Fangs for the Memories

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					                                             Fangs for the Memories

                                      Tiffany T.J. Craig and Zoe A. Craig


                                 Copyright 2011 Tiffany T.J. Craig and Zoe A. Craig

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                                                    this author.

                                                          ###

      Hannah stepped out onto the porch of her newly rented house and smiled at the brightness of the early
morning sunshine. It felt good to be back home again. Home, where she had lived from the time she was four
years old, until the time she graduated from high school. Home, where many of her childhood friends still lived.
For twenty years, she had lived with only bittersweet memories of this place, and now, she was looking forward
to the day when she could send for her children and begin to make new memories in this town she loved so
much.
      She had accomplished a lot in three short days. The real estate agent, Mr. J.D. Haskell, had rented her this
house, on the spot. There had been no deposit required, and the first month’s rent had been only a hundred and
fifty dollars. She had been lucky to find a four-bedroom house for so little, but the agent had said that an elderly
couple had owned it, and they didn’t really need the money. Hannah had moved in, and spent the next day job-
hunting. She hadn’t even had to furnish the place, as it was still full of furniture, and nicely decorated. This
morning, she was heading to work. Lady luck had stayed with her yesterday, and she had managed to find a
receptionist job with the dentist’s office on Main Street.
      In two weeks, she would receive her first paycheck, and she was going to send for her babies! She grinned
at the memory of her thirteen year old daughters’ face after the last time she’d called Molly ‘her baby’. Nine
year old Tammy wasn’t much of a baby anymore either, but Charlie, at four and a half, and Karrie, at two, still
qualified for that description.
      Hannah frowned, as the thought of their father crossed her mind. Luke was old enough to be able to support
them by getting a real job, eight hours a day, and decent wages... why he didn’t, was beyond her. That’s what the
fight had been about. He had tried to shift the blame by asking why she didn’t get a job, and she had retorted
that if she was expected to support the family, as well as raise the children and keep the house, then she might as
well do it on her own.
      The words had hit home, and the very next day, as soon as Luke had left for work, she had packed up the
kids, taken them to their uncle, and made a beeline for Texas. Luke may be ten years younger than her, but she
still expected him to behave like an adult. In her mind, working five-hours a day at minimum wage, just so he
could party with his friends, wasn’t being very adult. Maybe this would make him realize that he couldn’t have
his cake and eat it, too. Hannah thanked God that she had never been foolish enough to marry him! Ten years of
just living together had been foolish enough! Molly had never tried to get close to Luke, even though she had
never known her own father. Hannah had always found her oldest daughter to be a mystery, someone she just
couldn’t understand. Maybe the change would draw them closer as a family… without Luke in the picture.
      Hannah caught herself just in time. The tears had almost escaped. She wrapped her arms around herself and
took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Luke… she did. More than life itself, at
times. She had always felt that they were the other half of each other’s souls. Boy, did that sound sappy! It was
true, though... there would never be another man for her, Luke was in her heart forever. All he had to do was
grow up and face reality... and reality was, that he couldn’t run around acting like a teenager for the rest of his
life. He had responsibilities to live up to, and children to put before his own selfish needs. Needs... hah! Wants
and desires, more to the point! Hannah caught herself again. The anger she felt towards Luke had almost taken
control. She shook it off, looked at the bright blue sky, and smiled slowly. It was a beautiful day... too beautiful
to waste thinking about water that had already slipped under the bridge.
      Hannah stepped off the porch, walked lightly down the pathway, and followed the sidewalk towards Main
Street. It was time to begin making those new memories she’d been looking forward to for so long.

                                                    ---------------------

     “Home! What do you mean, she went home?” Lukes’ voice cried over the phone.
     Molly grimaced. She had known it would be like this. That’s why it had taken her nine whole days of
agonizing to make her decision. She took a deep breath and started again. “Mama said that she couldn’t wait
around forever for you to grow up and smell the coffee. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I think it had
something to do with your drinking, and being gone all the time, and not even trying to find a full-time job. She
said that if you expected her to do it all, she would. Thirty minutes later, we were packed and headed for Uncle
Beau’s. I heard her tell him that what we need is a fresh start, away from you.” Molly explained.
     “So, why are you calling me? It sounds like you finally got what you wanted.” Luke asked coldly.
     Molly squirmed in her seat and answered softly, “What I want doesn’t really matter, but I’ve kinda gotten
used to having you around. I know that you’re not the best father a girl could have, but at least you don’t hit me,
or raise you’re voice very often. You always let mama raise me, even when you could see that she was flying
blind. It was kinda nice to be able to say my step-dad lived with us. I felt safer when you were around. I know
I’m not your kid or anything, and that you don’t love me like you do the others, but mama loves you. I think
she’s making a big mistake, leaving like this. You were trying to grow up, but to mama it seemed like you were
taking way too long.”
     Luke was silent. He didn’t know what to say. Clearing his throat to keep the tears from rolling down his
cheeks, he asked gently, “Do you want me to go get her, baby?”
     “Do you want to go get her?” Molly asked in return.
     “She’s been gone nine days, and I feel as if someone reached inside of me and ripped out my soul. I didn’t
think I’d ever see her again. Tell me where to go, and I’ll be packed in fifteen minutes.” Luke replied. "I do love
you, Molly. It's just that you were never willing to accept that from me, so I didn’t try to force it on you.”
     “Bring her back where she belongs, and maybe we can all learn to open up a little more.” Molly said
hopefully, and gave him the name of the town where she'd gone.
     "I’ll see you when we get back. Take care of the babies, Molly, and tell them I’m bringing mommie home.”
he instructed her, and hung up the phone.
     True to his word, in fifteen minutes, the saddlebags were packed and tied to the old Harley. Luke got
aboard, buckled on his helmet, and headed down the road. A quick stop for gasoline, and he was on his way.

