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Forget most of what you think you know about vampires. The basics are true: we drink blood; we burn to ash in sunlight. A wooden stake does not kill, it incapacitates us. Remove the stake, and you’ll have a very angry vampire on your hands. We do not have a reflection in mirrors, but we have no problem with crossing running water. The changing into bats and wolves is complicated. We drink human blood to remain human looking. We do have something akin to an allergy to silver. Cut a vampire with a silver dagger, it will heal, but leave a scar. Constant contact with silver is the same as a human having constant contact with acid. It will eat our flesh away. Crosses and holy water, maybe if you’re a devout catholic vampire would they minutely work. Garlic is useless and we don’t need to be invited in. The best way to kill a vampire is to remove the head from the heart. The second is sunlight.

My name is Dante Seraphim and these are my memoirs.

Vampires come with a myriad of powers; they’re often different from vampire to vampire. The first standard power is heightened senses. The whole sleeping in a coffin in the earth was the best attempt at a sensory deprivation, it’s the only way we could shut out the noise. Now I have a modern isolation tank, with highly salinized water. Much more comfortable than the coffin. The second is increased strength. I can easily lift a mid-sized sedan or if you want something juicy, I can crush a human skull with one hand so the brain oozes out the ears like pink and gray jelly. The third is speed. Vampires can move faster than the human eye can see, we cannot keep this up for very long though. The fourth is our hunter vision. By will alone we can choose to look at the world as we saw it as humans or in infrared. It’s not that we see well in the dark, it’s that we can see your body heat. Immortality, increased healing, and lack of appearance changes finish up the standard powers. As far as I know, vampires do not die of old age. Depending on the wound my body can heal within seconds or years. A massive amount of damage will force a vampire into something like a coma until the body repairs. A gunshot wound takes about 24 hours. If I shave my head, the hair instantly regrows to the length it was when I became a vampire. At the same time I cannot grow a beard as I was clean shaven when I died my mortal death. I cannot get rhinoplasty, orthodontics, or any surgery that would alter my appearance. I look the same as I did in 984 AD.

Then there are the miscellaneous powers that a vampire might receive any or all of. Levitating is not a power I have. As a vampire if you can’t levitate you can jump. The highest I can jump is about 5 stories and nearly as far. Telepathy is very common among vampires, more have it than not. I’m one of the have-nots. For me it’s a weakness. Use of telepathy on me gives me a migraine from hell. Telekinesis is a talent I do possess. I’m not Jedi powerful, but I can send a ‘force bubble’ of compressed air at a target. Moving things across a room is more difficult, but I’m a master at unlocking doors, handcuffs, trunks, if it has a small locking mechanism, I can unlock it. Fangs that come and go. Once again I’m a have-not. I was reborn with fangs, and have had fangs for more than a millennia. I have seen vampires with perfectly even teeth and the fangs appear when they feed. My sire, the vampire who made me, has it worse than I. I have a single set of extended upper canine teeth. My sire has extended upper and lower, and as far as I know, he is the only vampire with a lower set. Flying is different than levitating in reference to the flying vampires have wings. Once again I’m a have-not, and glad of it. Very difficult to hide a set of wings in public. Some vampires have the power to seduce whomever they choose. Again I’m a have-not, but I’m told I’m lucky in the looks department. Subterfuge is a power I do have. I can simply choose not to be seen and no one will notice I’m there. It’s not invisibility, people can see me, some even make eye contact, but ask them later about me and they can’t seem to remember any details.

Other powers come with age, such as a minor control over fire. About 400 years ago I noticed I could light candles, oil lamps, even fireplaces just by wanting to. Can I burst a fellow vampire into flames or a human? No. No matter how much I will it. In another 500 years or so I hope to conjure a fireball.  As a vampire grows older his powers increase. The oldest ones can walk in daylight with minor discomfort, usually for an hour to two. Around the three or four hundred year mark you start noticing you are waking earlier and earlier in the day. A fledgling vampire is rendered comatose while the sun is up. At my age, I can sleep when I want and can only spend about twenty minutes in direct sun. Sadly along with age often comes dementia. Young vampires revel in their new powers, get bored as elders, and become sadohedonists as ancients.

Now we come to blood. A vampire cannot live without it and I have difficulties living with it. As I mentioned earlier we drink human blood to remain human looking. My companion, Vladimir, learned this the hard way. In the early 1690’s he drank exclusively cat blood, by 1700, Vladimir was a cat himself. For the past 300 or so years he’s been trying to find a cure. I pity him. He still has his mind, and is still a vampire, but he looks exactly like an ordinary black cat. Vladimir even purrs. A vampire uses blood like energy, if our bodies run out of blood, we cannot use some or any of our powers. If we go bloodless for too long our thirst overcomes us and we blindly attack friend or foe until it’s satiated. I have the American Red Cross to thank for my blood supply, and do not have to feed on humans anymore.

