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The Iron in Blood

Jenny Doe

Copyright 2013 by Jenny Doe

CHAPTER 1

Rebecca

I’m not a believer. I’m pretty sure I never really believed in Father Christmas or the

tooth fairy or any number of magical creatures that litter childhood like so much detritus

from earlier darker wierder times. Let’s face it, the idea of a tiny person sneaking about

taking children’s teeth while they sleep is just creepy. I’ve never been a member of any of

the current world religions or their derivatives either. I don’t believe that invisible pixies populate gardens, or that aliens spend their time cruising the skies looking for the worlds’

most intellectually challenged individuals to deliver messages of goodwill and try out their

latest in probes. And I’d certainly never have dreamed of believing in vampires.

I do read books, though, and watch movies, and I’ve noticed that one of the common

theories about vampires is that it’s a condition that is somehow transferable between two

individuals, like some kind of freaky infection.

Turns out vampires do exist. But they’re born, not made.

The story of how I ended up, not believing in vampires, but knowing without a doubt

that they live and breathe, started a couple of weeks before my eighteenth birthday. I was

walking home from school at about three one gloomy Thurday afternoon, watching the

familiar cracks in the pavement glide by below my feet, when the sound of a car engine

being revved made me glance up at the car hurtling towards me. I guess I should have

known that it would never be able to stop on time, but I just stood there watching it, right up until it clipped my left leg and sent me flying through the air.

I landed painfully on the road, and slid for a few feet, adding various unbelievably

painful grazes to my growing list of injuries. I lay there on the tarmac, stunned by the

unfamiliar pain shooting through my body, while people started gathering around me,

shouting for help and collectively dialling 999 on about eight mobile phones. A skinny

woman wearing a purple jumper loomed over me, and pushed me back down every time I

tried to sit up. I lay on that road, embarrassed and aching, and hoping against hope that

nobody I knew would ever find out about this. Teenagers hate fuss, and I hated it more than

most.

Next thing an ambulance had arrived – a huge yellow blob-shaped vehicle with a blue

light flashing away on top of it. Two paramedics jumped out of the front of the vehicle, one

really short with a big pervy grin, and one really tall with a vaguely sour expression. I

wondered briefly if I was going to be continuously sliding down an incline between the two

of them as they carried me into the vehicle, but fortunately they came equipped with a

stretcher that was balanced beautifully on nice even wheels. They made sure I was

breathing and conscious, and then they asked me loads of awkward questions before they

lifted me carefully onto a hard board, and strapped the world’s most constricting torture

device around my neck. They picked up the board, yep, definitely an incline; and slid it onto

the stretcher, where it turns out I had a great view of the tall guys nostrils. As they shut the doors behind me I tried to see what had happened to the guy that hit me with his car, but

he was nowhere to be seen. The police later told me that he had driven off without

stopping, and as nobody had gotten his number plate, the likelihood was that he would get

off scot free.

They were wrong.

Angus

I remember that first call from my brother. I had arrived back at the hotel I’d been

staying at for the past eight weeks. It was five in the afternoon, dark already and cold, and

I’d just finished tracking down a man I’d been looking for for the past three days. He lived in a medium sized town about fifty miles from where I was staying, and I intended to pay him a

surprise visit the following day. England is a beautiful country steeped in history and

tradition, but it was also home to the type of man that I liked to, er, find. Hence my

presence in the country when Marcus phoned.

When he told me that a match had been found, at first I did not believe him. He and

Fergus had been searching for decades, and had so far turned up nothing. I thought he was

playing some sort of joke. He has a tendency to do things like that; his sense of humour can

be a bit peculiar. I suppose it may have a lot to do with him being the ultimate academic,

plus the fact that he and Fergus lived in almost complete isolation from other more normal

people. But when he repeated his statement, and I heard the suppressed excitement and

elation in his voice, I knew that he was telling the truth, and I was pleased for him. And for Fergus. They had both worked so hard on this project, Marcus the geneticist, and Fergus the

computer whizz. Thirty years spent sweating away at a seemingly impossible task that had

been left to us by our equally frustrated father, and they had just achieved the second major

breakthrough. The first had been when Marcus had isolated that little group of genes that

separated us from the rest of humankind, that collection of base pairs that sat lurking in our DNA and that was ultimately responsible for both our strengths and our strangeness.

Marcus and Fergus had decided that I would be the retriever and general facilitator,

mainly because I happened to be in the same country as the person with the alleged match,

but also because I did not stand out in a crowd quite as much as they did. There was not

much of an age difference between the three of us, unless you counted a few minutes.

Besides, our father could never remember which of us had been born first, consumed as he

was by the grief of losing our mother. Nonetheless, Marcus and Fergus had always behaved

as if they were the older brothers, and ordered me about accordingly, and I had gone along

with it. It had seemed too much effort to argue, and I had been far more interested in

learning to use my own specific abilities.

As Marcus read out a name in a slightly breathless voice, I felt our narrow world

changing and expanding, like a giant stone wall had unexpectedly morphed into an open

window, and we were stood surveying the possibilities that lay beyond it. We weren’t alone

anymore. A seventeen year old girl was responsible for that revelation, and suddenly I felt

very protective towards this young woman whom I had not even met yet. It didn’t occur to

me to write her details down. There was no point, really. I always remembered everything

people told me. It was one of my
talents
.

Rebecca

That board was unbelievably uncomfortable. As the ambulance jolted and swerved its

way through traffic, my discomfort grew, until I wasn’t sure which was worse – the pain

from every bony prominence in my body pressing onto that board, or the pain of my actual

injuries. It was a tight call.

