“Get out,” the man shouted.
“My good sir, a vampire goes where he pleases,” Samuel replied.
He placed an empty fluid bag on the dinner table, sitting with arms crossed over a black leather jacket. The surgical tubing attached to the bag tumbled over the edge.
“I will find your daughter,” Samuel began, “but I expect payment. A pint in advance, and a pint when I return with the girl.”
The father’s eyes were beacons of dread. But after a hundred years of dealing with people in his current form, Samuel Thacker had become used to such reactions. It had been easier when he simply acted like the monster he was assumed to be.
After extracting his fee from the young father’s arm, Samuel asked for a piece of the girl’s clothing. The name Scarlett was embroidered on the bright red scarf. Samuel bid the father farewell and drifted out into the bleak winter’s night.
Almost immediately he picked up the girl’s scent, a mix of her blended with the stench of gasoline and burnt oil. The girl had been shoved into a vehicle—something large—the smell of innocent fear was still fresh on the grass where her abductors had been forced to drag her.
Scarlett’s father was a wealthy lawyer, a servant of that scum that settled above society and polluted everything below. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom. Beyond that, Samuel didn’t know or care about their grievances. The girl was innocent of her parents’ politics.
Samuel kicked his motorcycle to life. He let the beast’s blood pump for a short moment before turning the accelerator. The blue sport bike launched forward at a dangerous speed.
Even before becoming a literal monster, Samuel had not been a good man. He had been a rising aristocrat in Tennessee, trying to compete locally with the Carnegies and Rockefellers—men in fancy suits who swept in and stole everything by the merit of their money. Samuel had admired such ambitious men, but refused to allow them to take his family’s place as the rulers of the town. In his resistance, he had been even more cutthroat than the robber barons he opposed.
It hadn’t been hard to be a vampire at first; it had simply been the physical manifestation of his prior social predation.
Lights flashed by as Samuel drove his iron steed harder. He could smell Scarlett getting closer, the scent like neon trails lighting the way down the empty midnight road. The freezing air bit at his face, but he barely noticed.
After some time, Samuel had given up preying on people. He had watched the robber barons wither, their legacy one of scorn more than praise. It took decades, but he had come to understand that human beings weren’t predators, not by nature. Every person was born innocent. It was the world that tainted them, like it had tainted him.
Scarlett’s scent trail led Samuel to a boarded-up house on the outskirts of the city. There was a van in the cracked driveway. The girl’s odor seeped out from the old vehicle’s rusty cracks.
Stepping off his bike, Samuel brushed away the ice crystals that had settled in his short hair during the helmet-free ride. His green, alien eyes scanned the area. Smelling three other men nearby, he had to force down his hunger, deep, to that place where he kept it chained.
He found the first man in the backyard, pacing and talking on a cellphone. He waited for the skinny brute to finish the call, and then took him down without a sound.
Sliding the rear patio door open, Samuel snuck inside. It was a dark, dead place, concealed from the eyes of the living. Muffled voices drifted down from the second floor. Making his way up the stairs, Samuel strained to make out their hushed words.
“Don’t worry. They have no idea where we are,” one of the men said.
“You shouldn’t have mixed me up in this shit,” the other man said.
Leave it to naive criminals to start feeling regret after destroying other people’s lives. Samuel considered this. Had he ever felt regret for anything he did in his past life? Probably not. It had all been about power back then, securing his spot on the throne no matter the cost.
“I’m gone,” the second man said. His steps approached the closed door, his pulse thundering with anxiety.
When the door opened, the vampire was waiting with a fanged smirk. He grabbed the man by the throat and shoved him into the room. Then the other man fired. Samuel felt the burn as the bullet entered his chest. He threw the thug still in his grip on top of the gunman. Then he made sure the pair stayed down.
Reaching in with his fingers to pull the bullet out, Samuel started to growl, but stopped himself when he saw the girl staring at him in horror. He turned away to finish the surgery, dropping the bloody bullet on the floor. Samuel covered his fangs with his lip and turned to the girl. He placed a hand gently on her shoulder, holding it there until she accepted it.
“It’s okay, Scarlett,” he said, untying her. “I’m going to take you home.”
Samuel drove slowly on the way back, the girl in front taking the brunt of the icy wind, her red scarf wrapped around her face. He could feel her liveliness returning, and she started to enjoy the ride. Samuel pulled some quick maneuvers that made her squeal. The pain in his own chest lifted.
As promised, he received his blood payment when he returned the girl to her father. He watched the joy return to the parents’ eyes at having their precious child home safe. It was a joy Samuel would never know.
Satisfied with his night’s work, Samuel slipped out the back door.