Chapter 5 : Thought and Memory
Mindy had never in her life been so nervous to enter a bar. In fact, she’d always considered bars and clubs to be kind of her natural habitat. While not exactly vain, Mindy knew very well that she was an arresting sight. With her cherry apple red hair (well, that was the colour today. Next week it could be blue or pink…or both.) swept up into a polka dot headscarf and her full rockabilly get-up, she’d never had any trouble getting people’s attention, and relished being in the limelight. For the first time though, standing anxiously outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and contemplating going inside with a swelling sense of foreboding, she wished she could just blend back into the night and disappear. Briefly, she felt tempted to do just that but then she thought of her sisters, back at the house, desperately trying to find a way to save them all from the total clusterfuck of a situation she had single handedly landed theml in. Taking a deep breath she straightened her skirt, checked her hair was all in place, and stepped with resolve through the door.
A blast of music and voices assaulted her ears as soon as she entered. As she worked her way through the crowd at the bar, she cast her eyes about looking for the familiar figure of Alina. She’d most likely be sitting in one of the shadowy alcoves towards the back, a safe haven for those who absolutely did not want to be pulled up onto the stage and made to dance the macarena while the drunken crowd cheered and clapped. Unlike Mindy, Alina would rather drag herself over broken glass than have an entire bar full of delighted queers hooting and hollering at her.
Finally, Mindy spotted her. Her stomach dropped a little when she was reminded just how excruciatingly hot Alina was. Standing unseen in the crowd, Mindy was able to take a moment to watch Alina laughing and joking with her friends. In one hand she was holding a full pint, with the other she was gesturing enthusiastically as she spoke. She had one booted foot up on the small table between them, looking effortlessly cool in an old military shirt over a fresh white ribbed tank and tight, torn black jeans. The rings on her fingers and metal beads in her dreads flashed and glinted as her movements caught the light refracting off the disco ball above.
Mindy closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, muttering to herself sternly, “Get a fucking grip, Min. She literally wants you dead. Deader. Permanently dead. Whatever. Keep it in your bloody pants for five seconds.”
After a moment’s thought, she pulled out her phone and began to type. Across the room she watched as Alina’s phone lit up on the table in front of her. Mindy looked on apprehensively as Alina picked up the phone, tensed, and cast her eyes warily around the bar. Spotting Mindy, they narrowed dangerously.
At a loss, Mindy gave a lame little wave then gestured to the front doors. She watched Alina extricate herself from her friends and begin to stalk over to the exit.
Steeling herself, Mindy also moved towards the relative peace and quiet of the smokers’ area outside.
Alina had got there ahead of her and was standing with her arms crossed, a murderous glint in her eye.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here, vampire.”
Mindy recoiled just a little from the seething hatred that positively oozed from every word. Under the pressure of this mega disdain, she suddenly found the carefully constructed speech she’d been practicing all the way to the bar had completely evaporated from her mind, leaving her with no choice but to fumble through in a somewhat less articulate fashion.
“Um, Alina, look…I know you…well, I mean, I’m sorry I…the thing is…”
Alina raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow with a look so profoundly unimpressed that Mindy’s words, incomprehensible though they had been so far, momentarily stuttered to a complete halt. Aware she was now fudging things completely, she gamely pushed on.
“Listen, I’m sorry I ate that cat. I shouldn’t have done that.”
Alina spat one word in reply, “Crossbow.”
Mindy flinched and glanced around nervously, wondering if perhaps Alina was magically summoning her weapon the way they did in Harry Potter. However, when no crossbow appeared she returned her attention to the stony faced professional vampire killer standing in front of her.
“Um, yes, I realise you have a crossbow and I know you think you have to–”
“Crossbow was the cat’s name.”
Mindy frowned in confusion, “Okaaay,” before suddenly a wave of nausea washed over her as she connected the dots, “Oh. Oh god. Oh no. Was…was Crossbow…your…cat?”
Alina’s scowl was all the response needed.
Mindy nodded her head slowly as her mind raced, “Right. Crossbow the cat. Your cat. Which I ate. I see. Uh huh. Yup.”
They stood for a beat in silence, Mindy chewing her bottom lip and wondering what the fuck she could possibly say at this point. Alina’s stare now contained so much loathing she thought she might spontaneously combust from the sheer force of it.
Finally Mindy decided to shoot her shot, “Look, the thing is, it was an accident. I never meant to hurt anyone and I’m really sorry, Alina, and please, please believe me that I didn’t mean any harm. Please can you just forgive me and let it go? Please?”
Alina regarded her with a look of utter disbelief. When she spoke, her voice was like iron, “Are you a vampire, Mindy Cooper?”
“Yes, but I–”
“And do you consume the blood of human beings in order to maintain your unnatural existence?”