                                                    --------------------

     Hannah really enjoyed her new job. Dr. Hanson kept rather strange business hours, but so did everybody
else in town. The real estate agent had explained that everybody had stayed inside during the hot days for so
many years, that they finally took a vote and decided to turn their days around. The business day now began at
eight o’clock in the evening, and ran until six o’clock in the morning. Most people had numbers with an
answering service, for emergencies during the daylight hours, and some businesses had receptionists to take
appointments during that time, but for the most part, everybody slept during the day, and worked at night. Even
the schools were open at night. Hannah grinned at the thought of her children’s faces when they found out they
would be attending school after dark, eating lunch at midnight, and going to sleep during the day. She answered
another phone call, the fifth she’d had in an hour. Her appointment book was easy to manage, and she had
already logged people in for up to ten days in advance. Dr. Hanson seemed to have a fairly thriving business, for
a dentist, but then, he was the only one in town.
     By noon, Hannah was in the mood for stretching her legs. Sitting at a desk for eight hours, and answering
about twenty phone calls wasn’t the most exciting thing to do. She decided to switch on the answering machine,
walk home for a quick bite of lunch, and pick up a few magazines to read. The Doctors' office was in a one-
story building that also accommodated a blood bank, a medical clinic, and a veterinarian. Hannah stopped to
look at the notices on the bulletin board in the lobby. Three of them were receptionist jobs with the other three
businesses in the building, which surprised Hannah. Remembering that her job phone had six extensions lines,
she decided to call Dr. Hanson, and ask him if he would mind her taking on the other three jobs. Answering the
phone eighty times a day and keeping four appointment books couldn’t be that hard, and she could really use
the extra money. Besides that, six days of boredom was more than enough!

                                                --------------------------

     Hannah’s boss had approved the extra work, provided she wasn’t overextending herself and, within two
days, she was settling nicely into her routine. On the average, she had a phone call every six to seven minutes.
Some people made appointments, some were just calling to verify, others called to see if a certain blood type
was running low, and some called to ask about their medications.
     As Hannah took the calls, she began to recognize names that reminded her of children she'd gone to high
school with years ago. A Mrs. Hutchinson called to make an appointment at the blood bank for her sixteen-year-
old daughter, and Hannah remembered Marty Hutchinson. He had gone steady with her friend Debbie Ramirez.
A Mrs. Corteros called for the vet, wanting to have her cat spayed, and Hannah remembered that Danny
Corteros had been the star quarterback three years running. Gene Benson called to get check-ups for his three
children, and Arnie Miller set up a dental appointment for his son and his brother’s two children. Hannah didn’t
feel right talking to them on the job, so she wrote down their numbers and decided to call them later. She also
decided to take the Rolodex home with her overnight, in order to see if she recognized any other names. It was
time for her to look up some old friends... after all, she’d been here all of nine days, and a girl needed friends.
That old house was lonely without her children here, and Hannah was used to having lots of people around. She
made up her mind to call Marty Hutchinson the minute she got home, just in case he went to work early. Being
lonely was a real pain in the neck!

                                                  ----------------------

     Luke made fairly good time, considering the difficulties he’d had. Going through Missouri had been easy.
After leaving Boonville, he'd headed straight for Jefferson City, where he had spent the night with Hannah’s
brother's family, and his own children. He was glad to see that they were all okay, even though Molly had
assured him over the phone that they were. Beau had given him some extra money for expenses, and early the
next morning, he had kissed the children goodbye, promised to bring their mama back, and headed for Texas.
He driven straight through to Fort Smith, Arkansas before looking around for a cheap motel room. The next
morning had found him sailing down the highway towards Interstate Thirty, just across the Texas border. That’s
when trouble hit. To Luke, it almost seemed like Texas was out to get him. The Harleys’ front tire blew out on
the outskirts of New Boston, and Luke had to walk a quarter of a mile to a gas station. The owners’ nephew
drove Luke back down the road so he could load up the Harley, and take it to the shop to be fixed, then, the
nephew drove to a different town entirely, in order to get Luke's new tire. Luke spent the night in another cheap
motel room, and hung around half a day more, waiting for the nephew to return. When the tire was finally
changed, Luke laid skid marks on the pavement in his hurry to get away from the nephew.
     Two and a half hours later, the Denton police wrote him a ticket for speeding. It took the rest of the day to
get the damn thing paid, so he decided to eat and find a room for the night, hoping the next day would be better.
     How wrong could one person be? One hour after leaving Denton, Luke’s rear tire developed a bubble.
Slowing the pace considerably, he wobbled into Jacksboro, where he went through the whole tire replacement
scene again. By twelve-thirty he was on the road, his stomach rumbling. Graham was only a forty minute drive,
so Luke controlled his stomach until he reached town, headed straight for the nearest burger joint and crammed
three down his throat, chasing them with an order of fries, and washing it all down with a large soda. It was time
to get on the road again... or not! The Harley's engine wouldn't turn over, not even after he'd tried kick-starting it
a few times. He got off, checked the battery for a loose connection, then tried the lights, before kicking a stone
and cussing.
     Just what he needed... a dead battery!
     “Man, if I ever get outta this god-forsaken state, I’m never coming back again for as long as I live! I’ve
never had such a run of bad luck!” he complained to Molly over the phone a few minutes later.
     “Hang in there, Luke. Mom needs you... I feel it way down inside me.” Molly begged him.
     “Don’t worry, baby, I’m not giving up. I promise, I’ll bring your Mama back. I’ll call you again tomorrow.”
he said, calming his anger. After she'd hung up the phone,
     Luke kicked some more stones, just for the hell of it.
     “Damn! How am I supposed to keep that promise if I can’t even get fifty miles before breaking down?” he
said disgustedly.

