“What is he signing? I can’t understand. He’s going too fast.”
“I don’t know.” Andy frowned at the flurry of movement. “Slow down, Pete. You’re not making…” She stopped suddenly and repeated a movement he’d been making almost frantically.
Pete nodded so fast Lauren thought his head would fly off from the force of it. Whatever Andy was asking sent him into a tizzy. His signs moved faster and faster, almost a blur to anyone trying to decipher them. Andy returned them tit for tat, never missing a beat in the conversation with her brother. It left the third wheel in their conversation horribly confused.
“Why does he keep tapping the side of his neck like that, Andy?” Lauren mimicked the sign and drew a question mark in the air to try and convey her confusion to both parties.
“He swears that a vampire,” She paused and made the sign again to make sure her friend understood the sign. “tried to abduct him tonight.”
“A vampire?” Lauren blinked at her boyfriend for a long couple of seconds unsure if he was trying to pull a fast one on her and had some how conned his sister to go along with it.
Pete nodded again. His tan face was pale as a ghost, or in this case a vampire. Very slowly he signed so that both women could understand. A vampire tried to kill me tonight. They had to believe him. No one else would, but these two knew him the best. Why would he cook up something like this to get their attention? It wasn’t in his nature to cause a scene. The deafness did that well enough.
“Are you sure?” Lauren asked, making sure he was looking her way so he could read her lips.
No, I could be wrong. It was probably a demon out to eat my soul and drag me to hell. Of course I’m sure! He sighed and waved a hand at Andy so she’d translate. Lauren was making a decent effort to learn, but he didn’t have time to give ASL lessons. The vampire, demon, whatever might come back at any moment. They had to be gone before he decided that the young lady he’d gone chasing after wouldn’t suffice his bloodlust.
“Now you’re just fucking with me. Ha-ha, Pete. Pick on your girlfriend. I’m trying to learn, damnit. You don’t have to do shit like this to push the point!” Lauren hauled off and whacked Pete in the arm with her purse. “Jerk.”
Lauren, come back!
It was too late; she was already half way down the block. Even in four-inch heels and a mini skirt the woman was quick. Normally it was an admiral trait, one he took advantage of when they went to the gym together. Tonight, however, it was a giant pain in his ass.
“You really are a jerk. Now come clean. What the hell is going on?” Andy signed as she spoke, hoping that one of the forms Pete communicated in would sink in to his thick skull. She liked Lauren. Out of all the girls her brother had ever brought home, she could see a future between them. If only he wouldn’t pull stupid stunts like this to push her away.
I told you the truth, Sis. There is something out here tonight and it, he tried to eat me. His hands flopped down to his sides in utter defeat. Now not only did his girlfriend not believe him, but his own flesh and blood was accusing him of lying as well. To top it off, there was still someone out in the neighborhood looking for young nubile bodies to munch on. Hell would have to walk the earth before he let that someone munch on the woman he was starting to care for deeply.
Pete grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her in the direction Lauren had disappeared. Inside his skull he was a mess of emotions. Worry stuck out the worst and sent his overactive imagination on overdrive. All too vividly he saw the vampire pinning Lauren to a filthy brick wall and leaning in to sink his fangs into her neck. The idea of anyone touching his girlfriend, let alone a soulless scumbag bloodsucker made his skin crawl. Anger swept over worry like a tidal wave putting out a campfire. How dare that sonofabitch touch her!
Easy, dude. He told himself. Lauren was safe. The only thing hurting her was the stupid notion that he was purposely trying to fuck with her head. He’d gladly deal with the fight to come so long as the vampire steered clear of them for the rest of the night.
Andy did her best to keep up with her brother’s long strides. As they went she was tempted to stop him and remind him that not only was he a marathon runner while she worked at a tea house, but he was also nearly a foot taller than her. The strange look on his face kept her quiet though. Pete was really worried about Lauren. Maybe something had happened when he stepped out of the club to smoke. Why couldn’t he tell the truth instead of cooking up this vampire nonsense?
“Lauren, where are you sweetie?” She called, hoping to end this crap soon. Her feet were starting to throb in the stupid boots she had on. Vanity, thy name is woman. Surname Pain.
As though Andy’s voice called her into being, Lauren came flying around the corner of the large building in front of them. How she managed to stay upright while sprinting in heels was a complete mystery to Andy. Not one she could focus on for more than a second when her friend got closer and she noticed the huge blotch of blood staining the front of her cream-colored top.
