I watched Alex fly into the arms of another man, his ex-boyfriend. Rene. The French bastard.
Ok, so I didn’t know Rene at all, but he had to be a bastard otherwise why would he have let Alex go?
I stood there awkwardly as Rene and Alex erupted in a spate of French. I had no idea what they were saying. Then Alex motioned over to me.
“Rene, this is my friend GC Fields. GC, this is Rene Morel.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said, politely. He shook my hand, saying, “A pleasure,” in that smooth French way. He had a weak handshake, which made me smile inside.
“Rene was just telling me that he’s in town for an Art exhibit. I told you that he was an artist, right?” I nodded. “Well, he’s actually got some pieces in the Twinbrook Art Museum. He was invited here to show his work as a part of an international collection of young artists. Isn’t that great!?”
“Great,” I said.
“It is really notheeng,” Rene waved off Alex’s excitement. “There are others here from China and Egypt, too. And some local artists as well.”
“Don’t be modest,” Alex gushed. “Your work was always fantastic.”
Alex and Rene kept talking about the art museum and I tuned them out. I figured that I wouldn’t be going back to Alex’s apartment after all. I was eaten alive with jealousy as Alex seemed genuinely happy to see his ex. I might not be going home with Alex, but I was going to make damned sure that he wasn’t going to go home with Rene either.
“Maybe we should get a drink and sit down,” I suggested.
Although I was barely listening, I did find out that the exhibit at which Rene’s work would be shown was being sponsored by my mother and the Twinbrook Improvement Society. Hearing this, I mentally cursed her. She had taken up her charity work again now that dad was gone. I wish she had joined the school board or something else. Then Rene could have stayed in France.
Another thing I found out as Rene blathered on, was that he was related to someone named Pascal Morel. This name meant nothing to me, really, but according to Rene when he found out who my mother was, we were distantly related.
“Mais oui! Your grandmother, Candeece? She visit Champs les Sims and met mon uncle, Pascal. He visited your fair Tweenbrook and they were lovers, you see?” He shrugged in that offhanded French way as if becoming lovers with some French man-slut was a common thing. Still, I was so shocked by what he was saying that I sputtered on my drink.
“Candice had a lover? I thought her husband’s name was Jean-Paul?”
“Oh, Candeece and mon uncle deed not get married. He went back to France. But she had a child, non? Your mother? Leela Fields.”
I nodded. “Leela was Pascal’s child. Surely you knew thees?”
“I guess not. My mother doesn’t like to talk about her mother. Candice is gone now and we’re all grateful.”
“Ah. Je suis desole. I deed not mean to breeng up the past. But it is fascinating that we are cousins, non?”
“I think it’s awesome, don’t you GC? Imagine being distant relatives. What are the odds?” Alex was thrilled with the connection I unwillingly shared with Rene. “I sort of see the resemblance,” he said. Rene smiled at him, but I frowned.
We continued to talk until Mick at the bar called closing time. I looked at my watch and realized that it was nearly 2am. I had told TJ that I wouldn’t be home to feed Lydia, but I suppose I had no reason not to get home after all.
“Are you staying at the Twinbrook Inn?” I asked Rene. “We could drop you off there on the way home.” I really didn’t want to, but I figured that if we didn’t give the guy a ride, he’d end up at Alex’s place.
“Mais oui. Cousin Leela made the arrangements for my stay here.”
“You don’t have to stay at the Inn,” Alex said, which had me mentally cursing. “You could always stay with me.”
Now Rene looked at Alex and then back to me again. I suppose some of my feelings were showing on my face. I didn’t like Alex’s offer one bit. “Non, Aleex. We did not leave each other as the best of friends. I am ‘appy that we were able to see each other again, but I do not want to intrude.”
Alex seemed disappointed, but he accepted Rene’s refusal to stay at his place. I accepted Rene’s insistence in getting a cab, too. When he was gone, I turned to Alex and smiled, ruefully.
“I suppose we’ll have to take a rain check on your place tonight,” I said.
Alex nodded. “I’m sorry GC. I never expected to see Rene again.”
“I can’t believe he’s here.”
“Me either.” I sighed.
So Alex drove me home instead of going to his apartment. Trying to salvage something of the night, I leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I’m going to hold you to the rain check,” I told him. “I really wanted to see your apartment.”
“You don’t have to go home GC,” Alex smiled at me. His eyes sparkled at me mischievously. I could tell that he was thinking of what we had planned to do before we’d seen Rene. “I can turn around right now and go to my place.”
