The atmosphere was getting kind of unfriendly, so I picked up my cigarettes and lighter and went outside. I opened the metal door to Mathis’s wall of a backside.
He glanced back at me and stood to the side, saying, “Leavin’ so soon?”
“Yeah,” I murmured, and came out to lean against the wall. He repositioned himself in his bouncer pose as the door closed. “Mind if I smoke?” I asked.
“Go ‘head,” he said. “You don’t have to come outside for that, though.”
“I know,” I told him around the cigarette I was lighting, and breathed out smoke. “I just, uh… needed some fresh air to pollute.”
He chuckled deep in his chest.
“Hey, um…” I began nervously, “Mathis, can I ask you something?”
“Well, you see a lot of what goes on around here, right?”
“Do you know if… I mean, does anyone know who I am?”
He laughed again. “Lotta people know who you are.”
I didn’t reply. I puffed on my cigarette, letting it occupy my mouth so I had an excuse not to speak.
“Someone givin’ you trouble?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Just a couple dirty looks.”
“Ah,” he conceded. “Well, that’s to be expected.”
I tried to mask a worried look. “It is?”
He turned toward me, leaning against the door. I could imagine it bending under his massive shoulder. “Some vampires don’t like it when a mortal’s turned without makin’ the choice himself. You were dyin’, you couldn’t make that choice, but O’Malley turned you anyway.”
It began to make sense. “You’re saying I’m supposed to be dead, and there are other vampires who want to make things right.”
“Sum’n like that.”
I sighed smoke out my nose. “Always good to feel accepted.”
He chuckled. “Always gonna be haters, Grin. Can’t change that. But ain’t nobody gonna start nothin’ ’round here, feel me?”
I knew what he meant. No one would be dumb enough to start a fight there, because they knew Mathis would be the one to break it up. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I said with a laugh.
He looked over at the corner of the building where headlights were approaching. “Think your ride’s here.”
Sure enough, O’Malley’s green Nova came around the corner and stopped in front of us. Strangely, she wasn’t blasting the Celtic rock she usually listened to. I smiled as I walked up to the car, recognizing the unmistakable “goth ‘n’ roll” sound of The 69 Eyes.
“The meeting didn’t last long, so I thought I’d go pick up a new CD,” she told me as I got in, flashing the plastic case of Back In Blood at me—a skull surrounded by roses. It was their “vampire” album.
I laughed. “Funny, I was just thinking about this band.”
“How’s that?” she asked. The car jerked into gear and she turned it around, peeling up the hill and out of the parking lot.
“One of their songs got me laid for the first time.”
Her musical laugh filled the car, more melodious than the music blaring from the speakers. “I bet that’s an interesting story.”
We cleared the trees and emerged onto the main road, the headlights on the highway coursing in the distance like blood through veins. “Fuck yeah, I love this song!” I shouted, cranking the volume up even higher as “We Own the Night” began. I watched O’Malley toss her fiery red hair to the beat, and sang along at the top of my lungs.
O’Malley hadn’t fed yet that night, so when we reentered Arlington, she drove around, looking for one of those many places cities have where evil tends to gather. We ended up in a dying area of the town, a place where “FOR SALE” signs stood in stunted lawns, crumbling buildings were homes to squatters, and the only motel that was still open was good for nothing more than a cheap bed to share with a hooker. There was a little bar that seemed to be the only place in the area with any business, and this was where O’Malley parked the car and climbed out.
“What’re you gonna do?” I asked as she started toward the bar.
“You’ll see,” she said, turning back only to give me her crooked smirk. Then she disappeared inside.
I waited a while, tapping my fingers nervously on the dashboard, wondering what the hell she was planning. It was taking her longer than I expected. I was about to give up and go look for her, but then I heard a door slam open against a brick wall. In the space between the bar and the empty building next to it, I saw O’Malley land on her hands and knees. Two burly guys came after her, laughing sadistically. I clenched my teeth and grabbed the door handle, but then I relaxed. I knew then what she was doing, and I laughed to myself a bit, looking forward to seeing her little act.
“Please, no!” she cried, and squealed as one of them grabbed her by the hair and pulled her toward the wall of the other building.
“Looking for directions, huh?” he teased. “Well, me and my buddy here got some directions for ya!”
“Yeah,” the buddy said, taking over and pulling her to her feet. “First, whatcha wanna do is, get against the fucking wall!” He twisted her arm behind her back and pushed her against the brick.
“Help! Somebody!” she screamed. Our eyes met for a moment, and though she didn’t stop struggling or give up her act, she winked at me. I hit my fist on the dash to keep from laughing out loud.
“Next,” he went on, “spread your legs!” He kicked her feet apart.
“Please, I’m begging you, don’t do this!” she cried.
“Hey, man, why do you always get to go first?” the other man commented.
“Shut the fuck up.”
“C’mon, watching you fuck is a total boner killer. Let me just get a blow out of her while she’s still hot!”
The man growled and snapped, “All right, Red, turn around and get on your knees,” and tore her away from the wall, shoved her down on the ground. The other walked up to her, undoing his pants. She tried to turn away, eyes filled with terror, but the man behind her held onto her hair.
As he took a step forward, about to force his dick in her mouth, she let go of her captor’s wrists and slashed her fingernails down his arms, baring her fangs and hissing at the man in front of her. The one behind her staggered back in pain and cursed at his bleeding arms, and the other screamed and tried to run. He got only a few feet before his pants fell down around his ankles, tripping him up and landing him on his face. O’Malley ran after him and rolled him onto his back with her foot.
“Please, don’t…” he begged, shielding his face with his arms.
“That’s what I said.”
