Chapter XIV: Blood calls bloodClosing the door to Foxy Boxes, I walked out onto the street, stumbling slightly on the curb. That wasn't like me, not then, and not now. I checked the mark on my shoulder, which by now was just a small scar, faded as if years old. Deep-boned weariness was overcoming me however, my vision clouding, becoming darker.
Looks like you could do with a drink.
Standing outside the diner was scantily-clad woman. The exaggerated makeup, the exposed flesh on such a cold night, the flirtatious comments to passing men...no doubt about it, the woman was a hooker.
She'd be perfect. And you don't have to drink her all...unless you want to. Who'd miss her if you did?
I walked up to her, a soft smile on my lips.
'Isn't everyone, on a cold night like this? How much to spend some time in your company?' Some men may have just settled on a price, used her, tossed her away without a second thought. The way I saw it, she was performing a public service that was as old as society was. A little respect, a little kindness...could go a long way. When you had eternity, what was a few extra minutes?
'$40?', I asked. 'I dunno about that, you look like you could do with warming up yourself. How's about thirty?' The woman looked me up and down, hard eyes softening. Some would see the prostitute...me, stripped of the interference of mortal lust, saw the still-vulnerable woman, touched by the kindness of a stranger.
'You have my word', I promised.
I led the girl down the alley behind The Asylum nightclub, the inner voice cajoling me, telling me to feast, to enjoy the meal as if it was my last. Angrily, I forced the noise down. I'm no monster!
TAKE HER! The voice raged, a cyclone of desire and hunger, straining against self-control. TAKE HER NOW! FEED! DRINK HER DRY!
'Close your eyes', I whispered. She did so, seemingly at ease. I drew forward, taking her in a firm embrace, arms wrapped around her shoulders as if in a hug. My own eyes closed. I could smell her blood from here, strong, the pulse rapid. Was she nervous? I knew I was...the voice carried on, screaming, crying, begging, ordering.
SHE IS NOTHING! LESS THAN NOTHING! DRAIN HER!
My teeth sunk in, sucking, draining her. It was so sweet. So spicey, so vibrant. A concoction of tastes, everything that I could possibly need, possibly desire.
That's it... The voice crooned, revelling in the sensation. Finish her.
My eyes opened at that thought. In horror, I pulled back, my teeth retracting from the wound. The body was limp in my arms. What had I done? What was I doing? In fear, fumbling, I lifted her head, checked her pulse.
Had I killed her? Her face was ashen. I made a choking noise, desparately trying to feel a pulse, finding none.
'No, no, no', I began to groan. Had I given in to the Beast? Had I taken life, the life of the innocent? Cou...there! A pulse! Weak, but there.
Taking the girl in my arms, I carried her to the medical centre down the road, shoulder opening the door. The night nurse looked up, surprised.
'I found this girl as I was leaving The Asylum. Not sure what's wrong with her, but she needs medical attention!'
The nurse hit the intercom, helped me carry her into a room. Telling me she'd find a doctor, the nurse quickly left. I reached down, placing the girl on the bed. Gingerly, I stroked her head. This was not what I had wanted. I couldn't be here when the doctor arrived though, too many questions. I pulled another $20 out of my wallet, pressing it into her belt-purse. Least I could do. I opened the door, ready to leave the hospital. Hesitating, I turned. Looked at the unconscious face.
'For what it's worth, I'm sorry.'
Revitalised I was, yet also, I felt tainted. I had come close to something I had been warned about, had been told lurked in all of us. When Jack had told me of it, I had shrugged, discounting what he said. Now I realised just what a danger it was to a hungry vampire.
I opened The Asylum door, sitting down at the bar. Knox came over, sitting down beside me.
'Yeah', I replied tiredly. 'Tell Tung he doesn't need to worry about him any more.'
Something didn't sound quite right, but I was too distracted to follow it. Instead I brought up what I'd found.
'He died like a vampire, but he seemed different to us. For starters, he referred to us as the 'Cainites'. Care to shed some light on it?'
'Thanks Knox, enlightening as ever. Well, I've got to talk to Therese, I'll catch you later.'
I got up, ignoring Knox's platitudes, and took the lift up to the office. When I opened the door, I groaned.
Therese wasn't in, but Jeanette was. Too late to leave, she'd turned and saw me, a sultry smile on her face.
I don't have time for this shit...but, I need them for now.
'Of course', I purred. 'You were in my thoughts as well, I had to see you again.'
I cut her off.
'I'm sorry, but I really need to talk to Therese, is she around?'
Cute. 'She needed me to get an item from the haunted hotel. I've got it for her now.'
I held out the pendant, tight grip on the chain. Jeanette reached out for it, a calculating expression on her face. I pulled it back.
'Look, but don't touch. I was told to give it to Therese.'
Jeanette's tone was petulant, overtly so. As far as I'm concerned, you can have the damned thing, so long as someone tells me where Bertram fucking Tung is!
'It must be horrible Jeanette, really, but I'm sorry. It has to go to Therese.'
