Dorek and Valeska led Bohdan and Cara back to their building and let them inside. Neither Bohdan nor Cara knew if this was a setup to get them killed, but they knew eventually they’d be found by someone in the confined area of the pit. They had to have faith they’d survive another day.
“This place is a disaster,” Cara said. “How can you live here? Don’t they fix this place up once and awhile?”
“No, they don’t care about us, there have been no repairs since the building was built.”
“They don’t treat animals in a zoo this badly.”
“They think we should take care of the building ourselves, but they don’t give us any materials or tools.”
“If this place falls apart, will the tourists still come?” Cara asked.
“They come every day, look down on us, yell at us, throw things into the pit,” Dorek replied.
“What kinds of things?”
“Rocks mostly, they try to hit us when we’re out.”
“And the guards put up with this?”
“The guards bring rocks to sell to the tourists, they pick them up later and resell them again and again.”
“That’s pathetic, and inhuman.”
“Obviously they don’t consider us human,” Dorek replied. “I want you to meet our leader, Preacher Jack.”
“Preacher? Is he a minister?”
“No, he just likes to tell us what to do, that’s how he became our leader. It’s almost sunrise, he should be up by now.”
Dorek walked through the shattered halls of the miners building to where Preacher Jack’s private room was located. There was no door, just a sheet that hung covering the open door. Dorek announced himself and no one answered, then a voice called out from behind telling him that Preacher Jack was outside with the rest of the vampires, it was feeding day.
“What’s feeding day?” Cara asked.
“Let me show you,” Dorek said. He and Valeska led Bohdan and Cara back out the front door and saw that a large crowd of vampires had gathered by the north wall. At the top of the wall, part of the iron fence was opened to allow a large wood carriage to back up to the edge. There was no room on either side of the carriage to allow anyone in or out, it seemed odd that the opening fit perfectly, but that would become clear soon enough.
Surrounding the carriage was a group of prison guards, and surrounding them for as far as the eye could see were tourists pressed up against the fence watching what was about to happen. As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky lit up a pale blue with a bit of red mixed in. Just enough light to see a body drop from the back of the carriage into the pit. Bohdan didn’t see the body hit the ground behind the crowd of vampires, but he did see them pounce on it as soon as it hit.
“What the fuck?” Bohdan asked. “What are they doing?”
“You heard what I said, it’s feeding time.”
“Who are they dropping? Are they dead?”
“Those are convicted criminals, death row inmates and escaped slaves. And no, they are not dead. Vampires don’t feed on the dead, they are the dead.”
Another body dropped from the carriage and again the vampires pounced on it like savage animals. Bohdan was a good hundred yards away but could easily hear the screams of the victim and the cheers of the crowd watching from above.
“I’m a vampire, and I find that a bit barbaric,” Bohdan said. “Where’s the sport in that?”
“Coming from someone famous for raping and killing young women, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on,” Dorek said. “What sport is there in killing girls?”
“Touché’,” Bohdan replied. “But they were never handed to me like this. From what I can see, they tied them up, I can see straps wrapped around them as they fall.”
“They are tied up, they don’t want the vampires injured as they feed. They would do the same for a tiger in the zoo.”
Another body dropped, then another and the crowd went wild.
“How many humans do they drop on feeding day? And how often do they feed?”
“It depends, they try to feed at least twice a month, and I’ve seen as many as twenty dropped in a day and as few as three. It can get very hungry around here on those days. The vampires tend to get very testy and I’ve seen lots of fights break out. We don’t feed on each other obviously, but starve a vampire and you will piss him off.”
“Where is this Preacher Jack?” Bohdan asked.
“He’s probably in the crowd,” Dorek replied.
“You make him fend for himself? I thought he was your leader? Isn’t there any perks to being the boss?”
“Not around here, if he didn’t get his own he’d be starving like the rest of us.”
“Speaking of which, why aren’t you out there getting some of that good slave blood?” Bohdan asked.
“It’s not worth it, the big ones feed first, we get the seconds, and sometimes thirds.”
“How big are the big ones?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, it’s best to stay back here for a day or so after feeding time. Once they get their strength back, they can be either very complacent, or very aggressive. It depends on their mood.”
Bohdan and Cara continued to watch as they dropped another five bodies from the back of the carriage onto the pit floor. The vampires below savaged the living humans and drank from their bodies as soon as they came to a rest. Bohdan could see vampires vying for good spots and wrestling with other vampires pushing and shoving to get what they could.
When the last body was dropped, the carriage pulled away and the gate was closed. The guards stepped back and the crowd filled in the spot where the carriage once was parked to get a better look at what was going on below. This seemed to be the prime spot for the tourists and they seemed to be as agitated and aggressive as the vampires below feeding in the pit.
“There he is,” Valeska said pointing to the crowd. “I see Preacher Jack coming this way.”
