Authors: Regina Morris
“And, you need my connections.”
Trudy grinned. “Exactly. You’re well known around certain circles and that is valuable information we could use. You also know more medically about the storage of blood. We need help streamlining our operations and information on how to expand them.”
In her dreams! This chick was traveling through fantasy land without a passport. Sulie stood defiantly in front of Trudy. “I’ll never agree to help you, let alone marry into your family.”
An eyebrow rose and hid under Trudy’s blonde hair. “We’ll see, Sulie dear.” She looked down into her empty mug. “We’ll see how agreeable you are after a few days when your body is shriveled by age and you’re begging me for blood.”
“That will never happen.”
“Then you’ll die.”
At Camp David, Mason questioned each staff member and found nothing amiss. Many of the humans had been on staff since the first day of the president’s tenure, and with the many trips to Camp David, Mason had known them well. Each human seemed genuine in their household duties and loyalty to the president. After hours of questioning them, and compelling each to believe him to be the president and to ignore any other unroutine issues in the house, Mason walked slowly back to the master bedroom suite — which now stood vacant due to the demolition specialist’s orders, their tools, and their safety barricades.
Standing in the midst of chaos, Mason stared at the broken pieces of the now dismantled bedroom and quietly shook his head. A cyclone couldn’t have destroyed the room better. The headboard had been ripped from the frame, the mattress shredded, and the carpet torn in half. Every drawer had been pulled from its cabinet, the contents of which had been carefully scrutinized. Even the connecting bath had been gutted, the room’s plumbing and fixtures laying on the floor.
Mason heard the approaching footsteps and recognized the slight hint of the man’s cologne, even before Liam entered the room.
“The device they found in the bed is nothing more than a recording unit scheduled to replay under a specific set of circumstances.”
Mason’s eyebrow rose. “What circumstances?”
Liam leaned against the destroyed door jamb. “The overhead light needed to be off, the weight on the bed under 220 lbs, meaning the president slept alone in the bed, and there was a timer to replay a recorded message from 3:00 am to 5:00 am every night.”
“Only a recording?”
Shaking his head, Liam continued, “A hypnotic repetitive message. Something about medical practices and the support of collecting more blood. Warehousing blood so to speak, from newborn babies to volunteers, as well as standard medical practices to collect blood during routine medical physicals.” Liam rolled his hands, “and it continued and continued.”
“Sounds like the entire recording focused on blood.”
Liam took a deep breath and squinted his eyes at Mason. “Your name is Mason, right?” When Mason nodded, Liam added, “Seems like a lot of blood. Do you… people… require a lot? I mean, I’m assuming the perpetrator to be one of your kind.”
And here was the second matter Mason needed to deal with. Liam knew too much. Mason broke his presidential facade and spoke honestly with the man. “Son, if your fishin’ for some answers,” he began in his southern dialect, “I’m sorry, but this dog just won’t hunt.”
Liam took a deep breath and stood his ground. “I know the president isn’t one… but I know
are. You don’t have to bother denying it.”
Mason sized up the human. “Then I do believe you and I need to have ourselves a talk.”
He crossed the floor and gazed deep into the human’s eyes, but Liam looked away.
“I’ll tell you what I know. But if you try to do any of your mind games on me, I’ll warn you now. I have a stake in my pocket.”
Mason stepped back, knowing full well he could overtake the human at any time. “What gave me away?”
Liam scanned down the hallway. The staff seemed busy performing their tasks and the other agents kept guard on the house and grounds. He stepped into the room and closed the door the best he could, leaving it ajar on its hinges. “It wasn’t you. At least not right away. I first suspected the lady doctor who keeps tabs on the president’s health.”
Liam shrugged. “I don’t know her name, but her face is unforgettable. She’s a total ten and someone who caught my eye when I began working for the president. Ten years have passed since my first day on the job. She looks the same age as when I first laid eyes on her.”
Nodding, Mason understood. Sulie always kept to her base Jahrling age if possible. She always remained in the background doing medical exams on the president and not much more. But even with the limited human exposure, someone was bound to notice.
“And then there was you.”
Mason glanced up at Liam. “What about me?”
“The last two trips to Camp David, you didn’t eat. I kept tabs on you afterwards, even photographing you with a special camera to detect heat signatures. You don’t give off body heat.”
