“No…you’re not LISTENING to me!!! The money is THERE! Do you hear me? It’s there! Look on your little computer screen, re-check your numbers…and FIND MY MONEY!!!!”
“I’m sorry, sir. We’ve checked the account number you gave us three times, and that account has been temporarily closed.” Said the voice of the lady on the other end of the phone. Professional, but with a growing hint of frustration. She had no IDEA what frustration IS! But she’s going to find out if she doesn’t stop playing this little head game with me! I felt a trickle of sweat run down my cheek. Couldn’t tell if it was from the fear in my heart, the anger in my mind, or the heated doses of alcohol in my system. But one thing was clear…I NEEDED that money! And I needed it NOW!
“Alright….ok…” I said, trying to calm down my voice. “..Get a pen. You got a pen?”
“I’ve already written down all of the account numbers you’ve given me Mr. Kincaid, and all of them are inaccessible at this time…”
“What do you MEAN they’re ‘inaccessible’??? IT’S MY MONEY!!!” I shouted. “Look, I’m going to give you the numbers again, ok? Just….just write them down…neatly and legibly…and try it again. I’m sure you just…missed a number or two…” I tried to calm down, but I was shaking so bad that my voice was trembling.
“Mr. Kincaid…I apologize for your inconvenience this evening, but I’m afraid that I’m not allowed to continue with this transaction. If you would like to file a formal complaint in the morning, our office hours are…”
“No…no…NO!!!!” I shouted! “Look here, you fucking BITCH!!!! You type those access numbers in again, and again, and AGAIN, until you FUCKING get them right!!!! I don’t HAVE until tomorrow morning! I need that money TONIGHT!!! You understand???”
Clearly offended, there was a pause on the line. Then she simply said, “…Our morning hours are from 9 AM to 6:30 PM, you can talk with one of our managers at that time tomorrow.” She had a snotty tone now, obviously cutting me off. I started to speak but she interrupted me by saying, “…And let me REMIND you, Mr. Kincaid, that use of profanity over international telephone lines is a federal offense, and this conversation is being recorded.” I felt my stomach begin to flutter until I was almost sick, and I had to loosen my tie and lean against the wall for support. “Is there anything else that I can help you with, Mr. Kincaid?” She said…but I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. For a few minutes…I swear that my mind literally went blank with fear. “Mr. Kincaid? Mr.Kincaid?” I took my cell phone away from my ear, and closed it to hang up on her. I nearly dropped it…a shaky hand almost too weak to support its weight.
I looked out at the city view from my condo’s living room windows. A beautiful view, with the lake in the background, shimmering with the glow of the crescent moon. My condo apartment had every luxury. Ridiculously sized television, Blu-ray, home theater, surround sound, track lighting, giant bathtub complete with built in sauna, fully stocked bar, new kitchen, a bathroom that basically cleans itself on a daily basis, and enough open space to hold seven events of the next OLYMPICS if I really wanted to! And yet…looking at it now…it never seemed so unimportant. Staring at it in this dark room, shaking like a leaf as I reached for my glass of bourbon and timidly brought it up to my lips for a drink…it all seemed so useless.
I put my cell phone down on the desk next to my computer, the screen still blinking with the error message from when I tried for the last few hours to electronically move my assets to a place where I could get to them. And just to the right of my mouse…a note. A note scrawled out on a piece of paper for me…in blood.
We’ll be waiting.”
Then I turned to nervously look at myself in the mirror again, lifting my head to get clear sight of the side of my neck. Just to look at it one more time. It had gotten so faded, so quickly. It was beginning to peel itself away from my skin like a freshly healed scab. How did they time it so perfectly? How did they design it to go away on the exact date of expiration like that? I don’t know how the vampires came up with the technology….but one thing was certain…
…My ‘safeguard’ mark was about to reach its due date. And when it does…I’m a DEAD man!