You’re bleeding. Pete signed hurriedly before gathering Lauren’s trembling body against him. Obligingly Andy translated.
“Not mine.” Lauren’s voice broke just as the first tear tumbled free from her eyelashes.
“Whose then, sweetie?” Andy leaned around the couple and looked back down the block. No one followed her friend to safety. Whoever’s blood she wore was not in good enough shape to run away.
She was going to be sick.
Pete turned Lauren away so she wouldn’t see her best friend vomiting over the curb. Her small body seemed so much frailer than a few minuets ago. Her normally tan skin was pale under the dim streetlight. Gently he tucked her under his arm to free his hands.
Hazel eyes turned to look back the way she’d come. Terror, sheer terror chased through her before she clamped them shut and buried her head against his chest. All she could do was shake her head. There was no way she could stop trembling long enough to speak coherently let alone make her hands work to sign. Lauren wished Andy had a stronger stomach. She needed her friend, not only as support, but to translate as well.
A hand came down to stroke her hair. Lauren jumped about a foot in the air and shrieked. Poor Pete looked down at her, hurt and confusion written all across his face. For a second she felt bad about her reaction. Hell, anyone would jump out of their skin if they saw what she saw. At that moment she wasn’t even sure if she really saw it or if paranoia had gotten the best of her.
Who the hell actually believes in vampires anyways?
Behind them the retching finally stopped. Andy carefully peeled herself off the fire hydrant she’d used to keep from falling face first into the gutter and turned to face them. Shame flushed her cheeks. Pete and Lauren were both so tough. There her friend stood, a stranger’s blood drying on her blouse and she barely cried. Just the sight of so much blood signaled her weak brain to evacuate the handful of cheap drinks she’d had at the club. The small quirks in life made it hard to bear at times.
Pete gave a soft whistle that finally brought her eyes up to meet his. Over Lauren’s head he mouthed. You okay?
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
See if you can get her to talk. She’s shaking so bad if she did talk, I’d only catch half of it. Embarrassment crawled up his cheeks and made him grind his teeth. Tell me everything she says. Everything, sis.
Andy flashed an okay in his direction. She turned her attention to Lauren who was still quietly sobbing in the protection of Pete’s arms. “Lauren? We need to know what happened to you.”
“This guy. He… he came out of fucking no where and tried to pin me against the wall.” Her body shook with the memory. She could almost smell the coppery stench of his breath again and it made her want to hurl.
Lauren knew the second Andy finished translating. Pete’s comforting grip grew possessive. Every muscle in his body tensed. Suddenly she didn’t want to be tucked under the safety of his arm. The same sort of unease that chased her down the block after their argument came creeping back.
Ask her whose blood it is. Pete demanded, his signs so forceful she could hear an echo of skin hitting skin.
Andy froze for a second before translating for her. Lauren felt reassured that she wasn’t the only one to notice the difference in Pete’s behavior. He was never this possessive before.
“Another guy came out of the bar over there. The, umm… crap I can’t remember.” Thoughts were slipping through her fingers like oiled marbles.
“Its alright. Just keep going.”
“Well he saw the first guy trying to corner me and stepped in to save me.” She paused as the memory turned Technicolor in her mind. “It happened so quick. One moment he was standing between us. The next he was on the ground bleeding.”
She ran a hand over the sticky blood covering her shirt. When the first guy attacked a spurt of her almost-protector’s blood caught her. It was so hot Lauren thought she’d been burned at first. A small part of her wishes she had. That would be a hundred times better than walking around covered in a stranger’s blood.
“What happened to the attacker?”
“He vanished. Like, poofed into thin air. I tried to get the other guy moving, but…” Lauren shook her head. She refused to acknowledge that someone had actually died protecting her.
I need to go and see if he is still alive. You two stay here. Pete bent down and gave Lauren a quick kiss. He trusted Andy to tell her what he was up to and keep her back with her.
“What is he doing?” Lauren demanded quietly.
“Going to check on your would-be hero.” Andy didn’t bother lowering her voice. She’d grown out of that habit years ago.
“Like hell he is! What if the other guy comes back and does the same to him?” She started off after Pete before Andy could so much as muster an argument. Giving a curse, she followed behind her brother and his girlfriend. All the while she hoped to hell whoever was lurking out there got his rocks off and went home to sleep off a killer’s high.
