Chapter Fifty-Five: The Coincidence
Pam and Camilla keep looking at me like I’m supposed to know more than I do. The truth is, I barely comprehended much of what happened after Quigley left our house. I was just about to restart celebrating my and Eric’s first pregnancy, and then my world got turned on its ear. As he packed, all I could think was, Don’t leave me!
With Eric by my side, the pregnancy was a beautiful miracle that I was excited about. Now that I’m left to my own thoughts, it’s scary and unpredictable. Will this pregnancy be rougher than a human pregnancy? Will it go faster or slower? Will the baby have any gifts? If so, how am supposed to deal with that? What if he can fly!?
As far as the family goes, I’m definitely the least active contributor. Everything I offer is mostly in a passive sense. There’s no physical strain to what I do, and I don’t have to continue educating and training myself like Cammie does.
“Did Godric tell you anything, Camilla?” Pam finally stops giving me the suspicious looks and turns them now on Cammie.
Cammie shrugs, “I know he took Jason to Vegas to survey if the attack on the Big Mark was meant to take place there. I guess some vamp named Felipe was the main target.”
Pam frowns a moment, “That makes very little sense.”
“What do you mean?” I am glad to turn the interrogation tables on Pam.
“Well,” the vampiress pauses, “it makes sense if you look at the attacks on individual vampires. A few ancients freckled in with younger vampires.” Her eyes glance above us, silently mentioning the Ancient Pythoness. “But Rhodes is still the odd one. By targeting the.. big names,” she grimaces at almost slipping and saying Cassandra’s title with Diedre within earshot, “the Rhodes Summit was guaranteed to be canceled.”
Cammie and I both cross our arms over our chests as we think about this.
“It sounds,” a voice makes all three of us jump, “that the one who hatched the attack on Rhodes is not the same one who had Cassie killed,” Diedre appears at the top of the stairs and gracefully slides down the banister to the main floor rather than hop down one-legged. If I had tried that, I probably would have fallen backwards off the banister and broke my neck.
Cammie gapes at Diedre like she’s a painting that’s just come to life. I know from a few conversations at school that Diedre has not left her room since arriving. Quigley brings her bottles of blood regularly, but other than maintaining a diet that will help her heal faster, Diedre has shown no interest in returning to the world. Eric theorized grimly that Diedre’s intention of healing was only so she could overcome any attempt to stop her from killing herself.
“After all,” Diedre approaches us in an unnaturally fluid manner and comes to sit in a vacant recliner, “the Fellowship of the Sun was a marvelous scapegoat for anyone who needed another vampire assassinated. They needed no motivation to attack a vampire other than the fact it was a vampire they were attacking. With all of their contacts throughout the country, anyone could have come up with addresses and new marks. It would not have necessarily needed to be another vampire who sold out their own kind.”
“You think two different vampires were using the Fellowship of the Sun to follow through on their personal hit lists?” Pam asks slowly.
“I believe,” Diedre answers, “that Rhodes was one vampire’s target, and everyone else was a second vampire’s targets.”
“But-” I begin to protest.
“Rhodes was a tactical hit. No one specific was meant to be killed from what I have gleaned from your whispers,” All three of us try to look nonchalant at attempting to keep her in the dark. “However, Rhodes is attended by many Regents. I would guess the attack was meant to weaken a kingdom– perhaps any kingdom so that it could be taken over.”
“You are saying you believe Rhodes was a play for a coup?” Pam demands.
“Quite possibly,” Diedre nods. “However, Cassie and Felipe were part of a hit list. I believe Cassie was killed because she could have outed the one who contracted the murders, and Felipe is probably being marked for his Kingdom. Everyone else was more than likely a diversion; a smoke screen around the intended targets.”
We three all sit in quiet consideration to Diedre’s suspicions. After all, would it be that impossible that two vampires thought to use the same hate mongers to achieve their goals? How many times have similar books or movies come out at the same time? How many times have inventors needed to race to the patent office to be the first with their name on a design many worked on at the same time?
