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Resolution

"Are you going to help me, or not?"

 

Brian Llewellyn leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled before himself as if considering. "Vampires are rather involved. Do you even understand the process, the costs involved, the—"

 

"I don't care! You have to do this for me."

 

"Five million."

 

That stopped the man in his tracks. "M-millions?"

 

Brian nodded.  "That's if I like your son. If I don't, the price goes up."

 

Silence. It settled into the room like a game of golf, strolling around with a whiff of fresh grass and entitlement being slapped in the face by a better player.

 

"I don't know if I can—you have to understand. That's a lot to get together, and I don't have much time."

 

"Mr. Jacobs, I am not without compassion, and I am not demanding that much just to be an asshole." Well, maybe he was being a little bit of an asshole, but it was justified. Ian Jacobs had thrown some political weight around and had made some ridiculous threats just in getting this meeting. However... "If you just wanted to save your son's life, whatever's wrong with him, it would be cheaper to take him to a witch. If you wanted him to be immortal, many vampires would gladly take the opportunity to—"

 

"No," Ian bit out. "I can't make him some slave to a total stranger. Vampires start out as thralls to whoever made them. I can't do that to my son. It's why I need someone like you. It's why I sought out a necromancer."

 

Brian drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. "Vampires make their new members into veritable slaves because whoever creates a newling is responsible for it for the first decade. You're asking me to take that role. To be the creator of a very dangerous, very powerful undead. That's two million for the insurance alone. Plus, fees and possible fines, a security deposit, rare materials, my time and expertise...five million is a bargain."

 

"Fines? Can't those be waived?"

 

Brian frowned. "Usually, but this is an election year. Can you guarantee your party will still be in control afterward? I've been burned by petty political posturing and revenge before. Creation of the undead is a legal gray area, as you know. Quasi-legal at best, and only unregulated by the government because we keep each other in check. There are only twenty necromancers of my skill in the world, and none of them have my experience. Let's say there are five of us who have the ability to actually create a new line of vampires. What happens when the voting public sees someone of your son's status walking around, beholden to none of those old lines? I'll have picketers at my front door, and the doors of my colleagues, and you'll find yourself out of a job."

 

This was met with a pause, a curt nod, and a grim expression. "How soon do you need the money?"

 

"You're the one with the time pressure," Brian said, "not me. Two million up front, before I'll even see your son. The other three, or more, before I'll agree to put in the effort."

 

 

~@~

 

Mark Jacobs was twenty-five, handsome, tall, at the prime of his life, and just so tired of everything. No one should get exhausted just by walking to the bathroom and back. If this was the prime of life, maybe it was worth giving up.

 

He didn't bother calling out when he heard the knock at the door. People walked in and out all day. It's just what happened at the hospital. The only effort he gave was to turn his head toward the door and stare.

 

"Mark?"

 

Someone he didn't recognize. "New doctor?"

 

"No." The stranger smiled tightly. "Quite the opposite, I'm afraid."

 

"Hey now," Mark joked, "if you're the undertaker, you're a little early."

 

The stranger didn't laugh. Instead, he looked sad. He came close and held out a hand. "Brian Llewellyn. Necromancer."

 

"Super early, then," Mark said, but he made the effort to smile as he took the man's hand. "What do you need?"

 

"Your father hired me."

 

"My father's an idiot," he said with a roll of his eyes. "I've still got a lot of life in me. Days, at least. Months, even."

 

"Well, I flew all the way from Phoenix on his dime just to see why he thinks you should be immortal, so I'm contractually obligated to disagree with you on the issue of his idiocy. At least on paper."

 

Mark laughed pretty hard at this one, then gestured for the necromancer, Brian, to take a seat. "I won't tell anyone if you don't, but it looks like we both know the truth."

 

Finally, Brian cracked a smile. "You're witty. Always a bonus. I didn't expect that of you."

 

"That's only because you met my dad before you met me." He wished he had the strength for a proper snort of derision. "For some reason, people assume a sense of humor is hereditary. Trust me, it's not. So, what's the old bastard got cooking up? He's been through all the best healers and other sorts this side of the country. They either can't or won't help, so...where do you come in?"

 

"You don't...know?"

 

Mark shook his head.

 

At that, Brian started to show signs of anger. "This is ridiculous. He gave me the impression that this was your dying request to begin with. God damn it all, that's...unacceptable. Did you even want to live forever?"

 

Mark stared, stricken silent by the very idea. There was some very deep, very serious pain behind that question, and it wasn't the kind of pain he was keen to share with someone his dad hired. No, he told himself silently. Witty. Light banter. Come on... "Well, I'd hate to...I mean, all my best friends are just dying to see me again."

 

The joke sat between them like dog shit smeared into the new sofa.

 

"I... I don't understand," Brian said, staring at Mark as if for the first time. "Your father... I was under the impression..."

