The light under the pump had been in need of replacement for several weeks now. In the darkness of the evening the woman fueling her car tapped her foot as she waited and glanced up at the flickering bulb in annoyance. Every other pump had been occupied when she'd pulled her car into the station, otherwise she wouldn't have picked one in semi-darkness.
Her eyes scanned the vacant lot where she stood. The man inside the gas station booth was looking out at her from behind his bulletproof glass. He gave her a smile and drew another puff on his cigarette. The woman rolled her eyes in disgust and turned away before she drew any more unwanted attention.
When the light above her gave a loud pop he moved. Shards of glass rained down on the young woman and she screamed in surprise. Her laugh of relief came a few moments later and her shoes crunched on the broken glass underfoot.
"Are you all right?" The man called out to her. He squinted into the darkness trying to see where she stood. The uncertainty written upon his face was all the reassurance Austin needed.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said with a chuckle. "It just startled me, that's al-" she broke off mid sentence. Her voice dropped to a trembling whisper as she said, "Did you hear something?"
Glass crunched again as the woman shifted. With one hand she reached out and sought the trunk of her car in the darkness. It took several moments before her fingertips brushed the rusted metal of her vehicle. She was blind in the darkness.
"Lady? Are you okay?" came the worried voice of the attendant.
Austin's dagger found her throat as the gas pump gave a loud click. Full tank. Blood ran down his hand and between his fingers where he supported the woman's weight as her body went limp. Hungrily he ran his tongue along the red smile at her throat. The warm liquid never tasted better. He extended his fangs and drank.
Austin heard the creak of hinges. The man built up his courage and placed a tentative foot outside with the scrape of sneaker on asphalt. More hesitant footsteps followed.
"Lady can you hear me? Say something...?"
The beam of a flashlight swept the ground, over their feet, and then arced slowly upward. The light came to rest upon the woman's red throat before it hit him in the eyes. Instead of turning away Austin grinned and let the woman's body fall to the ground. Her skull hit with a wet smack. Slowly Austin brought his dagger to his mouth and licked the blood from the shiny metal.
The flashlight shook in the man's hand and a wet stain spread over the front of his pants. Disgusted, Austin raised his dagger and threw. The blade struck the man in the middle of the forehead and force of the blow knocked his whole body backwards. The flashlight clattered from his limp fingers. He lay sprawled on the ground.
Austin stared at the pool of blood forming around the man's head. "What a waste," he muttered. Reaching for the dagger he gave it a yank, only it wouldn't come free. Using both hands he tugged to no avail.
"Bloody hell," he cursed. He put one foot over the man's nose and mouth and pushed down. The blade came free so suddenly he stumbled a few steps to regain his balance. His chuckle sounded loud in the pregnant silence.
"Now that's what they call a hard head."
He twirled the dagger in his hand before he slipped it into his belt. Leaving the bodies where they lay he pushed open the door to the gas station booth. Inside he hit a button on the cash register and tucked handfuls of large bills into his pocket. Glancing around a final time he grunted and crossed the street. Six months ago he would have thought twice before making a kill so close to his destination, but tonight he didn't care.
The neon signs of the strip club beckoned him. The girl depicted was gaudy pink with green highlights where scanty clothing might cover her. The boobs were much too large for her small chest, thin waist and long legs. Her mouth opened and closed in a suggestive gasp of pain or pleasure as her eyes squinted shut and her hands slid from her breasts to her crotch. The parking lot outside was relatively full for a weeknight. Faint rumbling bass roiled out the building and hummed against the ground with pulsing vibrations, as steady as the pulse of a vein. Austin licked his lips and lengthened his stride.
Inside he paused at the doorway, letting his eyes adjust to the intensity of the lights. Several men noted his entrance and stood swiftly from their bar stools. Grinning he watched them scramble for the few remaining seats beyond the center stage. The women being spotlighted in their thongs and scanty tops exchanged worried looks with one another before they walked off stage mid-performance. A few men in the audience grumbled but none of them raised their voices in open protest.
