Note I may change Leech’s name in future drafts, as there is a Leech on Manchester council. Before being a councillor, the real Leech was a Lib Dem MP in the coalition, so the characterisation of my version willingly serving an ancient evil that feeds on the poor and weak isn’t so far off.
Tom wanted to know if they were travelling up to safety or more danger.
There was an uncomfortable silence in the lift as it rose up the floors of the tower. Siobhan’s blood was up, and now she was over her initial shock and fear, she radiated an anger and danger far in excess of her size. Diagonally across the small box from her, the tall, slender woman held herself with a grace that somehow hinted at strength and threat. The pair balanced each other out, silencing the other occupants.
Tom looked from the mysterious woman to the weedy, creepy looking little man she had been throttling earlier. He appeared to be pushing himself into a crack in his corner of the lift.
Tom’s gaze shifted from the little man to Danielle. She was his client, and he felt obliged to stay with her and do what he could to keep her safe. Though, going by her fighting skills earlier, it could end up the other way around. Siobhan looked increasingly like she could fend for herself, whatever madness was going on around them.
The mystery woman was the key to Terry’s disappearance, Tom was sure. He tallied up what little he knew about her. A very short list. He had detected an accent from the few words they had exchanged. German, he thought, but it could have been from there or anywhere eastwards. She was strong. The creepy guy wasn’t big, but it would still take some effort to lift him off the floor one handed. And, despite what she had been doing to him, he was still here. When he looked at her, there was devotion mingling with the subservience, fear and anger in his expression.
If she lived in the tower, then she had to be wealthy. Was she heiress to some Russian oligarch’s fortune, the little man some sort of servant or sex toy? Then there was the way she had recognised that Danielle was Terry’s sister. She had admitted to being Terry’s lover, but claimed the creepy man had left him behind somewhere. How and why had that happened? Did she say they had met the zombie creatures somewhere? Not on the Square, obviously, so where could it have been? He would have to ask a lot of questions to get to the bottom of these mysteries, he felt.
Then he noticed the truly bizarre thing about the woman. The inside of the lift had sections of polished brass inset in the walls. Tom could see his own, fuzzy, reflection in two of them. He could also see Danielle’s reflection, and Siobhan’s, and the little man’s. Nowhere at all could he find the woman’s reflection. It couldn’t possibly be where she was standing, because she was right beside one of the panels, and should have shown up in it.
What the hell did that mean?
The lift stopped, coming to a smooth halt, and the doors opened. Nobody moved. Siobhan glared at the woman, who eventually had to look away and take the first step from the box. The creepy man followed her, but stopped just outside the doors and held an arm out to keep them open.
Siobhan looked to Danielle and Tom. Not sure what he read in her expression that made him do it, he put a supportive hand on her shoulder. He could feel her body trembling. It was strong, but not so violent as to be visible. His previous assessment had been off. She was angry, but she was also terrified. The anger, and having the pale woman to focus it on, was holding her together. She recognised that he understood how she felt, and recognised that he was ready to support her. He gave her a nod, and she led them out of the lift.
Most of Manchester wondered what the inside of the towers looked like. There had been fluff piece in the papers, showing expensively bland minimalism. Most agreed that they had been staged. The reality was very different.
Striving to find the appropriate word, Tom kept coming back to ‘tacky’. The marble floor was ostentatious, but not too much by itself. It was pushed over the edge by the way that any ornamentation was done in gold, with filigreed decoration to an unnecessary extent added to it. Even the dado rail, from which hung several paintings- from old masters to surrealist pieces, had gold accents. Mostly, it was hidden from view, but someone had decreed it must be gilded.
There was one, circular bench in the middle of the large room they were in, and what looked like a bar to one side. Doors led off to a bedroom which was decorated in more black and gold, but with added splashes of red.
The slim woman had paused by the round bench. “Leech will get you drinks.” she said, staring at the creepy man, daring him to disobey.
“Of course. What is your desire?” Leech said. He seemed to bow to them, the perfect obsequious servant.
“We don’t need drinks. We need explanations.” Danielle replied.
“I know you.” Tom said, the name knocking loose a memory. “Graeme Leech. You’re on the council. The planning committee. You vetoed plans for homeless accommodation.”
Leech straightened up, considering defiance, then shrank back down again. “He also helped get my towers built as well. He is a useful servant. Sometimes.” the woman said.
“I should have known you were corrupt.” Tom turned to the woman. “Why stop the homeless shelter? Did you need the land for something?”
“No, I had no use for the land. But it is better for me that the homeless stay on the streets. It makes them easier to eat.”
“Eat? Are you one of those creatures?” Siobhan went into her fighting stance again.
“Oh, hardly, my dear. Do I look like one of those mindless…. ghouls? I am not one of them. I am so much better than them. And you.”
“Just because you’re some rich bitch, it won’t save you from a kicking if we don’t get some answers soon.” Siobhan took a step forward. Tom spotted a flicker of doubt in the woman’s smug expression.
“The Mistress is better than all of you. All of us. The Mistress is vampire royalty.”
The revelation silenced Tom and Siobhan, so it was Danielle who sighed and said, “Vampire? Yeah, what the hell, why not. Tonight’s not fucked up enough yet.”