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Vampires are real. Vampires go out during the day. Vampires can eat garlic. Vampires aren't afraid of crucifixes. Rocks is a vampire hunter. Rocks is the best at what he does. Rocks knows all the vampire tricks. Rocks is a vampire.

The Hunt

by David Sherman

(Type a title for your page here)



David Sherman

copyright 2006 by David Sherman


Frank Crean

Who has been through it
all for entirely too long


        Rocks almost caught up with them at a roadside place somewhere between Arizona and Albuquerque. He thought they suspected someone was on their tail so he didn't hold too much hope of them still being at this place, but maybe. He had to take the chance, follow every lead. His heart almost jumped when he pulled into the place's side lot and saw their camper parked out back. Along with two pickups, a rust-bodied Plymouth, and a Dodge van. The van had a bit of crepe ribbon streamer in its grill and someone had tried to scrub off the "just married" soaped on its rear. A tow truck jutted its business end out from from behind an out-building.
        Rocks took his time getting out of his canvas-topped jeep. He looked at the pin-stripe coat and vest laying on the passenger seat and decided this wasn't an occasion he needed to dress for. He pulled his tie the rest of the way loose and dropped it on top of the vest and coat. He checked that he had everything he needed to take them fast and quiet, made sure a there was a round in the chamber of his 9mm automatic and snugged on his gloves. He glanced at the CB radio laying next to his jacket and decided it didn't matter if it was still turned on. He dismounted. The mid-day sun glared off his white shirt, glinted off his polished cowboy boots, picked out the pinstripping in his trousers, made small sparks on his face where the sunblock was thickest, was shaded from his face by his broad brimmed hat. His reflecting sunglasses hid his eyes, but if seen they'd probably be as expressionless as the rest of his face. Only the dull brown holster on the back of his hip didn't show the sun. The only sounds were the occasional cooling-down pops from the jeep and the high-pitched cry of a raptor hunting in the distance. Rocks walked softly across the hard dirt of the side lot to the place's shade, past the pay phone mounted on the side wall, to the kitchen door. On the way to the kitchen door he thought about how he could do it so nobody would know who they were. If they didn't already know. No matter if they knew, nobody'd believe them -- if any survived.
        The kitchen door was ajar and he eased through. A jukebox or radio playing something Tex-Mex in the main room was all he heard from the bar. No one was in the kitchen. The door to the walk-in cooler stood half open, not a good sign. A lone fly buzzed aimlessly in the room. He brushed his hand over the sweeping mustache that covered his upper lip, a nervous habit he didn't realize he had, and knew it was too late to stop them from doing something that could attract a lot of attention. He'd have to get someone in to clean up before anybody else showed up; then all the local authorities would have was an unsolvable mystery instead of something that could lead them in the right direction.
        He paused at the door to the main room and took off his wrap-around shades, figured it was too dark inside to see clearly with them on. He drew his pistol and flicked off the safety before he pushed the door open. He went through fast -- they wouldn't listen to anything like reason, not now. He was blind for a couple of seconds until his eyes adjusted to the dim light, but he wasn't deaf. A DJ spat out some rapid Spanish between songs and he almost shot the radio before he realized what the voice was. Now he heard a horde of buzzing flies under the Tex-Mex. Then he could see. A long bar that hadn't seen polish in far too long trudged the length of the room. A few round tables with chairs lined a small, sawdust covered dance floor. High-backed booths huddled at the ends of the room. A pair of longhorn horns hanging high on one end wall, sheep horns on the opposite, and a gila monster over the main door were the dominant wall trophies.
        They weren't there, not now. But they'd sure as hell been there. A woman, he figured the waitress or cook from the small apron draped across her face, was sprawled on a table in the middle of the room. She was still warm but cooling fast. He took the apron from her face and laid it over her groin to cover her nakedness, then wondered why he bothered; she looked more defiled that way than with her face covered. The bartender was half in and half out of a space under the bar. His trousers were down around his knees and a beer bottle was shoved up his anus. There was no need for that, probably just to humiliate him during his last minutes for trying to hide; they were like that sometimes. The two cowboys looked like they'd tried to put up a fight. But they'd had no idea who they were fighting. One had obvious puncture wounds in his penis; Rocks thought the holes must have been made with an icepick. The honeymoon couple was pathetic. The groom's arms were bound to the tops of a booth back. He slumped toward his bride, somehow looking almost protective. Her ankles were propped on his shoulders in a mockery of invitation.
