Trouble at Home
Janus arrived at his shop right at 9:05, same as he did every morning, despite the optimistic sign that said the store opened at nine in the morning and closed at six at night. Most times, Janus got the front door open a little after nine and was ready to start dealing with people an hour after that. It was also a pretty rare night when he could get everyone out of the shop by 6, usually there were stragglers hanging around browsing until at least 7.
But, he still posted those hours, and every week, he vowed anew to stick to them. And, in turn, every week he broke that vow by Tuesday.
He parked his motorcycle outside the back door, knowing with the leaves falling he only had about a month of riding left. Minnesota might be beautiful, but the seasons seemed a bit too extreme at times.
The store was filled with books, magic tricks, knick knacks and just about everything else you would imagine in a old movie curio shoppe. Janus had just kind of let the business happen, starting dealing used books, then finding the shop attracted more esoteric things than last month's Harlequin romances. Then, he started selling slight of hand magic tricks so he could have an excuse to play around with them when the place was slow.
He put a cup of water in his microwave, and turned on the lights. After last night, he felt good to be back here. He would call it home, but he was here more than there...
He opened the front door, and the only thing waiting for him there was the morning paper. The headline read "Still No Leads On Missing Child" in huge type. He cursed silently to himself. If what Johnny had told him last night, this little girl's disappearance was planned to draw him into conflict with someone....or something> Johnny hadn't been too clear about it, but then, he never was.
Vampires are not the most direct creatures. He got his water out of the microwave and dropped a tea bag and a spoonful of honey in it. Then sat down to start reading.
Just as he was getting started, the front door opened, setting off Janus's door buzzer. Most stores had a buzzer or they had something that would give a musical tone. Janus's said, in a female voice, "Wake up, someone's just come in."
As he looked up, it was Harry. Harry was a reported with the Midnight Sun, and dressed like he hadn't left college yet. Dirty blue jeans and a T-shirt advertising some obscure rock band were his usual attire, and today was certainly no different. He carried his duffel bag over his shoulder, which usually held his writing equipment, what passed for clean clothes and his tape recorder. "About time you showed up, I had to hang out over at Perkin's waiting for you."
"Yeah, nice to see you too," Janus said, putting the paper down. He knew whatever Harry was here for, it would command his full attention. Harry would make sure of it. Besides, they had a business relationship. Harry had worked out a deal with Janus years ago that Harry would get exclusive, true stories (as close to true as the Midnight Sun would publish) in return for a little money, and taking Janus to places where his "talents" could be put to good use.
"I thought I'd drop by and see how you were doing after the California trip. The paper ran that little story last weekend I hadn't heard from you," Harry said, plopping his bag down and pulling up one of the many chairs that were scattered around the store.
"I'm doing...better," Janus said. He remembered the trip home, and how he had spent the whole time going over and over the choices he had made out there. Forcing a lie into someone's mind, covering up info from the police. Sure, he was able to find the person who was ripping off those businessmen, but he still wasn't sure if the ends justified the means.
"Good. Now I can skip the pleasantries and get down to the real reason I dropped by," Harry said, lowering his normally boisterous voice, "I heard that a mutual friend of our was here in town looking for you."
Janus frowned, "Yeah, Johnny was here last night. The old bloodsucker thought that he had some info that might erase our debt."
"What did you do?"
"Kicked his butt in chess, that's what I did, why is it such a concern of yours?"
Harry leaned back a bit, trying to look like he didn't care much, but his eyes betrayed him, "I don't know," he lied, "I just thought I would follow up on it. The rumor's been going around Chicago."
"Harry, you didn't even come up in the conversation. I doubt if he even remembers you trying to play Van Helsing, it was a tad busy if you recall."
Harry's shoulders slumped a bit in relief and he got up to wander around the store. Janus picked up the paper and looked at the front page, more details about the little girl who had disappeared a few days previously. Her name was Kelly Evens, six years old, and had wandered away from her mother's home in the late afternoon. Around nine at night, the mother finally called the police, and no one had seen her since.
Johnny thought that was some sort of a game someone wanted to play with Janus. If it was a vampire, it would be a bit strange. Sure, they were around, but they knew that this area was off limits. Part of the "bargain" Johnny had struck with Janus back in Chicago all those years ago.
Janus tried to put the paper aside, but there was some kind of nagging feeling about it he couldn't shake. He reached under the counter and pulled out his battered old deck of tarot cards.
"Hey, you getting ready to tell a fortune?" Harry said, noticing the cards.
