There are no buttons inside the elevator, except one marked "LOBBY" and the emergency stop. A numeric display above the doors shows what floor is passing.
The walls of the elevator are mirrored, as is the ceiling. I look at myself. It's been a while since I've been surprised at what I see.
I wonder what would happen if I pop the ceiling hatch and go into the elevator shaft.
I look at the phone. It's a smartphone, with a touchscreen. Just like Zoey's.
There's only one contact in it. Sammy Gunn.
I dial and hold the phone to my ear.
After four rings, I hear his voice come on, apologizing and asking me to leave a message.
I end the call.
I put the phone in my shirt pocket, where it rubs against Sammy's dollar.
I wonder if this elevator is slow on purpose.
The elevator stops at the forty-seventh floor, and I walk into a marbled anteroom with a small fountain in its center. To my right is a floor-to-ceiling window.
I'm not alone.
I go to the window and look at the Las Vegas Strip. Directly below is the Como Resort's famous lagoon, where choreographed jets of water put on a show for passersby. Across the street is a replica of the
. A police helicopter passes down the center of the Strip, going from north to south, sweeping its spotlight in tight circles. Eiffel Tower
I decide to let whoever is in here come to me.
After a minute, I hear them move into the anteroom from the suite. They come slowly around the fountain and stop. There are two of them.
"Call me Henry," I say without turning around.
One of the two takes a few steps closer.
"We're here to make sure you don't cause any problems," he says.
"I get it," I say. "You two are the real welcoming committee."
"My name's Pike," says the other one. "And this is Miles. We're not here to bother you. We're just here to make sure you don't try to leave."
I spin and take a step, lifting the closer one up by the throat. I take the pistol from his hand and point it at the second guy. Like the security guard downstairs, Pike has a shotgun aimed at me, but he doesn't fire.
Miles, hanging from my hand at his throat, is making angry growls. Both of his hands are working frantically, alternately trying to crush my wrist or pry my fingers loose. He's also trying to kick me, but he's short and his legs can't really reach.
"Pike," I say. "How long you been a vampire?"
"Um, I don't know," Pike answers. His eyes are on his partner, and his shotgun is moving around, trying to point at me without pointing at Miles.
"Well, my guess is not very long," I say. "So, since I have obvious seniority here, I think you should do what I say and put that shotgun down."
"It's been eleven months," Pike says.
"Okay, Mr. Eleven Months," I say. "I want you to put your shotgun down on the floor and back up against that wall. If you don't, I'm going to tear your friend's head off."
For emphasis, I give Miles a violent shake that turns his groans into gurgles. He's clawing at my arm, digging his fingers into my flesh, panicking.
"Alright," Pike says, doing what I asked. Once he gets to the wall, I heave Miles at him in an underhand toss. Miles flies backwards over the fountain and Pike catches him awkwardly before dropping him to the floor.
By then, I have Pike's shotgun and Miles's pistol aimed at them as I sit on the edge of the fountain. Pike still has a pistol, but it's locked in its holster.
"If you're eleven months turned," I say to Pike. "Then your little buddy here is what, maybe a couple of weeks old?"
"Fuck you," croaks Miles as he gets to his feet. He jumps at me, arms outstretched, and I dodge him, using the shotgun barrel to catch him just under the right armpit and guide his momentum into the fountain. He lands spread-eagled with a splash.
"My guess is," I say to Miles. "You're an accident. Or an experiment."
Miles gets slowly to his feet, standing knee-deep in the fountain.
"Knock it off, Miles," Pike says.
"Listen to your partner," I tell Miles. He gets out of the fountain and walks over to Pike, leaving puddles on the marble floor.
I unload both the shotgun and the pistol, letting the shells and the clip fall to the floor. I pick the clip up and flick the cartridges out with my thumb. Some of the ammo rolls into Miles's puddles. Pike makes no move for his pistol.
"Pick all that up," I say to the two of them.
As Pike and Miles clean up their ammo, I walk over and hit the button for the elevator, which opens immediately. I block the doors open with my foot and throw the weapons in.
Pike and Miles finish with each of them holding fists of ammunition. I point into the elevator car.
"Your ride's here," I say to them.
Pike goes in first, but, when Miles shuffles past me, I grab his head with both hands, and, while using my leg to trip him, I twist and wrench his skull, separating it from from his body with an audible crack. The shells from Miles's hands pelt Pike as a spray of black liquid spatters him and the walls of the elevator car. Other than flinching, Pike doesn't move.
I toss Miles's head to Pike, who catches it by pinning it to his chest with his forearms. Then he lets it drop and puts his back against the far wall of the elevator. I kick Miles's body so that his feet clear the elevator door.
"Tell your supervisor downstairs," I say to Pike. "That I am very disappointed in the quality of his staff."
"I'm the supervisor," Pike says.
"Not for long," I tell him, laughing.
I step back and let the elevator doors slide shut.
The phone in my shirt pocket starts buzzing and playing a ringtone. "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge. I accept the call and put the phone to my ear.
"Sorry I missed you," Sammy says. "Is there a problem?"
"Pretend you don't know what just happened here."
Sammy laughs. Over the phone, I don't feel him like I do in person.
"You didn't tell me you've been actively recruiting," I say. "I have to tell you, I'm a little worried about your interview process."
"Cute," says Sammy. "But what did I tell you about behaving yourself?"
"No one got hurt who didn't deserve it," I say. "And you should know better than to send fledglings to hassle me."
"Maybe it was a test."
"Did I pass?" I ask.
"Just be ready for our meeting," Sammy answers. "Get some rest, a little nourishment."
I end the call and listen.
I'm still not alone.
Chapters 15 & 16 are here.
If you need to start at the beginning, go here.
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