I SAW HIM when he came through the front doors. Tall, solidly built dark brown hair and eyes, skin still fairly dark because it had been dark when I'd made him a vampire. Walking a little too fast, but basically passing for a human being. My beloved David.
I was on the stairway. The grand stairway, one might say. It was one of those very opulent old hotels, divinely overdone, full of crimson and gold, and rather pleasant. My victim had picked it. I hadn't. My victim was dining with his daughter. And I'd picked up from my victim's mind that this was where he always met his daughter in New York, for the simple reason that St. Patrick's Cathedral was across the street.
David saw me at once--a slouching, blond, long-haired youth, bronze face and hands, the usual deep violet sunglasses over my eyes, hair presentably combed for once, body tricked out in a dark-blue, double-breasted Brooks Brothers suit.
I saw him smile before he could stop himself. He knew my vanity, and he probably knew that in the early nineties of the twentieth century, Italian fashion had flooded the market with so much shapeless, hangy, bulky, formless attire that one of the most erotic and flattering garments a man could choose was the well-tailored navy-blue Brooks Brothers suit.
Besides, a mop of flowing hair and expert tailoring are always a potent combination. Who knows that better than I?
I didn't mean to harp on the clothes! To hell with the clothes. It's just I was so proud of myself for being spiffed up and full of gorgeous contradictions--a picture of long locks, the impeccable tailoring, and a regal manner of slumping against the railing and sort of blocking the stairs.
He came up to me at once. He smelled like the deep winter outside, where people were slipping in the frozen streets, and snow had turned to filth in the gutters. His face had the subtle preternatural gleam which only I could detect, and love, and properly appreciate, and eventually kiss.
We walked together onto the carpeted mezzanine.
Momentarily, I hated it that he was two inches taller than me. But I was so glad to see him, so glad to be near him. And it was warm in here, and shadowy and vast, one of the places where people do not stare at others.
"You've come," I said. "I didn't think you would."
"Of course," he scolded, the gracious British accent breaking softly from the young dark face, giving me the usual shock. This was an old man in a young man's body, recently made a vampire, and by me, one of the most powerful of our remaining kind.
"What did you expect?" he said, tete-a-tete. "Armand told me you were calling me. Maharet told me."
"Ah, that answers my first question." I wanted to kiss him, and suddenly I did put out my arms, rather tentatively and politely so that he could get away if he wanted, and when he let me hug him, when he returned the warmth, I felt a happiness I hadn't experienced in months.
Perhaps I hadn't experienced it since I had left him, with Louis. We had been in some nameless jungle place, the three of us, when we agreed to part, and that had been a year ago.
"Your first question?" he asked, peering at me very closely, sizing me up perhaps, doing everything a vampire can do to measure the mood and mind of his maker, because a vampire cannot read his maker's mind, any more than the maker can read the mind of the fledgling.
And there we stood divided, laden with preternatural gifts, both fit and rather full of emotion, and unable to communicate except in the simplest and best way, perhaps--with words.
"My first question," I began to explain, to answer, "was simply going to be: Where have you been, and have you found the others, and did they try to hurt you? All that rot, you know--how I broke the rules when I made you, et cetera."
"All that rot," he mocked me, the French accent I still possessed, now couple with something definitely American.
"Come on," I said. "Let's go into the bar there and talk. Obviously no one has done anything to you. I didn't' think they could or they would, or that they'd dare. I wouldn't have let you slip off into the world if I'd thought you were in danger."
He smiled, his brown eyes full of gold light for just an instant.
"Didn't you tell me this twenty-five times, more or less, before we parted company?"
We found a small table, cleaving to the wall. The place was half crowded the perfect proportion exactly. What did we look like? A couple of young men on the make for mortal men or women? I don't care.
"No one has harmed me," he said, "and no one has shown the slightest interest in it."
Someone was playing a piano, very tenderly for a hotel bar, I thought. And it was something by Erik Satie. What luck.
"The tie," he said, leaning forward, white teeth flashing, fangs completely hidden, of course. "This, this big mass of silk around your neck! This is not Brooks Brothers!" He gave a soft teasing laugh. "Look at you, and the wing-tip shoes! My, my. What's going on in your mind? And what is this all about?"
The bartender threw a hefty shadow over the small table, and murmured predictable phrases that were lost to me in my excitement and in the noise.
"Something hot," David said. It didn't surprise me. "You know, rum punch or some such, whatever you can heat up."
I nodded and made a little gesture to the indifferent fellow that I would take the same thing.
Vampires always ordered hot drinks. They aren't going to drink them; but they can feel the warmth and smell them if they're hot, and that is so good.
David looked at me again. Or rather this familiar body with David inside looked at me. Because for me, David would always be the elderly human I'd known and treasured, as well as this magnificent burnished shell of stolen flesh that was slowly being shaped by his expressions and manner and mood.
Dear Reader, he switched human bodies before I made him a vampire, worry no more. It has nothing to do with this story.
"Something's following you again?" he asked. "This is what Armand told me. So did Jesse."
"Where did you see them?"
"Armand?" he asked. "A complete accident. In Paris. He was just walking on the street. He was the first one I saw."
"He didn't make any move to hurt you?"
"Why would he? Why were you calling to me? Who's stalking you? What is all this?