Chapter 11: Hell’s Bells

The first night was ending. We rolled through dark, seedy neighborhoods, lit only by the dim street lamps, a red porch light here or there, and the glow of the moon. We could hear arguments from open windows, laughter and shouting in alleys and on the streets, and sporadic gunshots a few blocks away. Groups gathered in doorways, walked the sidewalks, and sat around on stoops.

“So, the next lesson is how to get myself shot?” I asked O’Malley sarcastically.

She said nothing at first, just pulled the car into a parking space on the side of the road. Then she told me, “I know you had your hang-ups about the first one, the girl. But I think you’ll like this much better.”

She climbed out of the car and motioned for me to come along.

I couldn’t believe she wanted me to kill again. Still, the way she was talking had me intrigued. I followed her down the cracked sidewalk and questioned, “What exactly are we looking for?”

“You’ll know when we see it.”

We stalked the street side by side, listening and watching quietly. It was only minutes before we came across what seemed to be a back alley drug deal. A big man and a boy younger than me, maybe sixteen.

“Shit,” I hissed, pressing my back against the wall, around the corner from them.

O’Malley peeked at them and I heard the man say, “C’mon, kid. I can’t have this shit just sittin’ around.”

“I told you, I ain’t doin’ this anymore. I’m out. Please, just… leave me alone,” the kid refused.

“Good eye, sniper,” O’Malley whispered as they continued to argue. “Now, before we do anything to the bastard, we gotta get the boy outta there.”

Before I had the chance to ask myself if I could take a second life that night, the man shouted, “Look, you li’l piece of shit…” and there was the sound of a gun being cocked. Without another thought, I grabbed the switchblade from my pocket and stepped out into view. The man looked over, startled. He had his hand over the boy’s mouth, holding his head against the wall and pressing the gun up under his chin. The boy saw me, too, and began to struggle. I didn’t say a word. O’Malley was right—this one would be too easy. The cocksucker deserved it.

“Yo, mind y’own business, boy!” the man shouted. “Ain’t nuthin’ to see here.”

“Let him go,” I said, stepping toward them slowly.

“Or what, bitch?” he yelled, yanking the boy in front of him as a human shield.

“You don’t want it to get that far,” I replied, flicking my knife open and grinning.

“Yo, boy. Didn’t your momma ever teach ya don’t bring a knife to a gunfight?” he laughed.

Quick as lightning, I threw the knife. It whizzed through the air and stabbed into his thigh. He screamed, dropping the gun to grab his leg. The boy took his chance and ran for it. The impact of his sneakers on the pavement died away.

“No,” I said, walking up to where the man lay on the ground. I kicked the gun out of his reach. “But I don’t think I’m at much of a disadvantage.”

“What the fuck you think you’re gonna do?” he spat at me, squeezing his leg with both hands.

“Everything but let you live,” I told him. Slowly and deliberately, I reached down and pulled the knife from his leg. He cried out in pain, cursing at me. Those curses went silent when his eyes came to focus on my scarred face. He watched in disgust as I licked the blood from the blade.

“Dear God… What are you?” he whispered, so terrified that he momentarily forgot his pain.

I picked him up by his neck with one hand and brought him to his feet, then higher, until his toes were off the ground and he kicked and thrashed. I was amazed by my own strength—the guy was just a few inches shorter than me, but probably weighed a hundred pounds more. His eyes bulged, not just from suffocation, but also from fear, staring at my black eyes and long fangs.

“Hungry,” I answered with a grin, and plunged my teeth into his throat. Hot blood spurted into my mouth. I swallowed in gulps, my heart strengthening, my veins filling and carrying heat from my chest to the rest of my body. I fell down on one knee, holding him by the shoulders. My grip was too tight for him to escape, but he struggled anyway, begging for mercy.

Mercy? Sorry. I’m all out.

My fangs ripped two long gashes across his jugular, severing muscles and tendons. He shrieked like a girl, feeling the ground for his gun.

And he found it.

His trembling hand brought the gun against my head, and he fired. Pain burst behind my eyes and my vision went black. I let go of him and fell onto my back.

Shit! I’m gonna die for real this time!

But as I waited to fall down into that dark abyss, I realized I was still conscious. The black mist parted from my sight and I was staring up at the stars. Slowly, I sat up and saw the thug trying to crawl away backward, dragging his leg, one hand pressed to his lacerated neck, whimpering like a wounded puppy. When I got back to my feet, he stared up at me with an expression of pure horror. The blood crept back up into the hole in my forehead, and I smacked myself in the back of the head. The bullet fell out, pinging on the concrete, and the wound healed. I smiled and grabbed him again by the front of his shirt, shoved him against the wall. This time, my teeth crushed his throat with a sickening crunch. His body went limp, lifeless. I fell back down to my knees and drank the last of his blood, healed the gruesome wounds with my tongue as best I could, drew back, gasped for air.

