Dead & Living

Pros & Cons

If you had informed me that in the summer following my twenty-first birthday that I would spend it locked in a spacious apartment in Soho, I would have called it an excellent beginning for a screenplay. If you had continued to explain that I would spend that year surrounded by all the luxuries i went without, namely high definition television, endless records and new record player, and all the graphic novels I could read, I would have laughed at how well you knew me. Finally, if you finished with informing me that I would spend every night in bed with a fiery french redhead, I would have just smiled and said it the icing on the proverbal cake.

And yet . . .

That is exactly how I spent the next year of my life.

Excuse me, how I spent the my first year as a newly turned vampire.

I quickly fell into a routine. I would rise from my coffin once the sun had set. Wilhelmina and the others would leave to hunt while I stayed behind. As a new vampire, I could not control my blood lust. Wilhelmina thought it strange that I did not drain a random bystander when I first arose. In fact, I should have found it impossible to even to retract my fangs once I caught the scent of human. Therefor I was to wait until Wilhelmina returned with a human to drain, like a mother bird with her chicks.

Wilhelmina called me frivilous for doing so, but she obliged when I requested she bring criminals for me to drain. She claimed it was intelligent of me to ask. No one but the police would come looking for murders and rapists if they disappeared without a trace, and they would only assume they had fled to another location. That was advantageous to me since new vampires required to feed almost daily for the first year and I would requires less and less blood as the years passed.

Despite the fact that a good portion of my meals would have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in some case, I was still uncomfortable with ending their lives. It seemed that my humanity was stubbornly refusing to fade. I had Wilhelmina teach me how to glamor, one of the many tools at a vampire's arsenal, so I could have my victims confess to their crime and not drain an innocent person. While Wilhelmina had agreed to do so, I had the nagging thought it did not matter to her one way or the other like it had with me. I suppose it would have mattered to me if I had been around since the late thirteenth century. Maybe in few centuries it wouldn't.

Glamoring humans was the not the only thing I learned from Wilhelmina .

While Wilhelmina may seem like a strange name to most, it was quite common when she was born 1280. It is simply the female equivalent of William. Now if you were to take the name William and attached her surname, Wallace, it would quite easy to know that she had been sister to the one and only William Wallace. I also learned why there was such a depute among historians whether or not the Wallace Sword that was on display in National Wallace Monument in Stirling was the genuine article. It was because the true Wallace sword hung in Wilhelmina's room across from his favorite war hammer.

Wilhelmina explained that she wished nothing more to aid her brother in freeing themselves from English rule, but could not fight as an eighteen year old woman. To prove herself, she had taken upon herself to protect William from countless assassination attempts as he rebelled and fought against the English. She succeeded without a single person, friend or foe, discovering her from 1297 to 1305.

Because she did not travel with William, she could not prevent his capture and eventual execution. She followed as her brother was transported to London, lodged in the house of William de Leyre, then taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and for atrocities against civilians in war. They night before his execution, Wilhelmina sat in a local tavern as she struggled to concoct a plan to not only infiltrate where he brother was being held, but free him.

A drifter, only known as Wymark, overheard Wilhelmina offering herself in return for the service of the local mercenaries. He quickly dispatched the mercenaries that had grown angry when Wilhelmina refused to payment upfront and tried by force. She knew by this man's immense strength and speed, he was not altogether human. She had begged and pleaded with the man to grant her the same power and he agreed, if she would share his bed for the night. She knew now that Wymark had been a vampire. He had sex with her, drained her, and turned her. But Wymark had failed to mention that she would lay dead for three days before she arose. Exactly two days and one night far too long.

By the time she had arose as Wymark's progeny, William had been already been taken to the Tower of London. He was then stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was then castrated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head was placed on a pike atop London Bridge.

With her brother dead and unable to return to her family, as all vampires, she traveled with Wymark to France where she stayed with him for a few decades as his lover. They eventually, as most makers and progeny do, went their separate ways and she made the journey to the New World in 1592, nearly a century after Columbus's discovery. She then spent the next couple of centuries wandering from settlement to settlement all over the newly discovered continent. In that time she witnessed every single conflict, both minor and major, that occurred on American soil. The French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, the American War of Independence in 1776, the War of 1812, and The Civil War during the 1860's. She soon realized how quickly New York City had begun to expand and decided to settle there.

Where there were massive cities like New York, there would be thousands upon thousands of humans to fed on. It would be highly unlikely that one would notice the the disappearance of a few hundred over the centuries. And if one were to notice and investigate, they too would disappear. During her tenure in the soon to be famous city, she discovered she was not the only one of her kind to see the city as giant oyster simply aching to be opened.

It was during the American Industrial Revolution that she chanced upon Adrian as he fed from the local sailors in 1867.

