I stood for a moment, which felt more like an hour, contemplating what just happened. Layla questioned me about Lucious. Chris questioned me about Lucious. I even questioned myself about him, but on a different level. Where the hell did he go?
Now I knew he wasn't being held captive, or some other dreadful thing, at Chris's mansion. I felt a sigh of relief escape my lungs to that thought. But I had no clue where he could have gone.
Immediately, I ran out the door hearing Layla's voice behind me. I wasn't about to stop. I needed to find him before Chris did.
The tri-cities was a large urban area that would take quite a while even for the most skilled elder vampyre in his speed and agility to search. I figured I would start in Northern and work my way towards Southern city.
With my speed, I found myself at the end of the city limits where the highway met the fields. There I happened upon a strange sight. It hadn't been long ago that I traveled to this side of the city and remembered nothing like this being here, just a small empty building.
The walls outside were lit up and the sign flickered: “Girls, girls, girls”. Strangely and without caution, I found myself approaching the building. Clearly, a strip club, I had forgotten for a second my mission as I wandered into the place. Overwhelmed, the bright lights from the dance floor blinded me for a second until I could focus in clearly.
I stopped and took in the décor. Just ahead of me I spotted the strippers, two of them, topless on the dance poles. They were quite beautiful, these women. I stared wickedly at the redhead, her hair as red as a ripe apple. The strands of her hair curled down exquisitely to her small, perky breasts.
My mind wandered. Watching her dance, her naked skin shimmying in the light, created an atrocious thirst in me. So much that I stood and swallowed down my desire before walking up to the bar.
As I sat down, the bartender eyed me quite suspiciously before tending to another patron. As to not feel such craving as before, I stared at the brick wall in front of me. The voices around me were loud as they came from behind. I very much wished to hear so much excitement at my little tavern. But I wasn't about to construct dance poles and hire girls for such tempting seduction.
Suddenly, I felt a body crash into my left side and when I looked over, someone had taken the seat next to me.
“Wooo..” the occupant of the seat exclaimed. “Hey!” He grasped onto my shoulder and pulled me in close. “Why you over here, buddy? You should be checking out that pussy on the dance floor!”
Such disgraceful terms.
“I'm just fine here, thank you,” I answered back before turning my head to see the man speaking to me.
I thought I'd recognized his voice. And as my eyes caught sight of him, my jaw dropped in awe.
“Shit! Mikael? What's up, man?” He strengthened his hold, hugging me tightly. “It's been what... years, huh.”
“Four years,” I reminded him. “Hold on. I thought you...”
“Were dead? Naw, naw, she hurt me alright, but not enough to kill me.” He smiled, almost drunkenly. “Wait.. she's... gone now, isn't she?”
I nodded in confirmation.
“I knew it. Could feel it.” He unwrapped his arm from around me and beat his fist into the bar. “Tell me who did her in?”
“Chris,” I answered. “But I didn't see the act.”
I looked over at him in shock. “You didn't care for your maker?”
“Hell, no. What a fucking bitch! I just wish I had the opportunity to flatten that whore myself before Chris got to her!”
I continued to stare at him in a stupor. I could never imagine someone hating their creator so much as he expressed. Certainly I could never hate Lucious. Despise him, yes. Feel rage against him, yes. But hate him completely to the point I could taste his spilled blood on my own hands... never.
“So, anyway, why you sitting here and not checking out the goods over there?” He pointed towards the stage.
“I have no need to stare at strippers,” I choked. Lying... outrageous lie.
“Aw, but you've never been here before, have you?” he wondered. “I come here all the time. Could say I live here if they didn't close and lock the doors at four in the morning.” He chuckled as he spun around in the bar stool to face away from me. “Come on!”
Immediately, he grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me off my stool to the floor. He held tightly, yet I didn't attempt to free myself. His persistence was somewhat exciting. As it were, it was like dragging a crabby old man to see naked, young skin. I was that man who sees the beautiful young women under the bright red lamps, and immediately feels young and alive again.
My desire ran wild as Sebastian pulled me closer to the redhead I spied earlier. She looked back at me and smiled before wrapping her right leg around the cool metal pole. Then, she grabbed the pole with her hands and dipped her head back, letting her hair flop to the arch of her back, exposing her delicious little nipples.
In the days of my denial, I hadn't need for sex. However, being with Serena just after my turning had changed me. All the things she'd done, and presented to me with the luce, had changed everything. So it was, I stared at the woman, feeling quite elated... and hungry.
I could almost taste her as my imagination ran away. Her blood running down my throat, her lips embracing mine, and her tight sex... wet and ready for me. I could feel her gasping breath upon my skin as I pumped into her. Then, slowly I would lean into her and scrape my fangs along her delicate flesh.
“Hey?” Sebastian's voice broke into my fantasy. “Calm down now.”
I noticed my breath was heavy and sweat was beginning to pour down the sides of my brow. Certainly, it had been too long since I fed. I wiped the drops away from my cheeks and looked at him.
“Come, let me show you around,” he said with a smile as he twisted me away from the beauty who continued to please the crowd.
We walked to the end of the dance floor. There sat a case, such as those used in a museum to display precious breakables and old artifacts. However, there wasn't a breakable jewel inside. Instead was a woman, vampire in fact, her face told she had not fed in days... possibly weeks.
I leaned in and looked at her. Her cheeks bowed in as the color in her lips had faded. She failed to return my glance.
“She's dying!” I exclaimed noting how weak she appeared.
Sebastian leaned in and looked closely. “Naw, well I don't think Raphael would allow that.”
“Yeah, the owner of this place. He's quite particular. No, this one is probably just being disciplined,” Sebastian told. “Come, I want to show you the real spark.”
