The Vampire Girl in London
As the jet screamed off the runway, I watched the San Francisco Bay Area skyline slowly shrink below us. How beautiful it looked during the sunny afternoon, a sight Sylvia and I would see only rarely.
Sylvia held my hand and smiled fondly. “This is it.The beginning of our future. And we’ll have a home in London.” Her eyes beamed with pleasure. “And friends, too,” she added, nodding her head happily.
“What about Father Callen’s friends?” I asked.
She frowned. “Yes, they’ll still be after us. But we’ll have friends of our own to help us.”
The flight attendant came by and asked what we would like to drink, and Sylvia ordered two Perriers. The view of the sunny scene below began to recede, and both of us squinted against the harsh light until I pulled down the shade.
The flight attendant returned with two bottles of Perrier, which Sylvia poured. She handed one of the glasses to me.
“I propose a toast,” Sylvia declared, raising her glass.
I raised my glass to meet hers. “What shall we toast to?”
Sylvia smiled broadly, revealing all her teeth. “To an eternity together.”
We clinked our glasses together and drank.
An eternity together, I mused. How long it sounded, yet if I had been given a specific amount of time with Sylvia, it couldn’t have been long enough, even if it were a century.
I fell hopelessly and helplessly in love with her when I first met her in the hallway of my apartment building only three short weeks earlier—or perhaps I should say three long weeks earlier, since so much had happened since then.
I remembered her introducing herself in front of my door: “I’m Sylvia Martin. You must be my next-door neighbor.”
“I’m Mark Sheridan,” I said, but I could say no more.
I remembered standing there staring at her, absolutely speechless. She was, quite simply, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. Her eyes were large and dark, and shaped in a most unusual manner—they appeared to flare upwards at the edges, so that the outside corners were higher than the inside. Her lashes were exquisitely long and thick, and black, just like the long hair of hers that framed her delicate face with soft bangs. That silky hair tumbled over the smooth bare skin of her arms, and came to rest just above her waist—a waist so tiny, it made her hips flare out provocatively. Her long legs gave her the same height as me, and accentuated her daintiness. She stood as still as a statue of a goddess, and I stood as still as an idiot who could think of nothing to say.
After an awkward silence, she said, “Aren’t you going to ask me in?” Her face looked at me questioningly, like a little girl locked out in the cold and wanting to come back into the house after playing outside.
How could I possibly resist? That’s how it all started. Sure, I felt bad that my good fortune in meeting Sylvia came about because my last neighbor, Harry, had been murdered. And, as much as I hated Harry and his loud stereo, it had still shocked me how he had lost his life so violently, from loss of blood after his throat had been ripped open, right in his very own apartment next to mine. But I came to realize an important truth: if Harry had not been murdered, Sylvia couldn’t have moved into his apartment, and she and I might have never met, and that would have been a far more serious tragedy.
As I looked into Sylvia’s beautiful and loving eyes staring into mine on the plane, I realized that everything worked out for the best. Sylvia made sure of that.
I glanced around us at the other passengers on the jet. We were seated on the right side of the plane, at the very back. Though almost all of the window aisle rows had three seats, ours had only two because the fuselage narrowed at the end. The last three rows were only two seats across, and we sat at the front of these three rows. Only two rows of empty seats remained behind us. I supposed that the very rear of the plane might
not have been as popular with the rest of the passengers, but that suited Sylvia and me just fine. We appreciated the privacy. The only possible intrusion to this was a man sitting in the aisle to our left, just one row back. We happened to look around and he caught our glance, smiled at us, and raised his own glass, as if toasting us. He seemed pleasant enough, and appeared to be in his early thirties like me. Unlike me, hehad blond hair and blue eyes. Someone might have thought his smile was specifically intended for Sylvia, but she had the window seat, so I was the one who was closer. If there was any further doubt, it was immediately dispelled.
“I’ll bet you’re newlyweds,” he said in a loud voice, necessary to hear above the loud hum of the engines.
“Not yet, but soon," Sylvia said, flashing her engagement ring with the large heart-shaped diamond.
“I thought you were already from the way you toasted each other. Good luck to you both.” He raised his glass again.
We raised our glasses to him, then Sylvia and I turned back to each other. The loud hum of the jet gave us a sense of intimate privacy. We could talk to each other in a normal volume without worrying about someone directly in front or behind us hearing our conversation. Because there was no one directly in front of us or behind us, it made our little spot even more intimate. The blond stranger in the aisle one row back had no chance of hearing us unless we deliberately spoke loudly enough.
Sylvia kissed me on the cheek tenderly with her large sensuous lips, then smiled. She had a wonderful smile; it was not the formal smile of a businesswoman where only the mouth moves and the other features remain frozen to keep things from becoming too intimate; nor was it the self-satisfied smile of a beautiful woman gloating secretly as she is being admired without returning the compliment. No, Sylvia’s smile radiated warmth as she looked at me because her smile came as much from her eyes as from her lips. Her lower eyelids curved up in their own unique way with the outside edges much higher than the inside, so that the lower eyelids themselves had their own smile that could be seen even if her lips could not. From the very moment I met Sylvia, her eyes had enchanted me. The eyes have been called the window of the soul. If so, here was something more unusual—Sylvia’s eyes were black—not dark blue or dark brown—but the darkness that admits no color or light. Upon close observation, it could be seen that the pupils of her eyes were the size of the average person’s pupil and iris together, thus the reason for this anomaly. This gave her gaze an unusual intensity. Stranger still was the fact that after Sylvia and I consummated our love, my eyes became as black and dark as hers.
