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The dawn, seen through the eyes of a vampire, is supposed to be painful. But since I have never embraced the myths told about my kind, I find the morning sun delightful. The hour before the sunrise is my favorite part of the day, although I suppose I’m at my deadliest in the depths of night.
I am, after all, a creature of darkness. I kill when I wish, and whoever can commit such a ghastly act, again and again, and never get caught can pretty much rule the world, or at least a small corner of it, as I rule mine. The power to take life is the second greatest power in the world, after the power to give it. It is with this perhaps unhealthy but unquestionably accurate point of view that I patiently await a chance to exercise my power once more.
My victim-to-be is a rapist. As a five-thousand-year-old female—who cannot honestly be classified as “the weaker sex”—I admit to hating men who force themselves on women. History has paraded the cruel act too often before my eyes. I remember my early days, when I was only a few centuries old, how I would react when I came upon a rape. The sight would cause me to burn with rage until I had cracked the assailant’s neck, or else torn off his genitals, or . . . well, both. I suppose, one could say, that I was overreacting, but I didn’t feel that way then and I wonder if I will feel any different today.
I look forward to playing with my victim.
His name is Daniel Boford, although friends call him Danny Boy. He does not fit the classic rape profile. He is rich, intelligent, from a good family, a senior at Truman College—in whose stadium I presently sit. Danny is finishing up a full athletic scholarship as a gifted football receiver and an NCAA champion sprinter. The NFL is near drafting this year, and national sportswriters expect him to go in the first or second round. He has a bright future, our Danny Boy does, or I should say he did.
Now he will have no future at all.
What was it that initially drew my attention to the guy? Several things. The local news had reported an unusual number of rapes the previous year in Truman Village, a small town in north Missouri that was named after the thirty-third president of the United States, the first and last person on earth to order the use of nuclear weapons against human beings.
The second point that caused Danny Boy to catch my attention was the fact he was an athletic hero, and as a result had almost unlimited access to the school’s female population. When I added this fact to a whiff of blood I noticed when I came near him, then you can see why I thought I had my man.
Ah, you might wonder how I noticed the blood and knew it was not his. Don’t. I’m a vampire, I know everything there is to know about blood. Even if the guy had showered under an ice-cold waterfall after committing his dastardly deeds, I still would have smelled his victim’s blood on him. My nose is extremely sensitive. Plus I smelled the blood on Danny Boy down low, from his crotch area.
Yet neither the rape reports, his hero status, nor the blood was enough to absolutely convict the guy. To do that I had to study how he interacted with women, which I began to do, from a distance. Did I mention that I see better than most people? Even better than most telescopes. Watching Danny from across the courtyard as he flirted with females, I saw several signs I have come to associate with rapists. His pupils would swell, his breathing would accelerate, and his neck and fist muscles would tense—all at the same time.
From long experience, I knew this last sign to be the most significant. Why? The neck tenses because the rapist’s brain is cooking, and his hands keep gripping the air because what they really want to do is grab the woman in front of him.
Sigh. There is so much I could teach the FBI.
For example, their agents say rape is not a crime of sex, but one of control and dominance. My answer to that is all good sex involves control and dominance. Personally, I have to admit, I do like it rough, but I have to be careful in bed lest I paralyze any man brave enough to make love to me.
Suddenly there is a faint light in the east. Birds begin to sing, and fast-moving footsteps begin to approach the cinder track. I sit in the stands, at the fifty-yard line, in the tenth row, and watch as Danny jogs toward a point in front of me, near the starting line. Although Danny is a gifted sprinter, his coach has recently moved him up to the quarter mile, probably to improve his chances of winning another NCAA title. I can only assume there’s more competition at the shorter distances.
As a result he has to do a lot of endurance work. His coach has him running several miles of interval training before the rest of the team arrives. Often he sprints a hundred meters, jogs a hundred, then sprints two hundred meters, jogs two hundred, and finally sprints a full lap, before resting for a few minutes and starting the cycle over again. For a rapist, he has remarkable self-discipline.
This morning, he completes three cycles of his interval training before he notices me. He probably didn’t see me earlier because I wear black leather pants, a coat, and black boots. I hide most of my long blond hair in a ponytail I have tucked under my collar. In the dim light, I’m almost invisible.
