THE FLORENTINE VAMPIRE: LOVE IS THE DRUG THAT KILLS YOU by Francis-Marie de Châtillon

Chapter 1. 

The streets of Florence were wet that night as I walked down from the delle Oblate towards the Duomo. It had rained all day and I was tired and unreasonable with the world. The street-lights reflected off the granite road, sparkling against their blackness. I trudged on looking for a conveniently low-lit bar where I could get a drink and hide. My nerves needed calming badly. A long cold beer and then a few whiskies would do the trick. I was actually as mad as hell. Madder. What was she thinking of just walking out on me like that? After four years? No discussion! Just dumped like trash. I hit the nearest likely-looking bar and ordered. I slipped the bartender a twenty, “That’s for you. Just keep ‘em coming.” He smiled the way bartenders do when they hit a home run with a punter. I shoved myself into a booth and slouched like I didn’t give a fuck. Which was mostly true. I didn’t. Bitch! Dumped by text too! Bitch! I saw a few other drinkers cast a disapproving eye in my direction, taking in the wet and slightly dishevelled look of my clothing. Fuck ‘em!

The bartender, true to his twenty Euro loyalty bonus, came over with another drink. Over time I have found that the best way to get drunk is by a steady method. A beer and then a scotch. Beer and then scotch. Boilermakers. Steady. No hurry needed. Not unless you want to get pissed at the speed of light. Not unless you want to end up with your head stuck in the can for half an hour, throwing your guts up. I didn’t. I felt the alcohol hit home somewhere around the fourth and then I wasn’t so mad. Just a bit tearful. Getting. I wiped my eyes and snot with a napkin, courtesy of my bartender, and tried to look like I belonged here amongst so many well-adjusted people. Dream on baby. You don’t. Not by a long way. 

It’s a strange thing living a lie. Much stranger than you might think. No matter how you play it, no matter how you hide it, it works your nerves over time. Badly. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life. Since birth. Living a well-hidden lie. So well hidden that it took falling in love with someone to discover the crap of it. Love. Ha! Fuck it. I hit another drink with vigour and wondered what to do. Being a Vampire can be a shit joke. Really it can. Even in the twenty-first century. People think we can only come out at night. Not true. People think sunlight kills us. Not true. People think we live only in castles in dismal, isolated places. Partly true. I live in a Florentine backstreet, no street-lights, well out the way, but not anything like Dracula’s pad. Well, not the Vincent Price type pad. And, we can get in the bath. Water doesn’t burn us. Just holy water. That hurts like some motherfucker. Crosses? Can’t stand the sight of them. Host? Burns also. Counting? True. We have to count anything thrown in our path. I can count hundreds and thousands in seconds. Also, we have to untangle things. Can’t help ourselves with that one. So, now I’ve come clean with you. You can’t accuse me of deceit. I’m one of the ‘Undead’. Perhaps I should have done this with Julie. You know, come clean. Now I’ll never know.

I have another couple of drinks and then decide to go. Again, I’m getting tearful in an obvious way. Whether people actually notice I can’t really say, but I feel obvious. I see the bartender looking at me suspiciously as I try and stand. And then I lurch unexpectedly forward and topple the table and the glasses. Lots of noise. Some unwelcome commotion in my direction. Then an arm under my arm and I’m sitting again. I start protesting in a loud, wholly inappropriate way. Bad language is escaping fast. I hear the word ‘polizia’ from somewhere and I start to protest even more. I’m furious now. 

The cops take a surprised and altogether very dim view of my gun. They are even more surprised to find that I have a ‘carry’ license for the States. My US passport’s checked along with other docs. Phone call to someone somewhere. I get quizzed some more and the gun is taken away from me, but otherwise I am free to go. “Can I get it back some time?” They think not. But on the whole, not a bad outcome. Could have been worse. But that’s working for the Consulate for you. You can get away with murder. 

Oh, and I have lived for centuries. I’m one of the oldest of our kind. But let me tell you, you get fed up with it, this never dying shit. It’s boring. Exhausting. Originally, I was from France and fighting in the Second Crusade. That’s where I got ‘infected’, as the Hunters say. ‘Changed’ I prefer to call it. Some real die-hard of a Mussulman bit me with his last breath and that was that. So I’ve been around a long time. Seen many things. Done much. I’ve lived in France, Lithuania, Spain, England, even Brazil for a long while to get the heck out of Europe when the heat was on for my kind. Now I hail from Boston, Mass., but I live in Florence. For a while. Until I need to move on. When the Hunters come looking for me again. 

