Matthias, p.34
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       Matthias, p.34

           Ariana Kenny

  Chapter 27 Sleeping with the Enemy

  I arrived at Mehnaz’ place knowing she wasn’t there. I wanted the chance to have a look around properly before I hit her with my proposal. I would need something to bargain with. The place itself was modest, much like her bedroom. Pastel colours, simple design and minimalist furniture. There were bills on the glass coffee table but nothing of concern. A 3d projector pad sat hibernating on the kitchen bench so I opened it and browsed the history. A large range of museum sites, mostly password protected, emerged. A dating site, a list of take away restaurants with interactive menus sprang to life and I checked her e-mails which were similarly unremarkable. E-books scattered her recently accessed applications – mainly sci-fi – and I browsed through her message service using the I pad with only one message from a local hospital asking her to call them for some test results saved. Nothing useful.

  There was a uniform for a tour company in what looked to be her size. “This is a mistake.” I had just uttered to myself when I heard her coming. I shrank back in to the shadows as I heard her voice becoming louder as she approached the door. The beep of her accessing the scanner rang through the dark and she walked in. Soft down lights turned on and she continued her conversation, clearly with a friend, canceling a meeting. She apologised to the person on the other end of the line as she slipped off her heels and placed a bag of take out on the counter. She finally removed the earpiece and sat on the couch, meal on her lap, and switched on the wall screen. An old movie was on and she got comfortable. I watched her curiously.

  It was strange, I didn’t spend much time around humans any more – except to feed of course. Since I had started to pick people up to bring back for Cassie, knowing I was going to traumatize them in the best of outcomes, I really didn’t want to make a connection. I might have kept updated tech wise but I felt quite detached from things like eating, being tired (at least the way I used to be), the limits of their senses, knowledge, even the limits to their imaginations. Watching her go through her routine I realised how little I had in common with them now, in spite of all the shared things. She looked pale. That was my fault. Then she ate, yawned and lay down, and I realised I had better say something now or it would be more awkward.

  Given there was no good way to come out of the shadows in to someone else’s house, and I had learned the hard way that no matter how reasonable and placid you might try and come across as, they still screamed the house down when they found you, I opted for the direct approach.

  I moved stealthy, and at lightning speed out of the shadows and behind her. She just caught a glimpse of something flash past and had sat up, mouth open as I grabbed her from behind, my hand covering her mouth. She bucked and screamed into my hand as I tried to calm her.

  “I’m not going to hurt you, I just need to talk to you and ask you a couple of questions. I wont hurt you if you just stop screaming and listen to me” She started to struggle when she realised she couldn’t move me away, and I lost my placid side.

  “Enough!” I roared and I threw her down on the couch. “You will not cry or scream or I will lose my patience!” She sat stunned staring up at me like a frightened child.

  “You!” She managed to gasp recognizing me. “What are you! I thought you were going to kill me.”

  “Matthias,” I said frankly “But you can call me Matt”.

  “Not who, what….” Came the clarification.

  “What do you think I am?” I was toying now, but it was rare I got to reveal myself in a context that didn’t involve draining someone or sending them to their end.

  “You can’t be what I think you are. Are you?” She stammered.

  “It’s sounds camp to say it – but I am.” I sat on the couch hoping to make her feel more relaxed but she curled herself in to a ball against the arm rest instead.

  “You didn’t kill me. Why did you leave me knowing what you are?” She pressed.

  “Not like you were going to tell anyone was it.” I observed. She nodded silently.

  “Couldn’t you wipe my memory or something” She was struggling to understand and I was only willing to help her part way. I had other things I needed to get done tonight.

  “That doesn’t lie in my particular talents. If you want that, I know someone who can help, but not before you to do me a favour.”

  “A favour. From me? After what you did. I could have died!” Mehnaz was outraged again. The emotion was appealing.

  “You were stealing,” I commented, and amusement stung my voice and her nerves. She shifted indignantly. “So you’re hardly able to take the high road here. I do need to know why you needed that piece. Of all the things there, why that one?”

