Sunday, January 02, 2005

The rest of the book, in one fell post.

Sorry for the delay in posting this....here is the rest of the book...enjoy! (Ignore the weird editing/numbering marks, please!) Please let me know if you care!

Start at the beginning

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"Do you think that's a problem?", Genia asked.

Margie gave Genia an exasperated look. Bruce could tell Margie thought Genia was an idiot, but she'd have to be to agree to be sired for their use as a spy. They ate their salads. Bruce was thinking about the samples and how they must be progressing. He'd have a chance to see them soon enough.

That's when he thought…damn, I'm scruffy. He hadn't had a decent haircut in years. He'd been self maintaining, as it were, and since he was in New York he could probably find a barber open late tomorrow night. He'd have to try that, his hair was a mess. It could use a deep conditioning.

"Bruce?", Marie said.

"Yeah, sorry….it's definitely a problem, Genia.", Bruce replied, distracted.

Just then the waitress came by to collect their appetizers, and dropped off their salads. While the vampire constitution thrived on meat and protein, Bruce really liked Salads a lot, other vampires used to look at him strangely, but since he didn't much hang out with them anymore, it wasn't an issue. Vampires were a strange bunch. This particular salad likely would have benefited with a slightly less aggressive dressing, but Bruce was happy enough.

"Let's get down to Brass tacks, Bruce….will you help us?"

"Can I think about it."

"Sure,", Margie paused, "so, will you help us?"

"What if I don't."

"Well, Bruce, nice guy as you are, you are the enemy when you get down to it."

"That's great Margie….I'm with you or I'm against you, is that it?"

"Well, yeah…. How's your salad?"

"Fine, thanks.", Bruce was tired of this dinner, or at least the company, "What is it you want from me?"

"Nothing much, just don't save Markus, and we'll come to you time to time to ask for your help with things."

"I don't mind helping, but I'm not going to kill Markus for you, through neglect or otherwise. I know he's a bastard, but I'm not going to kill for you.", Bruce said.

That's when Bruce parsed what Genia said…maybe she wasn't dumb. Maybe she had been caught up in being a vampire, maybe, just maybe, she wanted the feds to fail. Bruce had seen this countless number of times….new vampires are not necessarily bad or good, they're like a purified version of themselves. If Genia was a clueless selfish idiot before becoming a vampire, she certainly is that times 10 now, and that meant protecting herself, her kind and screw the rest of them.

Being a vampire purifies the personality the same way alcohol can. Meeting someone drunk, he thought, was like meeting who they truly were. It was one of the reasons Bruce didn't enjoy getting drunk, he got judgemental, mostly, and didn't have a great time of it.

Bruce decided to test his hypothesis. He caught Genia's eyes and gave her a "What's up?" sort of look when the feds weren't looking. She had the most enigmatic of smiles on her face. Bruce could tell that she was almost bragging to him that she had them all, all of them in the government, fooled. Bruce also knew that without a doubt, Genia was the fool.

Bruce finished his salad in silence, listening while Margie made the case for betrayal against Markus, "Listen Bruce, Markus is no friend of yours. Think of how we found you. He has files, poorly secured files, on all the older vampires. You, Yuri, and a whole slew of others. That's how we tracked you down."

"I don't suppose you have a listing for a 'Lindsay Kensington' do you?"

"Ah, curious about the first one you sired, eh? I'll let you know that if you help us.", she said.

"Alright, we'll trade. I'll give you something you want, and I'll get something I want. I won't kill for you though."

"Alright, we want a sample of the diseased blood in an early stage."

"I can do that, although I can't imagine why you need it."

"We'll also need a sample Markus' blood."

"That's a little harder, don't you already have a sample of a early onset vampire?"

"Just do it, Bruce, and you'll have your information."

"You have my messenger id?"

"Yeah, we do."

"I'll IM you the details tomorrow night about a meeting place. Plan on around 9pm in the city. And have the information, ready to transmit to me by 8pm."

"How do we know you'll keep up your part of the bargain."

"Well, you don't. But I do know explicitly that you will keep your side of the bargain. If you don't, I'll just disappear."

"You aren't a revenant, Bruce, we'll find you."

The busboy showed up to clear their plates. As he cleared, Bruce said, "Just you do your part, I'll do mine."

The waitress showed up with their entrees. As Bruce started to eat his veal, he paused, and asked Margie, "So how long have you guys been watching me?"

"Only a year, we found out about you a year ago, and I moved in permanently 6 months in. We thought you had discovered us, especially when our first agent went missing, but that ended up not being your fault, she had run off the reno to get married and chosen to not tell us."

"You have trouble attracting good people, Margie?"

"You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is. You mention the occult and people write you off as being some lunatic x-files fan with a misguided budget. All I seem to get are flakes, it seems. I have some good people " she said, playing to the crowd, "but its really hard. I sometimes think people are in such denial."

If she only knew, Bruce decided some charm was in order. When bruce wanted, he could be very charming. It was pheromonal , he was certain, he could smell it, the sweet sour saltiness of it. He just wanted it bad enough and it came. This was the kind of thing the young ones wanted, but it took years before you could do it on demand, and the ones who were sired early just didn't have the basis for it at all. Bruce had yet to meet anyone sired young who could do it as well as Yuri, or Markus for that matter. It was a handy skill to have, that was for sure. He didn't want to use it yet, he wanted to wait until Margie was alone, he needed information from her that she wasn't going to give around these guys.

Bruce ate more of his cheeks, then pushed the plate aside. "I think its time for me to leave. I have a lot of work todo yet tonight, and while I'd love to stay and chat, Its time."

Bruce pushed back his chair.

"Remember Bruce, we always know where you are."

"Yes, I'll remember, remember your part of the deal."

Bruce walked to the front of the restaurant, near the counters looking at the desserts. While he looked, a young woman asked him, "Could I get you something sir?"

"Yes, two of your sandwiches, yes those two, and a selection of your petit fours. I'll take a quarter pound ballotin of chocolates as well. Thanks.", then, remembering, "Also, could you also put in a fountainbleu? Thanks."

As she packaged up his order, Margie came up to him, "Bruce?"

"Yes, Margie"

"I just want you to know that we want the same things, we want to end the mindless slaughter of the innocent, don't forget that."

"I have one question for you, Margie. Well, two really."

"What are they?"

Bruce poured on the charm, "Is Margie your real name?"

She looked into Bruce's eyes, "Yes, it is."

"Well, how did Markus find me? Do you know?"

"Yes, that society of his, they have some people in the government who have been feeding them all kinds of information. Don't worry, they'll get theirs, I assure you."

"Alright Margie, take care, I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."

Margie gave him an odd look, "Don't worry about me, I feel the same way for you."

Bruce took his package from the counter helper. "Thanks, she'll take care of the bill.", then , to Margie, "Tip her well, will you?"

Bruce walked out into the street. It was dark and fairly cold out. He wished he had brought a thicker jacket. He walked down a block to the subway station and took the train downtown.

The last time Bruce had ridden the new york subway, it was a time when you were careful to keep your wits about you when riding. He had heard that crime had gone down in New York, which he knew to be false from at least the "vampires feeding on new Yorkers" statistic, but the last thing he wanted was police interaction, that got sticky, even giving his newfound friends at the federal level.

Friends. Bruce thought that Margie was likely trustable, but he had seen this go on before, you can trust one person but you can't trust their pals. Unlike many vampires who babbled to anyone who would listen about their immortality, Bruce kept that sort of thing very close to his chest, society was beginning to notice the undead, and his personal charm wouldn't work on a torch and pitchfork wielding mob.

He looked around the train and tried to memorize faces. He thought it was likely he was being followed, whether by Markus' society pals or the feds. He considered what it might take to shake them, but it seemed somewhat pointless, as they knew where he was staying and likely his every move. He wondered if they had tagged him like some kind of dolphin, nothing behind his ear, anyway.

He noticed his stop was coming up, as he stepped off the train he had a chance to admire the tile work that was part and parcel of the subway system in New York. He remember that a number of vampires had worked on these tunnels. Vampires were exceptionally well suited to work underground. It even gave a semblance of a normal existence for some, and the numerous mining accidents provided ample feeding opportunities.

Bruce hadn't liked mining, he tried coal mining for a year stateside during the war, the coal dust, caps, goggles and other gear served as a handy light safe layer, and if you worked more time underground, all the better. All this self interest meant too many promotion to foreman, but that was a bad route as it meant going into the sun, so Bruce tried to screw up now and then to keep his profile subdued. Other vampires to this day were miners, and some are still working claims in Nevada and California, the gold fever lasting a good long time. Bruce knew of one not far from him down route 49, he had found a mine that everyone had sworn had been mine out, got rights and had been worrying away every last flake of gold. This led to Bruce picturing him as a Gollum like figure. Bruce really had enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, even if they did paint the orcs a little unfairly. No worse than the raft of current Zombie movies, Bruce thought, as he walked up the escalator.

He emerged from the station into a downtown still fairly messy from the protest. Signs urging for reform littered the street like the discarded detritus of discourse and logic. Bruce wasn't particularly political, be he loved seeing protests, the energy of it was always exciting. He didn't have much to fear from riots, but he tried to stay clear, too many police turn up for those, and cops were complications a vampire didn't need.

It was only a few blocks to the building where Markus and his charges were at, and Bruce noticed a 24 hour drug store open, he went inside and bought some bottled water and a time out New York. He wouldn't mind seeing a play while he was in town, he had heard that Avenue Q wasn't awful, and he liked taking in a show when he was in town. Prices had certainly gone up since his last time in town, but it wasn't like he couldn't afford it, he wondered if he would have the time to do it. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to do so, that's for sure.

He walked a bit and found the building. Next to the door was the antenna patch for the ID card. He swiped it and walked in, found the garage elevators and when the doors had closed, swiped his card and hit the combination he'd been told to use, garage 2 and 3, three times. The elevator started to descend. As it got further down and he felt the oppressive weight of the building above him, he mused that it was good his claustrophobia wasn't too pronounced. Vampires spent a lot of time indoors, sadly. He did feel it more when under stress, and he was certainly under that.

He emerged into an entryway he hadn't been in before, went to the door, experimentally swiped his card and went inside. He was in his lab/kitchen and now he knew where that other door went .As he walked in, Seth walked through the hallway door, noticed him, and said, "Ah, good. We thought that might be you. How was your dinner."

Bruce thought that maybe Seth was one of the feds, who knew? "Good, Seth, I brought some back with me, would you like a chocolate."

"No thanks,", Seth patted his stomach, "I've got to watch my figure, don' want to have a weight problem when I'm sired."

"That's an old witch's tale. It's actually really hard to keep weight on as a vampire."

"Oh, in that case, I'll take one.", Seth smiled, took the chocolate and popped it in his mouth.

"Nice. That's really good.", he said, after eating it.

"You know Seth, there is one thing you can do for me."

"What's that Doc?"

"Could you get me two of those energy shots, you know, the caffeine things? I'm feeling a little tired, I could use the caffeine if I'm going to make any progress tonight. I think I've got a bit of jet lag."

"Sure, we have some in the stores, I'll get some for you."

"Great, thanks."

Seth left and Bruce got to work. He set up a slide from both the disease tainted vampire blood and the human tainted blood. The results from the vampire sample were predictably unsurprising. The sample was completely saturated with the disease. The surprise came when he looked at the human sample. It was clear, no disease at all, much less a proportion equal to the amount Bruce had put in it.

Bruce took a clean pipette and mixed the batch of human and diseased blood up, and created a new slide and slid it under the microscope. As he panned around using the fine controls on the side of the microscope, he saw no sign of the original disease. None. A few false hopes as he panned around revealed nothing, it was as if it had been dissolved. He suspected that there was an antibody that he could

He sat back and thought about it. He mixed a new sample of human blood and diseased vampire blood and set it aside to double check as he thought about this implications. What this meant was that someone, somehow, had been able to find a poison that not only didn't affect mortals, but it also made the presence of vampire like cells in human blood stream functionally disappear.

Bruce felt this was more than just a disease, it meant that, once introduced into a vampires bloodstream, he would be unable to sire another Vampire. While those uninfected would try to go sire people to replace those vampires dropping out of their ranks, they were likely to come across the poison and die from it. Eventually the poison would spread throughout the mortal population and vampires would, eventually, die out. This was the vampire apocalypse and he wasn't sure there was anything he could do about it.

He wasn't sure there was anything he wanted to do about it.

Seth returned with the two caffeine shots in their small glass bottles. Bruce rolled his stool back and went to the fridge. He pulled out some blood (human, pure) and poured himself a glass half full, then he poured in the contents of the two shots. As Seth left, Bruce took the bottles to the sink and washed them out thoroughly and set them on the rack to dry.

While he drank his caffeine and blood concoction, which was like a vampire amphetamine, Bruce thought about the implications of his discovery. All vampires that chose to feed on humans would be dead within a century, give or take a decade or two. While he saw the justice of it, he was disgusted by the finality of it. One might argue, all a vampire has to do is not feed on human blood. That was legit enough, be he wondered who decided they were god. Who had taken it upon themselves to do this, did the US government do this? Was Margie's group capable of it, he knew that motivationally, they were ,but he didn't think they had the resources, as they were pretty marginalized from what he could see at dinner. Also, why would they go to so much trouble to get the samples from him.

Bruce took the glass off the drying rack and took them over to his lab setup, he put in the samples that he had promised them in the two bottles and resealed them. He hoped that they'd just think he was taking them for his personal use, he put them in his jacket pocket.

Then, he buckled down for a long night of sample examination. If this was a TV show, he thought, this is when the music would start, and he'd go all montage-y while he processed through the different samples. The familiars had provided him with his time sequence for two of the vampires, an he started by looking at those samples, seeing how the disease progressed over time In a given undead organism.

He thought that one thing might be interesting, he called out into the ward for Seth, who came back into the lab.

"Seth, I didn't see anything in the epidemiology, but does the disease affect other undead?"

"No, it doesn't."

"How do you know?"

"We captured a werewolf and crafted a pretty high functioning zombie last month, they both were immune to it. We kept them here for 2 weeks while waiting, that wolf was -hot- Bruce, not happy at all to be cooped up."

"Werewolves need the outdoors, where did you catch it?"

"Central Park, he was hanging out near the art museum."

"Ah, but no signs of the disease after 2 weeks. Interesting. Thanks. Are the samples…?"

"In the stores? Yes, look for the code ending in -w and -z for the samples."

"Great thanks.", Bruce said. Seth left after this.

Bruce went to the stores to check their work on the other undead species. Indeed he found the vials labeled -w and -z, also one marked -h , which he assumed was a human test, and perhaps the source of the extra blood. There was also one tray marked -m, which he assumed was Markus' sample tray. He took the empty bottle out of his jacket pocket and emptied the contents of the vial into the bottle which had only recently held the caffeinated beverage. To cover his tracks, he took an early sample from a newly infected vampire and poured his blood into the empty one in Markus's tray. He slid the now fully bottle into his jacket. The two of them, being only small 1 and a half ounce containers, barely made a bulge. Most of their weight came from the thick glass that was used to contain them . He took the -z and -w trays out and took them to the microscope. They were indeed clear.

The question was this, what was it about this pathogen or disease that affected vampires, but not humans, werewolves or zombies. What did humans have in common with werewolves and not vampires?

Could it have something to do with the sun?

He heard a noise from the doorway into the kitchen from the Hall. Markus walked in, leaning on his cane. Either he was a very good actor or he indeed had the disease.

"You've been out and about, I heard."

"Yes, a dinner while the samples here in the lab fermented."

"And, what did you learn?"

Bruce debated what he wanted to tell Markus, "Well, it looks like it is vampire specific and doesn't effect mortals. I also don't think you can consume your way out of this problem."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm sure that all that human blood is helping a bit, but what you need are transfusions of clean vampire blood. I didn't see such things in the walk-in."

"Hmm, that would explain why I'm not doing much better than the others."

"I'd also like a blood sample from you."

"There's one in the Fridge."

"I'd like on a bit more recent."

"They drew that sample while you were out dining, you can use that."

"Alright,", what else could he say? Markus looked like shit, so he thought that he did have it, but Margie had very much put a doubt into him. But what motivation would Markus have for faking it. Were the feds just trying to drive a wedge between him and Markus?

"Well, listen, I'm going to go lay down, keep working, alright? Tell seth if there is anything you need."

"Alright."

"And Bruce….I'm..sorry that I pulled you into this, but you were the only one I thought that might be able to help."

"I know, I was open anyway. I haven't traveled this far in a long time, it makes me nervous, you know."

