Tag Archive | michael

Sarah – Blogophilia 13.5

It’s time for Blogophilia,  the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:

  • Blogophilia week 13.5 – “Absolutely Never … well … MAYBE”
    Bonus Points:
    (Hard, 2pts): include the words “haunting numbers” …. and a pair of dice showing 2 and 6
    (Easy, 1pt): include something that needs liquid fuel

This is another vampire morsel, a story about a character from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising these and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!

Speaking of Amaranthine vampires – book four is out now! yay! You can go here for all the details 🙂

 

Sarah

(You can find Sarah in Shades of Gray. This story takes place during Shades of Gray – if you’ve read the book, this happens the same night that Katelina meets Jesslynn and the baby in the nursery)


Sarah sat on the couch, a bright orange pillow clutched in her lap. “I know it’s been hard on Katelina. I really think she needs to talk to someone. I suggested she call you and set up an appointment, but she’s so stubborn.”

The therapist nodded. Her blonde hair moved with her head, like a solid piece of hairsprayed perfection. “Her boyfriend was murdered, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. They still don’t know who did it.” Sarah frowned. “Though the police have been harassing her about it for a month. And now there’s some joker calling her at work.” She sighed again. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t what we’re supposed to be talking about.”

“We can talk about anything you want,” the therapist assured her. “Why do you think this is bothering you so much?”

“Because she’s my best friend,” Sarah answered without thought. “We’ve been friends since we were kids. She was there for me through a lot of crap.” The therapist nodded, and Sarah went on. “I can’t stand seeing her like this. She says she’s fine, but I know better. And then some jack ass thinks it’s funny to call and say they know who killed him…” she trailed off and shook her head. “I’d like to ring their neck!”

“Did their joke upset her?”

Sarah absently bunched the pillow with her hands. “Of course it did!” Her voice dropped. “She went home early and I haven’t seen her since. I thought I should give her a little time, but I don’t know. It’s been a couple of days. Maybe I should call her?”

“What do you think?”

Before Sarah could answer, the timer buzzed.

“And that’s our session for today.” The therapist stood up and offered a lipstick colored smile. “I’ll see you next Friday?”

Sarah dropped the pillow to the couch and swept to her feet. She shook the doctor’s hand, murmured the usual goodbyes, and headed out into the corridor. The colorful fish photographs and cheerfully painted woodwork didn’t make her feel any better.

Her cellphone went off and she tugged it from her purse. Brad’s familiar, smiling picture flashed on the screen and a silly grin stretched over her face as she answered it. “Hey, honey. What’s up?”

“Hey, sweety. Just calling to see how you’re doing.”

Sarah juggled her purse and let herself out through the glass front door. It was only five, but the October sky was already growing dark and the air was crisp. She wished for her jacket and hurried to her car. “I’m okay. Just leaving the therapist now.”

“Feel better?”

It was a joke, but it made her frown. “No, not really.” She sighed. “I’m worried about Katelina.”

“I’m sure she’s fine, honey. She just needs some time.”

“I know.” Sarah unlocked the door and slid in behind the steering wheel. “I just wish to God she’d never gotten tangled up with Patrick! He was bad news from the get go!” It was a familiar speech, but she launched into it, anyway. “He was a drop out – we went to school with him, though he was older than us – you’d think that would have clued her in, you know? A guy who can’t even graduate isn’t going to get anywhere. And he wore eyeliner – eyeliner! What kind of responsible guy wears eyeliner? I’ll tell you – none!”

The tirade continued as she started her car and pulled onto the road. Brad made little noises of agreement until she paused for a breath and then he threw in, “I’m sure it will be fine. Are you coming in tonight?”

His question momentarily confused her. “What?”

“To the bar? Hello! Earth to Sarah! I work tonight, honey, and I thought you were going to come in and keep me company. Unless you’re too busy?”

Her cheeks flushed. “No, of course I’m not too busy.”

“I wasn’t sure. Your Patrick tirade can go for hours, after all.”

She could hear the smile in his voice and she responded with a sheepish laugh. “Okay, okay, I get the hint. I just never liked the guy.”

“Me either, but he’s dead now. It’s so long and good riddance, and time for everyone to move on, huh?”

“I know, I know. My therapist says I have trouble with letting things go.”

“I think she’s right.” His voice turned to innuendo. “Maybe later tonight we can see if you have trouble letting me go?”

Sarah giggled. “Oh, you! All right, let me just change and call Katelina real quick, and I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. I’ll be missing you until then.”

They exchanged their kissy-sounds and goodbyes, and then Sarah dialed Katelina’s phone. It went straight to voicemail. Undeterred, she tried twice more, as though it would magically ring through if she only called enough. As she pulled into the driveway of her little rental house, she surrendered and left a message.

“Hey, it’s Sarah. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay. They said you didn’t call in today, or yesterday. I know you kind of flake sometimes, but I just wanted to make sure everything is all right. Call me.”

There was nothing to do but wait.

Sarah took a shower and changed into the little red dress she saved for special occasions. Tonight wasn’t really special, but she knew Brad felt neglected. On their last date she’d spent the whole night fretting about Katelina. He’d joked about it, but it was obvious it upset him.

“I’m going to show him just how important he is”, she thought as she spritzed on his favorite perfume.

She checked her phone as she headed out the door, seeking the familiar, haunting numbers, but there were no missed calls. Damn. Where the hell is she?

She called Katelina – got voice mail again – and made up her mind. She dialed Brad’s phone and he answered on the second ring. “Hey, whatcha need?”

“I called Katelina but she didn’t answer.” She heard his sigh, and she rushed on quickly. “I’m just going to stop by her place for a little bit, to make sure she’s okay, and then I’ll be yours for the whole evening.”

“Sarah-”

“I promise! I just can’t enjoy myself while I’m worried about her, you know? I swear, it won’t be five minutes and then I’m all yours. No more distractions. Just you, me, and a few dozen drunks hanging around the bar.”

He laughed lightly. “As long as they’re a few dozen drunks who are tipping.” He sighed. “All right, though I think you’re worried over nothing. Every time that girl breathes wrong, you’re fussing and fretting. Sometimes I just feel like you love her more than me.”

“Of course I don’t! You know I love you and Mr. Winky-boo.”

She could feel him cringing. “I wish you wouldn’t call it that.”

“Why not? Oh, come, on, lots of guys have names for it.”

“Cool names. Not something like that. It sounds like a puppet from a kids’ show or something! For Christ’s sake, we’re not in junior high.”

She couldn’t stop the giggles anymore. “All right, all right. I’ll stop calling it that if you stop dogging me about being a worry wart.”

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Deal. Now go check on your air headed friend and I’ll see you later.”

“She’s not an air head.”

“Really? And how often is she completely irresponsible?”

Absolutely never … well … maybe once in awhile…” she trailed off. “Okay, she’s a fruit cake, but so are you.”

“I’ll pretend that means I taste good. See you soon.”

They repeated their kissy-ritual and hung up.  Sarah started the car and backed into the street. Just a few minutes, she promised herself.

The street was crowded and Sarah had to park her car two blocks away. Most of the shops on Main Street were closed, but the ballet studio was letting out and the street was thronged with parents picking up their little princesses in time whisk them home for a late dinner.

Must be nice, Sarah thought bitterly, then just as quickly she chided herself. Her therapist had told her that when she started to feel like that, she should count her blessings. It didn’t matter where she’d come from, only where she was going.

Easier said than done.

The street lights tinted the evening orangy-pink. Sarah hurried down the sidewalk to the book store. Katelina’s apartment sat above it and her living room windows looked out on the street. Light blazed from them and a person shaped shadows flitted across the blinds.

Good. At least she’s home.

A cheery red door led to a steep set of stairs. Sarah hurried up them and froze at the top, one hand on her purse and the other on the stair railing.

Katelina’s door sat at the end of the hall, wide open. A slice of the front room was visible; the coffee table was overturned and the floor was heaped with books and other items, including what looked like the couch cushions.

Eyes narrowed in determination, Sarah marched through the door, her cell phone in one hand as though it was a weapon. The disarray was even worse inside. The two large bookcases had been emptied and the armchair was overturned. From where she stood, she could see part of the kitchen; the cupboard doors were open and broken dishes littered the floor.

Fury swept through her. After everything that had happened, how could someone do this?

Glass shattered and she stormed towards the sound. Inside the bedroom she found two men. One had long black hair and chestnut colored skin. He’d have looked at home wearing feathers and buckskin. A scar across one cheek only made him look wilder. The other had short red hair and dark eyes. His skin was pale white, and something about the way he stood, perfectly still and staring, seemed wrong.

She refused to let them intimidate her. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” She brandished her phone. “I’m calling the cops!”

The Native American took a step towards her, his eyes narrowed and his hands loose fingered fists at his side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

She jabbed the icon for the phone app. “Just watch me!”

With a snarl he leapt at her, and she ran. She pounded down the short hallway, the intruder behind her. Her purse fell from her shoulder and she let it go. Maybe he’d trip on it.

She made it to the front room before he tackled her to the floor. She kicked and flailed, but he was too strong. A thousand panicked thoughts raced through her head, each one culminating in the certainty that she had to escape.

A voice floated from behind them, “Did you get her, Joseff?”

The reply came through clenched teeth, “Obviously.”

“Good, then let’s get out of here.”

Her captor stood and pulled her to her feet. She tried to swallow down her terror and remember what she’d learned in self defense class. She knew the first step was to remain calm.

Easier said than done!

Joseff jerked the cell phone from her hand. Impossibly, he crushed it in his palm and dropped the pieces to the floor.

“My phone!” Sarah shrieked. That’s it! She slammed her fist into his surprised stomach and followed it with a sweeping kick to the back of his knee. He didn’t fall, but the moment of surprise gave her an opening and she took it.

She was just to the front door, one foot in the hallway, when he grabbed her arm and swung her around. Her face smashed into the door frame and pain exploded from her nose. She stumbled backwards and Joseff knocked her to the floor.

Something warm and wet ran down her face; blood. The familiar sensation flung her back in time. Suddenly she was a little girl again, crouched in the closet, hiding from her father’s beer scented fury. She trembled and terror crashed through her. Help me! She begged silently. Save me. Someone, please.

No!

She wasn’t a little girl, she was a grown woman, and the only person who was going to save her was herself.

She took stock of her surroundings, looking for a weapon. A broken-spined book lay next to her. Useless. A pair of dice showing a two and a six were near her left hand. Useless. There was a bottle of nail polish – useless – and half of a broken glass ashtray.

Useful.

She slowly wrapped her hand around it, the jagged edge out, and readied herself.

“She’s going to be trouble,” the red head quipped.

“Brilliant observation, Lennon!” Joseff jerked her to her feet. He shoved his face in hers. His dark eyes snapped like fire that left her breathless. “Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is. You can cooperate or you can die. The choice is-”

His words shook her out of her momentary trance and she struck.  The broken glass tore at his check, but did a fraction of the damage she’d hoped for. He roared in surprise and fury and then punched her in the face. She fell backwards over the armchair and lay stunned.

Joseff loomed over her, his face twisted and lips pulled back from his teeth – No, fangs! Jesus! He has fangs! He grabbed a handful of her curly hair and lifted her by it. “Enough games, you stupid human!”

She had a nanosecond view of his fist crashing towards her face.

The world went black.

When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the same suffocating blackness. Her face throbbed and, though she tried to move, she couldn’t. It was as if she was tied up.

