A squabbling father and daughter have a meeting with fate on Halloween eve

The man slipped his cigarette out the narrowly-opened
driver’s side window and hurriedly cranked it closed,
crudely cursing the torrential rain outpacing the
frantic windshield wipers. His daughter sulked moodily
against the far door, curled into a limber knot. Her
finger sketched a pattern on the fogged glass that had
meaning only to her.

“Give me a smoke, Dad. I’m out.” Her voice held a
mocking, wheedling tone.

His voice was raw. Damned sore throat just wouldn’t go
away. “Damn it! How many times do I have to tell you!
You’re -”

“Too fucking young,” she finished in sarcastic unison.
“That’s bullshit, Pop. It’s part of my job, remember? If
I’m old enough to -”

“Callie! Give it up! Thirteen may give you the body of a
woman, but not the brains.”

The child began a surly retort, then smiled through the
misty glass. She stretched, reformed her coil at the
man’s side, lowered her head to his shoulder.

“You’re the brains of this family,” she purred
throatily, her hand caressing his chest. “But I’m the
body, Daddy. And my body wants a smoke.” Her hand deftly
lifted the pack from his shirt pocket.

Muscles worked in his jaw as his daughter pushed the
lighter into the dash, resumed her coil against the
door, and smoked. He said nothing. The thunk of the
wipers, the heavy rattle of the driving rain on the
car’s roof, and his periodic raspy coughs were the only
sounds for long minutes. With a piteous sigh, she
untwisted her gangly frame and reached for the radio.
She spun the tuner knob from station to station until
she found the brand of heavy rock she wanted.

She flounced back into her curl, sullenly watched her
father lower the volume.

“I’m hungry. When are we going to stop?”

“Hungry? What about that bag of chips you inhaled a few
miles back?”

He saw the argument coming, was too tired to deal with
it.

“Look. We’ll be in Columbia in a half hour or so. We’ll
get a room. You can eat whatever you want.”

She wasn’t ready to give it up. “”It’s Friday night,”
she said. It had the air of both an accusation and a
reminder.

“I know what night it is!” he shouted, then had to
swerve quickly back into his lane. A screaming horn and
a wave of water accompanied the passage of the car to
his left.

“Well?” she challenged.

“No. Columbia’s too damned small. Shit, the burg
probably doesn’t even have a mall.”

“It does too. I saw a billboard that said so. A brand
new one with a hundred stores or something.”

“Damn you, you little bitch! I said no! Quit hassling
me!”

She glared savagely at him.

He gentled his tone. “We’ll wait until tomorrow. We’ll
be in St. Louis. I told you about how dangerous small
towns are.”

“How much money do we have, Daddy?”

He hated that tone, the one loaded with an adult’s
sneering venom, the one she always used to remind him
that, in many ways, she was far too old for her years.

“Enough.”

“Let’s see,” she mused artificially. “You broke our last
hundred yesterday in Tulsa. The motel last night was
fifty something. Two tanks of gas at around twenty each.
So. If we stay somewhere clean tonight, we might have
enough money for one more tank of gas – if we skip
breakfast. That about right?”

“We can use a credit card.”

“An hour ago you explained for the millionth time why
that was a stupid idea. How come it’s okay now?”

The patently false innocence was as bad as the sneer. It
was just another of the countless ways she mocked him.
He gripped the wheel until his knuckles went white. He
knew if he didn’t squeeze as hard as he could, he’d hit
her again. He’d bounce that pretty little blonde head
off the window. He’d hit her and keep hitting her
until…

He fought himself calm. She had a point, after all. That
last batch of cards was totally stale. It’d probably be
less risky to let the crazy little bitch go ahead and
have her way. It’d shut her up and maybe provide them
with a fresh supply of plastic on top of the cash.

He affixed a wide grin to his face, gave it to her. “I
never should have let them teach you math. You’re too
fucking smart, angel.”

She finally acted her age. Her expression glowed with
excitement and anticipation. “So it’s okay?”

“Sure. Why not. You need to blow off a little steam. But
just be damned careful, Callie. Remember everything I
ever told you about what to look out for. Don’t -”

She lunged across the seat, gave him a tight hug and a
smack on the cheek. “I know, Daddy! I promise I’ll be
careful. I mean, Jesus, I’ve been doing this for a year-”

“Nine months.” He scratched the persistent purple rash
that’d shown up on his forearms last week.

“Well, that’s almost a year. And I’ve only made that one
mistake.”

He kept the smile intact with tremendous effort. “Just
remember how that turned out, baby.”

He couldn’t see the glitter of excitement in her wide
blue eyes. “Oh, I won’t. We can’t go around leaving a
trail of dead bodies behind us, can we? That’s bad for
business.”

She pulled away from his side. “Can I go ahead and get
ready?”

He shook his head. He didn’t remember ever feeling so
tired. “I don’t think so. Not until we check in and
scope the mall out.”

“Please?” she wheedled. “Just my fingernails? It’ll save
a lot of time later.”

He couldn’t block all his exasperation, but tried to act
lighthearted about it. “If it’ll shut you up, go ahead.
Just don’t ask me of you can do anything else until we
get set up.”

With a gleeful screech, Callie dove into the back seat
and began digging through the litter and luggage.

Ahmed Toth felt tired and weak and depressed. He sank
gratefully onto one of the mall’s scattered benches and
surreptitiously eyed the grizzled sixty year old holding
down the other end of the long seat. He watched the
man’s shallow breathing, heard the faint constricted
wheeze as he pulled Pall Mall smoke into his ruined
lungs.

Emphysema, the wet burbling told him. A fairly advanced
case. Surely diagnosed, yet the man refused to give up
his tobacco. Not that it’d matter if he did, Ahmed knew.
His nostrils flared slightly, inhaling the distinct
spoor of impending death. The man was dressed poorly,
wore no wedding band. Beneath the weathered skin around
his eyes there was the unmistakable aura of unexpressed
fear and grief and pain.

Ahmed nodded slightly to himself. I can alleviate his
suffering. I can help him forget, for a while. He needs
me.

He was on the verge of making the initiatory gestures.
His lips were shaping a greeting smile. But the old man
abruptly stuffed his half- smoked cigarette into the
sand pot at his side, rose, and shuffled toward a wan
younger woman exiting a religious bookstore.

So much for that one. The slight man with the sensitive,
sharply sculpted features sank back against the hard
seat, sagged a little within his expensive suit.

This is a foolish place to be. People seldom go shopping
alone at this time of evening. The crowd is thinning.
I’m too tired, too needy to think clearly. I should go
to the bar outside the convention center. Right now.

Instead, he removed an ornate flat case from his breast
pocket, extracted and lit a brown-papered cigarette, and
inhaled deeply, savoring the rich, heavy smoke. As he
exhaled, he noticed the female child peering into the
window of the pet store, sixty feet to his right.

It wasn’t the fact that someone so young was wearing so
much makeup that caught at his attention. Nor was it her
lithe, still developing body, wrapped in a midriff-
baring shirt and denim mini-skirt. Those things weren’t
important to Ahmed anymore, if they ever had been. No.
What he noticed, instantly, was that she was using the
polished window as a mirror – she was surveying him, not
the tumbling knot of puppies beyond the glass.

He diverted his gaze, casually watched the ebbing flow
of late shoppers, but remained fully conscious of the
girl’s oblique scrutiny as she casually meandered in his
direction, pretending not to be aware of him. He sensed
something predatory about her, some covert purpose, and
he was intrigued. He was being stalked, and appreciated
the implied flattery.

She paid no attention to him until she pretended to be
drawn to a boutique behind him, and swerved to pass
nearby. She wrinkled her nose, paused in her purposeful
march, and favored him with a distasteful downturning of
her vivid scarlet lips.

“What kind of cigarette is that?”

“It’s a Turkish blend.”

“Is that where you’re from? You’re a foreigner?” She
seemed enchanted by the thought.

“No. I’m American, but my family was originally from
Egypt.”

She helped herself to part of the bench, dramatically
widened eyes that bore far too much mascara. “That’s
where the Pyramids are, right?”

“Among other things, yes.”

“And the Sphinx. And the Valley of the Kings. And – oh,
what’s the name of the place? Where all that Amon-Ray
stuff is.”

“It’s pronounced Amon-Ra, and the city was called
Thebes. You seem to know a great deal about ancient
Egypt.”

She nodded, flipped a blonde curl from her face with a
long red nail that was obviously false. “I read a lot.
Can I try one of your cigarettes? And don’t you dare
tell me I’m too young to smoke!”

“You must hear that a lot.”

“From my Dad. But I’ve been smoking for two years behind
his back. We’ve been on the road and I haven’t had one
all day and I’m absolutely dying. Mom knows, and she
doesn’t care.” She worked her long lashes flirtatiously
and slid a few inches closer to him. “Please?”

She was lying. He smelled the tobacco smoke on her
clothes and breath. Ahmed Toth smiled tolerantly,
beginning to understand the nature of her ploy. Dress
provocatively. Parade through the mall. Attract sexual
interest. Involve a stranger in harmless but illicit
conversation. But then what? What would her next move
be? He withdrew the sterling cigarette case and opened
it for her. “As you wish. I began smoking at a young age
myself.”

She widened her eyes again at the ornate old holder.
“Damn. This is really cool.” Her hand made deliberate,
lingering contact with his as she fondled the case, then
met his eyes. “Is this Egyptian, too?”

He let her take it from him. Her hands were so warm, so
supple. She overflowed with a vitality that flooded his
every sense. “As a matter of fact, yes. From the British
colonial period.”

She closed it after taking out a cigarette, peered
closely at the engraving, and ran long, dancing fingers
over the relief covering its face. “Those are
hieroglyphs,” she announced knowledgeably. She handed
the property back, waited expectantly for him to offer
her a light.

He did. She again held both his hand and eyes. “Thanks,”
she said after inhaling deeply. She sighed smoke without
coughing. “God, I needed that. Kind of strong. I usually
smoke menthol, when I can get it. But this tastes
great.” Her eyes darted to the case as he slid it
beneath his jacket. “What do the words mean?”

She’d moved a few sly inches closer again. He breathed
her richness, her vibrancy, despite the nauseating
overlay of her cheap, flowery perfume.

“The symbols – not words, actually – relate one version
of the myth of Osiris.”

“I never heard of him.”

“You must read it some day.”

“I’d rather hear it. From you.” She’d lowered her voice,
made it throaty and conspiratorial. She allowed her
heavy crimson lips to remain parted, made her eyes as
seductive as the rest of her patented pose. “We could go
up to my Dad’s room. He’s got some whiskey in his
suitcase. We could have a drink and talk. And stuff.”

“He doesn’t object to his daughter befriending strangers
and inviting them for a drink with him?”

“He’s not there. He’s talking business with some creep
in the hotel bar. They’ll drink and talk until the
bartender closes up around them. We’d be alone. Just you
and me.”

“Young lady! I -”

“Callie. Please? I’ve been so lonely. I really like you.
A lot. You have the most beautiful skin. I want to touch
it. All over. I want you to touch me.” Her voice was
little more than a pleading purr.

He matched her tone. “I supposed your mother doesn’t
mind this, either?”

This little wimp was being a real pain in the ass. Most
old guys drooled all over themselves at the chance to
jump her bones. Still, there was something about him.
Something mysterious. Something special. She cranked it
up another notch.

She took a deep drag of smoke, thrusting her ripening
breasts at him. The powerful cigarette was making her
tingle all over. She studied the stain her lipstick left
on the unfiltered cigarette, and felt herself shiver.
She really wanted to do it with him. It’d been almost a
week.

“Mom’s a hooker. She taught me everything I know about
sex. And I know a lot. I can do things you’ve never even
imagined.”

Her scent was filling him. He could hear the accelerated
thud of her heart, the hot rush of her impassioned
blood. This female child was truly aroused. She wanted
him. He cleared his constricted throat.

“Is that what you are, Callie?” He heard his voice
assume the hypnotic rumble that was his own brand of
seduction. “A prostitute?”