I served them well! I paid the Elders a SHITLOAD of money to get my mark and protect myself from their kind. For three YEARS I gave them what they wanted. I funded their whole damn underground EXISTENCE here in this city, for Christ sake!!! And I…I *HAVE* the money! I DEFINITELY have the money! I can give it to them! I can pay for another year of protection at LEAST! I just…
…I CAN’T GET INTO MY MOTHERFUCKING BANK ACCOUNTS!!!!!!
At that moment, I heard my cell phone ring, and while the noise startled me at first, I hurried over to it to pick it up! Maybe the bank fixed the problem! Maybe they’re calling to apologize! The second I find out who that lazy, hair-brained, BITCH was…I’m getting her fucking FIRE! That’s a PROMISE!
“Hello???” I said, trying not to sound too frantic.
“I take it you’re having a bit of…trouble…renewing your mark, Mr. Kincaid?” Came a voice from the other end.
I stopped for a moment. “Who is this?”
“That’s not really important, Mr. Kincaid. But what IS important…is the TIME. As you can see, on one of your…fancy wall clocks, electronic toys, or maybe even on that expensive Rolex watch of yours…midnight is very far away at all. And we ‘both’ know what happens at midnight…don’t we?” The voice was about as sinister as anything that I had ever heard, but I knew my pokerface had to be impeccable. I can’t let them think they’ve got me scared. They’ll come for me even quicker if they think I’m scared.
“You don’t intimidate me, you bloodsucking son of a bitch! You HEAR me? I’m GUARDED! That means no ‘dinner’ for you, junior! Why don’t you go feed on the rats in the fucking sewer or something?”
The voice laughed at me. “You wanna know something? Waiting for your safeguard mark to run out was more exciting than waiting for Christmas when I was a kid. It almost reminded me how to look forward to life’s little pleasures again. I honestly can’t believe that we’re finally down to the final hour. Mmmmm…I think I just got an adrenaline rush just thinkingabout it.”
“Say what you want, but you and your buddies are going to be disappointed in a few minutes. Because I’m renewing the mark again. And I’m going to KEEP renewing it for along time to come!” I told him, now walking back over to my computer to try putting in the account numbers again. STILL getting an error message.
“You know, I’d like to say that this was all a ‘personal’ vendetta between me and you…but I’m afraid that I really can’t take full credit for that.” He continued. “There are a LOT of very angry vampires out here, Mr. Kincaid. Vampires that you’ve been doing wrong for the last few years now. And despite our utter hatred for you and everything you are, you’ve been able to walk right past us, time and time again, with the Elder’s safeguard giving you complete immunity. Strutting around and showing it off like the proud peacock you are. But now…during these final moments…you don’t sound like half the man you were…when you were surrounded by your little protective ‘bubble’. I’m disappointed.”
“You know what happens to you if the Elders find out you’ve done so much as lay a finger on me, don’t ya? Huh? You and your little ‘rag-tag rascal’ friends out there?” I told him. “You wanna talk to Elder Juliano? Huh? You wanna explain to him why one of his top human associates was harmed by you because of some stupid grudge?”
“Ohhhhh…we’ve gone FAR beyond the stupid grudge stage, my friend.” He told me. “You may think that the Elders are going to continue to protect you from the rest of us, but the truth of the matter is…if they had any further need for you, they would have called for you weeks ago, and re-implanted you with another three year mark. But….they didn’t call, Mr. Kincaid. Did they?” He said, and I let a silence pass between us as I angrily typed in several different account numbers and passwords, aliases that I had used in the past…every last one of them REJECTED, no matter how hard I banged on the keys and cursed under my breath. “You’ve been a busy man in this town the last three years. And a very naughty boy to boot.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I grumbled, paying more attention to the computer screen than the voice on the line.
“Why SURE you do. You’ve been making a pretty penny off our kind, haven’t you? Shutting down our habitats, clearing out all of our abandoned buildings and car lots…snitching on other vampires and giving the location of discovered sanctuaries in the area to hunters and assassins…a lot of vampires are either dead or homeless because of you.”
“I don’t know where you get your rumors, buddy…but that wasn’t me.”
