Hokay, another long-ass chapter I'm pretty sure will be broken up in future edits. I'm gonna give y'all part one today, and the rest when I finish it.
Chapter 13 - Dreams in the Dark
Darien pinched the note between his fingers, trying to grasp some speck of the paper not stained in blood. He gave the page a tug, and it tore free of the metal spike that had impaled it to the wodden post. His eyes kept reading the words over and over again. No matter how many times he scanned the page, his mind refused to make sense of it, refused to believe it.
His free hand plucked the page out of his fingers, no longer caring if he smudged the evidence, or got blood on his hands. Darien only cared for one thing; getting his sister back.
The boy's hands shook, trembling with fear, regret, and anger. He lost his grip on the page, or he chose to let it go. Either way, it floated down, swaying back and forth, cutting through the air until it landed at his feet.
With the page no longer in his hands, it seemed forgotten. If he had been filled with determination before, now he was more than overflowing.
Darien took a step forward, then another, moving down the steps with heavy thuds upon each stair. His feet landed with such weight, Brendan thought they might break.
Brendan called out to his friend, urging him to stop, but the words fell upon deaf ears. Darien had become deaf and blind to the world around him. He heard nothing, he saw nothing. His determination to bring his sister back was all-consuming. All that was on his mind was putting one foot in front of another until he found Alyson.
The football hero had seen that look before, the empty stare off into the dark night. If he didn't do something, Darien would just keep going, regardless of anything in his path. His friend was on autopilot.
A single jump took him from the top of the porch, to the paving stones in the yard, landing right next to Darien. Brendan put his hand on Darien's shoulder, gripping it hard enough that anyone else would have cried out in pain. Even that was just a dull roar that may have well just been happening to someone else to Darien's deadened mind.
He squeezed again, to no avail. He gave Darien a shake, and he did nothing. At last, Brendan shouted out, hoping his words would at last reach through the fog that had surrounded Darien.
"You can't save her!"
Those words broke through and were heard by Darien. They were like a lifeline dangling before a drowning man. He reached up and grabbed those words, allowing some semblence of Darien to break through the surface and stare at Brendan, anger burning deep within his eyes.
"How dare you," he murmured.
Brendan withered from the look his friend was giving him, but he did not waver. He kept his hand on Darien's shoulder, and stared back, swallowing his fear in a very real, very literal way.
He spoke with an ease and a calm, hoping that Darien would pick up on it and follow it himself. "You can't, not like this. You don't know where she is, who or even what has her. You can't do this."
"I have to try."
"Try? Try what? Wandering the streets calling her name? Kicking down every door until you find her, or worse yet, nothing?"
"If that's what it takes, yes." Brendan could see that Darien meant it. He would do just that if there was even the glimmer of a chance it would reunite him with Alyson.
"Think, man!" Brendan jabbed his one forehead with a pair of fingers to emphasize his point. "If you've taught me nothing else, it's to think things through. And you're not following your own advice, damnit!"
"I don't care, Brendan. I only care about one thing right now."
"Well you better start caring, or you're going to get yourself killed, maybe even your sister."
"Don't you ever..." Darien swatted Brendan's hand off his shoulder with ease.
"Don't what? Try to get through that thick skull? If you go in there like this, wherever there is! you will get your sister killed."
Brendan kept pushing. Better to get a reaction out of Darien than have him wandering the streets like a zombie. "Yes, damnit! Is that what you want? Do you want to get your sister killed? Do you want to lose her?"
"I won't lose her! I'll save her!"
"Not like this, you won't! How much clearer can I say it? You will get her killed!"
Darien picked up Brendan and thrust him back against one of the wodden columns by the stairs to Rachel's house. In that instant, he knew just how Brian had felt in the cafeteria on Darien's first day at school.
"No, I won't! I will not lose her! I can't lose her again! Not again!!"
Darien heard his own words, and his body began to shake with each breath. He let Brendan go, and fell to his own knees. His face fell into his hands as he began to sob.
"Not again," he said between shaking sobs. "I can't do this again, please god, not again. Not my sister."
Brendan knelt on one knee beside his friend, and put an arm around Darien's shoulders. The large man shook beside him, and let it all out. His words became unintelligible.
