This would've been a funny day to finish the story on. Alias fans will understand.
Still, it's not quite done. Almost. Just have the epilogue to piece together.
Chapter 15 - Picking up the Pieces
Brendan wasted no time driving down to the Montrose's house. If he had known the back roads better, he would have broken the speed limit, but the twists and turns were too much for him to risk crashing Kelly's car.
Once he was in more familiar territory, the car picked up speed and it bounced along the roads of Kraftsbury. This was not how he expected to spend his Sunday. Maybe recover from a hangover, take Rachel out to breakfast, catch a football game on tv, and finish his homework. Hunting vampires was not anywhere on that plan. And if anything was lower than that on his list of possible things to do, then gathering weapons from a friend's house so they could kill some demonic thing from the otherworld was probably it.
The car skidded into the Montrose's driveway, and came to a stop at an odd angle, with one front tire off the gravel covering the dirt below. Brendan left the car running as he raced up the stairs. He didn't see any reason to knock, so just opened the door and went right in.
Inside, he was met with darkness. The house had many windows, and daylight streamed in, but otherwise, there were no lights on at all. That wasn't so surprising, but still much of the house was shrouded in shadow.
The house was eerily quiet, without even the sound of a television or radio left on. Brendan was only in the main entryway, so he turned and looked back out the still open front door. There was Kelly's car, and along with it, parked off to the side, was the truck that Darien's father Pete drove, and the Saturn that Barbara drove. Brendan thought they should be here, making noise, but he heard not a sound.
"Must be out at a neighbour's," he mused to himself.
Brendan slipped his way into the dining room, and through the cellar door. He popped on the lights and descended into the musty stone and dirt below.
After twisting through the labyrinthine corrdidors created by all the boxes and stuff brought up by the Montrose family but not yet attended to, he found the wall where Darien had set up his weapons display. Brendan looked over the array of sharp and shining implements of destruction, and grabbed the first things his hands landed on that he knew had a sharp edge. The mace was tempting, as the sais, but the swords and an old fire axe were far more sensible.
With his arms heaped high with weapons, Brendan found his way back out of the basement, and he rushed for the front door.
As he passed the living room door, almost on his way out, he thought back to his first night in this house, where Darien and Alyson had sat down with him and told him everything. Or at least answered all his questions. Brendan had strong suspicions they had kept a few secrets.
The mystery of the missing parents was answered when he glanced through the doorway and saw Peter and Barbara sitting on the couch that their children had sat on that night from two months ago.
Whatever they had been doing must have been interupted by the youth racing through their home. Brendan waved but kept running past, "Sorry to bother you, Darien needed some of his weapons, we'll be back soon, bye!"
He closed the door behind him and leapt into Kelly's car, dumping his prizes on the seat beside him, piling them up with the few remaining doughnuts in their box.
While he was driving back, and taking much the same path as they had before, he saw the cherry red paint of his truck shimmering in the sunlight when he neared the park. Instead of turning off on the trail that Mr. Beadle had taken, he instead met back up with his baby and reached into the locked storage compartment in the bed of the truck. His hand clasped around the hilt of his katana and he pulled both it and its accompanying scabbard into the daylight.
With his weapon of choice back in hand, Brendan returned to the blue car awaiting him, and continued up into the mountains.
Now that he had travelled this path a few times, he was more comfortable pushing the speed, so he could get back to Darien and Kelly all the faster. He still didn't go as fast as he might have if the road conditions were better, or he was in his own car, but he was not going to keep Darien waiting.
He thought back to what that other man had told him in his dream, how he had to stay by Alyson's side. Yet here he was running errands. True, his task was important, but he hated being sidelined during a game, and this wasn't any better. This was little more than being a glorified waterboy.
Brendan couldn't stop thinking about what he had been told, and he rushed to be back by Alyson's side. Even with all his rushing, he somehow sensed there was no hurry. Not yet. It was as if he knew the advice was for the future, beyond today. This somehow calmed him, and yet he could not stop himself from trying to be there as fast as possible.
The car bounced past the entry to the warehouse, and Brendan continued to drive until he reached the pull off spot a mile away. Once he reached that point, he decided to say the hell with trudging through the woods, and turned the car around, kicking up as much dirt as the tiny car could muster when it took back off in the direction it had come.
He stopped the vehicle short of reaching the entry with it's wide open gate, and left it parked on the side of the road. If by side of the road, one meant halfway in a ditch. The road didn't seem to be used very often, but Brendan didn't need to listen to Kelly if he had left her vehicle parked in the middle of the road at just the time the one car that came through the area once a month zoomed by and didn't see it in time.
