Monday, September 2, 2013

Change in Posting

I'm so sorry everyone, but life has totally gotten the better of me in the last couple of months - something some of you might have guessed just from the intermittent posting since the end of June. Or was it July?

Lilly Mathilda and Rosie
As you can see, I have plenty of good company while I work. Just please try to ignore all of the cords on the floor. They have to be so stretched out to put the desk lamp where I want/need it.
 
Anyway, we're also hitting the time of the year when a lot of other writing projects have to take precedent. Llewellyn Publications is due about $1000 dollars worth of my writing and I do my best to try and make it worth both the money and their readers' time. The first article was due last month and the next two are due in early October. And somewhere I need to research and plan for the mythology book I'm planning on writing this November. Toss in the kids getting back to school and three birthdays in two months, and well, you can see where this is going.

I debated just going on hiatus until the beginning of October and then re-evaluating, but that didn't sound like fun. AND it would give me an excuse to just be lazy and stop altogether, which, honestly, I don't want to do. I LIKE sharing our stories with you and I appreciate that you stick it out through the rough spots while Bridgette finds her voice and I figure out a good balance between dialog and not dialog.

So, what I'm going to do instead is just post once month during my break. I'm aiming for the first Saturday of each month, which should be quite do-able even with the other writing. Hopefully you'll stick with me during this time. I actually had 118 visitors last month! Thank you all so much!

And if you want to give me more encouragement, leave me a comment or two on occasion. They really do make us bloggers a little bit happier!

Warmest Regards,
Melinda

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Watchtower Affair: Finishing Research

Part 10
The Watchtower Affair - Now You See It, Now You Don't


Bridgette's Diary
13 February, 1925
(cont...)


            We called it a night at around 2 am. My computations and thoughts had been carefully copied from the blackboard into my journal. I thought I had the necessary formula to create a willpower elixir. But first, we all needed sleep. Even the wonder of Coke Cola wore off eventually and there was only so much you could do when that exhausted. It had been a VERY long day.

            Someone – Belle?- had arranged for hotel rooms for the three of us. I remember spending the ride back into the heart of the city absently rubbing my hand and thinking of the man who had somehow marked me. I still wondered what it was he wanted and I was a bit disconcerted over the feelings he had awakened in me. Given the circumstances of our encounter, could I even trust my reaction to him? Weren’t vampires supposed to be able to use some mesmeric ability to seduce their victims? If memory served correctly, that was what happened in Dracula. And Labana had certainly looked more than capable of seducing pretty much anyone she wanted. And, given Pathos’s reaction to the news of her death, had they been lovers? They must have been close in some capacity for that strong of a reaction. Such were the questions swimming around and around in my mind as I struggled to stay awake until the hotel.

Really it didn’t take that long to drive, which was nice. One of the last things I remember was Belle bundling me into bed. I think I managed to get my shoes off before my head hit the pillow and my eyes closed in slumber.

            Dear diary, you can probably guess what I dreamt about. Only the dream didn’t relive the day’s events, even in the warped manner dreams can take. Instead, I found myself taking a walk to my favorite part of the Cambridge countryside with him, out near the pool at Byrn Forth Manor. We talked of inconsequential things. At some point his arm was around me and later on, after walking back arm-in-arm to sit on my back patio, he kissed me ever so gently. Awakening at 6 am, I found myself feeling bereft at the loss of his presence. Once more, my left hand found my right to reassuringly rub at the two small punctures there. And then I was fully awake and focused on the task at hand. Today I needed to try compounding my elixir and I was actually looking forward to the hours in the lab that the task would demand. Perhaps the necessary focus would help clear my mind of the silly fantasies which seemed to have invaded me.

            I found my way there without the other two women this time. Letting them sleep in seemed the best thing to do and it would better let me order my thoughts as to what needed done first, second and so on. I knew they’d find me at the lab later and at least they would be better rested. And it felt wonderful making my way to the campus and letting myself into a lab once more. Really, part of me had missed this greatly. I do some lab work with my archaeological research, but it really isn’t the same. I love being in the field, but part of me also misses the more scientific calling that I once answered. And yesterday, seeing to Mr. Long’s shooting injury, I discovered that a part of me missed the practice of medicine as well. Perhaps I’ve distanced myself from my former life for long enough and the wound of the war have healed a bit. It’s something to ponder when I have the time.

