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Home / Meta / Rants / MST/Review of MerriQue Chapter 2

Note: this isn't my usual MST where I have the vamps doing it. This is more my own reactions as I tried reading through this particular chapter. I know it must be a little odd to just do chapter 2 without including chapter 1 but chapter 1 was so craptacular I just can't look at it again. Chapter 2, on the other hand, I'm more or less reading for the first time and commenting as I go. This is really just an exercise in preserving my sanity. Anyway, items in bold are from the actual chapter and I haven't cut anything out that was written.

Also note: I couldn't have done this without the help and input of Steph.


Merrick Ch.2

In the still café, I watched Merrick take another deep drink of the rum. I treasured the interval in which she let her eyes pass slowly over the dusty room.

I let my mind return to that long ago night at Oak Haven, as the rain struck the windowpanes.

Fans of my MST/review of Density of Souls will know this line: diagram that sentence! Or, put better, "as the rain struck the windowpanes" when? As David's mind returns? That long ago night at Oak Haven? The moment between David's mind returning and the start of the flashback? What? I've got 3 different possibilities here for what time this could be taking place and no real guesses as to which one is correct.

The air had been warm and heavy with the scent of the oil lamps and the busy fire on the hearth. Spring was upon us but the storm had cooled the air.

Oh, so it's the past when the rain hit the windowpanes. Got it, thanks for clearing that up two sentences later. That helps keep things clear. Oh, wait, no it doesn't. Anyway, let's discuss the air now. First warm, then cool. Understood that the air was warm from the fire that had been started because of the storm that hit the windowpanes on that long ago night at Oak Heaven during the Spring which had cooled the air and inspired them to start the fire to warm the air in the first place, but didn't we all give up narrative structures like that after finally getting to the end of the story about the old woman who swallowed a fly?

She'd been speaking of the white family named Mayfair of whom she knew so little, she said.

"None of us with any sense would do that," she continued, "go to those white cousins, expecting anything from any of them on account of a name." She had brushed it all aside. "I'm not going to white people and try to tell them that I'm their own."

Quickie historic note - while I obviously won't claim that race relations in New Orleans are, or ever have been, very good it is worth noting that the children that came about from sexual relations between white businessmen and their colored mistresses were actually legitimate, recognized by society as such, and were by law well cared for. So you may want to bear that in mind during all of this "Oh for verily we were the invisible Mayfairs." schtick that Merrick's got going here. I mean, Hell, it's not like the Mayfairs would actually have shit fits over illegitimate kids anyway - making bastard stepchildren was how that family amused themselves before the invention of television. (You got extra points if you did it with your sister, of course.)

Aaron had looked at me, his quick gray eyes concealing even his tenderest emotions, but I knew that he wanted me

Period.

to respond.

"There's no need, child," I had said. "You are ours now, if you choose to be. We are your own. Why, it's already understood. This is your home forever. Only you can change things, if you wish."

Ok, so Merrick - wait, sorry, I forgot the proper pronunciation - MerriQue is 14 years old, sitting in the middle of a living room with two old guys she's never met before who are telling her that she belongs to them forever and she's not calling the cops? All this, mind you, while one of them is LOOKING DOWN HER SHIRT AND ADMIRING HER BOOBS.

I know this might not be particularly MST-like and funny for me to point out but dammit if Random House isn't going to tell Anne how shitty all of this is I will! Anticipate me doing this a lot folks. Sorry, it's gonna be a long night.

A chill had come over me, of something momentous and meaningful,

God, David's been reading Meredith's diary over at Density of Souls hasn't he? Oh, wait, I think this is his diary. Watch:

when I'd spoken those words to her. I had indulged the pleasure. "We'll always take care of you." I had underscored it,

As Steph pointed out to me, this now totally reads as though David has a crush on this junior high school girl and, upon realizing what a red-letter day it was, whipped out his journal and began to write. ("Dear Diary - You'll never guess! I met the most wonderful girl! Her name is Merrick but you actually say it in the COOLEST way! Anyway she's SOOOO cute and I think maybe she likes me even though I graduated fourty years before she did! Tomorrow I think I'm going to write her a note. It'll say 'Merrick do you like me? Check one: Yes___ No___' I hope she responds!")

and I might have kissed her had she not been so ripe and pretty,

Nice to know David only kisses the ugly chicks.

with her bare feet on the flowered carpet and her breasts

Number of Times David Has Looked At MerriQue's Boobs So Far (including chapter 1): 2

naked beneath her shift.

You know, the sad thing is that somewhere out there is a kid who will read this and think that Anne herself came up with the revolutionary idea that we are all naked beneath our clothes.

She had not replied.

She was trying to remember if 911 existed back in the 1970s.

"All gentlemen and ladies, it seems," Aaron had said, perusing the daguerreotypes. "And in such excellent condition, these little portraits." He had sighed. "Ah, what a wonder it must have been in the 1840s when they learnt to take these pictures."

Aaron then went off to renew his season tickets for Damn Yankees along with his membership in the Funny Fey Gay Men of England Association (motto: "Speak The Way Sixty Year Old Straight Women Think You Do!")

"Oh, yes, my great-great uncle

Notice how at this point MerriQue is more than happy to use the word "uncle" when referring to a relative. She'll quickly get over this.

wrote all about it," she had said. "I don't know if anyone can read those pages anymore. They were crumbling to bits when Great Nananne first showed them to me. But as I was saying, these are all his pictures. Here, the tintypes, he did those too." She had a woman's weariness in her sigh, as though she'd lived it all.

Sitting alone in her office, Anne Rice begins to construct a house of cards. She starts out with one card, then another, then another more. As the structure begins to take shape it occurs to her to give the house a name. After a moment of thought she picks up pen and paper and writes "The Home Of Justifying Pedophilia". She pauses, thinks again, and underneath it scribbles "Or maybe The House Where Child Raping British Homosexuals Are In No Way An Offensive Stereotype." Undecided as to which one of these terms is the best one for her masterpiece, she puts the pen and paper down and returns to her small, fragile building.

"He died very old, they say, with a house full of pictures, before his white nephews came and actually broke them up -- but I'll come to that."

Scorecards! Get your scorecards! Can't keep track of who's flashbacking when without your scorecards!

I had been shocked and bruised by such a revelation,

"Bruised"??

unable to excuse it. Broken daguerreotypes. Faces lost forever. She had gone on, lifting the small rectangles of tin, many unframed yet clear, from her cardboard treasure chest.

"I open boxes sometimes from Great Nananne's rooms, and the paper is all little bits and pieces. I think the rats come and they eat the paper. Great Nananne says rats will eat your money and that's why you have to keep it in an iron box. Iron's magical, you know that. The sisters -- I mean the nuns -- they don't know that. That's why in the Bible you couldn't build with an iron shovel, because iron was mighty and you couldn't put the iron shovel above the bricks of the Lord's temple, not then, and not now."

Thus sayeth Steph: "This was especially true of the Jews who lived during the time of the Old Testament. Which took place, you know, before the Iron Age."

It seemed a bizarre intelligence, though she had been most technically correct.

Yeah, like New York is technically closer to England than, say, the moon.

She'd let her words wander.

Oh, ya think?

"Iron and shovels. It goes way back. The King of Babylon held a shovel in his hand with which he laid the bricks of the temple. And the Masons, now they keep that idea in their Order, and on the one-dollar bill you see that broken pyramid of bricks."

It had amazed me, the ease with which she touched on these complex concepts.

Man alive - I'm guessing the Talamasca doesn't actually require a written exam of any sort before you join. At least not one that proves that you have some sort of vague knowledge of history.

What had she known in her life, I wondered. What sort of woman would she prove to be?

Somewhere in New Orleans, Anne Rice stacks another card.

I remember that she'd been looking at me, as she'd said those words, gauging my reaction, perhaps, and it had only then become clear to me how much she needed to talk of the things she'd been taught, of the things she thought, of the things she'd heard.

Next MerriQue will explain to David that you should never flash your high beams at someone who has their lights off at night or else they'll kill you as part of a gang initiation. And then she'll teach them how you can kill a man using Pop Rocks and a can of Coke.

"But why are you so good?" she had asked, searching my face rather politely. "I know with priests and nuns why they're good to us. They come and bring food and clothes to us. But you, why are you good? Why did you let me in and give me a room here? Why do you let me do what I want? All day Saturday I looked at magazines and listened to the radio. Why do you feed me and try to get me to wear shoes?"

Especially those high-heeled ones with the stilettos? And then try to take my picture after getting me drunk? And is Mr. Talbot looking down my shirt again? Has he, for that matter, ever STOPPED?

"Child," Aaron had interjected. "We're almost as old as the Church of Rome. We're as old as the orders of the sisters and the priests who've visited you. Yes, older, I would say, than almost all."

Still she had looked to me for an explanation.

Inasmuch as even MerriQue "The witch who took the short bus to the school of Endor" could recognize that Aaron's ramblings there had absolutely nothing to do with her actual question.

"We have our beliefs and our traditions," I had said. "It's common to be bad, to be greedy, to be corrupt and self-seeking. It's a rare thing to love. We love."

Behind Aaron's back David mouths "Especially me! I love you more MerriQue! Not him! Me!"

Again, I had enjoyed our sense of purpose, our commitment -- that we were the inviolate Talamasca, that we cared for the outcast, that we harbored the sorcerer and the seer, that we had saved witches from the stake and reached out even to the wandering spirits, yes, even to the shades whom others fear. We had done it for well over a thousand years.

"Dear Anne Rice. Please return my Secret Organization Conspiracy Theory storyline to me at your earliest chance. Thank you. Sincerely, Chris Carter, Creater of the X-Files."

"But these little treasures -- your family, your heritage," I'd hastened to explain. "They matter to us because they matter to you. And they will always be yours."

Thank you, David, for pointing out to the slower readers among us that MerriQue's relatives will always be her family.

She'd nodded. I had got it right.

MerriQue understood that nodding and smiling was the best way to deal with David. Actually, no, sorry, that gives her way more intelligence than is actually shown here. But I can dare to dream can't I?

"Witchcraft's my calling card, Mr. Talbot,"

"And Danger is my middle name, baby!"

she'd said shrewdly, "but all this comes with me too."

I had enjoyed the fleeting enthusiasm which had illuminated her face.

And now, some twenty years after, what had I done, seeking her out, finding her old house in New Orleans deserted, and spying upon her at Oak Haven,

Turning and, writing a book, in which I, used commas, for no real reason, even though I was, supposedly a scholar.

walking the broad upstairs galleries of Oak Haven like an old Penny Dreadful Vampire, looking into her very bedroom until she sat up and spoke my name in the darkness.

