Dead & Dealing

Ductor & Jagerin

In hindsight, I probably should have heeded my own advice and gone in with a plan, but I suppose I did alright in the grand scheme.

I wasn't exactly certain on what to expect at a Supe bar. Warm blood on tap for vampire clientele? Perhaps cold blood in bottles like beer? Very rare steaks of venison or rabbit for Weres? A strict no silver and garlic policy?

Upon entering I saw it was an old fashioned diner that had been converted into a dive bar. Opposite of me, at the far end of the room, was the kitchen. Occasionally, one of three waitresses would enter through a pair of double doors and exit through another pair a few feet farther along the wall with trays of food. It wasn't anything complicated from the looks of it. Just your run of the mill fried bar food like mozzarella sticks, french fries, burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. I did see a steak here and there, but that was as fancy as it got. I caught the muffled sounds of metal on metal mixed with the unmistakable hum of a running and beeping microwave. It also reeked of cheap cigarette ash, stale beer, frying oil, and Were.

To my left were three pool tables that were currently occupied by several large men dressed in denim and leather like cliche bikers which struck me as odd since I did not see a single motorcycle in the parking lot. There were other men and some women in normal clothes sitting in chairs or leaning against the wall as they talked amongst themselves as they sipped from glasses and mugs of beer. On the far wall, behind the pool tables, was the bar with tough looking Were who looked disgusted at having to take money from a pair of vampires.

I looked to my right and saw a relatively empty dining area with ten small round tables in two rows of five and four chairs to each table. They were bolted to the ground,but the shaft was wooden rather than metal. Salt and pepper shakers sat in the middle of each with napkin dispensers and some were in need of cleaning. Two at the far end were covered in dirty plates with half eaten scraps of food and half empty mugs of beer, courtesy of the group of college Weres and Shifters. I gathered they were celebrating the end of the semester or just a typical night on the town.

"Hello." greeted a female voice doing nothing to hide her annoyed tone. "Just you?"

I turned my focus on a middle aged woman with an annoyed scowl on her thin face. Her hair was tied back and had small slivers of silver streaks of gray that stood out against her otherwise jet black hair. Her jewelry consisted of a wedding ring on her left ring finger and gold dots in her ears. Her make-up was simple and minimal. Her clothes were the same as the waitresses walking around. A white collared shirt with blue jeans and comfortable sneakers. Judging by her scent, she was a shifter rather than a Were.

"For now." I said politely. "I'm expecting a friend."

"Whatever." She said rolling her eyes. "Table or bar?"

"Bar." I said.

"It's over there." She pointed over her right shoulder with her thumb lazily. "Cash only and O neg's all we got." She then held out a hand. "And there's a ten buck cover charge for you vamps."

"Alright." I reached inside my coat and pulled out a twenty. "Keep the change."

"Thanks." She took my money and walked off.

I walked to the bar, ignoring the death stares I was receiving. The stares were easy to ignore, but the muttering wasn't. I figured that my involvement with Ryuu and Matthew had helped much in the way of Were/Vampire relations, but these Weres and Shifters looked like they were a few shots of bourbon and a suggestion away from sinking a stake into the nearest vampire. I pretended to be unperturbed as I waited for the bartender, a bald Were with a thick beard and wearing a sleeveless shirt, retrieved a lukewarm beer bottle filled with O negative from an incubater and opened it in front of me. I paid, twenty-five dollars with a five for the tip, and made my way to the unoccupied pool table near the front entrance.

I took a sip from the bottle and realized the blood was far from fresh, but still bearable. If Bubba could survive on cats blood and still be around for fifty years then I could make do for a night of stale lukewarm blood. I sat in a chair and gazed around in case Jagerin had already arrived. Instead, I was met with clear hostility from the biker gang at the other two tables. The others had more or less returned to their conversations, but in more hushed voices than before. I did not like the way the bikers were looking at me. They were just looking for an excuse to start a fight. I suppose with the full moon a week away that thier emotions were running high. Still, it was probably best to make them think twice.

I took another sip from my drink as I stood up and set the bottle down on the edge of the pool table. Then, like I had done it for centuries, plucked a cue and triangle off a mounted rack and began racking up the balls. I centered the balls and went to break. I positioned myself for my shot, but stopped myself. I made a show of frowning and rolling my eyes as I threw off my coat and draped it over the back of my chair. I resumed my previous position and took my shot. I pretended to watch the balls scattered in all direction, but I was more interested in their responses.

It seemed, like bright yellow skin of golden poison frog of Columbia, my tattoos were a clear warning. I slowly walked around the table, as if I was looking for a decent shot, so they all saw both the ancient Greek and Roman symbols painted into my flesh. Since the discovery of post vampiric tattoos was not even twelve hours old, it was only natural for the observer to assume that I was far older than I appeared. Of course they could just as easily assume that I had them done in the modern era and then turned, but who would be crazy enough to take the risk. Also, there was no etiquette issue in lying to Weres and Shifters about my age.

I continued to pass the time playing pool. I realized it was a relatively simple application of geometry and physics. That wasn't to say I made every shot I attempted and could compete with professionals. I missed more often than not and scratched, sank the white ball, even more. Still, I learned quickly as I paused to drink and watch the door for another vampire to enter. The two that had been at the bar when I entered left and we nodded to each other. I signaled a passing waitress who nodded and brought me a second bottle of blood.

"Thank you." I said placing a hundred on her tray. "Keep 'em coming."

"Can I ask question?" She said while she whisked the empty bottle. "If you don't mind."

"You just did, but I understood what you meant." I responded as I lined up a shot. "Ask away, but I can't guarantee you like the answer."

"Are those real?"

I paused and looked up at her. She was younger than the waitress with the less than welcoming attitude that had so graciously greeted me. She looked to be about my age. That was to say early twenties or so. Her eye were brown and matched her short cropped hair. She was cute in an innocent kind of way. Judging by her scent, she was a shifter and not a large one.

"Wow," I chuckled. "Not everyday a female asks a male that."

