Baroness Chapter Six
The Vatican holding cell was like any other uncomfortable dark, damp and cold jail in the world. The walls were bare cinder block walls with a singular wood cross on a bare wall and a well-worn copy of the Bible on a small pedestal. The solid concrete floor was cracked and somewhat uneven. Water dripped down from the ceiling like the judgment gavel at court. Soft whispers of hymns drifted down from above. The cells were lit with a black light, emitting the painful ultraviolet light. The bars of the cells was solid stainless steel alloyed with silver, sentencing any foolhardy undead a good bout of pain at the merest touch.
For the most part, the cells were empty. The Vatican frowned upon keeping undesirables so close to the headquarters of their faith. "Bad company corrupts good character," as Scripture described it. There was, however one cell that was occupied.
Weiss was pale, his skin taken on a bluish hue. His eyes glowed blood red with thirst. His elongated canines were momentarily visible when he snarled in frustration.
The recently turned vampire struggled against his straight jacket to no avail. The fabric of the bindings was consecrated by the Pope himself and washed in holy water. Blessed objects were natural anathemas against the undead. To Weiss, the cloth felt like fire against his bare skin. What was worse was the blacklights themselves. The tubes emitted ultraviolet light that renders most vampires nearly blind. At most, Weiss could see the extreme contrast of light and dark, discern shapes, glints but no more.
The former cardinal had been here for at least six hours. Since the Sweepers placed him to the cell, no one came to see him. It was as if he was completely forgotten by the very people who desperately sought him. In a way, this was torture. Left alone with only his thoughts and steadily rising hunger, hatred and madness slowly consumed his mind. He began imagine ways to tear humans apart, to drink the blood of maidens, particularly the blood of that witch.
Weiss licked his lips. Weiss always liked stereotypical blondes and the years of priestly celibacy only whetted his appetite. If he ever got out of here, he was going to drain every blonde he meets, particularly the blonde who dared to throw holy water at his eyes.
Before he had much time to dwell on such possibility, the main gate groaned and squealed open. The fragrance of incense and perfume nauseated Weiss so much that he barely discerned the soft footsteps of dress shoes and shifting of a well-pressed shirt.
"Who is it?" Weiss barked hoarsely, his human mind rejoiced at the welcomed distraction from his brooding.
"You know who I am," spoke a velvety calm voice. Weiss could not see the man's face, and only saw the glint of glasses on the man's face. "You couldn't resist him, could you?"
It took a while for Weiss to register the man's words. "Resist? What are you talking about?"
"Resist Arikado, or as your legends have named him, Alucard."
"That was Alucard?" Weiss scoffed. He had learned of Alucard's existence on the very first day he was given the task of doling out cases. It was said that Alucard was the only living issue from the infamous Dracula and therefore, a progeny of evil. The Church had taken an official stance of having him staked and decapitated on the sight like any other vampire. Unofficially, the Church deemed him as a non threat, like mischievous imps, and never seriously pursued the man outside of observation. "You have to be joking. The records indicated that he's been asleep since the eighteenth century."
"Oh really?" the man snorted. "When in fact he's been active for the last three centuries, quietly watching the scions of the Belmont family and amassing the loyalty of powerful subordinates."
Weiss narrowed his eyes, not at all liking the man's tone. "Judging by the disorganized state of the ghouls and zombies, he isn't doing a very good job."
"What's the use of dominance over ants when you command giants?" The featureless speaker asked. "As a Prince of Darkness, he even has command of you."
At that, Weiss laughed, a hoarse grating sound. "He has no command over me! He is a mere human with supernatural curses like the Belnades and Fernadez. Alucard or not, he exhibit nothing characteristic of a vampire."
The man smiled gently, like a caretaker of a retarded child. "The most powerful amongst us are also most human by appearance. He is no exception."
Weiss considered the words, despite his natural instinct to ignore it all. It was quite true that a recently fed vampire often appear like a vibrant human in their prime. Blood and spiritual energy replenished the body that could no longer rejuvenate itself. "So what are you here for? Gloat at me?"
The figure's lips twitch upward. "No. You're going to help me."
"By making more vampires."
Yoko stared, her eyes wide with pang of want and fear.
She was sitting in the nursery of the Belmont townhouse in a suburban neighborhood filled with families and retirees. It was midday, right after lunch. The nursery was tastefully decorated with magenta colors and curtains. There were two comfortable rocking sofas, a baby rocker, a crib and a closet full of baby equipment and consumables. Outside, small children rode by in their tricycles and parents strolled with their babies in decorative prams.
The scene was a stark contrast to the cosmopolitan downtown hotel she was at only two hours earlier. At that time, she was in Rome, wondering how to best baby herself before going back to Japan, the nation of workaholics. Genya had already left, attending to "errands" as he had written in another slip of paper under the door. The case report had already been written and reviewed. She had her blind date set up but that was not for another two days. Then withdraw from those potion would not set in for a week so she won't be bitchy for a while. It had been the perfect day to go out with friends and she had no one to chat with.
