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Reckoner Part VI
Before I killed the Kaine’s supplier in Boston, I’d managed to go close to sixty years without tasting human blood. During that time I’d become such a dedicated humanitarian I never even flinched when I caught the smell of it, as rare as that was. A child’s scraped knee on a sidewalk, a store clerk’s paper cut? I’d notice, yes, but that stirring inside, the blood lust had all but faded away. But not now. Now it was a fight every single day. And I was getting tired of it.
It was mid-April and beginning to get warm again, the days were getting longer and I was now hunting two and three times a week, up into New Brunswick and Quebec. Caribou, moose and the occasional wildcat kept me well-fed, but it wasn’t the nourishment I was craving. It was the distraction.
Every day, still, I thought of her—my dead fantasy girl. And every day it was the same vision. The same brown eyes, the same soft hand on my shoulder, in my hand. That small, shy smile. It was strange that I kept seeing it, but what really bothered me was that I felt no different about it. Time passed and I still felt all the anguish, the pain, the loss—the longing. The longing for something that would never be.
“Try to see if you can alter it—the vision,” Mercy had instructed, after I admitted I was still seeing it. “You’ve got to will yourself to change it somehow. Make her a redhead, or change the color of the dress. Try to make the vision different in your mind.”
“What good will that do?”
“It will put you back in control, don’t you see?” she said. “You thought this was your destiny for so long—you’re stuck. You’ve got to realize it for what it is—a fantasy. And you are in charge of your fantasies, right? Sooner or later you’ll be able to change the girl herself, maybe even to someone you can actually date.”
“I don’t want to do that,” I said.
“Well, then.” Mercy threw up her hands in frustration and stomped across the room, away from me, her heels clacking on the wood floor. “You’ll just have to suffer indefinitely, I suppose. A helpless victim of your own mind.”
Fine. That had already been my plan anyway and I was okay with it, because whatever I was or wasn’t doing, I knew Alice was better, and that was all I really cared about. Alice looked great, her hair grown out into long, dark waves. She’d been hunting and shopping and learning the guitar and scheming with Rosalie and Esme for a trip to Paris. She laughed more and started drawing again—she even drew me a decent picture of Reckoner for Christmas.
“Hang it on your wall,” she said. “So you can have her with you in the off-season.”
I longed for May, when I’d put Reckoner back in the water and take an extended vacation. I thought about it every day. May 15th she’d be ready to go and I’d head out to sea, probably for the entire summer. Maybe six months or more. Maybe the solitude would help me get over my thirst, that mounting desire to kill someone. I hoped so, because nothing else seemed to be working.
The Saturday before I was supposed to leave, Reckoner was provisioned and I was packed and ready to go. Mercy, Alice, Jasper and Emmett had convinced me to come out to see Mercy play that night, despite my gut instincts telling me I was much better off staying away from anywhere public. But I wouldn’t be seeing them for a few months, and Mercy was already disappointed I wouldn’t be doing a summer tour with her. She’d wanted me to perform with her that night, since she was playing songs off the new album we recorded together, but I really just wanted to watch her one last time before I left. There was little else in the world that took my mind off of things as well as Mercy’s singing, and that was one thing I’d definitely miss while I was away.
We were all hanging out at Jim’s Bar and Grill at a table right in front of the stage waiting for Mercy to go on. I was trying to relax, to be cool, despite feeling rattled by all of the mental noise in that bar. It’d been awhile since I’d been around so many people, and Mercy had packed them in that night.
“Hi Edward,” a vaguely familiar voice said from behind me.
I snapped my head around to see it was that young college girl, Jules, that Mercy had brought home that night back in October. She was standing next to our table with a very tall red-haired guy with a gut the size of a truck tire, pounding a Budweiser. I didn’t like the look of him, the smell of him or the scattered, sketchy pattern of his thoughts. I stood up and looked the guy over and felt venom begin to pool in my mouth, and should have known right there and then how the night would turn out. I was suddenly in kill mode. I felt my eyes go black, my tongue twitch against my teeth, my body go rigid.
What’s his fucking problem? I heard him think.
“Hey Jules,” I said, standing up to greet her. “How’ve you been?” I leaned down and kissed her lightly on the cheek, glaring at her date, inhaling the scent of too much wine from her, the scent of the brute’s agitation as he glared back and clenched his jaw at me.
“Just came to see Mercy play,” Jules said, slurring her words, smiling a sloppy smile. Her eyes were drooping and there was spittle in the corner of her mouth. It wasn’t even ten o’clock yet. “She’s got a new album coming out,” she barely managed to say.
“She does and it’s brilliant,” I said. “Like all of her albums.”
Who is that? Alice thought at me, scrunching her nose but then giving a small smile in Jules’ direction. I didn’t introduce them.
