Roger Jeffries was having a bad day. He could hear them coming after him, searching for him. They were just two blocks away now. If he made any move, any noise, they would find him. He was trapped.
Roger had been having a very good day. He'd been planning this day for weeks. Ever since he first saw her that day in the park, with her blond curls blowing in the wind, the pretty blue dress she wore flowing out when she twirled.... he'd known- it had to be her.
And so he'd waited; watched her from afar. This was how it always happened. Just watching. Just wanting to see them play. But it always turned into something more. He always ended up wanting more.
And so Roger would take his observations of the girl and turn them into his own conclusions: the child spent most of her time with her nurse, so the parents obviously did not love her; the child fell and scraped her knees, the nurse was obviously incompetent; and the little girl sometimes sang sad little songs to herself, she was obviously unhappy.
That was when he knew that he must save this little girl. He could be the one to make her happy. Just like all the others…
Don't think about the others now! Roger thought angrily to himself. Those were mistakes, bad mistakes. Mistakes could be corrected.
Today had gone just as he'd planned. The little girl always came to the park on Tuesday afternoons. They often would go for a walk there, letting the cold winter air refresh them. The little girl often ran ahead of the nurse, to seek out pretty flowers and birds and things. Sometimes the nurse let her play ahead of her; sometimes she stopped to talk with a friend or acquaintance. Sometimes the little girl went off the path, all by herself.
Today had been unusually lucky. The nurse had a slight cough and looked tired as they'd walked down the path. She'd sat down on a nearby bench quickly, pressing a hand on her forehead as if she had a headache.
"Mary," she'd called out wearily to the girl.
But Mary was preoccupied with the birds she heard chirping from the trees.
"It is a robin! I know it!" she cried delightedly and ran off the path towards the sound.
The nurse called the girl's name once more, but she did not move from the bench, too tired to get up.
Mary walked far off the path, into the snow banked foliage. There were no more sounds of birds when she finally stopped and looked around her confusedly.
When she turned around, she gasped and her little hands flew up to cover her mouth when she saw the man behind her. He had taken her by surprise.
He knelt down on one knee, so that his face was level with hers. He smiled kindly at her. "Have you found your pretty robins?" he asked gently.
She shook her head shyly.
"Let us go find them," he said, offering her his hand. She obligingly placed her small gloved hand in his large, calloused one, and he led her off further into the woods.
It had been as simple as that. It had gone more seamlessly than he could have ever planned. Clearly, it had been the right thing to do if Providence was helping him along so smoothly.
But he hadn't planned well the part after. Getting the girl had been his sole focus, and he hadn't thought much beyond that. He hadn't thought that he would need to take her away from the city.
Even now he couldn't understand how it had happened so quickly. He was sure they could remain at his apartment indefinitely, because the parents did not care for this child, neither did her nurse. They wouldn't cause much of a fuss. He had learned his lesson with the others.
The girl had been very docile and quiet. Only a few times did she ask when she would go home. Roger told her that this was her home now, and he was her new friend, and she must listen to what he said and do as she was told.
It was only a few hours before Al Bircher came hollering through the building, calling Roger's name.
He'd opened his apartment door to find Al standing there, banging on his wall still. He looked more than a little drunk, but then, Al always looked that way.
"Police are after yeh," he'd wheezed at him, smiling a little as if he somehow found this amusing.
After a second of shocked pause, Roger growled at him,"what for?"
Al leaned against the doorframe, most likely to steady himself from falling down. "I heard some missus goin' through the park just now, tellin' some cop that her girl is missin'. She tol' him what the li'l girl look like, an' I says, 'Ol' Roger's always down in that park, bet he'd seen something of it."
Stupid Al. He'd almost ruined everything, just so that he could be part of the excitement, to edge closer to the limelight. He had no idea what he'd done. But this had happened before and Roger knew what to do. He had to get out.
He'd crept out the back door with his hand closed tightly over the girl's mouth so she couldn't scream. Just as he'd turned the corner of the street, he'd seen a police officer step up to the front door of his apartment building. But the officer hadn't seen him slink away.
