Chapter Eighteen

Nobody Likes a Dead Whore

Finding her boyfriend tied naked to an upright bed frame, covered in blood, with a dead, blue dominatrix at his feet would be enough to rattle some women's confidence in the stability of their relationship. Some women might even take it as a sign of trouble. But Jody had been single for a number of years - she'd dated rock musicians and stockbrokers - and was conditioned to unusual bumps on the road of romance, so she simply sighed and kicked the hooker in the ribs - more as a conversation opener than a confirmation that the ho was dead - and said, "So, rough night?"

"Awk-ward," Abby sang, peeking in the door, then immediately swinging back into the hallway.

"I forgot my safety word," Tommy said.

Jody nodded. "Well, that had to be embarrassing."

"She beat me."

"You okay?"

"Yeah. But it hurt. A lot." Tommy looked past Jody toward the door. "Hi, Abby!"

Abby swung around the corner. "Lord Flood," she said, with a nod and a little grin. Then she looked down at the body, her eyes went wide, and she swung back out into the hall.

"How're your sister's lice?" Tommy said.

"Shampoo didn't work." Abby called, without looking in. "We had to shave her head."

"Sorry about that."

"It's okay. She looks kind of cool, in a 'Make a Wish kid' kind of way."

Jody said. "Abby, why don't you come in and shut the door? If someone walks by and looks in, it might, oh, I don't know, freak them out a little."

" 'Kay," said Abby. She stepped in and palmed the door shut behind her, as if the clicking of the door latch might actually be the thing that would attract attention.

"I think I killed her," Tommy said. "She was beating me, and she wanted me to bite her, so I did. I think I drained her dry."

"Well, she's dead all right." Jody reached down and tossed the blue hooker's arm up. It fell back to the floor. "But you didn't drain her."

"I didn't?"

"She'd be dust if you did. Heart attack or stroke or something. Looks like most of her blood went on you and the carpet."...

"Yeah, I sort of tore her throat out and she fell before I could finish."

"Well, what did she expect? You were tied up."

"You don't seem that bothered by it. I thought you'd be jealous."

"Did you ask her to bring you here and beat you until you snapped and killed her?"

"Nope."

"Did you encourage her to beat you until you snapped and killed her?"

"Of course not."

"And you didn't get off on her beating you until you snapped and killed her."

"Honestly?"

"You're naked and chained to a bed frame, and I'm just inches away from both a riding crop and your genitals. I think honesty would be a good policy."

"Well, honestly, the killing part was kind of a turn-on."

"But not sexual."

"No way. It was totally homicidal lust."

"Then we're okay."

"Really, you're not mad?"

"I'm just glad you're okay."

"I should feel bad about it, I know, but I don't."

"That happens."

"Some bitches just need killing," Abby said, looking briefly at Tommy, then realizing he was naked under all that blood, looking away quickly.

"There you go," Jody said. She stepped up and began to undo his restraints. They were double bands of fleece and nylon, with heavy metal shackles locked over them. "What did she buy these for, to handcuff a grizzly bear? Abby, check the body for a key."

"Nuh-uh," Abby said, staring down at the dead blue hooker.

Jody noticed that the kid was focused on the breasts, which were defying gravity, and apparently death itself, by standing there at complete attention. "Those aren't real," Jody said.

"I knew that."

"She was a very mean woman," Tommy said, trying to help. "With really big but insincere boobs. Don't be afraid."

Abby tore her gaze from the dead woman's chest and looked from Tommy, to Jody, to Jody's chest, and back to the body. "Fucksocks! Does everybody have big boobs but me? God, I hate you guys!" She ran out the door and slammed it behind her.

"I do not have big boobs," Jody said.

"Perfectly proportioned," Tommy said. "Perfect, really."

"Thanks, sweetie," Jody said, kissing him on the lips lightly so as not to get a taste of the whore's blood.

"I think I saw her hang the key in Lash's Forty-Fucking-Niners hat rack by the door."

"I really need to teach you how to go to mist," Jody said, retrieving the key.

"Yeah, that would have helped me avoid a lot of this."

"You know the Animals sold you out, right?"

"I can't see them doing that. She must have blackmailed them or something."

"Clint told the cops, too. Rivera and Cavuto had our loft staked out."

"Clint doesn't really count, though. He traded in all his moral credibility in this world when he committed to live forever."

"Amazing how badly the promise of immortality makes people behave."

"Like it doesn't matter how you treat people," Tommy said.

"There!" Jody finally got the shackle on Tommy's right wrist unlocked and started working on the left. They were heavy, but she thought that given the motivation of torture, she could have broken loose, or at least torn apart the bed frame. "You couldn't just snap these?"

