A young woman walked through the streets in the early evening trying hard to ignore the taunts and catcalls of the group of drunks following her. She knew she shouldn't be walking but she needed every cent she could earn. The shouts were unpleasant but no passer-by came to her aid. To them, it was if she didn't exist. Civil rights weren't for her she wasn't black. Finally, she could stand no more she turned to confront her tormentors.
"When are you going to realise I'm Chinese! Not Vietnamese!"
"VC whore!" One man yelled drunkenly.
"Chinese!" She yelled at them. "Not Bloody Vietnamese!"
"It's a sleeper!" Another shouted.
She knew the word one for a spy and saboteur her eyes sort out their clothes noticing some wore bits of uniform. She had heard that a tour of duty in 'Nam did things to the men. Some had come back twisted in mind and body. They were tormenting her because of the colour of her skin. It was ok to be black, Martin Luther King's marches had seen to that. These drunks bereft of their normal targets were now picking on her. Angrily she turned back holding onto her rage by a thread.
As hard as it was, she walked on. The fury in her blood building up. Suddenly she staggered forward in pain something had stuck her head. Putting her hand to the spot she brought it back and stared at the blood on her fingers. A blood stained piece of masonry lay on the floor at her feet. Abruptly she swung around to face the stone throwers.
"Which of you sons of bitches threw that!" She yelled shaking her fist at the men.
A strong smell of alcohol wafted over her as a chill filled the pit of her stomach. She was alone, one against many. Tall for a Chinese woman, these men out numbered her. Her heart thumping, she backed away and continuing to back away until she couldn't go any further. The bricks behind her a clear indication she had nowhere left to run.
"I'll call the police!" She shouted desperately as the men edged closer.
Hands reached out to grab her. She swung her purse catching one man on the chin. It just seemed to spur the men further. She shrieked once as she felt the close press of bodies against hers. Hand clutching, pulling at her clothes. Then suddenly the weight was off her. She dimly heard the yells of the men before she blacked out.
She came to, a tall man held her in his arms. He had streaks of grey in his sideburns. He was handsome if a little too pale skinned for a white man. She found herself attracted to this stranger his eyes seemed to be studying her carefully.
"They're gone!" He told her.
From his accent, he sounded German and judging from his age old enough to have participated in the Second World War. She didn't care if he had he had saved her. Gently he put her down and helped her up.
"Thank you." She told him.
"Not a problem for a damsel in distress." He replied with a slight smile. "And my lady's name?"
"Jing Yu Suen."
"And that means?" He asked softly.
The man laughed. Jing wasn't in a mood to laugh after what had happened.
"What's so funny?"
"I was thinking about your name, it is fate."
"What do you mean by that?" Jing asked suddenly suspicious.
"Nothing that should worry you Jade."
That should have bothered her this man calling her Jade but she felt comforted by his presence.
"Come Jade I'll escort you home as far as I'm allowed to go."
She turned to regard at this stranger anger in her eyes, suddenly all was forgotten. "What was I saying?" She asked.
"I'm called Joseph." The man told her. "I'm walking you home, those men won't bother you again."
"I expect it's the war. I heard Vietnam is a hellhole. With more and more lives wasted, I would have thought something would spill over into the streets."
"It doesn't excuse picking on a young woman."
"Young? I'm twenty-eight?"
Joseph smiled. "Young compared to me."
Jade felt safe as she walked down the street, arm in arm with her saviour.
As they walked they talked it appeared to her that she was supplying most of the conversation. Telling this total stranger about her life, his eyes seemed to compel her to speak. It felt comforting after her ordeal that someone was taking the time to listen to her as they walked.
"I feel a fool." She told him. "Prattling a long like some airhead."
"No please go on. I don't mind at all." Joseph smiled.
Jade was happier. Suddenly Joseph halted a slight frown on his face.
"This is as far as I can go."
"Why?" She asked puzzled she had been enjoying Joseph's company and was loath to rid herself of the warm feeling he was giving her.
"A promise. I gave a good friend my word I'm not about to break it."
Jade has questions that formed on her lips, one look into his eyes and they melted away like snow in the sun. With a last good bye to her rescuer, she crossed the street heading home. She glanced back to see a dim figure watching her. Whatever she thought of his odd behaviour, he was a man of his word. She smiled to herself as she climbed the stairs to the apartment she shared with her mother.
Putting her coat on the hook behind the front door, she walked into a barrage of questions. Jade's mother Mei Lee Suen was shorter than her daughter. Her hair short and grey, wrinkles lined her face.
