“We seem to have left them behind.” Leech said, the smugness back in his voice.
“Ah, very good. Now, where shall we go for Terry’s first kill?” The question was rhetorical, of course. The Mistress didn’t care for Leech’s opinion on the matter. He kept quiet, and she considered the answer to her own question.
“Loop back around. We should avoid the place with all the tents, but there are always stragglers and strays. We should cross the river. There is a place under the railway which is often good for food.”
So, they took a sweeping turn- right, then right, then right down streets Terry had never learnt the names of.
They passed student halls of residence that were bright with the warm young bodies inside. Very tempting, but far too full. And the youths inside would be missed, unlike the vagrant they would, no doubt, end up choosing.
Leech handled the car well, threading down narrow back streets that hardly seemed wide enough. These were lined with a mix of the final hold-outs of light industry, and the expensive, dull and square blocks of apartments that were replacing them. Then they crossed Deansgate again- the road still packed with slow moving traffic, and were going down the hill, past the Opera House, and across the river.
There was a change almost immediately. They were in Salford now, Manchester’s poorer older sibling. There were some new developments along the river bank, mirroring the glass and steel of Spinningfields, but behind them the dark red brick of the railway viaduct stood, as if blocking the flow of money and development deeper into town.
The road curved right, and went under the viaduct through wide, deep arches. Just after they came out the other side, Leech turned the car to the left, down another side street. This one followed the line of the railway. The first couple of arches held more light industry, but soon, they were passing ones that were walled off, reminders of former workshops.
An open arch urged them to go back under the railway. The street, if they carried on on this side, became pitted with pot holes and littered with fly tipping. They carried on.
The bricks blocking up the third arch past the junction had been knocked in. The big car pulled up beside the makeshift doorway, and Terry stared into it. “What do you see?” The Mistress asked.
“I don’t see anything. No. No, I see some warmth. There’s somebody in there. A man, I think, older, not very well. I think he’s on something.”
The disappointment must have been obvious in his tone, because the Mistress moved closer to him and spoke quietly at his ear. “Not every meal can be young and pretty and healthy. We need to eat, and we sometimes take our meals where we can get them. You must learn to kill for your food. There will be many years in which to learn all the ways you can enjoy it.”
Terry had been looking forward to killing and draining a human. But the Mistress was correct that he wished his first victim could have been somehow more glamorous. He vowed that he would not let her down, and would see his victim off with as much enthusiasm as if they had the looks of a movie star.
“I am ready.” Terry opened the door and stepped out. The Mistress followed him, but only went as far as the hole in the brickwork. Leech stayed in the car, obviously wanting to watch, but forcing himself to stare straight ahead.
“I shall be watching.” the Mistress said. She kissed Terry lightly on the lips, and gestured through the hole.
Barely any light from the outside penetrated the arch. The nearest street light was down by the last junction, and nearby buildings provided little illumination. Terry didn’t need it anyway, he was navigating from the glow of a live human in his blood sight. He stepped carefully around bricks and rubbish, but progressed steadily across the vaulted space.
The arch smelt damp, but not as wet as Terry had expected. The weather got in through the hole in the wall, and there were tiny stalactites forming from water that had leeched through the brickwork from above. But the space was rarely, if ever, inundated. Puddles rarely formed of the concrete floor. No wonder people sought it out to sleep.
Terry was surprised at how much he had been able to determine just from listening to his senses as he walked toward his target. He had built up an image of the arch, what could he see about the man before him?
The vagrant was unwashed. Terry had thought he had become grimy, but this man was far worse. He hadn’t changed his clothes in weeks, and the sweat was ingrained. As were other bodily fluids, including blood. The man’s own blood, Terry decided. He had been in fights, or fallen badly.
As he drew closer, Terry could hear something in the man’s breathing. There was just a hint of raggedness. Something pressed on one of his lungs, restricting its capacity. A broken rib, Terry decided, the result of the same fight or fall that had caused the blood.
This man was much further gone than any of the homeless Terry had met in tent town. He was one of those truly lost souls who had fallen so far they might never be saved. Terry would be putting him out of his misery.
The man’s breathing changed again. He was awake, aware enough to register the pain of his rib, and that there was someone there with him. “Whosat? What you doing here? Got my space, get your own.”
He struggled to sit, then tried to push himself up to his feet. Surprised, he stopped and stared at the hand Terry offered him. He pushed and kicked his sleeping bag aside, then took the hand.
Terry couldn’t explain how he was doing it, but he had mesmerised the man, calming him so that he forgot the intrusion into his home. He studied the shorter man’s straggly beard, lined and dirtied face, and eyes that showed it had been too long since his last drink.
“Your chest hurts, doesn’t it.”
“Fuckers tried to take my stuff. I showed them.”
“Let me help you with the pain.”
“You got vodka? That helps.”
“No vodka. Only this.” Terry nodded, as if indicating something behind and to his left. The man saw enough of the movement to glance over at whatever it might be. He exposed the skin on the left of his neck, and Terry dived in to bite it.
His canines were so much longer than they had been before, with needle sharp points. They slid through the skin, rather than simply puncturing it, and found a vein. When the Mistress had taken Glenn, she had torn a section of his neck open, and drank from what spurted out, but Terry found the simple holes he had created were enough. He drank eagerly. There was a bitterness of failing liver and the other decays of an adulthood of alcoholism, but it wasn’t strong enough to mask the power of the blood.
The man flailed about, trying to hit Terry, or push him away. The blows and the struggle became weaker the more blood Terry consumed. Finally, the ecstasy overtook the man, and his final moments were filled with a pleasure he had spent so long fruitlessly seeking from alcohol. He made a last, happy sigh as the life was sucked from him.
Terry held the dead weight of the man after he had drunk his fill. He didn’t know quite what to do with the body. It seemed wrong to just drop it and walk away.
“We must take him with us.” the Mistress said. She had sneaked up behind Terry as he had been feasting. “To cover our tracks. The days when we could just abandon our food without a care are sadly behind us. Bring him with you. We shall put him in the back of the car.”
The body was light, and Terry could carry it under his arm. It was clumsy, with the arms and legs flailing about, but once he found a balance point and a good grip, he handled it easily.
Leech stood at the back of the car, with the boot open. The large space was lined with some glossy material, carefully fitted to catch any left over blood and other mess. No doubt it wiped clean easily as well. Terry sat the body on the edge of the boot, let it drop backwards into it, then levered the legs in after it. When he stepped back, he saw Leech hold up the key fob and pressed a button. The lid started closing itself.
“Very impressive. That’s….”
Something was wrong. Terry sensed the Mistress’s response before he could tell what she was reacting to. He cast a glance in her direction, then followed her gaze.
Five figures stood on the other side of the road, a short distance ahead of the car, four men and a woman. They were staring at the vehicle and the group around it, but didn’t seem to be focussed on it. In the low light, shadows made them menacing, and hid their expressions. Their stances suggested they were about to rush across the road and attack.
But that wasn’t the strangest and scariest thing for Terry and the Mistress. Not a one of the group had the glow of a warm, functional human body. Two of them were warmer than the others, but cooling quickly. As well as their bodies being cold, their auras were empty, a sort of grey that hinted at voids. They were dead.
The middle figure stepped off the pavement, and, as one, the others followed. The leader straightened, standing taller, and fixed his gaze on Terry. Now, there was just enough light to illuminate his features. Terry stared back.