The Drachsmar Lounge was a seedy nightclub on the outer edge of town. The air inside smelled like soured patchouli. The dim recessed lighting made the lounge feel like the place to go to plan a murder or a bank heist.
Incandesca sat at a table in the middle of the dining area. She wore a midnight blue sequined column dress with a navy blue feathered hooded cloak. A black raven mask covered her face from her forehead to her upper lip, leaving her lower jaw exposed.
Two overly muscular, bald men stood behind her. They were dressed the same – tight black t-shirts, matching bike pants, matching black watches, and matching black tennis shoes.
Some of the other customers looked askance at her and her entourage, but the majority were too wrapped up in their own personal dramas to notice Incandesca’s level of outlandishness.
Incandesca flipped open her cigarette box and pulled one out. She put it to her lips. “Gorg. How long has it been now?”
Gorg, the bodyguard to her right, checked his watch. “Fifty-nine minutes, Master.”
She bit the cigarette’s top off and slowly chewed it.
They were supposed to be here in fifteen minutes.
“What’s taking them so long?”
“I don’t know, Master.”
She took another bite of her cigarette and did a slow scan of the room.
She caught the tangled mess of their scents – lily of the valley, musk, raspberry jam, and dried wood – before she even saw them.
Incandesca’s pupils widened as she caught one more scent overriding all of the others – the sharp pine scent of stake wood. She slapped her hands on the table, rattling her water glass and startling her bodyguards. “I told her to make sure they came unarmed!”
Elsie and Hildreth walked down the three carpeted stairs into the dining area. They strolled over to her table. “What do you want?” Elsie asked.
“What? You’re not even going to say hello or ask how I’ve been doing since you decimated my vampires?”
“Not really. Let’s get to the point so Hildreth and I can get back to work. Besides, it isn’t going to stay night for long. I imagine you’ll want to crawl back into your hole in the ground before dawn comes.”
Incandesca stood and slapped Elsie across the face.
Hildreth pulled out his weapon and balanced it on his shoulder. “Hands off the hot hunter.”
Her two bodyguards quickly flanked her.
Incandesca glared at Hildreth. “She isn’t that hot.”
“Besides, I told you two to come in fifteen minutes. It has been a whole hour.” Incandesca emphatically jabbed her chest with her index finger. “I have been waiting a full hour for you.”
Hildreth smiled. “It’s a funny thing. Did you know that there’s an Albuquerque Street here in town? Well, we were supposed to turn left at Albuquerque and we turned right and—-”
“Silence! I don’t have time for your juvenile jokes.”
“Huh? I was being serious.”
Incandesca ignored his comment and kept talking, “Please have a seat. I have a request to make and I’d rather do it sitting like a civilized person.”
“A Caten being civilized?” Hildreth scoffed. “Has Hell officially frozen? When did that happen?”
The command made her two bodyguards quake.
Incandesca noticed. “I meant them, not you two. You two may remain standing.”
They sighed with relief.
Elsie sat down at the table.
Hildreth sat beside her.
“Well?” Elsie folded her hands and set them on the table. “Talk.”
Incandesca sat. “Marauder, you have been killing my vampires every night. Every. Single. Night.”
Elsie shrugged. “I’m a hunter. What do you expect?”
“What do I expect? I expect you to leave my vampires alone.”
“Oh, heck no!” Hildreth said.
“I need them to build up my ranks again. It is a long, slow process when you are constantly killing them.”
“Again. I’m a hunter. It’s my job. It’s what I do. It’s what I am.”
“If you lay off for a couple of…” She pulled a cigarette out of the box and tapped it against her exposed lower lip. “…months. Yes, months. If you do that, I will give you anything you want.”
“Sorry.” Elsie pushed her seat back and stood. “You have nothing to offer me.”
Incandesca’s mouth curled into a smirk. “What if I give you Ambrose Smith’s heart?”