Prologue: BLOOD MOON
I awoke in the first floor hallway of an abandoned hotel in a dilapidated part of the city. This part of the city was the picture of urban blight. Storefront after storefront abandoned, windows smashed, burned out cars, filth and garbage covering every surface. It gave decay a good name. This was post-civilizational debris.
How did I get here? I asked myself while pain pounded my head throbbing like a boom box bass. I started to lift myself up and suddenly lightning bolts of agony shot through my shoulder and chest. I looked down and saw an enormous splinter had nearly impaled me. It entered my back just below my armpit and was poking out through my left breast. The blood had nearly congealed. I reached behind my back and grasped the thicker end of the splinter and started to pull on it. Excruciating waves of pain shot through my shoulder as it started to move. Fresh blood started to gush from the front and back. With a sucking sound and a pop it came out. I looked up at the shattered floorboards where I must have come through. Then I remembered. I’d been out on a date with Julie. We had gone out to dinner at a tapas place and then a nightclub in the fashionable part of town. Plenty of neon, beaucoup restaurants, bars, nightlife. It was the bang-up place to go for a good time.
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I asked her.
She paused pensively. “Married I hope. At least I was brought up with the expectation I’d marry. Maybe a couple of kids. Between diapers, cooking and cleaning, I’d work on my blog. I’d have hundreds of advertisers and tens of thousands of followers posting and debating in the comments section. Then my husband would come home, sweep me off my feet after a long, hard day in the trenches earning his way and make a romantic dinner with candles. After dinner, he’d always volunteer to do the dishes and I’d help. After the kids were put to bed and the dishes put away we’d retire to the bedroom and make mad, passionate love.” She laughed a happy laugh. “How’s that for a fabulous 50s fantasy?”
That made me smile and my heart warm. “What would you blog about?”
“The Arts. Art, literature, poetry, music, dance, theater, cinema, television, cooking, wine. Everything that enriches life and enobles our existence. This is what I’m really passionate about. I would like to create and manage a one stop compendium for all the things I love.”
“And the romantic dinners? Do you think you could help me wash the dishes?”
She opened her mouth in a half smile, lowered her eyelids and dropped her head down toward her chest, her lovely blond locks brushing over her breasts like wild grass blowing in the summer wind as she reached out and touched my wrist. Wave after wave of warmth rushed from my wrist through my body down to my toes.
“You know you’re in the running, but you haven’t asked me yet.”
“Marriage? I’m not sure I’m ready. You do make it tempting.”
“Well let me know when you’re ready. I’ll let you whether or not I’ll help you with the dishes.”
We laughed, the spell broken.
“You ready for some crazy, Euro techno time?”
“You bet. I’m ready to go completely crazy tonight! I’ve got something in me that wants to explode and do something completely dangerous and outrageous.”
“Whoa cowgirl! All in due time!”
We got up. She leaned into me and kissed my cheek sliding to the corner of my mouth. I felt her breath and her scent. Her hair brushed on me. I wanted her so much. I felt the desire growing in my gut. We turned and walked out of the restaurant to head for the nightclub.
We walked down the street to this place called “Far Gone”. They specialized in fusion jazz/rock/techno. Kind of a Euro-trash vibe, but great to dance to. Julie loved dancing like this. After sweating to this craziness for a couple of tunes, we looked for a table and someone to bring us drinks. A spiked haired waitress wearing a sleeveless leather studded vest came up and asked us what we wanted to have. She had an amazing array of piercings. Eyebrows, earlobes, nose, lips, cheeks all had a ring, ball or a stick through it. I was kind of glad that it was extremely unlikely I’d see what other parts of her body she had decided to defile. Her upper arms had extremely colorful tattoos that depicted tigers ripping their prey to shreds. A warning? Julie ordered a lemon drop martini. I ordered a Heineken.
While we waited for our drinks to arrive I noticed a small group in the corner at a table who evinced a similar Goth vibe; like the waitress. Lots of black leather, more piercings, less elaborate tattoos, but still kind of freaky. There were five of them. The one who seemed to be the leader was seated in the center with his back to the wall. He had shoulder-length, wavy black hair, no piercings and no visible tattoos. He was taller than the others. Probably 6 foot 4. There were two men, both appearing 5-9, 5-10, and two women. All had extremely pale complexions and looked as though they had applied black mascara and eyeliner. Very early David Bowie.
One of the women had a long sleeve black lace top that covered her from her neck to her wrists, I would learn later that her name was Karin. The other, Diane, had a leather bustier with a plunging neckline that forced her rather substantial breasts up and out for all to marvel at. Bare midriff to boot! What are women thinking of these days? Both women were handsomely decorated with tats and metal.
The two men were slight and emaciated, malnourished with a full complement of piercings and tattoos. Ian and Tony.
We drained our drinks and signaled to the waitress for another round.
She sauntered up with our new drinks. “First time here?”
“No. It’s been a few years. The crowd seems a little different, but the music’s still cool,” I said.
“Changing nature of the state of man,” she said arching her eyebrow up and then turned and walked back toward the bar.
“Trippy crowd here,” I said.
“Kids have always wanted to be different,” Julie said. “Every generation feels the need to proclaim their uniqueness.”
“I guess. Want to hit the dance floor again?”
“You bet,” she said leaping off her stool, grabbing my hand and pulling me toward the dance floor to the pounding, churning mass of human flesh, attempting to achieve an orgasmic, ecstatic apotheosis of carnal expression and longing.
I loved the way the music throbbed and numbed my mind and body as we sought release through exhaustion and the depletion of perspiration. After 20 minutes or so I’d had enough and signaled to Julie that I’d like to rest. But she wasn’t done. I waved a goodbye to her and walked back to our table, which was amazingly unoccupied. I got the waitress’s attention to bring more drinks which she obliged quickly and then noticed that Julie had been joined on the dance floor by the two men and two women I had observed earlier from the back of the club.
They were thrusting and churning and undulating with each other, taking turns pointing at and brushing up against Julie. She laughed and they laughed back. Each coyly taking turn in touching her hands and then her arms. Then Karin, the woman with the long sleeve black lace top approached her from the rear and placed her hands around her midriff, grinding her pelvis into her ass. They moved and grooved to the music. Julie reached back and caressed the neck of her dance mate when I was startled to find that the taller man was standing next to me.
“Extraordinary display of decadence. Your girlfriend is quite beautiful,” he said.
His language had a slight tinge of an accent. Was it Irish? Hungarian? Russian? His demeanor seemed way more sophisticated than his appearance. He sounded presumptive and arrogant, used to getting his way.
“Yes she is.” I offered him my hand. “Rick Jason.”
“Victor Orloff,” he replied grasping my hand with his. I noticed he had a ring on the middle finger of his left hand with an enormous stone in it. It was oval and black with swirling clouds of bright red flowing to deep crimson.
“Interesting stone. Looks precious.”
“An inheritance. A hand me down. An antique.”
’It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen another. What is it?”
“It’s a bloodstone. It’s been in my family a long, long time. Legend says the bloodstone was formed from the blood of Christ dripping on the earth and solidifying. It’s purported to enhance the circulation of energy in the body, aiding the circulation of blood and increasing its owner’s life energy.”
“Does it work?”
Orloff snorted and grinned. “Some believe it does. Others…”
“Aren’t you nervous that someone will try to steal it?”
Victor smiled wryly his eyes sparkling. “Nervous? No. Never. I’ve found it possesses a power that captivates some, but always returns to me.”
“Orloff. That’s not an Anglo-Saxon name. What are you? Hungarian?”
“Your friends. Are they Romanian too?”
“Ah. They are Americans with a sense of adventure and a pursuit of pleasure. We share both together. Perhaps you and your lovely friend would care to join us later in a bit of both.”
“Well. I’m not sure…”
Just then Julie and Victor’s companions came bounding from the dance floor to our table laughing and giggling. Julie lifted her head up and shook it sending droplets of perspiration into the air, beads of sweat on her face and neck. “God. I could use a drink and some air. Meet my new friends. Diane, Karin, Ian and Tony. They’ve invited us to a private rave party. I’ve always wanted to go to one of these parties! It could be a lot of fun!”
“Julie. We’ve only just met these people. Don’t you think…”
She lowered her head and adopted a pouty expression puffing her lips out, her eyes twinkling. “Please?” She pleaded with the cutest look on her face. She knew how to work me I concluded. I caved.
“OK. But if it gets weird we’ll go,” I said glancing at Victor. He shrugged his shoulders indicating his lack of culpability in the situation.
