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BLOOD CANTICLE -- ESTUDIO DE INGLES - ANNE RICE










BLOOD
CANTICLE
THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES
ANNE RICE
ALFRED A. KNOPF
New York • Toronto
2003
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page
Dedication

For
Stan Rice
1942-2002
-the love of my life.



ECCLESIASTES11:9
.King James Version

1
I WANT to be a saint. I want to save souls by the millions. I want to do good far and wide. I want to fight
evil! I want my life-sized statue in every church. I'm talking six feet tall, blond hair, blue eyes-.
Wait a second.
Do you know who I am?
I'm thinking maybe you're a new reader and you've never heard of me.
Well, if that's the case, allow me to introduce myself, which I absolutely crave doing at the beginning of
every one of my books.
I'm the Vampire Lestat, the most potent and lovable vampire ever created, a supernatural knockout, two
hundred years old but fixed forever in the form of a twenty-year-old male with features and figure you'd
die for-and just might. I'm endlessly resourceful, and undeniably charming. Death, disease, time, gravity,
they mean nothing to me.
Only two things are my enemy: daylight, because it renders me completely lifeless and vulnerable to the
burning rays of the sun, and conscience. In other words, I'm a condemned inhabitant of eternal night and
an eternally tormented blood seeker.
Doesn't that make me sound irresistible?
And before I continue with my fantasy let me assure you:
I know damned well how to be a full-fledged, post-Renaissance, post-nineteenth century, post-modern,
post-popular writer. I don't deconstruct nothin'. That is, you're going to get a full-dress story here-with a
beginning, middle and end. I'm talking plot, characters, suspense, the works.
I'm going to take care of you. So rest easy and read on. You won't be sorry. You think I don't want new
readers? My name is thirst, baby. I must have you!
However, since we are taking this little break from my preoccupation with being a saint, let me say a few
words to my dedicated following. You new guys follow along. It certainly won't be difficult. Why would
I do something that you find difficult? That would be self-defeating, right?
Now, to those of you who worship me. You know, the millions.
You say you want to hear from me. You leave yellow roses at my gate in New Orleans, with handwritten
notes: "Lestat, speak to us again. Give us a new book. Lestat, we love the Vampire Chronicles. Lestat,
why have we not heard from you? Lestat, please come back."
But I ask you, my beloved followers (don't all stumble over yourselves now to answer), what the Hell
happened when I gave you Memnoch the Devil? Hmmm? That was the last of the Vampire Chronicles
written by me in my own words.
Oh, you bought the book, I'm not complaining about that, my beloved readers. Point of fact, Memnoch
has outsold the other Vampire Chronicles completely; how's that for a vulgar detail? But did you embrace
it? Did you understand it? Did you read it twice? Did you believe it?
I'd been to the Court of Almighty God and to the howling depths of Perdition, boys and girls, and I
trusted you with my confessions, down to the last quiver of confusion and misery, prevailing on you to
understand for me why I'd fled this terrifying opportunity toreally become a saint, and what did you do?
You complained!
"Where was Lestat, the Vampire?" That's what you wanted to know. Where was Lestat in his snappy
black frock coat, flashing his tiny fang teeth as he smiles, striding in English boots through the glossy
underworld of everybody's sinister and stylish city packed with writhing human victims, the majority of
whom deserve the vampiric kiss? That's what you talked about!
Where was Lestat the insatiable blood thief and soul smasher, Lestat the vengeful, Lestat the sly, Lestat
the . . . well, actually . . . Lestat, the Magnificent.
Yeah, I like that: Lestat, the Magnificent. That sounds like a good name to me for this book. And I am,
when you get right down to it, magnificent. I mean, somebody has to say it. But let's go back to your song
and dance over Memnoch.
We don't want this shattered remnant of a shaman! you said. We want our hero. Where's his classic
Harley? Let him kick start it and roar through the French Quarter streets and alleys. Let him sing in the
wind to the music pumping through his tiny earphones, purple shades down, blond hair blowing free.
Well, cool, yeah, I like that image. Sure. I still have the motorcycle. And yeah, I adore frock coats, I have
them made; you're not going to get any arguments from me on that. And the boots, always. Want to know
what I'm wearing now?
I'm not going to tell you!
Well, not until further on.
But think it over, what I'm trying to say.
I give you this metaphysical vision of Creation and Eternity here, the whole history (more or less) of
Christianity, and meditations galore on the Cosmos Big Time-and what thanks do I get? "What kind of a
novel is this?" you asked. "We didn't tell you to go to Heaven and Hell! We want you to be the fancy
fiend!"
Mon Dieu! You make me miserable! You really do, I want you to know that. Much as I love you, much
as I need you, much as I can't exist without you, you make me miserable!
Go ahead, throw this book away. Spit on me. Revile me. I dare you. Cast me out of your intellectual orbit.
Throw me out of your backpack. Pitch me in the airport trash bin. Leave me on a bench in Central Park!
What do I care?
No. I don't want you to do all that. Don't do that.
DON'T DO IT!
I want you to read every page I write. I want my prose to envelop you. I'd drink your blood if I could and
hook you into every memory inside me, every heartbreak, frame of reference, temporary triumph, petty
defeat, mystic moment of surrender. And all right, already, I'll dress for the occasion. Do I ever not dress
for the occasion? Does anybody look better in rags than me?
Sigh.
I hate my vocabulary!
Why is it that no matter how much I read, I end up sounding like an international gutter punk?
Of course one good reason for that is my obsession with producing a report to the mortal world that can
be read by just about anyone. I want my books in trailer parks and university libraries. You know what I
mean? I'm not, for all my cultural and artistic hunger, an elitist. Have you not guessed?
Sigh again.
I'm too desperate! A psyche permanently set on overdrive, that's the fate of a thinking vampire. I should
be out murdering a bad guy, lapping his blood as if he was a Popsicle. Instead I'm writing a book.
That's why no amount of wealth and power can silence me for very long. Desperation is the source of the
fount. What if all this is meaningless? What if high-gloss French furniture with ormolu and inlaid leather
really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things? You can shudder with desperation in the rooms of a
palace as well as in a crash pad. Not to mention a coffin! But forget the coffin, baby. I'm not what you'd
call a coffin vampire anymore. That's nonsense. Not that I didn't like them when I slept in them, however.
In a way, there's nothing like it-but what was I saying:
Ah, yeah, we're going to move on, but-.
Please, before we proceed, let me whine about what was done to my mind by my confrontation with
Memnoch.
Now, pay attention, all of you, new readers and old:
I was attacked by the divine and sacramental! People talk about the gift of faith, well, I'm telling you it
was more like a car crash! It did sheer violence to my psyche. Being a full-fledged vampire is a tough job
once you've seen the streets of Heaven and Hell. And you guys should give me some metaphysical space.
Now and then I get these little spells: I DON'T WANT TO BE EVIL ANYMORE!
Don't all respond at once: "We want you to be the bad guy, you promised!"
Gotcha. But you must understand what I suffer. It's only fair.
And I'm so good at being bad, of course, the old slogan. If I haven't put that on a T-shirt, I'm going to.
Actually, I really don't want to write anything that can't be put on a T-shirt. Actually, I'd like to write only
on T-shirts. Actually, I'd like to write whole novels on T-shirts. So you guys could say, "I'm wearing
chapter eight of Lestat's new book, that's my favorite; oh, I see, you're wearing chapter six-."
From time to time I do wear-Oh, stop it!
IS THERE NO WAY OUT OF THIS?
You're always whispering in my ear, aren't you?
I'm shuffling along Pirates' Alley, a bum covered with morally imperative dust, and you slip up beside me
and say: "Lestat, wake up," and I pivot, slam bang! like Superman dodging into the all-American phone
booth, and voilà! There I stand, full-dress apparitional, in velvet once again, and I've got you by the
throat. We're in the vestibule of the Cathedral (where did you think I'd drag you? Don't you want to die on
consecrated ground?), and you're begging for it all the way; oops! went too far, meant for this to be the
Little Drink, don't say I didn't warn you. Come to think of it. Did I warn you?
All right, okay, yeah, forget about it, so what, stop the hand wringing, sure sure, knock it off, cool it,
shove it, eh?
I surrender. Of course we're going to revel in pure wickedness here!
And who am I to deny my vocation as a Roman Catholic storyteller par excellence? I mean, the Vampire
Chronicles are MY invention, you know, and I am only NOT a monster when I'm addressing you, I mean,
that's why I write this, because I need you, I can't breathe without you. I'm helpless without you-.
-And I am back, sigh, shudder, cackle, tap dance, and I'm almost ready to pick up the conventional frame
of this book and fix its four sides with the infallible super glue of sure-fire storytelling. It's going to all
add up, I swear to you on the ghost of my dead father, there's technically, in my world, no such thing as a
digression! All roads lead to me.
Quiet.
A beat.
But before we cut to Present Time, let me have my little fantasy. I need it. I am not all flash and dash,
boys and girls, don't you see? I can't help myself.
Besides, if you can't really bear to read this, then cut to Chapter Two right now. Go on, get!
And for those of you who really love me, who want to understand every nuance of the tale that lies ahead,
I hereby invite you to go with me. Please read on:
I want to be a saint. I want to save souls by the millions. I want to do good everywhere. I want to have my
life-sized plaster statue in every church in the world. Me, six feet tall with glass blue eyes, in long purple
velvet robes, looking down with gently parted hands on the faithful who pray as they touch my foot.
"Lestat, cure my cancer, find my glasses, help my son get off drugs, make my husband love me."
In Mexico City, the young men come to the seminary doors clutching small statues of me in their hands,
while mothers weep before me in the Cathedral: "Lestat, save my little one. Lestat, take away the pain.
Lestat, I can walk! Look, the statue is moving, I see tears!"
Drug dealers lay down their guns before me in Bogotá, Colombia. Murderers fall to their knees
whispering my name.
In Moscow the patriarch bows before my image with a crippled boy in his arms, and the boy is visibly
healed. Thousands return to the Church in France due to my intercession, people whispering as they stand
before me, "Lestat, I've made up with my thieving sister. Lestat, I renounced my evil mistress. Lestat, I
have exposed the crooked bank, this is the first time I've been to Mass in years. Lestat, I am going into
the convent and nothing can stop me."
In Naples, as Mt. Vesuvius erupts, my statue is carried in procession to halt the lava before it destroys the
seashore towns. In Kansas City, thousands of students file past my image pledging to have safe sex or
none at all. I am invoked at Mass for special intercession throughout Europe and America.
In New York, a gang of scientists announces to the whole world that, thanks to my specific intercession
they have managed to make an odorless, tasteless, harmless drug which creates the total high of crack,
cocaine and heroin combined, and which is dirt cheap, totally available and completely legal! The drug
trade is forever destroyed!
Senators and congressmen sob and embrace when they hear the news. My statue is immediately put into
the National Cathedral.
Hymns are written to me everywhere. I am the subject of pious poetry. Copies of my saintly biography (a
dozen pages) are vividly illustrated and printed by the billions. People crowd into St. Patrick's Cathedral
in New York to leave their handwritten petitions in a basket before my image.
Little duplicates of me stand on dressing tables, countertops, desks, computer stations worldwide. "You
haven't heard of him? Pray to him, your husband will be a lamb afterwards, your mother will stop
nagging you, your children will come to visit every Sunday; then send your money in thanksgiving to the
church."
Where are my remains? I don't have any. My entire body has become relics, scattered all over the world,
bits and pieces of dried flesh and bone and hair put into little gold cases called reliquaries, some
fragments fitted into the hollowed-out backs of crosses, some in lockets that can be worn on chains
around the neck. I can feel all these relics. I can slumber in the awareness of their influence. "Lestat, help
me to stop smoking. Lestat, is my gay son going to Hell? (Absolutely not.) Lestat, I am dying. Lestat,
nothing's going to bring my father back. Lestat, this pain will never end. Lestat, is there really a God?"
(Yes!)
I answer everyone. Peace, the certainty of the sublime, the irresistible joy of faith, the cessation of all
pain, the profound abolition of the meaninglessness.
I am relevant. I am vastly and wondrously known. I am unavoidable! I have pierced the current of
history! I am written about in the pages of the New York Times.
And meantime, I'm in Heaven with God. I am with the Lord in the Light, the Creator, the Divine Source
of All Things. The solution to all mysteries is available to me. Why not? I know the answers to positively
every question.
God says, You should appear to people. It's the proper work of a great saint. People down there expect
this of you.
And so I leave the Light and drift slowly towards the green planet. There is a slight, prudent, loss of Full
Understanding as I slip into the earthly atmosphere. No saint can carry the Fullness of Knowledge into
the World because the World couldn't grasp it.
I adorn myself with my old human personality, you might say, but I am still a great saint, and I am totally
geared for an apparition. And where do I go? Where do you think?
Vatican City is dead quiet, the smallest kingdom on Earth.
I am in the Pope's bedroom. It's like a monk's cell: just a narrow bed, one straight-back chair. So simple.
John Paul II, eighty-two years of age, is suffering, the pain in his bones too much for true sleep, the
Parkinson's tremor too strong, the arthritis too widespread, the ravages of old age so mercilessly upon
him.
Slowly he opens his eyes. In English he salutes me.
"Saint Lestat," he says. "Why have you come to me? Why not Padre Pio?"
Not a great response.
But! He means no slight. It's a perfectly understandable question. The Pope loves Padre Pio. He has
canonized hundreds of saints. Probably he loved them all. But how he loved Padre Pio. As for me, I don't
know if he loved me when he canonized me, because I haven't yet written the part of the story in which I
get canonized. And as I write this, Padre Pio was canonized last week.
(I watched the whole thing on TV. Vampires love TV.)
Back to the moment.
The frigid stillness of the papal quarters, so austere, despite the palatial dimensions. Candles glow in the
Pope's private chapel. The Pope groans in pain.
I lay my healing hands upon him, and I banish his suffering. A quiet penetrates his limbs. He looks at me
with one eye, the other squinched closed as is often his manner, and between us there is suddenly an
understanding, or rather I come to perceive something about him which the entire world ought to know:
His deep selflessness, his profound spirituality, come not only from his complete love of Christ but from
his life lived under Communism. People forget. Communism, for all its hideous abuses and cruelties, is in
essence a vaunting spiritual code. And before that great puritanical government shrouded John Paul's
young years, the violent paradoxes and horrifying absurdities of the Second World War surrounded him,
tutoring him in self-sacrifice and courage. The man has never, ever, in his life lived in anything but a
Spiritual World. Deprivation and self-denial are intertwined in his history like the double helix.
It is no wonder that he cannot yield his deep-rooted suspicions of the tumultuous voices of the prosperous
capitalist countries. He simply cannot grasp the pure charity that can arise from abundance, the sublime
immensity of vision possible from the vantage point of secure excess, the selflessness and sweeping
sacrificial ambition that can be born when all needs are luxuriantly met.
Can I broach this subject with him in this quiet moment? Or should I only assure him that he must not
worry about the "greed" of the Western World?
Softly I talk to him. I begin to elucidate these points. (Yeah, I know, he's the Pope, and I'm a vampire
writing this story; but in this story I'm a great Saint. I cannot be intimidated within the risks of my own
work!)
I remind him that the sublime principles of Greek philosophy arose in affluence, and slowly, acceptingly,
he nods. He is quite the educated philosopher. A lot of people don't know that about him, either. But I
must impress upon him something infinitely more profound.
I see it so beautifully. I see everything.
Our biggest mistake worldwide is our insistence on perceiving every new development as a culmination
or a climax. The great "at last" or "inth degree." A constitutional fatalism continuously adjusts itself to the
ever-changing present. A pervasive alarmism greets every advance. For two thousand years we have been
getting "out of hand."
This derives of course from our susceptibility to viewing the "now" as the End Time, an Apocalyptic
obsession that has endured since Christ ascended into Heaven. We must stop this! We must perceive that
we are at the dawn of a sublime age! Enemies will no longer be conquered. They will be devoured, and
transformed.
But here's the point I really want to make: Modernism and Materialism-elements that the Church has
feared for so long-are in their philosophical and practical infancy! Their sacramental nature is only just
being revealed!
Never mind the infantile blunders! The electronic revolution has transmuted the industrial world beyond
all predictive thinking of the twentieth century. We're still having birth pangs. Get into it! Work with it.
Play it out.
Daily life for millions in the developed countries is not only comfortable but a compilation of wonders
that borders on the miraculous. And so new spiritual desires arise which are infinitely more courageous
than the missionary goals of the past.
We must bear witness that political atheism has failed totally. Think about it. In the trash, the whole
system. Except for the island of Cuba, maybe. But what does Castro prove? And even the most secular
power brokers in America exude high virtue as a matter of course. That's why we have corporate
scandals! That's why people get so upset! No morals, no scandals. In fact, we may have to re-examine all
the areas of society which we have so blithely labeled as "secular." Who is really without profound and
unshakable altruistic beliefs?
Judeo-Christianity is the religion of the secular West, no matter how many millions claim to disregard it.
Its profound tenets have been internalized by the most remote and intellectual agnostics. Its expectations
inform Wall Street as well as the common courtesies exchanged on a crowded beach in California or a
meeting between the heads of Russia and the United States.
Techno-saints will soon rise-if they have not already-to melt the poverty of millions with torrents of welldistributed
goods and services. Communications will annihilate hatred and divisiveness as Internet cafés
continue to spring up like flowers throughout the slums of Asia and the Orient. Cable television will bring
countless new programs to the vast Arab world. Even North Korea will be penetrated.
Minorities in Europe and America will be thoroughly and fruitfully assimilated through computer
literacy. As already described, medical science will find cheap harmless substitutes for cocaine and
heroin, thereby eliminating the evil drug trade altogether. All violence will soon give way to a refinement
of debate and exchange of knowledge. Effective acts of terrorism will continue to be obscene precisely
because of their rarity, until they stop altogether.
As for sexuality, the revolution in this regard is so vast that we of this time cannot begin to comprehend
its full ramifications. Short skirts, bobs, car dates, women in the work place, gays in love-we are dizzy
with mere beginnings. Our scientific understanding and control of procreation gives us a power undreamt
of in former centuries and the immediate impact is but a shadow of things to come. We must respect the
immense mysteries of the sperm and the egg, the mysteries of the chemistry of gender and gender choice
and attraction. All God's children will thrive from our growing knowledge, but to repeat this is only the
beginning. We must have the courage to embrace the beauty of science in the name of the Lord.
The Pope listens. He smiles.
I continue.
The image of God Incarnate, become Man out of fascination with His own Creation, will triumph in the
Third Millennium as the supreme emblem of Divine Sacrifice and Unfathomable Love.
It takes thousands of years to understand the Crucified Christ, I say. Why, for example, did He come
down to live thirty-three years? Why not twenty? Why not twenty-five? You could ponder this stuff
forever. Why did Christ have to start as a baby? Who wants to be a baby? Was being a baby part of our
salvation? And why choose that particular time in history? And such a place!
Dirt, grit, sand, rocks everywhere-I've never seen so many rocks as in the Holy Land-bare feet, sandals,
camels; imagine those times. No wonder they used to stone people! Did it have anything to do with the
sheer simplicity of the clothes and hair, Christ coming in that era? I think it did. Page through a book on
world costume-you know, a really good encyclopedia taking you from ancient Sumer to Ralph Lauren,
and you can't find any simpler clothes and hair than in Galilee First Century.
I am serious, I tell the Holy Father. Christ considered this, He had to. How could He not? Surely He knew
that images of Him would proliferate exponentially.
Furthermore, I think Christ chose Crucifixion because henceforth in every depiction He would be seen
extending His arms in a loving embrace. Once you see the Crucifix in that manner, everything changes.
You see Him reaching out to all the World. He knew the image had to be durable. He knew it had to be
abstractable. He knew it had to be reproducible. It is no accident that we can take the image of this
ghastly death and wear it around our necks on a chain. God thinks of all these things, doesn't He?
The Pope is still smiling. "If you weren't a saint, I'd laugh at you," he says. "Exactly when are you
expecting these Techno-saints, by the way?"
I'm happy. He looks like the old Wojtyla-the Pope who still went skiing until he was seventy-three. My
visit has been worth it.
And after all, we can't all be Padre Pio or Mother Teresa. I'm Saint Lestat.
"I'll say hello for you to Padre Pio," I whisper.
But the Pope is dozing. He has chuckled and drifted off. So much for my mystical import. I've put him to
sleep. But what did I expect, especially of the Pope? He works so hard. He suffers. He thinks. He has
already traveled to Asia and Eastern Europe this year, and he will soon be going to Toronto and
Guatemala and Mexico. I don't know how he can do these things.
I place my hand on his forehead.
Then I leave.
I go down the stairs to the Sistine Chapel. It is empty and dark, of course. It is chilly too. But never fear,
my saintly eyes are as good as my vampire eyes, and I can see the swarming magnificence.
Alone-cut off from all the world and all things-I stand there. I want to lie on the floor face down in the
manner of a priest at his ordination. I want to be a priest. I want to consecrate the host! I want this so
badly that I ache for it. I DON'T WANT TO DO EVIL.
But the fact is, my fantasy of Saint Lestat is dissolving. I know it for what it is and I can't sustain it.
I know that I am no saint and never was or will be. No banner of me ever unfurled in St. Peter's Square in
the sunlight. No crowd of hundreds of thousands ever cheered for my canonization. No string of cardinals
ever attended the ceremony because it never took place. And I have no odorless, tasteless, harmless
formula that exactly mimics crack, cocaine and heroin combined, so I can't save the world.
I'm not even standing in the Sistine Chapel. I am far away from it, in a place of warmth, though just as
lonely.
I am a vampire. For over two hundred years I've loved it. I am filled with the blood of others to my very
eyeballs. I am polluted with it. I am as cursed as the Hemorrhissa before she touched the hem of Christ's
garment in Capharnaum! I live by blood. I am ritually impure.
And there's only one kind of miracle I can work. We call it the Dark Trick and I'm about to do it.
And do you think all this guilt is about to stop me?Nada, never,mais non, forget about it, get out of here,
not in a pig's eye, pa-lease, gimme a break, no way.
I told you I'd come back, didn't I?
I'm irrepressible, unforgivable, unstoppable, shameless, thoughtless, hopeless, heartless, running rampant,
the wild child, undaunted, unrepentant, unsaved.
And baby, there is a story to tell.
I hear Hell's Bells calling me. It's time to boogie!
SO SLAM CUT TO:
2
BLACKWOOD FARM: EXTERIOR ;EVENING .
A LITTLE COUNTRY CEMETERY on the edge of a cypress swamp, with a dozen or more old cement
graves, most names long ago effaced, and one of these raised rectangular tombs black with soot from a
recent fire, and the whole surrounded by a small iron fence and four immense oak trees, the kind
weighted down by their dipping branches, and the sky the perfect color of lilacs, and the heat of the
summer sweet and caressing and-
-you bet I've got on my black velvet frock coat (close-up: tapered at the waist, brass buttons) and my
motorcycle boots, and a brand-new linen shirt loaded with lace at cuffs and throat (pity the poor slob who
snickers at me on account of that!), and I haven't cut my shoulder-length blond mane tonight, which I
sometimes do for variety, and I've chucked my violet glasses because who cares that my eyes attract
attention, and my skin's still dramatically tanned from my years-ago suicide attempt in the raw sun of the
Gobi Desert, and I'm thinking-
-Dark Trick, yes, work the miracle, they need you, up there in the Big House, you Brat Prince, you Sheik
among vampires, stop brooding and mourning down here, go to it, there's a delicate situation up there in
the Big House-and it is
TIME TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED AND SO I DO:
I PACED , having just risen from my secret hiding place, and I mourned bitterly for another Blood Drinker
who had perished in this very cemetery, on the aforementioned blackened grave, in an immense fire, and
of her own will, leaving us only last night, without the slightest warning.
This was Merrick Mayfair, only three years among the Undead or less, and I'd invited her here to
Blackwood Farm to help me exorcise an evil spirit that had been haunting Quinn Blackwood since
childhood. Quinn was very new to the Blood, and had come to me for help with this ghost, which, far
from leaving him at his transformation from mortal to vampire, had only grown stronger and meaner, and
had actually caused the death of the mortal dearest to Quinn-his great Aunt Queen, age of eighty-five, by
causing the beautiful lady to fall. I had needed Merrick Mayfair to exorcise this evil spirit forever.
Goblin was the name of this ghost, and as Merrick Mayfair had been both scholar and sorceress before
she sought out the Dark Blood, I figured she would have the strength required to get rid of him.
Well, she came, and she solved the riddle of Goblin, and, building a high altar of coal and wood which
she set ablaze, she not only burnt the corpse of the evil one but went into the flames with it. The spirit
was gone, and so was Merrick Mayfair.
Of course I tried to snatch her back from the fire, but her soul had taken flight, and no amount of my
blood poured on her burnt remains could conceivably revive her.
It did seem to me as I walked back and forth, kicking at the graveyard dust, that immortals who think they
want the Dark Blood perish infinitely more easily than those of us who never asked for it. Perhaps the
anger of the rape carries us through for centuries.
But as I said: something was going on in the Big House.
I was thinking Dark Trick as I paced, yes, Dark Trick, the making of another vampire.
But why was I even considering such a thing? I, who secretly wants to be a saint? Surely the blood of
Merrick Mayfair was not crying out from the Earth for another newborn, you can scrap that idea. And this
was one of those nights when every breath I took felt like a minor metaphysical disaster.
I looked up at the Manor House as they call it, the mansion up on the rise, with its two-story white
columns and many lighted windows, the place which had been the locus of my pain and fortune for the
last few nights, and I tried to figure how to play this one-for the benefit of all involved.
First consideration: Blackwood Manor was buzzing with unsuspecting mortals, most dear to me on short
acquaintance, and by unsus-pecting I mean they've never guessed that their beloved Quinn Black-wood,
master of the house, or his mysterious new friend, Lestat, were vampires, and that was the way Quinn
willed it with all his heart and soul-that no untoward evil thing would happen, because this was his home,
and vampire though he was, he wasn't ready to break the ties.
Among these mortals were Jasmine, the versatile black housekeeper, a stunner when it comes to looks
(more on that as we go along, I hope, because I can't resist), and Quinn's one-time lover; and their little
son Jerome, begat by Quinn before he'd been made a vampire, of course, four years old and running up
and down the circular steps just for fun, his feet in white tennis shoes a little too big for his body; and Big
Ramona, Jasmine's grandmother, a regal black lady with white hair in a bun, shaking her head, talking to
nobody, in the kitchen cooking up supper for God knows who; and her grandson Clem, a sinewy black
man seemingly poured into his feline skin, attired in a black suit and tie, standing just inside the big front
door looking up the steps, the chauffeur of the lady of the house just lately lost, Aunt Queen, for whom
they were all still painfully mourning, highly suspicious of what was going on in Quinn's bedroom, and
with reason.
Back the hall upstairs was Quinn's old tutor Nash Penfield, in his bedroom, seated with thirteen-year-old
Tommy Blackwood, who was actually Quinn's uncle by natural blood but more purely an adopted son,
and the two were talking in front of the cold summer fireplace, and Tommy, an impressive young man by
anyone's standards, was crying softly over the death of the great lady, to whom I just referred, with whom
Tommy had traveled all over Europe for three years, "the making of him," as Dickens might have said.
Hovering about the back of the property were the Shed Men, Allen and Joel, sitting in an open lighted
portion of the shed, reading theWeekly World News and howling with laughter at it, while the television
was blaring Football. There was a giant limousine in front of the house and one in the back.
As for the Big House, let me go into detail. I loved it. I found it perfectly proportioned, which wasn't
always the case with American Greek Revival houses, but this one, preening on its terrace of land, was
more than agreeable and inviting, with its long pecan-tree drive, and its regal windows all around.
Interior? What Americans call giant rooms. Dustless, manicured. Full of mantel clocks, mirrors, portraits
and Persian rugs, and the inevitable mélange of nineteenth-century mahogany furniture that people mix
with new reproductions of classic Hepplewhite and Louis XIV styles to achieve the look they call
Traditional or antique. Eh? And all pervaded by the inevitable drone of massive air-conditioning, which
not only cooled the air magically but provided the Privacy of Sound, which has so transformed the South
in this day and age.
I know, I know. I should have described the scene before I described the people. So what? I wasn't
thinking logically. I was pondering fiercely. I couldn't quite leave behind the fate of Merrick Mayfair.
Of course Quinn had claimed that he saw the Light of Heaven receiving both his unwanted ghost and
Merrick, and for him the scene in this cemetery had been a theophany-something very different from
what it was for me. All I saw was Merrick immolating herself. I had sobbed, screamed, cursed.
Okay, enough about Merrick. But keep her in mind, because she will definitely be referred to later. Who
knows? Maybe I'll just bring her up anytime I feel like it. Who's in charge of this book anyway? No, don't
take that seriously. I promised you a story, you'll get one.
The point is, or was, that on account of what was going on in the Big House right now, I didn't have time
for all this moping. Merrick was lost to us. The vibrant and unforgettable Aunt Queen was lost. It was
grief behind me and grief before me. But a huge surprise had just occurred, and my precious Quinn
needed me without delay.
Of course nobody was making me take an interest in things here at Blackwood Farm.
I could have just cut out.
Quinn, the fledgling, had called on Lestat the Magnificent (yeah, I like that title) to help him get rid of
Goblin, and technically, since Merrick had taken the ghost with her, I was finished here and could go
riding off into the summer dusk with all the staff hereabouts saying, "Who was that dashing dude,
anyway?" but I couldn't leave Quinn.