Both of the women were side by side by the time they rounded the corner. Lauren jerked to a halt and sucked in a breath. Andy looked from her startled friend to the scene laid out before her. The whole thing could have been straight out of a horror movie or a nightmare. She knew she wasn’t dreaming though, her feet were starting to scream right along with her frazzled mind.
Pete knelt next to the limp body of a man, presumably Lauren’s savior. Something dark and glistening stained the sidewalk and her brother’s fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice. His eyes were locked on the man below him. If sheer will could make the guy get up and dance, he would have been given that look.
He’s dead. He signed slowly because he wasn’t too sure his hands were actually moving. Everything from the scalp down was numb. The only thing working was the voice in his head that demanded vengeance for the man that’d given his life to save his girl. That voice let out a primal scream that reverberated down his spine. It felt like someone goosed him with a tuning fork.
Pete forced himself to look at the damage done to the man. If he had not stepped in to save Lauren she would be the one bleeding out on the sidewalk. The entire left side of his neck was missing, just gone without so much as a scrap of skin left. His windpipe was exposed to the night. Stupidly he’d tried to check for a pulse when he finally found the man. How can you check for a pulse when there’s nothing to press your fingers against?
Even the artery was missing.
Blood seeped out of every nook and cranny. The longer Pete stared the less sense what he was looking at made. It was the reverse of those weird-ass pictures everyone was so fond of back when he was in middle school. Instead of becoming clearer, everything fuzzed over. His mind was trying to tell him he’d seen enough.
“Oh my god.” Lauren whispered through the hand she’d clasped over her mouth and nose. Even though it was cool out the smell of death permeated the air around them.
“We can go somewhere else to call the cops and wait, Lauren. You don’t need to see any more of this.” Andy wrapped an arm around her friend and stroked her arm. She wasn’t sure which of them she was trying to comfort.
“No one is going anywhere, I’m afraid.”
The girls screamed in unison and whipped around to face the strange, rasping voice. Amused by their reaction the creature croaked out a laugh. A breeze caught at the thin tendrils of hair framing his face, dragging it across the black pools he had for eyes. No light reflected in their depths. No emotion flickered in them. They were as lifeless as the man on the ground.
“How sweet of you to announce my arrival.” A slender red tongue slid out to lick across his parched lips.
Lauren froze. It was him. The fucker that’d tried to snatch her earlier was standing less than five feet away and she hadn’t heard him approaching. How did he manage to walk up behind them without making a sound? However he did it, she felt ashamed that she’d been so lost to her fear that she didn’t bother to listen. Andy and Pete were as good as toast now. All because she didn’t think to listen.
“That’s the guy.” She whispered to Andy.
“Are you sure?”
She rolled her eyes up to glower at her friend. “No, I’m accusing an innocent guy of murder. What the fuck, Andy? Of course its him!”
“Such language.” The creature tisked, wagging a clawed finger in their direction. “It is not becoming a lady.”
Shifting winds brought the thick stench of decay wafting into Pete’s face. He gagged and pulled the collar of his t-shirt up over his nose. The thin material barely cut down on the unpleasantness, but it was better than nothing.
The amount of knowledge Pete had about dealing with dead bodies was about as great as his knowledge of the Avon catalog. Not a damned thing. What he did know he learned from forensics shows and cop dramas on TV. Even though he was without the knowledge, he hazarded a guess that a body this fresh wouldn’t smell this bad this soon. Not unless the guy had already been rotting from the inside out and the killer put him out of his misery as an act of kindness.
Yeah, like murderers were all about paying it forward to help their fellow humans.
Whistling between his teeth, Pete tried to get his sister’s attention to ask her what she thought of the ungodly smell. He looked up from the cooling blood next to his sneaker and wanted to scream.
That fucker! The same guy that’d try to get nice and friendly with his jugular was standing way too close to his sister and girlfriend.
Launching himself at the vampire, he wished he could scream the boiling rage threatening to rip his veins to shreds. Anything to release the pressure building up in his body. Never in his life had he felt the desire to be able to speak more than in that second. Most of what he’d scream would be variations on the word fuck, but it would be easier to communicate his hatred vocally. What kind of hero stops beating an asshole’s head in to sign his insults?
