There are two “you”s.
Life is about fun and violence. Drinking, dancing, sex, necks snapping, crazy parties, hot guys, screams, blood, fast cars, loud music, sweet victims, rushing death. It’s sweet and sour, hard and fast, exactly what it should be.
The guys are fun to dance with, fun to screw, and fun to eat. Mostly they don’t even get time to scream – but occasionally you draw it out, just for the fun of watching the look on their faces. Then there’s the chicks, who are so quick to dismiss you (eyes rolling, hair tossing), and then so quick to cry and beg. So quick to crush. So cute.
And there’s death, destruction, dancing, rocking, booze, blood, the hunt, the kill, the rush, it’s all noise and hunger, clawing crashing racing hurting, hurting so good, it’s toxic, enthralling, perfect madness and wonderful chaos…
Then, one day, you realise you can’t stop.
In health class back at school, once they did this preaching sob story about beer, ecstasy, and everything else worth trying, and how addiction was this little monster, right, drawn in blue marker on Turner’s whiteboard, and the more it’s fed the more it grows until it’s dragging the stick figure person along behind it, all the way over to the side of the whiteboard marked “DEATH”, and the point was that the addiction monster was too big to control so it controlled people instead. You put your feet up on the desk and informed the room that the addiction monster was a wimp, and should go ahead and slit the guy’s throat right there, rather than dragging him the whole way, and then you flipped Turner the bird, she gave you detention, and there went another long day at Squares and Losers High.
But now, you’re remembering that.
It’s like there’s this thing inside you, drawing you on. The violence. The hunger. It’s you – it’s all you – but it’s almost like it’s not you, because you can’t quite hold it back.
You hate being controlled.
So, like, three nights later, there’s some kid lost in the mall (Who lets their kid wander alone in Sunnydale, for fuck’s sake? Idiot.) and he’s ripe and ready, probably a screamer, perfect start to the evening. And every part of you wants to do what you do so well… so you walk over, take his hand, walk him over to the security desk, say “Hey – this kid needs to find his mom,” smile, and walk away.
If that controlling bit doesn’t want to do it – and it doesn’t, it’s screaming for blood – then it’s gotta be all you. For sure.
Client: Melanie Tomlinson
- husband (Paul)
- possible affair
- claims MBA program (UC Sunnydale), 2 days/week plus alt. weekends
- turned up to class
- class cancelled
- to nightclub
- floozy, red dress, long hair, lipstick
- temptation 1, matrimony 0
He’s not a regular – not just because you haven’t seen him around before, but because he’s not a guy who’d be a regular. Too old, for one. The clothes say “outsider”; the attitude says “new in town” which also means “victim”; but the scars and calluses say “cop”. No, not cop – P.I.
He’s watching Dagmar – she’s at the bar, toying with another boy toy – with a look that’s part lust, part curiosity. Rookie.
Bad-you fed an hour ago and isn’t too hungry, but still rears up inside you, wanting to take him, fool him, kill him, leave him in the gutters. But good-you hasn’t gone girl-scout in nearly a month, so it’s time to play again.
You put down your glass, and saunter over.
“Don’t let ’em roll outta your head, Pops. Crowd in here, you’d never find ’em before they got stepped on.”
He jumps half out of his skin, but plays it cool. “Sorry, miss?”
You nod in Dagmar’s direction. “Wouldn’t get my hopes up there; she’s way past your speed, and looks like she’s already got one on the line.”
“The, err, the young woman in the–?”
“In the spray-on outfit, right.” You grin. And he’s hooked – bad-you is on alert, calculating how much you need to play it to get him out the door and into your fangs. Good-you plays it cool.
He looks at you carefully. “Then you’re acquainted with the lady in question?”
“Keep the drinks coming, Pops, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about her. Stuff you wouldn’t believe, even.”
Another careful look – but he’s looking at your expression, your outfit, your eyes. Hasn’t checked the skin-tone. Hasn’t counted how much you’re breathing. Hasn’t noticed that you’re on edge, leaning in, smelling the faint whiff of a fresh meal that would be so good to rip into…
Newbie. He won’t last ten minutes in this town. Not without some help.
“Joe will do.”
“Yeah, whatever.” You lean forward. “What I’m saying is, you want to be careful with Dagmar. I mean radioactive careful. Telephoto lenses, parabolic microphones, never let yourself get within a city block unless there’s a crowd around.” Hell, strike that. “Never that close no matter what.”
He frowns. “And your name is …?”
“Call me Megan.”
“I used my real name,” he says, pointedly.
