Vampires 1: The Cop and the Peddler


A Horror Story by Alexis Feynman

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I hadn't seen Marcus LaLaine in a long time. Not since I'd headed the raid that took down the strip club where we'd proven he'd been trafficking cocaine. I'd never forgotten the look on his face when he realized I was the one who'd blown the whistle. Betrayal, then rage. The purest rage I'd ever seen on a man's face.

I didn't see any of that on his face now. In fact, the pale-skinned man who stared into my car barely resembled Marcus at all, hidden under a mass of shaggy black hair and more than a few fresh scars. His expression was unreadable - no, hollow. He stared blankly at the body of my dead partner, as if unconscious of the fact that he had snapped her neck himself. His tongue grazed his cracked lips, and I caught a glimpse of something I wasn't expecting: fangs.

I fought the urge to grab for my pistol as my mind took in this information. I'd seen vampires before - in the light of day, in the unbreakable torpor that they enter to protect themselves from the sun. Never at night, and with good reason. Go up against a waking vampire, and you're as good as dead - and if I turned on Marcus, he was sure to return the favor.

After a moment, he looked back up at me, and again I remembered that he could have killed me by now. I still half expected him to, but even after glancing at my gun hand, he looked at me like we'd just met to talk business over drinks.

"I heard you killed my ex-wife," he said.

That had happened sometime after his disappearance, once we discovered the actual extent of Tanya's involvement with the cocaine ring. To put it nicely, she was an even bigger dealer when her husband. Things had turned ugly when we tried to expose her, and the innocent middle-class housewife had turned out to be anything but. I nodded.

"Much obliged," he said, and turned away.

I was still half-waiting for him to kill me, but it never happened. In what seemed like seconds, he'd disappeared into the darkness.

I couldn't move. I didn't even know how to react. The world around me seemed to be spinning. The only solid fixture was the fog that glowed faintly in the light from the dying streetlamps.

And then, another voice: "Hey."

I looked out the car window, expecting to see Marcus again, but it wasn't him. There were three this time - a tall man, a woman, and a third man who was shorter than them both. They all looked sick - almost emaciated - and there was no mistaking the glint of their fangs.

"Marcus says we're not going to kill you," said the shortest one. He reminded me of Marcus, in a way. Same long, black hair, same blankly calculating expression. He was younger, though, and a whole lot prettier. In a way that made me even more nervous. "Says you helped him out."

I was afraid to answer, but under the circumstances it would probably be worse if I didn't. "That's right."

"Well, we've got a bit of a conflict here," he said, "because Toby here doesn't think we should let you live. Toby wants to kill everybody." He inclined his head toward the tall man, who stared at me with undisguised hunger. "Especially cops."

I didn't even need to weigh my options. I had enough experience with these creatures to know: there was only one way for this to play out.

"Get out of the car," the pretty one ordered.

I obeyed. On another night I might have considered myself safer in the car, but tonight there was one dead body in it already. The three of them spread out as I joined them in the late-night fog, glancing between me and each other, as if trying to decide what to do with me.

"Marcus did say to let her live," the leader reminded Toby, with a tone that suggested he wasn't really bothered either way.

"I don't care," Toby hissed, snapping his fangs at me with shuddering anticipation. "I'm hungry. I need to feed on somebody tonight."

The leader said nothing. Toby and I took that to mean permission.

I didn't run, though I sure as hell couldn't explain why not. Between dying and not dying I'll pick the latter any day. But I felt like I couldn't. It was like I had known from the minute these creatures appeared that things would turn out this way, and no matter how I desired to live there was only one way it could end: with Toby's teeth deep in my neck.

It didn't take him long. The bite was painful, but not as painful as the impact when my head hit the ground. As he slurped and sucked at the wound, I could already feel my strength fading. If there had been an opportunity to fight back at some point, I had lost it. I could barely move my limbs now. I was starting to feel... well, dead is the only word I could use to describe it. My lungs failed to breathe of their own accord, and it took all of my waning strength to bring air into them. My limbs felt heavy and useless and everything ached dully.

