by Vinnie White
I saw the vampire as soon as I walked into to room, leaning against the wall adjacent to the large marble fireplace. He was wearing what seemed to be a freshly tailored deep-purple jacket, along with a finely cut silk shirt on which hung a small fashonable tie from his gaunt neck. Black breeches clung tightly to his form, and he tapped his feet to the rhythm of the string quartet, the highly glistining polish of his boots flashing in the firelight. His head was tilted to one side, listening to the music. A small smile played the corner of his lips, but a bored expression adorned his handsome face as he surbeyed the swinging dancers across the room.
I walked over to him, murmuring apologies as I bumped into dancers. I held two glasses of wine in my hands and I offered one to him. He smiled politely and accepted the proffered glass. A gleam of interest flickered in his dark eyes as he sipped delicately at the wine.
"Ah . . .," he sighed at last. "Finally one who appreciates a fine wine!" Noting his faint French accent, I nodded.
"Only the best," I replied sipping from my own glass.
"Let me guess . . .," he rubbed his chin thougtfully looking at the wine in the firelight. "Burgundy, Châtaux Luc Saint-Jaques, 1878?" he offered.
I smiled, offering my hand. "Righto, chap. Name's Chester Brovin: doctor, philosopher, and gentleman."
"Marquis Louis de Mareille, gentleman . . .," he paused and grinned. "Well, that just about covers it." He smiled again, that hideous grimace of the walking dead, sending tendrals of revulsion down my spine. He took my offered hand in a firm, but somewhat cold, handshake. "Now, how does a man such as yourself come to a drab fête such as this?" he asked, taking another sip.
I shrugged. "My sister Kathy is the hostess," I lied.
"Excusez-moi. I meant no disrespect," he said, bowing his head.
"None taken. Actually, it is kind of fatuous! My sister always has been a bland entertainer," I revealed with a shrug. "What I'm interested in is what a man like you is doing at a fête like this?"
He smiled again but his soulless eyes searched my face. "I come for the dance," he said waving grandly to the crowd on the dance floor. "And to be frank, I'm not that impressed."
"With what are you not impressed with, if I may ask?"
"The company," he said. "I'm somewhat of an observer of human behavior, you see, and you seem intelligent enough to realized that this bores me almost to death," he grinned.
He smiled broadly and shook his head. I shrugged my shoulders and motioned for one of the roaming butlers to come over. I whispered in his ear to bring the finest wine, Châteaux le Poiles, 1873, up from the cellar. The butler nodded curtly and marched off.
I turned to Mareille. He stared at me. I tried to smile, but I found I could not. Those eyes held mine, bored into my skull, peeling away at the dark layers of my mind like an onion, searching for secrets. The vampire's eyes were like onyx; blaker than even the deepest of nights, and the evil and unholiness in those eyes made my mind scream out in terror. When at last it seemed as if Mareille would in fact find out my secret, I threw up a mental wall and tore my gaze away from his. Cursing myself for falling for that ploy, I reminded myself that this vampire has had centuries of experience. I cleared my throat lightly to remove the rusty taste of fear that coated my mouth.
"Alas, Chester! It seems as if I know you from somewhere," Mareille said softly. He looked at me curiously and I got that feeling again as if some one was prying on my mind and I stubbornly kept my gaze on him. "What kind of docteur did you say you were?"
"I didn't, but if you must know, I am a psychiatrist." I said. Mareille looked somewhat disappointed, but he shrugged and finished off his wine.
"Ah, here we go," I said as the butler returned with the wine. "You will love this wine for it is the finest we have." Mareille held out his glass, and I refilled it for him. He looked at me with those fathom-less eyes over the rim of the glass as he took a sip. He sighed appreciably as he finished.
"Ah, oui, but you do know how to treat a guest," he said finishing his glass. I refilled his empty glass with the rose colored wine and took a small sip from my own. I could hear a slight lisp in his voice and I realized that he had imbibed quite a lot since he arrived, which was what I wanted; vampires had a weakness for alcohol, and it made my job all the easier.
We talked awhile; well actually, Mareille talked quite a lot and I kept his glass full when it was empty. Even though by now Mareille was quite drunk, I could fell the danger of the creature tingling on my skin like so many tiny daggers. Every now and then he would look at me, searching my face for recognition that I would not provide as I steered his attention away from me.
It was getting on towards morning when Mareille told me that he had to take his leave. I nodded feeling the affects of the wine a little myself, even though I only had a couple of glasses; I suppose I just do not havce the stomach for fine wine. Mareille turned and I followed him to the door. He told me he would get in touch with me, and he stumbled into the night. I grabbed my overcoat from the stand and followed quickly behind him.
I was a Hunter. I had discovered this when I was just a little boy. Night had come and my house in London was surrounded by fog. I could barely look out into the night, but I knew someone was out there. Then a large man stepped out of the fog, wearing a long coat and a hat.
"Boy, your time has arrived," he said in a deep resounding voice.
I didn't need to ask him what my time has arrived for: I just knew what was to happen. I was to be a man, alone in the world hunting the dark things that hunted the living. I was to be a Hunter, a Hunter of vampires.
That night he took me away. I never once regretted leaving the life I had or would have. I made my decision and there was no turning back. I shook my head to clear the dangerous cobwebs of the past out of my mind and concentrated on my task at hand.
