Waking up next to Iggy again was nice, but there was too much between us now for it to feel right. He didn’t stir as I sneaked out of his bed, peeked through the curtains at a rainy London, and left the apartment. This time I took stock of where I was; last night I had been a little too distracted to do so as he took me here.
No, not because of him. He had been just as distracted as me. No, because of her. The vampire we were after. None of that had occurred between us. He wouldn’t have minded, but I, showing uncharacteristic restraint, hadn’t felt like it.
The first timepiece I saw outside informed me that it was early afternoon yet, so I headed to my hotel, to hopefully find a decent change of clothing, and to make sure they hadn’t given my room to someone else in my absence. Wouldn’t be the first time. But the room was still there, bed and all, with fresh clothes. Bless the man who invented hotel laundry services.
After I got out of a hot shower it was still raining outside. Good for me and my plans for getting out. Bad for… no. I couldn’t think how rain could be a bad thing right now. Suited my mood, too. For ever since I had woken up this, well, day, there had been pretty much only one thought circling my head, besides the basic urges and needs. A thought of that vampire, the killer look she had given me, how popular and well-known she was, and how much harder that discovery had made everything.
No matter how dramatic the effect of walking in the rain through London, I did the smart thing and took an umbrella with me as I left. The streets were not quite as full of tourists as on a sunny day, but full enough to make it hard to walk with all our umbrellas bumping to each other, getting stuck and turning inside out. So I suppose I had the irritated glare a walk in the rain would have brought on when I reached Heidi’s little shop and entered, shaking the damned umbrella.
“Lovely weather we’re having!” the cheery werewolfling called out, grinning wide. I gave her my best killer glare, startling a few customers as I walked to the counter. “So, did you two get re-acquainted last night?”
“What an annoying smirk you have, grandmother.” I growled at her, trying hard to keep up my sullen façade.
“The way you jumped him, one would think you a bisexual soon.”
“I prefer pansexual, thank you very much. Anyway. We need to talk business. What time do you get off?”
Heidi’s smirk grew even wider and I rolled my eyes. “At five. Can’t we talk here, now?”
I shook my head. We needed to talk somewhere private, where no one else would hear us. I told her as much.
“Not even Claudia?”
I blushed a little, remembering my earlier fantasies. “She’s all right. I meant people who don’t need to know about all these bloodsuckers.”
“Well, she’s at the apartment, she’s got the afternoon free. You can go there already if you want, I’ll be over in a couple of hours. If Simon was here, I could tell him to mind the shop and leave now, but the bastard’s sleeping off a hangover. Who the hell gets stupid ass drunk and goes partying on a Tuesday?”
“Your pothead workmate and at least one vampire, for two.” I said, and her yellowish eyes grew wide.
“Shit. Go to the apartment, I’ll meet you there as soon as I can. I’ll try to get his lazy ass out of bed.”
I nodded and left. Only once I was back outside in the rain, halfway to the apartment Heidi and Claudia shared, I remembered that the little blonde would be waiting there. Oh crap. Maybe I should have gotten more comfortable with Iggy last night. Now I was so full of frustration, annoyance and anxiety that I would be climbing walls soon. Some good old sexual fulfillment would have hit the spot. Would have made it less likely that I’d blurt out something stupid.
My feet hadn’t stopped walking even as my mind ran in circles, so before I knew it they had taken me there. The brain tried to steer me towards the nearest pub for a while, to screw my head back on straight, but the feet were insistent. Up the stairs we went, and the hand, apparently in cahoots with the legs, rang the doorbell while the brain still tried to bribe them with beer.
“Oh, hello!” Claudia’s cheery greeting and wide smile brought me back into the here and now, and I opened my mouth, hoping a similar greeting might come out of its own accord.
“I just wanted a beer.”
Way to go, mouth. Way to go.
“You should have gone to the pub, then.” Claudia laughed, but opened the door. “I think we have a couple in the fridge. Do you want to come in?”
“Yes, actually. Sorry. I was just at the music shop to see Heidi, and she told me to come and wait for her here, since you’re home. I have some news about our… prey.” Now the mouth was working. It babbled on as I stepped in and out off my shoes. Claudia took my umbrella to the bathroom to dry, and then fetched a beer from the fridge. “I wasn’t really serious about the beer, that was just my mind hitting empty.” I confessed, but accepted it anyway. She sat me down by the kitchen table, taking the other chair herself.
