It all comes full circle.
After agreeing to help Mr. Hayes and his daughter, and being thanked with hugs and tears, the rest of the morning moved along smoothly. I talked to a few more prospective clients, boldly turned down the offer of an obscene amount of cash to capture the soul of a beloved Pekingese and shove it back in the body, and managed to beg off lunch with Ben long enough for me to prop my feet up and catch a half an hour lap in the privacy of my locked office. Therefore, two-thirty found me in the coffee shop located on the ground floor of the office building where Megabyte worked, sipping a mocha java.
"From the sound of things, this isn't a social call, is it?" Megabyte asked after we made the prerequisite small talk. "You know I'm really missing the good old days when we could just sit around and shoot the breeze, Ami."
"You so cannot play the guilt card on me today, Megabyte. Marty already beat you to it, and I'm only good for suckering that way once a day."
"Well, what am I supposed to say? You never call, you never write."
I giggled despite myself and the levity of the conversation I was about to launch into. "Don't you ever grow up?"
"Grow up, yes. Stop making my friends laugh? No. Never." Megabyte had an Americano that he took several long swallows of. He leaned back and tilted his head thoughtfully, "So, lay it on me. What's so desperately dangerous and/or horribly obscene that it warranted taking time out in the middle of the day to talk about it? It's not Ben, is it? Trouble in paradise?"
Megabyte accepted Ben, grudgingly. It wasn't that he didn't like lycanthropes; he admitted that they couldn't possibly be the monsters that The Purists and The League of Human Advocates made them out to be. Lycanthrope was a disease, or in some very rare cases, a curse. It wasn't supposed to cost you your job or reputation, although it often times did, hence the reason that weres were so very careful to not be brought out. Lycanthrope was nowhere near as horrible as being a vampire, one of the blood sucking undead.
No, Megabyte's problem with Ben stemmed from Ben. Megabyte felt the need to play the protective big brother, and he was convinced that there was no way that Ben wouldn't end up hurting me. Even though I was a part of the underworld, I wasn't a part of it in the way that Ben was and eventually that would come back to hurt us.
He was allowed his opinion. Megabyte had once dated a lycanthrope, a were-leopard by the name of Celia. She left him for a pack mate because as she told him, "We'll never really be part of the same world."
"No, everything is fine with Ben. Thank you for asking." I flexed my hands around the coffee cup, enjoying the warmth emanating from there. I stared at the ripples moving across the surface of the cup as I slowly rotated it in my hands, mostly to avoid looking at Megabyte. "This is about . . . Adam."
I felt him stiffen and I already knew what the answer to my query would be.
"What about Adam?" Megabyte was guarded, a wall going up around him and cutting him off completely. He was always guarded when it came to Adam. Five years later, and we still had only the sketchiest details of what happened when he, Adam and Jade went to Mr. McCready's house. Megabyte was tight-lipped about things, and even Kevin and Lisa had never managed to get more than the faintest of details from him.
"Have you been having dreams about him? About what happened the day he disappeared?"
I looked up, just in time to see Megabyte avert his eyes, staring out across the coffee shop. Setting down my coffee cup, I reached out and took his wrists, giving a tender squeeze. /Don't shut me out, Megabyte. You're not the only one having these dreams. Kevin and I have been having them too./
/I kind of figured that when you asked./ He turned back to look at me and loosened his grip on his cup. Megabyte maneuvered his hands so that they held mine. "What's going on?"
I shook my head, hating to admit it, but knowing there was no other way. "We don't know yet. We haven't really had time to figure it out. I've been dreaming for two weeks, Kevin only for about a week. How long have you --"
"Four very long sleepless nights."
"Maybe it means we're finally going to find out what happened to him. Maybe he's going to come back to us."
"No." Megabyte snapped the word off bitterly, then closed his eyes and shook his head. I waited, buffeting against the sadness and frustration coming off of him, countering with as much calm as I could. It took a few moments, but when he opened his eyes and looked at me, his blue eyes were clouded with sadness, but no anger or bitterness. /You know he's not coming back to us, Ami./
It wasn't something we talked about. It was actually something that we made a point of not talking about. We said that Adam disappeared, but it was a euphemism. We each knew, somehow, someway with some innate knowledge that couldn't be put into words but lurked deep down inside of us that Adam was dead. It hurt to even think it, but it was the truth.
"I don't know what it means, Megabyte. I wish I did," I apologized. I could ask Aunt Rose, but I was hoping that I wouldn't have to. I had been hoping that the others weren't having the dream, but it seemed that hope had been shot to hell.
/It's not your fault,/ Megabyte told me, and I knew that it was both in response to what I was saying and the guilt that still gnawed at me five years later.
I nodded. I didn't dare try to answer because I didn't believe it one little bit.
"Have Jade and Lisa --" Megabyte stopped, letting the question hang.
