Vampire Cabbie

Chapter 10


The Responsibility of Dishonor
Gliding, almost as if dematerializing then rematerializing, Nicole suddenly gripped the doorknob.
A shout belched from my throat. I leaped across the room, knocked Nicole to the floor, just as the door flew open.
A white-hot dagger seared through my chest cavity. The room swirled before my eyes momentarily before coming into focus. Frank stood above me, a burlap sack slung over one shoulder, corneas a spider web lattice-work of crimson, pupils dilated, breath hot and fetid, heart pounding like the hammer blows struck by a yeoman blacksmith. He dropped the sack and reached downward toward the stake protruding from my chest, which pierced flesh, but had been stopped mercifully by sturdy breast bone.
I scurried out of the range of his grasp. Nicole jumped to her feet and gave Frank a shove. Staggered only slightly, he steadied and threw a punch, connecting loudly with her jaw, more a slap then a crack. Nicole landed hard on the floor.
Frank laughed loudly, then grabbed the sack, held it upside down and let the contents fall. It was the black boy who had ridden in my cab a mere few days previous. He was stripped of his clothes, stripped of his life, his flesh more gray than chocolate, face bruised, abrasions and contusions livid on his chest, stomach and legs, one arm bent at a cockeyed angle. Crusts of dried blood delineated a pair of puncture marks on his neck.
Rising to my knees, I tore the stake from my chest. Jagged shards of pain ripped through my being, quickly replaced by a sharp tingling as tissue knitted itself back together.
In the momentary haziness, as my body repaired itself, Frank kicked hard at the wound. An angry red wave washed over me. I toppled to the floor, then rolled over to see Frank grabbing Nicole under both arms, effortlessly lifting her in the air, then flinging her toward the boy. His strength was unfathomable, surely augmented by adrenalin and madness.
"Look at that!" he shouted, as he moved to her side, bits of spittle splattering her face. He pointed at the boy. "Look at that! I warned you. All of you! He's a monster, but you wouldn't believe me and now look what he's done!"
Nicole's face twisted into a dark scowl as she kicked him in the groin. I jumped to my feet, pulled him away from Nicole and backhanded him across the face, sending him sprawling across the apartment. "You're the monster," she yelled. "Al's been with me all night."
Frank's mad, grinning countenance remained unchanged. I stepped between him and Nicole. He pointed an accusing finger at the boy.
"I showed them," he said. "Showed them all just what kind of bloodsucking monster you are."
"Youkilled him!" I shouted. "It wasyou .You killed him.You took his blood.His blood! What have you done with his blood?"
Frank laughed, then reached for a rucksack that lay next to the empty sack. He lifted a large jar full of blood from the rucksack. "Oh, you weren't very hungry, so you only drank a little bit, then drained the rest and put it in a jar. The police'll find this in your fridge."
"Idiot! If I only needed a little bit, why kill? Why? Tell me why! Tell me!"
I stepped toward him. Frank stood his ground, then reached for a silver crucifix and held it before my eyes. His laughter turned hysterical. I slapped the crucifix from his hands. The cross struck the wall loudly. "Fool," I said. "You have watched too manyHollywood movies."
"His mind," Nicole shouted. "Try touching his mind."
Frank stood motionless, his face a hardened mask except for rapidly shifting eyes. I focused on the movement, let my consciousness adjust to the movement until it slowed to almost a complete stop, allowing me entrance through the dark openings -
- Only to be staggered by an impact against solid granite. My consciousness reeled, then pulled back and focused upon a curving stone wall. I followed the wall as it curved in one direction, then another, then back again as the line of stone seemed to fall back into infinity, curving back and forth -
- Before finally opening to a dark, dense forest surrounded by swamp. My consciousness began tromping through the swamp toward the forest. The muck grew thicker, holding tighter. Each step took a greater and greater effort while the forest seemed to grow no closer -
- Until no more steps were possible, the muck enclosing around my legs, holding me fast as -
- The forest turned to fire, foliage burned away in an instant, all the trees stripped to mere glowing stalks, collapsing, falling toward me -
- Flying toward me. Thousands of burning stakes flying toward me, striking my consciousness, ripping, tearing until something pulled me away from the dying embers of the burnt forest, away from the stagnant pools of fetid water, back and forth along the curving granite wall -
- Frank's grinning personage filled my sight, his hands wrapped around a stake, its sharp point impaling the flesh covering my heart. Hands on my shoulders pulled desperately from behind, preventing the stake from finding its mark.
