The hunger is burning in me tonight so I return to my hunting ground—the University District. During the day it’s busy, almost gay, with students, faculty, and shoppers. At night, in a group, you might be safe, but it was dangerous to be out alone. Perfect for a vampire.
I parked the little Boxster in an inconspicuous place where I could find it easily, then closed the door and locked it. I set out with that purposeful stride that I learned Tristan, looking around for a prospective kill.
The street kids are congregated on their usual corner, trying to panhandle money, evidently, the twenty spot I gave them didn’t go too far. I know it may have gone for drugs, but I hope at least a little went for good. I debate for a moment, then against pull out another twenty and hold it up where they can see it.
“Any news about the Kraut?” I ask them. I feel bad about using their word, it’s just as bad as the “n-word”, but for Rainer I’ll make an exception. It’s shorter than Hitler Jungen anyway.
“No,” answers one of the boys, “But he’ll be here, he always shows up though we hope he doesn’t. We don’t mind his money, but he’s one scary dude.”
I understand, Rainer scares me too, he’s older and more powerful than me and if he decided he wanted to kill me I wouldn’t stand a chance. I look at the kids as I hand them the twenty and notice there’s someone new with them.
I haven’t been a vampire for very long, but there is a girl with dyed black hair with a pink streak in front and eyes that are almost black. She’s looking at me like she knows what I am. She’s not just looking; she’s studying me and I want to get away from those eyes with the knowing look in them and I realizes what she is. Finally, she smiles and her smile would be disarming if it didn’t seem sinister.
I tell the kids I’ll be back in a couple of days and to be careful around Rainer because he’s dangerous. “Don’t let him entice you to leave with him,” this is a lesson they have learned about any stranger since childhood, but teens who must prostitute themselves for drugs or money don’t have that luxury. I have a 50-dollar bill left in my wallet and I feel no reluctance as I hand it to them.
“Spend this on food, don’t spend it on drugs, okay? All of you look like you need to eat.” They nod in reply and a few smile, I hope at least some of it will be used for food.
I turn and go to find my car; I’ll find somewhere else to feed tonight. I was about to get into the little Boxster when someone tugged on my leather jacket.
I turn around and see the girl with the black hair. She’s dressed in the same punk-ish clothes as her friends, but though her face looks young the expression in her eyes is much older. Those eyes have seen things that the others haven’t, like the passage of time and her eyes say she knows that I know her secret.
“Can you give me a ride to Pioneer Square?” she asks and I’m about to say “no” when she adds, “I need to feed and I don’t want to hurt my friends,” as if she can read my mind.
“What’s in Pioneer Square?” I ask innocently enough; I’m not going to give myself away, after all I don’t know if she can be trusted.
“It’s where I live, me and some friends of mine. It’s safe and dry and no one bothers us, haven’t you ever been on the Underground Seattle Tour?”
I have, a few times. When the city burned in 1889, the parts that survived were covered over. There are remains of the city, including part of a theater, underneath the sidewalks. Only part has been excavated and the rest just sits accessible by tunnels that have yet to be explored.
“Of course, I have,” I reply and she looks at me with those black eyes as if daring me to reveal who and what I am. Tristan has drilled caution into me so I am reluctant to say too much, but she presents a pretty picture and for the first time I am not thinking about Julie.
“I know who you are,” I stiffen as I hear this, “We have heard about your sire, the rich vampire who lives near the university. He won’t have anything to do with us, thinks he’s better than us because he lives in his fancy house and drives expensive cars.”
I just look at her, she knows too much. Tristan didn’t warn me about this, I thought we were probably the only vampires in Seattle. I don’t have much time to think because someone comes up behind me and ties a gag around my mouth while she binds my hands. I get thrown roughly into the passenger seat while the stranger climbs into the driver side and the girl squeezes in behind the seat.
They say nothing as he starts the car and they head down the freeway and takes the exit that leads to the older part of the city. I turn to look at her but she gives me a stony look so I face forward, grateful that they haven’t blindfolded me.
I’m worrying about my car but the driver is careful and when we park in front of the “Blue Banjo” it’s in a spot not likely to be disturbed. Funny how I’m more worried about the car than my own life, but, after all, the car doesn’t belong to me.
He stops, gets out, then pulls me out by the arm and stuffs my keys in my jeans pocket. She binds my eyes with a scarf that was around her neck leaving me at their mercy. The tall vampire takes me by the arm, his grip is strong and if I tried to struggle it’s unlikely I’d succeed in getting away.
