Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 15 Mar 2011 13:47

Durante o NaNo de ano passado, estava a escrever o livro "Senryaku: A Arte da Guerra", mas cheguei a meio e empanquei. como muitas vezes acontece. Por isso, em vez de ficar sentada à espera que me passasse, atirei-me a um projecto totalmente diferente, um livro sobre vampiros (queria ver se conseguia escrever algo decente). E assim nasceu "Sins of the Blood".

Está totalmente em formato bruto, e, tendo em conta que nunca foi mais nada que um projecto lateral para me ajudar a lidar com o cansaço, não devo fazer nada com ele. Por isso, aqui fica.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 15 Mar 2011 13:47

Prelude

Throughout my life, I found great comfort in knowing that two things were true above all else: marriage and death are things that only happen to other people.

Seeing I was exceedingly wrong in one of them – and I risked being shown wrong twice – it was very likely that I was mistaken in the second too. I didn’t want to find out for certain, thought. Marriage was frightening beyond words, truth be told, and my life was already as complicated as I could get.

And then, I died.

It’s funny, really, when people say that your life will flash right in front of your eyes when you are about to die – all the good and the bad and the amazing moments. It is slightly depressing when I think that my final thought was: “Who will pick up my laundry, tomorrow?”

My Pater laughed for hours after I told him that, and I, admit, I was somewhat irked by it. I mean, really, upon returning from death – trying not to lash at people who killed you, and keep your temper and manners, and you still get laughed at? I was starting to see eternity might be less fun and more grind than I expected. Not that I was particularly anxious to live forever. First, it might be a tad boring after a while – and secondly, my opinion hadn’t been requested, and I was still somewhat resentful of the fact that having a heartbeat also made me a second-class citizen, and thus my opinion being less than important.
But what I think is really aggravating is to find out all that you knew, and all that you believed in was nothing but lies. And the only way for someone to know the truth is dying. In fact, I shouldn’t be telling you this. They don’t take it too kindly when one divulges their secrets.

Knowledge is power, and their bartering coin – and they are all around us, controlling everything, as if the world was nothing but their gigantic chess board, and we the pawns on it. Theirs the most secretive, the most hidden of societies, and they will destroy whoever stands in their way, or, god help them, stumbles into the crossfire of one their secret wars.

I did found out, much to my grievance, that death also could happen to me instead of someone else – and could happen twice, if I didn’t take a care.

At this rate, and just to rub it in my face, someone will end up proposing to me, too.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 15 Mar 2011 13:52

Part 1

Jens told me I have a knack for getting myself in trouble. It’s not that I go outright searching for it, but rather that I keep my mind incredibly open to the possibility, and take great pains in ensuring that it will have no problems finding me should it ever come to town. It’s as if, he said, I deliberately took pleasure in carrying a note on my back with a flashing sign saying “Open for Trouble 24 hours a day”. Or “This way for a free meal and room, Trouble.”
He might very easily be the cleverest man I ever met, but my Pater is not particularly good with metaphors.
He does have a point, however, and, much as I hate it (he has a horrible habit of being right), I will have to admit I often go out of my way to prod the wasps’ nest just to see if there is something in there. Why? I really don’t know. Maybe I’m just very curious, or very bored, or both.
Or maybe I like to dish out as much as I get, and me and life have an on-again, off-again romance that involves quite a lot of screaming, shouting and flying dinner plates.
My name is Jezebel James, which, on itself, it’s bad enough. Try going through high school with that name, especially when you have to sit through Religious Studies, because your family thinks you need some sense spoken into you, and what better way to do that than by having an old nun referring the many sins of a woman who you never met and have no relationship to committed – and how ashamed of them you should be? I mean, really, Adam? Your wife gives you a bit of an apple that your Maker told you clearly you should not eat, and when the hitting starts your best defense is “She ate it first”? That didn’t fly when I was a kid, and it shouldn’t fly out of the first Man – if Eve had jumped off a bridge, would you go right behind her, Adam? Would you? Didn’t think so.
Anyway, I shouldn’t complain too much, really. My name was actually meant to be Jessebelle – the name of some long lost feminine relative; my mother had the romantic notion that she wanted the priest that had performed her own baptism and marriage to baptize me too (and perform my marriage as well, but she didn’t tell me that until much later on, shhh); except the man who was young priest back then was now a very old priest, and rather myopic; when reading the hand written paper that my mother had thoughtfully prepared for him, he called me Jezebel, that’s how it got written in the official papers and that is how I got stuck with that name.
Still, it could be worse. The priest might not have been shortsighted and I could have wound up actually being called Jessebelle.
Small mercies indeed.
Out of my exotic and biblical-sounding name, my best friends managed to mercifully extract “Jessie”, as an alternative to my stripperrific name; unfortunately, it was until I was well past puberty that I realized that being called Jessie James didn’t augured anything good, either. With a name like that, what did you expect?
I wouldn’t say I am a natural-born troublemaker. Actually, I do like it when my life goes smoothly and I don’t have to worry about whether if someone is angry enough at me to, say, set fire to my car or drop a firebomb into my living room (I had both been done to me, trust me, it’s not something I’d like happening again). However, you know what they say about wishes and horses and beggars, don’t you? All this to tell you that I don’t blame my fate on destiny, or something foreordained, or even God – but I don’t want to say I’m entirely to blame for it. Okay, so I might have poked the wrong nest at the wrong time and thus, got stung, but, hey, it’s not that I knew that the world’s biggest and meanest wasp would come out pissed off beyond belief because it had a bad day at the wasp office and its wasp boss had angered him in front of all his wasp buddies, and then came home to find his wasp wife in bed with a bumblebee—I really have to have a word with Jens. His metaphors are contagious, it seems.
Trust me on this – I might have a certain knack to find trouble, if there is any to be had, but I do not deliberately seek it. And so, what happened to me was certainly not warranted and absolutely unexpected. No matter how much my Pater tries to convince you otherwise, I certainly did not have it coming to me. And I didn’t enjoy it as much as he tries to claim I did.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves. As the Walrus would have said, the time has come to talk of other things.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Goth. God help me, if I ever accepted any labels, but if I had to choose one, I’d go for “Eclectic With Soft Spot For Punk”. The main reasons why, then, I found myself at the Midnight Lounge that night (and the reason I went there in any other night) was, first, that my mother would be DJing – you have to give props to an old bird, who, even thought in her 50s can make a roomful with mostly mopey nihilistics in training and Vampirella wannabes stand up and dance. My mother had been a firm believer in letting me make as many mistakes as I could growing up, instead of trying to tell me what to do; she also taught me to try anything twice, on the off chance I screwed up the first time – that has served me remarkably well with Jazz, 80% cacao chocolate and sex. So, showing up for her sets was the very least I could do; secondly, the bartender had magic hands for cocktails and a soft spot for me – which is to say, Happy Hour, every hour for me, when he was tending. I am not one to binge drink, but I will not say no to free booze.
To all purposes, I was more or less one of the regulars. I didn’t fit with them, but it was okay – I can pretty much do a party on my own, and enjoy the hell out of myself without external help. Give me good music, a fine cocktail and I’m roaring to go. With my mother becoming the Queen Mother of the Lounge, my notoriety grew as well, and after a while, I was in first name basis with some of the wildlife. I didn’t particularly enjoy their mindset or aesthetics, but most of them were just normal people, with a normal job, who, incidentally, liked to wear lots of black and look threatening when they weren’t pretending to be part of the “Real World”. I had never held people’s tastes against them before, and I wasn’t going to start now.
That night, the Lounge would be presenting some out of town talent, so everything had been brought up to the nines. There was going to be some sort of national meeting of Anonymous Vampire Lovers (I’m taking a wild and probably very wrong guess here), or something, and I obviously had to be there. Why? Well, if you asked me, I’d say it was because I had promised the Goths I’d be there with them, but my true motives were far less honourable: I wanted to be there because this was going to be a different opportunity with different people, and I couldn’t help just want to go and see what “different” looked like. Besides, my good buddy the bartender would be manning the bar.
So, I dressed up to the nines: tight shirt with ruffles on the front, open enough not to be making a goth-y statement; low riding white jeans, which, combined with the high shirt, let a strip of midriff and hints of my tattoos visible; and my only concession to gothhood, my father’s silver time piece on a long chain that went around my hips, and was tucked on my pocket. Now, this timepiece had a very special tale connected to it, and I never had seen it work since I was a child. It didn’t bother me too much, seeing that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I liked the elegant, sophisticated design of the cover and the trigger mechanism to open it. It was classy and it gave me something to do with my hands during dead times – how it came to my hand and how it came to be is a mighty fine story, but not one related to this one at hand. Now, it’s not hard to see how my clothes, while not wash-and-wear, were hardly the stuff of gothic legends, nor would they make people stop and stare at me.
Except I deliberately had wore white from head to toe – including the lenses of my shades, which, let me tell you, had been a bitch to find. I really had no reason to dress up like that other than “I could”. And to me, that was a mighty fine reason.
Yes, I know that that sort of reasoning kinda makes it seem as if I do deserve anything that might happen to me, but trust me, the events were set in motion that day – and that culminated with my death – weren’t really directly my fault.
It was my wardrobe’s.

Have you ever walked into a group who you don’t know at all, and you can just connect with them to a level you’d rather not, because you can tell who is the charmer, who is the player, who is the poor abused victim (and I’m not speaking just of bruises) and who is the guy who you just wouldn’t want to be alone in an alley with, because he’s either a paid assassin or a serial killer? If you haven’t, I recommend you start hanging out with groups of strangers, because, let me tell you, you are missing in on a lot of fun. Of course, my entrance didn’t help in being conspicuous, seeing that, in a wave of black, someone wearing full white will draw attention, especially if the freaking black light is on. I suspect that, to the group, I looked either like Gandalf the White’s secretary, or a particularly hip angelic apparition, with the white tinted with a bluish glow. Big Bertha (who’s a tiny black woman) motioned me enthusiastically to approach – I like Bertha and her deep singer voice, and her white smile, so I joined them gladly.
After the first impression, the group returned to itself, leaving me in peace to observe them. They were a mix of locals and outsiders, and I dedicated myself to study them, while I enjoyed the cocktail masterpiece I had been served. At the center of the group, and drawing the attention of all the Baby Witches, was a particularly handsome man, with long red hair caught in a ponytail, and a simple suit, the kind that screams ‘I’m so filthy rich I can waste money making my clothes look understated’. He had model good-looks, a quick, charming smile, and teeth carefully filed to points – actually, if not for the garish dental work, you’d see him go by in the street and think ‘My, but that is a rather stylish and handsome young man who probably leads a very interesting life’ (and then, probably add bitterly (if you’re a woman) or gleefully (if you’re a man) ‘I bet he’s gay’). Unlike all of people hanging around him couldn’t be inconspicuous anywhere BUT in a club like the Midnight Lounge, he just looked exotic, but pleasant. Safe.
Not to me, rather, seeing that I have this thing for beautiful people. And the thing is “Don’t trust them as far as you can throw them”. I have yet to meet a beautiful person who’s not cruel, one way or other; and this guy, clearly so comfortable in the center stage of what I thought were strangers to him, an outsider, made me even more wary. My sister, Chastity, (yes, my mother had a thing for strange names) always told me that ‘something that LOOKS too good to be true, it probably is’, and that particular statement had always rung true. There was something that made me instantly suspicious of how he was smooth, charming, and modest – I caught that his name was Lucious. French? He didn’t sound French, but I wasn’t too interested in addressing the man to find out more. For all that I knew, it could be an alias, a fake name. He was giving a rather textbook, boring speech about how people were prisoners of their own desires and were loathed to admit them, and the Baby Witches were hanging out of his every word; since I pretty much acted on what I wanted and felt like, I couldn’t say I felt particularly oppressed or repressed – I kept my moral compass in the straight and narrow by reminding myself of my personal motto, which goes something like “Don’t be a jerk”, and it had worked quite well for me until now – with a firebombing of my living room or two. So, his roused and passionate speech seemed rather studied for effect, instead of just being meaningful. I was so engrossed in hearing the guy speak that I missed the large tall blonde Swede that had approached me so softly that I hadn’t hear him walk. Not a too difficult chore in that populated club, even if the DJs were taking a break and the music was dim environment one. I didn’t notice him until a waitress came to take our orders, and, when everyone else asked for red wine (they do not drink… beer), I asked, with all the nerve in the world, for white wine.
“I would think you were going to drink the …crimson wine like your friends.” A voice said behind me, making me jump in my seat. It took me a moment to gather my bearings and I gave him my flashiest smile, as if I actually took seriously his attempt and picking me up.
“See,” I told him in a conspiratory tone “unlike my friends here, I prefer albino blood.”
I finally could take a good look at the tall man, broad shouldered, a soft face which seemed kind and made him look younger, and baby blue eyes, his gold hair trimmed short, almost a buzz cut. He wore full black, but with the same naturality as he’d wear some other type of clothes – they were black, but they could have been grey, or green, or purple for that matter. The only unusual detail in his garment was his trench coat, which seemed to belong more in a movie set than in real life.

My answer made him laugh, and he did look interesting when he laughed – you know how good someone who seldom laughs looks when they let out a big, proper, honest-to-god belly laugh? Very good, and he looked awesome. I noticed he made dimples – but I also noticed, he quickly corrected himself as if he wasn’t expecting to be made to laugh. Apparently, his beautiful companion wasn’t expecting it, either, and he was ogling us both – and me, in particular, as if he had just notice I was female. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to look at a hot guy as much as the next girl, but I am extremely suspicious when guys who look like models start to look at me as if I was lunch. I know I’m not at all bad to look at, with the dark (and unmanageable) brown hair I got from my father, and my mother’s very light green eyes. I couldn’t pass for a model, but I have got a few drinks bought to me by strangers; however, when he had an armload of pretty witches all but hanging by each and every of his words, it immediately made me exceedingly suspicious that he’d give me attention. Besides, if he was hanging out in here, dressed like if he was Lestat’s pimp brother, he wasn’t searching for depth or intelligence. He was dressed to kill, and my self-esteem wasn’t that low that I needed to put up with pretentious gits, no matter how handsome they might be. So, I looked away from him, and focused on drinking my white wine—pardon me, my albino blood, and tried to listen to the conversation, which was more or less interesting, having steered off obscure occult terms into comments about how the liberal use of drugs and booze seemed to be a vital instrument in the creation of memorable artists.
I should have known that he wasn’t going to give up from what seemed a rebuke. Beautiful people have amazingly frail egos. “So, what’s your name?” The fall in the conversation and the long silence that followed indicated he was talking to me. I paused for a moment before I realized what was happening, and I swear to god, I wanted to roll my eyes. Yes, ironical, isn’t it, how many girls get to be utterly annoyed at having an Adonis giving me attention. But my mom, bless her liberal little heart, had not raised a fool.
“Jezebel.” I answered, truthfully.
That made him crack a smile “Oh, cute. Is it a stage name?” He was trying to demean me, have no doubt, and make me insecure.
“She’s Jessie.” One of the baby witches offered, eagerly. I knew her, good kid, pretty as a picture, veterinary for a day job – should be smart enough to know better to cater to this kind of guys. He was really a vampire – he dazzled his victims with fantasies and dreams, and sucked them dry: their hopes, their dreams, their love and often their wallet. I was probably being too judgmental, I’ll give you that, but he was damn fine, and I needed my wits about me – usually, that’s when I turn the “anger” on because I had turned being pissed off into an art, and nothing like a good shot of righteous indignation to make my head clear. Thinking him to be a monster would help me not to just fall for his charm – now, the hard part would be not coming across as bitchy. For all that I knew, he was a stand up guy, helped old ladies and volunteered at the dog shelter, and he just had a thing for being loved and admired by a bunch of pretty girls, and well, enjoyed sex a lot. I couldn’t fault him for that, and I would not like to come across and preachy to someone I hardly knew.
“Jessie.” He said, musing as if he was tasting some wine and unsure if he liked the taste of it “it’s an interesting name.”
No, it’s not. Heracles is an interesting name. Cassiopeia, Myrddwyn, Mefistofeles are interesting names. Hell, Jezebel is an interesting name. Jessie is not an interesting name. But I said nothing. I’d be coming across as bitchy, and I didn’t want to ruin the moment that was so much fun for the rest of the guys and gals there – after all, how often did they get to rub elbows with handsome vampire wannabes from out of town? Instead I gave him a polite ‘thanks’ and a quick smile that could be a rictus, too.
A pause, he was expectant. I could guess he was surprised I didn’t use the faded compliment to force conversation. This, obviously, put me in a tight spot: I could give in to what he wanted and continue to talk (even thought I totally didn’t want that) and be polite, or I could ignore him and send an even more obvious message – seeing that all eyes were on me, there was no escaping this one unscathed. I looked at the guy, and gave him a polite smile. “So, first time in the Lounge?” I glanced at everyone, to drive the message I was asking THEM not HIM. Hopefully that would get me off the hook. That seemed to break some magical barrier and people started to chat again, addressing him and each other. I listened to the conversations half distractedly, nodding. It took him about ten minutes for him to return to hassle me. Apparently, I had become the itch that he couldn’t scratch. “So, Jessie. Interesting outfit for a goth club.” He rewarded me with a dazzling smile, and boy, he had the cute little vulnerable boy rule down to a peg.
“This is a goth club?” I feigned surprise, and I admit it did come out a little bitchier than I intended. “Damn it, I should have asked in advance.”

He laughed, not sure if out of any humor, or just to show I hadn’t affected him and that he was “superior” to it all.

I was starting to discreetly look for a way to just escape his attention – it seemed he was the kind of guy that just can’t take a “no” for an answer, and when he does, he would take that as a challenge. I mean, I can’t really fault him on that; it ends up being a matter of pride – or insecurity, or both. I was not going to play any of his games, and seriously, I had better things to do that to be a bitch. As tempting as might be to just throw any attempt of flirtation back to his face, I really liked the people there, and I didn’t want to just make things uncomfortable for them. So, I forced myself to give him a bright smile – no hard feelings here, Officer! – and I turned to face the first person in reach to, hopefully make him realize that the conversation was over and, while I wasn’t going to be rude to him, I wasn’t going to just go to my hands and knees, and proclaim him that he was the best thing after sliced bread. Fortunately for me, the large blonde man was there, right close to me and I all but metaphorically grabbed him by the ear and dragged him to me.

“I didn’t get your name.” The opening line seemed lame, but I wasn’t trying to pick him up, just not be under the attentions of Captain Can’t Deal With Rejection.

“You didn’t get it, because I didn’t give it”.

“So you didn’t. Personal choice?”

“Close. Paranoia.”

I nodded approvingly. Paranoia was a healthy trait, in well measured doses. I still couldn’t resist piping out again: “You know what they say about paranoia being an STD, don’t you?”

That made him raise an eyebrow. “Oh?”

I nodded coolly, even if I had a sudden urge to laugh. But first, I took a long drink from my albino blood and watched him with my most uppity and sophisticated expression. “Yes. You get it from screwing other people.”

He laughed again, and seemed to be quite taken aback by that, as if laughing was something he didn’t do often, and surely not in the company of others. He covered his hand with his mouth, visibly surprised that I, the mouthy and over opinionated girl in white managed to break his icy demeanor. Okay, so I wasn’t sure if he was even that surprised or even thought I was over opinionated( (or even if he thought he had an icy demeanor), but I have this thing for trying to guess people’s thoughts, and putting them by words just from looking at their expressions. An amusing think to go, if you’re feeling slightly rambunctious (or just outright off kilter), and start imagining things you should not. It did earn me a few strange looks from people every now and again when I couldn’t bear to keep a straight face at my own thoughts. My mom always said that it’s a healthy sign when your own mind can surprise you so much that what your right side of the brain is thinking makes the right send laughter commands; I adore my mom, so even when I was old enough to realize it, I didn’t have the courage to correct her unfortunately very anatomically incorrect imagery. Instead, I just filed it under the “Mom’s wisdom” section of my thoughts, and decided that what the hell do scientists know anyway, and “there’s more between heaven and earth, Horatio” and all that; maybe my mom’s brain really woks that way. It wasn’t as if it really mattered, was it?

“You have a very thoughtful expression.” The blonde man said.

“Ah, you see,” I said, even without stopping to consider my answer – speaking from the hip, that’s me! “that was because I was thinking.” My cheekiness didn’t seem to impress him, and I saw a flash of annoyance in his eyes. His lips were set for a moment, and he looked away. Well, I must say, someone is not used to getting my brand of expert wiseassness. I had once a psychiatrist, who told me that my tendency to make inappropriate jokes was my reaction to tension, and how I dealt with matters I didn’t know how to handle; a cop-out escape mechanism, he said. I don’t know, really; I like my jokes, they’re warm and comfortable and so very like me. I mean, geez, I don’t have to have a reason to make humor, do I? Besides, he wound up recommending me to another specialist, telling me he couldn’t help me anymore. I had never been married, so I really am not an expert in the topic of relationships and the breaking of said relationships, but it did hurt my pride to know that my own psychiatrist divorced me. It did make a mean ice-breaking opening line, however. It’s like I always say, you have to take your victories where you can.
I suspect I had a rather vague and distant expression in my face, because the big blonde man was watching me with distinctive (and mildly worried) attention as if he feared I was going to suddenly keel over, start spasming, and then speak in tongues. I decided there wasn’t much to add, and that he might actually be right in his concern. So, I polished off my white wine, and got up: “I’m just going to say ‘hi’ to a friend. Be right back”. I was given a few polite ‘see you in a bit’ and ‘alright’, and I headed off towards the bar and my not at all secret admirer.

Truth be told, I wasn’t that eager to come back soon – the conversation had somewhat died out after my stellar cold shoulder to the Artist Henceforth Known As Lucious. And I had managed, as I tend to do so often, to possibly put off me the only truly interesting person in the group (read, the only one not totally hanging out of each and every of Lucious’s words) with my usual epic wiseassness (yes, I am quite aware that wiseassness does not exist as a word, in any form or shape, but I will just point out that if an imaginary talking egg could get away with it in Alice Through the Looking Glass, so can I, alright? Being real should give me bonus points in getting away with things).

Glowing in the dark every now and then (whenever someone turned on the black light), I headed to the bar to watch Shawn work. He was a large, beefy man, with big hands and glasses, which made him an interesting character. He also looked very normal (for a bouncer), the reason why he stood out while standing behind bar of the very goth-chic club. His T-shirt was black (of course) and his hair long, honey coloured; since it was wavy, it also made him look somewhat like a poet – at least like I imagined romantic poets of yore. His barrel chest and broad shoulders only made the contrast sharper and somewhat more puzzling. I just thought it made him interesting, because he was totally unlike the majority of the willowy and droopy patrons of the club.

“Back so soon?” He said, adding a swirl of strawberry syrup to the flat surface of the dark-brown coloured concoction he was preparing on a painfully delicate glass, with a long stemmed foot. Watching him work was always fascinating on itself, because you couldn’t believe someone with the looks of a big, affable bull, with hands that could grab your head, had this much precision and delicacy. He added a single mint leaf to complete his masterpiece, and slid it to the girl waiting patiently, and watching him and his hands with the same kind of wide eyed awe that children watch a magician pull rabbits out of several clothing items.

“Yes, but I’m not doing more drinking just yet. Would you get me something special for my mom?” I slid him my tab card. Oh, I knew he’d treat me the drinks, free of charge, but this wasn’t for my personal consumption and I’d feel somewhat of a rogue if I went taking advantage of him; okay, so this wasn’t his bar and the drinks he’d be tapping would be his boss’s, but, well, I told you about me and my moral compass, right? I could afford buying my old mum a drink or two. He acknowledged that with a nod, and set off to prepare a Deadpan’s Float, her favourite – glass of Ballantine’s with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream: sweet, strong and oh so very bad for you. Just like my mom. Her tastes ran that way, but that had been something I had not inherited from her – instead, I think I got my father’s taste for the undrinkable, strong, and possibly lethal beverages, like old school vodka – just what few relationships I got into, I like those that got slammed back hard, went down fast, and came back up even faster to kick you between the eyes – and left you missing half your clothes when you came back to your senses. While I’m aware that my comparisons (and not only my metaphors) need some work, but I do believe that sums it up very neatly, and, hey, not all of us can have epic literary devices for a life.

I grabbed the drink, allowed Shawn to kiss me on the cheek (he smelled of cinnamon, I have no idea why), and headed off towards the DJ lounge. The pompously called “DJ lounge” was just a tiny storage room that connected the backstage and the DJ booth. Originally, it had been built to keep amplifiers and kilometers of cable for the rare live presentations; but a few of the guys had protested it was a wasted space and it only made transporting the materials up and down the rickety steps and through the narrow access out of the booth. So, those items started to be stored under the small stage, and someone had brought a set of old couches, a stained coffee table and a few vintage posters – I had been eyeing with unbridled lust the one for Christopher Lee’s first Dracula movie for months now, working up the nerve to beg the manager to let me take it home. Vampires are not my thing, but Christopher Lee absolutely is, even if he is old enough to be my grandfather – and, presto, the DJ lounge had been born. Usually, it was a mess of discarded clothes, empty CD boxes, bags of makeup and assorted cables, and today was not at all different. My mother, fresh out of her set, was now sitting happily on one of the couches, her stocking-ed feet propped on the coffee table, a cigarette between her fingers. The spike-heeled boots she had been wearing were resting on her lap, and so gorgeous I felt a pang of jealousy – I wish I had a line of work that let me get away with wearing those feet-torturing and absolutely lovely wonders of footwear. Funnily, she only wore them during her set, and then immediately had to remove them. Nobody could see her feet, I once had told her; Well, darling, she had answered, I can. And with that, she had absolutely and utterly silenced me, continued to wear her amazing footwear that I so greedily coveted.
The moment she saw me, she guiltily tried to hide her cigarette, although I could easily see the smoke trailing upwards from the other side of her thighs. That, coupled to the fact that she was the worst liar in the recorded history of the world, made it pretty pointless to try to hide it. Some people wear their hearts in their sleeves; my mother wore her mind on her face. She was guileless, absolutely sincere and straightforward to a fault; some would call her tactless, but I knew she simply just didn’t know how to (or want to) lie. That was why I learned about the harsh reality of death when I was 6, and didn’t get to have a canary that just “flew away”, when my cat ate it. That was also how I learned exactly what those people were doing, when I was 11 and accidentally tuned into a pornographic movie – it was also the reason why I was unable to get a crush on any boy until I was into my very late teens: I didn’t want people to see me do that sort of things on TV – plus boys were really gross naked. Fortunately, had always taken Santa for totally granted my entire life, and never so much as considered asking my mother if he did exist indeed.
She noticed, no doubt, that I had seen her cigarette, and hastily moved to crush it on a discarded, garish orange ashtray – she hated smoking next to me, as if she was trying to set a good example. Aw, even though I’m well past my mid-twenties, no longer living under her roof, and she still tried to play mom. Like most people who are a byproduct of an irresponsible education, and grew up free, wild and relatively untamed, she took her children’s education very seriously, because she had no idea how to be a mother; when my older sisters were born, she spent hours reading massively boring and complicated books about how to “properly raise children”, which drilled into her the notion that the parents need to always set the example – something she took very seriously (when she remembered to) – which was why, even after all of her children were grown up and out of the house, she felt guilty about being seen smoking. I set the Deadpan’s Float on the table, next to the napkin, and she gave me one of those long, languorous smiles that made everyone, including much younger men, to just melt. I am of the firm belief that my mother could get, literally, away with murder if she wanted – all she had was to smile like that at the investigators and they would be unable to connect ideas; she’d kill any jury or judge that dared to stand in front of it. That was she got away with all sorts of unusual and absolutely worrisome behaviours – she would just turn those big doe eyes at you and you’d be smitten. She had missed more of my school plays than I care to remember, even two of my birthdays, but I never held it against her. She’d just smile at me, so contrite, so loving, so adorably mischievous that I would be unable to be angry or disappointed. That ability made her an utterly scary person at times; it left me wondering if she got deliberately into trouble, to see just how much she could get away with; or if she was just that unconscious that she wasn’t so much as toeing the line of absolutely unacceptable behavior, rather she was doing a naked polka on it, with extra gyration of the hips. “Oh, darling” she pulled me by the sleeve until my face was level with hers and she could put a kiss on my cheek “you are such a good daughter, bringing a drink to your poor, tired, old mother.”

I smiled at her theatrics and let myself drop on the couch next to her: “The set was nice, I quite liked it.” I said.

That made her laugh as she grabbed her drink greedily: “You don’t know a thing about music, and are just as tone deaf as your father, darling. And your taste for industrial music runs regretfully commercial, so I know you’re just saying that to make me feel happy. But thank you, darling. I means a lot to me you came over.”

I was mildly sure I had just been seriously insulted by my own mother, but, well, she did have a point about my ability to carry a tune (which was none); regarding my taste for music, then we would have just agree to disagree, because I do feel that there isn’t crappy music, just really bad artists. God bless the notion of band covers. I didn’t say a thing because my mother and I had already had that argument a thousand times, and, invariably, it went nowhere. Besides, I was pretty sure that just enjoyed the conflict; riling those she loved, and getting away with it; I was determined not to fall for that today, and so, I let it slip “Don’t mention it, I said. Do you need a ride home or is dad around?”

She shook her head, and wiggled her sore toes “Oh, I can drive home just fine, sweetie. Don’t worry, I haven’t had anything to drink yet except for what you brought me, and I will be going after I have a word with Gert.” I watched her, unsure of why today, of all days, she’d be going to bed early. I would have guessed she’d take the chance to stay up and party like it was 1969 (when she did quite a lot of partying).

“Starting to feel your age, old girl?”

“Why, the cheek!” she huffed “Is that any way to speak to your mother? I’m quite certain I raised you much better than that!”

I grinned “Sorry, mom. That was inexcusably rude of me, to forget that when you hit your 40s, you started to revert back in age.”

She waved a warning finger “Cheeky!”

“Sorry.”

“Help your mother put on her boots, give her a tight hug and she will forgive you.” I kneeled at her feet, and helped her squeeze her feet into the exquisite leather footwear, then pulled her to her feet. She grabbed her drink in passage, giving me a one-armed hug. “I’ll go find that sneaky man, or I’ll end up getting cobwebs. Will you show up for brunch on Sunday?” After I promised I would, I kissed her cheek, and she walked out wiggling her hips. I followed her out, glancing at the DJ now manning the console, but, since I didn’t know him, I only gave him a nod, which he returned, before focusing again on his art.

Feeling rather relaxed, now that I had spent some time with someone who wasn’t trying to fake who she was (as insane as she might be at times), I heard back to the table, set on telling my friends and the strangers goodbye. Much to my pity, my blonde stranger was gone – I wasn’t sure if I just liked the knowledge he didn’t expect me to make him smile, or if I really thought he was a very interesting man. Lucious was still there, however, his arm around the pretty veterinary, and he watched me from his place on the seat, and his eyes never drifted away from me. I wasn’t sure if I liked the way he looked at me – it was steady, calculating. Again, I got that bad vibe from him, that he was a predator. I made a mental note to have a word with Big Bertha, who was more or less the unofficial matron of the group; she had moved to the dance floor, so I was going to see if I could catch her alone when she headed to the little girls’ room – not to be a nosey meddler, but in my line of work, we learn that preventing problems is much more effective than just trying to solve them, or get compensation for damage later on; I might not be my brother’s keeper, but, again, my moral compass objected strongly to me ignoring someone who might need it just because she was nothing to me but a girl I knew.

So, I settled for waiting, giving the pair a friendly smile and resting back on my chair. The group was now more or less amorphous, a couple of them going to the dance floor, then returning, then a different pair going, and one of the two returning on its own. I didn’t know them all, so I settled to wait. Unfortunately, my peace of mind would not be long-lived, and I wound up completely forgetting the pretty veterinary girl, and my needed talk to Big Bertha.

“Jessie!” I heard someone call out over the throbbing bass of the music. I looked around to see Gert, the manager, waving at me, trying to get my attention. He looked worried, so I left my seat and rushed to him. “We called an ambulance for your mom.”

“Ambul—what? What happened?”

“I’m not sure, but I think she might have a broken leg.”

“What? How did she break it? She almost didn’t drin—”

“Did you see the shoes she was wearing?” Oh. So that was it. I let Gert guide me to my mother, who was sitting down on the floor by the manager’s office. Someone had somehow managed to pull off her boot, and her leg was propped on a few pillows someone had yanked from one of the club’s many black couches. A plastic bag filled with ice was judiciously applied over her ankle. I lifted one of the corners of it, taking a look at the swollen area underneath, already gaining that reddish tint that heralded internal bleeding, and would, in a few good hours, turn into the purple of bruises. I sighed and carefully set the bag down. My mother gave me an apologetic smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes, which basically told me just in how much pain she was – and how she was trying to hide it.

“ Oh, Jezz, sweetheart! I’m so sorry! That horrible man went and bother you, when I told him specifically not to interrupt your fun.” She pointed an accusing finger at the very impassible Gert, who didn’t seem to care one bit about her recrimination. I had to roll my eyes and sit at her side, putting an arm around her shoulders and kissing her forehead.

“Mom, shush. At least he had the sense to do what you should have asked him to do anyway.”

“But your friends! Your night! The handsome young men at your table!”

“My mom! Her broken leg! The boots I plan on swiping since she will surely be unable to wear after she gets her leg in cast!” That brought a laugh from her, followed by a wince and her going a little paler. I looked up at the manager, still standing close by, like some sort of massive guardian angel. “Gert? Will you be a dear and bring her a soda or something really sugary?”

