~ Marie ~
Marie leaned back and rubbed her eyes. Her jaw popped as she yawned. She needed a break. Doing nothing but research for four hours had taken its toll on her body. She reached backwards as far as she could go, the muscles in her back aching. A sigh escaped as she looked at the mess she’d made. Piles of books on the floor, table and chairs. Papers scattered all over the table and under the books. Her pencil, somewhere in all that mess. She sighed again. Something for her to do later. If only she could have someone else put up the books for her. Marie shook her head and stood up as another yawn escaped.
A good cup of coffee would go a long way towards helping her continue her research. She crossed the dark living room with ease. Nothing had changed. Everything was the same as it had been four years ago. Two sofas and two side tables. Nothing else was needed since she was the only one in the house. She smiled as she flipped on the kitchen light switch and turned to the coffee maker. Her body went through the motions as her mind went back to her research. It was always on her mind.
There were several things that would need to be cut out. Only the necessary elements should be included in the spell but somehow other variables had been mixed in. She rested her hand against her chin as she leaned against the white counter. As it was now, the spell was useless. Too much magic going in and yet the result was still the same. Maybe she should start from scratch. That way she could see where she was going wrong.
If only she had more time to work on this. The little time between cases wasn’t enough to get anything done. Creating a spell took a lot more time than the week or two she normally had between cases. But it wasn’t like she could just take less cases either.
People summoning demons wasn’t something she could ignore. Pretty soon October would come and cases of demon summoning would rise again. Halloween was the worst. Eight cases in one night was too much for one person. She sighed as she walked over to a cabinet and opened it up. Marie chose her usual black mug and placed it on the counter. She lightly fingered the small chip on the bottom as she waited for the coffee to be done. It beeped and she turned her attention towards it.
Marie lifted the glass pitcher when she heard a soft thump at the back door. She stared at the door. It was a mere two feet away. A quick check of the protection spells on the house told her that there was only one person near her house. The protections on the house extended in a fifty foot radius around the house so if there was anyone else outside, they would have to be further than that. She placed the pitcher back in the coffee maker and went to the door. Marie yanked the door open and a body tumbled into her kitchen. She looked him over before glancing out into the dark. Nothing out there that she could see. Marie returned her attention to the young man at her feet. He had several blood stains on his arms and legs along with a couple of rips and tears along his jeans. The boy propped himself up on his elbows as he looked up at her wide eyed. There were dirt smudges on his neck and under one green eye as well as leaves in his light brown hair.
The protections on the house did more than just let her know if someone was out there, it also kept most people from reaching her. Regular humans were diverted away without even realizing it. Only someone who needed help or knew what she was could even come close to the house. Based on the blood, he was clearly the former.
“Um. No. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. I was just..uh.. Resting! I’ll be leaving now. Sorry to disturb you.” He slowly got to his feet and leaned against the counter for a moment before turning around. Marie closed the door and locked it with a spell before going to the counter and pouring herself a cup of coffee.
“Do you drink coffee?”
“What? No, thank you.”
“You can tell me about your problem in the living room.”
“Problem? No, I’m fine. Really!” Marie went to the living room and sat down. She couldn’t hear any sounds coming from the kitchen but she had a feeling he was trying to open the door. Marie took a sip of coffee. She savored the taste as she waited for her guest. Eventually, he poked his head out of the kitchen doorway. The boy surveyed the room before he slowly stepped into the living room. “Um. The door seems to be stuck. I’ll just let myself out the front. Sorry.” Hmm. He couldn’t detect magic. Or, at the very least, it meant he couldn’t use it.
“How long do you think you’ll be able to run?”
“Huh?” He stopped and turned to stare at her.
“I’m a Guardian.” No recognition. His Master did not educate him enough before sending him out. She expected him to, at least, have been warned away from her.
“I help people with the Deep End.” Like a pool, the shallow end was where normal humans resided. It was “safe”. No monsters, no magic. The Deep End encompassed everything else outside it. Unfortunately, they shared the same water and very often paths crossed. Her main job was to help the humans who found themselves in over their head. Not that she couldn’t help those from the Deep End. The problem was that not many in the Deep End wanted her to get involved in their affairs.
