Forgotten Confession, Chapter 1 – Tia
Chapter by Andrew Peregrine
We found Tia a few miles north of Houston. She was a real Texan girl, and like so many other real Texan girls we found her lying in the trash bleeding from a gunshot wound. Tia didn’t carry a gun; she liked to settle things with her fists. Unfortunately that night she met someone who didn’t feel the same. Luckily, she met me on the same night.
Tia never told me much about where she came from. Home didn’t work for her, parents and boyfriends weren’t her style, and I can go with that. Girl has to stretch her wings after all. Needless to say, she fell in with a rough crowd at a young age; a biker gang to be precise. Nothing special about them; just a road and no responsibilities; which is just the way we all like it. Maybe now you are picturing some tiny little biker girl, all blonde hair and polished leather, but no, that ain’t Tia. She’s a big girl, but not fat, her size is all muscle. She had attitude too; when something went down she didn’t stand in her high heels wearing her boyfriend’s jacket; she wrapped a chain around her hand and got stuck in. In case that makes you think she is some kind of bull-dyke, I should point out that Tia is all woman. She’s just the sort of woman who knows how to smack what gets in her way, and not take any shit from what doesn’t. If you want a more accurate description, she is strong, and fine and beautiful, as well as pretty unconventional. Just like any woman should be.
Before we met Tia, Charlotte and I had been driving for days. We were stuck in a mobile home with this junked-out Mekhet in a shabby suit, called Salvador. He was a piece of work, and seemed to be getting off a little at being stuck in an eight by fifteen box with two girls. That’s not to say I didn’t play with him a little. We usually made him do the driving, so I made a point of sitting up front, just out of reach, with my boots on the dash so he could get a good look at me and the leather pants I was wearing. He’d turn to me and grin his slimy grin; I’d smile a little beneath my shades and play with my long blonde hair suggestively for a moment. Then I’d lift my leg and turn his face back to the road with the tip of my boot. Sure, we’re all a little past that sort of thing, but it must have driven him a little crazy and it passed the time.
Charlotte wasn’t impressed, of course. She stayed in the back of the motor-home reading one of her books, and tutting quietly on occasion from behind the glasses she doesn’t really need. She was like some disapproving daughter, upset about mommy playing with the boys, even though we are about the same age. You wouldn’t think it to look at us, though. She’s quite short, only just makes five foot tall. So she is always wearing short tartan dresses and thick soled boots to make herself look taller, but it doesn’t really work. She usually keeps her hair tied up in pigtails, too, so it doesn’t get in the way of her books. If it wasn’t for the chains hanging from her belt she’d look like a twelve year old schoolgirl. However, the whole thing allows her to pull off that ‘punk-Lolita’ style without even bothering to try. Ok, I may be the prettier one, but I’m a little jealous of that.
I’m been dozing a little when we stopped. The sun had only just gone down, not that it made much difference behind the thickly tinted glass in the van, and I was still a little sleepy. Salvador must have been driving through most of the day, God alone knows how. He was a little stronger than us I suppose, or maybe his blood was a little thinner, more human than mine and Charlotte’s. Either way his ability to stay awake during the daylight hours was damn spooky, and made me glad that I’m a bit of a light sleeper.
We’d stopped behind some biker rest stop. It was its own little crappy
mini-mall; garage, motel, diner, paper shop and some nasty looking toilets.
It wasn’t much, but it was still the only landmark in the desert for a
few hundred miles. We’d pulled in behind the diner, not far from the big
metal rubbish bins which smelt of fish and death. Salvador really knew how to
take a girl out.
“Where the hell are we?” I asked him, still a little smashed from sleep.
“Here,” he replied with a creepy grin. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, serious or just trying to piss me off.
“Great,” I sighed. “I always wanted to go there.”
Charlotte slid out from under a rug on the back seat. She was in the same kind
of state I was and asked the same question. Before Salvador could give her the
same facetious answer I just glared at him.
“Pit stop,” he said to Charlotte, “I’ve found her.”
“Here?” I said, regretting using his words instantly.
“Yes, here,” he grinned at me.
“Who is ‘she’ exactly?” I asked; it was about time we knew.
“I don’t know,” admitted Salvador, “I just know she is here.”
“So what you are saying is that you don’t know anything.”
Salvador didn’t answer me, just grinned some knowing grin that was meant to make him look mysterious. I wanted to punch him; and if he was wrong about this place, I would.
