"Son of a bitch! Rat bastard! Mother fucker!" He had been going on like this for a good fifteen minutes now. I tried to get him to calm down, but Vittorio continued to pace back and forth with an anger in him the likes that I ain't never seen before. His large frame and monster sized hands, giant pasta gut, practically blocking every ray of sunshine that came through the office window. Everything his body didn't cover up, he tried to fog over with giant puffs of cigar smoke. "Johnny...you get Sal in here! You tell him to get his ass in here right NOW! You hear me?"
"He's on his way already, boss. Hey, why don't you take a load off, will ya? Let me fix you a drink." I said.
"I don't need a drink, Vincent! I need to get my hands on this moron's throat! That's what I need!" He said. "You sure that you talked to him?"
"I talked to him, Vittorio. I called him up, just like you said."
"Well, CALL HIM AGAIN!!!!" Vittorio screamed, an angry sweat breaking out on his forehead. I haven't seen him this mad since the O'Malley family put out an attempted hit on his brother. I was relieved to hear the loud engine of the old black motor car driving up to the place. Thank the stars. Vittorio was about ready to throw me out of a high sttory window just because Sal was out of reach.
My boss' pacing got worse as he heard Salvatore nervously creeping his way up the stairs. When that door opened, I carefully stepped to the side. The last place I wanted to be was between thosetwo. A few more of our guys came into the room and shut the door behind them. Sal might as well have been a raw steak, freshly thrown into the lions' ring at the circus. And from the look on his face, he knew it too.
"Well, well, look who it is!" Vittorio scowled. One of our guys brought a chair over to Sal, and with a rough push down on his shoulders, they forced him into it. Vittorio stepped closer, knocking the fedora hat off of Sal's head and blowing smoke in his face. "I hope, for your sake, you've got betta news to tell me than what I've been hearing on the streets lately."
"I've...I've been trying boss." Sal stuttered. "There's no getting into that place. I don't know what's going on with them. I tried everything. I did just like you told me. I went to the speakeasy door, I gave them the leaked password, I even offered to grease 'em with up to 250 bucks for their trouble. But the guy, he takes one look at me and he tells me to scram. I'm telling you...it's like he's some kind of mind reader or something...."
"ONE thing, I ask of you, Salvatore! ONE thing! Get inside this speakeasy, see what the fuck is going on in there, and find out who owns the joint so we can put the lean on him. You mean to tell me that you can't do that? That ONE thing?"
"I don't know what else to tell ya, boss! I swear to you on my mother's life, Vittorio...there's no strong arming those secretive fucks. You don't get in unless they want you in." Sal told him. "I'm telling ya, there are some strange things going on in that place."
"Strange things? What are you talking about? Strange like what?" Vittorio asked.
"Strange! Ya know? Listen, I stood outside of that joint for four or five hours one night. I watched that door like a hawk. You know what I see? A big Houdini act. People...they go in, the party rages on until the sun comes up...then everything stops. The whole building goes quiet as a church. I waited by the car with my eyes locked on that door, Vittorio...but nobody comes out. Not a single showgirl, not a jazz player, not even a misguided drunk! I figured they maybe had some secret way in and out or something, but me and the boys have been searching for two weeks now, and we ain't find nothin' to explain it. Then, when the evening comes around and the streetlights come on...the big party starts right back up again like nothing happened. I honestly don't know how to square it up with anything proper, boss."
