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Shilling and sixpence

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The streets of London were covered in a heavy mixture of rain and foul smelling fog. The cobblestones glistened in the light of the gas lamps and Orlando shook his head in irritation; there would be no customers looking to take a trip to Herefordshire tonight. Not in this weather.

With a sigh he tipped his bowler hat further down over his forehead and retreated back into the doorway, fumbling in his pocket for matches. While everything was quiet, it seemed like a good time for a smoke. That was, of course, if his matches weren't soaked through like everything else.

Cursing quietly, he tried striking a match off the heel of his boot and watched in dismay as it failed to light. Wedging his last fag in the sheltered space between his ear and his hat, he considered going back to his rat-infested lodgings. The only problem there was that he owed the landlord rent and, with no customers tonight, all he had was enough money for a pint and maybe something to eat - certainly not enough to cover his debt. Of course, if he didn't clear his debt, then he wouldn't have a room at all. Which meant going back was not an option. Not until he had enough money to secure his room.

The click of heels on the cobblestones echoed off the walls and Orlando stepped forward to greet the passer-by. The man - definitely a man; no woman would be out alone at this time of the night - stood just within the light cast by the lamps and watched passively as Orlando switched on his most sultry smile. "Looking to take a trip?"

The man smiled; Orlando felt a shiver run down his spine as the light glanced off his skin, giving the impression of unnaturally long canines set in a handsome face, topped by dark curly hair, worn in the style popular with the upper class. The only wrong note was the few smears of paint on the man's hands. If he agreed, Orlando would be able to pay off his rent and still have some money left over. He'd charge him more, the man could clearly afford it - the rich material and the cut of his grey coat were fine examples of that.

"How much?"

Orlando shrugged, calculating quickly in his head as he leant back against the wall. "A florin."

The man raised one eyebrow and chuckled. "An expensive trip."

"The sights and sounds are excellent, I'm told."

The man laughed and Orlando shook off the recurring mental image of sharp white teeth.

"I suppose you have a carriage for this journey?" The customer stepped closer, out of the circle of light and once again Orlando felt a shiver run up his spine. He moved too fast, too quick, faster than Orlando would have expected... but he ignored it and stepped away from the wall, tilting his hat at a rakish angle.

"Of course. It's just down here."

The place wasn't a brothel, but it was far too low-class to be a hotel. It was merely a place where, for tuppence, anyone could rent a room for the night. The people who stayed there didn't pay much attention to any noises at night; they were far too busy making noises of their own.

Orlando nodded to the group of boys gathered outside smoking, ignoring their half-hearted jeers and catcalls. He strolled through the door, the man from the street following close behind. A short transaction later and they were in the room, the door shut behind them. It wasn't much, just a ancient bed with a stained mattress and a cracked wash basin in the corner. Shedding his jacket and hat Orlando turned his attention to the other man and pushed him down onto the bed.

"What's your name?"

"Does it matter?"

With a smile Orlando slid down the bed, busying himself with the fastenings on the man's trousers. "Not really. I was just being polite. Now, what can I do for you? A below job or maybe something...else?"


With a gasp, Orlando arched upwards under the man's cool hands, his own hands grasping the sheet as the gent's mouth latched onto the curve of his shoulder and neck, suckling hard on the skin. Maybe he should have worried when the man's paint smeared hands slid up along his own and trapped them against the sheet. Only when sharp teeth bit through the skin did Orlando panic, struggling against the deceptively strong body that pinned his own to the bed. Tears leaked out from under his lashes as the pain grew, rising in swells from his neck and spreading throughout his body.

The room around him seemed to shudder as the light slowly leached away from his sight. The last thing he remembered before the darkness closed in was the way the man's elongated fangs seemed to glow through the blood. And that was all.

Until he woke the following morning, still lying on the stained mattress, a shiny gold coin clutched in his hand.