Chapter 27~28

 

Chapter Twenty-seven

Well, That Was Fucked Up

"Then, Lucifer Two attains the blood sword and takes Jared the White as his consort, and they hold dominion over all of the Kindred for ever and ever," said Jared White Wolf, concluding the hour-long plot synopsis of his unwritten epic vampire adventure novel. "So what do you think?"

"I really liked it, but I think you may need to work on the characters more," Tommy said, flexing his writer muscles a little. It helped him to not think about the thirst that was rising in him.

Jared looked to Jody, and raised a drawn-on eyebrow.

"I think we must get out of this basement right now," Jody said, "and if that means murdering your parents and little sisters, well, you don't make an omelet - "

"But what did you think of my novel?" Jared said.

"I think it's not a novel, it's a sexual fantasy about you and your rat."

"It is not. That's just the characters' names."

"Try Abby's cell again, Jared." Jody was gritting her teeth.

"Tell her to get back here," Tommy said. He was starting to get cramps from the blood thirst.

"Hold on, I get shit reception down here." Jared took his cell and his rat and headed out the door and up the steps.

When he was gone, Tommy turned to Jody. "I'm really feeling the hunger."

"Me, too."

"Should we maybe just, you know, sample Jared?"

"I don't think that's a good idea."

"Well," Tommy said. "William is in the hospital, and we don't know where Abby is, and I don't see as we have that many options."

"Tommy, let's just walk out of here. What's the worst that can happen? We shock Jared's parents? I get the feeling they may be desensitized."

"That's fine, but then where do we go tomorrow? A hotel? I guess, if we get the money, we can have Abby guard the door to keep the maid from coming in and frying us." Tommy brightened. "Hey, maybe Abby grabbed some money from the loft?"

"Abby might not even be alive," Jody said, more than just irritation in her voice now. "You know how Elijah was going to kill you to fuck with me? If he's been watching us, he has to know about Abby. She'll be next. We should have left here right away. I feel horrible for leaving her out there alone."

"She went right to him." Tommy cradled his head in hands. "I hate this, Jody. Why did you do this to me? It could have worked. I could have looked out for you and had a real life. Now I just live from feeding to feeding, putting people in danger. Everyone wants to kill us or take something from us. I'm from Indiana, they don't prepare us for this kind of thing in the Midwest."

Jody slid off the bed to the floor and sat next to him, put her arm around his shoulders. "It's not like that, Tommy. We're like gods. Sure, we have to hunt, but if you let go to the predator part of you, you'll lose that anxious feeling. You have to feel the power of it."

"Power? What power? I was ready to have the rat as a snack."

"Well, you can have the rat if you need him, because that little fucker is creepy."

Tommy pulled away from her. "Don't."

Jared came through the door then, pumping his inhaler. "Oh my God! Oh my God! She met the hottest guy who is a ninja, and they're like totally into each other. And those guys you told us about, that kidnapped you, a bunch of them are vampires now. And there's a tall woman vampire, too, who tried to bite Abs. And Abby totally took them all on and burned them up with some kind of portable sunlight. Oh my God, she's so awesome. I wish I had balls like her."

"Where is she now?" Jody asked.

"She's having a Mochaccino at Tulley's on Market. I loaned her like twenty dollars. Which she's going to pay me back out of her Christmas bonus you're giving her. Hey, do I get a Christmas bonus, because - "

"Call her and tell her to stay right where she is," Jody said. "We're on our way."

"We are?" Tommy said. They could get out of here, find a - a donor!

"No, not you," Jody said. "We are." She patted Jared on the shoulder, careful not to get her hand near the rat.

"We are?" Jared said.

"Yes, Jared, you have to come out to your parents. You have to confess that you've had a girl in your room all day. We'll walk up and you can just introduce me as your girlfriend."

"Okay. I guess. You might want to borrow some eyeliner and touch up your lipstick a little first, okay?"

"I will slap the gloom off of you, rat shagger," Jody said with a smile that was just a few degrees below being warm.

Over his very long life, Elijah Ben Sapir had been hunted, beaten, tortured, drowned, impaled, imprisoned, and even burned on two occasions - tolerance for those who live off the lifeblood of others being what it is - but in eight centuries, this was the first time he had been flash-fried by a tricked-out Honda. Despite the novelty of it, when novelty had just become his new joy, he figured that if he went another eight hundred years before it happened again, he'd be okay.

