Extra scene from Haunted of the Turning Moon series
Tori and Blake waited until the short days of winter before travelling to London. Unable to avoid daylight through the normal modes of travel, they planned their route by ship and car, calculating time, distance and daylight with care. Despite how she had worried otherwise, Tori found herself enjoying the leisure of their slow journey, but realising the closer they drew to London, the more unsure she became of wanting to witness how it had changed since the 1840’s.
As she had feared, an unrecognisable London loomed when they emerged from Victoria Station into a frenetic Thursday night. The disorientation of new streets, hundreds of buildings and thousands of people made her head spin. Where streets once rang with the gentle percussion of horse hooves, they now clanged with blaring horns and revving engines while people rushed along the pavements, their expressions stern and unwelcoming. Tori was no stranger to modern city life, but having only experienced London in a previous century, this new version assaulted her senses and heart.
Clutching their tourist map, Tori followed Blake as he elbowed his way into the throngs. “Let’s find our hotel first,” he suggested, replying to her grasp with a squeeze of reassurance.
“Bloody hell,” Tori gaped when Big Ben soared into view. “She’s bigger than I thought.” Moving out of the flow of pedestrians, they took a moment to stare up at the sight.
Blake fished out his travel book as Tori took a picture. “Domine salvam fac reginam nostram victoriam primam,” he read aloud. “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.”
Tori smiled up at him. “You’re such a geek sometimes.”
“That’s why ya love me,” he grinned.
Their hotel room muted London’s clamour. Tori sat on the edge of the wide bed and hugged a plump, tasselled cushion to her chest. She could finally hear her own thoughts, but wasn’t sure which one to consider. Next on their schedule was a visit to Portman Square, the place where she’d been born human and lived for seventeen years. Her heart may have been as undead as the rest of her vampire being, but it already ached a little for the London she had lost. And while the internet had kindly provided her with images of how Portman Square looked in this century, witnessing it in real life would be another thing entirely.
“How are you doing?” Blake asked, depositing the bags on the floor.
“It’s all so very different. And not really what I thought.”
He landed beside her on the bed, stretching out with a tired groan. “We’ll do whatever you want, whenever you want, okay?”
Tori threw the pillow down to roll into his hold instead. “I think for now I’d just like to stay here.”
“Sounds good to me.”
An hour later, despite the proportions of their expensive hotel room, Tori was ready to climb its designer-papered walls. A part of her wanted to hide from reality under the duvet, but a larger part wanted to return to the night-time streets. The time had come to allow the past and present meet, and with Blake by her side, she knew she could face it.
Blake wondered if visiting her childhood home and Edwin’s grave on the same day might be too punishing.
“Probably,” she told him, lacing up her boots. “But I want to get it over with. It’s hovering above me like a black cloud.”
As she had already known, Tori’s family home had vanished. Time had dissolved it to an inhabitable shell over fifty years ago, and in its place there now stood a stark-edged office building. A wall of windows stared blankly at her as she surveyed the structure.
“It’s ugly,” she decided, narrowing her glare at the tinted glass. When she turned her back to the soaring interloper some consolation was to be found in the centre garden remaining intact. Tori grasped the railings as she peered into its obscurity, finding it impossible to match the sunny memory of her and Margaret playing dolls on the grass with the shadowy garden before her now.
“It’s too different,” she decided, releasing the cold, thin rails. “It’s like we’re not even in the right place. This could be anywhere. Nothing about it feels as if it were ever home.”
“Wow, it’s a bitter night.” Blake’s first words since leaving Portman Square rose in silver puffs to the stars when they emerged from West Brompton underground station. Whether he was referring to the weather or her situation she wasn’t sure, but either way his sentiment fit. He blew into his free hand. “My fingers are turning numb.”
“My fault,” she apologised, withdrawing her icy fingers from his hold.
Blake clamped her hand in place. “Don’t even think about it,” he warned kindly.
As they walked towards the North Lodge entrance of Brompton Cemetery, Tori looked up to where a net of bright stars had been cast. London had flipped her sentimental switch, filling her chest with the unpleasant sensation that suggested she might start crying at any moment. But seeing the familiar positions of the stars brought sudden comfort. Nearly two centuries had passed since her birth, and despite how the world around her insisted on changing, the stars were content to hang in place.