 

"What? Let me guess, he told you I have cancer?" Mark laughed bitterly. "He's a politician in San Francisco and it's 1984. Of course he's gonna tell everyone I have cancer. He can't admit the truth. It would end his career." It's ridiculous, and insulting, and enough to drive Mark insane, especially when the look of horror dawned on Brian's face. "What, you don't have AIDS in Phoenix?"

 

"We do," Brian said, with such emotional gravitas, such deep empathy, that Mark knew. He'd seen that expression on the faces of people he loved. He wore that expression from the inside a few times. Mark knew that he was in the room with someone like him. Someone who knows. "All my friends, too..." They shared a moment of sadness between them, then the silence brewed something else. Brian's next words were dead calm. "Your father is trying to hire me to make you a vampire."

 

A vampire? That wouldn't be so bad. Autonomy, at least. Mark would retain his mental faculties, and.... He blinked, and then he felt rage bubble inside. "Oh no. I'd still be a carrier, even if it couldn't kill me."

 

Brian nodded. His jaw was clenched too hard for words.

 

"How bad is that thirst for blood thing?" Mark asked with hollow laughter.

 

Brian took a deep breath. "It's pretty bad, especially before the first feeding. You wouldn't die without blood, but you'd lose your mind until you gave in. Young vampires are indiscriminate in their tastes because the drive for more overpowers their sensibilities."

 

In other words, he'd become an epidemic of his own. The next patient zero. Mark trembled. Vampires were generally considered monsters anyway, but this...this was the stuff of nightmares.

 

"So, I can't just make a vow to stay away from...innocents." The bitterness Mark felt swallowed him whole. "And there's no telling if anyone will ever come up with a cure. Not as long as it's still a homosexual disease. It's doing God's work. They're going to abandon us...wipe us out..."

 

Words Mark had heard so many times, on the news, from his father's colleagues...from his father...

 

"Can you lock me up? Keep me contained until I can control it myself?"

 

Brian shook his head. "What sort of an afterlife would that be? It would be torture, and for what? You'd be out of your mind in a week. What's the point of living forever if—"

 

Mark smiled a grim smile. "I don't want to live forever. Just long enough."

 

"Oh, Mark...no. No."

 

"I know him. My father won't give you a moment's rest until he gets his way. But I can't let him get away with what I think he's trying to do."

 

 

~@~

 

Ian looked again at the key, at the door, at the key again. It was just a house. The windows were tinted, and the shades were all drawn. Permanently. The instructions had been precise. Only come after sunset on the third day. Leave the last of the money on the doorstep before entering.

 

Like hell he would.

 

The briefcase was empty. Ian wasn't about to carry that much cash around. He was going to grab his son and get the hell out of this place. That necromancer had bled him dry enough already. Campaign contributions didn't grow on goddamn trees. He'd worked hard for that money; kissed a lot of hands, shaken a lot of babies.

 

Heh. That one always gave Ian a chuckle. After all the babies he'd kissed for good will pictures, he'd sure like to have shaken a few of the little turd machines.

 

The sun was down. It was still light out, but the sun being down was the only part that mattered, right? Close enough. "Mark?" Ian unlocked the door and walked right in. "It's me."

 

Nothing. No sound of any kind. But, the key had fit, so it was the right house. Ian opened up the instructions again. Nothing about waiting. So, into the basement to wake his son up. A quick photo op to quell the rumors that Mark had died, and then right back here.

 

"Dad?"

 

Ian's hand rested on the basement door, and he relaxed at the sound of his son's voice. "Hurry up and get dressed. We need to get going. Busy night, son."

 

There were some rustling sounds, footfalls, a creak from one of the stairs, and the door opened.

 

"No."

 

It took a minute for the word to sink in. No? "Excuse me? I gave you an order, son. I need you to show up at this party tonight and—"

 

"I said, no."

 

"None of your sass, boy," Ian glowered at the lanky child in front of him. "I didn't pay millions of dollars to save you from the pits of hell for you to talk back to me."

 

"Funny thing about being a vampire. You can't make me. I don't care about your millions of dollars. I don't care about your hell." Just like that, Mark turned around and walked back downstairs. "This is what you wanted, Dad. This is what you get."

 

The front door slammed shut and Ian jumped. He hadn't heard the wind pick up, but that's what happens off the coast. Random wind. Random doors slamming shut.

 

And locking.

 

Ian turned to see how and why the door locked, but Mark's voice stopped him.

 

"You didn't pay all that money to save me from hell. Aren't vampires damned creatures, cursed to eternal hunger and cast from heaven?"

 

Ian sighed. "You're the one who lay with another man the way you're supposed to lay with a woman. God cursed you with a disease, Mark. Maybe I can't give you heaven, but I can keep you from hell."

 

"BULLSHIT!" The exclamation wasn't unexpected, but it made Ian jump anyway. Mark was halfway down the stairs, but he'd turned to look upward. "You don't care about keeping me from hell, and you know it. Don't lie to me, Dad. I can smell it when you do, and it makes me hungry."