Quinn was in a real snare with these mortals. And I was greatly in love with Quinn. Quinn, aged twentytwo
when Baptized in the Blood, was a seer of visions and a dreamer of dreams, unconsciously charming
and unfailingly kind, a suffering hunter of the night who thrived only on the blood of the damned, and the
company of the loving and the uplifting.
(The loving and the uplifting??? Like me, for instance??? So the kid makes mistakes. Besides, I was so in
love with him that I put on a damned good show for him. And can I be damned for loving people who
bring out the love in me? Is that so awful for a full-time monster? You will shortly come to understand
that I am always talking about my moral evolution! But for now: the plot.)
I can "fall in love" with anybody-man, woman, child, vampire, the Pope. It doesn't matter. I'm the
ultimate Christian. I see God's gifts in everyone. But almost anybody would love Quinn. Loving people
like Quinn is easy.
Now, back to the question at hand: Which brings me back to Quinn's bedroom, where Quinn was at this
delicate moment.
Before either of us had risen tonight-and I had taken the six-foot-four inches tall, blue-eyed black-haired
boy to one of my secret hiding places with me-a mortal girl had arrived at the Manor House and
affrighted everybody.
This was the matter that had Clem looking up the steps, and Big Ramona muttering, and Jasmine worried
sick as she went about in her high-heel pumps, wringing her hands. And even little Jerome was excited
about it, still dashing up and down the circular stairs. Even Tommy and Nash had broken off their
mourning laments earlier to have a glance at this mortal girl and offer to help her in her distress.
It was easy enough for me to scan their minds and get a picture of it, this grand and bizarre event, and to
scan Quinn's mind, for that matter, as to the result.
And I was making something of an assault on the mind of the mortal girl herself as she sat on Quinn's
bed, in a huge random display of flowers, a truly marvelous heap of helter-skelter flowers, talking to
Quinn.
It was a cacophony of minds filling me in on everything from the beginning. And the whole thing sent a
little panic through my enormous brave soul. Work the Dark Trick? Make another one of us? Woe and
Grief! Sorrow and Misery! Help, Murder, Police!
Do I really want to steal another soul out of the currents of human destiny? I who want to be a saint? And
once personally hobnobbed with angels? I who claimed to have seen God Incarnate? Bring another into
the-get ready!-Realm of the Undead?
Comment: One of the great things about loving Quinn was that I hadn't made him. The boy had come to
me free of charge. I'd felt a little like Socrates must have felt with all those gorgeous Greek boys coming
to him for advice, that is, until somebody showed up with the Burning Hemlock.
Back to now: If I had any rival in this world for Quinn's heart it was this mortal girl, and he was up there
offering her in frantic whispers the promise of our Blood, the fractured gift of our immortality. Yes, this
explicit offer was coming from the lips of Quinn. Good God, kid, show some backbone, I thought! You
saw the Light of Heaven last night!
Mona Mayfair was this girl's name. But she'd never known or even heard of Merrick Mayfair. So cut that
connection right now. Merrick was a quadroon, born among the "colored" Mayfairs who lived downtown,
and Mona was a member of the white Mayfairs of the Garden District and Mona had probably never
heard a word spoken of Merrick or her colored kin. As for Merrick, she'd shown no interest ever in the
famous white family. She'd had a path all her own.
But Mona was a bona fide witch, however-sure as Merrick had been-and what is a witch? Well, it is a
mind reader, magnet for spirits and ghosts and a possessor of other occult talents. And I'd heard enough
of the illustrious Mayfair clan in the last few days from Quinn to know that Mona's cousins, witches all, if
I'm not mistaken, were undoubtedly in hot pursuit of Mona now, no doubt desperate with worry for the
child.
In fact, I'd had a glimpse of three of this remarkable tribe (and one of them a witch priest, no less, a witch
priest! I don't even want to think about it!), at the funeral Mass for Aunt Queen, and why they were taking
so long to come after Mona was mystifying me, unless they were deliberately playing this one out slowly
for reasons that will soon become clear.
We vampires don't like witches. Can you guess why? Any self-respecting vampire, even if he or she is
three thousand years old, can fool mortals, at least for a while. And young ones like Quinn pass, no
question. Jasmine, Nash, Big Ramona-they all accepted Quinn for human. Eccentric? Clinically insane?
Yes, they believed all that about him. But they thought he was human. And Quinn could live among them
for quite a while. And as I've already explained, they thought I was human too, though I probably couldn't
count on that for too long.
Now, with witches it's another story. Witches detect all kinds of small things about other creatures. It has
to do with the lazy and constant exercise of their power. I'd sensed that at the funeral Mass, just breathing
the same air as Dr. Rowan Mayfair and her husband, Michael Curry, and Fr. Kevin Mayfair. But
fortunately, they were distracted by a multitude of other stimuli, so I hadn't had to bolt.
So okay, where was I? Yeah, cool. Mona Mayfair was a witch, and one of supreme talent. And once the
Dark Blood had come into Quinn about a year ago, he had forsworn ever seeing her again, dying though
she was, for fear she might at once realize that evil had robbed him of life, and contaminate her he would
not.
However, of her own free will and much to everyone's amazement:
She'd come about an hour ago, driving the family stretch limousine, which she'd hijacked from the driver
outside the Mayfair Medical Center where she'd been dying for over two years. (He'd been walking the
block, poor unlucky guy, smoking a cigarette, when she'd sped off, and the last image in her mind of him
was of his running after her.)
She'd then gone to florist after florist where the Mayfair name was good as gold collecting giant sprays of
flowers, or loose bouquets, whatever she could get immediately, and then she'd driven across the twin
span as they call the long lake bridge and up to the Blackwood Manor House, stepping out of the car
barefoot and wrapped in a gaping hospital gown, a perfect horror-a wobbling skeleton with bruised skin
hanging on her bones and a mop of long red hair-and had commandeered Jasmine, Clem, Allen and Nash
to take the flowers to Quinn's room, asserting that she had Quinn's permission to heap them all over the
four-poster bed. It was a pact. Don't worry.
Scared as they all were, they did as they were told.
After all, everybody knew that Mona Mayfair had been the love of Quinn's life before Quinn's beloved
Aunt Queen, world traveler and raconteur, had insisted Quinn go to Europe with her on her "very last
trip," which had somehow stretched into three whole years, and Quinn had come home to discover Mona
in isolation at Mayfair Medical quite beyond his reach.
Then the Dark Blood had come to Quinn in venality and violence, and another year passed with Mona
behind hospital glass, too weak even for a scribbled note or a glance at Quinn's daily gift of flowers and-.
Now back to the anxious passel of attendants who rustled the flowers up to the room.
The emaciated girl herself, and we're talking about twenty years old, that's what I'm calling a girl, could
not possibly make it up the circular staircase, so the gallant Nash Penfield, Quinn's old tutor, cast by God
to be the perfect gentleman (and responsible for a great deal of Quinn's finishing polish), had carried her
up and laid her in her "bower of flowers" as she'd called it, the child assuring him that the roses were
thornless, and she had lain back on the four-poster twining broken phrases from Shakespeare with her
own, to wit:
"Pray, let me to my bride bed, so bedecked, retire, and let them strew my grave hereafter."
At which point, thirteen-year-old Tommy had appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, and had been so
upset by the sight of Mona, in his raw grief for lost Aunt Queen, that he'd begun to shake, and so the
amazed Nash had taken him out while Big Ramona had stayed to declare in a stage whisper worthy of the
Bard:
"That girl's dying!"
At which the little red-headed Ophelia laughed. What else? And asked for a can of cold diet soda.
Jasmine had thought the child was going to give up the ghost on the spot, which could easily have
happened, but the child said No, she was waiting for Quinn, and asked everybody to leave, and when
Jasmine had come running back with the cold soda in a bubbly glass with a bent straw, the girl would
hardly drink it.
You can live all your life in America without ever seeing a mortal in this condition.
But in the eighteenth century when I was born it was rather common. People starved in the streets of Paris
in those days. They died all around you. Same situation prevailed in nineteenth-century New Orleans
when the starving Irish began to arrive. You could see many beggars of skin and bone. Now you have to
go to "the foreign missions" or to certain hospital wards to see people suffering like Mona Mayfair.
Big Ramona had made a further declaration, that that was the very bed in which her own daughter died
(Little Ida), and that it was no bed for a sick child. But Jasmine, her granddaughter, had told her to shush,
and Mona had taken to laughing so hard she was in agony and began to choke. She had survived.
As I stood in the cemetery, monitoring all these marvelous mirrors of near immediate events, I reckoned
Mona was five-foot-one or thereabouts, destined to be delicate, and once a famous beauty, but the
sickness-set into motion by a traumatic birth which was despite all my power still unclear to me-had so
thoroughly done its work on her that she was under seventy pounds in weight and her profuse red hair
only heightening the macabre spectacle of her total deterioration. She was so dangerously close to death
that only will was keeping her going.
It had been will and witchcraft-the high persuasion of witches-that had helped her get the flowers and to
force so much assistance when she arrived.
But now that Quinn had come, now that Quinn was there with her, and the one bold idea of her dying
hours was consummate, the pain in her internal organs and her joints was defeating her. There was also a
terrible pain in the entire surface of her skin. Merely sitting amid all the precious flowers hurt her.
As for my brave Quinn renouncing every execration he had laid on his fate and offering her the Dark
Blood, no big surprise, I had to admit, but I wished to Hell he hadn't.
It's hard to watch anyone die when you know you possess this evil paradoxical power. And he was still in
love with her, naturally and unnaturally, and couldn't abide her suffering. Who could?
However, as I have already explained, Quinn had received a theophany only last night, seeing Merrick
and his doppelganger spirit both passing into the Light.
So why in the name of God had he not consented to merely holding Mona's hand and seeing her through
it? She certainly wasn't going to live until midnight.
Fact of the matter, he didn't have the strength to let her go. Of course Quinn never would have gone to
her, I should add, he'd protected her from his secret valiantly, as noted, but she'd come here to Quinn, to
his very room, begging to die in his bed. And he was a male vampire, and this was his territory, his lair,
so to speak, and some male juices were flowing here, vampire or no, and now she was in his arms, and a
monstrous possessiveness and high imaginative perception of saving her had taken hold of him.
And as surely as I knew all that, I knew he couldn't work the Dark Trick on her. He'd never done it
before, and she was too frail. He'd kill her. And that was no way to go. Shoot, the child, having opted for
the Dark Blood, could go to Hell! I had to get up there. Vampire Lestat to the rescue!
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Lestat, is this a comedy? We don't want a comedy." No,
it's not!
It's just that all the debasing subterfuge is falling away from me, don't you see? Not the glamour you
understand, keep your mind on the image, baby! We're only losing those elements which tended to
cheapen my discourse, and throw up a barrier of-artificial quaintness, more or less.
Okay. Onward. I went the human route, through the front door, clickity click, startling Clem, throwing
him an ingratiating smile, "Quinn's friend, Lestat, yeah, gotcha, hey, and Clem, have that car ready, we're
going into New Orleans afterwards, okay, dude?" and headed up the circular stairs, beaming down at little
Jerome as I passed him, and giving Jasmine a quick hug as she stood stranded in the hallway, then
telepathically turned the lock on Quinn's bedroom door and entered.
Entered? Why not went in? That's the artificial quaintness that has to go. You see my point? Matter of
fact, I barreled into the room, if you must know.
Now, I'll let you in on a little secret. Nothing seen telepathically is ever one tenth as vivid as what a
vampire sees with his own eyes. Telepathy is cool, no doubt about it, but our vision is almost intolerably
vivid. That's why telepathy doesn't play much of a role in this book. I'm a sensualist anyway.
And the sight of Mona sitting on the foot of the big glowering four-poster was heartbreaking. The girl
was in more pain than Quinn could conceivably realize. Even his arm around her was hurting her. I
calculated without wanting to do it that she should have died about two hours ago. Her kidneys had shut
down, her heart was sputtering and she couldn't fill her lungs with enough air to take deep breaths.
But her flawless green eyes were wide as she looked at me, and her fierce intellect understood on some
complete mystical level, quite truly beyond words, what Quinn was trying to tell her: that the progress of
her death could be utterly reversed, that she could join with us, that she could be ours forever. The
vampiric state; the Undead. Immortal killer. Outside life for all time.
I know you, Little Witch. We live forever. She almost smiled.
Would the Dark Trick undo the damage which had been done to her miserable body? You betcha.
Two hundred years ago in a bedroom on the Ile St.-Louis, I had seen old age and consumption drop away
from the emaciated form of my own mother as the Dark Blood realized its full magic within her. And in
those nights, I'd been a mere postulant, compelled by love and fear to do the transformation. It had been
my first time. I hadn't even known its name.
"Let me work the Dark Trick, Quinn," I said immediately.
I saw the relief flood through him. He was so innocent, so confused. Of course, I didn't much like it that
he was four inches taller than me, but it really didn't matter. I meant it when I called him my Little
Brother. I would have done just about anything for him. And then there was Mona herself. Witch child,
beauty, ferocious spirit, almost nothing but spirit with the body desperately trying to hold on.
They drew closer to each other. I could see her hand clasping his. Could she feel the preternatural flesh?
Her eyes were on me.
I paced the room. I took over. I put it to her in grand style. We were vampires, yes, but she had a choice,
precious darling that she was. Why hadn't Quinn told her about the Light? Quinn had seen the Light with
his own eyes. He knew the measure of Celestial Forgiveness more truly than I did.
"But you can choose the Light some other night, chérie, " I said. I laughed. I couldn't stop myself. It was
too miraculous.
She'd been sick for so long, suffered for so long. And that birth, that child she'd borne, it had been
monstrous, taken from her, and I couldn't see to the core of it. But forget that. Her conception of eternity
was to feel whole for one blessed hour, to breathe for one blessed hour without pain. How could she
make this choice? No, there was no choice here for this girl. I saw the long corridor down which she'd
traveled inexorably for so many years-the needles that had bruised her arms, and the bruises were all over
her, the medicines that had sickened her, the half sleep in agony, the fevers, the shallow ruminating
dreams, the loss of all blessed concentration when the books and films and letters had been put aside and
even the deep darkness was gone in the seasonless glare of hospital lights and inescapable clatter and
noise.
She reached for me. She nodded. Dried cracked lips. Strands of red hair. "Yes, I want it," she said.
And from Quinn's lips came the inevitable words: "Save her."
Save her? Didn't Heaven want her?
"They're coming for you," I said. "It's your family." I hadn't meant to blurt it. Was I under some sort of
spell myself, looking into her eyes? But I could hear them clearly, the fast-approaching Mayfairs.
Ambulance sans siren pulling into the pecan-tree drive, stretch limousine right behind it.
"No, don't let them take me," she cried. "I want to be with you."
"Honey bunch, this is for always," I said.
"Yes!"
Darkness eternal, yes, curse, grief, isolation, yes.
Oh, and it's the same old beat with you, Lestat, you Devil, you want to do it, you want to, you want to see
it, you greedy little beast, you can't give her over to the angels and you know they're waiting! You know
the God who can sanctify her suffering has purified her and will forgive her last cries.
I drew close to her, pushing gently against Quinn.
"Let her go, Little Brother," I said. I lifted my wrist, broke the inside skin with my teeth and put the blood
to her lips. "It has to be done this way. I've got to give her some of my blood first." She kissed the blood.
Her eyes squeezed shut. Shiver. Shock. "Otherwise, I can't bring her through. Drink, pretty girl. Goodbye,
pretty girl, good-bye, Mona."
3
SHE DREW THE BLOOD from me as if she'd broken the circuit that kept me alive, as if she meant to kill
me. A witch had me by the blood. I gasped and reached with my left hand for the post of the bed and
missed it, falling gently back with her on the nest of flowers. Her hair was catching in the roses. So was
mine.
In a blatant rush, I felt myself emptying my life into her-dank country castle, Paris, the boulevard theater,
stolen, stone tower, made by Magnus, fire, alone, orphan weeping, treasure; did she laugh? I saw her
teeth in my heart, my very heart. I pulled back, dizzy, and clung to the post, each one is unique, staring
down at her.
Witchlet!
With glazed eyes she looked up at me. The blood was on her lips, just a touch, and all her pain was gone,
and the moment had come, the moment of peace from pain, peace from struggle, peace from fear.
She simply couldn't believe it.
In the twilight between human and vampire, she breathed deeply and slowly, hungry hybrid, doomed
hybrid, her skin plumping exquisitely and the sweetness unfolding in her face as the cheeks formed and
her lips filled out, and the flesh around her eyes grew firm, and then the breasts were rising beneath her
cotton gown, and a roundness came to her arms, such a delectable roundness, I am such a fiend, and she
sighed again, sighed as if ecstatic, looking at me, yeah, right, I'm gorgeous, I know, and now she could
endure the Dark Trick. Quinn was stunned. So in love. Get away. I pushed him back. This is mine.
I snatched her up from the flowers. Vessel of my blood. Petals falling. Whispered poetry was tumbling
from her lips, "Or like a creature native and indued unto that element." I hugged her to me. I wanted my
blood from her. I wanted her.
"Little Witch," I hissed into her ear. "You think you know all I can do!" I crushed her to me. I heard her
sweet soft laugh. "Come on, show me!" she said. I'm not dying. Quinn was afraid. He put his arms around
her and touched my arms. He was trying to hold us both. It was so warm. I loved him. So what? I had her.
I grazed her neck with my teeth. "I'm coming to get you, Little Girl!" I whispered. "You're playing in the
big time, Little Girl!" Her heart was racing. Still on the brink. I sank my teeth and felt her body stiffen.
Lovely paralysis. Slowly I drew on the blood, her salt mixed with my own. I knew her: child beauty,
nymphet, schoolgirl scamp, the one on whom nothing was lost, pronouncements of genius, nursing
drunken parents, freckles and smile, her life a romp, and always dreaming, restless at the computer keys,
designée to the Mayfair billions, burying father and mother, no more worry there, lover of more men than
she could count, pregnancy-now I saw it!-horror birth, monster child, Look at it: woman baby! Morrigan.
"Walking Baby," said Dolly Jean. Who are these people! What is this you are showing to me! "You think
you're the only monsters I know?" Morrigan gone forever, monster child, What is this mutant that grows
to be a full woman at its birth, wants your milk? Taltos! Gone, taken, ruined her health forever, made her
start dying, have to find Morrigan, emerald around Mona's neck, look at that emerald! Mona fastened to
Quinn, so in love with Quinn, tell Quinn, no, poetry of Ophelia sustaining her soul, heart beat, catching
breath, dying for too long, Don't you realize what this is! I do, I do! Don't stop! Don't let me go! Who is
that trying to take you from me? I knew that ghost! Oncle Julien!
He came at me. Angry phantom! In the midst of my vision! Was he in the room? This tall, white-haired
man assaulting me, trying to wrench her from me! Who the Hell are you? I sent him flying back, receding
so fast he became a tiny speck. Damn you, let her go!
We lay on the bower of flowers, she and I in each other's arms, no time, look at him, he's coming again,
Oncle Julien! I was blind. I drew back, tore my wrist again, pushed my wrist to her mouth, clumsy,
spilling blood, couldn't see, felt her clamp hard, body lurch,Oncle Julien, you're out! She drank and
drank. Oncle Julien's face furious. Faint. Vanish. "He's gone," I whispered. "Oncle Julien gone!" Did
Quinn hear? "Make him go, Quinn."
I swooned, giving her my life, see it, see it all, see the devastated core, move beyond regret, go on, her
body growing stronger, the iron of her limbs, her fingers digging into my arm as she drank from my wrist,
go on, take it, sink those teeth into my soul, do it, now I'm the paralyzed one, can't escape, brutal little
girl, go on, where was I, let her drink on and on, I can't, I snuggled my face against her neck, opened my
mouth, no power to-.
Our souls closing to each other, the inevitable blindness between Maker and Fledgling meaning she was
made. Couldn't read each other's thoughts anymore. Drink me dry, beautiful, you're on your own.
My eyes were shut. I dreamt. Oncle Julien wept. Ah, so sad, was it? In the realm of shadows, he stood
with his face in his hands and he wept. What is this? An emblem of conscience? Don't make me laugh.
And so the literal dissolves. She drinks and she drinks. And alone I dream, a suicide in a bathtub with
streaming wrists, I dream:
I saw a perfect vampire, a soul unlike any other, tutored in courage, never looking back, lifted from
misery, and seeking to marvel at all things without malice or lamenting. I saw a graduate of the school of
suffering. I saw her.
The ghost came back.
Tall, angry, Oncle Julien, will you be my Hound of Heaven? Arms folded. What do you want here? Do
you realize what you are up against? My perfect vampire does not see you. Go away, dream. Go away,
ghost. I have no time for you. Sorry, Oncle Julien, she's made. You lose.
She let me go. She must have. I drifted.
When I opened my eyes, Mona stood beside Quinn and they were both looking down on me.
I lay amongst the flowers, and there were no thorns on the roses. Time had stopped. And the distant
commotions of the house didn't matter.
She was fulfilled. She was the vampire in my dream. She was the perfect one. Ophelia's old poetry
dropped away. She was the Perfect Pearl, caught speechless in the miracle and staring down at me,
wondering only what had become of me, as another fledgling of mine had done long ago-when I'd
worked the Dark Trick just as fiercely and just as thoroughly and just as dangerously to myself. But
understand that for Lestat there are only temporary dangers. No big deal, boys and girls. Look at her.
So this was the splendid creature with whom Quinn had fallen so fatally in love. Princess Mona of the
Mayfairs. To the very roots of her long red hair the Blood had penetrated, and it was full and shining, and
her face was oval with plumped and smiling cheeks and lips, and her eyes clear of all fever, those
fathomless green eyes.
Oh, she was dazed by the Blood vision, of course, and above all by the vampiric power that pervaded the
cells of her entire frame.
But she stood resolute and quick, staring at me, as robust no doubt as she'd ever been, the hospital gown
now skimpy and straining to contain her. All that juicy and enticing flesh restored.
I brushed off the petals that clung to me. I got up on my feet. I was dizzy still, but healing fast. My mind
was clouded and it was almost a nice feeling, a delicious blurring of the light and warmth in the room,
and I had a swift, profound sense of love for Mona and Quinn and a profound sense that we'd be together
for a long time, just the three of us. Three of us.
Quinn appeared shining and steadfast in this feverish vision of mine. That had been his charm for me
from the beginning of knowing him, a secular crown prince of sorts, full of openness and self-confidence.
Love would always save Quinn. Losing Aunt Queen, he had been sustained on the love he'd felt for her.
The only one he had hated, he had killed.
"May I give her my blood?" he asked. He reached out for me, squeezed my shoulder and bent forward
hesitantly and then kissed me.
How he could take his eyes off her I didn't know.
I smiled. I was gaining my bearings. Oncle Julien was nowhere about that I could see.
"Nowhere," echoed Quinn.
"What are you saying?" asked the shining newborn.
"Oncle Julien, I saw him," but I shouldn't have said it.
Sudden shadow in her face. "Oncle Julien?"
"But he was bound to-." Quinn said. "At Aunt Queen's funeral I saw him, and it was as if he was warning
me. It was his duty, but what does it matter now?"
"Don't give her your blood," I said to Quinn. "Keep your minds open to each other. Of course you'll
depend on words, no matter how much you read of each other's thoughts, but don't exchange blood. Too
much, and you'll lose the mutual telepathy."
She reached out her arms to me. I embraced her, squeezed her tight, marveling at the power she'd already
achieved. I felt humbled by the Blood rather than proud of any excess to which I'd taken the whole
process. I gave a little accepting laugh as I kissed her, which she returned in her enchantment.
If any one trait in her made me a slave it was her green eyes. I hadn't realized how clouded they'd been by
her illness. And now as I held her back, I saw a sprinkling of freckles across her face, and a flash of her
beautiful white teeth as she smiled.
She was a small thing for all her magical health and restoration. She brought out the tenderness in me,
which few people do.
But it was time to move out of the rhapsody. Much as I hated it. The practical matters came to intrude.
"Okay, my love," I said. "You're going to know one last bout of pain. Quinn will see you through it. Take
her into the shower, Quinn. But first, arrange some clothes for her. On second thought, you leave that to
me. I'll tell Jasmine she needs a pair of jeans and a shirt."
Mona laughed almost hysterically.
"We're always subject to this mixture of the magic and the mundane," I replied. "Get used to it."
Quinn was all seriousness and apprehension. He went over to his desk, punched in the intercom number
for the kitchen and gave the order for the clothes to Big Ramona, telling her to leave them right outside
the door. Okay, good. All the roles of Blackwood Farm are played smoothly.
Then, Mona, stunned and dreaming, asked if she might have a white dress, or if there might be a white
dress downstairs in Aunt Queen's room.
"A white dress," said Mona, as if she were caught in some poetic net as strong as her mental pictures of
drowning Ophelia. "And is there lace, Quinn, lace that nobody would mind if I wore . . ."
Quinn turned to the phone again, gave the orders, yes, Aunt Queen's silks, make it all up. "Everything
white," he said to Big Ramona. His voice was gentle and patient. "You know, Jasmine won't wear the
white dresses. Yes, for Mona. If we don't use them, they will all end up packed away. In the attic. Aunt
Queen loved Mona. Stop crying. I know. I know. But Mona can't go around in this disgusting hospital
gown. And someday, fifty years from now, Tommy and Jerome will be unpacking all those clothes and
figuring what to do with it all and . . . just bring something up here now."
As he turned back to us his eye fastened on Mona and he stopped in his tracks as if he couldn't believe
what he saw, and a dreadful expression came over him, as though he only just realized what had
happened, what we'd done. He murmured something about white lace. I didn't want to read his mind.
Then he came forward and took Mona in his arms.
"This mortal death, Ophelia, it won't be much," he said. "I'll get into the stream with you. I'll hold you.
We'll say the poetry together. And after that, there's no pain. There's thirst. But never any pain." He
couldn't hold her close enough.
"And will I always see as I see now?" she asked. The words about the death meant nothing to her.
"Yes," he said.
"I'm not afraid," she said. She meant it.
But she still had no real grasp of what had been done. And I knew in my heart, the heart I closed off from
Quinn and the heart she couldn't read, that she really hadn't consented to this. She hadn't been able.
What did this mean to me? Why am I making such a big deal of it?
Because I'd murdered her soul, that's why.
I'd bound her to the Earth the way we were bound, and now I had to see to it that she became that vampire
which I'd seen in my moment of intense dream. And when she finally woke to what she'd become she
might go out of her mind. What had I said of Merrick? The ones who reached for it went mad sooner than
those who were stolen, as I had been.
But there wasn't time for this sort of thinking.
"They're here," she said. "They're downstairs. Can you hear them?" She was alarmed. And as is always
the case with the new ones, every emotion in her was exaggerated.
"Don't fear, pretty girl," I said. "I'm on to them."
We were talking about the rumblings from the front parlor below. Mayfairs on the property. Jasmine
fretful, walking to and fro. Little Jerome trying to slide down the coiling banister. Quinn could hear all
this too.
It was Rowan Mayfair and Fr. Kevin Mayfair, the priest for the love of Heaven, come with an ambulance
and a nurse to find her and take her back to the hospital, or at least to discover whether she was alive or
dead.
That was it. I got it. That's why they'd taken their time. They thought that she was already dead.
And they were right. She was.
4
I UNLOCKED the bedroom door.
Big Ramona stood there with an armful of white clothes.
Quinn and Mona had disappeared into the nearby bathroom.
"You're wanting this for that poor child?" Big Ramona said. Small-boned woman, white hair, sweetfaced,
starched white apron. (Grandmother of Jasmine.) Deeply troubled. "Now, don't you just grab for
all this, I've got it folded!"
I stood back to let her march into the room and lay the pile on the flower-strewn bed. "Now, there's
underwear and slips here, too," she declared. She shook her head. The shower was running in the bath.
She passed me as she went out, making her share of little grumbling noises.
"I can't believe that girl is still breathing," she said. "It's some kind of miracle. And her family down there
brought Fr. Kevin with the Holy Oils. Now, I know Quinn loves that girl, but where does it say in the
Gospel that you have to let a person die in your house, and what with Quinn's mother sick, you knew that
didn't you, and Quinn's mother run off somewhere, did you know that, Patsy's up and gone-"
(Flash on memory of Patsy, Quinn's mother: country-western singer with poofed hair and painted
fingernails, dying of AIDS in the bedroom opposite, no longer up to putting on her fringed leather outfits
with the high boots and war paint makeup and going out, just pretty on the couch in white nightgowns
when I had last seen her, lady full of irrational and overriding hate for Quinn, a twisted kind of sibling
rivalry from a woman who'd been sixteen when Quinn was born to her. Now vanished.)
"-and leaving all her medicine behind, sick as she is. Oh Patsy, Patsy, and Aunt Queen just laid in the
grave, and then this redheaded child coming here, I'm telling you!"
"Well, maybe Mona's dead," I said, "and Quinn's washing her corpse in the bathtub."
She broke into laughter, muffling it with her hand.
"Oh, you're a devil," she said. "You're worse than Quinn," she went on flashing her pale eyes at me, "but
don't you think I don't know what they're doing in that shower together. And what if she does die in there,
what about that, are we going to be patting her dry with towels and laying her out like it didn't happen
and-"
"Well, she'll be really clean," I said with a shrug.
