Chapter 18: Race
Thanks to Alice’s crazy but fast driving, we made it the airport with moments to spare. As soon as we were in the air, I breathed out a sigh of relief.
We’re coming Edward, I thought, even though I knew he couldn’t hear. Just hang on bro, we’re coming. Stay safe.
Bella was anxious. The two of them, Bella and Alice, sat in front of me while I sat by myself behind them. The trip would be a test of control but I was determined to make it. I wasn’t thirsty but they did smell… rather appetizing.
Alice was on the phone to Jasper with Bella pretending not to listen beside her. “No, you can’t… she murmured ever so quietly. “Tell Emmett no… Well, go after Emmett and Rosalie and bring them back… Think about it, Jasper. If he sees any of us, what do you think he’ll do?”
She nodded to herself. “Exactly. I think Bella is our only chance – if there is a chance… I’ll do everything that can be done but prepare Carlisle; the odds aren’t good.”
She laughed then. “I’ve thought of that… Yes, I promise.” Her voice then earned a pleading edge to it. “Don’t follow me. I promise, Jasper. One way or another, I’ll get out… And I will get her out as well… I love you.”
I had a sneaky suspicion ‘her’ meant me.
Alice hung up the phone just as I leant over the rest my crossed forearms between the headrests of Alice’s and Bella’s seats, before I rested my head on my arms. Alice sighed and leant back into the seat, like she was exhausted, and muttered, “I hate lying to him.
“Tell me everything Alice,” Bella begged. “I don’t understand. Why did you tell Jasper to stop Emmett, why can’t they come to help us?”
“Two reasons,” Alice whispered with her eyes closed. “The first I told him. We could try to stop Edward ourselves – if Emmett could get his hands on him, we might be able to stop him long enough to convince him you’re alive. But we can’t sneak up on Edward. And if he sees us coming, he’ll just act that much faster. Throw a Buick through a wall or something, and the Volturi will take him down.”
“That’s the second reason of course, the reason I couldn’t say to Jasper. Because if they’re there and the Volturi kill Edward, they’ll fight them. Bella.” She opened her eyes and gazed at Bella. “If there was any chance we could win… if there was any chance the five of us could save my brother by fighting for him, maybe it would be different. But we can’t, and, Bella, I can’t lose Jasper like that.”
Alice was protecting Jasper, my brother. If the rest of them tagged along and got caught exposing ourselves to the humans, we would all be killed, no questions asked. Rose, Emmett, Jasper, Alice, Edward and me… Carlisle and Esme would be rendered childless, assuming that Bella was with us. But she wouldn’t be killed for exposure; she would be killed because she simply was human and it so happened to be dinnertime.
Bella and Alice were still talking and discussing how Edward wouldn’t hear them, with his abilities I meant. Alice was convinced that if we ran up to him going, ‘She’s alive, she’s alive!’ he wouldn’t believe us because, believe it or not, it was possible to lie with your thoughts.
“Who are these Volturi?” Bella was now demanding to know in a whisper. “What makes them so much more dangerous than Emmett, Jasper, Shayla, Rosalie and you?”
Alice took a deep breath and went to talk but then shot a dirty look over her shoulder. A man in a business suit with a laptop on his knees was looking away, trying very hard to appear as though he wasn’t listening. But when the three of glared at him with irritation, he opened the computer and very conspicuously put the headphones in.
Bella leaned in closer to Alice while she, my sister, breathed the story in her ear.
“I’m surprised you recognised the name,” she began. “That you understood so immediately what it meant – when I said he was going to Italy. I thought I would have to explain. How much did Edward tell you?”
“He just said they were an old, powerful family – like royalty. That you didn’t antagonise them unless you wanted to… die,” Bella whispered in response.
“You have to understand,” Alice said in a slower, more measured voice. “We Cullens are unique in more ways than you know. It’s… abnormal for so many of us to live together in peace. It’s the same for Tanya’s family in the north…”
“Or my band, in Australia,” I butted in, grinning cheekily. “It took a while to convince them to go back to ‘normal’…” I made one hand form quotation marks in the air, “after they went back to their old traditional standards. They had just given up, but I guess that I just provided a spark of hope for them. They listened, and they learned.” I beamed proudly.
