Authors: Marie Treanor
“I want you to go away,” I whispered, “and stop torturing me.”
His eyebrows twitched once. His full lips parted. An expression crossed his face that was neither anger nor lust nor hurt, but might have been all three, or none. Then he turned away and walked toward the balcony door.
My throat felt tight. Some sharp yet unspecific pain grasped me, filled me. But I had no time to dwell on it, for the door of the room swung open and Frank walked in.
“Jenny!” he said with surprising relief. “Are you all right? Where is he?”
“Gone,” I said dully, and looked toward the balcony from where, typically enough, a watery sunshine now tried to fight its way through the clouds. My bewildered brain was slow to pick up the implications of that, though, even when I saw Karoly himself backing out of the room on to the balcony, with my stake through his heart.
Without meaning to be, I was on my feet. Instinct propelled me to the door after him, for this was his second exit. The first had been to retrieve the stake. This, presumably, was his farewell. His beautiful, dramatically gleaming green eyes were full of genuine pain and in his voice was unspeakable sadness as he said, “There was never any peace but this.”
Hilda ran into the room. I had never seen her move so fast. “He’ll burn up!” she cried. “The sun’s coming back out!”
The vampire didn’t care. With one dive, he catapulted himself backward over the balcony railings. I couldn’t help it. I let out a cry of pain and rage and an unbearable grief I had no right to. Pointlessly, I ran out on to the balcony after him, but Frank caught me at the door, saying grimly, “Wait here, Jen, you’ve done enough.” And for once, it was not sarcastic.
He really thought I had killed the vampire.
* * * * *
Flanked by Hilda and Frank, I crouched down on the road under the balcony where the pointed stick lay, smeared with blood. Apart from that, there was nothing except a damp rag that Frank gingerly picked up with tweezers.
“Completely vaporized,” Hilda said with some awe. “Incredible.”
She was damned right it was incredible. A vampire who had assiduously dodged death for five hundred years suddenly commits suicide? Twice? Why the hell would he stab himself with my stake and then throw himself into the sun? One or the other would have done and I didn’t believe in either for one moment.
Frank said, “Any ideas, Jenny?”
I looked at the wet rag he held up before my eyes. Pale, indeterminate colored cotton. Beneath the muddy stains, it looked like something that had been carelessly washed too often with dark colors. It had. It was my torn knickers.
My breath caught.
! I shouted out in my head.
Complete and utter bastard!
But there was no reply, not even the faintest chuckle.
* * * * *
The next day, I flew south with Frank and Hilda. Frank still managed to get up my nose. Though his attitude to me had certainly changed since my supposed single-handed slaying of the vampire, this new and admittedly reluctant respect set me even further on edge, since I was very well aware I didn’t deserve it. Not for those reasons anyway.
Besides, he was still slimy.
On the other hand, I did have a talk with Hilda that came close to a heart to heart. I confessed to her that I hadn’t truly been trying in the last four months, that in the beginning I hadn’t believed in any of their psychic nonsense and even when I did I was sure I had no abilities of my own, whatever their tests had thrown up. I told her about the unmistakable recognition of the vampire and how I had given and received telepathic thoughts from him. I didn’t tell her what those thoughts were and she didn’t ask. In fact, she was oddly comforting. She appeared to take it for granted that some sort of emotional link had existed between me and the vampire and what was more, she didn’t find it unusual. For the first time it struck me that Hilda had her own stories to tell and that they were stories worth hearing. In the meantime however, I humbly accepted her denunciation of my laziness over the last four months and agreed without a quibble to her intense program of catch-up.
That night, as I lay in my cool, single bed, I realized that somewhere I actually looked forward to Hilda’s tutoring. I wasn’t just compensating for taking their money under false pretenses. For some reason, I did actually want to do this now and I believed I could even be good at it. So long as there weren’t too many vampires involved.
Restlessly, by the light of my bedside lamp, I looked around the bare walls of my room. There was no need to live at the Centre. I could have got my own flat in one of the nearby towns, but I had never really believed I would be staying long. For that reason too, I supposed, I had never made my room home. There were some of my books on the shelves, some favorite CDs lying loose on the desk. A rare photograph of my mother actually smiling—although she was trying hard to frown—sat on my bedside table, another on the dressing table of Maggie, Catherine, Nick and me crowded round the table of a Spanish café, grinning inanely at the camera. But there were no pictures on the wall, no knick-knacks or flowers that would have made the room mine. No wonder I had been unhappy here. For the first time it even entered my head that the people here—psychics, let’s face it—had picked up on all my negative emotions and had had no reason to like or even tolerate me.
Well, maybe I could change that some, make a little effort. And I
work with Hilda, give it my best try, or I would end up old, never knowing if I had made the most of my life and always suspecting I hadn’t.
Yes, it was time to take stock, more than time. If for nothing else, I should be grateful to the vampire for forcing me to this moment, for he alone was neither rooted in my past nor the inspiration of negative emotion. I had wanted change, yet in my heart had refused to move an inch from my old family and friends, had rejected everyone and everything else. Except the vampire. For some reason, I had made him my friend, my lover and if I imagined that was all down to his hypnotic powers I was deluding myself.
found him hypnotic,
found him fun and beautiful and sexy as hell. I had made love to him at least as much as he to me and then I had sent him away.
It was difficult to know what else I could have done. I couldn’t kill him, couldn’t let Frank or Hilda kill him either. Nor could I let him hurt them. So I told him to go and I didn’t give away his playact.
