"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Predator (Short Story)

"By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes" 
                                                                             --William Shakespeare

Sarah Vaughan crooned softly from the radio on the other side of the room. She could never remember that songwriter's name, but since the first time she heard that song, she knew he was right. Perhaps if everyone had "Just a little lovin'/Early in the morning," the world would really be a better place. She chuckled to herself as that thought crossed her mind. The affairs of the world had not concerned her since the north won the civil war.

She stood before the mirror and used his comb to adjust her flaming red hair, not an easy task since it reached her waist. She touched up her lipstick and picked at her eyelashes to make sure that they were perfectly separated. Perhaps she had not yet lost all of her humanity; she was still as vain as she had always been. She seldom left the house until her makeup was just so. She adjusted the collar on the silk pirate shirt that she had liberated from his closet. She laughed again as she realized he would never miss it. "This shirt looks better on me that it ever could have looked on his over-muscled physique anyhow." Men. . .no matter how long she walked the earth, she would never understand their need to bulk up to hideous proportions. Who needed Mr. Universe? She'd rather have Albert Einstein any day. At least he could hold an intelligent conversation. She couldn't have treated Einstein the way she had just treated Jack. At least, she thought his name was Jack. She was never very good with their names. After so many years, they seemed the same to her; their names no longer mattered. It had been a long time since one of her marks meant more to her than just a "late night snack."

She met Jack, we may as well call him Jack, at J. J. Foley's, a little dive on Kingston Street. It was a little hole in the wall that she visited on occasion right next to the mission. A beautiful mahogany bar took up half of the front room; six or eight tables lined the opposite wall. There was seating for about fifty or so in the rear room. Foley's could be considered a cute little Irish pub, a typical part of the Boston landscape. It was a favorite haunt of people who worked in the Downtown Crossing area, especially the employees of the two major downtown department stores. Foley's was one of those places that was so well hidden even natives passed right by it. Of course, most of them were smart enough to stay away from Kingston Street at night.

She walked in, sat down at the bar, and ordered her usual, Guinness. She stared into the glass of mud-colored liquid and at the thin layer of foam that floated on top and she longed for the taste of a good Irish stout. One of the few things that she missed from her former life was the flavor of a good beer. Unfortunately, there was only one way for her to experience the sensation of draining that glass of Guinness: she had to find a conductor.

"Don't you feel as though you can almost see your soul in its murky depths?" She came out of her reverie to face a man whom many women would say was perfect. He stood just over six feet tall, dark with short, black, curly hair, charcoal eyes, and the frame of a professional bodybuilder.

"Pardon me?" she snarled.

"Your beer, Guinness, right?"

"Yes, but did you want something?" she was becoming annoyed.

He pulled a barstool under his massive frame without actually sitting. "Let me try this again. My name's Jack. I'm a freelance architect. I'm visiting Boston for inspiration. And I love Irish beer." He held out his hand for her to shake as he spoke, his voice rumbling from deep in his chest.

She reacted the way his obviously overblown ego expected her to: as if she was completely enthralled by every word that came out of his mouth. She delicately accepted his hand to shake. "My name is Juliana; I reside in Boston; and I love men who love Irish beer." The last was more an invitation rather than a statement.

He chuckled. His laugh was a low purr emanating from his throat. His neck was thick and muscular. She could see the lifeline, his jugular, that glorious blue vein that beckoned her. She longed to sink her teeth into it, to feel his life force flooding into her. She read his thoughts. They were like a trashy novel. He wanted her as much as she wanted him.

"Are you trying to pick me up?" He asked coyly.

"Yes I am, but remember, you're the one who began this conversation."

Patrick, the bartender, arrived and drew another draft for her companion. "Jewel." He said in the brogue that belied Dublin as his first home, "How the hell are ya?"

