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Soulbound ‡ waif

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 13

For life be, after all, only a waitin' for somethin' else than what we're doin'; and death be all that we can rightly depend on.

-- From Dracula by Bram Stoker

Standing before them next to a black carriage were two people, both dressed in black clothing. A bearded man with a stern face. Next to him, a tall woman, toying with a strand of pearls around her neck.

She turned to the man and asked, "Is this the one, Abram?"

He nodded his head. "Yes, m'lady."

She looked at Zavy and said, "Zavy Gibbs, I presume. I would like a brief word with you, young man."

Zavy studied the woman for a moment. Her skin was pale, as pale as that of the vampire who'd bitten him. Her eyes were hidden behind a black lace veil. When she talked, her voice was clipped and harsh. Her fingers seemed to dance along the string of pearls hanging from her neck, like a nun praying the rosary.

Zavy shook his head slightly. "No reason I can see for us to talk. I don't know you."

"True," the woman replied. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Minerva Smyth, Executor of the Whitechapel Covenant of vampires."

Zavy looked nervously at Jack and Reggie.

The woman smiled and said, "I see you are now interested in what I have to say." She tipped her head slightly and sniffed the air. "All three of you? Which one of you did Abigail bite? You, Mr. Gibbs? And did you bite the other two?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Zavy replied.

Minerva laughed softly, an unnerving laugh that grated on the nerves and left you shivering. "I believe you know exactly what I'm talking about. I believe you also know the details on how several hundred pounds of currency disappeared from my bank. And how several ladies—a term I use quite sarcastically—died most violent deaths in recent weeks." She paused, waiting for a reaction.

Jack was trembling, looking around nervously.

Reggie put his arm around Jack's shoulders, pulling him into a loose hug.

Zavy looked from Minerva to Abram. They waited silently. Zavy shrugged and asked, "What more is there for me to add? You seem to know everything we've done."

Minerva smiled again. "Bold. I like that, and I like you, Zavy Gibbs. I want you to join me and end all the unpleasantness you boys started."

Zavy didn't reply, deciding he also could play a waiting game.

Minerva chuckled. "I assure you I don't care about the money. There will always be plenty of that available for our kind. My primary concern is the untimely deaths of certain women, who no doubt deserved their fates, but it is the manner of their passing that is of particular concern. It has captured the attention of highly-placed humans and brought undue focus upon Whitechapel. That must be rectified."

"What do mean by that?" Reggie asked.

Minerva sighed. "This really is getting tiresome. Why don't we all take a ride? We'll be able to sit in my garden, drink some tea, and discuss this matter in more detail."

"The last time I visited a vampire's garden, I got this," Zavy said, pulling the scarf off his neck and pointing at his scar.

Minerva laughed again, this time with actual humor. "A good point, young sir. I can assure you there is no longer anything to be gained by adding to your scar, seeing as how the three of you are all vampires. I merely wish to talk."

Zavy, Reggie, and Jack huddled at the top of the stairs talking softly while Minerva and Abram waited patiently next to the carriage.

"Are you sure, Reggie," Zavy whispered.

Reggie nodded his head slightly, then glanced up at the window to their apartment. "We have to think about Mum and the children. It's the only way."

Zavy glanced sideways at Jack. "Ready then?"

Jack whispered, "Yep."

Reggie stepped back and shouted, "You don't run me life, Zavy! I can decide for meself."

Zavy gritted his teeth and snapped, "This again? I ain't trying to run your life, Reg. I just think I've done well enough for the three of us so far."

"And what have we to show for it?" Reggie demanded. "New clothes? A few meals? And half of London wanting to know what we're up to down here in Whitechapel!"

"She's exaggerating about that, Reg! I can keep Jack safe. We don't need her."

Reggie backed down the steps and turned to face Minerva. "What can you do for us if we come with you?"

Minerva opened the door on the carriage. "I can take you to safety. Safety inside my Covenant, where you will be protected from the fury of humanity. Outside of my Covenant, you are a rogue vampire, subject to destruction by all vampires and humans who find you. Inside my Covenant, you will learn to use your powers and to find your place as a master over humankind."

Reggie nodded and turned to Zavy, raising his hands in desperation. "I'm tired of living like this, Zavy. I'm tired of having to pay to sleep in the cold corner of someone else's house. What do we owe them? She's not even me mum. Crawley's not me dad. They don't love us. They won't miss us when we're gone. We're vampires now. This is where we belong."