“Drink it, less for me and Heidi. She should drink less, and I’m on a diet anyway.”
“You’re skinny as a twig.” I argued, eyed her body through the simple clothes she wore, and blushed.
“Thank you.” Claudia blushed as well, pulling the long sleeves of her cardigan over her palms. We stared at her hands for a moment, then at the table. The window. The table again. The beer. What an exciting bottle.
“So what did you find out? About the vampire?” Claudia asked, and specified which vampire at my blank expression.
“Oh! That one. I found out who it is.” I nodded, frowning. “Unfortunately, she found out who I am as well. There might be trouble.”
“She? It’s a she?” Claudia asked, leaning over the table towards me, excited.
“Yes. And an old vampire, to boot. Oh, there’s really going to be trouble. I feel it in my bones.”
“You mean, dangerous trouble?” She seemed nervous now, and pulled away. My first reaction was to reach out and put a reassuring hand over hers, but let’s get straight here for a moment –no pun intended- I was far from reassured myself.
“Yes.” I finally admitted.
“Do you think she’ll come after you?” she asked, and I had to think a minute.
“She might. She probably won’t connect me to Frank, but she could tell what I am. And if I start hanging around her, she’ll for sure realise that something’s going on. Good thing is, we can pretty much stalk her without me dogging her every step.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s not exactly a nobody.”
Claudia’s eyes grew wide and she leaned over the table, towards me. “You mean she’s famous?”
“Do I know her?”
“Most likely, yes.”
“Who is it?”
“I’d rather wait until Heidi gets here.”
“Don’t you trust me?” Claudia asked with a pout. I swallowed hard.
“Yeah, I do.” I couldn’t come up with an excuse for her for not telling. Dramatic purposes? Fear that saying her name out loud would bring her on us? Or maybe I just didn’t want to turn Claudia’s attention from me to her.
“…so, so much trouble…” I muttered and took a long swig from the bottle of beer. It almost fell from my hand when Claudia suddenly took a hold of my other hand. The touch of her tender skin on mine sent shivers up and down my spine, and I put the bottle down, faster and louder than I had wanted to.
“Don’t worry,” she said with a smile, “Heidi and I will help you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” I managed after a quick impression of a fish on dry land. “She’s powerful, believe me. I want to keep the two of you far from harm.”
She smiled ruefully, looking down at my hand, now in both of hers. Her fingers stroking my tingling skin. “I think you’re far too late for that.”
“What do you mean? Are you two in some sort of trouble?”
“No, nothing like that. Besides the obvious, of course. I just meant that life hasn’t been exactly easy for either of us. There’s always trouble and harm and hurt feelings. That’s life.” She looked up and gave me a little smile. “So don’t worry too much. Live in the moment. All that jazz.”
I blinked, nodded slowly, and leaned over our joined hands to kiss her on those lovely little lips.
It was pretty much as sweet as I had thought it would be. She was wearing lip balm with a hint of honey on lips slightly warmer than mine. Surprised at first, she didn’t react at all, but soon melted into the kiss. Not completely, but there was definitely melting going on.
Still, somewhere which is probably closest to what an old bastard like me has for a conscience, I realised what I was doing, and to whom. So I pulled gently away, and sat back down. Claudia opened her eyes and blinked a few times, as if just waking up. Her lips were still parted when she blushed faster than I have ever witnessed anyone blushing in my whole life.
“I’m sorry. I just find you very attractive. This won’t happen again.” I said, pulling –reluctantly!- my hand away from hers.
She blinked some more, closed her mouth, and blinked. “Oh.” She finally managed, still red as a tomato. We stared at each other, blinking.
“So. How about that weather?” I eventually broke the silence with a strangled chuckle.
We were still staring out of the window, securely on our respective sides of the table, commenting on this cloud and that, wondering about the raindrops when Heidi came home some forty-five minutes later.
“Honey, I’m home! I got Simon out of bed and came here as soon as I could.” The quarter-werewolf shouted from the door, some twelve feet away from us, kicked off her shoes and rushed to the table, to give Claudia a small kiss on the cheek. Then she turned to me, eager as a dog for his walkies.
“So, spill already!”
