Authors: Christopher Pike
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Legends; Myths; Fables, #Other, #Love & Romance, #Fantasy & Magic, #Paranormal
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I am a vampire, and that is the truth. But the modern meaning of the word vampire, the stories that have been told about creatures such as I, are not precisely true. I do not turn to ash in the sun, nor do I cringe when I see a crucifix. I wear a tiny gold cross around my neck now, but only because I like it. I cannot command a pack of wolves to attack or fly through the air. Nor can I make another of my kind simply by having him drink my blood.
Wolves do like me, though, as do most predators, and I can jump so high that one might imagine I can fly. As to blood - ah, blood, the whole subject fascinates me. I do like that, warm and dripping, when I am thirsty. And I am often thirsty...
I am a vampire, and that is the truth. But the modern meaning of the word
the stories that have been told about creatures such as I, are not precisely true. I do not turn to ash in the sun, nor do I cringe when I see a crucifix. I wear a tiny gold cross now around my neck, but only because I like it. I cannot command a pack of wolves to attack or fly through the air. Nor can I make another of my kind simply by having him drink my blood. Wolves do like me though, as do most predators, and I can jump so high that one might imagine I can fly. As to blood—ah, blood, the whole subject fascinates me. I do like that as well, warm and dripping, when I am thirsty. And I am often thirsty.
My name, at present, is Alisa Perne—just two words, something to last for a couple of decades. I am no more attached to them than to the sound of the wind. My hair is blond and silklike, my eyes like sapphires that have stared long at a volcanic fissure. My stature is slight by modern standards, five two in sandals, but my arms and legs are muscled, although not unattractively so. Before I speak I appear to be only eighteen years of age, but something in my voice—the coolness of my expressions, the echo of endless experience—makes people think I am much older. But even I seldom think about when I was born, long before the pyramids were erected beneath the pale moon. I was there, in that desert in those days, even though I am not originally from that part of the world.
Do I need blood to survive? Am I immortal? After all this time, I still don't know. I drink blood because I crave it. But I can eat normal food as well, and digest it. I need food as much as any other man or woman. I am a living, breathing creature. My heart beats—I can hear it now, like thunder in my ears. My hearing is very sensitive, as is my sight. I can hear
Create PDF files without this message by purchasing novaPDF printer (http://www.novapdf.com) a dry leaf break off a branch a mile away, and I can clearly see the craters on the moon without a telescope. Both senses have grown more acute as I get older.
My immune system is impregnable, my regenerative system miraculous, if you believe in miracles— which I don't. I can be stabbed in the arm with a knife and heal within minutes without scarring. But if I were to be stabbed in the heart, say with the currently fashionable wooden stake, then maybe I would die, It is difficult for even a vampire's flesh to heal around art implanted blade. But it is not something I have experimented with.
But who would stab me? Who would get the chance? I have the strength of five men, the reflexes of the mother of all cats. There is not a system of physical attack and defense of which I am not a master. A dozen black belts could corner me in a dark alley, and I could make a dress fit for a vampire out of the sashes that hold their fighting jackets closed. And I do love to fight, it is true, almost as much as I love to kill. Yet I kill less and less as the years go by because the need is not there, and the ramifications of murder in modern society are complex and a waste of my precious but endless time. Some loves have to be given up, others have to be forgotten. Strange as it may sound, if you think of me as a monster, but I can love most passionately. I do not think of myself as evil.
Why am I talking about all this? Who am I talking to? I send out these words, these thoughts, simply because it is time. Time for what, I do not know, and; it does not matter because it is what I want and that is always reason enough for me. My wants—how few they are, and yet how deep they burn. I will not tell you, at present, who I am talking to.
The moment is pregnant with mystery, even for me. I stand outside the door of Detective Michael Riley's office. The hour is late; he is in his private office in the back, the light down low—I know this without seeing. The good Mr. Riley called me three hours ago to tell me I had to come to his office to have a little talk about some things I might find of interest. There was a note of threat in his voice, and more. I can sense emotions, although I cannot read minds. I am curious as I stand in this cramped and stale hallway. I am also annoyed, and that doesn't bode well for Mr. Riley. I knock lightly on the door to his outer office and open it before he can respond.