In full focus, ignoring the pain, I grabbed the stake with both hands, pushed against the opposing force until it came free, then twisted it out of Frank's grasp, turned and swung the blunt end at his head. He crumpled to the floor, but quickly rose, blood dribbling from his ear, the grin wider still, the sound of his pounding heart almost deafening.
In the long, swollen moment that followed, numerous images from the past flew across my sight: the Grand Inquisitor passing sentence on myself and Julianne; the burgermeister listening so attentively to brigands who had tried to rob me, then accused me of consorting with the devil; and all those Nazis, those who I killed and those who I imagined as they murdered my dear Anya.
All the faces of those true believers - different faces, yet always the expression never changed and was just the same as the countenance which charged at me with no weapon save his bare hands.
No more battering. No more pain. I let him charge at me, at the last moment opening my arms for him to fall within my embrace.
"No!" I heard Nicole scream.
Our flesh collided, and though the force was great, Frank moved me not a whit as I reached for his chin, twisted sharply until a loud crack filled the room, and Frank crumpled to the floor.
I turned toward Nicole. She stood against the wall, palms pressed against the paneling as if to brace herself from falling. Her face was flushed, eyes darting back and forth, from one corpse to another.
No response for a moment, then her gaze met mine. "You killed him," she said dryly, almost matter-of-fact.
Yes, a mortal was dead at my hand, and a boy was dead because of me as well. My fault, my responsibility. Her tone was so dry, and it seemed I wanted to hear anger, wanted to hear accusation, blame. See her point a sharp finger at me like a stiletto of truth stabbing at the lies and deception that punctuates every day spent among mortals. Yes, I had killed Frank, and maybe it could be called self-defense, or in the language of their judicial system, justifiable homicide, but since when had their laws applied to me? Usually their wrath superseded their own laws, affording me none of their protection.
Regardless, two mortals lay dead in my apartment because of my vanity.
"Yes, I killed him." That was all I could say, not even allowing myself the luxury of verbalizing the fact that there was little else that could be done, not when a maniac lunges at your throat with nothing short of murderous fury. Or rationalizing that this was not so much a killing as an act of mercy, for it seemed doubtful that Frank truly desired to be the monster he had become.
Nicole pushed away from the wall. She ran her fingers vigorously through her hair, almost as if she wanted to tear the fine strands out by their fragile roots.
"I'm leaving," she said, her voice bland, but steady. I made no move to stop her as she shuffled slowly toward the door. She gripped the doorknob, turned and faced me, eyes glistening brightly. "This is too much, Al. I thought you were cute, nice. I just thought it'd be cool having you as a boyfriend."
Without another word, she was gone.
I stared at the closed door, listening to her footsteps as they retreated into nothingness, the grainy wood spiraling before my eyes until the present asserted itself from someplace far away.
There were two corpses in my apartment, and they had to be disposed of before a dawn, which would come all too soon.
I buried Frank in a wooded area just south ofMadison , in a place where he certainly would not be found.
However, other considerations prevented me from disposing of the boy in the same manner. One of the peculiarities I had noticed since returning toAmerica was the preponderance of missing children, their faces ubiquitously posted on milk cartons that pleaded for any information and even offered rewards. The parents of a missing child fromMinnesota offered a million dollars for the return of their son.
Surely, these children were dead, but these people somehow maintained their faith. To me, these parents seemed tragically deluded, and it seemed cruel to subject this poor boy's mother to the same ordeal. Thus, I left his body where it could easily be found. At least his mother would know her boy was dead, if she cared. Also, I resolved to set up a trust fund for the boy's siblings and their descendents from one percent of my future earnings, from now to perpetuity.
I readied for flight in case the neighbors had heard sounds of struggle from within my apartment or if anyone had spotted a shadowy figure hauling an oddly shaped canvas sack over his shoulder or if anyone had filed a missing person's report over Frank or if the authorities suspected any connection between the boy's murder and his nightly cab rides between the homes of his aunt and mother.
Two days later, the boy's murder was front-page news. I read with interest as the police said they had no suspects, but were tracking down every possible lead. Details of the killing were sketchy. Officially, the police refused to comment on the condition of the boy's body, though rumors flew rampantly, and his mother went on record as saying her son's killer was a very sick person.
And she was right.
For one week, this wasMadison 's top story, attracting voluminous coverage in the newspapers and on television, but as leads dried up, the media seemed to lose interest.
Then, one week later, a twenty-year-old technical school coed was found, naked, mutilated, her body rumored to have been drained of blood.