After being ransomed after the fateful battle at Hattin, I returned to my family in France and my dear wife Othenin who thought I was lost. It was an arduous journey made worse by the stench of the bodies we were taking back with us. Some of the bodies were excarnated by boiling, in the German fashion, to remove the flesh from the bones. My countrymen preferred embalming or the removal of the heart and entrails, to be buried in a different place. In any event I returned home to find that I was changing into something strange and dangerous. At first it was just little things. I found that I had a much more heightened sense of hearing. My eyesight became better in the dark and I could sense the slightest movements where I couldn’t before. I developed extraordinary reflexes and speed of movement. Then I started having cravings for blood. This was curious because I never had any desire to drink it before. But now I found myself salivating when the servants killed a pig for the table. I would look for long periods at the big bucket containing the drained life of the animal. I started to dip my fingers into it and then taste them much in the same way I would taste my wife in bed. I started to drink it in tankards and found I could not do without it. Animals became my victims. I started to have an aversion, of sorts, to sunlight and I tried as much as I could to remain inside. Obsessions took control of me and I started to compulsively count things. All this took some weeks, but it was gradually getting worse. And then one morning it all exploded. Badly. I found that I had developed a lust for one of the servant girls who looked after my wife’s bedchamber. She was fulsome and buxom and very healthy. At first she thought my advances were of just a carnal nature and so she put up but little resistance. What else could she do, actually? I remember smelling her hair—the greasiness of it—and not finding it off-putting. I ran my teeth over her ample, white cleavage and then up to her neck. Here my memory fades somewhat because it all seemed to happen in a flash. She was wrapping her leg around my back at one moment and then screaming in pain and fear the next. I remember that I fled the room, my face covered in blood. Ugo, my personal servant, was ordered later to take her body to the woods and leave it for the wolves to devour. I felt well-fed and strangely powerful that night. I slept almost nothing and then later left Othenin to go out hunting again. It felt good. Over the months I became stronger than ever and my sense of cunning became sharpened. Soon I realized what I had become. I had heard stories of Vampires from the Teutons I had known in the Holy Land and had been horrified by their tales. I never thought that I too would one day bear the curse of the Undead. And so it went on. I would drain the life from people. I would turn others into my kind. And I would, years later, watch my wife die and know that I could never join her. Over the centuries I would become far worse than when I started out on this new existence. I cursed that Mussulman and I cursed God for allowing this to happen to me. Me! I, who was all Calvary and Crusade. Eventually, I came to like it—love it even. But now? Oh, now I’m just a little tired.

Want to know a bit more about us? Here’s a bit of the juice on us... Well, a Vampire feeds on the life essence of their victims. And we usually do this, as anyone who watches horror films will know, by drinking their blood. The reasons that we need blood to survive is that we need it to flow through our veins to keep our bodies animated and limit the damage of decay. And yeah, it’s also a sadistic habit in order to wreak havoc and fear. I like that the most. And we Vampires aren’t particular. No. We’ll drink the blood of animals as well as humans. We’re the dead that walk amongst you! We have fangs—normally well-hidden and can shape-shift into bats and wolves, have control over the lesser creatures. And we do actually cry tears of blood. But we don’t normally sleep in a coffin during the day. We have extreme levels of strength and speed. Of course, we’re immortal. Unless we get killed using the proper methods, that is. So, how do you get to be a Vampire? Easiest way is to get bitten. Cursing God can do it. But there are other ways too. Like being conceived on a holy day. Or being born the seventh son of the seventh son or receiving a curse. Actually, even staring at a Vampire whilst pregnant can do the trick too. So there you go. 

