“Four young and beautiful girls from our county are gone and they are not coming back,” said the reverend. His name was Daryl Dean Delacroix and it was just one of several times during the day when he was on Channel 6 stating what he had just said over and over again.
David Zane sat down on an old, green sofa chair watching the reverend through a 40 inch flat screen television in a small, almost completely empty 1950s house located in the city of Redpark, California. It was a government-issue home and was intended to be a temporary habitat for Zane until he could get a job and an apartment of his own. Recently Zane had gained his citizenship after the Underworld, the society which had secretly housed vampires, liches, werecreatures and magicians for centuries, had collapsed under the weight of public knowledge. When he was given a choice of districts to live in, he decided to go back to his beginning, to the county he was born and raised in. No reason, really. He just felt a bit sentimental at the time.
And so, after twenty-five years of living in secret after a faked death, David Zane returned home to Oro County, California.
Zane appeared somewhere between seventeen and twenty-two years of age. His hair was dark, short and spiky and his eyes were a deep sparkling blue. He was attractive in a way trapped between handsome and cute which sometimes made him seem deceivingly innocent. He was in actuality, despite his young appearance, sixty-five years old. He was a magician and magicians don’t age.
He watched Delacroix continue. It was seven o’clock in the morning and he was bored and unable to sleep so it was as good a thing to watch as any under the circumstances.
“Those girls are dead,” Delacroix repeated. He was a reasonably attractive black man with a rather dark complexion and extremely short, impeccable hair. He wore a thin pair of glasses and an expensive black suit all meticulously pressed and cleaned to point of matching his flawless face. “And do you want to know why they are dead?” he added. “Do you?”
Zane heard the doorbell ring and by the time he was standing he heard a car driving quickly away.
“They are dead because this country has done the unthinkable: a monstrous blasphemous wrong that has now destroyed Christian American society. Our country has made a deal with the devil and these kinds of deaths will continue until that deal—is—broken.” The audience cheered at the last word.
Zane opened the door and found what could only be a book wrapped in paper resting where a doormat would have been. He looked around, seeing no one in the early bluish-purple morning and then shrugged. He picked it up along with several envelopes which someone other than a mailman had placed in his mailbox and tossed all of them on a table by the door. He was not in the mood to read.
“Let me tell you more about these creatures that pretend to be men,” Delacroix continued. “A lycanthrope, commonly known as a ‘werewolf,’ is a wolf that turns into a man that tears its victims to shreds and eats them while living. Ask the French someday about the Beast of Gévaudan: a wolf-like devil with the intellect of a man who killed over one hundred innocent people in eighteen century France. Never got caught. Does this sound familiar anyone?
“Peter Burns—” a picture of a man with a gray beard appeared on the screen “—actually argues that his race of werewolves and other werethings somehow have an importance to our society. I suppose if you could get them to stop eating the innocent for a few minutes perhaps they would be.” He shook his head in disgust. “Even in our smallest places, in the sweet and Godly gentle district of Wood Valley the sleepy little town of Greenfield has its very own vampire.” A 1970s high school picture of angry but very pretty, photogenic girl replaced Peter Burns, her hair cut in a shag hair style. “Alexandra Grey, a vampire, was a juvenile delinquent and a thief before becoming a monster. She was a parasite who lived off our society and is now a creature that lives off our very blood. I certainly hope I don’t need to emphasize to the good people of Wood Valley the danger the lives of themselves and their children are in with a real live demon in their midst.”
Zane leaned deep into his chair and sighed. Mortal opinion on the supernatural was a very new thing. Hunters used to be quiet for fear of the supernatural using law enforcement or asylum doctors against them and they usually came at you in the dark or during the day if you were a vampire. Public hate was a different kind of problem altogether.
“We have been invaded!” cried Delacroix. “The United States Government that we love and cherish and believed had our best interests despite lax understanding of proper religious etiquette, have put us in the position of having to interact publically with these devils in the flesh! This includes schools and churches and theatres and any number places where our children will be present!
