The blinds were drawn on Number 17, Nightshade Lane. Then again, the blinds were always drawn, not just on Number 17, but on every home on Nightshade Lane. It was the largest vampire community in the Los Angeles area. Advances in technology had created lotions and creams that allowed them to walk in the sunlight, but it was still an unpleasant experience.
Number 17, while not unusual for having its blinds drawn, had the distinction of housing one of the richest, most successful vampires in the world. Gabriel Jinx; poet, playwright, novelist, stock broker, inventor. Over forty published works and three ground-breaking patents, and all of the money he made from those multiplied exponentially in the stock market. Forbes estimated his net worth at well over a trillion dollars.
On this day, unlike most, a sleek black car pulled out of the garage. It looked more like an armored military vehicle than a civilian car, and the back windows were so tinted as to appear completely opaque. The driver, an attractive young woman with deep red hair, steered the car down the almost-empty street, heading for one of the major corporate districts.
She pulled it into the parking garage that adjoined the headquarters of the Lestat Corporation, the largest collection of vampires in business in the entire world. “We’re here, Mr. Jinx.”
Gabriel stepped out of the car, pulling his black cloak closer against the intruding rays of the sun. Though the garage was mostly enclosed, a few slits in the walls did allow sunlight in, a compromise between the vampire owners and the human staff. He strode quickly to the elevator, his driver following close behind him.
He pressed the button for his intended floor, then stood silently as the elevator ascended. When it halted and began to move laterally, he reflected on the outdated name ‘elevator’. Strictly speaking, it did more than elevate, as the sideways motion proved. Still, no one had come up with a better name that stuck, so they remained elevators.
It halted its lateral motion and resumed going upwards. They had crossed from the parking garage and into the corporate building, and were now approaching their final destination. The doors slid open and Gabriel stepped out with his driver.
A vampire in a business suit greeted them. “Mr. Jinx, I presume?”
“Presumption is a dangerous habit, but in this case you are correct. I am Gabriel Jinx.”
Properly chastened, the younger vampire escorted the two newcomers into a conference room. “Mr. Frost will be with you shortly.”
Gabriel sat at the head of the conference table, his red-headed companion sitting on his right. He tapped the table, letting one side of his mouth come up in a half-smile. Solid teak. Anthony Frost had done well for himself.
As though thinking the elder vampire’s name were enough to summon him, Frost entered the conference room. “Ah, Gabriel. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“Not at all.” Gabriel rose to his feet, nodding to the older vampire. “You said it was urgent.”
“Yes, quite urgent.” He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. “We’ve had another sighting of an infected vampire.”
Gabriel frowned, taking the paper and scanning it. “That makes three this month alone, doesn’t it?”
Anthony Frost rubbed his forehead. “Yes, and you can imagine that the anti-vampire groups are having a field day. This one was spotted near Nightshade Lane. Recognize him?”
“I believe so…” Gabriel pocketed the paper. “I’ll look into it. If it’s not who I think it is, I can probably still find him.”
“Good.” Frost clapped his hands together. “Then we’re done here. Unless you need any more equipment?”
“I have enough. Thank you, Anthony.”
“You’re the one who’s doing me a favor.” They both rose, and Gabriel left with his driver.
On the way back to Number 17, said driver, Kate, glanced at her employer in the rear-view mirror. “Mr. Jinx?”
“Hm?” He looked up at her, surprised. She usually stayed silent. “Yes, Kate?”
“What exactly is the infection? I’ve heard it mentioned, but no one seems clear on the details.”
Gabriel chuckled. “That would make sense, sense all the vampires in the upper echelons of society are taking great pains to keep it hidden.”
Kate blinked. “They are?”
“Yes. The anti-vampire groups would go crazy if they knew the full extent of the infection.”
“And… what is the full extent?”
“They have the numbers about right, though on the low side. The real deception lies in how severe the infection is. The media believes it is only an enhanced aggression and hunger, but it’s much worse. It’s more like the vampiric version of rabies.”
“Rabies?” Kate’s eyes widened.
“Yes. Vampires grow more savage and feral the longer we go without feeding. Those who are infected become unable to repress that. Feeding does not curb their savagery. After about three weeks, they lose their…” he chuckled, “humanity.”
The irony of using that word was not lost on Kate. “I… see. So they become monsters?”
“Yes. And the rest of us hunt them down and destroy them. There is no cure.”
“So you’re going to seek down and destroy this one?”
“That is the plan.” Gabriel looked out the window. “Go to number 24.”
Kate nodded and obeyed. When they arrived, Gabriel got out, pulling up the hood of his cloak to shield him from the sun. He rapped on the door of number 24. After several minutes and a few more knocks, he whirled and kicked the door in, shattering it at the knob.
As he strode inside, stepping over the splintered wood, he noticed a thick layer of dust over everything. The vampire he was after hadn’t been here for weeks. Or, more likely, he had been here, but had not been himself.
The very faintest of sounds behind him prompted him to whirl, whipping a sword out of a hidden sheath and blocking the wild swing of the savage vampire. It had picked up a crowbar somewhere, and it was now stuck firmly against Gabriel’s sword, held there by the fact that the sword had cut more than halfway through it.
With a snarl, the infected threw away the weapon, throwing Gabriel’s sword with it. He launched himself at his hunter, fangs bared and talons grasping. Gabriel dashed to the side, kicking hard at the rogue. It growled in pain, grabbing at Gabriel’s ankle, but the hunter used the grip on his foot to spin around and kick his prey in the side of the head.
When it fell, dazed, Gabriel stomped hard on its chest. “Kate! The black case in the back seat. Bring me what’s inside.”
Kate dashed inside, clutching a compact, yet bulky, rifle. Gabriel took it from her with a graceful twirl, pointing it at the prone vampire. One pull of the trigger and the infected thing on the floor became a pile of ash.
Gabriel handed the gun back to Kate. “That was faster than I expected. Let’s go home.” His eyes flicked to her neck. “It’s nearly dinner time.”