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       Created Darkly, p.2

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “Well, ‘hello’ to you, too, Kristina. You’ve always been such a gracious host,” Rush said on his way over the threshold.

  “Yeah…whatever. Tell me what’s going on with Torra.” I was impatient, not noticing the sexy dimple in his chin…at all.

  He paused, and then walked over to the couch. After pulling up the legs of his slacks, he took a seat.

  “I’ll have some tea. Be sure to add lemon, please.” He looked directly at Jude.

  His request took me by surprise. First off, I wasn’t used to anybody being able to see Jude. And second, I didn’t like his bossiness. We weren’t at the Center. Maybe that dimple wasn’t as cute as I’d first thought. I looked again…dang it!

  Jude’s face scrunched up in a what the hell? expression. “If you’re waiting to be served, your majesty, then you’ll be waiting a long time. Besides, I’m a ghost, Einstein.” Jude waggled his transparent fingers in the air.

  Rush looked at us, dumbfounded. He laughed. I had a feeling it was Jude and me he found so comical, and I didn’t like it. Not one flecking bit.

  “Do you mean to tell me that your spirit companion can’t lift a simple cup?” he asked, chuckling again. “There is so much to teach you.”

  What did he mean by spirit companion? Jude was a ghost. One among the many I had been able to communicate with ever since I could remember. Not once, did any of the ghosts I’d come in contact with have the ability to move objects by touch. Mean-spirited poltergeists could move things around with their dark and malevolent energy, but to actually pick something up with their hands? No way. Rush had to be smoking something.

  “You have my full attention, as long as we talk about my sister. Not the Center.”

  The longer we sat there without my little sister walking through that door, which she should have done about a half hour before, the more I feared that something bad had happened to her. I pushed down the beginnings of a panic attack.

  “Stop jerking her around, asshole, and tell her what’s going on,” Jude growled. He knew first-hand how out of control my emotions could get. Plus, he was like my brother, and because of our close relationship, he was overprotective of me.

  Rush stood. His usual charming, but passive, expression had turned to worry. “I’m sorry, Ms. Chase. I really didn’t mean to upset you. Here.” He held his hand out to me. “Come sit down. I won’t make you wait any longer.”

  I did as he asked and took a seat next to him on the couch. I was extremely anxious to hear what he had to say. Jude hovered in place next to the coffee table. He had a habit of disappearing when company was over, not being able to interact with them, but that time, he stuck around. He was just as freaked out as I was.

  “Your sister has gone missing,” Rush began.

  I jumped up, leaned over, and put my face inches from his. “When…how?”

  I had no clue what I was going to accomplish by getting into Rush’s face like that. Maybe I felt like I could scare the facts away. Or maybe that was a good example of what they referred to as wanting to kill the messenger. Whatever the reasons, I was having a hard time staying rational.

  Rush removed a square, thin case from his jacket pocket. “Here, play this.”

  I snatched the disc from his hand and practically flew across the living room to get to the DVD player. I reached down, opened the clear case, and loaded the disc. After picking up the remote, I went and sat back down next to Rush.

  Chapter Two

  Before I pushed the play button, I gave myself a mental pep talk. I knew that whatever was on that disc would more than likely change my life forever.

  All was quiet on the screen as I watched my little sister walk across an empty parking lot. She was heading towards her little beater of a car, a white 2003 Dodge Neon. I had saved for months, so I could buy it for her sixteenth birthday, two years earlier. The car was in great shape and was all I could afford. To that day, it ran like a champ, and even though it wasn’t a Mercedes, or any other extravagant vehicle, Torra loved it.

  “Where was this video taken?” I asked, watching Torra as she made her way closer to the car.

  “This is the surveillance footage of the parking garage at the Center. The entry log shows that she left class at three p.m. This was taken one hour later,” Rush explained.

  “What class? And what was she doing for that one hour?”

  “We don’t know.”

  It was all news to me. I never knew that Torra was visiting the Necro Center, let alone, taking classes there. Last I heard was that she’d be at Cameo’s house, working on her valedictorian speech. It seemed as though Torra had lied to me.

  Before Rush could answer me, the sound of my sister’s shouts blared from the television, filling the room. I jumped in front of the screen and knelt down. A hooded figure came up from behind as she pulled out her keys to unlock the driver’s side door. She turned, maybe hearing a noise, before he could attack, catching her off guard.

  I watched as she kicked, landed a few punches, and screamed at her assailant. But then Torra froze. He had pulled a gun and pointed it at her head. I could hardly make out her face in the dim light of the garage, but I could tell that she was pissed. Her fists were clenching at her side. She pushed her blond hair, which was disheveled from the fight, out of her face and dropped the purse she was using as a weapon at her feet. Then, after the hooded man gestured at her hands, she tossed him her keys. After a few more seconds, my sister and her kidnapper drove out of the parking garage in Torra’s car.

  “I’m sorry that this—”

  “Shhh!’

  “No problem,” Rush mumbled.

  I jammed the rewind button on the remote and watched the scene play out again. I searched every movement, no matter how slight. I was looking for any clues that would lead me to whom, or what, her attacker was. Up in the corner of the screen, a clock ran. Exactly four p.m., almost two hours earlier.