He waves when he sees me and says hi. As he walks toward me, I see his pupils dilate. He probably thinks I’m another fan, he has so many.
“You’re up early,” he says. “What are you doing here?”
“A friend of mine’s on your team—Teri Raine. Do you know her?”
“Sure. Teri’s a good buddy. She runs a mean mile.”
Teri Raine also has an athletic scholarship, running cross-country in the fall and distance events during track season. Although it has only five thousand students, Truman College has a strong sports program. Teri more than contributes. As a freshman, just nineteen years old, she’s gone the whole year without defeat. Her major is premed. She wants to be a surgeon, and the reason I know all this, and even care, is because we’re related.
I’m confident I’m her SUPER-GREAT-grandmother. Teri is three hundred generations removed from Lalita, my only human child, but during the centuries, I have gone to great lengths to keep track of the female side of my family tree. Of course, when it comes to the male side, it has been next to impossible to know for sure if a boy is related to me. Long ago I abandoned that particular record-keeping, although I must admit I still occasionally pass a man on the streets—with blond hair and blue eyes and a certain gravitas—and wonder if he belongs to me.
Teri’s genes are remarkably similar to my own, although I have twelve strands of DNA while she has the usual two. However, the human aspects of my DNA are almost identical to hers. A month ago, while she was sleeping—a sleep I enhanced by blowing my breath across her face—I took a swab from inside her cheek and sent it to a lab. I was not surprised to discover her silky blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and strong, flexible limbs are the result of my lineage.
In a sense, she’s my child, and because I have seen that Danny favors her over the other girls on the team, I can’t postpone killing him. I suspect he will attack her immediately after the school year ends. And he’s no fool. He knows he can’t simply wear a mask like he has done with some of his other victims, and let her live. She’s spent too many hours training beside him. She knows his body too well. He won’t just rape her.
Danny is struck by my resemblance to Teri Raine. At the mention of her name, he gushes, “You look like her sister!”
I stand. “Did she ever tell you she had a sister?”
“Then I must be someone new.”
“I haven’t seen you around. Do you go to school here?”
“I’m taking a few classes. People tell me you’re about to graduate.”
He grins. “You’ve been asking about me. Not fair, I don’t even know your name.”
I smile. “Alisa.”
He comes up the steps and offers his hand. “Daniel Boford.”
“Pleased to meet you, Danny Boy.”
He’s suddenly in heaven. His pupils go wide; any larger and they’d blot out the whites. He breathes rapidly, his neck muscles tense, and his palms, why, they squeeze the air in front of him. His boldness impresses me. He’s just raped a girl and now he wants me so bad he’s willing to risk being bad all over again. It must be my resemblance to Teri.
“You’re a sly one. What else have you heard about me?” he asks.
“Oh, that you’re a ladies’ man.”
“Not so. Who told you that?”
“Seriously, I want to know.”
“You know us girls, we stick together. I can’t reveal my sources.”
He crosses his biceps across his chest and thrusts his hip forward. He’s powerfully built, his brown hair long for a jock. Sweat seeps through his gray T-shirt, and although he has washed since his last victim, I smell her perfume on him. Ecstasy. Is that what he promised his victim, before he hurt her? Michelle Cornwick is still in the hospital, her mental wounds deeper, no doubt, than her physical ones.
Danny takes a step closer. He’s too close; most people would feel he had entered their space. “I want to know who said that,” he insists.
I shrug. “It doesn’t matter.”
“But it does, Alisa. Lies like that, they spread.”
I stop and stare at him. “Michelle Cornwick.”
He stops. “How is Michelle doing?”
“As far as I know, she’s fine. Why do you ask?”
“She was raped. You must have heard. The talk is all over campus.”
“Like I said, I’m a part-time student, I’m not here much. But God, that’s terrible about Michelle. Do the cops have any leads on who did it?”
He shakes his head. “None.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I know the local cops. During the fall, they come to all the football games. You must have heard I’m something of a celebrity.”
“Bragging, Mr. Daniel Boford?”
