Copyright © 2013 By Michael Litzky
The memory filled Sally’s mind as she watched Bunt lurch out the door. The Jiang Shi, the Chinese hopping vampires, weren’t real of course. But a Jiang Shi had come to her once long ago.
It had come in the night when she was a girl just becoming a woman. It had worn a mask and it had moved stiffly and she had been dead with terror as it approached her bed across the dark room. It had not hopped any more than Bunt had hopped, but it had moved as though acting against its own will and it had pulled back the covers from her shivering body and it had lifted up her nightgown.
One time, only one time it had come. Terrified, she had groped and found a small bowl of sticky rice on her messy bedside table. Sticky rice: one of the things those dumb Chinese movies had told her would stop a Jiang Shi. She held it out like a crucifix between them.
The Jiang Shi had frozen deadly still. Then it turned suddenly and left the room in hasty confusion. But not before she had smelled the wine on its heavy breath and known it for her father.
Watching Bunt lurch hastily away as he chased Lavinia, Sally understood at last why the Jiang Shi had seemed so important to her. She now knew something about Bunt that she hadn’t known before.
And so she cried out with careful incoherence, “Don’t kill me, I don’t know what to do without her, I admit we had no equipment, oh what do I do?” She tried for a voice weak with helpless terror, understanding now how he would love that.
It worked. He stopped chasing the van, pushed his way back through the vampires and into the store and walked toward her. “Kay, wer done withiss SHIT!!” he raged. He was sweating and disheveled and he walked right up to her saying, “I oughtta kill you, but you won, so I’ll give you a reward but NOT no key, and we won’t say nuthin’ about—”
She whipped up the stake and stabbed it right into his thigh, nice and close to his balls, then ripped it out. He screamed a girlish scream and doubled over, fell to the floor clutching his wound. Sally slammed her foot down on his head, wishing she was wearing boots instead of running shoes. “Give me the key and the code now. Or I will kill you.” She pictured his death, held the stake against his neck.
She understood now. Bunt was a petty tyrant, a martinet like her father. But just like her father, Bunt had no power outside his little world, and very little real bravery. “I don’t have it,” he started to say but she kicked his head.
“Lie! You carry it with you always, it’s your only power.” She nicked his neck with the dripping point of the stake. “Last chance.”
He didn’t have the strength to bluff any further. “It’s in the inner pocket,” he babbled. “The code is 4133259, don’t kill me, I’ll be good, I’ll go straight, I’ll never do nothin’ again, I’m sorry about Mommy and all ‘ose fags.”
Not sure she wanted to know what he was talking about, she flipped him over with the toe of her shoe and fished the key out of his inner pocket, holding the bloody point of the stake against the underside of his trembling, gnashing jaw. “Anything I have to know about deactivating this?” She jabbed the point into his flesh.
“Naw, naw, nuthin’ to it, key in the number, just, y’know, don’t make a mistake, you only get three tries, then…” He trailed off, shrugged with an ingratiating weasel grin.
She was afraid she knew what he meant by “all those fags.” “Do I understand that you have other people with these collars on their necks? What, in your basement?” Her stomach turned.
“Naw, naw, just one. The others, y’know, heh heh.” Bunt shrugged helplessly.
Sally understood that before he got KerriAnne Bunt picked up homeless guys and bled them for his Runs, that his basement was probably full of their corpses, that the runs had given him wealth and notoriety enough that KerriAnne had offered herself to him, probably in exchange for whatever shit she was on. She didn’t know what he’d meant by “sorry about Mommy” but she couldn’t take any more. Had his own mother had been his first victim? Probably.
There’s a numb place beyond outrage and horror; she simply asked, “And this same code unlocks all the collars?” He nodded, his eyes never leaving her.
She pulled out her phone. “I’ll be talking to my sister. If she dies, you die.” She willed her stone hard hazel eyes to communicate to Bunt her genuine desire to murder him. It helped that she was, in fact, trying to decide if it was safe to let him live. Hatred raged in his eyes but self-pity was making them wet.
To make the call, she had to stop the video recording. She half expected the phone, only a year and a half old but already barely working, to crash, but it didn’t. As she touched the picture of a heavily made up KerriAnne and listened to the sound of dialing, she reflected that in the eyes of the law the video might incriminate her as much as it did Bunt.
“Boss?” came the trembling voice.
“Darling,” she answered. She no longer remembered when or why they’d started calling each other those particular names. “Got the key. No problem.”
“Deactivating it now. Bunt’s right here and he’s told me exactly how to do it.” Last chance for you if you’re lying, her level gaze told the big, sniveling man. He shook his head desperately.
Then she tapped in the number, hit enter.
“Darling?” she asked, unable to keep her voice from catching. She heard breathing, then crying; that was a good sign, wasn’t it? “KerriAnne, you answer me, are you okay?!?”