Charlie woke with a start. He fumbled around in the wispy, pale moonlight fluttering through the curtains of the open window. With a crash, he found his cup of water, spilling it on the floor of the Airstream trailer.
The dreams were getting worse now that Lizzie had run away. Thoughts began to peek through his rational facade that scared him. He didn’t even have a frame of reference to process his fear that she was somehow telepathically connected with him. He thought of the way that she absorbed the personality traits of those she ate. Maybe it worked both ways. Maybe the Demon was in him, too. He rubbed an old scar from a particularly nasty session with Lizzie. He flashed back to the struggle, wincing while he remembered how she bit straight through his skin when he tried to restrain her.
He knew that the undead had traits that seemed fantastic to the uninitiated, but he and the Scientist could always find a biological reason for those traits. Telepathy? That seemed more Star Trek than Frankenstein.
A clink of glass carried across the trailer from the Scientist’s quarters. Charlie didn’t know what time it was, but he knew he could really use a stiff drink and somebody to talk to. He grabbed a pair of tumblers and a bottle of scotch as he shimmied his way through the public space to the obviously aftermarket door and wall that denoted the start of the Scientist’s lab and personal quarters.
The murmur of a pair of low voices piqued Charie’s curiosity. It wasn’t uncommon to have unannounced visitors come in the night, but usually he knew about it. Following a terse knock, Charlie let himself in. He found himself standing in front of a familiar face that he hadn’t seen for a long time. Abner had to be over 100 years old, but he hardly looked a day over 65. The cause of his youthful look was dribbling down his chin. He finished the iridescent yellow elixir with a swig. The Scientist’s anti-aging serum wasn’t the best tasting drink Charlie had ever quaffed, but one couldn’t argue with the results.
“Abner! What are you doing so far from home?” Charlie’s tone betrayed that he was more surprised at the identity of the messenger than the fact that a messenger was in his trailer in Nowhere, Oklahoma at God-knows-what-hour of night.
“Well,” Abner’s voice cracked as he cringed at the aftertaste of the serum, “I have some good news, some useful information, and an earnest plea.”
Charlie set down the tumblers and opened the scotch bottle. He poured enough in each glass to require care as he handed the Scientist one.
“I take it you don’t want your drink in that,” Charlie nodded at the test tube still clutched in Abner’s fist. Abner looked down at his hand and set the test tube into the laboratory sink alongside a small pile of dirty glassware. Charlie ducked his head out into the kitchen and retrieved a third tumbler.
“I was just telling the Scientist that they sent me here to release you from this dusty perdition. Out of an abundance of caution we wanted to let things cool off after the Clark Panel report, but you can return to Massachusetts,” Abner probed for a reaction from Charlie, knowing full well that the Scientist was too stoic to provide satisfaction. Charlie obliged, sighing relief. The Oklahoma exile was hard for all of them, but Charlie felt like he was starting to go a little bit mad.
“So that’s the good news, what is the useful information?” the Scientist showed uncharacteristically earnest curiosity. Charlie noticed that the Scientist’s scotch glass was already nearly empty.
“Well, you need to return to Massachusetts this week because we have solid information leading us to the conclusion that Elizabeth is on her way to visit Edward.” Abner downed his scotch in a gulp, bracing himself for an onslaught. Charlie flinched at the mention of Lizzie’s name, and again at the mention of Teddy’s. To say that this business of the undead had gotten out of control was an understatement.
“I just want to finish by asking you to think carefully about what you’re about to do. You know as well as I do that Lizzie is a confused girl dealing with more than any,” Abner paused with a look of unease as he searched for the correct word, “person should have to. Don’t write her off like you did Jack. She can still be saved!”
Without waiting for a response, Abner dropped his gaze away from his compatriots and grabbed a duffel bag resting on a lab stool. He retrieved a lined sheet of paper previously torn from a spiral bound notebook and folded in half. He placed it on the middle of the table with a tangible resignation in his demeanor.
