Chapter 22: Compromised

I met O’Malley in front of the building and we started back toward Lanigan’s.

“So?” she prompted.

I chuckled to myself. “You should bring me to work with you more often.” I shrugged. “At least for the fun part.”

She laughed and wrapped her arm around mine as we walked, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I tried to act that way too, but I couldn’t fight a big, stupid smile from spreading across my face. To mask it, I took out a cigarette and lit it. My mind wandered back to the kiss we’d shared earlier that evening. Maybe when we got back to the loft and had some time to ourselves…

I don’t think I’ve ever had a more naïve thought than that one.

O’Malley unlocked and opened the door to the loft. I gasped, staggering backward against the rail of the landing. She stood frozen and stared inside.

The place was a wreck. The panoramic window had been crashed in from the outside. Furniture was toppled, glass was broken, and blood was everywhere. Paths of red across the floor, like a stabbed corpse had been dragged around. It looked like…

Shit

It looked like someone had been walking around with blood pouring from his body.

And in the middle of it all sat Dodger, covered in blood, tied to a chair and gagged. We rushed in and O’Malley pulled the bundle of socks out of his mouth.

“So good to see you, love,” he said. “Don’t worry, this blood isn’t mine.”

“What the hell happened?” she demanded, then to me, “Cut him loose.”

“Just a sec,” I answered, walking over to my guitar. It was lying face down, but it wasn’t damaged.

Really?” she marveled at me.

“What? He’s fine!” I said as I propped the guitar back up against the wall. “Dodger. You’re fine, right?”

He shrugged. “Can’t complain.” O’Malley rolled her eyes and he continued, “Anyway, I’m afraid your loft’s been compromised,” he told her as I took out my switchblade and sawed at the ropes around his wrists and ankles. “My fault. I apologize. They followed me here.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Davey and his goons.”

A shiver of rage went up my spine.

“Why didn’t you shoot them?” O’Malley shouted.

His eyebrows rose in surprise. “For free? Are you mad?”

“They could’ve killed you,” I muttered, putting my blade back in my pocket.

He smiled knowingly. “Exactly.”

I sighed. “I don’t get it.”

“Davey wants to send you a message,” Dodger informed me, standing and rubbing his wrists. “Simply put… ‘Behave yourself, or I’ll kill your friends.'”

“Like hell he will,” I growled. “I’ll kill him first.”

No!” Dodger and O’Malley snapped.

I stared at them. “‘No?'”

“Don’t even think about it,” O’Malley warned me. “Vampires can’t kill other vampires.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Oh, it’s entirely possible,” Dodger clarified. “However, inadvisable. When you are found out and when you are captured, you will suffer a slow and agonizing death, if you are lucky. So, no. You can’t kill him.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” I hissed.

Dodger crossed his arms and seemed deep in thought for a moment, then looked up at me. “Two things. Plan A… You listen. Be a good little vampire, keep a low profile, be careful of who you kill, and clean up after yourself.”

“You mean let him rattle me? Have you met me?”

He grinned. “I have, and that’s why I suggest plan B… Scare the bejesus out of him.”

That sounded way better. “I’m listening.”

“Obviously, he believes you care enough about your mates to do what you have to in order to save them. So, call his bluff. Show him you’re ruthless. Do something that will get his attention and let him know you don’t give a damn.”

I considered the idea. It made a lot of sense. You can’t threaten a man who doesn’t care, because what do you have to threaten him with?

“Look, can we talk about this at your place?” O’Malley asked Dodger. “They could still be around.”

Dodger smirked. “Twenty grand and I’ll take care of it.”

She rolled her eyes and started for the door without another word.

Dodger and O’Malley waited in front of Lanigan’s while I went down to the garage. As the door rose in front of me, I immediately regretted going back for my bike.

Well… I regretted it for a moment, anyway.

Sitting in the alley behind the garage, looking like a murdered, bloody corpse, was Davey. We glared at each other and I waited for a fight to start, but he only closed his eyes and rested his chin on his chest. This must’ve been what happened to us after going in a place where we weren’t invited. He looked like hell, and probably felt like it, too.

“Where are your friends?” I asked.

He lifted his heavy, purple eyelids and looked at me. “Lookout saw you coming back,” he confessed in a tired whisper. “Every man for himself.”

I laughed and walked up to him. He gave a frightened jump and pressed his back into the wall.