She shook her head, trying not to laugh out loud, and then shifted emotional gears as she headed back to
the hall, laughing and talking to nobody as she went on, ". . . and what with his mother running off, and
she sick as a dog, and nobody knows where she is, and those Mayfairs downstairs, it's a wonder they
didn't bring the sheriff." And into the back bedroom she went, The Angel of Hot Coffee, where Nash and
Tommy talked in hushed voices, and Tommy cried over the loss of Aunt Queen.
It occurred to me with uncommon strength that I had grown too fond of all these people, that I understood
why Quinn insisted on remaining here, playing the mortal as long as he could, why the entirety of
Blackwood Farm had a hold on him.
But it was time to be a wizard. Time to buy some time for Mona, time to make her absence somehow
acceptable to the witches below.
Besides, I was curious about the creatures in the double parlor, these intrepid psychics who fooled the
mortals around them as surely as we vampires did, pretending to be wholesome and regular human beings
while they contained a host of secrets.
I hurried down the circular stairs, grabbed up tiny Jerome with his big tennis shoes off the banister just in
time to save his life as he nearly fell some ten feet to the marble tile floor below, and put him in the
waiting arms of a very anxious Jasmine; and then, gesturing to her that everything would be all right, I
went into the cooler air of the front room.
Dr. Rowan Mayfair, founder and head of Mayfair Medical, was seated in one of the mahogany chairs
(picture nineteenth-century Rococo, black lacquer and velvet), and her head turned sharply as if jerked by
a cord when I entered.
Now, we had seen each other before, as I noted, at Aunt Queen's funeral Mass in St. Mary's Assumption
Church. In fact, I'd sat dangerously close to her, being in the pew right in front of her. But I'd been better
camouflaged at the time by ordinary clothes and sunglasses. What she saw now was the Brat Prince in his
frock coat and handmade lace, and I'd forgotten to put on my sunglasses, which was just a stupid mistake.
I hadn't had a really good look at her at all. Now I found myself instantly fascinated, which wasn't too
comfortable since it was my role to fascinate as our conversation went on.
Her lean oval face was delicately sculpted and as clean as a little girl's and needed nothing in the way of
paint to make it remarkable, with its huge gray eyes and cold flawless mouth. She wore a severe, gray
wool pants suit, with a red scarf wrapped around her neck and tucked down into her lapels, and her short
ash blond hair appeared to curl under naturally just below the soft line of her jaw.
Her expression was intensely dramatic, and I sensed an immediate and sweeping probe of my mind,
which I locked up tight. I felt chills down my backbone. She was creating this.
She had fully expected to read my thoughts and she couldn't. And she was blocked from knowing what
was going on upstairs. She didn't like it. But to put it more Biblically, she was deeply grieved.
And being shut out, she tried to make sense of my appearance, not at all concerned with the superficial
eccentricity of the frock coat and my messy hair, but of elements which were more purely vampiric-the
subtle sheen of my skin and the electric blue of my eyes.
I had to start talking quickly, but let me fill you in first on my instantaneous take on the other Mayfair-Fr.
Kevin-who was standing at the far mantel, the only other occupant of the room.
Nature had dealt him the same cards as Mona-deep green eyes and red hair. In fact, he could have been
her big brother, the genes were so close, and he was my height, six feet, and well built. He wore clerical
black with the white Roman collar. And he was not the witch Rowan was, but he was more than slightly
psychic, and I could read him easily: he thought I was weird and he was hoping Mona was already dead.
I sparked off the memory of him at Mass in his Gothic robes holding the chalice in his hands.This is my
blood. And for reasons I couldn't possibly explain, I was taken slap back to my village childhood in
France, to the ancient church and the village priest saying those very same words, chalice in hand, and for
a moment I lost my perspective on everything. Other mortal memories threatened, perfected in color and
lucidity. I saw the monastery where I'd studied, so happy, where I'd so wanted to be a monk. Oh, this was
sickening.
And with another decided chill, I realized that Dr. Mayfair had caught these images out of my mind
before I closed it up again.
I shook it off, annoyed for a moment that the double parlor was so crowded with shadow. Then my eyes
latched on to the stark, don't belong, figure of Oncle Julien, three-dimensional and exquisitely solid in a
slim gray suit, standing in the far corner, arms folded, eying me with calculating opposition. He was
fiercely actual, and fiercely bright.
"What's wrong with you?" Dr. Rowan Mayfair asked. Her voice was deep, husky and sensual. Her eyes
were still picking me apart.
"You don't see any ghost in here, do you?" I blurted out without thinking, the ghost just standing there all
the while as it came clear to me that of course they didn't, neither of them. This shining and selfcontained
menace had it in for me.
"No, I don't see anything," Rowan answered promptly. "There's a ghost in this room that I ought to see?"
Women with these husky voices have a miraculous advantage.
"You do have your ghosts here," Fr. Kevin said acceptingly. Yankee accent. Boston. "As Quinn's friend, I
thought you'd know."
"Oh, I do, yes," I said. "But I never get used to them. Ghosts scare me. So do angels."
"And didn't you hold an exorcism to get rid of Goblin?" asked the priest, throwing me off guard.
"Yes, and it worked," I said, glad of the distraction. "Goblin's gone from this house, and Quinn's free of
him for the first time in his life. I wonder what it will mean to him."
Oncle Julien didn't budge.
"Where is she?" asked Rowan, meaning Mona, who else?
"She wants to stay here," I said. "You know, it's simple." I crossed in front of her and sat down in a chair
with its back to the floor lamp, putting myself in a bit of shadow, and so I could see everyone, even my
nemesis. "She doesn't want to die at Mayfair Medical. She managed to drive the limousine all the way
over here. You know Mona. And she's with Quinn upstairs. I want you to trust us. Leave her with us.
We'll take care of her. We can call Aunt Queen's old nurse to help us."
Rowan was staring at me as if I'd lost my mind.
"Do you realize how difficult it's going to be?" she asked. She sighed and a great weariness showed itself
in her, but only for an instant. "Do you realize how difficult it can get?"
"You've brought the oxygen and morphine, haven't you?" I glanced over my shoulder in the direction of
the ambulance out front. "Leave them. Cindy, the nurse, will know how to use them."
Rowan raised her eyebrows. Same weariness again, but her strength was greater. She was trying to figure
me out. Absolutely nothing about me frightened her or repelled her. I found her beautiful. There was a
limitless intelligence behind her eyes.
"Quinn can't possibly understand what he's taking on," she said gently. "I don't want him to be hurt. I
don't want her to die in pain. Do you follow me?"
"Of course I do," I said. "Trust me that we'll call you when it's time."
She bowed her head, but only for a second.
"No, no, you don't understand," she said, the husky voice so expressive of concern. "There's no
reasonable explanation for her being still alive right now."
"It's her will," I countered. I'm telling you the truth, there is no reason to be concerned for her. "She's
resting, free of pain," I said.
"That's impossible," Rowan whispered.
Something flickered in her expression.
"Who are you?" she asked, that deep voice underscoring her seriousness.
I was the one being spellbound. I couldn't break loose of her. I felt the chills again. The room was too
dim. I wanted to tell Jasmine to turn up the chandelier.
"My name doesn't matter," I said, but it was hard for me to speak.
What was it about this woman? Why was her strip down beauty so provocative and threatening? I wanted
to see into her soul but she was far too clever to let it happen. Yet I sensed secrets in her, a trove of them,
and I felt an electric connection to the monster child that Mona had revealed to me when I made her, and
other things.
I knew suddenly this woman was hiding something dreadful to her own conscience, that the dominant
note of her character was this concealment and this conscience, and a great striving rooted in her
brilliance and her guilt. I wanted it, whatever she was hiding, just to know it for a moment, just to know it
in warmth with her. I would have given anything-.
She looked away from me. I had unwittingly stared her down and lost her, and she was fumbling silently,
and I almost saw it: a power over life and death.
Fr. Kevin spoke up:
"I have to see Mona before we go," he said. "I must talk to Quinn, about the exorcism. I used to see
Goblin, you understand. I'm concerned for both of them. You have to tell Mona we're here-."
He had taken a chair opposite me and I hadn't even noticed. "Perhaps we should both see her," he said to
Rowan. "Then we can decide what to do." His was a gentle voice, perfect for a priest, humble yet totally
unaffected.
I locked eyes with him, and it seemed for an instant I caught hold of shared secrets, things that they all
knew, these Mayfairs, things they couldn't tell, things so profoundly connected to their wealth and their
roots that they could never be outgrown or expurgated or overcome. With Fr. Kevin it was doubly hard
because he was the confessor of this family, bound by that sacred oath, and also he'd been told things he
could scarce believe and it had profoundly changed him.
But he too knew how to lock his mind. And again, all I got when I probed him was that aching memory
of my own childhood schooling, of my wanting so badly to be good. An echo of my own mental voice
coming back on me. I hated it. Away with it! It struck me, sharp and hard, that I had been given so many
chances to save my soul that my entire life had been constructed around these chances! That was my
nature-going from temptation after temptation, not to sin, but to be redeemed.
I'd never seen my life that way before.
Had that long-ago boy, Lestat, fought hard enough, he could have become a monk.
"Accursed!" whispered the ghost.
"That's not possible," I said.
"Not possible to see her!" Rowan said. "You can't be serious."
I heard a soft laughter. I turned around in the chair.
To my far right the ghost was laughing. "Now what are you going to do, Lestat?" he asked.
"What is it?" asked Rowan. "What are you seeing?"
"Nothing," I insisted. "You can't see her. I promised her. No one would come up. For God's sakes, let her
alone." I threw all my conviction behind it. I suddenly felt desperate. "Let her die the way she wants, for
the love of Heaven. Let her go!"
She glared at me, glared at this display of emotion. An immense inner suffering was suddenly visible in
her face, as if she could no longer conceal it, or as if my own outburst, muted as it had been, had ignited
the dim fire inside of her.
"He's right," said Fr. Kevin. "But you understand, we have to stay here."
"And it's not going to be very long," said Rowan. "We'll wait quietly. If you don't want us in the house . .
."
"No, no, of course you're welcome," I said."Mon Dieu!"
Again came the ghostly laughter.
"Your hospitality is wretched!" said Oncle Julien. "Jasmine has not even offered them a cracker and glass
of water. I am appalled."
I was bitterly amused by that, and I doubted the truth of it. I found myself worrying about it and became
incensed! And at the same time I heard something, something nobody in the room could hear, except
perhaps the laughing ghost. It was the sound of Mona crying, nay, sobbing. I had to go back to Mona.
All right, Lestat, be a monster. Throw the most interesting woman you've ever met out of the house.
"Listen to me, both of you," I said, fixing Rowan in my gaze, and then flashing on Fr. Kevin. "I want you
to go home. Mona's as psychic as you are. It distresses her dreadfully that you're down here. She senses it.
She feels it. It adds to her pain." (All this was true, wasn't it?) "I gotta go back up there now and comfort
her. Please leave. That's what she wants. That's what gave her the strength to drive here. Now I promise
you I will contact you when it's all over. Please go."
I rose, and I took Rowan's arm and all but lifted her out of the chair.
"You are a perfect lout," said the ghost, disgustedly.
Fr. Kevin was on his feet.
Rowan stared at me, transfixed. I guided her into the hallway and to the front door, and the priest
followed.Trust in me. Trust that it's what Mona wants.
Could they hear Mona's sobs now?
Without taking my eyes off Rowan's eyes, I opened the front door. Blast of summer heat, scent of
flowers. "You go now," I said.
"But the oxygen, the morphine," said Rowan. Whiskey voice, they called it. It was so seductive. And
behind her delicate probing frown was this conflict, this unadmitted and sinful power. What was it?
We stood on the front porch, like dwarves underneath the columns. The purple light was suddenly
soothing and the moment lost its proportions. It was like eternal dusk here in the country. I could hear the
birds of the night, the distant unquiet waters of the swamp.
Fr. Kevin instructed the orderlies. They brought in the supplies.
I couldn't break away from this woman. What had I been saying to her? The ghost was laughing. I was
getting confused.
What is your secret?
I felt a physical push, as though she had stretched out her two hands and laid them on my chest and tried
to move me back from where I stood. I saw the ghost over her shoulder. It came from her, the push. It had
to come from her.
Her face was engraved with a hostile beauty.
She tossed her hair just slightly, let it stroke her cheeks.
She narrowed her eyes. "Take care of Mona for me," she said. "I love her with all my heart. You cannot
know what it means to me that I failed with her-that all my gifts, all my resources-."
"Of course. I know how you love her," I said. "I love her and I hardly know her." This was babble. This
woman was suffering. Was I suffering? The ghost was accusing me. A tall man right behind her but she
had no sense of him.
What was it that was slipping out of her conscious to me? Something so very dreadful that it had shaped
her entire existence; and she felt it keenly at this moment. I have taken life.
I shuddered. Her eyes wouldn't let me move.
I have taken life again and again.
The orderlies swept by with more equipment. Cool air flooded out of the open front door. Jasmine was
there. The ghost stood firm. It seemed to me that the curve of the limbs of the pecan trees marching down
the gravel drive meant something, a secret communication from the Lord of the Universe, but what?
"Come to me," I said to Rowan. A life founded upon suffering, upon reparation. I couldn't bear it, I had to
touch it, enclose it, save it.
I took her in my arms, Dear God Forgive Me, kissing her cheeks and then her mouth. Don't fear for
Mona.
"You don't understand," she whispered. In a scalding moment I saw the hospital room, a torture cell of
machines and pulsing numbers, glistening plastic bags feeding into dangling tubes, and Mona sobbing,
sobbing the way she was now, and Rowan standing in the doorway.Almost used the power, almost killed-.
"I see, I do," I said. "And it was not the right time and she wanted to come to Quinn," I whispered the
words in her ear.
"Yes," she said, her own tears rising, "and I frightened her. You see. She knew what I meant to do, she
knew I had the power, it would have showed up as a stroke on the autopsy, just a stroke, but she knew! I
almost. . . . I terrified her. And. . . ."
I held her so tight. I drew in my breath.
I kissed her tears. I wished I was a saint. I wished I was the priest who stood by the car waiting for her,
pretending not to see our kissing. What was kissing? Mortal kissing? I kissed her mouth again. Mortal
loving and all the while the thundering desire for the link of the blood, not her death, no, Dear God, no,
just the link of the blood, the knowing. Who was this Rowan Mayfair! My head swam.
And the ghost beyond her glared as though he'd harrow Hell to bring its forces against me.
"How could you tell when was the right moment?" I answered. "And the thing to cling to is that you
didn't do it. And now she has her time with Quinn." Oh, such deceitful euphemisms for one who detests
all euphemisms, and with reason. I kissed her hard and eagerly and felt her body soften, felt her lock to
me for one precious instant, and then the flash of icy coldness as she pulled away.
She hurried down the steps, her heels barely making a sound. Fr. Kevin was holding the door of the car
open for her. The ambulance was already backing up. She turned and looked at me and then she waved at
me.
Such a tender, unexpected gesture. I felt my heart grow huge, and its beating too much for me.
No, you poor darling. You didn't kill her. I did it. I killed her. I'm guilty. And she's sobbing again. And
the ghost knows.
5
NONE OF THE MORTALS in the house could hear Mona sobbing. The walls were too thick.
Meantime, the middle of the dining room table was being draped and set for supper, and Jasmine wanted
to know if Quinn and I would join Tommy and Nash; I told her No, we couldn't leave Mona, which she
already knew.
I told her to please call Cindy, the Nurse, though she probably wasn't needed, and to put the oxygen tank
and the medicine out of the way. (Actually, this lovely lady spells her name Cyndy, so we will start
spelling it this way from here on.)
I went into the living room. I tried to clear my head. The simple perfume of Rowan on my hands
paralyzed me. I had to get straight.
Snap to a tender affection for everybody in the house. Go to Mona.
What was all this succumbing to a human witch! The entire Mayfair family was full of troublemakers!
Mayfair design and Mayfair will were quickening my pulse. I think I even cursed Merrick, that she had
planned to immolate herself last night on that altar, that she'd somehow found a way to save her immortal
soul, and left me to my own usual damnation.
And then there was the ghost. The Mayfair ghost had returned to his corner. He stood there giving me the
most malevolent look I've ever seen on any creature, vampire or human.
I took his measure: a male, aged sixty perhaps, short curly hair, snow white; eyes gray or black; excellent
facial features and regal bearing, though why the age of sixty I couldn't figure unless he'd felt most
especially powerful at that earthly time of life, because I knew for a fact that he'd died long before Mona
and could therefore haunt in any guise he chose.
These thoughts didn't bait him. There was something so intrinsically menacing in his stillness that I
couldn't bear it.
"All right, then, be quiet," I said firmly. I detested the quaver in my voice. "Why the Hell are you
haunting me? You think I can undo what I've done? I can't. Nobody can. You want her to die, haunt her,
not me."
No change in him.
And no way could I trivialize and diminish the woman who'd just waved to me before stepping into the
car, salt of her tears still on my lips to be licked. So why keep trying? What had befallen me?
Big Ramona, who happened to glance in from the hall, drying her hands on her apron, said, "And now we
have another madman talking to himself, and right by the desk that Grandpa William used to go to all the
time for no reason. Now that was a ghost that Quinn used to see, and me and Jasmine too."
"What desk, where?" I stammered. "Who is Grandpa William?" But I knew that story. And I saw the
desk. And Quinn had seen the ghost over and over pointing to the desk, and they had searched it over and
over, year in and year out, and found nothing.
Snap back, you idiot!
Upstairs Quinn tried tenderly and desperately to comfort Mona.
Tommy and the ever distinguished Nash came down for their dinner and passed, without noticing me,
into the dining room across the way, their low conversation uninterrupted throughout, and seated
themselves.
I went to the cameo case near the piano. That meant walking away from the ghost who was to my far
right, but it made no difference. His eyes followed me.
This case was where Aunt Queen's cameos were displayed, and it was never locked. I opened the glass
top-it was hinged like the cover of a book-and I picked up an oval cameo with a tiny display of Poseidon
and his consort in a chariot pulled by sea horses, with a god to lead them over billowing waves, all of this
spectacular progress intricately wrought. Cool.
I slipped the cameo into my pocket and went upstairs.
I found Mona lying on the bed, crying dreadfully among the flowers, with a desperate Quinn standing by
the far side of the bed, leaning over her and trying to comfort her. Quinn was more frightened than I've
ever seen him. I made a quick gesture to let him know everything was working well.
The ghost wasn't in the room. I could neither feel him nor see him. Cagey. So he doesn't want to be seen
by Mona?
Mona was naked, Lady Godiva hair everywhere, her body shimmering and fine as she lay sobbing among
the poetic blooms; and the neat stack of Aunt Queen's white garments had fallen and was scattered all
over the floor.
For a moment I felt a deep stab of horror, a horror I deserved and couldn't escape, and which I didn't
intend to confide to either Quinn or Mona as long as we all lived, no matter how many years or decades
that might be; a horror of what whim and will can do and had done. But as usual with grand moral
realizations, there was no time for it.
I looked at Quinn-my Little Brother, my pupil.
He'd been made by monsters he'd loathed and it had never occurred to him to weep in their presence.
What Mona was doing was entirely predictable.
I lay down on the bed right beside her, and when I lifted her hair back and looked into her eyes, she went
utterly silent.
"What the Hell's the matter with you?" I demanded.
A pause in which her loveliness struck me with all the subtilty of an avalanche.
"Well, nothing," she said, "if you're going to put it like that."
"For the love of God, Lestat," said Quinn, "don't be cruel to her. Surely you know what she's going
through."
"I'm not being cruel," I said. (Who, me, cruel?) I kept my tight focus on her. "Are you afraid of me?" I
asked.
"No," she said. Her eyebrows puckered. The blood tears stained her cheeks. "It's only that I know so well
that I should have died," she said.
"Then sing a requiem," I said. "Let me supply some words: 'O heat, dry up my brains! Tears seven-times
salt, burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!' "
She laughed.
"Very well, honey bunch, let me hear it. I'm the Maker. Let it go."
"I knew that for so long, that I ought to die. God, when I think of it, it's the only thing I really know right
now! I was supposed to die." Her words flowed calmly. "People around me got so used to it, they slipped
up. They'd say, 'You used to be so beautiful, we'll never forget that.' Dying, that had become the central
obligation of my life. I used to lie there and try to figure how to make it easier for people. I mean they
were so miserable. This went on slowly for years-."
"Keep talking," I said. I loved her easy trust, her immediate openness.
"There was a period of time where I could still enjoy music and chocolate, you know, special things, like
bed jackets with lace too. And I could dream of my child, my lost child. Then I couldn't really eat
anything anymore. And the music only made me jittery. I kept seeing people who weren't really there. I
thought Maybe I never had that child. Morrigan, gone so fast. But then I wouldn't have been dying if I
hadn't had Morrigan. I saw ghosts. . . ."
"Oncle Julien?" I asked.
She hesitated, then: "No. Oncle Julien only came to me way, way back, when he wanted me to do
something, and it was always in a dream. Oncle Julien is in the Light. He doesn't come to the Earth unless
there's a really important reason."
(Deep carefully concealed shudder.)
She went on, the vampiric musicality sharpening her soft words: "These ghosts I saw were just really
dead people like my father and my mother who were waiting for me-you know, the ones who come to
take you across-but they wouldn't speak to me. It wasn't time yet, that's what Fr. Kevin said. Fr. Kevin's a
powerful witch. He never knew until he came home South. He goes into St. Mary's Assumption Church
in the night when it's completely dark except for the candles, you know, and he lies down on the marble,
full-length, you know-."
(Secret heartache. I know. )
"-and with his arms outstretched, he contemplates Christ on the Cross. He imagines himself kissing the
bloody wounds of Christ."
"And you in your pain? Did you pray?"
"Not very much," she said. "It was like prayer would have required a certain coherence. This last year, I
was incapable of that coherence."
"Ah, yes, I see," I said. "Go on."
"And things happened," she said. "People wanted me to die. Something happened. Someone . . . People
wanted me to get it over with. . . ."
"Did you want to get it over with?"
She didn't answer right away, then she said, "I wanted to escape. But when someone . . . someone. . . . My
thoughts became-"
"-became what?"
"Became trivial."
"No, not so," I insisted.
"How to get out of the room, how to get all the way down the steps, how to scoot behind the wheel of the
limo, how to get the flowers, how to get to Quinn-."
"I see. Poetic. Specific. Not trivial."
"A destination with the sanction of poetry, perhaps," she said. " 'There with fantastic garlands did she
come.' And so I did."
"Most certainly," I said. "But before you could do it-you were going to say something, you were about to
say something about someone. . . ."
Silence.
"Then Rowan came," she said. "You don't know my cousin Rowan."
(I don't?)
Flash of pain in her clear brilliant eyes.
"Yeah, well, Rowan came," she said. "Rowan has this power. . . ."
"Was it for your sake or her sake that she was going to kill you?"
She smiled. "I don't know. I don't think she knew, either."
"But she realized you knew and she didn't use her power."
"I told her, I said, 'Rowan, you're scaring me! Stop it, you're scaring me!' And she burst into tears. Or was
it me? I think I burst into tears! It was one of us. I was so scared."
"And so you escaped."
"Yes, I did, indeed I did."
" 'Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes.' "
She smiled again. Would she talk about the Woman Child? She lay very still.
I could feel Quinn's anxiety, and the outpouring of his love.
All the while, he hadn't moved the hand that lay on her shoulder.
"I'm not dying," she said with a shrug. "I'm here."
"No, you're not," I said, "that's finished."
"I've got to reach back and remember when I wanted things."
"No, you don't," I said. "That's mortal talk. You're Mona-Born to Darkness now." I tried to take it slowly,
watching her smile come and go. Faint freckles on her face. The inevitable glister of her skin.
"That's it," I said. "Let your eyes drink me in. You're seeing colors you never saw before. You're realizing
sensations you never even dreamt about. The Dark Blood's a magnificent teacher. You shiver because
you think the pain's going to come back, but you couldn't go back to that pain if you wanted to. Stop
shivering. I mean it. Stop."
"What are you asking of me?" she said, "that I surrender to you or to the Blood?"
I laughed under my breath. "I don't know why women always surprise me," I said. "Men don't. I think I
underestimate women in general. They distract me. Their loveliness always strikes me as alien."
She laughed outright. "What do you mean, alien?"
"You're the Great Unknown, Sweetheart."
"Elaborate," she said.
"Well, think about Adam in the Bible, I mean this guy is the Wimp of All Time saying to Almighty God,
the Creator, Yahweh Who made the stars, 'The woman gave me to eat!' I mean the poor slob is just a
spineless hopeless jerk! And this is Original Sin, no less! The Primal Catastrophe. Oh, I mean-pa-lease.
BUT! When you see a magnificent woman-like you-with your green eyes just the perfect distance apart,
tinsel voice giving out intelligent words, lying naked and staring with an expression of keen unerring
comprehension, you can sort of read into Adam an inevitable bafflement in the face of Eve, something
that defies clarification, and that's how Adam could come up with such a ludicrous excuse! 'This
completely weird, way out, strange, mysterious inscrutable seductive being which you made out of my
rib, gave me to eat.' Get it?"
Quinn gave me a little laugh against his will. He was seething with possessiveness. Me and her on the
bed. But this was nice, his laughter.
I locked in on her again. Enough about the Garden of Eden. (And enough about what had just happened
downstairs on the front porch between me and someone infinitely better than any figment of my longing.)
Hell. It was the damned flowers all over the bed! She was patiently waiting, naked breasts against me, red
hair snarled in the roses, just looking at me, green eyes and soft mouth actually sweet. A preternatural
being, and I had known the most miraculous of them. What was getting to me? Kindly continue as if
nothing was wrong.As if you have not done Evil again, you fiend!
"Surrender to both of us, me and the Blood," I said. "I want you and Quinn to be perfect the way I'm not.
I want to take you through an apprenticeship that's flawless. You hear me? Quinn was twice maimed
when twice born. Bad mothers. I want to erase that from his heart."
I felt Quinn's gentle squeeze on my arm. An assent even though I was lying practically on top of the
succulent little love of his life, now transformed into his immortal companion.
"The Blood told me things," she said. She was in no hurry. Her tears were dried, like ashes flaking on her
cheeks. "It was coherent, the Blood," she said. "I didn't realize it until it was over. It felt too good. Then
came the thoughts. I know you've survived centuries. You've even survived yourself. You went into a
desert place like Christ. You didn't die because your blood's too strong. You're afraid you can't die.
Everything you've believed in has been shattered. You tell yourself you have no illusions, but that's not
true."
She shivered again. It was advancing too fast for her. Maybe too fast for me. Where was that ghost? Tell
her about the ghost? No. I was relieved she couldn't read my mind anymore.
"I have no theology of us," I said to her. I was really talking to Quinn too. "God tolerates us, but what
does that mean?"
She smiled almost bitterly. "Who has a theology of now, anyway?" she asked.
"Lots of people. Your Fr. Kevin, it seems," I replied.
"He has a Christology," she replied. "It's different."
"Sounds awfully good to me," I said.
"Oh, come on, he couldn't convert you if he had the next hundred years."
I thought bitterly of Memnoch, the Devil. I thought of God Incarnate, with whom I'd spoken. I thought of
all my doubts that any of it had been real, of all my suspicions that I was the mere pawn of spirits in some
elaborate game, and of how I'd fled Perdition, with its myriad roaring holographs of confrontational guilt
for the cold snow-filled streets of New York, avowing the material, the sensual, the solid above all
illusions. Did I really not believe in those things which I saw? Or had I simply found that cosmos to be
unendurable?
I didn't know. I wanted to be a saint! I was frightened. I felt emptiness. What was the nature of her
monster child? I didn't want to know. Yes, I did.
And then I fixed my eyes on her. I thought of Quinn. And there flared for me in dim luminescence a
scheme of meaning.
"We do have myths," I said. "We had a goddess. But now is not the time for all those things. You needn't
believe all I've seen. What I do have to give you is a vision. I think a vision is stronger than an illusion.
And the vision is that we can exist as powerful beings without hurting anyone who's good and kind."
"Slay the Evil Doer," she said with inevitable innocence.
"Amen," I said. "Slay the Evil Doer. And then we do possess the world, the world you wanted when you
were a crazed kid, daydreaming on your long restless walks all over New Orleans, your professed
Wander Slut days, the little Sacred Heart Academy girl seducing all of her cousins, I know you, and
thriving at home on junk food and the computer, yeah, I saw it, your drunken parents safely out of your
hair, their names already inscribed in the Book of Death, all that before anything broke your heart."
"Whoa!" She gave me back a soft laugh. "So vampires can say all those words without taking a breath.
You got it. And you just told me not to look back. You like to give orders."
"So we ransacked each other's souls during the Dark Trick, that's what's supposed to happen," I said. "I
wish I could eat your little mind now. You've got me puzzled. Dreaming dreams. I'm forgetting things,
like, for instance, that those I make in the Blood usually wind up despising me or leaving me for simpler
reasons."
"I don't want to leave you," she said. Then came the pucker of her red eyebrows again, tiny distinct
wrinkles in the smooth flesh that vanished instantly. "I'm thirsting," she said. "Am I supposed to thirst? I
can see blood. I can smell it. I want it."
I sighed. I wanted to give her mine. But it wasn't the right way to go about things. She needed her
appetite for the hunt. I was flustered suddenly.
Even Quinn, with all the adolescent mortal lust boiling in his brain, was handling her rebirth better than I
was. Let's get a grip.
I withdrew from the flower-strewn bower. Woke up to the room. And Quinn standing there, patient, with
so much confidence in me that he kept his jealousy in check. I sparked off his blue eyes.
