Okay, I’m back. I’m watching Neal try to balance on a log floating in the lake right now and on the one hand I’m super impressed by how long he’s lasted and on the other hand he’s totally going to — yep he’s in the drink hahahaha. Oh no he lost his sunglasses. Idiot.
Anyways, I’m supposed to be telling you about the vampires, and I’m super spoiling the tension by telling you about our fun, lake, post-vampire adventures, but like… I mean you already know that if I’m writing on the blog we survived. If I die out here you’re never gonna hear from me again and that will be that. 😘
Also, this story is gonna have a considerable amount of blood in it, so if that isn’t your jam tread carefully.
And on that note, back to the damn blood bank: if you remember, last we left off, it turned out the FBI thought the Hawthornes were holding the joint up, and that seemed to throw something of a wrench into Melinda’s plan.
“Are the Hawthornes here?” she asked.
Now, I wasn’t sure how to answer that. Her tone definitely suggested that she knew who they were, but there was no way to gage whether she knew them in a let’s discuss how to get everyone out of here in one piece kind of way, or in a let’s eat them now and go from there kind of way. I just stood there awkwardly for a second too long and Melinda finally lost patience.
“Go search the refrigerator,” she snapped at the ginger lackey, and he and two of his vampire companions stalked back out of the lobby, towards the refrigerator.
Every once in a while I really have to hand it to the Hawthornes. I must have been out here on the phone for like five minutes maximum, and in that time they turned that refrigerator into an entire vampire trap.
You know that old vampire trope where they go into a shark-like frenzy when they scent blood? Turns out it’s a little bit true. According to Julian it’s like being on drugs, they sort of zone out and enter lizard-brain, blood-lust mode. Older vampires will sometimes intentionally trigger a frenzy by exposing themselves to lots of blood and just bliss out for a while.
If Melinda and company had known the Hawthornes were in there, they probably wouldn’t have left them unsupervised in a refrigerator full of blood packs. But they didn’t know, so while the vamps were dealing with me and the feds, they inadvertently gave the Hawthornes enough time to waste just like… SO much donated blood.
Apparently they poured it all over the floor. A big, horrible pool of blood. Right on the floor.
I didn’t witness what happened when ginger and his lackeys opened the refrigerator door, but Neal described it like a horrible, bloody version of cats and catnip. At which point, Richard — remember Richard? The guy with the briefcase? — led the hostages out of the refrigerator and into a doctors office across the hall. Eventually the vampire guards at the back door heard the commotion and came to investigate. Apparently Neal literally waited behind the refrigerator door and just closed it behind them.
And just like that, we were all safe. I mean not entirely, I suppose. Even just one vampire is too many for me to handle. But with most of them wallowing in the refrigerator with the blood bags, and Julian and Neal on the loose, the tables had definitely turned.
I didn’t know that. I was still in the lobby with Melinda, thinking that I was either going to be devoured by vampires or brought to some government facility for study. I heard only a brief commotion, and was confused as hell when the Hawthornes came barreling around the corner into the lobby, looking ready to fight Melinda to the death with their bare hands.
At which point I blurted out, “The FBI thinks you two are in charge of all this.”
Which brought them both up short.
“Mulligan wanted to talk to me because he thinks he’s negotiating with you,” I said. “He thinks you’re holding this place up, and he’s rescuing me.”
“Us?” Neal said. He laughed. “I didn’t realize we were the hold-up-a-blood-bank type.”
“Where are my people?” Melinda asked and Neal made a big show of yawning and stretching. Smug little shit.
“I’m not sure how many of you there are,” Julian said. “But there are currently six of your people in the refrigerator, enjoying a few gallons of assorted blood types all over the floor.”
It took a moment for Melinda to compose herself enough to ask where the hostages were.
“Safe,” Julian assured her, and to her credit, she looked relieved. “But not free. We convinced them not to just run for it, but who knows how long they’ll wait. Now, we need to discuss how we’re all getting out of here.”
