I want us to be lovers again,’ Erika said as the elevator doors closed and Julien no longer had an escape.
He managed to shake her hand away. Taking a deep breath he counted to ten and took a step away from Erika.
‘Father dear treats me like a child and won’t let me take a lover. I feel like a nun. It’s been twenty years without human contact.’
‘You do realise I’m not human,’ Julien smirked.
‘Oh my God!’ her shriek made Julien wish he’d not pointed that particular fact out. ‘You know what that means?’ though Julien remembered how he’d enjoyed her naïveté. ‘My last human shag was Charles Merryweather in nineteen eighty seven. Oh my God. Julien,’ at least she remembered he hated his name being shortened.
‘Yes,’ he sighed again, reluctantly allowing the conversation to continue.
‘Am I?’ she blushed, ‘am I the last human you had?’
‘You realise you’re no longer human?’ he teased.
‘Yes, yes. Just, am I?’
‘Oh. Right. Of course,’ after a moment’s thought a small smile twisted her lips. ‘How about vampires? Who was your last?’
Julien did not reply. He tried to fake focusing on which floor they were headed to, but Erika had never been one to let a matter drop.
‘Now who’s the nun? Or monk, whatever, you know what I mean,’ Erika giggled. ‘Oh my God, was it her? Raquel?’
At the mention of her name Julien flinched. She’d struck a chord and it was ringing inside his ears, he’d have to put her in her place. It was that or face months of teasing questions.
‘Enough!’ he snapped, pushing her up against the elevator wall. ‘You don’t get to talk about her. Nothing gives you rights. You may be favoured now, but the tides change often in the vampire world. You’re of no use in my investigation, so you say nothing,’ his nostrils flared, like he was breathing fire onto her face.
Erika swallowed hard and nodded meekly.
‘Good,’ he said, letting her go. And that ended their conversation as the elevator pinged open on the lower basement. He walked straight out, knowing where to go and what to expect.
The well lit white corridor had four doors down each side. Each led on to interviewing rooms with an adjacent private viewing room. Julien went into the first room on the left, the side room of a deluxe version of an interrogation chamber. He sat down and waited, knowing his first interviewee would soon fill the room on the other side of the glass. Two plush high backed armchairs stood across from each other in the room, a bearskin rug lay between them and a roaring fire tied up the look. It was too cliché for his taste, but Julien had not designed the place, he merely used it.
Erika loitered in the hallway a few moments before joining him.
‘So, we can see them but they can’t see us? For real? Like on tv?’ she stringed the questions together, her big green eyes staring at him unblinking.
‘For real,’ Julien said with a small smile.
‘I love it,’ she beamed, practically bouncing out of her seat in excitement. ‘They said you’d be back, Father and the others.’
‘The Trifecta. Show some respect,’ he added drily.
‘Oh, yeah, the trio,’ she rolled her eyes. ‘That always sounds like some Italian dessert or something. I couldn’t believe it, when they told me what you were.’
‘Am, currently, you mean.’
‘Sure. I always wondered how you could be so hot. I mean, you never worked out, not once. The whole time we were together. But I could’ve cracked my skull on your abs,’ she said matter-of-factly.
‘We should try that some time.’
‘You make my heart flutter. But I thought, if you were a vampire, that would like stop or something.’ She leaned over and pressed her ear to his chest. ‘See, you’re all warm and breathing, heart beating, alive.’
‘Your point?’ Julien pasted her off his chest, leaning backwards in his chair.
‘How does this work? The vampire thing.’
Julien studied her for a moment, wondering what she’d been told. After all she’d been turned by a bunch of grief-ridden vampires searching for a replacement toy. Maybe, just maybe, she had been told nothing at all.
‘You mean to say, in twenty years of being a vampire, you’ve never asked?’
‘It didn’t seem polite somehow,’ she sighed.
‘You figured it’d be ok to just wait around for me?’ Julien raised an eyebrow.
‘I’ve licked, like literally, every inch of your body. I can ask you anything.’
‘Ok,’ Julien thought about it for a moment before giving in, ‘I guess I see your point.’ He sighed, watching her lick her lips. ‘You still breathe, and eat, and feel your heart beat, right?’ Julien waited for her to nod before continuing. ‘Which is why you never noticed anything odd about me. Food isn’t essential as often as for humans. A good meal once a month and I’m fine. You’re younger, so you eat two, three times a day still?’ again he waited for a nod. ‘That’ll change in time. When you were turned, it’s a bit like you were given an infection, but instead of attacking your cells it enhances them. Your cells regenerate so fast that time cannot age you, disease can’t take hold, because you process it too quickly. If someone shot you, the bullet would be spat back out so quickly you could kill the shooter before they had a chance to blink.’ Seeing her smile he continued. ‘Sleep is more of a pleasure than a necessity. The Trifecta, they just power nap, two seconds a century is the running theory... last I checked.’
‘Aalirah, she’s your mother right?’
‘Mother? Well, no, she turned me, because she, how do you put it? She thought I was hot.’ Julien smirked.
‘She has good taste.’ Erika put her feet up onto his lap.
He considered batting her away, but knowing she could be insistent he allowed it. She was still very human in her ways, he imagined it had probably been years since she’d even been hugged, and he pitied her. ‘She went through a period of collecting. But I was her last. She refuses to turn more people.’
‘Why?’ she asked.
But Julien did not answer. Their discussion was interrupted as Mr Morris entered the interview room, swiftly settling into an armchair the other side of the glass. His movements were always just a bit faster than the average human being’s. His attempt to slow down to blend in made his actions appear jerky. Julien stood as Mr Morris stared at the glass, seemingly looking right at him, even though that wasn’t possible. Erika’s feet fell to the floor with a loud inelegant clatter. Mr Morris would be the easiest interview. He answered concisely, without fail, never lingering on unimportant facts.