He tried to tell himself how insane this was, remind
himself that it was dangerous to allow his hunger to
dominate his common sense. But the florescent lights
were becoming almost intolerably bright as his pupils
inexorably dilated. He had allowed the juggernaught to
be set in motion. He’d teased himself too long, dallied
beyond his ability to resist the impetus of events. The
bond he’d allowed to be established was irreversible.
The Hunger had him. He had to have this child. She
needed him.

Callie found herself nodding in answer to his question,
felt her heart lurch, her breast buds harden, her loins
loosen. Looking into those huge, beautiful black eyes of
his made her dizzy.

“Yes. But not for you. I don’t want any money. I just
want you. I have to have you. I’ve never felt anything
like this before. Can we go now? Please?”

At his faint nod, she started to leap to her feet, joy
scribed over her tart’s face. He made a slight, graceful
restraining gesture with one hand. She froze. She’d
never seen a hand that perfect, with such long fingers
and carefully manicured nails. When he spoke, she wasn’t
even sure his lips moved, but his words tickled her
insides.

“I have… special needs, Callie.”

“I don’t care. I’ll do anything you want. Anything. Just
hurry, before I die.” She was anxious, terribly afraid
that something would happen, something horrible that
would take him away from her before it could happen.

“If you’re absolutely sure, then lead the way. I’ll
follow. We mustn’t be seen together.”

Her nod was automatic. Her mind was an utter blank,
except for the image of those delicate fingers drifting
over her body, that wide thin mouth kissing her like
none of the others had ever done, could ever do. If she
hadn’t been so obsessed, if she’d been capable of
thought at all, she’d have insisted that they go
somewhere other than the hotel room.

As it was, she marched hurriedly down the wide corridor
of the closing shopping center, oblivious to the
tinkling muzak, the crowd gathering before the quadruple
cinema, the inevitable stares directed at her. Nothing
meant anything. Nothing but the slender man of medium
height trailing a few paces behind her. She’d have
walked out into the rain had he not halted her in the
airlock, whispered sibilantly for her to wait while he
brought the car.

Time lurched. There was a brown cigarette in her hand.
How had it gotten there? She felt so strange, so
wonderful. Maybe it was laced with acid or some other
cool drug. She ate smoke with a shaking hunger, stared
dully at her reflection in the dark glass. Chronos
lurched again. She was slightly shocked to find herself
suddenly touching up her lipstick. The cigarette had
became a spent stub under her shoe.

Then there was a car in the wet black night. She knew it
was his, bolted with fawnlike clumsiness. Her heart was
full. She flung herself through the open door, across
the seat, into his arms.

His lips were hard as stone, as chill as the autumn
rain, but his kiss filled Callie with bolts of blue fire
until he broke the connection and pushed her away. Her
hands fumbled awkwardly at his groin, but he forbade
that, too.

“Control yourself, my child. You must be patient. Pull
down your skirt and make yourself presentable. You must
lead me to your room, remember?”

She nodded, still frantic with anxiety and desire. There
was something tugging at her mind, something she should
tell him. But it was something that would make him go
away. She veered away from any such possibility. No.
Nothing was going to stop her from screwing this man.

The hotel materialized outside the car. She clambered
out, waited inside nervously until she saw him come
through the automatic doors. She blindly traversed the
crowded lobby, not even noticing, as she pushed the
elevator’s call button, that she’d lost a fingernail
somewhere. She entered, held the door for an elderly
couple, a solo businessman she didn’t even bother
smiling at, and him. She pressed “3”, leaned against the
wall so her knees wouldn’t tremble so badly, stared at
him from the corner of her eye. He was so damned
beautiful that it hurt. How had she missed seeing that
before?

Then the room door was before her. Room 345. She fumbled
with the key, made it work. Inside, she waited without
turning on the lights. Suddenly, he was standing before
her, still smiling that gentle, mysterious smile.
Transfixed, she watched him remove his jacket, fold it
carefully over the back of a chair. But his eyes were
burning. Even in the dark, she saw them, felt them
caressing her.

With a soft, forlorn cry, she threw herself at him,
rubbed her body over his like a cat, thrust her tongue
between his lips and thrilled at the wonder she
encountered. His teeth felt sharp as knives. She
explored his mouth, grinding the rest of her body
against him with an impossible urgency. Her passion
soared, exceeded anything she’d ever experienced in her
brief but wild life.

He was carrying her to the bed as if she were a leaf
blown on the cold wind beating against the window. He
allowed her his mouth, but separated their bodies enough
to open her shirt. Her hands fought with his zipper,
delved within. She whined shrilly against his teeth as
she extracted his rough-skinned, semi-erect penis.

His raspy tongue danced around hers with fantastic
dexterity while she frantically jerked her skirt out of
the way. His mouth lifted from hers and she gasped for a
breath she hadn’t known she’d been without while she
ripped off her newest pair of panties like they were
tissue paper. His round tongue licked her lips, her
cheek, her throat, shooting explosions of white bliss
rocketing through her like fireworks.

His penis became rigid within her massaging hand. His
mouth found and kissed her swollen breast. She madly
thrust his long, slender shaft at her flooded gate. He
had to help her. The chill member speared her like a
sand-coated candle as his tongue beat a fast tattoo over
and around her begging nipple.

Deeper and deeper inside her he probed, deeper than
anything had ever gone, deeper than anything was
supposed to go. She felt her muscles locking about him,
already beginning to spasm, even before he’d reached the
end of his first thrust.

“I’m coming! Fuck! I’m coming!” she screamed shrilly,
not realizing the only sound she made was a strangled
gurgle. She ripped savagely at the back of his white
silk shirt, shedding more glue-on nails.

He was bent with inhuman, nearly snake-like limberness.
She felt his teeth break her tender skin, just beneath
her breast. She felt the hot river of her blood released
from her body, felt the ripple of his tongue as he drank
her down. What had been the most intense orgasm of her
life doubled and re-doubled in intensity.

Just as she was losing consciousness, just as the
impossible, undreamed of tidal surge of ecstasy was
lifting her, about to dash her on the shores of nirvana,
the room was filled with searing light. A familiar,
unwelcome voice thundered moral outrage.

Oh. Yeah. Daddy.

Chapter Two: Errors

There was nothing she could do about it. No way to tell
him it was okay. Everything was okay. This was
different. She was in love. The wall-like wave she rode,
helpless, crested on the shoals of her soul, crashed,
broke her like a fragile shell on the beach of eternity.
She sank into the hot, wet, warm depths.

But Ahmed Toth was free to respond to the blinding flash
of the overhead light, to the intruder upon his loving
feast.

He sensed Callie’s fading shock, realized she’d placed
him between the jaws of a trap, and that his raging,
lusting hunger had compelled him into a blunder that
could prove fatal. His reaction was instantaneous and
unthinking. He was lost within his instinct to survive.

The man’s words were still hovering in the air as Toth
sprang across the room. As the blood began to seep from
the small wound under the girl’s breast, he stood a
single step away from the intruder.

Harvey Dorset’s inner glee faded as the mark bounced off
his little girl like a coiled spring. The man moved too
fast for Harvey to be able to track him with the .38
automatic in his hand. He was still trying to release
the safety when a steel band closed around his throat,
picked him up like a puppet, and slammed him against the
wall with stunning force.

The gun slipped from his slack grip. Harvey reflexively
used both hands to try to break the grip of the one
wrapped around his neck, still tightening. His thoughts
were clear – too clear, too sharp. This was impossible.
It wasn’t real. This little guy couldn’t be this fast,
this strong.

His vision was clear, too. The face below him was
unearthly. The eyes were immense black oceans. The thin
lips, coated with Callie’s blood, were drawn back in a
silent howl, baring snow-white, inch-long fangs.

His ears were as finely tuned as the rest of his senses.
He heard a loud, unpleasant snap. He’d heard something a
lot like that sound before. A high school football game.
It’d been made by his leg breaking just above the knee.
There’d been that same weird inner vibration, too.

He had time to brace himself for the pain. It wasn’t
bad, really. Nothing like the leg. There was just a
little flash of it, then it kind of faded into a grey
fog. That colorless, wooly blanket of haze grew,
covering more and more of him. Physical feelings faded.
Vision faded. Then sound. Awareness left last.

Ahmed released his grip. The corpse slid down the wall,
rolled onto the floor with a series of limp thuds. It
came to rest in an unnatural half- sitting position, its
head bent at an angle obviously all wrong. Its face wore
a faintly apologetic smile.

The vampire stared down at its victim. He was utterly
still except for the heave of his chest as he drew
massive breaths. His face wore an expression of deep
sorrow. He hadn’t killed in a long, long time.

They all look different when they’re dead. This one had
been arrogantly confident mere moments ago. He imagined
himself eternal until the very end. Now, his pitiful,
evil life over, he looked like an over-sized human child
caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

He was here. Now he’s gone. To heaven or hell or nowhere
at all. Speak to me, dead one. If you are able, answer
me. Tell me what you see, now that you are freed of
eyes. What you sense without the impediment of dull
nerves. Have I done you a great boon, or visited upon
you the most vile of curses?

There was no answer of course. There never was.

He returned to the bed, sank upon the mattress, stared
out the wide window, lashed by rain, into the night. The
stirring of the girl beside him disrupted his silent
vigil some time later. He turned to face her.

Her absurdly long lashes were just fluttering, would
part within moments to reveal her azure blue eyes. It
was too soon. She shouldn’t have awakened for several
more hours.

It would be merciful to kill her now, turn the small
death of sleep into the true death. Send her to cross
the Styx in the same ferry as her father. Allow them to
continue in death as they had in life.

But, if I do not, how will she react? She will remember
what I am. What will she do?

He made no move. The eyes below flickered, opened.
Awareness bloomed in them like a blue flower. She saw
him. She knew him. She smiled. Her hand crept out,
sought his.

“You’re warmer now.” Only he could have heard her bare
whisper.

“Yes.”

“That was really incredible, honey. Did I pass out or
what? Jesus, I thought…” Confusion flickered over her
face, settled into a frown. “But I thought… something
happened…”

Alarm banished her puzzlement. She sat bolt upright,
made no effort to cover herself. The suddenness of her
movement dizzied her, fuzzed her voice.

“Daddy. Did he come in? I saw the lights…” Her words
faded as her questing eyes settled upon the empty human
husk against the wall. “Oh.” she stared woodenly,
expressionless.

For the space of two dozen rapid heartbeats, she was
silent. Her eyes darted over the carcass. When she
finally spoke, Ahmed was shocked by her tone of voice.
It held only quiet wonder.

“He looks so young. He’d really like that.” Her head
swivelled to face him. She wore a crooked smile. An odd
light danced in her eyes. “Did he hurt much?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Good.” She groped woozily for the clasp purse she’d
thrown onto the bed. She found the cigarettes inside
with minimal fumbling. The white tube in her mouth
bobbed as she went on. “He was an asshole, but I’m glad
he didn’t suffer much.”

He kept his voice neutral. “Don’t you feel any grief?
Any fear? I’ve just murdered your father, child.”

She collapsed against the pillows, blew a feeble plume
of smoke toward the ceiling. “He raped me when I was
ten. And I’m supposed to be sorry he’s dead? No fucking
way. And it probably really wasn’t murder. He would have
used his gun if he thought he had to. He did in Detroit
last year. We threw the body in some river. That makes
what you did self- defense, right?”

“Not necessarily. I’m sure any court would say that he
was entirely justified. He was defending you.”

Her laugh would have been mocking if she’d had more
strength. “Yeah. Right.”

Toth was disturbed. This was all wrong. He watched her
through blank eyes.

She touched the clotted blood under her breast, shot him
a speculative glance. “Did you drink his blood, too?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I’ve had enough for now.”

Her hand, stripped of her false nails except for one
little finger, noted the beating of her heart. Her voice
was puzzled. “I’m not dead.”

“No. Not even close.”

“So I’m not a vampire?” She was disappointed.

“Vampires are born, Callie, not made.”

“No way.”

“It’s true. Just about everything you’ve heard about my
kind is pure fiction. My heart beats. I breathe. I comb
my hair in the mirror. I adore the taste of garlic. I’ve
worn this crucifix since Pope Clement XI blessed it for
me in 1709.”

She pondered. “You were never like me? Human?”