        He walked around the room slowly, inspecting it. Articles of clothing were scattered about. Very little blood was spattered on the walls or furniture, the puddles on the floor would clean up easily enough by sweeping up the sawdust and hosing the place out. The bigger wounds on the bodies must have been inflicted after they were through with their games, after they'd killed them, after the draining. There were no other bodies. None of the furniture was broken, though a couple pool cues were. Not too bad, he's seen a lot worse from this bunch. He went behind the bar and found the cash register open and empty of paper money. The wallets and purses of the victims were also empty of cash. Rocks nodded, this fit their method; at least if nobody got in to clean up in time, this might look like a robbery bizarrly gone wrong.
        At the front door he made sure his sleeves were rolled down and his collar up. He snugged on the wrap-arounds to block direct sunlight from his eyes and adjusted his hat. He pushed the button in the middle of the door knob so it would lock behind him and prowled the packed dirt of the front and side parking lots.
        It didn't take long to figure out what they'd done. And the looking confirmed that they thought someone was following. Cocky bastards, he thought, confident enough they were far enough ahead that they could take the time to hide their tracks. What they'd done was, they drove the vehicle they took in place of their own camper onto the highway, then drove the other five vehicles back and forth and around the lots to obliterate the tracks, a trick they hadn't pulled anywhere else. He couldn't tell what direction they went. Had to have been east, though. He knew they weren't in the one car he'd passed going the other direction as he was coming here. If he could take the rest of the day he'd find enough bits of track to figure out what kind of car they were in now. But he didn't have the rest of the day.
        He returned to the Jeep, turned on the map, noted the GPS location. Then he went back to the kitchen door and locked it. He picked up the pay phone receiver on the side wall. He always used randomly selected hard-wired pay phones. Cellphones were too easy to accidentally intercept, and he didn't want anybody listening in.
        He listened for a dial tone, then held what looked like a remote playback beeper for an answering machine to the receiver and pushed a button on its back. The beeper emitted a long series of tones. The first five tones bypassed the normal longline billing system so no voice came on the line asking him to deposit money when the next eleven tones called a number in Milwaukee. It's not that there wouldn't be any record of the call, there's always a record. It's just nobody looking for the record in any of the expected places would find it because it was somewhere else in the system, someplace it would be found only by accident. The next set of tones told the payphone in Milwaukee it was answered before it had a chance to ring; instructed an unauthorized chip hidden inside the phone to bypass the longline billing system there and forward the call to a particular microwave relay in Utah. There, the call was shunted to an unauthorized microwave relay terminal just over the Nevada border. Anyone trying to use the Milwaukee telephone in the next few minutes would get a dead line. The terminal in Nevada had a miniature recording device in it. The recorder didn't have an out-going message, just a beep to let him know when to start talking. A couple of times or so a day somebody came from the Utah ranch to check the tape, they'd get his message soon enough.
        "They were here, all right," he said after the beep. "My best guess is they've got a fifteen, twenty minute lead on me now." He looked out the highway, toward Albuquerque. Nothing appeared moving on it as far as he could see. "They pulled a cute one with the cars in the lot, left their own and took one of the others. No way right now to know what they're driving. They left six inside. Good idea to clean it up, but they did their robbery thing, so in case we can't it might be okay." He gave the GPS coordinates. "The cops might think it was some kind of cult murder-robbery. I'm going to move on and see if I can pick up any indication of where they are." He didn't say goodbye when he hung up.
        He wished he had time to obliterate his own tracks when he left, but there was no help for that. Anyway, even if they found the Jeep later on, there'd be no way to trace it to him. He headed east.
        Rocks ignored the posted speed limit and floored the accelerator until the ground dropped into the valley of the Rio Grande and on to Albuquerque. He had to stop once for gas on the other side of the Sandia Mountains. The gas jockey hadn't seen a carload of people that day. They had evaded him. There was absolutely no point in one man trying to search through all of New Mexico.
        He stopped once more before Texas. He drove off the highway, around behind a copse of trees where he couldn't be seen by cars passing by. He took the plastic bag-bottle from his carry-all and drank it empty to slake the hunger. Sated, he rolled the bottle into a tube and buried it.
        Later he parked the Jeep in a fast food restaurant's parking lot in Lubbock, left the CB on the seat and the pistol under the drivers seat. He took the map when he caught a cab to the airport where he rode a hopper to Dallas-Fort Worth, then a jet home.
