Chapter 9: Can’t get enough of you, Love
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
I wake up, take my life into my hands. Tonight I am going to risk being killed in a good cause. I am going to find a way to see Martha again and talk to her.
I take buses again, this time because I’m carrying a gun in my pocket. Turns out vampires can’t take weapons with them when they turn into bats. Clothing, but not weapons. Makes no sense to me, but that’s the way Martha told me it works, and I tried it last night just to see. She was right.
My destination is the apartment building Love lives in. I am hoping the “happening” went off as scheduled last night, and that Martha has cleared out. I do not want to meet her, not just yet.
The hippies in the building tell me Love is in her room, and that I probably shouldn’t disturb her. I get up to her room, 308, and understand why. There’s all sorts of loud moaning going on behind that door. Make Love Not War, indeed. Love sounds like she’s making enough noise for both. So I settle down just outside the door and wait.
I’m sitting there and this girl comes up the stairs, looking at me. I recognize her as the ash blonde who laughingly offered her neck to Martha the previous time I was here. She’s got a friend, a taller girl with brown-red hair, who’s right beside her. Blondie seems interested in me, but must be the shy type, because the taller girl keeps whispering to her and trying to push her forward.
Finally the two of them reach the top of the stairs and the tall girl comes forward to me. She asks, “Jenny saw you with Martha the other day. Are you another vampire?”
I look at the blonde, Jenny. I haven’t had any blood today, and I can feel my fangs beginning to grow out. I shrug, say, “Yeah.”
Tall girl hesitates, and then says, “Jenny wants to know if you’ll bite her.”
I look up at the tall girl in amazement. Someone wants me to bite her? Can’t be. I look over at Jenny. My fangs begin to ache with thirst. And without even intending to do so, I open my mouth and catch Jenny’s eyes and enthrall her. But it’s not like anything I’ve done before. I’d enthralled my prey like Homer, and that was food. But this . . . this is much deeper than I’ve ever gone. Jenny is coming to me, unbuttoning her blouse, with this burning look in her eyes. She wants me. She wants me bad. It’s sexual for her. I know that I didn’t know how to do this, but I’m doing it, and I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop. I feel so alive, so wonderful as I hold Jenny in my arms and drink her blood. She’s really enjoying it, too. I can barely stop myself when she passes out. I put her down on the floor. I still want more. Tall girl says something to me and I look up at her and before I know it I’m doing the same thing to her.
I stop before tall girl passes out, and let her down on the floor beside Jenny. Tall girl looks at me with this lazy, contented smile, curls up to Jenny, and goes to sleep. I sit there wondering just what happened to me.
“You looked like you could use a few lessons in seductive vampirism, Ned, so I helped you out.”
I twist around, look up. It’s Love, standing in the doorway, wearing a dressing gown. She looks down at the two girls. “Jenny’s been having fantasies of being seduced by a vampire ever since she met Martha. It was really bugging her that Martha wouldn’t touch her. You just made her day, Ned. With a little help from me.”
“What did you do to me?”
She shrugs. “Nothing you wouldn’t have eventually learned how to do on your own, Casanova. C’mon in and tell me why you’re hanging ’round my door.” She turns and walks back into her room.
I get up and follow, go in, close the door behind me. The room hasn’t changed, except that there are four people in the bed, two guys, two gals, all naked. Neither of the guys is the one who was here the last time. To my surprise, one of the guys is black. I’d seen a few here the other night, but I wasn’t expecting one in Love’s bed. I admit to myself that I don’t know just who gets into Love’s bed. She’s a hippie. They’ll do it with anybody, I guess. And apparently in any number and combination, too.
Love sees me looking at the people in the bed, smiles at me, and says, “I was hungry, too. You don’t have to worry about them. They’re all too tired to wake up any time soon.” And they do look sound asleep. One’s snoring with occasional loud snorts. Love sits down on the floor, her back against the foot of the bed. I follow suit, facing her while leaning up against a wall.
I start out trying to make sure I know what’s going on. “You’re a sorceress, right?”
She laughs. “You figured that out when we met last, Ned. I let you.”