Weapons were strapped wherever they would go on Brendan's body, and he ran the small distance of road and through the parting in the trees towards the warehouse. He looked all around the building, but couldn't see any sign of Darien or Kelly. So much for them waiting for him to get back.
Brendan couldn't see how they had gotten in. Most of the doors were broken, but closed tight. The one door that still functioned was the main door, and Darien had never seen the type to walk into a trap through the front door. Neither was he.
Circling the building once more, Brendan picked one at random and skipped up the three metal steps, trying to muffle the clanging each footfall made.
He looked at the door he had chosen, with its broken knob, and drew his katana over his shoulder. Brendan took a few quick, deep breaths, preparing himself.
"It's just like a tackling dummy at practice," he told himself, and did his best to throw himself at the door. The boy's bulk and strentgh dented the door, and snapped it out of its latch, sending it spinning open until it connected with the wall on the other side.
Brendan rushed in with his sowrd held high, and he stopped when he saw three exhausted, confused and surprised faces staring at him. They were bloody, they were in shock, but they seemed to be alive and well.
Or whatever Alyson passed for towards living.
Kelly lowered her head once she saw who it was, and breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh thank god, it's just Brendan. I thought we were in trouble."
The girl began to laugh, which was quick to change to a series of shuddering ows and yelps.
Brendan rushed past the twins, and resheathed his sword as he knelt beside the brunette. "Holy shit, you've been shot."
"Ah-heh, you think? Ow."
"We need to get you to a hospital."
Brendan felt a familiar grip on his shoulder, and didn't need to turn to know it was Darien standing over him. "We can't do that."
"Hello! Bullet wound!" Brendan spun around on Darien, throwing off his friend's hand.
"And that's why we can't. How are you going to explain that to the docs? They have to report those things."
Brendan cursed under his breath. "Well, get your sister over here. She can fix this, right?"
"Already tried, and Kelly refused. Silly girl."
"Sue me, don't want to drink blood," muttered the half-delirious girl.
"So, what then?" pleaded Brendan.
Darien gave a reassuring smile. "I've got this one. I took some first aid classes before this whole mess started. And Conrad taught me a little more than the standard methods afterwards. Get Alyson out of here, we'll be right behind you.
The black trenchcoat Darien wore was removed and tossed aside on the concrete as he knelt beside Kelly. Brendan offered Alyson a hand, and he noticed the shackles and chains for the first time. The added weight made it almost impossible for him to help her up without her help.
"Whoa, that's some pretty serious hardware there. Did you pull that out of the ground?" Brendan's awe was clear to see, as he poked at the chains, and held up the bloody and bent steel plate that held it all together.
Alyson nodded. "I guess I did. I don't know how though. I really shouldn't have been able to, and Mr. Beadle knew it. He knows our strength, and made sure this wouldn't have given away so easilt. Even if it did feel like my arms were going to rip off when I finally did it."
She rubbed her wrists, shifting the manacles back and forth as best she could to get better access. "He was just as surprised as I was that I did it. It should've held. I guess we just got lucky, fault in the foundation, or he did a bad job. Who knows?"
Unseen to everyone, Kelly pulled her flattened hand away from a crack that reached out from her palm and straight to the hole that had once been where Alyson's shackles had been oh so firmly planted into the rock. She clasped her tiny hand into a fist and tucked it beside her, and hid a tiny smirk from Darien. Which wasn't difficult as she soon felt pain shooting through her shoulder once more, when Darien began to pull the bullet out.
Brendan brought Alyson out of the darkness of the warehouse, and through the door he had kicked in. She looked up into the bright, blue sky, free of clouds, and full of sunlight streaming down on her face. For just a moment, Brendan could forget what she truly was, and so could she.
The boy grabbed one of the chains, and inspected it, and the shackle it was attached to. "Can you pull these off?"
Alyson shook her hands around, and tried grabbing at the restraints. "I can't quite get a good grip. The leverage is better now that I can move around, but I've got nothing on the shackles themselves I can grab and tear into. Even if I could squeeze a few fingers between the steel and my wrists, if they didn't give when I was tearing them out of the floor, I doubt they'd give now."
Brendan nodded, but kept inspecting them with a careful eye. "I might be able to pick these locks, with enough time. They look pretty basic, I just need the right tools. Does your corset have an underwire?"
The vampire's eyes flickered red as she shot a deathglare at her friend. "No. And even if it did..."
"Gotcha. Did you check the vamp for the keys?"
