Read Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) Online

Authors: Andrew Domonkos

Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) (4 page)

 

“Just one last thing to do,” Zara said, a bit sinisterly.

 

Twig solemnly headed down towards the river with the
bic
razor in hand, trudging like a man on death row.
 

 


Jeeze
,” Zara said shaking her head at him.
 
She turned the dial on the dusty old radio and tried to find a station.
 
The only thing that came in somewhat clearly the weather.
 
A fireman was being interviewed about the attempts to contain a raging inferno outside of Gunnison.
 
They were doing their best to contain the fire, but it was proving difficult for them.
 
They were expecting record heat this week.

 

2.

 
 
 

Damon
Caspari
tapped his wine glass with his salad fork.
 
All those who sat at the table: a few congressmen, his new wife Norah, and Damon’s assistant—the former doctor Reynolds, who after some legal trouble found himself in mister
Caspari’s
employ yet again—looked up with glittering, semi-drunk eyes.
 
Marco’s Steakhouse was one of the few places left in Washington that allowed smoking inside, and the big room was as cloudy as Olympus.
 

 

Damon was friends with the owner Marco and got the best table in the house, and also plenty of elbowroom from the other customers, who sometimes couldn’t help but eavesdrop.
 

 

Damon cleared his throat.
 
“As you know, today is a special occasion, and I would like to express thanks to you, my new friends, for coming out.”

 

One congressman laughed, “This ‘friendship’ isn’t going to hinder my donation I hope.
 
I got a girl named Cinnamon I go to for friendship.
 
When this suit is on, I’m all business.”
 

 

Damon laughed and patted the man on the shoulder.
 
“Believe me my friend, when the suit comes off it’s still all business, for Cinnamon that is.”
 

 

The men at the table roared and the congressman snorted and leaned back in his chair, folding his two fat arms over his bulging gut.
 
Waiters and waitresses were darting around the room with steaming steaks on silver trays, dropping them off at the hungry carnivorous politicians who waited with their forks and knives clenched in their meaty paws.
 
Some of the men watched the steaming steaks, and some watched the waitresses’
 
(and in a quite a few cases, the waiter’s) derrieres that bounced by at eye-level with their flustered and eager faces.

 

“Like I was saying,” Damon said, distracted by the culinary waltz that was busy before him, “before we were interrupted with tales of the good representative of Vermont’s sexual conquests of exotic women, I am glad you all came out.”

 

Everyone sitting at the table roared again at the congressman’s expense, with the exception of Norah, who sat poised and quiet at Damon’s side.
 
The congressman cursed genially at them and took another slug of single malt scotch.
 

 

 
“But in all seriousness.
 
Last month’s donation was but a taste.
 
Just a little something to pique your interests.
 
Call it a gift.”

 

The men at the table seemed to sober up at the talk of gifts.
 

 

“I imagine you have questions,” Damon continued, “so I will digress.”
 
He spoke sharply to his wife who was fidgeting and staring off into space.
 
“Norah, go busy yourself somewhere, you are agitating me. And take Reynolds with you, the man is a bore.”

 

Norah stopped twisting her new wedding ring, smiled lovingly at Damon, arose and left the room.
 
Reynolds smiled and went after her clutching his briefcase and scanning the room like a nervous rodent on a jungle floor.
 

 

“Wow.
 
My wife would toss me to the wolves if I pulled that,” said senator Gaines with a look of awe.
 

Gotta
hand it to you
Caspari
, you’re old school.”

 

Damon took it as a compliment and tilted his glass at the man.

 

“Brass tax,” the squirrely Congressman blurted impatiently. “I put my name on this bill it looks not only out of character; it looks like I’ve lost my goddamn mind.
  
I’m a democrat in case you have forgotten, and you want me to push for a lift on genetic research regulations?
 
Not just a lift, but a complete dissolution?
 
You know how hot it is right now in the house on this issue?
 
Ever since they caught that nut up in Oregon who synthesized Ebola?”

 

Damon looked interested.
 
“I had not heard of such a man.”

 

“Yeah and you won’t either.
 
He’s rotting away in the basement over in Guantanamo.”

 


That
place I’ve heard about.
 
It reminds me of how things were done in the old country.
 
War has no place for soft feelings.”

 

The congressman balked and looked at the senator to see if he was hearing this.
 
“Well I’ll give you the number of a good travel agent.
 
But seriously, they’ll crucify me if I put this out on the floor,” he looked around the table and the others seemed to nod in agreement.
 

 

Damon sighed.
 
During his first week out in Washington he tried to use his powers of persuasion on several politicians, and each time he was met with blunt resistance.
 
At first he was flabbergasted—
was he losing his powers
?
 
But Norah had shaken her head sympathetically and explained it to him.
 
“These men manipulate on a level you can only wish to aspire to,” she said, and Damon understood.
 
Their minds were honed to resist almost all forms of persuasion, even the supernatural.
 
For this reason Damon had to use a form of persuasion no man could resist: money.
 
He had to remember his almost forgotten days spent in the Court of Pope Pius the second—all the groveling and greasing of palms, the constant ass-kissing and backstabbing.
 
He even recalled a well-guarded joke that Pius’s court was built round so that all men could put their backs to the wall.
 
For more reasons than one.
 

 

But once Damon got going, he was a natural.
 
He looked over the worried faces at the table and spoke loudly and with authority.
 
“I think you might be surprised at just how the country feels about it in the coming weeks.
 
A friend of mine at the Washington Post has taken a sudden interest in our cause.
 
I give it a week before the whole issue is spun in our favor.”

 

The Senator looked on suspiciously.
 
“You have that kind of sway?”
 

