Authors: K. L. Burnham
rmani drove to
the funeral home in silence analyzing everything that was happening in his life. ‘Donovan, Donovan. Who the hell is he?’ Armani wondered. ‘And what am I to make of that hawk?’
Armani pulled into the parking lot and parked his black Lincoln Navigator. He took his black ski mask off and stared at the large white brick funeral home with two large pillars at the entrance. The shades were drawn and the lamps dimmed.
Armani walked to the funeral home lost in his thoughts when a noise stopped him. He looked up to see the hawk sitting in a nearby tree. Armani shuddered, picked up his pace and opened the door.
The funeral home was beautiful. A crystal chandelier hung in the entryway. Black, white and burgundy furniture accented the white walls covered in monotone pictures. Armani forgot how distorted the right side of his face was looking at the beauty inside this house of death.
A greeter approached him. “Hello, sir, may I help you?” He asked and extended his hand.
Armani covered the burnt side of his face. “Forgive me. I know my appearance is appalling,” he apologized. “I’m here to see Mr. Jenkins. I informed him that I would be stopping in today.”
“No need to apologize,” he said and smiled. “Right this way.” The man walked ahead of Armani with a purposeful gait.
Armani followed at a slower pace and stopped to look in a room to his left. What heart wrenching agony the parents must be going through at the loss of their child. Armani stared at the small coffin where the child lay, unable to move when he saw a shadow appear behind the coffin.
The dark shadowy figure with red eyes stared at him. Armani shook his head. A chill ran down his spine as he watched the shadow become human, grasp the coffin and stare at the child. The man wore a long black cape. His long brown hair hung over his shoulders. The human lifted his head, red drops of blood trickled down his cheeks and onto the child. He stared at Armani, flashed long sharp fangs and bent over the child.
The man in black turned around. “Sir, are you coming? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He stood waiting for a response.
Armani pointed at the coffin. “There’s something wrong in here. Come look.” His eyes were glued on the man.
The man kissed the child. Armani blinked. The man moved with such swiftness.
“I’ll be right there.” The greeter said.
Armani’s heart pounded. The man by the coffin stood tall, stared at Armani and said, “Justice will be served for you both. I’m watching you, my friend. Don’t fear me for I will come for you soon.” He said his voice like Darth Vader’s.
“Who are you?” Armani asked, his hands shaking.
The funeral director approached Armani and clasped his hands in his. “Are you OK? Are you talking to someone?” He asked. He looked in the room and saw nothing wrong.
Armani looked at the funeral director. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ve been through a lot lately and haven’t been sleeping well. I think I’m getting delusional as a result.” He shrugged and looked in the room.
The funeral director had a concerned look on his face and released Armani’s hands. “I understand.” He turned his gaze to the child. “It’s a shame what happened to that sweet little girl. She’s only four years old and died so terribly young.”
Armani sighed. “Was it cancer?” He and ‘Faded Cross’ had set up a foundation benefiting cancer research and help for families with children diagnosed with the illness. He had a passion for this.
“No, I’m afraid not. That would’ve been more of a blessing for her,” he sighed and continued. “Her name is Bonnie, Bo for short. Her parents killed her. Police reports said she was beat to the point of barely breathing and drowned her in the bathtub.”
“My God, that’s horrible. Why would they do this?” Armani asked.
“I wish I knew.” He said a sad look in his eyes. “Would you like to view her and pay your respects?”
Before Armani could answer, the funeral director led him to the little girl. His thoughts were scattered everywhere from Simone, to the little girl, and to the creature he saw standing beside the girl’s coffin.
“Is it hard to prepare a child for a funeral?” Armani asked.
They stopped in front of the little girl lying in the coffin. The funeral director turned and looked at Armani. “Yes, it is the hardest part of this job. It makes you think of your own children, grandchildren, and this poor little girl . . .” His voice trailed off and he turned away. “This was heartbreaking for me.”
“I’m sure justice will be served,” Armani said. He pictured the man and the hawk wondering if the creature he saw was Donovan. The creature cried red tears of blood weeping for the little girl.
Armani thought about the hawk, Donovan, the creature, the book. These things couldn’t be a coincidence. Someone was trying to tell him something and what did this creature mean when it said it would come for him? Did it mean he was going to die? Well, Armani welcomed that with open arms. Yet, he needed to have his revenge and justice. The creature did say justice will be served. Did the creature mean for the little girl? So many questions he wanted answers to but he would have to wait until the creature came for him as it promised.