While Salvador and I were sniping at each other, Charlotte had got out. She
stood there watching the last rays of sun vanish behind the horizon. I let Salvador
wander off towards the back of the diner and gently came over to Charlotte.
“I wonder if she’ll remember it,” she said to me as I came up behind her.
“Remember what?” I said, trying to keep half an eye on Salvador.
“Probably not, no one really pays attention, you know,” I put a hand on her shoulder, but she didn’t turn. “Does it matter anyway? You only miss it because you can’t remember it.” She turned to me and I caught her eye. “Don’t go turning into some mopey goth chick either. You’ve got to watch for that shit in our line of work you know.” She grinned at me, appeased a little, and we went to follow Salvador.
Like some sort of bloodhound, Salvador had found what he was after. He was by the bins, his long, beaten-up raincoat dragging in the dirt and slime as he knelt beside Tia. We didn’t know her name then of course; just that this must be the one he was looking for. Salvador has a sense for these things, it seems. We wanted him to find someone new for our little group. He said he could do that, that he would ‘know where to find her’. OK, I think its bull; he’s just lucky, but he’s convinced plenty of other people he’s some sort of seer. Like the best seers he keeps it all vague, just in case. Instead of ‘check in locker 612’ or ‘Look out for Bob, he’s going to stab you in the back on Tuesday’ we get ‘I know what you seek’ or ‘look to the east’. Yeah, keep going east long enough you’ll find what you are looking for, with or without David fucking Blaine. Still, somehow he got results, which is why we’d been told to take him. I’m sure Charlotte and I could have found someone to replace Isabelle on our own, but this whole mystic quest bullshit passed the time.
I didn’t think much of Tia when I first saw her. She lay slumped in a corner between the huge steel bins, only barely conscious. She was wearing combat trousers, a black t-shirt and a small straw cowboy hat that had seen better days. She looked like she should be sitting on a fence watching a cattle drive rather than dying next to the sewage. Her t-shirt was emblazoned with the words ‘arbie is a lut’ because the bullets had blown a hole through the B and the S. She was just a sorry sight, and I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t just because she was Salvador’s choice; anyone who can get themselves shot isn’t on my list of good recruits. Even so, I could see she had spirit; sad that it was just going to mean she’d take longer to die from the gut shot she was suffering from. But that’s just another of life’s little ironies, isn’t it?
The smell of blood was overpowering; you could taste it in the air. I made
me lose my focus a little, even with the stench from the bins. Salvador was
leaning into Tia, whispering in her ear.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked him. He ignored me, so I asked again, punctuating the question with a kick. He turned as if I’d just interrupted his dinner party uninvited.
“I’m doing what you wanted me to do, ma cherie.”
“Which would be what?”
“Replacing your Isabelle.”
That was too much. I grabbed him and spun him around. I must have caught him off guard as he offered little resistance. Lifting him to his feet I slammed him against the bin with a crash of steel and aluminum.
“Don’t you dare ever mention her name again,” I snarled at him. He was about to offer some wise-ass comment again, but when our eyes met he realized our usual banter had crossed a line. He shrugged a little in my grasp and just looked at me.
“You want this girl to join you? Well, she has to be asked.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You were asking her permission?”
“And explaining the choice ahead of her.”
I let go of Salvador and he slid back down to Tia’s side. He went to lean over her again, apparently not having finished his history lesson to the barely conscious girl. I pushed him aside again, as we didn’t have time for this self-indulgent Lestat shit.
“Do you want to live?” I asked Tia.
“Sure,” she said, though barely conscious, and flipped me the bird, which I had to respect.
“She knows enough, Salvador,” I said, “do it.”
Salvador leant close to Tia and took her hand in his. He brought her wrist close to his mouth and licked it slowly, as if tasting her. Then he opened his mouth, and two sharp canine teeth slid into place as he bit down. Tia made a small sound, but chances are she couldn’t feel much. She was pretty pale already, so there can’t have been much in her. Nevertheless, Salvador took his time, drinking from the font at her wrist and enjoying every drop. When he’d finished he let Tia’s wrist drop. She was almost white with pallor and her breathing was deathly shallow. I wondered if Salvador had taken too much, but he didn’t seem worried and he was the expert. He rolled back his own sleeve and bit a wound into his wrist with those same long teeth. Tia couldn’t move so I helped him lift her a little so she could drink from him. She was even less aware than before, but as soon as the blood from Salvador’s wrist dripped into her mouth, something came alive in her. Her mouth fastened over the wound and her once almost lifeless hands slammed around Salvador’s arm to hold him. Again, he didn’t seem worried; he just spoke calmly to Tia. “That’s it my love, slowly, gently now. Plenty more when you need it.”
