Chapter Ten: A Prison of Mirrors
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Twelve years ago.

            It was Christmas morning at the Hayes House.  Rays of twilight barely illuminated the street outside as a layer of frost covered every surface.  Inside the Hayes house, all lights were still off except those decorating the Christmas tree.  A young Alice lay on the couch in the living room, staring at the ceiling.  Her face, illuminated only by the multicolored Christmas tree lights, showed a hint of annoyance.  She was ready to open presents, but mom was still asleep.  This wasn’t exactly unusual.  After all, it was still pretty early, and Alice also knew that Mom was often tired from working a job while taking care of two children by herself.  Waking her up was out of the question.  Alice knew that, but she was still annoyed.  Of course, having to wait for presents wasn’t the only thing annoying her.

            “Why does it never snow on Christmas?” asked Arthur, kneeling with his elbows resting on the windowsill. “I thought it was supposed to snow on Christmas.”

            “That’s just TV, Arthur,” said Alice irritably. “We’re too far south for snow.  I think it only snows every fifteen years here.”

            Arthur grumbled under his breath.

            “Is mom awake yet?” he asked.

            “I don’t know,” said Alice. “Why don’t you go ask her?”

            “Very funny,” said Arthur. “I’m just ready for presents.” He got an idea. “Maybe we could open our presents to each other.”

            As Arthur left the window and went to grab a present from under the tree, Alice sighed.  He could be so impatient sometimes.  He’d been asking if Mom was awake all morning, and now, as Arthur reached for a present, something in Alice snapped.

            “Typical,” said Alice. “Guess I have to be the mature one.”

            Arthur froze, a stunned expression on his face as he held a present in his hands.

            “What?” he asked.

            “You can’t just wait a few minutes for mom to wake up, can you?”

            “I can…”

            “You wanna open your presents so much?  Go ahead.  Don’t let me stop you.  Just don’t blame me when Mom gets upset.”

            “I’m not…”

            “Just stop complaining.  Seriously, you’re always complaining about something.”

            “Alice!” he protested.

            “I mean, I hoped I could get a break from your whining on Christmas, but I guess that was too much to ask.”

            “You’re such a jerk!” he screamed, throwing the present.

            It landed at the foot of the couch to the sound of breaking glass.  As Arthur fled the living room, Alice sat up, surprised by the sound.  Once Arthur was gone, Alice looked at the gift wrapped box on the floor and frowned.  Glass?  Neither Mom nor Alice had gotten Arthur a present made of glass.  Alice reached down, picked it up, and held it.  She could feel broken glass shifting around as she tilted it from side to side.  She found the label, and it read:

            To: Alice.

            From: Arthur.

            Alice felt terrible, closing her eyes as she grimaced.  After a moment, she slowly started unwrapping the present.  She found a cardboard box with a fancy pattern, and when she opened it, she found little cells filled with glass figurines.  The figurines lay in cushions, but that hadn’t protected them from Arthur’s throwing arm.  They were fantasy creatures like unicorns, fairies, and dragons, among other things, and most of them were broken.

            Alice had pointed at them in a craft store one day.  She remembered it because Mom brought Arthur along, and he’d complained because he didn’t want to go to a craft store.  He kept asking, “Are we done yet?” the entire time.  Alice couldn’t believe he’d remembered she liked these.  They weren’t that expensive, but he’d still, apparently, spent his allowance on this for Christmas.

            That made her feel worse.

            Slowly she walked to Arthur’s room, still holding the open box in her hands.  She took a deep breath and knocked on his door.

            “Arthur,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

            After a moment or two, Arthur opened the door, wiping his eyes.  He’d clearly been crying.

            “Really?” he asked.

            “Really,” she said. “And you’re right.  I am a jerk.  And…this was a great gift.”

            He looked at the box in her hands.

            “I’m sorry I broke it.”

            “No, don’t be sorry…um,” she said, trying to think of how to fix this.  Then she saw something, “Hey, Look.”

