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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Daphne Nolan paced the length of the her mayoral office, listening to Detective Yazzie explain the very bloody details of the escape of Santa Maria Police Department's only suspect in the mass murder killings that have been haunting the costal city in the past months. "Stop. Just stop."
"What's wrong, Mayor?" the detective asked.
"It just doesn't add up. There was nobody leaving the area caught on camera, which would indicate the Gamin?and we know Ant is of their numbers. However, no Gamin would capable of ripping the cell door off its tracks. I know the supernaturals have been hesitant to work with you, and until today I couldn't even get one to agree to meet with you.
"Diasuke Endo, but I want you to talk with Jack Dandelion."
"I have. He's stonewalling. He has Ant, but he won't even let us question him."
"Dammit. Don't they know they are just making this harder-" The intercom cut the acting mayor pro-tem off. She crossed to her desk and pressed the button on the communication device.
"Your son is here, Mayor Nolan," chimed the cheerful voice.
"Thank you. Please send him in, Miranda." She turned back to the detective. "Sorry, I need to talk with Mackenzie."
"I understand. Send me Endo's contact info and I'll try talking with Jack again." Detective Yazzie stood up. "We'll talk soon." The office door opened and Mac entered, a backpack slung over his shoulder. The two men nodded to each other and exchanged places.
"Oh, Mackenzie!" Daphne rushed to her son and reached up to cup his face in her hands. "I can't believe this is the first time you've come to see me!" She kissed him on the nose, and then removed her hands. "I've been worried. You were missing after the earthquake; I get a call that you're fine and then nothing. Nothing! You cannot worry your mother like that!"
"Mom, I'm not here about me. There are things going on in my life that I can't talk about. I want to tell you some things, but you can't ask a lot of questions. For now, you need to know that Ant isn't the serial killer."
"I know he isn't. A Gamin isn't capable of the feats of strength that occurred in the holding cell."
"Gamin? Wait, how do you-"
"I know all about Santa Maria being the Seventh Power, and the Ghost Lords, and the Council Dictum, and all of it." Mac just stared, stunned, as Daphne spoke. "And that you're part of this little coffee klatch thing and that you supported moving against the Ghost Lords."
"How? How could you know all this?"
"Because every mayor knows. They are brought into the fold so they can understand what happens and can assist in keeping the public unaware of strange goings-on, like the serial killer. Whatever it is, it isn't natural. Back when I was mayor, I knew many of the folks who are part of your world. They were supposed to remove my memories of all things supernatural, but their spell failed. I have no idea why and neither did they. I swore an oath to keep things quiet."
"Wait, give me a second... I can't believe you're involved."
"Well, I am. And you need to tell Jack Dandelion to let Detective Yazzie interview Ant. We won't arrest him, but we need to know what he saw. The killing must stop, Mackenzie."
"You don't think I know? Look at this." Mac removed the backpack, opened it, and removed a tube. He then opened the tube, retrieved a rolled paper and unfurled it on his mother's desk. "Look."
"You. How did you get that? Enid died. Her store was destroyed."
"That doesn't matter, Mom. Look at it." He pointed at the map of Santa Maria, which was stained with several dark spots that were slowly expanding. She glanced down at the map.
"That is bad, yes. Very bad." She turned to face her son. "But it's worse that you have the map; that you can activate it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Mackenzie, that only the Avatar protector of Santa Maria can activate the damn map! What the hell? You are the new Avatar? Please tell me it isn't true!"
"Damn it! Damn it, damn it, damn it! I'd have rather you be a homeless Gamin or a techno-mage warrior of the New Dawn. Anything but this!"
"Why? I'm happy doing this; I'm honored Enid chose me to succeed her."
"Because it is dangerous! The most dangerous thing to be! Damn it! Mackenzie, I love you. I don't want this for you!"
"There's no choice, Mom. It is what I am now. You need to accept it so we can work together and stop whatever it is that's killing people." She hugged him, tears welling up her eyes.
"You're right, of course. Fine. Fine, we'll fight about this later. Let's compare notes about the murders and then you call Jack and tell him to make Ant available. Okay?"
The two sat down and began sharing what they knew.
Diasuke Endo carried a white cardboard banker's box down the stairs; Bree Montgomery was slowly trailing him, her pregnancy hindering her movement.
"I hope those things will work, Diasuke. I don't have a lot of Duncan's things," Bree called ahead.
"I'm sure these will be fine," he called over his shoulder. "And again, thank you." He waited on the landing for her to finish descending the stairs of her mother's home.
"I?m just glad I could help. I've felt useless since I?ve been pregnant."
"I think that making sure the baby is born is one of the most important things you could be doing."
"Sure." She reached the landing, leaned over, and gave the Japanese-American a peck on the cheek. "Thanks. And be safe!"
"You too." She walked to the door and opened it. Diasuke crossed to the doorway, and Bree flipped on the porch light. Its soft yellow glow illuminated the path away from the house.
"I mean it. We still don't know what is happening." He smiled and walked out, passing Mel on the steps as she approached.
"Well, that was good timing," Bree said to her sister as she entered.
"Yeah, yeah. Fabulous timing."
"What's up with you?" Bree asked as she shut the front door.
"Oh, nothing. Sorry. I'm just a little frazzled. A friend of mine hasn't been in communication lately and we've got a timetable and it's got me a bit nervous; worried even," Mel said, as she absently toyed with the unusual necklace she wore.
"What's going on?"
"Oh, just- well, it's just that we are supposed to be working on a project."