            I’m taking time to write in here in fits and starts as various parts of the elixir brew and process. It’s a nice way to pass the time. Perhaps one day, someone will look back on my notes with amazement, and probably disbelief, at our adventures.

Belle arrived at the lab about two hours after I did, and she brought breakfast with her. I’d forgotten to even think about eating in my haste to get back to work. I’ve no idea where she found the biscuits, bacon, and eggs that seem to be such a major part of the traditional American breakfast, but I was grateful for them, as well as the coffee and toast.

  

            While I worked, we had a chance to talk more. Finally I know what drives her so, as well as why she hates the metallic vampires with such passion. Apparently there is a mechanic, who is also a close friend – almost an adopted big brother from the sounds of it. And he is missing after having been infected with – something - having to do with the metallic vampires. They aren’t entirely sure what had happened. Charlie, that’s his name, was handcuffed to the lavatory sink in a small local hospital in one of the more southern states. They knew he’d been infected and were trying to figure out what to do about it to keep the transformation from progressing. It must have hit a crucial stage, at which point he simply broke free and took off. Belle hasn’t seen him since, although she is very determined to locate him and transform him back into a normal human, one way or another. She’s been traveling around with Mr. Smith and Mr. Wilde in an attempt to track down Charlie, as well as stop the other metallic vampires roaming around out there. She’s also been searching for a cure, some means to transform her friend back into the man he once was. Several things in her story were deeply touching, including her deep loyalty to her friend, as well as just how determined this “Southern Belle” could be over something she felt deeply about. I vowed to help her in any way I could, aside from trying to hand over Pathos on a platter. Needless to say, I did not mention the full details of my encounter with him, although I did share most of the encounter with both of them. For some reason, I’m finding myself feeling a little protective of the vampire who can certainly more than take care of himself.

 

            As the day progressed, we three became even closer friends as we chatted and talked about our lives. I was correct in assuming Belle came from money. Apparently she comes from quite a bit of money, although she doesn’t flaunt it around. Keira shared me details of her life in the Irish village, telling us of some of the funnier stories involving her patients. Things really aren’t that different from some of my stories and I suspect Belle has a few that would seem similar as well. People are people wherever they are, making the same mistakes, assumptions, and decisions.

            Early in the afternoon Belle left to go find some lunch. Keira decided to go with her as well and get some fresh air. While I enjoyed their company immensely but I really felt the need for some time alone as well. I wanted to double check a couple of calculations before proceeding and I also needed time to check on a titration that was processing.  Even with the distraction the other two ladies provided, I still felt the most peculiar sensation every hour like I had the day before. And they seemed to grow slightly in intensity as the passage of a full day approached. Still nothing fully prepared me for what happened as I hit that point in the afternoon marking 24 hours since Pathos had bitten the back of my hand. My entire body throbbed as if with a life of its own. The entire series of sensations started at the site of the bite on the back of my right hand. I completely stopped what I was doing as my mind went to the day before and the feelings that had raced through my body at his kiss. My entire body was alive, much as it had been the day before, as though an electric shock has raced through me. Every cell of my being felt alive and full of wonder. When I came back to myself, I was staring absently out the window, caressing the bite and feeling a little, well, hot and bothered would probably be the best way to describe it. I kept trying to refocus on what I was doing, but only really managed to snap out of it when Keira and Belle returned with our lunch. They had brought several more bottles of that delightful soda, which I knew would help wake my brain back up and hopefully get me back in focus instead of partly lost on thoughts of someone I couldn’t have. Someone who was obviously messing with my mind for some purpose I couldn’t yet grasp.

            I ate lunch while working, as this next bit of the process required far more attention for a longer period of time. We also ate dinner in the lab, although I tried to encourage the other two to get eat a proper dinner somewhere. There was no need for them to do without just because I was working. There were having none of it, however, and insisted on staying with me, just in case there was anything they could do.

