A look into James' past...
Manhattan, New York
Books flew out of the satchel as it hit the ground. James sucked in his breath and threw his arms out before his face slammed into the concrete. He rolled himself into a ball as Billy and his friends started kicking.
“This is what you get fer rattin' on me to Miss Hoover,” Billy shouted, slamming the toe of his boot into James' stomach repeatedly.
A first generation American, Billy Eagen's parents worked long hours. His dad repaired automobiles from seven in the morning and often didn't get home until seven or eight at night. His mother was a stenographer at Macy's and although she saw him to school in the morning neither parent was aware that their son was a trouble maker and a vicious bully who terrorized the other students and spent more time in the principal's office than the principal.
Billy, a fifth grader was just a year older than James and a second rate thief who could steal the socks off a man's feet if he weren't paying attention. He stole candy, beer, and toys from stores and occasionally swiped a couple of his dad's cigarettes from the nightstand in his bedroom. Mickey, Joey, and Allen were his willing flunkies, who risked their ability to sit for a week by cutting class and sometimes leaving the building all together.
James did his best to avoid Billy. He kept his eyes on his school book when the teacher reprimanded him in front of the class. And when Billy and his friends singled out another classmate to beat up he just walked on and pretended not to notice. He had no choice.
Mom was getting worse everyday.
“I need you to start getting home as soon as you can,” she said one morning before she went to her waitressing job at the diner. She was visibly exhausted and she had to rest her head on her shoulders when she spoke. “After you get your homework done I need you to start doing things to help me around the house.”
“Okay, mama,” James said. He got up and and gave her a hug and his usual kiss on the cheek. Her skin felt sickly and cold and even more so than usual and he involuntarily cringed. He saw the hurt look on Mom's face for a fraction of second before she hid it with a weak smile.
James felt awful for how he reacted. He tried to make up for it by doing extra chores, getting groceries for Mom and making his own dinner without complaining, all while trying to keep his grades up. He didn't have time for friends or to try out for sports with the other boys. In class he rarely put his hand up or stood up to read unless the teacher called on him.
In the meantime she was getting sicker every day and still worked two jobs to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Right after working a shift at the diner she went off to Maggie's House Cleaning Service where she did house keeping jobs for the company's clients. Her one day off could come at anytime or not at all depending on who needed her and when. And on that rare day off she was so tired that she couldn't even get up in the morning.
Twice a month since the day he was born she saw a special doctor who knew about her illness. As her skin became paler and more fragile to the touch rumors started flying around the neighborhood. Some said she didn't work at all and that she spent the time drinking or having relations with her boss in exchange for drugs. Everyone had a theory about where his father went off to, none of which they would dare to say beyond the confines of their little social circle. James didn't let it bother him, because what could he do? He was nine and kids didn't stand up to adults, even when they were wrong.
At the diner, customers were noticing her sickness and most would refuse to eat there if Mom was serving them. Her boss was understanding and tried to keep her on as long as possible but he was losing too much business. Eventually he hired someone who was healthier and younger and Mom was let go. No other place would hire her so she struggled to make ends meet with just the cleaning job.
Exhaustion and stress finally took their toll and Mom collapsed in a client's house one muggy afternoon. The doctor called the school and asked that James be pulled from class so he could be with her. He couldn't avoid Billy that day.
“Look at the baby squirm,” Allen teased.
“Help!” James cried out.
“Shut up you little shit,” Billy landed a kick across James' face. “You got it comin' for stickin' your nose where it don't belong.”
James hadn't meant to get Billy into trouble. He had no idea it was Billy and the others smoking in the boy's room, but he had told the teacher who in turn told the principal and it just happened that way. The only thing he wanted to do was to see his mother. To climb into her hospital bed and hug her as tightly as he could.
“I'm sorry! Please stop!” James screamed.
Billy stopped kicking and told the others to stop. James kept his arms over his face and rolled onto his side. There was the sound of scuffling and of feet beating against the ground.
“You boys get out of here!” An adult with an unmistakable Irish accent shouted. “You there! Get up!”
James was pulled up off the ground and roughly planted on his feet. He coughed up the two teeth that were knocked from his mouth. His stomach and sides ached and his head throbbed. A powerful wave of nausea overcame his body and he vomited. The man, a police officer, jumped out of the way before it hit his shoes.
“What are you doing out of school?” The officer shouted.
James looked for the note in between heaves. His heart was still pounding but his stomach seemed to be empty as he looked for that little piece of paper with Mrs. Hoover's handwriting on it.
“Did you hear me, lad!” The policeman grabbed James by the shoulder. He was a staggering five feet tall and wearing a black uniform with a shiny copper badge. He was a giant to a three-and-a-half foot ten year-old and he shook him roughly as he repeated himself. “I said why. Aren't. You. In. School?”
“My mother's sick!” James cried. His voice was scratchy from the vomit and he coughed again. “Please, I have to get to the hospital.”
“That's a fine one,” the policeman said, shaking his head in disapproval. “What's a matter, you tryin' to impress your new friends? You'd be better off in school.”
James struggled to get away. The officer kept a firm grip on his arm and dragged him back towards the school.
“Please, let me go!” James said. “My mom's really sick, she wants me there.”
“Lad, you ought to be ashamed of making up such rubbish,” the officer prattled on. “If you're gonna lie at least leave your own mother out of it.”
