Dead & Living

Hiding In Plain Sight

"Must you smoke those abhorrent thing?" Adrian asked sounding very annoyed.

"Sorry." I flicked the butt of the cigarette into the street. "I thought it would help with the cravings."

"Cravings?" Doyle chuckled. "No cure for that, mate."

"We do not have time to hunt." Wilhelmina said. "At least we wouldn't if the car had arrived when it should have."

"I hope you remembered to get a car with legroom." Regina said. "Last time my knees were in my throat."

There we stood on Broadway and Walker, waiting for the car that Wilhelmina had ordered to take us to Ryuu. To the passerby, we looked like a group of young people getting ready for a night on the town. I wore the tailored bespoke suit that Regina had accompanied me to get the previous night and the hat as well.

Adrian and Doyle wore what I called semi-formal. Adrian wore a light pink colored shirt with no tie tucked into a pair of black slacks while Doyle wore a similar shirt, his a deep purple, that was tucked into beige pants. Both of them wore identical pairs of loafers.

Regina wore a navy blue mini dress, which was a full dress for shorter women, and matching shoes. Her hair hung loose and her make up was perfect. Wilhelmina seemed to the most casual of all of us with a plain lavender blouse and light brown khaki's. One her feet were plain looking, but still expensive, high heels that showed the red paint on her toes matched her hands.

I was toying with the thought of lighting another cigarette, despite Adrian's complaints, when a car pulled up. One of the few things that my father forced on me was a considerable knowledge of car. I knew at a glance that it was an '85 Bentley Turbo R with a six point seventy-five liter L Bentley V8 motor that gave the car almost three hundred horsepower and almost five-hundred pound of torque. It was the car that replaced the Bentley Mulsanne. We would be arriving in style.

"Wallace?" A burly man in a chauffeur's uniform stepped out. "Party of five?"

"You are late!" Wilhelmina announced. "I specifically instructed for a car to be here at twenty thirty. It is now twenty-one hundred."

"Excuse me?" Wilhelmina refused to acknowledge that Americans ran on a twelve hour clock rather than a twenty-four hour one. "Is that military time or something?"

"She means ya were supposed to be at eight and it's nine." Doyle translated lazily. "We got someone important ta meet in Freeport and you being late ain't exactly helpful."

"Oh."

"The keys." Wilhelmina held out her hand.

"Sorry, ma'am." said the chauffeur. "I'm not allowed to let anyone drive this car, but me."

"Really?" Wilhelmina asked and the man flinched at the stare she gave him. "Is that so?"

"We should get going." I said, hopefully saving the man's life. "We don't have time to waste."

Wilhelmina directed her stare at me, but after a beat, said, "Very well."

We all climbed into what the most expensive car I had seen up close at the time and began the journey to Area Three. It took much longer than it should have to both reach and cross the Williamsburg Bridge. I was willing to bet that even a plain human could have ran faster than at the rate we were going. Dozens of cars slammed on their brakes behind us and barreled past on either side with honking horns and screaming obscenities. It took just under an hour just to reach the Kosciuszko Bridge.

"Take the next exit." Wilhelmina ordered. "Calvary Cemetery."

The chauffeur made a sound as if to ask a question, but thought better when Wilhelmina flashed him a look that no doubt sent volumes of warning. He quietly took the exit and parked on the curb just on the other side of the cemetery. I gazed out the window saw that we were still in Queens. Why had Wilhelmina ordered the driver to pull over here? We still had miles to go and not much time to get there. Maybe she was running a quick errand.

The cemetery was one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States and had the largest number of interments of any cemetery in the United States with just over three-hundred million. Calvary Cemetery is divided into four sections, spread across the neighborhoods of Maspeth and Woodside. The oldest, First Calvary, is also called Old Calvary. The Second, Third and Fourth sections are all considered part of New Calvary.

Wilhelmina had us all exit the car.

"I don't understand." said the driver. "I thought ya'll wanted to go to Freeport? That still aways to go.

"Yes!" Wilhelmina was in front of him faster than human could blink, her hand gripping his throat as she lifted him into the air. "And the sun will rise and set again by the time we arrive!"

As Wilhelmina said countless times before, young vampires had a difficulty resisting blood when it is offered so readily. The moment Wilhelmina sank her fangs into the man, sending the exciting scent of blood and fear into the air, we joined in which was no different from a shark feeding frenzy. I was vaguely aware the man began to scream as his blood entered my mouth, but the sound of breaking bones told me someone had snapped his neck.

We continued feeding for what felt like seconds until the man's flesh was ripped from my mouth. I snarled in protest, but I was ignored as my nestmates each took a limb and ran off into the night. It took a moment for my blood lust to fade and reasoned that they were merely disposing the parts, no doubt saving the remains of the blood for themselves I thought bitterly.

