(Warning: There's R-rated content below.)
Here are the first 4 chapters of Bloodsucking Vegas: a vampire noir.
The novel itself is available from Amazon.
Chapter 1:Just before he dies, Elmore says to me, "You need to go to Las Vegas."
We're on a deserted beach somewhere north of La Paz when he tells me this, him in a lounge chair, bundled in a poncho and his old Dodgers cap, and me squatting next to him and both of us staring out at the Gulf of California. It's just before dawn.
"Why do you say that?" I ask.
"This," he says and holds out a key.
"Aren't you full of surprises," I say. "What's this to?"
I like Elmore, and he seems at peace. But this really is a surprise.
"Why would I want to go there?" I ask.
"It's paid for," he says. "Be a good place to crash for a while. Plus, in the gun safe in my bedroom closet is some money. And you could renew the plates on the camper. Give yourself another year with it."
It takes him forever to say all that, and he spends the next few moments catching his breath. But his hand is still out held out to me.
I take the key from him.
"The combination for the safe is in my wallet," Elmore says.
"I'll think about it," I say.
Elmore adds, "The girls would love it there."
Neither of us says anything for a while. To the east, over the ocean, the sky is lightening up, already past gray, but the moon still hangs in the sky directly overhead, bright and mute. There's almost no wind, but, underneath his poncho, Elmore is shivering.
"Tell them thanks," he says. His voice is low and hoarse. He doesn't have long.
"They were so sweet."
"They like you, too," I tell him, which raises a chuckle from him that sounds like a cough. If I concentrate, I can hear the girls snoring in the camper where it's parked just off the highway.
"Can I ask you something?" Elmore says.
"Why me?" he asks.
I get this question a lot.
"You were in the right place at the right time," I say.
"Okay. It's because I can tell about people, just by looking at them. And I could tell you were someone I could trust."
"Yeah, I could tell you were someone at the end of the line, but you were also someone I could count on."
"Before I even told you the story of my wife."
"The story of your life?"
"Same thing," Elmore says with another chuckle that turns into a cough.
"Like I said, it's something I can tell just by looking."
"Well, it's nice to be appreciated," he says.
Another few moments pass. Then he takes in a deep breath and says, "Do you mind staying with me till I can see the sun come up?"
"Sure," I say.
Elmore knows what he's asking, but the camper is only about thirty yards away. It's a straight shot over unbroken ground. Even in full daylight, I could make that with my eyes closed.
"How long have I been down here with you?" he asks.
"I don't know," I say. "Six months."
"Eight," he says. "I just wondered if you knew. If you kept track."
I know what he's asking.
"I don't, really," I tell him.
Elmore pulls out a flask and takes a sip. His hands are slow and shaky. I smell wood smoke and turpentine mixed with a syrupy sweetness, so strong I can taste it on my tongue. Jack Daniels sour mash whiskey. He offers the flask to me. I shake my head.
"How old are you?" he asks.
"Older than you," I say. It's the answer I always give him.
Elmore takes another sip, a long one. Then he starts to hack. I put my hand on his back between his shoulder blades. His coughing calms down.
"What's the longest?" he asks, his voice now a whisper.
"Anyone's been with you. Is it me?"
"I think so," I say. "Seems like it."
"Well," he says. "It's been a good ride. Better than I deserve."
I move my hand from his back to his shoulder and give it a squeeze.
"I wasn't a good man," he says. "It took my wife getting sick to turn me around. How messed up is that?"
"You're a good man," I tell him.
He chuckles, which sets off more coughing.
"Is that why I ended up here?" he whispers between hacks.
His fit settles to rhythmic, soft coughs roughly in step with his heartbeat. The sky is now a kind of pink, bright enough to make me squint, though the sun has yet to come over the horizon.
Elmore had been sitting up but now he slumps forward, and I kneel and look at him. His eyes are closed and his breathing is so slow and shallow I can barely sense it.
I strike and quickly drain him. There isn't much left.
The next day, Marcella curses in Spanish, and the bed I'm in sways as she swerves the camper around something. She's wearing sunglasses that look like welder's goggles. Elmore's fishing glasses.
"I hate driving," she says. "I wish Elmore were here."
From the passenger seat, Zoey says, "Elmore's gone, baby."
"Yeah," Marcella says. "At least we did him right before he died."