For the love of God, shut up!
'Jeanette, you're not getting the pendant.'
Relief was enough that I was able to overlook the startling mood swing. Jeanette was just like the headcase at the blood bank - whining one second, bouncing in delight the next.
'Alright, I'll do it. Just let Therese know I was here.'
I've just about had it with this amoral bitch.
'Forget it. I'll do the paintings, but I'm NOT stealing charity money.'
Question is, do I believe you? I didn't want to argue about it though, I just wanted to get this over with.
'Alright, I'll think about it. But when I get back, the feud with Tung better be over!'
You know what I'd find amusing? Seeing you staked and waiting for the sun.
'I'll be back soon.'
Gallery Noir was a quaint little cut-stone building on Main Street. How I was going to get in was a dilemma, however, with the...somewhat rotund...police officer patrolling in front of the building. Made me wonder whether whoever owned the place was expecting foul play. Visibly relaxing, I put on my game face.
Nonchalantly, as if I'd done it a thousand times before, I walked past the police officer towards the back door. The cop called out to me in a voice that was too friendly to be authoritative.
'I'm sorry officer, looks like I'm going to have to fire my secretary. Didn't you get the call?'
Confusion played across the open, honest face.
'The studio director called, and said something's come up, something about the authenticity of the paintings.' The cop looked puzzled, so I talked down a little. 'She thinks they're forgeries. Fakes. She told me she wants to to close down the exhibit while they find out.'
'Me?' I laughed. 'I'm her assistant, I help run the galleries while the boss is away.'
I gave Chunk a slap on the shoulder. 'Deal.'
I couldn't help it. The guy was so open, so gentle, that it was obvious this job didn't suit him. He was a likeable guy, so I played along.
'Sure thing officer, didn't expect any less. You'd better put in a 45-B as well, just to be safe.'
'You too Chunk, I'll see you around.'
I stepped into the ominously lit studio. Ignoring the charity box completely, I looked at the strange juxtaposition of the paintings, each facing a central point. The painting content was also off-putting, given what I had read this evening about the 'Cainites'.
Was this the origin of vampires? The vampiric state, a curse upon the progeny of Cain in retaliation for the killing of a brother? It seemed bizarre...to 'curse' the brother killer with the power to perpetually continue the cycle of mortal death...
Drawing the knife, I began my night's work.
With a certain flair for the dramatic, I stripped the canvasses in order.
'Cain Kills Abel'. Slash.
'Cain is Cursed by God.' Slash.
'Cain Meets Lilith'. Slash.
'Cain Spurns Lilith'. Slash.
A high-pitched keening noise began to ring in my head, a sense of dread forming in my stomach. Had I been set up?
Streams of blood emitted from each painting, coalescing into a humanoid form in the centre of the studio. Silently, it advanced upon me.
I stepped back, determining my next move. Too slow. The creature jumped, claws flashing. Brown splinters of bone raked across my face and neck, drawing blood from deep gashes. I cursed, promising bloody vengeance upon Jeanette.
The gun would be useless, and draw too much attention. Chunk was harmless, but even he'd wonder why I was firing rounds into the canvas and call for backup. The knife was my only alternative. Could this thing feel pain?
I rolled under the next swipe of the claw, thrusting my knife under the thing's armpit as it passed. Although it gave no sound to indicate pain, it retreated from the knife, the arm hanging useless by its side, blood dripping from the bloody whole.
A game of cat and mouse followed, the creature and myself equally silent. We circled eachother, waiting for an opening. I realised that given the creature's strength, the stinging in my face a testament to the fact, I couldn't rely on my vampiric healing to force the beast down. I'd have to rely on speed and counter-attack if I had any hope of surviving.
I feinted to the right, the creature following. Claws raked empty air as I moved back to the left, knife flashing in the studio lighting as it left a gash across the creature's chest, deep enough to show the ancient bones underneath. It drew back, running it's useful arm along the wound. It jumped at me again, a move it seemed to hope would bring me prone to the ground. Instead, I ran towards it as it leapt into the air, rolling underneath as it passed overhead. Quickly I jumped to my feet, ready to face it again.
The creature approached. The wound on my face throbbed, the blood still strickling down my face. I felt hungry, very very hungry. My vision began to cloud again, as before, and I knew that this fight had to finish quickly. As the creature charged once more, I strode towards it, knife brandished. Again, as the claw came flashing down, I moved undearneath the arm, facing the creature's back. Before it could turn, I took the knife-hilt in two hands, and thrust down at the base of the creatures skull. It penetrated the top of the spine, leaving the creature's throat at the front. Changing my grip on the knife, I twisted the blade to the side, before using my last remaining strength to rip the knife to the side, half-severing the creatures head.
Even in death, the creature was silent, blood dissolving as quickly as bone, leaving no trace it had ever existed. Exhausted, I slumped to the floor, waiting for my wounds to heal enough to be able to leave the building without raising suspicion.
If this night's proved one thing, I thought bitterly, it's that in this new life, blood is best friend, and my worst enemy.