|Next Part 12 was added because I released part 11 on accident a little while ago, just wanted to give those that already read part 11, part 12 too! :)
After Drac played Contra and a collection of other NES games for a while, he checked his phone.
"Damn, I'm sorry, Rex, time is slipping away from me here. I gotta get going."
"Ah, come on, we're just getting started," Rex groaned.
"We've been playing for an hour."
"Exactly, gotta go at least two."
Drac sighed as he looked over at Rex. His goofy smile and glowing eyes behind his thick-lensed glasses made Drac crack up.
"I'm sorry I can't stay here much longer. I really oughta meet with Nika."
"You about to pop in on her too?"
Drac smirked. "Nah, I'm gonna give her a call."
"But you didn't call me?"
"You had nothing going on."
"You didn't know that."
Drac rolled his eyes. "I'm gonna give her a call outside," he got up from his seat and went into the alley behind the strip mall. The only light came from the back of buildings with industrial bulbs. There was no one around except someone taking out the trash. Lighting up a cigarette, he dialed Nika. The phone kept ringing to a point where Drac thought he was about to reach voicemail, but she picked up.
"Whatcha need?" Nika said.
"Dinner. Wanna get some?"
Drac chuckled. "No, not at all. Just wanna see you and talk about some things."
"A phone call doesn't suffice?"
"What the matter with you, got a date?"
"I'm just breaking your balls, relax, will ya? Meet you at Ocean Prime. Can you be there in an hour?"
"Uh yeah, I'm leaving from Rex's, so I should be there soon."
"You were just at Rex's? Shit, something happened, huh?" Nika said, Drac could hear her lips curving upward.
"No. Maybe. We'll talk."
"Alright, I need to finish up this drink, see you soon," Nika hung up before Drac was able to ask where she was at.
He finished smoking his cigarette and said goodbye to Rex. Getting back in his car, he headed towards downtown Indianapolis.
The restaurant was dimly lit with large glass cubes emitting dark yellow light. Polished rosewood comprised the interior with black cushioned chairs and booths. There was a crowd of people waiting to get a table as Drac came in to talk to the host.
"Drac, it's good to see you. Glad to see you're dining with us tonight. How many?"
"It's just Nika and me, thank you," Drac smiled.
"Right this way, sir," the host turned around, and as they departed, people around them glared and whispered to each other. The host escorted Drac to a tucked-away corner of the restaurant arriving at a rounded booth with its own shutters for extra privacy.
"Your server will be with you shortly," the host said, and he returned back to his post.
Without waiting long, a server came up to Drac's table.
"Mr. Drac, a pleasure to serve you, how are you this fine evening?"
"Stupendous. I'll take two zombies. Thanks."
"You got it," the server slipped away.
Drac felt a firm pat on his shoulder. "Get up, ya clown. Lemme hug ya."
He grinned and stood up to hug Nika, an athletic demon with high-cheek bones and a rounded chin, wearing a dark purple dress. They both sat at the booth that could seat at least five more.
"How was Chicago? Shitty, crowded, and pretentious?" Nika smirked.
"I actually want to live there."
Nika grinned. "Funny. Where's the server? I need a drink."
"I'm serious, Nika, I think I want to move our operation to Chicago, and I'd want you and Rex to come with me."
"I've been here like five minutes already, and the server is nonexistent. I need something strong."
"Relax, I ordered you a zombie," Drac eye-rolled.
"And what do you expect me to thank you? That's the least you could do when you're in the middle of telling me this shit. You couldn't wait to tell me until the server dropped off the drink?"
"You're someone who likes to cut to the chase. I'm sorry, I didn't think it would hit you this hard."
"It's not hitting me hard," Nika scoffed. "It's just a lot to take in," she furrowed her brow and tapped the table with her long red nails. "See? I knew this would be a disaster of a dinner. There was something in the tone of your voice over the phone, you bastard."
"It's not a disaster. We're just talking here, wanted to get your input on things. You and Rex mean a lot to me, and I don't know if I'd go if I knew you two weren't coming."
The server came by and dropped off two zombie cocktails.
"We're going to take a while to order, thank you," Nika dismissed, and he bowed his head as he spun away. "Thank the Dark Lord this cocktail's here," Nika gulped a mouthful.
Drac explained what happened in the meeting with Marcia and how all of her knights had been killed.
"Yeah fuck that, I have no interest in going. Not to mention, Tyrannus?" Nika shuddered. "He's always given me the creeps. Wouldn't want to work with him closely."
"You wouldn't. We'd be working under Marcia, she'll keep him in check. Don't have to worry about a thing."
