“YOU LEFT HIM THERE WITH THOSE THINGS!” The mistress punched the partition to emphasise her anger. Leech flinched, though he knew it could withstand blows even of vampire strength. Her anger had been made worse by her discovery that he had installed overrides on the partition and the rear door locks. His head would have been sitting on the passenger seat if he hadn’t thought ahead.
It had been easy to push the Mistress into the back of the Bentley. She had been frozen in shock at seeing one of her victims, who she definitely had not given her own blood to, returned from the dead. Leech had managed to think faster, and manhandled her into the car.
It was only as he ran one of them over that he realised he recognised two of the men with Glenn. They were the strange, identical but not related pair that disposed of the bodies. As the Mistress battered the partition, Leech constructed the barest of timelines. Whatever had revived Glenn had also affected Carl and Karl, and, no doubt, the others with them. A company that would render down corpses, no questions asked, would probably take on other less than legal disposal jobs. Could they have come into contact with some chemical that reanimated Glenn and dragged the others down to his subhuman level.
Or, more likely, had their change been caused, somehow, by contact with a vampire? Few humans knew as much about the children of the night as Leech did, but he couldn’t explain whatever had happened to one of the Mistress’s victims and two of the men who worked for her. He had already started thinking of the strange creatures they had just encountered as zombies. The Mistress had never hinted that such things could exist, but why should she even know? It wasn’t as if many humans knew about the vampires that sometimes walked amongst them.
There were other vampires in the tower, but they were all subordinate to the Mistress, sired by her or one of her peers. Older vampires were scattered around the world, but modern communication made it easy to contact them. Even the ancient Lord- and the Mistress’s sire- known simply as Him. Leech would have to persuade the Mistress to reach out.
The Mistress had heard things snapping in her fist as she punched the partition, but hadn’t stopped her assault until all her anger was out. Sitting back, she straightened her broken fingers, and cradled her injured hand as the bones knitted back together. She was calmer now she had vented through violence. The ice when she spoke indicated that calmer didn’t mean less angry. “I should tear your spine out. But I shall leave your punishment up to Terry. He will think of something suitable. Now turn this car around so we can return for him.”
“We need to get back to the tower, Mistress. The others must be told about this. You need to work out how it happened, and what to do about it.”
“We shall destroy them. We shall rend them limb from limb and scatter the gore.”
“You did recognise them, didn’t you?”
“One was the man who brought me Terry. I drank from him, but didn’t raise him. The others….”
“Two of them work for us. They run the disposal company.”
“How did they get that way?”
“If you don’t know, there’s no way I possibly could. That is why we must bring in the others. Perhaps they will know. If not them, we may have to contact Him.”
“He…. Will not be happy.”
They were back across the river and in Manchester now. Leech saw empty street ahead of them, and accelerated towards Deansgate. The power of the Bentley’s engine reverberated back at them from the buildings close in on either side.
The earlier traffic had thinned, and when they turned onto Deansgate, it seemed they weren’t going to be crawling back to the towers. Traffic was so much lighter, they might only be stopped by the changing of the lights on the pedestrian crossing halfway to where they would turn off again.
As they drew closer to the junction, however, it became obvious that there was a disturbance of some form in the direction they would be heading. The sound of horns became clearer, even inside the insulated and padded luxury of the Bentley. An Audi reversed at speed into the yellow hatching of the junction. It started turning, the front swinging around. Then the driver must have stamped on the brakes, because the turn became a spin, and the car stuck a bollard. The car reversed, and the bollard tore the bumper from the body. The driver didn’t get out to inspect the damage, and the car accelerated away.
Curiosity overpowered the Mistress’s anger. She sat forwards, right on the front edge of the seat, to stare through the partition and front window. Another car, pointing in the right direction, and on the correct side of the road, sped across the junction.
“Should we go on?” Leech asked.
“Of course we go on.” the Mistress slapped the partition. “You are the one who wishes to return to the tower.”
The traffic lights at the junction changed to green. However, the two cars ahead of the Bentley didn’t move. Nor did the ones on the other side of the junction. They could have been staring at the plastic and glass the Audi had left behind, or maybe they were nervous about more vehicles rushing across the junction.
Leech spun the steering wheel and stepped on the accelerator, and the Bentley laid some rubber as it peeled out and raced past the standing vehicles. He had barely straightened out before turning even more sharply to the right, onto the street up toward Albert Square.
A van, doing a panicky, multi point turn, blocked the street just before the side road to the tower garage. It was reversing, opening the gap Leech had to fit through. He steered for it, aiming at the very front of the van and hoping it would have moved by the time he reached it.
The van driver spotted the big black car heading for his vehicle, and stepped on the brake. The Bentley clipped the front of the van, bullying it out of the way. It only got a short way before hitting the high kerb and coming to a halt. The suspension was almost at its lowest setting, and the lower lip of the airdam, along with the oil pan, had grounded and scraped along the concrete edge.
The Mistress was at the side window now, staring up the street. “There are more of them! Up there, and heading this way! Go! Go!” She slapped the partition.
Leech stabbed at the controls for the air suspension, and the big car eased itself up. He twisted the steering wheel and pressed the accelerator. When the Bentley started moving away, bent metal scraped parallel lines through its black paint. Leech pressed the button to open the gates, stabbing it again and again as they drew closer.
The van driver had decided to follow the Bentley. If the driver of this big car was so desperate to head this way, perhaps they knew a way out.
