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Immortal Beloved

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As Alice had foreseen, the police did have some questions for me. Police Chief Charles Swann was waiting for me. I later found out he had been there for about ten minutes before Alice, Jasper, and I returned home, and Ana had been merrily entertaining him in the living room.

Before we got too close to the house, however, Jasper told us to hang back. “We shouldn’t be seen in this state,” he said. I glanced down at the state of my clothes. My jacket was torn open, and my shirt underneath had been shredded from my escape from the car. The knees and thighs of my jeans were torn as well, exposing the skin of my legs. Alice’s clothes were in the same state as mine. Jasper’s clothes weren’t as shredded, but they were deeply stained with dirt and oil from the pavement. And beyond all that, the three of us were soaked from the rain. Besides the lack of blood, cuts, and bruises, we did look as if we had emerged from a horrid car wreck. One look at us would have the chief on alert.

Jasper led us through a neighbor’s yard to my own backyard, and from there, as silent as three cats, we jumped up to my bedroom window. I never locked it, and after carefully pulling off the outer screen, slid the window open. The three of us entered my bedroom. Jasper made a gesture to suggest he and Alice would wait in there, and I deftly changed into fresh clothing. I discovered that my phone, which I had left in my jacket pocket, had been destroyed. The two halves of the clamshell device had separated, the screen was shattered, and several of the buttons had come loose. I mouth a few curses as I dropped the useless phone on my futon.

I traced my path out of my room through my window, the yards, and back to the street. From there, I walked through the front door of my home as if nothing was amiss.

Ana turned to me with a smile as I walked in. “There you are!” she said. “I tried calling you, Belle, but your phone’s off. Chief Swann here said your car was apparently in a gnarly accident.” I could hear the question behind her statement, and in her eyes, I saw concern.

I turned to Mr. Swann with a smile. I had never met the chief of police before, and I was quite struck by how much he and I resembled each other. He was a middle-aged man, with ruddy skin and dark hair now streaked with gray. He had the same chocolate eyes I had had in my life. I wondered distantly if I was looking at a descendant. I had never had children, but I did have cousins who procreated.

“Miss Swanson,” he started, standing. “About an hour ago, your car was seen speeding through the center of town. It collided with a curb and crashed into a parking lot down on Milton Street. Now, I can tell by looking at you that you weren’t involved in that at all.” He chuckled awkwardly.

“My car?” I asked, widening my eyes to look surprised. “I was wondering why it wasn’t in the driveway.” I shook my head. “I never lock it,” I said in quiet admittance.

Mr. Swann let out a quiet sight. “Well, I can’t hardly blame you there. Ain’t much joyriding happening in Forks, usually.”

“The driver,” I inquired carefully, “are they okay?”

Again, Mr. Swann let out a breath. “Can’t say, really. They’re alive, most certainly, but they weren’t at the scene. I was hoping maybe you’d seen something.”

I shook my head. “I’ve been out walking.”

He raised an eyebrow. “In the rain?”

“I prefer the rain,” I said with a smile.

“Well, you’re in the right place for it,” he said.

“You don’t have any witnesses?” I risked asking. “It’s broad daylight.” I had to know if we had been spotted.

“Not really much that’s helpful,” he said. “The rain has most people inside. Got plenty of calls about a car speeding through the streets, but haven’t been able to find anyone who saw the driver. Add to that—” He stopped short.

“Add what?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said with an awkward smile. My nerves tangled themselves up in my belly as he glanced to Ana. “Well, sorry about your car, miss,” he said to me. “If you like, I can give you a ride down to the station so you can fill out a theft report. I’m sure you’ll need it for the insurance.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

“I’ll take her,” Ana spoke up. “That way you don’t have to drive her back.”

Mr. Swann nodded. “Sounds like a plan,” he said. He paused, glanced between Ana and me again. He looked like he wanted to say something else, but his radio suddenly crackled to life, startling him. A male voice called out the chief’s name, then provided some sort of code and a street. Mr. Swann took the radio off his belt and, speaking into it, acknowledged the call and said he was on his way. “Duty calls,” he said to me as he replaced his radio on his belt. Ana followed him to the front door and, as soon as she closed it, turned to me and placed her hands on my shoulders.

“Belle,” she said, her voice low, “what the fuck is going on?”

I didn’t immediately respond, but rather waited until I heard the engine of the chief’s car turn over. As the sound of tires on the pavement faded from my hearing, I opened my mouth to speak, but at once found myself at a loss for words. Instead, I threw my arms around Ana and hugged her.

She held me for a few moments, running her nails down my back. I heard footsteps on the stairs, and I pulled away to see the rest of our vampire house guests descending the staircase. Among the three Cullen coven members, a new crimson-eyed vampire had been added to our numbers, and this one I didn’t know. He was shorter than Jasper and Carlisle and had a sturdy, stout frame. He looked like he had been turned later in life, probably close to middle age, as his honey-colored hair was accented with white around the temples, and his face was set with deep lines around his mouth.

