“Are you coming tonight?” Abra Van Helsing drew back her leathered arm and hurled a silver blade. It landed in the bullseye painted on the studio wall with a dull thunk.
“Van, you know I’ve got an exhibition coming up.” V drummed black claws on the surface of the desk and eyed the messy palette covered in gloomy shades of oil paint. “Does turquoise belong in this painting?” She wondered aloud. Her blood-red lips drew into a distasteful pucker.
Van turned from the bullseye to glance at the portrait of a severed head, its neck meat dripping with crimson. “The eyes.”
V scowled at the gruesome painting and scratched at the underside of her chin. Perhaps she could tone down the color with a dot of black?
Van Helsing grasped another blade by the hilt, drawing it from somewhere on her person. She whirled around. Thunk. A silver blade suddenly protruded from the wall. “You didn’t answer me.”
“White chapel again, I suppose?” V drew her lips into a thin line and furrowed her high arching brows. Over the years, Jack the Ripper’s old hunting grounds had turned into a den for vampires who preyed on prostitutes. Abra Van Helsing liked to think she could keep the area vamp-free while V compelled the soon to be victims to find a respectable career before too late.
“Do you know of any better hunting?” Thunk. She threw another silver blade.
V folded her arms over her chest, leather creased in soft black folds at the crooks of her elbows. She sighed.
“C’mon, I’m starving, V.” Thunk.
V leaned forward while scrutinizing her work and tucked a strand of glossy black hair behind her ear. The stool creaked beneath her. “I think I’ll stay in and finish this.”
Van reeled her spikey blonde head round, soft features taking on a monstrous look. “You always do this.”
“We just went out.”
“Weeks ago. You know I like to do my killin’ on a full moon. It’s a discount night. Besides, some sicko is running amuck, picking off prostitutes again.”
“There goes the neighborhood.” V tossed a look over her shoulder and glimpsed Van Helsing’s hourglass silhouette as she poised to lob another dagger.
“Yeah…” Thunk. She turned from her blade throwing to traverse the few dozen paces between them. “It’ll be just like the good ol’ days.” She stood behind V and poked playfully from behind, dotting her shoulders. “C’mon,” her voice heightened to a singsong pattern, “We’ll have a massacre.”
V leaned away from the prodding. “The good ol’ days, huh?” She rose from the stool and slid a palm under the lid hanging from the palette and clapped it shut. “It’s not like I have a deadline to finish before the exhibition.”
“If I can run a five-star restaurant during the day and still find time to rid the city of bloodsuckers at night…”
“Don’t you ever just… get enough?”
“No. Thanks for that, B.T.W.”
“Ancient history.” V picked up a square shaped brush covered in black paint and swished it in an aluminum can with turpentine and then cleaned it in a piece of linen. She repeated the process again and again with each brush while they spoke.
“Little good it did to turn me. I still hunt vampires.”
A small smile upturned V’s lips. “You bloody well quit harassing me, didn’t you?” She briefly turned her cat-green eyes to the ceiling. “Sorta.”
“Again, thanks. Now I’m sired to you.”
“I made you immortal, don’t complain.” V placed a brush with its bristles groomed into a large, repurposed aluminum can she had retrieved from the restaurant Van Helsing ran below their flat.
Van rested a pair of pale fists on her leathered hips and puffed out her chest. “And now I can rid the world of bloodsuckers for eternity.” She turned her face toward the vast window trimmed in lead lines and overlooking the city. “Get your leather on, Vladimira, we’re going out tonight.”
V sighed again. “Dorian won’t appreciate it if I’m dining on the citizens of London.”
Van Helsing jerked round to face V with her shoulders slumped slightly. “Dorian? You still intend on abandoning our mission to join her ragtag band of misfits all in the name of redemption? Do you really think you can redeem yourself any better serving her than helping me with my quest?”
“What use am I to this mission?”
“What use? I rid the world of evil, bloodsucking demons, and you save lost souls.”
“And yet you’re encouraging me to commit dine and dash tonight.” The metal on the brushes clicked against the side of the can as V moved it to a shelf.
“Meh, a night out does a vampire good. Just because I feed on immortals doesn’t mean you can’t join me for a bite. You gotta keep your energy up if you’re going to help fight against evil. Besides, a little catch and release won’t hurt. Humans are hardy things.”