  “How did you find out about this so fast?” My question sounded like an accusation. It kind of was. I found it odd that she would be taken from such a well-guarded building. I also found it an extremely strange coincidence that it happened to my sister shortly after another failed attempt by the Council to recruit me.

  “The security guard sounded the alarm as soon as he noticed what was happening in the parking garage. By the time security made it onto the scene, it was too late. They were already long gone.”

  Rush pulled a tiny slip of paper from his shirt pocket and held it out to me.

  “They did find this, though. It’s addressed to you.”

  I stood and walked back over to the couch. After plopping onto it, I reached over and pulled the ripped piece of notebook paper from Rush’s fingers. I opened the two ends wide.

  Creator, if you want your sister to live, you must do as I say.

  Request #1. No council involvement.

  My heart sank to the bottom of my chest, but just as quickly, it rebounded. My sister was alive, and that was a huge relief. But she was in grave danger. If you took into account the note was addressed to me, her abduction was apparently somehow connected to me. I tried to run a mental checklist of all the people I may have pissed off in the past. What I came up with was not encouraging.

  In the last five years, since I had inherited my gifts as a Creator, I must have exterminated over twenty vampires. Any one of them could have run in a group or left behind a girlfriend or lover hell bent on revenge. But if that were the case, why kidnap my sister? Wouldn’t they kill her instead, in retaliation against me? I could only assume that someone wanted me to suffer. Mission accomplished.

  “I take it, you’ve already read this?”

  I looked up into Rush’s eyes. They were a soft grey, made even softer by glinting compassion. I appreciated the unspoken sentiment.

  “Yes, I’ve read it,” he whispered.

  “What does the damn thing say?” Jude asked. His body was caught up in an impatient hover, floating back and forth between the chair and coffee
table. He ran a hand through his messy curls, face stricken with worry. “Is she alive?”

  “Yes. Thankfully, it looks that way. The note doesn’t say much, but that the Council needs to stay out of whatever all this is.”

  I switched my gaze over to Rush. He was sitting with his hands folded in his lap while I talked to Jude.

  “You need to leave,” I said. “For all I know, the person who took my sister could be watching this place as we speak. And if Torra’s kidnapper knows about the Council, he probably knows that you are the man in charge.”

  Rush scooted forward and turned his body towards me. “I know what the note says, Kristina. And I can assure you that the Council and I consider your sister’s safety our number one priority.”

  Bull. My sister was not the Council’s number one priority. Those jerks only cared about two things—collecting Creators and accumulating money—which, if you thought about it, were pretty much one and the same. A strong, well-trained Creator could bring in millions for a single awakening. Rich people lined up around the Center’s block for a chance at eternal beauty and immortality. That’s why, of the slim few of us that existed, we were the most coveted of all the three kinds of necromancers.

  First, there were the harkers. They could communicate with spirits by using sound alone. They couldn’t see a ghost or create a vampire. Second, there were beholders, who could not only hear spirits, but could see them, as well. Third, there was my kind of necromancer, a Creator. Creators were the highest class of necros, also the strongest. We could see and hear spirits, just like the other two kinds of necros, but we also had the ability to raise the dead. And I am not referring to the zombie, infected and gross, kind of dead. No, we didn’t create zombies. Creators had the unique ability to awaken a corpse and subsequently turn it into a vampire.

  With that gift, you could imagine how lucrative a business peddling immortality to wealthy mortals could be. Because I was privy to the Council’s possible motives, I couldn’t trust them to do the right thing for my sister. It would be too much of a temptation for them. My sister’s kidnapping could put me under their thumbs.

  Not if I had anything to say about it, I thought. I would make finding Torra my sole responsibility.

  “You heard me. Leave. I wasn’t fooling around. Not with the life of my sister.

  Rush stood. “I know that you have no reason to trust me,” he said, taking out a card from his wallet. He bent over and set the business card with his contact information on the coffee table. “Believe it or not, I really do care about what happens to your sister.” He tapped the card twice before standing straight. “That’s my personal number. Call me if you need anything.”

  My face remained neutral. “Thanks for the offer. But I can manage on my own.”

  “Your sister disappeared from the Center. I need to know how someone managed to do that.” He picked up the card and walked it over to me. Holding it out, he said, “So if it’s all the same, I’d appreciate a call if you stumble upon anything that may be important. The more people looking for your sister, the better.”

  My throat went dry. His eyes burned a fire through me as he spoke. That kind of carnal look was not an appropriate one between two people whom were only acquaintances. He looked at me like he had already sampled my goods and was in dire need of more. I swallowed my increasing hunger over the lump in my throat and grabbed his card.

  “I will call you if anything happens. Thanks,” I said coolly, even though cool, calm, and collected was the exact opposite of how Rush made me feel.

  His eyes lingered on me for a few seconds longer before he turned to leave. He spun around and said, “I’m sorry about what happened to Torrance. If anyone can bring her home safe, it’s you.” And with those words, Rush walked out the door.

  “That guy is a nutcase,” Jude announced, floating up next to me.

  “Uh, yeah…sure.”

