A.N.: Mwahahaha! I was very naughty for leaving a cliff-hanger, thank you, nicolethecrazyone! Alrighty…The next instalment. Um… I think I added the note about Helene? The Lord of Desire? Kane's wife? The Helen of Troy? Oh. Guess not. Oh, wait, no, I just checked; the note is in next chapter's A.N.! Anywho…Yeah… Please review!


Darkest Fever

Chapter Four


"You're not going to like this," Dominic panted, sinking into the desk chair, his hands shaking as he set down several folders full of papers. "You're not going to like this at all. I…I found her—well, I found out so much about Emmeline Sully's family I feel I know her already…I… It's difficult to know where to begin, she…"

"Take a deep breath, Dominic," Màiri frowned, and the boy obeyed. "Now, what do you have for us?"

"Well, based on you finding the Halfling symbol on the girl's wrist, I searched the Hunter database for an Emmeline Sully," Dominic said, sifting through several folders of paperwork. "I didn't find an Emmeline Sully, but I did find an Emmeline who fits her description."

"What does it say about her?"

"Born 18 July, 1993," Paris said, reading off a sheet of paper. "In the Hunter maternity facility in Siberia that Serafeim and I destroyed last winter. The Hunter in charge of her mother was a Dr James Sully. The 'incubator,' the mother, was known only as Euphrasia; she has no last name, as is common with immortals, but Emmeline was given her name as her middle-name, as was seemingly the custom with the children born under the Hunter scheme, as a way to keep track of whose mother the child had."

"Anything else? Does it say what she is?" Màiri asked. "Anything that can help us speed her cure, wake her up?"

"Nothing; there's nothing; the doctor in charge of her care was a scientist called James Sully—this is where it gets interesting," Dominic said, frowning. "Apparently, Euphrasia was captured in the south Pacific nearly eighteen years ago; the island was completely deserted, and no one could find it again when Dr Sully went to track the other woman who lived there, but Euphrasia was already pregnant with a child—her child, Emmeline… Here's where it gets really good, though…" Torin glanced at Màiri, impatience firing through his veins as Dominic and Paris shuffled through some papers and found the file they were looking for. "About ten years ago, Dr Sully, Euphrasia and Emmeline all disappeared, completely! They vanished, like, out of thin air."

"How's that possible?" Torin frowned. The only people Torin knew could disappear and reappear at will were Lucien, Màiri's children, Belle, Dominic and Violet the resident vampires, and Nathaniel and Noah, who were necromancers and brothers, and there was no evidence of Emmeline being a vampire or a necromancer, or a 'vycan', as Tristan had dubbed his much younger siblings, who were both Lycan and vampire.

"Well, the scientists in charge of researching Euphrasia only ever gleaned that she was an immortal, but as she showed no signs such as a valkyrie or a witch would give off, as they usually fought against capture, Euphrasia went with her captor—this Dr Sully guy—and never gave anyone a hint of what she was capable of. This Sully guy noted that the woman was heartbroken; she said her lover had abandoned her on the island after a few months with her… One day, she, the scientist and the girl, Emmeline, all disappeared at the same exact moment."

"Okay… So what happened after that?" Torin asked urgently.

"Well, they pretty much fell off the face of the planet," Dominic said, but there was a glow in his face that Torin knew meant he had found something. Torin himself had taught Dominic that look. "But there were records of a Dr Sully purchasing a rowboat and supplies in the Amazon shortly after his disappearance from Chicago. That was the last purchase used on his old credit-card before he disappeared again, until his name crops up as the resident island doctor in one of the Caribbean islands, then again in Hawaii."

"So this woman… The woman, Euphrasia, somehow managed to help herself, her child and her—lover, I suppose? Were she and Sully lovers?—escape from the Hunters in Chicago, then they started island-hopping?" Torin frowned. "How did Emmeline and Lilli end up here?"

"Well, that's the good part. About two years ago, Sully started using his old bank-account again," Dominic said. "He bought three airplane tickets from Hawaii to Budapest, and he took a job at the hospital as chief of medicine. That's…that's where it goes downhill."

"Downhill, how?" Torin frowned; Dominic shared a glance with Paris, who had gone very white.

"Um…Paris mention William told you Emmeline had something…tragic happen to her parents?" Dominic asked, and his face lost its colour, his eyes widening. He looked like he might throw up. Torin nodded.

"Yes," Torin said. "Apparently, Gilly knows something awful happened, but Emmeline has never spoken of it."

