Blood canticle, p.28

Blood Canticle, page 28

 part  #10 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blood Canticle

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Chapter 28



  THE ROOM WAS MAINTAINED at about 40 degrees. Even I was cold. Rowan's lips were blue. But she stood, uncomplaining, right inside the door, her arms folded, her back to the wall, allowing for us to take as much time as we wanted. She was wearing her white coat, even her name tag, and white pants. Her shoes were black, simple. Her hair was brushed back from her face. She didn't look at me. I was glad.

  The walls were white. So was the tile floor. There was all kinds of equipment in the room, monitors, wires, tubing, tanks, but it was shut off and retired to the sidelines and into the corners. The windows were covered with white metal blinds, shutting out the colorful night.

  Miravelle, dressed primly in a long pink cotton nightgown, cried quietly. Oberon, in white silk pajamas

  and robe, merely observed with those half-mast gleaming eyes.

  Mona stood silent, the wanderer in safari clothes, her left hand against Miravelle's back, her right arm holding a huge bunch of random flowers. Mona's eyes were dry and she looked cold and careworn.

  Quinn remained against the door with me. Quinn held the bouquet which Mona had asked him to carry for her.

  The perfume of the flowers filled the room. There were daisies and zinnias and lilies and roses and gladiolus, and other flowers I didn't know, lots of different colors.

  The bodies were lying on separate gurneys. The limbs looked pliant, the flesh greenish, the faces slightly sunken. Morrigan's full red hair had been brushed out as though she was lying in water. Did that make Mona think even more of Ophelia? Ash had eyelashes which were extremely long, and his fingers were long. He must have been seven feet tall. He had full black hair, almost to his shoulders, with lots of white above his ears. A beautiful mouth. Morrigan looked very much like Mona. The pair quite lovely to behold.

  Their heads were positioned on pillows. The sheets were clean beneath them.

  They wore fresh clothes, plain white cotton pants and V-neck shirts, much like the simple clothes they'd been wearing when we found them, which seemed an eon ago.

  Their naked feet looked very dead. I wasn't sure why. Perhaps they were more discolored, or even a little misshapen.

  I wanted to see Ashlar's eyes. I wanted to know if that was possible, to lift the eyelid and see an eye. But I didn't want to speak, or to ask for anything.

  Miravelle finally moved to put her right hand around Ash's face. She bent to kiss his lips. When she found they were soft, she closed her eyes, and the kiss was long and fervent. With her left hand she reached out, and Mona gave her half of the flowers.

  Miravelle took these and distributed them all over Ash, moving up and down, until she had partially covered him. Then Mona gave her the rest, and she finished, leaving only Ash's face. Before she withdrew, she kissed his forehead.

  It was Morrigan who drew the sobs from her. "Mother," she said. Mona, who cleaved to her, didn't say a word. But she laid her own hand on Morrigan's hand, and, finding it flexible, she curled her own fingers around Morrigan's fingers.

  Quinn brought the flowers to Mona. Mona gave half to Miravelle. Together they laid them on the body of


  Oberon observed everything in silence, but tears formed in his eyes. Tears wetted his cheeks. A slight frown marred his forehead.

  Miravelle's broken ragged sobs finally died away. Mona motioned her slowly towards the door. Then Mona looked back.

  "Good-bye, Morrigan," she whispered.

  We all filed out of the room and followed Rowan down a short thickly carpeted corridor.

  We entered a rather spectacular conference room. Michael was there, and so was Stirling, both in dark suits. That's how I was dressed, and same with Quinn.

  The chairs in this surprising room were genuine Chippendale, around a finely buffed oval table. The walls were a cool lavender and there were wonderful paintings on them, paintings by expressionists, full of rich and throbbing color. I wanted to steal them for my flat. The windows were open to the flickering burning night. There was a marble-top bar against the inside wall, and glittering glasses and decanters.

  Michael was drinking bourbon in heavy gulps. Stirling had a glass of Scotch.

  Miravelle tried to dry her eyes but with little success. Rowan poured a small glass of sherry for her, and Miravelle laughed as she held up the delicate stem in the light, and then she sipped the sherry. She was laughing and crying at the same time very softly. Her pink nightgown looked very soft.

  Oberon waved away any suggestion of a drink. He stared past the assembly out into the night. He didn't bother to wipe away his tears. Only now did I notice he had cleaned his fingernails of all polish.

