From the window of her private jet, Madeline Love could see the top of Nightwind. She could see the two rooftop garrets that were positioned diagonally across from each other on the rectangular roof and overlooked the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the town of Nightfall on the other. Whenever Madeline flew into Maine’s Portland airport, she imagined that one day she would climb up to the roof from the interior stairway and gaze at the world around her. But, Madeline always lost interest by the time the plane landed.
The anniversary of her grandson Joey’s abduction always unleashed feelings of discomfort, but this year her equilibrium was thrown off balance more than usual. She desperately wanted to tell her daughter, Amanda, the truth, but her husband, Perry refused.
“Perry it’s time,” Madeline declared as the plane began its descent. “We should have told Amanda the truth from the beginning.”
“I said no.” Perry accented his declaration by slamming his attaché shut.
“We’re making a terrible mistake,” Madeline implored. “Maybe if we’re honest with our daughter we can help find our grandson.”
“You should fasten your seatbelt. We’re about to land.” Those were the last words uttered until they arrived at Nightwind.
Amanda held onto the torch with a firm grip as she walked through the stone passageway that connected Nightwind to the beach house. Her fingers grazed the smooth, cold walls and her feet glided, almost weightlessly over the uneven ground. Amanda loved this tunnel, its blinding darkness, its coolness, even its danger. She loved it mainly because it had at one time served a purpose, but had now been abandoned by the rest of the family. In many ways she could relate to it.
She was coming up to the last corner, a sharp 90-degree angle that was built deliberately to separate family members from intruders unfamiliar with the tunnel. Having made this trip so many times before, Amanda didn’t need to slow down and raced up the final stairway. She opened the overhead trap door, which was hidden by sand and brush on the ground level, and put the torch out in a bucket of sand on the steps. She emerged just as the sun, a red blaze of glory, was setting. It was her favorite time of day and her favorite place on earth. She sat on the beach, clutched her legs to her chest, and was overcome by a wave of passion as she thought of the man who made love to her only hours before.
Husband and Wife
By the time Joe Lassiter returned home Edwina had already begun to put her plan to use her daughter into action. The current Mrs. Lassiter had crafted a simple, yet elegant plan involving her daughter Jonatha to reclaim her husband’s attention. She would simply make Joe believe his daughter was in emotional distress. Today was a bittersweet day for the Loves, and Edwina felt she should use it to her advantage.
“I was starting to worry,” Edwina said before Joe could begin an apology.
“I’m sorry,” Joe replied, managing to maintain only ten seconds of eye contact with the woman he just cheated on.
“It’s this day.” He said as he focused his gaze on his shoes.
“Yes, our daughter seems to be having trouble with this day as well.”
Edwina let her sentence linger in the air and waited for Joe to reply.
“What’s wrong with Jonatha?”
“Nothing. You know how sensitive she is.”
“Edwina please just tell me,” Joe’s guilt helped him contain his brewing anger.
“She called from London. She said she was fine, but I could hear the strain in her voice.” A moment later she added: “I knew we shouldn’t have let her go.”
“I thought it would be good for her to get away,” he said after taking a deep breath.
“You really need to trust me when it comes to our daughter. We’re very much alike.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you would listen to me,” Edwina said, “you’d hear the strain in my voice too.”
Edwina paused then left Joe standing alone in the living room. It was a perfect dramatic effect and one that Edwina hadn’t planned on. (She hated to rely on improvisation, but was glad to know it was part of her arsenal.) She locked the door to her personal den, poured herself a glass of Bordeaux, and curled up with a new book about the legend of Lizzie Borden. She raised her wineglass and toasted the misunderstood women of the world.
With the late-night moon as their torch, Jonatha and Winter Lassiter, half-sisters, as well as cousins, walked through London’s Hyde Park back to the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly. The park, meticulously groomed, expansive, and flat, was a stark contrast to Nightfall’s rocky, densely wooded forests and one that the girls found intriguing.
At 17, Winter was the older of the two by almost two years. She was Joe Lassiter’s legitimate daughter. However, to the whispering citizens of Nightfall, she will always be the missing Joey’s little sister. Perhaps it was because the townsfolk constantly reminded her of how special Joey was or because she didn’t remember her brother at all, but Winter despised her brother. She was Amanda’s daughter, but she had Edwina’s character.
Jonatha, on the other hand, was the product of a scandal: Joe and Edwina’s impromptu, but no less disruptive, affair. Her conception forced Joe to turn his back on Amanda and turn to her sister, Edwina. Nearly everyone in Nightfall understood that Joey’s disappearance caused Joe to act out of character. His betrayal, therefore, was accepted and not deemed to be a reason to dethrone him from his beloved position in the community as the Chief of Police.
Unlike Winter, Jonatha shared the townspeople’s view of her father. She loved him, and her mother, Edwina, unconditionally and although she never met him, she also loved Joey, wherever he might be.
