Chapter XXXVIII: Old Faces, New Reasons
I stepped into the Luckee Star, taking a closer look at the man behind the counter. It was obvious now what he was editing previously. The manuscript sat on the counter, a mighty volume, the secrets of the Kindred laid bare. I approached casually, keeping my eyes away from the papers.
'Not here about a room. If I wanted to sleep with rats I'd visit the sewer. You're David Hatter right, the writer?'
Uh-huh. Suuuure you are, pal. You're so much different from all those other guys who write scripts that they're absolutely convinced are going to be the next blockbuster.
'From what I hear, you're just writing vampire flicks.' I filled the word 'just' with as much derision as I could, running my finger along the counter-top and rubbing the dust on my jacket.
'I see. You have a manuscript?'
'Just so happens I am. I know someone whose planning on making a vampire movie, he just needed the script to go with it. I could always talk to him...' I left the suggestion hanging, relying on the man's desire for fame, to be noticed, to do the work for me.
'I will do. For legal reasons though, I need to ask if you've collaborated with someone, or whether it's all your own work.'
'C'mon, wouldn't he liked to be famous too? Besides, if I can't get his verbal and written consent, this won't be going anywhere'. I moved as if to hand back the manuscript, and David let the words tumble out.
Julius. That figured. Leaving the building I walked to the waiting cab, telling the driver to take me to Santa Monica. The stuttering thinblood. A feeling of unease started to well up inside me. It seemed I'd have to kill him. Should I? Could I?
I walked slowly to the beachfront, my mind racing. I didn't like this. This was murder, cold and calculated. All in the name of preserving the little game the head vampires were so fond of. Protecting their interests. I was no killer. I didn't want to start now. But what choice did I have? He would continue to talk, and attention would be drawn. I knew which unlucky neonate would be the scapegoat then.
Julius stood, looking into the fire, shivering. Obviously in touch with humanity enough to feel the cold, he reached his hands around himself. He was frail, almost childlike. The feeling of unease grew as I gripped the hilt of the katana. I walked over, loudly and obviously. Julius looked up, suspicion on his face as he stared at me.
'Wh-whwhwwhwhwhwwhwh-what dod-d-d-d-do you w-w-w-want?', he asked, shying away from me. He was so frail.
'Julius, you know why I'm here.' Why was I doing this? Why?
'N-n-n-n-n-no'. He raised a hand protectively in front of his face.
'You told the writer about us, Julius. David Hatter! Do you have any idea what you've fucking done?' I began to shout, grabbing his shirt in frustration. I was no killer! 'Do you have any fucking idea what the consequences are?'
I let go, the man stumbling backwards, his feet splashing in the ocean waves. He looked at me in terror. I sighed, closing my eyes. I didn't want to do this. What choice did we have?
'Julius, the sentence for doing what you've done is death. They've sent me to kill you.'
He began to sob then, a pathetic shivering noise, his shoulders shaking in fear. Fear and loneliness. I began to understand his motive. Loneliness. I thought back to Samantha, my desire to have someone I could trust, someone to be with. And I had regular contact, with both kindred and kine. I couldn't trust them, but at least their contact gave me something, some tie to others that helped keep the darkest abyss from consuming me. Julius, he didn't have this. Shunned by the kindred, taunted and hunted. Unable to live amongst humans. He'd turned to David out of desperation. To have someone to talk to, someone to share his fears and his sorrows with. I didn't want to kill this man. I wanted to protect him. Protect him from the bullshit that was the Masquerade, from the bastards that called themselves 'kindred'.
'What choice do we have?'
Hope. Hope for both of us.
'You'd have to leave LA for good Julius. For the rest of this lifetime. If you came back, they'd know. You'd have to promise never to return.'
I sighed, looking down, my hands loosening.
'Go, Julius. Now, before I change my find. Get the fuck outta here.'
I watched him go, wondering if I'd made a mistake.
No, I thought to myself. Empathy...compassion. Those things are never a mistake.
If someone wanted to blame someone for this, they could come to me. I'd let them know just what I thought of the Masquerade.
Getting in the cab to return to Hollywood, I turned, looking up at the revolving sign. 'Brothers Salvage', I read aloud. The business from the card. This was the last chance to find the serial killer.
'Wait a few minutes, I'll be back soon', I said, closing the door again, and walking to the gate. I opened it, stepping through the office, and walking around the back.
Someone had piled the crates into a barricade. I shoved them aside, looking for any sign of life. A startled grunt called out, and I looked towards some cars, seeing a figure running from me. I gave chase, ducking in stunned disbelief as the man picked up a car and threw it at me. Getting up and brushing myself off, I followed him through the wrecks. Reaching a dead-end I saw him again, his face hidden by shadows. Standing on top of a pile of crushed cars, he threw a lit bottle at me. I dived to the side as it shattered on the ground, mixing with the oils from the hollowed out cars. The grass set alight, the heat searing. Crawling under a precariously positioned vehicle, I dragged myself up, sipping a bloodpack to aid the healing. I ran through the rest of the cars, coming to a clearing.
I stepped closer, realising I recognised the man. It was the vampire from the diner.
His eyes were animalistic, full of fury, and haunted. They glistened brightly, devoid of reason. I knew I'd have to tread carefully.
'Why'd you do it?'
'Still, I'd like to understand. Why?'
'Revenge then', I said with sympathy. 'Revenge was your reason.'
'Revenge', I said firmly. 'You let the beast take over. No. You became the beast, let it consume you.'
I thought back to Julius, to what was expected of me. I couldn't say I disagreed, but I couldn't let this person walk the streets either. Not like this. A wounded, rabid animal, searching for perceived injustice, to mete out vigilante justice with his own particular nasty streak.
'So what now, hunter? Off to get more...justice?'
'I see', I said coldly, driving my words in like nails. 'I wonder how your family would have felt, knowing you were like this. A killer. A butcher. A half-tamed animal that only feels alive if he's torturing someone to death.'
The man stepped back, stung, the light of realisation beginning to reach his eyes.
'But that's ok, isn't it, if it's in the name of justice. Who cares if you get it wrong. Who cares about the families that get left behind. Where does it end? Parking tickets? Your family would be proud.'
The man gave a yell, putting his hands up. 'Enough! Enough, damn you, enough!'
'It's not me you need to ask. Go. Think about your family. Think about how you could earn their forgiveness. You've got a long time, use it wisely.' The man turned, stumbling, not seeing, as he walked away. I turned, walking in the other direction. Well, I may not have been able to collect the bounty, and his victims were still dead. But at the very least, with luck I'd stopped him from making more. I got back into the cab, and headed for Vesuvius. Arriving at the club, I walked to Velvet and slammed the manuscript on the table.
I looked at Velvet silently, full of contempt. Surely she owed David this much? With disgust, I picked up the manuscript, setting it on fire, watching it burn away, ashes, dust, and fading dreams.
'It's dealt with', I responded evenly, refusing to elaborate.
She handed me a photo of herself, signed at the back. With love, Velvet
I wondered idly whether it was meant, whether she felt affection for anyone, or just played the game in her own way. I still considered it as I left the building, walking towards Isaac's office. I'd tell him about the phone, get him to get someone to stand guard, wait for it to ring. I'd had about enough of this grunt work, and didn't want to be around for the next viewing anyw-
I looked in consternation at the phone by the convenience store, ringing in the dead-silent night.
I guess it was up to me to answer it, to see how deep this depravity ran.