"Dear Anne Rice. I am very flattered that you enjoy my song. However I must point out that the correct lyrics are: "I have stood many times / outside her window at night / to struggle with my instincts / in the pale moonlight" and that the song, though inspired by your books, is actually copyrighted to me. In future please run this by my lawyers before actually taking your novels to press. Thank you. Sincerely, Sting."

I had done her evil, I knew it, and it was exciting, and I needed her, and I was selfish, and I missed her, and it was as plain as that.

"Dear David. It's nice to know that you enjoyed my books, and I'm very happy that you have started on this new writing career. However, I must ask that you stop stealing my narrative voice and using it as your own in stories titled "The Vampire Chronicles". It's not accurate and it's very confusing for my fans. Besides, your own narrative voice is so much better! Really, David, remember the best rule of writing is to be yourself! Sincerely, Lestat."

It had been only a week ago that I wrote to her.

Either twenty years ago or a week ago today.

Alone in the town house in the Rue Royale, I'd written by hand in a style that hadn't changed with my fortunes:

David shocks the world of science by pointing out that handwriting is not actually something that your body does on its own. Who knew?

Dear Merrick,

Yes, it was I whom you saw on the porch outside your room. It was not my intention to frighten you but merely to solace myself by looking at you, playing the guardian angel,

Is THAT what the kids are calling it these days? Well, I suppose in the right circumstances it does sort of "fly", especially if David was - ahem - "playing" it.

I must confess, if you will forgive me, as I hovered outside the window for the better part of the night. I have a request for you, which I make from my soul to yours. I cannot tell you what it is in this letter. I ask that you meet me in some place that is public, where you will feel safe from me, a place that you yourself choose. Answer at this post box, and I'll be prompt in replying.

For those of you playing at home - yes, there is in fact a generic version of "Mailboxes Etc." just a couple of blocks away from the flat at Rue Royale. Feel free to go visit and take turns playing the role of David as he sat there night after night, waiting to see if his former 14 year old girlfriend writes back to him.

Merrick, forgive me. If you advise the Elders or the Superior General of this contact, they will in all likelihood forbid you to meet with me.

You know, I'll bet telling MerriQue not to tell any adults about her secret meetings with David just brings back old times for Mr. Talbot, huh?

(Yeah, I know - not funny. But neither is the concept of showing that it's OK for sixty year olds to ogle the boobs of a fourteen year old girl, ok?)

Please give me this little while to speak with you before you take such a step.

Yours in the Talamasca forever,

David Talbot.

AKA "The guy who died and swore he'd have nothing to do with the Talamasca ever again."

What audacity and egoism to have written such a note

"Dear David. Perhaps you did not get my earlier note? Again, please, your own narrative voice is beautiful. Use it and not mine. Thank you. Sincerely, Lestat."

and delivered it into the iron mailbox at the end of the drive in the hours before dawn.

She'd written back, a note rather tantalizing in its details, full of undeserved affection.

I cannot wait to talk with you.

You, the guy I was told was stone cold dead and only now am I finding out that you are still alive yet I am somehow unphased by this information.

Be assured, whatever shocks this meeting will hold in store for me, I seek you inside the mystery

You know, one of these days I'm going to write a spec. And that spec will be "MerriQue is actually forced to interact with real people who understand that she does not talk like an actual human being on the planet Earth would." In it will be such scenes as:

Grocery store clerk: "Can I help you find anything ma'am?"

MerriQue: "No, for I seek my food inside the mystery and I look into the soul of my Alpha-bits to discover the truth."

Clerk: "Um.... ok. Just... um... let me know if you need anything I guess."

And:

Algebra teacher: "Did everyone hand in their homework assignments?"

14 year old MerriQue: "This photo of my Oncle Julien shows him wearing a suit. See? The buttons go all the way to the top of his dapper clothes."

Teacher: "That's very nice, dear, but show and tell is next period. Did you bring your homework to school?"

MerriQue: "Oh professor, the paper it crumbled under my hands, like the paper of the Bible written so long ago."

Teacher: [long pause] "Um... your religions class is fifth period, Merrick. This is math. Do you have your math assignment?"

MerriQue: "Oncle Julien came to me in a vision and told me that a man would come and bring me to you and that I could trust you to show me things once I followed this man who came in the bright, bright vehicle."

Teacher: [longer pause] "Yes... that would have been your school bus driver who brought you here in the yellow school bus. Do you remember that, Merrick? Coming here on a school bus? And I'm glad that you can trust me. Maybe you can trust me enough to tell me if everything is ok? Are things all right at home? How's your mom? Does she know about this 'Oncle Julien' coming to see you at night? And for God's sake what happened to your shoes?"

One of these days I'll get around to it. Or I'll skip the middle man and just ram a knitting needle directly into my left eye and get, more or less, the same overall result.

-- David, whom I have always loved. You were my Father when I needed you, and my friend ever after.

EW! Ok, again, we are establishing that David was a Father Figure to the fourteen year old child that MerriQue was. He was an authority figure in a position of trust and he constantly thought about her sexually. Guys this is so NOT ok. We have crossed the line of chan-slash and entered the world of Anne Doesn't Know What She's Talking About.

Ok... actually we entered that world long ago but we're at least deeper into it now than we were before.

And I have glimpsed you since your metamorphosis, perhaps more often than you know. I know what happened to you. I know of those with whom you live. The Café of the Lion. Rue St. Anne. Do you remember it? Years ago, before we ever went to Central America, we ate a quick lunch there. You were so wary of us setting out for those jungles. Do you remember how you argued? I think I used a witch's charms to persuade you. I always thought you knew. I'll come early each evening for several nights in hopes that you'll be there. She had signed the note exactly as I had signed my own: "Yours in the Talamasca forever."

She really does love me!

I had put myself before my love of her, and my duty to her. I was relieved that the deed was done.

Back then, when she'd been the orphan in the storm, such a thing had been unthinkable. She was my duty, this little wanderer who had come so surprisingly, on her own, one evening to knock on our door.

"Our motives are the same as your motives," Aaron had said to her most directly on that long ago night at Oak Haven. He'd reached out and lifted her soft brown hair back from her shoulder, as if he were her elder brother.

Notice just how often these two fondle her neck in a "friendly" way.

And let me again put another perspective check on it by saying this is chapter two. We have only had two measly chapters so far and instead of actually oh, I don't know, setting up a PLOT or a STORYLINE of some sort Anne has, instead, peppered the entire thing with many references to old guys wanting to get it on with an underage kid. I'm so glad she got a large royalty check for this. Oh no, wait, I'm not.

"We want to preserve knowledge. We want to save history. We want to study and we hope to understand."

An odd look formed on Aaron's face. He turned to David slowly and whispered "You know... write that down. We could use something like that as a saying! Like a slogan of some sort that describes the order! We could even - yes, we could even put it on business cards!"

David shook his head. "Too wordy. How about just 'We watch and we are always there'?"

Aaron clapped his hands in delight. "Even better! I'll get right on it."

He had made another soft sigh, so unlike him.

Who was known for loud sighs and even louder noises at night, in the bedroom.

"Ah, those white cousins, the Garden District Mayfairs, as you called them, and most correctly, yes, we know of them," he had admitted, surprising me,

Boy, David really needs to keep on top of the workings of the Talamasca a little bit better, huh? Hey, David, here's a hint - they call them 'All Staff' meetings for a reason. Maybe you should try going to a couple.

"but we keep our secrets unless prompted by duty to reveal them. What is their long history to you just now? Their lives are interconnected like thorny vines forever circling and recircling the same tree. Your life might have nothing to do with that bitter struggle. What concerns us and here now is what we can do for you. I don't speak idle words when I tell you that you may rely upon us forever. You are, as David has said, our own."

She had reflected.

Could someone with better editing skills than I have go through this and in some way try to help me understand 1. why we are constantly in the past perfect tense here when a simple past tense would have done just fine and 2. if Anne is even using the past perfect tense correctly, because I'm fairly sure she isn't. Not that, you know, an editor would have picked up on this or anything.

It had not been simple for her to accept all of this, she was too used to being alone with Great Nananne -- yet something strong had impelled her to trust us before she'd ever come.

"Great Nananne trusts you," she had said, as if I'd asked her.

"Hey, MerriQue, what exactly did I say that sounded like 'Tell me about your day?' huh?"

"Great Nananne said that I was to come to you. Great Nananne had one of her many dreams and woke up before daylight and rang her bell for me to come. I was sleeping on the screen porch and I came in and found her standing up in her white flannel gown. She's cold all the time, you know; she always wears flannel, even on the hottest night. She said for me to come sit down and listen to what she had dreamed."

"Tell me about it, child," Aaron had asked. Had they not spoken of this completely before I'd come?

You know, I liked Anne's little thing of having her characters point out the flaws in the narrative the first oh, twenty five times she did it. Now I'd just rather she fix the fucking flaws in the first place.

"She dreamed of Mr. Lightner, of you," she'd said, looking to Aaron, "and in the dream you came to her with Oncle Julien, white Oncle Julien from the clan uptown. And the two of you sat by her bed.

Hey look! It's that French accent that she was supposed to have all this time. Except, you know, she didn't. Until now. And now she won't get rid of it and we're stuck with all these 'oncle' references and no other hints of it. But otherwise it'll be the most perfect written version of an accented speech pattern since Huck Finn. Really.

"Oncle Julien told her jokes and stories and said he was happy to be in her dream. She said that. Oncle Julien said that I was to go to you, you here, Mr. Lightner, and that Mr. Talbot would come.

Later tonight. In either my room or yours. The dream wasn't very clear about that.

Oncle Julien spoke French and you yourself were sitting in the cane-backed chair and smiling and nodding to her, and you brought her in a cup of coffee and cream the way she likes it, with half a cup of sugar and one of her favorite silver spoons.

As a side note this reminded me and Steph of the Little House on the Prairie Chrismas Story where the kids are cheered by getting tin cups and pennies and candy sticks and little cakes made with actual white flour and sugar which was so rare for them. And they spent the whole day playing with their tin cups and shiny new pennies and feeling Christmas joy.

So this bit here about coffee and cream and silver spoons reminded us of that. Except for the fact that the Little House story was better written, charming and infinitely more realistic. But other than that it's just spot-on.

In and out of her dreams, Great Nananne has a thousand silver spoons." The dream continued: "You sat on her bed, finally, on her best quilt beside her, and you took her hand, and she had all her best rings on her hand, which she doesn't wear anymore, you know, and you said in the dream, 'You send me little Merrick,' and you said you'd take care of me, and you told her that she was going to die."

Aaron was always known for being a killjoy, even in other people's fantasies.

Aaron had not heard this strange recounting, and he'd seemed quite taken, amazed. Lovingly, he'd answered:

"It must have been Oncle Julien who said such a thing in the dream. How could I have known such a secret?"