 

Damon ignored the question and waved at the waitress and pointed down to his empty glass.
  
He had a king’s thirst to be quenched.

 

3.

 
 

St. Augustus was one of the smallest hospitals Zara had ever seen.
 
It was an old stucco building outfitted with a few modern features like automatic sliding doors, next to which a giant wooden bear smiled affably with its paw held up, greeting visitors.
 
Zara couldn’t help but laugh at the towering effigy. Its smile was obviously meant to be jolly and humorous, but something about the slight curl of it made Zara wonder if the artist who created it was trying to infer some secret meaning.
 
She wondered how many people were sent to this hospital by bears, only to be greeted by one who seemed to be smirking at their misfortune.
 
“Hey there,
gotcherself
a little bear bite there do
ya
?” It seemed to say.

 

Getting the blood had been easy enough.
 
After Zara talked her way into the one of the doctor’s office, she had little trouble getting the old doctor to comply.
 

 

“What kind you need doctor Quinn?” He asked absently as he gazed into the cooler.
 
Zara could sense his mind was miles elsewhere, making her task even easier.
 
While he was digging around in the big cooler Zara looked into his shifting eyes and she had a fleeting vision of an adulterous wife packing a suitcase and screaming about how unhappy she was, and how she had felt this way for years.
 
Zara felt guilty looking in on such a personal moment.
 
The vision made her feel abandoned, as if she was sharing the pain she had glimpsed upon.
 

 

“Just the cheap stuff,” Zara said.

 

The doctor seemed confused for a moment, then shrugged and filled the cooler with a few large plastic packets.

 

She wouldn’t let Twig watch her drink.
 
She snuck out the back door of the building with the cooler in hand, and ducked behind a dumpster.
 
She lifted a pack of blood out of the cooler and frowned at it.
 
She couldn’t believe what she was about to do.
 
Everyday seemed to get more and more surreal to her.
 
Would the craziness ever taper off?
 
She wondered.
 
Or was this it? A steady climb into insanity?
 

 

She closed both her eyes tightly and bit into the package with her two fangs that had made another appearance.
 
She then poured the contents into her mouth.
 
It tasted bland and gave her no sensation.
 
But just as she began to wonder if she had been given some bunk blood, she felt a sudden rush of something so potent and euphoric that she fell to her knees.
 
Blood dripped from her lips and down her chin, onto her newly acquired shirt, but she didn’t care.
 
Everything began to sway and tilt and she felt the air around her compress and expand.
 
She no longer had the sensation of spiders crawling on her skin, and her flittering thoughts became stilled and focused.
 
She suddenly knew what it must have felt like to satisfy a powerful addiction, to get a fix.
 
This was ecstasy.
 
This was euphoria.
 

 

She drank a second packet and almost had a third, but stopped herself.
 
She felt replenished.
 
She remembered her history teacher’s favorite phrase:
 
Everything in moderation.
 
She stood and closed the cooler.
 
She was empowered.
 
Strong.
 
She strode back to the truck.

 

“Are you alright?” Twig asked, mortified by the blood stains.

 

“Yeah,” Zara said looking down at her shirt.
 
“Better than alright.
 
You can’t even imagine…”

 

“I don’t need to,” Twig said defensively.
 
He looked away.

 

“What?” Zara asked.
 
She didn’t understand why he was being so damn moody lately.
 

 

“Nothing.
 
Just…never mind.”
 
He was back to his old obtuse self, Zara thought.

 

“Let’s keep this all in perspective
Nicolas
.
 
You used
me
as bait, remember?
 
Your holy crusade?
 
I didn’t ask for any of this.”

 

Twig laughed loudly. “And I did?
 
You have any idea how hard it was for me after they took my father away?
 
You ever been in foster care?”
 

 

Zara went to say something but stopped herself.
 

 

“No.
 
I haven’t,” she said evenly.

 

“Well, I didn’t ask for that.
 
Nobody asks for bad luck, it just comes.” He jumped up and sat on the hood of the truck, patting his pockets in search for his cigarettes.
 
“Besides, this is bigger than us both.
 
Damon
Caspari
is a sociopath.
 
And Drake’s record makes Charles Manson look like a
Powerpuff
Girl.
 
You want to stop people like that you
gotta
get your hands dirty.”

 

An awkward silence followed and Zara took the opportunity to get her
hoodie
out of the truck and put it on over her bloodied shirt.
 

 

Twig watched her put it on.
 
“Aren’t you
gonna
be hot in that?” he said finally.
 
His voice had softened a bit.
 

 

“I’m fine.”
 
Zara put her sunglasses back on and looked at the big waving bear.

 

“Right,” Twig said.
 
“Look, I’m sorry.
 
I’m as wound up as you are.
 
My nerves are just about fried.”

 

“I know.” Zara said.
 
She was still annoyed but didn’t want to waste anymore time standing around.
 
She hoisted the cooler into the truck bed.
  
“We better go.
 
The doctor might snap out of it soon.”
 

 

Twig sighed and nodded.
 
“Idaho Springs is a few hours west of us, then Silverthorne.
 
Some smaller towns around there that are good for disappearing in.
 
I went hunting there once with my dad.”
 
He flipped on his own pair of cheap sunglasses.
 
Ray Ban knock offs.
 

 

“Maybe they sell bibs there,” he remarked, getting into the driver seat.
 

 


Har
har
,” Zara said.
 
She wondered as he drove angrily down the hospital drive to the main road if they had just had the first real fight in their “relationship”.
 
She just hoped he was smart enough not to pick too many.
 

 

As the truck weaved along the curving mountain road, Zara’s mind entertained a much darker thought.
 
She couldn’t help but think that the blood she just drank must have been even better when it was fresh.

 

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