I picked up a piece of the man's uniform and wiped my mouth, doing my best to not think of the likelihood he had a family and had chosen the wrong job to support that family. I found myself thinking that could have been me and how my body would have never been found when I noticed a small puddle of blood on the sidewalk. I looked around to see if the other had returned, but no one was in sight. Suddenly I had an idea and retrieved my cigarette case. Fighting the intense urge to lick my finger, I carefully dripped blood into the cigarettes and the white paper turned a slight pink as the tobacco absorbed the blood like a sponge.

I had just finished and returned the case to my pockets when everyone else returned. Like me, they had all cleaned up and not a drop of blood stained their face or clothes.

"Drive." Wilhelmina tossed me a set of keys.

An hour later, I was weaving between cars on the Long Island Expressway at eighty miles an hour. To my surprise no cops tried to pull us over, but I wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The ride was silent for the most part, but I wondered why Wilhelmina had chose to rent a car. Surely, she could afford to buy anyone she wanted. I was shocked to learn that she freely admitted to never learning how to drive.

"You've been in the city since it was a small town." I reminded her. "Didn't you think it would have been useful to learn to drive a car?"

"You've seen how cumbersome it is for cars in the city. Why would I bother learning to drive when it has a perfectly accessible subway and fleets upon fleets of taxicabs?" She sounded defensive. "Not to mention I find it . . . unsettling . . . to ride in these contraptions."

"As do I." said Adrian. "Although I'm not pining for the smell of horse dung."

"You?" I asked Doyle. "I know for a fact they had cars when you were turned."

"Oh, I can drive, mate. Was the only one in the family that owned a proper car." Doyle folded his arm behind his head. "But as the saying goes, shit rolls down hill."

"So Regina would be driving if I wasn't here."

"Oh, I'm sure they would have revoked my license by now." Regina said as gazed out the window. "Or threw me jail. Probably both."

"Let me guess." i said

"It's not my fault people don't look both ways before they try to cross the street."

"On the other hand it does make one's dinner incredibly tender." Doyle mused.

I decided to change the subject. "Is there anything I should know about Ryuu?"

"What do you know about the samurai of japan?" Wilhelmina asked

"I know when the Irish were using clubs and loincloths, they were already one of the deadliest warriors the world had seen." I was rewarded with a growl from Doyle. "About on par with the Spartans of Ancient Greece or the fighting Shaolin Monks of China."

"That is debatable." Wilhelmina said. "However, Ryuu deserves and commands respect as both an old vampire and as sheriff."

"I figured that." I said. "I meant is there anything specific that I should know about? Like, does he still believe in kirisute gomen?"

"Yes, he does." She said cautiously as we merged onto the Cross Island Parkway. "He believes it helps maintain peace in his area among our kind. Since you hardly more than a year old, you are just above Weres and Shifters in his area."

"I'll keep that in mind." I assured.

We all fell back into silence as we sped down the parkway and soon merged onto the Southern State Parkway heading east. We had just crossed Hempstead Lake when I reached into my pocket for my cigarette case. I took one out and was reaching for my lighter when Regina noticed something.

"Are those a special kind?" She asked. "They smell very . . . pleasant." She sniffed the air. "And familiar."

"I dripped blood into them." I lowered the window after I lit one. "From the driver."

"Why would you do that?" Adrian asked.

"Just an idea." I admitted.

"Creative." Regina remarked.

Soon I merged onto the Meadowbrook State Parkway which we didn't stay on for too long and took the exit for the Sunrise Highway (heh) which wasn't technically a highway, but it was the closest a road could be to one. From there Wilhelmina began giving me directions and I saw she was taking us down an all too familiar road.

I was already very familiar with the road of Freeport. While I wasn't overly religious, my family and I did observe Good Friday. Whenever that holiday came by, we would make a trip out here because, like the name implied, Freeport was an excellent place to find a variety of seafood. It also was the town I was bar-tending when I first met Wilhelmina. Normally I worked the day shift, but the night bartender called in sick and I was asked to cover for him. I hadn't objected since I could use every cent at the time. I had been meaning to ask if I could add more hours to my shift and it seemed to be the perfect oppurtinity to show I could handle to demands of the bar during its more busy hours.

"Park there." Wilhelmina motioned to an employee parking lot. "Yojimbo's"

I nearly put my foot through the floor when she said Yojimbo's, but I settled for gripping the steering wheel tight enough to crack. Luckily no one heard, or more likely decided to not comment, and pulled into the parking lot.

Yojimbo's looked like any other shop or bar on the street. The entrance was made to resemble a Japanese temple entrance, two large red pillars with a intricate gold painted piece overhead with the bar's name written in English and in Kanji characters under it. I found it reminded me of a high end Chinese restaurant that served authentic Chinese cuisine rather than the takeout humans were fond of.

The parking lot was almost empty, very surprising since it was a Friday night, but the employee lot was practically overflowing. I noticed that the cars ranged from Lexus to Mercedes and luxury BMW's. You'd be hard pressed to find a vampire driving a Honda Civic without a good reason.

"I'm staying here." I said as everyone got out.

