And so November ends, and I come to a close for the month at 70k words, and this feels about where I thought I'd be, and marks the end of the second act, for those who know structure.
I'd say there's at least 10k left to go, but in my heart of hearts, I'd love to see this break 100k.
And as a bonus, have another finished chapter. Which is the second or third chapter to be renamed after I realised the events the title refers to aren't going to be IN this chunk of words.
Chapter Eleven - When the Party's Over
Darien slept a peaceful sleep. The last thing he remembered as he dozed off was some girl screaming as a man with a hockey mask crept towards her with a large knife. His final thought was to wonder why she didn't just keep running. It's not like the guy was moving all that fast. Darien's thoughts bore him off to sleep, as the movie droned on and racked up a deeper body count.
He couldn't recall any dreams he had while he slept off the drinks he had taken. All he could remember was that his thoughts were punctuated with screams from the television. Some days, he felt as if his entire life had been marked by people screaming, so the fake ones did little more than wash over him and didn't even disturb his sleep.
One scream changed all that, however. The moment he heard a scream that was all too real, Darien was concious and sober in an instant. Everyone else watching the movie paid it no mind; this was Halloween after all. Some of them even believed that it was someone on the movie, others that it was someone at the party. It wasn't the first scream they'd heard that night.
They weren't wrong, though. It was someone at the party. Darien knew that sound well, and it had haunted his dreams, unlike the fake screams coming from the tv. He could tell the difference like a surgeon could tell the difference between a scalpel and a butter knife.
While everyone remained engrossed in their movie, or whatever else had their attention, Darien shot bolt upright in his chair, and was on his feet before anyone even noticed he was awake. Not only did he know a real scream when he heard it, he knew that particular scream. He had heard it earlier that same evening.
He moved straight for the doorway as best he could, adjusting his coat as he went along. His candy was long forgotten upon the counter as he passed by it without a second thought. The only thing that stopped him was Kelly coming out of the breakfast nook with a concerned look on her face. The pair almost collided in front of the stove.
"Was that...?" she began to ask.
"Rachel," was the answer Darien said, completing Kelly's sentence.
The pair moved to go through the door, but stopped when they realised it would not accomodate them both. Kelly stepped aside and followed close behind Darien, lost in his shadow. With such an up close and personal view, she could see the aura around him had grown blacker again. Under most circumstances, she could see through a person's aura, as if it was little more than looking through coloured glass, but Darien's had become almost opaque. She feared the worst.
Kelly forced her way around Darien once there was space, so she could see beyond him and his shroud of darkness. The front door was open, but the view was blocked by Rachel. She was small and slender, but still positioned just so, that Kelly was unable to tell what had made her scream.
Darien had a better vantage point as he loomed over them all. He could see Alyson beyond Rachel, standing over something. He could not make out what it was with the cheerleader in the way, but the smell alone told him what it was. Darien didn't have Alyson's enhanced senses, but he knew the stench of blood and death as it filled the front hall with its coppery, musty scent.
He looked past the blonde and at his sister, seeing her true face revealed. With the body resting on the ground in front of her, there was no way this could end well, he thought.
Kelly came up behind Rachel and looked over her friend's shoulder. The moment her eyes fell upon the sight in front of her, she could feel a scream of her own welling up in her chest. She fought past it though, and swallowed it down with a loud gasp.
Brendan came up soon after Kelly and Darien. He had heard his girlfriend's familiar scream as well, but was not as quick to move as the rest. He spied what everyone else had, and leaned in close to Darien, whispering so low that only the stalker of the dark things could hear him.
"Did Alyson do it?" was all he could think to ask.
Darien shot such a look at Brendan that it would have melted them for having the audacity to ask such a question, even if Darien himself had much the same thought when he stumbled across his sister's discovery of Marcus's body.
The questioner withered at the gaze, and dropped the matter like it had never been brought up. He felt it was a question that needed to be asked, even if he did not believe the supposition to be true.
The noise and growing crowd was beginning to draw attention from the rest of the party goers, and each one in turn had their own reaction. Other screams filled the air, as the party drifted into silence at the sight in front of them all. As more and more people packed in, those in the back who were late to see what the commotion was about, they would not be finding answers anytime soon.
Rachel broke the silence by giving voice to the horror they all felt. "What did you do??" she shriekd out, so sharp and so loud that it was almost unintelligible.
"Me?" Alyson replied in shock. "I didn't do anything!"
Darien stared at his sister, hoping she'd play this right. She paid him no mind as the interrogation went on.
Rachel continued her accusations. "Yes you! Look at you!!"