"You're not alone, we'll get through this together. But we need a plan. I will help you get your sister back, and then the three of us will drag that vampiric son of a bitch out into the daylight and cut him up into tiny pieces."
Neither of the two men had noticed that their commotion had drawn an audience, until she spoke from the still open doorway to the house.
"Vampire what now?"
Kelly stood with her hands on either side of the doorframe watching the two guys. She had changed out of her Shadowcat costume and was wearing a pair of green sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. The covering did little to abate the chill of the night, and the pinpricks of gooseflesh that made the light peach-coloured fuzz along her arms stand up showed she was well aware of how cold it was.
The guys stared at the new arrival, and both of their jaws flapped up and down, as they tried to come up with any sort of cover story. Nothing was coming to mind. Darien was too focused on his sister to fabricate a convincing lie, and Brendan was too new at this, and especially disliked lying to his friends, which made it all the harder.
"This is all a dream? You're still in bed? Oooooh, spooooky?" Brendan tried, but his heart just wasn't in it to give it the effort it needed.
"Uh huh. Yeah. No. Not buying that one bit," Kelly said, shaking her head. Her hair had been undone, and hung loose over her ears, already in need of a brush. "Your girlfriend might've fallen for that line, but I am way smarter than her."
She padded down the stairs barefoot, and stopped next to the guys. Kelly moved with the grace of the cheerleader she was and sat cross-legged on the ground in front of them. "I'm not going anywhere until you guys stop keeping secrets from me. I was willing to let it slide earlier, but now there's bloody notes, and Darien showing actual emotion. So someone better explain and fast, because this ground is cold."
"He took Alyson," said Darien, as if that would explain it all.
It dawned on Kelly what Darien meant. "Oh. Oh! Oh god, Darien. We have to call the cops."
"There's nothing they can do," Brendan said.
Kelly was defiant, "Of course there is! They're the police! That's what they do!"
"Uh huh. They did such a bang up job catching the guy before, didn't they? You have noticed the police around here aren't exactly the sharpest tacks, right?"
"Ok, fine, you have a point. But we have to do something."
"Finally, someone agrees with me," muttered Darien.
Brendan shoved Darien. "I agree with you, I just think we need a plan."
"Ok, so the guy that's got the town so spooked has taken Alyson. And did someone say vampire?"
"Um, no?" Darien tried again, in desperation.
"Yeah, still not buying it, tall, dark, and creepy."
"Why would you guys think he's a vampire? You don't take those bite marks seriously, do you? He's just some bite fetishist or something. Vampires aren't real."
"Says the girl who can see auras," accused Brendan.
"Ahhh! Nuh uh, this isn't about me. Vampires. Not real."
Brendan and Darien exchanged glances. Brendan pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded. "Tell her."
"Alyson's a vampire," spoke Darien, in as blunt a manner as possible.
"Pull the other one. You guys are not going to get me out of here with some lie like this is a dream or Alyson is..." Kelly stopped. She looked into Brendan's eyes, then Darien's. The cold grey determination in Darien's eyes, the utter seriousness in Brendan's gave her pause. She shifted her gaze, making her eyes slip out of focus, and looked around the two of them. Their auras had become one they were so close. The colour was that of a pure, calm ocean. A rich blue reflecting the sky above, like a glowing turquoise gem with the two of them embedded inside.
"You actually think you're telling the truth. You're serious," she whispered.
"More than you can realise."
Kelly scooted back away from them before standing up. She held her hands out as if to keep the guys forced to the ground with the will of her mind alone. Who knows? She could see auras, she may have been able to pull it off.
"Just, stay there. This is crazy talk. I don't care if you believe it, this is not happening." They could see the panic in her eyes. Had Brendan looked the same when Darien told him the truth, he wondered?
"I say again, so says the girl who can see auras?"
Kelly took another step back, wanting as much distance as possible while still being able to call them crazy to their faces. "Stop that! Stop trying to turn this on me! Auras are one thing. I hit my head, and scrambled my brains! You two are TALKING ABOUT VAMPIRES. That's a whole new level of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!"
"Kelly, we're telling the truth. Alyson is a vampire." Brendan spoke slowly, trying to convince her of his sincerity. "You've known me since kindergarten. You trust me. I always backed you up on the aura thing. Please, just bear with us."
She nodded, her wide eyes staring in fright at the two of them. "Yeah, ok. Vampires. Vampires are real. Sure."
