To prequel "Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know"
to me in the silence of the night;
dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
come to me in dreams, that I may live
~ ~ ~
we have definitely met before," said the entrancing young man.
His hair fell like a black waterfall to scatter against his shoulders,
and his brown-black eyes glowed from under thickly arched black brows.
He had bumped into a young woman on her way out of a VR High Flight
parlor in the mall.
giggled the tall girl whose blonde hair was of a color and consistency to make
his memories tumble forward unchecked. "But
it's awfully nice of you to lie that way."
meet now," he said playfully.
maybe," she allowed. "I'm
only allowed to know nice people. Are
knowing chuckle came from the young man. He
pursed his lips briefly. "Don't
I look nice?" he said back. His
voice cracked humorously, and as she met the question with a silence, his eyes
opened wide. "You're wounding
me to the quick."
girl grinned. "Yeah,
right." Now the voice as well
as the hair pulled echoes from his memory.
"Bet it would take a pickaxe to wound your heart."
man grinned, enjoying the challenge. His
face turned mock-solemn. "Not
even then, actually," he said. "It's
a pretty tough heart."
girl giggled again. "But your
heart," the young man pursued, his eyes suddenly those of a poet, "has
the exquisite delicacy of ...."
said the girl, enraptured.
thinking," the man said. "The
dust on a butterfly's wings? Mmmm,
girl made a wide-eyed, lip-twisting mocking face followed rapidly by
a friendly grin, and the years revolved around the young man again.
"Who are you?" he said abruptly.
just ask why don't you?" she said. "Katherine,
my name's Katharine. Call me
he said, and took her hand to kiss it. She
pulled it back rapidly.
this butterfly's gotta flutter," she said.
"I'm about to be late."
assignation?" the young man feigned hurt.
"You abandon me for another so soon--?"
girl giggled and cocked her head back boldly.
"I'm on my way to see the very best person in my life," she
The archness was gone.
A small desperation asserted itself that surprised the young man even as
he yielded to it. He had lost this smile before... "A number, a name? -- A date, a place?"
The girl was genuinely flattered for the first time.
"OK." She reeled
off a string of numbers. "Let's
see if you call."
~ ~ ~
weeks later, the pair were walking at night on the girl's campus, and she said
once again she had to go. "So
now you will go and be faithless with that other fellow..." the young man
said, feigning hurt again.
very best person in my life? You
want to see that person? OK, I'll
show you. But you'll have to come
with me." The girl had a
teasing smile of her own now, laced with knowingness.
on, fair damosel," said the young man, swallowing hungrily.
you do Renaissance better than anyone I've ever met," the girl laughed.
"Follow me, thou knave." She
led him to her car, hovering quietly at a multilevel parking spot.
a good will, my lady," murmured the young man, and she threw him another
wide smile over her shoulder. Again
time stood on its head. He hadn't
been in this city for a very long time, and the strangeness of this
reincarnation of his last stay had compelled him to call this little girl over
and over, to visit her, picking her up outside her college dorm to walk and
talk, just to see that strange echo of a smile that had bothered
his dreams for decades. And
in the sadness of it, he never, never touched the girl, never responded to all
the obvious signals of a teenager in the throes of a crush on a slightly older
minute later she was opening the door of a big, comfortable suburban house that
dated back seventy years. "Gra-am,
course I am," said an old voice, tinged with asperity.
"And I'm not deaf, either."
A tall, upright old lady walked into view slowly, her posture assisted by
a distinctive silver-headed cane. Her
white hair was pulled back from a face whose collapsed features made all the
more visible a pair of china blue eyes over strongly marked cheekbones and a
"Here's the best thing in my life," the teenager said gaily. "J.D. Valencia, meet my Grams." The young man and old woman, both of whom had been enjoying the playful high spirits of the young girl, glanced at each other momentarily.