Now that she’d been given this chance, she wasn’t going to let it get away. Since vampires were the largest group in her territory, gaining more information on them would help her immensely. Most of the information she had on them were only rumors and hearsay. This could be a chance to gain some real information.
“Really? But why haven’t I heard about you before?” Marie shrugged but the boy’s attention seemed to be focused inward.
“Why were you running?”
“My job is to help people. No matter what’s going on, I can help.” She needed to get him talking before his Master contacted him. If his Master gave him an order, then she wouldn’t get any information out of him. A Master’s orders were absolute to a vampire.
“Someone...died.” He avoided her eyes as he clenched his fists. Marie made sure to keep her emotions as calm as possible. Vampires could feel emotions and she didn’t want him to sense anything other than calm.
“I think it was a Master.” He whispered the last word as he hunched his shoulders.
“Why do you think it was a Master?” He started pacing back and forth.
“I-I don’t know for sure. I was walking back to the safe house when the next thing I knew I was waking up and people were yelling at me. They said I killed their Master. I ran and that’s how I got here.” He stopped in front of her, his eyes pleading with her to believe him.
“I believe you but we’re going to need to continue this conversation later.”
“I have guests.” The boy took a step back before his gaze shifted to the back door. “I want you to go through there and up the stairs. Go into the first room you see and lock the door. Do not open it for any reason. Do you understand?” He straightened up and nodded. The boy stepped forward and faltered for a moment as he stared back at her. “You’ll be safe here.” Marie used magic to create a fireball, to show him she could take care of herself. His eyes went wide before he nodded. His expression was more determined as he turned and headed to the hallway.
Marie closed her hand around the flame and dispelled it. She didn’t like to show off her magic but she didn’t want him to come out, thinking he needed to help her. Marie went into the hallway and checked to make sure he had closed the door. Just to be on the safe side, she wrote out a spell and filled it with magic. It flew towards the door and disappeared upon hitting it. Simple spells like the fireball that only required one script were easy to use without writing it out but for more complicated spells, the whole thing needed to be written before it could be used.
With that taken care of, she turned her attention to the people waiting at her back door. There were three people crowding around the door while a fourth person stood on the very edge of the protection’s range. Hmm. Marie placed her hand against her chin. Were they part of the same group that was after the boy or was it two different groups?
She went back to the kitchen and dispelled the lock spell on the back door. The door knob jiggled for a moment then stopped. She thought about ignoring the ones outside until she’d had a chance to talk to the boy more but decided it was better to get this over with. Marie stepped back and unlocked the door with magic. The door slammed open and hit the wall with a bang.
Three vampires stood on her doorstep. The one in the center looked to be in his twenties with long dark hair tied back in a ponytail, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. The two vampires flanking him appeared to be in their fifties with salt and pepper hair and matching dark suits. The only real difference between the two was that one wore glasses, while the other did not. The one in the center swaggered in and stopped right in front of her.
“I haven’t given you permission to enter my home.” Marie crossed her arms.
“I wasn’t expecting a snack. Change of plans, you two look for the boy while I enjoy dinner. If I haven’t finished her off by the time you come back, you two can have a taste.” The vampires beside him smiled at her.
“I won’t be responsible for the consequences, if you touch me.”
“Don’t worry you won’t feel pain for long.” He sneered as he caressed her neck. Marie sighed and closed her eyes. Light flashed as she shocked the vampire touching her. The man dropped to the floor and stayed there. She should’ve used just enough energy to make him unconscious. If she had used a little too much his regeneration should take care of the damage. The other two vampires crouched as they eyed her.