“See how beautiful she is. Doesn’t it look like she’s sleeping and dreaming fairy tale dreams?” The funeral director asked. “Little girls dream about being fairies, you know. Maybe she’s a fairy in Heaven.” He said and wiped an escaped tear. He kept his head bowed and his eyes on Bo.
Armani looked at the girl. His heart ached. “She’s such a beautiful girl.” He choked on his words and tears escaped his eyes. “I bet she’s an angel in Heaven right now. Maybe even dancing and singing with my beloved Simone.” He wiped away the tears, careful not to rub the burned half of his face too hard. Armani placed his hand on her cold stiff hand. “Your parents will pay for this, sweet angel. I promise you that.” He stared at her face. She looked just like a sleeping innocent child with a peaceful expression on her face. The girl’s curly hair was a bright blonde and lie around her face.
“Well, let’s take you to your appointment. I’m sure Stan is waiting.” The funeral director said. “Come this way.” He walked toward the hallway his hands folded in front of him.
“Ok, thank you sir.” Armani said. He gazed at the pillow the girl’s head rested on. There was a red dot. Leaning closer, he saw that there were two and they looked wet. He dabbed his finger in it and rubbed them together. ‘My God, it is blood. The tears from the creature he had seen.’ He thought shocked. His heart rate sped up. The blood flowing through his veins felt as cold as the little girl’s hand.
Armani could sense the funeral directors eyes on him. He quickly turned around and followed him in silence to Stan’s office.
“Stan, Armani is here to see you.” He gestured for Armani to go in.
Stan looked up from his paperwork and smiled at Armani. He
stood and extended his hand. “I’m Stan. We talked briefly on the phone.
Please take a seat.”
Armani shook Stan’s hand. “Nice to meet you,” Armani said and sat in a red chair across from Stan.
“Armani, I understand from our brief phone conversation that you would like to pick out a proper tombstone and have it engraved.” Stan put his glasses on and handed Armani a magazine with a large tombstone on the cover. “There are over three hundred different types of stones in here. If you have any ideas I’m sure our artists will be able to accommodate your wishes.”
He took the magazine and flipped through the pages trying to find the perfect one. “Forgive me, sir for bothering you. My fiancée passed away a few months ago and I was in a coma and never had a chance to say goodbye, let alone have a proper funeral for her. I just feel she needs the best tombstone you can make.”
“Why on earth would you think you’re bothering me?” Stan asked looking over top of his glasses.
“I’m sure you are a busy man and I drop in at no set time. If you have other things to do, go ahead.” Armani said apologizing once again.
Stan stared at Armani with compassion. “How are you doing emotionally and physically?”
Armani knew his face must have shocked him a bit. “Do you want the truth?”
Stan chuckled. “I prefer the truth. Believe me I’m used to it in this place. No one comes in here pretending to be happy like they do in the outside world. It’s true raw emotion.” He sat back and crossed his arms waiting for a response.
“Horrible. I feel like I’m dead and just trying to live day by day.” Armani answered avoiding Stan’s gaze. “It’s like the world is darkness and the only light I had is gone.” He paused and pointed to his face. “This is my curse.”
Stan stood, walked to the front of his desk and sat on the edge. “Listen closely to what I have to say.” He waited for Armani to look at him. “I know who you are, although I’m not a fan of your music.” He chuckled with a wave of his hand. “I know of your fame and fortune. You have numerous fans that love you and will continue to follow you and your music regardless of your appearance. And may I add you are still extremely attractive, as I’m sure the ladies would tell you.”
Armani cut in. “I’m done with the band for a long time. When I’m ready to perform, I will.” He stated his jaw set like stone.
“I’m not here telling you to perform and be in the band again. That’s up to you and it’s your business. I presume you have a pushy agent bugging you about that already. The last thing you need is two “dads” giving you their opinion as if it’s God’s law.” He said using his forefinger and middle finger to make parenthesis in the air. “I want to tell you something I’m sure you already know. Time heals all wounds and in time you will heal. Maybe not fully, but life will get easier.” Stan finished and walked to his chair.
Armani knew he was trying to help but talk was cheap. “Is that what you’re trained to tell people who have lost loved ones when they come in here to make funeral arrangements?”
