Home > Fire in the Blood (Vampire Files #5)

Fire in the Blood (Vampire Files #5)
Author: P.N. Elrod

Chapter One

I WAS IN the process of tearing away the top half of Olivia Vandemore's silver-spangled evening gown when Escott abruptly opened the basement door and called my name.

"Are you down there?" His voice was necessarily pitched to carry through a brick wall.

"In a minute," I growled back.

The last fragile strap gave way under feverish, brutal hands. A terrible shriek of pure horror rushed from her perfect coral lips and echoed throughout the dank stone passages.

"Jack?" He was coming down the basement steps.

Her warm, white body writhed helplessly on the carved stone altar-an altar stained black with the Wood of uncounted victims hideously sacrificed to slake the unholy thirst of...

"Jack?" He rapped a knuckle experimentally against the wall of my inner sanctum.

... Sabajajji, the Spider God.

I hit the period and debated whether to turn it into an exclamation point. A quick look through the other pages confirmed that I hadn't used one for some time now, and it seemed appropriate for the scene. The reader was going to be far more concerned with the upcoming description of Olivia's writhing body than my punctuation. I backspaced, tapped the apostrophe key, and rolled out the sheet, adding it to the stack of deathless prose next to my portable. Further excitement would have to wait until after I found out what the hell Escott wanted.

"I was working, you know," I told him, emerging wraithlike from the basement wall and solidifying. It'd taken a couple of months, but he'd finally gotten used to such stunts from me-at least on those occasions when he expected it. This time he'd expected me to be behind a bricked-up alcove in his basement, so it was hardly worth his notice.

"Sorry," he said, his nervous fingers absently jingling his key ring. He was wearing his hat and coat.

"Something up?" I asked, tying my bathrobe. I'd started writing as soon as I'd woken up and hadn't bothered to dress.

"I believe so. I may have a job for us and thought you'd like to come along and meet our prospective client."

This wasn't his usual method of work, which was being a private detective, though he preferred to be called a private agent. Most of the time he'd have some job already in progress and only asked me in if he needed extra help. I always tried to keep a low profile and rarely saw the client. The fewer people who knew about me, the better.

"I'm kind of in the, middle of something," I hedged, reluctant to be dragged away from Olivia's impending sacrifice and last-second rescue. "Or are you getting a fishy smell off this one?" Sometimes he'd have me come along to watch his back.

"Such niceties of personal judgment are most difficult to ascertain, especially since I've had no actual contact with the client. I can positively state that the gentleman is determined, if nothing else, and possessed of some degree of consideration, in that he was kind enough to send his chauffeur over to make sure I did not miss his requested appointment." followed the cant of his eyes up the basement steps to the hall door. As he spoke, the doorway-the entire doorway-was blocked by the presence of a uniformed Negro. He was built like an industrial-grade refrigerator. Escott couldn't really say anything in so many words, but this was definitely one of those times when he wanted someone to watch his back.

"So, what's the client's name?" I asked, all interest now.

"Sebastian Pierce," he said.

"Never heard of him."

"He was quite a large noise in Chicago some twenty-five years ago. After making a fortune from various investments, he then retired to enjoy it."

"We should all be so lucky."

"And this is his chauffeur, Mr. Griffin."

Griffin nodded once at me. "Good evening, sir." The amused look on his face indicated that he'd noticed the pajamas and bathrobe.

"Good evening," I returned, and tried to look dignified in spite of the unconventional surroundings. Maybe Escott had told him I was checking the furnace. "What time's this appointment?"

"Eight o'clock. We can just make it if you hurry." Escott turned and trotted lightly up the basement steps, pausing only a moment at the top so Griffin could vacate the doorway. He hardly made a sound. Maybe Escott wanted me to cover him, but who the hell was supposed to cover me? I gave an inward shrug and followed. For the time being Olivia would just have to wait at the altar.

Escott and I started rooming together a couple weeks after the night I woke up dead on a Lake Michigan beach. He owned a three-story brick relic that had been a bordello in less innocent days. It had plenty of space and we'd both agreed that it offered me more privacy than a hotel. We shared the bills and I had two rooms upstairs with my own bath, but when writing, the basement was my exclusive territory. The intervening floors served as soundproofing, so the clack of my typewriter in the wee morning hours didn't disturb what little sleep his insomnia allowed him.

I'm up so late and only after dark because I'm a vampire.

Just like the folklore says, I drink blood for sustenance- usually at the Union Stockyards every other night, depending how active I am. The cattle there don't seem to mind. Human blood has its own special appeal, but like most people, I keep my nourishment separate from my sex life.

I don't have any aversion to crosses, garlic, or silver, though I do have a problem with wood and crossing free-flowing water. I can't turn into a bat or wolf, but can disappear, float around, and even walk through walls if required. Most of the time I use doors-it's less conspicuous.

During the day I'm stretched out on a fairly comfortable folding bed that has a layer of my home earth sewn up in a long, flat sheet of oilcloth. The bed is in Escott's basement, hidden behind a fire-resistant brick wall that he'd built himself. The tiny room beyond is located exactly under the kitchen, and Escott had thoughtfully fitted a trap into the floor there for emergencies. It was well hidden by his carpentry skill and a throw rug. I don't have a coffin. I hate coffins.

The room's pretty stark, but during the day I don't notice much of anything. It has an air shaft to the outside, electricity for the work light and radio, and a photo of my girlfriend Bobbi for decoration. My typewriter rests on a wide shelf attached to the wall. I enjoy the privacy when writing, but do my real living in my rooms on the second floor. There I keep my clothes and a comfortable scatter of magazines and books, and succeed in pretending that I'm no different from any other human. But the bed in the corner was for show only, and no mirror hangs over the dresser.

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