Creeping down a SOMA alley, snatching rats from behind Dumpsters and draining them to dust just so he could heal himself enough to hunt a real victim, was serving as an abject lesson as to why he and his kind were sworn to remain concealed. It was bound to happen: the application of new technology for the detection and destruction of vampires. Hadn't he adopted technology to protect himself? His self-piloting yacht with its sensors and sealed vault had served him as well as any guarded castle. But he'd forgotten the rule - not forgotten, really, but ignored it - deciding to indulge in hope, to the point of faith, that he would always prevail. So some clever cow had figured out how to package sunlight and unleash it upon his arrogant carcass. The cow would never have found the solution had the vampire not shown him the problem. Humbled was Elijah, and angry, and hungry, and a little sad, because he had loved his yellow tracksuit, and now it was but beads of blackened polyester burned into his skin.

He picked at them as he listened for prey, tucked between a Dumpster and a white step-van full of bread racks. Here came one now - fat enough to complete the healing, Elijah could tell by the weight of his step. The back door of the bakery opened and the rotund baker stepped out and shook a cigarette out of his pack. His life aura was pink and healthy, his heart thumped strong, and would for a long time if Elijah did not suck it dry. Normally he only took the sick and the weak, those who were short for the grave anyway, but this was a desperate time. He leapt on the big man's back and rode him to the ground, catching his scream in one hand, using the other to hit pressure points in his neck that had the baker unconscious in two seconds.

Elijah drank, listening to his blackened skin crackle, slough, and heal, even as the baker still breathed. There would be no neck snap, no body to find this time. He dumped the dust from the baker's clothes and slipped into them. His white Nikes were the only survivors of his previous outfit, so he threw the baker's clogs into the Dumpster along with his wallet, pocketed the cash, and took off, dressed in white from head to foot.

The vampire smiled to himself, not with joy, but with the grim irony of the situation. People often speak of things coming to them in a flash of inspiration, but the clich�� held new meaning for Elijah. The flash meant that the game was over, that his foray into human desire, even for revenge, had gone far enough, and now it was time for damage control. They all had to die. He wouldn't enjoy killing her. Not her.

After being burned up for the second time in two days, Blue was ready for a healing massacre - a bloodbath - but the Animals had stopped her, citing sissy ethical reasons like murder was, you know, wrong.

"You're burned up!" Blue said. "This is no time to develop a conscience. Where was your conscience when you were making me do you a dozen times a day, huh?"

"That's different," said Drew. "You were in on it."

"Yeah," added Jeff. "And we paid you."

"No one was hurt, amiga," Gustavo added.

Blue broke off some charred crust coming over the seat of the Mercedes at Gustavo, who was in the passenger seat. Drew dragged her back into her seat by her hips. She crossed her arms and pouted, huffing out little flakes of ash in exasperation. They were supposed to be doing her bidding. They were supposed to be her seven - well, three - dwarves.

"You shut the fuck up, bean town. I was hurt. I am hurt. Look at me."

They didn't look at her. They were all burnt black from the waist up, in the front at least. Their shirts hung on them in charred shreds. The linen dress that Blue had been wearing had incinerated almost completely. She was wearing only her panties and a severely singed bra. Her face was still a bit lopsided from where Elijah had banged it on the car hood.

"We didn't do this, Blue," Drew said.

Blue smacked him repeatedly in the head a half-dozen times, knocking off most of one of his charred ears and all of the carbon strands that were what was left of his hair. The tip of her little finger broke off in the process, at which point she sat back and growled like a beaten dog.

"We need blood to heal," Blue said. "Lots of it."

"I know," Jeff said. The charred power forward was driving. "I'm takin' care of it."

"You just passed five perfectly good teenagers," Blue said. "Where the fuck are you going?"

"Somewhere where the donors can handle our action," Jeff said.

"Well, we're broke until you get my money back, so your donors better have some fucking cash."

"We can't exactly go into a bar in the financial district," Drew said. "Not looking like this."

