The next day, Lillas was back in her cell, an armed guard outside. Lenshrader, her mother, and Viktor stood next to each other, arms crossed, waiting for answers.
“That was very clever…and impressive,” Viktor said, as if praise from him was what she wanted.
“Don’t encourage her,” Marisai snapped.
“No. But only someone of exceptional talent and control could do what she did so accurately.”
“We saw on the camera that you had a visit from Ravenna Merkanisch last night,” Lenshrader said. “Did she break you out of here?”
“What was on the paper she gave you?”
“Oh, you know, well wishes and whatnot.”
“Don’t help her!” Marisai yelled. “We know she put you up to this.”
Lillas scoffed. “Yeah. She put me up to it. It had nothing to do with him killing Alistar.”
“Where’s your proof?” Lenshrader yelled.
“I saw him!!! Who are you to yell at me as if you’re frustrated? What? You think I did that because I just didn’t have shit else to do on a Wednesday night?”
“No matter what you think you saw…”
“What I think?” she shrieked.
“This is not how we do things. We have laws…”
“Fuck your laws.”
“That is it!” Marisai protested. “Open the cell.”
Lenshrader began pulling his keys from his pockets. Lillas swallowed. If Marisai came in here, she didn’t know what she would do. There would be no repeat of yesterday that was certain.
“Actually,” Viktor said. “Why don’t you give me a moment alone with her?”
Both protested saying that it was a terrible idea. Then Lenshrader completely changed his tune. “That’s not a bad idea, Mari. Let’s let them talk for a moment.” He proceeded to escort Marisai away though she looked concerned. Obviously, worried her daughter would kill the priest. The armed guard followed.
Viktor and Lillas were silent until the time when the captain and the mother were completely out of the room. Once he was sure they were alone, Viktor smiled. “So, ice. Very clever. That was Ravenna’s idea, wasn’t it?”
Lillas swallowed, her jaw tightened. A conversation with this man may have been welcome yesterday, but now was nothing more than a tax, a punishment for an act of retribution. Ravenna was right. Death was too good for him.
“I want you to know that I truly am sorry about all of this.” His green eyes seemed heavy. Could be from guilt or maybe that was just how evil people looked. “I liked Alistar. He was a special kid. Much like you, he had yet to understand his gifts.” He paused as his eyes drifted to the floor at her cell. “Such a waste.”
“If you’re so broken up about it, why not admit what you did? For real this time?”
“Why don’t you make me?”
“Oh, that’s real mature.”
“You have more power than any other human on this planet, more than any vampire. Yet, here you are. Caged. This city should bow to you, but they treat you like a liar, a thief, a common criminal when there is nothing common about you. Think about it. With everything you can do, what’s keeping you from seeking what’s rightfully yours?”
“What’s rightfully mine?”
“Anything you want.”
“What do you think you were put here for? To sulk around, bouncing from one jail cell to another? Or maybe you were meant for something more. Maybe you were meant to lead mankind and all of its brethren. ”
She scoffed. “If this is your attempt to appeal to my ego, you should know I lost that a long time ago. Don’t think flattery will keep me from killing you.”
“Kill me. If that’s what it takes for you to see what you are, it will be a worthy death.”
“Why do you care? You don’t even know me.”
“You don’t need these people, Lillas. They need you. As soon as you realize that, you will be unstoppable.” He paused. “You’ve felt it before, haven’t you?”
“I know what the priest saw. How your eyes glowed; the air around you crackled. And all it took was a little more sorrow and hatred mixed with the anger you already feel.”
Listening to him, she couldn’t deny what he was saying. As soon as Alistar died, every element not only gravitated to her, but was a part of her. Was her. The last time power like that was at her command, she killed a lot of people. A repeat could not happen. “No. I don’t know what you’re trying to do. And I don’t care. But you need to get away from me. I am this close to committing a felony.”
“You can’t run from what you are.” Studying her, he took a breath. “Have you started seeing demons, yet? We were never really sure when that would begin.”
Lillas’s eyes grew wide and heart skipped a few beats. “How do you know about that? I’ve told only one other person. And she would never speak to you. Did you do something to her?”
He smiled then walked away.
“Viktor, what have you done to Nema? What do you mean ‘we’? Who else knows? Viktor!!!”
