Happy Holidays you guys!
I know that late Friday night right before Christmas is exactly the time everyone wants to dive into Reckoner again, right? I'm sure you have no baking/wrapping/panicking to do right about now. Well, hey, it'll be here whenever you're ready just the same.
Looks as though Friday night is the new posting schedule for this tale, so if you're reading it week to week you can look for it then. Thanks to those of you who have been reading it--I truly appreciate it. In case you are wondering, the answer is yes, this tale will wrap somewhere in the Osa Bella timeline, though I'm not telling where (mostly because I'm not 100% sure yet).
If you are new here, Reckoner is a pre-quel to Osa Bella in Edward's Point of View. You don't need to have read Osa Bella to understand what's going on here. If you'd like to read Reckoner but haven't started it yet, please start at the beginning here, then read the second part here. And then come back here. Whew. I'm exhausted just from cutting and pasting those links.
Reckoner is brought to you by the generous donors of the Fandom Gives Back. The first part appeared in the big author's compilation there. It will continue here at Twitarded until it's done, and I'm not 100% sure when that will be, but probably a few more weeks at least. If you donated to FGB, you are welcome to receive a pdf and an ebook version of Reckoner when it's all finished. Just email your receipt to me at mygdala @ gmail. (No need to include any private information though.)
Okay, I'm off to wrap presents until 3am. All the best to you, Twitards. May your holidays be sparkly and filled with dreams of your favorite Edward.
“I love it. Show me the chords.”
Mercy picked up her guitar from the stand and tuned it as I strummed the chords on the new song again. It was the fourth I’d composed in two weeks and darker than the other three combined.
“We need to record these,” she said. “We’ll make an album. What do you think?”
I couldn’t really argue that, as much as I felt like arguing and did argue with her or anyone at every turn these days for any or no reason. I didn’t know how Mercy could even stand to be around me. I’d become so surly since Boston that I couldn’t pass by a mirror without wishing my reflection would disappear like a ghost’s.
“Listen to this, Edward,” Mercy said and began to sing.
Woman of your dreams, so young now...and you—you were younger still. Dreaming all the ways she fell still...Did you tell her about those dreams?
Open up your fantasy and ride your darkest fear... Baby I will get us home…***
“That’s good,” I said. “Really good.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right—we should book some studio time. Maybe put something out.”
“Really?” Her surprised smile lit her face and I suddenly felt like a royal asshole for how distant and cold I’d been.
“Sure,” I said. “Why don’t you call and set it up for next week?”
“I will,” she said, still smiling. She went back to strumming her guitar again, humming as she began to compose the rest of the vocal line.
I considered her carefully as she played. Mercy was beautiful. Petite, but hardly fragile. Long, flowing black hair. Perfectly huge eyes, lashes out to next week. She was without question the most beautiful vampire I knew. Prettier than Rosalie, and even I could admit that was saying something. She was graceful, elegant, talented. The sound of her voice always calmed me, brought me back from many a dark place. Mercy was always there with a supportive ear when I needed her. There was so much I loved about Mercy. Why couldn’t I just fall in love with her?
I knew the answer, though. I couldn’t fall in love with Mercy because I was still in love with someone else. It didn’t matter that the woman I loved was dead—nothing about how I felt about her had changed. I didn’t know if it ever would. If it even could.
But maybe I should try, I thought. Maybe if I gave myself some time I could try to fall in love with Mercy. Maybe if it worked, she would fall in love with me, too. We could get married, lead our lives peacefully. Everybody would be happy about that, right? Esme would be thrilled. Carlisle, relieved. Mercy and I were already close, rarely argued, shared a lot of the same interests.
Then as though she was the mind reader, Mercy glanced up and saw me staring and cracked another small smile. “Do you like that?” she asked, about the song. “I’m just fooling around here now.”
She stopped playing and gave me an expectant look. I felt like I might say something important, monumental. Significant.
“Do you have any cigarettes?” I asked.
“No, I need to run to the store,” she said. “There’s money in my wallet.”
At the Cumberland Farms a rumpled, balding middle aged guy had just hidden a porno mag beneath the counter when I walked in. His thoughts were as ugly as the stained teeth he showed when he grunted, “eight dollars,” after I asked him for a pack of American Spirits. He was thinking of girls. Young ones. Very young ones, though I wasn’t sure if he had a specific kid in mind or if this was just a sick fucking fantasy. Then I realized I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer.