        Home was a furnished apartment in St Louis. He sat staring out the window through an entire night and day and into the next night thinking about who they were and where they'd gone. He wondered if the five he was following had anything to do with nobody seeing Abe since he'd left on his pilgrimage to Washington. Abe. Damn. Abe, did they do something to you?
        The Arch was clearly visible from his window but he didn't see it, his eyes were focused inward. He didn't sleep, he didn't need any sleep, not right now. Sleep relieves physical fatigue, so does resting. Sleep brings dreams and dreams relieve psychic fatigue. Rocks didn't need the psychic relief, he never dreamed. Not any more.
        It wasn't until the hunger became too painful that he left his chair for something other than the bathroom. He took along two collapsed one gallon plastic water bottles and a cloth bag to carry them in. The bottles were full when he returned home. He siphoned them into sterile collapsable pint bottles along with a small amount of a clear fluid and refrigerated them. Later he turned on the all news radio station. The radio didn't say anything about it. The next day's Post-Dispatch didn't mention it either.


        They hadn't gone east, they'd only gone as far as the first intersecting paved road. There they turned south, deeper into the Colorado Plateau. They didn't bother looking at the map to see where this ramshackle town was. The sign outside said, "Holmwood, Pop. 783." That was more than they needed or wanted to know. They didn't even care it was in New Mexico. It was just some backwater on the sideroad they found after they left that roadside place. It had people, that's all that mattered. They laughed in glee when they saw the town on the horizon; their laughter had a cackling quality. Art pressed the pedal to the metal until they were half a mile out, raised dust when he braked back to the legal limit. It wasn't that he was worried about a speeding ticket, to hell with a bunch of tickets. The good citizens of Holmwood were going to have enough of a thrill, what with two men, two women, and a teenage girl -- strangers all -- showing up in town without them having to roar in. These strangers had that effect on people. The main drag had angle parking. Art angled too sharply in front of a place with a sign reading "Cafe Eat." They boiled out of their blue Nissan and headed into the cafe. A smaller sign on the glass of the door announced it was air conditioned. That sign made them laugh again -- as if they couldn't see the window unit in the transom above the door.
        Two people, an old man and an older woman, sat at opposite ends of the counter. A middle-aged counterman was behind the center of it washing dishes, ignoring his customers and their cups of coffee. He knew they were there only because of the air conditioning and bought the coffee just because it was polite to buy something when using a business place's air conditioning. Two large coffee urns, a toaster big enough to do half a loaf of bread at a time, a pot of tea water on a hot plate, and an old fashioned cream-and-institutional-green milk shake shaker were on a shelf behind the counterman. The shelf was flanked on one side by a grill and on the other by a counter for making cold sandwiches. Narrower shelves above the grill and sandwich shelf held single serving size cereal boxes, tea bag boxes, condiment refills, bread and rolls, packets of instant Sanka. A mirror missing large chunks of its silvering was mounted behind the coffee urns.
        The quiet of Cafe Eat was rudely shattered by the entrance of the five strangers. Their shoe heels clattered on the worn lineoleum as they jittered their way the length of the cafe and tumbled into the rear booth. They didn't bother taking off their sunglasses. They put their heads together over the tabletop and tittered. Art groped Mina under the tabletop. She squealed and groped him back. The counterman ignored them until the kid groped Art. Art smacked her hand and snarled at her.
        "Whadaya mean, wait 'til I grow up?" she demanded loudly. "Fuck you, wait 'til I grow up. I'm past puberty."
        Drake leered at Lucy.
        Then the counterman was there, order pad and pen in hand. "Now, now," he said. "This is a respectable place." He looked at the girl. "Talk nice." Then to all of them, "Know what you want?" The pen was poised. He noticed their glistening, peeling skin and thought they waited too long to put on the sun block.
        She gawked at him. Who did he think he was telling her to talk nice, didn't he know who she was? Then she giggled. No, he didn't know who she was. "Yessir," she murmured, then buried her face in her hands to keep from laughing out loud at this bozo.
        The bozo looked at her patiently. These were city people. He knew all about city people. His son lived in the city and he visited him there once a year. And he knew about city kids. No spunk; all you had to do was to know when a city kid was about to step over where the kid thought the line was, then slap him down. The city kid would scoot back to where you wanted him. Or her. This city kid didn't need to be slapped, not yet, just put on notice he wasn't going to take any crap from her. Then he pointed his eyes at the pad and asked again, "You ready to order?"