  “Is that the favour?” She raised a cynical eyebrow and I smirked. At least she was spirited. That might keep her alive for the long haul.

  “No, but I need to know.”

  “Someone offered to pay me a lot of money for it. Its that simple”

  “You don’t look that desperate for money. Or are you a full time thief and part time tour guide?”

  Mehnaz looked back at me stern in her features. “I did need the money.”

  “What for?”

  “None of your business.” She spat back at me.

  “What for?” I insisted.

  “My father’s ill. There’s no cure, but the treatment can give him a decent quality of life.” She was struggling not to break in her voice, and I took another look around the room. The same man appeared in a number of photographs. I felt a twang of guilt. Blackmail was going to come in handy. Maybe bribery was a better way for my conscience to manage.

  “What if I could offer you something else, something better than you were already offered.”

  “You already have the piece.”

  “The piece isn’t all I need. I offer a trade. I need you to take it to someone, and I’ll give you a solution to your problem” I offered honestly enough.

  “I don’t want to hear any of this. Get out!” And she motioned to the door. My lack of tolerance got the better of me. I rushed her, and grabbed her round the throat. She desperately clutched at my hand as she struggled to breath.

  I brought her closer to me and snarled at her: “Stop fighting me and do as I say before I teach you a lesson you’ll remember for the rest of eternity.” I froze suddenly. The words I had spoken were the same Belil had said to me when I fought him. Was this what I had become? Viktor was right. Cassie wouldn’t want to come anywhere near me. A tear rolled down Mehnaz’ cheek and on to my hand. I let her go immediately.

  “I am so sorry” I sputtered. "I didn’t mean that. I just… I am tired and getting desperate. I want to offer you something".

  “What could you possibly offer.” She snapped at me still clutching her throat.

  “A cure” I responded nonchalantly, though I knew how much it would mean for her really. Disbelief shaped her face.

  “How, no one has a cure for that. Only treatment to make it less painful, give him a few more years. You must think I’m stupid.”

  “I’ll offer you it as an act of good faith…. If it works, you’ll owe me and do this for me.”

  “What? Take the scroll to someone? That’s it?. A black market deal.” Her brow furrowed as she spoke.

  “Not quite. I need you to visit an old friend and give it to her.” Mehnaz’ face screwed up and her eyes narrowed again. “Nothing illegal, but I can’t take it in because she doesn’t trust me. I need someone who has a chance she will listen to for 20 seconds. Would we have a deal?.” I already knew she had conceded by the painfully hopeful flash on her face that disappeared almost as fast as it came.

  “Hypothetically, if something like that were true. Yes. But it’s impossible” She reasoned.

  “Nothing’s impossible anymore Mehnaz” I smiled as her face softened and I knew it was done.

  “What is it – the so called cure? Where do I get it” she pressed eager now.

  I got up and walked to the
kitchen to grab a small glass. After biting in to my wrist, I let the dark liquid drain into the glass before placing it on the counter.

  “Eww” she responded with disgust on her face.

  I shrugged. “What does it matter what it is. It’s what it can do that’s the important part. Just give it to him to drink. It will work faster if he drinks it straight.” She looked at me dubiously.

  I left a card for the club on her table. “For when you know it works and you need to keep your word. Don’t wait too long though.” I turned to leave but caught her intake of breath and stopped.

  “What is the favour for? Will anyone get hurt?” she asked honestly enough. I wondered if it would really sway her decision once she had her father back.

  “No one’s going to get hurt. If anything it could save lives.” I ducked out the window and I didn’t need to follow her to know she would have run out the door, taken the metro to the hospital and pleaded with the nurses to let her in after visiting hours. She would give him the vile, wait until dawn and when she saw the difference in the morning, spend the day deciding what to do. By nightfall she would be at the club doors asking for me.

