Last night she had opened a vein for half a cold sandwich and permission to sleep on a piss soaked mattress in the water stained basement of the bar.
Things were beginning to get tough. Last year the same amount of blood she had given last night would have gotten her a room in the local inn and a hot meal at least. Now here she was trying to rest on the thread bare mattress, a spring poking into her left ass cheek and some liquid soaking it's way into her holey blanket. She hoped it was piss. Dear gods let it be that, as there were so many other horrible things it could be.
Turning over, she looked at the person splayed out on the mattress opposite her. He had gotten a comforter last night, though that had cost him over a pint extra. She would have, but it had been far to close to her last draining and she was not one to risk her life over a little comfort.
"Jasp." she hissed, sitting up. The blanket dropped from her frame and exposed her right breast as she bent forward. "Jasp, get up!" Looking about the basement and trying not to wake up the other bleeders who were still sleeping she tried to rouse up her friend once more. "Jasp you dunderhead! We have to get going! If we sleep here any longer they will charge us another pint!"
He did not respond to her, and she grew worried. The last time Jasp had been drained was about the same time Cray had. Surely he had not been a big enough idiot to give another pint so freely after such a close draining? Tossing the blanket off of herself, Cray stumbled loudly over to Jasp. "Jasp! You idiot!"
Hands trembling, she rolled him over. Even before he had fully rolled over she knew she could do nothing. His skin was cold to the touch, and no heartbeat met her fingertips as she pressed them into his chest. Once he had turned over she saw what had happened. Down his right arm the shunt in his arm had popped open. Blood had leaked out all night and having so little left Jasp had died from blood loss.
Cray settled back on her haunches, running a hand through the sides of her hair. "God damn it!" She bit out, waking a few of the other bleeders in the room.
"Wasssa matta?" one of them asked, blinking blearily at her from the corner.
"Dead one." Cray bit it out matter of factly. How many times had she seen this happen in the last six years? She could not count them on both hands, that is how many. This happened a lot to them. After a while the body just grew too weak, or the bleeder made a bad decision. Jasper was just one of dozens she had known to meet that fate. The fellow bleeder in the corner sighed lightly out of respect for the dead-staying-dead, then drowsily remarked about the comforter.
"Did that belong to him, or is it the bar's?" her voice was harsh and croaky, like someone who had spent most of their life with their mouth filled with smoke of one kind or another.
"The bars. No bleeder can afford a comforter that nice." There was steel in Cray's voice as she looked away from the body. Not even flinching from the coldness there, the smoker lay back down with a final sigh.
"Damn, I was hoping for dibs."
Cray quickly removed everything of sentimental or monetary value from Jasper's body. There was no way she could remove the man herself, and once the bar manager had come down to wake the straggling bleeders and found the body it would be taken to the crematorium and burned. No funeral would be had. If Jasper was lucky someone would have remembered his name. If she was lucky, no one would remember that they had come in together the night before. There was a steep fee for friend's of the deceased that had to be paid on their cremation. Friend here roughly translated into "anyone the person had been seen with last". Cray could not afford this fee, so she quickly checked his body for anything he would not have wanted stolen and finished dressing.
She had just managed to roll her blanket into her pack and rush out the backdoor of the bar as the manager came stalking down into the dank cellar. Buttoning up her pants Cray listened as the mananger's voice wafted toward her from the open door. After grumbling at the still sleeping occupants and swearing something about "lazy bums" he let out a curse. Jasper had been found.
Now assured of her friend's approaching burning Cray took off into the street. Jasper would not be burned for a few days now so it was best not to sell anything on this side of town for a week or so. With a sigh she considered what options that left her. Once she had dropped off Jasper's possessions to his sister at Loco Rossa there had to be someplace for her to crash for the night without opening an artery.
Bluth's was out, there had been a recent ghoul attack there so the defense force had blocked off the entire building for investigation. That left Mae Lee's and Bad Juju. With a sigh she decided on Juju. Cray knew the owner there and if it was only for one night she was sure he would let her stay on his couch. Hell at this point she would sleep on the tattoo chairs that lined his workshop. Anything was more comfortable than the poor excuse for a matress she had slept on that morning.