“Uh, yeah.” I muttered, getting my mind back in gear. For a while there I had managed to forget the whole vampire ordeal. Claudia perked up as well. Heidi’s eagerness seemed contagious. “So, I caught the vampire’s, well, let’s call it scent, last night. Iggy and I. We followed the scent, and ended up at this fine restaurant. We couldn’t get in, so we waited for the vamp to come out. And then we saw who it was.” Short and simple. No chance of the rest of this business being anything like that.
“So who is it already?!” Heidi nearly screamed, throwing her arms open. “I’ve been going nuts at the shop! Tell us!”
I picked up a glossy magazine from the pile on the table, flipped through a few pages and saw a familiar face. I turned the page towards them. Heidi shut her mouth, and Claudia’s fell open.
“…You’ve got to be fucking joking!” Heidi finally screeched. Or maybe whined. I couldn’t quite classify that sound. Claudia just blinked.
“Oh I wish.” I muttered in reply.
”Does this mean we can’t kill her?”
“Well, no. But this does mean that killing her will be extremely difficult. She’s old for a vampire, has power, influence among people and vamps, and she’s recognised everywhere she goes. Plus, bodyguards. Mobs of fans. Getting close to her, most likely to get our asses kicked, will be difficult.” I explained.
“Well, shit.” Heidi eventually muttered, scratching the back of her head. “So what do we do now? And why the hell would she kill Frank?”
“I still can’t see Frank trying to cause her trouble, so maybe it was the dentist. Maybe she killed Frank, or both of them, just to keep her secret. Maybe it’s just that simple, she doesn’t want the common people to know she’s a vampire. Some people get very paranoid in their old age. Vampires even more so.” I said, shrugging. ”We could try keeping an eye on her, as long as we don’t do it too obviously, and wait for the doctor to come back. If she makes a move then, if we can prove that she’s out of control, causing trouble, other vamps would become interested in the matter as well.”
Heidi gnawed at the nail of her thumb, deep in thought. Claudia’s nervous eyes were moving from her to me, back and forth.
“Shit.” Heidi eventually said. ”I guess we have to do that, then.”
“It’s probably our smartest move, at least until we know more.” I have to admit, I was more than a little frustrated at this turn of events. I’m sure the sour look on my face communicated this adequately.
I left soon after that. The atmosphere in the very small apartment was a little too awkward for me, with Heidi pacing from wall to wall in frustration and Claudia barely daring to look at me. I was more than a little restless myself, my mind going over the situation again and again, trying to figure out the smartest thing to do, and what we could do. If we could do anything.
My feet seemed to think that they wanted to see Iggy again, as they guided me towards where I had found myself this morning. Well, morning for me. As in, when I woke up.
He was really taking his current role as a jobless layabout seriously, living in a seedy, small council flat away from the tourist areas. I had stopped for a pint or two on the way, to wait for nightfall so he could come out and play, but there were still little kids out on the yard, screaming and playing and swearing. Kids these days… I’m old, I’m allowed to think such things. Of their parents, too. The mothers hanging around the wee ones didn’t seem old enough to vote.
Sometimes, for example days like this, the world can be such a depressing place.
There was music coming from Iggy’s place when I reached his door, so he must have been up already as I rang the doorbell. There was no real sound out of it, just a sort of a pained ping. I rolled my eyes and banged my fist on the door instead.
The music paused. “Who is it?”
“Santa Claus. Let me in.” I growled, glaring at the two kids who had followed me up from the yard after I had refused to give them five pounds. They crouched a little bit lower when Iggy opened the door a little and shoved his deathly pale face out.
“Oh. You. Come in?” he said politely, noticed the kids and made a scary face at them. The kids ran back down screaming in horror. I could hear the word vampire mentioned a few times. The vampire in front of me grinned sheepishly at me as he took off his useless glasses. “That is just a game we play. They are convinced I am a vampire since I only come out at night.”
“I have news for you, Iggy dearest…” I muttered as I stepped in and closed the door behind me, “you are a vampire.”
“Yes, but what better place to hide than behind a child’s play. None of the grown-ups take it seriously. Nobody believes in us anymore.” He almost seemed sad at that. I clapped my hands a little.
“Don’t come crying to me if you wake up one day with those little bastards standing over you with a stake.” I said and sat down unceremoniously on the messy bed.
“I’ll take my chances.” He said with a wan smile and plopped his skinny butt on the large sofa which dominated the other end of the bedroom slash living room slash kitchenette with a large television and a commendable movie collection. I was getting pretty sick of these one-room apartments. “Not that I mind, Dhampiresa, but what brings you here? Did you go and see the girls?”
