Here is the preview of chapters 22 & 23 of my vampire novel. "Bloodsucking Vegas" is its current title, and it works on a couple of levels. But I'm still open to suggestions. Enjoy.
Now we're all sitting at Edgar's dining room table, except for Sammy, who's standing. He has a hand on Chuck's shoulder.
"Now, I assume everyone's been fed already," he says. They all nod, and Sammy continues, "So let's go over your assignments."
He points to Raymond.
"You roust the livestock and get them back home for the night," Sammy says. "Then you do your normal rounds. Same with you, Pike. And I want those reports on-time or earlier. You can text. It doesn't have to be email. It doesn't even have to be complete sentences. So, no excuses."
"Yes, sir," Pike says.
"And, Pike," Sammy continues. "The next time you get wind of a wanderer coming onto one of our properties, do not wait an hour before telling me. What if Henry here had left before I got the chance to recruit him?"
"Yes, sir," Pike repeats.
"Another thing," Sammy says. "Remember the rule about biting. You have to clear it with me, unless it's a contact. No exceptions. It happens again, and I won't just punish the biter. The next unauthorized bite is going to cost the entire team."
"Hey," Oscar pipes up. "Miles was the biter."
"Well," says Sammy. "The next bite costs everyone a month's cut. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but it's time we enforced some professionalism here. Besides, Miles never fed on a contact, now did he, Oscar?"
Oscar hangs his head and looks at his hands.
"And what happens when we feed on a contact, Oscar?" Sammy asks.
"It costs us double," Oscar mumbles.
"That's right," Sammy says. "It costs us double. More, actually. Because now you've turned a contact into livestock, and we have to cultivate a whole new contact."
Oscar shrugs without looking up.
Sammy squeezes Chuck's shoulder.
"Now, since Edgar is no longer with us," Sammy says. "I'll need you to pick up his route."
"Got it," Chuck says, nodding.
"This means you meet every contact and report everything they tell you," Sammy says.
"I'm on it," Chuck says to him.
"It's a lot of responsibility," Sammy continues. "And you have to be nice."
"I'm ready for this," Chuck responds.
"You do realize," Sammy says. "That you have Henry to thank for your promotion."
"What?" he says.
"Thank him, Chuck," Sammy says. "Go ahead."
Chuck looks at me.
"Shake his hand and thank him," Sammy says, pulling Chuck to his feet. "It's what you do for people who help you get ahead."
Chuck takes a couple of steps towards me and holds out his hand.
"Thanks, Henry," he says.
I play along, stepping up and taking his hand and shaking it.
"You're welcome," I tell him.
We go back to our seats.
"Now, I didn't make you do this as just a team-building exercise," he says to Chuck. "I honestly think Henry here has done us a great service."
Sammy then takes the seat between me and Chuck.
"How's that, exactly?" asks Raymond.
"I'm glad you asked," Sammy says. "See, before Henry arrived, here we were, working our network and building our team, and we had no idea how soft we were. We were insulated. Protected. We had become comfortable."
He points to me.
"But then Henry comes," he continues. "And he challenges us. He sees us for what we are, and he has shown us where we need to improve. In the end, I think Henry has come here to make us better."
"So Miles and Edgar were weak," Chuck says.
"Exactly, and teams are only as strong as their weakest member," Sammy says. Again, he puts his hand on Chuck's shoulder. "It's a hard lesson, I know," he continues.
"He says he's second-in-command," Pike says.
Sammy smiles at me.
"I think that's a fair assessment of the situation," he says. He looks back at Pike and says, "Unless, of course, you wish to challenge his authority. I mean, I like to reward proven talent. So would you like to put your talents up against his?"
Pike looks at me and goes slack-jawed. He shakes his head.
"Um, what do I do?" asks Oscar.
"You're with me," Sammy tells him. "You and I are going to help Henry clean up his mess."
Soon, I'm in the master bedroom with Sammy and Oscar. Pike and Chuck have left, and I hear Raymond waking the girls up in the living room.
"Fuck that," says one of them. It sounds like Renee. "It's early," she says. "Let's party."
"You know the rules," I hear Raymond telling her. "Just be back by morning and keep your cellphone on."
The girls start making whoops as they go out the front door.
"So, second-in-command," Sammy says to me as he gestures towards Edgar. "Any ideas?"
"Are you going to tell me you don't already have a procedure for this?" I say to him. "You've got a high-rise full of vampires and livestock."
Sammy laughs. To Oscar, he says, "Go get the stuff from under the sink."
While Oscar heads for the kitchen, I ask Sammy, "What's this about routes?"
"Connections," Sammy replies. "I have a network to maintain. I can't do it alone."
Oscar comes back with a box of trash bags and a roll of duct tape.
"Your job is to get Edgar here all packaged up," Sammy tells me. "Oscar will go down to the garage and pull a van around. We'll take the staircase down."
"You don't own the whole building?" I ask.
"It's complicated, and it's a big building" he says. "But I'm working on it. I didn't think it would be wise to house the team in one of our resorts."
I look at what Oscar's holding.
"You expect me to chop him up?" I ask.
"That would be our normal procedure," Sammy says. "If this were livestock."
I say, "But because this is one of us, we do something different."
Now I've got my phone in my left hand and Edgar's shrouded body slung over my right shoulder, and I'm standing just inside Edgar's front door. The bedspread is held tight with bands of duct tape.
"It's clear," Sammy's voice says over the phone. "Come on out."
