Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and violence.
It had been a long, long time since Ezra had last killed a vampire, and he hadn’t missed it one bit. Not only did the killing of his own brethren make him feel like he was chipping away at his own morality, but the mess of it all was just damn right annoying.
Ezra seethed, snarling at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror as he fought with his hair. He’d showered twice, and that stranger’s bloody entrail goop still refused to wash out. If this meant he had to shave his head, there would be hell to pay. His hair was a part of him. He already couldn’t grow a beard, and his chest hair was non-existent. The hair on his head was all he had!
The brush snagged a knot and he angrily yanked at it until the brush pulled free. Within its cushiony bed was a slimy, red hairball like a blood clot. Ezra grimaced. At least Gabriel was taking the lead with cleaning the living room.
After about another half an hour of brushing and rinsing and brushing some more, Ezra towelled his hair so it would dry in its signature intentionally mussed up way, and redressed into a long-sleeved white t-shirt and black gym shorts. Blood had stained his towel. It joined the rest of his ruined clothes in the laundry bin. He turned to make his way slowly down the stairs to meet Gabriel and offer help, but he barely made it past the door before a screaming in his head had him losing his balance. He felt his shoulder hit the doorframe but all of his senses were muddled. His mind was somewhere else. He couldn’t see. Well, he couldn’t see what his eyes were looking at. Instead, his vision tunnelled and then the deep blackness dissipated to reveal Lillian. She was on the floor; knees tucked her chest. Blood covered her pyjamas; her hands clasped over her mouth were slick with it. Bloody tears were rubbed across her face. She was rocking and shaking and chanting.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Imsorryimsorryimsorry.
The scene blinked away as quickly as it had come like a TV being unplugged. The sudden shift had Ezra feeling like he’d been yanked out from under water. He shook his head. Black dots still danced at the edges of his vision. It took a second for him to register his surrounding again.
He’d seen Lillian.
Lillian wasn’t here.
Lillian was at Ben’s.
Lillian was covered in blood.
Ezra bounded down the stairs, taking two at a time and slipped his socked feet back into his tossed aside sliders. In the corner of his eye, he saw Gabriel get up from scrubbing the floor.
“I have to go,” Ezra rushed, waving a hand in his direction. He swung open the front door and managed to catch Gabriel call out ‘Oh, just leave me to clean up after your murder, then’ before vampire-sprinting to Ben’s house.
Panic clutched at his throat like two icy fists and static energy sizzled through his dead veins as he sped through the village.
Ezra knocked frantically on the door out of ingrained politeness before he kicked it open without awaiting a response, making shards of wood spit from the broken lock. The smell of fresh blood hit him so hard he felt dizzy. His fangs unsheathed instinctively.
He paused at the threshold. He silently prayed for the pushback. He had never been given entry into this residence. If he was able to enter without resistance, it only meant one thing.
Ezra lifted raised his foot…
…and stepped inside.
Those icy fists squeezed tighter.
The tug of Lillian’s presence along with the heady stench of blood sent Ezra straight to Ben’s bedroom. He slammed the door open so hard it bounced back from the wall.
Lillian screamed from her hiding place behind the chest of drawers by the back wall. Her blue eyes shone at him like a terrified cat. Blood was matted in her hair; on her hands; on her bare feet.
Oh, Lillian, what have you done?
Spread across the double bed was Ben. Well, what was left of him.
He was facedown, arms folded beneath him and legs twisted over each other as if he’d been rolled over. A huge chunk of flesh had been ripped from the side of his throat and the torn open artery had soaked the duvet black with blood. He was dressed in a t-shirt and boxers, so the bite marks that covered his arms and legs were clearly visible. There was another chunk of him missing from his inner thigh, and the huge bite on his calf exposed pink bone.
There was so much blood it was dripping from the sheets onto the carpet. It was sprayed across the back wall and up the wardrobe Smudged bloody handprints painted an erratic path from the bed to where Lillian now hunkered down.
Hunger stirred deep within Ezra so viciously he had to lean against the doorframe as his vision swam. He could feel under his eyes ready to ripple. The veins under there wanting to bulge, and his eyes wanting to turn black. But he focused his attention on his screaming progeny and stalked towards her.
She was still crying long, ragged sobs. Ezra yanked her hands from her mouth and she collapsed against his legs.
“Lillian, what the hell happened?” Anger made his words come out sharp and harsh.
“I don’t know,” she wailed back, clutching his leg and smearing blood over her bare thighs.
