Hildreth dug his fingers into her hair and kissed her as if he were saying good-bye for good.
Elsie kissed him as if she were trying to make him stay.
He broke off and whispered, “Be safe.”
He stroked her face and looked love. “I will find you.”
The vampire waited until Hildreth was completely out of sight. He rubbed his nose again. “Well.”
“I’m ready whenever you are.”
“You aren’t so ready yet. First, you need to remove some things.”
She folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. “Define ‘some things’.”
“Jewelry. Watches. Purse. Wallet. Cell phone. Clothes.”
“I am not taking my clothes off.”
“Your significant other wanted me to leave a trail.”
“I am NOT taking my clothes off.”
“Clothes make excellent trail material.”
“Then, why don’t you take your clothes off?”
“I have strong exhibitionistic tendencies, so okay.”
“Forget it. And forget it. My clothes are staying on my body. It’s too cold out to walk around stark naked.”
He sneezed. “If you say so. Hand over your other possessions. All of them. We want this to be a good trail, right?”
Elsie silently surrendered her non-essential goods.
“Nice. Cell phone please.”
“I’m expecting an important call.”
He rubbed his nose. “This time of night?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
She went with the first name that popped into her head. “Mark Caten.”
He winced, which made him half-sneeze. “Fine. Follow me.”
He laid her items on the ground as they walked. A necklace here. A bracelet. Her car keys.
He tried to take her coat off.
She punched him.
He didn’t try again.
A bunched up tissue.
A tube of lipstick.
A series of loose change leading into an alley.
A homeless man emerged from the shadows and tried to clean up the free money.
The vampire snapped and snarled at him.
The man ran out of sight.
The vampire rearranged the coins and led her further down the alley.
As soon as they were gone, the homeless man rushed back and gathered up the money. “I’m gonna eat tonight! Yes!” He walked off with his handful of quarters, nickels, and dimes, whistling happily.
Soon enough, the vampire ran out of things to lay down and Elsie had nothing left in her coat pocket.
Just her cell phone.
It’s my life line to Hildreth. If I get in too deep over my head, I can call him. I can tell him where I am. He can come find me.
The vampire sneezed and gave her an expectant look.
“You want him to find you, right?”
“Is it much further?”
“It’s on the other side of this wall.”
She pulled the cell phone out of her pocket.
He sniffled and rubbed his nose.
“Mark Caten will be sorely disappointed if I don’t take his call.”
“The master will be sorely mad if you talk to Mark Caten in front of her.”
“Her? The master of this town is a woman?”
“Yes.” Sneeze. Sneeze. Sneeze. Sneeze. “She hates the word mistress. Calls it demeaning.”
She looked at the phone in her hand. “Let me call Hildreth so I can tell him where I am.”
“After all of the trouble I went through laying down a trail?”
She flipped the phone open and called Hildreth’s number. It went to his voice mail.
“Hildreth? This is Elsie. I just wanted to let you know where I am. I’m down—”
The vampire jabbed a needle into her neck.
She gasped and darkness took her into its arms.