She ruffled the flowers on the bed into ruin and mumbled poetry again.
I took her hand and brought her up off the bed and onto her feet. She shook all the petals out of her hair. I
tried not to look at her. She was as ripe and glowing as any dream-world sacrificial virgin. She sighed and
looked at all the scattered clothes.
Quinn gathered them up, swooping down, circling her carefully as if he didn't dare to touch her.
She looked at me. No flaw remained. All the bruises of those needles, they were gone as I knew they
would be. But I must confess (to you) that I'd been a little unsure. She'd been so weak, so worked over, so
torn. But the cells had been there, hiding, waiting for the renewal. And the Blood had found them out and
re-created her.
Her lips were trembling a little and she said in a half whisper,
"How long do you think before I can go to Rowan? I don't want to fake my death, tell them lies, all that,
disappear leaving a space where I was. I-. There are things I want to know from them. My child, you
know, she went away. We lost her. But maybe now . . ." She was looking around at the most common
objects, the bedpost, the edge of the velvet spread, the carpet under her naked toes. She flexed her toes.
"Maybe now. . . ."
"You don't have to die," I said. "Isn't Quinn the clear proof of that? Quinn's been living here at
Blackwood Farm for a year. Things are in limbo for you. Later on tonight you can call Rowan. Tell her
you're all right, that the nurse is here . . ."
"Yes . . ."
"She's a sweet and loving nurse whom I can dazzle like that, I've done it, I know, and they'll feed her
Creole chicken and rice in the kitchen. You're blinding me, Beautiful. Put on your clothes."
"Right-O, Boss," she whispered.
A smile flitted across her face, but I could tell her mind was giving her no peace. One minute she was
looking at the flowers as though they were out to attack her and the next she was plunged into thought.
"But what about the people left in this house?" she asked. "They all saw me when I came in. I know what
I looked like. We tell them it's a miracle?"
I burst out laughing.
"Is there a raincoat in your closet, Quinn?"
"I can think of something fancier than that," he replied.
"Cool. And you can carry her down the steps? I already told Clem we'd be going into New Orleans."
"Right-O, Boss," she said again, with a faint smile. "What are we going to do in New Orleans?"
"Hunt," I said. "Hunt and drink from the Evil Doer. You use your telepathic power to seek them out. But
I'm going to assist you. I'm going to lead you to the kill. I'm going to be there with you."
She nodded. "I'm positively parched," she said. Then her eyes went wide. Her tongue had just touched her
tiny fang teeth. "Good God," she whispered.
"He's in Heaven," I said softly. "Don't let Him hear you."
She took the panties from Quinn and slipped them on, pulling them up over her little nest of red pubic
hair. That was ten times worse than pure nakedness. The lace slip with its delicate straps came over her
head, a bit long for her because she wasn't as tall as Aunt Queen had been, but otherwise it was fine, snug
over her breasts and hips, the broad lace hem just above her ankles.
Quinn took out his pocket handkerchief and wiped the caked blood off her cheeks. He kissed her, and she
fell to kissing him, and for a moment they were just lost to each other, kissing and kissing, like two long
graceful cats licking at each other.
He picked her up off her feet and wouldn't stop kissing her. They were both of them purring. He wanted
so badly to drink just a taste of her blood.
I slumped down in the chair at Quinn's desk.
I listened to the house. Clatter of dishes in the sink, Jasmine talking. Cyndy, the Nurse, was there crying
at the sight of Aunt Queen's room; and where was Quinn's mother, Patsy? Clem out front waiting for us
with that big car, yes, right, don't frighten her by carrying her through the air; take the car.
In a daze of small considerations, I watched her slip on the silk dress. The silk dress appeared handmade
with embroidered cuffs and a tight embroidered collar that Quinn clasped at the back of her neck. It hung
to her ankles. It looked divine on her-like a gown rather than a dress. She was a barefoot princess. Oh
yeah, that's a cliché, well then, so is a fulsome and comely young woman. Shove it.
She put on a pair of slightly scuffed little white slippers, the kind you can buy in any drugstore, the ones
she'd obviously worn over here, and after she put her head back and tossed her hair, she was almost
complete. It was vampire hair now, and it needed no real brushing, each strand fighting with the strand
next to it, the whole voluminous and gleaming, her forehead high and well proportioned, with eyebrows
divinely set, and then she flashed on me. I'm still here, guys.
"It's tricky," she said gently, as if she didn't want to be rude to me. "He knows you have a cameo in your
pocket, and so I know because I can read his thoughts."
"Oh, so that's what I've done here," I said, laughing under my breath. "I forgot about the cameo." I gave it
to Quinn. I could foresee this triangular telepathy being something of a nightmare.
Yes, I'd wanted them free to read each other's thoughts, so why the Hell was I jealous?
Towering over her, he pinned the cameo carefully in the center of the embroidered white collar. It looked
old and fine.
Then in an anxious whisper he put a question to her.
"You wouldn't wear Aunt Queen's high-heel shoes, would you?"
She went into a riot of soft laughter. So did I.
Till her dying day, Aunt Queen had apparently gone about in breakneck high heels with ankle straps and
open toes, some covered in rhinestones or, for all I knew, real diamonds. She'd had on such wondrous
shoes when I made her acquaintance.
One of the enduring ironies of her death was that she had been in her bare stocking feet when she suffered
the fall that killed her. But that was the evildoing of Goblin, who had deliberately startled her and even
pushed her.
So the shoes were innocent and there were probably piles of them in her closets downstairs.
But slap together the image of Mona, the tramp kid, in saddle oxfords, and any vision of Aunt Queen's
heels, and it was uproariously funny. Why would Mona do such a thing as that to herself? And if you
knew how much Quinn noticed women's high heels-namely Jasmine's and Aunt Queen's, it was twice as
uproariously funny.
Mona was stuck someplace between vampire trance and total love, gazing into Quinn's earnest face trying
to figure this.
"All right, Quinn, I'll try her shoes," she said, "if you want me to." Now that was pure transnatural female.
He was on the phone to Jasmine in an instant. Bring upstairs Aunt Queen's finest big white satin wrapperone
of the full-length articles with the ostrich feather trim, and a pair of her new heels, very glittery, and
hurry.
It didn't require a vampire's hearing to pick up Jasmine's answer:
"Lawd! You're going to make that sick girl put on those things? Have you lost your mind, Little Boss! I'm
coming up there! And Cyndy, the Nurse, is here and she is as shocked as I am, and she's coming with me,
and you better leave that child alone. Lawd! I mean Lawd! You can't go undressing her like a doll, Tawquin
Blackwood, you lunatic! Is that child dead already? Is that what you're trying to tell me? Answer me,
Taw-quin Blackwood, this is Jasmine talking to you! Do you even know that Patsy's run off and left all
her medicines, and nobody knows where the Hell she's gone? Now, I don't blame you for not caring about
Patsy but somebody's got to think of Patsy, and Cyndy's crying her eyes out down here over Patsy-."
"Jasmine, calm down," Quinn said. He went on in the most courteous and calm manner. "Patsy's dead. I
killed her night before last. I broke her neck and dumped her in the swamp and the alligators ate her. You
don't have to worry about Patsy anymore. Throw her medicines in the trash. Tell Cyndy, the Nurse, to
have some supper. I'm coming down for Aunt Queen's shoes and negligee myself. Mona is completely
better." He put down the phone and went straight out the door. "Latch this after me."
I obliged.
Mona looked at me searchingly.
"He was telling the truth about Patsy, wasn't he?" she asked. "And Patsy's his mother ???"
I nodded. I shrugged.
"They'll never believe him," I said, "and it was the smartest thing for him to do. He can repeat that
confession until doomsday. But when you know more about Patsy, you'll understand."
She looked horrified, and the Blood was intensifying it.
"Which was the smartest thing?" she asked. "Killing Patsy or telling them that?"
"Telling them is what I meant," I pursued. "Killing her only Quinn can explain. Patsy hated Quinn, I can
attest to that, and she was a hard merciless woman. She was dying of AIDS. She didn't have much time
on the mortal clock. The rest he can answer."
Mona was aghast, a virgin vampire about to faint from moral shock.
"In all the years I've known him, he has never mentioned Patsy to me or even answered by E-mail one
single solitary question about his mother."
I shrugged again. "He has his secrets as you have. I know the name of your child. Morrigan. But he
doesn't."
She flinched.
There was the pounding sound of argument rising through the floor below. Even Nash and Tommy, fresh
from the supper table, had been pressed into the cause on Jasmine's side, and Big Ramona declared Quinn
a necromaniac. Cyndy the Nurse was sobbing.
"But still," said Mona, "to kill your own mother."
For one brief technicolor second, I let myself think of my own mother, Gabrielle, whom I had brought
into the Blood. Where in the wide world was she-that cold silent unmovable creature whose solitude was
unimaginable to me? It hadn't been so very long ago that I'd seen her. I'd see her again, some time or
other. There was no warmth, no solace, no understanding there. But what did it matter?
Quinn rapped on the door. I let him in. I could hear the engine of the limousine started outside. Clem was
getting ready for us. The night was hot. He was running the cooling. It would be sweet driving into New
Orleans.
Quinn leaned back against the door when it was shut and bolted, and took a deep breath. "It would have
been easier," he said, "to rob the Bank of England."
He thrust the glittering high-heel slippers into Mona's waiting hands.
She looked them over.
She slipped them on her feet, gaining a good four inches in height and a tension in her legs that even
through the dress appeared ruthlessly seductive. The shoes were just a tiny bit too short, but it was hardly
noticeable, the rhinestone-studded strap cutting across her toes exquisitely. He buckled one ankle strap as
she did the other.
She took the long white negligee from Quinn and put it on, wrapping it about her and laughing as the
shivering feathers tickled her. It was loose and shimmering and gaudy and glorious.
She ran all about the room in little and big circles. One of those things guys can't do????? Her balance
was perfect. Just the beginning of her strength, and so some sense of frivolity inside of her wanted these
impossible torturous slippers. Round and around, and then she froze against the far window:
"Why on earth did you kill your mother?" she asked.
Quinn stared at her. He seemed at a total loss. He went towards her in a great fluid gesture. He took her in
his arms and pressed her to him as he'd done before and said nothing. Momentary fear. The mention of
Patsy had enveloped him in darkness. Or maybe it was Aunt Queen's finery.
There came a loud rapping at the door. Jasmine's voice followed:
"You open up, Little Boss, and let me see that child, or I swear to God I'll get the sheriff."
Cyndy's sweet voice followed, so reasonable and kind. "Quinn? Quinn, please let me have a look at
Mona?"
"Pick her up," I said to Quinn. "Carry her through them, past them, down the stairs and out the front door
and into the car. I'm right with you."
6
WE WERE OUT OF THE HOUSE and on the road within three minutes, maybe less, moving on mortal time
so as not to alarm any further the full chorus of those shouting at us. Mona had sense enough to pull up
the shivering feathers of the wrapper over her face so that nothing could be seen of her but heaps of red
hair and dangling bejeweled feet, and we made our exit with polished polite assurances to the clamoring
herd, directing the profoundly indifferent Clem to head for New Orleans "immediately."
It was I who gave the command with a quick smile that elicited the driver's sarcastic expression and
shrug, but the mammoth limousine was soon rocking down the gravel drive, and Mona was between me
and Quinn in the back seat, and then and only then did I begin to scan the city of New Orleans for
possible victims.
"I can hear the voices like the din from Hell," I said. "Toughen up, baby. I'm looking for the eternal scum.
Call them grim soulless mortals feeding off the downtrodden or the downtrodden feeding off each other. I
always wonder-and never learn-whether or not the genuine Power Thugs ever stop to look at the violet
evening sky or the overhead branches of an oak. Crack peddlers, child killers, teenaged gangsters for a
fatal fifteen minutes, the morgue's never empty in our town, it's an eternal brew of calculated malice
mixed with moral ignorance."
Mona dreamed, staring out the windows, caught up in every shift of the landscape. Quinn could hear the
distant voices. Quinn could tune in from afar. Quinn was anxious, so in love with her, but far from happy.
The car gained speed as it took to the highway.
Mona gasped. She slipped her fingers around my left arm. You can never tell just what a fledgling will
do. It's all so intoxicating.
"Listen," I said. "Quinn and I are listening."
"I hear them," she said. "I can't take one thread from the knots, I can't. But look at the trees. There's no
tint on these windows. Mayfairs always tint their limousine windows."
"That was not Aunt Queen's way," said Quinn, staring forward, washed in the voices. "She wanted the
clear glass so she could see out. She didn't care if people looked in."
"I keep waiting for it all to settle," Mona whispered.
"It never will," said Quinn. "It only gets better and better."
"Then trust me," she said to him, her fingers tightening on my arm. "Don't be so afraid for me. I have
requests."
"Hit me with them, go on," I said.
"I want to go past my house-I mean the Mayfair house on First and Chestnut. I've been in the hospital for
two years. I haven't seen it."
"No," I said. "Rowan will sense your presence. She won't know what you are any more than she knew at
Blackwood Manor. But she'll know you're close. We're not going there. There'll come a time, but this isn't
it. Go back to the thirst."
She nodded. She didn't fight me. I realized she hadn't fought me on anything.
But I knew she had heavy thoughts, more than usual links in the chain that bound fledglings to their
living past. Something was catching hold of her, something to do with the warped images she'd shown me
in the Blood-the Monstrous Offspring, the Woman Child. What had that been, that creature?
I didn't let Quinn pick this up from me. It was too soon to reveal all that. But he might well have caught it
all in the room when I'd brought her over. I'd belonged to her during those moments, exclusively and
dangerously. He might know all I'd seen. And he might be reading it from her now, though I knew she
wasn't ready to reveal it.
The car was speeding across the lake. The lake looked like a huge dead thing rather than a body of living
water. But the clouds rose in a triumphant mass beneath the emerging moon. When you're a vampire you
can see the clouds that others can't see. You can live off things like that when faith is destroyed-the
random shifting shapes of clouds, the seeming sentience of the moon.
"No, I need to go there," she said suddenly. "I have to see the house. I have to."
"What is this, a damned mutiny?" I answered. I was just congratulating you in my mind that you didn't
fight me."
"What? Do I get a merit badge for that?" she fired back. "We don't have to go close to the house," she
went on, sob in her throat. "I just need to see those Garden District streets."
"Oh yeah, right," I said under my breath. "You care that you'll draw them right out of the house, right out
of their peace of mind? You ready to follow up on that in some way? Of course I'm not saying you have
to follow up. You understand, I'm just trying to respond to you and Mr. Quinn Blackwood as exemplary
decent little people. I myself? I'm a scoundrel."
"Beloved Boss," she said with a straight face, "let me just go as close as we can, as close as you can
figure. No, I don't want to rile them up. I hate the idea. But I was in solitary confinement for two years."
"Where are we headed, Lestat?" Quinn asked. "Will we hunt downtown?"
"Back of town is what I like to call it," I said. "No Creole like me is going to call it downtown. You know
where the scum grows on the bricks. Listen for the city, Mona."
"I hear it," she answered. "It's like opening a floodgate. And then the discrete voices. Plenty of discrete
voices. Bickering, threats, even the muffled snap of guns . . ."
"The town's full tonight in spite of the heat," I said. "People are out on the streets, thoughts flooding me
in sickening waves. If I was a saint, this is what I would have to listen to all the time."
"Yeah, like prayers," she said. "All those petitions."
"Saints have to work," I said, as if I really knew.
And then with one fine blow it struck me. Their presence.
It hit Quinn at the same instant, and he said, "My God" under his breath. He was astonished.
"Close in on them," I said.
"What is it?" Mona asked. "I can't hear it." Then she locked her eyes on Quinn.
Oh, this was nothing short of providential! I was absolutely furious and deliriously happy at the same
time. I closed my focus.
Oh, yeah, right, killing at random as they fed, a pair of male and female vampires, constitutionally cruel,
high-toned, style versus character, brilliant gold and brand-name leather, drunk on their powers, lapping
up New Orleans as if it weren't real, baiting the "great vampire Lestat," in whom they didn't really believe
(who does?), prancing through my French Quarter streets to a lavish lair in a pricey hotel, key in the lock,
blood full, laughter echoing to the ceiling, turn on the TV, done in for the night, innocent victims strewn
in the back alleys, but not all of them, ready to groove on music or the color images of the mortal world,
feeling totally superior, vague plan to sleep in the day in the filthy old whitewashed tombs of St. Louis
No. 1 Cemetery, like, very bold! Unwittingly waiting to die.
I sat back laughing under my breath.
"This is too rich! Too deliciously wicked! She's up for it. Don't give it another thought. It's the lightning
narcotic of enemy blood. It's perfect for her. And the sooner she learns to fight her own kind the better.
Same for you, Quinn. You've never had to battle the cosmic trash that's out there."
"But this has to be perfect for her, Lestat," Quinn said. "You know what happened on my first night. I
blundered. I can't let something ugly and bad happen to her-."
"You're breaking my tender little heart," I said. "Are you and she going in alone? I am going with you.
You honestly think I can't handle this pair of mavericks? I've made myself too domestic for you, Quinn.
You forget who I am and maybe I do too."
"But how will it end?" he persisted.
"Your innocence is so genuine," I responded.
"You should know that by now!" he said. And then at once, "I'm sorry. Forgive me. It's only-."
"Listen to me, both of you," I said. "We're talking the misbegotten of Hell. They've been swaggering
through eternity for a decade at most, just long enough to make them very cocky. I'll get the lowdown on
their souls before I dispatch them, of course. But as of now I know they're outlaws. And I don't like them.
And vampire blood is always hot. And the fighting will be good. They're greedy filth. They break the
peace on my streets. That's a death sentence, at least when I have the time for it. And right now I have the
time, and you have the thirst, and that's what interests me. No more questions."
A little laugh came from Mona. "And I wonder how their blood tastes," she said, "but I wouldn't dare ask
you. Let's just say I'm up for it if you say so."
"You're a mocking little thing," I replied. "Do you like to fight? Fighting with mortals is no fun because
it's no fair. No honor-bound immortal would do it any more than necessary. But fighting with these
revenants is going to be great. And you can never tell how strong they're going to be, absolutely never.
Then there are the images that come through their blood-sizzling, more electric than those from the
human prey."
Squeeze of her hand.
Quinn was distressed. He thought of the night he first hunted: a wedding in Naples, and the bride had
pulled him into a bedroom, intent on a caper to cut her new spouse, and he'd drunk her dry, spilling the
first draught all over her dress. Over and over he relived that fall from grace, that awful moment of the
full curse.
"Little Brother," I said. "Those were human beings. Look at me."
He turned towards me, and in the flashing lights of the freeway I peered into his eyes.
"I know I've played it elegant with you up till now," I said. "I've played the sage European and now
you're seeing the rough side of me. And I have to remember you've been through Hell just telling me your
story, and what with the death of Aunt Queen, it's been pure torture for you, and you richly deserve any
good thing that I can conjure or give. But I have to rid the world of these two Blood Hunters. And you
and Mona mustn't miss this opportunity."
"What if they're strong, what if they were made like me by someone very old?" he asked.
I sighed. "I've given you my blood, Quinn. And Mona's been made with it. My blood, Quinn. They're no
match for you now. They're no match for her, I told you."
"I wanna do it!" Mona interjected immediately. "If you say they're fair game, then they're fair game, and
that's good enough for me, Beloved Boss. I can't tell my own heart and soul what I'm feeling now, how
much I crave this little battle. I can't find the words, it's so raw, so rooted inside me! It goes way back into
the human part of me that's not going to die, doesn't it?"
"Yes," I said. "Precisely."
"Bravo," she said. "I'm picking them up. But, something's, something's confusing me . . ."
"Save it, we're almost there," I said.
A soft subdued expression came over Quinn, unmistakable in the light of the cars that flew by.
"What if they beg for mercy?" he asked.
"You can count on that happening," I said with a little shrug.
"What if they know poetry?" he asked.
"It would have to be very fine," I said. "Don't you think? To make up for all those innocent victims?"
He wouldn't let up. He couldn't.
"What if they love you?"
7
TIME OUT for one quick meditation on the matter of saints, as you know how much I want to be one and
can't.
Now, when we left the Pope he was safely in his quarters, but in the time which it has taken me to
faithfully record these events-don't worry, we'll snap back in less than five minutes!-the Pope has been to
Toronto, Guatemala and Mexico, and in Mexico has canonized a saint.
Why do I make mention of this when Pope John Paul II has done many other things on this little trip,
including beatifying a couple of guys and canonizing a saint in Guatemala as well?
Because when it comes to this saint in Mexico, I am particularly moved by the circumstances-that it was
one Juan Diego, a humble Indian ("indigenous person," as some headlines claim) to whom Our Lady of
Guadalupe appeared in 1531. This humble Indian, when first he told the local Spanish bishop about the
Virgin's appearing to him, was ignored, naturally, until Our Lady worked a double miracle. She provided
some gorgeous red roses for Juan Diego to gather for the bishop, roses growing impossibly in the snow
on top of Juan Diego's home mountain, and when the little guy gladly opened his tilma (poncho) before
the bishop to reveal these lovely blooms, there on the tilma itself was a full-color picture of Our Lady in
unmistakable Virgin Mary form but with Indian skin.
This tilma, a garment made from cactus fibers, with its glorious picture of the Virgin Mary, still hangs
intact in the Cathedral in Mexico City, and thousands flock to it every day. It is called Our Lady of
Guadalupe, and there is no one in Christendom who has not seen this depiction of Christ's mother at one
time or another in his or her life.
Okay. Now, I love this story. I always have. I think it's neat what happened to Juan Diego. When he was
first trudging over the mountain, the Blessed Mother called to him: "Juanito!" Isn't that touching? And
touching that thousands of Indians converted to Christianity after these miracles. And certainly it is
wonderful that Pope John Paul II, ailing and eighty-two years of age, made it to Mexico to canonize Juan
Diego.
But the Pope's critics aren't so happy. There are rumblings, says the press. Malcontents say there is no
proof that Juan Diego ever existed.
Now, that is really rude!
And it points to a real misunderstanding of what the great spiritual wealth of Roman Catholicism is all
about.
If nobody can prove that Juan Diego existed, then obviously nobody can prove that he did not.
But let's suppose for a moment that Juan Diego doesn't exist, or didn't. The Pope is still infallible, right?
"Whatever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven," Christ said to Peter. Okay?
Even the worst critics of the Papacy admit that it's a modern marvel, no?
Therefore, without doubt, and without rumblings, at the instant that John Paul declared Juan Diego a
saint, the little guy popped into existence in Heaven! Now think about what probably went through Juan
Diego's mind. And don't forget that this is "an indigenous person" of the Americas no less, and here he
finds himself in a Heaven which is, by anyone's description, totally beyond description.
In fact, if the latest crop of mystics are correct and the Heaven to which we go when we enter the Light is
very much shaped by our own preconceived notions, Juan Diego, endowed by the full definition given
him through the arguments and decisions of the Roman Curia is probably roaming around in his tilma
made of cactus fiber, picking roses. I wonder if he has shoes.
Is he going to be lonely? Of course not. Only an atheist would entertain such a notion. Take it from me,
the indescribable Heaven is an indescribable hurricane of magnificence.
But let's tone it down for our Foot of Sinai senses. Surrounded by his ever blooming garden, Juan Diego
can if he wishes keep company with dozens of other saints who spent no time on Earth whatsoever,
including the Blessed Virgin Mary's famed parents, Joachim and Anne, and St. Veronica whom I have
personally met.
But it is much more likely that Juan Diego will find himself besieged by prayerful petitions. The voices
from "indigenous persons" on Earth as well as the descendants of colonists will bring him in contact with
the suffering and the misery of the planet he escaped.
What am I talking about?
Simply this. Whether he existed on Earth or not, Juan Diego is probably hard at work, dipping down
through the astral layers in his human-shaped soul, listening earnestly to the faithful and relaying their
petitions to the All Knowing One. He has to be. He is a saint of immense importance. And no doubt Our
Lady of Guadalupe is looking down benevolently upon a whole new stream of tourists and venerators in
Mexico City.
And the Pope has gone home to the Vatican, having canonized in his lifetime 463 saints.
I wish I was one of those saints. Maybe that's why I had to write this chapter. I'm envious of Juan Diego.
Hmmm.
But I'm not a saint. And that didn't even take five minutes and you know it, so don't complain. It's just
that I cannot forget my passion to be officially canonized.
Alas. Anon. Alors. Mais oui. Eh bien. Proceed to Chapter Eight directly.
8
SO, NOBODY EVER ACCUSED ME of acquiring any real wisdom in my two hundred years on this Earth. I
know only one way to proceed.
Clem let us out in front of the hotel, a new one, quite luxurious, and most expensive, and in the thick of
things, so to speak, with an address on Canal Street, the great shabby divide of New Orleans, and an
entrance out back to the French Quarter, the little world I preferred.
Mona was in such a trance that we had to propel her to the elevator, I on her left and Quinn on her right.
Naturally everyone in the lobby took note of us-not because we were blood-sucking immortals bent on
destroying two of our kind on the fifteenth floor, but because we were exceedingly and severely
gorgeous, especially Mona, wrapped in feathers and shimmering fabric and poised atop a pair of
breakneck heels.
Quinn was thirsting now as strongly as Mona was, and it would see him through what we had to do.
But I wasn't immune to the questions he'd raised in the car. Poetry, love. And me secretly aspiring to
sanctity! What an everlasting life! And remember, honorary Children of the Night, what I said about
telepathy. It ain't the real thing, no matter how good it is.
As soon as we reached the suite, I pushed the door in fairly quietly, without breaking its hinges, since I
intended to close it again, and the spectacle into which I plunged on feline feet astonished me.
Ah, the Savage Garden of this Earth that hath such creatures in it!
The mavericks were dancing in dim light to the most intense music-a Bartók concerto for violin and
orchestra flooding the room at max volume. The music was sad, ripping, overpowering-a command to
abandon all things cheap and tawdry, a full-blown engulfing majesty.
And though they themselves were infinitely more arresting than I had ever anticipated, these two, I spied
beyond them on the long deep burgundy-colored couch a cluster of mortal children, bruised, unconscious
and obviously being used at random as blood victims.
All three of us were in the room with the door closed, and the insurgents danced oblivious to us, their
senses drenched in lustrous sound and rhythm.
They were absolutely spectacular in appearance, with tanned skin, rippling jet black hair to the waistbeing
both of Semitic or Arabic descent-very tall and with large facial features, including magnificent
mouths, and they were inherently graceful. They danced with closed eyes, oval faces serene, in huge
swaying and arching gestures, humming through closed lips to the music, and the male, who was on the
surface almost indistinguishable from the female, every now and then shook out his immense veil of hair
and swung it rapidly around him in a circle.
Their sleek black leather clothes were stunning and unisexual. Supple pants, sleeveless and collarless
tops. They wore gold bracelets on their naked upper and lower arms. They embraced each other now and
then and let each other go, and as we watched, the female dipped down into the cluster of mortal children
and brought up to her lips a limp little boy, and drank from him.
Mona let out a scream at the sight of this, and at once the two vampires froze, staring at us. So similar
were their movements, one would have thought they were grand automatons operated by a central
system. The unconscious child was dropped to the couch.
My heart became a little knot inside me. I could scarcely breathe. The music flooded my brain, the
ripping, sad, compelling voice of the violin.
"Quinn, shut it off," I said, and scarcely had I spoken when the music stopped. The parlor was plunged
into a ringing vibrant silence.
The pair drew together. The figure they made was statuesque.
They had exquisite arched black eyebrows, heavily lidded eyes with thick eyelashes. Arabic, yes, from
the streets of New York. Brother and sister, petty merchant class, real hard work, sixteen when made. It
came flooding out of them, and also a torrent of worship for me, a torrent of exuberant happiness that I
had "appeared." Oh, God help me. Juan Diego stand by me.
"We didn't dream we'd see you, actually see you!" said the female, with heavily accented words, voice
rich and beguiling and reverent. "We hoped and prayed, and here you are and it is really you." Her lovely
hands unfolded and reached out to me.
"Why did you kill innocent victims in my town," I whispered. "Where did you get these innocent
children?"
"But you, you drank from children yourself, it's in the pages of the Chronicles," the male said. Same
accented words, courteous, gentle tone. "We were imitating you! What have we done that you have not
done!"
The knot in my heart grew tighter. Those accursed deeds, those accursed confessions. Oh God, forgive
me.
"You know my warnings," I said. "Everyone knows. Stay out of New Orleans, New Orleans belongs to
me. Who doesn't know those warnings?"
"But we came to worship you!" said the male. "We've been here before. You never cared. It was as if you
were a legend."
Suddenly they realized their immense miscalculation. The male raced for the door, but Quinn caught his
arm effortlessly and swung him around.
The female stood shocked in the center of the room, her jet black eyes staring at me, then silently moving
over Mona.
"No," she said, "no, you can't simply destroy us, you won't do it. You won't take from us our immortal
souls, you will not. You are our dream, you are our model in all things. You cannot do this to us. Oh, I
beg you, make of us your servants, teach us all things. We'll never disobey! We'll learn everything from
you."
"You knew the law," I said. "You chose to break it. You thought you'd slip in and out, leaving your sins
behind you. And you murder children in my name? You do this in my city? You never learned from my
pages. Don't throw them in my face." I began to tremble. "You think I confessed what I did for you to
follow my example? My faults were no template for your abominations."