"Ryuu asked for the entire nest." Wilhelmina reminded me. "He will take it as an insult."

"Which is worse?" I asked. "Insulting Ryuu or someone discovering the existence of vampires?"

"What kind of question is that?" Doyle demanded. "The second one!"

"Then I'm staying here." I repeated. "I used to work here."

"You never mentioned it before." Wilhelmina said.

"I didn't think it was important." I admitted. "I'm sure there's a lot you haven't told me about that you did." I flicked the butt onto the floor and found it actually curbed my hunger. "I know its been a year, but there's a good chance someone will recognize me."

"Glamor them." Doyle said.

"I can't glamor everyone, Doyle." I said. "Plus, you know how obvious it is when a human is being glamored. People will notice."

"Then kill them." Adrian offered simply.

"I don't think Ryuu would like it if I killed his staff and customers." I said flatly. "Not to mention the cleaning bill to boot."

"It will be fine." Wilhelmina assured. "Humans don't have long memories and from what I remember of you as human, you did not leave an impression."

"Thanks." I said dryly.

"Ryuu is also very cautious." She said. "He employs those of our kind at night and makes certain the human staff leaves as we enter. If any of the staff recolonizes you they will most likely be one of us."

"Fine." I exited the car and followed them to the door. "But don't say I didn't warn you.

Not much had changed. All of the wood, except for the floor, was painted to resemble bamboo and decorative rice paper lanterns hung overhead that provided dim lighting. There was a small dance floor just off to the side and it was actually crowded which was odd with the deserted parking lot outside. I also noted an odd smell in the air. It was the smell of animals, but common one like cats or dogs. I guessed with all the humans on the dance floor, sweat and lust surrounding them like a cloud, and possibly the scent of deodorants and perfume mixed in way that it resembled the scent of animals.

Wilhelmina lead us past the dance floor and noted the stares we were receiving. They hardly lasted a second. Whenever I thought we were paid too much attention and flicked my eyes in the direction of the dancers, they seemed to be just to be plain humans enjoying a night of dance of revels. I eventually tried to relax by listening to the music being blared over the speakers and while I preferred music from Regina's time, roughly the 1960's, I still enjoyed modern rap and hip-hop.

Some underestimate

And miscalculate

My intent to create what I call the great

Till I make a song that I prove em wrong

See my song so strong it'll make 'em come along

Come in the door

Get on the floor

Hard rock hard hitting hip-hop hard-core

Causing casualties and catastrophes

And tragedies for the suck emcees

Use a strategy to get the best of me

You dirty rat emcees

Whoever you may be

You need to go down south

You need to shut your mouth

It's all about no doubt just shout cus we turn it out!

When we were at the section of club that had sported tables and chairs, jusr south of the bar and directly across from the dance floor, a young looking vampire approached us. Other than the faint glow of her pale skin and the fact she was asian, she could have been mistaken for any other college freshman. Her black hair hung loose around her shoulders and was free of any clips or bands. She wore the women's Yojimbo's waitress summer uniform, a black tanktop decorated with sakura cherry blossoms and Yojimbo's written across the chest and a matching black skirt. I surmised she had been turned around eighteen or nineteen, but there was no telling exactly how long that was.

"Kangei." She greeted. "How may I serve you?"

"We would like to see the manager." Wilhelmina said carefully.

"Ah, I see." said the waitress. "Would you please repeat that?"

I wondered why she would ask that. We were clearly vampires and surely Ryuu would have told his staff to expect us, but I kept quiet. Wilhelmina had said Ryuu was cautious and it stood to reason that while he knew Wilhelmina his nest might not. Based on that, this might be a form of identification check and the wrong response would possibility result in our deaths.

"Watashitachiha, manēja o mite mitai." Wilhelmina said quickly in Japanese. "Sore wa kinkyūde."

"Follow me, sister." the waitress inclined her head and led us to the far corner to the only occupied table.

When says the word samurai, most imagine an Asian man with a permanent scowl and a complicated hair knot. Perhaps, he'd being wearing his ō-yoroi armor and armed to the teeth with his signature katana on his hip with his yumi longbow on his back along with a Yari spear. I'd be less than truthful if I said it hadn't occurred to me when Regina first mentioned Ryuu's human life when i was being fitted for my suit.

The man, vampire, at the table had a commanding air about him. He had a cross shaped scar on his left cheek, a souvenir from a fight long before he was turned. Rather than a complicated top knot and a robe like kimono, his hair was tied back with in a plain ponytail and he wore a dark blue colored shirt tucked into brown slacks. The only indication he had been a samurai was the sheathed katana in a polished red scabbard sitting next to him like close friend.

This was Ryuu, a not as former as I thought samurai and sheriff of area three.

"Thank you for coming so swiftly, Wilhelmina." Ryuu inclined his head slightly and I understood it as a sign of respect. He may be the sheriff, but Wilhelmina was his elder. "It always nice to see an old friend."

"It is." Wilhelmina inclined her head as well, but it was noticeably deeper. "Although I understand the circumstances are less than agreeable."