Gert was an ex-cop who had, for a long time, moonlighted as head of security for the Midnight Lounge; one day, the local manager had died on a car crash and while the owner (who lived across the country) and everyone else was running around panicking, Gert began handling things, making sure the bills were paid, the orders placed on time, and the staff got their salaries. When the dust settled, nobody was surprised to see him raised to the position of manager, after dropping his underpaid and much more dangerous line of work. He was tall, with a slightly soft middle (which he jokingly said was his built-in flak jacket, meant to protect him from knife wounds), graying hair, and capable of breaking another man’s jaw with a single punch. He was, also, an absolute sucker for children and romantic old French movies. Oh, and he had been my direct superior during my rookie years. He nodded at my request, and returned soon after with a can of Red Bull and a glass. My mother continued to protest but wound up drinking the light red beverage without needing too much coaxing; she loathed all soda on principle, but Red Bull was her secret and very guilty pleasure, and Gert knew it.

I wound up riding in the ambulance with her all the way to the hospital. The endorphins stopped more or less around the time she got there, and she began clamouring for morphine; all she received was aspirin, and that made her grumpy; When they finally carted her away (she was asking the nurses if she could have a leg transplant), I took the time to call a taxi, return to the lounge to settle my tab, and retrieve my own car. I had to wait for a while before they brought her on a wheelchair – not sure if they got around to giving her the morphine she was asking for, but she seemed much more contented and quiet, so I suspect that either she got it, or something just as pleasingly strong. I got her into my car, and she made me promise that I’d be the first to sign her cast, and also that I’d bring her a can of black paint in the morning so she could gothify the big white paw she now had. My mother’s attempts at gothification were always amusing because she was closer to being a cross between a trophy wife and a hippy mother-earth than to an alluring child of the night. I chalked it to the pain meds, but I promised I would get the paint and some black lace, while I was it. She didn’t want me to call my father, nor didn’t she want me to stay and sleep over. The reason, she claimed, was that her two youthful lovers would be coming round soon, and have sex with her in strange positions, and she didn’t want me to be horrified at her wickedness. The truth, I believe, was closer to her, despite all her fluffiness and puppy-like charm, being prideful as all hell, and hating to feel weak and dependant on others. She was Italian, after all. They wrote the book on pride. I left, after leaving a note in her neighbor’s mailbox asking her to check out my mother after lunch. It was close to dawn when she finally settled to sleep, and the painkillers prescribed would make sure she would stay knocked out that late, if not longer.

When I finally arrived home and settled down to sleep, the sky was already lightning, with the first rays of sun; once again, I blessed the fact that tomorrow was Saturday and I was not on the clock. I took a quick shower, tossed my white clothes (now liberally splattered with smudges of several colours) and slumped down to sleep.

Of course, I am quite sure you know that charming line about the wicked having no rest; I wouldn’t say I was wicked, really; but it seemed that reality would beg to differ with that statement, because I was pretty sure I hadn’t gone to bed even two hours before when my cellphone began to ring. I can’t say I grumbled, or cursed, or hoped the caller would die – because I was so sleep addled that I couldn’t even so much as remember my own name, let alone form complex thoughts that would be more elaborate than “Sleep. More. Now.” I managed somehow to grab the annoying thing and blindly hit the right button (actually, the wrong button – because I had been trying to shut it off) and take the call.

“Mmmzzwhat?”

“Jessie! Sorry did I wake you?” It was Gert.

“No. ‘m still asleep.”

“Jessie, look, I’m sorry. Seems I’m the one always giving you the bad news. But I need you to come over right now, please.”

“Mmwhy?” I had been desperately trying to grab the last remnants of sleep, and the more time I spent with Gert’s voice on my ear, the fainter they became.

“I need you to check something for me.” There was a pause, as if he considered if he should talk to me or not. “Someone’s dead, Jessie. Carrie.”

If he hadn’t repeated my name two times now, I wouldn’t know it. So, it came to no surprise I couldn’t figure out just who Carrie was. But before I could ask him, I heard him talk to someone else, and then go back to talk to me, “I really have to go now. Can you come over?” I think I muttered a yes, and then forced myself out of bed. I wound up falling off it on my first attempt, and crawl on all fours to my bathroom. A hot shower helped me regain enough consciousness to put on my clothes without assistance, even if I had to put on my panties twice, because the first time, I put them on backwards. Miraculously, I found my keys, my wallet, and, more importantly, my car, and headed off towards the Midnight Lounge, wondering who Carrie was. For Gert to know her by name, she had to be one of the regulars; and by that, it meant to all likelihood I knew her, and very probably was fond of her – even if they had the horrible habit of giving themselves strange gothic-y names (Suspiria! Darklina! And Raven – god, I had lost count of how many Ravens I knew), they were nice people. I probably knew who Carrie was – I just knew her by her Gothic-y handle.

I had never been to the Lounge during full daytime, and it looked much less mysterious and much more desolate under the cruel and unforgiving glare of the morning light. I counted three police cars outside, and I parked next to them. One of the cops, fresh faced and young came to intercept me, when he recognized me, and paused, eyeing me, suspiciously.

“Jessie? What are you doing here?”

“Good morning, Marcus. Gert called me. Be a dear. Let me in. Walk with me?”

“Why are you talking on run on sentences?”

“Very sleepy.”

“You’re doing it again.”

“Sorry. My mom broke her leg last night. I had just gone to bed when Gert called me. It’s a miracle I have any pants on at all.” The notion of me pantless very clearly pleased him, because he had to take a moment and think on it a few more times. “You are disgusting, you know?”

“Hey, I’m the law; you can’t talk to me like that!”

“Wiseass.” That made him grin, and he motioned.

“Go right in. They won’t be happy to see you, though.”

Of course they wouldn’t be happy to see me. This was not my home turf – I wasn’t one of the boys or the girls in blue. I was an “independent investigator” which is a very nice way to say someone who will meddle in other people’s affairs for money. I shouldn’t be here, but when friends call, you come. Part of my “don’t be a jerk” moral code. The boys, who I had grown up with loved to see me when beer or cookouts at my place were involved: we had gone to school together, stole Mrs. Dreamer’s apples together, and also often got punished together. The thing was, when the job got involved, we often clashed, and I had to treat carefully not to ruffle any feathers – last time I didn’t, I had them angry at me for over a month, and I had to shell out for a massive barbecue to get them to talk to me again. My ‘Cruise In the Mediterranean” fund would not be happy at me if I went about stomping on their sensibilities.

Someone was dead. Fuck.

I cringed internally. My mother was, despite her strange and crazy ways, a lady, and her greatest quest had been managing to get me to stop cursing. Of her three daughters, I was the one who should have been born a boy, because I could curse like the best of them. I could also run up trees and fall off said trees and get permanent scars like the worst of them. I was the least feminine and I doubt my looks would ever land me a MAW job (model slash actress slash whatever). My mother never managed to break my cussing habit, but she had managed very well to make me feel guilty about it. So, I feel guilty all the time.

I was trying to stay detached, but I might know Carrie, whoever she might be. Even if I don’t get it as bad as the cops, this line of job still gets to you, eventually. You get exposed to humanity at its worst, the dark deeds and the dirty morals; you realize just how cheap life is for some people, and how easily discarded; and slowly, you lose hope in your fellow man. It comes a time when you either have to get out before you go insane, or you go sociopathic and start hating mankind as a whole, or you hang on as long as you can, while developing a series of coping mechanisms that will eventually make you unable to function in polite company. I was still on my early years, so I wasn’t yet kept in the closet during family functions, but my parents knew better than to get me in a room full of people while I was in a case – to this day, my mother hasn’t forgiven me for how I told this old couple a rather inadequate joke involving a faraway kingdom, a chastity belt and oral sex – while they were sitting at my table during the party for my nephew’s christening. To my defense, I found the joke to be quite hilarious; otherwise, I wouldn’t have told it.
I was torn between disgust and worry when I finally found Gert, looking as tired as I was. He was still on the clothes I had left him in, so he hadn’t gone to bed yet. Someone who had it worse than me, it seemed.

“Mornin’, guys.” I was glad to see some of my linguistic centers seemed to be waking up in my brain. Mathew glared at me, but his companion Europa, a pretty Greek girl, gave me a friendly nod. Fuck. Mental cringe again. Mathew was short, bulky and menacing, and I had to admit that if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was a serial killer. Menace exuded from him, in a way that I was pretty sure that’s why they had saddled him with Europa; people were too afraid of him to talk, so she usually handled heavy duty social interaction – unless you wanted to scare the hell out of someone, Mathew was not the indicated person to conduct an interrogation. Since he was a homicide detective, plains clothes only made him look like a gang member gone high in life, or a Mafiosi pit boss. He had gone to school with me (even if in a different class) and he never missed one of my cook-outs – the only female art I had managed to master was cooking, because dressing up, putting on makeup, cleaning or generally being adorable and drawing out male protective instincts were things I couldn’t do even if my life depended on it. However, I couldn’t say, for a moment, say that I knew or was intimate with Mathew; hell, I will have to admit I was as afraid of him as everyone else was. You’d be too if you had those tiny, baleful dark eyes staring accusingly at you; Matt’s approach to things is that everyone is guilty of something until proved otherwise, and he treats everyone based exactly on that assumption. I felt that made quite a lot of sense, and I guess that was why he showed up when I was cooking – that and because I did know how to cook. However, right now, he had his game face on, because I was treading on his territory, and Mathew was as territorial as they came. I had to force myself to approach them, and give them all a nod.

“What are you doing here?” He sounded like hell, and I now noticed the wrinkles in his shirt, his tousled hair, and Europa’s dark bags under her eyes – either they had been dragged out of bed, or they hadn’t even had a chance to get to it.

“Gert called me.” I don’t know why, but I sounded more apologetic and defensive.

Mathew turned his eyes to him, and I swear, a lesser man would have to take a step back under the strength of that glare: “Why is she in my crime scene, Gert?” His “she” sounded a lot like “bitch”, but maybe it was just me. Gert shrugged. I guess Mathew still resented Gert dropping the Force to be a nightclub manager.

“She spoke to Carrie before she died.” If Mathew was a pit-bull (and trust me, he wasn’t that far from being one) this was just like as if he had been tossed a big, juicy stake, and slowly, and very menacingly he turned to face me. It was my turn to glare at Gert: I knew for a fact that he did NOT call me to talk to the police, but he was just tossing me to the dogs to buy himself some respite.

“I don’t even know who Carrie is!” I protested. “I only know them by their stage names or fake names or handles or soul names or whatever they call them.” Too late, Mathew was on me already, and gleefully handed me a driver’s license, inside a zipped plastic bag – carefully watching each and every of my reactions. It was the pretty veterinary girl.

Fuck.

“Yeah,” I sighed, handing the plastic bag back. “I knew her. Well, so to speak. Nice, I never got her name, but I heard people calling her Carmelia. I didn’t think it was her real name, but I couldn’t just outright go and ask. I left her with this guy from out of town – young, hot, long red hair. Bit of an arse. I had to take my mom to the hospital, before you ask, she broke her leg here, in case you try to ask me for an alibi.”

It was like dowsing a fire with petrol; Mathew all but stalked me to get the plastic bag, invading my personal space more than I would like to care.

“Think you’d recognize this “young, hot” guy from out of town if you saw him again?”

“Yes, not many guys running around looking like him.”

Mathew gave an imperceptible nod to his companion, and, with a sigh, Europa handed me a card. “Don’t leave town, we might need you. Can you be more specific about this person?” I could, and I was. I was so much, in fact, that I spent the next hour or so telling them everything I could think of about the duo, especially the long-haired Captain Cannot Deal With Rejection. I wound up suggesting that they talked to the regulars, because they surely remembered the two – Big Bertha was the only one I could say I was truly well familiar with, so I recommended that they talked to her. They said they would, and finally went away, after I got glared at by Mathew some more as if he was trying to remind me not get up to trampling his nice, brand new crime scene. I looked at Gert, waiting for him to explain.

“They found her in the bathroom. Slit wrist, bled all over.” I fought not to have the image of that pretty young girl’s face trapped in a deathly pallor, eyes glazed, blood splattered around her. I tried, but I had seen that before, and it was regretfully easy for me to just imagine it. I shut my eyes hard, trying to drive that image away.

“Why did you call Homicide, then?”

“She was left-handed. And the wrist that she slit was exactly her left one; it wasn’t messy or anything, proper diagonal cut, catching as many blood vessels as possible.” Ah. Yeah, a cop, even if he was an ex-cop, did not let these things fly. I didn’t ask him how he knew, but, since she was a habitual, he probably knew her pretty well.

I had to force myself to remain collected, because I wanted to show emotion, and sorrow. But I needed to cut off my emotions, because I just knew he was going to get me involved me in this, and I would need my wits about me. “How long has Homicides been here?”

“I called you after calling them.”

“Then it… had to happen right after I left.”

He nodded, gravelly “Look, I know how the system works. They are overworked, understaffed, and worked to the bone. And we need a fresh perspective on things. You are the closest to a cop I can bring in.” If Mathew heard that, I’m sure he would have a conniption, and shoot us both, but I nodded. “Also, you remember the guy with her. Think it could have been him?” I hesitated. I hadn’t liked him, but he felt like a cling-on, the kind of guy that got a girl to support him, buy him stuff and give him a place to stay until he was bored, or she came to her senses and kicked him out. I didn’t get killer vibes, truth be told.

“I talked to the guy a bit. He seemed nice, but a player. Not a killer. This was a ballsy move – and in the ladies’ room. A guy going there and then coming out, could have been noticed; someone could have come inside while he was doing it – very risky. You should call Big Berta, she might know his name.”

Gert hesitated, and then glanced around. “I did. She was the one who found the body.” That made me frown “And she swore that all was normal, that everyone who was with them at the time were trusted friends or people they’d know for a long time.”

“What? But these guys were from out of town, I had never saw them around – neither did Bertha, I’m sure.”

“Guys?”

“Yeah, there was this big blonde guy other than the red haired one.”

“Bertha swears that it was all the normal people hanging around, and that Carrie was just sitting down on her own because she was tired.”

Okay, things were starting not to make any sense whatsoever. “There is something very wrong here. Really, really wrong. Either I’m going insane or Berta has been made to “not remember” these guys, which only makes them more suspicious.” I stopped to think for a moment. “The surveillance videos for that day! Have you given them to the cops?”

He nodded “First thing I did—” Damn it, there went our best, and possibly only clue “—after I made I copy for ourselves.”

“You’re awesome!”

“I know. Except this won’t help us much. None of the cameras catches the bathroom doors access. It’s not as if we can see who went inside—”

“I just want to see who came in that day. If we can get faces – photos—of those guys, it will be a great help for the cops, especially if they came from out of town.”

“Alright. I’ll set you up in my office so you can do your thing. I’ll pay you your usual fees – they haven’t changed, have they?” They had, slightly, but he was a friend, and I liked Carrie, so I told him no, they were the same. Investigative work is slow, and heavy, and often boring. It’s all about details, and minute irregularities. I stopped by the small kitchen to grab myself a mug of coffee – I am not a fan of coffee, but I needed to shake sleep off badly. After taking a long gulp, I spent the next few hours watching uncountable repetitions of the security camera recordings, searching for my mysterious men. In the end, I had more questions than when I started; I did have one certainty – neither of the two mysterious gentlemen showed up anywhere in camera. Their friends did, at times, and I mistook them for them once or twice – at least two of the guys dressed almost like the large blonde, and one could be Lucious’s ugly brother.

But it wasn’t them.

If I didn’t remember them so vividly, I would be convinced that they were the two. More so, in the places of the recording that they should show up, they didn’t. After three hours of reviewing the same ten minutes of footage, I was torn between three hypotheses: either I was going insane; or one of the out of city guys was; or that same guy was talking to someone who didn’t show on the camera.

My findings were not making any sense whatsoever, and if I presented them as they were, Mathew would probably lock me up, or accuse me of trying to obstruct justice, or something. Feeling a massive headache coming, I decided to do some old school investigating, and drop the movie for a while. I was going to have to find where they were staying. Putting on my game face, I headed to the nearest café, a perfect place to gather information if I ever saw one – cafes are like little Wall Streets of information: everyone was constantly bringing new, and taking a bit of the old news to spread. Okay, maybe a beehive was a more accurate comparison, but bear with me. I was sleepy, tired, and making comparisons was not something I managed to do well while awake, least of all while sleep-deprived. I asked for a tea, and proceeded to chat up the waitress, who gave me the address to close by motels and hotels – if you’re out of town and preparing for a damn big party, you want to stay as close as you can to the party site – especially if you’re a big group aiming to hit a popular nightclub. Walking for miles to reach your hotel after an entire night on your feet is a definitely unpleasant experience, especially if you’re sporting impossibly heeled shoes and a corset – and a large group with cars would have trouble finding a place to park – so my guess would be that they would be resting nearby. I called Information, and enriched my list with a few more names. I checked three of those immediately: a big group of people wearing gothic makeup and clothes drew attention, and my guess was that Lucious and his blonde companion were with them. It bore no results; but, as I had said previously, investigation is a slow, stubborn process. I stopped for a quick lunch, and during the afternoon, I checked half of my list – I had no proof that two would be even residing with the group, but, again, investigation is thoroughly following every lead, no matter how flimsy or faint the connection might be.

Midway my list, I saw my efforts rewarded. They were identified as being in the hotel – but for reasons of confidentiality, they wouldn’t give out the numbers of their rooms. It was okay, I wasn’t done yet – and if they had been partying hard, I might have a few more hours before they woke up. I checked the rest of the list – the group could be split into two, after all, if it was larger than I had realized. Nothing. I returned to the first hotel – good taste, discreet, possibly had seen better days – and I settled down to wait for any movement on the hotel’s lounge, which gave me an unimpeded view of the elevators and the entrance. Several hours later, and I had read all of the newspapers and magazines available. No sign of Goths. I was considering hopping to the hotel bar to grab something to eat, when the first clue came sauntering in: a couple stepped out of the elevator, him dressed in sober black jeans and T-shirt, but her dressed in a lovely little lacy dress that hadn’t been mainstream fashion for over a century; since she was not some old and crazy lady out of touch with reality, and was an young woman, I was pretty confident she was a goth, not someone with a terminal case of the crazies. They were alone, so it was probably they went for a walk and not “out” with the group. I waited for them to return, which they obligingly did, about an hour later. By then, I was ready to eat the couch’s pillows to calm my rumbling stomach – but my hunger was immediately forgotten and I moved without thinking. I hit the elevator before they did, and then, politely, waited for them to join me. “What floor?” I asked, nonchalantly.

“Sixth” the guy answered, and I set myself for the fifth, and then, I pressed their sixth. When I exited on the fifth, I immediately raced to the stairs, and climbed them at breakneck speed. I arrive on time to see them head to the northern area – fortunately, their room seemed to be close to the lifts, and I didn’t have to try to follow them while concealing my presence. Trust me, as someone who spends her life sneaking about to see what other people are doing, I know how hard is to follow someone inside a hotel floor. Fortunately, I managed to realize where they were with a quick peek.

Right, now I was sure about their floor. But I needed to find out their room. I went back to the reception area, and picked up the courtesy phone, and dialed the room where the girl was staying. It was a long shot, but I was willing to take any before I risked calling the police. I needed a concrete lead, proof that they were right here. It was the girl who answered.

“Yes?”

“Ma’am?” I tried my best, posh and polite tone “I am so sorry to disturb you, this is the reception.”

“Huh—something wrong?”

“Oh, not at all, ma’am. It’s—” I hesitated deliberately, as if I was a good girl torn between serving my costumers and doing something a law abiding citizen would do “—a gentleman who claims to be with the police has been asking question about your group, ma’am. They have been asking questions about a Mr. Lucious, but I told them I had no idea who it was—”

“I… yes, I think what’s that about. My purse was stolen yesterday—” I had to applaud her ability for improvisation, even if she wasn’t that good at lying. “I will… thank you for informing us. I don’t know who this Mr. Lucious is – they might have thought it was my boyfriend, huh, Luke.”

I decided to turn up the heat: “They said that they would return in a few hours, ma’am. Shall I send them up directly to your room when they arrive, or just call you to come see them?”

“I… I’ll come down… my boyfriend, he’s not feeling well – don’t want to disturb him—”

“Of course, Ma’am. I’ll warn you when they arrive – and about Mr. Lucious, shall I tell them it’s your boyfriend who’s ill?”

“No! I mean, yes.” A long pause “Just don’t tell them anything, I’ll talk to them myself.”

“Of course, Ma’am. Goodbye.” I didn’t wait for an answer from her. I was already trotting up the stairs, as fast as if all the demons in hell were right behind me.

I reached the sixth floor panting, and set down to wait. Had I arrived on time? Was I too late? The area was absolutely quiet, and I could hear nothing but the disgruntled beating of my heart. I stood there, in absolute stillness for painfully long minutes, until, finally, I heard a door unlocking. The girl came out and I retreated to the emergency stairs, when it seemed she was coming my way. I waited and then, I peeked, and she was knocking at a door. I held my breath, tensing completely, as, for the longest moment nothing seemed to happen. Maybe it was me, so hyped up on adrenalin that I registered the rest of the world as if moving very slowly. Maybe I was trapped in my own thoughts and considerations that I didn’t react fast enough – but the door opened, and someone came out to talk to the girl – and it was the nameless blonde man.

Who looked, surprised, straight at me.

I immediately jumped back, out of sight, and fished out my cellphone. Time to bring in the big guns, and hopefully, Matthew would listen to me and get someone here NOW. True, I had found them, but I had tipped my hand. I didn’t know if he had recognized me, but I couldn’t risk it. I dialed the number on Europa’s card, as I trotted down the stairs. “Please pickup, please pickup, please pickup.” I was spooked and I had no idea why; but I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted out of this. Maybe it was female instinct, or some long forgotten prey instinct, but I knew I had to get as much space as I possibly could between me and those two. I finally hit the ground floor, when I heard the detective’s voice on the other side of the line. I was about to push the door open, when my hand found someone instead of smooth, totally not person-shaped door. I froze exactly where I stood.

“Hello, Jessie.” I heard Lucious’s voice say, with his very distinctive British accent. “I thought I had smelt you earlier on.”

I looked up, only to see the handsome young man resting against the door, as relaxed as if we were in his room. And to a point, seeing he was bare-chested, and bare-footed, wearing only his black trousers, he was dressed that relaxed. For some reason, my heart skipped two beats, and I took a step backwards. How, for all that was holy, had he managed to slip me as I ran down the stairs. No what he could have caught the elevator – I hadn’t heard it, and I was pretty sure I had ran faster than it could, anyway.

“Hello?” Europa’s voice asked again by my ear. I decided to go for the broke. I didn’t know what he could do to me, but I had to pass on this information before I got silenced. I opened my mouth, but my cellphone had flown out of my hand and shattered against the wall. I was dumbstruck for a moment – I hadn’t moved! And Lucious hadn’t, either! How… could it be? What had just happened? And how had my cellphone been so easily shattered? I was used to dropping cellphones all over, so I made sure to buy mine extra sturdy. How… ?

Suddenly, he was very close to me, which was something to wonder about because he hadn’t moved, not that I could see, and his hand was on my throat. I wish I could say that I saw my life flash in front of me, and that I was rich and colorful and very interesting, with adequately steamy bits, but it wasn’t all that great (even if it did have a few awesome and quite steamy bits). I didn’t freeze; I didn’t flashback; I didn’t get to see even one little crummy old commercial rerun.

Fortunately, my survival instinct was apparently strong enough to make my body react even without me thinking. My hands clamped his wrist – which didn’t seem to affect or bother him that much. On hindsight, I think it might have been because he was a predator, and male, and I was female and soft – and he didn’t think for a moment I could have the best out of him. I learned this long ago, when I got into my first real fist fight against a man. When you fight back, you have an advantage (usually, unless they are really badass and used to fighting) which is being female and underestimated. That is your single and biggest advantage, against a larger, stronger, and more resilient enemy. However, you only get one shot at it, too; once you waste that single moment of advantage, and show him you’re not that helpless, your shot is gone, and he will come at you full force. You have a single shot, so you have to take it and make it count, or you’ll just piss him off. Fighting is always an option, but should always be the last one, especially when you’re small and he’s big. If you are forced, like I was, to either fight or let something particularly unpleasant happen to you, then you have to use that one shot and use it as if you had no other. Fight to kill. Don’t hold back – imagine your life is always on the line, because, let’s be frank; if you’re taking on such overwhelming odds, you’d better be fighting for someone’s life. The hardest part in fighting is that people freeze and hesitate – most of us were programmed not to hurt, others, to live in harmony and peaceful community – you can’t, you really can’t hesitate. Go all out. Aim to kill the other party – you can’t know if they would hold back, so assume the worse. God willing he’ll survive; if he doesn’t, then, better him than you; and I’d rather find myself judged by twelve of my peers, than carried in a coffin by six of my friends. This is you shouldn’t resort to fighting unless you are ready to do something extremely unpleasant. Survival is a primary imperative; morals aren’t.
First strike I was going to do, I had the advantage of him thinking I was female and weak. I was, truthfully, but I was far from being helpless. My hands were closer to his face, now gripping his wrist. Without pause, I shoved my thumbs into his eyes, fighting the urge to pull back. I felt bile rising up, but I pushed deep into the soft tissue, trying not to think of the damage I was causing and the fact that if I pushed hard enough, I might end up finding his brain. Lucious howled, but I wasn’t done with him. For a moment, I had the advantage and I had to press it. I head butted him as hard as I could hitting him on the nose, using the grip I had on his skull thanks to my thumbs to position him just right. I felt cartilage giving in, crunching, and my stomach lurched. It was my turn to yell, to try and not giving in to revulsion, and I crouched, to try to break his hold on my throat; with my thumbs still buried viciously into his eyes, I could feel the blood and the soft matter around them and I was trying very hard not to think of it, or I would be unable to keep pressure up. Now came the changing position on the fight – before, I had been fighting for my life; now Lucious was fighting for his, and it was when he’d be at his most dangerous – never underestimate someone on the quest for survival. I had also spent my free strike – he knew now that I could be dangerous. We were entangled on each other, which meant I couldn’t finish the fight the way I wanted, by kicking him on the side of the kneecap, to hopefully break it, or at least dislodge it badly enough. Instead, I settled for trying to break free and making it for the stairwell – Lucious was still between me and the door and I would sure as hell not try to go through him. I managed to give to steps in the right direction, but an iron grip grabbed at the hem of my jacket. I screamed again, and shimmied out of it, stumbling on the first step. I had to grip the railing to avoid falling on my face, but the motion unbalanced me, and I landed hard on my right shoulder against the edge of one of the steps. Scrambling to my feet, I pushed myself up with the help of my free hand, and tried to make sense of my legs (that seemed much more than just the pair I had been born with) so I could actually begin running up the stairs. I took me two seconds and a false start before I managed to sort myself, but I achieved a really good explosive start, and I was up the first flight of stairs before I realized it. I slammed through the door that gave access to the room area – there had to be another stairwell somewhere, something I could use because I wouldn’t be going down those stairs again, and I didn’t want to risk waiting for the lift.
I hadn’t heard the door close, but I heard it open again, and I spun on my heels, terrified – how could Lucious have followed me so fast? How could he have moved after the damage I had caused him? – only to find myself face to face with the big blonde Swede, who was occupying a good chunk of the doorway.
I broke, under the stress and the nerves, and I flung myself at him, in a tackle that, I will admit, would have brought a normal man down, because I was all fury an adrenaline-fueled energy. But he had easily a foot and a half on me in height, and was easily twice my weight. He had been built to take impact – instead, he waited for the impact, grabbed me and lifted me; my feet dangled in the air as he took three quick steps and slammed me hard against the wall. The impact knocked all the air out of my lungs, and I felt a flash of hot pain as my arm scrapped against the stucco design of the wall; smooth warmth slid down to my fingers and I realized I was bleeding – except I was so high strung that I hadn’t even felt the skin break. Each desperate thump of my heart sent a shot of pain into my chest, and I could see darkness encroaching on the edge of my vision. The large man was so strong that my feet were still dangling in the air, and he was keeping my weight supported with only one arm. His eyes were impressively light in colour, grey or green, I wasn’t sure – I really was too dazed to actually try to figure it out, and it didn’t seem particularly important at the moment, seeing, as far as I could tell, he was about to maim me, or even kill me. Time dragged on, and I was pinned by those cold, merciless eyes. He leaned towards me, his head blocking the light, but his eyes gleamed – they had this eerie electric glow to them. I blinked, trying to stave off unconsciousness – I was clearly starting to see things. He shook me slightly, like a dog would its prey, as if he was trying to keep me focused.

And then, he kissed me, hard.

I could feel the taste of his lips, coppery and deep, and there was the scent of meat on his breath. His tongue slipped into my mouth, finding mine, and coaxing it into a long, toe-curling kiss. One would guess that the fact that the imminent possibility of death was an added bonus to the rush of unexpected desire. The last rational thought in my mind, before rationality abandoned it entirely, was that I was being kissed and killed by the same man, and I didn’t even knew his name.

“My name,” he broke the kiss, and purred in that slow, languorous voice of his “is Jens.”

Funny. I had never noticed he had a slightly lisp. He surely hadn’t seemed to have it when he had spoken before in the Lounge. My lips were still tingling for the intimate contact, and I could still taste him in my mouth, and maybe that thought was what instinctively made me look down to his mouth. He was smiling. He was going to kill me and he was smiling. He opened his mouth to whisper something, unfocused sounds, because my mind had frozen on the strangest of notions: he was lisping, because his canine teeth were not human teeth at all. They were long, visibly sharp, like a wolf’s.

Fangs.

I heard a growl, and I felt the pain on my throat, so blinding I felt tears coming to my eyes. My reactions were dulled, my entire body refused to obey, but I wanted to scream, because it hurt, all sharpness and jagged edges. I managed to let out a soft mewling sound, when my brain finally registered the pain. I tried to scream again, properly this time, so maybe someone came to help me. But my knees faltered, and I couldn’t scream anymore. And from somewhere deep in me, from the darkness of my soul, I felt the wave of pleasure rise. It was unlike anything I could describe by words – it was pleasure and pain; sorrow and desire, it was my first kiss under the rain, and the taste of that chocolate bar I had squeezed in my tiny 7-year-old hand when my mother had told me my grandmother had died and, when I ate it, it had almonds and my tears, and it was soft and warm and squishy; it was falling asleep on my mother’s lap while she ran her fingers through my hair; it was listening to the rain against the window, and the split second before a climax, unable of breathing, “la petit mort”, that moment where I’m about to blacken out, asphyxiating, but I know, know without a shadow of a doubt, that release isn’t even a split second away.

It was all that and even more.

My mind couldn’t just process it. Pain and pleasure. Pleasure and pain. I couldn’t even say where one begun and the other ended. My instinct told me that I should be feeling horrid agony, blinding pain. I was bleeding, and I felt the cold starting to rise up my legs, but all I felt was bliss, and I did not want it to end. My heart had fluttered like a mad bird inside my chest; now, it was going slower and slower, quiet, muted; each time it went silent, between beats, I could feel the cold rising up, crawling upwards at the fading rhythm of my heartbeat. I was feeling very tired, the previous euphoria now gone, leaving behind a good, sated feeling; tired of it all, I stood in that moment just before sleep, as the last conscious thought fades, and darkness covers the mind in warm blankets of forgetfulness. My entire body begged me to just surrender, to give in – that stirred me slightly, and I blinked one last time, trying to stay awake, to fight, determined to go out of this world the same way I had come in, kicking, fighting and screaming; but all the fight had been drained out of me, and even that last act of defiance was denied to me. I knew well enough what this meant, this last rest, a single moment before the dark.

I was dying.

I didn’t care, not any more.

And the darkness claimed me.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

croquete
Edição Limitada
Posts: 1038
Joined: 11 Feb 2009 16:29
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby croquete » 16 Mar 2011 20:08

:bow:
Parabéns, o texto tem mais de 15.000 palavras em inglês. O teu esforço é de referir.

Mas destas palavras:

150 são "me"
264 são "my"
646 são "I"

:blush:
Não sei se é da conjugação da letra em inglês com esta repetição da primeira pessoa do singular:
:lazy:
:blush:

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 16 Mar 2011 23:44

Isto é só a primeira parte. Tem mais 3 partes iguais.

O Livro Principal do Nanowrimo (quando escrevi este tb) tinha 96.000 palavras, por isso isto não é nada.

E o facto que I, my e me aparecem muito não é surpreendente -- simplesmente acontece porque os ingleses dificilmente podem omitir o sujeito (ao contrário de nós) e é uma história contada na primeira pessoa, logo é natural que apareçam muito.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 27 Mar 2011 03:53

Part 2 – Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light


I drifted in a sea of unconsciousness, no notion of time, of death or life. I was neither male or female, and good and evil did not exist. I was just was, bereft of mortal trappings. Death, it seemed, would be far more peaceful than my life. I remained there for an eternity of moments, and within each moment, all of the ages of men were contained.

I did not remember or care of what troubled me. It didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t matter anymore.

And then…

Liquid fire down my throat. Conscience, confusion, fear. I clung to that sleep of ages, only to find myself denied. The red hot blade of pain crossed all over me, starting at my mouth and sliding slowly down my throat, slashing me on the way down until it reached my stomach. It exploded in blinding agony, and then it began coursing through my veins, forcing me back to awareness, to the self. My spine arched, and I tried to scream, but I couldn’t, because my mouth was filled with liquid pain, and every time I screamed, more of it went down, cutting me mercilessly. Every fibre of my being burned in cold fire, and I could feel every of my cells screaming as they were brought back to life, ripped mercilessly from the warm womb of death, and dragged out into a second – and as traumatizing as the first – birth, and a new life that began with pain.

Pain!