I pull the door open and sprint down the hallway to where Sammy is holding the door to the staircase.
We go down as fast as we can, with Sammy following me, jumping whole flights of stairs with a single stride. We make it to ground level inside of a minute.
Before we go through the door, Sammy calls Oscar.
"Are we good?" Sammy asks into his phone. When he nods at me, I go out into the parking garage.
We're just a couple of yards from the elevators I used earlier, but no one's around. Right in front of me, Oscar is at the back of a white windowless van with its rear doors open. I jump into it with Edgar, and Oscar slams the doors shut.
I drop Edgar in the back of the van and, as I slide into the passenger seat, I see Sammy's limo roll past us. Oscar gets into the driver's seat and guns it, almost rear-ending the limousine.
"Easy, kid," I say.
"Sorry," says Oscar.
We follow the limo out onto the street and head west. Then, at the light, we go north on the Strip. Oscar has the radio on some hiphop station with commercials between every song.
"Where we headed?" I ask.
"The lab," Oscar replies. He begins mouthing the words to the rap song on the radio while easing us into the left lane behind Sammy's limo.
I roll down the window to let in some of the night air. Vehicle exhaust clouds the scent of the crowds on the sidewalks. And even though I'm full, it's intoxicating.
A truck passes us in the center lane. It has a glass cage on its bed. The edges of the cage are outlined in pink neon and there's a giant, lighted sign on top. CRAZY'S. Inside the cage, a woman in a bikini dances around a brass pole.
"Technically, that's illegal," he says. "But Sammy keeps all the right wheels greased."
"Sammy owns that place?" I ask.
"Not on paper," Oscar says. He chuckles. "One time," he tells me, "The cops tried to shut those trucks down. Said it was unsafe because the girls didn't have seatbelts. So we just tied the girls to the poles in, you know, a very suggestive way. And we put a sign on the side saying something like 'Come to Crazy's Where These Girls Get Turned Loose!' It turned the whole thing into a news story. Best publicity you could imagine."
On our right is the
Sahara, with its rollercoaster running along its front. Looming ahead of us is the needle-topped spire of the . Stratosphere Tower
Oscar puts the van in the left-turn lane.
"When did Sammy turn you?" I ask.
"Well, it was right after I got the security job," he replies. "I'd put in for it, did the interview, and they told me I had to get this check-up to make sure I was healthy enough for the job."
He shakes his head.
"No, wait," he continues. "It was after that. I got the job, and at orientation, Sammy was there. So was Edgar."
The left-turn arrow comes on. First, the limo goes, then we do.
"It must have been then," Oscar says. "I just remember him walking up and saying, 'Congratulations.' Then bang. I wake up like this."
He goes back to mouthing the words to the song on the radio.
We roll further west and then, after going under the Interstate, we turn north on
"How'd you feel when you realized what Sammy did to you?" I ask.
"Oh, I was pissed," Oscar says. "But I got over it. I mean, Sammy's a persuasive dude. And he basically made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Besides, why would I want to?"
"How does your family feel about how you've changed?" I ask.
"What family?" Oscar says. "I'm an orphan. I was living out of my pickup when I got the porter's job. Now I got a nice place, lots of women, and more money than I can spend."
"Yeah," I say. "It seems like a good gig."
"Sure is," Oscar says. "And now, with you, we're total badasses. I mean, I'm not real happy about Miles and Edgar, but you gotta know I'm cool with you being the new right-hand man. I'm down with the program, with you teaching us some moves."
"Well," I say. "I've never really been part of a team before."
"Feels good," says Oscar. "Don't it?"
We turn right on
Charleston Boulevard, go down a block and take another right, driving around the side of a square, two-story building. Ahead of us, Sammy's limo stops at the entrance, but we keep going to the back, where there's a recessed loading dock.
Oscar backs the van up to the dock, leaving just enough room to open the rear doors.
I get out of the van and come around just as Oscar pops the rear doors from the inside.
The dock is unlit, but that's not a problem for us.
On the dock, there's an open set of doors leading into the building, and Oscar steps out of the van, turns and picks up Edgar with both hands, and heaves Edgar through the open doors like a missile.
Oscar jumps onto the dock, following Edgar's flying corpse. I do the same.
Edgar travels feet-first for a couple of yards at about knee-level before hitting the floor of the long, brightly-lit hallway and skidding like a log down a flume. The shrouded corpse comes to a stop at the feet of an old man in a white lab frock.
I almost swear out loud.
Another fucking vampire.
As we get closer, I size him up. He has the appearance of an elderly white man, complete with liver spots and a bald head and bristly white eyebrows and big bushy mustache that almost makes me crack up.
But, as a vampire, he's not as old as I am. And he knows it.
"How's it going, Doc?" Oscar asks. "This is Henry."
I hold out my hand and the lab-frocked vampire takes it. I give his hand a friendly shake but I don't let go.
"Glad to meet you," I say. "What should I call you?"
"A pleasure," he says to me. "Call me Doc. It's what everyone calls me."
I can't place his accent. He's worked hard to make it sound American.
"What's your real name?" I ask him. "The one you had before you were turned."
His smile is gone. I squeeze his hand and step into him, taking his shoulder with my other hand and pulling him to me until our noses almost touch.
"Tell me," I say. I can feel Sammy getting closer, so I don't have much time. I squeeze his shoulder, coming close to snapping his collarbone. He winces. "Tell me," I say again.
"Josef," he stammers. "Josef Mengele."
Comments? Questions? Criticism?