“Never. I was born what I am, just as you were.”

Callie giggled. She felt more than a little sick – had
since waking up. “Vampire babies sucking blood from
Mommie’s tit. Too fucking weird.”

“You aren’t afraid that I’ll kill you.”

“Nope. Bizarre, huh? Here I am in bed with something out
of a horror movie. My old man’s a pile of dead meat on
the floor. And all I can think about is you doing me
again. I’m really hot.” Her smile was dreamy. “That
feeling! God!” Her eyes went seductive as she turned
them on him.

He studied her calmly, unmoved by her coyness. “I’ve
made nothing but mistakes all night long. I’m about to
make another one.”

Her eyes widened momentarily, then her hands came toward
him. “If you’re going to kill me, too, the least you can
do is fuck me one more time. I -”

“No. I’ll regret this decision for the rest of my life,
but you’ll have to die by someone else’s hand.”

She paused, then snuggled against his legs. “I’m not
ever going to die. I’m going to be like you.”

“I just told you, that’s not possible.”

She became urgent. “But you’ve got to! Don’t you see?”

Pain etched his features. “I’ve tried, Callie. Believe
me I have. I imagined there might be some hidden truth
to the legends your kind tells about us. There isn’t.”

She compressed her lips grimly. “Then I guess you’ll
have to try again. Just drink all my blood and give me
some of yours.”

His smile was tired. “I’ve watched all those movies.
They’re pure fiction. I’m not at all like you think I
am, child.”

“Quit calling me that! I’m no fucking little kid!” She
sat up too quickly, felt nausea welling up within her as
she tried to reach another cigarette. What little color
she had washed from her face, and her voice fell flat.
“I feel like shit.”

“You need to rest. Sleep. You’ll be fine in the
morning.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Despite her vehement protest,
she sounded exactly like a frightened little girl.

“Two things. First, I took about a quart of your blood.
That’s why you’re dizzy and nauseated. Your headache is
a side-effect of an anti- coagulant in my saliva.”

“You sound like a doctor.”

“I was once. Now go to sleep.”

Her face twisted. She lurched from the bed, arms clasped
over her stomach, tried to stagger toward the bathroom.
“I’m going to be sick.”

Toth was surprised by the intensity of her after-
sickness. When she faltered, five crooked paces from the
bed, and began to collapse, he caught her before she
struck the floor. His surprise became alarm. She was
unconscious. Her pulse was weak, fluttered unevenly
against his sensitive fingers. Her breath was equally
faint and shallow and fast. She was running a
dangerously high fever.

He lay her back on the bed and continued his
examination. Her pupils were unresponsive, fully
dilated. He lightly pinched the base of a fingernail.
She didn’t react at all to the excruciating pain. Her
left breast was swollen, significantly larger than the
other. He lifted it. The precise puncture wounds beneath
were the source of the swelling. They were violently
inflamed, already seeping a clear serum. Her entire
vaginal area was slightly puffy, as well. She seemed to
be having a general reaction to both his saliva and
sperm. She was very ill. Life- threateningly so.

No one in his experience had ever responded this way to
his kiss. He racked his memory, seeking other anomolies.
There were very few. In France, nearly a hundred years
ago, a youthful, decadent baron, dying of tuberculosis,
had hemorraged massively the day after volunteering his
blood. Around the turn of the century, an aging London
matron had suffered a massive coronary and died in his
arms as he fed. That was the end of the list. Two events
in his entire history.

The first had been a reaction to the anti-coagulant,
he’d later discovered. The man had been a hemophiliac.
The second death had also been due to an obviously pre-
existing condition. Perhaps his natural topical
anesthetic had aggrievated her condition, caused –
combined with the inevitable ecstasy – her heart to fail
sooner than later. He’d long since absolved himself of
true responsibility for either death.

The normal pattern was for his victim – lover was the
way he thought of it – to become drowsy, disoriented,
slightly ill, and then to sleep. He helped that sleep,
encouraged forgetfulness. They inevitably – almost –
awoke with the bite almost totally healed, only slightly
itchy, and feeling a peaceful inner glow. They never
remembered him.

He tenderly stroked Callie’s sweaty brow with a damp
cloth, and wiped away the remains of her tawdry makeup.
He eased her from her clothes. He searched her suitcase
for nightwear, found only a skimpy negligee completely
at odds with her now innocent, childish appearance. He
left her nude, covered her with every blanket he could
find, and pondered his options.

They were limited. He could anonymously deposit her at
Boone Hospital’s emergency room, where she could be
cared for properly. He didn’t seriously consider that
possibility. Too many disastrous near- certainties would
result. In her current state, he couldn’t effectively
alter her memory. Even though she wouldn’t be believed,
the thorough local police would follow through. He
couldn’t take that risk.

He couldn’t bring himself to even think about ending her
life. One murder was too many. Compounding that was
morally impossible. He was responsible for her now. He
couldn’t just walk away. He’d killed her father and
caused her grave illness. He’d have to care for her
himself.

He eyed the stiffening corpse, breathed the distasteful
scent of death, glanced at his watch. Barely midnight.
He’d have to wait before disposing of it. Waiting was
something he’d never been good at. Ultimately, that
character flaw was what’d gotten him into this perilous
situation. That and his insatiable curiosity.

He indulged the latter trait as he waited. He emptied
the dead man’s pockets, which had to be done anyway.

Harvery Dorset carried a Florida driver’s license. He’d
weighed two-ten, stood six-one. He’d turned thirty-two a
month before he died. So young. His wallet held twenty-
odd dollars, a picture of a smaller, younger version of
his daughter, and photos of two women. Upon closer
examination, Ahmed saw that while the blonde and the
redhead looked radically different, they were indeed the
same person. The wife and mother, perhaps. There was no
permit for the handgun. The weapon’s serial number had
been filed away.

Keys to a rental car, a handful of coins. The depressing
miscellany that was all that was left of what had been a
human life. An unhealthy reddish- purple rash on the
man’s arms caught Toth’s eye, but was of no
significance. Even had he fed on diseased blood, his
vast intake of antibodies had made him impervious to any
human disease he might have once been susceptible to.

The suitcases, however, were intriguing. After examining
and discarding the clothing, Ahmed’s sensitive fingers
located three tiny packets tucked into the lining of the
man’s luggage. Two held an array of credit cards bearing
three different names, none of them Harvey Dorset’s. The
third was a plasticine envelope of white powder. He
dipped a finger in it, touched it to his tongue.
Cocaine.

He’d noted before that Callie’s suitcase held two
distinctly different sorts of clothing. He took time to
look more closely. The first was what you’d expect to
find a child her age wearing. Fashionably ragged jeans.
Shirts and blouses bearing labels which gave her status
among her peers. Simple dresses and undergarments.

The remainder, like the nightwear, was just as atypical.
Flashy, revealing attire. Ridiculous five-inch heels to
match. Lacy undergarments. Plus an array of condoms and
sexual toys. It seemed certain that the girl’s sexual
precociousness was anything but a secret from her
father.

Reinforcing that was the makeup case open on the desk
before the mirror. It was filled to the brim with well
used cosmetics, more of which littered the counter top.
A case containing a diaphram and a half empty packet of
birth control pills were in plain sight. She’d made no
effort to hide anything from him. His cigarette butts
littered the ashtray beside her red-stained ones.

He leaned against the stub-wall dividing the bathroom
and sleeping area, allowed an image to form in his mind.
Father and daughter, travelling the country. Dad
scamming as best he could, but employing his daughter’s
nubility as a prime source of revenue. She’d entice a
likely subject into their bed – a shared one, by all
indications – and the loving Papa would discover Callie
and her affluent older suitor banging their brains out.

Shame, Harvey would say. Would have said. Do you know
how young she is? Do you know how many laws you’re
breaking? What’s it worth to you for us to keep our
mouths shut?

Plenty, Ahmed imagined. Their victims would know they’d
been set up, but what could they do? They’d have been
carefully selected for apparent docility as well as
affluence, and Daddy had a gun. It was as crude and
vicious a con as he’d ever heard of, but was no doubt
very effective. Unless Callie selected the wrong being
to run it on.

The vampire settled back on the bed, checked his
patient. The inflammation beneath her breast was much
less pronounced, but her fever even higher. He hurried
to the bathroom, began filling the tub with cold water.
He voyaged twice down the hall to the ice machine,
filled two wastebaskets with hollow round cubes on each
trip.

After depositing the limp girl in her ice bath, he sat
beside her and sorted through her purse. She toted a
professional’s gear: condoms and spermicide, lubricant
and cosmetics. Her only ID was an outdated card from an
elementary school in Chicago. Her full name was Callian
Louise. She was thirteen years and three months old.

Ahmed Toth was a little over seven hundred, as best as
he could determine. Vampires in general paid little heed
to the passage of time. Nor did he. His mother had
mentioned, idly, that he’d been born shortly after
Stragopulos had retaken Constantinople in 1261. From his
youth through the present era, he’d observed uncounted
human women Callie’s age, and younger, carrying their
babies in their arms, or in chains, or selling their
bodies for pennies in the streets and alleys of the
world. This was nothing new for him, nor was her plight
especially tragic. He’d been witness to much worse.

He, like all his kind, knew that what the twentieth
century deems “civilization” is but a very recent
veneer, and a very thin one. Children had been exploited
throughout human history, by parents and strangers
alike. It hadn’t ended, or really even slowed
appreciably.

But, if Callian’s circumstances didn’t impress him as
being especially pitiable, they were nonetheless deeply
saddening. He found logic in the modern sentiment that
someone of her years shouldn’t have to bear the perilous
burdens of adulthood. He prayed that humanity would
someday live up to that dream.

He stared into her face. Beneath its subsiding flush, it
was that of a delicate, beautiful, intelligent child.
Instead of playing dolls with other children, she played
with dildos and adult males. Instead of crying at
romantic movies, she’d stared callously at her father’s
dead body. She was atypical, perhaps, for her time, but
he’d met thousands like her over the centuries. While it
seemed a premature conclusion, he thought he rather
admired the girl. In many ways, they were similar.

He fished her from the icy water and briskly towelled
her dry, then returned her to the bed’s warmth. After he
tucked her much cooled body beneath sheets and blankets,
he set off to find a coffin for her father.

He found something suitable on the loading dock of a
just completed office building a hundred yards from the
hotel. He used the fire stairs to transport the empty
cardboard box, designed to ship a bookcase, up to room
345.

Fitting the corpse to the dimensions of the carton was
an indelicate task. As he snapped bones like twigs and
stuffed what had been Harvey Dorset inside, he wondered
if the daughter’s composure would have endured the
grisly procedure. He doubted it. Few humans were as
cold- blooded, metaphorically, as he was, and the few
who matched him were inevitably horridly insane beings.
He, on the other hand, was quite sane.

He lifted his load as if it had less than a quarter of
its actual mass and carried it easily the three flights
of stairs without encountering anyone. It fit snugly
into the big luggage compartment of his car.

Callian had moved slightly upon his return, which he
took as a positive sign. The swelling of her breast was
definitely less now, as was her fever. She continued to
stir restlessly until dawn. Perhaps, he thought, she’d
just been more sensitive to his contaminants than most.
He frowned. More sensitive than anyone, ever. There were
just too many anomalies here.

Still, assured she wasn’t on the verge of death, Toth
drew the drapes and lay down beside her for a nap. He
smiled tiredly as sleep drew near. What would she think
if she awoke and saw him? He had no need for coffins or
the soil of his birthpace. He relished the lick of
spring dawn that crept up his body through the gap
between the drapes. And, above all, he breathed, just as
she did.

Chapter Three: Birth

She was thirsty as hell and it felt like somebody’d
glued her eyelids together. She tried to go back to
sleep. Jesus! What dreams! They’d been as wild as that
time in New York when that rich hippie photographer
had got her stoned on pot laced with opium. Her dry
lips shaped a smile. Vampires. And sexy ones, too.
He bitten her. Right there.

Her eyes sprang wide. There were two little bumps under
her tit. She saw the man asleep beside her. Instantly,
her eyes jerked in the other direction. No dead Daddy
laying there in a loose heap.

