As I watched him crawl through the hole, briefly blotting out the night sky, an uncontrollable shiver raced through me. He looked so inhuman, so unnatural, so alien.
I picked up my pace, moving rapidly now along the narrow catwalk, my weight causing the whole damn thing to shudder.
"Mommy?" cried the little boy.
"It's okay, baby," I said, moving faster still. The old catwalk wasn't designed for running. I could see the screws in the walls giving way, dust sifting down everywhere.
The man scuttled down along the inside of the dome, defying gravity, defying logic, defying sanity. I actually paused, watching him moving rapidly over beams and I-beams, around planks and fasteners, down the smooth inside paneling with no obvious handholds.
And all of this he did upside down. He should have fallen a hundred times over.
The angle he took was a good one, because now it put him directly between me and the boy. Within moments, the man in the bow tie flipped down and dropped smoothly to his feet. He turned to face me, straightening his dinner jacket and adjusting his bow tie.
"A pleasure to finally meet you, Samantha Moon," he said, his voice so heavily accented that he was difficult to understand. "I believe you have something I want."
The little boy had found his way to his knees, where he now sat on the mesh flooring. He turned his head this way and that, trying to see us, which I doubted he could. The interior of the dome was pitch black.
I had no intention of leaving here without the boy – and without my medallion. Yes, I wanted my cake and I wanted to eat it, too. I realized I needed more time. I needed to know what I was up against.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Now," he said in his heavy French accent, "is that really important?"
Behind the gaunt figure, I saw for the first time the outline of a narrow door, maybe just a few feet from the little boy. Where the door led off to, I hadn't a clue. For all I knew it was a storage closet.
I said, "Then I guess you wouldn't mind if I call you Shithead."
He cocked his head slightly and his lips might have formed a smile. He was taller than me by a lot. Tall and thin and ghastly, the quintessential vampire. He advanced toward me, which was a good thing, I realized. Anything to get him away from the boy.
I held my ground.
The far less selfish thing for me to do was hand over the medallion and save the sick boy. But what about my son? How could I at least not first pursue another alternative?
Yes, I wanted my cake and to eat it, too.
It was then that I felt a heavy presence surround me, a sticky, sickly, foreign presence. It pushed on me, prodding me, trying to gain entrance. And just as suddenly the presence retreated.
"You are a strong one, mademoiselle," he said, frowning, clearly not happy. "Stronger than most. Too strong for even me to gain access."
"Lucky me," I said.
Whether or not the vampire could feel the ghost behind me, I didn't know, but I sure as hell could. Leland was clearly agitated, watching all of this from the shadows of the door, and I had an idea, recalling how the teen ghost had nearly manifested a physical hand for me to grab.
Leland, sweetie, I thought. I need your help.
Although behind me, I saw in my mind's eye the young man suddenly perk up, his countenance brightening. He didn't speak, but I had his attention.
When one is open to such communication, words and thoughts tend to be the same, and so I focused my thoughts on the door behind the boy.
Where does this lead to, Leland?
An image was returned to me, one of a long and narrow hallway, similar to the one that had granted us access to within the dome. Leland had recognized the door.
Good, I thought. Thank you.
As quickly as I could, I explained what I needed. He nodded eagerly and disappeared. To where he went, I hadn't a clue. Would he help me? I didn't know that, either. I was noticing that ghosts, although quite social, weren't the best communicators.
I turned my attention back to the tall man who was watching me curiously. "I have lived a long, long time, Miss Moon," he said. "I'm tired of these old bones. I'm tired of this world, of this race. I'm tired of feeding…constantly feeding. Mostly I'm tired of the loneliness. The eternal loneliness. You will feel it someday, Miss Moon, if you haven't already."
His words were oddly hypnotic, captivating me in ways that I hadn't experience before. I suspected this creature before me had mastered various levels of hypnotism or persuasion, or whatever the hell he was doing with his haunting voice.
I shook my head, cleared my thoughts, and imagined a sort of psychic barrier between me and this son-of-a-bitch. Except I didn't need a barrier. I needed ear plugs.
"I choose a French accent because I have lived most often in Paris, and this accent suits me. I enjoy hearing it. But I could just as easily switch to Baroque or German or ancient languages of which you would have no comprehension. This will be you someday, Miss Moon. When all those you love are long gone, when you find yourself alone yet again, speaking dead languages, and seeking new lands, new faces, new loves, new hunting grounds. And when even these places have been used up, you will set out again. And again. Forever seeking. But never finding."
"Are you quite done, Shithead?"
He paused and smiled. "You are a rare treat. I do not want to kill you, but I will. Please give me the medallion, then take the boy and be gone."
"Maybe," I said.