            Belle managed to procure a snack for us sometime around 11 pm. I would think that most places would be closed for business at that time, but she seems to know her way around the city. I was most grateful, as my ability to focus was fading quickly at that point.

I think I shall have to continue this tomorrow, as the elixir is going to take most of my attention from here on out. Hopefully the outcome of our planning will be successful and I will be able to tell you all about it soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So Sorry

Everyone...all three of you...I'm so sorry that I haven't gotten any posts up recently. Not only is the current story a real bear to edit, but I also messed up one of my meds and it left me pretty sick for a couple of weeks, after which I figured it out. It took another week for my body to sort itself out. Now I'm working on adjusting to insulin instead of the medicine I was taking before, so please be patient.

Anyhoo, there will be a new installment up this weekend and hopefully things will follow back on schedule after that.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Watchtower Affair: Bridgette's Back In The Lab

Part 9
The Watchtower Affair - Now You See It, Now You Don't



Bridgette's Diary
13 February, 1925
(cont...)

            Belle declared that we ladies needed to go have a decent lunch and that she knew just the café. Linking arms with Keira and myself, she headed out the door and down to hail a taxi. As we left the building, I realized that she was indeed on the mark. I was suddenly starving and tired. All of that adrenalin and stress earlier was finally catching up with me. Hopefully a good meal would perk me back up in order to focus on my research. Keira stated that she too could make do with some luncheon.

            We took the taxi to a corner café closer to the heart of the city, Maison Rouge. It was a bit classier than what I’m used to, but the staff inside were very nice and welcoming. Somehow I think part of thatwass because we were with Belle. Something about her seems to demand good service. Maybe it’s the fact that she is wealthy just seems to exude from her very person. She’s a wonderfully nice person, but it’s also obvious that she comes from money and is used to a certain standard where regular everyday interactions are concerned.  At the same time, I could totally see her working on her plane if needed. It’s just one of those things and an interesting part of her personality.

            I see that I’ve started to seriously digressed yet again. To return to the original topic of Maison Rouge, the food was absolutely delicious, although truth be told, I was also quite famished by that point. Upon Belle’s suggestion, I tried their beef tips with noodles and gravy and finished it off with a piece of lemon cream pie that was just heavenly. I hope we can eat here again sometime before I leave to return home. Keira shared that her meal was just as tasty. I wondered what the gentlemen found to eat, since we left them to their own devices.

            After the meal it was off to Northwestern. Belle needed to stop by her friend’s office to find out where we were going, which took a good few minutes. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other in several weeks. He was a very nice older gentleman, a professor in the archaeology department. Even though our fields don’t necessarily cross over, I did recognize his name, since Dr. Mortimer Jones is nearly as notorious as he is well regarded in his field. Once I got over my surprise at Belle’s education in archaeology, it really wasn’t a surprise that she knew Dr. Jones. And really, he’s quite charming in person, with a certain intensity about him when it comes to his work. He was also a little shy, which one wouldn’t deduce from his reputed exploits.

            After we finally reached the lab I immediate set to work. First I need to find the chemistry library and look up a few references and interactions. While the analysis a few months ago, of the fluid in the living tunnels, had brought back much of my experimental technique, I was still a bit rusty at coming with formulae from whole cloth. Fortunately it all came back to me rather quickly. I was a bit worried that it might not.

            After the chemistry library, I set up shop in the lab, thankful for the blackboards since it let me write out formula in one spot without having to switch back and forth between pages of my journal. It was also easier to make adjustments as I went. Once I hit the first couple of chemical interactions, the whole thing started to take shape rather quickly, although I did need to make one more trip to the library.