"Where you been ungrateful daughter!" Mei yelled shaking her fist.
Her coughing ruined the moment it was the reason Jade had walked home and why she worked late. She needed the money for her mother's medical fees. Medicines didn't come cheap and the doctor's bills were coming in regularly.
"I was attacked!"
Mei suddenly went silent her face going pale. "Daughter?" She spoke softly.
"Drunks wouldn't leave me alone. I told them I wasn't Vietnamese but they wouldn't listen."
Jade continued, "they hit me with a stone." She reached up to touch her head remembering the pain. Strange it hadn't throbbed since she had walked home with Joseph? The pain was back, if thinking about it brought it on.
Mei guided her daughter to a chair and sat down fussing over the wound.
"You were lucky it was only a scratch. We should report this to the police!"
"And they'll do what exactly?"
Mei hesitated. "We must do something. They can't get away with this!"
"You haven't heard the worst."
"They cornered me I had nowhere to run. I thought it was the end of me."
"God they didn't?" Mei said unable to complete the sentence.
"Think I'd be here if they did?" Jade said bitterly. "I was rescued, a man saved me."
"Please don't go out!" Mei seemed to ignore that Jade had been rescued.
"And how long will it be before we're evicted?"
"Please stay here! Obey your mother!"
"No! We need the money."
The argument went down hill from there.
Jade walked home nervous about her encounter it had been a week since her ordeal but there had been no repeat of the incident. All the way home she walked a sense told her she was being watched from the shadows yet the watcher never revealed himself. Another week passed without incident. She trudged home tired. A sound of footsteps behind her chilled her soul she halted and slowly turned.
"Hello Jade." A voice said from the darkness.
Joseph emerged from the shadows despite her initial reaction Jade found herself relaxing.
"I couldn't get you out of my mind." Joseph told her softly.
"Like wise." Jade replied there was an embarrassing silence before she continued. "I was wondering about you."
Joseph smiled. "Would you like to go to dinner, my treat."
"I can't mother wouldn't approve you're not Chinese."
"Does that really matter?"
Jade thought about it, her mother's voice echoing in her head. "Not to me but I can't go against my mother's wishes."
"It won't harm for just one night?" Joseph asked.
Jade gave in. "One night then! I'm not working Sunday how about then?"
"Not a problem for me."
Jade hesitated I'll meet you here this time Sunday?"
Joseph smiled. "Till then."
Jade sat in the crowded restaurant watching her date in the seat opposite. To her it had been the dream date what she could remember of it, half way through the meal things had got hazy. She was currently sipping water thirstier than she should have been.
Joseph smiled. "There, wasn't that a change from the usual."
"Thank you! It's the best night I've had for a while. Mother's illness sometimes keeps me wake most of the night."
"Then I shouldn't keep you longer." He rose and perfect gentleman pulled her chair out for her.
Together arm in arm they walked home. Joseph halted at the spot he left her before.
"Until this time next month." He told her.
"Why so long?" Jade asked puzzled.
"Not to today, perhaps another night I'll tell you all. You have given me much to ponder on. You are a rare find for one such as me." He kissed her. The touch of his lips burning the questions from her mind. She crossed the road her heart wanting more.
Her mother was waiting for her when she returned.
"Where have you been ungrateful daughter!"
"I told you earlier I had a date!"
"This man, your so called rescuer?"
"I told you it was!" Jade snapped.
"Why? He's not Chinese!"
"Because he's a gentleman."
"And how old this man?"
"Older than me if that's what you want to know!" Abruptly she turned and stormed to her bedroom slamming the door behind her. Fixing her mind on Joseph's face abated the anger she felt at her mother's stubbornness.
Sleep was hard in coming that night a mixture of elation and anger. Her joy at finding a man she could talk to and anger at her mother's denial of her daughter's happiness. The days passed folding one into another. She worked hard scraping each cent and putting it away. Friday came, the time ticked until midday. She glanced up seeing her supervisor hurrying over a concerned expression on his face.
"Mr Anderson?" She asked politely, hoping he wasn't going to fire her.
"Miss Suen." Anderson said frowning.
Jade's heart sank the tone of his voice was enough to chill her blood.
"I'm afraid it's your mother. She's been rushed to hospital."
"Do you know which one?" She asked feeling sick.
He told her, adding. "Take the time as holiday. I spoke to the manager he agrees you're the best worker me have. I 'm sorry, I hope it will turn out for the best."