"It's just a costume, Rachel!"
"Well duh, of course it is! What are you, some kind of vampire worshipping vampire freak? Is this some kinda cult thing? Gang initiation??" Rachel didn't realise how much she was babbling. She didn't really care, either.
"Look, Rachel, I don't...it's..." She wanted to change her face back to normal, but she had to keep the facade going. If her fangs and features disappeared, that would only make these things worse.
"Shut up, shut up! Just get out of here before I call the cops!"
Darien shot his sister a look, and mouthed a lone word. Run.
The young vampire backed up, backed down the stairs and disappeared down the walkway. Darien watched as she faded from view.
Rachel turned away from the corpse laid out upon her doorstep, and pushed her way through the crowd, shouting at them to back away, and let her through. Kelly came up alongside her friend.
"Should you really be letting her go?" the brunette asked, whispering in Rachel's ear.
Rachel sighed, "She didn't do it."
"Are you sure? We all saw the same thing."
"That was Alyson out there, not some murderous creepazoid. She's smaller than we are. No way could a teeny little thing like her do that, not even to Crystal." She picked up the phone and dialed the cops.
While the girls were debating Alyson's escape, Darien took his own stock of the situation. No visible clues, just like with Marcus. Just a body, a pair of puncture wounds, and a pool of blood. Whatever vampire was doing this, it was either sloppy, or trying to send a message. They almost never left this much blood unless they were interupted. Whomever had done this couldn't have gotten far. Maybe they saw Alyson coming and ran.
Darien had the scariest thought of them all; what if they were here at the party? He surveyed the crowd, but no one leapt out at him as a suspect. Vampires were experts at blending in though, and it meant nothing.
He at last got a good look at the body laying there, and he felt the blood drain from his face when he saw who it was.
The young man turned away from the crime scene and pressed his fist against the nearest wall, just short of actually punching it.
Brendan saw what his friend was going through, and continued to speak in the same hushed tone as before. "What is it? What do you see?"
"It's Crystal," was all Darien could muster through gritted teeth and cloudy eyes.
"Oh gods," muttered Brendan.
"I...oh man, it's my fault, Brendan."
Brendan put a hand on Darien's broad shoulders. "Hey, don't beat yourself up over it. It's not your fault."
"I never should have had those drinks, I should have stuck to my guns and stayed sober. Instead I fell asleep when that sweet young girl was going outside to get herself killed."
He glared at Brendan, fear and sadness streaming from his eyes. "It's my fault. It's always my fault. I am going to find the bastard doing this, and I'm going to take his head myself. And then I'm going to set it on fire. Then I'm going to..."
"Whoa, whoa, chill Darien." Brendan tried to calm his friend, as people were starting to look more in their direction and less at the body.
Darien got control over himself, returning once more to his stone-faced, cold, brooding self. More than ever though, Brendan could see the rage seething just beneath his skin. A twitch here, a pulsing, throbbing vein there; Darien's jaw was set even more stern than before. If he gritted his teeth anymore, his face would crack in two.
Brendan was all for seeking vengeance on whomever was doing this, but this wasn't the place, with so many people around. Both of them wanted to run after Alyson, or get out there and find the creature responsible, but if anyone left the party now, it wouldn't look good. For Darien, it wouldn't look good to the cops. For Brendan, he was more concerned about what he would tell his girlfriend. "I'm sorry honey, but over the past month I've been training to became a vampire slayer," was not the sort of excuse one gave every day.
The orange light of Halloween was soon drowned out by the crimson and cerulean tones of police lights swirling and flashing as a pair of cruisers pulled up the street and parked on the sidewalk. Other people were gathering around them, watching the scene unfold.
Rachel had long since removed the rabbit ears and put her peacoat on over her costume, in anticipation of the police's arrival. Her shining blonde hair, glistening in the various light filling her front yard, contrasted against the dark, rough fabric of her coat.
She answered the officers' questions as best she could, as did everyone else at the party they questioned. Darien and Brendan recognised one of the policemen from when they found Marcus. It wasn't surprising to see him again. The Kraftsbury police force was not the most robust, but its size was well-suited for that particular size town.
No one could provide much information. Everyone claimed they saw nothing. Darien only heard some of the interogations, but they all had the ring of truth about them. He cursed his dozing off even more. He had missed everything. He couldn't go back in his mind and pick apart details, looking for any sign or clue he could use.
Darien pushed the thoughts of his failure from his mind, as he focused on what to do now. All that would come of dwelling upon his mistakes was that it would enrage him further, and make him lose even more focus. That was something he could ill afford to do.