Bohdan strained to pick out this Preacher Jack from all the other vampires. “I thought you said the Mormons and the miners didn’t get along. Do they feed them separate?”
“No, they’re all mixed up now, but they will soon separate. There are no factions when it comes to feeding time, a starving vampire is a starving vampire,” Valeska replied.
Bohdan could now see a single figure walking back to the miners building surrounded by two other vampires. Preacher Jack was a large vampire, with a big grey burly beard and miner’s hat. He wore suspenders and denim jeans that went well with his button down shirt. He was exactly what Bohdan thought a miner would look like.
As Preacher Jack approached, Dorek stepped up and greeted him. “Jack, I want you to meet someone,” Dorek said.
Preacher Jack stopped and looked at Bohdan and Cara. He was taken aback for a moment, as if he recognized Bohdan from somewhere. “Who are you?” Preacher Jack asked.
“His name is Bohdan, Bohdan the Vampire Ripper.”
Preacher Jack didn’t move for a moment, then he shook his head. “I’ve heard of a vampire ripper, I wasn’t impressed then, and I’m not impressed now. I think all vampires are evil scumbags to an extent, what makes him any different?”
“He has a reputation all across the nation. Everyone knows of Bohdan the Vampire Ripper. He’s been in the papers, books have been written about him. There is no vampire as famous as him,” Dorek replied.
“Books? Bullshit, I don’t believe it for a second. Is that true?” Preacher Jack asked Bohdan.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been to a bookstore,” Bohdan replied with a grin.
“Even if it was true, why should I care? We are all the same here.”
“Maybe to us he’s the same, but not to the tourists, and definitely not to the prison. Once they realize who he is, things will change.”
“They will use him to make money, they will charge more to see the vampire ripper. His fame will bring in more tourist and more money.”
“I still don’t see how this affects me,” Preacher Jack said.
“Bohdan will end up running this place. He will get special protections. We will all bow down to him,” Dorek replied.
“I bow down to no one,” Preacher Jack said.
“Money talks, the administration will make changes, I grant you that. This place will not be the same once they figure out who they have living here now.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying we need to make Bohdan the leader of the miners before the Mormons do. Having Bohdan in charge will bring us great power by default.”
Preacher Jack stood dumbfounded. He had just heard that he needed to step aside and let Bohdan take over as leader. “I’ve been running the miners for ten years, and you want me to give that all up to this guy? Are you nuts?”
“If you don’t, you may find yourself dead,” Dorek replied.
“Is that a threat?”
“Not from me, I’m just telling you like it is. The other vampires will realize that they can have a better life if they have a celebrity vampire as their leader. Bohdan can provide far more than you ever could. If you don’t step down, they will see it as a threat and will take you out themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time a vampire uprising took out a rival around here. Fuck, that’s how your rose to power. You had Matthew murdered.”
“Let’s say you’re right, if I step down I’m dead either way. I will be seen as weak and killed for my spot,” Preacher Jack said.
“Not if you play it right, you can be Bohdan’s assistant, his second in command. The other vampires will respect you if you play this right.”
“I see your point, but how do I know this is the real vampire ripper? It’s his word and his word only. Where’s your proof?”
Bohdan shrugged his shoulders as to say he had none.
“See, even he has no evidence.”
Cara spoke up, “He’s who he says he is, I know.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m his woman, Cara.”
“Bohdan the Vampire Ripper brought along his woman? That’s hilarious,” Preacher Jack said. “Where are your kids?”
“Don’t mock Bohdan, he will be running this place soon enough and you’ll be sorry you didn’t bow down to him sooner,” Cara said.
“Shut up woman,” Preacher Jack said. “I bow down to no one.”
“Then you will die, and sooner the better.”
“I’m going to call a gathering to discuss this, I want to get to the bottom and find out who this clown really is. If there is such a thing as a vampire ripper, I’m sure he’s not him. There must be someone here who would recognize him if he were. And if he is who he says he is, we will find the best way to use him. I agree we can’t let the Mormons have him, but I don’t need him if he’s lying. The first thing I’d do as a new inmate would be to lie to gain power. This guy is smart to claim to be the ripper. Maybe too smart for his own good.”
“You will see,” Cara said. She pulled up close to Bohdan and put her arms around him for protection.
“What are you scared of?” Preacher Jack asked.
“You, you ugly bastard,” Cara replied.
Preacher Jack laughed and shook his head at Cara. “You should be scared of me. I’m one bad motherfucker.”
“You need a bath, and wash your clothes. How can you like being a disgusting pig?”
“Look around, do you see a bathhouse? This isn’t a luxury hotel. Maybe where you come from, with your fancy dresses and perfume you can be a princess, but around here it’s a hog pen. Get used to it missy, you’ll be looking and smelling like me sooner than you think. And that dress? It will be rags within a week. You’ll be looking like you stepped out of a jungle.”
“I can take care of myself,” Cara said.
“Then let go of your protector and prove it,” Preacher Jack replied.