"Thank you." Jade replied holding on to her emotions and trying not to burst into tears.
Jade sat beside her mother's bed the hospital buzzed around her but all her attention was on the frail figure in the bed. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. She spent every waking hour at the hospital when she wasn't working. The hospital bills still needed to be paid. She talked to the doctors but her mother's prognosis wasn't good. With her time stretched between work and hospital found she had little time to think of Joseph. Jade held her mother's hand.
"You've got nothing to be sorry for?"
Mei Lee tried to give her daughter's hand a reassuring squeeze but she was too weak. "Go find your man."
"I can't leave you mother!" Jade cried.
Mei Lee smiled and closed her eyes. Jade sat with her for a while then nature called and she went to answer it. A doctor and several nurses where gathered around the bed when she returned. Jade pushed through fearing the worst.
"My mother?" She asked the doctor.
"Is in a coma. Her condition's deteriorating rapidly" The doctor told her was gently as he could.
Jade wept knowing it would be a matter of time. All her hard work had come to nothing. All that scrimping and saving, still it hadn't saved her mother. Mei Lee held out for another week before death finally took her.
Jade wondered the dark streets aimlessly weeping, distraught and alone. She walked not knowing where she was headed or caring. Part of her wept for loss and part of her searched for the only man that ever shown her any kindness. How long she walked the streets, she wasn't sure. A shadow crossed her path. She put out her hand to the move the obstruction. Her fingers touched cloth she raised her head and stared at the very man her heart was looking for.
"You are troubled." Joseph said it wasn't a question.
Jade hugged him and wept softly into his coat. She felt his hands stroke her hair.
"Your mother?" He asked.
Jade plucked up enough courage to speak. "She died I had no one to turn to."
"I didn't know where to find you?" She replied. "It wasn't as if you left me your address?"
"No." Joseph admitted. "I didn't."
Jade felt safe with his arms around her. "My mother." She said bitterly then changed the angry words in her mind. "Please could I stay at your place. I know I'm imposing it's just that I can't go home." She realised, she knew very little about him. What if he has a wife and children?
"Yes it would be good. You're in luck my place isn't that far."
The apartment wasn't quite what she expected old fashioned but neat and tidy. The furniture and fittings dated from the fifties even the TV in the corner looked like it should have been in a museum. On the mantle piece above the fireplace was a picture of a brown haired woman. Jade scrutinised the living room carefully.
"You live here?" She asked.
"From time to time." Joseph replied. "Turn around."
Jade turned around the tone putting her body into action before her mind could react. Her gaze caught his. Their eyes locked.
She woke lying in an unfamiliar bed and surveyed the room taking in the dull heavy velvet drapes on the windows and the floral wallpaper. The bed was huge with a carved headboard. The linen was clean and smelling slightly of soap. She lay back staring at the ceiling trying hard to remember what happened during the night. She wasn't sure if was night or day the heavy drapes effectively blocked out sound and light. She was thirsty her lips were dry. The creak of someone sitting on her bed made her look down. Joseph sat on the edge of the bed a glass of water in his hand, a silk dressing grown on. Jade was aware under the covers she was naked.
"Did we?" She asked dreading the answer.
"Not yet." Joseph answered. "Drink this, you're always thirsty after the first time." He handed her a glass of water.
Jade puzzled over his words but drank the water in any case. "What happens now?"
Joseph put his wrist to his mouth and pulled it away blood covered. "Drink!" He commanded. His voice brooked no dissension.
She put her lips to his wrist and drank. It tasted slightly salty and then a strange feeling spread through her body. Heedless of her nakedness she threw off the covers.
"I need you!" She gasped pulling him onto her, her hands scrabbling at the ties around his belt.
She lay in the tangled sheets her body shaking, trying hard to believe she had succumbed to such wanton lust. She didn't care, for a moment she had felt wanted. Her hands reached out to touch to empty place beside her. Her mind was in a whirr Joseph told he had to leave. She listened carefully as he outlined his actions. She found it hard to believe this was her second day in Joseph's apartment. He told her she slept all through the first day and into the night. Getting up she examined her naked body in the full-length mirror in the bathroom. Her fingers reached up to her blood stained neck finding it didn't matter. She knew it should have but somehow it didn't matter. Frowning at her reflection she thought on what Joseph had done for her. He arranged it all, the hospital, and the funeral. Mother's place will have to go. Joseph said he'd sort it out. She twirled a strand of her jet-black hair through her fingers and sighed, staring at the reflection of her body in the mirror. All those pictures of western woman where always more endowed than she was. She told herself it wasn't what Joseph wanted. Dressing she went out wondering if she still had a job after all this.