“That I did.” I quickly told him how Heidi and Claudia had taken the news, and that it was still more or less undecided what we would do about the situation besides sit and wait. I left out the kiss.
Iggy pondered on all this for a while. I could still hear the kids screaming on the yard. Bored, I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. Eventually Iggy shrugged and opened his mouth again.
“There doesn’t seem to be much we can do right now. So that should mean you will not have to walk the streets anymore, yes?”
“Oh yes. My feet are extremely grateful.” I muttered, near dozing off. So I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Well then. I suggest you gather your strength and relax and all that kind of stuff.”
“Actually… I thought I’d go for a walk. Around London. Wanna come?”
Iggy blinked at me. ”What? Why?”
“I want to see all the old places. Where we used to live, and all that.”
“You are becoming nostalgic at your old age, Dhampiresa.” He said with a smile, but got up. “Let me get dressed.”
Looking at his skinny body draped in an old Led Zeppelin T-shirt and loose boxer shorts, his bony, hairy legs as white as a white man’s legs could be, I giggled. “Please do.”
The look he gave me could only be called dirty.
I could almost have called the walk a romantic one. Nostalgic it was, without a doubt. It’s not that long since the fifties, not from a good, sturdy building’s point of view, and a lot of the old places still stood. I was positively touched, might I dare to admit even a little teary to see the old house where Iggy and I spent most of our years together. Annie and Irving we had been called then. It had been my first long peaceful ‘life’, and it had nearly driven me mad of boredom at times. But it had been a good life. We had been happy. But the world had been changing so much around us, it called out to me, and once it was time to move or make people very suspicious since we never seemed to age, I left to roam. Iggy close to stay in London. I had been mad at him for a long time for that, and I think he must have been, if not mad, at least disappointed at my need to wander.
But anyway. Now we were over all that, thankfully, walking hand in hand out of habit, talking about old times and old friends. Cars driving by were too modern, but London in the dark in this new millennium looks very much like the London in the dark fifty years ago. Enough that we could pretend, if just a little.
Eventually our leisurely walk led us over to the busier parts of London again, and we found ourselves near Soho. It was well after midnight by now, and no matter that it was Wednesday, or rather Thursday already, there were people about. We decided to head for a pub nearby we had used to go to ages ago. Iggy assured me that it still stood, and wasn’t too horribly modern. But our path was suddenly blocked on a narrow street, which was, also, rather empty. A good place for a nasty confrontation. Or a bad place, depending on which end of the confrontation one was.
Two large men whose appearance screamed thug suddenly stepped in front of us out of the darkness. I stopped and grabbed Iggy’s arm, and he nearly fell over his own legs.
“What’s going on? Who are you?” he asked, looking nervously at the men. They looked at each other and took a step forward.
“I don’t think we need to tell you who we represent… you’ve already met the lady. Or should we say stalked?” one of them said menacingly. The meaner looking one. Iggy was twitching beside me. I sighed. Yep. This looked like a bad place for us.
“Is anyone else here getting a real strong sense of déjà-vu?” I asked. That completely baffled the thugs. Good. ”Just me then? Okay. What do you want?”
”We trust you people are smart enough not to cause or missus any trouble. She is very well known, and very powerful. And hey, we could snap you in two like twigs.” The other one said. He had more of a sneaky look on him. Somewhere underneath the mountains of muscle.
“So you could.” I said with a sigh and rolled my eyes. As long as they took us for nothing else than a curious pair of potential troublemakers, we could probably get out of this situation without too much pain.
“So we could. So unless you want to end up like your old pal Frank, we suggest you back away from her.”
…so much for that hope. “What?” was all I said out loud. They knew we knew Frank? I had been fumbling inconspicuously for my gun, just in case, but now my wandering hand stopped inside my bag, fidgeting around something else.
“Hand out of the bag.” The meaner one said, glaring at me. I pulled my empty hand out and lifted both slightly in the air.
“You was friends with him, weren’t you, poppet? Frank the werewolf? That’s what she said. She didn’t want to hurt ‘im, but he left us no choice.” The one with more of a brain said, looking condescendingly down on me. The other one just sneered.
“He took a long time to die. Longer than any man that age ought to.” They laughed. They actually laughed. Iggy whimpered a small Polish curse beside me as I felt my face twist into an angry sneer.