I'd never forgotten his protest, because it had been very unlike him to commit himself even to ignorance,

"Do you, Aaron, take this, Ignorance, to be your lawfully wedded cross to bear?"

and to press so hard upon such a point.

Aaron, like most Anne Rice characters, lacked any ability to ever let anything go and move on with life.

"No, no, you told her," the fairy child had said. "You told her the day of the week and the hour of the clock, and it's yet to come."

"The day of the week and the hour of the clock"? How about just "When it would happen"? Would that have been too hard to write?

She had looked thoughtfully once more at her pictures. "Don't worry about it. I know when it's going to happen." Her face had been suddenly full of sadness. "I can't keep her forever. Les mystères

Point #1: No fourteen year old talks like that. Point #2: No one who actually understood the French language would either.

will not wait."

Les mystères. Did she mean the ancestors, the Voodoo gods, or merely the secrets of fate?

See? Even David can't figure out what the Hell she was trying to refer to.

I'd been unable to penetrate her thoughts to any degree whatsoever.

David. The guy who will be Superior General in just a few years from when this flashback takes place. The guy who could read Lestat "Just Got My God On" de Lioncourt's mind in QotD easier than Lestat, himself, could personally change his own socks but cannot, for some reason, crack the mind of a fourteen year old girl who's only real claim to fame thus far has been to sit her ass on a couch and look at pictures.

"St. Peter will be waiting," she'd murmured as the visible sadness had slowly receded behind her veil of calm.

Quite suddenly, she'd flashed her glance on me and murmured something in French. Papa Legba, god of the crossroads in Voodoo, for whom a statue of St. Peter with his keys to Heaven might do quite well.

But for whom a sentence of any discernable English construction would do no good at all.

I had noted that Aaron could not bring himself to question her further on the matter of his role in the dream, the date of Great Nananne's imminent death. He had nodded, however, and once again, with both hands he'd lifted her hair back from her damp neck where a few errant tendrils had clung to her soft creamy skin.

Times Aaron has actively fondled MerriQue so far: 2.

Aaron had regarded her with honest wonder as she had gone on with her tale. "First thing I knew after that dream, there was an old colored man and a truck ready to take me, and he said, 'You don't need your bag, you just come as you are,'

As you were / as I want you to be... ahem. Sorry. Just trying to cleanse by thinking of artists who can actually do their craft well

and I climbed up into the truck with him, and he drove me all the way out here, not even talking to me, just listening to some old Blues radio station and smoking cigarettes the whole way. Great Nananne knew it was Oak Haven because Mr. Lightner told her in the dream…

"Great Nananne knew of Oak Haven of the old days, when it was a different kind of house with a different name.

Specifically Oak Alley, the slave plantation.

Oncle Julien told her lots of other things, but she didn't tell me what they were. She said, 'Go to them, The Talamasca; they'll take care of you, and it will be the way for you and all the things that you can do.'"

It had chilled: all the things that you can do. I remember Aaron's sad expression. He had only given a little shake of his head. Don't worry her now, I'd thought a bit crossly, but the child had not been perturbed.

Oncle Julien of Mayfair fame was no stranger to my memory; I had read many chapters on the career of this powerful witch and seer,

Christ, Anne, why don't you just include an order form for The Lives of the Mayfair Witches while you're at it?

the one male in his bizarre family to go against the goad of a male spirit and his female witches over many hundreds of years.

This is just a personal judgement call but could you really say that Julien had "gone against" Lasher when the two of them pretty much fucked like bunnies at the drop of a hat? Doing all he could to both get into Lasher's pants and spread the Mayfair seed across New Orleans like an overactive lawn sprinkler isn't exactly what I would call "going against" what Lasher wanted. But that's just me. YMMV.

Oncle Julien -- mentor, madman, cocksman, legend, father of witches -- and the child had said that she had come down from him.

It had to be powerful magic, but Oncle Julien had been Aaron's field, not mine. She had watched me carefully as she spoke.

"I'm not used to people believing me," she'd said,

I'm shocked.

"but I am used to making people afraid."

"How so, child?" I had asked. But she had frightened me quite enough with her remarkable poise and the penetration of her gaze.

Again, David, the guy who didn't flinch when Lestat "I can bench press the Northern Hemisphere with one hand behind my back" de Lioncourt showed up unexpected in his bedroom, is afraid of a fourteen year old girl. For no reason. Just, you know, 'cause.

What could she do? Would I ever know? It had been worth pondering on that first evening, for it was not our way to encourage our orphans to give full vent to their dangerous powers; we had been devoutly passive in all such respects.

"Dear Anne Rice. Please return the concept of Professor Xavier and the Xmen back to me at the earliest possible chance. Thank you. Sincerely, Stan Lee of Marvel Comics."

I had banished my unseemly curiosity and set to memorizing her appearance, as was my custom in those days, by looking very carefully at every aspect of her visage and form. Her limbs had been beautifully molded; her breasts were already too fetching,

Number of Times David Has Looked At MerriQue's Boobs So Far: 3

and the features of her face were large, all of them -- with no unique hint of the African -- large her well-shaped mouth, and large her almond eyes and long nose; her neck had been long and uncommonly graceful, and there had been a harmony to her face, even when she had fallen into the deepest thought.

"Keep your secrets of those white Mayfairs," she had said. "Maybe someday we can swap secrets, you and me. They don't even know in these times that we are here.

TBQ whips out her own pad and pencil and begins to write the story wherein MerriQue actually talks like a real 14 year old girl or, for that matter, like a human being would. Gives up after a few mintues and settles on jamming pencil directly into eyeball. Feels better, moves on.

Great Nananne said that Oncle Julien died before she was born. In the dream, he didn't say a word about those white Mayfairs. He said for me to come here." She had gestured to the old glass photographs. "These are my people. If I'd been meant to go to those white Mayfairs, Great Nananne would have seen it long before now." She'd paused, thoughtfully. "Let's us just talk of those old times."

Oh God. Ok, get comfy folks while I explain something. You know when you go over to a friend or a relative's house and the conversation dies down so to perk things up they take out pictures of their last vacation to Florida? And how you're then trapped for hours looking at photo after photo of people who don't even know doing things in a place you've never been to and you're just dying of boredom but you can't leave or say anything to make them stop because it would be rude? You do? Good. Imagine that. Got it? Now take the creeping, mind-numbing horror of that senario and multiply it by about a thousand fold because the next bit is even worse. You see, you're not going to sit through somebody else's vacation photos you're going to sit here and READ about somebody else's photo collection. In intimate detail. Picture. By. Picture.

So get comfy, get a snack, pour yourself a heaping glass of vodka and get ready to enjoy the MerriQue Mayfair Photo Album extravaganza!

She'd spaced the daguerreotypes lovingly on the mahogany table. She made a neat row, wiping away the crumbly fragments with her hand. And at some moment, I'd noted that all the little figures were upside down from her point of view, and right side up for Aaron and for me.

Ok, this is when TBQ now votes in support of the idea that David is just stoned out of his little British mind. I mean really. When was the last time you heard a line like "I'd noted that all the little figures were upside down from her point of view, and right side up for Aaron and for me." from someone who was not also currently staring really closely at the wall while eating directly from a tube of cookie dough and listening to Leonard Cohen albums? ("Yeah, man, like for her they're upside down. But, like, for us they're RIGHT SIDE UP. Like, dude! It's, like, to me, I'm upside down but, like, to the world I'm right side up, ya dig? Cool record, man. Hey, did I just say that out loud?").

"There've been white people kin to me

MerriQue, the amazing accent girl! She's English! She's French! She's Jodie Foster in Nell! She's all these things and much, much more!

that have come down here and tried to destroy records," she said, "You know, tear the page right out of the church register that says their great-grandmother was colored. Femme de couleur libre, that's what some old records say in French.

Again, there was no stigma to these children. Hell, they weren't even considered bastards - they were seen as legitimate even if the father hadn't married the mother (or even if, at the time, he had a wife). Now if you want to argue for the Mayfairs wanting to erase this history to make sure that the inheritance didn't get diluted as much as Julien's sperm in New Orleans' tap water that's fine, but I don't think that that's the point Anne's getting at here.

"Imagine tearing up that much history, the page right out of the church register with all those births and deaths and marriages, and not wanting to know. Imagine going into my great-great oncle's house and breaking up those pictures, pictures that ought to be someplace safe for lots of people to see."

She had sighed, rather like a weary woman, gazing down into the worn shoe box and its trophies.

Deep in the heart of New Orleans, Anne Rice stacks another card onto the house she is building and smiles in satisfaction at how large and stable she thinks it has become.

"Now I have these pictures. I have everything, and I'm with you, and they can't find me, and they can't throw all these things away."

She had dipped her hand into the shoe box again

You know how they say you should read a story aloud to see if the narration makes sense? Well it's also a good idea to actually try to do the things you describe your characters doing to make sure that it's physically possible. So, taking that as our lesson for the day, how would you "dip" your hand into a shoebox in a context like this? Just think about it.

and taken out the cartes de visite -- old photographs on cardboard from the last decades of the old century. I could see the high slanted letters in faded purple on the backs of these latest pictures as she turned them this way and that.

"See, this here is Oncle Vervain," she said.

TBQ squints at the name, reads it again and decides that she liked the name better the first time she read it - Uncle Vivrian - and goes to get herself some from the medicine cabinet.

I had looked at the thin, handsome black-haired young man with the dark skin and light eyes like her own. It was rather a romantic portrait. In a finely tailored three-piece suit, he stood with his arm on a Greek column

Too bad Chris Rice isn't here because he could let us know if that was a Doric or Ionic column. (This comment makes more sense if you've read Density of Souls or the MST/review of it that we did.)

before a painted sky. The picture was in rich sepia. The African blood was plainly present in the man's handsome nose and mouth.

"Now, this is dated 1920."

"It's from Tante Bessie's New Year's Eve party. God we were all so drunk! Anyway, my finger is over the lens in this one but you can still make out the cake in the background..."

She turned it over once, then back again, and laid it down for us to see. "Oncle Vervain was a Voodoo Doctor," she said, "and I knew him well before he died. I was little, but I'll never forget him. He could dance and spit the rum from between his teeth at the altar,

Thus making Oncle Vervain very popular at the annual Redneck Olympics.

and he had everybody scared, I can tell you."

She took her time, then found what she wanted. Next picture.

Remember when I said that we'd be getting this in Painstaking detail? Did you think I was lying? Aren't you sad that I wasn't?

"And you see here, this one?"

"That's me in my first-grade play. I was a bee! Aren't I cute in my costume? Jesus, David, stop drooling!"

She had laid down another old photograph, this time of an elderly gray-haired man of color in a stately wooden chair. "The Old Man is what they always called him.

Oh those wacky New Orleanian People of Color and their ethnic way of turning a phrase!