"I wouldn't either," Dominic said. He glanced at the girl lying on the bed, gestured to them, gathered his things and made a beeline for the nearest available study. He and Paris set out the papers Dominic had found. "I found out that…almost a year ago, the homicide response team was called to the Sully house…"

Torin stared, and his stomach flipped over and he fought not to retch; Màiri put a hand over her mouth, her eyes widening, as Dominic spread several glossy, full-colour, high-definition photographs on the polished, leather-topped desk. Torin felt as if he had been plunged into an ice bath, on top of suffering from the flu. What he saw in those photographs…he would never be able to forget. He had seen a lot of horrific things in his thousands of years, but he had never seen…

"There's so much blood," Màiri whispered, and for the ancient warrioress to say that meant she had never seen the like either. As a young slave under the rule of vampire masters, she had seen things she had never shared with another single person, until Strider, and for her to gasp and go wide-eyed over evidence photos of a homicide crime-scene said a lot.

Dr James Sully, who had been a handsome golden-haired man with laughter lines and a deep tan, had been butchered beyond recognition.

The woman, Euphrasia, had appeared to be in her late-twenties at oldest, and she, too, had been tortured and mangled beyond identification. The room in which they had been found—the police report said, by their teenage daughter, Emmeline, who had seen the attacker—their bedroom, was coated with blood. The two people had been near decapitated; only millimetres of sinew and tissue kept the heads attached to the mangled bodies.

"And get this," Paris said softly, his voice hoarse; he lifted another piece of paper from a printed folder of the police report Dominic had managed to hack from the Budapest police files. "The statement of Emmeline Euphrasia Sully… She describes her parents' killer as a very tall young man in his late-twenties, possibly early-thirties, very handsome, with blonde hair and sky-blue eyes, dressed all in white. Sound familiar?"

"My god!" Torin gasped, horror drenching his insides. He felt sick. "Galen."

"The date, Torin—it's the same week Hunters attacked the fortress trying to get Danika. Galen killed Emmeline's parents that same week he attacked us," Paris said, his voice agonised.

Fuck.

"Why?" Torin asked, the sound wrenched from his chest, his heart aching painfully.

"The Buda homicide unit had no leads; it's a cold case to them, but I'd bet anything Galen didn't appreciate one of his dedicated scientist suppliants running off to play house with one of his incubators and her child," Paris said softly. "He must have heard Sully and Euphrasia were here in Buda when he was gathering reconnaissance for his attack on the fortress and decided to exact some revenge for Sully's betrayal, Lord of the Underworld style."

"Shit," Torin said softly, massaging his chest over his heart where it ached.

"That's what I said," Dominic said, averting his gaze from the photographs he was hastily piling into a manila folder. "I mean, I saw some things when I was…you know, but I never… I never saw anything like that."

"Torin…" Paris gasped softly, catching Torin's arm; he eyed his hand, then remembered he could touch people now, and looked up at Paris. "Emmeline's parents were killed almost a year ago… You were with Lilli, but I was talking to those women at the nursery; they say Emmeline's only ever come to collect Lilli; she's the only one who answers the phone when they call her at home… She's been living alone all this time."

"How do you know?" Torin asked, to put off thinking the inevitable, that that was the case. How could a seventeen-year-old care for an infant sister alone?

"Well, there's only one way to find out," Dominic said gravely, and he pulled out another piece of paper. "I found Emmeline Sully's home address. I'm sure her keys are in her bag."

"We could…" Torin glanced at Paris, who nodded.

"We'll go take a look around," Paris said quietly. "Besides, I guess we'll be needing clothes for Lilli. She's too big to borrow Christmas or Calliope's things."

"You'll go after dinner," Màiri declared, and the men all opened their mouths to protest, a futile gesture, really; "Dinner first," Màiri said dangerously, overriding their complaints and protests and pleas. "You'll be no help to that girl if you're running on empty tanks. I know how grouchy you get when you're unfed. You're worse than Lucia. Come along—and, Dominic, hide those files. I don't want that girl finding them."

"Will do," Dominic said. "I can burn them, if you like." Dominic scuttled off quickly, eager for his dinner. Torin followed Paris downstairs blindly, churning things over in his mind. Those photographs…and Emmeline had been the one to stumble upon the scene, to witness her parents' savage murder…

REM, he thought; Restless eye movement. What had Màiri said—that sometimes people didn't want to wake up after trauma? That the girl might be having particularly vivid dreams? Torin hoped to the gods the girl wasn't trapped inside her own memory, reliving that scene over and over again…


Okay, so Torin was a little glad he and Paris had stuck around for dinner; as usual, Màiri served it up in the dining-room, everyone present—the only exception being unconscious Emmeline. They had gone through several bottles of wine and copious amounts of beer, and Màiri had outdone herself with another hot meal, this one of Hortobágyi palacsinta,veal pancakes cooked in a paprika sauce. Torin's mouth was still on fire from the spice Màiri liked to add to her food, and he had eaten four Gundel Palacsinta pancakes Màiri had flambéed with chocolate sauce for dessert.

