed to be pulling him northward, back to his birthplace.  Often he would hear music and see a lithe dark haired youth with blood red lips who could sing like the angels.  He almost didn't want to sleep and Carver had called several times, but he never answered and probably wouldn't until they rolled into town. It might be days or even weeks for all he knew, what he did know was that he was in no hurry to go home again. They would return when he was ready, there were just to many ghosts for him to want to go back to Disdain. 

They continued to drive south, crashing every party they found along the way. It was incredibly easy to scan a room for any number of lost souls looking for someone to ~ GET THEM ~ and with a promise of a good time and a few well-placed compliments they practically begged to be slaughtered, often leading them right to their friends, who just happened to be having a party at some deserted location. It was sad really. Maybe it was time to start thinking about going to ground and sleeping for a long period of time. Oh who was he kidding? Going to ground was never an option. They loved the heat and the good hunting of Louisiana. If they ever settled in one spot, this would be it. There were too many small, dark and Smokey bars to name and what other place almost expected you to be mysterious in some form or another. A vampire in New Orleans blended in like bad carpeting in a busy casino. They loved this city, loved to hunt the waterfront streets and back alleys, taking out as many so-called vampires as they could.

Two nights ago he had walked past a small dark flat with an overgrown courtyard. He almost missed the man inside who thought that he was safely hidden from others of his kind, but Black had seen the curtain move and knew the other ancient one could see him as well. How different would his life have been, if he had been a student of this one and not the blond haired whore who had claimed him? Better to not dwell on that and leave the lonely one to himself.

Outside of town, along an overgrown road they had taken out a nest or family, as they liked to call themselves now. Seemed it was now fashionable to keep your chylder all on one leash, or all under one roof so to speak. Black had never had any use for the new social structures that had been popping up all over the country. As far as he was concerned they were all bunch of bloated jackals who called themselves kings and anointed sheriffs and other bullshit titles. Making Progenies for the sake of adding bodies to your clan. What a joke. Yet he had spared one dark-skinned cat shifter after they had burned their McMasion to the ground, he hadn't wanted to give a chase after feeding so well, and he knew she would spread the word about the renegades if she didn't get killed by a rival clan first. They then spent the day in one of the crypts on the grounds and the urge to go home had never been stronger.

Toying with the cheap plastic beads around his neck, he let his gaze slide from the stage to another dark corner where Shatter and Broken sat in a booth against the wall feeding from a dark-haired youth with chole lined eyes that reminded him of the boy from his dreams. Were they really going north? Back to a place he had tried so hard to forget? And was Mia really there? Living only blocks from the lake he used to swim in as a child?

    Oh how he loved how Mia's green eyes sparkled with fear. It was rare to connect with anyone so strongly and a shame he would have to end her life. If he was looking for a challenge then she would be it. Just how far would she be willing to go to protect her friends and family? Suddenly going North didn't seem so bad after all.  
Standing, Black took a gold coin from his pocket and tossed it at the singers feet. He gave the tall lanky guitarist a curt nod of his head and the slightest smile. They sounded good together. Shatter and Broken joined him at the back door, licking the blood from each other's fingers. They didn't know it but the pair on the stage had been spared, for now. There was one more stop before they hit the road again. Some backwater tiny town where people had been whispering about a blond haired waitress, rumored to be some kind of freak who could read your mind. Of course Black had not believed in vampires either, until he had become one. Funny how a person would reject anything they themselves could not see or do.

It was raining as they walked down Bourbon, the streets unusually quite for this time of night . . . Like Las Vegas, New Orleans always seemed to hum with activity. No matter where they went in the world this city held his heart.

They were almost to the van when a brightly lit sign caught his eye. He had not been into a shop such as this for a very long time. The twins hated anything to do with voodoo or spirits. Black reached out his hand to touch the old brass knob and the door swung silently open. The inside of the narrow shop was dimly lit and packed full of oddities, elixirs and old musty books. There was a long glass counter covered in dust and yellowed with age. It was as if no one had set a foot in the place for decades. Not waiting to see if they twins would follow he walked further into the store. There was a light was on in the back. He could also smell a thick floral perfume and hear a steady heart beat.

