It’s Deception Pass’ss’ss’sssessss’s birthday (at least, for the next hour or so here on the west coast), so I got everyone a present.
As usual, I posted these in such a way that your reading lists don't get totally spammed. There are a bunch of parts to this episode, so be sure to hit next (or the arrow or whatever it is).
It seemed to Andy, as he dashed from his car to the dry sanctuary of the apartment building’s foyer, that it had been raining nonstop for the last three weeks. The cloud cover was starting to feel almost oppressive, and he wondered if his campaign for mayor would be undercut if he took another vacation to Maui.
As he slipped through the door and out of the damp, he reminded himself that there were only four short weeks until the election. While he most certainly wouldn’t lose if he snuck out for a bit, it was probably best to tough it out until he’d been in office for at least a few days. Right now he had too much to get done to risk on black sandy beaches and sunny skies. As the elevator rushed to the tenth floor, he cleared his mind of everything but his current task.
He knew Glass and Jade would be at home even though he hadn’t phoned ahead. He no longer needed them to work full-time, but was happy to keep them on his payroll all the same.
He couldn’t help but feel a chill as the door to the apartment opened. Glass was smiling broadly, as if he’d been waiting, which only added to Andy’s unease.
“Good morning, Mr. Stone. What brings you out this way?”
“Business. Mind if I come inside?”
“Not in the least.”
He stepped aside, allowing Andy entrance into the spacious apartment. Jade was standing by the entrance of the kitchen, mirroring her brother’s wide smile. Books and DVDs were piled on and around the small table, and most of the countertops. Among these were various dried plants, oddly-colored powders, and other sundry items he’d prefer to remain ignorant about.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Jade asked. “We’ve got a pot of coffee on.”
“No, thank you. I’d like to get right down to work if it’s all the same.”
“Of course. We can talk in the living room.”
Andy followed the siblings to a pair of couches, not at all liking the way things were going. He’d dropped in without calling for the sole purpose of having the upper hand, to control the situation from the very start. With Glass and Jade acting as if they’d been expecting him, the entire plan was out the window.
As he sat down, he reminded himself he was the one who signed their paychecks, and instantly felt more in control.
“So what can we help you with, Mr. Stone?” Jade asked, sliding in next to her brother.
“What do you know about curing dementia?”
“Ginkgo bioloba is used to help ease symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it’s not a cure by any means. Mostly it only helps to delay the inevitable.”
“Yes, this person has already been showing symptoms for a few years. They’re currently on medications, but it’s like you said: they’re just easing symptoms rather than curing the problem.”
“I assume you’re more interested in a less traditional approach to someone’s mental health, then,” Glass replied.
“I’m not going to be much help,” Jade pouted. “I’m better at causing dementia rather than curing it.”
“I can certainly give clarity of mind to an individual,” Glass said, ignoring his sister, “but you have to understand that it’s only a temporary ‘lifting of the fog,’ if you will.”
“Three weeks, max. And the person will almost certainly end up worse off after the spell wears off.”
“That’s an acceptable risk,” Andy replied without hesitation.
“Of course, a mage with any reasonable amount of power could keep the spell going for longer if it were needed.”
An easy smile spread across Andy’s features, his earlier unease fully evaporated.
“How much time do you need to prepare?”
“No more than fifteen minutes, half an hour at most; I should have everything I need here. I can get started right now as a matter of fact.”
“Excellent. I need to talk with your sister a bit anyway.”
Glass nodded once and quickly made his exit. Andy waited until he was certain he was out of earshot before turning to Jade.
“Now, Jade, may I ask when you were planning on telling me about Jacob Towans?”
Jade jumped slightly, but otherwise put on a good show of staying in control of her surprise.
“You’ll do a lot better for yourself if you don’t try to lie to me,” Andy interrupted.
“I wasn’t going…” Jade stopped mid-thought, her frustration obvious. “Soon. I wanted to see if he could be useful first. It didn’t help that Glass kept him hidden from me for six months!”
“It never occurred to you that maybe your little side project would be interesting to me, too?”
“I wanted to have something concrete for you, not just vague feelings. I wasn’t hiding him out of spite.”
“Have you learned anything about him?”
“He’s a local, born and raised here, and pretty strong based on our brief encounter at the hospital. Other than that, I didn’t find much beyond a few medical and police records, really. I’m sure you’ve come across more than I did.”
