Void City 01 - Staked Online - J. F. Lewis

1

ERIC:

THE ALLEY

Somewhere in the middle of my rant it occurred to me that I’d killed whoever it was I’d been yelling at, so arguing was no longer important. I looked down at my victim’s broken headless body and winced at the unnatural odor of rapidly rotting flesh. It never smells right to me when a vampire dies. I’ve always chalked it up to bowels. If you don’t eat, you don’t shit, and death just doesn’t smell right without it.

Whoever this guy was, he’d obviously been a Master vampire, because Drones and Soldiers don’t get the quick rot treatment. They turn to dust and blow away…which smells even less natural. And if he’d been a Vlad like me, he’d still be kicking.

I glanced around the dingy back alley where we’d been arguing and couldn’t remember exactly where I was, what we’d been fighting about, or what I’d done with the guy’s head. From the way the neck muscles had been ripped, I was guessing I’d torn it off. If he’d been human, I would have been soaked in blood, but vampires don’t bleed easily; my fingers were barely damp.

Out of curiosity, I went looking for What’s His Name’s head and found it lying next to the Dumpster at the back of the alley. I figured I ought to see if I recognized him. In spite of the unnaturally rapid decay, he looked vaguely familiar, like I might have seen him around town. Other than that his face didn’t ring any bells.

A homeless man was curled up against the wall of the alley, shaking like a leaf and staring at me. I tucked Dead Guy’s head under my arm and slipped the bum a twenty, mostly to screw with his mind, but also because I was sorry he’d seen whatever it was he’d seen. Besides, the homeless guy kind of looked like Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! is a damned good show.

“Do you want me to tell the police somethin’ in particular?” asked the bum.

“Don’t talk to me, you dirty little fucker,” I snarled. I flashed my fangs at him and let my eyes do the whole glowing red bit. “I’m not paying you to do anything. The body will burn up when the sun hits it. Tell the cops whatever you want. If they believe you at all, they’re well paid to do the right thing. This is VoidCity, sweetheart.”

Norms don’t notice the supernatural here unless they aren’t really normal. The spell that hangs over this city doesn’t work on crazies, though. In this case I suspected the bum might remember what actually happened rather than thinking he’d seen a mugging or a gang fight or something.

I can’t see magic, but I know that’s how the spell is supposed to work. Your average Joe or Jane will forget the undead, the werewolves, even the demons that roam Void City and call it home…or sometimes they remember it wrong, their memories haphazardly replaced or jumbled by the spell. To see vampires and remember it later, you have to be crazy, be supernatural yourself, or be part of the scene, focused on being “in” with the undead crowd.

The cops all work for some high society fang I’ve never met and have no interest in meeting. I forget his name. If the police in his pocket have to cover up your crimes, you get a bill in the mail or a demand via phone from Captain Stacey with the VCPD. Everybody calls it the fang fee, because vampires get hit with the most of them. It’s just one of the extra headaches of being a vampire, right alongside having to drink blood, staying away from holy objects, avoiding sunlight….

Sunlight. I looked at my watch and cursed angrily. You’d think a vampire could remember to be in by sunrise, but my time sense has always sucked. Dropping the vamp’s head and ignoring the bum, I dashed for my car only to see the driver’s side door already glowing cheerily with the first lovely rays of dawn. I stopped for a moment in the shade of the alley to watch the sun’s reflection in my Hummer’s windshield. I used to love the sun. I still do, but now she doesn’t like me so much. Which makes her not that much different from any number of women I dated back during my living years.

I strolled back down the alley and glared disapprovingly at the bum. In the increasing illumination I could see him much better, and he didn’t look