In the next second, the teenager was gasping, "Call an ambulance!" and holding up her tall old grandmother, who had lost consciousness as her cane clattered to the floor. But the young man with the Renaissance face was gone.
~ ~ ~
cat on the bed mewled and stretched, and the old woman woke out of the light
sleep of great age. A figure stood
in outline against the drapes, lights from the garden outside showing a man's
form with fashionably flowing hair.
came back," the old lady said in a voice of gentle discovery. "I wondered if you might.
But you knew who she was...?"
figure shook its head.
Funny, I imagined sometimes..."
The old woman sat up against the headboard of the bed.
"I thought perhaps you weren't so far away."
figure bowed its head in assent.
you haven't gotten over being coy!" the old woman snapped with a sudden
access of energy.
the man laughed and came forward. The
laugh was exactly what she remembered, a young man's small sound of amusement at
being told off.
Hon. Teresa O'Brian shifted against her pillow, trying uselessly to ease a back
that would never feel easy again.
Mayor," said the dark figure mockingly.
boy," said the old woman. "How
have you been?" She snapped on
the light. Javier Vachon was
standing in her bedroom, wearing a fashionably partial shirt, and a simple,
timeless black coat and jeans.
stood and studied her.
kill me this time?" said the old woman with unconcern.
laughed again. He canted his head
and mouthed "No," exactly as he had done sixty years before.
to give me eternal unlife, maybe?" the old woman rapped out.
"Hah! that's it, isn't it?"
She laughed with a youthful freshness.
"And I thought -I- hated to lose an argument."
that settles that. You know, after
meeting you, I had to believe in God again.
That's pretty inconvenient these days."
The old woman searched the vampire's face. "Though it did the city some good. Come sit down," she patted the bed, "and let's
it? Your answer?" The vampire's voice cracked with incredulity.
old woman smiled at him. "You
thought ... this close to the end, I'd have to want it?
brown-black eyes looked over at her with a mild perplexity she had
remembered exactly across the decades. She
old demon, still afraid," said the old lady.
"God's most fearsome being, the dark angel, suffering the terror of
death. Well, I'm full of fears too,
but not that one. Not like
was baffled, and amused, and struck with a species of joy.
At the end of her long life, his golden Tracy Vetter still had a surprise
or two left for him.
Tracy... had turned into a
dessicated old woman. Graceful,
even elegant for what she was, but a creature of collapsed curves, sunken
planes, lines, withering, and fadedness. The
once luscious lips that framed the wide mouth had gone thin and pale, the golden
eyebrows were tiny white flecks against dry white skin.
And the blue eyes...they had changed too, but not for the worse.
eyes studied him. "Death...
it's not so terrible." Then
came a fat, wise chuckle that only an old woman could know enough to produce.
"Of course, you've been on the wrong end of it all these years...
stood there silently, watching the strong eyes, weaving this old woman into the
memory called Tracy, with that china-blue direct and candid gaze as the
linking thread. "C'mon Vachon,
say something," she challenged him. "You're
scaring me with that strong, silent creature of the night bit."
lie. You were never afraid of
me," he said immediately.
old woman emitted a laugh. "I
was always afraid of you, Vachon. Fear
just couldn't be the most important thing."
closed his eyes to the wreck of hair, skin, lines, features in front of him and
remembered the slim golden tower of a girl who had not even bothered to scream
before trying to arrest a vampire. Eyes
closed, he reached for her--
and his arms closed in a passionate embrace around a frail structure riddled with small resistances, awkward stiff points--
The woman slapped lightly at Vachon.
"That's nice of you, but my neck, my back... I'm a bit arthritic,
vampire let the old form subside onto its pillows, watching as the old woman
adjusted them, then adjusted them again, trying to find comfort for her back.
It took a minute before she looked back at him, perched with the lazy
grace of youth on the edge of the bed beside her.
"How old are you now, Vachon?" she wondered, trying
to add. "If I'm 86... you were
491 sixty-one years ago..." He
let her do the math. "Five
hundred and fifty two." Shaking
her head, she squinted a little to look at him.
