Technology had caused us several hardships over the years. As vampires trying to leave no footprints behind us, we had been forced to stay a step ahead of every change in society. Jasper and Rosalie proved the most adept at hacking, and so they went in to delete files, scramble code, and fail backups for our disappearances; previously we had needed nothing more than to decline to leave a forwarding address and break in to steal a few sheets of paper.
Two days ago it had been cell phones that I was cursing, as Alice's never-ending dialing led to the nearly constant vibration in my pocket. I longed for the savage simplicity of tearing a phone cord from the wall. Hitting "ignore" over and over again just didn't carry the same satisfaction. My last call to check in, after three months of silence, had led to Esme tearfully demanding that I leave the phone on at all times. If not for her pleading, I would have a simple solution to this aggravation, and I lamented her motherly demeanor as much as my inability to say no to her.
Reaching into my pocket barely slowed my stride, and the ashy landscape continued to flash by as I lifted the phone to my ear.
"What couldn't wait, Alice?" I demanded, my voice flat.
"Edward." Her tone matched mine. Our hearts had not beat for decades, and yet for the first time we all acted truly dead. None of us had been the same since...no. Don't think.
"You need to come back." She was matter of fact, despite this being the tenth time we'd had this conversation. No—actually, the eleventh. I barely remembered the one in São Paulo, when I'd been holed up in an attic, drunk on pain and thirst.
"Nothing has changed, Alice," I reminded her. Repeating this tug-of-war left me even more weary than I had been before.
Her bitter laugh startled me, and I nearly stumbled. I glanced down quickly as I ran, as if my own feet could provide an explanation.
"The only thing that doesn't change is us, Edward." Her attempt at levity fell flat, and she quickly sighed. My mouth twitched upward slightly at the sound. Jasper had never understood the appeal of the affectation; our useless lungs gained nothing from the increased intake. It was one of many mannerisms I had lost over the past few months, as my singular focus whittled away at the human tics I had meticulously perfected.
"Find civilization. Watch the international news and see what has changed. Then come home." She whispered the last word as if barely able to force it past her lips. I knew she meant Ithaca, where the family had settled after Forks, and yet I found myself unable to assign the word anywhere else.
The soft beep in my ear brought me back, and I stared at the phone in my hand. She had ended the call. What could be happening that could possibly trump my mission? Find Victoria, destroy her—it was all that kept me moving through the world. I found myself envying James' skill as I attempted to track her; my inferior nose had led me back and forth through South America until I was nearly turning circles upon myself in the Andes. It seemed too much to hope for that she had thrown herself into one of the nearby volcanoes.
My legs carried me west, seemingly with a will of their own. Within the hour I had reached the edges of Concepción, and I made my way gratefully towards the University. I had neither the patience nor the presence of mind to properly rent a hotel room, and a quick stop in a dormitory led me to a shower and a set of casual clothes no one would miss. Barrio Estación would be the fastest way to figure out Alice's latest riddle; the concentration of pubs and other night life would give me quick insight into the major happenings of the world.
Despite my indifference, I braced myself for the barrage of minds I would soon subject myself to. What had happened to throw Alice into this state? My mind whirled through economic and political events as I last knew them. Surely I had not been so oblivious that a major war had occurred.
The rapid-fire Spanish of the Chilean students and business people hit me like a wall. I sifted through the major words quickly, looking for disaster. Neither their words nor their thoughts provided any understanding of Alice's anxiety. The air swirled with the common concerns of teenagers and twenty-somethings: food, sex, money. I quickened my pace, seeking a more serious venue. Soon the garish clubs had transitioned into calmer establishments; faded signs and hazy windows framed an older, quieter crowd.
Pushing my way through a beaten wooden door, I walked deliberately towards the edge of the bar where a television was tuned to CNN. I perched on the last empty seat, quickly glancing at the man slumped next to me. His drink was nearly empty, and by the shine of the bar around him, I surmised that most of his beverage was lying under the glass.