"Oh, like they'd let you dirtbags in at your best." Blue found that being burnt up put her on edge more than normal. She'd tried taking a Valium left by the Mercedes guy, just like Drew and the other had downed handfuls of his painkillers, only to find their vampire systems rejected them with extreme violence.

"We're here," Jeff said, pulling the Mercedes into a wide public parking lot.

"You're fucking kidding me," Blue said. "The zoo?"

Tommy waited half an hour before he called Jody's cell, only to get a dropped signal, then voice mail. He called three more times in the next half hour, played two rounds of Gunning for Nuns Xtreme on Jared's Xbox, called Abby's cell only to get voice mail, then made his first sincere attempt at turning to mist. Jody had said it was a mental thing, you just had to see yourself as mist, force yourself to mist, "like flexing a muscle," she had said. "Once you've done it once, you just know how it feels and you can do it again. Like getting up on water skis."

It wasn't that he could get out of the basement undetected, it was what Jody had said about being in the mist state - that time sort of just glided, like you were in a dream. It was the only reason, she said, that she hadn't beaten him senseless for having her bronzed. When you were mist, it just wasn't all that bad. Maybe if he could turn to mist, he could pass the time without driving himself nuts with worry.

For all his mental flexing, all he got was a flatulent toot that sent him diving for the door and fanning the room out with it. He was truly a foul dead thing - fouler than he'd even guessed. He looked for paint peeling off the walls.

That was it. He was not a kid hiding in his friend's basement, he was a - what did Abby call it?  -  he was one of the anointed, a prince of the night. He was going to walk out of here, right past the family, and if he had to take them out, well, so be it. That would teach Jody for leaving him behind and turning her phone off. How do you feel now, Red? Huh? Massacred, dismembered family? Huh? Glad you saved your anytime minutes now?!

He tramped up the steps and into Jared's parents' family room.

"Hi," Jared's father said.

Tommy had expected a bit of a monster based on Jared's description of his father. Instead what he saw was a bit of an accountant. He was about forty-five, in pretty good shape, holding a little girl on his lap who was coloring a picture of a pony. Another little girl, who looked about the same age, was coloring on the floor at his feet.

"Hi," Tommy said.

"You must be the vampire Flood," Jared's dad said, with a bit of a knowing smile.

"Uh. Well. Kinda." It showed. He could no longer hide among the humans. It must be because it had been so long since he had fed.

"Sort of a weak ensemble, don't you think?" Jared's dad said.

"Weak," repeated the little girl without looking up from her pony.

"Huh?" Tommy inquired.

"For a vampire. Jeans, sneakers, and flannel?"

Tommy looked at his clothes. "Black jeans," he pointed out. Shouldn't this guy be cowering in fear, maybe begging Tommy not to put his little daughter in a sack for his vampire brides?

"Okay, I suppose times change. You know that Jared and his girlfriend went up to Tulley's on Market to meet Abby, right?"

"His girlfriend, Jody?"

"Right," said Dad. "Cute girl. Not as many piercings as I expected, but we're just happy she's a girl."

An attractive blond woman in her late twenties came into the room carrying a tray with carrot and celery sticks on it. "Oh, hi," she said, dazzling a smile at Tommy. "You must be the vampire Flood. Hi, I'm Emily. Would you like some crudites? You're welcome to stay for dinner. We're having mac and cheese, it was the girls' night to pick."

I should drink her blood and put her kids in a sack, Tommy thought. But his vicious predator nature was overcome by his Midwestern upbringing, so instead he said, "Thank you very much, Emily, but I really should be going if I'm going to catch up to Jared and Jody."

"Well, okay then," said the woman. "Girls, say good-bye to the vampire Flood."

"Good-bye, the vampire Flood," the girls sang in chorus.

"Uh, bye." Tommy bolted out of the room, then back in again. "Where's the door?"

Everyone pointed through the kitchen, whence Jared's stepmonster had just come.

He ran through the kitchen and out the door, then stood with his back against the minivan in the drive, trying to catch his breath. "That was fucked up," he gasped, then realized that he wasn't out of breath from exertion at all. He was having an anxiety attack. "That was really, really fucked up."

Chapter Twenty-eight

Wallflowers of the Night

It was a lot like trying to get your courage up to ask a girl to dance, except that in this case it wasn't so much the fear of rejection, or that you'd be awkward and embarrass yourself, although that was a consideration, but that whoever you picked was going to be reduced to dust, which was somewhat more significant than trampling her toes.