"Body burned up, if he had the keys on him, they went up too."
The pair's discussion was cut short from a sharp sream from inside the warehouse. "Darien got the bullet out." Alyson said in such a matter of fact way, she may as well have said the grass is green.
"He'll patch her up with a sewing kit in his coat, then we can probably get out of here."
"Is there anything your brother doesn't have in that coat?"
Alyson held up her arms, making the chains jingle and clatter like she was the ghost of vampires yet to come. "Manacle keys. Oh!"
"Go back inside, and check the office. Maybe the keys are in there."
Brendan didn't waste any time asking where the office might be. He could guess from his brief investigation around the outside. Once he was back inside the building, trying to ignore the whimpering noises from the other pair, he saw a door and covered windows that could only be an office. He rushed up and found the door unlocked, and saw a short hallway with several doors.
He went through the first door on his left, and found a surprisingly neat office. It was clear this was not how it had been left, based on the state of the rest of the warehouse. Vandals would have trashed the place years ago, if it had been left in any kind of condition similar to the way it was when Brendan got there.
Brendan's eyes were drawn straight towards a glistening pile of metal in the middle of the desk, a ring of keys, including one that looked like what he needed. He scooped them up in his hand like a child playing jacks, and he listened to the jingling sound they made. It was not unlike the sound of Alyson's chains, but they were much softer, and muted by the flesh of his hand.
His vampiric friend was waiting just outside the hallway when he exited the door. Brendan saw her coming closer, dragging the weight of the chains and the plate behind her. He could see the strain on her face, and the tension in her arms as she did so. He truly could not see how even Alyson could have pulled that thing out of the ground if just carrying it around was wearing her out.
Brendan dangled his prize by their ring, shaking them in the air. The smile from Alyson's face when she saw them would have brightened the room, if not for everything that had happened there in the past hour. Even then, it was easier to forget those events for the moment.
Alyson held up her hands palm up, and her fingers curled back like the legs of a dying insect. She presented the shackles to Brendan, and he fumbled to find the right key.
After sifting through all the shining pieces of metal Mr. Beadle had been carrying around, Brendan found the key that had caught his eyes while it sat out on the desk. It was rounder than the rest, and rather than having a series of peaks and valleys etched into its edge, it had a lone blocky plateau, almost exactly like a handcuff key, but the shape was just a little different.
The drum of the key slid into the matching hole on the shackles with ease, and it turned all the way around to the other side. They heard a click, and the one shackle almost sprung open from the pull of gravity alone. It clattered to the ground, but the noise was ignroed as Brendan was too busy unfastening the other chain so it could soon join its twin.
Meanwhile, Darien was finishing up his impromptu surgery on Kelly, and tying off the final stitch. Her sweater would never be the same again, and was more red than purple by the time he was done, but her arm seemed to be in one piece.
Darien snipped off the last bit of thread, and began to gather up his tools. "You should be ok, but I'd keep an eye on that wound, and give it a good cleaning. Not the best conditions here. Can you walk?"
Kelly sat up and winced, grabbing her throbbing shoulder, and it was a relief that while there was pain, it at least wasn't spurting any more blood. "I was shot in the arm, not the leg."
With his coat draped over his shoulder, Darien offered a hand to Kelly and helped her back onto her feet. She wobbled for a second, and as she was about to topple back down to the hard stone floor, Darien grabbed her by the hips.
"You were saying?"
"Ok, maybe I'm just a bit woozy." She flashed a weak little grin as she got her legs back under her. "Thanks."
"I still don't like you."
"And you still creep me out, Aura Girl." Darien stepped back from the girl, and held his hands at the ready should she begin to fall once more. She took a tentative step towards Alyson and Brendan, and the four of them came together, clustered up in the vast warehouse. "What say we get out of here?"
Alyson was rubbing at the red, chafed patches of skin on her wrists. Her eyes darted around the room like she was expecting Mr. Beadle to come back to life like the villain in a slasher movie. "I thought you'd never ask."
The vampire followed her human companions outside, glancing back once last time at the room where she had been held captive, before closing the door. Thanks to Brendan, it didn't close all the way, and never would again unless someone bothered to fix it. With the state of the building as it was, she doubted it would get any better anytime soon, and it was far more probable that it would just fall into further disrepair.
Kelly stumbled once more, as her feet couldn't quite navigate the metal stairs. She grabbed the cold, rusty pipe that was the railing. Flecks of green paint came off on her hands, as well as bits of orange dust. She steadied herself once more, gripping the railing in both hands as she inched down the couple of stairs down to the ground.
