Briar and the Cloaked Folk, revealed
Guess Who Isn't a Vampire
I woke the next morning to a knock on my door. It was my father.
“Good morning, Meg,” he said with a tight smile. “Did you have a nice day off?”
I closed my eyes. I had chloroform-slept my entire day off away. And judging by my father's look, he was pretty peeved at me.
“Meg, I know you're eighteen now. You've graduated from high school. You earn a living. You have plans to move out soon. But, Meg, you still need to tell someone if you're going somewhere. We had no idea where you were all day yesterday.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Okay, Dad, next time I get kidnapped by vampire hunters, I'll be sure to check in with you.
“I went to the police,” Dad continued. “They said they couldn't do anything about an adult who'd been missing for 'a few hours.' Not even after that body you found in the bathroom. I told them about Gabrielle and Mortimer and Reid, and they just wouldn't do anything.”
He sagged into a chair, and put his head in his hands.
“I'm sorry, Dad,” I said.
One of these days, I would tell my parents about vampires.
“Tell someone if you're going somewhere,” Dad said. “I know you're grown up now, but you'll always be my kid, and I'll always worry about you.”
“Dad,” I said, “maybe we should stop doing these GothiCon tours. I mean, after Mortimer and Reid—and, you know, Gabrielle—maybe we shouldn't keep going out in public like this.”
Dad sighed. He ran a hand through his hair. He looked at the floor. “I'm not going to pretend that isn't the best course of action. Your mom and I have thought about pulling you off the tour, especially after Reid went missing. But,” he said. He paused. “But they're all actors, everyone who went missing. You're not even a part of the film, really. What's your following compared to Gabrielle's or Mortimer's? What are the chances someone would kidnap you, really?”
It sounded as though he was trying to convince himself more than me.
He said, “We think they're going to do another movie, Meg, a sequel. And if we go along with these tours and show them we're team players, maybe...”
Maybe they'll hire me again—and pay me something this time, I thought-finished for him.
It was a topic we normally avoided. Dad became surly whenever anyone mentioned how many hundreds of millions of dollars My Babysitter Is a Vampire had made its investors, when he, the screenwriter, had made so, so little by comparison. And it wasn't like my father could exactly include the hit film on his resume; the movie was known and loved (among humans, anyway) for being the ultimate B-movie: made-for-TV and terrible. Mostly, it seemed, Hollywood and indie filmmakers alike thought that everyone involved in our movie had blundered their way to success. Every now and then, people would tell my dad that his writing was tight, innovative, and even brilliant, and that all of this was evident to them despite MBIaV's low budget, Mortimer and Caryl's over-the-top acting, and the director's decision to replace Gabrielle Tumolo mid-production with Brooke Donahue and not re-shoot Tumolo's scenes. Mostly, though, people credited the film's success to Twilight, whose popularity had been in full swing when My Babysitter Is a Vampire premiered.
Dad was still doing okay. He still landed projects. But GothiCons remained Dad's surest source of income, and if a sequel really was in the works, that could be huge for his career.
Someone knocked on the door.
“That's probably Trevor,” Dad said. “He was pretty worried about you.”
A wave of illogical guilt hit me.
But when Dad opened the door, it wasn't Trevor. It was Briar and Vincent.
I knew it, I told Briar telepathically.
“Oh, hey. You're here,” said Briar to my dad.
“Meg and I were having a little talk,” Dad said to Briar, but he was looking at Vincent. “Is this who I think it is? Vincent Graver?”
“Mr. Swain,” Vincent said with his trademark bow. “It is nice to make your acquaintance once more.”
“Vincent, how've you been?” my dad said, going in for a hug. Perhaps noticing how rigid Vincent had suddenly become, my dad awkwardly pulled back at the last second. He patted Vincent on the shoulder instead.
“So what happened?” my dad asked. “You were kicking ass and taking names babysitting for us, and suddenly you stopped showing up. We filed a police report and everything. It was like you fell off the face of the Earth!”
“I... fell into the Atlantic and was knocked unconscious by a boat. When I awoke, I could remember nothing. I have only recently regained my memory.”
My dad looked horrified. “Oh, Vincent, I'm so sorry. If we'd known...”
“Please be assured that there was nothing you could have done, Mr. Swain.”
“Gosh, Vincent, I really am sorry. Hey, we're all going out for breakfast. Do you want to join us?”