"Hello," I say. I do not sound dangerous—I am, after all, supposed to be a teenager. I stand beside the secretary's unhappy desk, imagining that her last few paychecks have been promised to her as "practically in the mail." Mr. Riley is at his desk, inside his office, and stands as he notices me. He has on a rumpled brown sport coat, and in a glance I see the weighty bulge of a revolver beneath his left breast. Mr. Riley thinks I am dangerous, I note, and my curiosity goes up a notch. But I'm not afraid he knows what I really am, or he would not have chosen to meet with me at all, even in broad daylight.
"Alisa Perne?" he says. His tone is uneasy.
He gestures from twenty feet away. “Please come in and have a seat."
I enter his office but do not take the offered chair in front of his desk, but rather, one against the right wall. I want a straight line to him if he tries to pull a gun on me. If he does try, he will die, and maybe painfully.
He looks at me, trying to size me up, and it is difficult for him because I just sit here. He, however, is a montage of many impressions. His coat is not only wrinkled but stained—
greasy burgers eaten hastily. I note it all. His eyes are red rimmed, from a drug as much as fatigue. I hypothesize his poison to be speed—medicine to nourish long hours beating the
Create PDF files without this message by purchasing novaPDF printer (http://www.novapdf.com) pavement. After me? Surely. There is also a glint of satisfaction in his eyes, a prey finally caught. I smile, privately at the thought, yet a thread of uneasiness enters me as well. The office is stuffy, slightly chilly. I have never liked the cold, although I could survive an Arctic winter night naked to the bone.
"I guess you wonder why I wanted to talk to you so urgently," he says, I nod. My legs are uncrossed, my white slacks hanging loose. One hand rests in my lap, the other plays with my hair, Left-handed, right-handed—I am neither, and both.
"May I call you Alisa?" he asks.
"You may call me what you wish, Mr. Riley."
My voice startles him, just a little, and it is the effect I want. I could have pitched it like any modern teenager, but I have allowed my past to enter, the power of it. I want to keep Mr. Riley nervous, for nervous people say much that they later regret.
"Call me Mike," he says. "Did you have trouble finding the place?"
"Can I get you anything? Coffee? A soda?"
He glances at a folder on his desk, flips it open. He clears his throat, and again I hear his tiredness, as well as his fear. But is he afraid of me? I am not sure. Besides the gun under his coat, he has another beneath some papers at the other side of his desk. I smell the gunpowder in the bullets, the cold steel. A lot of firepower to meet a teenage girl. I hear a faint scratch of moving metal and plastic. He is taping the conversation.
"First off I should tell you who I am," he says. “As I said on the phone, I am a private detective. My business is my own—I work entirely freelance. People come to me to find loved ones, to research risky investments, to provide protection, when necessary, and to get hard-to-find background information on certain individuals."
I smile. "And to spy."
He blinks. "I do not spy, Miss Perne."
"Really." My smile broadens. I lean forward, the tops of my breasts visible at the open neck of my black silk blouse. "It is late, Mr. Riley. Tell me what you want."
He shakes his head. "You have a lot of confidence for a kid."
"And you have a lot of nerve for a down-on-his-luck private dick."
He doesn't like that. He taps the open folder on his desk. "I have been researching you for the last few months, Miss Perne, ever since you moved to Mayfair.
You have an intriguing past, as well as many investments. But I’m sure you know that."
"Before I begin, may I ask how old you are?"
"You may ask."
"How old are you?"
"It's none of your business."
He smiles. He thinks he has scored a point. He does not realize that I am already considering how he should die, although I still hope to avoid such an extreme measure.
Never ask a vampire her age. We don't like that question. It's very impolite. Mr. Riley dears his throat again, and I think that maybe I will strangle him.
"Prior to moving to Mayfair," he says, "you lived in Los Angeles—in Beverly Hills in fact—at Two-Five-Six Grove Street. Your home was a four-thousand-square-foot
Create PDF files without this message by purchasing novaPDF printer (http://www.novapdf.com) mansion, with two swimming pools, a tennis court, a sauna, and a small observatory. The property is valued at six-point-five million. To this day you are listed as the sole owner, Miss Perne."
"It's not a crime to be rich."