Oh, God!

She took a deep, exhaust scented breath and choked. She could feel the hum of a motor, the vibrations of movement.

I’m in the trunk of a car.

Which could only mean one thing: she was being kidnapped.

But why?  If they wanted money they’d have just taken her discarded purse. If they wanted to rape her, they’d have done it back at the apartment. If they wanted to kill her, she’d already be dead. She didn’t know them, so why-

“Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is…”

“Oh my God, they’re after Katelina!”

The realization jolted her. Why would a pair of thugs be after her best friend? What in the hell was Katelina mixed up in?

Patrick. It had to be something to do with him. Probably drugs. No doubt, that was what he’d been killed over and now – and now what? And now they were after Katelina, only they’d grabbed her by mistake?

In her mind, she ran through scenes from movies, lectures from her self defense class, random reality TV shows. None of them had any advice for this scenario. Not even Cosmo had a “What to do if you’re locked in a trunk” article. Like usual, she was on her own.

You can do this, she told herself. Just hang on until we get wherever we’re going. Then they’ll open the trunk. But how long would that be?

Minutes ticked past, or maybe they were hours. Trapped in the dark without her phone, Sarah had no idea how much timed had passed.  The car thrummed along at a steady pace. She was jostled over bumps, but for the most part the ride was smooth. Probably an interstate, she told herself.

Her mind wandered. She thought of Brad. She could picture him leaning on the bar, his sandy blonde hair glinting in the row of colored lights, and his blue eyes twinkling with mischief. Only, they wouldn’t be. They’d be ringed in worry and impatience, while he checked the clock and wondered what was taking her so long.

Hopefully he’d go to Katelina’s when he got off work, and when he found it in shambles… what? He’d call the police? And just how would that help her, when she was God knows where?

The car slowed and then the road suddenly got bumpy – very bumpy. She could hear something pinging into the bottom of the car: rocks. They were on a gravel road.

Gravel?

It felt like an eternity, but at last the car pulled to a stop and the engine fell silent. Sarah heard the car doors open and footsteps crunch across gravel. They stopped nearby and someone banged loudly on the trunk.

Lennon’s voice sounded tiny and distant through the metal. “You sure she’s not dead?”

“I’m sure.”

Someone slotted a key into the lock and then the trunk sprang open. Sarah squinted against the onslaught of artificial light; too bright after the blackness.

Joseff grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her out of the trunk. With her ankles bound, she couldn’t stand on her own, so he flung her over his shoulder and carried her towards a small brick building that sat seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Several cars were parked in the gravel parking lot, and a security light threw harsh, strange shadows.

The metal door of the building scraped open and a blonde man appeared. His hair was longish and tucked behind his ears. His eyes held neither hatred nor pity; the expression of someone who was simply doing what they were supposed to.

“You got her?”

“Yes,” Joseff answered smugly. “She walked right in and practically asked us to take her.”

The blonde moved aside so they could enter. As they passed through the door, Sarah missed banging her had against it by mere inches.

They walked down a brick hallway and the blonde asked, “Was Jorick there?”

Jorick? Who’s Jorick?

“Nope,” Lennon answered from behind. “She was all alone.”

“Hmmm. The way that Michael and the others talked, she left with him.”

Michael? Who the hell were these people?

Joseff made a noise of agreement. “I know, but he wasn’t there and it’s not our problem. Let Michael explain it.”

“He can’t. He’s dead.”

Sarah felt a stab of icy terror at those words. Michel was a stranger to her, but that they could be so nonchalant that someone – anyone – was dead…

“Claudius kill him?” Joseff asked as they came to a door in the far wall. The blonde opened it and they started down a set of stairs.

“Yes. He had him burned, shortly after you two left.”

Lennon made a noise in his throat and Joseff grumbled, “I always miss the entertainment.”

Burned? Oh my God, it’s the mafia, isn’t it? There was no other explanation. But the mafia doesn’t have fangs. She still remembered her captor’s flashing teeth. Maybe it was my imagination. It had to be.

The trio of men fell silent as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Sarah concentrated on her surroundings. The room was large and open, like a big basement, with gray walls and floor. A chandelier, strangely out of place, hung from the center of the ceiling, and beneath it sat a large, wicker chair.

A door to the right opened up and several people trailed out. Among them was a bald guy, two scantily clad women, and a sulky blonde teenager.  Sarah didn’t recognize any of them, but there was something about them, something that seemed… wrong.

If this is the mafia, then they don’t look like they do on TV!

The group moved to the center of the room and the teenager dropped into the chair. His cold eyes surveyed them and Sarah shivered.

Joseff dropped her to the cement floor. With no hands to catch herself, she landed painfully on her shoulder. She bit back a cry and told herself to stay calm. Work on the rope on your wrists. Try to get your hands loose. You can still escape.

The Native American propped his foot on her hip and declared, “We’ve brought her, Master.”

“Have you?” The teenager stood and moved to her, absently rubbing his hands together. She froze as his gaze moved from her feet to her head and back again, so intense that she could almost feel it, like fingers gliding over her. “She is interesting. I could see why they might fight over her.”

The bald man made a noise in his throat and walked towards them. He stopped a few feet away and broke into rough laughter.

The teenager’s head snapped up and his cold eyes narrowed. “And what do you find so amusing, Troy?”

“It’s not her,” he answered, his smile wide and fanged.

Fanged?  No, that had been her imagination. People didn’t have fangs. The mafia did not have fangs!

The teen frowned. “Are you certain?”

Joseff growled low in his throat and stepped harder on her hip. “Who else would it be?”

Troy shrugged. “Damned if I know, but Patrick’s girl is a bit of blonde fluff who looks like she might crawl under the bed at the slightest provocation.” He broke into harsh laughter again. “This one’s kinda cute, though. I bet we could find something to do with her.”

His leering tone made her stomach twist. And his fangs continued to taunt her; shiny, sharp, real. How could he have fangs?

The teenager’s face clouded and he glared at Sarah, as if it was her fault. “If you’re not Katelina, then who are you? Speak!”

Joseff ground his heel into her and she yelped, then choked out, “Sarah. Sarah Townsend.” She could tell from their expressions that more was expected, but she refused to play their game.

“And just what do you have to do with anything?” the teenager demanded.

She summoned up all of her courage and stared back. “Untie me and I’ll tell you.”

The teen motioned with his hand. “Joseff.”

The Native American leaned down and grabbed her by her throat. She choked as he lifted her off the floor, crushing her windpipe in his hand. The same hand that had broken her phone to bits. Oh God.

“I’m- I’m Katelina’s friend,” she gasped out.

“What? I didn’t hear you.” The teen motioned to Joseff again and he released her. She landed on her face and rolled over, still coughing. “I’m Katelina’s friend,” she repeated, her voice raspy.

“Her friend, hmmm?” The young man’s eyes glittered like daggers. “Then tell me, where is she?”

“I-I don’t know.”

He leaned down, though not close enough to actually touch her. “You don’t know, or you refuse to tell?”

Her voice rose, though she didn’t know if it was from anger of terror. “I said I don’t know!”

“Hmmmm.” The teen straightened, turned on his heel, and stalked back to the chair. He draped himself over it and stared at her with bored disdain. “I imagine you don’t know where Jorick is, either?”

Jorick. They’d mentioned him earlier. “I don’t know who he is.”

He snorted. “Of course, play innocent. But, we’ll see how long you can keep it up for.” He snapped his fingers. “Troy! Have you heard from Peter and Javier?”

“No, Claudius – Master,” he corrected quickly.

Claudius drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “They should have reported by now, unless they’re dead.” He narrowed his eyes at Sarah. “Are they dead? Did Jorick kill them, perhaps?”

When she didn’t answer, Joseff kicked her in the back. “He asked you a question.”

Though she knew they weren’t playing, she shouted, “I don’t know who they are, or who Jorick is, and I don’t know what happened to any of them! Let me go now and I won’t call the police!”

Troy’s grin seemed to grow even wider, if that were possible. “Let me have her, Master. I’ll make her talk.”

Claudius nodded disinterestedly. “Very well, Troy. Do as you please.” He glanced back to her and added absently, “If she knows anything, I would appreciate the information while she’s still able to speak.”

A terrified scream strangled itself in Sarah’s throat and she struggled against her bonds. This had to be a joke. Wasn’t there a TV show where they tried to scare people? Maybe she was on it. Or maybe it was a nightmare. Or maybe-

Troy bowed low, and then pounced, like a cat with a mouse. He snatched Sarah up by the front of her dress and smiled into her face; that wide, toothy, fanged smile. She could see herself reflected in his eyes, feel the heat of his breath.

Oh God, maybe it’s real.

Troy snickered and glanced to her captors. “Stand back, boys, and watch how it’s done.”

Joseff snorted contemptuously and the other two remained silent. Sarah tried to catch their eyes and send a silent plea to them, but they didn’t look at her. Her gaze swung wildly to the group clustered around Claudius’ chair. Surely one of them would help her. One of the women, maybe?

Help me. Save me. Someone, please.

Troy laughed again, and she told herself she wouldn’t scream, no matter what.

Easier said than done.


*************

I am working on Patrick as a Novella, so that only leaves Troy and Velnya’s stories to write before the short story collection will be complete. Yay! Troy is next week, so I think I’ll just see where the prompts take me. As for Velnya… Hmmm. There are a couple of different stories I am interested to see of her, so it will depend on the prompts and random inspiration, LOL!

Patrick – Blogophilia 12.5

It’s time for Blogophilia,  the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:

  • Blogophilia week 12.5 – “When I was just a child”
    Bonus Points:
    (Hard, 2pts): Incorporate gauché as a feeling or an anime character
    (Easy, 1pt): Include the word “Placebo

This is another vampire morsel, a story about a character from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising these and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!

 

Patrick

(You can find Patrick sort of in Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts. This story takes place roughly two years before Shades of Gray starts – and six months after the Michael story)


CONTENT WARNING: Language, mild sexual content and some violence.

“I said I’m a vampire.”

Patrick stared at his brother. He looked from his wild eyes to his fangs, and rejected the image. “Mikey, look, you’ve been gone six months, then pop up on New Year’s day with this stupid story?“

“Dammit, Pat! Why don’t you believe me? Look at this!” He gestured wildly to his teeth.

Patrick drew a final puff from his cigarette and dropped it to the snow, where it died with a hiss. “I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve done to yourself, but there’s no such thing as vampires.”

“What the fuck? That’s it? I’ve spent the last month trying to get away so I could come find you, and that’s all you’ve got?”

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

“How about some help, you’re my goddamn brother!”

Patrick’s eyes moved from his agitated sibling to the brick building. Only one square of light shone back; his own living room window. “Look, if you need a place to crash, you can sleep on my couch for a few days, but I don’t want tangled up in your shit.”

“I don’t need a place! I have to sleep with Claudius and the others! What I need is free of them!”

Patrick sighed and absently tugged out another cigarette. Dilated pupils, agitated delusions; it was obvious Michael was tweaking on something, and whoever the fuck this Claudius was had probably given it to him. “Mikey, if you’re involved in some kind of gang-”

Michael roared and tackled his brother to the ground. Patrick threw up an arm and Michael ripped into it, tearing through his leather jacket and into his skin. Patrick screamed as burning pain shot through him. It coursed up his arm and slammed into his brain. His only thought was escape; he had to make it stop. He kicked and bashed Michael in the head with his free hand. His brother held on, like a bulldog with a steak, and Patrick hit him again and again.