Vittorio leaned back against his desk with his arms folded. I thought, from the look on his face, that he was gonna give Sal a serious smack in the chops for a story like that. But instead, he just puffed up on his cigar a few times and put the rest of it out in the ash tray on his desk. "Do you know how expensive it is to run this operation, Sal? People are getting organized now, and we need to keep up." Vittorio told him. I watched Sal's face turn white in the process. Vittorio wasn't known for showing much in the way of compassion when he didn't get his way. "We're in the middle of a Prohibition war right now. I've got bootleggers to the North of me, bootleggers to the South of me. Those Irish fucks up North have all but pushed their territorial boundaries right up my ass! And the Italians are so scared of Capone's racket that they won't make a move without his say so. We're all on our own here. The brothels and the gambling are good, but they're not our bread and butter, ya see? We've got to fight for our little patch of land and keep it ours. It's sacred, you understand? And now we've got some mysterious nightclub that just magically sprung up in the center of Chicago...serving the finest gin and whiskey and making money off of OUR potential customers...and you mean to tell me that you can't gab about NOTHIN' about who's running the place?" Sal started to stammer with another excuse, but Vittorio abruptly cut him off. "You're KILLING me here, Sal! As if we don't have enough trouble with the feds putting pressure on us for the liquor trafficking, but now the other crime families in the city are getting anxious about the smoke and mirrors involved with this place. Nobody seems to know who's in charge over there. I thought one of the other bosses were trying to run an underground speakeasy behind our backs. Hiding it right under our noses. Turns out, they don't know nothin' about it either. In fact, they were thinking the same thing about us. That means we've got an intruder right on the border of both territories, and they ain't paying tribute to neither side. If they're gonna play our game in our own backyard, then I want a piece of the action! And I want it NOW!"
Sal trembled silently for a moment, but with a few dry swallows, he was able to say, "All I know is that they only let certain people through the door. They're funny that way. I've seen some of the patrons going up to the door. Some of them, kids."
"Kids?" Vittorio said with a frown.
"I swear! I saw it with my own eyes. They were street kids from around the neighborhood. Some as young as thirteen, fourteen, years old. I don't know if they're boozing it up in there with rest of the grown ups or what...but I saw 'em go in. And then they didn't come back out again. Just like all the others." Sal told him, "All I could really find out about the joint is that it's called 'The Crimson Euphrates' club, and it doesn't open until after sunset."
"What kinda name is 'The Crimson Euphrates' for a nightclub?" Vittorio asked.
"I don't know. But even when we crowded the guy, that was all he would tell us." Sal said. "They've got one hell of a panic button when it comes to that place."
"What about the coppers? You can't slide them some bonus dough to pull a raid on this place?"
Sal shook his head. "Nah. The cops won't TOUCH this place. Half of them don't even know why this joint is so special, but they know not to talk about it. No amount of money will get them to rat out the owners."
"Then we've gotta find somebody in the know and smack 'em around!" Vittorio said. "We don't have any slugs on our payroll that can give us the goods on the joint?"
"None." Sal told him. "Apparently, they don't ask questions, and they don't get answers."
Vittorio turned to me with an angry eye, and he said, "What do you make of all this, Vincent? Does this guy need a whack upside the head, or what?"
I tried to assess the situation. Salvatore may have his crooked moments, here and there, but he wouldn't lie to Vittorio. Not in this close proximity. To be totally honest, he looked pretty spooked to me. I wasn't sure how to take that. I almost wanted to believe him.
As Vittorio's first Lieutenant, I gave him a nod, and I said, "His story sounds legit to me, boss. He's either telling us the truth, or he thinks he is."
Vittorio walked around his desk and sat down in his chair, lighting up another fine cigar. There was a long pause in the room, where the silence threatened to smother us all if it didn't end soon. Then he looks at Salvatore, and he says, "Well, gentlemen...we have ourselves a rat in the basement. These...'people'...come to our town, they open up a business without permission from any of the local bosses...and they're offering no kickbacks." He said. "I find this to be a great disrespect. Don't you?" We all nodded in agreement. Who wouldn't? "Then...it seems to me that a few of these guys gotta have an 'accident'. The sooner, the betta." He directed his attention to the other goons in the room, and said, "We do this fast. We do it loud. Tonight, if possible. You understand?"
Sal was shaking as he said, "I don't know about that, boss. I've got a bad feeling about this. These guys...they weren't even scared when I told them who I worked for. They didn't even blink. There's something...different about this lot. Kids and all."
"Do I look like I'm wearing a fucking skirt over here? Huh?" Vittorio told him, then nodded towards me and said, "Listen, Vincent...I want you to get on the horn and get Lefty and 'Jimmy The Vice' out here right away. We're gonna send them over there tonight to pay them a very special business call. They're new in town...I think it's only polite that we go over and introduce ourselves, don't you?"
I told him, "Say the word, and consider it done, Vittorio."
Sal said, "No, wait...I don't think you guys understand..."
