This lovely 3 day weekend has been very good to me in the writing aspect, and I hope to keep that flow flowing. I still have a lot of work to do.
Happy reading! =)
I strolled past the main entrance to Père-Lachaise cemetery just as the tall gendarme bid bon soir to the last remaining tourist. He kept an eye on me over his shoulder while he locked the iron gate behind him. I looked away and kept walking. The last of the living had left the cemetery. It was time to go to work.
I raked my too-long brown hair behind my ear as I rounded the street corner. My father, a stout bear of a man, stood waiting against the cemetery wall. His hair had grown shaggy and long in the last few months as well. He raised his dark eyebrows expectantly as I approached him.
“We’re good,” I said.
The lines in his face deepened, and his dark eyes sparked to life. “Run through it again.”
I picked up the leather satchel at his feet and put it over my shoulder. “We jump the fence and run to Maurice’s tomb. We bust it open, I pull back the coffin lid and we both strike.”
Dad gave a swift nod and turned towards the wall. “Let’s put an end to this son of a bitch.”
With that he jumped up, grabbed the top of the brick wall, and pulled himself over. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Please God, protect us. I crossed myself and then scrambled over the wall.
I hit the ground running. Dad was already barreling down the cemetery streets several yards ahead of me. “Move faster,” he barked.
I gritted my teeth and adjusted the heavy leather bag on my shoulder. I was carrying all of the equipment, while he carried nothing but his vengeance. Despite this, and despite the slick, uneven cobblestones waiting to put me on my ass, I picked up the pace and caught up to him.
We darted through the sprawling maze of mausoleums and monuments. The gloomy graves seemed to suck the light from the sky as it darkened from bright pink to blood red. My eyes scanned the scene for movement. There could be dozens of undead lurking in the shadows.
Maurice Baudelaire, the vampire we were hunting, was very old and very dangerous. It would have been ideal – safer - to kill him during the day, but because he kept his resting place in a popular tourist attraction with armed guards and visiting hours, we’d had to wait until dusk to make our move. It was our plan to kill him before he awoke for the night. A plan which I had made clear from the start, I was not fond of.
“You want to attack an 800 year old vampire at his resting place at night?” I had asked Dad a week ago when he first informed me of his plan.
“It’s the only way.” He said resolutely.
“It’s reckless and arrogant. It goes against everything you’ve ever taught me. You’re not thinking clearly.”
Dad set down his cup of black coffee and crossed the kitchen to where I sat at the dinner table. There was an inspired yet maniacal glint to his eyes. A tight, forced smile cracked across his face.
“No, Gabriel, I have gone over this a thousand times in my head. We know Baudelaire’s tomb rests in Père-Lachaise. We have good intelligence telling us that he is back in Paris. Now is the time to strike.” He clenched his hand into a fist for emphasis.
I studied my father closely, unable to keep the concern from my face. It wasn’t like him to be so rash and careless. He was the type to come up with a contingency plan for every possible scenario; it took him weeks to plan out a hunt for even the most insignificant of vampires.
“Dad…maybe we should give it a rest. We’ve been going nonstop for two years.”
Dad slammed his fist into the table. “Rest? Do you have no love for your brother? Do you no sense of honor?”
“I have honor.” I said firmly.
“Then be a man and avenge Josiah’s death. That strigoi murdered your only brother, my first born son. I will not rest until he has been wiped off this earth. Even if it means I have to see him to hell myself. ”
I clasped my hands together in front of my lips. Biting my tongue, I held in everything I wanted to say to my father. The truth threatened to come bursting out of my mouth at any moment. The truth that I hated being a slayer, that I didn’t want to kill anything, and that I didn’t agree with his tenacious thirst for revenge. Truths that I could never tell him.
I glanced up at Dad again. He had clearly already made up his mind, and would be going to Paris with or without me. Though it was against my better judgment, I loved him too much to let him go alone.
“You’re going to get us both killed.” I quietly resigned to help him.
We made a sharp left turn and came to a halt in front of a tall, grey mausoleum, distinct from those that surrounded it in its lack of flowers and votives. Three small marble steps led up to a black cast iron door. My father glanced back at me and I handed him a crow-bar from the bag. He hooked it on the door handle and yanked it back. The door screeched open. Holding the crow-bar like a baseball bat, he leaned into the chamber and looked around.
“It’s clear. Hurry,” Dad backed away to let me pass. He patted me on the shoulder as I went inside.
The interior of the mausoleum was about six feet long and two feet wide, giving us just enough room to work. On the back wall was a square, red stained-glass window. The floor was cracked and covered in dirt and leaves. Spanning the left wall was a memorial plaque with the name Maurice Baudelaire solemnly engraved across it.