V turned away from the shelf full of art supplies and chuckled. “Yeah. A hardy meal.”
“So much hardier than that pink glop you’re plying yourself with. You look emaciated if you ask me.”
“Nobody’s asking.” V folded thin arms over her chest like a pair of bat wings and glowered in Van’s direction.
Van wrinkled her nose, “Fake blood, ech! Where the hell did you get that crap?” She tossed her palms in the air and waggled her blonde head. “Oh, let me guess… Dorian?”
V rubbed the nape of her neck for a moment while she thought. “Fine, get your bashing stick, Van. We’ll have a last hurrah.”
“Noice!” Van bit her lip and exaggerated a fist pump. “Time for a little chillin’ and killin’ with my bestie.”
“No Blood-Bastards.” V wagged a black talon in her direction. She despised Blood-Bastards and the vampires who used them.
In order to explain a Blood-Bastard, we must first learn about the Feedling. There are two kinds of Feedlings: Humans compelled by vampires to be fed upon and humans who willingly source themselves to vampires as food, sometimes referred to as Blood-Bitches because they enjoy it so much. Vampires with a sense of morals cringe at the use of Blood-Bitch because over time the phrase has become an offensive term for all Feedlings. And the lack of Feedlings forces a vampire to snatch victims from the streets.
Vampires who detest the existence of Blood-Bastards coined the phrase. Blood-Bastards are Feedlings with impure blood, polluted with an addictive drug that affects only vampires. The Feedling or Blood-Bitch taints themself with a synthetic drug that human digestion must activate to become potent. Blood-Bastards became popular because no drugs besides alcohol work on vampires to inebriate them with their rapid ability to heal, and it requires gallons of alcohol before it has any effect. So if you’re a vampire looking to get a buzz, it makes sense to hire or compel yourself a Blood-Bastard.
Awhile later, a dark shadow crept toward the eaves overhanging the cobblestone street. The rooftop thrummed as she perched on its edge, just out of sight of party goers below, all waiting to enter the club. Music drifted out into the night air along with the odor of sweat, stale beer, and cologne each time the gorilla sized bouncer yanked the door open and emitted a few people.
Footsteps echoed along the street toward the group. Abra Van Helsing moseyed to the end of the line, eyes darting to the roof. A pair of cat-green eyes glowed from a panther shaped silhouette against the full moon. Van nodded toward the bouncer guarding the door with a covert jerk of her head. Then she gestured to a man in a tailored suit. He drew up behind with a woman on his arm, squeezed into a little black dress and dripping with jewelry. The woman’s face, caked in make-up, shone white in the dark alley.
The line shortened every fifteen minutes until Van stood next in line to enter the building. “Fine London night.” Her breath light in the heavy air.
“Yea.” The bouncer slapped the pocket of his dress shirt, and finding his pack of cigarettes, he fished them out. “Mind if I…?” His fingers scissored the white tube as he paused the flame of a lighter just beneath.
“Might as well.” She sensed the tension from above as V readied herself for the jump.
The building thumped under V’s palms as she dug in her heels, watching the scene below. Thunk. A silver blade protruded from the gorilla’s chest, releasing a puff of smoke from a lung as he sank to the concrete steps.
At that moment, V released her grip on the eaves, and the man in the suit plummeted to the cobblestones beneath her weight. She clamped her fangs into the crook of his neck. Then she soared up on her boot heels with blood foaming from the corners of her mouth. “What the bloody hell, Van?” She spit the blood from her mouth. It landed on the man’s sleeve, creating a shape resembling an ink-blot test. V glowered in Van Helsing’s direction and pointed a finger. “You let me drink from a Blood-Bastard.”
Van dismissed V’s reaction and turned toward the woman in the little black dress. Face twisting into a demonic expression, she hissed. The woman’s eyes bulged from her skull as she trembled, backing herself against the building. Van lurched forward and grabbed the cowering woman by the throat and lifted until shiny red heels fell from her feet and landed on the street with hollow clacks.
“Bloody hell. Why don’t you have yourself some tainted blood? Then we can bloody well tear up the neighborhood together.”