Now that I have explained vampires to you I was wondering how to begin telling about my own life. I am probably the first North American vampire. I am a fair skinned, but dark haired, dark eyed Norseman. I was there when Eric the Red, my uncle, landed on Greenland. All those years ago I was called Asvald Leifsson. It was my sire; a Roman named Marcus Faustus, who made me into a vampire on Vinland, what is modernly called Newfoundland. He also renamed me, Dante Seraphim.

Vladimir sits next to my laptop, staring at me. I’ve completely embraced the technological marvels of the 21st century. I carry a cell phone and use computers. Some of us haven’t grasped or choose not to grasp technology. Vladimir growls, the hair rising on his back and I catch the scent as well. A vampire has entered my humble abode. A vampire can always smell another vampire, it’s like a calling card. We all smell like death and something else. Vladimir stopped growling, and began purring. This vampire was death and lilies, it was Jacqueline Amoré.

Like most creatures of myth and legend and the night, she didn’t bother with knocking. I think I’m the first vampire to actually use a doorbell. I leaned back from my laptop as she walked into my kitchen. Jacqueline was the oldest known active vampire. When vampires manage to get very old they often sleep through decades. She is one of three vampires who have never slept the years away since I’ve been a vampire. Myself and my maker are the other two. Vampires are usually solitary creatures, but will come together in ‘packs’ for a common cause. Modern, younger vampires have formed ‘communities’ within the larger cities.

“Hello Dante,” she said politely. Her voice was soft, Romanian accented, “Hello Vladimir.” She reached down and picked him up, holding him to her chest, stroking him. He purred loudly and grew sleepy in her arms. “Poor little darling, he’s more like a cat every day.” Still holding him she eased herself into a chair.

“What does he want?” I asked of her. She laid her dark brown eyes upon me and I grew uncomfortable. “Stop.” I said and she smiled showing her perfect even teeth, not a trace of fangs. My body grew hot and my eyes lowered to her chest, covered by the black body of Vladimir. She was seducing me with just her gaze alone. I felt a stirring in areas that hadn’t worked in years. I wanted to touch her porcelain skin, feel the nub of her breasts between my fingers. “Jacqueline.” I pleaded.

“You ruin my fun,” she said blinking at me and the sensations of desire for her were gone as fast as they came.

“I don’t like to be teased.” I said standing and turning away as my sudden erection returned to its normal flaccid state.

“He didn’t send me, I came on my own. I have a favor to ask you.” I turned back to her. Jacqueline was an ancient, content in her age, powers and vampirism. She wasn’t sadistic; she did drink from humans but didn’t kill them. She laid low in both human and vampire society.

“Hard to imagine you need me for something, Jacqueline.”

“You are the one vampire immune to telepathy.”

“Hardly immunity and I doubt I’m the only one.” I had returned to my seat. Vladimir gave a soft snore in Jacqueline’s arms.

“In my lifetime you are the only vampire I have ever met that cannot use telepathy, nor can be controlled by it,” she explained. This was the reason I did not sleep any years away. I learned something new every day. She read my body language perfectly. “It is how older vampires control the young ones without a blood connection. I can control any fledgling vampire and even some weaker elders, except you. I can seduce you, that is simple hormones, but to make you do something against your will, I cannot.” She finally placed Vladimir on my desk next to the laptop. He did not even move. I realized she had put him to sleep.

“What is the favor, Jacqueline?”

“The Brotherhood, they have something I want.” I did not let it show but I had a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There were vampire hunters out there, most were freelance idiots, others were soldiers of the Catholic Church, and then there were the Brotherhood. They were crueler than most vampires, cunning, and relentless. The only way we survived against them was by numbers alone. Vampires numbered in the thousands, while the Brotherhood was a few dozen. We at least hoped they were only a few dozen.

“No,” I told her firmly. “Ask Faust to do it. He enjoys killing them.”

“He just enjoys killing. I cannot ask him for this. I do not want him to keep the item for himself.”

“If you’re so telepathically powerful you could make him give it to you,” I said reaching into my pocket, pulling out a package of Marlboros and a battered old Zippo. A perk of being immortal, smoking was harmless. Often the nicotine could help take the edge off the thirst if blood was in short supply.

Touché Dante. Marcus was my biggest mistake and greatest blessing. I should never have made him one of us, or I should never have imparted so much of my power upon him. I made him my equal, Dante. Even with the blood connection I have no control over his actions.” I returned to my chair, glanced at still snoring Vladimir and leaned back. “Dante please.”

“Jacqueline, what you’re asking is suicide for one of our kind.” She reached into her tiny black purse and removed a photograph.

“His name is Elliot Schrader.” She handed me to the photo of a middle aged, good looking man. He was blonde, tanned, athletic, and dressed casual. A woman, also blonde, but small was in the photo with him.

“Who is the woman?”

“The late Jane Schrader, his wife. The Brotherhood killed Schrader’s entire family, parents, siblings, and children so that no one would be alive to notice his absence. I want you to rescue him. He is what the Brotherhood has that I want.” It sounded very mafia.

“Why is he so important?”

