Banes of Fate
Part Two: Between Blank Spaces
The sensible thing to do would have been to pull the knife out of her pocket and threaten the strange man. But instead, Leah chose to throw out all of her ideals of common safety.
“Who are you?” Skipping over the fact that he knew her name and knowing full well that the man wasn’t Chris. Her eyes had adjusted to the night quite well, but his face was still just dark, like a shadow.
“You can call me Able for the time being.” His voice was slightly raspy and had the very faint cry of an old english accent. She recognized it, but couldn’t put a likeness to it.
“Okay Able,” Why was she sassing a random guy in a cemetery? “How do you know my name?” She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat after a sudden wave of anxiety. Nothing ever went her way when she decided to play games.
“May death serve you better.” The man moved, ignoring her, his long black coat swooping behind him as he took a few strides towards the tree, parts of his pale hands shining against the moonlight. “Curious passage, isn’t it? I heard you saying it.”
“How do you know my name?” She repeated. Leah’s heart was ready to explode from her chest at any second. She checked her phone, her message to Chris having come up unable to send. He should be worried by now, she had been gone a long time. Part of her hoped that he had come looking for her, and the other part, the part that sensed the danger oozing off of this strange man, hoped that he had took off.
“You are a part of something much bigger than you can even imagine, Miss Whitmore.” The man stepped forth, the moonlight bouncing off of him just right. His eyes were emeralds and his hair was pitch, his skin ivory. He was tall and scrawny, Leah imagined she could wrap one hand around his entire wrist, and slightly feminine.
“You said ‘we.’” She remembered. We have been waiting for you. He had said to her. “Who is ‘we?’”
“Intuitive. You remind me of your father, you know. He and your uncle Leo were both so smart.”
Leah had never felt her blood move so quickly through her veins, her head had started to ache. There was too much to ask, yet she was not so sure that she wanted to know anything more. She waited, staring at Able, her chest rising and falling quickly and moisture coating her hands.
“All of your questions will be answered in due time, Leah. Please, patience is a virtue.” Able smiled, his yellowing teeth jagged and sharp. Leah took a step back as Able moved towards her, nearly falling over Josette’s grave marker. “Stop.” he said plainly, the one word halting her in her tracks. She willed her legs to move, to start sprinting through the cemetery anywhere she could go, but her feet stayed planted on the ground.
“Please don’t kill me.” She let out in a pathetic whisper.
“Kill you? I would never. In fact, I would get killed if I even tried to. I would have half of the counsel pointing various weapons at me. No no, I am here for something much better than death.” Able pressed his cold hand to the side of her neck, tilting her head towards her shoulder. He rubbed circles on her flesh with his thumb nearly making the skin raw. “See? No pain.” His voice was low. In fact, the feeling was soft, calming her like a massage.
“What are you going do to me?” Her voice cracked. The moon almost seemed too bright now, as if the sun had come up instead. The grave markers sparkled under the light, and the various plants that had been left around were alive in the night.
“Leah, I am going to give you the world.” Able ran his hand from her neck up to her temple. The pain was sudden, but then there was darkness.
She rolled over, seeing Chris laying with his back to her, his moving softly with each breath he took. He was wrapped in her white sheets and was shirtless, his dark blonde hair a tangle of wet straw on his head. He was intoxicating.
Actually, he was naked, she realized she scooted in to wrap her arm around his waist. She smiled, running her hands through his hair. Her thick curtains did little to keep the sunlight out, intensifying the headache that had started at the base of her skull. She stood, seemingly also naked, and closed the window before running back under the safe warmth of her blankets.
“Good morning.” Chris rolled towards her, kissing her lips, their morning breaths mingling together like a cauldron of gnarly witches brew.
“Hey.” She bit her bottom lips, allowing her eyes to wander. He had slight muscle tone, but nothing drastic, with a slight combing of chest hair, and very little flab on his stomach. Chris was lovely, she thought, much more so than she would have expected at first glance.