        "Hamburgers all around," Drake ordered for them. "Two apiece. Just char them on the outside, leave them bloody inside." The kid giggled again. So did Mina. Drake ignored them.
        "Black outside, pink inside," the counterman said.
        "Bloody inside," Drake said.
        The counterman looked at him levelly for a moment. Then he shrugged. "Bloody inside. Anything on them?"
        "Tomato and lots of ketchup."
        "Ketchup's on the table." He pointed with his pen.
        Drake looked at the bottle near his elbow. It was three-quarters full. "Think that'll be enough?" he asked the others.
        "We can get more if it's not," Mina said. She looked at the counterman. "Right?"
        He nodded. "Anything else?"
        "Fries." Drake looked at the bottle again. "Better bring another bottle."
        "Right, another bottle of ketchup." The counterman's voice was dry, he thought the talk about ketchup was a joke that wore out its welcome too soon. "Drink?"
        "Four coffees and a vanilla shake."
        "I want strawberry," the kid snapped.
        Drake grinned at her. The counterman saw something in the grin that made him feel nervous. "Strawberry," Drake confirmed.
        The counterman headed for the safety of the counter without asking if their order was complete.
        "Hey, Pop," Art shouted too loudly. "You got a john in this shithole?"
        With the counter between them the man felt secure again. He gave Art a hard look before answering. "This is a clean place." Pause. "Behind you. Men's and lady's." He nodded at a doorway beyond their booth. Through it they could see two doors with small signs on them.
        Art went there. "Gotta make room," he said. The others laughed.
        The counterman made a face, but not until he turned his back to them.
        The old woman put a quarter on the counter and left. The old man thought about it for half a minute and followed her out. He was in too much of a hurry to remember to leave a tip.
        When the counterman served the food, the two women and the girl gave him what looked like very hungry looks. The looks made him so nervous he spilled into three of the saucers when he brought their coffee and dribbled a little of the shake down the side of the glass.
        They poured so much ketchup on their food the meat and potatoes weren't visible through it. They dug in manically, hunched low over their plates. The ketchup dripped off the fries, spurted out of the buns, smeared their faces, coated their fingers. There was something perversely lascivious about the way they licked their fingers, ran their tongues around their lips. At first the counterman grimaced in disgust at their manners, then he started shivering; there was something feral about the way they ate. They kept casting glances at him, all of them. They smiled, but there seemed to be something ominous in their smiles; there was nothing friendly about the way they bared their teeth. When they finished eating they sat back and belched loudly and picked their teeth with their fingers. The ketchup still on their faces got spread farther. The glances in the counterman's direction became more steady looks. He scribbled a total on their bill. It was too low, but he didn't want to take the time to correct it. He scooted to their booth, dropped it on the table, and headed to the cash register without saying a word. The cash register was next to the door, this was the first time he'd been there since they came in. It was the strongest hint he dared make that he wanted them to leave. He wasn't thinking anymore how he knew all about city folks. Or city kids.
        Art smiled lightly at the counterman and rose from the booth without taking his eyes off him. The ketchup on his face looked like blood. Just then the door opened and two people walked in. Their laughter was happy and carefree, not like the cackling laughter of the group. They were young, maybe not old enough to order a drink. He wore a faded workshirt, his jeans were frayed in spots, fringe-topped boots were on his feet. She wore a homemade peasant blouse that kept slipping off one shoulder, and a wrap-around skirt; she had on light sandals. His hair was brown and tied back into a ponytail that reached to between his shoulder blades, hers was also brown and pinned up in a not-too-neat bun that left the back of her neck bare. Art looked at them and smiled more broadly. He turned to the men's room. When he came back his face was clean.
        "You look like a bunch of fucking cannibals," he told his companions. "Go wash your fucking faces." He waited for Mina to get out before he sat down. Drake and the kid went too. Lucy waited for the other woman to return. Art let Mina back in, the kid bumped her hip against his side squeezed in next to him. That way she could watch the young couple without having to turn around.
        "More coffee, Pops," Drake called out when they all had clean faces. "For the kid, too." She stuck her tongue out at him. Drake turned all the way around when he spoke, but he looked at the couple rather than the counterman. He kept looking at them until the coffee refills came. The young couple huddled over their coffee and talked in voices too low for anyone to hear. They snickered at what they said. Then they settled back and politely sipped at their coffee and talked in restrained tones.
        The young couple was so engrossed in each other they didn't seem to notice the other people in the cafe, except for the counterman when he took their order, brought their food, and delivered their bill when they were through. But everybody was very aware of them. Their presence made the counterman feel safe.