Next to me, Alice has stopped snoring. In the dinette booth, Yesenia is drowsily humming a tune as she rests her chin on her hands. She's thinking of food. She always gets hungry after I feed on her.
I hear Zoey get up and make her way towards the back of the camper.
"It's dark," she says, but that's not all she's saying. I sit up.
"It's my turn now," she adds, and I nod, nudging Alice, who whimpers but scoots over, making room between us.
Zoey pulls her t-shirt off and crawls into bed next to me. She is smiling. With one hand, she guides my head down towards her left breast. With her other hand, she offers up a scarred nipple.
"Here," she says. "Please."
I'm already sated from Alice and Yesenia, but I oblige her. She sighs, and her head lolls back against Alice's as I sink in my fangs. Zoey quivers as I drink, and her hips push and push against me.
At the other end of the camper, in the driver's seat, Marcella gives a moan only I can hear while she scans the road and waits her turn.
Later, once Alice takes over driving, Marcella lies next to me and says, "I miss Elmore."
"Me, too," says Zoey.
I lie between them, having just fed on Marcella. Since she is the largest of my girls, she is also the quickest to recover. Like Yesenia, she does not fall asleep afterwards, at least not right away. Instead, she gets talkative.
"Who's going to pick out my outfits?" Marcella asks. "Elmore had such great taste."
"It helps that you fit into his clothes," Zoey says. Marcella reaches across me to pinch her.
"I do it," says Yesenia, yelling from the camper's kitchen where she is frying bacon. "I know what you like."
"Not everyone wears tank tops and short shorts all the time." Zoey says. "Some of us have a little fashion sense."
"I look bad?" Yesenia asks.
"You know you don't." Alice chimes in. "Us hoochies got to show what we got."
"Elmore knew how to cook, too," Marcella says. "Not just bacon all the time."
"Bacon is bad?" Yesenia asks.
"No, sweetie," Zoey says. "Marcie, baby, you know bacon's all she can cook. But at least she's cooking."
"What I wouldn't give for some of Elmore's enchiladas," says Marcella. "Or his chili."
Zoey laughs a little and reaches across to pat Marcella's shoulder.
"We'll make some soon. I remember his recipe," she says.
To me, Zoey whispers, "Think we can do some shopping soon?"
"I think so," I say.
Zoey's other hand is in my crotch, an impulse she hasn't lost, even though with Elmore gone, she's now my oldest. I let her undo my pants and stroke me. My cock is as useless as gills, but I make it rigid for her. She pulls my jeans a little farther down and then straddles me, guiding me into her. Then, as she rocks her hips back and forth on top of me, she leans over and starts kissing Marcella.
I just lay there and let them do their thing and wonder about replacing Elmore.
Just north of Santa Rosalia, we stop at a Pemex station for gas. Here, the Transpeninsular is a winding, two-lane road that runs along the rocky beach, and the Gulf of California is a rippled sheet of blue glass.
Since it's just after sunset, I decide to go with the girls into the tienda, leaving Zoey to fill the camper. Alice and Marcella descend on the racks of candy, pulling off little bags of treats, while Yesenia asks the clerk for a giant styrofoam cup of horchata.
When the clerk sees me walk up behind Yesenia, he takes a step back from the counter and stares at me, sucking his teeth. He's a long-haired, middle-aged man with tiny, wire-rimmed glasses. He's tall, but I'm taller.
"Do we have a problem, friend?" I ask him in Spanish.
"No. No, we do not," he says.
"She would like her drink." I say.
The clerk fills the cup, puts a top on it, and hands it to Yesenia, who thanks him and stabs a straw into it. Then Alice and Marcella walk up and drop their pile onto the counter, but the clerk never takes his eyes off mine. I nod.
The girls are playfully arguing in English about whose turn it is to pick the music when they get back to the camper. They pause when they notice the clerk just standing there.
"How much?" I ask. He shakes his head and quickly scans all the snacks and stammers out the total. Marcella pays him.
As we walk back to the camper, Marcella tosses a pack of gum to Zoey, who catches it just as Yesenia holds out her cup. Zoey takes a sip from the straw.
"Ooh, that's good," she says, and Yesenia giggles.
"I'll be right back," I say as the girls file back into the camper.
In the tienda, the clerk is still standing behind the counter but now he is holding a cellphone to his head. He stiffens as I come through the door and walk towards him. He closes the phone and lays it on the counter.
