Part 41

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We drove all night, only making stops for the red liquid stuff and bathroom breaks. We arrive in Sacramento around seven in the morning. It takes us little time to locate Washington Avenue thanks to Vance's GPS. The only problem is it's not there, at least not anymore. The street still exists, but a strip mall dominates the area where Holly's house would have been. Vance brings the car to rest in the first row of parking spaces in front of a pizza joint.

"You think Holly used to live in that dollar store?" he asks.

I peer out the back window and watch the sidewalk behind us. It's early, but there's still some pedestrian traffic—mostly school kids.

"Where to next?" asks Vance.

"School."

"Excuse me? Did you say school? I think it's a little late to get there on time today, Charlie."

"No. Not our school. Holly's."

"I don't get it."

Whipping out my cell phone, I start pushing buttons and stick the phone to my ear, waiting with impatience to hear the 'hello' on the other end. "Mrs. Schwiezen? Yeah, we're here, but your old house isn't. Yeah. I needed to ask you as question. What was the name of Holly's old high school? Okay, thanks. Yeah, I'll let you know as soon as we find out anything." My fingers move to enter the school's address almost before I even hang up.

"Where the hell you going with this?" Vance asks.

"It's where we're going. Drive, and turn where I tell you."

* * *

We pull up outside the front doors of South Valley High, parking in the pick up lane. School just let in so we're not blocking any traffic. Keeping myself collected, I step out of the car and approach the entrance, Vance keeping pace behind me.

"This is a pretty flimsy shelf you're hanging your hopes on," Vance says.

He's not wrong, but it's the strongest shelf I can find right now. "Remember, Vance. We're college students."

"Dude. You think this is my first time lying to teachers? Besides, you've always been a shitty liar. Maybe I should take the lead here."

I want to argue the point, but he's right. I've had a few successes in that department lately, but this more pressure than I'm used to. "Okay."

Inside the building, the Principal's office is to our left. Vance strolls inside with his chest puffed out, an easy confidence in every step. I'm just fighting to control my flop sweat. Vance stops directly in front of the secretary's desk. I stand a few feet behind him, attempting to hide the sheen of perspiration shining off my forehead.

The secretary barely lifts her head when Vance clears his throat, most likely assuming he's just a student here.

"Can I help you?" she asks.

"I really hope so." Vance's winning smile is on full display, regardless of the secretary's disinterest in his presence. "My brother and I are working on a project—a little birthday present for our mother. See, she used to go to school here in the 70s. I believe she graduated in '79, and we were just wondering if there were any teachers here from that time who might remember her. We're kind of putting together a little video package for her."

The secretary, her features un-moving, pulls a pen from a nearby holder and scribbles on a scrap of paper and hands it to Vance. "I'd suggest coming back after 3 o'clock. They're be in class until then."

Vance punctuates his never fading smiles with a few taps on the desk with the paper scrap. "Will do, ma'am. Thank you very much."

Vance starts to leave, then grabs a handful of my sleeve when I don't start to follow.

"Thanks!" I blurt out at about six volume levels too loud before I allow my feet to move towards the exit.

Outside, the cold air turns my sweaty film into an icy sheen. "I thought vampires didn't sweat as much as normal people."

"The nervous ones do." Vance shoots me a smirk before getting inside the car.

"Well, we've got time to kill," I say, after joining him inside. "What do we do?"

"Wanna grab some grub?"

"Sure."

We pull out of the parking lot and head back towards the strip mall.

"By the way," Vance says. "Do you know how creepy it is that Holly and my mother really are about the same age?"

"Yeah? Well welcome to your own future, 'cause that will be us one day."

Vance shudders, and I don't even try to hide the laughter at his expense.

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