“What can I say? I know I’m good.” He moves closer still, to where I can feel his breath on my face. He wants to grab me, to take me now, but a part of him senses something’s wrong. I don’t back away from him. I don’t flinch from his gaze. I don’t do anything his previous victims probably did. That both excites and confuses him. He stares me in the eye. “Is your name really Alisa?” he asks, his tone changing.
“Don’t I look serious?”
“I’m not sure.” He glances around to make sure we’re still alone. “There’s something about you I don’t get.” He pauses. “Are you a cop?”
“I thought you knew all the local cops.”
“Answer my question.”
“No, Daniel Boford. I’m not a cop.” I slowly smile. “Just a fan.”
“Then you must have seen some of my races.”
“I’ve seen a lot of them.” I actually came to the track meets to watch Teri run, but I don’t tell him that. “I saw you win that amazing double in the Lynwood Invitation.”
“You mean, when I ran the hundred and the two hundred?”
“Gimme a break! You ran the two hundred and the four hundred meters. You won both races. And you anchored the four-by-four-hundred-meter relay.” I pause. “Trying to test me?”
“How am I doing so far?”
“Pretty good. You want to go for coffee?”
“Right now? Is there a place open?”
“Sure. I know a place.”
“Don’t you have to finish working out?”
“I’m done.” He touches my arm. “Don’t you want to talk some more?”
“But what?” he asks quickly, and in an instant I realize his antennae are still up. I have underestimated him, not that it will affect the final outcome.
“All right. I’ll have coffee with you. Where do you want to go?”
He squeezes my arm. “Where do you want to go?”
“Like I told you, I’m sort of new to this—”
“Are you sure you’re not a cop?” he interrupts.
I stop, act worried. “You just asked me that.”
“Yes, but since you lied the first time, I thought I’d ask again.”
I casually shake off his hand and pull a badge from my back pocket. “No, not a cop.” I open the badge. “FBI.”
The ID is real—I paid someone high in the bureau to make it for me. I enjoy such toys, they come in handy. However, it doesn’t impress Danny. He studies it but acts unconcerned. I don’t know what to think. He’s either very cool or very stupid.
“Why is the FBI interested in me?” he asks.
Finally, I get a reaction out of him.
“That’s bullshit! She told everyone that the guy who raped her had on a ski mask. I talked to her parents.”
“How nice. You’ve met Mom and Dad.”
“Quit screwing with me, lady.” He looks me up and down, no doubt searching for a gun. But he doesn’t see one, because my snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver is under my shirt, near my lower spine. I have a blade, too, in my right boot. He adds, “The guy who raped her wore a condom.”
He fidgets, finally showing some fear. “You here alone?” he demands.
“No. I have backup.”
“You’re a liar. You couldn’t have matched my DNA to anything found on her. Mine isn’t on record.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve never been busted. I’ve never had a sample taken.”
“Lisa Gonzales,” I say flatly.
“What about Lisa?”
“You’re doing her, in between a few others. Once I explained this to her, Lisa—with her doctor’s help—was only too happy to give me a sample of your semen.”
“Lisa’s a friend! She would never stab me in the back!”
“She probably wouldn’t stab good old Danny Boy. But we’re talking about a rapist here. Lisa’s no dummy. She understood how important your sample was to our case.”
“The case of the federal government against Daniel E. Boford. In other words, we know who the rapist is. And I’m here to take you in.”
“You’re arresting me?”
He is an interesting specimen. His fear is genuine, but I sense his hatred is stronger. “Where’s your backup? I want to see their badges.”
“Because I think you’re a fake. If the FBI was interested in me, the local cops would have given me a heads-up.”
“You’re wrong. You’ve assaulted women as far off as New Orleans. You’ve crossed state lines. That’s what brought you to the FBI’s attention. Face it, buddy, you’re busted.”
He snorted. “Busted? I’m going to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft next month. That’s who Daniel E. Boford is.”
“He’s also just another asshole who doesn’t know when to keep his dick in his pants.” I stop and pull handcuffs from my coat pocket. “Turn around. Place your hands behind your back.”
“Because you’re under arrest and I’m going to cuff you. Do as I say.”
