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A small woman dressed like a beggar sat by the fountain. Locks of her shorn raven hair peeked out from under her veils. She was beautiful and sad. She didn’t ask for alms.
“Here, lady.” A flower seller, a boy of twelve, handed her a lavender bloom. “It is the color of your eyes.”
“Thank you, child,” the woman accepted. “But you will be beaten if your master discovers you gave a flower without payment.”
“I am beaten every night.” The boy shrugged. “You look so sad. I pray the flower lifts your heart.”
“It gladdens me.” The woman studied the brave man child. “You have done a selfless thing. May you be rewarded.”
Present Day, Detroit
The universe really was that simple. At least as much as Beo understood it. She didn’t understand herself at the moment though. Why, after seamless thousands of years of existing did she still care?
“Damn, I’m tired,” she muttered to herself as she approached the nondescript steel door in a brick wall in the dank alley. She wasn’t tired, not physically, just terminally bored. That’s why she was here. She told herself she didn’t still actually care about humans, especially not stubborn little humans that get themselves into trouble.
She spent weeks probing and listening to whispers and now she was here, all because a centuries old random act of kindness.
There was quite a line forming at the door. The underground ‘vampire’ bar would do a good business tonight. Of course, vampires don’t exist. However, that didn’t stop them from collecting a hefty cover charge. The bouncer, in nondescript black trench coat, allowed her immediate entrance (free of charge). He was human, mostly, and knew she wasn’t. She was not a vampire like his boss but she was definitely ‘Other’.
Inside the club, were vampires of all shapes, sizes and authenticates. Most were humans pretending to be vampires. The more interesting were the vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires. Beo paused for the briefest of moments to take in her surroundings. In that instant she cataloged everything in the building. No atom escaped her probing mind. More astounding was her ability to comprehend this unholy amount of data. Now, she focused on finding her quarry.
* * * *
Beo stood by the bar. Sitting in her short white dress was a bad idea. While waiting for the bartenders attention she surveyed the mob. Of course, she knew everything that she would see. But the difference between her sense and sight was the same as reading the chemical compound H2-0 and watching a waterfall.
There were no true vampires on the dance floor, though one woman in black leather was pretty convincing. Beo ‘sensed’ a vampire in the balcony along with his guards, but couldn’t ‘see’ him, probably Michael, the bar owner and chief of the territory of Detroit. Several more were scattered in the dark corridors that tunneled secretly below the dance floor. The only other vampire nearby was the bartender, pretending to be blandly human. He was failing spectacularly.
He was six foot six of marble splendor. He had a warrior’s frame without being overly muscled. His ink black hair was buzzed close to his scalp and his face was clean shaven. As pleasing a composition he made, Beo would have paid no notice, except his eyes. They were black and bottomless. They were eternity.
* * * *
The bartender set the dirtied glass in the dishpan behind him before he turned to the next patron. He had registered her in his peripheral vision several minutes ago, but he did not hurry his pace. His leisurely speed did not seem to bother the woman or girl rather. She casually scanned the room with no sign of impatience with his poor service.
This bothered him.
She wasn’t even looking at him. The only satisfaction he wrought from this crappy post was annoying the clientele.
As if sensing his gaze, she turned to stare levelly at him. He wasn’t used to this kind of behavior. Humans usually dropped their eyes once he focused on them. Instead, his midnight eyes meet a pair of light lavender ones. They were large, unwavering and luminescent. This time he was the one to avert his eyes.
He looked to take all of her in. She was petite with fine delicately sculpted features. Her ravin hair was cropped into a pixie cut. Her skin was fair, not the sickly pale of the pathetic human club hoppers. It was more golden, like backlit alabaster. His eyes travelled down. Her white dress was strapless and the fabric was unlike anything he had ever seen. Supple as lily petals, it flowed around her, acting on a breeze only she felt. His gaze lingered on her small perfect breasts. They were just visible over the bar. He had to stay the impulse to lean forward and finish his assessment of her compelling form.
He was almost overcome by his body’s urges and the sheer energy radiating from her. She seemed more alive than any being he had ever encountered. He was locked in this moment. The very first perfect moment he had ever known.
He realized he must move, soon, or he would be locked in her stare forever. “Not a bad fate,” he thought.
He nodded to indicate he was ready to serve her.
“Soda?” she asked brightly.