            There was also the oddest distraction as I tried to work. Every hour, at exactly the same time as my encounter with Pathos in the stair well, I would feel the strangest sensation in my hand – the same hand he had bitten. Inevitably, it would leave my entire body tingling in response. Often I would begin to absentminded rub the back of that hand while I worked and every so often I would need to drag my thoughts away from the handsome vampire and focus back on the work at hand. It was quite maddening, but also more than a little pleasurable and left me feeling a wee bit out of sorts and disoriented. And there wasn’t a person present that I felt I could confide in. Keira found the existence of vampires most unnatural and rather distasteful. I suspect she felt that the dead should stay dead and really I agreed with her, at least in theory. In practice, it was now becoming a little harder to maintain that stance. After all, she hadn’t met the vampire in question. And I could tell that there was no love lost over the vampires by Belle. I had yet to find out why, but there was an extreme anger directed from her to Pathos, and to Labana before. A part of me was quite curious, since it was obvious she had already known Mr. Smith and Mr. Wilde before we joined the merry adventuring gang. As for the men, well, even if any of them had been present, it wasn’t quite the sort of thing I would feel comfortable in sharing with the opposite sex. 

            And so I continued to work, getting caught up in the dance of potential chemical reactions and their hoped for outcome and every so often I found myself bothered and distracted by thoughts of Pathos. As for Belle and Keira, they both appointed themselves my caretakers and brought me a steady stream of food and drink during the hours I labored. I was grateful for their care, knowing how distracted I can get while doing research. Often I’ve suddenly found myself famished and dying of thirst because I didn’t realize that I’d been at it for hours upon hours. And they helped me discover the most amazing soft drink, Coke Cola. It certainly helps add some pep to your work!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Watchtower Affair: The Building Get's Its Wish...For Now

Part 8
The Watchtower Affair - Now You See It, Now You Don't


Bridgette's Diary
13 February, 1925
(cont...)
            Taking a deep breath to shake off the remaining affects of my “other sight” I crawled over to take a look at Mr. Long’s ankle. It didn’t appear to be injured too badly. The bullet had lost power after bouncing off of Pathos, plus the angle with which it struck him was slight enough to not cause serious damage. It was really more of a grazing wound. While bandaging it, I made sure to comment on how lucky he was that it wasn’t worse. He’d have a slight limp for a little while, but would be fine in just a few days.

            After I finished tying off the bandage, I picked myself up off the floor and tried the door once more. Blessedly, it was unlocked. Yanking it open, I strode through and headed for the front door. No, I didn’t look back to see if they followed, or if they headed to the elevators, or if they even stood around in the lobby. I wanted out of that building – now.

            Later, I learned that the rest of the gang had their own troubles on the elevator, getting into a fight in even more crowded confines than our stair landing. According to Keira, Mr. Rasicci tried to convince the “mob boys” with them that the person on the top floor was really an imposter whom they needed to kill. It seemed like a good idea and it might even have worked were it not for the mind control of whatever was up there. All of the gang, except for Mr. Wilde, dove for the floor to take cover. Mr. Wilde drew that amazing energy sword of his and cut all of the mob boys down where they stood. It sounds like the world’s shortest, least bloody fight. And for whatever reason, their elevator then returned to the first floor, where they all exited in a bit of confusion.

            Mr. Long had followed me through the lobby and out the door. Mr.Smith had started to follow before noticing the elevator returning to the lobby level. He decided to wait and see who would get off. It turned out to be the rest of our group. Together all of them headed for the door.

            I had stopped at the edge of the sidewalk, sinking down to sit on the rough cement and inhale several very deep breaths. To Mr. Long’s honor, he did stop near me and try to reassure me that everything would be fine. I’m not sure he fully realized why I was so upset, which is just as well, given his animosity towards Pathos. My apparently protectiveness, as well as my attraction to him, left me very puzzled and off kilter, although the vast majority of my discomfort did stem from the building itself. It was as though it was trying to protect itself from something, as though it feared we might find out its secrets, which it dearly wanted kept secret. And it was very, very good at protecting itself.

            It was a relief to see everyone else coming out of the building only a moment or two behind us. I continued to sit where I was, taking deep breathes and trying to calm my rampaging nerves. And then, well, the next thing I knew, I was down the sidewalk, past where our cars were parked. My cheek stung slightly from the slap that Mr. Smith had just delivered. Apparently the building was trying to get us to leave as quickly as possible, as everyone else, with the exception of Mr. Smith, had suddenly just started silently walking away from the building. We all had that vacant look to our faces. I’d barely time to give him a startled look before he continued on to Mr. Rasicci and slapped him as well. He was calculating just how hard he needed to hit everyone to snap them out of it.