No kind of hero he’d ever seen grace the pages of DC comics.
“Ah, the strong silent one is your knight in shining armor this eve.” The vampire grinned past the girls to admire the way the young man bolted to protect what was his.
Approval fluttered faintly in his long-dead heart. It was the closest to true emotions that he’d been since the night he was turned. Even then blackness ran thick in his blood. Now nothing ran at all.
Fuck you. The boy said mutely.
Another emotion ran through the old soul. He couldn’t place it, but something in his abdomen warmed to the kid.
It was no work at all to pluck the name from the startled women before him. Neither had a clue how to shield their minds from his probing powers. If he was so inclined he could snatch every memory from their mind with them being none the wiser. The only effect of his power was a horrible migraine and memory loss if he were not gentle. Human minds were so fragile a toy.
“Everything will come in time, darling boy. Do not rush our courtship.” He gave a slight bow. “I am Wolfram and you will be coming home with me.”
Bullshit. Pete spat and whirled around to face his sister. I’ll distract him; you get Lauren out of here and call the cops. He signed quickly, hoping the vampire couldn’t understand what he was telling her.
“You know they can’t possibly run fast enough to escape us, my pet.” Wolfram’s voice was closer now, a not so distant thunder threatening to send rain pouring down on their heads. The vibrations from it traveled down Pete’s spine like a cheese grater.
One of the vampire’s malformed hands came to rest on his shoulder. Pete felt the world shift, like the center of his being was being thrown around at sea. Despite the disorientation and the dull throb of a headache, he knew clearly that he could not allow this creature to continue touching him. Alarms went off in his mind as the headache grew worse.
Do not fight destiny, Pete.
Get out of my head, asshole!
Wrenching free of Wolfram’s grasp, Pete rammed into Lauren and Andy. The women broke free of some sort of trace and screamed. He gave them a not so gentle shove back towards the club they’d been at. Neither of the girls needed any more convincing. Nor did they spare a second to try and communicate with him. It was for the better. He’d only slow them down with his handicap.
His food was screaming and running down the street as though the hounds of hell were nipping at their bloomers. In the thousand years since he was forever cursed to the night Wolfram never, ever let a meal escape. Sustenance was too difficult to come by in those early years. It became habit to cling to opportunities until they were bled dry. Yet he was willing to that evening. For him.
I hope you come to appreciate the sacrifices I am making for you. It is not in my nature to be so giving.
That voice again! Pete wanted to beat the vampire’s head in so he couldn’t invade his thoughts any more. Though the headache had already faded back to just a memory, the notion that his thoughts may not be his own was completely unacceptable. He’d spent his entire life having someone else speak for him. Hell would freeze over before someone tried to think for him too.
I told you to stay out of my head.
It is the only method open to us. You cannot hear me speak and I cannot decipher your gestures. How are we to build a bond if we do not communicate? For a blood-sucking corpse the guy seemed way too reasonable. Pete was so not falling for it.
There’s no way in hell I’m doing anything with you other than kicking your ass so hard you turn inside out.
Wolfram had to admire the boy’s spirit. His stubborn nature, forged in the fires of his shortcomings in normal society, was a huge part of his appeal. However it also made the mind-to-mind communication a royal pain in the backside. He was constantly fighting to dodge the mental slaps and stabs the boy was sending without even realizing it. The raw power in him was simply astounding.
Haven’t you ever felt like you were destined to be more than an outlet for the pity of others? I can promise to make you a force to be reckoned with, Pete. It is within my power to tap the potential thrumming in your body and mind.
Save your Kool-Aid, Wolfy. I don’t drink that brand of cyanide. Pete snorted and laughed silently at Wolfram’s expense.
Here, let me show you…
Slowly the world receded until he saw nothing but pitch black. Panic beat at Pete’s chest, tightening his lungs until he couldn’t draw a full breath. Being blind to the world around him was one of his biggest fears. Vision was a necessary tool to him. Without he would be the subject of even more pity and useless help. The only bright side of blindness was that he couldn’t see the look on people’s faces as they whispered about his condition. Like he could hear him.
Through the murky darkness came a flicker of light. Another flicker came from his left. Then everything came into focus, like someone finally got a clue and twisted the dial on an old movie projector. The sudden brilliance hurt his eyes and his brain was slow to pick up on what he was seeing.