As the two girls walked close together wearing similar Prada outfits, which they bought on a shopping spree earlier in the day, they talked about what it might have been like to have walked across this field 200 years ago in large skirts make of imported silk holding the white-gloved hand of a suitor. Standing in the middle of the vast openness that defines Hyde Park, both girls were lost in a vision of outdated opulence and didn’t
see the two young men standing directly in front of them, until the more brazen of the two spoke.
“Good evening ladies, my name is Dashiell. This here is my mate Llewellyn.”
“Hello,” replied Winter. She was startled as she gazed into what she thought were blue and crimson colored eyes. “My name is Winter and this is my sister Jonatha.”
Winter punctuated her pronouncement by tossing her hair, a multitude of blondes and placing a French-manicured hand on her hip. Jonatha murmured hello as Llewellyn merely nodded.
“You’re from America I gather,” Dashiell questioned.
“Yes. Maine,” offered Winter, slightly disappointed that upon further inspection the stranger’s eyes were merely blue.
“America’s final frontier. The northern or southern part?”
“I hear it’s beautiful there.”
“It is,” Winter confirmed.
“Then we shall plan to visit. Would you like that Jonatha?”
The young girl stuttered a reply and ran a nervous hand through her midnight black hair as she tried to wipe the alarm from her face, “I, I, I would like everyone to experience our little part of the world. At least once.”
Dashiell flirtatiously chatted with Jonatha about the weather in Maine, the weather in London, and whether she preferred one to the other. He smiled and drank Jonatha in as Winter remained silent-but-determined not to let her sister claim this gorgeous man as her suitor. After all, Winter saw him first.
When Adam opened his eyes to see the early evening moonlight crash through his room, his father was already boarding up the house. Vincent realized that when they left this coastline for another, they would not return for quite some time, if ever. It was Adam’s destiny that they return to Nightfall, and it was promised to Vincent a long time ago by a woman with raven-colored hair. A woman who never broke a promise.
“Father,” Adam said disturbing Vincent’s memory.
“I should hunt before we travel.”
“Tonight, we shall hunt together.”
Along the rocks of the Pacific Ocean stood a young wanderer, whose name was unimportant, but who would be Adam and Vincent’s next victim. As they neared the man, Vincent’s trained sense of smell picked up the scent of death and he realized this drifter carried a virus in his veins that would destroy him soon enough, but one that was harmless to immortal creatures.
Father and son held the young man between them, each penetrating one side of his slender throat simultaneously. Adam and Vincent’s fingers intertwined at the back of the young man’s skull and they sucked his angry blood. The wanderer’s soul was euphoric to be released from its damaged host and as it fled to the heavens above it passed through both father and son joyously.
They let the young man’s body rest on the rocks, but kept their fingers entwined. Vincent looked down at his son and kissed his damp cheek, leaving a stain of blood that dripped onto Adam’s lip. Adam flicked his tongue to feed on the last droplet of blood and met his father’s gaze.
“It is time to leave.” Was all Vincent needed to say.
The hour was growing late and the four teenagers were now among the only remaining inhabitants in Hyde Park, but Dashiell just kept talking as if it were mid-day.
“Can you extend your stay past tomorrow night?” Dashiell inquired.
“No,” Jonatha responded.
After a moment, Winter added: “But two well-to-do boys like yourselves can surely make a trip to see us.”
Dashiell listened to Winter, but stared at Jonatha, who wasn’t quite sure what to make of this creature. His hair was so blonde it was nearly white. “Just like my mum’s” was his response to Jonatha’s questioning gaze. And although his complexion was pale, and his body lanky, he looked healthy and robust, more so than the darker Llewellyn, who looked like he could benefit from more sleep and a healthier diet. They were an odd combination she thought.
“So Llewellyn you’re rather quiet, aren’t you?” Winter declared less out of curiosity than a desire to shift the focus of this encounter.
“Yes I am,” Llewellyn quietly responded.
“Oh, Winter, it’s getting late. We should be getting back,” Jonatha said.
“Please, let us walk you to your hotel.”
“We’ll be fine, thank you.”
Winter saw an opportunity slipping away and interjected: “Join us for
breakfast tomorrow. The Ritz Hotel at 8 a.m.”
“We’ll be there.”
While the girls proceeded on their way Winter fought the urge to turn around and steal one last glimpse of Dashiell. Instead she continued talking to Jonatha, who giggled about the encounter.
“You don’t think they’ll actually visit us do you?” asked Jonatha.
“I hope they do,” Winter said laughing a bit.
“But don’t you think they’re a little weird?”
“Well Llewellyn is definitely odd,” Winter concurred. “But Dashiell is totally hot.”
“I think they’re both weird,” Jonatha said.
Jonatha giggled the rest of the way home. Unfortunately, Winter felt her sister’s laughter was no longer infectious.
Madeline always felt Nightwind looked distorted through the dark tint of the limousine’s window. She asked Bartholomew, her driver who drove her limousine on her wedding night, to turn down the window and seconds later saw her home in its full glory. It was a breathtaking structure, isolated and imperious, just like Madeline.