"Bruce, we're not that delicate, you need mellow…"

"Whatever," Bruce interrupted, "I gotta go back to work, alright? Take it easy and lie down, Markus."

A tall, luxurious, good looking woman came into the kitchen and gave Markus a toothy, coy smile. Markus told Bruce, "You bet Doc, I'll get right on that."

Bruce just shook his head. Markus walked out, leaving Bruce alone. Bruce went to the china cabinet and took a small plate and fork. He then walked down the hallway to his room, and his computer, which he brought out of standby. As the machine thrashed, he thought about the disease. The transfusion would be enough to keep Markus from dying immediately, but there weren't enough vampires around to bring back all of them. Did he want them all to live? .A part of him was okay with them dying, but he knew that not all vampires were sociopaths. Some simply didn't know there was a way to go through their undeath without killing mortals. Some were redeemable. Bruce was by default against the waste of the knowledge and wisdom that vampires were able to achieve.

If only, Bruce thought, vampires and humans could mesh, the advanced in society could be breathtaking. There could be real research around conferring a vampires longevity to normal humans, and maybe a cure of sorts could be found for the vampires sensitivity to the sun.

Bruce opened the paper bag which held his chocolates and desserts. He pulled out the fontainebleau, a 3 inch high cylinder of a nicely bitter chocolate mousse with a raspberry filling and a dark chocolate icing. He couldn't get this in his small town. The cuisine of rural America had taken a turn for the worse over the last 3 decades. As he savored the taste of the fantastic confectionary, he felt the urge, should he make it back to home, to attack the Sysco truck driver.

As he fantasized about this, he reflected that the modern world did allow him some pleasures. He had, over the last few years, gotten into the habit of having a great variety of high quality foods over-nighted to him. The timing worked well, FedEx arrived around 10:30 at his apartment with chocolates from New York, caviar from the Caspian Sea, Foie Gras from France and durien from Singapore.

It made his small town life worth doing, that and the internet.

The internet had revolutionized community for the undead, there were a great number of dodges used by the undead to communicate with each other. IM, Email, Social Networks, were all used heavily by the undead. In the hidden corners of the internet there wasn't just porn and pirated software. Vampires had what amounted to an overlay on top of the internet, just for the immortal surfer.

He typed his password into the machine, as it prompted it whenever it came out of sleep. As soon as the main desktop window came back on, he received an instant message, which said, simply:

LennysMom: You need to get out of the Lab now.
Bnap32: Why?
LennysMom: I couldn't stop them. Take the elevator, they don't know about it yet.

"Oh shit.", Bruce said. He grabbed his laptop bag and the box of chocolates and walked out into the hallway and into the lab. He walked through the back door and hit the elevator call button. As the door opened he heard a low crump from beyond the lab. He walked into the elevator and hit the door close button. Then, checking his watch, he hit the 9th floor button. On the 9th floor was a café that, 20 years ago, was run by an old Chinese fellow named Chen. It was open late. Bruce had gone there with Markus a few times.

As the elevator climbed further up its shaft, Bruce was momentarily pissed that he hadn't taken the rolling bag, but for now that wasn't a big deal. He could buy all the clothes he needed here in New York, and many places were open late., almost catering to the vampire crowd. He'd need a hotel room, which sucked, but so be it. He knew one thing, he could get out of this building alive, it'd help if he blended in real well at Chen's.

Bruce came to the 9th floor and look left and right, no sign of cops, Chen's Café was not far from the Elevator and he walked over to it. It was thankfully open, Bruce was glad Chen hadn't changed his hours or his habits in the intervening decades. He hoped his fried rice was still as tasty.

Chen's café was as he remembered it. Bright lights showered over a café featuring a counter top in front of the grill, facing a line of stools and behind those, a line of booths. There was a large round table in the back corner near the restrooms, and a coat rack near the front door. Bruce hung his coat up on the rack and looked at the large Chinese man who had taken notice of him behind the counter. Since it was in the cheaper space in the middle of the floor, it had no windows, which suited Bruce fine.

"Sit Anywhere.", Chen said. Even at this late hour, there were a good number of people in the small cafe. A few club kids in a booth, some financial looking types at the counter, and an old couple as the near table. Bruce took a booth in the back opposite the restrooms.

He picked up a menu from the holder at the end of the booth. He wasn't hungry but if there was a truism about the undead, it was this: They could always eat. It was hard enough not being hungry all the time if you were a vampire. Human blood was satiating, but Bruce, well, that wasn't his thing.

"What can I get you?", Chen had walked up to Bruce's table, "Coffee?"

"Coffee'd be great," Bruce looked at the menu, "How about fried rice and a cheese burger, Rare."

"Okay, be out in a second."

Bruce noticed a pile of newspapers lying on the counter, he got up and chose a the new york time's arts and entertainment section and sat back down. As he sipped his coffee and contemplated what play he wanted to see….maybe the puppet one? Or maybe the one about Heisenberg… two uniformed police officers walked in and took a good slow look around. Bruce hadn't had time to look like anyone else, so he thought that he either be pouring on the Charm soon or he'd be caught.

After talking with Chen a bit and giving Bruce some time to look at the movie listings…. Hmm, there was a Fritz Lang retrospective at the film forum….they walked over and said, menacingly, "You look familiar."

"Well, do you watch much TV?"

"No, why?"

"Oh, I do a lot of work for the David Letterman show.", Bruce said. He was a believer in the big lie. It went something like this, if you really, absolutely have to tell a lie, then tell a lie that simply could not ,would not be false.

"Really? What do you do?", they looked skeptical.

"Oh, I work one of the cameras, you know how Dave is always calling out to the camera men? Well, some people recognize me for that."

"Naw man, I recognize you from somewhere else."

"I haven't been in front of the camera other than that in a long time."

"What are you doing up here? We're pretty far from the studio."

"It's not that far, " Bruce said, cluelessly but safely, pouring on the Charm.

"Yeah, I suppose not. I really don't think that's where I know you from."

"You guys want to sit down? Join me…the fried rice here is terrific.", Bruce said, hoping his friendliness wouldn't be thought strange.

"Nah, we're looking for a guy. Take care.", as they left they called out, "Thanks Chen, call us if you see anything strange, alright?"

Chen said, "Sure", nodding his head while cooking Bruce's rice and burger.

Bruce returned to appearing to read his newspaper. That was a lucky break that those cops were so easy to Charm. Bruce considered what had happened, pulled out his laptop and got online via his cell phone. As soon as his instant messenger reattached to the server, he got an alert:

System: Stored message: IM Me if you make it out, otherwise I'll find you.

Bruce right clicked on the icon on his taskbar and instructed his client to disconnect. He wanted to have his meal in peace and do a bit of research. He was in a strange town and it would be light in 6 or 7 hours. He needed a undead friendly place to stay until he could find a way out of town. As he was loading up one of the web sites that the undead used as a blind, he noticed Chen arriving with his food. He closed the laptop.

As Chen was placing the food on the Table, he said to Bruce, "Sorry about that, I didn't put two and two together."

Bruce could smell it, Chen was one of the People. "That’s okay, you have a good thing going here, I wouldn't want you to mess it up on my account."

"You are a friend of Markus', right?"

"Well, friend is a strong word, but, yeah, that's why I'm here. Bruce is my name."

"I'm chen. His place in the basement got found out , huh?"

"Yeah."

"It's getting to be about time I move too, then. I've been in this spot 40 years, I gotta go somewhere else."

"Where are you looking."

"Maybe Salt Lake City, or Denver. Maybe Minneapolis."

"Minneapolis would be okay, noone suspects a guy covered head to toe in that town. Lots of interior spaces.", Bruce replied.

"Yeah, you can take a skybridge anywhere in the downtown spaces. They have a good culture of our kind, too."

"A lot of hanger-ons though.", Bruce said.

"Yeah, but that's handy , if you get my drift."

"I do", Bruce had had his share.

"I gotta go back to the kitchen. Good luck", Chen said with a wink, walking back behind the counter. Bruce had to marvel at the genius of his scam. A restaurant like this was a perfect blind. Lots of cash, which was very handy for their kind, great location, and a somewhat portable business from identity to identity. Bruce wasn't much of a cook, which is to say that compared to your average mortal he was a fantastic cook, but some of the older ones took cooking very seriously.

Bruce wondered if Chen had chosen the diner as a way of keeping culinary attention away from his food. Magazine gourmets rarely go for counters with cigarette burns. As he tucked into his burger, he reflected on how he wished for such a good burger joint in his town. Mel's was fine, but nothing like this. The bread was properly toasted and the condiments were fresh with the mayonnaise homemade and the mustard nicely spicy.

It needed a bit of salt, but that was okay, and the fried rice was heavenly. Just terrific stuff. He'd have to make it worse somehow otherwise he was going to get mobbed by foodies, then recognized, then dead, in his next identity. Not having a high profile position (line cook) was good as it meant that many people wouldn't notice him, as he was, to put it simply, the help.

The burger was very rare and the meat high quality, something that Bruce appreciated. As he finished up his meal, Chen came by and dropped off the check. As he picked it up, Bruce noticed a note underneath. He dropped a twenty on top of the check an opened the note, it said:

Bruce,

Take the freight elevator and go to the basement level. Go to the 4th door on the left, marked, the combo is 16-32-48. There is a ladder in the corner under a cardboard box filled with bags of rice. Climb down. When you get to the bottom go towards the light. Watch your back. If you need help, go to Brasserie 9 and a half on 57th between 5th and 6th and order raw oysters, steak tartar and ask for a cosmopolitan done "Romanian" style. Lame? Yes…but you'll be able to get help.

Bruce tore it up and left the paper on his plate, which he covered with some leftover condiments. He slid his laptop into his bag and left the café. Chen just nodded as he left the restaurant. He walked down the hall until he found the freight entrance, it wasn't far. He tapped the button and waited. It took some time, but it did arrive, it was empty. Bruce walked inside the elevator and pressed the "B" button at the bottom of the long list of numbers. He wondered if he could use some category of numbers to get back to Markus' , but he obviously didn't want to do that.

It arrived in the basement, and, true to his note, 4 doors down with combination lock embedded in the door awaited him. A 16, a 32 and a 48 later, he was inside, spinning the combo as the door closed. As he id that he thought, as he often did, of fingerprints. It was likely they'd pick up a fingerprint somewhere in the building, he'd have to do something about that. It was too early to switch identities, he still had 10 years left at this one. He thought about his happy life, taking care of the Cats and the Dogs and how far away it seemed. He missed it, he missed helping people and their pets. He shook off the ennui as he located the ladder in the corner.

It was a long descent, and it got colder and clammier for a while. He could smell the subway; the people, the food, the sweat. He could smell a touch of rank from the homeless population that was left in the tunnels. He felt especially bad for these poor specimens. They were remarkably similar, so much so that Bruce thought they should qualify as an ethnic group. They were strong enough and had the presence of mind to avoid or fight off the undead that liked to feed on them and crazy enough to not live above ground. People who didn't qualify for these two personality traits were either food for the People, or aboveground.

As he continued his descent, Bruce just felt pity. He knew about societal rejection, all the undead did, living as they had too in the darkness avoiding human contact whenever possible. Bruce had come out of that shell for a good long time, being the overnight vet, and he felt a flash of anger at Markus and Julian and their ridiculous society for bringing him out of his nice life. The companionship of the undead wasn't all bad, they could relate with the problems as only an immortal can, but he didn't like hanging out with the undead, they were so blood thirsty and obvious.

He reached the bottom of the ladder, landing on a platform along a subway line. As he looked back and forth, he saw he was all of 40 feet from a station, and he walked in that direction. There was a curve to the platform that kept him out of sight. He heard the metallic squeal of an approaching train. He climbed up the ladder out of sight and waited for it to pass. The volume of the passing train inside the accessway was awesome, vibrating him down to his bones, driving hot air up the channel, past Bruce.

After it passed, he climbed down and made his way towards the station. As he got close he saw some police at the far side of the station and , not wanting to take any chances, he climbed into the train from the back door. Luckily it was being driven from the front and there weren't any people in the back train. He sat down with his back to the wall facing the station side. He slumped down hoping the police, if they saw him at all, would think he was homeless or some other flavor of drunk.

The train pulled out the station and Bruce straightened up. He noted that he was on the F train heading uptown, which pleased him to no end. He'd find a hotel near the Brasserie, hopefully one with some bandwidth. As the stations passed by, he began to relax a bit, it seemed that they hadn't called forward he and thus he was in good shape.

He reached into his laptop case. He favored the saddlebag style bag. Fro mthe top pocket, he pulled out his ipod and began to dial in some music. He slid his aftermarket phones into his ears, no telltale white cables trailing from his ears. He spun the wheel and found something he could bear to listen to. He needed something slow to help mellow out the adrenaline rush of the last hour, and so he had chose some Chopin, the melodic piano tinkling slowing his blood pressure to a minimum.

He considered his predicament. He had alternative ID for the hotel, but why bother, when he logged in, Margie would know anyway, but whoever was likely watching his credit cards wouldn't know. He wondered if he would be able to use cash at all. In his experience only the very poor and very rich had the luxury of using cash, and since his taste didn't run to single room occupancy shitholes, he decided to find an exceptionally expensive hotel.

He pulled out his copy of Time-out New York to see if it had any pointers. While reading an article about dining in the city, he came across a mention of a Hotel Anthenee not far from the Brasserie. It sounded just like what he was looking for. He hoped it had bandwidth of some kind.

The train pulled into the 63rd street station and Bruce hopped out of the car right as the door opened. He ascended into a brisk chilled night. He looked forward to a shower and a nice place to relax. As he walked the few blocks to the hotel, he remember how much he liked New York…it was hard to describe, the feel of the city was still there for him after all this time. He saw the awning he was looking for and pulled the ear pieces from his ears and slid them into the pocket with the player. The doorman held the door open to him, as he prepared his charming ways so the hotel would accept him for what he would assert himself to be.

He walked along the marble lobby to the registration desk, its deeply beautiful wood a delight to Bruce, he loved the workmanship that some businesses still indulged in. As he walked up a dapper young man in a maroon uniform approached from a back office located through a door behind the counter.

"May I help you sir?"

"Yes, I'd like a room. I'm afraid I don't have a reservation."

"Oh, well, we're fairly booked up, I'm sorry to say that the regular rooms are taken. Can I interest you in a suite?"

"That would be fine."

"Do you have some bags?"

"No, I'm afraid they will not arrive until tomorrow at the earliest, they did not make it onto the plane at Heathrow."

"That's too bad sir.", the attendant placed a card and a pen in front of Bruce, "If you would be so kind as to fill out this card."

"Certainly.", Bruce filling in the name James Bernard, the name on the alternative id and credit card should he need to use them.

"The suite we have available is a one bedroom deluxe room at the back of the hotel, sorry about that, it runs five hundred and fifty dollars a night. How long will you be staying."

"At least two nights, I'll let you know my plans as they develop here in your fine city."

"Terrific, how would you like to pay?"

"I prefer to pay with cash."

"Certainly Mr. Bernard, we require a 100$ phone deposit for our cash customers."

"Of course," replied Bruce, he lifted his laptop bag onto the side table, reached below his laptop and pulled out a small case. He pulled 13 hundred dollar bills from a small stack of 20. He'd need to get some more money out if he wanted to continue staying at the Athenee He handed the money to the attendant and asked, "Could you send up some shaving gear for me please? My shaving kit was in my bag."

"Certainly sir.", he handed Bruce a card key and said, "You are in room 411, the elevators are right over there. If there is anything I can do to help you enjoy our city or your stay, let me know."

"I will, thank you.", Bruce said.

Bruce turned and walked to the elevator, taking it to the 4th floor. He found his room easily enough, it was decorated in a style that Bruce appreciated , but most of all the bed was firm and the linens were high quality. He noticed that the hotel provided high speed internet access, which was handy. He drew the curtains and , like many hotels, he was very happy with the amount of light that this did away with. It was still night, but he didn't want a sudden awakening as the sun came up.

He took the samples out of his jacket and put them into the mini-bar fridge.

He pulled his laptop out of his case and turned it on. Before plugging into the hotel he decided to see if he could see any wireless access points he could easily use. He found two unprotected ones: linksys and default. He chose the 'default' network and logged his instant messaging program in. He found Margies username and pinged her:

Bnap32: yt?
LennysMom: Yeah.

Non-committal was smart, I could be a faker after all.

