The sweet scent of blood called to him, sending the sharp sting of longing straight to his thirsty soul. He jumped onto the parapet and crouched to scan the dark below like a bird of prey hunting his next meal. From his perch high on the rooftop, he had the advantage. He was a predator at the top of the food chain.
The wind blew frigid and gusty, whipping his long trench coat behind him, blowing back his long, untamed hair, stirring his wild, matted beard. Autumn was fading into winter, his favorite time of year with its longer nights and shorter days. The cold didn’t bother him.
He gazed up at the sky, sniffing the cold air like a wolf in the wild, wistful for the sight of stars and moon. The November sky was heavy with clouds, not a star in sight. The first snowfall of the season could not be far off. He leaned forward precariously to inspect the landscape below.
Somewhere in those damp, cold, trash-ridden alleys, fresh blood flowed, calling to him with the beguiling siren song he could not resist. The alley below was desolate, only empty plastic bags and dead leaves drifting in the cold night’s breeze. He sprang into the air with the strength and grace of a wildcat, easily spanning the distance to the next building and landing halfway across the roof.
Another leap brought him to the far edge where once again, he stopped to peer at the darkness below. The scent of fresh blood was strong now. There, behind a large metal dumpster were the huddled figures, rabid animals feasting on easy, wounded prey. They were not vampire. They were human. He jumped, landing easily on his feet, the six-story drop but child’s play to him.
Facing the street was the lookout man, the one who encouraged anyone approaching the alley to keep moving, leaving the beasts to enjoy themselves undisturbed. Shielded by the dumpster, three men crouched over a prone figure, a female. It was her blood flowing, and there’d be little left of it soon, but he wasn’t concerned. It was the beasts who would provide for him.
He didn’t hesitate. He took the lookout from behind, breaking his neck with a fast, practiced, snapping action which took little effort. He didn’t wait to watch the man slump against the wall. Several long strides took him to the huddled men.
He grasped the first one by the shoulder with one hand, landing a powerful blow to the temple with incredible force with the other. The man’s head snapped sideways; his eyes rolled up into his head. He was dead before he hit the pavement.
The human pounding into the female never looked up, lost in his pleasure, but the other one did, and for a few seconds remained locked in shock, unable to process what he saw. The only light came from a tiny flashlight the man held. He trained it up, illuminating the vampire. In terror, the man gasped, fell back, and tried to crawl away.
The vampire vaulted over the man who plunged with mindless abandon into the female and grabbed the one trying to get away. He lifted him easily, like a child lifting a stuffed Teddy bear, and smashed him headfirst into the alley wall. The head cracked like succulent fruit dropped from a height.
The man riding the female finally looked up, dazed, his knees soaked in her blood. This was the one the vampire wanted, the one whose heart raced fast as adrenaline and endorphins flowed into his blood stream during the sexual excitement. He was warm and flushed all over from his heightened state. The scent emanating from his pores was spicy, mouth-watering, much like a steak fresh off the grill would be to a human.
The vampire reached for him, pulling him clean off the woman in one swift move. He held him up by the neck against the alley wall. The rapist dangled and kicked, his bloody pants hanging off his knees, his penis wet and shrinking in the cold night.
The vampire clamped an iron grasp on his victim’s mouth and gazed at him with undisguised longing. A low, hungry growl rumbled from deep in his throat. Eyes burning red, long fangs sharp and glistening with saliva, the vampire’s nostrils flared, his lips pulled back. It took less than a second to slash deeply, then he clamped his lips around the gushing wound.
He took his time drinking. He allowed his mouth to fill naturally, the warm, addictive taste touching every cell in his tongue. He savored the bliss of the rich, thick nectar, drinking without hurry, neatly. He was careful not to leave bite marks on the tender human flesh.
There was no need or reason to hurry. The alley was a dark, desolate, cold place where danger lurked. Even a homeless person would seek more hospitable and safer grounds. His prey was a large man, having probably between five or six liters of blood. The vampire only wanted a fraction of that, a loss the man could easily survive.
The hunter would not, however, leave evil predators alive to rape and murder the innocent. Would these thugs not have killed him without a moment’s hesitation?
His thirst sated, he pulled his mouth away from the man, still holding him in his powerful, one-handed grip. Blood now flowed freely down his prey’s neck to drench the man’s open shirt and jacket. The thug looked up at him, eyes wide in fear and horror, mouth working to pull in air.
The vampire reached down into his coat’s pocket and pulled out a blade, sharp and deadly. He flashed it across his victim’s eyes, letting him see what was coming. The man’s legs began to kick with renewed vigor in his desperation.