Then Julius popped in, asking if Yoko wanted to attend Sophia's Baptism.
It was a last minute thing, being that the Belmonts liked to have time to plan and were willing to wait a month or so for the ceremony. Julius's mother-in-law, the neurotic Gertrude was not. In the last day or so, the busy-body woman had contracted a priest, a church, and invited every known extended relative. Gertrude was going to make sure that her granddaughter would go to heaven just in case the worse happened between now and next week.
Yoko never refused anything that resembled a party. She loved people and nothing invigorates her more than being around a crowd and meeting new people.
So now, Yoko was in the nursery room with Julius's petite wife, Ingrid Ives Belmont and the newborn.
Ingrid was so beautiful, cradling her newborn in her arms, her long auburn hair forming a protective curtain about her, her hazel eyes gazed adoringly at her baby. The sun shone on that curtain of hair, forming an illusionary halo. It was the perfect picture of blissful maternity, like the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, marred only by a high pitched vituperations in the background.
"Julius! You no-good & *! useless $ &! son-in-law! How dare you *&%! leave my babies the day after she delivered!?"
"I'm...I'm...sorry...M..Mother," Julius's deep voice reached them.
"Don't you *&$! mother me! You won't sass me with your currish charm like you sassed my precious Ingrid!"
Ingrid suppressed the urge to giggle before giving Yoko an apologetic look. Unlike her high-strung mother, Ingrid was very easy-going and even somewhat a ditz. She did not even bat an eye when Julius, a man who was more than twice her age at the time, proposed to her ten years ago. Nothing seemed to rile Ingrid, not even the blood-curdling, hair-raising colorful language just a room beyond. Ingrid whispered to Yoko "You know what's funny about this? My mum is, like, younger than Julius."
Yoko forced a quiet laugh. Actually, Yoko found the entire age difference a little too unconventional. Her dream man was to be older than her by three to five years. That way, she could grow old with him without having to babysit him. Julius was definitely too old. Hammer was a little over the ideal. Genya was just right.
No matter her personal opinion, though, the Belmont couple always looked very happy together. Yoko had all those picture perfect New Year Postcards as proof.
"Does your mother even know the nature of Julius's work?" Yoko was curious to the extent that Julius revealed his work life. Society agents were like government agents with all the necessary cover occupations and lives. For Yoko, she was an executive assistant, a relatively glamorous job title that required her to be attractive, travel in style and party hard.
Ingrid shook her head. She knew a bit of Julius's real work though she seemed content not knowing the exact details as long as he drew a paycheck and be home by dinner for most of the nights. They had their roles. "No. She still thinks that he's a glorified delivery boy for archeological findings. She complains to me why I didn't marry a rich, interesting CEO or something. Apparently, love isn't good enough in her book."
Yoko smiled to hide her awkwardness, now a little self conscious because she did preferred a rich, interesting CEO type. Love had always been optional, as her first relationship had taught her. She kept on the conversation. "So, where's Gabi?"
"He's having a slumber party with a bunch of his friends," said Ingrid, exuding motherly pride as she automatically described the details of her son's life. "He's in fifth grade now, you know."
After that lead, conversation flowed. Ingrid asked about Yoko's family and hobbies while Yoko inquired about life with Gabi, Julius and now Sophia. They were both gregarious women who enjoyed learning the details of people's lives and those around them. Soon, they became fast friends, sharing each other's deepest secrets and invariably, details of love lives.
"So, this friend has no idea that you like him?" Ingrid asked.
"Yes and no," said Yoko with a sigh. They had touched upon her favorite and sorest spot, her sometime-serious crush on Genya. Of course, Yoko made the reference to Genya as vague as possible. It wouldn't do for a competent and self-sufficient woman like herself to confess admiration of her boss so blatantly. To do so, she would need two bottles of heavy liquor. "We've been friends and co-workers for a long time, but even when I throw myself at him repeatedly, he completely rejects me. I always wondered if he was a homosexual, but that can't be if he had a wife at some point."
"Ninety-percent of all homosexual had a straight marriage," Ingrid pointed out. "You made it sound like it was only for a short time. Did he divorce?"
Yoko shook her head. "No. She died. And when he talked about her, it sounded as if he worshipped the ground she walked on. I can't compete with that." Yoko felt a rise of unreasonable jealousy in the pit of her stomach but quickly smothered it. What was she doing, being jealous of a dead woman whom she never met?
Ingrid held Yoko's hand sympathetically, completely in the supportive-girlfriend mode. "He'll turn around. You're too hot for men to resist."