He makes no move to obey. He keeps scanning the area. The stadium looks empty; it sounds empty too. Except for the birds singing there’s just the two of us—that’s what he’s thinking. I can tell by the change in his body language, the growing confidence in the way he holds himself, that he doesn’t believe I’ve brought backup. He thinks he can take me.
“No,” he says. He waits to see if I draw a gun, and even that will not stop him, because he believes he’s close enough to disarm me. I play into his fantasy and draw my weapon. I purposely move too slow, and as I bring it around, he grabs my right arm and points the revolver at the sky, squeezing my wrist. He smiles.
“Didn’t they teach you anything at Quantico?” he asks.
I struggle. “Let go of me! Sanders! Tanner! He’s resisting arrest!”
No one appears, and his smile widens. “Looks like your backup slept in, Alisa.” He rips the gun from my hand and turns it on me. He can see the side of the five-round chamber and knows it’s loaded, but he’s not sure what kind of bullets the gun holds.
I glare at him. “They’re sharpshooters, and right now they’re taking aim at your head. If you want to live, give me back my gun.”
My gun. I sound like I’m pleading. He laughs.
“Drop it, there’s no one here except us. But I’m confused. Why did you decide to take me alone? Did you want all the glory?” He lifts the gun and points it at my head. “Answer me.”
I hesitate. “Harold Proveman.”
“The father of Linda Proveman. One of the first women you raped.” I pause. “He posted a large reward for the capture of the man who defiled his daughter.”
Danny nods in understanding. “You thought you’d collect the reward rather than take the ‘well done’ pat on the back the FBI will give you?”
“Liar. You’re not FBI at all. You’re some cheap down-on-her-luck private eye. No trained FBI agent would act as clumsy as you.” He cocks the revolver. “Does Mr. Proveman know who I am?”
He puts pressure on the trigger. “Are you sure?”
“He knows you go to school here. But I never gave him your name.”
“Because you wanted to be sure to get all the reward first?”
He smiles and lowers the gun. “How much am I worth, by the way?”
“A hundred thousand dollars.”
He whistles, impressed. “What did Mr. Proveman plan to do with me once you turned me over to him?”
“You don’t want to know.”
He smiles some more, before yanking the cuffs from my hands and spinning me around. “Put your hands behind your back.”
I do as he commands. “You don’t want to do this, Danny.”
“Why not?” He cuffs me and drags me down the steps toward the parking lot. The light in the east has grown, but the track is still empty. I speak in a pitiful voice.
“I have a plan that can make both of us a lot of cash. I have another suspect that fits the profile of Linda Proveman’s assailant. I can turn him over to her dad and collect the reward and split it with you.”
“Why would Mr. Proveman believe this other guy did it?”
“I can use your semen sample and tie it to him. That’s all the proof the man needs. He’s connected, Mafia, a real hothead. He’ll murder whoever I bring him. I swear, by noon today, you can have fifty grand in your pocket.”
“At least think about it!”
He slaps my head with the gun. “I’ll be worth a hundred times that in a month. And I don’t trust you. You plan on lying to the guy who hired you, which means you’re probably lying to me right now.” He pauses. “I’m sorry, babe, but you’ve got to disappear.”
He drags me toward his Honda Accord, which is the main reason for my charade. I don’t want to kill him and dispose of his body using my own car, not with all the new techniques for uncovering evidence that modern-day cops have at their disposal. Better Danny drive me to his own dumping ground in his vehicle. Wiping away my prints will only take seconds. I’m new to the city, he has lived here for years. He knows the area better than me. He’ll know the perfect spot to make a body disappear.
I knew ahead of time he was not simply a rapist, but a killer. I could refer to a dozen signs he gives off that make it obvious. But the simplest answer is best. A killer knows another killer, and I have killed thousands.
He doesn’t shove me into the trunk but forces me to drive. There are holes in my story, and he senses them, like any dangerous man would. He wants to know everything he can before he kills me. He doesn’t want any surprises messing up his draft day.
In the car, he cuffs me to the steering wheel and digs the gun into my ribs. Yet I refuse to talk unless he lets me listen to the radio.
“What the hell?” he mumbles. “Are you nuts or something?”
“I like music. Don’t you?”
“Alisa, look, I don’t think you grasp what’s going on here.”
“Do you want me to turn right or left at the corner?”