I think I laughed at that point, because boy was this not turning out the way Melinda expected, and I really liked watching that realization play out on her face.
“What was your plan?” Julian asked. “What are you trying to accomplish with all of this?”
Melinda laughed. “I’m not going to —”
“Agent Mulligan and Agent Steva are agents dedicated to researching cases related to the unexplained and supernatural,” Neal interrupted. “So if your hope is to threaten Leopold with media attention, you are very, very close to succeeding. But my guess is that you don’t actually want the average person discovering vampires exist, because that would make your life infinitely more difficult. So. Your hand’s played. It’s time to problem solve.”
“Tell us what your actual goal is,” Julian said. “We can negotiate with Leopold.”
Melinda didn’t say anything for a long time, and then finally groaned and said, “We just wanted to move away from the main nest. Just start our own little colony out in the desert away from so many people. We’re sick of all the extravagance and the hiding. We just want a little cabin to be alone in.”
Neal took a second before responding. “You mean to tell me,” he said. “That you came all the way out here from LA. Because you want a vacation house?”
Julian jumped in quickly. “You’re willing to continue to follow Leopold’s rules and take his orders?”
“We don’t want his orders,” Melinda said. “But we’ll follow his rules.”
Neal and Julian conferred quickly, and then Julian said, “I’ll call Leopold.”
It literally took like 5 minutes of negotiating to get the vampires sorted out. It was the tiniest most ridiculous spat in the world. Leopold literally said, yeah they can have their cabin, we never said they couldn’t, I just need to know they’re going to come back when I call them. Also they have to submit to a punishment now that they’ve pulled this stunt.
And Melinda said, We’re willing to take a banishment for 200 years, while continuing to follow your rules.
And Leopold said, That sounds fair.
And that was that. But we were still stuck in a blood bank with a bunch of vampires in full carnage mode, and also, potentially worse, hostages.
The phone rang again.
“That’ll be Mulligan again,” Neal said. “What do we do?”
“We have to wait for the blood to wear off,” Melinda said. “There’ll be no getting my people out of here until they’re sober.”
“Robert won’t like that,” Julian said.
Now, I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently while I was conversing with Mulligan, Robert, the guy with the briefcase, was in the fridge making a stink about having to wait for further instructions instead of just booking it out of the blood bank into the waiting arms of the police. Which, from his perspective, fair enough. What does he care if the world knows vampires exist?
And why do we care if the world knows that vampires exist? Well, Neal explained it to me later:
“The treaty Leopold drew up with some old school hunters a hundred or so years back, is that as long as no human is killed and eaten by vampires of Leopold’s nest, we’ll do everything in our power to protect them from public knowledge. That way, we stay safe and Leopold can keep control of his shady, west coast, vampire shadow government.”
The moment the existence of vampires is exposed — well, that’s just a can of worms we’re not trying to open over a stupid turf dispute, and a blood bank holdup.
Which is all very well, except what the fuck were we supposed to do? We had hostages eager to get out of there, blood-soaked vampires who were literally too stoned to move, all the blame on the Hawthornes, and the phone was still ringing.
“Shit,” Neal said. “Okay, pick up. Tell them to… send Chinese food.”
“We’re just stalling, Shiloh, would you prefer Indian?” He turned to Julian. “I can talk to the hostages but —”
“Yeah, no, I’ll handle it,” Julian replied, already on his way down the hall.
I picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, Shiloh, this is Agent Mulligan again.”
“Yeah, hey,” I said. “We need takeout.”
There was a long pause.
“You need takeout,” he repeated.
“Yeah, we’re hungry,” I said.
There was shouting in the back room so I plugged my ear to focus.
“Okay we can figure out how to get some food in there,” Mulligan said. “But what we need to know really is what the Hawthornes need in exchange for the hostages.”
How in the fuck was I supposed to answer that?
Well here’s how I was NOT supposed to answer that:
“I don’t know man, what possible reason would we have for holding up a blood bank? Will you just bring us Chinese food please?” And I hung up the phone.
