New York City, March, 1741
Fear and suspicion bombarded the city, inside each home, on every street, even in the eyes of residents upon passing. It was everywhere like British soldiers to the French, waiting for a perfect moment to strike. The smell of oil and burning white oak lingered through the air and on the silk fabric of men's tailcoats, reassuring the threat that lurked. Gabrielle Alexander, a reputable shopkeeper, knew it would only be a matter of time before the slave rebellion escaladed out of control. As he sat sipping on a glass of bourbon in Hughson's Tavern, which he did every evening, he was aware of the whispering intentions to reprimand the city's restrictions for slaves and free blacks. But it was by law a capital crime to participate or even overhear such objectives and therefore, Gabrielle took care in containing his attention to his own tribulations.
Gabrielle was a young man of twenty-seven with waves of golden hair to his shoulders, caramel brown eyes, broad cheek bones and a slouch molding his spine from many sleepless nights of computing the poor profits of his shop, Alexander's Woodwork. His craft of furniture making, passed down from his father and his father's father, was in itself exquisite, but the faltering economy made almost every business in the core of New York City plummet; excluding taverns like Hughson's. Alcohol seemed to be the only means of escaping the pressures of economy and threats of slave conspiracies.
He rolled the glass of bourbon back and forth against his dry skin that was cracked and pealing around the edges. He could feel a few tiny splinters from today's work festering beneath the skin, but it didn't bother him. The only thing that crossed his thoughts was the burning of his throat as the alcohol slid down, which he welcomed. It tasted wonderful and strong as it did every night he came here. The floor behind his seat at the bar top was trembling from the dancers of both ethnicities enjoying the evening. Gabrielle didn't care to turn to look their direction.
At the other end of the bar sat a young man of similar age, clasping a glass of clear liquid, staring at Gabrielle. He decided he had no knowledge of who this man was and could not understand the animosity and pain brewing in his deep black eyes. He noticed the young man had hair even darker than his eyes and skin a chalky pale; paler than any other person in the tavern. It was bewildering; it seemed no others noticed this man except Gabrielle and John Hughson, the owner.
Swigging down the last gulp of bourbon, Gabrielle beckoned Hughson over while keeping his vision on the mysterious pale man.
"Mr. Alexander, how are we this evening?" Hughson asked as he poured another glass of bourbon for Gabrielle.
"As well as can be expected. Listen; do you know who that man is at the end of the bar?"
"Oh, that is Anthony Baluster; a strange man. He didn't say much about himself, only he had just arrived from England and was looking for a suitable place to rest for the evening. He seemed a little on edge for some reason, like he was anxious about something. I offered him a drink and gave him directions to Winchester's accommodations two blocks from here. He never said anything more."
"Yes, thank you" Gabrielle took another sip of his bourbon and glanced once more at the man. He was not surprised to see Baluster's piercing eyes on the two of them like he understood every word that was spoken.
"What's this information to you?" Hughson asked wiping the wooden bar with a wet rag.
"Curious…he seemed out of place."
"Ah yes. Well, tell me dear sir. Have you found a suitable wife yet?"
Gabrielle grimaced at the question. His romantic life always seemed to come about in conversations which he despised; not that finding a beautiful, young girl wouldn't be a blessing, but after the death of his parents eight years ago it has not been an outstanding priority such as keeping his father's business from diminishing.
"If it is any business of yours, no I have not."
"My apologies, I meant no offense. It's a shame though. A man needs a good wife to mind the home and children while he is working. And not to mention, the benefits in the bedroom…" Hughson trailed off winking at Gabrielle.
"Please sir, if you don't mind I would like to finish my drink and then be on my way."
"Yes, yes of course. Good evening, Mr. Alexander."
"Good evening." He nodded to Hughson and returned his attention to Baluster, who appeared to be intrigued and eager now. Gabrielle dismissed the strange man's mood seeing how he was tired and wished to return home. He swallowed the last three sips of his bourbon in one and tossed his green waistcoat over his shoulders. The thick air outside still had the remains of winter's chill and would nip at his insides without it.
When the crisp wind caressed his exposed skin, chill bumps arose and silence began to overtake the further he walked from the tavern. He could barely hear the music now over the whipping of flags and undergarments drying on lines outside window seals in alleyways. Gabrielle held his arms tight across his chest keeping as much warmth to him as possible. Even with the convenience of alcohol, it was impossible for him to lose his way. Two blocks down Broadway and one street over was where Alexander's Woodwork was located and the upstairs room with a cot, small dresser Gabrielle had made him self, and a desk was what he called home. It had been years since he visited his father's house, which was now his own, and could not bear to have the memories return.
Almost a decade ago, three constables had barged into Thomas Alexander's home in the middle of night, accusing him and his wife of fencing stolen goods for a gang called the Geneva Club. Of course, this was a false accusation and when Thomas, Gabrielle's father, disputed, the government sentenced him and his wife to be hanged for their crimes. Since Gabrielle was still very young, they saw fit to revoke the idea of any involvement he might have had as long as he assured to refrain as a nuisance. Gabrielle had kept his word. He has done nothing, but continue the work of furniture making just as his bloodline of noble men before him, hoping the government would leave him at peace.