The alarm on her phone interrupted another symphony of kisses and sent her straight into the shower. She had work in a couple of hours and wanted to beat New York traffic. She stepped into the stream, the water cooler than normal even after she had yanked the knob all the way to the left. But the steam felt good on her head, removing some of the pulsing. Not to mention, Leah thought the water was louder, somehow, as it splattered against the plastic.
She combed out her brown hair before it dried so as not to disturb the curls. They were not so easily tamed. “Really Chris?” She noticed a purple and blue mark on her neck, pulling her hair over it to cover it up. “I’m a little old to show up at work with hickies.” She scoffed, throwing her towel at him and dressing for work, digging up a small scarf from the bottom of her drawer.
Leah had three meetings, two new clients, and a headache that could move mountains. More than that, though, the mark on her neck hurt below the surface like the sting from a splinter. She didn’t recall drinking last night, but she also didn’t recall most of the night. Her and Chris had taken a cab home after dinner, and after that her memory was fuzzy. Yet her hangover was outrageous, making the day longer.
The sun had come out and took away the chill in the air, allowing Leah to walk without her coat on after work. Cars honked loudly everywhere she turned, and people were noisy today, practically broadcasting all of their conversations aloud. She could see each stroke the artist made when tagging the walls of the buildings, Leah stopping to admire the artwork today. And New York was full of smells, most of which were alarmingly unpleasant. Of course, everything just amplified the pulsing in her head.
She pressed her fingers to her temple. “I’m never drinking again.” Except maybe a glass of wine with dinner…
Katri wasn’t home when Leah got in, instead a note sat on the counter with a pair of Danny’s boxers next to it. “Gross.” Leah pulled a knife from the drawer and picked up the odorous boxers, tossing them into Katir’s room with a pinched nose. He was nothing more than a toy for Katri to play with, but he insisted on getting comfortable here.
Leah’s phone pinged, a message from Mollie and Anna about how they missed New York and couldn’t wait to come visit again. They had been gone for over a week now, and Leah thoroughly missed them. Katri was fun, but she wasn’t Mollie or Anna. the girls had brought Leah out of her shell in college and introduced her to a life that she never thought she would be a part of.
Leah changed shoes and pinned her hair up, taking a couple pain pills from the cabinet and downing a glass of water before heading out the door once more. Her and Chris had planned a laid back dinner to ring in their new rigorous gym regime that she was setting in place the next day. She would not allow their comfort to get in the way of a great ass.
The Black Cat was full, more so than Leah had ever seen it. Some football game was broadcasted on the TV’s, while everyone around wore jersey’s and had a beer in hand. Chris was running late, having mentioned something about work, leaving Leah to fend for herself for a little while.
“Lea!” She heard Kenna yell over the bar, a wild look in her eyes. “Do a shot with me.” She poured out a couple drinks and clinked glasses with Leah before downing her drink and rushing off to tend to a couple older gentlemen towards the end of the bar.
“Is that a new tattoo?” Kenna had returned, a fresh set of bills shoved into her bra.
“Tattoo?” Leah looked at the girl sideways for a long second, taking down the shot that Kenna had placed on the bar.
“Your wrist.” Kenna grabbed at her hand and put it to Leah’s face.
Huh. There it was, hidden just below the sleeve of her shirt.
Leah had never seen the strange mark before in her life. The center was a rose encased in a strange symbol, with words encircling the outside of it in a language that Leah did not know. Not that she knew too many languages of course.
“Yeah, I got it the other night in memory of my grandmother.” Leah lied, absently rubbing at the sore spot on her neck.
“Let me see.” Kenna grabbed her wrist again, smiling from ear to ear, pulling it across the bar. Leah felt butterflies in her stomach again. It had been weeks since she had thought about Kenna. The blood drained from the bartenders cheeks, her lips twitching just slightly, and her hand clamping around Leah’s wrist. “It’s pretty.” She eyed it for several more seconds before letting go gently.