There were concerns from people about the police finding the booze and beer. Bottles were stashed and hidden in obvious locations; the nearest places anyone could find to discard of such things. Several bottles were even left out in the open, forgotten by all concerned. The officers had more pressing concerns on their minds though. The bottles could have been left out in the open, and Darien could have breathed straight into their faces, and the police would still not have paid any heed to the underaged drinkers. Whether they were just that incompetent, or thought the dead body outweighed the need to bring in kids for having too much fun, no one could say, and nor did they care as long as they weren't the ones being dragged off to the tiny police station. Darien suspected it was a little bit of both.
With the discovery of the body and the arrival of the cops, the party well and truly came to an end, in a most abrupt fashion. No one was morbid enough to try and keep things going after that. The only reminder was the DVD still running in the background, which someone had left running, and would toss out a frantic scream or a musical sting as someone else died.
Once the questioning was over and the police had their preliminary statements, people gathered up there things and went home. Crystal would not be going home ever again, Brendan noted. The only place she would be going was to the morgue in the nearest city. Kraftsbury had no such facility to call its own, and had almost never had a need for it, although some people were starting to think that maybe it was time to rethink that position.
Everyone said their goodbyes to Rachel, then left via the back door and circling around the house. It took longer, but none of them wanted to traipse over the bloodstain where Crystal had breathed her last. They would not have gone that way even if the area had not been taped off as a crime scene.
The only people who remained behind were Kelly, Brendan, and Darien.
Alex remained the longest ouf of everyone else. He stood framed in the doorway, darkness behind him as most of the back lights had been extinguished once people began to leave. "It'll sound weird," he said in a hushed, regretful tone, " but thanks for the fun night. Until..."
His words hung in the air, nothing more needed to be said. Rachel gave him a quick hug, and Darien and Brendan each gave him a clap on the shoulder and a nod, respectively. If not for the tragedy, it would have been a great party, and they didn't see any point in denying the good times they had before things went awry. None of them wanted to dwell on the good times, since they felt that was disrespectful to Crystal at that time, but they knew the night was not all bad.
The door shut behind the computer wizard, his cloak long since removed and draped over his shoulder, and left the four remaining friends in silence.
They all stood there motionless, unsure of what to do or say next.
"Guys," sighed Rachel, so quiet and raspy from her ordeal. "I really don't want to stay alone tonight. Not after...that." Her head jerked towards the front door, invisible through several walls.
"I'll stay," said Brendan without hesitation.
"Me too," added in Kelly right on top of Brendan's words.
Darien took a second longer than the rest, but even he said he would stay. "I'll keep Brendan company. We'll keep watch during the night."
"You guys are the best," Rachel said, forcing a weak smile of appreciation to her lips.
Rachel's boyfriend led her upstairs, while Darien and Kelly began cleanup duties downstairs.
The large teen took off his trenchcoat, and draped it over the elevated counter where people could eat. It made a heavy, metallic thunk against the surface from the dagger hidden away inside. Kelly heard the noise, and looked to the coat with curiosity, but didn't raise any questions about it. She had too many other questions already.
"Why doesn't your sister have any aura?" she tossed out into the quiet kitchen in the most casual manner, as if she was asking Darien what was for dinner.
He was caught off guard by the question, but he showed no sign of his surprise. Darien had grown accustomed to keeping his reactions under check during the past year, and even if he was still the tiniest bit buzzed from drinking, that much had not changed.
"I couldn't tell you, Kelly," he said as he swept up the kitchen floor, gathering candy wrappers and who knew what else into a pile.
"How about why is yours so dark?"
Darien shrugged. "I don't believe in any of that new age aura crap, sorry. Don't know what to tell you."
The girl set down several bowls of candy in various states of emptiness down upon the counter by the sink. The plastic hand of one now grasped at nothing but air.
"I think you're lying," she came closer, pressing the point.
Darien stood there, broom at his side, poised like Little John guarding the bridge so Robin Hood could not cross.
He glared down at her, insistent. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I think you do," Kelly was no standing right up close to Darien, looking up at him, defiant and unafraid. At least on the outside. Inside she was more than a little intimidated by the tall man looming over her.
The pair stood and stared at each other, until Darien reached up and pushed the girl's nose.
"Ack, hey!" she grabbed her face and backed up, boots scuttling across the tile.
The small brunette glared from her new vantage point, her hands still clapsed over her nose, muffling her voice somewhat. "What did you do that for?"
Darien could only respond with a shrug. "I don't know. Got you out of my personal space, though."
