by Mark H. Walker
The assassin sat at the bar and watched. It was closing time, but the couple would need to be told, need to be tapped on the shoulder and told. Heck, they would probably need to be separated with some type of pneumatic tool and then told.
You felt that way once, her tiny voice whispered.
Several kids shuffled out the last slow tune on the tiny, saw-dust covered dance floor, the braver guys cupping soft parts that they wouldn’t have dared touch four hours and eight beers ago. Others clustered around the thick oak bar. Most of these were guys —the night’s losers who sipped their beer and stared balefully at the shuffling couples. The assassin heard them wishing. Wishing that jerk in the blue shirt would break a leg so they could give the girl in the tight red skirt one last try, or wishing that maybe the guy in the plaid shirt would get sick so that they could move in on his chick in the blue jeans, who wasn’t that good looking, but all women looked better at closing time, or even wishing that the chick at the end of the bar wasn’t such a frigid piece of work. She laughed at that one. They don’t want to know how hot my blood runs. To know that is to die.
No the couple weren’t the last folks in the bar, but to each other they were. They sat in a corner booth near an open window where the wind from the mild Sediana night blew through her light-brown hair. The boy sat next to her, now kissing her, now talking, watching her as she laughed, and smiling at her beauty.
The assassin knew they were the ones. They would be the last to leave, and would have eyes for nothing but each other. The streets outside were dark. Hollis wasn’t a big city, and its inhabitants were ranchers and miners. Folks who rose at the break of dawn, worked hard all day, and went to bed early. Yes, the streets would be deserted, and the streets would be dark. She felt herself moisten.
She hated it, hated what they had done to her. She tried to deny the urgings, deny the genetic manipulations in her body, deny the need. But she couldn’t… not for long. There were good days, days she felt strong, bright, focused. But then it started. A distraction at first, then desire, and the overwhelming, dark, need. Like the junkies on the bad side of Hollis. Human husks, without money, without food, without even a glimmer in their eyes. Living —if you could call passing air through their lungs— for the next fix of crack. Yeah, she was a junkie, but didn’t crave crack, blood was her drug. Human blood, the hotter the better.
The couple stood, and that simple act sent an electric shock through the assassin. Oh yeah she needed it, needed it bad now. Deep inside, the tiny voice cried out. Oh God, if I could just turn away. Just leave. Just forget it. But the voice was small and her need was large. Yet despite her need she was cool, cool as if she had been bred for this, which—of course—she had been. The boy-man fished in his wallet for the beer money as the girl caressed his back through the light jacket he wore. The sight made her uneasy, but she didn’t know why. Was it that she had once caressed her man’s back that way? He threw a handful of bills on the table—obviously more interested in getting to wherever he and the girl were going than worrying about calculating their bar tab and, without as much as a glance back into the bar, they left, hand in hand.
The assassin was careful not to notice. The desire was great—blood pulsed in her temples, her heart pounded, her nipples stiffened—but her cunning was greater. The police would have questions tomorrow, they always did, and she didn’t want the bar keeper, or any of his remaining customers, to remember her leaving hot on the heels of the two. She rarely fed in the same town, and if she did, she never did it often enough for the law to connect the dots. Casually, despite the urgency screaming in her veins, she signaled the keep and paid the tab—tipping him well, but not too well. Doing nothing memorable.
She strolled out of the bar and into the street. She needed only to be still, smell the air and listen to the night, to sense the couples’ heat. North, perhaps 500 meters.Go south. Leave, the tiny voice said.
But she wouldn’t. Couldn’t. She crossed to the shadows on the far side of the street and began to run. Fly might be a better word. Her genetically altered legs propelled her at a blurring speed. The wind whipped through her hair and her vision tunneled, allowing her to better focus on —and dodge— the crates a grocer had left in the street, the dog, who whined as she leapt over it, and the parking signs that jutted over the sidewalk. She was a god, as fast as the wind. Her mouth curled, canines that had grown into fangs white against her evening-darkened lips, tears glistening on her moon-pale cheeks.
The couple turned into a small ally. The glow from the main road street light didn’t quite beat back the darkness lurking in the corners of the dead-end, but a young girl on a waitresses’ salary couldn’t afford better. It worried the boy. This wasn’t the best side of town. This wasn’t even the best ally in the worst side of town, and it was why he began wearing the 9mm in the shoulder holster under the jacket.
Her wheat-colored hair flowed over her face as she fished in her purse for the key, and for the thousandth time this evening and perhaps millionth time since they met six months ago, he marveled at her beauty. In a minute they would be inside, clothes thrown on the floor, the dark alley forgotten, his lips smothering her neck with kisses. A rush of cold air brushed the back of the boy’s neck, breaking his pleasant fantasy. He whipped around, nostrils flaring, eyes wide. He saw nothing, but then again the dim bulb hanging from the stunted tin roof over the door only served to exacerbate the surrounding darkness, repainting the ally’s shadows as it swung gently on its short cord. The girl raised the key with a small smile and slid it in the lock.
The assassin crouched on the tin overhang as the boy spun around, and felt it again—something about the boy made her uneasy. He had only to look up to see—an event that wouldn’t bother her—but of course he wouldn’t look up. It wouldn’t cross his mind to look up; no human could perch on the steep incline of the small dented roof above the door. But she wasn’t human, was she? Not entirely. If I was entirely human, I wouldn’t be here, would I, she asked, loathing pooling in the pit of her stomach.
