Title: Starting Over
Author's Notes: This is a sequel to my piece "Coming Clean," which dwelt on the pathology of the EDTA cure for vampirism. But the cure itself is not the full course of a victim's recovery, certainly not for a person who was held for as long as Hannibal King claims he was in Blade: Trinity. This second piece explores the distance left to travel for an ex-vampire before he regains his humanity and embarks on his new adventure Also, just a little insight of my own about the workings of the Nightstalkers, their dynamic, their motivations, that sort of thing. Enjoy.
1. Knowledge is Power
"What've you got?"
Dex threw the file folder onto the table; the thick stack slapped the marbled top, clicking where various bulldog binder clips stuck out here and there. Hedges whistled.
"You're sure he's asleep," Abby eyed the folder warily.
"He won't be up for another hour, vampire metabolism or not," Sommerfield answered, miming plunging a syringe into thin air. She extended a finger towards the file, having pinpointed its position using her extraordinary hearing. "My, my."
"That's everything," Dex mitigated, understanding their surprise.
"Yeah, but still," Hedges gawked, and Abby knew what he meant. Vampires thrived because they took out the unloved, the unnoticed, the unwanted. This ream of paper was atypical, just like the focus of the contents, one King, Hannibal A. Abby snorted. 'A'? Did she even want to know what that stood for?
"What's his story, Dex?"
"Well, he's not local."
"What's that mean? Not from L.A. or not from California?"
Dex shook his head. "Not from the U.S., Abby. He's Canadian."
Abby thought about this. Yeah, she could see it, maybe, in the way he held out certain vowels sometimes, that strange twang that turned some of his 'ow's into 'ou's. It wasn't pronounced, not after years in the U.S. under Danica Talos' thumb and however many more he was in the country before that. "Okay, so, what's he doing in L.A.?"
"Studying," Dex reached over and opened the file since none of them seemed to be willing to start the slog through the material he had copiously collected. "Enrolled in U.C.L.A. as an undergrad in 1994."
"That makes him, what, twenty, twenty-one when Danica found him, according to his information?" Sommerfield frowned.
"Yeah, there's a police report dated October 1997 when his parents filed a missing persons complaint."
"Say what?" Abby woke as if from a stupor. She didn't know what threw her off more--that King's parents had reported him missing or that he had parents at all. "What's the report say?"
"Not much, unfortunately," Dex flipped through to a photocopy with letterhead from a local precinct. "They questioned people who had seen him last, and his roommate said he hadn't seen him in a month by the time the parents called."
"A month? And no one said anything?" Abby did some quick calculations. The undergraduate population of a school like U.C.L.A. was huge, in the tens of thousands, but still, surely someone missed him before a month.
"Remember," Sommerfield held up a finger, "that we're talking about college kids. I know you're out of the loop on this, Abby, but college years are the ones to really cut loose." Sommer's smile was a tad too revealing; obviously, in her wild-oat years, she'd partied with the best of them. Clearing her throat, Sommerfield continued, "Also, our friend is a self-confessed lothario. He may well have disappeared under a woman's skirt for just as long previously. It just happened this time that he picked the wrong skirt." Sommerfield smirked, quite obviously finding this situation to be, as she had said before, divine retribution for the female gender.
"What about the parents?" Abby returned to the facts and ignored Sommer's snarky comment. "Did they give up or what?"
"No, the case is still open. They've made a few trips down here to collect possessions, talk with police. I even talked to a private investigator's firm, and they confirmed that the Kings hired a PI."
"What did the PI say?" Abby could not shake the feeling that a family close enough to hire a detective on their own would not have let their son just disappear for five years. There had to have been something pretty significant to scare them off or make them fear the worst.
Dex confirmed her suspicion with another sorrowful shake of his head. "Dead."
"They get him?" Hedges asked, rabidly interested. "For poking around?"