The empty apartment echoed to her footsteps. It felt odd she had spent half her life here and this was what was left, an odd sense of displacement. At least it's clean for whoever takes up the lease. I hope they have a better life than I did?" She glanced at her watch it was late. Joseph told her he would be back. Strange he left her to settle into her new place, as if he was waiting for something. It was exactly a month since her mother died. She watched them cremate her body according to her last wishes. She scattered the ashes on the wind so her mother's ashes could find their home to China. All the neighbours were curious as to where she had gone and said how sorry they were to see her leave. She walked away from the building, Joseph would be waiting for her.
She relaxed in her armchair waiting for Joseph as he showered, aware that all she was wearing was a thin silk nightshirt. Joseph was going to tell her something in important and yet her only thought seemed to be getting him into bed. She was all eyes as Joseph stepped into the room his eyes seemed to meet hers.
"Well?" She asked.
"It's time." He told her softly holding his hand out her.
She rose in swift move and took his. She watched as he bit into his wrist and offered it to her. She drank willingly.
"The third time binds." He said softly. "You are mine until death steals you from me."
Jade couldn't focus on his words the need in her took her over, all she wanted was him in her and the feeling of pleasure it gave her. She lay back panting waiting for her quivering body to subside.
"That was so…" She couldn't form words to tell him how she felt.
"I know." He told her. "Get dressed."
She was up and dressed in a twinkling of an eye. He handed her a tumbler of water as she joined him in the sitting room.
"It's always better to talk after the third time."
She regarded him curiously. "What's this all about?"
"Sit please Jade." Indicating the armchair.
She sat as he walked over to the fireplace and picked up the picture. She wondered why he insisted on keeping this picture.
"After Amethyst died I thought I'd had enough of confrerie. That was until I met you." He seemed to touch the picture tenderly. "A good mortal if a little set in her ways." He put the picture down and turned to Jade. "You wonder what I'm talking about?"
"Yes?" It had been the question on her mind.
"I'm a vampire, a real vampire not one of those fools on the silver screen that think vampires behave that way. I drink blood."
Jade stared at Joseph as if her eyes had pierced a veil, now seeing his pale skin and hungry gaze for what it really was. "Will I be as you?"
"You are a thrall. My eyes and ears in the light of day. The watcher of my sleep, my comfort against the eternal night." He sighed. "And a quick snack."
"And what do I get?" She asked, to her it didn't matter only Joseph did bringing with it an urge to protect him.
"Slower ageing, faster and stronger then any other mortal. No other vampire will touch you. Not with my mark upon your neck." He hesitated. "No that's not quite true. One would, because you are with me."
"Tell me where they are I'll make sure it never bothers you again!" Jade declared standing up.
"No my dear Jade, no. Be satisfied she will stick to her territory. The Agreement will see to that."
Jade hazarded a guess. "That night we met and you walked me part of the way home and stopped. That was part of this Agreement?"
"Was that the vampire?"
"No it was another. You will find we stick to our territories."
"This vampire would have done what you did to me?"
Joseph laughed. "No you're not her type. Although if you wore a policeman's tunic things would be different."
She shuddered at the thought not wanting to ask. "What now?"
"Carry on as normal. You still need to work for a living and feed yourself."
"And my money?"
"Some you can keep. The other you will pay me rent?"
"A pension fund you are mortal. A mortal life runs it's span and then dies."
"You'll live forever?"
"In a way, but I still can be killed. Or the sun burn me to ash."
"What happens then?"
"You will take your life. I'm sorry but that's how it is."
In the silence of the last statement Jade sat and stared at picture on the mantelpiece.
"I'm yours until the end."
"I know." He said softly. "Bedroom?"
"Yes?" Jade replied puzzled, surprised he seemed to know what she was thinking.
The rest of the evening passed by Jade gave herself body and soul to her vampire. In return, he gave her ecstasy.
Three months passed in a blink of an eye. She felt no different from before the revelation and Joseph treated her like a gentleman would. He told everything even things she'd rather not know. He hunted telling her when and where. She didn't want to know but she liked his courtesy. The movies had got it so wrong. It was late when he returned deep in thought. She sat in the armchair her hands on her lap.
"Problems?" She asked.
"No not really. I'm going to send you to see an old friend of mine."