"That they are." His gaze went to me and he seemed to be evaluating me. "I was unaware your nest had grown. An friend of yours, Regina?"

"He is my progeny." Wilhelmina said.

"Sore wa meiyo, sherifudearu." I said, removing my hat and bowing.

"Anata wa yoku hanasuga, anata no akusento wa sagyō ga hitsuyōdesu." Ryuu reexamined me when the others stared for a moment. "I see that there is more than first glance to this one." His eyes turned to Wilhelmina, but he directed his word to me. "Tell me, child, where did you learn to speak Japanese?"

"I saw an old samurai film when I was young. " I said respectfully. "I found the translations poor and spent the next two months teaching myself, but it has been a while since I've found the need to use what I learned."

"I see." He made a strange gesture."Kyakka."

Suddenly, two Asian vampires emerged from the shadows and watched us like hawks as they walked to the side. They were wearing long sleeve black shirts, black shirts, black sneakers, and black leather gloves. I was impressed. It was rare for one to completely erase their presence so thoroughly that a vampire cannot pick up on it. I had the nagging feeling that these guards had been ninjas when they were human or had studied their techniques for a few centuries if the all black attire was anything to go on.

I also had the feeling Ryuu hadn't dismissed all of them. If Ryuu had the presence of mind to surround himself with clearly highly skilled guards, then he wouldn't dismiss them so easily. He mostly had at least one more hidden and dismissing the two were to show he trusted us as well as a way to show those who meant him harm that Ryuu was well guarded. I wast starting to feel that Ryuu hadn't summoned us to catch up with Wilhelmina.

"Please, sit." Ryuu motioned for Wilhelmina to take the seat directly in front of him. "We have much to discuss."

I thought Wilhelmina, as the oldest and the one who knew Ryuu best, would sit to his right. After all, I believe that is suppose to be a place of honor, but it seemed Ryuu was not of the same mind. Wilhelmina sat directly in front of him and Adrian sat to her right as the second eldest of the nest. Doyle took the seat to Adrian's right. Regina and I took sat across from each other, her on Ryuu's right while I sat to Wilhelmina's left.

"About four months ago, I was approached by a werewolf pack. They call themselves the Mahingan Pack. Normally their kind keep to themselves as we do, but it seems this pack does not share that policy." Ryuu began. "I own many bars and clubs in my area and they wished to use them to distribute illegal drugs. They mentioned cocaine and heroine, but my sources tell me dabble in crack and marijuana as well. In exchange for the use of them, I would receive a substantial percentage of the profit as well as several individuals that would sell many high price liquors at a lowered price."

"You refused." said Wilhelmina.

"Yes." Ryuu frowned. "While the money would be more than welcome, I thought the risk too great. There would be investigations and arrest sooner or later and the human authorities would begin viewing my enterprises much more closely." Ryuu tensed slightly and it was clear he was upset. "I explained this without hostility and with respect, more than those zasshuken deserve, and they had the gall to take affront."

"Which resulted in them trying to take what they wanted by force." Adrian said. "They could not achieve their goal through diplomacy so, in their eyes, you left them no choice but to attack."

"It would seem that way." Ryuu growled.

"What of the king?" Wilhelmina asked. "Surely he would think a war, even one as small as this one, would draw too much attention from the humans."

So I had been right. When Wilhelmina explained that vampires had divided each state into areas and each area was controlled by a sheriff, it stood to reason that the sheriffs within the state had to answer to a even higher authority. As the Romans used to say, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. If left unchecked in a large state — Texas, California, Florida, or New York to name a few— the sheriffs within could turn the state into a bloodbath and the humans would no doubt catch on to our existence. Assuming each state was like a country and that country was ruled by a single monarch, it meant the United States had about fifty monarchs keeping the vampire population of the country in secret from the human population.

"As long as his taxes are not effected, he cares little for the affairs of the kingdom." Ryuu said coolly.

So vampire did pay taxes, in a way. It made sense when I gave it thought. No doubt it took money and other resources to keep vampires out of the public eye. It worked like the country. The monarch took a small percentage from his subjects and use those funds to maintain his kingdom.

"Have you asked assistance from the other sherifsf?" Adrian asked.

"There are simply not enough of our kind in this kingdom." Ryuu said. "It is due to the incredibly high tax the king has decreed. All vampire establishment must pay fifty percent of its revenue. Twenty percent goes to my coffers while the rest the he collects for his own personal wealth. It does not surprise me that most chose not to stay."

It didn't surprise me either. The king's greed must be beyond insatiable or he was severely out of touch with reality. At fifty percent, I was more surprised no one had revolted. Then again, I was thinking in human terms. A revolt might possibly take decades of careful of planning and gathering resources to ensure that humans did not discover the vampire community. One wrong move and we'd have a global disaster, if those in power hadn't already caught wind of the rebellion.

"What have they done so far?" Wilhelmina asked.