        When the couple left, Drake looked at the bill and slipped a dollar between his cup and saucer. His was one of the cups that had coffee spilled into the saucer. He led the others out and paid on the way.
        The kid stopped and smiled innocently at the counterman before leaving. "Keep them hanging, Pops," she said in a sweet, little-girl voice. "You get a chance to service another lady." He was too glad to see them leave to react. She laughed as she walked through the door and held it open long enough to let a blast of hot air inside.
        They stood on the sidewalk and watched an ancient VW microbus head out of town. The paint job on the van looked like it was the original and hadn't been polished since the microbus was new.
        "Shall we?" Lucy asked.
        "Leave it to the broads to ask the dumb questions," Art said.
        "Fuck you, asshole."
        "Any time you want to spread them, bitch."
        They piled into the Nissan and followed the microbus out a blacktop strip that could have been called two lane if anybody bothered to paint a stripe down its center. The blacktop was eroding at its sides. They followed the VW at a respectable distance as the road arrowed its way across the flat land, through cuts in low ridges, and over culvert-bridges over arroyos. Until Holmwood disappeared in the distance. Then Art sped up and they caught up with the microbus. He whipped around it and angled sharply across the road far enough ahead to give it time to stop.
        His name was John and hers was Marie; just about the most humdrum names you can find. She was nineteen, he twenty; that never-never age of no-longer-a-kid, not yet fully accepted as adult. His father was a CPA, hers a bank branch manager; occupations just about as unspectacular as the names they gave their kids. They were raised in stolid middle class suburbs of a couple of those middle-sized, middle-American cities that more people want to move away from than move into. John and Marie met at college. Their's wasn't a state college, a football factory, or a renowned institute of higher learning -- it was one of those eminently forgettable colleges where you can get a halfway decent education and that's about it. No campus radicals or wave-makers there. They were each other's first lover.
        John and Marie were intelligent, their minds' questing hadn't been totally killed off by their prosaic backgrounds. Naturally they reached a crisis point. The sepia-tone existence of their families was just too drab to look forward to as their futures, so they went out and found an old VW microbus cheap and ran away. Not permanently, not by any means. They registered for fall classes before they left. John and Marie imagined themselves the direct spiritual descendants of the hippies of 20 years before. Without drugs, without totally dropping out. What happened next wasn't part of their plans.
        When the blue Nissan cut in front of them, John stood on the brakes. They squealed loudly and the microbus fishtailed a bit before it came to a complete stop less than ten feet from the blue car.
        John jumped out of the microbus. "Hey, what's the idea," he shouted angrily. "I almost hit you. Move so we can get by."
        Mina got out of the car and walked over to him. Her hips swayed and she smiled seductively. "We did that because we wanted you to stop, sweetie," she said in the kind of voice a woman uses when she's leading a badly wanted man to her bed. "We want you to party with us." She stood cock-hipped in front of him and raised one hand to finger his shirt over his chest where the top two buttons were open. Her long, white dress had sleeves that went over the tops of her hands and a collar that went all the way up to her chin, but the way it clung and flowed she looked half naked. Mina looked to be in her mid-twenties. She was slender, of average height. Wavy black hair cascaded from the top of her head to the middle of her back. The blood red lips set in her oval face curled in a moist smile. John couldn't see through her sunglasses to know if she was looking at his face or his chest. Mina leaned closer and whispered conspiratorially.
        "Hey," Marie shouted from inside the VW, she wasn't brave enough at this moment to get out for a direct confrontation, "he doesn't want to party with you." Neither John nor Marie recognized Mina from the cafe. "Get away from him."
        "Move your car. Please," John said in a very uncertain voice, maybe not loudly enough for anyone in the car to hear.
        The kid got out. "What is this shit," she said loudly. Here we are in the middle of goddam New Mexico with nothing to do, looking to have a little fun, and the first nice people we see are in too much of a fucking hurry to join us. That sucks." She stomped a foot, jammed her fists into her hips, pouted her lower lip.
        John and Marie looked at her, shocked. They hadn't started using that kind of language until they reached college. Even now, not in front of anyone they didn't know. They didn't notice Drake get out until he was already leaning against the hood of the Nissan, ankles crossed, arms folded.
        Mina kept whispering to John. He heard the words but didn't want to understand them. This whole situation was too bizarre. These people couldn't want what her words were saying.
