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Warning:This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Prologue – April, 1929
Look at my hand
There's a soul on fire
You can lead me even higher
"The Main Thing" - Roxy Music
Standing motionless in the filthy alley behind the club, I hear him joking with the two men we have been watching. His voice is a lovely purr against their harsher tones, making him sound easy and charming as he speaks with them. We decided earlier in the evening that a young girl alone amongst the clientele of this particular speakeasy would be far too memorable when and if the police questioned witnesses. Therefore, I am the one wrapped in a dark hooded cloak, waiting with the vermin that prowl through the piles of refuse lining the alley's walls.
"I'm Edward," he says as they make their introductions and one of the men orders another round of gin cocktails. Once names are exchanged, it will not be much longer before the men walk out of the club intent on showing their young new friend some of the city's more forbidden pleasures. Perhaps a trip to one of the whorehouses on the river, where one can buy a schoolgirl's virginity. Or if one prefers young boys, a slightly longer trip over the river to the southern end of the city will satisfy such urges.
"Well, Edward," the man called Jackson says. "I've got a feeling about you. I think you'll have a lot of fun with us."
I know, as does Edward, that these men have something very specific and dark in mind for the evening's activities. They are not interested in paying for fleeting moments of wet satisfaction in the embrace of the working girls. Their interests lay in hunting. They want nothing more than to stalk a woman into the evening, chasing her until she is trembling with terror. They want her to beg for mercy before they violate her in every grotesque way their twisted minds can dream up.
Edward and I have been watching these men for about a week and know all about their habits. We have become familiar with the patterns of their days, watching them perform their mundane jobs by day and prowl the streets by night. We have seen them searching for the woman that lights the spark in their shared desire to become monsters. We have stood inside the fetid basement where they bring their quarry and smelled terror.
Last night, as they passed a florist's shop on Bow Street, the men saw a young woman at the counter placing a new shipment of flowers into large water-filled vases. Their hunger to destroy her flared as they watched her move about the store. The men hardly exchanged a word, but I sensed the change in them with total certainty; they would hunt her very soon.
She was slender and quite lovely, her golden hair shining in marcelled waves and her skin glowing with good health. There was a gold band shining on her left ring finger as she arranged the blooms, and I saw a matching ring on the finger of the man who entered the room to stand beside her. The two exchanged loving smiles, looking content as they worked together.
"That's her husband," Edward murmured, his voice too low for human ears to hear. "They run the business together. Her name is Marion."
"They're going to take her," I replied in a voice just as hushed, nodding toward the hunters watching their prey. "And they'll do it soon."
Edward's fingers brushed my right wrist gently, signaling that he agreed with me. No doubt, he could hear very specifically what the hunters were thinking. He also knew that my instinct for identifying a person's intent had never been wrong.
Now we are waiting for the men to leave the club so we can begin our game. As the minutes tick by, I sense the intentions of the men in Edward's company growing steadily more violent and disturbed. I know we are right to act now before they harm anyone else. I feel some sympathy for Edward for having to hear twisted impulses of these men so explicitly. I also know that his present disgust and outrage will feed the savage joy he feels later tonight when we show the men what we are.
The sound of chairs scraping the floor alerts me to the fact that Edward is herding our quarry out of the club. Excitement rushes through me as a smile of anticipation crosses my lips. I step away from the wall to make my way soundlessly toward the street; if I had a heartbeat it would be speeding with excitement.
I can hear the men talking and joking as I follow them silently, taking care to cloak myself in the shadows of buildings and alleyways, sometimes slipping behind automobiles. There is nothing in this night for me to fear; I am the most dangerous being one might encounter apart from Edward. But the game Edward and I are playing tonight requires stealth on my part to be truly satisfying and thus I have become a phantom.
"Where are we going?" Edward asks, his voice amused but tinged with a dangerous tension that the men do not recognize.
"Well, Edward... what do you say to a little show tonight?" Jackson is the more cerebral and sadistic of the two hunters. Among his many predilections, he takes particular pleasure in using the girls they catch as ashtrays for his cigarettes.
Jackson's words spark a wicked glee in his partner, Cleary, a man motivated purely by his brutish senses; I can hear his heart rate increase with excitement. While intelligent, he is a slave to the dumb desires of his meaty body. He returns to plunder the captives repeatedly until long after the women are able to respond in any way. Characteristically, he says nothing as his partner speaks, allowing Jackson to choose the path things will take.
"Why not?" Edward replies gamely. I can picture the easy smile spreading across his face as he speaks, knowing he will appear to the hunters like a young man eager for new adventures. If Edward's reactions to tonight's activities do not please the men, they will turn on him without hesitation.
The hunters lead him toward Bow Street, past crowds of young men coming and going from the University. The mild spring weather has brought the city's inhabitants out and the pavements are crowded with patrons frequenting the cafes and businesses that surround the school.
Jackson and Cleary approach the florist's shop at a quick pace, eager to begin their fun, with Edward close behind. I round the corner in time to see Cleary lazily drawing the window shade while Jackson stands at the counter with the girl. Just before the shade obscures my view, I see confusion written plainly on Marion's face but no fear. She is not yet frightened of the three well-dressed men in her shop.