"I meant your tattoos." She clarified sounding annoyed.

"Tattoo . . ." I stood up and pretended to look puzzled for a moment. "You mean my stigmas, no? The ink in my flesh?"

"Yes."

"My apologies." I politely inclined my head. "This language sometimes escapes me. To answer your question, yes they are genuine as it is impossible for my kind to alter our bodies in anyway." I tilted my head. "Why the curiosity? You wish to know the meaning behind them?"

"If you don't mind." She said. "I'm taking symbology class at Queens College. We just Roman symbology."

"Nice to see my people are not forgotten." I smiled slightly. "I'm afraid I am in short supply of time, but I will answer what I can."

"Thank you." She said. "My name is Maria."

"It is a pleasure, Maria. " I said and introduced myself pronouncing my new identity as only a true roman would. "You may call me Luke."

"Luke?" She repeated.

"Yes." I nodded once. "It is short for my true name. My full name is *Lucius Fabius Pulcher.*

"I see." Maria nodded. "The one on your right. What dose those mean?"

"Ah." I said. "Are you familiar with the mark of the legion?"

"I think so." Maria began writing on a pad that she used for drink orders. "That's the name for the letters SPQR found on standards, right?"

"Yes and no." I said. "It was the popular motto of Rome, but it is not the mark of the legion." I pointed to my arm. "This is, quite literally, the mark of the legion. I believe it is similar to what soldiers refer to as dog tags. It was merely a quick method to distinguish soldiers from civilians."

"Alright." she motioned to me. "And what do those mean specifically?"

"Leg is an abbreviation of **legio**, legion. The X the symbol for **decem**, ten." I explained. "Together they mean Legio Decima or the Tenth Legion. So any man with this inked into his flesh meant he either was part of or served in the Tenth Legion."

"And the rest?" Maria asked eagerly. "Gem and PFD?"

"GEM is merely short for ***Gemina*** . It was what you call a nickname. Augustus stripped the legion of its former name, ***Equestris*** which meant mounted, after a rebellion and rebaptized it Gemina." I paused as Maria wrote quickly. "PFD is short for ****Pia Fidelis Domitiana**** which means 'faithful and loyal to Domitian'."

"Hey, Maria!" called one of the bikers. "Another pitcher of beer over here."

"Right away!" She turned to me. "Thank you."

"You are welcome." I said with a small smile.

With that she quickly trotted off to the bar for a new pitcher. I thought perhaps they did want a nice girl like her getting mixed up with a vamp like me, but a cursory glance told me they just wanted another pitcher of beer and stare at her ass as she retrieved it. I returned back to my game and waited.

An hour passed and I had another blood, which was I debating to be my last, when I felt it. At first I wasn't certain if I had imagined it or not. A moment passed and realized I hadn't. I could not put it into words exactly, but at best I could attribute akin to a part of me was growing closer. I shook my head, but it didn't help in the slightest and neither did draining the bottle of blood. Then a thought rang clear in my head like bolt of lighting against the pitch black night sky. It wasn't my body calling out, but it was my blood and there was only one thing that was capable of doing that.

SHE was coming.

My mind raced with questions and possible answers only to be replaced and mixed with plans and variables. The problem was that I was feeling something I hadn't felt in some time. Fear. What did SHE want? What was HER plan? What did it mean for me? Had SHE put two and two together and figured I was the Ductor? Was I attracting too much attention in HER eyes? Was SHE here to make me leave the city?

I drained my bottle of blood in an attempt to clear my head and calm my blood, when the door opened. I spared a glance and saw a skinny, jittery man enter. He clearly hadn't groomed or even showered by the looks of his unkempt hair and disheveled busy beard that had white and gray mixed into the copper brown. His jeans were so worn they were almost as white as the snow outside and resembled Swiss cheese with its various holes. His shoes were not much better and I half expected to see a toe poke through. He wore a tattered sweatshirt with so many different stains that it took a second glance to realize it had once been black instead of the lighist gray that it was. Under that was white cotton T-shirt with half faded old stains that could only come from an odd mixture of car fluids and spilled food. Ignoring the rancid body odor and the stale clothing, he stank of two things. Wet dog and fear. That told me two things. He was a Were and something was chasing him and it had to be significant to scare a Were.

He was breathing hard as he scanned the bar and his eyes went wide when they landed on me. He glanced back outside before returning to me as if he was torn between entering and bolting. So a vampire was chasing him, but why? Was SHE chasing him? I pretended to lose interest and returned to my pool game. It must have done the trick because I heard the sound of someone running past my table to where the biker were.

"Ya gotta help me!" he said.

"Whoa!" answered another gruffer voice. "Carl? That you?"

"Please, Earl!" begged whom I assumed was Carl.

"Whadda ya doing here?" answered Earl. "Last I saw, ya were livin' it up in Orleans."

"They're after me!" Carl cried. "Ya gotta hide me."

"Who's after you?" Earl asked. "What have gone and done now?"

"Later!" Carl panted. "Please. I haven't slept or anything for days."

That was then my blood suddenly went quiet. One moment it was the roaring maw of Charybdis then the next it went quiet as the vacuum of space. I could suddenly think clearly and felt like I had before. I didn't know how or why it ceased, but I had an idea. Then the door opened and someone quietly stepped in. I looked to see if my theory was true. I didn't know it then, but I was only half right in expecting HER.

She looked as if she had stepped off the set of a western. She wore long light brown tanned leather duster. Truth be told, it wasn't much different from the one I had draped over a chair. The only real difference was her had seen much more than mine, possibly a century or two, and mine sported a design inspired. Hers, on the other hand, was the genuine article. Not mention mine was black as night instead of the more natural tanned color. Instead of sneakers or work boots, she wore cowboy boots and half expected to see metal spurs. Judging by their high sheen and immense lack of wear and tear, not to mention the pelican image carved into the leather, I was certain they were simply modern boots mimicking the style of decades past. Tucked into those boots were tight looking denim jeans that left little to imagination as to the shape of her strong muscled thighs.

