Billy Horwell was not easily deterred. He dutifully went to check each of the manholes, coming up with the same conclusion each time.
Some of them were welded shut. Others had something too heavy on them to lift. He heard the roar of an engine right outside of one as though a truck was parked there. He suspected one of its tires was right over the plate.
Billy would not have described himself as an easily scared individual. Still, as he looked between the girl close at his heels and manhole after sabotaged manhole, he couldn't help feeling like something was awfully wrong with this situation.
As he led her around from sewer plate to sewer plate, he watched her expression become more and more desperate. He tried to come up with some sort of explanation for it. To comfort her, he clarified in his own mind.
He couldn't come up with anything, not even a suitable lie that a teenager would buy, and it bothered him.
Billy had spent his entire life fixing things. First cars, and then plumbing, and now he was going to spend his days knee deep in shit, maintaining sewer equipment. He was an orderly man, the kind of man that needed an explanation.
As he walked with the girl, he went over the situation in his mind. He felt the metal above his head, still hot to the touch. Why would anyone be parked in an alleyway? What would be the point of welding the seams of the sewer plates together? What reasonable explanation was there?
Billy's sloshed footsteps momentarily faltered, but he said nothing, as he realized that there was none. Someone was trying to keep them down there.
By the time he had accepted that, he had also begun to accept the fact that they had walked so far away from the area they had started in, the map he was using was no longer correct. He tucked it away, into the back pocket of his jeans. They were coming up on four hours in the lonely, freezing sewers underneath the city, and Billy also began to accept that his headlamp would soon go out.
He mentally prepared himself for this inevitable fact and for the first time in a very long time, perhaps since Billy was a very young child, he was terrified.
Gary was not a patient man, certainly not in life, when he had been waited on hand and foot by the ridiculous, brownnoseing movie companies. Lavish prizes, consolation prizes now, for his participation in films; They had taken him out to dinner, gifted him fine wine and chocolates, like he was some beautiful woman they were trying to get into the pants of. Gary had never waited for anything in his life.
No, patience was a learned trait, and patience was not Gary's strongest point. Not even now, when all he had left was time, an endless torrent of days filled with grotesque choices such as the one he was now engaged in. Gary scoffed, finding a dark humor in the entire horrible irony of it.
The small room in the twisting cavern of the nosferatu's hideaway was filled with electronics of all sorts, wires, television screens and computer monitors all piled atop one another. He rarely came into this room anymore since Mitnick had taken it over.
His cat-yellow eyes followed the small group of humans on the monitors. The picture was grainy and briefly went black every few moments, from shoddy wiring or else the power surges.
Sewer workers almost never went this far down. They usually had no need to, and Gary mused to himself, they would need to be dealt with before they got much further. He didn't particularly enjoy killing the innocents that meandered through their little portion of the sewers, when they indeed did, maybe only once a decade. He turned away from the monitors.
Oblong faces, pointed ears, wide, curious yellow eyes stared back at him. The mob of nosferatu that had gathered behind him to see the action took one look at his brooding expression, and one by one vanished into the humid sewer air around them.
'Cowards,' he thought, a cackle threatening to rise from his throat.
Only one remained of the group. This one was no more brave than the rest, as evidenced by his halting, unsure stance, and hunched shoulders. But this particular nosferatu had business with him, and Gary eagerly put aside his irritation.
Bernard was new blood, and still relatively dumb. His latest workhorse was a chubby nosferatu, if Gary had ever seen one. He was a bit of a pushover, not the scariest looking, but he was loyal. Gary had sired him to take the edge off some of the others who complained far too much for their own good.
"Errand boy," Gary greeted him ruefully, "Are the humans looking for a lost city of Gold down here?"
"From what I could overhear, they're lost." the nosferatu reported, "I, uh, accidentally bumped into the girl."
Gary allowed a wicked smile to grace his features, "Bernard," he said, in his most chastising voice, and then in a darker tone, "Your clumsiness will get you into trouble some day."
Bernard's eyes widened between his grey, crater-filled cheeks. He grimaced at Gary's expression, readjusted his stance.
"Did she see you?" Gary hissed, the uncomforting smile unwavering.
Bernard quickly shook his head, hoping to redeem himself, "A lucky break. Their headlight went out."
"But..." Bernard said, tone regretful.
"But?" Gary mocked impatiently.
"The girl. There was something ...off about her. I dunno for sure but I think she knows about us. I could see it in her face when I was messin with her."
Gary smirked wider, allowing his jagged teeth to show. An interesting twist of events. "You're sure she didn't see you?"
The nosferatu nodded again, wide eyed and nervous.
Gary couldn't allow the two humans to leave the sewers with this knowledge, if indeed there was any at all between the idiots. Lost in the sewers, one of them a maintenance man. Gary scoffed. He doubted the worker had much between his ears to be in this situation.
But the girl...It would be nice to know who had revealed themselves to the girl, if it had been at the gnarled hands of someone of his own little herd.
The humans would not come away unscathed then. Gary stifled the small, gnawing feeling of regret at having to kill them. An irritation, but not one that he couldn't have some fun with.
"Come back when you have something more interesting to tell me. Coax it out of her. And while you're out, consider picking up a spine from one of them," Gary cackled.
Bernard nodded, ignoring Gary's jest, and disappeared.
Gary turned again to the monitors, eyes narrowed on the human girl. He was perplexed, and to draw that emotion from a man that prided himself on knowing everything, now that was not an easy feat.
Molly had noticed it first, perhaps because she found herself unable to look away from the circle of light from the sewer worker's headlamp.
The circle of light trembled with every footstep, as the worker looked around. Sometimes pausing at the concrete walls, other times staying straight ahead into the suffocating darkness. Mostly the light was trained down at the water a few feet in front of them as they walked.
The worker seemed to be deep in thought when she abruptly stopped walking. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that the shoshing footsteps behind him had suddenly gone silent.
He turned to look at her.
Molly stood rigid, stared down at the water making its way over her sneakers. The light ebbed down too, as the sewer worker followed her gaze.
When the light hit the water, Molly knew what she had seen had not been a trick of her mind.
Blood, dancing amidst the flowing sewer water. A lot of it, more than Molly had ever seen before. Enough to color it red in puffs, in tendrils, flowing across her sneakers in a steady stream.
She heard the sharp intake of breath from the sewer worker as he looked at it. The light left Molly's shoes, as the worker panicked. The little circle of light jostled around the river of water around them, trying to find the source of the blood.
Molly swallowed, the saliva thick in her throat. Someone was dead.