I gestured towards the man and held up two fingers to the bartender, who gave me a hard look before reaching behind him for a glass. He tilted a bottle into it, still staring at my face as if searching for something. When the bottle had emptied, he shuffled over and thumped the glass into the puddle left by my new neighbor. Lifting the man's glass, he made his way back to the other end and repeated the process. As he approached again, I held out several bills. Silently I apologized to the student whose temporary home I had raided. While the exchange rate had been more than fair, he probably had no idea what to do with the American bills I had left in place of the ones in my hand.
The bartender meandered back down the bar with the money, waving off the driver's license I had offered. His mutterings went unnoticed by the humans at the bar.
"Los lolos son chueco. Diecinueve, tú me estás jodiendo."
I sat up a bit and scowled. This license listed me as nineteen, and had passed inspection at customs several times. My rumpled student uniform was probably not helping the charade. Despite ordering the drink for show, I was slightly annoyed that a man less than half my age was questioning me.
"Gracias." The man on the next stool tilted towards me a bit, then proceeded to down half the contents of the glass in one swallow. Setting the drink back down in the puddle, he resumed his slouch and stared at the television.
For the next twenty minutes I faced the screen with the other patrons, tipping my glass into my neighbor's whenever his attention was elsewhere. I grew more annoyed with each mundane story rattling off the anchor's lips. Unemployment was down. The Dow was down. This country was broke. That country might be making warheads. Nothing was new, and this was wasting my time.
Grumbling, I shoved the glass back from myself and stood. I felt for the phone in my pocket with resignation. Alice would be calling any moment, berating me for ignoring her instruction. I made my way past my neighbor and headed for the door, the drone of the anchor still buzzing in the back of my head.
En Puerto Angeles, un pueblo de Washington en los Estados Unidos...
I heard that wrong. She said something about Los Angeles, certainly.
...un jefe de policía en Forks...
Charlie? What about Charlie?
...punto muerto importante...
A standoff? Was Charlie hurt? Why would that merit mention on CNN? Danger magnet, my brain whispered. No.
The phone was shaking in my hand. Numbly, I lifted it to my mouth.
"Is Charlie hurt?" I rasped, my voice barely audible. My throat was suddenly dry, in a way I knew no number of deer could possibly cure.
"Not anymore." Jasper's quiet calm assaulted my ear; I was expecting Alice.
"What? Explain," I demanded.
"Charlie is dead," Jasper answered. "They think he has been dead for a while. The investigation led to a standoff in Port Angeles for the past day and a half. There are three hostages."
My mouth felt heavy, my lips parting only with monumental effort. "Where is she?"
"Bella is in the building, Edward," Jasper said.
"They have her? Who is it? Why did they take her?" I demanded, each question coming faster as I forced my lips to move.
"No, Edward." Jasper was patient, a teacher explaining a simple concept to a small child. "Bella is the one who did it."
A shrill laugh flew from me, my hand jerking the phone out wildly. "What?"
"Bella is the main suspect in Charlie's murder, Edward." Jasper spoke even slower, more carefully. "The police caught up to her, and she took three people hostage and is holed up inside a store."
Since this is the first time I've posted my own work, I should share some information about my writing style. I will not be keeping a consistent schedule for updates. That is NOT code for "I will update once in a blue moon." Rather, I mean literally that I will update fairly often but not on a set schedule. I never write in a linear fashion, so I may have a manic fit that finishes chapters 9 through 15 even though chapters 3 and 4 do not yet exist. That said, I will make some guarantees:
1. I will NEVER update with only comments or notes. If you subscribe to this story and get a notification, there WILL be new story content there. Even if I do want to convey something outside the story, I will always include something new to make it worth your while (such as an outtake). Getting a notification only to find that there's nothing really there pisses me off, and I won't do that to you.
2. I don't write with the goal of making each chapter the same length. Each chapter will end in a place that best fits the action. That said, if a chapter ends up short or containing mostly fluff, I will try to get the next part out quickly. I know how unsatisfying a chintzy update can be.