Jamaica Blue Magic: Chapter Two
It had been years since he thought of how his parents died. Was it a memory or a vision? Memories and visions were often difficult to tell apart, especially now. Did it matter? Anna’s death had dredged up a whole dark load of baggage. It was hard to sort it all out. Why couldn’t everything stay buried where it belonged? Then again, he hadn’t stayed dead, so why should bitter memories?
Dylan floated face-down in the crystal-clear water of Jamaica and stared at the sandy bottom below him. It was quiet and still, save for the occasional fish that darted into his vision, then fled when they got a sense of the revenant energy animating his body. He could float in the water for hours, staring at the flickering moonlight reflecting off the sandy bottom. Dylan didn’t need to breathe, and being undead, nothing in the ocean would dare eat him, not even the bull sharks skulking about the shallows; they could sense that here was a far worse predator than any of them.
The memories, as always, dredged up more memories. One of the most essential facets of being a revenant was that you dwelt in the past. You existed because you refused to let go.
And here he was, trying to let go.
He chuckled at that, releasing a few bubbles. So much had happened after that terrible day; some of it even worse, like Bridget being turned and him having to stake his own sister in a combination of terrified self-defense and monster-hunter delusions of saving the damned; some of it far better, like the first time he’d seen Anna, an avenging angel with a belt-whip.
Most of it… most of it had just been growing up, he realized. Coming to understand that nothing about the world was simple, and almost none of it was what he’d believed. Realizing that the LeHunt job—the attempt to rip the lid off of the hidden world of monsters—hadn’t just been a terrible failure, it had also been another in a long series of murders.
For an instant he saw the child-vampire in her hidden grave-bed, and it was as vivid as the moment he first saw her. His body shuddered in the warm water as he managed to wrench himself back to the present rather than let that memory take him on a flashback tour of the past again.
But even that didn’t banish all the memories, or the lessons he’d learned. Like the fact that most of the so-called “monsters” were just people with unusual problems. They weren’t the accursed of God; they weren’t possessed by fallen angels or created by satanic magic. Or if they were, it wasn’t the way he thought. Vampires, ghouls, revenants, zombies, fae, demons—all of them were people. Even demons weren’t necessarily evil, even though they did have to feed on negative or selfish emotions and drives. They could find harmless sources for those, just as vampires could find ways to feed on blood without ripping out throats. Hell, one of the absolutely nicest people he knew was a succubus who managed to feed through explicit games on the Internet.
It was Anna who’d taught him all that, and more. She’d saved him from that younger punk of the Blackwell family and his little gang. She’d convinced Liam, the most ancient of the immortals of New York, to give Dylan a chance, despite having been a hunter. She’d made him … better. And when Dylan fell in love with her, she held him off without hurting him, until she was sure of what both of them felt.
He felt the pure electricity of their first real kiss in the New York underground, where he was about to duel a vampire to the death, and fought free of that memory, tears leaking into the crystal sea: the same tears he’d been trying to escape for a long time.
Dylan hadn’t wanted to go on vacation. But there he was, under the clear, star-filled, velvet night sky of the Caribbean on an isolated Jamaican beach.
Qui had arranged for them to stay in a private cabin on the west side of the island in Negril. The cabin was private, on a white sand beach, surrounded by palm trees, hook-rooted mangroves, and exotic yellow and orange flowers. It was warm and beautiful, and the night was clear and dark, but Dylan was too caught up in losing Anna to care.
Letting go of the past was almost impossible for a revenant, but nevertheless, that was what he was here for. What he had to do, because he had to accept that Anna was dead, that she’d been dead for a long time. He had to accept that, not just for his sake but for hers, and for everything they’d been to each other—and everything they’d built together.
Had it been three weeks since Liam had showed up in his apartment to tell him? Close to it. He’d spent most of the time working, after. If Qui and Filipe hadn’t insisted, he wouldn’t have come, but they said Louis wouldn’t go unless he did. So he went.
