“Now we see if you can kill me.”
Quentin disappeared. I fumbled for my crossbow. A stinging slap across the face startled me, and I dropped it. My heart beat, trapped behind bone; it only desired flight from the damned creature. I reeled back clutching at my face. Another invisible blow cracked me across the back. I knew Quentin might just kill me if I did not recover soon. Dark memories surfaced with the pain. I swallowed them down, a sour vomit in my mouth.
“You insult my training,” he said from the shadows.
Training. Training. The word wormed inside me through my stuttering nerves sending messages of pain to my brain. I closed my eyes and anticipated. Anticipate. The only defense I held against a vampire. That and my natural affinity as a woman to sense the creatures of the night. That affinity was the one reason Quentin even bothered to train me.
Training. Anticipate. Affinity.
Each thought resounded with its own heart beat. Eyes still closed, I forced my breathing and beating to slow.
His swing missed me.
I scooped up my crossbow. Turned. Paused.
I opened my eyes.
Quentin’s skin gave against the tip of my silver arrow. One slip of my finger and he turned into a much older poof of dust than the creature I slew a moment ago.
I examined his face through the wet strands of my dark hair. I saw the edge of his almond shaped eyes, so like my own, yet hypnotic and dead.
“If you had not been my teacher and my only friend, I would not have hesitated.”
I looked him straight in the eye as I spoken, even though my brain screamed a warning – “NEVER LOOK A VAMPIRE IN THE EYE”. Calm down, brain, I know what I am doing.
Quentin smiled, his half smile, scary, “I have job for you. Look around. Remember.”
He disappeared. I stood alone in the wet alley. Always left to stand alone. I reached up and rubbed my arm. My fingers stopped at each scar. The round cigar burns first, then the smaller cigarette burns, followed by the longer lines from my ex-husband’s knife. The scars tied me to Mase forever. And yet, behind thoughts of Mase always came thoughts of Travis and I sighed. Pain, any sort of pain brought up those dark thoughts.
What a damned life. I took the power Mase’s abuse awoke in me and channelled it into vampire slaying. How the hell had I got here? Sigh again.
Look and remember. That’s what I was supposed to do. Look and remember. I found my leather bag crumpled in a corner from the fight with the young vampire and pulled out my flashlight. First look.
I shined the light over the alley and saw the dust of the vampire I killed gathered in gray piles here and there. The piles seemed to suck the light of my flashlight into them, leaving a dull gray, oatmeal colored film behind. No sparking, glowing, luminescent dust – he was not a fairy – but a matte emptiness, hollow and void of light.
The dust told me nothing.
Why had Quentin brought me to this bar, this place in town? In fact, why this town at all? He moved me two months ago to this medium-sized, middle class, middle of nowhere town. Why?
I grabbed my spare jacket out of my bag, the sweat on my skin cooling me. A strong shiver convinced me to pull on my matching fedora, too. Time to listen in on some conversation. My first visit to the bar lasted less then half a minute. – walk in, sense approaching vampire based on my sudden urge to vomit, walk out, slay vampire. My watch informed me only 10 minutes had passed. My heart told me it had aged 15 years in those few short minutes. I told it to get a life. We, my heart and I, had endured worse, much worse at Mase’s hand. It agreed and a peace washed over me. Survive. I always managed to survive.
Old described the bar like a compliment. Dirty described it truthfully. Dirty. Filled with smoke, cussing, grunting, bad light, beer signs, etc, etc. I pulled the strap of my bag over my head and dropped it on my shoulder letting the bag ride across my body. I made my way to the bar and ordered a beer. The Guinness set before me never looked so good. I watched the cascade of light and dark liquid as the head grew.
Several swallows and a sense of contentment later, I started listening in.
The conversations of the towns local late-nighters told me nothing.
Batting a thousand here.
But, I relished the fact I did not sense one vamp in the general vicinity. No unexplainable love for someone from Requiem, nor the need to run or slay at the mere presence of any other vampire. Quentin told me this trait alone made me rare. Normally – ha! normal – normally, women are either unexplainably attracted to all vampires, or unexplainably disgusted by all vampires. I’m the only woman on record who is both. I am attracted to the “good” ones and disgusted by the “bad” ones. As long as that holds true, I can slay to my hearts content knowing I am always going after the bad guys. A sudden fear it may not hold true sours the beer in my stomach.
I push the thought away, and I listen in at the bar while I order a second dark beer. Still no major news besides who won at cards or some other such gambling arrangement and who shacked up with who.
Time to go to the bathroom and rethink my approach. Look and remember were my two tasks. Look and remember now seemed pointless. I made my way to the bathroom, dreading what I would find. Right now i needed to ignored my personal phobia of public bathrooms. The nightmares this visit brought could take a number behind Mase’s nightmares.
I stepped in and my heart flipped. The beer inside my tummy bubbled, threatening to come up. I forced my body to calm down with a firm resolve. I was the hunter here. I could do this. Control your affinity, Quentin always instructed.
Vampires. Vampires visited this bathroom recently. They were not the good ones.
What would a vampire be doing in a bathroom? They no longer needed the facilities…
Remember. The vampire I killed. He had a tattoo on the back of his right hand. A servant tattoo – a piece of rotting fruit offered by a hand with long, broken nails. I looked around the bathroom for any such design mixed in with the crass graffiti, while I silently thanked Quentin for including quick-tattoo-sighting in his training.
Nothing popped out on the walls around the sink and mirror. I walked into the first stall and froze.
For a good time call Max: 666-7777.
It covered ever inch of the wall space. I could not believe my eyes. ‘Max’ was either regularly lucky with this tactic or really desperate. But…the handwriting – the handwriting on the wall, my brain boomed- differed every time. Each scrawled, printed, cursive suggestion to call Max for said good time showed a different writer.
I leaned in closer to one of the posts and saw a funny squiggle in the o part of the 6. Reaching in my bag, I dug around until I found my jewelers magnifying glass. I got up close and personal with the stall wall and put the glass up to my eye. Gross. Do not think about what you might be seeing, I warned myself. I moved the glass over the number 6.
In each bowl of the 6 sat a tiny,clawed hand holding a piece of maggot filled fruit.
I pulled out my cell phone and dialed 666.7777…
Check out the Dueling Vampire Prose go to Sojourner Tales