Authors: Kristen Reed
THE WAY OF ESCAPE
Copyright © 2016 Kristen Reed
Cover Photo Credit: ©Galyna Andrushko/Dollar Photo Club
Scripture quotations are from the ESV
Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All Rights Reserved
For the women in my life who continually show me
the way of escape out of my own struggles.
Waking up somewhere other than my own bedroom wasn’t outside of the norm for me that autumn. After five days in Haiti on a mission trip with a mixture of old and new friends, I was getting used to starting my day in the room I shared with two other girls from my team, Leah and Brittany. When I first heard about the trip, I halfway expected to sleep in a tent or on the floor of a local church after a long day of building houses and digging wells. Instead, our group slept in dorms that had ceiling fans, filtered water, bathrooms, and electrical outlets after spending our days in the villages of Manonette, Source-Matelas, and Titanyen. That consisted of serving and sharing the gospel with the men and women in the village and going to services at the local church. Even though it was nothing like what I anticipated, I loved it.
After a day of doing gospel-centered food and water safety training with our interpreters and spending an evening of worship with my friends, I snuggled under the covers and closed my eyes so I could recharge for another day in Haiti. However, instead of waking up to the softness of my tiny camp pillow, I awakened with my face pressed against a cold concrete floor. When I rolled over onto my aching back, sat up, and saw that I was alone and not at the Gospel Gateway campus, confusion and terror gripped my mind.
The room I woke up in was barely larger than my modest walk in closet back home in Dallas, and it reeked like a public restroom that had some
plumbing issues. The only fixture in the grimy white-walled room was a bucket that the room’s previous occupants had relieved themselves in … multiple times. The faint stench of smoke hung in the air, and my concern deepened when I realized that the smell was coming from my dark curls and pajamas.
Where in the world am I?
As I stood up and tried my luck opening the lamentably locked door, I tried to guess who had taken me from the comfort of my temporary home. Everything from sex traffickers and drug cartels to terrorists and sadistic maniacs crossed my mind, but none of those made sense. Whoever kidnapped me and brought me to the room I had awakened in had been able to infiltrate the campus, grab me, and transport me without waking me up. That would have required some serious pre-planning and manpower since the non-profit hosting my group had several security guards patrolling the campus. Though I didn’t have the foggiest idea of who would be able to abduct me from the safety of Gospel Gateway without waking me up, I knew that I needed to find out.
Just as conspiracy theories began to dance in my head like sugarplum fairies, the door unlocked with a soft click and I came back to reality. I scurried into the corner of the room farthest from the door and silently prayed for the strength to face my mysterious abductors. Much to my surprise, the person who strutted into the tiny cell was a woman who looked more like a rising star in corporate America than a kidnapper.
The woman had pulled her straight blonde hair away from her pale face into a perfectly braided bun, and not a single strand was out of place. She peered down her thin, straight nose at me and narrowed her baby blue eyes as she tapped her ink pen on the clipboard she gripped in her pale, manicured hands. The black pencil skirt and matching peplum blouse she wore gave her curveless figure a more feminine silhouette while her five-inch lipstick red heels added a pop of color to her otherwise monochromatic outfit.
Despite my strange predicament, my first instinct was to admire her sense of style and then to feel self-conscious thanks to my mismatched pajamas and hot pink socks. However, that appreciation and insecurity reverted to suspicion when she greeted me.
“Hello, Clara. I’m sorry you had to awaken in this dreadful room, but we didn’t really know what to do with you,” she purred in a French accent. “Please come with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me who you are and where I am,” I protested.
“If you want to leave this room, you will go wherever I tell you. Nevertheless, I’ll indulge you since I doubt the master will tolerate your impertinence,” she replied. “My name is Lisette and you are on Monsieur Géroux’s island.”
Lisette turned to leave, but she faced me again with a roll of her icy eyes when I spoke.
“Who is Monsieur Géroux, and why am I on his island?”
“Ms. Robinson, you can either come with me and ask him yourself or rot in this room until you starve. It’s your choice.”