“Real brave, that, killing an old man. ‘Cause that just takes such balls, you know. Frank was, what, in his nineties? You guys so macho.” There goes my mouth again. It really ought to tell me before it starts going on like this, I think. “Or did you just watch, peckers in hand, while your ‘missus’ took care of business?”
Ooh, that pissed them off. “Oh, we got to beat ‘im up well enough. She don’t want to get any bruises, they look bad at shows.” The meaner-looking one snarled. I smirked, just a little, and the one I had dubbed as the smarter one suddenly got suspicious. Better not let them think too much, or we’d really be in trouble.
“Guess she had to let you boys have a little fun. With all those steroids you’ve pumped into yourselves, I guess beating up ninety-year old men is the only fun you can get.” I wiggled my little finger and eyed their crotches intentionally.
“I’ll show you fun…” the smarter –maybe not so smart after all- snarled, flexing his muscles as he started to approach.
“I love you, Dhampiresa, but you have to learn to shut up, okay?” Iggy hissed at me. Vampire or no, he did mostly resemble the aforementioned twig. I tried to steel myself, to get ready to have my ass handed to me, when whatever higher power there may be dropped two angels on us.
“Hey, it is you! Roofie-darling!”
I’d better make that drunk angels. Two young men suddenly appeared on the scene, and promptly threw their arms around Iggy’s neck. The thugs were again properly baffled, and they took a few steps back, clearly unsure on what to do.
“Hey, Roofie, can you give us a pound or two? For tea? Just for tea, we’re cold. Or beer, whichever you feel like buyin’ us?” one of my angels, a very skinny man with lovely chocolate brown skin more or less cooed at Iggy, who was blushing furiously. The other one, bleached blonde and very wobbly on his extremely skinny legs, was giving me a leer from underneath a hat which had seen better days. And better years.
Iggy was stuttering something along the lines of being totally broke. My attention was more on the bodyguards, who were obviously not used to such high levels of homosexuality as the scene before us contained. They were backing away, eyeing the trio and me suspiciously. Eventually, when both angels had all their hands in various vampire pockets, their faces more or less pressed to Iggy’s neck, mouths begging, the muscle men retreated backs first, giving me what they must have hoped were menacing looks.
“I won’t have any money until the next giro. I can barely afford crackers for myself.” Iggy was just saying. Poor man looked like his head would soon explode from humiliation. The blond let out a pitiful whine and leaned his head on Iggy’s chest. I bit down laughter, shoved my hand into my bag, grabbed the first banknote I found, and let out a loud whistle.
“Hey, pretty boys, here!” I waved it in the air, and Iggy was freed immediately. I on the other hand was smothered in the skinniest hug ever, and the money quickly disappeared.
“Thank you pretty lady!” the blond kissed me on the cheek.
“Bless you!” the other one called out as they were already wobbling away, admiring their prize and giggling. I grabbed Iggy by the arm and started to run, in a different direction than the two thugs in case they hadn’t gotten too far yet.
“How much did you give them? You’re not supposed to give them money, they just spend it all on pot and beer! It’s better to buy them tea or food! How much was that?” Iggy fretted.
“Relax, it was just twenty pounds.” I think. “Besides, I thought you said you gave all that stuff up in the seventies?”
“I did! They’re just friends!”
“Milord objects too much.” I muttered, grinning a little, still running.
“Shut up. What’s with the rush?”
“I want to be far from here in case those thugs come back. I don’t want to get beat up again.”
“This is bad, Iggy. This is bad on so many levels of bad. They know we knew Frank. That means they must know Heidi and Claudia too.”
Iggy considered this a moment. “Oh. Bugger. You’re right. You and I, we can handle ourselves, we’re most resilient, but they are just human. This is bad.”
“Don’t forget, though, that every cloud has a silver lining.” I muttered as we reached a larger street, where Londoners and tourists were still wandering around.
Iggy gave me a look. It was a look he’d given me so many times back in the days when we used to live together. It translated roughly to I suddenly feel dread. Still, he had to ask.
“There’s something good in this situation?”
“Oh yes. They just admitted to killing Frank.”
“So? It’s our word against them. Against her. She has more influence, more money. More friends. What do we have?”
I allowed the smirk to finally spread on my face, and pulled my cell phone out of my bag. “I have their every word on tape, darling.”