" Come in demon." She spoke before he had even crossed the threshold. "I have a message for you."

Careful not to touch anything, he stepped into the dimly lit room, stuffed with even more arcane items. The voice had come from a tiny figure seated at a small table, and she had her cards spread out before her and when she looked up he saw that she was blind. It was a good thing the twins had stayed outside. They would have broken something for sure.

"Sit demon." She pointed at an empty chair.

"No thank you." He stood his ground, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes. He didn't like being called a demon probably any more than she would want to be called a witch. "What message do you have for me?"

"Sit." Her long nails scrabbled over the dark wood of the table.

"Or what?" He was tiring of the game.

"Do you really want to find out demon?" The empty chair slid away from the table as she spoke.

Black needed no further convincing. He sat with an unhappy scowl and the woman's pale face lit up with a smile. "Now give me your hand."

He reluctantly held out his cold white hand to her and wondered why he had even come in.

"Oh your full of secrets and pain demon."

"I'm not a demon." He didn't like the feel of her warm hand in his but her grip was strong.

" Should I call you dead one? A vampire or something else?"

" You should tell me what your message is."

" Oh you're in such a hurry to die. All of you are." She released him, pointed at one of her cards and chuckled softly. " Puppet,

that's what you are. A puppet on a string, being led to your death like a pig to slaughter. But the game has just begun and you could win if you're careful. Beware the sleeping woman." Her fingers tapped the image of a stone angle. "And here." She touched an image of a king on a throne.'

" The emperor. Betrayer and full of dark magic. Together they are your downfall. "

Black sighed, they were already his downfall, The sleeping woman and the magician, it was not new to him. So the calling was a very real thing and Jack might not be the source.

"There are others, the warrior woman, the fool and his companion, and the wolf. Family will be reunited and torn apart. The hunter will be the hunted." She reached into her lap, laying a small bottle of dark liquid on the table. "Drink this when the time is right."

Black almost laughed, his lips twitching and the old lady scowled at him from across the table. What could it hurt to take the offered vile. If anything he could get Broken to drink it. He thought about asking some questions, decided he didn't want to know and stood up. He put the liquid into his pocket, took from his other pocket a small bag of gems and tossed them down onto the cards.

" I make my own fate witch. " He turned his back on her and walked out into the shadowy store, fighting the urge to turn around. He knew if he did he would find an empty room.

Shuddering he left the store, happy to be back on the warm street. The twins were in the back of the van when he returned, cloths strewn everywhere and blood covering their nakedness. He shook his head, smiled and climbed into the front seat. Mia was on his mind again. Was she his warrior? He hoped so, he was looking for a fight and thought maybe she would be the one to give it to him. It had been a long time since he had found anyone that had captured his attention as much as she did and it made him grin for the first time in a while. Could it be that going home was a blessing in disguise? or perhaps it would be his downfall.  He didn't want to wait any longer so he turned the engine over and pulled the van away from the curb. It was time to go home. 


CHAPTER SEVEN

Curled up on her favorite overstuffed chair, Mia could not shake the foreboding feelings of dread that clung to her like a second skin. Something bad was coming, something Mia felt powerless to stop. It had been days and she still felt like the vampires could be around the next corner at any moment. It made her feel a little uneasy even in her own home so she walked down the block to her favorite book store to meet up with Zakk and Daniel a few days later. Maybe a good hot cup of her favorite coffee would shake the feeling of ick that didn't seem to want to leave her.  DARKWINDS, jokingly referred to as her first love was the one place she felt safe. The boys, of course had abandoned her the moment they set foot inside the old two-story bookstore, Daniel disappearing up the stairs to the second floor and Zakk headed to the small snack and coffee counter while Mia was content to sit by the window, feeling guilty for not staying in bed. 
Her fingers trembled as  she lifted the cup, spilling hot coffee over the rim of the chipped blue cup and into her lap. She swore softly and set the cup down annoyed that she couldn't even hold a cup without spilling. Glancing out the window she noticed the display window of the drug store across the street where, Cowboy was placing small colorful figures here and there. How she wished she had the patience to set up a display village, but there was always something else that needed to be done, always something to fix or a bill that needed to get paid first and it was not like her paintings were flying off the walls either. Mia was a great artist who had yet to break into the high end world of galleries and shows.  She was content to just make art and often sold it at the street fair and gave most of it away to friends. She didn't need the money with what her mother had left her after she had passed. Mia often wondered where the money had come from and figured her mother had been smart and taken what she could from Mia's father when he wasn't looking, which would have been often. 
Her eyes drifted from the display window to the street. It had rained earlier, plastering red and yellow leaves to the wet sidewalk, making it look like a child's a fresh art project. She let her eyes slip shut as she massaged at her temple. The GIFT was what her mother and grandmother had called it. It was something she had always taken for granted, like being ambidextrous or double jointed. For as long as she could remember, Mia had the uncanny ability to know things others did not. She could tell who was calling her without looking at her phone, or find things that others had lost. She had never had a real vision before and nothing like what had gone down at the cemetery and it scared the crap out of her.

