Chapter One

The Enforcer

Sometimes the states and cities began to blur if I lingered in one place too long. I'd been in Texas a few weeks ago, but I found myself in Florida simply because I had a place by the Everglades. I had several homes all over the world; all the same, small, mundane, yet comfortable and efficient.

I needed to feed so I took my chances in a dive of a bar along my way. They didn't serve blood. In fact, I was very sure they weren't at all fang-friendly. I sat and ordered the first thing I saw on the menu. If it was a beverage or food, I couldn't tell you. I took my order and scanned the area for a potential meal.

One of my hobbies was people watching. There was something incredibly amusing about observing people when they thought no one was looking. It often brought out the absolute worst in them. From my dark corner of the bar I simply watched, wondering if they knew I could kill them all before this horrid country ballad ended. They didn't notice. Far too often people saw only what they wanted to see. It seldom offered them a viewpoint beyond their noses.

Over the years, I'd developed a theory. There was a fundamental flaw in the entire human species. A thousand years had passed since my last heartbeat. I couldn't remember if I'd ever been like this. All I knew was as far back as I could remember the one trait in humans that was a constant was their innate propensity for self-destruction. The most prevalent form of the disorder was their willful disregard of their instincts. When you added in their volatile emotions, they were nothing more than overzealous children who were too smart for their own good.

I saw the woman approaching, the scent coming off her fit in nicely with the alcohol, urine, stale cigarettes, and desperation stench in the bar. With her overly generous use of cheap perfume, she stood out, though not at all in the good way that I was sure was her aim. She somehow smelled more horrid than everything else did.

"Look," I said, cutting off whatever greeting was going to come my way. "I have trust issues. I'm not in a good place emotionally. It's not you, it's me. Take your pick but leave me alone."

Of course, she wouldn't. Clearly, this woman was attempting to escalate matters. It was a real shame, though not at all surprising. Humans just didn't know when to quit. It wasn't admirable, it was stupid. "You've never had a woman like me. I would rock your world," she purred in a raspy voice.

Seriously, what about me sitting off in a dark corner suggested I wanted my world rocked? Still I nodded as if I was considering the offer. "What do you think of vampires?" I asked conversationally. "You're not into them are you?"

She shuddered in disgust and the expression on her face was right in line with her physical reaction. "Hell no! I ain't no fangbanging whore!" Just a regular one, I supposed. "Those things are worse than them coloreds and gays," she concluded. I bet her grandfather wore white robes, burned crosses and would have used a far nastier epithet, so I suppose this was an improvement. For all the indignation in her voice, you wouldn't have known she was all but pawing at me without invitation and molesting me with her eyes.

"Good to know," I murmured.

I leaned into her with a coy smile and waved her forward with my index finger. With a bright smile on her caked-up face, she happily leaned in closer. I winced, and wriggled my nose as she came well into my personal space. When we were face-to-face, I flicked her forehead with my finger. The force of the tap was enough to give her a nice bruise to look at for a few days. Let's face it, it was the least she deserved, but just for shits and giggles, I scared the hell out of her.

I fully popped out my fangs. "I vant to suck your blood," I said, in a clichéd Hollywood Dracula impression.

Her eyes went wide and she tumbled over her chair in her rush to get away from me. She scampered back and used her fingers to make a cross. Some things never got old! I laughed to myself as she ran off screaming out the door. People watched but the music blotted out the screams. Even if anyone heard, they were too busy being drugged to do a thing about it.

I left the bar resigning myself to the fact that nothing good to eat was likely to walk through its doors. It was no surprise, after all, I was in the backwaters of Florida. I walked home tonight hoping to chance upon a meal on the way. No such luck. I would be leaving this state soon. Seeing as I preferred to travel on my own power, I would need my strength.

The next night I moved on to Miami Beach, where there was an abundance of variety. Despite my aversion to bottled blood, it was the best option next to going hungry. In the event there wasn't a single human who wasn't drunk or high, I could resort to that. Strolling the boardwalk, I'd found more than enough donors to sustain me for a few days.

I knew she was there even before I saw her frail old form on a bench. The only reason she sought me out was because she had work for me. I was an Enforcer for the laws of vampires in the New World. It wasn't what I wanted to be when I'd risen to this new, immortal life. I'd had so many different ideals and hopes. I thought with the prospect of eternity came endless potential. It was quite the opposite. The older I got, the less I wanted to be bothered. I'd seen and done everything more than once. For the most part, I was bored to absolute tears.

Humans bored me the most, but they weren't the only ones. Vampires were strangely not far behind. My species was self-serving, scheming, and I never knew a vampire to trust another that wasn't their blood. Yeah, so it was that kind of thing. You could know a vampire for five hundred years and on the six hundredth anniversary, he would stake you without blinking an eye. The fucked up part was more often than not, it wasn't personal. It was sheer pragmatics. He'd simply found something more beneficial to him than your friendship. My favorite species were Ghouls. They lived and let live.