Alice nodded along to my words. “Yes, some attempt, then give up, or partly live on animals, if they’re in remote areas, But for the most part, none live like us. Carlisle speculates that abstaining makes it easier for us to be civilised, to form bonds based on love rather then survival or convenience. Even James’s little coven of three was unusually large – and you saw how easily Laurent left them. Our kind travel alone, or in pairs, as a general rule. Carlisle’s family is the biggest in existence, followed by the Australian coven, with the one exception. The Volturi.”
“There were three originally,” I started, telling the story along with Alice. “Aro, Caius and Marcus.”
“I’ve seen them,” Bella mumbled. “In the picture in Carlisle’s study.
Alice nodded. “Two females joined them over time, and the five make up the family. I’m not sure, but I suspect their age is what gives them the ability to live peacefully together. They are well over three thousand years old. Or maybe it’s their gifts that give them extra tolerance. Like Edward and I, Aro and Marcus are… talented.”
She continued on. “Or maybe it’s just their love of power that binds them together. Royalty is an apt description.”
“But if there are only five –” Bella questioned.
“Five that make up the family,” I corrected softly. “That doesn’t include their guard.”
She took a deep breath and glanced up at me, leaning on her seat. ‘That sounds… serious.”
“Oh, it is,’ Alice reassured her. “There were nine members of the guard that were permanent, the last we heard. Others are more… transitory. It changes. And many of them are gifted as well – with formidable gifts, gifts that make what I and Shayla can do a parlour trick. The Volturi chose them for their abilities, physical or otherwise.”
“In other words, they, by which I mean mostly Aro, are like collectors,” I explained. “Except they prefer the vampires over the stamps. I spent a few moments with them once upon a time. Never again. They wanted to keep me but I refused to leave my family. Disappointed, they let me leave but… others stay. They like the power, the wealth and the blood, above all the blood. They can feed without fear of exposure and without hassle. And they feel big with the others on their side, who are just as powerful, or if not more, then they are. It’s sick to me, just sick.” I shuddered dramatically.
Bella’s mouth opened and closed a few times before Alice nodded her head and spoke what Bella must have been thinking (I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t Edward). “They don’t get into too many confrontations. No one is stupid enough to mess with them. They stay in the city, leaving only as duty calls.
“Duty?” Bella echoed, wondering out loud.
“Didn’t Edward tell you what they do?”
“No,” Bella answered, a look of blankness on her face,
Alice glanced at the laptop man again who was typing furiously away, before she began to whisper ever-so quietly. “There’s a reason we call them royalty… the ruling class. Over the millennia, they have assumed the position of enforcing our rule – which actually translates to punishing transgressors. They fulfil that duty decisively.”
Bella’s face was one of shock. “There are rules?” she hissed, a little too loud for our benefit.
“Shh!” we hissed back at her.
“Shouldn’t somebody have mentioned this to me earlier?” she whispered angrily. “I mean, I wanted to be a… to be one of you! Shouldn’t somebody have explained the rules to me?”
Alice chuckled as I stifled my giggles. “It’s not that complicated, Bella. There’s only one core restriction – and if you think about it, you can probably figure it out for yourself.”
“Nope, I have no idea.”
Alice shook her head, disappointed. “Maybe it’s too obvious. We just have to keep our existence a secret.”
“It makes sense and most of us don’t need policing,” she continued. “But, after a few centauries, sometimes one of us gets bored. Or crazy. I don’t know. And then the Volturi step in before it can compromise them, or the rest of us.”
“Is planning to flout that in their own city – the city they’ve secretly held for three thousand years, since the time of the Etruscans. They are so protective of their city that they don’t allow hunting within its walls. Volterra is probably the safest city in the world – from vampire attacks at least.”
“But you said they don’t leave. How do they eat?”
“They don’t leave. They bring in their food from the outside, from quite faraway sometimes,” I explained quickly, recalling long lost memories of accompanying the guard on such treks. “It gives their guard something to do when they’re not out annihilating mavericks. Or preventing Volterra from exposure…”
“From situations like this one, like Edward,” she finished for me.
“I doubt they’ve ever had a situation like this,” Alice muttered, disgusted with our brother. “You don’t get a lot of suicidal vampires.”
Bella gave a quiet sound of pain and Alice wrapped her thin but strong around her shoulders. “We’ll do what we can, Bella. It’s not over yet.”
“Not yet,” Bella replied softly. “And the Volturi will get us if we mess up.”