“The ‘rumors’ you speak of….came right out of your own mind, Mr. Kincaid. Your thoughts don’t lie nearly as much as your forked tongue.” He said, almost with a smile. “All of those places for us to reside on the South side…one the West side…on the North side, of the city. Sunproofed and habitable. Perfect for us to just live out our days and stay out of your hair. But you tore them all down and put condos up in their place, didn’t you? You take all of the poor and working class…and you ‘re-locate’ them to even poorer, crime infested neighborhoods. Then you buy the real estate cheap, fix up the area for as little money and effort as possible, and sell it to the rich for triple what it’s worth. They always say that you know a bad neighborhood is about to go condo once you see a Starbucks Coffee show up on the corner.” He told me. AND WHY WON’T MY PASSWORDS WORK???? “But things have changed, haven’t they, Mr. Kincaid? The economy sucks, doesn’t it? Hehehe, even for you.”
“FUCK you!” I said through gritted teeth. “Despite what you or little pissant sources told you, I’ve got money to BURN! You hear me? I’ve got more money than God himself! Enough to buy myself a free pass and walk among until I’m old and gray and living on an island you can’t even afford to see in a brochure! And the second I get this situation worked out with the bank and access to my ‘REAL’ money…I’m getting my mark renewed, and I’m coming for each and every last one of you. You hear me? I suggest you look for a SEWER to sleep in! Because I’m tearing down very low budget garbage heap you monsters are ‘infecting’ with your disgusting presence. Just wait and see. I’ve got money the likes you haven’t even SEEN yet!”
“Why Mr. Kincaid…certainly you don’t mean the private Swiss bank account that you’ve been hiding from your Ex-wife’s lawyers?” He said, and I froze immediately…nearly dropping the phone once again. “Is THAT the ‘unseen’ money that you’re referring to? The hidden accounts? The aliases? The bank deposit boxes and multiple passwords? Or did you mean the REALLY secret account that you keep in that bank just off the coast of Fiji? Last numbers 66303? Hehehe, I certainly hope you weren’t depending on those to save you tonight.” I didn’t say anything at first. My mouth went completely dry, my heart began to race, and as I saw the same harsh ‘error’ sign looking me back in the face from the computer screen…I nearly felt tears coming to my eyes. “I can guarantee you, all that wonderful cash isn’t going to help you tonight. In fact, you’ve been trying so hard tonight to get in, I’m sure that you’ve tripped the electronic security system. Too many errors, and it shuts you out completely. There aren’t too many computers that will let you ‘guess’ your way into a multi million dollar account. So believe me when I say…that money is going to be locked up tight for at least another 48 hours if not longer. We made sure of that, by purposely making it look like someone was trying to break into your bank accounts with all the appropriate information and passwords…and then screwing up on purpose when it came to the last few questions. Typically, the system assumes that it’s a case of identity theft, and it locks up in order to ‘protect’ you. Hehehe….how ironic is that, huh?”
“I….I can retrieve it.” I said softly, almost breathless as the first tear fell from my eye. “I’ll talk to them directly. I…I can prove it’s me. I can PROVE it…”
“I’m afraid it won’t matter, Mr. Kincaid. Not tonight. Thanks to your cleverly hidden security measures, those banks won’t be letting anyone have access to the amount of money you need for a new safeguard mark until ALL of the accounts are secure again, and they’re authorized to do so. You could actually show up in person right now, give them a fingerprint, retinal scan, hair, blood, urine, semen, AND saliva sample to prove your identity…and you’d STILL have to wait the minimum mandatory period before you were allowed access. Monday morning at the earliest. And I’m afraid that’s going to be waaaaay too late for you.”
“How….?” I whispered now sliding down to the floor. Helpless. Trapped. Like a scared animal.
“Again with the unimportant questions.” He smirked. “Did you really think that a species as advanced as ours would still be living the cliche life of sleeping in coffins and residing in old castles with torches instead of electricity? We have an online presence like you wouldn’t believe. And our online pit bulls were able to crack your passwords in less than an hour. ‘Sparky’, right? Hehehe, you use the name of your dead dog over your Ex-wife? I find that hilarious.”