Vittorio said, "You tell them to make one HELL of a grand entrance at that place. And if those fucks give 'em a hard time at the door, I want you to tell them that caskets are expensive...but bullets are cheap! I want you to make it clear that this isn't some little kid game that we're playing here. I shine my shoes twice a day, and I don't like having my toes stepped on."
Sal mumbled,"We can't do that, boss...."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I sent Lefty and Jimmy in to put their foot in the door last week. I ain't heard a peep from them since. It's like they vanished off the face of the Earth." Sal told him.
Vittorio and I looked at one another doubtfully, but Vittorio stood up again, and asked, "We don't have any dames running around that can get some leads out of the people that go there? Pillow talk speaks volumes, ya know?"
"Nothin', boss." Sal answered.
"Who else can we lean on?"
"I dunno, boss. They're a tough nut to crack."
"Then we're not squeezing 'em HARD enough!!!" Vittorio shouted. "Jam a stick up their ass! Break up some furniture! Cut off their supply of booze! Whatever it takes! And if they still want to play wise...then I say we burn the whole fucking club to the ground! NOBODY bumps shoulders with Vittorio Maranaci and gets away with it! Make this happen! Or we'll ALL be headed for a nice long rest up at the Bachelor's Grove Cemetery!"
That was the final word for the evening. There was nothing else to be said, as Vittorio doesn't like to repeat himself. He was going to give us until tomorrow night to get some answers about this 'Crimson Euphrates' racket...but seeing as he was putting me in charge of the move, I decided to stop by the location the same night. I wanted to know what I was getting into.
I drove up at about 9 PM, and I got out of the car to watch the front door of the club, which was actually a large iron side door that led out into the alley. Just as Sal said, there were no other exits from the building. Nothing underground, nothing on the roof. The windows had all been painted over. Pure black. Not a single beam of light could get in, not a single beam of light could get out. I looked that building up and down for ten minutes, and even though music could clearly be heard coming from inside, a jazz band making the joint jump and wail without end...I never saw anybody go inside. And I never saw anybody come outside. A strange thing for a club that size on a Thursday night.
I reached into my pocket for a cigarette. An old silver cigarette case that my father gave me when he passed on, God rest his soul. I put a single stick in my mouth and flicked open my lighter to take a drag. It was only by the light of the flame that I saw some young kid standing in front of me, only partially visible from the shadows. My lighter flame must have been brighter than I thought, because the boy's eyes looked like they were glowing from the reflection.
He had the looks of a street kid, but there was something in the way that he held himself that said otherwise. It was hard to explain. But it was obvious for anyone from my background that looked at him. I flicked my lighter shut as he stepped forward, and I tried to blow my smoke in the other direction. He was a handsome little pipsqueak. Short, blond, hair and dark blue eyes. A bit poor in the weight department, but not so skinny as to look sick or nothin'. After having him stare at me without saying nothin' for a minute or two, I asked him, "What's a matter? You ain't never seen a man in a hat and tie before?" He didn't say anything. He just kept staring. "Well, ain't you got a momma that's worried about you or nothin'? Why don't you get on home? This ain't no place for youngsters." The boy was about 14 years old. Hardly a 'youngster', but too young to be hanging out in the streets after dark like this.
Finally, he spoke up. And he said, "You shouldn't be here. This isn't a place for you either. In fact, this is the one time that you should listen to your instincts...and just walk away. Leave things as they are."
Astonished by the stones on this kid, I smiled and said, "Just what, exactly, do you know about me being here? Huh?"
"I don't think I need to say anything more. Just use your brain. Be smart about this." He said. "There's no need for you to make a big deal out of the situation. Just walk away. And tell your associates to do the same. Nobody wants any problems. Ok?"
What the hell was he talking about? How did he even know what I was doing there. I said, "Maybe you should get home. Being out this late ain't gonna be nothing but trouble for you, kid."
But as he was walking away from me, he said, "The night's just getting started for me, Vincent. Just getting started."
I stood back, and watched as this adolescent punk walked right up to the door of the 'Crimson Euphrates' club, spoke the password through the little speakeasy latch at the top of the door...and then looked back at me with those strange, bright golden eyes before being immediately let into the club without question. I have to admit that it burned me up a little bit inside. What was so special about this kid that he could get into a place that even the COPS couldn't bust into?
