Underground vampire, p.22

Underground Vampire, page 22

 

Underground Vampire
 


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  “They never do.”

  “Relocation benefits for the occupant?”

  “A quick death.”

  “How do we get in?”

  “Through the front door, of course.”

  “It’s locked.”

  “Someone will open it.”

  “That only leaves Petru and Arabella?”

  “Ah, Jason, finally you reach the problem.”

  “Well?”

  “I have plans for them, personal plans, something special.”

  “With them gone we have a chance.”

  “Yes, we do.”

  “Jason,” replied Oliver, returning to the couch where he pointed at the dead Human on the floor, “get me another one of these, would you? ”

  “Of course,” was his reply, his mind already wondering.

  “Yes that would be nice, see to the Humans,” Oliver went languid on the couch, waiting for his next feeding, “and while you are at it, remind the troops that I am disappointed in their efforts, deeply disappointed.”

  Walking to the barracks, Jason considered options. The rebellion stagnated; it was only a matter of time till the Queen won the battle of attrition. Their only hope was to seize the initiative with a single bold stroke. With a secure gateway, they could wage war on her turf and access a blood supply. As it was, they had actually gone backwards trapped in the Underground, their access to blood gone, the only topside access what they could force through the Queen’s forces.

  Oliver was always on hand when one of the raiding parties was successful, first in line to feed, first to select plump Humans for himself. If that wasn’t bad enough, the damnable Arabella with her pet Human and the Indian continued their Underground sorties, picking them off in ones and twos and sometimes fours and fives until many of the insurgency refused to go into the tunnels, preferring to hide behind the barricades.

  Even if they reached the streets, the double damnable Petru had taken to patrolling the dark City. Arabella by day, Petru by night was wearing them down. Whatever Oliver planned, it had better be good and quick; they couldn’t last much longer.

  Entering the barracks, he grimaced at the fear in his Vampires’ faces. They no longer viewed him as the War leader but as their executioner, picking and choosing which should go into the tunnels, raiding to the topside. Gone were the dreams of unlimited feeding upon Humans; now they only tried to stay alive waiting to escape. Trapped between the implacable hatred of the Queen and the deepening insanity of Oliver, they had few choices and little hope. He knew that he must, one more time, inspire them to hope for victory.

  Clustering around the mesh cage situated on the long table, they crowded forward like soldiers always had at chow time. Looking around, Jason counted many more Vampires than were rats in the cage. Again, some would go hungry. Even the rats, once so plentiful, had gone away. It was almost as if even they, the rodents, were being directed what to do, a ridiculous thought that Jason pushed out of his mind to concentrate on the problem at hand.

  “Is it food you want,” he asked of the circling, crowding Vampires, “real food, I mean?” None of them answered, too smart for that. The days of volunteering were long gone he knew. These were all survivors and knew better. “Or do you want to keep eating rats?”

  That got their attention; all of these had tasted Humans and longed for another taste. In spite of themselves, they were drawn to him, so powerful was the memory of real blood. In the cage, the annoying vermin squeaked about, poking their pointed noses into the mesh, scrabbling for an escape.

  “Oliver has a plan,” he lied as honestly as he could, “a way to even the odds, to win and to feast.” The carrot better than the stick in these situations, he thought. He could see he had their attention. Most of them were no longer eyeing the rats, who had settled down hiding in the litter at the bottom of their jail.

  “Before we start, who’s up for a snatch and grab, something to stock the larder before the hard work.”

  They all perked up for this. A snatch and grab meant Humans, meant blood, meant renewal.

  Jason purred, “you will be bringing back a Human for Oliver, who will be sure to reward you.” Unspoken and implicit was the converse, that Oliver would be very disappointed and unhappy with no Human to slake his desires. Several of the Vampires nodded their assent, stepping forward to surround Jason. Spreading the city tunnel map he’d brought on the table, he outlined his plan.

