She tipped her head back, blinking up at them as he pulled her along by the arm, their portmanteau weighing him down on the other side. But she broke free and began to turn, as if whirled about by some current of air descended from the sweeping expanse of universe over their heads. Arms flung out, gaping up, she began to laugh.
"Looklook at all the golden pretties!"
He paused and watched her twirl, as her hair worked free of its pins (when, oh when, would she bob it and be done?), and her ridiculously outmoded skirt billowed around her legs. Odd as she looked, the crowds around them barely parted for her; no one paused to stare. He followed her upswept gaze, squinted at the hundreds of twinkling lights, arranged in gilded constellations across a sea of green. Full of stories. But not their story. He grabbed for her arm again, wrenched her out of her dance. He'd be uneasy until they were out of here. It had been snowing all morning, but the sun could break through at any moment, and flood those immense windows at either end of the hall with killing light. Besides, he wanted to find somewhere to get some hooch, tide them over `til feeding time.
"Must be going now, pet."
"But . . . Spoike . . ."
He didn't let her see how her pout affected him. He'd had more than enough of travel, of the perilously cracked windowshades on trains, their constant sickening sway and clatter that seemed to make the loose marbles in Dru's poor head looser still. He had an address in his pocket, a basement place in the Village where they'd find others of their kind. Impatient, Spike dragged Dru through Grand Central Station and down into the subway.
He'd heard good things about the New York City subways. You could go many miles without seeing the sun. Find your way in and out of the big shops, get a bite and a sup, a shave and a haircut (he removed his hat and smoothed down his pomaded hair with his hand; he liked to be neat), all without putting your nose above ground. Around the clock prey on the hoof down the subway, white meat, dark meat, whatever you fancied, plenty of dark nooks and crannies in which to drag one off and feed, stash the body so as not to frighten the rest of the herd. Quick get-aways a specialty.
Dru gibbered and fell back against him when the first downtown express racketed in, but once they were on she grinned like a kitten in the press of hot bodies on the crowded car. Her eyes rolled from face to face; he knew she'd have fed right then if he wasn't there to distract her. And it was an amusing idea, wasn't it; you could drain a straphanger dry where he stood, and the horde would hold him up until the press thinned out somewhere in Brooklyn. By which time, you'd be long gone. Spike promised himself to try it sometime soon. When the people weren't quite so swathed in scarves and mufflers. There wasn't a bare neck on the car that he could see.
At the end of the line, Eighth Avenue on the crosstown BMT, Spike held Dru back long enough to reconnoiter. The people clumping down the stairs were all bundled up to the nines, snow crusted on their galoshes, on their hats and shoulders. Good. Sometimes the weather was a vampire's friend. Anyway, they didn't feel really the cold.
He adjusted his hat to just the right angle for resisting the wind, hefted the portmanteau. "Right then, pet, up we go."
The notes he'd jotted on the bit of paper led them west along a busy block, past stores and restaurants with signs in Spanish. An elevated line hulked up at the next intersection, its big gingerbread-house-on-stilts of a station casting a welcome dinge over the snow-brightened streets. Dru sniffed, and Spike smelt it too: the high sweet scent of blood on the air: not human blood, but that of all sorts of hooved beasts, mixed with the stink of bilge, coal soot, garbage.
"Like lambs, they are," Dru whispered, watching the passersby as they went up and down the stairs to the Ninth Avenue El, and passed in and out of its shadow, ". . . to the slaughter."
"Right. Slaughter." They must be close to their destination; the vamp in New Orleans had spoken of meatpacking houses, with all their scented joys, their easy human prey, already blood-splattered, active on the cobbled streets in the middle of the night. Easy pickings, right at their doorstep. The hideout, he'd been told, was in the shadow of the El. They turned, trod beneath it in the kicked-up grey snow. Greenwich Street.
Walked past warehouses, stables, and down-at-heel rowhouses given over to boarders. This wasn't the glamorous part of the Village you saw in the tourist books, was it? The men they passed wore canvas jackets and workmen's caps, or cloth coats not quite up to the wind. No one else had lush beaver coats to flap satisfyingly around the ankles, like his and Dru's. But then none of these poor sods had had the initiative to drag a couple of college boys into the shadows at the Baltimore station for a marinated feast. (God, their blood must've been 90 proof! Along with the cozy coats Spike had appropriated rather a nice silver hip flask still half full, a Tiffany wrist watch, and the duckiest little pearl tie pin in the world.)
At the corner of Horatio Street, Dru let out a groan and sank to her knees a moment before he felt it himself; a delivery van almost flattened them as he dragged her crazily away from it. On the far side he blinked into the swirling white: what was going on here? Then he spotted the trouble: El Faro, the sign said, on the corner restaurant that scented the air with enough garlic to fell The Master himself. Or at least, slow him up considerably.
"We won't be having any little snacks there, love," he said. "But it's all right. Come, we're almost there."
They were almost there: the address on the paper proved to be right next door to the vampire-proof eatery. 838B was down three steps from the sidewalk, and through a passage once meant for horses, which let out into a cramped little yard, still reeking faintly of the horrible garlic. "Here mate, what sort of a place is this?" Spike said to the old craggy faced vamp who appeared to meet them.
"Ah, Spike and Drusilla. I've been watching out for you two. Rent's cheap here for a reason," he said, leading the way into the cellar.
Four o'clock. Whatever threat of sunlight there was for that day was long gone, and free at last of the trains, he was starting to feel frisky and omnipotent again. Spike left Drusilla sleeping in their agreeably dank new room, and ventured out into the dirty streets. He'd manacled her ankle to the radiator so she wouldn't wander off without him and get lost. He'd come back for her later, once he'd seen a bit of the lay of the land. Desultory snow still fell, and all the air was gray. Pausing against one of the El uprights, he lit his last Fatima and took a couple of grateful drags. An agenda formed in his mind: Find more smokes. Visit a barber. Learn about where a bloke could get a drink and hear some decent music around here. Find someone amusing to fuck, rob, feed on. Possibly even in that order. Over his head, a train rumbled up from Christopher Street. He turned his steps east. The trees of Abingdon Square were pale ghosts in the murk. He crossed into Bleecker Street, passed the public baths (noting them as a possible steamy amusement for the futurethere was an occasional charm in a fish-in-a-barrel way to bringing down moist, naked prey) and ducked into the first barber shop he saw. He always felt happy in a barber shop, no matter how modestscent of bay rum, the fancy red leather-and-chrome chairs, paraphernalia of combs and clippers, the perfect whiteness of the tiled walls and floor. Once, at a particularly lovely two-chair shop in Charleston, just before closing time, he'd allowed all that pearly whiteness to overcome him, and did for the barber right there, spraying the walls and mirror with red. So pretty when fresh, and of course he never hung about to see the dun browny-orange it turned after.
