Before we could proceed with our plan, I received a notice from the Boston colony. It arrived courtesy of a young androgynous vampire on a motorcycle. I was in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast and caught sight of them, immediately running off to the front door to meet them.
Mentally, I noted that this proved we were no longer secure in Michael’s home. His shielding was definitely turned off, and we would have to be on guard moving forward.
Arriving at the door, I jerked it open just as the vampire was about to knock. The little vampire jumped and took a step back. Realizing they still had their helmet on, they took it off, slipping it underneath their left arm. Short brown hair framed their square tan face. I could make out a handful of freckles strewn across the bridge of their delicate nose. Hazel eyes stared back at me from beneath strong eyebrows, and their thin lips curved into a broad smile.
“I come bearing notice from the Boston colony. You have been summoned.”
“Hang on, I’ve got a spiel.” They cleared their throat. “Cecelia Moore, the Boston colony has summoned you. You must appear before them within three days. Failure to appear will be met with punitive measures. Do you accept the summons as it has been presented to you?”
They extended their right arm and handed me a rolled up notice tied off with ribbon and sealed with wax. As soon as my hand wrapped around the paper roll, the vampire released it and turned around, heading back down the steps. Putting their helmet on as they went, they reached the bike and climbed on, starting the engine. They glanced at me and waved before taking off, heading around the fountain and shooting down the drive through the gate. I was left standing in the doorway with a piece of parchment in my hands, wondering what the fark just happened.
Stepping back inside, I studied the wax seal as I closed the front door. Making my way to the sitting room, I heard footsteps. Looking up, I saw Marcus coming down the stairs and gestured for him to come over.
“What did I miss?”
“Um, I got a summons?”
“Actually, the Boston colony…?”
“I wonder what they want with you.”
“I’ve got no freakin’ idea.”
“Would you like some company?”
“That would be awesome. I’m going to head there today. Figure I might as well go there and get this over with.”
“Alright. We should let Xander and his girlfriend know before we leave, though.”
“Good thinking. I’ll give them a call.”
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket. Before I could hit the button to dial Kat, my phone was ringing. It was her. “Hey Kat. I’ve got som–”
“They took him. The jerkoff government mofos came here, and they took him.”
“Didn’t you hear me? The government. Some guys were literally just here and grabbed Xander. He’s been taken to the Bureau’s local offices.”
“Not five minutes ago.”
“Did they say why?”
“No. They just said he needed to come with them and off they went.” Kat let loose an angry shout, and I had to yank the phone away from my ear. “What the hell is going on!”
I looked over at Marcus while I spoke to Kat. “I bet…” I pinched the bridge of my nose with my free hand. “I’m suspicious this has to do with Harrison Roberts and his little investigation into Michael.” Marcus nodded his head in silent agreement. I’d updated him on that little fiasco, and he agreed that Harrison had been a horrible addition.
“You don’t think they’re going to pin his death on Xander, do you?”
“I’m not sure they know he’s dead. For all they know, he’s just disappeared.”
“You’ve got to help him, Celie. If there is anything you can do–”
“I’ll do my best, but I have to go to see the Boston colony first.”
“That’s why I was calling. A vampire came to the house and gave me a summons.”
“A summons? Like jury duty?”
I laughed. “You and Marcus could be twins. I’m not sure. But they implied it would be painful if I didn’t show up.”
“Do you need me to come with you?”
“Marcus already volunteered. Might be better to have him with me, being a vampire and all.”
“Oh right. Duh. Of course.”
“I promise I’ll look into the FBI’s taking Xander as soon as this meet-and-greet is done, okay?”
“Okay. Call me when you’re out of there, so I know you’re safe.”
“Will do. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
I hung up and put my phone back in my pocket. “Alright, Marcus. Let’s skedaddle.”
* * *
Arriving on Beacon Street, we parked and walked up to the building that housed the Boston colony. From the outside, it was so modest; anyone could walk by and think nothing of it. It was just a normal restaurant in Boston.
Underneath it, however, were the oldest of my kind in New England. Michael had said that some of them were thousands of years old, and I had no doubt about it. The Boston colony was comprised of vampires that had been alive for at least five-hundred years, when the Mayflower first came over. Perhaps some of them had arrived with Leif Erikson? Regardless, you would be hard-pressed to find a vampire who didn’t respect the hell out of them.
Approaching the building, Marcus put a hand on my arm. “Remember what I told you. Always address the head vampire as ‘Haven Mother’. She’s very particular about formalities.”
I nodded and reached for the front door handle. Before I could open it, a gigantic male vampire pushed it open. Holding it open with one hand, the giant stepped back, giving us room to enter. I realized he must have been the one that Kat was talking about: James, a black man with a high-fade haircut, a strong black beard, and monstrous-sized hands. I would swear he could have fit my entire head in his palm – and crushed it.
