“Are you sure about this, Jon?” One of my side men said to me before allowing me to step out of the car a few blocks away from the pounding pulse of the building in front of us. A HUGE mistake on his part!
“What the fuck did I tell you about that shit, Tony? Don’t go filling my head with doubts and shivers, mother fucker! Vampires can READ that shit! You know that!” I growled in response. “Look...Cage needs us to drop off the cash, get the stash...and then we put Lockheart’s plan into action. Period. It’s not that difficult.”
“Walking into an entire underground club full of V’s without protection? That’s not a big deal to you? That doesn’t sound like a problem?” Tony asked.
“Well, we’ve got a choice. You can let me go in and make the deal with Rizzy and complete our ultimate objective with as little bloodshed as possible...or we can go back to Cage and The Jeweler without the goods and deal with them instead.” I said. “At least this way, we’ve got a fighting chance. So man up and quit being a bitch before you start filling my head up with thoughts that I won’t be able to hide from a bloodsucker like this. You’re gonna end up getting ALL of us killed!”
I got myself together, remembering everything that I was taught when it came to hiding my true intentions from the likes of a vampire like Rizzy. But with him being a certified weapons dealer for so many decades in the underground clubs of Chicago, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to hide all of my mission objectives from him at once. And even if I could...it wouldn’t be for very long. Why Cage sent us out here to do this is a mystery to me when he could have just come by himself...but that was just another thought that I was going to have to block out of my thoughts until the transaction had been completed and the back of the truck had been loaded up with the hardware we needed to protect ourselves from the massive threat that was certain to be coming our way in the near future.
There was no use in hiding the fact that we were both human as we approached the entrance. They could always tell. Always. I wasn’t trying to come off as nervous...but I was almost positive that they could tell that too. All of my years being a tough guy on the streets wasn’t going to do me a damn bit of good in this place, and I hated it. Still...this had to be done. So suck it up, Jon...it’s game time.
Even from behind the blackened tint of their sunglasses, you could see the almost demonic glow of their hungry eyes...the two men guarding the door. Tony and I were both given a more than menacing look as they sized up the moment we stepped towards the doors. They smiled at one another, speaking their ancient vampire language with a heavy accent and a wide grin. “Nay, deis ume enzanter deis nozedum.” One of them said.
“We’re here to talk to Rizzy.” I said, trying to keep my mind as clear as I possibly could. “We have some important business to take care of tonight.”
I was trying to talk over the sound of the hardcore vibrating walls, doors, and the rattle of sunproofed windows surrounding the club, but it must have sounded as though I was shouting at the top of my lungs to their sensitive ears and selective hearing.
“Shhhhh...” One of the guards said, pressing his fingers to his lips. Already, I could practically feel Tony getting himself all shaken up, and I began to wonder if I should leave him behind and talk to Rizzy on my own. I can’t afford to fuck this up. “Let’s see your Safeguard marks, gentlemen.”
Tony and I both unbuttoned the top of our shirts to display our implants to the guards, and they nodded once they verified their authenticity. We began to button back up, but the guards reached out for our hands and shook their heads in protest. With one of them saying, “It’s best that you leave them highly visible for the rest of our guests.”
The other guard, adding, “Some of our newbloods, many of them halflifes...they tend to be easily ‘tempted’. We would hate to have any...accidents. Yes?” I nodded, and left my shirt open. “What is the nature of your business this evening?”
“I’m here on behalf of The Jeweler. He has tools on order.” I said.
I could feel them scanning my mind. Scrolling through them as easily as they would flip through an old school phone book. All I could do was remain as blank as possible, and pray that Tony was doing the same. Just like I taught him to.
The guards exchanged another glance, and then gave us the nod before opening the door. “The club is busy this evening, but Rizzy will be with you shortly. Head to the VIP lounge...back wall of the club, up the stairs...and through the glass doors on your left. Feel free to stop and get yourselves a few spirits from the bar if you like, but I suggest you don’t mingle with the other patrons for any length of time. They’re feeling pretty rowdy tonight.”
“Will do. Thank you.” I said, and made sure to keep my briefcase close to my side as I gave Tony a slight shove to enter the club ahead of me. I could practically feel him trembling beneath my fingertips.
