There were statements to be given and I again found myself being less than truthful with the police. Not that it mattered, Chambers was their star witness – as far as they knew, I’d merely introduced him to Thompkins. No mention of vampires, doppelgangers, werewolves, werecats, slayers or talking swords – which didn’t bother me so much.
What did stick in my craw was that there was also no mention of the murder of Mr. Jenkins. There was no way to tie Vinnie to that without mentioning his pet vampire – a creature that was now mercifully turned to dust. That case would remain forever unsolved. Vinnie would never have to account for it. That did not sit well with me.
We’d sorted things out and gotten everyone home safely hours earlier. In a few more, I’d be getting ready for work. Sanity kept knocking at my brain, asking if I didn’t want a little sleep before then. But I sat by the window, looking out at the street instead.
Plans are just starting points. That mine get upset stopped bothering me when I was six – I’ve too many siblings, extended family members and friends to ever expect that plans will run the course that is set for them. Calling Officer Compton, that had been my idea. Virtually nothing else that happened had anything to do with my planning, once Vinnie came out.
I can’t remember the last time, before this, that everyone was in the street like that. I saw people I knew only in passing as well as people I’ve known my whole life. I see Mrs Elmore once or twice a month when it’s my turn to take her whatever dish Momma had prepared or once in a great while when helping get her to the van for her doctor’s appointments. I was debating how angry I should be at my brothers who almost certainly had gotten her down the steps.
Slayers aren’t safe – we instinctively use weapons perfectly, are ridiculously strong and can move faster than any normal human ever could. People could have been killed. Why the ____ were they all out there?
And Mrs. Elmore – where did she – how did she – I mean, sure, she has asked me about my faith dozens of times but what she did that night – it was like she knew Vinnie. Knew his soul. Knew just what to say.
They had known a lot from the online stuff – that was most of what had people riled – but how they knew it related to our neighborhood, I didn’t know, sitting there with the lights out as morning broke over the East Side.
I poured myself another OJ. I wanted something stronger to go with my mood but that was a bad idea and I knew it. So I sipped my OJ as I went back to my mullings.
Slayers exist to protect normal people from creatures run amok but instead normal people had protected slayers from a slayer run amok. I wasn’t sure how to parse that. People had been in danger because of my stupid plan. I knew how to parse that – and I was still angry with myself about it.
But what I kept coming back to was Mr. J. This time two years ago, Daddy, he and I were putting a new bathroom into what became the Myers apartment. Last year, he gave me coveralls for Christmas. He’d dropped by to borrow a wrench a week before he died. I still had the feeling he would be hollering out the window at the kids or helping Daddy with one of the cars or laughing at me trying to keep my siblings from whatever new disaster they’d concocted – any minute now, I should hear his voice booming down the hall. The world still didn’t seem right without him.
His bayonet lay on my end table. I wondered idly if it knew, if it was happy now. The actual killer, the vampire, was dead but that crazed thing hadn’t been the murderer. it would have gone in and stood on its head instead, had that been Vinnie’s instruction. It didn’t care – it just wanted to please its master. Vinnie had caused Mr. J’s death.
How had I not known he was an atheist? In this crazy mix of Protestants and Catholics, how had he gone unnoticed? I knew he knew Mrs. Elmore – he’d helped Daddy dozens of times when her building’s super couldn’t build or repair something. Mr. Vole being older than Mrs. Elmore, that was most of the time. They’d built her ramps in the apartment, installed all manner of handicap equipment – I can’t believe she didn’t.
She did, of course. She is one of those people – give her five minutes and she will witness to you. For whatever reason, Mr. J didn’t listen.
That wasn’t the real problem, I began to realize as the sun peaked over the rooftops. Why didn’t she nothing. Why didn’t I? I saw that old man every day – and I never even asked him. He went to church – I assumed everything was okay. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t ant that cost Mr. J his life. In a building full of slayers, he wasn’t safe because his soul wasn’t safe.
I now have a head full of insane vampire trivia. Traditional vampires have to be invited in to any home. All vampires can be ordered out but only of Christian homes. Vampires can kill Christians but they can’t mesmerize them. Jews have very similar protections the symbols being the only real difference but no other faiths are protected. Vampires prefer atheists – they are simply the easiest prey.
What went through his mind as the life was being drained from him? When he knew he couldn’t fight and couldn’t get help, when he knew he was dying, what did he think about? Was it just fear? I kinda doubted that – it wasn’t like him. Did he cry out to God? Did he finally realize he needed God? It wasn’t in time to save his life but was it in time to save his soul? Dear God, I hope so.
He didn’t get justice – and won’t get it. But maybe, just maybe he got mercy instead. Maybe all those pies he ate with Mrs. Elmore, all the talks with Momma, all the Sundays in church – maybe all that paid off in his final minutes. I remember a sermon where the pastor said we don’t want justice, we want mercy – meaning we don’t want justice when we’re the ones in the wrong.
For all my planning, we’d been saved by the people around us – the normal folks. People who didn’t get up late at night to chase a vampire over the rooftops – people that just lived their lives like anyone else. The real heroes didn’t have fancy powers or an encyclopedia of the undead (yes, I have a copy) – the real heroes were people like Mrs. Elmore who could care about a jerk like Vinniie and all the others who stood in the way.
I got up automatically to get ready when the alarm went off. Pulling off my shirt, it dawned on me that maybe he did get the justice he’d have wanted, Mr. J, I mean. As I showered, I remembered being nine. John and I saw Petey, Mr. J’s ancient hound in the street, hit by a car. The guy stopped and got out but Petey was already dead. I remembered being so angry but then Mr. J got there. the man apologized and Mr. J shook his hand. He told us later that it was enough that the man apologized – he couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurting. He didn’t want revenge – Petey wouldn’t have wanted that, either.
Stopping Vinnie from hurting anyone else, that would have been enough for Mr. J – all he would have wanted. As I dressed, I thought about what I hadn’t done – hadn’t said. I couldn’t undo the past but I could make a better effort in the future. Maybe that was even more my duty now – slaying is a last resort. Might not happen, of course, but a world full of saved souls wouldn’t need slayers at all. And there wouldn’t be any more Mr. J’s, dying alone in pain and terror – and leaving behind friends to wonder about whether or not they’ll be seeing them again.
That last part is between Mr, J and God. As I grabbed my lunch from the fridge and a bagel to munch on the way, I had the strangest feeling that things were okay with Mr. J now. Whatever those last minutes were like, God hadn’t given up on the old man. It was not my business whatever they had decided that night, but I started to whistle as I locked the door behind me. I had real hope that everything was okay. Now, I had to get real moving because I didn’t want to be late for work.