I took a few more drags off my cigarette, and then angrily put it out with my foot. I straightened my hat, and I stomped my way towards the side door of the club in that alley. Enough of this bullshit. This game was getting old. Fast. I wasn't kiddin' around no more. It was about time that they saw me, face to face. I've had all the disrespect I can handle at this point.
I marched right up to that door, and I banged my fist against the door. Already, I was gritting my teeth. I don't care which son of a bitch came to open this door, as long as he opened it. Enough is enough.
I saw the slot of the speakeasy slide open, and a pair of eyes met mine from the other side of the door.
The man on the other side didn't even bother to ask for a password. He just said, "Scram. This ain't a place for likes of you, sun-sucker."
I was insulted, to say the least. It had been a long time since somebody had the audacity to talk to me like that. So when he shut the speakeasy in my face, I was quick to pound on the door again.
He opened up, letting the fever of one crazy party flood out into the alleyway. They were really jumping in there, but I wasn't about to be phased by any of that. Right now, I had a job to do, and I was gonna get it done!
"What part of 'scram' do you not understand, huh?" The guy says to me.
"How about we cut the shit and you just open the door, huh? What? My money ain't no good here?"
"This joint ain't about money." He said. "You'd know that...if you were one of us."
I narrowed my eyes, and he narrowed his in response. "Do you know who I work for? Huh? Do you fuckers know where the fuck you are?"
"All I know is that you're wasting my fuckin' time. Why don't you go find yourself some other place to cool your heels, kid? There's no shortage of sin in the Windy City these days. Go chase a liquor truck to its destination or somethin' and booze it up over there instead. What are you bugging us for?" He said.
"You know what? You're an awfully big monster, talking from the other side of a door. You wanna come out here and say that to my face like a man?"
"What I'd really like to do is go back to the party that we're having in here. It's a lot more interesting than the pointless conversation that I'm having with the likes of you right now."
"Is that so?" I said, now drawing the gun that I had on my hip and pointing it at his face. "You wanna have a change of heart, pally? Or do you wanna know what it's like to take a plug between the eyes, smartass?"
I've seen the strongest of men fall to their knees after a bump like that...but not this guy. I had never seen anything like it before. You know what he told me? He told me, "Put that baby to bed, big man. You can't bully your way in here no more than you can the White House. Stop embarrassing yourself and walk away before you get hurt. You're interfering with our good time." Then...he added, "This ain't gonna make your daddy proud, Vincent. You know that right? He left your family when you were a kid, but your bravado ain't bringing him back."
Shocked at his comment, I said, "What the fuck do you know about my old man???"
"Enough." He says. "And whatever you think you need to prove yourself to be a big man...this ain't it. Vittorio has made a puppet out of you. But you got heart. Maybe one day...you'll learn the truth. The 'big waste', they call it. Once you see it for yourself, maybe you'll make the right choice and come join us. But not until you're ready. And you're not." He said. "Come back when you are..."
I avoided the comment. He wasn't in control here. *I* was in control! "You know what I see?" I said. "I see an unsupported nightclub being run by an unknown group of foreigners. I see booze being delivered without paying a tax to the bosses who own the streets they travel on. And, if nothing else, I see a lot of underage kiddies in there that don't belong in a joint like this. Now...that alone is enough for us to get a few flatfoots to come take a look at what you've got going on in there and shut you down for good. Do you really want my associates and I to start looking into your little business here? Because things can be so much easier for you if we didn't."
The man behind the door smiled. I couldn't see it through the tiny slit in the door, but the evil smirk was clearly displayed by the way his eyes wrinkled up in the corners. "You really have no clue what you're dealing with here, do you? But despite all your barking, all your petty threats...you're never gonna find a copper brave enough to come knocking on this door. You know it...and I know it. So why don't you get off of these dark streets while the remaining light is still giving you some protection." The bastard slams the speakeasy shut in my face. And the party continues.
Ok. So that's how it is, is it?
I'll show him a 'petty threat'.
I got to the nearest phone, trying to keep my anger to a minimum, and I gave Vittorio and all of my guys the same message.