Zavy shook his head slowly from side to side. "You don't think we can't do all that for ourselves? We can go any bloody place we want. We'll form our own vampire clan. We don't need them."

Jack walked down the steps and stood between Reggie and Zavy. "You two are bloody pathetic! Standing out here, arguing when we could be spending the last of our coin on drink and women. I'm tired of listening to all this. When you make up your minds, you know where to find me." Jack disappeared.

"Jack!" Zavy shouted. He glared at Reggie. "See what you've done! Now I have to go find him, and you know how bloody hard that can be."

Reggie stuck his hand out, middle finger extended. "Then go find your little lover and leave me be."

Zavy shook his head. "Fuck yourself, cousin." And Zavy disappeared too.

Reggie turned to Minerva. "I guess it's just me, then."

The garden was exquisite. The paths were paved with crushed seashells. The shrubbery was trimmed into the shapes of people and animals. Every flowerbed was in bloom. Minerva led the way to a gazebo, where food and drink were set out. She motioned for Reggie to be seated.

Reggie looked around the grounds and back at the three-story house that dominated the slight hill behind them. He shook his head in amazement and said, "I must say, your place is bang up to the elephant."

Abram chuckled at the boy's use of slang.

Minerva nodded indulgently. That would have to be one of the first things she corrected. "We live well," she said. "All vampires do. But without attracting the notice of humans. That was the mistake your cousin made, and which I intend to correct."

"What are you gonna do?" Reggie asked.

"We are GOING to find both of them and bring them here, where they will be forced to join the covenant or be removed from consideration."

Reggie ignored Minerva's attempt to correct his grammar and took a biscuit from the tray in front of him, biting into it. He raised his eyebrows in surprise, then popped the rest into his mouth, chewing and speaking at the same time. "Zavy won't go along with that. He's too independent. Jack neither. He's a right rebel, Jack is."

Minerva sighed as she poured tea into a cup and handed it to Reggie. "Have they always been that way?"

Reggie shrugged. "Jack's always been a bit wild. Zavy wasn't so bad when we was growing up. His mum had great plans for him. Named him Thomas Xavier, so she thought he'd be big in the church or something, I suppose. Me mum had big plans for me too. Me name is actually Reginald Gregorio Gibbs, but I go by Reggie. I suppose now that I'm a vampire, I should use Gregorio instead. Sounds more like a vampire name than Reggie, I think."

Minerva rolled her eyes and tried to interrupt Reggie's rambling. "What we need to know now is where they might be."

"Damfino. Down at the docks. Over at the park around London Hospital. We have places there we like to hide out during the day."

A vampire appeared at the base of the steps leading up into the gazebo. He rushed up the steps and leaned over to whisper urgently in Minerva's ear.

She turned, startled. "Again?"

The vampire nodded.

Minerva turned back to Reggie, exasperated. "Why would your young friend Jack be ransacking my bank again?"

Reggie grinned. "We were about out of cash, so he's probably getting more for wine. He likes his wine, he does."

Minerva turned to the vampire next to her. "Take a dozen men with you. Guard the bank. If he comes back, catch him and bring him here."

"He won't be going back to the bank any time soon," Reggie added with a smirk. "Now he's got coin, he'll be heading down to the Dancing Fool. They'll give him all the beer he wants. And there's women who hang out there that he's taken a fancy too."

Minerva tapped her fingers on the table. "Send a half dozen men to the Dancing Fool. Discretely."

The vampire nodded and disappeared.

Minerva turned to Reggie. "You three are becoming more trouble than it's worth."

Reggie shrugged and bit into another biscuit. "Good tosh, these."

Zavy ran into the stables and found Old Man McCoy grooming a mare. "Sir! Mr. McCoy! I need your help."

McCoy looked around, surprised by Zavy's sudden appearance. "What is it, lad?"

"I need to hire a carriage. To take my family out of Whitechapel. I can pay you."

McCoy shook his head. "Not a coin will I take, Zavy Gibbs." He put the curry comb down and walked to a nearby tack room. "We'll take Dobbin and Hank. They're the strongest of the lot and will get you where you need to go. Lead 'em out back and I'll bring their gear."