“Edward Cullen,” you asshole, I heard from behind me. “You’re back in Portland, I see.”
Allston Kaine was a tall, thin vampire with close-cropped salt and pepper hair and the look of a distinguished older man. He stood in the doorway of the convenience store, flanked by three of his coven, Timothy, Mark and Adam Kaine.
“Let’s take it outside,” I said, nodding to the door, not at all happy with the fantasy of my beheaded body I found in Allston’s mind.
The Kaines were the largest coven north of Boston until you got into Montréal. Allston was its maker. They were your regular variety parasitic vampires, preying on whatever unsuspecting humans they could cull from Portland and the surrounding tourist areas. Allston was a former US naval officer turned vampire by Caribbean pirates in the mid 1800s. He’d known Mercy a hundred years at least and the two of them had their baggage. She had been entertaining an offer of marriage from Allston when I first met her, but she ended up eschewing traditional vampirism in favor of the humanitarian practices of our coven and turned him down. He always blamed me for that, but if I was to blame to keep Mercy from marrying that asshole I was proud of it.
Outside, we stepped into the alley next to the convenience store and they surrounded me while Allston spoke.
“An acquaintance of ours in Boston has gone missing,” he said. “We thought you might have heard something about it while you were there.”
“Why would you think that?” I asked. I had no idea how they knew I’d been in Boston, but I didn’t react.
“You’re familiar with the witch Elle Moreau, right?”
“The Boston witch? Everyone knows who she is.”
“Did you know that she’s dead?” Allston said.
I hadn’t heard that, but after my encounter with her I’d suspected it wouldn’t be long. My first thought was that Mercy wouldn’t be able to settle whatever score she had with Elle, but then it was obvious that wasn’t a concern of Allston’s.
“So?” I asked.
“Elle had marked one of our… suppliers.”
“What do you mean, suppliers?”
“What do you think I mean, idiot?” Allston hissed. “You think Portland has enough prey to feed a coven as large as mine without the police interfering?”
“You sick fucking bastards,” I seethed. “Too lazy now to properly hunt?”
“Edward, our Boston connection has been missing for weeks. Do you know anything about it?”
I hadn’t known what kind of strength I truly possessed until I stopped myself from killing Allston Kaine right then and there. The face of the man I’d last killed fixed itself in Allston’s mind and then I realized that the unrequited love of my life, the woman I still grieved for, might not have been murdered by the man I killed at all. Maybe she was just supplied by him, procured like livestock for the Kaine coven. Maybe Allston had enjoyed her, drank her, killed her, right under my fucking nose.
And so now I marked Allston Kaine as my next target. Sooner or later he was going to die by my hand, and hopefully sooner. But not here in the street. Somewhere where I could make his torment last a long, gruesomely long time.
My phone rang, and I didn’t have to look to see who it was. I ignored it.
“Are you picking that up?” Allston asked.
“I don’t know anything about your human trafficking connection,” I said. “Who was he bringing you, anyway?”
I searched Allston’s mind for glimpses of the last humans he’d fed the coven. I searched the minds of Timothy, Adam, and Mark and saw flashes of hunger, lust, and several pretty, horrified faces. All young looking women, but none that I recognized.
“What do you care?” Allston asked, studying the disgusted expression on my face. “My, you look thirsty just thinking about it. Maybe we should have you by for dinner.”
“I don’t fucking think so.”
“Well anyway, the does were for sustenance, Edward,” Allston said with a laugh. “You don’t name dinner. That’s sick.”
“Someone we know saw you talking to Elle Moreau in Boston the night she died,” Timothy said. “The night we lost contact with our supplier.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.
“So you’re saying you don’t know what happened to him?” Allston said.
“That’s what I’m saying.”
“We’ll be looking into it,” Allston said. “But mind that you watch yourself up here. Without a supply of prey shipped up from Boston, we will be carefully hunting around Portland, and I don’t want any interference.”
“I don’t hunt humans, you know that,” I said.
“Yes, yes, I know all you Cullens call yourselves humanitarians.” Allston scowled and shook his head in disgust. “But let’s just be clear about something. If by chance you do decide to interfere, we will take out every Cullen.” Then he leaned in close and exhaled a ghastly cold blast of his breath in my face. “Am I understood?”
“Fuck you,” I said. You are a dead man.
Don’t try my patience, Reckoner.