“He’s the strongest human telepath alive, and the Brotherhood uses him like a bloodhound to sniff us out.” I looked up at her, placing the cigarette between my lips. “The Brotherhood forces him to control vampires. He makes them rise from day sleep and go out into the sunlight, or stand paralyzed while the Brotherhood behead them.” A single blood tear dropped from a heavily painted eyelash. “Only you can rescue Elliot and save our race.” She wiped it away with a gloved hand and stood up. Out of respect I stood as well. “Goodbye Dante.” It would seem my memoirs would have to wait.

Vampire communities were nothing more than a city wide pecking order. The titles were different by whatever the top vampire wanted to be called. In my city, she was the Regent. When she is toppled by another vampire he or she may want to be called something different. The Regent set down the laws of how we lived in society, and had followers who would enforce her laws. I was not a part of her community and because of my age I was left alone.

I left my apartment, took the elevator to the ground floor, and crossed the street to the parking garage. I owned the entire building under a different name, but the other floors were rented out as apartments or offices. I had hired a company to manage everything for me. All I knew was that my bank accounts got larger and larger and my building was never empty.

I drove my car, a new Dodge Challenger, from the garage to deeper into downtown. I parked in another garage and walked past the very long line into an elite night club. The low throb of the music could be felt more than heard on the street. The bouncer at the door held up his hand to stop me. I don’t remember his name, something Carmichael. He was an ape of a man, with bulging muscles and hair all over.

“Step aside,” I said to him. Carmichael was a vampire but still in his natural life span. He was under 100, probably under 80. He smelled like death and dirty feet.

“She is not seeing anyone tonight,” he replied.

“She doesn’t have a choice.”

“You have a reputation Seraphim, you’re a pushover, a non-violent,” he stated. What he said was a half-truth. I was non-violent with so many witnesses.

“Let him in Carmichael,” spoke the aristocratic voice behind me. I had never put a finger on Faust’s exact scent. If Power or Ambition had a fragrance then that was his.

“Right away, Mr. Faust,” Carmichael blubbered. I turned to look at him. Faust was the first vampire I’d ever met. He was taller and broader than I. He was also the only vampire I knew who had every vampire power except flying and I never really looked under his long coat to see if he was hiding wings.

Faust had many remarkable features from his white hair, porcelain pale skin, or the ever present fangs. It was his eye color that always mesmerized me. Faust’s eyes were such pale lavender they were nearly as gray as the full moon. Rumor had it I was the only vampire Faust ever embraced. He dwelled in the belief vampires were superior to humans. That humans were to be our servants. I disagreed with him, often. Carmichael pulled the velvet rope aside and Faust motioned me to go ahead of him.

We passed through the mildly soundproofed doors and into a writhing sea of bodies. The sound was so intense my dead heart tried to beat with it. Lights moved, strobed and changed colors. The club was mostly lit with black light and low lamps over the tables. The UV given off the lighting was moderately uncomfortable. It kept out the lesser vampires. They would burn under a UV light as easily as the sun. Faust had fitted sunglasses to his face. Across the club was a spiral staircase leading up to a door marked PRIVATE.

“I didn’t need your help,” I said to Faust as we crossed the club to the staircase.

“You always need my help,” he stated. I didn’t bother with a reply. Another bouncer stood at the base of the stair. He was an older vampire, but I could smell the sunblock on his skin along with death and sweat. “Jackson.” The vampire, a big man, but not as ape-ish as Carmichael, didn’t even say anything. He just held the velvet rope aside. Faust went first and I followed. He did not knock on the door but flung it open. Guards on either side of the door turned to attack Faust.

The room was simple. Serena sat behind an antique desk in a chair that looked more like a throne. On either side of her were two more bodyguards and a servant. Lying on the desk was a young human woman I didn’t know. She was pale from blood loss. Lounging on pillows in front of the desk were several more vampires. They were the equivalent of vampire courtiers and when we arrived they were in the middle of mixing blood with absinthe and laudanum. A hookah sat in the middle of them. Drugs and alcohol affected vampires only if blood was being used. The minimal usage of blood was to use it what it was intended for. That meant forcing your heart to beat and breathing. The room was lit with candles and completely soundproof. Not even the throb of the sub woofers made it inside.

I didn’t bother to help Faust with the two body guards. He was not weaponless, none of us were, but without their aid he snapped the neck of one vampire and had dislocated the shoulders of the other. Vampires felt pain but it’s muted except when the wound is caused by silver. Silver wrought wounds are unbearable. The two bodyguards next to Serena removed semi-automatic weapons from their long black coats. Serena raised her hand. They returned their guns to the coats. She stood up, walked around the desk, and stepped over the wounded vampire guards. They were already healing; I could hear the bones re-knitting. Broken Neck would take some time to recover. Shoulders had jammed his arms back into their sockets. He glared angrily at Faust with yellow eyes. Serena held her hand out to Faust and he got close enough to breathe on the large ruby on her finger but did not kiss the hand. She turned to me, but did not offer her hand.