Though neither I nor Frank’s instruments could sense his presence anywhere around that flat where he’d jumped, I knew he wasn’t dead. I had spent that night sleepless with anticipation, in case he came to me in my mother’s house. But he didn’t come. There were no more dreams. And if my body ached with lust, it went unsatisfied.
It still went unsatisfied. My own fingers just weren’t the same as his.
A month later, I stopped a poltergeist in its tracks.
On a nasty London housing estate—or scheme, as we’d call it back home—lived a troubled adolescent called Victor who had inadvertently created this being. Ungrateful, it was now terrifying him and his entire family by trashing their flat on a regular basis. The Centre was called in urgently when his mother finally realized it really wasn’t Victor doing the trashing. Let in by a tiny, wide-eyed girl, we followed the crashing sounds to a bedroom where two terrified ten-year-old girls and Victor himself sat huddled with their mother on a corner of the bed while books and toys and shoes and computer disks flew round the room, crashing into walls and furniture.
I hate poltergeists. In fact, I still blame one for making me set fire to my hair. The violence of this one made my heart sink. If it hadn’t been for my new resolution to always try, I’d have stepped back and let Hilda manage it with the other two probationers while I cowered in the hall. As it was, I had to force myself to stand still and observe as I’d been taught, to gain what knowledge I could.
After a moment of staring at the random violence, I could actually make out its energy, like steam blasting from a funnel. And I felt its malevolence. It really didn’t like us interfering in its terror campaign. Hell, I didn’t like it either, so when it actually lifted the computer monitor high in the air and aimed at the screaming family in the corner, I acted purely from instinct.
I roared at it in my head and from somewhere managed a bolt of my own energy to stop it in its tracks.
The monitor fell with a thud back onto the desk—damaged but no longer lethal—and the stream of malevolent energy turned on me. There was a whooshing sound that chilled me to the core. Somewhere, I was aware of Hilda’s warning, “Jenny, back off!”
I couldn’t. There was nowhere to back off to, except behind my colleagues, so I projected a mouthful of vicious Glaswegian and when it pulled up again in surprise, I probed into its intelligence.
In fact, it didn’t have much. It was formed from Victor’s hate and anger and churning hormones, all his negative emotions and God knows they were powerful. But it was the personification of mindless violence. It had no aim except to carry on.
It felt my probing, my understanding. With new fear, I realized a link was forming between us. For an instant, all that hate and fury slammed against my mind. I forced down the shutters, shoving it away.
Go away. Lie down and be good and leave these people alone.
Almost, it was like being back in the school library. If you spoke with enough conviction, the kids behaved. And almost to my surprise, the poltergeist backed down too. The stream of energy seemed to dissolve. The air no longer crackled.
“Has it gone?” Victor’s mother whispered.
Hilda nodded. “Yes, it’s gone.”
But Victor still looked desperate. Pity for him, for all of them filled me. All I could do was start clearing up the mess.
“How do you
get rid of it?” I asked Hilda as we finally emerged from the haunted building into the dark, bleak street.
“Intimidate it, deprive it of what it wants and eventually it just disintegrates.”
“How long will that take?”
“You seemed to have it pretty intimidated,” said Zack, one of my fellow probationers. “That
you, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know. But I do know it’ll be back…”
Something caught the corner of my eye and I glanced up. Among the dark shadows of the houses and tower blocks, I could see none that posed a threat. No young muggers with knives. Not even a fast-moving blur in an antique kilt. And yet something made me shiver. My spine prickled with awareness. A vampire? Or some residual effect from my encounter with the poltergeist?
Watchful, conscious that my heart beat too fast, I climbed into Hilda’s car with the others and we drove out of London, back toward the Centre.
“You did well back there,” Hilda paused to say to me as we all got out of the car again.
I knew I hadn’t. “There was something I should have been able to do. I had it. But I couldn’t let it in…”
“Christ, no,” said Hilda with feeling. “Keep your shields up at all costs. It may come back, but trust me, Jenny, it’s the beginning of the end for that poltergeist.”
I hoped she was right. But as I began to undress for bed, the anguished face I saw in my mind was Victor’s. He knew it wasn’t over. And in my heart, so did I.
I hurled my knickers across the room. “What else could I do?” I wondered aloud.
Blast it to pieces.
My whole body vibrated with shock. Karoly’s voice spoke in my head, as clearly as if he’d been in the room. I could
him, his unique, powerful, presence that seemed to project equal measures of menace and sex. And my body remembered, flushing all over.
I glared wildly around, looking for him.
That’s what you wanted to do, isn’t it?
Covering myself, I sprinted into bed and under the covers to hide my nakedness. My heart was drumming. Worse, it seemed to have migrated to my stomach.
“Where are you?” I demanded. He wasn’t here, not physically. That would be impossible… Wouldn’t it?
His lazy amusement seeped into my mind. I could almost see the mocking smile on those sexy lips. I wanted to die, I wanted to throw things at him. I wanted him here, palming my nipples, which had already hardened like pebbles just at the thought of his smile. How could he churn me up like this again just when I’d begun to get myself together?
For some reason his evasive answer calmed me. I could think again, analyze what I was picking up from him. Only telepathic messages, however imbued with his overwhelming personality. I had no need to hide my treacherous body, just my thoughts, which were in total turmoil.
“Get out of my head,” I commanded.
Then how would we talk?
“We wouldn’t! You killed yourself and you’re dead, remember?”
I’ve always been dead
, he pointed out with some truth, which I ignored.
“Nice stunt,” I sneered. “But did you have to plant my underwear next to your ‘ashes’?”
It seemed so fitting. Thanks for not giving me away.