And that was really it, wasn’t it? Liam may not need his protection, but Qui? Filipe? Vic and Yu and Angelus and Raven, the Twins, poor Sam, Alice? Even Louis, sometimes. He had to take care of himself so he could take care of them.
It was twenty-four carat irony, really. He’d gone from monster-hunter to renfield to, eventually, revenant, and somewhere along the way he’d become someone running a halfway house for all the outcasts: zombies, ghouls, demons who didn’t fit highblood society, shapechangers, accidental vampire spawn… anyone that would be culled in other cities, so-called monsters who just wanted to live their lives like anyone else.
So there he was, barely in Jamaica, floating in the Caribbean, looking at the sandy bottom, wondering how Louis would surf on calm seas, or if he’d decide the vacation was a bust and drag them both back to New York, where Dylan could go back to work.
“You are lucky no one can see you. They would think you drowned,” Louis said. “I thought revenants sank.”
“We should; dunno why I don’t.” Dylan rolled over in the water and stiffened his back so he floated and looked up at the cloudless sky. Everything was calm.
Louis lay on his surfboard, arms folded under his head, legs dangling in the water. “It’s Anna’s blood, my friend. You’re not all revenant. She is still with you.”
His face twitched. He wanted to smile, but how could Anna be with him if he hadn’t even felt her death?
“I just go back to the same thing, Lou. Both of us knew when I raised as a revenant that her blood was either going to play a part or do very little, because she made me, effectively, after I became half-revenant. Then I died, and she wasn’t even sure if I was going to come back. It was all a crapshoot.”
He almost never talked about what had happened after his duel with Keith. He floated in silence a moment, attempting to gather his thoughts. It had been years since he’d thought about it.
“I was dead for about a week. Didn’t rot, just didn’t move. Anna was going to give me a week before she put me in the ground.”
“Vamps raise in 24 hours.”
“Yeah, vamps do; revenants, on the other hand, raise whenever the soul feels like it.”
“You didn’t decay, though. That’s a sign of vampirism,” Louis added, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I think you think about these things too much. We reflect our natures differently. Just because you don’t drink blood and sleep in a coffin doesn’t mean you don’t have her pumping in your veins. Magic is magic. It affects everyone differently.”
“Lou, I’m more revenant than anything, and whether there’s enough vampire in me to keep me from sinking isn’t going to change the fact she left because she was worried about me. She’s gone, I didn’t feel it happen, and I miss her.”
He felt a pit of grief open in his gut and Dylan closed his eyes. Wasn’t that why she’d told him she wanted to find Reggie? She wanted to ask him about Dylan. She wanted to find a cure for his revenant curse. He realized that the depression was starting to lift. He was thinking sense now. He remembered Anna’s concern about him when she left. She saved me, she taught me, she loved me, and I need to remember that. Not live in that.
“You don’t need to hang out here, Lou. I mean, the waves suck, but I’ll bet there’s some nightlife you’d be interested in.”
“I could use the quiet tonight.” The man smiled lazily. “Maybe we can both go out after a few laps?”
“Why not? A little exercise helps to ease a troubled mind!” The Cajun slipped off his surfboard and started to guide it into the shallows. “I will drop my board off on the beach and we will make our way to the pier.”
The pier? Straightening up, he treaded water, squinted ahead in the dark. The pier was a good mile off. “Are you sure you’re up for that, Lou? I mean, you’re still breathing.”
“Of course I’m up to it, I surf the fucking Atlantic in January. The sea is my mother,” Lou called back.
The revenant shrugged. There was so much he didn’t know about his friend. Louis was resourceful, and a very shrewd businessman. Between Lou and Filipe, O’Reily’s stayed open for business despite the drain of the halfway house and Dylan’s weekend activities. And it wasn’t just the life of his business; Lou walked the daylight when Dylan slept, so Dylan’s life was literally in Lou’s hands every day. But he trusted Lou implicitly.
