"I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you."
This is what I excised from the vampire novel. It’s roughly eleven pages long (if it were, you know, actually in a book).
Andrej swallowed quickly as the woman stared in horror. “Your friend will be all right in just a couple of minutes,” he said, trying to control the damage. He had pulled back from the girl’s neck but he still had his arm around her waist to steady her. She looked as if she’d been drugged, but she was still conscious, and standing.
The dark-haired girl backed up against the wall outside the club, heart pounding. The loud pulsing music could be heard even out there in the alley with the back door closed. No one would hear her if she screamed. She could just barely see the fangs in his mouth, still with blood on them, when he had turned to look at her.
“Denise?” she said. She stood watching his latest victim slowly come out of the trance, trying to find a way to get to her, past him. Apart from looking dazed she seemed to be unharmed.
Denise adopted her ‘I’m not as drunk as you think I am’ pose and said, “What are we doing out here?” Her head started clearing and she looked back and forth from the man in front of her to the other girl, and back again.
“You said you wanted to come outside for some air,” Andrej prompted in a casual tone.
She wrinkled her forehead as if trying to remember. “Right, that’s right. It’s hot in there.” Denise looked around the alley, still confused, trying to get her bearings. Andrej slid his arm from her waist, and she wobbled towards the back door of the club, whether from drinking or the effects of what she had just been subjected to it was hard to say. As she reached the door and opened it, she turned back to wait for her friend and said, “Anne-Marie, are you coming?”
“In a minute,” Anne-Marie answered, not taking her eyes off the man.
Denise went back inside without her, leaving her standing in the alley with the vampire.
He didn’t say anything for a minute. If she tried to get away to alert someone to a vampire loose in the city, he wasn’t especially worried. The cops would write her off as a kook. But she could still cause trouble by reporting him as some kind of predator, trolling clubs looking for young women to do god-knows-what to. He walked over to her, grappling with her mind, trying to wrest her under his control. She was strong-willed, resistant, but at the moment also frozen from fear. With a small smile he leaned in and gently sniffed her neck, considering.
Anne-Marie flattened herself against the wall and stood stock-still, taking shallow breaths. His cheek was nearly touching hers, his arms on either side of her bracing himself on the wall behind her, effectively blocking her from any attempt at running.
“You’re afraid,” he said softly. “Don’t be.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Mmmm, I don’t know yet. What would you like me to do?” he murmured. He could seduce her, take her home for the night, see if he could convince her she hadn’t seen what she’d seen.
“Please don’t kill me,” she said.
He pulled back a bit and looked her up and down. “I’m not going to kill you. I don’t kill. Not usually, anyway.”
“But, what you did to Denise… You’re a … a …”
“Denise is fine,” he soothed, stroking her hair. “You saw her. I didn’t hurt her.” He picked up a lock of her hair and twirled it around one finger, all the while continuing to dig in her mind, trying to find the trigger that would subdue her fear. There was a block, a darkness there that he couldn’t penetrate. There had to have been some kind of trauma, something that put her very close to the edge of sanity. He decided to let it go before he reawakened those memories, and he had a better idea anyway. He looked directly into her eyes. She didn’t try to turn away from him, and he could feel her fear recede just a bit. He had some control of her, but damn, he hadn’t felt this much resistance in a very long time.
“You can’t really be… there’s no such thing as…”
“As what?” he said. His voice was soft, hypnotic, barely above a whisper.
“Are you?” she asked, staring into his eyes.
He held her gaze, a sexy half-smile on his lips as he ran his finger down her arm. He took hold of her hand, and began walking down the alley to the street. She went along, not resisting but somewhat hesitant.
“Where are we going?”
“I want to show you something,” he said.
He turned to look back at her as she stopped short. She was at arm’s length, although not trying to pull away. “It’s all right, I just want to show you where I live. It’s not far.”
At that she started trying to break free of his grasp and instantly he let go of her hand.
“I won’t force you,” he said, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it, “but I know you’re in some trouble, and you need a place to stay.”
She frowned. “How do you know that?”
“I read your mind.”
“You can do that? What do you want from me?”
As they stood on the sidewalk, people streaming by in both directions, Anne-Marie glanced around to see if anyone was listening or paying any attention to them. In typical New York fashion, no one seemed to take the slightest notice. Andrej kept his grip on her mind, He seemed like the calm in the middle of a storm. When he spoke all she could hear was his voice. Everything else – the street sounds, people talking – seemed muffled, as if she was hearing them through a tunnel.
