Chapter XV: A Favour RepaidSeveral minutes after my confrontation with the blood demon, I left the building, my skin once again unmarked by battle. I nodded to Chunk on my way out, wishing him a good night.
'Yeah, I'll 'member' that. Thanks.'
Shaking my head, amusement battling with the inhuman hunger, I made my way to the blood bank. See if I could smooth things over with the ghoul.
As I stepped into his line of sight, the madman cackled. 'Need a fix? Oooooh, but wait. I'm really not sure you deserve it.'
Not in the mood, ghoul.
My hand went through the slot at the bottom of the glass shield, grabbing his shirt-front. Pulling my hand back, the man's face hit the glass, only the thin, transparent substance separating his insane eyes from my hungry ones, his throat from my teeth.
'Well, that all depends', I hissed. 'See, I'm very hungry, and suddenly thinking to myself, hey! I've never tasted a ghoul before.'
This was the good stuff. I could tell as soon as my teeth penetrated the bag. Blue blood, the blood of kings. Right now I could feast on a vagrant, but this...this was bliss. Self-control was once again in reach. I looked the receptionist up and down.
'That'll do for now, ghoul. I'll be back soon, so I'd remember your manners next time.'
Walking in the cold wind back to The Asylum, I hoped that this business would be over soon. I'd had enough of Santa Monica. I took the lift up to Therese's office, and opened the door.
Therese looked up as the door open, her expression one of pure fury. Her hair was slightly unkempt, her movements jerky. 'You!' she screamed. 'You...you IDIOT! Get over here!'
I walked over hesitantly. What the hell was going on?
'Excuse me?' My mind raced. What could I have done that made her so furious? Surely roughing up her ghoul and setting Lily free wouldn't have caused this much anger. This was something more personal.
Oh no...Jeanette, that little tramp...
'I can expl-'
I needed to salvage this somehow. If I wanted to get out of Santa Monica, away from LaCroix, I needed to find Tung.
'I'm not really sure what-'
Therese broke in again angrily, shaking her head, pulling slightly at her hair. They're both totally unstable. Watch yourself.
'I'm so very sorry, Therese, really.' Once again, my voice was honey, my eyes smouldering. 'Here, a token of my appreciation for the baroness of Santa Monica. One pendant from the hotel.'
Therese's manner changed completely. From angry alley-cat to purring kitten in the blink of an eye. She looked up demurely, taking the pendant, stroking the jewel at it's centre.
'If you would be so kind, Ms. Voerman. LaCroix's work must be done.'
This was beyond suspicious. Why would Jeanette agree to meet her sister, and then meet me instead? Why would Therese wish to reconcile but refuse to go?
I agreed, but reluctantly. I did not like the feel of this.
That feeling got worse as I stepped inside the diner. The only clientele this evening were several men in gang colours, who stopped talking and watched me the second I entered. They were waiting for someone, and I had a good idea who. The usual waitress was gone, replaced by a non-descript man in a shirt and tie. He was watching the men distrustfully, obviously waiting for trouble.
Unfortunately for us both, it looks like that's going to be inevitable.
I walked deliberately to the booth by the phone, making my movements as natural as possible. As far as I was concerned, they were just other patrons? Why worry? I was just here to meet a girl. An oblivious idiot.
At the first sound of a hammer pulling back, I dove under the side of the counter. A bullet marked the wall, smoke leaving the hole. Swearing, I drew my own .38. I knew this was a setup, but by who? Jeanette or Therese? I peeked up over the counter towards the men firing at me.
The men continued to fire, as I fired back. How the hell was this 'upholding the Masquerade'? I fumed, wondering how a pair of vampi...of little girls with no stability whatsoever could be controlling an entire town. I fired off a round, dropping one of the men.
I roared in pain, spinning slightly. I looked down at my shoulder as I collapsed under the counter. 'Shit', I groaned, looking at my wrecked shoulder. Shotgun. The shirt was ruined, and so was the arm. The spray had caused multiple wounds, the skin burned, the bone splintered. If he had been a better aim...if I had been that little bit closer...
Rage overcame me. The heightened senses kicked into action, my eyesight sharpened. I reloaded the .38, cocked the barrel. Leapt up, felt the bullet whistle past my ear. There was no need to aim. Raised the gun. Fired a single bullet. Moved onto the next man. Pulled the trigger, watched him collapse to the ground, gurgling as blood sprayed from his throat. The last man standing was the man with the shotgun. He raised the gun to his shoulder, taking careful aim. His final mistake. One bullet. Two bullets. Three. All entering within centimetres of eachother, just above his belt buckle. He fell to the floor, moaning and screming. Clutching at his stomach, the blood spurting out. I walked towards him, emptying the chamber, reloading. Pointing the gun. Base of the skull. Execution, as was planned for me.
Miraculously, the waiter had survived. He crouched down, hands over his head, whimpering, praying over and over again. I called out to him, and he cringed, crying.
'Please', he said. 'Please, I have a wife at home...'
I felt sickened. Did one have to be dead, to value life?
'Sssh, quieten down, it's ok, I'm not going to hurt you'. I repeated the words in a soft voice. 'Now, this is what happened. Some guys came in, there was an altercation.' I moved over to the man with the shotgun, picked it up, wrapped his hand around my .38. 'They started shooting at eachother. One survivor ran off, shotgun in hand. That'll explain the marks over on the wall. I wasn't here, you didn't see where the other guy went.'
I threw about $100 in bills on the counter. 'Got it? You didn't see me.'
The man nodded, swallowing hard as he took the money.
'The money's for the damage, and your trouble.'
I looked up as the phone rang. The man still gripped the bar, white knuckled, dazed. I walked over to the phone and lifted the receiver.
'Hello?' I asked in a dangerously cold tone. I knew who would be on the other end.
Therese's business voice responded.
Jeanette's voice then called out in terror.
The phone went dead. I ran to the door, yelling at the waiter.
'Remember, I wasn't here. Now call the cops!'
I sprinted across the road and into the Asylum as fast as my undead legs could take me. Through the doors, across the dancefloor. The bartender looked over.
'Where's the fire, chief?'
'Not now! Jeanette and Therese are about to kill eachother! Buzz me in!'
Alarmed, the bartender hit the button for the lift control, and the panel in front of me lit up. I hit the 'up' button, thankful that for once the elevator was on the ground floor. I got in, and waited for the lift to ascend.
They're fucking crazy. The both of 'em. But without them, I can't get to Tung.
'SHIT!' I screamed, slamming my hand against the lift wall. This was getting too messed up. I thought I was in over my head. Now I knew I fucking was. The lift door opened, and I ran down the corridor, kicking open the door to the office. When I saw the scene before me, I stopped dead in my tracks.