She’d had to become adept at awakening quietly, even
from her worst nightmares. If she woke the asshole up,
he always wanted to fuck. She looked back at the man
beside her.

Okay. What’s dream and what’s real? He looks normal.
Skinny. Not much taller than me, pretty good looking,
just like in the dream. Smells the same. Shit – since
when do I smell stuff in my dreams?

She was still rubbing the twin scars, the only physical
evidence she had. Dad’s absence, weird though it was,
had a couple of reasonable explanations. Maybe he got
lucky in the bar and made it with some local talent.
Or, if this dude had come up with enough green, Pop
might have let him have her for the night. Either
option was fine by her. Anything that kept him away
from her was alright.

Callie slipped from the bed, barely bouncing the
mattress. She felt weak, like she had a bitch of a
hangover. Those brown cigarettes, maybe. Yeah. That
explained a lot.

She tiptoed unevenly to the bathroom, eased the door
closed. She flipped the lights on, and winced. Too
fucking bright! She squinted as she turned them off.
Damn. Must still be high.

She drained three plastic cups of water. Her eyes
readjusted from their shock, and it surprised her that
she could see so well in the gloom. She lifted her
breast, leaned toward the mirror and stared at the
little red- brown bumps.

Thoughtfully, she used the toilet. Okay. I know for sure
I went to the mall and picked that guy up. He gave me
that shitty cigarette and everything went weird. I
wanted to play mattress-hockey real bad. We left and…

She frowned. From there, everything was real blurry.
Things she really might have really seen were all mixed
up with crazy shit. She shrugged, had another glass of
water, and eased the door open. She peeked around the
corner. Still asleep.

Dad’s suitcase was still open on the chair. Callie crept
to it, silent as a bat, rooted through the jumble, and
liberated cigarettes and matches. Eying the sleeper
again, she spied his cigarette case on the bedside
table.

Better not. Need to keep my head clear for a while. But
a snort of coke would be a good eye-opener. The fucker
scored two days ago and hasn’t even gotten me buzzed.

She lifted the baggie and snuck back into the bathroom.

Dipping her sole surviving fake pinky nail into the
powder, she expertly snorted, then braced herself for
the wild rush and numb mouth she remembered so well.
It’d even made balling him a good time. But she waited a
long time, and nothing happened. Not even a tingle.

She did the other nostril. Then the first again. Zip.
The old man really got ripped when he bought this.
Probably baking powder or something. She grinned widely,
clamped her hand over her mouth to block laughter.
Served the bastard right.

Tired, she sat on the toilet and lit a cigarette. Okay,
Callian Louise, think, damn it! He got you stoned. He
fucked your brains out. I’m pretty sure Daddy coming in
right when that screaming orgasm began was real. But,
damn it, I’m sure he was biting my tit! And I passed
out. And when I woke up, the old man was laying there on
the floor. He was! I know he was! I was sick, and…

She dropped the cigarette into the toilet. It sizzled
for an instant. So maybe none of it was a dream. Maybe
he is a fucking vampire!

Pulled by her intrigue, she crept to watch him sleep,
noted everything he’d predicted she would. He’s just
another cock who likes young pussy, Callie. Got to be.
But he must have some kind of bread. That suit cost a
wad. And he was driving a new Beamer. Looks like a
decent enough guy, too. And he’s the best lay I’ve ever
had. Maybe…

Keeping her eyes on him, she crept to the chair holding
his draped jacket, dug the wallet from his pocket. Ahmed
Mohammed ibn-Tariq Toth? Jesus. Thirty-three. Looks
younger. A local, which is bad news. Two hundred-plus in
pocket money? Not bad, Ahmed. But no credit cards. No
business cards. No pictures of wife or cousins or
anybody. A little bizarre.

She resisted the urge to peel off a few bills for her
emergency fund and put everything back exactly where
she’d found it. It was risky, trying something as stupid
as this. If the old man came back and figured out what
was going on, she was going to be in deep shit. But, if
he was burning in hell?

Best to cover all the bases, Daddy always said. If he
was drawing flies in some ditch somewhere, she needed
somebody to take care of her. She had no illusions about
what happened to teenage whores on their own. He’d made
sure she saw them, over and over, so she wouldn’t run
away when he beat the shit out of her.

And if he’s still breathing, he’s still a loser. He’s
bound to take a fall and drag me down with him. If I can
persuade this Egyptian stud that I’m the hottest thing
since central heat, maybe I can get off the road, settle
down and play house for a while. Not have to live out of
a fucking suitcase. Stay in one place as long as I want
to. Live like a queen. Never have to turn a trick unless
I got an itch he couldn’t scratch.

She slid across the carpet, disappeared into the
bathroom carrying her makeup case and her favorite black
teddy. Leaving the lights off, she could still see
plenty well to paint just the right face for her Ahmed.
She wrinkled her nose at the rank smell coming from the
perfume bottle, though. Smelled like camel piss all of a
sudden.

Fully adorned, wishing she had more fingernails to stick
on, she slithered into bed and eased her body against
his back. He wasn’t exactly cold, but he was sure as
hell nobody to snuggle up to on a winter night. A quick
stab of rememberance from the night before – how cold
he’d been, way up inside her. She shivered, but not
because she was at all chilled. She slid her leg over
his, laid her head on his shoulder, smelled his musky
scent.

It wasn’t either sour or sweet. Wasn’t like anything she
could think of but rich, moist loam in a flowerbed. She
recalled his kiss, his long raspy tongue, probing her
mouth like a bee did a flower. How it’d darted all over
her as he crawled down her.

And the bite. She moaned aloud. It hadn’t been a drugged
dream. None of it. It was the most real thing that’d
ever happened to her. She knew it’d changed her forever.

Callie forgot her carefully planned seduction. She slid
atop her lover, sucked each breath that escaped him. Her
heavy red lips hovered over his. She rested her middle
on his. Being this close to him, she began to almost re-
experience the night before. Each sensation returned to
her, filled her. She remembered everything. Everything.
She had to have it again.

She raised just enough to get at the underside of her
tit. She viciously raked a ragged nail right over the
little bumps. She smelled her blood – an alien scent,
metallic, sharp and brittle. Her nostrils flared as she
drew the aroma deep within her. And she saw his doing
the same thing. Inhaling her. Breathing her in his
sleep. Drinking the incense of her blood.

And he stirred beneath her. Beneath his closed, bluish-
black lashes, his eyes moved. The thin ascetic lips
twitched, gave her fleeting glimpses of the teeth hidden
behind them. Between his legs, she felt an
awakening quiver.

She didn’t think about what she was doing. She’d planned
none of this. She slid upwards, panting. Kept his
burgeoning tool trapped between her thighs. She held the
teddy out of the way, put her breast above his lips, and
squeezed.

A single drop of bright red blood made a thin line down
to her nipple. Another followed the pathmaker, hung
perilously. It was reinforced. It elongated. It fell in
glistening slow motion. Beautiful. So beautiful. It
struck his lower lips, shattered like molten red glass,
trickled into the crevice that was his mouth. Another
drop followed. Then a third.

The tongue crept out, like a beautiful brown snake from
its burrow, and savored her gifts. The pupils of his
closed eyes danced furiously, then settled into a
foreboding stillness. Between her legs, there was slight
movement.

Then, to her awe and delight, all hell broke loose. His
eyes sprang open. And they were as wide and blank as the
gates of hell, black and bitter as a winter midnight.

And his cock was inside her, raking her pussy walls like
it had teeth. And it wasn’t at all cold this time. It
was twitching and probing and fully alive.

And his lips were pulled back from his fangs as his
entire being seemed to give shape to an inhuman snarl of
maddened lust.

And he went for her throat.

It was nightfall. Ahmed Mohammed ibn-Tariq Toth had been
weeping for uncounted hours. Callian’s corpse lay as it
had fallen, legs on the bed, torso on the floor. Her
blood had flowed from the parallel two inch gashes in
her slender young throat in crimson torrents.

He knew all this without having to look at her. That he
couldn’t bear. Even now, the last of her life’s fluid
would be pooled in thick clots around her pretty head, a
grisly halo. Her lovely little face, its outrageous
makeup intact, would be wearing the same religious bliss
they’d all had during the ghastly years of his Rapture.

He’d dropped her, stricken with pure horror, in his
first nano-second of full awareness. It’d already been
far too late. There was no stopping the gouts of her
blood. Its cloying reek inspired something akin to
nausea, but vampires couldn’t vomit.

He had not slain, like a savage beast or otherwise, in
two and two-thirds centuries. He had believed he never
would again. He had nourished all life, worshipped it
with the fervor of a fanatic. Now, in less than twenty-
four hours, he had brutally murdered two humans. He had
been a fool to believe himself cured of the impulse to
destroy.

He saw himself as the most perverse sort of monster. The
kind of predator who takes only the tiniest delicacies
from his hapless victims, then walks away from the
carcass, distaining its virtually intact remains,
leaving it to whatever scavengers that would make use of
it.

He was totally gorged. He had feasted on more blood in
those last moments than he normally consumed in a week.
He was still sluggish and thick-witted. It took him long
minutes to realize that something was drastically wrong
in the room. He stared emptily, trying to wrap his
clouded mind around what his eyes told him.

Callian’s toes were moving. Not in the slow, cramping
rictus of death, but in the nervous tremors of sleep.

I’m hallucinating. That’s it. I’ve drugged myself on her
blood, poisoned myself with self-loathing. I’m ripping
this vision from the nether realms. It’s not real. Can’t
be. She’s dead. Stone cold, forever dead.

But still the dainty feet, pale and uncalloused except
at the heel and painted toe, continued their vitus
dance. And the immature calves began to do the same,
their long muscles rippling spastically, the synapses
not firing evenly – but firing nonetheless – like she
was running in her sleep.

He had to look. He couldn’t not look. Every cell in
his body rebelled and overrode his will, pulled his eyes
remorselessly along her twitching form. Past the smooth
knees. Past the violated vagina. Over her smooth, bared
abdomen and the tangled wreck of the black nightie
covering her tiny breasts.

Which moved. Feebly, they rose and fell. Callie was
breathing. Weakly, but undeniably breathing. Impossible.
All six liters of her blood had poured from her, much of
it into him, yet still her lungs drew air.

But it was her face that sent his spirit quailing,
dashing itself against the horror-weakened cage of his
sanity. Her wetly painted, pouty red lips wore a faint
smile. The heavily made up eyes were focused upon him,
and were no longer the crystalline blue of a spring
morning, but washed out, pale as winter.

The lips, scarlet as the blood – unclotted – staining
the carpet, fought to shape silent words that resonated
within his skull like shrill screams.

“Help me,” she begged. “Please help me.”

Chapter Four: Hunger

He lifted her onto the bed, supporting her slack head as
he would have an infant. Her gaping throat wounds had
closed. Her severed cartoid artery had healed, pulsed
erratically, faintly – but pulsed. She seemed to lapse
into and out of a vague semblance of consciousness.

She had no motor control whatsoever. Her muscles
trembled at random, sometimes locking into tight knots
which must have been very painful, although her face
showed only a mild peace. Her skin was clammy, cool,
lacked resiliency. Where he touched her, his fingers
dented her flesh, and it resumed its normal contours
very slowly.

Toth laved the blood from her blonde curls with a
dampened cloth. Her blank eyes seemed to beg him to
leave her gaudy makeup in place. He made do with
blotting her neck clean and rearranging the ripped teddy
to cover her nakedness.

He sat tensely beside her until midnight, his mind a
welter of conflict and confusion. There was only minimal
change in her condition. She appeared marginally
stronger, but he couldn’t be sure that wasn’t his
imagination. He couldn’t escape the notion that there
was something he should be doing to help her, yet he had
no idea what it could be.

One thing became clear. He had to get her out of the
hotel, to a safer place where she could recover, for
however long it took, without the threat of discovery.
There was only one such place – his own home.

He explained quietly. She didn’t respond, just continued
her sleepy smile, her shallow, almost invisible
breathing. He first scoured the room, gathered
everything belonging to both the girl and her father,
and carried it all to his car. Then, he did the same
with her flaccid body. There was nothing to be done
about the telltale blood stains. They would be found and
reported.

