Midnight Culling (Installment 3 + 4)

by Everette Bell

The cab pulled up to the curb and Sabian climbed out into the arms of his mother night. There was no substitute for a pristine black sky above his head. Since his baptism into the fold of the damned by the monk at Lindesfarn so many years ago, he had lost his desire for the world of the indoors. As a vampire, his body was dead, and his kind felt most comfortable connected to the earth that would one day claim them. Man and his incessant use of electricity to hold off the night mother's loving cloak was merely one symptom of the fear that shackled most of the pitiful creatures.

He tipped the driver generously. "Forget you ever saw me." The unshaven cab driver tugged at his worn baseball cap as he nodded. He couldn't quite put a location to the man's strange accent.

Sabian turned and walked toward the open doors-techo sounds of dance music corrupting the serenity of the night-of the "Catwalk" dance club.

Refreshed from the blood of the runaway girl down at the Alaskan Way Viaduct, he walked with renewed vigor. The new clean white shirt-ironed crisply-was tucked into his slacks, and the long black overcoat swung from his tall frame. He wore a pair of polished black leather shoes. His shoulder length hair was combed neatly-a single lock of hair slashed down his face like a scar from a blade of shadow. Under his coat both loaded Rugers were in their holsters. With his greatest enemy still four hours from rising, Sabian needed to collect a favor.

At the door the bouncer gave him a doubtful look. The bald man, squeezed into the fabric of a black t-shirt and jeans, dragged his gaze from Sabian's face to the fake ID that read "Marco Griffin". Sabian had had to start purchasing fake identities about twenty years ago; the days of giving false names had come to an end when computers began governing the affairs of man. Now he had to provide false lives.

"Hadn't seen you here before, Marco?"

Sabian smiled. These bouncers amused him. Their games of toughness were always practice for real threats. He waited patiently for the man to return his ID. Giving "Marco" an "I'm going to be watching you" look he handed over the card.

As Sabian walked into the dark room pulsing with pounding primal rhythms, flashing electronic lights made dancers look like soaring specters. The sight of scantily clad young women with long hair grinding their hips pleased the vampire. The taste of their hot young blood was the sweetest nectar. And the strutting young bucks with their piercings and their brands-deluded, thinking the world owed them respect-aroused his love of carnage. Youth was truly his favorite time of life.

Before he reached the bar, glowing with red neon trim, a young dancer displayed herself before him. Pale legs in fishnet stockings-calves arched seductively from heeled shoes-slinked toward him. Her voluptuous thighs and buttocks were caressed by a skirt that left little to the imagination, and her heaving breasts were pushed together by a corset top. Painted red lips and raven hair were stunning, but paled in comparison to the shimmering blue pools of her eyes. Her attention was focused on Sabain as if he were a knife inside her. Gliding towards him she wrapped her arms around his neck-slowly waxing his body with her breasts and crotch. He was reminded of a gypsy wife he had owned in his mortal youth. Sarella had taken great pleasure in fulfilling his needs, and he loved none of his wives as he had loved her.

"Hi stranger," she breathed hotly into his ear over the pounding music, "care to take me home tonight-it'll be worth it." Her moist tongue flickered across his neck. A faint stirring awakened in him. This gorgeous banshee would indeed be a pleasure, but right now he had business to attend to. Slowly, his strong hands slid down her back onto her tone behind. The firmness sent a tingling through him. In response to his cue, she rolled her crotch into him once more. Sabian's keen smell picked up the fragrance of her desire. He had to force himself to step back.

"Unfortunately, tonight is not the night the Gods will hear the music of our lovemaking." Taking her hand he kissed her fingertips gently, and her scent intensified in his nostrils. "Tonight I'm looking to speak with Randy Halifax." Lowering her hand, he let his eyes ask his question.

Her movement slowed, and Sabian still held her undivided attention. "His office is upstairs."

"I eagerly await our reunion." And he did. As soon as Malton was rotting in the moonlight, he would return for a night of passion with this heavenly maiden.

On the far side of the dance floor, beyond a cluster of tables, he saw the iron staircase spiraling up to the next floor. Wading across the sea of flesh, he made out a shadowy form standing near the stairs. Sabian was sure the broad man had a weapon under his jacket, and with this many people around he wasn't about to risk trouble.

The guy had a short haircut and was wearing a headset. A lit cigarette dangled at his side in his left hand. When he saw the tall man in the black coat approach he put his right hand in the pocket of his Seahawks jacket

"Sorry, buddy, this is a restricted area, staff only."

