I arrived at the club slightly early the next night, despite the fact that I had taken a little extra time to get ready in an attempt to look a little more authoritative. I wore dark jeans and heeled boots with a deep red shirt and a patterned grey blazer. My hair was in an intricate swirl on top of my head and my makeup was more severe than usual. Rather than trying to make myself appear alive and human, I had chosen to emphasise my pale skin and sharp blue eyes. The affect made me look more vampiric than I normally did.
The heavily muscled man standing guard at the door let me in with a small respectful bow. Like most staff members at the club Eclipse (which I apparently now owned), he was aware of who and what I was.
Despite it being fairly early, the main section of the club was already filled with people milling around and buying drinks. The building was set on three levels that graduated downwards. The first room was filled with the general public and people waiting to get into the next room. The second room was a little more exclusive, mostly consisting of humans who were aware of the supernatural and the occasional vampire that wished to mingle. This was a big place for Feeders- humans who charged a price for their blood. The third room was much harder to get into and was pretty much only for supernaturals or highly trusted staff. This was where I held my audience every Thursday. I also had a small office built into the wall with tinted windows overlooking the dance floor in the second room. It was furnished simply as I rarely used it.
As I entered the building a young dark haired vampire spotted me and rushed over. She curtsied low, drawing confused looks from the general guests and respectful nods from the aware ones. I waited for her to straighten up before smiling.
“Miss Scarlett.” She looked nervous; her usual state when dealing with me. “Can I get you anything?” Myrtle worked at the club.
I shook my head, “No thank you, and just Scarlett is fine.” I told her this every time I entered the building. She still insisted calling me miss but I suspected she had been raised in a politer time.
It was common practice for younger vampires to cosy up to whoever was more powerful and in charge. They often hoped for the protection of more formidable friends and the potential opportunity to gain positions of power themselves. I wasn’t particularly interested; I did not want false friends who could betray me at the first hint of a better offer. I treated my new staff with politeness and fairness, but I wasn’t about to start picking favourites before people had proven their loyalty.
Rowland’s inner coven was another story. I had originally been aware of fifteen vampires in the coven when I had first arrived in the city. Some of them had been with him in Scotland and had been killed in the fighting that had ensued. It had however turned out that there was a significant amount of other vampires residing in Rowlands other properties around the rest of the world. On his death, many of these had chosen to return to the city. So far I had kept them at arm’s length. I was aware that many of them had been close friends with Rowland. I suspected that they would not hesitate at the chance to stab me in the back.
A substantial number of other vampires had also arrived in the city after word had spread of the fight and power change. I had been around long enough for people to have heard of me and that seemed to have made many curious. In terms of age and strength, I would theoretically make a better ally than Rowland. However I had been reclusive, preferring over recent years to live my own life instead of participating in the ridiculous power games of the rest of my kind.
The increased vampire presence in the city had come with its own problems. There had already been disputes over territory and blood supply. There were only so many humans willing to donate blood, and vampires by nature were instinctively territorial. Unless closely bonded by a coven, we did not normally play nice together. The increased activity also meant that we had to work harder to remain hidden from the general human population.
After again assuring Myrtle that I was fine, I sent her back to the bar to serve other customers. Still early, I wove through the crowds at a leisurely pace, using my sensitive hearing to pick out bits of conversations. I didn’t care about the daily lives of my customers but I did think it was wise to check that everything was running as it should. I made sure to listen for any suspicions or confusion from the humans, in case any of them happened to see anything they shouldn’t.
When I arrived at the entrance to the second room, I was briefly stopped by a young human I did not recognise. He was tall and fairly muscular but his face suggested to me that he was not much older than eighteen. I raised an eyebrow at the arm he put in front of me to stop me going through the doorway.
“Excuse me?” I said politely. I was not angry with him; I sensed that he was honestly trying to do his job. It was not his fault that we had not yet met, although I did want to test his training.
“I’m sorry miss, but you can’t go through here. This room is not yet open.” His northern accent was apparent; a local boy.
“I think you will find that it is, for me.” I said with amusement. “My name is Scarlett.”
He withdrew his arm but he did not move aside. His eyes said that he did not fully believe me. “Do you have an ID?”
I laughed, pulling out my wallet with my driving licence and handing it to him.
