Immortal Holiday, Part 9: Homeward

“What did we get?” I asked Cole after takeoff.

He tapped up a few screens on his laptop. “A few local exchanges and recent call numbers. It’ll take a while to go through the data. Tucker lives for this; I’ll send the entire sample to him.”

“Good idea. And good job tonight.” I glanced toward Travis. “Both of you.”

“We should have caught that sooner…”

“Me, too.” I noticed mom and dad together in the back of the plane where mom had napped out on the way up. They seemed okay, but it was all a bit of a shock: a bitter end to an otherwise enjoyable weekend. Now we were all questioning what parts were real and which weren’t… as well as who to trust. I went back to sit with them.

“He didn’t even seem apologetic,” my dad said to me, “like he was just doing his job.”

“And nothing else seemed weird before that? Mom and I had never met Ron or Cammie before.”

Dad shrugged. “Same old Ron… right up to the end.” He smiled. “Bet he didn’t figure on you sweeping him up like that!”

“Ron also didn’t resist, and I think Cammie gave herself away on purpose.” It reminded me of Nancy’s invasion of Cedarcrest. “Vampires don’t trust anyone they can’t thrall. Maybe if I was a little less trusting — ”

“You didn’t know, Sweetie,” mom reassured me. “But all-in-all, it was a lovely weekend. Good food, good company… surely Willie wasn’t in on it.”

I wasn’t convinced. “From what Ron started to say, this Adam took the time to find out who I was, who you were, who Ron was, and set all this up. I can’t imagine his intention was to do us harm; he passed up plenty of opportunities before that.” I shuddered at the thought of letting my parents sleep there, in his house, when they could have been kidnapped, murdered, or worse.

“We’re all safe now,” my mom said, ” and that’s what’s important. Well, that and me winning our bet.”

I eyeballed my mom. “What bet?”

She grinned. “On whether or not he could talk you into biting him.”

Dad rolled his eyes and smirked.

“You had a bet going?”

“You should have seen him!” mom said, imitating the way dad would act full of himself. “‘I know my daughter. If she thinks she’s fulfilling someone’s fondest wish, she’ll bend over backwards!’ Imagine his surprise when you refused. I said you’d think it was creepy…”

I flashed my fangs at my mom and pretended to scowl at her. “Maybe I should bite you.”

“Anything you need, Sweetie,” she replied in the most mom-like way possible.

I hope everyone had a good holiday. ūüėė

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 8: Reveal

“Please don’t hurt anyone,” a calm voice instructed. “No one has come to any harm, and I leave it up to you for that to continue.”

The sound was coming from one of those hockey puck-sized digital assistant devices. It had been sitting unassuming on a table the entire weekend and I hadn’t once considered it might have been listening to us — lessons learned.

“Janiss?” the voice continued.

I loosened my grip on Uncle Ron and drew my talons in. “Adam, I presume?”

“A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Connelly. Forgive my methods, but I’m something of a recluse and prefer this over an in-person meeting.”

“So you’re a coward.” Ladies and gentlemen: my mom.

“What you call methods,” I interrupted, “I call a serious breach of etiquette. You might have just messaged me.”

“I wanted to hear you as you were, gauge your demeanor in social interaction. I found rumors of your willingness to pass as mortal intriguing, but your ferocity in the protection of your charges? That has become something of legend in our circles.”

“Meet me alone and I’ll scratch my name across your forehead; that’ll give you something to talk about.” I saw Travis grin; someone was having a good time.

Adam’s brief pause didn’t go unnoticed; he was thinking about it. “Your aircraft is waiting at Bishop. We can continue this another time. It was good — ”

“Hear this, Adam,” I cut him off. “You’re on notice as of now, and I will find out all about you. Come at me or those under my protection again and you’ll serve as a dire warning. If you still want to talk, send an email.” I released Ron to better rip the audio puck out of the wall by its cords and launch it through a window into the front yard. “Travis?”

Switching places to guard my mother from Cammie — I loved the way she slinked backward as I approached — Travis got up close and personal with Ron, filching a mobile phone for his efforts. Tossing it to Cole, a quick copy of the contents was made through the data port; it was a start.

“Adam came to us months ago…” Ron started to explain, looking toward my dad for possible forgiveness.

“Don’t,” my dad replied. “You’re a liar and that’s quite enough.”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 7: Conflict

“Hey, daddy!” I said, strolling in from the kitchen and finding a place to plop down on the couch… separating him from Uncle Ron in his recliner. Mom was on a love seat watching something on television.

