I always knew there was something terribly wrong about him even before I bit him. He looks and smells so human, but his blood is death.
The rain comes and goes like a blues musician plucking away at the guitar searching for the right sound. It patters on the roof, trickles down the window. At the the other end of the block, across the street at Necropolis, people wait in line as the doorman checks their passes. In the dreary night, their forms glow orange like an aura, all except the doorman. His Itoril body radiates a cool blue.
Above the club, somewhere behind the glossy windows within the dimly illuminated apartment, the owner, Yasmine, plans her transition into the role of magistrate years ahead of schedule. Stratton almost seems flummoxed by the sudden change of heart among key elders. It’s her particular charm. As a babe, her lust for blood overwhelmed her glamour leading to a public execution. Maybe it was the threat of burning alive, or lessons from other Itoril. She has grown up considerably since that night.
The night I first saw him. What did Yasmine call him? Ezekiel. He had that same damn suit and tie he always likes wearing.
The car rocks and settles on its springs.
Glancing over at the passenger side, I see him. Like the other times over the last few days, he just appears. At the kill, twice at the house, he rises out of the shadows like a ghost. His aura appears so human. Steve. He calls himself Steve Reynolds.
Trying not to bring attention to his sudden arrival, I stare at the gauges behind the steering wheel. The fuel marker shows the tank on its last quarter. Searching for something to say, I realize I’m already blabbing about my job.
I tell him I always expected some honor maintaining the law among Itoril.
Spotting Steve staring out the windshield at the building across the street, I follow his gaze finding a light on in the apartment over the club. Yasmine insists on romancing the youth with vampire fantasies risking everything. For this, the magistrate fears her. And loves her for her boldness. Glancing back, I find Steve watching me.
His gaze pierces into me, but I hold on trying to make sense out of his blue eyes.
“This is a man’s world, Steve,” I say, only half paying attention to the conversation. “And the Itoril men want to make certain it remains that way.”
“Didn’t females once rule Itoril?”
A smile robs my composure. The man can’t remember where he lives or anything from his childhood, but he remembers history lessons and other silly facts about the world. He knows it well, or at least as well as I do.
Those ancient women were monsters and deserved to die.
“Why don’t you retire?”
Losing myself in his eyes, I force my gaze down at my hand squeezing the steering wheel. I feel him as if he’s inside my head.
Death is the only retirement. It’s the way it’s always been with executioners, and the only way I’ll have it.
I realize I’m rattling on again, something about my old club turning into a record store.
He asks me about the quiet place. That’s what he calls it. Purple Hell is a better name. There are things in there, hidden in the depths. Usually I just feel them, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of their smoky shapes. He wants to know how many Itoril can get there.
“Not many,” I say. Closing my eyes, I picture the faces of the ones I’ve met with the skill. Stratton’s bodyguard, Xavier, is a master. Zee can get lost in there for a bit. There was another man I saw once in there. “Some Itoril can appear to move fast for a short period, but very few know about the quiet place. I didn’t before I met you.”
Steve screams, a painful howl.
Opening my eyes, I find I’m alone in the car.
Peering through the raindrops on the glass, I find the illuminated window above Necropolis. A dark shape moves before the light; someone stands at the window. Not Yasmine, it’s a man’s form. Steve is likely working for her, if not for her charm then her money.
Reaching into my coat pocket, I tug an envelope out and study the blue seal, the jagged crack cutting through the impression of three crossed swords, the symbol of the magistrate’s office. Sometimes they arrive directly from the magistrate. Other times Zee delivers them as he did this one twenty years ago. Pulling the card out, I read it for the fifth time this week.
Steve Reynolds a.k.a. Ezekiel.
Whatever the reason, it may have been forgotten, but law is law and the execution order still stands. How does one kill a ghost? I push the card inside the envelope and shove it in my pocket.
I curse at the rain, and turn the ignition. The engine erupts, cylinders pounding into a roar, music to my ears. Slipping into gear, I work the throttle controlling wheel spin, and drive frightening clubbers off the street. I flash my headlights at a man lumbering on the crosswalk against the light. He doesn’t respond, so I push the throttle eliciting a roar that gets the jaywalker’s attention.
I curse at the man.
Leaving the lights off, I wind my way into the bad part of Roseland. Passing streetlamps are yellow clouds like dragon’s vapor. I curse the lights. Slamming my fist on the steering wheel, I yell an obscenity. A heavy lump slides into my gut. Accelerating onto the freeway, I speed around cars listening to their blaring horns receding behind me. I drive, water howling in the wheel wells, my car tearing up the night.
I curse Steve Reynolds.
The dead should stay dead.
[Next: 26. My Fangs]