“Lorna Broad-Castor here, still somehow awake and continuing your 24/7 coverage of the Sandy Moss Murder story. Eagle-eyed viewers among you may notice that a clock has been added to the screen, enabling those of you who are fully immersed in this story to now remember what day it is and allowing me to slowly count away the minutes of my seemingly never-ending shift.
“On to the headlines. Again. The husband of the late, great Sandy Moss, Travis Davies, has confessed to her murder and is currently in jail waiting for something to happen to him. In an unusual twist, the butler of Sandy Moss, Broof Hogwash, has this evening been released from prison, having had all of the charges against him dropped. He declined our request for an interview.
“Sandy’s beloved daughter, April Moss, still 18, has now been missing for ten days, along with her friends, Whatshername and Thingamabob. The two suspects wanted in connection with April’s disappearance, Paul Pants and William Wangshaft are still evading police.
“If anyone has any information on the location of April, her friends or these two wanted men, for the love of Watcher, get in touch with police.
“Next up, we have yet another inconclusive feature about Sandy Moss’s ill-fated marriage. I’ll be back with the headlines in, oh look, ten minutes. Great.”
“So it wasn’t the butler,” Babs whispered, watching as the promised feature began to play and cooing over how pretty and hopeful Sandy had looked on her wedding day. She’d seen this feature a few times now and her eyes were still drawn down, willing the camera to pan lower…
It didn’t. Babs sank back into her well-tenderised spot on the sofa staring at the television. She had to be up for work in a few hours, but even if she wasn’t loaded to the eyeballs on caffeine and sugar, she wasn’t sure she would have been able to sleep.
For the first time in almost a decade, she and Adina had really spoken.
The conversation had been, unsurprisingly, awkward and stilted. This was not the kind of rift that could be mended over a cup of chamomile tea and a plate of punny cookies, but it did appear that this was one rift that could be mended with time and humility.
Babs was still staring at the bottom of the television screen, waiting for the final shot in this feature where she’d glimpse the shadow of Sandy’s baby bump under her carefully tailored dress.
She jumped at the sound of the front door unlocking. It was too early for Chuck to be home, did that mean? Was it? Her heart skipped a beat.
“Only me,” Chuck replied, stumbling in. “I didn’t think you’d still be up.”
“I can see that. “Babs shook her head and closed her eyes, but when she opened them, she was greeted by the same absurd scene. She gestured to the young woman draped around her husband’s neck but words escaped her.
Chuck drew a breath, but before he could reply, the woman – barely more than a girl, really – was trying to form cohesive sentences.
“Hi! You mush be Babs! Oh, ish so nice to meetchu!” she slurred, waving. “Your housh ish so pretty! So orange! Chuck says sush nice things ’bout -hic- ’bout you.”
“Does he,” Babs replied, unamused. “Sorry, who are you?”
“I’m Lith… Liliff.” She burped and startled herself. ‘Scuse me! I’m jush a teensy bit… um, pished. And Chuck ish so nice, offerin’ me a bed. But I’m not tryin to shleep wiff your man, love. Honest.”
She fell heavily against Chuck who was struggling to stay upright. Babs raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her husband; all that was needed to clearly convey her question after so many years of marriage.
Chuck sighed. “Help me get her up to Melinda’s room and I’ll explain.”
In his pre-occupied, self-analytical frame of mind, Seth had wandered to the foot of the old castle ruins and was staring at the tall, foreboding building in the distance, trying to piece together his thoughts, his timeline.
He tried working backwards, through his fragmented and vague human memories. He remembered being released from The Tower, being in The Tower, but he did not remember a great deal before that, other than the odd flash of being, evidently, not the best behaved of children.
He tried working forwards; remembered moving back to Windenburg after his release and adding in the pieces of his pet cat and the original green-eyed woman, who he assumed had been a lover. The next thing he remembered with any clarity was being awoken on a roadside in 1734, with an inexplicable thirst, by a concerned coachman, whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As far as he was aware, from there, he wasn’t missing anything. So who was this glowing-eyed demonic woman? Had she made him a vampire and if so, why? Why did she abandon him? Where did she go? Why was he only remembering her now? He had tried, and failed, to lie hundreds of times. Why was tonight any different?