Sabian didn't get too close. He didn't want to spook the guy. "I'm here to speak to Halifax."

"Got an appointment?" The red ember at the end of the cigarette brightened as he took a drag. His eyes darted around. Sabian knew he was looking for the backup that wasn't there.

"Tell him the man that took care of his daughter's problem is here." Sabian's dark eyes betrayed nothing. His knife-edge confidence was unsettling to the weak, and the man with the headset shuffled, taking a step away.

"No appointment, no meeting, got it, fuckwad." The raised voice, profanity, feeble attempts at trying to take back control of the situation.

Sabian pointed at a table. "Deliver the message. I'll be over there." Without waiting for a response he walked over and took a seat. He could see the man's lips moving. Now he would have a few minutes wait. It was the oldest trick in the book-time invites self-doubt. Instead Sabian upped the ante by ordering a bottle of grain alcohol. When the waitress returned with it, he didn't even use a glass-just tilted up the bottle. Alcohol no longer affected him; in death he was only able to taste it.

Grim delight came to him when he saw the guard's eyes light up. Again Sabian was in control of the situation, and when he put down the empty bottle, there was no doubt.

A few minutes later three men came down the stairs. They were dressed much the same as the bouncer in their small t-shirts-showing off hours at the gym-and ripped jeans. The guard pointed at Sabian's table and they walked over, surrounding him just as he expected they would. He saw a smile pass between them. They had taken the bait; empty bottle meant he was drunk as shit. One of them was wearing an un-buttoned flannel shirt, and as he flipped it open deliberately showing his pistol he gave Sabian a cross look.

* * *

"So you want to talk to, Mr. Halifax?" Sabian nodded in silence. He loved how these two-bit hoods tried to put on the facade of organized crime.

"Relax," Sabian said in his antiquated accent, "I've simply come to ask for your bosses help-owes me a favor."

They led him up the stairs. The man with the headset stepped aside but cast a dark look in Sabian's direction. Sabian's smirk just pissed him off, but they both knew he didn't have the balls to try anything.

At the top of the stairs the group of men walked down a hallway lit with lights made to look like ancient wall sconces. Doorways covered by thin sheets lined both sides of the hall. As they walked down the hall, Sabian saw silhouettes-couples in some, groups in others-tangled in carnal acts. Moans of pleasure and grunts of expenditure filled the air.

Stopping in front of a closed door, the man in the flannel knocked.

"Come in," a voice came from the other side.

Before he opened the door, the man pulled the gun out of his pants and pointed it at Sabian. "Anything funny and you're one dead mother fucker."

Sabian didn't even acknowledge the comment. In these close quarters he could kill them all in the blink of an eye-but he hoped it wouldn't come to that.

The door opened into a lavish area filled with plush couches, a well-stocked bar on the back wall and large ornately carved hard wood table with seats for ten. Mingling with the laughter of the two naked women on one of the couches directly in Sabian's line of sight was soft music coming from the wall-mounted speakers-the ethereal sounds of Enya. In between them was a man in his sixties-gray hair, bushy beard, and knobby knees poking out of his boxer shorts. On the table in front of them were several lines of coke.

Seeing the tall figure clad in his long coat-the wings of the fallen angel-and his grim expression startled the women. Cowering back into the cushions, the drug whores fell silent. Halifax's eyes showed that he remembered the day Sabian Wolfe brought his daughters attackers to justice. There was no doubt that he recalled giving his word to Sabian that he would fulfill a request for a favor in the future.

"I see you remember me, Randy."

"What do you want, Wolfe," he snarled showing his crooked teeth. The man got up from the couch, his fat round gut covered with white hairs dropped over the waist of his shorts.

"I want you to keep your word, that's it-nothing else." He waved an arm congenially. "Why don't you ask the ladies to step outside for a minute, so we can talk." It wasn't that Sabian minded killing anyone that was in the way or that posed a threat to keeping his true nature hidden. It was just that he wasn't one for waste-death was the end of the road, and if it wasn't necessary, he tried to avoid it. Besides death brought attention to lives that otherwise were overlooked. He didn't want the authorities poking around any more than they needed to. That made concealing himself even more difficult.

"Get out of here," the old man snapped. The girls hurried across past the visitors and out the open door. "Ok, Wolfe, what do you want?"

"Where can I find Steven Malton?"

