Mike watched Crandall pace around the room. He’d remained seated on a wobbly old wooden chair for as long as it took for him to share the details of the vampire prophecy and Judas’s demands with Father Chris, and then he was on his feet, pacing, prowling, like a caged lion, waiting for his keeper to leave the gate ajar. He could smell freedom, taste it, but didn’t know when his chance would come.
Father Chris, on the other hand, reclined against the arm of the sofa, hands folded on his stomach as he stared toward the ceiling. Was he seeking Heavenly guidance, or just thinking about the best way to tell them both they were crazy?
“Tell me,” Chris said, “Why do you feel obligated to participate in this prophecy?”
Mike glanced at Father Chris, but the priest was watching Crandall.
Crandall froze midstep, his entire body tense. Slowly, he turned, glaring first at Mike and then at Chris. “They won’t leave us the fuck alone.”
“Crank…” Mike tried to interrupt, but Crandall plowed on, indifferent to who heard his foul mouth.
“Obligated? Hell no. Antagonized is more like it. I gotta do this to make them go away.”
Mike stood, and moved between them. Chris didn’t appear bothered by Crandall’s language, but Mike was. They weren’t in the church itself, but to Mike, the building and the priest deserved the same respect, even if they were in nothing more than a small reception room that was a part of Chris’s private quarters.
“We’d ignore them if we could, Father.” Mike heard Crandall’s soft footsteps resume behind him but ignored his friend for the moment. “They know where we live and aren’t afraid to show up at odd hours to put the pressure on. They’ve come to the dojo too, and the club.” Mike paused, the excuse sounded stupid in his head, but it was true, too: “We don’t exactly have a reasonable excuse to tell the band why we can’t go to a club run by vampires when it’s the best crowd we’ve ever played for.”
Chris smiled his understanding, patient smile. “Do you need more stakes, or blessed water?”
Mike shook his head. Crandall stepped up beside him and spoke. “We need information. We need another way to kill this vampire. He’s stronger than any other I’ve met, by more than I can measure. Stakes and water aren’t going to cut it. I doubt the four of us could bring him down with traditional strategies.”
“You think I have knowledge I haven’t shared.” Chris managed to sound as neutral as possible. Mike couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or offended or amused by this.
“Of course you do.” Crank shoved his hands deep in his pockets and fixed Chris with a hard, unwavering glare. “Everyone knows the church suppresses shit they don’t want out as public knowledge. How do we get our hands on that taboo research?”
Chris bit his lip and Mike was certain it was to hide a sudden smile. Interesting.
“The church does not–”
Chris’s sort-of-smile faded and he hardened his look to match Crandall’s fierceness. “Sit down, please, Crandall.”
When Crandall sat, Mike did too, more because he was stunned Crandall complied so easily than for any need to sit. Crandall could be polite to get what he wanted, but he rarely did so without a lot more prodding.
“The church, as I said, does not have that kind of information.” Chris’s tone was low and steady, like a hypnotist. “However, I know a place that does collect ancient lexicons.”
“Great.” Crandall leaped to his feet. “Let’s go.”
Chris nodded to the chair. Silent.
Crandall stared for a moment and then another. Then with a small nod of his own, Crandall returned to his seat.
Chris continued, “The owners entertain by invitation only. I’ll make a call and see if I can arrange a visit.”
“Thank you,” Mike said.
“Don’t thank me. Prophecy or not, a vampire that strong should be destroyed. However, I can’t promise you two will get an invitation to view the collection. If you do, I strongly suggest you consider how best to approach such an opportunity. If not handled with respect, I may lose a valuable contact to a world the church would not assist us with.
“Crandall, I understand why you make the choices you do, but I’m going to ask you to let Mike do the research.”
“What if I promise not to pick a fight with your friend?”
Chris laughed and visibly relaxed. “If you are able to keep such a promise, I would accept it.”
Crandall snorted and shook his head. “It’s not easy.” Then he smiled an uneasy smile. “I hope I’ll be engrossed in research and Mike can do all the talking.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea.” Father Chris stood, and Mike and Crandall followed him to the back door. “I’ll give you a call, Mike, as soon as I know anything.” He turned to Crandall. “You’ll need to be patient. Sometimes these things take time. My contact has a business to run on top of managing the collection.”
“I don’t know how much time we have,” Mike said, cutting off whatever Crandall was about to spit out.
“I understand.” Chris hugged Mike, and merely smiled fondly at Crandall, before shooing them out the door and into the fragile daylight.