"Torch the place!"
The next day, we gathered up everything we needed. From gasoline cans to oily rags and two or three lighters each. Vittorio even came along with us. Which was an oddity, because he's not one to be caught involved with activities like this, just in case we get clipped for it. He must have really wanted to see this joint burn.
We got there just before sunset. We were hoping that this place would be lit up for all the world to see by the time those smug sons of bitches came to open their doors for the evening. There were eight other tough guys with us. Thugs mostly, but willing to do what had to be done f we asked them. If somebody so much as peeked their head in that place, they got a pipe over the head. Plain and simple. We had a couple of shooters too. Two or three Tommy guns, fully loaded and ready for anything. The whole process should take us all of 25 minutes. In. Out. Done.
I ain't leavin' a door for that fucker to smile behind no more!
Louis and Joey took some muscle to the door, using a couple of crowbars from the trunk of their car. That door was bolted up pretty tight. All iron, brand new. It took three guys just to get the lock to budge. Then another guy or two to bust it open with their shoulder. I can understand a party place wanting this type of security, but these guys went all out on the protection racket.
Walking inside, the whole place was pitch black. Not a single ray of light could get in from the outside. We had to feel our way down a long hallway, and I eventually had to take out a lighter just to see my hand in front of my face. We got to the end of the hall and it lead into a wide open area. Joey turned on the lights, and Vittorio and I had to stop and admire the joint for its class. Big stage, great jazz band set up, red velvet curtains all around, and a bar with booze displayed on the shelves. Out in the open, not underneath the counter or in the back like our own nightclubs. That was pretty bold if you ask me. There was a second floor up on top, and tables with fine dinnerware and tablecloths. We don't know how they put all of this together without any of the crime families knowing about it, but it didn't matter now. Because Vittorio was determined to make this its last night of business.
Vittorio started placing people all over. "Louis...take this gas can and start hosing down the drapes. Joey? You get the bar. Come on, Vincent. You and me...we're gonna see what we can salvage from the place before it burns. Take us a couple of souvenirs." He looked over at the rest of them, and said, "Hose it down good, boys! I don't want the fire department to have anything worth saving once this joint goes up in flames. Understand?"
"Yeah, boss." Came the resounding reply.
It was only seconds later that the pungent smell of gasoline overpowered the room. The boys did what they were told, and they did it quickly. Vittorio smashed a couple of bottles of booze up against the walls, but I noticed that he had put some of the better bootleg brands aside for himself. Saying, "That Joe Kennedy is gonna be something someday, making batches of the drink like this!" He cackled to himself, getting real enjoyment out of the Crimson Euphrates' last moments. And then came a holler from the back of the room.
Sonny, one of the tough guys from the Southwest side who was one of our shooters, had found himself a secret passage behind one of the shelves at the bar. At first, I figured that it was some kind of tunnel that we hadn't seen before. Possibly the way that people were getting in an out of the place without being seen. Hell, Capone's got plenty of escape routes around the city. No matter where the police are, he can always run off to the Green Mill club and never be seen. So we know it's possible. However, what we found was a staircase...leading down into a dark basement...with no exits at all.
I saw Vittorio's face frown up a bit as he tried to turn on a light and flicking the switch had no effect. Again, I flicked my lighter, but it didn't give us much more light than a few feet in front of me. We sent Sonny further down the steps to investigate, not knowing what he was going to find down there. Probably not much more than a dozen barrels of booze and enough cigarettes to last their customers for the night. Maybe even a small distillery where they could brew their own 'smash'. But as Sonny got further down into the basement, his lighter leading the way...he began to make out shapes in the darkness.
Arms. Legs. Heads. Bodies. STACKS of 'em! Now, I've done a lot of low down things for the mob in my day...but I ain't never laid my eyes on nothin' like this before. It looked like...like they was just sleepin'. Still all dolled up in their nightclub attire, showgirls and all. What the fuck was going on in here??? "Jesus!" Sonny whispered to himself.
Vittorio asked, "Are they dead?"
Sonny reached out to touch a few hands and the like. "They all feel pretty cold to me, boss."