“Left.” He shakes his head. “You are one weird bitch, you know that?”
“I like to think I’m unique.”
“How did you catch me? The truth.”
I glance at him and let my voice go cold. “You’ll see.”
He shifts uncomfortably at my sudden change in tone. He keeps the gun in my side, but there’s a tremor in his grip. My cold tone can be like ice to mortals. He no longer feels in complete control.
But he still intends to kill me, and rape me, I’m not sure in what order. We drive far into the countryside before we turn down a dirt road that leads through a patch of thick trees. I smell the swampy water before I see the green pond. He’s buried bodies beneath its surface. I smell them as well.
But my nose is more sensitive than a bloodhound’s. The spot is perfect for murder. Totally isolated, with a lake deep enough to hide a hundred corpses and wash away an endless number of fingerprints. Danny disconnects me from the steering wheel but keeps me cuffed. He orders me out of his car.
Now that he has me alone, his confidence returns. He forces me to the edge of the pond. The grass is tall and thick; it clings to our legs. The air is humid, filled with the faint buzz of insects. I can tell he’s excited, but I don’t need my vampiric skills to know that. His pants bulge.
He points the gun at me. “Strip,” he orders.
I hold up my cuffed wrists. “With these on?”
He cocks the gun. “Do it!”
“No. I’m . . . shy.”
He shakes his head in disbelief. “You’re shy? Do you see what I’m holding? Do you know what it will feel like if I put a cap in your belly? Trust me, you don’t want to find out.”
“I couldn’t afford real bullets,” I mutter.
“The gun, it’s loaded with blanks.”
“You’re bullshitting me again.”
“Go ahead, shoot, I don’t care.”
“All right then.” He raises the gun, takes aim at my stomach and fires. I feel the wad of the blank’s paper spread over me like dry rain as the noise from the shot echoes through the woods. Yet I know, with my extraordinary hearing, that there’s nobody within ten miles of us to hear the shot. Danny probably knows the same. He’s not worried we’ll have company soon. But he stares at my gun in disgust.
“You were going to drag me to a Mafia hood with a gun loaded with blanks?” he asks.
I slip out of the cuffs as if I were Houdini. But I don’t snap them in two. I need them. Taking a step toward him, I let him see more of the real me. My eyes, I feel their heat and I know they must burn. He suddenly has trouble looking at me.
“What the hell,” he whispers.
“You see, I’ve just been acting the fool to fool you. All along I wanted you to bring me to this spot, to where you dump the girls you don’t let go. Only I didn’t know where it was. That’s why I let you give me directions.”
I have allowed my voice to change further, to take on the timbre of my true years. People, when they hear how ancient I really am, usually do one of two things. They freeze in awe or shake with fear. Danny isn’t in awe of me, not yet, but he begins to pale.
“Who are you?” he mumbles.
I reach into my black boot and remove my blade.
“Death,” I say as I come closer.
He holds out a trembling hand. “Wait a second. This has all been a misunderstanding. I’m not going to really hurt you. I was just playing with you. Honestly, I’ll drive you back to school right now.”
“No. Your school days are over with. You won’t be running any more races, and the NFL isn’t going to draft you next week.” I gesture to the lake. “You’re going to die here, and you’re going to stay in this pond with all the other people you left to rot here. The fish and worms and insects will find their way into the interior of your car, to your body, and over the next few months they’ll munch on your skin and muscles and organs until all that’s left of you is a slimy skeleton. Eventually even that will dissolve, and it will be like you never existed, Danny Boy.”
He trembles with fear. He has tears in his eyes. My voice, my words—the power in them shakes him to the core. His own voice cracks as he tries to convince himself he’s not going to die.
“But you’re just a chick. You can’t hurt me.”
“Then why are you so scared?”
“Because of that knife. Put that knife away and we can talk.”
“Where exactly would you like me to put it?”
“I don’t know, just put it—”
He suddenly stops talking, because I’ve shifted into high speed and thrown the knife so hard and fast it’s sunk up to its hilt in the center of his right thigh. He gazes down at it in horror as a thin line of blood trickles over his sweats. In the blink of an eye I’m standing beside him. I pat him on the back in a poor imitation of comforting him.