            She picked up one of the figurines, a glass dragon that was miraculously intact.

            “This one survived,” said Alice. “When all the others broke.  It’s probably worth all the others combined.  Plus, it’s a dragon, and those are the most awesome fantasy creature anyway.”

            Arthur sniffled and said, “Yeah.  Dragon’s are awesome.”

            Alice placed the box on the floor and reached out to hug him.  He embraced her back, and they just stood there, hugging for a moment.  Alice sighed.

            “Merry Christmas, Arthur,” said Alice.

            “Merry Christmas, Alice.”

 

Alice lay in her hospital bed, staring at the ceiling.  She didn’t know why she was thinking of that Christmas day, twelve years ago, it had just come to her.  She still had that glass dragon in her closet at home and hadn’t taken it out in years.  Maybe it was just comforting to think of something other than what was going on right now.

            Alice’s Mother and her Uncle lay in hospital beds nearby.  Her Uncle had apparently woken up briefly while Alice was out but was sleeping now.  Her mother was still completely unconscious.  Alice didn’t want to think of what was going to happen to Penny and Gary.  For a moment, Alice had hoped that there was some good news, that her brother was alive.  Even if this Agent Phoenix was her brother, though, he clearly didn’t care about them.  After everything that had happened, Alice just didn’t know what to do now.  She felt lost and disoriented like her entire world was being stripped away piece by piece.

            “Alright,” said Dr. Brown by her bedside. “You’re set to make a full recovery.  I will prescribe some iron supplements for the next week, but you should be able to leave the hospital wing by tomorrow.”

            “Thank you,” said Alice absentmindedly, her eyes never leaving the ceiling.

            Doctor Brown hesitated.

            “I heard about your encounter with Agent Phoenix,” he said. “I’m sorry it didn’t go how you hoped,” he hesitated.  “Were you close to your brother?”

            Alice thought about it.

            “Yes and no,” said Alice. “We fought all the time.  He could be so immature sometimes.  Then again, so could I, and he could be really sweet when he wanted to be.  We cared for each other, but we didn’t always treat each other like a brother and sister should.  Then Arthur disappeared, and…well…that wasn’t easy.  For a little while there, I thought I’d get a second chance to be his sister, but…well, you know.”

            Dr. Brown nodded.

            “I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” he said.

            Alice didn’t answer.  She just kept staring at the ceiling, and Dr. Brown stayed silent for a moment.  If Alice had looked down, she’d have seen the doctor debating something with himself.

            “I’ve been instructed to tell you,” said Dr.Brown. “That if you wish to join the Night Hunters, you have an open invitation.”

            “Because I killed a vampire?”

            “That’s part of it,” said Brown. “If ever we hear of a normal person who survived a vampire attack, they always get put to the front of our recruitment list.”

            “But the vampires are also targeting me,” said Alice. “Is it really wise for me to join?”

            “I was getting to that.  The Night Hunter leadership knows that you were targeted.  They think we might be able to use that to our advantage.”

            Alice looked at Dr. Brown and raised an eyebrow.  “As bait, you mean?” she asked.

            “You’re free to say no,” said Brown. “And the night hunters will continue to protect you regardless of your decision.  If you do join us, however, you’ll receive full training as a hunter.  They wouldn't make this offer if they didn’t see real potential in you.”

            Alice thought about it for a second.  It wasn’t that Alice wasn’t interested at all.  She wanted to do something about all this.  She just doubted she could really help.  The Night Hunters had to know that Alice wasn’t in a good place mentally right now, so the fact that they were asking anyway told her that the situation in Saint Vivia was even worse than she thought.

            “I don’t know,” she said.

            “You don’t have to decide now,” said Dr. Brown. “Take my advice.  Get a real, proper night's sleep.  It will help clear your head.”

            “Yeah, a good night's sleep sounds nice.  Thank you.”

