We were on Gravois, trapped between an endless line of storefronts that had seen better days. The entire area was doing that slow slide into not being a good area to be in after dark. It wasn't quite a danger zone, but if nothing saved it, in a couple of years it would be. The Bevo Mill restaurant, an honest-to-God windmill, loomed like a ship in a sea of lesser buildings and harder times. The Bevo Mill still served great German food. The slowly turning windmill was just ahead, and suddenly we were driving under the stone overpass blocks past the mill. I didn't remember passing any of it. That wasn't good. I was missing things, like my attention was going in and out. Not good at all, since I was driving. Graham squeaked a second time, you know, that sharp intake of breath that comes out when you're trying to swallow the sound.
I glanced at him. "What? What is your problem?"
"You've almost hit two cars," he said in a strangled voice.
"No I haven't."
"Yes," Requiem said from the back, "yes you have."
There was a white car in front of me, like magic, it just appeared. I slammed on the brakes, and Graham squeaked again. My pulse was thudding in my throat. I hadn't seen that car. I signaled that I was turning right. Right meant I didn't have to cross any lanes of traffic. The suddenly appearing white car had scared me.
I eased us into Grasso Plaza, which held the Affton Post Office, a Save-A-Lot, and a lot of empty storefronts. This whole area along Gravois seemed tired, as if it had given its best and its best hadn't been good enough. Or maybe it was projecting. I cut the engine, and we sat in silence for a minute.
"Are you well?" Requiem asked, his voice was very quiet and deep like he was talking from inside a well.
I actually turned around and looked at him, and even turning around seemed to be slower, as if I wasn't moving at the same speed as the rest of the world.
Requiem was just sitting in the backseat, with his hands clasped in his lap. He wasn't far away, or doing anything odd. He was sitting, very still, as if he didn't want to attract attention to himself.
"What did you say?" My voice seemed hollow, too, as if I had an echo in my head.
"Are you well?" he said, slowly, distinctly, and as I stared at his lips, watching them move; the sound and the movement seemed just a little out of sync.
I had to think about it as if it were a much harder question than it should have been. "No," I said, finally. "No, I don't think I am."
"What's wrong?" Graham asked.
What was wrong? Good question. Trouble is, I wasn't sure I had a good answer. What was wrong? I was having something close to a shock reaction, why? Had I lost more blood than I knew? Maybe. Maybe not.
I was cold, and I huddled in the borrowed jacket, burying my face in the collar. Byron's cologne, the scent of him, was there, and I jerked back from it, because the smell of his skin in the leather brought it all back. Scent brings memory stronger than any other sense, and I was suddenly drowning in the feel of Byron's body, the look of his face as he gazed down at me, the weight of him, the sight of him going in and out of my body.
I fell back against the seat, my head thrown back, and it was as if all the pleasure of it was suddenly there again, rolling over me, through me. It wasn't the exact experience, but like a strong, strong, echo. Strong enough to shake my body against the seat and leave my hands clawing at the air, as if I needed something to hold on to, anything to hold on to.
I heard Requiem's voice: "No, don't touch..." And I found something to hold on to.
Graham had tried to grab me, hold me down, keep me from hurting myself. I think he'd thought I was having a fit. His hand touched mine, and my hand convulsed around his, and it was as if from the moment our palms locked together that all that memory, all that pleasure, poured down my hand and into him.
Graham shuddered against me. I felt the shiver of it go down his arm, and it threw him against the seat so hard the Jeep shook from the impact. I let him have the memory, the pleasure, the sights and smells of it, I let it all pour away from me and into him. It wasn't a conscious thought, because I hadn't known until I did it that I could put it into someone else and not have to be pulled along for the ride. I didn't mean to do it, but I wasn't unhappy about it. I was glad, for once, to be the calm one on the other side of the seat, while I watched Graham writhing in just the echo of what we'd done. I was glad it wasn't me. Because I knew now why I'd had the shocky reaction earlier, before the metaphysics had gotten out of hand.
I killed without thinking much about it. Not in cold blood, but if it came time to kill, I had no real problem with it. I'd mourned the fact that killing had stopped bothering me. Then on my first trip to Tennessee to help Richard back when we were still a couple, I'd tortured someone. The bad guys had sent us Richard's mother's finger in a little box, along with a lock of his brother Daniel's hair. We had a time limit to find them, and we already knew that they'd been tortured. The man who'd delivered the box had bragged that they'd both been raped. I'd tortured him, made him tell us where they were, and when we were done with him, I'd shot him in the head, and made the screaming stop. I'd done it to save Richard's family, and because I couldn't see another way to do it. I'd done it because I never ask anyone to do anything that I'm not willing to do myself. It's a rule. Of course, before that, my rule had been I did not do torture. That was a line I did not cross, and I'd crossed it. The terrible part was that I hadn't regretted doing it, only having to do it. He'd raped Richard's mother, if I could have I'd have killed him slower, but that wasn't in me, not even for what he'd done. We'd saved them, but before all of it, the Zeeman's had been like the Waltons, and now they weren't. They weren't broken completely, but they weren't as fixed as when they started, either. I'd killed the men that did it, or helped them get killed, but all the revenge in the world wouldn't really fix what was broken.
How do you give someone back their innocence? That wonderful sense of perfect safety that only exists for people that have never really had anything bad happen to them. How do you give that back? I wish I knew.
I'd crossed a lot of lines over the years, but one line I'd never crossed until tonight had been I didn't have sex just to feed. I didn't have sex with strangers. Byron and Requiem were strangers. I'd known them for two weeks, give or take. I had f**ked them because Jean-Claude needed me to feed.
Requiem had moved to one side of the backseat, so he was close enough to see my face and to watch Graham still twitching on the front seat, but not close enough so I could touch him easily. "You had a flashback, didn't you?"
I nodded, still staring at the werewolf in my front seat.
"Has that ever happened before?"
"Only after Asher rolled me completely with his mind, and we all had sex." I didn't look at him as I spoke, I watched Graham's body begin to grow quiet.
"But Asher was not involved tonight."
"No," I said, "he wasn't." My voice sounded very even, very neutral, empty. Empty, just like I felt.
"Did you know that you could send that memory into someone else?"
"No," I said.
Graham's eyes were fluttering, like butterflies trying to open, but not able to do it. He looked boneless, as if he could have slid into the floorboard, if his body had been a little less solid.
"You spilled it into him, then watched him writhe. How did it make you feel?"
I shook my head. "Nothing, just glad for once that it wasn't me twisting in the seat."
He moved to lean against the back of Graham's seat, a little closer to me. "Is that true? Is that really how you feel about it?"
I moved my whole head to meet his eyes, as if a glance wasn't enough. I let him see how dead my eyes felt, how empty I was inside. "You're a master vamp, can't you smell it if I'm lying?"
He licked his lips like he was nervous. "The last vampire I knew that could do what you just did, did it on purpose. She would recall a memory of pleasure, and she would pick someone to give it to. It could be a reward, and it was, but it could also be punishment. Sometimes she would choose someone who did not wish to feel such pleasures, and she would force them to experience it."
"A kind of rape," I said.
"You're talking about Belle Morte, aren't you?"
He nodded, again.
"She enjoyed watching them writhe, especially if they didn't want to do it," I said.