As my gaze drifted upward, I saw she wore a simple pristine white blouse, but it was offset by the empty rawhide bandolier running down her right shoulder to her left hip settled between her breasts. I honestly wondered how she avoided attracting attention. Then again, she could simply say she was on an off-broadway play although she seemed the type to shoot rather than wore a hat that cast a shadow over her face. It looked as if a ring of claws ran along and rested on the brim.

Then, without warning, she looked directly at me.

Her skin was the color of warm caramel chocolate, but her expression was anything but. Her eyes were the same shade and color of her skin, but they were cold as they scanned the room like an eagle searching for a rabbit as it scampered for cover. She wore little to no make-up, but she was still very beautiful in a stoic warrior amazon kind of way. She had tied her long coffee colored curls back in a small half-hearted tail as if she was more concerned with keeping hair out of the way than her appearance.

In that briefest of moments, we both came to an immense discovery. The reason our blood was calling to each other was not because our makers were close by. No, we did not simply share blood with a our makers but with each other.

I had a sister.

Not only that, but I had an insane thought she might the Jagerin in my mysterious message.

"Shit!" cried Carl.

I whipped my head to where I had last seen the bikers. Carl had his hand in Earl's vest and desperately searching for something. It took Earl half of second to notice and push him away. When he did, I saw what Carl had been reaching for. A nine millimeter Glock pistol came out from behind Earl, probably tucked in the back of pants rather than proper holster, in Carl' hand as he yanked it free and whipped around to aim.

Suddenly a shot erupted and the Glock flew from his hand in mist of blood. A second shot quickly followed the second and Carl's left ankle exploded in a similar fashion only with less blood and more bone. Needless to say, Carl cried out in agony as he fell to the ground where he stood hardly half a second after the Glock. I turned to see my sister, that was going to take some getting used to, thumb back the hammer on a third generation Single Action Army Colt Revolver just as the other bikers reached for their pieces. They froze with their hands in their vest or behind their waists when they realize they had been too slow on the draw. To my surprise not a single scream. That was usually happened when someone fires a gun, right? There is always at least one person, usually a young woman or child, who screams at the sound of a gunshot. Or maybe I've watched too much television and films in my time.

"Now think real hard." She spoke with slightest hint of a southern drawl. "I've been chasing this one for quite some time now and quite frankly I wouldn't mind a corpse of him."

"Please!" Carl half sobbed half shouted. "No!"

"But I was hired to bring him back alive." She continued. "I've no quarrel with you. Now you can return to your drinks and pool, but if your hands touch metal I swear I will end you."

"Who are you?" Earl demanded.

"My name will not mean much to you." She said. "But I am known as Jagerin."

"Aw shit." Earl sighed and motioned for his friends to slowly lower their hands. "Stand down, boys."

"Fuck that!" snapped one of them.

"I suggest you do as the lady says." I said as I casually picked my cue and resumed playing. "Wars have been started over less."

"Mind your own business!" Earl barked.

"New York is my business." I sank a ball in a pocket. "And no one came out unscathed the last time there was a war between north and south."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Earl growled.

"Look at her boots. Full grain leather. Clearly customized and hand made. Impossible to produce en masse." I said as I lined up a shot. "Any newer and they'd still be warm." I took my shot and sank another. "Last time I checked, Louisiana used that same image on their state flag."

"Your point?"

"The price on his head was given by her majesty Queen Sophie-Anne of Louisiana." Jagerin said calmly as looked at me curiously. "For the crime of espionage and theft and I have been tracking him since Jackson. So I am no mood."

"Your choice." I said leaning against the cue and looking bored. "Even by some miracle you manage to kill her, which I highly doubt unless you make it a point to never leave your home without a crossbow, you'll be solely responsible for an international incident between New York and Louisiana with neither monarch being particularly fond of you." I shrugged. "That's provided her maker doesn't hunt you down first."

The entire bar was silent, except for Carl's half choke sobs, as the biker mulled it over. He clearly took the hint when those near him stepped away from him so not catch a stray bullet. Once he saw that, he slowly removed his hand

"Sorry for the mistake." He grumbled.

"No problem." I half smiled. "Whenever I make an unintentional mistake, I just remember that Caligula intentionally declared war on Neptune and ordered his army to the beach and stab the water."

"Here!" Jagerin tossed him a pair of handcuffs. "Make yourself useful."

He reluctantly walked to Carl and handcuffed his arms behind his back. Jagerin twirled her gun up so it slide effortlessly back into its holster on her right hip. She walked up to me and seemed to be evaluating me as she did so. No doubt she felt a draw to me as I did her. For their sake, and no doubt eager to not be the center of Jagerin's attention, everyone went back to what they had been doing. Several quickly threw down some money on a table and hastily left. I pretended to go back to my pool game as if I had seen more entertaining things in my time.

"I appreciate your assistance." She said flatly. "Although I am curious as to why."

"Things have been tense to say the least among us and the other two natured." I said before sinking the 3 ball that had been mocking me for most of the night. "At least as far as the city and Long Island are concerned." I stood up and faced. "So do you have a name or do I just call you Jagerin?"

"I do." She gazed around. "But I'd prefer to talk some place more private."

"And him?" I flicked my eyes towards Carl. "Turn him into the nearest sheriff?"

"No." She said. "He is wanted in Louisiana not New York City. If I was still in the kingdom I could, but that is not the case."

"First off, I was joking." I informed her. "Second, you can just say New York and locals will know what you mean the city."

"How?"

"Same way you can live in the Bronx, but on Long Island." I said. "They have their ways of saying things."

"I see."

"So what do you plan to do with him."

"I did not come here alone."

"A partner in crime?"

"No. Sophie-Anne sent him on another assignment. It just so happens our destinations were the same." She looked over to Carl, still bleeding where he fell. "I can send him back to Louisiana with him. I've always served her well in the past. She will hold onto my reward until next I call on her."