“How fares Vladimir?” In 1692 Serena had been a plain but strong willed young Puritan woman. She was one of many vampires that underwent a physical change when they were embraced. Now she was breathtakingly beautiful. When she came close she smelled of death and sex. Serena was the cause of Vladimir’s affliction and the Salem Witch Trials. Now she was Regent of the City.

“He despises you but that hasn’t changed in three hundred years,” I answered her. She walked back to her desk, rolled the girl off it and sat on it. The courtiers attacked the girl like a hambone being thrown in a room full of pit bulls. Her screams fell on deaf ears except mine. I looked away.

“An Ancient without the stomach for blood,” Serena chuckled and suddenly jerked to the side. Vampires gets stronger with age, Faust being twice as old as I was, had crossed the room, slapped her, then returned back to where he had been standing. His speed had made it hard for my eyes to follow.

“I don’t need you,” I whispered sharply at him. She wiped away a drop of blood on a split lip that was already healing. The bodyguards had raised their weapons again.

“Put them away.” Once again they were lowered. “Why are you here?” She asked me hopping from the desk to return to her chair.

“The Brotherhood. Where are they?” At the mention of their name I saw every eye in the room flicker yellow. When vampires become angry their eye color gives them away. Yellow was our hunter vision.

“Why would I know?”

“A regent who doesn’t know where the vampire hunters are in her city is a very poor leader,” Faust had leaned against the door. The eyes of those around the room glanced between Faust and Serena. The human girl was dead, and the courtiers were watching our exchange quietly.

“As much as I would like to have the Brotherhood eradicated I’d like it even better if they killed you instead. Tell me why you seek them?” I doubt Serena saw me as a threat to her throne, more like a thorn in her side. Faust on the other hand, you could never know. If he wanted, he could become Regent or Czar or Prince or whatever of the City. I hesitated looking at Faust. Jacqueline had not wanted him to know. He raised a gray brow at me. Faust was mid-thirties in the face but his white hair made him appear older.

“I’ve been asked to collect something from them.”

“The telepath,” Serena stated. If I had kept up with current human/vampire affairs I would have probably known about Elliot Schrader before Jacqueline walked into my study. “They are trying to establish a headquarters in Imperial.” She opened a drawer and removed a pen and a piece of paper. “This is the address.” She held it out to me. I had to walk past the courtiers who had grown bored and were now back to smoking and mixing blood with alcohols. “Get out.” She whispered. I had no desire to stay.

“We need to talk,” Faust stated as I walked past him. He apparently still had business with Serena. I didn’t acknowledge that I heard him. He knew I had.

I drove home. Vladimir met me at the door. He seemed obviously unhappy about something. His limited skills in communication drove us both nearly insane. He kept walking in front of me as I tried to enter my apartment.

“What?!” I finally snapped at him.

“He says the walls understand him better than you do,” spoke an accentless feminine voice. I jerked my own pistol from its holster in the small of my back. A woman stood in the doorway. I heard the audible sigh from Vladimir at my feet. My heart tried to beat, and I blinked in surprise at her loveliness.

“Who are you?” She wasn’t vampire and she wasn’t human.

“Chalarty,” she replied. Her long blonde hair was loose around her shoulders. She was dressed casually in a white blouse and denim jeans, but barefoot.

“What do you want?” I asked of her. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.

“I’m your friend, Dante,” she whispered. I could sense the trickery in her voice and yet I couldn’t help myself. My gun lowered but I did not holster it.

“What are you?”

“If there are demons, then there must be angels,” she replied. I found myself chuckling but stopped at the look she threw my way.

“You’re an angel?” I jerked the gun back up. No matter how striking her beauty was upon me, I could not trust her.

“You will be betrayed by someone you dearly trust. Be careful.” To see someone just disappear in a blink makes you wonder if they had been there at all. I walked to the fridge and pulled out a bag of blood. They were expired and not fit for human use but for me they were perfect. I pulled the stopper off with my teeth and emptied the bag into my mouth. Drinking blood didn’t just satisfy the thirst for a little while, it was euphoric. The closest a vampire got to an orgasm. I felt warmth fill me, even though the blood was cold, and I breathed heavily with inner pleasure as I closed my eyes.

“You are still drinking that swill?” Faust said from my open door and Vladimir growled before leaving the room. I glared at him. “You would drink the bare minimum of blood to survive. Never had enough to use for anything else other unliving. I always thought you were too afraid of hurting the humans.” His observation was not entirely accurate. I wasn’t afraid of hurting humans. I loved them so much it hurt me to kill the innocent for my own survival.

“What do you want, Faust?” I snapped at him. I realized my foul mood started somewhere with Carmichael was still rampaging. The blood should have calmed me.

“Kill Elliot Schrader, don’t rescue him.” I threw the pouch away. The blood was cold, it would’ve tasted better at 98.6 degrees but any heat applied would cook the blood and that was worse than it being 38 degrees. I still felt a flush in my pale cheeks and a sense of strength flow through my limbs.