This was Etienne. Ana later introduced me to him formally, but at that moment, we had far too much to discuss to worry about niceties.

We retreated to the dining room where, gathered around the table, Jasper, Alice, and I told the others of all that had happened. I related the werewolf attack; Alice expressed in quite flowery terms what had happened with my car and our flight; and Jasper explained our theory about the wolf pack. In turn, Carlisle reported that two werewolves had turned up to sniff around the house. They hadn’t come too close to the property itself, but seemed to wait around, possibly for Jasper, Alice, and I to return. They had taken off shortly before Chief Swann had arrived. By the description Carlisle gave, I knew it was Paul and Magdalena.

“This changes things,” Carlisle said. “It’s clear that at least the werewolves in Forks are looking to run us off, if not attempt actual harm. From now on, none of us travel alone.”

“Yes, sir,” Jasper said, and Alice and I nodded in agreement.

Carlisle looked poignantly to Ana. “Perhaps we should drop in on Peter and see what exactly is going on with our lupine friends.”

A smile broke out on Ana’s lips. “I was about to suggest that very thing.”

“I’ll go with you,” I offered, but Ana put a hand on mine.

“No, Bella,” she said, “you’ve got to go to the police station, remember?”

“You’re not serious,” I said. “Who cares about insurance?”

“It’s what a normal mortal would do,” Ana reminded me. I sighed and nodded.

“And I’ll come with,” Alice said to me, grinning. “You know, since I’m the one who stole your car and all.”

“And Jasper and Etienne will hold the fort,” Carlisle said with a pleased smile. “An excellent plan.”

-

The rain had stopped during our war meeting, and Alice and I arrived at the police station without incident. I drove Ana’s car, as Ana and Carlisle had taken off on foot toward Christo Rey. On the drive, Alice chatted cheerfully, telling me about herself and Jasper as well as Carlisle’s coven. Evidently they were like a strange sort of family: Carlisle and Esme rather viewed their coven mates as their children.

“Do you view them as parents?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “In a way, I suppose. I’ve known Carlisle most of my un-life. He taught me everything I know, helped me control my psychic abilities.” She grinned. “He even got me used to drinking animal blood.”

“Entirely?” I asked, and she nodded enthusiastically. “That can’t be satisfying. I’ve had to rely on animal blood from time to time, but it’s definitely lacking, isn’t it?”

“I’ve been on it for so long that I couldn’t even tell you what human blood is like,” she said. “And I’ll take hunting and draining a living animal to something as sterile as cold blood from a bag.”

“Fair enough,” I said as I pulled into the police station parking lot.

The police station in Forks was so small that it didn’t even have a holding cell. Crime in Forks was relatively low, and on the rare occasions that someone had to be detained, they would be taken to the larger station in Christo Rey. Most of the station was off-limits to visitors, hidden behind walls and a locked door. What greeted Alice and I when we walked through the station’s tempered glass door was a waiting room in which four people standing beside each other would feel crowded and a desk which one of the deputies manned.

The deputy that afternoon was a thickset woman in her early middle age, her mouth creased into a permanent frown. Her name badge read Miles, and she greeted us with distracted neutrality. I told her what my task was, and she invited us to have a seat on the single metal folding chair provided in the waiting room as she disappeared behind the locked door to fetch the needed forms.

Alice insisted I take the chair, and she leaned casually against one of the walls. Although the station was separated by the wall, the sound was hardly muffled, and Alice and I could hear the voices of the other officers within with perfect clarity.

“The Swanson girl,” Deputy Miles said to someone. “She’s here about the wrecked car.”

“Chief’s sure she wasn’t driving?” a male voice asked her.

“She wasn’t behind that wheel, Jer,” Deputy Miles answered. “She wouldn’t be walking, no way.”

“What on God’s green earth is happening in this town, Shirley?” the male voice asked. “Three bodies drained of blood, and now a phantom stunt driver?”

Alice and I both froze at these words. Neither of us moved as Deputy Miles returned to the waiting room, a worn clipboard in her manicured hand. She held it out to me, and mechanically I took it from her, although I could not focus on the form in front of me.

Three bodies drained of blood.

I felt a light pressure on my shoulder, and I jumped at this sudden contact. I looked up at Alice, who, although she smiled, reflected my concern and anxiety in her golden eyes. “You got it?” she asked, nodding to the clipboard in my hand.

I looked back at the form, blinking several times to clear my vision which had grown blurry. “Yeah, no problem,” I said, picking up the pen which was attached to the clipboard by a length of cheap chain.

Three bodies.

Forcing myself to comprehend the various prompts on the form, I filled it out as quickly as I could: make, model, and color of my car; approximate date and time it had been taken; registration number, license number, my date of birth.

Drained of blood.

I wanted nothing more than to drop this form and run out the door—run through the door, even—and get home. No, get to Christo Rey. Tell Ana, tell Carlisle, hell, tell Peter: this was it.

James was in Forks.

I came to a large, blank box in which I was to give a statement detailing everything about the theft. I started to write a sentence, but my hand was shaking too much. The words came out in a nearly illegible print.