"That woman makes some good food," Torin sighed, resting in the passenger seat; Paris smiled.

"Yeah; we finally get some decent cooking around here," Paris agreed. "Only took two thousand years." Torin laughed softly, grinning; yeah, it had only taken two thousand years to realise what they were missing, thinking they were okay on their own. "So where are we headed?" Paris pulled out of the iron gate, and they were both instantly on guard, watching everything through the tinted windows of Anya's Bentley. Torin unfolded the paper Dominic had given him with Emmeline Sully's home-address on and plugged the postcode into the Sat-Nav. Technology made everything so much simpler.

They cruised to the outskirts of Buda, to the residential suburbs; it was quite a trek on foot to the American International School, Torin knew that much, and he wondered whether Emmeline made the walk alone from home to playgroup to school and back, every day. The neighbourhood was beautiful and quiet, well-tended, with small, multihued palaces; the Sully house was a small castle of granite-coloured rock, with neatly-painted trims and a wide driveway hedged by flowerbeds filled with evergreens and late-winter flowers, delicate snowdrops and bright splashes of colour in the form of crocuses and a few early daffodils, and on the neat brick driveway was a gorgeous red Lexus IS convertible, a specially-outfitted silver soft-top Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that looked like it had seen the wild of the Amazon and a brand-new Bentley.

"Oooh, the new Mulsanne," Paris breathed, tracing the contours of the pale-gold Bentley as he would the curves of a beautiful woman.

"Better keep Anya out of the loop on this—look, they have the Lara Croft Jeep!" Torin said, pointing out the silver soft-top. "That's taken some beatings!"

"What kind of scientist was this James Sully guy?" Paris frowned, looking over the Jeep.

"I don't know, but I'm guessing he wasn't spending all his time looking down a microscope," Torin frowned. "I'll bet these cars haven't been touched for a year."

"Such a waste," Paris said softly, pouting longingly at the Bentley.

"Come on, let's go inside," Torin said softly, taking the set of keys out of his pocket. There were several key-chains, one of them a highly detailed water-lily carved from glowing wood, another a half-shell glazed with mother-of-pearl inside, decorated with little tropical shells and a large pearl—all of which were real, Torin realised. A third keychain was obviously Hawaiian, a gaudy plastic thing decorated with plumeria and Emeline written in dark writing. Her 'Hawaiian' name. He tried several keys before managing to unlock the front door. The inside of the house was pleasantly warm, and the soft whir of the heating unit greeted them.

It was strange; Torin felt like a burglar, sneaking into the house. He hadn't had to do firsthand reconnaissance in thousands of years, so his stealth skills were a little rusty. And he didn't like that he was impeding on Emmeline's privacy.

Emme, Disease sighed.

The floors were of flagstone so old they were probably soft and flawless to touch; the ceilings were high, vaulted, and everything was trimmed with white; soft gold wallpaper glowed warmly when Paris flipped the hallway light on. A large staircase curved from the right side of the hallway up to a mezzanine gallery, below which an archway led down into a sitting room filled with soft plush leather furniture and big comfortable armchairs. As he and Paris looked through the downstairs of the house, Torin noticed it was filled with priceless antiques and the most sumptuous pieces of artwork he had ever seen; bronze busts and art glass decorated the rooms, and multitudes of photographs depicted the family—golden-haired, handsome Dr Sully, stunningly beautiful Euphrasia, Emmeline as she grew from a young child into an adolescent, and then Lilli. It was very evident that the people in those photographs loved each other, adored each other with their whole hearts. Torin couldn't imagine how Emmeline felt looking at those photographs, knowing she would never see those people who loved her so completely ever again.

"It doesn't feel right," Paris said, wrinkling his nose.

"What doesn't?" Sneaking into Emmeline's house while she's comatose?