I don't even know him by any other name. He went back to Haiti to study the magic, and he taught Oncle Vervain all he knew. Sometimes I feel Oncle Vervain is talking to me. Sometimes I feel he's outside our house watching over Great Nananne. I saw the Old Man once in a dream."

I had wanted so badly to ask questions, but this had not been the time.

"See here, this is Pretty Justine," she had said, laying down perhaps the most impressive portrait of all -- a studio picture on thick cardboard inside a sepia cardboard frame. "Pretty Justine had everybody afraid of her." The young woman was indeed pretty, her breasts flat

Number of Times David Has Ogled A Minor's Boobs So Far: 4.

in the style of the 1920s, her hair in a bob, her dark skin quite beautiful, her eyes and mouth slightly expressionless, or perhaps evincing a certain pain.

Yeah, because no expression at all or a look of abject agony are just so easy to confuse.

Now came the modern snapshots, thin and curling, the work of common enough hand-held cameras of the present time.

See, the problem with this whole MerriQue Mayfair Family Slide Show (tm Steph) is that if this was the old Anne Rice I would feel fairly certain that all of this really, really, really boring picture narrative had, say, a point. Maybe not an obvious one, but a point that would come across later in the book - like a name mentioned here turns out to be a key relationship between MerriQue and, for example, Louis (God Help Us). Or if this was a dime-store mystery novel I could rest assured that by reading all of this I was picking up a valuable clue ("And the killer is - the man with the missing photo album!"). But no. This is Anne "Hit Your Readers Repeatedly With Anvils" Rice who thinks that dragging the entire narrative of TVA to a screaming halt so that we can stop and listen to people who will never be heard from again talk about shipping routes is a good idea. So I am fairly certain that during this entire bit of picture after picture all we are getting here is, sadly, pictures. No symbolism, no meaning, no purpose.

And let me remind you again - we still have yet to see a firm idea of what the HELL this book is about. Yes we got that hint about Louis and Claudia and ghosts in chapter 1 but we haven't seen hide nor hair of that since. Nor do we, for that matter, even know with any certainty what that small hint even meant. So somewhere along the line Anne made the self-editorial decision that in the battle between "MerriQue talks about a few thousand family photos" and "I let my readers know what the Hell is going on in this story" the photo album won.

"They were the worst -- his sons," she had said as she pointed to the curling black-and-white picture. "They were Pretty Justine's grandchildren, all white and living in New York. They wanted to get their hands on anything that said they were colored and tear it up. Great Nananne knew what they wanted. She didn't fall for their soft manners and the way they took me downtown and bought me pretty clothes. I still have those clothes. Little dresses nobody ever wore and little shoes with clean soles. They didn't leave us an address when they left. See, look at them in the picture. Look how anxious they are. But I did bad things to them."

Oh like what precious? Throw your little shoes at them? Write bad things about them in your Slam book?

Aaron had shaken his head, studying the strange tense faces. As the pictures had disquieted me, I had kept my eyes on the womanish child.

In New Orleans, Anne Rice stacks another card.

"What did you do, Merrick?" I had asked without biting my tongue wisely.

As opposed to biting his tongue stupidly.

"Oh, you know, read their secrets in their palms and told them bad things they'd always tried to cover up.

"You believe what a fourteen year old girl says she can read in your palms. And there's no definition of 'gullible' in the dictionary either."

It wasn't kind to do that, but I did it, just to make them go away. I told them our house was full of spirits. I made the spirits come. No, I didn't make them come.

A small flame of hope died inside of David's soul.

I called them and they came as I asked. Great Nananne thought it was funny. They said, 'Make her stop,' and Great Nananne said, 'What makes you think I can do that?' as if I was some wild creature that she couldn't control."

Again there had come that little sigh.

"Great Nananne's really dying," she said

Appropos of nothing.

looking up at me, her green eyes never wavering. "She says there is no one now, and I have to keep these things -- her books, her clippings. See, look here, at these clippings. The old newspaper is so brittle it's falling apart. Mr. Lightner's going to help me save these things." She glanced at Aaron. "Why are you so afraid for me, Mr. Talbot? Aren't you strong enough? You don't think it's so bad to be colored, do you? You're not from here, you're from away."

Gee, thank you Captain Obvious. And can we just point out that David, having lived in England, South America and India just might have run into a person of color oh, say, once or twice before?

Afraid. Was I really feeling it so strongly? She'd spoken with authority, and I'd searched for the truth in it, but come quick to my own defense and perhaps to hers as well. "Read my heart, child," I said. "I think nothing of the sort about being colored,

Since, as a rich, white, British guy, I am officially "The Man".

though maybe there were times when I've thought that it might have been bad luck in a particular case."

WHAT?? Do I even need to explain what's wrong with that sentiment?

She'd raised her eyebrows slightly, thoughtfully. I'd continued, anxious, perhaps, but not afraid. "I'm sad because you say you have no one, and I'm glad because I know that you have us."

Which has nothing to do with her being black, David's racist feelings about her being black, or, for that matter, her original question.

"That's what Great Nananne says, more or less," she answered. And for the first time, her long full mouth made a true smile.

My mind had drifted,

Oh thanks, I couldn't tell.

remembering the incomparable dark skinned women I'd seen in India,

Even though in chapter one it is established that MerriQue could pass for white. Which would, you know, sort of imply that she did not have dark skin.

though she was a marvel of different tones, the rich mahogany hair and the pale eyes so visible and so meaningful. I'd thought again that to many she must have looked exotic, this barefoot girl in the flowered shift.

Then had come a moment of pure feeling, which had made its indelible and irrational impression. I'd perused the many faces laid out upon the table, and it had seemed they were all gazing at me. It was a marked impression. The little pictures had been alive all along.

"Dear Anne Rice. Please return my concept of living pictures back to me as soon as possible. Thank you. Sincerely, JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter."

It must be the firelight and the oil lamps, I'd thought dreamily,

See? I'm telling ya, he's totally stoned. Aaron put something in the oil and David is now Feeling The Love.

but I'd been unable to shake the feeling; the little people had been laid out to look at Aaron and to look at me. Even their placement seemed deliberate and sly, or wondrously meaningful, I'd conjectured, as I went smoothly from suspicion to a lulled and tranquil feeling that I was in an audience with a host of the dead.

And, like, the pictures looked at me while I looked at them... it was, like, a metaphor. Or something. So, like, is there any ice cream in the fridge 'cause I've got the munchies something fierce y'all.

"They do seem to be looking," Aaron had murmured, I remember, though I'm sure I hadn't spoken. The clock had stopped ticking and I'd turned to look at it, uncertain where it was. On the mantle, yes, and its hands had been frozen, and the windowpanes had given that muffled rattle that they do when the wind nudges them, and the house had wrapped me securely in its own atmosphere of warmth and secrets, of safety and sanctity, of dreaminess and communal might.

It seemed a long interval had transpired in which none of us had spoken, and Merrick had stared at me, and then at Aaron, her hands idle, her face glistening in the light.

I'd awakened sharply to realize nothing had changed in the room. Had I fallen asleep?

You and me both, baby.

Unforgivable rudeness.

"Dear David. Re: My earlier letters about stealing my narrative voice. Stop it. Now. Sincerely, Lestat."

Aaron had been beside me as before.

Which, as far as I can tell, means that Aaron finally stopped groping MerriQue's neck.

And the pictures had become once more inert and sorrowful, ceremonial testimony to mortality as surely as if she'd laid out a skull for my perusal from a graveyard fallen to ruin.

As opposed to a metaphorical skull from a graveyard kept in good repair.

But the uneasiness I'd experienced then stayed with me long after we'd all gone up to our respective rooms.

Now -- after twenty years

You heard it here first, folks - it took twenty years for us to finally get off the fucking photographs.

And, as long as we're recapping, let's cover the story thus far (as explained over the course of two chapters):

David knows a Mayfair witch named Merrick who can conjure the dead. He met her twenty years ago when she was fourteen and showed him pictures of her family. This may have something to do with David wanting to help Louis. Currently David and MerriQue are in a cafe. MerriQue is drinking rum. David is thinking about her fourteen year old breasts.

Five sentence summary covering prologue, chapter one and most of chapter two thus far. Scary, isn't it?

and many other strange moments -- she sat across from me at this café table in the Rue St. Anne, a beauty gazing at a vampire, and we talked over the flickering candle, and the light was too much like the light of that long ago evening at Oak Haven, though tonight the late spring evening was only moist, not wet with a coming storm.

She sipped the rum, rolling it around a bit before she swallowed it. But she didn't fool me. She'd soon start drinking it fast again. She set the glass aside and let her fingers spread wide apart on the soiled marble. Rings. Those were Great Nananne's many rings, beautiful gold filigree with various wondrous stones.

Thank you, David, for explaining what a "ring" was for the benefit of the radio audience (tm owen).

She'd worn them even in the jungles, when I'd thought it so unwise. She'd never been prone to fear of any sort.

I thought of her in those hot tropical nights. I thought of her during those steamy hours under the high canopy of green. I thought of the trek through the darkness of the ancient temple. I thought of her climbing ahead of me, in the steam and roar of the waterfall up the gentle slope.

Yeah, I'm totally comfortable with the fact that David is having a USA's Up All Night style flashback to MerriQue walking around in the hot and steamy jungle. No, wait, I'm not.

I'd been far too old for it,

Well you know, David, when you get to a certain age your little Guardian Angel just isn't going to be able to fly as often as it used to.

our great and secret adventure. I thought of precious objects made of jade as green as her eyes.

"Dear Anne Rice. Please stop using our description of Louis' eyes to refer to MerriQue. Thank you. Sincerely, the spec writing community."

Her voice brought me out of my selfish reverie:

"Why are you asking me to do this magic?" She put the question to me again. "I sit here and I look at you, David, and with every passing second, I become more aware of what you are and what's happened to you. I put all kinds of pieces together from your open mind -- and your mind's as open as it ever was, David, you know that, don't you?"

Even though Lestat "Want me to use my X-Ray Vision to count the atoms in the Statue of Liberty?" de Lioncourt couldn't crack David's mortal mind with a sledgehammer.

How resolute was her voice. Yes, the French was utterly gone. Ten years ago it had been gone.

Yes, had an accent, doesn't anymore, two FUCKING CHAPTERS of this fact. Memo to Anne: We. Get. It.

But now there was a clipped quality to her words, no matter how soft and low they came.

Her large eyes widened easily with her expressive verbal rhythms.

"You couldn't even be quiet of mind on the porch the other night," she scolded. "You woke me. I heard you, just as if you'd been tapping on the panes. You said, 'Merrick, can you do it? Can you bring up the dead for Louis de Pointe du Lac?' And do you know what I heard underneath it? I heard 'Merrick, I need you. I need to talk to you. Merrick, my destiny is shattered. Merrick, I reach for understanding. Don't turn me aside.'"