“Yes but I don’t–”
“Then I am coming for you and for your whole vile nest. I would suggest that you slither back to your house now to enjoy what little time you have left, before the presence of this many humans is no longer enough to stop me staking you right here, right now.”
Mindy stared into Alina’s face, hopelessly, “Right. Ok then. I guess that’s, um, pretty definitive.”
Alina turned on her boot heel and stalked back into the bar, disappearing into the crush of the crowd. For a moment, Mindy stared after her wondering if she should follow her. She made the first wise decision of that evening, possibly even her life, and decided not to push her luck.
Turning dejectedly, she began the slow trudge homewards to tell her sisters that she had, once again, failed them utterly.
The others were all still trying to figure out a plan of action in the lounge, judging by the fervent murmuring sounds Mindy could hear as she let herself back in, this time through the back door. A little flicker of something vaguely smug-flavoured appeared in her brain. See, she thought, already learning from my mistakes, the back door is a much smarter choice than the front. This teeny self-congratulatory bubble immediately burst, however, as her cover was blown by the sudden appearance of Nisha, entering the kitchen with an empty glass in hand. Mindy wasn’t sure if she’d been extra light on her already softly-goes feet, or whether her own internal monologue had muffled the warning sounds. Both young vampires stood stock still as their eyes met. Mindy’s hand frozen incriminatingly on the doorknob, Nisha’s face indicating shock if not total surprise.
“Going in or out then?”
Nisha’s words had a specific kind of calm that only a mixture of fatigue and bourbon dusted with nihilism could elicit. Guessing there’s no plan yet then, thought Mindy, removing her hand from the doorknob like a guilty kid taking their grubby mitt out of the cookie jar. No point lying now.
“In.” Mindy’s eyes remained locked with her favourite nest mate’s. Nisha blinked, slowly, then trudged towards the fridge.
“I’ve really fucked up this time, haven’t I?” blurted Mindy, softly and without any of her earlier defensiveness.
“This time?” replied Nisha, her features looking particularly weary in the harsh light of the open fridge. “As in, this time that you’ve apparently gone off to some bar despite the fact we’re all facing imminent death and it’s entirely your fault? Or the times, plural, that you fucked one of our mortal enemies, ultimately leading to the aforementioned looming destruction?”
“How do you know I was at a bar?” Mindy’s voice crackled with surprise.
“Look at your hand, dumbass,” sighed Nisha, still staring into the fridge.
Mindy glanced down….ah fuck, entry stamp. Now quite smudgy but unmistakable, particularly to her friend… the DJ.
“You’ve actually got some of it on your face.” Nisha continued, her tone totally flat, as she focussed on rooting around for a snack. Mindy hastily pulled her phone from her pocket and tapped the camera app. Already on selfie mode, as usual. Her mascara had clumped into her lower lashes in a not-so-hot-morning-after style, and there was indeed a strange bruise-like patch of blue from the stamp on her left cheekbone. Crapsticks. Must have rubbed my face on the walk home, she thought, gloomily.
Nisha straightened up from her foraging. She regarded Mindy, who was making a futile effort to rub the ink off the side of her face and making it entirely worse in the process. She sighed with a mix of affection and exasperation.
“Look, Min, I’m not going to tell the others about this, but I think you and I need to have a talk, don’t you?” Nisha sounded like a disappointed but not angry parent. The worst tone to hear from your best friend. “Why don’t you go upstairs and wash up before the others notice? I’ll be up in a minute with something to eat.”
“Thanks babe,” said Mindy, incredibly grateful to have been intercepted by the only one of her sisters that would afford her such leniency right now. She slipped off her wedges and moved as quietly as she could manage towards the stairs, ascending them with the same care and sloping sadly back into the safe haven of her bedroom.
All traces of her solo misadventure washed off, Mindy sank back onto her imposing wooden bed, having swapped her out-out garb for a favourite pair of faded bunny print PJs. May as well be comfy for this next bollocking, she thought, staring at the dark, solid canopy above her, now Mindy-fied with cloud stickers and fairy lights. A soft knock at the door was followed swiftly by the sound of it opening. Mindy looked over, watching as Nisha carefully set a tray with two steaming mugs of blood on her dressing table, pushing back the chaotic tumble of colourful cosmetics strewn across it.
The pair settled themselves against the vast collection of pink, fluffy, and sequinned cushions adorning Mindy’s bed, cupping their hands around the warm mugs like they were auditioning to present a daytime TV gossip show.
“So.” Mindy tried to sound calm but in control.
“So…..why don’t you start by telling me why you went out in the first place, hmm? And where?” Nisha’s voice actually was calm and in control.
Mindy took a long, slow breath.
“I was honestly just trying to help. I thought if I could just speak to Alina, face-to-face….”
“I’m sorry, what-the-who-now?? Tell me you aren’t serious, Mindy?!”