"Not a vampire but I'll leave you to find out. He has some books for me you'll like him."
"Daylight, here take this?" Joseph handed Jade a note. With one last kiss, he left.
Jade didn't like him leaving but for some reason, he slept elsewhere during the day. Her questions had only brought silence. She put across the point it was her task to protect him but she couldn't do that if she didn't know where he rested. He never argued with her or ordered. She loved him for that he allowed more freedom than she thought he would, given what she had heard from her mother about her father.
The building was old and brownstone one of many on this street. The sign above the door said Bookstore. Jade walked up the steps and entered. The interior was surprisingly modern and clean. Behind the counter a woman sat. She looked in her late sixties her blonde hair shot through with silver strands, a scarf around her neck. Her eyes narrowed as soon as she saw Jade, as if the woman thought her some rival.
"Yes can I help you?" The woman asked although the tone in her voice indicated otherwise.
Jade tensed she had met people like this, Racists. Had her skin been white she would have received a better reception.
"Hello!" Jade replied being a civil as possible. She wasn't about to bring herself down to this woman's level. "I'm looking for the owner?"
"I am the owner!" The woman replied taking on a more hostile tone.
"Sarah!" A man's voice admonished from beyond the doorway behind the counter.
The owner of the voice stepped through. Jade regarded the man and was frankly disappointed. He seemed so ordinary she would have never looked at him twice. He smiled at her.
"Can I be of service?"
"Yes I'm here to collect some books?"
His next question puzzled her. "Joseph's got himself a new girl?"
"Yes? How do you know Joseph?"
He laughed. "Long story." Then turning to the woman, "I'll deal with this customer my love. You wanted to go shopping."
The woman scowled hard at Jade and picked up a purse. As she passed the man she gave him a kiss on the cheek. With one last glare at Jade, she was gone.
"You'll have to forgive Sarah she doesn't like anything associated with vampires. Never has, never will. Doesn't even like thralls."
"You know what I am?"
"Yes, what did Joseph tell you about me?"
"Other than he said you were an old friend nothing?"
"Joseph is like that at times. I'm what many call the Wizard."
"Like as the 'Wizard of Oz'"
"That story does me no favours. What does he call you, some gem name I guess?"
"I'm Jade. My real name is Jing Yu Suen."
"I'm Mike." He held his hand to her.
She took it unsure why. He let go, Jade felt relaxed and refreshed.
"Thanks!" She said unsure what else to say.
"Now about those books."
Jade watched him bind Joseph's books in brown paper and twine listening to him talk telling her about vampires and confrerie. More than Joseph was telling her. She learned a lot from this man. Satisfied she returned to Joseph contented and happy.
"See that wasn't so bad." Joseph told her. "The Wizard and I go back a long away."
"He didn't look that old?"
"He's as immortal as we are."
"The woman in store seemed to hate me?"
"That will be Sarah, hates anything to do with vampires, one bit her."
"Who?" Jade asked.
Joseph gave her a look she caught the meaning straight away. It was an expression she was becoming familiar with when they broached a subject he wasn't willing to talk about. Turning her mind to other things, she spent an enjoyable night with Joseph. Her being the climax of the evening's events, in more than one way.
Another busy day in the store Jade had been moved to the ground floor perfume stall to take over from one of the other girls that had gone off to get married. She got on well with her fellow workers. It must have been about midday when a woman walked in. A couple of years older than she, her hair blonde and in a charcoal grey dress with a high collar. Jade knew that as soon as she saw the woman she was another thrall. Their eyes met both women's hands touching the collars of their necks. It seemed an instinctive gesture. Jade watched, as she appeared to examine the perfumes on display un-stoppering a few, touching them to her wrist and smelling the results. Jade could see bite marks on her wrist. The woman was watching Jade as much she was watching this stranger.
"How does this smell?" The woman asked, holding her wrist out to Jade.
She sniffed a little too strong for her. She preferred lighter scents. "Very nice." She replied politely.
"New in town?" The woman asked. "I'm Barbara Burns."
"Jing Yu." Jade replied using her Chinese name.
"Nice, we're having a group friends for a night out. Would you like to come?"
Jade was surprised at the invitation. "I'll have to get permission."
"Do that!" Barbara scribbled several things on a note and handed to her. "The times and the dates. I hope to see you there." Then brought three bottles of the strong perfume.
Jade watched Barbara walk away wondering if she had done the right thing.
"What was that all about?" The other girl on the perfume counter asked her.
