Harrison R. Bradlow wants to make sure that the book is the best we both can produce. I am satisfied with my efforts but he wants to go over it with a fine tooth comb. Since Tales of Aradia belongs to both of us I refuse to release the edited second version of the book until he is satisfied. Right now he is working on it and I hope by Jan 2015 he will be finished.
He will write a post describing his intentions as well. Here is his website which contains his blog.
In the mean time,
I will post the first 15 pages of the draft of the edited second version so far:
"Please..." the battered girl pleaded, "please let me go. I beg you!"
“Oooh she's begging now, I like that.”
She jerked her head around and tried to tilt it toward the man who had just spoken. How long have I been here? She thought. Is it day? Is it night? Are people even still looking for me? Oh God! Does my mother think I’m dead?
“I still can't believe you guys,” a different voice spoke, from a different angle. “Snatching up a girl outside a Catholic school. I told you to grab a hooker. Why didn’t you grab a hooker? Someone who wouldn’t have been missed would have been so much easier.”
“I think you just answered your own question, bruh.”
She jerked her head to the left this time, bruised and bleeding, but not broken. If I escape, I can help identify these freaks, but only if I can see them under this blindfold. She longed to rub her eyes over the spots where the cloth was wound so tightly.
“The fun is in the challenge. You never did get that, did you?”
This one sounds like he’s the boss
Robbed of sight, she listened keenly. She heard soft scrapes, like someone shuffling the soles of sneakers. She jerked back when she felt someone’s cold fingers run through her hair, but the hand forced her head down. Those cold fingers kept weaving themselves through her locks, and she heard a soft chuckle. “Such lovely red hair, like the color of fire itself.”
“Careful brother, you promised to share.” The third man again. Oh please God, don't let them do this to me! If thou be a loving and merciful God, please save me!
“But you forget,” said the calmer one, “because she is isn't an easy target, she's bound to be missed. An investigation has already begun, I am certain.”
A cold, shrill laugh seemed to echo everywhere. “I’m less than concerned with the police.”
“Either way, I say we just forget her and move on.”
She heard two groans of sadness. “But she's our third one! And she's the best we’ve had so far! I don't want to get rid of her!”
Get rid of her? Oh God! They’re not talking about releasing me!
“We could take her with us.”
The girl cringed as she felt a different hand, just as cold, this one running up her heavily bound leg. She tried to shrink back, but the chair only creaked and remained in place.
“No,” she heard the logical one of the trio state firmly, “we agreed that we would not keep any of them, and with good reason. Logistically that type of operation is too complicated. And besides, brothers, look on the bright side. This means we get to go hunting for a new one. I know there is nothing you love more than a hunt.”
“You remember the chase don't you my dear?” the more cool-headed one whispered in her ear. “You remember the fear racing through your mind, the realization that there are monsters chasing you, your heart pumping so much of its sweet blood, and the wonderful screaming. The melodic, elongated screams my brothers and I savored as we ushered you into your trap.”
There was a sinister chuckle from behind her. “You should have seen your face, dearie, when you realized where you were, that you had no further redout.”
“I think she realized the moment she saw the chair, and the ropes.” The second man then cackled again.
“And you remember all the things we did to you afterwards? Do you remember my dear? Remember!”
The girl burst into tears, sobbing fat, heavy drops of saline which dripped through the cloth and fell to the concrete floor.
“God, please,” she pleaded, though to her captors or the Almighty, she wasn’t quite sure, “please just let me go! Just let me go please. Don’t kill me! I’ll do anything. I’ll do anything you want me to. Please.”
In unison the three began to laugh. “Kill you? We aren't going to kill you, Nika dear, that was never the idea.” The logical one said as he raised his lips from her ear.
She sighed in relief before feeling the harsh cut of cloth sharper around her eyes. Is he yanking at my blindfold or tightening it?
“No, not immediately at least. We’ll have you one last time, all three of us, then abandon you to the elements, while you hope and pray someone does check this place and does find you. Maybe they will. Maybe not. That’s part of the fun of it, too, dearie.” Another cackle. “That's what we will do.”
