San Francisco, California – 1905
The Queen of California is one pissed off vampire! She has ruled the vampires of this state since it was a territory of Spain; though I know little else about her. The vampire population has grown as the humans have migrated westward; in San Francisco alone there are nearly one hundred vampires, something unheard of in the Old World. We vampires are extremely territorial; we do not want other’s poaching in our area or creating disturbances that would attract the attention of the humans.
Unfortunately, that is exactly the problem facing the vampire community in San Francisco. The newspapers can do nothing but discuss the ‘Jack the Ripper’ type serial killer that has plagued the city for weeks. The murders have the authorities stumped, both due to the brutal nature of the crimes and the lack of connection between the victims other than their sex. Each victim has been a woman, fairly young and attractive, but no similar physical attributes between all the victims occur; the ethnicity of the women has varied as has the hair color, eye color, and body shape. The only common feature among the women is their profession: prostitute. As I said, the crimes are brutal; the bodies have been mutilated and are covered in blood, hence the Jack the Ripper comparisons. What the stupid humans fail to realize is that Jack the Ripper was a vampire as is the killer of these women.
The Queen of California has tried to find the vampire or vampires responsible for these attacks, but her search has found nothing. Either the Queen has seriously incompetent vampires in her retinue or the vampires are very skilled in covering their tracks. The Queen is not concerned about the loss of human life; humans are like rats, they multiply quickly and spread everywhere. What has the Queen concerned is that the news of these killings is spreading across the country, putting the very existence of vampires at risk. That is why the Queen has hired me.
My name is Eric Northman; I have been a vampire for nearly a thousand years. I was human during what has been referred to as the Viking Age and I am what would have been considered to known as a Viking. I was turned by my maker, Godric, after sustaining a mortal wound on a battlefield somewhere in England. Godric admired my skill on the battlefield and my ability to lead my men. He offered me the opportunity to be a companion of death and I jumped at the chance. Not because I wanted to be dead, but because I wanted to live. I rose a vampire and embraced my new existence with gusto; I never looked back, nor have I regretted what I am.
For five hundred years, Godric and I traveled across Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. My maker taught me everything he knew, and I was his celebrated pupil. When I was around five hundred years dead, near the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Godric allowed me to forge my path in this world. Using the many lessons from my maker, my skills as a warrior, and my vampire gifts, I pursued the most logical path for me: I became an enforcer. I am known as The Viking; ruthless, brutal, cold, calculating, and most importantly, lethal. I have forged a reputation that is feared by many; I am the best at what I do. I have worked for nearly all the kings and queens in Europe and most of Asia, amassing a substantial fortune along the way. I am one of the élite vampire enforcers in the world; I fear no one though many fear me and with good reason.
I had traveled to the United States at the turn of the century. Having seen the political upheaval in Europe for the past two hundred years, Godric felt it was time for us to have safe houses in this rapidly progressing country. The political unrest and the tension lingering in several of the countries makes Europe a powder keg waiting to explode. Godric and I have traveled throughout the country, securing residences in many areas and setting up escape routes if the necessity should ever arise. Godric has not lived to be over two thousand years old by being careless with his safety. My vampire sister Nora had moved to the United States prior to the War of Aggression; she sought to help free those humans enslaved by others merely because of the color of their skin. Even in death, Nora is still a humanitarian.
The summons from the Queen of California found me enjoying the variety of flavor that New York City had to offer; the Five Boroughs really did offer something for everyone. Just to hear her offer, California offered me half a million dollars in gold bars. Apparently the Gold Rush had been very good to her. I admit, her offer, and the amount of money I was paid just to travel to California, had me intrigued. Using the private railway car she had provided, I journeyed across America, enjoying the Queen’s hospitality. She was doing everything possible to ensure I would take her job offer; she plied me with money, women, and blood. How could I refuse?
One week after departing from New York City, I find myself standing in front of the Queen’s compound in the heart of San Francisco, one of the lavish mansions found on Nob Hill. Her neighbors are among the wealthiest and influential in the country. I find myself chuckling at the irony that a vampire hides in plain sight; I find myself liking America more and more. The people definitely have moxy.
