Interlude: Vampire at The Big 'O'
After class, Sam took the long way home. Slim parking and crowded streets near the Covers had made it a long time since Sam had owned a car, but he liked walking. His feet knew the city, and the city knew him; he felt like a part of it. There were several routes he could take. There was a shortcut through the park that led down to church street, where he could then follow three blocks before turning onto Yorkshire Avenue, where the Covers was.
Today his feet wanted a longer route.
He went around the park, heading for North Street. It was quieter here, a step away from the pulse of town. Sam came this way sometimes when he needed to think or clear his head. He could feel the storm growing; the pressure that had been building for so long was beginning to crest like the peak of a tall wave, inexorable and remorseless. It was making him agitated and irritable, and he needed to shake it off.
The fog deepened as he walked, and a light, chilling drizzle started. He pulled his coat tighter, and as the rain picked up, he ducked into a corner-store.
The filling station, called The Big O, was a fixture. The staff was efficient, and more or less in the know. Sam visited it every time he came this way. Better yet, in addition to the essentials, it had a small coffee house which had some of the best brew in the city.
Teddy, the night clerk, was behind the register. He lowered his cell and raised his hand to say hello. "Sam," he said. "Looks like it's turning nasty out there."
"It's not pleasant, Teddy," Sam said. He looked around. "Quiet tonight?"
Teddy shrugged. "Tends to be when it rains. Other than leather jacket over there and his girlfriend, it's been pretty slow. Thank dog."
Sam turned and spotted the pair Teddy had mentioned lingering in a corner booth. On one side, a girl with scarlet hair and a blue floral dress, on the other, the epitome of a 1950s 'bad boy.' Black leather jacket, white shirt, oily, tousled black hair.
And wrong. Totally wrong. Sam knew the moment he met those dark eyes.
It was a vampire.
Sam's hand tightened on the counter as he fought the urge to shout a warning.
"Yeah. Like something out of a bad movie, am I right?"
Sam shook his head. "Teddy," he said quietly. "That's a vampire."
"You're shitting me."
"No," Sam said. "I'm not." He turned to look at Ted. "Real deal. Retractable fangs. Forsaken children of the night, dead meat being ridden by a demon. That sort of thing."
"Well... shit," Teddy replied. "Do I need to duck? Are you going to rain down fire or something?"
"No," Sam said.
"No? Isn't that what you do?"
"There's a truce," Sam said. "They don't kill people. And they police the ones that break that rule. And New Tamsbridge doesn't erupt into a supernatural war."
"So you're not going to do anything," Teddy said. "You're just going to leave him here? With her? With me?"
Sam shook his head. "I'm going to do something," he said.
"I'm going to talk to him."
Sam walked over to the booth. The vampire looked up, dark eyes glinting in the store's shoddy light as he watched the mage with the lazy, self-assured menace of a cobra. The girl turned, holding her coffee in both hands. She had the brightest blue eyes Sam had ever seen.
"Can I help you, Grandpa?" The vampire asked, his voice slow and sardonic.
"I don't think so," Sam said "I just wanted to come over and check on the girl here. You see, miss," he continued, "This man isn't what he seems."
She smiled. "Oh, I know," she said. "He's so much more." She reached out across the vampire's table and took his hand. He smiled smugly. "From his cold hands to the endless, beautiful emptiness in his eyes," she said. "He's a vampire."
"Well," Sam said. "There goes my great reveal."
"I guess you're right," the vampire said, flashing Sam another smug smile. "As I was saying. Grandpa. Can I help you?"
It was too much. The dead thing talking to him with that smug smile. That sardonic twist of voice. A nightmare, right in front of him, untouchable, while Sam spent sleepless nights fighting them off. He could smell it. Decaying, rotting flesh under the sweet smell of old leather and pomade. Right there in front of him and there was nothing he could do.
He frowned. "Yes, you can," he said. "What family?"
"What family are you from?"
"None of your business. Sod off."
"The hell you say," Sam answered, slamming his hand on the table. Blue lightning played between his fingers. "I am a Magus of the Arcane Collegium. Under the terms of our truce, you are to reveal your family affiliation, or by my power I will tear you apart so fast there isn't enough blood in the world to put you back together."
The girl squeaked and shrank back.
"You're bluffing," the vampire said.
"Not tonight, amico," Sam said. He could feel himself rushing towards the edge. He wanted the vampire to fight him. He wanted it to cross the line. The pressure was building and he needed to release it. He needed to reach into the Otherworld and bring down the hammer of his power in a crushing strike on the thing in front of him. "Try me and find out." Sam steeled himself. He hadn't fought a vampire before, but he could. He was ready. He knew he had the power. It was right there, all he had to do was reach out and take it.
The vampire looked away. "Franky DeVosso. I run with the Maselli."
"All right, Franky," Sam said, slowly. "Is the girl enscorcled?"
"No," the vampire spat.
She shook her head in confusion. Sam looked at her, meeting her eyes. He couldn't read any vampire charm there.
"Good," Sam said. "Keep it that way. Keep to the truce. I'll be checking up." Sam turned and walked up to Teddy. "If there's any trouble," he said, "you have my number."
Teddy nodded, looking worried.
Sam turned and pulled his coat tight again. He looked over his shoulder one more time, swore under his breath, and walked out into the rain.