The old man had to think about it before he said a word. If it got around that he was snitching, he was good as dead. And he knew for damn sure that his bouncers were slugs on the belly of the crime world. There was no way he could trust them to keep this a secret.

"This doesn't concern you, Randy. I need to kill Malton for personal reasons. Tell me where I can find him, and I'll leave. Your debt to me will be paid."

"Come on, Wolfe, you know I can't do that. I can't have people not trusting me. How would that go for a businessman, huh?"

"I see-" Sabian didn't finish his words when he saw the gunman scratch the bridge of his nose. Instead he grabbed the neck of the bouncer next to him-with one snap the neck broke, and the man crumbled to the ground.

The man in the flannel tried to get his gun in position, but the edge of Sabian's polished leather shoe kicked him in the face, and he flew against the wall. With the coldness of a cemetery wind, the vampire pulled one of his Rugers from the folds of his coat. Three shots-hushed by the silencer-exploded clods of flesh from the man's chest; he slid down the wall leaving a bloody trail.

Sabian turned to the last man standing blocking his jab with his forearm. Then grabbed him by the face-thumbs in his eyes. The force of his squeeze brought forth sounds of extreme pain from the man as he clawed at Sabian's hands. Blood streamed from his eyes, before the cranial vault was crushed, killing the man instantly.

Tearing the man's t-shirt from his chest, the vampire used it to wipe his hands. Then he tossed the rag to the floor. "No one will no, now. Where is Malton?"

Halifax was visibly shaking. Astonished by what he had just witnessed he fell back onto the couch. "He's got a penthouse in Belltown at the Royal Oaks."

(Installment 4)

The woman-peering into the reflective glass of the hand-held brass mirror-traced the fingertips of her first two fingers along the soft skin of her face. Madame Freeta's skin was fair and her eyes were green. Make-up was applied to her lips and eyes. Smiling at her reflection revealed pearly white teeth. They quickly disappeared, and she was wearing a frown.

She sat quietly in a high-backed chair in a quiet den. The light in the tiny room came from countless black candles placed on the fireplace mantle, the bookshelves against the wall, and on the oval coffee table in front of her. Her legs were crossed at the knee and covered by black stockings attached to a garter belt. She wore her black panties and a matching merry widow and heeled shoes with confidence. A silver ring pierced the nipple of her left breast. In her cleavage there was a tiny tattoo of a black rose. With a swish of her free hand Madame Freeta's mane of long hair-dyed with a color somewhere between red and brown-wisped over her shoulder.

Her probing finger moved down her chin and onto her throat as she tilted her head back. The beautiful woman inhaled with disgust as she noticed a slight wrinkle. Then she held the polished glass closer-there were faint crows feet at the corners of her eyes.

Pursing her lips with anger she rested the mirror in her lap and tapped her black nails against the glass.

From another room she heard the sound of something breaking followed by a door opening. "Madame Freeta, Daddy's home!" A voice called out brimming with sarcasm.

Footsteps came down the hall, and she turned her gaze to the entrance of her parlor. A ratty old man appeared in the doorway.

"You were correct." He laughed.

Freeta placed her mirror on the floor beside the chair. "Where is the dragon?"

He walked over to the bookshelf and held his finger in the flame of a candle until the air was filled with the smell of cooking flesh. Madame Freeta felt the pit of her stomach turn-she was disgusted by the sweet smell. Licking his burning finger extinguished the tiny blaze.

"You didn't say bring it back. You asked me to see if he had it, and I did."

She snapped bitterly. "You know what I meant!"

"I'm in your service Madame Freeta. I'm not your friend." He fixed cold eyes on her and stepped closer. "I only do what you say." By the candlelight Freeta could see a bleeding wound on his right cheek.

This was by far the worst experience she had with a conjured spirit. It tested her like no other she had ever bonded in service. The woman nodded slowly. She could play this game if that's what he wanted. Slowly, she stood up-the whole time holding the old shell's gaze with her soft eyes. She kissed the tip of her long slender finger, then reached out and dug the tip of her black nail into the man's injured cheek. Dragging the sharpened point down his face brought forth a trickle of blood.

"Tomorrow night you will find and bring me the dragon. Is that clear enough?"

An executioner's smile sprang to the old lips. "Mistress, I'd be happy to, but surely you understand I can't do it alone. This mortal shell can only take so much damage before I'm released, and Malton's men are heavily armed."