“Martha’s Vineyard by the 19th. You’ll need to hurry, but we don’t foresee Lizzie getting there any sooner. Even if she does, Teddy’s gonna be busy screwing all of Bobby’s fangirls the night before, so he won’t have time for his sister. However, a two day regatta is one day too long for a Kennedy.” With a curt nod, Abner let himself out.
Charlie picked up the note, an address in Massachusetts, and stuck it into his front pocket with an absent minded gaze at nothing in particular. After nearly a year of confusion, concern, and anger it was time to go get Lizzie back.
“Mmmmmmmm…… aaaaahhhhhhhhh,” the distinctive nasal voice of Teddy Kennedy would’ve been recognizable by Lizzie even if she was blindfolded. Maybe it was the years they spent together in Oklahoma before he was ready to replace the stand-in. Maybe it was the cloying mix of pretentious New England fart huffer with idiot Boston fishmonger. Whatever it was, it seemed to grate on Lizzie more than in the past. As she lay prone on the floorboard of the Oldsmobile 88, she could hear the unmistakable rhythm of skin smacking skin.
“Ohhhhhhh…. yeaaaaaaahhhhh,” Teddy moaned in pleasure, shaking the car with his awkward thrusts. “mmmmnnmmmm” groaned a feminine voice, resembling more an incoherent gag than a sexual oratory.
“Where’s Crimmins?” Lizzie matter of factly queried, popping her head up between the seats. Teddy jolted upright, his flinch launching his human codpiece into the dashboard, hard. Teddy’s hands began to shake as he responded.
“Jjjjj- Joan, it’s not what it looks like.” He stammered, covering his throbbing manhood with his fly. He began to zip his pants up.
“Oh, that’s not Joan draped over the console?” Lizzie smirked as she leaned her head into a ribbon of light cutting through the cabin. “Tsk, tsk, tsk, what would Joanie think about this? Little brother Teddy’s out here getting his knob polished by some whore and Joanie’s probably back at home getting freight trained by Teddy’s friends.”
“Shit, Sis! What the hell?!?” Teddy immediately relaxed, turning his head with a faint smile contrasting the beads of sweat forming where his brow previously furrowed. “I don’t even know what you just said, but I’m glad it’s you and not somebody else! Now… get out.” He slammed on the brakes, kicking up a cloud of dust and flinging the unconscious girl in the front seat back into the dashboard.
“Little brother, I can’t get out. I have nowhere to go. I need your help.” Lizzie transformed her personality into the insecure tormented girl that Teddy remembered. “I…. I” she expertly quivered her lip, feigning fear and insecurity “I ran away. I couldn’t take it any more!”
“What can I do about it?” Teddy dismissively retorted. “As you can see, I have enough secret squirrel shit going on in my life right now. I don’t need to go flitting off with my fugitive sister.”
“Teddy, Teddy, Teddy. You always were in need of firm guidance. I’m sorry that Joan can’t keep you better heeled.” Lizzie’s condescension dripped like the blood flecked drool pooling under the passenger girl’s mouth. “You’re never gonna become President if you keep slipping the leash and disappointing all the women in your life.”
“Fuck you, Lizzie! I’m gonna be President like my brother. Like my other brother should have been. I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do it the right way! Charlie and the Scientist are fools, but they can get me where I need to be. They can get me into the Oval Office!” He raged while shaking the steering wheel, white knuckles apparent in the gleam of a far off light. “And one more thing, you stupid, conniving bitch! I don’t need any fucking woman to get into the White House. No woman is gonna get me there and no woman is gonna prevent me from getting there! I don’t need Joan, and I don’t need an older sister who nags me like a disappointed mom! You don’t know better! You don’t know jack shit, and I don’t know where you get off coming all the way up here to try to fuck with my head! It ain’t my fault you bailed out on Charlie and the Scientist!”