"But we adore you!" said the male. "We come in pilgrimage to you. Bind us to yourself and we'll be filled
with your grace, we'll be perfected in you."
"I have no absolution for you," I said. "You stand condemned. It's finished."
I heard Mona let out a little moan. I could see the struggle in Quinn's face.
The male tensed his entire body trying to get loose. Quinn held him with one hand wrapped around his
upper arm.
"Let us go," said the male. "We'll leave your city. We'll warn others never to come. We'll testify. We'll be
your holy witnesses. Everywhere we go, we will tell others that we've seen you, heard the warning from
your own lips."
"Drink," I said to Quinn. "Drink till there's no more to drink. Drink as you've never done it before."
"I begrudge nothing!" whispered the male and he closed his eyes. All the struggling left him. "I am your
fount in love."
Without hesitation, Quinn put his right hand on the huge mass of springy hair of the male and brought the
head to the proper position, twisting it until the neck was bared, and then, closing his eyes, he sank his
teeth.
Mona stared enthralled, then turned sharply to the female. The thirst transformed Mona's face. She
appeared half asleep, eyes fastened to the female.
"Take her," I said.
The female gazed fearlessly on Mona. "And you, so beautiful," the vagrant said in her sharpened words,
"you so beautiful, you come to take my blood, I give my blood, here, I give it to you. Only spare me for
eternity." She opened her arms, these arms with gold bracelets, long fingers beckoning.
Mona moved as if in a trance. She embraced the sleek body of the female with her left arm, and pushed
the hair away from the right side of the female's face, and bent her supple body down and took her.
I watched Mona. It was always a spectacle-the vampire feeding, a seeming human with her teeth locked
to another, eyes closed as if in deep sleep, no sound, only the victim shuddering and twisting, even her
fingers motionless as she drank deeply, savoring the drug of the blood.
And so she was launched on the Devil's Road with this wretched sacrament, without the need of
prodding, letting the thirst carry her through it.
The male collapsed at Quinn's feet. Quinn was dazed. He staggered backwards. "So far away," Quinn
whispered. "An ancient one, from Jericho, can you imagine it, and he made them, and taught them
nothing? What am I to do with this treasure of images? What am I to do with this curious intimacy?"
"Keep it close," I said. "Store it where the finer things are stored until such time as you need it."
I moved towards him slowly, then took the limp, soft victim from the floor and brought him into the tiled
bathroom of the suite, a palatial marvel with a spacious tub completely surrounded by steps of green
marble, and I threw the unfortunate one into the tub where he tumbled like a marionette without strings,
settling silently. His eyes had rolled up into his head. He was murmuring in his native tongue, a fine
collection of bronzed limbs and glints of gold, and the massive hair nesting beneath him.
In the parlor, I found Mona with her victim on their knees, and then Mona drew back, and for a moment it
seemed she would lose consciousness herself, and they would be together in this, these two, their hair
intermingling, but Mona rose and lifted the female.
I beckoned.
She carried the female, as a man would carry a woman, arm under her knees, arm around her shoulder.
Dark hair streaming down.
"There in the tub, with her companion," I said.
Mona heaved her over with a sure gesture, letting her tumble in beside him.
The female was silent, unconscious, dreaming.
"Their Maker was old," Mona whispered, as if not to wake either of them. "He was tramping through
eternity. Sometimes he knew who and what he was. And other times he didn't. He made the pair of them
to run his errands. They found out everything on their own. They were so cruel. They were cruel for
pleasure. They would have killed the children in the other room. They would have left them here."
"You want to kiss them good-bye?" I asked.
"I loathe them," she responded. She sounded so sleepy. "But why are they so lovely? Their hair so fine? It
wasn't their fault. Their souls might have been beautiful."
"You think so? You really think so? You didn't taste their free will when you drank from them? You
didn't taste an immense sweep of modern knowledge when you drank from them? And what was the
summit of their existence, may I ask, other than bashing innocent souls; was it dancing and listening to
fine music?"
Quinn came up behind her, keen for my words, and wrapped his arms around her. She raised her
eyebrows and nodded.
"Watch what I do," I said. "Remember it."
I let loose the Fire with all my consuming power. Let it be merciful, Saint Lestat. I saw the outline of
their black bones in the flames for a second, the heat blasting my face, and it was in that second, and that
second only, that the bones moved.
The fire flashed to the ceiling, scorched it, and then shrank to nothingness. A tracery of the bones
vanished. All that remained was black grease in the spacious tub.
Mona gasped. Her cheeks were beating with the blood she'd drunk. She stepped forward and peered down
at the black bubbling grease. Quinn was speechless and plainly horrified.
"And so you can do that to me when I want to go, can't you?" Mona said, her voice raw.
I was shocked.
"No, dolly dear," I said. "I couldn't. Not if my life depended on it."
I let loose the Fire again. I sent it into the oily residue until there was nothing left.
And so the tall graceful long-haired dancers would dance no more.
I felt slightly dizzy. I shrank back into myself. I felt sick. I moved away from my own power. I collected
all my force into my human-shaped self.
In the parlor, in the gentle manner of a human, I examined the children. There were four of them, and
they had been beaten as well as bled. They were lying in a heap. All were unconscious, but I detected no
blows to the head, no rushing of blood within the skulls, no permanent damage. Boys in shorts and skivy
shirts and tennis shoes. No familial resemblance. How their parents must have been weeping. All could
survive. I was certain of it.
The sins of my past rose up to taunt me. All my own excesses mocked me.
I made the requisite call to see to their care. I told the astonished clerk what I had discovered.
In the hallway, Mona was crying. Quinn held her.
"Come on, we're headed for my flat now. So it wasn't perfect, Quinn, you were right. But it's over."
"Lestat," he said, his eyes glittering as we pulled the weeping Mona into the elevator. "I thought it was
nothing short of magnificent."
9
WE HAD TO DRAG MONA through the French Quarter streets. She fell in love with the colors made by
spilt gasoline in mud puddles, with exotic furniture in the store windows of Hurwitz Mintz, with antique
shop displays of threadbare gilded chairs and lacquered square grand pianos and idling trucks belching
white smoke from their upturned exhaust pipes and laughing mortals passing us on the narrow sidewalks
carrying adorable babies, who twisted their little necks to peer at us-
-and an old black man playing a tenor saxophone for money, which we gave him in abundance, and a hatwearing
hot dog vender from which Mona could not buy a hot dog now save to stare at it and sniff it and
heave it into a trash bin, which gave her staggering pause-
-and of course we attracted attention everywhere, in very unvampirelike fashion, Quinn being taller than
anyone we passed and perhaps four times as handsome, with his porcelain face, and all the rest you know,
and every now and then Mona with hair flying broke from us and ran ahead frantically, the lazy evening
crowds opening and closing for her as though she were on a Heavenly errand, thank God, and then she'd
circle back-
-dancing and clicking and stomping like a flamenco dancer, letting the feather wrapper fly out, trail, sag,
and then gathering it in again, and crying to see her reflection in shop glass, and darting down side streets
until we grabbed ahold of her and claimed custody of her and wouldn't let her go.
When we got to my town house I gave two hundred dollars to my two mortal guards who were happily
astonished, and as Quinn and I started back the open carriageway, Mona gave us the slip.
We didn't realize it until we'd reached the courtyard garden, and just when I was about to exclaim about
the ancient cherub fountain and all the tropical wonders blooming against my much cherished brick walls,
I sensed that she was totally gone.
Now, that is no easy feat. I may not be able to read the child's mind, but I have the senses of a god, do I
not?
"We have to find her!" Quinn said. He was instantly thrown into protective overdrive.
"Nonsense," I said. "She knows where we are. She wants to be alone. Let her. Come on. Let's go upstairs.
I'm exhausted. I should have fed. And now I don't have the spirit for it, which is a Hell of a situation. I
have to rest."
"You're serious?" he asked as he followed me up the iron stairway. "What if she gets into some sort of
jam?"
"She won't. She knows what she's doing. I told you. I have to crash. This is no selfish secret, Little
Brother. I worked the Dark Trick tonight, and forgot to feed. I'm tired."
"You really believe she's all right?" he demanded. "I didn't realize you were tired. I should have realized.
I'll go and look for her."
"No, you won't. Come on with me."
The flat was empty. No otherworldly bodies hovering about. No ghosts, either.
The back parlor had been cleaned and dusted earlier this very day and I could smell the cleaning lady's
distant perfume. I could smell her lingering blood scent too. Of course I had never laid eyes on the
woman. She came by the light of the sun, but she did her job well enough for me to leave her big bills. I
loved giving away money. I carried it for no other purpose. I slapped a hundred on the desk for her. We
have desks everywhere in this flat, I thought. Too many desks. Didn't every bedroom have a little desk?
Why so many?
Quinn had only been here once and only under the most lamentable circumstances, and he was suddenly
enthralled by the Impressionist paintings, which were quite divine. But it was the new and slightly
somber Gauguin which caught my eye for a moment. Now, that was my purchase and had only been
delivered in the last few days. Quinn hooked into that one too.
I made my usual beeline for the front parlor over the street, peeking into each and every bedroom on the
way, as though I really needed to, in order to know that no one was home. The place had too much
furniture. Not enough paintings. Too many books. What the hallway needed was Emile Nolde. How
could I get my hands on the German Expressionists?
"I think I should go after her," Quinn said. He followed me, taking in everything reverently, mind on
Mona, no doubt monitoring her every move.
Front parlor. Piano. There was no piano now. I should tell them to get a piano. Hadn't we passed an
antique piano in a window? I had a sudden urge to play the piano-to use my vampiric gift to rip at the
keys. It was that Bartók concerto still assaulting my mind, and the picture of those two macabre dancers
accentuating the music.
Oh, give me all things human.
"I think I should go get her," Quinn said.
"Listen, I'm not one to talk much about gender," I said, flopping down in my favorite of the velvet wing
chairs and throwing one foot up on the chair before the desk, "but you have to realize that she's
experiencing a freedom you and I don't appreciate as men. She's walking in the darkness and she's afraid
of nothing, and she loves it. And just maybe, just maybe she wants to taste a little mortal blood and she's
willing to take the risk."
"She's a magnet," he whispered. He stood at the window, his hand pulling gently at the lace. "She doesn't
know I'm tracking her. She isn't that far away. She's taking her time. I hear her idle thoughts. She's
walking too fast. Somebody's going to notice-."
"Why are you suffering, Little Brother?" I asked. "Do you hate me for bringing her over? Do you wish it
hadn't been done?"
He turned and looked at me as though I'd grabbed him by the arm.
"No," he said. He walked away from the window and sort of tumbled into the chair in the far corner
opposite me, diagonally, his long legs sprawling as though he wasn't sure what to do with them. "I would
have tried it if you hadn't come," he admitted. "I couldn't have watched her die. At least I don't think so.
But I am suffering, you're right. Lestat, you can't leave us. Lestat, why are those guards outside the
house?"
"Did I say I would leave you?" I countered. "I hired those guards after Stirling came here," I said. "Oh,
it's not that I think any of the Talamasca will come back here. It's just that if Stirling could walk right in
here, then somebody else might."
(Flash on the Talamasca: Order of Psychic Detectives. Don't know their own Origins. At least a thousand
years old, maybe much older. Keep records on all sorts of paranormal phenomena. Reach out to the
telepathically gifted and isolated. Know about us.)
Quinn and I had visited with Stirling at the Oak Haven Retreat House of the Talamasca right after the
exorcism of Goblin, and the immolation of Merrick Mayfair. Merrick Mayfair had grown up in the
Talamasca. Stirling had a right to know she was no longer one of the (sigh) Undead. The Retreat House
was an immense square plantation house on the River Road just outside of town.
Stirling Oliver had not only been a friend of Quinn's during his mortal years, but he was a friend of
Mona's as well. The Talamasca knew much more about the entire Mayfair family than they knew about
me.
It gave me no pleasure to think of Stirling now, much as I admired him and liked him. Stirling was about
sixty-five years old and very dedicated to the highest principles of the Order, which for all its avowed
secularity might have been Roman Catholic with its strictures against meddling in the affairs of the world
or using supernatural persons or forces for one's own ends. If the Order hadn't been so fabulously and
mysteriously and undeniably wealthy, I would probably have been a patron of it.
(I am also fabulously and mysteriously and undeniably wealthy, but who cares?)
I felt compelled to go see Stirling at the Retreat House and tell him what had happened with Mona. But
why?
Stirling wasn't Pope Gregory the Great, for the love of Heaven, and I wasn't Saint Lestat. I didn't have to
go to Confession for what I'd done to Mona, but a terrible Contrition settled over me, a profound
awareness that all my powers were dark powers and all my talents evil talents, and nothing could come
from me but evil no matter what I did.
Besides, hadn't Stirling told Quinn last night that Mona was dying? What had been the meaning of that
information? Wasn't he in some way in collusion with what had happened? No. He wasn't. Quinn hadn't
left him last night to seek out Mona. Mona had come to Blackwood Manor on her own.
"Sooner or later, I'll explain all this to Stirling," I said under my breath. "It's as though Stirling will
absolve me but that just isn't true." I looked at Quinn. "Can you still hear her?"
He nodded. "She's just walking, looking at things," he said. He was distracted, the pupils in his eyes
dancing slowly. "Why tell Stirling?" he asked. "Stirling can't tell the Mayfairs. Why burden him with the
secret?" He sat forward. "She's wandering along Jackson Square. A man's following her. She's leading
him. He senses something isn't right with her. And she's on to him. She knows what he wants. She's
luring him. She's certainly having a great time in Aunt Queen's high-heel shoes."
"Stop watching her," I said. "I mean it. Let me tell you something about your little girl. She's going to
make herself known to the Mayfairs very soon on her own. Nothing's going to stop her. There are things
she wants to know from the Mayfairs. I had a sense of it when-."
The room was empty. No Quinn. I was talking to all the furniture.
I heard the back door open and close, it was that fast.
I stretched out and scrunched down and put my head back and drifted, eyes shut at once.
I was half dreaming. Why the Hell hadn't I fed? Of course I didn't need to feed every night or even every
month, but when you work the Dark Trick, no matter who you are, you must feed afterwards, you're
giving from the very sap stream of your life. All is vanity. All is vanity under the sun and under the
moon.
I'd been in a weakened state when I'd gone down to deal with Rowan Mayfair, that was my problem, that
was why the creature obsessed me. Never mind.
Someone pushed my foot off the desk chair. I heard a woman's piercing laugh; I heard dozens of people
laughing. Heavy cigar smoke. Glass breaking. I opened my eyes. The flat was full of people! Both
windows to the front balcony were open and it was jammed with people, women in long low-cut
sparkling dresses, men in fine black dinner jackets with flashing black satin lapels, the roar of
conversation and merriment almost deafening, but deafening to whom, and a tray went by, held high by a
waiter in a white coat who all but tripped over my legs, and there sat a child on the desk, a rosy child,
staring at me, a dainty girl with quick black eyes and beautifully waved black hair, seven or eight,
enchanting, precious.
"Ducky, I'm sorry!" she said, "but you're in our world now, I do hate to say it. We have you!" She was
mocking up a British accent. She had on a little sailor dress, white with blue trim, and high white socks
and little black Mary Janes. She drew up her knees. "Lestat," she laughed. She pointed at me.
Then, down into the desk chair facing me, slipped Oncle Julien, dressed for the party, white tie, white
cuffs, white hair. The crowd pressed in on him. Someone was shouting from the balcony.
"She's right, Lestat," Oncle Julien said in flawless French, "we have you in our world now, and I must say
you have a divine apartment here, and I so admire the paintings which have only just come from Paris,
you and your friends are so very clever, and the furniture, there is so much of it, yes, it seems you've
crammed every nook and cranny, yet who could have asked for anything finer?"
"But I thought we were mad at him, Oncle Julien," said the little girl in English.
"We are, Stella," he said in French, "but this is Lestat's house, and whether we are angry or not we are
Mayfairs first and foremost, and Mayfairs are always polite."
This sent little Stella into a regular riot of laughter, and she gathered up her little self-soft cheeks, sailor
suit, socks, shiny shoes-and leapt from the desk right into my lap, plop.
"I'm so glad," she said, "because you are so absolutely dandy; don't you think, Oncle Julien, he's too
beautiful to be a man, oh, I know, Lestat, you're not one to talk about gender-."
"Stop it!" I roared. A flashing, cleansing power went out of me, flushing against the walls.
Dead quiet.
Mona stood there, eyes wide, wrapper gone, sleek silk, Quinn right beside her, towering over her, face
full of concern.
"Lestat, what is it?" asked Mona.
I got up, I staggered into the hallway. Why was I walking like this? I glanced back at the room. All the
furniture had been moved-just a little. Things were askew! The doors were open to the balcony!
"Look at the smoke," I whispered.
"Cigar smoke," said Quinn questioningly.
"What is it, Boss?" asked Mona again. She came up to me and put her arms around me and kissed me on
the cheek. I kissed her forehead, smoothed back her hair.
I didn't answer her.
I didn't tell them. Why didn't I tell them?
I showed them the bedroom with the sealed-up window that was painted to look like a window. I showed
them the steel plating on the door and the lock. I told them about the human guards twenty-four hours.
They were to pull the curtains around the bed, and sleep in each other's arms. No ray of the sun, no
immortal, no mortal intruder, no one would bother them here. Of course they had a long time before
sunrise. Talk, talk, yes. They could wander. But no spying on the Mayfairs, no. No probing for secrets,
no. No searching for a lost daughter yet, no. No going home to Blackwood Manor, no. I told them I
would meet them tomorrow at dusk.
Now I had to leave, had to.
Had to get out of here. Had to get out of there. Had to get out of everywhere.
The open country.
Near the Talamasca Retreat House.
Distant rumble of trucks on the River Road. Smell of the River. Smell of the Grass. Walking. Grass wet.
Field of scattered oaks. White clapboard house tumbling to ruin, the way they do in Louisiana, swaying
walls and caving roof embraced and held suspended by the vines.
Walking.
I spun around.
He was there. Technicolor ghost, black tailcoat, walking as I had been, through the grass, tossing aside
the champagne glass, coming on. Stopped. I lunged at him, grabbed him before he could vanish, had him
by the throat, fingers dug into what sought to be invisible, holding him, hurting what would be
immaterial. Yeah, got you! You impudent phantom, look at me!
"You think you can haunt me!" I growled. "You think you can do that to me!"
"I know I can!" he said in caustic English. "You took her, my child, my Mona!" He struggled to dissolve.
"You knew I was waiting for her. You could have let her come to me."
"And just what crazy half-illuminated Afterlife are you from!" I demanded. "What are your half-baked
mystical promises! Yeah, come on, what Other Side are you hawking, yeah, spill it, let's hear about
Julien's Summerland, yeah, testify, how many ectoplasmic angels are on your side, give me the
splendiferous images of your famous fabulous friggin' self-created self-sustained astral plane! Where the
Hell were you going to take her! You're going to tell me some Lord of the Universe sends spooks like
you to take little girls to Heaven!"
I was clutching nothing.
I was all alone.
It was sweetly warm and there was a numbing quiet in the vibration of the distant trucks, a winking
beauty in the passing headlights.
Who missed the deep silence of so many past centuries? Who missed the deep darkness of the long ago
pre-electric nights? Not me.
When I reached the Talamasca Retreat House, Stirling was standing on the terrace. Loose gray hair
mussed, cotton pajamas, sashed robe, bare feet. A mortal couldn't have discovered him, standing in the
shadows, waiting. An empathetic face, patient celibate alertness.
"I brought her over," I said.
"I know," he answered.
"I kissed Rowan Mayfair."
"You did what?" he answered.
"They're after me, the Mayfair ghosts."
He didn't respond, except for a small scowl and an undisguised look of wonder.
I scanned the Retreat House. Empty. Maid out in the back cottages. One postulant out there writing in a
notebook by a gooseneck lamp. Saw her in her self-conception. Hungered for her. Had no intention of
feeding on her. Ridiculous idea. Absolutely verboten.
"Give me a bedroom, please," I asked. "Just a room in which heavy draperies can be drawn."
"Of course," he said.
"Ah, the Talamasca, ready again to count upon my honor."
"I can depend upon it, can I not?"
I followed him into the front hallway and then up the broad staircase. How curious it was, to be his guest,
to be walking on this wool carpet as if I were a mortal. Sleeping under the roof that wasn't mine. Next I'd
be doing it at Blackwood Farm. This could get out of hand. Please let it get out of hand.
And here the fragrant and cozy bedroom with all its inevitable details. Pineapples carved into the four
posts of the bed, canopy of hand-worked lace through which you could peer at the faint water stains on
the ceiling, loving, caring, patchwork quilt of loops and circles and careening colors, parchment lamp
shades, dark clots breaking through the old mirrors, needlepoint tiptoe chairs.
"What Mayfair ghosts are after you?" he asked softly. It was respectful, his manner. "What have you
seen?" And when I didn't answer, "What have they done?"
"Mona gave birth long ago to a daughter," I whispered. Yes, he knew all about it, didn't he? "But you
can't tell me, can you, what you know?"
"No, I can't," he replied.
"She wants to find that child," I said.
"Does she," he said politely. He was afraid.
"Sleep well," I said and turned to the bed.
He left me. But he knew the child's name. That much I'd filched from him. He knew its name and its
nature but he couldn't tell.
10
I KNEW that Rowan Mayfair was in the Retreat House when I opened my eyes. Heavy. Somebody who
loved her was with her, somebody who knew all about her too. Way heavy. And Stirling in a state of
angst.
I went to the right front window and drew back the velvet drape. The sky was scarlet over the distant
levee. Oak tree branches filled the top of my view. It would have been a cinch to open this window and
slip out onto the porch and disappear from this place quietly.
But I wasn't going to do it. Why give up an opportunity to see her again? There wasn't any harm in just
seeing her. Maybe I could figure out the source of her power over me. Maybe I could nullify it. And if
nothing else, I could give them some platitudes about Mona.
I stopped in front of the old mirror over the dresser to comb my hair. My black frock coat looked all right.
So did the lace at my collar and cuffs. More than a bit of vanity there, and I knew it. So what? Have I
ever said I wasn't vain? I have lifted vanity to a poetical level, have I not? I have transmuted vanity into
the spiritual, have I not?
My body had fully restored itself from bestowing the Dark Gift, but my thirst was strong, rather in the
style of a craving than a physical need. Was that because of her? Certainly not! I would repair to the first
floor to discover this woman was an ordinary woman and nothing more and I would then come to my
senses! How's that for a stiff upper lip!
I paused to close in on New Orleans, scanning for the Romantic Couple. They were just rising, crawling
out from among the velvet pillows, Long Tall Quinn still groggy, rambunctious Mona already on the
prowl. Caught clear images of her through Quinn's overprotective mind. She wasn't sobbing. She was
taking stock of the paintings, still wearing that dashing feather-trimmed wrapper with flair. This augured
very well for the next hundred years.
Suddenly they were both talking at each other in rapid rips and slashes of life story and love professions.
Hunt and feed now or later? Little Drink or something serious. Where was the Boss? I sent a swift silent
message to Quinn.
Yo, Little Brother. You're the teacher for now. The Little Drink is the name of the lesson. I'll be with you
soon enough.
I went out into the hallway of the Retreat House, where the sconces were already lighted, and sweet
yellow and red flowers adorned the demi-lune tables, and made my way slowly down the main stairs.
Saint Juan Diego, please preserve the Mayfairs from me.
Hum of heavy anxious mortal conversation below. Deep scent of mortal blood. Worry about the mortal
Mona. Stirling intensely miserable, struggling to veil his conflicted heart. It takes the skills of a priest and
a lawyer to be an effective member of the Talamasca.
All this coming from a garden room on the back of the house, just off the dining room, on the right side
proper.
I made my way there. Real Rembrandts on these walls. A Vermeer. I took my time. Temples throbbing.
Mayfairs, yes, witches again, yes. Why walk right into it? Nothing could have stopped me.
The furnishings of the dining room were regal and faintly charming. I saw the fine leavings of a recent
meal on the long black granite table, with a mess of linen and heavy old silver. I stopped to examine the
silver carefully.
Flash of Julien opposite in his everyday gray suit, eyes black. Hadn't they been gray before? "Enjoyed
your rest?" he asked. He vanished. I caught my breath. I think you're a cowardly ghost. You can't handle
a sustained discourse. I personally despise you.
Stirling called my name.
I moved towards the rear double doors.
The little conservatory was octagonal Victorian style, everything trimmed in white, and the wicker was
white, and the floor was pink flagstone, and the whole was three steps down.
They were closely gathered at a round glass-top wicker table, far more cheerful than the dining room
could ever have been, with lighted candles nestled among the countless flower pots, the sky already going
dark beyond the glass walls and glass roof.
A lovely place to be. Scent of blood and flowers. Scent of burning wax.
All three mortals, who sat in comfortable wicker chairs virtually surrounded by magnificent tropical
plants, had known I was coming. Conversation had stopped. All three mortals were watching me with a
wary politeness now.
Then the two men shot to their feet as if I were the Crown Prince of England, and Stirling, being one of
them, presented me to Rowan Mayfair as if I'd never met her, and then to Michael Curry, "Rowan's
husband," and gestured for me to take the empty wicker chair. I did.
Rowan struck me immediately as uncalculatedly lovely, colorless and svelte in a short skirted gray silk
suit and leather pumps. There came the chills again as I looked at her, in fact, an utter weakness. I
wondered if she knew her dress matched her eyes and even the gray streaks in her dark hair. She was
positively ablaze with an inner concentration of power.
Stirling wore a white vintage linen jacket with faded blue jeans and his pale yellow shirt open at the neck.
I sparked off the linen jacket suddenly. It had belonged to someone who died of old age. It had been worn
in the South Seas. Packed away for years. Rediscovered, loved by Stirling.
My eyes settled on Michael Curry. This was simply one of the most alluring mortal males whom I have
ever struggled to describe.
First off, he was reacting powerfully to my own apparent physical gifts without even being aware of that
dimension of himself, which always confuses and excites me, and secondly he had the exact attributes of
Quinn-black curly hair and vivid blue eyes-in a heavier, stronger, more physically comfortable frame. Of
course he was much older than Quinn. He was in fact much older than Rowan. But age doesn't really
mean anything to me. I found him irresistible. Whereas Quinn's features were elegant, this man's were
large and almost Graeco-Roman. The gray hair at his temples drove me crazy. The sunburnt tan of his
skin was wonderful. And then there was the easy smile on his lips.
He was wearing something, I suppose. What was it? Oh, yeah, the de rigueur New Orleans white linen
three-piece suit.
Suspicion. I caught it from both Michael and Rowan. And I knew that Michael was as strong a witch as
she was, though in wholly different ways. I knew too that he had taken life. She'd done it with the force of
her mind. He'd done it with the strength of his fist. It seemed that other invaluable secrets were going to
slip right through his gaze when suddenly he closed himself off from me artfully yet completely
naturally. And he began to speak.
"I saw you at the funeral for Miss McQueen," he said. New Orleans Irish voice. "You were with Quinn
and Merrick Mayfair. You're Quinn's friend. You have a beautiful name. It was a lovely service, wasn't
it?"
"Yes," I said. "And I met Rowan yesterday at Blackwood Manor. I have news for you both. Mona's doing
well, but she doesn't want to come home."
"That's not possible," said Rowan before she could stop herself. "That simply can't be."
She was beyond exhaustion. She'd been crying and crying for Mona. I didn't dare try to draw her in as I'd
done yesterday, not in front of this man. The chills came again. A wild vision possessed me of snatching
her up and away from this place, my teeth pressed to her tender neck, her blood mine, all the chambers of
her soul yielding to me. I banished it. Michael Curry was watching me, but the man's mind was on Mona.
"I'm happy for Mona," he volunteered now, putting his hand over Rowan's hand on the arm of the wicker
chair. "Mona's where she wants to be. Quinn's strong. He always was. When that kid was eighteen, he
had the poise of a full-grown man." He laughed softly. "He wanted to marry Mona the first time he saw
her."
"She is doing better," I insisted. "I swore I'd tell you if she needed you." I gave Rowan my level gaze. "I
will tell you. It makes her happy to be with Quinn."
"I knew it would," said Rowan, "but she can't survive off dialysis."
I didn't answer. I didn't know what dialysis was. Oh, I'd heard the word, but I really didn't know enough
about it to bluff.
Standing behind her, indeed behind the cluster of flowers just over her shoulder, was the figure of Julien,
with a grim smile on his lips, taking visible pleasure in my confusion.
A little shock went through me when my eyes met his, and suddenly Michael Curry turned and looked in
that direction, but the figure had vanished. Hmmm. So this mortal sees ghosts. Rowan was unchanged.
Rowan was examining me all too closely.
"Who is Stella?" I asked, looking again into Rowan's eyes. My only hope was to keep her talking. She
was staring at my hand. I didn't like it.
"Stella? You mean Stella Mayfair?" she asked. Her low voice was sultry in spite of herself. She was
feverish. She needed sleep in a cold room. Involuntary flash of the sorrow inside her, the knot of secrets.
"What do you want to know about Stella Mayfair?"
Stirling was very uneasy. He felt deceitful but there was nothing I could do about it. So he was the
confidant of the family, of course.
"A little girl," I said, "who calls people Ducky, and has black wavy hair. Picture her in a little white sailor
dress trimmed in blue, with high socks and Mary Janes. Does it ring a bell?"
Michael Curry let out a genial laugh. I looked at him.
