Marlene was at a work table in the bedroom, reading on her laptop. Jim was in a deep sleep, twitching and moaning, Marlene assumed he was involved in a troubling dream, judging by the REM activity. She looked at the clock for the fourth or fifth time, then got up impatiently, and walked up and down, only pausing to look at the clock. When her cell phone rang, she rushed to it eagerly, looked at the caller I.D. answered the call and demanded breathlessly,
"Hello, Eli. How did it go?... Super! And none of them got away?.... That's wonderful. Did Claude make a pig of himself as usual?.... That's so funny. I can just hear him," and she mimicked Claude. "It sounds delicious." She laughed along with Eli. "They were all drained and the Gay Avengers' note was left on the body?.... It seems that the plan worked perfectly ... Thank you, Eli. I appreciate that. I'm always glad to encourage a good snack ... It was just a joke ..."
They were silent for a minute, savoring the success of the mission, then Eli continued with an announcement that surprised Marlene.
"You're going to honor me tomorrow night?" Marlene gasped. "At the Foundation? Of course I'll be there. What a distinction ... Can I bring a guest?.... Jim Delaney, from the Gay Alliance ... I know he's an outsider. What if he converts?....All right. We'll see what happens. I'll see you tomorrow. Thanks again. Goodnight, Eli."
She disconnected the call, went to the bed, leaned over and gently woke Jim. "Jim."
"What?" he asked groggily.
"What time is it?"
"About 2:00 AM."
"It's late. I better go." He started to get up and fell back. "Give me a minute ... I feel drunk, or high. My head is spinning and my body feels like it's burning."
"I did it to you," she said softly.
"I know. You were a wild animal."
"You don't understand."
"I don't have to. I know what I felt. I never experienced anything like it."
"There's a reason for it."
"Yeah. You really turned me on."
"That's because I bit your neck for the second time."
"Yeah." He touched his neck wonderingly. "I never met a woman like you."
"I'm not a woman."
"I hope you're not a man," he quipped.
She stared at him intently, then said solemnly, "Will you swear that you'll believe me, no matter how crazy it seems?"
"That's not good enough," she said firmly.
He looked at her, thought for a moment, then declared, "I'll believe you."
"No matter what?" she demanded.
She paused for a moment, then said softly, "I'm a vampire."
He laughed. "I'm the ghost of Elvis."
"I'm not joking."
She was so intense that he began to take her seriously. "You want me to believe that you're a ... a ..."
"And you live by drinking blood?"
"I knew you weren't an ordinary woman. But it doesn't make any difference to me. You've gotten under my skin. I don't care what you are. I've got to be with you. I love you. I'm mad for you."
She reached out and gently drew him to her. "The only way we can be together is if you join us."
"Us? What are you talking about?"
"If you want me, you'll have to become a vampire."
"Me?" he gasped in astonishment.
He thought about it for a moment, then asked cautiously, "What do I have to do?"
"If you willingly decide to join us. I have to give you the third bite. Then you'll become one of the living dead."
"Would we be together?"
"Of course. You could even come to work at the Foundation. Do you have any family or close friends?"
"Anyone who would miss you?"
"None ... Once I join you, do I live forever?"
"I don't know about forever, but we live for a long time."
"Will I be able to fly? Do I have to wear a cape?"
"Be serious," she chided.
"Do I have to decide right now?"
"No. Why don't you think it over tonight and tomorrow. If you decide to join us, come to the Foundation tomorrow night, at 8:00 PM."
"And if I decide no?"
"You'll have to keep my secret for life."
"Would I still be able to see you?"
"No. That wouldn't be possible."
"Are you going to kill me if I decide no?"
"No. I trust you."
"This is a lot to think about. I've got to get out of here."
He quickly got dressed while Marlene stared at him, radiating sexuality. He kept falling into a lustful trance, then snapped out of it. He shook his head and went to the door.
"Either come to the Foundation, or forget me," she said and watched as he went out the door. Then she went back to the bed, lay down and whispered confidently, "If you can."
Ribowski and Williams drove up to the building on East 6th Street, that they were informed was the headquarters of the Righteous Avengers. Police cars were parked near the house, red and blue lights flashing. Crime tape already cut off the entrance area. Police officers were standing around looking bewildered. Ribowski went up to one of them, flashed his badge, and when he got a strange look, asked,
"What's going on here? Why is everyone standing around?"
"You better see for yourself, LT," the patrolman muttered.
Ribowski turned to Williams, who just shrugged and said, "Let's go."
They stopped at the doorway, put on disposable gloves and slowly pushed the door open. The room was well-lit, so the scene before them was stark and dramatic. The circle of bodies, feet pointing to the center, made them pause and breathe deeply.
"Did you ever see anything like this?" Williams asked in a quavering voice.
"Never. I once saw the victims of a shoot out in a gambling den. They were blown apart with shotguns. There was blood and other stuff all over the place. But there's no blood here. These guys look like they've been sucked dry."
"Even junkies leave a little blood behind," Williams remarked.
"I'm going to call the inspector," Ribowski announced. He took out his cell phone and dialed. "Hello, Inspector. We're here at the crime scene. It's really bizarre ... I think you should come here ... The bodies are laid out in a pattern. One guy has a poster on him that says 'Thank god for AIDS.' There's a note on another body: 'Death to psycho killers. It's signed 'The Gay Avengers' ... Yes sir. Now we've got gay avengers. And you gotta see this. Those crazy gays drained all the blood out of the victims ... You heard me right ... We're not drunk," Ribowski protested.
