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Pharmakos

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He first saw the girl at the club.

After the situation with Lenore, he found himself without a donor yet again. Normally, Paul would have had his lackey scout one out for him, but Paul is also short one familiar after his tragic demise.

She looked out of place, to be sure. Where everyone else wore makeup and tacky dark outfits, she looked like she came straight out of a fairy tale forest after visiting her grandmother's house.

She was standing next to a woman wearing a white blouse and a black pencil skirt, who was speaking to the manager of the club, arms clasped politely in front of her like a lady-in-waiting attending to a princess. She made for a ridiculous sight.

Paul clapped his shoulder.

"Ready to go?"

Richard looked down at his glass, which had a couple of shots worth left in it. He downed it and sighed in satisfaction.

"Yeah. Let's get out of here before any other Hot Topic reject starts humping my leg."

 


 

The second time he saw her was when she walked through the door of the basement with Paul after one of his hunts.

She was still wearing her ridiculous outfit. Paul held the door open for her, and she walked in with all the gravity of Marie Antoinette walking to her execution, hands still clasped to her front. He idly wondered if they were stuck like that.

"Hey, Richard, you'll never guess what happened," Paul said excitedly, closing and locking the door behind him.

"Let me guess. It has something to do with Little Miss Muffet over there."

Paul chuckled. "Yeah. Get this: I'm driving around, looking for dinner, and I find a guy who looks like he was just fired, cardboard box and everything. So I roll up to him, make small talk, then this girl walks up behind him and says 'He's going to kill you,' and freaks out the dude and he books it. I'd have shoved her in the car then and there, but then I realized, I've seen her before, at the club. Turns out she's the bodyguard for the 'business liaison' for some drug pushers the manager was dealing with."

The girl interjected at this point. "We don't sell illegal substances."

Paul gave her one of his winning smiles. "Well, I don't remember the FDA approving your merchandise."

"The FDA regulates drugs for human consumption."

"And your drugs aren't for humans?"

"No."

"Don't tell me they're for the vampires feeding in the club."

"Yes."

Richard let out a barking laugh. "Christ, where the hell did you get this nutcase?"

The girl narrowed her eyes at him but made no other protest.

Richard addressed Paul but kept his eyes on the girl, smiling devilishly at her. "And I take it you've informed her of what happens when you fuck with a vampire's meal?"

Now it was Paul's turn to let out a barking laugh. "Would you believe me if I said that she came willingly? Something about a non-interference clause."

"What the fuck is she, some kind of alien?"

"We're not allowed to get between the affairs of our clients, and our clients aren't allowed to harm us. If someone does one or the other, they're fair game for the offended party." the girl supplied.

Paul tutted at her. "But you couldn't help yourself, couldn't you? You just had to save that one guy from the clutches of a nasty vampire."

For the first time since she arrived, the girl lost the impassive look on her face, which was replaced with a chagrined look.

"Yes."

Richard moved behind her to brush her hair back from her face in a mockery of fatherly affection. "Now why on earth would you do that?"

The girl bit her lip. Richard could hear her heart thumping faster. "It's in my nature. I can't help it any more than a wolf giving chase to a running deer."

Richard had to smile at the comparison she chose to use. He leaned in closer to her neck, inhaling deeply. The girl broke out in a light sweat.

"Can't help it, you say? Well, let's see if after tonight we can't wean you from that habit."

 


 

"Can I have my eyes back? I can't really see where they are right now."

Still flabbergasted and mildly curious, Paul absentmindedly took her eyeballs from the top of the washing machine and handed the organs back to the girl kneeling on the floor, who took them from his hands with the grace of a person who fell down some stairs, as opposed to someone who had been mauled to death as she was. The two watched her with morbid fascination as she inserted them back into her sockets, blinking a few times as if to check their functionality.

Neither Paul nor Richard went easy on her. She screamed and cried just like the rest of their meals, but unlike the others, there was no end to it. At no point before they decided to stop did she cease. At first it was fun; none of their victims lasted this long. They even made a game of it, betting the other to see how long she would hold out before blood loss or shock did her in. It wasn't until they had damn near drained her bone-dry did they realize something was up.

She wasn't dying. Even when they felt her pulse disappear, she still writhed and struggled as if her heart didn't just stop.

And now here she was, putting her own eyeballs back in her head after snapping her flesh and bones back into place. She even looked a little less pale.

"So, um," Paul spoke up awkwardly. "You feeling better?"

"Feeling better?" Richard said incredulously. "Jesus Christ, Paul, she just survived a murder attempt and you're still trying to pretend to be a good guy here?"

Paul put his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Hey, what else was I supposed to fucking say? Thank her for a good time like she's some kind of cheap hooker? And don't call it a murder attempt, Christ." He turned toward her. "I do mean it when I ask if you're doing okay. Richard's just a bit... surprised at you, uh, surviving, is all. So am I, if I'm being honest."