            Dr. Brown nodded and left her side.  Before going to sleep, Alice took one look at her mother, still unconscious nearby.  Alice tried to picture what would happen if Mom talked to this Agent Phoenix, knowing that he might be her son.  If he treated Mom with the same dismissive tone he’d taken with Alice, it would break Sara Hayes’s heart all over again.  Alice didn’t want that to happen, but of course, it could only happen if her mother woke up.

            Alice still had her father’s cross around her neck, and she fingered it for a moment.  Alice hadn’t prayed in a long time, but at this moment in time, filled with so much uncertainty, she uttered a small, simple prayer as she looked up.

            “What do I do?” she whispered.

            The room answered with silence.

            Slowly, Alice put her arms down and closed her eyes.  Maybe a good night's sleep was exactly what she needed.

 

“Welcome, Mrs. Hayes,” said the doorman. “I see you have your invitation.”

            “Right here,” said Alice cheerfully, holding up the letter. “Thank you very…”

            She froze, frowning.

            “Wait…” she said.

            Alice found herself on the front steps of a mansion, a shining example of classic architecture.  The building’s white walls and gilded windows shone in the light of the moon.  People in formal suits and dresses came down the walkway and up the mansion's steps, excitement written all over their faces.  A vibrant garden flanked either side of the walkway, and fountains of sparkling water decorated the gardens.  Even the doorman, dressed like a butler, had a distinguished air about him.  It was one of the most beautiful places Alice had ever seen.

            And strangely, Alice was certain she’d seen it all before.

            “How…how did I get here?” she asked.

            “I’m sorry?” asked the footman.

            Alice kept looking around.  Her hair was grown out, and she wore a fancy dress.  She hadn’t dressed herself up like this since she was a teenager.  Despite that fact, Alice had this strange sense of déjà vu about this whole situation.

            “This is wrong,” said Alice, goosebumps forming on her flesh. “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be here.”

            She turned and walked back down the steps and followed the walkway, passing the smiling couples as they approached the mansion.  Alice felt herself standing out as the only person leaving the mansion.  Getting annoyed, she kicked off the high heels she was wearing and walked across the stone floor in her bare feet, getting slightly faster.

            Alice quickly approached the edge of the estate, where stone walls flanked a large iron gate.  The gate was open to let guests in, though Alice had other ideas.  She didn’t know what she’d find out there.  She just knew she didn’t want to be here.  But when Alice came near the gate, someone appeared from behind one of the walls and stepped through, approaching Alice.

            It was Victor Sorenson.

            Upon seeing him, Alice’s face turned white, and she backed away.

            “No,” she said, shaking her head.

            “It’s alright, Alice,” said Victor.

            “No!” she cried. “No!  Stay away from me!”

            She turned right and ran headlong into a hedge maze she hadn’t seen before, green leaves coating the walls on either side of her.  She looked behind her as she ran, and it appeared as if she’d always been running between hedges.  Victor was nowhere to be seen.

            That is, she couldn’t see him until she turned a corner.  When she turned, he stood before her, silhouetted in the moonlight, making her stop in her tracks.

            “Alice, stop running,” he said, his voice stern now.

            Alice tried to run down another path, but the next corner she turned showed him waiting for her as well.  She fled again, trying different passages each time, but no matter where Alice ran, she found him waiting for her.

            Finally, after seeing him down one passage, she turned, and the path she’d just come from was gone.  All that was left was a hedge wall blocking her escape.

            “No,” she said desperately, grabbing at the hedge and trying to pull it apart. “No.”  She frantically pulled branches away, but she knew she wouldn’t get anywhere.  Finally, she turned back to see Victor approaching her, slowly but surely.  Alice moved back until she lay flat against the hedge.

            “Get away from me,” she said, her entire body trembling.

            “No,” he said.

            “Get away from me!” she screamed.

            “No.  We’re going to get to know each other, Alice.  That’s what I wish, and therefore it’s inevitable.  Cease this foolishness at once and come along quietly.”

            “No!”  Alice cried at the top of her lungs. “Get away from me!  Help!  Somebody help me!”

