Chapter II: The Beach-House
Leaving Mercutio's pad, I went via a side alley to reach 2nd Street. In front of me was a sign for a place called 'The Asylum'. I walked around to the front of the building to get a better look.
Interesting looking place...looks like a decent nightclub, I might check it out after my business here is dealt with.
I sincerely hoped that this business would be over quickly. Mercutio seemed like an alright guy when he was in one piece, and Jack seemed like the kinda guy I'd have a few beers with, but that Lacroix was the kind of prick that used to run the protection rackets in high school...the person you'd get along with perfectly, so long as you ran when he said 'fetch'.
I wonder if I can drink beer now anyway?
I stopped at the walkway to the pier, which was locked up with police cars on the other side. Two officers were talking, discomfort in their voices.
'I'm telling you Mike, I've seen some things in my time, but that's gotta be one of the worst.'
'Ugh', said the other, his voice sounding ill. 'Never seen nothin' like that. Tied up like that, looks almost half eaten.'
'I saw somethin' like that once', replied the first.
'Nah, really, this one time a few years back...'
I stopped listening, wondering if there was another way onto the pier. Checking a street map, I found that an alternate route to the beach was accessible through the carpark. I headed there, and down the stairs to the beachfront.
As I approached the end of the tunnel, a dark-skinned woman with unusual eyes ran up to me, watching me as if I was a familiar acquaintance. I felt a strange sensation when she approached...like she was a vampire, but somehow not, all at the same time.
I was taken aback.
'Hold on, wait a sec. How the fuck did you know who I was looking for?' I raised an eyebrow, wondering if Mercutio called ahead. Was this some kind of trap?
I sighed, walking past the woman.
'It wouldn't be the first time tonight. Thanks for nothing.'
Further down the beach, another strange-feeling vampire stood, looking wistfully at the ocean waves. While I looked up at the beach-house, I wandered over to make small talk, hoping for some information. How many guys up there, were they armed, etc etc. Always worth knowing what you're up against, even when you've got a major fucking advantage.
'What's up, my friend?' I called at him as I walked over. He turned, startled, then adopted a defensive pose, his voice tight with fear.
'Whoa there, no need to be like that!' I sized him up. He was bigger than me, maybe more defined, but the power radiating from him didn't feel like that coming from guys like Jack or Lacroix. In fact, he barely felt more than human.
'No, I'm not. Should I be?' I crossed my arms, staring intently at the stranger. He visibly relaxed, adopting a more casual stance, lowered his head. Sighed, blowing air out of lips that no longer required it.
'Sport? Whose sick idea of a sport is that? Why are they targetting you guys?'
'Thin-blood? What's that supposed to be?' I scratched my head. It felt like I'd always be in the dark, a new and mysterious secret waiting for me at every turn. All of them with the power to hurt me, I thought morosely.
'The fuck would I know?', I snapped in frustration. 'Do I sound like I do? How'd it happen?'
'Get on with it. I'm assuming she was a vampire, right?'
'How poetic. Where is she? She's not dead, is she?'
'Yeah, well, from what I know, you're stuck with it now.'
'I might see what I can find out. I love a mystery.'
'Really?' The surfer sounded enthusiastic. 'You'd do this for me?'
'No', I replied. 'I'm doing it because it might come in useful. Still, you get something out of it, so I guess we're all winners tonight, right chum? These guys all thin-bloods too?'
'Not a problem. But, I find out something for you, you can let me know something.'
'I'm heading up to the beach-house. How many guys are up there?'
'Four or five', he replied. 'Nasty guys though, saw them dumping someone into the sea the other day. Most of them looked fucked outta their skulls most of the time. 'Cept the black guy. He always looks clean, but he's the worst of the lot.'
He paused, obviously realising who, or what, he was talking to.
'Not that I reckon you'd have a problem with them. One of you fat-bloods should be able to take a few guys no problems, right?'
'Fat-blood?', I replied ominously.
'Well, makes sense, if we're the thin-bloods, right?' He grinned expectantly, waiting for my response. I couldn't help but smile back. Seemed like this new life wasn't that much different from the old one after all. No desire to wear lace, no bad poetry. Seemed much more grown up and much less melodramatic than the movies and the badly dressed gimps at rock gigs made out.
'May be a fat-blood, but we'll see how thin your blood really is when I spill it over the sand. Later.'
'Yeah, good luck.'
I opened the gate, and climbed up the ladder to the beach-house, thinking over what the thin-blood had said. Harbringers of the apocalypse? Seemed weird. Rather than all the stuff from the movies, we've got vampires using guns, holding courts, getting involved in turf wars and using explosives, and then all of a sudden out with the mystical bullshit?
More mystical than being a vampire in the first place?
The place was in a bad state of repair, various odd-looking and odd-smelling stains covering the chipped wood walls. One of the windows was broken, the glass still littering the sandy ground beneath it. Outside the front of the house an overbuilt junkie stood, lighting a cigarette while awkwardly clutching a baseball bat.