Mercy came to the stage and began to play and gave a funny look when she saw Jules, like she was trying to place her. Then she thought at me, Something’s wrong with that girl, but I’m not sure what. Keep an eye on her.
But Jules and her ape of a date went to the back bar and I just thought, this asshole with Jules just is not my problem. I don’t even want to know what he’s up to. And I definitely don’t want to think about how his blood might taste, just in case he was up to something, and I sure as hell didn’t want to know if he was up to something. Let it be someone else’s problem.
I tried to forget about it, focusing intently on Mercy’s performance, blocking out everything else as I concentrated on her voice. But I found I was still swallowing venom for the next twenty minutes, until the urge to strike out was so strong I just had to get up and leave. Mercy looked perturbed, almost upset as she saw me jump up from the table and make my way to the door. Alice frowned at me.
“Be right back,” I said.
Alice rolled her eyes slowly to the ceiling and held them there for a minute as she tried to see my immediate future. But all she saw was me smoking a cigarette against the side of the club, since that’s was all the plan I had.
I leaned against the brick wall in the alley and lit a Camel unfiltered and took a deep, long drag. That felt better. Then I took another, and smoked the entire thing in about three minutes. Then I lit another. And then I saw Jules, being dragged by her sweater sleeve down the sidewalk by her ape-date. She was half-arguing with him, slurring her words even more and that’s when I realized that he’d drugged her. I followed them silently and his thoughts came clearly, methodically. He would take her to his red Hummer. He’d bind her and drive her to the woods. That’s all I had to know.
There was no deliberation, no consideration, no hesitation on my part, though maybe I should have weighed my options a little first. I just found myself on top of him in the alley behind the club and Jules was slinking down the wall, into a pile of cardboard boxes, slurring, “What are you doing? What’s happening?” One light crack of his nose against the sidewalk and I was enjoying the bouquet of Budweiser-laced Type O Negative, ready to kill.
“Edward!” Alice cried from the back door of the club. “You nearly relapsed!” Emmett and Jasper pulled me off of the guy, right before I sunk my teeth into him. “And you missed the last part of Mercy’s set, too.”
“She’ll get over it,” I growled.
“What the hell is with you, man?” Emmett asked. “You’re not getting back into that decree hunting crap, are you?”
“No, of course not.” I said. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Edward?” Jules whimpered from the ground. “What’s going on?”
“You have shitty taste in guys, that’s what,” I said. “And you are too young to be out in bars or hooking up with people you barely know. And another thing…”
“Edward,” Jasper said, cutting me off as Alice helped Jules to her feet and whisked her out of the alley and back into the bar. “You have to let him go, you know.”
“What the hell are you people?” The ape gazed up at the four of us, his eyes watery, his mouth open, his stale beer breath disgusting me as he heaved under the weight of my knee on his lungs. I crushed into them a little and he panicked, his heart pumping blood furiously, my rage and my thirst nearly blinding me.
“Remember how lucky you were tonight and know this,” I said. “The next time you even fantasize about drugging and raping a girl, I will most definitely kill you.” I pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and took out his driver’s license. “I now know where you live, asshole. I’ll be watching.”
Emmett and Jasper’s eyes went wide and then narrowed in disgust at the guy. I let him get up, and Emmett grabbed the guy by his neck and pushed him into the brick wall. “We’ll all be watching you.”
Then he let him go and the ape ran, staggering, taking out two garbage cans before breaking into a full tilt drunken gallop down the block.
“Jesus,” Jasper said. “That was close.”
“Edward?” Mercy appeared in the back door of the club, admonished me in a single utterance with that disappointed, all-knowing tone in her voice.
“What?” I said, lighting another cigarette and taking a deep, deep drag. “That guy was a rape in-progress.”
I exhaled a gust of thick smoke and it hung in the night between all of us, a cloudy veil draped over a whole heaping pile of attitude. Mercy was pissed, but she didn’t say anything else. She just turned and walked back inside the club without a word.
“You’re not turning on us again, are you?” Emmett asked. “Because that would really suck.”
I didn’t answer him. I just flicked the lit cigarette into the garbage can, willing it to catch on fire, disappointed when instead it began to rain.
Emmett, Jasper, Alice and Mercy dragged me back to the Cullen House and kept me cornered in Carlisle’s study until they’d told him the details of my altercation. He listened, that heavy curtain of concern about his eyes, glancing up at me now and then, and I tried to shield myself from the guilt of disappointing him. He didn’t even try to conceal his thoughts.
You’re very frustrated, Carlisle thought to me after sending the others out. I understand. But if you’re going to be a Cullen, you can’t hunt humans. I don’t care if they’re rapists and pedophiles. I can’t have you tempting the others. Think of Jasper—he’s still so vulnerable out there.