The mirrors. A mirror was the only thing that wasn't sheer bliss about a barber shop. It made necessary an extra step: immediate eye-contact with the man, long enough to put a little hypnotic hex on him, so he wouldn't notice what he wasn't seeing in the glass. Dru had taught him. He didn't think it sporting to do to preyhe liked food to know it was about to be eatenbut certain things were transcendentally important. Looking sharp, for one. He could feel with his fingers that the narrow moustache that traced the line of his upper lip needed serious seeing to. Dru had trimmed it on the train, with God only knew what result.
The shop was empty when he went in, save for the proprietor, but once the basking-under-a-hot-towel part of the proceedings was over, Spike noticed a new man in the next chair. That profile! What a sheik! Like Leyendecker's own personal jerk-off fantasy. This one, Spike thought, I investigate.
He waited outside for the other fellow to emerge. The snow had stopped. People went in and out of the lighted shops, buying supper, claiming their washing in brown paper parcels. A girl with a minx-face between high fur collar and nimble little cloche distracted him for a moment. A tasty morsel, she'd be! Spike almost set off after her dainty silk ankles as she wobbled along in unbuckled galoshes. But then there he was. Tall and louche, probably a year or two out of some university he'd crewed for, Spike supposed. Strong. Worth the taming.
Spike gave his arm a quick touch. "Got a fag?"
The fellow stopped, his expression serious, as if performing some important obligation, and drew a pack of Camels from an inside pocket.
"Ah, my brand," Spike lied.
"Keep `em then."
In the brief flare of the lighter, Spike caught him glancing.
Aha. "Got somewhere to go?" Spike murmured.
Arrow Collar Boy checked, with barely a move of his sculpted head, that no one was eavesdropping on them. "My room's on Perry Street. Around the corner."
"Got a bottle there?"
Spike followed the fellow's big shoulders around the corner, through a dark doorway, and up five flights of steep steps that smelled of boiled cabbage. Once in the flat, he slammed him back against the door and yanked his head down on a level with his own. Holding him around the jaws, Spike could feel the exciting thrum of blood in the fellow's neck, the rising tide of arousal and alarm.
"Hey! I don't kiss!"
"S'all rightI do." Spike thrust his tongue down the boy's throat.
Braced for resistance, Spike felt the lanky body against his stiffen and struggle for one long moment before giving way with a groan. Never did he tire of that moment of psychic surrender, or what came after; lifting his mouth from the boy's, looking into his eyes that were full of fear and beseeching. Feeling him tremble all through himself.
"What do you want?" the boy asked.
Spike backed off a step, keeping their gazes locked. He liked what he could do with his stare. Turn a big strong coxswain into a wibbling tower of jelly. Except for one part. He grabbed for it, and found it answered. "You. In my own good time." He let it go, and the boy gasped. Good, he'd do anything now. "Where's the booze?"
The Johnny seemed to have forgotten he could stand free of the door, or walk. Breathlessly he pointed towards a low bookcase in the corner. Spike yanked out a few tomes: The Green Hat, This Side of Paradise, a couple of odd volumes of the Harvard classicsand there it was. An actual Canadian Club bottle, containing, potentially, actual Canadian Club. Whatever was in there, it was dark brown and full to the rim. He drank off a long swig. Then, with an air of kindness, Spike went back to the boy and kissed him again, letting the whiskey flow back through his lips into Johnny's mouth. He sucked it down, kissing back, grabbing now at Spike's clothes. He shook him off.
"Not the suit, idiot."
Spike took off his pinstriped suit jacket and draped it neatly on the back of one of the two chairs in the studio flat. The other he pulled to the middle of the room, where he sat down on it backwards. The tall slanted windows and skylight admitted plenty of the sort of light Spike liked best: streetlamp reflections, shadowed and capricious. Like his Dru. He smiled at the thought, and at Johnny's riveted attention. Still leaning on that door, framed in an oblong glow.
"Undress for me. Or don't you do that either?" Spike purred. He brought the bottle to his lips and drank again, but never took his eyes off Johnny's.
"No . . . I mean . . . yes." The way he swallowed, Spike could trace the bobbing of his adam's apple. "Yes, sir." Johnny shrugged out of his overcoat, his suit coat, and began scrabbling at his tie. Then something Spike did with his gaze made his fingers slow and deft. Suddenly the knot gave way; the suspenders dropped off the broad shoulders, the shirt buttons seemed to part with their holes of their own accord. Charming, Spike thought, the white underwear Americans wore, so earnest and shy and clean and upstanding. Mmmm, upstanding. What he saw when the BVDs fell made Spike crook a grin.
"Come to me."
Johnny started forward. Spike snapped his fingers. "Not like that. On your knees."
With an expression of passionate misery, but no hesitation, he dropped. God, he was something, Spike thought, this big milk-fed athletic American boy. A strand of dark hair fell over his brow; his mouth quivered, chest rising and falling as he dragged in the breaths. Spike could practically hear his heart pumping, sped by confusion and lust and suffering. Of course, his suffering had barely begun. And his cock had no idea of any of that: it stood up red headed and proud, and drooled like a mad thing.
He was going to be delicious. In more ways than one.
When he reached him, having crawled across the cold uncarpeted boards, Johnny needed no instructions. His long fingers didn't fumble too badly at Spike's trouser buttons, and his surprise at finding nothing more between him and Spike's splitter only slowed him down for a moment. Spike played his fingers through the boy's hair, so recently cut and slicked down, until it was pointing in all directions. Boy howdy, this was the stuff! Humans' mouths were so hot. Johnny's hands on his balls were like the heated towel he'd had wrapped around his head at the barber's. If the boy noticed that the flesh he was devouring was rather tepid, he didn't pause to remark on it. His mouth was too full for anything but groans.