"You remember me," I say.
"Yes, I do," he says.
"What do you remember?"
At first he doesn't say anything. He just stands there, swallowing his own spit, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. So I ask him again.
"It's been a year," he says. "But I remember that something lived in the hills, and that children who went out past dark vanished. Then you came. You walked in here from down the beach and asked me how far it was to Cabo San Lucas. But that was not what you were truly asking."
"What was I asking?"
"You were taking the measure of me."
"What else do you remember?"
"I remember feeling, that if you asked, I would have followed you into hell."
"You believe in hell?"
"More than I do in heaven."
"But I never asked you for anything but directions."
"You found me wanting," the clerk says. "For which I am grateful."
"You only saw me once, and then only for a moment."
"Yes, but after you left, the thing in the hills disappeared. Our children stopped vanishing."
I pick up his cellphone and hold it out to him.
"What did your wife tell you?" I ask.
"She asked me if I thanked you. She teased me for being frightened of you."
"Only a fool fears what he can do nothing about."
"You've taken my measure," he says. "You know I'm a fool."
"Yet you have good eyes."
"I was taught to see by my mother. And my wife is also gifted."
I turn and begin walking towards the door.
"I am headed north now," I say. "Assure your wife I won't be back."
"Wait," the clerk says.
I stop and turn back around. The clerk pulls out his wallet. It's thick with money, which he takes and holds out to me.
"I just got paid," he says. "Take it."
I step up and take the sheaf of bills from him.
"My mother had a saying," the clerk tells me. "When the devil works for you, pay him as quick as you can."
When I get back to the camper, Alice is waiting for me inside the door.
"He's not coming with us?" she asks.
"He seemed nice," Marcella says as she turns the ignition key. She begins steering us away from the station.
"I thought you were going to bring more horchata," Zoey says from the passenger seat, to which Yesenia begins making loud sucking noises through her straw. Her cup is empty.
"What did you do to him?" Alice asks.
I pull the money from my pocket and hand it to her.
"I let him give me this," I say.
About 15 miles south of Mexicali, I tell Marcella to pull over. She and Alice are up front. Yesenia and Zoey are in the dinette booth, watching a movie on Elmore's portable player. "52 Pick-Up" with Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret.
It's been dark for an hour now, and traffic is light. I take Yesenia by the hand, saying, "You're coming with me."
As we step from the camper, I tell Zoey to call me once they've made it into El Centro.
"How long will it take you?" she asks.
"Couple of hours. Just call me when you get there. Now go."
"Hasta luego, Yessy," Alice calls from the passenger side window.
Yesenia doesn't say anything. She just gives a little wave as the camper pulls away.
We're surrounded by farms. I lead Yesenia away from the highway, over a small stone wall and into an orchard of fan palms. In the bright blue light of the stars, I can see the colors of everything, but Yesenia is blind without daylight. Dogs are barking, but, except for them, some wildlife, and the passing traffic, we're alone for half-a-mile in every direction.
Once we've walked about fifty yards, I stop and kneel in front of her. Her eyes are wide and unblinking, and her pursed lips quiver. But her chin is set, and her other hand is balled into a fist at her side. She's terrified, but brave. A delicious combination.
"Why do you think I took you with me?" I ask her.
She replies in Spanish.
"That's right," I tell her. "But I also picked you because you're easy to carry."
I wait while this sinks in.
"You will carry me?" she asks.
"But first," I say. "I need to feed."
"I understand," Yesenia says. She tilts her head and I strike her neck. She sighs and shivers and collapses while I drink. I catch her and stand, releasing her neck. I'm not really thirsty, but I enjoy the taste of her seasoned with fear. And she's easier to handle if she's sleeping it off.
I sling the girl over my shoulder and begin to run, circling first east and then north.
Two hours later, after stopping at an ATM machine, I'm standing outside a McDonald's while Yesenia sits at a picnic table, finishing her second cheeseburger. I am wondering whether to use Elmore's cellphone when it buzzes in my pocket.
I flip it open and hold it against my ear.
"Where are you?" I say.
"Traffic was a bitch," says Zoey. "But they just waved us through. Go figure."
"Good," I say. "We're at a McDonald's on 4th Street. Can you find it?"
"Uh, yeah," she says. "But there's a problem."
"What is it?"
"It's Alice. She took off."
Read chapter 5 here.