Nika frowned. "I still don't understand how you're actually considering this. Demon outfits in the US are impressed we've gotten by with only three knights. We're not bringing in the blood like we used to, but we're rolling in the money. You really want to leave that?"
"Chicago is even more money, even if you do a bad job. I've also heard about their blood numbers, and they're getting a lot of business. It's more dangerous, but it's more notoriety. We could have seats at the big kid's table. Demons look at us and think we're minor league-ers. We've got a chance at making history."
"I don't know, the business with El Lujo, my nightclub, and some of my other rental properties, I'm doing tremendous. Business has been booming for me. People are eating up all these expensive rates," Nika chuckled. "The guy supply I feel like might be a little dried up around here. It's been a while since I've had a worthwhile date," Nika took a swig of her zombie and wiped the corner of her lip.
"There's plenty of guys in Chicago."
"There's another thing I wanted to bring up," Drac took a sip of his zombie. "I'm going to need the presidential suite this Saturday for someone coming into town."
Nika's brow arched as high as it could go. "Who on earth are you having over?"
"You don't need to know."
"I kind of do because it's booked. You can't just lay this information on me last second."
"Who do you have staying there?"
"You don't need to know," Nika mocked Drac with a deep voice.
He smirked with amusement. "They're coming from Chicago."
"Marcia?" Nika guessed like a game show answer, grinning from ear-to-ear.
"Ooo is it, Abbadonna?"
"Alright, that's enough of that. You've had your fun," Drac shook his head, and Nika giggled.
"It's just someone important to me, and I want them to stay and have a nice time. Sorry, I didn't have more notice, this was a little bit of a last-minute thing. Perhaps I can offer my place for you?"
"Your downtown skyrise?" Nika's jaw dropped. "You're really about to offer your place for my guest to stay?"
"Like I said, this person is important to me."
Nika thought about it for a moment. "I mean, I have a loft downtown here, I guess they can just come stay with me if I sleep on the couch," she sighed. "You owe me one though."
"Don't bother turning in blood next week, how about that?"
"Damn. This person really does mean a lot to you. Hey, if you insist. I'll happily take that deal," Nika shook Drac's hand across the table, and they continued to drink their cocktails.
"Just promise me you'll think about Chicago. I think I'm going to help out Marcia and see what happens from there."
With a deep, heavy exhale, Nika nodded. "Alright, you have my word. I'll think about it, prick," she smirked.
Tyrannus sat in his tinted, parked Cadillac, smoking cigarette after cigarette. No radio, music, or sound in the vehicle. His attention was fixed half a block away at a building.
"I have to thank you for your bravery and loyalty. Many other demons would cower at the idea to do what you're doing."
Tyrannus turned to the passenger seat and grinned at Fenny, puffing on a stale cigar.
"It's all to avenge your honor," Tyrannus grinned as he pulled out a pouch of blood and took a sip.
"But I have to say I'm also a little disappointed in you," Fenny shrugged.
Tyrannus gaped and couldn't bear to meet his gaze.
"Don't you want to know why? Or is it already obvious?"
"Shut up!" Tyrannus screamed.
"You do realize you're doing something worse, right? Drac only killed me. You're out here murdering four other knights."
"I didn't lay a finger on them!" Tyrannus roared, shaking the steering wheel, so close to popping it off. "They died because they aren't strong enough to take on a couple of demon hunters! That's not my fault!"
"You seem pretty defensive," Fenny snickered, sinking further down the seat, resting his legs on the expansive dashboard. "Because you tipped them off... but killing Drac is just one way to start making up for what you've done. If you hadn't let your other companions die, I'd say these two wrongs make a right, but you're so deeply in debt to the ghosts of your fellow knights you're ruined. And it's tragic to see too, you were my favorite Chicago knight. I should've moved out your way and started from the bottom. Hell, I'd probably still be alive, because even though you'd sell me out, I'd kill those demon hunters," Fenny put his hands behind his head. "And then I'd probably kill you after I found out."
"Enough!" Tyrannus barked as he smashed his fist on the passenger seat, but nothing was there. He tapped the cushion and rubbed the bottom, exhaling a deep, relieved breath.
"Keep your eyes forward, you dumb bastard," Fenny said from the backseat.
Tyrannus stared forward at the building he had kept his eyes on all night, and saw Drac walking outside with Nika next to him. They were wearing winter coats as they chatted outside for a moment, moderate foot traffic passing by.
"That's the next roadblock in your path to becoming the king of Chicago."
"Should I dust Nika?" Tyrannus' lower lip quivered as he pressed his car on.
"Nah, I wouldn't do that... Yet. Let's take our time. Gotta stalk the prey. You can't just go in on a murderous spree. Don't worry, Tyranny, you'll get there. Just gotta be patient."
