Authors: Connie Suttle
This story takes place in April 1993, and for those of you who remember, the Internet was barely visible, personal computers were big and clunky with tiny memories and cell phones were the size of Rhode Island. Here's the tale of how Adam Chessman met Joey Showalter; their meeting took place roughly fifteen years before Saxom's demise. Most of it is told from Adam Chessman's point of view. Adam has steadfastly written journal entries since the age of sixteen, and that continued during his life as a vampire.
Tuesday, April 6, 1993
The full moon shone brightly across the blanket of clouds that we'd flown over on the trip from Paris to London, but we were descending now and all I could see through the small window of the private jet was streaks of mist. It always made me feel claustrophobic and I didn't like it.
Only the two pilots were with me on this trip; I'd contacted the Council the night before, letting them know that my target had been eliminated. I was surprised to get a return call from one of the Council members, ordering me to meet with him when I arrived in England. He'd already arranged to have the jet pick me up in Paris. I was hoping to stay a few more days; I hadn't been to Paris in more than a year and wanted to visit a shop that sold suits that I liked.
Regardless, here I was, watching condensation form on the windows of the jet as we angled toward the runway at the airport. The pilots opened the door and lowered the steps for me after coming to a stop, and I grabbed my bag and made my way toward the front of the plane. I saw the fear in the pilot's eyes as I walked past, giving a scant nod of thanks. They were always afraid if they recognized me, and he certainly did.
Xavier had sent a car for me, but even he didn't know what the Council wanted and knew better than to ask. The driver held the door open for me as I walked toward the limo, then gingerly took my bag, stowing it in the boot. I slipped onto the back seat, the leather cool against my hands, and the driver was closing my door the moment I was settled. I could tell he was also afraid. I sighed.
The drive took nearly an hour, and I was let out with a promise that the car would be waiting for me when I returned. Making my way through the forested, park-like area surrounding the Chislehurst Caves, I located the entrance only a select few were ever shown, past the two guards who stood just inside the entrance and through that narrow pit of darkness leading downward to the Council chamber itself. Only one member waited for me inside the dimly-lit cavern.
The smell was always the same; dank and slightly acidic to my nose, and I could hear the faint, incessant plink of dripping water, busily forming cones of stalactites and their corresponding stalagmites. I bowed stiffly to the Council member, wondering yet again what the Seer could possibly want with me.
"Chessman," I barely rated a nod as the Seer greeted me with his clipped, impatient voice.
"You have an assignment for me, Elder?" I asked. Elder was the least of several titles a Council member would tolerate. They much preferred Honored One, or even Exalted One, at times, but I'd never liked this particular member. I wondered if he knew it.
"Yes, Chessman, I do." I looked at him, my face expressionless, and he never knew how slimy his compulsion felt as it slipped into my mind, coating my will with its own. I wanted to shiver and gag, as it made its insidious journey into my brain. "You will find the vampire called Merrill," the Seer instructed, his voice iron hard, his compulsion impossible for me to break. "You will destroy him and bring me evidence, do you understand? I want him finally and irrevocably dead."
I'd had compulsions placed by the Council before, most often by Wlodek, Head of the Council, but never one by the Seer. I felt contaminated by its touch. I wanted it gone, but I wasn't old enough, or strong enough. I didn't know of any existing vampire who could throw off a compulsion placed by the Council. Briefly, I wondered what Merrill had done to warrant a death sentence, but the Seer wasn't done, yet.
"You will tell no one, not even other members of the Council, of our meeting, or who your target is." That compulsion seeped into my brain and settled itself beside the first one. I could only nod at the Seer. "Good. You have permission to ask for assistance from Showalter if you need it, and I expect you to place compulsion on him so he won't go blathering about, either. Do you understand?"
"Good. Contact me at this number when you've made progress or taken down your target, and I will let you know where and when to bring the evidence." He passed me a slip of paper.
"Go now. I want this done as soon as possible."
"Yes, Elder." Turning away, I stalked through the pitch-black tunnel leading to the surface. I'd recognized the two guards at the entrance when I'd arrived; one of them spoke as I made my way out again.
"What did he want, Boss?"
"You know better than to ask, Russell." I was short with him and he stepped back, not speaking again. I wanted nothing more than to get away from there as quickly as I could, so I ran. I was back at the car in seconds, making not a sound, surprising the driver, who apologized for not noticing my approach while he opened the car door for me. I ignored him and slid inside. He drove me home.
* * *
"Merrill, that fool has sent Chessman after you."
Merrill looked up in surprise. "What are you talking about, brother?" Merrill was sitting behind the seventeenth-century desk he was so fond of, toying with a letter opener.
"Just what I said. The one who calls himself the Seer has placed compulsion on the Council's Chief Enforcer to come after you. He won't be satisfied until you're dead. I told you he saw us together that night. He only pretended not to recognize me."
"A compulsion on Chessman? Are you sure?"
"You know I am."
"He'll be harder to kill than the others," Merrill settled into his wingback chair and steepled his fingers.
"You can't kill Chessman. He's important."
"How can you stand there and tell me I can't kill him? He's been sent after me. I will kill him."
"No, Merrill. I can't explain this fully; you'll have to trust me on this. You're going to have to convince him not to kill you."
"He's a mister—one of the few of us who can become mist. He's more dangerous than any of them, too. That's why he's Chief of Enforcers."
"I know that."