"But you're still 25, aren't you?"
reached out to run a hand along his face, but it was a kindly touch, not a
caress. "The older I got, the better I felt I knew you... eventually I even
thought I knew why you lived in that ridiculous old church."
looked over at him. "It was
entertaining, and mostly you didn't care, right?
When you've been around for a while, it doesn't matter what you own,
where you sleep?"
eyes wandered. "Yes. Partly."
He looked back at her. Looking in her eyes, his hand came up and tugged
at a lock of the pulled-back silver hair, worked it loose, pulled it
forward as he had the first night they'd met.
do you do it-- seem 25 all the time?
I believed it completely, and now, sixty years later, so does Kath."
used to it," he said distractedly, his eyes fixed on the long strand of
snowy hair he was running through his fingers.
to eternal youth? Funny
made the effort then-- she saw it-- to drop the layers
of artifice that allowed him to move among mortals, among his prey.
He met her gaze and the look of the centuries flooded forward in his
eyes; even his posture changed slightly, lost some of its laxity.
you are," she said softly.
I am," he said. He swallowed
as if nervous.
you still worried I won't like you?" the old woman chuckled. "I wanted to know you." The old eyes studied the older eyes in the very young face.
"You wouldn't let me."
vampire's eyes flushed with humor and became young again; they rolled and his
eyebrows climbed. "I can't
imagine why," he joked. "It
might have had to do with the fact that you fainted every
threw up," the old woman prompted.
y-yes, that," the young face agreed, "every time you learned
smiled. "You never took me flying-- remember?"
remember you dismissed me from your service that very same night," he said.
smiled at the gallantry, then her eyes blurred as she remembered the night she
had watched Vachon's flesh catch fire, and in fear and horror and the need to
deny her desire she had ordered him away forever.
A command he had chosen to accept, even when in his rage and pain she had
thought he would simply kill her.
me take you now," he said flirtatiously, not even sure what taking he
lost her breath, and said the first thing that came to mind.
"I always wanted to know how often you killed people."
breath hissed out. The wordless
sound that followed it was heartbroken, outraged, and in other circumstances had
been the last thing mortals heard.
often," he said without affect. It was pure giving, a pure act against his
will. "But once or twice -- three or four in a night."
elegant old lady wavered, but she probed into the inexactitude of the answer.
snorted. "We live on -- Red Cross rejects," he said wryly.
She nodded. "The Raven, Point Pelee, in your day," he said.
"Once the communication age hit, we couldn't live like we used to."
good old days," the old woman said.
eyes opened wide, his eyebrows climbed, and his face took on a little smile.
"Yes, they were," he said without a trace of irony.
bent a look on him, her eyes shockingly identical to what they had been sixty
years ago. "So -- not often."
sighed. "When I knew you -- three or four a year, OK? Maybe
twenty, counting people who were dying anyway.
That's in Western cities. In
the Third World, in war zones, plague cities... " he saw the nausea
swimming into the old face, "...well, the rules were--
old woman looked at him, not quite unshockable, but not the hurt innocent of
sixty years ago. He pressed on,
willing this one woman in all of his eternity to know him whole.
"If I were somewhere I could -- in the old days -- every day, Tracy. You
can't imagine..." he swallowed, his eyes holding hers.
"Better than every mortal pleasure. And also," he admitted, "a need you can't fight, a
hunger beyond any mortal urge."
was beginning to think of -this- face as Tracy, this lined,
collapsed face with the powerful eyes. He
went on, "And there are some of us who don't... who don't like it."
like to kill? For moral
nodded, realizing abruptly that these were the first vampires Tracy Vetter had
been able to imagine being. "My
fledgling-- child," he said.
"Urs. She quit entirely
after awhile." He smiled,
remembering. "I called her my
surprise, then shock as she figured it out, then acceptance.
