Detective Gregory Bates called in sick that Wednesday morning. He also reported sick on Thursday and Friday. On Monday, he went into his office and asked to see Lieutenant Kelleher immediately. Greg announced his retirement, and the fact that he wanted to retire by Labor Day, about two months away. Lieutenant Kelleher, while not ecstatic, was happy. Greg should have an easy job to take him into retirement. He deserved it.
The Lieutenant got Bates a position vetting other detective's reports. It was slow and boring work, but it would keep Greg occupied until his retirement. Greg spent all of his free time surfing the web and doing research. One night, around eleven, he removed a business card from his briefcase that belonged to a woman in New Orleans, and he placed a call. The call was returned about one hour later.
Greg had always been a friendly and helpful neighbor, but a quiet and solitary man. So the neighborhood was pleasantly surprised when he began receiving visitors. During the day, a nice looking young man in his late twenties would call. Sometimes he would drop off some books for Greg to read. At night, a tall, lean man on a Harley or Gold Wing would show up. He wore his hair in a ponytail, was always in Levi's, and spoke to whoever was on the street. He had a mellow baritone for a voice and dripped charisma.
Greg's retirement came and went. He had a nice dinner with a few co-workers, got his plaque from the State Police, and said good-bye to police work. He took a few days off, and then got very busy for a retiree.
He started work on the house. Various items were sold off or given away. Greg stated that he was just making his retirement as easy as possible. What he kept was his library and his music collection. He also hired a contractor, and had him do remodeling work on the three bedrooms. The kitchen and baths were redone, and new carpeting put throughout the downstairs. Greg did some of the work himself.
He also started going out at night. When people asked him where he was going, he would simply reply, "To visit a friend near Wilmington." The neighbors wondered if it was the charming bike rider.
One night, during a visit to Jack's club, around two in the morning, Jack, Greg, and Henry were chatting upstairs in Jack's study. The conversation had taken a very serious turn.
"What will it be, Greg?" asked Jack. "A full embrace or do you wish to start as a ghoul, like Henry? You have studied much, and learned much, and there is no doubt of your intent to join us. Now, you need only decide in what capacity."
"Well," said Greg, softly, "it's just that..." He trailed off.
"Your concern," said Jack, leaning forward and lighting a cigar, "is that we serve Satan, or Lucifer, or some such creature. Let me assure you, Greg, that your fears are built on the superstitions that we created. I'm not even sure that there is such a creature. You have seen two demonstrations of vampire power, but that power has a tremendous responsibility. The community would have never permitted me to extend the offer if we were not certain you could handle it."
"A ghoul's life ain't so bad," said Henry. "You can still work days, and you get a lot of benefits of being part of vampire society. You can be a ghoul for a while, and then be embraced. If you decide to retire, the vamps make your retirement painless and permanent. And you age very slowly. You would never have guessed my real age by my looks."
"It's a tough choice," said Greg, grinning.
"I think you have already made up your mind," said Jack, with a sly smile. "And I do respect your decision. You will be able to keep your pipes, your beloved books, and your music. As I said, we all cultivate some things human. When I was embraced, in 1704, my initial loves were cigars and fine red wines. I still have a few cellars in Spain with about $800,000 of fine reds. In the sixties, I discovered motorcycles."
"Who embraced you?" asked Greg.
"Marie. At first, we were lovers, and then we embraced."
Greg's eyebrows shot almost to his hairline, and then he grinned. "You old hound dog."
"Actually, it was quite simple," said Jack, taking a puff on a cigar. "I was reading law at Oxford in 1698. My father got badly in debt, and, to keep him out of prison, it was suggested I go to Jamaica and help work off the debt. I was to be an overseer at a sugar plantation in the Trelawney parish."
"I always abhorred slavery," said Jack. "The slaves were pretty cruelly treated at this plantation. I set about making things right. The slaves, however, were a silly, superstitious lot. They would make noises about the witchy woman up in the hills. I went up to see her one day, but she had about six guards with firearms guarding her hut, and there was one unarmed me. The guards told me to return after nightfall."
"I returned after nightfall," said Jack, gazing at the ceiling. "I spoke with Marie, and she helped me keep the slaves under control. We soon became lovers. She was feeding on me, although I did not know it at first. One night, she embraced me. We stayed together for about 150 years, moving to New Orleans when the slaves began to suspect. I moved around a bit; Marie has always preferred the bayou."
"I think he just made his decision," said Henry.
The next evening, Greg fired off an email to Marie. She answered two days later, with very explicit instructions. Greg booked a ticket on the Crescent, and savored the last daytime train ride he would ever experience.