"Hey!" I heard the leader's voice, sounding panicked now. "Hey! Stop!"

He tried to pull Toby off me, but it wasn't until Marcus' bulky figure joined him that the vampire finally dislodged, struggling and snapping at the both of them until they threw him to the ground. I had an inkling that, for all his posturing, the prettyboy wasn't quite as high on the totem pole as I'd given him credit for. Marcus knelt over me, looking... upset. Wounded, even. Then suddenly determined.

"I'm going to save your life," he said.

I tried to shake my head. Tried to protest, because I knew what he meant - and what it would mean for me. But I lacked the strength even to say a word. I was dying and there was only one way to change that.

He sliced his wrist open - I couldn't see with what - and held it over me. Thick, hot blood trickled into my mouth and nose, almost nauseating with the stench of decay. My throat reacted, suddenly invigorated by the taste, swallowing and then swallowing again. Desperate for life despite the circumstances. He lowered his arm to my mouth, and my body wrapped itself around it despite my saner self's protests. Suddenly, I needed this. It felt like I'd been waiting for it my entire life. I was ready for it - ready to give everything up. No real friends, a job I could take or leave... nothing, really. Nothing at all that I wouldn't happily trade for a second chance at life.

Pain suddenly gripped my stomach, and I fell back onto the concrete, too dazed this time to feel the blow as my body assailed me with a series of cramps. My limbs spasmed, head rolling as my body tried to fight the gift it had been given, my consciousness powerless to fight it. Cold spread through my body like I'd been dumped into water, and as it reached my face my mind seemed to decide it had had enough. I faded from consciousness with relief.

I awoke feeling cold. Cold, sore, hungry, and achingly thirsty, but unlike before, I was alive. I could move again. I tried to pick myself up, but my hand found only air and I realized I was in the back of a car. Forcing my sluggish mind to deal with this new information, I adjusted my position and pulled myself upright. Another minute of concentration and I was staggering out the open car door into the too-bright glare of an overhead set of fluorescents.

There was a hand at my side instantly, holding me up as my body threatened to fail me. "Easy," Marcus said. "Easy." There was a softness to his voice that I'd never heard before. In all the times that he'd... what had he done? All I could remember right now was that he was some kind of criminal, but after that... well, he'd gotten tangled up with some illegal shit, obviously, but right now he seemed to be the glue keeping these people together. And he'd saved my life. That seemed like the most important piece of information.

"Everyone's about to pass out right now," he said. "The sun's about to come up. There's a crate you can lean on, or you can just pull up a piece of floor if you're more comfortable."

The other three were leaning against a concrete wall, chatting about something I didn't care to overhear. I wasn't ready to sleep yet, though. "I'm hungry," I said.

"We'll get you something later," Marcus replied.

I nodded. I wasn't yet so miserable as to protest, although my stomach's complaints reminded me of some of my earlier years, back when money hadn't been so easy to come by. Nothing I hadn't slept through before, and the silent vampire - the woman who had hung back while Toby had had his way with me - motioned for me to sit next to her. It seemed like there was some reason for me to refuse, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what that might be, so I made myself somewhat comfortable between her and Toby. Poor guy, I thought. Like a dog. He just didn't understand these rules that the rest of us lived by. His companion needed to do a better job keeping him in check.

Across from us was a tall pane of glass that I at first took for a window, but when I saw a pair of reflections I realized I was looking at a mirror. The shorter man and the woman were visible in it; Toby and I were not. I made a mental note to ask Marcus about this later.

I was tired. I hadn't slept in hours; my trip into undeath didn't really count. Sleep was already tugging at the back of my mind, and I gave into it with a mildly strained sigh. There were still questions I need answered, and blood to obtain, but all of that could wait until we were safely out of the sun.