Stan looked hurt. “Yes and no. Your situation is a lot different than most people who come here. In a sense, your fiancée was taken from you and you didn’t know it until you woke up from your induced coma. That in itself is a bitter pill to swallow.”
“I apologize for my comment. I know you’re trying to help and I thank you, but I just want to get a tombstone and go visit my Simone.” Armani said. He gripped the magazine so tightly his knuckles turned white. “I’d like to sketch the tombstone I’d like for her grave.”
Stan handed him a piece of paper and a pencil. “Go ahead. I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.”
Armani nodded. He took the paper and sketched a tombstone he knew Simone would love and appreciate.
He drew a tall rectangular stone and a wide platform seated on top. Next he drew an angel with long flowing hair and big eyes. She wore a robe that was blown by the wind, her wings pointing to the Heavens and in her hand she held a harp close to her chest. Her bare feet were crossed. The inscription at the bottom of the stone read, ‘Simone Richards, My Angel in the Night.’ He smiled pleased with his work.
Armani jumped when Stan walked in the office.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he apologized. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Armani handed the sketch to him. “This would be perfect if you can do this for me.”
Stan took the sketch, studying it. “It’s beautiful and yes we can do that for you. I’ll send it to our guys and it should be ready in a day or two. I will call you when it’s finished and you can come in and pay for it upon delivery.” He smiled. “What type of stone would you like?”
“I want shiny black marble.” Armani said. “And spare no cost.” He smiled, rose to his feet and shook Stan’s hand. “Thank you very much for your service, Stan. Here’s my number.” He handed him a business card.
“Glad to be of help to you,” Stan said. “Let me show you to the door.”
Armani felt a cold chill as they neared the room where Bo, the little girl lay in her coffin. Fear gripped him and he forced himself to keep his eyes straight ahead willing whatever was in there to go away. His peripheral vision failed him and he saw the dark shadow standing by her coffin. The creature’s eyes burned through him like molten lava. A deep raspy voice whispered his name but he kept walking, grateful to pass the viewing room.
Armani cleared his throat. Had he gone mad? “Stan, did you feel a cold draft a minute ago?”
Stan shook his head. “No. Why do you ask?”
“Never mind,” Armani dismissed the question with a wave of his hand. “Have a good day and thank you for your time.” He pushed the door open grateful to be outdoors.
Stan watched as Armani pulled a black ski mask over his face and walked to his car. He shook his head wondering why Armani asked him about a cold draft. He shrugged. The heater worked fine.
The funeral director walked past the room where the little girl lay and felt an icy draft. He stopped, jerking his head to stare in the room. A dark shadow disappeared into nothingness. He rubbed his eyes. What was going on?
onovan stood by
the window and watched Armani walk out of the funeral home. He knew he had scared him but he needed to forewarn him of things to come. Donovan was a vampire but he had a heart of compassion and felt a great deal of sympathy for Armani. He hoped he could persuade Armani to crossover of his own free will. God forbid, Victor become involved.
Victor, the Master of the Dark Ones was not a vampire to reckon with and his presence cast an evil aura. Victor, strong and mighty at 491 years old believed in being a vigilante, but he also had a thirst for blood from innocent people. Victor had a heart of stone and Donovan feared that in time what little spark of love left in Victor’s heart would vanish forever.
Donovan remembered sitting at Victor’s home after he crossed over as Victor told him of his tortured life, his need for revenge and the reason for creating The Dark One’s.
“Sit down, son,” Victor said, pointing to a high backed black chair.
Donovan sat and looked at Victor’s living room. What a dark dreary place. The walls were painted black, all the furniture a shade of black. Pictures hung on the walls, mostly of black, white, and red. One caught Donovan’s eye. “What is the meaning of this picture, sir?” Donovan asked, walking toward the picture to get a better look. He cocked his head to the side, scratching his chin.
Victor laughed. “Look closely, and tell me what you see.” His beady black eyes never left Donovan’s face. He watched him like a hawk. “I’m very interested to know.”
Donovan studied the picture and felt a sadness wash over him like a tide at noon. The background of the picture was black. A yellow moon the size of a dime hung in the sky. A porcelain white five year old naked boy sat in a corner cowering like a dog that gets beat, his hands covered his cheeks and his legs were curled close to his body. Maroon blood dripped from the boy’s back and neck. Donovan craned his neck and looked closer. His face contorted when he saw the purple and blue bruises on the boy’s body. Donovan tried to move but was unable.
