Disclaimer, this had not been edited and may well be modified when it is.
The morning shone clear and the roads were relatively clear, having had no snowfall the previous night by the look of things. Still, Rowan engaged the four by four, aware how treacherous the route through the mountains could become with a simple puff of wind, or an animal setting off an avalanche. Even the Icefields Parkway was closed; something he regretted as he would have preferred the route to Vancouver through Jasper rather than Banff. Still, it meant getting to Kelowna quicker, which was a good thing. Walmart would be open by the time they arrived and the staff probably too sleepy to pay much attention to people. He hoped there wasn’t going to be a fuss about Morgan getting new clothes from there because he really didn’t have time to start shopping at the sort of places the surviving remnants of her clothing indicated that she preferred. On top of that he didn’t want people to notice them and she was a pretty girl. Dress her up right and she would be stunning. A glint of sunlight ground into his eyes from the rear-view mirror; he winced, tired eyes watering.
Morgan lightly touched his arm. “Can I drive? I could use a change.”
“Thanks, but no. You are too new to trust behind the wheel. If you saw a prey beast you may well go off road after it with the truck and then we would be stuck in the mountains. It is a very, very long run to a decent town.” That reminded him, he needed to also purchase kiddie back packs so they could take their possessions with them if they needed to shift into fur. He flexed his shoulders, trying to get out the kinks, aware some were caused by tension. Sooner or later he was going to be cornered into an awkward conversation with Morgan on the subject of clothes and shifting. He had to hope she could be sensible over the choices.
“Why is a vampire head of a mob and how does he get away with this? Don’t the rest of them know what he is?”
Dammit, if only the old bat had not found them last night. Now his puppy had a whole host more of questions requiring answers. He really didn’t want her making them stand out by looking up at the sky every five minutes, like she was doing now.
She poked him in the ribs. “Look, you might as well talk to me. It is a good way to stay alert when you are driving tired.”
Rowan now remembered precisely why he preferred his own space, rather than sharing with a female, who chattered. He guessed she wasn’t about to let up, convinced she needed to stop him falling asleep at the wheel. “If you were in a mob and your leader could drain your blood if you didn’t behave, what would you do? Stand up to him?”
Morgan rooted around in the carrier bag of stuff she had taken from the cabin for tissues and a water bottle. A small mirror with suction cups on one side followed. She tried sticking the mirror to the windshied first, but that didn’t work too well because of the slope, so she stuck it to the glass on the passenger window, to begin wiping off the now cracked and messy makeup. “I thought his bite would turn the victim into a creature like himself?”
“Oh, it will if he wishes.” Morgan sighed, accepting that this was going to be a long session. “He would need to give the victim some of his own blood once he had drained all of theirs. That is how a person would get turned. Borinsky is very unlikely to do that as he would end up having to share power. Sharing is not one of his strong points.”
“But how does a vampire get in control in the first place? I mean, it must be difficult when a person can’t go out in daytime. No banks, no formal documents, as those offices will not be open at night.”
Yes, this was going to make for a very long morning. “He is very old and very wealthy. Internet banking is very convenient for all sorts of reasons and as for documentation, why would he want that if he has people fronting for him? If he doesn’t exist, he doesn’t have to pay taxes. He wouldn’t need a driver’s license, either, now would he?”
“But surely he would need one if it was raining?”
Oh boy, she was going to go into every last detail, while all he wanted to do was quietly think through a plan of action. How could he shut her up? “That is what minions are for. But what about you? Exactly what did you see to land you in this mess in the first place?”
And the floodgates opened. She began her story, starting when she got up on that fateful day, the clothes she chose and who she had intended to meet. Rowan smiled and made encouraging noises while he let his mind drift in the direction of their problems right now.