She lifted her knee to her chest and her boot came down on his neck. Then she did it again. And again. The gut-wrenching sound made me cringe, but I couldn’t look away. When she was done with him, it almost looked like a truck had run over his neck.
O’Malley turned to face the other man before he could try to get away. “You’ve fucked with the wrong girl,” she said, black eyes gleaming, long fangs grinning. She strutted toward him, and I licked my lips at the way her hips swayed.
“Holy shit! Get away from me, you crazy bitch! Get away!” he cried, pressing himself back against the wall and hugging his lacerated forearms together.
“Aww. What’s wrong?” she asked. “You were all over me a second ago. Don’t you still want to do it?” She punctuated it with a scowl and a hard grab to his throat. “C’mon, you’re a big tough motherfucker, aren’t you? There’s no way you’d let a little girl beat your arse.”
“I’m… sorry…” he choked, his feet coming off the ground as she lifted him up by his neck.
“Oh… you’re gonna be, boyo,” she assured him, and threw him to the ground. He attempted to crawl away, but she leapt onto his back, wrapping her legs around his waist, and tore into his neck with her fangs. His arms flailed wildly, trying to grab at her and pull her off, but her position and her strength wouldn’t allow it. Before long, he collapsed and she climbed off.
Then she stood and came back toward me, licking blood from around her mouth. I tried really hard not to think she looked sexy. Really hard. But I failed. She’d just killed two men, the blood from one of them still glistened on her lips, and somehow, that turned me on.
She got back inside and closed the door. The car rumbled to life. “That was brutal,” I complimented.
“So were they,” she muttered, backing out into the street. She turned to me and smiled. “What now?”
I smiled back. “You know, there’s something I’ve always wanted to do…”
If someone were to look up at the very top of Arlington Tower that night, they would’ve seen two swarms of large bats hovering there, each of them coming closer and closer together until they became two people, O’Malley and me. It was so easy to be seen. All it would take was one person to glance at the soaring landmark at the wrong instant, to see us, and word would spread faster than an STD at a high school band camp. But maybe that’s why it was so much fun. Being bad was a rush, especially when there was the possibility of getting caught.
“This is… amazing,” I marveled, looking at the city stretching out into the horizon, the river sparkling far beneath us.
The old feeling that O’Malley was watching me crept up my spine, and I turned to her. Her eyes darted away, but a hint of a smile played at the corners of her lips. Memories came flooding back to me, of when I was in the cemetery before Sarah’s party and that same feeling came. I knew then that the wolf I’d seen had been O’Malley. But for some reason, that feeling wasn’t unpleasant anymore. When before it had been a paranoia, now it was a sort of connection. Now I knew where it was coming from. And I liked where it was coming from.
But with the memory of that night came the memory of Sarah. I’d avoided thinking about her for as long as I could, but now I couldn’t stop it. I closed my eyes and felt her kiss my cheek, saw her smile, heard her voice, until I thought my heart would break so hard, it would tear my chest open.
So let it, I thought. How else should I feel after being murdered the night I fell in love?
Yes, I answered myself. I fell in love. Maybe she loves me, too. But she could never love this thing I’ve become. No matter what version of The Phantom of the Opera you watch, Christine never ends up with Erik.
“He always lets her go,” I whispered to myself.
From the corner of my eye, I saw O’Malley look at me, but she seemed to realize my words weren’t directed at her. She sat down on the edge of the roof.
I leaned back my head as a breeze picked up, blowing through my hair. So help me God, I could even smell her, the way I could when we were dancing, so close to each other, when I had ached to lift her face from my chest and pour my soul into one long kiss.
And there I go again with the sappy poetry. But, dammit, poetry was all I could speak when describing how I felt about her.
I love you, Sarah, I thought, pretending that, in some way, she could hear me. I know you’ll never be able to love me, but I hope you won’t forget me.
Having said my goodbyes, I let that part of me die. Jake Grinley could almost rest in peace. Vengeance was all I had left to achieve before I could close the coffin on my mortal life.
“Feeling better?” O’Malley asked when I sat down next to her.
“Yeah,” I said, taking out a cigarette. “Just had some baggage to let go of.”
She sighed. Now she was the one that looked upset.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, and lit up.
“I can’t help feeling I forced you into this,” she murmured.
“Hey. Don’t think like that,” I said, putting a comforting hand on her knee. “I’m glad you did it. If you had asked me, I would’ve said yes.”
“What if you hadn’t been dying?” she asked, golden-green eyes meeting mine.
She had a point. If she had approached me at any other time, gave me the offer, and I refused, she would’ve had the power to make me think the whole conversation had been a dream. My life would’ve continued on unchanged.
I smiled. “I was dying. That’s how it happened. If not for you, I’d be dead. Don’t feel guilty for saving my life.”
The intensity in her eyes slowly melted and she nodded in acceptance.
She leaned back on her hands and I realized that my hand was still on her knee. Her skin was warm with her recent feeding, and soft like only women’s skin can be. I moved my fingers, caressing her a little.
“Grin,” she said.
“Hmm,” I acknowledged, checking out her legs.
“What’re you doing?”
“Nothing.” My hand slid over a little and I squeezed the inside of her thigh gently.
She smiled and took my wrist. “I have work to do,” she told me, and got to her feet. “Let’s go back to the loft.”
“That’s just what I was thinking,” I suggested with a grin, and stood beside her.
She rolled her eyes and, before I could react, took a step forward and plummeted toward the pavement below.
I stared in horror, waiting to see her reduced to a splatter of blood on the ground.
O’Malley landed on her feet like a cat, bending her knees. Then she looked up at me and waved me down.
“I think I’ll take the bats!” I called to her. Immortal or not, I wasn’t about to jump off the top of Arlington Tower!