"Enough of that for now, pet," Spike said, as his fingers tightened in the boy's hair, drawing him off. "Are you ready for me? Because here I come, ready or not." He rose from the chair, and stood for a moment over Johnny, who stared up, open-mouthed, open-handed, swaying a little, his cock thrumming against his belly. Spike considered whether to take his own clothes off, but decided not to bother. It wasn't as if this was a lover, to whom he wanted to show himself. Besides, the boy was making no demands, was he? There was a daybed tucked against one wall under the tall windows. That would do. Spike stepped around him, grabbed his arm, dragging him hard across the rough boards, and forced him down against the side of the low divan. Johnny's vague protest was quelled when Spike pushed his face against the cushion and drove into him without warning. Oh, this was good! Just what he'd been wanting after a week cramped into that damned train with Drusilla going on all night about the dancing monkeys she saw outside the windows, and weeping half the days! Spike pumpedoncetwiceholding the boy down by the neck, and there was no more resistance. Johnny made a sound like air going out of a tire, and began to keen in time with Spike's thrusts. Fivesixhe was wriggling back, the breath sawing out of him. Spike went faster, and felt the change come on him, the hungry fangs descend. He yanked Johnny up by the shoulders, rocked back a little to take the boy's weight against his chest, and still thrusting up into him, bit.
"Oh God Oh Godwhat are you doing?" The boy flailed around, but his powerful arms could get no purchase on anything. Kneeling behind him, Spike had him doubly impaled, and took his time. Slow deep thrusts, matched by slow deep gulps. The blood just bubbled eagerly up. No rush, it was still so early. Keep it going. Feeling a little pity for Johnnyhe was being so goodSpike closed his hand around the boy's cock, pumped it in time with his pulsing surges. It was like thumbing the cork out of a bottle of bubbly; he came at once, filling Spike's hand with jism.
"You're a lovely strong boy, aren't you, just brimming with the life-force," Spike crooned, feeding it back to him. With his palm pressed to the boy's slavering mouth, Spike pulled away from his neck. No reason, really, to take it all now. All the time in the world. When he felt his face change back, he smiled, and turning the boy's head, murmured, "Now, precious, give us a kiss."
Johnny rolled his eyes like a frightened horse; his neck stung but he didn't know why. Spike sucked on his tongue. Poor bewildered light-headed thing. Gasping, the boy broke away and dropped back onto the divan.
"Aren't you done yet?" he pleaded.
"I'll be done when I'm done, as the barmaid said to the vicar." Spike redoubled his fucking, and watched the tiny beads of blood well up in the two puncture holes, but he did not taste them. There was enough there even to waste. As he reached the crisis, sounds came from the stairwell outside; heavy footfalls, laughter. A knock.
"Fred! Freddie! Open up!"
"Open up and surrender your hooch!"
Hilarious fists began to pound the door.
Johnnyexcept it was Freddie, apparentlybucked as if to throw him off. But Spike was beyond recall; he shot with a roar that brought his fangs halfway down again; flailing beneath him, Freddie caught a glimpse over his shoulder of half-formed vamp face and cried out.
"He's in there! Freddie!"
"Holding out on us! Open up!"
Spike held the terrified boy down until he was completely spent, then stumbled to his feet, putting himself away with trembling fingers. "Bloody marvelous you are. Congratulations. Go clean yourself up, I'll get rid of your pals."
But as Freddie staggered to his feet, one hand clapped to his neck and the other to his crotch, the door flew open and three young men spilled into the studio.
Freddie slipped through a beaded curtain and disappeared. A moment later Spike heard splashing from behind the clicking falls of beads, and low cursing.
He looked at the pals, who, having surprised themselves by their unexpected success in bursting through the door, were momentarily stunned to see a stranger there. Spike sized them up at a glance: more of Freddie's same, well-brought up boys from good suburban families, stockbrokers, publisher's assistants, or some such, and imagining no one knew they were queer except each other.
"'Lo, gents. Was it a drink you were after? Help yourself." He gestured at the bottle of Canadian Club, sitting innocently on the floor near his vacated chair. "Freddie will be with you in two shakes."
Scooping up the boy's discarded clothes, Spike slipped with them through the beaded curtain, and found Freddie staring at himself in a small round shaving mirror hung over a tiny, not very clean sink. Transfixed, he fingered the puncture marks on his neck. Spike stepped up behind him and cupped his ass. "There, you should be more careful when you're getting reamed out in future, not to scratch at yourself that way. You opened up quite a gash there in the heights of your transports, mate."
"I . . . I . . . "
"Now come, you don't want to keep your lads waiting." Spike thrust the clothes at him, but at the same time one of the pals intruded, setting the beads clicking and clacking wildly. Clearly, he was already drunk; his fair skin pinked with it. He grinned crazily.
"You were holding out on uswho's the trick?"
Behind his, two other heads appeared. "We're going to the bathsare you coming along or"
Three pair of glassy eyes went glassier when they met Spike's. Oh, this was almost too easy. They fell in, these handsome lads, like good dogs at the trainer's slightest look. Spike gave them his best smile. "The baths?"
"The Everard. You'll come too," the blond said, "that'll be all right. Won't it, fellows?"
"Ray-ther," said the one in the spectacles, giggling around his attempt to ape Spike's accent.
Blank-eyed, Freddie turned from the mirror to regard his friends. For a moment Spike thought he was going to collapse. He seemed unaware that he was still naked. Blinking, he put a hand to his temple.
"Who do I have to fuck around here to get a goddamn drink?"
The tableau dissolved in loutish confusion, and Spike found himself in a cab, hugged between the flanks of Freddie and another Johnny, knee to knee with the wasted blond folded onto the jumpseat opposite. Apparently they'd stopped somewhere on the way, as a silver flasknot hiswas making the rounds. This was a bit of all right. The cab careened up Eighth Avenue; Spike registered the lights and movement, but he was much more entranced by the heat of all this drunken boyflesh fencing him on all sides, the rush of their blood practically audible to him as they nattered together about The Everard, and who'd had whom there last week. I am Brer Rabbit in the bloody briar patch, I am, Spike thought, taking a long swig from the flask when it came his way.
The cab pulled up in West 28th Street, just shy of Broadway. Spike followed his new-found friends into the basement entrance of the Everard, where they each forked over a dollar to the attendant, checked the contents of their pockets, and received a clean white sheet. Or Spike thought, accepting his, a shroud. He let the laughing Johnnies herd him upstairs. The blond, it now appeared, was paying him special attention, walking too close behind him; on the stairs he hand made an appearance on Spike's ass. All right, you want to be first? I'll oblige you. Spike turned and looked at the Johnny, raising his scarred eyebrow.