"Nope, I can't ever figure out all the mumbo jumbo about telling the future....I just use them as sort of a clarity aid. When I can't pin something down, I'm able to use the cards to point me in the right direction."
Janus shuffled and then emptied his mind, allowing himself to be calm. He then focused his thoughts on what he'd read in the paper and pulled three cards, past, present and future.
He opened his eyes and turned over the first, the past, "Hmmmmm... ten of swords, reversed. Certainly fits what happened in Chicago...." the next card, the present, "Knight of Swords, odd...." the final card, the future. Janus was ready for some sort of vague clue about what was going to happen, when he turned the card over.
What he got was a bit of a shock...a picture of Minnehaha Falls had bit sitting on the counter and gotten stuck to the card, covering its face. For some reason, he could feel a form of energy from the picture. Normally, pictures had very little in the way of resonance, but this one almost pulsed with the power it contained.
"What's the last card," Harry asked, and Janus was shaken out of his thoughts and realized he hadn't looked at what card had stuck to the picture.
He turned it over and saw the Chariot, reversed. And upcoming battle in which he could gain an unethical victory. "It's a bit odd, Harry. The first card shows that whatever is going on has roots in a battle we've won in the past with the help of higher spiritual powers.
The present card shows a person who's about to rush headlong into my life. The final card" how to phrase this. Janus didn't believe in future signs, but he had been fighting a few ethical battles and losing, "shows that a battle is coming in the future."
"Well, that's sufficiently vague. It could mean just about anything. Kind of like a horoscope that says 'travel is in you future," Harry said, wandering back off through the selves of the store.
"Yeah, something like that," Janus said, staring once again at the picture of Minnehaha Falls. Odd, he thought, I don't think I've ever taken a picture of the falls in my life.
* * *
Later that night, on the ten o'clock news, there was a break in the case of Kelly Evans. The local stations, which had been whipping the community into a frenzy by reporting on Kelly every half hour and broadcasting reports on how to keep you kids safe and how the justice system lets killers go free, led the news with what the police had found out.
"This is Wendy Lubevitch with Channel 5 Eyewitness News, and we've gotten word that there has been a break in the case of Kelly Evans, the little girl who vanished last night outside her mother's home. We've gotten word that Kelly's Mother's boyfriend, Max Hamilton has been arrested and will soon be charged with the crime. We take you now to a taped copy of the police statement issued by Cottage Grove police."
A visibly shaken police officer was shown with a number of microphones shoved in his face as he read a statement from a piece of paper "As of 9:15 p.m. tonight, we have arrested Max Hamilton in out investigation of this awful crime. While searching a storage locker rented by Mr. Hamilton, we found items of clothing that Kelly was last seen wearing. These clothes were bloodstained and we have sent them to the lab for further analysis. We still have no leads as to the whereabouts of Kelly and whether she is safe. We will release further information as it becomes available."
Janus shut off the TV before the news anchors spent the next five minutes analyzing what was said and spreading more fear. Something about it didn't feel right. He picked up the picture of the falls, which he'd brought home to see if he could figure out where it had come from and stared at it.
Something just wasn't right. He could feel his nerves on edge, and slowly, he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck starting to stand up. His apprehension from the day was growing, and growing rather rapidly. He looked at the picture and felt that something about it was changing.
Then, he felt himself start to get queasy, as if he was going to be sick. Something wasn't right. He grabbed the picture, and it was hot, way too hot to hold onto. As he threw it to the floor, he could see the picture glowing a faint red.
Why? Why was he starting to get sick? He ran through the possibilities in his mind at rapid fire speed. He instantly ignored any sort of illness, illnesses don't come on this fast. It had to be connected to his gifts. The odd thing was, he had felt this before. When?
He could feel his forehead break out in a sweat, and the room was starting to feel like a ship at sea, rocking slowly back and forth. He tried to keep his eyes open, but it felt better with them closed, the nausea seemed to be a bay when he couldn't see things and couldn't perceive them as moving.
He racked his brain, going over his past, trying to remember when he'd felt this before. Then. all at once it hit him, and he yelled "Stupid!" out loud to himself as he remembered.
This was how he felt when a vampire was taking a victim. The nausea, the slow draining, and the odd sensation of sleepiness. If only he weren't so connected to this area, it wouldn't hit him so hard.
And then it was gone. Over. He knew. Whoever had been the victim of the vampire was now dead.
Where nausea had been, he could feel nothing but rage. Someone had come into his domain and dared do this here. He closed his eyes and reached out, anger fueling his thoughts, trying to find who would have dared to challenge him here. He thought he sensed something, but then it was gone. Whoever it was, they were able to shield well.