"I think I've been invited to a party?" Jade replied sounding incredulous.
She sat in the armchair waiting for Joseph thinking over what she would tell him. The piece of paper in her hand starting to look crinkled with all her opening and refolding it. She never heard the door.
"Joseph?" She replied. "I think I met another thrall today?"
"What makes you say that?"
"A woman came into the store to buy perfume. High collar, marks on her wrist, felt like we had something in common."
"Asked if I'd like to go to what she called a gathering?"
"One of the Wizard's ideas I expect."
"You want me to go?"
Joseph thought about it. "Yes go it would be good to find out what the others are up to."
"You don't trust other vampires?"
"Some are ok but there are a few that I would watch my back with."
"And this thrall, called herself Barbara Burns?"
"Burns, did you say?"
"Is there a problem?"
"Not to me, but with you it might be a problem."
"She seemed nice to me?"
"You're the right sex for her."
"I don't understand?"
Joseph told her. Slowly it dawned on Jade what Joseph was trying to politely say.
"God! That's disgusting. It's perverted!"
"Sapphire's fault she found her."
"Sapphire's not one of your other girls?" Jade asked, she liked the way he called his women by the names of gemstones it was one of his charms. His other she was hoping to explore later in bed.
"A foundling, a woman made vampire. The Wizard brought her to me. I trained her as my child but she turned to women for comfort. Once she was trained, I let her go."
"What do they get out of it?" Jade asked. "It can't be like the pleasure we experience."
"Who can say. I could never figure it out?"
"Do you still want me to go?" Jade asked feeling reluctant to put herself close to a woman like that.
"Yes it would be a good idea. I 'm sorry that it will not be pleasant. I need your eyes and ears on this one."
"For you anything!"
"Anything?" Joseph smiled sounding amused.
Jade laughed as he took her hand gently leading her to the bedroom.
The bar was quiet, Jade at first wondered as if she had the wrong place. She scrutinised the patrons propping up the bar and the tables. No one even glanced in her direction. Hesitantly she made her way to the bar just before she reached it a woman came from the other side bar room. Jade recognised her straight away.
"Hello! So you came!" Barbara Burns exclaimed delighted.
Jade decided to set the ground rules out from the start. "Look I'm not that type of woman. Lay your, slimy fingers on me and I'm break them off."
The smile slid from Barbara's face. "Who told you?"
"That doesn't matter. I assume there are others like us here?" Jade asked.
"In that back room." Barbara replied coldly. "I'll introduce you to the others."
The other thralls were of different ages. Only two made her feel uncomfortable, Barbara and another man. Her unease with Barbara could be explained, but about other this thrall, she felt there was something about him that shouted to her senses, danger. Of all of them the only man she got on with was Harold clearly the eldest here, was like a father figure. The evening dragged on Jade listened trying hard to pick up anything of use to Joseph. All it seemed to consist of inane conversation of the most trivial nature. Glad to be home she showered and slipped into bed.
Jade couldn't believe how much time had passed. She had been Joseph's thrall for fourteen years. She examined her naked body in the mirror noting she was older but not looking it. Her hands reached up to touch her scars on her neck, her fingers feeling the ridges. She was waiting for Joseph, he had been distracted the last couple of weeks, often leaving as soon as he got there. She asked but Joseph be he was not speaking. She worried that he had found another woman the idea starting to give her dark thoughts. She heard the door open, putting on her silk gown she walked into the sitting room. Her heart went out to him as soon as she saw his down cast expression. All thoughts of another woman went out the window.
"You think I'll throw you over for another?" He asked.
Jade had got used to his knowing what she was thinking. "That was on my mind?"
"Sorry I've been neglecting you lately. Things have happened. I'm sorry I should have spoken to you earlier and not ignored you."
"So you'll tell me now?"
He nodded thoughtfully. "You've met Sarah, the Wizard's woman a few times?"
"None pleasant, I thought it was a 'Race' thing but I know different now. She hates our kind as much as I hate Burn's kind."
Jade shivered, it sounded blunt. No words could be expressed in such a manner. "The Wizard?"
"Told me to get lost." Joseph looked helpless it was odd to see a vampire at a loss. "All I wanted to do was offer my condolences and he threw it in my face!"
"Want me to go?" She asked.
"That would be nice, thank you. The funeral's Tuesday."