  I didn't go back to the club straight away though. I had a stop over to pay a visit to two not so old acquaintances first. It was good timing. I was so frustrated with being almost at the point I needed to be, so I could finally negotiate with Myria. On top of that, had lost my cool with Mehnaz, and for all my bravado, I hated that I had channeled Belil on some level, and feared I may have scared her off. This anger with myself wasn't new though. I had been carrying that for a while, with it gradually getting worse every life I accidentally took, every human I duped and strapped down to drain. I needed it to stop. I was tired and on the verge of forgetting who I was. Something I had well learned over the last few years was there was nothing quite like taking anger with myself, out on someone else. Which brought me back to the museum, and Marcus and Anthony.

  Marcus and Anthony, I had come to discover over time, were not just renegades, but in spite of their differences in appearance, were in fact brothers, biological brothers. They had begun their careers as thieves, mercenaries and general 'handymen' of the underground at least 15 years before they ended up as vampires. One particular job they took on ended with them double-crossing their contractor. They stole the jewellery they were hired to bring back, cashed it in, spent a night living it up in a brothel, before passing out. The next thing they knew, they were bagged up, tortured, then drained, slowly before they agreed to eternal servitude. Acting for their boss for the next 350+ years, they finally went freelance when Marcus gained enough freedom to be able to resist his maker, organizing his death by fire through other mercenaries. From then on, the two carried on together, in a world wide claim to fame making incredible heists and taking on impossible bounty hunter jobs.

  The thing I disliked the most about them, was not their deceitful, dishonourable and thieving past, but their despicable actions. Or mainly those of Anthony. Marcus followed his lead blindly so was just as bad for that reason. Anthony had a knack for being able to get into people's minds. To be able to project images of things or people. Like when they caught up with me on the road. Just as I was picking myself up to make a run for it, or stand and fight, he had projected the image of Myria standing all in black, and Cassie dressed in white, to distract me. Cute tricks, but he used them for some of the most vile of reasons. Someone bumped in to him, they could be made to imagine they were just shot, look at him the wrong way, you get to see someone you love hit by a bus, refuse him, spend the next few minutes thinking you caught alight. Anthony was, simply put, an evil bastard. I had let him ride out his time only because our paths didn't cross, but when he came for me, well that was it. I may have been surprised, then too weak to take them straight away, but now. Well, now was perfect.

  I walked into the museum expecting them to be waiting for me, but there was nothing to indicate they were. Arrogant as they were, they either didn’t think I would be coming back, or felt so self assured of themselves that they didn’t worry about it.

  Marcus and Anthony had made themselves a little empire here, stealing goods, hoarding them in the museum which was a front for their enterprises. Their relative wealth aside though, they had expensive habits including women, top liquors, gambling and raw metal weapons. They even had their own forge built. Marcus, in his living days used to be a forger, or blacksmith. From this experience, he drew on the knowledge to make his own tools, like the cuffs they had bound me with, the silver chain mail they dragged me off in when they captured me. That had burned through my flesh like nothing I experienced before. And it was in the forge I found them, both working on cinching together the links in a chain. Both of them wore leather gloves to protect their hands, and they talked about the next job they had lined up as they worked on the chain.

  I watched them for a moment confident in the fact that, aside from strength and Anthony’s ability to project images, they possessed little in the way of acute senses. Their hearing, sense of smell and sight were improved, but average. So they continued talking as I watched, took any nearby weapons into account, and decided what I was going to do. Then the situation presented itself, Marcus tore a hole in his glove, and uttering obscenities left the room to get a replacement. Anthony flitted his glance over to me when I flashed after Marcus, but he didn’t suspect anything.