Janus sat down at the table in his apartment and grabbed his atlas, maybe he'd be able to get some kind of residual feeling to give him a idea of where it happened.
As he opened to Minneapolis/St. Paul, he could tell something was wrong. He closed his eyes and concentrated on seeing....not how most people see, but how he'd learned to. He opened his eyes and saw the ley lines that crossed in Minneapolis.
Ley lines, some people call them Dragon Lines, are the lines of mystic force that cover the Earth. Where they cross are nexii of great power, and you could always find people of power drawn to them, even if they didn't know they had the power. Minneapolis had one of the bigger crossings in the United States, with the lines crossing right at Minnehaha Falls.
Janus saw why he felt so...wrong. As long as he had been here, the lines had been pure, green, without a trace of the darkness that was like pollution to mystic powers. One of the reasons he moved here was because of the pureness of the lines. Now, when he looked at the map, he could see that one of the three line that ran through the Falls was tainted, polluted.
His brow furrowed as he thought over the implications of this. Maybe Johnny was right. If all three lines were tainted, whoever did it would be able to manipulate those forces just about any way they wanted.
* * *
He had ridden with his troops for the last two months, and they began to despair that they would ever reach Lord Wattering's castle. Since they had been dispatched, they had suffered with disease, both of the troops and their horses. Attacks from half-crazed berzerkers had cost them precious time, and lives.
John Wyddian, the knight entrusted by Arthur, King of the Britons, was weary, and wanted to go home to his wife and child. However, duty pressed them forward. Another long day of riding, another day of watching for attacks.
They had started with over 1,000 men. Now, they were down to 200. Not nearly enough to help Lord Wattering. They were not to question. They were to act. John surveyed the road, a muddy trail; his men, a beaten, tired crew; and his situation, untenable. He turned to the sky, and saw that a slow rain was moving in and they were going to be drizzled on for most of the day.
That would mean that they would not be able to move very far, and most of the night would be spent tending to their armor so that it would not rust. John muttered a curse under his breath and forced his men to press on. The castle was just days away now, and maybe, if they could force themselves to go just a little farther each day, they could arrive before Lord Wattering fell.
The ride sapped his strength, and as they made a quick camp to eat the midday meal, one of the field commanders came over to talk to him. John did not like to eat near the men. Partly because he was a knight, and needed to keep a distance for appearances sake. Partly because he would freely join in with their talk of how this was a waste of time and lives. Morale was low enough.
Simon, the field commander, bowed as he approached, "Good sir Knight, may I ask you a question?"
Simon raised his head, but remained bowed on one knee. It was common custom to show this kind of respect to one of Arthur's knights, as they were as close to the King as one could get, "I hear words among my men, they fear that we are rushing in to face a demon. One from the pits of Hell, and they say that is why we have had such a journey."
"I have thought such things, myself, Simon. I believe that Merlin would have been able to know of such a thing if it were so, there is so much we do not know about him..." John paused, looking for a way to best phrase what he said. The wrong word, or even inflection could cause the men to sink further into their fear, and they would need to be brave to face the battle ahead, "Even if those fears are true, we are under charge of one of the Knights of the Round, empowered by God. No demon, no matter how powerful cannot stand before the power of the Lord God."
His answer satisfied Simon, who nodded in agreement, and backed away to pass that message among the men. John believed those words as well, because they were the only comfort he had. Why were they not enough to soothe his soul?
* * *
Harry had shown up at 9:30 with a bag of donuts and two big cups of coffee at Journey Magic and Books to talk with Janus about the missing little girl. He was upset to see that the store was still closed, waited for about 15 minutes, drank both cups of coffee and ate three of the four do-nuts. The chill fall wind was getting to him as he waited outside the store.
Janus was usually late, but never this late. It just wasn't part of his make-up. Harry waited another minute or two, and then decided to go see what was going on. He went back down the block to the hotel he was staying at and tossed his two empty coffee cups under his 1972 AMC Matador. He got on and started it the second time(the first time it responded by coughing and rattling for a minute, and then refusing to continue).
The ride over to Janus's house was short, and Harry parked in front of the quiet, unassuming little one story home Janus owned over on Wheelock Parkway. The place was quiet, and Harry could see Janus's motorcycle parked in front of the house, still with a dusting of frost on the seat and windshield.
He walked up to the door, and knocked. He knew better than to push the doorbell, because Janus had disconnected it years ago. If he wanted to talk to someone, he would. Doorbells just ruined his concentration, he always said. A minute or two later, Janus opened the door, and Harry could tell that he had had a bad night.