"The steam room?" the blond asked, raising an eyebrow back and succeeding only in looking like what he was: a kid from Schenectedy who thought he was sophisticated because he read Vanity Fair. Spike winked at him. They were all naked now, wrapped in their sheets, except Spike didn't bother with his, just tucked it, still folded, under his arm. Might come in useful for something later on, but he wasn't interested in the Roman legislator look. Let `em stare. And every man jack in the place already was. Spike took a deep breath. This was even better than the barber shop: scents of Wildroot hair oil, male sweat, whiskey, spunk, and steam, and laced under all, the portent of blood, high-running blood. The whole building was chock full of men who were fucking, or about to fuck, or just done fucking, and their blood was going to be spicy rich with the wild joy of it. Too bad, Spike thought, he wouldn't be able to have them all. Still, he'd treat himself to a nice sampling. The blond gestured, and he followed him down a corridor lined with cots where feeding was certainly going on, if not quite in the Spike manner. He took it in out of the corners of his eyes, but stayed fixated on the broad pink shoulders of the big blond ahead of him.
Then into the steam. In heat like this, Spike almost felt alive; touching himself was like touching someone else, his cock actually warm as it grew in his hand. The room was small, and it was almost impossible to see anything, but he smelled the rich tones of four or five men already there. His belly growled as his prick nosed up: so many simultaneous hungers, and here he was at the smorgasbord. Followed Blondie by his scent to the tier of benches on the far wall, where he sprawled back on the highest one, legs spread, and let the sheet fall open. Sure of yourself, are you? Spike thought. Well, all right. From the opposite corner, a sucking sound provided inspiration; Spike scrambled up onto the middle tier, between Blondie's outstretched legs. In the murk, he smelled the cock before he saw it; it shared its owner's fair, lightly-pitched notes. Beneath it was a murkier, muskier tone: and suddenly it was that Spike craved, the hell with the damn cock; he'd have the boy's bunghole, sink his tongue in up to the root, make Blondie scream and thrash. Bring all the blood down right where he wanted it. No sooner thought than done: Spike grabbed the slippery back of a knee in each hand and jerked the legs up; Blondie rocked back on his spine, hands grabbing at the slick bench slats.
"Watch it! oh. Ohhhhh."
The kid's asshole opened right up to himthere'd been more traffic through here recently than in that brand new Holland Tunnel. Slut. Tonguing him, Spike felt his game face come on, and suddenly he was impatient: who, after all, was the sodding boss here? Not Blondie, for very damn sure. He was ready for a nip, and he'd have one.
Justthere. Spike bit into the tender flesh where the inner thigh met the body. Blondie's cock, which was already standing straight up, the ballsac stretched taut beneath, quivered like a dousing rod as the molten blood flooded his mouth. Somewhere up above, Blondie cried out, but in a place like this, who was paying attention? There was plenty of hollering going on all through the baths. Sucking it down, Spike slipped three fingers back into the arse. Hold my place, I'll be right back. He drank, and for a moment imagined himself as a babe in arms again, cradled in all that drowsy warmth, scarfing down sustenance from pulsing white flesh. Every inch of him content.
Except every inch wasn't content just at the momenta fair few inches were throbbing to be quenched.
"Alley-oop, pet," Spike murmured, hooking the knees again, up over his shoulders, slick skin against slick skin, and into you we go like a great chundering Limited, pretty as you please. Fucking him in long crazy strokes, Spike came in close to taste Blondie's mouth, and was met by a scream.
"Ah, don't you fancy my true face, precious?" Without breaking his hips' rhythm, Spike slapped the boy's face, once, twice, and it settled nicely back from panic into a beautiful entranced fear, so beautiful that Spike felt his cock engorge further, his fangs tingle in their sockets, at the sight of it. Why not have another nip of such a lovely thing? Especially when the corner of the mouth was already bleeding? He dipped his head to lick up that drop, mouthed the lower lip that quivered wildly between his teeth. Used just one fang to make a delicate slit to sip through. The wound down below was still open; he felt it weep sweet blood onto his own pounding cock.
Blondie groaned against Spike's mouth, his ankles hooked together at Spike's nape.
"We're happy as clams, we are," Spike remarked, letting him get a good look at the grinning game face. "Enjoying your yellow-eyed devil, are you, my lad?"
Transfixed, Blondie nodded, his lips slick with his own blood. Spike dipped down for another salty kiss. As he did, he felt Blondie's cock jump, and splatter their bellies with hot cum. "Ah, who said you could do that?" Spike slapped him again.
"I . . . oh God . . . I couldn't help it . . . ."
Amazing that he could find any words, really, at this point. Game lad. Spike slipped one hand down and found the kid's sticky cock still hard. Ah, youth. Well, that was all right after all. He redoubled his thrusts, thinking that as many as Blondie had had before, he was still getting the best for last. With that, Spike began to come. Allowed himself one good roar before coming down on the kid's neck with a loud crunch. He shot, Blondie shot, and the blood from his jugular shot down Spike's throat like a tidal wave. It was a long time before Spike stopped pumping. He withdrew, fore and aft, and let the slackened legs down onto the bench. The drained face lolled to the side, displaying the ragged gash in the neck.
"Well done, old son, well done." Spike closed his eyes for him, and the sheet they'd been lying on did for covering the empty face.
Enough of this infernal murky heat. He was ready for a plunge.
Fresh from his bathe, Spike saw Freddie again, leaning in the doorway of one of the cubicles that lined the corridor, talking to someone within. Spike came up behind and blew his cool breathe against the boy's neck. Freddie jumped and spun around.
"What's the ideaoh. It's you." At once he blushed, and an obedient tent rose beneath the sheet wrapped around his waist.
You were born to be a slave, you were, Spike thought. And your blood's practically leaping to be down my throat.
He glanced around at Freddie's interlocutor, stretched out on the cubicle's cot with one arm tucked behind his head, the other playing languidly with an impressive cock. A John Gilbert type. Very nice. HellSpike squintedmaybe he really was John Gilbert. He'd taken Drusilla to see *Flesh & The Devil* before they left New Orleans, and they'd sat through it a second time, discussing in fierce whispers what they'd like to do with Garbo and Gilbert before draining them dry. The usher shone his flashlight on them and said there'd been a complaint; if they weren't quiet, they'd have to leave. They got their revenge at the end of the screening, dragging him out to the alley behind the Lido for a snack. Dru kept his pillbox hat for a souvenir.
