IN SERVICE OF A SINGULAR IDEAL

Marradith’s face stared back at Leighton from a picture on the wall. Leighton pinned another photo into place with a thumbnail. He stroked the picture with his index finger. In this shot, she stood outside on the lawn of her high school, with a backpack in one hand. The breeze lifted her hair off her shoulders. She frowned in the bright afternoon sunlight, her long lashes resting against her cheeks.

 Hundreds of pictures papered the walls of this room. He walked around, looking at them with the interest of a scholar at a museum. He looked at another photo, one of the shots Bruce took: Marradith standing outside of a hotel room, with Justin beside her. He studied their posture. The two were close, but not touching. He leaned towards her, ever so slightly. Protective. Marradith’s eyes scanned the area. Leighton wondered if she’d felt a sense of danger.

 Leighton breathed deeply. The drugs he’d taken were moving through his system nicely. A connoisseur and dealer of the most exotic chemicals, Leighton had an associate synthesize a narcotic that was able to stop him from going into the Change against his will. For the past week he’d morphed in and out of his werewolf form so much that his body ached. Buoyed by the drugs, he was able to remain in the human form. Everything seemed bright; light hurt his eyes. His body hummed with energy. In this state, he could stare at Marradith’s pictures and see them moving, tiny frames of animation spun into life. “I love you,” Marradith’s lips seemed to whisper, her face smiling as clouds gathered in the sky around her. In another frame, Justin’s face contorted in agony as his chest began to bleed through his shirt.

Leighton laughed. His eyes watered. “It’s unholy, even for your kind.” Leighton did not turn at first. He knew the voice well. Since death, she came and went, his singular goddess. When he did turn, Caroline’s face was just as he knew it would be. Her eyes were darkness, full of cold, angry beauty. The years had not erased his memories of her, the visceral way that he loved her when they married. Her death made a void that was already there grow deeper.

“Can’t you just leave me be?”

 “No. Not until you let this go.”

“You’re not flesh. You can’t help me.”

 She touched his face with her smooth, grave cold hands. A darkness settled around her eyes, like layers of ash. “Leighton,” she said, her voice all tenderness. “Stop fighting. Let me take you.”

He screamed. He pushed her away. When he opened his eyes, nothing remained but Marradith’s photos.

***

 It had been a long night, and was turning into a long morning. Syd showered and dressed. It wasn’t until he reached the hallway that he realized he wasn’t alone. A Wolf was in his house. He descended into the living room. Justin Granthem sat on his couch, looking as if he belonged there.

 “Hi Syd. How are you?”

 “How did you get in here?” “That doesn’t matter. You and I have business to discuss.” “And what would that be?” “You speak for Leighton. I speak for Marradith.” Syd chuckled. “I’d not bother speaking for that one if I were you, son. Leighton has his mind made up, that he will have her. She’s a Lamia, isn’t she?”

 “Leighton didn’t tell you?” Justin paused. “Yes, she is, but she’s also much more.” Syd’s eyes gleamed. He wanted to know the secret. “This whole thing has become messy,” Justin continued. “The human authorities have become involved, and that is as undesirable to your people as it is to mine. I know how deeply loyal you are to Leighton. I am sure you have already warned him that the elders of The Circle will not tolerate actions that cause our kind to fall under the scrutiny of humans. Being that Marradith is a hybrid of all three bloodlines, we cannot allow anyone to study her.”

 “What is your point?” “We both know that Leighton is slipping. Just how far has he declined?”

Syd sat down. His bones ached.

“I know the two of you hate each other,” Syd groaned. “But he is your Sire. He’s very bad lately. He is having trouble controlling the Change. He morphs in and out of human form, and sometimes, he stays in a form that is in between. He sees ghosts and he speaks to them. That is, when he’s not just screaming for Marradith.I have seen this happen to others of our kind,” he added sadly.

Justin knew the implication. Without help, and soon, Leighton would die.

 “As his….son,” Justin said, having a hard time forming the word son with his mouth, “I have something to offer that no one else can.” Syd looked up in disbelief.

“You’d do that?” He withdrew a case from his pocket and handed it to him.

 “Give this to him, as a sample. There’s more, of course. But it comes with a very high price.”

 “And that would be?”

 “A trade.”

“He may not accept.”

“I have come to have a certain respect for you. I know you’d prefer to have this whole matter done with. Sell him on the idea. It’s easier to take my offer, than to hunt for this girl and her family, with time slipping away. Trust me, she will be protected. If he’ll accept my offer, I can put an end to his situation, today.”

 “You would not be around to enforce the contract.”

 “But you would, Syd. I know that you believe in certain standards. This agreement would be amenable to The Circle, as well. The Sojourners will stand on my word. He’ll never find Marradith.”

 “Perhaps.”

 Justin turned to leave. “What is it with her?” Syd asked. “You love this girl?”

“Just tell Leighton what I said.”

 —

© 2009 Lori Titus

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