            With a rustle of leaves, Alice felt a hand burst through the hedge and grab her wrist.  Alice felt herself pulled through, branches scratching her face as the world went dark.  Then Alice felt herself falling until she landed on a smooth, cold surface.  Before her was her own reflection as she lay face down, panting with fear.

            She pushed herself up and stood quickly, looking around, her heart pounding in her chest.  In a disorienting moment, the environment before her was remarkable disorienting.  She could see her reflection everywhere as if Alice was inside a kaleidoscope of mirrors.  Her reflection, she realized, did not show a fancy dress but the suit she wore as a police detective, as well as short hair.  Alice quickly looked at her sleeve and felt her hair to confirm what she was seeing. 

            After a moment, she realized that there was no sign of that man, that Victor Sorenson.  Realizing this helped her calm down, once her breathing steadied, he took a harder look at her surroundings.

            In addition to Alice’s reflection, Alice could see the reflections of furniture everywhere, including a fancy metal table, a comfy silk chair, and a luxurious feather bed.  After a moment of seeing these jagged reflections everywhere, Alice managed to make out the outline of a wide, seven sided room.  The walls, the floor, and the ceiling were all reflective, and all those mirrors pointing at each other made the kaleidoscope effect.  No matter where Alice looked, she could see her image, as well as the images of furniture.

            Only one wall, the one behind her, was different than the others.  It showed the seems of a door, though there was no knob or handle on this side, and the door itself was as reflective as any other wall.  In the center of the room lay a glass cage with seven sides, a glass floor, and a glass roof.  There was a lock on one side of the cage and the metal outline of a door.  Inside the cage was the furniture Alice had seen, the bed, the table, and the chair, and it was upon seeing that chair that Alice jumped, startled, for someone was sitting in it.

            Sitting in that chair, holding a wine glass filled with something red, was a red haired woman.  Alice realized it was the same woman who had interrupted her before when she’d been dancing with Victor Sorenson, a dream that, disturbingly, Alice seemed to have forgotten while awake.  Though the red haired woman sat in what was obviously some sort of prison, this woman held herself as if on a throne.  She wore the same black dress with billowing sleeves as before and still struck Alice as both regal and mischievous at the same time.  The woman just smiled at Alice, who stood there, dumbstruck by the sight of this striking woman.

            “Hello, Alice,” said the woman.

            “Who…” Alice began to ask until she realized something.  While Alice’s own reflection appeared to her thousands of times in the walls, this woman only appeared once.  The chair she sat in was reflected hundreds of times, but apart from the one right in front of Alice, those chairs were empty.  Whoever she was, she didn’t have a reflection, and that realization made Alice’s blood run cold.  She backed away fearfully until she stood flat against the wall, her eyes never leaving the woman in the glass.

            “You’re a vampire,” said Alice.

            “I’m afraid so, darling,” said the woman.

            The woman took a drink from her glass, and Alice realized what that red fluid was.  She grabbed her mouth as she started to feel nauseous.  Alice felt the urge to vomit but fought to keep it down.  She really didn’t want to take her eyes off the threat.

            “I understand your discomfort, Alice,” said the woman. “In your shoes, I wouldn’t want to share a room with a vampire either, but I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice.  If you’re not in here with me, then you’re out there with him.”

            Alice remembered, “Victor.  Victor Sorenson.”

            “Indeed, darling.  A nasty piece of work is Victor.  He’s the kind of vampire who’s used to getting what he wants.  I, at least, will give you a choice of who you spend time with.”

            Alice took a moment to think about the situation.  This vampire wasn’t attacking her, which Alice wasn’t going to complain about.  That being said, if she wasn’t eager to drink Alice’s blood, then what did she want?  Alice also didn’t like the way the vampire called her darling.  It came off as condescending.  Not in a mean spirited way, but more like how an adult might call a child darling.  Of course, Alice didn’t know how old this vampire was.  She could be ancient, which would make Alice not unlike a child to her.  That didn’t make it better, though.  It still made Alice uncomfortable.