        Lucy got out and walked over to the passenger door of the microbus. She seemed to be the same age as Mina, but taller. She wasn't taller, just looked taller because she was less slender. Her red hair was cropped close to her head, accenting her triangular face. She opened the door, grasped Marie's arm, and yanked her out. Marie was taller and heavier than she was, but Lucy didn't seem to put any effort into pulling her out or keeping her on her feet when she stumbled. Lucy smiled and said, "We're going to party."
        John finally broke the trance Mina held him in. "Hey," he shouted, "you can't do that to her." He ran to rescue Marie.
        Drake was in front of John before he reached the other side of the microbus. "But she did," he said. He held up one hand and John bounced back off it, but managed to regain his balance before he fell. "She can because she did. Do you understand?" Drake finished. His simle was unsettling to look at.
        "But," John said, then grew quiet.
        "See?" the kid said and wrapped an arm around John's waist. "We're all friends here." She giggled so hard she bent over. The grip she kept on his waist felt strong.
        Drake looked to the west. The sun was low over the horizon. "We better hurry and gather whatever we can if we're going to have a fire to roast our weenies over," he said. That set the kid to giggling harder.
        Marie moaned.
        It didn't occur to the others to ask John and Marie their names. Their names didn't matter.


        It's amazing. You take a quick look at the desert and you think there's nothing you can use for a fire. Everything's dead but the cactus and a few scraggly bushes and none of the dead stuff is wood. But if you look closely there's plenty of stuff to burn -- even some wood. Not enough for a huge bonfire, of course, not unless you're willing to spend a couple of days scrounging for that much wood and brush and stuff, but enough for a decent fire.
        Drake wanted to drive the microbus but Lucy stuck her tongue in his mouth and whispered promises for later. Drake let Lucy drive the microbus. Art drove the Nissan slowly enough for him and Mina to spot fire-stuff along the way. Drake sat sideways in the microbus's passenger seat watching the young couple in the back. The kid thought the guy was cute and snuggled up against him. He wasn't going to move very far very fast, not with the grip she had on him. Marie was too scared to object to John being held by another female. She looked so scared Drake thought she might not have noticed the way the kid caressed John's chest and belly with her free hand.
        They stopped several times and piled wood and brush into the back of the microbus before Art turned onto a rutted dirt track. They followed it into rougher country severely eroded by rain-wash. By the time they stopped in a broad arroyo, the microbus space not taken up by passengers was filled with fire-stuff and the sun was sinking below the horizon. Drake took charge of building the fire. With the coming of night they finally took off their sunglasses.
        The fire was big enough to take off the chill that came with the dark, and there was enough extra wood and brush piled to the side to keep it going for several hours. There was a battered aluminum cooler in the microbus, Drake found a package of hot-dogs in it. "Didn't I say we were going to have a weenie-roast?" he crowed, and tossed it to Lucy. There were also four cans of beer and six sodas in the cooler. He passed out the sodas, then gave John and Marie each a beer and said, "Chug." They drank quickly and didn't spill too much. He gave them the last two beers and told them to take their time. Lucy and Mina selected some long, slender twigs to roast the hot dogs on. When the dogs were black on the outside everybody but Marie ate one and a half; Marie was too upset, she couldn't eat.
        After they ate Art started bop-bopping with his mouth, improvising a random tune. Mina stood close to the fire and swayed, tapping her hands on the fronts of her thighs, trying to find Art's rhythm. Lucy started a slow clap, Drake picked it up, Art changed his random bopping to match them. Lucy crooned a wordless tune.
        The kid straddled John from behind and wrapped her arms around him. "Watch this," she whispered into his ear, "she's really good. I'm learning from her."
        Mina swung her head from side to side in time with the music. Her long hair billowed out, locks whipped around her face. She tapped a foot, then again, then the other foot. Slowly at first, then faster and faster until her feet tatooed two beats to each clap. Her hips swayed wider, her arms drew arcane designs in the air, her torso gyrated. She spun around the fire, wilder and wilder, wanton and abandoned, until she was the nymph of night-dreams.
        "Ain't she the sexiest thing you ever seen?" the kid whispered into her captive's ear. Her voice was husky and she pressed her body closer to his.
        Sweat flew off Mina's face and hands, the white fabric of her dress turned transparent where it snugged against her until she looked naked above the waist. Her eyes rolled up in their sockets until only the blood-shot whites were visible, her lips parted and a keening came from them. The keening gradually rose in pitch and intensity until it was an orgasmic scream. She danced until she staggered and almost fell from the exertion. She dropped cross-legged and draped her forearms over her knees and panted.