Michael suddenly let go and fell back, snarling. His lips were pulled back from his bloody teeth and his eyes burned with rage.

Patrick used his good arm to scramble backwards, like a crab. When he was clear of Michael he pulled himself to his feet. He glanced quickly to his bleeding arm, then back to his brother. His voice shook as he demanded, “What the hell?”

Michael stood slowly and licked his lips. He took a cautious step forward and Patrick jumped back, one hand up. “Stay away from me!”

The fire in Michael’s eyes died and he looked repentant. “Pat, I’m sorry-”

“No! I don’t wanna hear it! Just get the fuck outta here” Michael didn’t move, so he shouted, “I said go!” and lunged at him. With a yelp, Michael took off, moving much too fast.

Patrick staggered backwards and slouched against the building. He raised a trembling hand to his face and wiped at his damp brow.

Mikey is fucked up.

Patrick left his ruined jacket draped over the couch and cloistered himself in the tiny bathroom. He turned the sink on and cleaned his arm the best he could. The skin and meat were torn, as if an animal had been at him.

An animal. Yeah, that was what Michael had been like. He sure as fuck hadn’t seemed human. But drugs could do that. They could turn you into something unrecognizable.

But they don’t do that to your teeth.

Patrick closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the cold mirror. He didn’t know what Michael was, or what he was mixed up in, but he knew one thing: he needed something to drink. About fifty gallons worth.

“Man, you look like shit.”

Patrick looked up through blurry eyes and slowly came to terms with the voice and face. “Hey, Anthony. What’s going on?”

“I should be asking you that. Where the hell have you been?” He sniffed the alcohol scented front room and frowned. “I stopped at the gas station and they said they hadn’t seen you for days. You’re fired.”

Patrick sat up, panic in his eyes. “Fuck. What day is it?”

“Wednesday, man. They said you were scheduled for the last three nights.”

“Fuck!” Patrick dropped back to the floor. “You think I could talk ‘em into cuttin’ me some slack?”

“I doubt it.” Anthony nudged an empty bottle with his toes.  “Did you know Mikey’s back in town? He wants to talk to you.”

Patrick threw an arm over his eyes to block the sunlight that fizzed through the window.  “Yeah. He was here the other night.”

“So you find out where he’s been?” Anthony pointed to the wad of crusty, stained gauze taped over Patrick’s wound. “What’s that?”

“He was all fucked up.” Patrick paused and then added reluctantly, “He fuckin’ bit me, man. He said he was sorry afterwards but…”

“Shit. I just saw him last night. He seemed kinda out there, but he didn’t get violent or anything. He just said he wanted to see you.” Silence fell and Anthony moved to the couch. He knocked aside a discarded fast food bag and an empty bottle so he could take their place. “You should prolly look him up. You know he gets in trouble by himself.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s always been that way. When I was just child I had to always look out for him, but I can’t spend forever taking care of him. And what’s to stop him from attacking me again or something?”

“Meet him somewhere public, man. Like McD’s. He can’t pull any shit there. The manager will call the cops.”

Patrick lowered his arm and stared at the crusty bandages. Had it been a week? Maybe more. He should change those. “I dunno. I can’t get ahold of him, anyway.”

Anthony fished in his pocket and produced a cell phone. “He left a number. I can call him and tell him you wanna meet.”

Though it felt like a bad idea, Patrick nodded and, as Anthony scrolled through his contacts, he staggered to his feet and to the bathroom.

Better try to look alive.

It was just after seven when Patrick ordered his food and sat down at a corner table, wearing his leather jacket. He’d repaired the sleeve with electrical tape. It was crude but effective, and at a glance it was hardly noticeable.

Michael appeared a few minutes later, hands in his jacket pockets and the hood pulled up to conceal his face. He took a seat across from Patrick and the brothers stared at one another.

He doesn’t look right, Patrick told himself. Something’s wrong with him.

“I’m a vampire.”

There’s no such thing as vampires.

Michael cleared his throat. “How’s your arm?”

Patrick’s gaze moved to his fries. They were more comfortable to look at; more familiar. “Eh, it’s a’right. Almost healed.”

Michael nodded and then nearly exploded, “I’m sorry about the other night, alright? You just pissed me off so bad!”

“Just forget it.” Patrick hazarded a glance at his brother and as quickly looked to his half eaten burger. “So where the hell have you been?”

“I told you, with Claudius and his coven.”

Patrick sighed. This was pointless. It’s the same shit all over again. “And who the fuck is Claudius?”

Michael stared at him as if he’d dropped from the sky. “He’s that dick I was mowing the yard for, remember? Owns that huge mansion?”

Patrick flinched in surprise. “Yeah, I remember. The master dude, or whatever, that you wanted to rob.”

“Yeah, that’s him.” Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “I found them all sleeping in the basement in their coffins – coffins, man! They’re all vampires; him, that prick Troy, the hot chicks. I told Claudius that if he didn’t pay me off I’d tell everyone their secret and…” he trailed off and spread his hands. “So they made me into one of them.”

God, he’s fucking nuts. Patrick didn’t want to admit it, but there was nothing he could do. Michael needed to detox and then see a shrink. A really, really good shrink. Maybe he had brain damage. Or maybe that Claudius had brain washed him or something. Either way, the best thing he could do right now was get the hell out of there before something happened.

Michael stared at the half eaten food with longing in his eyes. “You gonna eat that?”

“Nah, you can have it.” Patrick pushed it towards him, but Michael shoved it back.

“I can’t eat food anymore,” his voice dropped to a whisper. “Just blood, now.”

That was it. “I hate to bug out on you, but I gotta get up tomorrow and look for a job, and it’s a long walk home from here, so I better get going.” He stood quickly and fumbled with the tray. “I’ll, uh, I’ll see you soon though, huh?”

Michael stood too quickly; one minute he was in the chair and the next he was standing beside Patrick, the tray in his hands. “I’ll walk with ya. You have no idea what’s roaming around out there, man.”

A shiver raced down Patrick’s spine. I’m not afraid of what’s out there, just what’s in here.

Tiny snowflakes drifted from the heavy black sky. The moist air turned the streetlights to bloated globes of light. Patrick walked at a brisk pace, his eyes on his brother. Michael chatted continually about his “coven”; about the other vampires, about some hotty named Arowenia, “She’s beautiful , man, but she’s like fourteen or fifteen. I mean, she was. Now she’s like hundreds of years old. So is it sick to check her out? Is it like pedophilia, or is it like a granny fetish?”

Patrick’s answers were monosyllable grunts. He clutched his coat to him, as if it would protect him from the lunacy.

They turned down a narrow street and had gone a handful of steps when a man appeared in front of them, as though he’d just formed from the shadows.

“Holy shit!” Patrick leapt back, his blue eyes like saucers. The man before him was tall with long, ebony hair and dark eyes. Dressed all in black, it was only the pale skin of his face that stood out from the shadows.

Michael bristled, his teeth drawn back from his lips. “Who the hell are you?”

The man surveyed them a moment. When his eyes landed on Patrick he found he couldn’t move. He felt trapped, pinned down. It was as if the guy was staring through his eyes and into the back of his skull. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and his watery knees quivered.

The man broke eye contact and Patrick felt himself sag. He stumbled back a step before he caught himself. His heart pounded in his ears. There was something about this guy that said he’d kill them and not lose any sleep over it. All of Patrick’s instincts told him to run; run now.

The man studied Michael a moment, then said, “An interesting question. More importantly who are you?”

“Like that’s any of your business.”

Patrick gaped at his brother’s attitude. Was he trying to get them killed?

“You’re with Claudius.” It wasn’t a question, but stated as a fact. The kind of fact that suddenly made some of Michael’s delusions a little more plausible.

Michael glared back. “And you’re not.”

“No,” the man drawled. “I’m not.” He gave them both another once over. “And you don’t want to be.”

Patrick stirred. “How do you know that?”

Instead of answering, Michael commented coldly, “You must think you’re a mind reader.”

“I am.” And that’s when the man smiled. It was a slow, full smile, not particularly evil, though not exactly kind, either. It wasn’t the smile itself that made Patrick’s heart stop, it was the teeth. Like Michael, he had fangs.

Oh fuck.

The smile disappeared and the man met Michael’s eyes and held them. Patrick got the impression that he was trying to determine if they were viable, or useful. His decision apparently reached, he said, “Perhaps we’ll meet again.” Then, he seemed to disappear back into the darkness.

It was a full minute before Patrick could breathe. “Who the fuck was that?”

“I don’t know. Another vampire.” Michael glanced at his brother. “I told you there was all kinds of scary shit running around here.”

You’re not kidding.

 

Patrick couldn’t reconcile what he’d seen, and what Michael had told him, with the reality he knew. One of them was wrong. Either there were monsters or there weren’t. Unfortunately, he was starting to think that the monsters were real and that everything he’d known up to then was the illusion.

It was a terrifying idea.

It was five days before his brother came back. The snow fell hard outside and Patrick huddled on the couch, a nearly empty bottle of Jack clutched tightly in his hand.

Michael wasn’t wearing a coat. He brushed the melting snowflakes off of his t-shirt and flopped on the other end of the sofa. “I didn’t think I was ever gonna get away.”

“Yeah,” Patrick muttered around a mouthful of whiskey. The span of a heartbeat passed, then he asked suddenly, “Let’s say all this vampire crap is real. Is there a cure or something? “

“No, man. Once you’re a vampire, you’re that way forever. There’s no going back.”

Patrick asked the question he’d been dreading, “So what do you want me to do?”

“I need you to help me get outta there. They all treat me like shit, like I’m some kind of servant. I have to wait on them all and they call me names, and that son of a bitch Troy knocks me around because he knows if I fight back, they’ll all gang up on me. It’s bullshit.”

Patrick closed his eyes. Even in his inebriated state there was too much truth in his brother’s eyes. “Then leave.”

“You don’t get it! I can’t just leave. They’ll hunt me down and kill me!”

“Then go to the police or something,” he muttered hopelessly.

“Oh, great fuckin’ idea, Pat! I’ll go to the cops and say, ‘Hey! I’m a vampire!’ and if they don’t kill me then the other vampires will!”

Patrick flung the bottle across the room and shouted, “Then I don’t know what the hell you want from me!”

“Help me kill them.”

Patrick fell back against the couch. I can’t deal with this. “Are you serious?”

“Yes! Look, you can sneak in during the daytime and go down to the basement and-”

“And what?” Patrick asked sarcastically. “Pound stakes through their hearts? That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!”

“Do you have a better one?”

Patrick started to say no, and then he suddenly remembered the guy they’d run into the other night. The scary black haired guy. Another vampire.  That was what they needed. “What about that vampire guy we ran into? Maybe we could ask him for help?”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Now who has the dumb ass idea. We don’t even know where to look for him!”

“I don’t think we need to,” Patrick said quietly. “I think he’ll find us.” The idea did nothing to cheer him.

The park was eerie in the dark. The hulking jungle gym sat back in the shadows like a crouched monster waiting to spring. The swing set cast long shadows, like tendrils of evil that snaked towards Patrick and Michael as they leaned on the teeter-totter housing.

Michael’s shoulders suddenly went stiff. Patrick followed his gaze. At first he saw only darkness and then, just as he had last time, the guy seemed to materialize from the darkness, as if he was a piece of the night.

“You’re looking for me?”