“I want to offer you a job,” he said with the cigarette dangling from his lip.
“I need an assistant, someone to take care of things during the day for me.” He started walking again, and without thinking about it Anne-Marie followed.
“Are you kidding?” she said.
“No, not at all. My last assistant retired.”
“Retired?” she repeated sarcastically, trotting to keep up with him. His longer legs caused her to have to take two steps for every one of his.
“Yes. He was with me for a long time, but he decided to leave and start a small shop, something that wouldn’t keep him on the move so much.”
“So he’s still alive? I thought you meant…”
He grinned. “No, I didn’t kill him.”
“Where is he now?”
“In a little village in Italy. He always liked Italy. Last I heard from him he was thinking about getting married.”
“You still hear from him? How long did he work for you?”
“About twenty years. Yes we keep in touch now and then.” He didn’t add that he felt it necessary to keep tabs on anyone who knew what he was.
She looked at him in surprise. “How old are you? You don’t look that old. I mean, twenty years is a long time to work for someone.”
“So many questions,” he said, amused. “You don’t seem so afraid now.” By now they were outside the building where he lived. It was a tall unremarkable building, but clean and well tended. “Why don’t we continue this conversation inside?” he suggested, holding the door open for her.
Anne-Marie hesitated for a moment. “I guess if you were going to kill me you wouldn’t need to bring me here to do it,” she said.
“Of course not. I have no intention of doing anything to you.”
“Ok, well, I don’t usually make a habit of going home with guys I don’t know.”
He knew most of the reason she was here was because of a little mind control on his part, but it seemed better not to mention that just yet. She walked in then and he took her hand her to the elevators. They entered a small one at the end of the lobby which had but one floor choice: penthouse. Neither of them spoke on the way up. Anne-Marie hugged the wall on one side, while he lounged against the opposite side, trying to hide a smirk. He could tell she was still waging an inner battle, debating if she should try to run for it or see this through. He managed not to laugh, it would be too cruel to make fun of her fear, but his somewhat perverse sense of humor found the situation more comedic than pitiable.
As they exited the elevator and walked into his apartment, Anne-Marie gave a small gasp. The apartment occupied the entire top floor of the building, with soaring ceilings. The rooms were divided by clear glass walls which made the place feel cavernous. The furniture was magnificent antiques, finely wrought and beautifully crafted and carved wooden tables and chairs, all in seemingly pristine condition, along with several exquisite Persian rugs, interspersed with modern, high-tech conveniences. She’d never seen such extravagant furnishings. She walked slowly into the middle of the room and stood there, taking in an unfamiliar, but not unpleasant scent. Her gaze finally landed on a brown chair, plump and comfortable looking, covered in what she was sure was real leather. The plainness of the building itself had belied the wealth of the occupants, or at least this occupant. He watched as she slowly turned around, glancing at things, and finally back at him.
“Where did you get all this stuff?” she asked.
He gave a half-smile and said, “I’ve been collecting for awhile.” Then in answer to her unspoken question said, “My name is Andrej.”
“Will you stop that?” she said.
He decided there was no time like the present to demonstrate some of his abilities to her, and nothing like field experience. As he perched on the arm of the sofa, his left foot resting on his right knee, said “So what else can I do to convince you I am what you think I am?”
“I don’t know, I mean, you could have fake teeth, or anybody could get a coffin to sleep in…”
“I don’t sleep in a coffin, none of us do,” he interrupted.
“Us?” Anne-Marie raised her eyebrows and glanced quickly around.
“I live alone, but yes, there are others like me. And I can promise you nobody sleeps in a coffin. Most of the stuff in books is crap.” He dragged on his cigarette to keep from laughing. “Here, I know,” he said, and started to walk into another room, beckoning for her to follow. As they walked in and the lights came up she saw a bedroom that was apparently not used, bare of any personal effects, the bed not made up. On one side of the room was a wide antique dresser with a large mirror mounted on the wall behind it.
“This was my assistant’s room. You can see it’s not used now,” he said. He walked over to stand in front of the mirror.
He nodded his head toward the mirror. She walked over and stood in front of it. She saw herself, but where Andrej should have been she saw only a ghostly semi-opaque blur. She turned to look at him, then back at the mirror, then back at him.