Having a destination kept a lot of the worry from Cray's mind. Jasper was taken care of, and Loco Rossa was on the way to the east side of town. Juju was bound to be a place she could get a good night's rest and maybe a hot meal. At the mention of a meal her stomach growled it's protest. Half a cold sandwich may do something to drive away hunger pangs, but it really did nothing for the hunger itself. Hastily she dug into her pocket to try and find some change for something. Anything.
A few minutes search turned up roughly seventy nine cents. This was enough to buy only a single cup of hot broth from one of the local vendors. Being on the track toward the east side of town she decided to see what her old friend Shu had on sale for cheap. Pushing her way through the now bustling street and past a group of begging teens Cray climbed down the stairs into the subway.
Steamy beef broth stung her throat as she swallowed it slowly. While it did not fill her up the way solid food would have, it did do something for the hunger. On a plate next to her sat a small steamed bun filled to overflowing. The white skin had burst open and a scent of exotic vegetables and pork was on the steam that slowly rose from the opening. Shu had prepared this one for her special as Cray did not want to partake in the restaurant's usual fare of blood laced edibles. When one serves food to the undead everything you made had to contain their life giving nutrient of blood somewhere. The smell of the blood filled food had made her ill to her stomach in memory of Jasper so she had retreated to the small staircase that lead to Shu's small apartment above the restaurant to eat. Moment's later she was joined by the head chef and co owner of the restaurant herself.
Being once of Chinese descent Shu had the high graceful cheekbones of an oriental beauty. Tan skin had given way to the pale whitish skin of a vampire as almond shaped black eyes stared at her with a mix between pity and annoyance. Though six inches shorter than Cray she was no less intimidating than any other of her kind she had ever come across.
"Eating all my food again?" she pointed one flour covered finger in Cray's face. A little bit of powder dropped off the shaking appendage and landed on her shirt.
"I paid for it this time." In mock surrender she put up both hands. "Promise."
"Oh, you had better be promising more than that." Shu tossed her another bun, this one smelling of sweet chicken.
"Shu, how am I supposed to promise to pay you if you keep giving me free food?" Cray asked between mouthfuls of the sweet and savory bread bun.
"That is not free. You must pay for it by going to see Mae Lee." With a sigh she wiped absently at her apron, doing little more than spreading the flour further into the fabric.
"Whoa!" she almost choked on the large chunk of chicken in her mouth. Swallowing hard Cray looked away from Shu. "I won't go back to Mae Lee's place." Eyes still averted from the older woman in front of her she took another bite to finish off the bun.
"Oh yes? Mae Lee told me about what happened. So what?" Annoyance had crept into her voice. "I never thought you were one to run away from heartbreak. After your mother..."
Cray slammed one hand against the wall next to her as hard as she could.
" Aiyah! Watch the plaster!" Putting a hand on her hip Shu glared at the small dent in the once perfect wall.
"I am not RUNNING away from HEARTBREAK..." she hissed the words as if they were a poison to her. "What happened there goes far beyond whatever Mae Lee told you." Standing, leaving the last bun untouched on the plate she grabbed her pack and stalked past Shu toward the door.
"Cray!" Shu stepped in line behind her, one hand grasping her shoulder to spin the young woman around. Once she had Cray facing her, her eyes softened slightly. "Mae Lee is only worried about you. They have not heard from you in months and they said you had taken off with that Jasper. He is reckless, soh gwa, a real ji sih and nothing but trouble for you and who ever else he talks too."
"Jasper went cold." Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a bit of proof. There in her hand rested the large silver cross he had always worn around his neck. Once they had joked about becoming Vampire Slayers and using the cross in battle. The joke fell flat now in memory."I bailed on the stiff this morning once I realized it. Made sure the owner found him though." Cray tucked the trinket back into her pants pocket and nervously adjusted the strap of her pack on her shoulder. "Best a bleeder's going to get."
Shu sighed wearily. "Mm haih gwa? Oh my." Her eyes betrayed a small amount of sadness. Shu did not particularly like Jasper, but death was still something to mourn to her. "I will tell Mae Lee to not worry. I mean, I saw you myself and that should count for something no?" Softly she patted Crays shoulder and turned from the girl. She wiped her hands on her apron once more as she headed toward the kitchen. "Take care of yourself, ok?"