We had never seen anything so morbid before. Gangster or no gangster, this basement gave us the creeps. We hurried back upstairs, nearly fainting from the waves of gasoline fragrance that met us at the door, and made the decision to hurry up and get this over with that much easier. The sun was setting fast, and we were sure that the club owners would be showing up soon. Vittorio was determined to set an example with this place.
But Sonny was getting cold feet.
"I don't know if I can do this, boss." He said.
"What, are you kidding me right now? Grab a gas can and get to work before I belt ya one!!!" Vittorio hollered.
Sonny said, "I was looking at some of those people down there, Vittorio...some of them are just kids. You didn't say nothin' about burning up no kids."
"Kids, adults...what's the difference? Little boys are just like grown men. They just need a smaller coffin." Vittorio said. "Besides, didn't you say they were dead? Huh? Cold? If anything, we're doing these intrusive fucks a favor by hiding the evidence. Now give me some of those rags and a bottle of booze, and let's get this thing over with, huh? We ain't got all night."
Sonny was shaky about the whole thing, but he did as he was told. They all did. And before I knew it, lit bottles of liquor were being smashed against the walls, causing the whole joint to turn orange with the flickering blaze. The curtains went up quick. The bar...even quicker. Soon, we were surrounded by walls of fire, and it climbed up towards the ceiling so fast that I had to tell Louis to slow down before we found ourselves trapped without an exit.
By the time the fire and the smoke got noticed by anybody in town, we'd hopefully be long gone. And the Crimson Euphrates will finally understand what it's like to tangle with the likes of our family.
"Come on! Let's get outta here!" Vittorio said.
But Sonny stopped us. "Hey, wait a minute! Do you hear somethin'?"
Vittorio grinned, "Yeah, I hear somethin'. I hear the tears of these cocksuckers hittin' the floor."
"No, boss...I mean...I think that I really hear someth..." Before Sonny could finish his sentence, I saw a dark skinned jazz man JUMP UP from behind him, and bite deeply into the side of his neck like he was a sun ripened tomato!
The absolute surprise of it caught us all off guard. So much blood! It splashed across the room in buckets as Sonny spun around screaming, trying to get the jazz man off of his back. But there was no way he was gonna get a break. The guy had him at a huge disadvantage, and I saw a demonic red glow in his eyes as he pulled back and tore some of Sonny's flesh right off of him!
"What the FUCK???" Vittorio shouted, and soon we saw the secret door to the basement open, and all of the 'bodies' that we had previously seen laid out down there came rushing out of it! Fangs! Glowing eyes! Murder on their minds!
I watched in shock as some of the bartenders and showgirls began climbing up on the walls and the ceiling like a bunch of agitated spiders! They were all over us before we had a chance to react, the whole night club ablaze and falling apart around us as these horrific creatures came at us from all angles.
Without thinking, Joey let loose with the Tommy gun, sweeping back and forth across the room in a panic! The noise alone was enough to deafen us all, not to mention the evil shrieking of the hellish, inhuman, creatures he was aiming for. Vittorio and I had to dive for cover under a table to avoid to catch a slug or two ourselves.
Vittorio shouted out, "HEY!!! EASY, you maniac!!! What are you trying to do? Kill me???" But the swiftly moving monsters were rapidly taking out the tough guys that we brought with us with no problems at all. The hysteria went off the charts, and soon our other two shooters were turning the whole burning club into a shooting gallery. They aimed up at the walls, but these things were SO fast! Their bullets hit nothing but plaster, I tell ya! I drew my pistol and scurried out from under the table just as a large burning support beam came crashing down on top of it.
The smoke and scent of burnt embers filled the air, but I did what I could to focus. I heard a loud hissing, and two of these creatures came sliding towards me on their feet. I barely had time to raise my hand, but I put a bullet in each of their heads before they could get to me.
I heard a shriek of pure terror on the left of me and I saw some guy jump down from the ceiling and land on Louis' back! Those fangs...they were so sharp! He took two or three chunks out of the side of his neck before I could even focus my eyes on them. Louis was screaming like some sort of wounded animal, going into violent convulsions as the pain took over and buckets of blood poured over the front of his fancy suit. It was then that I met eyes with the thing attacking him...and I instantly recognized that angry gaze. They were the same eyes that met me outside of the speakeasy the night before. It was HIM! The blond kid that confronted me before! The whole damn club was full of these...these...THINGS! Demons! DEMONS!!!