And it got even worse when one of the guards blew him a kiss, saying, “Have a good time tonight...’Tony’.” I think it rattled him quite a bit. Lockheart surrounded us with vampires all the time, but this was an entirely different experience for Tony. It’s like the difference between seeing a hungry lion in a secluded sanctuary at the Lincoln Park Zoo...and actually having them approach you in the wild without protection, whatsoever. These vampires were the real deal. Harsh, criminal, vampires...even by vampire standards. The sooner that I was able to get out of this place, the better.
These places give me the creeps.
Every single pair of bright glowing eyes turned to stare at us as we made our way through the extremely dark club, a clustered forest of bodies surrounding us on all sides, the entire room bathed in crimson red light with flashes of strobelight pulses that seemed to only highlight the shadows in the corners. It was almost too dark for us to see anything at all...but not for them. Vampires, some in their fifties or sixties, others in their tweens and teens...and every age in between. Locked into that current state for as long as this life in darkness would have them. Drinking, dancing, grinding to the stomach fluttering bass of sinister techno music...making it difficult to figure out if we were in a dance club, or if we had somehow wandered into an orgy of blood guzzling savages who kept checking our necks to make sure that our Safeguard marks were real enough to keep us off the menu for the evening. Shamelessly sizing us up like lambs being sent to slaughter. I pray that you never have to feel what it’s like to exist in a world where you know for a fact that these creatures exist. That you never have to squeeze past their gyrating bodies while the very presence of your humanity makes their ravenous hearts beat faster. It’s a horrifying experience...feeling so helpless. Knowing that you were never anywhere near the top of the food chain. And never would be...unless you damned your soul for all eternity by becoming one of them.
Tony and I didn’t dare to stop by the bar. The quicker we got this done, the quicker we could go home and drink until the nightmare of this place became a faded memory in the back of our minds.
We made it to the back of the club, walked up the stairs while squeezing our way past younger vampires tongue kissing and rubbing their hands all over one another, and then made our way to the glass doors, where we waited for someone to come over and grant us entry.
The music was so loud that my eardrums were already beginning to ache from the over stimulation...but once we were let inside by a couple of Asian twin ladies in tight leather with multiple piercings in their faces and closed the doors behind us, all of that madness from the club seemed to be instantly muffled to the point where we could barely hear anything more than what we could hear out in the parking lot. It was still at high volume, but much more comfortable than it was a few minutes ago.
The room had the same dark red glow to it, with a DJ booth in the corner, full bar stocked of bottles that looked as though they were twice as old as I was, and a few big chairs sitting in front of an all black desk that I assumed Rizzy kept for all of his business dealings and negotiations. When the twins sat us down, both girls said, “Rizzy is finishing his set. He’ll be with you when time allows.”
Their stares were intimidating, but I attempted to keep up a brave face. “The faster he gets here, the faster he gets paid. It’s as simple as that.”
They didn’t even crack a smile. “Sit tight. He’s eager to talk to you.”
And with that, they grabbed a couple of martini glasses, and walked back over to lean back on one of the black leather couches in the room to share a drink while we waited to get started.
God...I hope this all goes to plan...
It wasn’t a short wait for us. In fact, I thought that I was going to have to physically get up and shake Tony by the shoulders before his anxiety began to devour him alive. Maybe it was a part of Rizzy’s plan, giving us an opportunity to be severely frightened of our interaction with him before making his grand entrance. Something that I tried to mentally defend myself against...when he finally entered the room.
A towering six foot six, minimum...Rizzy came into the room with a giant smile on his face. You would think that such a thing would put you at ease when you saw it...but not with him. If anything...he appeared more menacing than ever. He walked around us to the other side of the desk, fangs displayed in full view. Almost as if it was a reminder of what he could do to the both of us if negotiations went south between us at any point. He was terror personified in the most cheerful and non-threatening package imaginable. Dark skinned, with gleaming white fangs, and a shoulder length collection of neatly braided dreadlocks hanging down his back. Only a few strands moving forward to rest on the sides of his face, dark sunglasses hiding his evil gaze from me entirely.
“So...” He said, taking a seat on the other side of his desk. “...instead of sending Cage, his number one security officer...The Jeweler has decided to deploy his secondhand stooges instead, yeah?” He had a heavy London accent when he spoke. So heavy that it took me an extra second or two to catch up to it and put his sentence together in a way that made sense to me. “But that’s always the boss’ way, idnit? Putting his pawns in harm’s way when he needs someone to come real with it?”