                                                ------------------------------

      Hannah had called three of the people listed in the Rolodex. None of them had answered their phones.
Deciding that she had just missed them, she made up her mind to pull their files the next day, and find out a
little more about them before she called again.
      On Saturday morning, she arrived at work half an hour early. The file cabinet stood next to the coffee pot,
so Hannah put on a fresh pot before tackling the files. With the pot hissing merrily, she opened the top drawer
and flipped through names until she found one that was familiar. She pulled the file, sat down at her desk,
opened it, and began reading. When she reached the bottom of the page, she smiled. This was definitely the
Danny Corteros she had gone to school with, right down to the old football injuries! His wife’s name was Mary,
and they had three children; Danny, Jr., age fourteen; Michael, age eleven; and Maria-Luisa, age nine. This just
got better and better. When her children arrived, they’d have other children to meet. She closed the file, returned
it to its' proper place in the drawer, and looked up Marty Hutchinson. Hannah pulled the file out and returned to
the desk to read it. Marty was married to a woman named Deborah, and they had four children. Diane was the
oldest at fifteen, Anna was twelve, Yvonne was five, and Niel was three. More new friends for her own children.
Wishing she could call them now, and knowing she couldn’t, was tough. She replaced the file and made herself
a cup of coffee before clocking in. The 'incoming call' lights began flashing almost immediately. Hannah took a
sip of coffee, opened up her appointment book, and answered the first one. Another day, another dollar…

                                                  -------------------------

      Later that evening, Hannah kicked off her shoes and nose-dived onto her bed. What a day! She was
exhausted! A nice, hot bubble bath was exactly what her stiff, aching body needed… but first, she needed to call
the Hutchinson’s. She dialed the number, and waited as an answering machine picked up. Hannah left her name
and number, a brief message about high school, hung up, and headed for the bathroom. She had just started
filling the tub and finished peeling off her clothes, when the phone rang. Throwing a towel around her, she shut
off the water, and ran to answer it.
      “Hello!” she said brightly, thinking it was probably Molly, calling a bit early. The girl called every night, at
seven o'clock, and always put the other children on to talk for a minute. Hannah loved hearing their voices.
When a woman’s voice identified herself as Debbie Hutchinson, she was startled. “Debbie? Debbie Ramirez? Is
that really you? I can’t believe I still recognize your voice after all these years!” Hannah cried into the phone.
She mopped the tears from her cheeks and continued. “I didn’t think I’d ever hear from you again!”
      “It’s me, alright, Hannah. I’m glad you're back in town! I've really missed you! Do you want to meet up
later on? We could have a drink at this little bar I know…” Debbie suggested.
      “That sounds perfect! We have a lot of catching up to do, and I could use a drink. It’s been a long day! Just
tell me where.” Hannah agreed, and listened to the instructions before saying goodbye, hanging up the phone,
and heading back to the tub. Before slipping off her watch, she glanced at the time. It was barely six-fifteen, and
she was going to enjoy a nice, hot bath before Molly called. Debbie had said that eight o’clock was a good time
to meet, as her children would either be at school or daycare by then. Hannah smiled happily at the thought of
seeing her best friend from high school and, humming a sprightly tune, slipped into the sensuous warmth of the
bubbly water. Sighing gratefully, she let her tired body relax, thinking that whoever invented the oversized
bathtub should have been given a medal of honor. Too bad she couldn’t go back in time!

