"Bella is going to be fine," I assured Edward. "They'll take care of her now."
All five of us stood in the hospital room, watching her limp body, noting the ragged rise and fall of her chest and the loss of color in her face. "She looks like hell," Emmett said conversationally, belying my previous assurances. Alice and I glared at him.
"Please, let's leave," Jasper pleaded. I glanced over him and noticed that he wasn't breathing. Feeling a pang of sympathy for my son, I nodded. "Where's the camera?" I asked quietly. Alice pointed out the window, into the parking lot. "I took it when we left the studio," she murmured. "Bella said…"
"I'll get it," Jasper volunteered hastily, and a chuckling Emmett followed him out the door.
Edward was gazing intently at Bella; he hadn't taken his eyes off her since he saw her in the studio, as if he were expecting her to disappear in a poof of smoke.
"You don't have to watch, Edward," I told him softly. I knew what it might do to him. Masochistic as ever, he shook his head. "I want to see it," he insisted.
I sighed and sat down in the plastic chair by Bella's hospital bed.
The past few days had been extremely stressful compared to my family's norm: tracking James, the plane flight to Phoenix, saving Bella just in time. I definitely admired Bella for her courage, but her choices had certainly made protecting her more difficult. I also didn't like it when we had to kill James. Of course, it was one less vampire to stalk innocent humans, but I always tried to take the peaceful approach on life. For all of my problems and the problems of my family, there was usually a solution that did not involve violence. Still, Bella was safe. Bella was safe, and Edward was happy.
In the back of my mind, I wondered how long this happiness would last. Bella was definitely prone to accidents, and she had to die eventually. Unless Edward was willing to change her, or at least let me change her… but presently that didn't seem a very likely option.
Emmett entered the room. "We have it," he said. "Jasper's finding a vacant hospital room." Alice nodded, taking the camera from him. Emmett came over to Edward and leaned against the wall, and the room relaxed into comfortable silence.
Two minutes later, Jasper poked his head in the door. "I found one," he said. We all filed out o the room, Edward being last and only doing so after a long look at Bella.
Jasper led us to a dark room in the east wing of the hospital, completely vacated. Alice gave him the camera, and he hooked it up to the little T.V by the hospital cot.
"Are you all sure you want to watch this?" Alice asked, her pale finger inches from the play button. "I can watch it alone, or just Edward and I can watch it."
I sat down in one of the chairs. "It's alright, Alice," I responded. Jasper and Emmett nodded in affirmation. Edward came forward to sit in a chair. "Play it," he ordered, and Alice complied.
At first, the screen only showed the wall of the studio. The only sound was Bella's harsh panting. Then James came into view, holding a remote control and smiling pleasantly.
"Sorry about that, Bella," he apologized, "but isn't it better that your mother didn't really have to be involved in all this?" Silence for a moment, then Bella's voice, filled with relief: "Yes." James mused, "You don't sound angry that I tricked you." "I'm not," Bella replied, still sounding relieved.
I glanced over at Edward out of the corner of my eye. His pale form was stiff and tense, his jaw clenched tightly. Alice, sitting next to him, was biting her lip, but otherwise still as stone.
Bella had come into view. Her petite form was motionless, but the relief was plain on her face.
"How odd. You really mean it," commented James, his voice light and friendly. There was a long silence, in which James' dark eyes scrutinized her curiously. Finally he spoke.
"I suppose you're going to tell me that your boyfriend will avenge you?" James asked amiably. Suddenly, Bella looked worried. "No, I don't think so," she replied. "At least, I asked him not to." James' smile widened. "And what was his reply to that?" he inquired courteously. "I don't know." Bella's voice was curiously steady. "I left him a letter."
James shifted a little, still watching her intently. "How romantic, a last letter. And do you think he will honor it?" he asked, not so courteously this time.
The barest hint of a growl rumbled in Edward's chest.
I eyed my son with concern. Maybe he shouldn't be watching this, after all. If this part was upsetting him, how would he react when he saw James attacking Bella? But Alice touched his shoulder silently, and he desisted.
"I hope so," Bella answered, sounding hopeful. James' eyes narrowed slightly, and his smile faded infinitesimally. "Hmmm," he said thoughtfully. "Well, our hopes differ then. You see, this was all just a little too easy, too quick. To be quite honest, I'm disappointed. I expected a much greater challenge. And, after all, I only needed a little luck."
Bella didn't reply; she waited patiently for his gloating to end.