"Guy had his throat ripped out," Dex nudged aside one paper-clipped stack to show another police report. This one, however, had pictures. As one, the group tried not to pay them too much attention, Sommer being the only one who succeeded.
"So it was dropped?"
"By hook or by crook," Dex grumbled. "The firm detached itself from any cases that he had been handling, refunding money, just getting out of it. They didn't want to tell me that it had happened at all," Dex smiled, flexing his hands and cracking his knuckles. So, the information had not come to him willingly; that was the best kind of reconnaissance.
"Where does that leave us?" Abby frowned. This told them only about the past. They needed to know about the current situation, needed to know where they could safely transfer King when he fully recovered. "Where are the parents now?"
"Montreal," Dex said shrugging. "They kept the girl closer to home."
"Girl?" Sommerfield's eyebrow raised over her sunglasses.
"He has a sister, name of Eliza, she goes to McGill."
Silence greeted this new information. If it was hard to imagine someone like King coming from flesh and blood parents and not just from a vampire's playpen, it was harder still to picture him with a sibling. Another King? Good lord.
"Is the sister cute?" Hedges joked, breaking the spell. Probably, Abby would wager, given King's profile. A sister coming from the same gene pool, how could nature miss?
"How old?" Abby managed after a moment, shutting down her brain before it could wander too far afield.
"That makes her four years younger?" Abby did the math; King's sister was a year older than her, making her about the same age when King disappeared as Abby had been when she'd found her father. At the same time of life that one girl lost a brother, another had gained a father and a calling. For no reason at all, she pitied the girl. Losing King might be no skin off Abby's nose, but his family probably felt differently.
"Well," Sommer tapped her fingers on the table, "what do we do now?"
"We try to contact the parents," Abby said, firmly. "They'll want to know he's alive."
"Maybe," Sommer murmured, unconvinced.
"What's on your mind, Sommer?" Hedges inquired. They usually thought in tandem; where Sommerfield led in terms of innovation, Hedges followed through on design. So, if Sommerfield sensed a problem, Hedges usually had the solution. He just had to have the question first.
"We have to assume that the vampires are privy to this information as well. If they killed the PI, chances are very good they know what he knew."
"And would know things about King's background," Hedges supplemented. "He probably also told them stuff, you know, before things went south."
"Yes," Sommerfield seized on this, "and that would include any pick-up lines where his foreign citizenship worked as a lure." In the collective air of skepticism, she narrowed her brow at them all. "What? Canada is technically another country."
"Not by much," Dex laughed.
"Yes, but he's from Montreal?"
"Looks like. So what?"
"He probably speaks French. Quebec is infamous for its bilingual society. It's the law to have signs and such in both French and English all over." Sommerfield crossed her arms, clucking at them, "Never underestimate the attraction of a man with an accent and the ability to spout love-talk in French."
"He's never said any of this to us," Abby pouted, unhappily. Somehow, something like the ability to speak another language ought to be more evident. It was a stupid assumption, perhaps, but King liked to show off. Why wouldn't any of this have come out?
"Canadian modesty?" Sommerfield chuckled to herself, sensing the looks of disbelief she could not see. "Okay, that's a stretch and it's stereotyping."
Hedges rolled his eyes. "Modesty is a bit more than a stretch, Sommer." Hedges had a point; no subject was taboo with King, even those which were personally embarrassing. Rather, he seemed to thrive on throwing out his faults and foibles, as if to make himself more lovable. Or something.
"Culture shock?" Sommerfield redirected. "Most Québécois don't make a big deal of being bilingual. They're not the French, they just speak it. Montreal is a delight to visit, actually. People speaking French who aren't desperately rude."
"Are you sure King's not French then?"
"Hedges," Abby warned him. To Dex, she nodded, asking, "What about the family? Any new developments with them since we boosted King?"