Probably raise too much of a fuss if I kill him now, I thought with resignation. Instead, I put on my best smile, and walked over confidently, as if I had every right to be there. I exuded charm and influence, which was apparent as the guy looked me in the eye. He breathed the smoke out of the cigarette in my face, smiling as if he was the smartest fucking monkey in the jungle. Despite my growing annoyance, I maintained my composure.
'I'm here to see you-know-who about the you-know-what. He's expecting me. Wouldn't be a good idea to keep him waiting, would it?'
My confident grace paid off. The guy nodded, then leaned forward eagerly, speaking quietly in the aggressive tone I assumed to be his natural means of communication.
'I'm sure the reason you're out here has nothing to do with your personality', I commented as I nudged past him. The guy turned, a pissed expression on his face, but decided not to respond. I walked inside the building, and through to the room I could see through the front window.
The sharply-dressed black man turned as I entered, his legs spread wide, arms crossed, jaw thrust out pugnaciously. He looked me up and down, and sneered. His eyes were cruel, the kinda guy that would stab you in the back just because it made him feel big. He opened his mouth, and began his 'look how hard I am mother-fucker' speech. Needless to say, I was less than impressed.
'Like what you've done with the place pretty-boy', I airily remarked, treating the bastard with a disrespect I knew would rile him more than anything else possibly could. That it was happening in front of one of his lackeys just made it worse. His eyes narrowed, his nostrils flared. I continued cutting him down. 'Just love everything you haven't done to the place. Did your boyfriend here pick out the wallpaper himself? Anyway, not important. I want the astrolite.'
I dropped the attitude, and leaned forward, looking him right in the eyes. If he could see how pale my face was, well, the light was bad. If he couldn't see the glinting teeth, he was blind.
'How about you fucking give me the astrolite now', I rasped, 'before I cut off your balls and throw them in the sea?'
My earlier comments coupled with this latest one made him lose his temper, just as I had hoped.
I ignored the bullet penetrating my back, leaping forward to grab the man's neck in one hand. I held him up against the wall, as his hands struggled to break my hold, feet kicking against the wall as he turned blue. I brought him down and forward, so we were nose to nose, close enough to kiss.
'By the way, pretty boy, Mercurio says hi.'
I drank deep, this time not ceasing as I felt the pulse weaken. I drank him dry, and threw the body against the floor. I turned on the other man, blood dripping from my mouth as I grinned evilly at him.
'Stop man! What the fuck?' He raised his gun again in shaking hands and fired off another round.
At the time, I didn't know exactly what powers I possessed. I know them better now, although I still may not know them all. Never quite sure what I'm capable of. For some reason, almost unconsciously, I rose my hand.
A rune formed over the man, which I presumed only I could see. The effect on him was readily apparent however. Blood was forced from his mouth, his nostrils, and flew across the room, absorbing into me where it touched. I felt exultant, renewed. My victim felt less so, as he groggily shook his head, coughing. I turned back to the desk, and took the atrolite from it. Rolling the black man's body over with a toe, I leant down and searched the man's pockets. I found a wad of notes, which I kept, and a brown leather wallet. I opened it, and found a note inside with the signature 'Lacroix' written on it. Must be Mercurio's.
I turned, leaving the room. By now, the bloodied man was beginning to stand again, so as I walked past, I absently crushed his face into the wall, leaving a bloody streak as the body slid down. The other men inside met with similar fates, their bodies torn apart relatively easily.
I stepped out of the side door, whistling happily. I had the astrolite, and now I could finish this damned assignment and get on with my unlife.
I looked up in surprise. I'd forgotten all about the body-builder outside.
'Oh, you're a little late for the shit I started. Shame, thought you might have backed me up. Oh well, not to worry, I'm sure you'll find something else to do.'
'Fuck you man!'
The man charged forwards, raising the baseball bat. I stood there smiling benignly, waiting. As the baseball bat came crashing down, I moved to the side, as it whistled harmlessly past my face. He swung the bat low this time, aiming for the stomach, but again I stepped away, just that little bit too fast to be human. I smiled up at him again.
'Nice try, but your aim is a little off. Keep going though junior and you might even make the team!'
'YOU SON OF A BITCH!' The man dropped the bat in frustration and dove into me, attempting to tackle me to the ground. When he failed to move me an inch, he looked up in stupefied horror.
'What the fuck are you?'
Yeah, what the fuck are you? I know who you used to be, but who are you now?
The anger rose in me again, the confusion, all the overwhelming events of the past few hours. With a feral cry I snapped the man's neck, forcing it so hard it was half-removed. I dropped the corpse and sank to the floor.
Was that the beast that Jack mentioned? Was I losing myself to my darker nature? Losing my humanity? I wasn't sure. Didn't know if I could be sure. Maybe it showed that my humanity was still intact. That I could still feel fear, frustration, confusion. I sat there for several more minutes before I looked at the body beside me.
'Ah well. Better keep moving, I'm just so busy tonight. You coming too?'
I looked at the man's head, the ruptured neck, the glazed eyes staring up at stars they would never again see.