Aaron ditched his buddies easily enough. None of them had any clue what he was up to. If they did, they would have trailed him, then beat the ever living shit out of him.
He'd left them trying to track Dracula, and hadn't bothered to tell any of them he had a really good clue where the killer might strike next. He didn't think this person was a serial killer. No, it had to be an honest-to-God vampire. No matter what the speculation in the newspaper said.
With each victim, it had become easier and easier for the police to find them. The vampire was either getting exceptionally careless or, as Aaron suspected, increasingly panicked. The last victim had been found in a derelict building right outside of town. If Aaron's hunch was correct, the vampire wouldn't be too far off. The cops had no clue they were dealing with a real vampire. They were too busy with their killer profiling and lab reports.
No vampire in his right mind would commit these killings, not in this day and age of legal citizenship. It was far too easy to get a meal and maintain respectability for the vamps. Even the newspaper theorized it was a mortal trying to cause trouble for the vampires.
Making no effort to hide himself from anybody watching from derelict buildings, Aaron pushed open the old rusty gate of the rundown complex. The police had assumed since they hadn't found any signs of life in the surrounding area that the killer wasn't there. Aaron knew better. The vampire would be an expert at concealing himself from any searches, and the cops had no idea what they were really looking for. Chances were the vampire had the power to hide himself even if the cops were looking right at him. Other than the occasional breeze, everything was unusually still. The moon cast a silver-gray glow over the rubble-strewn ground, but the buildings themselves were hidden beneath shadows. It was the perfect place to hide, especially for a vampire.
He avoided the building where the yellow police tape flapped against the door. He doubted if the vampire would push his luck that much. Instead, he paused for a moment, looking over each building before he chose the one furthest from the others. It made a good place to start. Turning the knob, he found the door locked. Then he slowly circled the building, trying to find a way in.
"Bingo," he muttered to himself, seeing the broken window in the back wall. Raising himself up over the sill, he climbed into the window. He had to squirm to squeeze his way through the tight frame.
Once inside, he swung his flashlight and the beam lit the broken wooden crates strewn over the floor. A rat scurried across the floor and darted into a hole in the wall. The air was stale, and dust particles drifted in the light as Aaron swept it around the room. The crates looked like pallets for stacking goods and most were nothing more than enormous splinters now.
As he crept farther, he directed the light around the room. Looking towards one of the doors at the back, Aaron saw the flash of a shadow moving across the doorway. He lit the door, but there was nothing there. Aaron kept the flashlight steadily lighting the door. Beyond it was a hallway stretching on for what seemed like the entire length of the building. Doors led off from each side along the hall, and most were closed, their windows broken. Then the shadow reappeared in the hallway. It hovered a few yards in front of Aaron, but it didn't advance on him.
Aaron didn't move any closer to the strange darkness. "I know you're here, and I know what you are."
Though he probably should have been terrified, Aaron wasn't. He had something the vampire needed. And to get it, the vampire would have to let him live. His heartbeat accelerated.
Although the shadow didn't move, a deep, resonating voice broke the silence following Aaron's pronouncement.
"Who are you?"
"Aaron Sellers. Who are you?" Aaron lowered the flashlight out of courtesy.
With the absence of the light, the shadow drifted closer. As it moved, it took on a more tangible form. The features were not clear, but from the shape, it was obvious this Taylor was a man.
"Why are you here?"
Aaron didn't retreat from the advancing form. Frowning slightly, he focused on trying to find details of a face within the misty dark. "I'm here because you need to get out of here. The cops are going to track you down and real soon. They aren't all stupid."
A laugh as dark as the blackness surrounding them was Taylor's immediate answer. "And what would you suggest? Given my nature, I am limited in my choices."
The tone of the laugh made Aaron shiver, yet he wasn't the least bit of afraid. Maybe a saner person would have been, but this was his dream come true. This town was too damn small to attract any vampires, and this was his only chance of seeing one.
"Not exactly." With a devious grin, Aaron fished in his jeans pocket and dug out his car keys. "I figured you had no way out of here. Your chariot awaits you, sir." After making an exaggerated bow, Aaron straightened, laughing. "I was right about you."
"Right about me?"
The figure stepped closer and the shadows faded, revealing a fine-featured man who looked to be no more than in his late twenties. But his dark brown eyes held ages within them. He was dressed in black cloth pants and a white, loose shirt. His long, dark brown hair fell over his shoulders. The black boots he wore were as dusty and ragged as the rest of his clothing.
"How were you right about me?"
"You've been getting a bit panicky, Taylor." Nodding slowly, Aaron intently studied the man. Whoa. Yeah, he'd been expecting something in the region of good looking, but damn. Even in the shabby clothing, a certain quality showed through in the way Taylor held himself. The chiseled features gave the vampire a handsome, albeit arrogant, air. "I thought that you were getting nervous because the cops were starting to get closer and closer to you. And you can't get out of here without help."
