Hanging out in Wyatt’s room used to be akin to visiting a landfill on a hot, summer’s day. But now, with the crisp, fresh sheets, vacuumed flooring and lingering scent of chlorine, Broof could tolerate being in here for the same amount of time he could tolerate being around Wyatt. Time that, due to circumstance, seemed to be increasing lately.
This time they were joined by Melinda. The girl seemed both a world brighter and a candle darker than the last time Broof had been in her company. And this afternoon, like most when Broof had made conversation with her in the past – usually confined to the times he would drive her home after her secretly meeting with April – he found the girl to be rather quiet, very gentle and preoccupied with one topic.
“She will be OK, won’t she?” she asked again. “Sage isn’t going to fall asleep or anything? Only, my dad would fall asleep if he was watching a movie—”
“April will be fine, Mel,” Wyatt assured her for the fifth time. “Mum’s not gonna let him anywhere near her.”
Melinda nodded but she didn’t look convinced. “Are you sure? Because they don’t really need to sleep, so they’ll likely out-last her. And she seemed a bit shaken earlier. Maybe I should go and check on them.”
“Mel, it’s 6pm – even Mum can stay up this late. Chill. I’ll go and check on them in bit.”
The girl had been restless since Caleb and April had requested that they be allowed to go on a date. All right, so the date was in the snug and involved them watching terrible, old horror movies together, but they had to work with what they had.
Sage had volunteered to chaperone, having taken a healthy swig of a potion that smelled like apples and had made her seem far less appealing upon consumption.
It had left Melinda at a loose end.
“But Sage is outnumbered,” she pleaded, this time to Broof.
“Technically, with April being part witch, she isn’t outnumbered,” Broof said.
“April can’t use any witch powers though.”
“True,” Broof admitted. “But she would surely be outnumbered by vampires if you were also in the room.”
“Trust me, Mel,” Wyatt chimed in. “That potion mum guzzled will put them both right off. It’ll be fine. And she might still have ‘witch powers’ for all we know. Unchartered waters and all that.”
Melinda made a face somewhere between annoyance and acceptance and shifted on the little footstool she was sitting on. “Has this never happened before?” she asked. “A witch being turned into a vampire, I mean.”
“Well, the consensus in the coven was that vampires have been extinct in these parts for the best part of three centuries, so we don’t have any first-hand evidence, but Ma used to say—“
Wyatt snorted. “You know I can’t take you seriously when you start a sentence with ‘Ma used to say’. No offence, dude, but your grandma was a nutter.”
“How can that not be offensive?” Broof tutted, turning his attention back to Melinda. “She wasn’t a nutter, Melinda. She was ahead of her time.”
“She was so far ahead that we still haven’t caught up.”
Melinda, polite as she was, chose to ignore Wyatt’s digs at Broof’s late grandmother and asked, “What did your grandma use to say?”
“Noooo!” Wyatt whined playfully. “Don’t encourage him.”
Broof gave Wyatt his best ‘suck that’ look and began to retell the nightmarish tale he’d been told throughout his childhood.
“Once upon a time, a witch named Kathryn Spoon was turned by vampires—”
“She wasn’t,” Wyatt interrupted. “She either died at the hands of the vampires and they never found her, or she vanished. She was betrothed to a Wangshaft, so can’t blame her, really, if she chose the latter. Hell, I’d probably volunteer to be the centrepiece at a Society Vamp buffet over marrying one of that lot.”
“I’m not saying I agree with Ma,” Broof insisted. “I’m just retelling the tale. And according to the tale, Kathryn was turned.”
“That depends on the tale,” Wyatt cut in again. “No one really knows what happens to Kathryn. Half the coven thinks she’s a traitor who abandoned them, the other half thinks she was eaten alive. Only Ma has ever thought that she was turned.”
“But that was mostly because they didn’t think it was possible to replace pure magic entirely with dark magic,” Broof explained. “But yet we have April, so clearly it is possible and maybe Ma was right; Kathryn might have been turned.”
“She might have gone insane and joined the circus.”
“The circus didn’t exist in the 1600s.”
“Whatever. Dude, let it go. Geez, you’re like a dog with a bone with your theories; you should join the GliTS.”
“But those lot are nutters, whereas the more I think about it, the more I think I’m right.”
“You’re never right.”
“Like my theory about April being your daughter?”
Wyatt shook his head and muttered. “Look. Kathryn was a powerful witch, probably even more powerful than me – no vampire could’ve taken her. It’s totally whacky.”
“But what if she went willingly?”
“Why would she go willingly?”
“All right, not exactly willingly. You get caught on Caleb’s allure, what if Kathryn had been caught on her sire’s? Completely at his mercy and unable to resist his slimy charms? They were rumoured to hang around the club where she performed, the society vampires.”
“Hoggy, Caleb’s allure makes me want to rip his shirt off and lick his chest—“
“Oh my gosh,” Melinda gasped, embarrassed.
“Yes, too much information, Wy,” Broof agreed.
Wyatt grinned. “All I’m saying is: his allure makes me want to get close. Really close. But it doesn’t make me want to be his vampire hubby. And no witch would willingly be bitten and risk losing all their magic. That’d suck wouldn’t it? To lose your magic? Imagine that.”
“Unless she didn’t have a choice. Maybe they bound her,” Melinda whispered.
“No,” Broof mused. “Hundreds of witches have been slaughtered by vampires over the years. Left as warnings at the meeting place. If they could’ve bound them, they probably would’ve.”
“No wonder witches hate us so much,” Melinda sighed. “Vampires have caused so much pain and suffering, haven’t they? And for what?” she studied her nails for a while, seemingly lost in thought before she asked. “What reason did Ma give, Broof? Why was she so adamant that they did turn Kathryn, even though they’d not turned any of the other witches?”
