Also, the new working title is "Bloodsucking Vegas" - which is a compromise of several suggestions I've gotten. It's growing on me. Let me know what you think.
Warning: there's R-rated material below.
Note: you can start at the beginning of the story here. Or backtrack to chapter 19 by clicking here.
Iris leads four women into the living room. They're all big-boned, fleshy girls in cocktail dresses. I shake each one's hand as Iris introduces them, which cracks them up. Landry, Dana, Renee, and Pru, all looking at me with wide eyes.
The girls sit on the couches, and one of them turns the TV on. Pru, a redhead who's easily the shortest of the bunch, sets a bottle of tequila on the coffeetable.
"Well," Iris says as she slides her laptop into her messenger bag. "I'll leave you all to your fun."
"Bye, Iris," the girls say in a rough chorus.
"This is for you," says Iris, handing me Edgar's keycard. Then she leaves.
"Is Edgar joining us?" asks Landry, a tall brunette, as she opens the tequila.
"He's working," I say.
The taint off these girls is dizzying. They're shared livestock. I'm nearly nauseated.
"You girls live here in the building?" I ask.
"We're on fifteen," Pru says. "If you ever want to stop by."
They all laugh at this.
I join Pru on the loveseat.
She leans into me, putting a hand on my chest.
"You know," she says. "We have a rule about new guys."
"Oh? And what would that be?" I ask her.
"You gotta bite all of us," says Renee, the black one.
"Well," I say, putting my hand on Pru's cheek and tilting her head away from me. "I'd better get started."
I strike, hitting Pru just above the collarbone. The hand she's got in my crotch clenches, but nowhere near enough to hurt. As I drink, she rubs furiously. I drive in deep, giving her almost too much venom. She slumps against me and I lean her back, with her head against the armrest.
"Who's next?" I ask.
"Well, you're not much of a drinker, are you?" Renee says, getting up. "But I can see you're in the mood to party."
"I just didn't want to fill up before I get a taste of the whole menu," I say.
Renee throws herself at me. I catch her, holding her ass as she wraps her legs around my waist. She has my head in her hands and presses my face into her neck. Her bosom is mashed against my chest so I have to crane my neck for a bite. Once I get my fangs in, she relaxes, letting out a sigh. Her legs are still locked around me, so I'm able to get my arms under her armpits.
She tastes even worse than Pru, and I only take a swallow before putting her down at the other end of the loveseat. I have to reach back and pry her legs apart to free myself, even though she's unconscious.
Landry and Dana are on the sofa. Landry pats the seat between them while Dana takes a long swig of tequila. I sit and put my arms around them.
"Now," I say, playing along. "Which of you is my entree, and which of you is dessert?"
They giggle at this, but, really, I feel a little sick.
Once I'm done, I go into the bathroom off the master bedroom. The shrouded bulk of Edgar still lies on the bed. It was careless of me to leave the bedroom door open. Or was it? Having one of the girls find Edgar would have forced my hand.
I take my jacket off and hang it from the hook on the back of the door. I undo the top buttons of my shirt. I roll up my sleeves and take a washcloth and soak it with hot water and slowly wipe my head and neck and chest, scrubbing any trace of slobber from the livestock. Then I brush off the jacket with my hand. I give it a spritz from some of Edgar's cologne.
I decide to sit in the dining room, turning on the flatscreen above the sideboard. This one doesn't break into quarters like at the
, but I get the channel eight news on the main screen and put a small, soundless version of the classic movie network in the upper corner. "Out of the Past" with Robert Mitchum is just starting. Como
I pull out my phone. The first thing I do is turn off the ringer. Then I pull up a browser and begin searching under "Curt Dirigian" and find a long article in Wikipedia. Dirigian helped make the original land purchase for
, after building his fortune creating Dirigian World Airlines. When it opened in 1969, Dirigian's Las Vegas Majestic was the largest hotel in the world. Nowadays, he is the controlling interest in Stripline Gaming, which owns and operates nine Caesars Palace properties, including a majority stake in the CityScape complex. Las Vegas
Later, as Jane Greer mouths to Robert Mitchum she doesn't want to die, the phone vibrates in my hand. An incoming call. From Sammy.
"I've been a good boy," I say as I pick up.
"No casualties, then?" Sammy asks.
"Not yet," I say. "I just saw the promo for your interview with Curt. You're a regular pillar of the community."
"You feeling well-nourished?" Sammy asks.
"Still getting used to the taste," I say. "What's the plan with Edgar?"
"We got that covered," Sammy says. "You're about the meet the rest of the team. Remember the rules, Henry."
I get up and go into the living room. The girls are still passed out. I turn and pull the curtain back from the patio door, slide it open, and step out. Straight ahead of me, down the block, is the
. Just beyond is the Circus Circus, with its wide white towers and purple dome. Riviera
But the night breeze isn't any more refreshing than feeding on the livestock, because I smell the stink of other vampires, one of whom has just crawled over the rail at the far end of the patio.
I think about shooting him in the face. But I don't.
"You Henry?" he asks. He's a tall, wiry hispanic wearing a blue aloha shirt and jeans.
"Where'd you come from?" I ask.
"My place," he says. He walks up and holds out his hand. We shake. He's a fledgling. He's trembling but working hard not to show it. "My name's Oscar," he tells me.
I think about breaking his neck but decide not to.
I step aside to let him through the patio door.
