The body hadn’t been there for long. The last blush of human warmth was just disappearing. The young man’s dark eyes were overlain with a milky film. He was staring up at the midnight sky and at nothing at all. His neck had two small, neat puncture wounds over one of the big arteries.
“Why do you do this?” ask Francisco, checking nails that only grew at his command.
“Wait with the body. And right where they fell too.”
“It’s the right thing to do.”
“More than take them some place comfortable? More than taking his head so he doesn’t come back at all?”
Leona stood from where she’d been crouched over the ex-human. She rolled her shoulders to work out a kink, considering her answer.
“You know we’re recruiting.”
“Okay. But why not move him?”
“Don’t you remember your first night? The confusion, the loss, and that feeling of being more lost than you’ve ever been?”
“So I experimented — back when the scientific method was a cool new idea. Turns out waking up to the last place you saw is kind of soothing. No, not soothing.” She sucked her teeth, thinking again. “I don’t know. It’s one less change to get used to, isn’t it? Quiets the savage beast or some shit. It works. Trust me.”
“Meanwhile I stand here going hungry on this piss-smelling harbour.”
“So go eat.”
“Lee, this could take hours!”
“I know, Paco. Go eat. I’ll be fine here.”
“And if he wakes up?”
“Then I won’t have to protect your Twentieth Century ass, now will I?” She slapped his little denim-clad behind as though to prove her point. “Go do what you’ve got to do. I can stand a night without lunch.”
“That’d be nice. Thanks,” he said, before dashing off between the shadows of the huge shipping containers.
Leona looked down at the crumpled twenty-something. She’d gotten a call that some fresh-blood pair of fangs had dropped a body without being cautious. His master had been too busy keeping track of him to do his own fucking due diligence. Leona was the oldest vamp on the streets, so she spent every other night cleaning up after the ever-growing population of monsters on the street. Whatever happened to professional etiquette, anyway? Vampirism was a way of life after all. Back in the day, making a baby was a big event. The punishment for under-training tended to be an event, too.
She ran a hand through hair that had once been auburn. It was more of a dry brownish colour now. It missed the sun. She could use dyes or magic or some of the other bullshit the others used to match up to their Stokerian or Ricean fantasies. Leona had never really bought into all that. She’d seen Eastern European vampires in the past. She’d even fucked one or two. Aside from the accent, they had all the same flaws as the vulgar Yankee variety.
She rubbed her hands together. It was getting rather chilly out here. Despite what people said, vampires were susceptible to the cold. It couldn’t kill them, of course. She’d once met a monster who’d spent seventy-five years frozen in Antarctic ice. He’d given an excellent dinner party within a week of his reintroduction to society. Those were the true vampires; gentlefolk. They knew how things ought to be done.
Now, of course, numbers were the thing. All the councils and all their Counts had come together to agree to recruit at an increased rate. They’d been advised the Fates, those crazy fucking soothsayers that had had so much pull for as long as Leona had been a part of the Eternal Night. They were vampires whose bodies had not taken to the change quite as well as most, but had developed amazing powers including, so they claimed, some form of prescience. Leona didn’t buy it, but powers or not, she had to complement their game. If it was all a scam, it had given their otherwise useless hides an immeasurable level of power and influence in the undead world. You couldn’t really argue with that.
The body moved. It was nothing much, but Leona caught it; an exhalation more forceful than normal decomposition might cause. The change was beginning. She crouched down and began opening up his belt buckle. There was nothing worse than re-entering sentience soiled quite literally by the remnants of your human life.
She managed to get him stripped pretty quickly, though there was no other sign of the change yet. His brown skin almost glowed in the darkness. It was rather fetching. The perpetrator of this particular Change had thankfully chosen a corner shaded by two of the containers. The baby vamp had had a little common sense, then.
She busied herself folding his clothes neatly while the change began to happen. Although he didn’t know he was alive (or something like it) yet, his body instinctively curled into the foetal position around organs that were rearranging themselves inside him. He let out a groan of pain and vomited heavy, meaty-looking stuff. His whole body convulsed around itself in a motion not unlike a snake digesting its meal. Although she’d never looked into it extensively, she understood that he was relieving himself of the materials his body no longer had use for. The vampire body was ridiculously efficient — processing an awful lot from human blood. A little magic aided them in that, of course, and that magic took deeper and deeper hold as time passed. Still, it was a nifty trick.
She pulled a few on the go cleaning supplies out of her pack and laid them on top of his folded clothes. She knew it was almost done now just how much he’d ruined the nice clean tarmac.
Leona crouched down beside him once again and lay a hand on his sweaty, agonised face. He let out a putrid breath and snarled.
“Welcome to the Eternal Night,” she said. “Fancy a snack?”