Home > Phantom (The Last Vampire #4)(3)

Phantom (The Last Vampire #4)(3)
Author: Christopher Pike

"And I bet your old hearing." Seymour comes up at my side and pats me on the back. "You're going to make that same wish a lot of times in the next few days."


I own houses all over the world, some modest places to relax when I enter a foreign country in search of fresh blood, others so extravagant one would think I was an Arabian princess. My home in Beverly Hills, where we drive after leaving Las Vegas, is one of the most opulent ones. As we enter the front door, Seymour stares in wonder.

"If we stay here," he says, "I have to get new clothes."

"You can have the clothes, but we're not staying. Ray's father knew about this house, so the govern­ment might as well. We're just here to get money, credit cards, clothes, and fresh identification."

Seymour is doubtful. "The government knew you were at the compound. They'll think you died in the blast."

"They'll have to know for sure that I died. They were obsessed with my blood, so they'll research every possible lead concerning me." I step to the window and peer outside. It is the middle of the night. "They may be watching us now."

Seymour shrugs. "Are you going to get me fresh ID?"

I glance at him. "You should go home."

He shakes his head firmly. "I'm not going to leave you. Forget it. I mean, you don't even know how to be human."

I step past him. "We can discuss this later. We don't want to be here a minute more than we have to be."

In the basement of my Beverly Hills home, I pick up the things I mentioned to Seymour. I also take a 9mm Smith and Wesson equipped with a silencer and several rounds of ammunition. My reflexes and vision are not what they used to be, but I believe I am still an excellent shot. All my supplies I load into a large black leather suitcase. I am surprised how much it weighs as I carry it back upstairs. My physical weak­ness is disconcerting.

I don't let Seymour see the gun.

We leave Beverly Hills and drive toward Santa Monica. I let Seymour drive; the speed of the sur­rounding cars disturbs me. It is as if I am a young woman from 3000b.c. who has been plucked from her slow-paced world and dumped into the dizzyingly fast twentieth century. I tell myself I just need time to get used to it. My euphoria over being human remains, but the anxiety is there as well.

Who was at the door?

I can't imagine. Not even a single possibility comes to mind. But there was something about that voice.

We check into a Sheraton hotel by the beach. My new name is Candice Hall. Seymour is just a friend helping me with my bags. I don't put his name down on the register. I will not stay Candice long. I have other ID that I can change my hair style and color to match, as well as other small features. Yet I feel safe as I close the door of the hotel room behind me. Since Las Vegas, I have kept an eye on the rearview mirror. I don't believe we've been followed. Seymour sets my bag on the floor as I plop down on the bed and sigh.

"I haven't felt this exhausted in a long time," I say.

Seymour sits beside me. "We humans are always tired."

"I am going to enjoy being human. I don't care what you say."

He stares at me in the dimly lit room. "Sita?"

I close my eyes and yawn. "Yes?"

"I am sorry what I said. If this makes you happy, then it makes me happy."

"Thank you."

"I just worry, you know, that there's no going back."

I sit up and touch his leg. "The decision would have been meaningless if I could have gone back."

He understands my subtle meaning. "You didn't do this because of what Krishna said to you about vampires?" he asks.

I nod. "I think partly. I don't think Krishna approved of vampires. I think he just allowed me to live out of his deep compassion for all living things."

"Maybe there was another reason."

"Perhaps." I touch his face. "Did I ever tell you how dear you are to me?"

He smiles. "No. You were always too busy threaten­ing to kill me."

I feel a stab of pain. It is in my chest, where a short time ago a stake pierced my heart. For a moment the area is raw with an agonizing burning, as if I am bleeding to death. But it is a brief spasm. I draw in a shuddering breath and speak in a sad voice.

"I always kill the ones I love."

He takes my hand. "That was before. It can be different now that you're not a monster."

I have to laugh, although it is still not easy to take a deep breath. "Is that a line you use to get a girl to go to bed with you?"

He leans closer. "I already have you in bed."

I roll onto my side. "I need to take a shower. We both need to rest."

He draws back, disappointed. "You haven't changed that much."

I stand and fluff up his hair, trying to cheer him up. "But I have. I'm a nineteen-year-old girl again. You just forget what monsters teenage girls can be."

He is suddenly moved. "I never knew the exact age you were when Yaksha changed you."

I pause and think of Rama, my long dead husband, and Lalita, my daughter, cremated fifty centuries ago in a place I was never to know.

"Yes," I say softly. "I was almost twenty when Yaksha came for me." And because I was suspended so long between the ages, I add again, "Almost."

An hour later Seymour is fast asleep beside me on the king-size bed. But despite my physical exhaustion, my mind refuses to shut down. I can't be free of the images of Joel's and Arturo's faces from two nights earlier when I suddenly began to turn to light, to dissolve, to leave them just before the bomb was detonated. At the time I knew I was dead. It was a certainty. Yet one last miracle occurred and I lived on. Perhaps there was a reason.

I climb out of bed and dress. Before leaving the hotel room, I load my pistol and tuck it in my belt, at the back, pulling my sweatshirt over it.

The hotel is located on Ocean Ave. I cross over it, and the Coast Highway that separates me from the ocean. Soon I am walking along the dark and foggy Santa Monica Beach, not the safest place to be in the early morning hours before the sun rises. Yet I walk briskly, heading south, paying little attention to my surroundings. What work it is to make my legs move over the sand! It is as if I walk with weights strapped around my ankles. Sweat drips in my eyes and I pant audibly. But I feel good as well. Finally, after thirty minutes of toil, my mind begins to relax, and I contemplate returning to the hotel and trying to sleep. It is only then that I become aware that two men are following me.

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