Blood. Lawsuits. Migraines.
They share one thing in common- pain.
Blood, because it's hard to come by good donors these days due to a 'blood drinker hysteria'. Lawsuits- pain in the ass to organize documentation and put proper verdicts in place. Migraines are just brain-numbing and with the type of work I do all day, I get a lot of them.
But also maintaining my intake of daily liquid iron is taxing in and of itself.
I used to be a normal, bright young girl with a healthy, living skin complexion, green eyes and strong brown hair- but now I'm reduced to being perpetually stuck in my mid-twenties as a thirty-year-old who still gets carded every now and again, with dead brown eyes and dark auburn hair cut into a shaggy 80s bob because any other haircut would look like I just plastered straw onto my fucking head.
If I ate normal, fully cooked meals, it would taste nothing but of charcoal and ashes. Cremated nutrients... that's damn healthy for you. Goodbye eating out with the team.
Work's gotten a lot rougher lately during the day too, due to the summer and how every snot nosed bully is coming out of the woodworks- and also, it's easier to decay bodies in direct sunlight.
As for me, I have to wear long clothing, headwear and sunglasses into the office and somehow still manage to look like I care about my job. Having to deal with excruciating hands-on menial tasks for hours in the New York heat like that leaves me sweating like who knows what.
Perhaps I should have gone for a quieter career like my other brethren- like how my Sire suggested- so I wouldn't have to bother hiding what I am to this degree, but that would also forsake the several years of my unlife I spent studying this field and wasting all those internships and college funds I fought for to have my dream come true.
But not all of death and unlife is worthless. Like real living. But given the fact that I'm dead, it has given me insight on how to save the mortals who still have a normal life. I don't want them to end up like me- as idealistic as that is. If they do end up like me though, I want to help them carry on into eternity with positivity and an open mind.
Stepping into the bustling office of the Department of Investigation makes me feel slight discomfort as natural light turns to the ironic safety of artificial overhead lights, but it passes as swiftly as it hit.
"Boo!" a voice chuckles as their hands clasp onto my shoulders, jerking me violently into the present, and by reflex I twist my assailant's arms back away from me by the wrists with all the supernatural strength I possess.
"OW! Shit- Marybe- ow! Stop, damn it!" my co-worker and old college friend Jason yelped, trying desperately to escape.
I cross my arms at him after letting him go, and he's pink to his ears in embarrassment as he gingerly massages each of his hands and arms. My muscles are still tense after he nearly said my living name, but it's not like I could tell him about the additional laws that I'm subjected to.
Jason looks at me incredulously at first, then in worry.
"Damn. You're looking paler every day," he noted, "What's up with that?"
I take my sunglasses off with a flourish to resist the severely tempting urge of slapping him across the face.
"Perhaps it's because my life has begun to stress me out so much that it's making me physically ill. Hm?" I snapped.
With that, I head to my desk, already trying to get my brain back in gear to fix up my documents and follow the case I was supposed to help prosecute against as an expert witness.
Jason frowned at that and followed me, knowing exactly what I was referring to, his face flushing hotter.
"You're seriously taking that out on me?" he groaned, "In all seriousness, Mary- I'm concerned about you. You're starting to look like a goddamn vam-"
I whip around and slap my hands over his mouth, reminding him that he shouldn't be saying that word around me. First Scarlet Law: Never say the V-Word to a blood drinker- don't even risk hearing it.
It's both a racial identity thing and a curse. I heard that some of our kind would either go mad or crumble into a pile of dust if anyone living or dead said it, and I had no plans on turning into a pile of urn fillings right now- considering I had a hearing to prepare for.
The Second Scarlet Law: Never speak your brethren's Living Name. If you breathe it, the person whose name was spoken loses all sense of who they are and falls into an eternal catatonia and turn feral until they experience The End.
The standard way we would address each other is using the first letter of their name, or full initials. It obviously doesn't completely apply if a living mortal utters your name, because they assume you're also a living, breathing person- so it only brings discomfort.
Once I remove my hands from his face slowly, Jason looks at me sort of stunned for a couple of seconds, then rolls his eyes.
"Okay, forget all that," he sighs defeatedly. "I was seriously thinking about you over the weekend, you know..."