I was glad he still seemed to want me, but I said, “No. I’ll see you later. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
I never got the chance to call Alex the next day, though. Instead I was woken early by Lydia who needed changing. I came upstairs and found Becky in the kitchen making waffles.
“You missed your curfew, GC,” she said, not even looking up from her work.
“Yeah. Sorry. I called TJ, though.”
“I know. Did you and Alex have a fun night?” I could tell by the stiff set to her shoulders that she was angry and trying not to be.
“Not really,” I answered honestly. “We saw Rene in the bar.”
Becky turned around, her waffles forgotten. “Rene? Alex’s old boyfriend?”
Becky started to laugh. “Oh man! That’s so rich! Rene? Really?” She doubled over.
“Jeez, Beks. I don’t know why that’s so funny.”
“Karma! GC, karma.”
Grumbling, I went back downstairs to work out or distract myself with some video games. It was my day off, but I had no plans. It irritated me that Becky was right. Seeing Rene and Alex’s reaction to Rene, I had been jealous. It must have been how Becky felt with me…at least a little bit.
But Alex didn’t like Rene anymore, did he? I mean, they broke up long ago. And the Frenchman wasn’t going to be in town long, right?
I probably could have worried about Rene all day until I had called Alex, but I didn’t get the chance. TJ came pounding down the stairs calling my name.
“GC! Get your gear. We have to go in. Five alarm fire at the museum!”
“Shit!” I scrambled off my sofa and ran for my stuff. We got into TJ’s car and rushed out to the scene. We didn’t even stop in at the station. While TJ drove, I called us in. The Chief said our gear would be waiting for us on site.
The fire was in full effect when we arrived. We quickly suited up and headed over to the other firemen battling the blaze. TJ grabbed a hose and headed in. I stopped to talk to uncle Julian who was also there.
“Any chance of saving some of the artwork?” I asked.
“No. Not likely.”
“Probably. We’ll know once it’s out. But I have my suspicions.”
“You have to catch this guy!”
Julian nodded in agreement, his eyes on the fire. They were glowing red with his vampire powers. “I know that. And I think he finally made a mistake. I’ve got him now,” Julian muttered.
I didn’t have time to wonder what Julian had figured out. I heard a crash of a window blowing out. I rushed off to do my job.
Afterwards, I forgot the exchange with Uncle Julian. I didn’t remember until the next day when TJ and I were going over the details of the fire for our report.
“I think Julian found something last night,” I told my brother.
“He knows who did it?”
“I don’t know. He said something about a mistake.”
“We should go see him,” TJ said, voicing exactly what I was thinking.
So we went over to Julian’s house. Our aunt, Ashleigh, was home but Julian was not. “He’s at the police station guys. He hasn’t been home at all since the fire.”
“Thanks,” we said, giving her a hug before we took off again. We should have just called the police station before heading out, I figured. But it didn’t matter.
TJ and I arrived at the station and headed in to Julian’s office. We found him there on a video conference with the FBI’s vampire division.
“It’s the only explanation,” he was saying. “I know it’s crazy, but think about it. Vampires are different than humans. They have longer memories.”
Vampires? TJ and I exchanged a look. We didn’t know what the heck was Julian talking about.
“You think this is the work of a vampire?” TJ asked, startling Julian who motioned for us to take a seat. He finished told the FBI we were there and then put us on speaker.
“Vampires hate fire,” I said, remembering the lesson I had learned so long ago.
“Why would a vampire be trying to set fire to Twinbrook?” TJ asked persistently.
“We’re not sure if you’re right about this, Chief,” one of the FBI guys said over the speaker.
“I know I’m right, Jenkins,” Julian snarled. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“You found a connection between this fire and all of the others?” I asked.
“Yes.” Julian nodded.
“We think so,” the voice on speaker said.
“The school, the theatre, the junk yard, the stadium, the courthouse, and the art museum? What do they all have in common?”
“The Fields,” Julian said causing me and TJ to both gasp in shock.
“Not you specifically, but your family. Our family.” Julian told the FBI that he was going to explain things to us. He gave orders for them to look for a vampire with hair the color of dark blood and eyes that glued a shining green. For a minute, I thought he was describing my other uncle.
“Malcolm?” TJ clearly had the same thought as I had.
“No,” Julian shook his head. “Not Malcolm. Royce Kendrick.”
