Dee ripped her eyes away from the battered remains of her precious motorcycle. The miles she had spent in the wind were all her memories since she had joined the strange life of the Masquerade. It was the one truly good thing that had ever come of this life. Now it was scratched and bent like what was left of her heart.
"Can you save her?" she asked the mechanic her brown-eyed friend had brought them to. She tried not to let the desperation she felt creep into her voice.
The mechanic looked the abused Harley Springer over thoughtfully, then looked long and hard at the woman waiting for his answer. Damienne met his eyes and said nothing. "It's gonna cost a lot..."
"If you can get her back on the road it will be worth it to me. How long do you need?" Now she let a bit of concern show in her green eyes. "It's my only transpo..."
"About a month..." At the angry flash on the woman's face he added, "Maybe quicker if I have all the parts, I don't know."
Dee controlled the urge to put her fist through the man's countertop, reminding herself that he was only human. "I'll see that you get paid extra if you can get her up in two weeks. I need my ride. Go ahead and get started." She laid a stack of cash on the chipped counter as motivation for the man. She smiled at his reaction.
"Sure thing ma'am. I'll get started right away." He watched her back appreciatively as she walked away, long blonde hair falling down her lean dancer's body.
She got into Sherry's car, which she had borrowed for this trip, and headed for the Church instead of back to her apartment. She needed to feel like she had some sort of freedom and driving the car helped with that. She swallowed reflexively as she pulled up in front of the Church. The bikes parked there made her want to scream her frustration. She walked past them slowly, admiring the gleam of chrome and well-kept paint that most of them sported. Not the usual crowd here tonight it seemed.
She hadn't been inside long when one of the bouncers approached her.
"You're the one goes by Dee aren't you?" he asked her in the manner of one who already knows the answer to his question.
"Sometimes," she answered nonchalantly. She waited a moment before she accepted the envelope the man held out to her. She opened it and read it twice before she looked back up at the bouncer patiently waiting, a small keychain in his hand. When she held her own out it was steady as he dropped his little burden into it. He turned and headed for the door, clearly expecting her to follow him.
She could hardly believe her eyes when he stopped at the rare beauty in chrome and steel. She inserted the key and started up the classic Harley Tausina had sent as amends for the damage done to her Springer. She nodded to the bouncer who turned and went back inside the club. Yes, Damienne knew the value of this bike, but it was pale compared to the value of the memories stored in the Springer waiting for her back at the repair shop. She smiled as a memory of her sire came into her mind. He would have liked this bike and thought her silly for being so attached to the other one. He had always underestimated his own worth in her eyes. He had been with her when she bought the Springer, helped her learn how to ride it, died in front of her eyes while she was on it. She would use this bike as transportation while her own bike was being fixed, but she would not keep it. She thought the shopkeeper would probably drool on this one when she returned to his shop with his final payment. Until then she would ride, and now seemed like a good time to start. She twisted the wick on the classic, sending a shower of gravel out from the tires as she sped off into the night.
|The Dark Rules
The cold night air added to her giddiness as Damienne left the bar. She had been to a few clubs this evening and left several drunks sleeping in alleys or corners behind. Hunger satisfied, she smiled as the classic Harley roared to life.
Heading for the more open roads, she let the rumble of the bike lull her mind, letting it drift through memories and dreams. As her thoughts wandered she lost some of the nagging worry that had hounded her since she left the Church. As her eyes scanned the road and buildings around her, Damienne felt like a queen of the night. She basked in the power in her hands and in her blood until she felt it break out in a laugh that was drowned out by the motor beneath her.
After a few miles something unpleasant began to tug at the back of her mind. Nervously checking her mirrors after a few turns, Damienne swore. The truck had been following her after all. Well, better to deal with it on her own terms she thought as she headed towards her home turf.