Nisha gaped at her in horror and disbelief. Mindy continued, each word spoken aloud ringing with more and more stupidity in her own ears.
“I thought if I could just speak to her, apologise for running off like that…..I could get her to just leave us alone.”
Nisha’s expression comically frozen in a mask of utter astonishment. “Hold up. Let me get this straight. You honestly thought that leaving the now admittedly compromised but still comparative safety of this house, to go and reason with a disgruntled vampire hunter, was the best course of action available to you? Genuinely?”
Mindy sighed, now fully aware of how totally batshit this must sound.
“I was just so upset with myself for being ‘the dumb one’, again. And really fucked off that you guys weren’t going to let me help fix it. I guess I let those things cloud my judgement.”
“You think?? Mindy, what am I going to do with you?” Now it was Nisha’s turn to sigh.
“I knew Alina would be at the RVT tonight, so I snuck out to go find her there. Things…well, they didn’t go as planned. Turns out, that drunken kitty snack in her back garden, the one I thought was a stray? Not a stray. Or even a neighbour’s. Hers.”
Nisha let out another sigh, eyes closed, rubbing a hand down one side of her face from forehead to neck.
“Fuck, Min. I mean….fuck.”
“Obviously I had absolutely no freaking idea she had a cat, if I had then I would have been more careful.”
“I think, Mindy, that the careful bit should have kicked in long before you found yourself in a situation where you had to work out if you might be about to consume your date’s pet, don’t you?”
That disappointed tone again. Mindy’s tiny violin threatened to start up a mournful dirge again, but she caught it before it started leaking from her face. No more cry baby, Mindy, she thought. Big girl pants time.
“Yeah. It should have. I never, ever meant to put you all in danger. Or myself, obvs. But I know I did. Have. Fuck……I’ve been such an idiot, haven’t I?”
“I wish I could say anything but a resounding yes to that, Min.” Nisha sounded genuinely rueful with this admission. She was worried her attempts to protect the most recently minted vampire in the crew from her own nonsense might actually have enabled her to avoid thinking about the consequences of going foof first into seemingly any and all situations she encountered. The libido boost most new vampires get after turning can be quite startling, but most are able to temper it with a bit of common sense. Those that aren’t able to curb their baser impulses usually don’t survive their first year, either they get caught by a slayer or ‘taken care of ‘ by the wider supernatural community.
“Look…I know I lucked out when you four took me in. I’ve heard of vampires in terrible situations, the ones that survived. Remember Janet?”
Nisha nodded, “The one squatting in that old bank? With the fifth horseman of the apocalypse?”
“Yup. Fucking miserable set up. No wonder she’s at literally every event. Just desperate to be anywhere but that depressing hell hole. Literally.” Mindy shuddered. “So, yeah. I know I’m lucky. Like, really lucky. I guess I just took the safety and security of it for granted, you know? Rested on my Laboutins a bit?”
“A bit more than a bit, babe.” Nisha’s voice sounded much more supportive parent than disappointed one now.
“Yeah. Yeah you’re right. A lot. And I’m truly, truly sorry for what that has led to. Truly.”
The vampires sat quietly for a moment, sipping from their mugs, thoughtfully.
“I want to do better. Like, fully take things seriously. You know, assuming we survive this weekend.” Nisha heard a determination in Mindy’s voice. It was tinged with sadness, but there and real nonetheless.
“I’m very fucking glad to hear that, Min. I really hope that this time you’ve learned your lesson. And that we all live long enough for you to make some changes to your behaviour.”
Mindy nodded, “I have. And I want to help fix this! I want to show the others that I’m not just a loose cannon! Please can I come downstairs?”
Nisha grimaced, “I think, perhaps, you should just stay up here tonight, Min. The others are…still quite tense about this whole situation. I think they need a bit more time, ok?”
Eyes cast downward, Mindy nodded sadly, “Yeah, I get it.”
Nisha leaned over and grabbed her hand, “We all love you, Min. Things…things will be ok. I hope.”
With that, she eased herself off the bed and, with one last glance at Mindy’s slumped shoulders, slipped back out into the hall and down the stairs to the living room.”
Carlotta flopped back into the armchair with a loud sigh, “Fuck my life, maybe we should just do a runner? Spending the next parvum mortis in a heap under a hedge somewhere has got to be better than wading through the incomprehensible wafflings of some grotty old codger from the fifteenth century who thought he could cure gout with two dead chickens and his own semen.”
Cassandra glanced up from the massive, leather-bound book she’d been scowling intensely at for the last two hours, “At least yours isn’t in Old Hittite. This woman writes like teenagers in the 90s used to text. A solid mass of half-words and numbers with no sign that she had ever been introduced to the concept of punctuation.” She paused thoughtfully, “Then again, to be fair, maybe she hadn’t.”