Victor was at Donovan’s side in a flash. “It’s a powerful masterpiece, as you can see and feel. Try to move away from it.” Victor paused. “You can’t and that’s because it’s one of my best pieces of art I made with all my heart and soul.” Victor said, pride ringing in his voice like a thousand cathedral bells. “You see, I made this picture three hundred ninety one years ago. I was one hundred years old and a young vampire still capable of love.”
Donovan turned and looked into Victor’s eyes. It was like staring at a cold empty vessel. He didn’t understand why Victor would draw a picture like this if he had the capacity of love in his heart. The painting was one of hurt, pain, and loneliness. “I don’t understand what you mean. This painting is quite frankly, depressing.” Donovan was pointing at the boys wounded arms and legs. “And his tears look like drops of blood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing, but yet so sad.”
“Let me explain the meaning to you, my young vampire.” Victor said. “First of all, one thing that I love dearly is the innocent children who are victims of abuse. They are helpless to the devices of their parents or other adults who are heartless. I have no patience for it and I kill these child abusers without hesitation. I lay and wait for them in the shadows like a hungry lion watching a herd of zebra. You see these adults who victimize children are weak and I attack and kill them based on their weakness, just like a lion targets the weakest link in a herd of prey.” He laughed his fangs gleamed wickedly in the light.
Donovan walked away and sat feeling uncomfortable standing so close to Victor. Evil permeated off him. He looked at his arms, lined with goose bumps. Donovan watched in shock as Victor sailed across the floor, his feet never touching the floor and sat in his chair with the poise of a ballerina.
Victor pointed his bony finger at Donovan. “Wipe the fear and worry out of your eyes, son. You have nothing to fear from me. I’m not going to attack and kill you, for God’s sake. Did you forget that you are now ‘one’ with me?” He laughed the sarcasm thick. “We are vampires. You are not a mere mortal anymore.” His stare penetrated Donovan’s face.
“Yes sir. I realize that, but being a vampire is new to me and to be honest with you, all this talk scares the hell out of me.” Donovan stammered. “So, what is the meaning of the picture? Do you know the little boy?” Donovan asked changing the subject.
“You fool!” He exclaimed. “The boy in that painting is me.”
“I-I-I’m sorry,” Donovan stuttered. “I didn’t realize this. You must have been through so much pain.”
Victor stood and faced the fireplace. “Yes my son, I learned at a young age what living in hell is like. My parents were wicked people who did terrible things to me.” He turned and Donovan saw sadness in Victor’s eyes. “I hope now you understand what my mission on this earth is.” He nodded toward the painting. “It’s to help children who are put in that position. My method of help is permanent, however. I kill and have no regrets.”
Donovan understood and empathized with him. “I would feel the same, sir, but murder isn’t always the best answer.”
The words no more than left Donovan’s mouth and Victor was in front of him. He grabbed Donovan’s head and jerked it back. “You know not what you speak of! Murder is the only answer in these situations.” He shoved his head down hard. “Never question my motives, son. That’s your first lesson. I am a strong vampire and will not have you doubt me or tell me your petty opinion on a subject.” Victor sneered at the painting. “I have love for children and that is all. No other mortal matters to me or ever will.”
“Why did you choose me? Why?” Donovan asked.
Victor smiled, but his eyes dark. “Why? Well, because I care about you and I see potential in you. I will train you to be exactly like me. You were going to kill yourself and I won’t allow that from a human.” He stated matter of fact. “I wanted to help you retrieve justice for the wrong done to you. Men love to take the easy way out and I don’t believe in that.” Victor poured himself a glass of brandy. “Would you like a glass, my son?”
Donovan was confused. Vampires didn’t drink beverages or eat food. Their diet consisted of blood and only blood, according to the tales. “I thought we couldn’t drink or eat as humans do,” he stated confused.
Victor laughed. “You know how to put a smile on my face, Donovan. I am grateful for that. It’s been a long time.” He handed Donovan a glass of brandy. “I make the rules as the Master of The Dark One’s. Tried, tested, and true and guess what? We can enjoy food and drink as humans do as well as go out during the day. What can be better than that?” Victor smiled. He watched Donovan sip the brandy. “So, we are vampires, who right the wrongs, enjoy all the benefits of humans, and get away with murder.” Victor sat losing himself in the brandy.
Donovan had unanswered questions but didn’t dare ask them for fear of upsetting Victor. He finished the brandy in minutes and set the glass on the end table with a clang.