Every fibre of my being lit up in unbearable pain, all at the same time, and I couldn’t breathe, suffocating in the taste of metal and flesh, the taste reminding me of a slaughterhouse hit by the sun at noon. I gagged, choked and wept, the taste of death still bitter in my mouth. I could deal with pain – I had been in pain before – but not like this. Not like this. I struggled, feebly, and more of the thick, syrupy death went down my throat. To my surprise, it did not worsen the pain, this time; there was an imperceptible pang of pain as I didn’t swallow for a moment, but it was faded, muted, a note of blooming red in a dark background. I felt my mouth filling up with something, a thick, syrupy liquid, and I had to swallow again; the pain subsided. It no longer hurt; it no longer burnt. Each mouthful was relief, like breathing after holding your breath for so long your lungs began to hurt. I swallowed, again, and again, and finally managed to breathe again. The pain was now a long, distant memory, and all that mattered were those tiny moments of bliss whenever I swallowed. I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t stop. I needed to swallow, because I was so very cold, and warmth was fleeting, only to be found when the mouthfuls went down. They broke the cold, and slowly made me warm again. I woke up again, and cast away the shackles of foolish dreams – I was awake, fully awake, and my senses cascaded. I tasted heaven between mouthfuls, the kiss of a lover, and the hug of a friend; before, as I died, I had tasted all the good things that life had held for me, but this?

This could not be compared. This was beyond earth and life; this was heaven, made poorer and not richer by words. It was as if one had lived forever blind, finally opened one’s eyes to take in all the glory of existence, colours of the entire spectrum, the stars and the sea, everything in a jumble of magnificence; It was love, rage, life. Each drink was like swallowing the sky hole, like loving all men made into one, like shedding one’s mortal coils, and becoming one with the universe. It felt so right that I could not conceive, not for one moment that it could stop. My heart would surely break, and so, I drunk greedily, as sound and smell and taste returned to me. Closed, my eyes could not see, because this was a moment of communion, as I became perfect, whole. Sight would surely ruin that moment, because this transcended me. Even if the taste itself made me giddy and weak at the knees, it was more than tasting good. Taste is about nourishment and survival. This was about becoming whole again, finding the missing part of divinity that I had denied and walked around without – this was about finding my divinity. It tasted of my lover’s mouth, and my beloved’s skin; it tasted of childhood memories, and phantom birthday cakes; it tasted of meadows after spring rain, and the crackling of flames.

This was the taste of perfection, the flavour of eternity.

I heard words, but I didn’t understand them, nor did I care, because there was no other reality than drinking. They became louder, and I ignored them – and suddenly, it was gone. I swallowed, and nothing came, just air. I could still taste traces of it in the wind, and I lunged towards it, trying to recover which I had lost. I had to open my eyes to see, and the light was a sharp knife. I saw that I was holding an arm, but that notion meant nothing to me because the scent of divinity reached my nostrils, and its precious crimson colour called me again. I dove over it, and managed to taste a few drops, before something hard slammed against the side of my head. My vision went dark for a moment, and I staggered, trying to find where the liquid pleasure had gone first, and my balance second. The world was a confusing place to my eyes, and I watched it as a newborn would, all confusing shapes and strange colours. I heard a whimpering sound, high pitched and annoying, like an hours-old kitten mewling for its mother, too weak to stand and seek her. It sounded again, and, to my surprise, I realized I was doing it. My body seemed unable to react to my orders; it felt awkward and rubbery, and as I became self-aware once more, I realized that I was now far – so very far of that which I wanted, that which I needed. I tried to stand up; my legs folded under my weight. So, I crawled, dragging my useless legs behind me. At each step, the world became sharper, more focused. And still I crawled. I could taste it from the distance, I could feel it, taste it, hear it across the room. The world was a confusing place, and I craved for the divine simplicity. Each moment away from it was pure agony, hell, pain beyond human comprehension. I would have curled up in a corner and begged for death to free me, but each moment away was more pain than I could bear, so I pushed myself forward. One step at a time, pulling my weight with my arms only. Each moment that went baby without it, I felt myself growing just a little bit colder, my soul becoming just a little bit more silent. I was almost there… almost. My fingers caught the rough cloth of a trouser’s leg. I could feel the pattern of the tissue, the exact shape and angle of how each strand crossed another, forming a whole. I could not see it, but my touch was sharp enough, precise enough to tell me how it went. I gasped, and tried to use have a handhold to grab and force myself upwards. I found cloth, more cloth, draped over someone, a mountain in the shape of a man, but I didn’t care. The tiny, meowling sound once more, as I needed to rest for a moment, my cheek pressing against rock-hard chest. I was starting to be tired, so very tired, but the notion of stopping was not one I could accept. A face peered down at me, electric blue eyes, surrounded by blonde lashes, so light they were almost invisible; I could see the hair matching them, like a crown of gold, framing the soft, youthful face of Jens, who watched me with a kind of imposing, noble attentiveness.

“Enough.” He was saying, but those were words, meaningless to me, just sounds stringed tougher without rhyme or reason. The world focused just a little more when his free arm surrounded me, and held me in a rib crushing hug against his chest. My cheek was pressed against his shirt, and I could sense each and every fibre that made it, crisscrossing in perfectly parallel and perpendicular lines, that became bent and wavy as they followed and moulded to the muscles underneath. I could feel tiny bumps under the shirt, the markings of old scar tissue. I could hear the sound of air whistling in his lungs as he sighed, and that same air going upwards, and finally to spread out of his nose and mouth. I could hear the soft grind of cartilage on cartilage, when he shifted, and his shoulders moved ever so slightly. I closed my eyes, and the sounds became clearer, more focused. I listened to the sounds of Jens’s body, the subtle creaking of his fingers as he moved them to grip my shoulder firmly, but almost tenderly. I could hear those sounds, all of them – and yet, I could not, much as I tried, hear the sound that was so absent that it was almost painful, almost absurd. I could not hear the sound of his heart.
That made me pull back for a moment, to look at him. He looked down at me, his pale hair slightly tousled, even if he had a close cut; his eyes were weary now, expectant, and no more alight with blue electric fire. I pressed my ear against his chest again, and closed my eyes, willing myself to focus, to hear the thundering of his heart that should – had to be there.

There was only the silence of the grave.

No pun intended.

I stayed like that for the longest time, not sure if I just needed to hug, and the reassurance I was not dead, or if I was completely stunned and disbelieving that I could not hear a heart beating inside his chest. He was alive; he moved, thought, smiled. He had kissed me. Or had it been a dream? Was I maybe dying, and tuning to a strange channel in the television network that had been my life as I flashbacked? Every now and then, he let out a soft sigh, but outside those particular moments, I did not hear air get into his lungs. I did not feel his chest swollen as he inhaled. His lungs were as still as his heart.

If his arm was not around my shoulders, holding me tight, I would think him to be dead, or simply not exist. I could not explain this. It made no sense. Maybe I was just not listening right. I pressed my ear against his chest again, and closed my eyes, trying to close the sounds and any other distractions. He had to have a heartbeat. Everyone did. Again, I pressed my cheek against his chest. Again, I heard nothing but stillness.

Denial is not just a river, it seemed. It was my turn to sigh. There was only one explanation, one reason for this to be as it was, for the man holding me tight, the man who I knew had killed me, to have no heartbeat.

“I am dead, aren’t I?” My voice did not belong to me, but to someone else, for I did not recognize it, at first. It sounded exotic and foreign, with a hint of an Italian hard edge that I never noticed I had before. I could have sworn I hadn’t got my grandmother’s accent – my mother did not have it.

“Yes.” Jens answered after a long moment of silence, as if he sought a better way to deliver the news.

“You killed me.” I felt, suddenly very tired, and my death now seemed so unimportant, now that it was fait acompli.

“Yes.” He said again. He didn’t sound remorseful, but he squeezed me just a little more against him. Strangely, I found that comforting, even thought I should be beyond caring, with me being dead and all. I have to admit, really, I imagined death to be slightly different than this. I didn’t imagine Jens would be the face of the Grim Reaper I’d see, although it did make some sense, if he had indeed killed me.

“I don’t feel that different.” I felt as if my world had ended (it had, to a point), but I was expecting to feel slightly… more terminated.

“Different?”

“Yeah. I don’t really feel – dead.”

“That’s because,” he rose his other hand, the one not around me, and I noticed it was stained with dark and crimson, his black shirt sleeve rolled up to expose his forearm and wrist “you are not entirely dead.” And the moment I laid eyes on it, the most delicious, mouth-watering aroma hit me; suddenly, the world came into focus, and I felt a hunger like I had never felt before. His words, as strange and rather senseless as they were, were, suddenly, not at all important – because only one thing drew my immediate and complete attention: the gnawing, all-consuming hunger that made it hard for me to swallow or concentrate. I knew hunger, and I knew what it felt like to spend several days unable to stop to eat, when people’s lives were on the line and petty things as our own well being had to be set aside; my insides seemed to be attempting to devour themselves, and then started to go numb. But this was worse. This was a thousand times worse – this was actually painful, as if someone was driving a sharp blade slowly through my middle, twisting it just as slowly, before pushing it further inside. I couldn’t even breathe, as I realized just how hungry I was. Until now, I hadn’t been able to think of food – and, hell, on second though, I couldn’t think of it. It was not food I wanted, not food I craved. Not even my grandmother’s BlackForest Chocolate Cake could tempt me now, even if it was a decadent piece of absolute chocoholic heaven. I was hungry, but not for food.

I wanted to lick Jens’s arm.

That made absolutely no sense, and it was such an absurd notion that I had to take a moment to ponder exactly why I was torn between needing nourishment so desperately (I had eaten not many hours ago, I shouldn’t be starving now, as peckish as I might have been before this entire thing began), and wanting to so something so blatantly sexual as lick a grown man’s arm. True, he had kissed me, which means he wasn’t entirely opposed to my charms. Except he had killed me (his words) immediately afterwards, which might actually mean he wasn’t entirely into me. I felt a strange twinge in my pride, because I had myself in high regards concerning my kissing abilities.

“Has anyone told you,” the big blonde man said “that you think too much?”

His statement made me pause, and stare at him. He stared right back, with a face that was a mix of exasperation and ever so mildly amusement. I was taken aback for a moment, but I finally found my bearings and looked him in the eye and told him: “No, nobody has ever told me that. Why? Do I think too much?” And more importantly, how did he know? Was I thinking out loud?

“Yes, you do think too much. What you want – what you hunger for is… this.” At that moment, his free arm passed right under my nose, and I felt my mouth water again. I had to swallow hard to focus, to not just let myself slip into a waver of lust and wanton desire I could not comprehend. I wanted it badly, to lick his arm clean; the notion of it filled me with tingly feelings, just like when you’re realizing you will get to kiss the hottest guy in school. It made no sense, especially because how could his dirty and stained arm quench my hunger. But, more than that, I _needed_ to do it. Just thinking of not doing it let my heart tight, anxious, fearing. A promise of pain if I did not satisfy – it was more than a craving, it was a need. But what was it that I wanted? Why did I want to lick someone’s skin to comfort my aching stomach – no, not my stomach. It wasn’t my belly that craved for satisfaction. It was my entire being. Each and every of my fibres needed that; it was an imperative I could not deny.

I leaned forward, towards the tempting arm, and pressing my tongue against the dirt that marred the perfectly pale skin. Jens swallowed under his breath, and stifled a sharp intake of breath, almost a gasp. I let my tongue drift down, towards the crook of his arms.

And, my God, it tasted like heaven. I think I made a sound, a gurgling, happy sound, because this gave me true pleasure. A moan escaped my lips as I let my tongue trail up, moving towards the back of his arm, where there was still some smudges of paradise. When I was done cleaning it perfectly, I carefully held his arm in my hands, and turned it around, seeking for a spot or two I might have missed. I found some more on the other side of his forearm, and again I polished it with a quick tongue. Another examination of his skin told me I had indeed cleaned it up completely, and there was nothing more to find. I felt a pang of pain, of longing when I realized it; however, I could swear that there was more to be hand. The divine scent was just here, somewhere, closely. I inhaled deeply to try to locate the elusive scent. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint it, but, I realized that, when I ran my nose up and down the pale arm I was holding, I could feel that delicious aroma much more strongly. To make sure, I pressed my nose against his pale underarm, tracing its length with my nose. It smelled delicious – and I could scent it, hot and tempting, right underneath his skin.

Oh, bliss so close by, eluding me, tantalizing me. I had t get to it. I would do anything – anything – to reach it. All my previous logic, sense, the intellect I had slowly been recovering, enough to debate with him the matters of my lost life and other philosophical considerations, were now, suddenly gone. I just wanted to bite down on his arm, and make the nectar gush. I wanted, god help me, to bite down and have mouthfuls of delicious temptation, to help ease the pain, the gaping hole of hunger I felt inside my soul.

I paused, as I realized exactly what I was proposing to do, in order to get what I wanted – what I needed. I wanted to bite into Jens arm – and I wanted to drink it. I felt ill to my very core, as it became clear to me that what I wanted to do was use my teeth to cut into his flesh and drink his blood. I almost fell over myself in my haste to get away from him. He didn’t stop me, but the way I looked at me, I could tell he knew what I was thinking. He made no effort to come close to me, to pull me back to him. Me? I was too scared, too confused. What had happened to me? Was I dead? Was I alive?

“What…” the voice that would be mine, again felt foreign, almost alien. It didn’t sound like me. “… what happened to me?”

I noticed, for the first time that I was in a bedroom, a hotel bedroom, it seemed. It had a large, low bed, where Jens sat, and a built-in closet, against which my back was pressed. The spread on the bed matched the curtains, which had been pulled back – I could see the night sky outside, and hints of the city’s skyline. There was a long narrow desk where a TV set was placed, giving enough room for the rest to be used as a writing place. There were books set on the surface, and I could read the titles as easily as if I had them but an inch or two off my face – but they were in a language I could not comprehend. All of this was exceedingly confusing, and I was finding myself suppressing the will to start screaming; I bit down my lip hard, because I knew fully well what a panic attack meant, and, if I lost control of myself, this was going to be the mother of all panic attacks – I had the distinctive impression that if I started screaming, I would be quite unable of stopping. I wound up wrapping my arms around me, and put my head between my knees, as I had always been taught to do when I was starting to feel lightheaded. I wasn’t exactly feeling that, but I figured it could only help getting myself under control again. I wasn’t going to freak out and scream like a little frightened girl – even if I was feeling exactly like one. It took me a while to calm down enough to stave off the sudden need to scream to the top of my lungs and run all the way home screaming; however, I was also now beginning to realize how very cold I was and felt. I hadn’t noticed it before, but I guess that was because I had quite a lot of things in my mind. I was freezing, I noticed, as I pressed my hands to my neck and forehead; to my cheeks – and even lips. I was dead. I was really dead. And I was just as cold as the dead.

I pressed my hand against my chest, trying to feel my heart, trying to get something – anything – that would prove this was just a humorous and perfectly explainable situation; one that had nothing to do with the fact that I wanted to bite people and lick them; or the fact that I was several degrees beneath what a normal human being could have not to be pronounced clinically dead.

Or, worse, the fact that I had no heartbeat whatsoever.

“I am older than you can imagine, and I have sired at least a dozen of others like you.” Jens looked weary, as if this was some sort of chore he had to undergo. “They all go through the same stages -- denial, anger, grief, -- before they finally accept what I have to tell them and what I have to offer. I am growing tired of seeing it, and so, this time, I will try a new approach. Go home.”

I blinked “What?”

“Just go home. Think of what you want to do, see if you can fit to your present life, then return to tell me if you’re ready to accept of if you’re going to continue burying your head in sand and fight the change.”

“You’re just letting me go?”

“Yes. What I did to you – I had not exactly planned to do. Not—here. Not like this.”

I watched him, and part of me wanted to make him tell me exactly what he had done, what had happened to me. I wanted him to spell it out for me, to leave nothing out. I guess I was in the stage of denial, and I needed to be slapped with the truth on the face a few times to make sure I didn’t just pretend all was okay. “But… I… can’t!”

“Why?”

“I’m dead!”

“You’re moving and talking—quite a lot of talking, too. Are you sure you are dead?”

“You said I was—”

“Has it occurred to you that I might have not been entirely truthful?”

“I—What about Lucious?”

“What about him?”

“I – he attacked me. You attacked me!” I felt my anger starting to overcome my shock, which had always been a good way for me to focus over.

“Yes. He would have killed you for what you did to him.” A pause as he looked at me, making no motion to approach, treating me as if I was a skittish animal. “It was impressive.”

“I-what?!” A compliment about the fact that I had permanently blinded and possibly disfigured his friend was not what I would expect. Unless he really hated him “He’s going to need to go to the hospital—”

“He’s fine.”

“He’s NOT fine! I had by thumbs in his eye—”

My disagreement with him seemed to rather upset him because I saw something in Jens’s eyes for the first time since our paths had crossed. Anger? Frustration? The electric blue gleam returned if only for a moment. “Lucious. Get in here! The girl is worried – we can’t let her anguish about the fate of her would be murderer, now would we?” That had definitely a bad ring to it, and Jens was, I’m pretty sure, rather upset. He did disguise it well – impressive: it did seem I have a talent to get under people’s skins, even when I wasn’t actively trying. My ponderings were cut short, because in comes Lucious, and he looks right as rain: his hair is damp, and he seems straight out of the shower, and looking even more boyishly handsome than yesterday – earlier today, I hadn’t had the time or inclination to ponder on whether he looked attractive or not, because I had been quite sure he was intending to kill me. He didn’t seem to bring any marks from our little encounter: his nose was as straight and perfect as before, and his eyes were, I noticed, light green. No marks, no scars, no blood. It was as if nothing had ever happened. He was still barefoot, and he walked over, to sit on the bed right in front of me. I had to force myself not to cringe and scoot away. He was a predator; I knew now with a certainty what I had suspected before. If I showed fear or cowered, it would be an invitation for him to give chase. He seemed to sense my discomfort, and it very clearly pleased him. He watched me almost benevolently. “You left without warning last night.” He said, softly. “I looked all over for you – if only you hadn’t left…”

“Let her go away, Lucious.”

“I’m not stopping her.” Lucious countered, before giving me a wink. A wink, of all things. “But I do think she should stay here with us. She’ll have a lot to catch up – and you should train her well, old boy, because you know I will tell the Archon that you sired without asking the Old Man first. And you know how very picky he is about that sort of thing, especially when those who might be a danger to him are involved.”

“If that is a problem” I said, finally, starting to grow annoyed at Lucious smugness “then just don’t tell ‘the archon’” I made quotation marks with my fingers.

“Oh, you sweet girl – you think I’m going to get you in trouble voluntarily? No no no. That is not what I intend at all. I’m actually quite glad this turned out like this –” he sighed significantly “although I would have been happier if I had been the one laying a claim on you. Still.” He leaned towards me, and that motion, even if clearly not meant to be threatening, made me scoot back and press against the closet even more. “you can always pledge yourself to me and I promise, I will take care of you forever.” I didn’t even see him move; I blinked, and when I realized it, he was very close to me; his fingers caught a lock of my hair, almost dreamily.

And, suddenly, there was a blur, and Jens was standing up in Lucious’s place, and the latter was fallen on a heap of arms and legs and absolutely fabulous hair, next to a wall, all across the room. The little ember of emotion I had seen in Jens before was now a raging fire, and the electric blue flame had returned to his eyes: “She has a Maker and a Pater, and until she is recognized by your Lord and his advisors as worthy, she remains of my bloodline, and my possession. Remember that, Serpent – unless you would like to try to defy me.”

Normally, I would very strongly object, in a wide vocal range, to be addressed as someone’s property. However, looking at Jens, I decided that would be a terminally stupid thing to do; since I wasn’t yet sure whether I was alive or dead, I was determined not to risk it, lest it turned out to be the former rather than the latter. “I apologize, Elder” Lucious’ said, and there was something in his eyes too, something wild – dangerous, inhuman “I will, of course, refrain from challenging your will.”

“Then get the hell out. And remember that if you talk to her, I will know; and I will act upon it and very decisively.”

The other was already bringing himself to his feet, not even grimacing, although I was pretty sure that that sort of impact would have killed a lesser man. As I had mentioned before, I have exceedingly strong objections to being considered someone property, and Jens’ was coming across as all kinds of possessive, which was fine if we were dating, but, since we weren’t, just came across as rude. Lucious had bowed his head and gotten out, leaving me again alone with the blonde man.

++++

“Stay away from Lucious!” He advised me after a long moment.

“I was planning on. Especially after what I did to him.” There was a pause as I considered what I wanted to say; I settled for the truth. “You realize I am not your property, right?”

He watched me again with those weary eyes, as if he ha been through this conversation many times before. “Before you start that sassy and independent woman talk, know the kind of mess you’re into. You’re welcome to rescind my protection, but do you know what will happen? Are you willing to risk your life for your perceived freedom?”

“Yes.” I said stupidly. What can I say? I have a thing about possessive jerk boyfriends that just rubs me the wrong way, and this striked too close for comfort.

“Then, then door is over there, this will be the last time we will meet. Have a good life. Or death, as the case might be.”

“You can’t just… do whatever you did and then kick me out!”

“Oh, yes I can. Watch me.” He pointed to the door. “You want to be free because your stupid sensibilities are more important than your survival. Go right ahead. I am not going to beg and plead with you to stay.”

My pride wanted me to leave, to just stalk out, because he was starting to seriously annoy me. However, he did have a point. A very good point, and I wasn’t that sure if pride was worth my life. I mean, sure, I could be acting overly dramatic, but I was still dazed and unsure of what had happened to me. I am pretty sure I was also totally in denial (no heartbeat!) but that is how I always handled things – compartmentalization. I dealt with one problem at a time, and put the others on hold until I had figured it out. Otherwise, I would start screaming, and I wouldn’t stop for hours. “Tell me what you did to me.” I said, determined to find a reason to stay without compromising my pride.

“You accept my protection for a month, and I will tell you. Otherwise, you get the ‘saved you life’ answer and you get out of my room.”

I clenched my teeth, and, by god, I wanted to punch him in the face, hard. I’m pretty sure my rage was visible and quite noticeable; and, yet, he was smiling. Oh, the bastard! He knew he had me. “Does that protection have strings attached?”

“All you can think of.”

“Not interested.”

“Yes, I’m aware.” That little irritating smile was what made up my mind. I knew I would regret it eventually. I knew I would wish I had not been prideful and stupid. But I could not help myself.

I left, slamming the door behind me.

When I reached outside, I realized that the night had fallen long ago and I hadn’t checked on my mom. I went to my pocket and realized my cell phone had been destroyed. I cussed mentally, but got into my car. I was going to drive to her place, but the day had been strange, agonizing, and I wanted nothing more than to go home, have a long shower and convince myself all was fine. I drove without incidents, and arrived to my darkened apartment. It seemed similar, except… I had never noticed how my neighbours were noisy. I could hear their conversations, they arguments as if I was standing next to them. I rushed to the bathroom, only pausing to kick my stereo on, and start the first selection of Metal I could find, rising the volume into near-unbearable decibels, thankfully drowning the sound of the chattering. I bolted to the shower, and remained under the steady flow of water until it had long turned cold. I reluctantly got out of it when my phone began to ring.

“Hello?”

“Jess? Thank God, we’ve been trying to reach you for hours! Where have you been?” Gert.

“I’m sorry. Had a little incident with my cell phone, and just arrived home.”

“Did you find anything?”

I hesitated. I had found something. I had, but I didn’t know how to explain it. And frankly, I wanted Lucious behind bars. I didn’t trust him, and his weird change of heart in regards to me only worried me more. “Yes. They’re staying at the Geneva Hotel, downtown. 6th floor, not sure of the room, but 613 or something. Their goth groupies seem to act as their bodyguards or something, because they were watching out for them and covering up.”

“What does that mean?” I spent a few minutes explaining what had happened, plus the fact that Lucious had attacked me, but I left out Jens’s involvement. Gert whistled. “And you fought him off? He seems very guilty now.”

“I… don’t know if he did it, but yes, it seems like it. Just… warn the cops to be careful, okay? I didn’t harm him that much.” If I explained that he had apparently recovered from crippling injures to his eyes, I’m pretty sure they would think I was mad. Hell, even I couldn’t figure that one out yet.

“Why don’t you call Europa and Matt to tell them that?”

“Frankly? I had a really rough day. I just want to check on my mum, have a spot of dinner and then get between the sheets.”

“Your mom? She’s fine. I came over to bring her dinner, and she had a host of friends over. I wound up having to run away, because they were many and were armed with baked goods. I also think she might have been hitting hard on the painkillers, because she was remarkably happy. Moreso than normal. No you get some rest. I’ll take care of calling Matt.”

“You’re an angel.”

“Don’t mention it. You’re the one who went around risking her neck and doing all the hard work.”

“Kiss kiss. Still expecting to get paid.”

“You will, and get an extra something. Just take care.”

I hung up, and plodded to my kitchen. I wasn’t feeling like eating, but I decided I needed a good night’s rest and it wouldn’t do to wake up with a growling stomach in the middle of the night. I snatched some cold pizza from the fridge, and heated it, fixing a quick lettuce and strawberries salad while I waited. Normally, this was what I’d eat when I needed to and wasn’t hungry. But not even my favourite gourmet olive oil was opening my appetite. I brought the plate with me to the living room, but, I kid you not, I tried to have a bite, and it just tasted like—nothing. Ash. Sand. I really had no appetite and set the plate away. I decided I was just in shock, and needed a good rest. So much for that. I spent the night tossing and turning, stubbornly determined to get some sleep, even if it killed me. But the excitement was probably too much because I just couldn’t get too relax enough to fall asleep – the sun was rising when I finally managed to close my eyes and drift to dreamless sleep. My alarm was set for eight, so I wouldn’t get much sleep, but a couple hours were better than none.

I woke up to darkness. Blinking, I checked my nightstand and I realized that I hadn’t heard the alarm clock or the cell phone, beeping constantly with new and unread messages and indications of missed calls. I usually had a very light sleep, born out of a propensity for anxiety and being in a less than recommendable line of work. It’d been years since I slept like a log, but I guess the stress had finally gotten to me. I am usually a wiseass and refuse to take anything seriously or commit to avoid having exactly to deal with these things; I mean you don’t expect me to go around cracking jokes all the time because I like it, do you?

Glad to finally be feeling some hunger, I headed to the kitchen in my lovingly worn, thus incredibly soft and perfect to sleep tee and panties; while I considered if I would give the pizza a second chance or if I should instead go for a ham omelette, I was returning all the calls I had gotten, lest people think I was dead. My mother was very satisfied with her happy pills, and was telling me she should get her legs broken more often, because it allowed her to be snippy and bark orders and people would forgive her; Gert was telling me that they hadn’t caught anyone that matched the description of Lucious, and that there was going to be an eulogy for Carrie later today, and if I wanted to show up; Europa was telling me the same thing as Gert had, minus the eulogy part, and asked me to call her to schedule a day for me to drop by and leave a statement for the investigation. Other than that, it was just odd family members asking about my mom – I dispatched that as quickly as I could, and settled for my omelette, because I was starting to be rather hungry. I ate quickly, but it didn’t come across as what I wanted – I mean, it was wonderfully delicious, I had never been able to distinguish all the flavours, and how they combined perfectly before – but I polished it off and I still wanted to eat.

I spent the next two hours cooking everything I had available, trying complex dishes I reserved for parties – and I was still starving. Okay, my nerves were showing up in really strange ways – first, I didn’t want to eat; now I was starving and could get my fill. Eventually, I went out, deciding I had had enough to eat. I headed to my mom’s and wasn’t surprised to find her surrounded by her court of little goth girls and boys – my Nana was there too, her mother, and I’m almost certain she had called her “minions” (as she fondly called them) to shock and outrage Nana Cecilia. I think I would have followed her instinct (I do have this thing for shocking figures of authority) if my mother wasn’t who she was – and impossible to shock. I tried to be nice and funny, but I had to admit it was exceedingly hard for me, because I was so damn hungry. And there was that annoying thumping sound – their little shrill voices were absolutely irritating, as if I had never noticed how high pitched they were. Actually, I had, but they had never bothered me before. I could hear Nana’s asthmatic breathing, the whine on the end of her inhaling – except she was breathing very softy. I could heart her heartbeat, and the tiny arthritic dissonance in it; really, we had to take her to a specialist – a good strong blow in the right place could easily stop her heart.

Christ, what was happening to me!?

I wound up saying goodbye to everyone, and bolt out as fast as I could – I noticed my mother’s disapproving glare, but I couldn’t endure any more of it. I could hear the dozen thumpings, in different rhythms. I don’t know that was that sound, or why I was so sensitive, but it was starting to get me really annoyed, and, worst, hungry. I picked up a large pizza on the way home and tried to eat it. I scarfed it down, alright, but I was still hungry. I tried to pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to music – but all I could think of was how hungry I was. Half and hour and a comfort food raid to the local 7\11, and I was curling on my couch and eating all those things that were bad for me and made my trousers shrink and become tight around the waistline (it was ME getting fat, it was the trousers shrinking and increasing – well proved scientific fact).

I ate enough to need to do aerobics for three months to recover from the entire calorie intake – and I was still hungry. I decided I was going insane, probably some strange version of PTSD, and I determined that I’d go to bed, and if this didn’t stop, I’d call the doctor and get him to check my head. Again, as a result of my sleeping all day long, I wasn’t sleepy at all. I tossed and turned, only to manage to fall into a fitful sleep when the light of the new day was already visible behind the curtains.

Again, I woke up when it was fully night, seeing that I had stupidly forgotten to set my alarm clock. My boss, apparently having heard of my little incident hadn’t said anything when I missed work the previous day, but had left a message for me – with some wiseass remark about how I probably had some bust ribs and, just like our mother, too afraid to go to the hospital, and I should get to it now, because she needed me. She did have a point in regards to my distaste for hospitals (icky places of death), but I was feeling fine. Just really cranky, and really hungry. I tried to have some fruit – I heard somewhere that when you’re missing important nutrients, your body will notify your brain, and that adorable bit of grey mass will start going you strange cravings -- like fish’s eyes or ice cubes – for things that contained those same things that your body desperately needed. Okay, so maybe I was seriously deficient in vitamin A or C or Y, and I just wanted something to compensate for it. Except I didn’t know what – it wasn’t fruit, or any of the few and old things of “healthy food”. I frankly didn’t know what to do.

Going out was better than staying in the house moping, so I decided to take the chance and go outside – maybe going to see Matt and Europa, get my statement over with, and then head to the agency, see if I could get some work done, and not get fired. The Boss lady was also my sister Chastity, but I didn’t want special favours, so I’d have to pull my weight just as anyone else.

When I got to the police station, I had to walk past a barrage of greetings – I had gone to school with many of the cops, and with a few of them to police academy – before they got sworn in and I decided I’d rather be a PI. I guess word had spread fast about the ass-kicking I had delivered, and even though there was no proof, they’d take my word for it because I’m not the kind of girl to go around making stuff up. Oh, and I actually had fought a few of them; I am not a particularly competent fighter, nor do I have a physique that compensates for my lack of skill – but I fight dirty and as viciously as I can, so I guess it gives me a fake reputation of being far better than I really was. Still, like I mentioned before, I don’t get into fights unless I can avoid it. If I can’t, then I will commit to it. I did get a few weird looks too, but I didn’t know why until I found myself face to face with Matt, who had just gone on a coffee run, and was now sipping his oversized mug – which declared shamelessly “#1 Son” with several hearts printed in bright red – obviously, a gift from his mom; nobody dared teasing him over it, and not just because Matt had more issues than national geographic – his momma was an Amazon of a woman. She had raised a litter of hell-raising boys, on her own, and Matt was the smallest and tamest of the bunch – somehow, she had managed to raise them on the straight and narrow, and despite all of them being scary as all hell, they were reliable – especially if she was around. Nobody dared to diss Momma Jackson. She was an old school lady – and I couldn’t shake that feeling that she would be totally mean in a knife fight.

“You look like shit.” Mathew said. Ah, Matt, always with a way with words.

“I feel like it too. Been having a rough couple days.”

“We didn’t find your cellophane, but we found bits of it – embedded into the fucking wall. Someone cleaned the rest – some blood too.”

“Ah, glad to see I’m not entirely insane.”

“We couldn’t find the guy you mentioned, though, neither of them – nor the blonde or the red. Their “friends” swear they don’t know that person.”

“Bullshit.”

“Yeah.”

We both fell silent for a moment, not knowing what more to say. I don’t remember having traded this many words with Matthew like… in forever -- not counting the time he spent the longest time screaming abuse at me because of that stupid hedgehog incident. Don’t ask. It was an accident; even if Matt is still convinced I did it on purpose. I admit I had no idea what I looked like, because I hadn’t bothered looking myself in the mirror since this entire mess had begun, mostly because I knew I looked like crap – hell I felt like crap, and seeing just what a mess I was didn’t help me focus. So, yeah, been avoiding mirrors lately. I must have been looking pretty bad, because Mathew didn’t grill me for once, and instead just nodded me into his office “Let’s get this over with.”

I followed him, and about an hour later, I had everything read, and signed; again, I must really be looking like something the cat dragged in because he didn’t so much as give me more than his normal amount of snark; finally, I headed outside. I felt myself going to la-la-land on a speed boat: during the interrogation, I couldn’t stop staring in rapt fascination at Matt’s temple, and the little vein it was so very noticeably there; I could see it distinctively thumping and throbbing, pulsing so hypnotically that I just wanted to reach over, and, very slowly run my tongue over it.

Yeah. I wanted to lick Mathew’s temple.

I definitely needed to get my head checked.

After delivering my statement, I headed downtown to find my boss lady. Chastity, as always, was the polar opposite of me: light hair perfectly combed, impeccable tailleur, flawless makeup, and packing heat. It was one of the many things in which we didn’t see eye to eye, but I was starting to consider that she might be right. I was getting the feeling that I might have handled the whole situation with Lucious much better, if I had been armed at the time.

