[2-04-2013] Thank you, thank you, thank you for the amazing response after the first chapter. You're terrific!
I don't own Twilight or a lodge in the woods.
Carrot and Stick
It hurts... it hurts! I don't want to burn... please, not again...flames! Fire everywhere!
My father turned to ashes. No!
It's my fault. To save me... you shouldn't have fought for me...
Why doesn't Death want me?
The vampire prowled his cell like a panther, driven mad by captivity. His personal prison had gates stronger than the walls of his cell: his infallible memory would never let him escape the pain of the night of his capture. The night when he'd lost his father.
A new stream of thoughts intruded on his memories; Swan was approaching. Edward caught the first traces of his mental images as the human pulled up in his car. Although Edward's two-month stay at the prison had been spent locked in his cell, his mind-reading abilities had given him a window to the outside world, and over time, he had formed a mental picture of the prison and surrounding area. Through his guards' minds, he'd seen the corridors, the heavy doors, the security systems – even the flamethrowers and the explosives that would serve to destroy him, should it be necessary. He could have walked around in the building as if he'd actually explored it, but frustration still pervaded him because he didn't get more than the imperfect, nebulous images that a human mind could register, missing all the details that his heightened senses would have caught.
"Morning, Walsh," Swan told his assistant. Aside from the private security guards, Robert Walsh was the only one currently on duty at the bunker.
Edward tuned out Walsh's thoughts. As long as it wasn't strictly necessary, he had no more desire to visit that prick's mind than he did to enter a sewer.
As for Swan, his internal musings weren't following their everyday course. Usually, the dutiful profiler channeled all his energy into his study of the most extraordinary subject he'd ever had; but at present he was recalling the night when the vampire had been captured and brought to the prison.
Edward hesitated, reluctant to relive that moment through the memories of the first man who had trapped one of his kind. But he didn't want to be a coward, and hence he made no effort to ignore or distract himself from Swan's thoughts. He would endure those damned hours again, this time through his captor's eyes.
Mirrored in Swan's mind, he saw himself being carried to the cell, unconscious. An unconscious vampire...it was something he would not have believed possible before this. The last time he'd lost consciousness had been in a different world, more than two centuries before.
At the time, Edward had been a young Englishman on the Grand Tour. An elegant man had attracted him to Volterra, luring him with the chance to admire his private collection of art and the treasures of the Italian city. But once there, he'd revealed his true nature and prepared Edward for what he and his companions called a "banquet."
Edward knew the rest of the story because, when he'd awoken from his change and discovered what he'd become, Carlisle had answered his questions in earnest and had explained how his human life had been taken.
The powerful vampires who had captured him were guards of a coven called the Volturi, who could not accept that, in defiance of their natural instincts, Carlisle refused to prey on humans, feeding only on animals. So they'd offered Edward to him, trying to tempt him to taste his blood. To be sure that Carlisle wouldn't let the game escape, they'd broken Edward's bones and damaged his body to the point that no one could have healed him. They wanted to amuse themselves by watching Carlisle draining a human for the first time, but he'd begged them to leave him have his meal in private, in the forest. The Volturi had suspected nothing, assuming that he merely wanted to make his first human kill away from curious onlookers; Caius objected, but Aro had the last word. Since he considered Carlisle a friend, he'd finally relented. Once alone with Edward, Carlisle hadn't drained his blood; instead, he changed him.
I'm sorry, was the first thing Carlisle had told Edward when he had awoken from his change. The kindness the new vampire had seen in his eyes was like an anchor for him, the first light after going through hell. His sire – an inhuman creature – had spoken of his death and the torture of his change with more compassion than he'd ever witnessed in anyone. Had it been possible, I would have taken that pain upon myself, instead of subjecting you to it, Carlisle had told him.