People will have you believe that I am an arrogant smart mouth prick on my best day and a degenerate brute any other time. Some said I got more willful with every passing decade; that I did what I wanted and my middle finger was proverbially extended to the world. So very hurtful and untrue might I add.

In reality, I'm an asshole with a great sense of humor that few people could appreciate. In addition, I wasn't a degenerate brute, I simply enjoyed a good bloody fight, a warm red drink, and a hot wet woman. See, they were entirely different things. My current profession allowed me to put my skills to use and gave me an outlet for my great personality. It offered freedom from the trivial game of thrones and the monotony of living in the open as a vampire. I was sure if I had to mainstream or something of the sort I would run, not walk, to the meet the next sunrise.

The unseeing eyes of the Ancient Pythoness, or Old Bat, as I liked to call her, followed my approach. At this point, I wasn't sure if her ability to see the future was extremely precise, or if she was faking blindness to maintain her position of vampire referee. It was hard to say. One minute she needed help crossing the street and signing her name, the next she was single- handedly tracking me down across several state lines.

"I find myself feeling cautiously optimistic," she said as hello. "This is not as seedy as some of the places I have had to travel to find you."

I should bow, but what was the point? She couldn't see it and I had a bad back. Okay, it wasn't so much a bad back as it was "Oppositional Defiance Disorder." It kept things safe and interesting for me.

"You should have come by yesterday," I replied, slouching in my seat. "Your optimism would have caught a contact high."

I saw as she repressed a sigh. "When will you tire of this?" she said.

"Here we go again," I murmured. I rolled my eyes at this same old routine. Now when she got started I just changed the station. I got nice and comfortable because it was going to be awhile.

"Countless times I have offered you a place in my cabinet and the rank of Captain of the Enforcers."

As she spoke, I mouthed her words. I knew them verbatim. She had been saying the same shit for the past two hundred years.

"Not only do you refuse the honor, you are brazen enough to ignore my summons. In two hundred years, you have never been to an Enforcer meeting. In two hundred years, you have not been able to keep a partner for more than a week. Confidence, I can respect, but you are arrogant, reckless, and willfully defiant; a rebel without a cause. What is worse? You troll through hovels and I am forced to wade through filth in search of my—"

"Best soldier," I completed for her. "Being a Captain doesn't impress me," I told her.

I did the bare minimum that would ensure the job was done. Somehow, that still managed to make me the best. I wasn't complimented. I was irritated. I was an eternal underachiever who was failing at underachieving.

"What would?" she asked.

"You," I replied, after a thoughtful moment. "Operating a motor vehicle." She had left herself open to that one.

"I should have you whipped for your insolence," she murmured.

As if that would do any good. "Whips and chains excite me," I replied.

Holding her hand out to me in a very old world manner, she used my help to get to her feet. Despite finding me on her own, she always insisted I escort her thereafter, lest she appear like a woman of the night. I maneuvered us away from the crowd and toward her waiting vehicle. I walked her to the back seat, but didn't open the door.

"Need I remind you that I am blind?" she prompted.

I scoffed. "Just because I can't prove you aren't doesn't mean you are," but I opened the door all the same and slid in beside her.

She shook her head and sighed. "You make forever seem so very far away, Eric."

I grinned. "You're welcome." I replied happily.

Whenever she had to track me down personally, which was often, she never gave me my assignment up front. That would be too easy. Instead, she would fly me to her home in Minnesota. The lodge style home was like a fortress in the woods. There was a reminiscent Roman feel to it and she insisted all her guests dress in the garb of that time. This was her way to punish me. I would never admit how effective it was. She would force me to remain by her side, using one pretense or another.

Once, she took me with her to a meeting with her scribes. I took silver to myself so I could have valid cause to be excused. Still she wondered why I didn't want to captain her band of merry men. This time was no different. It took two weeks of me wearing a bed sheet, and trying to pick my way through ancient Latin with Greek undertones before I got my assignments.

"We are diversifying," the Pythoness said.

I rolled my eyes. I wondered what else she wanted to throw into the mix, not that it made any difference to me. "By 'we' you mean me," I retorted.

"By that I mean we will extend a helping hand to other species in need, human too."

"Whatever, you Old Bat," I said, picking up my list of targets. "You point, I shoot."

The great reveal meant completely different types of crimes for vampires. The most common was of them being soldiers for hire to humans with money. That was a very big 'no-no'. As vampires, we kept our wars separate from those of the humans. We were forbidden to choose sides in their squabbles by fighting in their wars. As immortals, we were the ones who had to live with the consequences. We had to maintain the balance of power by staying out of their affairs.

Other types of serious offences involved vampires who were cruel for sport. Well, it wasn't the cruelty portion that got them in deep shit. It was their inability to do so inconspicuously or choose their kills wisely. My least favorite was vampires who were both insane and powerful, but had no maker to leash them. It was like leaving a chainsaw on and trusting it to show discretion.