            Shortly we were all piling back into the cars and returning to Mr. Rasicci’s office to regroup and figure out what to do next. For the moment, the building was getting its wish to see us gone. Unfortunately for it, most of us would be back. Whatever was inside causing all of this was going to be taken out. Somehow. Personally, I was for tearing the whole thing down and scattering the rubble to the proverbial far corners. And no, I didn’t wait until our return to Mr. Rasicci’s before knocking back a drink from my flask. Actually, I believe it took two swigs before I felt calmer. If I recall correctly, the flask was passed around to everyone in our car. Even Keira imbibed.

            Once situated in Mr. Rasicci’s office again, we ran through what we knew and discussed our options for how to tackle the new beastie. To start the discussion off,  Mr. Smith shared what he had recalled back in lobby. A few years ago, there had been a similar situation with some powerful supernatural creature atop Big Ben. The only real differences between the two cases were how strong this creature’s mind control abilities were proving to be and the fact that the building was invisible. Big Ben had remained in sight the entire time.

The biggest concern seemed to be the mind control. Whatever this “Watchtower” creature was, it was very powerful. So far it had had a field day taking control of us one by one. And at the end of our eventful visit, it had even taken control of all of us, but one, in an attempt to get us to leave. Mr. Smith was talking about the use of a tin foil hat to help protect one from being mind controlled, which sounded absolutely ridiculous to me, although I know it to be quite common in some esoteric circles. However, there was little evidence to support the theory so far, even in the parapsychological community.  Personally, I thought it just made the wearer look silly.

            Finally I had an inkling of an idea and spoke up. There was a possibility that I could make an elixir to protect one from the mind control. Perhaps boost up a person’s willpower enough that they could shrug off any attempt on the part of another to gain control over them. It was worth a shot if they could just get me into a lab somewhere.

            Belle spoke up that she knew someone at Northwestern, here in Chicago, and could maybe arrange it. After borrowing Mr. Rasicci’s telephone, we were good to go. As for removing the monster from the equation, we were all for blowing it up. Even though none of us had gotten a look at it, we were all fairly certain that it was of a good size, given its psychic powers. It was obviously pulling the strings on several people all at the same time, which was both frightening and impressive. This left us feeling that it was simply too large to make sure we could take it out with the usual handgun and also unlikely that a larger gun would do the trick. There was also the fact that we couldn’t see the danged thing either. That left explosives and we hoped we could limit the damage to just the upper part of the building, sparing any of the surroundings much damage. It was decided that while I was in the lab, working on the elixir, the men would be working to come up with a plan on how to proceed with the explosives. They would also figure out how to procure said explosives in a suitable quantity to do the job.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Watchtower Affair: Enemies Are Made

Part 6
The Watchtower Affair - Now You See It, Now You Don't

 

Bridgette's Diary
13 February, 1925
(cont...)


Meanwhile, back in the lobby, most of the group headed to the elevator following the mobsters who had just arrived. Mr. Smith and Mr. Long remained behind, having decided to take the stairs up to see “The Man”.

I met with Mr. Smith and Mr. Long just as I put my hand on the door to open it. They looked just as surprised to see me standing there as I was to see them. I’m sure I appeared a bit disheveled, just to make it even more interesting.
            “Oh,” I said. “What are the two of you doing?”

Mr. Smith brushed past and started for the first step. “We’re heading up to the top floor to confront whatever the fuck is there. The others are taking the elevator with those mob boys who showed up.” (As an aside, Mr. Smith certainly has some colorful vocabulary and doesn’t seem to pay any mind as to who’s within listening distance of him.)

“I wouldn’t take the stairs if I were you. I’m not sure you would be able to make it to the top.” That had his attention.