Bnap32: I made it out okay. As proof of my bonafides: Remember when you brought Lenny in for his stomach pain. I can't imagine you told anyone what he had swallowed.
LennysMom: No, I didn't.
Bnap32: Do I need to spell it out?
LennysMom: Yes.
Bnap32: Okay, it was a feminime pad, unused thank god. I can't imagine what he was thinking. Or what you were thinking: why did you raid Markus' place?
LennysMom: It wasn't my decision, I wanted to see what we could get out of you first, but my superior wanted to catch some vampires.
Bnap32: How did that work out for you?
LennysMom: Lots of vampires, no Markus, no You, and a few others we wanted to find. Lots of dead undead.
Bnap32: Dead dead?
LennysMom: Yeah, it was a pretty violent scene. Even the sick ones are very strong, and we have wide latitude for dealing with the undead. We don't consider them citizens or even animals in a lot of ways.
Bnap32: Nice. Real nice.

There was a pause in the conversation and the "typing" icon appeared.

LennysMom: Listen Bruce, I don't really expect that you even give much of a shit about those guys, all of them were killers, all of them. We checked them out, they're very much the bad guys, killed off many many people, people with kids, families, moms and dads, sisters, one even killed a good number of the clergy. These people aren't like you. Why you are trying to save them is beyond me.
Bnap32: Why should I spend any less effort on these people than I did when Lenny got in that scrap with the German Shepard?
LennysMom: I really did appreciate that, but Lenny was attacked first, I told you that.
Bnap32: Whatever, my question is this: Do we still have a deal?
LennysMom: You got the samples?
Bnap32: Yep.
LennysMom: Where and when do you want to meet?
Bnap32: I'll message you tomorrow night at 8:30
LennysMom: Alright. I'll wait for your message, I look forward to it bruce.
Bnap32: You better not forget the information. I'll want a taste of it when I message you, you know.
LennysMom: That's fine by me. Talk with you then.

Bruce exited the program and surfed around a bit, checking out the various vampire hang outs online. New York was a center for vampire activity, and there were a number of places that acted as mixing places for the dead and live citizens of the city.

New York was a vain city in a lot of ways, in the late 1950s it was found that when a vampire feeds on a person, and doesn't sire them or kill them, it does help to 'preserve' them. It can't make someone young again, but it can help to hold back a great number of effects of aging.

Bruce thought it was akin to the way that frequent blood donors had lower cholesterol, those who allowed a vampire a nip of blood were repaid with tight, cleaner skin and fewer accumulated wrinkles. When Bruce left in the 80s, there was nothing organized around this feature of the vampire physique, but it appeared things had changed. Much like botox parties, it appeared that vampire treatments were becoming all the rage. It was much more intense for everyone involved.

From what Bruce was reading, the person would offer a vein to a vampire with some measure of self control and in return for a pint of blood would get some of the vampires essence. Bruce found this fascinating. There was some stories of a vampire being kept in cages in a plastic surgeons office who was selling the service to his exclusive clientele. He had eventually been careless and his vampire took care of him rather quickly. A vampire with a lot of human blood is very strong, very fast, and very persuasive. You can't keep a vampire caged unless it is weak, and feeding it humans is no way to keep it weak.

Bruce felt a bit of a chill and turned the heater up a bit. He put his laptop into standby and plugged it into the wall for a bit of a charge.

Bruce stripped down and took a shower in what was, for New York, a good sized bathroom. He imagined that Molting might feel the same way, as the hot water cleaned off the accumulated damp and grime that he could sadly appreciate with his enhanced sense of smell. The trip down the ladder had done a number on his nose. After toweling off, he walked out into the bedroom, it was 6 am, and he was tired. It had been a very busy night. He set the alarm for 3 pm and fell fast asleep, warmly cocooned in the luxuriously soft linens.

Chapter

He was in a large classroom, diagrams of the interiors of different domestic pets were chalked on the boards, a dog here, a cat there, a bird over there, a human over there. He was taking a test about how a vet could tell the difference between an undead and live organism. The class was nodding and laughing along with the instructor, who in the dream was Markus.

"Simply draw the blood and taste it, if it has a chalky creamy taste, then said animal is likely undead. If it tastes like oysters and copper they might be alive. It is okay to kill them either way."

The knocking and calls of 'Room service' drew Bruce out of his dream. He hadn't put the do not disturb hanger on the door when he came in the night before. This told him he was slipping a bit, he never would have forgotten that in the old days.

"Come back later," he called out to the nameless, faceless maid. When she had moved on to the next room, he went to the door and hung the door hanger into place. There was a New York Times waiting at the foot of his door, a courtesy from the hotel. Bruce picked it up and took it into the room. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, way too sunny for Bruce to consider leaving his room, Bruce was considering falling back into the bed when a headline caught Bruce's eye: "Terrorist cell found in midtown?"

The story was below the fold on the right side of the newspaper, it said:

Police are reporting that a terrorist cell locate in the basement of a skyscraper in Midtown had been found and neutralized by a combination of forces from the ATF, the FBI, the DHS and the New York Police Department. This cell is alleged to have experimented with biological weapons on the cities homeless population. On the premises were the bodies of 5 indigents thought dead of missing over the course of the last year.

A person connected to the raid on the cell had only this to say: "I'd never seen anything like it. There was room easily for 10 times the numbers of bodies they recovered. I looked at the cots and could only think, what did I stumble into. It was creepy, I tell you."

Spokespeople for the FBI would only say that a raid had occurred and that they would keep us informed. Similar statements were released by the DHS and the ATF. The building is one of the oldest high-rises in New York, with a history going back 35 years when it was built high above old New York. Originally built to hold the offices of a (then) large insurance company, its lowermost parking level had been converted into a working and living space by parties unknown. Many people who work inside the building were unaware of the floor existence.

"Who knew, I mean, aren't all the basements supposed to go to parking?", said Mr. Chen, proprietor of Chen's café on the 9th floor.

The bottommost floor of the parking area was originally converted to storage and offices for the Curry, Simon and Jenkins law firm, which moved to more palatial offices downtown in 1985 A spokesperson for the firm expressed surprise that anyone could use the space as they had experienced significant employee morale problems, forcing them to abandon the space shortly after moving into it and using it only for documents, office equipment and support personnel.

"This action was the result of tireless work on behalf of the American people by the ATF, the DHS and the FBI. Through tools provided by the US Patriot act we were able to detect and head off this threat to our nation in a timely, legal manner.", A spokesperson for the New York FBI office stated.

An anonymous source within the FBI told the Times that while there was indeed non-citizens, the action had nothing to do with Terrorism and everything to do with religious persecution, and that the government was just using its executive power to repress pagan covens. When asked about this, the FBI spokesperson, Ken Wales, said, "While there was a pagan influence inside this particular cell, their actions demanded retaliation before the government. Remember that we found bodies of homeless people and large dogs who had clearly been experimented on with some biological agent."

When asked about the communicability of the agent, the FBI assured the Times that the disease was thought to be blood borne but that all the bodies were to be incinerated, just in case.

Bruce put down the paper, shaking his head. It was tough to organize when you were undead. People didn't think much of it. Bruce picked up the phone and called down to room service, ordered some eggs, toast , ham and bacon along with some coffee and fruit.

The light of day still surrounded the edges of the window. This was early in the morning for Bruce. He considered taking a nap after Breakfast. Being trapped in a five star hotel wasn't the worst fate, but it was still a kind of prison.

Bruce went into the Bathroom and took a robe off the shelf and put it on, looking at himself in the mirror. Bruce thought about his clothing situation, he was going to need some new clothes, his roller having been left at Markus' lair. He picked up his laptop and this time using the linksys network and then googled for the number of the Barney's personal shopper.

"Barney's New York, how can I help you?", a female voice at the other side of the line said.

"Hello, I'm staying at the Hotel Athenee on," Bruce looked at the pad near the phone for the address, "64th, and I wanted to have some fitters come by for a few suits and some outerwear."

"Certainly sir, let me connect you to that department.", her voice transistioned to a click then a few moments on hold. Then, "Hello, this is Liz Bateman, I'll need to take down some information from you in preparation for our fitters to come by. I understand you are staying at the Plaza-Athenee?"

"That's right."

"Your name and room number?"

"James Bernard, room 411."

"Do you know your sizes Mr. Bernard?"

"It's been a few years," twenty, really, "Since I've been professionally fitted, but I'm 5'10" and 150 pounds, I suppose. I'm looking for a decent, not too conservative suit, a nice overcoat, shoes, underwear, socks, belts and the works. My luggage did not arrive from my trip and I have an appointment later tonight that I need to look good for."

"That's making it tight. Can you come in to the store?"

"Unfortunately, I cannot, I have a conference call that I need to do from here at the hotel. Can you make this all happen before 9pm?"

"Yes, but there will be fees attached to rush work."

"Money is not a problem."

"Yes, how would you like to pay for this?"

"If you look in your records for a 'Ketlener Holding Corporation' you'll see we have a history with your company."

"One moment…", Bruce heard some tapping, "Oh this is an old one, hasn't been used in 11 years. " In fact it had been for a scarf, shoes and a belt that Bruce had ordered, he was glad that they had imported the old data into the system. "But you seem well regarded Mr. Bernard. Will 2:30 work for you?"

"Certainly."

"We'll see you then Mr. Bernard, wait…one last thing, what size are your feet?"

"I wear a size ten."

"Alright, thanks Mr. Bernard. We'll see you soon."

"Thanks."

Bruce hung up the phone and turned to his laptop. There was one email waiting for him in his webmail account under the 'BruceVet' label. It was from Marsha:

Dr. Napoleon,

I'm afraid Crystal has taken a turn for the worse, and Dr. Kinsey doesn't seem to be able to help. If you could call me, I'd really appreciate it.

-Marsha

The email had been sent at 10 am pacific time, about an hour ago. Bruce picked up the phone and called her up. She picked up on the third ring.

"Hello?"

"Hello Marsha, this is Dr. Napoleon, what can I do for you?"

"Well, she was doing well, but the Diarheaa is back and I'm at wits end as to what I can do for her. Anytime I try to get her to drink some water she either drinks too much and vomits or she just ignores it."

"That's really too bad, I had hoped she was okay.", there was a knock at the door, "Hold on a moment would you?"

"Sure Dr."

Bruce walked to the door and motioned the waiter with his food inside. As the waiter set up the table, Bruce picked back up the phone, "Sorry about that, I took the chance of an open weekend and hopped on a plane to New York."

"Really Dr. Napoleon, you do deserve the break, I really appreciate you calling back."

"It's no problem really, my meal has just arrived, so let me tell you quickly what you can do. Go to the store and buy some of those electrolyte pops that kids drink when they have the flu or a virus."

"Oh, yes, I have some of those, my granddaughter needed some when she was out here this summer.", Bruce heard what sound like Marsha rummaging about in her pantry, "Yep, Pedialyte pops."

"Yes, those will do. Are they frozen?"

"No, should they be?"

"No, the dog won't like them cold. But liquid, they seem to like it. If you have any soft dog food, go ahead and add about half the pop to a tablespoon of dog food. The idea is that the dog will absorb a good amount of the liquid before it passes through its system. The dog food makes it meaty and good for her."

"Okay, Dr. Napoleon, I'll try that out. Thanks!"

"Be sure to email me either way, okay Marsha? I check it often enough."

"I will Doc. Enjoy your trip!"

"I will, thank you."

The room service waiter had finished the set up and said, "If you would be so kind as to sign here Mr. Bernard. Or is it Doctor?"

"Well, I'm a vet, but I don't make a big thing of it."

"Yes sir."

Bruce took the card and put his signature on it, adding a bit to the built in gratuity.

"Thank you sir. Please feel free to call us or just place the cart outside your door. Either way if you need anything don't heasittate to call us."

"Of course, thank you."

Bruce turned on the television and found a new station. While pouring himself a coffee, the news turned its attention to Markus' project. The feds seemed to be sticking to the terrorism story. During one of the crowd shots, Bruce swore he saw his driver seth in the background.

As he noshed on his Breakfast, he thought about some of the other things he would try to get in while in New York, maybe a haircut? Maybe a trip to Daniel? Bruce enjoyed fine dining although he worried about having too much good food before returning to his small town, devoid of caviar, bagels and high quality chocolates. Bruce thought about where he would meet Margie that night. If he could trust her, he could invite her to Brasserie, but why assume that he could. Daniel it was. He picked up the phone and, once the operator came on, asked for the concierge.

"Concierge's desk, how may I help you Mr. Bernard."

"Yes, I'd like reservations for two in the name of Margie Hempstead at Daniel tonight."

"That should present no problem, sir, what time?"

"How does 9:00 sound?", New York restaurants never sat anyone on time, so Bruce wasn't too worried about that.

"I'll check and ring you back, Mr. Bernard."

"Thanks."

Bruce set down the food and finished the rest of his Breakfast. He entertained himself by reading the rest of the times, wishing that the cities museums were open late so he could enjoy them, too.

Chapter

Bruce flipped channels until he heard a knock at his door. He went about the room turning on all the lights. It was the fitter and personal shopper from Barneys. Accompanying them was a man pushing a rack of clothes.

"Mr. Bernard?"

"Yes."

"I'm Liz Bateman. We spoke on the phone. I have to tell you, I expected a much older gentleman."

Liz was the kind of gal you really only got to see a lot of in New York. Petite and good looking, with a somewhat more severe haircut than her pretty face and features deserved, she was dressed in a black skirt with black tights and a turtleneck sweater, she also had on fuzzy red boots on. Likely Prada, he thought.

"I get that a lot. The holding company has been in my family for over 50 years. My father dealt with Barney's more than I did."

"So you are James Bernard Jr."

"Not technically, we have different middle name, a victim of my fathers indecision."

Liz laughed politely, then, indicating a short Korean man in a suit, she said, "This is Mr. Kim Sungrae, he'll be fitting you today, and that is Edmund, our assistant. We've brought an assortment of suits for you to choose from. We've also brought some accessories … ties, belts, shoes and some suspenders that might work out."

"Terrific, let's get started Mr. .. Kim?" Bruce said.

"Yes, or just Kim. Either way is fine with me Mr. Bernard. Please come over to the mirror and remove your robe."

Bruce looked at Liz. "I'm wearing only shorts."

"Would you like me to leave Mr. Bernard?"

"Only if you are uncomfortable, Miss Bateman."

Bruce dropped the Robe. His body, while in fine shape, had a bit less character than most women were used to seeing. Vampire bodies don't scar like humans do, the marks and damage of a standard 34 year old body weren't there, Bruce's skin had the rich creamy glow of a teenager, and glancing at her through the reflection of the mirror, he could tell that Liz was interested.

He could also see the fleeting glint of an engagement ring, which appropriately chilled his ardor, which could have been embarrassing anyway standing there only in his boxer shorts.

Kim had a measuring tape out and took down some notes about Bruce's dimensions.

"Hmm…", he went over to the rack and separated out 3 suits and some shirts. He passed Bruce the first and said, "Try this on, I want to see how it looks on you."

"Alright.", Bruce said as he pulled on the pants and shirt. Kim marked up the suit with some chalk marks.

"I don't much favor this one, a bit too conservative for me. I'd like a little more flash to the suit than this."

"Certainly, Mr. Kim, do you have the measurements you need?"

"Almost, which way do you dress, Mr. Bernard?", Kim asked.

"To the left, and I prefer a low hem on the pants."

"Alright. Miss Bateman, I have what I need."

"Good, lets show Mr. Bernard some of the suits we've brought."

As they parsed through the different shirts ,they decided on two that Bruce favored. They also tried on a supple pair of Italian shoes for size. Bruce said, "You mentioned some ties?"

"Yes, right here."

Bruce took a look at them, and chose one that caught his eye.

"Okay, why one thing I could also use is a piece of carry on luggage, could you choose something for me and deliver the clothes here?"

"Certainly, which suit would you like delivered tonight."

"The Zegna would be a good choice, along with the Maglis and that last belt we saw, the brown leather one."

"Yes sir Mr. Bernard. We'll have you the suit modified and delivered in a few hours, and the rest later night?"

"Yes, and I'd like you to bring back a different overcoat, that one is a bit too severe for the suit."

"I agree, Mr. Bernard, I have one that has a slightly thinner wool that I think would be better fit to you."

"And a scarf would be handy as well, it's chilly in this town of yours. Something soft and warm.", and by warm, he meant, opaque.

"Certainly. Come Kim and Edmund, we have a lot of work to do."

She had a order card which she presented to 'Mr. Bernard' , "If you would be so kind as to sign for the order."

"Certainly.", the total had come to over twelve thousand with the rush tailoring fees. He added a gratuity for their trouble. "Thanks for coming by with such short notice."