"This room," Paris frowned, gesturing around the living-room. "It doesn't feel…lived-in." Torin felt it too; whilst it was evident someone obviously cared for the room, dusting the photograph frames and vacuuming the exquisite hand-woven cherry-red and crimson Mongolian carpet of silk and wool with gold and silver threads; stags bounded about the design, and Torin didn't think he'd ever seen anything of such exquisite workmanship. The entire house dripped of luxury—of a bygone era of opulence that no scientist could afford—Dominic had tracked down the good doctor's financial records, and he couldn't have afforded even one of the antique vases in the vestibule. The house was cared for, yes, but Paris was right, the only room that really felt lived-in was the kitchen, with its still-warm Aga stove and the rocking chair in the corner with blankets and hand-embroidered cushions, the school textbooks laid out on the table with freshly-washed dishes and baby bottles on the draining board, the hand-written recipe-book open to a Brazilian dish.

"There's something…familiar about this woman," Torin said, frowning at the photographs lining the stairwell as he and Paris strode upstairs. He knew the face—because the woman's lips were so like Emmeline's—but also because he knew he had seen it before. "I don't know why, but I feel like I've seen her before."

"Yes," Paris said softly, peering at one of the photographs of Dr Sully and Euphrasia, in a white dress, against a stunning tropical sunset. "Maybe Dominic will be able to find out who she is."

"Hopefully," Torin frowned, leading the way upstairs. "Oh, this is better." The atmosphere upstairs was different; warmer: He searched the rooms and found two bedrooms connected by a bathroom; one was a nursery, the walls painted with murals of…of gods and angels in gilt clouds overlooking beautiful beaches filled with mermaids and nymphs. The other was a teenager's bedroom, and obviously very-much lived-in. There were film posters on the walls, shelves stacked with books, DVDs and boxes filled with trinkets. A length of multicoloured Christmas lights was strung up, still illuminated, decorating the wall dedicated to lovingly-made artwork depicting beautiful, brightly-coloured tropical flowers, animals, fish and giant otters, sharks, dolphins, photographs taken deep in the heart of lush forests and gorgeous tropical beaches, birthday and Miss You cards and mementos from concerts and holidays and films, tickets for the Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet performed at the Globe Theatre in London, hand-written recipes gifted from friends, in what looked like Toby's handwriting. An acoustic guitar with a small silver engraved plaque stood in its stand by the door; Torin knelt and read the engraving.

For my dearest Emmeline,

May your voice never cease to be transcendent,

Your own Mamma.

There were books in English and DVD cases piled on every surface available, the television missing from the living-room set on a bedside cabinet, and a handmade cupcake-shaped pincushion beside a small pile of clothes in the middle of being darned, beside a hand-made unique jewellery box made out of what looked like bamboo, coconuts, shells and real pearls contained a cornucopia of tropical treasures, necklaces of shells, bone, pearls, coral and what looked like sharks' teeth, set on a small, antique writing desk with a small mirror. The necklaces were all handmade with the care and precision of patient hands, almost identical to the kinds of necklaces Heléne had made for herself on her island home. There was a bottle of perfume; Torin read the name, VivienneWestwood Jouy Boudoir, but it had barely been used.

"Huh," Paris said softly, looking around the room. "It's very…"

"Homey," Torin supplied. It was evident Emmeline spent a lot, if not most, of her time in this room; while she wasn't a slob like some of the guys, there were clothes piled in the laundry hamper, and at the foot of her bed in a laundry basket was a supply of baby clothes and blankets fresh from the washing-machine. There were scented candles everywhere, a crumb-laden plate on the bedside cabinet with a teacup. A small makeshift playpen intended for Lilli had been set up beside the bed with several colourful toys, but the double-bed was neatly made with a heavy duvet and blankets, and a hippopotamus plush toy.

"I could actually live in here," Paris remarked thoughtfully. "What's she reading?" They explored the room, Torin feeling much more distinctly like a voyeur than he ever had observing Buda through his cameras: Emmeline loved reading fantasy fiction novels, some supernatural erotica by Kresley Cole, historical romance novels like the Desperate Duchesses series; The Vampire Chronicles, Lord of the Rings; she owned the Twilight series but they were not nearly as well-loved as Harry Potter, some of which were falling apart at the binding; she had books by Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Terry Goodkind, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Gone With the Wind, Age of Innocence, Atonement, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis.

"What're you watching?" Torin murmured, turning on the DVD player. There was a stack of DVDs beside it—many Disney films, Marie Antoinette, Ocean's Eleven, The Duchess, Hocus Pocus, Secret of Moonacre, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Underworld, Avatar, both Chronicles of Narnia films, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Young Victoria, one disc from a Roseanne series, another from NCIS, Dirty Dancing and Gossip Girl, The Tudors and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Romeo + Juliet, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Stardust, Titanic, Uncle Buck, Without a Paddle, the X-Men series, The Full Monty, Atonement, Gladiator, were just a few of them. He pressed play to see what movie Emmeline was watching, and Paris sidled up beside him, his nose in When the Duke Returns, which he had found on Emmeline's bedside cabinet with a bookmark in it.