James protested and howled and even got desperate enough to kick. Finally the policeman picked him up and carried him with both arms and carried him back to the school while while passerby looked on. Some even cheered him on.
They walked into the school and the officer put him on his feet again, dragging him by the hand. A few students pointed and laughed as the policeman brought James to the office where Ms. Peeker, the secretary was still working. She looked up just as the policeman swung open the door.
“James! What are you doing back here? And what happened to you?”
“I found him playin' hookie some hooligans,” the officer said. He had a smug look on his face as Ms. Peeker went to James, inspecting the bruises on his face. “He had a cock and bull story about his mum dyin' in a hospital.”
“It's not cock and bull!” Ms. Peeker shouted. Mrs. Hoover emerged from her office to investigate the commotion and was also surprised to see James and the police officer who still seemed to be waiting for some confirmation that James was in fact not supposed to be out of school.
“James, what happened to the note I gave you?” She asked.
“Billy beat me up,” James said, sadly. “I lost the note and all of my books went all over the place.”
“Aye, they were giving him quite a thrashing,” the officer spoke up. “I suspect they were playing hooky themselves, madam.”
“And why,” Mrs. Hoover asked, glaring at the officer and speaking in a low tone she used when disciplining students. “Did you not apprehend the boys who were committing this assault?”
The officer seemed taken aback by the question.
“Well there were five of them, ma'am and they ran off when they saw me comin'. I grabbed young James here when he gave me a line about his mother-”
“His mother is in the hospital!” Mrs. Hoover shouted, startling James. “I gave him the note to excuse him from classes because her doctor asked that James be there!”
The officer straightened up and looked to James.
“I'm very sorry, young man,” he said. From his tone he seemed far from sorry for his actions. He seemed even more perplexed that a woman was lecturing him Mrs. Hoover was the kind of person you didn't toy with. To her he simply apologized and left.
Mrs. Hoover brought James to the nurse and when she was satisfied that there wasn't any permanent damage as far as she could tell she drove him to the hospital. She tried to reassure James and tell him that his mother was probably all right. Seeing him would do her some good and make her feel better.
James couldn't hear her as he watched the streets of New York pass before him like a slow moving picture. His satchel was still on the muddy ground, along with his books. He didn't have time to find it but he guessed that either Billy, his friends, or someone else probably picked up the satchel and kept it for themselves. He didn't care so much except for the get well card he had made for his mother with the song he had written for her on the inside.
James felt the vibrations in the tracks and knew that a train was a few miles behind him. Although he never fully tested the theory he was pretty sure he couldn't outrun it so he glanced down at the street below. The traffic was still pretty heavy and there were people on the sidewalks trying to get out of the cold but if he ran any further down the tracks he'd be over water. All ready he could see the light of the train as it got closer. As luck would have it another train was coming from the Boston station on the other set of tracks.
“Smart one.” He muttered.
He ran for the bridge, letting his night vision take over as he looked to the water for signs of hope. He couldn't swim and although he might survive the fall he definitely wouldn't survive drowning. An old warehouse sat along the edge of the sea and beside it an older set of train tracks shot out towards the water and ended abruptly. James didn't know if the workers who built it got lazy or if it actually fell into the sea at some point. Either way there was no way he could make the jump.
Along the side of the truss several steel girders shot out. James wasn't looking forward to pulling a “Lost Boys” style maneuver but he had not other choice. The tracks flooded with light. James took a few steps and leaped onto the nearest girder. The bridge rattled as the sleek gray bullet carrying over a thousand passengers into Boston screeched like a pig being slowly torn open by a plastic spoon. James laid out flat on and held onto the girder for dear life. He looked out towards the city and prayed that vampires couldn't go deaf. When the trains are both long gone James took a few moments to compose himself before getting up and jumping back onto the tracks.
Still shaken by the whole evening James ran across the bridge and saw an empty parking lot behind a squat brick building. This time he didn't give a rat's ass if anyone saw him as he jumped down onto the concrete. He listened for the subtle sound of recording equipment that usually indicated a surveillance system and found none. Of course the newer technology was becoming quieter, even for his ears. But judging from the looks of what he assumed was a secondhand furniture shop and the miscellaneous whatever-the-hell-those-signs-meant-in-English shops next to it he doubted anyone had the money to afford the more advance stuff.
James left the lot as quickly as possible and made his way to South Station. He would rather have spent an uncomfortable night in a crowded jail cell than have to be near more trains but unfortunately South Station and the subway stations were still the best places to pick pockets. Fortunately his delightful encounter with Amtrak seemed to have curbed his temper for the time being
. He had nothing against Balki. In fact he understood perfectly. The werebeast felt protective of Felicity and James was a vampire after all. If a vampire wasn't trying to breed with them then it stood to reason that it wanted to feed off them and if he had been any other vampire, James would have felt obliged to Balki for protecting Felicity.
Being threatened, being held back, it all brought back the memories James tried to hard to leave behind. His rage at Billy and the police officer for keeping him from seeing his mother and at Odhran for damaging all came together when Balki grabbed him. They made him feel helpless and when he felt that way he wanted to thrash and attack whoever was causing it and make sure they knew that it wasn't a little boy they were pushing around. It wasn't a heartless bloodthirsty vampire they were threatening.
It was James.