He cocked his head, and was about to speak when we both heard it. The squeak of a door being opened, perhaps for the first time in decades.
Bow Tie looked back just in time to see a brightly energetic being appear in the doorway.
Leland, and he had fully manifested. He was reaching for Eddy, having solidified enough to take the boy's hand.
Bow Tie growled furiously and lunged backwards.
I didn't growl, but I lunged, too.
I had a small advantage since I was already facing forward.
I quickly covered the ground between us, and before Bow Tie could pick up any real speed, I hurled myself onto his back.
I had a brief glimpse of Leland, now fully manifested, gripping Eddy's hand, before the vampire and I toppled over the railing and fell briefly through space…
Unfortunately, the gangly bastard landed on me. I slammed my head hard, stars bursting behind my eyelids. The pain was severe but only fleeting. Already, my head was clearing, and as I looked up, past the vampire on top of me, I could see the ghost teen slipping back through the side door, gently pulling the little boy with him.
With any luck, the boy would never know that an honest-to-God ghost was leading him through the dark hallway.
Bow Tie looked wildly up, too, just as Leland and the boy spirited away through the narrow door. He made a move to get up, but I moved, too. I bucked my legs hard and sent the asshole flying over me, where he crashed hard, knocking over all sorts of shit that I couldn't see from my present position.
I stood and turned.
"Leave him alone," I said. "It's between you and me now."
The vampire, who had briefly disappeared behind some toppled night tables and desks, now stood, easily rising to his feet. His arm, I saw, was badly dislocated at the elbow. He winced slightly as he held it out, and what he did next didn't surprise me, although it caused the bile to rise up in the back of my mouth.
He gripped his forearm below the elbow and twisted and wrenched until his arm was back in place. All of this was accompanied by horrific sounds of bone grating against bone, of tendons grinding. He briefly made a face, but was soon opening and closing his hand. He next flexed his arm and seemed pleased with the results.
He looked at me.
"You are strong, little one. Stronger than most. You are a very unusual creature. Who made you?"
"Who ended your mortal life, dear? And gave you immortality?"
"Let's not worry about that."
He stepped over the desk in one big stride, his long legs making the move seemingly effortless. As he did so, something else fell and settled behind him, kicking up even more dust, all of which plumed around like a personal thunderstorm. He stepped out of the dust and faced me.
"Yes, Kingsley said you would be a feisty one, but he never told me just how powerful you were."
My jaw dropped. "Kingsley?"
"Oh? You didn't realize that he's a good friend of mine? Or, rather, a client of mine." He cocked his head, clearly enjoying the obvious shock on my face. "Why, who do you think told me about the medallion, my dear?"
Now my jaw dropped open, and I felt as if someone had sucker punched me. Bow Tie began circling me, not approaching me directly, but in a circuitous route, as if sizing me up. There wasn't much to size up, trust me.
"And who do you think supplies him with his blood for his many…guests."
"Oh, I assume he has many guests. After all, I keep the red stuff coming fairly regularly."
I thought of the blood I had drank just a few weeks ago. It had come from him. This bastard. And where had Bow Tie gotten it? No doubt a most unwilling donor.
I felt sick. I felt betrayed. I felt pissed.
"Oh, don't be too hard on the big oaf," said Bow Tie. "I can be very persuasive when I want to be. You see, not everyone can resist me as you did. Not even Kingsley. Unfortunately for him, and you, he let it slip that something of great importance had turned up. And all it took were a few suggestions, a few tonal changes in my voice, and soon he was telling me everything I needed to know. I doubted the big bad wolf had any clue just how desperately I've been looking for your medallion. I knew it was in the area, and I had even narrowed down the city. Clues, rumors, whispers. All of which I paid attention to."
Some of my anger toward Kingsley had abated. But still. Why had Kingsley even mentioned the medallion, or even hinted at it? Big oaf indeed. And how could Kingsley befriend such a fucking piece of shit like Bow Tie?
And what most pissed me off was this: who was Kingsley sharing the blood with, if not me? At last count, I had only had two glasses of the "red stuff."
Big picture, Sam, I thought. Deal with Kingsley later.
As we circled, I reached down and felt for the medallion…only to discover my jeans had torn during the fall from the catwalk.
Panic ripped through me until I felt the familiar bulge of the disc. Not risking my torn pocket, I extracted the medallion, and as I did so, Bow Tie nearly dove at me. But he kept his composure. Instead, a strange light flared in his eyes. I certainly had his entire attention. The exhaustion I had seen earlier was gone, replaced now with desperation.
I did the only thing I could think of to keep the medallion safe.
I slipped the leather strap over my head, dropping the medallion down inside my blouse – and that's when it happened.
Boy, did it happen.READ MORE >>