His examination was interrupted by a familiar older man rushing over. “Charlie! What are you doing?” He quickly bowed to me. “Scarlett, I am so sorry for the delay.” He appeared outwardly calm but I could see the worry in his eyes. He had worked for Rowland for a long time; I guessed he was aware of how unpredictable vampires could be.
“Richard, it is nice to see you. I suspect that this is our newest recruit?”
Richard nodded to me. “Yes, this is Charlie. I am sorry again for the delay, this is his first day.”
I looked again at Charlie, the boy was noticeably paler now that he had realised who he was talking to. I wasn’t sure how much information they had given him, but his racing heartbeat told me that his fear was real. I held out my hand and after a brief pause he handed my driving licence back to me. “This says you are twenty three.” He said quietly.
My grin grew wider. “I am aware.” They had not invented driving licences when I was actually twenty three.
He swallowed nervously. “I apologise for stopping you, I didn’t realise-“
I held up a hand to stop him. “There is no need to apologise. You meant no disrespect, you were just doing your job. You have been trained well.” I nodded at Richard who looked secretly relieved. “I would have been more concerned if you had failed to stop me. In a place like this, it is very important to regulate the movement of people.” The last thing we needed was a curious journalist or an observant investigator going where they should not.
“Th-thank you.” Charlie murmured, looking pleased.
I felt it was important to assert my authority a little. I met both of their gazes, allowing just a flash of red to enter my eyes. “Of course… now that we have met, I expect that we won’t have to repeat this incident.”
Charlie shook his head quickly. “No, no definitely not.”
Richard opened the door wide for me and I stepped through. “Thank you.” I said.
Since it was not yet open the second room was empty, making it much quicker for me to move through. I briefly popped into my office to check for any paperwork or post that needed my attention before entering the last room. An intricately carved wooden chair had been set up for me on a platform along the far wall, almost like a throne. I disliked the pomp and ceremony but it did serve the purpose of keeping order. With the number of people unhappy about the change in leadership, it was important that it was very clear who was in charge. The last thing I needed was someone with any power challenging me. The only sure way of anyone taking over my role was my death. Obviously, I wasn’t a fan of the idea.
Settling down in the chair I crossed my legs and waited. It wasn’t long before vampires began trickling into the room in twos and threes. Most of them were there to observe rather than to air their own complaints. Each vampire that entered the room gave me a bow or a curtsey of varying depth. Since age was basically equal to power, the younger the vampire the deeper the bow. A vampire of equal or higher power to me would not have to bow at all, although the chance of one being present was remote. It wasn’t often I came across another who had passed the one thousand year mark. Although traditionally this show of respect could be done with any vampire, it was normally only done with leaders of territories. Humans were not typically expected to participate as long as they were generally polite and respectful.
Once the room had filled, I rose to my feet causing a sudden silence to fall across the room.
“Good evening everyone.” I called, allowing my voice to carry over the crowd. There were murmurs of good evening in return. With an effort I kept a serene expression on my face; I might be ancient but I still hated public speaking. “I will not waste time with formalities when you all know why we are here. I only ask that you respect each other and consider others when you speak… who would like to begin?”
There was only a short pause before a petite blonde vampire stepped forward, giving me a small curtsey. She looked deceptively innocent with her tiny frame and big blue eyes but I sensed a hidden power in her gaze. She was at least a few centuries old.
“I would like to ask about the blood donors.” She said in a slightly accented voice. “I have not been in the city for long, but I have had some difficulty finding someone… available.”
I sighed, “I am aware of this issue. The sudden increase in vampires in the area means that the current number of willing humans is not quite enough. I have tasked some trusted humans with recruiting more. Obviously you will appreciate that this is a sensitive issue as we have to be careful who we approach. They must be… discrete.” I raised my eyes to meet all of the others gathered around the room. “In the meantime, I must ask you all to be considerate of others and try not to feed unnecessarily.” There were some muttered complaints about this but nobody challenged me outright.
Over the next hour I listened to several minor issues regarding various arguments and insults. I reluctantly felt a small degree of respect towards Rowland if he had dealt with all of this nonsense without killing anyone. I was just starting to develop hopes that the session might finish early when the doors opened, letting in the blasting music from the club dancefloor for a moment. The vampire that entered looked uncomfortable to suddenly find the eyes of the room on him. He was deceptively ordinary looking with mousy hair and a slightly scruffy looking t-shirt and jeans ensemble. I fixed my gaze on him, making him squirm nervously.