She was cautious by nature and training, so she planned her attack despite the desperate need urging her on. That was the way her makers—at least her human makers—had designed her. She’d kill the boy first; he was the only threat. Actually neither was a threat. Her boosted muscles, reflexes, and mental abilities made her a match for a dozen natural born. But she was cautious, trained to eliminate the risks that could be eliminated, and minimize the rest. She’d kill the boy, although it would mean less to feed on, but she would suck the girl dry as her still-beating heart pumped the blood to the assassin’s waiting mouth.
Don’t do it, the tiny voice screamed. Her need almost laughed. I WILL DO IT, it boomed inside her head. The assassin never made a mistake, but—conflicted to the point of near insanity—she made one now. One of the tears that had welled in her eye, rolled down her cheeks and to her lips, reached the tip of her chin, hesitated and then fell to the tin roof, landing with a soft, clearly audible poink!
The girl turned the key and the tumblers retracted with a thick click. She swung the light door inward, and stepped inside the apartment, reaching for the wall light. The boy began to follow, but then—poink—something, it sounded like a drop of rain, struck the jutting tin roof. But there was no rain. The girl continued, but he stepped back, reaching under his jacket.
Damn! Roughly the assassin wiped her face with the back of her arm. And then looked down… into the gaping chasm of a pistol muzzle. She knew the specifications of every gun in existence, and was trained to use most of them. This was an old Beretta 9mm. Old yes, but also powerful; capable of punching a thumb-sized hole in her forehead, which is where the boy pointed it, and blowing away the back of her skull as the tumbling bullet exited.
Damn, damn! Now she knew the source of her unease. Of course! The boy wore a jacket in the bar. Why would anyone wear a jacket—even a light jacket—on a balmy night such as this? And then there was his reaction to her passage. Fear, yes, but also something in his wheeling about that hinted of more than prey, but rather predator.
“John!” The girl screamed from the apartment. “What are you doing!”
“Suze, get back inside, lock the door, and call the police.” His eyes never left the assassin. Not bad, she thought.
“But, John,” the girl’s voice wavered, thick with the sound of approaching tears.
“Just DO IT!” His eyes never left the assassin’s face. He’s ready, she thought with a hint of admiration. This boy is ready for trouble, but, she thought as she tensed her legs, he isn’t ready for me. The assassin bared her fangs with a growl-hiss that was half human, half beast, and leapt.
Complete, knee-buckling fear was the last emotion the boy felt. He had been frightened by the prowler, even weirded out —I mean, what the hell, HOW THE HELL, is she perched above the door— but he had handled it, pulled the gun, and sent his girl to safety. But that was merely fright; this was abject, total horror. The… thing… the …monster (he didn’t know what else to call it)… was baring its fangs at him, growling. He blinked, unable to believe his eyes, and then the monster was a mid-air blur. He pulled the trigger and the gun shattered the summer night, the bullet driving a hole into the tin and burying itself, in a splash of sparks and exploding brick, into the wall behind it. But the monster was no longer there; she was overhead, a shadow against the stars, and he pulled the trigger again. Boom! The bullet zipped through the ally air, hitting nothing. Then the monster was behind him, he tried to turn, but its hands were on him, stronger than a vise. He smelled its breath, oddly sweet, turned his head and stared into the fangs, inches from his face, and knew he would die. The complete, knee-buckling fear swept through him like an ice storm, and his world faded to black.
The boy sagged against her and the Beretta slid from his slack hand into hers. Even Better, the large voice said, I can bleed him while he lives.
No don’t, you CAN stop, answered the small voice. I WILL NOT STOP, the need bellowed, so loud that she thought she might have shouted the words. And, as always, the need won. The boy’s head lolled in her arms and she bent to the exposed neck, just below the Adam’s apple, and placed her lips on the warm flesh.
The pounding of her pulse was almost deafening, and at first she thought it was the tiny voice, but then…
It was louder, book-ended with sobs, and not of her head. She raised the 9mm till the girl’s face filled the sights. She hadn’t gone in like the boy had ordered, but rather, rooted by shock, fear or whatever (the assassin didn’t know) she stood in the door. Dark paint stripped her cheeks. No, it wasn’t paint, the assassin corrected herself, but rather rivers of tears colored with black mascara.
The girl flapped her arms feebly toward her apartment. “Ya…you can have anything…”
KILL HER! The need boomed.
No! The tiny voice was louder now. Louder than it had ever been.
“anything,” the girl continued, “even”… another sob… “me. Just” she held up a trembling hand and closed her eyes, renewing the tear’s onslaught. They opened, “don’t. Don’t k-kill him.”
Something spoke to the need. Spoke from the girls’ tear-filled eyes. It was an even greater need. The need in the girls eyes when she looked at the boy, the need for his life, a need deeper than the girls need to live.
“I… I love him.”
Stop! Ordered the ever-larger tiny voice.
I WILL NO… Yes you will, the now larger tiny voice commanded. You have loved. You remember. Stop.
The gun’s retort was loud, almost loud enough to silence the voices, and the girl dropped like a stringless puppet, the back of her head splattering the door behind. Softly, almost gently, the assassin pressed her lips to the boy’s throat and bit, the artery’s blessed blood gushing down her throat and over her chin, mixing with her tears.