A guard stands discreetly at the entrance to the Queen’s compound waiting for me to state my purpose. “Eric Northman to see the Queen,” I state quietly even though there is no one else on the street detected by my vampire senses. A second guard materializes quickly to escort me to the Queen’s throne room without verifying that I am indeed who I say I am. I am baffled at this lack of security. No one has bothered to search me for weapons, not that I need any. I am instantly on high alert, looking for any signs of a trap. My eyes scan every inch of the path, noting all possible escape routes and weapons.
The guard stops outside a door, knocking twice before telling me to enter the room. I vamp into the room, leaning against the door so I can better assess my surroundings. The throne room is empty save for the Queen herself seated on a chaise lounge in the middle of the room. The Queen of California, Lucia de Santos, is a beautiful woman; thick sable-colored hair hangs down her back in natural waves. Her dark chocolate-colored eyes, sparkling with humor, watch my every move as I slowly move forward. Her plump pink lips are curved in a smile, showing her sparkling white teeth. Her once caramel colored skin has the pallor that settles over all vampires; on her though, it just looks as if her tan is fading. However, the most striking thing about the Queen is that her voluptuous body is completely nude for my eyes to feast upon. She reclines against a large pillow on the chaise, the fingers from her one hand moving languidly up and down in the valley between her breasts. Her legs are slightly bent at the knees and spread open, revealing the wetness between her legs. My fangs drop down with a loud click and my cock hardens as I bow respectfully before the Queen.
“It is good to see you again Northman,” she purrs seductively.
“Had I known you were the Queen, I would have come sooner,” I say giving her a wicked grin. My tongue sneaks out to stroke one of my fangs, which causes both of us to shudder in pleasure.
The double entendre is not lost on the Queen as she beckons me forward with a crook of her finger. Using vamp speed, I drop to my knees at the end of the chaise, grasping her legs so that she slides down the chaise, putting my face eye level with her damp pussy. She licks her lips hungrily before she grasps my hair with her hand. “Let’s have our pleasure before business shall we? It has been much too long since I’ve had you between my legs Eric.”
“How is it your people have found no traces of the vampires killing the prostitutes?” Several hours have passed and Lucia is finally ready to talk about the problem in her area. After fucking on every available surface in her throne room, we moved to her bedroom where she called in two of her pets to join us. After fucking and drinking from the humans, Lucia finally put on a robe, indicating that she was ready to talk business. It has been a pleasant surprise to find Lucia as the Queen of California. When I had set about on my path, Spain was my first stop. I had met Lucia one evening in a tavern; she and I both had our eye on the same tavern wench. Instead of fighting over the wench, we shared her. Lucia had been one of the reasons my time in Spain had been so enjoyable.
Lucia rolls her eyes as she fills two glasses from a decanter of blood. “My people here are idiots. Most the vampires in this country are less than two hundred years old. The ‘Land of Opportunity’ called to those wanting an escape from the rigid structure in the Old World.” She hands me one of the glasses as she resumes her place on the bed beside me.
“Is that what called you here?” I take a sip of my drink enjoying the flavor of the AB negative blood, finding myself curious about what drew a vampire nearly as old as me to endure the harsh traveling conditions to live here, a land that seems filled with sunshine.
Lucia smiles faintly. “We are vampires Eric; it is not our sex that determines our strength, but our age. Despite that, it is still very much a man’s world in the Old World. Here I am a Queen; there I was always subjected to a man’s decisions. No offense, but fuck that,” she snarls as her lips curl in disgust.
I shrug my shoulders. I have never understood the need of some to classify women as the weaker sex. During my human life, the women had to be just as tough as the men because they had to defend our homes and lands when we went raiding.
Finishing the rest of my drink, I set the cut crystal glass on the side table. There are a few hours left until dawn, but I want to get the lay of the land so to speak before going to ground. I begin dressing in my clothes, directing the conversation back to the reason I am here. “Do you have any idea where I should start my search?”
“The area closest to the docks is where the majority of the brothels are; that area has been hit the hardest. However, the latest murder occurred just a few blocks from here two nights ago. That particular brothel is more upscale, geared towards the ‘gentlemen’ of society,” Lucia sneers. “The establishment is owned by a Pamela Swynford de Beaufort. Perhaps you will find some clues there. None of the other brothel owners or patrons remembers seeing anything.”
