"Vampires?" Ken repeated, his voice bland. 'Oh yeah, this kid is so far past gone.'
Michael nodded. "That's right. Claudia and I are vampire hunters."
"No offense, boy, but if you told this to the police, it's no wonder they wouldn't help."
"I know." He sounded a bit defeated, slumping down in the chair. "They don't like the Hunters, never have, but I had to try, you know?"
He resisted the urge to smile, fairly certain that Michael wasn't telling a joke, no matter how absurd it sounded. "So there are a lot of these vampire hunters, eh?"
A frown touched the youth's face. "If you don't want the case, I can just-" He started to rise from his seat, and Ken moved quickly to placate him; insane or not, he was still a possible client and thereby money.
"I want the case! I want the case! God knows I want the case!"
"You just don't believe me."
He sent the young man as sour of a look as he thought he could get away with without running him off. "Put yourself in my shoes."
A very faint smile appeared on his young face. "That sounds like something Claudia would say, you know?" Almost absentmindedly, he toyed with the high collar of his jacket. "I can prove it to you if you'd like."
He winked - he actually winked at him. "That vampires really exist."
He shrugged, still trying to resolve the idea of the young man winking at him in his mind, when said young man started pulling open the large black buttons lining his jacket. He felt his eyes grow large enough to hurt a bit, and he tried to look anywhere else in the room besides at the young man before him. "What the hell are you doing?!"
The dark grey jacket landed in exactly the place on his desk he'd been focusing on. "Look at me." Very hesitantly, Ken raised his eyes to look at him, and he felt shock run through him again. Three masses of scar tissue were easily spotted right away: one on the base of his throat, another just above his collar bone, and a third near his elbow. He touched the one at the base of his neck. "I was recruited right after I got this one." The collar bone one was next. "This one was from my first mission. I messed up; Claudia had to save me." Finally he touched what looked like the newest one on his elbow. "A few months ago, I had to play bait. Claudia and Miguel couldn't get into position quickly enough, and I got bitten." He picked his jacket back up and slipped it on again. "Believe me now?"
He had to take several deep breaths before he could answer. "I don't know what to say, Michael. Yes, those are awful scars, but they don't prove to me that vampires exist."
The young face darkened, and he slammed his palm down hard on the table loud enough for the sound to echo in the small one-room office. "Why would I lie about something like this?!" he hissed. The angry look tightened again almost immediately. "To get you to find Claudia?! That's what you think?!"
He blinked sharply. "Wh- Huh? How - How did you-"
"Fine then! I'm just going to go back to the police!" He snatched the photograph up off the desk and whirled to stomp across the room almost faster than Ken could blink.
He regained enough of his composure to speak clearly this time. "If they wouldn't help you last time, what makes you think they will now?"
"I'll make them!"
Michael stopped before opening the door and turned back to face him, his face suddenly doll-like pretty again. He gestured to his body, and Ken looked again, this time not letting the horrible scars dominate his vision. He wore a pair of cut off navy blue shorts that started just barely on his hips and stopped a few inches below the three belts (one black, one white, and one red) holding it up. A skintight black crop top was all that passed as a shirt. Fingerless dark leather gloves covered his hands before buckling at his wrists. His legs were encased to the thighs in shiny black leather boots with more buckles than Ken had ever seen in one place at a single time.
"It wouldn't be the first time I've had to blackmail someone with this," he replied finally, gesturing to his body again. Ken had to hold back from ogling him again. "That's how I managed to get onto Claudia's team. Thank you for your time, Mr. Arriway. I'll be on my-," he started, turning back to leave, his hand already on the doorknob.
He hadn't even realized he'd moved until he felt his hand slam into the wooden frame of the door beside the young man's head. "Michael?" He strove to keep his voice quiet and non-threatening; it was difficult.
The blond boy turned back to face him. "Yes?"
"I never said I wouldn't take the case."
"You'll have to believe what I say, about vampires being real, about the Hunters, me, Claudia, everything. That's the only way it'll work, you know?"
"I'll do my best." He winked slightly at the boy. "Just quit calling me 'Mr. Arriway,' all right?"
Michael grinned sunnily and leaned up to kiss his cheek before slipping under his arm and returning to his seat. "Thank you so very much, Ken!"
He stood where he was for a long moment before returning to sit on his desk before the boy. "I just have a few questions for you first."
"How old are you?"
Michael giggled. "Eighteen next month."
'And he's underage too. Of course... Need the money, need the money.'
If anything, the smile grew.
"Why did you come here dressed like that?"
He looked rueful. "I need help finding my partner. I'd get that help however I had to."
He cleared his throat. "And what did you mean, 'that's the only way it'll work'?" he continued.
"If Claudia's gone to ground, which I doubt, she'd be hard to find." Without warning, his entire demeanor went somber. "And there are people who would like her to stay vanished." He sent the young man a questioning look. "Well, the vampires, of course; Claudia's very efficient. And, well, the entire Hunters network. Two months ago, we sort of went rogue."
26 October 2001
Yay!! Two chapters in one day! I'm not even going to try for three. I know my limits. What do you think so far???
Keep an eye out for a new chapter tomorrow or Sunday. Bai-bai!