The Eternal Vampire

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The Underground

Chapter one: King Mark

I went back to my room and finished organizing my books, my computer, my movies. Things didn’t feel right the way they had when Tristan and Isolde were here. It was like we were existing in a vacuum. Sure, I now possessed two older, self-appointed older brothers, but if that were the case I was missing my mother: Isolde.

I picked up a book that I was reading for my Roman history class and turned to the chapter that I had left off. I started reading and realized that I was reading the story of the German hero Arminius who had defeated the Romans in the Teutoburg Forest. I had read half of the chapter when something struck me, and I started feeling sick to my stomach.

Rainer. Rainer who seemed to hate Tristan as much as he’d allowed himself to become dependent upon him. Rainer seemed to hate everyone, but what had Fabi said? Rainer was the way he was because he wanted revenge. If I was right, if, he could have become a vampire around the same time as Tristan. That meant that as a vampire he might be older than Fabi.

I did a cheat and looked up Arminius on Wikipedia. According to the article, Germanicus defeated the Germans twice. Tristan was a Gaul who fought with the Romans, Fabi was a Roman, so did Rainer torment Isolde because he hated Tristan and Fabi? Or all Romans in general? Had he seen Tristan during the battle? Oh God, had he recognized Tristan and Fabi when he met them? If what Rainer wanted the most was revenge, be it was revenge against all Romans, or maybe Tristan and Fabi in particular.

“I don’t want to believe this,” I said to no one in particular. This was too crazy. Tristan and Fabi were intelligent, and what’s more, they had lived through this era. I couldn’t be thinking about something they hadn’t already considered. I wondered if it would do me any good to ask Fabi, or maybe it would be better to wait until Tristan returned and confront him. All I really knew was that I was being confronted with too much information, overwhelming information.

I had no idea that something horrendous was going to present itself and drive the mystery of who Rainer really was out of my mind.

I have gone back to school to please Isolde but more because I find I want to. It took a lot of explaining and maneuvering to get back to my classes after a week’s absence, but I did it. I have to prove to my professors that I am serious about wanting to resume my studies. Strangely, being a vampire has helped that. I have developed powers of concentration I did not possess before, and when I focus on my studies it is with an intensity that is new to me. I had a half-finished paper that was due, and to my surprise I finished it in a single night, earning a “B” instead of the “A” I would have received had I turned it on time. The mysteries of math have revealed themselves to me, and chemistry has become a fountain of new discoveries as opposed to the battleground it was before.

I am even thinking of changing my major to archaeology. I will never have to worry about money again, so why not study something I have always been interested in, instead of business administration, which I hate. I have already chosen classes for next quarter that reflect my new direction, and I will meet with an advisor so that I can change my major. I know this will delight Isolde, though she has never said anything to me. I feel like my life is starting to open up.

Fabi often sits with me while I do math. It amazes him how different, yet similar, it is from when he learned it as a young man. Once in a while, he can help me solve a problem and it is a source of delight to both of us. Every day we boys learn something new from each other. I have been an only child all life and now I have two older brothers and all the feelings and frustrations that come from having siblings. This new life of mine suits me in a way I would not have imagined.

And it is almost bearable being a vampire.

I feed early this night. Fabi and Claude are out carousing by the airport, which means they are pimp hunting. Though I, too, have become a killer, it sometimes surprises me to see how bloodthirsty they are. They aren’t like that when they take me hunting.

I can’t hunt with them. When I do, it’s like I’m watching my two best friends, no, my brothers, turn into monsters. They are lightning quick when they strike their prey, no snake could be so fast. They sink their canines into helpless victims, tossing them into alleys or dumpsters so no one will see them. I know they’re hunting the worst of the worst. They have shown me big rolls of bills in their pockets, the packages of heroin. I’ve seen the girls these monsters exploit, but I still shudder to watch how quickly and carelessly my friends killed.

I have toyed with the idea of raiding hospitals and blood banks so that I can have a ready supply of blood without having to kill, but it is my nature is to stalk my prey and kill. I never considered this when I consented to let Tristan restore me to life as a vampire, I was only thinking of payback for Julie. Now the full weight of my decision has come back to haunt me. I never envisioned myself as a killer, but this is what I have become.

A sound starts as a light tapping at the door, then grows to a more insistent knock. I ignore it to see if it goes away, then the knocking becomes almost a pounding. I close my new laptop a gift from Fabi and look up at the clock. Ten o’clock, neither early nor late, but too late for someone to be knocking at a stranger’s door. We encourage no acquaintances, but if we did, they would never be given knowledge of this house. We live as anonymously, as obscurely as we can to discourage curiosity.

The knocking won’t stop. I get up from the table and go to the front door. I peer out the peephole to see who it is, but I do not recognize him. I wish that Claude and Fabi were home, they would know how better to deal with this. I wish the stranger would stop knocking, but no such luck.