"Funny thing," she said. "You
a parent, like me."
like you." Now the voice was
rich with irony.
swayed, responding to some message from her back, and he reached out to touch
her, both for the pleasure of it and to help her.
Just touching her elbow at first, then running his cool hand up the loose
flesh of her arm, the sharp, exposed curve of the bone at the shoulder, a finger
following a clavicle...
held her again, sliding forward to take the old body into his arms carefully,
imagining it strong, supple, lithe. "Tracy,
please," he said into her cheek. "Please."
she said. "Let go."
you let go. Say yes to me.
Just once, tesoro."
it make me young again?" A
tiny flare of real interest lit up the old woman's face as she canted her head
backward to look at him, moving her neck carefully as she did so.
shook his head, very slowly, holding her eyes.
"No. Strong, but not young."
she mulled. "You want to go
through all of remaining history with a strong old woman on your arm?"
the vampire mouthed 'yes,' and the old woman laughed. "Fraud." He looked at her, and blinked.
"You don't understand," he said aloud.
I? You waltzed in here tonight with
my 19 year old granddaughter-- not her 52 year old mother, and not
her 86 year old Gram."
an answer he burrowed his head into the join of her neck and shoulder. But she was right, it was eerie.
He had given death to old women hundreds of times over the years, but
never offered one life -- or love.
This close, the sound of the old heart, with its whispery beat and small
dysrhythmias, maddened him.
the old head was shaking, no, no. "I
will remember you forever, wherever I am," she said.
"But that has to be it." A
few small tears broke against the deep lines that ran down her cheeks and around
her mouth, and she sniffled. "Imagine
getting to say this at my age," she laughed weakly.
"I feel like Juliet."
died--" It was a whisper.
so will I... my treasure, is that
what you called me?" Another sniffle.
"Romeo dies too, remember? But
what I wish for you is to live-- and be good."
leaned back and looked at his beautiful, ancient boy's face.
"I mean really live, Vachon. To
see Kath walk in here with her boyfriends -- she's so wonderful, and
she doesn't even know herself yet. I
wish I could watch her whole life. No,
not literally," she added. "Have
this, Vachon. Have love forever,
a sentimentalist you are," said the vampire.
as charged, officer," chuckled the old lady, then her face became serious.
"And you know what? You
too. You loved me.
It took me decades to know it. It
was kind of amazing to figure it out... At the time, I didn't have a clue."
Her eyes narrowed. "And you didn't mind leaving me in the dark about
it, either, did you?"
love you." Simple
acknowledgement. Present tense.
shook her head. "That girl is
sixty years gone."
He stroked one cheek with the back of his hand, but the lover's light
went out of his eyes, and the look of centuries returned.
"What you see is not what I am."
He frowned, and his gaze wandered around the room, looking for words that
accorded oddly with his young body. "I
like a woman's beauty. I always
will. I will always look at young
girls as a man does. But..."
he stared at her, thinking. "Those
are mortals. Not us.
In our community, what I am... is neither boy nor man.
What you will be... is not an old woman."
old woman pursed her lips. "So
I go through eternity as a strong old lady AND I only get to hang around with
was defeating him again, he felt it. How
could this mortal beat him so devastatingly?
Even now, when the strength of a single one of his fingers would suffice
to crush the life out of her? He
had stayed out of North America all these years, only to trip once again over
this mortal woman whom his heart had recognized as its destiny-- and
who refused to be.
"It's a matter of..." his eyes ran around the room, "the
right... mate." He hated the
word even as he said it.
old woman snorted. "Oh yeah...
undead Mayor O'Brian and her eternal gigolo... "
But her eyes were saying something else entirely, something kinder though
just as final. She slid forward in
the bed, and got up, reaching for the silverheaded cane.
She took a step or two away from where he sat on the bed, and turned to
face him as if to insist he see her fully.
But when he looked at her, he saw simply blue...