“Jez.” My sister had inherited Nana’s ungodly and bat-like sense of hearing. She knew it was me just from hearing me come in and slamming the door. She had also inherited the full bosom and a noticeable derriere that was the bane of her existence. I have no idea why, mind you. It made her look damn sexy, and men couldn’t stop staring. “Good God, Europa was right. You look awful.”

Ah, the grapevine working at its best. “Been having a rough couple days, my sleeping schedule has been tossed upside down since mom broke her leg.”

“Yes, she told me you’ve been flitting about her like some worried puppy. She’s a grown woman; she can take care of herself.”

“Chaz, please. We’re talking about our mother. Capable? Yes. Wanting? No.”

“You’ve been weird lately, I had always pegged you as the daddy’s little girl.” I couldn’t help groaning. I was tired, cranky and frankly tired. I wanted to do nothing but get some rest and food, and yet, here I was, getting into a teasing contest with my older sister. She did have the decency to look somewhat embarrassed, and petted my shoulder. “Come on, you’re off the hook. Just finish the paperwork and the report for the Gouldstone case, so I can close that. Then go home, and take a couple days off to straighten yourself up. Go to a doctor, get some vitamins—” Ah, my sister and her almost religious fervour for vitamins and how a proper balanced vitamin supplement can solve any ail or trouble “—lots of rest, and then report back to duty.” My sister had been the one of us three that had overcome genes, and gotten my father’s height, so she was tall and willowy, with a long neck. I could see the veins pulsing. I mean, I know that sounds weird, and that I am somewhat obsessed with neck and blood and veins – but no, I’m not becoming gotherrific. I never had any obsession for bloodplay or anything like that. It’s just… now, I couldn’t help noticing it. The veins were an intense blue, and with each beat of her heart, they’d become just slightly more visible, fuller, darker – and then, almost vanished under the skin.

“—reports on the way out.” I must have looked at her so dazed that she sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Jez, just… just tell me something. Please tell me you’re not doing drugs.”

“Wha—NO!”

“That’s a relief. Really, you were getting this really weird look in your face, all glazed. You sure you can handle the paperwork? If you want, just leave it for tomor—”

“I can handle it.” I said, feeling somewhat irritated that she’d consider I’d allow myself to be deterred by mere reports. Besides, I didn’t want to come to work tomorrow. I just wanted a few days without guilt to get my bearings, sleep as long as I needed, and then put my life back in order. I am sure it is pretty obvious right now that I was trying very hard to forget the very strange shit that had happened in the hotel, and that my denial was reaching epic proportions – but, hey, I didn’t like things that I didn’t like to explain, and besides, we all know that covering your eyes and pretending nothing happened solves everything, right?

I wrestled with reports, and they were a pure work of willpower. I was tense, angry, and I just wanted to go home. I had to literally force myself to sit down and type until my in-tray was cleaned of my backwork, and I could go home feeling virtuous. It was well past midnight when I finished, but Chaz was still at her office – the blinds were pulled down, and I could see a man’s legs sitting on the couch in front of her desk, which meant she was with a costumer. I left her a note on the reception area, to make sure she’d see it, and I finally headed out.

My grumpiness had now hit new, never before recorded levels. I was starting to feel a gaping hole in my stomach – but the pains of hunger were now spreading over the rest of my body. You know how when you don’t eat for a long time, your stomach starts to hurt and trying to eat itself (as my Nana said?) – well, I was feeling the exact same thing, except slowly spreading all over. On impulse, I dropped by a fast food place, grabbed myself a few hamburgers before heading home, and realizing I wasn’t craving for whatever (hahaha) nutrients the burgers might have. Leaving the first half uneaten, I went to have a long bath, and try to relax. It’s almost 3 in the morning when I hit the sack, still hungry, but a little more relaxed. I can’t sleep, however, and I toss and turn until my bed is a mess, and I’m cocooned in my own sheets. The sun is almost coming up when I fall to a dreamless sleep.

This time, I didn’t feel guilty when I woke up and I realized it was night. I allowed myself to lounge in bed and try to get more sleep. Clearly, I was exhausted and needed to make up for lack of sleep – except, it didn’t come. I was more awake than ever, and I could hear everything around me, the conversations of the neighbours, the dogs barking in the distance, so loudly I could swear they were in the room with me. It irritated me, that metallic twang to their annoying little dog voices. The hunger was now making it hard for me to focus, because it has hit the pain levels. I got some painkillers from the bathroom, and, for the first time in many days, I see my face in the mirror.

And they were right. I look like the living dead: deathly pale, almost pallor – which looks even more disturbing when it’s underneath the well-tanned skin. My eyes were feverishly shiny, their greyness having acquired lately, it seemed, a bluish tinge of an intense, almost turquoise colour. My hair was a mess, still as thick and dark as ever, but dishevelled, no doubt from my habit of running my hands through it. I don’t know why, but the person in the mirror irritated me, angered me so deeply, for reasons I cannot comprehend that I just had to scream, venting my frustration and my pain for the first time in days. The mirror cracked in a spider web pattern, but the sound was muffled by my loud roar. There was a moment of silence – absolute silence, the first I had heard in days, as if the world had collectively held its breath – and then, the dogs began howling in the distance. I was close to insanity, I knew, as I looked at the cracked mirror, my hand still stuck in the centre of the spider web cracks, the pattern decorated with my blood. I felt tears coming, and I wiped my face angrily. I was too damn young to be in the menopause and have mood swings. And I sure as hell wasn’t pregnant. I realized, stupidly, that I had just used my injured hand to wipe my face, and now had blood and glass all over it. A sob wracked my body as I saw the deep gashes into my hand, as I knew I was going insane; I could see, for a moment, my other grandmother, the one we did not talk about, because she had gone insane, and had to be confined to a padded cell and restraining strips. And now I was starting to go down the same way – distractedly, I took my fingers to my mouth, to suck the blood and stop the haemorrhaging. The notion made me giggle as I licked and licked at my hand – the gashes were so deep that I’d need stitches, medical attention – not kissing it better. But I licked and licked and licked, and nicked my tongue in the shards of glass that were still embedded into my skin. I continued to lick and lick and lick, determined not to leave a drop left; I don’t know if I was trying to subconsciously prove myself that I could still get my life under control, that I wasn’t loosing it, and that I wouldn’t have a padded room with orderlies giving me sponge baths in my near future. Strangely, the sharp taste of blood made me focus, almost sizzling on the tip of my tongue, sharp, delightful metallic flavour. I licked with wild abandon – maybe I needed iron. Anaemia would explain my lassitude – okay, so that was a wild guess. When I noticed, I had licked my hand clean, and it had stopped bleeding. I lay on the floor of my bathroom, and willed myself not to notice it, using all my willpower to keep myself controlled, and not burst into tears. Hour after hour, I lay there, broken, helpless, clinging desperately to my last shreds of dignity. I don’t know how long I had laid there, hearing things I didn’t want to hear, feeling my entire body pulse with pain, when I started to feel really tired; suddenly, sleep seemed a very good idea. I managed to wash my face and teeth before I stumbled out of the bathroom, feeling very lightheaded. I collapsed on the bed, not even having time to draw the covers back, and fell into a sleep as deep as death.

When I wake up, there was nothing but silence.

It was night again, and, this time, I couldn’t hear the dogs in the distance, or the sounds of my neighbours arguing. I couldn’t even hear my own breathing, I realized, after a while. Might as well – I had died in my sleep, and now my soul was waiting to leave my body. Strange. I would expect the afterlife to come much faster and not letting me linger and wait. I mean, dying is bad enough; we had to hang in a sitting room to wait to be taken to the great beyond too? Geez.

I lost track of the hours, and I was too tired to try and get up to look. So I waited. And waited. And waited – for something, anything to happen. For the white light or the white angels or the men in white to come to take me. Nothing came. I would fall asleep for tiny, fitful moments, then wake up again. Then fall asleep once more – time lost all meaning, and I just waited. I’m not sure how much time went by. Days? Hours? I know I slept for another whole day at least, because I remembered seeing the early rays of sun lighting my heavy curtains, before passing out again. I don’t know how much longer I lay in that bed, too weak to move, too broken to care.

“God, you could hurry, goddamnit.” I heard myself say, in the midst of delirious visions of my childhood, and reruns of the Power Rangers. On my death bed and I fantasized with a group of teenagers dressed as coloured condoms. Freud would have a field day with me.

“God isn’t coming, I’m afraid.”

The stranger voice jolted me awake, bringing some reaction to me for the first time ever in god knows how long. I forced myself to peek up. “Jens.” Before letting myself fall back on the pillow. In fact, I didn’t need to peek to see it was him. I could recognize his voice anywhere. Strange, on itself, since I had an awful ear for voices, and that had been the root of a few humorous incidents before.

Actually, it was as if I knew it was him before he even talked. I can’t really explain. I just knew. His voice was really unimportant. I felt the mattress give in under his weight as he sat down next to me. For the longest time, we sat in silence; him watching me, I too weak to care or be able to look at him. I don’t know why, but his presence was… strangely comforting. As if I had finally released my breath after holding it for so long. It could be I was in love with him; or, possibly, something less complicated like we having some sort of mystic bond, forged across centuries of reincarnation. Yeah, that’s me: between love and crappy mystical mumbo jumbo, I’ll always go for the latter. Fewer headaches.

“You know…” he finally said “I’ve seen it all with my other scions. Some accepted my gift with glee. Some turned on me. And some, like you, went into denial – those are easy to spot. And, invariably, I’d let them grow into despair, until they broke – some ended up killing the ones they loved, when the thirst became too intense to bear. It taught them a good lesson – to those who survived.”

“A good lesson? Killing those who they loved?”

“Oh, not that. Rather, that running away from your problems won’t solve anything, and can actually make it worse.”

“You mean, had they come to you and ask for your help?”

“Not the only option, but yes, the simplest one.”

I was growing too tired to argue, to talk to him. I just wanted this to be over, whatever it was. But here I was, the girl who could never walk out on a dare or an argument. “What did you do to me?”

“Saved your life.”

“You… want me to believe that.”

“Lucious would have killed you.”

“He hates me?”

“Yes. And is a little in love with you too—”

“Not… all bad news, then.”

“—which is why he hates you even more.”

“Ah. Good to see that at least something is unchanged; too bad it’s my rotten luck.”

“For someone who’s fading, you are rather quirky and full of sly words.”

“I feel better now that you’re around.” I had said it before I could measure my words. When said like that, it sounded really stupid.

“Do you know why?”

“You’re my long lost twin! I always wanted a sister my age.”

That made him laugh, and, god, it was as if I could feel his laughter in my bones, a wave of warmth inundating me “You know, had things gone differently—I might had come for you out of my own volition. You are—”

“—amazing? Delicious? Strawberry flavoured?”

“—entertaining.”

“Oh, entertaining, is it? I’m glad I can be of assistance.”

“Do you always joke this much?” His tone was… different. I could tell he had been enjoying or little banter, but this was no longer a jest.

“Only when I’m scared.” I admitted quietly. He didn’t answer, and instead set his cool hand on my forehead.

“You joke a lot.”

I shrugged. It was true, but I didn’t want to vocalize it. This was the ugly, definite true. I was scared a lot. I was scared of the future and I was scared of ending my days alone. I was scared I’d outlive those I loved. I was scared of being helpless, and of dying begging. I was scared some idiot I was investigating would come knock on my door and shoot me dead. I was scared I’d end up opening the wrong box, and end up getting thrown to the fishies. I was scared of falling for the wrong guy and getting my heart broken. I was scared of the IRS coming over to break my knees.

So, I dealt with fear the only way I knew how – by getting in as deep as I could and facing exactly that what scared me most head on. Because if you don’t face fear and turn it into an ally, it will become your enemy. And in my line of work, I had too many of those as was. With some ups and downs, my plan had more or less worked: I had been attacked by one of my disgruntled mark, after his wife got her divorce and half his property – but I had broken his nose and two fingers, with nothing but a small dent in my car to show for it; I had my heart broken by the only jerk I had become serious with, the day he proposed to me, because he had decided to celebrate our engagement by banging my cousin; still, since his prized Mustang ’68 spontaneously combusted, I felt somewhat avenged, anyway. Still, I had to admit that this technique had served me well, most of the time. Nothing to fear but fear itself, and all that.

Except the IRS.

That was the only fear I couldn’t overcome.

“IRS.” Jens said, sounding somewhat surprised.

“Huh?”

“You are thinking of the IRS.”

“I—what? How did you know?!”

“You are thinking of the IRS. With all that happened to you, and the IRS is on your mind.” It was as if he was unsure on whether he should be horrified or amused. Or both.

“You can read minds too?”

“Well, pretty much. But I wasn’t reading yours.”

“Then how did you know?” The whine and petulance on my voice was too much for me, even despite the entire situation. I took a mental note to tone it down a notch.

“You’re one of my brood. Your blood tells me.”

That was a new one. I’d have to start using it on parties. “My blood tells you?”

“Are you sure you want to play that ‘Turn My Answers Into Questions’ game? Because my patience is starting to grow dangerously thin.”

“No. I mean it. Seriously, man, my blood told you?”

I could feel a wave of annoyance from him. Even without opening my eyes, even without him so much moving – I could damn feel it. “I’m through. Look at me, Jezebel James, and tell me what happened to you; tell me what you became.”

“I… what? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

His annoyance turned to anger, and suddenly, an irresistible force had pulled me out of bed, dragging me by my loose sleeping t-shirt. I really didn’t have a choice on whether I followed him or not, and I stumbled on myself to keep up. He dragged me to the bathroom, hissing in frustration as he saw the shattered mirror. So, he turned around, and marched to the hallway, with me stumbling awkwardly behind him. With my T-shirt bunched inside his fist, I really didn’t have a whole lot of options but to trudge on behind. Without warning, he turned me to him and slammed me against the wall.

And then, he proceeded, to let out the most horrifying, hair-rising, vicious snarl I had ever heard, right in my face – his canines were not human, extended – fangs. His eyes were again that same electric blue. Something stirred inside me. I was terrified, because that was so wrong in so many ways that I couldn’t explain. I felt fear bubbling upwards, but, instead of screaming, I roared right back at him – a predator challenging another.

Without so much as spending a heartbeat, he turned me around and almost slammed my face into the full length mirror I had to make the tiny hall look larger. My mouth was still frozen in a rictus of anger, and two-inch fangs were visible – impossible to miss, rather; under the right light, my grey eyes could be called blue, but never this eerie, supernatural electric blue, just like Jens’s.

“Say it!” He snarled on my ear, and, when I struggled, he shook me with as much ease as if he was a mother wolf, and I was the cub she was carrying around in her teeth.

That was when I snapped from the shock of suddenly discovering I had developed a frankly worrisome orthodontic problem – and noticed Jens had to face a much more complicated affliction.

He had absolutely no reflection.

I stared at it for a long minute. Then, slowly, turned to face him. Yep, still behind me. Then I looked at the mirror again. Just me. I placed my fingers on the wrist connected to the hand gripping the front of my shirt. Yet, they were solid. Still there. Apparently, I noticing it had stopped him from prodding me again with the whole “tell me”.

“You have no reflection.”

“No.”

“But I do.”

“Yes.” Geez. Monosyllabic much?

“Why?”

“What are you, Jezebel James?”

Oh, boy. We weren’t moving past this point, were we? In fact, for all my bravado and insistence, I just didn’t want to say it. I didn’t want to admit to this, because this was just not possible. This was not something I believed in – something that could happen to me, in this age and time, the ramblings of a mad Irishman, the sexual fantasies of a bored Mormon housewife, or of an insane raving New Orleans lunatic. This couldn’t be anything more than fiction.

“What are you?” He asked again, quietly. The tone in his voice was so much cooler, so much more dangerous that I felt my heart freeze. His patience had run out. I could read ‘last chance’ in it. I feared for my life, and I know he’d kill me there and then if I didn’t comply.

So, I forced myself to say it, even against my better judgement and every rational fibre of my being. “Vampire.” I whispered.

He released me, and his anger seemed to have evaporated, but now that I had taken the brunt of it, I could still sense it on the edge of his presence, faded, muted, but still there. “You still have a human soul.” He said. “That’s why your reflection is still there.”

“Yes, because my chairs, and my walls that are, incidentally reflected there, also have a human soul.”

“Science doesn’t apply here. You can’t quantify us or study us. We defy every rule it has, so drop the humour or attempts to rationalize it. Otherwise, I’ll start thinking you’re less of a smartass, and more of a disrespectful whelp.”

I sighed, and made an effort. My inappropriate humour had gotten me in trouble before, but usually only at family functions. Not with something that could very obviously rip my heart out. “Look, I’m sorry—I… don’t know how to handle this.”

“Listen more, talk less. Stop interrupting me.” Okay, sound advice. “Your reflection fades as your humanity does. It will eventually, like all of us. When you’re older, you too will stop having a reflection or a presence in camera. It’s as if reality reject us as we reject the laws it imposes on everyone else – death, disease, permanent injury…”

“What if I stay as I am? What if I don’t want to lose my humanity?”

“I wish I could give you the comforting hope you crave for; it’s painfully obvious. But I can’t. If you want to survive, you will have to lose your humanity.”

“Why? Why do I have to lose it to survive? Is it mandatory by law that all vampires are ‘evil’?”

“No. Not mandatory by law; but, rather, necessity.” He finally released me, and I turned to face him “You will have to feed. Of blood, and life. And the more of it you take of it, the stronger you’ll become. But that which makes you truly powerful – is sacrifice. Your humanity and the life of your victims. If you take a small sacrifice – a sip of blood here, a sip there, nobody will notice it – you will not evolve. Your powers will come with each life you drain – blood is power, and lifeblood is the most powerful of them all. If you really want to become powerful enough to survive, either you stay with me, as my scion and servant forever, or you start killing. When you start killing, your humanity will fade – and so will your reflection, as a cruel, eternal remembrance of your sins. First it goes faint, transparent, and then it begins to blur and fade. And one day, it will be completely gone.”

“So I can…drink blood without killing anyone?”

“If that is your choice, yes.”

“Won’t that turn them into vampires?”

His lips twitched in a start of a smile: “If that were to be truth, and everyone we bit turned into one of us, then the earth would be overran with vampires by now. No, feeding of someone won’t turn them. Now, come. You need to get dressed. We will hunt tonight – I could give you my blood, or have brought someone for you to feast on, but it is important that you learn.”

Despite everything, I found myself liking the way he thought. Okay, so I was also heavily in denial. I was figuring I would be waking up soon. But I still liked it how he did not flutter about, was trying to make me self-sufficient, and the pompous, overly elaborate manner of speaking only slipped into his speech every now and then. I also liked, I realized, his powerfully drawn face, the strong jaw, the surprisingly soft mouth, and the pale eyelashes that made him look younger, almost vulnerable, wide-eyed. I hobbled back to my room, to slip into some jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, and run a brush through my hair. I wouldn’t be earning any beauty awards any time soon, but at least I was now back to the ‘human being’ scale. Like a gentleman, he had waited for me to get ready, not even trying to sneak a peek. I think. Can’t be sure with vampires, you know? On my way back to the hallway, where he waited, I picked up my long leather jacked and pulled it on. “I’m ready.”

He nodded. “We should hurry. Normally, I’d use a more inductive method to raise a fledgling, and let you stumble across your mistakes, and learn from them but you’re—”

“—too adorable? You find me spunky and energetic? The daughter you never had?”

“—too stubborn. Would take too much time for you to actually accept what you are and what you must do. You’d end up getting in trouble with the Old Man’s lieutenants.” Funnily enough, I heard him capitalizing the “Old Man”. At times, it was as if I was inside his head.

“Who’s the Old Man?” I finally asked. We were outside by then, and the night was a chilly, crisp, November one. No clouds in the sky, and not a lot of people outside. The few ones around were scurrying outside, hurrying to the warmth and safety of their homes. A funny notion struck me, on whether vampires had to hibernate during wintertime. People were more scarce, less likely to be out at night. On the other hand, the night-time was longer, therefore, it was more likely for them to be active. And, well, unlike other predators, they could actually follow their prey into their dens and meeting places. People were still active during winter. They just stayed indoors. It was then I realized he hadn’t answered my question. “Who’s he?” I insisted.

“He’s the most powerful of us all in the area. He’s not exactly located here, but he has dominion over us all, and we give him deference. Out of respect for his age—and power.”

“Was he the one who made you?”

“No. Usually, after a few decades, young fledglings try to escape their Paters or Maters. Their makers” He clarified, although I had gotten the meaning. Fathers or Mothers. “And to get as much space possible between them.”

“Why? I thought it’d be safe to stay with your maker. I mean, he’s more likely to like you than some stranger vampire.” I liked Jens. I didn’t want to have to strike out on my own while I didn’t understand exactly what I had become. Besides, he’d been quite nice to me. I didn’t see a reason for me to go.

“You noticed you can catch at times glimpses of my thoughts and emotions?” He asked, and I nodded. “Well, it works both ways. I can know pretty much how you feel and even catch stray thoughts. And… I can force my will on you, if I wish it.”

“What? You mean, mind control?”

“No, nothing that crass. You will want to please me, to do my bidding so I am happy with you. My blood is in you, and that is power. Each time you drink of me, the closer we’ll be, and the more you’ll want to make my will your own.”

I paused, nearly stumbling looking at him in disbelief. “No way.”

He gave me a tight-lipped smile “You see now why we try to escape our Makers as soon as we can? To stop being their scions, and instead to go out on our own?”

I didn’t answer immediately, searching in myself the will to please him that he spoke of – I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t see myself going ‘yes, Master’ or ‘anything you want, Master’. Besides, he had been pretty nice to me all this time. Why wouldn’t I like him – oh, other than the fact that he had killed me and made me into a blood drinking marauder. Or maybe that was why I was taking this so well, and not trying to stab him and get a stake through his heart.

“They say,” he began so abruptly that I nearly jumped “that maternal love is actually chemically induced to ensure mother and children bond, and that the mother will do all she can to raise the cub and continue to increase the population. Maybe something similar exists between a vampire and his fledglings.”

I glared at him; he shrugged, as if to say he didn’t mean to read my mind. I didn’t answer and increased my stride. I wasn’t sure where we were going, and he didn’t say, so we walked aimlessly for a while. Finally, I was calm enough to ask: “What about sunlight? Crosses? Running water—hey, does it mean I can’t shower?”

“Mythos. We are just like any other creature in creation. You don’t need to shower, however, because you don’t have natural bodily functions – no sweating. But you can easily, if you want. Crosses? Never affected me, but I was never confronted by someone with true faith. I’m not even sure if, in this day and age, anyone capable of such pure belief even exists.”

“So, in theory, we could be repelled with crosses?”

“Or any other instrument of faith. Once, a witch that lived in Kilsbergen held me at bay with a crooked old knife. Turns out it was the badge of her office, the leader of the coven that inhabited the area. The thing she believed most in.”

Witches existed too? What would be next? Werewolves? Elves? The Chupacabra? “Oh? What happened then?”

His smile was sharp and scary in its icy beauty “I killed her with an arrow to the heart.”

That made me shiver, but I reproached myself mentally – he had killed a lot of people by now, because if he had been around witches, he’d have to have a couple centuries on him – and he had absolutely no reflection – nor did he show up on film (at least it explained his absence from the security footage). It had to mean that he had taken his share of lives. On second thought, I was starting to worry about how cavalierly I was taking all of this. I should be screaming, throwing a fit, running around in circles. But I wasn’t. I was strangely calm and detached. Could it be he had—

I stopped and stared at him. He just looked back, but I could see amusement in his eyes. AS if he knew exactly what I was thinking. He said nothing, and after a while, I started to walk again. Did I want to know?

I didn’t ask.

Coward, I told myself. I still didn’t ask; and, instead, followed him. He was now leading, walking determinedly, as if he had an idea where he wanted to go. We walked in silence for a few hundred yards, until I had to break it, and speak – I blame it on my Italian genes: can’t shut my mouth for my life “So, sun doesn’t work on us?”

“The older you become, the harder it is to stay awake during the day – or to stand the light of the sun. You can walk in it, if you must, but it is a painful, gruelling task. None of our—abilities work under the sunlight, and we are severely weakened during the day – too long under it, and you will start to actually sustain injury, and it might prove fatal on older vampires, if they stay out for too long; moreso if they haven’t fed for long. You are still within your lifetime, you won’t start to truly fear the sun until you have half a century or so on you.”

“Coffins? Silver? Garlic? Dressing in capes? Never drinking… red wine? Compulsively counting grains of rice?”

He gave me a sharp, hardly amused look. “Don’t be a smartass.”

I insisted, despite his annoyance. Hey, I wanted to know what I could count on, in case this turned out not to be a nightmare or a prolonged bout of insanity. “Do we have to sleep in coffins?” I wasn’t claustrophobic, but the notion didn’t exactly make me comfortable.

“No, we do not. And before you ask, you don’t have to sleep on your native soil either.”

“Then all the legends are bullshit?”

For a long moment, he didn’t answer, as if he was pondering on how to explain it. “We are a varied and complex lot. Some of us, when they were turned, believed the legends – the garlic and the silver, chief amongst them, as well as running water – and so, to them, they really could affect them. Belief is a powerful tool, especially in the darker ages, when information and knowledge was not so readily available. We started as humans, and when we died, we brought over pent-up frustrations, mental instability, personal issues – that only get worse as we grow old. There are obsessive-compulsive humans – now imagine taking one of them and make him immortal, then letting a few human lifetimes go past. After a few centuries, it’s not a surprise that his mental issues have been seriously aggravated and reached an almost caricature-like level. Our body doesn’t decay, but our minds, eventually, give in – either they break or they become something… not human. The human mind was not designed to last for several centuries.”

And that was my fate, apparently. Fuck.

“So, we can’t… have children?”

“You are dead. So no, no you can’t. You can make your body emulate bodily functions if you really must, breathing, sneezing, leaking all those fun fluids, being warm to the touch, but it is a conscious effort you have to make, and you spend your strength to do so. So, after a while, we stop doing it, as it is just a waste of energy. We do it at times to help ups hunt, to blend in, but eventually it just becomes another tool in your arsenal.”

“Do you miss being human?”

That question seemed to catch him by surprise. He wasn’t just pausing to think what to say, or how to better explain it – the pace of his footsteps actually shifted rhythm, and I was surprised I had unconsciously been aware of it. A long moment went past and he finally had to answer, reluctantly. “I don’t know. I can’t remember it any more; just bits and pieces of it.”

“You forgot your past?!”

“I told you already that the human mind is not designed to last for much more than a century or so. It has its limitations.” He sounded grudging, as if admitting this weakness irritated him. He seemed so irritated, in fact, that he almost dragged me into a narrow alleyway. “Now, we do as all hunters. We wait.” I wanted to point out that unlike most hunters, we were very visible and our “prey” could very well spot us and wonder what we were doing in waiting there. But I knew better than to further provoke him so I just followed his lead. “Consider yourself fortunate I’ll be here to tell you when to stop, or you’d be killing a few people on your first outings.” Oh, I had apparently struck a chord with him because his usually pleasant and relaxed demeanour was gone. Note to self, next time avoid the topic.

“So, I just run to the next guy who comes in and bite him on the neck?”

“You might want to avoid the jugular. Dirty blood. Go for the carotid, but be warned, you can kill someone in little more than a couple of minutes.”

That notion made me feel a chill down my back. I would be having, literally, someone’s life in my hands. A distraction, even small, could cause death. “What… how… but then I can’t feed from there. I wouldn’t be able to stop the bleeding.”

“Our saliva can easily heal a small, fresh wound – like, say, two puncture marks on someone’s neck. It will still leave a mark, bruising most often, but nothing noticeable.”

“Like mosquitoes? Coagulating enzymes?”

“Y-yes, I suppose just like mosquitoes.”

“Ho do I know where to stop.”

“You don’t. It’s something you train and learn, eventually. How to time it, how to tell that the heart rate is dropping under the safe limits – trial and error, most of the times.”

Except ‘error’ here meant someone would die. No pressure at all.

“Won’t they scream when I bite them?”

His smile made a brief, split-second reappearance. “You didn’t, did you?”

Touché. Actually, I didn’t exactly remember him biting me. Just the sharp pain, and then… the pleasure. I can see how easily the former could be so easily forgotten in the onslaught of the latter. Like mosquitoes again – one tiny prick, and lo, and behold, no more bleeding or pain. Except mosquitoes still itched slightly. I guess it was one of those evolutionary things – if a full-grown man bit you on the neck and it itched slightly, you’d be complaining like hell, and not being at all cooperative. Comparatively, if you got something close to an orgasm at the same time, you’d be far less likely to notice – or mind – the blood sucking in progress. Funny to think of vampires as evolutionary darlings as well. Was there a vampiric equivalent of the Cro-magnon?

I heard the footfalls approaching at the same time Jens said “Someone’s coming.” I glanced around in search of a place to hide, but he paused me with an imperious gesture. I froze in place, and an old woman in rags, a coat too large for her emaciated frame, her greasy, wild hair stuffed under a black woollen cap, appeared, walking with laboured breathing and effort. A few seconds after, the irregular sound of her heartbeat reached my ears, sharpened by hunger; its siren call drew me irresistibly, and I motioned forward, but his arm moved faster than I could see, barring my path. I glanced at him but said nothing. As the woman vanished, and I could no longer heart her steps – or heartbeat – I looked expectantly at my companion “You should avoid contaminated or polluted blood.” He said.

“We can get diseases?” Yuck. That was going to make my feeding doubly problematic. Risk of infection and moral dilemmas. This was getting better and better.

“No.” His smile was nasty. “We do not show the symptoms – or internal organs do not work unless we put an effort into it, our blood is dead, the diseases that would kill or cripple a human system have no effect. Eventually, the contagion fades. But, in certain cases, we can be carriers.”

“Okay. Any last moment advice?” I meant it, too. And not even one tiny joke. Now that I was about to do the deed, I was getting as nervous as all hell. So many things could go wrong.

“You can get drunk or high.”

“Wait, what?”

“If the blood has enough alcoholic content, it can affect you. Same thing for intravenous drugs. Nothing particularly debilitating.” Jerk, this was his way of teasing me. “Just thought you should know.”

“I will go on a limb here, and say I trust you to be enough of a gentleman to stop me when I start pulling off my clothes.”

He held my hand, and took it to his lips, his cold lips pressing against my skin, and holding it for a second more than necessary. His blue eyes were watching me right above the line of my knuckles, and they were intense, and strangely warm; they made me wonder what kind of human being he had been while he was alive. “Your virtue is safe with me, min vackra dam.” He didn’t say what it meant, and I didn’t ask, but I liked the intonation he had put in it.

Feeling a little more confident, I turned to face the silent footsteps of a young man, who, judging from dishevelled, sleepy look, and piles of books under his arm, was a student. For a moment, I caught a stray thought of him falling asleep on the library, and missing dinner – and then, as fast as it had appeared, it was gone.

“Run, now.” Jens whispered behind me. I didn’t even question his voice or hesitated. I knew it was the right thing to do. The steady, strong heartbeat lured me, and the world crawled to a standstill as I rushed the boy. My approach was clumsy, and I jumped him from behind, onto his back. Before he could complain or even stagger, I had my teeth on his neck, biting down. Damn, I had forgotten to ask him exactly where the carotid was located. That was the last conscious thought I remember having – once you’re in the prowl, when the hunt sings through you, it stops being about rationality. It suddenly becomes all instinct, all about the laws of prey and predator; you body takes control, and the need to hunt – to feed – is the primary instinct. It gets inscribed into us upon our birth – or perhaps awakened upon our death – and we need to follow that imperative. To refuse it is simply delaying the inevitable, because our instinct will eventually take over and gain control if we deny feeding the hunger for too long.

Were I not so enticed into the hunt, I would have admired just how quiet my footsteps were, how fast I was moving, and, despite feeling awkward and clumsy, I had moved with unerring accuracy for the blood that sung in those luscious veins, beckoning me. I had a flash of conscious that lasted a second, where I remembered old biology and anatomy classes, and I had the vague notion that the carotid was further to the front. I bit down hard, to as much to the front as I could, but that was as much as I could do to seek the fresh blood.

It didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered the moment my sharp teeth pierced the vulnerable skin, and a hot gush of warm blood kissed my lips and filled my mouth. It was glorious – as finally taking a pained breath after suffocating. The edge of the pain I hadn’t realized I was feeling dulled, and faded. I felt rejuvenated, all fear gone – nothing mattered but the taste of blood. It was precious, unique, and worth any risk. Warmth spread all over me. In my arms, student made some soft, gasping sounds, struggling so faintly in my grasp before going still, but he didn’t matter at all. It only mattered that him and me were united in this perfect of bonds – for a second, I knew his secret fears and desires, his thoughts and old memories, too garbled and confused for me to understand, but I knew him as no-one else had known him in his life. It was absolute intimacy.

I took another mouthful.

It was just as glorious as the first, stars exploding behind my eyes, unbridled savage joy, and I think I laughed. Or maybe I cried. I couldn’t tell. The world was awash with red, and I could see infinity.

I took another—and it was then I felt an iron vice crush my shoulder. I released my prey for a moment to hiss at the invader – he’s mine! Mine! His blood is mine! – but I could only see the electric blue eyes staring back at me. His will pinned me down for a moment, a split second, but it was enough for me to recover a sliver of my rationality. The massive backhand that ensued, and that made my jaw rock, my neck snap, and my ears ring, brought the rest of it along.

“Your prey will die at this rate. Lick the wound.”