He turned and went up a short set of stairs that lead away from the dance floor. Tables lined the wall, each one sparkled under the light of a candle on top of the tablecloth. However no one was sitting at them. I followed closely as he passed by a lone man sitting in the corner next to the dance floor. He was accompanied by two women on each side of him.
As we passed the man, I couldn't help but stare for a moment. He wore a finely pressed suit, almost like the ones Chris wore often. His black hair ponytail length, tied at the back of his head and stringing down his shoulders. There wasn't a wrinkle or spot on his face—certainly he was young. The strange man returned my curiosity, his eyes sparkled a sharp red gleam and I immediately knew he was a vampire.
“That's Raphael,” Sebastian whispered as we reached the back door of the bar.
I turned away from the man and faced Sebastian. “Seems quite young. No wonder this place has absolutely no class.”
“No class?” Sebastian chuckled. “Has more class than your dive, Mikael. Besides, Raphael is aged more than Serena... possibly older than Chris, even. Elder vampyre.”
Again, I stood in shock. I had never met anyone as aged as Chris.
“Here we are.” Sebastian presented the door in front of me.
It was a normal glass door with curtains hanging in front of it. Yet the contents of the other side were masked by a blinding red gleam coming from the opposite side of the glass. A large, muscular man stood in front of the door. His arms crossed and his lips neutral of any emotion.
The bouncer stood staring straight on at Sebastian as he made his way up to the man. Suddenly, from his pocket Sebastian pulled out a card, like a credit card or identification card of some type.
The bouncer grabbed hold of Sebastian's offering and examined it closely. “Go on,” he answered a moment after.
Sebastian snatched the card away and began to walk forward when the man stopped me.
“Who's your friend?”
“This is Mikael. Don't worry, he's safe.” Sebastian insisted.
The bouncer frowned. “You know the rules, Sebastian. Anyone without passage must be examined.”
“Pst, fine! But make it quick.”
The man held up a strange device close to my face. I looked out at Sebastian who stood waiting for me then I placed my eyes up to the device. Quickly, a flash of light tried to blind me, and the man removed the machine.
“You're clear. Go ahead.” The man stepped away and opened the door.
Sebastian went first and I lagged behind him in awe at what I saw before me. The room was quite bare, other than a few charmingly dressed men and women standing about chatting. An unoccupied couch sat next to the wall facing a large glass box.
As we came in closer to the main attraction, I noticed the glass box was not one but three holding cells. Two of them where inhabited. The first one I spotted was a man, about my age if I were still mortal. His clothes were stripped and he was hanging helplessly by his wrists from chains coming from top of the ceiling. A blindfold covered his view of the crowd on the other side of the glass.
“Probably should have taken out your contacts,” I heard Sebastian say to me but I was too interested in the sight before me to answer.
In the other cell, a woman stripped of her clothes knelt forsaken on the floor. Her wrists bound as well, this time to chains protruding from the wall just above her. Unfortunately for her, a blindfold was forgotten and she could see the entire crowd staring at her from the other side.
“What is this?” I finally asked.
Sebastian wrapped his arm around my neck. He drew near and I could feel his breath on the side of my neck. “This is the punishment room. Er, I'm sure it has a more official name but in a sense that's what it is.”
“For what purpose?”
“Public humiliation.” He leaned his lips closer to my ear then backed away. “Whatever crime these poor creatures committed, they are being punished for it.”
“Monstrous,” I exhaled my true feelings at the entire act.
“Inhumane for the mortal, true... but these, my friend, are vampires,” he explained. “For there has never been such a force to regulate us before now.”
“Is this Raphael responsible for this, too?” I wondered.
Suddenly, I heard the doors open and the whimpering of a woman's voice behind me came out loud and clear. I turned around quickly and spotted her being accompanied by two men into the room. She was naked as well, a blindfold covered her eyes and her arms were behind her handcuffed together.
I slightly recognized her as they came in closer towards the entrance of the cell. She kicked and hollered in protest causing the crowd around us to laugh. They highly enjoyed to see her being tormented, yet I stood in disgust by the sight.
The men next to her unlocked the entrance into the cell and escorted her past the young vampire man. Quickly they brushed passed him into the center cell which contained a crucifix fixed to the wall with chains. It would burn, scorching her skin yet being affixed to the cross would not kill her. I didn't think, anyway.
Sebastian walked up closer to the glass wall. Strange, his smile faded and a look of curiosity came over him.
“Nadia?” I overheard him whisper.
I turned my head and looked at the woman again, now being strapped to the cross by her wrists. Her skin began to wither around the area where her body touched the cross. I knew I recognized that face, though only briefly had I met her at Chris's mansion.
“No vampire deserves even this abuse,” I voiced quietly.
Sebastian remained hooked on watching her, his hands placed up on the glass now as his face was almost touching the smooth barrier between them.
Suddenly, someone touched my upper arm and a long, ragged breath cooled along my neck. Before I could look at the perpetrator, his voice came rattling into my ear.
“It is not abuse, dear Mikael. It is rejuvenation.”
“Hmph.” He tightened his grip, pulling me in closer. “What looks like misery from the outside is rebirth for them. They may be corrupted, committed into evil, but this is not prison.”
I shuttered. Quickly I twisted my body to loosen the hold he had around my arm and faced him straight forward.
“I really do not know what is wrong with you, Raphael. But I can guarantee this is just sick!” I stomped. “You call this rejuvenation, like rebirth. Then, what kind of magic is at play here to help them feel such exhilaration?”
“Oh, no magic here. Just a sense of righting their wrong-doings.” He smiled back at me. “Though you are very smart, Mikael. Would you like to join them in their awakening?”
“No, thank you. I shall be going now,” I answered in return before making haste towards the door, leaving Sebastian glued to the glass wall in front of Nadia.