“Is this how you treat the Guardian?” Again nothing. They might not know what she looked like but the vampires should know this was the house of the Guardian. Considering the lengths the vampires went to in order to avoid her, it seemed odd that these three didn’t know who she was. Well, four counting the boy. “Take him and go.” Marie made another fireball. It wouldn’t do very much against the vampires in front of her but given how young they were, she didn’t think they’d know that. The two vampires flinched before they grabbed the arms of the man on the ground and dragged him out of sight. Marie turned her attention to her last guest. “Did you want to speak to me?” A man sauntered out of the shadows and stopped a little more than ten feet away. He gave her a graceful one armed bow before speaking.
“Adrian Forde from the Stone Oak Clan.” His smile was polite but empty. Out of all the possible clans the boy could have been from, Stone Oak, might be the worst possibility. There were several rumors circulating about the Master of Stone Oak. One of those being that he killed his Master in order to take over. Someone that ruthless would be dangerous to speak to, let alone work with.
Unfortunately, she needed his cooperation.
Without it, the boy wouldn’t speak to her. Marie checked the spell on the room upstairs and found it still intact. She gestured for him to enter. Since he was acting courteous, she would do the same. Adrian strolled into the kitchen and waited for her to close the door. He looked at ease but she wasn’t about to let her guard down. With a vampire’s speed, he could attack her before she had a chance to blink.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“No, thank you.” Marie glanced at the coffee maker and thought about serving herself again. The mug in the living room was probably cold by now. She mentally shook her head. It was better to keep her mind focused. They moved into the living room and took a seat across from one another. “May I have your name or do you prefer to be called by your title?”
“Marie.” She didn’t feel like giving him her last name. “What did you want to talk about?”
“One of my clan has gotten lost and may have made his way here.” May? Adrian already knew without a doubt that the boy was here. She might not have much information on vampires but she did know that the Master vampire had the ability to track those in his clan.
“I’ve already taken him into custody.” Adrian’s eyes narrowed briefly but he didn’t lose his polite mask.
“I would like him to be released into my care.”
“I can’t do that.”
“And why is that?”
“I’ve already taken his case on. Until my investigation is over, I won’t be releasing him to anybody.”
“You have no jurisdiction over us.” His mask slipped as his mouth turned down into a frown. Adrian's body was tense as he leaned forward and placed his hands on his legs.
“I don’t but his presence gave me that.”
“How long will this investigation take?”
“Depends. I won’t know until I start.” He was quiet for several moments. Was he going to argue or fight? She eyed him, trying to gauge whether or not she should put a barrier on. If he could sense magic, he might react negatively to her use of it.
“Very well.” That wasn’t the answer she was expecting. Adrian stood up in one fluid movement while she pondered his quick agreement. His polite mask was back in place but his blue eyes burned with determination. “I will return tomorrow to help with your investigation.”
“I don’t need your help.” He smiled.
“You’ll still get it.” And with that he stalked into the kitchen and out the back door. Marie took her half filled cup of coffee and put it in the sink before she turned off the coffee maker and dumped that coffee too.
Tomorrow was going to be busy. She didn’t have time to stay up and continue her research. Marie checked the back door, to make sure it was shut properly, before heading up stairs. She took the spell off the door and knocked before opening it. Mark was standing by the window with his arms crossed. His gaze was watchful as he spoke.
“Why didn’t you let me go back?”
“You mean with Adrian?” He nodded. “I already said I would help you. In order to do that, I need you someplace I can reach you. Adrian wouldn’t allow me to see you if he had you back.”
“Well...That’s…” His eyes lost their fire as he tried to figure out something more to say.
“You and I will talk more tomorrow. I just wanted to make one thing clear. If you try to leave before I say you can, you will not like the consequences.” This was the last card she had wanted to play but with Adrian being his Master this would need to be used. He wouldn’t just quietly let the boy continue to remain with her. “I don’t think burning alive is a good way to go.” His expression changed from shock to anger before she closed the door and went to the room next door. Should she move him from her room tomorrow? Both rooms were equipped for blocking out the sun and he should be just as safe in there as he would be in this room. There was nothing in her room that she was worried about him damaging either. Hopefully, this case would be done soon so she wouldn’t need to deal with Adrian for long. Then things could go back to the way they were.