Julie leapt forward and embraced me around my chest and almost purred as she kissed me next to my mouth saying “Thank you. You’re the best!”
“Well, should we get another round of drinks?” I asked.
Victor said, “Why don’t we go to the after party. There’ll be plenty of liquid refreshment and the night air will be invigorating.”
It seemed to be a reasonable suggestion, but I went to the bar to settle our tab and bought seven bottles of water and brought them back to the group and distributed them.
Julie cracked hers open immediately and began to greedily consume it. I opened mine and began to drink. The others had failed to touch their waters. Finally Victor reached out and took a bottle, opened it and took a sip. The others followed suit and did as Victor did.
Victor gestured toward the door and said, “Perhaps we should be on our way now.”
We all rose as Victor ushered us out into the cool night sky. The autumn air was brisk and invigorating. Victor was right about that. I was a bit nervous about embarking to an unknown destination with basically, complete strangers. But Julie wanted to go so badly. How could I deny her? I wanted to be with her. I wanted to make love with her. I was willing to do anything she wanted. Plus Victor promised liquid refreshment. That end of the rainbow I was ready for.
The sky was black and the moon was nearly full. We walked away from the neon and glitz of the party zone further and further into the depths of the city. We passed through a residential zone and finally into the essentially abandoned part of the city. I was grateful for the moonlight as the city doesn’t power or maintain the streetlights in this part of town. Most of the lights had been smashed by thugs anyway.
“This doesn’t look that great,” I said. “Maybe we should be going back.”
“Just a little further,” Victor said. “The kind of party we’re going to well… might not be appreciated in all parts of the city.” I glanced at Julie. She seemed gung ho, excited and ready to go. Did I say that I really liked her? A lot?
“OK. Just checking.”
We walked through an abandoned business district filled with abandoned storefronts with smashed windows, burned out cars and all manner of debris and filth on the streets and headed to an abandoned six-story hotel that loomed before us.
“Just ahead now,” Victor said. “Our destination.”
Victor opened one of the grand double doors of the hotel and bade us enter. Upon entering I could hear the techno Euro-Trash pounding that had been the soundtrack of our earlier part of the evening. Victor led us up a staircase toward the second floor. As we rose the music became louder and louder. We reached the landing and then followed Victor up the next flight of stairs to the third floor where I could see lights and strobes flickering. When we reached the landing Victor led us forward to a large set of double doors and flung them open revealing the bacchanal inside a once ornate ballroom. Strobes were firing. Lights were flashing. Bodies were heaving. Music was pounding. It was a mind numbing smack vibe with a chaser of cocaine. In the shadows I saw people engaged in a variety of sex acts. There were others who appeared to be consuming drugs. The smell of marijuana was palpable. The sweat and the sex and rot was intoxicating, even overpowering. This was definitely the craziest party I’d ever been to. Did I forget to say decadent?
“You mentioned liquid refreshment,” I asked Victor.
“Yes,” he said and pointed to a table next to the DJ with the dreadlocks smoking an enormous doobie.
“Thanks,” I said and motored across the ballroom toward the bar.
The bar was manned, or should I say womanned by a skeletal heroin chic concentration camp survivor with an elaborate set of tattoos and an incredibly bizarre set of piercings. I swear, if women continue to insist on making their selves this unattractive, I’m going to swear off sex permanently.
“What’ve you got?” I said.
“Just what you see.”
“Got any Champagne?”
She nodded and reached under the table, where I couldn’t see, into a big plastic ice bucket and pulled out a bottle of Prosecco.
“This is it.”
“That’ll do. Pour me two.”
She slapped two red plastic cups to the table and poured two generous pours and said “That’ll be fifteen bucks.” I grimaced, pulled out my wallet and dropped a twenty.
“Keep the change?” she said.
“Hardly. I work for a living too.”
She laughed and then dropped five ones. I left two for her.
“Thanks,” she said as I collected the drinks and went off in search of Julie.
Even though there was plenty of light in the room, it was all flashing and really meant to be a freak out distraction. I could barely make out anything. I did see Victor though. As weird as he was, his height made him stand out in the room. I made my way toward him, surveying the room for any sight of Julie.
“You see Julie?” I asked Victor while holding the two glasses of Prosecco.
“I believe she’s off in that corner with my four friends,” Victor said pointing to a spot of the room I hadn’t yet explored.
Heading over there I finally could make out Julie and the four Goth freaks. How the hell we made friends with these guys I’ll never know.
As I approached them I saw they were passing a glass pipe occasionally sparking up a lighter over the bowl.
“Hey! What’s going on?” I asked as I witnessed Julie taking a huge toke while the freak known as Ian lit the flames.
Julie sucked in God knows what into her lungs, holding it in and banging her hands onto the floor repeatedly, her eyes turning into the back of her head, finally expelling the smoke saying, “Fuck. Fuck Fuck. That was fucking awesome! What a fucking rush! I can’t believe you got me to do that!”
“Excuse me Julie. I got you a glass of Prosecco. I tried to get you Champagne, but this was the best I could do.”
She leapt up and grabbed it out of my hand spilling some and hungrily gulped it down.
“Fucking awesome! Thank you! How did you know I was so thirsty?”
“Actually, you told me at the Far Gone. And then we walked here.”
She came up to me, embraced me and kissed me, opening her mouth, sticking her tongue into my mouth. I obliged her by intertwining my tongue with hers. It was a sublime moment. It made the whole bizarre evening seem worth it.
“It’s time for us to proceed to the next phase of the evening,” Victor said, giving me a start. I thought he was on the other side of the room.
“Come children,” he said as he turned and beckoned us to follow, which we dutifully did. We walked all the way to back of the room and through a door, which led into a hallway with a dozen doors. Victor walked to the first one on the left, flung it open, unfurled his left arm rather flamboyantly and beckoned us inside. We complied.
It was a large room that appeared to be a living room. There was a wet bar at the rear of the room and double doors that led to a bedroom. At the right side of the room there was a door that opened up to a similarly sized living room and I assumed another bedroom.
“The Presidential Suite,” Victor announced as he walked to the wet bar, pulled out several bottles of liquor from a cabinet above as well as seven glasses.
“Any preference?” he said.
“What are my choices,” I asked.
“Cognac, Bourbon, Scotch and a digestivo. I’m a little embarrassed, but it’s made by my family.”
“What’s in it?”
“Old family recipe. Distilled eau de vie with herbs, seeds, berries, tree bark, roots and extracts steeped for up to five years while aged in cask. It’s been known to be a prophylactic against disease and promotes longevity. It’s also quite delicious once you get used to it. Most people find it a bit odd at first taste, but grow to love it.”
“What the hell. Pour me a glass.”
“Excellent,” he said as he poured three fingers into a highball glass.
“But digestivo. That sounds Italian. I thought you said you were Romanian. “
“I am, but I have lived in many places. I live here now.”
He was right about the odd quotient. A strong eucalyptus mint aroma rose from the glass, plus a healthy alcohol burn to the nose. It reminded me of Vick’s Vapo Rub in a glass with a twist of lime and coriander. On the palate it packed a punch. Must have been 90 proof. Kind of like drinking cough syrup with a kick and a touch of weird. Which seemed absolutely appropriate considering present company and the crazy turn this evening out with my girlfriend had taken.
“How do you like it?”
I took another sip. “You were right. It does kind of grow on you.”
“Good. Anyone else want a drink?”
“I’ll have a shot of what he’s having,” Julie chimed in.
“Coming right up,” Victor said as he poured three fingers into another highball glass and handed it to Julie. Then he poured one for himself and said “To your health.” We clinked glasses and sipped his odd brew.
“Anyone else?” he offered to Diane, Karin, Ian and Tony.
“I’ll take a Cognac,” Tony said.
“Me too,” followed Karin.
“The same,” chimed in Diane.
“Better make that four,” said Ian.
Victor raised his eyebrows slightly with a grin and reached for the bottle of Cognac and poured four glasses for his companions, who stepped forward to relieve Victor of their drinks. We all clinked our glasses again and settled into the serious business of consuming alcohol.
The heavy bass from the ballroom was still thumping through the walls and cries of ecstasy in the crowd reached our ears.
“Sounds like the party’s showing no signs of slowing down,” I said.
“Yes,” Victor said. “We’re going to have a more meaningful, more intimate party here.”
“What do you do for a living Rick?” Victor said.
I noticed to my left that Diane and Karin were in a hot clinch, French-kissing each other and running their hands over each other’s bodies.