"My friends and I were hoping that you would like to join us in a little fun this evening," Jackson says to her silkily. "And your husband too, of course."
"My husband? Oh, he had to step out," Marion replies pleasantly. I imagine she is smiling in turn at each of the men facing her. "We ran out of daffodils, you see, and we have a delivery to make in the morning. He's gone to fetch some from the flower market."
The sound of the door's deadbolt locking is very loud. The following silence is even louder.
"I... my husband will be back quite soon," Marion says brightly. It is clear she understands the gravity of mistake in revealing that she is alone. "I expect him any moment, so if you would allow me to fill your orders, I can get you squared away."
"That won't be necessary, my dear," Jackson replies. "We're not here for flowers. We're here for you."
The seconds that pass as they move in to take her are filled with volumes of sounds. Jackson's footsteps rounding the counter to approach Marion and her accelerated heartbeat as adrenaline floods her body. Cleary's dark chuckle as he moves to assist his partner, tongue dragging wetly over his lips. Marion's squeal of fear, muffled by a hand pressing over her mouth, and her feet stumbling over the floor as she is dragged into a rough embrace. Edward's tiny sigh of exasperation, pitched far too low to be heard by anyone but me.
The sigh makes me smile; I know Edward is growing impatient.
"Come on," Jackson says, his voice thick with lust. "We're going to have some fun with the flower lady here."
The foursome makes their way out of the back of the shop to the alley where Cleary parked his car earlier in the day. They take turns climbing in with Jackson restraining Marion in the backseat. Cleary guides the car onto the streets of the city, which are relatively clear due to the late hour. Knowing where they are headed, I take off at a dead run, moving much faster than any car.
I am no longer careful to hide myself and allow the hood of the cape to slip off my head as I run; no one can see me at the speed I am moving. Within minutes, I am standing outside of the building that sits over the hunters' basement. It will be a little while before the men catch up to me, and I lean against the wall of the building to wait.
This area is almost entirely abandoned, with long blocks of emptied buildings and warehouses standing silent. It is wholly deserted in the evenings, and I make no effort to conceal myself. If anyone were to see me, I might be mistaken for a young man. Under the cloak, I am dressed in what Edward jokingly refers to as my Earhart duds: aviator trousers, a button down shirt, riding boots, and a shearling coat. My hair is tucked out of the way under a little cap. I prefer to play this game without the annoyance of tight dresses, hose, and heels; I am nothing if not practical.
Edward and I know that the men will leave their car at the edge of this dead neighborhood and release Marion into the dark streets. Unfamiliar with the surroundings, she will run blindly in her terror while the men stalk her easily, herding her toward the basement where she will die.
To that end, I hear car doors slamming in the distance and the sound of racing footsteps. Marion is weeping openly as she flees, her breathing ragged and panicked.
The men split up to more effectively railroad their prey, Jackson bringing Edward with him while Cleary runs alone. The men jog along easily, occasionally popping into Marion's path to reroute her. They laugh cruelly at the sound of her screams when she catches sight of them, and Jackson mocks her desperate prayers for help.
Edward is silent through much of the chase; I do not hear even so much as his breathing for some time. Finally, he gives a short, harsh laugh as Jackson taunts Marion. I do not know if he is laughing to ensure the men do not suspect anything is amiss or out of rage.
I retreat as Marion and the men draw steadily closer, moving along the wall of the building to conceal myself in the dark shadows. Edward and I want the men to enter the basement before me make them aware of my presence.
Marion totters into view at last, and the sight of her fills me with pity. Her dress and hands are dirty from falling and her pretty face is tearstained and swollen. Her expression changes from desperation to terror when Cleary, Jackson, and Edward arrive closely behind her. She begins to back away from them, crying incoherently, and backs directly into the doorway of the basement that was the hunters' destination all along.
"That's right," Jackson croons around a wicked smile. "That's a good girl. Go downstairs. It's time to play."
"Please, please." Marion is begging in a voice choked with horror. She backs down the stairs into the basement as she bargains. "I... I just want to go home. Please! Just let me go home!"
Jackson and Cleary follow her slowly down the stairs, Cleary holding a camping lantern before him to light their way. He is chuckling as he steps, probably already granite hard in anticipation of Marion's body naked and shuddering with fear underneath him. Jackson is deadly silent, though I have no doubt his mind is teeming with ideas for wringing screams from the soft young girl.
Just before stepping down the stairs, Edward whispers, his voice floating over the cool air. "Julia."
In less than an instant, I am standing beside him. We take a second's time to look at each other before beginning our descent. Edward's mouth is set in a grim line and his eyes are blazing with fury. I do not know what he sees in my expression, but his lips pull up in a crooked, angry smile before his fingers ghost by my elbow and we walk down the stairs into the cellar.
Jackson and Cleary are advancing on Marion when I softly clear my throat to draw their attention. They turn and their eyes widen to see me standing beside Edward. The blank surprise on Cleary' face is so profound, it's almost comical; Jackson is harder to read.