  Mona said:

  "What will you do with them?"

  Rowan sat back. She considered for a long time, then she answered:

  "What would you do with them if you were me?"

  "I can't imagine being you," said Mona simply.

  Rowan shrugged. But her face was sad. She didn't disguise it.

  Oberon spoke up:

  "Do whatever you want with them, Rowan," he said, with a touch of the old disdain. "Hell, Father told Rodrigo to save the bodies for you, didn't he? It's plain enough. Rodrigo wasn't knowledgeable or reflective enough to imagine such a speech or such an intention. Father wanted something accomplished. The bodies are yours by the wish of Father. No more needs to be said. "

  "All that is very true," said Miravelle with a simple nod. "Rowan, Father loved you. He really did. You do what Father wanted, please. "

  Rowan didn't answer. She sat there staring off as was her custom and then she pressed a button under the table.

  Within seconds the door opened, and Lorkyn came into the room.

  I was once more utterly shocked by this creature's appearance, not only because she was unaccompanied but because she wore the white pants and coat of a doctor, along with the name tag, stating her name as Lorkyn Mayfair, and her face was as unreadable as it had been when we first confronted each other on the Secret Isle.

  That kitten sweetness-small upturned nose, rosy mouth, big eyes-was, if anything, enhanced by the purity of the white clothes, and she had her hair swept up on top of her head again and pouring down her back, red as Mona's, and her eyes were just as green.

  She took her place at the table freely, across from me and from Oberon and Miravelle.

  Mona stared coldly at her. And Oberon was on full alert. Miravelle merely looked at her as though she was a curiosity. Only Rowan seemed to know why she was here.

  It was Lorkyn who explained.

  "I'll say this once for you, Oberon, and Miravelle. I do not intend to be mercilessly questioned. It's my intention to be heard. "

  "It better be sensational, darling," said Oberon bitterly.

  "It is," said Rowan. "Please listen to what Lorkyn has to say. "

  "I was shifting money from Rodrigo to numbered accounts for us," said Lorkyn. "I was also tipping off the authorities in Miami Beach as to his activities there, getting rid of his contacts as quickly as I could. Keep in mind, I never would have had a line out or recourse to the financial info if I hadn't played the proper role for Rodrigo. I was also trying desperately to find out who Father and Mother were legally,

  who owned the Secret Isle legally. But I couldn't do it. I didn't have Father's last name. Years ago, when Father first suspected trouble from Silas, he destroyed every scrap of paper that would have enabled Silas to get control of his finances. Father's lawyers came in by plane and left with everything in their briefcases.

  "If I'd had the names Templeton and Lost Paradise, I could have connected us to Father's lawyers in New York.

  "As for Rodrigo, I had no opportunity to kill him. Wherever we went there were dozens of armed men with us. That held true until the night he died, when this blond-haired archangel managed to slaughter every one of his gunsels before killing him. I never had that kind of power or advantage.

  "But I was biding
my time for it, and accumulating the money and figuring how to get both Rodrigo and his mother, and free you, Oberon, and you too Miravelle, and get clear of the island and safely to Mayfair Medical where we could find help. "

  Oberon was silent. It seemed that he wanted to believe Lorkyn but that he couldn't quite accept all that she said.

  Lorkyn continued:

  "In my spare time, which was plentiful, I did a great deal of research on Mayfair Medical. Since Father had told us about it, and told us about Rowan Mayfair, I wanted to know what this was all about. I wasn't going to call for help until I was sure that it was the wise thing to do. I scoured the Internet for information on Rowan Mayfair and Mayfair Medical. I read everything I could get my hands on. Nowhere could I find any real assurance that Rowan Mayfair had the power, the experience or the means to free us from Rodrigo and his crime family. It seemed to me that I had to take care of Rodrigo. And then I could get us off the island and we would contact Rowan from there. Now if you two don't believe me on this score, I have no way of proving it to you. My suggestion is you use your heads. "

  "Why in Hell didn't you simply contact the authorities," said Oberon fiercely. "Why didn't you E-mail the evidence you had to the Drug Enforcement Agency?"

  "And if I had done that, just where do you think you would be right now?"

  The anger vanished from Oberon's face, yet he held her gaze steadily, then:

  "I don't know," he replied.

