Bringing someone home was supposed to be a good thing. It meant he didn’t have to go hunting for someone for a while, and had a few days of sweet reprieve. That wasn’t even getting into the very simple fact that eating was always kind of fun, no matter how anyone else might have felt about it, so the fact that the first thing he heard when he opened the door made his mood drop was not good.
He could hear four sets of heartbeats.
There was his--slow and methodical, like his heart could barely bring itself to beat at all--and that of his date, light and fluttery and more than a bit excited. In the distance, in the parlor, he could hear a similar slow and methodical beat that he would recognize anywhere as belonging to Paul.
There was, very unfortunately, another heartbeat. Racing, not with fear, but with something else. Excitement? Arousal? it probably didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was there, in his parlor, when it was his turn to bring someone home.
Richard let out a little huff, gesturing for his companion--small, blond, and almost definitely strung out on something--to go in.
“It would seem my roommate brought home a date too,” Richard said. “You might as well go in.”
Paul’s head popped around the doorway, giving Richard a sympathetic look.
“Oh, you were lucky too?” He said, with a tone of genuine embarrassment. “I was kind of hoping you’d strike out.”
Richard carefully secured each lock as his rather confused junkie of a victim decided to head towards the parlor, over towards Paul. He followed shortly after, not bothering to hide the look of annoyance he shot Paul.
Paul gave him a sympathetic shrug, and mouthed the word dessert? as if that made any sense at all. The amount of blood it would take to fill them up was more than a human body could bare to lose, but draining an entire body by themselves would be far too much. Hunting in pairs always worked best. One person could completely fill up, and the other could get their fix, and everything worked out great for them, and significantly less so for whoever had happened to become dinner that night.
Having two was not a good thing. Having two meant there was going to be a mess, no matter what happened. If they both had one, they’d have a ton of extra wasted blood, and it’s not as if they could just send one home.
Paul, to his annoyance, had picked out a much better woman than he had. His was absolutely some sort of junkie, although Richard didn’t care to figure out what kind. She was thin, underweight, and probably more than a little desperate. He’d offered her cash for her company, and he had a pretty good guess what she planned to do with it.
Paul, on the other hand, had picked out someone far healthier. Young and pretty, with all the telltale signs of having recently run away. Well fed, but with slightly too well worn clothes that showed signs of having not been washed recently. She just looked confused, which was obvious, since she hadn’t expected someone else to show up, let alone someone else and a junkie.
“This is stupid,” Richard said pointedly, ignoring the women in the room. “It was my turn.”
“I wasn’t going to turn her down,” Paul said. “She needed a place to spend the night. She didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Richard rolled his eyes, and Paul’s girl--sitting on the couch with her hands on her knees, looking increasingly nervous, spoke up for the first time.
“Sorry, I’m just... who are you, exactly? I thought you said you lived alone.” The last bit was clearly aimed at Paul, who looked sheepish as he gave her a shrug.
“I still get paid, even if she’s here, right?” Richard’s own companion said, showing a startling lack of self awareness.
“Paid?” Paul’s girl said, her voice rising as her heart started to pound away in her chest. God, he was hungry, and he wasn’t going to let the argument just happen, so he cut it short immediately, raising his voice.
“Everyone shut up for one second,” he snapped, glaring at Paul. “It was my turn. What are we going to do about this?”
It was at that moment that Paul developed a smile on his face. Generally speaking, Richard liked Paul, but sometimes he could be what most people would consider cruel. No, scratch that--he could be what every person on the face of the earth would consider cruel. He was, more often than not, an absolute dick, even if he was far better at making people feel at ease than Richard ever would be.
“Oh no,” Richard said firmly. “I don’t like that look.”
“Come on,” Paul said, “It’s not like it’s going to make it any worse. Give it a try?”
No matter what happened, Richard reasoned, he was still getting fed. So there was no harm in going along with Paul, and then holding the entire fiasco over his head later depending on how it went.
“Congratulations!” Paul said with an astonishing amount of energy for someone who was so obviously hungry. He swung his hands wide, a showman to the end, and gave a little bow. He’d clearly taken Richard’s silence for acceptance, and after a moment Richard decided that it more or less was and opted to slink over to the side of the room to watch and see what Paul had in mind.
