Well, welcome! This is the first chapter in... a while. And I gotta say Mox spurred it on. I had 2 sentences written for all these weeks and suddenly tonight she prompts me and bam! This whole chapter gets written.
Please read and review as I love to hear feedback :)
But mostly, just enjoy!
The intercom system crackled as the wrought iron gates swung open, allowing the old Vauxhall Astra entrance to the house. It was a fine house, in Bryan's eyes. Three storeys tall and made of pale stone, the building looked resplendent amongst the fine greenery and rose bushes which lined the driveway. It was nothing like anything he had seen in Great Moose Creek and certainly nothing like the houses he had lived amongst in Washington. This was a true sign of class. "And he made all this money from Code Breaking?" he said, awe dripping from every syllable as the old, rackety car wound along the driveway towards the house.
"Well, not exactly," said William, the car heaving a great groan as he spoke. "Mister Jericho is... a dealer of sorts."
"He sells drugs?"
"Oh, Heavens no... He deals in... well, no one knows exactly. He works on a need to know basis – if you're looking for something; he'll find it, if you have a question; he has an answer and without fee, too... All he asks is that you give him a 'donation'. In fact, if rumors are to be believed, this very house was a 'donation' from a satisfied customer..." Bryan scratched his beard, staring up at the house which loomed above the car, which shuddered to a halt by it's side. What kind of services had he offered to receive a house as a 'donation'? For a moment, Bryan wondered what William was donating... "His speciality is Code Breaking, though... He was a translator, once – back in Canada – and some say he studied ancient Greece and Latin as a hobby when he was a boy... No one is sure of much surrounding him... Like I said – need to know basis." William killed the engine and unclasped the seat belt. "We best get going... he doesn't like to be kept waiting."
Bryan followed suit, unclasping his belt and exiting the car. "William...why did you invite me here?" He asked, adjusting the lapel of his jacket. At little after ten o'clock that morning, William had appeared at his door, eyes wide and staring as he informed him of the Code Breaker's request to see him.
"Bryan," said William softly, locking his car. "In all these years I have never once had a sane man who believed me... Forgive me for seeming foolish but I was under the impression that you wanted to help, is that not the case?" Bryan frowned and shook his head, his lips parting slightly as he tried to speak. "As I thought. Now, come along – Jericho is waiting."
The inside of the house showed no less grandeur than the outside, with marble floors and heavy wooden doors which, Bryan supposed, was to hide what went on in the rooms they offered entry to. A heavily tattooed man with a sullen face and slicked back hair led them to the sitting room where, he claimed, Mister Jericho would be waiting. He pulled open the tall door using a heavy brass knocker before stepping into the room. If truth be told, Bryan had been expecting old fashioned furniture, a large oak table and a huge hearth fire but what he was met with could not have been more different. The north wall was almost entirely covered by a wide screen television, a small table the only obstacle between the wall and a black leather sofa. Speakers sat in the very corner of each wall and an electric guitar and it's amp sat to one side of the television screen. It was entirely out of place in the hauntingly old fashioned house. "Your guests have arrived, Master Jericho," said the tattooed man, almost choking on the word Master.
"Take them to the meeting room Philip and then...well, go about your business. I'm not sure what it is you do these days..." Bryan had been so taken by the room that he had been yet to notice the figure lazing on the sofa. Dressed all in black and wearing dark sunglasses, Chris Jericho oozed some sort of celebrity glamour. But his first glimpse of the famed Code Breaker was cut short as Philip – the tattooed lackey - pulled the door closed once more.