"Thank you, Mr. McCoy, but I insist on paying you. We've a long journey ahead of us."

"Then you can buy food and water for the team when we get there. Now get the horses out, lad. If we've a long trip ahead of us, we'd best get started."

Angry shouts coming from the house interrupted their conversation. Minerva and Abram turned and searched for the cause of the commotion. Reggie tried to hide a smirk.

A woman ran up to the gazebo and pointed back behind her. "It's the blonde boy. He's in the kitchen, throwing dishes against the walls."

Minerva stood up and grabbed Reggie's arm in a tight grip.

"Ow. You're hurting me arm," he complained.

She relaxed her grip slightly and yanked him to his feet. "Come with me," she snarled.

She half-dragged Reggie up the path to the house. There was more shouting coming from the second floor. A heavy bronze bust flew through a window, falling to the grass below in a shower of glass. Jack's face appeared at the shattered window, laughing with delight. Then he disappeared.

"I guess he figured out where you live," Reggie said with a frown. "He's gonna be trouble. I told you he's a wild one."

Minerva turned to Abram. "Bring some of the men back from the bank. Have them take up stations around the grounds and inside the house."

She pulled Reggie around to face her. "Think very carefully, Reginald Gregorio Gibbs. Where will he go next?"

Reggie shrugged. "The Grey Fox? He really likes their pork pies."

"No time to explain, Mum," Zavy said in a rush as he lifted the pallet and pulled out a large stack of pound notes and shoved them into his pockets. "Grab the girls. I'll get the boys. We have to go NOW!"

Mum stared at Zavy, shocked at the amount of money he had pulled out from under the sleeping pallet.

"MUM! Get Rachel and Becky! Come here, Danny boy. I'll carry you. Micah, will you hold my hand? That's a big lad." Zavy looked at his mother. "You know me, Mum. You know you can trust me. You have to believe me when I tell you the family's in danger, and we have to go NOW. I've a carriage outside, waiting to take us somewhere we'll be safe. Now please bring the girls and come with me."

Mum saw the desperation in Zavy's eyes. She didn't understand, but Zavy was right about one thing. She knew her son, and she trusted him. She swept the girls up, one in each arm and followed Zavy as he ran out the door, tugging little Micah along behind him by the hand.

Crawley peeked out the bedroom as he saw them all leaving, grunted and walked into the kitchen, looking for something to eat.

Minerva sat next to Reggie in the gazebo, studying him.

Reggie returned her gaze with a fearless smirk.

She nodded her head. "Well played. Well played indeed." She lifted her cup and took a sip of tea, now cold. She grimaced and set the cup down. "Your family?"

"Well away by now and safe from you," Reggie replied.

Minerva laughed. "Clever. But I was quite serious about my offer and my warning."

"I'm sure you were," Reggie replied.

"You don't seem to grasp the severity of the situation."

Abram appeared behind Reggie. Abram's eyes were glowing red, his fangs were showing, and his fingers were curled with long talons extended. He grabbed Reggie from behind, sinking the talons into the flesh of Reggie's arms.

Reggie gasped and tried to translocate to the alley behind Hanbury. It didn't work. His eyes flew open in surprise. He focused on the docks and pictured himself there. Still nothing.

Minerva laughed softly. "There are things about being a vampire that you lads have yet to learn. One of them is that vampires cannot translocate when their skin is pierced by the talons of another vampire. It interferes with the jump, you see." She leaned in and whispered, "If you had joined with me, you would have learned this and many other useful facts about what it means to be a vampire."

The carriage rumbled out of the city and into the countryside. "Where are you taking us, Zavy?" Mum asked, glancing nervously out the window.

Zavy pulled the stack of pound notes from his pocket. "Dedham. It's far enough away I don't think they'll find us."

"Who? Who's after us, Zavy?"

Zavy shook his head. "I can't tell ya' that, Mum. I wish I could, but you'll have to trust me on this too." He handed the money to her and said, "I'll bring more when I can. This should be enough to buy yourself a small cottage and provide plenty of food. Mr. McCoy will get you there safely. I have to go back and get Zavy and Jack."

Mum grabbed Zavy's hand. "Whatever is going on, Zavy … you be careful."

Zavy blinked back his tears. "I will, Mum. I love ya', Mum."