He was exiting the fire door when a young man rounded
the corner of the building and nearly ran into them.

“Hey man,” the intruder muttered in a surly tone, “watch
where you’re going.”

Ahmed mumbled apologies and dodged around this
potentially dangerous witness. The man whistled lewdly,
laughed. “Nice piece you got there, dude. A little
young, though, ain’t she? What’d you do, bottle feed her
a little too much champaigne?”

Toth gritted his teeth against his sudden rage. The man
had seen too much. He’d remember the foreign-looking man
and the young, unconscious, nearly naked beauty in his
arms. He forced a tight smile, made his voice as casual
as possible.

“Something like that. Say, do me a favor, would you?
Open the car door for me? She’s not as light as she
looks.”

Eager for another glimpse of succulent breast and thigh,
the lad scurried to help. With the rear door open, the
vampire tenderly draped his burden across the seat. The
intruder stared raptly, his eyes burning as they darted
over Callie’s virtually nude body, bathed in the glow of
the interior light. He was as vulnerable as he would
get.

He gripped the man’s chin, forcibly turned his head to
meet his eyes. The quick yelp of surprise and pain was
shut off by a light squeeze to his throat. For long
seconds, their eyes were locked, and a palpable silence,
anything but empty, hung between them. The young man
gradually relaxed. Toth loosened his grip. His voice
seemed to emanate from the stillness of the night, a
faint, susurrous, irresistable whisper.

“What is your name?”

“Tony. Spath.”

“Tony. Let me explain to you what happened tonight. Let
me tell you what you will recall about your evening.
Okay?”

“Okay.”

“You were out here, all alone. You walked around the
corner of the hotel, and encountered a very young, very
beautiful woman. She was far too young to be out alone
so late, dressed so provocatively, seeming so friendly.
What is your favorite color?”

“Red.”

“Just like the dress she was wearing. Remember? Can you
see it clearly? It was very short. It displayed her
breasts. She seemed to enjoy the way you looked at her.”

“Yes. I remember.”

“Good. She asked you for a cigarette, Tony. She invited
you to her car. That one. She seduced you. You made love
with her in the back seat. You remember everything about
her. The way her lips tasted, the way her tiny breasts
felt beneath your hand, the crude things she begged you
to do to her, and how wonderful it was when you did
them. You spent almost an hour with her. Remember?”

A slack, happy nod.

“Then she asked you to drive her somewhere and buy her
breakfast. Your favorite late night restaurant. You did.
But you were sleepy. So sleepy. You told her to go ahead
and eat. You needed to take a nap. You fell asleep in
the car, and you enjoyed a peaceful rest. But, when you
woke up, she hadn’t returned. Remember how disappointing
that was? She wasn’t in the restaurant. No one there
remembered seeing her at all.

“Then you became worried. She was so young – definitely
too young to have made love with like you did. That’d
get you in big legal trouble. And, what if she said
you’d stolen the car? You decided to leave it there and
walk back to yours and never tell anyone what had
happened. Remember?”

There was vague fear in Spath’s eyes. “Yes. Never tell.”

“Here are the car keys, Tony. You must do everything
just like it happened. I was never here. You never saw
or spoke with anyone except the sexy young woman. Do you
understand?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

He accepted the rental car’s keys and shuffled off to
live out a memorable night of debauchery he would never
doubt was real. Toth watched him until he entered the
car and drove away. He released a pent up sigh, grateful
he hadn’t been compelled to murder yet again. The boy
had been extremely easy to dominate, thanks to the
alcohol and some mild hallucinogen he’d consumed.

Ahmed was confident that the witness was a witness no
more, and he silently thanked the youth for solving the
dilemma of what to do about the vehicle. Now, a false
trail was laid. From the bloodstains in room 345, to
some all night diner, where the car would be found,
sooner or later. It was feeble, but enough. And, even if
Spath was tracked down by the persistent local
authorities, nothing would endanger either the vampire
or his charge.

Home was five miles beyond the city limits on the south
side of Columbia. It was a modest, reasonably secluded,
century old farmhouse he’d renovated with his own hands.
He’d lived and worked there for seven peaceful, happy
years, and had reluctantly put it up for sale the month
before. It was time to move on. It seemed that it was
always time to move on.

Ten years, a single fleeting decade, was as long as he
ever allowed himself to stay in one location. More than
that, and, no matter how cautious he was, he started to
become an anomaly. His human neighbors inevitably became
more aware of the details of his life than was prudent.
He could act as if he were human – but could never
become human. Over time, no matter how diligent he was,
his slight oddities became more visible. Dangerously so.
Questions began to be asked.

He’d been compelled to tell uncounted lies over too many
centuries. They weighed upon him as heavily as his
years, his murders. They blurred, like the years, became
impossible to recall with consistent accuracy. Lies were
thus a liability. When they became essential, it was a
sure sign that it was time to go.

Those casual questions had begun. Missourians were
friendly people. He liked them. But they expected a
certain level of intimacy after they’d known you for so
long. He sometimes anguished over his inability to
return the openness so freely offered him. Yes. It was
time to move on.

Toth extinguished his headlights before swinging into
his driveway, steered the BMW slowly up the crunching
gravel path and into the detached carriage house-become-
garage. Before unloading Callian, he stepped outside,
into the pitch black night. Light flickered through the
half-leaved hickories and oaks. Music drifted faintly
from the home of his nearest neighbors, a quarter mile
to the east on the flank of the next ridge. The
Hennessies. Roy, the eldest boy, was celebrating his
eighteenth birthday, Ahmed recalled. He’d been invited
to sit with the parents and be entertained by the
festivities.

But the vampire’s finely tuned hearing detected no
partiers strayed into the already tick-infested scrub
forest between the homes. The narrow valley and steep
hillsides were devoid of human sounds. The area throbbed
only with the accelerated pace of nature in late April.
A glance around the yard evoked a quick smile. The
raccoons had invaded the ritual garbage he provided for
the weekly trash pick up. A single possum was still
rooting through what the cagy coons had left behind. The
moles had found his new daffodil bed a good hunting
ground and left the intricate runes of their runs as a
memorial of their passing.

He carried Callie’s feather-light, unresponsive weight
quickly across the lawn and into the darkness of his
home. Unlike the grounds, the interior had hosted no
visitors. The air smelled faintly damp and stale. He
mounted the stairs, two by two, and tenderly deposited
his guest on his bed. Her eyes were still open and
unblinking, glimmering whitely in the darkness. Her
cramps had strengthened, become what he could only think
of as minor convulsions. He had no idea if that was for
good or ill. But her smile, broader now, revealed no
indication of pain.

“I have to go out,” he whispered into her ear,, stroking
her cool forehead. “I have to dispose of your father’s
corpse. I will be gone an hour, perhaps two. Rest. Sleep
if you can.”

The thick fronds of her stiffly mascaraed lashes moved,
as if in cknowledgement. There was no other change in
her. He took heart from that as he left her, nurtured
his hope as he rolled the car silently back down the
driveway and turned toward the river. Perhaps, by some
arcane miracle, his bestial core had been spared the
burden of responsibility for yet another death.

The Missouri River, wide and shallow, rolled sussurously
through the darkened countryside, bordered by tilled
black earth, fragrant with the moisture and life of
spring. The small waves and eddies generated by the
unceasing current bounced starlight in unreadable
patterns. No late night high school or college lovers
dotted the bankside road with their cars or blankets. It
was still too cool, too damp, for prolonged evenings of
youthful frolic here. Toth and the corpse had the night
to themselves.

He methodically went through the man’s pockets again to
be certain they were empty. He removed the watch and
rings, hesitated, then decided to keep them for the
daughter. Once again, he noted the unusual blemishes
marring the man’s arms, but paid them no mind.

He straightened the broken bones, gave the dead man as
much dignity as he could, making amends to whatever gods
might exist, then floated the body upon the waters,
watched it bob, just at the surface, then spin and
submerge, like a heavy log. Arthur off to Avalon. Moses
down the Nile. Any sham of reverence would have been
rank hypocrisy, but he paid such respect as he could
summon. He had already grieved. He would bear the memory
of Harvey Dorset with him as long as he drew breath.
More, he could not do.

Callian lay precisely as he’d left her. Before
approaching, he showered away the clinging scent of
death and decay he’d absorbed during the funeral
process. Then, he joined the maimed woman-child in bed.
He was weary. He slept soundly for nearly twelve hours.
He did not dream. He often wondered what that would be
like.

And, when he abruptly awakened, it wasn’t because he was
completely rested.

She knew what had happened to her, more or less. She had
the vivid memory of his suddenly gaping jaws, of his
fangs ripping into her arched neck, not her tit, as
she’d expected. She’d felt the first wild explosion of
blood from her shredded arteries and veins. She knew she
was dying. She’d totally fucked up. Waking a sleeping
vampire turned out to be a really shitty idea. The
bastard wasn’t making love to her. He was killing her.
And he didn’t even give her time to come first.

She felt her heart flutter, falter, like it was confused
by having nothing to pump. Then it stopped. From nowhere
and everywhere, a dull greyness had seeped over her, and
she knew nothing more.

Until she felt her heart again, struggling, barely
moving at all, but refusing to quit its job. That’s all
there was. The grey blanket of nothingness still wrapped
around everything else. All there was in the whole
universe was that feeble, hissing thud-thump… thud-
thump. And even that promised to go away real soon.

She wasn’t ready to die, goddamn it! She tried to help
her heart, keep it going by force of will, like her
asshole dad cheered on stupid football teams. It seemed
to help. At least she had something to do. Then, she
felt a whispery feeling that she figured must be her
lungs making tiny breezes, like they’d forgotten what
they were supposed to do. She talked to them, too. Go,
you bastards. Go.

And, little by little, she became positive that both
those bodily functions really were responding to her
wishes. She’d had no idea she could do that. Her body
had always just been something she lived in, something
that made her feel either good or bad, depending. She
fed it when it was hungry. She had fun dressing it in
sexy clothes and painting its pretty face, but she’d
never really realized just how important it was. If it
died, so did she.

Funny how she’d never really thought about that before,
about how it was really all there was. When it was hung
over, she hated it. When the fucker beat her, she
sometimes wished she was dead. She’d resented the hell
out of having to mop up its shit and piss and
menstruation. Now, all of a sudden, when it was more
dead than alive, she realized just how much she loved
it, what a precious thing it was – and how little she
knew about how it really worked. She gritted her psychic
teeth and willed it to live like she’d never willed
anything before.

And it did. She knew she made it go on. From
somewhere, it came up with enough fluids to give her
heart something to push. Not much, she sensed, but
enough to get by for a while. And the liquid carried a
little oxygen. She became aware of vague pinprick
feelings, like tiny lightbulbs burning out, and guessed
that her body was letting parts of itself die so more
important parts could live. It seemed to know what it
was doing. Despite a fatigue like nothing she’d ever
experienced, she refused to just drift away and trust it
to do its job. No fucking way the grey fog was going to
trick her into relaxing. Besides, she was hungry.
Hungrier than she’d ever beenin her life.

Whatever fear she’d felt was banished. She took a savage
glee from her dire straits. She would never die. Never.

Sometime, after an eternity or two, she started getting
bits and pieces of things that seemed to come from the
outside world. A faint sound. A flicker of dim light.
After another ten or fifteen thousand years, that input
became more readable, made more sense, then faded, but
always came back, just a little stronger. She heard what
was maybe somebody crying, and wondered who it could be.
Then, she saw the fuzzy shape of what must be a face.
Ah. His face. Way above her.

She wanted to tell him it was okay. She was going to be
fine – but that she was hungry. So hungry she almost
couldn’t stand it. He had to help her find something to
eat. He didn’t understand. But he moved her body.

That was terrible. She thought for an instant that the
movement would kill her, overwhelm the precarious
stability she’d thought she’d made rock solid. But it
didn’t. Her heart lurched unevenly, and she had to force
her lungs to start up again, using what felt like her
last iota of strength. But it worked out, maybe even
helped things a little after she got used to it. She
tried to say thanks.