"Patrick, Darling, I'm very well. I've missed you. How are your wife and kids?" She had known Patrick Callahan his entire life. Her grandmother had an affair with one of his ancestors. The rumor was that her mother was the illegitimate child of that union, but nobody in the family was certain of the truth. Regardless, she had always considered the Callahans a part of her own family. The true Irish community, be it in Boston, New York, or anywhere else in the States, was good to her kind. Patrick was no exception to this rule. The Irish had always been an immensely superstitious people and they would befriend such outcasts while still giving them a wide berth. She would not harm an Irishman unless he gave her adequate reason to do so.

"The children are great, and Mary Margaret is doing very well. My oldest, Patrick Jr., starts at B. C. in the fall." Patrick's mind told her another story. Over the years, he had learned how to speak to Juliana without actually talking. She concentrated on his thoughts rather than on the polite conversation they exchanged: "He's a loner from out of town, no friends, no family, been here two weeks, rented an apartment near Kendall Square. He says he's a freelance architect and just visiting. He doesn't have anyone who'll be looking for him."

She pulled an envelope from her inner jacket pocket, handed it to Patrick, and told him to use it for Patrick Jr.'s college fund. The conversation between their minds continued: "How much has he had to drink?"

"Two pints, Guinness."

"Keep the glass full; I'm dying for a drink."

Patrick thanked her for the money, said he wished he could have made her Junior's Godmother, and left to tend to other patrons.

"So Jack, would I recognize your work?"

"Maybe. I contract all over the world. I've worked in Paris and Madrid. You know the standards in Europe. . ." She kept the conversation going until Jack had had three more pints of beer, then she offered him a ride home.

He squeezed his huge body into the passenger seat of her Corvette. She laughed at the picture of him practically folded in half in the car. The 'Vette suited her five-foot six-inch frame just fine. She knew it was silly to live in the Back Bay and own an automobile, but she fell in love with her car the first time she saw it. She had to maintain her image, and what bad girl could resist a black, 1965, five speed, Corvette Stingray with a T-top and a stereo that could blow out your ear drums? After all, she was the only bloodsucker in Boston who drove, so she had better be driving the right car. She seldom worried about Boston's infamous traffic; she was never on the road during rush hour anyway. As a matter of fact, she never encountered any traffic at all. Who was stupid enough to get in her way?

"Buckle up." She warned as she turned the key and the engine roared to life. She took off like a shot, navigating the extremely narrow downtown streets as any true Bostonian does. She thought Bostonians were the best drivers in the country even though they had the worst reputation. Sure, they drove like maniacs, but they hardly ever hit anyone. They cruised through the practically deserted city streets toward Cambridge with the Dead Kennedys screaming from the tape deck. Jello Biafra's voice whined about some social catastrophe or other while she scared the shit out of Jack with her driving.

"Would you mind if I turned down the stereo?" Jack thought he had to shout for her to hear what he was saying. Actually, all he had to do was think about what he wanted to say. She turned down the volume; she had forgotten how sensitive some humans' ears could be. After she downshifted to stop at a light, she patted the hand that Jack had planted on her thigh. "Typical man," she thought to herself. Her mouth watered. Her hunger became stronger as she drove. She couldn't wait to taste him.

The car rolled to a stop in front of a three-story townhouse (circa 1980) typical of the extremes of the city of Cambridge. All of Boston's suburbs were now an odd mix of architecture. She supposed this was true for most cities in New England, but the contrast was most noticeable in suburban Boston. Only there would you find a 1950's ranch style home nestled between two monstrous turn of the century Victorians which sit across the street from a four-story apartment building that was built in the 1970's. The quirks of this Metropolis constantly surprised her.

As she got out of the car, she felt something, a presence perhaps. She felt as though something or someone was watching her. She scanned the narrow street, but saw nothing but the typical landscape along the row of homes that were obviously built in one development. Jack unlocked and opened the door. He stepped aside and motioned for her to take the lead.

They entered the house holding hands. As soon as the door closed behind them, that "watched" feeling was gone. The modern interior surprised her. The house was so quaint from the outside that she'd expected to find a simple, basic home. The living room's far wall stretched all the way to the third floor. Stairs to her right led to a second floor loft with a railing instead of a wall so she could see a makeshift office. Glass doors opened from the second and third floors to reveal other rooms. She couldn't see what they were from her vantage point, but she assumed at least one of them was a bedroom.

