Jet is a delinquent from a wealthy Manhattan family. His favorite teacher at his exclusive school dies and is replaced by a mysterious German man. He tries to find out more about Heinrich while gri...
“Mr. Whiskey, please stay after class,” Albert called out as the Freshmen scrambled to their next morning class. Ivan looked weary as he walked over to the foreign language instructor’s desk.
Once the other students had left, Albert turned to him and asked in Russian, “You’ve been very circumspect about your last conversation with Jet. May I ask why you didn’t tell the police everything you know? I know that you looked my phone number up on the school’s computer right before his murder.”
“Yes. He asked me for it, but I know you had nothing to do with harming him.” Ivan’s mis-matched eyes darted back and forth as he replied in his native language. “I figured his parents must have been dead by the desperation in his voice, therefore, he wanted to call you for help. He was a good judge of character. He wouldn’t have asked for you unless he had a really good reason to trust you. He wasn’t the type to rely on just anyone.”
“So he trusted you?”
“Yes. I never told anyone when he asked for your address either.”
“That explains how he wound up at my apartment. I just want to know why you have kept the secret. Don’t you think the police could ask me some questions about when Jet called me?”
“No. The police found no trace of anyone on the video surveillance or in their evidence.”
“You’re right. I didn’t think it was appropriate for a teacher to go over there. I told him to call the police.”
“You don’t need to overextend your lie on my behalf. I said the police found no trace of you. That doesn’t mean I believe you weren’t over there. I believe you got there too late to help him. The man they think killed his parents mysteriously disappeared. I’m not so sure you don’t know about that,” Ivan said in Russian before turning to leave the room.
“Thank you,” Albert said before students started trickling in.
“I figured you made sure Jet got some justice. That’s what mattered to me,” Ivan affirmed and then left, letting the waiting students filter in.
Albert went to the cinder block room right after school and saw no change in the soil. His frustration ran high. The eighth day had passed. Albert still believed Jet’s tenacity was going to bring him through this.
Albert paused as he emptied the used Berlin soil out of his shoes into his steamer trunk; it was worry, not frustration, that he was experiencing. The wave of guilt over this situation was stifled by movement caught in the corner of Albert’s eye.
He turned back towards the mound of dirt; a wave of relief filled him as the dirt began to slide and cave in tiny pockets. He walked over and could see long, dirt encrusted fingers peaking from the soil.
“Come on, come on, Jet. You can make it,” Albert whispered, touching the fingers. They were icy cold. Albert quickly took off his long trench coat as Jet started to pull himself out of the soil. Jet tumbled to the concrete floor, naked and shaky. Albert flung his trench coat over Jet and hoisted him in his arms. “I knew it.”
Jet’s eye stayed shut as Albert balanced the lanky teenager. “You’re not heavy, but you sure are tall; that makes you awkward. Let get you cleaned up and then we can talk.”
“So... fucking... cold. My stomach... hurts like hell.”
“I know. I remember it. You have to listen to me and you’ll feel better soon enough.”
“Where are you taking me?” Jet’s eyes opened. Albert couldn't miss Jet's worry and confusion.
“Just to see the Count.” Jet leaned against Albert’s shoulder and relaxed as he carried him towards a large service elevator.
“You are a remarkable young man,” Count Saint-Germain said, looking under Jet’s eyes again. “You rose with only the minimal exposure.”
“I feel so lousy. Will it go away?” Jet asked. The Count stood up and patted Jet’s shoulder.
“Let me talk with Albert for a minute.”
Albert had watched the whole examination from his bedroom door. Jet laid on Albert’s bed trembling, pale, and wrapped in a blanket. Albert walked into the hallway with the Count who gave him a rueful shake of the head as soon as they shut the door.
“You need to get him some nourishment. Not the kind you take, but some human blood. He’s very close to falling into a torpor. If that happens at this stage, he could permanently die.”
“I know. I need to be responsible for him.”
“If you would like me to help him find someone...”