Adrian had been made during the Golden of Piracy in 1726. He had entered the service of the British Royal Navy at the age of seventeen and rose through the the ranks quite quickly. At age thirty, Adrian had been given command of his own small fleet and tasked with stomping out the rising pirating raids in the Caribbean. The rise of piracy had been a result of the Anglo-American sailors and privateers left unemployed by the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.

It was when one of scouts in the crow's nest, just as the sun had begun to set, had spotted a ship flying the colors of the Empire. Adrian and twelve of his crew, what had remained after a battle against a large band of ruthless of french pirates, boarded the ship and found it to be deserted. They then turned thier search below decks and made the foolish mistake to separate. When he heard the wails of terror and agony, Adrian ran to find his comrades and found himself face to face with sixteen year old boy with blood dripping from his mouth. While I do not know the name of the boy, it was elementary to know that boy had been a vampire and turned the stoic navy commander.

They spent some time together before parting ways, in what would become Miami, in 1802. On a whim, Adrian found himself traveling slowly north as he sampled the local sailors from the various ports on the eastern coast of country. Like Wilhelmina, Adrian had seen the potential and availability of human blood and settled near one of the ports that where the Brooklyn Bridge would be completed in 1883.

Speaking of Brooklyn, that is where Doyle made his home when he came to America during the first world war in 1916.

He had wished to avoid being drafted to fight. While he often wished to travel the rest of Europe, have gotten into the knickers of every woman from Dublin to Waringsford as he like to put it, but it was not worth laying in a muddy ditch while being shot at. He took the local pubs and picked up his life exactly where he had left it in Dublin. He like to boast that during the last two years of the war, he had every woman from Brooklyn to Trenton. Like many before him, his charming good looks combined with his Irish brogue proved to be his undoing.

He caught the eye of a seemingly innocent pale blonde girl just old enough to catch his eye. She pretended to be taken in by his charms and took him to her bed for the night. That innocent blond girl, Maryanne, had been a vampire since 1890 and turned the cocky Doyle after, as Doyle put it, giving the best Aussie kiss he had ever had. Maryanne eventually grew tired of him and left for Chicago in 1932. Rather than travel, Doyle chose to remain in New York City as he saw countless immigrants flooding to Coney Island as the second world war was beginning to brew in Europe.

With the exception of myself, Regina was by far the youngest of our nest.

Regina had lived as an average suburban housewife during the Civil Rights Movement somewhere in middle America in the 1960's. She had married her high school boyfriend and had a son with him. For five years she lived a normal life for the time. Her husband brought food to the table as he maintained the household and cared for her son. But she had a terrible secret, well terrible for the time at least. While her friends often had affairs while their husbands were away, often boasting at their boldness, they never once bedded a man of color. Not only did Regina do so, but she also took women to her bed. Such a thing seems trivial and even common now, but then it was quite against the status quo.

She was eventually discovered and made a public outcast in her little community. So much so, that when she returned from grocery shopping one night, a group of drunk bigoted college freshman thought it amusing to strike her with their car. As she lay there, her sweet succulent blood wasting on the ground, a young man appeared and carried her away. She thought that one of the freshman had come realize his mistake and was rushing her to a doctor. But known to her at the time, Regina's injuries were to far severe for the medical marvels of the time to save her. Thought some would argue against it, she was fortunate that the young man had been hunting in the local park adjacent to where Regina had been struck and witnessed everything.

Taken pity on her, he turned her and helped her take revenge on all of those who shunned and ridiculed her for blasphemous ways. She did spare her husband and child. Her husband had come to accept her mistake and agreed to put it behind them for the sake of their son when she had chosen that night to surprise him with his favorite roast for dinner. And her son was simply too young to form an opinion on the matter. She continued following her son as he grew and lived his life, ignoring her maker's advice against it. She followed him all the way to New York City until he died of an aneurism as he worked the day shift in a pizzeria.

And of course you know my story.

I am familiar with Stockholm syndrome and I suppose it could be argued that is what I developed towards Wilhelmina. She had saved me in way. No longer did I have waste the best years of my life working my fingers to the bone so my father could drink away the fruits of my labor. She liberated me from all the ailments I had developed as a small a child, namely seasonal allergies and lactose intolerance.

She had granted me what humans had yearned for centuries, eternal youth. I would no longer have to take care to exercise and made sure I received all the necessary nutrients and vitamins needed for the human body to thrive. I would remain as I had been when she had turned me. A young, if somewhat scrawny, twenty one year old boy with an affinity for old music and comic books.

I did not love Wilhelmina, but I did grow attached to her over time. I am still not entirely clear what I felt towards her. As her progeny I was obligated to carry out her orders, even I found them distasteful. It was this power over me that prevented me from leaving the apartment while she and the rest hunted. I oddly found myself looking forward to her return like an eager puppy greeting his master. And like a puppy I associated her return with possibility of food. I'm sure that if I had tail, it would have wagged. Especially when she summoned me from my room to hers whenever she felt hungry for more than blood. A hunger that I was all to happy to satisfy.