Cautiously we stepped inside past him, and I felt more than saw the entire restaurant turn to eyeball us. I immediately froze. Were these all vampires? I glanced at Marcus, and he raised an eyebrow, seeming to both understand what I was thinking and guessing it himself. Everyone seemed to have…an aura? An energy? There was a distinct vibe in the place that I couldn’t shake.
I turned back towards James. He had shut the door and was walking around us. He gestured for us to follow him, and we did so, continuing to take in the faces of the pretend diners.
Heading through the back of the restaurant and beyond the kitchen, we reached a set of stairs that led down into the basement. I followed closely behind James and nearly bumped into him when he stopped to open another door at the bottom.
“Sorry, excuse me,” I muttered.
He went through the doorway and then motioned for us to come inside. I glanced back at Marcus. Hell, we’d come all this way, there was only one way to go; inside we went.
The room we entered was lengthy, dark and musty. Standing alongside the walls, among dimly lit floor candelabras, were numerous other vampires, all talking amongst themselves. Their conversations immediately ceased when Marcus and I entered.
I had never felt so naked in my entire life.
Towards the end of the room was a large wooden…throne? It was a giant chair made from solid walnut, with plush red velvet cushions at the seat and back, and its back rising close to the ceiling. On each side of the chair was a Tibetan Mastiff, fluffy and stocky. They perked up when we entered, heads popping up to examine us from a distance. I wanted to pet them until one of them growled, then I thought better of it.
As I stood dumbstruck by the gothic appearance of the Boston colony’s meeting room, a door opened up front on the right. A small Asian woman came forward, graceful and smooth, with a rosy complexion and straight black hair reaching her lower back. She wore a flowing kimono and geta shoes on her feet, her footsteps small and dainty. She reached the throne and turned, sitting comfortably in the great chair that dwarfed her. Her rich brown eyes found mine, and I heard her speak to me in my mind.
I didn’t hesitate, knowing this was clearly a command. Walking to within twenty feet of her, I stopped and bowed my head. I waited until I heard her speak before looking up.
“Do you know why you were summoned, Cecelia Moore?”
“No, Haven Mother.” Her voice was strong, authoritative, and dominant; it was surprising based on her appearance.
She glanced behind me. “Nice to see you, Marcus Pendleton. It has been a long time since you graced us with your presence.”
Marcus stepped forward to stand next to me. “You as well, Haven Mother.”
“You were not requested.”
“I can certainly leave if that would please you.”
She eyed him carefully. “No. You may stay. But you will remain silent.”
“Yes, Haven Mother.”
Her attention returned to me. “You say you don’t know why you are here?”
“No, Haven Mother.”
“We shall tell you. We have received news that troubles us.”
I stood quiet and still, not saying a word.
“We have received word that your sire, Michael Hawkins has been taken by another vampire. Is this true?”
Surprised, I kept my thoughts to myself and simply replied, “Yes.”
“We were also made aware that you were attacked in New Orleans by other vampires? Is this true as well?”
She sighed, clearly both agitated and irritated. “It is against the laws of our kind to attack other vampires, unless in self-defense. We have our suspicions about who is responsible. Tell me. Do you know who has done this?”
“His mother, Cressida Hawkins.”
The Haven Mother sucked her breath in through her teeth, making a distinct hissing sound. She turned to her left and called another vampire over. Slim and dressed all in black, the Asian male vampire approached, and she leaned over to whisper something to him. When she was done, he bowed and returned back to where they had been standing. Refocusing on me, her face had a look of intense displeasure. I reminded myself to never piss this woman off.
“She came to see us two months ago. Do you know why she is seeking to hurt you and Michael?”
“Yes. Michael killed her sire.”
“When did this take place?”
“Shortly after he was turned.”
“Hmm… And why did he do this?”
“I can only repeat what I was told, Haven Mother.”
“Then do it.”
“She killed his family – or so we thought – because he would not be turned. He eventually gave in and allowed her to turn him, but later he learned she lied to him and used him. He ran away from her, but she came after him. When he refused to take his place at her side, she attacked him, and he killed her.”
The Haven Mother said nothing, just stared at me, her eyes dark and deep. It was uncomfortable under her gaze. Eventually, I managed to utter a simple, “That’s it, Haven Mother.”
“And have you made any attempts to rectify the situation?”
“Yes. Twice. Both times ended in failure. She–”
She tapped her fingers against the chair arm, her nails clicking on the wood. “We strongly dislike this situation.” She stared at me intently for a minute longer, then clasped her hands in front of herself. “We will aid you in recovering Michael Hawkins from his mother.”
Startled at this decision, I simply stood there in shock. Marcus nudged me into speaking. “Uh, thank you, Haven Mother. It’s very gener–”
She waved her hand, dismissing me. “Speak not of it. It is in the best interest of all vampires to have this ended.” Turning back to the same vampire she spoke to earlier, she called out to him. “Yoshikuru will come with you. He is one of our best and most ancient of all warriors.” Turning back to me, she held me with her stare. “You will take him with you.”