“Yeah, well, you’re a visitor.” And bad-you wants to vamp out just to see him freak. You push it down, and stay serious. “You’re outta your territory here, Pops. You may be the top lion in your own patch of jungle, but this is a whole different playing field. And even worse if you don’t know it.”
He takes a sip of beer. “I think you’ll find I can deal with different patches of jungle pretty well.”
“Not this kind. Unless… Okay. Somebody rings your doorbell at three in the morning, you open up, and it’s me. I ask if I can come in. What do you do before you invite me inside?”
The guy’s clueless. “I’d offer you a drink, but that would be after I let you in.”
“That’s what I thought.” It’ll be so easy. Take him home, take a drink, maybe tie him up for a few days, see how long he lasts once you’re cutting into him, how long he can hold on when he’s drowning in fear…
It’s not in control. It’s not going to be.
You grin again. “And I might take you up on the offer, but not right now. Trust me on this, Pops, this is one jungle where you’re gonna need a guide.”
He looks at you carefully. “And why would you do that for me?”
“For money. Why else?”
…long hair, lipstick
- temptation 1, matrimony 0
- $50 per day
- $200 bonus every time she saves my life
- don’t go walking alone at night
- don’t go into cemeteries
- eat garlic pizza (?)
- carry some wood (?)
By the next night, you’re starving.
You grabbed a quick snack after dropping Joe home – thank god for people working the night shift – and you were just thinking how much easier it would be, dealing with him if you’d had a full three courses beforehand, when it hit you: it would be easier. Easier is against the rules.
Bad-you swore yourself silly, but good-you left her lying there – sweet, tasty blood dripping onto the sidewalk – and went home hungry.
You’re still hungry.
Joe opens the door, looking incredibly tasty (for an old grumpy guy). He raises an eyebrow and asks “So… what was it I’m supposed to do before inviting you in?”
Nice memory. “Motel. Doesn’t apply here,” you say, and saunter in. He’s got all his gear laid out on the table: lots of electronic stuff, and a couple of guns. “What’s with the Rambo junk?”
He starts explaining it all, and you nod along for a while, bad-you wishing you could start testing out his equipment on his face and work downwards from there. He finishes, finally: “Any questions?”
“Not so much.” You move half the stuff down the other end of the table. “These are okay. Not the microphone – she’ll hear the noise it’s making. And no guns… although maybe the shotgun. It makes big holes in shit, right?”
“Look, sweetheart, the only sound that would be coming off that microphone would be ultrasonic. Not even a dog could–”
“Hey Grandpa, stick to your own job and let me do mine, okay?” He nods, slowly. “You’ll want the camera. Definitely the night-vision goggles. And – do you have a flamethrower, or something?”
The plan’s simple: Joe will follow the guy he’s trying to frame, and you’ll follow Dagmar. (She’s not Joe’s mark, and even though it’d be really fucking funny watching him go after her, good-you isn’t letting him near her.) So you split up – and you head to The Fish Tank, to spend your whole evening surrounded by snack food you’re not allowed to touch. Oh joy.
- eat garlic pizza (?)
- carry some wood (?)
- n.v. goggles
- do they even sell flamethrowers?
- Paul’s car (1)
- condo (5)
- turned up to class
- upscale apartment block
- photos: meeting
- photos: entrance to restaurant
- photos: leaving restaurant
- photos: arrival at condo
At ten-thirty, you call him.
“Hey. No sign of Dagmar so far.”
“No, that’s fine. She’s here. Just arrived at his place, so once I get a bit of conversation on tape, I’m done.”
“You’re using that microphone? I told you–”
“Hey – no problem. I broke in and planted some bugs around his pad.”
“You WHAT???” How can someone so off his nut still be breathing? “Get the hell out of there! Right now!”
He says “Right,” tersely, and hangs up – which at least shows he’s got some brain cells working. You swear, loudly, slam down the phone, and start running. You’ve got to get four blocks fast enough to save Mister Oh-I-Know-I’ll-Break-In-And-Leave-My-Scent-Everywhere-So-The-Evil-Vampires-Can-Track-Me-Down before Dagmar tears his head in half.
Good-you growls the whole way there, pointing out that you’d better get some mega brownie-points for doing this. Way too much effort for one lousy human.
Big fucking miracle – he’s still standing when you get there. Barely. There’s blood dripping down his face, and one leg’s definitely sprained if it’s not broken. But he’s still trying to fight back. And as much as you’re not into fighting other vampires, Dagmar’s so distracted that you dive in and stake her before she even knows you’re there.