“My reasons.” She smiles knowingly at me.
This isn’t getting me anywhere. I say, “So you’re the one who puts spells on ropes and doorways for Martha.”
Love looks at me, puzzled. “What are you talking about, Ned?”
Oh, shoot. Love doesn’t know. Martha must have some other sorcerer do those sorts of things for her. In which case, I’m probably talking to the wrong person. I stand up. “My mistake, Love. Forget about it.” I turn toward the door.
Love’s voice comes to me, sounding different than it did before, irresistible in fact. “Sit back down, Ned.” So I sit down and face her. “What spells are you talking about?” I tell her.
The next thing I know, I’m not there anymore. I’m back in the basement, waking up for the first time. Then there’s a whole jumble of memories in my mind. It’s like I’m living the nights since Martha made me into a vampire all over again, chaotically and at high speed. And then there is darkness.
I shake my head, open my eyes, look up. There’s Love, still sitting there. She’s not looking at me anymore, though. She’s got her legs drawn up, her arms wrapped around them, her chin poised against her knees. She’s staring blankly into space, rocking slowly back and forth. I can hear her barely whispering “Oh God, oh God,” over and over again.
I figure Love practiced some sort of sorcery on me, poking into my memories. Whatever she found, she doesn’t like, clearly. And I remember Martha’s advice: get away from sorcerers as fast as you can. Seeing Love was a bad idea. I head to the door and open it.
Love dashes up, pushes the door shut, stands between me and it. “We have to talk, Ned.”
I’m not feeling too happy with Love right now, no matter how attractive she is. And this is a girl who can make looking angry look sexy. So I say, “Why don’t you just put a spell on me and make me talk?”
She lets out an exasperated sigh. “Look, Ned, if that’s what I wanted, you’d be my slave. Understand? I’m asking for your help. We need to get Martha out of Chicago.”
I shake my head. “I need Martha in Chicago, Love. Go find someone else.” And I reach for the door.
Love shifts position, stands directly in front of the doorknob. “You don’t understand, Ned. If Martha stays in Chicago, a lot of people will die.”
Right. “I think I already know that, Love. I didn’t become a vampire thanks to the tooth fairy.”
Love leans forward until her face is only inches from mine. “Yeah, and if Martha keeps going the way she is, she might take your entire family out, just for kicks. She might even make you do it yourself. Just imagine your sister Nora’s despair as she sees you draining her life away, knowing what you’re doing, hating you for it.”
And then I see it, feel it, live it, just as she described. We’re in some dark basement. Nora is chained to the wall. She pleads with me, begs me not to bite her. I just keep closing in. Nora screams as I pull back her collar and then screams again as I bite into her. I don’t want to do it, but Martha’s somehow making me do it. And yet I do want to do it. Drinking my sister’s blood tastes so good. I drain her more and more, and it tastes better and better. Her screams get fainter and fainter, until they stop. I’ve drained every last drop of her blood. I’ve killed my sister. And I’ve enjoyed it more than anything else I’ve ever done. She’ll turn into a vampire. I want to watch her when she realizes what she’s become.
Then I’m back in Love’s room, sitting on the floor, crying, I’m so shook up. It takes me a long while to collect myself. Love is still standing by the door. I want to growl at her, but I can’t, I’m still getting over what she did to me. Finally I say, “That wasn’t real. Sorcery.” My voice sounds very weak.
Love sits down in front of me, looks me straight in the eye. “Yes, Ned, it was sorcery. But it’s what will happen. That or worse. I know Martha in ways you can’t imagine. We have to get her out of Chicago before it’s too late.”
I don’t want to hear this. I search for an excuse. “What good will that do? She’ll be the same elsewhere.”
Love shakes her head. “No, Ned. This is something you won’t understand, you don’t know enough, but there’s something about this place that’s making Martha increasingly dangerous. She’s not normally like this, Ned. I’ve known her before. But every so often, something sets her off, and the longer she’s at it, the worse it will get. I’ve seen it happen before. We have to get her away now.”
