Hyperion Hotel, Room 515, Los Angeles, California, 1943
There was enough of William left in Spike, or lately RAF Flight Officer William Tulley, formerly of St. John's Wood, London, aka "Willy", to want to make tonight as beautiful as he could.
There were candles.
There were flowers (well, a single black market orchid – such luxuries during wartime were scarce what with grenades, B-17s, and coffins being more of a priority – the rest were orange blossoms from some boob's private back yard orange grove, pilfered the previous morning before sunrise and carefully arranged around the dingy little room at the back of the Hyperion Hotel he'd taken over after having eaten the occupant a month back.)
There were nylon stockings, almost as good as money these days, if not better.
There was pale green silk lingerie draped across the opened, inviting bed.
There were chocolates, again not many because of wartime rationing, but he had his sources.
There were cigarettes.
There were oysters on a bed of cracked ice.
The blackout curtains had been pulled, turning the space into a very private lair.
And there was wine, opened and breathing along with two glasses, doctored.
There is, after all a profound difference between a meal and a transformation.
Spike, Willy, found Siring the few times he'd bothered, boring and gauche, preferring to let Drusilla do the dirty work whenever a patsy was needed. Meals, on the other hand, were mere emptyings, quickly cast aside like so many empty beer bottles – unless the girl had dark curls and a perfect oval face.
In that case, the meal would be prolonged, sometimes for hours with Spike finishing the job with relish once she finally wept knowing that she was dying in his cold embrace and there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it.
No, tonight was different; this was no temporary staffing, or petty revenge. No, this was something to be anticipated and prepared for with as much nervous delight as the impending arrival of a new bride or a firstborn baby.
Her name was Ginger and she was a U.S. Navy nurse, fresh on leave from Oahu.
Having spent the last year or so sorting out the living from the dying, Ginger was eager for a good time when he'd met her at one of the many crowded ballrooms during an early evening's hunt in his stolen RAF uniform.
She was lively, petite, intelligent, and despite her trim blue uniform, looked like a cross between Clara Bow and Betty Grable, especially in the leg department, with a voice like Betty Boop's, big green eyes, and a mop of unruly red curls which constantly escaped from any attempt at la Grable's fashionable upsweep.
She could also almost keep up with Spike drink for drink, cigarette for cigarette.
Unlike Dru, she had a sense of humor.
And she loved to dance.
Initially dismissing Ginger as an easy meal before moving on to bigger prey, she'd been such fun that Spike had excused himself for a bit, emptied a back door prostitute in the alley behind the dance hall he'd met Ginger in, and gone back in looking for her after stuffing the body in a garbage can.
Once he'd pried her from the sweaty grip of a huge Marine who had about as much grace as a bull with a bee under his tail, Spike, no, Flight Officer William Tulley, learned that Ginger had six older brothers (so she could take anything gross he might do with a giggle instead of a glare), was a New Jersey girl (Her accent was as heavy as the cartoon Betty's was. Dru loathed Betty, deeming her dead common, and in the mood Spike had been in that night after walking in on Dru "tickling the ivories" with a demon that wasn't him in their bed, Betty was more than a little bit of all right.), and she was always up for a good time.
Which suited Spike just fine as the two of them danced in the sweaty crush of uniforms until the Shore Patrol came in and broke it up so that they wound up necking in a nearby alley.
Ginger thought he was pretty swell, too.
Anyway, who knew freckles could be so charming?
He let her live.
The next night Ginger caught him loitering on the street from not far from the YWCA where she was billeted, greeting him enthusiastically before doing the rounds together. She was small and curvy and in the relaxed mores of the time (After all, he might be killed. To turn him down would be unpatriotic, even if he was British!) she fit quite comfortably under his arm at his side as unchaperoned they went from club to club to USO station and then to some anonymous all night diner for pie and coffee before sunrise (she never seemed to notice that though Spike always bought, he never ate around her and that they never went to places where there were mirrors) followed by a lot of heavy petting and necking on a bus stop bench before, arm around her tiny waist, he saw her to the door of her crowded billet…
…but not before more back alley hi-jinx, with Ginger standing on a packing crate because of the difference in their heights, red ringlets exploding out of their tortoise shell combs in all directions, greedily returning his kisses in between drags on a shared Lucky Strike.
The following evening, Spike stood in the middle of his stolen room in the Hyperion, RAF suspenders loose around his hips in a cloud of bay rum, Sen-Sen and Brylcreem, absently trimming his Clark Gable style mustache around a fresh Lucky Strike, contemplating trading Dru in for Ginger.
Though not as elegant as Dru, Ginger was FUN.
Ginger would saucily walk right past dozens of randy soldiers, sailors, and Marines loaded down with unspent pay as they wolf whistled at her shapely legs without so much as a sideways glance whenever she and her presumed Lt. Tulley met of an evening for a Rhumba or six capped off by a bit of Swing.
Ginger was also stable.
Dru's unpredictability kept things interesting, but a man could only take so much after a while.
Anyway, if Spike was going to live forever, it might as well be with a muse who at least could keep her knickers on around a better offer.
He'd do it.
After delivering Ginger back to the YWCA not long before sunrise, Spike spent the day calling in favors from the phone booth in the Hyperion's uniform crowded, cavernous lobby, so that by the time he left a message for Ginger at the Y's front desk asking her to meet him at the bar in the Hyperion that evening, he was ready and the room was ready.
William, or the last lingering vestiges of William, was delighted at what he planned. This wouldn't be a cheap back alley Siring like his had been, but a tryst, a wedding night. There would be candles. There would be oysters. There would be chocolate and silk. There would be wine (doctored with euphorics to make the transition easier); there would be clean sheets.
There would be flowers.
There would be Glenn Miller turned down low on the portable record player on the nightstand within easy reach, maybe a little Guy Lombardo to sweeten things up.
There would be seduction.
There would be privacy.
And afterwards, the pleasure of teaching Ginger how to hunt.