Mason felt a nagging pain in his gut. If he had to guess, he would say the telltale sign had been his nose putty or even his colored contacts. He could have sworn he had been careful during his time with the humans, but well, he couldn’t give off body heat. He also couldn’t eat any food. And there was only so much pushing the food around on the plate to make it appear as if you ate some of it that he could do. With a hand brushing through his white hair, and a sigh escaping his mouth, Mason asked, “Anyone but you know?”
“Know about your kind? And that you work for the president?” Liam shook his head and let out a wry chuckle. “No. I didn’t want to lose my job and end up in the looney bin.”
Mason knew what he had to do. The man had become a liability, a threat to their very existence. He had to compel the man to forget everything he knew about vampires. He took a step closer to the human, thinking he should just quickly get the memory wipe over with. But, how far back did the wipe need to be?
“Besides,” Liam said, his voice a little softer. “I also know about vampires for another reason.”
It was the first time Liam had used the word vampire. A chill ran down Mason’s spine. He had never told any human his true nature, and for an outsider to confirm him as such… it made him nervous. Mason realized Liam had paused in his explanation, so he pressed him to continue with a raised eyebrow.
“I guess telling you is not the same as outing someone, but I feel I might be betraying his trust.”
“Whose trust?” Mason pressed.
“This is off the record. And I’m only telling you this because I don’t want my mind messed with and be forced to forget him,” Liam stressed, taking a breath and letting it out slowly. “My younger brother is one of your kind.”
Mason’s eyes widened as he took in the information. Liam gave off no predatorial presence. In fact, Mason had seen the man eat human food a few times. “So you’re human,” Mason gathered, “and your mother took a vampire to her bed.”
Liam shot a glance over to Mason. “They had a relationship, which lasted for years. But not a very good one. Over time, I noticed my mother doing things out of character. I realized the vampire was controlling her.”
Letting out a sigh, Mason understood that many human/vampire relationships worked in such a way. The vampire forcing the human to do whatever he or she wanted. Not a great way to live, especially if children were involved.
He looked over at the human he had known for years. He would never have guessed he had known about vampires all this time. A vampire existed in his family. “Your mother’s no longer with him?”
A wry chuckle escaped Liam’s mouth. “No. Either he grew tired of a one–way relationship, found someone he liked better, or maybe,” he stressed the word, “
he loved her enough to let her go. He came around again when my brother got really sick.” Liam pointed to his mouth. “Once his fangs began to come in and human food became difficult to eat, his father came back and helped him through his transition.” Liam cleared his throat. “Not exactly the fatherly type, but he came back and helped when he was needed. I guess he deserves some credit for his effort, even if he left soon afterward.”
Mason could see the picture in his head. The brother was a half–breed, and certain complications existed during their transition. Overall, the boy was lucky to have survived the change. “Are you and your brother close?”
A smile crossed his lips, and Mason nearly felt the love the human had for his brother. “Very close. He actually plays on my rugby team. Needless to say, we have a winning season.”
Compelling a man to forget about vampires, when he’s exposed to them from different areas, wasn’t going to work. Liam knew a great deal about vampires, but it was his family history. He was entitled, and Mason decided not to compel the human to forget about their existence.
Mason walked back to the pile of rubble on the floor, kicking some of the debris out of his way. “This device being left by a vampire makes sense, although I’m not sure when.”
“I went through the house records. A lightening storm hit about six months ago. The weather affected the electricity in the house and a service team came to fix the damages. I think the perpetrator made his way into the house with the rest of the contractors.”
Mason thought back upon the president’s itinerary over the last several months, and nodded. “That storm was brewin’ during the president’s trip to France. I remember we got a report on the storm while overseas. But by the time we got back in the United States, this home was already patched up.”
“Unless one of your team members was here, the agents on duty who allowed the contractors in could have been compelled to not notice vampire workman.”
Mason thought about specific details of the trip. “I went with the president. Most of my team did. The weather took us off guard and only humans remained here at Camp David.” Letting out a sigh, Mason realized how short handed the team really was.
“So,” Liam said, “it is possible that a vampire made his way in. Unfortunately, the security cameras were offline. We don’t have a visual record of who entered the house.”