I consider. There is something weird about Martha, her sudden shifts from being cheery to being vicious. But Martha’s beyond my ability to handle. That’s one reason I came to see Love. So I say to her, “You’re a sorceress. You should be able to handle her. You certainly can handle me easily enough.”
“You are not Martha,” Love states in definite tones. The frustration shows in her face. She stands up, paces, comes back and sits down with me, starts talking again in a pleading voice. “If I’d realized what was going on when she first began killing cops, I might have been able to reason with her. But in her current state, that won’t work, Ned. And she’s not going to sit still for me to put a spell on her. She knows enough about how sorcery works. I need to surprise her. And for that I need help.”
It still makes no sense to me. And it will ruin my plans. I stand up. Love does so, too. I say to her, “I came to you, Love, because I needed something from Martha, because Martha and I are on the outs. But it won’t work if Martha’s not in Chicago. Find someone else.” And I start to turn to the door.
Love grabs me. “Wait, Ned. Hold on. I already knew you and Martha had split. You should have heard her last night on the subject. But what do you need her for? Why do you need her to stay in Chicago?”
I hesitate, then realize that if Love wants to, she can probably force it out of me. So I tell her. “I want to form a unit of vampire police from the cops she’s taken.” She looks at me, baffled. So I explain in more detail. “She’s been taking out cops in revenge for what happened last summer. I want her help in locating and recruiting those vampires to be cops again.”
Love still looks baffled. But then she turns serious. “Ned, if Martha stays in Chicago, you will never get her cooperation, period. Not only will she not help you, she’ll keep making vampires out of you cops. I don’t know if what you’re talking about is even possible, but your only hope of getting Martha’s cooperation is to help me get her out of the city.”
So you say, Love. But there’s another sorcerer out there who works with Martha, who put a spell on those ropes for her. Maybe he can help.
Love breaks into my thinking. “There is no other sorcerer, Ned. Not one that you can find, not one that will help you. I know how Martha got those ropes, those doorway spells. There is no help for you or me there. If there was, I’d ask for it myself.”
I give her a hard look. “I’m supposed to believe all this, just on your say-so?”
“Ned, believe what you want. But I can tell you this: if you don’t help me, I’ll get someone else. Martha must be removed from Chicago. And if I have to do it without your help, after I do it, I will ensure you never, ever succeed with your plans. Don’t try me, Ned.”
She’s a sorceress. I think she could just do that. And since she seems to be able to read my mind, she knows I think she could. So read this, Love: I don’t like what you’re doing to me, but I’ll help. And if you renege, I will find a way to bring you down, somehow.
She nods. “It’s a deal, Ned. Hell, if this doesn’t work, Martha may end up killing the both of us.” She looks away, chews on her knuckles a bit, looks back at me. “It’s going to take me a few days to make the necessary preparations and to set Martha up. Your job is going to be to distract her until I can spring my trap, and then help me get her out of here.”
I observe, “She told me she never wanted to see me again, Love. I don’t think she’ll be happy to see me.”
Love looks down. “Yeah.” She smiles, looks up at me. “Up for a fight with Martha?”
Really, no. But I say, “I’ll do it, but she’ll beat me pretty quickly.”
Love slips her arms around my neck. “In that case, Ned, my boy, you need to get some training. Go see that terrifying vampire woman, the one with the knives, and get some lessons from her. The longer you can go with Martha, the better.” Her voice drops, becomes seductive, “And besides, Ned, I don’t want to see you hurt.” She pulls me to her and kisses me. She steps back, lets me go. “Now run along. I’ll be in touch.”
I open up the door and leave, head toward the bus stop and take the bus down to the pool hall in Bronzeville, all the time thinking about how much I love Love. It isn’t until I’m almost there that I snap out of the daydreams. I have to wonder if Love put a spell on me, or if that’s just what she does to me normally. But practically speaking, it doesn’t matter. Love’s my best lead to getting hold of Martha, to get the information I want from her. If everything else she said is true, then helping Love get Martha out of Chicago is a good thing, too. But even if Love’s lying, getting in better fighting shape is going to be necessary to cope with Martha. So when the bus stops near the pool hall, I get off. Looks like it’s time for me to lose my shirt again.
End of chapter nine