  Marcus grabbed another glove, and as he turned around, found me there, he baulked, crashing on to the desk behind him sending ornaments, candles and papers scattering. The noise would have drawn Anthony, I knew, but I didn’t really care either. I grabbed Marcus by the neck and flung him into the roof. Dust rained down as Marcus fell and I arrived to slam him in to the ground before he reached it. Marcus was surprisingly strong, though given his age, it wasn’t entirely a surprise, but when he punched me I stepped back a few paces before regaining myself. It was enough time for him to grab his favourite toy, a silver length of chain with a sharp spur on the end. He began to sway it to and fro, before lashing it out at me. Jumping out of the way, I ran to the side wall, propelling myself across the side of the room to stay ahead of the chain. Landing on the ground, I saw Anthony from the corner of my eye, grabbing a sword from the desk. Old Damascus steel. His hand burned from the contact with it, but I was focused on Marcus. I grabbed at a light fixture jutting out of the wall and launched myself out of the way of another hit from the chain. I saw the chain wrap itself around Marcus’ leg when it missed me, and the spur dig into Marcus’ flesh. He howled in agony and dropped to his feet. As he did Anthony lunged forward at me, wielding the sword. I flitted behind Marcus and grabbed Anthony’s hand as he rushed forward, digging the blade into Marcus instead of me. The cast steel through Marcus was enough to kill his, his body slowly crumbling.

  Anthony looked at me with blind range. “Marcus.” he sputtered. “You are going to die for that!.” Anthony looked at me seething. I smiled at him and I saw him blank out. He was focusing on sending an image to me. It started to work, with me seeing flames, licking at my sleeves. I had to get away. I pushed him backwards, his sword slipping from Marcus’ now unanimated corpse. I ran towards the corridor meaning to lead him outside. As I ran in the right direction though, I suddenly couldn’t see the exit. Damn it, the man had got into my mind. I couldn’t tell one corridor from another, one door from the next. I stopped in my tracks. Only one thing for it, and I turned around to track down Anthony. He stood at the end of the corridor with a dark liquid dripping from the sword he held. Bringing out a lighter, he set the sword ablaze and ran towards me. I propelled myself towards him and we collided, with me ducking for his legs and swinging him over me instead of taking him head on. As he crashed to the ground the sword fell on top of him, setting him alight. The sword went flying across the floor, still flaming as Anthony tried to beat out the flames. I picked up the sword and stuck in through his body in one grand motion, ignoring the flames and hot metal scorching my skin. I pinned him to t
he ground, and waited while his body turned to the skeleton and ashes that his dead body would have resembled by now, had he not been turned.

  I looked at the sword in Anthony’s body. “Hmm, free sword.” I remarked and leant to take it.

  It was then I became aware that Viktor was standing in the shadows. "You fight dirty Matthias. Glad you've been taking my advice."

  "I never turn down advice from a friend, Viktor. What are you doing here?"

  Viktor began as solemnly as he looked. "I need to make this clear Matthias. I know you would never intentionally do anything to put us in danger, but with this thing of yours with Myria, your aim to bring Cassie back from wherever she is, you have blinkers on. I will not have Violet dragged into something she won't come out of. She trusts you, wants to get Cassie back almost as bad as you do. I get it. I do, but I want you to leave Violet out of this. I don't care how strong you are, you still have to sleep. If anything happens to her because of you, I would have to pay you in kind. I don't want that to happen, so make sure whatever plans you are cooking up, don't have Violet playing second fiddle. Do we have an understanding?"

  My eyes found the ground. Things would be more difficult without Violet's assistance, but at the same time I could understand what Viktor was saying. "I understand Viktor. We aren't losing anyone else. But either way, I'll keep Violet out of it, just...bear in mind that can be easier said than done."

  Viktor broke into a smile. "That's the truth." There was a peace between us then. I retrieved my dagger from the floor and the pile of ash surrounding it where Anthony's body used to lay. Viktor added one more thing before we parted ways. "If you are finished working through personal issues tonight, Elias wanted me to give you a message. He's wanting to meet outside The Mill. It's that pub down at..."

  “I know the one." I finished for him.

  Viktor placed his hand on my shoulder as I passed him in the doorway. "I am sorry I can't be with you on this one Matthias."

  "Don't worry about it Viktor. I know where your allegiances lie."

  Viktor went back to the club. In the meantime I needed to meet up with Elias and ask him if there was anything else I needed to know about Myria’s chip and anything else he wanted to tell me.