Despite her words, she continued to stand apart from them, holding them back at arm's length. "Wait, is Darien a vampire too?"
"No," he responded abruptly.
"Really?" she said in disbelief. "That would really have explained a lot, like when you tossed Brian around like a rag doll."
"Actually, I was just really, really pissed. He was trying to hurt my sister."
Kelly considered this, then nodded. Her hands began to lower, but just by a hair. "Ok, that makes sense, actually. But I still don't believe you about vampires!"
"I saw my sister die in front of me, then rise back up."
"She could have just passed out!" Kelly insisted.
Brendan added in, "I've seen her face change into that of a monster with fangs."
"Special effects? Makeup?" The cheerleader grasped at straws of comforting reality to keep the supernatural at bay. She wanted so bad to try and find a rational explanation for everything, despite how much she knew they must be telling the truth.
"In broad daylight? In the middle of nowhere?"
"Maybe you were drugged?" They could tell she wasn't even trying now. Her counterarguments were less than half-hearted.
"If so, I've been high as a kite for the better part of the last month."
"And me, for the last year," said Darien.
Kelly looked at Darien, and glowered. "Well, you we barely know, you could be in on all of this with your sister, trying to make us think vampires are real."
"You don't really believe that," he replied.
Kelly gave a resigned sigh, and her arms fell to her sides. Her head hung down, and she whispered out, "No, not really. It's easier to believe than vampires though."
Brendan stood up, taking his time and not wanting to spook Kelly by any sudden moves. He thought back over the past two months, and his own experiences with the Montroses. "You would be surprised how easy some things can be to believe in."
"Are leprechauns real?"
Brendan arched his eyebrows in a mixture of surprise, confusion, and uncertainty, then turned to the resident expert, Darien. "I don't think so," he said. "But that's just because I've been too focused on the things that go bite in the dark."
Kelly pouted. "Damn, I wanted to catch one and wish for a pony."
Darien dragged the conversation back towards a semblence of a topic, "Now that we're all somewhere on the same page, do you think we might be able to get back on the topic of finding my sister?"
The desperation in his voice was clear. He may make jokes, he may cover it up, but he would give anything to get Alyson back, including walk through Hell itself and kick the devil in the balls. Brendan thought Darien might just do that for a fun weekend, but especially for his sister.
His companions nodded their agreement, and Kelly spoke. "Do you have any ideas on how to do that?"
Darien's eyes were focused on his feet, and his hands were shoved in his pockets. There were times when he looked far beyond his years, but in that instant, he looked every bit the kid who had gotten caught with his hands in the cookie jar.
"I haven't the foggiest," he resigned himself to saying it, as much as it pained him for those words to come out.
Kelly was optimistic as she spoke, "Well, they haven't been gone that long, right? So the usual 'he can't have gotten far!' speech would apply, yeah?"
Darien gave a weak smile. "Your naivete is refreshing. Vampires are fast. He could have run to the edge of town and back by now."
"So, no real central point of focus we can hope for to narrow our search then? Not if they can be anywhere in a moment."
"I'm sure he's still in town, or very close to it. He could be holed up somewhere in Montpelier, but vampires do tend to lurk near their chosen hunting grounds. He could run all that distance, or drive it, but that drains them. You could run to the nearest Burger Barn in Rutland, but why would you want to?"
"Good point," said Kelly. "But if he's killing people and feeding on them, why did he take Alyson?"
"Well, first of all, vampires don't make good meals for other vampires. The virus makes the blood unusable to sustain their own life, and it conflicts with their own blood."
Kelly looked confused, "Wait, back up. Virus?"
Brendan was about to explain, when Darien held up his hand and stopped his friend. "We'll explain later. Let's just leave it at vampire blood no good to feed on from other vampires."
"Right," the girl said, still skeptical. "And Alyson's a vampire. Convenient that we have two of them in town."
"Not convenient at all. We came here looking for him."
"So he was here before you two came to town?"
"We think so, yes."
Kelly tilted her head to the side and looked up at Darien, not buying a word of it. "Then why did the killings not start until you two got here?"
"I..." Darien was flummoxed. For the first time he could think of, he was silent not because he chose to be terse, but because he actually was at a loss for words. "That's a staggeringly good point."