“Thanks.” Leah excused herself from the bar and found an empty table towards the back and pulled out her phone, adamant on figuring out what was on her arm. She tried her best to describe what it looked like, hoping that something would come up, but nothing ever did.
“What are you doing?”
Leah practically jumped out of her skin as Chris joined her at the table.
“When did I get this?” She pulled up the sleeve of her shirt just enough to show him the mark. His face went starch white as well, his eyes trained on the tattoo .
“I don’t recall. Is it sore?” He picked up her hand and held it close to his face, running his fingers over the black ink slowly.
“I would be less worried if it were.” Actually, she probably would have been equally as worried. Leah had planned out her first tattoo but just hadn’t gotten the balls to sit there under a needle for hours to get it done, and this, was certainly not what she would have gotten.
“How much did we drink last night? I feel like there are black spots in my memory.” She rubbed her temples, staring at her phone as if it might magically create answers.
“Me too.” Chris kept his eyes on the table. Leah didn’t trust his answers, especially not the way he had reacted to her own. She had spent years in the social outskirts and knew how to navigate people’s body reaction decently well. He was hiding something from her.
The waitress dropped the drinks off at the table and took their orders, distracting Leah from her own thoughts. She ran her finger along the black ink, her curiosity fading into complacency. She liked it the more she looked at it, the tattoo fitting her perfectly, as much as she didn’t want to even admit it to herself.
Neither Chris nor Leah talked much, pretending that it had everything to do with the noise of the bar and nothing with the fact that Leah had a random mark on her, and then completely forgetting the mark on her neck that hurt under the surface. At least, she thought the food was good.
“I’m going to get another drink.” Chris excused himself, picking up the receipt and heading to the bar. Leah watched him out of the corner of her eye, trying not to draw attention to herself, as he maneuvered through the thick crowd of people expertly, seeming to know which way people moved before they did. She watched him call Kenna’s attention and nod in my direction, Kenna’s back stiffening just slightly and looking at leah quickly, catching her eye. They talked short, the two smiling and pretending to look casual, but she saw the way Chris played with his hands and Kenna continuously dried the same glass absently. After a moment of head nods and hand gestures, a man came and stood at the bar to talk to Kenna, using Chris to block Leah’s view just right.
Kenna looked at the new man with a smile, talking to him and making drinks. Chris was talking, too, but he was looking straight. When Kenna walked away, the stranger kept moving his lips, Chris doing the same. They were talking to each other, Leah realized, like they didn’t want someone to know. They didn’t want her to know.
Leah strained as if she could magically hear what they were saying, focusing on the TV above her without even really looking at it. “…. of course I know what it means. She’s just not ready.” Leah made out from Chris, focusing on his voice until she could hear it. She gasped, shaking her head wildly to clear it, her heart ready to run out of her chest. Something was very, very wrong.
The stranger broke free, his long black coat sweeping around him and tucking him into the shadows. But Leah followed him with her eyes, swallowing down the contents of her glass without even thinking about it. The stranger looked around before he opened the door to the black cat and disappeared into the night. He was slender and pale with black hair. Leah bolted at the sight of his most noticeable feature: emerald green eyes.
She was in a cemetery at night, and he was there. She had a vague recollection of tombstones surrounding her, but no reason to be out there. That could have been a dream. She tried to argue with herself, but a subconscious feeling was guiding her out the door.
Cool New York air slapped her in the face with the smell of exhaust and trash, sending her head spinning. Standing up was always a gamble when drinking, and Leah was no champion in that field.
Across the street she noticed the tail end of his jacket sweep around a corner. Honking cars and several screeching tires did little to disturb Leah’s determination to get across. I didn’t die, she justified to herself. The man walked fast, making Leah’s calves ache as she tried to keep up without running. Running would have been suspicious, and the last thing she needed was the cops showing up. “Oh officer, I was just following a man that I have never met based on a gut feeling that he did something wrong.” Would not have been a valid reason to not go to jail.
The stranger rounded another corner still without looking back. He clearly didn’t think anyone would be following him. But Leah was gaining on him, her heart racing. What would she say anyways? “Hey, were you in my dream?” She shook the thought away, that would be silly.