"Barney's prides itself on being able to serve its longtime customers."

"Great.", Bruce showed them out.

Bruce considered his options, and realized that with his stomach happily full post breakfast, a nap was in order. He lied down and fell happily asleep after his small festival of spending. Bruce really didn't cut loose spending wise all that often, but when he did, he tried to make it count, and not just be a waste. The suits would last a good long time, he tried to select ones that would look good in the coming decades. Clothes and fashion wore out too fast when compared to the immortal lifespan. That said, Bruce still had a bow tie and watch from the 30s that were both in good shape. The watch was in his pocket still. It had been given to him by Lindsay before she disappeared. The inscription on it said all you needed to know about his relationship with her, "Love forever, my darling. - Lindsay". The gift had been given as part of a 5 year celebration of his siring her and their life together. He missed her terribly to this day and as he fell asleep, he thought again, that if Margie was screwing with his emotions about Lindsay, then he would make her pay, somehow, he'd make her pay.

As was usual, thinking about Lindsay made his sleep fitful and his dreams maudlin.

He awoke an hour or so later and hopped into the shower, hating the idea of wearing fresh clothes on a dirty body. New wine in old wine skins. As he was finishing drying his hair having already brushed his teeth, the phone rang. As he hated talking on phones in the bathroom, he walked out into the main room and answered the bedside phone.

"Yes.", he answered.

"Mr. Bernard. The people from Barney's have arrived and the concierge told me to tell you your reservation at Daniel is in place."

"Thanks. Send them up."

"Yes sir. Have a good night tonight sir. Will you need a car service?"

"I might, I'll call you back about that."

"Yes sir, goodbye sir."

"Bye.", Bruce said as he hung up.

Bruce got up and stretched a bit to get the kinks out of his neck, shoulders and legs. A knock at the door and Liz arrived with Kim. Liz was dragging a nicely built rolling bag, carry-on size, into the room and Kim held the suits and jackets inside some carriers.

"Hello again Mr. Bernard."

"Hello. Any trouble getting the suits together?"

"No, and I'm happy to say that we have all of your clothes finished. The load for tailoring was lighter than we anticipated. I think the bag we chose for you will suit you."

"Terrific, thanks."

They tried on the clothes and shirts and Bruce was very happy with the alterations that Kim had done. "Wonderful work.", he said and turning away from Kim, "What do you think, Mrs. Bateman."

"Oh, it's Miss, I'm engaged, Mr. Bernard.", with a look that told him that she wasn't all that engaged, either, "I think you look terrific", she adjusted his tie a bit, "That's good right there."

"Thanks." , Bruce considered his options, it was too bad he had to meet Margie at 9, "I don't suppose you know of a good salon open late tomorrow night? Assuming I'm in town."

"I do, I have a friend who does hair at Bumble and Bumble about 5 blocks from here. Why don't you give me your cell number and I'll call you when I have an appointment for you. Tonight?"

"No, for tomorrow night."

"When will you need it done by."

"Well, why don't we aim for anytime past sundown, then, should I have plans, I'll at least look good for them."

"Hmm, okay Mr. Bernard.", she wrote down his number as he read it off. "530 area code? Where is that?"

"Ah, I live on the California side of the sierra Nevada mountains," seeing her blank look, he added, "About 50 miles from Lake Tahoe.", everyone had heard of Lake Tahoe.

"Oh, I hear it is very pretty there."

"Yes, quite beautiful. The clarity of the water is something to behold, " or at least he had heard that was the case. He could confirm that the water was there and was like a big mirror at night, but that's about it.

"mm. Okay. I think that takes care of you for now. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you, Mr. Bernard.", again, the look, and he wasn't even trying to be charming at all.

"I will, thank you.", he said.

As they left, he looked at himself again in the mirror. He was very happy with the results.

Chapter
Once it had finally gotten dark outside. He decided it was time for him to go out. He was tired of being cooped up. A drink at Brasserie was in order, see if he could learn anything about Markus' fate.

He slid his laptop, blood and cash into the room safe and, wearing his overcoat and scarf, slid his phone into his pants pocket an his ipod into his breast pocket alongside his wallet. He was getting low on cash, he'd have to get some delivered from the holding companies private banker tomorrow. This trip was getting expensive.

Looking out the window, he saw there was a light cold drizzle falling on the city. He picked up a phone and called the Concierge's desk.

"Yes, Mr. Bernard, what can I do for you?"

"I could use a car for the night, could you arrange it."

"You're in luck, Mr. Bernard, we had a cancellation and I was just about to cancel a car for another guest. It will be here in 10 minutes if that isn't too soon for you."

"That would be great. Thanks."

Bruce left the room and took the elevator down to the lobby. The concierge saw him and said, "Mr. Bernard?"

"Yes, I'm James Bernard.", Bruce said.

"Sir, the car is waiting for you outside, John, the doorman, will show you to him."

"Thanks, and thanks also for setting up the reservation.", Bruce passed the concierge a tip.

"Thank you sir."

A tip to the doorman later, he was dry inside a black town car.

"What can I take you sir?"

"Brasserie eight and a half."

"Yes sir. Here is my card, my cell phone is on it, just call me and I'll be there to pick you up within a few minutes."

"Thanks.", Bruce pocketed the card. The drive to the restaurant was short, but dry. He told the driver to stay put rather than get wet letting him out and he walked into the restaurant, down to the coat check, where he pocketed his wallet and cell phone and taking a ticket in return for his overcoat. The stairway down into the subterranean space was impressive and the restaurant itself was just beautiful, a long bar dominating the right hand side of the space. Mostly filled with what looked like young financial district types and the hip, Bruce began to look for, smell out as it were, his kind.

They were all over. As he began to process the room, he realized that he hadn't been around this many Vampires ever. The room was almost half undead and the staff was almost completely so. Mostly young undead too, none of them could have been more than a few years into their immortality. The exceptions being some of the older vampires who were working the bar, hosting and, the sommelier. Bruce approved of that, having no idea how a mortal could accumulate enough knowledge about wine to be able to select wines for the bizarre palate of the undead.

He ordered a whiskey sour, and as he waited he looked around to see if he knew anyone. Sadly, he did. One, in fact, he was altogether too familiar with.

"Bruce? Is that you?", Genia said.

"Yes. How are you Genia.", this woman was beginning to annoy Bruce.

"Good….how did you get out of that place before the feds got in there?"

"Well, I was heading out anyway, and saw the police coming in as I was going out…so I just missed them by a little bit."

"I heard from one of the fibbies I, uh, know, that things were much worse than was reported in the news. I think they think they, like, killed you, a lot of the undead there became real dead, you know?"

"Keep your voice down. What are you doing here anyway?"

"You know, just here trying to make a buck."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, you didn’t know? Some of the mortals are here for more than just lunch.", Bruce looked around, the people did have a false youth about them, to a vampire of his age and experience, their looks didn't match their smell. Genia continued, "It's really good money, and I get some human blood, no muss, no fuss."

"I thought you worked for the Feds."

"Listen, old one, they only think I do, if they want Genia exclusively they'd need to up the wage. Their pay is shit. Wait….You didn't buy that I was with them , did you?.", she said, laughing and running her hand down his chest. She was checking the fabric.

He had, but he hadn't really cared, so much useless desire for intrigue and drama in the younger vampires, "No I didn’t.", he lied," but I don't know why you'd lead them to me and Markus if you didn't have something to gain."

"Oh, I'm gaining, they're paying me really well, but they already knew about Markus and You. They've been following both of you for some time. I've just been collecting a paycheck. Speaking of which, you could make a lot of money, you know. The older a vampire is, the more effective his bite can be for these vain bitches."

"I see you like your work?", he said with a tinge of sarcasm.

"Ugh, it's okay…I mean, you get money and blood, but sometimes the places you have to bite these people to do it. They don't want it to show, so it's the pits, if you get me."

Bruce crinkled his nose, "I do, that's uh…kind of gross…"

"Yeah, but it keeps the years off them…some of these 30 year olds are 60 plus. The pits are better than those who want a bite on the leg", Bruce imagined the femoral artery being where it was….

"How long can you go on doing this?", he asked meaning how long would her self image take such a profession, but she didn't hear it that way..

"Really until they're about 70, then it's just is too hard on their mortality, most of them don't last that long, they try to get sired before then. Rich people usually have no problems getting sired."

"They're paying for it? That's pretty sick…"

"Nah, you old ones are the same, I can sire someone and get paid 200k, how else will I get to the income level that you're at. You died, what in the 40s?"

"No, '26."

"So you've had almost 80 years of compound interest, and how long had you lived before you were sired."

"Almost 70 years old…I was dying of TB."

"So you've had 150 years to build your fortune….look at that suit…you're dong fine. Why shouldn't I be able to build up such a balance?"

"Listen, Genia, I don't really care, whatever pays the bills, right? Is that what this place is all about?"

"Yes, that's what this is all about."

"Who runs it?"

"Well, it's more of a collective….but if you order the right food," she said, conspiratorially, "you could meet the owner."

"Maybe I'll do that. Have you heard anything about Markus? Did he make out okay?"

"Ha! That's pretty funny…"

"What do you mean?", god this woman was tedious.

"Well, he was getting down with a friend of mine, Katarina, when the alarm went off. He was out of there before they even got to the second parking level. Althought I think Rina was a bit disheveled. The owner, Mick, took care of Markus, set him up in a new flat, you should talk with him."

Bruce felt a little annoyance that he hadn't even gotten a heads up from his "friend", even considering that he hadn't done the same. Jerk.

"Hmm, okay….well, I'm going to get some oysters."

"Suit yourself, I have an appointment…you should really try it Bruce, you could make enough money to pay off that suit twice over."

"Tempting, but no thanks.". to Bruce it just sounded like prostitution, and a very public kind of prostitution at that, the kind that'd end up with a heart stopping finale for the service provider. "Have a good night", he said as he took his drink to the host's desk.

Bruce rarely turned the charm up past a slight suggestion, but he really didn't want to sit at a table, order some prearranged meal, so he walked up to the host, an undead man maybe 6 years out of his mortality, and said, "I'd like to meet your master." It was a bit dramatic, but the boy, the pup really, didn't have a choice when he put it that way.

"This way, sir."

He led Bruce down the stairs, past the restrooms at the back of the room and through a door that the host waved a security token in front of. As it clicked, he said, "Mr. Leyden can be found at the end of the hall on the right there sir. Look for a door marked with his name."

"Thanks."

Bruce walked down the hall indicated and knocked on the door.

"Come in", came the response from inside the door.

Bruce walked in. The proprietor was looking over a ledger making some notes. He looked up and his manner and facial expression changed, he stood up and said, while rummaging through a drawer. "Who the hell are you."

"Sit down.", he said, using his Charm to an almost abusive level. The proprietor sat down.

"Not there, on the sofa." , Bruce added, and he moved, holding his head in his hands. While he shook his head clear of the command of Bruce's charm, Bruce looked inside the Drawer. A gun was inside. What a loser. A gun? What, did he think he was a criminal or something? A bullet wouldn't do much to a healthy immortal like Bruce.

Bruce sat down on the chair facing the sofa and said, gently, "Sorry about that, but I didn't know what you were going to do. Your head should clear in a bit. Here, have a glass of water." Bruce handed him a bottle from the table, he took it and took a long pull.

"Jesus, man….I've never had that happen before….god…how old are you?"

"80 years immortal, 70 before that as a mortal. Mortal time matters too, you know."

"Jeez, I guess so. I've never met anyone as powerful as you with that. Ow…my heads pounding."

"It'll pass…it always does. It'll take a few minutes. I didn't mean to hurt you, it isn't my way….but you were going to freak out."

"Well…yeah…who the fuck are you man….ow…."

"Calm down, it'll go away faster," which Bruce knew sounded like good advice, but was not true. The vampire's constitution would handle the headache regardless of mood, but Bruce wanted him chilled out.

"Yeah…okay…"

"What's your name?", Bruce asked.

"Mick Rubell.", he said.

"Well, Mick…I need some information from you."

"What? Why…what do I know….you old ones have all the knowledge…..you know…you should really let me schedule you an appointment, I have the lady who'd pay a half a million for a bite from a vampire of your age….you could keep her young for 25 years easy. I'd keep a small finders fee of course…."

"No, I'm not interested in that. Find another Whore, or wait for me to really need some money."

"Hey, it's not like that at all. We're civilized here."

"Tell that to Genia."

"Well, she's really very entry level, you know… but I'll be here when you do, I'm not going anywhere. You wouldn't believe the favors I'm owed."

"I bet."

"So the question becomes," Mick said, "What are you here for?"

"What I need is to for you to tell me what you know about the vampires who are dying and what you know about Markus. I need to find him."

"Why?"

"Why 'vampires dying' or why 'markus'"

"Well, both really….start with the Vampires."

"I am trying to track down how this disease came to be…and in front of me I've got the typhoid mary of the vampire plague."

"What, me, what the hell are you talking about?"

"Listen, dickhead, closely. Your business here: you have vampires bite mortals to give them a little juice, right?"

"Yeah…"

"Well, what happened was that an infected human came in here, got bit, and that vampire gave it to two or three other mortals…who also got bit….and so on and so forth. I'd be surprised if everyone in this place didn't have it already. You fucked up big time."

"Is this the vampire flu thing that's been killing off vampires? Listen, man, I didn't know…I was just trying to make a buck, make a good afterlife for me….", he had turned whiter than he had started out, and the undead were pretty pale, all things considered.

"Listen, you may not have known, but you know now….you can't just let things go on the way there were. Do you have a microscope around? I could easily show you what it looks like."

"Where can I get a sample of it."

"I suspect you have a bunch of it drinking cosmos and coming in for treatments…you're going to start losing vampires big time if you don't institute some safety measures."

"Fuck….all that shit costs, doesn't it."

"No, it just slows some things down a little is all."

Chapter

Mick led Bruce into what he called a, "Deluxe Room, for the higher end clientele. I put in the microscopes and other lab glass so that they'd feel they were being taken care of in a hospital like environment. I never thought I'd ever have to use the things."

"Yeah, well it’s a good thing you have it. Who do you want to start with? I bet Genia would be a good choice."

"Yeah, she's been busy lately, I'll grab her and another vampire we've been using a lot lately, named Stuart. Be right back…. I hope you are wrong, but if you are right, these two'll have it."

Bruce looked around the "operating" room. It was decorated tastefully, much like a spa room. There was a dimmer switch and a massage like table in the center. He suspected they offered traditional treatments as well, peels, micro-dermabrasion and the like. There was a small stereo system in the corner, probably with some new age music ready to relax the moneyed clientele. The room smelled of oils and, to Bruces overdeveloped sense of smell, human blood.

Bruce turned on the music, and indeed it was some classical guitar and bells thing. He left it on as he looked through some of the cabinets, finding tubes, bags and needles suitable for drawing blood, but they had a fine sheen of dust. Bruce thought that maybe the vampire would need to do things directly for it to work well, regardless, Bruce would be able to use the gear.

The door opened, and along with Mick was Genia, her face red and flush with the afterglow of consumption and a vampire, who bruce assumed to be Stuart, who looked all of 25, with long black hair, leather pants, the works.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Napoleon. You must be Stuart."

"Yeah, what is this all about?", Stuart replied.

"I just want to test your blood, you too Genia.", Bruce pulled out a syringe and showed it to them. "Who's first."

"Fuck you man, I'm not letting you take my blood… it's, like, sacred.", Stuart said.

"Well, then you'll not be allowed to give any more treatments, Stuart", Mick said.

"What? What the fuck? Who the fuck is this guy Mick? I have an appointment in 45 minutes."

"Well, it's cancelled. Bruce, can he keep the appointment? How long will it take you to find out if he is infected?", Mick said.

"Infected? I'm a fucking vampire, man, we don't get infected. That's for the food, not for the diner," Stuart said, and by food he mean mortal humans.

"Yes, infected," Bruce said, "Vampires are dying all around you and you don't even see it, do you, you fool? For all you know you've got maybe a month to live."

"Fuck, fine…take my blood.", Stuart said, rolling up his sleeve.

All through this Genia had been quiet. Mick said to her, "You're next Genia. You okay?"

"Well, it's Just…", Genia said, "It's just…"

"Just what?", Mick said.

"Well, it's just, I've not been feeling good lately….sort of slow on my feet. I don't know what its been, I probably have it.", Genia started to sob and went over to Mick, who put his arms around her.

Patting her shoulder and holding her, Mick said, "Hey, baby, it'll be okay, wait to see what the test says before freaking out, okay?". Regardless of this advice, she continued to sob a bit more.