Wood splintered, and the girl cried as she was torn from the chair by one of her assailants. He tossed her like a bag of flour to a mattress, which had itself in turn been flung carelessly on the ground. Her bonds burned at her wrists and she whimpered. In moments all three of the men were on her. One grabbed her arms and yanked them behind her head, licking at her wounded wrists. Another seized her by the waist and pulled her towards him, lowering his head to her flesh. The third trailed his tongue along her legs. The one who held her by her wrists whispered calmly, apparently trying to soothe her, before coming down hard on her arm with his mouth. As blood dribbled down his chin, the girl screamed even louder.
Aradia jerked awake, and almost immediately her hands went to her wrists. She felt her neck and threw the covers off her legs. It felt so real, I really felt like I was being… violated by those awful vampires. God! It felt like it was really happening.
She sighed heavily before dragging herself out of bed and slowly making her way to the bathroom. She splashed water on her face, as memories of the horrible nightmare came flooding back to her. God those awful men! And that poor girl. I felt every ounce of her pain, her fear, and her desperation. What a horrible dream.
She sighed before looking up into the mirror and watching the water slowly drip off her face. It must have been this Caradoc thing. Yes that's it. That must be it. I’m still freaking out about the murders, and the murderer. I’ll bet that’s the reason I had the nightmare. That, and probably what Mr. Dayton told me after.
“They hunted down and killed every last witch,” Mr. Dayton’s words echoed throughout the air.
“He means genocide,” Ross said. “Genocide, dammit, genocide.”
Aradia remembered how the air had suddenly grown thick, hot, and stifling.
“Every…” She had stated in disbelief.
“Or so they thought,” Mr. Dayton had concluded, his words still feeling vague and far off. The air had become soup by then, hot and thick, like clam chowder, and she had felt like she had been drowning. The room had gone and Aradia was at the bottom of the sea, alone, but still the conversation burned right through her. There was no one else there, drowning with her, but all eyes rested on Aradia.
“They couldn’t!” she resisted. “The Nazis tried this and failed.”
“The hiddens tried it and did not fail,” Mr. Dayton had replied, “but for one survivor.”
“That would make me…” she remembered sputtering.
“Yes, Aradia,” his words had danced around her like a devil on someone’s shoulder. “You are alone. You are the last of your kind. You, Aradia Preston, are the last witch.”
“I’m not the last!” Aradia shot forward, banging her face into the bus seat in front of her. The student sitting there, a chubby boy a year older than she was, turned and shot her a nasty glare.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, wiping the drool from her chin. “I didn’t sleep well last night.” He didn’t reply and turned forward again. Aradia found it ironic that she couldn’t sleep at night, and couldn’t stay awake during the day. It was all backwards. Well, backwards for a human, but she figured she was close enough to human that it was backwards for her too.
"It's not true. I am not the last. I am not alone, I'm not..." Aradia whispered to herself repeatedly for the remainder of the bus ride. Her human bus mates ignored her, and her hidden bus mates gave her space. The humans knew nothing of her role in solving the Vampire Murders. The hiddens knew, generally, that she’d been involved, and that earned her credibility. It was still a secret, however, what she truly was. To them, the witches were a near mythical, lost race.
No matter how she tried to focus on her mantra, her mind was still heavily plagued. As Aradia sat on the bus, she realized it had been nearly two weeks since she had learned the truth about her legacy. But it seems more like months, she thought bitterly, years even. And yet I can remember every horrible detail and every horrible thing that has happened. Fighting Caradoc, realizing for the first time there are people as strong as me. That serious expression Mr. Dayton wore as he looked me in the eye and told me all of my kind had been slaughtered over two hundred years ago. And now this awful dream.