He jerked his chin curtly. He wanted to gruffly slam down her drink as he usually did, but something stopped him. Instead, he gently set the glass before her on a napkin. He raised a straw in question. She smiled a full dazzling smile and bobbed her head. Her pleasant manners and apparent innocence softened him. He felt the absurd need to scoop her up and run, carrying her out of this dark, vile place. She didn’t belong here.
That put him on his guard. Why was this golden flame in a sleazy vampire bar? Drinking soda?
As he slid the straw down into her glass, she gently touched his long fingers. He went rigid, everywhere. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself, a relic habit from his mortal life. That, he soon realized, was a huge mistake. Her scent enveloped him. She was sweet and soothing. Like honey and forest after the rain, simple and wholesome, yet indefinable. Luckily, her voice interrupted his thoughts about springing across the bar.
“Umm…hi, my name is Beo…I know you don’t speak…”
His eyes flashed open.
“… I need to get a message to Michael…He needs to know, Maryssa is tainted…Can you get the message to him or can you get me to him?” She spoke slowly and evenly, not in a condescending way, but how you would approach a wild animal.
He studied her hard. Was it a trap?
He stared as her small hand still resting on his fingers.
He turned away to find Michael.
* * * *
Michael sat on his throne overlooking the dance floor. His posture was stiff and proper. Distaste was his permanent state of being. He was born “Michelle” in Paris, but the modern American misconception that it was a female’s name disgusted him. Americans disgusted him. They were loud, rude and lazy, but also foolish and delicious.
He heard the bartender mount the stairs. His personal guard stepped aside so quickly he did not break stride. Michael had no illusions about his servants. He knew the bartender could gut his guard at will.
“Speak, Canis.” Michael sneered, not turning to face him.
He growled in response.
“Yes, what is it you want?” Michael turned but did not meet his black eyes.
The bartender pulled a moleskin notebook from his back pocket and scribbled, “There is woman with a message for you…warning.” He paused over the word “woman”. He didn’t know what she was, but she was certainly more than ‘woman’.
Michael’s face hardened, “Bring her to the Office.”
* * * *
The bartender returned to the main level to retrieve the woman. “Beo.” His inner voice reminded him. She said her name was Beo. He did not want to take her to the Office. It was a dark place for doing dark deeds.
He went to the bar, but she was gone. His black eyes searched the pulsing human mass.
She burned like a candle.
She swayed slower than the blaring music, but in time with some primal rhythm that was felt more than heard. He stopped mid-step, transfixed. The center of the universe was this woman-child. He felt his body begin to draw close to her like gravity. The little reason he still possessed held him back. Her eyes met his alone. She continued to dance as she came closer. Faster than her sinuous movements implied she was before him, smiling up at him.
He stare dumbfounded for a long minute and blessed the structural integrity of denim. In a fleeting moment of whimsy, he waved his arm in a grand sweeping gesture for her to follow him. She placed her hand lightly in the crook of his arm as if he were escorting her to a ball. He laughed humorlessly to himself at their unlikely coupling: a princess and a slave.
He led her down a flight of stairs and then through a lightless hallway. At the end was a steel door. He unlocked the industrial sized deadbolt and ushered Beo inside. The interior was bare wall-to-wall tile, save for a stainless steel counter height table, like those in commercial kitchens. It was bolted to the floor and a mirror on the opposite wall was centered on the table. There was a drain in the floor.
Beo smirked at the mirror. She knew it was one-glass and Michael sat on the other side. Almost immediately, a server arrived with another soda. “For while you wait. Michael shall be here momentarily.”
Her escort barely contained a growl at the sight of the beverage. He could smell it was laced with hydra, an immobilizing poison that made the drinker feel as if she were burning. He had another now familiar urge to protect the unknown girl, but he was powerless.
Beo took the drink and beamed at the server. “Thank you.” As the server turned to leave, he glared at the bartender. “You are needed elsewhere, Canis,” he snarled.
He involuntarily glanced at Beo to judge her reaction to his beastly outburst. She playfully hopped up on the table. “Don’t worry about me. I can entertain myself.” Reluctantly, he stalked from the room. A guard was waiting for him in the hallway. “He is waiting for you in the Observation Room.”
* * * *
The Observation Room was altogether different from the Office. Wood paneling, overstuffed arm chairs, plush sofas; it was designed for lounging.
“Ahh, come in, Canis. Come. Enjoy the show.”
* * * *
Beo sat on the table for some time idly sipping her soda.
“She looks bored,” Michael remarked. Hydra usually acted very quickly and it was potent against all known beings, vampires included. Michael began pacing. He never faced anyone on fair terms.