So, I’m walking slowly back to my apartment trying as always to keep a low profile. Staying under the radar. I see before me a homeless guy, dossing in a doorway. He’s lost, lonely and in need. Vulnerable. Now Vampires still have some human feeling. Just about. Mostly it’s leached away over the years. But I throw him some coins and move on. He’s not my typical ‘food’. I like women. Young women mainly. The blood tastes so much better. Richer. Sweeter. But sometimes I’m not too fussy, you know? Older women will do. I reach Via degli Strozzi, turn off into a small side street and find my latch-key and let myself in. The first thing I notice is that the place is deathly quiet. No Julie to greet me. It’s also pitch black. I throw myself down into an easy chair without hitting the lights and I feel like killing somebody. It’s a strange inner rage that Vampires have, boiling away most of the time. It’s an anger against God and we take it out on His creation. Of course, we too are His creation. And don’t we just know it. Cursed for all eternity. I also feel so bored I need a machine gun. I glide up out of the chair and go to the bathroom. That’s another thing we can surprise with—gliding like we’re on wheels. Oh yeah, the bathroom. Now I love this trick. I just stare into the mirror and guess what? That’s it! No reflection! Nothing. I amuse myself for hours with that little joke. Ever tried to live your life without a reflection? Ever tried to have a lover and then you’re always dodging mirrors, sheets of glass? Anything in fact where the other person may say, “Hey! You’ve got no reflection! What the fuck’s that about?” Like I said, exhausting. I turn on the shower and strip my clothes off and let the water fall over me. I turn my head up into the spray and open my mouth, then spit it out against the shower curtain. And that’s another thing. It’s not running water—like from the faucet—that bothers us; it’s running streams. We can’t cross them. That little fact nearly got me killed by the Hunters back in the eighteenth century in England. It was a near thing. 

But now, refreshed, it’s time to dine out! Where shall we go? Spoiled for choice in Florence. Especially for American girls. I cruise down Via Roma where the classy fashion shops are. It’s around 11pm and the streets are still full. I’m Armani suited and look like a million dollars. Some Givenchy scent adds the final touch to the magic that is, da-da! Guy Covington. Vampire Extrodiaire! A real devil with attitude. Hiding as Cultural Attaché at the US Consulate in Florence. I sweep past a group of Italian girls out for the night. My pulse is quickening at the thought of their blood. “Chaio bellas,” I say smoothly. They giggle in return. I crash a bar where there is loud music and, sober now again, I order a beer. I lean back on the bar, my elbows resting. Am I hot? You better believe it. I eyeball the ‘talent’ and immediately clock a good-looking woman of around thirty. Nice body. Slim—but not too slim. American, of course. She’s alone and looks a little sad. Poor thing. Oh, but she’s just my type! Food wise. 
I sidle over and step on the charm full throttle. 

“Hi, so we meet again!” I say in my cool Bostonian accent. I’m smiling like a demon on drugs. White teeth. Sparkle. 

“Sorry?” she says, a bit confused. 

Of course, I’ve never seen her before. The ‘again’ bit is just to disarm and get her defences down. 

“We’ve met before,” I confirm. “It was in the Colle Bereto Café. Remember? In the Piazza degli Strozzi? Sorry though, I’ve forgotten your name...” I let it hang and smile. That Vampire’s smile. Hundreds of years of practice. 

“It’s Alicia, like as in Silverstone.” Her intonation rises at the end of the sentence. Manhattan. How lovely. She smiles and drinks in the clothes. The scent. The eyes. Oh, those Vampire’s eyes. 

It takes but the work of a fleeting moment (well almost) to get her back to my apartment. I have no interest in her as a sexual conquest, although I may have to go through the motions with her. I don’t really mind that. Could be fun. I suppose. See how we go. She starts to look around my things noticing the strange collections that I have built up over centuries. There’s not as much as there should be. All the running has taken its toll in that way. Left many things behind. Many homes. Many lovers. Many... Ah! It doesn’t matter. I move up behind her as she sips her drink whilst examining some beautiful portrait miniatures I have. French. Seventeenth century. I start to kiss her neck softly. Oh, that Vampire’s kiss. She turns to me as she feels my teeth run down her neck. She shudders slightly, and my hand caresses her generous breast. It feels good. Firm. And then I strike. Quick as a flash my eye-teeth sprout large in my mouth and penetrate her vein. One short swift movement. Lightning speed. Frightening speed. She gasps, and slowly her knees buckle slightly as I feed from her. Oh, by the way, you know it’s not actually as slow a process as one might imagine. Just thought I’d mention that. Supporting her I move her to the couch where she can lay and I can continue feeding. From her flavour and consistency I know she will be good for a few more times like this. She will awaken when I stop but have little or no recollection of what has happened. Then, weakened by blood loss, she will come easily under my mental control. She will voluntarily come to me when I think of her, and it will be a few more times before she dies of total blood loss and I let her live (so to speak, ho-ho!) to be ‘Undead’. Oh, that Vampire’s bite... But don’t you just love it? 