I stand in front of the door for a few moments, thinking, “go away, go away,” but to no avail, so I open the door just enough to address the visitor on the other side.

I don’t like his eyes. His hard, blue gaze takes my measure, wondering who I am. I know in an instant he is not here by accident, and I don’t know if I could make him leave as Tristan would. He, in turn, is looking up at me and dismissing me as only a kid, one who he could take with no trouble. He has the look of a hard, mean man, though his looks belie it, he is of medium height and well-formed, and maybe in the old days, I would be fooled by him into trusting him.

“My name is Mark King. Have you seen this woman?” He thrusts a picture into my face. He has no manners, he hasn’t even waited for me to speak in my own home. “Someone said they saw a woman who could have been her, here, in this neighborhood. She’s my wife, I’ve been looking for her for the past five years. Her name’s Estelle,” he continued eagerly.

I school my features, hide my feelings, for the face in front of me is Isolde’s. I must not give her away, I must do everything I can to keep her from this man. It is Isolde, but with longer, darker hair and no glasses. The photo is a face shot, you can see her smiling for the camera, but the smile is not meeting her eyes. I remember how Tristan told me he found her, how he gave her back her life as he gave me mine. Poor Isolde, did she have an inkling of her fate when she met this man?

Tristan will want to know about this. I do not want to give too much away and encourage this stranger, but if he is the one who tried to kill Isolde, I want him to pay. He is solving my problem and writing his name and number on the back of the picture. I wonder why. Does he suspect something? Does he know that Isolde is here? Does he think we know her whereabouts? What makes him think I would tell him anything?

“Here,” he hands the picture to me, “If you see or hear anything, call me at this number. I haven’t heard from my wife in five years and this is the first news I’ve had of her.” He can see me looking at him, and there is nothing friendly or encouraging in my eyes, but he is choosing to ignore it. “Thank you.” He says and foolishly turns his back on me.

I wait until he has left the yard, then quietly close the door. My canines are aching, they have never done this before. I want to run after him and seize him and drain him dry, but too many eyes are watching in this suburban neighborhood.

I pull out my iPhone and text Fabi and Claude. ’COME HOME NOW, IT’S IMPORTANT”. Shoving my phone in my back pocket, I grab my jacket and head down to the garage. I do not know how long they will take to respond, but it will be half an hour or more before they get home. Just enough time for me to take the little Boxter out of the garage and drive to the U-District. I am going to grab the first kill that I can, no matter whether they deserve death or not. I am going to sink my fangs in their neck and drain them dry while I pretend they’re the man on the porch. And if he comes back, I am going to suck him dry before he can harm my beloved Isolde.

It is only a short drive to the “U” District, and the Boxter covers it quickly. I have only to look out for policemen and make sure that I don’t run red lights and stop signs. When I first became a vampire I would concentrate so intently on my driving I would forget to stop at lights if the way was clear. Tristan cured me of this by not letting me drive alone. Not to worry, he said, I would become accustomed to the fact that my brain worked differently now.

I used to love the “U” District, loved the “Ave”, with its tiny shops, restaurants, theatres, and bars. Julie and I would stroll around, looking for nothing in particular, and walk away with perhaps a new dress for her, or maybe some jewelry from an exotic location we vowed to visit someday. Then we’d eat at one of the restaurants and return to my fraternity and make love.

Now all that was over. At night the district became my hunting grounds. During the day it was busy, almost gay, with students, faculty, or shoppers. At night, in a group, you might be safe, but it was dangerous to be out alone.

I parked the little Porsche in an inconspicuous place where I could access it quickly, then closed the door and locked it. I set out with that purposeful stride that I had learned Tristan, looking around me for my kill.

There was a group of kids huddled together on a corner, and they began jeering, then trying to cajole me into giving them money. I pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of my pocket and approached them.

I held the bill out in a way that indicated that I could snatch it away if I chose. They were sad, pathetic looking even. Their hollow eyes, dark circled, suggested that any money they succeeded to obtain might just as easily go for drugs as for food. I felt sorry for them, though they did not feel sorry for themselves, which was admirable in a way.

“Good evening,” I said, dangling the bill in front of them. “Have people been leaving you alone?” This was a valid question, these kids knew what it was like to be beaten and taken advantage of. Sometimes the girls, or maybe a boy, would sell themselves for a little bit of cash, but likely as not, the promised money would not be forthcoming. A rape or beating might if they insisted too hard for the money they had earned.

“There’s someone, someone new,” one boy spoke up, “A Kraut, he calls himself ‘Johann’.” Chills ran up my spine when I heard the word “Kraut”.

“This Johann, what does he look like?” I tried to sound casual, but the blood seemed to rush through my brain.