Beo tipped her glass and drained it, except for an odd violet film at the bottom. She turned her glass in her hand and said directly to the mirror, “It’s bad manners for a host to poison his guest, Michael.” Then she smiled mischievously as the glass began to morph. It twisted and stretched into an exquisite live orchid. She extended her arm saying, “A peace offering.”
Enraged Michael stormed into the tiled chamber.
“Who…WHAT are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“Who I am is Beo. Pronounced bay-o. Spelled B-E-O. What I am is…I have no idea, but I am older than anyone you have ever known or even heard of. What I am doing here is warning you and restoring Maryssa to her family.”
“Warning me about what?”
“Maryssa has been tampered with. She was injected with Spun Silver.” Spun Silver was trace amounts of silver bonded to iron and infused in human blood. It was vampire death in a vial.
“Pas passible You Lie!”
“I never lie.”
“How do you know this? Why tell me? What do you gain?”
“You couldn’t begin to comprehend how I know things,” Beo commented dryly. “As for gain, I simply did not want Maryssa to be slaughtered once the poison was discovered.”
“Canis! Bring the feeder!”
The bartender who had been observing from the doorway disappeared instantly.
“What is the feeder to you?” Michael fired. In his anger, he failed to notice Beo had risen from the table and within easy striking distance.
“I am a friend of her family.”
“Who injected her?”
“Someone who wants you dead.”
The bartender returned with Maryssa in tow. She was much thinner than the last time Beo saw her, and she needed sleep desperately. “Bay, what you are doing here?” she asked distractedly.
“I came to take you home,” Beo said with all certainty.
“No way! Did Gran send you?”
“Yes, she did and yes, you are.”
“You’re not the boss of me. You’re not even family.” Maryssa didn’t see the hurt cross Beo’s face at that statement, but the bartender did.
“Hush, Maryssa. I am taking you home, tonight.” At her words, Maryssa sat defeated. Beo had not raised her voice or betrayed any frustration, but her resolve was absolute.
“We are not finished,” Michael asserted, “I will not allow you to run off with her…with no proof…without questioning her.”
“I did not ask your permission,” Beo countered.
“This is a trick. These are lies so you can take her. Her blood is pure!”
“Blockhead!” Beo shouted this time. “Okay, fine. I should have known you wouldn’t believe me… I’ll tell you what, let’s make a bet. You drink from her. If I am right, you die and stop annoying me. If I am wrong, her blood is harmless and you may pierce my heart with your blade. Either way, problem solved.”
The bartender watched the exchange in amazement. The tiny female was fearless. If he was lucky, this wondrous creature might kill Michael.
Maryssa sat unfocused and untroubled. Michael unsheathed the knife at his waist. “Canis, keep it on her,” he said handing the knife to him.
Michael approached Maryssa from behind. He unceremoniously brushed her hair to the side. He bent to bite but stopped.
“Are you afraid, Michael?” Beo taunted. His nostrils flaring, he viscously sank his fang into her throat.
The effect was immediate. The color of Death took Michael’s lips and spread to his cheeks. Weak, he staggered back and called, “Canis, Attack.”
The bartender’s mind screamed in protest, but his body obeyed. His bondage robbed him of control. Michael’s word was supreme law. The most he could do was mouth, “I’m sorry.”
* * * *
The knife point plunged three inches into her chest. He withdrew the blade, letting it drop to the floor. He stared at his bloodied hands and then to his gasping master. Rage boiled inside him. For a hundred years he had wanted nothing more than to rip out Michael’s throat. Now he could watch Death claim him and be finally free.
He spun defensively at the curse muttered behind him.
“Dammit. Michael!” The bartender marveled as Beo stood completely whole, inspecting her dress. “I have blood on my dress now.” She walked over to Michael, now slumped against the wall below the mirror. His eyes widened in genuine fear now.
“Why couldn’t you just listen to me?” She knelt beside him while gently scooting the bartender to the side. “Now hold still and I will help.” She spoke patiently as if she were helping a toddler with a tangled shoe-lace.
“No! Let Him Die.” The bartender wanted to scream. He started to stop her, but at the sight of her blood on his hand, he stalled. If she chose to help Michael after he ordered her execution, so be it.
Beo placed her small hand on Michael’s chest. He stiffened, but the by standing bartender felt a pang of jealousy at her touching him. A black liquid vapor spewed from Michael’s mouth. The ashen color retreated to his lips. The poison continued to spill out and swirl in the air. When she had drawn out the last of it, she cupped it into her hands. Rising to her feet, she held her arms out from her body. The toxic fog swirled into a tight vortex and combusted in a flash.