A fall of snow covered the ground of the cemetery. Jade stood in the distance watching the mourners around the grave. Her good sense saying it wasn't good for her to intrude on a private moment. The black didn't suit her it showed her oriental complexion in an unfavourable light. She closely scrutinised the mourners her eyes picking out the only one she was interested in. The Wizard still looked no different from any other time she had talked to him, having got into the vampire habit of calling him the Wizard. She continued her surveillance, as the coffin was lowered into the ground and the mourners departed one by one. Only the Wizard remained, carefully she picked her way down to where he stood.
He spoke before he reached her. "Why are you here? I thought I made it clear to Joseph that I was to be left alone."
"He told me I want to know why?"
"I finished with it all! Vampires, Werewolves, Magic! None of it matters!"
"Just leave me alone. Vampires and werewolves solved their problems before me, and they can go on sorting out their problems without me. I am severing my ties with it all. No one will contact me. I consider myself in exile!"
"I will tell Joseph! But it will hurt him. He thinks you a friend. Not a usual event for a vampire."
The Wizard shrugged. "Nothing matters any longer."
Jade knew she wasn't going to get anything further out of him. With one last glance at him, she walked away leaving the forlorn figure by the side of the grave.
Night came and found her waiting anxiously for Joseph.
"I know it didn't go well!" He told her as he entered the apartment.
"He was hurting. I know what he's going through. I felt the same when mother died. Had you not come along when you did, I was considering suicide."
"I know I could sense your despair. I only made my decision easier."
Jade nodded thoughtfully. "He's seems a lot stronger than I was."
"You may be right. I think it's best we leave him alone for now. He'll get over it I'm sure?" Joseph sounded doubtful as if thinking about something.
"Come!" She said abruptly. "There's something I can do to take your mind off things?"
Joseph smiled. "Yes that would be a good idea."
Jade smiled back. The hopeful expression on his face easing the tension in her heart.
Jade looked out the window thinking hard. It had been a year since the funeral and the Wizard had shown no sign of ever coming out of his mourning. She was becoming desperate Joseph seemed to be taking the Wizard's isolation as an affront. She needed to divert his mind to other things. Staring out onto the street, she watched a furniture truck deliver an ornate chest to the apartment block opposite. Suddenly she stiffened as an idea formed. Glancing back her eyes alighted on the carved jewellery box he had given her on the tenth anniversary of her becoming his thrall. She remembered his pride when he presented it to her saying it was all his own work. Her hands reached out and touched it, her fingers tracing the designs on its surface. Tools! He was always moaning about decent tools. The ideal present to take his mind off his brooding. She smiled happily feeling better than she had for a while. Although actually finding a store that sold them a harder task than she imagined. It took her all morning and well into the afternoon to find what she was looking for her ear ached from time she had spent on the telephone. The store was across town in Queens an area she had been forbidden to go. She glanced at her watch it was chancy but she could get there and back before dusk if she left now in the car, another present from Joseph.
The cross-town traffic was gridlocked slowing her pace down to a crawl. She fretted several times almost abandoning her quest but her memory of Joseph's sorrowful expression egged her on. She parked up outside the store just as it started to get dark. The storekeeper was just about to close up as she rushed in breathless.
"I called earlier?" She said. "About some wood chisels?"
The storekeeper looked her up and down. "You were cutting that fine?"
"Sorry cross town traffic was murder!"
"Here." He said. "These are them. Your man, he keen on woodworking?"
"Yes." Jade replied she just wanted the tools and gone before the vampire the roamed the area knew she was here.
The man gave her a stare. "That's a man who doesn't know when the goings good!"
Jade waited patiently while the man took his time getting the chisels and wrapping them carefully. She paid the man and hurried out of the store her time winding down. She halted suddenly her blood going cold. She looked left, then she looked right. The sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach not getting any warmer, the car was gone. She checked her purse. Yes the keys are still here! The car had been stolen there was no doubt about that. She was sure she had locked it. Broken pieces of glass where she had left it mute testimony that it had been locked. The windows no bar to a determined car thief. She spent too long debating whether she should call the cops or hail a cab. Hailing a cab proved an impossible task, time was running out for her. She started walking hoping her vampire blood would keep her going. The evening seemed to rapidly change from dusk to night. She hurried down the streets hoping to hail a cab or reach a safe area. The darker it became the faster she walked her hands clutching her package. Fear chilled her soul, not muggers she had no fear of them. Joseph had warned time after time about the vampire whose territory she was crossing and her hatred for Joseph and any associated with him. Full dark came upon her.