Alice stiffened. “You say that like it’s a good thing.”
Bella shrugged and I, very lightly, tapped across the back of the head with my hand.
“Knock it off Bella or we’re turning around in New York and I’m taking you back to Forks,” I growled at her
“What?” she demanded.
Alice sighed. “You know what. If we’re too late for Edward, I’m – we’re are going to do our damnedest to get you back to Charlie and I don’t want any trouble from you. Do you understand that?”
Alice pulled back so she could glare at her. “No trouble,” she repeated sternly.
Alice rolled her eyes in response to this. “Let me concentrate, now. I’m trying to see what he’s planning.”
Alice left her arm around Bella, but let her head fall back and closed her eyes. She pressed her free hand to the side of her face, rubbing her fingertips against her temple.
I settled back into my own seat and shut my eyes, pretending to be asleep. I felt the plane turning in the air, but I didn’t know when we were there until the plane slammed down.
We ran towards our connection and Alice told me in passing that there was nothing new. I breathed a sigh of relief to myself. Nothing new… that’s good right?
As soon as we were back on the plane, I checked my phone despite the nasty looks the stewards shot at me. They didn’t dare talk to me though. I suppose I had that air around me, that makes humans realise that I’m not quite right, not quite… normal, I suppose. They didn’t know it, but it was their instincts telling them that if they didn’t stay away, they might end up being on the dinner menu.
I had several missed calls, one each from each member of the family. Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie. I deleted them all. I would deal with them later. If there was going to be a later that is.
When night fell, mostly everyone fell asleep. Except for the stewards and two vampires of course. I pretended to sleep until I heard Alice hissing to Bella, who had been sleeping for not very long.
“It’s not wrong,” Alice hissed, her eyes gleaming with faint hope as she smiled fiercely. “It’s right. They’re deliberating, but they’ve decided to tell him no.”
“The Volturi?” Bella muttered, groggy from waking up.
“Of course, Bella, keep up. I can see what they’re going to say.”
An attendant asked if they wanted a pillow but tiptoed past me for when I heard him, I went back to pretending to be asleep. My eyes were shut, but my ears and nose were alert to the conversation in front of me.
Alice whispered that the Volturi denied Edward’s request because they though he might have been useful to them. ‘Wasteful’ was the word Aro apparently used but Edward was formulating a plan, and was getting creative. The longer he spent of them, the better it was for us as it gave us more time.
I zoned out for their next discussion, where Alice actually promised Bella that she might turn her. Good. The less chance I have of killing her, the better. If she was strong and beautiful… it might save us. But transformations take days and we didn’t have days.
“Go back to sleep,” Alice encouraged after Bella argued with her. “I’ll wake you up when there’s something new.”
“Right,” Bella grumbled, unhappy but she did go back to sleep.
“Shayla?” Alice called my name softly.
I leant back over the seat. “Yessum?”
Alice peered up at me, anxious. “How you holding up?”
“I’m fine. You?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
I sighed and glanced at Bella. “How could he do this? Especially to her… and to us?”
Alice shook her head. She needn’t ask who ‘he’ was. “I really don’t know Shay, I really don’t know.”
I shook my head too. “If the Volturi don’t kill him, I will.” I settled back down into my seat and before long, the sun began to brighten up the eastern sky. Alice snapped the shade closed and the noise woke Bella up.
“They’ve told him no,” my sister whispered quietly. Her enthusiasm disappeared very quickly.
“What’s he going to do?”
“It was chaotic at first. I was only getting flickers; he was changing plans so quickly.”
“What kind of plans?” Bella pressed.
“There was a bad hour; he’d decided to go hunting.”
I shot up to stare at her, worry etched all over my face. Bella looked confused.
“In the city,” Alice explained. “It got very close. He changed his mind at the last minute.”
“He wouldn’t want to disappoint Carlisle,” Bella mumbled.
“Probably,” Alice agreed.
“Will there be enough time?” As Bella spoke, the plan began to angle downwards, and there was a shift in the cabin pressure.
“I’m hoping so – if he sticks to his latest decision, maybe.”
“What is that?” Bella and I asked at the same time.
“He’s going to keep it simple. He’s just going to walk into the sun.”
