Family Business

“Thank you, Annika,” the 40-year-old father said. He leaned forward and wrapped his burly arms around his daughter as tears welled up in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he added. Before Annika could ask what he was apologizing for she heard the distinct *click* of the front door bolt. Annika managed to twist her head enough to catch a glimpse of her mom slipping the key into her white lacey apron. The bolt was keyed on both sides; Annika realized she couldn’t leave without that key.

“What for?” Annika asked anyway. She knew her best hope was to try and stall for time while she figured out a way to escape.

“For lying to you for so long,” her father replied. Her mother stood behind Annika’s dad and rubbed his shoulders. It wasn’t an unusual interaction between them; but, Annika knew her mom was only trying to keep the key out of reach. “About your sisters,” he said. Annika immediately focused on him and put the key out of her mind.

Both of her sisters each disappeared suddenly. Both times her parents simply stopped mentioning their names as if they never existed. She had not thought about either of them in years; they lived in her memories as vague imaginary friends. The moment her father mentioned them; Annika gained a new perspective. Annika’s parents were monster hunters for as long as she could remember. And her sisters disappeared mysteriously.

“You might be too young to remember Hilda,” her father said. Annika shook her head.

“I remember,” she replied. “She disappeared during the harvest festival; I was five. Gertrude disappeared in the Spring when I was eight,” Annika gave her parents her only memories. Her father nodded.

“Hilda was bitten by a werewolf. Gertrude made a fae deal that we couldn’t get her out of,” he said. “With our reputation as monster hunters…,” he said with a low, sad tone. “…we only had one choice. A choice we hoped we’d never have to make with you.” He scooped up his daughter’s hands in his, but Annika yanked them away. She jumped off her seat and put her back to the locked door. She could not escape but no one could sneak up behind her either.

“What’s wrong with you, Annika?” Her mother asked; Annika couldn’t believe her mom managed to sound disappointed in her considering she was trying to stay alive. She tried willing her vampire strength to take effect, but she had yet to complete the turning process. Even then, her parents could easily match a healthy vampire’s physicality.

“I might not be a vampire yet; but, you’re not taking me down without a fight!” Annika tried to hiss at them and hoped her fangs were vaguely threatening. Both her parents broke into laughter; the way they always did when she acted silly.

“What are you talking about, Annika?” her mother asked with an ‘oh, you’ tone. 

“You killed Hilda and Gertrude because they became monsters and now you’re going to kill me!” Annika said.

“We did?” her father asked.

“We are?” her mother added the question, then both laughed some more.

“Where did you get that idea?” Her mother asked. The lean woman sat down at the table next to her husband.

“It makes sense,” Annika said. “You guys are monster hunters. They disappeared after they became monsters. You said you didn’t want to make the same decision with me.”

“Uhuh,” her dad nodded. “It makes perfect sense. If you think your parents are cold-blooded killers. Which, I guess you do,” he said.

“The decision we didn’t want to make with you was to have to hide you. Like we did your sisters. Hilda and Gertrude are alive, we’ve had to send them away to keep them hidden. Now that you’re becoming a vampire we’ll have to send you away too but we don’t have to hide them from you any more.”

“They’re alive?” Annika asked. Her dad nodded.

“Of course! We wouldn’t be as famous as we are without them, and now you can help with that too!”

“Huh?” Annika asked. “Help how?”

“Your mom and I, we’re really good at our job. We’re so good in fact, that we killed all the monsters in the area. So, whenever money starts getting a bit tight we ask your sisters to send out a werewolf or fae fiend to start causing trouble. Now we can choose vampires too!”

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