It was one of those nights that she received a phone call from an old friend.

We laid in bed together, her hand drifting down to my groin and fondly stroking as she licked the blood from the corners of my mouth. She had brought a man who had confessed to carrying out many perverted acts with children before slowly ending their lives with his belt around their soft necks. He had been tried and acquitted by the courts since he had taken care to dispose of any and all evidence, but freely admitted and even sounded blissful when he confessed while I glamored him. I had never been one to appoint myself to judge, jury, and executioner, but I had to eat and I doubted he would be missed.

As I had learned during my first night, blood and sex were tightly wound together in the vampire life system. While I did not feel any desire for the pedophile, Wilhelmina was more than eager to curb the desire I felt.

She whisper gently in my ear, her hand continuing to stroke. "Je suis sûr que vous n'avez jamais cru cela possible alors que vous étiez en vie, hein?"

I was to busy to answer her as her tongue went from my cheek to behind my ear, her pace beginning to quicken, and a moan of pleasure resonated from deep behind my throat. I felt my fangs extend fully as they did whenever I was hungry, whether it was for blood or something more, and I heard Wilhelmina's own with a slight shnick,

Then I heard the strangest sound

I heard a powerful and thunderous ringing.

"Merde" Wilhelmina hissed and reached over my bare chest for the phone that took the clock radio's place after I had destroyed it.. "Ceci est dû mieux d'être bon!"

I heard a garbled response and Wilhelmina sat up suddenly. "Ryuu-sama?"

"Ryuu-sama?" I asked.

Wilhelmina hissed for me to be silent.

If there is a single human thing to Wilhelmina, it is she absolutely abhors when someone is tries to speak with her while she is on the phone.

"Hai, it has been a long time." She paused to listen. "Hai, I am still in the city, but in Soho now." Another pause. "Tomorrow night?" She glanced at me. "Hai, I can be there ." A final pause. "My entire nest? As you wish."

"Who was that?" I asked once she ended the call.

"An old friend." She answered, looking concerned. "We met when he left China after the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the century."

"Is something wrong?"

"He requires my presence, our presence."

"All of us? Adrian, Doyle, and Regina?"

"The entire nest." She asked. "Did you retain any formal clothing?"

"You tore my only dress shirt when you turned me." I smirked at her. "I haven't really needed clothes for months now."

"The night is young, but I must make preparations." Wilhelmina glanced at the clock, but realized it was no longer where it had been. "I assume you disposed of your bank card?"

I nodded, it had been necessary. After all, a dead person didn't need to withdraw money from an ATM. "The bank would have given the little money I had to my family when you faked my death."

She rushed to a dresser, giving me the full view and the urge to take her right there. She tossed me a small roll of cash. "I want you to find yourself some presentable clothing."

"You just keep rolls of cash laying around?" I unrolled the roll and counted the bills. It was a thick roll, but all of bills were singles. "This is almost a hundred dollars."

"Is that not enough?" She asked. "Clothing couldn't have risen that much in price."

"When was the last time you went shopping for clothes?" She was certainly around for the invention of shopping malls, but that didn't mean she enjoyed shopping like many human girl who were around her age when she was turned which was twenty-five or so. "Was Macy's still Macy's or was it R. H. Macy & Co?"

"1929." she answered, ignoring my teasing. "I normally had Adrian or Doyle buy clothes for me. Lately, Regina has been taking care of that task. We share similar taste."

"Well, I'm gonna need a lot more than a hundred dollars." I told her. "Especially if you want me to look good for this Ryuu."

"Very well, go and shower. When you are finished I should have the cash ready." Still beautifully naked, which I had no intention of reminding her, she went to the phone and dialed a number. "Bonjour, ceci est Wilhelmina Wallace. Je souhaite louer une voiture pour demain soir."

"Wait," i said. "You're actually letting me leave the apartment?"

Wilhelmina hissed at me again, her fangs extending fully.

Needlessly to say, I rushed to the shower.

I ran the water hot like I had when I was alive and stepped in. While I never studied or practiced meditation, hot showers were the closest I came to doing so. There was something oddly relaxing to stand motionless as the hot water rained gently on my body, soothing my tense body and allowing me time to think. This was, of course, when I was alive, but the foundation was still the same.

I found myself wondering where Christine was at this hour. No doubt asleep in her bed or possibly at college party with countless drunk idiots trying to get her to sleep with them. Perhaps she was simply completing an assignment for a class for her second year of college. There was always the chance she had been chosen for that cardiac internship she had been hoping for was currently familiarizing herself with the human heart. I recall that she expressed the desire to be a heart surgeon as her grandfather had been given a heart that had been infected with HIV.

She did not wish for someone else to suffer the mistake that had claimed his life and strove to do just that. While devoted myself to the culinary arts, she dove into the world of cardiology and hematology. We often joked that we could make each other fortunes upon fortunes. I would fed them huge amount of artery clogging food so they would need some kind of surgery. Christine would then perform the surgery and take them to my restaurant to celebrate the success. Then the process started all over again.

