Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill (6 page)

BOOK: Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill
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“Eventually. Especially if she catches one’s eye.”

“Her boyfriend...”

“We don’t know shit about him. He could just be a lackey or he might be a player like...”


“Like Jeff.”

“Who’s Jeff?”

“Nobody anymore. Let’s not worry about him at the moment. Bottom line is we don’t know what we don’t know.”

The silence grew between us for several seconds.

“So, how’d you end up there?”

“That one is easy. It was the late seventies. The world was flip-flopping between being one big party and completely losing its shit. Carter was busy screwing up the economy. It was a good time to be aimless.”

“Bad family life?”

“Nothing like some of the horror stories you hear. But it wasn’t great. My dad pretty much browbeat any sense of ambition out of me by then. In his eyes, a woman shouldn’t look forward to anything more than finding a good man to settle down with and get knocked up by. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were just distractions to keep us out of trouble until Mr. Right came along. I might’ve managed to escape that, but my mother was a jellyfish. Then there was Linda. She was more than happy to play the ideal woman for dear old dad. She was all about cheerleading, helping with supper, and thinking no further ahead than the edge of her bra.”


“My bitch of a sister. What a pair we were - Linda and her bookworm of a baby sister, Lucinda. God, what the fuck were my parents thinking with those names?”

“Bookworm? Wait, your name is Lu...”

I glared at her. “My
is Sally. That other girl died a long time ago.” I leaned forward and looked her in the eye. “This is one of those pain-of-death moments, in case you were wondering.”

Christy held her hands up in a placating manner.

“Anyway, I had given up on bettering myself, having long since swallowed dear old Dad’s Kool Aid. However, I still had enough teenaged rebellion in me to want to get the hell out.”

“Where were you headed?”

“Nowhere...everywhere. Maybe I had some grandiose plan of hitchhiking across America. I don’t know. Made it about fifty miles before my babysitting money ran out. Care to guess where I ended up?”

“A place with a knack for gaudy casinos?”

I touched the tip of my finger to my nose. “Got a job waiting tables at an all-night café and managed to get a room in a flop house at the very edge of the city. Lot of hard luck cases there, but they mostly left me to myself. I met someone...a guy named Mark who bussed tables over at the Hacienda with eyes toward running the roulette wheel one day. He wasn’t anything special to look at, but he treated me well. I’m sure it wasn’t much different than a thousand other stories there.”

“So then you decided to get a job dancing at Pandora’s Box?”

“No. I never even thought about it. Would never have pictured myself at a place like that because I’d have never thought they’d hire someone like me.”

Christy’s face took on a dubious expression as she eyed me. I could understand the confusion. Not to toot my own horn, but I am well aware of my least, these days I am.

“My sister was tall, about five-seven,” I explained. “She was pretty stacked, too. Definitely was never hard-up for a date come Friday night.” I stood up to emphasize my point. “Me, I took after my mother. She was a petite thing. Would’ve had trouble topping five feet in stilettos...not that Mom would’ve been caught dead wearing them. No, wasn’t her style. She was more the Marion Cunningham type. Anyway, my sister made it a point to remind me about my shortcomings at every opportunity.”

“Why did you listen to her?”

“You try listening to the same crap for years on end and tell me if it doesn’t have a way of weaseling its way into your skull. Do I need to remind you how evil you were convinced the Freewill was?”

“Point taken.” She averted her eyes. It was a bit of a low blow on my part, but I could see she immediately understood my point.

“Anyway, you get my drift. As I grew, my tomboy looks went away. I mean, I never quite got a growth spurt, but I definitely filled out in other areas. The problem was, in my head, Linda’s voice kept telling me over and over what an ugly fucking duckling I was. As far as I was concerned, I was a frump. I played the part, too. Heh, thinking back on it, Mark was a bit of one too, although in his case it was real. He probably couldn’t believe his luck that he had all
on his arm come his night off.”