Taylor's lips slowly curved in an odd smile. "A brave young man you are, to be propositioning me. Very well, Master Aaron Sellers." Taylor bowed, though his gaze never left Aaron's. "You have piqued my curiosity."
"I didn't want them to catch you," Aaron said. "My car is outside, and I've got enough money to last for quite a while." He had cashed in every one of the bonds his grandparents had given him, and sold about everything he owned except for the car to come up with the money.
One of Taylor's dark eyebrows rose at that. "You are intriguing." With that, Taylor walked by him, toward the window Aaron had used to come in.
"Uh, thanks." Aaron followed behind, studying the vampire's back. Excited thoughts ran through his head, along with a million and one questions. Finally he settled on one. "How long were you asleep? This is 2028, by the way, just in case you didn't know."
"A hundred and twenty-two years," Taylor said as he slid effortlessly through the window. "And you, Master Sellers. How old are you?"
Aaron crawled out behind him, only he didn't have as easy of a time. Tumbling to the ground, he nearly cracked his head on a large rock. Scrambling up and brushing himself off, he answered, "I'm twenty-two. I'm willing to bet you have no idea of how the world has changed."
"Such beautiful youth," Taylor said with a grin. "Where might my chariot be?"
Aaron grimaced before he gestured to the other side of the building. "It's at the back gate. I didn't want anybody to see a car on the main street in front of this place." Pointing the flashlight towards the ground, Aaron led the way to the gate then out to his car. "The cops have found, like, six bodies so far. Any more out there?"
"No. I've not been out this evening." Dark eyes watched Aaron closely.
After closing the door behind him, Aaron went to the other side and got in. "Is it necessary for you to kill, Taylor?"
Taylor returned Aaron's look in silence for several seconds before answering. "I suppose not. Why?"
"Well, logically, if there are no dead bodies, there's nobody going to come looking for you. Ethically, you just can't kill." Aaron stayed to the back roads, driving in a meandering pattern. "Vampires are legal citizens now. No reason to kill. Not with people willing to line up for the privilege."
"Ethics were never my concern, but I am willing to feed without killing, if only to satisfy my curiosity. Where are we going?"
"Satisfy your curiosity about what? We're going to stop at a hotel so you can clean up, and I can get you some other clothes. I just want to make sure I wasn't noticed at the warehouse."
"I've never fed and not killed. I don't know how the beast inside me will react. There must be something to sate him." Taylor stared out the passenger side window as he spoke, his tone eerily conversational.
Aaron doubted if Taylor would try to kill him, at least for the moment. "You'll have to, Taylor, or you won't last long here. I'm sure you can tell things aren't like they were when you went to sleep."
"I have kept track of the pulse of part of this world, even in my rest."
As he drove out of town, Aaron didn't look back. He wanted to put some miles between them and New Vale before he stopped. "The nearest town is about twenty miles away, so it won't take more than fifteen minutes to get there."
"You've yet to tell me why you're helping me." Even in the dark, Taylor's stare was sharp and piercing as he looked over at Aaron.
"I told you, I didn't want them to catch you." Shrugging slightly, he met Taylor's look briefly. "I had a feeling what you were. It's like a dream for me to meet you. Well, one of your kind. You have no idea."
"A dream." Taylor's laugh was deep, even stronger in the enclosed area of the car. "What clued you in?"
"A group of friends and I have been following the killings. We knew everything going on. Enough of it leaked to the newspapers to label you Dracula. Nobody was serious about it. It was a hunch on our parts, and we didn't dismiss the real clues like the cops did. They just didn't want to believe anything that crazy. No vamp wants a death hunt on their ass."
"A following," Taylor mused. "Now that's interesting. Although, I must admit that I'm looking forward to a bath. And how do you suggest I feed?"
Pulling off onto the exit, Aaron stopped at the red light. "Find somebody to feed from and hope to God you don't kill them. I don't think I'm going to be much help to you if you leave a string of dead bodies everywhere we go."
"Then I will fuck when I feed," Taylor said matter-of-factly.
Any average person would have understood the concept of it being wrong to kill, but Aaron doubted very much it would work on Taylor. Getting that unexpected answer, Aaron stared at Taylor wide-eyed. "Umm, I suppose that would work?"
"It will have to." Taylor glanced back over at him, giving Aaron an odd smile.
Not quite sure what to make of it, Aaron looked away from him. When the light turned green, he pulled out onto the street and made a right. "We'll definitely have to get you cleaned up first. Unless you have some super-seductive powers or something."
"No one has ever turned me down."
"Okay. I'll take it that means yes." Aaron didn't doubt it at all. Even beneath the layer of dust and tattered clothing, Taylor's looks were astounding, and that was putting it mildly.
When he turned into the hotel parking lot, Aaron parked the car a bit away from the main entrance. "I'll get the room. It shouldn't take me more than a few minutes."
"I will be here."