  Chapter Three

  I drove away from Kristina’s house with a bad feeling in my gut.

  “Hurry up and move it, asshole!” I yelled out my window.

  I was stuck at a green light behind a piece of shit car that was regurgitating black smoke. The douche-bag driving it had his head out the window, ogling a blond woman walking down the street in a tight micro-mini skirt. The revealing clothes and side smile she threw at her gawker screamed, I have issues and need attention. She did nothing for me. I liked women who relied on their wit and personal charm, and could hold their own in any situation. Kristina Chase immediately popped to mind.

  “Screw you, fuck face!” the man yelled back, flipping me off.

  After the guy finally drove forward, I pushed down on the pedal and took off towards my office. The Center was already closed for the day, but I wanted to go back over the crime scene one more time to make sure nothing had been overlooked.

  I squeezed the steering wheel and wished like hell I could wrench it around and head back to Kristina’s house. It wasn’t right for her to face that damn kidnapper alone. I ran a hand over my chin. How can I help her without putting Torrance in danger? I thought about that long and hard during the remainder of my drive.

  I arrived at the Necro Center twenty minutes later and pulled into my parking spot. I still hadn’t figured out a decent plan to get my ass back into Kristina’s house so I could protect her. I had no idea why I had such an overwhelming need to make sure nothing happened to her, but I did, and I wasn’t about to give up. I would settle for doing all I could on the sidelines until I came up with something brilliant, or until I got tired of her stubbornness and showed back up at her door, regardless of what she thought.

  The tall, glass building was almost dark as I approached. The only light shone from the front lobby. Those lights remained on at all times. I took my keys from my pocket and flipped through until I found the master key. I pushed it in the slot and unlocked the double doors.

  I could see the guard through the glass as I pushed the door. He jumped up, grabbing the side of his hip, ready to draw on me. I couldn’t help laughing. The old man had been working for the company all his adult life, and in all that time, no one had ever heard one complaint from him.

  He had a wife that passed away a few years back, and had a couple of kids grown and employed by the Council. It was common practice for necromancers to keep in their employ an entire family line. It was easier to hide our magical race from humans that way. His bloodline had worked for my family, the Davises, for the past three centuries, and not once were any of the Center’s secrets betrayed by a Duncan.

  “It’s just me, Conrad, don’t shoot.”

  Conrad Duncan squinted behind a pair of thick glasses. His salt and pepper head pushed forward, like that could help him see me more clearly.

  “What’s got you out so late, young man?”

  “There was a kidnapping today. One of our own was taken, so I’m snooping around, hoping something will fall into my lap.”

  I spoke candidly with Conrad. There was no reason for pretenses with him.

  “I did hear something or other about that. Such a shame. I really like that young lass.”

  Conrad adjusted his belt; the action tugged his pants up and crinkled his shirt. Before his wife, Pamela, died of natural causes, God rest her soul, Conrad’s skin had been more filled out, his belly more plump. I made a mental note to call one of his three children to keep better tabs on the old guy and make sure he was eating regularly.

  “Is there anything I can do to help?” Conrad asked.

  He ambled back over to his desk and sat down. I followed, stopping on the other side of the counter in front of him.

  “If you can run through the surveillance footage for today and the past few days, I would really appreciate it.”

  “Sure thing, Mr. Davis. Is there anything in particular I should keep an eye out for?”

  “Look for anything out of the ordinary. Take note of any unscheduled deliveries or suspicious behavior from our staff and Council members. Also, take snap
shots of any new faces you may come across.”

  “Do you mind if I call in Duska to help pore over all the footage? She has an eagle eye for these things. Besides, she just called me and she’s bored.”

  Duska was Conrad’s granddaughter. She was also a hell on wheels spitfire that had a severe problem with authority, but even so, you couldn’t find a more devoted and loyal servant.

  “Sure, call her up. Just make sure she keeps her attitude in check when my sister, Kissa, arrives in a few hours.”

  For some reason, those two were like oil and water. Every time they were in the same room together, you could slice the tension between them with a knife. Everyone was waiting for the day they squared off. I was certain that a loss of life or limb would be the consequence if a battle between those two she-devils ever transpired.

  Conrad chuckled. “Will do. I’ll give Duska a call now.”

  ***

  Two hours later, and not a single new piece of evidence was found at the scene of the crime. I had decided to call it a night and drive home.

  Standing in the elevator of my downtown, Atlantic City high-rise apartment building, I was drained as hell. My hands were shoved in my pants pockets, my head down, as I rode the gilded box of gold and mirrors to the top floor.

  I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth; everything that surrounded me was opulent. All the way down to my three-thousand-dollar shoes and my ten-thousand-dollar suits, and of course, the penthouse suite I lived in. The suite was large and stretched to span across the top floor of the building, and even though it was grandly furnished, it felt empty.

  Lifting my head, I looked at my reflection. My eyes roamed over my black dress shirt which was a smooth, richly textured fabric that boasted a ridiculously high thread count. The clothes had been laid out on top of my dressing room bench by my butler—one of three. The same went for my pressed slacks and my undergarments. All these items were the best that money could buy.

 
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