Still stunned by the impact and the unbearably delicious taste in my lips, I obeyed, tremulous. I licked it several times to make sure it was closed. On inspection, at least in the dark light of the alleyway, there were no traces on his neck – no gaping wound, no dual puncture marks. Now completely in control of my thoughts and actions, I searched for a heartbeat. I found it very faint and fluttery, like a tiny bird; fumbling in my pockets, I pulled out for a cell phone and dialled for the emergency services. The operator’s cold voice brought me back to reality enough for me to make up a good story on the spot, and say something about him just collapsing, maybe low blood pressure. I looked at my Pater, as if quizzically asking if we should leave, but his countenance was stony – I was on my own. My own decision now. He had helped me control myself; now it was up to me. If I was smart, I should run away now, without anyone being able to identify me, leave him to his luck, maybe he’d still have his wallet and belongings when the ambulance arrived.

I chose to stay.

He might remember me, he might not. But I had just endangered him to get my fix, and stolen some of his life to sustain mine. The least I could do was to send him off in safety.

I crouched to adjust him, so he wouldn’t be a crumpled pile of arms and legs on the floor, putting his head on his folded jacket.

The ambulance came and went, taking the limp form of the studded, sirens wailing. They told me he’d be okay, and whether I knew him. When I said no, they nodded, thanked me, and left.

Not a single glance to my Pater, who was standing but a few yards away, alone.

Then, they were gone, the alleyway was silent once more.

With the gift of life still heavy in my stomach and warm in my lips, I turned to face my maker, and together, we walked to a world of nightmares.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 27 Mar 2011 03:53

Part 3 – By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

Vampires are not gregarious creatures. Get a bunch of them in the same room, and you can watch the sparks fly. At times, more than just sparks. I guess that’s why evolution put a safe trigger of sorts in members of the same bloodline, the fact that they can’t turn on their maker, creating little, strange, absolutely dysfunctional families, packs of sorts, which unite against the common enemy. Of course, like the humans they once were (and still are in most of the cases – just don’t tell them that to their faces) vampires are suckers for free will – note that it’s theirs they worry about; that of humans is beneath their contempt. They will do anything to ensure they do not have to fight under the command of their maker, who will have little pity of patience for their needs. Some times, with exceptionally charismatic Paters, their brood will stay with them. Those are the most powerful of them all, the ones who ensured a large entourage who’ll willingly fight – and die – for them.

The great problem inside the large broods was that the adoration and love they shared for their makers did not extend necessarily to their broodsiblings; often quite the contrary. The backbiting, bickering, bitching and fighting for attention came to insane levels – jealousy, it seemed, did not fade after death. Some broodmasters not only enjoyed the whole fighting for their attention thing, as they actively encouraged it. Something about the survival of the fittest.

Jens was, I came to find, Pater to a modest brood – but he claimed they served all of his needs. Two of his previous scions had left to pursue their own lives – er, unlives, and he was left to three others. Three others, and now me. However, he had a something few others had – a triple generation brood. His scions had scions of their own, and that was unusual, it seemed. Apparently, the patriarch of the area, the meanest, strongest, probably oldest vampire did not give leave easily for other vampires to reproduce. When he did, he insisted that whatever crimes, accidental or otherwise, that the fledging committed would be taken out on the Pater. I felt it draconic and rather unfair, but, hey, nobody questioned it, so I assumed the guy was strong enough to enforce his will. As Jens was one of his least mistrusted advisors, I assume my Pater had quite a few perks others did not.

My introduction to the Lord of the area, the Old Man, was surprisingly matriculated. It was my first time meeting other vampires, and we had to leave the city – I could foresee already a problem. Jens was not located in Magid, and I had all my life there – yes, I can see the absolute bitter irony, that me being dead had sorted the problem, but I do like my roots very much and my family and my friends; I was determined that I wouldn’t let a little stupid thing like death come between me and my social life. For the time being, I had put it all on hold by taking a long holiday for reasons of health. I guess that the hardest part for me was to leave my mom on her own, especially with a broken leg, but she urged me to go, claiming she had friends to take care of her. I guess she was right, but I couldn’t help but feeling guilty – comes with the genes, you know. My sister had almost kicked me out the door in her haste of getting me out of her sight and to recovery; I guess, since I had been the tireless, tomboy one, the one who broke arms and legs, got stitches and then came back for more, it was a shock for her to see me destroyed and tired. The night I went to her to tell her I’d be taking a week or two out I had just fed, and I looked so much better – nonetheless, my previous appearance had clearly affected her so much that she couldn’t wait to see me improve.

So, I had found myself, an overnight bag, and Jens in a car, speeding out of Magid towards the unknown and the Old Man. Jens had told me very little about him, just that he was old, temperamental, and, what I think he meant to say without saying it, quirky. My Pater wasn’t very clear about it, not sure if he was trying to be polite, or just afraid I’d go to the man and go “So, did you know my Pater said you are really quirky? Will you do a Willie Nelson impression for me?”

The notion offended me somewhat. I might be a little loud, a little obnoxious, and quite a lot snarky, but I wasn’t dumb or suicidal, okay? When faced with, say, an angry lion, I would not be trying to make jokes at it; I’d be climbing up the first tree I could find. I was determined to treat the Old Man the same way – I just hoped there were nearby trees to find some refuge. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure that vampires can climb trees, and their pesky opposable thumbs would steal my advantage. That and probably most of them were strong enough to kick down the tree anyway.

I was moderately disappointed at my lack of amazing superhuman powers: okay, I was faster, stronger and had better senses than any human I knew – but I couldn’t match Jens in anyway. When I complained, he told me, rather nastily, that I could start drinking humans to death, and that their souls would nourish me and make me strong enough to kick down trees too (have I mentioned how I hate knowing that my maker has an instantaneous access to my mind?). Wisely, I kept my mouth closed after that and the topic was dropped.

I noticed that Jens got tenser and less patient the closer we came to leaving Magid and returning to the Old Man. In fact, during the whole journey, he barely spoke a word. He didn’t need to. I could sense his discomfort, his desire to stay there, just me and him; unfortunately, I couldn’t get him to expand on the topic, because I also sensed a very clear warning that he would break me a few bones if I brought up the topic of his discomfort up loud. So, our journey was made in a blissful silence.

“You should know,” he finally said, when we were almost to our destination “I hadn’t planned to introduce you to Lord Konrad just yet.” Oh, so we had gone from ‘Old Man’ to Lord Konrad’? “Thinks were… precipitated.”

“What do you mean?” I was driving. Jens could do it easily, but he didn’t like it particularly. I guess his age (which I wasn’t still sure of, but was certain it was well past a few centuries) showed in his lack of taste for interacting with guns. I guess I should be worried that someone as old as my Pater called another vampire “Old Man”. In fact, I was pretty worried about it, but I tried to disguise it to the best of my abilities.

“Lucious’s Pater relayed him the information. I don’t think Lucious would dare to defy me, especially not with what he did to that girl in the nightclub, so I’m assuming his maker keeps close tabs on his brood, and that is how he found out about it.”

“You mean, he reads their minds regularly.”

“Yes.”

“That’s creepy.”

“And yet, a good tactic to keep oneself alive.”

“Yeah, but just because I understand why he does it, doesn’t mean I agree with him.”

“That is unfortunate.”

“It is.” Yes, I had a horrible habit to have a last word, especially when I was losing an argument. Jens showed to be far more magnanimous than I, because he didn’t answer. Instead, he stayed quite for a few minutes, before he spoke again.

“I created you without permission from the Old Man. I had not observed you for long enough to be sure you’d be adequate. You were a mercy killing – to spare you to possible torture by Lucious. But, of course, I cannot tell them that.”

“Why not?”

“Because we are vampires. The notion of ‘mercy’ for us is pathetic. It’s weakness. I should either have Lucious do what he wanted with you, or just crush him if he dared to endanger our secrecy.”

“Then… I am in trouble?”

“I don’t know yet.” He was feeling guilty, and worried. I expect he had hoped to turn me into a profitable and useful little bloodsucker and, only then, parade me around to show I had been a good choice. This made things harder. I could very well be killed – I caught that thought off him, together with a sensation of discomfort and sadness. I felt a strange twinge of fondness for my Pater, despite everything.

“Thank you for not trying to sugar coat things.” I said. That clearly surprised him. “Just… why does Lucious hate me so much? What have I done to him?”

“He doesn’t exactly hate you. He… likes you. You’re unlike the girls he spends time with, the ones that fawn over him and worship him. And you refused him, which only complicates it further. He would have come close to you, had you let him, maybe feed from you, spend the night with you, and then forget you and move on to new pursuits. But you didn’t. You refused in front of his servants – and me. To him, that’s a humiliation worthy of death, because he’s not used to being refused. If he could have hurt you, maybe scare you enough for you to beg, if he could have broken you, he might even let you live. He might even have turned you so he could rule over you for eternity and know you’d be unable to refuse him ever again. He is not usually given to killing sprees – the death of your friend in the club was an emotional kill. He was distraught by your absence after the argument you had – and that that let his bestial side take control. And now, to make things worse, I stole you from his influence forever.”

“And that is why he’s butthurt with me?”

“Butthurt? Hm, interesting expression. Yes, that is why. And also because he can’t get even with me, not only due to my position, but also because his maker is far younger than me. He has no power or status to defy me. My peers usually respect me, but even I can’t defy Lord Konrad and escape unscathed.”

“And by making me, you defied him.”

“Oh, yes. And, never forget: our peers are assholes.” His use of vernacular was unexpected, rare, and thus, perhaps, the reason why it was so amusing. “They will jump at the chance of getting rid of a potential rival if that allows them to sleep sounder or get more power; even if they called that rival an ally but a few days or hours before.”

“So they’ll use me to get you to fall from grace.” Statement, not question. It wasn’t hard to figure it out. Damn. “I’m sorry.” I finally said.

By the rear shield mirror, I caught a glimpse of his face, and I saw he was half smiling:” You weren’t the one who decided to turn you. I made that choice consciously. Your apologies are not needed.”

Not knowing what to answer to that, I said nothing. Instead I was trying to think very hard how to help my Pater get out of the mess he had gotten himself into because he had decided to play white knight with me, and protect me from a spoilt vampire kid. That notion, suddenly, struck me as curious, so I had to ask: “Were you a knight?”

I caught him unawares, not surprisingly, and he needed a moment to understand what I was asking. “You mean, if I ever was a knight? While I lived?”

“Yes. You know, big sword, big horse, breastplate?”

“I was. I served a lord as a knight for a long time, and after he turned me, I served him in death, too.”

“Hm.” I held myself back from asking further, remembering his reaction at being asked about the life as a human he could no longer remember. Instead, I let this topic die too. Was I going to die? Damn. Perhaps I was still in denial, but I wasn’t particularly hysterical about it. I had done all the histericking earlier on, right my first feeding, when I had trashed my house and considered stabbing myself with a kitchen knife. Now, I was okay. I guess death is harder the first time. After that, it’s already old news. Or maybe I was eluding myself to better cope with the situation. Whatever. It’s not as if I was mandated by law to stay within a certain level of denial. I was a fricking vampire, for the love of God (or should I say for the love of Dracula, now?); I could be as delusional as I fucking well wanted.

Our arrival was without pomp or circumstance. I didn’t get to meet my broodsiblings, and instead, went into a hotel. Jens didn’t share the room with me (I guess he had his own house), and told me to stay indoors and wait for him to come pick me up. Wanting to show him I could be a good vampire, I obeyed, and, decided to actually put his teachings in action. I washed up, cleaned up, and after an epic battle with my hair to make it minimally manageable, I went to the bar of the hotel, and tried to get picked up. It was surprisingly easy, because, let’s face it, there weren’t other women there, and my mark was an older, slightly greasy old man, with squeaky lungs. I could almost hear the liquid sloshing inside them, and I wanted to actually tell him to consult a specialist stat. Still, I buckled up, smiled, and let him buy me a drink and then invite me to his room. I didn’t give him time to touch me – I just pushed him onto the bed and jumped him, and proceeded to give him a good necking – not in the way he had expected. I took three mouthfuls – fortunately, I wasn’t hungry so my control was stellar – licked the wound dutifully, then removed most of his clothes trying not to giggle too loud; I smudged some of my lipstick on his face; jumped on the bed to break some springs, and make a good, satisfying squeaking noise, that, hopefully would make the neighbours complain.

I returned to my room, and waited. I wound up falling asleep with the television on, and only wake up the next night. I hadn’t been awake for long when Jens called me to him. At first, I didn’t understand what I meant, just that I wanted to get out of the room – which was very confusing, because I had no intentions of leaving to feed again; but when I opened the door of the room, I found myself face to face with my Pater, and understood what he had done.

“You could have just knocked.” I protested.

“I could, but then I would have to waste time explaining to you exactly what I did. Like this, you know how it feels like when your Pater calls you to him.”

Okay, I had to say I hated the sensation, but I had wisely decided not to argue with Jens because the tension I had sensed from him the previous day while we were in the car was back, and stronger than ever. I still couldn’t tell if he was worried about me or himself. Either way, I felt bad for him, because he had tried to help me (okay, maybe not in the best way, but still), and he wound up getting royally screwed over it. “It’s going to be okay. The Old Man will just adore me, because of my rapier wit and charming personality. He’ll call me a breath of fresh air in the stagnant hallways of the Living Dead, and compliment you on your good taste for new scions.” I heard myself say, stupidly. But I was worried too. Jens looked at me with a really strange expression on his face, half surprise, half disbelief, and, suddenly, put his arms around me and pulled me to him. This was the first time he showed any sort of obvious physical affection, and, for a moment, I didn’t know what to do. Then, I put my arms around him as well, and buried my face into his chest. He smelt of cologne, nothing else, which was somewhat strange to me. I had finally started to get used to superhuman senses, and the person closer to me had no individual personal smell. True, he had smells _on_ him, of the place where he lived and the woods in the house, and the garden outside, the cologne and the clothes he wore, but not _him_. His chest was firm, broad, as were his arms. He felt secure as houses, and I allowed myself to believe things would turn out for the best.

“Don’t worry.” I heard him murmur “I’ll get you out of this, somehow.”

Ah, so his concern was about me. Good to know.

Too bad, I was about to possibly having my head ripped off by an old, exceedingly powerful vampire, with quirky habits and a strange sense of humour.

The Old Man, aka Lord Konrad Klein, was shorter than I expected him to be. He was well past 6 feet, which would make him a giant in his heyday, if indeed he was older than Jens; but he looked too normal for the mental picture I had been building of him – 10ft tall, with bushy eyebrows, sabre-toothed tiger fangs, massive wild hair, and sitting on a throne of skulls. Instead, he was an elegant man, with strong shoulders, a square jaw, and the coldest eyes I had ever seen. They weren’t even blue – they were water green or some sort of faded hazel. Like Jens, he was blonde, but his hair was more yellow, than fair, cut militaristic short. He was dressed in slacks and matching sports jacket, with a white shirt underneath; nothing in the room escaped his eagle eyes, because he was sitting on a comfortable chair with its back to the wall. Other people were there, chatting and glancing about, seeming eerily amicable despite the fact that none of them breathed. I had grown so accustomed to entering rooms and being greeted dozens of heartbeats – and more than that, breathing – underneath the sound of voices. Here? There was none of that. Just voices. Empty hollow voices, without any sort of life underneath. I remained politely behind my Pater, because it gave off vibes of submissive (I hope), so that they wouldn’t be threatened by me; and because it would let me check the room without being too noticed. I am a social beast, but these people were not my people. They were not friends, just predators sharing the same confined space. I’d probably have felt more comfortable locked in a cage of lions.

I earned a few glances, but all the attentions were mercifully stolen away when the door opened, and a dark-haired girl entered. She looked younger than me, but the paleness of her skin told me there were very good odds she would be far older than I could expect. All the attentions centred on her as she swept past, wearing one of those very simple long dresses that cling to a woman’s body in the right place, and have the type of exquisitely simple lines that only a handful of very expensive haut-couturiers could have pulled off. She strode purposefully to the Old Man (who, incidentally, looked to be around his late thirties – unless, of course you looked at his eyes; his eyes were weary, ancient, and made him look as old as the world) and whispered something in greeting. He reached to squeeze her hand, fondly, a rather unusual gesture from the resident Lord. I glanced at Jens.

“Beatriz.” He said quietly. “Lord Konrad’s favoured ally.”

Beatriz The Favourite moved to stand next to the older vampire’s chair, like some sort of guardian angel – or secretary. Or secretary guardian angel. Now that would be awesome: someone to save your life _and_ take your calls. Konrad looked up, straight at Jens, and nodded almost imperceptibly. There was no call to order, no declaration “hearhere, hearhere” that the meeting was about to start. People were allowed to do whatever they wanted; however, as clearly as if someone had come around ringing a bell, the other vampires stood to attention. I spotted Lucious from the corner of my eye, looking somewhat preoccupied; close to him was a tiny, dark-haired woman with incredibly tanned skin – made paler by the deathly pallor. It wasn’t enough, however, to hide she had been tanned in life. Perhaps she was his Mater, his maker?

Jens went forth, and I went with him, without him even needing to tell me so, because I could very easily pick it up from him. I tried to make myself as small and harmless as possible. Nothing to see here, just a little cute newborn vampire, who’s totally not a threat. We were in front of Konrad when I started to wonder if being harmless and cute maybe was a sign of weakness, and, clearly, vampires loathed weakness. They probably didn’t like puppies, either. I mean, if not liking puppies was mandatory to be a vampire, I wanted out. I had grown up with herds of large dogs, and adored them; my female side also adored puppies, as much as I tried to deny it, and they were one of the few things that could me make squeal; that, and boys’ bands.

I admit, I was joking about the boys’ bands. I’m quite sure I could manage eternity without those.

Konrad barely looked at me, and, instead, had his gaze locked on Jens. The expressions of both were quite unreadable, and I couldn’t so much as get a glimpse from my Pater’s feelings, because he had, somehow shut me out.

“I always took you for a rational, prudent man, Jens XXX. And yet, you defy my will so brazenly, knowing fully well the risks that the creation of this fledgling brings. Why, then, I ask. Why is she so special for you?”

The murmurs rose, and I felt the strange urge to shush them – not sure if it was because it felt they were risking getting their heads chopped off (I had this strange vibe that he could do it without effort), or because I felt it was exceedingly rude to whisper about other people – without so much as waiting for them to leave the room first. Jens didn’t react to the scolding or the goading, and instead waited patiently for his turn to speak. “I did not wish to challenge your orders, my lord. Hard from it. You know I do not require a large brood, and the reason why I took her was to protect the young man in my care.” He nodded towards someone behind me. I had no doubts he was talking about Lucious. I heard some more whispering, but I decided against it. Right now, I had decided, it was in my best interest to pull the most awesome impersonation of a lampshade that I could.

“You accepted, if I remember correctly, to take the journey to Magid with Lucious, and ensure he stayed out of trouble. From what I heard, he murdered someone – you cleaned his mess as promised, but – how did she come into the equation?” He nodded towards me. I did my best not to shrink under the combined stare of everyone in the room. Not sure how well succeeded I was.

“Upon making her acquaintance, I found her to be of a quick wit and considerable connections.” Jens tone was just as quiet as before, but there was some forcefulness. I hadn’t, I admit, considered her for a scion at the time, but I spent an evening with her, and found her rather interesting for a mortal. As I said, I had to turn her on impulse to protect young Lucious here.” My Pater seemed to move against the current – while all were staring at me, he alone was staring at Lucious. “Seeing he was under my protection, I knew his Mater would be rather upset at me, were I to let him do something he’d regret, or something that’d get him in trouble with you, my Lord. You had planned on turning her yourself, Lucious, hadn’t you?”

If a mariachi band had entered that room that very moment, clad in nothing but handlebar moustaches and riding boots, they would be unable to draw attention away from the two men. Lucious failed to do what I achieved, that was to shrink. I kinda felt sorry for him. It was a wildly bold claim, but, curiously, he didn’t immediately laugh or denied it. Oh-ho. So my Pater’s beliefs weren’t at all off the mark. And Jens wasn’t done, oh no. “Sure, I could have you let turn her and hide your secret until you got Lord Konrad’s permission to turn her and then appear with the deed done – but what would have prevented your Mater from ‘accidentally’ finding out, and then blaming me for my shortcomings and failure in ensuring you stayed out of trouble? That would be rather unfortunate for me, wouldn’t it?” his tone could have sliced a rock in two. “So, I did what I felt better at the time – especially because I could see she’d be doomed after she blinded him, broke his nose, and escaped his grasp.”

There was laughter.

I was unsure on whether to be annoyed or flattered, because they seemed rather disbelieving that I, a little human, could have hurt a vampire. Jens was, apparently, determined there would be no doubt about it. “He attacked her, and spent time toying with her – so I knew he wasn’t going to feed off her, not right away. He might kill her in the end, but he might not and instead turn her. So I was going to interfere, when she put her thumbs into his eyes, knocked his nose back inside his skull with her head and ran for her life. After that, I knew I had to do something. So I did, and I brought her, my lord for you to decide what to do with her. She is not the darling child of Beatriz’s brood, like Lucious.”

Hold the horses. The Beatriz the Favourite was the maker of Lucious’s Mater?? Huho. Things suddenly were starting to look very glum to me.

“Are you insinuating I bend the rules for some of my advisors? Measure your words, Jens, because nobody, not even you, is irreplaceable. I will not allow your insults to fly.” Konrad growled, and I felt all the hairs on my body stand. Or maybe they were phantom hairs standing, like people who lost limbs still feel them – because I was pretty sure I didn’t have physical reactions of fear like standing hair and Goosebumps any more. The palpable anger of Lord Konrad still made me feel all of them.

“Quite the contrary, my Lord. I know you enforce your laws without mercy or bias. I had a responsibility for you and her to ensure Lucious stayed out of trouble.” Beatriz, in the meantime was as still and unemotional as a statue, although her cold gaze set on me twice. “I would not have her death in his anger endanger our secrecy – her connections to the police are many, and her family all resides in the area. She’s known by many and would be missed; and if I had let him turn her, you might very well end up killing them both. That – in turn, could bring conflict to the table. Thus, I decided to turn her myself. Sort this with you, personally. She’s here, you can pass judgement on her – but she’s blameless in all of this. And I? I am one of your advisors. I took the risk because I felt it would be less likely for me to be doomed than Lucious, a scion that had hardly proved himself yet.”

“You presume much, Jens.” Konrad said, gruffly.

“I know my worth, no more, no less, my Lord. I will not pretend I don’t and act in false modesty.”

If I had been asked, and, thankfully, I wasn’t, I would have said that was the biggest load of manure I had ever heard in my life. I mean, seriously? Okay, so I got what wasn’t being said but thought by all – Lucious is the little boy of the Lord’s squeeze. If the Lord was that harsh as Jens seemed to claim, he’d have probably killed us both, and his darling would be very angry at him and Jens, and probably no vampire nookie for a while. Worst things might happen. But really? Turn me? He could just have smacked Lucious unconscious and tied him up. Of course, I was very careful not to express this, because I would like to, if it wasn’t too much to ask, to be able to remain alive.

Suddenly, someone laughed, a deep, belly laugh, and all turned to face a man that was, I swear, dressed like an 80s pimp, cane and all. I was tempted to ask if it was some costume, of he actually wore the strip suit and all the golden wrings AND the fur coat. “C’mon, dawgs. Ya be wantin’ to kill a ho who, on her own, beat the livin’ crap outta onna us, fledglin’ o no? Fer real? If ye don’t be wanning her, Jen, I gonna keep her merself.” He winked at me, and I had to bit the inside of my cheek not to laugh when I saw the golden caps on his fangs. A vampire pimp cliché, now I had truly seen it all. “Would ye give yer sugah to the ole dog, baby?”

I avoided answering, lest it be a trick question and I got myself in trouble, and he didn’t insist for an answer. His comment, however, did bring some whispering forward, and double snickering. I guess it was something rather humiliating to be known as the guy who had his ass kicked by the puny human girl. I mean, mortal humans already take it badly when a girl kicks their ass, but this was probably taking it to the next level of castration. I dared a look at Lucious – yep, he hated me right now, and would love for nothing more than rip my heart off and use it as a pincushion for the rest of eternity. Yay me, finding mortal enemies without even trying.

Konrad looked up at Beatriz, but tensed up and interrupted his gesture. It was clear he was used to resorting to her for advice, but now, since the situation apparently involved her and his brood, he hesitated about showing favour. I could see that he looked to someone else, which led me to believe that Jens and his favourite were his usual advisors. With himself tied between the two, he had nowhere to go. Beatriz, in the meantime, didn’t look neither annoyed, nor distraught. She looked – surprisingly – tired. I guess I would be tired too if I had to live in a constant viper nest, with everyone just waiting for a moment to take a bite and climb up the stairs of power made up in my bones. Or maybe she was tired of having to clean up the shit her brood got up to, and then have to actually feel guilty for dating the local Vampire Lord. God, don’t remind me. I’d been in that situation before with my role-playing group in college: I had been dating the Gamemaster, and my character had considerable power and quite a few achievements. Of course, to another player, that couldn’t be out of my skill (and the fact of his character lack of achievements due to the fact he lacked skill); no, it was pretty obvious that it only happened because I was putting out to the Gamemaster. The player kept trying to kill my character for no reason whatsoever, and it came to a point where I just wanted to quit the game entirely, because an activity that was meant to be nothing but fun was turning out to be a series of conflicts, whining, bitching and feeling secretly guilty for things I knew were not my fault. Yeah, I felt somewhat sorry for the Lord’s woman.

I think the Old Man felt her weariness too, because suddenly, he frowned and looked worried. It only lasted a moment, but there was something in his eyes, something – afraid. I had no idea what was his problem (was he afraid of not getting any necking – seriously, I need to stop with these jokes, but damnit, they just come out without me wanting – or was it something else?) but he suddenly got up, held his hand to take Beatriz’s, before looking at Jens. I didn’t get so much as a glance. Yay, I guess? “You are indeed one of my oldest and trustworthy advisors, Jens. Your skills have saved me before, and I do not forget the few debts I owe. I don’t know why you decided to risk your life for – her, but I will not lose one of my own out of pride. You earned your right to claim new scions many times over, so you will not suffer the price of my wrath, despite what foolish little tales you try to distract me with. As for your new brood? I will decide her fate tomorrow. I am weary of this discussion and the too many words throw at me.”

“However,” he said, as he put his arm around Beatriz’s delicate waist, pulling her possessively to him. “I have an announcement to make – one that I had hoped I could have done before, but only now I have been fortunate enough to achieve.” He looked at us, at every one of us, before stating in a firm voice. “I am to wed Beatriz de Montenegro y Frias, in a month’s time.”

That was it. No explanation, no ‘I can do this because I want to’, no ‘I asked her and she accepted it, I’m so happy’. Just statement of fact. Beatriz however, didn’t look like a woman about to be married – her jaw was tense, despite the noble attitude. Was she against the marriage? Did she actually care about it? Whose idea to marry had it been? Hers or his? And what kind of marriage could two vampires have? Neither had their true identity left – their fake identities would be married, not them. What if the priest had faith enough in his religion and wound up preventing the bride and groom and their entire retinue from entering the church? Did Beatriz have a father to bring her to the altar? What about the catering?

My mind was ablaze with the notion of vampires and marriages, and I missed the greetings that the pair was receiving from every side. Then again, I wasn’t even sure I was considered part of the ‘gang’ and could approach the duo to give them my own greetings.

The Old Man accepted a few of the words of what I assumed were his closest advisors, but soon after, and without so much as a ‘by your leave’ he turned tail and left, dragging his woman behind, after sparing me and Jens one last hard stare. I glanced at my Pater. “Well, that went well, didn’t it?” I guess I exaggerated in my cheerfulness, because he gave me a smouldering glance. I swear I could feel my hair catching fire under that stare.

“Tomorrow, we’ll see.” He sounded annoyed. Well, his Lord had just said he was full of it in front of everyone else, so I guess that would have put me in a sour mood too. But I refused to let myself become like these surly undead. Instead, I gave him a cheerful smile.

“You’re off the hook, and my chances are not worse or better than they were before. Hell, people might think I’m awesome because I totally kicked a vampire’s ass while I was human.”

He smiled. It was just a teensy, tiny, flash smile, but it was there, even if he tried hard to disguise it. “By that measure, they might think you’re a possible threat too.”

“Me? A threat? Never! Nobody would dare to think that, I’m absolutely endearing, like the daughter they never had. Besides, we’re going to have a marriage! People don’t kill others when they marry! I know, you could hide me for a month, and then come to the wedding and ask him for a favour, like in The Godfather!”

“You are exceedingly nervous and starting to babble. Come on.” He put an arm around my shoulders, pulling me to him “We have nothing else to do here.”

I didn’t protest, and left with him, feeling sacredly touched by his care. We returned to my hotel, discussed some politics, and then fell silent. I called my mom, and found out that, despite needing her rest, she was at the Lounge. According to her (and the picture she sent to my cellphone) they had found a Victorian chaise longue, set her plates on a low table, and so she was mixing while lounging like some queen of old, while her leg was comfortably installed. That was all kinds of awesome, and I was sorry I had to miss it.

It was strange, how suddenly very attached I had become to the trappings of my mortal life, even those I had once taken for granted. Maybe because I knew, on an instinctive level, that one day, not that far from now, they’d be gone, and I’d be carrying on.

Too early for angsting about the loss of humanity, I decided, so I should distract myself with something else. Jens seemed to be getting tired, but he was making no point of leaving. “Going to sleep over?” I asked him, teasingly, but hoping he’d get the hint. I was planning on going to have a very long shower, and then curl up in front of the TV and let my mind be numbed by broadcasted inanities. Hey, it always helped me fall asleep.

He looked at me from the book he was reading and simply said “Yes.” Then went back to read. He didn’t give further explanations. I asked for none. Instead, I proceeded as I had planned, even if I was torn between exhilaration and annoyance. I was always somewhat territorial, and wasn’t too comfortable with sharing my private space with someone. I guess that was why none of my relationships have ever worked before.

When I returned, he had not moved an inch from his reading place, and I sat on the bed. Despite my previous planning, I did not go to turn on the TV. I just laid there, staring at the ceiling, with both of us in silence. Eventually, the day came, and we fell asleep right where we were, him with his book, me with my ceiling. When I woke up, I discovered he had moved into my bed, gotten use both under the sheets, and curled up with me. He woke up soon after, and got out of the bed. We said nothing to each other as we got ready to go meet the old man. He gave me no explanation for why he wanted to stay with me; he didn’t need to because I could very well guess – he was preparing for the worse. He was saying goodbye, in case I was put on the chopping block. I guess I was still not accepting they would just kill me like that – or maybe I was putting too much faith on the Lord’s mercy and justice. Perhaps I’d be wrong – deadly wrong – about it.

We were practically out, when a call came for Jens’s cellphone.

He froze. I felt the tension rise to a level I never had felt before – but since he was talking what I assume was Swedish, I couldn’t understand what was going on, and just guess from the tone of voice. “Shit.”

That I understood, when he hung up, and to hear him use normal slang was surprising enough; now good ol’ four-letter vernacular? That was a good reason to start worrying and get ready to get out of town.

“Jens? What happened?” Not ‘Is everything aright?’ No, everything was not alright and I could feel it. No point in pretending to believe that all was just hunky dory.

“Beatriz is dead.”

There was a pause. From me, because he was already running out the door. I managed to recover my bearings enough to follow him, my head going at a thousand an hour. She was dead how? When? Why? Had Konrad killed her? Some enemy of his trying to get to him? Lucious? Could have Lucious killed her for her not siding with him? Or maybe Lucious’s Mater? Was it some external threat? Maybe vampire hunters – were there actually any vampire hunters around to begin with?

Jens didn’t say anything else, at least not to me, because he was too busy talking on the phone. He called several people, and relayed the same message to all of them ‘Beatriz is dead’, followed by the instructions of where to meet immediately. He made the last phonecall when we were about to arrive, and as he put his phone away (finally), he opened the car door for me to come out. I gave him a slight smile and stepped away, but I knew I was being polite. I too was shocked. What did that mean? The woman was clearly important – would people think it had been Jens? Oh, but Jens had been with me all the time. It couldn’t have been him – unless he had set this up to be an alibi to protect himself and get away with murder.

At times like this, I really hate my job. It has showed me the so many bad sides of human nature that I no longer mourn a death. Instead, I try to solve it. It becomes a puzzle, a riddle, no more a tragedy. Yeah, real basket case I am.

The gathered people were far many more now, and there was not the air of calmness or refined curiosity. People were absolutely and totally confused. Just what the fuck was going on? An old vampire had been killed. Why? Who? How? That were the stray thoughts I could catch here and there. I didn’t know I could pull it off, because until now, I could only capture thoughts from humans – and my Pater. I guess previously, all these people had been trying to control themselves, and holding their thoughts inside – as I had seen Jens do – but now were so caught by surprise that they could not be bothered with (or even thought of) continuing to do so.

At the centre of the room, surrounded by many, was the Old Man. He didn’t seem to have emotions before. He had none now – apparently. Because his eyes were of a vibrant golden colour that reminded me of those of a wolf. His sanity was on breaking point, and the more he struggled, the calmer he looked. Okay, it was official. Konrad Klein was the scariest motherfucker I had ever met, having now dethroned Matthew. This guy was on the brink of insanity am and was still looking very calmly on how to murder us all if his fuse was lit. And he was actually counting on it, it looked like. Just as if waiting for people to lose it, and give him an excuse to just go medieval on our asses. He wanted to lose it, and this wasn’t about revenge.

God help us. He wanted us to kill him so he could have a reason to see her again.

I’m not sure if anyone else realized it. Eagle eyed observers would claim he was containing his grief, others would say he was done venting and was not about to get the mystery solved. But I had seen once a guy like him whose girl had been just killed on a shoot out. He went after a cop. In a bar full of cops.