“Oh my god!” She clutched at the dresser as her knees startled to buckle, but Andrej quickly scooped her up in his arms.
“Easy there,” he said, lifting her effortlessly. She was slender but still he lifted her as if she were no more than a small child, and carried her back out to the living room where he set her gently down on the sofa.
“It’s true, it’s really true,” she croaked hoarsely, head still spinning while she looked at him with shock.
“Yes, it’s really true,” he echoed gently.
“But… you’re nothing like in books or movies.”
“Disappointed?” he said. “Like I said, most of that is crap. Well, the mirror part is mostly true.”
She was still staring at him, unable to take her eyes away. “So what does a vampire need an assistant to do?” she asked, pushing herself up into a sitting position, curiosity getting the better of her.
“Run errands, pay bills, do shopping, things that I don’t like to be bothered with mostly. You’d have to live here, of course, but you’d have your own room so room and board is included, in addition to a salary. And I hardly need add, your complete discretion is paramount. Apart from that, there are few rules. You can pretty much do as you please.”
“Sounds like a pretty good gig,” she said.
“I like to think so.” He looked hard at her for a minute. “It doesn’t bother you, what I am, what I have to do to survive?”
“But you don’t kill people, like you didn’t kill Denise, right?” she said.
“No, I don’t kill my victims.”
“But you still call them ‘victims’?”
Andrej looked away, gazing out the window. It had been a long time since he’d had to explain himself to anyone, and inexplicably it made him uncomfortable.
“It’s accurate,” he said, “I don’t give them a choice, even though there’s no lasting harm.
But while you work for me, I will never take your blood. My assistant is always off limits.”
“Always?” She fairly pounced on the statement, then seemed embarrassed and added, “I mean, it just seems like an important point to get straight.
He laughed softly. “Before I can feed on someone I have to establish a mental link with them, take over their mind. But if you work for me you will always have your free will, which you wouldn’t if I were to use you for a feeding. Your friend Denise, for instance, was especially easy to manipulate.”
“Is she really all right?” she asked, looking worried again.
“She’s fine,” he said nonchalantly, “she won’t remember a thing.”
“You wrecked her memory?”
“I just blocked it from the point where she might be scared, or feel pain. Just before I bite, I put my victims completely under, and unaware. There’s no need for anyone to suffer, or live with that memory.”
“Oh.” She thought about that for a minute. “But how will I know for sure if you can do all that to someone’s memories that you haven’t messed with mine?”
He sat down in the chair across from her and lit another cigarette. “Quite frankly, you wouldn’t.”
Anne-Marie pursed her lips a little. “Is that why whenever you talk, my head feels dizzy? Did you do something to me?”
He gave a crooked grin, puffing on the cigarette. “Just a little coaxing, so you’d be willing to listen. You should be ok now, I’ve stopped. If you accept my offer, you have my word that I will not try to control you, unless there are extenuating circumstances.”
“We can get into it more later. But there are certain people who feel I’ve injured them and can be quite violent,” he said as if explaining where the coffee pot was kept.
“So there are people who know about you, about what you are?”
“No,” he said slowly, “that’s not quite what I meant. Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of different people, and had dealings with, shall we say, the types your mother warned you about. And, as I tend to come out on top in most of my business dealings, that has created some hard feelings in certain quarters. Point being, I need you thinking clearly at all times, in case there’s a problem. If you’re entranced you can’t do that. You know how Denise looked after I finished with her?”
“I can’t have you walking around like that. What good would that be?”
He smoked his cigarette for a minute giving her time to think about all this. He thought back over the other assistants he’d had, how they had reacted initially. They were always conflicted at first. It was one thing to sit in a darkened theater, watching the images flash across the screen, getting scared silly for fun, knowing you would safely walk away from the nightmares and terrors so ably constructed by a special effects crew. It was quite another to find yourself chatting pleasantly with one of those nightmares in his penthouse apartment. Some took it better than others.
She had been quiet for several minutes trying to make some sense of this, and he was beginning to wonder if he’d made a mistake in selecting her. “Do you want some time to think about it?” he asked.
She blew out a little breath, lifted her head up from staring at the floor, and with a determined look said, “No, I don’t need any time. When do I start?”
He smiled and nodded. “As soon as you can. Tie up whatever loose ends you have, and get moved in.”