“Jacqueline wants him and you weren’t supposed to know,” I responded, leaning on the counter. My apartment had a fully functioning kitchen, but I only used the refrigerator. I dug in my pockets for my cigarettes and the old lighter. Like a cigarette after sex, I needed one after feeding.

“Elliot will be trouble. Kill him. It will save you and the rest of us a lot of grief.” Faust closed the distance between us. I thought of Chalarty’s warning. I didn’t live this long by trusting everyone I met, but she had used the word ‘dearly.’ The list of people I trusted was small; the list I trusted ‘dearly’ was maybe three names.

“I can’t. I’ll deliver him to Jacqueline.” As distrustful as a vampire has to be I was still a man of my word. I blew smoke at him, hoping he’d back away. He knew he was intimidating.

“Childe,” he began softly. I had known Faust all my vampire unlife. He was a bastard but he had his reasons. “Elliot is dangerous in the hands of the Brotherhood. He’d be deadly in vampire hands. You have to kill him.”

“Alright.” I lied.

Imperial was south of the City. It was an unincorporated township. I figured that if the Brotherhood wanted to make an HQ they would’ve put it closer to the city limits or inside the City itself. Not that the City was teeming with vampires, it had a slightly larger population than it could safely handle, but half of the vampires lived and fed in the surrounding county. The Brotherhood’s location was outside the county. It was borderline rural.

I sat in a parking lot across the street from the building that was supposed to be where the Brotherhood had set up shop. I had no clue if Serena’s information was valid, and not a single idea on how I was even gonna infiltrate the Brotherhood themselves. I just wanted to observe them for a while but my thoughts kept going back to Chalarty’s warning and to the mysterious woman herself. I doubted she was an angel. Vampires don’t even get along well with demons and we’re supposed to be from the same stock. I glanced back at the building.

It looked like an abandoned warehouse. There was a loading dock, some rusted out trailers, boarded up windows and litter. I noticed that the door looked unusually strong and probably reinforced. Hunter vision was no help, I couldn’t make out body heat behind walls, I did make out the surveillance cameras strategically placed and the fact the warehouse itself was warm. I had been in the car for nearly two hours watching the warehouse. The Brotherhood were tricky, for all I knew they were watching me too.

This was not my first time running into the Brotherhood. I had reasons to hate them as much as any vampire. They had taken a wife from me, and had nearly killed me more than once. I was normally running and hiding from them, it nearly gave me butterflies to go and attack them. After arguing with myself I decided to get my ass out of the car and get this over with. I opened the trunk. Mounted on the lid was a gun rack, I pulled down the pump action Winchester 12. It had been with me since World War 1. Keeping an eye on the warehouse I loaded the shells while spending blood to use Subterfuge. Cocking the shotgun with one hand I closed the trunk with the other.

Vampires did not have a reflection but we appeared nicely on video. Even with Subterfuge I would still be on tape. The Challenger’s engine was roaring. With a shove it fell forward off the jack and shot across the street. I had tied the steering wheel and wedged a brick on the gas pedal. As the Challenger was crashing into the front door of the warehouse I had leaped across the street, then upwards onto the roof. Through a dirty skylight I saw Challenger crash into a roof support and die. Flashes and the sound of gun shots meant the hunters had spotted my ruse and were attacking the car. I smashed down through the skylight and shot the occupied hunters. I landed on the roof of the Challenger, crushing it.

There were six hunters, I had managed to kill two, but the others had taken cover. I tossed the shotgun aside pulled out my matched Les Baer 1911 Custom pistols. They were most likely using silver bullets but unless one hit me in the heart they’d just be painful and I’d be full of scars. I spent the blood in my system for speed, leaping across the room, killing another hunter. I felt a bullet pass through my side. Something wasn’t right; I barely registered it as something puncturing my skin. I stood to shoot another hunter; I felt the bullets tear into my shoulder. The bullets weren’t silver. I ran across the room, killing one more but took three rounds to the chest.

Pain cracked through my skull. It was as close as I’d get to surviving a silver bullet ripping through my brain. Only I hadn’t been shot. My vision began to swim and blinking to blackness. I felt sick in my stomach. My knees couldn’t hold me and I fell down. I dropped my pistols to grab my head. My head throbbed as the pain subsided. I could feel wetness on my neck; my ears were bleeding. Pain snapped through my brain again. It felt like a sledgehammer blow. My vision was receding and not coming back. I spent more blood to ease the pain. I picked up one of the Les Baers and fired. The pain made spots fly in front of my eyes and I could barely see but what I had seen was three people standing in front of me. One had been bringing a sword down about where my neck had been. I wanted a cigarette desperately and before darkness overwhelmed me, I realized I was out of blood. The man with the sword fell backwards, dropping the sword and grabbing his neck.

