The Bridge - Chapter 14

Joshua Bennett couldn't sleep. The voice in his head kept demanding Vicki was the one for him. He clutched the stone Aunt Tri had given him and the screaming voice dropped to a faint whisper. Giving up on sleep Joshua got up and went down stairs.

Aunt Tri looked up from the cup of tea she had been staring into as he came into the kitchen. "What's the matter, can't you sleep either?"

"Aunt Tri I know you said to trust you but I'm losing my mind. I behave like a stalker. I'm clutching a polished rock to keep from hearing a voice telling me to molest and rape a fellow police officer. What's wrong with me? Tell me the truth."

Aunt Tri slowly stood and rested a hand on his shoulder, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Trust me, it'll be over soon. I won't let you harm anyone and I won't let anything harm you. Stay home from work until this is over."

"I can't. Officer Nelson's on extended leave. I went to her house tonight and she's almost blind."

"You should stay away from her."

"I didn't mean anything by going over there. I just wanted to see for myself that she was telling the truth. The voice has me so mixed up about her."

"What happened?"

"I was talking to her and her friend Fitzroy showed up and that's all I can remember."

Aunt Tri firmly grabbed Joshua's head between both her hands and tilted it from side to side to check his neck. Satisfied that she didn't see any marks she let him go and told him to sit down while she fixed him a cup of tea to help him sleep.

Joshua sat and watched his many times great aunt mix leaves and make a tea that smelled of spring and honey. After drinking the brew Aunt Tri told him to go to bed. As he climbed the stairs she called out, "Get some rest before going to work." Under her breath she muttered, "You'll need it before the next time you get a chance to sleep."

Determined to have her part of the coming battle down pat, Vicki used every free moment to practice. As she was saying the phrases in her mind, she moved through several katas associated with martial arts. Muscles protested the routines she'd neglected for the last few years but she didn't stop. Her vampire kept her fit and strong without work, but without the vampire's added advantages she knew she had to rely on herself, so she practiced. As the words flowed, her body movements matched their meanings and the katas changed, becoming more intricate and more graceful. Her spells became both verbal and visual without conscious thought on her part.

Henry stood in the doorway watching Vicki and smiled. He'd watched her many times those first months after their initial meeting her without her knowledge. She moved with grace, efficiency and strength and that pleased his sense of style. It was one of the many things that had attracted him to her. She wasn't a weak woman that needed a man, she was a woman that was capable of taking care of herself and any man that was in her life was there because she wanted him there. Henry preened in the knowledge he was wanted by this remarkable woman.

Vicki stopped, leaned forward and put her hands on her knees to catch her breath. Henry cleared his throat to let her know he was in the room before moving forward.

"You want some water?"

"Yeah! Thanks." She dropped down to the floor and started massaging her leg muscles while he went to get a bottled water.

Opening it and placing it in her hand he said, "You're amazing to watch."

She took a long swallow then placed the cool bottle on her forehead. "It's been awhile since I did my routines. I'm out of practice and I won't let that happen again. I'm not going to rely on some vampire to protect me."

Henry knew she meant her vampire but couldn't help saying in an offended voice, "I beg your pardon, I'm not just some vampire."

She swatted the air in his general direction, "I didn't mean you. I meant mine. She's pretty much gone, but I'll be damned before I'm left defenseless."

After taking another sip of water she asked, "Why are you here? I thought we agreed to go over our roles in the coming battle alone."

"Tri called. We're running out of time. We have to feed well and rest. There's little time left to prepare."

"So? I'll continue practicing while you hunt."

"We're hunting together. I'll help you the way we did early on, find the donor, make the bite and control them while you feed."

"Great! Daddy vamp taking care of baby vamp."

"You've any better ideas?"

"Crap. You know I don't." Pushing herself up off the floor she added, "Let's get this over with."

It took a while to find the right place to feed, but the rest stop was ideal. There were people coming and going all the time. The natural park setting gave deep shadows and it was easy to lure prey to a secluded spot, feed and send them back to their vehicles with the idea that a nap and a big bottle of orange juice was just the thing to do before continuing their journeys.

Comfortably full, they went back to their individual houses and worked quietly on their spells until dawn.