“The Elders…they’re gonna answer my call. And…they will…they’ll…” I babbled without any real coherent thought, but the voice at the end of the line was satisfied with its intimidation at this point.
I’m afraid not. Not this time.” He said. “Take a look at that snazzy watch of yours…check the time.” It said, and even though I looked down at it, my eyes were almost blind with fear. “It’s 8 minutes past 11 PM, Mr. Kincaid. You have 52 minutes left to live. I suggest you make peace with your maker before you meet him. As I’m sure you have a lot to apologize for.” Then, he added, “See you soon.” And the phone went dead.
And thus….the countdown had officially begun.
Staring at myself in that lonely mirror, turning on every light that I could to get the best look possible, I tried to somehow ‘fix’ the appearance of the mark on my neck. I had taken some tweezers and a mild adhesive, trying to see if I could get it to look natural again. I had a swab of alcohol, hoping to keep it from drying out so fast. But the fucking thing only got WORSE the more I messed with it. It peeled even faster, the color of it turning dead and brown, flakes of it falling down on my shoulder. No matter what I did to it…it simply couldn’t be repaired. It would never look real enough to fool them into thinking it was new again. And the pattern was to intricate for me to draw or tattoo it back on. Not even with HELP!CERTAINLY not by myself…backwards in a mirror. It was a plan that was destined to fail. And eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that I was wasting my time even trying.
“Screw this!” I said to myself, tossing the tweezers into the sink and stepping away from the mirror. I’m not gonna sit here and wait for those undead brats to come looking for me. I’m getting OUT of this apartment, and finding myself a safe place to lay low until this shit storm passes over and I get an extension. End of story.
I grabbed a bag out of the closet, and filled it with my shaver, some cologne and needed toiletries, and took some of my cleanly pressed suits and slung them over my shoulder. Grabbed my keys, my wallet, a overcoat, and I locked up the condo, heading towards the elevator.
I traveled nine floors down to the lobby, and was going to let the doorman know not to let anyone in under any circumstances. I wouldn’t be home. However, when I got down there…the lobby was empty. In fact…it was dark. No security cameras, no lights….nothing. I looked behind the desk briefly, but saw nothing. Not even the security monitors were on. “Clark?” I called out, hoping the doorman had just left to go to the bathroom and would be back in a second or two. But I got no answer.
I didn’t have time for this. I looked at my watch, and just decided I’d call the security company when I got to a hotel and have them deliver the message. I needed to go.
I walked outside and went towards the parking lot. It was eerily silent out there in the darkness. So silent, in fact, that it was distracting. Not a squirrel, not a bird, not even a cricket chirp. I know it was late October, but I was sure that SOME form of animal life would be scurrying around at this time of night. Something else that I became aware of, was the fact that all of the lights were off in the parking lot. Like…ALL of them. I stopped in my tracks, my ears listening to the night to see if I could hear anything out of the ordinary…but I got nothing. Just a cold shiver that went up my spine, and my instincts telling me to make it quick and just get the hell out of there. Just in case the fuckers show up early.
The quickly paced ‘clip clop’ of my expensive shoes on the pavement seemed to literally echo throughout the entire parking lot. But when I finally got to my car, and pressed the button on my keychain to unlock it from a few steps away…I noticed something. Usually the lights flash when I unlock the doors. But this time…they didn’t.
My pace audibly slowed down as I got closer to the car. And what I saw…caused those awful butterflies to come right back to me. This time, with a vengeance!
Both of the back lights on my car had been completely smashed, as well as the headlights. And not only that, but as I looked closer and came to a complete stop, I noticed that all four tires had been punctured with pieces of rusty junkyard metal. Angrily, in fact….and multiple times. I stared at it for a moment in disbelief, and then was SHOCKED as I heard the sound of a ‘skateboard’ in the distance.
I spun around, pressing my back up against the car. My eyes were WIDE with fright, and I scanned the whole area as best as I could…seeing nothing but darkness. Did I imagine it? Was it just one of the other kids from the condo? Or was it ‘them’?