Behind them, Marion is standing rigid with fear in the center of the room. Her chalky face is all eyes and her breaths come in gasping cries. Her terrified expression wavers when she sees me beside Edward, becoming wildly hopeful for a moment before she collapses to the ground.
Edward chuckles darkly at my side; Marion fainting simplifies everything. We do not need to worry about her while we finish our game with the men. When she wakes up in her shop a few hours from now, they will be dead and she will be none the wiser as to what happened to them or where they are buried.
Moving too fast for the men to see, Edward scoops Marion from the floor and carries her outside. We both know it would not do for her to be in the room with us when we are ready to begin; Edward and I are unguarded in those moments and prone to impulse. Before the men notice he has moved or Marion has vanished, Edward is standing by my side again.
"Who's this, Edward?" Jackson asks in a low, pleasant voice. He is smiling at me fixedly but his pale blue eyes are cold and murderously angry. "You should have told us you were bringing a guest."
Edward's smile is baleful, so much so that Cleary takes a step backward. Jackson's smirk drops from his face. The men do not understand what has happened to turn their evening upside down, but they sense that they are no longer in control. Their instincts are telling them that something is not quite right about Edward and me; that we are, in fact, dangerous.
"Gentlemen, allow me to introduce my friend, Julia," Edward replies formally, giving me a wide smile that I return fondly.
"And will Julia be playing with us tonight?" Jackson asks. He pays me rapt attention as he closes the gap between us, his eyes fixed on mine. He stops only when he is much closer than polite society dictates is proper, his hot breath whispering across my collarbone.
"Or will we playing with Julia?" he murmurs, stroking my cheekbone with his fingers. His voice falters when I deliberately exhale a long breath in his face. His pupils dilate as my scent stuns him and the fingers on my cheek tremble.
"You were correct the first time, Mr. Jackson," I say with smile, locking his gaze with mine. "I'm here to play with you and Mr. Cleary, though not in the way you imagine, I'm afraid.
"Edward and I are here to finish your games, Mr. Jackson. To finish you and Mr. Cleary, as a matter of fact."
Before Jackson can form a retort or Cleary draw breath to warn of the expression dawning on my face, Edward is across the room yanking Cleary's arms behind his back. I hear a crunch and scream of pain as one of the man's shoulders dislocates. Cleary's scream is still hanging in the air when I spin Jackson around, pinning his wrists with my hands. I pull Jackson closer, pressing my face over his left shoulder, and relish his gasp when he feels my cold lips against his neck. He is taller than I am, and sensible enough to struggle against the bonds formed by my hands. His struggles are nothing to me, however, and his panic at being unable to break free becomes evident in his jerky movements and breathing.
"It's time you met the real monsters, Mr. Jackson," Edward murmurs softly, pushing Cleary forward. Cleary's face is gray with pain and shining with sweat, and he stumbles as Edward moves him. "What you and Mr. Cleary have been doing to those girls is reprehensible, to be sure. But you're nothing compared to real monsters."
"Nothing compared to us," I agree, nuzzling Jackson's jaw with my nose.
"What the hell is this," Jackson roars, his fear mixed with rage at being overcome by two youths, one of them a girl. His struggles to free himself from my stone embrace are ineffectual, which feeds his fear and anger. He feeds my lust to destroy him.
"This, Mr. Jackson, is where you die," I whisper tenderly against the warm skin of his neck. His shouts of protest hardly register over my bloodlust.
My eyes flick toward Edward just as his gaze meets mine. His eyes are blazing with hunger and shadowed by his fury for what the men have done in this stinking hole. Shadowed too, I know, by his self-loathing; no matter how many times we purge the night of vermin like these men, Edward's conscience is never quite silent.
Edward dips his head gracefully, brushing his lips against Cleary's throat before sinking his teeth into the man's flesh. He crushes Cleary to his chest, groaning over the sound of the man's ribs cracking. Jackson echoes the dying man's scream, his eyes round with horror, as he understands his fate at last.
So help me, I love these moments: the terror of the men as they face retribution for their sins, the purity of Edward's rage, the thirst roaring in my throat before I strike. I cannot help smiling before I draw back to bite Jackson's neck, grinding against him when the first mouthful of hot blood hits my tongue.
Then there is only my thirst and the singing of the blood as it floods down my throat in great draughts. It is rich and oh, so sweet, sending waves of the deepest satisfaction I have ever known crashing through me. There is a roar in my ears. A buzz deep inside me heightens my euphoria. The blood quenches my longing as it does my thirst. The blood is everything I want. The blood is ecstasy.
Too soon, it is gone. I let the dead man drop and begin to come back to myself, keeping my eyes closed while my breaths slow. Edward sighs softly as he casts Cleary onto the floor beside his partner and I know he is still thirsty. He will put off any further hunting for the time being. There are still the men to dispose of and Miriam to return to her husband.
We stand silently for a moment, while the blood of the men we have drained thrums inside us. At last, I open my eyes to meet Edward's across the space separating us, his beauty striking me. In the middle of this hellhole, he is a cold and terrible angel, his eyes shining like bloody rubies in the light of a dead man's lantern.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear what you think of this little tale.