“Dishes done, sweetie?” my dad asked.

I nodded before turning to Ron. “This has been an amazing weekend, but I have to know: whose idea was it to invite me?”

“Ron’s,” my father answered as I stared my so-called uncle down.

Not surprised. “Is that right?”

Aunt Cammie returned from the bathroom sporting a bandaid over her cut finger. She was moving toward my mother with purpose. I met her eyes as I spoke.

Stop,¬†Cammie,” I commanded her. She didn’t, of course, stopping instead behind my mom’s chair and within easy reach of her.

Ghouled… probably both of them.

“Mom? Dad?” I asked. “Are you both packed?”

Before either responded, Uncle Ron turned the television off with the remote. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding…”

There are times I amaze myself with the speed I can move when I’ve fed recently. Whether he intended to defend himself or not, I sprang from my seat and caught Ron by the throat, hauling him out of the recliner and pinning him against the wall. My ferocity seemed to have gotten his attention. “Cammie, if you so much as twitch in my mother’s direction, I will beat you senseless with Ron’s spine, so now would be a good time to start talking.”

I was impressed how well my parents were taking the whole thing in stride. Had they already suspected?

“Adam is Flint’s local lord,” Cammie explained… sounding surprisingly worried. By lord I assumed she meant Vampire. “You are here at his invitation. If you act out now, it won’t go well for you.”

I recalled that Michigan had a population of about ten million, so by Magdy’s estimates, there were about eight Vampires in the state. The sad part was that we had checked; there was zero evidence of any immortal activity in the Flint area, not for a decade.

I squeezed Ron’s throat a bit tighter, but I was certain he wasn’t fighting me. Cammie might not have been careless; I may have meant to discover the deception at this point. Were they both waiting to see what I would do next… or were they waiting for others to arrive?

Two doors broke open; Travis came in the front entry as Cole appeared from the kitchen. “Anyone else?” Cole asked as he surveyed the situation.

“Not in here,” I answered. “Dad?”

“Everyone else left hours ago.” Dad understood something was amiss; he and mom were keeping their cool wonderfully.¬†Travis inserted himself between mom and Cammie. I concentrated and couldn’t sense any Vampires close by. Unless the house was wired to explode, my guys had the upper hand.

I turned my attention back to “uncle” Ron. “You’re up. Are we expecting more company, or are you going to start talking now?”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 6: Trapped

Aunt Cammie asked me into the kitchen while Uncle Ron continued to entertain with my parents on the enclosed back porch. I never knew her growing up, so there was a lot of trust set forth with my dad as the common denominator, but I also had no reason to doubt her. It had been an enjoyable weekend with people coming and going — even if I only saw them in the evenings.

“I understand you’re heading back tonight,” Cammie said. “Seems a bit late for a flight out of Bishop International.” She started washing dishes as she spoke.

“We have a charter plane through the place I work.” I joined in with a towel as she filled the dish rack.

“Your father mentioned you ran a big facility down in West Virginia. Glenville, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t have thought a rest home would generate that kind of revenue.”

I smiled. “We’re privately funded through a charity trust and also work on longevity research — cutting-edge biotech. I don’t how all of it works; I just administrate the residential facility.”

“That’s impressive for someone your age.” As she finished with the plates, she scooped up several pieces of silverware at once to scrub them together. “Was that what you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I enjoy helping people, but I had originally planned on becoming a teacher — ”

That’s when I noticed the way Aunt Cammie changed up how she washed the utensils, just in time to nick the side of her finger with a knife. I tensed at seeing the first droplet of blood form as Cammie shut off the water, but I stayed composed (having fed from both Cole and Travis before coming over) and casually ripped a paper towel from the nearby roll to hand to her. “I never do that,” she chuckled, wrapping her finger and holding it tight.

“Everybody does it. Where do you keep your bandaids and Neosporin?”

“In the bathroom. Go on back in — ”

“Go ahead,” I told her, starting in on finishing the dishes. “I’ve got this.”

“I… see that. Be right back.”

I rewound what saw in my mind: perfect recall. She had tensed in anticipation of her cut, but why would she cut herself? It felt distinctly like a Vampire test — one I assumed I passed — but it was the first inkling I’d felt all weekend that anything was amiss.

If the cut wasn’t an accident, my parents and I were already caught in the trap… and Uncle Ron was certainly a part of it.