“I DO KNOW BETTER THAN YOU!” Lizzie roared. “AND I AM YOUR MOTHER! HEED ME OR FEEL MY WRATH!”
As the momentary fear and surprise cleared from Teddy’s face, he began to chuckle. “I guess Lizzie finally found a set of balls. Now, I still don’t know why you’re here and I don’t know why you think I need your advice. I already told you I’m not in a position to help you.”
Lizzie smirked, holding her dramatic pause for perfect effect. “Well, what about the dead hooker in your passenger seat?”
Teddy glanced over unconcernedly. ” She’s not dead, and she’s not a hooker. Look, she’s fine. Here, here you go.” He pulled the girl’s head over to inspect her face. Lizzie noticed that her makeup was smeared like a Picasso painting and her eyelids were halfway open. “Maggie, Maggie! No wait, Martha! No, that’s not right… Mary! Mary Jo! Yeah that’s it! Mary Jo! Wake up, it’s time to go!”
“Unghhhhhhh…. mmmmmmmmmmnnnnmmmmmm” Mary Jo mumbled. Blood seeped from her nose and blended with her hooker red lipstick.
“This girl is going to ruin you Teddy. She has to go.” Lizzie cajoled. “She can’t be allowed to talk Teddy, she’d destroy you and take my plans down with you. She has to go.”
“Wwww-what should we do?” Teddy stammered. “Maybe if I take her home she won’t remember anything.”
“Please, Teddy. She probably has a skull fracture, and your car is covered in her blood.” Lizzie dispassionately explained. “She has to go.”
“No, I’m not one for dirty work like that. I’m not like you.” His fear cut through any fortitude he tried to muster.
“You’re right.” Lizzie whispered, simultaneously grasping Mary Jo’s head and twisting until a gruesome crack echoed through the cabin. “I can handle the dirty work.” She dropped the lifeless body of Mary Jo Kopechne back into the passenger seat without a hint of emotion. “Now drive down to the dike. We need to dispose of the trash.”
After ditching the car in the water, Teddy and Lizzie began the long walk back to civilization, bantering like siblings, reflecting back on their time together 1500 miles away in Oklahoma.
“You’ve really changed Lizzie. That little girl I knew in Oklahoma doesn’t exist anymore. You’re confident, driven. There’s no conflict anymore.” Teddy observed, breaking the silence that had settled in as they walked around the emptiness of Martha’s Vineyard.
“I know what needs to happen. I have a plan now. I know best. Not Charlie, not the Scientist. I am right, and all I need is the power to make things right.” Lizzie explained. “You can have your Presidency, but I’ll be the first woman President, I’ll make sure the American people act like they should. No more chaos. No more disorganization. I can harmonize it all. I can control the uncontrollable. I can make America do the right thing in glorious lockstep. It will be…” she paused in what appeared to be genuine emotion “beautiful.”
“Lizzie, you’ve made strides in adapting to being around them,” Teddy gestured broadly toward the distant lights of the town, “but you’re not ready yet. Charlie and the Scientist are right to take it slowly with you. You’re a bit much to handle in a social setting. Your emotions are all over the place. You make people uncomfortable. And besides, even if you were ready for the rise to power, America isn’t ready for a woman President. You need to bide your time and make yourself boring. Lizzie Warren should remind people of that caring schoolteacher or the gentle motherly neighbor, not of a thunderstorm personified.”
“You are wise beyond your years, Teddy.” Lizzie patted him on the shoulder. “You’re right. I’ll go reconcile with Charlie and the Scientist. Just like you, I need them for a while longer. Now I’ll go make myself boring. Maybe in a few years I’ll even remind you of that headteacher that I ate.”
Teddy chuckled as they parted ways.
Meanwhile, Charlie started awake after yet another nightmare. Pharoah Lizzie spent all night whipping slaves until they were in a perfect geometric procession. Charlie still smarted from the licks of the lash he had earned as he struggled to keep stride.