                                                   ----------------------

      The bar was fairly good sized, for such a small town. Hannah couldn’t even remember it being here when
she’d been a teenager. A brightly-painted sign outside boasted of live entertainment every Saturday night. It
would have been hard to miss, even in the daytime, and it was spotlighted after dark, in order to draw in
customers. Hannah found that the people inside were rather suspicious of strangers, but it could have just been
curiosity that caused the furtive glances in her direction. A sign above the bar advertised the house specialty,
which was called ‘A Bloody Mess’. It didn’t sound very appetizing, but she stepped up to the bar, and claimed a
stool, anyway.
      “Specialty of the house, miss?” the bartender asked.
      Hannah wrinkled her nose and declined. “If that’s the red thing that everybody seems to be drinking, I think
I’ll just have a rum and coke.” she replied.
      “Coming right up. Will you be sitting at the bar, or moving to a table?” he asked.
      “Well, I’m supposed to be meeting an old school friend here, so I guess I should wait at the bar. Her name
is Debbie Ramirez…uh, Hutchinson, now that she's married. Maybe you know her?” Hannah asked hopefully.
      “Yeah, I know Debbie. She and Marty come in almost every weekend. They like the live bands on Saturday
nights. They're great dancers... usually sit at that table over there.” he said, pointing at one not far from the
bandstand. “Go sit down, if you want. I’ll send your drink over, and I’ll point you out to Debbie when she gets
here.”
      “That sounds great, um…what was your name?” Hannah asked politely.
      “Jim Davison, ma’am, but folks around here call me Shorty. They don't remember I have another name.
Say, you look familiar… do I know you?” he asked suddenly. A light flickered on in Shorty’s eyes, and a grin lit
up his face. “Hannah! Hannah Green!” he yelled, letting out a war-whoop. He hopped over the bar and cried,
“Come here girl! I never did get that kiss I wanted so bad in school, but I’ll settle for a big ol’ bear hug!” He
grabbed Hannah, hugging her tightly, and lifting her into the air as he spun around a few times before putting
her back on the floor.
      “Now I remember you! I think I still have some twenty year old bruises from those hugs of yours!” Hannah
managed, laughing and gasping for breath.
      Shorty grinned, and said, “I bet you do, too! What are you doing back in town, Hannah? I thought you’d
blown the dust from this town off your heels twenty years ago.”
      “Life isn’t always roses, Shorty. I came back to start over. I’m sending for my children next week. I want us
to settle in here. I love this town so much. All my happiest memories are here… and I want my children to be
happy here, too.” Hannah replied.
      “I know what you mean. Always wanted to head east myself. Never got enough money, though. Couldn’t
leave now if I tried. Sometimes you gotta make do with what you got, you know?” Shorty said philosophically.
'Kids, huh? How many you got, Hannie?” Shorty asked suddenly.
      Hannah brightened instantly. “I have four children, Shorty. Molly’s thirteen, going on thirty; Tammy’s nine,
and smart for her age; Charlie’s four and a half. He’s a mommas’ boy, but I’m sure he’ll grow out of that once
he gets in school. Karrie’s the baby. She’s only two, but she’s quite a handful. She’s got her Daddy wrapped
around her little finger.” she replied, and suddenly, felt like crying again.
      “Bet you miss ‘em a lot, huh?” Shorty asked.
      “I got a hole in my heart as big as Texas. I’ll sure be glad to see their little faces again. Only one more week
to go.” she agreed wistfully.
      “Your hubby coming, too?” Shorty asked.
      “I’m divorced from one, and never married the other… we’re separated as of last week.” Hannah told him.
     “A whole week, huh? If your eyes ain’t lyin’, and you love him as much as they say you do, how come
you’re runnin’? He musta’ done something real bad for you to take his kids away from him.” Shorty observed.
     “No…no, he didn’t, not really. He just didn’t want to grow up, settle down, get a full-time job, be a full-
time father to the children, or a full-time husband to me. Guess he needed a kick in the pants.” Hannah said
dryly.
     “Looks like you kicked him, depantsed him, hog-tied him, and left him to waller in his own filth, if you ask
me.” Shorty observed. “Does he love you?”
     “Yes…yes, he does. I know that deep down inside me. I've never questioned his love, I questioned his
ability to grow up and face his responsibilities. I’ll always love him but, sometimes, love just isn’t enough.”
Hannah said.
     “Well, love doesn’t pay the bills, that’s for sure.” Shorty quipped. “I gotta get back to work. Call me
sometime, Hannah... I got me a wife and two kids of my own that would just love to meet you and your kids.”
     Hannah grinned, gave him a less exuberant hug, promised to call after she got the children settled in, then
walked over to the table and sat down to wait for her drink.

                                               -----------------------------

     The evening had gone well, and Hannah went home feeling glad that she had taken the time to renew old
friendships. Debbie had come with her husband, Marty, and they had spent the night re-introducing Hannah to
other people she had known in school. Mary and Danny Corteros, Vicki Lawrence and her live-in boyfriend,
Eugene Benson, Cheryl Ames and her fiancee, Arnold Miller. She had already come across Shorty, of course,
since he was the bartender, but the bouncer turned out to be Cotton Wesley, the captain of their high school
wrestling team. He had been hired because, as Debbie put it, he never touched the hard stuff. Jesus Ramirez,
Vanna Myers and Gordy Zamira were bar flies… very bad cases, according to Mary, and such a waste, as they
had shown such potential in school.
     All in all, it had been fun, but the drink some of them had ordered had bothered her. They called it ‘A
Bloody Mess‘, but Vicki said it was mostly tomato juice, with a shot of grenadine for color, and a twist of lime.
When Hannah had asked what kind of liquor it contained, Vicki had winked at her and replied, “That’s the
bartenders’ secret. Every drink has a slightly different taste. Maybe it’s what makes them so popular… you
never know what you’ll be getting!”
     Thinking it over later, Hannah supposed she could have been right, but it still seemed strange that so many
of the people in the bar had ordered the same kind of drink.
     Debbie had apologized for calling all their old friends without consulting her first. Hannah had assured her
that she was not offended, since it had actually saved her the trouble of looking them all up one by one.
     Hannah smiled softly, and fell asleep expecting to have good dreams. Such was not the case. She tossed and
turned for hours, and when she finally did fall asleep, her dreams were strange and a bit frightening. The images
of her old friends floated in and out, all of them offering her a drink of that strange-looking red liquid. Each
time, she turned and run in a different direction, only to be confronted again, by another friends' image offering
her a glass of red liquid. Finally, she turned towards the road leading out of town, and ran for her life. The city
limits sign loomed in front of her and, there was Luke, standing just on the other side, his arms stretched out to
her, his eyes full of love.
     Hannah shot straight up in the bed, yanked awake by the fear she felt in the dream. Her body was shivering
in the cool pre-dawn air, and she wrapped the blanket around her as quickly as she could. It had just been a
dream, but ... maybe it had been a warning, too.