Williams gestured to Ribowski to hand him the phone.
"He's telling the truth, Inspector. Those bloodsuckers got every last drop."
Ribowski took back the phone and covered the speaker with his hand, then said softly:
"He thinks we're crazy." He took his hand away. "Inspector. If you have any doubts, come here and see for yourself ... Yes, sir. We'll secure the scene and have the uniforms question everyone in the nearby area. Maybe someone saw something. Yes, sir. We'll try to keep the media away." He ended the call and said cynically, "Yeah. In your dreams." He turned to Williams. "This could be the story of the year: gay bloodsuckers. The media will kill for this. Well, let's get to it."
"Where do we start? Do we put out an APB for gay vampires?"
Ribowski chuckled. "We'd probably violate someone's civil rights. Do vampires have civil rights?" Both of them laughed, then they started examining the bodies.
"Beats me. I'll call the ACLU," Williams joked. "There's one consideration though."
"It shouldn't be too hard to find a bunch of crazy gay vampires."
"Oh yeah?" Ribowski commented doubtfully, then asked with a playful face, "How do you tell the difference between gay and straight vampires?"
"I don't know. How?"
"Gay vampires use a straw."
"I don't get it," Williams replied. Ribowski started to explain, but Williams, who was inspecting a body, found bite marks. "Look at this."
Ribowski, who was looking at another body, asked, "He got bite marks?"
"So does this one."
They quickly looked at each other and Williams said emphatically, "I'm not telling the Inspector we got gay vampires! He'll send us to the funny farm."
"Why can't I ever get a normal case?" Ribowski asked plaintively.
The night after the attack on the Righteous Avengers, the board of directors of The Enhanced Life Foundation gathered at the Westside building. Limousines delivered members and guests and security guards shooed away Patti Vendessa and her prying video camera. When they got out of the limo, Marlene and Jacob ignored her frantic cries for attention and hurried inside. When they got off the elevator and walked in, the dining room was already crowded. Eli, standing at the dais, pointed at them and started clapping. Others joined in, until everyone was applauding. Eli gestured to Jacob to join him, then said proudly, "You and your team did an exceptional job. We're proud of you." and everyone applauded enthusiastically.
"Thank you, everyone," Jacob said modestly. "We just did our duty."
"I have a question," Madame Francesca said.
"Yes, Madame Francesca?" Jacob asked respectfully.
"Did Claude indulge himself as usual?" she asked, without cracking a smile.
"Yes, Madame Francesca," he replied sadly, affirming what everyone knew.
Claude stood up indignantly. "There's nothing wrong with a healthy appetite."
"True." Madame Francesca agreed, then said loudly: "But we're discussing your schweinerai."
"That's a cruel thing to say," Claude murmured sulkily.
"But accurate," Eli confirmed. "Please sit down." He waited until Claude sat, then said, "Jacob. We thank you and your team for a job well done." Everyone applauded. Jacob bowed, then returned to his seat. Eli waited until everyone settled down, then announced, "We have one more piece of business. I would like us to take a few minutes to honor Marlene." Everyone applauded. "Stand up, Marlene."
Marlene stood. "Your dedication to the Foundation is exemplary. Your handling of the recent unpleasantness was splendid." Again everyone applauded.
Marlene bowed. "Thank you all. Your approval is very important to me. I believe in the work of the Foundation and I try my best to serve it."
"We know that." Eli responded. "In recognition of your accomplishments, I am proud to announce your appointment to the Board of Directors."
Everyone stood and applauded vigorously.
"This is a wonderful moment for me," Marlene said with a smile. "I'll never forget it, as long as I live."
Madame Francesca, ignoring the quip, said formally, "You are the youngest member ever appointed to the Board ... and the most irreverent."
"She doesn't mean anything by it," Eli said protectively.
"You don't need to defend your protégé. She amuses me. Keep up the good work, Marlene."
"Thank you, Madame Francesca."
The guard post downstairs paged Marlene and she answered her phone. "Yes. Send him up." She turned to Eli. "I think we have one more piece of business." A moment later Jim walked in and Marlene introduced him. "This is Jim Delaney, from the Gay Alliance."
Everyone stood, shocked at the intrusion, and Eli asked menacingly, "Why are you here?"
"To join you."
Eli turned to Marlene. "You revealed our most important secret to an outsider?"
"Not really. Please listen to him and I'll explain later."
"I already have two bites and I want the third," Jim declared.
"Do you understand the consequences?" Eli asked.
"This is a lot more complicated than being gay."
"I'm not gay, sir."
"Well, at least you're polite," Eli conceded.
"Only a special few are selected to join us," Madame Francesca said warily.
"Madame Francesca," Marlene pleaded, "he is an exceptional recruit. He'd give his blood for us."
"Madame Francesca, I will give you my best and do whatever is required," Jim vowed.
"Are there any objections? "Madame Francesca demanded. She looked around and no one dared object.
"We approve your joining us," she announced formally.
"Thank you, Madame Francesca. You won't regret this."
"Are you certain that you won't?" Eli asked.
"I've never felt surer of anything in my life. In fact, I've never felt so alive."
Mme. Francesca signaled Marlene, who approached Jim and lovingly bit his neck. The transformation started to take place. Everyone watched intently as Jim's skin paled. Claude turned to the woman next to him.
"That was the sexiest thing I've ever seen."
Jim looked around and asked with a smile:
"When you become a vampire, can you still have sex?" and everyone laughed.
"I don't know if I can take another joker," Eli grumbled.