  “Remember,” said Jason, winding up his presentation, “snatch and grab, we need Humans to replenish our stock.” The work finished, he reached into the cage plucking out a fat wriggling rat, which he handed to the leader of the team. “Here,” he said, “the next time you feed it will be on Humans.”

  The rest crowded around, the sight of the one feeding too much for them. Holding up his hands, Jason screamed, “Hold it,” and the Vampires all stopped lunging for the crazed rats running about the cage. “Only those on the team will feed, it is only fair.” He stood as the team gorged on the rats. The others will learn, he thought, you eat what you kill and if you are not willing to fight you will not eat.

  CHAPTER 24

  Petru slid from the limousine, stepping into the wet darkness of the downtown alley. He stood for a moment watching the limo pull away from the curb, returning his Mistress to the mansion on Queen Anne hill. It disturbed him to be away from her; so strong was his allegiance, separation caused him physical distress.

  As was her wont, she had first taken him as a lover and, treasuring his violent nature, turned him instead of killing him when her passions turned to another. Servant, soldier, herald, spy, he did as she instructed without question. He kept the peace and enforced her rules. Usually, his authority and personal power were sufficient to suppress any threat. On the occasion when a Vampire directly challenged him or flouted his authority, he was decisive. What he lacked in subtlety he made up with sheer ruthlessness and a penchant for unique ways of destroying his rivals, a vestige of his Balkan heritage, no doubt.

  Partial to chaining Vampires to the ground so they could watch death approach as the sun advanced from the east, most considered him a sadist and were terrified of him. Sheltered in the shadows, he would watch as the early morning rays burnt the feet then the wretch's legs then the naked torso, all the while raising welts and pustule sores until the screaming, doomed Vampire spontaneously combusted and burned like white phosphorus in the pure morning light. The exercise always made him happy.

  Tonight might lead to such pleasures, for his Mistress had charged him to patrol the streets thwarting Oliver’s Vampires access to topside. Arabella by day Petru by night; simple and effective.

  An old school Vampire, he did not trust Humans; when the lion lays with the lambs, the lambs get ideas. His medieval roots and life since taught him that survival was a series of widening concentric circles with the Ruler at the center. The next circle was those, like him, made by her, the mother. The third circle was those they had made, and so on. Each circle owed its existence and allegiance to the previous; while the system did not guarantee permanent loyalty, it served to knit the community together, making dissent difficult.

  Arabella was not in a circle; she was independent, a free floating self-contained comet that at any moment could smash into the cosmology and just as quickly flee, leaving death and damage. Petru was not offended by her petty insults. He was offended by her very existence and longed to terminate her as expeditiously as possible.

  He had no illusions about Arabella and was sure he could defeat her in single combat, but she was vastly experienced as a hunter killer and would be a formidable opponent. And, most disturbing, she’d managed to leverage the Oliver problem to establish a private force within the Clan. Comprising Humans, it was an unknown quantity in a chaotic time. First he would dispose of Oliver, then he would deal with Arabella.

  However, he had no intention of tackling her alone. When the time came, and it would be soon, there would be more than enough who would volunteer to be able to
say they were present when the legend was captured and destroyed. Her Humans could be disposed of at the same time. They knew too much and were becoming too successful at Vampire slaying. But tonight he was not here for her; that would come later. He was nothing if not patient; living for six hundred years had taught him that the wheel turned, and with it the revenge he sought.

  Tonight his route took him along King Street and into the International District. He turned off King and circled around to the Blue Anchor. He walked past the doorway and spotted the old man behind the bar. “Remarkable,” he thought, “this one looks exactly like his forefathers.” The Big Indian was playing shuffleboard with a couple of Vampires tasked with guarding the basement. He glared at them and they abruptly ran for the stairs. The Indian acknowledged him by raising his beer. He looked forward to eating that one when the time came.

  He planned to return just before the 2:00 am closing time, which gave him a couple of hours to reconnoiter the neighborhood. His route took him the long way, but allowed him the time and freedom to inspect the streets and alleys, doorways, nooks and crannies. It had been too long since he’d patrolled the streets, and he’d forgotten how much he enjoyed abusing Vampires. The recently made did not appreciate his power and he took pleasure in forcing proper obeisance. Perhaps when this was over he would spend more time in public; he found that he missed making inferiors grovel.