Ezra dropped to his knees, grabbed her shoulder and forced her to look at him.
“I woke up and he-he was like that.” Her eyes darted to the body. She shook her head and whined. “I don’t remember doing it. I don’t remember anything.”
“But you did? It was you?” A vampire had just attacked him and Gabriel in there home. Maybe one had come and attacked Ben? Was it too much to hope?
But Lillian nodded fervently. “I can t-taste him.”
That’s when Ezra noticed the blood on the inside of her lips and the red stain on her teeth. He hung his head.
“And you don’t remember attacking him?”
She shook her head. “Last thing I remember… we were watching a film and I was starting to feel hungry. He was going to call you to ask for the coupons and… and that’s it. Everything went blank.”
Ezra held her hands on her lap. They both looked down at them. His freshly cleaned; her so bloody.
“I’m gonna to call Gabriel and he’s gonna come get you. Okay?”
Her grip suddenly tightened. “No. No. I can’t go. I can’t leave him here. Not like this. No.”
“Shh.” Ezra held her eyes with such intensity she stopped sobbing. “Okay. I’m going to take you downstairs and you’re going to wait in the living room until Gabriel and I have this all cleaned up. Sound better?”
She gulped hard, wincing like she’d swallowed glass. She tried to shift her gaze to the body but Ezra moved his head to block her view. The wrinkles in her forehead deepened and she chewed her lip, pained, but then nodded.
Ezra helped her to her feet and kept behind her as he guided her out of the room. She kept trying to look back but Ezra’s strong grip on her arms prevented her. It took them a while to get down the stairs. Lillian’s body seemed to be stiff but fragile at the same time. With every step down, Ezra feared she’d shatter in his hands.
He carefully guided her down onto the sofa and when he let go, she looked to the bloody trail through the house and whimpered.
“I just don’t understand what happened. I’ve never killed.” Fresh blood tears ran down her already marred face. “I’ve never killed. I would never kill.” Her lips quivered. “Oh, Ben.”
Ezra wished he had something to say. Something to lessen the blow. But he was just as confused and bewildered as his progeny. First, the strange vampire attacking him, and now Lillian killing Ben? Nothing was making sense anymore.
After making sure Lillian would stay where she was and wait, Ezra went back into the hallway and called Gabriel.
“You gonna come back and help me finish this or what?” Gabriel said immediately upon answering the call.
“Actually, I’m going to need you over here. Now.”
Gabriel paused. “Why? What’s going on?”
“I’m at Ben’s.” Ezra looked down at his blood-stained clothes. They had been fresh just ten minutes ago. Bloody footprints had seeped into the carpeted stairs. “And bring the cleaning supplies.”
“Isn’t this what they do in films?” Gabriel asked as he and Ezra rolled Ben’s body up in a tapestry-style rug they had found in the spare room.
Ezra fixed the rug securely with two belts, before they straightened, stepped back, and assessed their work. Ezra shrugged. “It works.”
The bloody bedding was bundled in bin bags by the top of the stairs. The carpet was still a horrific mess. Gabriel had tried to clean the walls but had only managed to turn the arching blood splatters into swirling red stains.
Ezra may have killed a lot during his vampire life, but those kills had been premeditative. They had been cleverly articulated. He had always taken the necessary precautions to keep the clean up to a minimum.
He had also never killed a human. And by the state of the bedroom, they bled a lot.
“I still don’t understand how this even happened. She loved the guy,” said Gabriel, surveying the new murder scene. Two murder scenes. Two locations. One night.
“She didn’t know what she was doing. Like I said, she doesn’t even remember.”
“Maybe it’s psychological. You know, when people live through a traumatic event, the mind erases it to protect the person.”
Ezra shook his head. “You saw those bite marks on him. She tore him apart. That’s not Lillian.” His eyes dropped to the rolled-up rug. Blood was already staining it black.
I would never kill. Her voice rang in his ears. And the way she’d looked at him when she said them. She believed them. And he believed her.
There was something definitely wrong here.
Ezra’s hands turned to fists by his side. Hot anger suddenly stabbed him through his gut.
“I should have just commanded her to stay. If I’d forced her to stay with us this wouldn’t have happened,” he seethed.
“Then why didn’t you?”
The question hadn’t been accusatory but it still made him flinch.
“I didn’t want to lose her.” Ezra hung his head in shame. “I was protecting myself. And now she’s downstairs tearing herself apart.”