Janus was still in the clothes he had worn the night before, his hair was a tousled mess, and his face had lines on it from Janus sleeping on something that wasn't meant to be slept on. "Jeez, Janus, what cat coughed you up?"
Janus closed his eyes, and then had a little bit of trouble getting the open again. "Nice to see you too, Harry. Come on in."
Now Janus's house was normally a bit disheveled, with books and other things arranged around the place, but it always looked neat. Today, it looked like a hurricane had hit, with opened books scattered around the living room, and a half eaten pizza in on the dining room table. Janus sat down on one of the two easy chairs and took the books off the other one for Harry to sit down.
"You do know that you store was supposed to open an hour and a half ago, don't you?"
"Not really," Janus said, slowly getting the cobwebs of sleep out of his head, "I don't think I'm going to make it in there today. Detective Grissom called me early this morning and wants me to talk to the suspect in the little girl's disappearance. I guess he won't talk to them, and they think I might be able to help them."
Janus had worked with the St. Paul and Minneapolis police from time to time on missing persons cases. Sometimes he was able to help and sometimes he wasn't. There really wasn't a hard and fast rule to the whole thing. It was on a case like this that Harry had first heard of Janus and his "abilities."
"There's more to this than just a little girl missing and the mom's boyfriend taking off with her, isn't it," Harry said.
"You know, it used to be that that was enough to make me go nuts, having someone go missing that someone cared about. Now, I see it so much....." Janus trailed off, "It's just the sleep talking," he said, realizing how what he'd said sounded. Was he really getting so casual about missing people? Now was not the time to think about that. "Yeah, Harry, there is something more to it. It if were just that, the police would be able to take care of it themselves. I think someone used this little girl to mess with the Ley Lines."
"Ley Lines are kind of like mystic rivers of force that cover the globe. Three of them go through the Twin Cities and meet up in Minnehaha Falls. Last night, one of them was polluted."
"That's bad, right?"
"Yeah. If you want to know what goes on in an area where they Ley Lines have been screwed up, just look at East St. Louis."
Janus closed a few of the books that were on the small end table next to the chair. "Not only that, but I had a dream last night about a knight leading a group of troops back in King Arthur's time. I have no idea what it has to do with this, but...."
Harry watched as he saw Janus go through different ideas in him mind. In this sleep-addled state, he could almost see the thought processes on Janus's face. "It's whatever Johnny warned you about, isn't it. This little girl was a pawn."
Janus stood up and stretched, "Yeah. She was. I don't think I have a whole lot of time, and I know I don't have a lot to go on. Last night, I'm pretty sure a vampire drained a victim on the Ley Line and somehow, that polluted it. I couldn't get a fix on the vampire, though. All I could do was tell that it had happened and where it had happened."
Janus went around the living room, picking up books and closing them, arranging them into neat little piles on the coffee table. "All I really know for sure is, that if I don't find out who is doing this and how they are doing it, we could be in some real deep shit."
* * *
It was too cold for Janus to ride his bike to the police station, so he rode in Harry's car, making the usual comments about how he hoped that it would make it to where they were going because he wasn't sure they made parts for cars that old anymore. Harry, in turn, reminded Janus that his mode of transportation was only good for about 6 months out of the year in Minnesota
and the rest of the time, he rode in a beat-up old Chevette.
When they got to the police station, Janus was taken right to Max Hamilton's holding cell. Detective Grissom was waiting there. He was an impressive man, in his early 40's and still looking as solid as any weight lifting 20 year old. He had a face that looked like it had seen more than you ever would and still hadn't broken.
"Nice to see you, Janus," Grissom said, shaking his hand.
Janus usually tried to shut off his empathy when shaking hands, but for some reason, his talents were running stronger than they normally did, and he was almost struck down by the frustration Curt Grissom was feeling. "I wish we could see each other under different circumstances," Janus said.
"Tell you what, you help us find that little girl and I'll take you out to O'Gara's," Curt said, trying to smile. He failed, but Janus didn't mind. He already knew Kelly Evans was dead, and Curt suspect the same thing, "Max is in there. We got an anonymous tip to search his storage locker last night and when we did we found blood stained items of the little girl's clothes. He says he has no idea how they got there, but I'd sooner believe night was day."
Janus thought for a moment, Max was arrested long before Kelly was killed by the vampire, if it was Kelly's death he felt. Odd. He collected himself, and was led into the holding cell.