Meanwhile, the shouting down the hall had only gotten worse: “— you mean to tell me you’re expecting us to just stay in here? For no reason at all?”
I couldn’t hear Julian’s soothing rebuttal, but it must not have been particularly convincing because Robert kept on shouting.
“It would serve you all right if we just left you here,” Neal told Melinda who sneered at him.
“If my team weren’t drinking right now, this might be over,” she snapped.
“What was your plan exactly?” Neal asked. “How were you planning on getting out of here?”
“There’s a refrigerated truck parked at the back entrance,” Melinda said. “We had it made special. Bullet proof glass and everything.”
“So you were gonna just make a break for it?” Neal asked.
“No,” Melinda said. “We were going to let a hostage out of the back of the truck every twenty miles until we hit one of Leopold’s airports.”
Neal looked mildly impressed. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “That might’ve worked.”
Meanwhile, Julian’s negotiations with the hostages were not going well.
“Why should I give a rats ass what happens to the insane cannibals who tried to kill me?” Richard was bellowing, and I mean, really, fair enough, man.
“If you just give us a couple hours,” Julian pleaded. “We can’t leave here until everyone still in the refrigerator is… sane again. If we let the police come in here with them in that state, a lot of officers will die. But if we wait just a couple hours, everyone goes home.”
It was Margaret, the old lady, that saved us.
“They’re really not human, are they?” she said.
“No, ma’am,” Julian replied.
“And there are more of them out there? That aren’t… criminals?”
“That’s right,” Julian said.
“And if the public found out these creatures exist,” she said. “What would happen then?”
Julian scratched his scalp above his ear, which he does when he’s uncomfortable. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
Margaret, the hero, the absolute queen, took a deep breath. “I’m staying,” she said.
The other hostages looked at her like she was insane.
“Way I see it,” she said, “if these creatures see the light of day, it should be under better circumstances than this.”
Which like… I mean, that is some noble ass shit, Margaret. Complete madness of course — these things just took you hostage over a vacation house, I’d think your immediate reaction would be to try and blow the top off this story as quickly as possible — but noble as hell. Also, Margaret looks like she’s seen some shit, so maybe she’s just wiser than I am.
The hostages all looked at each other, waiting to decide what they’d do.
“Just to clarify,” Karen said. “You’re suggesting we stay here, as hostages, for several more hours, because you think the police can’t handle a few blood thirsty people on bath salts?”
Leave it to Karen to completely miss everything Margaret said.
“Nope,” Richard said. “I’ve seen enough.”
And before any of us could intervene, he wrenched open the doors.
Haha never had that many guns pointed at me at once before.
Karen and a phlebotomist left with Richard. Everyone else — everyone else — stayed. Voluntarily.
The phone rang again.
“That’ll be Mulligan,” Neal said. “Ask him where our takeout is. And ask him to send some cards in, too, it’s gonna be a long night.”
So I went and answered the phone.
“Hi Shiloh,” Mulligan said. “They freed some hostages.”
What was I supposed to say to that? “Yup.”
“You weren’t with them.”
“Shiloh, this is your chance to get out of there.”
“We can offer you and your whole family protection,” Agent Mulligan said. “You’ll be safe.” And when that did nothing to sway me, he said, “Your mother misses you. She’s willing to do anything to get you home.”
Which like, low blow. You think I wanted to run away from my mom? I’m on the run FROM YOU. The guy who wants to run tests on me, and who literally killed me.
“The Hawthornes aren’t holding this place up,” I said. “Ask the hostages out there, ask them what happened, and they’ll tell you. We’re here to help.”
“They told me some pretty strange stories,” Mulligan said. “Blood, and cannibals. Strange, how often these things seem to turn up around the Hawthornes, wouldn’t you say?”
That’s some big brain thinking. He really thought he did something. Strange how often firefighters are around fires, wouldn’t you say? Strange how the bomb squad always seems to be working with bombs, wouldn’t you say? Wouldn’t you say it’s strange how pest control always seems to be around rodent infestations? Idiot.
