The train pulled into Burr Ridge Illinois at three in the morning, two miles from the Illinois state correctional facility for the undead, otherwise known as the Vampire Zoo. Built in eighteen sixty five, it was created to house the worst of the worst vampire killers in the United States. The facility was carved out of the ground creating a pit thirty feet deep with brick paved sides that would deter any vampires from scaling out. From the longest side it was five hundred feet end to end, and three hundred feet wide with a tower in the center that rose seventy feet from the bottom of the pit. A bridge connected the tower to the edge of the pit where staff and prisoners could enter the facility. The bridge was the only way in or out and was heavily guarded.
Inside the pit were three housing units surrounded by gravel and dirt with a few trees and shrubs growing wild throughout. The trees were kept trimmed low to keep the vampires from scaling the walls and were eventually cut down if they became a threat to the facility. Lining the top of the pit was a wrought iron fence that ran the entire circumference with sharpened tips that gave an extra level of security. No vampire had ever scaled the wall in twenty years, but the public felt better with the fence in place.
Bohdan and Cara were transferred from the train to a secure carriage and transported to the facility stopping at the administration office. Once their legal papers were filed, they were led to the guard tower and escorted across the bridge to the tower where they were met by a different set of armed guards. From there the group descended down the staircase to the ground level and led out the door into the pit.
“You’re on your own now,” one of the guards said. “Good luck, you’re going to need it.”
“What’s he talking about?” Cara asked. She was able to clean up at the guard station and find a different dress, but still looked like hell.
Bohdan asked, “Are there guards down here? You’re not just going to leave us are you?”
“We don’t put guards in the pit once it gets dark, too dangerous,” the guard replied.
“What are we supposed to do?”
“If you’re lucky, you’ll be killed soon. That’s the best you can hope for.”
Cara pulled in close to Bohdan and grabbed his arm. “I don’t like this place.”
“You wanted to be a vampire, and you killed the bailiff, what did you expect?” Bohdan replied.
The guards left and closed the door behind them. Bohdan and Cara stood near the door looking around and listening. With his heightened senses, Bohdan could make out the sounds of vampires moving about and hear the shuffling of feet. He knew some were near and heading his way. “We need to find shelter,” Bohdan said.
For the first time, Cara noticed the sound of fear in his voice. “Why? What’s going on?” she asked.
“They’re coming, can you hear them?”
Cara listened but heard nothing. She hadn’t been a vampire long enough to intensify her hearing. “I don’t hear anything, where are they?”
Bohdan put up his hand to silence Cara. He listened again and the sounds subsided.
Then a voice called out from the dark, “Look, it’s a woman,” the male voice said. It was if he was speaking to another vampire.
“We haven’t had a woman in years,” another voice spoke out. It was now obvious the two were carrying on a conversation.
“I want her first,” a voice called out.
“You will ruin her, let me have her first,” the second voice replied.
Bohdan spoke out, “Neither of you can have her, not until I know who the hell you are.”
From the dark, the two beings stepped out of the shadows and into the light from the torches that lined the top of the pit. What Bohdan and Cara saw were two sickly looking thin bald vampires hobbling over towards them. They both looked like they had scoliosis and were as pale as flower. “Give us your woman,” the first vampire said. His name was Dorek, a former Polish farmer turned vampire.
“She’s not mine to give,” Bohdan replied.
“Then we will take her,” Dorek said.
Cara pulled in tighter to Bohdan. “Don’t you let them take me.”
“If I don’t, they may try to kill me, I don’t want to die tonight.”
“Neither do I!” Cara snapped.
“I’m not responsible for your welfare, go with them willingly and maybe they will spare your life.”
“You bastard, how can you say that? What kind of a man are you?”
“I’m known as Bohdan the Vampire Ripper, does that tell you anything?”
Dorek cocked his head when he heard Bohdan say his name. “Did you say Bohdan?” Dorek asked.
“Yes, Bohdan Malko.”
“It can’t be, how can the great Bohdan be here, in my midst?” Dorek asked. “You are a legend.”
“A legend?” Bohdan asked. “You’ve heard of me?”
“Yes, the great Bohdan the Vampire Ripper, you are famous across the land.”
“How can that be? I’m not from around here. I’m not sure this is even real.”
“You are well known for your savage murders. For the way you leave your victims torn up and displayed. It is said you’ve killed a hundred women, and kept their hearts as a reward. Is that true? Do you keep their hearts?”
“I have kept a few, but the stories you’ve heard are greatly exaggerated. I’ve only killed maybe a few dozen women since I was turned. Not a hundred.”
“A few dozen? That’s still impressive. No other vampire I know leaves their victims like you do, it is said you eat from their flesh once you are finished.”
“I drink of their blood, isn’t that the same? We all do it,” Bohdan replied.
“But you revel in the dismemberment. You create art in what you do. You have made a name for yourself and a celebrity amongst the undead,” Dorek said.