Picking up a piece of the bed, Mason thought about the president’s amorous nature among women. The man always had company when he vacationed here at Camp David, and surely this trip wasn’t going to be different. “What is the president’s schedule while on vacation this time around?”
Liam glanced down at the bed and Mason figured he picked up on what he was truly asking. “His current lady friend planned to join him tonight. A private car is scheduled to pick her up and drive her here.” He studied his watch. “She’s scheduled to be picked up this evening since the trip is only about an hour and a half by car. She was scheduled to be here about 8:00 pm. Of course, we’ve modified her travel plans because of what has happened.”
Mason had met the woman several times. She was human and wouldn’t be able to find two neurons in her head to rub together. His shoulders sank. There had to be someone else. “It’s not her. What else had the president planned to do?”
“Only meetings with a personal fitness trainer. The first workout is scheduled for this afternoon.”
Liam nodded yes.
Liam took a cleansing breath and seemed deep in thought. “The president’s entire fitness routine is all rather new. I don’t recognize the name of this trainer so he may be a new person. This is definitely the first time the president’s been at Camp David since he’s been on this health kick.”
“I’ll bet the trainer is a vampire coming to pay the president a special visit.” Mason bit his lip. “Although, if this trainer is a vampire who is coming to compel him, why the need for the hypnotic device we found in the bed?”
Mason looked up at Liam.
“It’s one thing to get past security and place an item inside the house while the president is not here. It’s totally different when you have more than double the staff and Secret Service running around.”
Having two plans made sense to Mason. The scary part was a vampire planned to meet with the president. Of course, the president will remain safe in a different location.
Mason snapped his fingers and his eyes lit up as he smiled over to Liam. In his best Bostonian accent, he said, “The president will keep the appointment.”
Two days had passed since Sulie’s kidnapping and Dixon felt more anxious with each passing day. He sat at the table in the conference room at Fang Manor with Raymond, Alex, Sterling and Ben. His fingers nervously thumped on the table until he noticed the group staring at him.
The room was usually reserved for Colony team meetings as well as when Raymond would need to conduct Vampire Council business. The door always remained locked for the privacy of Council business, but for the last two days, the room remained open to every member of the Colony.
Dixon shifted in his seat from side to side as Raymond began the meeting. “I’ve contacted the other Coven Masters of the Council. I have had no luck finding the midwife, so either she is a rogue, her family is not listed, or perhaps she has higher clearance than I do. All I know is that I can’t access her records. I’ve made calls to the European Council in case she isn’t an American, but have not heard back.”
Dixon picked up the remote on the table and powered on the large screen which took up most of the interior wall. “Ben and I did some research on cord blood, as well as the company listed on the flier Raymond found in Sulie’s hospital jacket.”
The information appeared on the screen. “We doubt the company is real. To start with, the name Blasus is a word in Welsh. Care to guess what the word means?” When no one appeared to be in the mood to guess, Dixon continued. “The name translates as ’delicious’.”
The team members shared glances with each other.
Dixon cleared his throat. “A pretty sick joke if you ask me.”
“There are a lot of families with a Welsh background so that won’t narrow the search down,” Raymond explained.
Dixon didn’t care how many vampires were Welsh. The ones he wanted were here in the states, and he had to find them. He focused on the information he had gathered. “Cord blood is also known as ’baby blood’, although cord blood is more specific. It is the blood cells found in the umbilical cord of a newborn baby.” He flipped through his report on the screen and showed images of how the blood is retrieved.
“Private companies store the blood commercially since it’s not a hospital procedure, although a hospital will collect it for you.” He flipped through more images of the refrigeration units and the cataloging of the blood. “The blood is used to personally care for the child if health issues arise, such as…” He pressed the remote and list appeared on the screen. “… Diabetes, leukemia… there are many diseases that cord blood may, or may not, be able to help.”
Changing the images once again on the screen, Dixon continued, “Several doctors around the world are currently conducting research regarding the effects of cord blood on different cancers.” He flipped through images of five doctors. “These five are the most advanced with their research. They all check out. I don’t think they are vampires and most weren’t even in the United States this month.”
Ben typed away on his computer and pulled up a lab report dealing with the study of cord blood, “Cord blood is the purest blood cells you’ll ever find. Once a human lives their life, free radicals and chemical changes happen to the blood. Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, preservatives, medications, over–the–counter drugs, illegal drugs… they all taint the blood, making it less pure. That’s why these doctors and scientists are so interested in it for research purposes.”