Michael watched the newcomer through narrowed eyes. “You’re the mind reader, you tell me.”

Without hesitation, he asked sharply, “Why should I help you?”

Michael grabbed his brother’s arm. “Come on, Pat. I told you this was a fuckin’ waste of time.”

The space of a heartbeat passed, and the mysterious man replied, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you, I only asked why I should.”

Patrick nodded hopefully. If the vampires were half as terrifying as this guy, there was no way they could deal with them alone. They needed someone who could help them and, though he couldn’t say exactly why, he was sure this was the guy for the job. “Let’s give him a chance.”

Michael glared past his brother to the man in question. “Why? We don’t even know who he is!”

“Does it matter?” Patrick asked desperately.

“He knows who we are!”

The man all but rolled his eyes, “My name is Jorick, though it may be a moot point. Exactly what do you want from me?”

Patrick answered quickly, “He needs help to get away from Claudius.”

Jorick studied them silently. The moments stretched thin and taut, heavy with the oppressive winter atmosphere. Finally, he said, “Let me speak to my associate. We might be able to do something.” He started to walk away, then stopped and looked back. “Return here in a week.”

And then he disappeared.

A week later found Patrick back at the park, huddled in his leather jacket. Michael paced nearby. A field of cigarette butts was strewn on the ground between them, and Michael was working on another.

“You’re sure this is a good idea?”

“It’s as good as any,” Patrick muttered.

It’s all a bad idea. A bad, crazy idea.

Jorick appeared, walking from the shadows as usual, with a second man. The new comer had blondish hair that made Patrick think of a lion. It wasn’t just the hair; there was something feline about him, though whether it was his face or his movements, Patrick wasn’t sure.

They came to stop in front of them. The tension thickened as the four sized one another up, and then Jorick spoke, “This is Oren.” He gestured to the brothers. “Patrick and Michael.”

Oren nodded, his attention on Michael, “You’re members of Claudius’ coven?”

“No, I am. Pat’s not.”

Oren frowned. “Then what does he have to do with anything?”

“It’s his brother,” Jorick answered.

Patrick shivered. How did he know?  Oren turned to him and met his eyes. It was the same as it had been with Jorick; as if the guy was looking straight into his brain.

It ended suddenly and Oren looked back to Michael. “Do you know who I am?”

“Should I?”

“One would assume you’d know who you were dealing with before you asked for help,” Jorick commented. Michael glowered back and Jorick went on.  “Whether you are aware of it or not, Oren’s coven is at war with Claudius.”

Coven. Did that mean that Oren was a vampire?

Understanding flickered over Michael’s face. “You’re the guy who he’s been fighting with forever?”

“Not forever,” Oren bit back.

“It has been ongoing for some time,” Jorick countered, and then dismissed it with a gesture. “Regardless, I have spoken with Oren and we’re willing to help you – for a price.” Michael started and Jorick held up a hand. “It’s only fair. You want us to do something for you, then you should do something for us.”

The logic felt sound, so Patrick nodded eagerly. Michael, however, was still sour. “Like what?”

“Spy,” Jorick said flatly.

Oren bristled. “I wouldn’t call it spying, but rather information gathering.”

“For how long?”

Jorick rubbed his chin. “A few months, perhaps? That should be enough time for Oren to finally wrap this up.” His dark eyes slid sideways  to his friend and then back again. “After which time he will offer you sanctuary – both of you, if necessary.”

Patrick’s eyes went wide with surprise. “Me? Oh, I’ll be a’right. They’re not after me.”

“Not yet,” Oren agreed. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Michael scowled. “I was hoping to get away from them now, not in a few months!”

Oren started to answer, but Jorick silenced him. “It’s up to you. Leave now, on your own, and deal with the consequences alone, or wait a few months and have the guarantee of protection. It’s of no consequence to us, either way.”

“If I don’t agree then who will you get to spy?” Michael demanded.

Jorick shrugged. “Someone else. Claudius has an extensive coven. If we decide we need a spy, then we will recruit one. You can always fall back on your original plan.” He glanced at Patrick. “I’m sure you can eventually wear your brother down and he’ll agree to storm the basement. Of course, it’s sunlight that is the vampire’s enemy, not just daytime, so once he’s down in the dark, lightless cellar it won’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Maybe he’ll get lucky and actually kill a couple before they rip his head off.”

Cold terror filtered through Patrick and settled in his stomach. For a moment he could almost smell the damp, dark cellar in his imagination; feel the blood pounding in his ears and know that his death was coming. And it would. Jorick was right. Michel would hound and push and wheedle until he’d finally agree just to get him off his back and then…

“No!” he cried suddenly. “Jorick’s right, Mikey. This is the best way.”

“For who?” his brother demanded. “Pat, you don’t know what they’re like! I can’t take months of this!”

Jorick interrupted before Patrick could answer. “It’s something for you to think about. I’ll find you when you’ve made your final decisions.” He motioned to Oren. “Come. We’ve made the offer, it’s up to them, now.”

Patrick watched with horror as his only hope disappeared into the darkness.

When they’d gone, Michael demanded, “Can you believe that?”

Patrick turned on him. “Yes, I can! God dammit, Mikey, what did you expect? That they’d do you a favor for nothing? Who the hell do you think you are?”

He didn’t wait for the answer before he stormed back to his apartment.

“No!”

“Come, on,” Michael whined. “Just go out and look around. Please?”

“No!” Though it had been over a week, Jorick’s words still rang in his ears. “I’m sure you can eventually wear your brother down and he’ll agree to storm the basement.”

“Dammit, Mikey, I’m not going to die for this!”

“I’m not asking you to die! I’m just asking you to go check the place out and see what you think. If you say it’s too hard, then okay, enough said. I’ll drop it and we’ll come up with a better plan.”

“Then come up with a better plan now!” Patrick paced a worried circle around his living room, waving an envelope. “I have enough shit to deal with right now! I have to figure out how the fuck to pay the electric bill before they shut it off!”

“It’s January, they can’t shut it off.” Patrick glared at him, and suddenly Michael’s demeanor changed. A sly gleam settled in his eyes. “Claudius is rich.”

Patrick waved it away.  “I think I’ve heard this shit before.”

“No, you haven’t. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’ve got enough money to pay all your bills; rent, electric, you name it.”

“And how are you going to do that?”

“That’s what brothers are for.” He offered him a winning smile; though the fangs ruined the illusion and made Patrick long for a drink of something; anything. “Brothers stick together and help each other out.”

“No, Mikey. I’m happy to help you most of the time, but this is ridiculous! For Christ’s sake, you’re one of them and they scare you! What the fuck am I supposed to do against them?”

“I already told you.”

“And that Jorick guy told you what would happen! He said they’d kill me!”

“And you’re gonna take his word for it?” The silence was his answer. “Fine! Forget it! Just let me down, like everyone else! Excuse me for thinking I could trust you!”

“Mikey-”

His brother slammed out the door before he could finish. Patrick stared at the door, and in a fit of fury flung the electric bill towards it. “Oh, fuck you!”

Michael knocked on the door the next evening. When Patrick answered it, he shoved a bulging envelope in his hand, then abruptly turned for the hallway.

Patrick thumbed the envelop open and stared at the contents: cash. Lots of cash. He flipped through the bills in disbelief, then looked up in time to see his brother starting down the stairs.

“Mikey! What’s this?”

Michael looked over his shoulder, “I told you I’d help you out. We’re brothers, remember?”

“But where the hell did you get it?”

Michael shook his head sadly and then made a point of turning his back and walking down the stairs.

Patrick called after him, then swore under his breath and followed. He took the stairs two at a time and landed in the lobby. There was no one there. He ran to the door and flung himself out it and onto the sidewalk, but again there was no sign of his brother.

He looked both ways, then fell back against the brick building. He looked to the envelope still clutched in his hand. There was a lot of money in there. Maybe enough to live for a few months.  That would give him time to find a new job.

But Michael didn’t do it to help him out. He knew his brother was just trying to guilt him.

So why is it working?

The sun was high when Patrick called Anthony.

“You need a ride where?”

“Look, it’s some huge house in the middle of nowhere. Michael’s staying there.” He reeled off the directions. “So can you take me or not?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’m at Twila’s now. Let me get done here then I’ll be over, a’ight?”

“Cool. Just kinda hurry, huh? I gotta stop and pay the electric bill and don’t wanna be out there after dark.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, man.” Twila giggled in the background and Patrick knew what they were doing.  “Catch you later.”

Patrick tossed the cellphone onto the couch next to the envelope. Blood money. That’s what it was, only it for his own blood. Just like the donation centers he hit up. The difference is they just wanted a little bit. Michael wants all of it.

It was after four before Anthony showed up, a Cheshire cat grin on his face.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“Hey man, there’s more to life than bein’ your taxi. Twila was feelin’ lonely.” His grin grew. “Twice.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don’t wanna hear it.” Patrick slung his coat on. “Let’s just get this shit over with.”

He dropped the bill through the after hours slot, then repeated the directions to the mansion. It was either his memory, or else the directions themselves, but something wasn’t very clear and they ended up circling back roads for over an hour, listening to Placebo CDs.

As they passed a peeling barn for the third time, Anthony turned the music down to ask, “You’re sure there’s really a mansion out here? Twila said she’s heard stories about one with some kinda stone wall, but she ain’t never found it. Maybe it’s just an urban legend?”

“Michael said-”

“Was he sober?”

It was a fair question. “I think so. I don’t know.” Patrick slouched in the seat and covered his eyes. Reality and the monster-reality were crashing together and he wasn’t sure what was real again.

Anthony took a chance and steered the car down a pot holed road they’d previously ignored. “We can keep looking for awhile. But I’m gonna need some cash for gas.”

Patrick nodded and leaned his forehead against the window. His stomach knotted in fear, though he wasn’t sure from what. Was he scared of not finding the place and learning that all the vampire shit had just been his imagination? Or was he more afraid of it turning out to be real?

“Holy shit! Look at that!”

Patrick’s stomach tightened as he saw the stone wall and the set of wrought iron gates. So it is real…

Anthony parked in front of the gates. They climbed out and to find they were locked. “Now what?”

Patrick swallowed down a lump of terror. “Just, you know, kinda wait here for me. I’ll, uh, I’ll just go in.”

“By yourself?” Anthony frowned and shook the gate. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

“Yeah, it’s cool.”

No it’s not! Let’s get the fuck back in the car and get out of here!

“Okay then. I’ll hang around for an hour or two.” Anthony slouched back to the car and paused, one hand on the door and his eyes on his friend. “You’re sure about this?”

“Yeah, sure.” Uncertainty must have flashed in his eyes because Anthony’s frown deepened. Patrick thought about reassuring him, but knew it was useless.

He climbed the wrought iron gates and dropped down on the other side of them. Anthony was still waiting by the car, and Patrick looked back to give him a final wave before he turned and trudged towards the house.

No, mansion. That was a good description for it. Made of stone, it was decorated with statues, like something from a creepy horror movie. Shiny windows reflected back the early evening sun and reminded Patrick how little time he had.

He walked around the perimeter of the house first, checking windows and nudging the foundation. There were no basement windows, in fact there was no sign that there even was a basement. But Michael had been right about one thing; it was quiet. Way too quiet.

Patrick made his way to a side door and tested it. As he’d expected, it was locked. Despite the early February chill, beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he pulled a metal shim from his pocket and slipped it between the door and the frame. He worked it back and forth a few times, then leaned on the door.