Even Richard’s junkie was starting to show signs of concern, her drug-induced stupor not quite strong enough to keep her from reading the room or the fact that the poor runaway looked increasingly terrified.
“Hold on,” the junkie said, her voice sounding awfully uncertain. “What is this exactly?”
“This is dinner and a show!” Paul said, his enthusiasm not nearly as infectious as he might have hoped. “Unfortunately for you two, you’re both the show, and one of you is dinner.”
There were a few moments of silence, and all Richard could hear were two sets of racing hearts. For a moment, he had to look away, forcing himself back to calm. He was hungry, and Paul’s theatrics weren’t stemming that at all.
“Dinner?” The runaway said, the first signs of tears appearing in her wide eyes.
“Yes, I’m afraid,” Paul said. “You see, both myself and my friend Richard here eat people. It’s quite unfortunate, but luckily for you, we really only need to eat one person, and we appear to have two. So! Quick and easy, we just need to figure out who’s dinner, and who’s just the show.”
The two women exchanged a look halfway between is-this-man-crazy and I-think-we’re-going-to-die. Neither was quite into a full on panic, and Richard was starting to bet that Paul’s date would never quite reach that point. She seemed to have skipped it and gone straight into weeping, which was a very different kind of agonizing. She was rapidly approaching the territory that he’d have described as ugly sobs, and if she reached the point of sobbing on the floor in the fetal position, Richard was going to have to put her out of her own misery for his own good.
The junkie was holding up a bit better. She at least had it in her to look upset, bordering on mild outrage.
“You’re going to eat us?!” She said, in a tone that made her protest obvious.
“No,” Paul said flatly. “I’m going to eat one of you. Try and follow along.”
A second look was not exchanged. Instead, the junkie pushed herself up onto her feet, clearly regretting her decision to wear heels, and balled her hands into fists.
“I’m not going to let you eat me,” she snapped, her tone firm.
“This is ridiculous,” Richard muttered under his breath. “Do we really need to go through this?”
“Of course,” Paul said, more to their victims than to Richard himself. “We need to give them a fair shot. If one of them is going to die, and one of them is going to live, it would just be cruel for us to decide. They need to figure it out for themselves. Hold on.”
Without any sort of explanation, Paul brushed past him on the way out of the parlor, leaving Richard alone with the two women.
It was at that point that the Junkie--more brave than she should probably be--decided to make a run for it.
Richard didn’t bother to catch her. He let out a sigh as the woman rushed past him, out the door and down the hallway to the entrance way. The fact that he’d locked the door behind her had apparently slipped her notice, because she struggled with the door quite a bit, kicking and yelling.
“Oh come on,” Richard complained. “You might as well come back. You’re wasting your time with the door.”
Much to his great annoyance, she did not, and Richard was forced to head down the hallway, grabbing the woman by her hair and physically dragging her back to the parlor as she kicked and screamed.
Paul was back, a box in his arms, and he looked down at the woman struggling in Richard’s grip as they returned to the parlor.
“At least I didn’t pick a runner,” he said.
“Shut up. What did you even get? She wouldn’t have run if you’d just stayed put.”
It was at that point that Paul revealed his master stroke, carefully depositing the box on the table. He’d gone and found, of all possible things, a board game: The Game of Life.
“Are you kidding me?” Richard said as he dropped the junkie on the floor, but despite his initial tone, he couldn’t hold it in--within a few seconds he was laughing nearly hysterically, and Paul joined in moment’s later.
The two women stared up at them, terrified, for the few minutes it took for Richard to regain his composure.
God, he was hungry. Was he going to last...
“How long does this take again?”
“Maybe an hour, tops,” Paul said, carefully setting up the board game.
Was he going to last an hour?
Well, he decided, if worst came to worst he’d just go for whoever had fallen behind.
“Alright girls,” Paul said, gesturing to the pieces. “It’s time to play. I hope you have some excellent luck, because you’re going to need it. The rules are simple enough... you spin the thing, and basically just read the instructions. Simple, right?”
Neither woman answered. Both looked terrified, and the junkie kept making glances at the door, as if considering a second try.