Behind this plaque lay the coffin. Inside the coffin lay Baudelaire. A little stab of fear twisted in my stomach. One way or another, this was going to end tonight.
Together Dad and I beat our crow-bars against the plaque until it cracked and broke into pieces at our feet. I grabbed the head of the coffin, Dad grabbed the foot and we hauled it down to the ground. I reached into the leather bag, tossed a stake to my dad and took one for myself.
I looked across the coffin at my father. His eyes were fixed intently on the wooden box. It was as if all his years of hunting and killing the undead, all the loss and pain of a lifetime of service as a soldier of God, would all be validated in this one act. Anger and pride culminated in his rough, scarred face. He was at the cusp of vengeance. This kill wasn’t for God.
Dad nodded. I grabbed the coffin lid and threw it back. We lunged with our stakes.
“Shit!” Dad shouted.
The coffin was empty. And judging from the dusty, decaying satin it had been empty for a very long time. I let out a quiet sigh of relief.
Dad covered his face with his hand and turned away. “No. It’s not possible. He has to be here.”
The glass window shattered behind me. Two hands grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me out through the hole. I was slammed to the ground, popping the stake out of my hand.
A hissing mouth with two huge fangs and beady red eyes were all I saw. The vampire pulled my shirt away from throat and went for my jugular. I pressed against him with all my strength and fished around my neck for my crucifix. I found it and pressed the relic against the demon’s white face.
The vampire screamed in pain and jumped off of me. I scrambled to get up, but before I could get to my feet he kicked me in the ribs and sent me flying into the air. I landed with a crunch on the pavement. Groaning, I rolled over and pushed myself up. With my weapon gone, all I had was the crucifix around my neck. I warily held it out in a feeble attempt at defense.
A small pink cross been burned into the vampire’s cheek. He bared his fangs and hissed. His eyes glowed red with rage. Without warning, he charged me.
He only made it three steps. Dad stepped out from between the mausoleums and thrust a stake into the devil’s heart. The vampire’s face turned from anger to shock, and then exploded into dust.
“Holy shit.” I said breathlessly. The adrenaline left me shaking. I doubled over and fought to regain my composure.
“Are you okay?” Dad asked coming toward me. He pulled my shirt back and examined my neck for any punctures.
“I think I cracked a rib. But I’m alright.”
Dad turned and headed back to Maurice’s grave. I felt like I had been run over by a truck and I had come very close to having my throat ripped out, but there were no holes in my neck and that was the important thing. My eyes fell to the pile of dust on the ground. A familiar twinge of guilt turned my stomach.
Dad came back around with the leather bag, slightly limping from an old knee injury. The evening’s activities must have aggravated it. His right eye flinched ever so slightly with each step.
“Here,” Dad said, thrusting a 9mm at me.
“What’s this for?”
“That wasn’t Maurice.”
Which meant he could still potentially be here, and we could potentially be in more danger than before. Holding a hand against my aching ribs, I followed Dad back down the same, steep cemetery streets. Within minutes we had climbed back over the fence and dropped down to the well lit sidewalk below.
“So, what do you want do now?” I asked in Romanian, as we found two seats on a crowded metro train. “He’s certainly not going back to that resting place, if he was ever there at all.”
Dad knitted his brow in concentration. “He must have known we were coming,” he muttered.
I didn’t bother to ask him how Baudelaire could have known we were coming. I knew I wouldn’t get an answer. If that was how he wanted to rationalize this loss, that was fine by me.
I watched my dad from the corner of my eye. Everyone said we looked alike. We had the same dark, curly hair. The same dark brown eyes, and even the same oval face. The similarities stopped there.
Dad was well known within our small community of slayers. They said he was one of the best that ever lived. My older brother, Josiah, was expected to be even better. He had been more like Dad. He had shared the same sense of familial and religious duty to rid the world of vampires and werewolves. Two years ago, he had gone alone on a hunt to Romania. He had succeeded in wiping out nearly an entire coven, but in the end he was ambushed and murdered by Maurice Baudelaire. My father hadn’t been the same since.
He caught me looking at him and he narrowed his eyes. “We’ll go to the cathedral first thing in the morning to give our report. We’ll figure out where to go from there. I know he’s here, Gabriel. I feel it.”
“Whatever you say, Dad.”
I waited outside the Notre-Dame while my Dad took care of business inside. He could handle whatever paperwork and debriefing was necessary. There was no real need for me to hang around in the dim underground chambers.