Not waiting for an answer Shu stepped through the double doors into the restaurants kitchen. Cray knew exactly what that meant. She was not going to get anything more from this place for the day and had to get going. It was a bit of a walk to east side. If she got going now she would be there by dinner time, maybe just as the sun started to go down. Even though that part of town was better than the slums she usually did business in it was still not a good idea to be outside after dark. There were more dangerous things than the Vampires that prowled the streets once the sun set.
Sneaking one more bun for the road Cray slid out of the front door as more customers came in for the lunch special. All but one or two of them were Vampire. Pale skin, thin black veins just barely visible against the pallor of their flesh. Solid black eyes that flashed like plastic in the change from natural to florescent lighting. All of them carried umbrellas to guard against the sun. These were set in the coat room just off the restaurants main floor. Cray tried to move as quickly as possible so that none of them would smell her. If any of them did happen to catch a whiff of her sweet blood she hoped they would not have time to find her.
Luckily no one even bothered to look at her. The largest group were all speaking to themselves in low voices. Most seemed bored to even be there. They did not pay any attention to the short pale tan girl with the shaved head and dirty clothes as she snaked her way out of the store and into the throngs of people lining the street. Thanking whatever god had decided to be on her side that day Cray headed toward the front door of Loco Rossa.
Once a church, the nightclub was more of a cheap gin joint than a proper club. In no way did it match up to the glitz and glamour of some of the Vampyre places that ran their business nearby. Yet there was something nicer, better about this place. Perhaps it was the customer service, or the food. It wasn't as the people were surly and the food was some serious rot gut stuff. No, what made it so nice was the fact that it was one of the only human ran places left in the city. Whole world maybe.
In those other places one could find a plethora of drinks in every form imaginable, designer drugs so rich they had their own clothing brands, friendly wait staff and food so good you would eat your fingers to get at the scraps. Yes, you would find those things in plenty at some other establishments. Not here.
Loco Rossa was run by the Iglesias twins. One time it had been just a bar but the boys had been men of enterprise. Soon the shitty little bar had a stage and pole built into one side, a kitchen they renovated in a rectory, and a tap that ran warm beer all the time in only one flavor. Perhaps they had made the club in a church to satisfy the old superstitions about Vampires and the powers of the lord. It may have worked as the place was never full of the pale patrons that frequented every other establishment with in the city limits. Mostly the place was full of humans who had some money to spare on the delights of sin that were so garishly prepared for them there.
Passing by one of the red velvet covered stages in the corner Cray headed toward one of the back rooms she knew existed for patrons willing to pay. As she came around the bar near the back one of the Iglesias brother's noticed her and put himself in front of the door.
"What is your business here Cray?" Technically she was not supposed to be allowed past the door. Last year an incident happened that resulted in a slashed couch and a man bleeding from several gashes in his face and arms. Though she had been justified in the assult, it had resulted in her permanent banishment from the location.
"Calm down Damien, I am just here to see Jessie. Got somethings for her." With that she tried to push her way past Damien only to be foiled as he leaned his full weight against the door.
"They were not even supposed to let you past the door. How did you get in?" His tone was calm but she had spent enough time around the club to know when Damien was getting annoyed.
"Hey, I just shaved my head since I was here last. It is not my fault if your doorman is to dumb to recognize me." Cray shrugged and tried the door handle again. It jiggled in her hand but the door remained closed. Damien still had not removed his weight from it. "Look." She ran one hand through the rough stubble on her head impatiently. "Jasper died this morning. I am doing my duty as his friend and giving his shit to his only fucking relative. Once I do that I swear to whatever you want me to swear on that you will never have to see my face again."
Hearing about Jasper's death seemed to stun Damien for a minute. Jasper's older sister Jessie had been a waitress and dancer there since it had been only a one room dive. That meant that Jasper had grown up around the place as his sister worked. For Damien and Adrian he was much like a son. It killed them when he had taken off to become a bleeder. The club business was much safer. "Dead?"
"Yeah." her voice softened somewhat. "The shunt must have broken during the night, and he had just been..."
He cut her off with a wave through the air. "Ok, go in. Just this one time Cray. After you give Jasper's stuff to Jessie I had better see your ass out that door in a flash. And," Damien glared at her. "If you ever darken my doorstep again I will make sure to put that other eye out." With that he walked away from her and started to pour himself a drink from his personal stash of good booze. She left him to drink his sorrows away and passed through the now open doorway into the back.