"You're describing Stella Mayfair all right. One time Julien Mayfair told me this story-Julien was one of
the mentors of the Mayfair family-the story was all about Julien taking little Stella downtown with him,
Stella and her brother Lionel Mayfair-he's the one who shot and killed Stella-but in the story Stella was
wearing a sailor dress and Mary Janes. Oncle Julien described it. At least I think he did. No. He didn't
describe it. But I saw her that way. Yeah, I saw her that way. Why in the world would you ask such a
question? Of course I'm not referring to the living breathing Julien. But that's another tale."
"Oh, I know you're not. You're referring to his ghost," I answered. "But tell me, I'm just curious, I don't
mean any disrespect, but what sort of ghost was Julien? Can you interpret? Was he good or was he bad?"
"My God, that's a strange question," said Michael. "Everybody idolizes Oncle Julien. Everybody takes
him so for granted."
"I know Quinn saw Oncle Julien's ghost," I went on. "Quinn told me all about it. He'd come to see you
and Rowan and Mona, and Oncle Julien let him in to the First Street property, or whatever you call it, and
Quinn talked with Oncle Julien for a long time. They drank hot chocolate together. They sat in a rear
garden. He thought Oncle Julien was alive, naturally, and then you guys discovered him back there all
alone and there was no hot chocolate. Not that the absence of hot chocolate means anything
metaphysically, of course."
Michael laughed. "Yeah, Oncle Julien's big on long conversations. And he really outdid himself with the
hot chocolate. But a ghost can't do something like that unless you give him the strength to do it. Quinn's a
natural medium. Oncle Julien was playing off Quinn." He went sad. "Now, when the time comes, for
Mona I mean, well, Oncle Julien will come and take her to the other side."
"You believe in that?" I asked. "You believe in the other side?"
"You mean you don't?" asked Michael. "Where do you think Oncle Julien comes from? Look, I've seen
too many ghosts not to believe in it. They have to come from somewhere, don't they?"
"I don't know," I said. "There's something wrong with the way ghosts act. And the same holds true for
angels. I'm not saying there isn't an afterlife. I'm only maintaining that those entities who come down here
so beneficently to meddle with us are more than a little cracked." I was really getting heated. "You're not
really sure, yourself, are you?"
"You've seen angels?" asked Michael.
"Well, let's just say, they claimed to be angels," I responded.
Rowan's eyes were moving sluggishly and rudely over me. She didn't care what I asked about Julien or
what Michael said. She was back in that terrible moment when she'd come into the hospital room, the
death room, to bring death, and Mona had been frightened. Back there and here studying me. Why
couldn't I just hold her for a moment, comfort her, vanish with her into a bedroom upstairs, tear this
house apart, fly with her to another part of the world, build her a palace deep in the Amazon jungles?
"Why don't you try!" said Oncle Julien. He stood behind her again, arms folded, sneering insofar as it
didn't mar his charm. "You'd like nothing better than to get your hands on her. She'd be such a prize!"
"Kindly go to Hell!" I said. And to myself, Snap out of it.
"Who are you talking to?" asked Michael, turning in his chair as before. "What are you seeing?"
Julien was gone.
"Why are you asking about Stella?" Rowan murmured, but she was hardly thinking of it. She was
thinking only of Mona and of me, and of that ghastly moment. She was noticing my hair and the way that
it curled, and the way that the candlelight played on it. And then the grief over Mona again, almost killed
her.
Michael fell into deep absorption, as if nobody was there. There was something defenseless about the
guy. Stirling was studying me with a sharp angry expression on his face. So what?
Michael was plainly much more forthright than Rowan, more conventionally innocent. A woman like
Rowan had to have a husband like Michael. If he'd known how I'd kissed her yesterday in that greedy
fashion he'd be wounded. She hadn't told him. Not even he could roll with a punch like that. When a
woman of that age lets you kiss her it means something entirely different from what it means with a
young girl. Even I knew that and I'm not human.
"You can't figure it with Julien," Michael said, suddenly emerging from his thought. "He makes mistakessometimes
absolutely awful mistakes."
"How do you mean?" I asked.
"Julien appeared once, trying to help me, I think, yes, it had to be," said Michael. "But it didn't work out.
It led to a disaster. A total disaster. But he had no way of knowing. Absolutely no way at all. I suppose
that's what I'm trying to say, that ghosts don't know everything. Of course, Mona has that old saying that
a ghost just knows his own business, you know-and I guess that covers it, but there's more to it than that.
Don't speak of it to Mona. Whatever you do, don't ask Mona these questions. I wouldn't . . . I mean,
Julien made a dreadful mistake."
Well, now that's fascinating! So this dapper dude doesn't always know what he's doing. My thesis is
correct! Why don't you appear now so that I can laugh at you, you impotent jerk?
I tried desperately to read the thoughts behind Michael's words, but I couldn't. These Mayfairs were so
casually and maddeningly gifted. Maybe the man wasn't defenseless. He was just so strong he didn't
bother to put up any defenses.
I glanced at Rowan. She was staring at my hand again. How could she not notice the sheen of my
fingernails? All vampires have lustrous fingernails. Mine are like glass. She reached out, then drew back.
I had only moments here.
"Can you tell me what kind of mistake Julien made?" I asked.
"I think there's a photograph of little Stella in a sailor dress," Michael said, drifting off into his thoughts
again. He didn't notice anything about me. He just alternated between intense thought and looking
directly into my eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure there is."
"Did you say that Stella's brother shot her?" I asked.
"Oh, she was a woman by that time," Michael said, half dreaming. "She'd given birth to Antha. Antha
was six years old. Stella nearly ran off with a man from the Talamasca. She wanted to escape the family
and the ghost that went with it. Stirling knows all about it, of course." He looked at me as if startled. "But
don't ask Mona. Don't say anything about all this to Mona."
"I won't say a word about it to Mona," I answered.
Rowan was sensing things about me, sensing that my heart rate was far too slow for a functioning mortal.
Sensing things about the way that candlelight reflected off my face.
"I'll tell you what I think happens," said Michael. "When they come on an errand, they leave behind the
totality of salvation."
"Ghosts, you mean," I said.
"What was that?" Stirling asked.
"Of course, the Totality of Salvation," I whispered. I smiled. I loved it. "Of course, they have to, don't
they? Or every haunting would be a theophany, wouldn't it?" I flashed on Julien last night in my clutches,
my questions to him coming angrily as accusations. He knew nothing about any Totality of Salvation, did
he? Why, I'd already figured that out, hadn't I? That when I'd drifted to Earth in my fantasy as Saint
Lestat I had to leave behind a certain Heavenly knowledge.
"I wouldn't trust any ghost, really," Michael said. "I think you're right about all that. But Julien tries to do
good. He has the family's welfare in mind when he appears. If only-."
"If only what?" I pressed.
"Why did you ask that question about Stella?" Rowan asked. Her voice was rich yet sharp. "Where did
you see Stella?" Her voice rose. "What do you know about Stella?"
"You don't mean the ghosts have already come for Mona, do you?" asked Michael. "You realize what that
means, of course. Shouldn't we be there? Shouldn't we be near at hand?"
"No, they haven't come for her," I replied. "She'll tell us when that happens, I know she will." But I felt
the lie catch in me. They were trying to come for her, weren't they, in some sort of grim game, or was it
my soul they wanted?
I stood up.
"I'll let you know when she needs you," I said. "I promise you."
"Don't go," said Rowan crossly but under her breath.
"Why, so you can keep studying me?" I said. I was suddenly trembling again. I didn't know what I meant
to say. "Would you like it if I gave you a sample of my blood? Is that why you're staring at me?"
"Lestat, do be careful," said Stirling.
"What would I do with a sample of your blood?" Rowan asked, eyes moving up and down my figure. "Do
you want me to study you?" she asked coldly. "Do you want me to ask questions about you? Who you
are, where you come from? I have the feeling you do. I have the feeling you'd like nothing better than to
let me take a sample of your skin, your hair, your blood, everything you have to give. I see that," she said,
tapping the side of her forehead.
"Do you really?" I asked. "And you'd analyze all this in Mayfair Medical in some secret laboratory." My
heart was pumping. My brain was on overdrive. "You're some genius doctor, aren't you? That's what's
behind those gray eyes, those enormous gray eyes. Not the ordinary surgeon or oncologist, not you-." I
broke off. What was I doing?
Julien's laughter. "Yes, isn't she a wonder? Play into her hands." Julien near the back door of the
conservatory, deep in shadow, laughing: "You're no match for her, you impudent fiend. Maybe she'll
construct a glass enclosure for you. They have such marvelous materials in this new century. Even such
exotica as you-."
"Shut up, you miserable bastard," I whispered in French. "It sounds to me like you're far more fallible
than you let on. What was your disastrous mistake, would you like to tell me?"
"Are you talking to Julien?" asked Michael. He glanced to the very spot. But there was nothing there.
"Detestable coward," I said in French. "He's gone. He won't let anyone else see him."
"Come, Lestat," said Stirling, tugging at me. "It's really time for you to go. You have Mona waiting for
you."
Rowan never once turned to look at the ghost. She was angry. She rose to her feet. I felt that push again,
just as if she'd laid her two hands on my chest. Yet her face was radiant with a complex of anguish behind
it that not even anger could mask.
"Where is Mona!" she demanded. Her husky voice had never been more effective. "You think I don't
know you took her away from Blackwood Manor? I was there first thing this morning, as soon as I could
get away from the Medical Center. Clem drove the three of you to the Ritz Hotel last night. I went to the
Ritz Hotel. No Mona. No Quinn either. And no Lestat de Lioncourt. That's the name you signed in Aunt
Queen's funeral book, isn't it? I checked the spelling and your flamboyant handwriting. You like signing
your name, don't you?-
"-And you have such a lovely French accent, oh, yes. Where is Mona right now, Monsieur de Lioncourt?
What in the name of Heaven is going on? Why are you asking questions about Stella? You think I don't
know that you're behind everything that's happening? Jasmine and Big Ramona think you're some sort of
foreign prince, with your melodious French accent and your mind reading gifts and your exorcism to rid
the house of ghosts and spirits. And oh, yes, Aunt Queen absolutely adored you! But you sound more like
Rasputin to me! You can't just steal Mona from me! You can't!"
A stinging hurt spread through me, over my face, my skin. I'd never felt anything quite like it.
Julien was back there, in the shadows, laughing cruelly, collecting just a seam of the light along the edge
of his face and form.
Michael was on his feet and so was Stirling.
"Rowan, please, honey," Michael said, trying to calm her. He seemed hesitant to touch her, hesitant to
enclose her with his arms, though this might have been welcomed by her.
"I've told you all I know," I said. I stammered.
"Let me see you out," said Stirling. I felt his hand on my arm.
"You tell Mona we love her," said Michael.
"Is Mona afraid of us?" Rowan whispered. The anguish inside her defeated her anger. She drew close to
me. "She's afraid of us now, isn't she?" She and Mona, a shared history of horrors. Yes, an unbreakable
link. Child. Woman Child. Morrigan. No admissions and explanations. Just an image. The same image I'd
seen in the Blood. Woman Child. "I demand that you tell me! Is she afraid!"
"No," I said. I reached forward right through the aura of palpable power that surrounded her. I put my
hands on her arms. Vague binding shock. To Hell with Michael. But Michael didn't stop me. "Not
anymore," I said, peering into Rowan's eyes. "Mona's not afraid of anything. Oh, if only I could give you
some peace of mind. I wish I could. Please, please wait for her to call you, and don't think about her
anymore."
I felt her strength recede, and her eyes misted. A great glowing fire was quelled, and I had done it, and an
ever present grief enfolded it. A protective surge rose in me and the wild fantasies reigned again inside of
me as if no one else was present.
I let her go.
I turned and I left the company.
Behind me the ghost whispered contemptuously, "You're not a gentleman, you never were!"
I muttered all the obscenities I knew in French and English in a tight whisper.
I walked a little too fast for Stirling. But we came together at the front doors of the house.
Rush of sweet warm air. The night was purring and grinding with the tree frogs and the cicadas. I defy a
ghost to distract me from this! The sky was rosey and it would be all night. I closed my eyes and let the
warm air hold me close and lovingly and totally.
The warm air didn't care whether or not I was a gentleman, which I was not.
"What are you doing with Rowan?" Stirling demanded.
"What are you, her older brother?" I shot back.
We walked across the paved porch and onto the drive. Fragrance of grass. Roar of the River Road traffic
as sweet as the roar of water.
"Perhaps I am her brother," he said shortly, "but I mean it. What are you doing?"
"Good God, man," I replied. "Night before last you told Quinn that Mona was dying. What was your
motive? Weren't you tempting him to go to her? He didn't, as it turned out, but you were tempting him,
goading him to use his power, to bring her over. Don't deny it. You provoked him. You with all your
records. Your volumes. Your studies. Quinn had fed on you, almost taken you. I saved your life, man.
You who knew. And now you question me for a little word game with a mortal who detests me?"
"All right," he said, "so in the back of my mind I abhorred the fact that Mona was dying, that Mona was
desperate, and that Mona was so young, and I believed in sinister fairy tales and magic blood! But that
woman is not dying. She is the magnate of her family. And she knows something's profoundly wrong
with you. And you're playing with her."
"Not so! Leave me alone!"
"I will not. You can't entice her-."
"I'm not enticing her!"
"Did you see Stella?" he asked. "Is that who's haunting you?"
"Don't go back to a civil tone with me," I scolded. "Yes, I saw Stella. Did you think that was all part of a
game? I saw her in the little sailor dress and she jumped into my lap. They were in my town house in the
Rue Royale, both of them, Julien and Stella, with a whole crowd of people. Julien was out there in your
fine little conservatory, taunting me. But in my flat last night, they said threatening things to me.
Threatening things! Oh, I don't know why I'm telling you."
"Yes, you do," he answered.
"I've got to get back to the intrepid wanderers," I said. I took a deep breath.
"Threatening things?" he asked. "What threatening things did they say to you?"
"Oh, God in Heaven!" I said. "If only I were Juan Diego."
"Who is Juan Diego?" he asked.
"Maybe nobody," I said sadly. "But then again, maybe somebody, maybe somebody very very
important!" and I went away.
11
I WENT UP HIGH in the air. I traveled fast-faster than a ghost, or so I figured. I drifted above the city of
New Orleans, lulled by its lights and its voices. I wondered how Mona would handle this power, if she'd
be weeping again. I let myself believe there were no ghosts who could touch me up here or anywhere if I
used all my considerable powers, no ghosts who could make me afraid.
I said No to hunger. I said to thirst Be still.
I slipped down silently into the realm of my fellow creatures.
I caught sight of Quinn in the Rue Royale, pulling behind him a pile of suitcases, all dependent upon one
huge rectangular bag equipped with excellent little wheels. He was whistling a melody by Chopin and
walking very briskly, and I fell into stride beside him.
"You're the most dashing man on the street, Little Brother," I said. "What's with all the suitcases?"
"Are you going to let us stay at the flat, Beloved Boss?" he asked. His eyes were fired with love. In our
short acquaintance, I'd never seen him so happy. In fact, I'd never seen him happy before at all. "What do
you think?" he asked. "Do we crowd you? Do you want us out?"
"Not at all, I want you there," I replied. "I should have told you." We walked along together, me trying to
keep up with his long legs. "I'm the worst of hosts and Coven Masters, to use the old lingo. Not a
gentleman. A thoroughgoing Rasputin. Settle in. You had Clem bring clothes to the Ritz? (Yes.) Clever.
Where's Princess Mona right now?"
"In the bedroom, working on the computer we bought at sunset, first thing she had to have," he said with
an airy gesture. "She's recording every experience, every sensation, every subtle distinction, every
revelation-."
"I get it," I said. "Hmmm. You've both fed."
He nodded. "Greedily, among despicable wretches, though I had to oversee the operation somewhat. She
falls into states of utter paralysis. Perhaps if I wasn't there she wouldn't. Physically she's stronger than I
am. I think it confuses her. It was a couple bums back of town, both drunk, nothing to it."
"But it was her first human victim," I said. "Particulars."
"The men were unconscious, it was a cinch for her. She's yet to confront the living breathing struggling
type."
"All right, that can wait. As regards her being stronger than you, you know I can level the playing
ground," I said quietly. "I don't share the gift of my blood with many. But I'll share it again with you."
Was there anything in the world I wouldn't have done for Quinn?
"I know that," he answered. "God, I love her. I love her so much it's overtaken everything else in my
mind. I don't even think about Goblin being gone. I thought when Goblin was actually gone I'd suffer
some crippling emptiness. I was sure of it. It seemed bound to happen. But Mona's the partner of my soul,
Lestat, just the way I used to dream it would be when we first met, when we were both kids, before the
Blood ever came between us."
"That's the way it's supposed to work, Quinn," I said. "And Blackwood Farm? Have you any news?"
It was fun walking along the street again. Feet on the summer pavements with the heat of the sun still
rising from them.
"Perfect," said Quinn. "Tommy's staying the week. I'll be able to see him before he goes back to England.
I wish he didn't have to go to school in England. Of course, they're making calls to anyone or everyone
connected to Patsy. It's the damned medicine. I should have gathered up her medicine and thrown it in the
swamp with her. Then they would have assumed that she'd run away. I told them again that I murdered
her. Jasmine just laughed. She said she wished she could murder Patsy right now. I think the only one
who loves her, really loves her, is Cyndy, the Nurse."
I pondered the matter, perhaps for the first time since Quinn had done it only a few nights before. A body
couldn't survive being dumped in Sugar Devil Swamp. Too many gators. It made me smile bitterly to
remember that once others had tried to dispose of me in just the same way. But poor dead Patsy had
lacked my resources when she tumbled down into the darkness. Her soul had fled to the Totality of
Salvation, of course.
We walked on together through a crush of valiant tourists. The town was drippingly hot.
Last week at this very time I'd been a wanderer, hopelessly without companions, and then Quinn had
come into my life, with a letter in his pocket, needing my help, and Stirling had tiptoed into my flat,
daring me to discover him, and soon all of Blackwood Manor had materialized around me, Stirling
became a player in my life, Aunt Queen had been cruelly lost on the very night I'd made her
acquaintance, and then our beloved Merrick, gone from us, and now I was being drawn into the
knowledge of the Mayfairs, and I was what? Scared?
Come on, Lestat. You can tell me the truth. I'm your own self, remember? I was darkly and passionately
thrilled by all this, and I felt those chills again, merely thinking of Rowan berating me with all that heat
only an hour ago.
And then there was Julien, who just wasn't going to appear right now and run the risk of Quinn seeing
him too. I searched the early evening crowds. Where are you, you wretched coward, cheap second-rate
phantom, accused blunderer?
Quinn turned his head just a little, never breaking his stride. "What was that? You were thinking about
Julien."
"I'll tell you all of it later," I said, and I meant it. "But let me ask you, you know, about the time you saw
the ghost of Oncle Julien?"
"Yeah?"
"What vibe did you get in your secret soul? Good ghost? Bad ghost?"
"Hmmm, well, good, obviously. Trying to tell me I had Mayfair genes. Trying to save Mona from me,
trying to keep us from breeding some awful mutation, which occurs now and then in the Mayfair family.
A benign ghost. I've told you the whole story."
"Yes, of course," I replied. "A benign ghost and an awful mutation. Has Mona mentioned the mutation?
The lost child?"
"Beloved Boss, what's bothering you?"
"Nada," I said.
Now just wasn't the time to tell him. . . .
We reached the town house. The guards gave us a friendly nod. I gave them a generous tip. It was, for
mortal men in long-sleeved shirts, quite unbearably hot.
We could hear the clacking of the computer keys as we went up the iron stairs. Then the low chatter of
the printer.
Mona came charging out of the bedroom clothed in last night's white duds, page in hand.
"Listen to this," she said. " 'Though this experience is undeniably evil, in that it involves predation upon
other human beings, it is without question a mystical experience.' So, what do you think?"
"That's all you've written?" I asked. "That's one paragraph. Write some more."
"Okay." She ran back into the bedroom. Clack went the keys. Quinn followed her with the luggage. He
winked at me, smiling.
I went into my bedroom, which was opposite theirs, shut the door, hit the button for the overhead light,
and peeled off all my clothes with a shudder of utter disgust, threw them into the bottom of the armoire,
put on a brown cotton turtleneck, black pants, and a lightweight black silk and linen jacket with a highly
visible weave, a pair of completely smooth black shoes which had never been worn and looked like a
modern sculpture, combed my hair until there was no dust in it and then stood there, awash in a moment
of total stillness.
Then I stretched out on my bed. Satin tufted tester above me. Satin counterpane below. Fairly shadowy. I
turned my face into the down pillows, of which I always had a sizable heap, and with all my muscles sort
of scrunched up against the modern world.
Not a masculine thing to do, not a macho posture, not a show of strength to otherworldly entities, not a
take-charge attitude at all.
I was comforted by the sound of Mona's clicking away, the low note of Quinn's voice. Footsteps on the
boards.
But nothing could take the edge off Rowan's angry words, those eyes like hematite, her entire frame
trembling with her passion as she accused me. How could Michael Curry stay so close to that blaze and
not get scorched?
Suddenly, there was an agitation in me so great that only lying alone, scrunched up on the bed, could
comfort me. Sleep. Sleep, but I could not. They weren't wicked enough for me, Quinn and Mona. No one
was. I wasn't wicked enough for me!
And I had to see if the ghosts would come.
A clock ticked somewhere. A clock with a painted face and curlicue hands. Not a huge clock. A clock
that with its whole soul knew only how to tick and might tick for centuries, maybe had ticked for
centuries, a clock to which people would look, and which people would dust, and which people wound
with a key, and which people might come to love; a clock somewhere in this flat, perhaps in the back
parlor, the only piece of all this furniture that could talk. I heard it. I knew what it was saying. Its code
was lovely to me.
There was a knock at the door. Funny. It sounded as if it was right by my ear.
"Come in," I said. Damn fool that I am. But I wasn't fooled by the sounds I heard. That wasn't the door
opening. That wasn't the door being clicked shut.
Julien stood at the foot of the bed. He came walking up along the side. Julien in his downtown black
tailcoat and white tie, hair very white under the chandelier. His eyes were black. I'd thought they were
gray.
"Why did you knock?" I asked. "Why don't you just tear my world to pieces instead?"
"I didn't want you to forget your manners again," he said in perfect French. "You're atrocious when you're
ill-mannered."
"What do you want? To make me suffer? Join the crowd. I've been tormented by much stronger creatures
than you."
"You haven't begun to understand what I can do," he said.
"You made a 'disastrous mistake.' What was it?" I asked. "I wonder: do you even know?"
He paled. His placid face became visibly enraged.
"Who sends you here to play with the living?"
"You're not the living!" he said.
"Temper, temper," I said mockingly.
He was too angry to speak. It made him all the more vivid, blanched though he was with anger. Or was it
sorrow? I couldn't bear the thought of sorrow. I had enough sorrow.
"You want her?" I asked. "Then tell her yourself."
He didn't reply.
I shrugged as best I could, being all snuggled up on the counterpane.
"I can't tell her," I said. "Who am I to say, 'Julien says you should expose yourself to the sun and thereby
enter into the Totality of Salvation.' Or is it possible that my questions of last night were more than
pertinent and you don't know where you come from? Maybe there is no Totality of Salvation. No Saint
Juan Diego. Maybe you just want her with you in a spirit world where you wander, waiting for somebody
who can see you, somebody like Quinn or even Mona herself or me. Is that it? She's supposed to want to
be a ghost? I am showing you my best manners. This is my most polite voice. My mother and father
would be pleased."
There was a real knock on the door.
He vanished. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Had Stella been sitting to my left all
this time?Mon Dieu! I was going mad all right.
"Coward," I whispered.
I sat up and crossed my legs, Indian style. "Come in," I said.
Mona burst into the room, dressed in a fresh long-sleeved rose-colored silk dress and rose satin stacked
heels, a quivering page of paper once more held aloft.
"Hit me with it," I declared.
" 'It is my ultimate goal to transmute this experience into a level of life participation which is worthy of
the immense powers that have been bequeathed to me by Lestat, a level of life experience which knows
no moral shrinking from the most obvious yet painful theological questions which my transfigured state
has made utterly inescapable, the first of which is, obviously, How does God view my essential being?
Am I human and vampire? Or vampire only? That is, is damnation, and I speak now not of a literal Hell
with flames, but of a state which is defined by the absence of God-is damnation implicit and inherent in
what I am, or do I still exist in a relativistic universe in which I may attain grace on the same terms as
humans can attain it, by participating in the Incarnation of Christ, an historical event in which I totally
believe, in spite of the fact that it is not philosophically fashionable, though what questions of fashion
have to do with me now in this transcendent and often luminous condition is moot.' " She looked at me.
"What do you think?"
"Well, I think you ducked out of the paragraph on that 'fashionable question.' I think you should scrap the
thing about fashionable and try to make a more solid finish, perhaps with some very concise statement
about the level on which you believe in the Incarnation of Christ. And you can always use 'transcendent'
and 'luminous' in another sentence. Also you misused the word 'bequeath.' "
"Cool!" She dashed out of the room.
Naturally, she left the door open.
I went after her.
She was already pounding the keyboard, the computer humming on one of my many Louis XV desks; her
red eyebrows puckered, her green eyes locked to the monitor when I took up my position, arms folded,
looking down on her.
"Yeah, what, Beloved Boss?" she asked without stopping her writing.
Quinn was stretched out comfortably on the bed, staring at the tester. The whole flat was full of beds with
testers. Well, six bedrooms, anyway, three on each side.
"Call Rowan Mayfair and tell her you're all right. What do you think? Can you pull it off? The woman's
suffering."
"Bummer!" Clackity-clack.
"Mona, if you possibly could do it-for their sakes, of course. Michael is suffering."
She looked sharply up at me and froze. Then, without taking her eyes off me, she lifted the phone to the
right of her on the desk and she punched in the number so rapidly with her thumb I couldn't follow it. Her
generation, with Touch-Tone phones. Big deal! I can write with a quill pen in a flurry of curlicues you
wouldn't believe; let's see her do that. And I don't spill a drop of ink on the parchment, either.
"Yo, Rowan, Mona here." Hysterical crying on the other end. Mona overriding: "I'm just fine, I'm
hanging with Quinn, look, don't worry about me, I'm all better, totally." A storm of literal questions.
Mona overriding: "Rowan, listen, I'm feeling great. Yeah, a kind of miracle. Like I'll call you later. No,
no, no (overriding again), I'm wearing Aunt Queen's clothes, they fit me perfectly, yeah, and her shoes,
really cool, like she has tons of these high-heel shoes, yeah, and I never wore shoes like this; yeah, fine,
no, no, no, stop it, Rowan, and Quinn wants me to wear them, they're brand new, they're really great.
Love you, love to Michael and everybody. Bye." Down with the phone over Rowan shouting.
"So it's done," I said. "I really appreciate it." I shrugged.
She sat there white faced, the blood having fled her cheeks, staring into space.
I felt like a bully. I was a bully. I've always been a bully. Everybody who knows me thinks I am a bully.
Except perhaps Quinn.
Quinn sat up on the bed.
"What's the matter, Ophelia?" he asked.
"You know I have to go to them," she said, her eyebrows knitted. "I have no choice."
"What do you mean?" I said. "They just want off the hook. Now, admittedly, it's a very complex hook."
"No, no, no," she said, "for my sake." Her voice and her face were suddenly pitiless. "For what I have to
find out," she continued coldly, shuddering all over as though a wind had blown through the room. "I
know she's lied to me. She's lied to me for years. I'm afraid of how much she might have lied to me. I'm
going to make her tell me."
"That was wrong of me, making you talk to her?" I asked.
"Ophelia," said Quinn, "take your time. It's yours to take."
"No, had to happen, you were right," she said to me. But she was shaking. Tears standing in her eyes.
Preternatural emotions.
"It's about the Woman Child," I said under my breath. Was I free to reveal it to Quinn? What I'd seen: her
monstrous woman offspring? "Doll face," I said, "why should we have secrets now?"
"You can tell him anything," she said, trying not to cry. "Dear God, I . . . I . . . I'm going to find them! If
she knows where they are, if she's kept that from me. . . ."
Quinn was watching all this, keeping his counsel. But years ago she'd told him she had had a child, that
she had had to give up that child. She had spoken of it to him as a mutation. But she had never explained
the nature of that mutation.
And, to recap, in the Blood I'd seen a grown woman, something decidedly not human. Something surely
as monstrous as us.
"You don't want to lay it all out for us?" I asked gently.
"Not now, not ready, not yet." She sniffled. "I hate it, all of it."
"I just saw Rowan Mayfair," I said. "I saw her at the Talamasca Retreat House. Something's deeply
wrong with her."
"Of course something's wrong with her," she said with an air of exasperation. "I don't care what happens
to her when she sees me. So she sees something that will never make human sense to her. I should care? I
don't need to live with them the way Quinn lives with his family. I realize that now. It's impossible. I can't
do what Quinn did. I need a legal name. I need some money. . . ."
"Think about it a little longer," I said. "There's no need to make such a decision right now. I got clear of
Rowan and Michael tonight rather than disturb them, rather than create doubts that could harm them. It
was hard. I wanted to ask them questions. But I had to give it up."
"Why do you care so much?" she asked.
"Because I care about you and Quinn," I said. "You offend me. Don't you know that I love you? I
wouldn't have made you if I couldn't love you. Quinn told me so much about you before I ever saw you
and then I fell in love with you, of course."
"I have to know things from them," she said. "Things they're holding back, and then I have to findmy
daughter on my own. But I can't talk about it just yet."