It’s Monday now and today I’m at the office. I bump into my ‘friend’ and co-worker Jack Robson. He runs the Cultural Exchange programs here at the Consulate. Now, I like Jack but don’t get me wrong here. I’m a Vampire and we don’t really form attachments like you folks do. No. We tend always to have some angle on things and so it’s never quite what it seems. My angle? Simple. I want his wife. She’s a tall red-head and a bit stupid—just how I like ‘em. And she’s got legs to die for. But the main thing is her neck. I get a real kick just thinking about the curve of it. The length and stuff. The smooth statuario-white skin. All that. I sort of want to fuck her brains out too, but mostly I just want to suck her dry. But Jack’s the problem. I’m fond of him. I don’t really want to hurt his feelings, so I’ve stayed clear. But it’s getting harder by the day because I just keep thinking about her. Velvet her name is, Velvet Robson. See what I mean? Any girl called Velvet has got to be a bit dim. And she is. Talks a lot too. Too much. 

“Hi Jack, how’s it hanging on this fine Monday?” I ask him. 

“Oh, you know….. Velvs’ mother came over for the weekend and we had to listen to family sagas. Then we watched re-runs of Friends. Nothing much.” 

Now this is Jack all over. He’s not a bad guy. Mother-in-law is a pain in the ass, but he keeps it together. Some men would’ve taken a cleaver to her head years ago, but not Jack. He just keeps his cool and fucks Velvet in compensation. You have to like the guy. The only thing that bugs me about him is the Velvs thing. Velvet is bad enough, but Velvs! I mean, come on! Anyhow, we throw it back and forth for a while around the water cooler and then I go back to my office. I check my e-mail and letters and then, in a sudden flash of indecision I can’t decide if I should ask Jack and Velvet out for a drink. Dinner’s a no-no because we Vampires don’t eat ordinary food. And I can’t ask the waiter for a big bowl of warm blood, can I? “No clots please, waiter!” Actually, another myth about us is that we have to feed every night. Now that’s just not true at all. See, I can go about three days after a good meal. Most of us can. If you think about it, it’s better for us—evolutionary you could say—because it cuts down on the dangers associated with the hunting for blood. 

I’ve decided. I call Jack on the internal and we agree to meet that night at the Cafe Dante. “Velvet’s coming too?” I ask, trying to sound casual. 

“Sure she will. She’ll love it,” he says without a thought. And now I begin to dislike Jack. Arrogant jerk. Got a woman like that and he doesn’t even bother to ask her first! I’m getting closer to having Velvet by the moment. Her neck. My teeth. What a combination! 

The day passes like any other and at around 7pm I head out for the bar. It’s a lively place just near the Borgo Lorenzo near the Duomo. Jack sort of knows about it through me, but it’s his first time. When I get there Happy Hour is in full swing confirming my long-held belief that it’s not just Americans who can get drunk by early evening. I order a glass of Chianti and give the waitress a quick once over. Nice. Not eye-candy as I understand it. But on a cold night? Sure she can snuggle up close. Just as I’m musing I see Velvet walk through the door followed by Jack. She looks drop-dead lovely. Short black skirt showing her firm thighs. Long legs that seem to go on and on for ever. Green blouse offsetting her wild red hair. Jack looks ordinary as usual. In another flash of indecision I can’t decide if I should make a play for her tonight or not. I see her throw me a look and she decides the matter for me. Yes. I’m having her. Fuck Jack! I kiss her on the cheek but let it linger there a second longer than is customary. I breathe in the perfume. “Poison?” I say, but it’s more an assertion than question. She smiles back at me, flattered and impressed. Oh, you sexy Vampire! At it again. Now the thing is, Poison isn’t what I call a class perfume. Oh, don’t mistake me—it’s quality alright. But it’s not top-notch. And that tells me a lot about Velvet and Jack. It goes like this: Jack doesn’t care enough about the details concerning Velvet and Velvet is too stupid to notice. I would buy her something finer. More expensive. Even if she didn’t like it. I tell you, in the early thirteenth century I once suddenly sliced a woman’s hand off at dinner to get a ring for my wife. I ripped the ring off her dead finger and put it on Othenin’s. She was horrified. Almost screaming like the other woman. But I insisted she wear it. And she did. No choice. So there’s no excuse for Jack. You want to know why I chopped the woman, don’t you? Well, it was punishment for her husband really, a fellow nobleman called Luc de Boeuf. He was reeving my cattle by night. And anyway, I was still ‘changing’ at that time and it makes you a bit cranky. Things get out of proportion. 