That was hours ago. He'd been able to evade them for some time, hoping that when night came, it would make things easier. He'd hidden in alleys, around garbage pails and debris, so that they couldn't find him. The streets of New York City, filthy as they were, did make for good hiding places.
It was just for now. Just while the police were still about. When they were gone, they could be on their way to a new life. He couldn't use the train of course, too public. But he'd prefer not to walk either- it was December, for goodness sake. It would do no good for the both of them to freeze to death.
The child wasn't making things easier. She was frightened now. He didn't want her to be frightened, didn't want to be cross with her, to hurt her. But it was necessary during times like these.
She whimpered into his hand now, her small body shivering from the cold against his body, and he could feel her tears rolling down onto his skin.
"What?" he asked harshly. He loosened the hold on her mouth slightly so that she could speak.
"I want to see my mother," she sobbed.
Her voice, small and broken as it was, echoed a little off the walls of the alley.
"Shut up!" he hissed and clamped his hand tighter onto her mouth than before. He waited, listening for sounds of anyone coming. There was no change. "You'll do as you're told or you'll never see your mother and father again!"
But this was a lie, for no matter what the child did, she would never see her parents again. Because if he couldn't have her, they certainly shouldn't. They didn't deserve a good little girl like this, and he would sacrifice her so that they would learn. They would never even find her body. Or at least they wouldn't recognize it when they did.
But that wasn't how he wanted things to turn out. He didn't want to have to do that to her, for her to end up like the others. That was just his last option.
They could still get out now. But every time he thought he could leave finally, a police officer would pass by the mouth of the alley, a pistol ready in its sling at his waist. They were searching through the area around the park. Could they really still be searching for him though?
Two police officers that had crossed paths near the alley answered his question.
"Have you gone down Tenth Street yet, Will?" the first asked.
"No, but I've gone down every other it seems like."
"I don't understand, are we really looking for this Jeffries bloke just to ask him if he saw the child in the park?"
"Didn't you hear it from the chief? He says after that man described Jeffries to him, the nurse said she recalled a man like that often in the park, watching them. She'd been suspicious of him, but hadn't thought to worry today because she hadn't seen him. Anyway, the chief is pretty sure it's him."
"And they couldn't find him in his apartment?"
"No, but they did find some ribbons that the nurse recognized and a mitten that has the family's initials. She said they'd lost it weeks ago, so he's probably been watching for a while. They also found some articles of her clothing that she'd been wearing today," he added with extreme disgust in his voice.
"Better get back to searching then. Do you think he'd stay around here, though?"
"I've no idea." The police officer cocked his head and lifted his lantern further into the alley. Roger didn't dare breath from behind the rubbish he hid behind.
After a few agonizing seconds of perusal through the shadows, the officer shook his head and turned back to his friend. "No, we've been searching here for hours. He can't have stayed. I'll ask the chief to start checking the train stations."
The second officer nodded and they parted at the entrance of the alley. Roger let himself breathe again only to seethe in fury at that idiot Al. Because in addition to telling the police in the first place of his existence, he must have let them into his apartment to search through it. Stupid fool!
Of course, he should have known by now not to keep things like that. It was only evidence that could condemn him. But he just couldn't resist when the ribbons had slipped from the little girl's hair as she skipped down the park path. And when she'd set down her gloves to play in the snow, he'd only taken one. Just to remember, to cherish.
Well, he wouldn't make mistakes again. Things had gotten close, but the worst was over. They were leaving. They were going to search the trains and he knew how to get around those. Perhaps walking wasn't such a bad idea.
He waited until it was completely silent. They were gone. He was free. The girl was his.
But what Roger Jeffries didn't know, was that I was waiting for him.
This was one of my usual spots for hunting- the location almost always afforded a good choice for a meal as it was always filled with degenerates. I never had to wait long for them, perhaps an hour or two. Between eleven and three at night were the best times, because that was when all of the robbings, kidnappings, and murders happened. Or almost happened, until I came along.
It hadn't taken long to see that Roger Jeffries was a prime candidate for my style of punishment either. Repeat offenders were automatically included.
He was dragging the girl to the entrance of the alley and looked from the shadows to see if there was anyone around. No one was around however, at least, that he could see with his weak human eyes. They passed over my still form against the building across the street without any recognition.