Great, we couldn’t even figure out who the conspirator was when we believed there was only one. Now there’s two?
“So, looking at just Cassandra and Felipe as targets,” I begin slowly, “who would are prime suspects be?”
Pam and Cammie shoot a glare at me by mentioning the Ancient Pythoness by name, but Diedre seems relieved. I suppose everyone refusing to speak of Cassandra as deceased could be even more stressful than dealing with reality.
“Cassandra was simultaneously an enemy to none and an enemy to all,” Diedre answers my question. “Small transgressions would not bring her focus, but the murder of a Regent would. Rhodes would have brought an investigation too, though,” She points out.
“So either conspirator could be responsible for Cassandra’s murder?” I groan.
“Yes,” Diedre nods solemnly. “However, if you can find both of them, your brother could easily determine who will suffer my wrath.” A shudder runs down my spine at the gleam in Diedre’s eyes. It is the most life I’ve ever seen in them.
“Okay, who would want to kill Felipe?” I ask instead.
Pam takes out her phone and makes a call. I’m only able to hear her half of the conversation.
“Billy,” Pam greets in her usually bored tone, “any chance you might have a list of vamps wanting to end de Castro?” She pauses as he replies and snaps her fingers at me and Cammie before writing in the air for a pen and paper.
Bouncing to my feet, I retrieve a steno and pen from the kitchen to bring back to her. Cammie is on my heels, but I’m quicker.
“Good job, Billy Boy,” Pam hangs up and finishes jotting down the names Bill Compton had given her. “It’s a surprisingly short list, but amazingly, the ones who want you dead gets shorter and shorter the more ancient you become.”
“Why’s that?” Cammie asks curiously.
“Because they know if you survive, they will not,” Diedre answers as she snatches the paper from Pam’s fingers. “And this one is definitely highest on my list of most likely to come after Felipe indirectly.” She makes a big circle around the name and holds it out to us.
“Victor Madden?” I read aloud. “Why him?”
“He is Felipe’s second in command, and Victor does not want to be second,” Diedre replies. “Felipe had contacted Cassandra a few times these last couple decades asking specifically if she could see Victor betraying him.”
“Why would he keep him around if he didn’t trust him?” I ask dumbfounded.
“Because Victor is also very good at his job,” Pam replies. “He’s an expert at weeding out competitors and finding lucrative gains along the way. Some of his ventures are not always so profitable, but they accomplish shutting out others who do not have a capital to compete in a split market. Anytime a new outfit tries to put up real estate in Vegas that could hurt their annual tithe, Victor has pounced and bled them before they could even break ground.”
“He’s sickeningly ambitious, though, for one who has eternity to gain wealth and acclaim in the community,” Diedre explains. “Young enough to be impatient, but old enough to become a Regent. I suppose that is what his ultimate goal is to become a Regent, but with no open positions-”
I think we all realize something in that moment Diedre holds her tongue.
“You don’t think,” Cammie begins slowly, “that Victor put out a hit on Felipe so he could take over Vegas, and Felipe wanted to attack Rhodes to weaken a kingdom so he could take it over and give it to Victor as a peace offering; do you?”
“If so, that is the most bastardized Gift of the Magi scenario I have ever heard,” Pam utters.
Before I can reply with even the simplest of silent nods, I feel Eric explode with grief and anger. I know that he is feeling great emotional pain, but I also can tell that he’s been attacked physically as well.
My arms wrap around myself as I shake with an abrupt sob. As I try to pull myself together, Pam has already jumped from her seat and retrieved the television remote. She flicks through the channels until she finds a news report. We only need to wait a moment before the news anchor stops his story.
“We are receiving reports that a bomb has been detonated at JFK airport in New York City,” the anchor announces. Cammie comes up behind me and wraps her arms around me.
“It will be okay,” She whispers into my ear and squeezes me tightly.
“Bystander reports say that a group of terrorists arrived at several gates strapped with explosives-”
“How did they get past security?” Pam snarls angrily.