I felt O’Malley’s cold hand on the back of my burning neck. There was a tingle under my skin where she touched me, like pins and needles without the pain. Cautiously, I tilted my head back and looked up at her. She gave me that sexy, crooked smirk of hers and bent down near my face.

It was the only the first night I’d met her, but suddenly, I was feeling some kind of otherworldly attraction. It wasn’t love; that felt different. It was sort of like lust, but more than that. I recalled how Sarah’s soft blue gaze had made my heart melt, but O’Malley’s greenish-gold stare set it on fire. I didn’t know why, but when she drew closer to me, I hoped she was going to kiss me.

Instead, she looked into my eyes and ran her fingertip up the side of my neck, along my jaw, to my bottom lip. Her finger came away covered in spilled blood. I watched her lick it off, wondering if she was trying to be suggestive, because I certainly took it that way…

“Well done,” she said. “Now, let’s go before someone comes.”

“What do we do with him?” I asked, coming to my feet.

“Leave it,” she dismissed. “He was no one. Let’s go.”

Her utter disregard for the body made me a little uncomfortable, but hey. Forcing kids to sell drugs for you just to scratch out a few bucks? That’s just sick. I took one last look at the bastard and followed O’Malley.

We entered O’Malley’s living room and she closed and locked the door. As much fun as it was going out and doing vampire stuff all night long, it was good to be back at the lair. I took off my jacket and sat down on the sofa, watching her put a CD in the stereo. She turned around, shrugging off her own black denim jacket, and sat down next to me.

“How do you like it?” she asked. “Being a vampire and all.”

“It’ll take some getting used to,” I said, slumping back against the cushions. I felt feverish. My heart pounded like a hammer, sending tiny jolts of pain into my major arteries.

O’Malley’s cool fingers felt my neck. “I think you fed too much,” she told me. I just nodded, letting my eyes close. My victim had been a pretty big guy to begin with, and I’d dried him out. Not to mention Sandy and the drinks I’d had at St. Cecilia’s. I’d have to pace myself next time.

Great. There’s gonna be a “next time.” This is just day one!

Before I knew it, she had lifted my arm to her mouth and pricked the inside of my forearm with her fangs, into the vein above my wrist. I almost jerked away, shocked. But then, weird as it sounds, I started to like it. It hurt, but like a deep massage to sore muscle. The pressure in my body released a little more with every drink she took. I felt her lips turning warm.

“Don’t stop,” I sighed, resting my head on the back of the couch. Her mouth moved as if she was smiling. She stroked my skin with her tongue, sucked a little harder, undulated her bite so the movement of her fangs in my flesh sent little bursts of that pleasurable pain up my arm. Ah, that pins and needles feeling again. I closed my eyes and grinned. My jeans were getting a little tight.

Then she pulled away, licking the blood from my arm and from her lips, and the wounds healed.

“Feel better?” she asked, sitting back again.

“Yeah…” I murmured. “That was… That felt good.”

She chuckled a bit. “Didn’t it hurt?”

Without giving too much away, I said, “A little.”

“Y’know, there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain,” she told me. “Vampires, when we feed, we can blur that line for our victims. It’s one of the things that makes us such great killers.”

“That reminds me,” I began, remembering earlier that night with Sandy. I shifted uncomfortably. “So, when I was with that girl earlier, making out and stuff… I guess what I’m wondering is… If my body’s dead…”

“How were you able to rise to the occasion?” she completed, smirking. “All the plumbing may not work anymore, but your blood’s still flowing.”

“You mean I can still get laid?”

She rolled her eyes and got to her feet. “Men,” she muttered. “Alive or dead, you’re all the same.” She started toward the bedroom door. “C’mon, let’s turn in. The sun’ll be coming up soon.”

We entered the bedroom. The blackout curtains were drawn. I walked over and peeked outside. The window faced north, and to my left, the sky was dark blue, still with a few stars shining. To my right, it was pink, orange, and yellow. I closed the curtains and the room was plunged again into near darkness. O’Malley sat on the edge of her coffin, taking off her boots, then pushed the lid over just enough to slip inside.

She paused suddenly, looking at me expectantly. She appeared to be listening for something.

“What is it?” I asked.

Can you hear it?”

I stood still and listened, but shook my head and kicked off my own boots.

“Ah, well. The older we get, the sooner it comes and the louder it gets.” She saluted me and gave me a charming smile. “Sleep well.”

She lay down and pulled the lid of her coffin into place, locking it. I threw mine open, peering inside apprehensively.

Well, I’m dead… I guess this is where I belong.

I lay on my back and brought the lid down over me, then pulled on the metal lever set in the wall, just next to my right hand. The locks shut with a clunk. I pushed up, but the lid wouldn’t budge.

As I lay there, I began to hear what O’Malley must’ve been talking about. Something like church bells in the distance.

No, not church bells, I thought. More like funeral bells. Or worse… It’s a death toll, like during the Plague.

“Hell’s bells,” I whispered out loud to myself.

There was a final, deep toll, and everything went black.

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