It was a small, dark room with no windows, drab walls, one light over a small wooden table and four chairs around the room. Max was seated at the table, with a man in a suit leaning against the wall, obviously Max's lawyer. Harry was not allowed in, just Janus and Curt. Max was a man in his mid 20's, unshaven, long, messy hair and a dark, angry expression. Janus could feel the waves of anger directed toward both Curt and himself. He paused and centered, making sure that none of the anger got into his own feelings.
The lawyer was out of the light, and didn't move an inch as he spoke, "I have to object to this once again. There is nothing that allows this....fortune teller access to my client."
"There's also no law that says he can't talk to the prisoner. He's helped out the police before, and he'll help us this time. You can take it to the judge when bail is set," Curt growled.
The lawyer didn't react, at least not in a way Janus could see, and Janus decided not to pay any attention to it. There was a small tape recorder on the table, and Curt turned it on and motioned for Janus to begin.
"OK, Max, my name is Janus, and I would like to ask you a few questions," when he got no reaction from Max, he continued, "Since you didn't tell me to fuck off, I'll take that as a yes."
"I didn't do nothing with Kelly. She was like a daughter to me," Max said, practiced, as if he'd said it hundreds of times before.
"I'm sure she is like a daughter to you, and I would like to help her. It's not my job to find out what happened to her, just to find her so that she can get home. Why don't you tell me what happened?"
"I told the officer there the whole story."
"I understand that, but I would rather hear it from you so that I don't have what Officer Grissom thinks getting in the way."
"OK. I was over at Gwen's, that's Jenny's mom, and we were....um...busy in the bedroom. Jenny was watching cartoons, and since they were on until 6 o'clock, we had lots of time..."
Janus could feel this man's personality seeping through, and it wasn't the most pleasant thing he'd ever dealt with. The presence of him made Janus feel like there were spiders all over his skin, crawling around. He had to stop from visibly shuddering. Every once in a while, he would flash on a visual image of what was in Max's mind, a picture of what was being described, and Janus could see how all the man could key on was sex. Gwen was seen in his mind only by how good she was in bed. Jenny was seen in his mind as a girl would be a babe as she got older.
Janus had trouble being in the same room with the man as he went over the events of that night. After they were done in the bedroom, Max went home, saying good-bye to Jenny as he left. She was watching cartoons and asked if her mom was ready to come out and make supper.
He then went home, and a couple of hours later, Gwen called him and asked if he'd seen Jenny. She'd fallen asleep and when she woke up a half hour previously, Jenny was nowhere to be found. He went over and got there as the cops showed up and helped scour the neighborhood for her. He hadn't even been to his storage locker all day.
He then went home, and a couple of hours later, Gwen called him and asked if he'd seen Jenny. She'd fallen asleep and when she woke up a half hour previously, Jenny was nowhere to be found. He went over and got there as the cops showed up and helped scour the neighborhood for her. He hadn't even been to his storage locker all day.
Janus could tell the man was blocking something. There was a huge barrier in his mind, one that Janus could not penetrate. Janus knew that it wasn't a tough barrier to break, and if he did, he would know what this man was hiding. It would be so easy, just a little push and it would all be there.
Janus had done that in California, breaking the rules, overstepping his bounds. There , it was hypnotizing a person to lie and playing with their memories. Here, it was forcing his way into someone's mind. Mental rape.
On one hand, it might just be the thing they would need to find Jenny...or her body, and spare the mother so much wondering. On the other hand, it was mental rape, forcibly ripping those memories from him.
Janus closed his eyes and shut out everything around him, Max's talking, the lawyer's hostility, and Curt's intensity. All that was left in his mind was him, and the little voice in his mind that kept telling him how easy it would be. It wouldn't even take much effort. Everyone would be so much better off. The man was lying, maybe even about something criminal. The Ley Lines. Jenny.
"NO!" Janus said, standing bolt upright in his chair.
Everyone in the room stopped and stared at him.
"Are you all right, Janus?" Curt asked.
Janus sat down slowly, knowing that he couldn't do it. He'd already gone down that slippery moral slope too many times lately. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweating forehead, "I'm OK, Curt. Can we talk outside?"
"Sure," Curt said, helping him up. Max's lawyer sat down on the chair Janus had been in and began to talk about what had gone on in the room, planning strategy.
Janus was visibly shaken when they got out of the room, and he was still fighting his impulse to go in a rip the information he wanted out of Max's mind. "Curt, he's telling the truth about the events, but there's something he's blocking. I don't know what, but he's blocking something."