“How they managed to get to the gates is undetermined,” The anchor continues as if he heard Pam and is trying to protect his reputation as a journalist.
“Is Eric injured?” Diedre asks from her seat. She is the only one that didn’t pop up as the mood in the room shifted.
“He doesn’t feel much worse for wear physically,” I answer. “He’s really upset, though.”
“Which was it, Felipe? Rhodes or the Pythoness?” I snarl from my, presumably, safe distance.
“What are you talking about?” Felipe demands, still feigning injury. He is trying to lure me in closer. My only advantage against de Castro is that I can fly and he cannot. As long as there is enough distance for me to become airborne before he can lay his grasp on me, I am relatively safe.
“You as though you thought I had come here to detain you,” I accuse. “The only matter my family has been looking into is the Fellowship of the Sun conspiracy. If you felt the need to avoid me then you are one of the traitors responsible for leaking information. Either you had the Pythoness murdered, or you coordinated the attack on Rhodes, but not both. So, which is it? Rhodes? Or were you the one who had Cassandra assassinated?” I am growling by the end of my questioning.
There is a long silence between us, only interrupted by the sirens and screams still echoing amid the chaos of the explosions. Finally Felipe utters, “Rhodes.”
“Why?” I demand, and keep my body from closing in. Proximity will not make a vampire three times my age feel intimidated. The only thing I will have accomplished is reducing my chances of leaving this place intact. If only I had thought of Felipe as a suspect and not just another victim. I would have brought silver with me.
“The Pythoness had warned me that Victor was growing restless. She saw him attempting to overtake me,” he answers. “I knew the only way to placate him from his attempts was to give him his own state to govern, but I needed a Regent to be weakened enough for an overthrow.”
“Then you did not care which Regent it was, so long as you could take control,” I nod. Godric and I had deduced as much while we were still uncertain who was behind the leak.
Felipe does not reply to my accusation, but he does not need to. After all, he has already confessed. There is no need to be redundant in our confessions.
“The Council will strip you of your status as Regent,” I point out to him. “I am quite confident that you will never be recognized as a Regent again.”
The older vampire snorts on a laugh, “Aside from Diedre, I am the oldest vampire in North America. Do you think the Council would ever dream of banning me from holding an office?” He seems to accept that playing injured will not lure me in, and finally climbs back to his feet. Felipe wipes at his ash darkened face with the clean part of a handkerchief that had been folded in his breast pocket.
“Victor is your subordinate,” I point out, “and he is not only the most likely responsible for this mess,” I gesture to the ruin around us, “but also the murder of the Ancient Pythoness. You will be held accountable for that.”
Felipe actually laughs at my suggestion, “Victor tried to kill me too. The Council will lump me in with the victims. Besides, Rhodes never happened. What leg do they have to stand on?”
“Turncoat or not, Victor is still your responsibility. If you cannot rein in your own subordinate, how can you be trusted to maintain an entire State’s welfare?” I shake my head in disgust. “The fact that Rhodes did not happen speaks more of your incompetence than your innocence.”
Felipe sighs, folds his handkerchief, and stuffs it back into his breast pocket. My body tenses automatically, and I push off into the air. Unfortunately, Felipe anticipates me escape to higher ground, and catches my ankle. I am yanked from the air and slammed back into the ground.
FUCK! I snarl as my body leaves a fissure in the floor. I try to scramble to my feet when I am overtaken by Felipe. I feel my arm being pulled up and away from my back and try to resist the strain. Rather than my shoulder dislocating and being torn away, the humerus snaps and is ripped from the very top of my shoulder as a yell is stolen from my lips.
“Give that back!” I shout as images of me with only one arm to hold my son float behind my eyes. My body twists as Felipe stumbles back with my arm, and I kick back up to my feet. Blood is pouring out of the torn scraps of my shoulder, but Felipe is caught off guard by my immediate reaction.