Bruce took the sample from Mick and put it in a vial and stoppered it. "Okay, you can go now Stuart. We'll find you when we have results."

"Whatever man.", Stuart rolled down his rather blousy shirt, grabbed his leather duster and left the room saying, "Fucking new age horseshit." As he exited he slammed the door shut.

"You're next Genia, come on and sit down."

Genia sat on the table and extended her arm for sample. With a small cry as the new needle found its mark, Bruce drew enough blood to work with and handed her a cotton ball, "Hold your arm up, that'll keep it from bruising."

Even thought the bruise would be short lived, bruce had found that people who were doing something would be able to look past their problems. And a gal like Genia needed direction, it was clear.

Bruce decided to check her sample first. After taking a few minutes to clean the optics on the microscope, he took a dropped and made a slide from a drop of Genia's blood. Just from smelling the blood he could tell she had recently consumed a pint or more of a patient's blood.

"Did you leave him anything Genia?"

"What, he was a big guy, he had it to spare. Anyway….that's what they're here for."

"Sure, sure…", Bruce said.

Bruce slid Genia's sample under the scope, it was, in fact, clear of any signs of the pathogen. How odd….a hypochondriac vampire….how…neurotic. He hadn't met many neurotic immortals. Paranoid? Sure. Neurotic? Not so much.

"Genia, you seem to be fine…you should wait a while as I think it can take a few days before I would be able to see it, but I think you are okay."

"Really?"

It was as if Bruce had flipped a switch, from agony stricken to bubbly in seconds flat.

"Yes, really. Try to find another line of work though."

"Well, I have to tell you Bruce, this is a -good- way of making money for me. You should just test all the incoming mortals for the disease. Why should I have to stop doing this?"

"Whatever Genia….just watch yourself."

"Genia honey, I need to talk with Bruce alone, can you give us some time?"

"Sure Baby," Genia took off.

"Bruce, sorry about that, she's a little high maintainece sometimes."

"Okay, that's not really my problem, although she sure seems to be…yours?"

"Nah, she just works here, I don't fuck the help."

"Do you want to check Stuarts blood now?"

"Sure, pass me his vial?"

Bruce prepared the second slide, and where Genia's was clean of the pathogens debris, Stuarts was, sadly packed with the stuff. Bruce looked up from the microscope with a sigh. "Well, that's too bad for Stuart."

"You're kidding ,right?"

"Take a look," Bruce said, motioning to the scope. Mick moved over to the scope and said, "What am I looking for."

"Just look at it….now I'm going to replace, "..click…"that slide with Genias…..do you see the difference?"

"Yeah, I do….. shit."

Mick picked up the phone, "Is stuart still in?", a pause, "No, he left? Alright…if he comes in send him back asap, alright? Thanks.", Mick hung up sighed, then said, "uh….Bruce, I need you to test me.

"You've been doing some work, haven't you?"

"Yeah, now and then, Stuart and I gave a socialite a double treatment together the other day, so you can see….", Mick looked crestfallen.

"Yeah….wow….", Bruce hated this, hated giving the bad news. Mick didn't seem like a bad guy, making a strange living, but it seemed an equitable one after all, a consensual one, and how often could you say that about a vampires living? "Roll up your sleeve, Mick."

"Alright", Mick said as he unbuttoned his shirt and rolled up his sleeve. Bruce pulled a fresh syringe from the drawer and drew it full of Mick's blood. He prepped a fresh slide and appeared to slide it under the microscope. In reality, he had simply kept the Stuart slide in place. He needed Mick to shut down his operation, otherwise shit would go down much worse.

He put his eye to the scope and sighed…

"Well, I'm sorry Mick….I don't know what to tell you, but you should be trying to get some rest…"

"Christ, are you serious..", Mick moved to the table, practically pushing aside Bruce to examine the slide. "No!", he said, slamming his fist on the counter. "Fuck. There's got to be a way of surviving this, right Bruce?"

"Well, survive? I don't know…but you can prolong the inevitable by having a transfusion of clean, undiseased vampire blood to clear out the pathogens debris. You can cut it with some human blood I think. I can only think that you've survived this long due to the all the human blood you consume, it does help from what I can tell, but if won't last forever."

"Well, what can I do?"

"A few things….first, you have to stop feeding on mortals directly…you're infecting them, making them carriers of the virus. They don't even know they're carrying , but the women and men you 'treat' here are likely spreading the disease to other vampires without you even knowing it."

"Who fucking cares about them….how the fuck did Genia get out of this….that lucky fucking bitch. Goddamn it.", Mick put his face in his hands, he looked as if he were going to lose his mind. "You have to help me Bruce, you have to. What can I do. Do you want money? Space? What?"

"Well, what I need is time to think and some resources. I also need a promise from you."

"What, name it."

"I'll need a ride back on the private jet that Genia works on for Markus."

"Oh, that's the societies, I can allocate that to you no problem, in fact, call this number and tell them what you need. I'll email them telling them to do what you ask, alright?", Mick passed him a card. Bruce pocketed it.

"Yeah…so what you can do for me is give me the data about who has serviced whom and how often. If I can map who got infected from who, I might be able to track down who brought the disease here. That might help."

"What will knowing this do for me?"

"It might not help at all, but I have an idea that it might."

"That'll take a while, what else will you need?"

"Just some time. Also, I have a errand to run so I need to get out of here for a while, just come back through the restaurant?"

"Yes, I'll give you a fob that will open the doors to this place. Come back to my office."

"I will, let me just dump these samples. I want to check Genia's once again.", Bruce slid Mick's slide under the eyepiece, it turned out that the subterfuge was unnecessary, It was clear he had the disease. Bruce got up and went to clean up the glass. "Don't worry about that, I'll get it. The sooner you get your errand done, the sooner I can get better."

"Yeah, I hope so."

"Can I send one of my people on this errand?"

"No, only I can do this."

"Alright."

They walked to Mick's office, he pulled a token out of the desk and passed it to Bruce. It was a small keychain like object. As Bruce took it , Mick said, "Bruce, I don't have to make things difficult for you, threaten you, do I? I know you old ones have power, but I have friends and guns, I can make things difficult for you."

"We both want the same things Mick, just chill out on that shit."

"Alright….just ….help me.", being at a disadvantage, in Bruce's hands, was difficult for Mick.

After he said that a small orange tabby hopped onto his lap…Mick was a cat person. Bruce wouldn't want to leave the cat, who was currently enjoying a little scratch behind his ear from his master, alone, likely to descend into a feral state on the streets of New York.

"Nice Cat."

"Yeah, that's right, Genia mentioned you liked animals."

"In a matter of speaking , yes. Will you let Stuart know about his problem? "

"I will, but he won't believe it."

"Well, I'll be back in later to explain it to him. Whatever you do, don't let him draw any more blood, it'll just be more death on your hands."

"I won't, I promise."

Bruce left Micks office and exited through the restaurant. He called the car and told it to meet him out front in 10 mintues.. It was 8:30. He pulled out his phone and activated his instant messaging application.

Bnap32: YT? IM'ing from cell, so I'll be quick. Meet me at Daniel at 9pm.

After what seemed like an hour, but was in reality only a minute, the response came.

LennysMom: I'll be there.
Bnap32: Come alone.
LennysMom: Man, you're paranoid.
Bnap32: Not that, Daniel is expensive 
LennysMom: Ha! See you soon.
Bnap32: Wait a second…I need a taste.
LennysMom: You'll get one.

Puzzled, Bruce put his phone in his pocket and passed his ticket to the coat check girl. She passed him his coat and he passed her a five dollar bill. He pulled the jacket on over his nice suit and walked to the restroom to freshen up. He still looked good ,despite the blood on his hands.

As he walked from the restroom to the stairs, his phone vibrated indicating an incoming message. He pulled it out of his jacket and saw that Margie had sent him a picture. He viewed it, it was a shot of Lindsay, wearing a sex pistols t-shirt and looking pretty punky. He heart raced at the thought. She hadn't died in the blitz, she probably thought he had died, much as he thought the same had happened to her. A text message rapidly followed from Margie, saying only, "Don't get too hopeful. But I'll give you what we have on her."

Finished, he left the restroom and strode up the stairs to the street above. His town car and driver were waiting. He slid into the seat and told the driver, "Restaurant Daniel, please."

"Yes sir."

It was a short drive to Daniel on 60th, he probably could have walked…but he liked having the car service. As they drove, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID, and it was a new york number that he didn't know. He put his headset on his ear and tapped answer.

"Hello?"

"Bruce, that you?"

"Yeah, it is. Who is this? Markus?"

"Yeah. Don't know how best to ask this: You okay? Did you get out?"

"Yeah, no thanks to you. Where are you."

"Listen I have something important to tell you, can you meet me."

"Not now, but I can in about 2 hours. Does that work for you?"

"Yeah, where?"

"Washington Square park, in the Village."

"Alright, I'll see you there at 10."

"Okay. Sounds good."

As Bruce was about to hang up, Markus said, "Listen, Bruce, watch your ass, this disease thing, its getting hairy, you can't trust anyone."

"I'd guessed. This is a fucked up thing, Markus."

"I know, but it wasn't supposed to go down this way. You were supposed to come in, find a miracle cure and go home richer and happier., but the fucking cops or whoever they are coming in to invade my place, that's crazy. I was very careful to not kill there. And I'm hurting Bruce, hurting."

"I hear you Markus. Just take it easy."

"Alright, I'll see you tonight. Don't miss me, Bruce, you need to know this shit…your small town is like fucking undead central and whether you like it or not, you're right in the middle of the shit.", after saying this, Markus hung up.

Bruce put his phone into his jacket and pondered what Markus as saying. It could be the ramblings of a lunatic on the border between undeath and real death. Vampires didn't die with dignity, not ones like Markus.

The car pulled up to the restaurant and Bruce stepped out, again eschewing the help from the driver. He walked into the restaurant. He was a few minutes early. He happily wasn't jumped , frisked or otherwise accosted by feds as he made his way to the coat check. As the young woman too his coat he reflected that New York cost him around $30 in tips a day.

He walked to the hosts station and waited for her attention to fall on him.

"Welcome to Restaurant Daniel, do you have a reservation?"

"I do, James Barnard, staying at the Hotel Athenee."

"Yes, I have you here. Has your guest arrived?"

"No, I'm a few minutes early, when she arrives would you point her to the Bar?"

"Yes, Mr. Bernard."

Bruce walked over to the bar. As he stood there looking at the drinks behind the counter, the tender walked up to him and said, "Can I get you anything sir?"


"Yes, I'd like an iced vodka please. Finlandia if you don't mind."

"Of course sir.", he turned to take the bottle from the shelf behind him and began to prepare Bruce's drink. Bruce looked around the burgundy toned lounge and selected a seat with a view of the door with his back to the wall.

One thing that he looked forward to with Daniel was the caviar, which was supposed to be really terrific. The bartender dropped off his drink and he requested a menu to review, as he looked at the choices presented to him, he decided that he would go the extra mile tonight, order some of his favorite roe, sevruga, and smaller portions of oscetra and beluga. As he took a drink of his vodka, the door opened and in walked Margie.

She was dressed in a long pretty clingy dress, with a clutch more than large enough for the sample, which Bruce had secreted into the breast pocket of his suit. She wore a scarf around her neck and a silk wrap. She had dressed for the occasion.

Bruce stood up and kissed her on the cheek. He said, "You look wonderful. I didn't think it was going to be that kind of date."

"You look like you dressed for it.", she said, resting her hand on his chest and fingering his jacket, "Nice suit." She ran the back of her hand over his chest, over the lump where the sample was and said, "Is that what I think it is?"

Bruce, happy that she had avoided the tedious, easy, joke, said, "Yes, sit down with me and I'll pass them to you. I hope you'll stay for dinner."

"Are you kidding, pass up a dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city. Better yet, on your dime. You are paying ,right, I 'd have a hell of a time justifying this one, especially," , she leaned in to his ear, "Since no one knows you exist anymore."

"Really?", he said.

"Yes," she whispered, "They think you died in the fire at Markus' and I'm not eager to convince them otherwise."

"Great," he said, "Now I have to start all over again."

"Why, I was the only one who knew where you came from Bruce Landry."

"What?"

"Yeah, I had a lot of leeway, they wanted me to hang myself with all the rope I got. But I gave them Markus, thanks to Genia."

There was something going on, Bruce couldn't grasp it As he was considering Margie, a waitress walked to the table and said, "A drink for the lady?"

"Yes, I'll have a rum and coke, please."

"One rum and coke. Are you doing okay with your vodka, Mr. Bernard?"

"Yes, thanks."

"Well, ", Margie began, "Mr. Bernard, what do you have for me."

Bruce reached into his jacket and pulled out the two little bottles.

"This is what I have for you."

"I hope you sterilized these, " she said, smiling. She smelled the two bottles and slid them into her bag.

'Indeed. What do you have for me."

"Here darling", She slid her hand into his coat and dropped something into inside pocket.

"Sir, you table is ready. Mademoiselle, I have your drink. May I take your drink to the table sir?", she asked.

"Yes, thanks.", Bruce said.

They followed her into the dining room. "I hope you like caviar", Bruce said.

"I do indeed Mr. Bernard.", she said.

As they reached the table, the waitress said, "May I take Mademoiselles wrap?"

"Yes, please," Margie purred as she let the waitress take her coat.

Her body, shoulders and neck were delicate and beautiful, and that's when Bruce realized Margie was , in fact, undead. He had been such a fool, of course she was. No one mortal was this smooth, could manipulate facts in such a way.

Should he leave, he had what he wanted after all. She must have guessed what he was thinking as she rested her hand on Bruces knee. "You're not going anywhere Bruce. I really don't want to eat alone."

Bruce looked around the room, he didn't see any obvious feds, and he'd have been good at spotting them. He also knew that she wasn't wired or anything fishy like that, her dress was too sheer, all silky cling, to allow for such a device. How could an undead be a fed. Bruce chuckled..

"What?", she asked.

"Undead fed", he said.

"Cute."

"How do you make it work. You can't just work nights."

"I don't."

"What do you mean, you don't.", and it dawned on him, "You can step outside during the day?"

"Yes. On all but the brightest days. I still have to cover up a bit, but I just tell people that I'm fair skinned."

"That's… That's amazing. How?"

"Bruce, let me just tell you this. It's nothing I do, it is something I am. I don't know why, but it does allow me an almost normal existence."

Bruce was jealous and amazed and curious all at once. "This is the first I've heard of this even being possible, I mean, there are snake oil salesman who tried to sell ointments to the vampires and stories and legends, but I thought that was all hokum."

"Yet, here I sit. Sipping a rum and coke."

"Yet here you sip.", Bruce was speechless.

A waiter took the break in the conversation as an opportunity to lay out their menus and dicuss the specials. Bruce barely answered, dumbstruck by the possibilities that Margie presented to him. To walk in the sun again, without a kaffiya, or some other ridiculous getup, or even in shorts.

Bruce ordered some caviar to get them started and get rid of the waiter.

It struck him then , an important question he had to ask: "My god Margie, how old are you?"

"Bruce, you know it is impolite to ask a woman her age. Well, it is the modern age. Can you guess?"

"Was it even in the 1900's."

"Nope."

"My lord. Did you come over on the freaking Mayflower or something.", then it hit him, "You were already here, weren't you." Her features were somewhat native American. "Cherokee?", he asked.

"Some, I think. I didn't much care for that stuff."

"How old were you when you were sired?"

"I was quite old, 42. 42 was a different kind of age back then. The vampire who sired me was my father. He couldn't bear to watch me die, he had been sired by a vampire who had reached the interior of the country, in front of clark or anyone. I think he was the original one that could take the light. My father was also able to. They're both dead."

"I'm guessing you haven't sired any new vampires."

"No, I haven't. I think it would be irresponsible, it would give my secret away. I fear that most of all. I like my immortality Bruce."

"You do. I can imagine. To walk among the mortals, in the sun.", Bruce was star struck by the idea. "What happens if…."

"If I bite you? Maybe nothing. Want to give it a try after dinner?"

"Maybe, maybe. My god.", the power she must posess. She could make him do or think anything she wanted.

"But I won't", she said. And that was when Bruce knew he was in trouble. Whether she guessed his thoughts or read them, he knew that a life around this woman would be its own kind of lonely. He also knew that, if she chose him and took a bite, he might be able to walk outside in the sun. It was worth the risk, of course.

"Are there any others like you?", Bruce asked.

"Not that I know of,", the waiter approached , "Lets order…".