“Wasn’t a very well thought out plan, was it?” I teased. He just gave me a vicious look like he was trying to pull a Scanners on me. I smiled. “You thought I’d be afraid for Dodger? C’mon, man. We both know what he’s capable of.”

“You don’t know what I’m capable of,” he warned.

I cringed as I examined his current state and said, “At the moment, I’m guessing… not much. But let’s pretend you could kill him. Know what that would mean for me?”

His brow furrowed in confusion and he squinted up at me, waiting for an explanation.

I grinned. “Means I get O’Malley all to myself.” I winked at him, gave him a clap on the shoulder that made him wince in pain, and went back toward the open door of the garage. “Speaking of our capabilities, you should check out that mess I left behind the strip club, down the road,” I suggested, and pointed down the alley. “Just crawl that way a few blocks; you’ll know it when you see it.”

Hopefully my victim would be enough to scare him off of my back. I got on my bike and rode out front to follow the others to Dodger’s place.

It was getting late and Dodger went to bed as soon as we got to his apartment. I sat in his living room and waited while O’Malley took some pillows from his linen closet and threw them in the bathroom where we’d be sleeping, safe from the sun. She returned and sat down next to me.

“What do we do now?” I asked her.

“Right now, we lay low here,” she said, curling her feet up on the sofa, by my side. “Dodger’s gonna call some guys tomorrow and get our stuff moved from Lanigan’s to my other place.”

“You have another place?”

“I always have two places, just in case something like this happens.”

I chuckled. “Does this kinda thing happen a lot?”

She hesitated. “Once, when I was young and stupid… And now, twice.”

I could feel her accusing gaze, so I avoided it, looking straight up at the ceiling, giving no response.

“Grin,” she said.

“Yeah?”

“You haven’t done anything… irresponsible… have you?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I lied, and got to my feet. Her eyes followed me as I walked to the window.

“I mean like when you killed that pedo,” she reminded me, standing. “That’s the only one they’ll know for sure was a murder. Right?”

“Anybody could’ve done that. I didn’t drink his blood or anything.”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

I hissed in a deep breath and turned around to face her. “There may’ve been just one more…” I admitted.

“Which one?”

“The target earlier tonight.”

Her jaw dropped.

“But that couldn’t’ve been why they came after us!” I defended in a rush, before she could get pissed. “They had to have shown up just after we left, right? They would’ve been in the loft while we were at the strip joint!”

She sighed and sat back down, head in her hands, and asked, “What, exactly, did you do?”

“Um…” I began nervously, “I may have… carved his face.”

“Y’left a callin’ card?” she shouted, jumping to her feet. “What the hell were ya thinkin’?”

“I was thinking I didn’t want him to be just another one of your Drained Corpses, all right?” I replied, maybe a little rougher than I should’ve. “It wasn’t like it was with that other bastard. Everyone knows what he did to deserve it. Like you said, the cops are the only ones bothered by it. But the guy tonight… No one knows what he did.”

“So what?” she spat. “The point is to kill ’em. Drink their blood, leave no trace o’ foul play, and get paid. Sure, he was evil, but as long as he’s dyin’, he’s gettin’ what he deserves.”

“That’s not good enough.”

She started to argue, but let out a harsh breath instead and turned away from me, shaking her head.

For a long time we stood there, she with her back to me, me staring at it and waiting. I wanted to go up behind her, wrap my arms around her, tell her nothing bad would happen, there was nothing to worry about. But I couldn’t.

“I know it isn’t,” she said at last.

“…What?” I whispered.

“Just killing them. I know it isn’t good enough. I know that better than most. I wish I’d shoved the boss of that factory into one of his own machines, so he’d know what his carelessness had cost my sister and so many other workers. I wish I’d locked the crew of that ship in their hold so they’d know what it was like to die down there with the hunger, thirst, disease, and vermin.”

I took a step toward her and asked gently, “Why didn’t you?”

“I was too afraid,” she said. “I knew what happened to vampires that drew too much attention to their victims.”

“I’m not afraid,” I told her, coming up behind her. “What’s the worst they can do? Kill me?”

Of course, I knew that was a very real possibility, especially with the ancient vampires out there who would do anything to keep our existence secret.

She laughed softly and turned around. “There’s really no stopping you from doing what you want to do, is there?”

“Never,” I replied, grinning. “Every piece of scum in this city is gonna die, and anyone who sees their faces will know they deserved it.”

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