*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*
The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.
I made it back to the Sanctuary right before nightfall. The sunset sky was still bright red, so most of the Disavowed were in their pajamas. I didn’t know their names, and I didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but it was a huge relief to be around other vampires.
I finally found Michael leaning in the open doorway of the common room. He stared through the rolling picture on the television, lost in thought.
I didn’t know where to begin, so I said, “Hey.”
Michael yawned, deep circles under his eyes. “Hey, Tobias.” He jerked in surprise then spun toward me, his eyes wide. “Toby? Sweet bloody Jesus, where in the hell have you been?”
I took a step back at his intensity. “What? Why, what happened?’
Michael look at me as though this was the most outrageous thing he’d ever heard. “What happened? You’ve been missing for over a week, that’s what happened.”
I made a face. “What? No. I just left this morning.” Even as I spoke, I knew he was right and I was wrong.
“No,” he said, slow and deliberate, “a security camera caught you jumping off the roof of a hospital nine days ago. They didn’t find a body or any blood, but you were gone. I’ve filed a missing persons report, and everything. Hell, enough time’s passed, the cops told me that you were most likely dead.”
I closed my eyes as I shook my head. My life had gotten way too weird. “Well, I’m fine. Do I need to call somebody, or something?”
Michael shrugged. “Maybe Sebastian? I know they said they were going to question him.”
I thought about this then nodded. “Yeah. If I ever get murdered, he’d be the first person I’d look at.”
Michael passed his hand over his face. “You’ve missed so much. Your trial, for starters.”
My blood ran colder as I braced for the worst. “Is it over? Did they convict me?”
“No. The judge recused himself, claiming some sort of conflict of interest.”
“What? What conflict? What does that mean? Did they move the trial again?”
“No, they dismissed all charges.”
I stared at him, but I wasn’t even surprised. In fact, I’d kind of expected as much. Of course, I was going to be a free man. I’d worked so hard for the exact opposite.
As though sensing my disappointment, Michael said, “It’s been established by natural law that a feral vampire has no control over their actions.” He hesitated, as though he didn’t want to tell me the next part. “That, and all the files pertaining to your case disappeared after DA Halloran died. Five minutes after we were seated, the new judge threw out the case. So, congratulations, I guess?”
I rubbed the back of my neck. “Okay. Well, what about the assault charges? What about Elaina?”
“The statute of limitations expired, Toby. Too much time has passed.”
This was not the time to talk down to me. “Dude, I know what statute of limitations means.”
“I know you know,” Michael said, ever patient. “It’s hard, but there are some things you just can’t change. Now, where have you been?”
I laughed once in the back of my throat. “Dude, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Michael crossed his arms. “Try me.”
So, I did. I told him everything, and I spared no detail. By the time I’d finished, four of the Disavowed had gathered around us.
A male, golden-blond vampire spoke first. “Dude, bullshit.”
I gave him a go-to-hell look. I think, as a human, he’d been some sort of model. His career prospects dried up fast when he couldn’t be photographed anymore. He was extra screwed after his Progenitor lost interest. “You are giving me way too much credit if you think I can make up something like that.”
He made a face. “I’ve read your blog. You’re just trying to get attention.”
“Yeah, because everyone that knows me knows I’m all about that attention. Kindly see yourself the fuck out of this conversation.”
Golden Boy’s nose wrinkled as he turned to walk back into the common room. Song rolled her wheelchair into the gap he left behind. Her armrest rammed my thigh before she jerked on the brakes. I turned my hips, since she was at cock-punching level.
“Look who finally came back,” she said. Judging by her tone, I don’t think she missed me. “Thanks for forgetting me at that blood bar, asshole.”
“Yeah, sorry. Something came up.” It was weird, but I felt actual guilt. “How did it go?”
Song shrugged. “Fine. Better when he finally decided to bring me back.” She held up her hand, and I noticed that her missing fingers had begun to regenerate. A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
“So, you have a bona fide fairy at your beck and call now?” one of the other vampires said. Snarls matted her dark hair. Her eyes and cheeks were hollow, and her clothes hung off her frame. This told me she was Newborn, and still too chicken-shit to bite a human.
