REQUIEM:

The Vampire, Javert

chapter 4

Merci lagged behind, well aware with their intended destination. LeMort was leading them to the holding vault-V-3- and its single lonely occupant, about whom she was expected to know nothing. Paces behind Hob and Gyp she quietly sang a nursery rhyme, as much to entertain as to occupy her thoughts. She could take no chance thinking just now, especially at so close a range, in case the Master was listening inside.

The boys found it hard to keep from laughing at her, certainly convinced she was out of her mind. No sooner had the door in the hillside come into view, when a nod from LeMort opened it violently on its groaning hinges. Now he waved his youngsters ahead.

"The pair of you. You may unwrap my present."

Taking direction, the boys hurried ahead, entered and descended the steps, while Merci stopped where she was, just outside at the Master's side.

"Shoes?" she whispered hopefully.

"Possibly. But no, too large I think. Come and see."

Gyp and his partner had already pulled off the casket lid, and tossed it aside with an echoing thud. Hobble stood looking down in disbelief, with his brother in blood kneeling beside the box with a similar expression twisting his handsome features.

"I know him!" Gypsy exclaimed.

"Oh? Personally?" LeMort already knew the story, already knew that some of the students had been acquainted with this Inspector in life and that this pair knew of him at least since crossing. He almost glided in dance across the floor, leaving Merci but a silhouette at the top of the steps. The Master was pleased that his youngsters seemed startled by the familiar corpse. "No matter. I had the distinct pleasure of encountering M. Inspector by the river just before he could leap."

Merci was mumbling her songs now, not wishing to interfere with the exchange that she knew was about to take place. It was clear they had come to the vault with only one intention, though neither boy wanted to believe it.

"He is to become one of us?" Clearly, the Gypsy did not approve.

"Certainly." LeMorte shooed them aside with a brisk wave of hand. "You do not think I brought you here to tell bedtime stories, do you?" Suddenly, Merci was there, beside the coffin, on her knees gazing in at the cold ivory countenance as if for the first time. "Do you like him, Merci?"

She laughed again, not about to fall for his tricks. The last time she liked someone, it had been her brother, and the Marquis had been most cruel.

"I don't see what's so special." she shrugged and looked at the young men standing quietly to the side. "Why are you afraid of him?"

LeMort was kneeling now, on the opposite side of the open box, as if a proud parent gazing at his firstborn son.

"Memories." he sighed. "They know him by rumor, am I right? He had been an officer of the law once. They had certain friends who ran afoul of Monsieur. Had it not been for me, he would be food for worms." He smiled broadly, looking back toward the others. "What a clever idea to reunite you three. And just think, you will have all eternity to work out your differences!"

The Marquis was so pleased with himself that he never suspected there was more life to the body now than should be expected, and that a heart once slowed by his timely intervention beside the Seine had already begun to beat once more. Deftly he sliced his thumb open on a waistcoast button kept sharp for occasions such as this. To the combined horror of Hobble and the Gypsy, he slid the bleeding finger between cold lips, to press against Javert's teeth. Merci watched breathlessly, while her new brothers were ready to object. It must have been of great importance to them, if they were willing to challenge the Marquis.

"But you can't!" Hobble had the temerity to speak. "He hates our sort!"

"But I can." LeMort reminded, still delighted with the poisonous alliance he was creating. Their merry little childish lives were about to change, and he could not wait to watch the fireworks. "If it troubles you so much, just keep in mind, your Inspector will likely hate his new life even more than he hates you! You see? A silver lining to your cloud!"

He did not allow Javert to take too much, well aware of the powerful effects his ancient blood could have. He wanted to keep this new prize in stasis a bit longer and allow him to wake gradually. If he was to revive suddenly, with all present, it might become an embarrassing, even uncontrollable situation, and LeMort did not want to have to kill the man simply to keep order. He withdrew his thumb suddenly with a satisfied sigh.

Merci had not taken her eyes off the Marquis. If she had for a moment gazed down at the sleeping Javert, she might betray some hint of emotion, which might in turn be perceived by the Master, and lead to disaster. Even now she could not even imagine such things for fear of detection.

