I found my mark in the hotel bar. Young enough, comely, blathering on about his yacht. It should have been easy. Slide up, flash a smile, take him back to my suite…
“I hardly think so,” he scoffed.
The proverbial straw. All the anger I’d felt for the past two nights came back to me in that moment. Gloria’s hired agents, her death before I could respond, Eve’s smirking face as she took my lands, losing everything in one stroke. I felt the beast inside me, snarling at this new slight. Red hot rage. I didn’t even try to reign it in.
He didn’t see me coming. He had no defense against me, no time to raise his hands to deflect the blow or protect his neck. My fingers twined through that mop of curly hair, jerking his head back, neck exposed for my fangs to slide right in. I tasted the sweet nectar of his blood for one brief moment before my eyes were drawn to the doorway of the bar. The yacht boy slipped from my fingers into a bloody heap on the floor, broken spine collapsing once I no longer held him up.
The anger inside of me reigned itself in to make room for the curiosity of the Beast. It stretched out toward this newcomer – assessing, sizing him up. His beast rose to meet mine; in the instant our eyes locked my feral self was satisfied. I had time to cringe at the black hat and brown trench coat combo before I knew that something was off, that he was reacting negatively to the taint. I expected fear, expected him to run; I’d encountered that reaction often enough in my many years of unlife. I didn’t expect the attack, the weapon. He reached beneath his coat to grasp the stake.
I was off and running in a heartbeat. He blocked the only exit in the bar; I barreled toward him at full speed, launching myself into the air at just the right moment to dive over his head and tumble past him. The stake grazed my arm. I shook it off and kept running. The lobby loomed in front of me: front desk, outside, elevator, staircase. Into the stairwell, crouching behind the door…then lunging for him as he came in, fist exploding for his face. No dice; he stepped aside and flashed out with the stake again, another arm wound.
I took off up the stairs. Floor two, three, four. He was hot on my heels. Could I make it to 20? He made a grab for me. I launched myself over the railing, free falling to the first floor landing. I felt something pierce my back as I slammed into the ground. No time to check it – out the door and into the lobby again, just in time to watch the front desk clerk slam the phone back into its cradle. No time for that, for the mess I’d made in the bar. I spilled out onto the street, head whipping both ways to find a way out of this mess. A crowded area, somewhere I could blend in with the mortals. He wouldn’t breach the masquerade, would he?
I didn’t get the chance to find out. I was half a block away from a long line of people when I felt him at my back. I whirled on him, letting him see the feral inside of me, twisting my features into a monstrous countenance. I watched his eyes widen; he reigned up in terror, turned on his heel, and fled.
My relief was instantaneous but short-lived. Hunger rose up inside of me – I needed to feed. My eyes scanned the street, landing on a young man in a green jacket with dreadlocks. He seemed unsteady on his feet, staggering with a glazed look in his eye. An easy mark. He mumbled something about “Crust Juice” as I lured him into an alley. I went for the neck, drained him dry. His body slumped to the ground and I stripped him of the ugly green jacket, rummaging through the pockets for anything of interest.
And then I waited. I’d made a mess in the hotel bar by tearing the man to shreds in front of witnesses. I knew the bartender at least had seen the fangs; I could tell by the fear I saw in his eyes as I stepped away. I needed to take care of that.
He emerged some few hours later. It was easy enough to convince him to forget he saw me at all, but as he walked away I wondered if it would be best to have him removed from the picture entirely. I would take it up with Angelo.
The next evening I rose with Angelo on my mind. I had been forced to find a new hotel because of the event last night, leaving me without easy access to him. I called his room at the Ritz, left a message, and within thirty seconds he was on the line. He agreed to move hotels; he and his men took a separate room down the hall from me and deposited Otto in my closet. I have a vague notion of what to do with him.
Angelo spent the evening teaching me to use a mobile phone – it was a frustrating five hours. I told him he’d need to lie low during our time in New York, at least until I figured out the local opinion on ghouls. He brought up the Embrace again, and again I put him off. Right now he’s more useful to me alive. He can learn things that I have a harder time picking up. He can walk around during the day. And then there is the curse of my bloodline. It is not something I would wish upon an enemy, let alone someone whom I regard so fondly.
When we returned from shopping for cell phones I found a visitor in my room. The local Sheriff, if he can be believed. He asked after the potential breach in the masquerade and I brushed it aside, but he did give me some interesting news: the bartender did not report for work this evening. I will need to find out what has happened to him. I was given the Prince’s court location and sent the man on his way. Only after he left did I realize I could have used this opportunity to explain my presence in the city.
Perhaps next time.