As Louis dove back into the water, the swirling currents seemed to part around him as though they were alive and he were a respected Elder.
Dylan leaned forward and began swimming smoothly towards the distant pier. Water parted before him and trailed behind in swirls of faintly luminous foam, the ghost-light of bioluminescence. Even for a revenant, pushing through water for yard after yard took effort, keeping on course demanded focus, and he had to admit Louis was, once more, right. This swim was just what he needed. It kept him moving, his mind from focusing on Anna and how depressed he was, replacing brooding with a sense of purpose and motion.
By the time they were done, both hands slapping the rock of the pier at the same time, Dylan felt energized, ready to explore the island. Negril was known for its clubs and nightlife. They quickly made their way up the beach to the bright red beach house.
The house was set back into the palm trees on a sandy hill surrounded by mangroves and brush. Its deck was painted white, with delicate molding along the edge of the roof and red clay shingles. It was homey and private, with no other cabins for about a mile around. There were two bedrooms, a small kitchen just off the living space with a TV, wicker shelves, and a red leather couch with two matching easy chairs. There was no cable, but there was an air conditioner, although Dylan didn’t figure they’d need it much. Lamps sat on tables near the chairs and gave the room decent light, plus there were track lights on the ceiling in the kitchen.
The kitchen itself was equipped with a microwave and a gas stove, but that wasn’t all; it also boasted a food processor, a variety of measuring tools, an espresso machine, and many different kinds of pans. Dylan was impressed. Granted, he was dead and unable to eat, but Lou was still very much alive, so he planned on cooking in for his friend some night, and the small kitchen had everything he needed. The kitchen table was small, just right for two people, and there wasn’t much counter space. But they had a decent amount of room to move around, and there was a butcher’s block in the center of the marble kitchen floor. Really, a nice little house.
Luckily, his room had only one window, and the black shade was solid and tight around the edges, making it easy for him to sleep without having to go into the closet or under the bed. Dylan liked his room; it was simple, with a bed, dresser, adjoining bathroom with a shower, and nice homey closet. He liked the hardwood floors, and the bold green and red bed-spreads, and the palm tree paintings. It even had a big round wicker chair like in the old movies. It was… different, and what he’d imagine from a place like Jamaica.
It didn’t take Dylan long to shower and dress. He didn’t need to worry about hunting. He’d promised Louis he’d relax and try to enjoy himself. Still, he had brought his hunting bag, and hidden it in the closet. He never left unarmed. Even tonight, he strapped on his magnum out of habit.
Then he gave a mild curse and took the gun off, packing it away. We paid a hell of a bribe … well, Louis paid a hell of a bribe, I wouldn’t know who to pay… to even get this gun into the country. Yeah, I’ve got a permit, but Jamaican gun laws are vicious. Dylan had no intention of being caught with a firearm and trying to argue with the police; ending up in Jamaican prison was not an entertaining idea at all. Instead, he took one of his cold-iron knives which he could mostly conceal, even wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
Now he was ready to go, except for the fact that he kept thinking about the coffee shop and the halfway house. This time of night, he’d be playing games with Raven, Vic, and Nickie because they needed someone to keep them company when they were done with the center. Raven’s probably knocking down the twins’ door by now. Hope they don’t bite her head off. That was a potentially literal concern when dealing with twins who could shapeshift into full-size Kodiak bears.
Then there were Angelus and Jaivin. How in hell was Angie going to keep up with everyone and his classes? Qui would have to pull his time, and Qui did not work well with the kids. The thought made him pick up his cell phone.
The cellphone’s wireless signal blinked one very short bar. Damn, reception sucks out here. He forced himself to pocket the cell. He finished dressing and stepped out into the living space. Louis was already dressed and standing in the kitchen.
“Hey Lou, lookin’ sharp!”