“Nothing important. I sell newspaper advertising. Not exactly a growth industry. My friends keep telling me to get involved in the internet. Something with a future. I don’t know. Old dog. New trick.”
“How bout you Julie?”
“I write advertising copy. I work in the same office with Rick. I guess you could say we’re having an office romance.”
I was starting to feel a bit dizzy and I started to see double and then back to normal. Had I really had that much to drink? I then noticed that Diane was going down on Karin whose head was arched back in ecstasy. I looked at Julie and noticed that the color was draining a bit from her face. She was sweating rather profusely.
“What was in that drink?” she said.
“Just a medicinal brew. It’s good for you,” Victor said.
Ian and Tony moved in on Diane and Karin and began to caress the women who were now fully engaged in an erotic tryst.
“Perhaps you two should retire to the boudoir? You both look like the evening’s taken its toll on you.”
“Well. Maybe so,” I said, stumbling forward, my head spinning now, the room spinning now. I don’t think I made it. I don’t remember hitting the floor. I just deduced that I did because when my consciousness returned in a drugged out drunken stupor that’s exactly where I was.
Conscious doesn’t really describe my state accurately. I was in a fog, in a cloud. The room was swimming, turning in on itself. There was a deep gash in my left forearm and Diane had her mouth over the wound and was sucking on it.
“What the fuck,” I said trying to pull my arm away from her. She lifted her head up and I could see my blood all over her lips and face. “What the fuck are you doing to me?”
Three Victors merged into one as he approached me. “Diane. That’s enough. Ian! Tony! Get in here and get rid of him. We’re taking the girl with us.”
Ian and Tony grabbed me by the arms, dragged me out of the room and into the hallway. Tony lifted me up to my feet and Ian leaned in with a nasty sneer on his face and started pummeling me, first in the gut then repeatedly in the face. Tony turned me around and Ian went to work on my kidneys. Close to collapse and excruciating pain they continued dragging me toward the third floor landing. When they got to the banister they lifted me up, Ian on my arms, Tony on my feet and on three swings tossed me over the banister onto the second floor landing. I crashed through the dry-rot ridden floorboards and down to the first floor. That’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up in a world of hurt this morning.
My head was throbbing and I was still hung over from whatever the hell Victor had given me. I must have hit the floor pretty hard because I couldn’t close my jaw all the way. The hole in my shoulder throbbed in agony. The gash in my arm still hurt like hell. I was going to need to get it all cleaned up fast and get some fucking antiseptic in it. Who knows how many germs and bacteria that fucking bitch had gotten into my bloodstream. I needed to see a doctor bad. Maybe a witch doctor too.
And where was Julie. Where were Victor and his crew of murderous psychopaths? They had Julie and I had to find them and find them soon. Who knew how much time she had?
I dragged myself up. My left knee was really tender. My shoulders ached. When I stood my left leg shook, vibrated really. I could barely stand on it. I made my way down the hallway, leaning against the left wall, gingerly made my way toward the door. I opened the door. The front door wasn’t here. I had crashed through the second story landing down to the first floor landing in another wing of the hotel. Maybe that’s why nobody saw me. Or maybe they just assumed I was a drunk druggie down for the count.
I figured I needed to go left and walked down another long hallway. I could see the foyer from my position and the light of day filtering into the room. I made my way to the front door, pushed it open and stepped into the light. I immediately felt a burning sensation in my uncovered skin. My cheeks were on fire and my hands hot as well. This was quite a trick as it was late October in Michigan.
I began to drag myself down the trashed sidewalk. I wish I hadn’t caved so easily to Julie. I knew it was a bad idea and still allowed myself to be dragged into it. I felt like a grade A chump. Now Julie was gone and I was fucked up bad.
And how the hell was I going to find them? I’d just been left for dead and I felt close to it. But a gnawing hunger rose up in my gut and burgeoning anger filled my eyes.
But first things first. I had to go to a doctor, get home, clean up, get something to eat and retrace my steps from last night.
As I walked my knee began to feel stronger and I was able to pick up my pace. I finally got out of the abandoned part of town and into the residential section I had passed through earlier. Finally I reached a street that contained shops, markets, liquor stores and right ahead I saw what I was looking for: an Urgent Care Center.
I walked up to the front door, which slid open automatically and marched inside. The receptionist looked at me with a start, but not completely surprised. I must have looked pretty bad though.
“I need to see a doctor.”
“I can see that.”
“It’s not for the bruises. It’s for this,” I said pointing at my left breast and unfurled my arm showing her the wound. “I got punctured. Somebody bit me. I need to get it cleaned up.”
“Are you able to pay?”
“Visa, Discovery and American Express as well. Your name?”
“ Just sit over there and we’ll get you in as soon as possible.”
As I was the only one in the office I was hoping that was going to be pretty damn soon. Walked over to the chic plastic couch and sat down.
She picked up her phone and dialed an extension. “Dr. Morgan, there’s a patient here who needs some treatment. Typical weekend behavior. I’ll send Mr. Jason right in.”
“Mr. Jason? The doctor will see you now. Just head through that door to your right down two doors to Dr. Morgan’s office.”
“I’ll be needing your credit card first.”
“Sure,” I said reaching into my pocket for my wallet. I pulled out my card, handed it over, she ran it through her card reader and gave it back to me.
“We’ll settle up the charges when you’re done.”
I put my wallet away and went through the door into the interior of the clinic. Two doors down on the right and walked in.
“Dr. Morgan, I presume.”
“That’s me,” he said cheerfully. “Looks like you had a bit of a bad night.”
“That’d be putting it mildly. Forget the bruises, what I’m really here for is this.” I pulled off my shirt exposing the puncture in my chest and showed him the wound in my right arm.
“That looks pretty nasty.”
“I think my arm was bitten.”
“Doesn’t look like a bite wound. But it does look like it was opened with something blunt. The wound is very jagged.”
“Can you clean it up?”
“Of course. But first we need to get your weight, blood pressure, temperature and rate of oxygen exchange. Please step on the scale.” He adjusted the counterbalances and said, “Very good. 160 pounds. Have a seat.”
He wheeled over a machine, clamped a clip over the fourth finger of my left hand and wrapped a sleeve over my left bicep and pulled it tight.
He then hit a button and it started to squeeze my bicep harder and harder. I could feel my pulse pounding and pounding in my arm. He then stuck a plastic stick with wires attached under my tongue, waited and pulled it out.
“I’m not sure I like these readings. Your blood pressure is extremely low and your temperature is 92. Way below normal. I think you need immediate hospitalization.”
“I’ve got things to do, people to see. And I’ve got to do it quick. At least disinfect my arm and chest.”
“All right,” he said.
He then irrigated the wound with Betadine, injected me with antibiotics , proceeded to stitch it up, wrapped a bit of gauze around it and taped me up.
He then rubbed antibacterial cream into my shoulder wounds and taped gauze over them.
“You need to seek medical care immediately. Go to the emergency room to be admitted for observation. I’ll fax ahead to let them know you’re coming. I’ll call an ambulance for you if you like.”
“Like I said Doc, I’ve got places to go and people to see.”
I got up, shook his hand and headed out into the lobby. The receptionist was on the phone. “Oh, Mr. Jason, we’ll charge your card for $150.”
“Thanks,” I said as I walked out the automatic door and turned to head back to my apartment.
It was a relief to get back into my apartment as my face and hands stopped burning as soon as I got inside. I needed to eat something as the gnawing in my gut continued unabated, then bathe and change clothes. I made a ham and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes on rye with a liberal helping of French’s mustard. I took a big bite and started to chew. There was something decidedly unappetizing about it. I chewed and chewed, reluctant to swallow. Finally I swallowed. My stomach churned as though it was turning over. It wasn’t going to stay down. Then I vomited the food and continued with dry heaves. Waves of chills washed over my body. I’d never had a hangover like this before.
I rinsed my mouth out with water to get rid of the acid and foul flavors. I was still starving and craved to feed. I needed to try something else. Other times when my stomach acted up raw food had been easier to digest. I opened the fridge to see what other options there were. There was a chub of ground beef I’d been making hamburgers from. I lifted it up and smelled it. It smelled good. I grabbed a handful and shoved it into my mouth. This went down well and provided me some satisfaction as the gnawing sensation began to subside. I’d had steak tartare before. That’s what this was like. I hungrily scarfed down several more handfuls of burger, rinsed my mouth out with tap water and swallowed a bit. It all stayed down. I guess a little protein was what the doctor ordered.
I went into the bathroom, stripped, ran the shower water warm, pulled the shower curtains closed, got in the tub and let the water rinse the filth and blood and pain of last night off my body and down the drain, careful to keep my bandages dry.