"Or possibly you just had indigestion. I was reading a lot into that I'll have to admit. Actually I'm really just paraphrasing a lot and guessing, but am I close?"

I felt an acute pain in my heart.

That was my knitting needle, sorry.

"It's true what you're saying," I confessed.

She drank another big swallow of the rum, and the heat danced in her cheeks. "But you want this thing for Louis," she said. "You want it enough to overcome your own scruples and come to my window. Why? You, I understand. Of him, I know other people's stories and just the little I've seen with my own eyes. He's a dashing young man, that one, isn't he?"

I was too confused to answer, too confused to will courtesy to build a temporary bridge of polite lies.

About what? The question is if Louis is good looking or not. Lestat has already written a series of CANONICALLY BEST SELLING NOVELS describing Louis as the "beautiful one". A simple "Yes." is all that's needed here, David.

"David, give me your hand, please," she asked suddenly. "I have to touch you. I have to feel this strange skin."

"Oh, darling, if only you could forego that," I murmured.

"David. Re: My earlier letters. Have you not been getting them? Have you moved on to a new address? Are you still the person writing this story? If not, please forward this on to the person who is. STOP STEALING MY NARRATIVE VOICE AND USE YOUR OWN. Thank you. Lestat."

Her large golden earrings moved against the nest of her black hair and the long line of her beautiful neck. All the promise of the child had been fulfilled in her. Men admired her enormously. I had known that a long time ago.

She reached out to me gracefully. Boldly, hopelessly, I gave her my hand.

"Hopelessly"? What would one hope in this situation that you could possibly have the opposite of lacking hope?

I wanted the contact. I wanted the intimacy. I was powerfully stimulated. And treasuring the sensation, I let her fingers linger as she looked into my palm.

"Why read this palm, Merrick?" I asked. "What can it tell you? This body belonged to another man. Do you want to read the map of his broken fate? Can you see there that he was murdered and the body stolen? Can you see there my own selfish invasion of a body that ought to have died?"

"I know the story, David," she answered. "I found it all in Aaron's papers.

And, of course, the book Tale of the Body Thief which was also canonically written and sold in any number of bookstores throughout New Orleans and would have, one would have to imagine, been put into Lestat's Talamasca file.

Body switching. Highly theoretical as regards the official position of the Order. But you were a grand success."

Her fingers sent the thrills up my spine and through the roots of my hair. "After Aaron's death, I read the whole thing," she said, as she moved her fingertips across the pattern of deeply etched lines. She recited it:

"'David Talbot is no longer in his body. During an ill-fated experiment with astral projection he was ousted from his own form by a practiced Body Thief and forced to claim the youthful trophy of his opponent, a body stolen from a shattered soul which has, as far as we can know, moved on.'"

Quote Steph: "Youthful trophy? Nice scientific, unbiased observation from the Talamasca there."

I winced at the old familiar Talamasca style.

"I wasn't meant to find those papers," she continued,

"But since I do go to the store from time to time and noticed a book written by the guy who ostensibly killed you...."

her eyes still fixed on my palm. "But Aaron died here, in New Orleans, and I had them in my hands before anyone else. They're still in my possession, David; they have never been filed with the Elders and maybe they never will be filed. I don't know."

Since, you know, that would have prevented any of the Elders from noticing the big ol' "I Killed David Talbot and Here's How and Why" book that is Tale of the Body Thief and was written by Lestat who's name, I feel safe in saying, the Talamasca is fairly familiar with.

I was amazed at her audacity, to have held back such secrets from the Order to which she still devoted her life. When had I ever had such independence, except perhaps at the very end?

When I didn't. In as much as I immediately wrote to the Talamasca and let them know what happened and then kept tabs on where everyone was, particularly MerriQue here.

Her eyes moved quickly back and forth as she examined my palm. She pressed her thumb softly against my flesh. The chills were unbearably enticing. I wanted to take her in my arms, not feed from her, no, not harm her, only kiss her, only sink my fangs a very little, only taste her blood and her secrets, but this was dreadful and I wouldn't let it go on.

"David. You'll be hearing from my lawyers. Lestat."

I withdrew my outstretched hand.

"What did you see, Merrick?" I asked quickly, swallowing the hunger of body and mind.

"Disasters large and small, my friend, a life line that goes on as long as any, stars of strength, and a brood of offspring."

Well, thank you Dionne Warwick. That wasn't in any way vague or unspecific. I can see why you're such a Powerful and Scary Witch now. Pardon me while I roll my eyes so hard I sprain myself, would you?

And please, Dear God, don't make this mean that David will make vampire Children. I mean I could have taken it with the old David Talbot. The good David Talbot. The David Talbot that actually had a brain and a soul and an interesting backstory (and, for that matter, his own narrative voice). But this is not that David. This is a false David. A Chia-David, if you will. And I do Not want to see what this air-headed, pseudo-Lestat-wannabe, Chia-David would think of as a good candidate for the Dark Gift!

Oh, Hell, might as well face it. MerriQue is going to be a vampire by the end of the novel and Chia-David is going to do it. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Sigh.

"Stop it, I don't accept it. The hand's not mine."

Hey look! Something that vaguely resembles continuity! What a nice change of pace!

"You have no other body now," she countered. "Don't you think the body will conform to its new soul? The palm of a hand changes over time. But I don't want to make you angry. I didn't come here to study you. I didn't come here to stare in cold fascination at a vampire. I've glimpsed vampires. I've even been close to them, in these very streets. I came because you asked me and because I wanted...to be with you."

Old teacher / the subject / of schoolgirl mockery / he wants her / so badly / don't care 'bout legality...

Ahem. Sorry.

I nodded, overcome and unable for the moment to speak. With quick gestures I pleaded for her silence.

Yeah since God knows her talking has really moved the narrative along.

She waited.

Then at last:

"Did you ask permission of the Elders for this meeting?"

She laughed but it wasn't cruel. "Of course I did not."

"Then know this," I said. "It started the same way with me and the Vampire Lestat. I didn't tell the Elders. I didn't let them know how often I saw him, that I brought him into my house, that I conversed with him, traveled with him, taught him how to reclaim his preternatural body when the Body Thief tricked him out of it."

Notice how many times MerriQue tries to cut in and remind Chia-David that yes, she knows, that TotBT wasn't exactly an unknown novel in the VampChron universe. Hell, knowing Lestat he probably faxed a memo about it to the Elders himself once the deed was done.

She tried to interrupt me but I would have none of it.

"And do you realize what's happened to me?" I demanded. "I thought I was too clever for Lestat ever to seduce me. I thought I was too wise in old age for the seduction of immortality. I thought I was morally superior, Merrick, and now you see what I am."

If this was in any way based on reality we'd have gotten the whole "moral superiority" issue out of the way back when David was staring at her tits.

"Aren't you going to swear to me that you'll never hurt me?" she asked, her face beautifully flushed. "Aren't you going to assure me that Louis de Pointe du Lac would never bring me harm?"

Yeah, Louis, the vampire that even AKASHA said was one of the most dangerous of their kind. Mind you the current Louis bears no resemblance to the canonical one but what can you do?

"Of course I am.

See? Sigh. Bring Back / Bring Back / Bring Back Old Louis To Me / To Me / Bring Back / Bring Back / Bring Back Old Louis To Meeee

But there's a bit of decency left in me, and that decency compels me to remind you that I'm a creature of supernatural appetite."

Chia-David: getting his Big Pimp on.

Again she tried to interject, but I wouldn't allow it.

Yeah, I'm sure ignoring MerriQue's protests is old territory for Chia-David here.

(Yeah, again, not funny. Neither is child rape.)

"My very presence, with all its signals of power, can erode your own tolerance for living, Merrick; it can eat away your faith in a moral order, it can hurt your willingness to die an ordinary death."

"Ah, David," she said, chiding me for my official tone. "Speak plainly. What's in your heart?" She sat up straight in the chair, her eyes looking me up and down. "You look boyish and wise in this young body. Your skin's darkened like mine! Even your features have the stamp of Asia. But you're more David than you ever were!"

You know, in the hands of a qualified author the concept of a white man now in the body of a minority would be an interesting idea with depth and exploration of racial relations. In Anne's hands... David Talbot Gets A Tan. Woo-hoo.

I said nothing.

I watched through dazed eyes as she drank more of the rum. The sky darkened behind her, but bright, warm electric lights filled up the outside night. Only the café itself was veiled in dreary shadow, what with its few dusty bulbs behind the bar.

Her cool confidence chilled me. It chilled me that she had so fearlessly touched me, that nothing in my vampire nature repelled her, but then I could well remember how Lestat in all his subdued glory had attracted me. Was she attracted? Had the fatal fascination begun?

Gee, I'd say I'm sorry to see you're going to die MerriQue but, you know, I'm not so...

She kept her thoughts half concealed as she always had.

It'd be such a refreshing change if Anne could remember back to events discussed in this chapter to note that at no time could Chia-David read any part of her mind.

I thought of Louis. I thought of his request.

TBQ thought of Louis. She thought of him having a spine, and getting over the whole Claudia thing to take care of Lestat who needed him more, and him not really giving two shits about David or spending more than five canonical seconds with him in the same hemisphere.

He wanted desperately for her to work her magic.

Hey Louis - I'm totally with ya bud. I've been waiting for her to show off her disappearing act since the Prologue.

But she was right. I needed her. I needed her witness and her understanding.

I needed her to sign the release papers that excused me from all my former actions...

When I spoke, my words were full of heartbreak and wonder, even to myself.

"It's been magnificent," I said. "And unendurable. I am most truly out of life and can't escape from it. I have no one to whom I can give what I learn."

"Dear Anne Rice. Please return the concept of 'Who Wants To Live Forever' back to us. Sincerely, The Powers That Be of the Highlander Universe."

She didn't argue with me or question me. Her eyes seemed suddenly to be full of sympathy, her mask of composure to be gone. I'd seen such sharp changes in her many times. She concealed her emotions except for such silent and eloquent moments.

"Do you think," she asked, "that if you hadn't taken up life in the young body, that Lestat would have forced you as he did? If you'd still been old -- our David, our blessed David, aged seventy-four, wasn't it? -- do you think if you'd still been our honorable Superior General that Lestat would have brought you over?"

What, with Lestat's own personal Electra complex? And the fact that he kept trying to get into David's pants when he was still in the old body? I mean we can hold out hope that Stat was just trying to give David a heart attack and kill him before the body switch took place and Chia-David took over but, sadly, we all know Stat has nothing which even slightly resembles foresight of action so we gotta go with: Stat likes 'em old and experienced. And, you know, said as much in a little book we like call Tale of the Body Thief. Maybe Anne's heard of it. Maybe we should send her a copy.