Van glanced over her shoulder at V. Her bright blue eyes dilated until near black, and her fangs grew like thin daggers protruding from beneath soft pink lips. “Don’t mind if I do.” She turned her head back toward the woman. “You shouldn’t smuggle drugs to vampires, my dear,” and then buried her face into the curve of the woman’s supple neck. Sinew and flesh crunched while blood drizzled in thin streams down her ample chest.
V tapped the toe of her boot. The sound echoed between the buildings as she folded her arms. “Okay, so we’re doing this, huh?” She shook her dark head.
Van Helsing released her grip, and the dead body plummeted to the cobblestones, causing fat to jiggle under the velvety dress. Her face filled with mischief as she moved toward V. “One last hurrah before you censor every attribute that makes you so glorious, love.”
V swooned and wiped away beads of sweat from her brow. “I’m disowning you. You know how I get when I drink from a Blood—” The bouncer’s pinky finger twitched. V’s senses heightened with the slight movement from the concrete steps. Next, a breeze stirred. She saw Van suddenly over him, holding his meaty head between her palms.
Moonlight glinted off the sliver blade still stuck in his chest and it trembled as he spoke, “Nun-nun-no!” Bloodshot eyes like golf balls protruded from his sockets, and he grasped her wrists with thick fingers. “Please, I have children.” Blood poured from his mouth down the front of his dress shirt.
“Lies.” V stepped forward with an unfamiliar guttural laugh at the back of her throat. “Since when do zombies keep a family?”
Van Helsing tightened her grip and braced herself. “I’ll relieve them of their burden.” He drew in a ragged breath and opened his mouth to retaliate. Crunch. Van wrenched his neck with a violent twist of his head and suddenly it faced the rear. She released him and the zombie’s body slumped over on its side with a thump. “We’ll need to bag and drag this one before it wakes again.”
A simple nod was the last thing V remembered doing before the drug took over her mind. It was like falling asleep and having a nightmare and then waking up in an entirely different place. The problem? The nightmare was real.
She found herself back in the studio on bended knee before the enormous window overlooking the sun rising on the city. The image of a child draped in her arms lingered at the back of her mind. She rose to her feet and turned toward Van Helsing, who stood near the art desk. “What the hell happened, Van?”
“One last hurrah.” Van Helsing knocked over the easel with a violent kick of her boot.
The portrait of the severed head shot to the floor and landed at V’s feet. The gruesome painting triggered a vision from V’s nightmare; a gaping wound glared up at her from the child’s throat like an accusive eye oozing with gore. V clutched her chest and shook her head to clear it. “You’re trying to sabotage my deal with Dorian by slipping me a roofie because you knew how I would react to that crap.”
“I’m not trying to do anything. I’m ensuring Dorian rejects your deal to join her rehab for monsters.” Van swaggered over to the shelves.
“All you’ve really done is cement the idea that I belong in rehab for monsters.” V could see the apparition of a tiny head dangling over her elbow in her mind’s eye, jostling with her every step as she carried the girl over lavender carpet. Her hand flew to her mouth.
“Dorian will see you have fallen much too far from the proverbial wagon and break your deal. You might as well give up now.” Van Helsing’s eyes narrowed and a sinister smile upturned her pink lips.
“Too bad it doesn’t work like that.” V clamped her eyes shut, fighting against horrific visions flooding into her mind. It was no use. Closing her eyes only thrust the nightmare into high gear. Now she saw the child’s limp arms swing as she desperately searched for somewhere to lay the body. She sank to her knees and placed her fists on either side of her head while a small bed in the corner of a pink room revealed itself to her.
“You made me this… this thing!” Van swept art supplies from the shelf. Tubes of paint and brushes scattered over the tile. She jabbed a claw at her chest with every syllable. “You can’t leave me!” She leaned forward and kicked the shelves from behind and sent them sailing into the air. They crashed against the far wall and splintered into pieces.
“I’m never going out with you again. In fact, I’m leaving for sure now.” V placed her palms over her face and drew fingers down pallid cheeks while she saw herself preparing to lay the tiny figure in a downy bed. Black claws drew back a neon pink blanket and exposed a forgotten silver blade lying in a puddle of blood. Her eyes shot open. “You tried to frame me, Van Helsing!” V rocketed up on her feet. “I’m going to kill you!”
The two vampires sped with outstretched claws and flew with flashing fangs toward each other. They collided, melding together like a great wreaking ball.