Margie ordered a pheasant terrine, a salad and the sole. Bruce ordered the same excepting he favored a cod and Brussels Sprouts dish.

"And send over your sommelier", she added.

After he left, a man came by and laid out the caviar with all of its accoutrement. Crème Fresh, little pancakes and some vodka, "A gift for Madam from the kitchen, it is good to see madam again so soon."

After the waiter left them, Bruce said, "Come here often, do you."

"One thing you learn, Bruce, is that all that money earning interest is so that you can enjoy the finer things in life."

Bruce started in on the caviar while Margie discussed wine with the Sommalier. He had to admit that he was excited to be at dinner with one so old, so powerful. It was a kind of turn on he hadn't felt since his mortality. They discussed her history, her time in the colonies and her first hand witnessing of the revolution against the British, the civil war, and so much more.

The wine flower, terrines were consumed, salads were eaten, and the entrees came. With every course, Bruce could tell he was considering romantic thoughts about her. As they contemplated the dessert menu, Bruce asked the question that had to be asked, "So why the feds, why the fake job in my small town? Why hunt your own for the Feds?"

"About time, I was waiting for that. Who said I was hunting vampires? They don't think so. They think I'm hunting Satanist terrorist cells. After the dinner I spent hours charming the whole vampire thing out of their memories. You can do that too, I started being able to effect memory around 80 years into my immortality. The mortals still don't get the threat we represent, and I'm glad for that, I tell you what."

"But they must have suspected.", he said.

"If anyone gets too smart, I charm them, and that’s about it. You'd be amazed how many people I've done it to. I'd feel guilty, but they really are happier not knowing. The thing I want you to appreciate Bruce is that vampires world wide are trying to mainstream and it's going to cause vampires like you and me some real trouble. Like that idiot Mick, doling out immortality and youth like it was some kind of commodity, cheaper than liposuction and twice as effective. His operation, his undead fucking botox parties, are going to blow things wide open, and then the mortals will test and hunt us down till all of us, even ones like us, are dead. Real dead too, not coming back, but pushing up daisies."

Bruce didn't know what to say, so he just considered the menu. Her anger was a bit frightening, but it was a nice edge on his developing feelings about her. He was enchanted by here, and he didn't think she was doing it. There was a lot to like about Margie. She shared a lot of his values, she liked animals, and the small town life didn't seem to upset her, and she was really attractive, spending some years with her wouldn't be a bad use of his immortality.

"Bruce, listen to me, all these secret societies, these ridiculous undead me too bullshit mickey mouse clubs, they're all just one big fuck you to vampires who value their immortality. Its gotta end. I think the plague might do it."

"Yeah, but that's pretty rough."

"You're awfully gentle, Bruce. You've guessed how it works?"

"Yes, humans are carriers. Vampires take a taste, they get it. Vampires share a victim, they all get it. Slowish incubation, doesn't show any symptoms in vampires until a week or so into it, when the detritus in the blood gets so bad as to begin to retard cell function, after a month they're approaching death fast, and no one seems to last past 6 months, depending on treatment. Consuming human blood seems to help, and vampire transfusions might help too, but I've only been looking at the problem for a few days, I could have that wrong."

"That sounds right, as far as I can tell the first one to have it was a vampire named Khan, in the Russian steppes. I tracked him down last year, in Brooklyn. I say that he was buried there.

"While he made his way east, he left a train of dead vampires and mortals like the wake of a speedboat. Khan liked to share his feasts with other vampires. And so it spread, and spread and so it will continue to spread until all humans have it and all vampires die of it. He fucked up though, didn't realize how contagious it was among humans. You see, while vampires can only get it via consumption of blood, humans spread it around via blood and body fluid contact. It doesn't take much to spread this thing around. And since they don't even know they have it, there are then more humans that can infect us.

"Hmm", Bruce said, "Have you found anyway around the disease?"

"Maybe, I'm trying somethings, but I really couldn’t care either way. I can wait out this plague."

Bruce wondered if she were speaking from experience.

The waiter came by and inquired if they were interested in dessert. Bruce begged off, saying, "No, just the check." As Margie too was done. After the waiter left, Bruce said, "This is a lot to absorb, you know."

Margie reached out with her hand and said, "I know Bruce, just think about it, I'm here for you when you are ready for me."

Bruce wondered about that. He was attracted to her, but he was also afraid of her. Of her power, of her anger, or her beauty and and of her charm. He was happy that she hadn't used it on him, or at least he didn't think she had. What a mess.

The check came and he put it on a credit card he had in the name of James Bernard. He said, "I have to go, but I'd like to see you again."

"You will. I'll find you. In the mean time, try to stay low, but you can go back to your little burg or somewhere else."

Bruce was bothered by that, and he was bothered, again, about his life being interrupted by all this tiresome intrigue.

They walked from the dining room and Bruce was struck by her elegance, she must spend all her time trying to not appear preternaturally beautiful. Watching her walk was like watching a prima ballerina perform. Her every step a joy. He shook his head to cut himself loose from the image. They arrived at the coat check and he presented their tickets and collected their coats. He helped her with her wrap and put on his own overcoat. As he did so, she turned around and gave him a lingering kiss on his cheek, saying, in a low voice… "There is one thing you can do for me."

He could feel the power of her, and he didn't think she was using any of her power, she wanted and he felt it, he desired her. `He feared her, but he wanted her. "What is it?", he asked.

"I need you to find Markus for me. He can't be allowed to live."

"Well, I think he is going to die. He blood", or at least what he thought was Markus', "came up rather full of the disease."

"You are incorrect, he doctored those samples. He is healthy and has to pay for what he has done to the immortals. For the danger he's put us all in", she said.

"Well, I'll try to find him to be sure, and I'll draw the blood myself this time."

"Good, call me, alright.", she passed him a card, "Anytime." Her hand lingered in his and they kissed. Bruce walked outside to the waiting town car, hopped inside and said as the door closed, "Washington Square, please."

"Yes sir."

As they approached the Village, Bruce considered what she said, and he didn't believe her. He wanted to believe her, he ached for wanting to believe her. But he didn't. For all his cruel faults, he didn't think Markus wasn't capable of such an operation.

They arrived at Washington Square Park. Bruce got out of the car and walked over to the chess tables where he thought Markus would look for him. After a few minutes, an old man motioned him over.

"Markus?"

"Yeah, I'm not doing so hot."

"Wow, you , uh, really don't look good."

"No, I'm dying…but listen, there's nothing that can be done now, I need to tell you something, and I need to apologize. I should have told you sooner, as soon as I knew. Margie, or the woman you know as Margie, isn't a cop or anything like that, she's a vampire."

Bruce refrained from saying anything, he didn't seem to need prompting. "She's a vampire, the oldest I've met and here's the kicker, she's the one who….." Markus stopped, looking over Bruce's shoulder. Then his head exploded, the back of it simply disintegrating and falling onto the green groud, flecks of blood staining the chairs and sidewalk. There was also blood on his suit, "Son of a Bitch. My coat….who the fuck….", but even as he asked, he knew. He had to run.

Bruce had to get out, but it was too late, "Bruce.", Margie called from a car, "Get in.", she said, looking over Bruce's shoulder. Police were coming over to see what had happened. They had heard the report of the rifle and were coming to investigate. They drew their guns as they got closer and saw Margie, "Sir, turn around, and hold your hands up."

Bruce turned around and out from in front of Margie.

"Mam, get out of the car now! We are agents with the FBI and I order you to get out of your car…"

Margie chuckled at the sight and said, simply, "Shut up." And they did. She added, "Forget it and go away." Which they also did. Bruce could feel the power in the words as he saw their effect on the men, he could feel the power of it along his eardrum. And that's when he realized what a sap he had been. "You were behind this all along, weren't you, Margie. The disease, everything."

"It isn't my fault, they got themselves sick and they kept themselves there. Get in the car, Bruce. " she commanded, letting some Charm reach into her voice. "Now." And in her thrall, that was exactly what he did. "Son of a bitch," he thought. "You're coming with me, Bruce.", she opened the door, indicating a waiting limo. And so he did just that, he followed her.

They went into a waiting car, she whispered, "Do not make a fuss in the car, we're going to my place.", and then to the driver, "Driver, take us home."

"You got it Margie," said Seth, "We'll be there shortly."

Bruce thought that maybe he was in deep shit, and he wondered if the night they had together was a lie, and he wondered what was on the memory card she had given him. He wondered if he would last the night, and he was hopeful. You don't dress that nice for a guy who you were going to kill. If so, his 150 years wasn't so bad, it wasn't a record, clearly, but it wasn't a bad life.


They drove for some time, going uptown. They passed under the plaza and into the west side, cutting through the park to the East side, not far , it seems, where Bruce had first encountered Margie in New York. He tried to keep an eye on where they were going. Bruce thought he might be in the 80s. He thought he had seen the Cooper Hewitt, but he couldn't swear that he had, and that was on 5th and 91st.

"I'm sorry bruce, but I'd rather you don't remember where I live, so I'm going to charm you into sleeping.

"What? Why? I won't tell anybody.."

"Just, sleep, bruce." She said. And that is just what he did.

He woke some time later on a bench in the basement/garage of her house, Seth was watching over him and pressed an intercom button on the wall, "He's awake", he said into the speaker.

"I'll be right down", was the response.

As the cobwebs cleared from Bruce's mind, he noticed two things: The first was that Margie was coming down the stairs and the second was that there was the delicate glow of daylight coming in around the edges of the garage door. This made Bruce think that he had to get to his hotel and either check out or pay them for a few more days, should he make it out of here. That was when he noticed his rolling bag and other gear from the hotel room sitting on top of a workbench in the garage.

Margie walked to him, "Bruce, come with me, I have something to show you." She walked over to a pair of small elevator doors in the far corner of the garage and she pressed the call button. The Elevator itself seemed not all that large.

There was a ping as the elevators doors opened to reveal a small 7 by 6 foot chamber, she indicated that Bruce was to go in first. She followed and waved her wrist over a antenna patch to the left of the buttons indicating floors B, witch was lit, through 4.

The doors closed and to Bruce's surprise, the elevator began to descend.

"A lot of people think the reason the elevator is so small is to preserve the floor space for decorating, but its really because this is a converted escape tunnel.", the doors opened into a very dark room that was getting progressively lighter and more cheery as the lamps in the ceiling began to shed some light on what looked like a half of a subway station.

It was laid out not unlike a live-work loft, with the sleeping areas separated from the kitchen only by some furniture and cabinetry, and the industrial cement and steel nature of it was softened through the strategic use of lighting and mellow colors for the paint. . There was a blocked off area where the tracks would be in a normal station, with a wall made of what looked like patch worked diamond plate steel.

"What's that?", Bruce said, pointing. Cables snaked away from it into the side of the elevator shaft and to a panel on the wall which clearly fed electricity to the rest of the area.

"That's the power plant, its geothermal. That was a bitch to install, I tell you what. I had to command them to think it was going into a building down in the village. A lot of people don't know it, but there is a lot of energy under Manhattan."

"What is this place Margie? Isn't this a little extreme for a hide out?"

"In the 1800s' a good number of lines were dug under the city, and some went out of business before they could complete their tunnel works. This station stretched for about 100 feet in either direction and it has a handy access tunnel to the 6 line, other there," , Mergie pointed, "I spent some time in 1910 building this place out. Sealing the tunnels to keep out the rats and riff raff. Come on…", she indicated that Bruce should sit on a low sofa, "Can I get you anything? I have some pig blood, all organic and quite fresh. Seth keeps things in good order down here."

"Yes, that'll be fine," Bruce said, puzzled over why he wasn't dead," But forgive my asking, what are you doing here? What am I doing here? Why did you kill Markus?"

"Well Bruce," she said as she filled up two cups with the pigs blood, "I wanted to bring you here and lay my cards on the table and see if there was any way we could work something out."

"Work what out? I'm completely under your control, you don't need anything from me."

"That's where you are wrong. I need something very important from you."

"What?"

"I need to see if you want to become like me. Do you want to go out in the Sun again?"

"Margie," Bruce shook his head, "I don't even believe that you can do it. I've never seen you step outside."

"Step back."

"What?"

"Step back, go over there, near the kitchen area."

"What? Why?"

"Just do it Bruce."

She picked up a remote control on the coffee table and pressed a button. It was as if she had opened up a skylight in the ceiling. It hurt Bruce's eyes to see it, even if he wasn't in its direct path…and it was very direct light.

"Fiber optics?", Bruce asked. Bruce had seen something like it on the home and garden network. You focus sunlight onto a bundle of fiber and channel the light where you want it to end up, great for underground spaces, transmits all or whichever wavelengths you choose to let pass through the output end.

"Yep, they're lined along the back of the elevator shaft, like a long carpet of light being brought down here from the roof.", she said, bathing in the light.," you can see, I have no problem."

"Yeah, I guess", he was reticent. Margie walked over and took his hand, "Try it yourself."

Bruce allowed her to pull his arm into the light, which he pulled back when the pain of it reached his brain. It was real, alright.

"Okay, you made your point, shut off the sky, Margie."

She did, and sat down to enjoy her drink. Bruce sat opposite her on a facing sofa and too k a sip of his drink, it was blood, good blood too.

"Bruce, I'm not sorry about Markus, he didn't know what he was doing was dangerous, but it was , very dangerous."

"What do you mean, Margie?"

"Well, I've spent the last 400 years as an immortal, keeping as low a profile as possible, enjoying myself, learning and just living , you know. But for the last 80 years or so, its become more and more difficult to picture lasting another decade. Its becoming too hard to maintain a low profile. And there are people who hunt down vampires now for fun."

"What are you talking about? You have a freaking lair, Margie, how high profile can you get. People have to know that this place exists. It’s a fucking palace down here."

"They don't , I assure you. I really like you Bruce, you get it. Keep your head down, stay away from Mortals whenever possible and if you need companionship, buy a freaking cat. It works for revs, it can work for us, right?"

"Right.", Bruce agreed, cautiously. Bruce noticed the cat box not far from the Elevator, but saw no sign of a cat, and he wondered if she had checked lenny into the same vet office he had worked at.



"Bruce, I'm sorry about using the voice on you, commanding you around, I just really wanted to have some time to talk with you, explain myself. And I really wanted you to get out of that park before those feds killed you too, or worse, took you prisoner.", she sounded desperate, Bruce didn't understand why, she held all the cards.

"Okay, I'm open to hearing you out… but Markus….that was cold, Margie. Were those guys your co-workers?"

"Sort of, I only worked as a fed to keep an eye on them, but they've been marginalizing me, along with everything non-terrorism related, my little department got some interested right after September 11th, but identity theft doesn't matter much to the current administration. It's a problem the poor have. That I used my position to fin vampires was unknown to them, if anyone suspected, I'd just charm that idea out of them. The thing though was that , even though I didn't shoot him, he did have the disease. And I know this because I gave it to him."

"You gave it to him? Do you have it too?", Bruce asked.

"No, I' m a carrier. You can be too, Bruce, it's not… too…. painful. You can become one of us, help us."

"What are you talking about, Margie?"

"Well, we need a doctor, someone like you, and we need you sooner rather than later."

"Wait a second, who is we?"

"Me, Seth, Genia..", Margie said.

"Genia", Bruce interrupted," What is with her? Why does she keep showing up everywhere."

"She's headstrong, that's for sure. She's also my granddaughter, of sorts."

"Of sorts?"

"It's a long story."

Bruce looked around the cavern and said, "I got time."

"Well, when I was still mortal, our tribe lived in what is now considered West Virginia. I was living well, really, had a good husband, two beautiful daughters, Awanita and Ayita," Bruce could tell she missed them, he could feel it, probably some aspect of her ability to charm, powerful emotions setting it off as well as conscious thought. "Alawa fell in love with a boy from a neighboring tribe, named Waleska. Anyhow, she was pregnant with eska's kid, who you know as Genia, when the we were attacked by the vampire who sired me.

"We were living on a patch of land not far from the tribe, but far enough away that they didn't know when we were attacked. It was late at night when he came.

"He had no name, and no language. He was, for all intents and purposes, an animal. He fed and he ran and he grew. I don't know where he came from and I don't even think he knew what he was doing when he sired me.

"He attacked me first, taking a nasty bite out of my neck," She pointed high on her neck, which served to remind Bruce how attractive she was. She was still wearing the sheer dress from the dinner they had enjoyed together.

"I passed out, by the time I had come to, he had killed eska, my husband Adahy and my sweet Awanita and he had gotten started on Alawa when I finally realized that if I didn't act, Alawa was going to die and so would her baby. She was nearly ready to give birth.