"Alright." I laid the cue on the table and slipped on my coat. "I have a car out front. I need to pick up someone on Long Island. We can talk on the ride — "

I was cut off as something thin and long pierced a window and buried itself in my left pectoral. It must have been traveling at an immense speed because I had barely registered the cracking of a window before I was shoved against the wall and slid down to the floor. A moan escaped from me as I looked down to see a crossbow quarrel bolt protruding from my chest. I tapped the end and hissed a bolt of pain shot through my chest.

"Oh come on." I groaned.

It was then I was aware the Jagerin was kneeling by me and looking concerned. To my surprise, she looked she was about to cry. It was massive shift from the hard as nails warrior woman that had entered a few minutes ago.

"Nein!" She hissed.

"Three actually." I pushed myself up and yanked out the bolt. She instantly went to support me. "Not that it matters to most."

"Unmöglich!" She exclaimed. "How are — "

I pushed hard away to my right as I scrambled left. Hardly a half a second later another bolt landed with a thud in the wall where I had been. I ducked under a table which did not provide me with much cover other than the thin wooden pole that held up the table. I looked up to see the diner was being stormed by more bikers which meant the diner was sound-proof both ways since I did not hear a single engine approach and it only made sense to sound proof to avoid unwanted attention from outside. I quickly looked to where my sister had gone and she was reaching into her duster, no doubt to draw her pistol, but our attackers had the drop on her.

Without thinking, I stood up and snatched the table top right off and hurled it her attackers like a Frisbee. I did not bother watching as I raced to her, snatching up the cue I had left on the table. It could have looked more impressive if I had practiced for centuries. The table tap clocked the closest to her right in the side of his head. He went down like rock as did the crossbow in his hands. The one behind managed to turn to see my swing the cue, cracking the ending off, in a wide arc across his face. He went down easily enough although I surmise it was my strike combined with colliding with the edge of a chair on the way down. The third, and final in the little group advancing on my sister, I drove the point of the now broken cue stick like a makeshift spear through his lower abdomen just above his groin.

I yanked the stick out and kicked him away. Despite the fair amount of blood I had drunken that night, the way the delectable fluid coated the end of the stick and sweet scent of terror from its source made me ravenous. I licked my lips and swallowed hard as I fought the urge to give in to my baser urges. It made things much more difficult as the patrons had finally gotten the hint and decided to call it a night and began heading out the back door in the kitchen including Earl and his comrades. I imagine a cat would have a similar experience in a run down building filled with rodents.

"Thank you." Jagerin said from behind me followed by the click of two hammers. "I did not expect so many would be after Carl."

"Any chance I can convince you to cut your losses and leave?" I asked as more began to enter slowly and like trained police team rather storming like first wave had. "It's not like you need to redecorate your kitchen."

"No!" She said firmly. "I have not let a bounty escape since I was alive and do not intend to start now."

"I figured as much." I growled.

I closed my eyes. We needed a plan and quick.

( In Sanctum Sanctorum )

I thought back to when I first entered the bar and opened my eyes. Whomever these new enemies were, they had come prepared. Crossbows told me not only they expected to fight vampires, but that most certain;y meant a fair number of them. Even the weakest vampire could take out several Weres and Shifters. History is full of stories of weaker opponents defeating much stronger ones by simply employing surprises and quickly following through so not to let the enemy to gather their senses.

First step, break their momentum.

I took the same path I did when I entered. I skipped my conversation with the shifter waitress and continued on. I slowed down when I passed the bikers and stopped in front of them. I could see the glint of polished metal from under thier clothes along with subtle bulges in places that were absent. At least four handguns with, assuming their were all unmodified Glock pistols like Earl's, a total of sixty rounds if they were fully loaded. However, Earl and his fellow bikes had left and hadn't bothered to offer them to me. So shooting our way out was off the table. It was a gamble anyway with my severe lack of experience with firearms in general.

I continued my mental retracing and found myself at the bar. I muffled the sound of the bartender and the conversations of other around me and focused to the items in my vicinity. A few broken beer mugs and bottles could provide some makeshift caltrops, but would completely negated by a pair of cheap boots. The cash register might have proved useful by throwing its contents into the air if I hadn't already killed three of their members. Everyone has thier price, but it's usually not the amount that can be found in dive bar's register even if all of its compartments were filled to the brim with hundred dollar bills.

Then I saw it when the bartender replaced a bottle on the shelf behind him. I smiled at the simplicity of it all and had the sudden urge for a cocktail. A certain particular cocktail of Finnish origin.

I opened my eyes and returned, mentally, to The Patient Gentleman at the present. Hardly a second had passed, but more bikers had entered and had thier crossbows aimed in our direction. They were understandably keeping their distance.

"I have a plan, but we need to work together." I asked as I adjusted my grip on my impromptu shield. "That gonna be a problem?"

"I've worked with worse." She countered and a slight smile that was all too familiar.

"Good!" I looked over to where we needed to be. "Race you to the bar!"

We took off like sprinters at the sound of a referee's starter gun. I was vaguely aware of someone yelling the sound of bolts burying themselves in the walls to my left or shattering the various unlucky beer bottles or cocktail glasses. It was not a straight path to the bar, but all things considered it might have been a blessing in disguise.

We moved like a seasoned team despite having spent less then five minutes together.

As I slid underneath a pool table, she vaulted over the top like the Duke brothers Dukes of Hazard . I came up and blocked three bolts with my tabletop shield as soon as we cleared the pool table. Without a word or signal, I pivoted to my left and she quickly fired a two shots from her pistol to force them to duck for cover. She had barely taken three steps past me before I chucked my broken pool cue like I had seen done at the Olympics. It didn't kill any, unfortunately, but it cause the unfortunate recipient to drop his weapon to clutch his knee and fall backwards on a couple of his comrades. I used the opportunity to hop over the bar and sat low next to Jagerin.

"So?" I said as I yanked pile of towels just above my head down to the floor. "Ever have a Long Island Iced Tea?"

"Now what?" She demanded as held up her pistol.