"Ooh, The Blue Lagoon," Paris sighed, glancing at the screen as a ship sailed through a treacherously tranquil sea. Torin frowned at him, wondering how on earth he knew the movie in the first clip. "It's a classic! Remember, when I was going through my Levi's phase?"

"Oh yeah. Brooke Shields," Torin nodded. That had been, what, thirty years ago? I feel old, he thought, for the millionth time, watching two young children being shipwrecked on an idyllic island with a gruff but loveable pirate-cook. He wondered why Emmeline liked this movie, other than the obvious reason, being the blonde actor playing the teenaged Richard. He could have quite happily made himself comfortable on Emmeline's bed and watched the movie, but Paris was folding up the tiny little baby clothes into a duffel bag he found in the top of Emmeline's closet, which was filled with men's shirts all labelled J Sully on the inside collar, comfortable jeans, warm pyjamas, a big fluffy dressing-gown, and surprisingly a great number of floaty floral summer dresses, which all spoke of money. They were a surprising facet of the girl Torin had seen today, the one in a man's—her father's—shirt and coat, baggy jeans and tattered sneakers.

"You put some of her clothes in a bag?" Torin said to Paris. "I'll check out the rest of the house." He didn't know what he was looking for, perhaps more information about the girl who liked fantasy fiction novels and romantic and/or action-packed movies, but he searched the rest of the rooms; there was a guest bedroom, an upstairs study that might have belonged to the girl's mother, and… Torin's stomach disappeared as he entered the master bedroom.

Whoever had been sent to clean up the crime scene hadn't been able to finish the job very well. There were remnants of bloodstains everywhere, on the walls; the curtains, the bedding, the rugs, they had all been removed, but there were still bloodstains on the walls, the glossy antique wooden floor… He closed the door again, leaving the room be. He couldn't imagine how the girl could live in the same house her parents had been slaughtered in.

He returned to the girl's bedroom, finding Paris filling a small suitcase with clothes for Emmeline. "Find anything?"

"Oh, yeah. The master bedroom," Torin said darkly, gesturing at the door at the other end of the hall. "It's cosy if you're Hannibal Ector."

"That gruesome?" Paris stared, then shook his head, eyes wide. He finished packing some pretty underwear in the top of the bag and grabbed the hippopotamus plush from the girl's bed. Torin noticed Paris had packed the toys in the makeshift playpen and the jewellery box, the girl's latest novel and the next in the series in the duffel for the girl with a toiletries bag from her little en-suite bathroom, and downstairs in the kitchen Paris retrieved the textbooks and work the girl had been in the midst of completing. Torin carried the bag filled with things for Lilli, including a tiny pink plush jellyfish he recognised from Sasha's Finding Nemo movie, and a blanket he had found in the cot, and the mobile that had hung above it, which was made of seashells, pearls, baby starfish and sand-dollars, and which played Schubert's 'Standchen'from a tiny, old-fashioned windup music box.

"You know what this means, don't you?" Torin said quietly, looking around the room. It was creative clutter, the kind where the owner of the room knew where everything was despite nobody else seeing any pattern in the organisation. It was like Danika's art studio.

"What?" Paris murmured.

"The girl has been living here alone," Torin said quietly, looking around. It was very evident that the girl loved big, brightly coloured tropical flowers, the kind Heléne filled her and Kane's room with, the kind Danika used for still-life art classes for the kids on Saturday afternoons. Big fat hibiscus, chains of orchids, birds of paradise and plumeria, all kinds of lilies. There were photographs of the girl and her mother and a blonde woman on the most pristine white-silver beach studded with beautiful shells, the sky a blazing, cloudless azure blue behind, lush palm trees leaning over the frothy water, all of them with their hair loose, swathes of sandy-coloured fabric tied carelessly around their hips, with only garlands of flowers, shells and ropes of pearls covering their breasts, tropical flowers plaited into their hair, a vibrant blue-yellow parrot sitting on Euphrasia's shoulder, a tiny squirrel monkey curled on Emmeline's knee, offering him a banana…

"Paris," Torin frowned, looking closer at the photograph, at the blonde woman sitting beside Euphrasia. "Paris, come here!"

"What?" Paris frowned, leaning closer. Torin pointed to the blonde woman.

"Hel."


A.N.: Please review!