“Oh, not too tall, blond hair, blue eyes, kind of good looking, except he has an evil look about him,” said one of the girls, “People have been disappearing around here since he showed up. Everything we do, we do in pairs now, just to be safe.”

“And you’re sure this Johann is the cause of it?” I asked carefully, not wanting to appear too eager.

“It’s the things he says sometimes, about murders he’s committed that left no traces that even the cops could find. He says things like that but then hands out money. We wish he would go away.” The look on her face told me that was exactly what she wished he’d do.

“Well,” I said, “Steer clear of him as much as you can. Stay together and look out for each other. And next time I see you, let me know if you’ve seen him again, and where.” I handed her the money and bid them goodnight.

Rainer? It sounded like him. Rainer could go to ground anywhere, Tristan had said, and it would be hard to find him. But Rainer was not on my mind now, and I scoured the alleys until I found a bum sleeping off the night’s alcohol and killed him. I felt bad, but the blood lust was on me and I had to slake it. It did not seem fair to take it out on the kids, maybe because they were too close to my age. And who knew why they had turned to the streets.

I jumped into the little Boxster and sped home, driving too fast all the way. It would be a while before Claude and Fabi made it home from the airport, but I wanted to be there when they arrived.

At home, I put on Mozart to try to calm my nerves and poured myself a good two fingers of cognac. “Breathe Steven,” I told myself, inhaling the scent of the amber liquor. I tried to lose myself in the music, instead, I listened for the rumbling sound of the Jag’s big engine.

Mozart was not working, but thankfully they returned, Fabi bounding up the stairs as he always did, Claude following more slowly.

“What is this, little brother?” Fabi asked, “What was it that was so important that you pulled us from our night’s recreation?”

I held out the photo of Isolde. Claude took it, then Fabi snatched it from his hand. “Dio,” he breathed as he looked at the picture of a young Isolde, her Audrey Hepburn looks staring into the camera.

I looked at the image again. The resemblance to Audrey Hepburn was there, the delicate bone structure, the large expressive eyes, and the quirky mouth. Tristan must have changed her looks for her safety, but he could not change the spirit of them. How in the world could someone have beaten her nearly to death?

Fabi whipped his cell phone out of his pocket. “I need to tell Tristan about this. I’m going to have to try a few places. They may still be on Santorini, or they may be in Rome, or Paris, or Milan. It’s early morning in Europe now, they’ve probably left the hotel and gone to breakfast. I hate to disturb them, but I have to talk to let him know what’s happened. From now on, Steven, you do not go anywhere or stay anyplace alone. If this monster shows up again, I will deal with him.”

Claude poured himself a glass of his Chateau Margaux and added to my cognac. We sat and listened to Fabi as he spoke in his rapid-fire Italian, then on another call, switched to French. How many languages did the little Roman speak, I wondered? He seemed to move easily from Italian to French to Greek, then back to English.

He had success, at last, when he tried the hotel in Milan. When he reached Tristan at last, he put the cell on speaker so that we could hear, but he reverted from English to the archaic Latin that he and Tristan sometimes spoke.

When he hung up, his handsome face looked troubled. “Tristan is going to make reservations for the earliest flight they can get from Milan to New York. They’ll spend the night so Isolde can rest, then they’ll fly home the next day. Steven, I am sorry this happened to you, it should not have been you who had to speak to this person, but nothing can be done. You’ll have to miss school, I want all of us here in case he shows up here again.”

“Well, there’s more,” I told him, “I think I’ve found Rainer. Someone who sounds like him is haunting the “U” District, calling himself Johann. The description sounds like Rainer, but I haven’t seen him, and he’s not the only German criminal in the world.”

Fabi sighed, “This is not good, but we can’t do anything about him now. Be vigilant, but don’t lose your focus. Tristan wants to take care of Rainer, but this is more important.” He poured a glass of wine and sat on the sofa, looking like he wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and have all this go away.

“Tristan is not going to tell Isolde what happened,” he said, “She’s been through enough. Let her mind be at ease, he said, and I agree. First Rainer and now this, maybe life has been too peaceful. We thought we had solved the problem of Rainer, we never dreamed that a husband would show up. He can’t have her declared dead for another two years, maybe there’s another woman in the picture now and he wants to marry her. Too bad.”

“But Isolde doesn’t even know what happened to her, she has no idea. Now that he has an idea where he thinks she might be, will he try to do anything to her? Like, kill her?”

They looked at me, but I know that the same thing is on their minds. “Mark King” had no idea what would happen to him if he harmed so much as one hair on Isolde’s head. Tristan would kill him and then hide the body so carefully that no one would find it. Perhaps he would even incinerate it! He’s taught me that clever vampires never leave a trace of their kill. I’m not quite strong enough to erase their minds of any memory of me, but someday I will be. I am not allowed to go out, very often, to kill on my own so someone usually comes with me to do what I cannot yet do.

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