"I take it these are friends of yours?" I quickly snatched a half filled bottle of Absinthe, which has been outlawed for almost a century and had probably cost a pretty penny to buy and had most likely required a bribe to an inspector of some kind, and cheap vodka that smelled strongly like paint thinner. "If so, you southerners have a funny way of showing it."

"The Hounds of Hell." She responded. "They are Were biker gang based in Mississippi. They did not take kindly to the king, Russell Edgington, placing a bounty on one of their members and myself even less for claiming it some years ago. They must have begun following me when I passed through chasing Carl."

"And this the New York chapter?" I tore a rag in half before soaking in liquor and stuffing it down the neck of the vodka and absinth bottle. "That's what they call the different parts of the same group, right? Chapters?"

"There is only one chapter. They are not that many in number."

"I beg to differ." I snatched another bottle, Bacardi 151, and repeated the process once I removed the flame arrester. "Then again, it's not hard to beat two."

"What is your plan?!" She hissed at me flashing her fangs.

"On my signal, head for the kitchen." I told her while I opened a bottle of Kentucky bourbon and stuffed a rag in the neck. "I'll cover you."

"Here!" She offered her pistol.

"Keep it!" I got to my feet and squatted low. "I'm not very good proficient with them anyway."

"Then how will — "

"By showing them the north isn't lacking in hospitality." I pulled out my lighter and lit the rag on the vodka and absinthe bottle. "It just became happy hour!"

When faced with a superior force, you can really do all of two things. First option, you can retreat quietly to regroup which was out of the question. The second option, you can attack with as much fanfare as possible and make it seem they underestimated you and capitalize on their hesitation. Each has its advantages, but you can't beat the rush and fun of option two. In this particular case, the fanfare was Molotov cocktails.

A Molotov cocktail also known as a petrol bomb, poor man's grenade, just Molotov, is a generic name used for any bottle-based improvised incendiary weapon. Due to the relative ease of production, they are frequently used by protesters and non-professionally equipped fighters in riots and urban guerrilla warfare. They are primarily intended to set targets ablaze rather than instantly destroy them. Normally fuels like gasoline or kerosene are used, but anyone who paid attention in high school chemistry knows roughly any liquor that is eighty proof or higher can get the job done. Or any bartender that has served a flaming B-52 shot.

I shot to my feet as Jagerin dashed to the kitchen door. They were about halfway to the bar when I tossed the bottle of vodka. It sailed over their heads and exploded in mass of red, yellow, and orange with the sound of shattering glass. Naturally, they surged forward with part of the wall, a nearby table, and some of the floor caught. I responded quickly with the absinthe bottle and engulfed the floor directly in front of them in a blueish hue that quickly turned a reddish orange once it began to burn the floor.

"Jesus Christ!" one of the cried.

"Last call, boys!" I laughed and thoroughly enjoying the terror and havoc I was causing. "There's plenty for everyone!"

Some of them responded loosing their crossbow at me. Now that I saw them coming, it was easy to avoid them by ducking behind the bar. I used the opportunity to light the rag on the bourbon and rum. Without looking or standing as to give them a target, I lobbed the bourbon over the bar and I was reward with the panicked screams and howls of pain half a second later. I looked down and regretted on not making a couple more, but I told myself that the point wasn't to win and only by my sister and I time to think of a more suitable plan. I quickly stood and saw at least two were on fire and rolling on the floor in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Four were helping the two on the floor while several stomped out the flames around them and a few looked overwhelmed at the chaos

I looked over to where the kitchen was and I saw Jagerin observing behind the door she left cracked open. I tossed the rum bottle just behind the two padding their rolling comrades and made dash for the kitchen just as I heard the bottle shattered followed by more screams. I entered the kitchen and barely had enough time to avoid being crushed by a refrigerator as Jagerin pushed it in front of the door.

"Something tells me they're going to forgo appetizers and skip to the main course." I said. "Can't imagine why."

"Is everything funny to you?" She demanded.

"Funny things are." I responded.

"We made it to the kitchen. What is the rest of the plan?"

"No idea." I began looking around.

"What?!"

"That's the trouble with my ideas. They only come a bit at a time."

"So those Molotovs were merely for fun?!"

"Time." I corrected. "The fun was an unexpected bonus." I turned to face her. "Are you sure you don't want to just leave Carl? The door is literally right there!" I pointed to the door marked exit five feet away from her.

"No." She folded her arms in front her and gave me a look that dared to me argue. "And cease asking!"

"Fine!" I snapped.

I had, maybe, a full minute to devise a way to deal a very large and very angry biker gang as I gazed around the kitchen. It was a standard one as kitchens went. Two stove-tops with ovens sat next to each other flushed against the wall. A deep fryer separated a small grill from the the far end, opposite Jagerin and I, was a three sink dish washing system with a small automated dishwasher for silverware tucked in the corner. In the opposite corner was cabinet. Clean pots and pans hung overhead on a ceiling mounted rack for easy use. Opposite the stove-tops was an old looking griddle that cooks probably used to fry bacon or pancakes. In between the griddle and stove-top was order prep station which cooks had prepped food ,like sliced onions or tomatoes in small metal compartments, with two shelves. One shelf had two stacks of different size plates, one large one smaller, next to a microwave.

I recalled the time I took apart the microwave in my home and I had an idea. I had only one to work with so best I did not make a mistake.

"How long do you think you can hold them off?" I asked.

"Not as long as I'd like to admit." She responded. "Eventually they will overpower me and push the refrigerator away from the door.

"And you won't do much with only a single shot."

She drew her pistol and checked the chamber. "Yes."

"Anymore?"

"No." She said reluctantly. "I have more ammunition along with more weapons, but it is in a case I hid outside before I entered."

"Are you an idiot?" I asked flatly.

"Excuse me?" She growled.

"Hold on, Let me rephrase." I snapped. "You're an idiot! Who loads a single gun and thinks it'll be enough?!"

"I did not count of the Hounds of Hell!" She snarled.

"And British didn't count on Washington crossing the Delaware!" I paused. "We'll argue later. Just hold them as long as you can. Take some out if you can."

