It was just after dark in New Orleans. Chan and I sat at a table in the Cat’s Meow sipping lukewarm TrueBloods and waiting for Simon and Trey to arrive. It was an inconspicuous meeting place, as vampires rarely visited the inside of this trashy human bar. They found prey outside in the street; drunk and either flashing their breasts, trying to get someone to flash their breasts, or vomiting in the street. Bill was in the hotel using his computer and I was glad to have a break from listening to his incessant rambling. Chan kept me entertained and reminisced about previous trips to New Orleans in what he called the good old days.
“Do you remember how many women I had that night? It was like a buffet!”
I pursed my lips. “You remind me of your sexual prowess quite frequently, and if I didn’t know better I would think you were overcompensating. But yes, I remember that night. I remember that all of the women were diseased and disgusting.”
“Pah. Human diseases mean nothing to me.”
“Yes, well…to each his own.” I shuddered a little bit, grateful that hygienic standards had gone up greatly over the years.
“I am thinking about opening my own store again.”
I rolled my eyes. “Chan, are you not saving money and able to send it to your descendants?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Then please, let us not go through this again.” Chan looked a little incredulous. “Every twenty years or so, you have some descendant that needs money or to work their way through college. You reopen your own dry cleaners, and then what? Your damn relative robs you blind. That’s what happens.”
“It only happened twice.”
“Yes, and I remember the consequences of the last time quite well.” The Asian actually grinned thinking about it, but I continued, my face grim. “You showed up months later, half starved and then disappeared in Canada. The next thing I heard, you were almost staked – by the King of Vancouver.”
“How was I to know he would be that upset?”
“You got in bed with him and his wife!”
“She said he could learn from me!”
We both laughed and then, as if a switch had flipped, I sensed the others approaching and became serious. A second later Trey and Simon entered the bar and joined us. I made the introductions, although I thought perhaps Chan already knew Simon. They had both spent a fair amount of time in the Western US over the years, and since the vamp population out there was so small, it was likely they had run into each other.
Trey had been around New Orleans for some time and had worked his way up the ladder of vampires. Before Sophie Anne died, he was little more than a gopher. When Victor took over, he was given more responsibilities and had proven an effective investigator. He was the kind of man who would prefer to work for a boss he liked and respected, but he had been vampire long enough to know how to work for whoever won the fight and be glad to not meet the sun.
Simon had come from the West after Katrina. The vampire numbers had dwindled and they needed some capable investigators to help clean up the riff raff of vamps that began preying on the helpless humans stranded in New Orleans, or the sad people trying to come back and make a home out of the destruction. Simon worked for Victor, but had ambitions of his own. He knew he could make Sheriff someday, he just needed the experience and figured New Orleans would look great on a resume.
A new waitress stopped by the table and took their drink orders. I began asking the local investigators what they knew and what they thought needed to be done. Simon immediately took charge and told me he was concerned about a group of vampires who had taken over the 9th Ward. He had phone records from King De Castro’s staff linking them to Victor and felt they needed to be “dealt” with right out of the gate. Trey agreed and did not add much else to the conversation. I nodded and thought Bill might actually be right; Simon was the one with the head for the Sheriff’s job.
“Who leads this group? Would I know him?”
Simon shook his head and pursed his lips a little. “No, sir. I don’t think you would. The leader is called Booker. He is a young vampire, maybe 200 years old?” He looked at Trey, and he nodded in agreement. “I believe he came from California originally. He was a sailor, but mostly worked merchant ships. It seems he continues to live a hardscrabble hand to mouth existence, but he has become a captain of sorts with a group of followers.”
I couldn’t believe what a bastard this Booker was. Actually, I could. Booker reminded me a lot of myself before I had understood survival meant playing the game, at least enough to make it look like you respected the hierarchy. I nodded. “How do you propose we deal with them? I have heard they are boldly discussing their involvement in Victor’s plot as though there are no consequences.”
Trey continued to stay quiet and Simon spoke, looking from me to Chan. “We can scare the hell out of them and keep Booker for trial, or we can publicly kill him to show them that there is still law here, and they will have to obey it or face the final death.”
I was really liking the way this one thought. However, I knew that killing the vamp was not an option. They would have to take Booker into custody and wait for the king to deal out his punishment.
I told them killing the man would not solve their problems and I knew the King would never condone it. Felipe believed it was his duty to exterminate what was left of Victor’s followers. They discussed the suites that remained in Victor’s compound that could be used to imprison Booker and some other zealots in his crew. I agreed that the best form of imprisonment involved silver to ensure no one escaped. Simon knew what needed to be done and agreed to set up the meeting with Booker.
He left a message for the self-proclaimed captain, inquiring about letting me meet his crew and helping them establish their place in the city. Booker called back shortly, and although quite cocky, seemed awestruck that the great Northman would come to meet his crew. Was it going to be that easy? To show up at this meeting and take the fool? Simon set up a meeting that evening at an abandoned church in the 9th Ward.
We drove to the church in Simon’s Hummer while Trey drove a van ready for prisoners. I was thinking to myself this would actually be much like Victor’s own demise. Booker was just too dumb to keep his mouth shut. Tonight was going to be a piece of cake, like taking out the trash. Sure enough, the meeting began and not a second after introductions were finished, Booker began talking about the plot to overthrow King De Castro.
“We stand here tonight being recognized by one of the strongest Sheriffs in our state because we know Louisiana can not be ruled by some fool in Las Vegas. We will not be micro-managed from another part of the country. We will find our own way and our own leader.”
It went on and on, with some cheers from a few in the audience, but mostly the vampires in attendance were looking at Booker like he was nuts. I knew the others were taking notice of the vampires who were in support of Booker’s thoughts. I knew they would have to be taken as well and felt confident that between Chan, Bill, Trey and Simon they would be grabbed.
As Booker wound down his chest thumping, I nodded and began to speak, “You are correct, Louisiana should not be lead from afar.”
Booker grinned and took my hand as I reached out to shake his. In a flash, I pulled him towards me so I had an arm around his neck and a stake to his heart. A few people jumped up, but the crowd was stunned.
“That is why the king made me his second in command, you fool,” I growled.
Bill stepped up with leather gloves on and placed silver handcuffs over Bookers’ long sleeves. My men grabbed three or four other vamps that had started towards the pulpit.
I looked around and spoke to the rest of the crowd, “Do not underestimate me, or the rules of our kind. Simon is the new Sheriff here, and Trey is his second. They will not tolerate your insubordination. Do not make me come back to New Orleans to deal with your group again. You will not be punished for believing a zealot, but do not think your involvement in this little group will be forgotten. The king will be here to hold a trial to determine what to do with these traitors. I hope you will all witness the outcome and know that you could very well be on trial as well.”
A few people in the crowd actually clapped, and on my way to the car a couple tried to shake my hand. Simon was walking out at my side with a blank look on his face, and Trey seemed a little pissed.
When we got in the car, I spoke before anyone else could have the chance. “Simon, I believe you are ready for this job. I will support you in whatever you need.” I looked at Trey in the backseat with Bill and Chan. “Trey, Simon will need your help. He will not be able to straighten up this town without you.”
I sat back and checked my watch. “Now, get me back to my car so I can drive home. I do not wish to wake up in a strange place tomorrow evening. I will see you for the trial, if not sooner.”