Late to the conversation, Song made a face as she looked back and forth between us. “What?”
The third vampire pointed her chin at me. This one had spiky red hair and a fading tattoo on her cheek. “Prove it. Make her do something.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t work that way.” Actually, it totally worked that way for the next three days, but I had nothing to prove to these people.
Ginger shook her head. “Let’s just say the Tepes Chalice and the fairy slave…let’s say all of that’s real. You’re going to use your only wish to become Pure? Are you crazy? Why don’t you use it to become human?”
I wondered if she was joking. “Why in the hell would I do that?” I said.
“Why wouldn’t you?” The fourth vampire was a middle-aged woman trapped in the body of a ten-year-old girl. She’d gotten turned for the same reason almost every child got turned. Most vampires were too polite to talk about it. “You’d be free. You could go out in the sun and the rain.”
“The sun burns, and water makes me shed skin too, you know.”
“But they don’t kill you,” Skinny said. “Christ, I would give anything to feel a hot shower again.”
Little Girl got a faraway look in her eyes. “I miss ice cream the most. I barely remember it anymore.”
Ginger snorted. “No, Emily had it right. I miss the sun. I used to love laying out in the sun. I miss my freckles. Now, I get migraines if the moon is too bright.”
Her comment jarred me. “Shit, the moon. When is the next new moon?”
Song looked at me like I was a dick for asking. “What do I look like, NASA? Google that shit.”
Skinny said, “No, the worst part about being a vampire is knowing that everyone we care about is going to grow old and die long before we do.”
The others turned on me when I scoffed.
“So, there’s no one you care about?” Michael said. I could tell he was offended.
Ginger drew her shoulders back. “Yeah, what about your little girlfriend? Or did she dump you when you went to prison?”
“No, I…wait, what girlfriend?”
Little Girl tugged on my sleeve. “That cute dark-haired girl you used to hang out with. Whatever happened to her? She was nice. She never treated me like a kid.”
“I believe Emily is referring to Karen,” Michael said, as though I was too stupid to figure that out.
“I’m doing this for Karen,” I said. “It’s the only way I can get close to her now”.
“It may not be that simple, Toby,” Michael said. “I have a bad feeling about this. You might have to make a choice when the time comes; to become a Pure vampire or save Karen.”
If he was right, I didn’t even have to think about what I’d choose. Rather, who I’d choose. Before I could say as much, a well-dressed vampire pushed his way into the circle. The other Disavowed, except for Song, scattered like tuna before a great white shark.
“Greetings,” he said in a cool tone. This new vampire reeked of age and Purity. “Which of you is the proprietor of this establishment?”
Michael’s eyes narrowed as he looked him over. I sensed his guards go up. He wasn’t used to dealing with established vampires, never mind agents of the High Court. “Uh…me, I guess?”
Mr. Pure shoved a rolled-up piece of paper into Michael’s hands. “In accordance with the Genoa Treaty of 1349, all Turned vampires, with or without territory, as well as any Turned Disavowed, are commanded to report immediately to their nearest CDC outpost. There, they are to cooperate with human officials and perform organic hemorrhagic dialysis on as many victims of the Black Flu as their systems can tolerate.” Before anyone could open their mouths to protest, the Pure vampire said, “This command is nonnegotiable. Any vampire found to be not in compliance will face dire consequences.”
Mr. Pure straightened his perfect suit jacket then readjusted his perfect tie. He turned to leave, which was when he noticed me. He stared at my fangs and yellow eyes, then looked as though he’d sucked on a lemon. “Half-humans are exempt.” He turned his attention back to Michael as the other Disavowed grumbled in resentment. “Agents of the High Court will check in periodically.” He nodded once, then walked away.
Song shook her head as the Pure bastard pushed through the Sanctuary doors. “Are you sure you want to be one of us?” she said before rolling back into the common room.