        "Your turn, Lucy," Art said.
        Lucy shook her head. "You need long hair to do that or it just looks dumb."
        The kid's eyes glistened and she chewed on her lower lip. She had long hair. And she'd been practicing when the others couldn't see her and ached to dance for them, but she wanted to be asked. She looked expectant, hopeful, across the fire at Art. But he looked a few feet to her side, at Marie.
        "I bet if you untie that bun she's got long hair," Art said.
        "No," Marie gasped, and looked manicly around at the others for help, for a way out, for anything that would take Art's attention from her. There was nothing. She moaned.
        "Yes," Art said slowly, it came out as a hiss.
        Marie tried to scoot back out of the fire's glow, maybe if they couldn't see her clearly...
        Drake was closest. Suddenly his hand was on the back of her neck, drawing her back into the circle of light. She pressed back against his hand, tried to slip from it. It was no use, she slid forward until the backs of her thighs reached her calfs, then her feet slid forward with the rest of her. Drake's hand left the back of her neck and briefly touched her bun, her hair tumbled down her back. She moaned again. Drake brushed her cheek with his lips. "Dance," he said gently. "We'll be nicer to you if you dance for us." He chuckled, it wasn't a friendly chuckle.
        John tried to say something, tried to break from the kid's grasp to go to Marie's aid, but she held him too tightly and put a hand over his mouth. She pressed one finger into his lips until it hurt so much he had to unclench them. She slid her finger into his mouth and gently massaged his gums, trying to tongue-kiss him with her finger. She'd never tongue-kissed anyone, but she knew about it, and knew she would figure it out as soon as she had someone to do it with. Maybe this one, tonight. You bet. She nipped his earlobe and blew into his ear.
        Marie whimpered low and her eyes misted, a tear rolled out of the corner of her eye. She didn't stand. Drake put his hand back on her neck and lifted. It hurt. She scrambled to her feet.
        "Dance," Drake said again. Art started bopping, Lucy and Mina clapped slowly, rhythmically. Lucy crooned, Mina keened. Drake cupped his hands and blew into them, their woodwind section. The kid couldn't get any closer to her captive, so she squeezed tighter with her arms and wrapped her legs around him. Drake and Art might ignore her, but this one couldn't.
        "What, what do you want me to do?" Marie's voice broke.
        "Dance. You saw Mina. Do the same thing."
        Awkwardly, Marie shuffled her feet. Clumsily, she twirled her fists around each other in a move first seen in the Peppermint Twist. Her movement was angular and stiff as she shifted her body from side to side.
        Lucy reached out to her, brushed her hand over Marie's thigh. "Relax, let it come naturally," she said softly. "You'll do fine." She went back to clapping and keening.
        Lucy's words and touch calmed Marie a little bit, helped her loosen up. Not a lot, just enough she didn't look like a stick doll any more, just enough to look like a marionette that had most of its joints articulated. Art urged her on. She hesitantly shuffled around the fire, her back to it, her eyes searched the blackness beyond the fire, looking for a way out. There was none.
        "Hey, you want me to show you how to do it?" the kid called, hoping somebody would say yes. Nobody answered so she went back to rubbing her hands on John's chest and belly and breathing on his neck. She wanted to rub lower, but wasn't positive of what she'd find. Later on, though...
        Her second time around the fire Art took hold of the wrap-around of Marie's skirt and yanked. She grabbed it while she stumbled toward him, tried to keep it closed.
        John yelled and tried to break away from the kid. She clamped down on him. "Ignore her," she said. "You're mine now, I got you." He kept struggling and yelling. "Stop that or I'll bite you." He didn't stop. She pinched the skin of his neck between her teeth, hard enough to draw blood. He yelped and cursed her, but stopped struggling. He started trembling when she licked at the blood and giggled.
        "Let go, bitch," Art murmured, grinning up at Marie. The cold look in his eyes made her gasp. She released her skirt and he jerked it across, popping the buttons that held it around her waist. She crouched slightly, knees locked together, hands clenched in front of her groin, panic on her face. "Put your hands above your head like you're doing flaminco and dance," Art ordered.