Waking from a bloodlust is never pretty. For starters you always wake up on the floor, or in one case I did wake up at the bottom of a lake. Then you notice blood everywhere, it’s in your clothes, hair, on your face, the floor and depending on location, on the walls, and even ceiling. I’ve seen several vampires bloodlust; you attack like a zombie wanting brains. Somewhere near you, most likely in pieces is your victim or victims in this instance. I had managed to attack and dismember two adult males. It’s amazing I actually succeeded in drinking any blood, since it looked like two and a half gallons were all over me, the floor, my destroyed Challenger and oddly a man curled on the floor. I retrieved my pistols from the floor and holstered them.

He was tanned, shirtless, and barefoot and was wearing some type of black leather hood. Hooks from the hood were embedded into the flesh of his chest, shoulders and back. Dried blood was all over him, but not from my bloodlust. The hood had no opening for the eyes or ears and a bit was across the mouth. I felt pity for this poor creature to be no more than a tool at the hands of the Brotherhood. I wanted to remove the hood at the same time I realized I needed to get out here as soon as possible before more Brotherhood showed up.

“Hey, I’m here to help,” I said softly reaching out to touch the man on the arm. He jerked from my contact. “Shit. You don’t understand a word I’m saying.” I picked him up and tossed him over my shoulder. To my vampire strength he weighed little and he needed a bath.

By stealing an old Oldsmobile Cutlass I managed to get Elliot Schrader to my apartment. He flinched every time I touched him, even when I took my long coat off and put it on him. Now I had him sitting in a chair in my much unused kitchen while I attempted to undo the hooks from his flesh. After the last one came loose the hood fell off him. Elliot blinked up at me, licking his chapped lips. His blonde hair was longer than in the photo and he had a beard.

“I’m Dante Seraphim,” I said to him in my kindest voice.

“You’re the Closed Mind,” his voice cracked. I poured him a glass of water from the tap, and sat down across from him, lighting a cigarette. He looked hungrily at my pack of Marlboros. I offered them to him. He accepted one, I tossed him my lighter. He clumsily caught it. Schrader was very thin, looked sickly and starved.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Your mind has been closed to me. It’s been closed to all telepathy,” he took a drag from the cigarette, coughed, drank some water and took another drag.

“I’ve been told I’m immune-“

“You’re not immune, you’re just closed off,” he interrupted me. I looked at him a moment. “Someone made you immune. I can sense what could be best described as barricades in your mind. You don’t even know they are there.”

“Can you remove them?” I was eager. Vampires can speak to one another over great distances by telepathy, something I had never been able to participate in. Or being able to simply read the thoughts of those around me.

“It’s the least I can do to thank you for saving me from…” He trailed off, “Give me your hand. It helps to have contact.” I put my cigarette in my mouth and held my hand out. As soon as he touched me I felt pain, not as bad as it had been in the warehouse, but still my head felt like it was on fire. It took everything I had not to jerk away. Elliot had closed his blue eyes and had an expression of extreme concentration. My pain began to subside suddenly I began to hear whispers. It was like standing in a room full of people and they were all whispering, then as the last of the pain went away the voices had gone from whispers to loud talking. My head began to ache in another way.

Oh my God, what have I done? I heard Elliot’s voice but did not see his lips move. There was sensation of a balloon popping in my head. The last thing I remember seeing was everything around me explode away to the edge of the room. Elliot had been flung against my fridge and Faust ran into the room as I burst through the window.

I remember nothing between the moments Elliot freed my mind and Faust imprisoned it. Faust told me what had happened and what I had done. I had Faust to thank for making me immune to telepathy and at the same time unable to utilize it. My mind was like a child; it played with things, broke them and tossed them aside. This included humans and everything else I came in contact with. The voices I had heard were the thoughts of everyone in my building and those in the surrounding buildings. As I had moved down the street I had levitated, and things took themselves apart, rearranged, and reassembled. I had stopped people’s hearts, exploded their brains or make them do silly impersonations.

Faust had tackled me and I nearly ripped his skin from his face. I had pulled his hair out, broke his fangs as he sank his teeth into my skin. He had drunk from me, until I had no more blood. I blood lusted again, and he had staked me. He carried me back to my apartment and with Elliot’s combined help, restored the barricades Faust had originally put in my mind.

Being staked was more annoying than anything. When the stake is removed you instantly inhale. You open your eyes and take a swipe at whatever just pulled the stake out. Never once had I awoke happy that someone had done me a favor by pulling out the stake. Faust had been ready. He yanked out the stake with one hand and caught my oncoming blow with the other. He handed me a bottle from the table. I pulled the cork out with my teeth and drank like a man deprived of water. I spent the blood to mend the gaping hole in my chest.

“What the hell happened?” I asked, panting. Faust explained.

“It was your naïveté that caught my attention so many years ago, Dante. You’ve grown wiser in some ways but you’re still as childish as before in others,” Faust spoke as he looked at my smashed window. His normally impeccable attire was in shreds. Elliot was sitting in a chair, massaging his temples with one hand, and holding a towel to his nose with the other. I got down from the table I’d been laying on. My kitchen was trashed. Anything glass or ceramic was shattered. A dent was in my fridge from where Elliot had hit it. I didn’t see Vladimir anywhere.