  "Well neither do I," said Lorkyn. "Do you think they would have believed you were innocent? Do you think they would have believed the story of the Secret People? Do you think they would have locked you up as a material witness? Do you think Rodrigo's enemies couldn't have gotten to you before there was a


  "I see your point," he said with an air of boredom.

  "Do you really see it!" she demanded. She was at her most dramatic, though still relatively low-key. "Rowan Mayfair knows what the Taltos are. "

  "So what were you looking for?" Mona asked.

  "I was looking for a haven," said Lorkyn. "Possibly the only haven that exists. And only after I arrived here, after I spent eight solid hours talking to Rowan, did the last of my suspicions drop away. "

  "Probably a little too soon," said Mona.

  Lorkyn looked at Mona. Lorkyn raised her eyebrows. "Oh?"

  Mona didn't respond.

  Rowan said nothing. She didn't even look at Mona.

  "Please excuse Mona," said Quinn quietly.

  "Go on, Lorkyn," I said. "You spent eight hours straight talking to Rowan. So what gives?"

  "This is a place where the Taltos can stay," said Lorkyn.

  "What, to be studied?" said Mona. "You're going to be put in cages in a lab. You call that a haven? The woman knocks you out with a syringe on the tarmac next to her jet plane and you place all your trust in her?"

  Lorkyn stared at Mona. It was a curious moment, the tall long-necked Taltos completely bewildered by Mona's behavior. Then she drew back and went on:

  "You're misunderstanding me, Mona," said Lorkyn with soft confidence. "I'm talking of this place as an environment, a community, a world in which we can live and function and be protected and thrive. I myself have studied a great deal in medicine. You knew this when you went into my computer on the island. You brought the hard drive to Rowan. You gave it to her. You gave her proof of my studies. I've given her oral proof of my studies. I want to continue my studies. I want to become a doctor. That's my wish and Rowan has accepted me as a pupil here. I've found favor with Rowan. And there are opportunities for fruitful work here for Oberon and for Miravelle, and this is a self-contained universe in which the Taltos can be supervised without conspicuous constraints and be protected effortlessly and be

  at peace. "

  "Ah, wondrously clever," said Stirling. "I never thought of it. "

  "Oh, I think it's a lovely idea!" said Miravelle. "And we can wear nightgowns all the time, or at least I can. I love nightgowns. "

  "There are, as you may know," Lorkyn continued, her eyes fixed hard on Mona, "many apartments connected to this hospital, which are provided for the visiting families of the sick, and we can live in those apartments as we study here and as we work. We need never leave this compound, except when we have a preordained goal. "

  Lorkyn turned her focus from Mona. She looked at Oberon.

  "My progress was slow," she said, "and my success incomplete. But Rowan has the evidence of my efforts. And Mona, you saw them. And you, Lestat, you saw them as well. Oberon, do you accept what I'm saying?"

  Oberon was trying. I couldn't penetrate his thoughts. But I could tell by his expression.

  "Why did you never during the entire two years come to me?" he asked.

  "You were Lucia's lover," Lorkyn said. "I heard you howling with pleasure in the night. What was I to say to you? How did I know what you might say to her?"

  "You could have let me know you were alive. "

  "You knew I was alive. You saw me. Besides, my movements were circumscribed. My real freedom was on the computer. I studied. I had to find a safe place not only for us to go, but for us to stay. "

  "You're cold," said Oberon disgustedly. "You always were. "

  "Perhaps," said Lorkyn, "but now I can learn to be warm. Rowan Mayfair will teach me. "

  "Oh, that's rich!" said Mona. "Oberon and Miravelle, you had better order your winter furs. "

  Michael roused himself from his quiet reflections. "Mona, honey, please try to trust in what we're trying to do. "

  "If you say so, Uncle Michael," said Mona.

  "Don't you agree, both of you?" asked Lorkyn, looking at Oberon and Miravelle, "that we need a haven? We cannot simply go out into the world. "

  "No, no, I don't want to go out into the world," said Miravelle.

  Oberon thought for a long moment, the fabulous eyelids lowering and then rising.

  "You're right, of course you are. Where else but here can we discover some contraceptive that allows us to couple without hatching another immediately? Of course. It's brilliant. Very well. " He gave one of his languid graceful shrugs. "But do we have money from the accounts you managed to transfer?" he asked.

  "We have wealth from Father," said Lorkyn. "Great wealth. The Mayfair family discovered it. That's no longer a problem. You need not feel beholden. We're quite free. "

  "No, never feel beholden," said Rowan softly.