                                                   --------------------

    Luke got an early start the next morning. He breezed along for about an hour, bypassing two small towns,
before stopping in Haskell for some breakfast. He had just finished eating when a County Sheriff sat down
across from him.
    “Can I help you officer?” Luke asked politely, silently cursing the Texas dirt the man had walked in on.
     “Like you to come down to the station for questioning. Got a description that matches yours.” the officer
explained shortly.
     Luke groaned, and his eyes flew heavenward. “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” he said in exasperation.
     “Well, I can’t argue with you there, son. Can’t say I get where you’re coming from, though.” commented
the officer.
     “I'm coming from Missouri, officer, and I'm on my way to New Hope, Texas. My old lady ran out on me
and the kids, and I'm going to get her back.” Luke explained, then looked the man in the eyes. “Officer, have
you ever tried to do something you know is right, and every step you take, something happens to keep you from
doing it?”
     The officer chuckled. “Murphys’ law, son. Let’s get this over with, so you can get on with your quest.
Didn’t beat her, did you?” he asked suspiciously.
     “Hah! If it were that easy, I’d still be back in Missouri, healing from a gunshot wound.” Luke replied
caustically.
     The officer chuckled again. “Sounds like she’s worth going after, son. We’ll get this over with as soon as
possible.”
     At the station, Luke settled himself onto the narrow bunk, and pulled the thin cover over him. He could still
hear the officers’ voice, apologizing for the delay.
     “I’m sorry, son, but we can’t seem to locate the woman whose house was broken into. Left a message on
her phone, though. Have to let you out after twenty-four hours anyway, if she doesn't get back to us by then.
Nine o’clock tomorrow morning. I’ll keep calling that number, though, just in case she answers. Wish I didn’t
have to keep you son, but the law’s the law, you know.”
     “Yeah, I know…Murphys’ Law.” Luke had shot back.
     The officer had walked away, shaking his head and chuckling. He’d have a tall tale to tell his buddies over
coffee, Luke thought, as he settled in for the night. At least, he wasn't paying good money for bad
accommodations... again.

                                                 ------------------------

     Sunday was her day off, so Hannah slept later than usual. Not surprising, after the late night she’d had…
and the dream. A hot cup of herbal tea and two extra-strength pain relievers had put her out like a light. When
she finally awoke, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, thanks to the drug-induced sleep she'd had, she spent the rest of
the day going through the house and her meager supply of clothing. She’d packed lightly, only bringing four
pairs of jeans, four tops, two nice dresses and two suits. Tennis shoes, a pair of nice heels, and some
comfortable flats, four pairs of white socks, four pantyhose and four changes of underclothes made up the rest
of her wardrobe. She had thrown in the two nightdresses and her old terrycloth robe at the last minute. It was
almost time to go shopping. All she was waiting for was her first paycheck. The list of things she needed was
getting longer by the day. There were only a few staples in the cabinets, like salt, pepper, and sugar, some cans
of soup and pastas, and half a box of cereal. The refrigerator was just as bad, with only a small bottle of
ketchup, some mustard and mayonnaise, half a package of bologna, a partial loaf of wheat bread, about a fourth
of a gallon of two per cent milk, and half a small can of coffee. The bathroom was even more pathetic. She
needed more towels, more wash-clothes, a large toothpaste, new toothbrushes, shampoo, hair rinse, razors, and
about fifteen other things that she added to the list. Cleaning supplies popped into her head, and she wrote down
another fifteen or twenty things.
     Hannah went back to the living room and flopped down in the overstuffed chair that sat in front of the
fireplace. Taking a moment to do some quick mental figuring, she realized there was only five hundred and
twenty-five dollars hidden away in her Dad’s old Bible. It was all she had left of the money he’d willed to her
when he’d passed away. The car trip to Texas, the house rent, electric and phone deposits had eaten up the rest...
not to mention the money she’d left with Beau for her children’s needs. Five thousand dollars didn’t go very far
these days. Her first check from her new job should be about two hundred and fifty for the first five days. She’d
worked out a deal with all of her four employers, and taken a pay-cut. Now, instead of getting seven-fifty per
hour from one employer, she got five-fifty per hour from each of her jobs. It would save her bosses money, but
her paycheck would be a lot bigger. All the jobs paid on the second and the eighteenth days of the month, which
meant they didn’t hold back a week. Hannah was grateful for that, as she really needed the money to get her
family settled into their new home. Of course, she still had to buy the bus tickets for the children, and pay for
shipping their belongings… not to mention the lists of things they'd need in the house, but with her new jobs,
they'd be living in style in no time! Well, Hannah thought to herself, at least we won’t have much to worry
about!
     The phone rang, pulling Hannah from her thoughts. She glanced at the clock on the wall. Six-thirty! Where
had the day gone!
     “Hello. Hannah Green speaking.” she answered happily, still dreaming about all the money she’d be
making. Luke probably didn’t make that much in three months!
     “Hannah, this is Vickie. How’d you like to get some lunch tonight? Say, about twelve-thirty?” asked Vicki
Lawrences’ voice.
     “Sure, sounds great. Want me to meet you somewhere?” Hannah asked, pleased with the invitation.
     “How about ‘The Salad Bowl’ over on McRoberts? They have a great juice bar.” Vicki suggested.
     “O.K. See you there... twelve-thirty sharp. Bye!” Hannah replied, and after hearing her friends’ ''Bye doll!",
hung up the reciever.
     “Juice bar?” Hannah asked the wall clock. Then , shrugging her shoulders, said, “Maybe she’s one of those
health food nuts or something.”
     ‘Or something’ was headed in the right direction... if Hannah had only realized it.

