With Texas finally behind her, Charlotte began to relax. It dawned on her that she never did get that idiot cowboy's name. His 'alcohol related accident' would have been discovered by now and if she really wanted to know she probably could dig up a paper and find out his name. Shrugging, she kept driving and the scenery got a bit wetter. She noticed right off that Louisiana was very hot and pretty steamy at night so she drove quickly across the shadow filled areas of Louisiana and through the remaining states aiming steadily for Florida. She really had to find somewhere less stressful. There were far too many odd people around for her taste.
She toyed with the idea of staying in Mississippi for about a minute. The years of hurricanes had damaged much of the coastal areas but there still was some gaming along various parts of the river. Drunken gamblers were easy marks for bored hungry vampires.
But thankfully she had plenty of cash to blow and could quickly find victims to drain one way or another. All the traveling was making her hungry constantly. That and worrying about what Kenyon was going to do. Unfortunately there was already a rather active vampire community in the area and it was all she could do to keep away from bumping into the strays and combative rogue vampires living in the rural areas outside of the major towns. The masters in the area really had to get better at keeping their numbers down before they were discovered Charlotte thought while aiming for Florida.
Nothing was worse than a town getting overrun by vampires. It never ended well for the humans or the vampires involved. Repercussions could range from the simple slaying of everyone to the beginning of major vampiric turf wars. It sure looked like that was what was happening back in Southern California. Granted Kenyon might be able to control it -- eventually. But Charlotte wasn't overly confident that Kenyon knew exactly what was going on around him, and she had no desire to become part of the pillage and plundering that always happened during the rogue vampire wars. And they were on the edge of all that back home. Those sorts of events were best heard about, not participated in, from the safety of another state or country.
No, she had picked the perfect time to hit the road and see what the rest of America had to offer. It wasn't like she could help Kenyon -- he hadn't even asked her for help, much less admitted they had any problems. So she had plenty of money to see what there was to see before she had to go back and face the consequences of her little bank liberation. On the long drive across the country she had decided to return the jewelry from the safety deposit boxes to the rightful vampires. She had looked through the loot and recognized many of the pieces and knew exactly who they belonged to in the vampire hierarchy. These humans had stolen from high level vampires and their pets. She hoped that the gesture would go far during her trial, if it ever got to that phase.
Shaking her head, she realized that sort of negative thinking wasn't going help her in any way. She shook her head briskly one last time to erase the stray thoughts and drove further down towards the tip of Florida. By sometime tomorrow evening she hoped to find a willing captain to take her even down further south, maybe out of the states completely, not just off continent. She wanted a chance to relax and savor some exotic drinks on the shore. Speaking of drinks she was ready to take a break. Charlotte pulled off the next exit with signs of food, gas and lodging. The station wagon had held up pretty well considering all the driving she had done. The first gas station she saw had a car wash and she decided to treat the car and stretch her legs while she figured out a game plan.
While the car was running through the suds and spray she paced inside sipping some bad coffee. She really missed her Kona blend now. Grimacing, she continued drinking the sludge while her car went through the last part of the wash. The old man running the register was slowly working his crossword puzzle and hadn't bothered her. He grunted once as her car emerged out from the other side of the machine and he hit a buzzer. There was a slightly younger old man that got up from a dingy plastic lawn chair just outside the door and began to dry off the dripping soap.
Tipping the bent over little man she took the now sparkling clean station wagon back on the road. Sitting in the gas station hadn't solved any of her problems. She was craving the repartee of other vampires. After decades of being around controlling vampires she was free and had money to burn and nobody to play with at all.
Making a rash decision she turned into the next open mall she saw.
Charlotte did some club wear shopping. Having cash and a good eye it took her less than an hour and a half to find what she needed. The sales clerk at one store knew a few local clubs and after a carefully handed bribe she was more than happy to share. Charlotte found a hotel to drop her clothing and get ready. She was going to head out and have a bite to eat -- vampires be damned.
It was a little after midnight and the first two addresses the young clerk had supplied were dead in all the wrong ways. Charlotte looked at the last bar on the list and smiled at the name, Green Eyes. Typical of clubs she had been to in her life, the name appeared to have little to do with anything. The building was unremarkable. She shrugged and headed towards the large, tan, bald headed, heavily tattooed bouncer. Casually Charlotte bypassed the half dozen kids standing, slumping or leaning against the wall of the building without pause.
"Hey," she said with decades of ennui and attitude. There was no way the doorman could simply push her to the end of the line. Her mere presence made him pause and regroup his thoughts.
"Hello, miss, the cover tonight is," he stopped short as she rolled her eyes up to meet his. He was speechless. She waited for his mind to catch up. It took a moment. She could hear the murmurs and comments from the losers waiting in the lines. Charlotte avoided gloating and grinning, just barely.
"Nothing, for you, just go right in," the man was confused and distracted by her stare. He didn't have any fears for her to push, but he was used to being given direct orders. She hated paying cover charges. He opened the door, waving her past the lady collecting cover charges, allowing her inside. A rolling wall of music hit her and made her smile. It was what Charlotte was craving. She laughed softly and hit the dance floor.