His attention was so focused on Tia that he failed to notice Charlotte, even when she rammed a wooden stake into his chest from behind. I pulled Tia off his arm, she struggled a little, but she wasn’t yet strong enough to resist me. Salvador went limp, the stake having found its mark. All he could do was stare in shock at Charlotte and me as we dragged him away from Tia. She stayed where she was, undergoing a few changes, not least of which was staying alive after being shot and drained of blood. We wrapped Salvador’s bleeding wrist with the arm of his coat. It wasn’t much of a worry as we kindred don’t bleed very much. We need the fluid far too much to let it drip out of our bodies when we get hurt. We needed to stop the bleeding for a different reason; the smell of it was making it hard to concentrate. I caught Charlotte’s eye as we dragged Salvador towards the van. Her fangs had slid into place, and I could feel mine cutting my lower lip a little. I just wanted to bury my head in Salvador’s neck and drain the remaining life from the bastard. Nothing personal, it’s just that the blood can get to a girl. However, we couldn’t let ourselves give in to the hunger. The last drops of a kindred’s essence leave a mark on the soul. If we were to get away with what we were doing we would have to be clean.
Together we hauled Salvador into the van and dumped him in the back. I left
Charlotte to tie him up, just to be sure, and went back to Tia. She had managed
to stand by the time I got back, but she hadn’t gone anywhere. The bullet
wound would have healed by now, and that was probably one of the many things
confusing her as she stood there. She was still pale, but that wasn’t
going to go away anytime soon.
“Hey,” I said by way of introduction.
“Hey? That’s all you got? Hey?”
“My name’s Sarah, the other girl is Charlotte.”
“Well, get in the van Tia, we’re leaving.” She ignored the last request, even though I wasn’t really asking.
“You didn’t introduce the other guy.”
“No, you’re right, I didn’t. He’s not important, but if you really want to know his name was Salvador.”
“Well, still is, but not for long. Look, do you want to get in the van? We need to be leaving.”
“Look Blondie, I don’t take orders from anybody, and certainly not from a skinny bitch like you.”
Now, I had been ready to cut Tia a bit of slack until that point. It had been a difficult day for the girl; I could see that, and I did want us to be friends. However she was beginning to cross the line and that sort of behavior only gets worse when you encourage it. So I thought I’d let her see a little of what she’d got herself in for. I let the blood take over and in moments I was right in front of her and in her face. I can move like lightning when I choose to. That alone scared her; but then I let the animal come out, just a little. I felt it rise from the back of my throat, until it peered from behind my eyes and roared silently out between the fangs in my mouth.
“Get. In. The. Van.” I ordered.
Tia went quiet, but she got in the back of the van. She sat down between Charlotte and the helpless Salvador; Charlotte said a quick ‘Hi’ and I got the van started. We were on the road again in moments. We could have done with stocking up at the biker mall, but when you sire one Kindred and stake another it is a good idea to get moving as soon as you can. I put us onto the interstate, such as it was and headed west into the country.
There aren’t many places you really feel like going to at a time like
this, so it wasn’t long before all three of us found our way to a bar.
I say the three of us, because Salvador wasn’t an issue anymore, and he
remained tied up and staked in the motor-home. The town we found was only just
on the maps, and I doubt anyone would have cared if they missed it. The bar
we found was probably the only entertainment, and the nearby half-dry oil well
was the only employment. The bar was a dive; five pool tables and a lot of broken
neon. It had a wooden floor, broken lights and it was full of wannabe cowboys.
It had tequila though, so it wasn’t all bad. We all sat at the bar, mainly
to keep our backs to the local boys, with me and Charlotte sitting either side
of Tia. Once the barman had poured the drinks, and had the sense to leave the
bottle, it seemed a good time to answer a few questions.
“So what the fuck is going on?” was Tia’s opening gambit, which was fair enough.
“You want the FAQ?” I asked, and she nodded at me because it was a pretty dumb-ass question. “You’re a vampire,” I continued, “just like me and Charlotte. It isn’t spelt with a ‘Y’, and we don’t sleep in coffins or have to wear velvet.”
“But the sun is a problem?”