"They have burned three smaller clubs and killed four of our kind that were passing through." Ryuu clenched his fists. "They have threatened to do the same to all of my properties unless I comply with their original demands."

"They're bluffing." I said absently.

I'm sure we've all had that moment when time just seems to freeze and you realize everyone is staring at you. Maybe you're wearing an embarrassing shirt or spilled water on your crotch. Perhaps you're dreaming you are standing in front of a large crowd and you've just realized that you're naked, but even all of that would be preferable to being the receiving of five unblinking stares from five far older vampires.

"What did you say?" Ryuu asked.

"I apologize." Wilhelmina said hastily and flashed me a look of warning. "He is still young and is still — "

Ryuu held up a hand. "Still, I would like to hear what the child deems important enough to interrupt his elders." He looked to me and demand. "Well, child, I'm waiting."

"They're bluffing." I said carefully.

"Bluffing?" He repeated.

"Yes." I nodded and said quickly. "When they came to you they said they wanted your clubs, but why would they destroy what they needed?"

Everyone froze as they realized I had a valid point.

"Continue." Ryuu ordered. "Why would they do that?"

"I'm not sure, but I think they only burned down those three clubs to show make their bluff more believable. To make a point." I seemed to have bought myself some time. "They've probably thought it was worth losing three little clubs if it meant they'd get the rest. The only way they could afford to destroy all of your clubs is if they had enough money to rebuild them, but that would mean they already have a very lucrative way of making money or had a large sum already squirreled away." I was astonished how easily everything came to me. "If that was the case, it would far less trouble and effort to build their own clubs and use those to distribute their drugs."

"I had not considered that." Ryuu said after a moment. "None of us has." He looked to Wilhelmina. "Kare wa nandesuka?"

"Sainō." She whispered, utterly shocked as she looked at me.

"Possibly." Ryuu said before he looked to me. "What would you recommend?"

"Recommend?" I was beyond shocked. A sheriff asking an infant for tactical advice was ludicrous.

"Sheriff, consider the risks!" Adrian warned. "He has not even seen a — "

"Silence!" Ryuu's voice was not loud, but there was no mistaking the power behind it. "You will not speak." Ryuu motioned for me to speak. "As you were."

"Attack." I said simply.

"Really?" Ryuu's eye narrowed. "This pack severely outnumbers us."

"Then you should definitely attack." I said. "But not like he has. He is using a shotgun approach so you need to respond with a sniper."

"A sniper?" Ryuu looked interested.

"They're are trying to win a battle with a high body count." I said. "You need to win the war with a few key deaths, leaders and commanders. To show you mean business, they should all be taken out simultaneously and during the day."

"We cannot mount an attack during the day." Ryuu frowned.

"Which is what they think." I countered. "They'll drop their guards during the day. When their leaders suddenly turn up dead it'll rattle their minds. Not only will they have to scramble to reorganize and regroup, but their paranoia will make those following orders question their motives while those issuing the orders scared for their lives." I hastily added. "You need to react in a way they do not know how react to. Adrian can tell you that the colonists rebelling against the British used similar tactics when this country was fighting for independence."

Ryuu looked to Adrian.

"It is true." He said respectfully. "I had already become a vampire, but it was not a secret that solders deemed the practice, what would eventually become guerrilla warfare, uncivilized. According to the humans, it is one of the main methods that lead a much smaller and less supplied group hold their own against what was the most powerful empire of the time."

"Willy, I never asked before, mostly because I didn't care." Doyle said for the first time in a long time which was very unlike him. "But where did you find peaches here? On leave from West Point?"

"Peaches?" Ryuu asked.

"It is what Doyle calls Dominick to tease him." Regina explained. "Apparently his blood tasted like peaches when he was human."

"I see." Ryuu looked to me. "Doyle has an excellent question. Where did you meet your maker?"

"I was driving home from a late night at work." I said.

"What was your occupation? What school did you attend?" He asked and understood he was trying to find an explanation to how I had thought of a viable battle stratagem in a few minutes. "What occupations did your family have?"

"My father was mechanic like my grandfather while my mother stayed at home and maintained the house. My brother was too young to work when I was turned." I tried to hide the contempt in my voice. "I only attended and graduated public school. We didn't have the money for me attend college so I had work instead."

"Where did you find employment?"

"Here." I said.

"What?" Ryuu looked to Wilhelmina who nodded.

"I had a lot of jobs after I graduated, but I was your daytime bartender for the better part of six months before I was turned."

"I do recall a Dominick not reporting for work." It seemed I had given him the last piece of a puzzle he had forgotten or had not cared enough to investigate further. "Hillary had mentioned she was finding it difficult to replace him."

"Hillary?"

"Did she not hire you?"

"I was hired by a woman named Sarah." I said. "About fifty with short black hair."

"Ah, yes." Ryuu nodded. "I remember her. She had a heart attack."

"Really?"

"Yes. About four months ago." Ryuu shrugged. "It made transferring the ownership of this bar quite bothersome." Ryuu regarded me for a moment. "You may go."