As he takes a step back, my leg kicks forward and catches Felipe in the testicles. Even a vampire cannot help but double over at this sort of attack, and it gives me the opportunity to yank my dismembered arm from his grasp.
Felipe looks up at me in mesmerized disbelief. Though I am nowhere near his level of strength and speed, I am still far more advanced than he would have anticipated for my age. The acceleration of skill my continual awareness gives me is all the advantage I need. As he scrambles to determine my actual level of ability, I flip my dismembered arm in the air so that the jagged end of the bone is facing down. While Felipe remains paralyzed with calculations, that fragmented appendage swings out and manages to penetrate the king’s chest like a stake.
The remains of Felipe de Castro, King of Nevada, splash thickly around my feet. A flare of disappointment rises in me as I jam my broken arm back to its splintered home. If only Felipe had surrendered. He could have remained a figurehead of the vampire community. Instead, we are now missing two revered Ancients from our world.
I only allow my sorrow a few moments to fester before I am in the air and heading back to Ohio. We will have to write up a report for the Vampire Council, although I am certain Diedre can gloss over this whole indiscretion for us.
I can feel Sookie’s worry welling up inside me and the relief that washes it away as she feels me heading back for home. With any luck, my arm will be at least partially mended before I touch down on Godric’s lawn.
When I am finally coming back to earth, I see Sookie come running out of Godric and Camilla’s home. She waves her arms up at me frantically, and I land beside her just as she jumps into my arm. The injured appendage is still not listening to my commands all that well, and I pull to wiggle it, hoping to realign the break so that it will heal faster.
Sookie steps away as I make my adjustments, and I see the curious expression on her face turn ashen as she realizes what she is seeing.
“Huagh,” she makes a rather guttural sound before she shivers and makes it again. My good arm sweeps out to gather her hair from her face just as she doubles over and vomits all over the grass.
“…symptom?” I ask softly, trying not to use any phrase that would send Pam, Diedre or Quigley too much information.
Sookie shakes her head ever-so-slightly, but remains bent over. “No,” she finally utters, “just the sight…” She pauses, and I see her back lurch again as if to vomit some more. “I’ll be fine, just don’t do that again while I’m looking.”
I smile softly at her request, “I am sorry that I upset your stomach.”
Sookie laughs and finally straightens up. She wipes her mouth shyly with the back of her arm. “You should see if Camilla has a spell for that,” she points to my arm, “while I go rinse out my mouth.”
With a nod of agreement, I take step ahead of Sookie and open the door for her. She smiles up at me as she passes by and heads for the bathroom. When I arrive in the sitting room, Pam, Camilla, Quigley and Diedre are waiting there for news.
“Felipe is dead,” I announce. “Camilla, can you fix this?” I ask of the witch while simultaneously wiggling my severed arm. Camilla cringes at my dismemberment, but does not react in such a projectile manner as my wife.
“Uh, yeah, I should be able to do a small reassembly spell,” Camilla nods as she runs off to get her own personal book of spells. She has been assembling her own Book of Shadows over the past five years, and I admit that her advancements in her witch training are rather impressive for someone who did not even know who they were eight years ago.
The vampires in the room remain silent as my wife and my Maker’s wife scurry about the house. When Sookie returns and immediately climbs into my lap, I wrap an arm around her waist and try to discretely place my hand over her belly. Her emotions explode with happiness inside me, and I pull her that much closer.
Camilla returns a moment later, flipping through her book as she walks into the room. She finds the page she needs and then bustles back out of the room for the tools or ingredients she will need. It is another five minutes before she comes back and lays out her items. Camilla takes a bottle of tequila and slugs down half of it.
Quigley whistles as the bottle drains, “Now, if you were human, I’d say you had a drinking problem, Lady.”
The witch shudders slightly, puts the bottle down and focuses on me, “Sook, get out of the way. This is my first reassembly on something animated.”
My wife jumps from my lap and takes cover behind Pam, no doubt being extra cautious because of the baby growing in her belly.