I finished the dishes, put them away, and calmly considered all the ways I could¬†eviscerate¬†my dad’s half-brother.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 4: Gravedigging

Destination: Michigan. I won’t say the city — hey, privacy, okay? We dropped off my folks where they’d be staying: with Aunt Cammie and Uncle Ron. I’d never met them before and only heard their names mentioned once that I can recall; Ron is apparently my dad’s older half-brother. Between Weston and St. Clairsville, we got to Michigan pretty late for a couple of welcoming retirees, so Cole, Travis, and I drove right on to our rental. Happily, it’s not terribly difficult to find a property with an earthen basement or cellar in the North.

It also never fails to amaze me that you can ask someone to dig a hole with the exact dimensions of a shallow grave and no one asks, “Are burying a body or something?” Pro tip: never fill the hole back in before you leave; otherwise, they’ll just dig it up and may call the cops… just in case. It’s easier to pay a little extra (not no-questions-asked extra) and let them wonder if it’s a Pagan thing or something. They’ll shrug, fill the hole back in, and never once think a Vampire rested there during the day.

Tonight: pre-Easter dinner after sunset with (shudder) “relatives.”

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 3: The Dad Talk

Totally worth it. I thought I’d have to carry my dad’s jaw separately onboard! For safety’s sake, they each got a medicine cup with a drop of Vitamin Cedarcrest (aka my blood) before being offered a real drink by the crew. I’ll thank Bobby and Amy for sticking with us onboard; they keep my secrets.

Anyway, my mom already looked sleepy after our pickup, so it wasn’t the cocktail that did her in as she ended up napped out while dad and I talked during the flight. Cole and Travis hung around for a while before slipping off to the front of the plane to check accommodations.

So, of course, my dad drops a bombshell on me. “I want you to drink from me.”

Oh no you didn’t, you silly old man. “What?” I answered, feigning inattention and relevancy to his words. “No… I’m covered. I’m here as your daughter, not to feast off of you.” I added a chuckle to make it sound less sinister, but I’m not sure he noticed. I nervously grabbed my mobile and pretended to thumb through something… anything.

When he said nothing afterward, I looked up again to see him staring at me. Actually, I felt it long before I looked, but I’d hoped I was wrong.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll ask because you’re waiting for me to: why?”

“Guilt. Maybe.”

“We’ve talked about this.” And we had… at length, but never face-to-face. “I made you shoot me –”

“I put you in that position.”

“You didn’t know I was a Vampire.”

“Yet you showed restraint. I can only imagine how hard that was for you.”

“Damn straight,” I said. “Imagine all you like. I promise you’ll never know.”

He gestured toward my guys. “You drink from them, don’t you?”

I smiled. “And pay well for the privilege.” He was still serious and I wasn’t getting through to him. Was there more to it than the obvious? “Why would you want to be bitten by a Vampire, let alone your only daughter? That’s creepy on a couple of levels. Does mom know?”

That’s when I saw it: humility from my own father. “It’s the only way I know to still provide for you.” He was completely serious… wasn’t he?

I felt a tear form and, not wanting my dad see me bleeding from my eyes, took a moment to recover. What could I say? “I don’t need you anymore” would have been horrible. I kept thinking through the angles. Maybe it WAS guilt over not trusting his daughter once, but he’d made sure mom wasn’t hearing this. Was he just curious?

There was right after Ian turned me, the whole Louisa conversation. Daddy loved books about the supernatural, too. Have you ever heard the story why funerals in New Orleans have these grand parades that wind through the streets before burial? They say it’s to confuse the dead so they can’t find their way back home afterward… and likely destroy their surviving family.

I doubled-down before I left Cedarcrest — standard operating procedure: two full pints.

He was offering, and hey, I could eat.

Hmm…

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

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Immortal Holiday, Part 1: Forethought

Vampires don’t travel on a whim. We must plan ahead if we’re to remain docile: where we’ll rest during the day, the travel time to get there, and of course “staying hydrated.” I didn’t travel much before becoming a Vampire, so I never gave much thought to traveling afterward.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my parents suggested taking an Easter vacation to visit a few distant relatives on my dad’s side. Wow — did all kinds of fears pop into my head! Then I thought, you know, I can do this. Figure out an itinerary, polish up a few ready excuses, and spend a few bucks to get ahead of any potential issues… hell, why not?

This little getaway, unfortunately, would lap the three-day facility limit Cedarcrest Sanctum has set for residential treatments, but Nancy volunteered to provide a draw in a pinch, so I could squeeze a good five days out for myself before having to get back.