            In addition to all of this, something else seemed pretty clear to Alice, given how she’d gotten here.

            “Am…am I dreaming?” asked Alice.

            “Yes and no,” said the woman. “You are certainly asleep.  That much is true, but this isn’t a normal dream.  You may have noticed that this feels clearer than any dream you’ve had previously.  That’s because a dream is created by your subconscious, while this place is a mental world created by me, just as the mansion was a mental world created by Victor.”

            “I don’t understand,” said Alice. “I thought vampires could only control the minds of people they drink blood from.”

            “That’s true of most vampires, darling.  Victor, though, isn’t exactly most vampires.  He’s developed a rare ability among our kind.  Most can only link their minds to humans they drink from directly, but he can link his mind to those whose blood is close to those he drinks from.  Close relatives, to be precise.”

            Alice had to resist the urge to start crying, “Penny,” she said.

            “Yes,” said the woman. “Poor girl.  I can’t protect her as I can with you, as he’s fed from directly.  I am sorry about that.”

            Alice took a deep breath.

            “But how can you protect me?” she asked.

            “Because I’m linked to Victor, darling.  All vampires are linked to a certain extent, as they are linked to those they feed on.”

            Alice looked at this woman suspiciously.  She didn’t seem dangerous, but neither had that vampire at the door or Victor for that manner.  She seemed to be helping her now, but Alice had to ask herself what the catch was.  Any sign of friendliness was something Alice had to regard with suspicion.

            “Alright then,” said Alice. “Two more questions.  First, who are you?”

            The woman smiled mischievously. “I was wondering when you’d get to that.  My name is Jacqueline Castellane, and I’m a permanent guest of the Night Hunters.”

            “You’re their prisoner?”

            “That’s what they would tell you, darling, but...”

            “Would you stop calling me darling!” Alice snapped.

            The vampire known as Jacqueline looked genuinely surprised by Alice’s outburst.

            “I don’t mean anything by it,” she said. “Honest.  I call everyone darling.  It’s my way of being friendly.”

            “Well, it makes me uncomfortable,” said Alice. “You sound like you’re trying too hard to be friendly.  The vampire who injured my Uncle’s neck seemed friendly too.”

            Jacqueline nodded, taking a more serious demeanor than before.

            “Alright, Detective Hayes,” she said.  “I’ll respect your wishes.”

            “Thanks,” said Alice.

            Jacqueline nodded and continued.

            “As I was saying, Detective, the Night Hunters would call me their prisoner, but the truth is I’m here by choice.  You see, vampires don’t always get along.  The more powerful of us can get territorial and set ourselves up as kings and queens of the night.  Rivalries will form between us and…well…I rather mistakenly made myself an enemy of just about every major vampire in the world.  My own fault, really, and I was forced to take drastic measures to ensure my safety.”

            “Okay,” said Alice. “But why would the Night Hunters…”

            “Information, Detective,” said Jacqueline, her eyes wide with excitement. “I can give them inside information.  As I told you, all vampires are linked to each other and can communicate with each other mentally.”

            “Wait,” said Alice, confused. “One of them signaled the others by whistling.”

            “Newborn, Detective.  No doubt she hadn’t mastered using mental powers at a distance.  Regardless, those that have mastered this ability can learn to communicate with other vampires over a long distance.  Communicate, or spy on each other’s thoughts from anywhere in the world.”

            “What?  Like some sort of vampire psychic network?”

            “Exactly, Detective. Exactly.”

            “I’ve never heard of that in vampire stories.”

            “It was a jealously guarded secret among us for centuries, and it’s through this network that I pass information to the Night Hunters.  Vampires movements, impending attacks on humans, wherever I can help the most, that’s where I suggest the Night Hunters go.”

            “You could have sent them to my Uncle’s farm,” said Alice bitterly.

            “Yes,” said Jacqueline regretfully. “I must admit I overlooked that.  I naturally would have sent them you’re way, but in my defense, my attention was elsewhere.  I’ve been trying to figure out what all these vampires are doing in Saint Vivia.”