Jade hurried waking fast through the streets her ears alert to sounds around her. The sounds of measured footsteps matching hers chilled her blood. She was being stalked. The stalker knowing it could be heard and not caring. Jade increased her speed, the stalker easily matched her pace. She dodged and darted to no avail. I should have stayed to the main roads so much for taking a short cut! She halted the sound was gone Jade put her hand to a wall, while she clutched her chest to steady her heart. A figure stepped out of a patch of darkness ahead of her and slowly sauntered towards her. It resolved itself into the figure of a woman, of medium height, slim with long red hair tied into a ponytail. Her skin pale and her eyes a deep green and flashing with anger. Jade swallowed hard frightened, she knew who this woman was. She was scared Joseph had warned her about this vampire.
"Look I'm trying to leave your territory!" Jade said shaking her voice displaying the fear she was feeling. Joseph couldn't rescue her from this and violate another vampire's territory.
"Spy!" The vampire growled. "Murderer! Rapist!" Her accent had a Scottish twang.
"Please!" Jade begged. "I was leaving, my car was stolen. Otherwise I would not be here!"
"Liar!" The vampire moved closer. Her fingers outstretched into talons.
Jade searched around in desperation, looking for a way past the vampire, then that she saw the steel bar. She snatched it up and held it above her head.
"Back off!" Jade cried. "Back off Bitch! I'm going and I won't be back, so just back off."
The vampire smiled chillingly. "So the little whore has a backbone after all."
"Just stay away!" Jade shouted. "I'll use this! So help me god I will!" Convinced she was going to die, whatever she did.
"Run away little whore I'll enjoy hunting you!"
"Bitch!" Jade swore charging the vampire, her anger over riding her fear and her common sense.
She felt the first blow and the second as the vampire snatched the bar out of her hand, using it on her. She screamed as the blows rained down, feeling the grinding agony at she felt her bones crack and splinter. Just before she blacked out, she heard the sound of sirens in the distance. Slowly awareness flowed back into her mind and with it the pain, everywhere hurt. She was strapped to a hospital bed, drips attached to her arms, and her hips covered in plaster. Two figures swam into view, police she noted from their uniforms.
"Miss could you tell us what happened?" One officer asked his notebook out and his pencil raised to write down what she said.
Jade panicked for a moment, fearing her attachment to a vampire had been revealed. She realised bandages covered her marks and she calmed down.
"I'm not sure?" She answered. "I was attacked, someone shouting out Yellow Whore, then I was hit." She lied.
The officer nodded. "There was shouting. A witness says he heard someone shouting 'Whore' but couldn't identify the voice."
"Did they see anything?" She asked fearing the worst.
"In that neighbourhood, yah gotta be joking?"
Jade was relieved in a way. The policed asked more questions as to why she was there. She told them as much as she could.
"Well ma'am we'll look into the car. As to the attack, it looks like it's racially motivated. We'll pass it on but unless you got and ID on your attacker there's not much more we can do."
Jade thanked the officers and tried to sleep, the pain was making it difficult.
The time was late when Jade woke aware someone was in her room.
"Jade." Joseph replied unhappily.
"I'm sorry. I was getting you a present it went all so horribly wrong."
"I asked the Wizard he refused me." Joseph said he sounded closer. "Drink!" He commanded.
Jade felt his wrist to her lips and she drank the blood easing her pain slightly. She lay back down the pain muting any need.
"I'm sorry." Joseph continued. "I really don't want to do this, but I have no other choice."
"I going to retire you. It will stop her, she wants you dead."
Retire? Oh god anything but that. "Please kill me, drain my blood anything but that!" She sobbed. "I couldn't stand to lose you!"
"I'm so sorry." Joseph said softly. "I've spoken to Caterina Valens she's given you safe conduct in her territory. I can't have you on mine. It's not the way it should be."
Jade felt as if he had ripped her heart out. She wailed in despair. "No! Please No! Oh God I just want to die!"
"You will not! You will obey me!" Joseph remarked sternly. "I forbid it. You will live your mortal allotted time. I will see you are well cared for."
The door opened flooding the room with light. Her last sight of him was framed in the doorway, his hand half raised in salute. Then he was gone. She wept for her loss and her pain. Worst then the physical pain of her injuries, a longing the addiction to giving and taking of blood it was going to be like going cold turkey from drugs only worse. She closed her eyes, she would be here for the duration it would take her a long time to heal without vampire blood to boost her body. Time slowed and for the first time, she slept without having a home to return to.