The stranger was gone, Leah noticed as she rounded yet another corner. The streetlights buzzed in the quiet and the tickle of a breeze rattled the metal fence next to her. Odd, she was only a few seconds behind him, he shouldn’t have gotten far. Leah’s phone started buzzing wildly in her pocket, stealing away her attention.
“Where are you?” Chris’s voice was frantic on the other end.
“I went outside to get some air.” Why was she talking to quietly?
“I’m outside, and you are not here. Where are you.” He demanded, his voice more controlled than Leah had ever heard it.
“On 10th avenue.” She realized just then that she had gone further than she thought she had. What felt like only a couple blocks, had actually been almost a mile. “Sorry, I guess I got caught up.”
“Stay where you are, I’m coming to get you.” The phone went silent. Again with the demands, she thought, rolling her eyes. Leah didn’t like when boys made demands.
But she would do what she was told. “Stupid feelings.” Leah scolded the way her heart felt when he talked to her, or the stirring of butterflies under her skin when he was around. She didn’t want to be alone, but she also didn’t want to be tied up. Feelings are weird.
A metal trash can slammed onto the ground just up the street. She found that she could practically pinpoint the exact location of it, and even worse, that she knew it was human and not animal. Up the street. To the right. Behind the third building on the right. And a more miserable fact than that was she followed the sound without hesitation. When did she get so reckless?
“Who are you?” Her first reaction to seeing the stranger crouched over a black garbage bag in the alley. There were a million other things that she should have asked or thought of first, but her lips bubbled out the least concerning.
“I know that.” I know that. Her heart was racing and a layer of sweat was starting on her palms. I know that.
“It is more than you should know.” He threatened, standing tall and straightening his jacket. His pale skin seemed to reflect the light of the moon. Maybe, she thought idly out of place, that was the purpose of the exceedingly long jacket.
“You were at the cemetery.”
“And so were you. Turn around and leave.”
“Why don’t I remember what happened?”
“Turn around. And leave. I will not ask again.” Able took two calculated steps forward, concealing him in the shadow from the fire escape.
“What were you and Chris and Kenna talking about?”
“Leave!” he yelled, a blast of wind slapping Leah in the face. His face contorted to that of fear and surprise, much to her advantage. “Please, I beg of you. When the time is right, you will meet me for good. But until then, you need to go. Please, it is for your own safety.”
“If I cared about my own safety, then I wouldn’t have chased you this far.” It was a bold statement, but one that she found true.
“I will see you again, Leah. And next time it will be under better circumstances.” Able stalked up to her in three long strides and placed his hands gently on either side of his neck. “I’m sorry.” A quick trill of sadness passed over his eyes before Leah was plunged into darkness.
Her alarm went off, singing a symphony from one of the popular comic-turned-movie films she had fallen in love with recently. Time to wake up. She was greeted with the pungent smell of coffee and the crackling sounds of food in the kitchen. Leah rushed into the shower and hastily put herself together, shrugging at her disheveled look.
“Here,” Chris handed her a mug of steaming coffee, made just the way she liked it, and kissed her on the cheek. “I made lunch too, and here’s a muffin.” he pointed to the table where a brown sack sat next to blueberry muffin.
“Lea!” Katri came into the kitchen donning an empty plate that looked like it was licked clean. “Chris taught me how to make eggs.” She beamed. Katri grew up with maids and servants, apparently cooks as well, and had little knowledge of life outside of luxury.
“Did you piss me off last night?” Leah’s mind cut out around the time Chris went to get the last round of drinks. When she drank, she tended to get a little more edgy than normal. “You get it from your mother.” her father would say.
“Can’t a boyfriend do nice things for his girlfriend?” Chris’s eyes met hers for only a half a second, his voice higher than normal.
“Boyfriend?” She blushed, ignoring the warning signs.
No, Leah. Bad! She scolded herself. But then again, when was the last time she had a boyfriend?