Rowan had decided to buy an eyewash by the time he pulled into the parking lot in front of Walmart. His eyes felt like they had been rubbed in sand, but he was still alert. By his side Morgan had the window wound down a little and was taking in the aromas. He could smell the meat, too. The Macdonald’s burger joint inside the store was firing up. Yes, they had to eat and soon. He wondered how disappointed the girl would be when she dug into her meal, which brought him to another decision.
“Here is the plan. We go into the store for you to pick your clothes and then you meet me at the electronics, where I will be getting a phone. Once we are done we get a take out from McDonald’s. Figure out what you want while you are shopping and remember they will be serving the breakfast menu. You need things high in protein. Is that clear? So milk over a pop to drink. We go eat in the truck and you change there into your new stuff. Everything we need, or discard gets packed into the Walmart bags and comes with us.”
She frowned. “But why not just leave the old clothes and stuff in the truck?”
“Because we are going to be getting into a taxi and it has to look like we are regular customers. We have shopping bags, then we blend in and become invisible.” Not to mention leaving a messy truck would draw attention to it far faster, but she didn’t need to know that.
Morgan grabbed a cart and scurried off in the direction of womens clothing without a backward glance, or a complaint at having to wear less than high fashion, which both surprised and relieved him. He just hoped she wouldn’t fill the thing as he guessed he would end up being the one carrying all her excesses. Rowan detoured passed kids apparel to snag a couple of backpacks, one with a monkey face and one resembling a black kitten. Not ideal, but the other choices were a blue hippo or a pink elephant. Somehow the color of the last gave a clue as to why the consignment would end up on sale in this particular store. Had the joker making the statement about alcohol through pink elephants gotten themselves fired, he wondered. Whatever, the two he chose would blend in with their fur the best and he trusted he hadn’t lost his hunting instincts to warn if any humans were near, should they have to shift.
The phone proved easy enough as they stocked an android suitable. While he preferred Iphones, there was no way he wanted to spend so much on what would probably be a throwaway item. The choice narrowed to the cheapest and the smallest they had in stock. Now he had to wait for Morgan, as the man serving would need to walk the product to the checkout. Fortunately, she turned up just as the choice had been made, astonishing him.
“That was quick.”
“It is all nasty, so I just grabbed the best of what would fit.” She looked down with disdain at the modest heap of clothes.
He was relieved at her color choices, which were all subdued. It looked like she had confined herself to jeans and t-shirts for outerwear, although he couldn’t be sure as there was more under the initial heap. “Looks like we are ready then. Did you figure out what you wanted to eat, like I said?”
“I’ll have a sausage egg McMuffin with a box of milk, but I can order for myself.”
“I thought you would like to take your stuff to the truck once I have paid for it and stow it away while I get the food.” He hoped she would pick up on what he was really saying, giving that the man carrying the phone was well into earshot. She could get changed without him there if she caught on to the gist of his words.
Morgan looked entirely different when he got to the truck with their takeaway. She had gone more for a college look with designer threadbare jeans and a blue t-shirt with a dragon motif on the front. She also had a goth look for her makeup, too heavy for his taste and yet wildly different from her granny look. Yes, she would do nicely like this. He thought she must have had a lot of practice with different looks in her time of hiding. Smiling, he handed over her package and drink.
“Hey, I only asked for one. There are three in here.”
“Try it. I think you will find out why when you do.” He casually stripped the bun off his own sausage egger leaving just the protein. He had restricted himself to four, explaining to the girl at the counter that they had kids waiting. Whatever else happened, they couldn’t afford to stand out for any reason.
“What is the matter with this? It tastes like mush.” Morgan said, talking around the food in her mouth before she took a big gulp of milk to wash it down.
“We are carnivores. You will find bread doesn’t agree with your taste anymore, which is why I got several of them. Good enough?”
Glaring at him, she stripped the edible protein away from the useless. Yes, sometime soon she was building up to a huge argument about her changed state. He reckoned he was going to hear all about her fury once they were free and clear. For now, all he had to suffer was multiple instances of the stink eye in his direction.