When the decision to travel to London had finally been agreed on in Cedar Copse during early Autumn, Genna had gone into research mode. Together, she and Tori had spent hours poring over the internet, slowly gathering information on the London Hunters and the Walker family. In early January, they finally received their first email. Andrew Walker announced delight at hearing from Tori and promptly made arrangements for her to visit Brompton Cemetery.
Michael had pushed against the idea. ‘Just because Alexander said the Walker Hunters vowed to protect you, doesn’t mean it’s true,’ he had pointed out. ‘I don’t like the idea of either of you walking into that cemetery at night. You’re walking into hunter territory—a vampire and a werewolf—you may as well stick a target on your backs.’
Tori reminded him that hunters don’t attack without provocation first. Blake commented that neither he nor Tori were just any random vampire or werewolf. And then Genna had kindly told Michael his Alpha permission wasn’t required; Tori and Blake were going with or without his blessing.
Andrew’s word had held good. Brompton Cemetery closed early for the public during the winter season, but as Tori and Blake approached the handsome entrance flanked by twin pillars, a man waited inside the iron gates. Wrapped up in layers against the cold, his gloved hands hid in the deep pockets of his ankle-length coat as he stamped the chill from his feet. “Miss Walker,” he greeted, relief in his voice that they had arrived on time and not kept him waiting.
Introducing himself as Stewart, he unlocked the outer gate and ushered them inside before locking it again. “I wouldn’t dally,” he commented, leading them under the archway and out into the dark surrounds of his charge. “That cold would skin a bishop.”
Long shadows trickled across the landscape throwing ghoulish shapes over headstones and tombs. Clusters of mausoleums dotted the walkways, some more elaborate than others. Tori guessed her family’s would be high on the lavish scale. Simple and unassuming had never been the Walker style.
Stewart offered no further conversation until he stopped at a large, granite structure. “Here you are, Miss,” he said, fishing out a key from his pocket. “This’ll open the lock. I’ll wait for you by the entrance.”
The Walker mausoleum was indeed a striking monument. Built from creamy sandstone and surrounded in totality by a tall, black iron fence, it held an air of superiority. Inside the perimeter, short, neat grass covered the ground. Evergreen box hedging had been trimmed to perfection while four tall yews guarded each corner of the plot.
Blake met her look of awe when she turned to him. “Impressive,” he whispered.
“Morbid,” she corrected. Seeing her surname carved into the thick block of granite above the entrance made her skin prickle. A sombre finality, the tall letters reeked of eternal patience, biding time until she joined the ranks of dead Walkers.
Tori stuck the key in the padlock. It clicked open with ease, and when she pushed the gate, it swung freely and silently on its hinges.
“Someone takes good care of this place,” Blake commented.
“The hunters,” she guessed, grasping the thick cylinder bolting the outer door. It slid with little effort as did the chunky iron handle. A satisfying thunk granted entry.
The mausoleum had been built in the late eighteen hundreds. Above ground, Walkers had been laid to rest in the vaults spaced along the deep walls, while plaques on the floor announced those who had followed to fill the ground below. To her right, urns lined a wide shelf, safe behind a thick shield of glass.
“So many,” she murmured, turning on the spot as she tried to absorb the volume of her descendants.
One by one, they read the names. The first occupants were her father’s parents. Her own parents then followed. Years later, her sisters took their turn, then their children, their children’s children and so on until the names became too many and overwhelming. Her sisters’ names appeared on repeat, having being passed down through generations. And alongside the Margarets, Louisas and Elizabeths, there were Edwins, Edwards and Alfreds, but amongst them all, not a single Victoria. She silently wondered was it out of respect or shame.
“They’re running out of space,” she finally said, standing before the glass, her fingertips resting on the cool surface as she peered in at the urns.
Despite all the remains, one plaque was missing. Edwin, her twin brother, had not been buried in the mausoleum. In truth, his was the only grave she had wished to visit. With a final sweep at the shrine to the dead, she turned to Blake. “I’m ready now.”