The procedure for offenders was simple. The investigators gathered evidence against them. A scribe would deliver their first warning and attempt to reform their behavior with a speech. I have never delivered nor received one of those warnings, but I assumed it went a little something like this:

"To ensure no further infractions, I have come to assist you. Instead of slaughtering an entire upper class family, perhaps you maybe could choose an underprivileged one, or a vagrant even? If you wish, I could provide you with a list of cities with a high population of the homeless."

Pauses for a yes or no answer, not that it really mattered. My guess was they all read from the same script that came sewn into their purple and red robes.

"Also, be sure to plant large amounts of illegal substances on their person. Or perhaps you could relocate to an impoverished or war ravaged country where they do not have the technology to determine cause of death. I will be happy to assist you in that endeavor." Smiles warmly and leaves card, "I am so glad I could be of help to one of our own." Nods wisely, then departs.

Sometimes that was enough, but often the behavior persisted. The next infraction resulted in a hefty fine. If that didn't deter the behavior, the next step before arrest was a larger fine and said rule breaker was brought in to receive a direct reprimand from the Pythoness herself. One more offense brought on the involvement of the Enforcers, who contained the vampire and brought him or her to stand trial.

Depending on the severity of the crime, the lawbreakers fought like hell because odds were they would be spending at least a century in the Catacombs. The Catacombs was a silver mine belonging to the Pythoness. It was a vampire prison. From what I knew, silver had been melted to line every inch of the underground hell.

They say the underground labyrinth was so vast and complex that if you wandered deep enough into it, you could shake hands with the devil. There was no need for guards. The Catacombs was entirely self-sustaining. It consisted of endless caverns lined in silver. The inhabitants didn't see the moon or stars. They weren't able to interact with one another. It was utter sensory deprivation. They fed on rodents or starved. There was nothing but abysmal darkness, the cackling laughter of minds unhinging, and the piercing screams of torment. So before being sentenced to the Catacombs, many ended their own existence or fought the Enforcers, and often died in the process. That was definitely better than hanging out by the devil's front door for several centuries.

Most vampires got stronger as they got older. Some rose to this new life with the strength of someone five centuries their senior. There were some that were ancient but had the raw strength of a centurion. There was just no hard and fast rule but the Enforcers had developed a way to measure power. How they did do this? I couldn't say, I've never been to a meeting. I just knew my targets and their numbers.

The labels ranked from S1 to S7 and it determined threat level. S1 was harmful to no one except humans. Meanwhile S7 vampires posed an extreme threat to everyone supernatural or otherwise. I was called in for S4 offenders or higher. In other words, I got the bottom of the barrel. They took longer and were often more dicey, but I was yet to fail in closing a case.

My name is Eric Northman. I've lived everywhere and moved anywhere the chase brought me. This wasn't my dream job, trust me. One starry summer night exactly two hundred and five years ago I found myself in a desperate situation. It was a long story involving a woman, love, and me. It was a disastrous blend if ever I saw one.

Anyway, to save said woman, I sacrificed my position as sheriff and offered to take her place in The Catacombs for her two hundred and fifty year sentence. The Pythoness offered me a bargain of five hundred years as an Enforcer in exchange for the life of the woman I loved. Now my responsibilities or my life no longer involved political bullshit. It was far simpler. I found people who didn't want to found. I reached people who no one else could touch. It didn't matter how well they hid, how far, or how fast they ran. I was never far behind.

I couldn't explain what I did or how I did it. Even when I was human, it had been easy for me to find game. Once I got the image in my mind, I felt an inexplicable lure toward what I sought. It was a flavor; not of their scent, but the core essence of what they were. Regardless of the glamour and magic they could use to alter their physical appearance or obscure their scent, they couldn't change that. It called to me and led the hunt. The closer I got, the stronger the essence of the prey. I found a ghost once, just to prove I could.

Looking down at the roster, I saw my workload was a bit heavier than the last. It told me I had been on vacation for quite some time. It wasn't a vacation really. I was just waiting for the pile to grow and piss off Her Imperialness. After reading the specifics on each target, I ordered everything I needed to begin working. Depending on the individual elements of the case, I could be on the road for up to a year.

"You couldn't even throw me a single kill?" I asked the Pythoness as I zipped my duffle bag. "And you wonder why I'm a pain in your ass."

"Anyone can kill," she retorted, with something akin to amusement. It might be because I was doing my job, or she was getting me out of her hair. "It takes a special kind of…talent to do what you do."

What she meant was it took the worst of the worst to take down the bad. I rolled my eyes and got into the car.

"Do try to bring that back in one piece," she said, inclining her head to the sleek black car that awaited me.

It was a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport I drove while on duty. Since my preference for the vehicle, I've been through four. Before that, I'd run through several Ferraris and Porsches. While I could fly, I simply delighted in making the Ancient One pay for them. Having an eternity meant you had to learn to enjoy the simple things.

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Feels so good to be back! I always get a thrill after posting the first chapter. I know there is nothing to speculate or think on but I would love to know the initial thoughts on this Eric. I am also taking a survey for an updating schedule.