“No. I’ll do it, but could you do me a favor. I’m going to take him to that hotel five blocks over that caters to our kind. Could you send some appropriate clothing and my grooming items over for Jet?”
“I’ll send Roger over in two hours. Use the name ‘Heinrich’ and call me if he doesn’t start feeling better after feeding.”
The Count took his leave and Albert went back into his bedroom. Jet was now balled up, his eyes glazed over.
“You need to come with me.” Albert rummaged around his own closet in annoyance. He had almost nothing Jet could wear. Finally, he found old sweat clothes and tossed them on the bed.
Jet sat up and started pulling them over his dirty skin. “It’s important we get you something to eat right now and I can’t take you off of Manhattan until you get stronger. It's your bad luck you were born on an island.”
Albert helped guide Jet towards the door with a smirk. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Albert had sworn off of human blood, and for the most part, he had remained faithful to his vow. He found himself sorely tempted as he watched Jet. Albert felt one of the safer ways to for Jet to feed was to locate an escort and pay her.
It wasn’t long before Albert found the hotel safe for their kind and called a service. The woman seemed leery at Albert’s odd request to watch her and Jet, but she came around when he handed her his last month’s salary. Albert had to make sure Jet didn’t try to take too much and remained in control. The first few times had almost carried Albert away into a beast-like state, but Venus had been there to help him through it.
Jet rolled away from the dozing woman and sat up on the bed. He looked down at her with a troubled expression. “Will she be okay?”
“Yes. In reality you drank no more than a small glass of wine. She’ll actually feel as though she had a very pleasurable time. She won’t remember anything clearly.”
Jet glared at Albert and said flatly, “I know. That’s what bothers me. I mean, Van Bogart did that to me. Didn’t I just do the same to her? Violate her?”
The phone rang, to Albert's relief. It was Roger with Jet’s clothes. He hung up the receiver to see Jet now rested beside the woman. Albert quickly woke the groggy woman, helped her dress, and hustled her downstairs. He left her in Roger’s care and took the small suitcase from the ghoul.
He went back to the room to find Jet balled up in a sheet. Albert gently shook him. Jet peered up with mild irritation.
“Time to get you cleaned up.”
Jet, wrapped in the sheet, followed Albert to the door of the large, white tiled bathroom. Albert stopped Jet and gave him a direct look.
“When you go in it’ll be a shock to not see your refection. You’ll get used to it after a few months.” Albert saw a hard resolve on Jet’s face. He stood aside and watched Jet as he slowly stepped in and looked at the mirror. Shock turned into a sly smile. Albert stepped behind him, used to the sight. Nothing appeared but the bathroom, neither Jet or Albert appeared.
“Wow. So... this is real. I’m... It’s just now sinking in. This isn’t some dream. I just drank... from her and... now I can’t see myself. This... is just... way too freaky.”
“I know.” Albert hoisted himself on the sink, rested his boots on the commode, and lit a cigarette. Jet reached for the knob for the shower. “No, take a bath.”
“I hate baths.”
“Suit yourself.” Albert repressed a wicked smirk when Jet put his hand under the running shower.
Jet flinched back and shook his hand wildly. “Son of a bitch! That hurt like a mother! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You wouldn’t have believed me otherwise. Maybe that’ll make the impression to not touch running water. You’ll learn to take baths and fill water basins if you want to wash your hands. Also, when you cross over running water by bridge you’ll be very queasy. That’s what I meant by telling you it was your bad luck to be born on an island.”
“Aw crap... so how do I get anywhere? And wait a minute! How did you walk around daylight all this time?” Jet readjusted the water to fill the bathtub.
“You’ll be tied to New York for the rest of your existence. To move away from New York or around in the daylight, you’ll need to keep soil from Manhattan in the bottom of your shoes. I’ll give you the details later.”
Albert flicked the cigarette in the sink and turned to prepare the straight razor and foam. He heard Jet sink into water and draw the plastic curtain closed. There was nothing but the sounds of splashing water and a razor being dragged over a sharpening stone.
