Also, you may noticed that the chapter numbering skipped Chapter 6. Yes, that is correct. I rearranged the chapter designations (split about three chapters) in the book files so I'm using those chapter designations to keep my brain from imploding.
She got to her usual spot overlooking the BS’s townhouse and waited for her prey to rise. She knew from experience the BS slept in so it would be a while before it got up, let alone went out the door. She sat in her car and read a book while she trained a listening device on the townhouse. She might not be a PI, but she’d gotten all the toys over the years. That specific device came in handy when dealing with creatures that could hear substantially more than mere mortals could unassisted.
It was eight o’clock before she heard stirring in the house. Since she couldn’t see into the residence, she waited until she heard the telltale sounds of jingling keys and the latch of a door, something to signify her subject was ready to leave. When the subject left, it made a right on the highway, pulled into a Blockbuster and left a half hour later with one movie in hand before returning home. Great. It was staying in.
When she got back in position, she trained the listening device on the house until she heard the movie running. She was itching for something to happen but she wasn't looking forward to a repeat performance of last night. She didn't think her stomach could handle it. After checking her equipment, she went back to her book.
Two hours later, she recognized the change as the credits began, music but no voices. Shortly after, the electronic music of the PS2 Welcome Screen played and the machine turned off. Minutes later, the subject was outside again and, upon inspection, sans movie. It wasn’t returning it, which was probably good news, although she was having a hard time generating her customary enthusiasm for the job.
The BS turned left on the highway this time and, after a lengthy drive, was back in the middle of nowhere; the place it'd gone to dispose of the body yesterday. What other purpose could it possibly have for this place? She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping the monster would lead her to the rest of the monsters. A nice thought, but she doubted she could keep up if that was the case. Most likely, she'd just get left in the dust. The only reason she’d found the werewolf den was because she'd been told the BS would show up there, not because she followed her. In a car, she could easily follow, on foot and out here, she was doomed. She was only human, after all.
None-the-less, she tried and, once the BS was out of sight and in the woods, she crept across the clearing, attempting to avoid being exposed for too long in case the BS looked back and saw her, moonlit and blatantly obvious against the background. She wore black to fit in with more urban surroundings, not wilderness, but with enough cover, she'd slip into the shadows easy enough. Wouldn't matter where she was. Her BS wore all earth tones and she suspected it was to blend in more in these environs.
She reached the edge of the woods without being spotted and headed in. It was dark but she could just make out the BS's khaki jacket. Slowly and carefully, so as not to make a sound, she made her way to the jacket and as she got closer, she realized it wasn't moving. As a survival instinct stretched her nerves taut, it wasn’t until she was right upon it that she realized with a sinking feeling in her gut it was not on the subject. Shit. Spinning around, the last thing she saw before the lights went out was the BS, sans jacket, swinging something at her head.
I left the vampire hunter’s car on the side of the road, partially because I couldn’t drive two at the same time and partially because she wasn’t going to need it. Not anymore. I brought her back to my place and took a chair from the dining room, bringing it into my computer room, facing it away from the computers. When everything was set, I lugged the hostage up the stairs, tied her up and waited. Impatiently.
She woke up with a migraine and pain in her wrists. Her ankles too. She was groggy and her brain didn’t seem to process anything right. Sounds didn't seem to register even though they gave her headache superpowers. She opened her eyes but a shockwave of pain flashed through her skull. Yay, more superpowers, she thought sarcastically. She closed them again. Her brain worked marginally better that way but still nothing was moving around in her head. After a few minutes, the pain started to dull and she was able to think enough to say, “Sheee-it.” Bad. Fucking. Day. She wanted to curse and scream and rend, but just working her jaw sent a knife through her skull so anything more active than, say, wiggling her toes was out of the playbook for the time being.
“How’s the head?” said a gentle voice in front of her. Gentle? Something was fucking wrong with her mental processes today.
“Like a coconut that just got cracked." More knives and yangs. "Thanks for asking,” she said sarcastically. She opened her eyes. There was her subject, the damn BS, sitting in front of her on a chair. It looked just as uncomfortable as the instrument of torture she was glued to. The only difference between the two, that she could discern, being she was tied up and the BS was leaning with its legs wide and its elbows on its thighs, relaxed but engaged. “You,” she said with a scowl on her face, the muscles not wanting to cooperate without protest. She started to squirm in her bindings, ignoring the mind fuck.
“Relax, chica, you’re going to be here a while," it shook its head. "The questions are going to start simple, like who are you? How did you find out about me? How did you know where I was?” It leaned back as it spoke, spreading its arms in a supplicative manner. Right, humble my ass, she thought.
“I’m not telling you shit, bloodsucker,” she glared.
