Saturday, June 09, 2007

Coming to.

I spent the next few days after the ritual, in the hotel room, not coming down to eat, not even getting up to wash. Sebastian had the good sense to leave me alone. Early one morning, I crept down when only cleaners and restless pensioners were about, and went down to sit on the jetty. I was left alone there all day, until hunger dragged me back inland. I had treated the ritual like a joke. There’s a mirror in the blonde’s house, into which he would stare, fascinated by his own reflection; one of the others told me that it used to show nothing, and was proof that the vampire blood had died in his veins. I kept it to myself that I thought the mirror was previously enchanted, and had simply become a normal mirror. I kept it to myself that I thought the same was true of their master, and the same about their vows. The last few weeks were like a hole I’d fallen into, or an irreparable insult. I felt stupid for ever having gone there.

I’d been told nothing, after all I’d done, and the time I’d given them. When I woke up from the stupor, still thinking slow, the wound in my arm stitched up, it took a while to remember that I’d seen the blonde and Sebastian talking while I repeated the ritual again and again, feeling proud and elated with my success. I remember that quite coldly now, that they made me think that I was doing well.

After the day on the jetty, I was free of the soup brain mess of thoughts, about home, about Samuel, the past, money and friends. I forced myself to think about that night, which still isn’t easy, and asked Sebastian: “Did he tell you about Challoner?”
“Who?” He realised this was pathetic as he said it. “Oh, the blonde. He did, yes.”
“And what did he say? What’s happened to him?”
“I know where he went. I’m afraid I can’t say more than that.” Sebastian moved off his bed and began to pack. “You seem well enough to go home now. Are you up to the journey?”
“But I earned that information. It was because of me that he told you.”
“Sort of. But you didn’t do what they asked of you.” He made a pretence of organising his clothes.
“What d’you mean?”
“You didn’t let me do the ritual. You didn’t let me down. As I knew you wouldn’t.”
“Did the blonde explain it to you then? This act of betrayal idea. It was what they wanted, I didn’t think you’d mind, since it was-”
“It was what they asked of me.” Sebastian cut me off, before I could say how mock-villainous I thought the whole thing was. “That’s why I called you to Whitby. I’m sorry, but I don’t know many people who are so naïve. You were the obvious choice.”
“You supplied me to them, for the ritual?”
“Actually the inclusion of the ritual of the bloods was my idea. I’d never seen it performed, and it seemed appropriately macabre, without being fatal.”
“You betrayed me?” I said, with the confusion of the last few days descending on me again, but keenly focused into anger.
“That’s the price they demanded, of me, of David, and the man David was following. And you, it turns out. So really we were in a win win situation.”
“And where did Challoner and this other man go?”
“That’s as much as I can tell you.”
“Because it’s your secret?”
“Because that’s the agreement I have with the blonde.” Sebastian’s voice was half apology, half condescension.
“So what? You’ve got what you want, don’t pretend you can’t tell because of some meaningless promise.”
“It isn’t meaningless. Not to them. They take all such bonds seriously, which is worth remembering, since you’re bound to them now.”
“But that was nothing to them.” I was now shouting. “You just said it was your idea.”
“And it was, but it met no protest. They must have had their reasons, but I assure you, they will hold you to the vows you made.”
“Rubbish.” I could have happily slammed the suitcase on his fingers.
“Not for them. So if it makes it anymore palatable, it wasn’t easy for me to do this to you. I thought when we met, that you were a good boy.”
“Good boy? Sounds like you were getting a dog put down. It’s odd though, that they signed me up for their group, since you’re the one that showed the right credentials.”
“I’m sorry. It truly wasn’t easy to know what to do. I hope, but I doubt, that David will say the same when I find him.”
“Why, what did Challoner do? Or can’t you say?”
“No, I can tell you this much, since I already knew before I reached Whitby. David obviously needed a great deal of money, because his house went for a quick sale, as did our offices, along with my flat. I suspect by the time he found the blonde, he’d already met their requirements in severing ties.”


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