How the hell was I going to find those fuckers and get Julie back from them? I thought about what they had done to me. It didn’t make any sense at all. What jollies did they get out of kidnapping a woman and leaving a man for dead?
I turned off the water, got out, toweled off and walked into my bedroom drying my hair and surveyed my modest wardrobe. I selected a long sleeve black turtleneck sweater, a pair of cargo pants and a black leather jacket. I pulled a pair of hiking boots out of my closet, the ones with the steel tipped toe. I dug out a fedora and a pair of thin leather gloves out of the recesses of my closet. I opened my dresser and pulled out a large kerchief and wrap around dark glasses. I got dressed and felt a little more armored than I had last night.
I went back into the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet and found a tube of sunscreen my sister gave me one summer. It was SPF 50+, the maximum sun protection factor permitted by law. It was the middle of a cold snap in Michigan in late October and I was putting on fucking sunscreen. I squirted a liberal amount into my left hand and started rubbing it all over my face and neck, making sure to go well beneath the collar. I then rolled up my sleeves to my elbows and applied a similar dose to my hands and arms.
I looked around my apartment for things I could use as weapons. In my utility drawer I found a razor loaded box cutter. If it was good enough for Al Qaeda it was good enough for me. In the kitchen I found the obvious: knives. I selected my favorite chef’s knife. Razor sharp with the 8-inch blade bolted through the handle for durability. I also selected an old-fashioned rod knife sharpener. It had a heavy hand and sturdy metal rod. I thought it might make a good striking weapon. I also had an ice pick with five points with a wooden handle. I then picked up a flathead screwdriver that had been sharpened like a knife. That might do very nicely.
I went back into my bedroom and on the dresser was a miniature souvenir baseball bat about 14 inches long, exaggeratedly thick at the end tapering way down to the handle. It had the makings of a nice club. I then found my 3-inch buck knife. Not very formidable, but it had sentimental pre 9/11 appeal. I slipped it into my back pocket.
Next I went out to my workroom and my tools where I found a ball pein hammer and my old Estwing rock hammer from my rockhound days. I brought them back into the house and collected my impromptu arsenal. My wallet and cell phone went into my left pocket. I dropped the box cutter into my lower right hand pocket, the souvenir bat in my lower left. I then pulled out my daypack and put the chef’s knife, rod knife sharpener, ice pick, ball pein and rock hammers in.
After putting on my sunglasses, gloves and fedora, I went onto my balcony patio where I kept my barbecue. I grabbed my lighter fluid and a box of strike free matches, took them back into the house, tossed them into my day pack and prepared to zip it up. “What the hell,” I thought, went back into the bathroom, grabbed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol and the sun screen and tossed it all in the day pack, zipped it up, put it on and walked out the front door.
I was relieved that the sunscreen was working for me. If I had to protect my face with the kerchief, I would have looked like a fucking terrorist.
I started to make my way to the “Far Gone,” the place where this nightmare had started.
When I got to the front door I pulled on it but found it was locked. I tried peering into the windows but it was some of that crazy quilt, frosted, deformed colored glass that you can’t see through. There was no light emitting from the inside.
I walked down to the end of the block, turned left past a building and found an alley. Turned left into the alley and looked for the back entrance to the “Far Gone”.
There was a liquor delivery truck in the alley. The driver had a hand truck loaded with booze and beer wheeling it toward the door. I jumped forward and opened the door for him.
“Thanks,” he said and wheeled his load into the club. I followed him in.
Once inside I took off my sunglasses and looked around. The driver wheeled his load to a storage room in the back. I walked through the swinging doors into the club and looked around.
There was a man sitting at the bar going over what looked like financial records. He was early 40s, balding with a generous gut. He noticed me as I approached.
“I was wondering if you could help me? I was here last night with my girlfriend. We met a group of Goth freaks. A tall guy named Victor, a couple of shorter guys named Ian and Tony and a couple of chicks named Diane and Karin. Do you know them? Do you know where they live?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“They drugged us, beat the shit out of me, threw me off a high place and left me for dead.”
“Shit,” he sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you. These guys are into some bad shit. They pay well, tip well. I do know something about them.”
“First show me. Do you have any wounds from your encounter? Bite to the neck, bite to the wrist, ankle?”
I pulled my left sleeve up to my elbow and showed the bandage to the man.”
“Shit. You’ve been bitten.”
“I saw the doctor. He said I wasn’t bitten, just cut with a blunt instrument.”
“Same thing. Screwdriver, fingernail, whatever. They ripped your arm open and bit you.”
“I had the doctor fix me up with antibiotics before he stitched me up.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’ve been bitten and you’re going to change. You’re changing now.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “This is bullshit!” I shouted at him. “Tell me where they are!”
“I can’t tell you where they are, but as you change, you will know exactly where they are.”
“How do you know this?”
“I’m a keen observer of my customers and my bar. Most people are normal. Then there are the others. Those that live in the night. You’re going to be one of them soon. You don’t have much time, maybe 48 hours. Then you’ll be one of them too. I won’t want to see you then. I don’t like seeing you now. I want you to leave now.”
I reached out and grasped him by the throat and pulled him to me. I felt a hunger deep within rise up, blinding my eyesight. I felt the urge to rip open his jugular and watch his blood flood the bar and the floor below. His look was of terror and fear. My anger subsided and I released him.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s come over me. The last 12 hours have been the worst of my life. I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you. They have Julie and I don’t know what’s become of her. I feel like what little grasp I have of reality is quickly slipping away.”
“Please go away from here. Like I told you, as you change you will begin to hear and see things that are invisible to normal people. You are no longer normal. You are becoming a creature of the night.”
I backed up dejectedly and surveyed him. There was a curious logic to what I was hearing. I thought about all the horror movies I loved as a boy and the books I had read. It suggested a crazy thought.
“Are you saying I’m becoming a vampire?”
He reached out and touched my right arm. “I’m sorry. It’s so.”
He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a pen and paper. He wrote down an address: 666 Gehenna Street, and a name: Mama Midnight.
“Go see her. She may be able to help you.”
I put my sunglasses back on and walked pensively to the back of the club and into the alleyway. When I reached the outdoors I fell to my knees weakly and prayed. “Dear God, don’t let this happen to me! Help me find Julie!”
This is fuckin bullshit. Vampires aren’t real! Those fuckers aren’t vampires. They may be murdering psychopaths, but this isn’t a fucking “Twilight” episode! What I was contemplating was insane. As much as I hated the “Twilight” series after the second installment, I began to feel the gnaw of hunger deep within my gut.
I went into the next supermarket I found, up to the meat counter and found the reddest, bloodiest steak I could find. I brought it up to the checkout stand, paid for it and walked out. I walked into an alley and took the steak out of the bag. I carefully removed the plastic wrap. It smelled so wonderful. I don’t know why I’d never noticed the intoxicating aroma of blood before, but I was giddy in anticipation as I lifted the tray up to my lips and drank the blood down. It brought an infusion of energy into my body as I began to rip the flesh with my teeth and greedily chew it up and swallow it down.
Refreshed I began to walk forward to find the home of Mama Midnight.
It was on the way to the abandoned part of the city, in the residential section that ringed it. 666 Gehenna St. Another crazy address in my now crazy life.
I walked up the stairs to the door and looked for a doorbell. I couldn’t detect one so I lifted the enormous knocker, knocked five times and waited.
It took a bit of waiting but I heard some rustling from within, some creaking of the floorboards and finally the latch in the door being extracted. The door opened stopped by a chain. An olive colored eye with wrinkled lids filled the opening. “Yes.”
“Are you Mama Midnight?”
“That’s what I be called.”
“The guy. I don’t know his name. The guy at the “Far Gone” told me about you. Said I should see you. Said I’d been bitten.”
Her eyelids squinted as though trying to see me more clearly. “How do I know this is not a trick to gain entrance into my home?”
“Fuck! Do I look like I know what the fuck I’m doing? Like I have a clue what is happening to me? All I know is last night five crazy psychopath motherfuckers threw me off a building and kidnapped my girlfriend. And now some crazy bastard is raving about vampires and how I’m changing into one. I need somebody to talk some sense into me. That crazy bastard sent me to you! Can you help me?”
“OK. Me thinks you not be going to rip my throat open so I’s going to let you in my home. But beware. You try anything to hurt me. I have potent ways of hurting you back, but worse.”
She removed the chain from the door and opened it. I walked in. She was a slight, older black woman with grey in her curly hair and her dark skin complexion had flecks of grey in it. She spoke with a sing-songy quality that made me think of Jamaica.