"I guess I need to work out." He scratched his nose furiously. "So, should we hide the body or something?"

"No, I think it's a good warning for your buddies."

"Right."

"What about the cops?"

"Not our problem," she said as she twisted the key in the lock and snapped the restraint off his left wrist. "We don't have a dead blue hooker in our apartment."

"That's an excellent point," Tommy said, rubbing his wrist. "Thank you for rescuing me, by the way. I love you." He grabbed her and pulled her to him, nearly tumbling over on his face when she stepped back and he encountered the resistance of his ankle restraints.

"I love you, too," she said, palming his forehead and pushing him back on balance, "but you are covered with skank oil and you will not get it on my new leather jacket."

In the cab, Abby pouted - sticking out her lower lip far enough that pink was showing above her black lipstick, making her look vaguely like a cat eating a plum.

"Just drop me at my house."

Tommy, who sat in the middle, wearing one of Lash's Forty-Niners jerseys, put his arm around Abby's shoulders to comfort her.

"It's okay, kid. You did great. We are most pleased with you."

Abby snorted and looked out the window. Jody, in turn, put her arm around Tommy's neck and dug her nails into his shoulder. "Shut up," she whispered, so soft that only Tommy would be able to hear it. "You're not helping."

"Look, Abby," Jody said, "it's not something that happens all at once, like in the movies. Sometimes you have to eat bugs for years before you become one of the chosen."

"I know I did," Tommy said. "Beetles, bugs, spiders, mice, rats, snakes, marmosets, OUCH! Stop that, I've been tortured already tonight."

"You two are just into each other," Abby said. "You don't care about anyone else. We're like cattle to you."

The cabdriver, who was a Hindu, looked in the rear-view mirror.

"So what's your point?" Jody said.

Tommy elbowed her in the ribs.

"Kidding. Jeez. Abby, we care very deeply about you. We've trusted you with everything. In fact, you may have saved my life tonight."

Tommy reared back and looked at Jody.

"Long story," the redhead said. Then to Abby again: "Get some rest and come to the loft tomorrow at dusk. We'll talk about your future."

Abby crossed her arms. "Tomorrow is Christmas. I'm trapped with the family."

"Tomorrow is Christmas?" Tommy said.

"Yeah," Jody said. "So?"

"The Animals won't be working. I have some issues with them."

"You were thinking revenge?"

"Well, yeah."

Jody patted the flight bag on the seat, which held all of the money that the Animals had paid to Blue, almost six hundred thousand dollars. "I think you have that covered."

Tommy frowned. "I'm beginning to doubt the steadiness of your moral compass."

"Sure, I'm the one with skewed ethics, when you spent the whole night tied up and beaten by a blue dominatrix and then ripping her throat out."

"You make everything sound so sleazy."

Abby put her fingers in her mouth and whistled - shrill and nearly deafening in the enclosed space. "Hello, there's a cabdriver here. Would you two shut the fuck up."

"Hey," Jody said.

"Hey," Tommy said.

"Hey, you, little creepy girl," said the cabdriver, "you will not be whistling in my cab again or I will be putting you out on the curb."

"Sorry," Abby said.

"Sorry," Tommy and Jody said in unison.

With the exception of the odd serial killer, and car salesmen who think of them as the perfect unit for measuring trunk space, nobody likes a dead whore. ("Yeah, you can get five-maybe six dead hookers in this baby.")

"She looks so natural," said Troy Lee, looking down on Blue. "Except for the way her arm is bent under her - and the riding crop - and the blood everywhere, I mean."

"And she's blue," said Lash.

The other Animals nodded mournfully.

It was turning out to be a stressful morning for the Animals: cleaning up the mess that Jody had made of the store, getting Drew to the emergency room to get his forehead sewn up where the wine bottle had hit him (they immediately passed around the painkillers he was prescribed, which help to take the edge off), then explaining the broken front window to the manager when he came in, and now this -

"You're the one with almost an MBA," Barry, the short balding one, said to Lash. "You should know what to do."

"They don't cover what to do with a dead hooker," Lash countered. "That's a whole different program. Political science, I think."

Despite the dulling they'd given themselves with the painkillers and a case of beer they'd shared in the parking lot at the Safeway, they were all feeling sad, and a little frightened.

"Gustavo is the porter," Clint said. "Shouldn't he do the cleanups?"

"Ahhhhh!" said Jeff, the tall ex-jock, as he thumped Clint on the head with a protruding knuckle. Feeling like the knuckle might not quite be enough, he snatched off Clint's horn-rimmed glasses and threw them to Troy Lee, who snapped them into four neat pieces and handed them back to Clint.