The limousine pulled into the driveway and the Love matriarch could see Amanda waiting at the front door. Perry exited his side, but Madeline patiently waited for Bartholomew to open her door.
“Welcome home,” Amanda said.
Madeline climbed the twenty-five steps that separated her from her daughter and hugged Amanda tightly in lieu of speaking kind words. She brushed red lips past her cheek before entering her home. When Perry kissed his daughter, he perceived a slight difference in her attitude and questioned her.
“Did you receive one this year?”
“Yes, Daddy, I got another thank you note,” she replied, and then quickly added. “The same as always.”
Amanda didn’t want to lie to her father, but she also didn’t want to discuss the latest clue to her son’s kidnapping, not until she had more concrete information.
“Now you can rest easy for at least another year,” Madeline offered, over her shoulder, before ascending the marble staircase to her private quarters on the third floor.
Perry and Amanda sipped cognac in the front room and talked innocuously about the family, about Winter and Jonatha’s trip to London, and his most recent sudden trip to their home in the Florida Keys. While Perry talked, Amanda could only think of her son.
“Do you think we’ll ever see Joey again?”Amanda asked.
“Yes,” Perry lied.
Husband and Wife
Edwina ignored the first sharp knock on her door. She had anticipated Joe’s apology, but years of practice taught her it would be much more heartfelt after a brief wait. She never fathomed she would be wrong this time.
The moment she opened the door, Joe blasted her, “You agreed Jonatha could go to London, so don’t try to blame it on me!”
“Joe, please, what are you talking about?” Edwina stammered, honestly confused.
“I’m talking about our daughter.”
“I’ll call her first thing in the morning and if she’s upset I’ll fly to London and bring her home myself.”
“Joe, the first thing tomorrow morning will be afternoon in London.”
Edwina replied, once again in control of herself and the situation. “Her flight leaves at 1:00 p.m.”
“If she’s upset . . ”
“She’s with Winter, ” Edwina interrupted. “And soon she’ll be home with us.”
“But if she’s afraid!”
Edwina looked directly into her husband’s eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m the one who’s afraid Joe. I feel the same way this time every year and you know why. Jonatha probably picked up on that, so that’s how she’s come to feel about this particular day.”
“You don’t have any reason to be afraid.”
“If only that were true.”
Edwina left the room, very pleased with herself.
Twelve stories above the moonlit Thames River, Dashiell and Llewellyn stood on a balcony. The air was crisp and Llewellyn shivered, though Dashiell, clad only in light blue silk pajama pants, appeared unaffected by the weather.
“Did you see Jonatha’s eyes?” Dashiell asked.
“Yes,” Llewellyn replied.
“Not as beautiful as yours.”
“Don’t be jealous.”
“I’m concerned. Contact with the Lassiter sisters is dangerous. I doubt your mother would approve.”
“You think you know my mother better than I do?”
“Really? What else do you think you know, Mr. Radcliffe?”
“I know that you’re playing a game. A game that, if not played intelligently and cautiously, will get you into trouble.”
“Damned your Eton education. You can be a bloody bore when you choose to.”
Llewellyn brushed past the sheer curtains into the bedroom. “Are you coming to bed?”
“Not yet,” Dashiell replied. “I want to enjoy the few sunrises I have left.”
Nightwind was drenched in moonlight. Its many corridors were quiet and still when Amanda’s phone rang and called her from a recurring dream that reunited her son with his parents. Amanda groped for the phone and her heart swelled a bit when Joe whispered hello. A breathless “I miss you” was all she could muster.
“I don’t have long,” Joe said. “I just had to hear your voice.”
As the lovers spoke they both became aware of the heat filling their bodies despite the cool breeze.
“I need to see you again,” Joe said sounding more like a desperate teenager surrendering to the magic of first love.
“My parents are back, but the house is big enough to get lost in.”
“Yes it is.”
“Be careful. I know my sister and she must already suspect something.”
“I don’t want to talk about Edwina.”
“Then just think of me, Joe.”
They were so consumed by each other’s voice, they didn’t realize their whispered conversation was overheard. Tonight, both Perry and Edwina would sleep restlessly.
It was Friday night, which meant Anthony Love could be found at the 175-year-old Collins Inn hunched over a bowl of Inez Collins’ famous New England clam chowder. Ten years earlier Inez won a chowder contest in Boston. Nightfall considered that achieving fame.
Underneath Anthony’s priest collar and unflattering uniform hid a surprisingly muscular frame. At one point in Anthony’s life, while his sisters, Amanda and Edwina, were already attending far-away colleges, he was a budding baseball star. Anthony Love dominated the game and drew the attention of scouts from all over the country and even two from Japan. That was before he started having the visions. These days Anthony, or Father Tony, as the children call him, resides over St. Agatha’s Church and doesn’t speak of his visions any longer.
Just as Anthony took his last mouthful of chowder, he felt a chill and looked up to see Vincent and Adam staring at him.
Vincent smiled and said, “Hello Father.”