Lastor was awakened by a knocking at the door of his hotel room. He lifted his head, tasting the brandy. His head spun, punctuated by knocking. Groping his way upright, Lastor scrabbled for the bathroom doorknob, finally found it, cursing, and opened the door. His head did not explode in agony, so he opened his eyes. The blinking red numbers said 10.30pm. At least the sun was finally gone.
But then… who the hell was knocking at his door at 10.30?
“Go away,” he croaked at it. “I’m paid for the week.”
“No, sir,” said the door, polite and calm. “I bring a letter, for your eyes only.”
Lastor rolled his eyes. “From who?”
“The Lady Audrey Spencer.”
The next thing the messenger knew, the door had crashed open and he was suddenly seized by the throat with iron fingers, pulled into the room, and slammed up against the wall as a dark shadow roared “WHO sent you???”
The messenger reached up and adjusted the glasses Lastor had knocked askew. “The Lady Audrey Spencer, sir. She was very adamant about it. I was told –”
“I don’t care what she told you. Give me the letter, NOW.” Lastor grated, his eyes blazing.
The messenger reached into his pocket and withdrew an envelope. Lastor snatched it and dropped him roughly, breaking the wax seal before the messenger hit the ground. Lastor pulled out the letter and immediately was assaulted by an all too familiar scent that erased any doubts as to the letter’s origin.
I realize you want me dead for what I’ve done to you. The irony is that I have been dying inside since last I saw you, and if you want me dead, all you have to do is nothing. I no longer understand my actions – their way has escaped me. I know you won’t trust a word of this; you would be a fool to, particularly now, but not half the fool I am for having to say these empty meaningless words: I’m sorry.
I am betrayed., and now their prisoner. I was first tempted by the answers they dangled before me, only to learn too late that they are nothing more than lies spun by a crafty spider. They will kill me if I try again to escape. Their coldness numbs my aching heart as my blood grows ever weaker and more sluggish.
Please, Lastor, save me from this. Only you can return me to myself. I do not live without you. I have always been
Lastor’s eyes rose from the letter to the messenger’s face. “Where is she?”
“She is being held in the land below, deep underground,” the messenger said.
“What makes her think I would do anything to help her?”
“She was your wife before, was she not?”
Lastor crushed the paper and threw it to the side. “I think ‘was’ is the key word there, little man. Now leave, before I kill the messenger.”
The little man brushed himself off and stepped over the rubble in the doorway, stopping to look back at the vampire. “Then you never really loved her anyway.”
Before Lastor could move or react, the messenger was gone.
Lastor stood with the messenger’s words ringing in his ears over and over, burning into his subconscious. Finally, he moved to the door, barring it as best he could. Going to the dresser, he pulled out a half bottle of whiskey and drained it. Drunkenly throwing the bottle aside and not really hearing it shatter, Lastor stumbled toward the corner which housed the crumpled paper. Unfolding it, Lastor read the letter again, slowly.
He left the hotel room, barely discernible from the shadows in the dim hall. His long black coat wrapped around him like a shroud, his pale face the only thing to show through the darkness. His eyes, dark and cloudy for so long, now burned with a fiery purpose. The hooker sitting in the stairway saw and hastened to move out of his path, a stained needle still hanging from her arm, teeth as gnarled as her veins. Lastor’s eyes swept over her, noting her indiscernibly. Pausing in his stride, he looked at her. Deaf to her protests, he plucked the syringe from her wasted arm, snapping it beneath his boot.
“Hey – what the—”
The hooker started upright angrily but Lastor grabbed her face and threw her sideways, knocking her head against the wall. She slumped to the floor, senseless as he stepped over her, wiping his hand fastidiously on his coat.
Stepping out onto the street, Lastor inhaled deeply, tasting the air. Without hesitating, he turned left, following the messenger’s smell.
Lastor pushed a door open and was immediately assaulted by the pounding of industrialized gothic beat. The walls were black with red trim and the babble of voices almost drowned out the music. Different kinds of smoke hung thick in the air. Dimly lit bodies in various stages of undress undulated beneath multicolored lighting. A DJ with a bored face was mixing techno at an elevated console behind a spool of razor wire.
As Lastor’s eyes moved over the room, he spotted the messenger sipping something red from a rocks glass and playing with a cherry stem as he nodded politely at the pretty thing that was chatting him up. As Lastor watched, the messenger stood up and said something to the pretty girl, taking her empty glass, before picking his way delicately through the crowd to the bar.
Lastor moved between the patrons and materialized behind the messenger, waiting for him to deposit the empty glasses on the bar, before grabbing him by the back of the collar and steering him forcefully through the crowd and out a nearby service entrance. The messenger did not look surprised to see him.
“You will tell me how to get to the land below,” Lastor said.