"How?!"

"With this!" I drew my sword from inside my coat and handed it to her. "Try stabbing through the door. Watch the edge, it's silver."

"Why did you not use this before?" She took the sword and growled at me.

"Swords and knives don't scare like they used to." I said. "But if you want to try your luck and see if they had time to bring silver bullets, be my guest."

"Fine."

"Good."

I took the microwave from the shelf and unplugged it from the wall. I tore the side panel, cutting my hand which I ignored, and exposed the inner electronics. Microwaves are one of the most dangerous appliances In the home to repair or modify, something I learned the hard way, but I might be to turn its extremely high voltage to my advantage. It took me a moment, but I found and removed a the surge inhibitor along with the two back up ones. The surge inhibitor was exactly what the name implied. It was meant to prevent the microwave from overloading in the event of a massive power surge.

I rushed to the cabinet opposite the automated dishwasher. It had a lock, but whomever was in charge of doing so probably had more important things to attend to. It was filled with prepacked herbs and spices like dried rosemary and black pepper which I took to mean this cabinet served as the spice rack. There were three shelves. The top was for spices and premixed seasonings with the second was devoted to herbs and the like. The final shelve, which was above a large space that held stacks of aprons, had a dozen of spray cans. Upon closer examination I saw there were two kinds. Some were generic cheap cooking sprays like Pam and the rest were label Grill degreaser spray. I picked up the degreaser and read the ingredients.

"Whatever you are planning, do it quickly." Jagerin yanked my sword from the door before shoving it back in. "They know we're here."

I did not waste time looking up or speaking. I grabbed a half dozen of random cans and threw them into the microwave and followed it with a fistful of silverware. I closed the door and removed my belt from my pants. I wrapped it tight around the door of the microwave so it would take a bit more force to open it. I carefully picked it up and plugged it into the wall, silenly thanking my luck one was so close by, before setting down by the door. I got behind and helped Jagerin hold the refrigerator.

"Give me the sword." I said and she wordlessly handed it over.

"Now what?" She demanded as the sword disappereaed behind my neck.

"On my signal, we both head to the exit." I motioned with my head to the door behind us. "And we need to take this with us. At least till we reach the door."

"I told you. I am not running away."

"We're not running away." I snapped. "At least not for more than fifteen seconds. After that, you can pick off the stranglers and scoop up Carl."

"Really?"

"Not if you keep asking questions every step of the way!" I hissed. "Well?"

"On your signal." She nodded once.

"Hold this for a moment."

I rushed to the microwave, turned the door towards the entrance, and hit "Popcorn".

"Now!" I shouted.

I returned to my sister and we effortlessly dragged the refrigerator. The screeching sound it produced made my teeth and ears scream in agony, but I pushed it aside. We found ourselves outside. I allowed myself a quick glace around and saw we were to the right of small loading dock with an old looking railing and gate prevented those walking along the edge from falling. Directly behind us was a small set of concrete stars, perfectly devoid of snow and properly salted, which lead out to small parking lot. It seemed that whomever designed the building had chosen to build the diner first and figure out the parking situation afterward.

Then suddenly, we felt a strong force pull the refrigerator away from us.

"Well?" Jagerin hissed quietly to me.

"Wait for it." I did a quick mental count and then began counting aloud. "Four . . . three . . . two . . ."

"Anyone hear a buzzing?" called out voice.

"Forget it!" barked another. "Help us with this!"

We felt another powerful pull, but we held on tight.

BOOOOOM!

This time we felt a massive push instead of pull at the same time we felt a powerful vibration through the ground the refrigerator. The force of the explosion must have been quite powerful because it shook the building enough to loosen the icicles and sending crashing to the floor where they shattered like glass.

"Sounds quiet enough." I said calmly. "I'm parked out front. We'll scoop up Carl and be gone before the fire department arrives."

She nodded once and shoved the refrigerator back in so it crashed to the floor with a very loud bang. She drew a knife from inside her duster and climbed in without looking back at me. I climbed in and surveyed my handiwork.

I counted roughly ten in total had been inside the kitchen when my improvised bomb went off. Judging by the bloody lumps of burnt flesh and singed clothes, four were standing right next to it and the silverware shrapnel had ripped through them like tissue paper. Two, now under it, had been trying to move the refrigerator and had fared slightly better since the four had taken the brunt of the force and shrapnel, but the difference was negligible. At least they were recognizable, if you squinted and had actually known them before. The other four had been standing on the other side of kitchen either behind or by the now destroyed steel prep station. Not a single burn on them. Their deaths had been the result of debris, either shrapnel from the bomb itself or the force of explosion shooting anything not severely bolted down into the air like machine gun fire, entering their bodies and tearing their major organs to pieces.

Anyone else might feel some form of remorse, but I did not. They had attacked without warning and had tried to harm me and my sister. For that they deserved no mercy. I wasn't sure why I felt so protective of her. We had spent all of fifteen minutes together and the only thing we had in common was that we shared the same maker. This is completely and vastly different than the protective feeling I had for my brother when I had been alive. This was much more primal and took effort to put into words.

"What did do you?" she asked shocking me out of my inner thoughts.

"I made a bomb." I told her.

"I can see that. I meant how."

"Most humans are unaware how microwaves work except that it warms their food." I explained. "Without going into massive detail, there are several parts that prevent it from overloading. I just removed them and added pressurized cans which even children know not to puncture or leave them near extremely high temperature or they will explode." I motioned to the dishwasher. "A fistful of silverware for shrapnel and then just press popcorn after you seal it tight which I did with my belt."

She seemed to accept my explanation and began policing the bodies for weapons and seeing if they had any ammunition compatible with her revolver. I exited the kitchen and saw the bar hadn't burned as badly as I thought it would. Any and all fire had gone out and only scorch marks and scent of burnt wood were left. There was only body and it was the still breathing Carl who was three quarters of the way to the front door. He had left a smeared trail of blood across the floor like some sort of bleeding snail or slug. I snatched up a half empty bottle of gin and some bar towels. He caught sight of me as I came from around the bar.