"Oh really?" I offered, watching him as he nervously rubbed his neck and chuckled to himself. My sixth sense was telling me that this was probably a confession that he's been preparing to say for the longest time.
"I was thinking maybe we could eat out for dinner tonight?"
I never told him my secret- nor did I ever plan on telling him- so he had no idea how much danger he was putting himself in by trying to ask me out on the date. Thankfully I actually had a legitimate reason for wriggling out of it.
"I can't. I have a case to prepare for court in a week."
Jason merely shook his head, buying my mundane excuse.
"You take your job too seriously. Way too seriously."
"Well, being the expert witness of the prosecution aggrieving a man who believes he killed a blood drinker, I need to be able to convince the court that he had premeditated it and that he murdered a perfectly innocent citizen and made the story up later." I explained.
"Well alright- I'll leave you to your work, Ms. Busy Bee." he nodded, clasping his hands behind his back and leaving.
I release the breath I was instinctively holding, seeing as I was half afraid my id would make me bite his neck out. One would hope that daylight exposure would weaken us, and lessen the id, but it actually makes us more dangerous to be near, because it heightens all of its commands. The body is put into a hyperventilating survival mode of sorts and strengthens our carnal systems because our barely functioning brain thinks we're about to meet The End. All it can think about is shedding as much carnage as possible until we can once again find shelter in the shadows.
On the other hand, sometimes I forget I walk among the living as someone who isn't, but that's because all my precautions during the day trick me into thinking I'm normal. Means it works to some degree. Once I settle down at my desk, I ease myself into the chair and try to focus on the quieter norms of the job. Opening up a manila folder of the appropriate case and started poring over the case again for the umpteenth time for the past two weeks.
Reverend Axon vs New York
The accused, Reverend Ryan Burt Stephen, known as 'Reverend Axon': Caucasian (American) MALE; Aged 30; Eyes BRO; Hair BLK (see image for reference); Profession REVEREND/CLERGY
MO: Killed victim with a .32 automatic COLT PISTOL (full chamber upon incitement- found with remaining five (5) bullets upon collection of evidence) to the glabella. Victim dead for twenty (20) minutes upon arrival to the scene.
The victim, Valerie Lynch, known as 'Mistress Luna/Lynching Luna': Biracial (Asian American/Caucasian- German) FEMALE; Aged 27; Eyes BRO; Hair BRO (see image for reference); Profession EXOTIC DANCER/ SEX WORKER
So, a random man who thinks he's a messiah shoots a sex worker in the face and is proud for it. The rest of the case file stated that Axon already testified saying that he described her at the night of the shooting as having 'a pair of fangs behind black lips', which for all anyone knew could have just been cosmetic implants. Though, it checked out with some other research on the clients of the victim, stating that she did have a tendency to bite people not so fun-like in the neck and they managed to pull themselves off of her.
Axon had also claimed to have been 'tracking' her and realized she worked at a club he lived near and tricked her into thinking he wanted her services. All in all, this guy was whacked something special. A normal clergyman looking to be a Van Helsing of sorts after proclaiming that his cheating wife was killed by one of our kind.
I almost had sympathy for the guy, but if what he claimed was actually real, then I risk being a traitor to my own kind. And as far as I remember, Scarlet Law has capital effects for that.
Breaking my comparative thoughts of living and Scarlet laws, my phone vibrates irritably against my desk, ever so slightly off to the right. Try as I might to ignore the loudly awkward buzzing, I picked up the call, praying it wasn't some scam debt collector or a work emergency.
"Hello M," a sanguine male voice purred on the other end, causing my skin to crawl with a mix of desire and unease, "Are we still on for tonight? I hope you didn't forget..."
"Of course not. Not like I have a choice in the matter anyway," I hissed quietly back at my Sire, "It's a New Blood Moon as well- which doesn't make it any better."
A deep chuckle bubbles softly out of the man who was once known as Zeke Halloway, a once known rich kid immigrant from Germany smack in the middle of 80s Harlem. He had a criminal past as well, running heists with gangs until he got killed and became a childe to a man whom he refuses to tell me about. I've been bonded to him since junior year of high school when my family suffered a fatal car accident. The chuckle stirs something instinctual inside of me, which makes me hot and uncomfortable.