The door swung inwards and he caught it before it could bang back into the wall. He mopped at his forehead and shoved the shim back in his pocket.

What the fuck am I doing?

It was a question he didn’t have an answer for.  He stole softly through the house, his eyes growing bigger and bigger as he moved from one outlandish room to another. It was like a mansion from the historical PBS shows his mother watched; chandeliers, red carpet, even a mirrored ballroom. But nowhere was there a door to the basement.

Maybe Michael is crazy, he thought with relief. Maybe I just broke into some eccentric millionaire’s house. Fuck, I better get out of here!

With that thought, he turned, to find a thin, mustached man staring at him.  Patrick yelped and then, something crashed down on his head and everything went black.

Patrick opened his eyes. The room was bright and blurry. He tried to block it with his hands, but they wouldn’t work.  He tugged harder and discovered that they were tied behind his back.

What the fuck?

Panicked, he tried to move his legs, only to find they were similarly restrained. He lay on the floor in a smallish room. The only furniture was a desk, some assorted chairs and a couple of display cabinets. Patrick’s eyes roamed from object to object, fluttering fearfully over the swords that hung on the walls.

Oh my God. What kind of freaks are they?

The door opened and a bald guy wearing a pullover and sunglasses walked through. If Patrick had to guess, he’d have said he was a repo man. Behind him was a kid of maybe fifteen or sixteen. He had long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and was dressed in a costume that matched the house; ruffled shirt, brocade vest and tight fitting trousers.

The blonde sat in a chair behind the desk and crossed his legs, his eyes on Patrick. Something glinted in their depths that made Patrick’s blood run cold. He was sure it was death he saw shining in them.

Silence stretched while they stared at one another. Patrick waited for the terrifying mental crush that he’d encountered with Jorick and Oren, but it didn’t come. Maybe these guys weren’t vampires? Maybe-

“So,” the blonde drawled suddenly. “An intruder?”

The bald guy grinned, flashing a pair of fangs. “Theo found him roaming around the house.”

Shit. They are. They’re fucking vampires. Oh God! Oh fuck!

The blonde tapped restless fingers on his leg. “And what, exactly, are you doing here?”

Patrick tried to speak, but he couldn’t. It was just as well, he had nothing to say.

“Troy, make him talk.”

“Yes, Claudius – Master!” The bald guy practically leapt forward and grabbed Patrick by the back of his neck. He hauled him up and shook him so that his head flopped back and forth.

Patrick gave a low, horrified moan-like yell, and Claudius shouted, “Enough!”

Troy dropped him back to the floor. With no hands to catch himself, he slammed face first into the floor.

“What were you doing here?”

Patrick lifted his head and spit out a mouthful of blood. Oh God. “I-I was just looking around.”

“Why?”

Pain radiated out from his nose. Was it broken? He thought it was bleeding but he wasn’t sure. Maybe it was just his mouth.

“Troy?”

Patrick shook his head violently. “No, no! I was – my – my brother-” he broke off.

“Your brother?” Claudius looked suddenly interested. “Who is your brother?”

Patrick swallowed another mouthful of blood. “M-Michael.”

Claudius’ blue eyes glowed briefly. “Really? I had no idea that Michael had a brother.” He looked to his bald lackey. “Did you?”

“Nope,” Troy said quickly. “He never mentioned him.”

“So you were here looking for your brother, Michael, perhaps?” Patrick choked on the answer and Claudius jabbed him with a pointy toe. “Answer me!”

“Y-yes.”

Patrick felt it suddenly; the pressure of someone behind his eyes. He looked up sharply to see Troy smirk and readied for Claudius’ anger at the lie. But Troy kept the truth to himself. “Should we kill him?”

Claudius leaned back in the chair and drummed his fingers on his leg again. “No,” he said slowly. “Not yet. Call Michael in here.”

“Yes, Master.” Troy bowed quickly and disappeared out the door.

Claudius studied him through heavy lidded eyes. “How convenient of you to show up when I’m having a party. Though you’re hardly dressed for the occasion. How gauche.”

Troy reappeared, hauling Michael behind him. Michael stopped just inside the room, panicked eyes going from Patrick to Claudius.

“Is this your brother?” Claudius demanded.

Michael looked at him one more time; met his eyes, pale blue looking into pale blue, terror meeting terror, and then he looked away. “No. I don’t know who he is.”

Patrick choked and Claudius smiled; a fanged, horrifying smile.

“In that case, you won’t mind if I feed on him.”

Patrick held back a scream as Troy released his captive and moved toward him. Free, Michael bolted for the door, but Claudius barked, “Stay!”

Michael froze on the threshold, his face pale and his shaking hands gripping the door frame. “I-I don’t really need-”

“I want you to watch,” Claudius purred. He motioned to Patrick again and Troy hauled him upright, setting him on his feet. With one hand, he tugged the leather jacket opened and grabbed a fist full of Patrick’s t-shirt. The material ripped noisily, revealing a swath of pale chest and stomach.

Claudius snapped his fingers. “I can’t feed on him from here!”

Troy dragged him closer and Patrick struggled. He was no match for the stronger vampire, who shoved him into Claudius’ lap. Patrick froze, his eyes locked with Claudius’. Though he looked young, at least ten years younger than Patrick, the emerald depths screamed a story of ages come and gone. Patrick felt the full crush of the centuries and he whimpered.

Claudius’s lips drew back from his teeth, like a slow arousal and then he struck. Patrick screamed as fangs pierced his chest, right above his nipple. The pain faded, only to return with double the force. It burned, white hot and searing, like he imagined branding felt.

The room wavered and he tried to concentrate on his brother. Michael stood back against the wall, his eyes tightly closed and his hands fists at his side. Patrick was conscious of a voice screaming, “Michael!”, but he wasn’t sure if it was his or someone else’s.

The pain increased and his head throbbed with it. He writhed, his every nerve on fire. He couldn’t take any more! God kill me! Make it end! Please!

As if on command it stopped, like slamming into a brick wall. He was suddenly aware of himself. He lay limply across Claudius’ lap, his skin covered in a sheen of sweat, the young vampire’s mouth still locked onto him.

“Stop!” Michael repeated. He stood across the room, his shaking fists clenched and his face twisted. “Just – just stop! Yes, he’s my brother, all right!”

Claudius broke the connection and leaned up. Patrick looked at Claudius’ bloody face and then looked away as quickly.

Claudius licked his lips slowly, and asked, “Then what should we do with your brother?  Should we kill him? Or… “ An idea blossomed in his deep green eyes. “No. No, we should keep him, shouldn’t we?”

Michael made a strangled noise in his throat and Claudius nodded to himself. “Yes, I believe that is exactly what we’ll do. After all, a vampire may have human agents. Though I don’t believe we need anymore of them here. I have heard of those who have humans – marked humans – and allow them to live on their own, so long as they remember who their master is. I wonder, could you remember? Or would you rather die?”

“You could turn him, too,” Troy suggested.

“No, then we’d have the two of them here, making trouble. I don’t want this one on equal terms.”  He looked at Michael. “I’ll let you decide. Should I kill your brother or let him live?”

Patrick struggled but Claudius tightened his hold. A dot of blood was on his chin and, as if suddenly aware of it, Claudius’ tongue darted out to clean it away.

Michael looked wildly from one to the other. Patrick could almost hear his panicked thoughts, and he shook his head hard, though he wasn’t sure what it meant. He didn’t know what decision he hoped for, so how could his brother?

Michael sagged. “Let him live.”

Claudius gave a single nod, then he turned back to Patrick. His eyes moved over the expanse of naked skin and then, without warning, he bit Patrick catty-corner to the ragged wound. Patrick shouted, but it lasted only a moment.

“Knife.”

It was a command and Troy handed his master a pocket knife, open and ready. Patrick whimpered as Claudius poised it over his skin, right under the new bite mark, then cut what looked like a crude half moon shape.

“There.” Claudius tossed the knife to Troy, who licked the blade. “You’re properly marked.” Disdainfully, he knocked Patrick to the floor, where he landed like a horrified bag of potatoes. “You belong to me, now. I suggest you remember it, or your brother’s immortal life will be a very short one.”

He stepped over Patrick and stopped at the door, his attention on Michael. “And I suggest you remember who your master is, lest your very mortal brother come to harm.” Then with a smirk, he called to Troy, “See that our guest is shown out.”

“Yes, Master.”

Claudius strode from the room, and Troy cheerfully scooped Patrick up. “Don’t worry, boy, we’ll take care of you.” He followed his words with a gruff laugh that made Patrick’s stomach turn.

Wordlessly, Troy carried Patrick out of the house and towards the gates.  The sun was long gone and the night sky spread above them; cold and unforgiving.

A large stone fountain was in the middle of the driveway, and Troy stopped on the other side of it. He dropped Patrick roughly to the ground and then used his pocket knife to cut the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles. Patrick sat up and flexed his limbs. Purple bruises blossomed where the rope had cut into him. He opened his ruined shirt and dabbed at his still bleeding chest. He could see the teeth marks, see where Claudius had-

Troy’s rough laugh cut into his thoughts and he looked up sharply to see the bald vampire gazing down at him. His eyes shone with a mixture of cruelty and amusement and something else. Something Patrick recognized but didn’t want to think about.

He scrambled to his feet. His knees buckled and he caught himself on the fountain.

“What’s wrong?” Troy asked. “You looked scared, little boy.” He traced Patrick’s jaw with his finger and Patrick jerked away. Troy moved closer, so that his breath was in Patrick’s face.  His whisper was husky, “Are you scared?”

“Fuck you! I’m not a little boy!” Patrick stumbled backwards, but his shaking legs betrayed him. Troy caught him and pulled him to him, roughly. Patrick fought, but he was too weak, and his struggles only made the vampire laugh.

“Now, now, be a good boy. We don’t want the master to hear, do we?” Patrick kicked hard, but it had even less effect than is earlier efforts.

Troy’s eyes skimmed over the open shirt and the bloody, exposed skin. A smile twisted over his lips and he murmured something, then he struck. His fangs sliced through Claudius’s first bite and Patrick cried out. His body went stiff, prepared for the onslaught.

It didn’t come.

Instead, it was like being touched, very slowly, all over. Instead of pain, it was pleasure. Patrick struggled against it. He looked down; saw the top of Troy’s bald head, saw his hand splayed out against his own pale skin. Somehow this new sensation was worse than the pain had been; sicker.

It intensified. Patrick tried to hold back the moan but it escaped against his will. The sensations crashed through him like ocean waves, one after another, pounding against his consciousness. He could taste the darkness that threatened to engulf him. It tasted like cherries, like alcohol and sex. It was the flavor of a hot summer night, of a party in Anthony’s backyard where the girls were drunk and slick-

A horn honked. At the sound the illusion world rippled. Troy growled low in his throat and bit harder, and then, he moaned and his body convulsed.

He released Patrick and let him fall to the cold grass. Patrick dragged himself away on the backs of his arms, too weak and confused to stand.

Troy wiped at his mouth with a shaking hand, then his gaze swept to his victim. Something in his expression made Patrick’s stomach turn and his cheeks flush. “You better get out of here, little boy, while you have the chance. And don’t even think about mentioning this to anyone. No one will believe you, and if they do, they’re not going to care.”

Troy turned and strode back towards the house. The horn sounded again and Patrick realized what it must be: Anthony.