“So where does Marlene play into this?”

“I’m getting to that, relax. Anyway, my normal way of dressing was nothing to write home about. God, if I could go back in time, I’d probably beat myself to death with a copy of Vogue. The place where I worked, though, eventually got bought out by a new owner. The guy decided to try sexing up the joint. He made us wear uniforms...tight ones, not entirely unlike what you might see at Hooters. Personally, I was mortified to dress like that, but a job was a job. There weren't many other choices, so I did what I had to do.”

I paused to take an extra-long sip of my drink. From this point forward, we’d be tripping over the skeletons in my closet. “And that’s when it happened. One night, this slick dressed guy comes in for a cup of coffee. He was eyeing me up the entire time he was there, making me wonder what the hell was wrong with me. I practically died in my skin, thinking that he was disgusted at what he saw - a mess like me in an outfit like that.”

“But you were wrong.”

“Exactly. Before he left, he pulled me aside. Said a girl like me could be making a hundred times what I was earning at that dump, then handed me his card. Can you guess what was written on it?”

Christy smiled in response, although it didn’t reach her eyes.

It was a sentiment I could very much understand.


Chapter 10

We touched down a little over two hours later, taking the time zone differences into account. That left plenty of the night ahead for us, or at least for me. Christy was looking a bit green about the gills by the time we stepped off the jet. Go figure. Some people just have no constitution.

I guess I couldn’t blame her much. Three quarters of the way into the trip, red lightning began to flash around us, a definite unnatural occurrence. More and more such freak storms had been happening across the world as of late. It was a sign of the impending battleground that the Earth was about to become. More often than not, strange sightings or disappearances followed. A small part of me briefly wondered what the headlines would read once the sun came up.

There wasn't time for any of that, though. We had business to attend to. Unless creatures from beyond the veil suddenly overran Vegas, we had to keep our wits about us.

Following the storm, I’d given Christy a chance to regain her equilibrium, even being so nice as to not make fun of her for it...much anyway. I then instructed her to change her clothes. It wasn’t that she was covered in puke or anything gross like that, mind you. She wasn’t showing much yet, but the slight bulge in her midsection could potentially give her away on the ground. Vampires are masters at spotting and exploiting weakness. Marlene, being head of an enviable coven in a city known for its night life, had developed this to a near art form. An obviously pregnant foe might as well just save everyone the trouble and gut herself.

Fortunately, possibly for both of us, Christy still had some fight in her. Though a little wobbly from our aerial acrobatics, she put her hands up, muttered a few words, and a flash of light later, you’d have thought she was ready for bikini season. Her clothes were now practically falling off of her.

“It’s a glamour,” she explained. “A pretty advanced one, hard to spot or sniff out. My people developed them during the Inquisition, albeit they used it for different purposes back then. Was the only way we kept from being wiped out.”

“How long will it last?”

She cocked her head in response. “Hopefully long enough.”

Gotta love confidence.

* * *

“So do we head straight over to...”

“No,” I stated flatly. “Follow me. A car’s waiting.”


“To the MGM Grand. I booked us a pair of adjoining suites. We’re going to check in, relax for a while, then doll ourselves up and head downstairs to blow a few thousand dollars. Don’t worry about your bags. The zombies will get them. That’s what they’re here for.” I started walking, holding myself up as if I owned the place. Christy didn’t need to know that I wasn’t feeling much better than she was - just for different reasons.

* * *

“There are some very important clients flying in tonight. I want you to show them a good time, Lucinda.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“It’s a private party, one of the rooms upstairs. You’re to give them whatever they want, no questions asked. Don’t worry, you won’t be harmed.”

“Won’t be harmed?”

“They may get a little rough...”

“What? No. I don’t do those kinds of things. Talk to...”

“This isn’t a request.”

“Screw that. I’m not your whore. Ow! Let go of me!”

“You are whatever I say you are, girl. The moment you stepped foot into my club, you were mine. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.”