"Where's Edgar?" he asks.
"The bedroom," I say.
As he passes the snoring girls he says, "Enjoy your snack?"
"I've had better," I tell him.
"I've heard the free-range stuff tastes kind of gamey," Oscar says.
I follow him into the bedroom.
Oscar gives a little whistle when he sees Edgar's shroud.
"You got him all wrapped up and ready for shipping," he says.
"He pulled a gun on me," I say.
"So I've been told," Oscar says.
"How long have you worked for Sammy?" I ask.
"About a year," Oscar tells me.
He walks up and pokes the shroud, as if not quite believing it's Edgar.
"How long since you got turned?" I ask.
"About a month," Oscar replies. "It's cool. My place isn't as nice as this, but it's getting there."
"What did you do before?"
"I was a porter," Oscar tells me. "Then this posting for a security job went up. I put in for it. The rest is history."
I hear a ringtone, a song I don't recognize.
Oscar pulls a phone out of his pocket and puts it to his ear.
"Yeah?" he says. "No...I know...But I'm already here."
He pulls the phone away from his head. The doorbell rings.
"I'll get it," Oscar says.
I go out to the living room with him, and he continues on to front door. When he comes back, Pike and two other guys are following him, a stocky white guy and an older black man with a gray afro. Pike and the black man are in uniform. The white guy is in an Oakland Raiders jersey and jeans.
Pike looks like he swallowed something that he can't quite get down.
I stick my hand out to him.
"So we meet again, Pike." I say. "Why don't you introduce me to your friends?"
Pike takes my hand, gives it a quick shake, and lets go.
"Uh, this is Raymond," he says, pointing to the black man. Then he points to the Raiders fan. "And this is Chuck."
"Miles was my best friend," Chuck says to me.
I think about how I'd do this, reaching out and snapping Chuck's neck, then kicking Raymond and pulling my pistol to shoot Pike and Oscar. It would take a bit of luck to pull off.
"Well, Miles wasn't very smart," I say. "He didn't know his place."
"Take it easy," says Raymond. "Sammy says we're all on the same team, right?"
"Tell that to Miles and Edgar," Chuck says.
"You seem a little slow," I say, taking a step towards him. "And I doubt Sammy would approve of your manners."
Chuck backs up a couple of feet.
Pike is looking at the girls when he says, "Why don't we take this into the dining room?"
"That sounds like a good idea," I say. "Let's get to know each other."
At the dining room table, I take the seat at one end while Pike sits in the chair at the other. Raymond and Oscar sit on the same side, facing the living room, with the flatscreen TV on the wall behind them. Chuck sits on the other side but at Pike's end of the table.
A commercial for toothpaste is playing, while up in the corner, it's a scene from "The Killing" with Sterling Hayden.
"Is this the whole team?" I ask Pike.
"This is everyone," Pike says.
"Except for Sammy," Raymond adds.
"And Miles and Edgar," Chuck says.
"Listen," I say to Chuck. "I'm sorry about your friend. But he crossed the line when he got in my face before I knew who he was. And I gave him a chance to back off, but he kept coming. Isn't that right, Pike?"
Again, Pike looks like he's choking down something he can't quite swallow.
"That's one way to put it," he says.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Chuck asks him. "You said he ripped Miles's head off as he was getting on the elevator! After he'd already taken your guns away!"
"Yeah," says Pike. "I said that. But he's right about Miles coming at him."
"And I'm supposed to believe that Edgar just went psycho?" Chuck says. He's worked up enough that he's looking at me now.
"You know," I say. "Out in the real world, when monsters like us meet, it usually ends with one of us dead."
"How long you been one of us?" Oscar asks.
"Longer than you've been alive," I tell him. "And I'm not exactly sure I'm one of you yet."
"Longer than Sammy?" asks Oscar.
"What do you think?" I reply.
No one says anything for a moment, and I smile at Chuck. He's stopped looking at me. Instead he just keeps glancing at Pike.
"Are there many of us out there?" Raymond asks.
"Not many," I say. "But we do occasionally meet."
"So it's kill or be killed," says Chuck.
Quicker than he can react, I move, coming out of my chair to stand next to him, leaning down into his face.
"That's right, Chuck," I say. "So you better be ready."
No one moves. They're shocked. I could easily kill them all right now, without resorting to the pistol. It'd be interesting to try, anyway.
But I just sit back into my chair.
"And from what I see," I continue. "You guys are nowhere near ready."
"So you're saying that Sammy brought you in to whip us into shape," Raymond says. "Like some kind of consultant."
"Maybe," I tell him. Raymond looks like he could be a distinguished, middle-aged professional. Maybe a school principal or a lawyer. But I can tell he's as new as Pike. And in that uniform, he looks ridiculous.
"You looking to take over for Sammy?" Raymond asks.
"Definitely not," I say. "But I will say this. Sammy's our boss. What he says goes. But when he's not around, I'm in charge. Right, Pike?"
"Is that how Sammy sees it?" asks Chuck.
"That's how it is," I say.
I hear the front door open. I stand, and so does everyone else.
Sammy comes in. He's dressed casually, in a white shirt, a black sportcoat, and jeans.
"Well, now that you've introduced yourselves," he says. "I think it's time we get to work."
Note: you can start at the beginning of the story here. Or backtrack to chapter 19 by clicking here.
Comments? Questions? Criticism?