The killer smiled, supremely confident in his ability to remain unnoticed. He perched motionless on the edge of his seat, carefully sizing up his next victim.
She sat at the bar sipping a White Russian, her sparkling blue eyes glued to the TV, oblivious. News of the vice president’s recent assassination played in a constant loop on the screen. She was strikingly beautiful, with platinum blonde hair that spilled over her shoulders and radiated a delicate sheen. Cherry-red lipstick adorned her full, pouting lips, and her smooth, peach-colored skin glowed with vitality. Her red cocktail dress clung to her in all the right places, and she showed cleavage that Pamela Anderson would have been proud of. Her long, shapely legs were crossed at the knee, a pair of crimson stilettos completing her outfit. He judged her age to be no more than twenty-six, and she was the most fascinating woman he had ever seen.
Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” erupted from the dance floor as the live band kicked into gear. A banner spanning the front of the stage read Oldies Night with 4 A.M. A waitress glided by, nodding at his empty shot glass. He shook his head, his sights set on something far more intoxicating.
He leaned back in his chair, his hands trembling as they always did when he was on the hunt. In one rapid motion he stood up and began weaving in and out of the writhing bodies on the dance floor, making his way to the bar. Dazzling green, yellow, and electric blue strobe lights gyrated around him.
Thoughts of his first kill invaded his mind: a college girl, no more than nineteen. He’d attacked her as she was leaving the laundromat of the apartment complex, burdened with a late-night wash load. He remembered the regular pounding noise her fragile, doll-like body made as it tumbled around in the dryer after he’d finished with her. It had gotten easier after the first time, and nowadays he was master of the hunt on the Washington, DC nightclub scene.
He took his place at the bar a couple of stools down from the blonde and pretended to be interested in watching the TV, where Rhonda Hennon was still gabbing about the assassination:
“…Reports continue to flood in regarding the death of the vice president three days ago. The White House isn’t releasing any details on the slayings as of yet, but we will be keeping you informed of the latest breaking developments…”
He caught the blonde woman giving him short, furtive glances in his peripheral vision.
“It’s a damn shame about Sydney O’Shell, isn’t it?” He turned his head towards her. “I mean, what with her being the first woman vice president.”
The news on the street was that someone or something had breezed right through the security and communication equipment of the Naval Observatory and killed Mrs. O’Shell in the Victorian house located on the grounds. To date, no clear leads had been made public.
“It is.” She swiveled toward him, noticing the deep crows’ feet beneath his eyes, the unhealthy pallor of his skin. She returned her gaze to the screen. The fragrance of Elizabeth Taylor’s Obsession perfume drifted over to him.
“My name’s Bill.”
“You can call me Cassie.”
What a pretty name. I can see it carved into your breasts, Cassie.
The band dropped tempo and performed a rendition of Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Bill gestured toward the dance floor. “Care to dance?”
Cassie took his hand, looking every bit the ravishing belle of the ball as he led her onto the dance floor. Hugging him close, she scanned his eyes, seemingly mesmerized by his overly large black pupils. It was like peering down a deep, dark well. She buried her cheek in his shoulder, breathing in the tingling pine, sandalwood, and bergamot of his cologne. There was another underlying smell about him; something decidedly earthen, but if Cassie noticed it, she made no comment.
They swayed around the dance floor, multicolored spotlights swirling around them and the other couples taking advantage of the chance for a little intimacy. She placed her delicate arms around his neck, clasping her hands together. Tilting her head upwards, she teasingly brushed his lips with hers, then closed her eyes and kissed him passionately. A fleeting thought crossed her mind: Chilly. Like kissing cow’s liver.
“You’re cold.” Cassie snuggled into his shoulder as they breezed around the room.
A quick glance at his watch told Bill it was three forty a.m. He didn’t have much time. The lead singer’s voice echoed from the speakers, announcing the final song of the night. Drunken revelers rushed onto the dance floor as the band tore into Drivin’ and Cryin’s “Fly Me Courageous.”
“You’re not wearing any panties.”
“But I am wearing panties. They’re also red.” Cassie giggled, and slapped Bill’s shoulder.
“My mistake. I thought we were already at my place. My watch is thirty minutes fast.” Bill smiled at her, and then led her toward the back door. A group of young men sitting near the illuminated green exit sign ogled Cassie as she strode by.
The last remaining red and yellow leaves of fall spun in tiny eddies, dancing along the sidewalk as Bill and Cassie stepped out. A frosty November breeze tousled Cassie’s hair and a bright crescent moon rode high in the sky, outshining the feeble light of the stars surrounding it. The stark blackness of the alleyway beckoned to him. His hands trembled as he fought the urge to drag Cassie screaming into the darkness. I could kill you now.
“Sun will be coming up soon.” Bill palmed the back of her neck. “What would you like to do with what’s left of the evening?”
