Chapter 2: Searching
"EH?!" Elaine and Victor cried.
"That's right," Todd nodded. "Vanessa needs you guys to exterminate a vampire, but we have virtually no information on him. After he heard about the 'hit' on him, so to speak, he went into hiding. We know not of his whereabouts, but if he not stopped, more than the ten people he's drained life from are going to wake up dead, if you know what I mean."
"How does she expect us to find someone when we have no idea where he is?" Victor whined.
"Do we at least have a name? A photograph?" Elaine asked.
"Well…" Todd slid across the floor in his chair, bringing up a blurred, low-quality image on his giant monitor. "It's a grainy photo, but it's better than nothing. His name's Vince, age 600, looks about 26. He's got black hair, black eyes, typical vampire look. Oh…" He brought up another image. "According to my sources, he has a tattoo of a dragon on his right hand, seen here."
"How uncreative," Victor criticized.
"No one else has this exact tattoo?" Elaine asked.
"Not to my knowledge," Todd replied, shrugging. "At least not on the right hand. I'll be honest and say I haven't got the sources to know for sure."
"You got any vampire fighting weapons for us?" Victor asked.
"You're the hunters. You supply your own weapons," Todd said flatly, glaring at Victor. Victor glared back but didn't complain. Todd turned away. "Rumor has it that Vince is hanging out in werewolf territory. Vanessa has already forwarded money to your bank accounts for a hotel room and for food."
"Splendid!" Victor exclaimed. "This will be easier than I originally thought. I'm sure I can get some insider information from Sparky. He knows everything about everyone."
"Sparky?" Elaine questioned, raising an eyebrow. "Who the hell is Sparky?"
She found out that evening when they pulled into town. Victor told her to stop at a bar called The Full Moon Saloon. It was lit up with warm yellow light and decorated with Christmas lights. She could hear the sounds of a party going on inside.
"We didn't come out here to drink with party animals," Elaine grumbled.
"It's business, Elaine, really," Victor explained as they made their way inside.
The bar was filled with wooden tables and chairs, all of them occupied. The place was so crammed full of people that there wasn't a seat available in the entire building. Elaine recognized by the demeanor and generally more hairy nature of the people inside that they were all werewolves.
Well, we're definitely in werewolf territory… She thought, watching as the entire bar erupted as there was a bad play on the television. It was amazing they could even hear it.
"Hey! Son of a bitch, if it isn't Victor Ainsley!"
"Sparky!" Victor chimed, approaching to shake hands with the man. Sparky was a tall, muscular man, riddled with scars and had a brown mop of hair on his head. His teeth were sharp, and so were his claws, but he gave off an oddly friendly atmosphere. He wore a pair of baggy jeans, a sleeveless black shirt, and a collar around his neck- something that werewolves were generally required to wear, since several of them lost themselves (metaphorically and literally) on the night of the full moon, and often needed help to get back home.
Elaine stood awkwardly while the boys talked feverishly about past events until the werewolf broke off from their nostalgia, saying, "So, this is your new partner, eh?" Sparky sniffed her shoulder, as if she wasn't uncomfortable enough. "Not bad. Human, right?"
"Y… yes," Elaine stammered, extending her hand. "I'm Elaine Linx."
"Nice to meet you," Sparky replied, shaking her hand with both of his. "I hope Victor's not too much of a nuisance for you. HE can be a real animal sometimes!"
"Speak for yourself!" Victor complained, pushing his way between them. He grinned. "Sparky, you shouldn't be flirting, should you? You've got a wife to worry about."
"I'm not flirting, y'idiot!" Sparky laughed and smacked Victor across the back, most likely harder than he intended, since the half-demon crashed to the floor. "I'm just bein' friendly. You're the one who flirts with everything on a nice pair of legs."
Victor scrambled to his feet, pretending as if his pratfall hadn't taken place and started following behind the werewolf. "I certainly hope you're talking about female legs, old friend," He mentioned.
Sparky led the two of them to the bar, barking at two waiters to get up and get to work (apparently, he owned the place) and let them sit down in their spots.
"So," He said, after taking their orders. "What can I do for you? I know you didn't come all the way out here just to take in the sights."
