“I went away to University, but my parents you see, they still live here and everything. Well I just decided I was going to take some time off. Maybe a semester, maybe a year, it really has to do with my mother being sick. You know, my decision and all.” The girl paused to screw the cap off her water bottle and take a sip. “I think it’s really neat how this is your first time to St. Venantius. What did you say it was you were again?”
“I’m an ornithologist.” Francis cleared his throat. When he’d gotten on the train, he’d taken the first empty cabin he could fine. He’d wanted to be alone. He had things to review and a half-written letter that he’d wanted to finish. But when a twenty-something student had lugged her carry-on suitcase and a pet carrier into his cabin, he knew privacy was not a luxury he would be given. What made matters worse, of course, was the fact that she had barely stopped talking since the moment she’d sat down.
And her tabby just kept giving him the oddest looks.
“Right, I remember now.” She gestured towards him with her bottle.
Francis smirked. This girl, her name was Carla Bell, clearly had no idea what an ornithologist was. But in an attempt to appear intelligent, she never asked him.
“So…So what exactly brings you here, Francis?”
“I’m here to study.” He explained. She would have to do better then that. Francis Emery was never in the habit of making things easy for other people. Besides, he didn’t take kindly to having information tricked out of him.
“What do we have here that you don’t have in England?”
Emery paused to think about his answer. A quick glance out the window provided it.
“The…” It obviously took Carla a moment to realize he was making a joke. “Oh…oh it’s always raining in England.”
“Always. At least, that seems to be what you Canadians think.” Francis turned his attention back to the scenery as it rolled by. It really was beautiful. He made a note to come back out here and take photographs to send back to Percy. He’d wished that Percival had decided to come with him. They hadn’t been apart of years. But Francis knew that Percy wasn’t really a fan of flying or traveling overseas, so when Emery had received a ‘no’ from him he hadn’t pushed the issue.
He looked at the girl again. He knew the Percy, with his sunny disposition, would have enjoyed the girl’s company much more then he was. He’d mention her in his letter.
The cat in Carla’s carrier let out an irritating meow, and Francis cringed.
“What’s wrong?” Bell grinned. “Do you not like cats?”
“I hate them.” Emery could feel the train begin to slow down.
“Well don’t worry about Neil.” She turned the carrier so that the door faced her.
“Neil?” Francis’ heart sank as he watched the girl struggle with the cage door. “I don’t…I don’t think that is permitted, Carla.”
“Just for a minute, He’s so cramped in there. Besides, you’ll like cats if you meet him.”
“No…that’s quite—” before Francis could finish his sentence, the cat was dropped on his lap.
Neil looked up and Emery, and Emery down at Neil. It took a moment for the cat to register what happened. But then, with ears flat to his head, he let out a long hiss and swiped at Francis, his claw scrapping across the man’s cheek. Before Francis could hit him away, he leaped back towards his owner and disappeared into his carrier.
Carla was all apologies. “Oh my God! I swear, I’ve never seen him act—”
“Shh.” Francis waves his hand to silence her, and then reached into his pocket to pull out a handkerchief. He dabbed it against his cheek and then looked at it. There were three little streaks of blood. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, Gosh, I—.”
“If you’ll excuse me.” Francis got up and went to the find where the bathroom on the train was. He knew that he could probably just wait until they’d dome into the station, but he didn’t want to be near the girl or her demonic cat any longer.
He locked the door once he’d found the washroom and looked at his face in the mirror. Emery had to keep one hand against the wall to keep himself from falling as the train once again slowed.
He rubbed his fingers across the scratches and put the blood to his lips. It tasted like Percy. Francis pulled down his shirt collar to look at the bite marks on his neck. He ran his finger across the two tiny puncture wounds. The memories of his last night in England seemed fresher when he touched those marks. He missed Percy already.
Years ago, he used to be bitten by Percy for other reasons. In 1896 he’d served as a source of blood for the vampire. That had been turning the time that he’d still worked as the Raven Master at the Tower of London. He’d been back to the Tower many a time since then, and seen the ravens that had replaced his as they died, and the new Masters as well. All of them had possessed a talent similar to his, but none of them had seemed to have perfected it to the same degree. But that might just be his pride that made him think that was. It was that talent that had brought him to St. Venantius now.
He pressed harder on the bite marks and sighed. Just before the turn on the century, at a time when the death seemed like a very real possibility, he’d asked Percy to change him, and the vampire had willingly. They’d been together though the changing times ever since. Percy much more interested in the process of the world then he was, but then, Percival was also much older.
Now the bites were just a sign of affection, and Francis had always enjoyed it anyway.
But none of that had anything to do with why he was in the city.
The cab ride from the train station was horrid. The driver had at first seemed reluctant to take Francis into his car. When Emery had explained that he’d be moving into a house in town, he had to assure the driver that he wasn’t picking up any furniture before the driver agreed. The whole way to the house, the driver explained how he’d had a girl just the other morning who’d tried to cram the entire contents of a living room into the back of his cab. Francis pretended to be interested, but he must not have been doing a very good job because it wasn’t long before the driver grew silent once more.
They turned down a street, and the architecture made Francis feel a little better. The street looked quaint, and he was beginning to think that his few months here wouldn’t be as terrible as he originally thought.
There was a Queen Anne style house that he thought was particularly remarkable, that was of course, until the cab driver pulled into the driveway of a beautiful Second Empire style home with a tall mansard roof. The roof looked like it needed new shingles, and Francis decided that the photos he’d seen were a bit old. But it didn’t matter. For now, it was home.
Emery tipped the driver and walked up to the house, using the keys he’d been sent in the mail, he opened it. It looked just like the owner said it would when he’d talked to him. The place was covered in white-sheeted furniture, and dust.
The person he’d bought it from had never moved in. He said he had a plan to retire to the city but money had been tight. Everything that was in the house had never belonged to him, and Francis could do as he liked to it.
Emery uncovered one of the couches and sat down. He’d given himself a week. One week to clean out this place and to get settled before he was scheduled to meet the man he’d come to see. There was so much he needed to do, including figuring out how to get a phone line into the house.
He reached into his bag and pulled out a small book. He opened and pulled out the small photo he’d be using as a bookmark. It was a picture of a North American Robin with an address on the back. Apparently, this bird would be of great interest to him.