He didn’t live more than a few seconds, and, it turns out, he was smiling when the smoke settled and we got to his corpse. I had never forgot the expression on his face as he had walked after the cop he had chosen, the sheer determination to make people act and destroy him for the sake of everyone else.

This was what was happening here.

Suddenly, his head snapped up, god help me, he looked straight at me. I think his eyes will follow me for the rest of my, excuse me, unlife, because they were the scariest thing I had ever seen. And I just couldn’t look away. I think I know understand what a little mouse feels when meeting a snake headfirst. I wanted to run and hide, because this was not a good place to be. But I just wasn’t going anywhere.

“You.” He said, and that word alone made every conversation in the room pause, as he strode to me slowly, purposefully, as if I were to blame for everything that had happened, if I, somehow had the solution, and could bring his Beatriz back. “You will have your shot at proving your worth. If you want to be allowed to continue to exist, then do your job, detective. Find out the killer of my wife.”

Whoa. To his mind, she was his wife already, so not surprising he was losing it. I didn’t particularly like this order of his, seeing investigating vampires was surely a lot different from investigating humans – there were a whole lot of protocols that I didn’t know if they applied to vamps too. And someone who had been able to kill an old vampire like that had to be someone who didn’t want to be discovered, and had surely taken care of covering his or her tracks. More importantly than that, someone who would not hesitate in killing to keep himself or herself alive.

“I claim the new scion as my own.” His eyes were on Jens’s and there was a clear challenge in that. Wait a minute? Didn’t I have a saying in this? The Old Man could be powerful and all that, but I hadn’t signed up with him. I was happy with Jens, thankyouverymuch. “Are you going to say something, Ritter?”

“She is my brood, Lord Klein.”

Everyone paused and stared at Jens, as if he had just grown a second head. I was making an educated guess, and say that Jens had just told his Lord to go fuck himself.

“You had no time for her before, her life meant nothing—”

Make that ‘fuck himself up the ass’.

“And now that you found a utility, she’s suddenly worth for you enough for you to challenge me?”

With a pinetree.

“She answers to me, and I answer to you. You claiming her serves you is nothing but making me experience loss.”

Sideways.

There was a moment of absolute silence. I think I could have heart their hearts beat easily had they hearts. I looked at Jens, and there was something awfully strange about him. I could feel his emotions and he was… heartbroken. This made no sense; I wasn’t going to marry the Lord, was I? At most, I’d go be his slave or something.

I felt his anger, his sorrow, his loss – but it wasn’t me in his thoughts.

It was Beatriz.

This information was like a slap to the face. I’m not sure if I was jealous, or feeling betrayed. I mean, I wasn’t in love with my Pater, because, really, I knew so little of it. And probably any feelings I had for him were from our shared blood. I like to think I am a good person, and my worry for him was due to my concern for his well-being. Not jealousy at all.

My slight mental deviation into my Pater’s feelings distracted me long enough to not notice the reaction of the Lord Klein to the words. Suddenly, something hit Jens full force – and with a lot of force it was because I actually felt the shift in the air pressure. There was a blur and the sound of cracking masonry – I turned in time to see my Pater forced into the wall by a snarling, furious Klein. Not for long, because Jens’s fist nailed him right on the stomach with force enough to send him flying backwards. I scrambled to get out of the way on time, but the vampire lord was apparently scrambling for purchase, and he purchased me. The world paused around me for an impossible slow moment as I struggled to keep balanced. I so did not fall on the very angry, very powerful vampire. I took a reflexive breath I did not need, and waved my arms. My momentum slowed down to a crawl, and it seemed to me, for a moment that I had made it – but time sped up again, and I realized I was falling.

I was so dead.

Then, a firm hand gripped the back of my shirt – I heard stitches give in, and the cloth rip, but I stopped a few inches from the prone lord. The vampire pimpmaster held his other hand to help Lord Klein up – while keeping me held up by my shirt. The gesture apparently sobered Klein enough for him to pause – or maybe the two had exchanged some sort of unspoken communication, I don’t know.

“Rosamund, I forgive you for your unthought of words.” Klein finally said. Wait. My maker’s name was called ‘Rosamund’? Oh. Dear god. Could this piece of information have been delivered in a more inappropriate moment? I wanted badly to snicker, and yet, I couldn’t, because snickering at a bunch of angry vampires while being dangled by the scruff of my neck like some oversized kitten was easily the worst idea I could ever have. So I ordered myself to do whatever I could to keep my mouth shut, and I stayed put. I also noticed that my shirt had ridden up quite dangerously, and if I kept moving, I would be exposing quite a lot of myself to the group. I wasn’t particularly keen on that idea because for me to be flashing a guy, I expect to at least have their name and haven gotten treated to dinner first. I breathed very shallowly and slowly, until the duo in front of me seemed to remember that, oh, they had an almost topless girl dangling nearby. Klein picked me up and set me down, then looked around him, his voice hard.

“Will there be more challenges? Then hear me! I claim this newborn scion as my own until this mess is sorted. After that, she will be returned to her maker. In the meantime, I choose her because unlike all of you, she has no agenda, no reason, to difficult the investigation. She will be my agent and my eyes and ears. You will answer to her as to me, and should I know you are deliberately making her life hard, I will have you scattered as ashes to the morning sun.” He looked at the pimpmaster next to me, now leaning on his cane, and grinning. “Lord Dog, she will be your to protect until she discovers the one behind this all.” His voice had softened somewhat, not sure if by my account, but a moment later, it hardened again. “Then, know, all of you, and tell this to your broods and your masters, if they were foolish enough to not heed my calling. Tell them that there is a hunt on the responsible for the death of my wife – starting now. The moment they are discovered, any of those recognized by me in my domains are permitted to consume them and their soul. And those who bring me the proof of their demise will be rewarded in a manner of their choice.”

He turned on his heel and left, leaving me behind, torn on where to go. Lord Dog leered at me, and I suddenly felt very small and very defenceless, and instinctively looked around for a big stick. Actually, maybe I was just being unfair. Maybe he was just a swell guy who had a particularly bad taste for clothes. Two dark eyes watched me with undisguised amusement – or maybe he dressed like this and acted like this deliberately to get underestimated and written off as some weird, creepy and bumbling fool. Jens approached me, his eyes still on the retreating figure of the Old Man, now escorted by a group of his lieutenants. A dark heavy hand was now resting on my shoulder, more intimately than I would like. Jens and Dog stared at each other, clearly neither determined to budge. I could see I was going to grow roots if I had to wait there. As for me, I had already come to accept the fact that I wasn’t getting out of this before I found out who had killed Beatriz. I wouldn’t have the police to resort to, and I wouldn’t have forensic information I could get. I doubt I could get clues from my usual contacts (my cousin Carina who works at the DMV, and my Cousin Miguel’s wife, Tania, who’s a phone operator) – good thing I liked challenges. And my backup seemed pretty competent if things suddenly took a turn for the rough. Good thing, because with my whiny “I will not kill to be stronger” attitude – which I will defend to my death, thank you very much – I knew I could not stand against anyone who managed to take down Beatriz. I wondered, for a moment, if Lord Dog still had his own reflection. He smiled at me, genially. Probably not. Then, I looked at Jens. Could he have killed Beatriz?

He had been with me all the time.

He couldn’t have done it.

Or maybe he could, I just was unaware of it. I decided to pursue him as my first suspect not out of petty jealousy, but, rather, because I wanted to clear him off. He was my maker, and I had come to actually like him. We stared at each other for a while, in silence. He was irritated I was the Old Man’s property now. I was worried about his annoyance – and moreso, about the fact he might have been involved with Lord Klein’s squeeze. He didn’t trust Lord Dog. I didn’t either. He wanted to take me away, back home, keep me safe – and hated himself for being unable of doing either. I adored him for wanting to do so. I smiled at him, and held out my hand to squeeze his. “Don’t worry. I was reading Agatha Christie when I was 12. I know it’s always the least likely person who did it.”

That did bring a smile from him, but let me wondering – I was good at reading people, but was I any good at reading vampires? Could I tell if they were lying? Would a polygraph test even work on them?

Oh yeah, I could see already that this investigation was going to be a riot.

There was no point in waiting around, so I grabbed Dog and had him take me to the home of Beatriz. It was an elegant rise by the seaside.

“She loved the sea.” He said “I think it was because she was born by it.” And he pulled the door off the hinges and set it next to the wall. I needed a bit to resettle my brain, and followed him inside.

“No marks of forced entry.” I glanced behind me to the now cracked doorframe “Previous ones.” He grinned only in answer. “So tell me about her. You should know her well.” I started to rummage through her things, taking care not to touch anything. The house was elegant, uncluttered, but didn’t feel lived in. More like a place where you hung out between sunup and sundown. Then again, I couldn’t say I had ever been in a vampire’s house, so I had no idea if this was normal.

“So so. We didn’t see eye to eye in many things. She was painfully young and naïve. Which was a good thing.”

I had found the couch where supposedly her ashes had been found. There was a window next to it, and the sun would have hit it full force in the morning, if my orientation skills didn’t fail me. “Good?”

“Oh yes. Our Lord is somewhat… draconic in his decisions. Beatriz softened him, he stopped being so… randomly violent.”

“Just focusedly violent?” there were droplets of blood, hers, I assumed. I guess that, yes, if someone had immobilized her by the window, she’d be taking the sun during the entire day – and supposedly die. “How old was she?”

“Mm, two, maybe three years.”

I whistled. That was very young. She looked younger than me, so she could turn out to be indeed younger than me. How did someone as old as trees as Konrad end up with someone so young – in every aspect? Okay, everyone knows about old guys and young girls, but a few decades is already bad; a few centuries is overkill. I asked him that and Lord Dog shrugged: “Don’t ask me, I wasn’t privy to Klein’s boudoir. Part of me is not surprised this happened. Our kind is not the marrying kind.”

“You don’t believe in marriage?”

“Not amongst immortal beings. Do you know that old saying about hell being locked with your friends in a room for all eternity?” He smiled showing very white teeth, and I was nearly blinded by the gleam of his gold caps. I wondered if he placed them himself, or if he had a jolly time terrifying some poor dentist.

“Point.”

Dog had joined me and was now sniffing at the white couch, running his ringed fingers across the otherwise impeccable cloth. “Hmmm, how very odd.”

“Did you find something?” I leaned over his shoulder to see.

“I didn’t. That is what I find odd.”

“What do you mean?”

“I find joy here. Sorrow. Tears.” His fingers run very lightly over the red spots “But not fear. Not agony. There is bliss.”

“Doesn’t sound like killing grounds. Sounds as if she was… entertaining someone.” I paused, as I realized something I wasn’t too sure about. “Can we have sex?”

That made him laugh, and he ran a finger across my jaw line “Now now, business first, pleasure later – nnng, I can’t believe I’m saying this when a sweet little thang like you is being so forward.”

“Wha-hey! That’s not what I meant--- waitaminute, where did your accent go?” I had just noticed that his absolutely pimptastic accent was nowhere to be – er – heard.

“Wah ya mean mah seksay ack-uh-cent? Well, dahl, it ain’t gon nowhare. Right ‘ere it is.”

“You fake your accent?” I blinked.

“Drives ol’ Konrad up the walls, and most of the old timmers too. Great fun.” He winked, impishly.

“But… why?” I think my mouth was hanging open.

“Exactly because it drives them insane. Fun, huh?”

“I’m not sure I want to know. Back on track now. So she was killed here but there was no agony, no attempt to fight? I mean, if she was that young, wouldn’t leave her to the sun just bother her bit?”

“Suicide?”

“Does it happen?”

“More than we’d like to admit. After a while, everything is the same, again and again, cycle after cycle. Gets bloody boring.”

“Hah. I bet. I keep having 80’s flashbacks these days. So how come she had a triple generation with her – Lucious’s maker and Lucious himself?” I continued to look through the room. It was impeccable, not a sign of struggle, no show of violence of fighting. Things now were starting to get complex – so, she might be easier to kill than I thought, if she was that young. But using the sun to kill her wouldn’t it be just too slow and ineffective?”

“Oh, those two were the only two he’d allow her to keep. She had tried to get a few more, but Konrad didn’t give her permission to breed again after he realized why she was doing it.”

“Why was that?”

“She was lonely. She wanted time away from him. Ol’ Konrad is not an easy company to keep and someone as young as she, he could be overly protective. He’d do anything for her, you know? It’s weird, because I’ve known him for the better part of a century, and I’d never seen him dote on anyone like her. I pity the fool who nixed her, because Konrad’ll very likely keep him alive for eternity so he can torture him for that long.”

“What if it was suicide?”

“Then we might have a problem in our hands, because Konrad will go insane and blame everyone and himself for it. Plus—I don’t think sun would cause her enough harm to kill her. Young, too young. Her flesh was still within her lifetime. The really funky things only start happening after you outlived your humanity. That’s when you truly become one of the “damned”.” He snorted as he fingerquoted. For an old vampire, he was rather amusing.

“She’d be easy to kill, I expect, seeing she is so young. So it could have been anyone. Maybe even a human?”

“Beatriz? Nah, she had bloodied hands. I knew her Maker, righteous bastard, small wonder she ran all the way across the world to escape him. Lived in terror of him.”

“Why?”

“Had her kill her entire family when he made her, using his control on her. He wanted her to become his bodyguard – the pounce had a thing for pretty girls, and I guess the idea of having a sexy bodyguard to flaunt about enticed him. Except he needed to make her stronger than a normal scion.”

“So he made her murder a lot of people?”

“Oh yes. Would ensure she’d have no friends or family ties to return to, and that she’d be into power earlier than normal scions.”

“That’s just nasty. Seriously. Hope she killed the bastard.”

“If she’d only be so lucky. Nah, she came here, and the only reason why her master couldn’t recall her was because Konrad was around. He had his hooks well into her, and would not let her leave. She took his blood willingly, you know? So he could control her and help her resist her maker’s influence.”

“You are awfully well informed and conveniently info-dumping it all on me.”

“I have to be. I organize Klein’s information network. Why do you think he put me to work with you?”

“How loyal are you to him.”

“Very loyal.”

“Hm. That might pose a problem?”

“Thinking of taking a swing for his position, baby girl?”

“No. But I’ve wondered if Konrad could have killed her in a fit of jealousy.”

“That place didn’t seem like no killing grounds ta me”

“Well, we have no proof she was killed here, do we? Should could have been killed somewhere else, and then her ashes put here to make it seem as if she had committed suicide. Or simply that she could be killed here.”

“Jealousy is an ugly thing. But I’m not sure that’d be the case with Konrad.”

“Why not?”

“The other lovers she got, he killed, in front of her to teach her a lesson – one of them I think he forced her to kill herself; I doubt she’d make herself pass through that again.”

“Okay…. Fuck, that’s just nasty.”

“Might makes right in this club, sweetheart. If you’re strong enough to get away with murder, you’re scot free. Vampires and democracy don’t work well. Ole Klein dispatched most of her brood like that. That’s why she only has a female scion, and her cub, who is too terrified to be around her exactly in fear the Old Man will go into a jealousy fit and wack him.”

“Besides… if it had been him, why would he be screaming about to get him the head of the murderer? Hell he’s the big boss in the area. He supposedly can get away with murder without excuses. She’s got no brood of her own to want to avenge her, does she?”

“That is… actually a very good point.” He tapped the top of his cane thoughtfully against his chin “Even if he had killed her in a fit of jealousy, he would not need to make excuses, especially if she had it coming. Besides… nah, him killing her? It’d drive him insane. He’d kill himself afterwards.”

“You sure?” That didn’t sound like the scary vampire I had met.

“Ahha, dollface. It’s us the oldest who are britttlest. Much bigger suicide rate amongst us old timers than the nooblets. The few who do get to remove themselves from the vampiric genetic pool usually are whiny bitches who can’t stand the notion that they need to drink human blood. Maybe they are afraid of the diseases.” He snorted. “Despite their relationship being totally fucked up, that man loved her and would have done anything for her. I pity him, having to go on without her.”

I took another glance, searching across the rooms, as I pondered on what he had said. It could be her maker who had found her and decided to take revenge. It could have been Lucious or his maker, although I found that unlikely. It could have been herself or Konrad, although that was even less likely. Maybe Jens, because he wanted to be the only advisor? Maybe because she had too much sway on the Old Man’s heart. But he had spent the entire night with me. Didn’t he?

“Lord Dog? Can vampires … alter or affect people’s memories?”

“Some can, sugarcube. ‘cept they need to be mightily powerful and mightily old. Why ya ask?”

“Ya think someone altered her memories to be enjoying death as she died so we’d think it was suicide?” I lied. I didn’t want to shed suspicions over my own Maker, even though I had just found out a) he could have easily led me to believe he had spent the rest of the night with me, and b) he had a serious thing for the deceased woman.

“That is a little too farfetched, don’t you think?” He looked at me suspiciously, as if he knew I was hiding something. “Ah mean, you’re not trying to crowbar this suicide theory into the case just to get rid of it quickly, are ye?”

“Good god, no. It’s just – gosh, I’m just a little bloodsucker girl. How can I solve mysteries if I don’t know half the things the big boys can do?”

“Heh, dun worry yer pretty little head with that. Other than a few things that I’ll keep you on the look for, I doubt vampire crimes are solved much differently than human crimes.”

“You can’t control the mind of witnesses into forgetting what they saw.”

“Heh, the mind is a funny thing, ya know. Even if you tinker and fidget with it, you can’t just rip pieces of memories away. They are still there, just – suppressed. Someone who knows how to can tell when someone’s mind’s been tampered, and, to an extent, undo the damage.”

Good to know. Except if I did ask him to do it, I might end up incriminating Jens in front of the Head Spy of Lord Klein. And I didn’t really know on whose side Lord Dog was in; I had only his word for it. But I’d have to broach him; otherwise, Dog might find it suspicious – I was starting to believe that he was there as much to help me as he was to keep an eye on me. “Tell me about how my Pater got along with her. They were two heads butting with the Lord of the area. They had to be at each other’s throats. Maybe he’d have a reason to kill her.”

Like, say, jealousy.

“Jens is hard to read, and that is why I think he should be dead.” I think my eyes might have betrayed more shock than I wanted, because he slapped my shoulder with enough strength to dislocate it if I was still human “Naw, don’t go making that puppy face of horror, or you’ll break mah ole black dead heart. I think everyone with over a century should be dead, really, to ensure that the biggest threats to Konrad are gone. So don’t think I’ll just go around murdering people. Nah, that’s not my thing.” He paused, and grinned his disturbing grin “Unless they really deserve it.”

“So not helping.”

“There’s something in your mind abut him, I can see it in your face. Spill.” This time, I wasn’t so ready to hide my emotions and he caught wind of it, suddenly growing very serious. Even in the pimperrific costume he looked dangerous and meaning business “My Lord is not focusing on the problems he should focus because his squeeze is dead, and I can’t have that. I want to find the culprit, but I’ve been his friend for over two centuries now, and I owe him giving him closure and retribution for the death of his girl. I am not going to settle for the easy way out and just blame your master because it will solver the problem. But I’m not going to let you go easy on him, either.”

“I wanted to check him first.” I confessed “because that way would clear him. I don’t think he’d want to go around murdering Beatriz. He seemed to be –benevolent towards her. He had no feelings of ill-will or anything.”

“But?”

“But he spent the night with me.”

“He ahs an alibi.”

“Has he? You told me yourself, old and powerful vampires can change the mind of people if they so wish. With me being from his brook --- wouldn’t it make it even easier?”

He thought on that for a moment, looking serious again, then nodded “You are a smart one, ah’ll give ye that. So… that was what you were skirtin’ about? You wanting me to check your mind, see if he went around messing with it?”

I nodded.

“Awright. Look at me in the eyes.” I did, and shivered when he snarled. “Oh, baby doll, you have been tampered alright. Damn bastard – look at me in the eyes!” I already was, but I could feel his anger and I didn’t want to dare incurring in more of it. Suddenly, his eyes seemed to almost glow, and I blacked out for a moment. I stumbled and had to struggle not to fall to my knees. Faster than I could see, Dog reached to grab me by the shoulders. My head hurt, and my thoughts were foggy, but I was confused now – I still remembered Jens spending the night with me, reading a book as I showered.

And I could remember him leaving soon after we had arrived, and only returning back to dawn, when I was already in bed, looking at the ceiling. I had indeed found strange my propensity to stare at ceilings for several hours without as much as batting an eyelid. I remembered more, him setting my carkeys on the table, together with a crumpled pamphlet – which I had paid no attention to at the time. And now – it might contain a vital piece of the puzzle. “We need to go. Now.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I need to pick up something from my bedroom – god, I hope that the cleaning ladies didn’t tossed it away—”

Lord Dog gave me a level look, as if wondering if I was trying to dodge the subject of my maker having playing etch-a-sketch with my mind, but the truth was, I was already bloody furious about it. I hated being used by Jens when he needed to go out for some secret romantic rendezvous with the Lord’s squeeze – but, come now, I was being fallacious and stupidly jealous. I wasn’t that much affected, in truth. I think I was more hurt he’d been using me as a deliberate patsy. He could have simply not gotten an alibi – I was sure that half of the vampires had none. And yet, he had used me to get one.

Thankfully, Dog didn’t insist, and instead, got me in his car and drove off to our hotel room. I scared the concierge, and two old ladies getting into the lift – but they soon forgot about me when they set eyes on my companion. I burst into my room – only to find the dark skinned woman – Lucious’s Maker – in a tender embrace with Jens – their clothes lacking, and blood being exchanged. I froze.

I think, really, what hurt me most was that I actually thought he might be into me one day. If I was a good vampire, maybe he’d be the smart, witty guy I had waited all my life. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I did belie in working for what is worth it. I gave them both my best, most luminous smile, and talked loud enough for the neighbours to hear me.

“Oh, hey guys! Sorry, didn’t meant to interrupt, just came to pick up this!” I snatched the crumpled leaflet still on top of the desk. “Jens, next time you need to have private time with your date, huh, think you could use your room?” The dark skinned woman looked at me, smiling and yawned. She hadn’t been startled, or too preoccupied with what had happened, so I had to guess either she was awfully confident, or she wanted me to find them. Jens was just watching me with a dark look – not sure if he was annoyed because I had busted him, or, more likely, because I was giving him lip in front of others. Except he couldn’t say anything this time, because the colourful form of the Master Spy of Lord Klein was occupying most of the doorframe. He had my back.

“I’ll be back later! Kisskiss!”

And without waiting for an answer (or expecting any, really) I turned tail, and left, before I would say something I deeply regretted—because it would very likely involve my Pater ripping my head off. We most definitely would not want that, would we?

I all but dragged Lord Dog to the lift with me, but he took his sweet time, clearly enjoying each and every moment.

“Did you just say ‘kisskiss’?”

“Shutup. I wasn’t thinking. Too busy trying not to laugh or make any wiseass remarks that would get me killed.”

“Exemplify?”

“No need to point—I know the way out.”

“My god. I’d make sure your death would take a few hours at the very least, I it was me.”

We were still laughing when the lift binged – and a door slammed behind us.

“Wait!” It was the dark skinned woman, struggling to get into her clothes – which, frankly, she didn’t need to, because she her body was perfect. The Lord’s Spymaster watched her with detached interest.

“Ah, Erika. Something you want of us?” His smile was not his most pleasant, a stark contrast when compared to the frank and open laughter he had had not a few minutes ago.

“He kicked me out.”

“Pardon?” It was my turn, because she was most definitely looking at me.

“He told me to leave when he saw you.”

“Er, why? I mean, we’re all grown up. Not going to tell mom ‘cause I saw you both kissing, you know?” I paused and looked at Dog “… the Lord has not yet put a ban on kissing without permission, has he?”

“When he does, I will make sure you will be dully notified.”

Our light banter was most definitely irritating Erika, and that is the reason I think Dog was keeping it up. She opened the mouth to say something – I saw Dog tense, take a step back towards the room—

And suddenly, there was fire and brimstone raining on us, as the sound of the world ending made the walls shudder.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 27 Mar 2011 03:58

Part 4 – The Enemy Within

My ears were ringing so loudly that I didn’t realize that I was screaming until Lord Dog put his hand over my mouth and pulled me to him. Superhuman senses, even when not fully activated, were still a bitch when suddenly loud noises or bright lights got turned on. And when the aforementioned noise is a hundred of decibels-explosion, it feels as if the top of your head is about to pop off. I’m not sure if Dog actually heard me screaming or if he realized I was from my facial expression – come on, he was centuries older than I, so I had to assume that he could hear far better than I could.

He gave me a stiff shake, and I clutched to him – I felt my knees buckling and he supported me against a wall, while he helped the still mostly naked Erika to her feet. She got dressed in a blink of an eye, and Dog was watching me with eerie yellow eyes, as if suppressing the beast inside. It was the first time I ever saw the usually mellow and relaxed Lord Dog show anything akin to fury or anger – or fear.

“I… what just… happened? My Pater, he…” I was so dazed and stunned I couldn’t even form the proper words. I couldn’t bring myself to say it because I really liked Jens. And part of me, the stupid little sweet part of me (the same one that had never truly accepted that my parakeet Mr. Sinatra had been killed by the cat, like my mom claimed, and, instead, firmly believed it had flown away to the Bahamas for holidays) did not want to accept that if my Pater had been inside that room when it had exploded, and not even Konrad Klein could have survived the blast, the heat or the fire – and certainly not all of them combined.

Lord Dog screamed something that I was pretty sure I would not be able to repeat in polite company (actually, I probably would, but my mother would smack me hard for it), but I couldn’t exactly what, because I still couldn’t hear, the infernal buzzing in my ears still going. The elder vampire’s expression, however, was quite unmistakable. He screamed something else at Erika, who nodded and bolted towards the stair well. By then, I began realizing that part of the buzzing wasn’t mine, but rather the fire alarm, screaming its electronic head of. I noticed then too that I was soaking wet, and instinctively, looked up – possibly expecting to see a stray cloud that had just snuck into the room. Much to my surprise, it was actually raining – the sprinklers had flared to life, and were now thoroughly dosing me and Dog.

He yelled something and now I finally managed to hear something – my body was probably repairing itself from the sonic damage I had taken.

“Buzzing in my ears still.” I told him.

He huffed and mouthing slowly “Are. You. Hurt.” I shook my head, in answer, and he nodded, then grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to follow Erika. By now, I could hear a soft humming sound, which I assumed were people freaking out all over the hotel. For the time being, I would not be implicated, but when the explosion began getting investigated, they would come to me – my first instinct was to not get myself involved. Then, I realized that my family would be dragged into this – so I might as well just suck it up and tell the police the truth when they came to ask: I had no idea what the hell had happened or even why someone had wanted to kill me.

He signalled for me to follow him, and I did. We came across scurrying panicking people, seeming almost like a river rushing down the emergency stairs. We got into the river and finally flooded out into the reception area. My hearing was slightly better, and now I could make out voices, and a word here and there. It didn’t really matter because my brain wasn’t taking it in. I was still being crushed by the enormity of the realization that my maker was dead.

And someone else had been trying to kill me.

It was a good thing I was no longer affected by the cold, or I would have been pretty uncomfortable; Lord Dog had dragged me away from the hotel, which was already being evacuated, and brought me straight to the Old Man’s presence. He alone made me feel pretty uncomfortable as it was, thank you very much, so I really didn’t need feeling all sneezy and coughy from my soggy clothes. My hearing hadn’t returned fully yet, but the two men were too busy arguing and debating to notice me, so I would get away with it for a while, at the very least. This time, it was just us, the Old Man, and two guys I did not know, but had been built like brickshithouses and my guess was that they were the local Lord’s enforcers Jens had mentioned.

I was proud to say that I had never lost a loved one: I had all my grandmothers and my grandfathers, parents and sisters, and things had been going well for my friends, because other than a few grievous injuries sustained in the fulfilment of duty, they were all alive and well. I had lost two cats and a parakeet and a goldfish when I was little, but even my child self could have realized that those were losses that could not be compared to the death of a person who’s close to you. It is a strange, confusing realization to know you cannot call him ever again on the phone; or make smartass remarks, or just give him a comment. It felt strangely heartbreaking to know that if I called his number, he would never pick it up, no matter how long I let it ring.

Thus, I was duly and absolutely unprepared for the impact that is to lose someone close to me. I didn’t know what to do, what to think, how to react. I didn’t know what to say or what to feel. I had lost my Pater and I felt very lost. Seeing that I was a new vampire, I guess the blow could be akin to a young child losing his father and mother at an early age. I simply didn’t know what to do, how to act, how to be a vampire. I guess I would have to solve the mystery of Beatriz’s death, then try to find out about who had killed Jens, and then, well, go back to my PI life and take a lot of night jobs. For the longest time, I just stood there, dripping into the wooden panelled floor of what I think was one of the Old Man’s safe houses, as he and Lord Dog talked about what had happened. I felt numb.

Dog finally came to talk to me, setting a heavy hand on my shoulder. “Ah hav’ more bad news for ya, baby girl.” Even his accent sounded faded. Despite enjoying using it to annoy Klein, Dog was visibly making an effort to actually put it up. “All yer broodmates vanished without a trace.”

I had to make an equal effort to answer “Do you think they killed him?” I didn’t think hat would be possible – because they would have to break the connection to their maker; and that would only happen if Jens was exceedingly cruel and harsh to the point where survival would be overridden by hatred.

“Unlikely. Their bond to their maker would be too strong by now. Although working as a pack to bring a bigger threat down, it would have made it easier for the information to slip out of their minds. Besides – how could they know he’d be in your room?”

“He had spent the night there, but… yeah, you’re right.” My voice sounded mechanic, detached. I guess I was going into a shock of sorts. Loss added to the notion I had almost died there. If Jens hadn’t been around macking out with Erika, I would be in that room, and now it’d have been me who would be making a complete ash of myself.

Yes, I do believe I already mentioned my totally inappropriate sense of humour.

There was silence between us for a long moment. They didn’t know what to say – vampires apparently, aren’t particularly competent in sincere comforting of others – and I didn’t know what to ask. What now? I guess when I was done, I’d go back home and just pretend to be human, you know, just with a taste for really rare steaks, and an allergy to the sunlight. Fortunately, I didn’t sparkle or turn into ash while in the sun, so I doubted I would be pegged as a vampire by my friends and family. I hadn’t known Jens for that long, but… wow, I realized I felt his absence far more than I should. It was probable due to our connection as maker and scion, the destruction of one affected the other – but rationalizing it didn’t help at all. I just missed him.

“Without a Pater to answer for her, she’s a rogue now, my Lord.” Dog said. “Unproved and without a Maker. What do we do with her?” I had the feeling, from the hint of concern from his voice, that rogues didn’t have happy fates.

“If she completes her investigation, she will have proved herself in my eyes. If you see she’s useful to you, keep her. Just make sure I just get my revenge.” Klein said.

For a moment, I felt an intense distaste for the Old Man. Selfish bastard – just because he had felt and experienced loss, it didn’t mean he could boss me around, and wordlessly tell me to suck it up and be sad for _him_ and prioritize my life around what he needed. What about me? He could live on without his Beatriz, and probably had for a long time now. I was alone, ‘rogue’, without anyone to teach me or instruct me.

“I’m sorry. But what does being ‘rogue’ mean?”

“Oh, well, ya see, things kin get a li’… bye-blee-cal when da bloods are involv’d.” Lord Dog said “Ah told’ye about da ‘might makes right’—so, unless they go against da orders of da lord of the area, the vampire broods are allowed ta sort their grievances as they see fit. If ye attack a member of a brood, Lord Klein allows his homies to just extra bloody revenge – he only interferes if t’was righty-fool retribution.”

“And where am I involved in that particular scenario?” it took me a while to filter the message out of the thick accent he had just spouted.

“Ye din’t have a brood ta care for you – and bein’ unproven an’ all, it’s unlikely any vampire patriarch or matriarch will take ye, so you’re kinda more or less on your own.”

“Fabulous. So, nobody to protect me or guide me? This being vampire is getting better and better.”

“Dun be bitter, darlin’,” he grinned, showing me very white teeth and enlongated canines. “’t also means ye owe nuthin’ to nobody – and kin do whahteva ye wanna.”

“Yeah, unless they are strong enough to kick my ass and make me do it anyway.”

“Those are them breaks, baby girl. Nubody said bein’ a blood was all fun an’ games.”

I was pretty sure vampires did not get anything as mundane as a headache, but I had the strange notion I was about to develop one. “Okay, now what?”

“Now, we go off an’ find who killed the boss’s lady. After that – ye’re free ta decide wha ya wanna do with yer unlife.”

Ah, it was so awesome not to have any choices. I shrugged – nothing I could do if I was basically being pushed into obeying the Old Man. Might as well go back to work and get this matter sorted quickly – I’d need a new place to stay and maybe buy a few clothes. Lord Dog must have read my mind (or just could see my face). “Ah’ll getya a place ta spend the dayhours away – sun’ll be coming up soon. Tamorrow we go back ta work, mmkay?”

Mutedly, I nodded, feeling, suddenly, very tired. In theory, I shouldn’t be going into adrenaline withdrawal – with me being dead and all – but it sure felt like the aftermath of absolute shock and horror. I needed to have a long bath, and then lie down – all followed by a nice, restful coma. I ended up staying at one of Dog’s “safe houses” (safe from who I couldn’t say), a dark, old basement in the historical side of town. It was mildly damp and cold, but it didn’t affect me. No running water, however, so the shower would have to wait.

I fell into a mattress put in a room where the sunlight did reach, and not long after Dog was gone (with the promise he’d come for me when the day was over), I fell into a deep and heavy sleep.

For the first time since I was turned, I dreamt. I dreamt that Jens was still alive, wanting to talk to me, feeling his presence still lingering – maybe he was haunting me. Or maybe I just didn’t not want to let go of him and the memory of him. Goddamnit.