Just when he felt that all was safe, when that sweet relief of nondiscovery flooded throughout him, I stepped out of the shadows. His face registered my sudden appearance with total shock and for a second he was completely immobilized as I strolled leisurely towards him. After a few seconds pause, he then decided to make a run for it.
"I don't think so," I murmured, pulling one of his bulky arms and snapping it in just the right place to pop it out of its socket. It made a nice cracking sound that reverberated in the still night air.
He cried out, and his body arched back in pain. I shoved the kneecap of his left leg back, propelling his heavy form forward. It was more than easy to use the motion of his fall to relocate the child from his arms to mine.
He landed on the ground in front of me and nearly rolled into the street. That wouldn't do if someone did come by, so I lightly kicked him into the dark alley once more. His body smacked against the brick wall, cracking some ribs by the sound of it. He did not move, but moaned pitifully into the ground. He was quite disoriented, but not unconscious, and that was good. Being unaware of everything took away the whole point.
And this was protocol. When victims were involved, I always had to disable their captors first so that they couldn't leave, but it could only be the bare minimum amount. Obviously the intended victims did not need to see the punishment of their assassins, no matter how justified.
This was certainly the case for the eight year old child I held in my arms now. She was terrified beyond belief, quivering in my arms as if she were having a seizure. I had better get her out of here before giving her any more cause for horror.
But this was always the part I liked least.
With a sigh, I turned my face towards her. "Mary," I said softly.
Her small face jerked up to meet mine, and her expression never wavered from one of total fear and bewilderment. Her blue eyes were large round circles as they stared at me in shock.
My teeth grit slightly at the familiar expression of fear. The victims all had that same look. And it didn't matter what they looked like- the differences in coloring or age.
All I ever saw was her face.
I set her down carefully on her feet, and led her down to the end of a side street. I pointed towards one of the storefronts.
"Do you see that store, Mary? Go into it and tell the storekeeper your name. Tell him to call for the police."
She looked at the store, then her eyes flitted back to mine, still with that bewildered look. She deliberated for a second on whether to trust my advice, then flung herself across the street to the store.
I watched until she was safely inside. Then with a grim twist on my lips, I turned back to my meal.
He was quivering in the same position I had left him. I had shattered his kneecap, so he couldn't move even if he wanted to, but he was so frightened he had no desire to try. He thought I was a police officer who had waited for him and he was berating himself for not being more careful.
I started to laugh, coldly and without any humor. My voice startled him; apparently my return had been too quiet for him to hear. His head raised and he looked up at me in panic. He'd been very slightly hoping that I would not come back.
I smiled widely at him, showing all of my glistening teeth. "Yes, Roger- you should have been more careful. I thought you said you'd learned your lesson with all of the others?"
He stared at me in shock for a second, wondering how on earth I could know this. Because he had never been caught before, so no one should know of the others.
He tried to raise himself up to run away, so I casually backhanded him across his face- the force of which flung him into a broken window set low on the alley's walls. Hundreds of tiny glass shards sliced through his face, and if he were going to live through this, his face would forever be a horrible scarred mass. So it was a good thing that Roger Jeffries was not going to live through this…
"Yes, I know," I whispered, lowering myself closer to his face. The closer proximity increased his terror. My grin stretched further at that. "I know everything. I know their names, I know where it happened, I know where you buried each of their bodies. And you should be grateful, because I'm going to let you pay for all of your crimes tonight, rather than your whole life. Of course, after you die," I shrugged lightly, "I'm afraid it's out of my hands. And I've heard that hell is not known for its benevolence in torture..."
He rolled away from me, in a desperate attempt to get away somehow. That made one of his cracked ribs slice into his lungs, and he gasped at the pain. I caught his hands in mine, and leisurely brought each finger back to touch his forearm, snapping it into quarters.
"Just what have these hands done?" I commented through his screams, enjoying the sound as I heard the breaking crack of his last finger. "Best that you don't use them at all anymore, don't you think?"
He lay on his back, his crumpled hands raised in a plea. He was crying now, and his disfigured face was pathetic as it stared up into mine. "Please! It was a mistake!" he whimpered. "I didn't mean her any harm- I'd never hurt an innocent. I'll never do it again!"
