I opened the door to Mercurio"s apartment, wearing my newly acquired Izod golf shirt I purchased at Tripp"s. Mercurio was still lying on the sofa and appeared to be sleeping. I put my backpack on the floor, stooped, and removed the syringes and morphine. Then I approached Mercurio and gave him a gentle nudge on the shoulder.
"Ahhh!" he said.
I helped him sit. "I got you some morphine for the pain, Mercurio," I said, quietly. "And I got the Astrolite."
"You get my wallet back?" he asked.
"No," I responded. "But I got a wad of money." Here I reached into my backpack and pulled out a pretty large stack of tens, twenties, and fifties. I didn"t know it at the time, but I had taken about $3500 from Chemist and his boys. Not a bad wage for a night"s work.
"Lemme," Mercurio gasped, "lemme get some of this morphine in me. Then we can talk. Okay?"
I nodded. Mercurio took the drugs and syringes and staggered into the kitchen. I turned on the TV. The news was on, and it was all about the gun battle at the beach house. The police figured a drug cartel had raided the house in a turf war. Everyone was dead but one guy. I relaxed a little. So far, I had upheld my end of the Masquerade. While I was watching the news, Mercurio had returned to the sofa.
"You gotta make some place disappear," Mercurio said. His one visible eye was glazing a bit. I could see the morphine kicking in. "It"s an old warehouse at the Southern Pacific rail yard. It"s a Sabbat interest. That"s what the Astrolite is for."
"Okay," I said. "But there a probably a shitload of warehouses at the yard. How do I know which one to blow?"
"There"s a vampire," Mercurio answered. "Name of Bertram Tung. He"s laying low, because he is in a feud with Therese Voermann. You know them?"
"Nope." With this reply I was displaying my master"s degree in computer science.
"Therese and her sister, Jeanette, are vampires," Mercurio said. "They run a club on Second Street called The Asylum. It"s a pretty freaky place. I don"t like to go there. Lotsa wierdos there. You gotta get Therese, somehow, to call off the feud. Then you gotta talk to Bertram."
"Well, I may save that for tomorrow night."
"Another thing," Mercurio said. "When you set the timer on the Astrolite, be sure to give yourself enough time. That stuff is about ten times more powerful than TNT. You wanna be far, far away when it goes off."
"Mercurio," I asked, and my tone was gentle, "you"re a human. What"s your interest in all of this?"
"I"m a ghoul," Mercurio answered. "You know what a ghoul is?"
I didn"t. He had a human aura, but it had a subtle difference from other human auras. I decided to let Mercurio explain.
"A ghoul," he said, "is a human who is given a drink of vampire blood. We never get fed on, but once a month a vampire gives us some blood. After three feedings, we are heavily addicted and bonded to vampires. We do stuff for them. Help them. Get them things. Protect them. We serve. You would never know it, but I am sixty-five years old. And the vamp blood helps us heal. I will heal pretty quick."
"Good to know, Mercurio. Well, I will be on my way."
"One other thing," Mercurio said. "Not a word of this to the Prince. He doesn"t need to know about my fuck-up. You keep your mouth shut, and I can help you. That"s a promise."
"Okay," I answered. "That"s good to know. Now what about this money?"
Mercurio took about $500, and left the rest to me. Next he passed out. The morphine was working. I picked up my backpack and headed back to my haven. I figured tomorrow night I would go see the Voermann sisters.