Chapter 1: The Nightwalker
Walking sullenly down the bustling New York streets, Robert Atkinson slowly adjusted his threadbare suit jacket, a thrift store bargain he'd owned since high school. Mr. Atkinson was a tall, thin man, with small beady eyes peering out from beneath an oversized fedora. The large suit, which was a peculiar mix of brown and green in color, hung over his small frame, bobbing against him with each step he took. Dark beads of sweat rolled down his prominent nose as he shoved his way through crowds of dapper young men and fur-clad women, the New York City nightlife.
Barely awake, Robert took little notice of the young man leaning against a nearby storefront, smoking a cigar.
"Hey, Rob. You don't recognize me no more?" the man laughed heartily, stepping beside Robert as he shoved his way through the sidewalks.
"Oh…Hi, Don," Rob yawned, eying his friend, "I'm sorry. I didn't notice you.'
"Where are you headin'? You ain't goin' home are you?" Don asked, shoving the cigar between his teeth. Don was a fairly stout, overbearing man, with a wolfish face and tiger-like eyes that shone with an ethereal glimmer. Unlike Robert's oversized clothes, Don's trench coat was much too small for his body.
"Yes, I am. I have work in the morning," Robert yawned, jumping back as he bumped into a rather gruff looking man, "Sorry, sir."
"Come on. Where you been lately? You never wanna do anything fun no more," Don protested, "You used to love the nightlife!"
"Yeah, well, things change."
"You still upset about your brother? Come on, Rob, the war's been over for more than a year now," Don blew a ring of smoke from his puffy lips, staring at the blinking city lights contrasted by the starless night sky.
"There's a new club downtown, and I ain't gonna let you waste your youth away. It's 1947, the year of opportunity!"
"Since when was 1947 the year of opportunity?" Rob narrowed his eyes, "I really can't go. Mr. Brown doesn't like it when I'm late for my shift, and if I oversleep one more time…"
"Shut up, and come on," Don laughed vigorously, grabbing Robert by his jacket sleeve and dragging him through the streets, "Maybe I can even get you a date or somethin' "
"You saying I can't get a date on my own?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying. But don't worry. You're ol' pal Donny's here for you," Don shoved Robert to a street corner, "Taxi!"
A yellow cab pulled to the curb, and Don literally shoved his friend in the backseat, before climbing in himself.
"Where to?" asked the driver, an overweight bearded man who barely could squeeze behind the wheel.
"The Nightwalker, and make it fast," Don laughed abruptly.
"What the hell kind of name is The Nightwalker?" Robert asked curiously, as the cab whirred to life and began rolling through the streets.
"How the hell should I know?" Don snapped, "Just be happy I'm not letting you become a hermit."
"Yeah, sure," Robert rolled his eyes, shifting uncomfortably in his seat as he stared at the flashing rainbow of city lights.
About a half hour later, the taxi rolled up to an expansive building with a blinking neon sign labeled, The Nightwalker.
"We're here," Don grinned, stepping outside and landing his large feet on the pavement. Robert followed hesitantly, staring at the nightclub as Don argued with the cabby over the price of the ride.
"Just give him what he asks. Damn it, Don," Robert sighed, turning around to face his friend.
"Yeah, yeah," Don coughed, shoving a handful of crumbled bills to the driver, who took off speeding down the road, "I ain't gonna let no one jip me."
Robert rolled his eyes, "God forbid he charges you an extra nickel."
"Shut it. Now, come on. We're gonna miss the show," Don laughed, placing an arm around Robert's shoulder and leading him toward the club's entrance doors.
"Yeah, they got this new lounge singer," Don smiled as he approached the bouncer, "Hey, Ralphie. How's about lettin' me and my buddy here inside."
Nodding, the oversized man held the door open, allowing Don and Robert to pass into the building, which was filled to the brim with dancing and laughing men and women.
"See? It's good to have a friend with connections," Don smiled, still attempting to inhale every last bit of his dwindling cigar.
"What connections have you got?" Robert chuckled, starting to enjoy himself, "My grandmother could've gotten us inside."
