Meg's frenemy, prince of vampires, drops in.
Still holding the stake, I opened the door.
“Meg,” Vincent said.
I looked into his black eyes, and a strange calm came over me.
Vincent—a somehow older looking Vincent—was standing in the doorway. But how could this be? Vampires weren't supposed to age.
Vincent studied me for a long moment. I stared back. I couldn't help it. For some reason, Vincent, who had looked sixteen six years ago, now looked ten years older. Could this be one of Vincent’s many impostors? But, no, it was definitely Vincent: he had the same facial features, the same pale skin and black hair, the same black eyes. The same penchant for wearing all black. He had the same tall, imposing height. And, as always, the air surrounding him felt chillier and somehow nightlier. Everything was the same with Vincent; he just looked older.
Vincent's gaze traveled to the stake I was holding.
“Do you intend to kill me, Meg?” he asked.
He bowed slightly.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I received word that you had gone missing. I sensed your presence in this location. I came to find you.”
Someone whispered from behind me, “Is that who I think it is?”
Vincent looked past me into the building. “Who are these people?” he asked suspiciously.
“We're The Spawn of Hellsing, vampire scum!” someone shouted from behind me. “San Diego chapter!”
“You are with vampire hunters?” Vincent asked me coldly.
“No. They kidnapped me.”
“Have they harmed you?”
“Good. Stand aside, Meg. I shall destroy them.”
“Vincent, they haven't done anything wrong!”
“Other than kidnapping you?”
“Look who's talking. Remember when you kidnapped Trevor?”
“Indeed. As I recall, you killed me for it.”
The memory of the lighthouse, of the ray of sunlight destroying Vincent, returned my thoughts to Moose Island. My grip on the stake tightened.
“Why is Moose Island nothing but vampires now?” I asked.
An emotion—was it sadness? Or regret?—flitted across Vincent's expressionless features.
“Perhaps we should go somewhere and talk,” he said.
* * * * *
“Do not believe, Meg,” said Vincent, as we buckled into his sleek, black sedan, “that I have forgotten about those vampire killers.”
No, I hadn't thought he would. I knew Vincent too well. I would have to convince him to spare The Hellspawn, or whatever they were called.
But right now I had other things on my mind.
“What happened to Moose Island?”
He started the car. “We will go to a coffee shop,” he said, “and I will tell you about Moose Island.”
“Was it you?”
“Was it I who turned Moose Island into the world's newest vampire principality?”
“It is a principality now. A kingdom.”
He hesitated before answering. “In a way, yes.”
“In a way?”
“As did you.”
“As did I? Do you see fangs on me? Because I don't.”
“Please, Meg, let us continue this conversation elsewhere. A moving vehicle is not the place for this.”
I settled into a seething silence, and thought.
Vincent couldn't have converted Moose Island. He couldn't have. I'd prevented him time and again from doing just that. And he hadn't returned to the island since I last killed him, I was sure of it. He had vowed never to return there again.
I regarded Vincent peripherally. Why had Vincent aged? He had told me, once, that natural vampires had preordained ages: they stopped growing older once they reached that age. Vincent's preordained age was sixteen. What had caused Vincent to grow older? Was he sick? Was he using a special amulet that changed the wearer's appearance, similar to the amulet Gabrielle had used?
Vincent glanced at me.
“Why do you look like you're twenty-five now?” I shot.
“I confess I expected a friendlier welcome, Meg,” he said. “It has been several years since we last saw each other.” He gave me a lingering look. “You look... well.”
“Thanks,” I said. “You look twenty-five. Why?”
“I can see you will not be deterred from this line of questioning,” Vincent said. “Normally when a human sees me for the first time in years, they wonder incessantly about why I haven't aged.”
When I didn't respond, he said, “The boy who accompanied you to Castle Vladestan--”
“Yes. Your friend possesses an uncommonly brilliant mind. Four years ago, I tasked him with inventing an elixir to reverse vampirism. He has not yet succeeded in producing this elixir. However, in his attempts, he happened upon an accidental discovery—a serum that ages vampires.”
“And you took it?”
“I ensured it worked as intended before sampling the serum.” He went on: “I could not forgo the opportunity to age myself. Perpetually looking sixteen is inconvenient to say the least and not at all conducive to ruling a country. Vampires understand preordained age, of course, but human leaders, whom we occasionally 'rub elbows with,' as they say, do not always.