Camilla trains her gaze on me, raises her arms and begins speaking a single word over and over until her voice grows distant and monotone. I am surprised that I do not recognize it.
“Sutider, sutider, sutider,” Camilla calls over and over, and with each repetition, I feel my arm tug. I can feel the splinters of bone migrating back to their homes, and after the fifteenth or sixteenth rep, the shaft of the humerus snaps back into place with an audible crack. It sounds like a thick limb of a tree being broken into firewood.
Camilla closes her book once more and puts the bottle of tequila away.
“Was tequila part of the spell?” Sookie asks as Camilla returns.
“No, but I was nervous doing magic on Eric,” our resident witch replies.
“Why could you do magic on Eric?” Sookie frowns. “We’re supposed to be immune to each others’ magics.”
Camilla frowns as well, “Maybe witch magic is different? Technically, it’s something that can be learned, it doesn’t have to be something that comes naturally…”
Sookie considers her friend’s theory and shrugs, “I guess I shouldn’t question it since it worked. I should just be thankful that it did work.” She comes back to my side and slides back onto my lap. Once more, my arms wrap around her tightly. “Now, do you want to explain what’s happened?” she asks of me.
“Felipe is dead,” I begin. “He was one of the leaks to the Fellowship. Felipe is the one that gave the Summit time and location.”
“How did you manage to kill an ancient three times your age?” Quigley asks in surprise. “I know you were always capable for your age, but that is ridiculous.”
I pause a moment before confessing, “The vampires in our bloodline seem to advance faster because of our continual awareness. Although I was still nowhere near Felipe’s strength and speed, he assumed he knew what mine was. I caught him off guard with my reaction time and strength. I staked him with my broken arm.”
“Metal,” Quigley replies and shakes his head bemusedly.
A chuckle forms in my throat at his disbelief, and I let it fill the room with my amusement. As the last of my merriment fades, my phone begins to ring.
Taking my phone from my pocket, I see it is my Maker and quickly answer. “Yes, Master?”
“We have caught the one responsible for the attack on Felipe as well as the assassination of the Ancient Pythoness,” Godric announces.
“Let me guess,” I sigh. “Victor Madden?”
Godric pauses a moment before stating, “If you already knew, was there a reason you kept it to yourself?”
“I only just put the pieces together over the last few hours. Felipe was responsible for the Summit leak. He is dead now,” I reply.
“We will be bringing Victor to Ohio in a few hours. I have already informed the Council of Victor’s transgressions, and they agree that Diedre should be the one to bring justice.”
I can feel in the link I share with my Maker that he is concerned about giving Diedre this closure. After all, once the individual responsible for her lover’s death is brought to justice by her own hands, will Diedre have any strength left to continue existing?
“I see,” is all I can manage in reply. “We will see you in a few hours then.”
Godric and I hang up, and I turn to Sookie. “Dear One, would you mind returning home with me. I need a shower and change of clothes,” I gesture to my disheveled state.
“Sure,” she answers, and I can both see and feel her exhaustion.
Taking my wife’s hand in mine and scooping up her overnight bag on the way to the door, we steal Pam’s car to take back home. My body feels too depleted to fly the both of us back to the house. It took a great deal of my reserves to make it to Godric’s home.
As we come into the house from the garage, a scent in the air makes me moan in annoyance, “Whatever it is, it has to wait until I have some blood!” I call into the darkness and head for the kitchen.
Sookie snaps on the light and gasps when she must see Ludwig standing ominously in the previously dark living room. I know I should be concerned about the doctor’s arrival in our home, especially with the newness of our pregnancy, but I feel too weak to focus on more than warming a half gallon of blood and gorging myself.
When the microwave dings and I take four bottles from it, I carry them to the living room and place them on the coffee table. I give one a quick shake and then crack it open.
“Go ahead, Doctor,” I wave for her to go on with her discussion. Sookie is fiddling nervously beside me, and I take her hand in my free one. She glares at me momentarily. “Sookie,” I smile reassuringly, “if it were something bad, Ludwig would have told me to get my ass in here rather than grab a blood or two. Everything is fine with the baby.”