Austin found a seat at the bar, now empty, before one of the bronze striping poles. Her heels clacked on the polished surface of the countertop and drew every man's eyes but his. Several bold men whistled or shouted catcalls but the woman ignored them. Her black high heels stopped before him and she sank down to a squatting position. Her thong concealed little. Without moving his head he tipped his eyes upward and let them travel the length of her muscular legs, to her slim waist, and upwards past her pert breasts to rest on her face and one inquisitively raised eyebrow. He felt a sense of satisfaction as goose bumps prickled her skin.
"Don't you have a life? A family?" she asked as she slid a hand down the inside of her thigh and back up to her breast. The loosely netted black pantyhose under her garter belt accentuated the voluptuous curves of her figure.
"Would it matter if I did? I'm here aren't I?" He paused to admire her ass as she turned and swished it back and forth, the cloth nearly touching his nose.
"I'm surprised you're here tonight," he said suddenly determined to change the topic. "I thought I'd get stuck with the bitch again." He jerked his head towards a curtain beyond the bar where another stripper stood watching them.
The stripper smiled and rubbed her stomach up and down the bronze pole in a suggestive fashion. She danced for him like she had for nearly six months now. Of the several men who watched her dance in the background, none of them were daring enough to approach.
"Do you like your job?" He pondered, shifting and pulling bills out of his pocket.
"Sometimes. I mean we all have to earn a living don't we?" She stepped closer to him and he let his fingers trail across her hip as he tucked a wad of money into her panties. His touch was cold against the warm, sweaty flush of her skin and shamefully she allowed his fingers to linger before she pulled away.
Austin chuckled and sat back on the bar stool. He let his eyes wander up and down her body a second time. Her long, straight, black hair was caught up into an intricate bun at the top of her head. This particular style drew his eyes to the accentuated high cheekbones and full lips. Her eyes were a warm honey brown and slanted slightly at the corners, giving her a dark, exotic flair. She was breathtakingly beautiful.
The police sirens were several miles away when he heard them. It was time for him to go. He pulled several more bills from his pocket and stood. Leaning in closer to her he tucked the money between her breasts.
"Until tomorrow..." He whispered in her ear like a sensually soft caress. She shivered and he grinned.
His black trench coat billowed behind him as he strode purposefully to the door. An incoming boy was so caught up in his own thoughts that they crashed into each other.
"Watch where the fuck you're going asshole." The boy cursed at him as he pushed past and sauntered up to the bar. Austin fingered the hilt of his dagger then thought twice as the sound of the sirens drew closer. Several other men had already filtered back to sit before the woman. There was always tomorrow.
"Hey wait!" the stripper called out with a note of desperation to her voice.
Austin turned and watched her catch her breath. She was as attracted to him as he was to her. "Yes?" he spoke in a voice smooth with confidence and used to command.
"I still don't know your name."
He watched her lean back against the stripping pole and take support from the solidarity it put between her shoulder blades.
"Austin." He said and walked out.
The police were pulling up to the gas station as he crossed back over the street.
"Stay back!" A thickset police officer barked as he set up a boundary around the bodies with yellow police tape. Several other people had gathered to look and another balding police officer was asking a sobbing woman and her solemn husband question after question.
"What the hell happened here?" Austin questioned, trying to sound concerned. "Are those bodies?"
"Where were you when this happened?" a detective asked him from where he was squatting near the dead woman.
Austin could still taste her blood in his mouth when he answered, "The strip club across the street. I was getting ready to head back to my wife and kids when I saw all the commotion."
"You didn't hear anything did you? See anything?" The police blue asked with a tone that reeked of indifference.
"Nope, not a thing. I was too interested in the girls, if you know what I mean."
"Best get home to your wife then," the detective smiled and glanced over at the strip club with a look of longing. "You wouldn't want the keep the little lady waiting, now would you?"
"Of course not officer." He gave the man a curt nod and disappeared back into the darkness.
Police are so gullible. Austin made his way through the twisting back alleys of the city streets. He could have approached the crime scene with his knife in his hand and walked away without them so much as batting an eyelash. Committing the crime was only half the fun.