They left the mausoleum’s interior, glad to be rid of its cold silence. The cloying atmosphere clung, and even as the chilly evening swirled through her hair, the sensation lingered. If I die before you, scatter my ashes to the wind, she had the urge to beg Blake. The idea of being trapped inside a tomb made her skin crawl.
Blake slid the bolt back in place. They pulled the gate shut and snapped the padlock. Tori pocketed the key. “Once was enough,” she said as Blake mirrored her reluctant glance over the structure. “I know they’re my family, but I won’t be mourning their absence in there ever again.”
“Yeah, I think Edwin had the right idea.”
“Let’s go say hi.”
They moved to the rear of the monument where Edwin’s plot butted against the north-facing sandstone wall of the mausoleum. Despite its separate location, it too looked well maintained. Box hedging marked its perimeter, the grass inside also trim. The single headstone stood proud, but the moment Tori saw Edwin’s name etched into the stone, her throat closed.
Facing his grave was infinitely harder than she had imagined. Time-worn letters blurred as tears swelled, preventing her from reading anything beyond his name.
When Genna had found the records detailing her family’s burials, not a single one had referred to Edwin. The deeper they searched, the emptier their hands remained. It was only when Andrew made contact and Tori explained about her search when answers finally came.
Her beloved brother had been buried apart from his family because his dying wish was to have whatever remained of his twin sister buried with him upon her death. For a hunter to request the remains of a vampire be placed in the ground alongside them was unheard of. Tradition wouldn’t—couldn’t allow it to happen Andrew had written, so a compromise had been reached.
For over one hundred years, Edwin’s remains continued to wait for his sister’s passing, and the loneliness of his plight struck Tori with such sorrow her knees buckled.
Blake grabbed her arm as she dropped, a sob bursting into the still night. Was her brother not at peace? Was he waiting, alone, forever suspended in a void without her?
“He knows you’re here now,” Blake soothed as she pressed her face into his chest. “He’ll know it, wherever he is.”
“But is it enough?” she cried.
“I don’t know,” he admitted after a short while. “I hope it is.”
They huddled together for a long time before Tori could speak without sobs breaking her words. “He lived to be seventy-five,” she said, reaching out to rest trembling fingers against the date of his death.
“For someone born in the eighteen hundreds, that was a ripe age,” Blake agreed.
“The hunter gene, apparently.”
“He must have had the medical profession flummoxed.”
Tori thought she’d cried her tears dry on the night Alexander had presented her with the stolen photo album, but now the pain soared hot and fresh again. “Edwin saw me once, in 1912, in Florence.”
Tori picked at where springy moss worried at the carved numbers. “Alexander told me. We were at a gallery and Edwin was there. Alexander said he looked happy, that when he saw me he smiled. He died the following year.”
Blake met her questioning eyes. “He wanted proof you were happy,” he answered. “And he got it.”
“Do you think he held on all that time just to see me?”
“It drove him to fight and to survive, so it must have galvanized his desire to live too.”
Tori’s teary gaze drifted beyond Blake’s shoulder. “What must have it been like for him—seeing his nineteen-year-old twin sister when he was seventy-four?”
“I can’t imagine.”
Tori brushed the moss she’d loosened to the ground and rose from her hunkers. “Alexander will never comprehend the depth of pain he’s caused. I wish he could. I wish some of his humanity remained.”
“It wouldn’t change anything.” Blake came to stand behind her, wrapping her in his arms as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Do you want to sit here with Edwin for a while? I can wander about if you want time to yourself.”
Before Tori could reply, a crunch of gravel under nearing foot drew their attention to the main path at the front of the mausoleum. A lone figure approached, respectfully tipping one finger to his forehead in salute to the monument.
When he saw them lingering at Edwin’s grave he pulled off his beanie, twisting it in his hands. “Miss Walker?”
“Yes. Andrew, is that you?”
“It is, Miss. I didn’t mean to intrude. I can come back.”
“No, it’s fine.”
He waited until they met him on the path before offering his hand. “Andrew Walker. It’s nice to finally meet you, in person.”
Tori matched his firm and welcoming grasp as he studied her with open curiosity, excitement lighting his pale eyes. Andrew Walker was of average height and slim build, but his head of healthy red hair marked him as family. The realisation filled Tori with a warmth she’d never thought she’d feel again. Dumbstruck by an actual living family member standing before her, she clung to Andrew’s hand.