“Oh come on,” Paul said, “If you make us pick which of you gets eaten, we’re not going to pick at all, and then you’ll both die and it’ll be a great big waste.”
Desperation hadn’t kicked in yet. Not really. They were both terrified, but humans were inherently selfish creatures, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before-
The junkie had gone for it. She’d grabbed one of the cars, slammed it down onto the board, and spun. She looked desperate, as if playing first would somehow let her win, or give her any sort of advantage at all.
That was the problem with the game of life: In the end, it all came down to luck.
Paul’s date took some more prodding to get playing, but once she started playing things turned from pathetic to hilarious. Every minor setback was like the end of the literal world. Watching a grown woman break down because Aunt leaves you 50 cats. Pay $10,000 for their care was nothing short of hysterical. Even if he was hungry--and god, was he hungry--watching Paul flit around providing commentary on the proceedings in between giving his date a shoulder rub was enough to distract him.
It was just funny.
The junkie finished first, and seemed ecstatic about that fact until Paul pointed out that it didn’t mean she won at all. Watching the last three turns play out was significantly less fun, to the point where Richard reached over, spinning the wheel for the runaway when he decided she was taking too long.
“Hurry it up,” he said. “One would almost think you were intentionally trying to drag this out.”
Flipping life tiles was equally hilarious. Every single tile was like the literal end of the world, and every few tiles the runway burst into tears.
“Please,” she said desperately after her opponent flipped a $50,000 tile. “My name is Janine. I have a mom and a dad, and they’re probably really worried, and I have-”
“I really don’t care,” Paul said. “Honestly. You’re just full on wasting your breath at this point. You agreed to play the game, and now we’re playing the game, and now you’re worried you lost and you want to back out? That’s just not right.”
There was another round of sobs as Paul attempted to fumble his way through totaling things.
“It doesn’t matter,” Richard pointed out, his fangs already sharpening. “We already know who won. Someone has a stack of cash, and someone has almost nothing, and counting is pointless.”
There was no point in watching Paul fumble through basic math. The result was clear. The issue was that, even in Richard’s addled brain, he could tell this didn’t quite work out. They couldn’t just let the junkie go. Even if she was a junkie, they couldn’t just let someone who knew where they lived and what they did wander around. They couldn’t-
“Congratulations!” Paul declared, patting Richard’s date on the shoulder. “You won. That’s really unfortunate for her, I’m afraid, but you get to be dinner.”
There was about two solid seconds of confusion, and then Paul lunged.
The junkie went down hard. Richard suppose that was Paul’s version of mercy: She didn’t really know what hit her. One minute she was high on life, having apparently won her life, and the next she was on the floor, her throat located two feet away from where it was supposed to be. There was blood everywhere, and while a small part of Richard’s brain told him he should be focusing on where the hell the runaway was going, that part of his brain was very small indeed.
He was too hungry to think much at all.
Almost an hour later, feeling slightly giddy and maybe a bit bloated, Richard was forced to broach the very annoying subject. He knew the girl was still somewhere in the flat, her heart pounding like mad, but there was precious little she could do. There was no silver. There were no weapons. Most importantly, there was no other way out.
She was stuck there.
“You weren’t really going to let her leave, were you?” Richard said with a pointed look to where Paul was wiping his face clean.
“God no,” he said. “Of course not. But the winner gets the nice ending, so there she is,” he continued, gesturing to the body on the floor. “The loser gets a worse fate.”
“Waiting,” Richard said. “You’re going to just keep her around until we’re hungry again.”
“I don’t see why not,” Paul said. “There’s food in the cupboards, and water, and there’s extra rooms. Let her hide and think she’s escaped us, and then when we’re hungry we’ll hunt her down and drag her out.”
Richard made a small hmmm. It wasn’t exactly his style, letting someone else run around the house--what if she made a mess?--but it did mean he didn’t have to worry for a little while about what he was eating.
“Fine,” Richard said. “But you’re in charge of keeping an eye on her. If she gets out, it’s on you.”
“You have my word,” Paul said, with all the mock seriousness he could manage.
Richard waved him off.
“I’ll handle the body,” he said. “You handle the girl.”
Somewhere in the distance, Richard could hear someone crying.