“Not that you ever told me I was the strongest telepath in the world,” I snapped back at him. I began to search from my cigarettes; Elliot offered my pack and lighter. He was wearing my long coat again.

“What would you have if I told you? Disbelief? Beg me to free you?” Faust asked as I lit up and inhaled. “When I embraced you, you killed an entire company of men, by stopping their hearts by thought alone.”

“You’re incredibly dangerous. I had no idea,” Elliot said through the towel. Even combined with Faust’s mental powers Elliot’s own had been taxed greatly causing his ears and nose to bleed. I finished the bottle and the hole in my chest was gone. I tore the bloody and ripped shirt from my chest and dropped it into the trash along with the bottle.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done, but I do know I’m taking a shower.” I walked past Faust who had not turned from looking out my ruined window. “Thank you.” He glanced at me a moment then shoved me aside. Two figures burst in through the window making the hole larger. A third fluttered in behind them. I recognized Carmichael, Jackson and Jacqueline, and envied them for their levitation. Carmichael and Jackson each held a semi-automatic pistol aimed at Faust and I. Jacqueline held a small two shot derringer.

“My bullets are silver,” Jacqueline stated. Faust and I didn’t move. “We’re taking the telepath.”

“The telepath has a name,” Elliot shot back.

“Why the goons, Jacqueline?” I asked, “I would have given him to you.” Elliot turned to look at me.

“I told you I didn’t want Marcus to know,” Jacqueline replied.

“You’re afraid I would kill him? I had every opportunity to do it while Dante was indisposed,” Faust said. “I didn’t.” Elliot clutched his head as I noticed Jacqueline and Faust were having a silent conversation.

“Elliot stop them,” I shouted at him.

“I can’t! Not without the mask,” his voice was strained. His nose had begun to bleed again. His blonde beard was pink with blood. I took a risk.

I’ve said before as a vampire gets older they become more powerful. I sent two ‘force bubbles’ at Jackson and Carmichael. They moved with speed a human eye cannot see. To Elliot, if he’d had his eyes open instead of clenched shut in pain, he’d have only noticed I moved my hands and Jackson and Carmichael were knocked backwards. Pain exploded in my stomach. I clutched my abdomen in surprise as blood oozed from the hole. My knees became weak as excruciating pain shot outwards to all my limbs.

“I have one more bullet, Marcus, I can kill only one of you.” I fell to my knees, gulping for air as the two goons stood from the rubble that was once a kitchen wall. Faust had tried to catch me. “Or you can let me leave with Elliot.” I had a grip on the remains of his sleeve. I tried to spend blood to alleviate the pain, but I had used most of it to heal myself from the staking.

“I’ll come after you,” Faust said through clenched teeth. One of her thugs clubbed Elliot on the back of the head, and grabbed his collapsing form.

“I’m sorry gentlemen that it had to be this way,” Jacqueline whispered and fluttered back out the window.

After Faust dug a silver bullet from my gut with a dagger, we were in his silver Bentley hurtling down the streets of downtown. I was downing my second bottle of Faust’s private blood supply. It was human; he would never stoop to drinking animal unless it was all that was available to sustain him. His blood was bottled from young virgins. In my professional vampirical opinion the only difference in taste in human blood was male or female. Virgin or prostitute made no difference.

“How do you know where she is?” I asked him. I had a nice round scar on my stomach where Jacqueline had shot me.

“She told me,” he stated and slammed the car into a parking spot in front of Serena’s club. The sun was coming up. I was beginning to feel irritated. I checked the clips in my Les Baers. I hadn’t grabbed a shirt, just the guns. Faust pulled a sword from the trunk of the Bentley. He thought guns were uncivilized but like all his views he’d turn hypocrite to save his own life. Faust tucked a .44 Magnum into his belt. He wouldn’t even need the bullets to be silver, the gun would blow a vampire’s head clean off.

“When?” I asked as we walked to the doors. The line of people to get in was gone, only trash floated about the sidewalk. The sky was beginning to get golden in the east.

“Before she shot you.”

“She could have told me.”

“She didn’t want Carmichael and Jackson to know, and you’re immune to telepathy.” Faust kicked the doors in with such force that one completely separated from its hinges. The house lights were on in the club and two or three people were cleaning up from the mess of all the partying. They were humans and had jumped in fear at Faust’s entrance.

“Get out,” I shouted at them. They dropped everything and scurried past us to the outside. Once again we mounted the spiral stair to Serena’s upper chambers. Faust burst through this previously damaged door but the room was empty. Faust’s eyes seemed to glaze over slightly. He ripped back the large rug in the middle of the room. A trap door was under it. He removed this door from its hinges. I don’t think Faust liked doors. He didn’t even bother with the ladder and dropped down into the darkness.