I was torn from my fond memories when I felt a pair of soft hands. One was gently washing my back with a cloth while another reached around my waist and drifting towards my groin. A gasp escaped from my lips and my fangs extended as the hand began stroking me ever so gently. Then I felt someone nuzzling my neck. I assumed Wilhelmina had finished her preparations and wanted to continue what she started when we were interrupted by Ryuu. Not wanting to discourage her, I tilted my head back to kiss and chew her neck.

"Oh how the ladies must have loved you." a voice whispered in my ear.

It was not Wilhelmina.

I opened my eyes see Regina, beautifully naked, looming over me and giggling at my surprised expression, "Expecting someone else?"

Like myself, Regina's fangs were fully out and I knew she was not hungry for my blood, not since Wilhelmina had turned me. "Regina . . ."

"Hmm?" Her hand continued stroking as she began to chew on my ear.

"Wilhelmina — "

"Oh she won't mind." Regina purred. "Though I can see why she might."

"But — "

"Relax, honey." She kissed behind my ear. "Vampires practically invented open relationships."

Then the shower curtain flew open.

Regina and both turned to see an expressionless Wilhelmina.

I swore at the moment, if it was still beating, my heart would have stopped.

"Hey, Wilhelmina." Regina didn't seem concerned. In fact, her hand never stopped its slow rhythm. "Hope you don't mind. I just had to have a taste. You can join us. I'm sure he won't mind."

Wilhelmina's fangs slid out part way as if she was tempted, but said. "Another time. I need you to accompany him to Grégoire's."

"What's the occasion?" Regina's hand stopped but did not release me.

"Ryuu has summoned us." Wilhelmina said. "He specifically asked for our entire nest."

"And you want me to babysit while he's fitted." Regina stepped out of the shower and began walking to her room. "Alright. Give me a minute to dry off and get dressed."

Wilhelmina shut the flow of hot water. "You are clean enough."

I quickly dried and donned some of my old clothing. I wore a black T-shirt with the classic yellow Batman symbol on the chest, a pair of worn blue jeans that were not too faded, and my favorite pair of vintage red sneakers. I impatiently waited by the door as Regina took her sweet time choosing an outfit and applying make up. As I waited, Wilhelmina explained to Doyle and Adrian had summoned us.

"Hold on," said Doyle. "I git the bit about summoning ya, but why us?"

"It is most unusual." Adrian agreed. "We are not in his area."

"He assured that Matthew has been notified and did not oppose."

"What do you mean by not in his area?" I asked.

"Ryuu is the sheriff of Area Three." Adrian explained. "We currently reside in Area Two which is under Matthew's control."

"You lost me." I said, looking to Wilhelmina for an explanation.

"To keep our kind from discovery," Wilhelmina began. "Vampires have divided the countries and provinces around the world. In the case of the United States, each state is composed of areas in which a single vampire, often very old, controls. It his duty to make sure that vampires are not discovered by humans and wields immense power over those vampire that reside in his area."

"And I assume they all report to — "

"Ready!" Regina appeared in a flash, as was her habit.

She wore a tight fitting white tank top under an old looking gray sweatshirt. Similar to mine, her jeans were worn and tattered with holes, but that was the simply the design. On her feet, were expensive looking basketball shoes. Thought I had never been one to follow sports, then or now, I knew they were basketball shoes due to having seen advertisements on television and they had the words Air Jordans printed on the side. Her make up was simple as was her hair, tied back in a plain ponytail. Even to this day, I find it strange how Regina can turn even rags into stylish clothing for royalty.

Wilhelmina handed me another roll of cash. "Once you have finished, give him this. He is one of us so there will be no need to guard your tongue."

I pocketed the cash. "Alright, but — "

"I shall finish explaining once you return." Wilhelmina promised.

With Regina, I entered the city for the first time since I first arose a year before. It was exactly as I remembered. Cars horns honked and their drivers shouted obscenities in a jumble of languages, but they were far too loud for my ears. The fragrances in the air were stronger than I could recall, more pungent and complex. I could recoiled at the scent of smog and rotting garbage that threatened to make me gag. The night was at the perfect level of illumination for my eyes, though the endless ocean of faux rainbow light I found too luminous and found myself turning away from them.

"It takes some getting used to." Regina assured me. "Come on, Barnabé hates waiting."

We passed a newspaper stand and I snatched one while the old man was occupied giving directions to a couple who sounded german by thier accents. I glanced at the headline and saw that Iraq had invade Kuwait and it appeared the United States rallying the troops for a second gulf war.

Part of me felt strange.