"This is all your fault," Lash said. "If you hadn't ratted Flood out to the cops, this wouldn't have happened."

"I just told them that Tommy was a vampire," Clint whined. "I didn't tell them he was here. I didn't tell them about your whore of Babylon."

"You didn't know her like we did," Barry added, his voice breaking a little. "She was special."

"Expensive," Drew said.

"S��, expensive," added Gustavo.

"She probably could finally afford to go to Babylon," said Lash.

"Forgive them, for they know not what they do," Clint said.

Troy Lee bent and examined Blue, careful not to touch her. "It's hard to see bruising through the blue dye, but I guess she broke her neck. The blood must be Flood's. I don't see any marks on her."

"No bite marks, you mean," said Clint.

"Of course that's what I mean, nit wit. You know Flood's girlfriend did this, right?"

"How do you know?" Lash asked. "It could have been Flood."

"I don't think so," said Troy Lee. "Tommy was tied up here - see the orange crap all over the restraints. And these were unlocked, not broken."

"Maybe when Blue let him go he killed her."

Troy Lee picked something off of Blue's face, as delicately as if he were taking her ghost. "Except for this."

He held a long red hair up where Lash could see it. "No reason for her to be here, if Flood was loose."

"Dude, you're like one of those CSI guys," Drew said.

"We should call those two homicide cops," Barry said, like he was the first who might have thought of it.

"And tell them to come help us with our dead hooker," Lash said.

"Well they know about the vampires," Barry said. "Maybe they'll help us."

"How 'bout we move her to your apartment, and then call them?"

"Well, what are we going to do with her?" Barry said, standing feet apart, hands behind his back, a brave Hobbit ready to face a dragon.

Troy Lee shrugged. "Wait until dark, then drop her in the Bay?"

"I can't bear to touch her," Barry said. "Not after the moments we shared."

"You little puntas," Gustavo said, stepping up and beginning to roll up the bloodstained rug. He had a wife and five children, and although he had never disposed of a dead hooker before, he thought that it couldn't be any worse than changing the diaper on a gloopy infant.

The other Animals all looked at one another, embarrassed, until Gustavo growled at them and they jumped to move the heavy bed frame out of his way.

"I never really liked her that much, anyway," Barry said.

"She really did take advantage of us," Jeff said.

"I just went along with you guys so I didn't ruin the party," said Troy Lee. "I didn't enjoy even half of those blow jobs."

"Let's just put her in my closet until tonight, then a couple of us can sneak the bitch out to Hunter's Point and drop her off."

"On Christmas?" Drew asked.

"Can't believe she took all our money and now she's going to ruin Christmas," said Troy Lee.

"Our money!" said Lash. "That bitch!"

Nobody likes a dead whore.

"I do like a dead whore now and then," said the vampire Elijah Ben Sapir, derailing a perfectly good theme. He'd snapped the whore's neck right before she was completely drained so there would be a body. "But one doesn't want to be too obvious." He dragged the whore's body behind a Dumpster, and watched as the wounds on her neck healed over. He'd taken her in an alley near Tenth and Mission streets. He'd had the hood up on the oversized tracksuit he was wearing, so she'd been surprised when they'd ventured down the alley and he threw it back to reveal a very pale Semitic man.

"Look at-chew. Thought baby was a playa - " the whore had said, her last words. She'd only had a hundred dollars on her, which, along with the tracksuit and a pair of Nikes, were the complete resources the ancient vampire had at his disposal.

He'd come to the city in a yacht worth millions, filled with art worth millions more, and now he was reduced to making kills for petty cash. Of course he owned several homes around the world, and had stashes of cash put away in a dozen cities, but it would take some time to access it. And perhaps it wasn't so bad to have the wolf at the door, for a change. After all, he'd come to the City and taken a new fledgling in order to alleviate his boredom. (It's very hard to feel alive when you've been dead for eight hundred years.) And she had done that. He was not bored - and he felt very much alive.

He walked out of the alley and checked the sky. Dawn was threatening - he had perhaps twenty minutes until sunup. "Where does the time go?" He crossed the street and was buzzed into a hotel with a sign that read for rent, by hour, day, or week. He could smell the cigarettes, sweat, and heroin on the desk clerk, and he kept his head down so the hood covered his face.

"Do you have a room without a window?"

"Twenty-five bucks, like all the others," the clerk said. "You want sheets? Sheets are five more."

The vampire smiled. "No, I don't want to spoil myself."

He paid the clerk, took the key, and trudged up the steps.

Yes, he felt very much alive. One really can't appreciate what one has until it's gone. And without a significant loss, how would one enjoy the process of revenge?

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