"Anybody home? "

Heaving a sigh Mia opened her eyes, forced a smile for Zakk and gave him a slight shrug of her shoulders. " I'm sorry Zakky, im just tired. " How could she tell either of them how she was really feeling when even she didn't know how she was feeling. There was something she DID want to tell him though, not related to the vampires or whatever they were, but scary just the same.

" I think I saw Thane last night." Heaving another sigh she pulled her legs up under her knees.

"You saw Thane? "

" I saw someone. " Her eyes narrowed as she scowled up at Zakk.

" He was standing in my dark kitchen. I heard him, Zakk, he was saying that we would pay for what we did."

Zakk returned her scowl. "YOU didn't do anything and he's dead Mia, gone forever and not coming back. "

"I know but I can't stop the dreams and even during the day I feel him around me. "

" I don't want to talk about this. " Zakk's grey eyes darkened as he looked out the window. What his ex lover had done to Mia was part of the reason Zakk was glad he was dead. . When he looked back, he deliberately changed the subject. " You look like shit, when was the last time you got some solid sleep? " He knew that Mia slept very little, especially when she was working hard on some new paintings or when the nightmares got bad. " Maybe you should go home and spend some quality time with the boys. "

"I'm fine Zakk. I tried that and it lasted what? An hour? You really want to take me home and come get me in ten minuets? "

Satisfied with her answer he set another small cracked plate with a dry looking scone down on the table in front of her. The look of disdain on his face made her want to laugh. " They didn't have any pumpkin spice bars so I got you this scone thingy that Kasie recommended. I think it's a holdout from last year. "

"You're too good to me. " Mia's smile was genuine as she lifted her cup back up to her lips. She was going to ask if they wanted to go to a movie when the annoying jangle of the bell over the door disturbed the quiet shop. Mia's hands froze and began to shake as Britt and her gaggle of followers came in. Oblivious to her reaction Zakk grimaced, raising his hand to the heavily made up blond who bounced over to them, the air suddenly fouled by her expensive perfume.

" Zakky! " She squealed, waving an Orange and Black invitation at Zakk. " Zakky poo. I have been looking all over for you. I need to give this to Daniel. Is he here? "

"Sorry Britt, haven't seen him. " Zakk grinned, lifting his shoulders into a shrug.

Pursing her lips together Britt locked eyes on Mia for only a second before pouring on the charm for Zakk. " You cut school again naughty boys and I was just frantic to find you. Daniel wont return my calls and I really wanted to give this to him personally. "

Mia's green eyes narrowed to slits as she glowered at Britt from behind her cup. That one had been trouble from day one, a top notch drama queen and coke head, Britt loved to play mind games. Back in May Britt had broken up with Daniel, then claimed she was pregnant and still in love with him. Feeling guilty he had drunk a bottle of jack and puked all over Mia's bathroom floor. The whole thing pissed Mia off to no end and had also pissed off Britt's overbearing asshole of a father, Jackson Carver, who had then started threatening to sue if Daniel didn't do the right thing. It took Mia everything she had not to launch herself across the table and wring the stupid cunt's neck. Of course if she was going to play the blame game then she needed to be angry with the woman who had driven Daniel into Britt's arms in the first Place.