Angry, Lillas shook the bars then hit them. Fuck. Not that any other reason to kill Viktor was needed, but now he definitely had to die: he and anyone else he may have told about the demons. The whole world knowing she controls elements was bad enough. If anyone knew she also saw the dead of hell, that would be it. They would find a way to lock her up forever or kill her. And who would take care of her mother? Escape from jail was now a matter of life and death.
The front door opened. Jailbirds yelled Lenshrader’s name. No doubt he was coming to see her. Try to convince her to melt the ice. Not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Ha ha! Snowball.
The captain turned the corner and stormed down the aisle towards her cell.
“The answer is still no, Lens,” she said once he stood in front of her.
Saying nothing, he pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlocked her cell. “Your bail’s been posted…By Viktor Michael.”
Lillas crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll stay here.”
“Get out! Lillas.”
Jaw clenched, she exited the cell and followed him back to the main office where Marisai waited.
As she drove, Marisai said, “So, the very man you’re accusing of murder, OF MURDER, paid your bail.”
Lillas sighed. This was going to be the longest drive home in history.
“What do you make of that? Huh?”
“I mean, it says a lot. That the man you’ve attacked and slandered would pay for you to walk the streets, knowing that you could come to kill him any moment. It says a lot, doesn’t it?”
Business and apartment buildings passed at the speed of snail. Marisai’s voice bounced around the car like an echo in a dream, kind of there, but not really. Despite the sunlight the world seemed grey and small. Wait. These buildings…crap, they weren’t going home. Saying nothing Lillas bit her lip as she tried to hold back her temper.
“Have you been listening to anything I’ve said?”
“Lillas? Are you listening to me?”
No. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t. She hadn’t been for a while. And now the only thing she was paying attention to was the fact they were heading to the one place in the world she didn’t want to be. Well, maybe not the one place. There were a few other places. But this was the latest in a long list.
A dense crowd forced Marisai to park early. They would have to walk two blocks…just to see the cathedral. But for what? If this was Marisai’s plan to make her daughter feel guilty and change her mind, she didn’t understand just how stubborn Lillas could be.
Mother and daughter pushed their way through the crowd. Lillas held in a smile as she stood before the structure. The place would never be the same again, no matter what anyone did. Flashes popped all over the place. People posed in front of the big block of ice. Puddles formed where the ice had begun to melt.
Suddenly, a man turned and eyed them puzzled. Then recognition crossed his expression. “Hey, everyone! This is the bitch who froze the cathedral.” Then began the mass name-calling, screaming.
Lillas stood still, not sure what to do. Allowing them to hurt her was not an option. Would never be again. Her eyes turned white. A cloud of air surrounded her and Marisai. The dust kicked up by the wind, forced people to cover their eyes and step back.
“Alright, alright. People calm down.” Viktor appeared in front of the crowd, his white hair and green eyes shining like they had captured all of the sun’s rays. “Please. People. I know you’re angry about what’s happened here. This is your place of worship. However, I do not believe that this young girl is at fault.”
“Come on, Father,” a man yelled. “Who else could have done this?”
He held his hands up. “I admit that she did commit the physical act. But I believe that she was under the influence of another.”
What? What the fuck was he talking about?
“Last night, Lillas received a visit from Ravenna Merkanisch.”
Oh, that son of a bitch. Her fist clenched as did her jaw.
“If you’re not familiar with this vampire, she believes that vampires, these abominable creatures are the true inheritors of Earth. Not only does this belief go against God’s teachings, but Ravenna is willing to do anything to prove that humans are the weaker species. It is my belief that last night, while visiting Lillas, Ravenna took control of her mind and made her do this.” He gestured to the block behind him. “Lillas Mehkinnan is a child of Guild City. The daughter of a good man, an activist and restaurateur who was taken from us far too soon. This is not the work of a human in her right mind. This is the work of a demonic force. A vampiric force. Friends, it brings me no joy in saying this, but the vampires must be expelled from our city. If they could do this, what else are they capable of?””
Oh, holy shit. That rotten, slimy, treacherous, unnatural, murdering, heathen. Passing off her actions as the work of someone else, was bad enough. But this? Turning humans against his own people? What the hell kind of ugly, horrible soul did he have? Hitler’s? He must have Hitler’s.