James continued, "When Victoria couldn't get to your father, I had her find out more about you. There was no sense in running all over the planet chasing you down when I could comfortably wait for you in a place of my choosing. So after I talked to Victoria, I decided to come to Phoenix to pay your mother a visit. I'd heard you say you were going home. At first, I never dreamed you meant it. But then I wondered. Humans can be very predictable; they like to be somewhere familiar, somewhere safe. And wouldn't it be the perfect ploy, to go to the last place you should be when you're hiding—the place that you said you'd be." He paused for a moment, no doubt to see if his brilliant strategizing was registering, before he spoke again.
"But of course I wasn't sure, it was just a hunch. I usually get a feeling about the prey I'm hunting, a sixth sense, if you will…"
He gloated for a while longer, explaining how he had located her here in Phoenix, and pointing out a few of the more obvious clues, before commenting:
"Very easy, you know, not really up to my standards. So, you see, I'm hoping you're wrong about your boyfriend. Edward, isn't it?"
At this point, low growls of indignation and anger were coming from all four of my children. Emmett and Jasper's fists clenched and unclenched. I ground my teeth together, willing myself to remain calm.
"Would you like, very much, if I left a little letter of my own for your Edward?" asked James, his amiable tone returning. He indicated the camera with a pale hand, bringing it into Bella's attention for the first time. She looked at it for a long moment, and then turned back to him, her dark eyes wide with horror.
"I'm sorry," James apologized, "but I just don't think he'll be able to resist hunting me after he watches this. And I wouldn't want him to miss anything. It was all for him, of course. You're simply a human, who unfortunately was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and indisputably running with the wrong crowd, I might add." He took a casual step forward. "Before we begin…"
Bella was definitely looking nervous now.
"I would just like to rub it in, just a little bit. The answer was there all along, and I was afraid Edward would see that and ruin my fun. It happened once, oh, ages ago. The one and only time my prey escaped me."
Alice's eyes widened. "Oh my God," she whispered.
Jasper sent a half-hearted wave of calm across the room.
"You see, the vampire who was so stupidly fond of this little victim made the choice that your Edward was too weak to make. When the old one knew I was after his little friend, he stole her from the asylum where he worked—I never will understand the obsession some vampires seem to form with you humans—and as soon as he freed her he made her safe. She didn't even seem to notice the pain, poor little creature. She'd been stuck in that black hole of a cell for so long.
"A hundred years earlier and she would have been burned at the stake for her visions. In the nineteen-twenties it was the asylum and the shock treatments. When she opened her eyes, strong with her fresh youth, it was like she'd never seen the sun before. The old vampire made her a strong new vampire, and there was no reason for me to touch her then." He sighed heavily. "I destroyed the old one in vengeance."
"Alice," Bella whispered.
My daughter was breathing heavily, even though that was completely unnecessary. She touched her short black hair, comprehension suddenly dawning on her face.
"Oh my God," she repeated.
For the next minute, instead of watching the video, I watched Alice's face. She listened with rapt attention, but somehow seemed far away, as if she was having a vision. I wondered what affect this was having on her, after not knowing for so long…
Suddenly, everyone in the room stiffened at something James had said. I concentrated on the screen once more.
"—friends and tell them where to find you, and my little message."
James began to circle Bella, seeming delighted at the naked terror on her face. Then he suddenly fell into a crouch, his polite smile widening until he was baring his teeth in a savage grin.
Edward snarled in fury, his whole body shaking with helpless rage. Edward, you need to leave, I thought. "I'm not leaving," he growled, and Emmett agreed, "Let him stay."
Alice buried her face in her hands as Bella instinctively tried to run…
James punched Bella in the chest, sending her flying backwards into the mirrors. She fell to the floor and lay there, stunned.
"That's a very nice effect," said James conversationally, slowly approaching her. "I thought this room would be visually dramatic for my little film. That's why I picked this place to meet you. It's perfect isn't it?"
Jasper was unintentionally sending out fury in waves. Everyone's eyes had already been dark, but now they turned pitch black.
"Stop it, Jasper!" I said angrily.
Bella crawled away from James, hopelessness in her chocolate brown eyes. He was over her quickly, stamping his foot down on her leg. For a moment Bella was silent—and then suddenly she screamed, a terrible, high keen of agony. James smiled gently down at her. "Would you like to rethink your last request?" he asked genially, nudging the broken leg. Bella screamed one more, and he tried again. "Wouldn't you rather have Edward try to find me?" "No!" Bella insisted with a pleading tone to her voice, her eyes wide with panic. "No, Edward, don't—"James' foot dealt a crushing blow to her face, knocking her back into the shattered mirror. Blood was streaming down her scalp…
No one was growling anymore. I looked over at Edward, and his eyes were dark with pain.
"Turn it off," I commanded. "Alice, turn it off." She obeyed. "I'm going to check on Bella," Edward excused himself desperately, and left the room.
We all stared at eachother in silence.