Under the club was where Serena truly held court. The room was reminiscent of a catacomb. The walls were stone and skulls, torches gave off faint yellow light. Another throne, this one assembled of bone and marble threaded with red roses. Her courtiers were passed out around the room in day sleep. Serena herself was draped in the throne in a red silk robe, a pentacle dangling between her breasts. At three hundred Serena should have been passed out with them. Jacqueline was in a heap at Serena’s feet. I wasn’t sure if she was dead, day sleeping or in a coma. I didn’t see Elliot anywhere.

“What have you done?” I asked, both my Les Baers pointed at her. She slowly looked at me, as if she was drunk.

“Oh, Jacqueline’s white and dark knights have arrived,” she gave a high pitched giggle.

“Give me one reason not to kill you,” Faust’s voice was quiet with barely restrained anger.

“There is someone who wants to meet you!” Serena rose from her throne and the scent of brimstone burned my nose.

“My little brothers,” whispered a voice made of snake hisses and roach scurries but sounded familiar. The tapestries on the walls began to flutter, the torches flickered, and my own black hair began to move in an unfelt wind.

“Serena what have you done?” I demanded.

“My little witch has done everything I have asked of her,” spoke the voice as Elliot stepped from the darkness. He reached a hand to stroke Serena’s cheek. She quivered under his touch.

“Elliot?” He looked different. The blonde hair was now as white as Faust’s, the beard was gone. His skin looked bluish gray like a corpse. Elliot’s eyes were solid red, only a black dot for the pupil. I took note of the white even teeth, and the fangs on his lower jaw. Fresh puncture marks were in his neck.

“I am Xerxes, your Lord & Master,” he replied in the same creepy crawly thing of the earth voice. A forked tongue flickered out of his mouth. “Drink and serve me. I shall make you all powerful.” I heard the seduction in his voice and it wasn’t until Faust had put his hand on my shoulder did I realized I had lowered my guns and took a step towards him.

“He’s a demon, Dante,” Faust whispered as he gripped my shoulder. He had lowered his own sword.

“Of all people I would expect you to take me up on my offer, Marcus Decimus Faustus. Power is what you desire most of all.”

“I do desire power but not at the cost of my free will,” Faust replied. He rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. He hefted the sword back up. “You’re going back to hell demon!” Serena leaped across and intercepted Faust before he could bring impale Xerxes. She moved with a speed not equal to her age. Faust pulled out his pistol with his own vampiric speed and I swore she was faster. Serena knocked the gun aside; it blew a massive chunk out of her throne.

“Come Asvald Leifsson,” he called me by my Norse name. He was using seduction again but I glanced at the still form of Jacqueline on the floor and Faust fighting with Serena and seemed to be losing. “Look at her strength.” Xerxes indicated Serena who had pinned Faust. “At only 300 she’s more powerful than a vampire five times her age. Serena reared up like a lion roaring over a fresh kill. I shot her. He head snapped back and she fell on Faust who shoved her aside.

“My name is Dante Seraphim, and I say no.” I unloaded both pistols into Xerxes’ chest. He fell backwards and the shadows caught him to lay him down slowly to the floor. He didn’t bleed but black dust dribbled from the holes in his chest. He was smiling and coughed a black cloud from his mouth.

“This isn’t over,” Xerxes spat.

“Dante!” Faust tossed his sword up and I cleaved the head from the chest. It exploded into black dust and disappeared in the same unseen wind that had fluttered when Xerxes had arrived. Faust picked up Jacqueline as I rolled Serena over. The silver slug had passed through her eye and out the back of her head. She’d live, take a while to repair, except the eye and some memories. Silver damage was always repaired with scar tissue. We left her there with the day sleeping bodies of her courtiers. I was certain Serena’s reign as Regent ended that morning.

What began as my memoirs became my first case. We have a Czar of the City now, Nicolai Ginovaeff. Serena summoned Xerxes from hell. He gave her power beyond her age as she scoured the world for a perfect body for him to possess. The combination of her witchcraft, vampirism and demonic increased powers had allowed Serena to absorb Jacqueline’s essence. It hadn’t been Jacqueline who’d come to me to ask to retrieve Elliot but Serena. It wasn’t Jacqueline who had kidnapped Elliot from me either. Xerxes had chosen Elliot’s body for his mental powers. Only there was a setback. Vampirism changes people, and every person is different. When I was human, I didn’t have a lick of telepathy or telekinesis. I was a blood thirsty Viking. Vampirism made me the strongest telepath ever, past and present. It did the opposite to Elliot. Vampirism cut off all his mental powers. Xerxes should have been able to control our minds the moment we entered the nightclub if vampirism hadn’t closed Elliot’s mind.

Faust and Jacqueline have returned to their existences. Jacqueline lusts to live and Faust lives to lust. Despite his efforts Vladimir is becoming more cat-like every day. He brought a mouse home, drained of blood of course. I caught him batting the curtains and begging to be petted. He’ll catch himself and run off ashamed.

Word got out among the preternatural community, the City has more than just vampires, and slowly people/creatures began to show up at my door asking for help.