“I’m coming!” he called weakly.  He tried to shake off the clinging cobwebs of – what?  Was it fear? horror? No. He knew what it was, and it made him sick.

He crawled towards the wall and used the gate to pull himself to his feet. He could see Anthony’s car parked on the other side; headlights on, motor running. The driver’s door opened and Anthony climbed out. He ran to the gate and tugged it open.  Patrick stumbled and he caught him.

“Holy fuck! Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Patrick assured him. He straightened and lurched towards the car. His stomach heaved, and he had to stop and throw up.

Anthony drew back, his face wrinkled in disgust. “You drunk or something? You look like shit and your nose is bleeding. Maybe you should go to the hospital.”

Patrick wiped at his face with the back of his hand. “No. I just – I just wanna go home.”

“You sure?”

“Yes!” Patrick rounded on him, suddenly furious. “Just fucking take me home, all right?”

“Hey, look, whatever.” Anthony backed away, hands in the air. “Just don’t flip out on me.”

“I’m not –“ he paused and lowered his voice. “I’m not gonna flip out. I just want the fuck outta here, all right?”

He pulled the door open and collapsed in the passenger seat, holding his coat closed.

I can’t fucking deal with this.

Anthony tried to pry out of him what had happened. When he met silence, he talked too cheerfully about himself. Patrick leaned his forehead against the window and watched the town flash by it. He nodded to Anthony’s words, though he didn’t really listen to them.

“I almost gave up on ya. I went home for awhile, then Twila said that was shitty. But you did say an hour. You didn’t say nothing about hanging out until, like, midnight. Then I thought about Michael and the way everything with him ends up in a big fuckin’ mess and thought maybe Twila was right and I better come back and, well, there you were-”

They passed the park and, for just a second, Patrick thought he saw someone by the jungle gym.

“Stop!”

Anthony slammed the brakes and the car squealed to a stop. “Shit, what’s wrong? You gonna puke again?”

Patrick threw the door open and leaned out, eyes searching the darkness. “Is that you?” he shouted. “Are you there?”

Anthony craned his neck. “Um… who are you yelling at?”

Patrick climbed out of the car and stumbled towards the park, clutching his coat closed with one hand. “Are you there?” he shouted again.

“Pat?”

He turned back to see Anthony’s worried face, peering out from the car. “Just go. I’ll see you later.”

“You want me to leave you at the park like this?”

“That’s what I said!” Patrick waved one arm wildly. “Go!”

“Whatever. It’s your funeral.” Anthony pulled the door closed and took off, leaving a fading stream of music and exhaust behind.

Patrick turned back to the park and lurched towards the jungle gym. As he drew closer he saw Jorick step from the darkness, his face grim. Patrick stumbled and fell to his knees. His stomach twisted and he fought to hold it down; he had nothing left to throw up, anyway.

He could feel Jorick’s eyes on him, probing, seeking.  Hot tears stung the back of Patrick’s eyes and for a sick, wild moment he hoped to hell Jorick saw it; saw everything.  “What are they?” he whispered. “What in the fuck are they?”

Jorick’s voice was deep and somehow reassuring, despite his words. “You already know the answer.  They’re vampires, the same as I am. The same as your brother.”

“No.” Patrick choked and spit in the snow. “Michael’s not like them.”

A moment’s silence passed, and then Jorick said quietly, “Some are crueler than others. You should go home, rest, eat something. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“You’re going to kill him?”

Jorick blinked in surprise. “Who? Claudius?”

Patrick nodded. “And Troy. You and that Oren guy, you’re going to kill them?”

“I imagine so.”

Patrick nodded again. “And if Michael and I help you, you can kill them sooner?”

Jorick hesitated. “I suppose so.”

Patrick gathered his strength and forced himself to his feet. He clutched the jungle gym; the cold metal bit into his hand. “Then we’ll help you. So long as you kill those fucking sons of bitches we’ll do anything you want.” He met Jorick’s surprised eyes with his own tortured gaze. “Promise you’ll fucking kill them.”

“We’ll kill them.”

Patrick nodded and leaned against the jungle gym. That was right. They’d kill them.

And if they don’t, I will.

*************

I mentioned somewhere that Patrick wants his own sequel novella, well he sure gave it a damn good try here. I finally cut him off, but he wants to keep going. I don’t know why he thinks he is so important, but he does. Or maybe it’s some of that author indulgence that wants one. Hard to tell. Anyway, I am tempted to finish this up and put it up as a novella.

Next up is Sarah, and then Troy. I am kinda squeamish about him, now. I always knew he was a bastard, but he’s apparently a bit sicker than I thought and not sure how much of that I want to do. Anyway, then there’s just Velnya and the first collection is finished. Yay! Fun!

Michael – Blogophilia 8.5

It’s time for Blogophilia,  the fun blog group where Marvin gives participants prompts to use in their weekly posting. This week’s prompts are:

  • Blogophilia week 8.5 – “A Happy Journey”
  • Bonus Points:
  • (Hard, 2pts): mention 3 songs with a color in their title
  • (Easy, 1pt): quote Pink Floyd

I am too late to actually get any points, but here it is, anyway. It’s is another vampire morsel, a story about a character from my Amaranthine series that, for one reason or another, never got to say much. As an especially snifty thing I am slowly revising these and publishing them on Smashwords as freebie reads. Eventually I’m planning to bundle them altogether into a single volume, but that’s something in the distant future, as there are several tales to tell!

 

Michael

(You can find Michael in Shades of Gray . This story takes place roughly two and  a half years before Shades of Gray starts)


CONTENT WARNING: Language, mild sexual content and some violence.

Michael’s mother shoved a piece of paper into his hand. “Call them.”

He muted the TV and glanced disinterestedly at the phone number scrawled in hurried ink. “Who is it?”

“It’s a about a job, Mikey. You’ve been out for two months and all you do is lay on the couch and watch TV. Pat’s more productive than you, and that’s saying something. I told you the only way you’re staying here is if you work!”

“What kinda work is it?”

“Yard work.”

Yard work? What did his mom think he was? “I don’t know shit about yard work and I’m too smart for that crap anyway. I’m not some manual laborer.”

“No, you’re so clever, aren’t you? So clever that you landed yourself in jail! For God’s sake where else are you going to get a job with two drug convictions?” She tossed a cell phone onto his chest. “Call.”

There was no point in arguing when she was in one of her moods – not for him anyway. His brother Patrick could have sweet talked her, but hell, he could sweet talk a harpy if he put his mind to it. “Fine, whatever. I’m callin’, I’m callin.”

He dialed the number and waited. The rings peeled off, one, two, three, four, five –

“Hello?” The voice had an accent that made Michael think of Mr. Belvedere.  “The Durand residence. How may I help you?”

“Um, yeah. My mom told me to call about the lawn job or whatever.”

There was a pause and then, “Are you enquiring for the sake of employment?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Mr. Belvederedrew an audible breath through his nose. “Name please?”

“Michael Mullins.”

“Mr. Mullins, please come to the manor tonight after dark. The master will wish to speak with you.” He gave him a handful of directions, then bid him a crisp goodbye.

“Well?”

At his mother’s question, Michael snapped the phone closed and tossed it back to her. “I have to see ‘the master’ tonight.” He tried to add the right snooty inflection, but failed. “Sounds like a pain in the ass.”

Michael found the ‘manor’ easily enough – it was the only set of iron gates in the county. He drove through them, his eyes wide. The house was huge.  Made of stone, it was decorated at seemingly random intervals with angels and gargoyles, like something from a horror flick. Bright light shone from its many windows in yellow patches.

Michael wasn’t sure where to park, so he pulled the Geo off to the side. On his way to the front porch, he paused at a large carved fountain ringed with cherubs. On closer inspection, he discovered that the seemingly innocent angels had bat wings and fangs.

“Man this place is whack!”

The front door was large and made of polished wood and frosted glass. The sound of music and laughter leaked out through it and he wondered if they were having a party.

He knocked and the door was opened by a tall thin man in a suit. “Yes?”

The accent and attitude were the same as the man on the phone.  “Um, yeah, I was supposed to come about the yard job?”

“Of course.” The butler – Michael was sure that was what he had to be – looked down his nose. “This way please.”

He led Michael into a grand entrance hall. A set of sweeping staircases filled one wall and glittering chandeliers hung from the ceiling. At the far end, between the staircases, a set of French doors opened onto a room full of people. Michael caught a glimpse of glittering jewelry and swishing skirts before the butler led him away.

He followed the man down a long hallway to a white room. “Wait here.” And then the butler shut the door and disappeared.

Michael moved uncertainly to a green velvet chair and sat down in front of a large desk. His eyes roamed the room; a suit of armor stood in one corner. Jeweled medieval weapons hung on the walls and glinted from glass fronted display cabinets. Above the desk hung an old portrait of a mustached man, and a well polished silver sword.

The door suddenly opened and the butler walked in, followed by a young sneering man who might have been eighteen. His blonde hair was pulled back and he was dressed in a ruffled shirt and vest like someone from one of the PBS shows Michael’s mother watched.

They must be having some kind of costume party.

The young man moved behind the desk and glared at Michael as if he expected him to do something.

“Hello?” he suggested.

The young man looked ready to shout, but instead he drew a deep breath and sat down. Without a word, he gestured to the butler.

The servant quickly took his place next to the desk. “The master would like to welcome you.”

The master? Fuck he’s just a kid! Must be fucking nice to get born into all of this!

The butler explained the job. It was basic grounds keeping; mowing, hedge trimming, cleaning out the creepy fountain. Basically, he only needed to worry about the front and side lawns. The extensive gardens in the back of the property were under the domain of the gardener.

When he finished, Michael asked, “How much does it pay?”

“Two hundred dollars a week.”

For two hundred dollars Michael wanted to say no, but he thought of his mom. She was right. Where the hell else was he gonna get a job with no references and no questions asked?

There were no contracts to sign, only the instructions to be back the next morning. The master glared at him with searing eyes. At the first chance, Michael stood and gave a quick, “Okay, thanks. I’ll be here tomorrow.”

He made it to the door before a cold voice drawled, “There is one more thing.”

Michael turned around to find the blonde kid staring at him. “Uh, what?”

“We value our privacy. At no time are you to be in the house, unless you are invited in. Do you understand?” A thousand terrible threats glittered in his eyes and suddenly that house was the last place Michael wanted to be.

“What if I have a problem or something?”

“Then you will knock on the door and wait for someone to answer it and address your problem.”

Michael managed to nod and with a gesture he was dismissed.

He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The next morning, Michael’s mom kicked him off the couch and out the door. The manor was only slightly more friendly in the sunlight. The fanged cherubs in the fountain seemed to leer at him as he parked the Geo and made his way to the door.

The butler showed him to a shed where the tools were, including a brand new lawn mower. He gave him a set of basic instructions and waved towards the collection as if their actual functions were beneath him. Then he left.

What the fuck did I get myself into?

Michael was sweaty and out of sorts by the time he got home. His brother was on the porch, a beer in his hand. “Have fun at work?”

“Ah, fuck you, Pat.” Michael dropped next to him and groaned. “My back is killing me.”

Patrick snickered. “So how’d the first day go?”

“Like shit. The fucking butler is a prick. After I got done he walked around the yard pointing out everything I missed and said next time I should do a more ‘thorough job’. I’ll give him a thorough job, ass hole.”

Patrick laughed. “You gonna quit?”