Then, another geologic epoch later, he picked her up a
second time. She thought maybe he’d tried to warn her it
was coming, but she wasn’t sure. She’d been distracted
by something new happening inside her, something kind of
unpleasant at first. It felt like her heart had started
pumping ice water instead of whatever it’d been using
for blood. It’d taken her a while to become aware of the
gradual change. When she’d realized the newness, she’d
tried to frown at the lobbing muscle in her chest, get
it to go back to normal, but it didn’t. Couldn’t, it
seemed. But its rub-dub, thump-thud had gotten stronger,
so it must be okay.

She remembered feeling something like this before. Ah.
Yeah. When she’d been sick, after he’d fucked and bitten
her that other time, she’d felt cold all over, from the
inside out, like something real weird had been happening
inside her. This must be the same thing. Sure. She was
turning into a vampire. That had to be it.

So, while he was carrying her ten million miles, she
just concentrated on keeping her machine ticking over.
It was really kind of fun. It made her feel good to know
she had so much control, so much secret power. Like
she’d always had over the guys who wanted to hose her.
But this was better. A lot better.

She felt him putting her down, thought she heard his
voice and somebody else’s. Then there was more movement.
Worse. A jolting. A rolling. They must be in the car.
She didn’t like the feeling one little bit. If she could
have, she’d have puked all over everything. But she
couldn’t, and it was hard to focus on her heart and
lungs and she was afraid – really, truly afraid – that
she was going to lose it.

The fear saved her life. It poured fresh, raw energy
into her. She was able to sustain herself again. It was
hard. Harder than anything. It took everything she had.
But she did it because she had to.

Then the motherfucker did it again. He picked her up.
She screamed, as loud and hard as she could. You’re
killing me, you fucker! Stop! Stop! He didn’t hear her.

The sick greyness buried her. Her heart was gone.
Everything was gone. She was dead. Gone. Except for her
rage. She was her rage. She was a pinpoint of light in a
black universe. She burned like the only sun. And her
heart was reborn. Her murderous, killing anger had
rescued her from oblivion.

She fed on it. Its force was even more potent than her
fear had been. It was with something akin to a spiritual
awakening that she realized that this incandescent wrath
was her ultimate salvation. With it, she became stronger
than before. It was her ally, her only lover, her god.
How had she not understood before? It’d always been
there, smouldering in black corners of her mind. She’d
just been too stupid to see what it was. She’d turned
away, even tried to make it go away. It’d taken this to
show her the truth. Even before he put her down on what
might have been a bed, she was back under control.

She kept her fury alive, fanned it, threw it whatever
fuel she could find. Toth. It was all his fault. He’d
ripped out her fucking throat and left her to die. When
she refused, he kept trying to off her – and couldn’t.
Now, she and her god were too strong for him. I’ll get
you for this, you fucking monster. You’ll pay. God, will
you pay.

He was trying to tell her something again. This time,
while she couldn’t make out the words, she caught his
emotions. The bastard sounded sad. Ah. Something about
Daddy. About having to leave.

Empowered my her rage, she shrieked at him, tried to
gouge him with claws she didn’t have. Food! Bring me
food! Feed me!

Again, he ignored her anguished screams. But at least he
left her alone. Alone, with her rage. Alone with the
brand new, undying hunger that was at its core. She
wouldn’t die. Not ever. Not as long as it was in her.

It grew, little by little. It was like each time her
heart spurted its thin, cold gruel, its demands became
louder. Finally, it was all there was. The grey was
gone. But the horrid thing that had displaced it had
displaced everything else, too. Her heart and lungs were
its voice. She was its voice. She became icy blue
shards of shattered soul, winking out, one by one. She
wasn’t feeding on it. It was feeding on her.

Then, she smelled food. It was nearby. Close. Very
close. Close enough to bite. If she could only move.

Chapter Five: Fatherhood

Ahmed Toth came into violent consciousness because he
was again in danger. His hindbrain was already on the
attack before his forebrain rose to meet it. The beast
was always the first on the scene.

So his first awareness was of having Callie pinned to
the mattress beneath them, of being in the act of again
crushing her slim throat between his powerful jaws.

But, this time, the beast within also stopped him. The
instinctive reaction was supplanted by a second one, of
at least equal power. His bear-trap jaws relaxed,
closed.

Callie was writhing sluggishly under his weight, trying
to fight him. Her mouth was working in a slow, fangless,
weak mimicry of his own. Her lips wore a glistening
smear of red that wasn’t her lipstick.

She’d bitten him. On the bicep. It wasn’t much of a
wound, but somehow she’d chewed through his tough skin
and brought blood. She was desperately trying to feed.

He froze. This could not be.

He’d seen that gnashing of immature teeth five times
before, in the young of his kind. He’d seen wounds
almost identical to this decorating the limbs of the
proud faces of the sires and dams of his race who’d
managed, against all odds, to conceive and carry to term
the single infant born every two or three hundred years.
It was the cause of universal rejoicing and celebration.
Such a birth demanded a pilgrimage to the ancient desert
ruins of what humans now called Iraq.

But never had this happened. Never had a human shaped
these basic chewing, sucking motions. It was either a
miracle or an abomination – or both.

Another vampire might have reacted differently. Another,
filled with revulsion at the sight of something so
perverse, might have wrenched the head from this
deformity’s shoulders, torn the nightmare creature limb
from limb and scattered the horrid bits far and wide.
But Ahmed Toth didn’t even consider such a response.

His entire belief system rested upon the bedrock of his
lifelong isolation from and essential proximity to
humankind. He required them to sustain his existence,
depended upon them for everything – yet remained
distant, separated by un unbridgable chasm, so broad and
deep that its very existence they must never so much as
suspect.

Now, Callian had crossed that void. Somehow, he had done
what no vampire had ever done. He had transported her,
ferried her to his bank of the Styx. For the first time
in unknown millenia, since before the Eldest had first
walked the earth, a vampire had been created, not born.

And, long before his mind had even begun to assimilate
this impossibility, his unconscious responded. It could
not deny the wordless cry shaped by those languishing
half-human lips. His body had no choice. It fed her. He
felt himself lay back and guide his bicep to her lips,
felt her chewing and slurping – and Ahmed Mohammed ibn-
Tariq Toth was filled with an unfathomable peace he’d
heard described, but had sworn never to experience.

Toth had centuries before chosen never to attempt a
mating. He had many reasons for this decision, but the
crux of the matter was that he had no love for his kind.
He strongly believed that the universe would be better
off had his race never come to be. He viewed himself as
an unwholesome parasite. His species took what they
needed and gave nothing in return. They brought no weal
– only woe.

And he loved humankind as much as he loathed himself.
For all their hideous shortcomings – and he had
graphically witnessed them all – they were the brightest
and most beautiful creatures who had ever graced the
universe.

They were abusive and cruel and weak, irrational and
delusional and callous. As well as being supernaturally
creative and spontaneous and vivaciously alive, in every
cell of their bodies. He thought of mankind as reduced
Olympians, with both their pettiness and grandeur
contained within each and every member of the race. He
was transported by their genius and learning, yet
mourned the everpresent blackness of their vices.

And, to these beings which he worshipped, he was a demon
incarnate. They had just cause for their hatred and
fear. He was a child’s nightmare become real. Every
culture had legends of him and his kind. And, as with
all legends, there was more than a grain of truth. Not
in the hysterical magical tales of supernatural
abilities, but in the tales of their murderous lust for
blood.

For almost the entirety of their long, long lives,
vampires required, and consumed, very little physical
sustenance. But, during the period paralleling human
pubescence, his kind appeared to go mad. It was utterly
unavoidable. They were beings to whom the genetic call
was irresistable. So, for as long as fifty years, they
rampaged through the human population, murdering and
devouring as often as twice a day, often slaying for no
known reason at all, and then becoming catatonic, as if
dead, for as long as a month. There was no cycle, no
pattern. The Rapture came, then the Rapture left. Upon
maturity, the new adults – mercifully – had no memory of
how they’d spent their decades of nightmare.

That era of madness was often deadly. Most things which
are fatal to humans – except for disease and poisons –
are also lethal to vampires, although it takes more to
accomplish the feat. Human vampire lore for the most
part emanated from those crazed by their Rapture. A high
percentage of adolescents – two dozen or more – had been
found and killed by their intended prey. As if held
together by the life force itself, their corpses
decomposed with amazing speed – thus giving rise to more
legend.

The few adult vampires living amidst humans were
virtually never detected. As had been the case for Ahmed
Toth for the prior two hundred and sixty-eight years.
They were old. In some ways, they were wise. With very
few exceptions, none ever killed without cause.

But Toth no longer fit within that category. Like it or
not, he had reproduced. And the only creature even
remotely as bloodthirsty as an Enraptured adolescent
vampire was an adult feeding its young.

It is feeding for two, after all. And any infant
requires enormous nourishment. For Toth, the burden was
doubled and redoubled. Not only did he not have a mate
to share his biological imperatives, but Callian was no
seven or fifteen or even thirty pound infant. She
weighed over eighty pounds, and her appetite was
massive.

Over the week following Callie’s miraculous rebirth,
Toth became driven, was honed into a tool with but one
purpose. Every waking hour – and he slept almost not at
all – was spent tracking prey, feeding, and in turn
being fed upon. He was faced with brutal choices,
choices which were another reason he’d never mated.

Which way was he to feed? Was he to do the efficient
thing and take one human, drain it entirely, dispose of
the corpse, and kill again the next day? Or was he to
sip from a half dozen or more, hopefully managing to
keep each one oblivious to his needs?

Parenting vampires, unlike the Enraptured, are almost
never caught. They are, in a way, almost as insane, but
their madness makes them virtual geniuses at their task.
Toth was no exception. His preternaturally acute senses,
by human standards, became yet more attuned to his
environment. His strength grew and speed increased. He
still preferred not to kill, but he no longer had any
aversion to it. Feeding his offspring was the only thing
of any importance. Because his survival was utterly
imperative to insure hers, he was cautious, even
brilliant.

He engaged in an ancient ploy, especially suited to his
current environment. He sought and found numerous
“affairs” with human men and women. They, of course,
assumed what he told them to believe; they were involved
in a torrid physical relationship with an incredible
lover. To him, they were cattle. Each night and many
days, he travelled, sipping, from bed to bed. A liter
here, two there. All to Callie, except what his own body
assimilated.

Only once did he have to make the assignation final. He
made a poor choice in his selection of Marilyn Hennessy,
the sixteen year old neighbor girl, who had long
harbored a crush on him. At the last moment, she’d
regretted succumbing to her desires and panicked. She’d
tried to break away, started to scream when he’d held on
to her. Her parents and brother were less than twenty
yards away in the warm twilight.

He’d clamped a powerful hand over her mouth and taken
her in the throat. That was the fastest way to feed, and
was always fatal to the donor. He’d stuffed her body
into an ancient hollow oak a half mile away and was more
cautious thereafter.

Where the fuck is he! What’s taking him so goddamn long
this time! He’s really getting off on porking that
lawyer bimbo down the road. I know he is, the lying
asshole. He thinks he can stick that ugly prong anywhere
he wants to. Wait’ll I get back on my feet. I’ll show
the son of a bitch what fucking around’s all about. I’ll
bring a whole line of studs home and make him watch me
do them two or three at a time.

At least he left me some cigarettes this time. What’s he
afraid of, that I’m going to burn his house down? Thinks
I’m totally helpless. Thinks I can’t do anything for
myself. I’ll show the cocksucker. When he gets back,
I’ll be dressed and look like a wet dream come true.
Time to remind him how he met me in the first place.

She slid with a thud from the bed to the floor, half
crawled to the luggage piled in the corner of the room,
and propped herself against the wall. She had to do
something to block out the hunger. Just laying there in
bed with nothing to do made it worse. She siezed upon
any and every possible distraction, trying to keep it
under control. She was afraid – yes, finally truly
afraid – that one day, this insatiable new need would
swallow the rest of her, destroy her entirely.

So, the cigarettes and viciousness and makeup were only
an excuse, a focus. She knew this, in a secret place.
But she’d never admit it, not even to herself.

Ahmed found her there, in the dark at four in the
morning. Her trembling, weak hands had made a disaster
of her face painting, but he made no comment.