It was near two in the morning when she felt the Florida vampires enter. If she was honest with herself she knew that was what she was looking for in the clubs she had been visiting. There had been something about this one that made her stay. It had the right feeling. She continued to dance watching out of the corner of her eyes for the two vampires pacing towards her. They sensed her, also. She could feel that one was dominant and the other very submissive. The music changed to a slower tune and she walked off the floor straight for the vampires.
Most informed humans wouldn't have known the couple in front of her were vampires. They weren't the typical vampires most cities were cluttered with from coast to coast. The male was tall, very tan, with light brown hair and green eyes. He was dressed in the Florida casual attire of the non-floral variety. His well-pressed black slacks coupled with a white Mexican wedding dress shirt and a pair of pricey soft leather shoes, without sox of course, made him look rich and successful. She was a few inches shorter than her mate, with a cascade of brown hair heavily streaked with blonde that nearly took away from the glowing of her green eyes. She was deeply tanned and wearing a striking blue halter top dress. Together they were obviously a couple, apart they could easily be taken as models. Charlotte, on the other hand, was well aware they were simply old powerful vampires.
These were vampires she knew. Intimately. Very intimately.
"Giselle and Theo, long time no see," Charlotte smiled without fangs. It was their club after all -- no need to provoke a fight. She was unexpectedly happy just to find other vampires. The music seemed to fade in the background as they neared each other. She found herself tense and consciously pushed herself calmer. This meeting could be either very good or very bad only time would tell.
To her relief Theo was first to give her a tight hug. Giselle then hugged Charlotte and kissed her softly on the cheek saying, "Darling, aren't you a bit out of your neighborhood?"
"I needed a change of scenery and heard Florida was a wonderful place to relax. So this is your latest club?" She was shooting for blase and laid-back. Her nerves were trembling but she kept that buried deep and wished she had a cigarette to calm her nerves and hide her fluttering pulse. It didn't matter as both Giselle and Theo appeared to take her response at face value.
Now the club's name was obvious to her. Charlotte never knew if Giselle picked Theo for his matching green eyes or if it was just a fluke. Both sets of eyes turned towards her and Theo laughed saying, "Not on paper. You know better than that." They all laughed. Rarely did vampires outright own anything. It didn't do to have their names on corporations for decades at a time. It tended to be noticed by both humans and vampire stalkers.
Giselle edged closer and looked directly into Charlotte's eyes.
"You're not here with permission are you?" Her eyes were glowing with energy. Charlotte met them full on and said, "Why do you care?"
It was bravado but she was craving the company of vampires. Giselle allowed her the dodge and smiled pulling Theo closer to her side.
"I don't. It's just that there are rumors, you know." She slid a hand over Theo's face and he purred.
The club was crowded yet Giselle and Theo created an island in the middle of the storm of noise and hot bodies. It was as if they had erected a barrier to keep out the patrons; that was how powerful these two vampires were, exerting that much control unnoticed by humans. Charlotte sat at the table Giselle indicated with a soft sweeping movement of her hand.
The table she had gestured to was suddenly miraculously empty. The humans had wandered off at Giselle's mental push. Theo separated from Giselle and sat smoothly down on the other side of Charlotte. A chill ran down the back of Charlotte's neck and she tried to keep her cool. The fact they knew there were 'rumors' was not a good bit of news. She thought she had headed out of town pretty quietly and she found out that someone has already spread the word. Damn the internet.
"With vampires there are always rumors." She went for dismissively bored. She snagged a cigarette from the offered pack Theo had. He graciously then lit the smoke and joined her. Together they smoked while waiting for Giselle to reply. There wasn't an ashtray so Charlotte used an empty glass on the table. She wasn't even sure if smoking was legal in Florida; it had been banned in California a while ago and she never was sure where it was allowed. Theo winked at her and tapped his ash into the glass without a word. She shrugged and smiled.
"True," Giselle nodded, "But on this point no matter who is telling the tales they all agree about this that an old vampire was very clever in stealing from the bank deposit boxes of vampire chasers. Also that Kenyon is having one of his special vampires run down by a few of his best pets. And, last but not least, that the same missing vampire may be avoiding the slaying Kenyon's mistakes have caused in his town which may be the beginnings of a full out vampire war. All the stories seem to put all three of those tidbits together in one way or another."
It was all said calmly by Giselle. She wasn't even waiting for any kind of reply. Just stating what 'rumors' she had heard. Charlotte mulled over the best strategy to the conversational reply needed. Giselle wasn't an idiot so she skipped trying to lie.
"Sure that sounds like the basics. So what can I tell you?" Charlotte smiled and let a small bit of her fangs peek out of her lips.
"Tell me if it's worth it?" Giselle flashed back her pointed fangs.
"What choices do I have now? It's not like Kenyon will welcome me with open arms. Hell, he pretty much has to make some kind of example of me. Out of territory for nearly a week and I haven't even phoned him once. Yes, he would be happy to let me come home without asking a question. Oh, wait, last person who did that to him was staked at midnight and never spoken of again." Disgusted Charlotte ground out her tasteless cigarette and shook her head slowly. She really had made a mess of everything.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-09-04