Bohdan shook his head when he heard the word “celebrity.” He hated being on display back at the prison he escaped from, and now he was doomed to repeat the same fate. To be on display, and attract tourists. All he wanted to do was fade into the population and disappear. Now he would be the main attraction at the Vampire Zoo.
“Why do they call this place a zoo?” Bohdan asked.
“They call it the Vampire Zoo because people come from all over the country to look at us. We are like animals on display, and they charge a fee to see us. If you want to get up close to the fence, it’s twenty five cents. If you want to get on the bridge, it’s fifty. Only the richest people pay for the bridge.”
“Do any of the tourists ever come down here into the pit?” Bohdan asked.
“Not very often, but sometimes a rich industrialist will come and pay to have an armed escort down here. It’s usually a huge deal when they do and they have lots of armed guards. Now that you’re here, I’m sure we’ll have a lot more of them showing up. I bet they give you a room of your own.”
“What do you mean a room of my own?” Bohdan asked.
“There are three building here, one is filled with the Mormons, the other with miners. The third is torn to pieces and is filled with rats and shit. Most of the vampires use it as a toilet.”
“Mormons and miners? That’s an odd combination.”
“Infected slaves attacked the Mormons on their trip to Utah. Same with the miners heading to California. Both created huge pockets of vampires and many of them ended up here.”
“It’s not illegal to be a vampire as far as I know,” Bohdan said.
“No it’s not, you have to be a killer to be put in here, and as far as I know, all vampires are killers. Have you ever drank from a human and not killed them?” Dorek asked.
“Plenty of times,” Bohdan replied.
“So you made lots of little vampires along the way, good for you,” Dorek replied. He was being sarcastic. It was vampire ethics that said kill who you drink from so you don’t create more competition for yourself down the line.
“I was new, I didn’t know any better. Later on, I killed them all and tore them up. That’s how I got my name and reputation. Now how about this room you’re talking about?”
“Once they know you’re here, one of the groups will try to get you on their side and use your fame to gain power. Whoever leads that group gets their own room. Nobody else here gets a room to themselves, there just aren’t a lot of them.”
Bohdan remembered when he was being recruited to lead the skinheads back home. He didn’t want to lead then, and he didn’t want to lead now. But things were different now, he didn’t have a locked cell and if he didn’t assimilate with one of the groups he might be targeted by both. “What group are you with?” Bohdan asked.
“I’m a miner,” Dorek replied.
“And your friend here is as well?”
“Yes, his name is Valeska. We were both heading to California when we were attacked. We and a three more escaped before they could kill us, and we turned. The rest of our wagon group were killed.”
“How long were you on the run before they rounded you up?” Bohdan asked.
“Not long, maybe three years. They housed us in a jail but couldn’t keep us there forever, so they put us on a work farm. We were there for maybe ten years before they transferred us to a state prison. Then they built this place and sent us here.”
“How many vampires live here?” Bohdan asked.
“Fifty maybe,” Dorek replied.
Cara asked, “Any women?”
“Yes, I don’t know how many, fifteen maybe.”
“Why are there so many male vampires?” Cara asked. “I’d think women would be the more popular and easy targets.”
“Yes, but most of the male vampires kill them once they are done. It’s harder to kill the males, that’s why there are more.”
“Are they as evil as you?”
“If you’re looking for friends, you’re looking in the wrong place. This place is much divided. Almost to the point of war. You have to watch where you go and what you do or you will find yourself in pieces tossed in the shit pile,” Dorek said. “If I were you, I’d go with us tonight before the Mormon’s find you. They aren’t as kind as we are. They would have torn you up first and left you to rot.”
“I don’t think we have much of a choice now do we? How far is it to your building?” Bohdan asked.
“It’s not far, this pit isn’t as big as it looks from the outside. Come with us,” Dorek said.
Bohdan and Cara followed Dorek and Veleska away from the tower, across the gravel and dirt to a brick building on the north side of the pit. The building was unkempt and looked far older than it actually was. There was rock and brick strewn all across the gravel that surrounded the building and a smell of death and decay drifted out the windows.
“Why does it smell like that?” Cara asked.
“It’s the smell of rotting slaves,” Valeska replied.
“What do you mean? Rotting slaves.”
“That’s how they feed us, they send down slaves and criminals. The ones destined for the gallows they send here. The slaves that try to escape get sent here as well.”
“And you let the bodies rot in the place you live? Why not toss them in the building with the rats?”
“Even dead bodies have a worth here, we don’t give them up to our enemy,” Valeska replied.
“What possible value would a dead body have?”
“We keep their souls as well as their bodies. We use them like we use our fists or our fangs. They give us power.”
“This sounds like voodoo to me,” Cara said.
“That’s how we learned of the power, from the black slaves. They taught us of the power and now we use it.”
“Do the Mormons do the same thing?”
“No, their religion won’t allow it, that is our advantage over them,” Valeska replied.
“I’m not sure if either one of you have the advantage,” Bohdan said. “But if it makes you think so, so be it.”