“What happened?” He turned those penetrating eyes on me and I glimpsed the intelligence behind the tough guy image. For some reason, this was a comfort. I no longer found him as frightening before, maybe because he reminded me a bit of my late father. He was intense, yes, and definitely focused, but not terrifying Of course, I had just been in the company of a metal vampire, which perhaps but things in a different perspective. This was a bit of a relief, letting me relax around him.

I filled them in on my misadventures since entering the stairwell, including my two encounters with Pathos and how he had saved me on the upper floor. I gave them most of the pertinent details, except for the bite on the back of my hand. I had no idea what it meant, but I was keeping that little occurrence to myself for now.

Mr. Smith’s face darkened at the mention of the vampire’s name and he started to ask me more questions about what had happened, especially questions concerning Pathos, when I once more heard that whirring sound and the man in question descended through the opening between the flights of stairs. He perched upside down to one side of where we stood and looked at the two men with me. Mr. Smith and Pathos begin conversing tersely. Mr. Smith was quite aggressive in talking to Pathos, almost like he was so angry at him that he couldn’t help but try to goad him into some sort of action. They aren’t very far into their conversation before Pathos learned of Labana’s death in Boston.

            Up until now, the exchange between the two had been angry and tense, but only verbal. As Pathos reeled slightly from the news of the female vampire’s death, Mr. Long stepped up and threw in his face the fact that he had killed her. It was as if Mr. Long had physically punched Pathos, such was his reaction. He reached out and slapped Mr. Long across the face, leaving a bright red hand-shaped print upon Mr. Long’s left cheek. Mr. Long retaliated by punching Pathos in the head as well, landing a blow strong enough to knock his head back slightly. Things became insane for the next few minutes. I have no idea what Mr. Long was thinking by provoking a fight with the vampire in such close quarters. Not only had he done nothing to really start the aggression in the first place, but the last vampire that Mr. Long had taken out exploded. We had nowhere to go if that were to happen here.

            Trying the door, I found it locked. Sighing deeply, I sank down in the corner and tried to stay out of the way. And for some silly reason, I decided to activate my “other sight” for a different perspective on what was happening. I’d hoped to learn something new about the energies interacting in the stairs and perhaps I could detect something interesting about the door and why it seemed locked. I mean, it had only been used mere minutes ago. Of course, it was no doubt whatever lived on the top floor that was behind it all, but I felt the desperate need to try something.

By the way, did I say silly? Actually it was more along the lines of stupid. When I looked at Mr. Hand and Pathos going at it hand to hand, what I saw was two cranes standing in the middle of a field fighting with their long legs. The whole image was overlaid onto stairwell.  When I looked anywhere in the stair well, that’s all I saw, this placid field with a breeze gently blowing the tops of the prairie grasses about. Mr. Long and Pathos were both funny looking, long legged cranes and Mr. Smith resembled an odd fox and behind it all the faint, fuzzy image of the actual reality.

            Just as I closed my eyes to block out the disorientation of the two images superimposed over one another, Mr. Smith pulled his big gun from wherever he keeps it. A shoulder holster perhaps? Clamping my eyelids tightly shut, I prayed that in the chaos someone would miss my small corner, because there was very little else I could do to protect myself. Getting around any of them probably would have precipitated my getting hurt.

            Since I couldn’t see anything, the sound of Mr. Smith’s gun going off made my entire body jump. I heard a grunt from Mr. Long and opened my eyes. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit my relief upon seeing Pathos unscathed. He had done very little to precipitate this fight. Mr. Long however… And it was indeed Mr. Long who was wounded. Somehow the bullet had ricocheted off Pathos and struck Mr. Long in the ankle.

            With a look of anger blazing in his eyes, Pathos took off once more up the stair well. It was quite obvious that things were far from over between Mr. Long and the vampire.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Watchtower Affair: Vampire to the Rescue?

Part 6
The Watchtower Affair - Now You See It, Now You Don't



Bridgette's Diary
13 February, 1925
(cont...)