No food for two nights, a wounded old guy to take care of, and now you’re gonna have to stay quiet until Dagmar’s minions give up on looking for you. Just brilliant.
Joe lies there coughing, then looks up. “Thanks. What was that she did – a flash-bomb or something?”
“She… yeah. Flash-bomb. She won’t be coming back for a while.” You shrug. “You owe me three-hundred fifty bucks.”
He doesn’t argue. You help him up. “Want me to take you to hospital, or…?”
“Just back to the motel. I can manage from there.”
You frown, uncertain – which he misreads. “I’ll pay you once we get there.” And hey – you saved his life; nurse-maiding him isn’t your problem. So you lift him into his car, and get going.
His car is a piece of crap – and your driving’s actually not much better – but the motel’s not far. And then you’re so focused on getting him up the steps that it takes ages to realise something’s off.
And it’s her.
“Hey, don’t let me interrupt,” she says, perky as always. “Oh, no, wait, that’s exactly what I wanted.”
Bad-you is frozen, ready to run. Good-you is more used to solving problems the hard way. “I got to get him upstairs.”
“Really.” She’s not impressed.
Joe glances at you both, with no clue what’s going on, but prepared to play-act. “Honey, we should keep going. Don’t want to keep your old grandpa waiting on a cold night, do you dear? Not with my arthritis acting up…”
Buffy narrows her eyes. “If this is another one of those bites-for-cash operations, you’re in for a really bad night. Or didn’t you hear about the last one?”
Screw this. “Look, blondie, can you chill a little? I’m not in your orbit, and this guy really does need some help.”
A moment’s pause, and then she finally recognises you. She laughs. “Sheila? All this time I thought you’d had enough brains to keep on running till you hit an ocean.”
“Yeah, well I like it here. And if you really want to fight me I’m up for it, but I’m telling you I’m not your scene.”
“Miss,” Joe interrupts. “I don’t know what your grudge is against this young lady, but I’d appreciate it if you could save it for some other time.”
She frowns. “You really don’t know?”
“He doesn’t know anything,” you say, pointedly. “I’ve been hanging round the last three nights, now. So unless you really have a problem with me making sure people stay alive, back off.”
Another frown, and then she leans back on Joe’s car and folds her arms. “Okay, I’m lost. So… convince me.”
And you weren’t expecting to ever try this, but hey – it’s going to sound a hell of a lot more convincing when you’re not clutching a mangled body and dripping blood from your fangs, so if there’s ever going to be a good time…
“Look, I don’t really get it myself but… I don’t act like the rest of the cold crowd. I’m not just an evil bloodsucker.”
Buffy raises an eyebrow. “So, what – you’ve been living off fresh air and sunshine?”
“No way. I drink, I just don’t leave any dead bodies behind me.” Not for the last few nights, anyway. And, thank god, you’re not one for signing your kills, so she’ll never be able to prove you wrong.
She’s sceptical. “Why not?”
“Look, I like being intact, you know? Dust isn’t my thing. I got my own routine – and I’ve made sure it doesn’t set me against you.” You fold your arms. “Or are you really going to kill me just for existing?”
“And you’re – what? Helping this guy out of the goodness of your non-beating heart?”
“Any problem with that?”
She considers it, then turns back to Joe. “She’s been helping you out? Really? She hasn’t tried anything?”
And Joe, thank god, tells it flat-out. “I’m here on business. She’s been very helpful as a guide and assistant, and not thirty minutes ago she saved my life.” He’s looking at Buffy like she’s one step away from crazy axe murderer. “She keeps telling me I’m out of my depth in this town, and I’m starting to believe it, but look – she stood by me. I won’t run out on her.”
Buffy nods, slowly. Then she steps up, gets right in your face, and says “Okay. You get the benefit of the doubt. Once. Next time I might not be in such a good mood.”
“Sure, whatever.” A lifetime of not giving a crap makes it easy not to show how tense you were. You turn, start helping Joe upstairs again, and don’t even watch her go.
“That is one seriously disturbed young woman,” Joe mutters. And he’s so on the money, but good-you is still in play, so you shake your head. “Don’t worry any about her, Pops. She’s saved your life a lot more times than I have.”
…photos: leaving restaurant
- photos: arrival at condo
- Dagmar gone, following attack
- bruised ribs, cut forehead, sprained ankle, gash on collarbone
- two nights of notes
- photos as evidence
- $350 to Megan
- $278 other expenses
Next time, you’re just going to rescue a puppy. Way less time-consuming.