I glanced at the beautiful Patek Philippe white gold watch Sylvia had given me as a gift only two weeks earlier. It said five-thirty, so we had only been in flight for about two hours. Sylvia caught my glance to my watch. “Well, just think, Mark—in only eight hours or so, we’ll be in London. And with the time difference of eight hours, we should arrive before ten tomorrow morning. We’ll pass the evening on the plane. Not the most romantic setting, but maybe they’ll show a good film.”
“Anything that would drown out the sound of the engines would be fine with me. This noise is driving me crazy. How in the world do you stand it?”
“Why, I simply tune it out and concentrate only on what I want to hear, like the sound of your voice,” she said with a smile. “Here, let’s try a little exercise for fun. With practice, you should be able to hear just as I do.” She pointed at two businessmen seated halfway between us and the center of the plane. “Concentrate only on their voices. Block out the sound of the engines and all the other voices on the plane.”
I tried following Sylvia’s directions. As I tried to focus my hearing, the other conversations became a blur, as if I were changing the dial on a radio. At last I honed in on the conversation of the two businessmen discussing “cost overruns.” Their conversation was so boring, it hardly seemed worth the trouble to listen to. I told Sylvia.
“All right,” she said. “Then try the couple in the front of this section.”
Now I had to concentrate even harder, as Sylvia and I both listened to the couple in the front of the rear section, almost in the very center of the plane. They were arguing about the schedule of their holiday. The conversation didn’t particularly interest me, and I found the strain annoying.
“This is very difficult for me,” I admitted.
“Of course it’s difficult for you. You’ve only been able to do this for a week. It wasn’t easy for me my first week, let me tell you. I didn’t have someone who loved me by my side to guide me. I was all alone. I had to discover everything by myself.”
“I’m lucky to have you,” I admitted.
“We’re both lucky,” Sylvia answered, as she kissed me on the cheek.
I smiled back at her. “I guess we are. It’s hard for me to believe how well everything is going. It seems too good to be true.”
“Well, believe it. Because it is true. Here, let’s try another one.” She pointed at another couple, this time in the front section of the plane between the middle and the very front.
We both focused on their conversation, and found that they were newlyweds on their honeymoon. They spoke of their plans for the future and their baby, which was due in eight months. This provided only an instant of innocent diversion for us, for only a second later, her voice changed to one of terror, and both Sylvia and I heard her words: “Oh my God! They have guns!”
Her next words could not be deciphered, for the whole front section of the plane broke out in a verbal pandemonium mixed with several screams.
“Your attention please,” came a voice over the loudspeakers of the plane, a voice with a distinctly Middle Eastern accent. “Everyone stay in your seats and no one will be harmed.”
Sylvia and I stared at each other, our full attention on the voice over the speaker.
“There will be a slight change in flight plans. This plane is now under control by the Islamic freedom fighters. No one is to move from their seat. If you do as you are told, I promise you will not be shot at this time.”
At least two hundred voices all spoke at once now, voices containing questions, panic, and anger. The voices merged together like all voices of the crowd do, becoming like one loud question: “Why is this happening? What will they do to us?” And I heard several people say aloud what I was thinking—on September 11th, the hijackers told the passengers everything would be okay if they cooperated, then they flew the planes into the buildings.
“We are merely going to land in a country that is neutral to our people. Then you will be exchanged for the freedom fighters held by the infidels.”
From the front of the plane, Sylvia and I could hear a voice ask, “What if they won’t let your friends go free?”
“Pray that they do,” came the response of one of the gunmen.
Sylvia’s eyes welled up with tears and she balled her delicate hands into little fists. “They can’t do this to us. I looked forward to our being together for so long,” she sobbed.
The voice came over the speakers again: “At this time, everyone will place their passports in their laps for inspection. No one may leave their seats for any reason.”
I looked around and saw people nervously fumbling for their passports. All, except for the blond man behind us to the left, who seemed to move more smoothly and more confidently than the rest. He quickly pulled an American passport and his wallet out of a jacket pocket and slipped them discreetly under his seat. Sylvia leaned over me to see what I was looking at, and then we both saw him open his attache case at his feet. He withdrew a Walther .380 caliber automatic, complete with silencer attached, and wrapping a newspaper around it, hid it in the magazine pouch on the back of the seat directly in front of him.
“Oh no,” said Sylvia. “Is he one of them?”
I assured her that he wasn’t.
“How can you be so sure?”
“If he were one of them, he wouldn’t be trying to hide his gun—or his American passport.”
Just as I finished saying that, he pulled a Canadian passport from his other jacket pocket and placed it patiently on his lap.