 

Hungry? What a dangerous word around a young vampire. Ian took it as the warning it was.

 

"What do you want me to say, son? It's not like I can just ignore what you've done. I didn't raise a sissy, but here you are despite all the praying your mother and I did. We gave you a good home in a good neighborhood. We put you in sports. You were an Eagle Scout, Mark. How could you do this to us? To the whole community that tried to make you better than this?"

 

Mark walked up two stairs, slowly. "At least you're not lying to me, now. So, why'd you do it? Why did you turn me into this?"

 

Can't lie, can't tell the truth. Ian took a step back, reached into a pocket, and fingered the cross he had in there. Just in case.

 

"I can make a few guesses," Mark said.

 

That didn't sound any better. Not with that low, predatory growl coming from Mark's chest.

 

"You did it because I was sick," Mark continued. "It infuriates you that this happened to me. Not because you give a shit about me, but because if word got out that your son was a fag, your voters would turn their backs on you."

 

"S-son..."

 

It wasn't a denial. But it was such an ugly way of putting the truth that it rocked Ian to his core. He had to protest, even if he couldn't without being caught in a lie.

 

"You wanted to unleash a monster on the world, Dad. An immortal monster that would do God's work for you. Am I right?"

 

"I don't know where you got that idea."

 

"AM I RIGHT?" Mark was suddenly in Ian's face, holding him by the throat, fingers stiff and firm, but not closing in.

 

Not yet.

 

"I don't know what to say," Ian wailed, blubbered. "Jesus, son, I didn't mean it like that. I couldn't just watch you die, not if there was something I could do. And if a few perverts and degenerates died, too, well that's just God's will."

 

Mark's jaw clenched, and his eyes looked watery, weak. But he didn't tighten his grip around Ian's neck. "I thought so," he said in a gruff voice. "You're a disgusting piece of shit. If there's a place in heaven for people like you, I'm glad I won't be going there."

 

 

~@~

 

Gracie Sheffield looked around the empty house with wide eyes. She could feel that someone had died here, recently, and she looked over at Uncle Brian to make sure she was knowing something and not imagining something again.

 

He got down on his knees in front of her and nodded. "What do you feel, sugar bean?"

 

"There was a man here. He was very scared, but kinda...happy? Proud? No, that's not it. Um." She searched for the word. "Smug? Like he's better than someone else?"

 

Uncle Brian nodded. "Can you tell me how long ago he died?"

 

"A little bit more than a day ago. All the people came and cleaned it up since then."

 

Grace's mom was pale.

 

"Every detail. Good job, sugar bean."

 

Grace beamed proudly. "What about the guy downstairs? He's dead, too. And he's really sad."

 

Uncle Brian looked over at Grace's mom, raised an eyebrow.

 

"Of all the irresponsible nonsense. Taking a six-year-old child down there to see something like that? He'd kill her."

 

"Leah," Uncle Brian shook his head. "It's your right, of course, as her mother. But Grace is a big girl, and this is the best way to know if she's got the family gift for control and not just for seeing. You know I'd never let anyone harm a hair on Grace's head. I just want to know."

 

"She's just a baby."

 

Grace scowled. "I'm a big girl. Uncle Brian said so. I want to see the scary man downstairs. Can I? Please? If I see him, he won't be scary anymore and I won't have bad dreams."

 

The grownups exchanged a few more looks, then Grace's mom left the room. "Fine. But if she so much as stubs her toe, I'll hold you responsible," she said as she walked away.

 

Gracie and Uncle Brian went downstairs. "Don't let go of my hand," Uncle Brian said with a gentle squeeze. "He can't hurt me, so I need to hold onto you to keep you safe."

 

The man was curled up in a corner, looking all skin and bones without a shirt on. "Brian. I can't do it. I can't. You told me to stay, but..."

 

"You want to die again?" Grace asked the question in a simple, matter-of-fact tone, but she was curious and confused.

 

He nodded.

 

"Grace, this is Mark. Mark, my niece, Grace."

 

"Why would you bring her somewhere like this? To see a monster, like me?"

 

"She's going to be the next necromancer when she grows up. You know men like us don't have children of our own. Not without complications."

 

Mark grunted softly, looking away.

 

"Grace, Mark is a vampire. It's very new to him, and he's afraid he's going to hurt someone who doesn't deserve it."

 

"Oh, that's scary," Gracie said. "But he's a nice person. I can feel it. He's like you, Uncle Brian. Scary nice." She smiled. "Can I call him Uncle Mark?"

 

Brian smiled. "That's up to him."

 

Grace pulled away from Uncle Brian and walked over to Mark. "Can I?"

 

Uncle Brian took her hand again immediately, but it didn't matter. They both knew she was in no danger.

 

"I can't be your uncle if I'm a monster," Mark said, staring hard at the floor.

 

"Then you just aren't allowed to be a monster," Grace said. "Uncle Mark, when we come back to California, can I see you again?"

 

It took a while for him to answer. But, what else could he say?

 

"Sure."

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