French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 16
New York City, 1980
The first week was uneventful. Both Anna and Douglas mercilessly drowned him in academics. During the evening he helped at the Muffin House, and they were also in the process of integrating the other members of his therapy group into Anna’s halfway house. Between socializing with friends, work, and studies, he barely had time to think about hunting down Keith. His life, despite the odd circumstances, had become strangely mundane.
Save for the fact he, at eighteen, was repeating his sophomore year, while the rest of his friends were lightyears ahead of him. It did motivate him even if he failed to understand half the things he studied and it hurt his head to try.
Around two o’clock, Professor Frasier dropped by to check on him. They discussed his lessons, and Dylan found himself feeling a little better about his academic fears. According to Douglas, independent study tended to go faster than conventional schooling, and he’d still tutor Dylan personally two days a week. Anna would help on the other days. Again, he invited Dylan to his classes with the others.
The idea was almost tempting, but Dylan found he couldn’t do it. It just felt too normal to him, and he didn’t feel normal.
Before he left, Douglas reviewed basic algebra with Dylan, and decided Dylan understood it well enough. Bridget had done her level best to pound the stuff in his head, and Dylan felt a moment of pride. At least something had stuck from his summer studies. He would review the units on understanding geometry for the next time, start reading prehistory, read unit one in biology, and begin reading Romeo and Juliet. Douglas also dropped off a packet of English papers to work on with his Understanding Grammar book.
Determined not to be overwhelmed, Dylan set to work; it was better than sitting around feeling sorry for himself, and he’d be damned if he let himself fall behind. He had goals now.
It took him most of the afternoon to get though his math, and he was starting his history, when Anna rose. Together, they went through the first chapter and discussed early humans and the caves in France. Anna claimed they were 17,300 years old. “They’re important because they tell us what humans did back then,” she said. “They show us the animals living at the time, the ones they hunted, ate, and made clothing with.”
Basically, prehistoric humans were like nomadic tribes. They moved about from place to place hunting animals and gathering other food to survive. They used stone, bones, and skin as tools, built shelters, and lived occasionally in caves. They made art with shells, and made and used paint. Some even buried their own dead. They lived in several places all around the world and according to theories came out of the great African Rift country.
It was an interesting chapter, but Dylan found Anna’s little commentaries more interesting because she actually spoke as though she had visited the places. When he asked, she told him that her sire had lived through a lot of it, so she knew things about the past that even the best archaeologists didn’t have a clue about.
“But where do Adam and Eve fit in?” Dylan asked, remembering his Sunday school. He understood that according to science people had evolved from apes, but Adam and Eve had to fit in someplace; they were in the Bible, after all.
The vampire frowned and ran her fingers though her short blonde hair. “Dylan, I’m not sure if they ‘fit in’ at all.”
“Well of course they fit in.” Dylan closed the history book and put it down on the coffee table in front of his sofa. He folded his arms and looked at Anna pointedly. “I mean, the Bible can’t be all off, can it? Egypt and Israel and all that happened, so why not Adam and Eve. They just started in Africa, right?”
“There is no fossil evidence of that, Dylan. Just stories, myths to explain things,” Anna said.
“But the Bible isn’t a myth, not like the Roman, Norse and Greek stuff.” At least he didn’t think so. It had to fit.
Anna didn’t look convinced and peered at him sadly. “Remember biology? People evolved from primates, Dylan. They changed over time, but there was no first man and first woman. At least not the way the stories say. Archeological history is different than Biblical history… and vampire history, well, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.”
Dylan understood the basics behind evolution, and a part of him believed it happened, but he still didn’t understand how it fit into the world. The young man scratched his head. “Evolution, that’s like, God’s work in progress?”
“To simplify it, I suppose… but I wouldn’t tell Douglas that,” Anna told him with an air of exasperation. “It’s completely random. Mutations occur in nature, most of those don’t work out, but a few help their bearers survive in some situations that those without that trait would not. Those traits get selected for as their bearers breed more often, and over time, enough of this breeding and selection and mutation results in a new species — something like the original, but different enough that we call it something else. But it has nothing to do with Adam and Eve.”
“But why did people make the story? There has to be a reason. You said yourself it was to explain something, so it’s gotta be real someplace.” Where he came from, the Bible was just accepted as fact, no one questioned it.
Well, no one except for Bridget, Jackson and the science teachers.
“Dylan, there are many cultures with similar stories. It’s just one of the ways human beings try to explain why they are here. We know that people come from a man and a woman being together, so obviously when it started there had to be a first man and a woman. Ancient cultures didn’t have the information to figure out evolution.”
Dylan still wasn’t convinced. He wasn’t ready to abandon everything he was taught when he was a boy. Too much had changed around him too fast. So he stuck to his guns; there had to be something real behind the Bible’s most basic story, and he was about to say so when a knock on the door brought him to his feet. “Were you expecting anyone?”
She got up and headed for the door. “No. And I gave specific instructions for you to be left to your studies.”
Dylan lifted a brow. Anna took this responsibility business seriously. He leaned a hand against the arm of the couch and watched her cross to the door and open it.
Jason, dressed in a warm longcoat, black coat and scarf, dark shirt, and red tie stood at the door. He had his badge hanging from his hip pocket of his slacks, so Dylan could only guess he had come from work. “Anna, sorry to bother you. Can I talk to the kid?” He looked grave.