                                                  -----------------------

     Having ‘lunch’ after midnight was an interesting experience for Hannah. It was shock enough to drive
through the streets of a small town at that time of night and find all the stores still open, but to actually see
people entering those stores was unbelievable. This was only the second time she had been out of the house
after dark, since she was usually asleep by eight o’clock, so she really hadn’t had time to get used to this topsy-
turvy way of life. After so many years away from New Hope, Hannah had enough trouble finding streets in the
daylight... finding them after dark was impossible! What she needed was a town map. The Chamber of
Commerce was easy to find, so she made a quick stop and picked one up. After that, it was easy to find
McRoberts Street, even if she did have to do it by the dome light in her car. Hannah made it to the little
restaurant with ten minutes to spare.
     The ‘Salad Bowl’ was dimly lit, creating a peaceful atmosphere for light dining. Soft music played in the
background, and there were quite a few people already enjoying their meals. After explaining that she was
meeting a friend, Hannah looked around the room. Vicki sat at a table not far from the door, waving to get her
attention. The hostess had noticed, so Hannah allowed herself to be led to her friends’ table, where she was
given a menu and told that a waitress would arrive shortly to take her order.
     “Hannah, I’m glad you could join me on such short notice.” Vicki said, smiling.
     “I didn’t mind. It was time I did something fun anyway.” Hannah replied.
     “I thought it would be nice for us to get re-aquainted… one on one. The bar was alright, but we need
someplace more quiet for having a heart-to-heart.” Vicki said.
     Hannah laughed. “It was a madhouse, wasn’t it? Thanks for inviting me, Vicki.”
     “No problem. Anyway, I wanted to. I know you work days, so I was afraid you wouldn’t come.” Vicki
replied.
     “I wouldn’t have missed it! I like experiencing new things. This is a culture-shock to me, though.” Hannah
said.
     “You mean the working after dark thing? I got it, too. It was hard for all of us to get used to. I still can’t
quite get the hang of kids going to school at night. It’s only been like this for two years, you know.” Vicki
responded.
     “Really? The man I rented the house from made it sound like old hat. I thought it was something you’d
been doing for a long time.” Hannah exclaimed in surprise.
     “I guess it does seem like we know what we’re doing, but I know I still make mistakes.” Vicki admitted.
“Shall we order? We can talk while we’re awaiting our food.”
     “Great!” Hannah agreed, opening her menu. She scanned the listed dishes, and found that the place did
indeed have an extensive juice bar. Everything from apple and cranberry, to prune, pineapple, and tamarind,
with anise, balsam or oregano additives. They also offered quite a variety of jellos and puddings. Two very old-
fashioned versions of these caught Hannah’s eye…Tomato Aspic, and blood pudding. Moving on, she came to
the salads. There were twenty listed, which was quite a selection for a smaller restaurant. When the waitress
arrived, they were both ready to order.
     “I’ll have the orange and carrot jello, the Greek salad with feta cheese, cranberry juice, and a banana
pudding for dessert. Whole wheat bread sticks with dill yogurt sounds good for the appetizer, what do you
think, Vicki?”
     “Hungry?” Vicki teased, waggling an eyebrow. I’ll just have the chef salad and apple juice… oh, and the
cinnamon raisin pudding for dessert. My Grannie used to make it all the time, and I've really missed having it.
Hope this is as good as Grannies'!"
     “I’m just glad you didn’t order the blood pudding. I tasted it once and it’s not an experience I’d like to
repeat!” Hannah stated firmly. “Same goes for that Tomato Aspic they have on the menu.”
     “Oh, that. Granny used to make it once in a while. I never developed a taste for it though.” Vicki agreed.
“So, tell me about your last twenty years, doll. I’ve never been out of New Hope, Texas. Missouri seems like
Paris to me. Tell me everything… and don’t forget the exciting stuff, if you get my drift…”. She waggled her
eyebrows again, causing Hannah to laugh at her antics.
     “I’m not sure where to begin…” she tried.
     “Start with the day you shook the dust from this hick town off your cowboy boots.” Vicki suggested.
     “So long ago. Still, I guess that is where my life really began. Right... here goes.” Hannah said, beginning
the tale.