The BS frowned but there was a twinkle in its eye. Had it been hoping for that answer? God, she hoped not. She shivered at the possibility of being at the mercy of a sadist. “I was afraid you’d say that.” Bull. Shit. In an instant, she cried out and realized that, in a movement she didn’t even see or notice, the BS came up to her, broke one of the bones in her right hand and returned to the same spot on the chair, as if it hadn’t even moved a muscle. She'd never realized vampires were that fast. She'd always taken them by surprise. An ordinary human wouldn't want to get in a one-on-one with a vampire many orders of power faster and stronger, right? A smart human did the cowardly thing and backstabbed the bastard. A wave of panic overcame her, flowing in a cold wave from her head to her toes, as if anticipating the BS's next words. “There are 206 bones in the human body. That’s 205 to go. After that, I can start cutting. When I get bored with that, I can start with amputations, starting with the fingers and toes and moving up from there. If you know what you're doing, a person can survive a long time like that. And you know I know what I'm doing. You followed me to my work. And you know what, I think I’d rather enjoy playing with you considering you were going to kill me. Well, what do you say? Do we play or do we talk?” Damn, she really didn't like that little half smile. That smile said she WISHED, HOPED, her captive wouldn't talk. She shied away from thinking about what that would entail.
Scared but not willing to say anything even though she knew damn well what was coming and it wasn't going to be a picnic, she spat in its face.
The BS didn't even bother to swipe the saliva off. “Very well.” Again, without any sign of movement, there was a new pain in her hand and now misery had company, an evil twin hell-bent on making her day. “Shall I continue?” Damn smirk had doubled in size to match the pain.
Breathing heavy, she said, “No.” There was no point. What difference did it make? She was going to die either way. She might as well turn this vamp against her employer. At least one vamp would die through her actions this last time. Last time. Damn, didn't think it would come so soon. Not that she had any delusions of seeing old age but still, she wasn't even out of her twenties. But that was life for ya, right?
Funny, she wasn't afraid. Wouldn't most people be afraid? But here she was, facing what was probably a violent and painful death and she was completely calm. Ain't life a bitch.
“All Right then, what’s your name?”
“Justine.” Her voice was even. Where was the fear? She just heard resignation in her voice. Huh. Go figure.
“Justine. Just. Ironic, eh? Not exactly just are you, Justine?” Damn smirk was back.
“Just? You kill people on a weekly basis. I'm saving lives. THAT'S just.” Was it really about saving lives, though? She'd been doing it so long. She could still remember the catalyst, though, and it had NEVER been about saving lives. Never. But you justify your actions, don't you? You make yourself believe you're a hero, that what you're doing is right. Doesn't mean your intentions are good, or your motives.
“What you're talking about? I only kill the willing." And where was the logic in THAT statement? "But I'll have you know, I kill more often than that.”
“What?” Now she was confused.
“Werewolves. I kill lots of werewolves. Werewolves are so much worse than vampires. They can’t control themselves. When they're in the same area as vampires, it increases exponentially our chances of being exposed. We kill them because they can kill several times a night, if not more. They'll attack anything that comes across their paths.” The BS paused for a minute. “What exactly do you know about vampires?” The look in its eye, on its face, said it figured her knowledge was less than nothing in the grand scheme of things. Contemptuous bitch.
“I know enough," she said, "I know you kill people and you need to be stopped. I know your strengths and weaknesses,” Justine said with bile.
“Ah, you know nothing. Vampirism isn’t what you think it is. You think of it as an evil that must be destroyed at all costs. You're so," it paused, collecting itself, "The truth is nothing of the kind. Vampirism is a disease, a bacterial disease. It's caused by a multi-drug resistant bacteria. The newly turned quickly develop septicemia and anemia. After a while, all but some portions of the innate immune system are destroyed and the bacteria take on the role of the immune system, destroying all the normal flora, all the bacteria that normally live in the body, protecting their turf without harming you. They're symbiotes. A good example is the bacteria living in the stomachs of cows. Without them, the cows can't digest grass.
"Anyway, back to what I was saying. As you're turning, on a cellular level, you're changing genetically as the bacteria transfer plasmids to your cells. It works like a virus in that it transfers portions of DNA, which is then transferred to your DNA, or the host DNA for the bacteria. It takes a long time for a person to completely turn, weeks maybe even months, some even years, and the symptoms of vampirism will gradually increase as the symptoms of the septicemia decrease. Granted, what is defined as 'completely turned' doesn't necessarily mean the entire body has turned, only that enough has turned to be considered wholly vampire.
“I was turned by my brother. Dante Giovanni is his given name. He liked to kill by biting the wrists. It’s not a pleasant way to go. Trust me. It doesn’t bleed out as it does with the neck. It takes longer. He’d intended to kill me. I don’t know why. I could see it in his eyes. He left me for dead but I didn’t die. Someone found me, I don't know who but someone. I was treated for my injuries at a hospital and was released after I could walk without being dizzy or falling over. Unfortunately, I got sicker, weaker. I became pale, tired, hot and cold at the same time, restless and anxious and lazy, clammy and after a while, even a little blue. I ended up back at the hospital again and diagnosed with septicemia. They tried to treat me but to no avail. They gave me at best a week to live as I got worse and worse because I had fewer and fewer white blood cells. Again and again, I lasted longer than they expected. Miraculously, I started to get better. Blood tests still showed bacteria in the bloodstream but my symptoms were going away. They thought it was signs I was dying. They thought my body was just no longer fighting it. You know, shutting down.
