August 31, 2016
By J.R. Ward
JR WARD SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER
Once More with Feeling, Part I
I arrive at the Brotherhood’s mansion on a hot night in the middle of August. You know, I’ve read online (on my iPhone, which I hide whenever V is around) that this has been the hottest year on record, and given the sweat I work up getting from my car to that huge front entrance, I decide that this is the hottest year ever, without or without the whole record thing.
And including the meteor explosion that killed the dinosaurs.
As I step into the vestibule, the cool air is like a Slushie for my skin, calling up goosebumps- or maybe they’re on account of where I am. Even after all of these years, all the stories, all the time spent in the company of the Brothers, I am still aware that they are a different breed than I, capable of ripping my throat open and letting me bleed out just for kicks and giggles.
I go to my Sally Field place and pray that they still like me, they still really, really like me.
Before I can put my face into the security camera, Fritz opens things up, and seeing the old doggen brings a smile to my soul. He is unchanged, every wrinkle and sag exactly the same, and that is a relief in my life where things seem always in flux. And then there is the colorful magnificence of the foyer- also unchanged- which always reminds me of the trip I took to Russia when I was sixteen and in prep school. The Tsars’ residences are the only things that come close to what the mansion looks like.
Not wanting to seem as though I have showed unexpectedly, I say, “I’m here to see-”
“Oh, Lassiter, yes, challa. Come in! Come in!”
Fritz steps back and bows deeply, and I marvel how I have never seen a stray hair, a bit of dog fuzz, a feather from a duster, on his black uniform. This is especially miraculous as that formal suit is the single black-est anything I have ever laid eyes on, the fabric so densely dark that I wonder if it wasn’t stitched out of a shadow itself.
“Would you care for a libation?” he asks me, his eyes hopeful.
“No, no, thank you.” I brace myself against his inevitable depression, but when you get a chance to sit down with a fallen angel, the last thing you want to do is have to pee in the middle of the interview. “Where would you like me to wait?”
What he really wants is to feed me, water me like a plant, and give me a bedroom to stay the day in just so he can have one more duvet to straighten first thing at tomorrow’s night fall. But instead, he takes me into the billiards room and departs with another bow.
I am well aware as he retreats that, in fact, he will be bringing me something: He knows that even though I refuse all manner of candy, cakes, pies and the ilk, I cannot refuse homemade buttermilk and raisin scones fresh out of the oven. The jammy sod. And he will also bring me freshly brewed Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in a stainless steel mug with a little sugar. And I will eat two of the scones and feel guilty about it, and I will drink the java, and I will have to pee in the middle.
In fact, I have to use the loo now, but that is just nerves, not true need. I take a deep breath in and smell beeswax and lemon floor polish… and the perfume of great age. Looking around, I think about Darius building this incredible mansion so very long ago, and filling it with precious things, and waiting, probably praying, that Wrath would finally ascend to the throne and the Brotherhood would be united under this venerable roof.
“Build it, and they will come,” I whisper.
And the Brotherhood did. Eventually.
If the Fade is real, and from everything I’ve been shown, it is, then Darius knows that they are all here, safe and sound, together with their growing families. I picture him happy as he stares down, but perhaps he isn’t. Maybe he wants to be with them here, with his daughter and her hellren and his grandson. This makes me sad.
Going further into the room, I look at the pool tables. The balls are perfectly racked in triangles in the center, the cue balls set close to the edge, the sticks lined up in racks on the paneled wall. I see Vishous smoking, a handrolled in between his front teeth, as he leans over and laser-sights the corner pocket. Butch is behind him, with that stocky build, and that wicked strong Boston accent, holding a glass of Goose in one hand and a shot or three of Lag in the other.
I remember the pair of them long ago, long, long ago, upstairs in that second floor bedroom of the house Darius lived in, sleeping side by side on twin beds. Such a beautiful relationship, that nonetheless nearly ended before it started- with Butch’s messy, untimely demise.
It is probably the only good thing the Yankees have ever done. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my bestie, right?
Yes, it’s true Vishous hates me. And honestly, I’m not too fond of him, either. Yet I would do anything for him- and I would love him, if he were in a different place when it came to me.
I am the iPhone of authors for him-
From right behind me, the shht of a Bic lighter makes my heart jump and then thunder, and I close my eyes. As the aroma of Turkish tobacco floats over my shoulder, every single molecule in my body screams at me to ruuuuuuuuuuun!
How could I not have heard him? I wonder. I have the most paranoid ears on the planet.
“Because I didn’t want you to hear me.”
V’s voice is deep and edged with a sarcasm that is justthisclose to cruelty. And his dictation, that accent of the upper class, is the kind of thing that makes you feel stupid- although, hello, compared to him, even a Mensa candidate is a little on the slow side. And I’m no Mensa-anything.
“I hate when you sneak up on me,” I mutter.
“I know. That’s why I do it.”
Bracing myself, I slowly twist around. Oh… God. He’s bigger than I remember. Why are they always bigger than I remember? And his eyes are really, truly, like diamonds, flashing underneath those dark brows. The goatee is in place, and so are the tattoos at his temple. He has his lead-lined glove on, and his wifebeater is black, and yes, he’s in leathers and shitkickers and his body is carved with muscle. All of that is just the same…and yet the impact of him is new and fresh, a combination of someone slapping me across the face and putting an ice pick in my chest.
And as he narrows those eyes at me, I feel like somebody who has fallen into the Siberian tiger pit at a zoo… and one of the great beasts is eyeing me as a source of protein. I am reminded that the women and females who are with these magnificent vampires have sex with them. Regularly. What the hell must that be like? And not as in distilled through the pages in a book, but the actual experience. I move on from that thought quickly.
“I’m here for Lassiter,” I tell him. Even though he knows.
Snap. “Are you… do you know where he is?”
But of course, V doesn’t tell me, and I know better than to ask him. He is the immovable force- and also an irresistible object.
After a long, tense pause, that makes me want to peel my own skin off my bones, he leans in, and exhales. Through the curling, white smoke, he whispers, “Why don’t you be honest.”
I swallow hard. “About what?”
“That I’m actually your favorite…”
To Be Continued Next Month!
Ich bin fantastisch....Aszendent "leck mich"....und bevor du fragst...ich wurde geschaffen...nicht geboren....