“I know,” I said, my attention drawn to Carlisle’s shoe as he tapped it, uncharacteristically agitated. Then he began to pace rapidly from one side of the room to the other, and I realized he was thinking, but he didn’t want me to make out his thoughts, the movement nearly hypnotizing me into silent focus. Then he stopped in front of me.
“You’re coming back to work with me at the hospital,” he said definitively, his hands tucked neatly behind his back as he spoke out loud.
“But… I’m leaving. I’ll be on Reckoner for at least the summer. I won’t kill anyone at sea—I won’t even see anyone.”
“You need rehabilitation, Edward,” Carlise said. “You’re losing your empathy. Can’t you see that?”
“I had a lot of empathy for that poor girl who almost got raped tonight, don’t you think?”
“That’s no excuse for murder.”
“Well, maybe some humans aren’t worth…”
Don’t you dare say it, Carlisle got right in my face with his enraged stare, defying me to continue my sentence. “Don’t even think it.”
But I was thinking it. Some humans are such scum bags, they are a waste of the air they breathe. Not many humans, but there are some, yes, some—too many—whom I believe need to just not be here. If I could choose to not know who they were, to not hear some of the grotesque things these monsters think about, I would. But sadly that hadn’t been my luck.
I waited for Carlisle to launch into a lecture about compassion, not doling out judgment and the self-destruction that kind of power would cause, but he spared me. We’d been there. I knew it already. It just didn’t seem to change much.
“You know, we could use a new pediatrician,” he said. “Art Guildenstein is out on family leave and I have no idea when he’ll be back.”
“Kids? You’re going to make me work with sick children?”
“You are wonderful with children,” Carlisle said.
“I can’t stand watching children suffer. That’s why I quit the pediatric unit at Mass General. All that fucking polio…”
“It’s 2009, Edward. You’re not going to be treating polio,” he said, his eyes softening. “And if you don’t do something drastic to keep your teeth off of humans, you’re going to become one miserable son of a bitch.”
“He’s already a miserable son of a bitch,” Rosalie said, leaning in the doorway of Carlisle’s private study, sneering. Her long blonde hair was loose down her back and she wore a navy blue cashmere cardigan, the first few buttons undone revealing the enormous diamond pendant Emmett had gotten her for Christmas.
“He’ll get worse—and why are you here?” Carlisle asked, annoyed. “Don’t gloat right now. It’s unbecoming.”
“Esme needs you,” Rosalie said to him, keeping her eyes on me. “There’s trouble with Allston Kaine again. He’s complaining about territory infringement.”
Carlisle glared at me and I shrugged my shoulders.
“Look, I didn’t take the guy out, all right? Allston has no reason to claim foul. I just scared some drunken mutt off a college girl.”
“How many are with him?” Carlisle asked.
“It’s just him,” Rosalie said. “Mercy is talking to him now.”
Carlisle straightened out his tweed vest and smoothed his hair down. “Edward, we’re not done here.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
After Carlisle excused himself, Rosalie came into the room and closed the heavy oak door behind her, and then perched on the edge of the chaise like a cat on a branch, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting titmouse.
Were you really going to kill another rapist? I thought you gave that up, Rosalie asked, her voice somehow eager and tentative at once. I didn’t answer her, didn’t even look her way and it didn’t matter because I knew where she was headed. “Emmett said you almost had the guy. I was sorry to hear they caught you in time.” She gave a small half-hearted laugh and then was quiet.
I glanced up and saw she wasn’t even looking in my direction, but somewhere out the dark window, her eyes hollow as she imagined the scene. Rosalie’s own brutal rape and agonizing near-murder that brought her to us all those years ago was the reason I stalked rapists when I first broke with the coven charter. Though I’d never told her that.
“I let him go,” I said.
Next time, take me with you.
“So you really do want me out of the coven.” I laughed at her absurd suggestion. Rosalie would hardly set foot in the same room as me, let alone decree hunt with me.
“Can you imagine, Edward? The two of us kicked out for hunting humans together?” Rosalie said, joining me in a sardonic laugh.
“No, I can’t,” I said. “At all.”
We sat there quietly for a few moments and I tried to stay out of her thoughts. Her memories strayed further and further back in time and I shifted mine elsewhere but it was difficult. Why she chose to go there then, I really didn’t understand at the time, but it was damned painful even as an outsider looking in.
I crossed the room and took her hand for a moment and she looked at me like I was nuts, but she didn’t draw away. Then I put the driver’s license of Jules’ would-be attacker in the palm of her hand. She looked at me, puzzled.
“Happy early birthday, Rose,” I said. “Now don’t say I didn’t get you anything.”