“We cannot be at peace with a species that doesn’t want peace with us.”
Anger coiled around Lillas, suffocating her. Her eyes turned black as coal. The ground moved slightly at first, then more and more violent the angrier she became. Lillas didn’t notice. All she could see was Viktor’s face, a face that she used to think pretty before she realized what an ass he is. Now, he was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen. How could he do this?
This place was poison. She turned and ran away, opting to keep running until her legs just wouldn’t work anymore. An alley was just as good a place to rest as any. The air smelled of warm garbage, shit, and piss. Her lungs and arms burned. What was she going to do? Viktor was about to get away with one murder and maybe cause a few more and these people, these idiots were just playing into his hands. How could one group of people be so easy? Influence. Manipulation. He was controlling them. That was the only logical explanation.
The Nokia ringtone alerted her to a call. She flipped the phone open. Unknown caller. Who could be calling that she doesn’t know? Maybe a job offer? Maybe. Anyone else would come up. “Hello?”
“Hello, little one.”
That accent, that drawl in her voice. “Ravenna? What do you want? How did you even get this number?”
“I’ve been doing research for a long time. There’s nothing I can’t find.”
“Well, if you’re calling to talk about Viktor’s little lie. I had nothing to do with that.”
“I’m not. I actually was hoping we could have a word.”
Okay. Was she really wanting to sit with this vampira anywhere? Something about her was just wrong. Even more than her crazy anti-human rhetoric. But hell she couldn’t be worse than Viktor. None of Lillas’s friends had died at the hands of the vampire. And she did give her the brilliant idea to freeze everything Viktor owned. So, yeah. Maybe not so bad. “Alright. Where ya want to meet?”
“Where ever you want.”
She scoffed. “Yeah, okay, how about the Finney?”
“Hehehe. A girl after my own heart. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Tell them you want my reserved table.” Click.
No goodbye. No see you later. Just hung up. Ravenna was a weirdo. And really, a reserved table at the Finney? Lillas had been to the Du Rouge quarter and seen that not all vampires were loaded. Kinda made her wonder how Ravenna made her millions.
Fifteen minutes later, Lillas was at the Finney, the most posh restaurant in the city. Her family owned four restaurants. Not a one could compete with this place. Only once, when she was young, had she ever set foot in here. And she literally got to the lobby and was turned away. Asses. They didn’t even ask what she wanted. All she wanted was to pee…and maybe eat something. Steal something to eat. Actually, maybe they were right to turn her away. Who knows? She’d love to see them try that now though. Turn this place inside out.
A tall pale man stood at the door. No bigger than a Pixy Stick, his black suit drowned him. She would bet anything that he hated his job just from the look of boredom tattooed to his face. “Can I help you?” he asked, staring down at her in every sense of the term.
“Ravenna Merkanisch’s table.”
He looked her up and down then frowned. “Is she expecting you?”
“She eats people. Do you really think I’d ask for her table knowing that if she didn’t invite me?”
“Heh!” He stepped away from the podium. “Right this way.” He opened one of two large wooden doors, the biggest doors she’d ever seen. The decorations etched into them were so pretty that she wished she had some artistic talent. Maybe one day she’d learn something. Carving. She could carve things. She liked knives and wood and all that.
Walking through those doors, she understood what the kids must have felt like going from a wardrobe to Narnia. The ceiling was so high. Higher than the Viktor’s cathedral, surely. Everything was draped in shimmering gold and white cloth. A live band played on a stage in the corner. Everyone wore suits or some nice business clothes. Not what she was expecting. She thought everyone would be wearing ball gowns and tuxedos. Maybe that would happen tonight.
The man walked her up a flight of stairs. There was another short flight of only four stairs. Then they passed through a set of velvet curtains and entered a box much like the ones used at the theater.
Lillas gasped. “Wow. This is where she sits…all of the time?”
He smiled at her naivety. “It is. There are menus to your left. Order anything you like.”
Anything she liked!!! Words she hadn’t heard in…well, she couldn’t remember ever having heard those words. She must have looked like a fool with the giant stupid grin on her face. But she couldn’t help it. The more she tried to calm herself, the dumber she felt which made her want to laugh even more.
A waiter entered the box as she grabbed a menu. “Can I get you anything to drink, Ms?”