"Ah, but that's what you always say, Roger. And I don't think you ever mean it. So perhaps you shouldn't use your mouth anymore either, if you only use it to tell such lies." I took his jaw between my thumb and index finger, and with one quick, simple snap, crushed it into itself.
He screamed, or he screamed as much as a person with a shattered jaw is able to. His body, broken and mangled in so many places, writhed with the pain. I wondered if I should let this go on much longer. Breaking every part of his body seemed a good punishment for all he had done, before I started to drink his blood, but the police would be coming soon for the girl. I had better end it now.
"I could snap your neck right now, Roger- that way you wouldn't be able to feel it when I empty your body of all its blood. That's what I do sometimes for the less evil ones. But I don't think you've felt quite enough pain yet. Not for everything you've done."
I stretched my lips over my teeth and lowered my head towards his thick neck. His pulse rocketed through his veins. I felt the venom flood my mouth, my body key up in anticipation for when his blood would touch my tongue.
They all deserved it! He thought bitterly. It was their own fault for what I did!
His last thoughts stilled my body for a prolonged second. I looked into his face, and all I could see was a crazed, justified expression on his ruined face.
With a sickened twist of my lips, I flung his body away from me. He smacked into a pile of broken furniture. He slumped onto the ground, finally unconscious.
Clearly, Roger Jeffries was insane- his mind had become corrupted beyond any normal rationality. So I shouldn't take the thoughts he'd been thinking when he'd finally been caught too much for granted. And truthfully it was not the words themselves that disturbed me so much.
It was because they sounded all too familiar.
That night long ago in April, the night I tried very hard not to think about too often, I had had to come to certain conclusions about myself. Firstly, that I was not capable of living the life Carlisle had taught me. My body desired human blood and I was obviously not above taking a life for it. Even desiring the life of an innocent girl….
But, as I had decided that night, I didn't have to hunt her. I could temper the bloodlust with those of the less deserving. Not one of their bloods had tasted even a tenth of how delicious hers had smelled, but it was a compromise I had been willing to make. Because as long as I used my abilities, hunting the worst of the worst kinds of humans, then I wasn't really bad, was I? In a way, I was protecting the innocent. Just as I had protected her life by taking that of another....
For a whole nine months I had lived this way, searching out the cities with the largest crime rates, waiting in the dank, decrepit places to catch a person worthy of my standards. I found them easily. And for a long while I felt fairly free of guilt for what I was doing.
But the memory of that night never left my mind, nor the tumult of emotions associated with it. It was an uncomfortable combination of torturous guilt for what I had almost done, and still, even after so many months, a terribly potent desire for the girl's blood.
And I could see now that, though I had told myself at the beginning that I was just following the lifestyle I had already thought of living, I had only been running away from what had happened that night. From Carlisle. From her.
Roger Jeffries had committed countless atrocities and yet there he lay, believing himself still to be completely justified in what he had done.
Was I really that different from him?
I shoved myself up from the ground angrily. He was still unconscious, but I didn't care. I would not be using him for a meal anymore, as I suddenly found I had no appetite. I would allow the real police to decide his punishment.
I left his body out in front of the store that I had sent the little girl to. The police would be coming in a few seconds and should have no trouble in identifying him. I walked back into the dark streets.
What if he had been telling the truth- about this being the last time? From what I could tell from his thoughts, I very much doubted it, but… what if? He had made mistakes, but he could have changed. Who was I to decide his judgment- to play God?
The bell for midnight tolled and I realized faintly that it had been December 31st today. Now it was the first of January. A new year.
Now that I thought of it, Roger Jeffries and I were much too alike, and I was in exactly the same position as him: having made mistakes, but also having the choice of stopping their continuation. I couldn't ignore the errors of my past, but I didn't have to persist in them for my future. I could change.
But I needed help, I knew that. I could not do it alone. And I realized that I didn't want to do it alone. I wanted that life with Carlisle. I wanted the peace it gave me.
And I would need to conquer this desire for human blood. And I knew the one person whose blood I needed to overcome the most.
It took me less than a day to reach Mt. Prospect, traveling by foot. It was a good thing it was January and the days were always clouded over, so I needn't wait for night to come.
