Chapter I: MercurioThe taxi dropped me off in a run-down looking part of Santa Monica. The driver, as everyone else I'd met that night was a vampire. Whereas Jack was conversational, this one was closemouthed, making the entire drive in silence. As he pulled up outside a pawn shop, he uttered the first words of the night.
'Your haven's inside. Compliments of Lacroix.'
I looked at the guy, not bothering to respond as I closed the door behind me. The cab pulled out into the street and made it's way back out of Santa Monica. I turned, looking at the door to the apartment block above the shop, and slowly made my way up the stairs to my room.
The room was little more than a dingy bedsit...it didn't matter to me much, seeing as I'd never be using it. Someone else had recently been in the room, indicated by the sound of the radio, and the green light eminating from the laptop on the cheap desk in the corner.
'Hello L.A., you're up way past your bedtime aren't you...'
I opened the refridgerator. Old time habit from a life that didn't exist anymore, but small routines bring some small comfort...I grinned to myself. A routine that had paid off, given the three bloodpacks in the fridge door.
More than small comfort after all.
I took the bloodpacks, sucking on one absently as I walked around the clutter to the desk. A collection of notes sat on the worn, battered surface.
'Nine out of ten people preferred friggin' chicken over the competition...'
I pocketed the note from Strauss, and took the money from the draw. Another hangover from modern life...seemed even vampires couldn't survive without some pocket money. I typed the password into the laptop, and checked my email. Penis enlargement...bounty hunting...a message from someone called 'Lacroix'. It read 'Mercurio will be waiting for you. Remember, do not return to downtown L.A. until you have dealt with matters there.' So, Lacroix was the name of the theatre actor preening himself on the stage. A final email was in the inbox.
'Subject: The game opens', I muttered to myself. 'What's that supposed to mean?'
A pawn is moved, the game begins.
The cursor blinked innocently at me, as if denying all involvement with the message. A strange SPAM mail perhaps? I put it out of my mind. Time to visit Mercurio. The sooner I dealt with matters here, the sooner I could get the hell out. Then again, I had no idea what I'd do with myself afterwards, but that was a problem for later...
I walked out of the apartment building, handing a dollar note to the bum on my way out. My mind was on other things, and I wasn't hungry. Not that I'd eat another old homeless person unless I absolutely had to.
Turning the corner, I saw a man sprawled on the stairs leading up to a large house. Blood pooled around his prone form as he gave a hacking cough, reaching up to pull the door handle, crawling through the opened door which he shut behind him. Not an everyday occurence.
I walked out onto Main Street, then looked at a bus map for the house number Mercurio mentioned. Slowly I turned around with a sinking feeling.
'Fuck', I cursed bitterly. Unless he had a crippled visitor, the side of raw meat which had dragged itself inside was Mercurio. I strode up the stairs and opened the apartment door.
The blood trail led to a door at the end of the hall. I walked there, the sound of my boot heels echoing on the expensive tiled floor. 'Wouldn't mind a place like this myself.' I pushed open the door and peered into a spacious living room.
Lying on the now stained couch was the man I has seen earlier. I prayed he was still alive. I had a feeling Lacroix wouldn't be lenient if I mentioned that his agent was dead. He didn't seem one for second chances. I made the best of a bad situation and sauntered into the room with a large smile on my pale face.
'Hey there sunshine, you still breathing?'
'So it seems. You Mercurio?'
'Want me to call an ambulance? Looks like you could use one.'
I shrugged. 'Your call tough guy. What happened, get hit by a bus?'
I barely looked down, rolling my eyes. 'It's a broken bottle Merc, now pay attention, I'll ask again in smaller words. What. Happened.'
'Vamp blood? What's that got to do with anything?'
'Yeah well, I may be fresh off the bus, but it seemed you took the short one to school. Where are these guys now?'
'I'm new in town. Where's the beach-house?' I walked around the room, looking at the expensive curtains, the leather couches, the bloodstained lightswitch. A small ring on the floor caught my eye, and then my fingers. Mercurio seemed not to notice.
'Got it.' I looked at the man, lying in fetal position, obviously in pain, teeth gritted and eyes closed. I felt some small sympathy rise up in me. Guess I wasn't the only one having a bad night. 'Want anything while I'm out running errands honey?'
Nodding, I walked out of the living room, quietly closing the doors behind me. I considered the best way to hit the beach-house, and how I'd deal with Mercurio.
Maybe silence is the best course of action. Would be good to have someone to trust around here. Be even nicer if he owed me a favour.
I opened the front door and stepped into the cool autumn air.