Assuming nothing would befell me before my time hen I was human, my time being roughly eighty or so, it stood to reason that I would live through a fair amount of historical events had not Wilhelmina brought me over. I would have been alive when the Hubble Telescope launched into space eariler this year in April and would be as well when the World Wide Web was publicly debuted as an Internet service. I had been born the very day the United States launched Apollo 11 into space and the same year as Woodstock. I had grown up during the Vietnam War and had been present for five presidencies from Lyndon B. Johnson to the current George H. W. Bush and even then he would be for only another two years.

Vampires as old as Adrian and Wilhelmina had lived through so many historical event that they hardly registered to them anymore. I suppose the strange feeling was me remarking on how eventually people would see the current events I was present for like I saw the American revolution or the Civil War, just dates that I never gave much thought outside of the classroom.

As we walked, to distract myself, I asked. "What did you mean back in the shower about open relationships?"

"Vampires don't have those kind of boundaries." Regina explained. "Live long enough and you'll find sex with the same person eventually gets stale, whether its a year or a century. Since we're immortal, being unfaithful isn't exactly a hot issue like it is with humans."

"I guess I didn't consider that." I admitted. "Eternity sleeping with beautiful women . . . that's something to think about."

"And men."

"Maybe for you."

"Give it a century or two. After a while you're gonna start to get curious."

"While I'm willing to admit a guy can look nice, sexy even, that's as far as I'm willing to go."

"If you say so."

"I do say so."

"Whatever."

"I mean it."

"I'm sure you do."

I refrained from speaking the rest the way to a small tailor shop on the corner of Thirty-eight and Eight, the Garment District of the city. It looked to be a simple men's suit shop with mannequins dressed in expensive silk suits in various colors and designs. The name Grégoire's was written in elegant white script over a black background surrounded my dim lights to illuminate the sign itself. We entered an instantly I knew this was not for my lower middle class blood, flowing or not. The floor was covered with high grade wool carpeting with the most beautiful designs of Renaissance Italy.

There was the faintest hint of jasmine and cinnamon in the air, so faint I almost failed to notice even with my heightened sense of smell. An I could hear a beautiful voice crooning and singing in what seemed like an older dialect of Italian. Such an older dialect, I caught the occasional Latin verb or word among the sensual lamenting. And, of course, countless suits of varying colors, designs, and material hung in racks along both walls.

A short man, no more than five feet tall, emerged from behind a mannequin. His head lacked hair of any kind, it practically shined as if he had finished polishing his pale white head, though he had a fine kept wire thin mustache and beard. He wore a pair of small circular spectacles over his small brown eyes and tape measure around his collar. His white cotton shirt smelled freshly washed and pressed under an elgant black vest whose buttons sparkled like stars when they caught the light. His black leather shoes were freshly polished and matched his belt that looped through a pair of light brown trousers.

The man bowed dramatically, " Bonsoir and Benvenuti. I am Barnabé Allard. How may I serve you?"

"Always the actor," Regina seemed pleasantly amused. "Eh, Barnabé?"

"Regina Maison." Barnabé's accent was strange to me as he spoke, as if it was a mixture of french and Italian. "It has been many a year, no?"

"Only five." Regina said.

"And who is this young signore?" Barnabé examined me curiously. "I must say, mon cher, you certainly know my tastes."

"My eyes are up here." I said when I noticed his gazed a drifted south somewhat.

Barnabé winked slyly. "I know."

Regina chuckled. "You're wasting your time, Barnabé. Ask him again in a century or two."

"C'est la vie" Barnabé smiled wickedly, his fangs slightly extended. "I can wait."

"He needs a suit." Regina motioned to me. "A good one. The sheriff of area three has summoned us."

Barnabé's flicked to the many hanging suits on the walls, "I assume he failed to call too far ahead."

"Tomorrow night." I said.

"Non mi sorprende."

Barnabé lead us to the back of the shop where a small platform stood in front of three mirrors. I gazed around and saw an various racks of different color materials as well as an old sew machine and countless boxes of what I assumed to be more material a tailor would use to craft fine clothing. Barnabé had me remove all my clothing, though I thought it was entirely for his benefit, including my underwear. He then began taking measurements, saving my inseam for last.

"Has anyone ever told you that resemble a young vampire Humphrey Bogart?" Barnabé asked he scrawled numbers on a pad. "I'd say all you were missing was a lit cigarette."

"Now that you mention it . . . " Regina eyed me curiously. "I can see it."

"Now that giocatore had excellent taste." Barnabé smiled fondly.

"You knew Humphrey Bogart?" I asked, still becoming accustomed to vampire's longevity. "The founder of the original Ratpack?"

"I was his personal tailor when I was still human." Barnabé siad proudly. "He spoke so highly of me that I made suits for every one of his friends."

"A vampire tailor?"

"No, no, no, no." Barnabé waved his hand. "I was visiting France and Italy, searching for new designs and see the latest fashions, when I was made. I only returned to America ten years ago and opened this shop, named after my maker, so I could continue my craft."

"How do you run the shop during the day?"