The roller gate was opening, slats clicking upward one by one. It was going too slowly, though, Leech knew. It might not be opened high enough for the car to fit through. He didn’t slow down.
As the ramp dropped away, the Bentley’s front wheels left the ground. For a long, frozen moment, it seemed that the car would fly straight into the gate and come to a horrible halt. Then the nose dropped, falling quickly. The suspension swallowed the drop, and the nose of the big car was under the gate.
With a crash and a very expensive scrape, the bottom of the gate hit the top of the windscreen and scraped along the roof of the car. It forced its way through, shooting out the other side into the garage. Leech couldn’t control the car, and it weaved left and right until it hit a row of Ducatis. The motorbikes wedged under the car, and brought it to a halt.
Behind the Bentley, the taller van hit the gate, and didn’t make it through. The gate bent inwards, until the ends were pulled from the guide rails and it jammed. The driver’s airbag inflated explosively, catching him before he hit the steering wheel.
The sounds of collision echoed around the concrete cave. They faded away to silence, which was eventually broken by the clang of the Bentley’s driver’s door hitting the wall as Leech pushed it open. The car’s airbags hadn’t deployed. For some reason, hitting a motorbike didn’t register as a violent enough collision.
Pulling himself up, Leech used the car as support as he walked around it. He’d found his feet by the time he had top let go, and his strides became more confident as he headed for the elevator. Halfway there, he stopped and back tracked. He had forgotten that the rear doors were still child-locked, and the Mistress was stuck in the vehicle until he released her. There was a momentary falter in his steps as he wondered whether that would be the better for him. He reached down and pulled on the door handle anyway.
The Mistress unfurled from her seat and was standing in on blurred motion. Her healed right hand was at Leech’s throat,and he was lifted off the floor and carried toward the elevator. She cracked him against the concrete beside the doors and held him up, an angry hiss the nearest she came to speaking.
Leech’s feet tapped against the wall. His body was telling him to struggle free, but his knowledge of the Mistress reminded him that the attempt would be useless. Her fingers squeezed his neck, but it was to maintain a grip, rather than to throttle him. If he fought, or she felt the urge, she could snap his neck with a flick of her wrist.
“Perhaps I have changed my mind. Perhaps I should kill you now.” she said. Sharp fingernails scratched over his skin as they sought out the arteries feeding blood to his brain. The ends pricked at the veins. It would take little for her to stab through to them and sever the lifelines. “You never deserved to be raised up, little man. You’re a pathetic little worm. I used you to get what I needed, and kept you around to watch you snivel. I was going to let you grow old and waste away, slowly realising you had been used.”
“I always knew that Mistress. But I wanted to serve you anyway, to be in the presence of your beauty.” Leech hadn’t meant to sound so weak, and realised his attempt at defiance had turned into some sort of plea even as he spoke it. He also knew that, plea or insult, it had made her more determined to kill him, not less. He felt the nails digging into his flesh.
“What the fuck is this?”
The voice came from the other side of the garage, beside the wrecked gate, and belonged to a young woman wearing a borrowed jacket and with gore on her boots. A man and another woman, taller and a few years older, stood just behind her. The Mistress vaguely recognised the man, but the aura of the second woman made her gasp in recognition.
Forgotten, for now, Leech slid down the wall into a heap on the floor. He reached a shaking hand to his throat, and tested the tender spots where he had so nearly been killed. The Mistress took a step towards the three humans.
“Don’t you come any fucking closer!” the younger woman ordered. The Mistress faltered, shocked. She wasn’t used to hearing such defiance, and outright hostility, from mere humans. The girl was unarmed, as far as the Mistress could tell, but her stance and attitude made even a seasoned vampire fearful of approaching.
The Mistress pulled her gaze away from the younger woman, to look at the other. “You. I saw you earlier. You are Terry’s sister.”
“How do you know that?” The woman was about to step around the girl, but the man held out a warning, restraining hand.
“Who are you? And how do you know Terry?” he asked.
“He was my lover. This vile fool,” she indicated Leech, “left him out there with those…. things.”
“Where? We need to go and get him.” the woman said. Now she was turning away, toward the exit. Again, the man’s hand on her arm suggested otherwise.
Any plans the woman had of leaving were ended by a scream just on the other side of the gate. She and the man turned to look for the source, whilst the girl stood her ground, eyeing the Mistress with hostility.
The van was jammed into the gate, passenger side wedged against one wall, and driver’s door jammed open against the other. The ghouls that were packing up against the van door would find their way over or under it soon enough. The Mistress wanted to be out of the garage before that happened.
On cue, there was a ping behind the Mistress. She didn’t care whether Leech had pressed the call button for the elevator for self-preservation or out of some remaining loyalty. It was here now, and she could go up to her floor and buy some time to consider her next move. Eyes still on the three humans, she took steps backwards toward the doors.
The humans should have been unimportant to her. They could stay here, to distract the creatures who were about to break in. But there was the aura that radiated from the older of the women. She was related to Terry, the Mistress just knew it. She could provide some sort of connection to him. Perhaps a replacement, if it came to it.
“Come, upstairs we have weapons. Perhaps you can tell me what is going on, and we can make a plan.”
The three humans looked to and from each other. Strangely, it was the younger woman who shrugged and headed toward the elevator. The other two only paused long enough to look back at a particularly nasty howl, before following.