They say nothing, no small talk like people who know each other, and I find myself being led in silence. There’s a “snick” that indicates a key has been turned in a lock, then I smell the musty odor of earth so I conclude that I’m being led underground and the fact that the ground seems to be sloping downward leads me to believe I’m right.
I’d like to know where I’m being taken, for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. The Blue Banjo is the entrance to the Underground Seattle tour, I wonder if they use it to come and go. My arms are confined, I can’t reach out to touch the walls but now I can detect other smells besides dirt, old wood, metal, and the occasional whiff of leather.
Their route of full of twists and turns but at last the air seems to lose some of its heaviness and I can smell bodies—vampires’ bodies. I’m directed to a chair and made to sit down and someone removes the blindfold.
“Remove his blindfold and the gag,” someone says and when they take it off, I see a man dressed in the garb he might have worn in the 1880’s. Sitting next to him on an old-fashioned sofa is a woman dressed in a blue satin ballgown who smiles just wide enough to reveal her fangs.
It’s a large room that must be off one of the tunnels. The walls and floor are of beaten earth and there is a large stone fireplace where a roaring fire is burning, warming the chamber. The floor is covered with Turkish rugs and the room is lit by elaborate oil lamps that have crystals dangling from their base. There are even paintings on the walls, priceless ones because I recognize the artists. I wonder if they sell them when they need the money.
The man looks at me and asks abruptly, “Who is your sire?”
“Why is that any of your busines, anyway? I’m sorry, I’m not going to answer that question.’
“We know about you,” the woman in the blue ball dress says, “The rogue vampire, Rainer, was here a few days ago asking for sanctuary. He told us that Tristan had made a new son.”
I’m intrigued, but I must be careful. “Why do you call Rainer a rogue?”
“Because he kills his own kind,” a woman dressed in 1920’s clothing answers me. With her short blond curls and her stockings rolled below her knees she reminds me of a flapper. “He’s dangerous so we sent him on his way. He must have thought telling us about you might buy him a place with us.”
“We brought you here,” said the man, “To tell Tristan that Rainer is still in the city and he is out to kill him and his lover. The mortal woman is in extreme danger, we cannot stress that enough. He must either transition her or leave the country until Rainer can be killed. You are new so you are vulnerable, Rainer is as old as Tristan and his Roman henchman, and as strong.”
“Why does he want to kill me...”
“Does it matter? What counts is that he does. None of you are safe until you get rid of him, he will not give up trying. When you see him, run, and hope he does not catch you.”
There vampires know too much, Tristan never told me we are not alone. “What can I do?” I ask, feeling as hopeless as I did when Tristan and Isolde left.
“Be careful, don’t be arrogant, and above all, don’t hunt alone. Lenore,” the girl with the black hair stands up, “Take him back to his car, if he needs to feed make sure he does it here.”
“Come on,” she says, clearly indifferent to whether I need help or not, “You won’t find your way out of the tunnels without help.”
“Just a moment,” says the blond woman, “We have a message for Tristan. We need to talk to him, he cannot take care of this alone. We’d like to know what he knows about the German vampire, where he came from, who made him if he knows. It’s been over a century since he visited us. Tell him we’d like to talk to him.”
I nod my head and Lenore takes me by the arm and practically drags me out of the room. “You’re pale, you need to eat,” she says, in a voice devoid of emotion, “If you feed you can maintain your color, you’re pale as a ghost.”
“I wonder why,” I retort, I’m annoyed by her and I want her to leave as soon as she gets me out of here. She ignores me and doesn’t let go of my arm until we reach the Blue Banjo. She locks the door behind us and pockets the key.
“We don’t want strangers coming inside and we don’t want anyone to break into the bar. The owner pretends he doesn’t know about us but lets us go in and out as we please.”
She knows Pioneer Square well. The city has never succeeded in cleaning up this part of town. There’s a Union Gospel Mission and a few shelters, but no shortage of the homeless sleeping in alleyways.
She shoves me towards an old man snoring loudly as he sleeps off his drunk. “Go on,” she says, “He’s dying anyway and you can offer him a more merciful end than what he’s facing.” She looks me and shakes her head, “He’s dying, you fool, you’re only putting him out of his misery.”
The wino smells, it’s vile, but I can hear him struggling for breath and the uneven beating of his heart. I sink my fangs into his jugular, afraid to draw his unhealthy blood into my body, but I began to feel better. She shoved me aside and finished him, then wiped her mouth.
“If you have qualms about killing, you should feed from blood bags or get blood from butcher.” I want to tell her that I’m not but I keep my mouth shut. I wonder how old she is because she’s intimidating, and bossy, and I can’t wait to get rid of her.