“As long as it isn’t about a certain case,” Anna said firmly. She leaned a hand on the doorframe and fixed him with a stern glare. “He’s not ready to run off and be beaten to a pulp yet. I want him settled in and working before you start that.”
The cop’s face twitched a little, perhaps the smallest shadow of a smile, and he nodded. “I get it, he’s yours, Anna; but it’s about his sister. Unless you don’t think he has the right to know about that part of the case?”
The words brought Dylan to his feet with a surge of rage. His fists tightened. “What about Bridget?”
Anna stepped out of the way and let Jason enter. Even she wasn’t going to stand in the way of family.
“Found one of Blackwell’s thugs, Jim Delance, trying to get rid of two bodies; not much left of them, but we have reason to believe they belong to your sister and your friend,” Jason said. “I had them released to Doc Smith, and you can arrange a burial.”
“Anna, grab my coat, would you?” he said, as calmly as he could manage. They had found his sister, and he wanted to see her. He knew from Jason’s words that neither she or Jackson would be recognizable, but seeing them would finalize what happened. It would be over, at least for them.
Anna quickly vanished though the door leading to her side of the apartment, leaving him with Jason. “What in hell’s name were they doing with the bodies for over two months?” Dylan asked, swallowing hard.
“Sometimes they wait to dispose of them.” Jason met his gaze. “In your sister’s case, might have used her for other things. Can’t say, not much left to determine and I told the Doc to leave her in peace; no autopsy, unless you say otherwise.”
“And you’re sure it’s her?”
Jason dug into the pocket of his jacket and handed Dylan a small pink wallet. “Took this from a bag of personal effects with the corpse. There’s more there, but I recognized the writing and it has pictures.”
He recognized the wallet. Forcing his breathing under control, Dylan took the wallet and opened it. Inside was Bridget’s drivers’ permit and library card. There was also a set of photos of the family. There was even one of Jackson and Duke. Closing it, Dylan squeezed it in his hands and his rage seethed like boiling water. It took everything he had to control it. He wanted to hurt someone and all he could think of was reaching this Delance guy and working him over for touching his sister’s body. “It’s her. And the scum who had her?”
“Locked up. Liam’s… dealing with him now.” The way Jason said the words made it clear that whatever Liam was doing was very final. Dylan felt as if the rug had been yanked out from underneath him. If Liam had the bastard, then there was no way Dylan’d ever get near him.
It was out of his hands. The rage took on a life of its own, and Dylan found himself swinging both fists at the wall, but it was Jason caught the blows instead and it sent him several steps back before he could brace enough to hold Dylan back. “For exactly that reason, Dylan,” Jason told him, sternly. “Beating the guy to death isn’t going to bring her back. It will make it harder for you to control yourself!”
The words stung with the sound of truth, and Dylan stumbled back, panting in a struggle to contain his anger. He leaned hands on his knees and worked on breathing, like Doctor Smith taught him. His anger had made him stronger; he hadn’t expected it, but the way that he’d driven Jason — much older and a powerful vampire — backwards proved it. Maybe it was too soon for him to leave the Center. He was a monster like the others, he’d just been pretending to be human.
“Upsetting my charge isn’t winning any points with me, Jay,” Anna said, entering with Dylan’s coat over her arm.
The anger hovered over him for a moment, but the breathing helped to drain it away until he felt grief settle into his heart. “It’s okay, Anna, fine, I’m fine. He didn’t do anything. Revanant caught me off guard, that’s all.”
“Funny how he talks like it’s someone else.” Jason said with a smirk.
Dylan waved him off with annoyance. “I know it’s me, dude, just, let me deal my way.”
He felt Anna’s arm slip around his shoulder and she pulled him into an embrace. “It’s ok, Dyl. It will pass. Just breathe.”
He almost pushed her away, but forced himself to wrap his arms around her waist and press his face to her shoulder. Carefully, he breathed in and out, and focused on his own body. He felt the thump-thump of his heartbeat, and the blood coursing through his veins. He could feel the draft in the apartment brush across hair on his arms, and the clothes touching his skin.
The weight of Anna pressed into him, reminding him he wasn’t alone. She wasn’t warm, but he could feel a slight vibration from her body, there was an energy moving though her that was comforting. The scent of her hair was sweet like blueberries and flour, and the skin against his cheek was soft. Her very presence reminded him why he wanted to remain human. If he lost to the revenant, he’d never remember why he was fighting in the first place, to protect and take care of people like Anna and his sister. To let people feel peaceful, like he felt now. He’d become nothing but a vessel of rage and hatred that wouldn’t care how many other people were destroyed on its path to vengeance.
Several minutes passed before he eased away and took his coat and hat from Anna. “I’m ready.”
“You sure you can do this?” Jason asked. “This’ll be three shades of ugly.”
Dylan didn’t blame him for doubting; after his sudden display, Dylan questioned himself. He hadn’t realized how much of his humanity he had really lost.
Anna’s hand found his and she squeezed it reassuringly. “I’m not leaving your side, Dylan. If you need me I’m here, and if worst comes to worst, I’m sure Doctor Smith or Doctor Sacco will be around to help out.”
“I’m not spending another month in that place.” That was a goal, at least. He had to prove to himself as well as those around him that he was capable of controlling his monster. His father had, so could he. “The sooner I get this done, the better.” He’d view the bodies, and with Anna’s help make the funeral arrangements. He’d then bury that part of his life for once and for all.