When he got to New Orleans, he checked in at Marie's club and was shown by her ghoul to his room. The club was in a large rectangular building, with a lovely courtyard. Greg was a give a room along the back on the ground floor. He immediately made himself busy, learning to tend bar, doing general cleanup in the garden, and helping with the books. He quickly earned the respect of the staff. However, after two weeks, he had seen no sign of Marie.
It was now early November, and Greg had been working and living at Marie's club for a month. He had become very depressed. He had not seen Marie, which was the reason for his choice.
It was a Thursday night, the second week in November, around nine-thirty. A group of eight college girls was hanging at a table, laughing, talking, and having a few beers. Greg was behind the bar. Marie entered through the front door, dressed in jeans and a peasant top. She stopped at the table with the college girls and said hello, engaging in some small talk. And then she looked over at the bar and gave Greg that special smile.
Greg melted. Even the college girls could sense the energy. They got quiet and waited to see what would happen next. Marie slowly walked to the bar, took Greg's left hand in her two, pulled herself close to him, and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips. Then she slowly and very sexily walked upstairs, pausing at the bottom of the steps to smile and give Greg her very best "come hither" look.
Greg followed Marie upstairs and into her bedroom. They kissed passionately, and then fell into lovemaking. The lovemaking was fast and violent. Greg had not made love to a woman in over twenty years, and it showed. When they had finished, and rested a bit, they couple made love a second time. This time Greg was slower and gentler, being more considerate of Marie. When they had finished, the pair lay side by side on the bed, Greg covered in a gentle layer of perspiration. He rested.
After about fifteen minutes, Marie propped herself on her elbow and began to stroke Greg's face with her fingers.
"Are you ready, love? Once I start, there is no turning back," she asked.
Greg smiled, and answered throatily, "Yes."
Marie straddled Greg, and began to kiss his face, then moved to his neck. She kissed and nibbled all over his neck and chin, and, when she had found the desired spot, she bit. Her bite was not hard, but was gentle. She pushed deeper and began to feed. Greg gave a soft cry and then clung to the vampire.
Marie kept drawing on Greg's blood, pulling it into her mouth and swallowing, always listening to his heartbeat. At first, it became very strong and fast. Then it began to slow and get weaker. Marie continued feeding, sensing more than listening, to Greg's pulse.
When the heartbeat was very faint and weak, and Greg was very close to death, Marie stopped feeding. She pulled her mouth away from Greg and slit her left wrist open with her right index finger. She jammed the wrist into Greg's mouth. Greg sipped at first, slowly, and swallowed, and then he began to suck aggressively on the wrist, taking in the vampire blood, now mixed with his own.
"Yes, my love," said Marie, her voice low and husky, "take your fill. Drink!"
Greg continued sucking, taking close to fifteen mouthfuls. And then he stopped. He opened his eyes and looked around the bedroom. Marie rolled off of him and lay on her back, watching him.
Greg stood up, naked, and walked outside to the balcony overlooking the courtyard. The entire second floor of the club had a balcony that ran completely around it. Greg looked up at the stars and saw how sharp and clear they were. And he could hear! He could hear people in the street, and the mouse scurrying about in the shrubbery. And a wide variety of smells assaulted his nose. He had never, in his human existence, known that these smells existed.
A smiling Marie stepped out on the balcony beside him and put her arm around his waist. He put his arm around her shoulders, leaned down, and kissed her.
"You see," said Marie, "the vampire power? You can see, smell, and hear things you never knew existed. Over time, you will even be able to hear a person's thoughts and detect ailments in their bodies. But for now, you are experiencing enough."
Greg had never suspected things could be like this. He closed his eyes, looked straight ahead, and savored the night air.
Marie untangled herself from his arms and went inside. She looked at her new lover and smiled. She put a silk robe on, walked back down the hall to her office, and placed a quick call to Jack. "It's done," was all that she said.
She headed back to the bedroom, and saw a still naked Greg on the balcony. She giggled, got him a robe from the closet, and spoke.
"Come back inside, love," she said. "If you are out there when the sun comes up, you will have the shortest vampire life on record."
Greg turned around and came back inside, smiling gently. Marie helped him put on the robe. She guided him downstairs, to a place where the two could rest during the day. Of course, he had also prepared a place in his West Chester townhouse. That was the reason for all of the contracting work.
The two embraced again, and then waited for the sun to rise. They rested, until the next night when the sun would go down. Now there would be two hunters in New Orleans.