He appeared just as thrilled as he kept her grasp in his. “I never imagined I’d live to see a moment like this, Miss Walker.”
“Me neither. I don’t know what to say, except, hello. And, you can call me Tori.”
“Tori,” he smiled. “Hello back.”
“This is. . .well, I don’t know what it is.”
“It’s bloody amazing,” he laughed. “Absolutely bloody fantastic.”
Awareness returned to remember Blake. Tori apologised, nudging him forward to take Andrew’s hand once she’d finally released it.
“It’s great to meet you both,” Andrew grinned, beaming between the two of them. “It’s not every day I get to stand in Brompton Cemetery with a vampire and a werewolf, I tell you. Amaira won’t believe me when I tell her.”
“Amaira?” Blake queried.
“My girlfriend. We work together, although she’s not allowed out in the field yet.” Andrew stuffed his hat into his pocket and rubbed his hands together. “So.” His grin appeared permanent as he tipped his chin towards Edwin’s grave. “Edwin was my great, great, great, great grandfather.”
“Um, no,” Tori corrected gently. “My brother never married.”
“Indeed he didn’t,” Andrew agreed. “But he had his son, Thomas, out of wedlock.”
“A son? No, that hasn’t been documented,” she frowned, glancing up at Blake for confirmation. “We read nothing of a son.”
“You won’t. A record for Thomas does exist, but in as much obscurity as the reasoning for why your brother’s not interred in there.” Andrew’s thumb threw a disdainful jab at the mausoleum. “The record keepers for us lot weren’t the most sympathetic back then. Thomas’s existence is recorded, but only in one document.”
“Who was his mother?”
“Joanna Whitford,” Andrew replied. “A nurse from Kent. She and Edwin had a relationship for a year, but when he left here for France, they ended things. Edwin had no idea of his son’s existence until Joanna died in 1870. Thomas was three by then. Edwin couldn’t take him of course, not by himself, but he made sure the child was cared for.”
“By whom? My parents?”
“No, another family. There’s nothing to confirm your parents ever knew about Thomas,” Andrew admitted before blowing into his gloved hands. “Thomas’s sons were all born in wedlock, the following Walker boys over the decades too, but the records were tweaked to suggest Thomas came from your father’s brother’s line, not directly from Edwin.”
“That’s kind of messed up,” Blake said.
“That’s family pride,” Andrew corrected. “But I’ve made sure the records now read correctly.”
“How do you know all of this?” Tori wondered.
“Well, I graduated from Oxford last year with a distinction in Modern and Ancient History so I know how to navigate ancestry. But even so, digging through your family’s records is like scuba diving in porridge. The Institute has thousands of records, but the majority are sealed. I only got access to them six months ago.”
“The Institute?” Blake asked.
Andrew gestured at Tori, as if the answer lay with her. “The Walker Institute. It’s where Hunters are trained and educated. Our London Chapter is the largest in Europe—thanks to Edwin. He founded it in the 1880s.”
“Wait, there’s an Institute?” Tori had no idea of her brother’s legacy.
“There is, and I’ll tell you all about it, but first, there’s something I really want to say.”
The humour in his eyes was infectious and Tori found herself laughing.
“No-one ever gets to say this,” he said, “so I can’t let this moment go.” Andrew cleared his throat. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, my great, great, great, great, grand-aunt.”
“Less of the great, great there, Andrew,” she joked. “You make it sound like I’m nearly two hundred years old.”
“One hundred and—,” he made to clarify.
Tori held up a warning finger. “Zip it. My boyfriend here thinks I’m nineteen.”
Andrew’s laugh warmed the icy air. “Well, my toes have gone numb, so how’s about I take you to meet some more family?”
“My dad and my grandfather.,” Andrew explained. “Three generations of Walkers welcome you to London with esteem.”
“They’re waiting for us?” Tori asked.
“They are, but no pressure.” Andrew gave a shrug. “Tonight, tomorrow—whenever suits.”
“Are they waiting somewhere warm?” Blake wondered.
“Yes. With tea. And food if you’re hungry.”
Blake turned two imploring eyes on Tori.
“Tonight it is,” she laughed. “Lead the way, Andrew.”