"No!" He cried. "Nonononono!"

"Relax." I used my vampiric speed to reach him and offered him the bottle. "Drink this. Trust you'll need it." He just stared at me then at the bottle and back at me. "If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead."

"Th-thanks." He took the bottle and drank deeply from it.

"That's enough." I took the bottle back and soaked a towel. "Now give me your hand." He hesitated. "Or you can take your chances getting an infection and losing it."

Naturally, he held out his hand and I quickly cleaned it with the gin soaked towel. He winced here and there, but he was otherwise quiet. I bandaged his hand with a dry towel and began cleaning the wound on his ankle. Once I finished cleaning, I handed him the bottle and gratefully accepted. It was impossible not to stain my hands with his blood and it just as impossible to have a taste. Truth be told, it was a step above the stale lukewarm the bar had served me earlier, but I've had better. God only knew what kind of chemicals were in his blood. His teeth and scent screamed he was a heavy smoker, both classic tobacco and marijuana, and there were several heavier drug that could explain his unnaturally thin frame.

"Why do you bother?" Jagerin asked as she walked up to me from behind.

"I've literally owned my car for less than twenty-four hours." I said firmly. "If I wanted red leather then I would have had it installed when I bought it."

"I see." She said.

"Good." I stood up. "Because you're carrying him."

"Excuse me?"

"The bullet shattered his ankle. He can't walk on it." I explained. "Your bullet. Your bounty. Your burden."

Without a word, she slug him over her shoulder like a sack of flour. Carl had practically finished the bottle at this point so his sense of pain had been severely numbed. I wondered if that was why he had finished it so quickly or it was due to knowing that he would soon be turned over to vampire royalty to be tortured and kill. Knowing that, and having the option, I'd probably drink anything if it meant not having to dwell on it for even the briefest moment.

I exited first and saw four more Weres armed with crossbows. These were not more Hounds of Hell. Everything about they screamed military. Their clothes were casual, but armed forces casual. They wore matching perfectly pressed urban camouflage cargo pants and high calf black combat boots polished to a mirror shine. Their wore open sweatshirt over wrinkle free black polo shirts. Each of their heads sported a very thin crew cuts that were barely a step above shaved and their faces were barren of facial hair. The rest of their bodies were the optimal shape of thin and compact with the just the right amount of muscle so not to be confused for scrawny like I could be.

"Ignore them." I whispered so quietly only Jagerin could hear me. "Just walk to the black and gold car and put him in the trunk."

"As you say." She responded just as quietly.

"Just who the hell are you?" demanded whom I assumed was the leader in a southern accent.

"So much for that stereotype." I chuckled as I walked to my car and motioned to the trunk to Jagerin. "That one right there."

That was when they all aimed their crossbows at her.

"Not so fast, hon." said the leader. "Carl there is gonna be coming with us. Just bring him over here nice and slow."

Like I had told her to, she ignored them and popped the trunk.

"Actually, he'll be going with her." I paused. "Well, technically us, but you get the point."

"And just who are you?" He asked again.

"Have things really changed that much?" I casually turned my head to ask Jagerin. "I was under the impression that it was good manners to introduce oneself before asking another."

"The name's Flood." The leader growled. "First Lieutenant Flood of the United States Air Force."

"Thank you." I said. "Was that so hard?"

"You know, it ain't too wise to make a man look foolish." Flood warned.

"You don't need my help for that."

"Don't you mock me, boy!" He snapped.

"I mock." I shrugged. "I'm a mocker." I began counting on my fingers. I'm also a grinner, a lover, and a sinner. "

"Just tell me who the fuck you are before you start looking like a porcupine!"

"All you had to was ask." I held a hand out and smiled. "Hello, I'm the Ductor."

Word must travel fast I realized. The moment I said "Ductor" their eyes went wide for a moment before they cursed under their breath and looked to Flood for orders. While I had no desire to be shot again in the same night, better me than my sister. Not only did I have my chain mail duster on, my discardia was still a well known secret.

"Please, point a gun at me if it helps you relax." I said smugly. "you're only human."

They seem to agree and I was suddenly in the cross hairs of four crossbows.

"You're shittin' me." Flood seemed unwilling to risk it being possible. "This is the famous Ductor that has the Weres north of Virginia running with their tails between their legs?" He gave me quick once over. "I ain't impressed."

"Then you haven't seen me blindfolded and juggle bowling balls while drinking a glass of water." I scoffed. "Not surprisingly, the water is the hard part."

"Uh, sir?" one of Flood's men leaned over and whispered. "Ain't no one ever said exactly what the Ductor looks like. All anyone can seem to agree on is that he's probably some kind of roman general. People didn't live so long back then."

"He is correct." I told him. "It involved a fair amount long speeches and ceremonies, but you were considered an adult at fourteen or so. The Liberalia they called it" I paused as if I remembered something. "For the boys at least. My people weren't exactly known for their views on equal rights."

"That still don't prove you are the Ductor!" Flood snapped and most likely angry I had eavesdropped. "No one knows that he looks like."

"Fair enough." I took off my coat and held it out to Jagerin. "Hold this for a moment, would you?"

She looked puzzled, but took the coat in her hands. I winked and walked to right up to Flood and his men. Well, I kept five feet away to avoid agating any itch trigger fingers. Time for the ultimate test of my new intimidation strategy.

"Can you see me clearly?" I asked.

"Yeah." Flood answered.

"Then can you tell me what this is?" I turned to left and showed them my mark of the legion. "As a solider, you should know."

"It's a tattoo. Big deal. I got a few too." Flood examined it critically. "Oh!"

"Good." I nodded when the shoe dropped and turned to offer my left arm. "This is should be easier."

"Fuck." He said simply. "He ain't lying."

"Ya sure, sir?" asked one of the men.

