Blood and Chocolate
Chapter Four: Blood and Chocolate
Swearing in front of the kid had been a bad idea.
Anita swallowed a frustrated growl and turned away from the closed office door. She cast her eyes over the empty club, watching as the dancers began to pull chairs from tables in order to get ready for tonight. More than once she saw a few of them look her way, a disappointed expression flash across their face, before they averted their eyes. She hated that, mostly because every time it happened, she felt a twinge of shame shoot up her spine.
She had not handled the situation well. In her defense, what little one could be made, her day up to this point had been bad. She had done four risings the night before and had only gotten two hours of sleep before Zebrowski called her. Double homicide, just outside the Blood District, and she was needed at the scene. She hadn’t wanted to go, because she knew what headache was waiting for her there. But she had responsibilities she couldn’t just ignore. So she slapped on some makeup, pulled on some fresh clothes, and downed three cups of coffee on the drive down to the scene.
It had been nasty, and not what she had been expecting. She thought of only human victims as she drove through the streets. She wasn’t prepared for two dead were-hyenas, and Dolph’s nasty suggestion that they might have been part of her harem. It had taken a lot to ignore him, because she was already thinking of the hell that awaited her when she had to explain to Narcissus that two of his had been murdered.
The bodies hadn’t told her much, other than the murderer (or murderers, whatever the case might be) had some serious issues. The knives stuck right through their Adam’s Apple were the cause of death, but the mutilation of the bodies spoke volumes about the killer. It was rare to see a were disemboweled, mainly due to their healing abilities and sheer strength. But whoever had done the deed had done their homework. Whether it was done before or after the throat attack, the killer knew what to do. The torso had been cleaved in half, both sides pulled away from the body and held in place by silver daggers that pinned the flesh to the grass. The insides were yanked out and strewn across the legs and groin area, but even from a quick glance she could tell that not everything was there. There simply weren't enough insides to make up a complete person. The autopsy report would let her know exactly what was taken, but it wouldn’t answer why.
So, with that crappy start to the day, Anita had been less than happy to get a frantic call from Stephen about an intruder at Guilty Pleasures. It was well into the afternoon, just before the sun would set. From the crime scene she had gone down to the police station, traded theories and concerns with Zebrowski, and fought uselessly with Dolph. She had just pulled out of the station, relieved to be out of the place and thinking about heading home for some rest, when her phone rang. She was pissy when she answered and even worse by the time she hung up. Driving back towards the Blood District, she had opened the marks between herself and Jean-Claude to discuss the situation with him. Since he was stuck at the Circus for at least a half hour longer, Anita would have to take point on this one. She shouldn’t have been as angry about that as she was, but she chalked it up to lack of sleep and frustration from fighting with Dolph. The more she thought about him, the worse her mood got. By the time she was walking through the doors of the club, her mood was as dark as the approaching night. She stomped in and said the first thing that popped into her head.
And that was how she ending up swearing in front of the kid and scaring the girl half to death. Anita had felt the girl’s fear before she had entered the building, so strong was it, but it was nothing compared to what happened when they were in the same room. Gregory could shrug and blame her sudden entrance for the rise in pure, unadulterated fear that rose up in the kid, but they both knew it was crap. The kid had sensed Anita before they had even laid eyes on each other, and whatever she had sensed had horrified her.
To be honest, it stung a lot more than she had anticipated. She was used to having people look down at her or be angry with her because of the way she lived her life. But usually she didn’t care because she was happy with the way things were (mostly) and she just brushed off their words because they were ignorant. But there was no way anyone could claim the girl was scared of Anita because of her lifestyle. The kid hadn’t even looked Anita’s way before she freaked out, which showed that she couldn’t have possibly recognized Anita from any paper or tabloid, if a little kid was even allowed to look at that trash. Anita’s very presence had unsettled the girl. The kid had reacted as if the Devil himself had walked into the club and demanded the right to grind on her bones.
Shutting the kid away in the office had been the only way to calm her down. Apparently not being in the same room as Anita had quite the calming effect on the kid, but the knowledge that Anita remained right outside the door did nothing to gain her peace of mind. If she was being honest with herself, Anita would admit that the girl’s reaction had hurt her in ways she didn’t know she could be hurt. Was she really so bad, so evil, that a little girl would much rather be in the presence of a vampire than even consider being in the same room as her?
Jean-Claude had tried to be comforting when he appeared, but there wasn’t anything that he could say that would make it better. She had just waved him onto the office, wanting to solve this new mystery quickly. The sooner the girl was sent home, the sooner Anita could get around to repressing the hurt their encounter had caused. But Jean-Claude had only been in there for a few minutes before everything went to hell.
The sudden burst of power that emanated from behind the closed office door was strong and suffocating. Anita felt something deep inside of her give a sharp tug before disappearing as quickly as it appeared. She put a hand on her stomach and took a deep breath, mind racing with questions. It didn’t take her long to focus on the kid and start thinking some very nasty and suspicious thoughts about the girl.
She straightened up, intent on barging into the office and forcing a confession out of the mysterious kid. But in the short time it had taken her to recover from whatever just happened, every were in the club had placed themselves between her and the door. She frowned, noting the way that all had their bodies turned towards her in a defensive crouch, but with their heads bowed down. It was as if they were waiting for orders.
Anita took one step towards the door, and then stopped cold as every were in front of her growled at her. All at once, their heads snapped up and sheer animosity shone from their eyes. Without having to be told, she took a step back and raised her hands in a sign of peace. The growling stopped, but the glares did not. She cast a desperate glance towards the closed door and then shouted for Jean-Claude deep within her own mind.
The reply she got did nothing to set her mind at ease.
