Bloodsucking fiends a l.., p.1
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       Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, p.1
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         Part #1 of A Love Story series by Christopher Moore  
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Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story


   

  This is a work of fiction.

  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products

  of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any

  resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living

  or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Acknowledgements

  The author gratefully acknowledges those people who helped in the research and writing of Bloodsucking Fiends:

  Mark Joseph and Mark Anderson for help with research in the Bay Area. Rachelle Stambal, Jean Brody, Liz Ziemska, and Dee Dee Leichtfuss for their careful reads and thoughtful suggestions. My editors, Michael Korda and Chuck Adams, for their clean hands and composure. And my agent, Nick Ellison, for his patience, guidance, friendship, and hard work.

  In memory of my father:

  Jack Davis Moore

  Part I

  Fledgling

  Chapter 1

  Death

  Sundown painted purple across the great Pyramid while the Emperor enjoyed a steaming whiz against a dumpster in the alley below. A low fog worked its way up from the bay, snaked around columns and over concrete lions to wash against the towers where the West's money was moved. The financial district: an hour ago it ran with rivers of men in gray wool and women in heels; now the streets, built on sunken ships and gold-rush garbage, were deserted  -  quiet except for a foghorn that lowed across the bay like a lonesome cow.

  The Emperor shook his scepter to clear the last few drops, shivered, then zipped up and turned to the royal hounds who waited at his heels. "The foghorn sounds especially sad this evening, don't you think?"

  The smaller of the dogs, a Boston terrier, dipped his head and licked his chops.

  "Bummer, you are so simple. My city is decaying before your eyes. The air is thick with poison, the children are shooting each other in the street, and now this plague, this horrible plague is killing my people by the thousands, and all you think about is food. "

  The Emperor nodded to the larger dog, a golden retriever.

  "Lazarus knows the weight of our responsibility. Does one have to die to find dignity? I wonder. "

  Lazarus lowered his ears and growled. "Have I offended you, my friend?"

  Bummer began growling and backing away from the dumpster. The Emperor turned to see the lid of the dumpster being slowly lifted by a pale hand. Bummer barked a warning. A figure stood up in the dumpster, his hair dark and wild and speckled with trash, skin white as bone. He vaulted out of the dumpster and hissed at the little dog, showing long white fangs. Bummer yelped and cowered behind the Emperor's leg.

  "That will be quite enough of that," the Emperor commanded, puffing himself up and tucking his thumbs under the lapels of his worn overcoat.

  The vampire brushed a bit of rotted lettuce from his black shirt and grinned. "I'll let you live," he said, his voice like a file on ancient rusted metal. "That's your punishment. "

  The Emperor's eyes went wide with terror, but he held his ground. The vampire laughed, then turned and walked away.

  The Emperor felt a chill run up his neck as the vampire disappeared into the fog. He hung his head and thought, Not this. My city is dying of poison and plague and now this  -  this creature  -  stalks the streets. The responsibility is suffocating. Emperor or not, I am only a man. I am weak as water: an entire empire to save and right now I would sell my soul for a bucket of the Colonel's crispy-fried chicken. Ah, but I must be strong for the troops. It could be worse, I suppose. I could be the Emperor of Oakland.

  "Chins up, boys," the Emperor said to his hounds. "If we are to battle this monster, we will need our strength. There is a bakery in North Beach that will presently be dumping the day-old. Let's be off. " He shuffled away thinking, Nero fiddled while his empire went to ashes; I shall eat leathery pastries.

  As the Emperor trudged up California Street, trying to balance the impotence of power with the promise of a powdered-sugar doughnut, Jody was leaving the Pyramid. She was twenty-six and pretty in a way that made men want to tuck her into flannel sheets and kiss her on the forehead before leaving the room; cute but not beautiful.

  As she passed under the Pyramid's massive concrete buttresses she caught herself limping from a panty-hose injury. It didn't hurt, exactly, the run that striped the back of her leg from heel to knee, the result of a surly metal file drawer (Claims, X-Y-Z) that had leaped out and snagged her ankle; but she was limping nonetheless, from the psychological damage. She thought, My closet is starting to look like an ostrich hatchery. I've either got to start throwing out L'eggs eggs or get a tan on my legs and quit wearing nylons.

  She'd never had a tan, couldn't get one, really. She was a milk-white, green-eyed redhead who burned and freckled with sun.

  When she was half a block from her bus stop, the wind-driven fog won and Jody experienced total hair-spray failure. Neat waist-length waves frizzed to a wild red cape of curl and tangle. Great, she thought, once again I'll get home looking like Death eating a cracker. Kurt will be so pleased.

  She pulled her jacket closer around her shoulders against the chill, tucked her briefcase under her breasts like a schoolgirl carrying books, and limped on. Ahead of her on the sidewalk she saw someone standing by the glass door of a brokerage office. Green light from the CRTs inside silhouetted him in the fog. She thought about crossing the street to avoid him, but she'd have to cross back again in a few feet to catch her bus.

  She thought, I'm done working late. It's not worth it. No eye contact, that's the plan.

  As she passed the man, she looked down at her running shoes (her heels were in her briefcase). That's it. Just a couple more steps. . .

  A hand caught in her hair and jerked her off her feet, her briefcase went skittering across the sidewalk and she started to scream. Another hand clamped over her mouth and she was dragged off the street into an alley. She kicked and flailed, but he was too strong, immovable. The smell of rotten meat filled her nostrils and she gagged even while trying to scream. Her attacker spun her around and yanked on her hair, pulling her head back until she thought her neck would snap. Then she felt a sharp pain on the side of her throat and the strength to fight seemed to evaporate.

  Across the alley she could see a soda can and an old Wall Street Journal, a wad of bubble gum stuck to the bricks, a "No Parking" sign: details, strangely slowed down and significant. Her vision began to tunnel dark, like an iris closing, and she thought, These will be the last things I see. The voice in her head was calm, resolved.

  As everything went dark, her attacker slapped her across the face and she opened her eyes and saw the thin white face before her. He was speaking to her. "Drink," he said.

  Something warm and wet was shoved into her mouth. She tasted warm iron and salt and gagged again. It's his arm. He's shoved his arm in my mouth and my teeth have broken. I'm tasting blood. "Drink!"

  A hand clamped over her nose. She struggled, tried to breathe, tried to pull his arm out of her mouth to get air, sucked for air and nearly choked on blood. Suddenly she found herself sucking, drinking hungrily. When he tried to pull his arm away she clutched at it. He tore it from her mouth, twisted her around and bit her throat again. After a moment, she felt herself fall. The attacker was tearing at her clothes, but she had nothing left to fight with. She felt a roughness against the skin of her breasts and belly, then he was off her.

  "You'll need that," he said, and his voice echoed in her head as if he had shouted down a canyon. "Now you can die. "

  Jody felt a remote sense of gratit
ude. With his permission, she gave up. Her heart slowed, lugged, and stopped.

 
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