“I swear. I just need to know what’s going on. The doctor told me that I should check into the hospital for hospitalization and…”
“Plain to see that’s not gonna help you. You got the bite and you got it bad. You turn for sure in the next 36 hours.”
“How can that be? I’m just a normal, regular guy. I’m horny. I want to fuck. I want to eat great meals. I want to drink booze and watch the Tigers on TV. I want to see the next Star Wars movie. Jesus! But as I say it, it sounds empty to me. I just want to save Julie. How can I save her?”
“The door is closing on your humanity. Your woman will be consumed if you fail to act.”
“Let’s say you’re right. I’m turning into an undead thing.”
“Oh but you are. Don’t you feel the bloodlust rising in your belly? You need to feed. You will feed. One way or another.”
“What about Julie?” She doesn’t deserve this fate.”
“She may already have been consumed. Her only hope is to be held for ritual sacrifice. Tonight is the Hunter’s Moon. Every Hunter’s Moon some poor child is found mutilated by these demons. You don’t have much time.”
“How can I find them?”
“You know now. Close your mind’s eye and give yourself to your bloodlust. You will soon see them. You will know where they are and whether Julie is consumed or to be sacrificed.”
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the increasing gnaw in my gut and I could see them. Victor, Ian, Tony, Diane, Karin and Julie in a room. It was dark, but flickering light was coming in through the windows even though they were covered with sheets. I felt my delirium overwhelming me and I collapsed.
“Did you see?”
“I saw something. I think I saw them, but I didn’t see clearly enough.”
“You need to feed more. Then you will see better.
“I’ve been eating raw meat.”
“That’s not enough. You need to eat life.”
“I’m not killing anybody.”
“Then you must eat cat, dog, possum, squirrel. Anything with life will improve your acuity. Then you will see and know where they are. Then you can help your Julie.”
I was in a complete tailspin. I wasn’t sure what to believe. But something clicked in my mind and I was in.
“OK Mama. I’ll do it. But if you’re wrong, I’ll be back.”
“No. You don’t be comin back. We done. I told you what you gotta do to help your Julie. You I can’t help. If you come back for Mama Midnight, she gots something that will really hurt you. Make you dead again. Get out of my house demon! Find the other demons and do battle.”
I walked out the door and it closed behind me.
Looks like I needed a witch doctor after all.
I walked further down Gehenna Street, turned right, walked down two doors and made another right into an alley. This looked promising. Tons of garbage, discarded appliances, automotive waste, the smell of rancid grease and other filth.
I walked over to what looked like one of the cleaner piles of garbage and sat down in it, dragging the cardboard, plastic garbage bags over me. I reached into my day pack and pulled out the chef’s knife and let it drop to my right side and pretended to pass out.
It didn’t take long. There was rustling of my pile of garbage. Something was moving toward me. I felt it climb on my leg, sniffing me and coming up toward my face. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an enormous rat, the size of a cat, its whiskers and nose vibrating furiously. It crawled cautiously up my chest until I could feel its nose on my chin. That’s when I struck. In one movement I lifted the knife and plunged it into the neck of the disgusting creature. It struggled violently. I ripped the knife further and further into its neck severing its carotid artery. As it quivered while its life’s blood flowed from its body, I lowered my lips to the squirting blood and began to suck it in. I felt a sudden surge of energy and a power I had never felt as I drained the creature of its life’s blood.
I tossed the body across the alley feeling disgusted with myself. A strange calm and clarity came over me. I thought of Julie and it was as though I was suddenly transported through a grid of the city, down street after street up a set of stairs and into a windowless room. I saw Julie, tied up in a chair, her face dirty, blood on her blouse with Karin sneering at her.
I then pulled out of the room and through the window down to the street and looked at the house. The number was 7353. I collapsed. I had the house number, but what was the street name? Was I gonna have to eat another rat? Well, it did feel good and if I could get the street name and save Julie it would be worth it.
I heard a mewling sound and saw a cat licking the neck of the nearly decapitated rat. This cat didn’t seem like it belonged to anybody. Its fur was matted and missing in clumps. It had visible abscesses on its hind legs oozing pus. I crept up behind it holding my chef’s knife behind my back. It turned suddenly and hissed at me. I made kissy sounds. “Oh! Nice kitty!” I said as I neared it. It seemed to relax a bit as I slowly knelt down to pet its head. It was as though I had willed it to calm itself. I then grasped the fur at the back of its neck and plunged the chef’s knife through its neck. It struggled and shook as I worked the knife around, enlarging the wound, the blood flowing freely. It ceased to struggle as I placed the gaping wound in the neck to my mouth and drank in its lifeblood.
The rush I had felt before intensified as I thought of Julie. My mind rushed through the grid of the city all the way to 7353 but I found I was able to pull myself back from entering the building where Julie was being held prisoner. My spirit settled in front of the number as I forced myself to drift back the way I had come till I got to the intersection: Corner Street and Gratiot!
I now knew where they had her. But I didn’t know why!
I contemplated the incendiaries I had packed. Nice, but maybe not as intense as I could get.
I found another street with merchants and found a thrift store. They had a rag bin in the back. I bought some of those and a sturdy 3-gallon container I intended to fill with gasoline at the next gas station I encountered.
I next went into a convenience store and purchased a six-pack of Coors Light and a box of gallon size recloseable food storage bags. I cracked the tops outside and began to empty the contents into the gutter.
“Man, that’s just wrong,” a homeless guy exclaimed. “You want to get rid of it why don’t you ask me to help?”
As his logic was sound, I handed him the next bottle. “I just want the empties. Be careful.”
“Oh, I will. I’m so glad I can be of help sir.”
The guy chugged it as fast as I could pour it out. Hell, I didn’t want to get a buzz. I needed the fragile glass.
He finished the last one. Actually chugged four of them and handed me the empties.
“Thank you sir!”
“You’re welcome,” I said, loading the bottles into my bulging daypack and headed across the street to a gas station where I filled my 3-gallon container.
I pulled out my smart phone and typed in Corner Street and Gratiot. The intersection was located and I punched in walking directions from my current location. It was going to take 45 minutes.
I took off down the avenue. The turn-by-turn directions propelling me forward inexorably toward my fate. Why would they try to kill me and keep Julie alive? What horror did they have in mind for her? I mean I was already completely fucked up. Probably already was even before they got their hands on me. Pathetic suitor, loser. Couldn’t step up and ask for her hand. That’s it! Just go through the motions and agree to everybody’s bullshit. Look where that landed us. Swimming in shit, coming up for air in hell.
I drew a bead on that fucker Orloff in my mind. He was at the bottom of whatever was going to happen. He had the digestivo the others avoided. How could I have been so stupid? He had the bloodstone. Maybe I should eat another rat or cat and think about the bloodstone. The more I obsessed on Victor and the bloodstone I knew there was a connection, a chance to save Julie. I might be lost, but if I could save her from Victor and his crew I would have at least accomplished one good thing in my life.
My smartphone alerted me to my proximity to Corner Street and Gratiot. There it was. Just ahead. Just needed to determine which street it was on. I walked onto Corner Street. It was in the 1200 block, couldn’t be it. I walked back to Gratiot. It was the 7000 block. This was the place. I walked down the street, counting the numbers on the row houses until I got to 7353. I paused a beat and kept moving. I assumed they thought they had killed me, but had doubts. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion.
Besides with my fedora, dark glasses and leather jacket I looked nothing like I had looked last night.
I hadn’t really noticed anything other than the number as I passed the address, but I knew they were in there and that they had Julie.
I walked around the corner, went a couple of doors down and entered another trash-filled alley where I looked for an isolated spot to load up my Coors bottles with gasoline. I filled each one with gasoline, leaving the proper ullage for inserting the rags. I tore the rags into strips and carefully inserted them into the bottles, letting them soak up the gasoline and yet seal it in. Then careful to keep the bottle upright I inserted each of the bottles into one of the recloseable bags and zipped them shut. As I was finishing the fourth bottle I heard a vicious growling and looked up to see a drooling, angry Rottweiler slowly moving down the alley toward me. There was something wrong about the animal. It had a wound in its left side and another in its head. Maybe it had tried to fuck up the wrong person. Suddenly it charged.
I had no time to think. It leapt into the air, jaws open; incisors ready to tear the flesh from my bones. I shoved my arm down its throat, grabbed its trachea as it clamped down on my arm and ripped it out. It fell to the ground. I fell upon it and with my teeth I ripped its jugular open and greedily drank its blood until it stopped quivering.