After his shift, Joshua found himself sitting at the local bar nursing a bottle of beer and a lot of anger. Chaotic thoughts rolled around in his head. Vicki's absence had been the topic of conversation during his shift. He'd been blamed for harassing her and making her quit. It didn't matter that she was blind, she'd be there if he hadn't made her life miserable. The cruiser smelled of vomit and crap and it was his fault because he couldn't clean it the way she did. The cop that replaced her was now complaining that he needed back-up and Joshua was going to be it. One way or another Vicki was still the focus of all his thoughts. Disgusted with everything he dropped the stupid rock he'd been holding onto the table and the voice told him his life would be perfect if she were gone. Whispering in his head it said, "If you can't have her as a lover, and she was causing problems the simple solution was to eliminate her. All you have to do is listen to my instructions and a demon will take her. You will have everything you want." He got up from the table paid the tab and left. The shiny stone he'd been holding was left behind, forgotten.

The bartender picked up the money, clean the bar and dropped the stone into the trash.

Aunt Tri felt the ripple in her magic web as the stone she'd given to Joshua was touched by another. Its power to protect was drained and she knew Joshua was at the mercy of the voice.

Listening to the voice Joshua found a group of kids setting up a picnic and camp fire. In a few hours it would be dark and this would be a perfect event to pull Vicki out of the safety of her house. Even though she was on a leave of absence, Joshua knew if Vicki were called to help a bunch of kids she'd go.

With the setting of the sun three things happened at the same time. A campfire was lit, two vampires woke up and Joshua, listening to the voice in his head, said the words to summon a demon.

One young girl hid behind some rocks in the park as friends used drugs and alcohol to get in the party mood. Soon they ripped at their clothes, shout obscenities and began to dance around the fire. Lee Ann kept trying to use her cell phone only to have it drop calls. Finally she pulled out a ragged business card that she'd carried in her pocket for months, she whispered into the phone, "Officer Nelson, I need help."

Vicki growled into the phone, "Why haven't you called 911?"

Sobbing into the phone she said, "Yours is the only number that works. Please come. It's getting bad. They're doing stuff to each other."

"Keep hiding. I'll be there as quickly as I can."

Vicki placed a call to Henry telling him to come get her, "It's starting."

Vicki was standing in the driveway as he pulled up, leaned over and opened the door for her. Reaching at the door she felt his hand as he leaned even farther to pull her in.

"Where to?"

"The park near our bridge."

He called Tri and gave her the location and waited for Vicki to fill in the rest.

"I got a call from one of the kids I helped along the way. I told her to call me if she had any trouble."

"You know better than to give out your off duty cell phone number."

"I know, but I didn't have the police issue phone yet. Anyway I thought she'd lose my number by now."

"What we're facing?"

"A teenage party gone bad. Drugs, drinking, satanic dancing and chanting. It's bad enough to mess with me, but why kids?"

"You know why. Evil exists to destroy hope and the young are the world's hope."

Tri, Henry and Vicki stood on the bridge and discussed their final plans. They could hear the kids in the distance laughing and shouting. An occasional scream of pain was followed by cheers and jeers as the kids continued to work themselves into a frenzy.

Depending on the reactions of the demons plans would be adjusted as necessary. They could only hope they had considered all the variables. Each had to move to their agreed upon positions before beginning the attack. Henry led Vicki to the most direct path to the fire pit and asked her to wait until the count of two hundred before walking straight ahead. When she could see the glow of the fire she was to start talking.

Vicki strolled toward the fire and shouted, "Hey! can anyone join this party?" Caught up in the demon's workings, the kids ignored her words and danced in an even more frenzied pace.

Joshua stood at the edge of the ring of dancing kids frozen in horror as he realized he was responsible for calling up the demon goading them on. Henry came up behind Joshua, hit him on the head, caught him as he dropped and hid him behind a large tree. Satisfied, Henry nodded to Tri and started drawing symbols in the dirt with the tip of a dagger.

Tri, standing to the far side of the fire pit after working her way around in the dark, sighed when she saw Henry hit Joshua but felt some comfort in how gently Henry caught him and placed him behind the tree. Tri opened a pouch containing herbs and sea salt throwing them into the fire. The flash of light startled the kids causing them to breath in the yellow green smoke. They all fell to the ground in a deep sleep.

The demon took shape in front of Vicki looked her up and down before saying, "You're not so special, but my master said if I brought your soul to him I'd have free reign in this town. "

"Not that easy. In case you haven't noticed your surrounded and there's no one to help you."

The demon made a summoning gesture only to see the youth were on the ground not moving. As he grew larger and said, "I'm not that easy to get rid of," all hell broke lose.

Henry saw what appeared in front of Vicki as a rift in the earth opened behind her. Henry forgot about his spells, ran forward and pushed Vicki away from the grasping arms of the demon. The demon's arms closed around Henry's spirit as it stepped into the rift leaving Henry's empty body behind.