            “Alright.  What are they all doing?”

            “I don’t know yet, sadly.  The vampires behind it, including Victor, are all elders, the most powerful class of vampire.  They’re particularly good at shielding their minds, and they haven’t shared the plan with their underlings.  The truth is, most of the vampires in Saint Vivia don’t even know why they’re here.  The hunters brought me to Saint Vivia hoping it would help me break into their minds more easily, but I still haven’t had much luck.”

            “Alright then, second question,” said Alice. “Why would you help me?  Do you think it will put you on the Night Hunter’s good side?”

            “I doubt it,” said Jacqueline. “I don’t think they’d take it well if they knew we were talking like this.  They use me, but they don’t trust me.  I’m sure they’d tell you that I’m just taking advantage of you.  Although,” she smiled mischievously. “I’m sure that’s already crossed your mind.”

            “Yeah,” said Alice crossly. “It has, and you still haven’t answered my question.  Why would you help me?”

            Jacqueline sighed.

            “I hesitate to answer.”

            Alice raised an eyebrow.

            “Why?”

            “Because I know you’re not going to believe me.  I’m a vampire, Detective Hayes.  I’ve done terrible things.”

            “I can believe that,” said Alice dryly.

            “And I wish to help you as part of a greater effort of mine to…” she took a deep breath. “Seek redemption for the things I’ve done.”

            “You’re right.  I have trouble believing that.  I mean, are you going to tell me that’s cow’s blood in that glass?”

            Alice looked at the glass in disgust, and Jacqueline looked down sadly, putting the glass down on the table nearby.

            “No,” said Jacqueline. “The Night Hunters have volunteers to help me get what I need.  My kind survives on human blood.  We can survive for a little while on animal blood, but there are consequences if we don’t drink human blood.  I can have all the good intentions in the world, but even I have to admit it would be foolish to trust a vampire saying what I’m saying.  It is our nature to be predators of humans.  I won’t even try to deny it.”

            Alice crossed her arms, put her back to the wall, and let herself fall until she sat on the floor.  She looked away, staring off into space.

            “Not that it matters that much to me,” she said dejectedly. “Maybe you really want to help.  Maybe you don’t.  What choice do I have?  I’m just so powerless here.  Vampires are taking over my city, the people I love have been hurt or kidnapped, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about any of it.”

            “Well now,” said Jacqueline hesitantly. “I wouldn’t say that.”

            Alice laughed bitterly, “What?  You think I should join the Night Hunters?”

            “That’s up to you,” the vampire replied. “That’s not what I’m getting at.  I can help you communicate with Penny and Gary.”

            Alice’s arms fell to her side as she sat there.  She stared at Jacqueline in stunned silence for a moment.  Jacqueline stared back, her face stoic and serious.

            “I thought you said…” Alice began.

            “Other vampires have fed from them directly,” said Jacqueline. “And thus, I cannot override that link.  That much is true, but I’m not proposing we use that type of link.  It’s you who is linked to them, Alice.  Linked to Penny by blood and happy memories of family gatherings, and linked to Gary through the time you worked together, serving your community and saving lives.  Such links are very different from the barbaric links vampires make but no less potent.  All you lack to take advantage of such links is power.  I have that power, Alice.  With your link to them and my power, we can reach them, even past the vampires controlling them.”

            “How will that help?”

            “You can remind them of who they really are.”

            Alice’s eyes grew wide as she understood.

            “Because the vampires will take their identities from them.”

            “Correct.  We’ll have to be careful.  If I open these doors, then they’ll open both ways.  If the vampires detect us, they’ll be able to attack us here, so we can only contact them when the other vampires aren’t paying attention.  I will also have to suppress their memories into their subconscious so the other vampires don’t catch wind of us.  Even so, it should help them remember their true identities, even if it’s just a little.  That should buy the Night Hunters more time to rescue them.  I can help you help them, Alice, if you’ll allow me.”