Curt shook his head, not really knowing what to say. He never really understood what Janus did, but anything that could find a missing person was good police procedure in his book.
"Why don't you take me to where Jenny's clothes are being kept," Janus said, finally after gathering his composure.
Curt led him down to the evidence room, which was really just an old storeroom with a lot of boxes and bags, marked with file numbers. There were a few officers there who knew Janus, and they exchanged some small talk. The distance from Max had helped Janus, but he could feel something.
Curt brought out a box, which had the little girl's blood stained sun dress. Janus looked down at it, so small. So bright, like most kid's clothing was. He placed a hand on this little dress, and the tears came to his eyes almost as soon as he touched the fabric.
He could see the world through her eyes, the eyes of a child. Grown-ups, so big and ununderstandable, all the colors were brighter, all the time went slower and everything was new. An adventure waiting to happen. He could feel all she felt, love that was pure, not tainted with things adults had like jealousy, envy or fear. Joy like none he could remember, in little things, like watching a caterpillar crawl or seeing a bird swoop down in a dive for grass to build a nest.
His fingers slowly moved over the fabric until he touched the blood stain.
Pain like he hadn't ever felt, sharp, blinding and all-consuming. He could feel pain shoot through his neck, knocking him to the ground. He tried to get up, but his limbs would not respond to his thoughts. He could see the world through her eyes, and he could see the last thing she remembered seeing.
Above her, a man dressed nattily in black, with pale skin and sunglasses covering his eyes. He had smile at her and told her she was going to be able to go somewhere really nice. Now, he'd grabbed her and picked her up (break contact...he had to break contact) and his mouth was so close to her throat. He said he was going to give her a special kiss (let go...for the love of god janus...let go) one that would help her sleep. She wasn't tired, but he said that she had to sleep to get to the special place. He was holding one of her sets of jammies in his hands as he picked her up, saying he would put them on her when she was taking her special sleep(no more...let go...no more....) It all went away from him in a rush, the whole thing. Contact was broken and Janus was back in the evidence room, lying on the floor with a number of officers standing over him. Curt looked ashen faced and said, "I had to pull the dress out of your hands, Janus, you were convulsing. Nothing else would stop it."
"Thanks, Curt...the memories are really strong with this dress," Janus said, trying to separate himself from the memories he'd just gone through, "I've got a visual of the man who abducted Jenny. Get me one of the sketch artists before it goes away."
Curt rushed to get one of the artists, but Janus knew that time didn't matter. No matter how much time passed, he would never forget that face. It wasn't Max. It wasn't Johnny. He didn't know who it was. But now that he had an idea of who the man was, he knew one thing. There was no way he would leave Janus's domain alive.
Killing the undead wasn't a crime.
* * *
He preferred the dark, not that he couldn't go out in the sun, it was just nicer, here, in the dark.
Evan sat back and felt the warm darkness help to heal his sun-blistered skin. Going out yesterday had taken a lot out of him, and he wanted to rest. To sleep. Just for a few days. He knew, however, he didn't have that option.
The battle was coming. Once he started to pollute the Ley Lines, he had started the fight, and once begun, there was no turning back. He supposed the mage who said that he ruled this area would try to get in the way, but Evan knew that he was commanding powers far beyond what Trelane did. Johnny was too bound by his beloved honor to take on Trelane and destroy him.
There were two more lines to corrupt, and he could feel that time was running out. Do or die, he thought to himself and laughed out loud. Die. Dying didn't do much to him, he thought.
Then, Evan could feel a small, sharp pain. Somewhere, the mage had touched something. He knew something, and with Evan's connection to the new Ley Line, anything the mage did that touched the others would touch him.
"So, little mage," he said, hoping that Janus would hear it in some portion of his mind, "You want in on this game? Maybe I should let you in. Anyone who would draw stalemate with John Wyddian might be a problem in the future. Come for me....I'm ready and waiting."
* * *
Janus and Harry left the Police Station and got into Harry's bucket of bolts car and hoped that it would start. Janus had not said a word since coming out of the evidence room, and Harry could see that whatever had happened had really gotten to him. He drove in silence for a while, then Janus said, "Harry, take I-35 down to Apple Valley. I've got to check out the scene."
"When that blood-sucking piece of shit took his victim last night. It's down at one of the park near the Minnesota Zoo."
Harry was about to ask how he knew, and then thought better of it. Janus would probably tell him some story about how he saw it on a map or something. He rode a while longer in silence and thought. This was the thing he really hated about the arrangement he and Janus had. Somehow, he would have to ask Janus what had happened in the police station for his story.