“At the same time those symptoms were going away, other problems were developing. I started to be more and more sensitive to sunlight. I’d always had problems with my eyes and bright lights but now it was almost intolerable. Not to mention I was also having other problems. I was constantly starved. I couldn’t get enough food and hospital food didn't exactly help. I was getting more and more hungry and nothing was helping. They thought it was denial. My anemic symptoms started to get worse though and I started to experience severe pain throughout my entire body. It turned out the bacteria were now attacking my tissues, starting with red blood cells. They started me back on blood transfusions but that was only a temporary fix. When I went too far between transfusions, I would go into states of delirium; reality was completely irrelevant to me at that point. One day, they misjudged lengths between transfusions and I killed my first victim, an orderly. Due to the delirium I’d been in before the incident, no charges were brought but I was kept in restraints after that. Mentally unstable, they said. They would have put me in a mental ward, if not for my other medical conditions. And the fact I was dying. They figured, what was the point?
“By then, it had been over a month since I was bitten by my brother, who prefers to call himself Giovanni now. I hated him. Still do. I hadn’t seen the light of day for two weeks. It took a couple of weeks before I convinced the doctors to let me take my treatments on an out-patient basis. Since I never had a problem before a week span and started to undergo delirium after the seven day point, we agreed I come in every seven days. I, on the other hand, had other things in mind.
"I needed to know what was happening to me. I couldn't go to my brother because he tried to kill me. I needed to find someone else that could help. I spent weeks researching vampirism, trying to sift through the myths and lies, looking for a bit of fact. It wasn't easy. I put posts on hundreds of message boards looking for information. Eventually, I got what I was looking for. I left town that very night and traveled north. I worked jobs here and there and made my way to Jersey, where I’d grown up. I hadn’t been there in twenty years but it still felt like home.” It stopped, seemed to pull inward and said, “But back on subject. How did you find out about me? I wasn’t careless. I’ve never been, so how did you find me?”
“You’re right. You're the most careful vampire I’ve even seen. I would have never guessed you were only a year old.”
“So…” An edge seemed to flood the room. Impatience.
“Another vampire paid me to kill you. I was more than willing to do the job because this isn’t exactly the best paying gig and I was looking forward to possibly killing the subject, you, and the vamp who paid me. His name was Nickolaus, by the way.” Nothing like biting the hand that fed you when said hand was your enemy.
An ugly look came over the BS's face. “Nicki.” Malice dripped from its voice like blood.
Wow, she'd been in the biz too long if she started waxing demented poetic. Justine knew there was bad blood between the two, even before this revelation. She took a deep breath, calming herself.
“Thank you. I have everything I need from you.” The finality of that statement unnerved her.
The BS turned away from her for a moment. “You know, usually, I’m compassionate to my victims. I take them when they're high on adrenaline, a natural painkiller and quickly so they aren’t likely to feel anything. They die so fast they don’t even know what hit them. That’s the benefit of bleeding the throat. It bleeds out quick. But you're a murderer, Justine. You don’t deserve a quick release. That would be too good for you. You deserve to suffer. I may kill people but I never let them suffer. I doubt I can say the same for you. From the hatred in your eyes and exuding from every pore, I suspect you like to torture them before they die. That’s why I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to do something far worse. You’ll wish you were dead,” it said with resignation before it picked a frying pan up from the table behind it. There was a blur of motion and the lights went out again.
I kept an eye on my captive over the next couple of weeks, treating her and checking her progress. When awake, she would snap and growl at me, throwing venomous invectives my way as if they were air. I would untie her when she was unconscious and I was there to keep an eye on her so she wouldn’t have any major problems, like her hands turning black or something. I wasn’t completely heartless. In truth, I didn’t want to hurt her. I hated it. I kept her here because I wanted time to think. What the hell was I going to do about Nicki? He was the steward, after all. He controlled the entire clan and I didn’t have a clue what to do about his treachery. If you had a problem with a vampire, you could either talk it out with them (not likely), sometimes with a mediator, fight them (usually), many times with a mediator, or avoid them, practically growling whenever you came in contact with them. You just didn't pay a vampire hunter to kill the person. That was just wrong. I took a deep breath to calm myself out of my rage.
I finally accepted what needed to be done. I was down to deciding the how and when. I’d have to be careful. There were quite a few loyal to him and if I did this wrong, I'd get killed in the process. However, I knew there were at least a couple of friends I had at the manor who despised Nicki and would likely help me if it came to that. I just might be safe. Maybe. I hoped…