Before the implications could really set in, I stood up, gathered my medical bag, and, squaring my shoulders, I started back down the stairwell. Even if Keira tried to convince me otherwise, I was still leaving the building and the others could deal with it as they saw fit. The Tunnel Monster in Boston had seemed truly impossible, as well as irrational. It had shaken my reality, but it hadn’t totally changed or challenged it. And there was another vampiric monster tossed into the mix. I had more than had enough of it all.

            After several minutes spent descending stairs, passing far more landings than were necessary, I finally arrived at a door. It was marked with a small plaque that read “32nd Floor”. I nearly yielded to a scream of frustration. Honestly, Diary, I had started to actively hate this building, as though it were a living thing. In my defense, it was acting like it was alive – and spiteful as all get out. Standing there staring at that door, I fought back tears and prepared to open it and meet my fate, whatever it might be. Obviously it was what the damn building wanted!  And then there was a familiar whirring, clicking noise behind me. Pounding my fist uselessly alongside the doorframe in frustration, I struggled harder to control my mounting panic. I would not cry, even if I was holding onto what control remained using only my fingernails.

Turning around, I came face to face with Pathos once more. He had a slightly puzzled look on his face, or maybe it was one of frustration. After staring at me for a short moment, he said, “I thought you were going back down the stairs.”

Shrugging helplessly, I retorted, “I thought I was, and yet here I am.” I waved a hand in the direction of the door plate. “Up instead of down. I don’t understand this place at all!”

He gave a nod, as if in answer to a question only he knew. “I’ve been watching you crawl backwards up the stairs ever since our meeting.”

My lower lip quivered again as those frustrated tears fought hard for release. “I’ve been doing what? It’s really is this building, isn’t it?”

“You could say that. Actually, it’s what’s behind that door,” he answered gently. “Would you like my help?”

 “Just a moment, please. How come it doesn’t seem to affect you?’ I asked, instead of answering his question. “It’s having a grand ol’ time with me.”

“We have an arrangement.” He actually flashed a rueful smile, giving one the tiniest glimpse of the metal within. “Now, about that help?”

Honestly, Diary, what could I do? I couldn’t very well just stand on the landing forever, nor did I really want to walk through that door. So, I nodded to him. “Yes please. I would like that very much.” Yes, I was both worried and hopefully that he wouldn’t kill me. It seemed like he truly did want to help, which puzzled me a great deal. True, I’ve never really met a vampire until now – Labana didn’t really count since we never really talked to her and had only fought her – but there was still the fact, according to Mr. Smith, that they could steal the skins of their victims, wearing them to pass as human. However, Pathos and I were standing close enough right now that I would have hoped to see some sign that his flesh wasn’t really his own. And I didn’t. Also, he was being so danged polite and, well, helpful.  

Next thing I knew, I was squealing in surprise as he picked me up and casually tossed me onto his shoulder. It was only out of reflex that I managed to hang onto my lab kit. If I had left it behind, that would have been it. I would not have gone back for it, I can assure you.

After settling me on his shoulder, he lightly hopped up onto his knees on the stair railing. I’m afraid I squealed again in surprise, although perhaps by this point I should be getting used to them. And then he sprouted wings from his back! Spreading them to help steady himself, he proceeded to slid down the railing towards the lower floors, deftly managing the corners without so much as a wobble. I quickly closed my eyes to keep from getting sick, and to stop squealing in his ears. No need to tempt fate by annoying him needlessly.

Fortunately, we made it to the first floor safely, where he carefully deposited me once more on the ground. I think I was more grateful then than our landing in Chicago earlier that same day. (Amazingly, it was still the same day!) “Thank you so much for your help.”

He nodded at me once more. “You’re welcome.” And with that he spread his wings and took off back up the stairwell towards the upper floors. Most of me was relieved to see him go. Although there was that small corner of my being which found him wonderfully exciting.  Except for that biting thing – I awkwardly rubbed the back of my left hand with my right, trying not to drop my bag – he had been nothing but kind and helpful. Heck, he’d even seemed concerned when he found me on the 32nd floor. So what the bite? Perhaps he’d simply lost control for a brief moment and hadn’t been able to help himself. I might never know.