“Go ahead and ask your questions, my son,” Victor said. “I will be honest with you. No question is too stupid to ask me. I consider this one of your learning sessions. I’m the teacher and you’re the pupil. How else will you learn?” He held out his hand waiting for the questions Donovan had for him. Reading minds was also a gift of the Dark Ones.
Donovan chuckled for the first time since arriving at Victor’s house. “I do have questions and lots of them, father.” He finally felt at peace to talk freely to Victor. Maybe it was the brandy. He didn’t know. “O.K., my first question is can we have humans as friends?”
“Yes, of course. But, make sure to be careful because trust is earned and humans are the hardest creatures to trust.” He paused and sipped his brandy. “Also, why would you want to be friends with humans anyway? The only reason I see is for the purpose of them having a connection to the people or person you want to kill for the wrong they have committed against you. You do realize that the people who killed your fiancée are two of your best friends.” Victor knew this would be a blow to Donovan, but he needed to hear it. The vengeful seed needed to be planted. He knew he was dealing with a man with a soft, loving, and giving heart. Trust was too easy for him and in the end it cost him the one thing he loved the most in the world. That was why Victor was there before Donovan hung himself. The two men who did this deserved to die and Victor would be sure Donovan was the one who made them pay. Sure, he could have done it just as easy, but what fun would that be? He wanted the man who was wronged to take pleasure in making the men pay for their crimes. Justice was always the final answer. Left to the state, justice wouldn’t be served properly. “You know, if I didn’t rescue you from your own fate, the two people you called ‘friends’ would have had a wonderful life sentence in prison, providing of course they were ever caught in the first place. You see the problem with America is that people get away with a lot of horrible crimes, never caught. When they are caught, they get to spend a lifetime in prison with all the necessities they need on our tax dollars.” Victor said and poured another glass of brandy. “Pass me your glass and have another before I continue my rant.” He said. It was more of an order than an offer.
Donovan obeyed, sipped the brandy and nodded for Victor to continue.
Victor cleared his throat. “The two cowards that you called friends who killed your fiancée would have had their lives to work out, eat three meals a day, take educational courses and have a barber to cut their hair instead of their throats . . .” He paused, looked at the ceiling and laughed. “Those clowns would have had a lifetime of medical care for free. What a wonderful punishment for the crime they committed. What do you have to say about that, young Donovan?”
Donovan’s throat was dry. He was filled with hate and despair. The news Victor dealt him was a dagger pierced deep into his heart. “I honestly had no idea that my best friends did this. Why?” Tears welled in his eyes.
“Don’t cry, son. I hate to see you sad. You need to replace the sadness with anger, hate, and revenge. There is no time for sorrow. Kill the people who you thought were your friends. They are free and roaming the streets. The Bible says, ‘Eye for an eye.’ Therefore I believe in that.”
Silence filled the room for what seemed like hours. Victor and Donovan sat and stared at each other.
Donovan was confused. “Victor, may I rest for awhile? I need some time alone.” He asked like a scared child.
“But, of course, my son. Let me show you to your room.” Victor said. He stood and extended his hand to Donovan.
Victor’s hand was cold but Donovan was grateful for the assistance. He followed him down a long hallway to a spacious room. Victor helped him into bed and bid him farewell until morning when their session would begin again.
Donovan remembered one thing after lying in bed and it was the strangest and most unexpected thing. Victor had leaned over, kissed him on the forehead and told him to sleep well. Was he showing love? Did Victor have feelings and emotions? Was he just a stone cold vampire without feelings? Donovan didn’t know the answers. Time would tell him these things and so much more.
Donovan awoke to the aroma of a delicious breakfast being cooked. He sat up and looked out the window. The golden sun rose welcoming a new day. Thoughts of the night before ran through his mind. Confusion, stress, anger, sadness, hopelessness, and despair ambushed him. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Yes. Come in.”
“Good morning Donovan. Breakfast is ready and I’d like you to join me.” Victor said.
Donovan rubbed his eyes. “I’ll be down soon. Thank you.”
“I’m looking forward to your presence at my table.”
Donovan got out of bed and dressed. He was going to ask every question he had, damn the consequences to hell. Victor wasn’t here to hurt him, only to aid him. Although Victor appeared to have the attitude of a cold-hearted killer, he didn’t think Victor would ever hurt him. Well, part of him believed that . . . . .