After what seemed like hours we finally arrived at the hospital, where I was finally

rolled off that board, while someone prodded my spine for signs of injury. The neck collar

was also removed once I was able to convince the slightly sceptical A&E doctor that I had

absolutely no pain whatsoever in my neck. I rotated it madly and lifted my head right off the

mattress to show him how little it hurt. He grinned at my efforts, and gave the nurse the

collar. I wondered briefly if it would need to be incinerated. It deserved nothing less, in my opinion.

The doctor then asked me what had happened, so I told him I’d been hit by a car. He

nodded like this happened all the time. I looked around the crowded A&E department. It

probably did happen all the time here.

Then he asked me where it hurt, and I pointed to my left knee, which had by now

swollen to the size of a small rugby ball. He pursed his lips, said, “Hmm,” and mumbled

something about x-rays. Then he listened to my chest and pressed on my abdomen, ordered

a few blood tests, and left. A nurse appeared within seconds and asked me if I would mind if

she took a few blood samples to send to the lab to check that I hadn’t lost too much blood,

and to cross match my blood type just in case I needed a transfusion. I thought that was

reaching a bit, but I consented anyway. She also wanted to know if I wanted her to contact

anyone to let them know where I was, and if I wanted anything for the pain.

I told her yes and no. Yes to the painkillers – now that I was off the board, the pain had

become concentrated in my knee, which had begun to throb excruciatingly, and painkillers

seemed like a wonderful concept right now. No to the contacting of relatives idea. My

mother was a drug rep, who spent most of her time on the road in between visits to doctors

and related medical professionals. She was also likely to panic if she heard that I was in

hospital, and she always drove erratically when she got excited and I was afraid she would

end up in here on a board too. My brothers were either at school or in college, and neither

drove yet, so calling them would be a bit pointless. I decided to call my mother once I’d

been x-rayed and sorted out and discharged. Then she would have no reason to panic.

Hopefully. The nurse looked a bit doubtful, but I was seventeen, and Gillick competent, so I

was able to make my own decisions with regards to medical treatment. My GP had

explained all about that when he was trying to persuade me to go on the pill a few months

back. I told him that I did not have a boyfriend, but he seemed reluctant to believe me. I bet in his mind all seventeen year olds are rutting like rabbits.

Twenty minutes later, and the painkillers were mercifully starting to work. The nurse

had said that they were stronger than ordinary paracetamol, and I believed her. My head

seemed to have detached itself from the rest of my body, and I felt very relaxed. The doctor

returned to tell me that I had fractured my patella, and mentioned something about a cast,

before running off to answer a call for a doctor in resus, wherever that was. I remember

lying there wondering what exactly a patella was, and not really caring too much that I

didn’t even know if it was anywhere near the knee. I would google it when I got home.

Forty minutes later I phoned my mother from one of the pay phones in the waiting

room. I tried to explain what had happened while I balanced awkwardly on two crutches

and one good leg. The injured leg was encased in a hot, heavy cast, and felt like it didn’t

really belong to me. The phone was jammed between my left shoulder and my ear.

“What’s a patella?” she wanted to know.

“It’s a bone in the knee,” I told her confidently, hoping I was right. Like I said, my

mother has this tendency to panic, and I’d become used to behaving as if nothing serious

was happening, just to prevent her from hyperventilating and having one of her “turns”. My

mum was a deeply caring woman, who had never quite recovered her equilibrium after my

dad died nine years ago. I think she was terrified of losing one of us too, and any suggestion of trouble involving any of her three children sent her thoughts spiralling into a vortex of

fear that she struggled to get back from. We had adapted to this, and we led fairly secretive

and seemingly mundane lives as a result.

“I’m in Leicester!” I heard the alarm creeping into her voice, so I hurriedly told her that I

would call a taxi, and meet her at home, and that there was no need for her to rush back. I

briefly explained about the cast and the crutches, and said that my knee felt a lot better,

which was sort of true and sort of not. It was starting to throb again. She seemed to calm

down slightly, and reminded me that she would reimburse me for the taxi, and then she

made loud kissing noises down the phone, said goodbye, and hung up. I smiled. Mum was

mental, but I loved her to bits.

Angus

She’d already left by the time I phoned the hospital. I prevaricated and told them I was

her father, and they eventually gave in and told me briefly that she’d fractured her patella,

but that it wasn’t a bad break, and would heal by itself within about six weeks. I thanked the nurse that I had spoken to, and hung up. Seconds later my mobile phone rang. It was Fergus,

and he was calling to relay some information that he had obtained illegally by hacking into

both the NHS database and the hospital’s computer system. I grinned. I wasn’t perturbed at

all by the way in which he had achieved this. It was not so much a case of the ends justifying the means, although that did play a part. It was just that most ethical dilemmas had been

dismissed from our consciences many years ago. They had been overwhelmingly irrelevant

to our lives back then, and they still meant very little to us. Not being orientated with the

world’s moral compass had become a habit, I suppose, and I myself had done much, much

worse than this before.

“I’m sending it to your phone now,” he said, and rang off. Fergus the conversationalist.

I waited two minutes before I heard the phone buzz, and checked my inbox. As I read

through the few details that had been so expertly stolen by my brother, I became aware of

how little we knew about her. Name, date of birth, address, previous A&E attendances (one

for a broken finger two years ago, one for a foreign body ear aged 3). Assorted bits of

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