“Will they still be open this time of night?” I stare in the mirror as my agile fingers work the silky white fabric into the fashionable cravat expected when one is dressed for an evening out. Honestly, there are nights I miss wearing nothing but furs.
Lucia slides out of the bed, her robe gaping open as she slithers slowly towards me. Her hands push mine out of the way so she can smooth down the offending piece of neckwear before buttoning my vest. Her hands slide along my chest as she nips along my neck and jaw. “Was I not enough to satisfy you this evening? Why not stay here for the day? We can spend the rest of the night getting reacquainted.”
I grasp her hands firmly in mine, pulling her body flush to mine. As much as I would like nothing better than to fuck Lucia until the sun rises, something tells me that I need to begin this investigation tonight. The longer I delay, the less likely I will be able to find the parties responsible. We don’t need a widespread panic to build among the humans.
Hoping to soften my refusal, I lean down to suck on the skin of her neck before working my way up to her ear which I nip with my blunt teeth. Even though I have known her for centuries, she is still a Queen and does have a certain amount of power over me. “I am sure we will have plenty of time to get reacquainted while I am in town. I will keep you informed of any developments I discover in regards to these murders.”
I release Lucia and bend down to pick up my top hat. Looking in the mirror, I place the garment on my head at just the right angle. Lucia’s eyes meet mine in the mirror, a vicious smile spreading across her lips. “May your search be a short one; happy hunting, Eric.”
With a slight bow to the Queen, I vamp out of her room and the compound. Using my speed, I quickly make my way to the location of Miss de Beaufort’s establishment. Lucia is right, this house of ill repute is more like a mistress’ home and not a brothel. No signs hang about to indicate it is a place of business and not a home, nor does it scream of a den of iniquity. The exterior of the building is all brick; the windows are covered by thick drapes, not allowing even the hint of a silhouette to be seen in the lamp light. The only thing that would draw attention to the building would be the heavy foot traffic generated by all the gentlemen callers, but the owner of the establishment must have considered that, because there is a discreet entrance in the back of the house that leads from the yard of the house behind this one. Clever design; I find myself admiring the ingenuity of the owner.
During my perusal of the building, the front door opens to show a striking blonde woman stepping out into the night. Her face is shielded by the hat on her head, but even from this distance I can tell that she is beautiful. Her ash blonde hair hangs thick and heavy down her back revealing a slender face. It is too far away for me to see her eye color, but the features I can see on her face are lovely; high cheekbones, creamy pale skin, and some of the pinkest lips I have ever seen. Her body is just as intriguing as her face. The corset of her dress pushes her breasts up high and tight, cinching in her waist, and then flaring out to the gentle swell of her hips. The gown she wears is both fashionable and expensive. Could this be Miss Swynford de Beaufort?
Of course, I am not the only creature intrigued by her appearance. My senses have detected a human man a few houses down from her place of business that is watching her. I had noticed his presence before, but I had thought he was sleeping because he was so still. However once she came out of the house, his entire body sprang to attention. He follows the woman I believe to be Miss de Beaufort as she makes her way down the cobbled street. The heels of her shoes click against the stone. She turns her head to look behind her as she hears the sound of another pair of heels clicking against the street. The man is dressed as a gentleman should be but his clothing is ill-fitting. I trail behind them discreetly, waiting to see how this will play out.
Turning the corner, the man closes the distance between him and Miss de Beaufort. She swings around, standing her ground demanding to know what the man wants with her. He tries to flatter her, telling her how lovely she is. I cannot help but smile as she admits she is off the clock and to return tomorrow at eight when they reopen for business. Feisty, brave, and beautiful; I am intrigued by this woman. Not since meeting Nora have I been captivated by a human.
After saying her piece, the woman turns to resume her walk, but the disgusting human closes the distance between them. He pushes her against a lamp post, pulling out a switchblade, causing her to cry out. He taunts her by calling her a whore and saying he likes it when they struggle. Could this be our killer? All the evidence pointed to vampires, not a human.
Most women when faced with a dangerous situation would become hysterical, but not Pamela Swynford de Beaufort; her body freezes, her mouth closes as the words dry up in her throat, and a look of resignation crosses her face. She knows there is nothing she can do to stop her attacker; but I can.