"Z, why are you calling me in the middle of my workday about The Bonding?" I ask in a near whisper now, "I can't talk about this shit out in the open-"
"I understand," he sighs monotonously, as if he's suddenly bored, "It's Scarlet Law, I get it. However, you really do make it hard to get a hold of you, darling. I'm limited to light time hours because you only want to be called at night if it's an absolute emergency from work."
His point hits home, and I can't say much more on the subject. After sharing a brief moment of estranged silence, Zeke then clears his throat and sighs.
"Be sure to wear something beautiful for me, will you? Last year's dress didn't suit you well at all." he implored before hanging up and saving himself the full brunt of me getting angry.
Lately he's been really pushing up against my boundaries and it's starting to piss me off. But on the other hand, he doesn't do anything without a good reason, which I learned early on, so I tolerate it- I want to know what his reasons are. What his end game for me is... that way I'm prepared when it happens.
"Mimi?" a soft soprano called, "Are you busy?"
In spite of the office uniform, Anastasia somehow always manages to put eccentric punk aesthetic in and with a signature short topknot with shaved sides. She leans over my desk front like she owns the place, but it's always managed to get her the information she needs because she'd look like she'd take a briefcase and beat you over the head with it if you didn't.
"Ah, no- not quite," I answered, remembering my voice again, after my brain trying to figure out how she came up so silently in Doc Martins against wood flooring. "What do you need?"
She skims over my desk and snorts when she sees the manila folder, bemused.
"You really take your work seriously, don't you?" she titters.
"What's wrong with that? Everyone's been saying that to me all morning-"
Anastasia sits on the edge of my desk and tosses her head in a fuck-all manner and barks out a laugh.
"You should remember to go out and have a life too, you know? Enjoy the best New York's got to offer- go to a party and get drunk maybe. Smash some windows with beer bottles and paint some graffiti- something that won't make you feel like a corpse."
"Is that what you do to feel alive?" I chuckled back at her, though a little unnerved that she was telling me not to be a corpse when that boat already sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Anastasia sheepishly looks around and mockingly puts a finger over her lips with a wide grin before shrugging.
"I go to rivethead parties and get drunk while canning abandoned buildings, I'll admit- but only every two months or so. Daily partying is just a glass of wine in front of crime shows and laughing at how badly they're portraying our work here."
I rolled my eyes, smiling at that. I looked back to the folder thinking about all the hell I was about to go through in this case and the lift in the corners of my mouth faded as fast as they arrived. Anastasia- nor anybody else living for that matter- would never understand the predicament I was in and would think I got the blood drinker craze stuck in my head.
We're much more real than what billions across the world think. And I wish I could scream that at the top of my lungs without having to worry about both sides of the universe hunting me down to silence me.
I reach for the folder again, only to have Anastasia rip it off my desk.
"Hey, what the fuck?" I snapped, glaring daggers at her.
"Really- take a damn break for once, M." she groaned, "you're an investigator, not a lawyer for fuck's sake."
"I would- but unfortunately I'm an expert witness in the case, so I'd like my notes back please."
Anastasia looks at me in confusion before handing them back to me.
"Expert witness on the prosecuting stand, I imagine? Why though?"
"Because no one ever backs up these cases for prosecutors, since they're insubstantial- we're talking supernatural murders or freak accidents."
"And this is one of them?"
"Correct." I said, going down in my desk to find supplies to write more notes in.
When I come back up though, Anastasia was nowhere to be found. Shrugging, I sat back down at my desk and tried to focus on every little detail to try and poke defense holes to get him the maximum penalty he could get.
All in all, it seemed like a pretty standard premeditated murder with a slight caveat, which was what the victim really was. Looking through her file and researching her came up with shit that Axon was probably right about. The victim used to live in the alley next to the club she got hired by doing sex to pay rent. She eventually broke out into official porn, and then returned to the club three months before her death, ending her promiscuous career at an even ten years.
Spending about an hour incognito online poring over the details of her personal videos with clients gave me the idea that she definitely knew how to use her beauty. She knew how to draw an audience into what they were seeing- hell, it was even working on me, and that wasn't the goal.
But something was off. My body was telling me that too. It was hard to tell what was real or not in her porno, but something in her proud, thin eyes was emitting an unholy sort of draw of the will whenever she looked at the screen.
My migraine worsened trying to figure out what the hell was with her, and I sighed as I reached for my painkillers.
This was already going swimmingly...