Her name was Kaitlyn Jade, the school librarian who had a brief affair with Daniel the year before. Mia didn't blame the woman for ending it but, Kate's rejection had been the reason Daniel had even looked in Britt's direction in the first place.  She certainly didn't condone the relationship between teacher and student and in fact made it very clear to both of them how she felt, but at least Kate was stable and had been surprisingly good for Daniel, unlike Britt.

"I'm not sure where he is. " Zakk took the offered card in hopes that she would get the hint and leave. Hopefully Daniel didn't come down the stairs and blow the whole thing. "Did you go out to the Haunted Farm? I thought he was working it this year. "

Britt fluffed her hair, puckered her bright red lips at him. "He's NOT at the farm, I checked. So if you see him can you give this to him and make sure he calls me? I feel just awful about last summer. "

"I'm sure you do. " Mia muttered under her breath, If Britt even looked at her wrong she going to save the vampires the trouble and take the trollop out herself. 

Zakk caught the look on Mia's face and tried not to burst out laughing. He gave Britt his best puppy dog look by pouting and batting his grey eyes at her. "I swear I will have him call you as soon as I see him. "

" Have you checked Kate's? " Mia began to giggle behind her hands. 

Zakk glowered over his shoulder at her as he walked Britt to the door.  He wanted to put his foot in the blonds ass and kissed her cheek instead as he held the door for her.  "Don't worry. I'm sure he's around here somewhere."

" You're a peach, Zakky." Britt beamed at him as she stepped out onto the wet sidewalk.

"You know it. " Zakk kept the smile plastered on his face as the door closed on the group of girls. " God I hate that bitch. "   Zakk growled. 

"Who do we hate? " Asked Daniel from the rail above their heads. " Did I miss something? "

" Yeah. " Mia said with a dark scowl as she dropped the rock hard scone back onto its plate. " The queen of England just popped in for a bite to eat. " Uncurling her cramped legs. She got up from her chair and returned the cup to the counter, waving at Kasie as she shouldered her bag. It was time to go. She had a date with a good book and a pair of fat felines.  She hugged Zakk and waved up at Daniel before stepping outside. It was starting to rain again as she stepped out into the street, feeling only a little better than when she had arrived.  Perhaps throwing herself into her work would lift her spirits as it always had done before. Making sure there was no lurking van she shouldered her bag and headed for home. 



Chapter Eight

Detective Cooper sat in his car drinking cold coffee as he looked through his notes. There was a little coffee stand across from the bookstore that he had been going to for as long as he could remember. He saw Zakk’s car parked next to Darkwind’s and watched as Britt and her friends went inside. From what he gathered, Daniel and Britt had been off and on for some time. Jack hated him and maybe that was why she was so attracted to the kid. As far as Cooper knew, Daniel and Zakk had not been friends with Sam or his brothers. They had been friends with Thane though and that bothered him. He looked down at his notes again, looking for something he might be missing and without warning a giant crow landed on the hood of the car. Cooper jumped as the bird squawked at him, ruffling it’s large wings. His coffee spilled, splashing across the page of notes. He cussed as he scrambled to grab some napkins. 

Fucking Bird!  He growled at the crow.  

As he was looking at the bird he saw the bookstore door open and the group of girls come back out. They lingered for a few minutes before piling into someone's BMW parked behind Zakk's Mustang. Mia came out a few minutes later, looking around as if she was expecting someone to jump her.  He watched her light up a clove and walk away up the block towards her house. The crow squawked again and was gone in a flutter of black wings. Daniel and Zakk came out of the bookstore about ten minutes later and Cooper left the parking lot. He pulled into the open space in front of Zakk’s car and honked his horn. Both boys gave him a look and he knew they were debating blowing him off. Finally Zakk walked up to his open window.

“ You my friend are hard to get a hold of. “  

“ Yeah well. School and all. “ 

“ You got a minute. “ 

“ Not really Detective. “  

“ Don’t make me haul your ass in. Both of you. You have been avoiding me for far too long. Now haul your ass over to Chin chins and meet me there.” 