"I jumped on his back and used the only weapons I had at hand, my teeth and my fingers. I grabbed his head from behind and blinded him while I took a solid bite of his blood. Do you remember what the first taste was like when you were sired, Bruce?", she asked.

"I do.", he said, no vampire forgot it.

"It was power, it was juice, I almost forgot what I was doing, but I was strong, so strong, and so angry, I bit straight into his spine near his brainstem and killed him.

"It was too late for Alawa, my sweet alawa.", she was crying for telling this to him and her power was such that Bruce was tearing up as well, although regardless, Bruce couldn't bear the death of children.

"But her baby quickened, and was born. And she was a strong baby. Etenia was, and she was born a vampire, like her grandmother. I had time to tell her mother that I'd always protect her before she died. And I have. She's not a baby anymore, and I didn't like it when she started working at Micks' operation, but she really wanted to get out and about. It was funny in a way, seeing her pretend to be sensitive to light when in fact she was not in any more danger than your average New Yorker in the sun."

Bruce slapped his forehead, "She's been the one spreading the disease."

"Yes, I think that's how it happened. She's a carrier, like me. But she didn't know about the disease until you told her. I didn't know the extent of which it had spread from the Russian steppes, we had visited Moscow after the Soviet Union collapsed, we stayed in a beautiful hotel near Park Kultury, we went out and saw all manner of beautiful places. And we found some vampires there, and we fed on a woman who was to be sired. We think that's how it started spreading. We really didn't know about this disease side of it. But we do now. She's stopped feeding on New York socialites.", she said, a note of triumph in her voice.

"That doesn't fit though, why are you both alive when the other vampires aren't. Shouldn't they also have the ability to walk during the daytime?", Bruce wondered.

"No, you see, Etenia…Genia and I were both sired directly, blood from a vampire directly to us. These other vampires are getting our disease through the focus of a human circulatory system. Something about a human converts our blood into poison. But its not deadly in an of itself."

"It's not?"

"No, Seth, bless his soul, volunteered to be a guinea pig.

"Seth, I thought Seth was a human.", Bruce said.

"He is, we all are, but hear me out. Genia got Mick to sire Seth for me some 6 months ago, then she fed on a socialite at Mick's and Seth did shortly after that. Seth got sick almost immediately. We had a hunch, you see, that if Seth laid off of consuming human blood for a while, he'd be okay.

"In fact, we waited some 2 months. For the first week or so, he got violently ill. We knew from what Genia had learned at Markus' that if she had given him human blood he would have felt much better. It was very hard for her, I think she is quite taken with him, but we managed to limit his intake to an almost all vegetarian diet. It cleared up after about a month had passed and for all intents and purposes it is all gone now. He's even consumed some socialite blood and there's been no re-occurrence of the disease.

"After that, we tried one more science experiment on him, we tried to , for lack of a better term, re-sire him. He fed from Genia of course. It took about 2 weeks for the change to take effect, but he is now as able to travel in the light as any human is. And you can join us Bruce. You have the temperament, the humanity and … I'm quite taken with you. I'm really sorry about Washington Square park…"

"But why didn't you tell the other vampires about the cure, Margie?", Bruce asked

"I did, they didn't listen. I told Markus and all of his crew and a bunch of vampires. Those that didn't laugh when I mentioned a vampire flu, certainly laughed when I told the to stop feeding. Like you, I have a rep for not feeding on humans and a certain level of disapproval of it, so they thought I was trying to turn them to my ways. It was very frustrating, but I've told hundreds of vampires in New York alone, posted on sites online, but nothing. It keep spreading. I'm tired of it. Let them get it. Those that can bear to not feed on humans for a while will die. It's that simple.", Genia said, clearly unhappy about it.

(11/30/2004 6:36 PM 44091)
(11/30/04 7:01 pm 44091)

"That's sad.", Bruce said.

"It is, I wish there was a way we could force them to realize the error of their ways, but a part of me, a little part but a part nonetheless, is okay. I think the time of the vampire feeding on the human is over with. A new vampire, one who walks in the sun and doesn't feed on their fellow human, can be our future.", she said.

"How do you remain such an optimist after the 400 years you've lived", Bruce said admiringly.

"After a time, Bruce, you come to terms with mortal death, and I think we were put here for a purpose. It is our place to continue human knowledge and evolution. I even built this place with a human disaster in mind. This station is almost 150 feet underground and I had the ceiling, walls and floors reinforced. Nothing comes in here that I don't want to, nothing. That said, I have a taste for small town life now.", she almost sounded plantitive.

Bruce thought about this, it was moving fast for him, but maybe they could spend more time together. "Well, I have to say, there's nothing wrong with both of us going back to Placerville, you doing the ambulance thing, and me doing the vet thing and maybe we'll see if we feel what I think we do for each other."

She leaned in an kissed him. Sadly, that's when the intercom squawked. "Boss. You there?"

She but her finger to his lips and said, "Excuse me Bruce."

"Yes, Seth, what is it?"

"I'm sorry for bothering you, but there are some of your cops here."

"Some of mine, who is it?"

"It's Abbot and the other one."

"Larsen?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, I'll be right up. Let them take a seat in the front room.", then, to Bruce, she said, "I'll be back in a bit, make yourself at home, okay? The tivo remote is on the counter over there, check out channel 18 "

He stood up, and walked her to the Elevator. "Alright. Talk with you soon." They kissed again. Bruce was looking forward to when she came back down. He noticed as she left that she used her fob to open the elevator. He stuck his arm in the door.

"I could use one of those, you know."

"Yes, I'll bring one down for you or send Seth down with one."

"Alright."

There was an indicator that showed her going up to the 3rd floor, where he assumed she'd walk down the stairs so they didn't know about the basement.

He went and picked up the tivo remote and as the tv turned on, he took a sip from his drink. It was good blood, really high quality stuff. He wondered if her source would ship over night. He flicked through the channels and found that one of the channels was apparently a security composite from cameras on the floors above. He had a guilty moment as he watched her walk from a closet to her bed, buttoning her blouse, she had beautiful skin. He changed the channel and saw the following 4 channels were full screen versions of the quarter screens. The last of the 4 was her room, channel 18, and she blew a kiss at the camera as she walked down a staircase along the side wall.

Tease.

He followed her down to where the men were waiting before he got bored with it. There was no sound to accompany the images, otherwise he'd be happy to eavesdrop. From what he had seen through the cameras, he guessed the main house was a brownstone, maybe four or five stories tall counting the garage floor. As he watched her greet Abbott and Larsen, he noticed through the window a number an old women walking a dog. She was there for a bit of time then walked on, not even bothering to pick up his waste.

"Nice." , he said to no one in particular and he clicked the Tivo button and arrowed to "Now Playing", to see what she liked to watch. A part of him wanted to check what programs she had put on a seasons pass, but he thought that'd be too distracting, and a little snoopish. In her list of recorded programs, he was pleased to see some of his favorites and, amusingly, an apparent love for teen targeted soap operas. Maybe it was educational for her. He arrowed down to a taping of the daily show and watched the beginning of it.

He set down the remote as Jon Stewart made with the funny, sipping on his drink, which was warming up. It opened up a bit and wondered if his drink had anything in it other than pigs blood. He needed the number of the purveyor, for sure.

The commercial came up and he picked up the remote to fast forward past it, but his hand slipped and he hit the "live tv" button, and he was greeted with a picture of the two agents, Abbott and Larsen, attacking Margie and Seth. Margie and Seth both were gagged and tied up, lying down on the carpet Larsen had a gun pointed at them both. Bruce had to get up there.

But he had no fob, he couldn't operate the elevator. What a pain in the ass.

He found the door to the 6 line which opened handily, and it was in very good repair. He ran down the tunnel through another thick door into the 6 tunnel right as a train sped by way too close for comfort. He tried to see if there was a station nearby, and he though he saw light around the corner to his right, so he ran in that direction. Happily there was a ladder embedded in the wall to his right after running only 20 feet. He climbed as fast as his arms would carry him. There was a cable that was as thick as his arm paralleling his course up the ladder. He ended up in an underground space that appeared to hold a variety of telecom equipment. The ladder continued up another twenty feet to a access hatch. He threw it open and he was inside of a room with a number of racks of machines, with gel cell batteris lining the floor. He figured he was in some kind of old nynex derived switch-room. It smelled of plastic insulation and ozone. He kicked open an emergency fire door and emerged into a alleyway that smelled of shit and garbage and homeless. He ran to the street. The question became then, which house was it.

He saw at the end of the street the woman who had walked the dog, he walked up to her as to not startle her. He needed to know where she had come from, thinking fast, he said.. "Madam?"

"Yes?", her hand had gone to her pocket, probably had mace.

"I noticed that you didn't pick up after your dog.", she looked guiltily up the street , 92nd street, and said, "I'm sorry, it's just that he's such a little dog and my back isn't what I'd like to to be…", she stooped over a bit. What an act!

"Oh, I'm sorry ot hear that. If you would point out where it happened, I'll clean it up."

She said, "What are you , some kind of freak? I have mace!", she pulled out her mace and before she had a chance t ozap him with it, he commanded her, saying "Put that down. Where did your dog take a shit. Which house…now!"

Bruce regretted this, it would give her a nasty headache, but it worked. "4 houses from the far end, on the right. With the Green awning and the brown garage."

"Forget about me, go about your way.", Bruce said, running up the street. He stopped shy of her house and ripped some flowers out of her front garden, wrapping them in his hankerchief. He went up to the door, close enough that only his back could be seen from the side window and rang the bell.

The intercom to the left of the door squawked, "Who is it?". It wasn't Seth's voice but that of the man he had insulted at Payard.

"Flowers for Margie from a Mr. Boggs.", he improvised.

"Just leave them on the stoop.", he said.

"Uh, are you kidding? You don't have to tip, but you should put these in water.", Bruce said.

"Go the fuck away."

"Fine, whatever. I'll leave 'em here.", Bruce leaned down, put the flowers on the stoop and launched himself at the door, which burst open ahead of him. They had clearly anticipated him.

"Get the fuck in here", Abbott said, attempting, clearly , to use a commanding voice. It might have worked on a lesser human, but he was clearly a new vampire, with no real ability, but, if Margie was right and her charm had worked after Payard, they thought he was a terrorist, not a vampire. And a terrorist would be weak minded enough to just simply obey. So he did, he was still around the corner from Larsen, who was still in the room with Margie and Seth.

"Sit down on the couch asshole. ", said Ken Abbott to Bruce, then to his partner, also looking quite pale, "looks like we have another meal."

"Good, I'm hungry.", Larsen replied.

Bruce walked into the room that the had Margie and Seth tied up in, looking far all he knew as a some dump mortal. That's when he saw Margie. He thought she was alive, but there was a lot of blood, he became enraged.

An angry vampire is one thing, an angry 90 year immortal vampire is something altogether different. Bruce, yelled out, in his best commanding voice, "Drop your guns, fuckers,", as he launched himself at Larsen, whom he started to pummel about the head and shoulders. As the strength of vampires also increased with age, he quickly made short work of his head and chest and Larsen fell as Abbot was coming to grasp the gravity of the situation. He had only the time to say, "Hey, you're one of us…stop!" before Bruce drove his fingers through his eyes deep into his skull and into his brain, killing him in his rage.

"I'm not one of you.", Bruce said. Larsen, possessing a vampires constitution began to stir. Bruce took a rope securing a curtain, and incidentally blocking the scene from the view of the street, which was empty. He tied Larsen up tight and considered him. If Margie and Seth were alive he'd let him live.

He went to where Margie and Seth lie. He undid Margie's bonds and turned her over. She resisted so that Bruce knew that she was alive. He undid her gag, saying, it's Bruce, don't hit me. He could feel the anger come off her in waves. "Oh, Bruce," she said, coming into his arms, "They surprised us both.", gathering her wits , she knelt to Seth, feeling around his neck.

"I think he is alive.", she said while undoing his gag and bonds. "Seth are you alright?"

Seth flinched and wriggled as if electrocuted. He noticed that it was Bruce and Margie and calmed down quickly enough. "Fuck, man", he said, "What hit us?"

Margie pointed to an asp baton that was sitting on floor next to abbot, its' 20 inches of steel fully extended and covered with blood and hair, probably Seth's from the look of him. He was going to have a nasty headache while his brain healed itself.

Chapter

"How did they get the upper hand on you guys?", Bruce asked.

"I don't know. I came downstairs and Seth offered to get some drinks. He went into the kitchen and next thing I know theres a big," She kicked the one that was still alive in the side, "Fucking baton coming at me. I figure this one has some explaining to do."

She reached down at the one Bruce had beaten, there was blood all over. Bruce wasn't so worried, Vampires were good at getting blood out of clothes. She sat him up and slapped him to wake him up, she took a drink off a table and flung it at his face. He woke up sputtering.

"You fucking Bitch, set me free!", he said, trying to command Margie, to no avail. Seth laughed out loud and said into the guys ear, "You don't know how young you are, pup." And he punched him in the stomach. After this he lifted him back into a sitting position.

"Be still," Margie said. He was still. She said, without commanding him, "Tell me why you attacked us.", then, with the voice, "Now, and tell the truth, or you'll end up like Abbott."

Even if she hadn't forced him to, he would have, "Fuck, what did you do to him, man?", he said to Bruce, "I thought we were fucking immortal. That's what he told us, he said we'd live forever, what the fuck.", he wailed, "He said go to your house and feed on you, that you were being a problem and that me feeding on you would make me strong and fast and … and….but fuck then this guy comes out of fucking nowhere. Why can't I make you do what I what?"

"Jesus Christ", Bruce said, "What a fucking idiot you are. We're not young, like you, we have , well ,authority. You have nothing, you were, what, 30 at most when you were turned?"

"Yeah, 27."

"Fuck.", okay…. Bruce located a crucifix on the shelf and threw it at him. He started flipping out trying to get it to fall off his body. Then he seemed to get it, "Hey, it's not burning me."

Bruce laughed, "Youre some kind of tool, kid….now..", and this time, with authority, "Who sent you?"

"Mick did, man, Mick and Markus."

"Markus is dead, and Mick'll be dead.", Bruce said.

"Yeah, that's what Mick was pissed about, said Margie killed him, that it was your fault he was dying and that I was to kill all of you, Genia too, where is that Bitch?"

Margie's face became very worried, "I'll be right back."

Bruce heard her pick up a cordless phone and dial a number. "Fuck!", he heard her say.

He told Seth, "Watch him."

He walked to Margie and said, "What is it?"

"She's in trouble, I know she is, she was supposed to be here tonight, and she's not, and she's not answering her cell. Fuck! Bruce, I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to her," Tears of rage and sorrow mixed and ran down her cheeks.

"Do you think she's at Mick's?"

"I don't know, but I know who might."

Margie ran into the front room, palpable waves of rage caroming off her, she came to the sitting Abbott and said in a voice that was barely audible, "Where is she, where is my Etenia you son of a bitch."

Bruce could see Abbot wanted to tell, but his throat was immobile and he was sweating, "No, wait, Margie, let me…..", she pushed him back so his chair fell o nthe floor. Bruce sat on his chest and said, "Okay, here's what you're going to do… you're going to tell us where Genia is, and we're going to go get her. If we come back, and she's alive, you live, otherwise you die. Seth, you good with that?"

"Good? I'll do better than that, I'll just let Margie kill him, he's hers to kill, and it'll not be easy.", Seth said. As he did, Abbott's eyes went from person to person paniced. Bruce sat up and pulled him back up with him.

"Alright, fucker…, where is she."

"She's at Brasserie, when I left her Mick had tied her up," Bruce went to hit him again. "No, seriously take my fob, its in my jacket. Yours was bullshit, take it!"

"Alright. Margie, lets go?"

They went into the basement and climbed into a Mercedes sedan that was parked behind the town car they appeared in. As Bruce climbed into the passenger seat, he heard Margie saying, "If that fucker touched a hair on her head, I'll fucking kill him with a word."

"Let's just get there.", Bruce said.

The garage door opened and Bruce said, "FUCK!" as the sunlight streamed in. "Fuck, Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!", as he rushed to wrap his head with his blood covered scarf. "Fuck", he finished, considering what he must look like.

They pulled out of the driveway and sped down the road, they cut a corner tight and almost ran over the old lady with the incontinent dog. "Fuck!" Margie said. Bruce just laughed.

"What the fuck are you laughing at?"

"I'll tell you later", he replied, knowing she wouldn't find the whole dog thing as funny as he did. Wrong time for such humor.