  Elias, had separated from our group some years beforehand over an unexpected blowup. Elias, never having known Russell had sympathised with Myria one night over too many drinks with Camille. Camille had promptly knocked Elias out for the offence, and Elias, as he did most times there was any kind of confrontation, took off. Turned out that Myria had been meeting with Elias for months before this happened, first to find out information, goad him into being more understanding of her side of things, then they started something more personal. It set up a dynamic where no one felt they could trust Elias given his time spent with Myria, his uncommitted attitude and nomadic lifestyle. In response, Elias had left about 12 years ago, and barely saw any of us, having moved in with Myria. Yet, here he was asking to meet with me. We had seen each other, always by accident, always keeping things superficial, but the fact he approached Viktor, gave him one of Myria’s coveted chips that we so desperately needed, then asked to meet with me reeked of a set up, or, as I hoped, something more of a re-connection.

  I found Elias in a local street haunt for betting on cards. He was showing off his ethereal talents for distraction, speed and kinesthetic aptitude while passing himself off as a human. He was making a stack of cash and not a whole lot of friends. I watched him from the perimeter of the crowd. I knew he sensed me before he saw me. Knowing when people were approaching made him useful for others and kept him safe.

  When he finished the game he was on he announced his retirement for the day and there were groans and complaints from the crowd. Recognising the anger of a couple in the crowd, the rest disappeared quickly. That didn’t disturb him of course and he walked over to me with a wide grin, stashing cash in his pocket.

  “You could make money a stack of different ways Elias” I broached “why is it you do this”.

  “We can’t all be in the club business you know. Some of us have to stay connected with the people we share a meal with." I missed his sense of humour.

  In the dark ahead I was acutely aware of two men from the earlier crowd trying to blend in with the walls. They stared in our direction and then quickly away. They whispered and I knew what they were waiting for. “You know that there are two guys hanging around down the street planning to take their money back right.”

  “I should hope so, I performed hard for my dinner. Always do. Join me?”

  “I’m fine, thanks. I came to see why you decided to help after all. Last time I spoke to you….you….”

  “I was a bit out of it. I was still sore about Camille and about Viktor, I hadn’t settled yet with Myria’s crew…. I still hoped it would work out”

  “So something changed.” I asked.

  “A lot. Everything is about magic, magic, magic. Allocated shifts to hunt, to guard…It’s all darkness and gloom. The sex is amazing, but all I want is to move on. Ah Matt, I miss you, miss them all. He stopped to consider his words. “Myria is different. I know what you said about her, her infatuation, obsessions…. But I didn’t really see it until recently. There is something so special about her though you know.” He looked at me hopefully, but I failed to oblige.

  “You love her.” I stated more a fact than anything else.

  “I would if she had time for me. But she has her sights on someone else. Don’t get me wrong, we still, you know, sleep together. But it’s all so secretive. You know I’ve never been someone who was happy to play second fiddle. So I am going to get away from it all, but before I do, I wanted to do this one thing for all of you. Myria included.”

  “What do you mean?” I asked of Elias.

  “You all have this intensity, this seriousness that you chain yourselves by. I know what Myria did in killing Russell was unforgivable. I know her part in poisoning Cassie was just as bad, but…” I shook my head and turned away. There could be no but, no excuses in this situation. “No hear me out.” He pleaded. “In spite of all that, all I see when I’m with her is some lost kid, who never had anything normal. How was she supposed to deal with things normally? At least we all had some kind of life to draw on before we were turned. What did she have? A shitty life in some drug den before a vampire turned up, killed her parents, took her away, and then she got brought up with some random, supernatural infused guy. Cam is the closest thing to a mother she’s known, but it’s not like they were busy playing happy families or anything. I really don’t think Myria knew what to do in any kind of sensible way. Do you?”

  “What she’s done is unforgivable.” I stated, matter-of-fact.

  “Unforgivable yes, unbelievable, no.”

  “I’m not going to let everything go, just because she had a second choice life.”

  “You took her life Matt.”

  “Don’t try and guilt me Elias. I did what I did, because I thought it could fix things.”