At first, Aradia had done well. Surprisingly well. Her mother had been concerned, actually, because of how easily she seemed to take the revelation. However, with the excitement of the hidden tribunal, the ongoing human investigation, and general exposé on the seven o'clock news about Dereck Caradoc being the Vampire Murderer, it had been easy to bury her feelings. Of course, they had not said on the news that Dereck Caradoc was a werewolf, but that's to be expected. Then the adrenaline began to fade and Aradia’s mood had fallen, hard and dramatically. She’d been in a funk so deep she didn’t see any way out. Probably what brought on that horrible dream, Aradia had deduced.
Despite the enormous outpouring of concern from her friends and strangers alike, for she was now something of a celebrity, she had grown even more quiet, withdrawn. As the weeks went by, she seemed almost comatose in her classes and ate by herself. It shocked her how little anyone around her seemed to notice her growing depression. In fact, she found quite the opposite. Her popularity only grew. Those lower on the social ladder seemed in awe of her. She quickly became the first student picked for dodge ball or any other sport. The contradiction didn’t make any sense to her.
During a free period she was inspired by a sudden idea, and for the first time, she felt like she might have some recourse. She rushed to the library, found an empty workstation with a computer, and Googled “Salem Witch Trials.” About a quarter of a second later, she had 916,000 results.
This, Aradia hoped feebly, might give me the answers I need.
“Help me!” Patrina shrieked as she ran down the street, “help me! Somebody!” Her first instinct was to go to the nearest house and pound on the door, but a stone from out of nowhere hit her in the knee the moment she tried to race up a road. Now limping, and blood running down her calf muscle, she tried to flee down a grassy pathway that lay between two houses. The windows in both of the houses were pitch black, and the driveways were empty. It’s seven o’clock on Wednesday, how is nobody home? She thought bitterly as she tried her best to limp quickly without further injuring and slowing herself. She reached the end of the pathway that emptied out into another street before finally collapsing. Now! Someone must hear my screams now! It's the only way for me to get help, before they get me. She threw her head back and screamed, but a huge hand came out of nowhere and a rag clamped over her mouth. “You gave us a good chase doll, I will admit that.”
Patrina’s eyes widened in fear as she stared at the familiar pale face with its dark brown framing. She’d seen him before, though she couldn’t place how she knew him. The roundness of his face brought more emphasis to his cruel smile. His black eyes seemed to dance as he held the cloth over her mouth, in spite of her struggles and her digging at his hand with her fingernails. He seemed to relish it.
“I simply must admit,” the man pronounced with a shrug, “you were smarter than the rest were. You even ignored our attempts to use your friends to ensnare you. It wasn't hard you know, threatening your friends to get them to bring you to us. In fact, you should have been insulted to see how easily they were willing to give you up. They didn’t resist, or contact your police. They just gave you up to us. What comes next is their doing, really. Though I’ll grant that being threatened with torture is a powerful motivator.”
He slowly brought his cold lips down to her ear as she started to drift slowly to sleep. “But no matter how much you fight it, it doesn't matter. You see, my brothers and I, we have been at this game for far too long to let anything surprise us. We know how to hunt, how to track, most of all, we know how to get what we want, and what we want right now is you m’dear. You and you alone.”
He lightly brushed away a lock of red hair from her face as Patrina’s eye finally closed. The last thing she was aware of before consciousness escaped her was his tongue on her cheek. He chuckled softly before scooping her into his arms, looking carefully at the ground to make sure nothing dropped from her pockets.
“Why a rich private school uniform would even have pockets is a surprise to me,” he muttered before hearing the screech of a van.
“Dunc! Get in now!” Hissed a man wearing glasses, a light blue vest, khakis, and shoulder length blonde hair.
“Coming, coming,” Dunc muttered, stomping over to where the gray van stood.
The bespectacled one waited, drumming his fingers on the door, and shifted his gaze quickly to the left and the right of the street.
“This whole damn neighborhood’s deserted Tavis, don't worry about it,” Dunc assured him as he slouched down and squeezed through. As he sat down on the van’s floor, and Tavis shut the door, Dunc nodded and the van took off.
“How do you know?” Tavis demanded.