The first time they’d met Julien was only a child...
Year 1557 – Poland.
Aged ten, recently orphaned, having just watched my parents drained of life by disease, I took to the winter streets. The bitter cold snapped at my exposed skin, soon leaving me with blooded cuts on my face and hands. I had never felt such hunger before, acid burning my throat and stinging my nostrils. There was a putrid smell emanating from my skin, human decay.
A few more days, perhaps even a few more hours, and I would have ended up like many orphaned children in my time, dead on the streets with no one to mourn my passing. One left turn instead of a right, a slower pace or a tiny detour and I might never have come across Mr Morris. At the time he was known as Bialy, a Polish name meaning white-haired. My own name, given to me by my parents was Aurek, golden haired boy. I was a slight child, my wispy blonde hair and tiny frame made me appear younger than my actual age. Malnutrition in my youth left me at 5’6” and 10 stone once I reached adulthood. But this is of use to me when wanting to slip away unnoticed.
In a small village, under a cloaked sky, I stumbled into a farm. A warm scent filled the air, my haggard breathing and the dragging of my feet were the only sounds I’d heard for hours. A light in a distant barn caught my attention, and with a child’s hope I headed in that direction. The path I followed was downhill and rocky. I stumbled a few times before finally collapsing and rolling to the bottom.
A crunch in the gravel woke me. A pair of mudded boots rocked back and forth on their heels. My eyes slowly focused and I managed to look up at the grey haired farmer. His hair was the colour of steel, just like my late grandfather’s. An immediate unspoken understanding must have passed between us as my blue eyes met his. With strong arms he lifted me up and carried me to the barn.
The heady scent of hay and cattle woke me fully. He placed me onto a small milking stool and walked off. The warmth of the barn affected me in a strange way, my whole body shaking, probably from shock. I remember the small white cow that watched me intently with its big brown eyes. But the memory of that day is distant, time has blacked out a lot, and my condition at the time was severe. Returning to my side he brought me warm milk, bread and cheese.
‘Eat slowly, yes? Or you’ll upset your stomach,’ he said in an accented Polish.
I nodded, trying to show understanding in my features, rather than forcing myself to speak. It had been a long time since any words had left my mouth and almost as long since food had entered it. Trying to listen to his advice I took small bites at first. But hunger took over and I began to eat with haste. Seeing this he grabbed the food away from me and pointed towards a large pile of hay that had a small blanked laid upon it.
‘Rest now, then you can eat again, yes?’
Big tears fell down my cheeks, a sharp sting against my cuts. Picking me up again, Bialy held me firmly against his chest, waiting for my sobbing to cease. When I awoke I was tucked under a blanket amongst the hay.
It was three days later when I first realised that the old man who had taken me in was unlike anyone I’d ever known before. I’d never seen a pig being slaughtered, strung up by its feet, throat slit. The screams shook me, incessant, high pitched squeals that echoed inside my head. This man, who asked me to call him uncle, collected the pig’s blood in buckets. This was not unusual, blood sausage was made from pig’s blood. He took the first bucket away, swapping it for an empty one. My uncle did not take the bucket away, he lifted it to his lips and drank heartily, down to the last drop. He watched me as he drank, his eyes glowing.
Most children might have run, screamed or cowered. I was not like most children. He had become the only family I had, caring for me, nursing me back to health. I felt nothing but respect and curiosity.
Year 2010 – New York
Watching Mr Morris now, Julien could see very little left of the man who had taken him in. His eyes, however, they still held a twinkle of understanding.
‘Death affects people in many ways, yes,’ Mr Morris said to Julien as he sat down beside him. ‘Remember your own heartbreak as a child. This upset, I fear the repercussions. Times have been simpler, but you have not felt yet the true force of your loss.’
‘Yes,’ Julien gave him a wry smile. ‘Maybe I’ve yet to feel the brunt of it all... Raquel, when did she leave New York?’
‘December, nineteen eighty-nine.’
‘Did she leave alone?’
‘No,’ the old vampire replied.
‘Who did she leave with?’
‘Two others,’ he paused, looking over his shoulder for a quick second. ‘Erika is wandering the halls, she will get in your way, yes?’
‘Very much so, but I am obliged to take her. Why is Aalirah so close with her?’ Julien pressed his fingers into his temples.
‘I do not know reasons behind actions, I cannot pretend to know the inner workings of your maker’s mind. Nor do I intend to discover them. She and I differ greatly when it comes to emotion versus reasoning. You know very well how I choose to stay out of her decisions now.’
‘Two? others,’ he swiftly returned to the matter at hand, sidestepping what could become a lengthy discussion, one that would arise whilst interviewing Aalirah.
‘Logan. And Derek.’
‘Derek?’ Julien was shocked. ‘Did he not move to Alaska? What was my older brother doing with Raquel?’
‘Aalirah sent for him. Two months later he left with Raquel and Logan –’
‘Do I know of Logan?’ the younger vampire interrupted.
‘No, he was new, barely old enough to figure his left from his right, you see what I mean, yes?’
‘Yes, a bit like Derek before he was sent away.’
‘Derek dropped off the radar, you will have to search for him to get your statement...’
‘Don’t worry, I will,’ Julien’s face changed, his smooth features creasing into a scowl.
For the first time since the news of Raquel’s death, Julien felt an overwhelming yearning to speak to her. She always had the right words on the tip of her tongue. But now, as Mr Morris left the room in silence, the loneliness of his situation crept in.