"Go?"

"Yes. You have given us much to consider." Ryuu waved his hand in a clear dismissal. "I may call upon you later, but enjoy yourself until then."

I stood and bowed. "Wa nozomu yō, sherifu."

I wasn't sure what Ryuu meant by enjoying myself, but I was certain that he had dismissed me. I was also fairly certain he hadn't done so because he found me troublesome or annoying. I think it was his way of saying I had done my part for the war effort. I pondered other possible meanings as I walked to the bar.

The bartender and bar were like any other pair in the country, the only slight difference being the seats and bar were painted to look like bamboo. The bartender looked to be a generic college student with a black shirt that had Yojimbo's printer on the left breast and blue jeans.

"What can I getcha?" He asked.

"Walker on the rocks." I laid a fifty dollar bill in front of him. "Blue and two."

"Coming right up!" He said enthusiastically.

Just because I couldn't drink didn't mean I couldn't enjoy it. I had Johnnie Walker Blue once at wedding and instantly fell in love with it. The problem then was it ranged from two hundred to three hundred dollars for a single bottle. Funny how life works out. Before I could drink it, but it wasn't easily attainable. Now I could afford to buy my weight in the precious liquid, but I could not swallow a single drop. Still, nothing could take away its aroma. I made a mental note to keep a bottle at the nest just so I could pour a glass and enjoy the smell.

"Walker on the rocks!" He said placing a glass with two ice cubes in front of me. "Anything else? The kitchen is closing up, but if you want something small . . . "

"No thanks." I put the glass to my lips, enjoying that strong subtle scent, and slid the fifty closer. "Keep the change."

I lit a cigarette and absently watched the dance floor, not really watching the dancers or hearing the music being played. I spared a glance to where Ryuu and my nest were discussing and scheming. Even with my greatly improved hearing, the music and their hushed voices made it impossible to listen. I could, however, see their faces clear as day. I made a mental note to learn to read lips. You never knew when something like could be useful.

"Is something wrong with your drink?" asked a slightly accent female voice.

"No thanks." I said as I turned, figuring the night bartender had finally arrived to relieve the human bartender. "I'm not much of a — "

We both froze when we saw each other.

When the night bartender called in sick and I covered the shift for him I learned that Yojimbo's employed two bartenders for the more lively hours of the night. It was so one bartender was not run ragged and customers didn't receive their drinks three hours after they ordered. It was that night that I met Kimberly Yamada.

She was cute in a coy sort of way. At least, that was the impression I got when I first met her. I think it was what she was wearing, the same thing we wore now. Kim wore what I could best describe as a casual catholic school uniform, a white blouse with a bright red tie under a a black wool vest. Instead of pants of pantyhose, her legs were bare below a black skirt and polished loafers. She wore her long jet black hair in large pigtails with bright white Hello Kitty clips. If it wasn't shock enough, there was another thing about her that made me freeze like a deer in the headlights.

Kimberly was a vampire.

There was no mistaking it. Her Asian ancestory might make it easy to pass off her pale skin as human, but there was no hiding the faint glow of her skin that all vampires possessed. There was also no hiding her scent, or rather what her scent lacked. From what I could gather, vampires do not produce pheromones. While a human might notice if they were to bury their nose against a vampire and inhale deeply, even a blind vampire who couldn't see the faint glow would instantly be aware of the presence of another vampire.

" — drinker." I finished.

Before I could blink, Kimberly's face was a hairsbreadth from my own and noses were practically touching. I hoped none noticed how fast she leaned across the bar. Otherwise we might have to kiss to explain it. I wouldn't mind, but she might have. I recalled distinctly that she only seemed to flirt back with the women when we worked together.

"Dominick?" She whispered, her eyes darting around to capture every detail of my face. "Dominick Valentino?"

"Hello, Kim." I winked. "Long time no see. I hope replacing me wasn't too hard."

She whipped her to where Ryuu and the others were still talking before coming back to me. "Who?"

I knew what she was asking. "The red head, Wilhelmina."

"When?"

"1305." I tapped some ashes into an ashtray. "Here brother was William Wallace."

"I meant you." She seemed to notice she was still leaning across the bar and backed down. "It can't be that long ago."

"A little over a year ago." I said. "I gave her a ride to the train station and she invited me to a party. You?"

"1943." She said quietly. "Jerome County, Idaho."

"Idaho?" I remarked. "Long way from here."

"I'm from Sacramento." She seemed angry about something, but not at me. "My family and I were forced to relocate to Idaho."

"After Pearl Harbor." I said. "The Japanese Internment camps."

"Yes." Her eyes softened a bit when she looked in Ryuu's direction. "Ryuu had been watching the camp for several nights and found me when I escaped."

"You escaped?" I had not heard of that occurring.

"I did not like being kept in a cage." She said firmly. "I found a breach in the defenses often slipped through at night to feel some form of freedom, but I always made sure to return before sunrise."