“Because of who she was, Melinda. Having her amongst their ranks would’ve been a real blow to the coven that I doubt we would’ve recovered from,” Broof said. “The coven has different roles – ranks, if you will. You have juvenile witches – typically witches under thirty who aren’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of magic; Wyatt’s still in that category—”
“Actually, I’m officially mature enough now,” Wyatt interjected.
“A matter of opinion,” Broof mumbled. “Anyway, then you have the regular witches, like me; fully fledged members of the coven. Then above the likes of myself, you have the senior witches; Sage is one – they form a government of sorts, making day-today decisions and solving conflicts within the coven. And then, at the very top, you have the High Priest or Priestess, elected into the position, usually for life. They oversee the coven, decide the direction to take us in, lead the rituals and are generally there to protect us. Ma was one. It’s a position of great power and responsibility, so, naturally, the coven only elects its strongest and most morally robust witches to this role. Now, most of the witches lost to the vampires were regular witches, or even juvenile ones—”
“TLDR, Hoggy,” Wyatt yawned. “Kathryn was the High Priestess.”
Broof scowled. “I was building up to that.”
“You’ve sort of disproved your own point there, too,” Wyatt shrugged. “If the vamps had turned the HP, they’d have let everyone know about it. ‘Look what we’ve got’ kinda thing. Really rubbed their noses in it. And we’d have heard something by now – it’s been centuries since she was last seen.”
“Unless they realised they’d made a mistake,” Melinda said quietly. “Then they’d make sure no one knew about it, right?”
“Maybe,” Broof agreed. “And if they did decide that, she wasn’t going to stand a chance against a whole society of vampires, was she?”
“So we’ve reached a conclusion,” Wyatt announced triumphantly. “Whichever way you look at it; Kathryn probably wasn’t turned and probably is dead. Unlike Mum,” he quickly added catching Melinda’s trembling lip. “So… back to reality. What’s everyone doing tonight? Hoggy?”
Broof shifted on the bed, but the lie came easily. “Practicing my craft, you?”
Wyatt only smiled.
“On a weekday?” Broof said astounded as he interpreted this silence. “Do you ever sleep?”
“I’ll sleep in the ground.” He grinned. “What about you, Mel? What are you gonna do?”
The girl shrugged. “Mope, I suppose.”
“Nope,” Wyatt shook his head. “Not allowed. Hey, your old man mentioned that you like star gazing – wanna do that?”
Melinda’s eyes glittered them immediately darkened. “I’m not allowed to leave the house.”
“Correction – you’re not allowed to leave the lot,” Wyatt insisted. “We can totally go up on the roof.”
“We… we can?”
“If you’re going to kill her, JUST KILL HER!” April squealed, clapping her hands and bouncing in her seat.
Sage had been most alarmed the first time April had screamed this is at the set. But after four or five outbursts, aimed at each and every threat that loomed over her mother’s character in this awful movie she’d insisted on watching, Sage was becoming rather used to it. She was even starting to join April as she rooted for the zombies.
Sage had seen a few of Sandy’s films over the years and could not say she was a fan, although Sage wasn’t really one for movies, in general. Sandy’s name alone next to a movie title was enough to make it a hit, and oh, didn’t the woman know it? She might have had the paparazzi hanging on her every word and a legion of die-hard fans, but Sage had long suspected, and now seen through April, exactly what a tyrant the woman was.
Thankfully, Sandy had a small part in this movie. Aged twenty-three, years before any cosmetic surgery and still pretending to be a teenager, on-screen Sandy alternated between making out with a beefcake in a sports jacket and running from the festering undead.
April was hooked – Sage loved seeing the girl so animated. Caleb however, well, he had surely had better evenings. He was neither enjoying the movie or getting close to April and Sage knew that the repellent she had ingested was only adding to the vampire’s discomfort. He was likely regretting his insistence on being alone with the girl – hopefully he wouldn’t be asking again!
“Oh dear sweet mother moon!” Sage gasped, clutching at her chest as she fell victim to a jump scare that even jolted Caleb from his misery.
“Careful now, Sage,” he smirked. “Wouldn’t want that old heart giving in.”
“Oh no, we wouldn’t! Are you OK, grandma?” April asked with genuine concern.
“Don’t you worry about me!” Sage sang in a voice dripping with honey. “It will take more than a latex-faced extra to do me in. Your mother on the other hand…” she gestured back at the screen, guiding April’s attention.
“Oh my god!” April screamed as a zombie finally got his hands on Sandy and began chewing her face. “Yes! Yes, yes!”
Sage fixed Caleb with her iciest stare which he matched for a second and then turned away from with an unamused humph.
It wasn’t him, she assured herself for the fifth time that day. And it certainly wasn’t Lilith or either of the girls. So who was it?
It had occupied her thoughts all evening. Who had wandered into the Square, into her net of sanctuary, and attempted to corrupt it with a level of dark magic the likes of which she had never witnessed?
Speed was no longer a skill of Sage’s; by the time she’d left the store, prepared to face whoever or whatever it was that was attempting to breach the defences, the Square was empty, save for a confused-looking woman. A quick scan of her told Sage that this woman was human and a quick conversation with her made her realise that she had no idea what she was doing there or what had happened in the moments preceding.
It was all rather peculiar. Perhaps she had been the intended target or perhaps she had been caught in a crossfire. Sage had taken her home – thankfully the woman remembered where that was – and returned to her store to delicately mend the damage done to her magical armour.
And to ponder.
Could it be Seth? And if it was – why was he here? Did he want the other girls to complete his collection? Was he looking for Lilith? Trying to break Caleb free?
Or was he, finally, coming for Sage herself?