The demon was gone. Josh woke up and called 911 and back-up for a teenage party out of control.

In the confusion Vicki helped Tri carry Henry's body to Tri's car then Tri helped Vicki carry him to Vicki's house.

Alone, she moved Henry to her bed straightened his arms and legs, smoothed his hair and loosened his clothing. She hadn't really noticed in a long time how physically small he really was. He was a bit shorter than she, slight in body mass but well proportioned. Numb in mind and spirit she laid down beside him, closed her eyes and waited for dawn.

Waking to the setting sun Vicki remembered being pushed away as Henry said, "Don't give up on me." Then she remembered seeing Henry lying limp at her feet, and Tri and her moving him to the car as sirens shrilly screamed in the distance.

Vicki picked up her cell phone and called Tri, "What went wrong?"

"I'm not sure but the demon is gone. The kids are dazed and confused but otherwise unharmed. Joshua is being given credit for stopping them before they hurt themselves or others. How's Henry?"

"His body is with me but all."

"What are you going to do?"

Vicki mumbled, "I'm not sure, but I'll think of something." And broke the connection. She turned to the cold lifeless form of Henry and tried to figure out what to do next. She lost track of time and was startled to hear a familiar voice calling for her and pounding on the front door. She stood up leaned down and kissed Henry's cold lips.

Standing with her hands balled into fists trying to pull up her vampire's rage she called out, "What do you want?"

The voice said, "Can I come in?"

The vampire's anger wouldn't come so Vicki answered, "No. Stand back and I'll come out." When she opened the door and stepped out, she could make out an old woman's sagging wrinkled cheeks and stooped shoulders. Frowning she asked, "Tri? Is that you?"

"The magic is fading and so am I. Did you get your vampire back?"

Vicki shook her head, "Nothing's changed since you took it from me."

"That's not right. It should have come back to you the second the demon left. Are you sure?"

"As sure as I can be of anything."

The old woman shrank into herself, "What have I done?"

"How should I know?"

"How will you survive? How will you feed?"

Starting to step back inside Vicki said, "I don't know. I'll get by. Go home and take care of yourself."

Tri pulled the remnants of her power to her, straightened and said, "I'm not leaving." She pushed her way past Vicki and entered the house. With the air of authority she said, "Let's finish this."

Vicki closed the door and turned toward the sound of her unwelcome guest. "How?"

"Let me see Henry."

Left without any options, Vicki shrugged, went to the back of the house and opened her bedroom door.

Tri followed making note of how Vicki's house reflected it's owner, interesting objects, randomly placed full of color with multiple uses. One or two of the wall hangings appeared to be Henry's work. Tri wished she had time to look more closely into what made up Vicki. But she needed to see Henry and perhaps find a way to bring back at least one vampire.

Henry's spirit resisted the attempts of the demon to control it. Screeching, the demon said, "I, Astaroth, claim you at last vampire." The part of Henry that held what remained of his human soul withdrew leaving his vampire to continue the struggle. "You've fallen into my realm. The stupid demon that started this round didn't know what it had touched and is gone by my will. It was nothing to take you from him. I will have you and you will do my bidding." Henry's human spirit did the only thing left to it and prayed. However neither was aware of another presence lingering close to Henry's spirit.

Tri touched Henry's cheek and fingered a curl that lay across his forehead. Talking more to herself than Vicki she said, "You've changed along the way my Prince. You were bored with your father's antics and the duties required of a royal. You were tired of dancing to his tune but there was no way out for you until you met Christina. I'm not sure she did you any favors, but because of her you were there to help me when I needed it. Now it's time for me to help you." Turning around and facing Vicki she asked, "How much do you love him?"

"How much is enough?"

"Your life."

With a wave of her, Vicki said, "He already has that."

Exasperated Tri said, "Your existence then."

"My existence isn't much without him or the rest of my vampire." Vicki sat on the other side of the bed and straightened the collar of Henry's shirt. "What do you want me do?"

"Henry had you look within yourself to get the name of a demon. You need to do it again. This time go deeper and do what's necessary."

"And how do you propose I do that and what do you mean by do what's necessary?"

"I'll guide you into a trance and you'll know what to do when you get there."

Tri instructed Vicki to lay down head to toe beside Henry and place her hand under his. Tri stood at the foot of the bed and placed her hands on either side of Vicki's head.

"Close your eyes. Think of the demon you saw, call to it and let it pull you forward."

Vicki didn't want to call demons to her and she most certainly didn't want to go where they hid, but she knew Henry would do nothing less for her so she listened to Tri.