“Apparently, they convinced the other hostages to stay inside with some dangerous criminals. The words they used, were monsters. What are the Hawthornes doing with these monsters?” He paused for impact. “We just want to help you, Shiloh. Tell us what we need to do to get you out of there safe and sound.”
Around me, the Hawthornes and nurses were dragging the coffee table deeper into the lobby and gathering some chairs around it to settle in.
“Just that Chinese food will be fine,” I said.
“Shiloh —” Mulligan began, but I hung up on him.
And that’s how I ended up playing poker and eating takeout with a bunch of strangers and also Melinda the outlaw vampire for a night. It turns out Margaret and Melinda were only a few years apart in age, so they bonded about that a little bit. I mean, the flashing lights from the cop cars added an unpleasant level of urgency to the evening, but on the whole it wasn’t the worst way I’ve spent a Monday night. Margaret absolutely swept us at cards.
Around 3 in the morning, Melinda went back to check on the vampires in the fridge and found them beginning to come out of their frenzy.
Then it was show time.
“Alright, here’s the plan,” Neal said. “I don’t feel comfortable putting people in the back of a van with recently frenzied vampires.”
“So,” he went on, “We’re going to have all the hostages escort the truck out of the parking lot and up the street. After that you’re in Leopold’s hands. Sound fair?”
“What about us?” I asked.
“We’re getting in the truck,” Julian said, but he didn’t look thrilled about it. “It’s our best bet. Leopold will look after us and we can come back for the car when this all cools down.”
It seemed pretty straight forward, and it would have all gone just fine, if it hadn’t been for the police finally deciding it was time to break in.
I don’t know what they were thinking. I don’t know what signal we gave that it was a good time to come on in, but one way or another, the glass in the lobby suddenly shattered, and police officers were shouting at everyone to stay calm in the least calm way imaginable.
By that point the plan was already partially in motion. The vampires were already secure in the back of the truck, and Melinda was right at the back door, waiting.
Neal shouted at her to just go, so they started driving, and with all the hostages in the room the police couldn’t very well open fire. They moved to close down the parking lot, but vampires are immortal and driving a bullet proof van, do you really think a little blockade is going to work? They just drove over the curb and took off the down the street.
It was the Hawthornes and I that were in trouble, and I might be sitting in some kind of detention center right now if it weren’t for the hostages.
Margaret — that bad ass, that heroine — stood up, spread her arms, and started shouting incoherently, adding to the ruckus. It took the others a second to catch on, but soon they were all screaming at the top of their lungs, and jumping around like maniacs, and while they were all causing a scene, and the police were trying to figure out how to chase after the fleeing truck full of vampires, the Hawthornes and I slipped out the back door, slunk across the alley, skimmed a fence, and hoofed it out of there.
We spent the night under an overpass. I’ve never done that! We met some nice transient folks and shared a fire barrel.
Leopold called us later that night to tell us that Melinda and her team escaped okay, which to me seems absolutely insane and impossible.
Neal sort of laughed at me.
“Nothing is impossible when you’re ancient and fabulously wealthy,” he said. “You think Leopold doesn’t have plants in every major police district on this side of the Rocky Mountains? The mob has jack shit on vampires Shiloh. How do you think they’ve managed to stay underground all this time?”
Turns out it’s not their bloodthirstiness, or their predatory natures, or their venom that makes vampires terrifying, it’s their wealth — which actually, you know? That tracks, that makes sense to me 🤷🏼♀️
That was Monday night. Today is Friday.
We rented a car Tuesday morning when the rental places opened, and drove out of the city to a cabin on a lake, and that’s where we’ve been since. We’re waiting for everything to cool down so we can go get the car. Personally I think like we should use this opportunity to just buy a new car, but the Hawthornes are attached to the rust bucket so we’re waiting.
I’ve been swimming every day. The Hawthornes are going a bit stir crazy, but I’m having a blast. LAZINESS. THE DREAM.