Hoping to make this transaction as quick as Lockheart told me to make it, I replied, “I’m just here to drop off the payment, collect the hardware, and get home. I’m just doing what I was told.”
“What you were told...” Rizzy smiled. “...Sounds pretty wild to me, brov. That’s not mad in your mind? Eh?” The twins brought Rizzy a drink that looked so strong from a distance that I half expected it to melt right through the glass he was holding it in. “Why don’t you two sit and chat for a minute? Let me school you to something before school let’s out forever.” He said. “Because this banger that you’re living through right now? It ain’t gonna be around much longer, fam. In fact...to say that your days are numbered is already a delayed broadcast. You feel me, brov?”
“Do I…? Feel you…? What?”
“Don’t you speak proper English, fam? I’m trying to tell you what’s going on here! Pay me some focus, fam, yeah?” He said, now sipping from the highly potent cocktail that had just been given to him. He only cringed a little bit before leaning back in his comfy desk chair and began nodding his head to the beat of it.
“What’s...going on? What do you mean?”
Rizzy’s smile widened as he pushed his dreads back. “I’m trying to tell you, brov...the times are changing. The whole world is changing. Shit is getting real now. The vampire scriptures and all of their prophecies? They’re coming to fruition. Much faster than anyone could have expected. And while a lot of people in our reign over darkness are doing their best to contain and suppress it at every given turn...the outcome is always the same. The scriptures have foretold all that is going on right now...and there’s no fighting them. Attempting to defy their teachings is the greatest blasphemy of our time, idnit?”
“Funny...everything today seems the same as it was yesterday.” I said.
“Oh my days...The Jeweler really did send the pair of ya without so much as a scratch as to what’s happening right now, didn’t he?” Rizzy said, taking another healthy swig of his drink. “We’ve got our share of precognition vampires coming through here these nights, you understand, yeah? Some have been witnessing omens, some dreaming of a shared, inevitable, outcome, and others that simply want to spread the gospel and go into hiding before everything goes to shit. The newbloods are particularly good at it.” He leaned forward, his smile widening even more. “I understand that you’re just here to do a job, and I get that, yeah? But it’s all in vain. It’s already been set in motion, fam. The only reason that I’m even making this sale with you tonight is that I need to secure myself a spot underground before it’s too late to take up space with the elites, you feel me?”
“Sounds like a bunch of paranoid fantasies to me.” I said, with Tony still cowering in silence at my side. “It’s not like we haven’t heard this kind of stuff before.”
“Hahaha! Oh no...not like this, fam! Trust me, these aren’t random fairy tales. Not anymore. The word is...both sides are preparing for war. Your hyper religious elites are building themselves an Ark. Did you know that? I’m willing to bet my kind won’t be welcome up there in the sky with the lot of them. So those of us in darkness? We’ve begun building tunnels. They call them Kindred tunnels. A place to stay safe during the coming storm.” He said. “Tell me...what do you know...about the Vampire Mimic?”
Rolling my eyes, “The same thing that everybody else knows. A random boogeyman, created by people looking to scare people into acting and feeling a certain way whenever they feel the need to control your kind. Passages in old forgotten books that have been mostly tossed aside for rational thought.”
“Ah...one of them, are you?” He said. “What would you say if I told you that he walks among us? Right now. He’s out there, you know? Getting stronger and more lethal by the minute. A creature walking the tightrope between daylight and darkness. Between being an angel embraced in infinite light, and a demon trapped in the endless abyss of darkness. What would you wager, in this world of ours, in this day and age...that he’d make the kind of choice that would benefit the rest of us? Eh?”
“It’s not really my problem, is it?” I said. “My problem is getting you to load the weapons into the back of my van and take this money so I can go home and get some rest.” I was careful enough to be brazen with my comments, but not too harsh where it would cause a conflict between us. “Unlike you...we actually have a life that exists before sunset.”