Tommy stood on Castro Street looking for his next victim. His first victim, really. He was tired of being the apprentice. If Jody was going to just leave him in the basement because he wasn't vampire enough for her, then maybe he'd have to become like her. Maybe he'd learn about this predator nature she talked about. Maybe, like that guy in the basement in The Phantom of the Opera, he would have to hear "The Music of the Night." He wasn't sure what had happened to the basement guy. He'd gone to see the movie with a girl from his high school, but had to leave halfway through to keep from taking his own life. It hadn't been a good date.

There were plenty of people out on the street, even at this hour, but none of them screamed victim. There were no women in low-cut dresses who had just turned an ankle. There were no girls in negligees running down the street, glancing back over their shoulders. There were, in fact, not many girls at all. Lots of guys. Lots.

He reckoned that it wasn't really necessary that he pick a woman. After all, he'd fed off of William and Chet, both of whom were male, but this was different. This was really becoming the hunter, and despite his hunger, there was no little bit of revenge in his decision to bite someone. So it had to be a girl. He had to get back at Jody for ditching him at Jared's. He had to show her that she wasn't the only vein in the circulatory system. Or whatever.

The few women he saw were so healthy, with big bright pink life auras around them, and weren't alone either. He had to get someone alone.

Frustrated, he backed down the alley and started pacing back and forth. After a short time he took a run at the wall, ran up ten feet or so, then turned and ran back across the alley and up the other wall about ten feet, then back, and up the wall fifteen feet - like a skateboarder working a half-pipe, he ran back and forth, feeling the strength and speed of what he was - feeling his confidence rise.

I am a superior being, he thought. I am a friggin' god!

Then his foot went through a window and he sank up to his crotch into the building, then dangled over the alley upside down, three stories up, flailing.

Stupid place for a window, he thought. Then he saw her.

She was sort of tall, but dressed in a red evening gown, with athletic curves, and long red hair that had been lacquered into ringlets. She was perfect, and she was coming down the alley. It was like he'd ordered her from an old Hammer film to be the hapless victim. Sweet!

So he was hanging upside down by one leg. That could be a tactic. He felt his fangs extending and he drooled a little, which hit her on the shoulder.

She started a little, and that's when he made his move. He'd always loved the scene in Dracula where Jonathan Harker sees the Count climbing, facedown, down the castle walls and thinks, Hey, something is up here. Tommy had pleaded with Jody to try it, but she never would, so this was his chance. He pulled himself out of the window, hooked his fingers between the bricks, and began his climb.

And dropped thirty feet to the alley, landing flat on his back.

"Ouch."

Upon Tommy's impact, his intended victim had let out a very masculine scream, jumped three feet straight up, and came down sideways on her high heels. She knelt over him rubbing her ankle.

"Cheesy Christ on a cracker, darlin'. Where did you come from?" Southern, and deep.

"Slipped," Tommy said. "You're a man, huh?"

"Well, let's say that is a street which I have walked, to which I do not wish to return."

"You're very pretty," Tommy said.

"Sweet of you to say." He tossed his hair a bit. "You want I should call an ambulance?"

"No, no. Thanks. I'll be okay."

"What were you doing up there, anyway?"

Conveniently, Tommy was still staring straight up at the sky, framed by the buildings, and he could see that she thought he'd fallen from the roof. "Listening for 'the music of the night. "

"Were you watching the DVD? I heard people tried to kill themselves rather than sit through it."

"Something like that."

"Honey, just push pause. Just push pause."

"I'll remember that. Thanks."

"You sure you don't want me to call someone?"

"No, no. I'll call someone as soon as I catch my breath." Tommy reached into his back pocket and pulled out a handful of broken plastic and wires that had once been his cell phone.

"Okay then, y'all take care." She stood, turned, and walked slowly out of the alley, trying not to limp.

"Hey, miss," Tommy called after him. "I'm not gay."

" 'Course you aren't, darlin'."

"I rule the night!"

She waved without looking as she rounded the corner.

"Redheads," he growled.

He could feel his broken ribs knitting together. It wasn't pleasant. As soon as they were healed enough, it was back to Jared's house to eat the rat. Move up the food chain slowly, maybe.