“Or why a vampire would be interested in it.” All eyes now studied Sterling as he spoke. “If cord blood is so potent and can be so beneficial to humans, imagine what feeding off it would do to a vampire.”
“The quality alone would be good motivation to create a fake cord blood company so you can have your own private stash.” Ben pressed the remote button and the company’s website appeared on the screen. “The company is only three years old. That’s not too alarming since cord blood collection is a new business industry. But this is where everything gets interesting.” He tapped the remote and displayed another image on the screen. “The address listed on this site does not exist. The phone number is just a recorded message with no human to pick up the phone.”
“The address is in Maryland,” Alex said.
“Yes. I had a friend of mine on the Maryland police force check out the address. I trust him. He said the place is a vacant lot. I also accessed a military satellite and looked at a recent picture of that location. Nothing is there.” Ben shook his head. “Blasus is not a real company. I couldn’t find out where the blood is being stored, and I doubt the humans who pay them to store their blood ever see it again.”
“What about vampire cord blood? Would there be a difference?” Raymond asked the question and Dixon realized that Sulie, their medical expert, was not in the room to answer the question. The room fell silent.
“Vampire blood should be the same as human blood at that point,” Sterling said. “Vampire children are human in every way until their Jahrling Year. The blood of pregnant vampires is more human than vampire so it would make sense. My guess is that it’s the same.”
Ben shook his head. “A vampire family wouldn’t store cord blood. The blood from the parents can do roughly the same thing medically to heal their child.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m guessing the vamp cord blood is more alluring and beneficial than human cord blood.”
“There is a difference.” Raymond’s face pinched as though deep in thought. “Purebred vampire children don’t get blood diseases. There is something in their blood that prevents it. Sulie told me about it all those years ago when Sterling was a child, but I don’t remember exactly what it is.” He thought for a second, but evidently couldn’t recall what it was. “I’m betting the taste is different.” Raymond pulled the conference room phone closer and dialed a private number into the White House. “William is the only team member with kids, he may have some insight.”
After a brief pause, he said into the phone, “William, do you have a minute?” He then put the phone on speaker.
“Are you up to speed on the records Ben has sent you regarding cord blood?” Raymond asked.
Yes, I’ve been able to keep up with the situation. The White House has been quiet with the president exercising in the indoor gym and swimming pool. Right now, Daniel is in the gym with him,”
came William’s voice from the phone.
“I understand.” Raymond kept talking, but faced the speaker phone so William could hear. “This cord blood sounds like a possible super charged food source for vampires,” Raymond said. “I need to know if any Colony members have fed from cord blood or from a baby.”
As a newly turned vampire who only fed on bagged blood, Alex’s eyes widened.
“The baby would be dead if anyone fed from it,” Ben said.
Raymond nodded. “That’s why the Vampire Council created strict rules about feeding from children and they are enforced to protect the innocent. Feeding from small children and killing them is the most wicked of offenses. As Coven Master of our group, I’m under oath to report any violations, but… I’m going to offer immunity to the group. I need to understand what the effects of this type of blood are if we are going to go against a group of vampires who are using it as their primary food source.” Raymond looked around the table and all the vampires nodded or at least acknowledged his statement.
“Has anyone here ever fed from cord blood?” Raymond asked.
Silence filled the room.
Raymond took a deep breath. “Has anyone ever fed from a baby?”
Again, no one answered.
Dixon noticed Raymond looked partially relieved by the answers. However, they needed information about the blood, and these answers gave them nothing to help save Sulie.
Slowly, Dixon rose his hand.
“Dixon, you’re human. Put your hand down,” Sterling said.
He ignored Sterling’s remark. “Raymond, Sulie has tasted baby blood several times,” he offered as he put his hand down.
The vampires all eyed Dixon. “What?” Raymond asked.
“At the hospital, with the babies she helps deliver. She told me sometimes she will taste their blood instead of allowing the technicians to do a heel prick on the baby to test their blood.” Dixon glanced across the table at all the eyes staring at him. “She said the small taste seemed a more humane and gentler way to test a baby’s blood than going through a lab. The babies weren’t hurt and she could have the results instantly. She did this mostly with the premature babies.”