Of course, Lou didn’t need to try to look sharp; he looked good in anything he wore. The Cajun had decided to dress casual in tan cargo shorts and a red “surfing evolution” T-shirt. His long dreadlocks were tied back.
“I wonder how Raven and the other kids are doing?” Dylan said aloud. He quickly pulled his blond hair back and tied it. He glanced in the mirror, seeing the blue jeans and the dark-blue T-shirt he’d chosen. He added his hat for flavor. “I should give Angelus a call once we get better reception. I know Vic and Sam were still having problems. Raven was still acting up. She might be mad we’re away now, and Angie’s got Jaivin to take care of. Qui and the Twins… they’re still being trained.”
“Raven will be fine. Angie is there, and Sacco and Martin are helping out.” Lou took his wallet from the cabin table and put it in his pocket. “You need to relax, Dylan. Your problem is that you insist on micromanaging. You gotta trust your friends and focus on what’s important now: you.”
Focus on what’s important? Dylan grabbed the cabin key from a small tray on the kitchen table. He didn’t think that taking a vacation was what was important, and he didn’t agree that he took on more than he could handle. But he knew better than to argue with Lou.
“Alfred’s Ocean Palace. Good music, nice pace, great shows. I was there the last time I was here. And I’ll drive.”
Together the two men stepped out of the cabin.
“The last time you were here? When was that?”
“I have no idea, sometime in the nineties,” he said. “I think.” Lou’s voice dropped as they climbed into the rental blue white canvas topped jeep.
“What do you mean, ‘I think’?” Dylan looked at his friend curiously. “I was under the impression you were sharp as a tack, Lou, not suffering from Vampire senility like Liam and Doc Smith.”
“I think you need to add the word selective when it comes to them.” Lou gunned the engine. “As for me… There are times where my life is crystal clear, and then I have dreams or flashbacks of other things that I can’t recall, and everything just stops making sense.” He backed the jeep out of the parking lot as he spoke. “Vampires have a way of messing with your memories and changing thoughts.”
Was he talking about his maker? The one who’d made Louis a renfield in New Orleans?
“Do you want to talk about it?” Dylan reached up and pulled down the seat belt and snapped it. “So you remember more than three hundred years?”
“Might. I remember the island pretty clearly. I’ve come here a few times. I do remember a colonial marketplace and old sailing ships. Other memories say I was a slave in New Orleans at the same time. Those are the ones I told you about when I first came. There are times, though, that they don’t seem real to me.” He shrugged.
“Trauma does that.” Like being a renfield, Louis had PTSD. “When my sister tried to kill me as a vampire, that doesn’t seem real either.” Neither did the death of his father and mother. “Heck, the Blackwell business never felt real either. Especially the night my parents died. It felt like a bad horror flick.” Maybe there was a reason he had finally recalled what had happened. He rubbed his brow.
Lou steered the Jeep on to A1, and headed south.
“It is different than that. It is layered, like two different events happening at the same time. But eh… Time will work it out.”
“Layered?” Dylan leaned his arm over the door of the jeep. A warm breeze whipped into his face as he looked out the window. “Like marketplaces in Jamaica, and working at a plantation in New Orleans?”
“Is there anything that feels right and real to you?”
Lou smiled broadly, looking out at the shore. “The ocean. It seems to be the only consistent memory I have. I am connected to it. Every memory I have is of somewhere on the ocean.”
“Well, that’s something, at least.” Dylan thought about how the sea appeared to part around Louis.
Plains of grass and brush rolled by as they drove, and Dylan thought about the day Louis had showed up on his doorstep. It was two months after Anna left. Dylan was just getting his feet back on the ground and used to life after withdrawal from blood addiction. A revenant who was also a renfield, living with and off a vampire like Anna, came to rely on their blood for a lot of things. Going cold turkey off it was not fun. Louis came in looking for a job. A week later he had told Dylan he was a renfield and in need of blood to survive.