Every time the beautiful man spoke, Willow’s fear rose to new, undiscovered heights. His voice wasn’t normal. It glided over her skin, caressing her in ways a child shouldn’t recognize but that the sixteen year old in her knew. It was wrong to speak like that with a child, but he wouldn’t stop. His words kept coming, along with the unwelcome caresses that followed them, battering up against her tiny little form.
It had taken her too long to realize that he was a vampire.
She should have seen it earlier. The paleness of his skin, the odd grace with which he moved, and the sheer weight of his eyes should have alerted her to his status much sooner. But she had been distracted. The mind trick he had done, along with the weird caressing voice thing, all of it just bombarded her mind until she couldn’t think straight. He wanted to know what she did to the violet-eyed stripper, but she wouldn’t answer him. In truth, she couldn’t answer him. And yet, he continued to push at her with his mind tricks and hypno-voice until she jammed her fingers into her ears and tried to think of a way out of this mess.
That was when she figured out what he was. And that was when all hopes of a rational plan flew out the door.
She had faced vampires before, stood beside Buffy and the others when they attacked. But this one was not an ordinary vampire. The tricks that he did, they sounded like the things Giles said the Master could do, but only they were worse. The Master made you scared and helpless to stop him. This guy could get into your head and make you love him. He was stronger than any vampire she had ever seen before, and she didn’t have Buffy here to save her.
Panic overrode her brain circuits and she just couldn’t form a coherent thought. Fear interlaced itself with visions of a bloodstained room, bodies with vacant expressions, and a cartoon pig with a bloody handprint smeared all over its face. She saw these things again and again, rewinding and forwarding through her mind’s eye, until she saw her own little child corpse settled in amongst the other dead bodies.
“You must calm down.”
His voice slithered her away again. She jumped and pushed herself deeper into the corner. Willow screwed her eyes shut, willing all the bad things to go away and only finding that bloody cartoon pig as her answer. How could it smile with all that blood smeared over it? Didn’t it know that death had just ripped through the room and completely destroyed her world? Blood didn’t belong on a cartoon pig, teenagers were not meant to have their lives ripped away from them so senselessly, and she was not meant to die in strip club at the age of eight.
“If you do not calm down, he will attack. And then I will be forced to kill him.”
Willow shook her head, trying to force his words away from her brain. But something tugged inside of her, pulling her just a bit out of the chaos so she could hear what he said.
For the first time when he entered the room, the vampire hadn’t used the slithering voice on her. It was like he had given up on that offensive. Maybe it was just another trick, to get her to let down her guard and then hit her with the full force of it again. But the way he had said the last part, it was almost like he would regret having to carry out his threat.
She knew that he was talking about the violet-eyed stripper. Ever since he had let her go, the violet-eyed stripper had kept his head bowed to her. It was like he was her slave or something. And each time the vampire tried to use his tricks on her and she got scared, the violet-eyed man would growl and inch closer to the vampire. It was like he was preparing to attack the vampire, if only she would give him the word. But Willow was too scared and too confused to say anything, so the violet-eyed stripper was stuck, waiting for her.
“And the others will kill Anita,” the vampire continued, his voice still devoid of tricks. It was like he was asking her to do something, but she wasn’t sure what. She didn’t know what he was talking about, what ‘others’ would kill Anita, and why he thought she could do something about it. But that he expected something of her was implicit.
She dared a peek at the vampire over her shoulder. He was pressed against the opposite wall of the office, hands folded and resting against his stomach as he watched the violet-eyed stripper inch his way closer and closer. He knew she was looking, she knew that he knew, but he didn’t look her way. Instead he unfolded his hands and help them up in the universal sign of surrender.
“Let them go, and I promise we will discuss this without tricks on either side. I’m sorry for having frightened you. But this will not solve a thing. Only bloodshed will come of this.”
Bloodshed. She shivered as she imagined what he meant. She looked down at the violet-eyed stripper and knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance against the vampire. But he was still there, inching forward as if getting ready for a fight that he knew he couldn’t win. She felt, but didn’t understand, that the whole thing was in her hands. One word, and the whole place would erupt and there would be dead bodies everywhere. She could just let them fight it out and slip away into the night, but the thought of the body count made her stomach turn.
Her fear simmered down to a controllable level. The images of AV room floated in front of her eyes for a second, and she saw that stupid cartoon pig again. She couldn’t handle any more dead bodies at the moment and still keep her sanity. She would do just about anything to never have to see another dead body again in her life. And the vampire knew it.
“Let them go,” he said again.
Willow turned halfway around, still not ready to face the vampire full out. Her eyes dropped to the floor and she swiped her sleeve under her noise to get rid of some of the mess there. “I don’t know how.”
The vampire was silent for a moment. “Well, at least tell them to stand down.”
He meant to tell them with her head, not with her mouth. She knew that, but she wasn’t sure it would work. Hell, she still didn’t know what she had done to the violet-eyed stripper, or the ‘others’, or how it worked. But still she tried.
Willow closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She thought about the violet-eyed stripper and saw him in her mind’s eye, inching towards the vampire. And she thought of who the ‘others’ could be and saw a group of the other strippers standing defensively on the other side of the door. They were wound tight with tension from her own fear. She felt each of them in her head and slowly willed them to calm down.
She opened her eyes and already knew it was done. The violet-eyed stripper had retreated from the vampire and was closer to her, but his head with still bowed. She frowned, unsure of how to stop him from doing that. But the vampire interrupted her thoughts before she could get started on that problem.
“Well, now that the unpleasantness is over, perhaps we should discuss who you are and why you are in my club, turning my employees into your own personal shapeshifting army?”
Her head snapped up at that.