"You're the first person I've spoken to. We were going to talk to them as well today."
"Then we'll all talk later, I guess."
"Yes, we'll do that."
We hugged good-bye, both of us needing the physical support and comfort that those hugs offered and with an unspoken agreement to meet up with everyone later on, I returned to Cleveland and the offices of Last Rites.
Evelyn greeted me with more words that I was loathe to hear, "You have an eight o' clock."
I stopped halfway between her desk and my office. "My schedule is clear."
"Your schedule was clear. Marty scheduled an eight o' clock for the two of you. Big rush client, didn't want to wait until tomorrow. I was just about to page you."
I called Marty a few not so nice names that would never bear repeating in public company, and stomped off to my office like a disappointed child. Truth was, I was disappointed. Something odd was going on in the world beyond Last Rites, something having to do with The Tomorrow People and it looked like Marty had just arranged for me to miss most of the evening powwow with my friends.
In the solitude of my office, I touched base quickly with Kevin and Megabyte, explained that Marty was shanghaiing me once again and promised that I would be at the Ship as soon as it was feasible. I called Ben, told him to have dinner without me because I knew if I went home I'd be massively tempted to call back into the office and play dead. I actually spent a full twenty minutes debating doing so anyway.
As always, in the end my work ethic finally won out. I ordered Chinese from a local restaurant that delivered and got started on going over my notes for the Hayes case. I wouldn't have a full assessment of the situation until I paid a visit to their home and felt Stella's energy, but preliminary impressions were always important. Following standard operation procedures, I had full interviews and information about the Hayes family, including their two cats, three angelfish, and Mr. Hayes' fiancÃ©, Rebecca.
Rebecca was at least half his age, and when I pulled out her picture, I didn't really blame Mrs. Hayes for being a bit put out about it. Flaxen blonde hair, big blue eyes and a sweater that barely held in her oversize bosom all screamed 'gold digger' to me. I made a note to interview Rebecca, just in case. Sometimes, the dead knew more than the living and they got desperate to make their loved ones see it. Hating Rebecca didn't seem like justification for the slashed car tires, or locking Danae in her bedroom while knives and forks flung themselves at Mr. Hayes, but I didn't like to leave any stone unturned.
It was nearly eight o' clock by the time I finished with the Hayes file and two others. Happy that I had at least accomplished something, I headed to Marty's office. Evelyn was long gone and in her place was Sandra, our night secretary. Sandra's red head leaned over one of her college textbooks, glasses sliding down her nose only to be pushed up by a fingertip. She took a drink from the Coke can beside her, bit into her candy bar, and never stopped reading.
Sandra was majoring in Occultism. She had no magical talent, and none ran in her family. She had no lycanthropes in her family that she knew of, and the only vampires she saw were the ones that frequent some of the popular vampire nightspots. If I'd had Sandra's luck, you never would have caught me majoring in Occultism, but to each his own.
"Marty's waiting for you," Sandra managed around another bite of candy.
"Thank you," I nodded and kept on my way.
Marty's door was partially open, so I nudged it a bit more and did my usual. The moment I let my senses flood the room though, I immediately had to resist the urge to back up and slam the door behind me. There were four people in Marty's office, but only one of them was alive.
Marty sat behind her desk, talking to the man -- no, not man, vampire -- seated across from her. She must have known it was a vampire because her gaze seemed to be focused somewhere in the vicinity of his left shoulder. On one side of the room stood the second vampire. He was tall and blonde and very Scandinavian looking with a thick neck and large shoulders. Ice blue eyes turned to me, grabbing and holding my gaze. His brow furrowed as he realized that holding my gaze had no effect on me. Yet another plus for being a necromancer and a Tomorrow Person; many necromancers and Tomorrow People had a bit of resistance to being held in thrall by a vampire's gaze. Many others didn't. The only way to find out was to put it to the test, and that was usually only done by accident. I didn't even know how strong my ability was, or how old a vampire would be before it wouldn't work for me. That was one test that I wasn't keen to try.
The "Ahnold" want-to-be on the far wall had to be under one hundred, probably younger than fifty because I barely felt his attempt to slide into my mind. It was pinprick, nothing more.
I sized up the other vampire quickly, wanting to have my full concentration on the one sitting at Marty's desk when the time came. Ahnold screamed bodyguard, and once I saw the other one, I knew that was what he was as well. Shorter than Ahnold, with dark chocolate skin and piercing green eyes that were extremely out of place in that dark face, he was older than Ahnold. I felt his shove in my mind, but it was like swatting away a fly.
"Ami, come in," Marty stood and gestured me into the office. "I'd like you to meet Adam."
The vampire at the desk turned and I froze, rooted to the spot where I stood. I sucked in a breath and stifled the urge to cry out by throwing my hand to my mouth.
I knew what the dream memories meant now, because seated at Marty's desk was Adam Newman.
End of Part Five