"So, are you looking for him, or is he looking for you?"
Darien brushed his hair back, and wandered away from the group a bit. "Damn. We've been looking at this all wrong. We picked this place out of dumb luck, but..."
"What if you were drawn here."
"Shit. We're idiots."
Brendan had been listening to all the talk, leaning against the column he had been placed against, with his arms crossed. "The question still remains then, why here?"
"I'll be sure to ask the guy that did this before I kill him, ok? Finding Alyson is more important."
"Which still leaves the question, why did he take Alyson?" Kelly reminded everyone, even though Darien didn't need any reminders for that. "He wouldn't feed off her, but why not just kill her?"
"If he lured us here for a reason, it's probably not to kill us, or her. He could've done that anywhere. He doesn't want Alyson dead."
"Any ideas why?"
Darien coughed. "I might have a good guess."
"Care to share with the rest of the class?" asked Brendan.
"You already know why, but I guess we might as well tell Kelly. We think it's the same vampire that killed Alyson and turned her in the first place."
"You're an idiot," blurted out Kelly without missing a beat. The contempt in her voice was clear to both of the men with her.
"Excuse me?" Darien asked, shocked. That was the last thing he'd expected anyone to say.
Darien stomped back over to the others, and stared down at the brunette daring to call him such things. "Yeah, you're going to have to elaborate on that, or I might do something we'll all regret."
"I think I'd be fine over here," Brendan interjected with a raised hand.
The other two shot back in unison, "Shut up, Brendan!"
Brendan muttered under his breath and let the other two have at each other.
"You come to town, looking for revenge on a vampire. Bodies start dropping, you're here by chance, and yet you've got a good idea the guy you want just happens to be here? Did you ever once stop to think that maybe this is all about you two? Probably not even you, but all about Alyson?"
The light of realisation shone upon Darien's face. "I thought it was just a vampire needing to feed and being a little sloppy. I didn't even know for sure it was the vampire we're looking for. I am an idiot."
Kelly smiled, proud of being vindicated, even under the circumstances of a missing girl. Whom she most assuredly did not believe was really a vampire.
Her vindication did not stop Kelly from continuing, though. "Look at the bodies. Marcus and Crystal, two of Alyson's closest friends."
"Hey!" shouted Brendan.
"It's not a perfect theory, but I think you got too close, and would have been too noticable."
"What about yourself," wondered Darien.
Kelly considered the point. "Like I said, not a perfect theory. Still, the people who died were very close to Alyson, at least as close as they could be. She would notice their deaths. And especially that they were killed by a vampire. If it had been say, I don't know... Let's say Brian. You'd be interested, you'd investigate, but it's not personal. But Marcus and Crystal..."
Darien continued to chastise himself, "I am an idiot."
"Mmmhmm. But you can be forgiven. Marcus was a lone, random death. Crystal just happened. I'm sure you would've figured it out. Eventually."
"You're enjoying this."
Kelly pinched the air, "Just a little bit."
"You're pretty clever."
"I have my moments."
"Are you sure you're a cheerleader?"
Kelly grinned, "Only as a hobby. Rachel's the professional cheerleader type."
Brendan felt uncomfortable at the mention of his girlfriend's name, and shifted his weight from one foot to the next. "Speaking of," he said, "do you think we should get her?"
Kelly shook her head. "She's curled up in a ball on her bed. She stopped sobbing and passed out an hour ago. She's got a lot to deal with mentally, what with the dead body on her porch. I don't think she can handle the rest of the crazy buffet you guys are serving up."
"I've noticed that you're taking it rather well," noted Darien.
Kelly shrugged. "I'm not so freaked out by a dead body. I saw one when I was a kid. Not my porch. And as you two love pointing out, I'm Aura Girl. I can deal with a little weird. Besides, I'm not entirely sure I believe you guys about the whole creatures of the night stuff."
"Huh. I'd forgotten all about that," said Brendan as his mind raced back to the past. "Now then, then you were freaked out."
"I was ten! And a girl! It's allowed." The young woman gave a small pout.
Darien grabbed the conversation yet again, trying in desperation to keep it on track. "Sister, missing. Ideas. The longer we wait, the further they could be."
"Or the deader they could be."
"That is so not very cheerleaderish of you right now."