I didn’t blink. I didn’t say a word. I just stared blankly at him, looking bored, doing my damned best to cover the rage and the disquiet I felt that he’d been tipped off to my identity. Damn that Elle Moreau, straight to hell where she belonged.
My phone rang again, and this time it wasn’t Alice, but Carlisle. I answered but before I could say a word he said, “Don’t even think about it.”
Carlisle met me deep in the woods near Sebago Lake, near our local hunting rendezvous. It was dark and drizzling where I waited, and quiet save the soft pattering of light rain on fallen leaves. He appeared at around one a.m. with Alice and no one else, as I’d requested. She looked out of place, nervous and fidgeting in her black rain slicker with penguins on it and shiny, white rain boots. Carlisle was in a trench and a fedora, perturbed and torn. He opened a large golf umbrella over the three of us and we huddled under it talking quietly, despite the fact that no one else was there.
“You don’t know, for a fact, that Allston is the one who killed her, do you?” Carlisle said. “Did you see her in his mind? In any of theirs?”
“No,” I said. “But…”
“Then we’ve got no basis for retaliation.”
“They’re engaged in human trafficking,” I said. “How can I do nothing? It goes against everything I…”
“This isn’t Boston—you’re not the Reckoner up here,” Carlisle said, cutting me off with a stern look and a commanding tone.
“How can you look me in the eye and say that?”
“This family is my priority,” Carlisle said. “Imagine what would happen to us if we decided to go after every vampire who killed humans. We’d all be dead, Edward. We do a lot more good in this world by being a peaceful example to others than by delivering some rogue justice. I thought you understood that.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“If you kill Allston it will be war,” Alice said. Her eyes were wide and hollow, her face forlorn with whatever horror she saw but didn’t share, but I saw it. In a flash of Alice’s mind, Mercy was torn and burning on a great fire. Carlisle was decapitated, his head cradled in Timothy Kaine’s arms. Esme was laying still on the ground. I reached out to comfort Alice but she moved out of my grasp, wrapped her arms around herself and glared at me as rain began to pour down on her. “We won’t win.”
“What is happening?” Carlisle demanded. “What do you see?”
“We can’t do this,” Alice said. “Edward, you can’t do it.”
“Allston knows,” I said. “He knows I’m the Reckoner. He will hold this over us—do you have any idea how many enemies I have down in Boston?”
“We’ll make an agreement with the Kaines,” Carlisle said. “I’ll speak to him about it.”
“You can’t trust him!” I yelled. “Alice, can you see that working out in any way?”
“All I can see is your vengeance,” she said, uncharacteristically adamant, frustrated. “You’ve got to stop thinking about revenge.”
She was out of her mind if she thought I wasn’t killing Allston Kaine after what he’d told me. Somehow, somewhere, he was going to die by my hand if it was the last thing I did.
“You need to take the family back to Forks,” I insisted. “It isn’t safe here in Maine anymore. Take Mercy, too.”
“If it’s too much temptation for you here, then we can discuss going back to Forks,” Carlisle said. “We need to discuss this with everyone else.”
“There’s nothing to discuss, Carlisle. You’ll be safer there, you know that.”
“If we go, you’re coming with us,” he said.
“You know I can’t do that.”
“What do you mean you can’t do it?” Carlisle said. “Do you think that you’ll stay behind, start a war with the Kaines and there won’t be repercussions for the rest of us, regardless of where we go?”
“Edward,” Alice whispered. “I know what you’re thinking. Please, please don’t.”
But the way I saw it, I had no choice. My feelings about my lost beloved aside, my disgust with the Kaine human trafficking issue aside, Allston had my number. One phone call to the wrong witch in Salem or the wrong vampire in Boston and everyone in my family would be a target, a retribution kill for those murderers I’d slain as the Reckoner. Now I only saw one way to keep my family safe. One choice that wouldn’t end with me dragging the rest of them into a war they had no place fighting.
“I renounce the Cullens,” I said.
Alice dropped her eyes to the sodden forest floor and refused to look at me again.
“You what?” Carlisle said, his eyes nearly glowing red with rage at the heartless words I spoke. “What did you just say to me?”
“I renounce you, Carlisle. I renounce the Cullens.”
***These lyrics are from the song "Fantasy" by Family Band. You guys know I love Family Band and always think of Mercy as having this kind of voice and writing this kind of music.
Until next time...