I knew I was ready for the next step.
I continued down the alley until I found the service entrance to 7353. Small garage. Abandoned car inside. I looked inside and saw the door. I walked back to the other side of the alley and looked up. It had three stories. In my vision Julie was somewhere on the third floor.
Suddenly I began convulsing and fell to the street. Visions began to commence again. The bloodstone began to draw me to it and then I knew why Julie had been kidnapped. The Blood Moon, which for many heralded the possible return of Jesus to earth and the beginning of the end times. For Victor it was a time of renewal, a time of sacrifice that would infuse him with life’s energy a thousandfold from what he and his ancestors possessed. Julie would be sacrificed at the height of the Blood Moon Eclipse and the energy of the cosmos would course through Victor’s being, renewing him and his coven. The bloodstone he wore on his middle finger was part of his ritual and could not be accomplished without it. The Blood Moon would come, but I had to ensure that Victor would not have the bloodstone.
It was about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The light was softening. The colors were deepening. I looked for a window for a look at myself. I was a fright. Wrap around mirrored dark glasses, fedora covering my head, dried blood all over my face and as I opened my mouth, my teeth appeared sharper, more dangerous that I had ever thought possible.
I filled up the last two bottles with gasoline and rags and covered them up and decided to walk around the block again to the street entrance.
This time I walked slowly until I got to 7353 and walked up the stairs to the door. I knocked and waited. I heard steps walking on hardwood getting louder and louder, then the door latch unlocked and the door opened slightly. It was Karin! Mama Midnight was right! I had found them!
“Can I help you?” she said.
“I was looking for Russell. He gave me this address I think. Sometimes I’m kind of dyslexic and screw up the numbers. Is he here?”
“No Russell. And you’re right about being dyslexic. This ain’t the place,” she said as she slammed the door.
Thank God it wasn’t Orloff. Orloff might have recognized me even though my appearance was completely different from last night. I decided to take my chances through the service entrance.
I walked back around to the back. What the hell, I thought, walked up to the back door and turned the handle. To my amazement it opened! Unlocked! In Detroit! I don’t care how dangerous these fuckers were they were really taking their lives in their hands by leaving their back door unlocked in Detroit!
I tiptoed back to my stash of gas bombs by the fence and brought them into the house and set them down by the door.
I looked around and surmised that I was in a utility area. Washing machine, dryer, double sink. Definitely a work area. I took one of the gas bombs and set it behind the washing machine.
There was a small stairway into the house, which I decided to use for reconnaissance. I noiselessly climbed the stairs and slowly turned the latch. Making no sound, I pulled it open, stuck my head into the first floor of the house and listened. I tied my kerchief to my face. I expected to see Karin somewhere on this floor and moved soundlessly into the house to explore every room.
The first room contained the kitchen. It was a rather nice, spacious kitchen, putting my apartment to shame. To the right was the living room and to the left was a family room. At the end of the family room was a door. There was light shining from the gap of the door and the floor. Karin.
There was a stairway in the middle of the room leading into the upper floors of the house. Julie was up there. Orloff too I assumed. I had to be careful. I turned back to retrieve another gas bomb, returned to the kitchen and placed it inside a cupboard next to the oven. I had four bombs left. I pulled out some matches and put them into my pants pocket and the remaining bombs into my day pack, careful to keep them upright and walked into the family room. There was a planter to the right of the stairs. I placed the next bomb behind it. I carefully stepped onto the first step near the left banister and lifted myself up. There was no sound. I gingerly repeated my actions for each step and reached the second story landing. There was a door directly in front of me, and one to the left and one to the right. There was a planter at the base of the next flight of stairs. I carefully walked over to it and placed one of the bombs behind it. I lay down on the floor and looked at the bottom of each door, hoping to see light emanating from within the rooms. There was none. I pulled the chef’s knife out of my daypack and slid it into the planter, slowly, careful to not make a sound.
I then began to climb the final flight of stairs. When I got to eye level with the floor I could see light coming from the two doors to the side. I placed another bomb to the right at the top of the stairway and proceeded to the door to the right. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and wondered if others couldn’t as well. Crawling forward I could hear muffled noises, heavy breathing and the sounds of passion. It sounded as though the two inside were fucking. I put my ear to the floor to listen. The heavy breathing, moaning, flesh slapping against flesh. Definitely fucking.
I raised myself up and walked slowly, silently across the floor to the other room with light emanating from under the door and listened, quieting my breath and focusing all my concentration on my ears. I heard breath rise and fall and the occasional creak of a chair. There was a single person within this room. It was Ian, Tony or Victor. Although I doubted Victor was in either room. That left the door in the center. I slowly moved toward it, grasped the door knob and slowly turned it til I felt the latch release from the latch plate and slowly pulled the door open and walked inside. The walls were covered with books. In the center of the room was a large skylight. In the ceiling over the door was an amazing, oval stained glass panel. Even in the declining light of the day there emitted from it a most ethereal light. It was a reproduction of Leda and the Swan by Giovanni Francesco Melzi after the lost painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. The sensuousness of the woman’s form and the swan’s undulating body, seeming to caress the beautiful, ravishing form of the naked woman.
Growing accustomed to the light my gaze dropped from the stained glass and saw directly before me the silhouette of a woman with long locks and her head bent. Could it be Julie? I placed my remaining gas bomb in a wastebasket near the right hand door and fluffed trash over it to hide it and rushed forward to the figure before me and knelt down before her. It was she! An overwhelming sense of relief washed throughout my body and mind. I embraced her. She was bound to the chair and seemed to resist consciousness. Her eyes seemed to flicker to life. She opened her mouth and gasped for breath. Her eyes slowly opened.
“Is that you Rick?”
“Yes,” I said tenderly, caressing her head, holding her neck in my hand.
“What’s happening to us?”
“I don’t know, but I intend to take you out of here.”
“Oh, thank you Rick. You came back for me. These people are horrible. They have hurt me and from the looks of you they have hurt you even more terribly. I’m so sorry. I never should have insisted on anything more than dinner and dancing.”
I reached around her and sought the source of her bonds. I found where they were knotted and released them.
“Shhhh. That’s in the past now. Nobody knew anything. Most of the time we take a risk nothing happens. What matters now is that you are safe and we must carefully flee this house.” I reached down and untied her feet.
“Can you stand?”
“I think so,” she said as she lifted her body off the chair and took a few cautious steps toward me. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders and put her head into my chest. A soft whimpered cry emitted from her throat. “You didn’t forget me. I thought you had forgotten me. I thought they had killed you.”
“So did I. We can talk later. It’s time to go.”
We walked slowly forward toward the front door of the room. As we reached the threshold, Ian leapt from behind the door to our right.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he demanded.
I reached into my pants for the souvenir bat, leapt slightly off the floor, bat over my head and swung it viciously down into his temple. He dropped to his knee. I held it with both hands and smashed it into his temple again. He dropped to the floor. I then kicked his face with my steel tipped boot.
I then heard stirrings in the room to the left and turned to Julie. “We’d better make a run for it.”
We flew down the stairs to the second floor landing when the center room doors flew open as though gale force winds propelled them and out rushed Victor.
I’d never seen a man move as fast or with as much agility. He leapt straight over me, grasped me from behind, lifted me over his head and tossed me forcefully down the left hallway. My head smashed against the wooden walls. I think the wood cracked with the force of my head against it.
Victor grasped Julie and pulled her to his breast.
“Well, well. I thought my familiars had finished you. They told me you had a stake through the heart. Blundering idiots! You may have survived your own death this time, however it was just a preview of coming attractions. Now, before your unfortunate demise you will witness one of the true wonders of the universe: a ritual whereupon my power will be magnified a thousandfold!”
A door flew open upstairs. Footfalls hit the landing and rushed down the stairs. It was Diane and Tony. Karin came running up from the first floor.
“Seize him!” They rushed forward to me. Tony got close first. I swung an elbow and caught him in his right eye socket. It felt like something cracked. He fell over, blood coursing from his nose. Diane stopped and looked at me, stepping backward.
“Come to me!” I commanded. She took a step forward…
“Enough!” bellowed Victor. “Hold her!” He pointed back at Julie. Diane turned and ran back toward Julie while Karin rushed forward. Together they subdued her.
