Copyright © 2012 By Michael Litzky
Okay, it was okay. She was locked in the basement but it was okay. She’d brought along lock picking tools for the next part of this jaunt anyway. The door to the basement shouldn’t be any harder than the door to an apartment. She counted to 30 to be sure the old biddy wasn’t coming back, then climbed the dusty stairs, using her flashlight carefully so no light would shine beneath the door.
And as she thought, it was just a simple bolt. Half a minute of fiddling with a skeleton key and she had it open again, klunk. Her ears strained but she heard no more sound of that busybody. She pulled the heavy door open and padded down the carpeted hall.
As she climbed the stairs through the rich old-building smell of wallpaper, once-luxurious rug and wood-paneled walls, she wondered how the others were doing. Getting from one location to another four city blocks away! She couldn’t imagine how she was going to do that final two blocks but Bunt would do it with his secret method. Her skin crawled as she thought of him; he reminded her of something unpleasant which wouldn’t come to her (and why the hell did she still expect him to hop?!). She thought again of the strange fawning behavior of the vampires at the door of the starting point, and knew in her gut there was a connection to the mystery of Bunt.
She stopped wondering as she reached apartment 305. When she’d scouted, she’d seen it was owned by an old geezer who was unlikely to be awake. She knelt with her skeleton key. This lock took longer but within two minutes she had it open.
Inside there was a bad smell. Jesus, what if the old guy had croaked this evening? But she couldn’t do anything about it. Except–
She stopped, frozen. If the owner of this apartment was dead, then this apartment wasn’t a home anymore. She had to at least check before she came into view of the window. Once they saw her, the vampires would try to get in. And what if they found they actually could?
Feeling like a criminal for the first time that evening, Sally skulked into the bedroom. The smell was worse in here. In the light of the bedside lamp, she saw an old man in bed and his chest moved, he was alive. He must have crapped himself in the night. Somehow that realization made her nauseous as the thought of facing a corpse had not. She turned to go.
“Nurse?” came a wheezing whisper. “I need changin’.” Sally hesitated, then walked on without looking back. She only asked herself why he thought there was a nurse a fraction of a second before something exploded against her skull and she sank, stunned, to the floor.
The world reeled in red mist but Sally fought desperately to put the pieces together again. The old man had a night nurse and she’d been in the bathroom, probably had heard Sally open the door, had grabbed something and snuck up behind her…
She had to convince the nurse that she was not a burglar and quickly. She forced her eyes to open. Her hands were tied behind her back. The nurse was a pretty young black woman who was breathing hard and trying to look tough. Sally could feel that her belt was missing, was probably binding her hands at that moment. She tried for a casual, friendly tone.
“Guess I won’t win the race now. Too bad.”
The nurse skittered backwards away from Sally. “Nurse, what is it, what’s goin’ on?” came the feeble voice from the bed. She’d rattled the poor young nurse, and her hands weren’t tied very tight. Scrunching her wrists back and forth, she called out, “Sir, I’m so sorry to have intruded on your rest, I’m a bad girl for doing that, but I have to use the window of your apartment. Just for a second and I won’t let anything bad in, they’ll all follow me.” She almost had her hands free.
“You shut up!” the nurse cried. “I’m calling the police!”
“Please don’t, ma’am,” Sally cooed. “I’m not a burglar, really I’m not. I just need to open the window for a few seconds.” What possessed her to keep mentioning that? Probably scare the good people half to death to think of that. But just then her hands popped free. She whipped her hands holding the belt around in an arc and swiped the nurse off her feet. “Help! Help!” she shrieked. She looked like she were about to cry. She reminded Sally too much of her younger sister.
“Shut up, shut up!” she hissed. Everything was going wrong. People would come and the vampires would hear too. Hating herself, she punched the nurse on the chin, felt her sag limp in her arms. She lowered her gently to the floor, spent a useless second arranging the woman’s hair so she didn’t look so pathetic, then shook herself and pushed to her feet.
The old man was watching her, his eyes great pools in his narrow face. Sally paused.
“Homerunner,” he quavered, “Aren’t ya, dear?”
“How do you know anything about that?” She bristled at being called “dear.”
“Yeh, not bad for an old feller with a Depends fulla poop,” he chuckled. “What’s the prize?”
He looked like a therapist she had seen briefly; something in his voice soothed her, made her want to tell her big secret.
“Fuck you,” she said firmly, and ran from the room. She was in so much trouble. She’d been raised to honor the elderly. She felt like shit.
She came in sight of the window. The five vampires pressed against it saw her and hissed excitedly. She approached the window step by step. This was the testing moment. She turned the little latch and let the window swing in. None of them reached in to grab her. The house magic still protected her. They quivered and watched.
She pulled out another vial of blood. Would it do to just throw it at them again or would they ignore it this time? They weren’t very smart. She uncorked the vial, sloshed the blood around, watched them go mad with greed. It should be enough to throw it. She waited until they left a sliver of space between themselves, then hurled the vial through that gap. They all dived after the blood and left the fire escape empty for the moment, enough for her to spring onto the narrow iron platform. No time to see if the other window was still as she’d left it. Snarls from below told her she had scant seconds and the vampires pressed against every other window were coming like swarms and swarms of flies.
Now, now before they had time to know what was coming. Crouch into a ball, jump with everything she had over the gap with a three-story fall below, come down on the fire escape of the building across the alley, bowling three vampires over as she landed, skin crawling with their cold hatred. They surged like the sea, like writhing snakes beneath her. The window she’d opened yesterday was still open. Jump, kick into a tight ball so as not to present any trailing heels which could be grabbed, and she landed on the dust-choked floor of the storage room, cans of paint and turpentine rattling on the old shelves. She had navigated two whole blocks!
Damn, she was exhausted but she threw back her weary head and howled a victory howl. Nothing was like this thrill, nothing!