Before I could respond, the frigid Frenchwoman turned on her stiletto and vacated the rancid cell, so I reluctantly followed her. White, windowless doors like the one I had passed through lined the hallway and I wondered whom, if anyone, was behind them. Since the only sound I heard as I trailed behind Lisette down the hall and up the stairs was the click-clack of her heels on the concrete floor, I assumed and hoped that the other rooms were as empty as mine was.
Admiration and confusion duked it out in my mind when we walked through the door at the top of the staircase and into a shockingly gorgeous home. Moonlight illuminated the cherry hardwood floors as well as the priceless sculptures that were on display in the niches carved in the eggshell, fresco-painted walls. While the foyer was a drastic improvement from the industrial concrete floor and grimy white walls I’d awakened to, the house’s splendor only momentarily distracted me from my suspicion.
I considered making a run for it as the chic blonde led me past the front door, but the fact that I hadn’t been bound, gagged, or beaten curbed that urge. Seeing the seemingly endless sea beyond the hedge-lined fountain and expansive garden in the front yard backed up her claim that we were on a private island, which meant that escaping by foot wasn’t an option. With that in mind, I decided to take a chance on the mysterious Monsieur Géroux and prayed that he would let me leave peacefully so I wouldn’t have to risk drowning myself in the Caribbean in an attempt to escape his island.
As we ascended from the spacious foyer to the second floor using a grand staircase with a wrought iron banister of curling s-shaped rods, I tried to calm my fearful heart by taking in the artwork. Individually lit oil paintings and mirrors with ornate frames adorned the golden walls on either side of me, which were periodically broken up by tiny balconies that overlooked the spacious living areas on the first floor. My spirits lifted slightly when I followed Lisette around a corner and saw a maid stealthily stepping out of one of the many rooms and into the hallway.
The woman, who jumped slightly at the sight of us, looked about my age and we shared the same golden brown skin and slender hourglass builds. However, the exhaustion and sadness haunting her coffee-hued eyes made her seem decades older than my twenty-eight years. I flashed her the friendliest smile I could muster up when we made eye contact, but she cast me a sympathetic look and quickly averted her gaze, keeping her eyes trained on the burgundy and beige oriental carpet beneath our feet as she hurried down the hallway. After that brief interaction, I couldn’t help feeling as if I was marching to the gallows instead of to a meeting with the mansion’s mysterious owner.
God, give me the strength to endure whatever I’ve gotten myself into,
I prayed silently as Lisette knocked on a slightly ajar door at the end of the hallway.
“Come in,” a male voice called.
Lisette pushed open the door and gestured for me to enter. I hesitantly tiptoed into the room and jumped slightly much as the other woman had, my heart skipping a beat when she shut the door behind me and left me alone with the two strange men who occupied the large living area. The first man stood by the fireplace taking a sip from a glass of red wine. Long black curls cascaded down his back and nearly blended in with the expertly tailored tuxedo he wore just as his button down shirt almost disappeared into the pale skin of his neck.
When the man set the glass on the mantle, I finally got a good look at his surprisingly youthful, heart-shaped face as he licked the wine from his Cupid’s bow lips. After he finished savoring his wine, which he barely seemed old enough to drink, he opened his blue eyes and fixed me with an inquisitive yet predatory stare that made me shiver despite the heat coming from the lit fireplace. I suddenly knew how a gazelle felt after capturing the unwanted attention of a cheetah during a stroll across the savannah.
In an attempt to evade his chilly gaze, I gave the second man a once over. He sat in a Queen Anne-style chair that was just a shade whiter than his fair skin. Though his green eyes were trained on me, his stare wasn’t as unsettling as his companion’s had been. I thought that his wavy auburn hair was short until he turned his head to glance at his phone and I saw that he’d just swept his locks away from his face in a low ponytail. As I took in how the minimalist hairstyle showed off his deep-set eyes, high cheekbones and square jawline, I realized that I would have been attracted the man if I hadn’t been terrified of him.