Encouraged by Ingrid's words, Yoko decided return the favor and steer the conversation to her new friend's favorite topic. "So, tell me about Sophia."
Ingrid beamed with a wide smile. "She was born in the morning at nine, weighting 3210 grams and measured 52 centimeters. I was so scared when my water broke early but she came out just fine. Would you like to hold her?" Ingrid asked. She proffered the small thing like an offering.
"I..." Caught off guard, Yoko's hesitation was not quick enough. The baby girl was thrust into Yoko's arms.
"Here, put your arm right here and hold her close to you. Use the other arm to steady her. Just remember to support her head and don't tap on the top of her head."
The sorceress held the baby awkwardly. Despite having many girlfriends with babies, Yoko had so far managed to avoid holding most of them. The high pitched cries had mostly convinced her that having the little monsters would be more trouble than it is worth. Yet, Yoko knew herself and the dastardly workings of her biological clock and estrogen addled brain. She knew even a smile would drive her to unthinkable wants.
The infant was sleeping and wiggling slightly. She was so small, weighted barely anything and looked like she would disintegrate at touch. Yoko's heart pound and her stomach felt like falling out. What if she dropped the baby? What if the baby started crying? What if it peed and pooed on her?
"Yoko, you don't have to look like you're holding a nuclear bomb," commented Ingrid plaintively. The mother lightly tapped the girl's chest and urged gently. "Wake up, Sonia. Say hello to Aunt Yoko."
Somewhere in the back of Yoko's mind that name clicked with something else. The change in pronunciation was an indication of close relationship, as it was the culture of Eastern Europe. That much Yoko knew. Where else had she heard that name uttered before? However Yoko's mind was distract by a horror beyond imagining. The infant groggily yawned and opened a pair of curious, almost iridescent, blue eyes. The infant then gave an innocent gummy smile and reached to grip Yoko's finger with tiny strong fingers. The bewitching coo was like a vocal equivalent of chocolate floating in front of woman on a diet.
Yoko instantly surrendered. "I want one."
To that Ingrid only laughed wickedly. "I know, Yoko. Everyone said the same thing. Now. Tell me, doesn't she have Julius's eyes?"
Yoko nodded. From her studies of the Belmont lines, almost all direct descendants had blue eyes. The physical manifestation seemed to have defied Mendel genetics and certain iridescence seemed to always mark the next destined vampire slayer. Sophia seemed to have that tell-tale iridescent blue eyes. Except that this was impossible as there had been no female hunters. In fact, to Yoko sudden realization, she could not even recall a recorded Belmont daughter during her brief research inito the subject matter, outside of adopted children.
"You know, I've studied Julius's family tree intensely for a name," Yoko heard Ingrid say. The married woman was fumbling around the room and pulled out a dusty book that say "Family Tree." In a few moment, Ingrid sat back down, and began flipping through the pages. "I thought that Julius would feel more rooted in place, if we picked a name that's been used in his family. He's such a nomad, and he admits that having amnesia about his first twenty-some years of life didn't help. His distant, anal relatives were pretty grouchy about getting in touch too."
Yoko took a cursory glance at the book. Many of the pages were yellow and the entire volume was bounded by a stout leather cord. The book contained records back close to a thousand years, with names written in flourishing handwriting and arranged in a manner typical of family trees. The older the record, the less information. Some names lacked the dates of birth and death. Some names were reduced to abbreviations. Some only mentioned direct lines.
"His family is so old and sexist, caring only for their male descendents. I almost had to pick a boy name and make it into a girl name like 'Georgiana' or 'Simone.' But I found this perfect one." said Ingrid with that self-same joking manner of hers. Ingrid stopped flipping around the records from the 1400s. There, in middle of a complex family tree was a name thrice written and twice crossed out. Next to that name was a rather famous name that looked to be the origin for the remainder of the family tree.
Sonia and Trevor. Next to the names were alteration of those names in parenthesis. Sonia was in its Cyrillic form "Софія Г," while the other was "Ralph B."
Of course, Yoko knew about Trevor in term of his efforts against Dracula and how many famous vampire slayers derived their blood from his. Any vampire scholar could spout out his importance. But what of this girl sibling? She must had been significant enough to be mentioned back in the fifteenth century despite having no descendents?
"It a Greek name, meaning 'wisdom,'" said Ingrid, still smiling. "I thought, 'how lovely to give my daughter such a cute but elegant name.' When I picked it though, one of Julius's ancient, almost-in-the-grave relatives sent me a nasty-gram for no reason! They kept on saying how taboo that name was and how I dishonor and disrespect the Belmont name for it." Ingrid gave a impish grin. "But Julius agrees with me and that's all it matters."
Yoko was only half listening. She blinked, noticing another anomaly characterized by a thin line drawn to this Sophia. It was "Адриан." Yoko's mind immediately raced back to that strange night at the night club Gion and the start of their mission to the Vatican. A nagging coincidence narrowly dodged the synapses of her mind.