Victor then leapt from his position, soaring to the ceiling, bouncing off it behind my back and struck my head and smashed it into the floorboards with great force. I lost all strength and became supplicant. My eyes closed. I’d never seen anyone move that fast before. I felt my ankle lifted above the ground and being dragged forward toward the stairs and then down, my head banging forcefully on each step until I reached the bottom. Victor reached down, grasped me by the neck and lifted me up to his face. He hissed and grimaced and showed me his teeth. They were exceedingly sharp and fearsome. I shuddered as he tossed my head down again into the floorboards and proceeded to drag me into the kitchen over to a door in the wall I had not noticed before. He violently slid it down with a crack and tossed me into it. I fell down into a basement I didn’t know existed. My head slammed to the floor. I again lost consciousness.
I began to regain consciousness. I had no idea how long I’d been out. All I knew was it was dark and I was trapped.
I looked around trying to familiarize myself with this new place. I could see very little as the sun had finally fallen. I had no idea if sunlight reached into this place. In the dark I began to feel for the walls, touching every surface, looking for any kind of a clue how to get out of here. There was a way in. There also had to be a way out. I knew one way for sure. I looked above and saw a faint wisp of light emitting from the door to my prison. I closed my eyes and plunged myself into total darkness and waited several minutes. I slowly opened my eyelids and discovered that the wisp of light from above was more than ample for illuminating my prison.
The floor had a thick layer of grit and dust. The walls and floor were made of rough-hewn stone blocks with mortar between them. The door was directly in front of me. I rose and walked toward it. There was no doorknob. It opened in from the outside. The hinges, though, were in here. I smiled and realized that I still had my daypack and all the makeshift weapons with me.
There were three hinges: top, middle and bottom. Each hinge was held together by a thick metal pin that permitted the door to swing open and back. The pin entered the hinge from the top and completed the lock at the bottom. The trick was to remove the three pins and thus remove the door from its place.
I pulled out the sharpened flat head screwdriver and wedged it between the pin and the hinge of the bottom hinge. There were years of paint to be ground through and after several minutes of grinding paint out I reached the point where I believe I exposed only metal.
I then pulled out the Estwing. It was a fearsome looking hammer. It had a flat head on one side for cracking rocks open and the rear side was a long, sharp, chiseled edge that had been tapered into a blade for cleaving rocks in two. It was a single piece of forged steel with a layer of rubber to provide cushion where the hands gripped it.
I inserted the sharpened end between the bottom of the pin and the top of the hinge with the handle above it and pulled the handle down a little. I felt the pin groan and lift.
I then moved to the top hinge and repeated the process. Success! Then the middle hinge. Also movement. All I had to do was remove the three pins from their hinges, lift the door from its place and move back into the house to save Julie.
Suddenly I heard footfalls outside the door. I quickly replaced my tools in my daypack and waited. The door flung open and Victor strode in. Scowling at me he stepped forward and grasped my by the neck and pulled me close to his face. His fetid breath was nauseating and made my skin crawl.
“You’ve created quite a problem here Rick. Poor Ian. Smashed his head nearly in. And Tony, too. Crushed his eye socket. Given him quite a shiner. Neither of them is willing to come in here to punish you.”
“What do you want with us Victor? We did nothing to you. Let us go! I promise we won’t tell anyone if you let me and Julie go!”
“A lovely plea. I’ve heard it before. I do respect you for what you did to Ian and Tony. If they had attempted to kill me and failed I would have visited them one last time. But in your case and Julie’s case, it’s an entirely different matter. Tonight is the “Hunter’s Moon.” I prefer to call it the “Blood Moon.” I require the sacrifice and the power that Julie’s death will bring to me. Your witness and demise will bring further glory onto my apotheosis.”
“You’re nothing but a piece of shit vampire Victor,” I choked out.
“Yes. But you are also becoming a piece of shit vampire, Rick. And then I will show you how a vampire dies.”
He flung me toward the back of my prison. My head banged against the stone wall. My consciousness flickered, faded and gone.
When I came to I was alone. The door was closed and my daypack was gone.
I searched my cargo pants. They had found everything except my three inch Buck knife. It was the only weapon I had left.
Reaching into my pants pockets again I realized that I still had multiple strike free matches left. So I had two potential weapons at my disposal!
My attempts at removing the hinges foiled I focused my attention to the wisp of light above. The rough-hewn stones might provide footholds and hand holds for a determined climber. I was determined to climb.
I reached up and grasped the gap between the third stone and the fourth, placed my foot between the second and third and pulled myself up. This seemed like it was going to work. I repeated this until I reached the level of the kitchen’s door to my dungeon.
I raised my eye up to where the light was coming through and looked into the kitchen. I saw nothing. I listened to the refrigerator fan humming and the utility lights burning.
I reached up to the door in the wall and pulled on it. It moved! It moved down!
I climbed into the kitchen. I was back in the house!
Listening to the hum of the refrigerator I went to check the cupboard next to the oven. My gas bomb was still there!
I slowly moved into the living room and started up the stairs again. I heard movement behind me, turning I saw Ian and Tony emerging out of the shadows coming toward me.
“Victor! He’s back in the house!” Tony yelled.
Victor sprung from the darkness of the second floor and grabbed me by the neck.
“Thank you Rick. You’ve saved us the trouble of having to bring you up. Our ritual is nearly ready to begin and I want you to have a front row seat. ”
He turned to Ian and Tony “Get up here, bind him and take him upstairs to the center room,” he commanded.
They quickly moved up the stairs and grabbed my arms behind my back and tied them tightly together with hemp twine. They then proceeded to forcefully drag me up the stairs to the third floor.
“You’re gonna die tonight scumbag,” Tony hissed in my ear.
“Your blood will make a tasty snack,” Ian growled.
They were both clearly enraged over the beating I had given them earlier. Victor was right. I should have killed them both when I had the chance.
They pulled the double doors open and rudely ushered me in. Then they proceeded to punch me in the face, head, sides, stomach and kidneys. They pounded me down to floor and began viciously kicking me. Ian kicked me in the face several times.
“That’s for what you did earlier, fucker,” he said.
Tony fetched my daypack from the other side of the room and pulled out my souvenir baseball bat and cracked me over the head four or five times.
“You thought you could hurt Victor with these weapons?” He snarled. “We’re going to watch Victor rip you apart and drink your blood. We’ll be there for the table scraps though. I can’t wait till dinner time.”
“I’m going to check in with the girls and see how far along they are,” Tony said as he spun out of the room and bounded down the stairs.
Ian glared at me and walked toward the floor to ceiling bookcase on the right side of the room, selected a volume, sat in a wing chair and waited.
I sat up and leaned forward. While my hands were bound tightly together at the wrists, I could still move my arms about. I began to move my arms and moan. Ian looked up and smiled at my agony and returned to his book.
I reached my right hand into my right rear pocket, wrapped my fingers around my buck knife and carefully lifted it out. I cautiously found the indentation on the blade and pulled the knife into the open position. It snapped into place with a soft, but audible click. I skipped a breath, fearing Ian had heard. I looked over at him and he displayed no interest in me. I sighed, relieved that I wasn’t completely finished yet and began to saw the blade over the hemp twine that bound my hands.
After about ten minutes or so I could feel strands of the twine snapping as the knife began to cut through my binds.
All of a sudden Victor strode into the room, looked at me and then at Ian.
“It is time. The Blood Moon rises. Get Tony and the women and bring up the sacrifice.”
Ian jumped up, quickly left the room and went down the stairs.
I noticed that Victor was now wearing a black, silk robe with his chest exposed. He had hard, rippling muscles. He was standing over a chair in front of the fireplace. He lifted his hands up and unfurled a large, rough-hewn knife with jagged sides almost shaped like a lighting bolt, but more jagged. It looked like stone, obsidian actually. Razor-sharp and shiny, capturing light and reflecting it back off the uneven surface. It reminded me of some Indian arrowheads I’d seen as a boy. It looked like it would make a nasty cut, rather easily. Probably what they used on my arm.
I heard several feet climbing the stairs. First Ian and Tony strode in and took their places on either side of Victor. Then Diane and Karin entered. Between them was Julie. She was dressed in a white lace dress with an elaborate appliqué resembling vines with multi-colored flowers sprouting from the ends. The neckline was plunging. Her décolletage quite revealing. She looked stunning. Her hair had been styled into ringlets and flowers had been pinned into her hair. She was wearing garlands of flowers around her neck. A strong scent of jasmine and lavender filled the room. I felt intoxicated with the heavy scent. She moved as though in a dream. They must have drugged her.
Victor raised the knife above his head and looked up through the skylight. I looked up as well and could see the moon directly through it. It was glowing red. The room was bathed in crimson. I looked at Victor and at his ring. It was glowing red. I thought I could see the red in the stone swirling like clouds.