Even at one in the morning he was not alone on the streets as he went. Cats yowled as they clawed each other and fucked all the same. Starving dogs and rats alike scurried through the alleyways and plundered human garbage and waste. Beyond the animals, New York City was alive with sounds all its own. A car backfired, metal collided, a woman shrieked, and more sirens wailed. Whores grabbed at the crotch of any man passing by and filled the night with grunts of pleasure or crude curses to those who turned them down. Drunks puked in the gutters or laid passed out and snoring while gang fights and drive by shootings filled the air with their rhythmical pow pow, pow pow. Austin took a deep breath and cherished it all. He loved this city, his city.
The building he called home emanated a red light as he strode towards it. The Lair had been in his family for generations. Home sweet home. A large horned daemon dragged a young girl out the door. The girl's shrieks colored the already flavorful New York night. When the daemon saw Austin he grinned.
"That wife of yours is in one hell of a mood tonight. Glad to say she isn't mine," he nodded down at the girl struggling to free herself from his grip, "but this one will do well enough." The daemon wrapped his arm around the girl's waist, whispered a word in her ear, and the two vanished into the darkness.
"Where have you been?" The voice was as sharp as a slap across the face. Austin didn't flinch; instead he looked coldly at the woman standing before him. She was nothing like the lean, tall, distinctly curved stripper. Valerie was by far more substantial, shorter in statue, with large full breasts, round hips, and a less distinguished waist. It was her beauty that had first drawn him to her. She had a delicate nose and well arched eyebrows, pale skin, dark curly hair, full lips and strong chin. None of these could come close to rivaling her spectacularly violet eyes. The fact that they were shot through with an intense black made their purple depths all the more vivid.
"That's none of your damned business woman." He snapped, brushing past her.
"The hell it isn't!" Valerie said glaring at him as he pushed his way through the club's crowd. After a second she followed.
He spent longer and longer away from her every night now. Going on three centuries they'd shared together and each night he found himself wondering what besides her beauty he liked about her. "I'm not going to talk about this here." Austin said spinning back to face her. The Lair was packed tonight, and they were starting to attract attention.
"Oh yes, we are. Don't you dare walk away from me!" She reached for his arm and stopped him with an iron grip.
Austin turned and growled at her low in the base of his throat as his fangs extended within his mouth. "Not now Valerie." Each word was so clipped and well defined it was as if he'd spoken three separate sentences.
Valerie brought her hand back and let it connect with his jaw. The scrape of her nails brought thin lines of blood to his skin. Austin's eyes turned from golden brown to black in anger.
"I swear if you ever do that again I'll kill you. Do you understand me?"
Valerie hissed, showing him the points of her two inch white fangs. "Don't think you can get yourself out of this so easily Austin. You may be my partner but I'm the mother of your children. You wouldn't dare harm me!" She spun on her heel and left.
Austin punched at the nearest wall and the plaster cracked under the force of his blow. His hand came away slick with fresh blood, but it was not his own. The Lair was famous for the blood that covered its walls. Once upon a time they'd started off as white as new fallen snow. Now they were black, pitch black. Slowly his eyes studied the vampires and daemons surrounding him, watching him.
"Preston!" he roared over the semi-silence. Moments later a young vampire appeared, almost the splitting image of his father. Although centauries younger, Preston already matched him in height and build.
"Yeah Aussie?" Preston gave his father a grin as he spied the dent in the wall. Austin had taught his children drop the formalities decades ago. In the vampire world blood relations meant little more then pack dominance.
"Where's your sister?"
"She's around somewhere. Last I saw her she was leading a guy into the back rooms." As if on cue a scream arose from the rooms down a hall at the back of the building. In the meantime a drunken vampire stumbled up onto the stage and belted out a few versus of an obscene song before his friend pulled him down with an apology to the annoyed crowd.
"Go get her. I want her to watch the bar while we're out."
"Where are we going?"
"Don't question me, go!" The tone of his voice was more then enough to put his son into action.