The wind flew through her hair, as Kara sped towards the hotel. She barely noticed the cars speeding by her. Her mind was reliving another time, when she had sat in the back, and Matt Freeson had been driving. It seemed like a happy memory to her, which vaguely surprised her. She had not really associated anything happy with her father. Over the years, especially after her mother’s death, she had grown further and further from Matt Freeson. PRADA had been one of the few things still keeping them in touch, or at least that’s what Kara had always believed. But after seeing her father like that, lying on a table, made her not so sure of what she believed.
When she finally pulled up outside the Hotel Palermont, she was back to business, a steely resolve on her face. But she couldn’t help avoiding Ryan’s eyes as he looked at her expectantly. “He’d have been stupid to not have noticed my attention was not exactly on the road” she sighed to herself. Nonetheless she kept her mouth shut, and they walked into the lobby of the hotel.
As they walked towards the desk, Kara turned to Ryan and said, “Look Ryan, thanks a lot for helping out. This means a lot to me. But …this might not be a fun ride. Are you sure you want to come up?”
”Are you kidding me? Of course, I do. Besides, it’s not every day I get to meet V.”
A light smile touched Kara’s lips. Ryan smiled back, then lowered his voice as he asked, “So, is it true? The rumours about him?”
“What rumours? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kara said, an innocent expression on her face. Unfazed, Ryan continued, “You know, that he is a …”
Kara didn’t allow him to finish. “Better not be saying that here. Besides, you’d never know the difference.” She said cryptically.
At the desk, Kara simply asked for 314. The concierge nodded at her and asked a porter to escort her and Ryan up. A few minutes later, they were outside a white wooden door with an ornate handlebar, and a small metal number plate which said ‘314’. Before Kara could knock, a smooth voice sounded out from inside the room. “Come on in. I’ve been expecting you.”
Room 314 was a well designed sizeable single bedroom, done up in white stucco and gentle golden detailing. As soon as he took in the room, he noticed one other thing that he had been expecting; an absence of mirrors. Ryan’s eyes finally settled on the tall lanky figure resting on a black couch facing the door. Ryan was taken aback at the guy’s age; he looked about as young as him, long jet black hair crowning his slightly pale face. His black jacket stood a firm contrast to his skin, which had an unhealthy pallid colour. Ryan gently leaned in and whispered to Kara, “Are you sure this is V? He doesn’t look like he’s …all that old.”
The man on the couch smiled amusedly and spoke in the same smooth voice that had invited them in. “You know, I can hear you from here. You must be Ryan Hammett, Freeson’s new boy at Forensics. Your particular talents are quite interesting, I hear.” He turned to face Kara, and his expression grew serious. “Kara, my dear, I am so sorry over what happened. I’d ask you to sit, but you know the drill. Stay behind the white line if you wish to live.”
Ryan looked down at the floor, to see a white line painted on the floor about two feet from him. He looked questioningly at Kara, but she seemed unperturbed at the casual threat V had thrown their way. V decided to answer Ryan’s expression.
“Ryan, ever had AIDS?”
“What? What the hell does that have to …” Ryan was thrown off by the absolute irrelevance of the question. V got up and started walking towards them.
“It’s a disease. Just like the HHR virus. Hypohaematosis doesn’t really have a cure, unless you count silver or garlic, and that’s fatal as far as I know. So people keep studying it, dissecting the disease and the diseased. It’s what doctors do for AIDS. It’s what PRADA does for us HHR positive people. Though I feel you prefer the more sensational term, isn’t it?”
“So you are a vampire!”
“Kiddo?? I’m your age.”
“Guess again. The HHR virus retards ageing unbelievably. I was your age when I was infected, and it’s been quite a while since then.”
“So, what’s with the white line?”
“As I’m sure you know, I do a little freelance work with PRADA. Now, God forbid, someday I outlive my usefulness to PRADA, and they decide I make a good test subject, they’ll know right where to find me, won’t they? I need to take my precautions.”
Kara decided it was the right time to speak up. “I know all about that, V. I worked with you on the Three Roses murders, remember? Not that it makes a difference to you, but that’s not how we work. But that discussion can be held later. I need information. Now.”
V turned around, his back to Kara and Ryan so that they could see his shoulders drooping, as he began to speak resignedly, “Kara, I won’t lie. I’d always suspected something might happen. I have a sense for these things. But I couldn’t be too sure. And I couldn’t let anything more come between you and your father. Now I realize what a fool I’ve been.”
“V, I appreciate your concern, but we can fix this. My father…I don’t know what has happened to him. I need to save him. Can you or can you not help me?” Kara’s voice rose progressively.
“Is that what you want to do, Kara? Save your father.”
Kara nearly shouted, “Of course, I do.”
V turned around and looked her straight in the eye.
“Then leave. Get out of this city, get out of this country if possible. Maybe …maybe from a distance, it can’t have the same hold. Maybe in a different set of circumstances, it can be controlled.”
Ryan wasn’t quite understanding what was being said, but he needed to ask, “What do you mean? What are you talking about? Is this attacker after Kara?”
V just smiled listlessly at Ryan.
“I warn you both, nothing is as it seems. Take my advice. Leave.”
Kara couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She began to plead, stepping closer to V, “You can’t ask me to just leave everything here, the way it is. I need to end this.”
“If you stay any longer, the end is going to be a body bag.”
“V, please, it’s not just my father. It’s PRADA. I need to make sure everyone’s…” and her voice was replaced by sounds of sparking. Too late, Ryan noticed Kara’s foot across the forbidden border. In the middle of her impassioned plea, she had stepped on the white line. Ryan watched in horror as several bolts of electricity coursed through Kara, and she became covered in a dense dark smoke.
“She’s burning! Oh my god, V, turn it off.” Ryan looked around the spectacle to see V standing motionless, transfixed by Kara’s plight. Ryan looked around for a wooden object , a chair or a table or something, but most of the furniture was on V’s side of the room. The sparks of light now interspersed with black fumes clouded around Kara, and Ryan could barely see her form. Shocked, Ryan tried to think of another solution but his numb brain could think of nothing.
And then, abruptly, the electricity stopped and the smoke disappeared. Kara stood there, stiff and shaky. Ryan lunged forward as she tried to take a step, and then gently collapsed right into Ryan’s arms. Ryan began to inspect her for major injuries. For someone who had just been electrocuted, she looked remarkably well off. Her pulse and heart rate were steady. Ryan looked up but a window flapping on the other side told him that V had fled. And Kara was lying unconscious in his arms.