"You are not just rich. You are very rich. My research indicates that you own five separate estates scattered across this country. Further research tells me that you probably own as much if not more property in Europe and the Far East. Your stock and bond assets are vast—in the hundreds of millions. But what none of my research has uncovered is how you came across this incredible wealth. There is no record of a family anywhere, and believe me, Miss Perne, I have looked far and wide."
"I believe you. Tell me, whom did you contact to gather this information?"
He enjoys that he has my interest. "My sources are of course confidential."
"Of course." I stare at him; my Stare is very powerful. Sometimes, if I am not careful, and I stare too long at a flower, it shrivels and dies. Mr. Riley loses his smile and shifts uneasily. "Why are you researching me?"
"You admit that my facts are accurate?" he asks.
"Do you need my assurances?" I pause, my eyes still on him. Sweat glistens on his forehead. "Why the research?"
He blinks and turns away with effort. He dabs at the perspiration on his head. "Because you fascinate me," he says. "I think to myself, here is one of the wealthiest women in the world, and no one knows who she is. Plus she can't be more than twenty-five years old, and she has no family. It makes me wonder."
“What do you wonder, Mr. Riley?"
He ventures a swift glance at me; he really does not like to look at me, even though I am very beautiful. "Why you go to such extremes to remain invisible," he says.
"It also makes you wonder if I would pay to stay invisible," I say.
He acts surprised. "I didn't say that."
"How much do you want?"
My question stuns him, yet pleases him. He does not have to be the first to dirty his hands.
What lie does not realize is that blood stains deeper than dirt, and that the stains last much longer. Yes, I think again, he may not have that long to live.
"How much are you offering?" he ventures.
I shrug. "It depends."
“On whether you tell me who pointed you in my direction."
He is indignant. "I assure you that I needed no one to point me in your direction. I discovered your interesting qualities all by myself."
He is lying, of that I am positive. I can always tell when a person lies, almost always. Only remarkable people can fool me, and then they have to be lucky. But I do not like to be fooled—so one has to wonder at even their luck.
"Then my offer is nothing," I say.
He straightens. He believes he is ready to pounce. Then my counteroffer, Miss Perne, is to make what I have discovered public knowledge." He pauses. "What do you think of that?"
"It will never happen.""
He smiles. "You don't think so?"
Create PDF files without this message by purchasing novaPDF printer (http://www.novapdf.com) I smile. "You would die before that happened."
He laughs. "You would take a contract out on my life?"
"Something to that effect."
He stops laughing, now deadly serious, now that we are talking, about death. Yet I keep my smile since death amuses me. He points a finger at me.
"You can be sure that if anything happened to me the police would be at your door the same day," he says.
"You have arranged to send my records to someone else," I say. "Just in case something should happen to you?"
"Something to that effect." He is trying to be witty. He is also lying. I slide back farther into my chair. He thinks I am relaxing, but I position myself so that my legs are straight out. If I am to strike, I have decided, it will be with my right foot.
"Mr. Riley," I say. "We should not argue. You want something from me, and I want something from you. I am prepared to pay you a million dollars, to be deposited in whatever account you wish, in whatever part of the world you desire, if you will tell me who made you aware of me."
He looks me straight in the eye, tries to, and surely he feels the heat building up inside me because he flinches before he speaks. His voice comes out uneven and confused. He does not understand why I am suddenly so intimidating.
"No one is interested in you except me," he says.
I sigh. "You are armed, Mr. Riley.”
I harden my voice. "You have a gun under your coat. You have a gun on your desk under those papers. You are taping this conversation. Now, one might think these are all standard blackmail precautions, but I don't think so. I am a young woman. I don't look dangerous. But someone has told you that I am more dangerous than I look and that I am to be treated with extreme caution. And you know that that someone is right." I pause.
"Who is that someone, Mr. Riley?"
He shakes his head. He is looking at me in a new light, and he doesn't like what he sees.
My eyes continue to bore into him. A splinter of fear has entered his mind.
"H-how do you know all these things?" he asks.
"You admit my facts are accurate?" I mimic him.
He shakes his head again.
"Now I allow my voice to change,
deepen, to resonate with the fullness of my incredibly long life. The effect on him is pronounced; he shakes visibly, as if he is suddenly aware that he is sitting next to a monster. But I am not just any monster. I am a vampire, and in many ways, for his sake, that may be the worst monster of all.