Dunc shrugged as he placed the girl down, and began to bind her wrists with thick rope, making sure to loop the end of the rope to the handle of the other door. “Wait until she finds out the door is bolted shut from the outside,” he chuckled, “I think the first one figured that out and the look on her face was priceless. Or was it the second?”
“First,” the driver clarified without taking his eyes off the road, “I remember.”
Dunc smiled. “Thanks Korrigan.”
“Still, Dunc,” Tavis pointed out, “how did you know that the neighborhood was deserted.”
Dunc shrugged as he bound the girl’s feet with ropes as well. “It’s hump day, and that was a rich neighborhood. Each of the houses cost about a quarter mil, at least. Those aren't the kind of people who stay at home even in the middle of the week. I do my research before a hunt. Know the land.”
“Still,” Tavis insisted, “you don't know that for sure. Hell, for all we know someone could have seen us.”
“So?” Dunc asked, his face blank as a canvas. “Once we get the girl to our place, we are going to ditch and burn the van. If it comes to it, we can change our appearances. No one is going to know it was us, and no one is going to find us.”
“They didn't the first three times,” Korrigan chimed in as he took a sharp turn.
Tavis reached out a hand to steady himself against the door. “Nobody’s caught us because we’ve been careful. We let that slip, and our track record means nothing. Maybe you’re right, but it never hurts to be cautious.”
Korrigan laughed. “Spoken like a true big brother, Tavis. I guess some things never change.”
Dunc chuckled as he placed duct tape over Patrina’s mouth. “Yeah, I bet what we are doing now is a real change from the way your life used to be.”
That's an understatement, Tavis thought, as his gaze swept over the girl lying tied up and gagged, my life before this one was never like this. The life I had, the dreams I had, even my name was different back then.
"Master Maurice, your breakfast is ready!"
Maurice kicked the sheets off his bed. It was hot and sticky, but that was to be expected. It was getting close to June so the humidity from the summer was sure to follow. And summer means summer parties. Maurice smiled to himself as he threw his light dressing robe on, and slipped on his slippers. Summer parties means girls looking for husbands. Eager, pretty, plump and pleasing girls. Girls all too eager to earn themselves a suitable man. I may be too young to get married, but they don't know that and what they don't know won't hurt them. He chuckled to himself as he walked out of his room.
The halls to the manor were long and so pearly white that they almost seemed to shimmer when the slaves opened the windows. It was 7:00 am, but these slaves had been up since three. There were a lot of things to be done on a Mississippi plantation, and not just in the manor. The fields, the cotton processing, and so much more. These were house slaves, though. They were spared the worst physical labor.
It's a damn good thing we can afford so many slaves to get the work done. Maurice chuckled as he finally entered the dinning room. That was one downside of a manor this size: the time it took to get between any two points within it. His father was already at the head of the table and dressed for the day. Wade, his twin, was already seated as well and munching his eggs greedily. Two male slaves dressed in the family livery stood near the kitchen while a few female slaves catered to the table. His father frowned, which always made Maurice laugh. I can't help it. What with his thick mustache and pale complexion... he looks like a painted puppet.
"What's so funny, dear brother of mine?" Wade asked, his mouth full of egg.
His father frowned even deeper. "Honestly children, didn't your mother raise you both to behave like proper gentlemen?"
Maurice sat down as a female slave rushed forward to pile food upon his plate. "We are almost eighteen Papa, we are not children anymore."
"Then stop acting like them!" His father snapped sharply. He then turned back to reading the paper.
Maurice turned to eat his breakfast. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his brother stretch out his arms so his hand could deliberately rest on the slave girl's waist. Her eyes flew open, but she didn't budge. Wade seemed encouraged by that and started to grip her middle.
Maurice shook his head, and shot a sideways glance at his father. Wade just rolled his eyes and then reached his hand towards the girl's bosom. She stiffened and shut her eyes. Wade's smile became more like a lecherous grin.
His father, eyes still on the paper, flipped a page and snapped. "Wade, if you feel a need to associate yourself with the likes of such company, you will do it privately. Southern gentlemen do not fondle their mistresses at the table." With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the girl who curtsied and eagerly rushed away.