“You don’t want to pull it out,” I warn. “There’s a large artery that runs through each leg, and I’m afraid I just severed one with my knife. Pull out my knife and your blood will gush all over the place. You’ll be dead in two minutes, maybe less.”
He’s suddenly sad. “Can you help me?”
“I’m not a doctor.”
His whole body trembles as he points to his car. “Alisa, please, drive me to a hospital. My family has money. They’ll pay you. They’ll pay you whatever you want.”
“I already have money. Besides, that’s not what I want.”
He is heartbroken. “No?”
“No. But I’ll help you back to the car and I’ll tell you what I do want.”
He limps weakly as I assist him to his car. He doesn’t protest as I shove him into the passenger side. A part of him still thinks I’m lying, and that in the end I’m going to save him.
I climb in the driver’s side, close the door, and cuff his left wrist to the steering wheel. I do it so fast the deed is done before he realizes it, and his face is suddenly filled with the awe I have been waiting for. Yet his fear is greater.
“You’re not human,” he whispers.
“True. I’m not.”
“Are you an alien?”
I smile. “You know, over the years people have called me all kinds of things, but that’s a first. You should be proud of yourself, Danny Boy.”
He stares down at the knife impaled in his leg. Moving him to the car has caused the blood to flow faster, and his sweats are soaked red. He puts his hand on the hilt of the blade.
“You don’t want to do that,” I say.
I stop smiling. “Rape hurts. Did you stop and think of that when you hurt all those women?”
He shakes his head as tears roll over his cheeks. “Please, you’re making a big mistake. You have the wrong guy.”
“Two minutes ago you pointed a gun at me and ordered me to strip. Why would you do that if you weren’t going to rape me?”
He sobs. “All right, I did it, I’m guilty. I’ll tell the police I did it. I swear. Just please take me to the hospital.”
I reach over and stroke his hair. “I’m sorry, you have to stay here with all the women you wanted so badly.”
“No! God, no! I can’t die!”
“Shh. Calm down, you won’t suffer long. And to make sure you don’t, there’s something I’m going to do for you before I say good-bye.”
He gazes at me with sudden hope. “What?”
“Oh, just have a little drink is all.” Before he can react, I reach over and remove the knife and press my mouth to the gushing blood. He must eat a healthy diet—his blood tastes particularly good. Or maybe it’s because I have gone a long time without feasting. Ever since my maker, Yaksha, and my daughter Kalika gave me their powerful blood, I have discovered that I don’t need to feed on humans to survive.
Yet old pleasures die hard. Danny Boy is white as a ghost before I’m through with him, and I can hear how his heart struggles with so little liquid to keep it beating. As an act of kindness, I slip the knife back in his leg and close off the leaking artery.
“There,” I say. “How do you feel now?”
He gasps for breath. “Scared.”
“I bet your girlfriends felt scared too.”
He stares at me. “Please stop.”
“Stop? But we’re just getting to the fun part. It’s going to be like in the movies. I’m going to start the car and steer it toward the pond and jump out before it hits the water. But I’ll close my door if you want so you don’t get wet.” I pause. “Of course, this car isn’t a hundred percent waterproof. I’m afraid the water—and all those nasty creatures I told you about—will eventually get inside. You might be dead by then, you never know. If you’re not, you’ll get to feel what it’s like to drown.”
“No . . . Please.”
“Come on, show some spirit! I bet you drowned plenty of your girls. It’s only right you should experience everything they did.”
He weeps quietly. “I don’t want to die.”
I lean over and kiss his cheek.
I spare him my favorite farewell remark.
But I keep my promise. Starting the car, I accelerate rapidly and turn in the direction of the pond. At the last moment, I leap out my side and slam the door shut. The car has plenty of momentum and belly flops far from the shore, before it slowly begins to sink.
To my surprise, Danny thrashes vigorously inside, even though I have drained him of all but a couple of pints of blood. As I wipe off my hands and listen to the noise he’s making, and to the hissing and bubbles the car gives off as it sinks below the surface, I think of his last words and consider how often I’ve heard them over the years.
Turning, I race toward the main road. It does not matter how fast I run. Behind me, I still hear him screaming.
© 2010 Christopher Pike