" Alsastaarith. Where are you? You wanted me. Here I am." She kept repeating that over and over in her mind as she drifted deeper and deeper into the dark realm. She heard the moans of pain and the pleas for help but she didn't hear an answer to her call. She felt searing pain in one arm and numbing cold aching in the other. She wanted to turn and run back the way she came, but she wanted Henry more so she kept moving further into the darkness. Ahead she saw what looked like a discarded pile of smoking rags and made to drift on by when she heard the whisper. "You've come to me too late."

"Henry?"

" Alsastaarith."

"What's happened to you?"

"Astaroth. He took what was mine and left me thus."

"I don't usually make deals with demons but if you show me the way you can have what's left after I'm done."

"It will be enough."

The smoking pile of rags pulled up and started moving with Vicki's spirit close behind. After what seem like hours the pile settled to the floor and Vicki saw Astaroth twisting and fighting, growling and gnashing teeth at an invisible foe. She could hear it saying over and over, "You're mine." Vicki couldn't see what it was fighting but she felt Henry's spirit close. She concentrated on the love she felt for him and her spirit met his. At the same time the essence that was left of her vampire joined the part that had been taken from her earlier by Tri. Now there was a second vampire in the chamber that Astaroth wasn't aware of. Vicki's vampire joined Henry and Vicki's spirit. The Whole became stronger than sum of its parts and took on the human form of Vicki.

Vicki began to move in a martial arts kata routine and said the words that matched her movements. Astaroth became transfixed watching the movements and released its hold on Henry's vampire which moved to join the Whole and his power was added to the magic.

Astaroth roared out its anger when it realized it lost hold of the vampire. It saw the marks on Vicki's arms. "You're mine. You were dedicated to me by that useless human. You accepted me when I gave you the power to put your friend's heart back." [See BT episode Deep Dark]

Vicki shook her head, "Nope. Didn't accept you. Used you, maybe, but never accepted you." Vicki moved faster and faster calling out her spells. Then her voice and form changed.

Astaroth fell back as Henry shouted out his words of power causing a bright flash of light and the Whole flew up and away knowing that it could not kill a demon in its own realm but that it could blind and confuse it long enough to escape.

As the Whole moved out of the realm it could hear the two demons tearing at each other.

Vicki and Henry lay side by side, head to toe. His hand over hers where their bodies touched.

The room began to tremble and continued trembling for almost thirty seconds before the movements stopped. Slowly the Whole separated. Spirits and vampires settled into the bodies and as one they opened their eyes and said, "Earthquake."

Vicki thought of Tri and moved to sit on the edge of her side of the bed and looked for the old woman. There was a fine gray dust at the foot of the bed and on the floor but nothing else was to be seen.

Henry sat up shift about so that he was on the same side of the bed and settled his feet beside Vicki's taking her hand in his.

The earthquake did little damage in either small city but the old bridge that connected them for over a hundred had been leveled along with the support pilings and Henry's hidden sanctuary.

Vicki and Henry stood at the edge of the ravine staring at the pile of rubble that had been the bridge between their territories. Sighing as one they turned their backs on the ravine and walked to their own cars.

Over the tops of the cars they grinned and said as one, "See you in Vancouver."

"Don't do anything stupid along the way."

"How can I when you're with me all the time?"

"Do you think our spirits and vampires will ever get untangled?"

"I hope not."

"Me too."

Henry liked his new penthouse condo in Vancouver. He'd been there for almost a year and found that he could live the life he loved without calling attention to himself. His graphic novels were selling and he could barely keep up with demand for more. He put the finishing touches on the latest illustration, cleaned his pen and put it back in the holder. Pushing back from the drafting table he smiled as he looked around saluted his father's picture and picked up his travel bag.

The townhouse suited Vicki's needs to a tee. She had a below ground apartment and a detective business on the first level. The top floor was rented to a human that worked for her agency and seemed oblivious to his employer's erratic lifestyle. She stamped closed on a file and dropped it on her assistant's desk with instructions for the next two weeks before heading out for her long anticipated holiday.

The rental agent checked to make sure the cabin had been cleaned and stocked. She was pleased to have one more reservation. It was a little unusual to have a renters use this cabin a month after the summer season ended. The client insisted that it wasn't the swimming and hiking that interested him but rather the sounds and smells of the mountains getting ready for the winter to come. He also indicated that if things worked out as he hoped, he'd be renting it again from the first of December to the end of January. Again the rental agent shook her head and thought about all the fun she was going to have with the extra income.