“I probably did, which is another reason why you should have had me involved from the start.”
“I suppose you’re right.” It didn’t escape Andy’s notice the way she let her head drop just enough to allow a stray strand of hair to fall over her eyes, or the way the color had risen to her face in a flood.
“Be sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”
“That’s my girl. I’d hate to have to get rid of you.”
He joined her little game, leaning forward and lightly brushing the hair from her eyes. Before he gave her a chance to react, he stood up and went back toward the kitchen, far more interested in its condition than her distractions.
At least for now.
“Would you care to explain the library you two seem to be opening in your kitchen?” he asked, tapping the cover of one of the closer books.
“Oh! That’s for the final stage in our project!” Jade said, her excitement obvious as she nearly scampered into the kitchen. “It’s a sampling of vampire mythologies, starting from the oldest legends to modern books, movies, and television series. Glass thought we could go through and make note of both the strengths and the weaknesses, in case we’d overlooked something.”
“That’s a pretty brilliant idea.”
“He was just going to stick to books, but I didn’t see any reason to leave out movies and television. The vampire myth’s really come a long way since the days of shoving bricks in the mouths of corpses to keep them from feeding.”
“I imagine it has.”
“Glass has already duplicated the components of several dozen myths. If you wanted to be able to fly, we could make it happen.”
“Is that so?” he asked, genuinely curious. He had to admit he was impressed with their initiative.
“And if flying is a bit too silly for you, there’s always the power of hypnosis, or the ability to travel in a fog, or control wolves. If it’s been included in a vampiric myth, we’ll catalog it. Of course, he’s still working on separating them, but... Well, this, for instance…” He was almost sure he heard a very quick, very loud snap as Jade reached around him, though she seemed not to have noticed. The air felt charged with static as she brought forward a vial filled with what looked like deep red granulated sugar. “…is, if I caught any of his ramblings, the essence of all the myths involved in Dracula: the ability to move about in daylight, hypnosis, preoccupation with real estate, fine taste in clothing, the whole nine yards. It’s all pretty involved, but he’s been reverse engineering the greatest powers in vampire history on a… I guess subatomic paranormal magical unicorn level.”
“How’d he manage that?”
“Again, I’m not too clear on the details, but words and myths have power.”
“And what’s your contribution to all of this?”
“I’ve not only kept him awake, I’ve given him the macroscopic materials to hold all the mojo,” she replied, gesturing at the various glass containers.
“What about the downsides in all these myths? I’d hate to go hundreds of years without pizza.”
“That’s the other thing I’ve been helping with. You’ll still be able to eat all the garlic you’d ever want, and even go to church every Sunday if it’d make you happy. We’ve got it all covered, Mr. Stone.”
“And how do I know you won’t work in a failsafe device of your own without telling me?”
“Have we ever let you down?”
Jade’s smile had widened, revealing a row of tiny, almost pointy teeth which Andy was sure he should have noticed before now. Granted, he had previously kept a decent physical distance between them whenever possible, so he assumed it was a perfectly reasonable thing to overlook. She’d moved in even closer in order to replace the vial, and didn’t seem to be making any plans to move away again.
The air was suddenly drenched with the smell of wet earth and growing things, with delicate overtones of herbs and flowers dancing on the surface. It left him feeling pleasantly light-headed and warm, as though he was falling asleep in the sun-drenched clearing of a very old forest on a late summer day. He was slowly becoming aware that he was going to kiss her, and that her lips would taste like honeysuckle.
The harsh thudding of boots on the stairs shattered the moment, and Andy took a step back, deeply breathing in the nondescript air of the kitchen. He was only just coming out of his stupor when Glass reached the kitchen, giving his sister a brief questioning look that she returned with a quick yet pointed glare.
“Here you go, Mr. Stone. This tea will work to clear up any dementia in whoever drinks it. I’ve made up a couple weeks’ worth, but the residual effects should last much longer. If you want it halted, I can do that for you just as easily.”
“Yes, thank you.” His voice felt thick and awkward in his throat.
“The base tea is my sister’s invention, so just as many thanks should go to her.”
“Credit where credit is due, of course. I’ll be in touch, as always.”
Andy absently shoved the tea in his coat pocket, making his way from the apartment as though waking slowly from a dream. By the time he reached his car, he felt fully awake again, and better than he had in weeks. It didn’t even seem to be raining quite as steadily as it had been earlier.