Chapter 23: Follow the White Rabbit

The next evening, O’Malley and I went to St. Cecilia’s as Dodger and his “guys” moved our salvageable stuff to the other hideout. But when we entered, I had a strong feeling we could go around putting up maps to our location if we wanted to, and we’d never have to worry about being bothered. Something had changed. Everyone that used to glare me down was now keeping their dirty looks to themselves. To my surprise, a few who had never paid much attention to me gave friendly nods of recognition or waved. Davey and his pals were nowhere to be seen.

“Uh… Are you seeing this?” I whispered to O’Malley as we sat down at the bar. She shrugged, just as surprised as I was. In a few minutes, though, it made a world of sense.

We sat there sipping our drinks and I watched the TV for news of my antics. Sure enough, there was a report on the murder victim found behind a strip club in Arlington. Apparently, a man had been brutally beaten, and after all the blood had somehow been drained from his body, his attacker had carved his face open in a Glasgow smile. Tanner refused to speak about any connection to the Case of the Drained Corpses, but he did share that the victim had abused his longtime girlfriend Tina, who had been questioned earlier that day. Tanner also didn’t seem to know what to make of the facial mutilation, but I was sure that after more of those evil bastards started turning up with the same thing done to them, he’d make the connection pretty quickly.

Hell, why not drop him another clue tonight? I thought with a sly grin.

“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind me. I turned around to see a vampire who looked about forty standing behind me. He was wearing a casual suit and his long dark hair with streaks of gray was tied back in a ponytail. He nodded at the TV. “Was that you?”

Oh, man. I’m in trouble now.

“Um… That depends,” I managed to say.

He smiled. “I just wanted to tell you it’s very clever,” he told me, drawing an imaginary grin across his face with his finger. “May I give you some advice?”

I nodded. “Yeah, of course.”

“Stick to the evildoers, son,” he instructed. “You do that, and you’ll have the support of mortals and vampires alike.”

I smiled, relieved. “Thanks, man.”

He turned to O’Malley. She smiled fondly at him. “I think you made an excellent choice, O’Malley,” he said.

“Thought I didn’t really have a choice.”

“Not a choice of ‘whom,'” he said, flashing his gaze to me momentarily, “but there is always a choice of ‘whether or not.’ And if you ask me, you made the right decision.”

“Yeah… I think so, too,” she agreed with him, but she was looking at me.

He clapped me on the shoulder. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Grin,” he said, then turned to O’Malley. “Until we meet again.”

I watched the man leave and looked back at O’Malley. “You knew that guy?” I asked.

“Mmhmm,” she answered, picking up her glass.

I waited, but she said no more than that. “Well, who was he?” I urged.

She smiled, swirled her drink, took a sip, and told me, “That was Gerard.”

My eyes widened and I looked toward the exit, but he had already left.

“Must’ve heard about you through the grapevine. By the way, he was doing more than just meeting you,” she said in a low voice. “He’s what we call an elder—been around at least five hundred years. They don’t make many public appearances, and definitely not in a dive like this. Not unless it’s really important.”

I glanced discreetly around the room and saw what she was hinting at. Vampires were stealing looks at us, whispering to one another, and even dialing cell phones. A grin spread across my face. The word was out, and everyone knew who I had on my side.

Roger came up to us and handed the bar’s phone to O’Malley. “Dodger,” he said.

She took the phone and answered, “Yeah? …Okay, thanks.” Roger took the phone back and hung it up. She turned to me. “It’s done. Ready to go home?”

I gave it some thought and told her, “Just for a minute. There’s something I wanna do.”

“What’s that?”

I didn’t answer, but I asked, “Do we show up on film?”

“Of course we do,” she scoffed.

I grinned. “Good.”

I followed O’Malley to find out where our new place was, then I left the city and crossed the river to Findlay. It was Sunday night and the town was asleep. By my estimation, there were about two weeks left until graduation. I had work to do.

Findlay High had security cameras everywhere. I wasn’t worried about being seen. In fact, I was counting on it. The parking lot was empty, but I parked my bike in my old space and walked toward the main doors. It was a public building, so the locked doors didn’t care if I had been invited in or not. That only held me back a second. After smiling for the camera above me, I threw my fist at the window in the door, shattering it. Then I reached in and opened it from the inside.

Walking through the hallways of the school was like walking through a tomb. It was silent, dark, and lonely, and it almost hurt to be there. When I went up the stairs and reached my locker, I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic for my old stomping ground. The last time I’d stood in front of that locker, it was a sunny afternoon in late March. The only problems I had in my life were that the girl I liked was dating a guy I hated, and that I had to go home and put up with my stepfather’s bullshit for a few hours until I could go to that girl’s party. Now it was a hot night in early May, and I wasn’t just some hell-raising heavy metal brat anymore. I was a monster straight out of a horror movie, and I was raising actual hell. I had killed people. I would kill again. There was a detective investigating the murders I’d committed, and now the body he had never recovered from the tragic motorcycle accident almost two months ago was parading itself around in front of a slew of security cameras. Everything had changed so much, it felt like I hadn’t seen that locker in a hundred years.

But I still remembered the combination. I opened it, hoping to find my Sharpie among my old stuff, but the locker had been cleaned out. Oh, well. I closed it and walked down the hall.

I reached Kelly’s locker and took out my switchblade, trying to think of what to carve into the paint. I was thinking about “murderer,” but I wanted try and keep that secret until the very end. It had to be something that no one else would understand, but that would make him shit his pants when he saw it. Something subtle, but uniquely me.