"I'm tired of waiting!" Tyrannus punched the wheel with his right first, nearly denting it.
"Relax, take a deep breath, hell, meditate for all I care but trust me, you don't want to be flooded when you're driving. When you feel ready, follow Drac."
When morning broke in through the tall curtains of the massive guest room, Catherine had rushed out of bed. Peeling back the double doors, she sprinted down the vast echoey hall adorned with armor and swords, showcased like a museum. At the end of the hall, she pushed open another set of two thick wooden doors. Sunlight came in through the white curtains, giving a diffused glow. Inside, Lawrence was attached to the strands of medical equipment, his eyes were opened slits.
"Lawrence! How are you?" Catherine ran by his side.
"I've been better," he chuckled. His voice was frayed, distorted with gravel, but it contained his humor and charm.
"I'm so glad to see that you're awake, I've been thinking about you all night."
"Don't worry about me, I'll be okay. Could've been a lot worse."
Catherine grabbed his hand. "Which is why I'm worried. Worried about you and everything else, even our careers... Hannah too."
"Oh no, did you tell Hannah?"
"No, I don't know what to do. I don't want to worry her. School is coming to a close for the semester, and I wanted to see how you were doing first."
“We shouldn’t tell her. You know her, she's got a fiery passion about things. I could see Hannah scolding at us to retire, or maybe worse, seeking revenge."
"But what if she wants to see you or visit? What are we going to tell her?"
"That I hurt my leg, she doesn't need to know the details. Besides, I've got the best doctors working on me. This might all be gone as if nothing happened. See?" Lawrence moved his left leg up but yelped.
"Lawrence! You have to rest and take time to heal. Yes, the doctors you have are important, but keep in mind it's all about how your body heals."
"You're right, I'm sorry," he groaned and heaved out an exhale. “Like I said, I think it's best to keep this under wraps from Hannah."
Hannah drove from Northwestern's campus to Florence, Indiana, a place she once called home. Going into town for the first time in a year felt so foreign even though it was precisely the same. A couple of roads improved from construction, and a new business was opening in a strip mall, but aside from that, it was the same, but it felt so different. Why was that?
Pulling into Melanie's driveway, she texted her friend and rushed up to the house, gleefully knocking. Mrs. Sato answered the door, and the two of them shared a hug and an excited: "Hello! It's been so long!"
"How have you been enjoying Northwestern? That's so amazing you go to school there," Mrs. Sato said.
"It's going great, just playing a lot of piano as I'm sure you can imagine," Hannah laughed.
"Melanie says the same about Indiana. Crazy to imagine the two of you were just playing together in high school a year ago. Anyways, she's dying to see you, go on up to her bedroom, I'll stop talking your ear off."
"That's okay, you can talk as much as you'd like, but if you insist, I'll go up to Melanie's room," Hannah walked up the steps in front of the house's entrance, she was confused for a moment which room was hers, since there were five other closed doors, but she remembered it was the one, second on the left. Right?
She knocked on the door, and it swung open. Melanie wrapped her arms around Hannah.
"You're here! I'm so glad we're doing this, please come in!"
Hannah swiveled back-and-forth in control with her foot while leaning back in the desk chair. Melanie reclined on a massive bean bag.
"It can be tough sometimes," Hannah said. "A lot of the kids that go to Northwestern come from rich families from all over. Many of them in my program have these insane opportunities lined up, and I'm over here without any connections to the music industry or anything. I feel like I'm just trying to rub two sticks together while everyone else on campus is walking around with a flamethrower," Hannah said. "I don't know, sometimes I debate my career path and if it's something I really wanna pursue."
"Yeah," Melanie sighed. "Indiana is kinda like that too, but it's not overwhelming. There are some down to earth people who are pretty cool. One of them is planning on coming to the party tomorrow at the El Lujo... Which I still can't believe you got for a Saturday night."
"It's El Lujo, you don't have to put 'the' in front of it," Hannah snickered. "But yeah, thought it would be fun."
"How did you hook that up? Do you know someone? Or did you really just fork over that kind of money?"
Hannah debated how much she should reveal.
"C'mon, spill it," Melanie encouraged.
Hannah told Melanie what happened after Drac and Fenny came to her house one night.
"Wait, so that hotel is owned by demons or something?" Melanie sat up straight.
"Uh, I'm not really sure, but trust me, it's okay, Drac is a-"
"Hannah, I don't know how I feel about this. After what I experienced with that, I don't know if I want to be put in danger again. They could easily be setting up a trap."
"Melanie, we're fine," Hannah said through half-closed irritated eyes. "They're not setting up a trap. It'll be a good time, they'll have alcohol there for us! Some of the finest wine. Tell your mom you're going in case you're worried about something happening."