Wade, his grin now gone, returned begrudgingly to his breakfast.
Maurice had half finished his before he noticed something amiss. "Where's mother?"
His father sighed deeply. "She's not feeling any better today."
Maurice's ears perked up a bit. "Can I go see her?"
His father shrugged. "After you change into proper clothes."
"Maurice, my son! How lovely for you to visit me today."
Maurice grinned as he looked at the weakened southern lady laying in her big, fluffy, white bed. Her once shiny and wavy brown hair lay limp about her shoulders. The bloom was gone from her cheeks, her blue eyes dull as dirty marbles, and her lips chapped. She looks old, Maurice thought. Yet he rushed toward his mother with open arms as if she was still the most beautiful women in all of the South. His mother, Antoinette Le Roux, in her younger days, had been well known by her contemporary men and women alike. The most exquisite and richest woman of the age. Heiress to a vast plantation fortune and with a beauty and wit to match. His father had had more than enough competition for her hand, and yet in the end he proved once and for all the family motto was accurate: "A McAlester never loses."
Story of my life. Maurice chuckled.
"You are much too thin, Maurice," his mother tsk-tsked at him. "Are you ill?"
Sounds hilarious coming from you, Maurice thought before saying, "No Mother, I am fine. I was just coming to check on you."
He then flashed his dashing smile with the twinkle sparkling in his eye. He’d used that charm with great effect many times before. This, however, was his mother he was smiling at.
She grinned conspiratorially. "What do you want now?"
Maurice drew back. "Why mother, I don't know what you mean."
She folded her thin arms and half-smiled. "You only 'come to check on me' when you want something, so how much do you want?"
Maurice tossed his head casually. He thought this would add a bit sincerity, but his mother just stared at him. He then sighed, and held up two fingers close together. "Just a little."
She laughed softly and pointed toward her dresser drawer. He eagerly bounced up from the bed, and pulled out the lower drawer. He pulled out the cash and counted it. "Thank you mother."
She smiled. "Anything for you, Maurice."
He nodded and was about to leave. After one glance, he went to his mother's side to kiss her cheek. She smiled even wider but Maurice hardly noticed. He turned on his heel and left.
Now, he thought to himself, to buy some gifts for my ladies.
“We are here,” Korrigan announced as he brought the van to a slow stop.
The announcement jolted Tavis’s mind back to the present. The present may lack the luster and sheen of my youth, but it does have its moments. Like getting our new play thing ready. “I guess you didn't have to tie the rope to the door after all,” he noted as he opened the opposite door.
Dunc shrugged. “Never hurts to be cautious.” He then laughed under his breath.
Tavis snickered as he used his pocket knife to sever the rope. Dunc took the girl’s feet.
“Korrigan,” Tavis announced as he and Dunc made their way slowly to the warehouse with their newly caught prey, “you know what to do right?”
Korrigan nodded. “Right, just don't start without me.” The van then sped away, until it was nothing but a gray dot in the distance.
“Well, he's enthusiastic, I got to admit that,” Tavis said as he pushed the girl’s shoulders into Dunc’s grasp, who effortlessly shifted his position to carry the girl’s full form in his arms.
Tavis removed a key from the pocket of his khakis and jammed it into the heavy lock that hung from a massive loop of chains.
“You would think for the money the retails invest in their products, they could afford to store them in warehouses with better security,” Dunc couldn't help but point out as they both strolled in.
Tavis shrugged. “Maybe they were just trying to cut costs, they do that you know. To better serve the consumer.” He then swiftly pointed to where a swivel chair stood, ominously waiting.
Dunc smiled sardonically as he plopped the girl into the chair. Patrina began to stir as Dunc circled around her, tying her legs and middle with ever more ropes.
“She's waking up,” Tavis observed and then said, “Dunc, if you please.”
Dunc nodded, promptly stood up, and punched Patrina right in the face.
“Works every time,” he muttered as he knitted his hands together and cracked his knuckles.