Victor leaned his chin on top of his hands. "Well," He replied, growing serious, "it seems we've got a… bit of a problem. Sources say it's hiding out in your territory. Seen any vampire recently, Sparky?"
"I haven't, but I've got to say that he's got a lot of nerve hiding out down here. He'd be safer hiding amongst CIRCUS's employees than among our kind. To us, vampires are nothing but a cheap, sour meal and thorns in our paws."
"I know, I know," Victor sighed, puffing on a cigarette he'd just lit. "Is there any place around here where you think he may be hiding?"
"Sorry, Victor, my friend, but I haven't a clue," Sparky sighed. "I haven't smelled on whiff of vampire in at least five to six months, but this guy might be masking his scent. Try places that are filled with scents. If you smell strong perfume, follow your nose. I'm tied up here until close, but I could help you in the morning."
"I appreciate that, mate," Victor smiled, shaking Sparky's hand. "I shall call you as soon as I wake."
Elaine sighed and downed her drink (she'd ordered water, of course, while Victor had preferred whiskey on the rocks). "Well, then, we should go, right? We should be searching the streets since it's still dark. A vampire seldom can be found during the day, you know."
"I suppose," Victor sighed dejectedly, obviously wanting to stick around and party with the wolves. "You really need to lighten up an' have a li'l fun once in awhile, love."
"We're here for business, not for fun, love," She added the last part scathingly, hoping to get her message across. "Unlike you, I can focus on the task at hand, and that's why Vanessa assigned me as your partner."
"Yeah, yeah," Victor finished his drink. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sparky."
"Good luck," Sparky waved as the duo left the bar.
Outside, Victor paused to light up another cigarette. The night air was cool and fresh in comparison to the hot, smoky air of the bar. Elaine listened to the cricket chirps as if expecting something to jump out at her.
She turned slightly, but didn't look at him.
"Your last name, Linx… I recall reading somewhere about a creature hunting duo, both named Linx. Are you related to them by chance?"
"You read?" She smirked, but it faded quickly. She paused for a moment. "They were my parents. My father died on a mission six years ago, and my mother succumbed to illness eight years ago. Why?"
"Jus' curious…" Victor said, shrugging. "I though that if they were your parents I'd have an idea as to why you're so dedicated to this job."
"Well, shouldn't you be dedicated to your ob?" She asked.
He shrugged. "I guess…" And there it was again… that uncomfortable, solemn silence.
Elaine stared at him from the corner of her eye for a minute, waiting for him to say something else. He said nothing. I really don't understand him…
By dawn, they had come up with a whole lot of nothing. Victor had succeeded in running out of cigarettes while Elaine had run out of patience. Exhausted, they checked into a hotel.
Elaine threw her jacket over a chair and collapsed onto the bed. "Ugh…"
Victor himself took off his hat, shaking his hair. "What a night," He said. "Usually when I say that, I mean it in a good way."
Elaine pulled her face off the pillow. "Stop being an idiot," She grumbled, rolling onto her back. She ran her hands over her face, groaning. "What to do, what to do? I can't fail…"
Victor sat down on the other bed. "Aren't you getting a little too worked up over it? One mission failure wouldn't get you fired, you know. I've failed a few in my time."
"I work too hard to fail!" She snapped, sitting up.
"Touchy, touchy," Victor said calmly, trying to soothe her rage. "I guess a lazy someone like me just can't understand your work ethic."
"I guess," She grumbled, rage cooling but still irritable from lack of sleep. "How many more nights this week am I gonna be up until dawn?…"
"That's up to you, isn't it?" Victor asked, kicking off his shoes.
"Unlike some half-demon I know, I study up on what I'm facing. I take extensive notes of their strengths and weaknesses, so sometimes I do all-nighters."
"Sounds boring," Victor yawned, laying down.
"Well, how do you learn everything?!" She hissed.
"Experience," He sighed, sounding sleepy. "I know all the general things to get by… Werewolves fear silver, vampires hate the sun… and I can just look to myself for demon faults… After that, I learn as I go… I mean, it's ridiculous to think that every demon thinks the same way, or every vampire, every werewolf, every siren, every sprite. Roping them all together would probably make things more difficult for me. I try and understand my prey on an individual level."