"Nope," Dex shook his head. "I called information, got their number, gave the house a call a few times over the past week while I was collecting this stuff," he gestured to the file folder spread out on the table. "I got Mrs. King twice, Mr. King once. Tried the sister at her apartment, got an answering machine and the roommate, but the roommate said she'd seen the girl only the night before. I'm not worried about them."
"I would be," Sommerfield intoned, her mood souring.
"Because that's the first place Talos is going to look for him," Hedges finished for her.
"So," Abby huffed, nonplussed. "Where does that leave us? We can't send him back there?"
"I wouldn't recommend it." Sommerfield was quiet a moment, working out her thoughts. "If we assume Danica Talos knows where King is from, or, at the very least, could find out easily from clues he gave her or the file the PI had accumulated, Montreal is the first place she'd look."
"How would King get past customs and immigration? He has no passport."
"There are thousands of miles of border between us an Canada, sweetie," Hedges wagged a finger at her. "I'm betting it wouldn't be too hard, even with the post-9/11 security issues."
"We should keep monitoring them, just to be sure they're okay," Sommerfield suggested to an unreceptive audience.
"King might want to know."
"Oh," Abby said, sucking in a quick breath, "Are we telling him? Suppose he wants to go back up north and the vampires are waiting?"
Sommerfield cocked her head to the side, a curious gesture which meant she was parsing through what had--and hadn't--been said very carefully. "You don't want him to go?"
"I don't want innocent people to die because he's an idiot and wants his mommy," Abby dismissed the inquiry.
"And your solution is just not to tell him?"
"If it's lying for his own good, and theirs, then yes."
"What makes you think he won't just take off after them unprepared?" Hedges cast a shrewd eye at her. "It might be better to give him some warning."
"Maybe this is all irrelevant," Dex interrupted before Abby could snap at Hedges. All turned to him, expectant. "The family stopped all their inquiries about two years after the PI died. It's possible they moved on. King might be ready to do the same."
"Telling him that might discourage him from contacting them." Hedges picked up what he wanted to hear out of Dex's incisive analysis.
"You want him to stay?" Abby gave Hedges her best bewildered expression. Of all people.
"Well," Hedges backpedaled, flustered. "Not really, but I'm with you. I don't want people to die because he does something stupid."
"I included us in that, Hedges. He's too dangerous to keep around here."
"Because Danica Talos might come looking for him?" Something in Sommerfield's tone screamed 'liar, liar!' Abby ignored it. "Well, there's no one better than us to keep him safe."
"Bullshit," Abby swore. "No way am I babysitting this clown."
"Make him useful, then," Sommer said with some finality, pleased at reaching a workable solution.
"I volunteer Abby for that job," Hedges said at once. Dex laughed, nodding. "Think about it, Abby. You could go hunting together and everything." This was too much for Hedges, whose smile cracked wider before he finally burst into a fit of giggles.
"Not a chance in Hell," Abby snapped. When and if she ever took a partner out with her on hunts, other than the occasional jaunt where Dex played get-away driver, it would not be someone more likely to watch her backside than her back.
"We'll figure something out," Sommerfield placated, ever perceptive to the hard feelings in the room. "For now, Abby can help him get rehabilitated with Dex. Hedges, if he survives, you get to train him on the gear."
"And you, Sommer?" Abby hissed. "What are you going to contribute here?"
"I've got Daystar to worry about. And Zoe." It was a low blow, and a damned effective one, dragging her five-year-old daughter into the fight, and Sommer knew it. How could they argue with that? They'd promised her not to interfere where Zoe's education and upbringing were concerned.
"I don't like this," Abby said, resigned and exhausted because of how well she knew it.
"You might," Sommerfield waved her off. "But this is as good a solution as we've got for now."
"And what if he doesn't want to play ball with us? Not everyone is able to kill and move on," Abby reminded her. They'd lost a few would-be Nightstalkers for that very reason.
"I'm betting a former vampire won't have that much problem with killing, Abby," Sommerfield said, darkly. No one in the room contradicted her. She was only too right.