"Except one night you didn't come back."

"No." She smiled slyly. "I was merely detained for three nights. I returned like a good little nisei and found an old issei to escort me back."

"I take it you were welcomed back with open arms?"

"Open arms, open legs, open necks," She shrugged and winked. "Anything that had an artery or two."

"Sounds like you had quite a time."

"Do I detect I hint of jealousy?" She mocked.

"About painting the town red?" I pretended to sip my drink. "Who wouldn't?"

"So what do you think of your new life?" Kimberly asked.

"Honestly?" I shrugged. "I expected white fluffy clouds while being serenaded by angels."

"I'm not sure I understand."

I was starting to expect, along with many other things, that vampires tended to lose their sense of humor.

"Never mind." I said. "I meant that I was expecting something else entirely when I died."

"Like what?" She asked. "How did you want to die?"

"When I was a ninety or so with a multimillion dollar company and a supermodel actress in my bed."

"That sounds pleasant." She agreed.

"I'm surprised you remembered me." I said. "I always thought I never left much of an impression."

"You didn't." She assured. "I just thought it was adorable the way you stuttered and dropped drink whenever an attractive female batted her eyes at you."

"Adorable?" i raised an eyebrow.

"Like a shy kitten." She teased. "I suppose you should consider yourself lucky that you're are not to my taste."

"What is to your taste if you don't my asking?"

"Oh, I could ramble on for hours." She said. "Had you asked ten years ago I might have considered you, but I one night I decided see what I had been missing and I haven't found a reason to go back."

If there is one thing that I can say definitively that makes vampires superior to humans, it would be our severe lack of social taboos. If I had decided to sleep with men, not one member of the nest would give it a second thought. If I had been black, nothing would have changed. Wilhelmina had despised the English when she was human, despite her affinity for the French she was a native Scot, but her closest friend was a former British marine. Doyle and I were both Catholic while Adrian and Regina were raised Protestant, but none of us cared in the slightest. Within the vampire community, racial, religious, or social discrimination were virtually nonexistent. It did not matter if you had been a king or a peasant, a vampire is a vampire.

"What are you doing here?" Kim asked, pretending to wipe down the bar. "Why are you not with the rest of your nest?"

"Ryuu dismissed me." I told her. "He said I had given them much to consider and to enjoy myself."

"And how do you plan to do that?" She asked mischievously.

"Any suggestions?" I smirked.

"Well, it would be terrible rude of me if I did not offer a guest a drink." She looked down at the glass of scotch with an amused look. "Something with a fuller body."

"That sounds perfect."

"One moment." She picked up the bar phone and dialed a number. "Andrew?"

"Nani o taidesu ka?" asked who I assumed was Andrew.

While Kim hadn't turned on the speakerphone, any vampire sitting where I was could hear every word said.

"You are late." Kim informed him.

"Rirakkusu, we're on our way." Andrew said lazily. "We just stopped for a bite."

"Then you won't mind if I have a taste?"

"Don't you have your own meal for the night?" Andrew sounded annoyed, like sibling being forced to share something that he thought his.

"I am entertaining a new friend." She smiled slightly at me.

"Alright, but make sure your friend knows what is mine." Andrew warned and he hung up.

Before I could comment on Andrew's tone, Kim placed a sign on the bar. It read, SUMIMASEN FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. WE WILL RETURN SHORTLY.

"Follow me." She said and I followed her around the bar, presumably to the kitchen.

The kitchen was empty and clean as she lead to where the store room was, or so I thought. It seemed that the kitchen had be slightly renovated and an entire room had been added, but it didn't look new. It seemed just as old as the rest of the room, like it had been always part of the kitchen. I also noticed a large heavy padlock along with a deadbolt.

"Something wrong?" Kim asked while she retrieved a pair of keys from a pocket.

"This wasn't here." I pointed to the door. "It doesn't look new, but I don't remember it the entire time I worked here."

"We glamor the human staff to not see the door." She fitted a key into the padlock and twisted it. "We had you come in one night and one us glamored you so you would not see the door and your curiosity did not get the better of you."

"Why?"

"It is where we keep our special stock." She unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door to reveal a set of descending stairs. "After you."

Kim closed the door behind us and sealed us in darkness. I caught the scent of human and vampire in the air as we descended down a short flight of stairs. Then we walked down a pitch black corridor towards a door with light shining between its cracks. I could see there was a naked bulb hanging over a char just outside the door.

"What did you mean special stock?" I asked.

"Our humans." Kim said. "Ryuu mentioned your nest in the city so there is no need to, but our kind often keeps human slaves for blood and sex."

"And here I thought slavery was abolished in 1865."

"Is it truly slavery if the said slave is willing?" She asked.

"Willing?" I repeated.

"Not that is matters either way, it seems humans find mating with us quite addictive." Kim explained. "So much so that they do not try to escape and even do our bidding."

"I doubt you'd let them leave if they wanted to."