That name meant nothing to me. Maybe I should have known it, but I didn’t. Some of my confusion must have shown because Uncle Julian gave us a brief explanation of his father, Jean-Paul, and his grandfather, Royce Kendrick.
“Royce married an ancestor of yours, Gwen Fields. She was the cousin of your great, great grandfather, Mickey Fields, the musician. Gwen herself was a bit of a musician, but not as popular as Mickey. They had a child together, Jean-Paul. They lived next door to your grandmother, which is where Candice met him.”
“So, Royce is sort of like a great, great grandfather to us, too?”
“But I thought that Jean-Paul’s father ran off after Glenna Fields killed Jean-Paul. Didn’t he disappear at the same time as Candice?”
Julian nodded. “That’s what happened. Malcolm and I thought he had gone into the sun after our father’s death. He was devastated when Jean-Paul died. He never surfaced when Candice was running things in Bridgeport. At least we never heard about him.”
“Could he have been there?” TJ asked. I could tell that he was trying to remember the vampires that had tortured him and fed from him when we were kids. Could one of them have been Royce?
“How do you know that the fires were started by Royce? What makes you suspect that he’s the connection?”
“The school is where Candice and Jean-Paul met. Jean-Paul was the first vampire to have ever attended there. The theatre is where Royce met Gwen Fields. He and Gwen used to own it back in the day. The junk-yard was a place that Candice liked to go. She was into making bombs and setting fire to things. Royce was probably doing the same thing.”
“The courthouse is the obvious connection,” I said. “Mom worked there and so did Malcolm. But what about the stadium and art museum?” I asked.
“Few people know that Royce was a professional athlete while living with Candice and Jean-Paul in Barnacle Bay. And the art museum, well that one doesn’t seem to fit at all, except for one thing.”
“What thing is that? There hasn’t been an artist in the Fields family since Mickey Fields dabbled in it.”
“Ah, that’s true. But that’s not the mistake Royce made. Do you know who is showing at the Art Museum?”
I nodded. I had just spent the evening with one of the artists. Rene. “Sure, it’s young artists from around the globe. What does that have to do with the Fields?”
“It doesn’t. And that was the mistake Royce made. The artist he targeted at the museum is not connected to the Fields at all, except that he’s a relative of a certain French man.”
“Rene Morel!” I interrupted. “You’re talking about Rene. He’s related to Pascal Morel who had an affair with Candice when they were kids.”
Julian gave me a questioning look, like I had spoiled his surprise, which I suppose I had. But I still didn’t know why that was a mistake or even had anything to do with the arsonist.
“I still don’t get it.”
“Royce knew that Candice had slept with Pascal Morel while she was dating Jean-Paul. Pascal fathered Lila, your mother. It was something that infuriated Royce. Jean-Paul had made his father promise not to do anything to the young Frenchman because he had forgiven Candice for her indiscretion. He’d loved how wicked Candice was.
That’s why it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have made the connection had Royce not sought out a means of harming Morel’s descendent. It is only something a vampire would do. It is the type of vengeance a vampire would find acceptable.”
“That’s a pretty big leap of logic,” TJ said skeptically. “Why would Royce be doing all of this now? Candice is gone. Our mother is old and will die sooner than later. There’s only us for him to take vengeance on.”
“Exactly. You are like your mother, not seeing things the way a vampire would. Royce is punishing you, not your mother or Candice. He’s also punishing me and Malcolm, too.”
“That seems extreme.”
“Yes, it would seem that way. But I know that’s what he was doing. And he wants me to know it.” Julian looked thoughtful. “Perhaps the museum wasn’t a mistake after all.”
“What do you mean?”
“He wanted me to know.” Julian looked concerned, he started running out of his office. “Come on!” he shouted as he dashed past us. “To my house!”
Vampires move fast, so there was no hope of us catching up to him. By the time we arrived back at his house, Julian was already there. So were two fire trucks and several of our colleagues. They had the blaze under control, but it was still burning.
“Ashleigh!” Julian was screaming, panicking when he didn’t see her.
“There was someone inside!” I found the fireman in charge of the alarm. “A woman. Did you rescue a woman?”
“No one was outside when we got here. A neighbor called it in. She might still be in there.”
I started suiting up, using the extra gear in one of the truck’s compartments. “I’m going in,” I said.