She cast her eyes towards Morgana who was gnawing on the end of a pencil, seemingly completely engrossed in a book on botany and spells, “How are you getting on, Morgana?”
Morgana showed no signs that she had registered Cassandra’s question. Speaking up, she tried again, “Mogana! Have you found anything useful?”
Morgana’s head jerked up as if she’d been jolted from a deep sleep, “Huh, what? Oh, um, no. But I’ve been meaning to read this for literally centuries and it has some really fantastic charms for warding off seeking spells. I’ve never thought to approach it from a fourth dimensional–”
Cassandra cleared her throat loudly, cutting the other woman off before she really hit her stride, “Vampire hunter? Death? Destruction? Clock rapidly ticking?”
Morgana actually blushed delicately and closed the book, “Yes, right, of course. Well, the bad news is there is no way I can reset all of our protective spells in under a week. It has taken years to layer them onto this house. If we had a month or two then maybe, just maybe, I could throw something together that would keep us safe for one night. But not in just a few days. It’s not possible.”
Carlotta groaned melodramatically. At that moment Nisha re-entered the study, pausing to take in the scene. “I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and say there isn’t any good news yet from you lot?”
Carlotta let her head flop to the side so she could look at the new arrival, “How do you feel about a last minute road trip to, say, as far away from here as we can possibly get before Saturday?”
Nisha nodded slowly, digesting this idea, “Ok, bear with me while I get something straight though. Alina is some kind of child of an ancient sect of demon hunters who apparently travel the world ridding humanity of the likes of, well, us?”
The other three all nodded mutely so she continued.
“OK, but she’s currently enjoying her year out in the world, right? Sowing her wild oats and getting all her youthful indiscretions out of the way?”
Cassandra nodded, “Correct.”
“And if I’m not mistaken, during Frolicspan, young hunters are completely cut off from kin and clan? They’re supposed to be fully immersed in the world of regular humanity for the whole year, yes?”
Again, Cassandra nodded, “That’s right.”
Nisha ran one hand through her short, tousled dark hair, “OK, so that works to our advantage then, doesn’t it? I mean, we know she hasn’t called in her whole family. We know that whatever she’s planning, she’s planning to do it alone.”
Carlotta suddenly sat up straight in her chair, excitement lighting up her face, “Yes! So we just kill her then! Problem solved. Brilliant!”
Nisha held up her hands, “No, no that’s not what I meant, Car.”
Morgana shot Carlotta a look, “Come on Car, you know better than that. She may be on her Frolicspan, but if she’s murdered you know someone is going to come looking and if we think we’re in trouble now just wait until a whole posse of Romanovs are kicking down our door.”
Carlotta slumped back into the embrace of the chair, crestfallen, “Why can’t anything ever just be easy?”
With a small chuckle at Carlotta’s maudlin expression, Morgana turned back to Nisha, “So what are you thinking then?”
Nisha frowned as if she was still turning her idea over in her mind, “Well, what we really need is for this to have just…not happened. At least from Alina’s perspective.”
Cassandra smiled slightly in confusion, “I mean, yes, that would be ideal but it did happen so I don’t–”
Nisha interrupted, a look of deep thought still on her face, “No, no you don’t understand. I mean, would it be possible to, like, erase all of this from her memory?”
There was a sudden intense silence in the room broken only by the occasional crack and pop of the fire. Cassandra locked eyes with Morgana as they both turned the idea over in their heads. Carlotta and Nisha looked anxiously back and forth between the two of them as the tension in the room swelled. Finally, Morgana spoke.
“It…could work if–”
Cassandra broke in, “Mnemosyne?”
Morgana nodded, “Yes, although we’d need–”
“Maybe the Night Market?”
“Maybe…is there time though?”
Carlotta stood, making a time out gesture with her hands, “Hold up, hold up. Please use full sentences, the rest of us having absolutely no idea what’s going on right now.”
As if snapping out of a dream, Morgana glanced at Carlotta and then Nisha who was also looking utterly at sea with the turn the conversation had taken.
“Oh sorry, right, well there is a memory spell, a potion actually, that might work but it’s very complicated, requires specific items, many of which we don’t currently have, and it takes time to prepare. And even if we were to prepare the potion it needs to be administered as an aerosol which means someone’s going to have to get up close and personal with Alina.”
Carlotta looked around at her sisters, “Sooooo shall I go put our bags in the car then or…?”
Cassandra held up a hand, “No, Car, I think Nisha is right. If we can, we need to nip this in the bud before Alina brings a howling pack of Romanovs down upon us. If we want any peace at all we need to try and fix this before she finishes her Frolicspan and returns to the fold.”
Carlotta looked from one determined face to the next before throwing her hands up in defeat, “Ok fine. What are these magical items we need to get then?”
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