Albert reached for a towel and held it towards the bathtub while keeping his eyes on the straight razor. “There are a lot of things I’ll tell you over the next few days. One thing I know is that we seem to get stuck in the times we come from. It’s something you’ll have to worry about later on.” Albert felt the towel leave his grip.
He glanced over to see Jet was sitting on the edge of the tub with the towel now around his waist. “You can make a ghoul to do things for you or you can learn to do them yourself. I can shave myself without looking, but it takes practice. Your hair and nails are going to grow very slowly except when you initially die. You have a little stubble on your chin. I’ll take care of that tonight and you won’t have to worry about it for the next five years.”
Albert paused and walked around to look at Jet’s bare back. The deep scars left behind formed a pattern in the shape of feathery wings, a large ‘L’ in the middle. Albert came around and sat on the edge of the tub in front of Jet.
“What is it?”
“Your injuries were left.”
Jet’s hand flew to his stomach where there was a thick star-like pattern made of scar tissue in the middle of his stomach. “On my back too? Great. Well... I guess since I don’t see it, it won’t matter.”
Albert reached for a mug with foam in it and paused when Jet’s expression grew baffled. “What is it?”
“Why did you go ahead and save me? After all, you didn’t have to try. You’d be better off if I were dead.”
Albert glanced down at his ruined hands. “I wanted to stop Van Bogart from harming anyone else.” Albert could see Jet’s expression inexplicably sour; that caused a discomfort in Albert. He quickly channeled it into anger and gave Jet a vexed look. “You asked me to save you. Why did you want to still live?”
“Because I have so many things I need to prove.”
“Why? You’re free now. There is no one expecting anything of you anymore. You no longer have to live up to anyone’s expectations. You're totally free to do anything with the rest of your existence. Forget what your parents wanted and even forget what Cathy wanted. You need to take some time and figure out what you want.”
“That’s a lot to take in.”
“So what are your plans? Now that Van Bogart is dead, you could...”
“There’s still Issimo and Scar.”
“But...” Jet’s expression grew murderous. “What about allowing yourself the same freedom? You don’t have any expectations anymore either. Let it go.”
Albert glared back. “There are just some things that are unforgivable.”
“You’re nothing but a hypocrite!”
Albert took several deep breaths as Jet stilled himself. He shook his head and help up his razor. “Hold very still.”
Albert opened his apartment door and walked in. He shook the snow off and looked over to where Jet lounged on the sofa with a book, a cigarette hung from his lips.
“Well, Christmas Break has officially started,” Albert announced. Jet looked over with a smirk and put out his cigarette.
“You know I never thought I would say this, but I sure miss Saint Ann’s.”
“I knew you would. Everyone is doing fine, even Joe. His grades took a small dip, but he’s taken responsibility for them. He’s a real strong kid. He, Frances, and Ivan are going to travel to France over the holiday. One big family trip.”
“That’s cool about the trip, but is Joe still shaken up over what happened to me? You know... what if I go and just tell him what really happened?”
“No! Absolutely not! I’ve told you why.”
Jet glared and jumped off the sofa. Albert gritted his teeth and prepared for a rehash of the same argument they had had over the last two weeks since Jet had taken up residence with Albert. He removed his overcoat and hat while steadying his hostility.
“I’ve had enough! I’ve read every damn book in this place and I’ve learned Farsi and Romanian!” Jet shouted at Albert in the first mentioned language. “I’m bored to death! How long am I going to have to sit here staring at the wallpaper?”
“You’re free to go! I’ve taught you everything you need to survive: the water, the soil, the ghouls, and the sunlight. But... so long as you’re living under my roof, you’ll follow my rules! Right now I need the job at Saint Ann’s. I can’t risk any rumors while I’m there.”
“You’re nothing but a Na...”
Albert got in Jet’s face and held his finger up to Jet’s nose. “Think before you call me that word. You won’t like what I'll do.”