I raised a pistol towards his face, but he dropped Louis to the ground and dashed behind the bar. I ran over to see if I could get a shot at him, but as I approached the counter, he jumped way up into a high corner of the wall, and he stuck there. He loudly hissed at me, his jaw dropping down much lower than anything human ever could, his elongated fangs, drooling with heated saliva.
The fire raged on aroud us, and more debris continued to fall from the ceiling. Joey was suddenly devoured by a few of the creatures in the club. He should have been watching his back. Two more of our guys were suddenly pulled into the billows of smoke, and a large pool of blood spilled out in all directions without anyone even knowing what had happened to them. I fired my pistol at the doorman on the wall, but he was able to crawl and jump and move out of the way. He even danced around the flames on the wall, disappearing into the darkness.
The lights went out, and only the fire was left to let us know what we were doing. More Tommy gun fire slammed into the ceiling above, but the panic had kept all of our guys from hitting anything significant. We were easily overrun, and they were biting deep. Some of my guys were torn apart without any effort at all. And I watched as Vittorio made a valiant last stand all on his own. Surrounded. Alone. I emptied my last few bullets into the horde around him, but it did no good. Neither did his relentless Tommy gun fire, his barrel left spinning with no further ammunition to spit put in his defense.
The dark figures closed in on him in the thick clouds of smoke, and I heard my boss, one that I had been loyal to in these angry streets of Chicago, shrieking out in horror and agony as they devoured him alive without mercy!
Even from a distance, I could hear the moans of pleasure as their sharp teeth sank deep into the vulnerable softness of his human flesh. Ripping and tearing. Were they...actually drinking his blood???
Disoriented. Confused. Coughing from smoke inhalation and sweating profusely from the heat of the burning walls surrounding me...I managed to make out a dark silhouette moving in my direction.
A small shadow. Slender. Still.
It approached me, and I reached down to the floor to pick up one of the crowbars that we used to break into the joint to protect myself. The smoke stinging my eyes, burning deep in my lungs, I was determined not to go out like a sucker. But as he stepped closer to me, the flickering of the flames illuminated his face...and I recognized him as the boy who had talked to me the night before. The one who warned me to stay away. Even amidst all of this chaos, he seemed to be so very calm. His eyes focused on mine as though he had nothing to fear at all. Not from me, not from the fire, nothing.
I raised the crowbar high, ready to crack him over the head with it if I had to. But as his eyes began to glow an unaturally bright shade of gold...I found myself being lulled into a hypnotic trance. I couldn't move. It was like being asleep and awake at the same time. My body relaxed, I got weak, I dropped the crowbar and fell to my knees in front of him. And that's when he spoke to me...
"I have to admit...you surprised me. The people in my employ should have been prepared for something like this. But I made the mistake of telling them not to worry." He says.
Still unable to do much more than sway back and forth in a mindless stupor, I asked him..."What...what ARE you?"
He moved closer, and squatted down in front of me, placing a hand on the back of my neck. His fangs, clearly visible as I watched his eyes turn ketchup red. And he says, "My name is Alex. Many call me Xander. And since you wanted to know so badly...I was the one running this club. My boss isn't going to be too happy about this little mishap. But I like the stones on you, Vincent. Maybe...just maybe...you can be of some use to us after all." The boy gave me a delicate smile, and just as I heard my boss, Vittorio give up the fight and fade away into eternity, Alex leaned forward and I felt him bite deeply into the side of my neck!
I had no defense. As much as it hurt...my body was limp. Completely in his control. And he sucked hungrily at my blood supply while I kneeled helplessly among my fallen associates.
My fingers went numb first. That I remember. Then my toes. Then the rest of me began falling asleep...one section at a time. that little blond boy was draining me for all I was worth. And my last visions were of fire and falling rafters and thick billows of blackened smoke. Maybe it's preparing me for hell.
The whole nightclub...the 'Crimson Euphrates'...
It was full of monsters. Monsters....all of them.
Then again...aren't we all?