⇈ table of contents

Venom

NINE/ƎИIИ 11. 9 PM

Dressed in her nightshirt and wool socks, Nine carried the Thyme Guide to Vampires into the library. On the table a mug contained a moist bag of tea. She found bits of dirt on the leather chair, which seemed odd. She swiped the seat clean and sat down.

On odd sensation crept inside her.

Thumbing through the pages of the guide, she searched for a reference to January Nine. Stopping at the end of the third chapter, she reviewed the final questions Augustus had posed.

Upon consuming enough blood and memory could the vampire become its victim? Or was the consumed knowledge used for some other nefarious purpose?

Her father wasn’t the man she thought she knew. Hunting pseudo-vampire people was a secret worth keeping from her. Sebastian Thyme was still Augustus’s son, though, wasn’t he? The idea that a vampire could disguise himself as, or worse become, her father sent chills splashing from head to shoulders.

Searching the Thyme Tomb so soon after the murder had been a mistake leaving her feeling drained and on the verge of catching ill. Thankfully Xavier had waited outside the gate to help her return home.

Nine continued flipping through the guide. If only Augustus had included an index, her search might be easier. A digital version would make this chore a snap. As she reached near the tail end of the book, she began to realize she’d need to read every page to be certain if January Nine appeared at all.

She slammed the book closed.

Looking at the mug on the table, Nine realized she hadn’t set it there. With her father in a holding cell at the police station, she was all alone at the funeral home. A puddle of tea remained at the bottom of the mug.

Someone had been inside the library.

“ɘniИ?”

She felt silly calling the trickster out. Anyone sneaky enough to cut flowers behind her back and remain hidden in the chapel wasn’t about to jump out and share a laugh.

Nine set the book on the table and hurried out of the library. Down the hall and around the corner, she reached the office and opened the door. The light was on as she had left it.

She crept over to the open door and peeked into the showroom. The caskets remained in their usual positions. Perfect hiding place, though. She recalled as a young girl sneaking inside caskets to spook her grandfather. At the window, she pulled the curtain open and gazed outside.

Beside the hearse, the old classic car Peter had recently inherited from a stranger sat quietly beneath the lamplight.

What was Peter doing here instead of minding the restaurant? The car appeared empty, and no one stood out front. If the bell had rung, she missed it. Had Peter left the mug on the table? Nine at night seemed rather late for a visit.

Nine called out Peter’s name and listened.

As she waited for a reply, she began to recognize that odd sensation. Someone was watching. Besides the caskets, the big desk offered an easy opportunity for any kid playing hide-and-seek. Peter wasn’t the child-play type. ɘniИ, however.

Nine crept around the desk and bent over for a look. Nothing to her relief, and she felt ridiculous for checking. It was the mug out of place that had thrown her off is all.

Peter had to be outside, the graveyard perhaps. Nine went to fetch her coat. The sensation of a watchful eye followed her.