Jack and Jo-jo finished off the last of the cheese straws while listening to the commotion in the living room.
Jo-jo put some salsa and chips on a plate, “Is he a vampire?”
Jack piled spinach dip and potato chips on his plate, “Yep, feels like.”
“They are all excited.” Jo-jo commented between munches.
“Yep, from what I can hear, he’s part of the Mistress’ cadre.”
“Yep.” Jack stopped to chew. “You’ve met, then?”
Jo-jo shook his head, “No, Dad said he was working on something and not to bother him.” Jo-jo chuckled, “He also said I shouldn’t ‘not bother’ him like I used to ‘not bother’…”
Jo-jo nodded, shoving a chip in his mouth.
Jack smiled, “Good. All the kids in his family are way too old and the kids in my family are almost too old – it’s good to know there was a good kid still bugging him. He liked that, you know.”
Jo-jo nodded with a grin, “Yeah, I know. Did he really help you guys win a soap box kirby?”
“Derby. Yep – he and my dad had made their own cars as kids. When they found out there were plans for one, they got us kids involved. My sister Donna even got into it. His son John won and I came in third.”
“Cool. He showed me pictures once.”
“There’s probably one around somewhere. Poppa would love to help, if you want to do that and your parents say it’s okay. I might even know where some boards are.”
“Yeah, I’ll ask my Dad…” Jo-jo listened to the racket for a moment. “Next week, maybe – they really are excited.”
“What’s he doing here?”
Jack shrugged, “Darned if I know. He’ll tell us when they settle down, I expect.”
“Isn’t it kinda weird, slayers wanting to talk to a vampire?”
“No weirder than having a werewolf living in the attic, I suppose.”
Jo-jo cocked his head in concession, “But this excited?”
Jack nodded in concession, “Yeah, does seem a bit much.” He finished the last of his chips. “I suppose you’ll think I’m weird now, but I guess I’d best go rescue him from them – especially if I wanna sleep here tonight.”
Jo-jo laughed as Jack got up, making sure to tousle the boy’s hair on his way out of the kitchen.
Calming the crowd and settling everyone down was easier now that they’d all had a chance to fawn over the newcomer. Only Mr. Henderson and Crystal had ever met the Mistress in person. Meeting members of the cadre was a special treat. Jack could understand that but Jo-jo was right – slayers fawning over a vampire did seem a bit odd even in this nest of weirdness.
As folks made their way back to their seats and a chair was obtained for the guest, Jack had a second thought – how had Mr. Henderson known Tresmayne was working? Was that why there hadn’t been a similar response to him? If so, had everyone known?
“I apologize, I dinae mean to interrupt.” Mertyn told Jack as they were seated.
“No, that’s fine. We weren’t expecting you, is all.”
Mertyn glanced at Tresmayne in the back of the room, “Ye weren’t?”
“No.” Tresmayne replied, “She called two days ago and said for me to expect you. Where have you been?”
Vampires, at least those of Mertyn’s type, can blush, Jack learned. “It’s a sanctuary! I cannae sense it and she dinae give me the address. I had to call Collinsworth to find the place.” he admitted.
“Two days?” Tresmayne responded.
“He’s in Baton Rouge with that young pup trying to stop that stupid witch. Ye’d think there were no slayers down there at all.”
“I thought there was a new slayer?”
“Nay, he’s not new – he’s in Seattle for a conference. And while we’re on it, it’s high time you got one of those cell phones. Just because she doesn’t need it doesn’t mean we don’t.”
Tresmayne scowled at his cohort, “We’ll see.”
Jack smiled. It was nice to know that he wasn’t the only one with this kind of insanity.
Tresmayne leaned back in his chair, still scowling, “What are you here for, then?”
Mertyn shrugged, “Have nae idea. She just thought I should come.”
“Which means there’s a purpose.”
“Of course, and since ye wouldnae have asked if ye knew what it was, we are right back where we started.” Mertyn responded.
Seeing as that was going nowhere, Jack decided he might as well finish this meeting, “Um, okay. I have a question. Er… I don’t quite know how to phrase this without it sounding maybe a bit rude, but why, why didn’t everyone um…”
“Act like a bunch of school kids when Tresmayne showed up?” Mr. Henderson finished the thought with a laugh, “That was Collinsworth. He called and asked if I could spread the word before Tresmayne got here.”