“Is it really a surprise that someone has come up murdered? All four of these girls were normal human females. They were God-fearing good girls with dreams of happy futures, dreams of being fashion models and movie stars and mothers and wives. The very instant the government passes a law to invite these demons into our lives we lose four of our county’s best young women to them.
“And if that wasn’t bad enough,” he continued, “We now have that abominable cult created by the mummy Edwin J. Simpson.” Zane wasn’t surprised to hear him use the word “mummy” in describing him. It was a common term for a lich, the mummy being the Egyptian variant made so popular by modern cinema. “Edwin J. Simpson has defiled the St. Jude Church in Oro County’s own city of Blue Ocean to create a grand perversion of Christianity, one depicting various figures of faith and representatives of good as vampires, witches, lycanthropes and mummies.”
Zane had a received a few “Super Jesus” pamphlets from someone from that church not long after arriving and was still getting them. One of them was probably in the pile of letters with that wrapped up book. He was non-practicing Jewish and in any period of his life, mortal or immortal, he would think Simpson was completely out of his mind.
“Well,” said Delacroix, “I hope I’ve made you understand the danger you and you’re children are in. In order to combat this new threat I, and Mr. Colton Phelps IV of the Oro County Gazette, have compiled a list of ‘people’ in Oro County who are, in fact, members of Satan’s army.” “Don’t you fucking show me what I think you’re going to show me,” said Zane. A list of names appeared on the screen and the name of the city they were in. “Goddamn it!” he cried.
Edwin John Simpson – Mummy – Blue Ocean
Alexandra Grey – Vampire – Greenfield
Peter Burns – Werewolf – Río Verde
Rita Louise James – Werewolf – Constance City
Gary Wilson Lawrence – Werewolf – Constance City
David Benjamin Zane – Witch – Redpark
Zane snatched the Oro County Gazette from the day before, flipped it over to the previous unread religious article and saw the bottom of Colton Phelps IV’s article labeled “Humanity VS Un-Humanity”. There was a picture of all six mentioned by Delacroix and they used Zane’s high school photograph from 1964 from San Giacomo High School for his. “Goddamn it!” he cried again. It was a clear violation of privacy but, because he was an immortal it was unlikely any lawsuit against those people would be successful. Both Phelps and Delacroix would just claim they did whatever they wanted to do through their religion and walk away without so much as a fine.
Zane glanced through the article’s body and saw more of the same rant that Delacroix was on. Fear for children, blaming witchcraft and the devil and other things along those lines. It seemed Phelps didn’t have much on Zane beyond a name, a general location, and a photograph. His focus was Simpson and his church and while they didn’t manage to obtain any personal addresses, which might have been too far even for them, they did put in the address of Rita James and Gary Lawrence’s business, the Lion’s Gym in Constance City and the address of Simpson’s church.
Zane decided he had enough of that and he put season one of Arrested Development into the DVD player. He tried to take his mind off of Delacroix, Phelps and the growing worry that people would come after him in a mob. That last was the great fear of all immortals, what the Underworld had called the Purge, described as the time when all of the world would unite together to destroy them. Zane had only seen them in small groups known as hunters who had been generally viewed by other mortals as eccentric crazies who came out of their private little corners of the cities and towns with guns, stakes and gasoline looking for the boogeyman. If it happened in the new world it wouldn’t a bunch of yahoos and yokels with over the counter weaponry but the United States military with machine guns, tanks and flame throwers.
He was still sitting there at ten o’clock still thinking about it when the doorbell rang.
Zane got up and walked over to the door. “Hello,” he said before opening it.
“Mr. Zane,” said a stern voice from the other side of the door. “I’ve come on behalf of my employer, Mr. Desmond Gregory.”
“Desmond Gregory. Wow.” Zane hadn’t heard his name in forty years and yet he remembered him instantly. He opened the door to see a well-dressed man standing in the doorway with a gold Lexus behind him. Zane immediately didn’t like the man as he struck him as a person who arrogance came quite naturally to.