I held my breath, and continued to search. I could hardly see ANYTHING in this darkness! But if it was ‘them’….I was sure that they could see me just fine!
“Hehehehe….” Came a childish laugh from out of the shadows. I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand as my heartbeat sped up, and started pounding so hard in my chest that it made it hard to breathe. “Hehehe….hehehe…..” The boyish giggles continued, now coming from more than one direction. Then one of them whispered. “Midnight. Hehehe….midnight!” And I heard the wheels of a skateboard slowly coming closer to me, as well as the footsteps of tiny sneaker-clad feet approaching from many different directions at once. “Midnight! Midnight! Hehehhe!” The children began to chant…over and over and over again. “Midnight, midnight, midnight, midnight…” The voices getting closer with every step, and the second I saw a few silhouettes walking in my direction, I dropped my suits on the ground, and mad a mad DASH for the front lobby again!
I heard the sound of two skateboards hitting the pavement, with a few kicks and pushes, they began to chase right behind me! I heard the footsteps of what sounded like an entire BUSLOAD of kids running behind me! Laughing the whole way! I ran faster, nearly tripping over my whole feet, as their laughter got louder! And louder! And louder still! I didn’t DARE to look back over my shoulder! They could outrun me easily if they wanted to. But this was a GAME to them….just a stupid GAME!
“Hahahaha!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!!!” They shouted, their voices sounding more like 100 kids now instead of what I initially thought their numbers were!
I was almost out of breath, my legs burning with fatigue as they begged for me to stop pushing them so hard. But they were right behind me! They were RIGHT there! And soon, I just tossed my bag into the bushes and ran top speed, both of my fists balled up and helping to pump me up and run even faster! And then….I got back to the lobby and charged in through the glass doors!
“CLARK!!!! CLARK, GODDAMMIT!!!” I shouted, looking all around for him in that dark lobby. Then went behind the desk to the small bathroom that was just off to the side, and I kicked the door open in anger.
But what I found….was not a lazy security guard on duty.
What I found…was a corpse… with several bite marks in his throat, slumped down and leaning up against the bathroom sink. And on the mirror, drenched in blood, was the message…
Hope you don’t mind.”
The image of it creeped me out so much, that I panicked and used my key card to get back behind another wall of glass. As though it offered me any protection at all. I hurried towards the elevator, and pushed a bench back towards the front door, hoping to brace it. The children seemed almost amused. As they should have been. What was a bench behind a wall of glass going to do against these things? Nothing! I’ve seen these creatures climb walls, move things with their mind, hell…I’ve even seem on or two of them FLY! But….something in my heart needed to move that bench. Somehow, I needed to fool myself into believing that I had a fighting chance.
I heard the ‘ding’ as the elevator arrived, and dashed inside. I caught my breath as I traveled back up to the ninth floor, and then briskly walked down the hall to my door. But before I could even get my key in the lock, my cell phone rang.
“Hello???” I asked, hoping that it was either the bank or one of the Elders calling to fix this situation. Instead, all I got was breathing. “HELLO???”
And it was then that a very young boy’s voice sang sweetly into the phone, just above a whisper.
“Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?” He said. “Tell me….how many pieces do YOU wish to be torn into, Mr. Kincaid? Hehehehe….” And just as he started to laugh at me, I slammed the phone shut, leaned back against the door to my apartment…and cried.
They weren’t going to let me go anywhere.
Some time had passed, and I drank a little more to calm my nerves so that I might be able to think clearly. The bourbon was gone, but I still had some old scotch left. Should do the trick.
I called the police two or three times, and they did drive by, I could see it from my window. But before they could get anywhere near my place…the vampires downstairs would slowly begin to scatter. Blending back into the shadows, becoming ghosts to everyone else but me. And then…once the cop car left the parking lot, I would see them gently creep back into the light again, looking up at my windows with a smile that chilled me to the bone.
The police stopped taking me seriously after the second call. Figured it was an early Halloween prank or something. Besides…’teenagers in the parking lot’ is not their idea of an adult emergency.
I drank some more, trying time and time again to get in touch with Juliano. Father Juliano was a priest, and an Elder. Already 148 years old, running his operation out of an underground church with his partner Serazzi. Also a priest. I was loyal to them. SO obedient. I did everything they wanted me to do, and my money alone helped them to run this part of the city flawlessly for the last three years. They NEED me! They’re not going to turn their backs on me now. Not now!
I called, and I called, and I called! Letting the phone ring until I got a very ‘human’ sounding voicemail. But I just kept going, one phone call after the other. They have to let me in. They have to.
I still got no answer, and looking back out of my window, the vampires looked to almost be having a small ‘party’ downstairs…waiting for midnight so that they come and feed on me without consequence.
I called the local airport to see if I could book a plane out of the city. I asked them to send a shuttle bus for me as well. ANYTHING to smuggle me out of here. The man asked where I wanted to go, and I said, “ANYWHERE! Just far away from here. Some place warm. California! I don’t care! But I need to leave tonight, you understand? As soon as possible. Money is no object!” There WAS a plane leaving in the next 30 minutes to Los Angeles, and I was sure that I could make it, and have the shuttle here to give me some added protection on the way to the airport. They wouldn’t just knock me off in a heavily public, well lit, place, would they? They can’t. They needed to stay secret. Hidden. Right?
Just then, after hearing the man type on his keyboard over the phone, he said, “Hmmm…I’m sorry, sir. Your credit card was declined.” WHAT??? I gave him another one, and then a third, and then a FOURTH! and EVERY cad had been cancelled! The sons of bitches had completely bankrupted me in a matter of hours! KNOWING that I wouldn’t be able to correct it until it was too late!
I looked back outside the window…and I knew it was pointless to even argue. None of my cards would work. They made sure that I was as far away from my money as possible. I couldn’t even afford a cab ride. I hung up the phone, and watched….as they taunted me with impish grins and evil laughter.
What else could I do…but try the Elders again?
I began pacing back and forth, almost wetting my pants at the thought of my time running out so quickly. My mind was spinning…trying to come up with another idea! But I was too panicked to do anything more than drink. Now gulping scotch right out of the bottle, as the time on my watch ticked away.
The vampires outside had almost doubled in number now, and every time I peeked out of that window…their shadowed forms and glowing eyes were looking right back at me. Anxiously waiting for their time to strike.
I called some friends to help me, but they thought I was plum crazy. I made the mistake of mentioning the idea of vampires to one of them, and all they asked was how much I had been drinking. Tried to call my ex…see if maybe she could give me the number to her credit card instead. Give me a loan. Ha! It must have been the alcohol that made me think THAT conversation was going to go well. Cheating on your wife with an 18 year old boy musician is NOT a good idea. Especially if you get caught doing it.
My ex-wife’s last words to me tonight, when I tried to explain the vampire thing?
“GOOD! I hope they ARE real! And hope they bite you right on the ASS, you goddamn DRUNK!!!”
I’ll take that…as a ‘no’ to the loan.
I looked down at the bottle in my hand, finished what was in it…and then opened up another one. Heh…15 minutes. That’s what my life has been narrowed down to. A lousy…15….minutes.
Ain’t it grand?
FINALLY…after hours upon HOURS of trying to get through to the Elders earlier, hearing that voicemail a BILLION times in the LAST hour alone, someone picked up the line!!!
“Serazzi!!!! Serazzi, my GOD! You don’t know how good it is to hear your voice right now!” I nearly screamed. “Let me talk to Father Juliano! PLEASE! And tell him it’s URGENT!” I said, nearly crying from the relief in my heart! They’ll straighten this shit out for me. They’ll send me some protection and get this whole mess cleared up once and for all.
“I’m afraid that Father Juliano is not available at the moment.” He said.
“What? What the fuck…..? What are you DOING Serazzi? Seriously! I’m not kidding around here! I need to talk to him RIGHT NOW!!!”
“No, Mr. Kincaid, you don’t.” Serazzi said calmly. “It appears that our business relationship, as we know it…is officially about to come to an end.”
What the…what was he saying? What was he…??? What the FUCK???
“No…no no no, wait! What are you talking about? Serazzi, for the love of GOD, put Elder Juliano on the goddamn phone!!!”
But Serazzi never raised his voice. Not even a little bit. “I’m sorry, but that is not possible.”
“What the FUCK are you talking about???????” I shouted even louder. “I’ve got a safeguard mark that’s going to run out in the next FIFTEEN fucking minutes…and I need a new one! NOW!!!”
“I’m afraid we cannot offer you a new safeguard, Mr. Kincaid. That offer is on the table for our ‘business’ associates only. I doubt you would be able to financially back us for the full amount of a safeguard mark that wasn’t given to you as a favor. You were already heavily discounted from the very beginning. That is an option that is no longer up for discussion.”
“What business associates??? I *AM* a business associate!!! I’ve been serving you both for three YEARS now, Serazzi!!! THREE FUCKING YEARS!!!!”
“Yes, and in return we provided you with ample protection from the feeders of this city. That was an even trade for services rendered, and it was profitable for all involved…when that situation was beneficial for us both. But that is no longer the case, Mr. Kincaid.”
“You’re firing me??? You can’t FIRE me!!! I’ve been…I’ve been LOYAL to you! To your KIND!” I said, trying hard not to ‘beg and plead’ for my life. They wouldn’t respect that. They never did. “You can’t DO this to me! After all the money I’ve given you, all the functions I FUNDED for you…you OWE me! A quarter of this whole damn CITY is *MINE*!!!!”
“Not any more it isn’t.” Serazzi told me. “It seems that we are taking your territories and turning them over to a Mr. Marshall from now on. He’ll be handling your business dealings in that part of town from now on, effective immediately as of 12:01 AM. You, on the other hand, are no longer needed. I hardly see a reason to grant you an extension on your expiration date.”
Trying to calm down before he began tuning me out, I held myself steady, and tried to just…breathe. “Listen…Serazzi…as a FRIEND, ok? As a FRIEND…I’m telling you….you have to help me out here.”
“Do I, now?” He said, matter-of-factly. Almost in a belittling way.
“You don’t…you don’t…understand…” I said, my voice trembling as I held back sobs of desperation. “…If I don’t renew my mark by midnight tonight….there are vampires outside of my window…right NOW…that are going to KILL me! Do you understand? They are GOING…to KILL me!”
“I know.” He said, shocking me even further. “And they paid well to learn of your whereabouts this evening. Seems they’ve been waiting for this moment for quite some time now.”
The horror of the situation sank in, and I nearly wet myself as I began to shake violently from the inside out. “You…set me up…?”
“Let’s be honest, Mr. Kincaid, shall we? You don’t care about us. You never did. You USED us to get what you wanted, and for the last few years we allowed you to live in the lap of luxury while our kind suffered out in the cold and the rain. You kicked back in your nice warm condominium with all of your fancy gadgets, and you watched them live in poverty and constant misery from your high rise window, never once offering even the change from your pocket to help ease a bit of their pain.” Serazzi told me. “You didn’t just make money out of thin air, Mr. Kincaid. You literally sold your SOUL to get what you have now. Look around you, at all the fabulous trinkets you’ve acquired in such a short time. And you didn’t share a dime of it with anyone. Not even the church. So now…it is time to face the karma you have willingly built for yourself. A level of karma that could have been so much easier on you, had you spent your years giving back, instead of taking away from the community that made you what you are. Greed…vanity….lust…pride…how long have we preached on these things? How long has humanity turned a blind eye to it?”
“Don’t GIVE me that! You son of a bitch! You profited off of this too!!! Your hands are JUST as fucking dirty as mine!”
“And yet…it is not I who have a collection of angry vampires waiting outside my door in the shadows.” He said. “Perhaps you can let this provide you with a valuable lesson, Mr. Kincaid. And if granted another chance at life, you will learn that the next time you are fortunate enough to be put into a position of privilege far above the norm…you can use some of that useless material wealth to create a stronger bridge between you and righteousness. And create more friends than enemies from your selfish ways. For, as I’m sure you’re about to see….you really can’t take it with you.”
Looking back at my watch, seeing the second hand moving at what seemed like the speed of LIGHT to me, I tried to appeal to his higher nature. “You’re a priest, Serazzi! You HAVE to help me! You and Juliano are BOTH priests!!!!PLEASE!!!! You HAVE to help me! You HAVE to!!!”
“I’m sorry, my child. But the good book says that God does NOT exist in desperation. And neither does our sense of ‘compassion’ in these matters.” After which he had the nerve to add, “But for what it’s worth…I will say a prayer for you tonight, and wish you luck…in seeing the dawn again.”
“*FUCK* YOU!!!! YOU HEAR ME!!! *FUCK* YOU!!! I’LL SEE YOU IN *HELL*, SERAZZI!!!! I’LL SEE BOTH OF YOU IN FUCKING HELL!!!!!”
Still…never raising his voice…he replied, “Not for a looooong long time, Mr. Kincaid. Not for a looooong long time.” And he hung up the phone. Leaving me….all alone…..
Believe it or not…I almost felt at peace.
Two minutes to go, and not a care in the world.
I drank as much as I possibly could from behind the bar, stumbling a bit on my way back to the mirror. Might as well not let the ‘good stuff’ go to waste. I was watery eyed, but not a single tear fell as I stared at my reflection. I had gotten dressed up in my best suit for the event, wore my best set of cufflinks, and tie that was brand new. Hadn’t even worn it to the office yet. Fixed my hair, put on some cologne, and peeled away the rest of that useless mark from the side of my neck. It won’t be doing me any good anymore anyway.
Deep down, I was hoping that I had enough alcohol in my blood to POISON the little fuckers! It won’t kill ‘em, but if they maintained the tolerance of a teenager for the last few years, it’ll keep them puking in the bushes and suffering a few hangover headaches for the next day or two. I guess that’s the only revenge I’ve got at this point, huh?
I looked around at my condo, and I admired all the things I had gotten for myself. Fuck it…for the last few years, life was good. And they can’t take that away from me, no matter how hard they try.
I got in the elevator, and hit the button for the bottom floor.
No regrets, Kincaid. No regrets.
I heard my watch beep as I opened the lobby door and walked back out into the parking lot…bottle of liquor still in hand.
Will it hurt? Yeah, I’m sure it will. But how long am I actually going to have to ‘suffer’? They’re looking to rip me apart for the things I’ve done. They won’t be waiting around for something as playful and time consuming as ‘torture’. Not tonight.
Psh! Kids! Always in a hurry.
They began creeping out of the shadows right away, and as I swayed slightly on my feet, watching the horde approach me…eyes glowing red, fangs spiked down…I took what was left in that bottle, and I turned it up towards the sky. Guzzling the rest of the potent liquid, as I got down on my knees and prepared to be ripped apart.
Was I sorry? No, not really. Maybe old fogies like me never learn. But for what it’s worth…
These little hell bound fuckers can kiss my ASS!!!
A phone rings….
“Mr. Marshall? This is Father Serazzi. I wanted to contact you to let you know that our…arrangement has now been put into effect. Congratulations.”
“Thank you. Thank you. And tell Elder Juliano that I won’t let him down. You have my word.”
“I am sure that you won’t, Mr. Marshall. We’re expecting to see a many great things from you over the next three years.”
“Yes, sir. You will.” Mr. Marshall replied, then asking, “So…this ‘thing’ on my neck? It’s going to keep me SAFE right? I mean…I don’t have to worry about…walking the streets at night or anything, do I?”
“Of course not, Mr. Marshall.” Serazzi answered calmly. “You needn’t worry about that anymore. You’re our associate now. Your well being means a lot to us, as well as our organization.” And then…with a very dark smile…Serazzi added…
“You’re in good hands, Mr. Marshall. You’re working for the Vampire Elders now…and we ALWAYS…take care of our own.”