In the front of the plane were two gunmen. One had a beard, and carried a large handgun. He kept looking around, then finally satisfied himself with staying in the front section, while the other decided to join those of us in the rear section. Both men were very well dressed.
The hijacker in the rear section had a moustache and his hair was black like the man in front. He also had a large handgun. Though he was not too close to me yet, I guessed that the revolver might be a .357 magnum, or worse yet, a .44 magnum—the type used by Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry movies. I knew that such a gun would easily blow a hole through the side of the plane, probably plunging us all to our deaths. But, then a moment later, the gun lost some of its significance as the gunman pulled a hand grenade from inside his jacket.
One of the passengers offered him advice on international diplomacy. “You may as well let us go free now. America never negotiates with terrorists.”
The hijacker smashed the man’s face with his handgun, breaking his nose and bloodying his white shirt, then pointed the barrel at the man’s face. “Don’t ever call me a terrorist,” he warned.
There was a brief stirring in the seats, as if someone might get up, but the gunman quickly squelched such notions. He swiftly pulled the pin from the hand grenade, being careful all the while to keep the tension on the handle so it wouldn’t explode.
Holding the revolver and the pin in one hand, and the delicately held grenade in the other, he strolled through the aisle. “I expect your total cooperation,” he explained to the passengers. “If our mission succeeds, you will all live; if it fails, we will all die. We are all in this together. Yes, together we will fulfill our religious destiny.”
Sylvia simmered. “I’d like to fulfill my religious destiny right now. I’d like to kill him.”
My hand instinctively went to the small quarter-sized medallion around my neck—the same medallion Sylvia gave me just a couple of weeks earlier.
“I don’t think you’d want him to die right now,” I said. “If he drops the grenade, the plane will crash.”
“He can’t hold it forever. He’ll put the pin back in.”
Sylvia was correct. After a few minutes, he grew tired of his display of power, placed the pin back in the grenade and clipped it to his belt. Meanwhile, his friend in front amused himself by brandishing a long curved knife as he inspected the passports of the people in the front of the plane. Occasionally, both men would hit a passenger in the face with a gun if he were to turn around. They wanted things to remain orderly, apparently, and having people look around greatly angered them.
The gunman in our section of the plane began leafing through passports placed on people’s laps as he looked for anyone he considered hostile to his cause. Although I felt he was looking possibly for Israelis, I sensed he wouldn’t be fond of Americans, and not the British, either. I got my answer to this as he stopped in front of us, and Sylvia handed him her British passport.
“British,” he said, passing Sylvia’s passport back to her. “We will never forget that your country always helps the Americans to attack our fighters."
“And we will never forget,” Sylvia replied, “the London bombings, and all the terrorist attacks in Europe. You cowards think you're getting seventy-two virgins? Dream on. You'll die a virgin."
I placed my hand on Sylvia’s. “We better leave politics and religion for another time,” I suggested.
The gunman snatched my passport as he threw Sylvia’s back to her and tried to ignore her. “I don’t like your governments and I don’t like the two of you,” he said. “Later, you may be sorry you made me remember you so well.”
As if to give me one more minor insult on top of everything else, the gunman dropped my passport on the floor. I bent down to pick it up. As I did, the silver medallion on the silver chain I wore around my neck slipped out from underneath my shirt.
“What’s this?” asked the gunman, pointing at it.
“A gift from me,” said Sylvia. “For good luck and as a symbol of our love.”
The gunman’s eyes narrowed into slits of hate. “Ah. Jewish!”
“You stupid twit!” Sylvia yelled. “That’s a pentagram, not a Jewish star. Can’t you see the difference?”
He tried to grab it and I pushed his hand away. He reached for it a second time and as my hand blocked his, Sylvia reached out and grabbed his wrist. He jerked his hand away, but not before her nails carved into his skin, causing him to shriek in pain and grab his bleeding wrist. His reaction was to reach forward and try to hit Sylvia in the face with his pistol, but I moved between the two of them, and the gun struck me across the forehead right above my eye. He tried again to strike her, and as I blocked him again, I felt the gash open up as the pistol ripped my skin open a second time. My hand instinctively went to my forehead and I felt it wet with blood and already swollen. As I did this, his hand jerked the chain from my neck. He held it up as if it were a trophy and sneered at me. “So now I have your Jewish good luck piece.” Sylvia’s face first registered pity for the deep gash on my forehead, then hatred for him.
“That medallion isn’t going to be good luck for you. It’s the Baphomet. The symbol of Satan,” she said.
The gunman’s eyes widened as he looked at the medallion more closely—at the sign of the goat’s head inside the inverted pentagram.
“Satan,” he repeated, in awe and fear. “America, the Great Satan.”
Sylvia’s hate flowed from her eyes to his. “America isn’t the Great Satan,” she hissed. “I am.”
I saw fear and anger in his eyes as he stared at both of us and then the medallion.
“Both of you are Satans,” he said, as if this were some kind of revelation. “If the freedom fighters are not released when we land, I shoot you two first.”
He tucked the medallion into his front pocket as if he were in shock, then corrected himself before he walked away.
“No, even if the freedom fighters are released, I still shoot you both!”
(End of sample chapter.)