The yellow teeth sent a wave of fear down her spine. Madame Freeta was putting on a good show, but she was afraid. If the dragon weren't so important to her, she never would have summoned this horrid creature.

Reaching out with both hands, the old man caressed her cheek. His charred finger left a bloody trail on her skin. "You will have to bring one of my subordinates from hell, Mistress." The man's tongue dragged across his lips like a hungry dog. Madame Freeta knew the demon was much more powerful than her and was only here for a brief respite from the fires of damnation. Her control was very minimal, and she was not about to insight his wrath.

"Perhaps when I have fulfilled your request you will take me to your dungeon of pleasure."

She knew she had no choice. Once the demon was no longer bonded to her he would have his way. And under her volition was by far preferable to his method.

"Better go get a victim, Freeta. Like I said, I can't get this dragon alone." He never took his eyes off her.

"I have a client downstairs waiting for me now."

"Hmm," he laughed. "I think you are going to need to boil some water for this one." The fear in Madame Freeta's eyes pleased him.

She consented with a nod. There was simply no choice-she had to have the dragon. Her first demon had not returned from hunting the kid that stole the dragon in the first place. At this point she just wanted it-she didn't care how.

"The price of vanity is high isn't it my Mistress."

She left the room and put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. From the kitchen she walked down the wooden steps into the basement. Once she reached the bottom, she heard footsteps on the stairs behind her. Looking over her shoulder she glanced at the old man-he had come to see her handiwork.

The room was lit by the glow of a single bulb throwing out a half-hearted yellow glow. In the center of the room a naked man stood looking like an X-leather cords from the ceiling and the floor spread his arms and legs. He was wearing a leather mask that only had an opening for his mouth.

One of the walls of the basement was covered with an assortment of whips and bondage devices. Another wall was covered with dildos-leather, rubber silicone-and countless other sexual toys. There was also a bed covered with a black sheet.

"Mistress," he asked, "have you come to punish me?"

Without a reply Madame Freeta grabbed a whip from the wall.

"Mistress." The man was uncomfortable when there was no reply. "Wait a minute! What's going on!"

The long leather tail smacked against the hard floor with frightening clarity.

"What the fuck is going on!"

Freeta lashed the whip across the bare back, leather cutting deep into flesh. The man screamed, and the muscles of his arms and legs tightened against the strength of the leather cords that bound him.

"Purple! Purple!" His code word to stop the sexual play did nothing. Another lash fell to his tender skin like the wrath of God on the wicked. His screams transformed into hideous shrieks of pain. Standing at the base of the stairs with his arms crossed, the old man was pleased. The glint Freeta saw in his eyes was one of pure evil-he thrived on inflicting pain.

"His noise bothers me, Mistress. Silence him."

In response to the request of her spirit slave she took a gag from the wall-little more than a red ribbon-and tied it roughly around his mouth.

Stepping back again she whipped widely. Blow after blow fell upon him causing his body to jolt with muscular contractions in response to the thin leather tail. Panting cries fell on deaf ears. She pitied him, but there was no choice. Madame Freeta would have her precious figurine. A hundred years had been added to her life because of the dragon's special gift-for a hundred years she had been able to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh-one life would not stand in her way.

Exhaustion overpowered him, and the man hung limp, head hanging before him.

The old man didn't have to say anything. She knew what he expected. It was time for the excitement. Making her way up the stairs Freeta grabbed two potholders from the counter and picked up the pot rolling with bubbles, steam rising. Water sloshed up the edge of the pot as she descended into her dungeon.

The woman stood, preparing to throw the water.

"Ah-ah-ah," her demon's voice slithered from his lips. His words rang with the mocking tone of cruel adolescent. As he smiled, blood spilled from the wound on his cheek. "Where would the fun be in that, huh?"

Finally he enunciated very slowly. "Pour it."

Unbeknownst, her eyes must have betrayed her.

"You know how it works, Mistress. Damned spirits only come into this world through extreme suffering. I'm trying to make it easy for you by telling you how to do this."

He lifted his shirt and smirked at the woman. The guts that were visible in the massive opening in his stomach were dry. "I didn't steer you wrong the first time did I?"

She stepped close to the man and raised the pot of boiling water into the air. As water dripped over the edge, the man writhed as much as the cords would allow. Steam hissed as his flesh was cooked beneath the stream of scalding water. Skin reddened, blood began to blot through, and flesh blistered.

The gag did nothing to quiet the vocal incarnation of his agony. Blood mixed with the water and red streams ran down his body to the floor.