"True." she agreed. "But it makes thing infinity less difficult not having to be kill them at the slightest hint of rebellion."

We reached the door and we entered.

The room wasn't much. There was an old couch between two comfortable looking beds that smelled of freshly washed sheets. There was a small refrigerator tucked away in the small corner with an old tape player plugged into the wall. There was also a small round table in the middle of room under a naked bulb, and sitting at the table were three humans playing cards.

One was young man of about college age with the body of Olympic athlete. He looked like any other student who had received a football scholarship. He wore a simple green shirt and blue jeans with plain sneakers. His skin was slightly tanned and he had a flat nose along with full lips and brown eyes.

To the man's right, my left, sat a blond girl that looked all of nineteen. She had greyish blue eyes and the cutest pouty lips I had seen. Her skin was very smooth and well maintained with scent of vanilla moisturizer clinging to her in very inviting way. She had slight build, but she had curves in all the right places and her peach colored dress accentuated her cleavage perfectly. She seemed like the shy and quiet type.

If the blond was the quiet type, then the woman across from her was her exact opposite. She looked a slight older than the blond. She was the only black person among the three humans, but that wasn't enough for her to standout. She wore a very tight red leather bustier that had been cut off so she could display her slight abs and pierced navel. On her feet were tall high heel boots that went up to her knees which I though provided more cover than what passed for a skirt she was wearing. Her hair was cropped short, but beautifully styled, and her make up was perfect. I was considering how the black woman looked familiar when it hit me.

She was Latasha Carter, but she preferred just Tasha.

She was already a sophomore when I entered high school, but her reputation had started well before that. Rumor had it that she had become the head cheerleader by sleeping with both the football and cheer leading coach who were already married to each other. Another rumor claimed that by the time she was senior, she had already slept with the entire football team. It was natural to assume she was something of a wild child so I wasn't that surprised when she suddenly disappeared. The police were called in to investigate, but she was eighteen at the time and there was no evidence of foul play.

No one really knew what became of her, but there many theories. Some said she had graduated from marijuana to cocaine and joined a prostitution ring to fund her habit. Others claimed she had overdosed and her body had been disposed off. There was even a rumor she had runaway to LA to become an actress which was euphemism that she was shooting pornography.

Of course no one guessed she had been abducted by vampires.

"Full house!" announced the man proudly and brought a small pile of poker chip closer to him. "Read 'em and weep."

Tasha took the cards and shuffled when she noticed us. "Kim!" Her eyes grew wide with excitement. "I didn't hear you come in." Then caught sight of me and bit her lip with temptation. "Who's your cute friend?"

Of course she wouldn't recognize me. No one would from back then. I found it amusing Kim had recognized me instantly after only a few hours spent together while Tasha and I had gone to the same school and had probably shared a few classes.

Kim smiled and said. "Would you give us the room, Nicholas?"

The man, Nicholas, nodded and stood. He quickly walked around us and the blond followed close behind.

"Hold on, Susan." Kim stopped her with a hand on her chest and I saw her fangs extend slightly. "I did not ask you to leave us." Kim licked her lips. "Tasha, would you be a good girl and entertain Dominick?"

"Anything for you, Kim." Tasha came to me and began adjusting my tie while batting her eyes suggestively at me. "Hello, Dominick. I'm Tasha."

"Aren't you sweet?" I smirked as I ran my hands up and down her sides.

I wondered offhand how many times I had fantasized about fucking thee Latasha Carter. Who in the entire school didn't? And here I was and she was actually coming on to me. Funny how fate works out.

"That and a lot more." She winked. "Just ask Kim." She leaned closer as she slipped off my suit jacket and felt her plant a delicate kiss on my neck. "Are joining us, Kim?"

I saw Kim put a finger under the blond's chin so she would look at her. "Oh, Susan can keep me company."

"But Andrew . . ." Susan said quietly.

"He won't mind." Kim began leading her toward one of the beds. "From what Tasha has told me, you might enjoy a woman's touch."

I was so occupied I did not notice Tasha had slipped off my vest and had untied my tie, but my manhood and fangs had. She was grinding against me while her hand slowly undid the buttons of my shirt. Then she kissed me, her tongue slipping into my mouth. I returned the favor as my hands kneaded her soft rear and she moaned into my mouth. I lifted her and she instantly wrapped her legs around my waist.

She succeeded in slipping off my shirt as I laid her down on the other free bed. We continued kissing ad I felt her hands unbuttoning her bustier. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw and heard Kim slowly kissing her way down Susan's body and it seemed she was thoroughly enjoying herself despite her efforts to conceal it.

"See something you like?" Tasha asked.

I looked down at her bare chest and saw she had pierced nipples.

"Did those hurt?" I asked slyly.

"No." She winked. "It was kinda fun."

"Then you'll love this!"

With that, I sank my fangs into her soft flesh.

A/N - Without meaning too, I posted the same chapter twice and accidentally deleted one. So I decided to rewrite as best I could and add a few things. Sorry about the confusion.

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