THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 7.4 - GOOSEBUMPS

Senses piqued, Cain stilled. He picked up voices. They seemed to be coming from various points within the building. Not all were coherent, some were babbling, as if delirious, others held a hint of panic, dread. Only a few could be considered accountable - they were, however, oddly excitable. He would investigate in due course.

He inhaled, deep. His nostrils flared from the stench exuding from various doorways along the corridor and more drifting up from the ground floor. The pollution of souls, an air of decadence, virulence, debauchery, all in abundance, hung thick in the air, almost suffocating. Another, more ruinous odour snaked its way through the vile smog - aberration, insanity, the destroyer of morality.

Disturbingly, it was increasing.

A stark realisation made Cain hesitate. He should have insisted on taking Becky and her newfound friend away from this pit, but it would not have been an easy translocation with the two of them, and she was adamant she would not leave this Riley fellow. She may have changed her mind about wanting immortality, but her stubbornness prevailed. Cain could only hope she would have the sense to stay put. The club was closed tonight, according to the website, so all things considered, the toilets should be safe enough for them to remain undetected.

There was one other door on the ground floor which he felt he should check out - eliminating any nasty surprises when his cohorts, Craig and Nick arrived. Swift and quiet, he moved along the hallway, back to the door he and Becky had come through from the stairwell. His hand was upon the handle when a strange, newfangled scent rushed him. It was unlike anything he had sensed before, pungent, most definitely, but primarily foul? No...yet, it was weighted; a definite undercurrent of bitterness lingered.

He inhaled deeper, trying to define the source of the invasive smell. His attention was drawn to a room towards the end of the corridor. A somewhat depleted virulence emanated from behind its door, as if the decay within was in remission, fading.

Curious, he moved along and stood in front of the room’s door, alert; every vampire characteristic attuned, sharp, honed. Leaning in, his hair swept against the panelling as he listened.

Sharp rapid clicks - fingernails hitting off plastic - tip-tap, tip-tap, tippy-tap - someone was typing on a keyboard. Another sound - rustling, the turning of a page. A newspaper?

“Where’s Cole?” a voice said.

“He shouldn’t be too long,” another answered. “He said he was going to check on Riley.” A small laugh followed.

“On Riley? Oh, come on Tony, he is more curious about the woman.” The first voice laughed.

Tony? Cain recalled that was the name of the vampire who had met with Craig and Nick. It took considerable restraint not to burst through the door, but to do so would be foolish. Besides, the scent emanating from inside the room was not entirely baneful - if anything, it was confusing; this in itself, kept Cain interested, curious to see what would unfold.

“He does have a wandering eye, certainly, but otherwise he is steadfast,” Tony responded.

“If his plan works out, you realise it could be an end to us as well, don’t you?”

The paper rustled, abrupt. “Well, for me, it will be a blessed release, I never wanted this life - neither Luke nor Cole’s version of it.”

Luke? Cole? The names were noted.

“When your brother is brought to heel, then all the better.”

“There is only one thing good enough for Luke - death! On reflection, we should have just killed him ourselves.” Another agitated rustle of paper followed.

Luke was Tony’s brother, Cain deduced.

“According to Cole, only the one who made him can kill him.”

The newspaper crinkled. “Fergus, we only have Cole’s word on that! Besides, Luke wasn’t ‘made’, was he? He simply saw an opportunity and took it - as he always did and still does. He may not have been involved in my father’s dealings, but he lapped up the luxury. He should have died with the rest of them that night!”

There was something here which plucked at Cain’s memory, but it remained buried, hidden.

“Yeah, but still...”

A loud bang from the floor below pulled Cain’s attention away from the occupants in the room. He heard footsteps ascending the stairs. Reluctant to move far, he opened the door of the adjacent room and cautiously looked within. No-one was there. Quietly, he slipped inside and closed the door.

He shivered as the footsteps neared. The sensation was incredibly disconcerting - as if his skin was crawling, infested. Curious, he rolled up his sleeve, and unfastening the shirt cuff, pulled that up too. He stared, disbelieving, as his skin prickled and rippled with...goosebumps! Like a Mexican wave, they ran up and down the length of his arm. Not only could he see the effect, but he could feel it! This was strange. Inexplicable. What on earth was going on?

He heard the adjacent door opening and closing, firm. His attention returned to the goings-on next door. Rolling his shirt and hoodie sleeves back in place, he pressed close to the wall, listening, desperate to understand what was going on.

“Hello, Cole,” one of the voices greeted the newcomer.

“Tony.”

Now Cain had three voices and names he could identify.

Fergus spoke next. “He couldn’t resist, could he?”

“Nope,” Cole responded. “He couldn’t wait until later; he just had to go and check her out. Damn it!” A slight pause pursued. Then Cole spoke again. “Is he back?”

By ‘he’ Cain assumed they were referring to Magpie, as per Becky’s conversation.

“Yes, about fifteen minutes ago. I guess he just didn’t trust his pet.”

“He doesn’t trust anyone.”

The other two mumbled agreement; one also emitting a small laugh.

“That side door is fucked again,” Cole stated.

“Ok, I’ll see to it.”

Cain grinned. That was the thump he’d heard. It seemed Becky’s lipstick was doing the job he’d intended. Rubbing his arm as if trying to get warm, Cain kept listening. A lengthy silence pursued, peppered only by a low whisper, one he could not quite make out in its entirety other than the word “beautiful”.

Conversation between the three individuals started again. The topic was hinting at some misgivings on the whereabouts and actions of the others in the coven. An unease was evident in Cole’s voice as Cain heard him voice suspicion about Luke possibly contemplating something called ‘Plan C’.

More revelations and mystery were forth-coming. Mention of Luke fifty years ago and Cain being present at the time. Again, a swirl of familiarity swam around the name.

Then another was mentioned. One which tugged harder at the deep-set memory. Dubois. An image of a young man with intense blue eyes flitted across Cain’s mind. The boy was gay; his father loathed that about him. The whole family lived in vulgar luxury - all of it gained through illegal dealings. Yes. He remembered now. It added up.

So, ‘Magpie’ was Luke Dubois? Tony, he had not met, not even been aware of, but perhaps that was ordained, for this Dubois spoke of trying to escape his family and brother. Cole also spoke of a brother, but it was unclear if he too had been a ‘missing in action’ sibling of the Dubois clan. There was talk of some ‘secret’ about Cole being kept under-wraps from Luke.

To his dismay, Cain also learned they knew out about his evolved state, which seemed to be the possible reason behind this sinister ‘Plan C’.

Most surprisingly, he overheard they killed their issue - or rather that of the other members of the coven. It appeared it was not just the leader who bred, as Craig and Nick had first believed, but also the others. These three, however, were solidly against it and did not, would not, participate.

Evidently, there was no loyalty awarded Luke from Fergus, Tony and Cole; and the leader seemed unaware. If what Cain had just heard was indeed true, then these three were the least of his worries.

Luke Dubois, aka Magpie, was in the building, however, with the rest of the coven - all of whom, were a problem - and one to be erased.

For now, Cain had heard all he required. He quietly opened the door and slipped out, making his way down to the ground floor.

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