They sped towards downtown with excessive speed, Bruce worried about being pulled over, but Margie knew what she was doing. She pulled in front of Brasserie 8 and a half and the just left it parked in front, Bruce knew she'd have some kind of fed sticker so she wouldn't get towed .They walked down to the front door, and opened it up, lunch service was just spinning up, with waiters and others setting tables and polishing glass. Margie screamed, "out of our way, fuckers" and it was like Moses and the Red sea. They just split, horrified, many ran out of the restaurant, which Bruce took for mortals toying with the idea of immortality. The rest hugged the far walls or hid behind the bar. Margie kicked the door open with such force that it didn't just open, it shattered.

Bruce had known that they got stronger with age, he himself had taken advantage of it many times, it really came in handy when trying to lift a Leonberger or a German Shepard onto the table and hold it down. But Margie was in a class all herself, she was a fucking superhero or something.

He followed her down the hall, she seemed to know where she was going, and he knew why. She could smell her progeny's blood. Bruce feared the worst, even he could smell it. They turned the corner on the way to Micks office and she opened a door opposite same.

A viciously loud report emanated from the room, throwing Margie back and against the hallway wall. She had taken a shotgun to the chest and stomach. He seen Vampires take worse, but that was going to hurt. What was going to hurt more was the second shot that he was preparing to take at her head. Mick stepped out of the door saying to Margie, looking only at Margie, "You Bitch, you fucking got me sick and ruined my good thing, I'm going to kill you and your daughter both. I'm not fucking dying alone."

And that was the last thing he said. Bruce tackled him and, easy as pie, with the strength of a vastly strong vampire, he ripped Mick's head right off and spiked it onto the floor, crushing it. He looked at Margie, she would be okay, she was already stirring, so he went into the office to see how Margie was.

She was unhurt, sitting, tied to a chair around the corner from wit ha gag tied around and stuff in her mouth. He looked at her and just shook his head. What the fuck. He ripped her gag off. "You alright?", he asked.

"Yeah,", and as Bruce undid her arms, "Thanks. Is Margie here."

"Yeah,", he said….she turned the corner and said, " Alisi!"

Bruce came around and saw Margie holding her Grandmothers body and rocking…."You're going to be okay, you're going to be okay."

"Bruce, help me with her, okay?"

"Well, just leave her be for a bit…see if we can find some clean blood for her. I'll check Mick's office."

Bruce crossed the hall and kicked open Mick's door. He had located the fridge and was trying to find a good clean sack of blood, when he phone rang. The called id said "Seth Davies", he took the blood into the hallway and gave it to her, saying "Give it to her slowly, okay?"

He picked up the phone, "Yeah, seth?"

"So should I kill him?"

"No, take him and his buddy and lock them up together for now, tonight throw them both naked into the Bronx. Make him forget all about everything., but make him remember that his friend was killed by vampires and that he doesn't want to be that kind of vampire, got me?"

"I'll try, these gusy are pretty stupid."

"Then just scare the fuck out of them as well."

"I can do that. So Genia's okay?"

"Yeah, want to talk with her…"

"No, I don't want to lose track of this", sound of a kicking noise, "Squirrly fucker. Tell her I love her. "

"Great, I'll tell her," Bruce said. He hung up and said to Genia.

"We have a guy that Seth is looking after back home, he said to tell you he loves you."

"Just one? What happened to the other one."

"I found him after he had beaten up your mom a little?"

"Oh," She said, then smiled, "OH!"

Bruce took the blood from Genia, "Let me do that.", That's when he put it together. The sample in Markus' fridge wasn't -m for Markus, it was -m for Margie.

"That's why you were around Markus so much…", he said.

"What, me?"., she said. "Yeah, he had it in for her, he had taken her blood and it was different, it wouldn't infect, so he suspected her. He didn't know we were family."

"How did he get her blood."

"Basically the fucker mugged her. Vicious prick sandbagged her in the financial district. He bragged about it to me. Asshole. We were really worried when you came back."

Margie stired in her lap," What, ow..fuck",. she said wincing. "Shot gun?" she asked, spitting some blood out onto the blonde paneling.

"Yeah, you'll be okay, just rest for a bit."

"Thanks Bruce, hey baby, you okay?"

"Yeah Alisi, I am. Just rest.", Genia said.

Margie closed her eyes, following her granddaughters advice.

"Alisi?", Bruce asked.

"Grandmother in Cherokee.", Genia said, "Thanks Bruce, so…you two planning on dating or what?"

"Something like that.", Bruce said lamely, "I guess that would be an okay outcome."

Bruce rubbed his hands, they stung, he had burned them a little in the car. "It sure would be nice to be able to walk outside, that's for sure."

"Bruce, can you watch her while I bring the car into the Garage, it's just through there."

"Sure."

Genia darted off to collect the car, Margie's head rested in Bruce's lap.

"Bruce," a weak voice came up.

"Yeah, Margie…Take it easy…you've been shot you know."

"Come closer," she said.

He did, trying to hear what she had to tell him. She lifted her head a little and fastened onto his neck, just under his ear, and fed for a few moments. It was exciting, the vampire equivalent to a first kiss. She fell back down into Bruce's lap, color having returned to her face, along with a smile.

He heard a honk come from a pair of emergency doors to his right, he swept Margie up and took her through the emergency doors, as he did, Genia passed him, saying "Get her in, I'll be right back."

As he settled in and started wrapping himself up to protect himself from the sun, Genia returned holding a large case. She tossed it into the passenger side and climbed into the drivers seat, raising the tinted windows. She pulled out and onto the street, and they made their way back to Margies.

After getting back home to the brownstone, Seth and Genia, after a happy reunion, took Abbot to the car for his ride later to queens, tying him down to the bench that Bruce had woken up on earlier. They collected Larsens body and took it down the elevator and came back some time later empty handed .Bruce figured that, Larsen's body had been dealt with in the tunnels deep under Manhattan.

The two of them drove off leaving Bruce and a remarkably revived Margie to regroup after a grueling day. After, they both fell blissfully, asleep.

Bruce awoke, due to the amount of light not leaking in around the curtain, he judged it to be night. There was a note on the pillow next to him, it said:

Bruce;

I'll see you back at town. Let me know if you need any help getting back. Remember that it took Seth some 2 months before he could walk around and not get all smokey. But it'll get better every day. I'll be out soon, I have work on Wednesday anyway! The life of a busy paramedic never ends. I'll see you Wednesday night before my shift, I hope? I'll call you if I get there before then. Find me at Mel's that night, okay?

Xoxoxo - Margie.

Bruce folded the letter and just held it. Girlfriend. Go figure. He called the number that Mick had given him on the off chance that he didn't betray him at the time.

"Sodalis Aviation, Can I help you."

"Yes, my name is Bruce Napoleon, I'd like to arrange a flight to California.", he said.

"Certainly, one moment please,", Bruce heard the slap of fingers on a keyboard, "Yes, we have you right here. One moment while I transfer you to a proper operator.".

There was a click and then, "Hello Dr. Napoleon, do you plan on returning to the same airport?"
"Yes, I'd like to leave before sunup."

"Of course ,we have that noted for your organization. Do you need a car?"

"Yes, can you have it pick me up from the Hotel Athenee."

"Yes. We have the same plane you arrived on available. Will that do?"

"Yes, it will indeed. Thank you."

"The plane won't be ready for takeoff for about 4 hours hours, you'll arrive when it is still dark, will that do?"

"Yes, that'll be fine, thanks."

"Thank you for flying Sodalis Aviation, Dr. Napoleon."

Bruce gathered up his clothes and dressed, his suit was in terrible shape, but no matter. It only had to last until he reached his hotel room. As he gathered his things he made his way downstairs, he almost ran into Seth. "Oh hello Dr. Napoleon. I hear you and Margie have a date Wednesday.", Seth winked. "I think she likes you".

"You're enjoying this, aren't you.", Bruce asked.

"Yeah, Margie is a good woman, hasn't date anyone in decades. You'll be good for her, won't you?", he asked.

"Yes, I will. I'll definitely be interesting.", he said, "Anyhow, I'm going to head to the Hotel and get my things. It was really good meeting your Seth.", they shook hands, "Give my best to Genia, okay?"

"I will, have a good flight, doc.", Seth said.

Bruce left the brownstone and caught a cab. So many places, so many museums. Next time he was in New York, he'd be able to actually visit them and damn the sun. His immortality was looking better than ever.

The cabbie took his to the front door of the Hotel Athenee, where he over-tipped both the cabbie and the doorman. HE was happy. The door man gave him quite a look. "Nosebleed, it's this damn cold weather.", he said as he walked inside.

He took the elevator up to his room and slid his card key into the lock. His room was very neat, there was a light blinking on and off indicating he had a message, he checked it, hitting the combination of numbers that was infuriatingly inconsistent from hotel to hotel. It was the front desk inquring if he was planning on staying another night. Obviously, he had, he deleted the message. The second message was from the personal shopper reminding him of his hair appointment at 8pm and an invitation to a party afterwards. He'd get the haircut, but be wasn't anywhere near being party fresh vampire. He hung up, stripped down and took a long shower, washing away the grime, sweat, blood and sex that had accumulated on his person, reflecting that it had been quite a weekend.

He stepped out of the shower and gathered his things, packing them gently into the rolling case. He called down for a bellman and made his way to the front desk, where he produced a credit card, in the name of James Bernard, to pay for the remaining balance.

"Thank you for staying with us, Mr. Bernard."

As he signed his slip, he said , "Thank you, I have an errand to run for a few hours, but I'll be back to meet a car then."

"Alright, Mr. Bernard."

He walked outside and the doorman had a cab waiting, Bruce went and got his haircut. As usual, salons at night were full of the undead. A place to have nice conversation, get a cool color, and more. He was ushered to his very talkative stylist, who was mostly interested in hooking Bruce up with the Liz, personal shopper. Bruce had considered it, but now, after experiencing just a small amount of time with Margie, he knew that she was more his speed. The stylist did do a very nice job, and Bruce made his way back to the Hotel, where the car to take him to the airport was waiting.

The doorman told him, "We already loaded your bags into the car, Mr. Bernard."

"Thanks,", Bruce passed him a tip and slid into the car. Seth was at the wheel.

"I wondered if they'd call you.", Bruce said.

"Indeed they did, Bruce, but Genia won't be joining you for the flight back, we have plans tonight. Also, I want to say I'm sorry about lying to you earlier, pretending to be mortal and all. "

"That's alright, it's no big deal, have a good night tonight.", Bruce said.

"I will", Seth replied.

They talked for much of the trip to the airport, mostly about how vampires age, how they deal with things like identity an other minutia. He pulled into a hanger and opened the trunk for Bruce. Inside was his new rolling bag, his laptop case and a third satchel. Bruce looked at Seth, the question plain on his face.

"A little gift from me and Genia."

Bruce opened it up, it was filled with cash…New York vain socialite cash from Mick's office.

"We knew that the suit and the rest all cost you money, and if there were ever a couple of chicks who didn't need cash, it'd be Genia and Margie."

"Yeah, that house," Bruce whistled.

They shook hands and Bruce made his way into the Airplane. The pilots made short work of the aircraft check and they took off in 10 or 15 minutes. Once they had leveled out, Bruce went to the back of the plane, took another shower to clear the hair from the back of his neck and took some time to clean his suit with a rolling lint collector.

After he got dressed again, he counted the money, there was just under two million in cash in the satchel, mostly hundreds and twenties. So much money they spent. Bruce considered just pouring it into buying cosmetics company stocks.

He went to the main cabin of the plane, and a nice meal had been set up by the stewardess, who, seeing him emerge from the sleeping cabin, said, "Hello Dr. Napoleon…what can I get you to drink?"

"A water would be fine, thanks."

"With ice?"

"Yes."

"Coming right up."

Bruce tucked into his meal, a small filet mignon, very rare. Happily, the flight was otherwise uneventful, he spent most of it reading the times, regretting he hadn't stayed longer, and wondering what, other than his Wednesday night date with Margie, he was planning on doing back in his small town. In just two weeks, he'd have any number of options open to him.

Neil the captain that Bruce had met on the flight out, stopped back to say hi, and Bruce and he talked about immortality and all that .Bruce felt like a world war two vet talking to a kid about to go to war, all experience and no expectation that anyone will take your advice seriously. He hoped, and said as much, that Neil would try to respect life, he seemed a good enough guy, but sometimes, the blood lust overwhelmed even the nicest guys. Look at Markus, he had killed probably hundreds if not thousands of mortals and vampires during his life and death on earth. What a waste all that violence is of his immortality.

Bruce produced the memory card that Margie had given him, and he loaded it onto his laptop. This one last loose end, he thought. He looked at the contents of the disk and found a file on Lindsay, his first immortal love and the woman he sired so many years ago.

The file was pretty complete, tracing the time from when Bruce sired her until the blitz, when both were in England before Bruce left. There was only one picture of her post blitz, and that the fuzzy one he had been sent by Margie to his phone. It wasn't any better in a larger form, and he couldn't even swear it was her. There was a file labeled "Read me."

Bruce,

Here is all we could find on Lindsey, I hope it helps.

Margie

Bruce hadn't really gotten his hopes up that she had lived through the blitz, not many humans did, much less vampires. The search for the fate of Lindsay would have to wait for another day. Life was for the living, after all.

The plane landed in California when things were still quite dark, he looked at his phone, a message was waiting. He speed dialed his voice mail. It was Marsha Poulsen, "Dr. Napoleon, I just called to let you know that Crystal is doing well, I hope your trip went well and that you were careful, New York is a very dangerous city! I heard about some terrorist raid, I hope you were far from where that happened. Anyhow, thanks again."

As Bruce drove his Volvo, which the attendant had even taken the time to wash and vacuum, and drove home with it, he reflected that he really liked being a veterinarian, it was fun helping out cats and their owners. Since the meal on the plane had been small and Bruce seemed to be rebuilding his whole body, he decided to stop at a small 24 hour restaurant on the way home, formerly a dennys or some other chain, it had been taken over and the original logo removed from the roof. The "new management" sign had been up for as long as Bruce could remember, but they served a decent omelette, which was just what he was looking forward to.

He walked inside and was seated at a table, he looked at the menu and decided on a spinach, muchroom and bacon omelette.

"What can I get you hon?", the waitress asked.

"I'd like a number 6, please. And can I get a milkshake?", Bruce reflected that something about Margies blood was giving him a sweet tooth.

"Sure, chocolate?"

"Yeah, that'd be great."

"What kind of toast do you have? we have white, whole wheat and sourdough."

"English muffin please"

"Home Fries or Hash Browns."

"Hash Browns please."

"Alright, it'll be right out."

Bruce saw a pile of news papers on the counter, leftovers from previous customers. He picked one up, the major headline on the front page was about the terrorist cell raid in Manhattan. They noted that they were still looking for individuals who belong to the same "Satanist terrorism network". Bruce was happy that anything identifying either burned up or he had retrieved when he had grabbed his laptop.

"Bruce? That you?", a voice from the side asked him. Bruce turned, it was Tom Kinsey, the man who had laid him off only three nights earlier.

"Hi Tom, how are you."

"Good, just got back from taking car of an emergency call. Listen, I have a question for you."

"What's that?"

"Well, I know I just laid you off, but you know Karen, on the day shift?"

"Sure, I do."

"Well, she turned in her two week notice, her husband got a new job down in the Bay Area and they're moving down there. So I was wondering, would you be interested in taking her place? It would mean a little more money and responsibility, but I know you can do it, what do you think?"

"Well, if you don't mind me starting in two weeks, I think that I'd really like it."

"You mean that Bruce? There're no hard feelings then, I guess."

"No, Tom, I meant it when I said I understood, I know how this stuff goes."

"Wow, thanks Bruce. So I'll see you in a couple of week then?"

"Sure, start on Monday morning?"

"That's right. Well, I was just heading out, so I'll catch you then. Also, did you have that Marsha persons' cat, Crytal?"

"Yeah, I did," Bruce laughed.

"Well, she was very upset I laid you off, so this'll get her off my back.", Tom said, "Take it easy, Bruce. I'll see you in a couple of weeks."

"You too Tom.", Bruce replied.

Tom left as Bruce's omelette was delivered from the kitchen. As Bruce tucked into it he realized that while the trip to New York was fun and exciting an the food was Fantastic, his small happy life in Placerville would suit him well, for now at least.

He looked forward to Wednesday, and even more so to a few weeks after that. He wanted to go to a beach, feel the sand between his toes, and the sun on his skin again, like when he was still alive.