“Unfortunately, I cannot,” Vincent said. “I have other engagements. I came to speak briefly with your daughter.”
“Oh,” Dad said curiously. “I guess you two were probably friends? Though you wouldn't know it, the way Meg used to go on about you being a vampire! We made a whole movie about it. Speaking of that—guess what doesn't age, Meg?”
“Is it vampires.”
“Yeah. And guess who has aged, Meg?”
“Is it Vincent.”
“Guess who can't possibly be a vampire then, Meg?”
Vincent was smirking.
“It's Vincent, isn't it.”
My dad laughed. “Well, I guess I'll leave you kids alone,” he finally said. “You coming to breakfast, Briar?”
“I'll be down in fifteen.”
Alone with Briar and Vincent, I asked, “Okay, what's going on?”
“Briar is your guard, Meg,” said Vincent.
“I'm so shocked.”
“Those you call 'The Cloaked Folk' are also your guards.”
Briar responded, “I can't watch you twenty-four seven and facilitate every MBIaV event,” said Briar. “So Vincent enlisted some of his progeny to guard you when I couldn't.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“I wished you to live a normal human life,” Vincent explained. “That was not possible with a crew of vampires headed by a dhampir constantly body guarding you. Yet it was also imperative that I arrange for your protection: you would be dead a dozen times over without the intervention of Briar and the vampires I selected to watch over you. The logical solution was to surround you with a secret guard, one you could mistake for a fan club and an assistant. However, in doing this, you feel I have betrayed you.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” I said. “What did you call Briar? A dhampir?”
“I'm half vampire,” Briar said. “Human mom, vampire dad. Basically I'm an immortal human who can transform into a bat. I don't drink blood. Sunlight doesn't bother me. I have a reflection. I don't have to sleep in a dirt-lined coffin. Don't have to sleep at all really. Freaking love garlic.”
“Dhampirs are extremely powerful,” Vincent said, cutting her off at “garlic.” “They have all of the vampire's strengths but no vampire weaknesses. Consequently, dhampirs are generally unwelcome among vampirekind. I offered Briar this job in part to protect her: my progeny keep her, as well as you, safe.”
“Yeah, I'm KOS with most vampires,” Briar said, “if they figure out what I am. Vincent's family's always been cool with dhampirs, though. I think it's because they're so powerful themselves, they aren't threatened by us. Not to mention Grebiv.”
“What about Grebiv?” I asked.
“Yes, Briar, what about Grebiv?” Vincent asked.
Briar rolled her eyes. “Oh nothing. Grebiv's the vampiest vampire who's ever vamped, for sure. There's nothing dhampir about him at all. Not in the way he hates blood, or in the way he can sunbathe. Hey, let's head down to breakfast,” she added, possibly because of the rage emanating from Vincent.
She opened the door to leave—and ran straight into Trevor.
Trevor looked livid. “Is Vincent in your room, Meg?”
“Trevor,” I began.
But Vincent had stepped out of the shadows. “Hello, Trevor. We meet again.”
I'd never seen my brother look so furious.
“I'm going to kick your ass, Vincent!” Running full force, Trevor drove his foot into Vincent's shin. He pulled back his fist and slammed it into Vincent's stomach.
Vincent hissed at Trevor, grabbing him by the throat. “You insolent little--!”
“Vincent, stop!” I shouted, trying to pry his taloned fingers away from Trevor's neck.
I gasped and wrenched my hands back. Blood smeared my fingers; I had sliced myself on Vincent's nails. Vincent released my brother. His icy hands encircled my wrists.
Trevor bowled into Vincent, knocking him to the ground.
Briar and I pulled Trevor off of him. Vincent scrambled away.
“I... I must leave,” Vincent said. He stalked off down the hallway while Briar and I held Trevor back.
We held tight to my flailing brother until Vincent rounded the corner.
Trevor tore after him.
Stopping at the corner, Trevor bellowed, “He's gone!”
A few hotel guests had opened their doors and were peering at him.
Briar apologized and explained, “He's thirteen.”
“Ah,” said an elderly guest understandingly. “Everyone's a jerk at age thirteen.”
"Chapter 9: All Vampires Have Black Hair"
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, and Jack are Ann Hodgman's original characters. GothiCon was written and posted with permission from the original author.
The moderator, questioners, and bouncers are my original creations.
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.