Vampire Cabbie

Chapter 1

Fall, 1987

I shall spare your pitiful life. In exchange, you may be my audience, my confessor even. I might tell you the story begins inParis . Or maybe it might be more accurate to say the story really begins in the Black Forest of Germany. Or maybe the story begins simultaneously in both places. In a Parisian discotheque, a driving synthesized beat pounded repeatedly against my skull, a beam of sheer force, thick and blunt, until the edges smoothed, transforming into the rapidly beating heart of a deer fleeing through a dark forest, a predator closing, sensed but unseen, closing then overtaking, easily bringing it down, then plunging sharp fangs into its muscular throat.

Playing with, but not drinking the glass of Pernod before me on the faux marble table, my eyes narrowed. Through clouds of blue smoke, the tightly crowded dancers became tree trunks, the flashing lights transformed into splinters of moonlight - gone from this rather unsavory Parisian district to the unspoiled confines of the Black Forest, a whole month spent in feral bliss, devoid of civilization, of words, of even clothing, not pretending to blend in with humanity, but wallowing in the fullest extent of my predatory nature, arising at nightfall, running free through the woods, stalking game, gorging myself on hot, wild blood, then burrowing in the ground before first light, only to rise again the next night. I even allowed myself to be stalked by a black bear who followed my scent and the trail of carrion for nearly a week before finally attacking. However, at the last moment, I turned and countered, barely managing to muster the leverage to send the bear toppling to the forest floor. My fangs sank into his neck, and that great creature's essence streamed into my mouth. I drank, but left him with life, this done out of respect, from one predator to another.

A man approached my table.

"Monsieur," he said in a gravelly voice.

My eyes focused wide on a gold razor blade the man had dropped on the table, my skin chafing suddenly against my silk shirt, the Armani suit I wore feeling quite constricting. I plucked the blade from the table, inspected it and, with a nod, handed it back to him, giving him quick study. The sallow flesh under his quickly shifting eyes drooped. He was unshaven. His heart beat rapidly. Yet, he looked quite smart in a double-breasted blazer. He turned and walked to the water closet. I followed momentarily, with each step the soles of my Gucci's loudly unsticking themselves from the chipped tile floor, slipping between women blooming like fragrant flowers, some in black leather, some in high heels and tight dresses with the shortest possible hemlines, gyrating around unwashed, unshaven men in black leather or well-tailored blazers.

The WC reeked of urine and vomit. The man sat on a sink, his back to the mirror. He scratched his stubbly chin and withdrew a plastic bag from the hip pocket of his blazer. It was full of folded paper packets.

I stood before him and peered into the bag, the back of his head and shoulders visible in the mirror in front of me, my own frame a barely discernible outline. As his fingers reached inside the bag, our eyes met. Black dots danced before my eyes, growing into large discs that began to pulsate and dissolve into a pair of bubbling red masses.

Quickly, my fangs sank into his neck as I shoved his prone form onto the sink, his legs dangling above the floor. I drank hastily, taking about a pint before leaving the man atop his porcelain perch, images from his immediate memory filling my crimson-tinted sight: a back alley, a flash of steel, the crisp line of red, then nothing as shutters slammed shut, sparing me from this man's thoughts; too long in the wilds, I had forgotten to screen myself from the thoughts and feelings of my victims. Before departing, I returned the bag of goods to his blazer pocket.

"Merci," I said, leaving quickly. An appointment awaited. After a month incommunicado, surely there would be business requiring my attention.

For late November, the night was crisp and pleasant, allowing for an enjoyable evening at a sidewalk cafe, sitting in the warm night air without anyone thinking it odd that one should sit alone in the cold. A French newspaper lay on the table in front of me, shadows from the flickering candlelight dancing on the newsprint. I took