The memory of what he'd just suffered had been too fresh for Edward to imagine that he would have ever volunteered to go through it in place of someone else, let alone a person he knew nothing about. Carlisle, on the other hand...Edward's trust in him hadn't faltered since that day. He'd accepted the help the older vampire had offered him and had left with him. Carlisle had feigned the death of his intended prey and sent the Volturi a letter, explaining that killing a man had shocked him so much that he'd renewed his vow to abstain from human blood and wouldn't return to a place where he would be tempted again.
Swan recalled the moment he'd seen Edward under the fallen beam, and the vampire relived what he'd felt after Carlisle had died to save him.
It had taken Edward three days of indescribable pain to complete his transformation into a vampire, but after that he had no longer experienced physical exhaustion or discomfort. But as he'd lain helpless on the floor of the burning cabin, surrounded by the flames, with his flesh torn apart by the vampire who had fought against him and his adoptive father, he thought that the pain he'd escaped since his metamorphosis had concentrated and crashed down on him all at once.
Swan spoke with one of the security guards, checking the flamethrowers and the alarm systems.
Edward cringed, his hands clenched into fists, as the memory of his most recent agony haunted him again.
Being burned while your heightened senses can still feel every thing that's happening to you.
He had been sure he would be destroyed along with the cabin, turning to ashes like Carlisle and their attackers, but humans had approached and the flames were extinguished. He'd stayed hidden.
Carlisle had taught him how to feed only on animal blood, and for centuries Edward and his sire had lived among the humans, perfecting their control over the bloodlust. But in that moment of desperation, Edward's control had wavered, and he'd considered striking out at his human saviors, whose blood would have supplied the nourishment he needed to speed his recovery.
He grimaced, recalling that he had refrained from attacking them not out of choice, but because he'd lacked the strength to do so. He was in such bad shape that he hadn't even been able to crawl toward them. Weak prey. That was what the world's top predator had become.
Swan's steps resonated on the floor of the prison's main corridor. On his way to the cell, he mentally checked if the vampire had been fed today. Just the thought of a bag of blood set Edward on alert, and he felt the telltale burning tickling at the back of his throat. He hated himself even more for that. Blood was the only thing that could heal him, and at the same time it was the way his human jailers kept him weak.
When Charlie had injected the contents of that vial of his into Edward's neck wound, Edward was in so much pain that he'd expected his death was finally arriving, though so many decades after the original expiration date of his human life.
Since then, it seemed that his body had been altered for good. Under normal circumstances, vampires healed very quickly, but that time had been different. Even though his head had been almost severed from his body, he should have fully recovered by now. Instead, he still had a long cut on the neck.
Charlie knew that vitamin D could influence vampire venom. Who would have guessed that a human could make such a discovery? Edward had seen in Charlie's mind how he'd researched the properties of the venom, and witnessed his cautious satisfaction as his subject's sluggish recovery confirmed his theories. Once again, Charlie's train of thought had reminded Edward of Carlisle. His mentor had tried to learn as much as possible about their nature, but he had focused most of his efforts on human medicine. If they'd known the truth, humans would have considered Carlisle an inhuman monster, but he was the one who had tried to help them with his work as a doctor, while they were looking for ways to harm his kind.
Charlie was now opening the door of the observation room. The core of the labyrinth, as Edward called it. It seemed an appropriate metaphor, given his current predicament. When he'd awoken there, he'd wondered if death had actually come, and if he had been damned to hell. Wasn't that hell for a vampire? Being the prisoner of creatures who were meant to be his food, being studied as if he were a bug, confined in a cell? His guards called themselves humans, but some thoughts he'd heard in their minds made him question how much actual humanity they possessed. If this is a labyrinth, I'm the Minotaur, he thought. But I'm not the only monster here.
The vampire lifted his gaze toward the glass wall that separated him from the slugs who kept him prisoner; he focused on Charles Swan. Edward had to admit that Swan had been smart in designing the prison. The observation room was a gallery above the cell and offered the guards a full view of their subject through bulletproof windows. Had he attempted to break out or attack his captors, they could set fire to the basement and escape. Then the whole building would explode, burying Edward's ashes under the debris.