He needed to get something in to his boss at the Midnight Star soon, his money was about to run out, but he didn't want to intrude on whatever was going on in Janus's head. There had to be some sort of way to broach the subject without being too crass.
Finally, after a few more moments of heavy silence, Janus spoke first, "He didn't do it, you know."
"Who didn't do what?" Harry said, feeling relief that he hadn't been the one to break the silence.
"Max. The one they have for Kelly's disappearance. He knows about it, but he didn't do it. Whatever secret he's holding would explain why he's been set up," Janus stared out the window at the side of the freeway. Leaves were just starting the change, turning from green to yellow and brown. All the trees with red leaves were out of the city limits.
"He's holding something pretty bad in his head, and he doesn't want anyone to know," Janus finished.
"Why not just....um...you know," Harry said, looking for the right words, "Fish it out of him, like you did to that guy in California?"
Janus slumped down a little more in the car seat, "I could, you know. The guy isn't that bright, his defenses are nothing, and for some reason, my powers are peaking. But I can't. I crossed the line in California, and I won't cross it again."
"You've got to be kidding me?" Harry said, gripping the wheel harder and forcing himself to look at the road, when he really wanted to stare right into Janus's eyes and drive his point home, "There's a little girl missing, possibly in danger, and you won't do everything possible to save her? In California it was just some guys getting their pockets picked. Here, it's someone's life!"
"It's not that easy, Harry. I thought the same thing you did, it's a life in the balance, and maybe this guy's secret could save her life. But, it could also be something that has nothing to do with her whereabouts, or it could be something horrible he did that he doesn't want the cops to find out. It could be any number of things. I made a big mistake back in California, I should not have forced that man to lie for us. It was wrong.
"The more I think about it, the more it doesn't matter much to me that it helped me find that girl and stop what she was doing. It was still wrong. Not a night goes by that I don't think about what I've done, and try to find in my mind what make what I did different from what she did. She went into people's minds and assaulted them for personal gain. So did I"
Harry frowned, "It wasn't for personal gain. You were trying to stop a dangerous person."
"I could have stopped her some other way. I could have went to the police and gotten their permission. I could have posed as one of her targets and gotten her that way. There were a bunch of other ways to solve it, but I wanted to get in, get out and be done with it. There is always a choice, and it should be up to me to figure out what that choice is and make the right one," Janus stopped and watched the road for a moment, gathering his thoughts, "If I abuse this gift I have, it makes me no better than Johnny."
Harry shuddered, not liking to even hear the name of the vampire they had battled years and years ago. That had been a horrible thing to have to go through. He didn't agree with Janus in the least, but he understood what he was going through. "I wouldn't have do it that way, man," Harry said, "But you're the boss. I just write it down. Maybe that's why you have the gifts you do."
Janus watched as they took the turnoff for the parks next to the Zoo, "I'd trade you if I could, Harry. I'd trade you if I could."
* * *
The park was about a couple miles hike from the Zoo, and since it was a school day, it was mostly deserted. The park was a number of rolling hills, with a huge swing and slide construction built into the sides of one of the hills. There was an abundance of picnic tables and a lake that stretched for at least a couple of miles just a few yards from the parking lot.
Here, the trees were showing explosive colors of red, yellow, brown, orange and dark purples. Harry would have thought he were hundreds of miles away from any sort of large city instead of 15 minutes drive from the heart of St. Paul. Janus got out of the car and put on his jacket, since the breeze had a autumn chill.
There were a few people around, some riding bikes on the trails, a couple of families with very small children having a last picnic for the season and a few boats scattered out on the lake, getting in some last minute fishing.
Janus could almost feel the ground tingling under his feet. This was the place. One of the ley lines ran through this ground, charging it with energy. He could also feel that it was different, darker, more dangerous than it had been the last time he was here. Whoever was tainting them had done a good job.
Janus walked, single-minded of purpose as Harry followed behind, not really knowing what they were looking for, but looking with Janus nonetheless. He brought his camera with him and snapped a few pictures of the park, the people enjoying the sun and the lake. In his mind, he started composing the story he would he writing when they got back.
::Behind the peaceful exterior of this sleepy little community lies a dark, festering evil:: he thought, knowing he would have to punch it up a little when he sent it to his editor. Not that he was a subtle writer, but Harry knew that overstatement was the name of the game at the Midnight Star. Janus stopped and knelt for a moment, feeling the current flowing through the ground. He was close, the constant drone of the buzzing in his ears drove that home. He closed his eyes, and all he could see was red. The color of the corrupted ley line. He tried to filter it out, but couldn't. There really wasn't a way to get a clear picture this close to the darkness.
