Chapter 8: Not Knowing Anymore
Jesse was watching his sleeping husband when the shock wave of bullets reached his ears.
He knew Walter sensed something wrong. Since Sally and Lavinia left, Walter had avoided any intimate moment with him.
At first Jesse had been relieved not to dread questions he couldn’t answer. And when Walter had climbed into bed last night with a breezy “G’night, booboo,” and rolled over away from him, Jesse had been relieved again not to have to choose between faking passion and showing something was wrong. But now he felt snubbed and hurt. Damn his chicken heart: he’d still welcome Walter back and forgive him if only Walter would talk to him!
But what if he pierced that veil and found only a monster?
Walter, on his side away from Jesse, at least didn’t snore. He breathed evenly and quietly.
The longer you keep silent about something, the harder it becomes to speak at all. Jesse had gone too many times over the words he might say; actually breaking the silence now was beyond any power he had.
He thought about the awful rally and news conference they’d held that morning. They couldn’t have done worse if they’d planned to alienate the crowd and be scoffed at. People already knew (or had been told, only half believing) that a vampire could fly in the sun. Why had Malcolm thought it necessary to put on another demonstration with Walter this time? And Walter had scanned the crowd with such apprehension that Jesse had been sure he’d been looking for Jeremy.
And then the damn fig leaf! Walter had laughed that if he just undressed and sported a monstrous hard-on and then came in buckets as he flew, the crowd wouldn’t like it, not like they’d loved a naked woman flying. So he’d rigged up a capacious condom and taped his penis against his belly underneath protective bikini underwear. But then, without telling anybody, he’d put a fig leaf over it, which was so Walter that Jesse dared hope that everything was normal after all. He’d revealed it with a flourish just before he flew. Until then, it had been hidden by the silk robe which he wore during the ceremonial “entering of the home.”
That had been the real point of the rally of course, to show that you could safely invite vampires into your home. The other day nobody seemed to have connected that Lavinia was a vampire and that the plaza was officially Malcolm’s “home” and there she was in it (the crowd hadn’t seen the moment when Sally quietly invited Lavinia in).
So today Walter at the edge of the plaza with a wireless mike asked to come in and Malcolm invited him and it looked ridiculous, as silly as the president knocking on the door of congress before the State of the Union speech. And nobody believed he was a vampire until he disrobed and flew and then there was the stupid fig leaf and although Walter had guessed correctly that people would laugh, he hadn’t realized how ridiculous he’d look or how some people would be offended at the Garden of Eden reference. There he’d stood, looking dumpy as he struck poses and flexed his muscles. Even when he flew over the heads of the crowd, it looked like a stunt. Jesse had burned with embarrassment. Some people actually booed. Then the condom started leaking and gunk dripped onto the crowd…
Malcolm had been white-lipped with anger, Charla hadn’t hidden her scorn, people had shouted out to know where Sally and Lavinia where, they had liked Sally and Lavinia.
Jesse’s face flushed red even now, thinking about it. When Malcolm had tried to tell people that they could also invite vampires into their homes safely if they observed the following precautions, people had actually started booing. The rally had ended in stony silence from the crowd. Nobody was happy: city officials afterward reassured people that nothing had changed and urged people to observe the status quo: stay indoors after dark and never speak the words “Welcome, come in.” The Mayor talked about irresponsible citizens and suggested that legal action might be taken.
The only good thing was that they hadn’t filmed the vampires coming in and out of Jesse and Walter’s own house, but there were helicopter crews above right now and it was only a matter of time before some enterprising cameraperson realized that some of the vampires crowding the street were disappearing into Jesse and Walter’s yard.
Such a crazy mess. And Sally and Lavinia were gone and he felt guilty because he hadn’t been able to help them more. Or had they been two rogues and liars? Why had they left? In his heart, Jesse knew it was because Sally had guessed too. Where were they now? Had they given up their plan to go to the source of the vampire plague, if that’s what it was? Or were they trying, had they talked their way onto an airplane somehow? Shouldn’t he insist that he and Walter dip into their modest savings and buy airplane tickets for them both to Germany and try to find this place that Sally had talked about? But should he take Walter there at all?
Someone was shooting fireworks! Fourth of July had come and gone again this year with little fanfare: fireworks during the day were no fun and of course fireworks at night were out of the question. Who was daring now? Even to shoot a skyrocket out of a window, you’d have to stick your head out and –
Those were gunshots!
Oh Lord, what now? Malcolm was back at his “home” in the plaza and people were angry enough that someone might just take a shot at him, except that still nobody went out at night. And besides, you wouldn’t hear the gunshots from here. Weren’t they just firecrackers? That many gunshots, it would have to be practically a machine gun, wouldn’t it? Jesse had never heard a machine gun except in movies, so he didn’t know what they really sounded like.
He looked down and there was his husband, watching him silently with blood-red eyes. Jesse gasped and started back. Walter’s eyes hadn’t looked so vampiric since the very early days. It occurred to Jesse that Walter hadn’t been asleep but had been laying facing calmly away from him, breathing evenly with open eyes.
Walter’s face was deathly still, neutral, watching Jesse. Outside, stray bullets knocked over garbage cans, thudded against garage doors and clanked off of parked cars. An angry voice shouted something. It was bullets, alright.
While Jesse shook and tried to decide what to do, Walter rose to his feet in a smooth glide and pulled on his dressing gown. He never met Jesse’s eyes. And then he was gone through the bedroom door, closing it behind him.
Alone in bed, Jesse tried to find the courage he’d had five years ago when Walter had been turned and he’d run alone downstairs and opened the door to bring him back in.
But then he’d run to save his beloved. If he followed now, it would be to face the certainty that Walter was not Walter, and hadn’t been for a very long time.
He couldn’t move. Staring at the closed door, he heard voices shouting outside, the drumming of a helicopter. More voices, several different voices. Was one of them Walter’s? It seemed that Walter was saying something.
And then, an ominous silence, even though the chatter of the helicopter blades roared on. But no voices.
The red hairs rose on the back of his neck. He was being watched.
Cringing, he turned with helpless, dreamlike slowness. His gaze swept across their alarm clock with the lighted red numbers, the yellowed package of cigarette rolling papers from long ago when Jesse had smoked, the half-opened clothes closet, and reached the window which was set just above the yard, that haven for half-human vampires.
Jeremy’s haggard face, eyes raw with pain and hate, blazed at him so fiercely that Jesse jumped back. Jeremy held a wooden stake and a hammer.
Jesse bit his lip to keep from screaming out, “He’s not here, I don’t know where he went!” Even now, half sure that Walter was evil, he wouldn’t betray him.
But Jeremy smacked the window with the hammer, crunching out a vicious rain of glass shards, and vaulted into the bedroom. Dirt from the garden fell over the glass on the bed. Jesse lunged away, bleeding from a stinging cut across his cheek.
Jeremy hurled himself in. He crouched on the bed, looking at the terrified Jesse with unwilling speculation.
“You’re special to him. Someone it would kill him to lose. Aren’t you?” The words seemed pulled from some alien insect lodged in Jeremy’s throat.
But Jesse, understanding, trembling, had to say, “I don’t know anymore.”