  Ambling along, he spotted a group of young Vampires lounging under the umbrellas of Hing Way Park. Veering off Maynard and into the park, he marched directly to the group, his manner an open challenge. The Vampires shifted uneasily, which Petru accepted as his due, Vampires and Humans should be discomfited if not terrorized by his presence. As the bodyguard to his Mistress, he was used to deference and expected respect as a matter of right. There was nothing like a bit of the old bowing and scraping to make a Lord happy and to remind the commoners where their noses belonged.

  The young Vamps rose, a bit tardily thought Petru, at his approach. “Respect is eroding,” he thought, “I really must teach them some manners.” Into their midst he strode, as arrogant as the Lord enjoying droit du seigneur with the prettiest maid in the village, and looked each of them in the face establishing the hierarchy. They were under the tile-roofed pagoda erected in the center of the brick shod park. He went up the two steps between the red columns and stood in the middle, as unconcerned as a dominant Vampire could be.

  Turning, he realized that he didn’t recognize any of them, which startled him. “Recite your lineage,” he ordered, expecting to hear the name of their maker and his maker and so on back to the Queen.

  “Oliver,” a youth sneered, “I was made by him.” “Oliver, Oliver, Oliver,” they chanted “Oliver, Oliver.”

  “Silence,” he barked, infuriated at the insolence, “Impossible. He is gone and I know all his progeny, identify yourselves now or I will punish you.”

  “We were made before he was taken,” said the one he took to be the leader.

  “If you were made by him, where have you been, how have you lived? Answer me truthfully or I will kill you now.” To emphasize, he reached out grabbing the throat of the leader, squeezing just enough to cut off the air but not hard enough to break any bones. Hard enough to let them know he would not tolerate dissent, that there were consequences, painful and sometimes permanent consequences.

  He thought that he would be coming down here often, he so enjoyed the consequences part of his duties; perhaps it would be better to kill this one now to make his point. If he did, the others would be so much more compliant. Raising his arm he lifted the young Vampire off the ground and shook him a bit to get his attention. He thought about asking again who his maker was, but realized that might be taken as weakness on his part, so he let him dangle while he considered crushing his throat. “While you are thinking of your answer, you might also explain what you are doing above ground.”

  Distracted by his thoughts, blinded by arrogance, he did not sense the movement behind him as the group flashed forward, wooden stakes appearing from concealed pockets, the stakes plunging into him. The sharpened oak punctured him all over and he dropped the one he was holding, shrinking from the unexpected pain burning in ancient muscles.

  Astonished at the temerity of his attackers, he lashed out with his nails looking to savage as many as possible, but they were relentlessly stabbing him, forcing him to the ground so that he found himself on his back, his arms and legs uselessly flailing about penetrated by the staves. The leader, a youth affecting a leather jacket over a black t-shirt with The Ramones printed in white treacle stood over him, rubbing at the blotches on his neck. Petru realized with a shock that he was incapacitated. “Release me,” he said, struggling like an insect tortured by children, “Do you know who I am?”

  The leader leaned forward and spat into his face. “Be quiet,” he whispered, “we know exactly who you are and what we are doing.” Turning to the circling Vampires he whispered loud enough for Petru to hear, “If he makes any noise cut out his tongue,” then he disappeared into the shadows.

  Two of the Vampires retrieved backpacks hidden under the pagoda, bringing back chains and cuffs. Working silently, the Vamps drove the stakes through the muscles of his calves and thighs so that he could not move, then pulled the stakes pinning his legs, forced his legs together, cuffed his ankles and wrapped the chain around his legs, securing it to the cuffs. They repeated the procedure with his arms, after first driving stakes through his biceps, triceps and chest muscles. When they were finished, he resembled a caterpillar wrapped in a chain cocoon.