At any event, this bloke looked prosperous, as much as anyone could when he was starkers. And what Spike fancied now was a big juicy steak, some A-one booze, and a spot of music. Gilbert here would be just the ticket.
But he glowered at Spike, who'd shown up just as he was luring Freddie in, and stood behind him now with an arm looped around his waist, pressing against the eager bulge.
"He's mine," Spike grinned, "but that doesn't mean I won't share." He shoved Freddie into the cubicle and kicked the door shut behind them. "He doesn't kiss, tho'." At these words he felt Freddie give a little jump. "Well, not anyone but me." Spike yanked the sheet off, watching Gilbert's face. It amused him to play master of ceremonies. Almost as much as it did to feel how entirely Freddie was in his thrall. Spike stroked his back and ass, felt the skin thrum at his touch. The boy was in a trance of terror and desire, and he would do whatever Spike told him to. Together they'd hook this Gilbert, and make him take them off for a night on the town.
This proved easy. While Gilbert went at him from behind, Spike contented himself with kissing Freddie's mouth, sucking the hot gusts of breath as he panted from the good coring he was getting. For a boy who didn't kiss, he was awfully eager for it. In the midst of all the hurly-burly, the other fellow didn't notice at all when Spike's mouth slipped down to Freddie's throat, the fangs going neatly into the half-closed holes they'd made a few hours ago. There was nothing quite as tasty and satisfying, Spike thought, as to drink a man whose blood was up. He caressed Freddie's hair and cheek as he sucked; hooked a couple fingers into his mouth; Freddie sucked on them with the automatic intensity of a hungry baby.
When he heard Gilbert begin to grunt, Spike slipped a hand under Freddie's belly. Disengaged from his neck so as to feast his eyes instead on the grateful helpless look on the boy's face as he yanked him off. Then kissed him again as his whole body shook with the force of the other man's climax.
Spike rose out of his crouch. "Right? All done, are you? Let's go then fellows, I'm famished."
In the taxi Spike half-listened to Freddie and Gilbert discuss mutual acquaintances; there was at least ten years' difference in their ages and they'd never clapped eyes on each other before, but it quickly became apparent that Freddie's sister Tuffy was at Miss Porter's with Gilbert's second cousin, and good God what a bore. Far more interesting to examine the night time cityscape. No other city he'd ever seen was so thoroughly lit up as New York. As the cab nosed through traffic into Times Square, he gaped. Why, there must have been bloody millions of white light bulbs, the whole place was a blaze, andfancy that, some of them went on and off very fast and told you the news. Spike craned his neck around to keep the ticker in sight as long as he could. Must make sure Dru got to see that toowell, maybe not. She'd probably be frightened of it and foam at the mouth half the night about evil fairies snapping after her. But my-! Wasn't that fine.
Another fine thing was Central Park. It went on and on, rocky and bosky and dark, the perfect happy hunting ground. The cab drove north through the park's windy lanes, and Spike took it all in, silent and still in its swaddling of snow, wondering why they'd waited so long to come here. This burg was made for vampires.
When they reached Harlem, Gilbert paid off the driver without a murmur. Spike's instinct about him was right; back in his clothes he proved to be very flash indeed. He led the way into Small's Paradise as if he owned the joint, and the Captain greeted him by name. Ah, can I pick `em, or can I pick `em? In a quarter of an hour Spike found himself at a prime table, smoking a Cuban cigar, drinking real French champers, and tearing into rare steak while five feet away a line of dusky beauties in skimpy satin costumes did the Charleston. This was the un-life.
He glanced at Freddie, who was staring, glassy-eyed, into space. Cab Calloway and the shimmying girls weren't making a dent on him.
"Here you," Spike murmured, leaning in to his ear, "you want to eat, is what you want to do. Build yourself up. Need your strength."
"Huh? Oh." Once the steak was pointed out to him, he picked up the cutlery and started to eat. Spike stole a hand under the tablecloth and touched him. Hard. There was a lot of blood in this boy, and it was amazingly single-minded. Spike gave him a squeeze that made Freddie's eyes cross a little, and let go. On the other side of him, Gilbert was intent on his supper, and didn't seem to feel called upon to make conversation. Which would've been difficult, given the syncopated racket of the band and the dancers coming at them from the front, and the tide of chatter from the sea of tables at their backs. This noisy hilarity would be all right, Spike thought, for a couple of hours, but it wasn't really what he had in mind for the rest of the evening. He wanted to find some little dive with a piano player, somewhere the local Negroes weren't barred from coming in except through the service entrance. Their time in the south had given him a taste for jukesplaces where the music was low-down, where you never knew when some marvelous dance or fight would break out, the air was thick with the scent of reefer and pig hocks, and the blood of your victim would likely as not be laced with cocaine or grain alcohol. Places that were dangerous for white folks, unless they had what Spike had: loads of disingenuous charm, a foreign accent . . . and a good set of fangs. Small's was too polite. But it would do, on Gilbert's green.
Floor show over, steaks gnawed down to the bone, Spike decided to make his move. He couldn't help but notice how obviously Gilbert was playing footsie with Freddie under the table. Well, that would work. Spike got to his feet, and tapped Freddie on the shoulder. Freddie rose like the zombie he practically was now and followed Spike as he threaded his way through the tables crowded with men in tuxedos and bare-armed girls playing with their cigarette holders and long strings of pearls. When he reached the alcove leading to the rest rooms, Spike glanced back. Sure enough, Gilbert was craning his neck to keep an eye on them. Spike pushed Freddie ahead of him, paused long enough to see Gilbert stumble up from his chair, and followed. He steered the boy past the men's room and out the back door into a slushy alley that reeked of cooking, garbage and piss.
"Small's Paradise in there, and his hell out here, apparently," Spike said. He backed Freddie against the greasy brick wall. Pressed on his shoulder with one insistent hand. Down he went. Zombie or not, the kid sucked like a champ. Might almost be a good lark to turn him. Gilbert appeared in the wedge of yellow light cast by the bare bulb over the door. He squinted for a moment into the darkness, then spotted them.
"I sayyou're going it!" Gilbert glanced nervously over his shoulder. "What if somebody comes?"