"Ralphie and I go way back, a'right," Don narrowed his eyes, "I actually have more than one friend…unlike some people I know."
"Sure, sure. Whatever," Robert sighed, taking a seat at the bar , "Give me…something strong."
The bartender, a somewhat plump blonde man, nodded, before turning to Don, "And for you, sir?"
"The house blend," Don said, stubbing what remained of his cigar in the marble ashtray on the sleek wooden counter.
"Stop actin' like you own the place," Robert sniggered, adjusting his hat.
"You're really un…" Don began, but was cut off as the lights in the room began to dim. The crowd of patrons broke into a loud applause as a muscular man in a tuxedo stepped onto the spotlighted stage.
"This is your lounge singer?" Robert laughed softly, "He's beautiful, alright."
"Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to our very own Helena," the man onstage spoke into his microphone, causing the furor to die down. As he stepped off the stage, the roar of applause began once again as the curtains began to rise.
"Here she is, wiseass," Don snapped, drawing another cigar from his coat pocket. Shoving it into his mouth, he pulled out a box of matches.
The spotlight shrunk to fit around the lone figure that now graced the room.
"Wow…" Robert barely saw the bartender hand him his drink.
"Yeah, wow…" Don repeated, staring at the beauty that was Helena as he finally managed to light the match he had pulled out.
The woman was tall and busty, but retained an amazing unshakable elegance as she stood poised behind her microphone. Long, fiery red hair hung to her shoulders, framing her pale delicate face, which housed crystal blue eyes and tender blood red lips. Helena, who had began swaying her hips in time with the music provided by the live band, wore a long, fitted shimmering black gown and lacy onyx gloves that reached just above her forearm.
Opening her perfect lips, Helena began to sing, in a velvety, angelic voice, swaying her hips as she walked around the stage.
"Wow, she really is something," Robert gulped his drink, surprised by its tartness.
Don, however, had joined in the 'hoots' and hollers of the other male patrons, as Helena slowly inched the glove down her right arm in a strip tease.
Stepping off the stage, Helena began moving her way through the rows of people, still singing. Every so often, she would stop near one of the younger men and sing to them sultrily, before moving on. However, she would never linger for long. These teasing tactics earned her aching, lustful looks of desire from the males, and angry, jealous looks from the women.
"I'm getting a closer look," Don said, trying to speak clearly over the roar of the audience, Helena's mystifying song, and the band's blaring trumpets. Robert, however, was not paying attention. Helena, who had set her sights on Mr. Atkinson, was moving steamily toward the bar.
"I…uh…" Robert choked, as the songstress stopped in front of him, placing a tender gloved hand on his sweaty cheek.
"Alright. Go Rob!" Don hooted, watching his friend as Robert was serenaded by the siren that was Helena.
"Uh…," Robert blushed, watching the woman's slender hand move toward his shirt, where she began steamily unbuttoning his collar. However, the siren soon turned away and began walking back to her position on the stage, leaving Robert with the same, intense longing felt by the other men whom Helena had teased.
With a final blown kiss as the woman ended her song, the curtains dropped as the club turned into a furor of applause.
"What'd I tell ya?" Don grinned.
"Right…sure…I'll talk to you tomorrow," Rob said, getting to his feet and moving his way through the crowd, toward the stage.
Don chuckled, "You ain't gonna get her into your bed."
Robert ignored him. He knew he had to meet her. This intense longing he felt, whether it was merely physical attraction or love at first sight, was both new and exciting.
"Helena…" he murmured dreamily, sneaking through the stage door in hopes of cornering her in her dressing room. Suddenly and gratefully, he caught a glimpse of her black gown trailing around a corner of the long, stark corridor he had entered. "Hi, my name's Robert Atkinson, and I was wondering if maybe you would like to…" he began practicing what he would say once he and the woman were face to face.
As he rounded a corner, Robert, who had been wandering about the corridors of the building for about twenty minutes, caught a glimpse of the redheaded beauty as she exited through a backdoor of the building. Without hesitating, he followed her, the longing of passion burning in his chest. Pulling open the exit door, he followed Helena into the cool night air, catching another glimpse of her as she moved into the crowds that filled the sidewalk.