“ Right now? “ Zakk looked skeptical. 

“ You saying your not hungry? “ 

“ Fine but after this you have to back off us. Is that a deal? “  

“ Talk to me and and I will think about it. "  

     Zakk shrugged and went up to Daniels open window. Detective cooper watched them until Daniel got sulkily out of the car. He then drove over to the small parking lot and went into the small Chinese place across the street. It wasn’t the best buffet but it was the only decent one in a ten mile radius and the prices were good. He paid for their lunch and found them a booth towards the back. They came in reeking of weed and Cooper had to shake his head at them. He had to tell himself that he had been young once too but he had never had missing friends either. He told them to eat and chuckled when Zakk made a beeline for the hibachi station. Daniel got himself some noodles and rice and was first to be back at the table. Cooper had coffee and was still looking at his now stained yellow legal pad. 

“ How is everything? How’s Nick doing? “ Copper watched Daniel’s fork freeze for a second. 

“ He’s an abusive dick. “  

“ You know there are places you can go…”  

“ Right. Like last year when he tried to put me into therapy to get me sent to St. Peters? “ 

“ Well your almost eighteen. You just have to hang in there a little longer. “

Zakk joined them with a huge mound of food and the table fell silent. Cooper sighed and ran his hand though his thinning hair. “ So as you both may know I am working on the Sam Fire case. He’s still missing as is your friend Thane. “ 

“ He wasn’t my friend. “  Daniel snorted. 

“ I told you. We have no idea where he went. The last time we saw him he was beating on this kid we know and I stopped him. He left in a huff, he was drunk and that was it. He was never heard from again, although his uncle Chester keeps the light on for him just in case he comes back. “ 

“ You stopped him how? “ 

“ I bashed his brains in with a shovel. “  Zakk rolled his eyes and continued to eat. 

“ Do you think he raped your friend Mia? “  

Daniel slammed his fist onto the table, making them both jump.  “ He raped several women and you didn’t do shit about it. “  

“ No one came forward. I can’t arrest someone without a witness statement can I?   And  he was dating you at the time? “ Cooper looked over at Zakk. 

“ We were over by that time but yeah we had a thing for a while. “  

“ Did you know he was bi? “  

“ What kind of question is that? “  Zakk’s eyes darkened.  

“ Well if you didn’t know he was bi….”  

“  I didn’t kill him. “  Zakk looked sad. 

“ I thought you were working on the Sam Fire case? “ Daniel tried to change the subject.  

“ I am. Sam was also last seen out at The Haunted Farm. Almost a year ago to be exact. " 

“ Maybe they left together? “ Daniel smiled.  

“ So I hear. Somehow I don’t think that was the case. Sam and Thane were not friends. Know who was close to Sam? “  

“ Don’t go there. “ Daniel set his fork down and pushed his plate away. 

“ You know she could get into big trouble for what happened don’t you? “ Cooper scribbled down on the legal pad.  " I hear it's not the first time she's had a relationship with a student. " 

“ Look. Whatever your trying to say is bullshit. Leave her alone, leave us alone. Don’t talk to me and don’t talk to Mia either. “ 

“ Alright. I didn’t mean to push your buttons. I just want to tie up the lose ends and close this thing for good. “  

“ Thanks for lunch. “  Zakk scraped his plate clean and wished he could go back for more but Daniel was pissed and getting up. 

“ If you think of anything at all them call me. “  

“ Will do detective. “ Zakk sighed, pushing away from the table. “ I assume you have grilled Sam’s brothers? They didn’t have the best relationship either.” 

“ I have. On multiple occasions. So I guess I have hit the wall and I should focus on other stuff. You guys wouldn't know anything about a satanic cult would you? "  

" Seriously? "  It was Zakk's turn to roll his eyes.  

"  Be careful out there OK. "  

Cooper watched the pair go and wondered not for the first time if they really didn’t know anything or were they trying cover something up. He checked his phone and swore softly. The captain wanted him at yet another murder scene. It was starting to feel like they had a serial killer right there under their own noses and he was out here chasing ghosts. Getting up he went out  to his car and headed back to the bar that was starting to feel like a second home. 

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