"Somebody will, in a minute," Spike said, grabbing Freddie by the ears and shoving further into his gobbling mouth. "After that, he'll be all yours." He smiled sweetly at Gilbert. "Light me a fag, will you? My hands are full."
"Oh! Well . . . sure." Gilbert fished a silver cigarette case out of his inside breast pocket, lit two and placed one between Spike's uptilted lips. Spike took a grateful drag, let go of one of Freddie's ears long enough to retrieve the smoke, and shot. The boy swallowed it all, and what was even better, he let go so reluctantly, kissing the tip with reverence and turning his shining eyes up to meet Spike's gaze with an expression of total devotion.
"Right. You're next," Spike said. "Don't worry, I'll stand here between you and the door. No one'll see."
Freddie went right to work. Spike finished his cigarette, taking slow thoughtful puffs, watching Gilbert's face as his breathing changed, and his eyes closed. It was then that Spike caught the fellow's head in his hands, wrenched it around to expose the neck above the nice fresh celluloid collar, and bit. He could tell, by the way both Gilbert and Freddie suddenly went "Mmmmph!!!" that the bite made him come. Which happened, more than you'd think, even when the victim hadn't got his cock in another fellow's mouth. Even so, Freddie didn't seem aware of what was going on; he went on kneeling at Gilbert's feet as Spike drained him, and when it became necessary for Spike to catch him about the waist and hold him up, Freddie rose to help.
"Poor bloke fainted," Spike said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, shaking his face back to normal. Freddie just nodded and laid Gilbert down on the wet ground. "Had an awful lot to drink. I expect he'll come around in a bit." Spike bent over him for a moment, pretended to check his vital signs. He already had the wallet; had taken that in the first moment Gilbert got his cock out, but now he palmed the cigarette case and the watch. Freddie either didn't see or didn't care. But he surprised Spike, when he got back to his feet, by grabbing him into a kiss.
"There, that's all right," Spike said, shoving him away. "Down, boy."
"I don't mind what you made me do," Freddie gasped. "I'll do anything you say. Only, let's get out of here so we can go f" Another lunge, another kiss, and the boy rubbed himself against Spike in a way that showed a lot more initiative than he'd evinced since the barber shop that afternoon.
It was time, Spike saw, to put an end to this. He took Freddie's shoulders firmly in his hands and turned him so his back was to the wall. Paused a moment to consider. Decided, after all, to be generous, to be sporting. Poor Freddie's toolall evening a bridesmaid and never a bride. Spike knelt, freed the importunate thing, and swallowed it to the root. The kid came at once with a yell, and yelled again when Spike's fangs sank into his flesh.
Freddie only had $7.32 in his pockets, and a class ring from Choate, but that was all right. Gilbert was flush. And the night still young.
Right. Now for the fleshpots. Spike turned his steps away from the bright lights of Seventh Avenue, where cabs were pulling up, spilling overdressed partyers from downtown. He smoked one of Gilbert's fancy cigarettes as he walked along the slushy dark sidestreets, past rows and rows of identical brownstone stoops, feeling the contentment of a full belly and a bulging wallet, looking out for what he wanted.
Ah, there. The last house in the row, at the door under the stoop: a group of big fellows, prizefighter types, in raccoon coats and Stetsons, conferring with some unseen bouncer. Wherever they wanted to be was likely to suit Spike. He made himself their silent tail; got in the door unseen, followed them along a dark smoky hall and up a flight of stairs. The room was nearly black; its inhabitants all were. Unlike Small's, there were no cloths or little flickering candles on the tables. No food, no dancefloor, hardly any women. Nothing to drink except rough gin. And every bloke in the joint, Spike could see, was some sort of local playeryou could tell that by the cut of their suits, the gleam of gold in their mouths, and of the diamonds on their fingers. Best of all, there was a piano, a battered upright set on the tiny stage at the end of the room, and a man sitting at it coaxing out music Spike could feel through every fiber of his body.
He slipped into a chair at a vacant table along the wall. A moment later the waiter appeared, but instead of asking what he'd have, the man just stared at him. Spike glanced up to discover that every man in the room was doing the same: a wall of impregnable scowls all giving off the same unspoken message: Your kind's not welcome here.
Calmly, Spike looked from face to face, meeting the fierce eyes with his mildest gaze. He took Gilbert's wallet from his pocket, stirred through it with a fingertip, and laid a crisp fifty dollar bill on the table.
"Guvv'nor, it would be my pleasure to buy all these gents here a drink. Make minewhatever they're having." When he brought his eyes back to the waiter's, the man's face immediately relaxed.
"That's mighty nice of you, mister."
"Not at all," Spike replied, showing his blandest smile. Little by little, the others in the room looked away from him; the piano music, which had never quite stopped during this exchange, picked up in pace and volume. The fifty disappeared, to be replaced by gin in a not-quite-clean highball glass.
Music like this reminded him of why he was glad to be a vampire, because it was melancholy and desperate, and he'd been like that when he was alive, with no end in sight until Drusilla put him out of his misery. But it made him hate what he was too, because it was beautiful and intense of life, reminding him that he'd never really been alive when he was alive, and what he was now wasn't the same at all. This was music about the devil, and being an intimate acquaintance of Old Nick, Spike heard himself in every note. He sipped the horrible gin and settled back with closed eyes to listen.
He opened them when he heard the voice.
Sometimes he makes me happy, then sometimes he makes me cry
Sometimes he makes me happy, then sometimes he makes me cry
He had me to the place once, I wish to God that I could die . . .
She stood awkwardly near the piano man's elbow, hands clutched together, a girl in an ill-fitting black dress with a sagging hem. She couldn't have been more than nineteen, and looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there with all those eyes on her. But there was an authority to her low vibrating voice that brought every conversation in the room to silence.
I met the blues this morning walking just like a man
Ooooh, walking just like a man
I said, Good morning blues, now gimme your right hand
Every day seem like murder here
Every day seem like murder here
I'm gonna leave tomorrow. I know you don't bit more care
She stared at the floor as she sang, and barely moved except to squeeze her hands together. The lyric came out of her in a passionate moan, as if she'd have kept silent if she could. Spike leaned forward, drinking her in with all his senses. She wasn't beautiful, or graceful, or confident, like Drusilla. But he couldn't remember the last time a woman had stirred him as much as she did.