His fingers traced the cut on his neck. As long as he was wounded and the venom was exposed, fire was even more dangerous. He had a simple choice: either he could continue to drink the human blood they gave him, which he knew they were poisoning with vitamin D in order to keep him weak, or he could refuse and slowly starve. As if I ever had a choice. Edward recalled with disgust how he'd humiliated himself, agreeing to do their tests just to get that little nourishment they offered him.
He kept his face a blank mask, but his interest was piqued by Swan's unusual behavior. If there was one thing he'd observed about Charlie during the time of his imprisonment, it was his insane dedication to his investigation. In the fifty-eight days of interactions with his prisoner, Charlie had thought of little else besides new tests to run on his guinea pig. Now he was fidgeting. He didn't talk, but recalled the hours he'd spent interrogating. A long time, indeed – Edward was beginning to wonder if Swan wasn't a supernatural creature himself, because he seemed able to remain focused on his task for a much longer period of time than any human being Edward had met.
When his eyes met Edward's, for a long moment Charlie didn't think of the creature in front of him as a supernatural being. There were moments when he considered him a lost boy – moments when he wondered if he had a family of his own, and if his parents were worried for him, just like he was for his daughter.
What am I doing? The question resurfaced more often in his mind day by day. He recalled how he'd whittled away at Edward's mind as if it were a wall separating him from the life he'd lost six years before. He would have done anything to destroy that wall, brick by brick, and make the monster spill the truth.
Charles Swan relied on a few solid principles in his line of work. The first was that the subject's weakness were the agent's strengths. With the vampire prisoner, finding the key had never been an issue. On the contrary, his bloodlust had further confirmed what Edward was.
And yet...after the last two months, Charlie doubted that the creature in front of him was just a predator.
"He'd do anything for blood, but we can only test him if we know what we're looking for," Walsh said.
Charlie let out a sigh. "Still with all the tests, Walsh?" Once he'd been forced to admit that Edward wasn't the killer he was looking for, Swan had taken a weekend off, always monitoring what was going on at the prison, but leaving Walsh in charge. He needed to regroup and decide what would happen to Edward, but Walsh had insisted on doing some tests, and that had become their new habit.
"We've already seen how strong and fast he is," he reminded his boss. "And we don't even know if he's restraining himself. The way he destroyed that strongbox..." He let out a whistle, still incredulous at Edward's skills.
Blood had become the carrot and the stick for their subject. A bag of blood locked in a professional strongbox had been the most recent test, and Edward had crumbled the steel so easily that it might as well have been made of eggshell.
"What do you have in mind this time?" Swan asked.
"I'd like to see what he knows. Foreign languages, advanced mathematics...take your pick. Let's say we give him a book to translate. When he completes the task, he gets his drink."
Charlie pondered the idea. According to the documents in the 98331 folder, those super-soldiers had worked in different European countries, always unnoticed. Walsh could have a point. "Okay. Give him a copy of War and Peace, a pen, and a stack of paper. Let's see if he appreciates Russian literature."
Less than twenty-four hours later, Edward returned the sheets, filled on both sides with his neat, elegant writing.
"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors..." Charlie read aloud.
"It matches!" Walsh exulted, checking Edward's translation against an English edition of the novel.
Charlie was the only one still in the observation room when Edward received his reward. The vampire turned his back to him and quickly swallowed his fill. When he was finished, he looked up at him.
"More?" Edward asked.
Charlie was taken aback by the request. So far, it had seemed that the vampire had resigned himself to the fact that they would ration every drop of blood they gave him, always demanding something in exchange. "More blood?"
Edward shook his head. His gaze was shy, and he murmured his next words. "May I have more books to read?"
Charlie didn't answer immediately, but on the following day he slipped two classics into Edward's cell. There wasn't anything else beside the two books – no stack of paper or pen. No strings attached. Edward smiled when he saw that the novels were in English.