"I've hired some humans to tend to the shop while I rest." Barnabé scratched his chin, deep in thought. "Is there any particular style or color you desire?"

"Leave that to me." Regina held up a section of material. "I was thinking this."

"Don't I get a say?" I asked. "I'm the one wearing it."

"Considering Wilhelmina is borrowing the money from me," Regina said. "No."

Barnabé examined the material. "Midnight black with a slight pinstripe. I have just the design in mind."

I quickly dressed and sat on the platform as Barnabé and sewed at blinding speed. I knew that if Barnabé had not been a vampire and gifted with a vampire amazing speed and reflexes, I might have had to settle for a suit that hung in the main store rather than the bespoke that no doubt I would have spent the next decade paying if I was living my human life.

Regina was amusing herself trying various kinds of hats when I asked. "Who is Ryuu?"

"The sheriff of area three." Regina twirled in front of the mirrors. "He lives in Freeport."

"No. I mean, why does he need us?" I asked.

"I'm not sure." Regina looked concerned for a moment. "A vampire as old as him doesn't usually ask for help."

"How old?"

"He used to be a samurai." Regina paused to remember. "He was made some time before the Satsuma Rebellion. He still carries around his old sword so does his progeny."

"Satsuma Rebellion." I recalled researching the topic at some point. "It was 1877, I think."

"When we meet him, keep your mouth shut." Regina warned. "Unless he asks you to speak. When you do, make sure you don't disrepect him. He'll cut off your head if you so much as look at him wrong."

"I'll try to remember that."

Barnabé returned with a full suit hanging from a wire hanger. "Voila!"

Judging from the design and the hat, I saw that Barnabé and Regina had agreed on a more vintage design, Ratpack vintage. The black suit jacket had beautifully tapered sides and minimal shoulder, a sign of excellent tailoring, with very narrow lapels only about an inch wide and white silk handkerchief in the breast pocket.

Barnabé had also fashioned a vest from the same material he used to fashion the jacket and trousers. Barnabé had been kind enough to select a white collard shirt and a pair of polished black leather shoes. I quickly donned the new clothes and admired myself in the mirror. Regina selected a tie and belt that matched the suit's dark material.

"As I said," Barnabé walked around to admire his work. "All you're missing is the cigarette."

Regina placed the linen hat on my head, "And this."

Somehow the hat made me realize that Barnabé had correct and I could not resist a smile. "Barnabé, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"That didn't take long." Regina smiled.

I handed the roll of money that Wilhelmina had given me to give to Barnabé, who said. "He said friendship, but I do hope it blossoms into something more, no?"

Much to Regina's protest, I decided to wear the suit out as we walked back to Soho. I never had thought myself as handsome, my lack of girlfriends was quite evident of that, but I noticed that I drew the eye of people strolling by. I assumed it was Regina that been drawing their attention, it is difficult to ignore her at just over seven feet tall and beautiful, but I noted how the women, and the occasional man, smiled shyly at me and my vampire hearing caught they hushed whispers. I was severely tempted to acutely strike up a conversation with one of them, but I stopped myself.

If by some miracle I could find the right words and not stutter nervously like one with a mental defect, I could not very well take any of them out. I could not eat, so dinner was out of the question. I could not drink, other than blood and my short time as a bar tender taught a Bloody Mary was simply a misnomer to vampires. I most certainly could not have sex with them. Granted I could have sex, but that would have surely resulted in their deaths as I couldn't bring myself to stop once I began to feed. For a human, a simple solution would be not to fed at all, but that is almost impossible for a new vampire unable to control his instincts. In fact feeding and sex are so tightly wound together, it was difficult for vampires in general not to bite a human during sex.

My high spirit came down to earth like a meteor and slipped my hands into my trouser pockets, a human habit I retained. To my surprise, I felt two metal objects in either pocket. I continue walking as I produced an aluminum case roughly the size of a wallet and a silver cigarette lighter, not authentic silver as it would have burned my hand. I opened the case and discovered it was a cigarette case with each half holding ten cigarettes with a small metal clip to prevent them from falling out.

Regina cocked her head when she saw the case, "I guess Barnabé really likes you."

"Can we . . ." I held up the items. "Or is it like food and water?"

"We can, but you're not going to feel the way humans do when they smoke." Regina explained. "We don't need to breath after all."

I shrugged as I removed a cigarette and lit it with the lighter, "Not like I have to worry about cancer." I noticed the oddly pleasing scent and taste of tobacco as I slid the case and lighter into my inside jacket pocket. "The smell isn't bothering you is it?"

"Kinda reminds me when I human." Regina chuckled, "Everyone smoked back then."

I puffed like I had seen my father do for years. I could still "breath", but none of the air in my lungs would used. Since it was not essential and my medulla oblongata, control center for the heart and lungs, was dead I had to think for a moment. It was like trying to sing along to a song that you had not heard in a decade. You remembered, but parts were missing.

