It was a dark and chilly afternoon, and a thin rain had started to fall when the girls got off the bus in Raj's neighbourhood. Feeling the drops on her head and shoulders, Rebecca cursed her choice of attire, her pretty white dress would be ruined in no time in this weather. The girls hurried to Raj's place, rang, and hastily arranged their hair before their friend opened. When his face appeared on the threshold, the girls flashed their brightest smiles and chanted cheerfully: “Happy birthday!”
Raj's house, located in a nice suburban area of brand-new housing, may look big from the outside, but it quickly got small inside with all the family and friends. The girls were greeted by Raj's parents. His father was a traditional Sikh man, and the girls had always been impressed by his bushy black beard and his red turban, which he wore even at work, but he really was a warm and friendly man. His mother looked gorgeous in her colourful sari, which she would don only on special occasions – like a birthday. Raj lived here with his sister and his three brothers, and he had invited all his friends from his Magic: The Gathering club, making for a very, very crowded table. Rebecca and Sally were a bit embarrassed to find out they were the only girls, except for Raj's sister Leila, who was nineteen and in law school, so they hardly had anything to talk about. But to Becca, it was okay, after all this party was her chance to kick back and have a good time after a bunch of difficult days.
Although she tried to stay strong and not mention it, she had been pretty shaken up by her conversation with the French priest. Enough to stop sleeping for a while, spending her nights staring at the ceiling and reflecting on everything he said. Sure, his story was wild, completely unlikely, like something straight out of a comic book or a bad fantasy novel. Yet, everything that had happened to her ever since she laid her fingers on the cross was equally wild and unlikely. For a time she regretted giving the cross away, and she would spend hours staring at the card he had given her, staring at his phone number, trying to find the courage to call, but always chickening out. What if he was just a lunatic, or a pervert?
So she started googling him. Hubert Louis de Sainte Croix. And to her greatest surprise, she found stuff about him, on French-speaking websites. She had a hard time figuring out, Google Translate wasn't, after all, the most reliable tool there was, but little by little, she began to get the picture. Those websites she had found were mostly amateurish, occult-related sensational blogs, but the name of “Abbaye de Sainte Croix” would come back often. It was always referred to as some sort of urban legend, a secretive “warrior priest cult”, located, according to some sources, in the heart of the forest of Brocéliande, a haven of mystical folklore in France, even though the existence of such an abbey had never been confirmed. As she read on, she discovered that the “Abbaye de Sainte Croix” had been considered as nothing more than a thrill tale relayed by mystery hunters, until a sordid case occurred in 1994.
A priest, named Hubert Louis Cachet, but who came to be known as Hubert Louis de Sainte Croix, formerly known as Lieutenant Cachet of the 18th Navy Paratrooper Regiment, was arrested in the town of Vannes and charged with the murder of three young men. All charges were dropped and the priest was released a few days later, for lack of evidence, since the bodies had never been found. Creepier still, it was revealed after his release that the three missing young men were at that time suspected by the police of being involved in at least five murders – five bodies found, men and women of various ages, all with the same deep wound on their necks and completely drained of their blood. The local newspapers were quick to nickname Father de Sainte Croix “Le chasseur de vampires du Morbihan”. This last phrase didn't take long for the girl to translate: vampire hunter. The priest was an ex-military vampire hunter. No matter how weird this tale was, it was still a real, actual newspaper story, which gave it, to Rebecca's eyes, some kind of credibility. So what if? What if everything he said was true?
She didn't care. Or at least that's what she had tried to convince herself of for days. That no matter what, she had given him back that bloody cross of his and now she was out of this madness for good. And as she was this afternoon, in Raj's bedroom, trying to learn the subtleties of a Magic game after eating way too much cake and soda, and having a good laugh with Sally when they noticed the boys always played nicer against them and were all eager to give them tips, it was like she had almost succeeded.