Elaine pulled her knees up to her chest, looking as if she'd been burned. "Oh…"
Victor opened one eye, noticing the pained look on her face. "I didn't say my way was superior. You're probably much smarter on preventative techniques than I could ever be. I suppose I don't concern myself with them much since my demon blood allows me to heal quickly. I'm not trying to put you down."
"It's okay… I mean, you've been in CIRCUS longer than I have, so you should be superior to me, right?"
"No…" He blinked, a laugh in his voice that caught her by surprise. "We're comrades. Partners. You're my equal. Our strengths are just different is all. That's why we make a good team."
Elaine's heart swelled with pride. He was right. They were comrades, partners, equals. "Victor…" She started, only to realize that he'd already dozed off, black-clawed hand hanging off the side of the bed. "…Thanks…"
When she awoke, she heard the shower running. It was early afternoon. Stretching, she crawled out of bed, deciding to get some coffee.
Downstairs, she checked the complementary breakfast to discover that the coffee was cold. She groaned and instead snagged a soda. She was leaning against the wall, drinking lazily when…
She nearly jumped out of her skin, dropping the can. It was caught before a drop could spill.
"Sp… Sparky!" She stammered, placing her hand to her chest.
"Good afternoon!" He greeted enthusiastically, returning her soda to her. "How are you? I didn't mean to scare you."
"No, no… I'm fine," She exhaled, her heart rate slowing.
They took a seat at a table nearby. Sparky explained that Victor had called him just as he promised, and he'd spotted her when he arrived.
"Your golden eyes are very noticeable to me," Sparky explained, leaning his chin onto his palm. "It's not every day you see a human with gold eyes. Most werewolves have a dull gold color, and yet yours are so bright, like sunshine."
"Oh… uh, thank you, I guess," Elaine blushed in slight embarrassment. "My mother had golden eyes… Everyone tells me I look like her, but I don't really see it that much. She was much more beautiful than I am."
"Yes, she died a long time ago," Elaine replied.
"Oh, I'm sorry. That's too bad."
"Yeah… it really is…"
"So," Sparky said, noticing that a subject change was in order, "Victor told me you didn't find anything."
"No, unfortunately," Elaine replied, seeming to actually brighten with the fact that she could talk about work. "I've never hunted a vampire before, so I really don't know what to look for."
Sparky looked up at the ceiling for a moment, as if thinking. "Yeah, they generally stay in line since they only have the hours of the night to misbehave. Most of them just drain farm animals, so they don't really have a reason to cause an uproar or anything. They do cause quite a stir in my community, but hey, we've been feuding with them for years."
"Yes," Elaine nodded. "I've read about the feuds."
"Thankfully, we've all stayed in pretty good control. In fact, I was a little surprised to hear there was a vamp out of line. I guess CIRCUS tries to keep those sorts of things under wraps so as not to cause panic."
"I suppose so."
There was an awkward moment of silence.
"So, how long have you been working with Victor?"
"Not too long," She replied. "He's a bit of a… a handful, you could say, but he's good at his job. You know, when he's doing it."
Sparky laughed loudly. "Yeah, that sounds about right! He's a good guy. I met him two years ago. We immediately hit it off."
"I couldn't necessarily say the same thing about Victor and me."
"Why would you say that? To me, it seems he really likes you."
"Where'd you see that?" Elaine asked. "All I do is harp and complain at him."
"When he came between you and I last night," Sparky replied, smiling warmly, "he touched your shoulder."
Elaine raised an eyebrow. "So?"
"Victor doesn't touch anyone usually. It's almost like he lacks trust in them. When I asked him about it once, he simply said he'd never noticed. He didn't adjust himself as if he hadn't been aware of it though."
Elaine stared at him for a moment. "He doesn't touch anyone?"
"Well, there's the occasional female, but it's usually purchased women or a one night stand of sorts. Maybe he really doesn't trust anyone. Maybe he refuses to be touched by anyone but someone special. I don't know. He does trust you though, and he seems fond enough of you."
"Huh…" Elaine said quietly and stared at him for a moment. "People say I have that effect on people."
Sparky grinned. "Perhaps you do, and yet you're also very good at cold stares."
Elaine's eyes widened slightly with the remark.
"Seems to me that you and Victor make a perfect pair in that sense," He continued. His head lifted a moment later, and he sniffed the air. "Well, that smells like vampire."