I remember… I remember my first time in New York City as a reborn Immortal of but four years. I had been here multiple times before, but as a mortal man. I traveled back and forth between Ireland and America as an Irish rebel heavily involved in Sinn Fein and IRB activities. In fact, I had met two of our leaders here in this very city—good old Tom Clarke and the gallant James Connolly.
As an Immortal, I found New York City greatly changed. There were far more people than I remembered since I was last here. My senses were assaulted by the smell of the blood of so many different people—journalists, clerks, businessmen, foot soldiers of the Mafia, beggars on the streets, policemen, cooks, Italians, Germans, Greeks, Armenians, Mexicans, African Americans—all kinds. There were people of varied blood types. Those with type AB+ tasted and smelled the sweetest to me. I felt as though I were a child in a candy store. Venom pooled in my mouth and I salivated at all the enticing aromas beckoning me with an invisible index finger like a coquettish harlot selling her wares on a street corner under a lamp post. My fangs lengthened often and I had to use almost all of my willpower to stop myself from pouncing on an unsuspecting New Yorker. There was also more noise—louder noise—than ever before. The city lights, too, were brighter than I remember.
Beneath the surface of the natural world, however, trouble was brewing. A war was coming—a war among our own Kind. There had been an influx of new covens, including Janus’s coven, of which I was a part. There was the Blood Triad, a group of Chinese vampires that controlled the city’s opium dens and gambling halls. They fed on the blood of the desperate addicts that they had enticed into their damned establishments of iniquity and vice. There was also the Masterless, a coven of all-black vampires who had been freed slaves in their mortal lives. They had killed their former masters in a murderous rage, rampaging like a blazing forest fire across the war-torn South. In 1916, they officially formed a coven and moved from the post-Civil War South to New York. And then there were the Banshees, an all-female coven of Irish vampires that put the fear of God in the hearts of both man and beast (their surviving members would later join the ranks of my own established coven). Besides our Kind, there were also packs of Wolfkind hiding in the shadows of New York’s skyscrapers. The Fae also made their presence felt and sometimes married mortal men and women and had half-Fae children by them. The Vampire Mafia did not like that—not one bit. They did not like anyone encroaching on their territory. And by territory, I mean New York. They were the kings of this city—of this whole state. This was their playground, their kingdom, their domain. Even the mortal Mafia feared their very existence. They saw us as a threat to the natural order of things—or to their natural order of things, at least.
One night, as I stood on the rooftop of a factory in downtown Manhattan, after having feasted on a drunk fool who beat his wife and children, Janus came up beside me wordlessly. It was always like that with him. He was silent and deadly, stepping in and out of the shadows unnoticed. He appeared and disappeared as he pleased. Only at the last moment would you be alerted to his presence, and by then, it would be too late. That was the manner in which he struck down his prey. And that was also how he used to set up meetings. You wouldn’t find him—he’d find you.
“Do you feel it?” Janus asked. “Smell it…”
“I smell blood in the air,” I said with a sniff.
“Yes,” Janus said contemplatively. “War is coming. It’s in the air, like the smell of oncoming rain.”
“They killed another of our men this morning,” I said, crushing the whiskey glass in my hand, sending shards of glass and whiskey raining down onto the factory’s rooftop. “Tied him to a chair facing an east window just before dawn and left him to greet the rising sun. He died a slow, painful death within half an hour of sunrise.”
“How can you be sure it was them?” Janus asked through gritted teeth.
“They left a calling card,” I said. “A single red rose with a black ribbon tied around the stem.”
“Those bastards!” Janus screeched. “I don’t want to start this war with them—they are my own people after all. But they have gone too far and have forced my hand.”
“Your people?” I asked. “Meaning Immortals?”
“Meaning Italians,” Janus mumbled. “Remember I was a Roman.”
I sometimes forgot that Janus was a Roman soldier in his mortal life. He didn’t have one hint of an Italian accent. Wherever he went, he copied the place’s accent in order to blend in. When he lived in Russia, he adopted a Russian accent. In Texas, he spoke like a Texan with his southern drawl. When he was in Paris, he spoke like a natural-born Frenchman. When I first met him in Ireland after he had Turned me, I thought he was an Irishman like myself. In Japan, during the Edo period, he put on a Japanese accent and adopted the way of the Samurai. And now in New York, he spoke like a New Yorker.
“What will you do if this war happens?” I asked, turning to him.
“It’s not a question of if, my friend,” Janus answered. “But a question of when.”
“When this war happens,” I corrected.
“Then we will fight,” Janus said with a tone of grim finality in his voice. “And die. But first, we must unite all the other covens. Contact your friends among the Banshees. Remind them that a war is coming. Gather as many coven leaders as you can and we’ll form a council of war.”
“And what of the werewolves?” I asked.
“They have always been our enemies,” Janus thought out loud. “But the Vampire Mafia is an even greater threat than they are right now. Thy will make valuable allies. After all, the enemy of my enemy…”
“Is my friend,” I finished.
“Indeed,” Janus said with a nod, his long, skeletal fingers stroking his goateed chin.
“I will do as you have requested,” I said.
“Make sure that you do,” he said, before vanishing once more into the shadows. “Or there will be consequences, Lieutenant.”
I did as Janus had requested and gathered every enemy the Vampire Mafia has ever had—the Banshees, the Masterless, the Blood Triad, even the werewolves. I tried to recruit the Fae to our cause, but sadly, they were adamant on remaining neutral in the coming war. We formed an alliance and trained our soldiers heavily for months.
And then the War began (which is a story for another time—the cock is crowing).
The crowing of the cock is a nod to Bram Stoker's Dracula, where Jonathan Harker and the Count talk until daybreak, and then when the rooster crows, the Count ends the conversation and retires to his coffin in his crypt.
Since this story takes place in the modern day (where he recounts his first few years in America after being Turned), and my vampire has been an Immortal since 1916 (and it's illegal to own a rooster in New York), just imagine that the crowing cock is an alarm sound from his phone or something, reminding him that the sun will rise in a few minutes. At least that's what I was picturing when I wrote that bit.