I watched the people going in to confess or take pictures. It was early in the morning so there weren’t many tourists gathering around yet, but every once in a while I’d see a scruffy looking college student with a backpack or a jet-lagged family who were obviously on a very tight schedule to see everything. I wondered what it would be like to be one of them; to be normal. To get to admire Paris for its beauty and history and to not know that monsters – real monsters – existed.
I turned and looked up at the giant church. I had seen the cathedral dozens of times, but never as a tourist. The Notre-Dame was one of our headquarters so I had spent much of my youth learning and training in its secret chambers and vaults. Even so, I could still marvel at the beautiful stained-glass windows and the ancient sculptures of gargoyles and saints. Staring up at the cathedral in admiration made me feel like I had something in common with the strangers around me. It amazed us all to think that it had endured 600 years and several wars and was still a beautiful work of art.
It reminded me of vampires.
The sweet smell of crêpes wafted towards me and turned me from my thoughts. I knew exactly where the smell was coming from. I crossed the plaza toward the left of the Notre-Dame, and ran across the street narrowly escaping a speeding moped.
There, outside of a restaurant, was a little metal stand with a French woman happily making fresh crêpes. The sizzle of the crêpe batter on the skillet made my mouth water. Fortunately there were only four people in line so I took my place behind a girl with jet black hair.
I was more focused on planning my order than the people around me, but then the girl in front of me turned to look over her shoulder and I saw her face. My heart jumped in my chest. She was beautiful. Startlingly beautiful.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. All the sounds of people talking, all the noise from the motorists drained away. Everything around me stopped and the only thing I was aware of was this woman. I had to speak to her. I had to find out her name and be the object of her attention for at least one fleeting minute. I needed to hear her voice.
“Bonjour,” I said in my best French accent.
Slowly she turned around. Her big, bright green eyes looked me over. She had smooth, fair skin, high cheekbones and perfectly curved lips. Her silky, black hair framed her face and fell to her shoulders.
“Hi,” she said.
My confidence doubled.
“You speak English.” I remarked happily. French wasn’t my strong suit.
“So do you.” She said. She smiled, showing off straight, white teeth.
“And you’re American,” I said. Then I realized how ridiculous I sounded. I decided I should tell her something she didn’t already know. “My name’s Gabriel.”
“I’m Jade.” She said. She stuck her hand out toward me.
I grasped it, a little too eagerly. “Out doing some sight-seeing?” I asked.
“Not today. I’m sort of here on business.”
“Oh, me too.” I had no idea what to say to this woman. I racked my brain for something to keep the conversation going. “Is this your first time in Paris?”
“No, I have a friend who lives here and I come to visit him from time to time. Is this your first trip?” Jade asked.
“Actually, it isn’t. My Dad and I come to Paris a lot. For business,” I added. I wanted to know what the deal was between Jade and her French friend, but I couldn’t think of a smooth way to ask.
It was Jade’s turn to order and she told the woman what she wanted in cautious French. She looked back at me with a mischievous glint in her eye. “I always feel like I’m full of shit when I try to speak French.”
I laughed and she stepped aside so I could place my order.
I glanced over at Jade. She flashed her eyes on me and smiled flirtatiously. My heart was humming like a generator. Electricity sparked all through my body. I wanted to say something to impress her, but telling her that I hunted vampires for a living didn’t seem appropriate. So instead I paid for her crêpe before she had a chance to pull her money out of her back pocket.
“You didn’t have to do that.” She told me.
“I know, but I wanted to. It’s not every day that I get to do something nice for a pretty girl.” I hoped I wasn’t coming on too strong or too lame – I really had no idea what I was doing.
Jade giggled. “Well, thanks.” She started to back away.
“Hold on,” I said coming after her. “Can I join you? To eat, I mean?”
Jade bit her lip and looked me up and down again. “I would like to, but I have to meet someone.”
“Well,” I fumbled to come up with something to keep her longer. “What are you doing later?”
Jade raised an eyebrow.
“Look, I’m really not trying to be a creeper. But…I dunno, I’d really like the chance to get to know you. If that’s okay.”
Jade smiled. “I’m busy tonight, and tomorrow I’m going to the Louvre.”
“What a coincidence. So am I.” I was now, anyway.
“Maybe I’ll see you there.”
“You will see me there.”
Jade laughed as she turned away. “Goodbye Gabe.”
“See you later, Jade.” I called after her.
I watched her until she disappeared into the crowd forming in front of the Notre-Dame. Unable to wipe the smile off my face, I went back to my waiting place. It was nice to have a bright spot of normalcy in my strange, dark life. I looked forward to seeing her again and spending more time in her light.