"I don't know, I'm going to have to think about this."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't've even told you. It's not going to be a big deal. It'll be a blast, plus the pool there is incredible. You, me, and our friends will be treated like royalty who are 21!" Hannah had an infectious smile.
Melanie imagined how much fun it would be, her crush from high school was also going to be joining them for the party, and she had been daydreaming of having a sultry conversation with him in one of the rooms in the presidential suite.
"I mean, I guess it's too late to cancel now," Melanie said with flat lips, but then they curled up.
Tyrannus sat in his car, watching the other corner of the street where Drac came striding out of a staircase, pacing down the sidewalk. Tyrannus kept the vehicle at a smooth creep, a block away from him. There was enough traffic that allowed his snail's pace to appear inconspicuous. Once he saw Drac enter the Capital Grille, Tyrannus surveyed the restaurant from his car. Not being able to see too much through the tall narrow glass from the outside, he punched the wheel and parked up the block.
"Have you ever heard the expression, a cooler head always prevails?" a sly voice from the passenger's seat said, followed up with a snicker.
"Shut the fuck up!" Tyrannus snarled, darting his eyes at the grinning Fenny.
"Take a deep breath or twelve. Seriously, hone in your focus. He might be in there for two minutes or a while."
Tyrannus inhaled a long breath and released it through a slow exhale. Fixing his attention back to the building, watching small groups of people file in and out every few minutes.
Drac was sitting at a booth in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by other crowded tables. The chatter from the guests wasn't too loud over the gentle live piano.
Hannah came in wearing a blue dress and a wide smile.
"Hey, Drac, how are you?" Hannah beamed, sliding into the booth after they greeted each other with a hug.
"Been doing okay. But that's already too much about me. How are you? How's Northwestern treating you?"
Hannah told him about everything she had told Melanie.
"But one thing I'm concerned about is what going to happen after I graduate. Like, all of the kids I go to school with have connections to people in the industry or are they going into education, which is something I'm not sure I really want to do, or others go into performing in an orchestra," Hannah added.
"And none of those other things appeal to you?"
"Well, they do. It's just, I won't be making that much money for a while. I'm scared of graduating and failing. I don't want to be like that guy playing at the Capital Grille."
Drac turned around in his seat and observed the lone piano player, hardly anyone paying attention. "Hannah, don't say that. Besides, that guy's not a failure. He makes good money. How could you possibly fail? I saw your talents live, you could be a studio musician or be a piano player for a famous band or something. Or go on one of those talent shows and get a record deal."
"But the talents will run out at some point," Hannah frowned.
Drac thought of what to say next with care but didn't break eye contact with Hannah. "You know, I bet if you were to perform a show at the Red River, you could headline it and come close to selling out. People in the area know you, they would love to come out and support you. You have a popular YouTube page. You could tour the country playing your songs."
"And just do that forever on an endless loop? The same songs every night? Every tour? It'd drive me nuts, I might even consider trading my soul at that point."
"Oh, Hannah, don't say that. What else would you want to do? I thought piano was your passion?"
"Ugh," she sighed. "It is, but I'm just so worried about the future, it's so uncertain to me. Part of me even thinks about going into demon-hunting sometimes... not to make you feel uncomfortable or anything, but it's just my parents were able to make a good living off it and provide me with everything. I think I could learn a lot from them and be good at it, rise up the ranks, and... What's up with that look on your face?"
"In case you've forgotten, I'm still a demon."
"Well yeah, but I wouldn't go after you."
"Demons and humans are cut from similar cloths. We have an innate drive to become the best we can. A need for greatness."
Hannah flinched. "I thought you were satisfied with just being in Indianapolis? I would steer clear from you."
"But you don't understand, it's a dangerous profession."
"My parents have been fine," Hannah grinned as if she just delivered a witty quip.
"They're hiding things from you if they say they've never injured themselves or haven't had close calls," Drac tilted his chin down, with a stern stare.
"Geeze, you're starting to sound like one of my parents," Hannah eye-rolled.
Drac touched Hannah's hand on the table for a brief moment. "Trust me, it's a dangerous life, you don't want to do that. Performing piano is incredible, brave, and exciting. I'm sure if you asked your parents, they would say they wished they never followed that path.
Hannah gazed back at Drac and nodded.
"You're an old enough girl, but you're not an adult yet," Drac added. "Once you hit 25, that's around the time your brain finishes developing. But I know I can't sway you one way or another, but trust me, I know these things. Just think about it with some serious consideration of the dangers, will you? Please?"
"By the way, did you really mean it when you said I could play at the Red River if I wanted to?"
"Of course I did," Drac smiled. "Whenever you want, my doors are open."
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