Using my speed, I pull the attacker away from her, using my nail to slice his throat open. His blood splatters the front of her dress and my clothes, forming a puddle at my feet as he bleeds out. I hold up my hand to lick the blood from my fingers, satisfying the bloodlust that has risen up in me. My eyes glance towards Miss de Beaufort as I lick my finger clean. She leans against the lamp post, her face frozen in an expression of shock, but no words come from her. Most humans when confronted with a dead body begin screaming incessantly.
“You’re not afraid,” I state quietly.
“I’m no stranger to dead bodies.” Her voice wavers slightly but her words are clear and calm. I find myself curious about what circumstances have placed her in proximity to more than one dead body.
I pull a handkerchief from a pocket, wiping the blood from my hand. His blood tastes foul, somehow tainted by the cowardly deeds he has committed. I find I want no part of him inside me. As I clean my hand, I speak quickly, offering a warning to her. “The streets can be dangerous at this hour. A lady should be more careful”
“If I meet a lady, I’ll let her know,” she sasses.
I stop wiping my hand, letting a smile grace my face. She is a delightful creature, full of surprises. However, seeing the blood on her dress brings me back to the matter at hand. I apologize for ruining her dress, giving her more than enough money to have it laundered or replaced if she chooses. She thanks me for my help, trying to find out my name. I smirk at her before vamping off into the night, not giving her the information she desired. Don’t worry my dear; you will be seeing me again.
The next evening, I find myself standing in the parlor of Miss Swynford de Beaufort’s fine establishment. I once again chuckle as I notice the name of the establishment behind the bar: A Bird in a Gilded Cage. The irony is not lost on me. I believe all the girls that work here are gathered for my perusal. Based on their reactions, I know many of them would not mind me being their customer for the night. Miss de Beaufort stands in front of her girls proudly with a smile on her lips, saying they have something to offer for everyone.
On any given night I would appreciate having such variety to satisfy all of my appetites. However there is only one woman I wish to see this evening and I tell her so.
Her smile falls and she looks uncomfortable with me for the first time. “A good merchant doesn’t compete with her merchandise, Sir.” She places emphasis on ‘sir’, using a single word to remind me that she knows there is more to me than what I seem.
I walk towards her, leaning down to whisper near her ear. “A good customer knows that everything has its price.”
I can see the light of comprehension shining from her eyes as she understands what I am offering her. As I wait for her to make her decision, my head snaps to the side. The killers are here; I can sense that it is two vampires, one of whom I have had the misfortune of encountering before.
Grabbing Pamela’s arm, I hustle her out of the drawing room, away from the prying eyes of her girls. “Keep everyone down here,” I command before vamping up the stairs. I can hear Lorena’s voice prompting the girl on what to say as another vampire feeds from her femoral artery. The girl has been heavily glamoured. Flinging open the door, I grab Lorena by the throat, holding her aloft; she looks like a doll dangling from a child’s hand. My fangs are down in anger. I note that Pamela is standing in the doorway watching the scene in the bedroom with a wide-eyed expression, her stance rigid.
“Get your hands off of her!” The younger vampire has sprung to his feet, snarling his demand that I release the female vampire in my hand. I can tell that he is her progeny and that he is very young. Such a pity he shall pay for his maker’s shortcomings.
“William, don’t!” Lorena struggles against my hold as she tries to warn her progeny.
I fling Lorena into the wall as her prodigy snaps a wooden sconce from the wall, vamping towards me with the intentions of staking me. He is strong for one so young, but he is no match for me. I grab the wooden stake as he tries to drive the implement of death into my chest. He looks stunned that I am able to prevent him from staking me. I can tell he is using all of his strength to propel the stake forward, but it has not budged an inch even though I am only using one hand to defend myself. I count myself fortunate that I had a maker that clearly explained everything to me about being a vampire, because the baby vampire in front of me seems absolutely clueless.
I taunt the worthless female vampire before me. “Lorena you procreated.” Her progeny tries to fight me, but it really is no contest. I cannot resist rubbing salt into the wounds. “He is protective . . . how sweet.”
The young vampire growls out, “Who are you?”
“Eric Northman . . . but to you, the True Death.” In the amount of time it takes to blink, I drive the stake into the maker and progeny that have preyed upon San Francisco, ending the threat to our very existence.