The dark green pickup truck looked black except when it passed under the occasional street lights. Dee turned a few more corners, finally coming within a couple of blocks of her home. Her route had taken her past many of the neighborhood's alleys and she was ready when a pair of Harleys joined the truck. She swore again, knowing she would probably have to move now. She chose one of the alleys not inhabited by a dog and readied herself. The bike was parked at the edge of a carport and her .38 was in her hand by the time the truck blocked the end of the alley. She fired off two shots before the occupants had time to get out. She smiled as a shadow slumped over beyond a hole in the driver's side of the windshield. One down, three to go. Her eyes sought out the truck's passenger in the darkness which protected her in shelter of the carport but left him nearly helpless as he stood almost in silhouette to her. She fired another round, carving a gruesome tunnel in the top of his head where it had been framed by the window of the truck door he had tried to hide behind. She returned the pistol to her coat pocket as the two bikes pulled into the other end of the alley.
Still as a lioness in the tall grass she waited while the two riders parked their bikes and began to walk up the alley. Not until they were about 20 feet away from their rides did she move. Now she released the force of her blood and whipped past them, putting herself behind them, knife in hand. One of them was doubled over, clutching a gushing wound in his side by the time she stopped. The other held a gun in a shaking hand. When his eyes finally caught up with her she had his hand in an iron grip and his eyes locked, lost, in hers. She grinned slowly, teeth bared, as the crunching sounds rose from under her fingers. The gun fell to the ground with a dull clack from his now useless hand. The taste of his fear tainted his blood as she sunk her fangs into his neck.
Wrapped in the thrill of blood, she turned her attention to the still-living man on the ground. He was inching towards the gun his partner had dropped. A groan escaped his lips as her boot heel landed on his hand and ground it into the gravel paving the alley. She leaned down to look into his face. She recognized him from one of the slimier places she had been visiting in the last week.
"Thought it would be easy to steal the little woman's bike huh?" She let the malice drip from her voice and took pleasure in the fear on the man's face. She grabbed him by the collar and dragged him up to his feet. She made no effort to be gentle as she closed her jaws on his throat.
She dropped him there in the dirty gravel when she was finished with him. Now she knew she must be quick, before anyone came to investigate the shots. Not that the police would hurry to this part of town, but they would arrive eventually. She picked up the gun that the man no longer needed. Wiping it down quickly, she placed her own .38 into his hand. Let him take the blame for the ones in the truck. She wished she could keep the bikes, but there wasn't time. There was enough of this one's blood on the ground to appease the cops and coroner. They didn't care much about dead bikers anyway. She searched them all, taking what cash she found, as well as the gun they had brought. Not a bad haul from this pack of thieves.
That only left the bloodless one. She quickly pushed his ride into the carport, then hefted him onto her bike. She pulled his arms over her shoulders and twisted a bandana around his wrists to keep him in place. Just had to get him out of her hood was all she needed. She aimed the bike toward an industrial area a couple of miles away and dumped the body down a gully already covered with brush and other trash.
She thought about the best route home to avoid any investigation. Too bad the sun would be up soon she thought. She headed directly back, but by a different route, one she hoped would take her home from the opposite direction of the thieves' alley. When she was still about 3 blocks from her apartment she shut the loud motor off and started pushing. Keeping to the friendly shadows, she felt relieved as she finally pushed the bike into the small shed serving as her garage. She could see the ghostly blue flickers in the distance that told her the cops had found those who had lost in this night's dark game. She was glad she knew the rules.
The pearl paint reflected the moonlight back into Damienne's eyes as she carefully waxed the fenders and gas tank of her motorcycle. The pale light overlaid her green eyes, giving them an animal glow. Her face was calm, unknowing of the effect as she worked and thought.
Her wounds from the spar with Tad were gone, but she knew she had been foolish to have put herself in the position to get hurt in the first place. The shake of her head was nearly imperceptible as she mentally kicked herself. No one knew this Tad, and no one had known she had been with him. He was a much better fighter than she was and could easily have finished her. She considered that for a moment and was a little disturbed that being killed wasn't really what was bothering her. No, that wasn't it at all.
