The woman nodded her head solemnly. “I don’t know that anything is going to help. This going to be one hell of a morning. Adding you into the mix just complicates things more.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re with HNHS and you have a dragon. The Hershberger’s aren’t going to know what to do with you.”
Margaret shook her head slightly. “I still don’t know what you mean.”
“She means that they’ll hate you and love you.” A new voice spoke from across the room.
The two women turned around. A small man stood near the door. He was pale skinned and thin haired with eyes that looked a watery blue in the dim light. He wore his suit and tie badly, like he had to dig for in the far reaches of his spare closet. He rubbed his hands together slowly as his eyes skittered around the room.
“Mr. Renfield, I presume,” Jimenez said under her breath, barely loud enough for Margaret to hear.
The young man’s eyes narrowed. “The name is Patterson, Ms. Jimenez. John Patterson. I’m Marceau’s daytime representative, just as Ms. Astor here is Aylish’s.”
Jimenez’s eyes widened as she looked at Margaret, her mouth turning down sharply.
“I’m Aylish’s partner. We patrol together for HNHS. I don‘t represent her specifically.” Margaret spoke quickly though she wasn’t quite sure why she suddenly wanted to distance herself from Aylish. She felt a wave of guilt that turned quickly into anger as a look of derisive pity spread across Patterson’s face.
He harrumphed softy and buried his hands deep inside his pants pockets. “However you want to put it. The Hershberger’s are still going to hate you for it. To them you’re guilty by association.”
“Guilty of what?”
“Consorting with the enemy. In their world, the only good vampire is a dead vampire and that goes for their human associates too.”
“Even if that vampire is their son.” Jimenez stated, her large brown eyes growing softly sad.
“Even if.” Patterson nodded in agreement. “Maybe especially so.” He shrugged. “It’s hard to tell with fanatics how they really feel. The dragon, though, that’s going to throw sand in the cogs.”
“Why?” Margaret put a protective hand on the dragon’s tail. “Do they hate dragons, too?”
“No,” Patterson said with a shake of his head. “They love them with just as much fanaticism as they hate vampires. Right now they are trying to get the government to okay their permit for a dragon reserve here in east.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Who knows why. It seems a little crazy to me. And to pretty much everyone else, too. People agree that dragon’s ought to be protected but they sure don’t want them living in their neck of the woods. But…” Patterson jerked his chin at Margaret’s shoulder. “If they knew dragons came rat sized…”
“This one is still a baby. He’ll eventually grow to about the size of cat.”
“Whatever. It’s still smaller than a brontosaurus and much less likely to eat your virgin neighbors. Your rat thing doesn’t eat virgins, does it?” Patterson looked a little nervous.
“Not that I know of,” Margaret answered suppressing a smile. “So far it eats hamburger, peppermints, M&Ms and maybe pizza.”
“Better get the meat lovers,” Jimenez said with grin.
The dragon pulled Margaret’s hair and gave a rumble that sounded like an agreement.
“Sounds like a good idea.”
Patterson cleared his throat. “Well, I have work to do. I should at least start the prep work before anyone else arrives.”
“What needs to be done?” Margaret asked.
“Stupid stuff.” Patterson rubbed his hands together, squeezing his fingers like they hurt or something. “Clean and prep the savage. Dress him in good clothes and make sure his bed has clean sheets. Make his cell look as nice as we can.” He gave a nervous laugh. “It’s important to some that a man is dressed well to be executed on clean linens. I’m not sure I would care but it’s not my call.”
Margaret sighed. Jimenez was right. It was going to be one hell of a morning. “Do you need any help?”
Patterson’s eyebrows rose a notch “It’s not a neat or a pretty job. You might get your uniform schmutzed.” He glanced over at Jimenez who was studying the back of her hand. “Or break a nail.”
Margaret brushed at the sleeve of her shirt. “Still, if you need help.”
Patterson looked at her blankly. “Have you ever seen a savage up close before?”
“I’ve seen this one up close and personal.” Margaret shivered a little. “He attacked me in an alley. Aylish kept him from eating me.”
Patterson blew out a little breath. “All right. Come and help.” He turned. “How about you, Ms. Jimenez? Care to risk a nail?”
“Not I said the tall willowy were-giraffe,” Jimenez said with shake of her head. “I’ll wait here for the priests to arrive.” She turned to Margaret. “I’ll let you know when the Hershberger’s get here. You’ll want to interview them before the execution. I imagine that afterwards they’ll be too much of a mess to answer questions.”
Margaret nodded. “Thank you.”
“Come on. Follow me.” Patterson said and turned on his heels. He walked swiftly to a door that Margaret had not seen before and opened it with a large old fashion looking key. The door opened. An old accordion style gate covered the entrance. Patterson slid it open with harsh clang. Behind the gate was a room the size of a large closet, carpeted and wainscoted but the ceiling was missing.
“This is an elevator,” Margaret stated as she stepped into the room. It was not quite a question but she was not entirely sure either.
“Right.” Patterson stepped in behind her, shut the door and then closed the metal gait with another loud clang. He put the key in a slot on the wall and turned it. The elevator started to descend. Margaret stared at through the metal gate at the brick wall sliding up past her, the thin steel cables shuddering as they moved.
