After a nice hot half hour shower, I dressed for a run to the mansion, where many of the vampires of my clan lived, unlike me. Most vampires found it too hard to keep things up in the outside world. I found it quite easy but, then again, I’m young. Maybe it will be harder in another hundred years. Actually, scratch that, with the way technology was going, I'd guarantee it'd be harder. I grabbed my bag and headed out the door, locking it behind me. I was still half asleep but my stomach rumbled away like a lawnmower. I’d catch Mickey D’s, McDonald's, on the way out. I could see it now: four of those teeny little hamburgers with the small cooked onions, three medium fries because the super sizes weren’t worth it for the money and the largest Dr Pepper I could get, no ice of course. My mouth was already watering. I’d drive. It would arouse suspicion if I ran at top speed around town. I’d let it wait until I was where nobody could see me.
I sat in my car in the parking lot as I finished my meal and sighed. The fries were perfect, soggy and salty at the same time. I love those extra long ones that are invariably flimsy. When I finished my food, I went on to licking my fingers to get all the salt off them. One of the many blessings of vampirism, I don’t have to worry about heart disease. The thought made me smile because my family had a history of it, along with diabetes. Considering fast food was pretty much heart disease and Type II diabetes in a bag, the thought made me very happy now. Tossing the garbage back into the bag, I turned the key in the ignition and pushed the manual into reverse while releasing the parking brake. It took me an hour to get to the mansion, most of which spent waiting at lights that never seemed to turn green because it was just that late. And to think, if I RAN, I wouldn't NEED to wait for lights...
The place was as I’d left it. After trekking through dense pines for about twenty minutes, I finally made it to a clearing filled with tall weeds and dense undergrowth. Pines surrounded the clearing and my destination, an old stone building, sat perched in the center of a near impossible to cross meadow. It was massive but dilapidated with twin towers at either end of the building, each having several stones missing and having long since lost a roof. The roof of the main part of the building was kept in good repair but the building in general was kept in ill repair on the outside to affect a facade of dilapidation and discourage busy bodies. Leaping through the underbrush instead of walking through, I made it to the door in about a minute. I pushed my way through the large, heavy wooden doors. “Where’s Nicki?” I asked a startled vampire who’d been apparently reading on the main stairs.
His entire body seemed to tremble as he slowly rose to his feet. He opened his mouth to say something but then closed it again and merely lifted his trembling arm toward my right. “Thank you,” I said. Hmmm, maybe I should spend more time here. I had no idea who that kid was. I clonked boldly into the room where Nicki stood by a bar, pouring himself a drink. “Nicki,” my voice echoed off the walls, making him jump and spill his drink. I smiled. “I need to talk to you about matters of grave importance.”
“Not now,” he moaned before turning to me. “What is it, Angelina? What is it that’s SOOOO pressing THIS time?” He walked around the bar to pour another drink without letting his guard down, without taking his condescending eyes from me.
“I’ve discovered the whereabouts of a werewolf clan. Close. Very close. It could mean trouble for us. I don’t quite know the size of the den but from the look of it, it might be quite large. If you wish, I may investigate it further.” I bowed my head just slightly. I hated to do so but it was required. Nicki was the steward of our clan. Meaning while our true leader slept, Nicki was in control. It also meant he was responsible for every clan in the country, in effect Steward-King of the US. Stewards were the only males allowed positions of status in vampire culture. All other positions were given to women. There was the leader of each clan, the Chatelaine, which attended meetings that were held once a year to discuss policies and current events and any ongoing problems any specific clan was enduring. The clans are overseen by the Queen, whom picks a Princess-Chatelaine sometime during her reign. The Princess-Chatelaine oversees her Queen’s clan and helps with the duties that will one day be hers if she ever gets to see the day her Queen steps down from the throne. It doesn't always happen. Unless, of course, someone makes it happen, a time-honored tradition in vampire society.
The most fascinating thing to me was how the Princess-Chatelaine is picked. The Queen doesn't pick from her own clan but sleeps and reaches out with her consciousness, searching for her, drawing her to the clan. It's said she will wake instantly when the Princess-Chatelaine walks through the doors. Bullshit, I thought to myself sarcastically. Our Queen rested, in waiting, in a room on the upper floor. I’d never met her. One person said she was nice. I just didn't know or care. If she was any better than Nicki, I'd smack her for putting him in charge.
“You will do no such thing,” Nicki said between drinks, in response to my request to investigate the werewolves further. “I am the head of this clan and we will NOT risk a war over your whims.” Whims, my ass. He was just a fucking coward. I held my tongue.