Cassie nuzzled his ear, her tongue darting out to caress his earlobe. “Let’s go to your place.”
Cassie reclined in her seat, lulled by the Nissan’s exhaust tone. She watched the greenery fly by in the car’s headlights, then shifted her attention to Bill. In the darkness of the car’s interior, his eyes resembled the gaping holes of a human skull.
“How much farther?”
“Oh, about five miles.”
Cassie held Bill’s hand in a soft grip as they cruised on in unbroken silence. Bill finally turned off Highway 6 onto a rock-strewn dirt road. He drove up a steep, winding hill lined by Lobilly pines, stopping in front of a plain country house. Feeble fingers of light from the single porch light did little to dispel the surrounding darkness. Three upper story windows stared at her like blind eyes.
“Now don’t go getting spooked on me. It’s an old house, sure, but it’s been in my family for generations. It’s quite comfy.” Bill opened the front door and stepped in, leading Cassie by the hand. Darkness greeted her. She strained to see, but the only light came from a room to her right. Bill was already halfway there.
Multitudes of lit candles cast their flickering light over the bedroom. Elegant velvet curtains and a four-poster bed dominated the room. Cassie sat down, running her hands over the soft texture of the quilt. “I love four-poster beds.”
Cassie spotted something in an alcove to her left, almost hidden by a drape. She gasped as she realized what it was.
“Why is that in here?”
“Sometimes I like to get kinky, Cassie!” Bill slinked toward her. His pupils were dilated, black as darkest night. His eyes locked on hers, unblinking, the whites turning blood-red. Cassie fell back on the bed in a dead faint, her arm thrown over her head, her hair a tangled mess. Bill sat next to her, eyeing the pulsating blood vessels in her neck. Cassie made a slight mewling sound as Bill leaned over and clamped his mouth on her throat, his incisors piercing her skin, lapping at her flowing blood. He watched her chest rise and fall in a regular rhythm.
I have such plans for you, my dear. Tonight, I may even make you my mate.
Sunlight caressed the window coverings now; dawn was approaching. To all things living, the Sun was a giver of life, a source of comfort, but to Bill it was a voracious monster, waiting to consume him. He settled into the open casket, and the lid slammed shut.
Cassie awoke, shaking herself out of sleep. She scanned her neural web, checking her body for damage. Her lab-grown skin and arteries were still intact. Warm blood pumped from her polyurethane heart, heated and filtered by machinery deep within her infrastructure. Her CPU enabled every available core, utilizing its one hundred MIPS of computational power to analyze the data she’d collected. Her olfactory memory banks sifted through millions of soil samples until it was confirmed: the dirt on Bill’s shoes was a positive match to samples collected on the Naval Observatory grounds.
Body temperature: sixty degrees Fahrenheit. No heartbeat. A DNA profile was compiled by analyzing samples collected from Bill by receptors in Cassie’s tongue and beneath the incisions in her neck. The profile showed lingering traces of Vice President O’Shell’s blood. Cassie closed her eyes and beamed a signal to a satellite somewhere in a high orbit overhead. GPS fixed on her location within a nanosecond. An Apache helicopter was dispatched, and shiny black Lincolns were already rolling toward Cassie’s position.
Bill’s eyelids fluttered open as a sharp object pierced his chest cavity. A dozen men flanked the coffin, brandishing lit torches. Their flames cast glimmering shadows on the bedroom walls. Joe Macadory, head of the elite team, stood sweating over Bill in a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Joe held a lengthy ash stake and a square mallet. Bill hissed in defiance as Joe pounded the stake home with measured, deliberate blows. Bill’s world went black.
“Good work, Matt.” Joe clapped him on the back. “Programming Cassie for duty that quickly was a big ask.”
“It was the least I could do for the vice president, sir. I figured Cassie would flush him out if he was still lurking around. She’s our most advanced decoy. She sure fooled him.” Matt gestured toward the coffin with his thumb. “If you don’t mind telling me, sir, how does one get rid of a vampire permanently?”
“Easy,” Joe said. “Cassie?”
Cassie smiled and strolled over to the window. She reached up, grasped one side of the drape, and yanked it free of the rail. Bright sunlight flooded the room. Joe, Matt, and Cassie watched as Bill burst into flames and was reduced to ashes in a matter of seconds. Blue flames licked the air as a secondary fire took hold, and when the flames died down, not even ash remained.
“Good going, sir,” said Les Millian, one of Joe’s snipers. “But tell me. I had my men set up a perimeter around this place. I could’ve put thirty-rounds of ash-tipped bullets through him from the bedroom door if he’d woken up, so why the mallet and ash stake routine?”
Joe leaned back against the door sill, a smile playing across his lips.
“I guess I just like doing things the old-fashioned way.”
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