Before he could answer, his mom leaned out the door and quipped, “No, he’s not!” She leveled her gaze with Michael. “If you quit this job, then you can find somewhere else to live. And you-“ she jabbed Patrick in the back “-if you encourage him you’ll be out on your ass, too. It’s time you both grow up and take responsibility for your lives.”

She went on and Patrick mimed a chattering mouth with his hand. Michael snorted and snagged his beer. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t heard this before. It’s like some kind of periodic ritual.

The job didn’t improve; it got weirder and worse. He hadn’t seen the master – or anyone for that matter – since his interview. It was like the whole place was deserted, except for the butler. The asshole of a butler. The man was too picky. Every time he inspected Michael’s work, he’d add something new that Michael needed to do. By the third week it took so long to get everything done that he was working into twilight.

Michael slammed the shed door closed and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The night bugs were already screaming in the trees and lights were popping on in the manor’s many windows. This might only be three days a week, but it ain’t worth this shit for two hundred bucks.

He clomped towards the house and banged on the door – the side door, they couldn’t have the lowly help accessing the front entrance, now could they? – and waited for the butler. If that jackass finds something to criticize tonight I swear to God I’ll fucking quit. He can do his own fucking weed whacking!

The door opened, but instead of the sneering, suited man, there was a bald guy with cold gray eyes. “What d’ya want?”

“A million dollars, what do you think? I just finished the yard and I’m going home.”

“Oh, you’re the yard guy. You better come in and tell Miguel. This isn’t my deal.”

Michael wanted to argue, but there was something about the man’s eyes that made him shiver. Like that master guy.  “Yeah, okay.”

He followed the bald guy into the house. He led him through a pair of paneled rooms and into a large, sparkling kitchen. The butler stood next to a table, supervising a pair of women who were frantically packing ice into what looked like a giant punch bowl. He looked up and narrowed his eyes at Michael. “What do you want?”

The bald guy answered for him. “He’s done with the yard and he looks pretty worn out.” He clamped a hand on Michael’s back. Though the gesture was supposed to seem friendly, it made Michael shiver. “I thought we might invite him to the party.”

The butler winced. “As you wish, Master Troy, though perhaps you should ask the master’s permission?”

“Ah, Claudius won’t mind. He was moaning last night about how bored he was.”

Though Troy stood behind him, Michael could almost feel his smile. It made his skin crawl. “That’s okay. I should probably get home, anyway.”

“Nonsense. It’ll be great. The best party you’ll ever go to!” With a little too much force he steered him towards the door and through the house to the entrance way.  Michael was surprised to see several people, all dressed to the teeth, loitering near the stairs. In the center of the group was the blonde haired kid – the master, again dressed like something form a historical.

He turned to the new arrivals and his face turned dark. “What are you doing in the house?”

Troy answered for him. “It’s okay, I invited him in. We need some new blood at these things.” He broke into a boisterous laugh that was taken up by a few of the others.

The hilarity melted away as a group of young women came down the stairs. Michael had to forcibly hold his mouth closed. Holy shit! They’re fucking’ hot! Though hot didn’t do them justice; they were beautiful, like something off of TV or a glossy magazine page and he couldn’t look away.

It was the girl in the middle of the group who knocked the breath from his chest. Her hair was long and pale blonde and she wore a midnight blue dress that fell to her feet. She came to a stop before them and Michael choked. Her eyes matched her dress and they were like staring into an endless ocean. For a wild moment he wanted to drown in them and forget everything else, but the reality of her age pulled him back. She couldn’t have been a day over fifteen.

Too fuckin’ young for you. That’s jail bait right there.

Claudius caught her hand and brushed his lips across it. As he dropped it, he looked to Troy. “Should your joke go amiss, you’ll take his place mowing the lawn.”

Joke?

Troy’s demeanor changed for a moment, like slipping from one shirt to the next. “As you command.” He gave a stiff, formal bow and then tugged Michael away. “Come on boy, those aren’t the ones you’re looking for.”

Michael followed, still wrapped in the spell of her ocean colored eyes. It was only the giggles of a threesome of women that pulled him out of it. He blinked at them stupidly. Man, more hotties? What is this place? Like the playboy mansion?

The darker of the three grabbed him by the front of his tank top and pulled him towards her. “It could be,” she murmured, her breath cool on his face. “Why don’t you come with us and find out?”

Warning bells went off in the back of his mind, but they were muffled by another thought. When am I ever gonna get a chance at something this hot again? The answer was never and he wasn’t about the throw away his one shot.

Troy seemed to evaporate. Michael looked from the spot he’d been standing in to find he was in a ball room. One wall was made of shining mirrors and, as he watched, one of the panels opened in the shape of a door – a secret door – and a well dressed couple slid out. The woman dripped with jewels and the man-

“Are you coming?”

Michael looked to the girls, and managed to nod. With a chorus of giggles, they led him through a maze of glittering rooms. His eyes strayed from their breasts to the opulent surroundings long enough to think, Holy shit, this guy’s got more money than I thought, but then his attention was pulled back to the ladies, almost against his will.

The room they stopped in was a bedroom, or it had the air of a bedroom, but there was no bed. Only a chaise lounge and a scattering of other furniture. The girls pulled him to the lounge and knocked him back onto it. He laid back, a stupid grin on his face as the darker girl hitched up her skirt so that she could climb on top of him, straddling him with a pair of long, tanned legs.  She leaned close to him. Her lips moved down his jaw and to his throat, where they stopped. She flicked out her tongue and licked him, as if testing the flavor. He moaned and shifted, arching his back and grinding his hips into her. Over her shoulder he could see the other two girls, holding hands and licking their lips.

“Are you ready for the night of your life?” she asked, her voice a whisper against his skin.

Patrick let out a lungful of smoke. “And then what?”

Michael shook his head and snagged the joint back. “I dunno man, it’s all a blur after that.” He took a hit and held the smoke, though it leaked out with his words. “I’m tellin’ ya though, whatever it was, it was fuckin’ wild.”

“Yeah, no shit. I can see the hickies.” Patrick took the joint back and balanced it in his fingers. “It looks like they chewed on your neck.”

Michael exhaled the smoke and ignored his comment. “I been thinkin’ about something. I mean, shit they got a lot of stuff in that house. I mean a lot of stuff that has to be worth a fortune.”

“They’re rich man, that tends to happen.”

“No, you’re not getting me. Think about it. They got all this really rich stuff, right? But there’s no one there all day. I mean no one.”

“So?”

“Are you listening to me? Man, you’re like ignoring me. You’re always ignoring me.”

Patrick giggled, “Okay, say it again. I’m listening.”

“There’s no one there and they got all this stuff. There’s just that fucking butler, Miguel hanging around. I hate that prick. I hate that fucking smarmy master kid, he thinks he’s so clever. I know he does. He sat there are smarmy mouthed and shit like he was better than me, but he ain’t, and he ain’t smarter. I’m smarter. I’m smarter and I’m gonna use my brains. I hate that job but I need money.  We go in, we take the shit, and we sell it for money. And if that prick of a butler catches us we fucking kill him.”

Patrick exploded into laughter. “Are you fucking serious?”

Michael frowned. “Yeah, I’m fucking serious. We could be rich. Rich enough to get outta this place and buy a real life.”

Patrick exhaled a thick cloud of smoke and eyed his brother. “Man, money don’t buy a life. You want a life, you gotta do something with it.”

“And you gotta have money to do that.” Despite his buzz, Michael felt suddenly sour. “You in or what?”

“Come on Mikey-”

“Don’t Mikey me. Are you fucking in or out?”

Patrick’s good mood flickered. “You’re just fucked up. When you sober up-”

“In or out?”

All signs of amusement disappeared. “I’m out, Mikey. It’s a stupid plan that’s gonna get your ass back in jail.”

“Fine. Who needs you anyway? You know what? Fuck you.” He jerked to his feet. “I’ll do it on my own.”

Patrick snorted. “Only a moron would do it.”

Angry words stuck in Michael’s throat and his only response was a strangled noise of fury before he slammed out the door.

The sun was high in the sky when Michael stopped. He dropped the weed whacker to the ground and leaned against the house. I don’t give a fuck what Pat says. I’m sick of this shit.

He reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the cool metal of the gun. It was just a Colt Junior, snagged from his mother’s purse, but it was enough to take care of Miguel if he needed to. Part of him hoped the fucking butler got nosey. He could picture the self-righteous prick with a hole between his eyes.

He kicked the weed whacker for good measure and marched towards the house. Instead of knocking on the side door, he threw it opened and charged inside. He paused in the doorway to the next room, waiting, the gun drawn and ready in his nervous hand.

When Miguel didn’t appear, Michael lowered the weapon and tried to come up with a plan. He hadn’t brought a bag and since he was alone he couldn’t carry much. It would be better to find a couple of small things that were worth a lot.

He thought of the bejeweled weapons in the office, and hurried through the unfamiliar house, opening doors. When he finally found the office, he also found the butler.

Miguel was hunched over the desk, a drawer opened and his eyes bulging with guilt and surprise. He was going through ‘the master’s’ stuff, but Michael didn’t care. He raised the gun in a single motion and, before the startled butler could react, he pulled the trigger.

The sound was loud; louder than Michael had expected. He stared, dumbfounded at the butler, who stared back. Then Miguel looked down to where a red spot blossomed against his white shirt. With a strangled gasp, he clutched his bleeding chest and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” before he tumbled backwards and fell over the chair.

Michael held the gun out and noticed that the barrel shook. Holy fuck. I shot him. I fucking shot him. Oh my God.

He staggered back and dropped the gun. He could hear the butler moaning. Why is he making so much noise? Shut up! Shut up!

He hurried around the desk and stared down at him. Miguel lay half on his side, clutching his chest. Blood leaked from between his fingers. Michael’s hands clenched and unclenched and he looked around wildly. What should he do? Should he hit him in the head with something? His eyes landed on the silver sword on the wall and he thoughtlessly pulled it down.

He turned back to Miguel and raised the sword like a baseball bat. The butler choked and grabbed his leg. His blood smeared on Michael’s jeans. He stared ta it; at the bright red against the pale blue denim. Miguel gasped out, “Help me.”

Michael slammed him in the head with the flat of the blade. Miguel cried out and he did it again and again and again. The room blurred and he lost track of it; lost track of himself. When he came back to reality he was shocked to see Miguel’s face and head beaten and sliced into a bloody pulp.

He backed away and dropped the sword to the floor. His arms were speckled with blood. Miguel’s blood. Somehow this didn’t feel like he thought. It had all gone wrong.

He ran from the room. His feet pounded down the corridor until he saw a bathroom. He ducked inside, his stomach heaving, but there was no toilet; only a sink and a bathtub. He turned in helpless circles. Bile gagged into his throat and mouth and he lurched for the tub. The vomit hit with enough force to splash back. Just like Miguel’s blood. The thought made him wretch harder.

When his stomach was empty he fell back on the floor, exhausted. He had to fix this. It was all fucked up and he had to fix it.

Wash away the blood, he told himself. He stood on shaking legs and turned on the sink. Fancy hand towels hung nearby and he wet them down and savagely swiped at the blood that speckled his arms, chest and face. Just get rid of the blood. It’s okay. It’s okay.

He dropped the ruined towel in the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. Wild blue eyes stared back; eyes that didn’t have a plan. He needed a plan. He’d killed someone and if he got caught it wouldn’t be jail this time, but prison. He’d have to get out of the country. Maybe Mexico? But to do that he needed money.