"Yes," Mel said, looking up for a second. "Yes, you see we are working on viral campaign for the sequel to the movie. The sequel takes place in Santa Maria and it becomes over run with vampires. I'm supposed to film some footage that is going to be leaked out on various dummy websites. It?s being done for all the big movies now."
"Oh, interesting. I'm surprised that you are doing the sequel. You moved to Hollywood to be a dramatic actress, not a scream queen."
"Hey, it's a hard business, Bree. You've got it all nice, staying with Mom and being catered to because you got yourself knocked up. I'm doing what I can to pay the bills. And not just my bills, sis. I'm paying for medical bills and helping Mom with the mortgage."
"Mel, I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. I just, I just thought-"
"Well, you were wrong. Horror is big these days, it pays well, and this film isn't a gore fest. I am doing dramatic acting. I just happen to also do blood sucking fiend." Mel smiled. "I'm sorry, too. I'm just stressed."
"Forget about it." Bree hugged her sister and she squeezed back.
"So, where's Mom?
"Oh, she's at a Santa Maria Preservation Society meeting," Bree answered her sister.
"Oh, well, normally they just chronicle historical events and decide what is a historical monument and things like that. Right now, though, they are deciding what they can do to help encourage public safety, what with the insane killer running about."
"Hmmm..." Mel bit the corner of her lip and looked down with her eyes. Suddenly, she snapped her head up and looked at her sister. "Sorry, Bree. I've got to jet. I've just been inspired to help get around my little problem. Take care and give my best to Mom!" Mel shouted that last bit as she went bounding out the house, leaving her sister a bit confused and amused.
"I think you should talk to them," Rod said, holding the hand of his lover.
"No way. I don't care if they are 'in the know.' They could still arrest me." Ant said, brushing a lock of his blue hair aside.
"Yes, but they won't. You haven't killed anyone. And since they are in the know, you can tell them about what you've seen. You are the only person living who has seen those creatures." Ant shuddered.
"And I don't care to again. I've never seen anything like them. It's strange. They move through shadows like vampires, but they didn't look like a vampire. Not to mention, vampires can't get into Santa Maria."
"Wait, why not?" Rod asked.
"Because of the power of the city. The Seventh Power is the only place of power that hasn't had to worry about fighting off vampires. I don't know exactly how it works, but it is tied to the fact that Santa Maria can keep out anyone who isn't part of the founding families of the city."
"But then how did the Ghost Lords-"
"Well, the liche was part of the founding families, for one. For another, not one of them came into the city with an intent to harm it. They were corrupted here. Remember that elsewhere, the Ghost Lords are valued members of our society. Besides, the city can't just force evildoers out; it can only prevent them from entering. How easy last year would have been if the city could have just ejected the Ghost Lords."
"True, but let's focus on this year's problem. These shadow-jumping creatures."
"Okay, what do you want me to say, Rod? I don't know what they are. I don't know why they came after me in the first place."
"Because you had seen them when they murdered Oliver."
"Maybe, but that's just conjecture, Rod."
"Nothing else makes sense."
"None of this makes any sense. At all. It's just senseless killing."
"There has to be a pattern. If we can figure out why they are killing the people they are, then we can predict who's next and save a life."
Ant?s response was cut short as Jack Dandelion entered the room.
"Boys, sorry to interrupt," the beautiful blond-haired leader of the Gamin said. "I wanted to let you know I've given Ignacio the choice to join us, or to have his memory removed. I also have spoken with Mac. I have agreed to let Detective Yazzie speak with you, Ant. You must comply. We have to stop this madness."
"Yes, Jack. I'll talk to him, but I don't know what good it will do."
"Any sharing of information, as long as it doesn't violate the Covenant, is good. In fact, I'm off to speak with Ilene Villeneuve."
"Why?" Rod asked.
"Because as Chronicler, she might have some record of these creatures," Jack answered.
"Great idea, Jack. We'll go and talk with Yazzie."
"Good." With that, Jack winked out of existence.
Ilene placed a large leather-bound book back on her shelf. She turned, walking back to her seat at her desk and resumed her online research. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn't see the creatures appear from behind, crawling out of the shadows.
As she was examining genealogy charts online, Ilene caught a reflection of one of the creatures in her monitor. She jumped and tried to run, but the other creature darted out and slashed at her calves. She fell, her legs literally cut out from under her. She screamed and tried to drag herself away, but the creatures were already tearing at the muscles of her legs.
Jack skipped into Ilene's study and was caught off guard by what he saw. He ran towards her, but one of the creatures leaped at him, catching him before he could skip again. It tore into his back and bit into his shoulder.
Ilene screamed some more, futilely trying to fend off her preternatural attacker. Jack got his knee up under the creature and pushed out with his leg and arms; flesh ripped from his shoulder, being taken with the creature?s teeth as Jack tossed it across the room. The creature crashed into a bookshelf, sending books flying. Seizing his moment of freedom, Jack ran to Ilene and kicked the other creature away. He then enveloped her in his arms and they skipped out to safety.
Now alone in the room, the shadow-walking creatures then began systematically flipping through books, turning pages and staining them with the blood dripping from their claws and maws. When either creature had flipped through a book without finding what they were looking for, it would shred the volume with its claws and then toss the scraps aside. After a few minutes of this, one shrieked triumphantly and held up the book it had been looking through.
The creature set the book aside on the desk and then the two went to destroying the remaining books in the room, as well as the computer, until everything else in the room was rendered unusable. Retrieving the important book they had set aside, the two creatures disappeared through the shadows.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008