Jet clamped his mouth shut; his skin flushed. His eyes lowered and Albert was satisfied to see the teen look shamefaced. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think about how that word would offend you. It was something I used to call my parents all the time. I mean, Nazis seem almost like some mythical thing to people in my generation.”
“What’s eating you?” Albert asked, keeping a steady tone to his question.
“I haven’t been outside since I rose two weeks ago. I realized today that I want to do something meaningful. My mother had a charity to help battered women and children over in the Bronx. It was nothing but shit because she and my father were just scamming money off of it. I asked myself today if it could mean something?’
‘You see, Cathy grew up poor and in a household with an abusive step-father. The shelter she and her mother landed at helped them get back on their feet. I want to help kids that grew up like Cathy, in a bad situations with no hope. They need someone to protect them and give something to dream about.”
“You mean kids like you too? Who’s parents may be filthy rich, but they still find themselves being abused?”
Jet gave Albert a cross look , but nodded. “Here’s the kick in the teeth, I don’t have any money to help those women and kids. I feel so frustrated and useless because I spend my days learning more languages. The Count is now starting to teach me ones that don’t even exist anymore like ancient Phoenician and Mongolian. Those will come in useful when I want to sail the South Mediterranean or meet Genghis Khan!”
Albert snicker at this point. Jet’s face melted from an intense frown to a lopsided smile. “Sitting around with the Count while you’re at work is fun, but he’s not what I’d call exciting.”
“It seems you found a direction for your existence. You would have made Cathy very proud.” Albert smiled at Jet and sat on the sofa. Jet sat beside him, looking utterly exhausted.
“How about you? Are you... happy now?”
“Life with you hasn’t been as smooth as I had hoped. But with such a grand dream as yours, how can I not believe I made the right choice to save you? You do know that you don’t need money to help people. You’re going to have to change your way of thinking.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m embarrassed by it and intimidated. I want to go out there and live on the streets so I know what’s needed.”
“You wouldn’t need to fear anyone, but there is another way. How about we enroll you in another school. A public high school. Under an assumed identity. Then you can finish with a diploma and go to college to study social work. It’ll make the paper trail easier and you’ll learn to help people from a position of knowledge.”
“Hey! You got something there. It’ll get me out of the house and I’ll get closer to my goal. But what about the money to send me to college? Wait! I know, I’ve got to get a job.”
“Woah there. Your face was just all over the news for several days not even a month ago. How about you wait until Summer to find something and just worry about finishing up your high school in the mean time.”
Jet gave him a bright, sly smile and slouched on the sofa. “This is kind of exciting. A new identity, a new name. No more Link. That’s huge.”
Albert gave a slight cough and looked down at his indigo, left hand while he twirled his wedding band. “How about Stoller. I’m not using it any more. You don’t have to... if you don’t...”
“That’s perfect. Thanks. I’ll take it,” Jet said softly.
“I’ll make the arraignments and then you can go back to school at the start of January.”
“Great! That'll be before my eighteenth birthday.”
“You no longer have birthdays, Jet. At least we don’t keep count of those sorts of things.”
“You don’t?” Jet’s voice drenched in disappointment made Albert snicker again. “Forever seventeen?”
“We’ll bend the rules in your case. I’ll get you a little something and throw you a small party. No cake or your former friends, but I'll make sure to mark the occasion.”
“Alright! It’s February 2nd. I remember yours is October 10th from all those books. Maybe by then I can figure out what to get you, and it won’t be a damn book.”
A knock at the door startled Albert; he got up and opened it to see Count Saint-Germain. Albert stood aside and was about invited the Count in, but the diminutive vampire held up his elegant hand, shook his head, and said, “Thank you, as always, for your gracious hospitality, Albert, but this matter is personal. May I have a word with you in the hallway?”
“Of course, Highness.” Albert turned to Jet who waved them out while picking up the book he was originally reading. Albert followed Saint-Germain into the hallway and shut the door.