She let her mind drift back to her past. For a few moments she was back at Berkeley, grooving with her friends. Her face was beautiful when she smiled at the memory. No one was there to see it though. She ran the names of those old friends through her head in a silent litany. Most of them were dead, or old now. No one was left who would remember her. No one missed her. If Tad had killed her it wouldn't have mattered to anyone.
She cursed the masquerade and this life of running. She looked at her carefully oiled saddlebags and the toolpouch on her handlebars. Ready to fly at a moment's notice. It was the only safety she knew. Make no friends to tie you down, to be used against you. Yes, that was logic. Safer for them, safer for her. It hadn't bothered her much at first. The excitement of the road had occupied her mind, and there had been her sire, her one true friend. After his death, she had drifted, not wanting to feel anything anymore. Then, when the grief had dulled, there were still so many roads calling her. It had been enough. She wondered what had changed.
As she kicked the bike to growling life, she thought maybe some changes were good.
Damienne guided her Harley Springer casually through the streets of Dallas. The low rumble of the engine combined with the lazy pace added to the impression of some great cat prowling its turf. She smiled in the chill night breeze as Halloween displays in store windows reached out, trying to grab the attention of shoppers like monsters after victims. She ran her tongue over the tips of her canines. She'd need food soon. She shook her head at the silly cardboard images. Halloween was when nightmares ruled and monsters played. And she wondered what a monster would want to be on that day.
She turned another corner following the random path of her thoughts. Distantly, she realized she was heading in the general direction of the Church. Her Malk friends were sure to have something up their collective sleeves for Halloween. It could be fun to humor them and it certainly didn't hurt her clan's current image with them if she enjoyed their company sometimes. But Dee had her own way of doing things, and she wanted something of nightmares in it. She stopped for a light and looked over into the green face and yellow eyes of a cardboard vampire haunting a small storefront. In a sudden fit of desperate rage she bent down and picked up a small chunk of chipped concrete from the road, then threw it at the ridiculous image in the darkened window. She sped off in satisfaction when the shattered glass dropped the decoration out of sight.
Mulling over the possibilities, she considered her own nightmares. She pulled out the memories like a stack of Mali's police photos, trying to view them with a detached calm she never felt upon awakening from them. In her mind she smelled whiskey-soaked breath and felt scratchy whiskers from under a sloppy drunk. By the time she met her sire, she had been terrified of her husband. But Brujah blood had burned the fear into a rage she had wielded against him like a weapon. It was a human's nightmare, hers no longer. Her thoughts wandered down forest roads she had traveled in this unlife. Distant howling had awakened her in terror on many of those nights. Luckily, she had never seen werewolves in action. Her only knowledge of them came from hushed stories shared in havens during her travels. She hoped she never got closer than a nightmare to the vampires' greatest enemies. In the distance she heard a siren and turned the motorcycle in that direction. As she got closer to the sound, she smelled the smoke. Looking up and out she saw the billowing clouds of it riding the wind. A few more blocks and the flames came into view. Her hands twitched on the brakes but she forced herself to go on. A little closer, just where she could see the fire ripping through the life of a family as it consumed their home, she pulled into the mouth of an alley and watched. She felt their helplessness as all they loved was devoured before their eyes. She blinked and forced herself to remain calm when she thought she saw a figure walking in the flames. She didn't realize she was trembling until she felt the hardness of the handlebars biting into her hands where they clenched themselves against an agony that had never completely healed. A sound snapped her out of the hypnotic grip of dancing flames and scorching memories. It took a moment before she realized it was her own sobs she heard.
Quickly she kicked the Harley to life and roared away. The wind would blow out the flames in her mind if she could only ride fast enough, far enough. Her cheeks were stiff as the tears dried on them. The beautiful deadly dance of fire called her to come back, whispered promises of warmth and love. She gritted her teeth and reached for the rage. It was all she had left of him, since the fire had taken the rest away.
By the time she reached the Church, the wind had given her its cool gift of calm. On Halloween she would embrace her nightmare. She would be the dancing hungry fire.