Sookie relaxes slightly, and I drain the bottle of blood into my mouth before reaching out and grabbing a fresh one.
“To be honest, I appreciated the extra moments you gave me,” Ludwig whispers, and I raise my eyebrows. I have never heard her so uncomfortable. “Earlier today when I was doing your evaluation, you might have noticed I was a bit distracted.”
Sookie shakes her head, “I figured you were just as stunned as us that there were so few precursors to the conception.” She smiles at Ludwig politely, absolving her of any preconceived failings on her part.
“The truth is, when I saw you,” Ludwig continues after giving Sookie an appreciative nod, “I could already tell you were with child. It is true that I was caught off guard by the abruptness, but my real distraction came from the date.”
“Why? What’s today?” Sookie asks.
Ludwig takes a deep breath, “It is the date marked on an envelope I was given several months ago. I was told not to open it until today no matter what. Honestly, with work, I had completely forgotten about it until I saw you and your condition.”
The doctor takes a crisp envelop from her bag and holds it up. A wax seal that I am quite familiar with is cracked open, and I suddenly know who gave Ludwig the envelope. I am also quite certain I know what the letter inside says.
“Cassandra’s last vision?” I guess with certainty.
Ludwig looks at me worriedly and nods, “Yes. She gave me this letter four months ago. Three months before she was killed.” She hands the letter to my wife, who is looking between the two of us in confusion. Sookie is pale and reaches for the page with a shaking hand.
As Sookie’s hands fumble to take the letter form the envelope, I place my hand on her back to try and sooth her with my love and reassurance.
“Patricia,” Sookie reads aloud like she is in the classroom, “if you have followed my instruction and kept this letter unread until the date it stated, then you are probably already aware of what it has to say.
“Sookie Northman has just discovered that she is with child, and I want you to know with certainty that the spirit of her first born is my spirit. Please, let the Northmans know that they have brought about my reincarnation, and plead with them that they will share this news with my Diedre.
“I know it is a lot to ask, but please give her hope of being with me again. I have seen us together in this new existence, but the thought of her hurting without any hope of finding her soulmate again is more than my current being can bear.
“Sookie and Eric, if you are reading this, I beg that you bring my Diedre the only comfort that can heal her. Let her have hope again.
Forever in your debt,
Cassandra of Troy”
Sookie’s hands slowly lower the letter and she stares at Ludwig. There is a long silence before my Bonded asks, “The Ancient Pythoness is inside me?”
Ludwig shakes her head, “Do not think of it like that. True it is the same spirit that is being reborn, but it is not the same person. It will have all its own memories-
“He,” Sookie interrupts. “The baby is a boy.”
“Is it?” Ludwig raises her eyebrows.
“Eric said our first born will be a boy, and I believe him,” Sookie responds in that dazed tone.
The doctor looks at me and rolls her eyes. Perhaps she thinks I have wishful thinking, but she says nothing to contradict my beliefs.
“Well, he,” Ludwig begins again, “will have all his own memories. He will be his own person. There is even a very high chance he will not have the gift of visions.”
“Why is that?” I ask curiously.
“Magic is linked to the spirit, yes,” Ludwig says, “but certain gifts are not. Gifts are usually linked more to blood, but need a special spirit to wield them. Your child will be magical, but how that magic will manifest has yet to be seen.”
Ludwig hops from where she had been sitting in the plump chair that keeps her toes from brushing the ground. “Well, I have done my final service to the Ancient Pythoness. Now it is up to you how to proceed. You may keep the letter. If you do choose to inform Diedre of her soulmate’s reincarnation, that is your decision. I am done playing messenger.”
With that, the doctor POPs out of the house and leaves Sookie and I in contemplative silence. Now we have one of the biggest decisions of our marriage to make, and I have no idea how Sookie will handle this situation.