“Yup, as are stakes through the heart and getting your head cut off.”
“That likely to happen a lot?”
“Depends on who you piss off.”
Tia paused a little, just to let that exchange sink in, while we all downed our shots and poured another three.
“Do I get any powers?”
“Some, depends on your clan. Salvador was a Mekhet, so you are too. I’m Daeva and Charlotte is Ventrue. You’ll meet all kinds of people who will tell you that clan means the world, but that is just crap. You’re you, I’m me, and I gave up on labels years ago. Any Kindred can do any of the same voodoo that anybody else can; just some things will come easier to you than others.”
“So what about blood?”
“Oh yes,” said Charlotte. “You’re going to learn all about that.”
I had to wonder if Charlotte had been paying more attention than me, because at that moment one of the local boys decided he was drunk enough or arrogant enough to try hitting on the three of us.
“Hey there, ladies,” he said, with a rather pathetically conformist macho attempt at chivalry. None of us were impressed at the first impression.
“Keep walking, cowboy,” said Tia, who obviously had other things on her mind. However, I was thinking that this guy might prove useful and helpful after all.
“Don’t mind her,” I purred at him, “She’s just a little antsy. She’s been let down by a lot of guys, but I’m thinking you might be the sort of man to show her what she’s missing.”
“What…” said Tia, believing my lies until Charlotte put a hand on her arm. Seemed Tia had formed a little trust for Charlotte, and so she went with the flow. She looked the man up and down. Then she tipped her hat back a little on her head and regarded him as if a second look had yielded a more favorable report.
“Why don’t you guys find a quiet romantic spot outside,” I said “and maybe we’ll finish up and join you. If you’re man enough that is,” I added with a smile.
The man muttered some macho bullshit that I wasn’t paying attention to and took Tia by the arm. As he led her out I called after them.
“Hey honey, don’t bite him too hard,” and at that moment Tia realized what I had been talking about.
Charlotte and I paid the tab and followed them outside. We found them in an alley around the back where Tia had wasted little time and gone for the jugular. There wasn’t a lot of subtlety, but she probably hadn’t realized how hungry she was. She did quite well though, didn’t spill much. However it didn’t look like she knew how to stop. Charlotte and I grabbed her and pulled her off. She snarled and spat at the pair of us. I slapped her round the face, but she dodged me, already listening to the blood and using her power. She didn’t dodge the second swipe though and that brought her round a little. Her victim was very pale but alive, however his wound was too much for Charlotte and me, and we both took a piece of him, too. It was hard to let go; there wasn’t much we could take, but it would have to do. Just before he slipped into unconsciousness, Charlotte caught his eye.
“Forget,” she said, and let him slip onto the ground.
Tia was regaining her control, and looked a little healthier for getting a drink. Instinct had taken over; it’s the best way to get through your first time. I was guessing she’d need a moment to process this evening’s experiences, though. We took all of the guy’s money, and his watch. Cheap of us, I know, but people ask fewer questions if it looks like a robbery. He probably wasn’t going to talk much; wouldn’t do his ego much good to get robbed by three girls. However, even if we’d covered our tracks it was time to leave again. The sun would be up soon and we needed to be on the road again and far away before we bedded down. We still had things to do.
About an hour or two later the town was a long way away, and the sun was starting to clear the horizon. It was time to deal with Salvador, so we pulled over and dragged him out onto the side of the road. He’d probably figured we were going to leave him alive, because we didn’t kill him right away. Sadly, he was wrong. We couldn’t leave any evidence, and most other ways of disposing of Kindred leave a few signs. The sun has no such mercy though. We dragged him off the road, behind a rock so he was out of sight. Then we left him there, staked and paralyzed to wait for the sun which was breaking the clouds as we got into the van. We could see a little smoke as we drove off, but a paralyzed mouth can’t scream. It was a nasty way to go, but we had no choice. Salvador didn’t really deserve to go like that, but I wouldn’t be shedding many tears.
I drove as far as I could, until the fight to stay awake became too much. Charlotte and Tia had curled up together already by the time I pulled off the road to wait out the day. I slid under the thick blanket with them and held them both. It was good to be a family again, but I still missed Isabelle. I kissed Tia on the head, and hoped that it would be a long time before she really understood why we had made her a part of us. One day soon she’d have to understand how truly complicated and violent things are in our world. We had stolen death and life from her tonight, the least we owed her was innocent sleep; for a while at least.