"I don't know," I said shortly, but not without feeling."I've often asked myself the same question. I honestly don't know. These vampires…ah, I mean, we…we vampires, we love beauty, we feed on it. Our definition of beauty expands enormously, you can't quite imagine how much. I don't care how loving your soul, you can't know how much we find beautiful that mortals don't find beautiful, but we do propagate by beauty, and this body has beauty which I've used to evil advantage countless times."

I don't wanna know. I mean if getting sexy with a fourteen year old girl is considered "OK" by Chia-David here I truly don't wanna know what passes for "evil" in his book.

She lifted her glass in a small salute. She drank deeply.

"If you'd come up to me with no preamble," she said, "whispering in a crowd as you touched me -- I would have known you, known who you were." A shadow fell over her face for a moment, and then her expression became serene. "I love you, old friend," she said.

Please, let it be the rum talking.

"You think so, my darling?" I asked. "I have done many things to feed this body; not so very lovely to think about that at all."

Psst - Chia-David: she's a Talamasca Scholar. I'm pretty certain that she understands that VAMPIRES KILL PEOPLE. Hell, anybody who's read books like Dracula, Hotel Transylvania and, you know, THE VAMPIRE LESTAT OF THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES would know these things.

She finished the glass, set it down, and, before I could do it for her, she reached for the bottle again.

At no time does Chia-David think that his involvement in her sexual upbringing may have encouraged her drinking habit. Nor, for that matter, does it occur to Anne Rice.

"Do you want Aaron's papers?" she asked.

I was completely taken aback.

"You mean you're willing to give them to me?"

"David, I'm loyal to the Talamasca. What would I be if it weren't for the Order?" She hesitated, then: "But I'm also deeply loyal to you."

EW! EW EW EW! Memo to Anne: Children do not grow up to fall in love with the people that molested them. They do, in fact, often have a great fondness for the therapists who help them get over the deeply scarring trauma but not the actual CHILD MOLESTORS.

For a few seconds she was musing. "You were the Order for me, David. Can you imagine what I felt when they told me you were dead?"

Based on her reaction at finding out he was back from the dead I'm guessing her first feeling was apathy followed by dry boredom.

And, by the way, nice going, MerriQue. Way to make David's death all about you.

I sighed. What could I say in answer?

"Did Aaron tell you how we grieved for you, all those of us who weren't entrusted with a speck of the truth?"

Or, you know, trusted with, say, a library card.

"From my soul, I'm sorry, Merrick.

"Yeah, I'm such an asshole, dying like that and all. From a vampire attack. That I couldn't prevent. Man, I should have thought about your needs."

We felt we kept a dangerous secret. What more can I say?"

"Except that we really should have given more thought about the whole 'Lestat writing another book about this' thing. Especially when he said he would. And then mailed us a comp copy for the files."

"You died here in the States, in Miami Beach, that was the story.

Everyone! "Called Tale of the Body Thief" There, isn't it fun when we all do it together? Ok, yeah, I know. It'll be over soon. Have some of MerriQue's rum. It helps.

And they'd flown the remains back to England before they even called to tell me you were gone. You know what I did, David? I made them hold the casket for me. It was sealed shut when I got to London but I made them open it. I made them do it. I screamed and carried on until they gave in to me. Then I sent them out of the room and I stayed alone with that body, David, that body all powdered and prettied up and nestled in its satin.

Wait a minute - didn't the body switch end with Lestat Getting His Bitch On and turning David's body (or at least his head) into what was essentially a pasty goo so that he'd know for certain he'd smacked James out of it and into the middle of next Tuesday? So how the heck did the body end up in England "powdered and prettied up"?

Whoa. Sorry. For a second there I was looking for logic and continuity between novels. My bad. I forgot that I'm not the one getting multi-million dollar royalty checks to write books that make sense.

I stayed there for an hour perhaps. They were knocking on the door. Then finally I told them to proceed."

There was no anger in her face, only a faint wondering expression.

See? Told ya. Dull boredom. Which is pretty much my reaction to all of this too for that matter.

"I couldn't let Aaron tell you," I said, "not just then, not when I didn't know whether I'd survive in the new body, not when I didn't understand what life held for me. I couldn't. And then, then it was too late."

Except for now. Which is later. When I'm telling you anyway. But, you know, years ago, that was too late.

She raised her eyebrows and made a little doubting gesture with her head.

Poor MerriQue. She must suffer from the same intermittent IQ that Pandora does.

She sipped the rum.

TBQ downs another vodka.

"I understand," she said.

That makes one of us.

"Thank God," I answered. "In time, Aaron would have told you about the body switching," I insisted. "I know he would have. The story of my death was never meant for you."

But the reading public of the US and all Random House international subsidiaries... oh you know the drill.

She nodded, holding back the first response that came to her tongue.

"Dipshit."

"I think you have to file those papers of Aaron's," I said.

Way to keep that independance you said you had before, Chia-Dave.

"You have to file them directly with the Elders and no one else. Forget the Superior General of the moment."

Since God knows Anne Rice certainly has and doesn't want to take two seconds to flip through the three books of the Mayfair Witch series to double check just who is the Superior General of the moment.

"Stop it, David," she responded. "You know it is much easier to argue with you now that you are in the body of a very young man."

"You never had difficulty arguing with me, Merrick," I retorted.

"Especially since you scared me shitless back when you were just fourteen."

"Don't you think Aaron would have filed the papers, had he lived?"

"Maybe," she said, "and maybe not. Maybe Aaron would have wanted more that you be left to your destiny. Maybe Aaron wanted more that whatever you had become, you'd be left alone."

I'll admit it's sweet to think that Aaron's love for David would have lasted through all of those hardships and that, because of that love, Aaron would have gone for the greater good and done what he could to set David free from the Talamasca's clutches.

But then I'll remember that this is Anne writing all this and know that the only way I'll see that much depth of thought and meaning in all of this is if a spec writer takes up the task.

I wasn't sure what she was saying.

You and me... oh you know the drill by now.

The Talamasca was so passive, so reticent, so downright unwilling in interfere in anyone's destiny,

Either Chia-Dave here really has been missing his Talamasca All Staff meetings, or he's in firm denial about just how much the Talamasca does interfere (I mean, Christ, they've practically co-signed loans for Daniel's last house while putting down their latest summer intern as "Father" on Morrigan's birth certificate!) or Anne has no fucking concept of what the word "canon" means or the phrase "Please, dear God, reread your own damn books before writing stories that refer to them." means.

I couldn't figure what she meant.

She shrugged, took another sip of rum, and rolled the rim of the glass against her lower lip.

"Maybe it doesn't matter," she said.

Well then let's thank the Lord that we've had thirteen years of dialogue about it then! Anne, honey, the word is PLOT. Look it up. It won't hurt you.

"I only know that Aaron never filed the pages himself." She went on speaking:

"The night after he was killed I went down to his house on Esplanade Avenue. You know he married a white Mayfair, not a witch by the way, but a resilient and generous woman -- Beatrice Mayfair is her name, she's still living -- and at her invitation I took the papers marked 'Talamasca.' She didn't even know what they contained.

Files. On David. Aaron had them. Talamasca Elders didn't. We. Get IT.

"She told me Aaron had once given her my name. If anything happened, she was to call me, and so she'd done her duty. Besides, she couldn't read the documents. They were all in Latin, you know, Talamasca old style.

"There were several files, and my name and number were written on the front of each, in Aaron's hand. One file was entirely devoted to you, though only the initial, D, was used throughout. The papers on you, I translated into English. No one's ever seen them. No one," she said with emphasis.

WE. GET. IT. ANNE. MOVE. ON. FOR. THE. LOVE. OF. GOD.

"But I know them almost word for word."

You know, as often as we've talked about them so far now so do I! Move ON.

Do you think I'm ranting for no reason? If so, try this on for size - there's still more references to these files coming up! Yep, more. Even though we've already said SEVENTY FOUR TIMES NOW that the body switch happened and that the files where there and that the Elders didn't get them because MerriQue saved them on Aaron's behalf which totally negates the TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS WE ALL SPENT BUYING TALE OF THE BODY THIEF, we're still going to hear about it again! And do you want to know why? It's because God is punishing us for asking what on Earth could be more boring than MerriQue's photo album. Now we know. Aren't you glad?

It seemed a comfort suddenly to hear her speaking of these things, these secret Talamasca things, which had once been our stock and trade. Yes, a comfort, as if the warm presence of Aaron were actually with us again.

She stopped for another sip of the rum.

"I feel you ought to know these things," she said. "We never kept anything from each other, you and I. Not that I knew of, but then of course my work was in the study of magic, and I did roam far and wide."

Which David, having met the girl before and known her since she was fourteen would have known already. But thank you, MerriQue, for being Basil Exposition for us. You can go home now.

"How much did Aaron know?" I asked. I thought my eyes were tearing. I was humiliated. But I wanted her to go on. "I never saw Aaron after the vampiric metamorphosis," I confessed dully. "I couldn't bring myself to do it. Can you guess why?" I felt a sharp increase in mental pain and confusion. My grief for Aaron would never go away, and I'd endured it for years without a word to either of my vampire companions, Louis or Lestat.

Who David hasn't spent any time with since Rio except for the occasional, brief visit. Which is canon. Or was. But is now just further proof that the other twenty five bucks spent on MtD and TVA could have just as easily been set on fire for all the use they're doing us now.

"No," she said. "I can't guess why. I can tell you…," and here she hesitated politely so that I might stop her, but I did not.

Oh thank you, Chia-Dave. Our one chance to stop the TotBT recap and you blew it. I hope Lestat sets you on fire before the novel is done. Yep. That's what I want to see. Stat wakes up again, walks over to you, bitch-slaps you into a wall Raglan James style, lights you on fire, then goes back to sleep again until the rest of the vampires come back to their canonical senses. Violent? Yes. But currently so is my nausea and it's all your fault so deal.

"I can tell you that he was disappointed and forgiving to the end."

I bowed my head. I pressed my forehead into my cold hand.

"By his own account he prayed each day that you would come to him,"

Use that for your own slashy purposes, folks. Consider it a freebie.

she explained slowly, "that he'd have a chance for one last conversation with you -- about all you'd endured together and what had finally occurred to drive you apart."

I must have winced. I deserved the misery, however, deserved it more than she could know. It had been indecent not to have written to him! Lord God, even Jesse, when she'd vanished out of the Talamasca, had written to me!

"Sleep with one eye open, David. - Lestat."

Merrick went on speaking. If she read my mind at all, she gave no clue.

"Of course Aaron wrote all about your Faustian Body Switching, as he called it.

