Friday, January 28, 2011
Friday Excerpt from CLANDESTINE
The picture to your left here is the limestone apartment/house I have based Elizabeth's place in NYC on. I know that it has a carriage house in the back as it was advertised on it a bit ago when it was up for sale. Technically its a brownstone but NYers call it a limestone as it's not, well...brown. :)
And because I have a picture of it for you...and it's Friday...I thought I'd give you the section in the book where Sean arrives at this location.
So...have a great Friday and weekend. If you're in the NE of the US...stay warm and inside if you can. I can't as I'm off to a Writers Group meeting tomorrow and then a play...and on Sunday I'm helping out with a friend's band's photo-shoot...but I hope to sleep and lay around like a sloth in there somewhere!
***Note: Also, for those of you who've read LDG (which takes place eight years after this does) or Moon Over Manhattan (which takes place 21 years after this), you'll recognize a character...obviously she's a bit younger. :)
Excerpt from Chapter Six
What day is it? I looked again at my watch. Sunday. No wonder it was quiet. Everyone was either at church, where I should be, or sleeping in from partying too much last night, like I was. “Not that I’d call that partying,” I said out loud. I did that a lot—--talked to myself out loud; especially when I was in an empty apartment.
After taking a good half hour to wake up I washed my face and wet my hair---as it looked like I’d been break dancing on it all night. I was tempted to lie back down but weekends are when people went to look at available apartments; I needed to leave. If I wanted extra sleep it’d have to be in my car.
Then I remembered the money Elizabeth had given me last night and decided there was only one thing that sounded better than more sleep; a hot breakfast at the diner down the street on Dyckman. I quickly packed up and peered out my usual window. I saw no one of interest so I slipped out and worked my way down the fire escape until I landed on the sidewalk. A few people passed by me with a strange look but they were either walking their dogs or dealing with children so I wasn’t more than a blip on their radar.
I put my things in the car, locked it up and headed to the diner. I got a seat in the back where I could watch the door and ordered the works; pancakes and eggs with bacon and an English muffin. I even had her throw in a side order of grits with cheese to make it complete. I’d drunk way too much last night and was desperately craving greasy food.
While I waited I slipped outside to the corner and got a paper and came back, reading through for my usual events. The usual articles littered the pages. There was an article about Rudolph W. Giuliani and David N. Dinkins running for Mayor and the negative tactics being used. There was stuff on how President Bush vetoed a bill to help the poor pay for abortions, no shock there, and then the usual articles on the increasing problems in the lower east side and the crack epidemic.
“If they only knew how bad it really is,” I thought as I pictured the club Sodom and Gomorra from the night before, and the vampires feeding off of the humans wasted on crack.
I flipped through and read random pieces here and there. I was half way through an article in the Fashion section entitled "East Village: Quirky Mix for Rockers, and Bankers," which talked about all the great stores like Trash and Vaudeville that catered to the Goth/Industrial Scene attire, when my food arrived. The food then got my full focus.
After I’d eaten to the point of bursting at the seams I took a nice long nap in my car and with a few hours of sunlight left I grabbed the train to the address on Elizabeth’s card. It was in the nicer part of town at least—--still over on the East Side but this was located on 61st street east of 3rd Avenue; I could tell by the address.
I got off the yellow line at the Lexington stop and came topside at 60th and 3rd. Looking at the card again I headed up to 61st and turned right. The limestone, which is like a brownstone but white, was on my left just before 2nd Avenue. As I approached the double set of black doors I suddenly got nervous and instead of knocking, I lit a smoke and stood on the street for about fifteen
minutes arguing with myself on why I was there. I never said I was a genius.
After I convinced myself to just go ahead and fucking knock already I ran to the door and knocked before I could change my mind. When no one came to the door right away I turned to leave. I got about four steps and then turned around and went back. This time I rang the bell, which sounded more like a gong from what I could hear from my side of the door.
Looking up at the sun in the sky I realized there was a possiblity she was still sleeping. Just the thought made me wonder where she slept. Was it in the basement? Did she sleep in a coffin? Who watched over her during the daytime? Was it some old bat of a woman who was a witch? Would she see me and turn me into a toad?
Thankfully I heard the locks on the door start to undo just as my imagination was beginning to get out of control. And as the door started to open I had to blink a few times to register what I saw. Standing there, small as she could be, was a little Chinese girl, no more than maybe eight or nine years old with short black hair that was so black it was a bit blue and beautiful blue eyes.
“Can I help you?” She asked.
This was not what I had expected. I was speechless at first as her big blue eyes blinked as she looked up at me. When I found my voice it cracked as I said, “Is your mom here?”
“Desi—who’s at the door?” A heard a voice yell from inside the brownstone.
“He hasn’t said.”
Suddenly the door opened further a beautiful Chinese lady stood there, easily in her thirties, and a smile on her face. “Can I help you?”
“Uh, hi…I might have the wrong house. I’m looking for Elizabeth? I’m a friend of hers from the club.”
“She mentioned you might come by. Patrick was it?”
I smiled on the inside. She had done her homework. Patrick was my middle name. “Yes ma’am. Patrick Valentine.”