Chris hid his guarded eyes behind a beautiful smile, obviously trying to distract her. “Yeah, boyfriend. Got a problem with that?” He closed the gap between the two of them and wrapped his arms around Leah, the butterflies flapping hard enough to carry her stomach away entirely.
She leaned forward and kissed him, revelling in the warmth of his lips.
Katri bounced around, having taken a picture of Chris and Leah and readying to send it to Anna and Mollie. Leah chased her around the living room, trying to get her roommates phone and delete the evidence. She always had a strange problem with her picture being taken, no matter the circumstance. But Leah had to go to work, allowing Katri to keep the picture.
She sat at her desk, her head pounding again, and several pills laid out on her desk ready to go down. “Why do I do this to myself?” Leah sipped her coffee, feeling it move all the way down to her stomach. In the hall, she could hear people walking back and forth, a couple of interns whispering about how hot Xander from HR was, as well as phone conversations from several offices away. She had closed her door hours ago and was playing soft piano music to tune out the noise, but she heard everything.
“Got a minute?” Peter, Leah’s boss, poked his grey-haired head into her office, knocking on the door to jar her attention away from the throbbing in her head. He was a short Polish man with bottlecap glasses and a large hairy mole on his nose. Peter had made her feel welcome in the bank, and was the one who had convinced the board to hire her. She owed him more than she could offer.
“Of course, come in.” She stood, wiping the creases from her skirt and beckoning to the chair in front of her.
“That won’t be necessary. Actually, Miss Whitmore, if I could have you come with me. We have some things to discuss.”
“Sure.” She said breathlessly, taking a quick sip of her coffee to tell her stomach to calm down and put her phone to voicemail. Peter could be a master poker player with the way he conducted himself.
Leah followed him, looking over her boss as if he were a child and she his mother, playing nervously with her hands and smiling at as many people as she could. There were few people in the office that she knew, but to be fair, no one had come to her either. New York was very busy, not caring much about personal relationships in business.
Peter made small talk, asking Leah about Katri and how she liked New York and if she had made her way back home yet. They got in the elevator and Peter pushed the button at the very top, just below the roof. Leah felt her heartrate spiral into what surely should have knocked her on the floor, and could feel the moisture behind her knees and filling her armpits. Good thing she remembered deodorant.
Leah had never been to the top floor. Up here, men sat in their respective offices wearing suites that cost what she would make in half the year, and a giant TV sat in the center of a large waiting room, a couple of pristine white couches sat in front of it with a waterwall falling into a bed of plants just behind it. Each thing she rested her eyes on looked too expensive to touch, or like some crickety old man was going to come out and swat her hand away as if it were a museum.
“This way, Miss Whitmore.” Peter grabbed her attention again. Apparently she had slowed to let her eyes wander. He lead her into a conference room, each seat occupied with a man, making her the only woman in attendance. The man at the head of the table looked much like Peter, only older and with brown puppy dog eyes, while everyone else looked to be in their 40’s, if Leah were guessing right.
“Sit, please.” Each person had a gold name plate on a mahogany stand sitting in front of them, his reading Henry.
“Don’t be nervous Miss Whitmore,” Peter sat down next to her, placing his hand on her own. “These men are not as scary as you’d think.” He winked.
“That’s easy for you to say.” Leah clapped her hands to her mouth and looked directly at Henry with red rushing to her cheeks. No! The number one rule to sucking up to your boss is not making bad jokes at bad times.
“Miss Whitmore we are impressed by your progress so far.” Henry stood, adjusting the belt around his stomach.
“Thank you Sir, I work hard.”
“-which is why we want to offer you an even better deal.” he winked. Leah was speechless. The only thing she could manage to do was blink, and even that was exaggerated beyond belief.
“Leah,” Richard, as his placard said, his blonde hair slicked back, with hickies covering his neck, leaned forward to place his folded hands on the expensive wooden conference table. He was also the youngest of the “Commonly named, rich, white man” clan. “We reviewed your profile after Peter suggested you might be a good fit. The only hold up we have is your limited experience.”