Got the world in a jug, the stopper's in my hand
Got the world in a jug, the stopper's in my hand
Going to hold it, baby, till you come under my command
Abruptly, she was gone. The piano player disappeared too, and the silence they left was filled up with the sudden sound of a gramophone record and the men's voices swelling up again. Spike drank off his gin and waited anxiously for her to come back and sing again. Surely that couldn't be all, those few songs? How could the rest of these men carry on their drinking and bragging as if nothing had occurred? The absence of that voice filled him with a bitter sadness; what if he never got to hear it again?
Then he saw her; at the big table near the stage, where the piano player was sitting now with the men Spike had followed into the joint. One of them grabbed her by the arm and pulled her onto his knee. She shied, turning her face away from him, and for a moment her gaze connected with Spike's. Then she tried to twist free of the big man, who was squeezing her and laughing with his pals. Spike got up and crossed the room.
"You have a wonderful way with a song, you do," Spike said. "My compliments." He held his hand out to her, but she barely looked at him, and didn't move to take it. The man holding her on his lap jerked her away from Spike.
"Are you going to favor us again?" Spike asked.
The piano player glanced up from his gin. "Take a powder."
In this moment of distraction, the girl made another attempt to pull away from her admirer. He yanked her back with a twist of the arm that made her cry out; the other men at the table laughed, and none of them looked at Spike, or acknowledged his presence.
"The lady wants to get up," Spike murmured. "Why don't you let her?"
"Why don't you mind your own goddamned business?" They were on their feet suddenly, all these big men; and one of them had a gun.
The girl, quicker than she looked, took that moment to escape; from the corner of his eye he saw her slipping amongst the tables towards the exit. When he moved to follow, the piano player grabbed hold of his shirt front. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
Spike turned to them. Held up his hands. Stepped back. Smiling, he shook his head. And with a roar that shattered the air, showed them his true face.
The men fell away from him like bits of waste paper tumbling in a stiff breeze.
He caught up with the girl down the block. Clutching her thin wrap to her chest, she was walking determinedly away, leaning into the wind. Shrugging out of his beaver coat, he wrapped it around her shoulders.
"Leave me alone."
"You've got nowhere to go, do you, pet?"
She stopped. Raised her eyes to his. "Look. I don't need to be standing out here in no wind, talking nonsense with no white man. I can look after myself."
Spike pulled the lapels of the fur coat more firmly around her. "Do you know what your singing did to me? Made me regret my birth, and my life, and my death, all at the same time. Made me want to do things . . . to be things . . . I can't even tell you."
She frowned. "Yeah?"
"Will you sing for me a little more?"
"You crazy?" She shrugged the coat off and held it out to him. "I got to go." She glanced over her shoulder. The street was oddly empty and quiet. Spike didn't take the coat, but just looked at her. She tossed her head in defiance, but the effect was spoiled by shivering.
He bent over her and spoke close to her ear. "What's your name?"
She hesitated. Then"Gar . . . Garnetta."
"Come with me, Garnetta. We're both all alone tonight, and I need another song. I'll make it worth your while." He wrapped the coat around her again, and kept an arm around her. She shuddered, but after a moment let him tug her into motion, trudging along at his side with her head bowed, suddenly will-less. Her fear stirred him, but he wasn't sure yet just how. All he knew was that he wanted to hear her again, wanted to watch the way her throat and lips moved as she sang.
The small hotel he'd passed on the way to the speakeasy took them in. The cramped lobby was shabby but clean, and steam-heated to a tropical temperature. The old man at the desk barely glanced at Spike as he paid his two dollars fifty cents for the night and signed the register. Mr & Mrs Wm Blood.
In the room on the fifth floor, with its threadbare rug and sagging metal bedstead, she shrugged the fur coat off and left it lying on the floor. Spike took off his jacket, loosened his tie, rolled up his shirt sleeves. She watched him unceasingly, not moving.
"Got anything to drink?" He saw, by the way she looked at him, her big eyes narrowed, the effort that went into her facade of calm. Even standing a few feet away, he could feel the hum of her blood. Silently, he passed her Gilbert's flask. She took a long brave chug, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "What song you want me to sing?"
The bed creaked under Spike as he sat. He drew her gently onto his knee. Her whole body was rigid; he saw her swallow, and followed the bobbing of her throat.
"I want to hear what you sing . . . when you just can't help yourself." He slid a hand up her leg. Her stocking was laddered. She pushed his hand away.
He smiled. "I know. Cold." He brought it up to her mouth. "Blow on it. Warm it up."
She jerked her head back and stared at him. "I know what you are."
Spike started, but took care not to let her see it. Her whole body thrummed against his leg, but she held herself as still as a statue. "Do you, Garnetta?"
"I seen your face you showed them men, before I slipped out."
"Ah. I didn't mean for you to see it."
"I always knowed the devil was a white man." She closed her eyes. "Always thought I'd find him with my singin', but didn't think it would be so soon." Again she looked at him, and the fear was gone from her eyes. "What you want wit' me?"
For answer, he laid his mouth against her neck, just under the ear. Kissed her there, where the blood galloped beneath the smooth sweet skin. He touched her throat, just where the voicebox was. She didn't try to move away. Put a hand on her chest, felt the thrill of her heart. Here was the seat of those songs that had so pulled him apart. Laid a finger on the pooch of her lips, slipped it into her mouth. "You worked magic with these . . . " Lips, teeth, tongue, "that made me feel . . . things I thought I'd forgotten. I'd like to show you what I can do with mine."
He met her hot querying gaze with his cool smile. She studied him for a moment, then rose and pulled off her dress. When she tossed it away, she was grinning.
Freed of her tatty clothes, Garnetta was majestic. Spike breathed in the rich perfume of her body as he traced a cool wet line from her lips to her throat, down the valley of her chest, diverting to the two high points of her conical breasts. Swirled his tongue around each dark nipple in turn. Nibbled at the soft undersides. Warmed his cold hands on the rich curves of her flanks. Aware of how intently she watched him, he thought all the while of the sound of her voice curling its smoky way around his spine, lighting up every nerve, forcing memories on him unbidden. Now, she went from barely seeming to breathe at all to sipping the air as if it was burning her mouth. He nipped at her belly. She growled and parted her thighs, pushed his head down. She was smoky there too, intense and blue and simple and complicated, like her song. The velvety folds of her leapt beneath his laving tongue. She reacted to every move he made with his mouth and hands, and not just by sighing and fluttering, like so many girls: she thrashed and moaned and heaved and called him terrible names; her pussy was endlessly drenched, endlessly consuming: he swore it practically sucked and bit back at him. Scorched him tooher blood-gorged flesh, its amazing texture and scent, seared his senses, and it was all he could do not to change and bite; sated for blood as he'd been an hour ago, he was filled with a crazy hunger for her. Every sound she made as he worked her worked on him. She came and came and came again, swearing like a stevedore, and he wanted so much just to give in to her, to bite her, drink her, turn her. Protect her, keep her, ravish her always.