I flipped the blade open and began to scratch through the red paint. The camera in the corner of the hallway caught my every move, and I knew they would check the tapes to find out who had broken in just to vandalize a single locker. And when they did, they’d see their dead student, Jake Grinley, punch through the window of the front door like it was made of Styrofoam, walk through the hall and stop at his old locker, then go to the locker of his rival to vandalize it like he always used to do. I’d have this whole damn town quaking with fear.

I stepped back to admire my work, then turned to the camera, gave it a wink and a smirk, and walked back the way I’d come. When Kelly went to school the next morning, his world would turn upside-down when he saw those two words:

“HEY SPORT.”

When I returned to Arlington, I drove to the new place by way of the Landing, just to see if there was anything going on that might need my special kind of attention. The usual scum was there, the drug dealers, the crackheads, the pimps, but that was about it. It looked like all the real monsters had gone home and there were nothing but cockroaches under the bed tonight. In a way, I was relieved.

But when you go looking for evil, take it from me: Arlington Landing is a place that never disappoints.

“No!” cried a female voice from behind me, barely audible to me over the sound of my engine. I looked back to see a man and a woman exiting a noisy bar. He had his hand around her upper arm, and it didn’t look like she liked that very much. I continued down the block and parked my bike. Then I made my way back on foot.

I didn’t know what was going on. Maybe the guy was her boyfriend and she was upset that he’d looked at another girl in the bar. Maybe he was a stranger trying to pick her up and she wasn’t interested. Whatever it was, when a guy seems to be trying to get a girl to do something she doesn’t want to do, I’m not the type to just stand around.

I was approaching the bar, but they weren’t there anymore. However, I could hear voices coming from behind the building. I could only catch bits and pieces. The woman said something like, “I don’t want to,” and the guy came back with something about, “sending out signals like that.” Then it was quiet, and that made me nervous. I walked a little faster and rounded the corner, going down the street between the bar and the building next to it. Still no sound. I started to jog, then to run. I could hear something just as I was about to come around to the back of the bar. Muffled screaming.

I scowled and my fangs grew long and deadly. My eyes went black with rage. Hidden in the shadow beneath the awning over the back door, he had her bent over a trash can, holding a gun to the back of her head with one hand, covering her mouth with the other, thrusting spastically like a dog on someone’s leg. His pants and underwear were around his ankles, and her panties were pulled down to her knees. She stood there rigidly, crying into his hand. There was piss running down her thighs, but the man didn’t seem to mind.

He hadn’t seen me yet, so I moved around to approach him from behind. Gritting my teeth
with fury, I reached out and tapped on his shoulder. He gave a feminine scream and twisted around to look at me. I grabbed the hand that held the gun and slammed my forehead against his. It hurt him a lot more than it hurt me. He groaned and I pried the gun from his fingers as he fell down on his hands and knees. The woman scrambled to pull her panties up from her knees and her skirt down from around her waist.

“Don’t look,” I said to her. She covered her eyes and sobbed.

“You little shit,” the man spat, trying to get to his feet, but he was dizzy and his pants were trying to trip him.

“Get back on the ground!” I commanded, and kicked him in his lower back. He cried out and fell.

“What the fuck do you want, boy?” he shouted, trying to get up again. “She your slut or somethin’?”

I growled and stood over him, then reached down and grabbed him by the hair. He screamed as I pulled his head back. I put the gun against his temple and said in a low, seething voice, “Y’know, I don’t like the way you called me ‘boy.’ Reminds me of my stepfather. He liked to abuse women, too.” I let go of his hair and pulled back on his shirt, bringing him up on all fours.

“C’mon, did you see the way she’s dressed?” he cried. “She wanted it!”

“What I noticed, you pile of dog shit, was the way she said ‘no!'”

And with that, I shoved the barrel of the gun up his ass. He let out a high-pitched scream.

“Stop! Don’t!” he begged in an embarrassing falsetto.

“Oh, please. Don’t give me that. You were asking for it,” I said.

He tried to crawl away, but I grabbed his collar and yanked him back. He shrieked again and started to cry.

“Don’t feel like much of a man now, do ya?” I asked. “I’m not surprised. You weren’t a man to begin with.”

I pulled the trigger. He collapsed onto his face, twitching, blood frothing at his mouth.

I turned around and looked at the woman. She was trembling and whimpering, her hands pressed tightly to her eyes.

“It’s over,” I told her. “You’re safe.”

Slowly, she lowered her hands and looked at me. My muscles clenched with dread as I realized there was a witness who could describe me. Her eyes narrowed, examining me in the dark.

“Wait… I know you,” she said in a shaky voice.

Before she could remember that she had seen my face on the news and in the obituaries, I took a few slow steps forward, keeping my eyes locked on hers. All emotion drained from her face.

“You never saw me,” I told her. “It was too dark.” I looked away and turned my back, releasing my hold on her. “Go to the hospital. Tell them what happened.”

As she left, I heard her whisper, “Thank you.”

When she had disappeared, I rolled the man over. He was barely alive, but his innards had turned into scrambled eggs. I lifted his arm to my mouth and finished the job. When he was drained, I took out my switchblade and slashed his face from ear to ear.

“Follow the white rabbit, Tanner,” I murmured with a smirk, lit up a cigarette, and walked back toward my bike.

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