“Astaroth, Moloch, Valefor!” he bellowed. ”Infuse us with power. Honor our sacrifice.”
The bloodstone began to emit red slivers of luminous light upward to the Blood Moon. Luminous threads of red light from the Blood Moon descended and reached through the skylight. The two sources of energy reached out to each other and met just below the skylight and a glowing red orb of dark energy began to grow. My ears trembled with what sounded like an approaching train and the skylight shattered sending slivers of glass throughout the room. Victor brought the knife toward Julie and sliced her upper left arm and then her upper right arm. He then sliced her abdomen and the skin of her left breast near her heart. They were not deep cuts, but all drew blood. Lightning bolts of energy emitted from the orb into her wounds.
A lightning like bolt of energy entered me and I started convulsing. I looked up and could see that Ian, Tony, Diane and Karin were convulsing as well.
Multiple bolts of energy descended from the orb into my arm, into the wound in my left breast and into the wounds in my face. I felt an incredible surge in strength and energy. The bonds I had been slicing through felt like a puny obstacle as I felt a superhuman rise of energy and power within me. I pulled my hands apart with all my strength, my bonds snapping and I rose and leapt with demonic fury toward Victor as he prepared to plunge the knife into Julie’s heart. I leapt with a force I had seen Victor display. Grasping his knife hand and throat I drove him into the wall. Victor lost grip of the knife and it dropped to the floor. I reached down and picked up the knife as Ian, Tony, Diane and Karin rushed toward me. Four quick slashes from the blade dropped them all.
“So your transformation is nearly complete. Shame we didn’t complete the job earlier. It will just be a little harder now. I told you I’d show you how a vampire dies. Prepare yourself.”
Victor lifted his ring hand pointing the bloodstone at me. Vicious bolts of red lighting shot into my abdomen. They seemed to pass completely through me emanating through my hands and eyes. I was in absolute agony. My body was vibrating as I began to levitate above the floor. The knife shot away from my hand onto the floor in front of Victor. He pounced on it, leapt through the air and plunged it into my chest as I simultaneously grasped his ring hand and throat. I flung him mercilessly against the far wall. I had ripped his ring off his finger. Energy still flowed through the bloodstone. I grasped the knife and pulled it out of my chest.
“Thanks for the knife, Victor.” I felt the power Victor felt when he possessed the bloodstone and I knew I could direct it. I sent bolt after bolt of energy into Victor. He began to fall to his knees. I moved in on him and sliced open his jugular vein and his blood began to drain from his body. I walked over to the wastebasket where I had hidden my last gas bomb, removed it from the resealable bag. I pulled a strike free match out of my pants and struck it. It hissed and burst into flame. I held it up to the rags that drank the gasoline and they burst into flame. I hurled it with all my strength at Victor. It shattered, igniting the gasoline. Victor was completely engulfed in flames and began to scream with an unholy cry of unspeakable agony.
“Thank you Victor for fulfilling your promise to show me how a vampire dies!”
I went to Ian, Tony, Diane and Karin and plunged the knife into each of their hearts and then cut off their heads. Next I neared Victor’s flaming carcass and sliced off his head as well. We don’t want to give them another chance you know.
I then went to Julie. “Can you hear me?”
“Rick. Rick. Is that you?
“Can you tell me what just happened?”
“Later.” I led her down to the first floor and into the kitchen. “Wait here. I have one more thing I need to do.” I opened the cupboard next to the stove, retrieved the gas bomb I had hidden there and headed up to the third floor and the scene of unholy carnage. I removed the bomb from the bag, lit another match, ignited the rags and smashed it on the floor amidst the five headless bodies. The flames rose with a fury. I could feel their heat on my now cold skin. The wood was now burning. The house should be an inferno soon. I flew back down the stairs, swept Julie up into my arms and carried her outside into the alley and ran to the next street. She seemed so light to me that carrying her was nothing. I had never felt so strong. I was not winded. I rushed down several more streets and slowed down. I had the sudden sense of needing to appear more inconspicuous. The light of the Blood Moon bathed us.
“Can you walk with me? I asked.
“I think so.”
“Do you remember anything?”
“I’m not sure. I think they must have given me a sedative and maybe a hallucinogen. I feel I’m barely here.”
“Let’s keep walking. The exercise will help get the drugs out of your body.”
We walked for about nine miles. It must have been about four in the morning. I looked at Julie and felt a predatory urge rise in my breast. I pictured ripping her throat open and draining her of blood. I stopped.
“We’re almost at your apartment. Do you think you can make it the rest of the way?”
“I think so.”
“When will I see you again?”
“I’ll come by tomorrow.”
We turned and walked away from each other. When I reached the shadows I turned and followed her to make sure she made it home unmolested all the while keeping a safe distance from her. I then left for a bad part of town in search of food.
I went to a part of town that was known as a place to score drugs of all kinds. I walked by an alleyway and heard the repeated smack of fist on face and gurgling choking on blood. This seemed as good as any place to lose my virginity. I turned and walked into the alley. There was a fierce looking man with bulging biceps with cobra tattoos and a serious five o’clock shadow. He was standing over the man he had just beaten into submission going through his victim’s wallet, taking the money and credit cards. He dropped it, turned and saw me.
“Well. Looks like this ain’t your day mister,” he said and ran toward me with an ugly sneer twisting his face into a mask of torment. He had quite the stench as he neared me. One flick of the knife severed his jugular. He fell to the ground trying to hold in his blood. If he could have stopped his heart he might have had a chance. I lifted his hand away from his neck as his blood coursed out of his body and into my mouth. I felt a renewed sense of energy and power. I was sated. For now. I then severed his head. Don’t want any more bloodsuckers running around this place than there already are.
TEN YEARS LATER
The sun had begun to set. It was that wonderful time of pre-twilight. Colors seemed richer and more saturated than at noon. Julie was in her home office working on her blog. The door to her office flung open and in rushed two beautiful little girls who leapt upon their mother who showered them with kisses. A car pulled into the driveway of the lovely house in the suburbs with the white picket fence, rhododendrons, hortensias, roses and daisies. The garden a riot of color. Quite beautiful. A man wearing a business suit got out of the car holding a briefcase, walked to the front door and entered. The man entered her office. She rose up, embraced him and they kissed warmly. The girls hugged their parents with delighted, satisfied smiles on their faces.
I was in the tree across the street watching her. That was supposed to be me with her. But for one cruel night, it might have been. I now had to view her from afar. I guess it broke her heart that she never saw me again. It took her two years before she started dating again. But I was always there, in the shadows, watching out for her. I always made sure I was sated before I came near her.
Like today. Earlier I came upon a pimp who was using a razor on his girl. It wasn’t a hard call. I grabbed him, ripped open his throat, the girl ran away and voila! Dinner!
The police were looking for me. The FBI too. Their profilers had a serial killer on their hands. Slit throats, bodies drained of blood and always the heads severed by a jagged instrument forensic experts couldn’t identify. Courtesy of Victor’s former knife. But they would never find me.
I suppose her husband was a good choice for her. I mean, she did deserve happiness. If it wasn’t me who was to make her happy I had to have a say in who would. I stalked all her dates to learn who they were, to see if they were good men, honest, upstanding, kind-hearted and generous. He was the best choice for her once I was out of the picture. There were several that were made to exit her life. Liars, cheaters, thieves all had an encounter with a fearsome creature in the dead of night. I didn’t kill any of them. Except for the mobster. I did have my standards. I had no desire for normal people, regular people, even though I hungered for them and could have easily fed on them as well.
I have a code I live by. I might be a monster, but if I limit myself to committing monstrous acts only on those who perpetrate evil, in a way I serve the living in society. At least that’s what I tell myself. I mean society hasn’t been able to find the will to kill Richard Ramirez, or Charles Manson. Leave it to me to take out the trash. I was always good at rationalizing my shrink once told me. I’ve even developed a lucrative internet business that serves a dual purpose: protecting innocents while finding scumbags to satiate my unholy compulsions.
I’ve found a comfortable, quiet place to rest during the days. It’s not much of a life though. Watching over Julie has given me some purpose, but it cannot fill the hollow gaping maw that once was my heart.
I walk in the shadows. I live in the night. I am a creature of the night. I need to feed daily, but I am very selective about my victims. If you are a killer, a torturer, a brutal thug and a thief you’d better look out for me. You think you’re someone’s worst nightmare. Well, I’m yours and I can’t wait to meet you. There’s nothing better to do and I’m hungry to make your acquaintance.