I wasn’t tired when I woke up (which I would normally, were I have to have so many dreams during my sleep while I was human), just weary, as if I had spent hours crying. Dog took a few hours to show up at my (his?) door. I had noticed I tended to sleep far less than Jens – seemed that the older you go, the later you slept through the day. I wondered if there was any kind of vampires that were so old that they slept during the entire day and night, and quietly did nothing more than lie immobile, dreaming of whatever vampires dream of.

In my case, of my dead maker.

Dog was standing in front of the mattress where I laid on – I hadn’t bothered to explore my surroundings last night, and I had found no reason or desire to do so upon waking. I could see vaguely some outlines of what seemed shelves and chests of drawers, but my mother had taught me it was rude to pry into other people’s belongings (which didn’t mean she didn’t do it herself, every time she had the chance); and frankly, I just didn’t care enough. The Lord’s enforcer said nothing, standing creepily still, both his hands grasping the top of his walking cane.

“I suppose it’s time we go and continue to sort this mess.” I finally said. I didn’t feel too comfortable with lying there with him watching me. I still remembered his frightening yellow gaze, made scarier by his dark skin. So I got up, ran my fingers through my hair, and walked to him.

“I’m sorry.” He said.

“Thank you. He was kinda nice.”

“No, not about your maker.”

“Huh?” Yeah, I wasn’t always the fastest on the uptake; mind like a steel trap.

“About what Klein did.”

“Not following.”

“He could have claimed you, or had me claim you, at least for the time being of this investigation – to protect you, instead of letting you be rogue – I had told you, our peers can truly be assholes.”

“God, why? Does he really think I killed my maker or something?”

“You have to see, ol’ Klein hasn’t been around milk bones like you for a long time. Usually, he won’t even meet them until they are ready to let go of the mother’s apron strings. He already forgot what is to be newborn – and still remember one’s mortal years. The fear, the insecurity – so he treated you jus’ like he treats the big boys. He’s always been far more stick than carrot man, that one. He figures that you’ll work so much faster if you have a Damocles sword above your head. No consideration for your loss, just businesses, you know.”

Oh. “Yeah, like you said. Assholes.”

“Ya know, if I didn’t already have a large brood who keeps me at my wits’ end with constant bickering and bitchin’, I’d claim you as my own. You’re a good gal.” He slapped me hard on the shoulder, making me wince. I don’t think he meant it, but he was trying to comfort me, which was incredibly sweet of him. I managed a small smile. Yeah, it didn’t hurt any less, but he earned points for effort.

“Come on,” I said “let’s hit the pub. The sooner we know what happened, the sooner I can stop walking around feeling it’s Jessie’s open season.”

He barked out a long laughter, and motioned for me to go first.

We headed to the bar, a nice little out of way location. It was filling up nicely, and I could reckon that when my Pater had been there, it would probably be quite filled up. I assumed that the bartender that day would be in service in a similar schedule as today – here’s hoping he didn’t only work on weekends. The leaflet had advertised a “lady’s night”, and I found it strange someone as refined as the young vampires would come to this place – double that for Jens. It looked somewhat cheap in a cool kind of way, the place that catered to students, starving artists and new hippies. The environment was rustic in a charming kind of way, just like the décor, in lots of wood, hemp, and old paper. I managed to blend in, in my wrinkled T-shirt, jeans, and beat boots – but Dog stood out like a sore thumb: the white stripe suit was almost conservative, and he wore no feather boa today – but the lapels of his jacket were fur, the rims of his glasses had tiny rhinestones, which, although not really visible at first glance, would flash and spark like diamonds.

And then there was the matter of his wide brimmed white hat, with a ribbon around the middle in a black and white leopard spot pattern – and an honest to god red feather sticking out of it, fluttering softly around in the breeze.

I think that a herd of camels on roller skates would have looked as if it belonged more than he. However, I had to give the man his props – he wasn’t so much as fazed by the sidelong glances, and quizzical, badly disguised stares. Actually, and don’t tell him I said this, but I really think he was kinda enjoying the attention.

The barkeep was a girl with a firm jaw, slightly masculine, with amazingly beautiful dark gold wavy hair, and sporting an Iron Maiden T-shirt. She seemed to be well known to the crowd, who addressed her by first name. She seemed to be fairly competent on working the counter, but I was used to the master skills of my bartender admirer, and so I could see she wasn’t a pro – all seemed to say she was a student trying to make some money to help pay tuition.

“Hey,” I said “think I might have a word with you?”

She looked me from top to bottom, as if she was uncertain if she wanted to talk to me or not “What’s up?” Well, no automatic ‘what did I do wrong?’ so she was pretty confident. Not sure if she’d talk to me, thought.

I slid my PI license so she could see. I was going to slid it with a note, but I decided that with this girl it would be far too sleazy and might upset her against me. “I’m looking for two people – and I think they were here two nights ago. I was wondering if you could help me.”

Again, that slow, suspicious look. She didn’t like I was snooping and asking questions and wasn’t even a cop – but I think me being a girl endeared me more. She looked badass, so it’s normal she’d respect other badass (and not bitchty – please, do not confuse badass with bitchyness, it’s the worst mistake you could make) girls. And being a PI is kinda badass on its own rights – not as badass as bounty hunter, but trust me, I’d done a few stints as one for a couple years, and that was possibly one of the most complicated and problematic time of my life. That as when I got my car and living-room firebombed, and, frankly, after some of the more colourful… ‘incidents’, I wound up feeling more like a joke and less like a badass. So, I shifted business, and at least now I was less prone to be involved in abhorrently embarrassing and silly incidents, and more in serious, well thought of incidents. “What did they do?”

I considered making something up. I decided going in strong would work better. “They’re both dead.” I saw her pause, and then go pale.

“What were they like?” she asked after a moment to recover herself, which she deftly disguised by pretending she was quite busy wiping the glass she had been drying for over a minute already. Now, unfortunately, Jens was old enough, and he didn’t show on camera or on film any more. There might be a painting of him, but it’d be really weird to pull it off to show it – this assuming I had access to it. Beatriz, like Jen, had lost enough of her soul to stop showing in mirrors. However, she was a modern girl, just like me – and there were still pictures of her, from her breathing days. I had one Lord Dog had scrounged for me, and I showed it to the bartender girl. Beatriz was in it, a healthy, normal college girl, posing with a friend, and a funny hat, against a crisp autumn backdrop.

The girl studied the picture for a while, then returned it to me. “Yeah, she was here two nights ago. She’s a regular. I’m not sure about her name, thought. She never talked much.”

My first reaction was to think that it was strange that a vampire (especially the vampire boss’s squeeze) would hang out at a place like this – familiar and kinda cheap; then, it struck me that Beatriz would be, what, in her 20s? 25? Maybe even less – she didn’t even look to be in her 20s when time had been stopped for her. It wasn’t surprising she’d come to stay with people her age – with people that could have been her. “Hm, thanks. What about the guy?” I quickly described Jens, and the clothes I remembered him wearing. I don’t think he’d have a reason to change them when he came to see me.

“Yeah, I think I remember him. Had an awesome coat. Didn’t notice her talking to him though. I mean, they could have, it’s always busy on weekends – I wouldn’t have noticed it. But she got out with some surfer bum, guy by the name of Diesel. He’s cool, I guess, as long as you don’t let yourself be charmed by him. She looked a little, hum… preppy; not the kind of chick that’d go for him.”

“They left together?”

“Yeah, they traded a few words—she looked really pissed, and it was the first time I know her to have left without leaving a tip. She was a really good tipper. Then, they left together. Diesel’s been around, but I haven’t seen her since then.” She gave the picture a sad look “Guess this explains it why.”

Things were getting more and more complex as time went by. Now this Diesel. Who was he? A human lover? One of her brood? Maybe some human crush that had fallen for her dark and serious looks. What would he have said something that angered her so much?

“Think Diesel might have something to do with her death?”

“I… don’t know.” It was the pure truth. I had no idea. Beatriz was young, but she had enough killings under her belt to have no more reflection – she wasn’t exactly a pushover like me. “Tell me, has Diesel come here today?”

“No, not yet. He might, however, he’s a late arrival always.”

I needed to figure where this Diesel fit, and what role was Jens playing in all of this. “Okay, your information and time are more than worth a good tip, especially now that I got to deliver you the bad news you lost a good tipper.” She nodded to the tip jar, and I slid a folded note there, which made her smile. “Mind if I sit down and wait for this Diesel?”

“Sure, knock yourself out – I’ll point him to you when he arrives.” I nodded in thanks and was about to leave, when she ‘psssst’ed me, whispering almost without moving her lips “Just… if you don’t mind me asking – is that guy with you?” She glanced quickly at Lord Dog, who, I’m pretty sure I saw smile for a split second – and who I knew could (and probably was) hearing the entire conversation.

I leaned ever so slightly towards her and whispered, confidently, and in turn. “Him? Yeah, he’s my perky sidekick.”

That left her with wide eyes, as I returned to stand next to the spymaster “Jens was here. Beatriz was too, but he didn’t leave with her – instead, some guy who’s called Diesel.”

He rubbed his chin “No idea who he was. Maybe some human beau?”

I nodded “Or a friend or even family. She got really angry at him, which very likely means they were close. He might show up tonight, so let’s sit down and wait?” He motioned for me to choose where to sit and I did, choosing a pretty nice couch with a coffee table in front of it. Dog let himself fall on a match seat, and set his walking cane (today’s was made of transparent PVC) on top of his crossed legs. “God, this entire thing only gets more and more confusing at each passing moment. You sure she’s wasn’t suicidal? I mean she was pretty young, taken against her will, made to kill her family. She was Spanish, right? Catholic maybe? Probably feeling very guilty about all of this.”

“Then, you just shot your theory in the foot. Killing her family would be bad enough – but going off and killing herself? That would be an immediate one-way ticket to damnation. Besides,” he leaned towards me conspirationally, speaking so softly that I was surprised I could hear him – actually, I think only I could, because I was the only other person in the room with enhanced senses. “I learned something new that might interest you. Seems ol’ Klein was afraid of exactly that.”

“Of what?”

“Of her being suicidal. Ya know, sweet young thing, made to do horrible things – guilty is a powerful emotion, especially in the young. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Beatriz seemed to always be level headed and didn’t go about whining ‘bout how we went ‘round eating people. She drunk her blood and damn well enjoyed it. But people always play their cards close to their chests – and the Old Man didn’t have access to her mind as well as he is used to having in regards to his brood.”

“He was afraid she’d kill herself so he forbade her from doing so.”

“Close. He put a compulsion in her.”

“Mind control.”

“Aye. Obviously, she wasn’t aware, because that would make her pissed off beyond belief.”

“Wow. That is so wrong in so many ways. What kind of guy does that to the woman he loves.”

Dog snorted. “You seem to be under the erroneous belief that vampires are kind and considerate lovers. We’re the most selfish of all creatures on god’s green earth – smart as human, greedy and infinitely more powerful. Are you surprised we are completely bastards when our loved ones are concerned? I mean, we have the power to make those who we love love us back – well, maybe not true love, but not wanting to leave us ever, and endure all our really annoying habits, and like us no less for it. If that ain’t love…”

“That is so wrong in so many ways I don’t know where to start to explain to you the absolute wrongness of that statement. God, how can Konrad still be allowed to be the leader of this area?”

“Your own maker was ready to use you as an alibi, and actually wiped your mind without so much asking you for permission. It’s not a one-man phenomenon, so don’t start to get all high and mighty.”

Ouch. I just had been duly served. “Okay, it’s still wrong, okay?”

“We’re just like the next man – if he had been allowed to live for a few hundred years.”

“What you’re saying is that vampires, per se, aren’t really evil because they are vampires; rather, they are humans, and hence, inclined to evilness when their humanity (and, thus, conscience) fades?

“Me? Nah, not at all. That’s a whole lot of far too complex words for me.”

“You’re dodging the question.” I said, accusingly.

“I sure am. And to ensure it’s dodged, I have a question for ye.”

“Mmm?”

“If I’m your elder, and your better – shouldn’t you be my perky sidekick, and not the other way around?”

That did make me laugh, and dispel a little of the tension that had been forming between the two of us. He winked and leaned back on his chair. I was about to say something else, when a waitress came over, and set a beer I hadn’t asked in front of me, on top of a paper napkin. I was going to tell her that I hadn’t ordered, and that she probably had gotten someone else’s order mixed with ours; but the busty girl whispered conspirationally, as she nabbed the ashtray that had been clearly used by whoever at sat there before us “Liz said to look to your left – discretely.” She nodded to the bartender girl, who gave a discreet nod back and went back to mixing drinks. I held my gesture, and, instead, thanked the girl, who, after a long, surprised look at Dog and his Gandalf the White’s pimp brother look, moved away with the full ashtray, leaving a clean one in its stead.

I shifted on my place, and got to see the person they were referring too. The term beach bum applied just perfectly: shorts, T-shirt, sandals – even thought we were in November. I was trying to steal glances and not stare – handsome, in a sort of slightly sleazy blond way. At a certain moment, he came closer than expected and, suddenly froze. Much to my surprise, I could see Lord Dog’s smile, and he didn’t even look back. He was just smiling, fangs longer than I found safe for in public – and the Diesel guy just froze, as if he was some little deer caught under the flashlights.

“Hello, Dieter.” Dog said so quietly and menacingly that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and my fangs extend enough for me to feel it. Get three predators in the same room, and one of them roars in defiance – your instinct is to defy back, even if my rational side would be very upset at me if I tried to do something as stupid as defying the spymaster. “Didn’t expect to meet you here. Then again, not surprised,” he turned very slowly to look at the now very stiff man, and boy, I sure wouldn’t have enjoyed one bit to be under the glare of those eyes “rats always scurry about in the underbelly”

“Look, man, I don’t want any problems. I just came her to hung out – wasn’t violating any of the hunting territory lines or anything, I sw—”

“Sit.”

This only made Dog scarier. He was usually happy and verbose and so talkative –that when he went all quiet, you just KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that someone’s day was about to get irretrievably ruined. Dieter\Diesel made a tiny whimpering sound, as if his legs suddenly had stopped obeying him and had taken to walk of their own volition. He sat on my couch, as far as possible from the chair where the pimp vampire sat.

“This young lady has a few questions to ask you. Answer them.”

Personally, I hoped Dog would have wanted to save me work and actually asked them himself – the guy was so terrified I don’t think he’d be able to lie to save his life. Still, I looked at the guy, trying to act as professional as I could – I didn’t want to induce a false or twisted testimony from him, in case he was so afraid he’d just try to tell us whatever we wanted to hear.

“You were here two nights ago. Talking to Beatriz. She’s dead now, and I want to know why you were hanging out with her so close to her death.”

“Look, I have no idea—”

“Dodging the question, Dieter?” Lord Dog’s voice was so pleasant that it only made it even more sinister.

“NO! Fuck, man – I had nothing to do wit her death—I mean, she was Klein’s squeeze. You really think I’d go mess with her in any way? I’m not stupid or suicidal.”

“But you were talking to her.” I tried to steer the conversation back to the original pattern. I didn’t want Dog interrupting too much. There would come a time where he’d be too scared to answer – and I didn’t want things to reach that point.

“Yeah! Shit, I was, but I swear, I had nothing to do with that shit and her dying, I swear—”

“Why were you talking to her?”

“Shit, shit, shit—it was just businesses, okay? Shit. I wouldn’t kill her; fuck, Konrad’d torture me for eternity. No money in the world would get me to risk that.”

“Dodging the question?” I tried to mimic Dog’s tone, seeing if that would slap my very nervous companion back to focus.

“Shit! No, fuck. It’s just—”

There was a quiet click as the older vampire hit the floor with the tip of his cane, setting his hands on top of it, gripping firmly. I don’t know why, that gesture alone made Diesel even more uncomfortable, and words stumbled out: “Fuck, Dog! I thought she was fooling around with Rosamund. And, shit, I thought I might as well make something out of that – I’m on the business of selling information, right? You know I’m good. Otherwise, you wouldn’t keep me on retainer.”

Fuck. Beatriz had been fooling around with my Pater. Fuck. I hated this. With him dead, I guess the matter was solved into itself, because it did seem like he had done it. But it hurt a little to think he’d have done it. And why would he have killed her? Jealousy? Crime of passion?

“Oh, but I know you, maggot. You associate with us, and automatically, you think you’re one of us. You get your fix, you keep your pretty face and your athletic body for a couple more months, and you think you’re as good as we are. You forget—you’re not. And you’re so very easily replaceable. Maybe I should just drop the charade and tear the answers from your mind.”

Huho. The man was on a breaking point. I knew that look far too well. Lord Dog was used to pushing until something gave in; an effective tactic, but I had seen people driven against a corner so much that fear lost all meaning. They just went feral and stopped caring for consequences. Knowing how Dog acted, he would not take that kindly, and might very well end up killing the only lead we had. “Look, we just want to solve this, okay? Just tell me what happened, and we will forgo whatever little peccadilloes you committed. They’re not important enough for us to care—”

“Shhiiit. Look. I thought that Rosamund was doing her, right? And I’ve wanted to serve someone with real power that won’t treat me like crap—” impossible to miss the glance at Dog “—I thought that it would help her convince to take me into her brood. She’s not some crazy bitch like Erika or Johannah, and she’s got the Lord’s ear – she’d be perfect.”

“And was he doing her?”

“No. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think she was seducing him – it had been lasting for a while now. I heard them argue at times. She wanted him to do it; he kept refusing, saying he couldn’t. Damn bastard was like some sort of old school knight or something. Kept harping about how wrong it was, that they could sort it together—”

“Then?”

“Well, I followed them to her house – hoping to get some pictures of it – she was trying to convince him to come in with her – and, well, that’s when Klein appeared. He seemed really pissed off at the girl, and after talking a bit with Rosamund, the two went to her place.”

“What, Rosamund and Klein?”

“Nah, Klein and his chick. Rosamund left. I mean, clean, without argument or fighting – I guess he told his lord about it.” Small wonder he was terrified. He thought Konrad had murdered his Beatriz and would kill whoever found out. Still, as I had said, that made absolutely no sense. He could have killed her without repercussion – she was practically his property. All of this seemed strange, almost against character…

Or a setup. Making it seem as if the vampire lord had murdered her. More likely a political manoeuvre – getting then the blame on Konrad and making him die by his own lie. God, if that was so, it was horribly convoluted – and cruel. Not that I’d put it past a vampire.

I was about to ask Dog about who’d succeed Konrad, if he got wacked, when I noticed he was looking not at all pleasantly at the cowering man.

“Are you saying, you worm, that the Lord killed his wife?” Dog sounded more upset than he should, seeing he had talked of the matter himself before and didn’t seem particularly affected then. What had changed now? The aggressiveness levels were through the roof, and even I felt uncomfortable.

Apparently, so did Dieter\Diesel, because he did something incredibly stupid: he ran away.

He must have been really terrified, because nobody could have thought, at any time, that running away from the resident vampire spymaster would be a good idea. Before we could react, he was out the door, and speeding – okay, so maybe not before we could. Before I could. I’m pretty sure Dog could take him, but this was a human place, filled with many human witnesses; and like I had learned from Lucious’s mistakes, it’s hard to control the mind of everyone that might have seen you while in a place filled with people. Instead, Dog got up, motioned me with a finger, and then strolled calmly out. I rushed after him, actually overtaking him on the way to the door – once we were out, all bets were off. The older vampire just blasted out of view, speeding past me so fast I nearly lost my balance. I was going to protest that people could see him – but I realized he was pulling off the same trick my Pater did while we went hunting, where he could stand there, in plain sight of people and not being seen. Nobody was giving a second glance to that speeding, blurring shadow.

This, obviously, left me with a huge problem: my inability to follow them. It was impressive to think that Dieter\Diesel could match the spymaster in speed (unless the latter was letting him have a head start), but I was more annoyed to know I couldn’t be there to shake the truth out of the odd beach bum – I still wasn’t sure if he was a vampire or an empowered mortal – or, more likely, if he was a rogue like me. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to extend my senses – attempting to catch a faint trace of their scent. Nothing from Dog – he took care not to have scent on him to make him harder to track down and find; Diesel, well I didn’t know him well enough to know if he favoured some sort of cologne, but there was something else I could try and track – beach. I think I felt a light scent of seaside, so I followed. Of course, I had to stop every now and then to catch it, and at this rate, I would be completely lost from them.

Actually, I’d be completely lost, period.

It had just come to my mind that I was not in charted territory, and I had no idea where I was going. There was some back-story between those two I wasn’t aware of and it was why I hadn’t seen Diesel’s escape coming. On the other hand, the entire thing with Beatriz was getting more and more confusing by the minute. There was something there I wasn’t seeing – it all seemed to point to Konrad having gone and done it, but it went against every other of his actions: he’d take out the competition, instead of just going after her, he loved her too much – inasmuch as a centuries old beast could feel something akin to love. And even if he had done it, why hiding? Why the show of getting someone to investigate it – someone neutral – and the death declaration? I had started by the obvious suspect, and I was not convinced it had been him, even if, apparently, he had been with her before she died. My maker was the second most likely suspect, but his connection was even flimsiest – although I’d have to admit I did not know his motivations.

I would have to broaden the research area, and start to know more people who could have been involved. It seemed to point out that there could be more interests to play – if my maker had been involved with Erika, could it be that she, thinking him to be involved with Beatriz, decided to incur the wrath of the vampire lord to get rid of a rival? It felt stupid, but, for some reason (alright, I’ll admit it, not the most honourable of reasons) I actually wanted it to be so. Except, I really had no evidence that that was the case, and I was treading very carefully – making an erroneous accusation could end up getting someone killed. I had no doubt that the Old Man might not even let care about evidence, and just summarily execute someone he found to be guilty of the crime of killing his love.

I was going deeper and deeper into a maze of alleyways and narrow streets, realizing, too late, I was indeed becoming absolutely lost. I had no idea where I was, and without Lord Dog’s orientation, I was absolutely not in my personal space. Without a room to return to, and not very sure where the safe house he had gotten me was, I was definitely out of my environment. I pressed onwards, but eventually came to an alleyway where several dumpsters were placed – and seemed not to have been picked up in a long time. The scent was so pungent that my eyes watered, and I was forced back – god, small wonder garlic kept some vampires at bay, especially if they had a fine tuned scent of smell. I don’t thing animals distinguish good from bad scents – as in, they make judgements on whether they smell nice or not – to them is probably just ‘weeeee exciting new smell!’ or ‘hmmm, known smell, information to be had’. For a human being (or someone who had started as a human being) with a well defined opinion on what was pleasant or not, getting hit in the face with a wave of rankness from old rubbish, or the definitely strong scent of garlic would be an not at all pleasant experience.

I put my arm over my nose, hiding it on the crook of my elbow – a curiously old-school draculanian stance, all I was missing was the hissing – justified because my hands picked up a lot of smells, from, you know, picking up things; covering my nose with them would definitely make me gag. I didn’t want to go through the alleyway, because the scent was so intense my head was actually throbbing with pain – but they had gone that way, and I needed to find the spymaster. Hopefully, I would catch their scent further ahead. One could only hope, because I wasn’t sure I could even recover my sense of smell after this. It felt as if I’d always smell of that ghastly mix of rotten food and old grime for the rest of my life. I took a few steps back, and prepared to hold my breath – wait, what? Not as if I needed to breathe anyway, why was I being so – so worried? – when I heard the footsteps behind me. I hadn’t even had the chance to make a decision regarding that new information – I hadn’t even thought if I should turn around and face the music or if I should just continue undaunted past the alleyway, if I should worry about potential muggers. It just happened too fast.

I felt pain like I never had before, and trust me, I was acquainted to pain – when I was six, I convinced myself I was a flying squirrel, and had tried to jump from one branch of a tree to another. Yeah, not my best feat of rational thought. It had hurt like hell, but not like this, not with the undaunted waves of pain, making my knees weak, and making me unable to scream, paralyzed by the pain. I looked down, and there was, I shit you not, half a foot of wood coming from the front of my chest. Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t move, that none of my limbs even obeyed to me – the tip of the shaft was coated red, and, strangely, detached, I realized that it had just gone through my heart. Damnit. I was going to die again – wooden stakes through the heart and vampires do not go hand to hand. Actually, any being in creation and anything made of any type of matter through the heart did not go hand to hand, either. My knees buckled, and I was powerless to stop myself from crumpling to the ground, hitting hard on my side. I must say, I was kinda surprised on how long dying was taking. I was staying remarkably conscious and sentient for the entire process. I’d have expected the darkness to claim me by now or something – or maybe getting those now fabled flashbacks of my life; not even a bright light.

Huh, false advertising. Lying on my side, I could still see the dark pathway of cobbled stones and someone’s shoes – male shoes, nice and polished and sleek – standing right next to me. Figures. I’ve been assassinated and I don’t even get to take that last secret to the grave. And seriously, my own detachment was starting to even creep me off. I guess I would have expected to freak out more at suddenly realizing I had two feet of wood through my heart and that, with me being a vampire, I was going to die. Except I was monologuing a lot for a dead vampire. Shouldn’t I be turning into ashes right about now? I felt the impact of the foot turning me over, so I’d be on my back, and for the first time, I saw the face of my assailant.

Lucious.

He looked down at me, arms folded over his chest, a mix of pity and loathing distorting his otherwise lovely face. Fuck.

“You know, you were the funniest girl that night. The different one in the middle of a bunch of boring and unmemorable faces. And yet, things turned out like this – we could have had some good times, you and I.”

Not really. Except I couldn’t tell him how I had thought he was a bag of air, used to using women, and I wouldn’t have kissed him with someone else’s mouth. I was unable to move, to act – I was just thinking. Goddamnit, did it take this long to die? The last time it had been so much faster.

“If you hadn’t been such a bitch—” Excuse me? Who was he to be throwing epithets like that? I mean, really? At least I wasn’t the one committing murder. “—we could have been friends. Maybe something more. If that asshole hadn’t taken you first, you’d be mine. Okay, sure I’d make your life hell for a few years, but eventually we’d be fine.” Ookay, death, please come now, ‘kay? I was pretty sure I was not an enough evil person to go through the hell to having to listen to the rambling and self justification of the insane murdering jerk who just killed me. Where the hell was my white light and blissful oblivion? “Except they mocked me. Even my Mater mocked me, for the things Jens said. She wouldn’t come to my bed any more, and would just laugh. And I know she went to his – I could smell him in her, that annoying scent of his – and you. I could smell traces of you.” He screamed something I couldn’t understand in some sort of foreign (Welsh? Gaelic?) language I could not understand, and kicked something close to me. Since it was out of my field of vision, I couldn’t tell what, but I do know it made a whole lot of noise and clanging. Thankfully, it hadn’t been a stray cat or dog. That would have made me definitely angry. I was eerily more worried about animal violence than my own death. Damn. I always knew I had fucked up priorities, but not to this point. Oh well. I guess it added to my quirkiness.

“I’m sorry.” I heard him say, which immediately pulled me out of my reverie. What? “For all that matters, it will be mercifully quick. Besides – if it wasn’t me, someone else eventually would. Probably Lord Dog. He has devoured the souls of many before, it’s the reason he’s so strong and gets away with what he does. At least, you’ll get to keep your own and go back and reincarnate and all, away from this mess.”

Asshole. About to kill me for no good reason than being butthurt and having his pride scrapped and still trying to convince me he was doing me a favour? He had some sort of small bottle in his hand and he began pouring it over me. The scent of lighter fluid reached my nostrils, and I felt myself gag – I mean, I would have gagged if I could actually move. The sensation was rather odd, my entire body feeling detached, as if it belonged to someone else, but my mind feeling strangely lucid for the duration of the whole thing. He stepped away from me, carefully, and I saw him pulled something from his pocket. A tiny light flickered to life, and wiggled in the cold wind of the night, sending shadows dancing all over the walls around us. Shit. That little fucking maggot was going to set me on fire and I was going to be fuckign conscious during it? Goddamnit, couldn’t I get a break in this life? First I was harassed, then assaulted, then killed, then brought back, then used, and now I was going to get killed again by being burned to death and I was going to be aware of each fucking moment?

Shit. Seems Fate did have a fucking sense of humour, except I wasn’t laughing.

He started the motion of throwing the lighter at me, taking very obvious care not to be anywhere close to me, or the fluid that had been spreading around me. My eyes followed the journey of the tiny light – except it went the wrong way. It didn’t match the motion of Lucious’s arm – the lighter landed close to Lucious, a painfully short journey for the motion he seemed to indicate.

And then Lucious screamed.

I swear to god, I never heard anyone scream like that – I couldn’t exactly figure out what was happening, because he was a little way off, and I could only catch him from the edge of my peripheral vision. There was some scrambling – and I could see him holding his hand desperately. Except – there wasn’t a hand where there should have been one. Several blurs of motion ensued, and I only heard one last think from him.

“NO!”

Then silence.

There was absolute motionlessness for what seemed an eternity. I didn’t hear my own heart or my breathing. All I could see was a breach of dark night sky and the buildings above me framing it. It was eerily silent – was I now finally dead?

Still hearing myself talk in my head.

“You know,” a male voice said somewhere to my left, “you really think far too much.” I was rolled to my face, and suddenly, I felt the same burning pain I had before, blinding, eye tearing – except this time, it only lasted a second or so. And, just like that, I was once again in control of my body. On instinct, I sat upright, screaming at the top of my lungs, as I clutched my chest. Unfortunately, that meant I got a good whiff of trash mixed with lighted fluid, and I began gagging and coughing. A strong arm surrounded my shoulders and squeezed me tightly, albeit carefully – avoiding the lighter fluid? – and Jens’s face swam into view. I screamed again, pointed at him, then tried to hug him. He resisted for a moment – yeah, I could sense in him the unwillingness of getting lighter fluid on him, something about not liking fire at all, but I wasn’t taking that for an answer, and I clung to him like a baby koala with separation anxiety issues. He finally relented (not that he couldn’t have tossed me backwards with a hand), and set a hand on my hair. “It’s good to see that I came right on time. I didn’t expect him to set you on fire – I was slightly confused on what he was doing until the wind changed and I could smell this foul liquid. I confess I had expected him to consume your soul.”

“WHAT!? You were waiting!? You knew he was going to kill me?! Where have you been!? I thought you were dead!” I’m somewhat aware that my cries had a whole lot of exclamation points that were not transcribed here for the sake of the reader.

He gave me a few slaps on the back. “I’ll explain later, come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

“No.” I sad evenly, even though I strangely felt like boiling inside “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me just what happened.”

HE gave me a strange look. “Suit yourself.” Then he got up, and was very obviously going to walk out. Except I wasn’t having any of that. I had been having a month from hell – I had been hit on, assaulted, killed, brought back as part of the undead, paraded, bossed, bullied, insulted, stabbed through the heart with a wooden stake, brought back to life (I still had to figure that one out) and now he was going to walk out on me because I was asking questions!?

No. Fucking. Way.

I jumped and literally wrapped myself around his leg. He wasn’t going anywhere, unless he was willing to drag me along with each footstep. I’m pretty sure he could do it, too, but it was still awkward as all hell to have a grown woman trailing behind you. He sighed, aghast, and leaned down to pick me up and set me upright. That moment, I heard footsteps, and the click-click-click sound that I almost immediately identified as the stride of Lord Dogs pimpstick. I saw him backlighted from the street lamps behind him. Diesel was next to him, looking subdued but somewhat relieved; he followed the vampire when the spymaster headed next to a dumpster and crouched over a pile of what I thought had been clothes – but now, on a better look, I could see included the black and stylish shoes that Lucious had been wearing. “So, you killed him.” Dog said, lacking any emotion, or accent, for that matter.

Jens watched him and nodded slowly. “He attacked my progeny, my scion. He poured an inflammable liquid on her and was ready to set her on fire.”

Lord Dog tapped the top of his cane to his chin “So I see. Justified defence of your property against an unwarranted assault.”

Jens smiled ever so slightly, exactly like the first smile he had made back in the Midnight Lounge, in what seemed a whole lifetime away. “I had been detained – I could not really spread the word that she was not a rogue fledgling after all. A pity he took that as invitation to move in on her.”

Waitaminute.

“Ah, well, you being alive had nullified her status as a rogue – His maker won’t be able to seek for just retribution against you, then.”

“Her scion was the one who attacked mine unprovoked.”

“Very convenient you were ‘detained’ and couldn’t return in time to announce to all that you weren’t dead after all. He would not have made his move otherwise.” There was definitive malice in Lord Dog’s voice, as if he took pleasure on prodding me to just understand what had happened.

He didn’t need to. I could figure it out myself perfectly.

“As convenient as the vampire elder who had been her escort since my death had to chase off one of his men, who was suddenly very reluctantly to talk to him – when normally, he tells him everything.” Jens was apparently determined not to let Dog get away without his share of the responsibility. And had I just sensed a flash of possessiveness in his emotions?

It didn’t make me feel any more lenient towards any of them, however. Rationally speaking, I know that Lucious’s death removed one of my enemy’s from the playing field, and it was better he had acted now than later. But I was covered in lighter fluid, having stood (or laid) an inch away from death – oh, and I had also got a stake through my heart – rationality be damned, I wanted badly to punch someone over all that AND having been used as bait to a trap.

“You did a lousy job.” I told my Pater “He shoved a stake through my chest. You were very lucky he missed my heart, or I’d be very dead.”

“From a stake through the heart? Don’t be ridiculous. That never killed one of us – although I admit I’m now unsure if I had actually warned you about it or not.” I felt a nerve on the side of my eyelid twinge. Seemed vampires got twitches too “No, no my dear girl. We cannot die from a stake through the heart. Just merely – inconvenienced.”

“Inconvenienced, you say?” Another twinge. I had to rub my eye.