He opened his eyes and looked around where he was. He'd walked part of the way around the lake, and just a few yards away was a grove of trees. The foliage on them was thick enough to block out any of the light from the moon. Inside those trees, it would be black as pitch at night, even under a full moon.
The perfect place.
He walked over to the trees and knew. He'd forgotten the feeling over the years. The feeling that invaded his body and mind when he'd discovered where a vampire had fed. It was like his head was full of cobwebs and his stomach did a slow roll, as if he had some kind of food poisoning. This was the place.
He looked around on the ground for a moment, and then he saw it. A patch of mud where the rest of the ground was dry. "Harry, stay back," he said as he walked over to the patch of mud.
He reached out to place his hand into it, and then instinctively drew back. The incident earlier that day was still fresh in his mind. The connection had been too strong. He concentrated on keeping himself a good mental distance from whatever energies were still there. And when he was sure that he would be able to keep his distance, he placed a hand on the moist
In the space of a second, feelings flowed into him, but he didn't allow them to stay, and he didn't linger on them. They came through and then were gone.
"Harry! It's not Kelly! She wasn't the one I felt die last night!"
* * *
Knight John Wyddian could not have been prepared for the sight that confronted him and his men as they finally reached the castle of Lord Wattering. The castle was nearly in ruins, and the men inside were fisting for their lives against crazed barbarians fighting with swords, clubs, fists, and anything else that they might have found to battle with. The scene was worse than any of them could have imagined.
There were hundreds of the barbarians, and they were storming the castle at will, killing with great abandon. John wasted no time, even though he knew his men were weary from the long march, and ordered them into battle.
Fifty of the men fled as they saw the crazed attackers notice their approach and break off from attacking the castle to return their charge. John, however, pain no heed to the cowards who ran, he drove them men forward, shouting a great battle cry and loosing his sword.
They clashed, men on horses and barbarians on the ground. While the men concentrated to striking at the barbarians, the barbarians were more concerned with unhorsing the men and inflicting damage on them as they lay on the ground, trying to get up.
In the castle, John could hear a faint cry from the men inside cheering their saviors. Now if they could just survive long enough to deserve that cry. The battle raged around him, and he swung his sword, taking the lives of his enemies as fast as he could swing his sword arm, but for each one he struck down, three more took their place.
"Gallion!" He shouted to one of the field commanders, "Take your men and go to the castle, they will need help to defend, our goal is to make it there and buttress Lord Wattering and his men! Go! Go!"
Gallion, a good man and a good soldier, didn't question, but merely barked the orders to him men and led their charge to the castle. John watched between his own attacks as the force rode, trampling barbarians and brushing aside those who would try to stop them. When they got there, the force opposing them had begun to split, the larger contingent remaining to battle John's men.
John searched in vain for one who looked to be their leader, but could see no one who directed their actions. They seemed possessed with strategy as though they were all of one mind.
They were splitting their force yet again, sending some to try and rush to the rear of John's men. John ordered his men to run toward the castle, there they would be able to make a stand and hopefully hold the barbarians at bay long enough to know more of what was going on here.
If they could not find the man behind this attack and know something of his tactics, their stand would be short lived.
* * *
Janus awoke from his dream with a start. Before his mind was free from sleep, he knew what he was feeling. Somewhere close, the vampire was taking a victim. Janus wasted no time, grabbing the clothes that were next to his bed and putting them on as he went to the second bedroom. As he pulled on his shirt, he turned on the light.
The second bedroom was full of books, artifacts, talismans, and just plain weird junk scattered around on the floor, tables and walls in a haphazard fashion. He stepped over the books he'd thrown on the floor before going to bed and grabbed a crossbow off the wall. On a table next to the wall were wooden arrows, much like stakes.
He ran to the living room and grabbed his jacket off the back of his easy chair. He shoved the arrows in his inside packet, and had the jacket on by the time he was at his motorcycle.
It was still dark, probably around two or three in the morning, he hadn't bothered to look at the clock when he ran out of the house. The night was cloudy, but still cold enough that he could see his breath. Janus frowned as he thought about riding a motorcycle in the cold fall air, but there wasn't time to try and coax his old beater to run. He hadn't started it in almost four months, and it would take a while to get the old thing ready to start.
He started the cycle and attached the crossbow to the backrest, so that he'd be able to ride without holding it. The cycle started with ease, and he tore out of his yard and onto the road, instinctively knowing where to go.