“It is an extremely clandestine project, this endeavor. No other vampires are aware of it. It would be catastrophic if they learned that I am funding an invention to reverse vampirism. Only a few humans—scientists who are involved with the project—know of its existence. They are all long-term guests in my castle.”
“We have arrived.”
As we exited the sedan, I said, “What do you mean they're 'long-term guests' in your castle? I know what guest means in vampire. It means prisoner. Are you holding Voldar prisoner, Vincent?”
“I am not holding your friend prisoner,” said Vincent. “And 'vampire' is not a language. Voldar agreed to work on the elixir. In exchange, I am funding a separate project of his. He is creating a being, as I understand it. A sort of sentient android. But that is neither here nor there.”
Vincent opened the door to the coffee shop. He bowed me inside, placing a cold hand on the small of my back as I entered.
A large digital clock behind the counter read 3:45 a.m. Even so, the coffee shop wasn't empty. A few lone truckers sat hunched over coffees. In a corner booth, a large group of loud teenagers giggled. Their table was bare, except for a single mug with a used napkin stuffed inside. A middle-aged waitress stood behind the counter, glaring at them.
Vincent led me to the darkest, most secluded corner of the cafe, where we sat and ordered drinks. Well, I ordered a drink. When the middle-aged waitress asked Vincent what he wanted, he glanced briefly at me, then said, “Thank you, but I will have nothing. For now.”
The waitress paused at the sight of Vincent's teeth. She shook her head and stalked off, muttering, “Grown men walking around like punk teenagers.”
“Vincent, your teeth,” I said. It was the first time I'd gotten a good look at them since Vincent's return. “They're all straight except for the canines, which are long and pointed.”
“Meg,” Vincent said, “this may come as a surprise to you, but as it turns out, I am a vampire.”
I gave him a look. “Didn't your teeth used to be pointed, though? All of them?”
Vincent frowned. “Not that I recollect.”
“But I have this really clear memory of all of your teeth ending in points,” I argued moronically, as though Vincent didn't know his teeth better than I did.
“Do you recall, Meg, when I was preying upon your vapid neighbor?”
“Do you recall the bite marks I left on her neck?”
“They were... two puncture marks.”
“Could I have left those marks if I had a mouthful of fangs?”
“No, I suppose not. But then why do I have that memory?”
Vincent considered. “You were little more than a child when we first met. You recognized my nature almost immediately. It is possible that, in your childish fear, you conjured an image of me that was more frightening than reality. Or,” he added, regarding me curiously, “it could be something else entirely. Meg--”
“Here you go,” said the waitress, who'd just arrived. She set a steaming hot mug of coffee in front of me.
I placed my hands around it and immediately let go with a quick gasp of pain.
“Careful, it's hot!” said the waitress cheerfully. “Is there anything else you need?”
“No, we're fine,” I said.
She walked away. I turned back to Vincent, whose attention was focused firmly on my neck.
“I apologize, Meg,” he murmured, his gaze shifting. “I left hastily to come find you. I have not obtained sustenance in quite some time.”
His gaze dropped fleetingly to my neck before returning forcibly to my face. Then he said, “Excuse me.” Glancing around the coffee shop, he pulled his silver flask from his pocket. He drank, then hastily put the flask away. “I must be quick when I drink from this in public; otherwise, people think I am imbibing.”
“Imbibing something other than human blood, you mean?” I asked, hiding my disgust.
The flask reminded me of Briar and the staked vampire. Before I could mention it, however, Vincent said, “Indeed. Now, Meg, I believe you wanted to know about Moose Island.”
"Chapter 7: Their Fate"
1. GothiCon is a continuation of an original series, My Babysitter Is a Vampire by Ann Hodgman, published in the early 1990s. Meg, Meg's parents, Voldar, Brooke, Caryl, Kilmer, Gabrielle, Mortimer, Vincent, Reid, Trevor, Kelly, and Jack are Ann Hodgman's original characters. GothiCon was written and posted with permission from the original author.
All other characters are mine.
2. Part I: GothiCon is a complete section (with a semi-satisfying conclusion) of an incomplete novel.
Parts II and III will be posted by summer.
3. A million thank yous for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed this chapter. Any input is greatly appreciated and will be reciprocated.