He stared out over the vista, contemplating, as he did most nights, how it was possible to feel like a stranger in his own skin.
He had calmed himself as the memories had, once again, faded to black along with the complicated cesspit of emotions they had stirred. He absent-mindedly adjusted his belt, pressed his fingertips against the wound in his hip that was already grafting itself back together. Something must have triggered these memories, but what or who?
Was it that human? Something she’d said? There had been that cat, but that wasn’t the first cat he’d held in his existence. It wasn’t even the first white one; he often fed that similar-looking one that frequented the forests of Forgotten—
“What is that place?”
Seth nearly leapt off the rock face in shock. He hadn’t even heard Faith approaching. He took a moment to listen, but he couldn’t hear any of her thoughts again tonight. He had bigger things to worry about than what kind of filth the fledgling was fantasising about, though.
He could see the old cottage from this vantage point, so it was possible that she’d seen him from her window. Still, it surprised him that she’d seek him out; they hadn’t exactly parted on great terms and he had planned to ignore her for a few more days while she’d adequately festered.
Perhaps she simply couldn’t resist him.
“That’s The Tower,” he replied, staring off into the distance, acting disinterested.
Faith followed his gaze, standing slightly behind him, he could sense her hands hovering near his waist as she spoke. “What is that? Like a prison or something?”
He turned to her, watched her tuck her hands swiftly behind her back, her lips curled in a cruel smile. “It’s a psychiatric hospital now. But it used to be a place to imprison the criminally insane.”
She nodded. Seth wondered what he’d say if she asked what else he knew about it; but Faith didn’t seem to care.
“It’s an interesting shape,” she said. “Clearly built by a man who needed to compensate.”
But of course, how predictable. What else did he expect from his nymphomanic neophyte other than vulgarity?
However, her superficial salaciousness did mean that he was back in familiar territory. “Built by the Wangshafts. Ancestors of your charming friend, I do believe.”
Faith scoffed, “You mean Will? He’s hardly my friend.”
Seth waited; technically that was a question but he found he had no desire to answer. And importantly, no flashes of that devil woman screaming at him, either.
Faith seemed content with her misinterpretation of his words. She took his hand and smiled. “So what are you doing out here, not half a mile from where I’m staying? Following me again, little doggy?”
Well, this was far easier a reunion than he’d anticipated. He snaked his hand around her waist, drawing her nearer. Perhaps if he could relax her enough, maybe even slip her unconscious, he could explore the tantalising tangle of her mind a little more, see where she was at. Maybe even unlock a few more of his memories…
“How could I stay away?” he purred.
She grabbed him by the belt and he relented. Their lips inches apart she whispered, “I thought you didn’t want me if I wasn’t willing to be your accessory to horrific, unnecessary murder?”
“You have other uses,” he murmured. Nice and vague, he knew exactly how she’d interpret that.
So to say that he was startled when she shoved him away was an understatement. He staggered back a pace, eyeing her suspiciously, unable to keep the irritation from his voice.
Her expression was almost coy, almost hurt and yet entirely insincere. In a cutesy voice, a fabulous impression of April, she said, “I don’t want to kiss you. You were super mean to me, Seth.”
He raised an eyebrow in response. He could tell by her excessive pout that she was teasing him, testing him and yet even as he dismissed her efforts, he felt compelled to comply. To utter the damn ‘s-word’ she clearly wanted to hear.
“I’m…” He screwed up his face, changed his mind. “What can I say? I’m a heartless bastard.”
Faith laughed and patted his cheek. “You think you are. You say I’m not worth chasing and yet here you are, following me again, like a lovesick puppy. You just can’t apologise, can you? Is saying you’re sorry too much of an ego blow, Seth?”
He bristled. “What do I have to apologise for?” he snarled. “For not submitting to your flighty whims or fitting in with your pathetic party?”
Faith shrugged. “No-one invited you to the party. Admit it; you’re lonely and have nothing better to do. You need me a hell of a lot more than I need you.”
“I don’t need you.”