Unlike revenants and other undead, the living just died when broken of blood addiction, and Lou had no interest in dying. Dylan had hooked him up with the center, and he became one of Dylan’s charges.
In return, he had started to work the day shift. As his counselor, Dylan didn’t push the man. Dylan knew most renfields had it rough with vampire patrons. If Louis wanted to discuss his past, he would. Instead, their relationship became one of professionals rather than counselor and patient. Louis appeared to prefer it that way. In fact he thrived, and was more independent than any renfield blood addict Dylan had met. The man was more together than Dylan himself.
It was after Dylan’s second mental breakdown that he made Louis a full time partner of O’Reily’s (Filipe ran his own business and Angelus wasn’t interested in being a baker or a barista). He had found that they thought alike and shared the same laid-back approach to business, and both of them enjoyed cooking. Louis also had an uncanny habit of speaking like Anna. He was carefree, very intelligent, loved the arts, and didn’t like dwelling on unpleasant things. He also liked playing jazz. Working with him just felt right.
Over the years they had developed a strong friendship, though Louis kept as independent and aloof as possible. Dylan never pushed it, fearing he’d step too far. Over six years, the man had remained an enigma and appeared happy that way.
“I don’t know, dude. Surfing the Atlantic in November is fucking crazy.” Dylan said. “Then again, guess hunting in Central Park isn’t the brightest thing either.”
Louis laughed. “That is why we are in the Caribbean, is it not?”
“Point. Guess Qui got sick of our batshit crazy stunts, overworking, and antisocial behavior.” He leaned back into his seat and closed his eyes. “So, Alfred’s Ocean Palace? Sure it’s still there?” Centuries-old people often found themselves thinking something sixty years ago had happened practically yesterday.
Lou grinned. “It was on Anthony Bourdain and YouTube, so yes. Seafood, performers, music, drinks, beach; you shouldn’t get too bored there.”
“At least there’s more than just food and women, since I can’t do the one and I’m not ready for the second,” he said, then closed his eyes. “Anything to take my mind off the last six years sounds good. What about you?”
“I’m there for the food, music and women. Gotta live in the moment. Who the hell knows how long the good times will last?”
Six years without Anna. Six years of disappointment, or had it been 6 years of denial? That was when she’d left to look for her sire. When had she died? Four years ago? Daniel had been with them almost four years now. Now Daniel’s son was with them, without Anna. Life, no, unlife was unfair. Had he made the right choice staying behind and tending to the café, or had that very choice burdened his friends? Sometimes it seemed to. “I guess.”
He glanced at Lou, and thought of Angelus, Qui and the twins. It had started out all right. He did stabilize after the first year. He had thrown himself into his work. But they were right. Over the years he had started to stress, slowly sank deeper in denial. WHY? Was it just the way revenants were? It was more than just Anna. Had to be. He had sought out hunts, and started to relish the violence again. It had helped him to escape, but that wasn’t a good thing.
“I guess I’m going back to two sessions a week with Sacco before I end up getting my ass locked up again,” he said absently.
Lou glanced at him, brow cocked. “That bad? I’ve been slacking off myself. My jazz eases my soul better than talking about it.”
He shrugged. “Hard to say for sure. But it could be. I wish my baking was like your jazz. Right now, I don’t wanna risk it? Would you in my shoes?”
Louis turned his attention back to the road. “Nope. No, I don’t think any of us want to risk that. Revenants are bad news. Jason will have to put you down.”
Dylan knew why, too. He was the revenant who had terrified the Blackwell family by taking out most of their enforcers and several family members in NYC, on his own, with nothing but a baseball bat and a shotgun. He hadn’t even been a full revenant at the time, just a slightly boosted human, a renfield. If he lost control over himself now, with the full powers of a revenant? Dylan shook his head, shuddering at the thought. He knew what kind of a monster he could be, and if that happened, putting him down would be a nightmare.