All righty, then — let’s do this!

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.
~ Janiss

Email janiss.connelly@cedarcrestsanctum.com
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Cedarcrest Sanctum 101 – Vampire Verisimilitude

I didn’t create Cedarcrest Sanctum — another Vampire did that.

On the surface, it’s easy to assume, “Oh, she just wanted a stable of living donors to drink from whenever she wanted.” There’s some truth to that — a Vampire has to survive — but it was more. Louisa wasn’t only interested in her own survival; she wanted others to share in it and take a benefit for themselves. Our blood is sustaining to the living — what is best described as ghouling — meaning our residents live virtually pain and symptom free from any ailment at any age. It’s not a cure, only a suspension… but it must be maintained.

But that isn’t all that Cedarcrest is. The term “sanctum” is significant and intentional, no matter how archaic the word might sound. Sanctum has two definitions:

  1. a sacred place, especially a shrine within a temple or church.
  2. a private place from which most people are excluded.

campusmontageI think she combined these ideas for Cedarcrest. While she certainly ruled the roost, I don’t think she saw herself as the high priest or queen of the damned; it was a place of refuge and safety — a sanctuary. Even under the guise of an elder care home, she actively sought her residents, scouring public records for the homeless and those in dire situations. Her days were long past acting the part of den mother to a sorority… something she actually did for a time after she was turned.

Our best evidence is her legacy: she wanted another Vampire, one she could trust, to carry on in her place. While she was done with the world, she didn’t consign her charges to a similar fate; there’s something noble in that.

Louisa’s long-term investments were transferred over to Cedarcrest as a trust and portfolio long before she left us; our continued charities and research branches are well-funded and self-reinvesting, but we can’t help everyone we want to. We operate without any outside funding but must maintain in-state oversight — it is a retirement home, after all. In spite of everything we do, this is still considered low-profile. Sometimes to help those in need, we have to do it under-the-table, anonymously, or even out-of-pocket.

cedarcrestsanctummainentranceWe can really only maintain sixty residents, forty staff, and one immortal… by design. For people who don’t know about The Program (a clever nondescript name for our mutual mortal-immortal arrangement), we’re often asked why we draw no state or federal funding yet still provide no-cost boarding to our residents. Timothy told me the truth of it: even before Cedarcrest’s creation, Louisa was an outspoken advocate in caring for homeless elderly and funded other facilities to offset costs from her own personal fortune before forming the Cedarcrest Foundation of Appalachia (CFA).

Those who benefited didn’t feed her; she only ever met a handful of the ones she supported. It wasn’t about guilt or obligation; she did it because it was the right thing to do.

Paraphrasing: “But it’s your money, Louisa — why spend so much of it on them? You don’t even know them.” Is that really a question?

How do you explain to people it’s important to care about other people?

I almost made this mistake. I guess it must be something all new Vampires have to struggle with, wanting to continue old relationships and family ties but afraid you’ll hurt those you care about; it takes time, but it’s not impossible. Take care of your elders and spend time with them: parents, grandparent, and great grandparents. Listen to their stories and help them stay current.

You’ll miss them when they’re gone and regret if you failed to connect… and that’s forever when you’re an immortal.

Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe.
~ Janiss

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Nothing Is Set in Stone

From: the desk of Timothy Harker
To: all residents, staffers, and supporters

Good morning.

I wanted to address a few rumors that have been making their rounds at Cedarcrest, not the least of which was suggested by your executive administrator a week ago.

While Louisa Newcomb was still with us, a plan was created to govern how Cedarcrest Sanctum would develop and what the overall scope of the Cedarcrest Foundation of Appalachia would be. Part of it you know already; you live or work here, and we all know each other very well. Our facility has been a success and has remained true to our founder’s vision. That said and in light of recent events, we have begun developing implementation of Phase IV.

I will be personally responsible for a key element in this phase, and this is not a decision I take lightly. Let it be known that these are options on the table and nothing is set in stone, but there exists the possibility I may no longer reside here at Cedarcrest as a result; a significant risk is involved. Ms. Connelly has much experience with regard to this and I greatly value her opinion, but ultimately the decision is mine to make.

When the times comes and a final decision is made, you will not be left out of the loop.

Have a great new year, everyone.

~ Timothy Harker
Operations Administrator, Cedarcrest Sanctum
timothy.harker@cedarcrestsanctum.com

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