"Well I was a fairly average kid at high school. I was a cheerleader…" This confession earned her a patented King eye-brow wiggle. "Easy tiger – how about erasing that mental image now!"
King looked at her with a devilish grin, "Sorry, you put it there and I am powerless to do anything about it."
She smiled in defeat, "Ok, so back to the point … I was a cheerleader and in order to keep myself in top form I also did Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing. Which is apparently how I got to be so proficient in vampire ass-kickery!" With this statement she grinned at King, all part of their usual confrontational banter – it's what kept their partnership fresh.
"Yeah, yeah Maddox, whatever helps you sleep at night!" King wasn't letting her get away with that one.
"You see that's the difference between you and I King, you sleep at night and I hunt and kill. It's what's I like to call my edge! But let's just continue with the story at hand, we can lock horns later." He shot her a 'this isn't over' look and gestured for her to continue.
"Well anyway, I may have played damned hard at school but I worked hard too and I got the grades I needed to go to Oxford to work towards a medical degree." This earned her another mildly shocked look but she chose to ignore it for the sake of finishing her story sometime before the next millennium. "My dad had a college fund for me so I cleared it out and moved to England where I had what I would've described – at the time – as the best time of my life … since then I think I've had what I would now call the best time of my life."
He smiled at her, "Why do I have a feeling that this is all going a little too well?"
"Because it is." Her face dropped, suddenly she was very serious, "I'd been over in Oxford for about a year and a half when I got a call from my father's lawyer, telling me that I had to come home on the next fight." He noticed her eyes glazing over a little, but she did not cry, "I had to come home to bury my mother and father and to the news that my older brother Michael and my seven-year-old sister Amy were missing."
He reached across the table and squeezed her left forearm, her right was still fidgeting with the orange, "God Katy, I'm so sorry! I take it that it was…"
"Vampires." She finished his sentence, "Yes, unfortunately this tragedy hasn't even begun."
"How did you take it?" King asked, "Because I know that when I was first introduced to the world of vampirism I was more than a little sceptical – and I mean I had Danica, the blood-sucking bitch from hell, feasting on my neck at the time!"
"Well at first, I didn't know what the hell it was. The police told me that it was a violent attack, I wasn't even allowed to identify the bodies in person, they just showed me pictures for final confirmation." She said with a look that wasn't so much a million miles away but a million years in the past, "When I saw what was contained in those images I pulled out of Oxford and moved back home. I had to sell the house, I couldn't live there after all that had happened. I had my neighbours on constant vigil in case Amy ever wandered home but in my heart of hearts I knew that I wasn't ever going to see her again. She blinked back tears that were threatening to come, she'd already shed more than her fair share today. "I moved into a one bedroom apartment in the city and, for all intents and purposes, fell off the face of the earth."
"What did you do then?" King said, feeling like an enthralled child being told a bedtime story, albeit a macabre one.
Katy got up and moved over to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge, finally relinquishing her grasp on the orange she had been teasing for the better part of the morning. "Well I spoke to some of my brother's friends from college and they told me that about 6 months prior he'd fallen in with a bad crowd, he moved out of the dorm, into a house with these new friends of his and they hadn't really seen him since."
"Vampires." King said resolutely. Suddenly he felt this tale going to a dark place, and he was no stranger to dark places.
"Well of course, at the time, I didn't know that's what they were but you can guess where this is going." She said, remembering briefly what it was like to be oblivious to the nocturnal battle that was raging on the city streets. "Mike's friends told me that they had seen him a couple of times since he moved out and gave me the names of a few places that I could start looking. Most of them turned up blank but I eventually made my way to a dive bar with a ripped pool table where your only options were shine, absinthe or anything else illegal."
"Illegal hooch," King said with a smirk, "Sounds like my kinda bar!"
"Well in the case of the Hard Eight, the illegal hooch came in three varieties – O, A and B." Katy said with an admonishing grin.
"Blood Bar." King said sheepishly, "Perhaps not then!"
"It was my first time in a blood bar and I was a little thrown by what I saw. Everything had this creepy red hue and leather was definitely a big theme … not that I need to tell you any of this, I suppose." Katy said, reminding herself that King was no stranger to what went on in the city at night.
"Go right ahead – this is your story, I'm just an avid listener!" he replied, cocking his head to one side and resting his chin on his right hand. "As I said, all the details."
She smiled and nodded before resuming her stoic story-telling pose, "Another thing I should tell you about the Hard Eight is that it wasn't a full blown blood bar. It was on a back alley but not hidden … familiars and Bela Lugosis – no vamps."
King smiled, 'Bela Lugosis' – a nice reference to the first actor to play Dracula. He'd have to remember that for the future.
"I'd been in there for about 15 minutes or so, scoping the place out when I found myself a perfect vantage point, a barstool that over looked most of the club. I ordered a drink … alcho, not haemo … and was casting my eye over the dance-floor when I saw him, it was like everything else vanished and we were the only two people left in the room."
"Your brother?" King asked, looking more intrigued than she had ever seen him.
"Yup." She said as though she were rewarding an attentive kindergartener. "I was about to go running over to him when something struck me. Michael wasn't exactly your typical college boy. He was shy, not entirely hopeless but not ballsy either. But when I saw him that night he'd ditched his usual casual gear in favour of a black leather jacket and ripped jeans and he was all over some trashy little Goth girl like the plague."
"Did you go over to him?"
"No, I wanted to more than anything but the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I just knew something was off." King shot her an eager 'what next?' look so she continued. "I casually asked the bartender who he was, just to see if he was a regular or not. He wasn't really that forthcoming but the guy next to me who introduced himself as Kraven, told me that he went by Maddox and that he was a member of the court of Dominicus"
"Maybe I've been battling 'creatures of the night' for a little too long but nothing you just said seemed strange to me!" King said with a smile.
Katy laughed, "At the time I didn't have a fucking clue what he was talking about but I smiled and nodded and looked like I was a natural. I didn't really get a chance to get much more out of Kraven because when I looked over at Mike he was making a move outside, so I decided to tail him at a distance."
"Ok so if I was in your position I definitely wouldn't have ventured out of a blood bar into this city at night!"
"Well lets not forget that I'd been looking for Mike since I'd come home and for all I knew he'd just fallen in with a bunch of Goths. I didn't know what was out there – although it wasn't long before I found out." King perked up even more, "I watched Mike take the girl down a few shady little back alleys, then seemingly out of nowhere this much older looking guy appeared. I'll spare you the details, I'm sure you know what happened next."
King nodded grimly, Michael had been delivering some fresh blood to his sire, "I saw the whole thing" she said grimly. "Every synapse in my body was screaming but on the outside I was frozen."
"Yeah, and that probably saved your life."
"Literally – yes." She replied, "But in a way my life ended that night because I'd seen this dark side of humanity … and something beyond it … and I knew that there was no going back."