Nice to see that Aaron kept up on those Damn Yankees tickets right up until the very end.

He described you in the young body and made many references to some investigation of the body, something you'd engaged in together, asserting that the soul had certainly gone on. You experimented, didn't you, you and Aaron, with trying to reach the rightful soul, even at the risk of your own death?"

Wait. Hold up....

Yes, yes I'm right. Not SIX sentences ago Chia-Dave tells us that he NEVER CONTACTED AARON. And now, six sentences later, we're told the exact OPPOSITE of that. MILLION-DOLLAR ROYALTY CHECKS PEOPLE.

That does it. Anne didn't sell her soul to Satan. She IS Satan.

I nodded, unable to speak, feeling desperate and ashamed.

As well you should, Continuity Lad.

"As for the wretched Body Thief, the little devil Raglan James who'd started the whole supernatural spectacle, Aaron was convinced his soul was gone into eternity, as he put it, quite utterly beyond reach."

"That's true," I concurred. "The file on him is closed, I'm quite convinced of it, whether it's incomplete or not."

A darkness crept into her sad respectful expression. Some raw feeling had come to the surface, and for the moment she broke off.

"What else did Aaron write?" I asked her.

Do you remember doubting me when I said we'd still be getting TotBT recaps? Don't you wish you'd been right and not me? Yeah, me too.

"He referred to the Talamasca having unofficially helped "the new David" reclaim his substantial investments and property," she answered. "He felt strongly that no File on David's Second Youth must ever be created or committed to the archives in London or in Rome."

And now, as if it wasn't bad enough that we've heard TotBT recapped... oh... I dunno... a TRILLION times now, we're now getting it WRONG. As of THE LAST RECAP. Wherein we were told that the Talamasca, in spite of Lestat's canonical best-selling novel "The New David Talbot And Where To Find Him" aka TotBT, knew nothing about what happened to David - this being the key to MerriQue's insistance about how only she had the files and, you know, the POINT to why we've been listening to all of this since, I dunno, the ICE AGE, now NO LONGER MATTERS because we are NOW told that the Talamasca DID know about what happened to Chia-Dave and even HELPED HIM OUT which implies, amongst other things, that they had to MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT IT and CALL MEETINGS OF INTERESTED PARTIES.

MILLION DOLLAR ROYALTY CHECKS.

I'm just sayin'.

"Why didn't he want the switch to be studied?" I asked. "We had done everything we could for the other souls."

"Aaron wrote that the whole question of switching was too dangerous, too enticing; he was afraid the material would fall into the wrong hands."

But, you know, things like the Mayfair "Whoopsie, Aaron, was that your spine?" Witches or the Coven of the "Mind if we snack on Talamasca members like popcorn?" Articulate - safe.

"Of course," I answered, "though in the old days we never had such doubts."

In the old days you also had a purpose. Much like these books.

"But the file was unfinished," she continued. "Aaron felt certain he would see you again. He thought that at times he could sense your presence in New Orleans. He found himself searching crowds for your new face."

"God forgive me," I whispered. I almost turned away. I bowed my head and shielded my eyes for a long moment. My old friend, my beloved old friend. How could I have abandoned him so coldly? Why does shame and self-loathing become cruelty to the innocent? How is that so often the case?

I dunno, Chia-Dave, maybe if you tried taking responsibility for your own actions once in a while things like this wouldn't happen. But that would require you having any sort of resemblance to the real David Talbot so of course it won't happen.

"Go on, please," I said, recovering. "I want you to tell me all these things."

"Do you want to read them for yourself?"

TBQ flips through her copy of TotBT and muses on the good old days.

"Soon," I answered.

I will lay you even money that Chia-Dave will read those files later in this book and that all of the facts being established right now will be established for you yet again. Bank on it.

She continued, her tongue somewhat loosened by the rum, and her voice more melodic, with just a little of the old New Orleans French accent coming back.

"Aaron had seen the Vampire Lestat in your company once. He described the experience as harrowing, a word that Aaron rather loved but seldom used. He said it was the night he came to identify the old body of David Talbot and to see that it was properly buried. There you were, the young man, and the vampire stood beside you. He'd known you were on intimate terms with one another, you and this creature. He had been afraid for you as much then as ever in his life."

"What more?" I asked.

Then TotBT ended a few chapters later.

I'm just sayin'.

"Later on," she said, her voice low and respectful, "when you disappeared quite completely, Aaron was certain that you'd been forcibly changed by Lestat. Nothing short of that could explain your sudden break in communication,

Except, you know, for the letters David wrote and the times he got together with Aaron to experiment about the body switch and all. But other than the actual being together, yeah, no communication.

coupled with the clear intelligence from your banks and agents that you were most definitely still alive. Aaron missed you desperately.

Poor Aaron. Your love for David could have been so sweet and touching. I'm sorry it's being turned into this. I truly am.

His life had been consumed with the problems of the white Mayfairs, the Mayfair Witches.

As opposed to the Mayfair Carpet Cleaners. Memo to MerriQue: David was the Talamasca Superior General, he knows. Memo to Anne Rice: We've read your books. So do we. Move ON.

He needed your advice. He wrote many times in many ways that he was certain you never asked for the vampiric blood."

For a long time I couldn't speak to answer her. I didn't weep because I don't. I looked off, eyes roaming the empty café until they saw nothing, except perhaps the blur of the tourists as they crowded the street outside on their way to Jackson Square. I knew perfectly well how to be alone in the midst of a terrible moment, no matter where it actually occurred. I was alone now.

TBQ perceives that something in the room is very tired. But after taking a short nap she realizes it isn't her but Chia-David's constant attempts to act like Lestat.

Then I let my mind drift back to him, my friend Aaron, my colleague, my companion.

My fellow member of the Department of Redundancy Department.

And how can you go back to Aaron when we've been talking about nothing but? I mean I'd like to say that the subject changed at one point except that I'd be LYING.

I seized on memories far larger than any one incident. I envisioned him, his genial face and clever gray eyes. I saw him strolling along the brightly lit Ocean Avenue in Miami Beach, looking wonderfully out of place and richly like a splendid ornament to the bizarre scenery, in his three-piece cotton pinstripe suit. I let the pain have me. Murdered for the secrets of the Mayfair Witches. Murdered by renegade beings in the Talamasca. Of course he had not given up to the Order his report on me. It had been a time of troubles, hadn't it, and he had ultimately been betrayed by the Order; and so my story would, within the fabled archives, remain forever incomplete.

TBQ rolls her eyes at yet another recap of the Talamasca-Didn't-Get-A-Copy-Of-TotBT idea and in response holds up a big sign which reads "What. Ever."

"Was there more?" I asked Merrick finally.

Please, God, no.

"No. Only the same song with different rhythms. That was all."

NOW? You're only realizing that now? Besides the utter lack of any continuity from one sentence to the next what on Earth was the crucial difference in the billion times you told us this before?

No... wait. Sorry. They might actually be shutting up about this. I don't want to jinx it.

She took another drink. "He was terribly happy at the end, you know."

Especially when they backed the car over him and got him again.

"Tell me."

TBQ bows her head and sobs.

"Beatrice Mayfair, he loved her. He never expected to be happily married, but it had happened. She was a beautiful highly social woman, rather like three or four people rolled into one. He told me he'd never had so much fun in his life as he had with Beatrice, and she wasn't a witch, of course."

For the love of Jesus... we KNOW. You talked about all this FIVE SECONDS AGO. Please, God, show us a PLOT. Something... anything...

It's so cold... so very, very cold...

"I'm so very glad to hear it," I said, my voice tremulous. "So Aaron became one of them, you might say."

"Yes," she answered. "In all respects."

She shrugged, the empty glass in her hand. Why she waited to take more, I wasn't certain; perhaps to impress me that she wasn't the famous drunk that I knew her to be.

Who was nothing like the woman in Chapter 1 who was described as not being a drunk. Come to think of it wasn't her name also MerriQue? Funny coincidence, that.

"But I don't know anything about those white Mayfairs," she said finally.

Wait, hang on, I'm confused. By these "white Mayfairs" is she - I mean could she be referring to the "Mayfair Witches"? I mean I can't tell, since there's so many other Mayfairs that she could be talking about and she just didn't clarify which ones she was referring to. I mean if for nothing else she should say if it's the Mayfair Witches because God knows that Chia-David must be confused too.

"Aaron always kept me away from them. My work for the last few years had been in Voodoo. I've made trips to Haiti. I've written pages. You know I'm one of the few members of the Order who is studying her own psychic power, with a license from the Elders to use the damnable magic, as the Superior General calls it now."

So the Talamasca never actually thought to study its own members? And it went out of its way to hire powerful psychics but then told them to never use their powers? Doesn't that make no sense at all? Isn't it against all former VC canon?

Oh, wait, sorry - I've stopped caring.

I hadn't known this. It had never even occurred to me that she'd returned to Voodoo, which had cast its generous shadow over her youth. We had never in my time encouraged a witch to practice magic. Only the vampire in me could tolerate such a thought.

Right. Got it. Talamasca never thought to ask its own members to use their own psychic powers. That makes sense. Oh, wait, no it doesn't.

"Look," she said, "it doesn't matter that you didn't write to Aaron."

"Since you spent all that time with him personally and all."

"Oh, doesn't it?" I asked in a sharp whisper. But then I explained: "I simply couldn't write to him. I simply couldn't speak on the phone. As for seeing him, or letting him see me, it was out of the question!" I whispered.

But... didn't it say... I mean she said they did experiments and... Oh Fuck it, I don't care anymore.

"And it took five years," she said, "for you to finally come to me."

Or, for that matter, to this part of the narrative. Which hasn't given us any new information since I summarized The Story Thus Far in five sentences.

"Oh, right to the point!" I responded.

Don't get snotty, Chia-Dave, at least somebody is trying to make a point around here.

"Five years or more to do it. And had Aaron lived on, who knows what I would have done?

My guess? TALKED THE SUBJECT TO DEATH. But that's just my theory.

But the crucial factor was this: Aaron was old, Merrick. He was old and he might have asked me for the blood. When you're old and you're afraid, when you're weary and you're sick, when you've begun to suspect that your life means nothing…Well, that's when you dream of vampiric bargains. That's when you think that somehow the vampiric curse can't be so very dreadful, no, not in exchange for immortality; that's when you think that if only you had the chance, you could become some premier witness to the evolution of the world around you. You cloak your selfish desires in the grandiose."

Chia-David once again fakes a Lestat impression and, moreover, makes Aaron's death All About Him. Don't you just love him folks?

"And you think I never will think such thoughts?" She raised her eyebrows, her green eyes large and full of light.

Baby, I don't care.

"You're young and beautiful," I said, "you were born and bred on courage. Your organs and limbs are as sound as your mind. You've never been defeated, not by anything, and you're in perfect health."