Drinks in hand we find a table and sit down. Music in the background. All very nice. Especially Velvet who is showing a lot of leg in my direction. I make sure she notices my look of approval. Jack’s talking shop. I’m not listening. I’m looking.

“So Velvet, how’s the teaching going these days? Kids got you thinking?” I’m being a bit jaunty now. She laughs. A high laugh that would drive me mad if I had to listen to it too often. 

“I don’t want kids yet. But someday...” 

She moves a little in the chair and I see she is wearing stockings. Oh Velvet! She starts talking and I tune out because it’s going to be tedious crap about kids and teaching grade school and whatever... Jack’s just in a world of his own making. Can’t tell whether he’s listening or not listening or heard it all before. Many times. Of course me, I’m nodding away like a good ‘un. A smile here, a mild exclamation of delight and interest there. I’m a devoted listener. Not! She stops and says she needs the restroom. Now this is the cool bit. I have to wait just the right amount of time so Jack thinks I’m going to take a leak too. Like I’m not following Velvet. I count to thirty. “This cold beer. Goes right to the bladder,” I tell him, and get up and head off. I hear him grunt something. Nod. A song plays in my head, ‘Smooth Operator’. In the restrooms I quickly find the Women’s and wait. Soon, I hear the flush go and the sound of running water as Velvet washes up. So I stroll in casual as you like and stand right behind her. Now any other woman would be disturbed by this behaviour, but not Velvet. For one thing she can’t see me in the mirror. Ho, Ho, Ho! So you can imagine the huge shock she gets when I run my hand straight up between her legs and finger her. She turns and guess what? Smiles. Yes, smiles! Can you believe it? No cry of surprise. Nothing. Just smiles. I’m in. And more ways than one. I take her by the hand and pull her into a cubicle and lock the door. Velvet is as eager as can be, “I knew you were like this Guy Covington. It’s written all over your face”. I have her skirt up now and I’m feeling her hard with my middle finger. She starts in on my zipper. 

Now this is the difficult part. Shall I fuck her first? Of course fuck her first, what’s wrong with you? Yeah, but she’s dinner, isn’t she? I mean, do you know anyone who fucks their Thanksgiving roast turkey and potatoes before they eat it? Know anyone who sloshes their dick around in the gravy before they scoff it? Well do you? I certainly don’t. So I finger her a bit more. Take a long taste. Not adverse to that. Seen many people run their finger through the meat juices and then lick it off. “Mmmmmmmmmm…” they go. I start to kiss her softly and with proper desire. I feel her tongue in my mouth. I taste and smell the lip-gloss. She’s beautiful. I hope Jack had her before they came out because she’ll be dead in about the next two minutes. The moves are made. The teeth are in. She lets out a long sigh like she’s cumming. Cumming hard. And I suck on her. Deep sucks taking all. She’s sliding down the cubicle wall now, her beautiful legs losing strength and vigour as I drain the life from her. It’s almost all gone. She’s almost all gone. She’s dead now. I could have loved her but I don’t. I could have fucked her but I didn’t. Told you, being a Vampire’s shit. Confusing. I head out from the bar moving like a blur. Another thing we can do. Jack—everybody—they don’t even see me. I’m in the dark street, moving like that super-hero ‘The Flash’. Velvet’s cold. Stiffening by now. Before long I’ll have an alibi somewhere else. Difficult questions later? Oh, I can control most people with my mind—it’s like hypnosis really. Simple trick. And so it goes... But I feel good. I mean real good!

CONTINUES NEXT MONTH

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