"That tattoo on his right used to be called the mark of legion." Flood explained. "The nuns in Sunday school drilled latin into our heads as kids and those lettesr on top mean the "Tenth Legion". Since vamps can't get tattoo after they've been turned so he got his when he was alive back when he was fighting fer Augustus.

"Smart man." I crossed my arms.

"This don't concern you none, Ductor." Floor said doing a good job of hiding the fear in voice, but could not hide it in his rapid heartbeat. "This is between Carl and the rest of his pack. Strictly Were business."

"No it isn't." I said firmly. "The queen of Louisiana placed a bounty on Carl's head. I don't involve myself in politics, but your men made it personal."

"You son of a bitch!" snapped one of them. "What did you do with them?"

"They're either dead or dying." I said coldly. "Want to join them?"

"Say that again." He said low and took careful aim at my left pectoral. "I dare you."

"Please," I sneered. "Did you honestly think you were gonna come in with your little crossbows and suedo para military training and somehow end more twenty-five hundred years of survival?"

"Did you say twenty-five hundred?" He asked clearly having second thoughts.

"Well, I'm counting my maker and he fought at Thermopylae beside Leonidas himself. He's the reason for this!" I turned slightly to display my lambda. "His own personal crest that the locals adopted as their own and the same one your armed forces use to distinguish rank."

"We didn't know you were in there." Flood said. "I assure you that if we did — "

"But my sister was." I stared dagger at him

"Oh shit." Flood swallowed hard.

"So here's the thing. I'm not entirely sure what stories your kind have been spreading about my accomplishments and feats, but what you really need is some context. For the most part, through my entire existence, until this very minute, my default setting has been what humans say now as "half-assed" But that was before I realized my maker graced me with a sibling. A sibling you threatened to harm." I growled and paused to let my words to sink in. "Now imagine a giant hand has turned my dial from half-assed to the setting that left the dictator running what was once my former home corpse hung like a piece of meat, a chancellor who fancied himself a god dead and his body set abalaze, and two major Japanese cities smoking craters."

"Alright, Ductor." Flood asked. "What do you want?"

"For starters, those out of my face." I said flatly.

Flood held up a hand and they lowered their crossbows

"Second, I want you and any others you brought with you out of my city by sunrise."

"I'll order a full retreat."

"No."

"No?"

"I want you to tell your men "run away." Those words. "Run away." I want you to be famous for those exact words. I want it so when you become a Colonel, people to call you Colonel Runaway. I want children laughing outside your door because they've found the house of Colonel Runaway." I barred my teeth and fought to the urge to indulge in my more violent tendencies."And when people come to you and ask if trying to get to me through those close to me, is in any way a good idea, I want you to tell them your name."

"Okay." He sighed and I could he was fighting the urge to tell me to go fuck myself. "Anything else?"

"Stay out of the city." I finished. "Feel free to tend to your wounded and I'd hurry if you want to avoid answering questions from the police and fire department.

I stood still and watched as they quickly they rushed into the Patient Gentleman. I waited a moment and climbed into the driver's seat of my Trans Am. Jagerin wordlessly climbed into the passenger's seat with my coat and eyed my with new found curiosity.

"Are you truly the Doctor?" She asked.

"Yes." I started the car and backed out of the spot. "And it is pronounced Duke-tar."

"My apologies." She inclined her head. "I am unfamiliar with Latin."

"Don't stress yourself." I assured as I pulled into the street. "My real name is Dominick. Is Jagerin your name as well or is it something else entirely?"

"Sarah." She said. "Few know me as Sarah Von Waltz."

"Von Waltz?" I repeated. "Explains the German nickname."

"Why did you lie to Flood and the others?" Sarah asked. "Why not tell them the truth?"

"The truth?"

"That you sired my maker, Wilhelmina Wallace." Sarah said. "Why deceive them that she sired us both?"

"So you can tell we share blood?" I asked, ignoring the use of HER name. "I felt something when you entered and it took me a moment to figure out what it meant."

"Yes. I felt a strong pull as I drew close to the diner, but I did not know what it meant. Now I know we share blood."

"That we do." I agreed. "But I did not sire your maker. I haven't sired any progeny."

"You haven't?"

"It wouldn't be wise." I said as I waited for a light. "I'm not as old as I claimed to be. I know it is strictly against our rules, given the circumstances I think you'd agree it was worth the break in manners."

"How exactly old are you?" I could feel her eyes narrow at me.

"Just under three years." I said nonchalantly

"What?!" She shrieked. "Then you are not the Ductor!"

"Actually, I am." I explained. "My age may be a lie, but everything else you've heard — the stories about turning the tables on a pack, escaping capture of the survivors, and aiding the sheriff of the city in his dispute with a large group of united packs — is true. The Weres themselves came up with the name, I just used it to my advantage."

Sarah was silent for a full minute. In that minute, I had to pull over for several police cruisers and half dozen of ambulances and fire trucks heading in the opposite direction towards the Patient Gentleman. I looked over and saw she was processing everything I had said.

"If all this is true, which is ludicrous." Sarah looked like was reevaluating me. "Then you did not sire Wilhelmina."

"No." I said firmly and hid any trace of emotion. "She sired me."

"Then our shared blood . . ." She looked as if she was torn between surprised and happy. "We . . . are . . . siblings?"

"Yes."

"Wilhelmina?" She asked, desperate for answer. "Where is she?!"

"I don't know." I said gently. "I haven't seen her in a over year."

"I don't understand."

"I'll explain on the way." I pulled back onto the street, ignoring the honking of a hurried cab driver. "It's a bit of drive."

"Where are we going?"

"Lynbrook." I told her. "This night isn't over by a long shot and something tells me I'm going to need my big sister."

A/N - For those curious how Dominick passes himself as an ancient Roman. Anyone with enough time can research the culture, but it take a bit more than that if you really want to sell it. It's all in the pronunciation.

(Lou - key - us) (Fab - E- us) (Polk - er)*

(Leg - E - O)**

(Deck - M)**

(E-quest-tree-us)***

(P - uh) (Fee - Del - Us) (Domin - Nee - Tin - Anna)****

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