“I would love nothing better than to rip out your throat and bathe in your blood, but everyone knows we do not exist,” the vampire said in a low growl. “It is just my luck that throat-cutting thugs are a dime a dozen.” He slashed deeply and dropped the body.
He walked over and looked down at the female lying in a now cold and congealing, dark puddle. There was something indecent, obscene, pitiful about the sight of her pale, cold legs splayed out on the filthy pavement. Her skirt was pulled roughly around her waist to expose her narrow, flat belly and the small pubic mound covered in dark, glossy curls.
His gaze quickly moved from the painful, raw image and flicked to her face. Her eyes, glazed and pained, tried to focus on him. Her breaths were coming fast and short. She turned her head and fixed her sight on the metal dumpster. She was dying. There was nothing he could or should do. He pulled her skirt down to cover her shame and turned away.
He now had four bodies needing to disappear. The woman was not his problem; he didn’t kill her. The authorities would know exactly what happened to her. But men found with broken necks, crushed skulls, and cut throats, even miserable, murdering rapists, would need explaining and investigating. Even if their bodies eventually turned up, there must be nothing to indicate the presence of a vampire. Their deaths must be attributed to the usual criminal element.
For the next half hour, he hauled the corpses through darkened alleys and rooftops to dump in the fast, murky, frigid depths of the river, which would wash them out to sea. It took little effort given his strength and speed.
He returned to the alley and looked around it, ensuring he left no tale-telling clues which might betray his existence. The female, he believed, was dead.
It was the long, drawn-out wail of a cat that drew his attention. He looked around for the offending animal but saw nothing other than the woman’s body in the deep shadows of the alley. When the wail came again, longer, insistent, and angry, he knew it was not a cat.
The vampire straightened up and looked carefully around him. There was nothing to be seen. The walls caging the alley were blind walls, the windows facing the front and back of the buildings. He was about to take off, impatience and caution urging him on, when the wailing started again and did not stop. In shock, he realized the sound was coming from the dumpster.
Two steps took him to the bin, and he easily pulled the heavy lid open. The sweet, cloying smell of rotting vegetable and animal matter assaulted his senses immediately and almost made him turn away, but he forced himself to look inside.
It wasn’t a cat. From a cradle of refuse and stench, a small face stared at him, pale and full of fear. The wail came from the babe clutched tightly in the arms of the girl child.
The vampire was stunned. Of all the things he could have expected, this was so not it. Who would leave children abandoned inside a dumpster on such a cold night? And humans would call him a monster.
In shock, he pulled away and moved to lean against the brick wall. He knew nothing of children, but one thing he knew. He would never, ever, hurt the young of any species. There was no honor, only shame, in destroying something so weak and helpless; something that could not fight back.
In his mind’s eye, images played from long ago, remembrances of children and women being slaughtered. Memories of terror as savage, battle-mad warriors swept through a village, killing old and young alike. He remembered little ones impaled on lances and swords, tiny limbs twitching in their agonizing death throes. He never forgot.
What was he going to do? His mind screamed at him to walk away. They were not his kind, not his responsibility. They’d be far more terrified of him than of anything else out here. His survival instincts told him to go, to fly as fast as he could, away from the situation. It had nothing to do with him. The affairs of humans were not his concern, and his involvement would only end in disaster for him.
His eyes drifted to the dead female. The little girl had thick, dark hair. The woman had similar dark hair. Could they be her babes? Did these thugs rip the little ones from her arms and throw the children in the trash so the monsters could rape her undisturbed? The images his thoughts conjured up made him furious, and he tried to sweep them from his mind, but he couldn’t.
Is that your mother, little ones? Did you hear her cries as they violated her? The vampire’s pity burned into rage. His eyes strayed back to the dead woman. He approached her reluctantly, loathing the sight of raw vulnerability and waste, the desecration of dignity. He crouched at her side.
The blood pooled around her wasn’t from a visible wound. It bled from her woman’s mound, copiously. She must have given birth recently. The assault probably caused hemorrhaging from her still-recovering womb. Animals! He wanted to kill them all over again.
He wondered what she was doing out on the streets, late on a cold autumn night. Why was she unprotected in a neighborhood where all kinds of danger lurked in wait? What brought her out? He reached to touch her arm. It was cool but not cold.
He frowned. Are you still alive? He reached to the base of her throat and pressed his middle finger to the pulse point. A moment later, his eyes opened wide. There was a pulse. She was in bad shape but still alive.
“Don’t get involved, don’t get involved,” he repeated aloud to himself. He knew he was about to do the opposite of what he should be doing but abandoning the children in their current situation was not an option. He was a vampire but not a monster.