After a difficult night sleeping in that bed, I got dressed the next morning and went into town. I got there by another path, this time from the side, rather than the front, of the POUMTANG Club. That first path was too scary to walk through again, after what had happened to those three men…whatever that even was.
First I returned to the apartment I was renting, showered, and changed into some fresh clothes. I also got my sunglasses, for indeed that sun had been bothering my eyes on the way from POUM to home, as Christina said it would. Having left my apartment early that afternoon, I went east down Main Street to where the town hall was, which was dead centre: my apartment, near the western entrance to Caledonia, was as far from the town hall as The Sunshine Pub was from the other side, near the eastern entrance.
My destination was The Sunshine Pub, where I expected to find vamp hunters, since that’s what Andrea had told me the night before. But I sensed that I could find vamp hunters in the town hall, too, for I was getting eerie vibes from that place, vibes I, as a once-bitten, assumed were coming from my developing vamp powers. So I went in the front door.
The building’s exterior was painted mostly white, with red borders, and a sign saying Caledonia Town Hall in large black lettering was above the front doors. Inside, there was a hallway going to my left and right after I entered: the left lead to an office of some kind, and the right lead to the washrooms. Right in front of me were two more doors. I opened them a crack and peeked inside.
Inside was a large room, obviously the main room, for town hall meetings. I saw about fifty fold-up chairs arranged with an aisle in the middle leading up to a stage, in front of which was a podium. Closed red curtains were right behind the podium; on the centre of them was attached a round white sign with a black symbol in its centre. My eyes weren’t focused at first (for I was still a bit dazed from that bite), so what I saw seemed for a split second to look like a Nazi symbol. Startled, I rubbed my eyes and looked again: no, it was an oval sign with a black crucifix. On each chair was a Missal–this was a meeting place of Catholics, not Nazis. I felt a little better…but not much better.
“Hey!” someone shouted, making me jump. “What are you doing here?” he said in an agitated voice. I looked to my right and saw an elderly man approaching me from the washrooms.
I quickly ran out of the building and resumed my walk over to The Sunshine Pub. As I was quickly shuffling along, faster than I could normally shuffle, thanks to my newly-acquired abilities as a once-bitten, I looked back at the town hall, where I saw the old man looking at me from the opened front doors with a hostile look in his eyes. Did he know I’d been bitten? It sure seemed that way.
Anyway, he didn’t chase me, nor did anyone else, so I just calmed down and continued on my way. About ten minutes later, I finally reached The Sunshine Pub, where I’d found Jim, Carl, and Randy, my unlucky escorts the night before. I hoped I’d see them there again, as proof that they hadn’t been killed…or did I hope for that? Did I hope they were actually killed by vampires, since now I was sensing how dangerous these townspeople were? This latter hope was clearly Andrea’s influence on my will.
It was a spacious, one-storey building. Coming in through the front door, I saw the bar to the immediate right, lining that wall all the way to the near right corner. Liquor bottles and shot glasses lined all the shelves there, and the bar itself was beautifully polished wood, with red-seated stools in front of it in a row.
There were round tables and chairs, these being to the left, in the centre, and to the right, with a space for the dart board in the middle of the left side. A stage for bands to perform on was in the far right corner. Everywhere else were round tables and chairs. On the walls were photographs of varying size depicting, presumably, the locals fishing, playing sports, or smiling, drinking, and laughing inside the pub. I tended to see the same faces often, and I got a sense that this pub was for the locals, and the locals alone. Again, I had a subtle, vague feeling I wasn’t welcome. Not a feeling from frowns or unfriendly body language from the patrons of the pub, but from vibrations all around me; it must have been my heightened vamp sensitivity.
I went to a table in front of the stage. Three middle-aged men were sitting there, men I recognized from the day before. Though I sensed an unfriendly attitude from them, slightly more so than the last time I’d met them (for they had reluctantly got Jim, Carl, and Randy to escort me to POUM), at least I knew them, and familiarity breeds at least a little confidence.
“Hi, guys,” I said to them. “Did Jim, Carl, and Randy come back?”
“No, they didn’t,” the first of the seated men said, frowning at me as if my escorts’ disappearance had been solely my fault. “It’s good to see you’re OK, I guess, but we’re not at all happy about not seeing them here, or anywhere in town today. What happened when they took you to that…den of iniquity?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, frowning. “Someone attacked them in the dark. It happened so fast: I couldn’t see.”
“Vampires got ’em,” another of the men said.
“Oh, not that superstition again,” I lied, preferring to pretend I was still ignorant of what they knew, out of a wish to protect those who’d beautified me. “I’m sure it was just thugs.”
“Really?” the third man said, studying my face with a distrustful frown. “You look different from yesterday, you know. Better, if a bit paler.”
“Oh, yeah, uh, thanks. The girls gave me some beauty tips,” I stammered, sensing they knew I’d been bitten. I pulled the collar of my shirt forward a bit to hide the bite on my neck. It was only two very small holes, but I still hoped they hadn’t seen them!
“I’m sure they did give you ‘beauty’ tips,” the third man said, still eying me with suspicion. “Of a supernatural kind.”
“So, you do that dirty lap-dancing with those other vamps, eh?” the second man said.
“I didn’t lap dance anyone last night,” I said.
“No? But you stripped and showed yourself off, got the men’s morals all corrupted, didn’t you?” the first man said.
“I’d call my work art,” I said, slightly angry.
The men laughed loudly.
“You want art? Go to the Heritage and Cultural Centre two blocks down,” the first man said. “What you girls do is sinful. Satanic.”
“It is not!” I growled.
“This is a Christian town,” the third man said. “And this pub is the–should be the only watering hole in town. We’d like to keep things that way.”
“Rather, it used to be a Christian town,” the second man said. “Before the vampires came. We’d like to bring it back to the Christian way.”
“Maybe you should leave town,” the first said, “while your soul is still your own.”
“Or come to church with us, and pray to God for forgiveness,” the third said.
“I’ve done nothing I should be ashamed of,” I defiantly insisted.
They laughed at me again.
“Sexuality should be freely expressed,” I said angrily. “Not repressed the way you prudes would have it.”
“Sex belongs in the context of marriage and family,” the first man said.
“It shouldn’t be flaunted immodestly, as this lost generation does,” the second man said.
“With its openly-displayed hickeys!” the third said. “We in Caledonia don’t want your new, big city ways. Either repent, or get out of town!”
I could sense that the killers of Billie Bryson were these three men. The vibrations they were all sending me were a virtual confession. Rather than confront them with that question, I instead asked, “Who told you all that there are vampires in Caledonia?”
“A pretty young lady approached us one night,” the first man said. “Pale, and with a pointy overbite, like you, but we doubt a vampiress would want her Satanic spawn killed, so we’ve always assumed her likeness to them is a coincidence.”
“She hates your kind as much as we do,” a middle-aged woman who’d just entered the bar said. “She wishes all you dope fiend girls would die.”
“I don’t do drugs,” I said. “Haven’t touched them in years. And who are you?”
“Francesca Franks,” she said, approaching me with a growling frown. “And you, whoever you are, sure look stoned enough to be still doing drugs. Your kind always look that way, the first time you’ve been bit. I’ve seen it before. By the time you’ve been bit the third time, not even sunglasses will protect you from the sun. And that young woman might help us find your home; then we’ll sneak in when you’re sleeping during the day, and we’ll destroy you, as we did Billie! And all those other whores in those strip joints!”
“We’ll be coming for you, bitch!” the third man said. “Unless you pray for forgiveness.”
I ran outside, and kept running and running.
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