Memory Thief 2. Un-Nine

“Holy shit, Nine!“ said Peter, holding his hand over his pounding heart. “Were you trying to scare the life out of me?”

The woman shook her head, her dark hair waving over her face.

Catching his breath, Peter folded his arms and studied the nude woman sitting on the mortuary table. It didn’t seem like Nine to go to so much trouble for a practical joke. He had no doubt funerary workers produced off-beat pranks, but not this level of commitment. And unprofessional going against everything he knew about Nine. Hiding in a casket, sure, but stripping all her clothes off and chilling herself to play dead? Madness.

Memory Thief 1. Naked Undead

Passing the cemetery, Peter Gray took the next turn, a narrow road up a steep incline. Within headlights frost glistened at the edge of the pavement. The road snaked through the woods passing homes on large lots. Spotting the stone sign illuminated by two spotlights on the ground, he pulled into the drive which curved around a grove of tall evergreens emerging into a parking lot at Thyme Funeral Home.

FordFairlane67 320

NINE/ƎИIИ 10. Sepulcher Riddle

Thyme, a word derived from the Greek, thymus, stood for courage. Until finding the Chinese symbol for courage on the coffin, Nine hadn’t considered the family having Chinese origins. She had chosen her tattoo with Chinese symbols because it looked cool, but she began to realize there had been more—whispers from ancestors in her blood—behind her decision on her sixteenth birthday. In the nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants had arrived to help build the railroad, so a culture clash between European and Chinese ancestry was probable. Nine considered perhaps Vampire Thyme wasn’t as old as Augustus had believed unless Xavier and his boss, Yasmine, were mistaken.

Or Vampire Thyme had taken to resting here in his later years. Did vampires actually sleep in coffins? It seemed silly. More reasonable to expect family secrets or a fallen offspring within the coffin.

Nine shivered, and her stomach twisted into knots.

NINE/ƎИIИ 9. Thyme Tomb

The images on the vampmobile’s high-resolution window displays revealed a video of the road heading out of Roseland on the way home, but the shifting weight didn’t quite match the view.

“You’re not taking me home, are you, Miss Yasmine-with-a-wy?”

A tap on the tablet, and the screen cast a pale blue glow onto Yasmine’s face revealing her pleasant expression. A quick glance, the male went back to looking at the view that appeared to be the highway heading through tall evergreens illuminated by lamplights.

Yasmine swiped her finger on the tablet screen, and the images on the false-windows changed to dark stone walls supported by white columns zipping by. The car drove through a narrow tunnel.

NINE/ƎИIИ 8. Vampmobile

It was after dark by the time Nine exited the Roseland Police Department in downtown. She had spent the entire day answering questions, or at least it felt like the entire day. Most of the morning she had spent in a waiting room. Her shift at the restaurant started in twenty minutes, and she still needed to ride the bus home to fetch her work clothes.

Did she even want to work tonight? Talking things over with Peter sounded nice, but solitude called her home. Tapping on her phone, she sent Peter a message asking for the night off.

The police had questioned her about the murder. Their only suspect in custody, they had asked about the decapitated body and its missing head. She had held it together throughout the questioning, and the investigator’s cluelessness had made it easier for her to lie.

Now, she felt like hurling. Her stomach did one of those twisting-tumbling things, but nothing came up. Her knees weakened, but she trudged on trying to think about Peter with his warm smile.

At the crowded sidewalk, she rose up on her toes searching for the bus stop.

A black limousine stopped at the curb beside her. As she began to make her way, the door popped open and the driver climbed out.

“Miss Thyme?” said the driver.