  A police car cruising down Maynard stopped when the officers saw the group. Turning on the light bar, two uniformed officers exited the car and walked toward the group, flashlights in one hand the other resting comfortably on their guns. Two of the Vampires quickly walked to them, stared into their eyes until they were in control and said, “Nothing is happening here, go back to your car, turn off the light and leave, nothing is happening here.” The officers did as they were told, remarking as they left, “That was nothing.”

  As they drove off the leader returned, escorting Oliver. Petru locked his gaze on Oliver and concentrated his stare, willing Oliver to bend to his will. Unperturbed, Oliver walked up to him, held out his hand so a Vamp could hand him a stake, bent over the chained Petru and pushed the stake through his cheek then forced it between Petru’s jaws and out the other cheek.

  “Hello, Petru,” he said conversationally, “it must be terribly difficult to talk with that thing in your mouth. Would you like me to remove it?” he asked, like Petru had a tiny splinter in his finger. Petru gave a short nod and Oliver pulled the stake out an inch or two then pushed it back and forth sawing away at the holes in Petru’s cheeks. “I don’t know, if I take it out, you will want to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing, that the Queen will fly into a rage when she learns how you were treated, that this is treason, am I right?”

  Petru hissed and gurgled the blood and spit in his throat, he’d managed to get his tongue around the stake and the bloody red tip protruded over his lower lip like flaccid obscene flesh poking from unzipped trousers.

  “I really can’t understand a word you’re saying,” smiled Oliver, giving the stake a twist, “so there is no point in letting you talk, it would be so boring.”

  Petru continued hissing, blood bubbling from the holes in his cheeks, popping in rhythm with his ragged breath.

  “It’s time to go, Petru, are you ready? We’ve picked out the perfect spot for you. I wanted to put you away in a box for a very long time, but my friends pointed out that I came back and we can’t have you coming back now, can we?”

  Petru came to the realization that they meant to end his life. Vampires, though certainly not immortal, can live for a very long time. After a few hundred years, they begin to believe they will last forever. Some succumb to a great lassitude at this time; depressed by boredom they cease to feed and in effect waste away. Others, like Petru, come to see them
selves as eternal masters of life, indestructible. As they become more powerful they are accorded great deference among the People of the Night, which reinforces their self-image of invincibility. With this self-image comes hubris, which for Vampires, like Humans, results in a bad and usually violent ending.

  Petru’s demise was slow, painful and legal, conducted fully in accordance with the Protocols of Procedure for the Destruction of Vampires enacted at the Fourth Symposium of the Central Committee of the Worldwide Vampire Congress. Chained to a cedar tree in a high alpine meadow on the dry side of the Cascades, he looked into the deep blue of the Eastern sky and watched as the Dog Star and Crescent Moon faded into light for the last time.

  One of Oliver’s minions read the charges, which consisted of terroristic threats to the order of society, a common catch-all, which allowed whoever was in authority or claimed authority to do whatever they wanted without explanation.

  At the conclusion, Petru was asked if he wished to make a statement and he nodded his assent, still unable to speak since they had sewn his lips together to stop his infernal hissing, which was deemed disrespectful to the proceedings. It would take a moment for one of the young Vamps to remove the sutures from his lips, so the Court adjourned the proceedings and the Vampires retired to snack upon Humans they’d brought along for just this purpose. Observing the proprieties, the Magistrate stood off to one side sipping from the neck of a Human provided for his own use, so no one could question his impartiality.

  Once they pulled the stake from Petru’s cheeks, the hearing resumed and, predictably, Petru demanded to see those who spoke against him so that he might hear their accusations and question them. It was difficult to understand him because rather than remove the sutures, the Vampire ripped them out, tearing both his lips to shreds so, as he tried to speak, his lips fluttered like red ribbons in a breeze, causing his pronunciation to suffer, to the delight of all present.

  His request was denied on the grounds of state security and the stake was reinserted into his mouth and his lips were again sewn shut, as it appeared he had no other evidence to produce and the Court found the slobbering disgusting, annoying and unproductive.

 
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