Everyone was still.
“You should be dead,” Michael whispered.
“So should you,” Beo retorted.
“But you said if I drank and she was not tainted…”
“Ahhh, I said you could pierce my heart. I never said I would die from it.”
“What are you?” Michael asked half terrified, half awestruck.
“I don’t know,” Beo answered sadly.
An awkward silence followed. Michael shifted and stood clumsily.
“Can—” Without warning Beo struck. Her backhand landed Michael on the ground again.
“Never call him that again! He is NOT a dog!” She looked at the bartender. “What is your name?”
He shook his head shamefully, not meeting her eye.
Michael, still lying on the floor, laughed, “The Roman son-of-a -whore has no name.”
Beo kicked him in the mouth. “I didn’t ask you.”
She stepped forward and took his hand in hers. “What do you want me to call you? You can have any name you wish.” He stood immobile. He was terrified by kindness. “May I give you a new name, just until you decide?”
He bowed his head.
Beo placed her hand under his chin and raised his face to look at her. “I will call you Dis.”
He smiled a truly wicked smile in answer.
* * * *
“Well, it is time I was off, Dis, would you mind helping me get Maryssa to my car?” He looked to Michael for permission. This time he did not interfere but his eyes promised murder.
During the entire episode, Maryssa had sat in an unseeing stupor on the table. Beo touched her shoulder and she slumped over asleep. Dis gathered her up easily. They left without regarding Michael as he remained on the floor.
They walked without speaking. If Dis had any sense of self-preservation he would have been wary of the power of this pocket-sized female. Instead, he welcomed Death in all its forms. He half smiled to himself. His death would probably piss Michael off (unless, of course, if Michael ordered it).
“Wait a moment.” Beo stopped the procession at the top of the stair going back out onto the dance floor. She ran her hands over the stains on her snowy gown. They vanished leaving only pristine fabric. Dis wondered what that fabric stretched over her tight form felt like. He shook himself mentally. She was a goddess and he was a slave. Also, she was good. Nothing in his life was good.
She touched her fingertips to the puncture wounds on Maryssa’s neck. The tissue knit itself closed and the streaks of blood faded away. Finally, Beo placed her warm palms on Dis’s hands as he held the feeder. She stroked him from fingertip to forearm and gently erased the signs of his violent act.
He closed his eyes and for one minute let himself pretend things were different. He was her lover. Her soft caresses warmed more than his frigid skin. He felt his fangs extend and reality returned. He was a chained beast again.
* * * *
They exited the bar without incident. If anyone noticed a brooding vamp carrying a faint woman, they attributed it to the theme. Beo didn’t need him to carry Maryssa to her car. She could have done easily. For that matter she didn’t need a car, but she wanted the excuse to get him alone.
“Here I am,” she said and pointed to a sleek BMW that had definitely not been there when she entered the club. She hit the combination keypad on the door and the dome light flicked on. She opened the back door for him to dump Maryssa. He set his catatonic load down on the backseat with ease. When he turned, Beo was so close he could feel the heat radiating from her body.
“Thank you,” she said in a whisper while stepping aside for him to close the car door. He stiffly nodded. Her proximity was almost overwhelming. It was a bittersweet torture. He was not sure how much more he could endure without either fleeing or succumbing to temptation. As though reading his dilemma, she stepped in closer. He was forced to retreat until his back was pinned to the side of the car. She smiled up at him before she closed the last gap of space between their bodies.
She kissed him full on the mouth.
Dis was shocked to utter stillness. Except for feeding, he avoided physical contact. As a human, touch meant punishment. As a vampire, most were too afraid to come near him and he liked it that way. But this imp was daring. She stood on her toes and climbed his chest to explore his mouth. She tasted like honey. He growled in his chest. He began to kiss back in earnest but kept his arms poker stiff at his sides. He had never been more terrified in his entire existence.
* * * *
Beo secretly smiled at his obvious internal conflict. She leaned on his solid frame and trailed her fingers along his jawline. Her hand traveled down the column of his neck and paused at the collar of his button-up shirt. With her face serious, she started undoing the buttons from the top.
He shouldn’t be allowed to wear shirts, Beo decided after exposing his chest and stomach. She continued her exploration with curious fingers. Dis submitted to her inspection until she encountered a thread of silver chain. It crisscrossed his abdomen like a harness. He caught her wrist as she fingered the clasp in the center. He was ashamed by his binding, the symbol of his servitude. He pushed her back and started to walk away.