"I love ya' too, Zavy dear."

Zavy knocked on the roof of the carriage. When it stopped, he opened the door and jumped out. "I'll see you in Dedham, Mum." He swung the carriage door closed.

McCoy, sitting in the driver's seat, nodded at Zavy and whipped the reins, sending the horses on again.

As the carriage disappeared down the road, Zavy turned back to face London and took a deep breath. Time to finish the game.

Reggie struggled to get free, but Abram's grip was too strong.

Minerva extended her finger and traced the line of Reggie's jaw. "Clever boys like the three of you would have done well living in my Covenant."

"What are you pratting on about?" Reggie demanded. "What's this Covenant you're always blathering over?"

"A Covenant is a community of vampires, living and working together in a city, usually. In our case, in Whitechapel. We call ourselves the Whitechapel Covenant. We own most of the large businesses here. We live in the best homes. We are in charge."

"So that was your bank we emptied out?" Reggie asked with a laugh.

Minerva nodded. "It was an irritation at most. Easily replaced. Being a member of my family, money is something you would never lack."

"Then why are you giving us a rollicking for pinching a few pounds?"

Minerva hissed, "They weren't your pounds to pinch. And the women you killed, though tramps and whores every one of them, were murdered in a way that has brought unnecessary attention on Whitechapel. That makes it difficult for the Covenant, and there is nothing I won't do to protect my Covenant and my people. I don't follow the rules of humanity, young man. For me, there is no act too extreme. No sin I won't commit. And no one I will hesitate to destroy if they bring danger to my Covenant."

Reggie tried once more to pull out of Abram's grip, failing.

"Let me go!" he shouted.

"WHERE ARE THEY?" Minerva responded.

"Right here," Zavy said, appearing behind Minerva with Jack at his side.

Minerva slowly turned and stared at Zavy.

"Release him," Zavy ordered.

Minerva shook her head. "That is not going to happen."

"I think it will," Zavy replied.

Minerva smiled. "Oh? And why is that?"

Zavy glanced at the large gate at the entrance to the property. "Because very soon, Inspector Spratling and dozens of constables will be knocking on that gate, asking to speak to Minerva Smyth about the presence of vampires in Whitechapel."

Minerva's voice turned cold. "You didn't?"

Zavy nodded. "I did. Now release my cousin."

Minerva chuckled. "Well. You certainly surprised me there. And you've put the Covenant in a difficult spot, but not one I can't resolve. I had hoped to have such resourceful young men as yourselves working with me in the future. I still hope that will be the case."

Zavy shook his head. "Not gonna happen. Now release Reggie so we can be on our way."

Vampires appeared behind Zavy and Jack, reaching out to grab them. Two managed to hold Zavy in their grip, slipping long talons into his arms to prevent him from translocating. But Jack was too quick, falling to the ground and scurrying between their legs before popping out and jumping to the roof of the gazebo.

"Get him!" Minerva shrieked.

Vampires popped onto the gazebo as Jack disappeared. He reappeared next to a tree, laughing. "Too slow!" he shouted.

Vampires appeared next to him just as he disappeared and jumped inside the gazebo, jauntily snatching up a biscuit before disappearing again. "Up here!" he yelled from the top of the steps leading into the house. A woman appeared next to Jack and managed to grab his arm, but before she could sink her talons into his flesh, he disappeared again.

"AWWW!" Jack screamed. His body was half inside a garden wall. He'd misjudged the jump, reappearing partway in the wall, with his upper body jutting out of the stones, now dripping with his blood. Red foam gushed from his mouth and his eyes were wide in panic.

"EVERYONE STOP!" Minerva shouted. "Let those two go, and no more chasing after them."

"JACK!" Zavy screamed, throwing off the vampires who had been holding him and running to Jack's side. "OH JACK!" Zavy cried as he reached out to tenderly stroke Jack's cheek.

Jack panted rapidly. "I fucked up, Zavy." He gasped, struggling to breathe.

"No, Jack," Zavy said, his stomach heaving. "You didn't fuck up anything. You were brilliant, me lad."

Jack shook his head. "I'm sorry, Zavy. I did fuck up, but we saved the family, didn't we? We saved 'em."

Zavy wept. "Yes, Jack, me love. We saved 'em, we did."