“There was a breakthrough. Madeleine has found Issimo. They’re now in Peru, terrorizing the natives and building a Neo-Nazi empire. She’s gained Issimo’s confidence, using her normal profession as an archaeologist. He is unaware that she’s one of our blood.”
“Excellent. How long do you think they’ll be there?”
“Until July. When they lost your current companion and Van Bogart it set back their plans, but not by much. They’re now planning on approaching Jet’s uncle to buy Link Aviation. Uncle Giovanni won’t be as attached to Link’s property.”
“I know. I have to stop that purchase and finally get rid of Issimo.”
“My friend, this operation is much larger than Issimo. If you go and are just seeking to kill Issimo, several of our blood will be after you. They are the minority, but they are powerful.”
“Are they stronger than our sect?”
“By no means, but they are something you don’t want to trifle with alone. Our sect has always backed your revenge, however, be very careful before starting a war among us. It will spill over to innocent lives as war always does.”
Albert sighed and would no longer meet the Count’s intense gaze. “I will do as my conscience dictates, Highness. I can’t do any different after all this time.”
“Very well. I see you have your obstinate heart set on revenge. I take it you and Jet will leave soon?”
“Not Jet. I’m going to fly down to Peru in a couple of days after we can make the arrangements. Madeleine will take me in and I can finish this once and for all.”
“What about Jet? He’s only two weeks old. That’s scant time for him to get his bearings. You would be remiss leaving your blood progeny at this point.”
“With all due respect, Highness, I know my duties towards Jet. I accepted them willingly, but I think he needs time to find himself. He’s an endless fountain of angst. I feel like I’m only a hamper to his growth. Not as one of us, but as an adult. He’s tough and can make his own way in life. Besides, Issimo is a very dangerous man. Jet would only be in the way because he’s still so new.”
“There was hesitation at the end there. What else?”
“We aren’t getting along. I’ve fought with him more than anyone I’ve ever known in my life and I’ve known him for a grand total of two months. It’s getting very old.”
“Jet has complained of the same thing.”
“Figures he’s a big gossip. Please do me the favor of keeping our conversation a secret. Jet doesn’t know I’m serious about tracking down Issimo.”
“He’s a very bright boy. He suspects it and has been questioning me.”
“Figures he’s also a big snoop. Thank you for everything, but I really have to get to Peru.”
The Count nodded and gave Albert a slight, disapproving frown. “It will be as you wish. I’ll call Madeline and tell her to expect you on Saturday.”
Albert felt a surge of excitement in the pit of stomach as he went back inside his apartment. He paused seeing Jet lace up his red Doctor Marten boots. Albert didn’t miss that Jet was dressed up, in a manner of speaking; Albert thought he looked more ‘punk’ than usual with chains dangling around his hips and neck and a long sleeved, tee-shirt advertising a band named ‘Crass.’
“What’s the occasion?”
“I’m going out for some dinning. I’m at my limit.”
“I know, but do you know where you’ll find someone? Let me take you to the zoo and I’ll show you how to survive.”
Jet jumped up after tying his boots and crossed his arms. “You can survive if you want to, but I want to live.”
Albert’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that you may have hangups about being a vampire, but I don’t anymore. I know there was nothing I could have done to stop Van Bogart so I'm not going to beat myself up any more. Vampires! It’s what we are. I’m getting tired of all your euphemisms about it so why don’t you come with me?”
Albert crossed his arms and looked down at his winged tipped shoes and the crisp cuffs on his gray slacks. “I don’t think what you have in mind would be a good idea.”
“Maybe if you get over your past you can accept what you are and find a smidgen of happiness. So come on. Let’s go have some dinner. You don’t want me to pull out the you-never-take-me-anywhere nag, do you?”
Albert gave Jet a dirty look while receiving a mischievous smile. Albert grabbed his overcoat and hat; he made sure he had his wallet and keys before waving Jet out of his apartment.
To be continued.