                                                 --------------------------

     Two hours later, Hannah, home once again and lying crossways on her bed, was thinking. She had told
Vicki her life story, and Vicki had returned the favor... up to a point. There hadn't been much to tell, since Vicki
had spent her whole life in New Hope. She'd worked as a cashier during high school and, after graduation, she’d
moved into the bakery department. Six hours of early morning baking hadn’t brought in enough money, so she'd
taken a second job at the bank, working four hours in the afternoon as a teller. When the bank put her on full-
time, with a raise, she’d quit the bakery job, taken out a loan for a house, and met the man of her dreams. They'd
married when Vicki was twenty-two, and had a daughter the following year. Susan was sixteen now, and an only
child. The marriage had ended in divorce, after ten years of trying for the son her husband had wanted so badly.
Vicki had thrown herself into raising her daughter, and working at the bank. Within six months she had been
promoted to head teller, and another six months had made her eligible to take over the job of loan officer when
the old one retired. She was the senior loan officer now, and responsible for decisions concerning viable loan
prospects.
     Three years earlier, Vicki had been working with a young couple who wanted to buy a house, and the real-
estate agent had been her old high school crush, Eugene Benson. One thing led to another, and they'd finally
made it official. Using both of their smaller homes as collateral, they'd financed a lovely old Queen Ann- style
home on the outskirts of town. The six bedrooms and ten acres of land were just what they’d needed for their
four energetic kids, and the extra bedroom became Genes' in-home office. Their up-coming marriage had been
scheduled, and both parties were delighted.
     Oddly, Gene’s first marriage had ended in divorce, as well. His wife had walked out, after nine years,
because Gene didn't want any more children. She left him with the three they already had, which was odder still.
Since he had been divorced for five years, their youngest child was now seven.
     It was a strange tale, but her story was just as strange, Hannah thought to herself.
     Strange, too, was that menu at the 'Salad Bowl'. Who, in their right mind, put Anise, Balsam, and Oregano
in fruit drinks? Not to mention that they served such culinary atrocities as Tomato Aspic, and blood pudding!
The soup list had been even more strange. She had never even heard of cream of anise, oregano bisque, or basil
chowder. Anise, Basil, and Oregano… even on the drink list! There had been one other item on the menu that
had thrown her for a loop. What in the world was agrimony-borage stew? The place was definitely eccentric!
Hannah doodled the herbal names onto her notepad sleepily, aimlessly alphabetizing them…agrimony-borage,
anise, basil, oregano... AB, A, B, O. Sleep claimed her before her brain could grasp the significance of those
letters.

                                                 -------------------------

     Less than an hour after Luke left the jail In Haskell, he was pulled over by a Jayton city cop and ordered to
get his mufflers either fixed or replaced. Apparently, the officer felt they were much to loud for such a small
town, and Luke could have talked himself blue in the face before he got the man to understand that he was only
passing through. Instead, through gritted teeth, he politely asked to be escorted to the nearest mechanics shop.
The officer, just as politely, obliged his request. Five hours later, Luke was on his way again. His troubles were
far from over, however. His brand new front tire started to go flat, and it took him two hours to find a station,
change out the tube, patch it, and replace the tire. He was on the road again by four o'clock that evening.
     The next town was Tahoka. Luke had been on the road for almost an hour, and hadn’t eaten since having
breakfast at the jail back in Haskell… if you could call limp doughnuts and luke-warm coffee eating. He
stopped at the first greasy spoon he could find, and took time to enjoy a real meal. A huge chicken-fried steak
sandwich, a pound of home fries with the required two pounds of grease, a double order of apple pie and vanilla
ice cream, and six cups of diner coffee... he savored every bite. When it was all gone, he rubbed his stomach
contentedly, and lit a cigarette to go with his last cup of coffee.
     Before he left the diner, Luke placed a quick call to Molly.
     “I’m almost there, baby. Just wanted to let you know that I’m getting a room for a few hours. I need to
sleep in a real bed again, and I’d like to clean up some before I see your mom.” he told her.
      “When will you be leaving for New Hope, Luke?” asked Molly. Her feeling of urgency had deepened over
the last few days, and she was waiting anxiously, to hear that her mom was really safe.
     “About one o’clock in the morning. I’m only half an hour away, so I should be there by one-thirty. I’ll call
you when I get into town, O.K.?” Luke offered. He knew Molly was really worried.
     “Thanks, Luke. I’ll tell Uncle Beau. He’s just as worried as I am. Did you know that his Grandma had a
sixth sense about trouble? He says everybody that knew her would swear on a Bible that when she said
something was wrong, she was right. Uncle Beau thinks he’s got the same thing she did, and he says I probably
do, too, since we’re both getting an itch on our left shoulder blade. That’s how Great-Grandma knew when
something wasn’t right... her left shoulder blade would start itching and, no matter how hard she scratched, it
just wouldn't go away.” Molly explained quickly.
     “You hang in there, baby, I’m going to take care of everything. Talk to you in a few hours, O.K.?” Luke
said worriedly. After they'd hung up, he went back to the cash register and asked for directions to the cheapest
motel in town.
     “Turn around and look right across the street, sugar. Best over-night rates in fifty miles. It's a bit shabby
looking, but the beds are soft, and the water’s hot.” the cashier replied, grinning brightly.
     Luke thanked her, left a nice tip, and headed for his Harley.