His skin was very smooth looking and he had such soft appearing hands that Zane imagined he had probably never had a hard day’s work in his life. He had a pale, round moon face and was overweight in severity just enough to be equally as round all over. He was taller than Zane as well, six foot four, with an almost completely bald with dark brown eyes matching what was left of his hair. “David Benjamin Zane, I presume,” he said to him.
“You presume correctly,” said Zane. “So what does old Desmond—”
“Mr. Gregory, Mr. Zane.”
“Mr. Gregory and I were on a first name basis when I was just a kid,” said Zane. “That was a long time ago. I can’t imagine what he wants now.” “He simply wants to see you,” said the man. “His birthday party is coming within the month. January 31st will in fact be his eighty-fifth and, as Mr. Phelps had the courtesy to mention your arrival, he would like to invite you as an old friend of the family.” The man handed Zane a pretty white and square envelope. “This is your invitation.”
“Thank you,” said Zane, taking the envelope. He was genuinely surprised anyone remembered him. His only child and ex-wife had made it very clear they would never speak to him again just before the Underworld stole him into their world, his former fiancé at the time had gotten married and moved on with her life, his stepfather, biological father and mother were all dead and the few games his company, Zane Entertainment, had ever came out with were completely dwarfed by Sierra On-Line in the eighties and were by then considered abandonware and were free all over the internet. Who could have possibly remembered or cared whether he had ever lived at all?
“Also,” said the man, “He’d like to invite you to dinner tonight to ‘catch up on old times.’ The family is staying at his home this evening and he wants you with them.”
“Really? Why?” Zane had a falling out with Desmond over Eleanor, his daughter, kissing him on the bench by the front doors. It was the only time he had ever seen Desmond genuinely angry. Also, it seemed rather odd to be invited to a family dinner as he was almost a complete stranger. “I couldn’t possibly imagine,” the man told him.
Zane sighed. “Whatever happened to Johnny? He was a driver I could respect.”
“John Martin, my father, is deceased. My name is Alan Martin, in case you wondering and I don’t appreciate you prying into my personal business.” “Didn’t think it was that personal.” Zane slapped him playfully with the envelope but Alan just frowned at him. “Thank you, Mr. Martin. Does ‘Mr. Gregory’ still live at the estate by the sea on the hill above the city of Buenos Beach?”
“Yes, he does,” he replied. “Will you be coming tonight?”
“Yes,” said Zane. He had nothing to do anyway as none of the places he had filled out applications for had called him back. He guessed his master’s degree from the California State University of Constance City in computer engineering from 1973 just didn’t cut in today’s internet based society.
“Be there at seven o’clock and dress casual nice. Do try.”
“Alright,” said Zane. “Listen, Mr. Martin, it’s good to meet you and I’m sorry about your father. He was a good man.”
Alan frowned at him and said, “Goodbye Mr. Zane,” before he turned around and left.
Zane looked at the letter for a moment before he opened it. “I am cordially invited to Mr. Desmond Gregory’s eighty-fifth birthday party,” he read out loud and smiled. He placed it gently on his table by the book and thought about Desmond Gregory.
The man had given Zane his first job outside of his stepfather Arthur Alexander’s store in 1959. He worked in the fields around the Gregory family home and, somehow or another, became a favorite of Desmond’s. He thought about those days working there and about Eleanor: Eleanor who used him to make her father angry and left him when she had succeeded.
He wondered what she must look like now, all old and aged, with all the arrogance she had possessed as a girl either wiped away or turned to bitter rage. She could have straightened out, got married, had kids and become one of those attractive, older socialite women who try to talk her daughters out of being as crazy as she once was but he doubt that. She was far too stubborn to change and she would never admit any wrong doing even when she was caught holding the preverbal smoking gun. There was always an excuse for everything.
“This is going to be fun,” he said to himself, feeling invigorated, and then took a quick shower and got dressed. Phelps was rude but he did he give him the address of some werewolves and it was as good day as any to introduce himself to the other supernatural citizens of his home county. The book he had received this morning was by then almost completely forgotten.
After twenty-five years David Benjamin Zane really had come home.