'cept for those liver problems. And let's not forget those longstanding emotional scars from the sex abuse. But otherwise AOK.

I was trembling all over. I couldn't endure much more of this. I'd dreamt of solace and intimacy, and this was intimacy, but at a terrible price.

How much easier it was to spend hours in the company of Lestat, who never spoke anymore, who lay still in a half sleep, listening to music, having been waked by it and now lulled by it, a vampire who craved nothing more?

Yeah, I'll bet getting secret comfort in someone who's passed out and helpless to stop him is old hat for Chia-Dave too. (Yeah, I know, not funny. Wasn't meant to be.)

How much easier to roam the city in the company of Louis, my weaker and ever charming companion,

Oh like the real Louis wouldn't bitch-slap him into a parallel universe if Chia-Dave even so much as thought about Louis like that while living on the same planet as Louis did.

seeking out victims and perfecting "the little drink" so that we left our prey dazzled and unharmed? How much easier to remain within the sanctuary of the French Quarter town house, reading with a vampire's speed all the volumes of history or art history over which I'd labored so slowly when a mortal man?

While Lestat gathers dust on a chapel floor since, let's face it, he wouldn't fit in the coat closet. Chia-Dave is truly a friend in need, ain't he? (I will Not acknowledge this person Chia-Dave keeps insisting on calling "Louis").

Merrick merely looked at me with obvious sympathy, and then she reached out for my hand.

I avoided her touch because I wanted it so much.

And because I was still scared of her just like I was when I was twice her size and she was fourteen.

"Don't back away from me, old friend," she said.

I was too confused to speak.

"What you want me to know," she said, "is that neither you nor Louis de Pointe du Lac will ever give me the blood, not even if I beg you for it; that it can't be part of any bargain between us."

Especially since the real Louis wouldn't give you the time of day. Or, as you put it, "the hour of the clock".

"Bargain. It would be no bargain!" I whispered.

She took another drink. "And you'll never take my life," she said. "That's what makes it a bargain, I suppose. You won't ever hurt me as you might some other mortal woman who crossed your path."

The question of those who crossed my path was too troubling to me for any good response. For the first time since we had come together, I tried to divine her thoughts, but I could read nothing. As a vampire, I had great power in this respect. Louis had almost none. Lestat was the master.

"The master" huh? Nice to know that Chia-Dave can actually work himself up to choke out a compliment once in a while, even if it's only for the guy who could still kill him with a thought if he chose to.

I watched her drink the rum more slowly, and I saw her eyes become glazed with the pleasure of it, and her face soften wonderfully as the rum worked in her veins. Her cheeks were reddening slightly. Her complexion looked perfect.

Chills ran through me again, through my arms and shoulders and up the side of my face, on account of her fingers stroking my open hand.

Really? My chills at this point are just due to illness. Oh and - shut up, Chia-Dave.

I had fed before I'd come here, or else the fragrance of her blood would have clouded my judgment even more than the excitement of this intimacy clouded it.

The one time Anne could have tried cracking open a thesaurus and she instead decides it's a wasted effort.

I had not taken life, no, it was too simple to feed without doing it, attractive though it was. I prided myself on that. I felt clean for her, though it was becoming increasingly simple for me to "seek the evildoer," as Lestat had once instructed -- to find some unwholesome and cruel individual whom I could fancy to be worse than myself.

You mean there are pedophiles out there who are even more boring than Chia-Dave? Louis was right, this is Hell.

"Oh, I wept so many tears for you," she said,

MerriQue, when drunk, becomes sarcastic.

her voice more heated. "And then for Aaron, for all of your generation, leaving us suddenly and too soon, one after another."

Which is so unknown for guys in their seventies.

She suddenly hunched her shoulders and leant

Oh give the "t" key a rest, would you?

forward as though she were in pain.

"The young ones in the Talamasca don't know me, David," she said quickly.

But... doesn't she work for... isn't she still a part of... doesn't she still LIVE in... no, forget it, I don't care.

"And you don't come to me just because Louis de Pointe du Lac asked you to do it.

Like anyone in the world besides Anne Rice thought that in the first place.

You don't come to me just to raise the child vampire's ghost. You want me, David, you want my witness, David, and I want yours."

"You're right on all counts, Merrick," I confessed. The words spilled from me. "I love you, Merrick, I love you the way I loved Aaron, and the way I love Louis and Lestat."

So Chia-Dave loves MerriQue in a way that involves her being hit by a car while her personality does a total rewrite and she ends up covered in dust in a completely overrated building?

I can live with this.

I saw the flash of acute suffering in her face, as though it were the flash of a light from within.

Such as a bulb going off as MerriQue finally realizes that Chia-Dave's "Love" isn't exactly a good thing.

"Don't be sorry you came to me," she said as I reached out to take hold of her. She caught my hands and held them in her own, her clasp moist and warm.

Ew.

"Don't be sorry. I'm not. Only promise me you won't lose heart and leave me without explanation. Don't break away from me hurriedly. Don't give in to some skewed sense of honor. If you did, my sanity might actually break."

And she's just be so rational up until now.

"You mean I mustn't leave you the way I left Aaron," I said thickly. "No, I promise you, my precious darling. I won't do it. It's already much too late for such a thing."

Since doing so would require another body switch, and another death, and asking Stat to kill the extra body in question and you know Stat won't lift a finger to help out Chia-Dave that isn't already holding a wooden stake and some lighter fluid.

"Then, I love you," she announced in a whisper. "I love you as I always have. No, more than that, I think, because you bring this miracle with you.

The miracle of what?

But what of the spirit that lives within?"

"What spirit?" I asked her.

Yours, dipshit. Honestly, shut UP, Chia-Dave.

But she'd already gone deep into her own thoughts. She drank another swallow directly from the bottle.

TBQ takes another swallow directly from her bottle of Maalox.

I couldn't bear the table between us. I stood slowly, lifting her hands until she stood beside me, and then I took her warmly into my arms. I kissed her lips, her old familiar perfume rising to my nostril, and I kissed her forehead, and then I held her head tightly against my beating heart.

"You hear it?" I whispered. "What spirit could there be except my spirit? My body is changed, and no more."

Yes. We. KNOW. Body Switch. New body. Old David. We. Get. It.

I was overcome with desire for her, the desire to know her utterly through the blood. Her perfume maddened me. But there wasn't the slightest chance that I'd give in to my desire.

Can I be the first to start the pool on when he gives in? I'm putting ten dollars down on chapter 19.

But I kissed her again. And it wasn't chaste.

Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. EW.

For several long moments we remained locked together, and I think I covered her hair with small sacred kisses,

Because kissing someone for several minutes and not kissing them at all are just so easy to confuse.

her perfume crucifying me with memories. I wanted to endow her with protection against all things as sordid as myself.

Where was that instinct when she was a minor, asshole?

She backed away from me, finally, as if she had to do it,

Yeah I'm shocked that Chia-Dave doesn't understand why MerriQue would be repulsed by him. Really I am.

and she was a little unsteady on her feet.

"Never in all those years did you ever touch me in this way," she said under her breath. "And I wanted you so badly.

In the heart of New Orleans, Anne Rice puts a roof onto her house of cards. She smiles in satisfaction, knowing that by saying the victim wanted it she has completely justified child molestation the world over and, for that matter, set the cause of child abuse victims back five thousand years.

Do you remember? Do you remember that night in the jungle when I finally got my wish? Do you remember how drunk you were, and how splendid? Oh, it was over way too soon."

#1 - Contrary to Anne's belief, saying that MerriQue wanted it does not make this Ok. #2 - MerriQue, if you wanted a guy as old as Chia-Dave to be any good you probably shouldn't have gotten him liquored up first. One's guardian angel can have a hard time flying if it can't see straight, if you get my meaning. #3 - Ew.

"I was a fool,

"Was"?

but all such things are past remembering," I whispered. "Now, don't let's spoil what's happened. Come, I've gotten a hotel room for you,

But.. she lives in town... it's not that far... this makes no... forget it, I don't care.

and I'll see that you're safely there for the night."

"Why on earth? Oak Haven is exactly where it's always been," she said dreamily. She shook her head to clear her vision. "I'm going home."

"No, you're not. You drank even more rum than I predicted. Look, you drank over half the bottle. And I know you'll drink the rest of the bottle as soon as you get in the car."

Oh like any of the readers care if she dies in an accident. Although... yeah I suppose she could get an innocent pedestrian. Ok, fair enough. Let's just snap her neck now then, shall we?

She laughed a small scornful laugh. "Still the consummate gentleman," she said. "And the Superior General. You can escort me to my old house here in town. You know perfectly well where it is."

TBQ considers just how likely it would be that MerriQue would keep her own house in the Quarter on the salary she'd get working for the Talamasca, notes how miniscule those chances actually are and once again holds up a sign which reads "WHATEVER".

"That neighborhood, even at this hour? Absolutely not.

Since the French Quarter is just a bastion of safety for drunk chicks at that hour of the night.

Besides, your friendly old caretaker there is an incompetent idiot.

MerriQue's got a lot of those in her life doesn't she? Birds of a feather, my friends.

My precious darling, I'm taking you to the hotel."

"Foolish," she said as she half stumbled. "I don't need a caretaker. I'd rather go to my house. You're being a nuisance. You always were."

Hey Chia-Dave - in vino veritas.

"You're a witch and a drunk," I said politely. "Here, we'll just cap this bottle." I did it. "And we'll put it in this canvas purse of yours

Yes and then later I will get up from my leather chair and then pour myself a bowl of cereal from that cardboard box that it comes in and sit down on that plain white sofa which belongs to me and remind myself yet AGAIN that NOBODY TALKS LIKE THIS.

and I'll walk with you to the hotel. Take my arm."

For a small second she looked playful and defiant, but then she made a languid shrug, smiling faintly, and gave up her purse to my insistence and wrapped her arm around mine.

Oh what don't we see? / Why the plot or story / Though 2 chapters have passed / they were filled with nothing but gas ....

So, you may be asking, why on Earth did I go through all of this for something so bitterly painful? Two reasons - #1, I was going to read it anyway so it was easy for me to make little comments as I went along (and thus provide Steph with another article for the zine). and #2, some people are still saying they're going to buy this novel. Now while I support free speech and the concept that we've all got our own opinions - People please. This isn't just a bad book, this is a book that is actively insulting you. It is taking the love and effort that you've cheerfully put in as an Anne Rice fan and it is crumpling it up, throwing it away and then turning back to spit right in your face.

Want to read it? Get it from the library. Don't use your money to tell Anne that she can hit random keys on a keyboard, call it a Vampire Chronicle and then cash your checks. It's not right.

Oh, and final David Staring At Minor's Boobs Tally: 4 times. Ew.

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