He cleared his throat, composed himself; tried not to outwardly appear that he was teetering on the brink. “Are you quite done, Fledgling? I told you, your chances aren’t unlimited and my patience is wearing thin.”
Faith’s shoulders dropped. She pursed her lips, leaned in towards him. Here we go, he thought. She’s as desperate as ever.
“Fuck off, Seth,” she hissed. “How about that?”
She turned on her heel and sashayed off through the long grass. He watched her go with no intention to follow. But something about the exaggerated, metronomic swing of Faith’s hips, lulled him headfirst into another forgotten memory..
Bloody hell; more women? Who were they? Was his whole human life a series of flings and flirtations with every skirt in the village? Did Lilith bury these memories, too?
“Look, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave Faith alone. “
How could he know what was good for himself if he didn’t have a clue who ‘himself’ was? He couldn’t leave it. Not now. He had to know.
“Faith,” he called, begrudgingly.
She paused, turned her head slightly and waited.
Seth gritted his teeth. “I’m… I…” he began and stuttered to a stop. He was willing himself to just say the damn word. He could do it, he assured himself. He could sacrifice a little control here in order to gain the upper hand. “I’m sorry. All right? There, I said it, you win. I’m sorry.”
Faith nodded, but didn’t turn around. “Keep working on that. Maybe one day it’ll sound sincere,” she said and carried on walking.
He growled in frustration. “I said I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? Beg?”
He realised his mistake the second the word left his lips.
She stopped, turned to face him, almost in slow-motion.
“That might work.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” he groaned.
“Oh no, I’m deadly serious.” She grinned. “Go ahead, I don’t have all night. Melinda’s taking forever with her first prey so I’ve gotta go find some other loser to fuck and drain.”
Ah, so his tweaking of her sympathy towards humans appeared to be working; at least something was going right. He huffed. “I’m not begging for your forgiveness, Faith.”
“Suit yourself.” Faith shrugged and carried on walking. “Enjoy staring longingly at the giant cock-shaped loony bin, after you’ve finished ogling my ass, of course.”
He gasped. Green-eyed woman. The original one. What was… what was going on there? Damn! He couldn’t let her leave, he had to know.
“All right.” He shook his head, repeatedly asking himself what the hell he was doing even as he whispered. “I’m begging you, Faith.”
“Did you say something?” Faith asked. “I didn’t quite catch it. Say it again. Louder.”
“You heard me,” he snapped.
“Heard what?” Faith asked innocently.
He sighed, looking at Faith’s face with contempt. Oh, she was enjoying this, the little bitch. “Fine! I’m begging you!”
“Begging me for what?” Faith asked, licking her teeth.
“Gah!” He just couldn’t win here. His pride was already on the floor, might as well just give her what she wanted. “I’m begging you to forgive me.”
Faith tapped her chin. “I’m just not really believing it.” She grinned wickedly. “Perhaps it would be more convincing if you were on your knees…”
He was rapidly losing his patience now; his hand twitched restlessly at his side. “You want me on my damn knees?”
“Oh, I really do.”
Seth considered his options. He could simply leave, but would that mean remaining in the dark about his former life and his missing pieces, forever mulling over the fragments he had, weaving his theories and filling in his blanks, never knowing if he was right? If Lilith had warned him about Faith, it must be because she could unlock something in him, he reasoned.
With trepidation, he lowered himself to the ground.
Faith was unable to hide her surprise. “Why are you kneeling?” she asked.
Was she serious? “You just bloody told me to!” he shouted.
“But why?” she repeatedly, mischievously.
He bit his tongue. He knew what she wanted. “Because I hurt you, I’m sorry and I’m begging you for forgiveness,” he said quickly. Feeling ridiculous, he went to rise.
“No.” Faith commanded, “Stay.”
He complied without question. Another thing he wasn’t looking forward to analysing later; it was utterly humiliating and yet relinquishing his control felt… liberating.
As the minutes ticked past, Faith began humming a happy little tune. “Nice night, isn’t it?”
“Are you quite done?” He sighed, trying to sound unruffled by the whole evening’s events. “Didn’t you need to go and find a ‘loser to fuck and drain’?”
Faith smiled and patted Seth on the head.
“I think I’ve found one,” she said.