Merrill's phone rang. He reached out to pick up. "Merrill, here." He listened for a moment. "Slow down, Joey, even I can't understand you when you talk this fast." Merrill went back to listening. "I understand, child," he said after a while. "Yes, I have already been informed, thank you. I'll send Brock to pick you up now; we'll check through my records to see where we can lay a false trail." Merrill hung up the phone.
"Chessman's already contacted Joey about tracing my financial records and such. I suppose it's a good thing we never let the Council know that Gordon didn't turn Joey before he walked into the sun."
"I told you not to give out that information, either on Joey or the other two."
"I know. You've never led me wrong before, but I grow tired of waiting for some of those things you've promised me over the years."
"Have patience, Merrill. They will all come to you."
"Telling a two-thousand-year-old vampire to have patience is not amusing in the remotest sense, old friend."
* * *
Wednesday, April 7th
I wandered into the kitchen of my apartment after rising for the evening. Opening the refrigerator, I pulled out one of many bags of blood I had stored in it and shut the door. Sucking on the unit of blood, I checked my answering machine for any messages. There were two, one from my business manager—he'd had to fire a chef at one of my restaurants, and the other was a hang-up call. I erased both of them and finished my breakfast. I called Joey Showalter immediately afterward. He was two months away from receiving his master's from MIT before his turning; he'd almost died in an automobile accident and had been brought over by Gordon, an old vampire who had decided to greet the sun shortly after turning Joey.
I hadn't met Joey before, but the Council had used him several times, whenever they needed someone to hack into computer records or the like. He'd sounded young over the phone the evening before. In human years, he was twenty-three. In vampire years, he was two. I didn't know if we could endure one another. I was two hundred fifteen and could barely tolerate young humans.
I'd arranged to meet Joey at a coffee shop around the corner, and he was a few minutes late getting there. I knew him the moment he walked through the door; we vampires always recognize another of our kind. He came and sat at my table. "Joey Showalter," he nodded at me; vampires seldom shake hands.
"Adam Chessman," I nodded in return. "Have you found anything yet?"
"A couple of things," he said. "I found some charges going back to his bank account from Memphis, six days ago. Hotel room and other incidentals." I was watching him carefully as he spoke—he was dressed in worn jeans and a T-shirt with a rock band's name scrawled across the chest. I was appalled at his disregard for grooming. He was five-seven, and would be infinitely more attractive if he dressed better. Even so, he was ogled by at least two people in the coffee shop, one male, one female. I knew from the records, however, that the male would be the one to gain Joey's interest.
"Are you prepared to fly to Memphis with me, then?" I asked. "How quickly can you be packed and ready to go?"
"I can go tomorrow," he said, slightly irritated at my interruption. He'd been explaining how he'd gotten into the records to begin with. I didn't need details, I only needed information.
"Good. We can start with the hotel and anything else you can uncover between now and then. I have to place some calls, arrange for the jet and find a safe house for us there. I'll meet you at the hangar tomorrow at eight." I tossed a tip on the table and rose to leave—we'd ordered black coffee and pretended to drink it.
"All right," he said and offered a half wave as I left the table.
* * *
Merrill's three-story manor was located outside London, in the English countryside of Kent. He held extensive grounds around it, and kept the perimeter secured against intruders. Merrill was seated in a chair and reading quietly when Franklin led Joey in.
"Merrill, we're flying to Memphis tomorrow night." Joey said as he paced inside Merrill's library.
"Not a problem. Chessman won't find anything—I'm not there, after all," Merrill responded.
"Why does he want you? There's no reason for it."
Merrill frowned, wondering what to tell Joey. "It's not really me, I don't think, but the company I keep, at times."
"So, you didn't do anything wrong, but you were hanging out with somebody who did?"
"Not even that. The one I was 'hanging out with,' as you so ineptly put it, wouldn't dream of doing anything wrong. It's just that there is a history here, bad blood, no pun intended, and now the Council wants to get to my companion through me."
"Why don't they just go after him—or her—I guess, if that's who they want?"
"Have you heard the phrase, lasso the wind? I think it might be appropriate in this case." Merrill looked at Joey. He was so young, still, he couldn't help thinking.
"So, impossible to catch? Is that what you're saying?"
"And more dangerous than that, if you did manage to corner him," Merrill added.
"More dangerous than the Chief Enforcer? C'mon."
"More dangerous than any vampire, Joey, which he is not, by the way."
"Merrill, nothing is more dangerous than a vampire."
"While a few werewolves might argue that point with you and fail miserably, by the way, this falls into the more things in heaven and Earth category. We will not speak of this again, do you understand?" Merrill placed a light compulsion in his voice.
"Good. Tell me about Chessman."
"He's better looking than I thought. About six-four, hair almost black, gray eyes. If he'd smile now and then, he'd have women all over him. They look anyway, but his expression puts them off."
"I'm not sure that's what I wanted to know," Merrill observed dryly.
"Oh. Well, he's all business, which is only to be expected, I guess. I tried to give him details on how I got the leads in Memphis, but he cut me off. I think his mind is working on three levels, at least. I wouldn't want to cross him, Merrill. I wouldn't survive it, for sure."
"Well, Joey, practice your subterfuge, then, because crossing him is exactly what you're doing."
* * *
Thursday, April 8th
Joey was there on time for the plane, and I think I was frightening him. I suppose being what I am warrants the natural responses, at times. I took the opportunity to place compulsion while we waited for the ground crew to finish fueling the jet.
"Joey Showalter," I said, giving him my strongest compulsion, "You will not discuss this assignment with anyone else. You will come to me if someone asks you about it, and I will deal with them."