Except that Drusilla would take any fledging girl vamp he brought near her, and rend the creature to shreds.
Garnetta yanked at his hair. "Gimme the rest nowI want the rest!"
Spike looked up along the line of her quivering body to the face, so alive, so real. Had he really thought her plain when he first saw her? She was a queen. But what more could she possibly want?
"Well, come on!" she said, "how long you gonna root around down there and not get started like a man? You got a cock? Let's have it."
"This . . . was meant to be just for you. Your pleasurenot mine."
"Well, my pleasure now is you get your clothes off and do it. I'm gon' fornicate with the devil, I want to know all about it. Don't want to quit before the main attraction."
He wasn't sure he'd be able to do that and keep his head. Merely devouring her pussy was almost too much. Fucking her, having her all around him, getting to the depths of her, what would stop him from tearing out her throat and drinking her down? But as he rose and pulled the braces down off his shoulders, yanked off his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, he also knew there was no way he was going to walk away from her now. He thought he could spend the rest of time swimming in herdrowning in herand miss nothing else. She watched him strip with clear-eyed interest. Shook her head and hummed "mmm hmm" as he revealed himself to her.
"Never heard the devil was so damn pretty."
"I'm not really the devil," Spike said, stretching himself over her, pinning her wrists with his hands. His body felt like a struck tuning fork, and he'd not even entered her yet. "Just a devil."
She lifted her head to catch his mouth with hers, and he plunged into her.
The first time was fasthammer and tongs. Coming in her, Spike recalled the ecstasy of his death and rebirth. Garnetta seemed every bit as strong and fierce as he; her laugh made his bones sing.
Then they went slow, long deep strokes, almost withdrawing and her hips rising up to keep him every time. Both trembling like an earthquake about to happen, drenched in sweat. She looked into his eyes and would not let him look away. What was she thinking? What did she imagine about him? He wanted to know and was afraid to speak. Every outstroke was perilous, every return like a plunge back to the warm center of being. Her blood groaned all around him. He wanted to come, to make her come, to go on fucking forever, but what he really wanted was her. Her blood was her. He had to have her, possess her utterly, all his. Surely she'd want it too.
He tried to pull away. She gripped him, held himthighs, arms, and inside herself, with a pressure that made him dizzy. And always looking into his face with her dark brown gaze.
"Lemme see it," she whispered.
"See what? I'm naked, you've seen everything I've got" Again he tried to withdraw, again she tightened.
"Lemme see that face. Don' hide it from me."
"Believe me, you don't want to." God, she was boiling him. Never stop never stop never stop.
He couldn't have stopped then if he tried, his cum came up like hot lava. Exploding into her, he roared and changed. She hollered, undulating beneath him, nails scoring his back. He tore himself from her, rolled away, panting and growling.
She followed after, straddling him. Looked down at him with an expression of fearless wonder, and touched his altered face with gentle fingers. Gasping, he was too spent for the moment to move. He couldn't change back, or stop her from looking.
"You po' thing," she murmured. "Don't you get tired? You must get so tired."
When she brought her face close to his, breathing warmth against it, and kissed the distorted ridges of his forehead and cheekbones, the harsh brow and distended mouth, tears flowed out of his yellow eyes. Spike pushed her off, but not hard, and swung his legs over the side of the bed. One more moment of this, just one more of her sweet look and that gentle mouth, would be the death of her. He lurched up, crossed the room, slammed the bathroom door.
A sinkful of cold rusty water restored him. When he emerged, Garnetta was still in bed, but she'd wrapped the sheet around herself, and was sipping from Gilbert's flask. Spike began to dress. In his clothes he was calmer, and able to come back to her side.
"Stay here and sleep."
He smiled down at her, and she looked different again than she had in the speakeasy, or even five minutes ago. Strange, powerful woman. Sitting on the side of the bed, he kissed the points of her shoulders, turned her right arm to kiss the pit, and the elbow, the wrist and hand. Then the left, and paused at what he discovered. "Ah, pet, you shouldn't do this," he said, tracing the pattern of little tracks that dotted the flesh. She dropped her gaze, and stammered something, but he kissed them just the same. "I know, life's hard . . . but death's harder. Think on that. And you. You are an artiste."
"You got a gift too," she murmured. Then, "Nothin' says you have to go. Still plenty of night left."
He shook his head.
She went sullen. "You got a downtown gal. Goin' back to her."
"Exactly so," Spike said. He rose, went to the dresser where he'd put the contents of his pockets. He'd taken over $200 from Gilbert; he left it there for her. If he couldn't be her loving Sire, still he could give her that much. She could keep the beaver coat too, that was something would warm her, not like he wanted to, but something. And Gilbert's watch and flask. She could always hock them. At the door he paused. Why not why not why not just turn back to her? Every chord of his body strained towards that bed. His retracted fangs keened to be in her. To make her his own cherished one, the way Drusilla had made him hers.
He opened the door. Glanced back.
"Garnetta. If you ever see me again . . . no matter how I look at you . . . how I may smile, or call out to you, say your name . . . no matter how I beckon, Garnetta. If you ever see me again, run like hell in the other direction. You run like hell, because I am the devil, and I'm not going to be so strong a second time."
Although he was very far from Greenwich Street, and the night was far advanced, Spike walked downtown. Through the newly-swirling snow, past the brownstone fronts and tenement rows, through the held-breath stillness of the glazed park paths, past the darkened theatres and shops, the taxis racing between blaring nightclubs, the houses full of exhaling humanity.
Drusilla, at the end of her wits and her chain, flung herself at him when he came through the door, scratching, biting, babbling. When she got a good whiff of him, she howled. Grinning, Spike unlocked the manacle, kissed her tenderly until she was quiet, and took her out into the predawn stillness to feed.
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