TJ saw me and told me not to do what I was planning, but he couldn’t stop me. I had to go in. In my head I was seeing the fear in Candice’s eyes when she saw the fire in the warehouse. I also heard the screams of my sisters before our dad came to rescue us. I knew what it felt like to be in the middle of a blaze and not know if anyone would find you.
I found Ashleigh on the second floor. She was trapped in the bathroom, where she’d wisely gone to escape the blaze. Unfortunately the window was too high for her to escape from. Smoke was curling into the room, but the fire hadn’t reached her yet. I managed to carry her out. She was very fortunate.
“If he targeted me, he’s going to come for the rest of us, too,” Julian told me once he assured himself that Ashleigh was safe.
“Go get your mother. Get your sisters. Stay in one place.”
“But how are we going to stop him?” I asked. I didn’t know how safe we’d be if we were all in the same area. Couldn’t Royce come and burn us all down together in one massive pyre?
“I will call him out,” Julian said. “Malcolm and I. This is our fight. We are vampire, like Royce. He will answer our call.”
“So you’ll just fight him, like in the movies or something? What if you don’t win?”
“If we don’t win, you will all die. It will only be a matter of time.”
“Wonderful,” TJ said. “I’m not going out without a fight.”
“Protect your families,” Julian said. “Take Ashleigh with you and keep her safe, too.”
Ashleigh looked like she wanted to protest her husband’s orders, but she was too weak. I took her hand.
“Let’s get everyone together,” I said. “TJ, you call the girls. I’ll call Mom. We’ll meet at your house.”
Once we were all assembled, we waited. It was like waiting out a hurricane or other natural disaster. The worst part was that TJ and I were not used to waiting when people’s lives were in danger.
“I think we should go help them,” I said to my brother. “It might be the thing that brings Royce Kendrick down.”
“We can’t, GC. What about our families? Our children?”
He was right. There was nothing we could do but wait.
Hours passed. The longer it took, the harder it was to stay calm.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Mom kept saying. “I wish that Candice and her evil would just stay gone!”
“Candice is gone, Mom,” Laura comforted our mother. “She can’t hurt us.”
“But he can. He’s out there and he’s after us all because of her!”
“Julian and Malcolm will stop him,” I said with false confidence. “Julian saved us once before.”
We had to have faith that Julian could save us again, but it was hard. We put the children to bed, each of us tried to catch sleep whenever and wherever we could. Roselyn made lots of food, saying we all had to eat and cooking made her relax.
Near dawn, my cell phone rang.
“No. It’s Malcolm. I’m at the front door.”
I ran upstairs to the door where my uncle was waiting to be let in. He was alone, his face haggard.
“Where’s Julian?” Mom, who came up after me, asked when she saw Malcolm alone.
“He’s gone,” Malcolm said, wearily. He looked like he was going to collapse.
“Royce and he fought. Julian was angry, wanting revenge for what Royce had done to Ashleigh. He fought fiercely but full of emotion. Royce took him out. However, Julian’s sacrifice weakened our grandfather and I was able to fight him and win.”
Mom and Malcolm were both crying. “My brother is gone!” she sobbed, and threw herself into his arms. Ashleigh too was sobbing uncontrollably. I put an arm around her, trying to give what comfort I could.
When Malcolm had composed himself, I asked, “But Royce Kendrick is gone, too, right? Royce won’t ever trouble us again?”
“No, he won’t,” Malcolm agreed.
“And no other vampire will be seeking vengeance for his death, will they?”
“No. I am the last of his line.”
“I’m sorry Uncle Malcolm,” I said. “I wish it could have been different. Uncle Julian was a brave, good man.”
The entire city held a funeral for Julian. He had been the chief of police for a long time. Malcolm, who was still holding the office of governor, officiated his funeral, making sure that Julian was awarded full honors.
After Julian’s death, Mom’s health declined. She lived to see her grand children each turn three (Barbara and Laura both had babies around the same age as Lydia). She died in her sleep. Barbara, who found her, said she looked happy. I hoped that she was spending her afterlife with our dad, Keenan, and TJ’s dad, Franklin. And maybe she’d even hang out with Uncle Julian.
Alex and I did not get together after the fire. We never got our shower scene. I suppose it was for the best. Alex decided to go back to France where he now lives with Rene. As for me, I have moved on.
It took me awhile. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t take Alex’s decision easily. Another drunken night at the Hole found me hung over and sick as a dog waking up on an unfamiliar couch.