Fuck!

He took a deep breath. Come on man, you’re smart. You can do this.  And he could. He was in a fucking mansion surrounded by money. He just needed to grab something and get out. But what? He couldn’t stand the thought of going back to the office. Fuck, there’s stuff everywhere. Just grab something.

When he could walk with steady steps he followed the corridor back to the entrance hall. His eyes fell on the double French doors and the ballroom beyond He thought of the mirrored wall and the secret door. If the stuff upstairs was worth a fortune then what would be down there?

He felt along the wall, desperate fingers scrabbling at the smooth glass. “How the fuck do you open this? Come on!”

As if by command, something clicked and the door sprang opened. He gave a soft cry of delight and ran down the dark narrow stairs.  The light gave out before he reached the bottom and he stumbled when he hit the floor. He flicked his cigarette lighter to life and examined the room by its wavering flame. Candles in massive golden holders stood on either side of the door. He hurried to light one of them, then turned back to the room to find ten large wooden boxes neatly arranged in rows. Excitement coursed through him as he thought about what must be inside. He envisioned gold, like treasure from a long forgotten children’s cartoon.

He hurried to the first and pried open the lid. There was no gold inside, but a man with a pale face and closed eyes.

Holy shit! He’s dead!

Michael jumped back and knocked into the candleholder. It fell with a clatter and the candle went out.  In the dark he scrambled for his lighter and flicked it to life in time to see the figure leering over him, mouth opened, fangs gleaming.

He grabbed the fallen candlestick and swung it. It slammed into the guy’s head and sent him sprawling. Michael scrambled to his feet and raced up the stairs, his heart pounding in time to his footfalls. He skidded through the ballroom and out the double back doors to the sun drenched veranda. He cast a look back and saw the guy burst through the secret door, half of his head bashed in and bleeding.

Oh my God! How is he still walking? He should be dead!

The man saw him, and with a fanged, inhuman snarl lunged towards him, but stopped just before he reached the pool of late afternoon sunlight that spilled through the doors.  He gave a wordless cry of fury, and then turned and shouted, “Miguel! Where the hell are you, you worthless piece of shit? Miguel!”

Several more men appeared, storming through the secret door, fangs bared. Just as the first had done, they skidded to a halt at the edge of the sunlight.

Michael was frozen in place by terror, but when no attack came his muscles began to uncoil. What the fuck? Why aren’t they coming out here to get me?

And then he decided he didn’t care why. With a final, horrified look at the snarling crowd, he ran.

He took a shower and changed his clothes. His mother came home from work. She made dinner. He ate. Patrick came shuffling in the door, smelling like alcohol and cracking jokes. Despite the fact there was a dead butler at the manor, the police didn’t come. The world moved on just as it always had and Michael floated above it in a surreal bubble of confusion.

Maybe I dreamed it? He ducked into the bathroom and fished through the hamper for his jeans. Speckled and smeared with blood, they matched his memories. Something had happened at that house.

He had a word for what they were; what he thought they were, but it felt ridiculous on his tongue.  Vampires weren’t real. They couldn’t be. And yet, there they’d been, or something very like them. He’d seen their fangs. He’d seen them stop at the patch of sunlight. There was no other explanation and, despite the absurdity, so many things made sense now. Why the house was deserted in the daytime, why there was a secret door, and coffin-like boxes in the basement. Why they hadn’t gone to the police yet. It was because they couldn’t risk an investigation!

With that realization, Michael relaxed. He was safe. They couldn’t do anything to him because he knew; he knew what they were and if they so much as breathed wrong he’d tell everyone. He’d take the police to the manor in the daylight, show them the secret door and lead them down to the basement. He’d tell the whole God damned world! And then what would they do?

The more he thought about it, the more he realized his silence was worth something. They had plenty of money. They could afford to give him some. No, they should give him some! He deserved it!

He jammed the jeans back in the hamper and strode through the house. His mom and Patrick were on the couch, he tossed “I’ll be back,” at them and headed out the door. As it shut behind him he heard Patrick laughingly call, “Have a happy journey!”

The lights were blazing in the manor windows when Michael parked the Geo. He climbed out, straightened his shoulders and marched to the front porch where he pounded on the door. Fuck having to slink in the side entrance.

The door opened and Troy stared at him. “Well, well, you came back.” He grinned, his fangs clearly visible.

Michael flinched back from the teeth. His cowardice embarrassed him, and he snapped out, “Damn straight I came back. I want to talk to Claudius. Now.”

Troy moved back so he could enter, “Then come on in.”

Michael walked into the entrance hall. People – no, vampires – stood around in tiny clusters, holding glasses of red wine. No, not wine. I bet that’s blood.

At that thought Michael suddenly wasn’t so sure of himself, but he’d be damned if he let them know it!

He followed Troy past the curious stares and down the hallway, towards the office. As they walked, they passed the three women from the other night. The ladies giggled and waved at him. Their full lips curved into fanged smiles and they laughed when he winced away.

Troy stopped and held the office door opened. “In here. I’ll go fetch Claudius.”

Michael hesitated. Behind his eyes he pictured Miguel lying on the floor in a pool of blood, his face and head mutilated. He couldn’t face that room, but he didn’t have a choice. Without waiting for a response, Troy walked away and there was nothing for him to do but go inside.

Come on, you can do it. Just go in there and get this shit over with.

He forced his feet to move over the threshold and then into the room. The silver sword he’d used on Miguel was clean and hanging on the wall above the old portrait. What did you expect? Did you think they just left the mess?

He sat in the green velvet chair in front of the desk and waited. When Claudius swept through the door, Michael’s heart froze in his chest. He took his place behind the desk and crossed one leg over the other.  Troy followed and stopped next to the desk, an amused twinkle in his eyes.

When Michael didn’t speak, Claudius snapped, “What do you want?”

This guy is just a kid, Michael reminded himself. I’m older than he is. He’s just a stupid kid and I’m smarter. I’ll show him. He cleared his throat and announced with as much bravado as he could muster, “I know what you are.”

Claudius arched a single brow and tapped his fingers on the desk. “Do you, now? Somehow I doubt it.”

“I do,” Michael insisted. “You’re-” the word stuck, as if it was too silly to say. “You’re vampires.”

“Well, well. It seems you’re more intelligent than I gave you credit for.” Claudius leaned back in his chair. “So, we’re vampires. What of it?”

Shit. Michael had expected him to deny it. Some rational part of himself had even hoped Claudius would simply laugh and churn out another explanation – an explanation that made more sense.  His voice turned hard to hide his discomfort, “So if you want me to keep quiet you’re gonna have to make it worth my while. I want one million dollars, in cash, or I tell everyone I can find.”

Claudius made a strange noise in his throat and stood, his back to Michael and his eyes on the portrait that hung over his desk. “Do you know who this is?”

Michael blinked at the non sequitur. “What?”

“The portrait.” Claudius turned to face him, his eyes cold, blue fire.  “He was my father.” Claudius fetched the silver sword down from the wall and Michael shifted uncomfortably. The young man held it at arm’s length, as if checking the edge. “Do you know what happened to him?”

The atmosphere in the room changed perceptibly, and Michael looked to the door, only to see that Troy now stood in front of it, that fanged smile on his face. “No.”

Claudius’ tone was emotionless. “I killed him, with this sword. And do you know what I learned?”

Beads of sweat popped out on Michael’s forehead. “Uh, no?”

“I learned that it’s all rather pointless. Even a worthy foe is not so worthy once they’ve fallen at your feet in a pool of their own blood. And an unworthy foe… Well…” He looked to Troy. “Deal with him.”

Michael yelped and tried to get out of the chair, but Troy was too fast. He pinned him back, fangs flashing as he bit though his throat. Michael screamed and fought, hands and arms flailing. He managed to pitch himself, chair and all, backwards, and scrambled away, his neck torn and screaming in pain. He pressed a hand to it and came away with a palm full of blood. His own blood.

Oh fuck.

Troy lunged at him again, Michael dodged, but only barely. The bald vampire grabbed him and threw him across the room. He smashed into one of the display cases in a flurry of glass and bits of wood.

“Watch the furniture!” Claudius shouted.

Michael tried to scramble to his feet, but his leg wouldn’t work right. He looked to see it bent at an odd angle. Oh fuck, it’s broken. Oh fuck. Oh-

Troy grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him up. He shrieked as his weight landed on his leg. He had a momentary glimpse of Troy’s flashing fangs before the vampire ripped into his throat again.

The pain was more than Michael could stand. It radiated out from the bite, like fire under his skin. He twitched and tried to scream, though the sound was more a gurgle than a cry. The edges of his vision turned black and the room smeared; shiny white walls, shiny metal weapons.

“Stop!”

Troy obeyed Caudius’ command and dropped Michael back to the floor in a bloody heap. He choked on his own blood and reached a hand to his neck to try to stem the flow. Oh God.

Claudius stood over him, a self satisfied smirk on his cold face. “You thought you could get the best of me? You, a petty mortal! Where is your cleverness now? You slip out of your depth and out of your mind with your fear flowing out behind you in crimson rivers. Death stands behind you in the shadows, ready to drag you to hell. Was it worth it?”

Troy leaned casually on the desk. “Death is too good for someone like this. I got a better idea.”

Claudius snapped his attention to his subordinate, no doubt angry that his poetic scene had been interrupted.  “And what would that be?”

“We should keep him. Since he killed Miguel we’re short handed.”

Claudius clucked his tongue and looked over Michael’s bleeding, broken form. “We have enough humans, I don’t want any more. Especially one we can’t trust.”

Troy’s cruel eyes turned crueler. “Then don’t leave him human. Have someone turn him.” His gaze shifted to the group of vampires who stood in the hall, peering in, no doubt drawn by the noise. Among them was a young woman in a red dress, her eyes on the floor. “Elsa’s a fairly new vampire and since Lennon turned her she doesn’t have any powers to pass on. Of course, you could just kill him, if you think that would be a better punishment. I just thought that dragging it out might make him think twice.”

The room tilted and Claudius’ answer turned into an ocean of unintelligible words in Michael’s ears. He tried to concentrate on what was happening, but it slipped through his grasp. Not like this. I can’t die like this.

“-turn him.”

Though Michael missed the beginning of the sentence he knew those words were a command. He looked up to see Elsa standing near him. Like all the other women there she was beautiful. Hell, even the men were beautiful. He was dying, surrounded by the beautiful people.

Elsa looked down at him, pity in her eyes. The command was repeated and her shoulders slouched with defeat. She knelt down, her knees in his blood. It was red, like her dress, like her lips, like the ring that was slowly expanding around his vision; a red circle slowly expanding to blot out the world.

Elsa wrinkled her nose at the mess on his neck and lifted his arm to her mouth. He felt her breath on his skin as she hesitated and then, with a last look to Claudius, she bit.

Michael gave a gurgle; a gurgle of blood, death, fear. Pain radiated from the bite, hot and burning, then morphed to something else; cool, soothing ocean waves that lapped over him. He looked at her, looked at her red lips wrapped around his arm, the curl of hair that fell in her face and those deep, brown eyes; eyes filled full of pity. Pity for him. Pity for her and pity for the new life he would lead.

A life of punishment.

Who’s the clever one now?

 *************

 Next up is Nirel. I know I said that LAST time, but really. Nirel is next. He doesn’t have to tie into anything so like Kariss and Adam, I have no idea what it will be.

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