With a mutter of 'this way', he wandered ahead, beckoning the two visitors to follow with a sharp twitch of his head. They followed in silence through the house, up one stair case and along a long corridor, the walls of which were lined with expensive, abstract paintings. Finally they stopped, Philip removing a set of keys from his pocket and unlocking the door in front of him. "In," he grunted before moving out of the way to give them entry. "Jericho will be here soon. Make yourself at home." The 'meeting room' as Jericho had called it was almost exactly how Bryan had imagined it, based on the living room he had just seen. The large window looked onto the driveway and the large, iron gates which prevented unwanted visitors from approaching the house. Bryan imagined Jericho had spent many an hour, staring from behind his sunglasses out onto the grounds, watching and waiting for his next client to arrive. The focal point of the room was a sleek, black desk which seated at least six, though only three chairs had been assembled by it – two on one side, one on the other. Bryan and William took their side-by-side seats silently.
They sat together, the room heavy with silence, for little over ten minutes, when the door slammed open, Chris Jericho sauntering into the room, his eyes still hidden behind the sunglasses which, if you asked Bryan, was incredibly rude. "No refreshments?" Chris asked, to which William shook his head slowly. "That boy's no use..." he muttered, taking his time to close the door, make his way to the desk and take his seat. "I'd get rid of him if he hadn't been a gift..."
"You said you had news, Mister Jericho," said William, keen to hurry the meeting along. Now was hardly the time to discuss when and where Jericho had been gifted Philip and, if he were perfectly honest, he doubted that time would ever come.
"Well, I suppose you could call it that," replied Jericho, rifling in one of the drawers behind the desk. "Grey Goose?" he offered, pulling a bottle from one of them. Both his guests declined. "More for me..." he replied, placing it on the table with more force than necessary. Once his 'refreshments' had been sorted, the Code Breaker retrieved a laptop – small and, like almost everything he seemed to own, black – which he placed on the desk too. "I know where he's situated..."
"You do? Where? Is it here in Maine?" William asked eagerly, his hands clasped so tight that the whites of his knuckles seemed no more than bone.
Jericho took a long, draining swig from his bottle of Grey Goose before loading up the laptop. "Oh, better than that. I can tell you the city, the graveyard...even the plot number," his lips tugged at one corner, pulling them into a smirk. "But before I can give you that...There's something we agreed, is there not?" Bryan watched as William retrieved a set of keys from the pocket of his tweed jacket and handed them to Jericho who stashed them in one of his many drawers. "Now...here we are..." Jericho turned the laptop to face the two men. The screen was illuminated with one picture, an impressive crypt with intricate carvings and a large, shiny knocker. "Built before Great Moose Creek was even thought of... Legend has it that a man from Connecticut built it."
Silence fell as Jericho drained the final quarter of his bottle of vodka before turning to smile serenely at his guests. "Go on..." Bryan said, his voice dry as he spoke for the first time since entering the house.
"He came from Connecticut to hide his daughter... She was, what is it they called her? Oh, yeah... A Cold One. Her skin was pale, her lips ruby red... At least that's what the stories say..." Jericho's words began to trail off, his smile growing each time. "He built the crypt and buried his darling daughter... And then he went home. He'd visit every year... But one year... she wasn't there." He ran his fingers through his short, styled hair. "So there you have it. Jordan Cemetery – plot C31. Should be buried amongst rubble and greenery, behind a one-winged angel according to this...Now go. I have another meeting scheduled with a Goose..."
As the two left – this time without their escort – they spoke in hushed whispers. "What did you give him? The car keys? How are we going to get home, William? Great Moose Creek is hardly in walking distance... hell, the gate isn't even in walking distance right now, my legs are shaking so much..."
"What would Chris Jericho - Code Breaker Extraordinaire – want with a bloody Vauxhall Astra?" William replied as they reached the staircase. "I gave him the keys to the library...He said he needed some materials he would be unable to obtain elsewhere..." Bryan frowned, wondering what could possibly be in the Great Moose Creek library that Chris Jericho would want. "Keys to the library for a deciphering of one page. If we want more... well, our gifts had better get more elaborate..."
"You mean like that Phil guy?" Bryan asked as they left the house, heading towards the car. "Kinda creepy to 'donate' a person, don't you think?"