I managed to get up without throwing up and followed the sound of someone singing off key. I heard the sound of a shower. I had no idea whose bathroom I was standing in front of, but at the time I didn’t care. I couldn’t control my stomach any longer. Pushing the door open, I barely noticed the naked man who’d stopped singing mid-verse, as I was violently sick in the adjacent toilet.
I lay with my head cradled miserably against the porcelain as the water shut off and the guy stepped out.
“Sorry,” I managed.
“You’re a terrible drunk, GC,” the man said, chuckling. That’s when I knew that I had come home with Jake O’Donnell, my waiter at the bar.
I didn’t raise my head as I heard Jake towel off and head out of the bathroom. I still hadn’t moved when he came back in several minutes later.
“You should take a shower, GC. I put an extra towel out. I’ll be in the kitchen. I won’t make anything greasy like bacon or runny like eggs.”
I groaned at the thought of breakfast food. My stomach churned and I threw up again. Jake just laughed at me.
“The shower will help. See you in a bit.”
So I showered. I didn’t want to put on my nasty clothes again, so I came out in a towel. It would serve Jake right to have to see me naked, or nearly so.
“Wow,” he said, seeing me. is appraisal of my body had goose bumps rising on my flesh. “As much as I like this view,” Jake laughed at me, “You should put on some of Mick’s sweats. I am washing your clothes.”
I appreciated Jake’s hospitality, but while Mick wasn’t as skinny as Jake, his clothes were still sort of tight. Eventually Jake finished the pancakes and my clothes got washed. I was relieved to once again be in my own sweatshirt and jeans.
When we sat down to eat, Jake asked me about why I had gone to the Hole with the express purpose of drowning my emotions. He also told me more about himself. I realized that while I knew him from the Hole, I really didn’t know him well at all.
“Was it your mom?” he asked. “I heard about her death. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“No. Mom was old. It was her time.”
“Your uncle? Chief Harold? I knew him. I’m a cop, too, did you know that?”
I hadn’t known that. I had no idea that Jake was a cop. I thought he worked with his brother. So I asked him about it.
“Oh, I work for Mick sometimes. It’s a part-time thing. I’m just a rookie, so I don’t make a lot of money. I bought this house a few years ago and have been fixing it up. It’s a bit of a money sink.” Jake looked away, embarrassed.
“Why do you need such a big house?” I asked, grateful to change the subject.
Jake laughed. “Mick thinks I’m crazy. He doesn’t understand that I hope to raise a family here someday.”
“Oh, but I thought…” I trailed off. Had I been mistaken about Jake’s look earlier? I thought he was gay, too.
“Oh, I know it will be hard, but I’m hoping that I find someone who wants a family, too.”
“So you want to get married?” I asked.
“Sure. If it was legal here in Twinbrook. I know they’re talking about making it legal in Sim City.”
I gulped and nearly choked on my pancake. I guess I had been right about Jake after all.
“Careful GC,” Jake pounded on my back. “You don’t want to put yourself in the hospital…or do you? You seemed to want to drink yourself to death last night.
Even though I didn’t want to talk about it, I let him change the subject back to my drunken binge.
“It was Alex,” I finally told him. I told Jake all about Alex, Becky, Lydia…and Rene.
“You’ve got a pretty messed up life, GC,” Jake said when I finished. I laughed. It felt good to laugh about it.
“Alex once told me we were like an episode of Jerry Simmer.”
We both laughed. I noticed that Jake had a good laugh, an easy laugh.
“Do you want to go get some coffee GC?” he finally asked me. “My pancakes are great, but my coffee’s shit.”
We went out to the Bistro coffee shop and sat on the patio and continued to talk. Jake told me about becoming a cop, wanting to have kids and buying his house. I talked about my family, my vampire relatives, particularly Uncle Julian, and how glad I was that the arsonist was stopped but I wished that Julian hadn’t died.
“We all miss him at the station,” Jake said. “Chief Harold was one of the best.”
And that was my first date with Jake. We had coffee at the Diner, talking and laughing until I got a phone call from Becky wondering where the hell I was and why I hadn’t come home or called to let her know I hadn’t died or something.
“I called the hospitals, GC!”
I apologized, explained what had happened and then told her I was coming home. Jake squeezed my shoulder before I left. Our first caress.
“No more binges, GC. ‘Kay?”
“No. I think I’m done with that.” I smiled, noticing how his answering smile lit up his face. I smiled bigger, waving as I left.