While he didn’t exude the same threatening aura as his slightly younger companion, I still felt as if I was a fly that he could swat easily and remorselessly at any moment. I hadn’t felt that powerless in over a decade, and I hated the feeling just as much then as I had growing up.
Clara,” the raven-haired man greeted in a smooth French accent. “My name is Emmanuel Géroux and this is my guest, Augustus Damiani.”
“Hello,” I replied hesitantly.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve brought you here,” he presumed. “Let me begin by apologizing for the lackluster room you awakened in. I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with you when you first arrived.”
“I’m more concerned about what I’m doing in your house than the quality of the room I woke up in,” I said carefully. “Why did you bring me here?”
Emmanuel walked over to the wet bar nearby and poured himself another glass of wine as he spoke, his friend’s eyes never leaving me as the conversation continued.
“My men found you lying unconscious near the village of Manonette last night. Apparently a fire broke out at the facility where you were staying, and you passed out after the evacuation.”
When I struggled to recall the events that transpired earlier that night, I vaguely remembered smelling smoke and hearing an alarm blaring. The memory was so indistinct and brief that I’d brushed it off as a dream, but that hazy memory was enough for me to believe that Emmanuel was telling the truth about the fire at Gospel Gateway. However, I should have awakened in a hospital and not on a private island with two men who looked like they’d just gotten home from a night at the opera.
“Is everyone else alright?”
“Yes, no one at the facility was injured in the fire.”
The relief Emmanuel’s news brought gave me a brief respite from my suspicion. Alas, that break didn’t last long.
“Not that I don’t appreciate your help, but why didn’t your men take me to a hospital if I was unconscious? I might have needed treatment for smoke inhalation or burns,” I pressed on. “And who are you that you have people prowling around Gospel Gateway and Manonette at night?”
“The sooner you tell her the whole truth, the better,” Emmanuel’s Italian counterpart said.
My host nodded and took another less leisurely swig to polish off his wine before giving me a more fleshed out explanation.
I am the leader of the vampire coven that resides on this island. I sent the men who found you to Haiti to bring more humans to the island to be our servants. When they discovered you and a few of your missionary friends near Manonette, they took you to fill my open positions,” Emmanuel explained nonchalantly. “One of the first tasks my men complete with new humans is pricking their fingers and tasting their blood to see if they are worthy of being one of our personal attendants. However, when they tasted your blood, they realized that there was more to you than meets the eye. Your blood had the sweetness of life and the bitterness of death, which means that you are half vampire — also known as a dhampir. Since you aren’t fully human, I wanted to give you the opportunity to choose your fate. You can either live with your fellow mortals and toil on my island for the rest of your days or enjoy the luxury and privilege that comes with being a vampire.”
I gaped at Emmanuel in stunned silence as I attempted to process his ridiculous explanation. Although my first instinct should have been to laugh at him and look for hidden cameras, something inside of me told me that he was telling the absolute truth. While I’d never contemplated the existence of vampires and had only seen them as fictional characters in books and movies, I’d spent enough time in the Bible to know that demons and other nefarious creatures existed. Jesus himself had even cast a legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of two thousand pigs.
If people can be possessed by demons, is the existence of vampires really that far off,
Either this guy is telling the truth or he’s insane. I can’t decide which one is worse.
“You’re being awfully quiet, Clara,” Emmanuel remarked. “What are you thinking?”
“I need proof that you’re telling the truth.”
“Then proof you shall get,” he agreed with a smile as he set down his drink.
Emmanuel took a step forward, but I backed away before he could reach me.
“Can you prove it
coming any closer,” I revised.
The Frenchman stood his ground a few yards away and his blue eyes underwent a frightening transformation. His pupils bled outward as if someone had dropped ink into his eyes until I found myself gawking into two completely black orbs. Once that change was complete, Emmanuel opened his mouth to show that his top canines had extended into a pair of gleaming white fangs. He let out a feral hiss that sent me sprinting for the door, which I quickly realized was locked. I tried to force the door open, but the hair-raising tickle of his breath on my neck paralyzed me as he placed a frigid hand on mine and removed it from the doorknob.