Then she addressed the entire vampire audience. “Yoshikuru will dispatch Cressida Hawkins. This is our decree. Let any who challenge it step forward.”
No one moved. Nary an eyelid twitched as she surveyed the group. Satisfied, she looked at me and gave a short upturn of her chin, gesturing for us to leave and thereby dismissing me and Marcus. I was more than happy to go, desperate to get out of the basement and away from the pressure of performing for vampire authority.
James stood by the doorway and I quickly maneuvered past him, pulling Marcus behind me. We reached the top of the stairs, and I stopped, hunching over to catch my breath. I realized I hadn’t been breathing since she asked if anyone had a problem with her guy killing Cressida.
I stood up and whirled around. There, directly behind Marcus, stood Yoshikuru. Trim and stoic, he stood as tall as me, wearing black cargo pants and an unadorned, black long sleeve shirt. A thick, blood red leather strap crossed his torso and split overtop his left pec to go over his shoulder, holding a nodachi sword at his back. He was clean shaven, his hair just long enough to get in his sienna-colored eyes, and he stood silently, watching me watch him.
No response. Just those eyes watching me.
“So…” I looked around, checking out the various faces in the restaurant before landing back on our new friend. “Are you going to ride with us or take your own car?”
Yoshikuru simply stared, maintaining eye contact with me like it was as essential as breathing. I raised an eyebrow and glanced over at Marcus. He just shrugged and looked over at him. Sighing, I turned and started walking through the restaurant.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m blowing this pop stand, Marcus. We’ve got a mission.” I called out over my shoulder at Yoshikuru. “‘Come with me if you want to live.’”
I pushed the entrance door wide open and stepped into the bright light of day.
* * *
“Welp, we have a change to our plan. Everyone, meet Yoshikuru. Yoshikuru, meet everyone.”
Xander and Kat looked at our new party guest and smiled.
After leaving the colony, Marcus and I had headed toward the local Bureau office with Yoshikuru. Leaving them in the car, I went inside and ran into Xander just as he was coming down the escalator. He looked a might surprised to see me there, but said nothing. Instead, he met me and took my arm, steering me back and out the main entrance.
Outside, I stopped him. “What gives? Are you okay?”
“How did you know I was here?”
“Kat. She called me.”
He scowled. “Damn that girl. I told her I would take care of it.”
“It’s fine. I told them I met Harrison at the diner and that he came to ‘spend time’ with us at the apartment. After that, we never saw him again.”
“Well, that’s the truth, isn’t it?”
Xander stared hard at me. “Yes. That’s the truth.”
I was immediately picking up what he was laying down. “Right. So are they done with you?”
“For now, yes. And I’d like to keep it that way. That’s why we need to leave.”
“Roger that. Hop in the car. We have a new friend.”
Xander raised an eyebrow and then followed me to the car. We drove back to the apartment and picked up Kat before heading to Michael’s house, where we all stood now.
Xander reached out, offering a handshake in friendship. Yoshikuru just stared at him.
It was pretty obvious he only had one facial expression.
Kat’s smile faded and she glanced at me. “Um, does he talk?”
Kat jumped at Yoshikuru’s voice, which was low and a touch gravelly. “Ah ha. Well, that’s good to confirm.”
I cleared my throat. “Nice to hear your voice, Yoshi. Can I call you Yoshi?”
“Well, I’m probably going to do it anyway.” I quickly turned to Xander. “Do we have all of our gear for the mission?”
“Good.” I looked back at Yoshi. “You’re going to love this idea that we have.”
Again, no comment from the peanut gallery.
“Let me tell you about it, shall I?” I ushered him out of the main hall into the sitting room and gestured for him to have a seat. He took the sofa while I took the big chair at the end. The others came in and stood on the opposite side of the coffee table.
“We’ve tried twice to get into Cressida’s Great House. It’s not very well fortified. I mean, she’s got some guards on rotation, but that’s about it. The kicker is that she’s got rats.”
Yoshi’s right eyebrow lifted. No seriously, it actually raised up and gave him a new facial expression! I nearly clapped but thought better of it.
“Er…rats. Yeah. Where was I? Oh right! So the rats are controlled by Cressida. Literally, she commands them and sends them after us, once they tell her that we’re in the house. She uses them to spy on us, too, so she seems to always know where we are.
“This time, we’re going to split up, so she won’t have one single target.”
“Will one of you be retrieving Michael?”
“Not this time. We realized that we need more help, and even with you, it’s not enough. We’re going to kidnap one of her guards to learn more about the building structure and guards.”
Yoshikuru watched me for a moment, his hands on his thighs, his elbows bent out. “A kidnapping, then.” He paused, then added, “I, too, will be a distraction.”
“The more distractions, the more likely we can escape with her guard in hand.”
“So you’re on board?”
Yoshikuru bowed his head. “I am.”
I turned to the rest of our new Scooby Gang and grinned from ear to ear. “We have a plan!”