He realized what it was about her eyes that was capturing him-- they were like vampire eyes now, full of years and yet youthful. They were Tracy's eyes as he had imagined them with her as his immortal lover, eyes that had become capable of seeing him completely. But they were looking at him out of an old woman's face and refusing him, even at the brink of extinction.
And yet, he would swear it, there was just as much desire screaming
against the denial as there had been that night so many years ago when she had
ordered him to go.
there was so much she willfully refused to know...
the feel of the centuries seeped into his voice as well; it became serious,
almost scholarly. "Please
believe this: you do not
understand. I can't make you
understand without bringing you across.... And if you tell me no, you will not
know what it is that you have refused. You simply choose oblivion." His face was as severe and pure as his voice, and the old
woman was transfixed. "There
are colors you cannot see -- literally.
There are kinds of beauty and pleasure you have no idea of, and no, they
are not evil."
must believe me, Tracy: there is a
life you know -nothing- of. If
you think of it as an endless series of murders, you are wrong.
Do you think I would wish a life of infinite cruelty on anyone?
On someone I -loved-?"
The authoritative voice dropped to near inaudibility.
"Do you know me so little as that?"
wondered why you didn't just do it to me," she admitted quietly. "If
you were such a fiend, why you didn't just... have what you wanted." He
reached forward to touch her hand gently, but didn't offer an answer.
She clenched her teeth, but the dreadful, leaky, involuntary tears of old age
started in her eyes anyway. Propped
on the silverheaded cane, the old woman wavered, but with emotion, not weakness.
Vachon read the old face, saw the impending failure of a mask as difficult as
are afraid." Sure of his
discovery, and yet tinged with a question. He stood up to face her.
straight old figure wilted a little. "Just
sometimes. But then--
terribly," she whispered, swallowing.
"Not of death, but of the dying.
But... that's it. Our lives,
this is it. It happens to
to me." Vachon's voice was flat. "And
old woman sighed, recovering her equilibrium.
"I can't. I don't want
to... it's just the weakness... I don't want to die.
I never did. I'd rather be
26 again, but 26 looking forward to 30 and 40 and grandchildren... do you understand? Can
pain," Vachon said.
was a pause, but the voice came out suddenly strong and sarcastic.
"Thanks for the reminder, Vachon."
pain, Tracy," he leaned forward to whisper into her hair.
"No death. Tracy--
just once, yield to me."
she said in the strong voice. The
vampire backed off. "Crosses
still burn you?" He answered
with silence, and she stared at him. "Remember
me? A cop, a cop's daughter?
Who became a cop's wife and a judge's Mom?
What other choice is there for me?"
silence. The vampire's face took on
its youthful, protective mask again, and Teresa O'Brian, mayor emerita of
Toronto, was looking at an insouciant young man with an impenetrable heart,
exactly as she had perceived him in her own youth.
"Go on," she said quietly.
The two figures stood frozen for a long moment, as if
neither of them believed she had said what she had, a softspoken echo of words
she had hurled at him in horror and misery so many years before.
Then, as he started to move around her to the garden door, she said
suddenly, "Vachon... wait."
He came back. "I
have to tell you," she said. Now she couldn't meet his eyes.
"What you were to me. Are."
She looked at her hands: they were thin, transparent, palely freckled bone lattices,
slightly knobbed with arthritis. She
swallowed nervously. "It's
funny, now that I'm old I believe in something that I didn't believe in sixty
"You were the love of my life."
Her eyes filled with tears, but looked up to meet his.
"Vampire and all."
He touched her again, and the cold hands made her
shiver. "I never told anyone.
No one knows your name," she said.
"But I had the tape." She
put a hand on his shoulder. "Remember, the time you posed as my snitch? The tape was confiscated as evidence, and I borrowed it from
the lockup one night and dubbed it. Look..."
She moved to her desk, taking support from a chairback
as well as her cane along the way, and instructed her computer to engage.