“Great. Come on in. She’s upstairs in the sun room. I’ll show you.”
“I can take him up,” the little girl said.
I looked at the woman and she said, “My name is Pearl Ma, by the way. This is my daughter, Desiree—--we call her Desi.”
“Desi?" I asked as I then looked at the little girl, "That’s a pretty name.”
“Thank you,” she said, her face flushing a bit.
“Go ahead and take Mr. Valentine up to see Lizzie.”
Desi smiled at her mom and then quickly grabbed my hand and started to pull me up the stairs. As we reached the third floor we walked down a short hall and then it all opened up and the whole back room of the top floor was exactly as they’d said; a sun room. And there, sitting in the middle of it, laying on a chaise lounge in a pair of jeans and a nice black sweater was Elizabeth, reading the paper.
“I wondered how long you were going to stand on the street,” she said without looking up, which I was thankful for as I felt my face flush a bit with embarrassment.
“Just wanted to get a last smoke in before I came in,” I lied.
“Uh-huh.” She looked at me over the paper and saw the delivery girl. “Desi, thank you for showing my guest up. Would you be so kind as to go get the tray of sandwiches and tea we put together earlier?”
Desi nodded vigorously and then with a wave at me hurried out of the room.
“They’re adorable at that age,” I said as I watched her leave.
“They’re adorable at any age if you ask me—but I’m a softy when it comes to kids.”
“Do you have any?” I asked, tentatively.
She set the paper down. “No. And now I’m too old to have them. But, I live vicariously through other members of The Great Order. Come, sit with me.”
“Can’t have any?”
“The female living vampire is only fertile until they are twenty five. After that they are pretty much barren. Our bodies slow down the aging process at that point. I’m fertile for only one year every ten and in that year I would need to get pregnant in the first half so as to carry to term. And that only goes on until I’m forty or so. So, it’s pretty close to impossible unless you really plan it.”
“It’s okay, I’ve lived with this knowledge my whole life; I’m fine with it. Come, sit down.” I walked over tentatively and sat in the second chaise that was parallel to the one she sat in and looked around. I must’ve looked completely stunned because she started to laugh. “You weren’t expecting me to be in the basement filing my nails by a coffin, were you?”
“Pfft! No way! I’m not that close minded.”
“Uh-huh.” She laughed lightly as if she knew I was lying.
“I do have one question though…” I said as I pointed to the ceiling of glass.
“Vampire glass. It is formulated to let in the sun but not the rays that burn vampires. Works much like sun block for humans I suppose.”
“I think so. It’s rather new actually. This was one of the first homes Phoenix had it put in. They’re currently installing it in his home just outside Boston proper.”
I still was looking up at it in wonder when I heard the clinking of china entering the room. It was Desi. She held a tray of sandwiches in one hand and in the other was a pot of tea, two tea cups, a tiny creamer with milk and a little bowl with sugar and what I would call a baby spoon. She set it down on the glass topped round table that was between the two chaise lounges and then smiled at me.
“Thank you very much,” I said.
With that she giggled and hurried off.
“She thinks you’re cute,” Elizabeth said out of the blue as she turned and poured the tea.
“And you know this because?”
“I can hear her thoughts when she doesn’t guard them. Kids aren’t as good at it as adults are.”
“Vampires are telepathic?”
“Yes. But only with each other and with witches.”
“And Desi is a…”
“Witch. A Water Witch to be exact. Do you like milk and sugar?”
“Not a tea man?”
“Not usually but I’m all for change. Seems many things are changing in my life so why not more of it.”
She smiled up at me and then said, “Good cover with the name. I’m glad you thought before giving your first name.”
“Well, I sorta figured if we’re going to make my real name into some boogie man for vamps maaaybe I shouldn’t give it to the people you’re staying with.”
“See, I knew you were smart.” She handed me my tea. “Actually, they’re staying with me. This is one of my family’s homes.” She motioned to the sandwiches, “Dig in, they’re all for you. I’ve already eaten.”
In a normal situation I would’ve said something like, “are you sure?” but I knew she was sure so I grabbed what looked like a cucumber and turkey sandwich and took a bite.
“Fantastic. You eat and I’ll talk. There’s a lot to cover and not a lot of time to do so. We have places to be tonight.”
“Places to be? Like where? Not that club again please God...”
“No. Not yet. Tonight we go see an underground medicine woman.”
“Meaning off the grid…practicing outside the laws of The Great Order.”
“She’s a witch then I take it?”
“Yes and a brilliant one at that."
“And you need to see her tonight because?”
“Not me…you. Remember how I said I can make you faster and stronger? Well, tonight we do that. Tonight we begin the process. After tonight there is no going back, Sean. Are you sure you are prepared to do all that is required of you so we can do what must be done? This is your last chance to back out. Think about it carefully.”
I suddenly felt a wave of fear surge through my veins as the words, “I don’t know” lept to the tip of my tongue. But then I looked at her and remembered what was at stake. I remembered what it felt like last night as I lie awake thinking of my family—--of my promise to Page. How I realized that as things stood now I honestly couldn’t do the good I wanted; that I needed help.
“I’m sure. But this time, how about you tell me first vs. show first.”