  “Whatever you need to tell yourself. You acted on your emotions, same as she did. Out of desperation.” Elias sat there, looking through me like he was suddenly possessed of some insight, and it unnerved me. After a pause, he asked me something I had never considered until now. “What if I told you she had grown up over the last few years, she had softened.”

  I reacted immediately “I can’t just let this go. There has to be a solution.”

  “I’m not saying you have to link arms and sing kumbaya or anything. But that’s the reason I gave you the chip.”

  “What do you want to see happen Elias?” I extended.

  “Same thing you and Myria do. For this to be over. For you to get some kind of resolution for Cassie and yourself. For Myria to let go of all that anger she has for her family turning her out. Not that much is it? So go confront her, get inside ‘The Devil’s Cave’ and try and reason with her. Get it over with so everyone can move on.”

The Devil’s Cave’ was the underground bar/nightclub where Myria had holed up and stayed for the last 20 years. She fell in with the owner, then took it up as her personal residence. No one unauthorised in or out, and you needed a VIP chip just to get from the club area in to see Myria. Given she never left there, and was likely to incinerate me on site if I was lucky, I hadn’t had the chance to speak with her in a very long time. In the first few years we still played ridiculous games with each other – she would send me a dream, an image, a bounty hunter or two to keep life interesting. I would randomly sabotage her lighting, security guards, her advertising. It had become petty, but that was what was left until I called a stop to it, reused to retaliate.

  I reluctantly admitted he had a point. As Viktor was pointing out earlier to me, everyone else was getting dragged in. This wasn’t Myria and I anymore. How many others had I dispatched along the way, how many had she killed, all over our issue. If she just hadn’t done this to Cassie…. I could have forgiven other things, I could have maybe let go, she could have moved on. I would have been left with the guilt that I had taken her life, but the fact that she admitted being part of trying to kill Cassie had negated any guilt I had. Regardless, this feud was going on far longer than I ever imagined.

  "The two of you, are you still together?" I asked needing to know what their relationship was like before I could decide exactly what to do next.

  "I might if she wasn't so hell bent on finding that stupid device... Plus she keeps hanging around with this holier than thou type. You know the one, dark brooding and mysterious type we see all the time... Can't stand him. He's different, manipulative, and strong - magically I mean. Or at least he knows a few tricks and can talk the talk."

  "Is he one of the reasons you’re doing this, helping us?"

  "He's a mistake to be with. He's dangerous and I get the sense he is using her. Everything he asks her to do is an excuse for something he wants, or wants done. You see it... Power play manipulation. He sees something he wants, not who she is. It's an old story. She won't see it because she has stars in her eyes. I know that. Doesn't matter what I say."

  "At least she's over me." I asked with fake optimism trying to lighten the situation.

  "Yes and no. After so long, I think all she remembers is hating you. She built a lot of where she is and what she does on giving you grief. That's hard to let go of. He also pushes her about it. Anytime she might look like she is on the verge of letting go and relaxing he starts up in her ear. What you did, what Cassie did, how Violet didn't support her...even if it isn't really true, if you get told it enough..."

  "Who is he, the guy?" I asked my curiosity tweaked.

  "Other than a loser? No one. He keeps to himself and doesn't share much. He owned the club when Myria found him."

  "Hmm." I lingered on the thought a moment.

  “So, what are you going to do with yourself now?” I wondered out loud.

  “For now I’m going to meet up with my friends at the corner” Elias nodded his head to the two men approaching “Then, I thought I’d head to Alaska. Its one of the few places I never ended up seeing. Maybe there’s something to it. Cam once told me there are places in total darkness for up to two months.”

  “You’re always welcome to stay with us.”

  “Sure. I know.” he offered his knuckles to me and I bumped mine to his. “Good luck” he said before looking over his shoulder at the men who started yelling as they drew closer. He smiled at me in his acceptably devious way. “Don’t suppose I can change your mind on dinner.” I shook my head. He nodded in understanding.

  “Careful what you eat my friend.” I replied, “See you around”. He laughed in answer and hopped into the road to walk towards the men as I left.

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