"You know something?" said William as he unlocked the car and headed inside. "That is the first thing you've truly deemed anything 'creepy' in this whole situation. We've discussed vampires and plots to kill all living creatures, we've discussed trips to graveyards and crypts and yet you deem this the creepy part."
His words seemed to go unnoticed by Bryan who simply replied, "I wonder what he did to get a person..."
The crypt was lonelier than it had ever been, its walls seemingly closing in on her as she sat, alone, atop the oak coffin. Her father had brought all her favourite things when they had come here – he had dressed her in her Sunday best, put her mother's best jewels around her neck, her wrist and her fingers and had placed, in her coffin, a letter from each member of her family and her small sewing kit which, once, she had practiced her stitches and tapestry work on. She hadn't really understood it all at the time... But she did now. She wasn't dead – she never had been – but what she had become was monstrous, so much so that her own father had decided she could not live amongst her family any longer. And so she had come to Maine.
It hadn't been much of anything when she'd first arrived – there was grass and trees all around her and it had been a struggle to feed at first; a young vampire could only live on deer meat for so long before they start to feel dizzy... But now the town thrived – there was a market and a town hall and little by little, houses crept up all around the city lines... and more and more people were buried around her. She didn't understand their obsession with burying the dead around her but she couldn't deny the fact that she enjoyed their obsession with mourning. Each Sunday, people would come to mourn their dead and each Monday, their bodies would be found, ready to join their lost ones, Stephanie having quenched her thirst and resting in her crypt.
He had been a mourner, at first. He had come to mourn his mother but, unlike the others, he didn't weep. He pushed his sheath of arrows from his shoulder, placed his cross bow on the floor and kissed the cold stone which they used as an epitaph. He had come early in the morning, before the townspeople woke and began their days, and the sun was just making its presence known over the horizon when she first showed herself. His hair had acted as a curtain between the two, hiding her from him and his neck from her. She was the perfect hunter in so many ways, she was silent on her feet, nimble too and she had a trustworthy face – or at least, that's what the farmer she had fed from had said, before she bit him...
She hadn't realised she was so close until she reached out her hand. She had meant to touch his shoulder but instead, she found her hand touching his hair. It was softer than she had imagined and thicker too. But it did not shock her. What shocked her was his reply, "Stephanie," he had said softly, turning to face her properly. He was handsome – more handsome than the man she had been betrothed to back home, for sure – and a thin layer of stubble coated his chin. "I was told I might find you here..."
Her eyes had lit up. "You were looking for me?" She had asked and, for a second, she had been sure that her cheeks would flush red until she remembered that blood no longer coursed through her veins. They coursed through his, of course, and she found herself at the center of an inner battle as her muscles strained, desperate to feed. She knew better than that, though. She knew that this man was special, that her father had sent for her and that everything would be okay. Her heart – she was sure – would soar it were in full working order.
"You could say that..." he reached out a hand to take hers in his but she didn't return the favour. Her hands were cold, like ice and she knew he would be disgusted if he felt them.
She smiled, politely, instead. "A lady never offers her hand to a stranger..."
"From what I've heard," the man replied, picking up his arrows and his bow. "You're not a lady..."
She opened her mouth but no words came out, her fingers stiffening and her eyes burning. "I need to go," she called out, running from the spot. The sun had risen much too early for her liking and, by the time she was back in her crypt, she felt tears for the first time since she had been brought to Maine. Her bones ached, her muscles tight and painful and her eyes stung as she lay in the coffin she had grown to call her bed. He had been so handsome, so gentle... And he had known her name! No one in Maine knew her name...
There had been many meetings after that, sometimes few and far between and sometimes every night for a week. Sometimes they spoke of his work as a Hunter, others he asked of her life back in Connecticut. Never, however, did he tell her his name or who had sent him. "How do you know so much about me?" she had asked one evening, while he fed on chicken, perched on his mother's gravestone.