"I love you, Zavy," Jack mumbled, blood pouring from his mouth. He closed his eyes, and his head dropped to his chest.

"JACKO!" Zavy screamed, tears pouring down his face.

Minerva gently turned Zavy to face her. "Listen to me now, young one. This…" She pointed at Jack's body. "… this is what I wanted to avoid. No more of this. No more running. No more risking your lives. Join with us."

Zavy gulped. "After what you did to Jack? You still ask me to join you?"

Minerva sighed. "I'm sorry about Jack. I never intended anything of that sort to happen, and I suppose it is my fault for pushing too hard. I regret what happened to your friend. I wanted all three of you in the Covenant. Listen to me, young one. Accidents like this need never happen, not if you're trained properly by one of us. Let me show you and your cousin all there is to being a vampire."

Zavy shook his head. "I just want to go live with me mum and brothers and sisters."

"Do you really think that's possible?" Minerva asked, gently. "They are humans. They will grow old and die, but you will never age. How will you explain that to your mother? Will you tell her the truth, that you are a vampire? What of your brothers and sisters? Will you bite them all and make them vampires too, dooming them to eternal undeath?"

Zavy shook his head, suddenly realizing the difficulty he was in.

"I've no doubt you've sent them off to a safe place. Let them go. You can visit them from time to time, checking to see that they are safe, leaving them with funds to meet their every need. But you must no longer be a part of their lives. They must believe you are gone forever. They must go on, living as humans, and it is your destiny to stay here, with the Covenant."

Zavy laughed bitterly. "That will be a short stay. I meant what I said about Inspector Spratling."

"So you did talk to him about us?"

"Yes," Zavy admitted. "He didn't believe me, but he's coming here to see for himself."

Minerva shrugged. "I was getting bored with Whitechapel." She turned to Abram and said, "Tell everyone to speed up the preparations for the move."

Abram nodded and disappeared.

She took Zavy's hand and led him to where Reggie was standing, rubbing his arms. "You both belong in the Covenant. I won't demand you stay, but you should know that rogue vampires don't last long. They are hunted mercilessly, both by us and by the humans. Stay with me, and I'll make you princes among men."

Zavy looked at Reggie.

Reggie sighed. "Prince Xavier? Prince Gregor?" He smiled sadly at Zavy. "If only Jack could've heard this. I told him we'd be princes one day."

December 2, 1888

We are a few hours from arriving in New York. It has been an uneventful voyage, granting me time to draft this memoir. It is my hope that years from now, others will read it and remember us, not as monsters but as lads who lived life to the fullest and made the best of what they'd been given.

I am grateful to Abram Schreiber, who provided many crucial specifics of which I was unaware. Without his assistance, I would not have been able to complete my story in such rich detail. Abram decided to stay in England and work in the theatre there. I wish him well in his new life. I understand he has adopted a new name, which he will live under until it is time to move on and assume a new vampire identity. For now, he has decided to be called Bram Stoker. I hope he writes another novel. His last one was quite popular.

As for myself, my new life will begin the moment we set foot in the States. I am now to be known as Xavier Smyth, the adopted son of Minerva Smyth. She's insisting I use proper English in my speech and writing from now on. Minerva has also made it clear that I am never again to be called Zavy Gibbs. Though we'll be across the ocean from Whitechapel, England, that old life is to be erased even from my memory.

A part of me rebels at that thought, because to forget who I was and how I lived in Whitechapel means I must also forget one young lad who will always hold a piece of my soul. I've recently learned what it means to be soulbound with another, and though I cannot say for certain, I suspect that Jack and I were indeed connected in this most intimate of ways. I doubt I'll ever be soulbound with anyone like I was with Jack.

I've been asked to forget my past, but I cannot and will not forget Jack.

I still recall the night he told me he was nothing more than Jack. Jack Coggins. Jack the forgettable. Jack the street rat. There was one other name people called him, but I refuse to use that horrific nickname. It simply isn't who Jack was.

Rather, I choose to remember him for the intensity of his passion, for his fierce loyalty, for his boldness and bravery. Jack, me love, you are not forgotten. And it is my hope that others will read this memoir and know the truth about Jack Coggins, the waif of Whitechapel.

One last time, I sign my name as I was once called…

With warmest regards, Zavy Gibbs

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