I tossed the butt into the street as Regina paused in front of a bar, The Cherry Pit. I am certain that even without my heightened sense of hearing, I would have found the booming deafening noise, that somehow passed for music in clubs, intolerable. But Regina didn't seem perturbed in the slightest. In fact she only seemed unsure whether she should enter or not.

"I'm feeling a little peckish." She looked at me curiously. "You?"

While I did feel famished, I wanted no part in Regina's plan. "No."

She gave me look. "Well, I do." She motioned to the alley across the street. "Wait for me there."

"But — " I began to protest.

Regina became a blur as she entered the club and I stood there as the door clicked shut behind her. I knew Regina was planning on finding a random person, usually a young girl as was her preference, to lure them to the alley where she would drain them and mostly likely killing her victim. As playful and cheerful Regina could appear and act, it was difficult for me to remember she had absolutely no qualms about draining what ever human that caught her fancy and stuffing their body into a dumpster or down a manhole into the sewers. In fact, I seemed to be the odd man out, excuse me, the odd vampire out.

I did not share my nest mate's view that humans were cattle to me now. Pathetic creatures to eat and fuck, as Doyle like to put it, at my leisure and whim. But, I assume to due my age, I was the only one that seemed to remember that each and every vampire that shared that view had, at one point or another, had been cattle.

I lit another cigarette and continued on my way to the apartment. Simply because I could not stop Regina did not mean I had to bear witness. I also did not trust myself around blood. Granted I could control my instincts much more efficiently than when I had first arisen, but I would be severely tempted once Regina sunk her fangs into the poor human's neck and fill the air with the scent of lusciously decadent blood. There was also the chance, however slim, that Regina would only drink a small amount and allow the unfortunate soul to live once she had glamored him or her.

I entered the apartment to find Adrian with hit feet propped on the coffee table, he only did this when Regina was not home as she could be quite annoyed whenever someone took such liberties, reading an old comic book of mine. When I first started living in the apartment, excuse me became part of the nest, Adrian had questioned me about my collection. I was surprised that he had never read one in all his time, even during their popularity during the second world war, and was quite fascinated with them. So much so that I allowed him permission to help himself to my collection under the condition he took care not to damage them and agreed to purchase them for me since Wilhelmina had forbade me from leaving the apartment.

I sat in an armchair across from him and noticed he had switched from Superman's adventures to the origin of Batman, "Got bored?"

He flipped a page not bothering to look me in the eye. "I found Superman quite unrealistic. No human would be so noble and chivalrous if they were granted such power."

"Not even one?" I asked.

"Perhaps one among a million." he relented as he turned another page. "Now this Batman. Revenge for the death of his family. That is far more believable." I heard Adrian sniff the air. "You did not drink a smoker tonight by any chance?"

I held up the cigarette case. "Barnabé gave them to me. Said I looked like young Humphrey Bogart."

"Oh" Adrian did not bother to see the case I held and turned another page. "Please take to only smoke them outside as the smell is quite repelling to me."

I did have the chance to assure him that I would as I felt the altogether familiar throb that meant Wilhelmina was summoning me, though she could have easily called my name as she was in her room. I reached and entered her room in the blink of a human eye and was puzzled with what I saw.

Wilhelmina was there, wearing the same white bathrobe that she had worn when I first arose, but so was sweet little Cindy, the girl I had met when I first tried to escape the apartment. Cindy wore a frilly little pink shirt with cartoon kitten on the chest and blue jeans with little flower designs scattered about. From the blank stare and the lack of reaction to my sudden appearance, I surmised she had been glamored.

Wilhelmina regarded my new clothes critically, "Perhaps I should have instructed Barnabé to decide upon a more modern design, but no matter."

I looked to the glamored Cindy, "Why is she here?"

"Oh, I borrowed her."

"Borrowed her?"

"I merely offered to watch over her while her parents went out for the night. I had procured tickets to a play on Broadway and thought they would find more enjoyment as I find musical desperately cheerful." Her fangs slid out as she smiled at me. "And I did not have time to hunt for you as I normally have done in the past."

"You don't honestly expect me to kill her." I realized that it might better aid the girl's survival if I changed tact. I began spouting reason after reason, hoping she would realize her error and prevented myself from drinking this poor girl dry. "For one thing, she barely has any blood in that small body of hers. Also keep in mind that her parents are expecting her back unharmed. Even if you glamored them to forget, there's the good chance they've mentioned they left her in your care to someone. And there's even a slim chance someone heard you offering through the thin walls."

"You bring up a fair point, several in fact." Wilhelmina did not seem to care in the slightest. "So you best not kill her like you have with the others."

"No problem." I said, not understanding that this was far from over. "She can stay in my room and watch TV until her parents — "

"You will still drink her." She said firmly.