"You really ought to get some sugar in you as soon as you can," Alyson pointed out.
"There's some doughnuts back at the car, that'll help," Kelly replied. "Hey, that reminds me, do you like jelly doughnuts?"
Alyson made a face and stuck out her tongue. "Blech. I can't stand the things."
"Really?" Kelly was quite surprised, after how much truth she had gleaned from her dream.
"Oh yeah. I don't like things that go squirt in my mouth."
Kelly was even more shocked at that. "Really?? But isn't that a problem with the, y'know...grr?" The girl used a hand to make a hooking motion with two of her fingers that was either quotation marks or fangs.
Darien had been listening to the exchange, and spun about on his heel, walking backwards as he talked. "Well yeah! Why do you think she's a good vampire? Can't handle the diet."
The quartet laughed as they exited the parking lot, and walked the short distance to Kelly's car. She reached with her bad arm out of habit to open her door, and sharp pain shot along her nerves.
Turning to Brendan she asked, "Would you drive? I probably shouldn't be behind the wheel right now."
"No prob, Kell. All aboard."
They all piled into the car, and once Kelly had stuffed her face with half a doughnut before the car even started, it rolled off down the road.
Alyson's personal nightmare faded off into the distance, but it would be some time before it left her memories. She stared out the back window the entire time they drove, even when the warehouse was far, far out of sight.
They made it back to the park where Brendan's lonely truck lay in wait for its owner to reclaim it. They returned the weapons to the locker in the truck bed, and came to the concensus that they should keep a few back there.
Brendan lowered the gate of his truck's bed, and he and Darien sat upon it, finishing off their coffee and doughnuts, respectively. While they did that, Kelly dug around her trunk and found an old yellow sweater that could use a wash, but was a damned sight better than the bloody mess she was wearing. A series of muttered ows and curses punctuated the background as everyone else talked.
"So," said Brendan after taking a bite from the abandoned jelly doughnut. "The thing that killed Marcus is dead, the creature that killed Alyson. What does that mean for the Montrose family? Will you be moving on now?"
The twins shared a glance, in that way that twins do, and Brendan could sense those telepathic waves going between them.
"It might be time to move on, yeah," sighed Alyson. "We got what we came here for."
Darien rolled his eyes. "She's kidding. We just got here. It would be silly to pack up and leave. Besides, we have nowhere to go. We at least have to stay until we can find a new place to live."
"Yeah, so you're stuck with us for a little while. It's good to have friends again. Makes me feel almost normal."
"Well that's good," Brendan grinned. "It would be a shame to lose you guys. You may be the strangest brother and sister to come to this town in a good long time, but I'll say this; it has not been boring to know you."
Alyson raised the styrofoam cup she had found half filled with coffee. Brendan thought it may have been Rachel's. She used it to signify an improvised toast. "May we live in interesting times."
Kelly joined the rest of them, the hand attached to her injured shoulder tucked under her other arm to hold it steady. Her face was strained, and she was sweating, even in the cool early morning air. "As long as interesting times doesn't mean me getting shot again."
"I'll drink to that."
With Kelly cleaned up and Brendan's truck reclaimed, they split up, with Alyson driving Kelly, and the boys on their own. The pair of vehicles sped back into town, with a quick stop at the coffee shop for refills, before heading back to Rachel's house.
Before the vehicles had come to a complete stop, the front door burst open and Rachel came stomping down the stairs, doing her best to ignore the bloodstain as she passed by it. Since they had left her, she had at last changed out of her costume, and into a pair of jeans and a black turtleneck. Rachel had neglected to put anything on her feet as she met up with her friends and Alyson.
"Where the hell have you guys been?" she shrieked. "I wake up this morning, all alone in the house! I was afraid to look outside or turn on the news. I didn't know what might have happened to you. I thought you might have been picked off one by one like some movie."
Brendan was the first to greet his girlfriend, as was his right. He placed his hands on Rachel's shoulders and rubbed her arms, calming her and abating her hysterics. "Kelly went to get doughnuts, and Darien and I went to go find Alyson after she was chased off last night."
He didn't mean that last bit to sound accusatory, but that was how it came out. Rachel stared at the black-clad vampire, with a still-wary gaze.
"Didn't you get my note?" Kelly asked.
Darien cleared his throat. "We kinda threw that out after we found it, sorry."
The brunette threw her hands up in the air, and immediately regretted it as pain shot through her again. Kelly bit her tongue, and did her best to hide her discomfort.
"What's your problem?" said Rachel with a derisive voice.