"Wait," he called after her, although she took no notice. Sighing, he too moved into the crowd, keeping his eye on the woman, who was now clad in a hooded fur coat. Had it not been for the sheer fire of her hair, Robert most likely would have lost sight of her as she weaved through the men and women with which the street teemed.
After an hour of keeping up with the singer, who had been walking steadily through New York, Robert managed to follow her into the now empty Central Park.
'Now's my chance, " he whispered, fear prominent in his voice. Wandering around Central Park so late at night was sure to get you mugged or murdered. However, his desire to meet the object of his affection was only growing with each moment he pursued her.
Suddenly, Helena stopped on the park's path, caught in the beam of one of the lampposts that illuminated the darkness. Her figure stood poised against the backdrop that was moonlight.
"Ah," Robert coughed, ducking behind a tree. Although this may have been his only chance to meet her, his nervousness had overcome him.
"It's alright. You don't have to hide…You've been following me, no?" Helena asked, turning around to face the tree behind which Mr. Atkinson had hid.
Grinning like a buffoon, Robert emerged slowly, "Guilty…"
"I remember you. You were at my show, weren't you?" the woman asked, standing gracefully in the lamp's beam.
"Yes..I…wan..wanted to meet you," Robert admitted, approaching her, "My name is Robert Atkinson…"
"Hello, Robert. I'm Helena…I'm dying for a drink. Would you accompany a lady to her home and perhaps stay for happy hour?"
"Yes!' Robert smiled, perhaps too eagerly, as he removed the worn fedora from his head.
Smiling, Helena took his arm in hers, leading him through the darkness of the commons.
Helena apparently resided in the Plaza Hotel, indicating that she must've been extremely wealthy.
"You live here?" Robert asked, mesmerized as the woman led him into the lavish lobby.
"Yes. It's a nice little place, don't you think?"
"Very nice," Robert grinned, as he was led onto the lobby's elevator.
Smiling mysteriously, Helena pushed the silver button labeled eighteen, "I live all the way at the top. There's a lovely view of the park."
"I can imagine," Robert nodded politely.
After a few minutes of silence, the elevator slid to a stop at the proper floor. Stepping out, Helena led her companion down the exquisitely decorated hotel corridor before stopping at her room. Pulling the key from her small black purse, she pushed it into the lock and pushed open the door.
"Wow…" Robert said in disbelief, looking around at the lavish suite, which housed large glamorous furniture and a breathtaking view of Central Park, which was illuminated by the city's lights.
"It's a nice little place to live. Something to drink?" Helena asked, moving over to the bar as she removed her jacket to reveal her elegant black dress.
"Go ahead, sit down," the woman smiled, handing Roberta shimmering glass filled to the brim with a peculiar violet liquid, "It's my own special blend."
Respectfully, Robert took a small sip, "So, it must be nice having maids and room service all year 'round."
"I don't allow the maids, or any of the other employees in here. I prefer my privacy," Helena smiled, sitting on the velvety sofa across from her guest.
Robert nodded, "Yes…" He was beginning to feel drowsy, so he took another sip of the sweet drink.
"Do you like it?"
"Yes…It's not quite like anything I've ever tasted," Robert nodded, helplessly closing his eyes as he drifted into unconsciousness.
With a start, Robert awoke to find himself laying on the cold, pavement of an alleyway. A downpour had started, and he had been drenched by the falling rain.
"What happened?" he murmured, wearily getting to his feet. Rubbing his hands through his soaked hair, he paused once they reached his neck. Running his index finger over his skin, he felt two tiny incisions near where his pulse would be. Strangely, however, he could not feel the steady throb of his heart where it should have been.
Shaking it off, and stepping out of the alley, Robert walked drunkenly down the busy streets, "What the hell happened to me?" Pausing in front of a storefront window, he brought his hand to his mouth in utter shock. Although the reflections of the hordes of men and women hurrying down the drenched streets were clearly visible in the glass, Robert's own mirror image was missing. Slowly, he opened his mouth into a silent shriek as he moved his fingers to his teeth. Sure enough, two fangs protruded from where his canines should be.