"Your daughter?" Quinn asked.
"You mean the Woman Child, it's living-"
"Stop! Not now," said Mona. "Leave me to my philosophy, both of you!"
Huge shift of gears. Her eyes shot to the computer.
She went back to banging on the keys. "What's a better word than 'bequeathed'?"
"Bestowed," I responded.
Quinn came up behind her and fastened a cameo at her neck without interfering with her ferocious
writing.
"You're not trying to make her into Aunt Queen, are you?" I asked. She went on hammering.
"She's Ophelia Immortal," he said. He didn't take offense.
We left her. We went down the passage and out onto the rear balcony and down into the courtyard and
found a couple of iron chairs. I realized I'd never used these chairs.
They were pretty after a fashion, Victorian, ornate. I didn't own anything that wasn't pretty after a fashion,
or downright beautiful, if I could help it.
The garden enclosed us with its high banana trees and its night-blooming flowers. The music of the water
in the fountain mingled with the distant sound of Mona writing, and Mona whispering as she wrote. I
could hear the whine of the nightclub bands on the Rue Bourbon. I could hear the whole damned city if I
tried. The sky was a faint lilac color now, overcast and reflecting the city glow.
"Don't think that," said Quinn.
"What, Little Brother?" I woke from listening to distant sounds.
"I see her as Aunt Queen's heiress," he said, "don't you see? Everything that Aunt Queen wanted to give
of her clothes, her jewelry, all those things, whatever she wanted to give to Jasmine she'd already given,
and there's plenty enough in bank boxes for Tommy's wife of the future or whoever little Jerome marries
(Jerome was Quinn's son by Jasmine, let me remind you). And so I make Mona an heiress to maybe a
tenth of the most extreme silk dresses. Jasmine never wore the extreme silk dresses anyway. And the
glitter shoes which nobody really wants. And the shell cameos, which are common.
"If Aunt Queen somehow knew what had really happened to me, what I'd become, as we always say so
delicately; if she knew that Mona was with me, finally, that Heaven and Earth had been moved, and
Mona was with me, she'd want me to give those things to Mona. She'd be pleased that Mona was tripping
around in those shoes."
I listened to all this and I understood it. I should have understood it before. But Mona's daughter, who and
what was Mona's daughter?
"The clothes and shoes make her very happy," I said. "Most likely she's been sick so long that all her own
clothes are gone. Who knows?"
"What did you see in the Blood when you made her? What was this Woman Child?"
"That's what I saw," I responded. "A daughter of hers who was a full-grown woman, a monster in her
own eyes. It had come from her. And it was torn from her. She loved it. She nursed it. I saw that. And
then she lost it, just like she told you. It went away."
He was aghast. He'd caught nothing like this from her thoughts.
But in the Blood you go where nobody wants to go. That's the horror of it. That's the beauty of it.
"Could it really have been so freakish, so abnormal?" he asked. His eyes veered away. "You know, years
ago, I told you . . . I went to dinner at the Mayfair house. Rowan showed me the place. There was some
secret, some dark hidden story present there the whole time. I could see it in Rowan's silence and in
Rowan's drifting. But I couldn't see it in Michael. And even now Mona won't tell us."
"Quinn, you won't tell her why you killed Patsy, either," I said. "As we move on year by year in this life,
we learn that telling doesn't necessarily purge; telling sometimes merely is a reliving, and it's a torment."
The back door opened with a splat.
Mona came clattering down the steps, two pages in her hand.
"Dear God, I just love these shoes!" she said, making a circuit of the courtyard. Then:
She stood before us, looking like a waxen doll in the light from the upstairs windows, with one finger
pointing, like that of a nun in school:
" 'I must confess that it has already become undeniably clear to me, though I have existed in this exalted
state for only two nights, that the very nature of my powers and means of existence attest to the
ontological supremacy of a sensualist philosophy having taken up residence within me, as I proceed from
moment to moment and from hour to hour both to apprehend the universe around me and the microcosm
of my own self. This requires of me an immediate redefining of the concept of mystical, which I have
heretofore mentioned to include a state both elevated and totally carnal, both transcendent and orgasmic,
which delivers me when drinking blood or gazing at a lighted candle beyond all human epistemological
constraints.
" 'Whereas the hermeneutics of pain had once completely convinced me of my own personal salvation,
indeed, whereas I had once worked out a comprehensive Prayer of Quiet in which I had embraced Christ
and his Five Wounds in order to endure the Finality which seemed inescapable for me, I now find myself
approaching God on a totally undefined path.
" 'Can it be that being a vampire, and having a vampire soul as well as a human soul, I am therefore
removed from human obligations and all human ontological conditions? I think not.
" 'I think on the contrary that I am now responsible for the supreme human obligation: to investigate the
highest use of my powers, for surely though I am vampire by my own free will and by a Baptism of
Blood, I am still by birth, by maturity, by underlying physicality human, and must therefore share in the
human condition despite the fact that I shall not in the ordinary scheme of things grow old or die.
" 'To return to the inescapable question of Salvation, yes, I do remain rooted in a relativistic universe, no
matter how spectacularly defined I have become as to form and function, and I find myself within the
same dimension in which I existed before my transformation, and therefore I must ask: am I perforce
outside the economy of grace established by Our Divine Savior in the very fact of his Incarnation, even
before His Crucifixion, both events which I firmly believe to have occurred within human history and
chronology, and to be knowable through both, and commanding a response in both?
" 'Or can the Sacraments of Holy Mother the Church redeem me in my present state? I must conclude on
the face of it, from my short experience, from the ecstasy and abandon which have so rampantly replaced
all pain and suffering within the organism which I am, that I assume that I stand excommunicated from
the Body of Christ by my very nature.
" 'But it could be that I am never to know the answer to this question, no matter how thoroughly I
investigate the world and myself, and does not this very unknowing only bring me all the closer to full
existential participation in humankind?
" 'It seems wise to accept, in deepest humility and with an aim towards a validating spiritual perfection at
the onset, that I may never hope at any juncture of my wanderings, be they for untold centuries or for a
few short years of near unendurable ecstasy, to know whether I share in the Savior's Redemption, and that
that very unknowing may be the price I pay for my extra-human sensibility and inherently blood-thirsty
triumph over the pain I once suffered, over the imminent death that once tyrannized me, over the
ubiquitous threat of human time.'
"What do you think?"
"Very good," I said.
Quinn piped up: "I like the word 'perforce.' "
She ran up to him and started beating him about the head and shoulders with the pages, and kicking him
with her high-heel shoes. He laughed under his breath and carelessly defended himself with one arm.
"Look, it's better than crying!" he said.
"You hopeless Boy," she declared, erupting in streaks of laughter. "You hopeless, egregious Boy! You
are patently unworthy of all the philosophical considerations I have positively lavished upon you! And
what, I ask, have you written since your Blood Baptism, why, the very ink has dried up in the circuits of
your cruel little preternatural brain."
"Wait a minute, quiet," I said. "Someone's arguing with the guards at the gate." I was on my feet.
"My God, it's Rowan," said Mona. "Damn, I should never have called her on her cell."
"Cell?" I asked. But it was very much too late.
"Caller ID," Quinn murmured as he rose and took Mona in his arms.
It was Rowan, most assuredly-breathless and frantic, and, followed by both guards, who were protesting
heavily, she came racing back the carriageway and stopped dead, facing Mona across the courtyard.
12
THE SHOCK OF SEEING MONA, of apprehending her in the light that fell from the upstairs windows and
the inevitable light from the glowing sky, was such that Rowan was stopped as if she'd struck an invisible
wall.
Michael at once caught up with her, and he too experienced a similar immense surprise.
As they stood baffled, not knowing what to make of the evidence of their senses, I told the guards to back
off and leave the matter to me.
"Come on up into the flat," I said. I gestured towards the iron stairs.
It was useless to say anything at this juncture. It wasn't a vampire that they'd just seen. They knew and
suspected nothing of supernatural origin here. It was Mona's spectacular "recovery" which had them in
total disbelief.
It was in essence a scary moment. Because though a big frank smile of undisguised jubilance had broken
out over Michael Curry's face, Rowan's scowling countenance was full of something akin to wrath. All
her personal history was coiled behind that wrath, and I was fascinated by it as I'd been by all her
emotions before.
Only reluctantly, and somewhat in the manner of a sleepwalker, Rowan let me take her arm. Her entire
body was tense. Nevertheless, I led her to the iron steps, and then I went before her, in order to lead the
whole party. And Mona gestured for Rowan to follow me, and Mona, tossing her hair back over her
shoulders, looking miserable, followed her.
The back parlor was best for such gatherings, having no bookshelves and a deep velvet sofa and lots of
tolerable Queen Anne chairs. Of course there was ormolu and inlaid wood everywhere, and a blazing new
wallpaper of wine and beige stripes, and the garlands of flowers in the carpet seemed to be having
convulsions, and the Impressionist paintings on the wall in their thick encrusted frames were like
windows into a far far better, sun-filled universe, but it was a good room.
I shut off the overhead chandelier immediately and switched on two of the smaller corner lamps. It was
softly dim now, but not uncomfortably so, and I directed everyone to sit down.
Michael beamed at Mona and said at once, "Darling, you look absolutely beautiful," as if he was uttering
a prayer. "My lovely, lovely girl."
"Thank you, Uncle Michael, I love you," Mona answered tragically, and wiped at her eyes fiercely as
though these people were somehow going to return her to her wretched mortal state.
Quinn was petrified. And his worst suspicion was rightly directed at Rowan.
She too appeared paralyzed except for her eyes, breaking away from Mona suddenly and fastening on me.
This had to be quick.
"All right, you see for yourself," I said, my eyes moving from Rowan to Michael and back again. "Mona's
cured of whatever was wrong with her, and the entire wasting sickness has been reversed. She's utterly
self-sufficient and whole. If you think that I am going to explain to you how this was done, or anything
about it, you're wrong. You can call me Rasputin or worse names. I don't care."
Rowan's eyes quivered but her face did not change. The turbulence inside her was unreadable, indeed,
unknowable, and if I caught anything definitive it was a high pitch of terror that hearkened back to things
which had befallen her in the past. I couldn't fathom it, there wasn't time for such mental mining, and her
confusion was putting up too much of a fight.
I had to go on.
"You're not going to walk away from here with any answers," I proceeded. "Get angry at me. Go ahead.
Some night, many years from now, maybe Mona will choose to explain what happened, but for now you
have to accept what you've seen. You no longer need to worry about Mona. Mona is on her own."
"It's not that I'm ungrateful," Mona said, her voice thick and her eyes filming red. She blotted them at
once with her handkerchief. "You know I'm grateful. It just feels so good to be free."
Rowan fixed again on her. If Rowan found the slightest virtue in this miracle, it wasn't rising to the
forefront of her mind.
"Your voice isn't the same," said Rowan. "Your hair, your skin-." She looked back to me. "Something's
wrong." She stared at Quinn.
"This meeting's over," I said. "I don't mean to be harsh, truly I don't. But you know what you need to
know. Obviously you know the phone number here, that's how you found us. You know where we are."
I rose to my feet.
Quinn and Mona followed but Rowan and Michael didn't move. Michael was taking his lead from
Rowan, but then he reluctantly stood up, because Rowan or no Rowan, it was the courteous thing to do.
This man was so lovable that even under these circumstances he didn't want to offend anyone, least of all
Mona, and cause anyone any discomfort at all.
He simply did not see us the way Rowan did. He didn't look at people. He looked into their eyes. He
studied Quinn's expression but not the physicality of Quinn. He didn't even care that Quinn was so tall.
He scouted for the kindness in people and invariably found it, and his own kindness invested his entire
being, infusing his considerable physical gifts. It was a rugged beauty he possessed, and he put behind
him a calm self-assurance that can only arise from immense strength.
"Honey, do you need anything?" he asked Mona.
"I'm going to need some money," said Mona. She ignored Rowan's fixed stare. "Of course I'm not the
Heiress anymore. Nobody wanted to talk about that when I was dying, but I've known that for years. And
I'd retire now anyway, if it wasn't the case. The Heiress to the Mayfair fortune has to bear a child. We all
know that I can't do that anymore. But I want to ask for a settlement. Nothing like the billions of the
Legacy. Nothing like that at all. I mean, just a settlement so that I won't be poor. That's no problem, is it?"
"No problem at all," said Michael with a very loving smile to her and a shrug. The man was totally
appealing. He wanted to hug her. But he took his lead from Rowan, and Rowan had not moved from the
chair. "It's no problem, is it, Rowan?" he asked. His eyes swept the room a bit uneasily. He fixed for a
few seconds on the brilliant Impressionist painting above the sofa in front of which I stood. He looked
genially at me.
He couldn't begin to guess what had transformed Mona. But he never dreamt of anything sinister or evil.
It was amazing the degree with which he accepted it, and only as I searched his mind now, in this
moment when he was confused by Rowan and without his habitual defenses, only in this moment did I
understand. He accepted Mona as she was because he wanted so very much for her recovery to be true.
He'd thought Mona was doomed. Now a miracle had happened to Mona. He didn't need to know who'd
worked the miracle. Saint Juan Diego? Saint Lestat? Whatever! It was fine with him.
I could have told him a harebrained story about us pumping her full of lipids and spring water and he
would have bought it wholesale. He had flunked "Science" in school.
But Rowan Mayfair couldn't escape being a scientific genius. She couldn't ignore the fact that Mona's
recovery was a physical impossibility. And in her mind were memories so painful they had no pictures or
people to them; they had only dark inchoate feelings and awesome guilt.
She sat silent and motionless in the chair. Her eyes moved accusingly and wrathfully from Mona to me
and back again and round once more.
I had a sense, perhaps flawed, that she was moving towards a brave curiosity, but . . .
Mona approached her. Not a great idea.
I signaled Quinn, and Quinn tried to stop Mona but Mona shook him off. Mona was determined.
Yet Mona appeared wary, as if Rowan was an animal that could scratch. I didn't like this at all. Mona
stood between Rowan and everybody else in the room. I could no longer see Rowan, but I knew that
Mona was only inches from Rowan and this was not good at all.
Mona bent down with her arms out. She apparently meant to kiss or embrace Rowan.
Rowan moved back so fast to get away from Mona that she knocked over the chair in which she'd been
sitting and the table and lamp beside it, crash, thump, bang, shuffle, and plastered herself against the wall.
Michael went on full alert, shooting to her side. But what was there to see?
Mona stepped back to the center of the room, whispering "Oh, my God," under her breath, and Quinn
took hold of her from behind and held her and kissed her cheek.
Rowan couldn't move. Her heart was pounding and her mouth was open and she shut her eyes as if she
were about to scream. She had passed right through terror. It was utter revulsion, as if she'd seen a giant
insect. It was the most explosive reaction on the part of a mortal to a vampire that I'd ever seen. It was
panic.
I knew I could charm her because I'd done it before, crossed the barrier between the species without ever
evoking that panic, and I determined to cross the barrier now with all my nerve. And this did take
tremendous nerve.
"Very well, darling, very well, sweetheart," I said, advancing on Rowan as fast as I dared. "My precious,
my darling," I said, as I slipped my arms behind her and under her, and caught her up and carried her past
an astonished Michael, towards the door. Her body grew soft. (Thank Heaven.) "I have you, my
sweetheart," I said to her, crooning in her ear, kissing her ear, "I'm holding you, precious darling," as I
carried her out and down the steps, her body now completely limp, "I have you, my sweetheart, nothing
can hurt you, yes, yes," her head falling against my chest and her hand clawing weakly at my shirt. She
was gasping. "I understand, my precious," I said. "But you're safe, you're really safe, I would never let
anything bad happen to you, I promise you, that's my promise, and Michael's here, he's with you, it's all
right, darling, you know I'm telling you the truth, that these things are truly all right."
I could see these words sinking down, down into her mind, through the levels of guilt and remembrance
and flight from the present, and what she'd sensed and couldn't deny and could only retreat from, and all
the truths she had feared.
Michael was right behind me, and as soon as we reached the flagstones he took her from me effortlessly,
and she fell into his arms in the same way.
Boldly I kissed her cheek, my lips lingering, and her hand found mine and her fingers coiled around
mine. Behold, thou art fair my love, thou art fair. Her panic was still so great that she couldn't speak.
" 'A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.' " I whispered in her ear.
I kissed her again and again on her soft cheek. I stroked her hair. Her fingers gripped me, but the grip had
softened, as she was softened.
"I've got you, darling," Michael said in exactly the same tone. "Rowan, my sweetheart, I have you, honey,
I'll take you home."
As I backed off his eyes looked at me searchingly, and without enmity. I sensed something about his love
for her, that it was immense and beyond pettiness, and that he claimed no dominion over her, that he
adored her. It was difficult for me to really accept.
Rowan lost consciousness. Her head fell forward and against Michael. He realized it with total alarm.
"It's all right," I said. "Just take her home and lie down beside her and don't leave her alone."
"But what the Hell happened?" he whispered to me as he cuddled her.
"Doesn't matter," I said. "Remember that. It doesn't matter. What matters is that Mona has been saved."
I went back upstairs.
Of course Mona was sobbing.
She lay across the bed in their room where the computer purred, and she was sobbing, and Quinn sat by
her, as was becoming the custom.
"What did I do wrong?" Mona asked. She looked up at me. "Tell me, what did I do wrong?"
I sat at the computer desk.
She sat up, cheeks streaked with blood.
"I can't live with them the way Quinn lives at Blackwood Manor; you see it, don't you? I didn't do
anything wrong."
"Oh, stop lying to yourself," I said. "You know very well you're angry with her, deeply angry. Your
intentions weren't pure when you approached her. She's done something to you, deceived you, something,
something you can't forgive. You practically told us right here in this room. You had to show her your
power, you had to push it-."
"You really think so?" she asked.
"I know so," I said.
"You think she's kept secrets from you. Magic secrets, secrets you haven't explained to Quinn and to me.
You've resented her all these years as the doctor, the mad scientist, yes, right, the mad scientist, the
keeper of the keys to the magic, coming in and out of your death chamber, ordering this medication and
that medication and never really telling you what was happening, but other secrets, darker secrets, secrets
that you and she and Michael know, not so?"
"I love her."
"And now here you knew you had the powerful magic. You had the keys to a powerful secret. You
condescended to her. And so she saw through this duplicity, this display of patronizing affection, and she
was panic-stricken when she realized you weren't alive anymore, just as you wanted her to be. You
wanted her to acknowledge your power, that next to you, the way you are, she was nothing."
"You really think so?" Tears. Sniffles.
"I know so. And you're not finished with her. Not at all."
"Hold on, Lestat," said Quinn, "you're being unfair. Mona confessed that they had a score to settle. But
surely she wasn't thinking of all those things, not when she went towards Rowan."
"Yes, she was," I insisted.
"You've fallen in love with her," said Quinn.
"In love with who? Mona? I told you I love both of you."
"No," said Quinn. "You know I don't mean Mona. You've fallen completely in love with Rowan in a way
that's not like your infatuation with us. You've connected with something deep inside of Rowan and we
can't compete with it. It started last night. But you can't have Rowan. You just can't."
"Mon Dieu!" I whispered.
I crossed the hall, went into my bedroom and shut and locked the door.
There stood Julien in his natty white-tie regalia, arms folded smugly as he gazed at me, leaning against
the tall mahogany headboard of the bed.
"That's right, you can't have her," he said, laughing under his breath. "I watched you slip into it like the
fly into the honey. I loved it. Her taking you so unawares, oh yes, your tasting that kernel of evil with
your oh-so-refined senses, kisses in the shadows, yes, and falling so blithely in love with her, so tenderly
for you with all your loathsome powers. And you cannot have her. No, never. Not Rowan Mayfair. Never
ever. Not the Magnate, not the Creator of the greatest family enterprise, not the champion of the family's
public dreams, the family's philanthropic wonder, the family's guiding star! You can't ever have her. And
you shall have all the fun of watching her from afar and never knowing what might happen to her. Old
age, sickness, accident, tragedy. Won't it be something to behold! And you can't ever interfere. You don't
dare!"
There stood beside him little Stella, aged eight or nine, in a lovely white dress, drop waist style, a white
bow in her black hair.
"Don't be so mean to him, Oncle Julien!" she said. "Poor darling."
"Oh, but he is a mean creature, Stella dearest," said Julien. "He took our beloved Mona. He deserves
nothing but the worst."
"Listen to me, you cheap backstairs ghost," I said. "I'm no sentimental rake out of a bad Byronic poem.
I'm not in love with your precious Rowan Mayfair. The love I feel for her is something you can't know in
your shallow wanderings. And Rowan's in more trouble than you can ever imagine. Now why don't you
tell me what disastrous mistake you made with all your clever machinations and visitations? Or shall I get
it out of Mona or Rowan or Michael? You haven't been an angelic success, have you? Take your little girl
in your arms and get out of my sight. Is God giving you the power to writhe and spit with anger?"
Pounding on the door. Mona calling my name over and over again.
They were gone, the ghosts.
She came into my arms. "But I can't bear it if you're angry with me, tell me you're not, I love you with my
whole soul."
"No, no, never angry," I said. "Let me hold you tight, my fledgling, my darling, my newborn one. I adore
you. We'll fix everything. We'll make everything perfect for everyone. Somehow."
13
HOTEL CORRIDORS. Muffled voices. On and on. Dark blue carpet. Candle flame electric lights. Door
after door. That's a pretty table. Oh, you rank materialist, be done with tables, and be gone on your filthy
errand. What if some ruthless enterprising individual did a catalog of all the furniture you have personally
described in your Vampire Chronicles, then what, I'll tell you what, that would put you to shame, you
avaricious, shameless, hoarding, ever-hungry Seven Deadly Sin Committing fiend, what did Louis once
say to you, that you made a junk shop of eternity? Move it!
Bedroom interior. Mirrors and mahogany. Wreckage of room service. (Look Ma, no tables!) Oliveskinned
woman, dark of hair, half conscious on the pillows. Smell of gin. Drapes open on the crowded
sparkling high-rise night. Tumbler full of ice cubes and gin and tonic, catching light in frozen bubbles.
She turned on her back, rose up on her elbows. Beige satin nightgown, lank, nipples brown.
"So they sent you, did they?" she asked, lids half closed, eyes scornful, painted mouth hard. "So how will
you do it? Hmmm. Get a load of that blond hair."
I lay down on the bed beside her, on my left elbow. Bed thick with her sweet human perfume. Luxurious
hotel sheets and pillows.
"You're some hit man," she said, sneering. She picked up the beautiful tumbler. "You don't mind if I have
a drink before I die, do you?" She drained the gin and tonic out of it. It smelled like poison to me.
Ahhhhh, gambling debts, millions, how does one do that, but it was only the tip of it, she'd been in much
deeper, flying back and forth to Europe, stashing the wealth for the wrong man. When she fired a gun she
emptied it. Making a living. Her partner had vanished. She knew she was next. Didn't care anymore. All
that money gone to waste. Drunk all the time now. Sick of waiting. Black hair oily and fine. One of those
faces completely transformed by maturity. Lots of there there but who cares?
She fell back on the pillow.
"So kill me, you bastard," she purred. I mean slurred.
"You got it, sweetheart," I said. I covered her, and kissed her throat. Hmmm. Fragrance of nobody.
"What is this, Rape?" Snickering laughter. "Can't you find a two hundred dollar ho in this hellhole city?
You know how old I am? You have to put a spin on the job, a guy with your looks?"
I covered her mouth. She gave just a little to the press of my lips.
"And kissy face on top of it," she drawled. "Stick to the pelvic moves, fancy man."
"I have something better, honey, you underestimate me."
I nuzzled against her neck, kissed the artery, heard the blood surging, opened my mouth slowly, tasting
skin again, sank my teeth and drew fast so that she swooned before the pinprick pain could catch up. Oh,
Lord God, this is from Somebody's Heaven.
Easy.
Weightless, timeless, apocalyptic. Oh, baby, you're no liar, don't expect me to give a hoot about the things
I've done, never, how could I, I'm not God, honey bunch, well, then, who, the Devil, oh, sweet, I told you,
didn't I, I don't believe in you, I hate you, keep it going, I am, I am, as much as I can bother to despise
anyone, I love this! hmmm, yeah, tell me about it, and then what was it? I almost, if you want to give it
up, do it, but if you don't, I don't need it, it's what you need, sidewalk hopscotch, colored chalk, I hate
them, lemme go, jump rope, screen door bang shut, never could, kids crying, I just need the blood, oh, but
wait, I see it, I never knew it could be so-back down that hallway, no, well, guess what? it isn't. Laughter,
light and laughter, I should have-.
Her heart couldn't pump it any longer. I lifted her, drew harder, the heart stopped, arteries burst, blood
blind, body slowly filling with weight, slipslide of satin, shock of downtown lights, the sparkle in the ice
cubes, the Miracle of the Ice Cubes.
Blood to the brain, My Lord and My God, I'm out of here. Thou shalt not lie beside the corpse of thy
victim, for the Deadly Sin of Pride I shattered the huge window, arms out, glass flying in all directions,
Take me, Oh Twinkling Downtown Lights, Take me!-glass falling on the airwell gravel roof and the
mighty modern unromantic ever-churning air machines.
Won't the hit man be surprised?
14
THE NEXT NIGHT I AWOKE to discover the National Catholic Reporter had arrived in the mail, and I tore
it open for news of Saint Juan Diego.
There was great coverage, including a wonderful black and white photograph of the Pope in his white
mitre, listing badly to the right proper but doing fine otherwise, watching "indigenous dancers" at the
canonization Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Huge crowd. Of course the
article HAD to mention the fact that some people doubted that Juan Diego had ever existed!
But what did that matter to the faithful like me?
Only after I had devoured all the articles on the Pope's travels did I realize there was a note lying on the
desk from one of the guards, saying that Michael Curry had come by in the afternoon and asked if I might
call him. No one was answering the phone.
I'd come back so late last night that I had not seen Mona and Quinn, and they had not yet risen.
The flat was ominously quiet. Apparently it was too early for Julien and Stella as well. Or maybe my last
speech had routed Julien for a while. But I didn't think so. He was, if anything, probably more energized
and waiting for a moment in which to strike.
I was about to pick up the phone and call the number which Michael had given to the guard when I
realized that Michael had just come to the carriageway below.
I went down to meet him. The evening was all aglow and full of the scent of the kitchens of the Quarter.
I motioned for the guards to let Michael come on back.
He was in a frantic state. He was wearing the same three-piece white suit as yesterday, shirt now open
and tie gone, and he was all rumpled and smudged with dirt and his hair was mussed.
"What's the matter, man?" I asked, as I reached to take his arm.
He shook his head. He was choking on the words he wanted to say. His thoughts were scrambled. On
some unconscious level he blocked me from reading him, while appealing to me at the same time.
I led him into the courtyard. He was sweating badly. The garden was just too hot. I had to take him in
where the artificial winds blow.
"Come on," I said. "Let's go upstairs."
Mona appeared in the doorway just as we reached the back parlor, pretty blue silk dress, heels strapped at
the ankles, just her hair tousled from bed.
"Uncle Michael, what's wrong!" She was instantly distraught.
"Hey, baby," Michael said weakly. "You're sure looking fine." He collapsed on the velvet sofa and he put
his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
"What is it, Uncle Michael?" she said, obviously shy of touching him, settling uncertainly on the edge of
a nearby chair.
"It's Rowan," he said. "She's gone out of her mind, and I don't know if we can bring her back this time.
It's worse than it ever was before."
He looked at me. "I came here to ask you point blank if you'd help. You have a power over her. You
calmed her last night. You might be able to do it again."
"But what's happening to her?" Mona asked. "Is she catatonic like before?"
I caught only jumbled images from Michael's mind. He didn't appear to register Mona's question. I had to
settle for his words.
"Stirling's with her now," Michael said, "but he's not getting through. This morning she insisted she
wanted to go to Confession. I called Fr. Kevin. They were alone for about an hour. Of course he can't tell
anybody what she said. You ask me, I think Fr. Kevin's on the brink too. You can't take a regular priest
like Fr. Kevin and plunge him into a family like ours, and expect him to survive, expect him to represent
something, expect him to exercise his priestly functions. It's not fair."
"Michael," I said. "What is Rowan doing?"
He didn't seem to hear me. He went on.
"Mayfair Medical, all her work on it has been frenetic, you know that, or at least you did know that-" he
looked at Mona-"but nobody else really realizes it, that she works to the point of exhaustion so that there
will be no inner life, no quiet life, no life of the mind other than that which is locked to Mayfair Medical,
it's a complete vocation, yeah, marvelous, but it's also a complete escape."
"A mania," said Mona quietly. She was badly shaken.
"Right," said Michael. "Her public persona is the only persona she really has. The interior Rowan has
utterly disintegrated. Or it has to do with the secrets of Mayfair Medical. And now this breakdown, this
complete disconnection, this madness. Do you realize how many people are riding on her energy? Her
example? She's created a world that's dependent upon her-members of the family from all over come here
to study medicine, the new wing is under way at the hospital, there's the Brain Study Program, she's
monitoring four research projects, I don't even know the half of it. You chuck my own selfish needs, and
then there's all that-."
"What actually happened?" I pushed.
"Last night she lay on the bed for hours. She was whispering things. I couldn't hear her. She wouldn't talk
to me. She wouldn't come out of it. She wouldn't dress for bed, or take anything to eat or drink. I lay
beside her-what you told me to do. I held her. I even sang to her. Irish people do that, you know. We sing
when we're melancholy. It's the strangest thing. I thought I was the only one. Then I realized all Mayfairs
do it. That's the Tyrone McNamara blood down through Oncle Julien. I sang these melancholy songs to
her. I fell asleep. When I woke up, she was gone.