“Lovely.” He said, now taking off his sunglasses to sit them on the desk to show us his golden glow. “I’m going to give you a gift, my friend. Do with it what you will. You were set up this evening...coming here. It’s mad that you didn’t feel the betrayal in your orders tonight. Your security officer, Cage...he knows what’s coming down the pipes, and he’ll be looking to find his own way out of dodge once things go down the shitter. You better believe that.” I did my best to not let my facial expression change, but it wasn’t like he wouldn’t be able to read it in my thoughts anyway. “We’ve lived for centuries...thinking that this delicate balance between daylight and darkness could somehow be maintained. But the Vampire Dawn is coming, and the Mimic is the key. This...club...these underground raves, the hidden sanctuaries, the Nifty Archives, the Long Dark Foundation, Sector-V...all of it will soon come crumbling down around us. And not just for us...but for you warm bloods too.” He said. “The vampire Elders from the Circle Nocturnus are already wiping their slates clean. Not even their precious ‘Pakratz’ hit squad will be safe. They’re main man, Mr. Fitzgerald is about to be turned to ash. Even their shadowed ‘Comicality’ attack dog has been targeted. There’s no way for you to win this game. It’s a failure on an epic level. You’d do best to get out of the way and find cover.”
Tony’s voice was trembling as he finally gave in to the urge to say something, “They all...they told us...there was no such thing...”
“Tony...” I said, giving him a stern look to shut him up.
“None of that is supposed to be real...” He said. Fuck. I need to get us out of here. I can’t have Tony getting spooked on me now.
“Oh, trust me brov...the Elders have been hard at work at keeping such a thing from being real for longer than you’ve been trotting around the Earth’s surface. But they failed this time around. Chickens always come home to roost. And the truth is coming to light. No stopping it now.” Rizzy said, emptying his glass. Then he turned to me, and he said, “Your employer...The Jeweler, yeah? Man’s doing bad things. You know that, right?”
“It’s not my place to question what he’s doing. My job is to grab the shit we agreed upon and bounce so you can get back to your party out there.” I put the briefcase up on the table and turned the latches toward him so he could open it up and count the cash.
His look hardened a bit. And in a serious tone, he said, “He’s a fanatic, your boss man. His beliefs are gonna do mad damage to us all, brov.”
“All of the money is there. Do what you gotta do, and let us be on our way.” I said, ignoring his distraction tactics.
“The Mimic is not the kind of power that you want to play with. The Jeweler is using a stick to strike at a hornet’s nest, expecting candy. Entire civilizations have fallen over this kind of arrogance. And when the feces hits the spinning blades...The Jeweler won’t be there to help you.” He said. “If you think guns are going to do you any good when you have to face what’s coming...you’re wrong. Once Comicality is no longer able to protect the boy...once the boy’s sire has been murdered...”
“Are we doing this or not???” I said, agitated. “Let’s go. C’mon. Give up the goods, or stop wasting my time. You can explain to Mr. Lockheart, yourself why you weren’t able to fulfill his requests the next time you see him.”
Rizzy was silent for a moment, his twin guardian mistresses looking to see if he needed them to act on my sudden disrespect. But he simply smiled, his mood changing completely as the pendulum swung back in the other direction and he decided that trying to warn us of some kind of imminent human/vampire war was pretty much pointless. We’ve seen the books and heard the whispers in the Jeweler’s high rise building for years now. One conspiracy after another. He was overly obsessed with the idea of some vampire Mimic being born into darkness and somehow changing the whole world forever. I was so tired of hearing about it, to be honest. One failed prophecy after another. What’s the point of it all? Whatever. He pays well, and he keeps me and my family safe from the bloodsuckers in the streets. So his antiquated fantasies can boil over and burn on the stove for all I care. Just get me out of here!
“Business it is, then.” Rizzy said. But he turned to Tony and told him, “The Devil is real, fam. And disbelief is his greatest weapon against you.” I saw Tony grip the arms of his chair even tighter, white knuckled with tension. “You find yourself a place on that ark? I suggest you take it. Because we’re just a few heartbeats away from shit getting real grimey down here. The future of you daylight boys depends on how well the most destructive being alive deals with having the last shred of his humanity violently stripped away. God forbid he gets it wrong...”
Rizzy snapped his fingers, and a door opened up, sending in a small group of vampires who brought in whole duffel bags full of high powered assault rifles, skivs, and explosives. FINALLY...we’re getting somewhere!
I can’t wait to get this over with so I can loosen up my tight grip on my brain patterns to keep my thoughts hidden from everyone around me. And Tony was more concentrated on the fear of fairy tales and this Vampire Dawn nonsense than he was on the second part of our mission.
And the real reason that we were here...
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