“Can I help you with something?” I narrowed my eyes, trying not to let my irritation show. It was not necessarily his fault that he had arrived so late.
Reluctantly taking the centre of the room he bowed low, showing his respect to me. “I beg your pardon,” He said timidly, “I am sorry to interrupt. I did not intend to come to this meeting, but I have just witnessed something… um something you should know about.”
My attention was piqued, gripping the arms of my chair I leaned forward. “Really? I don’t know you, what is your name?”
“S-Sam.” He stuttered a little.
“Well then Sam, do tell.” I purred, beginning to grow impatient again.
He moved a few steps closer to me and lowered his voice. It didn’t matter; the vampires in the room would still be able to hear easily. “I witnessed a turning.” He said in a hushed voice, “The vampire Eleanor has turned her male… companion. She told me herself that it was a secret, she did not have permission.” Hushed whispers broke out around the room.
I rose to my feet. “I see.” I said. I could already see this was an instance that would involve some sort of discipline. Without proper control vampires might assume that they could start turning humans left right and centre. We were already experiencing an over population crisis, we did not need any more… especially more that were not loyal to me.
Sam nodded uncertainly “Yes. I have the address.”
The room was watching me with anticipation, waiting to see what I would do. “You will take me there now.” I commanded. Letting my eyes flash red for an instant I grinned to reveal my fangs. “There will be punishment for this.”
The address was a short distance across town. As we left Eclipse I found a car and a driver already waiting for me. I would have preferred to walk but I guessed that being driven would seem more appropriate to my audience.
I slipped into the front seat of the black Mercedes, purely to allow Sam to be seated in the back with a couple of older vampires who appeared to have taken up the role of bodyguard/ henchmen. One was a male who appeared to be in his early forties, the other a tall female with straight black hair and prominent cheekbones. I remembered their names were George and Nicky. I didn’t know much about either of them, but I was aware that they had been in the group more supportive of my leadership.
Another larger car followed behind with more important vampires from the club and I sensed more still following discreetly on foot. All of the human staff stayed behind, sensing that this was a matter to be dealt with by my kind.
We quickly arrived at the location. It was a small residential building in one of the poorer areas of the city. I doubted any of the neighbours would be looking out of the windows but as a precautionary measure I instructed my car to drop us off and leave. I didn’t need people seeing number plates that could potentially be traced back to me if things got messy.
Taking Sam by the arm in case he decided to try to bolt, I led him around the back of the building gesturing to George and Nicky to guard the front. The other vampires arriving could do as they wished; I didn’t need anyone else to help me, I just wanted witnesses.
The thumping beat of music coming from the neighbouring building would help to mask our approach. Steering clear of the overflowing bins at the rear of the house we reached the back door. To my surprise I found it already open. A small pane of glass had been broken, allowing the perpetrator to turn the lock from the inside. Frowning I drew in a deep breath, trying to ignore the strong scent of the decomposing rubbish nearby. I could smell vampire quite clearly, telling me that I was in the right place. What I didn’t expect was the other all too familiar scent- Nick. What was he doing here? I cursed silently to myself; the situation had just gotten much more complicated.
Gritting my teeth I threw the door open and stormed into the building, dragging Sam along with me. He was pale and terrified but thankfully silent. Moving quickly through a narrow hallway I pushed an airing rack of clothes aside and burst into a kitchen. The scene that greeted us made me freeze for a second in shock.
A female vampire lay dead on the floor, surrounded by blood. Nick faced off against a young furious male who yelled at the sight of us. A terrified human cowered in the corner, covered in blood. I quickly realised that I needed to gain control of the situation before everyone in the room ended up dead.
“Eleanor!” Sam cried out in dismay from beside me, spotting the body on the floor. His shout was enough to make Nick glance in our direction, trying to assess the new threat. When he caught my eye he froze, allowing the male vampire a window to launch himself at Nick in fury. They fell to the floor in a confused tangle; the male was new and untrained, he instinctively snapped at Nick’s neck whilst he tried to hold him off. His wooden stake lay a few feet away, forgotten.
“Enough!” I roared, releasing Sam and striding forward into the mess.