LeMort noticed her attention and began to tease her, holding out the still bleeding thumb in her direction. The moment she leaned forward to take a taste, he withdrew it. It was like teasing a dog with a bone, or piece of meat, and he enjoyed the game again and again, until he at last allowed her a brief swallow. It was soon withdrawn and he was on his feet, straightening his coat and smoothing his hair.

"Cover him." was all the instruction given. LeMort was outside, and Merci quick to join him, while the boys fussed with the securing the lid. "You really must come visit us in court sometime, Merci." His invitation was sincere, though not entirely well-meaning. Merci's behavior and appearance was offensive to many of his more civilized courtiers, though the Master delighted in playing pranks on her to the amusement of all. He was as responsible for making her a lunatic just as surely as he had made her undead. "It has been a very dull place without you."

The young men were out of the vault now, and on the Marquis' nod the door once again closed without a touch. He gave the pair a quick smirk, having ruined their evening with the prospect of what was to come in the continued presence of Inspector Javert. There was suddenly the dull distance sound of a convent bell, summoning the nuns to morning prayer. Merci shot a surprised glance in its direction.

"I'm late for the theatre!" she declared. She spared a quick look to her new acquaintances. "You're welcome! I must go! Marquis."

She was off in an instant, running into the dark as if pursued by the hounds of hell. LeMort smiled after her, thinking how their encounter had been a rare treat and never suspecting any more to it.

"What will happen to him now?" Hobble gave no thought to tossing another bothersome question into the broken conversation. He had been brought across without so much secret or ceremony.

"He will wake in a day or two. Find himself in a curious situation, feeling desperately ill, and likely make for some familiar place, if his brain is working at all. Otherwise he will be drawn to us at the Hall. If he isn't, we will find him. I will know where he is." He feigned a pout. "Oh, you are treated so unfairly. How could I bring such a monster back into your new and perfect lives, you are thinking. Ah! He is not the monster, my pets, and neither am I. We are all monsters, you must understand. And as the vesper bell has played its tune, it is time for the monsters to go home."

"Marquis-" The Gypsy was still not done with questions. "Who is she?"

"She is Merci, the madwoman, the fool." LeMort, content to walk for now, lead them away toward the gate. "She is nearly as old as I, and more powerful than you can imagine. Of course, she is insane so power does not account for much. I keep her around for amusement, and the memories."

"I don't understand why you would chose a madwoman-"

"Ah! That is the perfection, right there. I did not chose a madwoman. I chose a sweet young man and his devoted sister, and saved them from a horrible fate. Or saved one of them anyway. It was spring, as I recall. They were on the run, I supposed you would say. Their family was very unhappy when they learned that brother and sister had been acting as man and wife. Yes, yes, you are thinking, how terrible, but I am telling you the truth. The family was wealthy, the children had no discipline at all! Father remarried, and there were more children- but these two! Shocking!" LeMort was fooling no one; he found the greatest of perverse pleasure in mortal misdeeds, and having discovered their secret, delighted in watching them for months.

"I was not yet the Marquis you see today, but still a man of influence. I shared with them my secret, and they were both most willing to accept my invitation. Think of it! Escape from the restrictions of church and the law of man- an eternity to do as you wish! Oh, but this much you know, as you yourselves have been favored with the same gift. They could think of little else but each other, and their wanton and lustful excesses." He sighed fondly at the memory. "But when it came time to join me, I had changed my mind at least in regards to her husband-brother. She crossed first- and then I tore him to pieces before her eyes. Little wonder her mind slipped."

For once, the pair was struck speechless. They knew how the Master could be, but this was a new sort of cruelty. Secretly they felt pity for the creature Merci, despite the fact they were themselves guilty of taking advantage of mortals.

Taking blood to survive was still new for them, and treated as a game. Seldom would they drain someone to the point of death, though LeMort sometimes stepped in for the coup de grace, mainly for his own pleasure. He was merely teaching them, he would say, on how to disguise their feeding habits with staged accidents or the like. It was never a good idea to leave any trace of their work- or existence- behind.

Having heard Merci's story recounted as plainly and merrily as they had, neither Gypsy or Hobble could react. They simply followed along at their Master's heels, and fairly forgot the incident at the vault.

"Now, no more questions!" LeMort decided with a wave of his hand. He needn't have bothered.