I didn't really think that Carlisle would still be living here, but I had no other clues to go by. He had said something of moving to Wisconsin next, so I would go there next if I found nothing here, but I wanted to at least try. He might have given the landowners some kind of knowledge of his next location. Then again, it would likely be a ruse, in case anyone got suspicious.
I had tried to hunt on animals as I went along. It was harder than I expected. I really did need Carlisle's help with this, at least for moral support.
And a part of me, the most base part, was very eager to return to Chicago, to see the girl again. Because going back meant that I would be that much closer to her appallingly delicious scent. And that much closer to finally tasting it….
But that wasn't going to happen, if Carlisle could just help me. And if I could conquer hers, I was sure I would never desire another human's blood for the rest of my existence.
This was all assuming that Carlisle would at all accept me back, which by any right, he shouldn't. Or that I would even find him. He could be anywhere in the world right now.
It stopped me short when, upon entering the vicinity of the house we'd lived in, I found that someone was there. And it shocked me more when, after reading their thoughts, I realized that it was Carlisle.
He could hear the descent of someone coming closer, and he could tell that it was one of our kind. But it wasn't until I came close enough to the house that he could catch my scent that he realized who it was.
He didn't think of the hurt I'd caused him, or the horrible way that I had left him. He didn't think in revulsion of what I had done that April night. Or what I likely had been doing all of these months since then.
He raced to the door, flung it open, and caught me in an embrace before I could do or say anything. His mind held nothing but peace and joy.
"I always hoped," he whispered. "I knew I shouldn't, but I always hoped that you'd return, Edward."
After a moment, I stepped away. "Thank you. But, you may not think that when you hear of what I've done," I told him quietly.
I shouldn't have been surprised by Carlisle's reaction of my history, for I would have expected it of him with anyone else. But it still stunned me when he listened to everything I said with only understanding and compassion. Never, even in his thoughts, was he repulsed by what I had done, and he was more than generous in offering to help me return back to his way of living.
"I knew you would never lose yourself entirely, Edward- never hunt the innocent," he told me confidently.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, after that night," he began more carefully. "I kept a close watch over the Swan girl. I wanted to make sure that, should your senses overtake you again, I would be able to protect her. And then the weeks and months passed but you never came after her again." He smiled at me, and I saw the pride he held for me in it. "If you were able to overcome your desire for her blood, I knew that, whatever you might be doing, you could not be preying on anyone else as... undeserving. And it taught me to hope that you might return to me someday."
My eyes shifted down to look at my hands twisted together, as I felt the guilt course through me. "That's just the thing, Carlisle. I… I think that was the only way I could resist her blood- by hunting others'. And I don't think I'll be able to really… commit to this life until I can conquer the desire for her blood."
He frowned slightly, confused. "How do you intend to do that Edward?"
"The same way that I did for all humans, I only need prolonged exposure. Just a few days, or weeks maybe- however long to overcome it. Then we can move onto wherever you'd like."
He paused, wanting to not undermine my confidence in myself. "I don't know that that's the best course of action, Edward. I was able to keep Isabella Swan from knowing of my presence that night, but you can imagine the risks for her as well as us if you get too close to her, or if she recognizes us. Perhaps it would be best if we simply move immediately."
I shook my head. "It wouldn't make any difference, Carlisle. I've been trying to overcome it for the past nine months, and it still feels as strong as it did on that first day." My lips twisted in disgust for myself. I hated to admit this. "Besides, I just need to be around her scent. There's no reason for her to see us at all."
Carlisle nodded, hesitant at the idea, but wanting to be optimistic. I doubted he could ever be otherwise for any significant amount of time.
He stood up and smiled more easily at me. "Let's leave that till tomorrow. But, for now, why don't we go for a hunt?"
My smile turned into a grimace. This was going to be harder than I thought. But I knew it would all be worth it. If it could just work.
Author's note: Sorry again for the slow posting. I just got my own computer, and I think that this will help me to write more quickly. But also I now have reduced hours at work, so that will help too. And, just in case I get any comments about this, from now on, the storyline will entirely focus on Bella and Edward's relationship. So get ready for the ooey goodness. ;)