An hour later the torn and tattered vampire Flood limped up the driveway to Jared's house. Abby and Jared were smoking in the driveway.

"Lord Flood," Abby said. "What are you doing here?"

"You look like someone opened a whole six-pack of whup-ass on you," Jared said.

"You shut up. How did your family know I was a vampire?"

"Well, certainly not from your wardrobe."

"Jared, I am all busted up, and I'm feeling hungry, and a little fragile. Now answer my question or I will go inside and murder your family, feed on their blood, step on your rat, and break your Xbox."

"Whoa, drama queen much?"

"Fine," Tommy said. He shrugged, which hurt, and headed for the kitchen door. "Find me a sack big enough for your two little sisters."

Jared jumped in front of him. "I told them we were playing Vampire the Masquerade and that your part was the Vampire Flood."

Abby nodded. "We used to play all the time before we actually became minions."

"It's like Dungeons and Dragons but way cooler," Jared said.

"Okay." Tommy nodded. Which hurt. There they were, two perfectly healthy donors from whom he could feed, who would be willing. And he was hurt, and he needed to feed in order to heal. Still, he couldn't ask. He was staring at Abby's neck, then looked away when she appeared to notice.

"Where's Jody?"

"She'll be here soon," Abby said. "She sent us back to find you. We called but your cell wasn't on."

"Where is she?"

"She went to the new loft. She said she'd bring some money and what was left of William's blood back for you. You can stay in a hotel. Jared and I can guard you."

"She went to the loft? Where Elijah is?"

"Oh, that's not a problem," Abby said. "My Samurai prince burned him up while rescuing me from the blond vampire ho and her grocery-store vamplets."

Tommy looked at Jared. " 'Splain please."

"Just knock," Drew said. "They'll unlock it for you. You're almost naked." They stood by the front door of the Marina Safeway. Drew had healed a little from his burns, but was still bald and covered with a dusting of soot. Blue was completely healed, but wore only her charred underwear and the beige high heels that had looked so lovely with her linen dress.

Since the first time she took the stage in high heels and a bikini back in her first Fond du Lac beauty pageant, right through her career stripping and then bonking for dollars, she thought the whole idea of high heels and underwear patently absurd. Yet here she was, rich, powerful, and immortal - yet still standing around wearing high heels and underwear. This time, however, there was some rationale for the outfit beyond that it floated some horndog's hormonal boat. At the zoo, while the Animals had pursued their prey among animals, she had found two night watchmen, each isolated on his rounds, and took them down. Unfortunately, she hadn't taken their clothing because she didn't want to have to explain to the Animals why she was dressed like a night watchman, since they had suddenly decided to take the moral high ground on slaughter.

The Animals had not fared so well. Drew was the only one in better shape than when they'd first been burned. He'd gone for a llama, because he'd always thought they were cute. He was able to feed only a little, however, before he was bitten and spat upon, and decided to call it a night. Gustavo had gone for a zebra, under the mistaken assumption that his experience with horses as a boy in Mexico would somehow give him an edge in handling the African equine. Consequently, he had been summarily stomped, and now had several broken bones, including a nasty compound fracture of one leg, in addition to being burned up. Jeff, the basketball failure, was still embarrassed about having been taken down by a girl, and so picked a jungle cat as his victim, thinking that he would take on the strength and speed of his donor. His right arm was attached only by a few muscles and much of that shoulder was gone altogether. His skin was still crusty black from the waist up.

"Fuck knocking," said Blue. The big front window had only that day been replaced, but she was going to lead her charge right through it. "Get in, find them, and take them." She found she was falling back on her dominatrix experience a lot lately, which was not a skill in which she had complete confidence, having only recently been killed while performing it.

She took three quick steps up, snatched up the steel-reinforced trash can that Jody had used on the window only days ago, and flung it underhanded with all her strength. The can rocketed through the air, bounced off the new, double-impact-resistant Plexiglas window, and knocked Blue on her ass.

Blue climbed to her feet without making any eye contact with her undead posse, dusted off her bottom, then snapped her newly broken nose back into place.

"Well, knock then, fuckstick," she said to Drew. "Knock, knock, knock. We don't have all night."
    
 

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