“We want to put you through a training program this week. To see how you will handle it.” This man’s name was Sam. He was tall and had a round belly and sounded like he could sing a country ballad perfectly.
Leah still couldn’t find words, as if she were reverted back to pre-school and trying to write the alphabet on obnoxiously large lines. Her hands were cold, but everywhere else was on fire. If she lifted her arms, Leah could probably clear a forest. Her headache was gone, but was replaced by the mark on her neck burning, as well as the strange tattoo on her write pulsing with each rapid thump of her heart.
“What do you say?” Henry smiled at her, knowing full well that she was melting from the inside out.
“I would be honored-”
“-Sorry I’m late.” A voice came from behind her. “Can’t leave the president of a major lending company in the middle of a call.” The man shuffled into the room, his long black hair cascading to cover his face.
“Leah, meet your mentor for the next week.” Henry gestured at the man.
“I’m Able, I have heard so much about you.” His smile was daring. Knowing.
She remembered his face from the black spots of the night before. She tried her best to keep her smile unwavering, but she knew her eyes betrayed her.
“It will be a pleasure to work with you Able.” She curtseyed, as if her mother had taught her to do so in the presence of greatness.
“We’ll discuss more after the rest of our meeting, if you will excuse us Leah.”
“Of course, call me at my desk if you need me to come out of my cave.” She scolded herself, stealing one last glance at Able, who had a smirk pressed to his lips.
Leah couldn’t focus. The phone at her desk rang several times, to which Leah sent it to her voicemail and continued to stare at her screen, bouncing her leg and biting her nails one-by-one. She wished she could remember more about Able, but all she knew was that something was wrong. She remembered chasing him from the bar and down a couple blocks. Leah couldn’t remember why, but she knew she had to get him.
“Told you it would be under better circumstances.”
Leah screamed, practically jumping out of her skin. She hadn’t even heard him come in her office. “What are you talking about?”
“Right, I forgot you don’t remember.” Before she knew what had happened, Able was in front of her and pressing his thumbs to her temples. Memories poured back in as the flood gates opened back up.
“Who are you?” She practically yelled. No one outside her office seemed to notice anything was going on, as she looked desperately out the window.
“Leah, you are part of something that I do not have enough time to explain.
“Are you following me?” Her voice rising with desperation.
“I have better things to do with my time than to following around someone so naive.”
“Did I reject you?” She pretended to pout.
“No, Leah this is serious-”
“I wouldn’t sleep with you. That’s it, isn’t it.” She pushed, crossing her arms over her chest, Able’s pale cheeks going red. “I have a boyfriend, and you know him from what I can gather. Wait, how do you know him?” She suddenly recalled.
“And how do you know Kenna? Did she reject you too?”
“Leah stop!” He grabbed her shoulders, her body going rigid. “I am a vampire, and you are my Lord.”
“Look here buddy, I don’t know what kind of drugs you are on, but you should leave my office before I call security.” She starting waving in front of her window to get someone’s attention.
“They can’t see you.”
“They have eyes, and I know none of them are blind, so I know they can see me.” Leah pushed past Able and grabbed the doorhandle and flung the door open. “Security!” She yelled into the common area. Not a single person even flinched.
“They cannot see you, Leah.” Able spoke slower.
“The fuck they can’t.” Now she was panicking. No one reacted to her at all, no matter how close she got to people. Dark spots took over her vision and her knees were starting to wobble.
“I need to show you something.” Able had his hand reached out towards hers. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way, the choice is yours.”
“Last time I heard that…” She raised her eyebrows, her memory taking her back to freshman year of college and her first ever frat party.
“Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” He pressed his thumbs to her temple again. “Look me in the eye.” Her head snapped forward so she was looking him directly in the eyes. Leah tried her best to will her own face to look away, but her body reacted without her consent. “I am a vampire. You are a vampire. You are the inherited Lord of this part of the country. And we have a murder to solve.”