My face started to turn beet red from controlled rage. I controlled my breathing and tried not to talk through my teeth. “Sir, if I may say so,” I help up a finger and let out a barely audible grunt as Nicki tried to object, “having a decent sized werewolf clan will draw unneeded attention to us. There were two POWERFUL werewolves there. For two to congregate like that, there must a sizable population of werewolves in the vicinity. People will notice the quantity of deaths that would bring. We have to take out these beasts for our own safety.”
“I said we’ll do no such thing. Angelina, you seem to not understand there's more at stake than your obsession with werewolves. I have a great deal on my plate right now. I do not need to add a war with a werewolf clan to it. That is all. You are dismissed.” The smugness rolled off him in waves, smacking me in the face.
Storming out in a stiff limbed manner, I grunted, “Asshole!” as I cleared the doors. The boy jumped again at my passing and dropped the book on the floor. I looked over at him. He was scrawny. He definitely didn’t eat enough and didn’t exercise enough to maintain decent musculature. “How old are you, kid?”
“Twenty-three,” he said nervously, clutching the book defensively against his chest after having kneeled to retrieve it.
“In vampire years, moron.”
His mouth quivered, “Six months, ma’am.”
I rolled my eyes before looking him straight in his, “Alright. Listen up, kid. First, if you want to live past today, I’d suggest you not call me ma’am. Second, if you want to last another six months, I suggest you get your nose out of that book and start eating more and using what you’ve got. Vampires that don’t know how to use what they’ve got are easily killed. They don’t last long.” I walked into the other room and pulled a sword off a rack. Coming back into the main area, I tossed the weapon at the boy and said, “Here. You’re gonna need this.” He handled the sheathed weapon awkwardly, almost as if he didn’t know which end was which. “Well, put the belt on, kid, and let’s get moving.”
He looked at me petrified as he held the sword by the ends of the belt, “W-w-w-what?”
I rubbed my forehead impatiently. “Come on, kid. This is your lucky day. I’m going to teach you the ropes.”
“What if I don’t need to be shown the ropes?” he asked uncertainly as he fastened the belt around him, fumbling with the buckle.
“You do. Trust me.” After a few seconds, I was pushing the main doors open. He must have realized the virtue of my proposal because he suddenly started running for the door. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Ben. It’s Ben. And yours?” His voice had finally calmed down and he seemed at peace again. As he’d been when he’d been reading the book. Good, he adapts well. Vampires NEED to adapt to survive.
I couldn't help but wonder why he just sat there, biding his time in the manor. He was young enough. He could spend the next decade or two living in the real world, making a living. He wasn't confined there, stuck without the ever-needed ID of today's society. So why was he sitting on the steps, reading a book?
“Angelina.” I extended my hand and he took it. “Nice to meet you.”
“So how long you been a vampire?”
“Only a year, but it hasn’t been easy. I was turned by somebody that didn’t much give a shit about showing me the ropes. I had to figure out everything for myself, which nearly got me killed a couple of times.” I laughed. It's funny how easy it is to laugh at things that were damn scary at the time. “Anyway, being a vamp isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work, creativity and quite the criminal mind. On a regular basis, we have to figure out ways of doing things so we don’t arouse suspicions. I can teach you. But tonight, I’m going to be staking out a possible wolf den. While we’re waiting, I’ll show you a few things.”
“Hmm. Thanks, Angelina. Say, why doesn’t Nicki like you?”
I chuckled, “Hell, I don’t know. The truth is, I don’t mind. I enjoy annoying him. There's always assholes in your life that just want to get in the way. That’s just God testing you.”
“You still believe in God?” he asked shocked. Yeah, bet you're shocked too, huh? Believe it or not, it isn't impossible to be a vampire and religious. Sometimes, it's the only thread I have holding me to my sanity.
“Course I do. I need Him now more than ever. I sin now more than I ever did. That’s the damn truth. So, every night, or afternoon, basically whenever you’re going to sleep, you lie in your bed and you look up at the ceiling and you think, ‘Please God forgive me. Just give me another path and I’ll take it.’ So yeah, I do believe in God. I think we all should. Gives us perspective. Let’s face it, some of the older ones practically think they ARE gods.”
He laughed. Yeah, I thought it was kinda funny too. It didn’t take us but a couple of hours to get back to the wolf den. We watched as wolf after wolf left or entered the den and we tried our best to make sure we didn’t double count any. When everything was quiet, I told Ben tips for getting victims and disposing of the bodies in ingenious fashions. I started to teach him how to use a sword. He was quite the quick study but all the while, I couldn’t shake this feeling of being watched.