A heady, confusing mixture of anger, self-doubt and fear burned through him, searing through his insides like a forest fire. Ezra cried out and slammed his fist through the door in one fluid, destructive motion, the breaking of the wood giving him a flare of ugly relief.
“I’m so sick of this shit!” he screamed. Every muscle in his body felt too tightly coiled. His jaw clenched so hard his teeth were grinding together. He felt ready to split in half. To tear his own self open and rid himself of his build-up of emotions.
He was losing it. He’d let Lillian go and now Ben was dead. A strange vampire had burst into their home and attacked him and when he’d killed him, it had felt good. And he was so hungry now that warning images flashed in his mind of him on the floor, lapping up the blood from the carpet like a feral dog. He hadn’t felt so exposed and raw and furious and terrified since the night he’d been Turned. The sudden stark reminder hit him like a blow to his brain.
“Ezra,” Gabriel tried to reach out to him but he batted his hand away so violently, Gabriel stumbled into the bedpost.
Blood tears scratched the back of Ezra’s eyes as he watched Gabriel watching him. His gaze was apprehensive. Then, in unison, the two of them looked down at the body between them.
“Ben’s fucking dead,” Ezra said, releasing an ugly sob.
“Wow. I didn’t think you cared so much. I thought you hated the guy.” A ghost of a smile twitched on Gabriel’s lips, but Ezra shook his head, not in the mood for his friend’s attempt at humour.
“He was a person. Every life matters. He mattered. He mattered to Lillian so he mattered to me.”
Gabriel’s face went solemn. “He mattered.”
The fizzling static through his veins and the tightness in his chest casted Ezra’s mind back to that night. A coldness washed through him. Not on his skin, but bone deep. The memory hadn’t resurfaced since he’d buried it. Buried it so deep he hadn’t told a soul. And right then, in that moment, as Ezra looked at his friend who had just helped him roll up a body, he knew he couldn’t hide it any longer.
“I didn’t die the same way you did.”
Gabriel’s brows furrowed. “What?”
“I told you I was attacked randomly in the night like you, when I was Turned. I lied.”
“What are you talking about?”
Ezra ran his hand through his hair – now sticky with blood, again – and then crossed his arms tightly over his narrow chest, suddenly self-conscious.
“I tried to kill myself.” He shrugged, pressing his fingers into the grooves of his ribs as if physically keeping himself together. One moment he wanted to be pulled apart, now he was determined to stay in one piece. His head was all over the place.
“A friend of mine – he died. Some illness, I dunno. Probably something easily treatable now. But he was ill and we both thought he’d get better, but he didn’t. I couldn’t handle it. I went to his grave. It was just some mound of dirt with this shitty little cross.” His tears finally escaped. He wanted to bat them away but he was afraid of loosening his own hold on himself.
He could picture Christian on that bed, his body overheating as he shivered and mumbled incoherent fever dreams. Ezra’s hands clasped around Christian’s. His lips to Christian’s sweat-coated knuckles. Squeezing, praying for him to squeeze back.
“I-I cut myself. I was bleeding out. I couldn’t face the world without him. I wasn’t ready. I was weak.” He bowed his head, too ashamed to face Gabriel even though he knew he wouldn’t judge. “Silas found me. He Turned me. He gave me a second chance. A reason to keep going. He taught me how to be strong.”
A long, heavy silence filled the room. Ezra chewed his lip and dared to look up. Gabriel looked confused. He studied Ezra’s eyes for a moment.
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“I fear I’m falling back.” Ezra gulped hard. “I’m supposed to be the one making sure you and Lillian are safe. I made that my job, and I’ve failed. Ben’s dead because of me. Someone – a human – died because of me.” A hard, brittle sob escaped him so suddenly he pressed his fist against his lips to suppress it. “Silas will kill me. Or he’ll make me kill Lillian.”
“No.” Gabriel stepped over the body and shook him. “I would never let that happen. He hasn’t gotten to me after I killed my patients. He’s not getting to Lillian. And he’s definitely not getting to you. Not after everything you’ve done for him. It isn’t happening.” The determination in Gabriel’s voice had Ezra almost smiling. A warmth spread through his chest. Not anger this time. But something welcomed. Rejuvenating. “You might think it’s your job to protect me, but this is a two-way street.”
“Just because you don’t like the thought of me being the boss,” Ezra smirked.
“That’s because you’re not.” Gabriel smiled and clipped him round the ear. “Now, quit your blubbering, we’ve got a body to shift.”