"Oh, uh, nothing. Just slept badly, that's all."
Rachel shrugged. "Whatever. Did someone say doughnuts? And do I smell coffee?"
Once the blonde had been handed her cup, no need to tell her Alyson had already drank the last one intended for her, it was like everything else was forgotten.
The four looked at each other conspiratorially. It would be best to keep Rachel out of everything, they all agreed. It also gave them a return to something normal after the long Halloween and All Saints Day.
"Look, Alyson," Rachel started to say. It was obvious the words were not easily said, but she found a way to get them out. "I'm sorry about last night. I saw..." She stammered, the name locked in her throat until she forced it out. "I saw Crystal, and then you. I was so caught up in the whole Halloween thing, and had a bit to drink, and assumed the worst. As crazy as it may have seemed."
Alyson shrugged it off. "It's ok. I might've done the same thing."
"Cool costume though. What happened to the uh..." Rachel gestured to her face.
"The makeup? Oh, I took that stuff off after I ran off. Can probably find my fans in a storm drain somewhere."
"Ah. Well, we'll try again next year, I guess."
"I guess so." Alyson held up her own coffee cup. "Friends?"
Rachel scrunched up her nose. "Let's stick with aquaintances. I have a reputation to keep up."
The two coffee cups clapped together in a most unsatisfying manner. A pair of soda bottles would have been much better, thought Alyson.
"I can live with that," the vampire said. The last thing she needed was Rachel spreading crazy stories. A mutual non-agression pact was at least a step up from thinking she was a murderer.
The gang piled back into Rachel's house to finish cleaning up before her parents came home. The rest of the day was a picture of normalcy after the extraordinary circumstances of the past 24 hours.
The veneer of normal continued as they all returned to school the next day. The only sign that anything had happened was Kelly's arm in a sling to limit her movement. She told everyone she must have pulled something at the party, and had to take care of it or risk her cheerleading activities. Somehow, that all seemed like small concerns after everything she had seen.
Still, she went to the practice after school that day, even if she sat it out. For Rachel, it was like nothing had happened, because to her, nothing had. Even the body on her porch was just something that happened to someone else.
Darien was back to his stoic self, in all black once more, complete with sunglasses and coat.
Alyson had ditched her black outfit and found the brightest yellow skirt she could find, with orange leggings, and a red sweater. The marks on her wrists were long healed, thanks to her abilities.
Brendan also returned to his routines, and was back on the football field after school while his girlfriend kept the cheerleaders in line. He still had so many questions, but there were no answers to be had, and so Brendan decided to do what he had always done. Maybe his dream had been just that. Until he knew more, that was all he could assume. It would do no good to dwell on something that he couldn't figure out.
They had all gone through so much, even Rachel, even if she wouldn't admit it, and still had no idea what had truly happened. And yet the day came and went with everything forced back into its little boxes of normal, everyday, and mundane.
Still, something had changed, and they all knew it.
While everyone was doing their sports, or heading to a late chorus rehearsal before a concert, Darien made his way down the main hall of the school. Students were giving him their usual wide berth, except for the ones who had gotten to know him as more than a black trenchcoat. Everyone just wanted to get home, or anywhere not school, but Darien continued to go against the grain, and made his way back into school, heading towards the offices.
The door to the guidance office was ajar, and Darien pushed it open further, and stuck his head in. He saw Ms. Ferris standing on the other side of her desk, adjusting some photos hanging on the wall. She was wearing a coat, and her briefcase was sitting and waiting for her atop her desk.
Darien cleared his throat, and she turned around. Her black hair whipped and settled back on her shoulders, staying straight over her ears. She adjusted her thick rimmed glasses and looked at Darien. The counselor just arched an eyebrow expectantly.
"After the fight with Brian, you said you could see I was troubled," Darien spoke, and entered the room. The door closed behind him with a solid click. He was always soft spoken, but even now it was different. He sounded shy, unsure, like a lost child. "At the time, I said I didn't want to talk about it."
The guidance counselor took off her long, ocean blue coat, and draped it over the cushioned chair behind her desk. She sat down and pulled it towards the desk, and rested her elbows atop it. She gestured to the matching chair on the opposite side of the desk, and pointed.
"Please," she said. "Have a seat."
Darien fidgeted as he stepped further into the room. He stepped over and settled into the offered chair as best he could with all the thoughts rattling around in his brain.
"A year ago, something terrible happened to my sister. It changed everything. I've kept it bottled up ever since, and I've been unable to say anything to anyone about it ever since. But I think I'm ready to talk about it now."