“Well, the only one with information to share which will save Sulie’s life, is Sulie. Perfect.” Raymond ran his hand through his hair. “Did she say anything about the baby blood to you?”
Dixon offered in a low voice, “She said the blood tasted delicious.”
“We could assume so,” Sterling commented. As all eyes stared at him, he said, “What? The youngest I’ve ever tasted was eighteen. Blood today, even at that age, is usually polluted with impurities like caffeine, tobacco, and street drugs.” Sterling made eye contact with his father. “But pure blood, with none of that crap in it, would be delicious. I remember in the 1800s I fed off many young women in their early twenties who had lived clean lives. They didn’t smoke, drink caffeine, do drugs, or anything of the sort. They ate organic and farm raised food. The blood from back then tasted better in so many ways. The blood was more energizing and I needed less…” Sterling paused, “… to get the full benefits from the feeding.”
Raymond continued his line of questioning. “Has anyone fed from a child? If so, please raise your hand and estimate the child’s age.”
All eyes wandered the table, as well as to the speakerphone.
“Our children have had cuts and scrapes,”
William offered over the phone.
“Sometimes Jackie and I lick the wounds to heal them. But other than a slight taste, I can safely say we have never fed off a child. I seriously doubt any of our team members have. I’d ask Daniel, but he’s in with the President right now. I doubt he has ever fed or tasted blood from a donor so young.”
All others in the room fell silent until Ben raised his hand. “A boy. Ten years old. I fed off him.”
Ben was one of the few members of the group who joined them already as a turned vampire. Most of the others, Daniel, Mason, Alex, William, Jackie, had been turned by other Colony members, and several of them fed only from bagged blood. If Dixon had to guess which one of them had fed from a child, he would have guessed Ben.
“You have full impunity.” Raymond looked stoic as he eyed one of his best friends. “You do not have to give us any of the details, only the information about the blood.”
“The feeding happened in the 1850s. I was taking the young boy and his pregnant mama up north to the anti–slave states through the Underground Railroad. They understood my true nature and accepted my help. Along the journey, I became injured and nearly died. I was aging quickly and needed more blood. The boy understood for them to have the best chance of survival, they would require my protection, so he offered me his arm.” Ben looked across the table and then directly into Raymond’s eyes. “I didn’t force the child. I wouldn’t do that.”
“We believe you.” Raymond nodded. “Please continue.”
“I was careful not to take too much, but then as I drank I realized I didn’t need much of his blood to rejuvenate my body. I had hoped to take just enough to be back to an age of sixty so I could continue our journey, but his blood was amazing. I drank less than I had planned to take and I returned to being in my mid–thirties.”
“So if a mother today is healthy, my guess is that the cord blood from the baby is better than from the vein of that ten–year–old boy.” Raymond made eye contact with Ben. “Thanks.”
“The boy and his mother did make their way up north and became free,” Ben added. “I wiped their memory of what I was, and I trust they made a better life for themselves.”
Alex had sat quietly throughout the discussion. “Damn heroic, if you ask me.”
Other members mumbled their agreements until Raymond raised his hand. “OK, we’ve covered the blood information. We’ve searched through the hospital she was last in. We searched through her computer and her room here at the mansion. He now looked at his wife Alex, “Anything from her credit cards?”
Alex went to the computer and put in a memory card. With the remote, she pulled up the records. “Sulie has two cards. One is only for gas.” She pulled up the first record and then split the screen to show a map with flags marking the gas stations she shopped at. “Nothing out of the ordinary. All gas purchases were within the vicinity of Fang Manor or where she worked. The GPS on her car showed only expected paths that she would normally take. No day trips and no side trips anywhere. Nothing to suggest she knew this midwife.” She pulled up the next record. “This is her debit card for shopping. The blue highlights are grocery shopping for the people who eat food at Fang Manor. The yellow highlights are antique stores. Green highlights show restaurants.” As she glanced over at Dixon, she added, “Probably places she sat with friends as they ate.”
As Alex continued pointing out information on the record Dixon mentally confirmed the places where he knew he had taken Sulie. He thought there might be a few restaurants on the list that she may have eaten at with some other friends but discovered all the places were with him for the coffee or wine she would drink. She always insisted on paying for her own drinks. He noted the huge bar tab from yesterday had already been posted.