“Hi.”

“Fuck yourself. Go away.”

He sat on the bed, bloated and dull. He sensed the
awesome struggle she was waging as she compelled her
body not to fly to him, slavering. Instead, she dumped
more cosmetics onto the floor. He wasn’t sure whether to
admire her courage or fear it.

“None of these colors is right anymore. Why didn’t you
tell me my skin color was going to change.” She was
petulant, demanding.

“I didn’t know, Callian.”

“Don’t call me that. Nobody calls me that.”

“Sorry. Callie. But, as I said, this has never happened
before. You’re very special. You’re the only human -”

“Bullshit.” But she did lighten up a little on him.
Special, he said. “At least my complexion’s smoother. No
more zits or freckles. Guess I’m going to have to dye my
hair, though. Blonde sucks now. Am I going to keep
getting darker until I look like you?”

He avoided more abuse. “I doubt it. What color are you
considering for your hair?”

She gave up looking for a lipstick she suddenly
remembered losing in Tulsa, picked up another one. “I
don’t know. Black maybe.”

“Ah. Midnight black. You could let it grow, too.”

“That’d be sexy as hell, wouldn’t it? I’ll keep growing,
huh? I can see me in a year or two with tits out to here
and long black hair. I’ll be some kind of hot bitch.”

“You already are, Callie.”

She batted her thick, uneven lashes at him. It’d been a
long time since she’d looked at the world through
mascara, and never with these greenish eyes, sharp as a
hawk’s. “Really? Or are you just saying that because you
want to get laid?”

“No. I’ve known since that first night in the mall when
I saw you watching me in the store window. It has
nothing to do with your sex.”

Her crookedly painted red lips smiled. “Yeah. I saw you
looking. You thought you were being so damned cool, but
I knew you were tracking me. You turned me on right
away. I knew you were different. I just didn’t know
how different.”

Her expression softened even further. Her voice was more
gentle and lilting. He’d been showing her how to use it,
to persuade, to get what she wanted with it. “Would you
like to help me get dressed? I really want to be pretty
for you tonight. I want it to be special, Ahmed. Like
that first time. I’m strong enough now for you to fuck
me. I want you to make me come while I drink.”

Double your pleasure, double your fun, she thought a
little later as she nipped at the cut he’d made for her
on his shoulder. She watched his thick blood begin to
well more quickly from the wound, felt his surge of
arousal lick way up inside her, deeper than any human
had ever been.

Her body responded, desire melding with her hunger, the
two lusts become a single thing. Her lips fastened to
him like a lamprey and she gnawed his musky, rubbery
flesh, sucked and swallowed and bucked wildly.

She’d imagined the first time with him would be the
best. Surely nothing could ever top that. But she was
wrong. Way wrong. This was it. Fucking and sucking at
the same time – but not like the asshole had taught her.

Oh, Daddy. If you could only see me now.

Chapter Six: Responsibility

“So,” she said, wagging the high heel dangling from her
toe, “let me see if I’ve got this straight. You’re going
to stay close, but it’s my gig all the way.” She wrapped
her red lips around the cigarette, hollowed her rouged
cheeks as she drew on it. He couldn’t tell if her eyes,
under their makeup, were frightened or excited.

“Close enough to help if anything goes wrong, but not so
close that you’ll see me.”

“So I’m supposed to do that silent shout thing if he
gets out of line?”

“Right.”

She flicked imaginary ash off her emerald green dress.
“You sure I look okay?”

“Callie, I really don’t understand why you want to do it
this way. It’s not necessary.”

“You’re the one who told me it was a good idea to use
what I already know. I know how to whore. It’ll make me
feel more confident.”

“That’s only half the truth, isn’t it? You feel like
you’re a prostitute because that’s the only way you ever
had value.”

“Lay off the psycho-babble, Ahmed. You aren’t very good
at it.” She was getting good at keeping the anger – and
the hunger – from her voice. She made her expression one
of pleading, leaned earnestly toward him so he could see
down her dress. “Honey, I dress this way because I like
it. It makes me feel good. Just like being with you
does.” Next she turned coy. “You’re just jealous.”

He grinned widely, no longer having to restrain his
amusement for fear of revealing his teeth. “Thank God
that’s one curse no vampire has to bear, darling girl.
It’s just that self-honesty is so crucial to your new
existence. You can no longer afford self-delusion. It
could kill you.”

She inhaled the harsh smoke of his cigarette, which was
all she smoked any more. She liked the taste, the way
they looked. “But lung cancer won’t, huh? Or AIDS. I can
fuck anybody I want now, and never worry about VD.”

Something was bothering Toth. He kept it from his face.
It wasn’t what she’d said. He was accustomed to her
obsession with sex, and the crude ways she expressed it.
No. It was something else. Something he’d read
somewhere. But there were other things to think about
right now. He laughed. “Let’s keep it simple for
tonight, shall we?”

“You’re sure it’s got to be a hotel lobby, not the
mall?”

He nodded sharply. “And in Jefferson City, not Columbia.
Just in case.”

She ground out the cigarette. “Let’s get going then. I’m
ready to be weaned, lover. Give me some real food. I’m
sick of your second hand shit.”

Jesus fucking Christ. What a rush. It’s been way too
long, and never like this before. Every swinging dick in
here knows they can buy me. I can hear it in their
heads.

Easy Callian. Keep your shit tight, baby girl. The old
man – Ahmed, I mean – is somewhere close. Just like
always. This is no time to screw up. Be cool now. You
pick them. Never let them pick you. Don’t start thinking
with your cunt. Stay cool.

Not him. Too smart. Getting him to forget a piece like
me would be a real bitch. That one’s too ugly. He’s too
old. Hey, now we’re talking. Real cute. Nice clothes.
Great ass. A little wasted, but not too far gone to be a
good time. And . . . what’s the word he uses? Ah.
Suggestible.

Sit on the couch, Callian. Smile a little at him. Fiddle
some with the dress. Look real nervous, like somebody’s
late. Smile again. Ah. Contact. Here he comes.

“Hello, miss. Is everything all right?”

“Oh! Hi. No. I mean, well, maybe. I’m supposed to meet
somebody here. I think it was here. I hope he’s just
late.”

He sat. He smiled that smile she’d seen so many times
before. “Is he someone special?”

“Well, kind of, I guess. We met last night, with my Dad.
He was really cool and talked me into coming here
tonight. Maybe I got the time wrong or something.”

“Well, his loss is my gain. Where’s your Dad?”

Shyly. Guiltily. “He’s busy at a meeting. I kind of
snuck out. He says I’m too young to, uh, date.” She
thrust her shoulders back. “But he’s wrong.”

His eyes raked her with barely concealed lust. “You must
have been really looking forward to seeing your
boyfriend tonight.”

“Yeah. He was going to take me someplace real nice.”

“You know, I could take you someplace nice, since he’s
not here.”

All innocence in those eyes, turned green now, naive and
eager beneath the mascara. “Really?”

“Sure. It’d be fun. We could start by having a drink. I
doubt if the bartender would serve you, but I’ve got a
bottle in my room. You do drink, don’t you?”

Unfeigned excitement. “I never have, but I’d really love
to try.”

Shit, she thought sluggishly, her hips still pushing.
Callie, you greedy little slut. Now look what you’ve
done.

The body lay, pale and smiling, under her. She’d really
meant to take just a little, then leave him to sleep it
off. She’d lost control. When she did that with Ahmed,
he just ripped her mouth loose and pushed her away, but
this poor fucker hadn’t been strong enough. And when
he’d started to scream and yell, she did what she had to
do. She used the razor blade on his throat.

He didn’t bleed much. Guess I got most of it. What the
fuck do I do now? Twenty people saw me leave with him.
Too high a profile, just like the asshole said. Now when
John here turns up stiff, people with badges are going
to start looking for me. No good. Dumb cunt.

She did the smart thing – the only thing left to do,
really. She formed a mental picture of her vampire
lover, called to him, imagined him turning and coming
closer and closer. Then, she disengaged her groin from
the body and clumsily started putting her clothes on.

Toth didn’t knock, just slid through the unlocked door.
The instant she’d called him, he knew. He’d hoped this
wouldn’t happen. He knew it was too soon, but he was at
the end of his immense endurance. He couldn’t keep up
with her vast need. It should have at least begun to
taper off by now. It hadn’t. It might even have grown.

Even before her call, he’d scouted the building,
formulated the basics of a worst-case plan. By the time
he stood over the body, he’d already decided what had to
be done.

“You’re okay?”

She nodded, brushed black hair from her eyes with a
shaky hand. “Sorry.”

His voice was stern, cold. “See how you feel? That’s the
best reason for not draining a host. Can you make it as
far as the car before you pass out?”

Anger brightened her dulled eyes. “I said I was sorry,
damn it. And, yes, I can make it to the fucking car.”

“Good. Hurry, but be careful about being seen. I’ll be
there in a few minutes.”

Getting outside was the hard part. She was dizzy and
groggy, had to go slow and lean against the wall a
couple of times. But the night air braced her. Her walk
in her new heels steadied. She forced herself to stay
awake just to show the bastard. She’d redone her makeup
and was sullenly smoking when a weight dropped into the
trunk startled her into alertness.

“You scared the piss out of me!” she hissed as he
climbed behind the wheel.

He just drove.

“What are we going to do with it?” she wondered as they
crossed the bridge over the river.

“What do you suggest? It’s yours.”

“How about doing what you did to Daddy?” she said,
pointing down at the black water.

“If you wish. But, it’s generally not a good idea to
settle into a pattern, Callie.”

“Three weeks is long enough. You’re paranoid.”

“I’m alive. If you get careless just once when you’re on
your own, you could be caught.”

“When I’m on my own? What’re you going to do, kick me
out?”

He kept his eyes on the road, headed north toward home –
and many backroads where a body could be pitched into
the river. “No. I won’t have to. If things progress as
is normal, you will want to leave before too long. We
don’t mate for life.”

“Yeah. I bet punching the same piece for a couple
thousand years would get real old.”

“We also don’t mate for pleasure.”

“Maybe you don’t.” It wasn’t until she was fishing out
another cigarette that she caught the implication. “Hey.
You can’t tell me you don’t get off when we fuck.”

“As long as we’re also feeding on one another, I’m
aroused. But I don’t believe I experience the same
things you do.”

“You don’t come?”

“Orgasms for me don’t originate in the sexual organs,
and aren’t measurable by sperm alone.”

She mused, looking at her sexy manicure, about the color
of that guy’s blood. “So I guess I’m still different
that way, too. The dude I drank made me come like a
cannon. I mean, the blood was a turn on, too – but no
way near as good as his cock.”

She took smoke, clicked her nails together like
castanets. “They’re almost as hard as yours now, and
grow real fast. I bet I could file one real sharp. That
way I can lose the razor blade.”

Later, as they watched the corpse sink into the rain
swollen river, she hooked a slender arm around Toth’s
waist. Her voice was as close to that of a child as he’d
ever heard it. “I killed somebody tonight.”

“You did.”

“I felt him die. I was too wasted to pay much attention,
though. I’ll probably have to do it again, won’t I?
Sooner or later?”

“I’m afraid so. Just don’t start enjoying it too much,
Callie. It’s -”

“Dangerous,” she interrupted. “Yeah. I know. I’ll be
real careful from now on.”

But it was too late. She already liked it too much. She
had, ever since that guy the old man had blown away in
Detroit. She hadn’t told Ahmed about that, or about the
third kind of orgasm she’d had, the best one of all.

Yeah. I’ll be careful. Careful not to get caught. Next
time I’ll pay more attention. Then maybe I can back off
for a while and practice leaving them alive. Not yet,
though. Just one more time.

She paced the veranda nervously, burning cigarette after
cigarette, glancing repeatedly at the pretty diamond
watch she’d bought herself with the loot from her first
kill’s wallet. The autumn breeze was cold, but didn’t
affect her at all.

It’s only an hour til dawn. He’ll be back any time now.
Shit. How the hell was I supposed to know that some
damned dog would dig it up way out there in the fucking
boonies and drag the fucker’s head home? I hope he
hasn’t read a newspaper or been listening to the radio.
He’s going to be real pissed, even if I’m the one who
gets to tell him first.