“Oh, quite so. You know, immobilized, unable to move any muscle – completely paralysed, to all effects. Remove the stake, and presto, you’re back to normal.”

What I wanted to say to that was most definitely not repeatable in polite company.

Jens apparently noticed my distress slash anger, and had the good graces of at least seeming a little repentant of his actions. “I assure you, you were never in danger.” Except the little fact he had mentioned, hat had the wind not changed, he would have not realized what Lucious was about to do. “I would be somewhat distressed if something happened to you.” Can’t you just feel the love? I mean, really? ‘Somewhat distressed’? If I had died, I’d be ‘mildly inconvenienced’, then. However, and this I could see from their faces, they didn’t see anything wrong with what they had done. They were no longer humans – just centuries’ old beasts, with a mind capable of rational thought.

“You think his Mater will seek retribution regardless?” Dog finally asked, as he came closer to us, his nose twisting slightly at the unpleasant scent of the lighter fluid I was covered on

“Good lord, yes. She’d better, after all the work I went through.” Twinge. “It might have happened regardless when I rather abruptly expelled her from my company after my scion came in – making it look, no doubt, that the notion that Jessie might be upset if I was in someone else’s arms disturbed me greatly. But this should indeed spur her to unthought-of of actions – whereupon I simply will have her to put her out of her misery.”

I was about to say ‘Really? Are we really having an As-You-Know-Bob moment here?’ then I saw their faces – and their eyes. They were doing this to show me just how bad vampires are. All of the human bad side, none of the morality. There was no loving tenderness, no romantic notions, especially the older you got, you began seeing life repeating itself, and things stopped being important. Survival was all that mattered, no matter what the price. Morals were a commodity they could not afford. They were dropping their façade of gentlemanly behaviour, so I could learn a serious lesson: we aren’t nice, we aren’t cute, we aren’t romantic; there was a high toll on immortality, and your humanity was the price you paid for power.

So, I said nothing.

There were no words that could express what I felt right now. I felt used, betrayed, abused. But I also felt sorrow for their loss – that, one day, would me mine too.

I wondered if the Old Man knew what had transpired, but for my Maker to go through all that work, it probably meant he didn’t, because Jens had been trying to go around the rules and find a loophole, and it was too much work to put on for others. I was surprised that the spymaster knew about it and was taking it so cavalierly – did he just was a stickler for following the rules by the letter, or did he actually wanted it to happen, so it was in his benefit to let someone else get rid of Erika, and saving him the trouble to do so? Then, I had to wonder, did he know of my maker’s plan all along, or if he had figured it out already. It would explain him not noticing my Maker following me – or Lucious. Because come on, we were talking about an elder vampire. I had no doubt whatsoever that Lucious had been following me to find the best chance to wack me – and when Lord Dog had ran off, he had known he was going to leave me well open.

Or maybe they had arranged all of this together to kill Erika.

I hoped, sincerely, and with all my heart, that the spymaster would not use this against my Maker down the road. But I knew I was being hopelessly naïve: if it served him well, he would. I would do it if I was a remorseless, centuries old vampire.

What chilled me to the bone that very moment was not knowing just how much depravity they could sink to: it was realizing just how well I could understand their actions and even understand what had caused them; furthermore, to wonder just how long it would take for me to become just like them. How long until my continual survival was my top priority. The irony was that vampires, while at first glance better, more evolved, stronger, smarter and faster than humans, were, in fact, a devolution of the human kind. They were beasts, animals, following instinct and not rationality. Survival was the utmost priority, their constant concern and obsession.

I can’t say the prospect of this eternity had me particularly thrilled.

Suddenly, I felt very tired, as if I was a balloon, and someone had removed all the air from me. I asked to go somewhere where I could wash the fluid off and get new clothes. They acquiesced, and we all left the alleyway, Diesel on tow like a faithful dog.

That night, I met the rest of my broodmates. Their names were a jumble of letters, which I really didn’t memorize, because I could only think of heading to the shower and cleaned up. Jens had taken me away to one of his own safe houses, and Lord Dog had agreed, even if having opposed it at first – I guess it went against the instructions Klein had given him. When I finally emerged from the shower, he was alone, his other scions gone off to do whatever he had them do. I sat on an hardly used couch – the whole house was entirely unremarkable – well decorated, but more for functionality than beauty. It didn’t look lived on, I guess it was only kept for a matter of practicality and used only on emergencies.

“Why were you with Beatriz the night she died?” I asked, feeling too tired to beat around the bush. I was happy to have him back, and, on second thought, I should have realized that he was not dead after all, because I got his emotions every now and then, even thought we were apart – with him watching me all the time, he was close enough for me to sense him, even if he closed himself to be. But hey, I was a milk bone, like Dog said. I had no idea what it should feel to lose a Maker, or that I would know if he ever truly died. Nobody told me and nobody asked me. I guess it also explains why my broodsiblings (was that even a word) went missing too – they had to be ordered by Jens, no doubt – so they couldn’t be interrogated about his death or something, because they’d know he wasn’t dead all along. Or maybe I was just so paranoid for the draconic politics and manipulation games that I was seeing conspiracies everywhere.

“I came back on my word to her.” He finally said. I kept staring at him, saying nothing, clearly indicating his answer was far too cryptic and I wanted a better explanation. He remained quiet, so I prodded him on the side.

“You know that the Old Man has me investigating her death, and will probably kill me if I don’t find out who did it, right? I’ve been trying to clear you, but, damn, it looks like either you or him did it. You were both with her. And Klein seemed to be crazy about her, and faster kill you than her if you two were fooling around.”

“I didn’t kill her. She was actually a beneficial presence amongst us monsters, and kept Klein from going completely insane. You weren’t around when he was shifting personalities on a nightly basis – before she came along. He’d order something, then forget he had done so, and then go furious that the person had taken measures without his command. While Beatriz was with him, I never saw him revert back to the old days; he was just as much of a bastard, but he was dependable. We’d have done anything to keep her alive.”

“Then what was this promise you broke?”

“I owed her a big favour, and I had promised her I’d kill her.”

“What!?”

He nodded slowly. “She couldn’t take it anymore. It always got worse around November, in the anniversary of her rebirth – and the death of her family, and this year with the marriage thing, it became particularly bad.”

“Why didn’t she kill herself, then?”

“Klein wouldn’t let her. She could do nothing to harm herself directly, and even if attacked, she’d have to always defend herself with all of her might.”

“He had controlled her mind?”

Jens nodded darkly.

Fuck. I had been told that by Dog before, but part of me did not want to believe that was actually allowed. I guess it was indeed how he was said, might makes right. I mean, really what kind of love is that? One where the basic freedoms of one of the partners is ripped off so blatantly, so violently? That wasn’t love – that was a twisted relationship of dominance and submission. I told Jens exactly that. He gave me a long, strange look, and he was silent for a long time. Then, he said:

“What do you think love is? It’s an insane relationship where both parties are co-dependant; where one is dominant and the other submissive—” seeing that I was about to protest, he rose a hand to halt me before I went into a rant. “—it changes, who’s on top and who’s not, depending on the situation. But the principle is still the same. We allow each other to be dominated by those who we love. It’s a most infuriating and selfish emotion.”

“Love can be not selfish.”

His expression told me exactly what he thought of my opinion. “I have been around you for far longer than you have. I have seen more selfish love than anything else.”

“You’re a cynic.”

“Comes with the age. One day, you’ll be just like me.”

“God, sure hope not. I mean, someone has to be perky and cheerful in our relationship. Otherwise it just becomes brooding and depressing.” He smirked ever so slightly at that, and, feeling I had smoothed his feathers, I moved in for the kill. “Now, seriously, if you were in love with someone, would you do things against his or her will?”

“Oh, absolutely, if it was for her good.”

“And who are you to decide what’s ‘good’ for her?”

“I’m the man who’s in love with her. I would always put her well-being in front of everything else. I guess, in the end, that’s love. We want always the best for the others, the world, our own hearts, everyone else be damned.”

“That’s not that straightforward.”

“Oh, but it is. People just complicate it. If you love someone, their well-being always comes first.”

“Except the Old Man controlled Beatriz’s mind. That cannot be good for her.”

“It prevented her from getting herself killed.”

“She should be allowed to do it.”

“No, she shouldn’t. She was blaming herself for a crime she could not stop, that she didn’t want to commit. She hated herself when she was the victim, and she wanted to punish herself, when she was the innocent party. She was disturbed, mentally; she couldn’t be entrusted to make educated, rational decisions.”

I opened my mouth, and then closed it. Another argument came to my mind, and I paused, and it faded again. His argument was sound, but I didn’t like it. “She should have a choice, not be forced one on her.” This entire situation made me depressed, and I realized just how lucky I was for having Jens. Don’t get me wrong. I was still pissed off beyond belief for him having turned me, for him having made me think he was dead when he wasn’t, and for him putting me in the path of danger to bring a war to the door of the woman he apparently hated, but was also sleeping with. God, did it all sum up to sleeping with people? Did I die to be stuck in a limbo that was just like the real world? The more time I spent as a vampire, the more I realized they were just like the Greek gods – human in their concerns and petty pursuits. Perhaps that was the origin of every god, they had begun as humans – and was the core of their foibles and weaknesses. Vampire were nothing but the instinct of humans sharpened to a razor-edge with a dab of rationality and human cunning – and hundreds of years to develop tactical abilities, cruelty and lose any remnants of conscience they might have. When the push came to shove, they still wanted the same thing animals wanted, which was to survive – but also what children wanted, which was to be the centre of the world, the most important, the most admired, the one with all the power.

Wonderful, I was stuck in high-school for eternity, a high-school where people killed each other, instead of embarrassing each other; and the elaborate pranks and plots were meant to remove or destroy the opponents, instead of just destroying them socially. It was the same all over again, with cliques and urban tribes. No point in hiding it. Vampires were not advanced or evolved humans. They were still the same bitchy people with fangs, an appetite for blood and death, and no qualms.

This would end up being lots of fun. Not.

I watched my Pater, wearily. I think he must have noticed how I viewed all of this and did, to a point, feel sorry for me. Maybe I remind him of himself when he was human – nah, not really. He didn’t remember his past, and we were different as night and day. But perhaps there was still some measure of goodness and conscience in him. He could have made my life much harder, but he had tried to do right for me. His motives for saving me had been less than Samaritan, and all times he came to my rescue, he had some second motive – but I still have to admit that, for a cruel heartless monster, he was pretty decent. In his place, - were I a cold and heartless monster – I would be far less lenient or mindful of collateral damage. I would probably not bat an eyelid if I noticed the scent of lighter fluid. Hell, I would use that as a further excuse to paint myself as the victim and Lucious as the horrid, cruel man. Or maybe he did. I can’t tell right now – I was just starting to worry it seemed surprisingly easy for me to get inside their heads.

“I know that to a human being, this sort of draconic approach can seem rather uncomfortable and not at all kind, but Konrad loved Beatriz.” He finally said. “He wanted nothing more than having her happy. I think the only time he did it wrong was forcing the marriage on her. She didn’t want to be married yet, because she was only twenty in real age. She was terrified of the marriage, but he would not listen when she asked him for more time, a few more years. To the Old Man, he saw it as being the ‘right thing to do’. The more time goes by, the more we grow attached to our past. It’s too much of a hassle to try to keep up with the ever-changing nature of human concerns and fashions. Eventually, they all return to the same, and it’s pretty pointless to actually try to constantly stay afloat, when we know that, in a couple of years, all things will be forgotten, the cycle will spin, and a new cycle will begin. We become set in our ways, and to Konrad, being with a woman he loved meant making an honourable woman out of her – and that meant marrying her. He was always old-fashioned.”

“Well, okay, that’s a lovely sentiment, but can a vampire marriage actually work? I mean, Dog has a point – after a while, even tiny habits become rather irritating – and if you are trapped to that person for eternity… I can see how a loving marriage can very quickly become a cold war. Or maybe not even so cold.”

“I never marriage another of our kind, but if I did, I’d demand to set a rule that said that every 50 years, we’d spend just as many away from each other, to give each other some breathing room. And then, after 50 years apart, we’d meet again to spend 50 more together.”

That was actually a not at all shabby idea. I told him so, and that made him smile somewhat. “I still think what Konrad did to Beatriz was unfair.” I felt slightly childish for harping on the topic again and again, but I, for some reason, could so easily project myself into her, and frankly, I didn’t like the sensation not one bit. Jens shrugged.

“I think that after a while, while our own egos swell, everyone else’s stops being so concerned. We tend to be far more concentred, far more focused. We see what needs to be done and we do it, other people’s opinions, morals be damned. Beatriz was suicidal for the wrong reasons-”

“Next you’ll be saying you are the owner of all truth, and you can decide what are the right and wrong reasons for suicide—” I had to pipe in. Seriously, I secretly thing Jens is kinda awesome, but it was still irritating to see just how self-assured he is. I guess it’s a knee-jerk reaction thing – see someone too full of himself, and I just have to knock them down a peg or two; just like a kid who can’t avoid kicked every can he comes across. Yes, I’m quite aware that doesn’t speak particularly well about my character or personality, but, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,

Jens ignored me deliberately and continued to speak – funnily, it was how my mother handled me during our many arguments about all facts of live, from tattoos to thongs: “—so the person who could take an informed and level headed decision did so. For her good. In hospitals, these days, when a patient is considered to not be in control of himself, they can take away his right to make decisions concerning his health. Why would this situation be any different?”

I didn’t answer, and, while I could see that Konrad had a point in doing what he had, I still found it highly disturbing; it opened the possibility that, for some reason, my Pater could suddenly decide I wasn’t being good to myself and should, instead be brainwashed into being different. I’m somewhat a sucker for freedom and idealism, even if it makes me summarily impractical at times.

“It is not helping me to solve the mystery of her death,” I finally said. I wasn’t going to further pursue the matter, and I would stop to try to convince him he was wrong, but this was as close as I was coming to giving him a victory in this argument. “If Konrad thought you were messing with his girl, he could be moved to kill her, maybe because out of loyalty to you, instead of following his previous modus operandi and kill the other party involved.”

Jens laughed mirthlessly, and the sound was actually kinda creepy. “Good god, no. If I dared that, he’d try to kill me without a second thought. All of us knew that very well. Don’t tell me you didn’t hear him rant about how no-one was irreplaceable, not even him.”

“Except, maybe, Beatriz.”

He blinked, surprised, then nodded at my statement. “Very likely not.” He said slowly.

“Okay, then help me here. Beatriz had asked you to kill her; you had said you’d do it, but then didn’t. What were you doing in the bar to begin with?”

“It had been our arranged meeting place. She liked it, and wanted her last evening to be there. Her plan was for me to kill her as the sun came up, so she could see it without having to run away or shield her eyes.”

“That’s way too gothic. And all kinds of disturbing.”

“I told you, she wasn’t emotionally or physically stable.”

“Gee, I wonder why? I mean, everyone knows that being mind raped into having to kill your entire family is absolutely awesome therapy to increase self-esteem.”

“You’re being cheeky now, and blaming me for what happened.”

“Yes. No. Maybe. That’s not what I meant. Okay, I’m just getting grumpy; it’s been one hell of a month. Just tell me something: you went to the bar to meet with her, you went home with her, to, one assumes to do the deed. You changed your mind; she got angry and called Konrad—”

“No. I had never changed my mind. I had never accepted to do it to begin with.”

“What--? But you said…”

He watched me with some curiosity “I lied.” Duh, isn’t it obvious?”

“So you had never intended to fulfil her request?”

“Not for a single moment.”

“Then why did you go with her all the way there—and to her home… oh my god! It was you who called Konrad to come meet you at her place.”

He nodded very slowly. He seemed tired, and I guess it was because he too had had really crappy last few days – hell, he’d been dead and returned to life. I’d been through a very similar scenario not long ago, so, yeah, it will take a lot on you. Even if my death had been a little more terminal and world-changing, I could absolutely relate with his weariness. At times like this, I only wanted to close my eyes and take a nap. “Why?” I really had to ask.

“He knew all along, from the first day she asked me to kill her. He knew every step of the way. And he told me to do it like this and call him the moment she actually set a definitive date and time to do it. He showed up, I handed her to him, and left them, letting them sorting it together. Despite everything, I believe that she loved him – maybe not as much as he did her, but in her own way. She didn’t try to run from, as many would do just to proclaim their independence. If there was someone who could convince her to come to her senses, it was him.

“And then you left.”

“I never saw any of them ever again. I was more or less out the loop, while I was faking my death, so I had no idea Konrad had failed. She must have found someone to replace me, to kill her after Konrad left.”

“So you really believe the suicide theory.”

He hesitated “No. Not really. I doubt she’d manage to find someone willing to take the risk – someone who would know that, her willing or not, they’d risk an eternity of torture. Because Konrad would never let this go unavenged. I think it’s easy to go for the suicide approach, because she was suicidal, but knowing the involved parties? Unlikely.”

“She could have asked a human, one of her own brood – maybe she made someone whose only goal was to kill her? Devour her soul, as you had said.”

“That falls uncomfortably close to the ‘do no harm to yourself’ prerogative she was given. She had to make a huge effort to ask me, and the only reason I could understand what she was asking me, it was because we’ve been rather close and I knew how miserable she was and how much release she craved. Besides, I told you already, she was considered a good presence. She could be reasoned with, and having her ear was similar to having Konrad’s ear, minus the crazy that went between it and his brain. Even if there was someone stupid enough to risk Konrad’s wrath – maybe by being blackmailed into it – I doubt they’d do it because even if Konrad didn’t find out, the rest of his advisors and lieutenants would, and we would make sure that the person would suffer doubly so. It’d have to be someone from outside the private circle, to want her eliminated. And I doubt anyone of those not included in the group would be just strong enough to think he’d have a chance of survival against us and our anger.”

“I always wondered why didn’t Konrad get his servants to read everyone’s mind, including each other and his own to find out if that person had done it.”

“Why do you assume he hasn’t?”

“Pardon?”

“Why do you assume he hasn’t done that? Or do you think he just gathers large groups of people for the heck of it right after he gets the news of the death of his beloved?”

“Do you think he did it? The mind reading?”

“Think? Yes, I do think he did it. I have no proof he did, but I would absolutely do it if I was in his place and my girl had just been murdered by some idiot.”

This was getting more and more confusing, and every clue I had wound up turning up on itself. Suddenly, I wished Chastity was here – I was better than her at reading people (the biggest proof being that, unlike her, I didn’t have a string of absolutely nightmare boyfriends), but she had always been the smart one, the one who came up with plans and had ideas to solve things. I could see myself calling her: “Hey, Chaz, guess who’s in the middle of a murder investigation – and oh, incidentally, is a vampire?”

Thinking of my sister left me with a measure of nostalgia, because with all of this insanity falling around me, I had totally forgotten about them. I’d need to call them – god, they were probably freaking out if news of the explosion in my hotel had made it national. I hadn’t gotten any calls, which probably meant I was off the hook.

Speaking of which…

“Just what happened in the hotel? I mean, was the bomb meant for me? Or are demolitions a part of your untapped potential and undisclosed skill set?”

He smiled charmingly and didn’t answer. Seeing he (almost) never smiled, I was going to assume he wasn’t going to tell me, but he had something to do with the exploding of my room.

“You destroyed all my underwear.” I blurted out without thinking. But it was true; lack of underwear had always been one of my secret fears. Don’t know why I was so upset, truth be told, because there were far more valuable things in that hotel room – but I felt more comforted with the knowledge that, no matter what, I’d have a nice pair of undies waiting for me at the end of the day.

That brought forth an outright laugh from him, the kind that just made him look outright handsome and even human to a measure. “I’ll make sure to replace it when I have the chance.” He said with an absolute serious expression, except the effect was spoilt by the tiny dimple showing up in the corner of his mouth. It made him look like an entirely different person, someone I didn’t know, hidden in the deep recesses of the severe reassesses of the man I knew; a younger, kinder, warmer self, maybe the last remains of his humanity.

Would I ever know the true Jens?

The question fluttered in my mind for a long moment, as I leaned back on the couch – and, suddenly, I straightened up, feeling as if I had just been punched on the stomach. It took me a moment to recover my bearings, because I was physically dazed – it was probably from the fact that I hadn’t fed for several days now, but it only made the entire scene surreal.

The truth had been staring me in the face for so long and I had let myself be distracted by this entire mess, by noise and side quests of this big MMO we call life. I was frozen in place as the last piece of the puzzle fell in place – at first, I couldn’t figure out exactly what I was looking at. But then, I slowly realized exactly what was going on; I had to cover my mouth not to yelp in horror.

Oh, good god. I knew the truth. And I was so screwed when I revealed it.

It was love, goddamnit. That fucking stupid thing called love.

My expression of mixed triumph and horror couldn’t have gone unnoticed by my maker, who was watching me with a far too intent look in his face. I nearly shoved a finger into his eye in my haste to wave it in front of his eye “Don’t you dare reading my mind! That’s totally—nng, rude!”

He blinked in surprise, but didn’t look overly embarrassed, which meant he probably wasn’t committing the crime I was accusing him of. “It seems as if you had an epiphany.” He stated, blankly. I wondered, for a moment, if he knew the truth – and had been keeping me deliberately in the dark. Taking into account exactly what I was pretty sure had happened, I couldn’t blame him. My eyes met his, and I watched him, quizzically – and that moment, I was sure.

He knew it too.

He had known it all along or at least guessed at it very accurately.

And he had kept it an absolute secret.

His eyes met mine, looking tired, wary, and almost sorry for me. Oh, dear. I was going to need his pity and then some when I broke the news to the Old Man, and my odds of making it out of that room alive weren’t too great, seeing that his balancing element was no longer around us. I wondered if I should let the matter die, and hope for the best, that maybe he’d get over it in time.

Hah! Who was I trying to kid? He was never going to let it drop. He would never forget it, and he would never stop looking for the assassin of his beloved. If he was in his place, I wouldn’t either. I was never fortunate enough to love anyone for eternity (or for what passes for an eternity these days), but I had had some moments where I was in love with someone. And it was glorious – it wound up fading, or being destroyed by outside elements, but even if tiny moments, I cherished each of them, and kept a special place in my heart for them. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to love someone when you hadn’t felt affection for anyone for several human lifetimes.

I sighed and looked wearily at my Pater. “This is not going to be pretty.”

“Not, it’s not.”

“What do I do?”

“I’m not your father, Jezebel. I cannot tell you what to do in this situation, because it’s really up to you.”

“You could forbid me from saying it.”

“I could, but then I’d be making the decision for you. And I’d be going against the orders of my Lord. And interfering in a business that involves only the two of you. I am not sure I want that hassle. Not to mention the knowledge I’m running interferences on a topic that’s as stable as a wasps’ nest on a slab of Styrofoam at high sea.”

The imagery was both colourful and weird as all hell. I think he meant to say that this was an explosive situation and I should meddle of my own volition and prewarned. I think. When wasps are involved, you can never be too sure.

“Do you think Lord Dog knows?”

“No, don’t think he does. If he did, he wouldn’t have let you talk to Dieter. I think he suspects Erika, and is hoping you uncover proof of her involvement – he hates her almost as much as I do.”

“Two powerhouses hate this woman and she’s not dead yet?”

“She has many friends, many allies, and she’s good at using her womanly wiles.”

“Well, yes, I saw even you couldn’t resist her.” That sounded, I admit, a little more sullenly than I wanted. One could hope he hadn’t noticed it.

“If I ever moved against her, I had to make sure I wouldn’t be suspected – least of all by her. After all, she has seduced and bedded so many of us, -- those she hasn’t are the ones she suspects of and is wary of. If you want her to dismiss you as a threat, you just sacrifice a few hours to pretend to be smitten with her; she immediately feels better, thinking she has gotten the best out of you – and moves to the following target, forgetting you. That pretty much leaves you able to move around unchecked, and when you move against her, she definitely won’t see it coming.” He shrugged “A simple matter of tactics.”

“I’m not sure I could do it like you did. I mean, jeez. What about my self-esteem? Who’d want to be another notch on some slut’s bedpost?”

“Pretty much overrated.” I think the conversation was amusing him, even though he was pretending to just not care. “Continuant survival is a pretty good argument against such petty concerns.”

“You know, vampires are a miserable lot.”

“Yeah, no glamour, no charm, just the dreary expanse of eternity.” Here, I wasn’t sure if he was joking or actually meant it.

While I would have enjoyed continuing the conversation and exchange of witty repartee, I had to pull myself back to focus; as much as I would just absolutely love to pretend I didn’t know the truth about who had murdered Beatriz, and that I wouldn’t have to eventually deal with it. “I think I’ll go to bed now, rest, close my eyes. And tomorrow – I’ll talk to Lord Dog.”

“You’re seeking second opinions on this topic? I thought you saw it as pretty much straightforward – open and shut case, isn’t it as you call it?”

I shrugged, and then looked at him. “Were you ever planning on telling me? Knowing I was going insane, up and down, looking for the truth?”

Slowly, he shook his head “No. I wasn’t going to tell you. If you found out, it was your own merit that had warranted it, but I had decided long ago not to say anything.”

“Why not?”

He was serious, more serious than I had ever seen him. “I wanted to spare you from a very difficult decision.”

Oh.

I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. We stayed like that, in absolute silence, sitting on the couches, not looking at each other, just… sitting on each other’s company. Eventually, we both could feel the day coming, and we got up to go sleep, still in silence. He led me to his bedroom, and we shared a bed again. It was pleasant, even if the moment the sun was up, I fell into a heavy sleep – or maybe a light death?

I woke up before he did, and I slipped off the bed, searching for the shower. I sat under the water spray, until the water had all cooled off – which didn’t bother me at all, registering as barely noticeable. I just sat there and thought, waiting for my Maker to wake up and come find me. He appeared a while later, already dressed. Someone had found me some fresh clothes, exactly my size – with still shopping tags attached to them, leading me to believe that maybe some sort of friend or servant of Jens or of his brood had gone shopping – and lo, there was even fresh socks and underwear included. That made me feel a little better, raising my morale a tad.

It still did not change the fact that I had a big pile of doo doo to hand to the Vampire Lord – and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t like the news. Jens didn’t say anything, after offering to inform the Old Man’s retainers that my investigation was concluded and driving me there. I told him I’d accept the offer, after I had met Lord Dog and inform him of the situation. I could have easily caught a ride with him, and while I was sure Dog was very loyal to his superior, I wasn’t as sure just how faithful he was. I didn’t want to risk his loyalty running in a different direction that I expected, and he deciding that it was best I was eliminated. I was starting to become paranoid, but I knew that here, it was turning out to be a tool of survival. My father said often that paranoia is like a sexually-transmitted disease: you get it from screwing other people. I think that it’s not always the case – I meant, there had been no screwing from where I was concerned (hell, most of the time, since I arrived here, I felt I was being the one getting screwed all the time), but I still found myself growing more and more paranoid at each passing day. Okay, I’ll give you that being the passive partner and the one getting screwed (no matter your opinion on the topic) still allows you as many odds of getting an STD, so his expression still makes some sense.

And I was letting this particular simile to be getting absolutely out of hand.

I met Lord Dog at the first place where I had met the Old Man: the big hallways were still empty, although from what I could tell, it would soon be bustling full of un-life (pun certainly intended), as there would be another vampiric meeting being hosted there in a matter of hours.

We talked alone, for a long time. My Maker was nearby, normally not in listening range, although with vampires, several hundred yards away could still be considered hearing range. He had been quite right – Lord Dog didn’t expect the truth. He seemed rather distraught at it – I just couldn’t tell if it was because he believed Konrad would react badly to the truth, and might punish the culprit far more than the crime warranted – or if he was sorry if he had been wrong at guessing what happened.

When I asked him for an opinion, he left to think for a long time. I joined my Maker, and, when Lord Dog returned, he came straight to us, and talked to me, in full presence of him.

“You know that this will cause a whole lot of problems – if you tell him the truth.”

“I know.”

“I will possibly be having a whole lot of problems to sort because of it.”

“I know.”

“And you want him to know, regardless?”

I hesitated. “I’m not sure. It’s so… I mean, I might be wrong and everything.”

“I don’t think you are.” He finally said. “I hadn’t thought of that particular possibility, but now that I think of it, I do believe you are right. It makes… perfect sense, as weird as that might sound.”

“Then, what do I do?”

He looked at my Pater, who shrugged, looking as weary as Dog himself – and, to an extent, me. “I think this is on you, kiddo. Your investigation, your discovery, your decision.”

Me. Me. Me.

It was all about me. And I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I sat down on one of the antique couches, looking horribly out of place, in my new Levis’ Jeans and T-shirt. I thought – and didn’t even notice the time going past. I couldn’t come up with a proper decision. There were pros and cons for both lies and truths, and I knew that the truth could cause as much as damage as a lie.

The other vampires started to arrive, dressed in suits and finery, undead peacocks emulating life for the pleasure of no-one but themselves. Again, I felt horribly out of place – and this time it wasn’t about my clothes. It was about me feeling more alive than all of them put together, trapped for eternity in their petty plotting and scheming, staving boredom away with chess games using their peers as board pieces.

When the Old Man arrived and summoned me, he caused a quiet ruckus, by ignoring deliberately all of those mighty, old creatures, and, instead, focusing on the new kid that had not proved herself and that nobody even knew properly. The gossiping would be virulent, I was sure. Maybe they thought I was Beatriz’s replacement, maybe they were commenting on how the Lord seemed to have a taste for the still fresh, still bloodied undead flesh.

Lord Dog led me to a study, full of black marble and leather, where Konrad Klein sat on a throne-like chair, his hands clasping firmly the arms of the chair. He was trying to show no emotions, only detachment, as if Beatriz was someone else, another of his servants that he cared for because she was useful, and whose loss was more seen as property damage than having his heart torn out.

He didn’t convince me. Not for a moment. His voice was too forceful, and he had to pause every now and then to just not let me notice. He was hurting, but he was making an effort not to scare me, because, to him, I was the only one holding the truth, and he would do anything – give up on all he had – if I could just give him the monster who had taken his love.

And that is why I told him the truth.

Even if I knew it would shatter him, and his mind.

I told him everything.

I told him how his beloved had begged him to let her join her family for so long; how she had helped him to find his centre, but had found herself lost in the process. I told him that he had forgotten he had been called by my Maker to visit Beatriz’s house – to try and dissuade her from the plan to commit suicide by someone else’s hand. They had probably argued, she had probably pleaded, begged, cajoled – and let him see her misery for the first time ever.

It was November. Things were always harder for her in November, the anniversary of her death, and the slaughtering of her whole family.

I didn’t know what had been said or done, but I knew (within a reasonable doubt) what it had resulted in.

Lord Konrad Klein, vampire overlord of the entire province, had drunk the blood and, after draining it, consumed the soul of his beloved, advisor and wife to be, Beatriz de Montenegro y Frias. Her last moment had been one of ecstasy and sorrow, and joy for, at long last, finding freedom and being liberated from her undead condition, so she could join her family in the afterlife.

And, upon killing the woman he loved, Konrad Klein had promptly blocked the memories, his grief and his sorrow unlike anything a human being could imagine. His mind had rebelled against him, turned on him for committing this hideous crime, for killing by his own hand, the thing he had most sworn to protect and love for eternity. It had repressed what he remembered, bringing forth a new personality – one that had not been present when the killing had happened. One that could deal with the agony of living every day without her – because it didn’t know what had happened.

Her soul inhabited in him now, balancing him showing him more restrained and calmer than he had been in the past; this part was an educated guess, but it explained, to me, why he hadn’t flown into a frenzy and just killed anything that moved, just to make sure the murderer didn’t escape; the unbridled violence would certainly match far better the Pre-Beatriz Konrad Klein of old that Lord Dog and Jens had known.

I survived the truth.

For the longest time, he said nothing. Just sat there. I didn’t say anything, either. What could I say that it wasn’t trite or outright insulting?

In the end, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand, not having said a word after my own last. Not a thanks, not a ‘you lie’. Nothing. I struggled to tell him something – something that I think Beatriz would want me to tell him, but it wasn’t my place – our eyes met and he knew.

Live on for her.

He acknowledged my concern with a brusque nod, and looked at the door. I took the hint and got out. My Pater and Lord Dog were waiting for me. They didn’t say a thing, they didn’t even ask if I had chosen the truth or opt out, but I think they knew from the start.

They didn’t look disappointed or worried. They just accepted it as an inevitable part of life, and I decided that was a good approach to it.

Deep down inside, I guess they knew the lie would bring nothing good other than preserving the status quo. And I thought that the truth was well worth a few broken eggs. Maybe he wouldn’t recover from it, maybe he would. But at least, he’d do so holding all the pieces of the puzzle and not sitting on a hollow throne that could and would very likely give in without warning.

I had done what I felt was right.

As for me? I eventually returned home to Magid. My mother got screamed at her physical therapist for wearing heels right after removing the cast, but promised to behave if I went shopping for shoes with her. I took the chance to buy some extra spare underwear – you never know when it will com in handy.

My sister didn’t understand my request to take a nightly schedule, but was so surprised by my uncanny ability to uproot information and pull out the truth of even the most reluctant targets that she didn’t care. We were bringing in the costumers, and she could afford to hire an assistant for me to take care of things during the day, when I was snoring.

And I found myself, once again, hanging out in the Midnight Lounge, getting free drinks from my admirer, and dressing all in white just to be counter-culture.

Which turned out to be a bitch to clean when it got splattered with blood.

Hey, a girl has needs too, okay?
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn

User avatar
Lady Entropy
Papa-livros
Posts: 1094
Joined: 03 Oct 2009 12:09
Location: Porto, Portugal
Contact:

Re: Sins of the Blood (Sideproject NaNoWriMo 2010)

Postby Lady Entropy » 27 Mar 2011 05:10

FINIS
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."

— Audrey Hepburn


Return to “Lady Entropy”




  Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest