“No…you’re not LISTENING to me!!! The funds are THERE! Do you hear me? It’s there! Look on your little computer screen, re-check your numbers…and FIND MY FUCKING MONEY!!!!”
“I’m sorry, sir. We’ve checked the account number you gave us several times, and that account has been closed until further notice.” Said the voice of the lady on the other end of the phone. Professional, but with a growing hint of frustration. She has 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 my voice down. “…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 was shaking so violently at this point 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 codes in again, and again, and AGAIN, until you FUCKING get them right!!! I don’t HAVE until tomorrow morning! I need that money TONIGHT!!! Do you understand???”
Clearly offended, there was an extended 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 on site 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 flip-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 it could hold. 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…all that stuff 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 to electronically move my assets to a place where I could get to them. I spent hours looking for a way in. ANY way in. But to no avail. And just to the right of my mouse…a note. A note scrawled out on a piece of paper for me…in blood.
I stared at it as I took another gulp of my drink, hoping that it would somehow burn the wings of the furious butterflies swarming chaotically in the pit of my stomach before they drove me insane.
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. The mark 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 these marks to go away on the exact time and 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 a huge chunk of 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′s worth 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 FIRED! That’s a PROMISE!
“Hello???” I said, trying not to sound too frantic.
“I take it that you’re having a bit of…trouble…renewing your mark, Mr. Kincaid?” Came a voice from the other end.
I stood, cold, 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 isn′t 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 before, but I knew my poker face had to be impeccable, even over the phone. 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! You hear me? That means no ‘dinner’ for you, junior! Why don’t you go feed on the rats in the fucking subway 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. Your protected status with the Elders is over. I honestly can’t believe that we’re finally down to the last hour. Mmmmm…I just got an adrenaline rush just thinking about the things we′re going to do to you when the timer reaches zero.”
“Say what you want, but you and your buddies are going to be really disappointed in a few minutes. Because I’m renewing the mark again. And I’m going to KEEP renewing it for a long 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 and you’re Senator buddies have been doing great harm over the past few years now. And despite our utter hatred for you and everything that you represent, you’ve been able to walk right past us, time and time again, with the Elder’s safeguard giving you complete immunity for your crimes against us. 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 pretended to be when you were still surrounded by your little protective ‘bubble’. Frankly, I’m disappointed.”
“You know what happens to you if the Elders find out that 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 save you from the rest of us, but the truth of the matter is…if they had any further use for you at all, they would have called 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…on 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 a free pass and walk among you all 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 a new safeguard, and I’m coming for each and every last one of you fucks. You hear me? I suggest you look for a SEWER to sleep in! Because I’m tearing down every low budget garbage heap you monsters are ‘infecting’ with your disgusting presence. I′m going to punish you all, and I′m gonna make a LOT of money doing it too! Just you 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 accounts that you’ve been hiding from your Ex-wife’s lawyers? Or the secret accounts you shifted overseas to keep from paying your fair share of American taxes. A country that has given you soooo much in the past. And this is how you repay your debt to Uncle Sam? That′s how you would phrase it, isn′t it? At one of your shamelessly wealthy galas, full of champagne and shrimp cocktails?” He said, and I froze immediately…nearly dropping the phone once again. “Is THAT the ‘unseen’ money that you’re referring to? Depending on? The illegal accounts? The false aliases? The bank deposit boxes and multiple hidden passwords? Or did you mean the REALLY secret account that you keep in that bank just outside of Fiji? Last five digits, 66303? Hehehe, oh, I certainly hope you weren’t depending on that lavish fortune to save you tonight. It won′t.” 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 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 until your identity can be fully verified…days from now. 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 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′ll need for a new safeguard mark until ALL of the accounts have been declared 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, samples to prove your identity…and you’d STILL have to wait the minimum mandatory period before you were allowed access again. Monday morning at the earliest. And I’m afraid that’s going to be waaaaay too late.”
“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.” I heard his voice deepen into a low growl. “What was your plan, Mr. Kincaid? Did you really think that you could just exploit the poor, the helpless, the disadvantaged, members of our society without conscience…and then you and your mega rich political friends could whisk yourselves away to some ivory tower where you′d be safe from us? Where you could forget about what you′ve DONE? No, Mr. Kincaid. We will always find you. No matter where you run to. And the more you starve us…the more we lick our lips in anticipation for seeing your life essence spill out of your open throat like a faucet!”
Shivering, mucus running out of both nostrils as I fought back as many tears as I could, I whimpered, “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.” He 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 a hold of to get the best view 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 the reflection of 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 travel bag out of the closet and filled it with my shaver, some cologne, and a few needed toiletries, and took some of my cleanly pressed suits and slung them over my shoulder. Grabbed my keys, my wallet, an overcoat, and I locked up the condo, heading towards the elevator.
I traveled nineteen 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 downstairs the lobby was empty. In fact…it was dark. No security cameras, no lights….nothing. I looked behind the desk briefly, but saw no signs of him. “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. NOW!
I walked outside and headed 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. Don′t they know how much crime there is in this city? They wouldn′t allow the lights to stay off. Not for any length of time.
I stopped dead 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 survival instincts kicking in and telling me to make it quick. 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, full force.
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 my vehicle for a moment in disbelief, and then was SHOCKED as I heard the sound of a lone skateboard rolling across the concrete in the distance.
I spun around, pressing my back up against the battered 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, pounding so hard in my chest that it made it hard to breathe. “Hehehe…hahaha!” The boyish giggles continued, now coming from more than one direction. Then one of them whispered. “Midnight. Hehehe…midnight is coming!” 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 louder, and closer with every step. The second I saw a few silhouettes walking in my direction, I dropped my suits on the ground, and made a mad DASH for the front lobby again!
I heard the sound of two skateboards hitting the pavement hard this time, and 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 own 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, goddamn, GAME!
“Hahahaha!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!! MIDNIGHT!!!!” They cheered, 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 my attackers were right behind me! Keeping me boxed in! Herding me towards a prison where I was going to have to wait to meet my own demise. 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 and chest, slumped down and leaning up against the bathroom sink in a pool of gore. And on the mirror, drenched in his blood, was the message…
Hope you don’t mind.”
Along with a bloody smiley face drawn next to it. I was almost SICK at this point. And when I backed out of that bathroom, trembling at the site of the carnage before me, I saw what looked like an entire army of teenagers outside the glass doors of the condo lobby. Some of the younger ones pressing their noses and cheeks against the glass to make faces at me…and others…not looking very ′playful′ at all. One boy, in particular, looked to be about 8 years old at the most, with longish dark brown hair and glowing red eyes. He was pointing a finger directly at me. And once he saw that he had my attention, he gave me a demonic smirk, pulled his index finger back, raised his boyish chin slightly. Slowly…silently…dragging the finger across the front of his neck. As if to let me know, without a doubt…that my time was almost up.
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 further 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 objects with their mind, hell…I’ve even seem one 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 nineteenth floor, and then briskly walked down the hall to my apartment 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 alcohol to calm my nerves so that I might be able to think clearly. The bourbon bottle was empty, 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 those monsters 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 another. 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 can 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.”
“Listen to me, alright…I′m having aminor issue with my accounts right now, due to a clerical error. But I guarantee you that I′m good for it! Just get me a shuttle here as quickly as possible, get me on a plane, and I SWEAR on my life that I′ll…”
“I′m sorry, sir. But I can′t certify any transactions until the fees have been taken of.”
I swallowed my rage, and told him, “I…I understand that. But this is an emergency. It′s a GODDAMNED EMERGENCY!!!” I couldn′t control my voice anymore. Tears of terror rolled out of my eyes as I shouted into the phone. “GET ME OUTTA HERE!!! You′ve GOT to get me on a plane! Right now! Jesus Christ…just send the shuttle! You′re wasting time!” That′s when I heard a ′click′ on the other end of the line. “Hello? HELLO?!?!?!” I angrily slammed the phone against a nearby wall, nearly breaking it in half. “YOU BASTARD!!!”
I looked back outside the window…and I knew it was pointless to even argue. None of my credit cards would work. They made sure that I was as far away from my money as huanly possible. I couldn’t even afford a cab ride. I watched…as they taunted me with impish grins and evil laughter.
What else could I do…but wait for the Elders to respond?
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 of my political friends to help me out, but they all 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 and telling me that I should sleep it off. 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 a 19 year old boy musician is NOT a good idea. Especially if you get caught in the act while she′s supposed to be out of town on a business trip.
My ex-wife’s last words to me tonight, when I tried to explain the vampire thing?
“GOOD! I hope they ARE real! And I hope they bite you right on the ASS, you goddamn adulterous 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 half 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 that it’s URGENT!” I said, nearly sobbing openly 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, nearly hyperventilating now. “I’ve got a vampire 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 by Elder Beraad 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 bottom feeders of this city. That was clearly an even trade for services rendered, and it was profitable for all involved…when that situation was beneficial to 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 have. “You can’t DO this to me! After all the money I’ve earned for you, all the functions I FUNDED for you…you OWE me! I put my ass on the line, risked going to prison for LIFE! 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. Fitzgerald from now on. He and his brother Bobby will 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 necessary. 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 our kind. You never did. You USED us to get what you wanted, exploited our limitations to get rich, and for the last few years we allowed you to live in the lap of extreme luxury while our kind suffered out in the cold and the rain. You kicked back in your well furnished condominium with all of your nifty gadgets, and you watched the rest of us 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 our 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 amount of 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 brought upon 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.”
“It was YOU that talked me into being a part of this! BOTH of you! I only went along with it because…”
“Because…the evil and corruption in your heart was stronger than your sense of human decency, Mr. Kincaid.” He said. “You spend your nights calling us monsters, but those of you who walk in daylight are no less predatory than we are. The only difference is…you′ve learned to tell yourselves a convincing variety of lies to deny such a thing is true. But you′ve made your millions, Mr. Kincaid. You have lived the privileged life of a wealthy man, and have experienced through the carefree eyes of a man without conscience. Congratulations.” My knees went weak as he continued with, “But…you are no longer dealing with the laws of business. You are dealing with the laws of nature. And your riches don′t come into play when it comes to your place on the food chain. Your vapid soul and lack of morality simply don′t possess the proper ′currency′ needed to pay up when the bill for your heartless actions comes due.”
“So what the hell am I supposed to do???”
“I suggest you keep the lights on. For as long as you can.”
“You TRAITOR!!!” I screamed.
“Traitors…” He said. “Aren′t we all.” I couldn′t believe this was fucking happening right now! “Greed…vanity…lust…pride…how long have we preached on these things? How long has humanity turned a blind eye to the scars they leave behind?”
“Don’t GIVE me that religious bullshit, 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.” 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 those who would do you harm in times of utter desperation. For, as I am sure you are about to realize…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 sincere prayer for you tonight, and I 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 a 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 safeguard 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 dozen years or so, 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. They′ll make certain of that. 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 bare witness to a monster′s fury.
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. Fitzgerald? This is Father Serazzi. My apologies for the lateness of my call. I wanted to contact you to let you know that our…arrangement has now been put into full effect. Both for you, and your brother Bobby. 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 word is as good as gold, Mr. Fitzgerald. We’re expecting to see a great many things from you over the next three years.”
“Yes, sir. You certainly will.” Mr. Fitzgerald 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. Fitzgerald.” 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 the rest of our organization.” And then…with a very dark smile…Serazzi added…
“You’re in good hands, Mr. Fitzgerald. You’re working for the highest class of Vampire Elders now…and we ALWAYS take care of our own. Always.”