The screen came alive, and she reeled off a string of nonsense syllables,
ending with "Javier." Javier,
his name that he had never before heard from her lips, uttered in the thin,
high-pitched voice of an old woman. The
Vachon watched, entranced... there she was, Tracy
Vetter, babe cop, lips glossed almost to white, eyes outlined in black, the
golden hair piled on her head and well over six feet tall in spike heels,
grinning and full of fun as she recited lines from a Bogart movie.
And there he was, entirely the same, saving her life so that she could
live to stand in this bedroom on this night...
"Trace," he said, and came up behind her.
She leaned her head back against his face and neck. "It's odd, but
you don't age inside in some ways," she mused.
"You look at the mirror and see a stranger, some person who's
getting on, not you at all."
"My husband was a good man," she continued
thoughtfully, looking at the ceiling. A
moment later she produced another of her knowing-old-lady chuckles.
"So was my lover."
Now Vachon was truly shocked.
"You cheated? You?"
Putting a hand on his shoulder for balance, she turned
to him and made a face that was a weird echo of her self-mocking moue of
sixty years before. "I got
even," she admitted. "Later...
I wasn't proud of it, but at the time it hurt so much...."
"I'll kill the man who dishonored you,"
Vachon said flatly in a voice that came straight from the sixteenth century.
It struck Tracy Vetter silent with awe, but she shook it off a moment
"You're too late, my hero," she said wryly.
"Prostate cancer did it for you twelve years ago."
Vachon took the bony old hand from his shoulder and
lifted it to his lips for a courtier's kiss.
The old woman smiled, but it was indulgent rather than tender, and the
vampire felt a desire to break through her genial elderliness.
His other hand came forward to slip around her waist.
"Vachon, don't.." she started.
But the vampire didn't obey.
He simply lifted the long, thin form into his arms for an embrace that
could have been crushing, but was careful instead, bringing the old body against
his like an eggshell, lifting her effortlessly to hold her close.
"Ohhhhh," said the woman.
She bent her head to the young shoulder.
He said it in the Spanish way. "Tesoro. Perla. Azulita de los mechones dorados, mi siempre, mi eterna,
angel, angelita..." [treasure. pearl.
blue-eyed girl with the gilded locks, my always, my forever, angel,
God, don't," she whispered. "Don't
make me be a woman again."
But he held her against him, her frail warmth against
his cold strength, his nose burrowed into the pallor and small fragrance of her
white hair, his ears filled with the weak music of her heart.
One hand slid up her back to undo her hair, which slipped down around the
old woman's thin shoulders; the hand spread the hair and stroked it, and the
thin body began to relax against his. Her
arms gave up their pointless effort to push away, and slid around the line of
his body, wrapping themselves around his back.
"This is awfully nice," she said from inside
his embrace. She nuzzled at the
long black hair, scratched her papery skin against his unshaven cheek, and
leaned back a bit to smile at him. "Old
ladies don't get to fondle pretty young men very often in this world."
A playful whisper.
"Come and do it forever."
Now she gave him a different smile.
"No. But there is
something I want from you," she said.
"Anything." Not playful. Absolute.
"Come to me again."
won't leave," he said.
She chuckled. "Oh no, nothing that easy."
She looked at him from under thin white eyebrows.
He stared at her.
"You think you're going to Heaven?" he mocked. "You want
to see me there? You're
She looked at him.
Gnawed on her thin lower lip as she had as a girl.
Reached a hand up to grasp at his jaw, the rough unshaven beard exactly
as it had been sixty years before.
She nodded. "Heaven?
I don't know... but yes, I have the
strangest feeling that I'm going... somewhere."
The strong old eyes underlined the truth of what she was telling him.
"If you start working on it now... who knows, in a few hundred years
you may have it all straightened out."
The old woman smiled with playfully young eyes, and his breath caught in
his throat. "I'll even wait
for you, Vachon."