"You still haven't answered the question."
"No," he replied. "I did not. And I really have no answer for you." A lie, but one hidden in truth. The twins had been immersed in the world of the supernatural for the better part of a year, and nothing more, and it wasn't as if they were given insutrction manuals. Auras were new to them, although they had heard of the phenomena before. Still, Darien did not know what the things Kelly was seeing meant, or if they were even real. He had his theories, but nothing more.
Kelly could sense the lie, and she said so. "Try again, big shot."
Darien pointed the broomstick in her face, and Kelly's hands were back over her nose in an instant. "Look, you're better off not knowing. Trust me."
"You're serious," she gasped. Kelly could see it, not only in the way he spoke, but in his aura. It wasn't black anymore, it was more grey, and some shade of colour she couldn't quite pick up on, even if she squinted at it. Somehow, she knew it meant there was some truth in what he said. And that scared her more than anything she had seen.
"You're really afraid something would happen to me if you let me in."
Darien nodded, and put the broom down against the stove. "I've seen too many people get hurt, too many people die. I'm tired of it. So very tired."
Kelly was confused and surprised by Darien's show of emotion. She had never seen him like this. No one had, that she knew if. Kelly supposed that his sister must have at some point, but in general, this was a new side of Darien, and it somehow scared her all the more. The man was a rock, and to see him crumble like he had was so out of character for the man she had come to know over the past two months.
"All right," she said, quiet as a mouse. "I'll let it go, for now. But if you need anyone to talk to, about anything. I'm right here."
"I know," he smiled. "And thanks. I appreciate it. I don't want to keep things from...people."
"There is something going on though? I'm not crazy? I am actually seeing things?"
Darien gave his trademark shrug. "There's things going on. I really don't know about your vision. I've heard things similar, but I really don't know. OK?"
With little other choice for the time being, Kelly accepted what Darien said, although she could see his aura flickering once more.
The two resumed fixing the damage caused by the party, and had the Matthews home almost back to a presentable state by the time Brendan came back down the stairs. He'd removed his bathrobe and left it behind, revealing torn, faded jeans and an equally worn Green Day t-shirt.
He looked around, surprised at how different the place looked from just an hour ago. "Wow," he said, expressing his surprise. "You guys did a great job."
The duo gave their thanks, and the three collapsed onto the couches and chairs in the living room.
"Rachel's out, finally. This really did a number on her." Brendan's worry was written large over his face. He knew she'd pull through, but for right now, she seemed on the verge of a breakdown.
Kelly sighed, "I can imagine. I'm only just keeping it together myself. Cleaning helped keep my mind off things, but I don't know what I'm going to do now."
Brendan reached across and grabbed the toes of one of Kelly's boots. "Why don't you get out of that silly getup, and crash. Rach said you could use the guest room."
The brunette stretched and swung her legs off the couch, standing. "That sounds like an awesome idea, if I can get any sleep after all this. Thanks guys. See you in the morning!"
They watched as she bounced out of view past the first couple of stairs. They remained silent and listened as she made her way through the upstairs hall and into the bathroom.
Once they heard running water after several minutes of silence, Darien at last spoke. "I'm going out."
"Yeah, I somehow thought you might." Brendan had been itching to do the same, but someone had to stay behind, just in case. Darien was also far better suited, and knew what to look for. Compared to the mythical Conrad, Darien was still just a novice, but he was more skilled and better trained than Brendan was.
"Whatever paid us a visit tonight, he was interupted. He left a huge mess. Alyson knew it too, and he was close. She went looking for him, I hope the scent was still fresh enough for her. Now I just have to pick up her trail."
"Why not just wait for her to come back?" Brendan asked.
Darien shook his head as he stood up, and undid his tie, tossing it onto the fading impression left behind on the couch by Kelly.
"I can't wait. We don't know who or what we're up against. Alyson's not as strong as a vampire that just fed on a human, even if it only had half a meal. She can take care of herself, but this might be too much for her. I just hope I'm not too late."
Darien swung into the kitchen and grabbed his coat, pulling it on and heading for the front door. He paused only to turn on the porch light, before opening the door. A breeze shot by as he did, and the pair shivered from the chill.
Their attention was drawn to a white piece of paper tacked onto one of the support columns flanking the stairs. There was no way they could have missed it earlier. The white was bright in the light, but what really drew their eyes to it was the dark red scrawled on its surface to the point of there being almost no white left to see.
Darien reached out with a trembling hand, but he didn't need to grab the note to read what was written upon it in letters of blood.
"You are. You're too late."