THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 7.0 - 1 IN A MILLION

Early evening...

Steam billowed from the shower as Cain pushed open the cubicle door. Grabbing a towel off the heated rail, he stepped out onto the bath mat and proceeded to dry his body vigorously.

Bathing had once been an irregular, although not unheard of ritual until fairly recently. Now, it was part of Cain’s quotidian self-grooming - providing he was in a place he could access facilities. Failing that a river, waterfall or pond had to suffice. And it was all down to Becky.

An involuntary grin teased the corners of his mouth as he thought of her; she with her little bottles of gels, lotions and various other such products of which she was so enthusiastic.

He wished he could relish their redolences, but he had been devoid of that luxury for centuries. The only aromas he was privy to now, were those mainly marinated in corruption - except for Becky’s unique scent. Her melancholy was like a drug. He could not explain why her ‘fragrance’ affected him so profoundly, but it always reached out to him when she was nearby.

He wiped the mirror with the towel, for all the good it did - it battled against the residual brume, misting up around the edges. Still, it was enough. He shoved his hair back over his shoulders, squeezed out some shaving gel onto his palm then smoothed it on his cheeks, under the chin, and across his philtrum. As he drew the razor through the lather, his mind drifted once more to Becky.

He’d hated leaving her so soon after she’d arrived in Ventura only two nights before. It had been unfair, unkind even. Under the circumstances though, he had no choice; or so he argued with himself. Nevertheless, the sound of her sobbing resounded in his head, tugging at the guilt-strings. He was sure she had misread something in his reminiscent tale of Melantha, but he had to admit he was so out of practice in such matters.

He stared at his reflection, incredulous. Out of practice? An understatement if ever there was one. Emotions were buried so deep he sometimes wondered if the fragile thread to his humanity had become frayed, unwound, broken. Yet, he could not deny Becky had stirred something within him. There was an ache he felt when he thought of her. A pain, unlike any other. He knew its name - but to utter it would bring about its destruction. His brow furrowed, his mind trying to push aside such ruminations. He continued shaving.

A sharp knock rattled the door, its unexpected suddenness causing the razor to slip. Cain grunted as a trickle of blood traced over the creamy lather. It stopped soon enough as the small cut healed within seconds.

“Are you going to be much longer?” Nick’s voice sliced through the door.

Cain heaved a disgruntled sigh. “Come in,” he said.

Nick burst into the bathroom. “Sorry, but you will need to avert your eyes. I have to go.” He started to urinate.

The vampire laughed. “Just keep your feathered pecker over the bowl.”

“You been checking me out?” Nick replied with a grin.

“Only for amusement purposes.”

“Bastard! You’ve been watching too much TV; you’re getting a smart mouth on you.”

Cain laughed again. Three more strokes of the razor and he finished with his grooming. He rinsed and dried.

Having flushed the toilet, Nick budged in to wash his hands when he realised Cain stood stark naked, his towel having pooled around his feet. The angel looked at him in the mirror, but Cain was checking out the bottle of aftershave on the shelf, oblivious.

“That will make you feel like one in a million,” Nick grinned, nodding at the gold-topped bottle.

Cain cocked an eyebrow and read the label - ‘Paco Rabanne 1 Million’. He smirked. “I could rub sheep piss on, and I wouldn’t feel any different, but I’ll take your word for it.” He glanced at Nick in the mirror as he took the top off the aftershave.

Nick laughed, “At least with Paco, you won’t send everyone else running away scrunching up their noses. Now hurry, Craig is on his way up.” He grabbed a hand towel and turned to leave. “Criminal, by the way, someone your age has an ass like that,” he commented, chuckling, before closing the door.

Looking down at himself, Cain realised the towel was on the floor. He shrugged. “You’re older than me I’ll bet,” he shouted through the door as he picked up the towel and secured it around his waist.

“Fuck off!” came the reply.

The vampire smiled, catching his reflection as he did so: another phenomenon - smiling. He was doing this more often, even under the pressing circumstances. He had to admit he did enjoy the banter with Nick. Both of the Fallen had made him feel more ‘connected’ with a variety of things - including aftershave it seemed. The angels had embraced their ‘eternal damnation’ and accepted it with a healthy perspective, moving on, making the most of their predicament. Cain was learning to do the same, although it was hard to adjust.

On reflection, Cain’s solitary existence had closed him off to so many things, not least how to interact with others. He had only looked upon the ‘sinful’ with the eyes of a voracious diner, a blood connoisseur. But now, three individuals had become part of his life. One, in particular, more precious than he dared admit.

Aftershave applied, he pulled a brush through his hair, checked the towel was still in place, then vacated the bathroom.

A serious-looking pair of angels greeted him, and from the expression on Craig’s face, it was apparent the news was grim. The friendly camaraderie of moments before was instantly banished.

“I’m sorry,” Craig began. “She made out she was going home, didn’t want to be baby-sat, said she’d had enough because she was - well, upset about your leaving so soon. She booked a taxi and off she went.”

Cain’s face was hard, like stone, his eyes hot, fierce. ”And?”

Craig heaved a sigh. “I checked her room after a while, something didn’t feel right. I found this in the wastepaper basket.” He handed over a piece of scrunched up paper. ‘LA’, ‘SB’ and ‘B’ on it with a series of numbers and times. “Took me a while to suss out which airport she decided, because she wouldn’t answer her phone! When I did work it out, I went to the airport, hoping I would reach her in time, but I just missed her. I’m sorry, Cain.”

Cain’s face was thunderous as he glared at the crumpled note. “There’s only one possible reason you could be apologising about this.”

Finally, Craig told him what he already suspected. “She’s here. In the city.”

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