"But — "

"You must learn how to stop mid feeding." Wilhelmina's eyes narrowed. "While I find the way you stubbornly cling to your former humanity most bothersome, it might prove useful." Her next words she made an order. "You will drink her blood."

I then found myself on my knees, fangs protruding and a hair away from the child's innocent neck. I looked up at Wilhelmina, pleading with her to stop. "She's just a kid."

Wilhelmina grew cold and ordered. "Bite!"

I sank my fangs into Cindy's neck and I heard the child grunt slightly at the pain. I felt and tasted her blood as the delectable liquid slowly filled my mouth, my body trembling as I willed and concentrated on not allowing a singl drop to pass down my throat. I knew once that happened, I would not be able to stop myself. It was beginning to become almost impossible and I snarled as my fingernails pricked my palms in my clenched hands.

"Drink." Wilhelmina whispered in my ear.

I grunted my refusal.

"Drink!" She repeated, now making the word an order.

I swallowed.

As I knew I would, I began drinking as I brought the girl closer to my body.

"It is all in the blood." Wilhelmina said. "Feel her heartbeat."

I did, each beat a masterful symphony to my ears as each vibration made my very fangs shiver.

"Once you sense it begin to slow." Wilhelmina instructed. "Once you fail to feel it shake your fangs to their roots . . . cease feeding."

"Hrrw?" I grunted between gulps.

"I find it helpful to concentrate on an image I find repulsive." Wilhelmina said soothingly.

I racked my mind for an image

Just as I felt Cindy's pulse begin to slow I decided on the image of a funeral. Men, women, and children all dressed in black as a priest cried out in latin as the onlookers wailed at their loss. In front of them was a a grand wooden casket decorated with dozens upon dozens of elegant roses of every shade and color with a golden brass trim around the edge.

And upon the casket was photograph.

A photograph of Cindy.

"NO!" I shouted as I tore myself away from the girl.

I fell back on my rear end, my hat tossed off my head from the momentum. There was Cindy, still sitting on the edge of the bed and oblivious to the puncture wounds on her small delicate neck, and Wilhelmina with a somewhat curiously impressed look on her face.

"Curious . . ." Wilhelmina whispered. "It is rare for someone so young to cease on their first attempt."

My tongue darted out to catch the droplets of blood around my mouth. "Happy?" I spat.

Wilhelmina ignored me and she lapped the blood on Cindy's neck until it was spotless. She turned to me, "Come here, you are not finished."

I still felt hungry, but I shook my head vehemently. "I'm not sure I can stop again."

"Not for that. As you made clear earlier, it would not be wise to kill her." Wilhelmina said. "You must erase the marks on her neck."

"How?"

"Pierce the skin on a finger with your fangs."

I pricked my right index finger and a little drop of blood formed.

"Now rub your blood into her wound."

I did, squeezing to encourage the floor, and smeared it on the two puncture wounds that had ceased bleeding and had been cleaned by Wilhelmina. To my astonishment, the wounds closed and healed over. If I had not known better, I would have sworn that Cindy had be unharmed.

"Our blood can heal most human wounds and ailments." Wilhelmina explained.

I remembered when Wilhelmina had told me the process for turning a human. "Won't she — "

"You did not drain her completely." She answered. "She will not be turned, merely weak for a day or so." Wilhelmina's flicked to Cindy. "Glamor her."

I stared into Cindy's dull eyes. "Cindy?"

"Huh?" Cindy said groggily.

"When is your bedtime?" I asked gently.

"Mommy always makes go to bed at nine."

I glanced at the clock. "Well, its ten thirty now. That's why you feel so tired."

"Tired?"

"Yes. We also went to the arcade and you played lots of games."

"I like games."

"I know you do, but you have to promise me something."

"What?"

"I want you to have a big glass of orange juice when you get home."

"Orange juice?" Wilhelmina asked.

"Its so she doesn't become anemic and her parents don't take her to a doctor." I returned my gaze to Cindy. "Alright, Cindy?"

"I like juice." said Cindy.

"Good." I said soothingly. "Now sleep. When you wake up your mommy will be here to take you home."

Cindy laid down and was gently snoring within seconds. I carried her to my room and laid her gently on my bed. I draped the blanket over her small sleeping frame and closed the door behind me. I stood there, my hand still on the knob, as an erect statue. Despite my best efforts, I could not accept how close I came to murdering an innocent child.

I felt Wilhelmina behind me. "You are a vampire."

"So you keep reminding me." I responded.

"Then why do concern yourself whether you kill or not?" Wilhelmina asked. "They are no more to you than cattle is to them."

"Is that what they are to you?" I demanded. "Cattle?"

"Yes."

"And that makes us, vampires, better than them, humans?"

"Yes."

"Then tell me," I turned to looker my maker in the eye. "Since you don't need so much blood, why do you insist on killing every single one you feed from? Even humans tend to use the most they can from their livestock so not waste their lives."

Wilhelmina returned to her room with answering me.

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