"I found her in the back garden on the lawn under the oak. She was barefoot out there, in her pretty silk
suit, digging, digging where the remains were." He looked at Mona. "She was in her bare feet and she
was digging with one of the gardener's big shovels. She was talking to herself about Emaleth and Lasher
and she was cursing herself. When I tried to stop her, she hit me. I tried to remind her she'd had the
remains removed. As soon as Mayfair Medical was complete, she had had a team out to scour for the
remains."
"Emaleth and Lasher?" I asked.
"I remember," said Mona. "I was there when it happened."
"She was crazy that day," Michael said. "She kept repeating herself. She said that she belonged in the
Talamasca. They sifted through that dirt like a pack of archaeologists. Yeah, you saw them, and that
fragrance, it was so strong."
Mona was fighting back her usual tears. My heart went out to both of them. They were prisoners of these
secrets.
"Go on," said Mona.
"I tried to tell her. They'd excavated the entire area. They'd brought everything to Mayfair Medical. She
didn't seem to understand. I told her what she'd told me at the time. It was cartilage, cartilage of an
infinitely more elastic species . . . that it wasn't even the scene of a crime! But she wasn't listening. She
keeps pacing and talking to herself. She says I don't know who she is. She's always told me that. She
started talking again about joining the Talamasca, retiring into the Order. As if it was a convent. She said
she belonged there. In the Talamasca. In the old days, when women had done evil things they could be
sent to monasteries. She said she would make a bequest to the Talamasca, and they would take her, they
would take the Mad Scientist, because that's who she really was. Mona, she doesn't believe in my
understanding. She doesn't believe in my power to forgive."
"I know, Uncle Michael."
"I'm a moral child in her mind," Michael said, his voice shaky. "And then she said the worst thing."
"What?" asked Mona.
"She said that you were . . . you were dead."
Mona didn't reply.
"I kept telling her you were fine. We'd just seen you. You were all right, you were cured. She kept
shaking her head. 'Mona's not alive anymore.' That's what she said."
Michael looked at me. "Lestat, will you come?" he asked.
I was vaguely amazed. This man was highly intuitive, but he was seeing in me only what he wanted to
see.
"Will you talk to her?" he asked. "You had such a soothing effect on her. I saw it with my own eyes. If
you and Mona could come. Bring Quinn. Rowan loves Quinn. Rowan doesn't notice many people. But
she's always loved Quinn. Maybe because Quinn can see spirits, I don't know. Maybe because Quinn and
Mona love each other, I don't know. She loved Quinn from the first time he came to call on Mona years
ago. She's always trusted in Quinn. But Lestat, if you could talk to her . . . and Mona, if you could come
and show her that you're alive, show her that you're fine, just hold her. . . ."
"Michael, listen to me," I said. "I want you to go home. Quinn and Mona and I have to talk this over.
We'll come to you or call you as soon as we can. Be assured, we're very concerned about Rowan. There's
no other concern on our minds right now except Rowan."
He sat back on the couch, closed his eyes and took a long breath. He looked defeated. "I was hoping
you'd come back with me," he said.
"Believe me," I said, "our little consultation won't take long. We have strong obligations. We'll call or
come just as quickly as we can." I hesitated. "We love Rowan," I said.
He stood up, heaved a sigh and headed for the door. I asked if he needed a ride back home and he
murmured that his car had brought him downtown.
He looked back at Mona. She'd stood up but she was afraid to embrace him, that was plain.
"Uncle Michael, I love you," she whispered.
"Oh, sweetheart," he said, "if I had my life to live over again and could just erase that one night."
"Don't think about it, Uncle Michael," she said. "How many times do I have to tell you? I climbed in the
back window, for God's sakes. It was all my fault, from start to finish."
He was unconvinced. "I took advantage of you, baby," he whispered.
I was stunned.
"Michael, it was Oncle Julien too," Mona said. "It was Oncle Julien's spell. He made a big mistake.
Besides, it doesn't matter now, don't you see?"
I was stunned again.
He stared at her, narrowing his eyes. I couldn't figure whether he wanted a blurred focus or a fine one. It
was as though he saw her loveliness afresh.
"Oh, you do look so good," he sighed. "My sweetheart." He closed the gap between them and embraced
her totally, a bear of a man enfolding her. "My darling girl," he said.
I was afraid.
They rocked together, his arms completely enclosing her. He suspected nothing. He drifted in a dream.
And she, newborn thing that she was, felt like a peach.
At last he broke away and said wearily that he had to return to Rowan, and I told him again that we would
call him very soon.
He looked at me for a long moment, as though he was seeing me with new eyes, but it was only his
weariness. He was seeing what he wanted to see in me, and he thanked me again.
"She called you Rasputin when she was angry," he said. "Well, I tell you, Lestat, you do have that sort of
power and it's a good thing. I can sense the good in you."
"How in the world can you do that?" I asked. To ask that honest question felt extraordinarily sweet. This
was truly one of the most baffling mortals I'd ever met. And to think, he washer husband, and I'd thought
him the perfect husband for her when we'd first met.
He reached out and took my hand before I could stop him. Couldn't he feel how hard it was? Only the
thinnest layer of flesh was permeable. I was a monster. Yet he peered into my eyes as though plumbing
for something separate from the Deadly Sins that prevailed within me.
"You're good," he said, confirming it for himself. "You think I'd let you hold my wife in your arms if I
didn't sense it? You think I'd let you kiss her cheek? You think I'd come to plead with you to calm my
wife when I couldn't if I didn't know you were good? I don't make mistakes of that order. I've been with
the dead. The dead have come to me and surrounded me. They've talked to me. They've taught me things.
I know."
I held fast. I nodded. "I've been with the dead too," I said. "They left me in confusion."
"Maybe you asked too much of them," he said gently. "I think when the dead come to us they are crippled
creatures. They look to us for their completion."
"Yes," I said. "I think that's true. And without a doubt I failed them. But I was with angels too and they
asked too much of me and I refused them."
A look of quiet shock passed over his face. "Yes, you said it before. Angels. I can't imagine being with
angels."
"Never mind my words," I said. "I talk too much of my own wounds and failures. With Rowan,
something can be done, and I promise you, we will see to it."
He nodded. "Just come to the house, please, all of you."
"Are you and Rowan alone there?" I asked.
"Stirling Oliver is there, but-," he said.
"That's fine. He can stay," I replied. "We'll be there very soon. Wait there for us."
He nodded with a half smile that was trusting and grateful and kind.
He went on out the door.
I stood trembling, listening to him make the stairs, and then the carriageway. I shut my eyes.
A solemn silence fell over the room. I knew Quinn had come to the door. I struggled to gain control of
my heart. I struggled. Mona cried softly into her handkerchief.
"Mona of a Thousand Tears," I said. I fought them myself. I won. "How could he have so totally
misunderstood me?"
"But he didn't," said Quinn.
"Oh, yes, he did," I insisted. "Sometimes I think the theologians have got it backwards. The big problem
is not How to explain the existence of evil in this world. It's How to explain the existence of good."
"You don't believe that," said Quinn.
"Yes, I do," I said.
I fell into a sudden trance, thinking of the Pope in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
with the "Indigenous people" dancing in their feathered headdresses. I wondered if the Spaniards would
have murdered those Indians in their feathered headdresses for doing that on consecrated ground two
centuries ago or three or four. Well, Hell, it didn't matter. Saint Juan Diego would protect everyone now.
I shuddered in order to clear my mind.
I sat on the couch. I had to ponder what I'd learnt.
"So it was Michael who fathered your child," I said to Mona as gently as I could.
"Yes," she answered. She sat beside me. She put her hand over mine. "There are so many things I'm not
free to tell. But at the time, Rowan wasn't there. Rowan . . . Rowan did a terrible thing. I can't tell what
Rowan did. Rowan left Michael. Rowan was the thirteenth witch. I can't tell it. But Rowan left Michael
on Christmas Day."
"Go on, you were talking about Michael," I said.
"It was weeks later. The house was all dark. I climbed in the window. Michael was supposed to be sick.
He was grieving for Rowan. I crept up there to his room. I knew he wasn't sick as soon as I touched him."
Quinn sat down close to us. I realized he'd heard our conversation with Michael. He didn't care for what
Mona was telling me. It came as a huge shock to him that Michael had fathered the child of which he
knew so little. But he remained quiet.
"Then Oncle Julien cast a spell on both of us," said Mona. "He brought us together. He was trying to help
Michael stop grieving over Rowan. He wanted to prove to Michael that Michael wasn't really sick. But I
wanted it. I really wanted it. I was being the Wander Slut in those days. I kept a list on my computer of all
the cousins I seduced. I seduced my cousin Randall, and I think he was eighty then. He nearly shot
himself on account of it. Me being thirteen and all that. It was perfectly disgusting. I had to confess to my
Aunt Bea that I'd seduced Randall and ask her to come bring the medics-Oh, never mind. But he's just
fine now. Imagine. I like to think he's lived to be ninety, thanks to me."
"Yes, of course," said Quinn dryly. "But with Michael you conceived the child."
"Yes," said Mona. "The child that they took away from me."
"It was giving birth to the Woman Child," I said, "that brought on the wasting sickness, and the sickness
wouldn't stop."
"Yes," Mona answered. "At first we didn't know what was happening. It came on very gradually. I had a
little time. What good is it now to talk about these things? Rowan dug up the remains beneath the tree
because she was trying to find something that might help me. At least in part that was the reason. But it
doesn't matter now. What do we do?"
"But who were the creatures buried beneath the tree?" I asked. "Michael called them Emaleth and
Lasher."
"Those are their secrets," Mona insisted. "Look, I escaped it all, on account of you, both of you. But
there's no escape for Rowan, is there? Except Mayfair Medical. Except project after project. No. But I
have to demand the truth from her. Did she try to find my child or not? Did she lie?"
"Why would she lie?" Quinn asked. "What would have been her motive? Don't you see, Mona, Lestat and
I can't comprehend these things unless you tell us what they mean."
Mona's face grew dark. She was so pretty that it couldn't look sour, no matter how dreadful her thoughts.
"I don't know," she said, tossing her hair. "I just had the feeling sometimes that if Rowan could get one of
them . . . the mutation, the other species . . . she'd lock them up in Mayfair Medical until she'd run every
test she could to see what their flesh or their breast milk or their blood could do for human beings."
"The other species?" I asked.
She sighed.
"Their breast milk in particular, it had curative properties. I used to lie there in the dark and imagine that
my daughter was somewhere locked in the building. It was a fantasy. Rowan would force drinks on me.
I'd imagine the breast milk of my daughter was mixed in it. It's all wrapped up in what the mutation is.
But it doesn't matter now. What does matter is now we have to help Rowan, and I still have to get the
truth from her-how I go about finding my daughter myself."
"You still want to find her?" Quinn repeated, as if he hadn't really understood. "Even now, after what's
happened to you?"
"Yes," said Mona. "Especially now. I'm no longer human, am I? We're equals now, me and Morrigan,
don't you see? Morrigan will live for centuries and so will I! That is-if Rowan's been telling the truth all
these years, if she doesn't know where my daughter is, if my daughter's really still alive. . . ."
"Another species," I said, "not really a mutation. Babies that grow to maturity soon after birth."
"The curse of the family . . . I can't explain it-," Mona protested. "Don't you understand? Only a tiny
number of the Mayfairs know what happened. All the rest live in blissful innocence! That's the irony. The
family is so large and so good, so very good. They really have no idea what happened, they never saw,
they never experienced, they never knew-."
"I understand your loyalty to them," I said. "But don't you see that Quinn and you and I are a family
now?"
She nodded. "I'm a Mayfair," she said. "What can I do to change it? Nothing. Even the Dark Blood
doesn't change it. I'm a Mayfair, and that's why we have to go there. I have no choice."
"When Oncle Julien appeared to Quinn," I said, "to tell Quinn that he had Mayfair blood in his veins,
Oncle Julien knew about the species? He feared Quinn would have the genes for the species?"
"Please," said Mona. "Don't ask me any more questions. So many bad things happened! By that time
Oncle Julien knew because we knew. He wanted to keep Quinn and me apart. But so much damage was
done to me by Morrigan's birth it didn't matter. I couldn't have another child of any kind."
"Morrigan," I said. "Did you love this creature? Did she have intellect? Could she speak?"
"You can't imagine what it's like to give birth to one of these creatures," said Mona. "They speak to you
even from the womb, they know you, and you know them, and they're hardwired with the knowledge of
their kind-." She broke off as if she'd shattered a vow.
I put my arm around her and I kissed her, and brushed the veil of hair back which separated us and kissed
her cheek again. She quieted. I loved the texture of her skin. I loved the feel of her lips when my fingers
touched them.
Quinn watched these things but he didn't resent me any more than Michael had with Rowan. I withdrew.
"Do you want me to go there alone?" I asked.
"No, absolutely not," cried Mona. "I want to see Rowan. I want to make her tell me. Is it true my child
has never, never, ever tried to reach me? I have to know."
"I think you've both told me what we'll do," I said soberly. "We'll exchange secrets. That becomes the
framework of our dialogue. We tell Rowan and Michael exactly what we are. And they tell us about the
Woman Child and if they know anything at all to aid Mona in her search. They reveal to us the things that
Mona can't."
Mona looked up. Her eyes appeared to focus more clearly. I looked at her.
"Are you willing, my darling one?" I asked.
"Yes," Mona said. "It's really their story, not mine."
"Mona, you almost died in this story," I said. "How could it not be yours as well?"
"Oh, I forced my way into it," she said. "I wanted Michael. And she'd deserted him. All those nights in
the hospital-I wondered, had she really forgiven me? And my child had lived and-." She shook her head
and raised her hand as though to banish a specter.
I stroked her hair back from her forehead. She inclined to me, and I kissed her forehead.
"We have to go there, Beloved Boss!" she whispered. "We promised Michael. She's got to tell me the
truth."
"This is all wrong," said Quinn. He shook his head. He clearly didn't like the idea at all. No one at
Blackwood Farm knew Quinn's secrets. Even his clever Aunt Queen had died believing him her innocent
boy.
"It's the only way to save the sanity of Rowan Mayfair," I said. "She knows but she doesn't know for sure,
and it will eat at her and it will obsess her, and on account of her bond with Mona, she and Michael will
never let it go. The damage has been done. Only some form of truth will repair it."
"You're right," said Mona. "But if they tell you and Quinn about the Taltos, if they take you into their
trust, tell you things that even most all of the Mayfairs don't know, there will be a bond, and maybe that
bond can somehow save us all."
Taltos.
So that was the name of this species. That was the name of the creature of the curious fragrance and the
back-garden graves and the dying womb.
"Michael and Rowan have obviously kept one terrible set of secrets," I said. "They're fit to keep another.
And the innocent Mayfairs will come to receive Mona. And her life won't have to be of the shadows.
She'll come and go as you do, Quinn. That's the way it will work."
Quinn studied me silently, respectfully. Then he spoke up.
"Are you in love with Rowan?"
"Doesn't matter one way or the other," I said.
Mona flashed on me, the blood rising in her cheeks very hot, and her eyes quivering.
Intense, painful moment. Why was my soul not crusted over with barnacles for every life I'd taken? I
spoke with the tongue of a mortal.
"We're going there to save Rowan, are we not?" I said. "Quinn, call for a car, will you?"
I left them and opened the door and went out onto the rear balcony. The breeze had picked up. The
banana trees were dancing against the brick walls. I could see the white roses in the dark. An illicit fire
burnt inside me. " 'The rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys,' " I whispered. " 'Thou art all fair, my
love, there is no spot in thee.' " How reverently the wind received these strange words.
I would have liked the long way-a walk uptown through streets narrow and wide, the open-mouthed roar
of the streetcar or its heavy metal clatter through Chrondelet Street, the vision of the pilgrim oaks
struggling on lower St. Charles Avenue, the festering flowers of the Garden District, and the glistening
moss on the bricks.
But there was no time for that except in my memory. My heart was thudding. And in Quinn's heart my
heart was on trial.
"You know," Mona said as we waited at the curb for the limousine. "I haven't seen the house on First and
Chestnut for two years. The day the ambulance came I thought I'd be back in a week or two, like always.
Hmmm. I wonder if Oncle Julien's on the prowl in the old rooms."
No, darling, I thought, though I didn't voice it. He's right across the street, in the shadows of a shop bolted
for the night, the discredited spirit, glowering at me. Goddamn you! But who knows, maybe he'll come
along.
15
LOVE. Who knows about another's love? The more you love, the more you know the burnt out loss of
love, the more you heed the silence of unknowing in the face of another's spiritual bondage.
Behold the house, which Quinn described in years-ago summer days when he went to call on beloved
Mona, the house with crape myrtles pressed against its black fence, and the two famous sentinel oaks
with their erupting roots beneath the broken flagstones.
White columns upstairs and down, side hall door, long windows, rocking chairs on the porch, cast-iron
railings beneath their spilling festoons of flowering vines. And the great secretive side yard stretching
back into a private and concealed darkness. It was into that sunny gulf that Oncle Julien had lured the
young Quinn and told him of his Mayfair blood and that he must never marry Mona. Some ghosts just
never give up! I spied the sparkle of the waters of the swimming pool far back there, and who knows
what beyond, the graveyard of the mysterious Taltos ?
Led into the double parlor by a trusting Michael with a relieved smile, I sensed at once a telltale
fragrance. Alien species. Faint but true. Mona caught it, nose uplifted in that quick, slight vampiric
gesture.
Quite a room.
Soaring mirrors over twin fireplaces of white marble. Mirrors at each end multiplying the long shadowy
chamber and its chandeliers into infinity. Aubusson carpets, are they not, and the scattered furniture both
common and fine violating the built-in division of the rooms with a great gathering area of couch and
chairs beneath the central arch, and beyond, the long black Bösendorfer piano beneath a genteel veil of
dust. Paintings of ancestors on the wall, for who else could they be, a stalwart woman with black hair in
handsome riding attire, and on this other side, guess who, with his gleaming eyes and a smile I'd never
see, Monsieur Julien Mayfair, of course, and the great German tall-case clock ticking and swinging
faithfully.
Rustlings, as if the house was full of ghosts. Glance of the real true hateful Julien out of the corner of my
eye. It was Michael who turned. Then Julien on the other side, and the sound of taffeta as though from an
old-fashioned floor-length dress. Michael turned again. Murmur: "Where are they?"
"They don't like us," I said.
"They don't make decisions for us!" Michael said angrily.
First time I'd seen that emotion in him. It came and went swiftly. There's a big word for that:
"evanescent."
"Who?" said Mona. "What do you mean?" She shook off her private spell. Glaze of emotion in her eyes.
Lived here, loved it, ripped out of it, lost, breath of death on her neck, gone, home, touch.
Do I have to read her mind to know that? I do not. I read it in Quinn's eyes, and he, child of a great house,
feels a wondrous comfort here, frightened as he is of the loss of love of the whole Mayfair clan, as if they
had come at us, winding up the mountain road with B movie torches in hand.
Michael's blue eyes fastened on me. He was worn down yet immeasurably strong, proud of the house and
mildly happy with the way I looked at it.
"I've plastered it, painted it, run its new wires, sanded its floors, and laid the gloss." Rolling murmur. "I
learned those skills out west, and all that time I lived out there I never forgot this house, used to pass it as
a little boy, never forgot it, and never dreamed of course that one day I'd be the master of it (chuckle), that
is, if any man can be the master of this house, what this house has is a mistress, or even two, and for a
time, for a long time. . . ." He lost the thread. "Come, let me show you the library."
Only slowly I followed him.
The night outside beat hard on the windows, the song of the winged things, throb of the frogs, with the
full authority of the big garden.
Narrow hallway, soaring walls. Evil stairs. Too straight, too long. The alien fragrance again. But more
than that the smell of mortal death. How did I come by this? Hand touching the newel post, sparked off it.
Mortal tumbling down and down. Stairs made for the word "headlong." These doors like temple doors
rise up in protest to this domestic constriction.
". . . added in 1868," said Michael, "everything just a little smaller in this room, but the best plasterwork
in all the house." A wall of books, old leather.
"Oh, yes," I said, "a magnificent ceiling. Tiny faces up there in the plaster medallion."
Mona made a circuit of the room, heels silenced by the red carpet, went to the long window that opened
on the small side porch and peered out as though measuring the world specifically by these particular lace
curtains. Peacocks in the lace curtains. Then she pivoted and stared at Michael.
He nodded. Flash of menace to her in his remembrance. Something dreadful, something deadly come to
the window. Hymns of death and dying. The family ghost made flesh and blood. Denial. Hurry. Rowan
waits. Rowan scared. Rowan very near.
"Come on, sweetheart," he said to Mona.
Did I sound so intimate when I called her that?
For one moment I wanted to put my arm around her just to stake my claim. My fledgling now, my baby.
Shameful.
Dining room a perfect square with a perfectly round table. Chippendale chairs. Surrounded by murals of
the heyday of a plantation. A different sort of chandelier. But I don't know the name for it. It was set low,
like so many candles.
Rowan sat alone at the table, perfectly reflected in the gloss.
She wore a dark purple robe, sashed, with satin lapels, mannish, except that with her piquant naked face
and tiny shoulders she was so perfectly a female creature. Bit of white nightgown revealed. Indifferent
hair second fiddle to her large gray eyes and virginal mouth. She stared at me as if she didn't know me.
The pressure of knowledge behind her eyes was so immense, she might have been blind.
Then she looked at Mona. She rose out of her chair, right arm flung out, finger stabbing:
"Get her!" she whispered as though her throat were closing up. She ran round the table. "We'll bury her
under the tree! Do you hear me, Michael!" She gasped for breath. "Get her, she's dead, can't you see it,
get her!" She ran towards Mona, and Michael, brokenhearted, caught her in his arms. "I'll bury her
myself," she said. "Get the shovel, Michael." A hoarse hysterical yet muted screaming.
Mona bit deep into her lip and cringed in the corner, eyes ablaze, Quinn struggling to hold her.
"We'll dig deep, deep," Rowan said, soft eyebrows knotted. "We'll bury her so she never comes back!
Can't you see that she's dead! Don't listen to her! She's dead. She knows she's dead."
"You wish I were dead!" Mona sobbed. "You hateful, hateful thing!" The anger arched out of her like a
great fiery tongue. "You hateful lying thing. You know the man who took my daughter! You always
knew. You let it happen. You hated me because of Michael. You hated me that it was Michael's child!
You let that man take her."
"Mona, stop," I said.
"Honey, please, my darling, please," Michael pleaded with Rowan for everyone and for his exhausted,
bewildered self, holding Rowan effortlessly as she scratched at his arms.
I went to her, disentangled her from her lawfully wedded husband, and caught her up and peered into her
intense manic eyes. I said:
"I did it because she was dying. Lay the sin on me."
She saw me. Truly saw me. Her body rigid as driftwood. Michael, behind her, stared. "Both of you
attend," I said. "I speak now without sound."
Stuff of legend, vulgar names, hunters of the night, locked out of the day forever, live off human blood,
hunt the evil ones only, feed on the trash lives if there are such things, always thriving among humankind,
from the dawn of time, pass for human, body transformed by the Blood, perfected within its potential by
the Blood, Quinn, Mona, me. You are right, you see, she is dead, but only dead to human life. I worked
the magic. Filled her with the enlivening Blood. Accept. It's done. It's irreversible. I did it. A dying girl
defined by pain and fear could not consent. Two centuries ago, I didn't consent. A year ago, Quinn didn't
say yes to it. Maybe no one really consents. It was my conviction and my power. Lay the sin on me. And
so she thrives. And so she hunts the filthy blood. But she is Mona again. The night belongs to her, and by
day the sun can't find her. I am guilty. Lay all blame on me.
I went silent.
She closed her eyes. She gasped as though exorcising a deep invisible clotted horror from her lungs.
"Blood Child," she whispered. She lay against me. Her left hand went up to clasp my shoulder. I held her
close, my fingers reaching into her hair.
Michael looked down as though, the window having closed, he wanted to think in solitude. Leaving her
to me, he seemed adrift in the room. But he had caught all of my revelation and it had sunk deep into him
and he was wearied, and sad.
Mona went to him and opened up his arms, and he received her with the utmost tenderness. He kissed her
cheeks as though the truth had broken open in him a powerful chaste communion. He kissed her on the
mouth, the hair.
"My baby darling," he said, "my pretty girl, my baby genius." It was almost like the embrace he had
given her only a half hour before, only this time I really understood it. And the knowledge of her nature
worked on him, slowly transforming the way in which he touched her.
There was lust in him, yes, bred into him, and fed over many years, a practical, vital lust, and it was part
of his constitution, his vision, but for her he didn't feel it. Six years of caring for her had punished it
enough, and now this aberrant truth made it so he could caress her once again and kiss her freely, and
croon to her, and smooth her hair with his hands, yes, and she was with him again, father of her child,
father of her death.
"Like the Taltos," she murmured. She flashed her wholesome, sweet smile. Intrepid youth. And surely he
saw in the dusky room her gleaming skin more truly now, and the unnatural glisten of her eyes, and the
volume of her red hair as it surrounded her beaming face.
She didn't catch the drifting sadness in him, the enormous ache. He let her go with such tact, and took one
of the chairs and sat at the table. He bent over and ran his hands through his hair.
Quinn took the chair opposite him. He looked at Michael. And then Mona went quietly to Quinn's side.
And so they were settled.
I stood holding Rowan. Where was my lust? The blood tempest that sweeps into its vortex all desire to
know, to absorb, to abide, to possess, to kill, to love? It was a drenching storm inside of me. But I am so
very strong. That is a given, is it not? And when you love another as I loved Rowan, you don't strive to
hurt. Never. The trivial operations of the heart are burnt away in quietude. Burnt away in humility that I
could feel this, know this, and contain it within my prudent soul.
I lifted her face, my thumb pressed into her cheek, a gesture which if done to me I couldn't have borne,
but I was tentative and ready to draw away had she showed the slightest unwillingness. She only looked
at me with muted understanding. And all her flesh yielded to me, and the hand that held my shoulder
closed warmly over my neck.
"And so," she said with that remarkable rich voice, that deep lustrous voice, "we Mayfairs of the inner
circle, we have another sacrosanct secret, yet another breed of immortal come to us."
Slight and tenuous, she slipped from my embrace, and secretly kissing my hand, she went to Michael and
laid her hands on his shoulders and looked across the table at Mona.
"And I will somehow wake from this gnosis," she went on, "and in the course of things, yes . . . the vital
course of things, protect it utterly, this truth, and return to penetrate the world I've made to need me so
much."
"Baby, you've come back," Michael whispered.
This was the creature I adored.
And when our eyes met I saw her full recognition, and a respect and comprehension of my devotion so
profound that I could find no words in the swimming silence.
So poetry rises, surpassing the literal, You are beautiful, my love, terrible as an army with banners, turn
away your eyes for they have overcome me, a garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse: a spring shut up,
a fountain sealed.
16
WHY DID I LOVE HER so much? Surely someone will read these pages and ask: What was so lovable
about her? What was it that caused you, of all beings, so to love? You, a lover of men and women, a
vampire, a destroyer of innocent souls, so to love? You, the focus of so much easy affection, and forever
flaunting your hopeful stinging charm-why did you love her?
What should I say? I didn't know her age. I can't write it here. I can't describe her hair other than to say it
was clipped and turned-in on the ends, and her face was still smooth without the slightest trace of the
furrows of age, and her figure boyish.
But one embraces such details in the boiling wake of the acknowledgement of such love. In and of
themselves they are nothing. Or, if one believes that a woman so strong has shaped the lineaments of her
face, the set of her brows, the straightness of her posture, the frankness of her gestures, the very way that
her hair falls about her face, the length of her stride, the sound of her footfall-then perhaps they mean
everything.
Beside the flaming red-haired Mona, she was the color of ashes, a woman drawn in charcoal, with a
sexless and piercing gaze, and a soul so immense it seemed to fill every fiber of her frame and to emanate
outwards into infinity, her knowledge of the world around her dwarfing that of everyone she'd ever
known or would know.
Imagine it, such isolation.
She didn't talk down to people. She simply didn't talk to them. Only God knew the number of lives she'd
saved. And only she knew the number of people she had murdered.
In the Mayfair Medical Center she had only just begun to fulfill her immense dreams. It was an engine of
great and continuous healing. But what drew her through the world were projects yet unrevealed for
which she had the wealth, the knowledge, the laserlike vision, the nerve and the personal energy.
What threatened this mammoth individual who had found for herself through tragedy and heritage the
perfect goal? Her sanity. From time to time she gave in to madness as if it were strong drink, and when in
her cups she fled from her sublime designs, drowning in memories and guilt, all judgment and sense of
proportion lost, murmuring confessions of unworthiness and half-explored plots of escape that would seal
her off forever from all expectations.
At this precious moment she regarded sanity as her State of Grace, and she saw me as the Demon who
had brought her back to it.
For her I connected the two worlds. That meant that she could.
Blood Child.
She lusted for me. For the entirety of what I was-that is, for all she'd sensed in our three encounters, and
what she knew to be true now, both from my profession and her apprehension.
She wanted me completely. It was a desire rooted in all her faculties, that overrode and obliterated her
love of Michael. I knew it. How could I not? But she had no intention of yielding to it. And her will? It
was iron. You can draw iron with charcoal too, can't you?


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