The night was about as dark as Mareille's eyes. Low, ominous clouds hung over the city, and I could faintly hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. A carriage ambled by, and I waved to the weary driver, but other than the solitary driver, the city was asleep as I stalked the vampire.
I kept a safe distance from Mareille but it was hard to make him out in the darkness. He might have been drunk, but vampires posses a certain skill that allows them to move around without being noted. Had it not been for my years of hunting, I would have lost him the moment that I walked out of the party.
Mareille stumbled into the doorway of a run down town house and I heard him struggling to pull keys out of a pocket. He opened the door finally and lurched inside, shutting the door behind him. I crept cautiously out of my hiding place down the way a bit and laid my ear against the cold wood. I could hear the vampire stumbling around inside, softly singing a tune that I could not recognize.
I tried the door handle and to no surprise, found it locked. Sighing, I reached inside my coat to a secret pocket sewed into the lining and pulled out my lock picking tools. I steadied my hands and inserted two thin wires into to the lock. Exploring around inside as quickly as I could, I found the tumblers. Only two, I thought in relief. I gave the flimsy tumblers a little nudge with the tools and the lock clicked softly open.
I gently pushed the door open away from me. I was struck with how dark and lonely it seemed inside the vampire's deadly domain. Shivering a little, I continued in. I noticed how all of the windows inside were covered by heavy drapes that allowed no light to enter. I could discern vauge shapes of furniture in the darkness but no vampire was present. I approached a flight of stairs leading up and froze as I heard the vampire stumbling around somewere in a room above me.
I took the stairs carefully, knowing that in old houses such as these, the stairs were more likely to squeak under my weight. Reaching the top of the stairs, I found that the vampire had left a candle lit on the banister. Cautiously I pulled off my top coat and unsheathed the sword I had hidden in it. I draped the coat over the banister next to the candle and stepped gingerly to where I could hear Mareille softly murmuring to himself.
Holding my sword ready in my right hand, I crossed myself with my left and whispered a prayer. Grasping the door handle with my free hand, I flung the door open and rushed into the room.
I knew instantly that I was in the vampire's coffin room; in fact, the rooms only furnishing was the highly decorated coffin. Mareille turned his head when he heard me open the door, his eyes wide in surprise, and he hissed snake-like at me, his sharp canines glinting in the candle light. I let my momentum carry me at Mareille and stabbed him through the chest but knew instantly that my thrust was not through the heart, as it scraped harshly across rib bones. I hastily pulled my blade out and dark, hellish blood gushed out of the wound down the vampire's white shirt. The bitter metallic smell of gore permeated the room, brining an acrid taste to my mouth.
I held my sword ready as Mareille quickly turned to me. His eyes flashed in the soft light; blazed in such ungodly balefulness that I almost found myself unable to move. He held his hands out in front of him, aiming the long, talon-like nails in my direction.
"So, Docteur Brovin. You have discovered my naughty secret. Ta! Ta!" the vampire claped his hands together like a child. I recognized the sound of blood in his lungs as he talked. "I thought maybe you suspected!" he acknowledged. "By the way, the hostess' name was the Dutchess Cynthia, not your 'sister' Kathy."
He began to circle the room and I moved with him being careful not to get caught with the coffen at my back. He looked at my blade and hissed again as he recognized the wolf mark of an expert Hunter on the gleaming metal.
Mareille abruptly lunged raking his claws across my chest. I felt the burning slash and my warm blood trickled down my chest. I knocked his arm away from me with my blade. More blood poured out of the wound than was possible in a human. Mareille snarled as he grabbed my sword arm and heaved me away. Because of the vampire's demoniac strength, I was thrown against the wall and the vampire swiftly advanced on me, teeth bared. I brought my sword up, which I amazingly I still had in my hand, and lunged up at him. This time my aim was true. The blade pierced Mareille's heart and blood surged down over the blade and onto my body. He gasped at me and pulled himself off of the blade.
He stumbled over to his coffin and fell losely inside, glaring up at me. He wispered to me with the light fading fast from his eyes, "Mourir c'est cesser de vivre, mais un jour vous mourrez aussi." He died for the second time.
I swiftly pulled off my shirt making sure none of the vampire's blood found it's way into the wounds on my chest. I threw the ripped shirt in disgust on the body in the coffin covering up the grotesque face. Going back into the hall, I pulled on my coat and sheathed my sword. Taking the candle off the balcony, I returned to the vampire's room. I wiped my blade on the corpse's cape and turned to the window and pulled back the drapes. I noticed the eastern horizon gleaming brightly and I nodded. I lit the drapes that covered the windows and started to walk out. The dry air helped the heavy velvet burn rapidly, and by the time I reached the door, the flames were licking the cieling beams. Swiftly I desceded the stairs and carefully stepped out of the house. The streets were still sleeping and I briskly closed the door behind me and walked away.
Glancing back once, I saw the fire consuming the roof of the vampire's town house and people were starting to look out their windows in curiosity. I reached home just as the sun crested the horizon. Undressing tiredly, my body cried out for a bath. I took a long, hot bath, being careful to wash off all of the vampire's blood from my body. I noticed the scratches on my chest were slowly disappearing as the fire burned the vampire's body. I smiled and finished my bath.
I went upstairs and fell into my bed naked. I slipped into the dreamless sleep only a Hunter could know with the last words of the vampire echoing in my head, "To die is to cease to live but one day you will die also!"