Gabrielle turned the corner of an alley leading to his street. The lights of burning lanterns were dim and a tall black figure had his back pressed to the red bricks in the center. He could not make out who the man was, but he kept his chin to the base of his neck and arms down by his sides.
"Excuse me, who's there" Gabrielle bellowed. He could hear voices coming from another street over growing, but they were too far away to assist him if need be. The figure radiated danger to Gabrielle and he paused wondering if he should go a different way, towards the voices preferably.
The figure turned his direction, but kept his head down. "It is Anthony Baluster, from Hughson's Tavern." His voice was deep and soft.
Gabrielle took a breath and relaxed. As he approached the figure closer, he could see once again the chalky pale skin in the weak light. "Ah, Mr. Baluster. You gave me a fright."
The man chuckled behind his pale closed lips. "Did I now? I apologize for that. It seems you know my name, but I have not yet learned yours."
"Oh yes, how rude of me. I am Gabrielle Alexander." He stopped in front of Baluster and held out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Baluster kept both his hands in place and nodded his head. The voices seemed to be louder than before, echoing down the street. There were too many to make out what they were saying. "I wonder what is going on?" Gabrielle said looking back down the alley path he had come from. He returned his gaze around and saw Baluster's face in its entirety. His eyes flashed bright like a cat's when Baluster moved his head slightly to the left and he smiled uncovering the whitest teeth Gabrielle had ever seen before. They were more like porcelain, but not fragile looking.
A growing unease pressed in the pit of Gabrielle's stomach and he realized there had been a reason Baluster seemed dangerous, because he was. "What is wrong with your eyes?"
Baluster remained silent as he began to stalk forward towards Gabrielle. "Why…why are you doing this? I have done nothing to you."
"I do this because I have to."
Gabrielle trampled backwards with his hands raised in front of him, "Wait! Why do you have to kill me? I am nobody."
"Exactly" Baluster said continuing closer. He widened his grin, but it wasn't to show excitement; it was to allow a change. Gabrielle watched, mesmerized as Baluster's two canine teeth grew in length and sharpened to a point. He could not make himself think of what this meant. All the horror stories of monsters and creatures of the night were in fact true. Gabrielle had never cared for nonsense such as those created to scare children before bed, but here stood one of the creatures, right in front of him and he could not make himself believe it. He sucked in a gulp of air and turned to run. His feet were heavy, like bags of sand were strapped to his ankles and the alley was long keeping him from the freedom he craved. He realized there was no way he would be able to escape, not according to the tales he remembered of these creatures, having the strength of a hundred men and speed like a panther. Gabrielle kept running anyways, rubbing his breeches raw between his knees, but he felt slow and foolish for trusting someone he had only known a short while.
Just as Gabrielle had feared, Baluster leapt over with ease and planted himself, crouching before him. As he made a small hiss, Gabrielle froze his heart pounding and hands trembling. He knew this was the end of his short twenty-seven years. It would not be the government of the colonies to murder him as they did his parents, it would be this creature, this monster, this…vampire.
Baluster hurdled forward and squeezed Gabrielle tight towards him with crushing arms. Gabrielle shoved as hard as he could into his chest, but it did nothing. He was weak like a child or worse a helpless animal compared to Baluster. His struggles were meaningless. Gabrielle could feel the cold of his flesh, much colder than the winter air, as Baluster wrapped his hand around the back of his head leaning it to the side. Gabrielle tried not to think about what was coming next, but the piercing of his teeth and cold lips that pressed to his throat made it unfeasible. The searing pain from his neck pulsed through Gabrielle's body and he began to weaken with every twitch from his attacker. He could hear the soft moaning of satisfaction from Baluster as a burning, tingling sensation coursed through his veins. The alley became darker as he sensed a numbness spreading over him in a matter of seconds. Baluster held up his limp body with no difficulty, while Gabrielle could no longer move any part. His head swam with a sensitivity of having weight over him, but it was not from Baluster. Gabrielle was aware, only motionless. He inclined his right arm to move, but it refused. Not even his voice would agree to sound.
Gabrielle felt the hard ground as Baluster lowered him still satisfying his thirst. Gabrielle feared he would be nothing, but a dried out corpse in a few minutes. There was only so much blood within a human body. The alley was now pitch black, for Gabrielle had lost his sight entirely. Although, he could still hear the voices of men over Baluster's sucking noises and smell the burning of oak. It was powerful and thick. To his surprise, Baluster released him to his sanctuary of the ground and stood a moment with his back to Gabrielle's immobile body. He was aware of the flashes of heat coming in waves on his skin and could hear the roaring of a fire destroying a building only a measure away and women screaming. Something Gabrielle wished he was capable of.
He did not see Baluster leave, but he knew he was no longer in the presence of a vampire; he was alone. Gabrielle assumed it was the fire that distracted Baluster, leaving him to this paralyzed state. The numbness overtook him even further, the sounds around him ceased, his sense of touch vanished; he could no longer feel the wind brushing through the hairs on his head or hands. There was nothing, only darkness. And in the darkness, Gabrielle would welcome death.