Walk into the sun… who could ignore that? A glorious immortal, sparkling for all of the humans to see. No Volturi guard would let him live. He would be torn apart, bitten, destroyed and burnt to a crisp… all for a few sparkles.
I shook my head, ridding the images in my mind as Alice and Bella continued to speak.
“Say,” I cut in on their conversation. “How far is it from Florence to Volterra?”
Alice flashed me a grin. “That depends on how you fast you drive… Bella?”
Bella jerked her head to look at us, both grinning mad like monkeys. “Yes?” she asked.
“How opposed are you to grand theft auto?”
Approximately ten minutes later, we were screeching away in a bright yellow Porsche with the word ‘TURBO’ scrawled in silver across the back. Everyone had stared at us as Bella and I jumped inside when Alice barked “Hurry, Bella, and Shayla!” We might have well been wearing balaclavas.
“Sheesh Alice,” Bella complained. “Could you pick a more conspicuous car to steal?” I snickered at that remark.
The interior was black leather with dark tinted windows, almost like Carlisle’s Mercedes. It felt safer inside.
Alice was already driving away, way too fast for Bella’s liking, weaving through the slow airport traffic while Bella fumbled for her seat belt. I chuckled and just bounced around the backseat.
“The important question,” Alice corrected, “is whether I could have stolen a faster car, and I don’t think so. I got lucky.”
“I’m not sure that will be very comforting at a roadblock.”
For the first time in days, almost weeks, Alice laughed. “Trust me, Bella. If anyone sets up a roadblock, it will be behind us.” She hit the gas then to prove her point.
We weaved through the Tuscan landscape then, the world outside flashing by almost as fast as if I was running, not flat-out, but still running. I had never been to Italy, but I still didn’t pay attention to the scenery such as the hills or walled towns that resembled castles. This could be my last trip anywhere.
“Do you see anything more?” Bella asked.
“There’s something going on,” Alice muttered. “Some kind of festival. The streets are full of people and red flags. What’s the date today?”
Bella sounded unsure. “The nineteenth, maybe?”
“Well, that’s ironic. It’s Saint Marcus Day.”
Alice chuckled darkly as I began to explain. “Volterra holds a celebration every year called Saint Marcus Day. The legend says that a Christian missionary, Father Marcus – also known as Marcus of the Volturi in fact – drove all of the vampires from Volterra over fifteen hundred years ago. The story claims he was martyred in Romania, still trying to drive away the vampire scourge. Of course, that’s bullshit – he never left the city. But that’s where all the superstitions like crosses and garlic come from. Father Marcus used them so successfully. And vampires don’t rouble Volterra, so they most work.” I grimaced. “It’s become more of a celebration of the city and recognition for the police force – after all Volterra is an amazingly safe city. The police get all of the credit. Ironic, no?”
Bella looked a little dim. “They’re not going to be happy if Edward messes us Sain Marcus Day, are they?”
Alice shook her head, her expression grim. “No, they’ll act very quickly.”
Bella looked away, biting her bottom lip. Bleeding was not really the best idea now.
“He’s still planning on noon?” she asked.
“Yes. He’s decided to wait. And they’re waiting for him.”
“Tell me what I have to do.”
Alice’s eyes didn’t drift from the winding road as the speedometer needle tipped more and more to the right.
“You don’t have to do anything. He just has to see you before he moves onto the light. And he has to see you before he see Shayla or me.”
“How are we going to work that?”
“I’m going to get you as close as possible, and then you’re going to run in the direction I point you.”
“Try not to trip,” my sister then added. “We don’t have time for a concussion today.”
Bella groaned in response, probably at her klutziness.
“Shayla?” I snapped my head up to look at Alice as she gave me orders. “The rooftops are your goal, seeing as you’re the best at climbing. Find something to blend it, find or steal a cloak, whatever, I don’t care. You’ve got jeans on right?”
I glanced at my outfit. Long denim jeans, skate shoes, a flat-brim cap and a My Chemical Romance concert t-shirt. “Yeah. Steal something to blend in, got it.”
The sun continued to climb in the sky while Alice raced against it. It was too bright, and that was what had me worrying. Maybe he wouldn’t feel the need to wait till noon after all.
“There,” Alice suddenly said abruptly, pointing to the castle city atop the closest hill.
I stared at it with Bella, a new fear creeping in. It was very beautiful and that’s what terrified me.
“Volterra,” I announced in a flat, icy voice.