            Alice thought about it.

            “As I said, I don’t have a lot of options,” said Alice.  She grimaced, then made her decision. “Alright, do it.”

            Jacqueline smiled, and this time it seemed almost genuine.

            “Very well,” said Jacqueline. “We’ll have to wait a few minutes, but I do sense that Victor and the vampire controlling Gary will be distracted momentarily.”

            Alice nodded.

            A few minutes later, Jacqueline stood from her chair.

            “It’s time,” she said.

            Jacqueline pointed to one of the mirror walls, which shimmered like a mirage as the reflection faded.  Alice stepped up to that wall to find a window into two rooms, separated by a wall.  Both were bedrooms set in near pitch black darkness, shaded by black curtains.  Each looked like the bedroom of a mansion and might have been quite fancy once upon a time.  The walls of these rooms, however, showed signs of mold and rot.  Dust covered every surface, and the beds in the room looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years.  Laying in those beds were Penny and Gary, respectively.

            “Gary!  Penny!” Alice cried, putting her hands on the glass.

            The two figures woke up and looked over, both of them frightened.  Timidly, they each stood up and walked to the glass.  They both had a distant, glassy expression in their eyes, and their movements were slow and sluggish.

            “I know you,” said Penny.

            “It’s me, Alice.”

            “Alice!” both Penny and Garry said in unison, putting their own hands on the glass.

            “Alice!” said Gary. “It’s vampires!  They’re real!”

            “I know,” said Alice, nodding. “I know, Gary.”

            “You have to help me,” said Penny desperately. “I can’t stay with him.  He’s doing something to me.  I…I can’t remember my own name.  He’s calling me Miranda.”

            “Neither can I,” said Gary dejectedly. “She’s calling me William.  I can’t…”

            “Your name is Gary Frasier,” said Alice. “You’re a detective for the Saint Vivia Police Department, and you’re my partner.  Repeat what I just said.”

            Gary, hesitantly, said, “My name…my name is Gary Fraisier.  I’m a detective with the Saint Vivia Police, and you’re my partner.”

            “And your name is Penny Hayes,” said Alice. “Your father is Paul Hayes, and your Mother is Betty Hayes.  You’re a history major at Saint Vivia university, and I’m your cousin.  Say that.”

            “My name is Penny…Penny Hayes,” said Penny. “My father and mother are Paul and Betty Hayes.  I’m a history major at SVU, and you’re my cousin.”

            “Just remember that,” said Alice. “Remember who you are.  I’m with people who hunt these things.  They’re called the Night Hunters, and they…we…are going to find you.  You hear me?  We’re going to find both of you.  I promise.”

            The pair of them nodded.  A moment later, the pair of them seemed to grow lethargic as their images faded.  Soon Alice was left alone, staring at her own reflection.

            “I’m sorry,” said Jacqueline. “I sensed the other vampires returning.  As I said, I had to suppress their memories of this conversation, but it will still be there, hidden in the back of their minds and giving them strength.  You’ve bought them some more time.”

            “Good,” said Alice, her fists clenched in determination as she looked herself in the eye.

            A sly grin appeared at the corner of Jacquelin’s mouth, “You seem to have come to a decision.”

            “Yeah,” said Alice. “I’ve decided to stop feeling sorry about myself and do something about my problems.”

            Jacqueline smiled genuinely again and said, “Glad to hear it.  Better get to it, then.”

            Alice woke up, seeing that same ceiling in the hospital wing.  She sat up, looked around, and saw her Mother and Uncle lying a few feet away.  For a moment, Alice wondered if it was all just a dream and nothing more but found it didn’t matter.  Absentmindedly she grabbed the cross hanging from her neck as she took a deep breath.  She knew what she had to do.  Alice pressed a button next to her bed.  Moments later, a nurse arrived.

            “Mrs. Hayes?”

            “I have a message for Director Farrow,” said Alice, determined. “Tell him that I want to join the Night Hunters.”

 

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