The girl grunted noncommittally, seemingly still in a daze after experiencing what dinner is like at Paul and Rich's place.

"What are you going to do now?" Paul asked.

She took in a deep breath before answering. "Well, no doubt Sheila's rather irritated at me for leaving her alone for a few hours without explanation, so I'll be needing to get back to her shortly. And I don't think she'll be happy about me breaking the non-interference clause either."

Sheila must be the liaison she was with. "Does she know about your, um, condition?" Paul inquired carefully.

"If you're asking about if she knows I can survive whatever you just did to me, then yes. I wouldn't have been assigned as her bodyguard if she thought I couldn't take a beating."

Paul just blinked at her, utterly dumbfounded by this knowledge and how blasé she was being about it.

The girl picked up a container of detergent lying next to her and squinted at the text on it. "Oh, crap. Um, do you remember which one is the left eye and which is the right? Did I put them back correctly?"

The ridiculousness of the situation finally got the better of Richard and he laughed incredulously.

"Do you think I keep track of that shit when I pluck someone's eyes out? Normally, the people I have over for dinner don't ask for them back when I do take them."

The girl put the detergent down and looked up at Richard with her reinstalled eyes, which were slightly red and teary from the abuse they just endured. "Aren't you able to differentiate them with your vampire senses?"

"No, Jesus Christ, I'm a vampire, not a magician. Even if I could, why would I? Shouldn't you be able to tell? They're your eyeballs."

Paul bit his lips thoughtfully. "You should be able to figure it out, since you seem to have some kind of affliction of your own, right?"

Richard threw his hands in the air.

"Wait, why does this even matter? They're eyeballs, for god's sakes! Is there a difference between them? Would you suddenly see in black and white if you mixed them up?"

"I need prescription lenses when I'm not on-duty, and the grade for my left and right eye are different from each other," the girl said with the tone of someone talking about their food allergy. "I guess I'll find out the next time I wear my glasses."

Richard sighed in exasperation.

The girl shakily stood up, and Richard noticed that, though she was still covered in blood, she looked a lot less worse for wear. She looked like she was in a really rough street brawl, which is still a far cry from looking like a lamb that escaped from a butcher shop. Even her clothes seemed like it had fewer tears than it had a few minutes ago.

The girl and the two men stared at each other for a few seconds in silence before Paul hazarded a query.

"If you're not a vampire, then what are you, exactly?"

The girl smiled mirthlessly.

"I'm something that's both a little less and a little more human than normal."

A heavy silence followed, with neither of the two men knowing what to make of that statement.

She brushed down her skirts. "If you're done feeding, I must be going now. I've kept Sheila waiting long enough. I'll see myself out." The girl then walked towards the doorway.

It was then Richard remembered what situation they were in and moved to grab her forearm just as she was passing by him, prompting no more than a tired expression from the girl.

"Yes? Is there anything else I can help you with?"

Richard narrowed his eyes at her and gripped her arm tighter.

"Do not even try coming forward to the police about this. Non-interference clause bullshit or not, we have connections and we can fuck you up if you even dare thinking about it."

She let out a world-weary sigh. Richard didn't know whether to gawk at her for her lack of a reaction to his warnings or to be pissed off at her for not seeing him as a threat at all.

The girl looked up at him. "Contrary to my actions tonight, I'm not in the habit of sabotaging my employers' business dealings. I promise you I won't, simply because I don't want to lose my job."

It was then he could tell that this girl wasn't like the random shmucks they would pick off the street or the vapid vampire wannabe goths down at the club. There was no fear in her eyes. Instead, it was replaced with a look of cold calculation, as if she was gauging their strength against hers, identifying their blind spots, making inferences as to their next likely actions.

This was not an exchange between predator and prey. They were a couple of wolves and a mountain lion fighting over territory, sizing each other up, equal in strength. Something inside him told him that this is a fight they actually have a chance of losing, and the realization of it made him involuntarily step back.

This movement broke the stalemate they were in. She shrugged her shoulder politely to bring his attention to his hand still holding on, and he let go of her self-consciously.

"Have a good evening, Mr. Richard, Mr. Paul."

And with that, the girl left the laundry room.

Still reeling a bit from everything, the two just stood gaping at the open doorway. It took a few seconds for Paul to realize and point out that the front door is deadbolted and that she won't be able to leave until he unlocks it.

With this thought, they walked out into the hallway to do as much, but to their surprise, she wasn't there waiting for him to unlock the door. They would later find out she wasn't anywhere in the basement, or the entire building for that matter. It's as if she vanished into thin air, or else phased through the doorway.

For his part, Richard found himself questioning if the interaction was ever even real until the next time he and Paul visited the club and found her there with Sheila the liaison, standing politely beside her as Sheila spoke with the manager. When she met his gaze, she nodded at him once, as if greeting an old acquaintance.