Chapter 5

The next morning I have been only seconds in my expensive and exquisitely furnished tri-level home in Pacific Palisades when the phone rings. Upstairs I hear Seymour snoring peacefully, yet the call makes me anxious. Our number is unlisted. Who would know to call? And so early in the morning?

I pick up the phone and hold it close.


There is a pause. Then the soft voice, the gentle inflections.

"It is I," she says.

The blood freezes in my veins. "Kalika."

"Yes, Mother, you remember me. That is good. How have you been?"

"Fine. How are you?"

"Wonderful. Busy."

"You haven't found him yet," I say. "You're not going to find him."

Kalika could be smiling. "You are wrong. I haven't found him but I am going to find him. You are going to help me."

"I hardly think so."

"You think too much. Your thoughts blind you. I told you I'm not going to harm the child. I'm your daughter. You should believe me. I believe you even when I hear you lying to me."

"Where are you?" I ask.

"Not far, I'm high up. I have a view. You would enjoy it."

"How did you get this number?"

"It wasn't difficult." A pause. "I saw you last night at that boring meeting. I saw you talking to those people."

If possible, my blood grows colder. Just by meeting and talking to people, I put them suddenly in danger. It does not seem fair that I should love someone who causes me such grief. Yes, I am chilled by Kalika's call, and grateful for it as well. How hopeless mothers are.

"Those people are no concern of yours," I say harshly.

"I think the doctor is a nice man. But I see you like the son. Handsome devil, isn't he?" A pause. "Is it appropriate for a daughter to comment on the company her mother keeps?"


She laughs softly. "Nothing is as it seems. Black can appear white when the light is blinding. But white loses all luster at the faintest sign of dark?ness. Why trust them when you can trust me?"

"Because you are a cold-blooded murderer."

"Oh. We all have our faults. When did you become so judgmental?"

My tone is bitter. "You know when."

"I suppose. How is Seymour?"

"He's dead."

"That was his corpse at the lecture last night?"

I sigh. "He's fine, no thanks to you."

"See. I can be merciful. I am a mother as well, you know."

"You called Paula. You faked my voice, and even so she did not call you back."

"That is true," Kalika says. "But Suzama would know how to set up a meeting with Paula. She might have spelled that out in her book. You knew her, didn't you?"

I hesitate. "Yes."

"And you still think fondly of her. But to this day you do not know what destroyed her."

"She was destroyed in the big earthquake, along with the Setians. Her death is no mystery to me."

"But who were those Setians? You stared them straight in the eye and did not recognize them."

"I knew they were evil, in the end."

She mocks me. "But too late to save Suzama."

"Why do you talk about them? Or are you just up to your old tricks? The master manipulator trying to confuse the issue. If you want to come for me, fine. Come now, I tire of your games. You don't scare me."

Kalika is a long time answering. While I wait for her next words, I listen closely and hear in the background, not far from where Kalika is, the splash of water. My daughter must be near an open window, standing on a balcony perhaps. There is definitely a swimming pool in her vicinity. It is far below her I believe. There are many people in it, children playing with a ball, laughing and shouting, and more serious athletes swimming serious laps. I hear the latter turn in the water as they finish each lap and push off the walls. I count the strokes, and there are many of them. It is a large pool. There are not many such large pools in the Los Angeles area. I should be able to get a list of them.

Kalika finally speaks.

"I do not want to harm you, Mother. I am here for the child. But if you stand in my way, I cannot promise you that you or your darling Seymour will survive." She adds, "That is not a threat, merely an observation."

"Thank you. I feel much better. Why did you call?"

"To hear your voice. For some reason your voice carries special meaning to me."

"I don't believe that," I say.

"It is true."

"And the other reason for your call?"

"If I tell you that it will spoil all the fun." A pause. "Is there anything I can do for you, Mother?"

"Leave Dr. Seter and his people alone. Leave the child alone."

Kalika hesitates. "I'm afraid I can't do that. Is there anything else you want?"

I slump against the wall, exhausted. "You know, Kalika, the night you were born was hard for me. The delivery was agonizing and I lost a lot of blood. I almost died, and even when I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes I was scared. Even then I knew you were not normal, not even by vampire standards. But despite all that a part of me was happy, happier than I had ever been in my life. I didn't realize this until later. I had wanted a daughter and now I had one. God gave you to me, I thought, and I thanked him for you." I have to take a breath. "Do you understand what I am saying?"


"You are what you are. Your nature is to kill, and I understand that because I'm a killer as well. But over the centuries I have learned to control that instinct. Now I only kill when it is necessary. You can learn to do the same." I pause. "That is what I ask of you. Only that."

She considers. When she speaks next, her voice is particularly soft. It is almost as if she is speaking inside my brain. And I find her words strangely moving.

"I can do that for you, Mother. But my list of who can live and who must die is vastly different from yours. The phantom, Ray, was one of your illusions, one of your mayas. Your desire to have your child Lalita reborn is still a maya for you. You refuse to let it go. That is why you were given me as your daughter--one of the reasons. But anyone who sees through the veil of maya cannot fathom the divine will. The veil is stained and the absolute is without flaw. One cannot reveal the other. In the same way, I am your own daughter but you cannot fathom me."

I have to shake myself to resist her subtle spell.

My memory reminds me that she is using me.

"Was torturing Eric to death part of God's will?" I ask.

She speaks matter-of-factly. "I did what I did to Eric to inspire you to tell me the location of the child." A pause. "Besides, he was not well. He was going to die anyway. His next birth will be more auspicious."

I snort. "Of course he was not well! You had been drinking his blood night and day! He died in horrible pain, in your hands!"

"So he did, and he stained my dress." She laughs again. "Goodbye, Mother. Don't think about what I have told you. It will only confuse you more. Just have faith in your darling daughter. It is the only thing now that can save you from suffering much greater pain."

Kalika hangs up the phone.

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