Dead of Night: Tales from the Big Easy

PROLOGUE: The Proposition

Torpor Flashback of Willem Foucault's Embrace

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The New Orleans night is unseasonably warm as Willem Foucault steps out onto the sidewalk. He loosens his collar to let his neck breathe.

As ever he pauses, lights a cigarette and surveys the landscape. Given his line of work, it’s a habit that he has ingrained out of necessity. Ever since Bella got made and Tony C went away… he can’t help but look over his shoulder.

A couple giggle as they walk unsteadily down the street, the occasional car passes, unremarkable in any way. And there’s the shadow, leaning against a lamp post.

For the past month, Foucault has noticed him around and about. He doesn’t make it obvious that he is tailing him but he isn’t hiding it either. A big ‘Fuck You’ from Bella. Foucault has thought more than once that he might have to have a sit down with Al.

Foucault turns and walk towards his car, hackles rising as he hears the shadow’s footsteps cross the road, matching his pace. Foucault’s mind races, surely there’s no hit planned. He’d have gotten wind of it, the wheels have to turn and he is the grease.

Perhaps it’s unauthorised. Bella’s lost his nerve and decided to take him down. Foucault touches his holster, the cold bulk of metal reassuring. Next his eyes scan the scene looking for a good place to bring this to a head.

Foucault spots a basement bar, the steps lead down from the street. A public place to scope the opposition. Level the playing field.

Foucault picks up his pace, the footsteps behind matching him. He rattles down the steps and into the bar, looking around, heart sinking. The place is empty, not even someone on the bar. Well nearly empty, all except for a guy in a stiff suit, checking his pocket watch.

Foucault glances out the window. The shadow passes. Shiny black shoes clip past the bar window.

“Mr Foucault? Would you care to join me for a drink?”

Foucault turns as the man, Limey from his accent, addresses him. His heart sinks. It’s a trap.

He sits patiently waiting for Foucault. Suddenly he feels like the place is crowded, then its gone.

“Who are you?”

The man stands holding out his hand. He is tall and well built, his face looks like a bulldog. Pale though.

“Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Marcus

Foucault crosses over to him, ignoring his hand, instead scanning his clothing for weapons. His suit is well made, if a little old fashioned. He wears a waistcoat and stiffly starched shirt with separate collar. The only thing that could serve as a weapon is his walking stick, propped against the table.

Foucault assess his physique, although physically impressive he looks to be in his late forties. Foucault thinks he’d have the edge in a fist fight. His roscoe would certainly help.

“Will you not sit with me?” He gestures to the chair opposite him, a glass of red wine stands on the table. Foucault raises an eyebrow.

Marcus smiles without humour and takes the glass and sips it, grimacing a little before swallowing.

“Not poisoned. I am not connected to your associates, Mr Foucault.”

Foucault pulls the chair out and sit cautiously. He uses the movement to pop the catch on his holster.

Marcus shakes his head as he sits. “You will not need it, I assure you I mean you no harm”

“Ok, Marcus was it? You’ve got 3 minutes.”

Marcus smiles, this time with more humour. “I can assure you Mr Foucault. I have a lot more time than that.”

Foucault gets another sensation of the bar being full of people, laughing and joking. There’s a live jazz band.

He looks round. All is empty. All is silent.

Marcus looks serious.

“I have a proposition to make to you. A choice. I am in need of someone with your skills. You are in need of a way to stop you looking over your shoulder.”

“You know a lot about me, friend.”

Marcus inclines his head.

“I have been watching you. I have been doing my research.”

Foucault makes to speak but Marcus waves his hand. Something in his manner makes Foucault stop. The hairs on the back of his neck are rising again. There is something about this guy.

“My proposition isn’t for the great unwashed. It is for a man of exceptional ability and of a certain mindset. Both things you possess.”

Foucault sits watching him. He realises Marcus hasn’t blinked since he started talking.

He blinks slowly.

“I am a vampire.”

There is a moment of silence as Foucault takes in what he has just said. He laughs but it comes out flat.

“You are sceptical Mr Foucault? This is good. Too much these days is taken on faith.”

He holds out his wrist.

“Take my pulse”

His flesh is icy cold. Foucault searches to find a pulse, but can’t find any. His hairs are now standing on end.

“I’m not a doctor”

Marcus smiles.

But you believe me

The voice is in Foucault’s head. Marcus hasn’t spoke a word.

Foucault bolts to your feet the chair falls to the floor. Again, there is the sensation that the bar is full of people. He watches as the chair rights itself and is put back in place under the table.

“This is a very delicate moment Mr Foucault. You are on the edge of a world, a world you could do very well in. You are glimpsing things that seem impossible and like the Mad Hatter you will believe in several impossible things before breakfast.”

Foucault stares at Marcus who has stood and is watching his companion closely.

“What do you want of me?”

Marcus sits again and gestures to the chair.

“I am offering you the chance to become a vampire. Or Kindred as we call ourselves. I am giving you the opportunity to live forever, to stop the clock, to have powers over mind and body. What I ask for in return is for you to be my apprentice in undeath.”

Foucault’s mind races, he pulls out the chair and sits. His heart is beating. A cold sweat has broken out on his forehead. Foucault gulps the wine, hoping the alcohol will soothe his nerves.

Marcus is watching intently, his eyes darting all over and around Foucault, observing, calculating.

He forces his mind to focus, to weigh up the offer. He thinks of Alphonse, Bella, Tony C. He thinks of his parents. His mind dwells on Marilyn, despite not having seen her for at least 6 months.

Marcus smiles

Stop wasting time. You have made your decision, you’re just looking for reasons not to.

“What do I have to do?”

Marcus smiles wider. Foucault sees the fangs extend. He looms forward, the light seems to fade. His silhouette changes shape to a different kind of shadow. A shadow of a man… with black, highly polished shoes.

Blood. Pain. Cold. Death. Blood. The images come in waves, the sound of a busy bar increases and then fades. A flash of insight of the past and future fills Foucault’s brain before fracturing into a million tiny shards that pierce his mind.

Blood trail

He wakes. The stake has been pulled from his chest, leaving a gaping hole. It’s tossed on the table lit by the overhead, tungsten lamp…

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