It was him. Only instead of being about fifteen pounds underweight, he was built. Bodybuilders would be jealous of the pythons he was sporting in the vision. Pete watched in wonder as he stalked the streets of New York City. Even the most hardened New Yorker dodged out of the wave of malice surrounding his more powerful body. No one ever treated him with that sort of respect before. They always got too close to his face thinking, mistakenly, that if they were closer it would be easier for him to read their lips. Fuckers didn’t even have the decency to pop a breath mint before invading his personal space.
A flash of silver in the vision caught his attention. Standing before his other self was some punk kid brandishing a gun. Two shots burst from the muzzle. Both bullets ripped through his doppelganger. Neither seemed to stop him. Laughter shook his shoulders. Pete’s hopes sank a little when he realized that gaining the ability to speak and hear was not in Wolfram’s game plan.
But you will gain other talents, dear boy. Watch and see.
Yeah, sure. I’m still not swallowing this. Wolfram chuckled in his head, making him feel soiled inside.
Pete focused on the hulking version of himself and waited to see what was to come. In a blurred movement straight out of the movies, he surged forward and caught the shooter around the neck. Muscles in his wide shoulders bunched as he lifted the kid about a foot off the concrete, bringing them face-to-face. The grin plastered on the familiar yet different face scared the piss out of him. Malice and joy were punctuated with a pair of fangs straight out of the mouth of a snake.
I’ve seen enough. He forced the vision out of focus. Vampires only did one thing when they caught someone in their trap. There was no way he was watching himself chow down the blood of another human.
Wolfram stumbled back from Pete. The amount of energy it took to penetrate his natural mental shielding was far exceeding the meager meal he’d consumed. One of two things had to happen soon. Either he convinced the boy to join him as his eternal companion, or he would become yet another sacrifice for the bloodlust. Already the world had taken on a faint red tinge. He could taste the boy’s pulse on his tongue and longed to tease his fangs across it.
Need of more than one kind cramped his ancient body. It’d been too long since he’d taken a lover. None of the simpletons that crossed his path ever showed as much potential as this boy. He would have him, one way or another.
Let me take you away from the pitiful glances and hidden whispers. Life in the dark is full of power. No one will look on you the same ever again. But we must do this at once.
Unease followed on the heel of the vampire’s words. It was too tempting an offer to never be treated as a lesser being again. People would fear him, respect him, and show him difference like they should have all along instead of coddling him like a broken doll. Anger chased the uneasy feeling out the door of his mind. Yeah, it’d be nice to see a different look on the face of the public when he walked down the street.
Promise me one thing.
Name your price and I will provide, dear boy.
Pete met the undead fiend eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe. In his mind he gathered the strength to make demands of a creature he knew for certain could and would tear out his throat. He’d already done so once tonight. The body was still cooling less than ten feet away.
My sister and girlfriend are to be left alone. You will not seek them out to harm them in any way. Physically or mentally. Let them think I am as dead as that guy. He gestured back to the body.
Wolfram stepped back and bowed from the waist. You have my word. Your loved ones will be left to lives their lives as it is destined.
He reached out a gnarled hand and gently grabbed Pete’s arm. A thrill ran through his frozen veins at the idea of what was to come. The process to convert a human to vampire was an intimate one. Parts of the ancient vampire that hadn’t functioned in centuries throbbed and came to life. The pressure from his snug trousers bit into the revived flesh. Yes, this was the one to continue on his bloodline. All the signs were there.
Where are we going? Pete hesitated. Something changed about Wolfram. He felt, softer. Kinder almost. The change made him like him just a little. Maybe this wasn’t such a horrible idea after all.
My home has been prepared for this occasion. We must make haste. The process is a lengthy one and we must complete it before the sun rises and my body dies for the day.
Taking a deep breath, Pete nodded and began to follow. All right, lead the way. Hey, I don’t have to call you Master or anything like that. Do I?
Wolfram laughed aloud. His fangs glistened in the light of the street lamp. Oh no, dear boy. We are not creatures from your motion pictures. You may simply call me Wolfram, or Wolf if you are so inclined. But please, refrain from Wolfy again. It sounds so childish.
It was Pete’s turn to laugh. He knew he’d hit a sore spot and stowed the information away to use later. Whatever you say, Wolf.
The vampire sighed, knowing the boy would torment him plenty in the years to come. We are going to have a very long and very interesting life together, my boy.