Chapter Seven: Farewell

She knew she was in big trouble – again – when the BMW
plowed through the last snowdrift and the garage door
started closing behind it. She was able to read his
thoughts a little better. What she sensed was a quiet,
determined anger. But she also knew that she could
handle him.

She dropped the brush onto the vanity and turned to
admire the coal black mane that hung almost to her tight
little ass. The wig was damned expensive, but hadn’t
cost her a dime, of course. She made a pouty face at
herself, knowing – truthfully – that she was the most
exotic, erotic cunt in this half-assed town. She
especially liked the weird green her eyes had finally
turned. They looked like wild contact lenses, but were
every bit as real as her 36-D tits.

She’d even figured out how to get Toth turned on and
keep him that way. Sex wasn’t enough. She’d been stupid
not to believe him about that for so long. The fucking
fool never lied to her about anything. But looking more
like a full blooded vampire bitch and making him take
her by the throat worked every damned time. He’d thought
the fake fangs she’d “found” at Halloween had been a
joke, until she’d shown him that they really worked.
She’d sunk them into his neck, and he’d gone wild.

So she swayed down the stairs through the luminous
darkness that no human could see or appreciate. She felt
like a movie star. She started to greet him, but held
herself back. He wasn’t in any mood to be loved. Not
yet. She’d have to go slow and easy and careful this
time. He wasn’t just angry, he was… weird.

He dropped his briefcase onto the table and sank into
his favorite chair. Just like any regular pussy-whipped
husband tired from a day at the office, come home to his
foxy old lady. But the flat knife of his voice shattered
her image.

“What did you do in Kansas City Saturday night, Callie?”

He knew already? “I told you. I went shopping.”

“You forgot to mention that you murdered two teenage
prostitutes behind a bar on the Kansas side. One for
food, one for fun, wasn’t it?”

“Oh. Maybe I did forget to tell you about that. No
biggie, though. Nobody saw me, either before or after.”

“You thought I wouldn’t find out?”

“I figured you wouldn’t care. What I do’s my own
business. Isn’t that what you said last time?”

He studied her. Such a beautiful child. On the outside.
“How many is that now? Seven that I know of. How many
more that I don’t?”

Lying to him outright never worked any more. Besides,
what difference did it make? “I’m not sure. Eight. A
dozen tops.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “That’s about what I guessed.”
He crossed his legs after carefully lifting his cuff.
“And how many have you let live? Just the six when I was
either present or nearby?”

“Hey, Ahmed. Come on. How many humans did you off during
your Rapture?”

“I have no memory of it. I told you that. And, believe
me, it is not the same thing.”

“Oh? What makes you so sure? All vampires go through a
psycho thing. I’m about the right age for it.”

He shook his head sadly. “I want to believe that is true
nearly as much as you wish me to, Callie. But, that is
not the problem, and we both know it.”

She flounced to her own chair, abandoning the role of
sex kitten in favor of a comfortable slouch, sacrificing
her poise for a cigarette. “So you tell me what it is
then, asshole.”

“The problem is that you possess the worst qualities of
both our races. You’re completely self-absorbed and
malicious. Humans have no importance to you, except as
food and for sexual gratification. In addition, you’re
powerful and bloodthirsty and potentially immortal.
Enraptured vampires have at least the excuse of madness.
You’re simply a killer. You murder for sheer pleasure.
It is your only motive, beyond hunger. You will kill for
as long as you live.”

She blew a series of smoke rings. “If this heavy little
speech is a way to tell me to get the fuck out, just say
so. I’m ready. I can take care of myself. I’ve been
thinking it’s way past time to move on anyway.”

He shook his head, offered her a sad smile. “It’s not
about that at all, darling. I want you to stay.”

“You really want me to?”

“I insist. I am still responsible for you.”

She slipped the fangs in under the pretext of a yawn.
She grinned back at him, knowing how the sexy white
curve of her teeth looked against her blood red lips.
That’s all her lipstick was. Fake blood.

“So let’s get it on, lover. I’ve got something real
special cooked up for dinner.”

He laughed, grimly. “You amaze me. I haven’t laughed as
much during my entire life as I have these last eight
months. It’s too bad that it’s almost over.

She sighed semi-sincere regret. “I know what you mean.
I’ll never forget you.”

He leaned forward, filled with a sudden urgency. “Do you
understand, Callie? How sorry I am?”

What was he getting at? She felt like she’d missed part
of the conversation or something. The idea of starring
in fuck flicks had kind of been stuck in her head again
and she hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to
the asshole. “Sure. No need to be so heavy, lover.”

“So you can forgive me?”

She tensed. “What the fuck are you trying to say? What
did you do that I have to forgive?”

“It isn’t anything I’ve done. It’s what I have to do.
Callian, I have to kill you.”

He was serious. She went cold, all over, but tried to
act natural. She thought hard, quick. “If this’s a joke,
Ahmed, it’s not very funny.”

“I’m afraid it’s no joke. I cannot let this go on any
longer. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
There’s never been anyone like you – and now I know
why.”

She played it real cool. She tossed away her empty
cigarette pack, stood, sauntered to her purse for more.
“Honey, I really didn’t know you were so pissed about
it. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s not like the Rapture.
I know I’ve been a little wild, but if it’s that big a
fucking deal, I’ll quit. I’ll be a good girl from now
on. I promise.”

“You won’t. It’s not entirely your fault, Callie. You
can’t control it. You’ve tried that, haven’t you?”

Her back was to him. Her long, sharp red nails wrapped
around the grip of her father’s .38. She always carried
it, just in case. Okay, Callian Louise. It’s show time.
The cameras are rolling. Let the shoulders sag. Make the
voice real fucking sincere, cunt. You’ll only get one
take. “I can do it. I can learn. But I need your help,
Ahmed. You’ve been ignoring me, spending all your time
on that AIDS shit. Baby, I need you!”

“I wish I could believe that.”

She turned, pleading all over her hauntingly beautiful
face, the gun hidden by her handbag. “We can do it. I
swear we can. Just give me another chance.”

Toth sighed, shook his head with profound regret. “No,
Callian. I’m terribly sorry. I’ve given you too many
chances already.”

She dropped her head, tightened her grip. “I don’t want
to die.”

He was beginning some response. She quickly raised the
gun and fired. The round struck the back of his chair,
but he wasn’t in it. As blindingly fast as she was, he
was that much faster. Her second shot was purely
reflexive, fired at a flickering blur coming at her from
her right. There was a crash as an endtable went over
and a seldom used lamp shattered on the inlaid oak
floor.

Her chest heaved with fear and excitement. The revolver
was still clasped in both hands, just like Daddy taught
her in that other pitiful lifetime. The cordite was
harsh in her flared nostrils, but she inhaled it like
some sweet incense.

She couldn’t believe her luck. She’d hit the fucker
right in the face. He was crumpled on the floor, not
five feet away from her, with the whole back of his head
blown off. His brains and blood had spattered the
kitchen wall, trickled slowly, thickly down.

Her hands were shaking, her heart thundering. She
giggled madly. “God! That was great! Got the fucker
cold! Son of a fucking bitch! That was the best yet!”

She braced herself against the wall, stared hungrily at
the motionless corpse as a deeper shudder rippled
through her loins, evoking a long, throaty moan. Her own
kind of Rapture overwhelmed her as her orgasmic ecstacy
spiralled her toward delerium. It lasted a long, long
time. Her groans became shrieks as she used her hands on
herself.

She broke two cigarettes trying to light them, cursed
rawly, stared hollowly at her victim. She got the third
going.

“Got to get out of here, slut. No hurry, though. Let’s
see. Pack your shit. Call the airport. Get a flight out.
Anywhere. Chicago, maybe.” A shrill, eerie, insane
laugh. “Yeah. Go show Mommie what her baby girl grew up
to be. Make her beg, like those whores in Kansas City.
Make sure she knows what’s coming. Then . . .”

She shook herself alert, tucked the .38 back into her
purse, and danced up the stairs. She pored over her
clothes and changed into her favorite red dress, then
threw the rest of her pretty clothes into his biggest
suitcase, swept all her makeup off the vanity into a
smaller one. She stood on tiptoe and dug the envelope
holding her emergency funds from the high closet shelf.

A few hundred bucks. Not enough. He won’t need the two
grand in the freezer I’m not supposed to know about.
Grab it on the way out. Let’s see. Think, cunt. Call a
cab or drive his car? The car, I guess. Into town
anyway. Cab from there. Yeah. Okay. Get everything
loaded, then torch the fucking house. The way vampires
rot, there won’t even be ashes left.

She completely redid her face, blew herself a
sweltering, deep red kiss, smiled lovingly into the
mirror. Time to go, you nasty bitch. It’s a big world.
Full of blood and death. And it’s all mine. Forever.

Heavy suitcases in hand, she tapped daintily down the
stairs, humming happily. Belatedly, she noticed that all
was not as she’d left it. Too late, she saw that the
asshole’s body was gone. Just as immensely powerful
hands wrapped around her throat from behind, she
realized the enormity of her blunder. He’d warned her.
Vampires are damned hard to kill.

The Gathering was totally unlike that of a same-sized
group of humans would have been. The thirty-seven beings
gathered on the desert sand under the light of a gibbous
moon were utterly still, utterly silent, totally focused
upon the thirty-eighth. He stood upon what had, millenia
before, been a mighty wall. When he finally resumed
speaking, it was in a whisper as faint as the chill
breeze, yet all heard it plainly.

“I do not know why it is so, yet the evidence is
overwhelming. I am not adept in the field of
microbiology – of either humans or ourselves – yet I am
certain that some or all of our bodily fluids – our
anti-coagulant and sperm and blood – have an enormous
impact upon the HIV retro-virus and its effect upon the
human body.

My studies of samples taken from the HIV positive
tissues of Callian Louise Dorset have shown an essential
genetic alteration of both the virus and the
lymphosystem of its host. In effect, for unknown
reasons, at least in this one individual, the onset of
AIDS was prevented, and a state either indentical to or
indistinguishable from vampirism is created.”

Ahmed Mohammed ibn-Tariq Toth adjusted the bandage
swathing the back of his head. He wore it from courtesy.
The small hole over his left eye was already covered
with skin. Most of his jellied forebrain brain had
regenerated over the past month, but he still spoke
slowly, with a slight slur. Bone took longer. Had
Callian’s bullet struck him lower, destroyed the brain
stem instead of the frontal lobes, he knew he wouldn’t
have recovered.

“Do you see how important this is? To ourselves, and to
humankind? It seems probable that we have at our
disposal a cure for AIDS, perhaps the most pernicious
disease humans have ever faced. We must come to a
monumental decision; do we openly intervene? Reveal our
existence? And, of equal importance, is another fact.
Those of you who have fed upon HIV positive individuals
may have unwittingly created human vampires, just as I
did. Who are they? Where? Are they psychologically
capable of coping with what are innate abilities for our
race? Was Callian’s madness unique, or typical of what
might occur?”

The ensuing silence stretched long into the night. The
Eldest finally rose. He looked no different from any
other, yet no one – himself included – could even
estimate his age. Ahmed bowed respectfully. The gesture
was returned.

“You have terminated the existence of this… creature?”

“It was necessary.”

The Eldest nodded, his sorrow clear. “The child was not
truly one of us. Still, we must mourn her passage as we
do that of any of the People. For all those no longer
among us, let us grieve.”

The thirty-eight raised their voices as one, created the
most ancient of sounds, the one by which humans had
first learned to know them. The ululating wail of primal
grief could easily have been mistaken for the howl of a
pack of wild beasts, but split the air with even more
keening force.

Once, during an enduring period of personal desolation,
Toth had forsaken a Gathering. Yet, as the group a half
a world away had given voice to their racial isolation
and despair, his hair had stood on end. He had heard
them with his soul.

As did Callie, now, her horridly maimed and dismembered
body buried beneath thousands of tons of fallen rock.
Her mad eyes, green as hatred and no longer even
remotely human, burned evilly as her body ever so slowly
healed.

And still her hunger grew.

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