“This was the very first Ottis elevator installed in this city.” Patterson spoke without looking at her or at the wall sliding past them. “And now it’s the last remaining functioning one, too. Most modern people don’t think about it much but elevators really changed the way we live. Imagine having to walk up and down eight flights of stairs every time you wanted to go somewhere, not to mention hauling groceries or moving furniture. Five floors were just about as much as anyone was willing to do on a regular basis and even then it was only for the young and agile.”
“Do you know a lot about the history of this city?” Margaret asked
Patterson tilted his head a little to one side. “When you represent a vampire, you hear things. I’m not a history buff or anything.”
“Really? I think history can be very interesting. The way people used to be can show us where we’re going.”
Patterson gave her a flickering glance. “Does Aylish tell you stories about her past?”
Margaret thought for a moment about how to answer that. “No,” she said finally. “Not really. At least not yet. We only recently started talking to each other.”
Patterson nodded. “Marceau doesn’t talk that much about the past. I don’t think he can. He’s so old that I think some of the eras get kind of jumbled up in his head. It seems that when vampires get to a certain age, they start forgetting details. It’s like the brain can only hold so much, even preternatural brains and I think after a few centuries of centuries some things get pushed out when new things get put in.”
“I wonder if that’s why vampires don’t embrace technology as quickly as we do. If they forget something old every time they learn something new then I imagine they would be very careful to gauge the worth of the new thing before they learned it.”
Margaret nodded. “So, if you’re not a history buff, why do you know so much about elevators?”
Patterson gave her another sidelong glance. “I’m older than I look.”
“You look like you’re on the young side of thirty.”
“I’m much older than I look,” Patterson said dryly.
“How much older?”
“About a decade of decades.”
Margaret blinked. “Ten times ten. You’re a hundred and thirty? How?”
“There are advantages to being a vampire’s daytime representative. Or minion as some people like to call us.”
The elevator stopped with a squeak of cables, a grinding of old gears, a thunk, a shudder and a thud. Patterson opened the gate, stepped out into the hallway, turned and waited for Margaret who stood riveted to the elevator floor.
Patterson squeezed his fingers and looked at her with a sharp frown. “Haven’t you noticed?”
“That you can do things that you couldn’t do before.”
Margaret balled her hands into fists. “I’m not Aylish’s representative.”
“You wear her mark.” His eyes flickered to her forehead and back to her eyes. “That means that you should hear better than the average human, see better in the dark, be a little bit stronger than you were.”
Margaret swallowed. “I have noticed those things.” She touched her shoulder. “I got stitches in my shoulder. They healed faster than they should have. And then after we…after last night they healed completely.”
“That sounds like a representative to me.”
“No. I’m her partner. We work together.”
“Is that all?” Patterson asked softly.
“Yes…well no. Not anymore. But I don’t want to a…representative. I don’t want to be part vampire.”
“You’re not. Your DNA and stuff doesn’t change.”
Patterson shrugged. “No one really knows. Some people say that when you are touched by a vampire that you each share a small piece of your soul for short time. If you are bound to one that sharing becomes a more permanent. The long term result of binding is that you each give up a little piece of yourself to the other. You get some vampire traits, she gets some human ones.”
“Why would a vampire want any human traits?”
“Some don’t and so never bind. But those that do find that they aren’t so bound to the night. Not that they’ll ever be able to walk into daylight but eventually they stop passing out right at sunset. They also start aging a very little bit and in exchange your aging slows.”
“That doesn’t sound like a fair exchange.”
Patterson smiled. “It doesn’t, does it? But for some reason it’s very important to some vampires that their bodies reflect the passage of time in however minute a way. I’d never seen Marceau happier than the day he found what he thought might be a wrinkle in the corner of one eye.”
“Will you live as long as Marceau does?”
“No. No matter how tightly bound, I will still grow old and die. Marceau never will die, even if he grows old.” Patterson opened his mouth as if to say something else but he shut again without saying anything. “We have work to do. We’d better be at it.” He turned on his heels and started off down the hall.
His shoulders were slightly hunched and his walk was hesitant and unsure. Margaret wondered as she started after him how much of that was a product of being bound for so long or if it was just the way he was. She couldn’t think of a polite way to ask. She shook her head to herself and walked a little faster to catch up.
Patterson rounded a corner and stopped in front of a steel door that looked almost like the door to bank vault. He stood for a moment with head bowed, his hands still at his sides. Then he took a deep breath and laid his hand on the latch. “Charlie should be out for the day. We kept him fairly well sedated anyway but, just in case, I’ll go in first.”
“Charles W. F. Hershberger the fourth. A proud young man that once had a full future, if not a very bright one, ahead of him.”
“That sounds almost like an ‘alas poor Yorick’.”
“I did. I knew him well. I hated him with every fiber of my being. But he didn’t deserve this. No one should die they way they fear to die the most.” Patterson clicked the latch and yanked on the door.
The door opened slowly. With a turn of his shoulders, he ducked inside before it finished opening all the way. A light switched on. Margaret stood in the hallway listening to the silence. It deepened around her until her ears rang with it. She listened harder but there was nothing to hear. Not even to scuffing of Patterson’s shoes.