She felt Jack's arm slip around her waist. "I said, 'would you like a drink?'"

She broke from her reverie and realized that his face was only inches from her own. She slid her hands upward from his waist to his chest, and then around his neck. She smiled softly and asked, "Do you have any bourbon?"

He pulled their bodies tight together. He wrapped her up in those huge arms and growled deep in his throat as he kissed her. Her heart raced with his. She could feel the pulse in his lips. All of her senses were heightened. She had to make sure to keep her animal instincts at bay, to keep her self control. She wanted to take him then and there, but she reminded herself that the pleasure would be worth every second that she waited. He released her from his embrace and crossed the room to a well-stocked wet bar just outside a tiny kitchen. He cracked open a new bottle of Jim Beam and filled two rocks glasses. She arranged herself on the sofa as he returned and handed one to her.

"Here's to the finest Kentucky has to offer." He touched his glass to hers then drank its contents in one swallow.

She knew he was almost ready for her. She just had to wait a few minutes for his blood to absorb the alcohol before she made her move. She set her glass down on the coffee table. He leaned over and took her in his arms again. His kiss was more demanding this time. She could taste just a hint of the bourbon on his tongue. His hands roamed over her body. He touched every inch of her through her clothing before he began to unbutton her blouse. He was able to get to the third button by the time she caught his hands and asked softly, "Where's the bedroom?"

He stood, still holding her hands, and pulled her up to meet him. He kissed her again, then began to walk backwards as he pulled her along. He led her up the first flight of stairs to the second floor bedroom. He turned on the table lamp next to his king-sized bed. She was sickened as her eyes drifted over the furnishings. All of the furniture was finished in black lacquer and chrome; the bed was dressed in animal print linens; and she suspected that she would find black satin sheets under the faux leopard bedspread.

The more time she spent with this man, the more she loathed him. She supposed it was the same with all of her targets, her "victims." She always chose men because men were easier to seduce than women. Men's egos were larger and they were more likely to accept the proposition of a one-night stand. Women, even the women whom she might pick up, were more guarded than men. It was easier to get into a man's home, whether under the guise of friendship or a "harmless" fling. Men were so convinced that they could defend themselves in almost any situation, but if you got them aroused, they were virtually defenseless. They stopped thinking with their brains, especially men like Jack.

He grabbed her again; now he was being a little rough. She liked it when they played rough because they never saw her coming. He ripped her shirt off. Before he could get any further, she threw him down on the bed and climbed on top of him. She pinned his arms above his head and kissed him. She bit his bottom lip just hard enough to really turn him on and to break the soft flesh of his mouth. She tasted his blood on her lips. It was mixed with the sweet flavor of bourbon and the rich taste of the beer that he'd been drinking all evening. She couldn't wait any longer; she had to have him. She kissed the tip of his chin and ran her tongue along his jaw line until she reached the pulse point on his neck. His smell was so strong; expensive cologne, man, and blood scents almost drove her into a frenzy, but she remained calm. She sank her canines into his flesh. She drew that sweet liquid from his veins until he was almost empty. She could read his thoughts as life deserted him. He had never seen it coming. He never suspected that she might be dangerous, let alone a vampire. He felt surprise and then nothing; he was gone. She pulled away, rolled onto her back, closed her eyes, and reveled in the sensation that the alcohol carried to her brain. She hadn't had a drink in months which made the moment even more special. The ecstasy she felt was overwhelming.

When the "afterglow" finally passed, she opened the closet door to find a replacement for her torn blouse. The closet was filled with workout clothes: running shoes, sweat pants, and t-shirts. After a little rummaging, she found a couple of silk shirts. One of them was a pirate style with laces up the front and full, gathered sleeves. "Well, Jack, maybe there was a little more depth to your character than I thought. I guess it's just too late for me to find out. . .pity."

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