                                                --------------------------

     Hannah’s feeling of something being not quite right nagged at her all the next day. She knew the kids were
fine. Molly had called last night, as usual, but an odd niggling sensation had developed, and seemed to
concentrate in a spot on her left shoulder. Scratching the spot didn’t help at all. If anything, scratching seemed
to intensify the sensation. To take her mind off the itchy spot, Hannah concentrated on making another one of
her lists. She wrote down everything that was bothering her about the townof New Hope. What eventually
developed was more like a puzzle with missing pieces, or an unsolved mystery with missing clues, than an
actual problem she could solve.
     First, there were the nocturnal business hours... strange, irritating, annoying, and without a truly valid
purpose. The heat had always been a problem here, so why, after almost a century of suffering from it, had the
town suddenly decided to do something about it? What had happened here two years ago? A trip to the library
should be able to supply microfiche of old newspapers that contained articles with the answers she needed .
     Second, there was the predominance of the color red in the preferred beverages and foods of many
residents.
     Third, there was a problem with contacting people before six in the evening, not only to speak with her
friends, but to confirm appointments for her jobs, as well.
     Fourth, was the strange list of additives that many residents seemed to prefer in their foods and beverages...
anise, basil, agrimony-borage, and oregano. Why those particular herbs? What happened to garlic, or fennel, or
even horehound, for goodness sake… what about mint? A, B, AB, O. Why did those letters seem so familiar to
her?
     Damn! There was that niggling again! Hannah shook off the odd sensation, and continued her list.
     Fifth was garlic. She really needed some garlic powder, but that didn’t fit into her list, even though it
bothered her that there were three places in town that sold cooking spices, and none of them had garlic... no
powder, no cloves, not even garlic salt! When she asked, she was told it was sold out and to check back later.
Hannah had checked back four times and received the same line each time. It was weird.
     Damn, there was that niggling again! What was with the itching, anyway? Maybe she’d accidentally
brushed against a bit of poison ivy out in the yard...
     Sixth… hmm. The phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. She pushed the button connecting extension four,
and answered the call.
     “New Hope Blood Bank, may I help you?” she asked politely. The call only lasted a few minutes, and
Hannah went back to her list as soon as she hung up the phone.
     Sixth, was the amount of calls she received from people wanting to know if there was a shortage of a
certain type of blood. Either these people really cared about their emergency blood supply, or they all had
needle fixations. Hannah found herself hoping it was the former, rather than the latter. A town full of recovering
junkies, she didn’t need!
     Checking her watch, she found that it was time to shut down for the day. Hannah switched on the
answering machine and prepared to walk home, making sure the notebook was tucked in her purse. She locked
the door, still thinking about the things that were bothering her. A few blocks later, as she unlocked her front
door, Hannah decided it was time to check out the library.

                                                  ----------------------

     At exactly seven o’clock, Hannah locked her front door and walked down the street towards the New Hope
Memorial Library. The niggling still bothered her, but Molly had already checked in, so Hannah felt reassured
that her children were all healthy and getting along fine with their uncle Beau. Molly's voice had a slightly odd
tone to it, but she had blamed that on the child being anxious to see her again. After all, they had been apart for
over two weeks, as Molly had pointed out.
     The librarian posed a minor problem. How was Hannah going to explain her desire to read three-year-old
newspapers? Well, she had been out of town for twenty years and wanted to catch up on things…yes, that would
probably seem innocent enough.
     Inside the library, Hannah explained her problem to a severe-looking older lady.
     “You poor dear! You must be totally out of touch after all those years! You’re in luck, you know...we
updated this library just last year. It's all computerized now! Why, we even have a microfiche machine! All of
our old newspapers have been transferred to film, for maximum efficiency. You’re perfectly welcome to use the
media center anytime you like. Our records go back sixty years, but you won’t be interested in the older ones.
Just scan the machine for the years you need, insert, and push the down button to slowly scan the information.”
the woman instructed. All the severity had vanished, and Hannah was pleasantly surprised at the librarians'
helpful, friendly attitude. She followed the woman to the microfiche machine, and settled herself eagerly into
the padded chair.
     “There you go, dear. If you need help, just catch my eye. No yelling, though…this is a library, after all!” the
woman said, her eyes twinkling with laughter.
    Hannah chuckled, and thanked her for the help she’d already given.
    “Think nothing of it, dear. It is my job, you know.” she reminded Hannah, patting her gently on the
shoulder. “By the way, my name is Edith Booker… an appropriate moniker, don’t you agree?” she asked
sweetly, and walked away chuckling.
    Hannah chuckled, too, and she definitely agreed, not only with the woman’s commen
				
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Description: After her relationship hits a snag, Hannah returns to her home town to start anew. Little does she know it's now inhabited by vampires...
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