        Marie stepped back and slowly lifted her arms. She started shuffling and twisting again. She hadn't put enough energy into her dancing to sweat, but she was sweating anyway -- nervously. The firelight made the sweat on her legs glisten, it picked out the lace pattern on her panties, exposed the small tear in the seam on the side. When the light fell on her face they could see she was crying and her nose was running. Lucy left off crooning to talk to her, told her she was pretty, told her she was among friends. She wanted to calm her down, get her dancing more. Marie closed her eyes and in two more turns around the fire was more fluid than before. Lucy and Mina said things to encourage her. Marie opened her eyes and saw Art dancing with her. She swallowed and tried to mirror his moves. Maybe if she cooperated they wouldn't do anything. Maybe.
        Then Art stepped in closer and pulled her blouse over her head. She wasn't wearing a bra. She shrieked and wrapped her arms around her breasts, her entire body went rigid.
        "They look like mine!" the kid blurted. The breasts that were briefly exposed were conical and young. "Did you know that?" she giggle-whispered to her captive. "If you like them, you'll like mine. You'll see later, mine are just like hers. Well, maybe not as big." She giggled again. "But mine are still growing." He struggled, but it was no use.
        Art took Marie's wrists and pulled her arms away from her breasts. She resisted with all her strength, but he pulled her arms so easily it was as though she moved them herself. He placed her arms at her sides and let go; her arms hung limp. He traced circles around her nipples with his fingertips. She closed her eyes and bit her lip. Then Art put his hands on her hips and knelt.
        Marie trembled violently and her mind spun, but in the spinning one thought came through clear: Someone had told her, she couldn't remember who or when or why, but somebody had told her the best thing to do if you're ever raped is relax and go with it. Rape isn't about sex, it's about violence. Maybe if you don't resist the rapist will lose interest and stop, probably he won't hurt you as much. She forced herself to unlock her joints and muscles, to not be so rigid. When she felt his chin nuzzle where her thighs came together she parted her legs slightly, cooperating. Then she felt the moist heat of his breath as his mouth opened against her. She felt his tongue lap between her legs and withdraw. His teeth moved toward each other, scraping against the fabric of her panties. When they were close to each other he bit down and jerked back. She screamed.
        John bellowed and fought the kid again. She let go with one hand and hit him on the side of the head, hard. The blow dazed him. "I told you to ignore her," she said sharply. "I mean it, dammit."
        Art sat on his heels, looking up at Marie, chuckling. His hands were still on her hips and the ruined panties dangled from his mouth. She tried to twist out of his grasp, but he held her so tightly it bruised her hips. He dug in the fingers of one hand punishingly hard and used the other to take the panties from his mouth. He held them open in his hand and laughed at what he saw; a clump of hair where he had bitten, there was skin attached to the hair. He dropped the panties and ran a fingertip across the blood-oozing place where he'd bitten. Then he picked her up and threw her across the fire to Drake.
        Drake held Marie while Lucy slashed a straight razor across her throat. The four adults jumped on her and closed their heads together on her neck and shoulders, drank her hot, flowing blood.
        John screamed and fought hard enough to roll himself and the kid onto their sides, but he couldn't break her hold. She squeezed harder and something in his chest cracked. He screamed in agony and fainted from the pain of the broken ribs.
        She cuffed him and shouted, "Now see what you did, goddamit. You went and hurt yourself. You're not going to have as much fun as you should have, you know, not with broken ribs, you're not." She giggled and groped him, tried to imagine what she found under her hand was going to be like when it was engorged. "I will, though." She giggled more and continued caressing, hoping he would wake up with an erection and be ready to go.
        The others drank until they could hold no more, then Drake went to the Nissan and came back with two insulated jugs. They held her over one of them and let the rest of her blood drain into it. Then they threw the body aside and Mina picked up the razor from where Lucy dropped it and slit the throat of the still unconscious man.
        The kid's mouth popped open and she made a small gasp. "What'd you do that for?" she squeaked. "I was gonna-- he was-- we were gonna. You should a waited, let me do that after. I mean, shit, I was even going to do it up right."
        Drake laughed at her.
        "What the fuck's your problem, stud!" she screamed at him. "You get ass from one of these bimbos any time you want it. I never get laid!"
        All of them laughed at her.
        "How come nobody wants me to get laid." Her eyes were hurt, she looked like she was about to cry. "You want me to be a virgin my whole life, don't you!"
        "You're too young to get laid," Drake said.
        "You keep saying that. It's not true, I'm fifteen, I'm past puberty."
        "You mean you're old enough to bleed?" Art asked. That only made them laugh harder and she did cry.
        They held John over the other jar to drain, then cast his empty body aside. Mina sprinkled some granules from a box into the jugs.

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