"There is a foreboding lack of profanities," Ingrid remarked suddenly, derailing Yoko's thought train.
Just then, the door to the nursery burst open and in came a well-preserved woman of fifty-some years. She had iron gray hair, fine lines about her face, ruddy cheeks, and a portly belly from children bearing and a sedentary lifestyle. Her black eyes glittered menacingly.
Behind her, Julius followed in, looking ready to strangle someone.
"Inna," Gertrude addressed her daughter with her nickname to denote their close relation. "Talk some sense into your sperm donor."
"Mum! Don't be so disrespectful to Julius." Ingrid had dealt with her overbearing mother enough to know that the elder woman was all bark and no bite. She looked to her taller and mucher older and patient husband. "What is she talking about?"
"Mother doesn't like the decision of making Arikado a godparent," Julius said with a barely restrained sigh. He swore that Gertrude was the epitome of a nightmare mother-in-law; she objected to everything that was remotely her son-in-law.
"Mother!" Ingrid frowned artfully for effect. She did put up with her for at least twenty-some years and had learned exactly what mannerisms precipitate cooperation from the aged woman. "You and I have discussed this and we have come to a concession! You get to spoil her, and we get to decorate her room and pick godparent."
"But do you have to pick someone who is almost half a world away? Why not your uncle Paul?" Gertrude reasoned. When speaking to her daughter, her tone was pleading and gentle, a complete turn from her treatment of the husband. "What if the worse is to happen to you? What can he do from half a world away? I've met this Genya Arikado of his and he seemed suspicious to me."
"Arikado is a family friend and quite capable, Gertrude," said Julius, using the woman's name for once. His tone had taken on a commanding quality, abandoning all the placating acquiesces from earlier. It was one thing for her to insult him. It was quite another for her to insult his friend. "He has always kept his promises. He personally asked and we've said yes. He will be present at the baptism and he will be Sophia's Godfather. I've given him my word."
"Inna!" Gertrude looked to her daughter, her voice wheedling.
Ingrid's hazel eyes bounced between her husband and mother, hesitation only lasted for three seconds. "Mum. Julius is right. Arikado will be perfect."
"So where is he now?" Gertrude asked with her arms crossed. "We've already booked the church for tomorrow. Why hasn't he even left a text congratulating you?"
"He did, Ms. Ives," Yoko chirped involuntarily. Her instinct to help Julius and her new found girlfriend taking over. "Hi. I'm Yoko Belandes. I work with Mr. Arikado and he was incessant about Sophia."
Julius and Ingrid both looked at Yoko dumbfounded. The couple knew about Genya's rather legendary reticent nature and knew how unlikely Genya was to speak of anything of a personal nature. Then, Ingrid was the first to catch on, and helpfully added, "He did, mum. He's a really good friend to us. He promised to be be here whenever needed."
The aged woman's expression was filled with suspicion. In her mind, anyone associated with the Belmonts were questionable. "Truly?"
"In fact, we're suppose to pick him up from an airport that's three hours away," Yoko continued with a vapid expression on her face. Yoko had found that people tend to think dumb blondes knew not how to lie.
Julius was clueless enough to utter, "We are?"
Before Gertrude had time to reply, Yoko had gave Ingrid back the baby and paced across the room, grabbing Julius by the shoulder, dragging the man with her.
"We'll be back in time for dinner~" Yoko sang.
In the foyer, Yoko quickly pulled on her fashionable heeled boots and motioned Julius to do the same. There was some rapid discussions going on elsewhere in the townhouse in the harshest Russian that Yoko had ever heard.
"Err. What are you doing? " Julius whispered, still not quite believing in his good luck. He always never get away from a Gertrude related argument so easily.
"Saving your butt," Yoko answered back just as quietly. She pulled out her phone and dialed Genya's number. The man didn't pick up as usual, but instead, a red dot showed up on a map. "He's a bit ways away so we'll have to hurry."
Julius just stared at her, realizing that she still had a tracking signal on Genya. "Yoko. Do I have to remind you that initializing GPS locator outside official Society business is illegal?"
"This is Society business. That woman will kill you if you don't deliver and the Society does have a vested interest in your well-being, considering that Gabi hasn't inherited the Vampire Killer." Yoko replied blithely, smiling all around. "Remember, it's much easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission. And since Genya's is a dutiful person, as you say, he'll have to forgive me."
Julius just blinked and shook his head. Somehow, he felt as if he had just jumped out of a boiling pot and into a frying pan.
With a front door slam, Gertrude's objections still playing like a broken record in the background both, Julius and Yoko hopped into the 4-wheel drive jeep and left.
Authoer's End Note: Note exactly where I wanted this to go, but hopefully, I'll get crackin' on writin'.