"Just making sure we know what's at stake. Hey, stake, vampires. That's a pun."
Darien fought the building urge to grab Kelly and shake her. He never would have gone through with it, but if there was ever a moment when he might, he was so very close to it right then and there. He couldn't believe she could joke at a time like this.
The girl saw the look he was giving her. "Hey, chill Mister Broodypants. It's after midnight, we've had a long night, we've all had a little to drink, we're exhausted. There were some sobering moments, but the night is taking its toll and we're all getting a little punchy. We are in no position to go looking for Alyson right now."
"We need to find her," Darien implored. It was strange to watch this towering man almost begging her for help. "You're the one who said she might be dead."
"I did, but I doubt she would be."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I can't, but if this guy wanted her dead, he didn't need to drag her off to wherever he did. We'd be standing over her second second times a charm corpse right here and now." She looked away from Darien when she saw her words were not the best she could have used at the moment. "My point is, if he took her, he wants her alive. This is personal, ever since you saw him kill your sister, you've been trying..." She stopped.
"What? Trying what?"
"Oh, now I'm the idiot." Kelly smacked her forehead in frustration.
"What?!" Darien was beginning to reconsider his position on shaking Kelly.
Kelly said as if it would explain everything, "You saw your sister get killed."
"You saw. Your sister get killed." She repeated her words slowly, hoping Darien would understand.
The girl jabbed Darien in the chest. "You saw!"
She shouted out, hoping not to raise the attention of the people trying to sleep. "So what the hell did he look like?! That would help a lot!"
Darien's eyes went wide as he realised what Kelly was driving at, then he too smacked his forehead. "Oh."
"You're not an idiot." His voice was almost a whisper, as he tried not to look Kelly in the eyes. "I didn't see the vampire that did it."
She buried her face in her hands and screamed as silent as she could into them. "You've gotte be frickin' kidding me. You saw it, but didn't see it?"
"It was dark," coughed Darien.
"I could barely see my sister, and by the time I raced over to her body, she was all alone."
Kelly was in shock, and she just kept repeating, "You saw nothing."
"I've tried to remember more of that night, but all I saw was my sister's legs in the moonlight, kicking and struggling. The rest of her, and her attacker, were in shadows. I could see a form near her, humanoid, but I couldn't see any details, just darkness."
"But she must have seen something, told you about the vampire, right? She was the one being attacked."
Darien was reluctant to dash more hope against the rocks, but he supposed he had to continue to do just that. "Actually, when a person dies, the shock and trauma tend to make the event almost impossible to recall. Too busy dying to commit anything to memory."
"Too much of the, "Oh crap, I'm dying!" and not enough of the "Ok, he's wearing Nike's, has a tattoo on his left hand, and a star shaped scar over his left eye!" then?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
Kelly pushed her waves of chestnut coloured hair away from her face with both hands, forcing it all away and towards the back of her head. She had dark circles under her eyes, and looked haggard without any makeup.
"Darien, I really want to help you, but I am completely knackered after the party and Crystal, and everything else. If I don't get a few hours sleep, I'm going to be no good to you come sunrise. If I even last that long."
"I understand," he said, his voice tinged with sadness.
"Me too, D. If you want me, I'll help right now, but a few hours of sleep would do us all wonders. Including yourself."
Darien didn't want to admit it, but the excitement and strain of the last few hours was indeed beginning to catch up with him. His heart and soul was ready to search the entire town until he dropped, but his body was telling him he wouldn't get very far in the state he was in. He knew his sister was all right, at least for now. Whatever the monster wanted, he wanted her alive, so they had some time.
As much as every bone in his body didn't want to turn away, he knew the best thing for his sister was to begin the search fresh in the morning. The odds were good that the vampire wanted to be found, if he had gone to all this trouble to toy with them so far. Darien clutched at that thin hope, and nodded his head.
"Ok, fine. I'll grab a few hours sleep. But come sunrise, I'm on the road and looking, with or without you guys, got it?"
His co-conspirators nodded their agreement, and the trio adjourned back inside the Matthews residence.
Kelly headed up the stairs, catching one of the lips with her bare foot. It was the barest mistep, and she caught herself on the railing before she fell. Still, the guys caught it, and knew how right she was to propose getting some sleep. At the very least, she needed it, and the others could feel Morpheus pressing down upon them.