“Um, I don’t know. Let me…” She coughed upon seeing the prices of everything. What kind of water costs this much? And why? Was there crack in it? There would have to be. That was how they got you. No one in their right mind would pay these prices just for simple food. Burgers, caviar aka fish eggs. Even the soup was going to cost an arm and a leg…if you were lucky, that’s all it would cost. And she would bet anything she could cook better than all the cooks in here combined. Probably.
“I’ll have a glass of tap water…with lemon.”
“Wait. How much is that?”
“Um, it’s free…tap water is free.”
“Free? Then I’ll take two glasses.”
“Well, I can leave you a pitcher if you’d like.”
“Yes! That would be great. Thank you.” The waiter walked away. She placed the menu on the table. No way was she ordering anything from here. Who could eat this knowing how much they paid for it? If it were her, all she could taste is money. Everything would taste like twenties and hundreds. Not the best of seasonings on a good day.
Instead of a meal, Lillas chose to take in the sight of where she was. From here the entire lower level was visible. The architecture was amazing, pillars and Greek columns. There were huge paintings on the walls that may have been old, but art was never her strongest subject so she wasn’t sure.
Waiters and Waitresses moved around carrying trays of food and drinks. Not a speck was on the floors or table cloths. Everything was the most pristine she’d ever seen. These people had no idea how lucky they were. To be able to sit here, not indebted to anyone, not living in shitholes with shittier people, people who used and hurt just because they could. She’d give anything to even be a waiter here. Hell, she may even apply after this whole Viktor mess blew over. Assuming, of course, she didn’t find herself with a permanent address at the state pen.
“Ah, you’re here.” Ravenna took a seat.
Lillas found not only had Ravenna entered, but at some point the waiter had returned, pitcher on the table, and poured a glass of water. Nervous and needing to avoid Ravenna’s gaze she took a sip of water then looked out over the patrons.
“You know what’s great about humans?” Ravenna asked.
Oh, boy. She couldn’t wait to hear this. “What?”
“No matter how rich they are or how poor, how smart, the anatomy, the chemistry, the basic principles of being human are all the same.”
She locked eyes with her. The vampira’s green irises seemed to read her, to study her. The last time someone looked at her like that, she ended up locked up in a cell that didn’t allow her use her gifts. “Is this the part where you do something crazy?”
Ravenna smiled, her fangs sliding over her lip. “Why? Do you feel a need to protect them? To keep them safe from the big bad vampira?”
Not knowing how to answer, she shook her head and looked away.
“Humans get so caught up in these imagined statuses they lose the simplicity of existence. They think everything comes down to money, or homes, or education. You know what everything really comes down to?”
Lillas looked at her. She didn’t look back, too focused on the humans below. Suddenly, silence dropped onto the people like a brick. Everyone stopped. People were sat back in their chairs or stood in mid-action.
“Us,” Ravenna said. “We are the only things that matter. After millions of years, you’d think humans would have learned something by now, would have figured it all out. But no. They haven’t. They must be the slowest species on Earth.”
“You do realize you’re talking to a human?”
“Yes. But you’re not just any human, are you? All of that power. You’re closer to us than you are to them. And if you don’t believe me, watch how quickly they turn on you.”
“Turn on me? They don’t even know me?”
“They’re about to.”
“What? Why do you even care?”
“Viktor is going to use you to start a war between humans and vampires. You have to be in the middle and lead both.”
“You want me to do what? Are you crazy? I can’t get through a year without getting arrested, without a traffic, violation even, and you want me to lead two species hell-bent on killing each other? What is wrong with you?”
She smiled. “You’re afraid. I understand. But your enemies are not afraid. Viktor killed Alistar. His next move will be to turn that act into one that will justify humans’ complete disregard for their descendants, which, as much as I hate to say it, is what vampires are. Everything will distract from the fact that a boy has been killed. You need to be prepared for that.”
“No one is going to forget about Alistar. I won’t let them. I will always know what he did and I will never let him or anyone else forget.”
“Then you know what you have to do.”
Pause. Searching for the answer. Nothing. The hell was she talking about? “No. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.”
Ravenna sighed. “Dear God, don’t be slow. Take control. They all need you. You don’t need anyone. All they respect is power. You are the greatest power of all. Remind them of that.”