"That's for another day," he had said, pushing himself from the stone and moving towards her in one swift movement. Before she had any time, any chance to think, his lips were on hers. Her icy cold lips which, no doubt, must have stung against his, burning them with their coldness. And yet he never seemed to mind. "Stephanie..." he said softly, breaking the kiss and bringing his hand to her cheek. "I know what you are..."
She was sure that, had she still been mortal, she would not have noticed the blade but she wasn't, and she did. It was silver, of course, and came to a thin point, no thicker than the eye of a needle. She had pulled free of his grasp and run. For how long she was uncertain but it was almost morning by the time she stopped, hiding in a shelter of rocks and stones. For months she ran, hiding by day, running and feeding by night. However, he always followed... Always. It was coming to her fourth anniversary of being in the crypt when she finally returned there. Her letters were gone, her sewing kit in tatters and the lining of her coffin destroyed.
And for exactly a year that's where she stayed. She fed only when necessary; when her body was too weak to plot and she stayed in her crypt at all other times, alone and waiting, plotting and planning. She loved him – her Hunter – and had so desperately wanted to return home with him. She had wanted to be a real woman again, to blush under his gaze, to feel her heart race when he touched her... But instead she remained a vampire and he remained a Hunter, determined to kill her, to destroy her. Not to love her...
No man could ever love her.
But they could help her...
Or at least one could.
The Hunter was just another man – cruel and selfish, out for his own pleasures – but what could be said of the Fixer. She had met him south of Augusta, dressed all in black, a strange hat covering his head and shielding most of his face but she would recognise his voice anywhere. It was soft, reassuring and he spoke in a slow, steady pace. He had told her he could help her with the Hunter if she would just pay him a small price. That price, he had said, would be determined once he arrived in Great Moose Creek, as the town around her crypt had been named.
And now she waited. For one entire year she had waited for him to come, her plots and plans getting more and more elaborate by the day but now she knew... He was here. She could hear him in the first chamber of the crypt, making his way through the lion-headed door... And then he was in her chamber. His hat was, as ever, firmly atop his head, shielding his face from her gaze. "Good evening, Stephanie," he said, removing his gloves. "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get here... I had a few other jobs to attend to on the way..." Stephanie nodded as he took her hands, his fingers as cold as hers. "I can help you find your Hunter. In fact, I know where he is at this precise moment. He drinks mead and sups with your father, not two hours from Connecticut. But for the exact location...you must promise me something..."
"Anything," she had replied breathily, her eyes widening. She wasn't sure what she would do when she saw him again... Would she kill him? Or would he kill her? No, she would make him love her... She would make him see sense. And the Fixer would help her. He had promised.
"When you've found your Hunter... I want you to return to me."
"And that's all?"
"Done," she had said simply. "Now where is he?"
"He stays in the small village of Poughkeepsie. His house is three doors to the right of the butchers... Your father pays for it, I hear... After all, your father pays for him, too," Stephanie's face fell. Her father had sent her Hunter to kill her? Surely the Fixer had it wrong... Her father loved her... That's why she had been sent away. To protect herself – the people of Connecticut had found out her secret... they had wanted to burn her... At least, that's what her father had said... "Now, you can go find your Hunter... Do as you will... and then you'll return."
"Yes... Yes I will," she had stammered.
"And Stephanie," he had said, releasing her hands and pulling on his gloves. "You will return. You're mine now. You have no other option."
Stephanie frowned, "Yours?"
"Mine," he reached for his hat and slowly removed it, keeping his face hidden in shadows. "That's part of the deal, Lady McMahon. When you return to me... you never leave." And with that, the Fixer raised his head and Stephanie screamed. Where his eyes would have been sat two, empty sockets which seemed to stare out at her, sucking her into their depths. She felt cold, much colder than she had ever felt in life or death and she found herself speaking without being conscious of her brain forming the words...
"Yes, Mister Jericho," she replied quietly.