“You’re crazy! I won’t...”


* * *

I always wondered what happened during that night and the others that followed. Marlene was usually careful. The willing went about their business, made their money, and kept their goddamn mouths shut. The unwilling, well...she always made sure that we never remembered a thing about what we’d done or had done to us. All we’d know is that we’d wake up the next morning with cash in our purse and an oddly upbeat attitude about what we did for a living.

There was just one small problem: she’d been sloppy with that first compulsion. I still had no idea what happened afterward, but she hadn’t erased the act of compulsion itself from my mind. Thankfully, nothing escaped my lips to the contrary at the time, although I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t out of fear. For a time I had no idea what it all meant, other than perhaps I was going crazy.

It may have continued that way, possibly until I was too used up to be of any use to her. At that point, I’d have been casually tossed to the side like refuse if luck went my way. If it didn't...

My knuckles had turned white as my nails dug into the armrest of the limo. Pity - the rich Italian leather was no match for vampire claws. It was a shame to ruin something so beautiful, but knowing my kind, it hadn’t been the first act of violence visited upon this vehicle.

The damage to the limo wasn’t lost upon Christy, although she thankfully kept her mouth shut. On the walk over to where our ride awaited, I had mentioned that we were being watched. The air in the terminal reeked of the undead. Not surprising, considering we owned it. What was different, though, were the underlying scents. The smell of expensive cologne lingered at the periphery, stuff that the everyday staff probably wouldn’t wear. Even with their enhanced senses, most vamps probably wouldn’t have noticed it. Having been exposed to the finer points of city living, I had developed a refined nose for such things. It was easy for me to tell the difference between a spritz of Clive Christian Number One and whatever bargain fragrance was currently being hawked at Target.

It had been Jeff’s one saving grace. He was an egomaniacal moron who demanded the very best and insisted his minions follow suit. If one cared to survive under his reign, one played the part. Tomboys became fashion models, country bumpkins became paragons of style, and so on.

The scents that lingered in the air were expensive ones. Marlene’s people were close by. She had been there for years, worming her way into the nooks and crannies like a cancer, but no matter how hard she tried, even she couldn’t be everywhere.

“Thank goodness for the mob,” I muttered to myself.

“Eh?” Christy asked.

“Nothing,” I replied, well aware that our ride was in all likelihood bugged.

* * *

We checked into our rooms at the Grand - adjoining suites on the twentieth floor. Executive level - nice, but not the top of the line. No need to look overly garish. Christy wanted to get some rest, and I couldn’t blame her. I tried as well, but wound up pacing like a caged tiger, watching through a slit in the blinds as the sun arose over the city below.

It was going to be a nice day...for the living.

* * *

Hours later, as the sun started its descent, I changed into a dark red, off-the-shoulder mini dress. It was nice and befitting for the night ahead, which was a pity. While there was an off chance that things could be settled peacefully, I was prepared to see it go the other way.

Oh, let’s face facts, I was betting on it. If that happened, I could probably count on my outfit being left in less than mint condition. Oh well. ’Tis the price we pay.

I applied makeup as usual, sending a silent thank you to fate that the silly pop culture belief of vampires casting no reflection was little more than bullshit. Then, I put on a pair of ruby earrings. Fortunately, any nastiness that ensued over the next several hours could probably be rinsed off of those. I kind of liked them.

A gold necklace with a heart charm rounded out the look and toned down the aggressiveness of my appearance a bit. Sometimes, the subtle things make all the difference between predator and prey.

When I was done, I knocked on the door connecting my and Christy’s room.

It was time to kill a few hours.


Chapter 11

Well, it would be time to kill a few hours
I fixed Christy up. She was still rocking her glamorized body. I had to admit, it beat the shit out of a CrossFit workout for instantaneous gratification. Unfortunately, the good news ended there. She was wearing slacks, a dull blouse, and a sensible sweater.

BOOK: Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill
11.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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