He only made it a half step. Beo grabbed his shoulder and spun him back against her car.
I am being manhandled by a pixie, he thought coldly. Then her nails scraped his chest and his head whirled. Her fingers went back to tracing the chain. He wanted to snarl but her mouth on his turned the sound into a moan. As she pressed her body rhythmically to his, he forgot the damn chain.
Suddenly he became distracted by a tickling sensation running down his chest and stomach. He looked down to see…nothing.
Nothing but bare skin. The fragments of disintegrated chain lay at his feet. Beo smiled triumphantly up at him. He felt joy and dread in equal measure. He was elated to be free from his enslavement to Michael, but he feared being indebted to anyone.
“You look like a condemned man, Dis.” He shook his head and pulled his notebook from his back jeans pocket. He wrote one word, “cost”.
Her smile faded. “I don’t want anything. You may do as you wish. You are welcome to travel with me. I think I would enjoy your company or you may set off on your own. If I had to guess, you plan to return to the club and settle the score with Michael.” His eyes told her everything then. He would kill Michael, with relish. “I wish you good night and good luck then, Dis, but I warn you don’t become a slave to vengeance.”
* * * *
The world around him seemed more alive. The air was electric, teeming with energy. If he had to guess his mood, he would say he was happy. He couldn’t be sure. He never remembered being happy.
The club was much quieter now. More vampires had arrived to pick up ‘dinner’ and they were turning away the rejects. Dis walked past all of them. He did not stop until he stood in the doorway of the Observation Room. Michael was lounging in a winged back chairas he watched two male vamps consume a human female in the tiled chamber.
“I see the witch let you return. I suppose she wasn’t as fond of you as I thought.” Michael’s faux confidence was very shaky. He tried to keep his eyes on the action of the trio on the table, but his face turned to study Dis. “I don’t care for the name she gave you. Too mythological. Named for a god, how absurd.” Michael stood to pace. “I have made inquiries. I intend to destroy that she-demon. She will not play me for a fool.”
If Dis was undecided about killing his former master before, he vowed to now. He stepped in front of Michael and forced him to look directly at him.
“Stand back, Canis.”
Dis grabbed Michael by the lapels of his jacket and pinned him to the mirrored glass. The feeding in the next room continued uninterrupted.
“Stop! Has the demon possessed you?” Michael shouted his bravado fleeing him.
Dis showed his fangs and clearly shook his head. Dis was a very old vampire who lacked the streamlined sophisticated fangs of his modern counterparts. His mouth was like the maw of a lion. His fangs grew out from the canine sockets and though they took much longer to fully extend, they were much longer. Michael began franticly beating the glass behind him. A silent chuckle rumbled in Dis’s chest. Michael should have known this moment would come. A dog can be beaten only so long before it turns on its master.
A thousand ways to kill him ran through Dis’s mind. He had dreamt about doing this for so long except then his death always immediately followed as a result of his bondage. The bridle, Dis’s bane and the source of his misery was gone. Now there would be no consequences. Quick and brutal, that is how he would do it. He would take no part of Michael into his body.
He was going to enjoy this.
He sprang. Biting. Ripping. Shattering glass. He wrung Michael’s head from his body.
Dis heard silence. Never again would a master beacon him, order him. He would forever feel loyal to Beo for giving this to him. He wanted to kill her for making him feel that way.
The vampire duo ravishing the woman on the stainless steel table froze. Michael’s decapitated body fell through the punched opening in the mirror. The tag team withdrew from the human’s body and fled. Dis bent to retrieve Michael’s head. He stood upright, his back straight and his own head held high.
Dis knew his deed would not be kept secret, so he intended to claim his crime proudly. He stood on Michael’s balcony over the dance floor. He overlooked his cohorts with their evening meals. They disgusted him. They were lazy and selfish. He could destroy them all and now he had the liberty to do so. His flesh burned for action.
He raised Michael’s departed head high above him. He did not shout out, but the smell of blood and death were enough. Every eye turned to him.
Most ran, some bowed in acceptance, and a few attacked. Dis sprang from the ledge and two vampires fell. He used no weapon other than fists and fangs. He was a sublime terror of grace and gore.
Five attacked at once. All were young and foolish and thought they could bring Dis down for their own gain. Dis only killed the one. The surviving cowards ran in horror.
Finally, he was alone.