  "Very well. I feel this discussion has come to an end," said Lorkyn.

  She rose. She looked at Rowan and something silent passed between the two women, some exchange of approval and confidence and belief.

  Oberon rose to his feet and took Miravelle by the hand.

  "Come, my blessed little idiot," he said to Miravelle, "we'll go back to my suite and continue watchingThe Lord of the Rings. By now they'll have the white chocolate candy for us and the cold cold milk. "

  "Oh, everyone's so good to us," said Miravelle, "I love you all, I want you to know. And I'm so glad all the bad men died and Rodrigo fell off the balcony. It was just the best of luck. "

  "Isn't it uplifting, the way she describes it?" asked Oberon archly. "And to think I get to listen to this eighteen hours a day. What about you, Lorkyn? You ever going to drop in to see your brother and sister and indulge in a little intelligent discourse about your medical studies? I might go simply mad if I don't speak to someone from time to time who can use four-syllable words. "

  "Yes, Oberon," she said. "I'll come to you more than you might think. "

  She came round the table and stood before him. A great relaxation came over him, and he took Lorkyn in his arms. There was an ardent kiss and a slow moving away, with reverence and a locking of thin delicate fingers.

  "Oh, I am so happy," said Miravelle. She kissed Lorkyn on the cheek.

  Oberon and Miravelle left.

  Lorkyn gave formal nods to all the company, gesturing for the men to take their seats again, and she too went out the doo

  The room fell quiet.

  Then Rowan spoke: "She's incomparably brilliant," she said.

  "I understand," I responded.

  No one else spoke.

  Mona sat there still for a long time, her eyes every so often engaging Rowan.

  Then very softly, Mona said, "It's over. "

  Rowan didn't answer.

  Mona stood up, and so did Quinn. Finally I did also. Michael rose out of courtesy, and Rowan remained in her chair, thoughtful, remote.

  For a moment it seemed Mona was going to leave without another word, but just as she reached the door, she looked back, and she said to Rowan:

  "I don't think you'll see me much anymore. "

  "I understand," said Rowan.

  "I love you, sweetheart," said Michael.

  Mona stopped, her head bowed. She didn't turn around.

  "I'll never forget you," she said.

  I was stunned. I was caught completely off guard.

  Michael's face crumpled as though he'd been hit by a heavy blow. But he said nothing.

  "Farewell, my beauteous mortal friends," I said. "You need me, you know how to find me. "

  Indescribable expression on Rowan's face as she turned and looked up at me.

  And so I realized it. It came over me slowly. It was like a chill.

  The cause that had bound us together was no more. It wasn't only Mona's turning away. We had no more reason to come to one another. No more mystery to justify our intimacy. And honor and virtue, of which I'd spoken so surely, demanded we cease to interfere with one another, cease to learn about each other. We couldn't walk the same paths.

  The Taltos had been discovered, recovered and would be safe within Mayfair Medical. Lorkyn's speech had been the epilogue.

  We had to withdraw.

  Why had I not seen it? Why had I not felt the entirety of it? Mona had known last night, and the night before, when she'd stood on the island looking out to sea.

  But I had not known. Not known at all.

  I turned and followed my companions.

  Down we went through the Sacred Mountain of Mayfair Medical in the shining glass elevator and through the wondrous lobby with its mystifying modern sculptures and richly tiled floors, out into the warm air.

  Clem ready with the limousine door.

  "You sure you wanna go to that part of town?"

  "Just drop us off, we're expected. "

  Silence in the car as we move steadily on, as if we are not with one another.

  We are not Taltos. We are not innocent. We do not belong on God's Holy Mountain. We are not protected and redeemed by those whom we have served. They cannot thank us with grace, can they? They cannot open the doors of the tabernacle.

  Give us the underbelly of the city, let us spread out, where the cheapest killers come to us in the wild tangled thickets of the empty lots, ready to sink a blade for a twenty-dollar bill, and the corpses rot for

  weeks in the weeds amid the charred wood and the heaps of brick, and I was ravenous.

  Rampant moonflower, chimney stack tall as a tree, didn't they make this place for me? Whiff of evil. Crunch of broken boards. Morthadie. Cohorts behind the jagged wall. Whisper in my ear: "Ya'll lookin for a good time?" You couldn't have said it better.
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