Jack made a mental note to explain to Mr. Collinsworth that things like living in a sanctuary with twenty odd slayers in various stages of retirement are things that need to be mentioned to the new, inexperienced slayers like himself. Especially when nothing is remotely normal – for slayer values of normal, of course. He vaguely wondered why Collinsworth hadn’t mentioned it but tabled that mental discussion for another time.
Tresmayne and Mertyn, with some assistance from the crowd, had gone back to speculating on the Mistress’ purpose for dispatching a second member of her personal cadre. Jack lost his train of thought in all the distraction.
Jack studied Mertyn intently as the vampire debated the Mistress’ sanity and generally annoying way of doing things with the werewolf. Jack might be inexperienced, but two heavy hitters do NOT get put back to back in the line up, let alone in the first inning. The most powerful thing he’d seen this entire time, bar none, was Tresmayne. Crystal had said so herself – the two of them together probably couldn’t defeat him. Nothing Vinnie and his pet vampire Mycroft had thrown at them was remotely in Tresmayne’s class. Even that vampire that had wounded Crystal hadn’t shown himself since – because it was outgunned. Way outgunned.
Yet the nonsense had continued. Thompkins, vampires and werewolves, the killing of the Myers cats – although it had slowed down to a trickle of late, it was still occurring. Nothing powerful enough to challenge Tresmayne, stupid hit and run crap that kept he and Crystal busy done when Tresmayne’s back was turned – but nothing that would bring an out and out confrontation with Tresmayne.
Probably they didn’t have anything in that league. Collinsworth and Tresmayne were still of the opinion that the Master of the Hunt was not involved. Maybe not directly – and maybe not here. But maybe elsewhere?
Why kill Mr. J? To draw Jack out specifically? No, it had dropped its concealment after the killing. If it wanted to draw out anyone, it shouldn’t have bothered with the killing at all. Why not merely drop its concealment while on the roof next door? Every slayer who was home and still had power had felt the thing once that happened. Getting the attention of a building full of slayers just isn’t that hard for a vampire – yet it had concealed itself and actually come in.
For that matter, that concealment wasn’t normal, was it? The vampire had to drop the concealment before anyone detected it – Myers, the most active of the retiring slayers had not felt it beforehand but he certainly should have felt a vampire intruding on a sanctuary.
Jack hadn’t emerged yet but several others besides Myers should have been able to detect the vampire before it got in the building as well. No, that concealment was deliberately rigged to let the vampire make the kill. Maybe that explained the strange way it had opened its coat when it dropped the concealment – could the coat be a tool of some sort? Something to increase the power of the concealment so the slayers wouldn’t detect the vampire until it wanted them to? No one else had ever done anything physical while placing or dropping a concealment that Jack had seen. Only that vampire, only that once – and coincidence was not at all likely – not when the vampire needed the slayers to notice it at a specific time.
And that was why, wasn’t it? All the hit and run crap thereafter wouldn’t have been worth talking about – without a killing, no one would have thought much about it. Most folks hadn’t mentioned what they were noticing to one another until Tresmayne showed up. It wasn’t that noteworthy, even after the killing. Experienced slayers were used to creatures – it took something really out of the ordinary to get them upset. Heck, even Crystal had taken the whole thing pretty much in stride until convinced something different was going on.
Vinnie needed to kill someone to get things stirred up. Mr. J, the only atheist in the building, was the obvious target. That also explained the whole affair with Thompkins – he was the backup plan in case they couldn’t get to Mr. J. It didn’t matter who they killed as long as it got everyone upset and they stayed upset. Lisa would have worked just as well. But once Mr. J was dead, Vinnie had tossed Thompkins into the mix anyway – just to throw a curve ball.
Vinnie’d gotten lucky enough that two relatively inexperienced slayers ended up doing the work. All he had to do was keep throwing curve balls that made no sense to keep things all stirred up. That was why nothing had made sense – it was a feint, a gambit to make the other guy think you’re up to something when in fact you are just looking for him to make a mistake.
It had nothing to do with Jack emerging or being a Commander type. It had nothing to do with the building being a sanctuary for retiring slayers. It had nothing to do with ANYTHING here.
It was all about distraction.
Was he right? Jack felt sure but there was an easy way to test – right now.
He stood up, “Hey, everyone!”