How long had James been in Forks? How many people had he killed? They found three bodies, but what if there were more? Whose bodies had they found? Did I know them? Did I know their children? Was one of the victims Jessica or Angela or Eric or…

My mind blanked out on the last name which came to my mind. The thought was too much to even conceive. My hand went to my pocket where I normally had my cell phone, but it wasn’t there. My phone was in two pieces back home on my futon.

“You okay there, darling?” Deputy Miles asked, leaning over her desk. I glanced up at her. “You’re looking a little ill there.”

Alice suddenly slapped a hand to my forehead. “Oh yeah, she’s warm,” she said. I looked at Alice with confusion, but she shook her head and clicked her tongue. “Well, what else do you expect when you go wandering around in the rain all morning?” She turned to Deputy Miles. “Mind if we come back? I should get her home.”

Deputy Miles nodded, although something in her expression betrayed the fact that she wasn’t entirely buying Alice’s performance. I left the clipboard on the desk, and Alice and I hurried out of the police station, both of us buzzing with nervous energy.

We were silent until we got in Ana’s car. I started the engine, pulled out of the parking lot, then glanced to Alice. “It’s him,” I said.

Alice sighed. “More than likely.”

“Can’t you tell?” I asked. “What does the future say?”

Alice bit her bottom lip and she concentrated for a few moments. “It’s not clear,” she said. “I’m seeing werewolves. I’m seeing vampires—mostly us. I can’t pin James or Victoria.” She opened her eyes again, her eyes narrowed in a glare. “I don’t like this.”

I wanted to speed, to drive as crazily as Alice had driven my car, but I forced myself to drive at speed limit. We were only minutes from my home, and I knew there was no point in rushing. Still, I felt a foreign sort of pressure in my head develop as we drove along. My mind raced with possible explanations for the presence of three dead, bloodless bodies found in the town of Forks which had not seen enough crime to warrant a jail cell in its police station. Nothing save James’ presence made any sense. The werewolves wouldn’t have hurt any of the mortal citizens of Forks, and even if they did, the bodies wouldn’t be bloodless. A deranged serial killer was far too absurd. It wasn’t any of the coven, as their eyes would betray their human blood diet, turning almost immediately from gold to crimson. Another vampire, a fourth party in this mess, was entirely unlikely considering how much of the land around Forks now stank of werewolf.

I was distracted by these thoughts, and so when I turned onto my street and cruised toward my home, I nearly missed the large figure stepping out in the middle of the street adjacent to my house. I hit the brakes just as Alice said, “What the hell is this?”

The pressure in my head intensified as I gazed at the man in the street. He stared at me through the windshield, his dark eyes brimming with hatred.

Jacob Black.

Alice and I got out the car as Jacob was joined by four others. Among the number I recognized Paul and Magdalena, joined now by a pair of twin brothers. Like the other werewolves, these young men possessed stature and strength beyond what was normal for mortals, although their frames were overall more slender than Jacob’s. They were both quite pail, their skin flushed pink in the cold air.

Alice and I were outnumbered, but not for long. No doubt Jasper was keeping watch from the living room window, and we were joined by said vampire as well as Etienne. It was four against five, but for a moment which felt stretched beyond time, no one moved.

“Where is he, blood sucker?” Jacob finally said, his voice a snarl.

“What are you talking about?” I answered back.

“She isn’t going to say,” Magdalena growled. “Let’s take care of them now before it’s too late.”

Jacob, however, gestured for her to stay put. Glancing between myself and the other vampires, he took a few steps forward, his gaze settling back on me. “Understand that we are ready to slaughter you,” he said, his voice deepening. “Now stop playing stupid.”

“See where that gets you,” Alice spat. “We’re all centuries old, pup.”

Jacob didn’t let Alice distract him, however, but only continued to bore into me with his bloodshot eyes. Slowly so as not to cause his pack to spring into an attack, I mirrored Jacob’s approach, peering just as deeply into his eyes as he was mine. For a split second, I could see through that hatred and anger which twisted his expression and forced his every muscle into a steel-like tension, and I saw what had brought him there: fear. Absolute fear.

“Where is he?” Jacob roared, the heat from his breath on my face.

The fear wasn’t for himself or for his pack mates. It was the same fear I felt when I had realized James was back. It was fear for another precious person.

I opened my mouth, but the words were reluctant to come. I stammered before I managed to say, “Edward isn’t here, Jacob.”

Jacob lunged forward, and he was almost on top of me. He towered over me, his frame like a wall before me. “Where have you put him?!”

“Jacob,” I said, my voice shuddering, “I don’t have him anywhere.”

“Don’t lie to me, blood sucker,” he growled. “I know you have him. He came right over here.”

“The only human that’s been here all day was the police chief,” Etienne spoke up.

Doubt entered Jacob’s eyes, softening his expression just a little. “If he’s not with you, then…”

I didn’t need to breathe, but nonetheless I felt like I was suffocating as I said, “James has returned.”