The second truth in Charles Swan's book was that evidence didn't lie, and he hadn't found anything that could place Edward at the scene of any of the homicides. The more his study of Edward validated his theory that a supernatural creature had played a role in the Drainer's crimes, the more he was forced to acknowledge that Edward and the Drainer couldn't be the same person.
They both had venom, but the samples' chemical structure didn't match.
Their finger marks didn't share any similarity.
In the end, Swan had surrendered. Edward had silently witnessed his bitter disappointment as he'd realized that he couldn't give closure to his daughter, nor to his dead wife, let alone to himself.
"Edward," Charlie finally called. Something was up if he was calling the prisoner by his first name. He switched on the intercom between the cell and the observation room, as if he was expecting the prisoner to answer.
"Charlie," Edward mocked, knowing how much he hated him using his nickname.
"I have an offer for you."
"A deal with the devil, Charlie? I'm afraid I don't have a soul to offer in exchange."
"There's someone who'd like to meet you," Swan went on, unfazed. "For personal reasons. She's..." he interrupted himself, but his mind unwittingly gave Edward the rest of his story. Flickers of a young woman passed through his thoughts; it seemed she had spent weeks in an almost catatonic state, and Charlie was so desperate that he was considering any option to elicit a spark of interest in her. He would try anything, provided that she went back to her previous self. "I told her about you," he explained, speaking before his mind could disclose the reason for the woman's sorrow. "She knows what you are, but not much more."
"A vampire," Edward said aloud, enjoying that Swan still found it uncomfortable to hear the word out loud.
"She's my daughter."
Edward frowned. What could Charlie's worries for his daughter have to do with him?
"She'd come for a talk. This has nothing to do with the tests, but everything would still be recorded while she's here. If you behave, you'll be rewarded."
"How?" Edward licked his lips. "Will you let me have dessert?"
"Enough!" Charlie snapped. I should have guessed it wouldn't work. Damnit. Maybe it's just as well... no telling what could happen. But it's not like I have any other ideas on how to reach her. Is there anything that can make her happy again? He began to reach for the button to end the communication.
Edward stood and raised a hand. "Wait. If I succeed, you know what I want."
He narrowed his eyes at him. "And that is?"
"My freedom?" It came out as a question. Truth be told, Edward no longer knew which was the best choice. If the Volturi discovered that he had killed their guards, they would hunt him down and destroy him. Or worse, they would make him their prisoner; he had no doubt that their brand of 'hospitality' would soon have him pining for Charlie's bunker.
"That's not up for discussion." Swan waved him off, but his thoughts told another story. He was well aware that the tests couldn't last forever, and the prisoner's behavior wasn't helping. Even if the subject had promised that he could refrain from attacking humans, freeing him was out of question. Sooner or later, he would have to either deliver the subject to the government or destroy him.
"As you wish." Edward shrugged. "After all, she's your daughter, not mine." As he had expected, Charlie's heartbeat quickened at his words. "But what if she asks for my freedom?"
Swan laughed bitterly. "She knows the rules. That won't happen."
"So why don't you try? It's a win-win for you. I don't want anything in exchange – unless, of course, she asks you to set me free."
Swan let out an exasperated sigh. "I thought you'd be smart enough to bargain for a better deal," he muttered. "Fewer tests, more food...I would have given you that. But if you want to lose your chance by chasing after your absurd fantasy, it's your call."
Edward nodded appreciatively. "I'm ready to start."
Thanks for reading!
Which book would you like Edward to translate for you?
The next chapter is due to be posted next Monday.
Thank you! to Snare's fabulous prereaders/betas: Camilla10, SatinCoveredSteel, and Marlena516.
I'm on Twitter (RaumTweet).
Snare's extras are posted on: h.t.t.p : / / myreadinglounge. blogspot. c.o.m/