Fuck me… I’m cornered. I thought.
His choice was the illusion of one. Those kinds of situation were the worst, it seemed like you had freedom, but underneath you, the railroad tracks were just well hidden but they were still there.
Coil looked at me with an unrelenting stare that had probably been perfected over the course of his life. There was a certain serpent-like attribute to it, almost hypnotic but at the same time cowering.
Fuck, fuck, fuck…. I wasn’t very creative in my choice of panic induced mental swearing.
I still had the sword in hand and Lionel was at arm’s length, finishing his sewing of my wound. I could take him hostage, but I’d promised to not do that. I felt Coil had a strong ethics when it came to follow through with promises. I doubted that’d do anything but have him angry at me, if he wasn’t already. His expression was hard to read, remaining passive, focused but polite.
He’d given me three choices, but it was two really: Work for him or have my life crumble before me. My mother would never know what had happened to me, or she’d have to watch as her only child for whom she’d thrown her life away spent her entire youth in prison. I wasn’t sure which was worse.
I couldn’t help but wonder if all of his reactions had been staged; being merciful to Hector, being polite, offering me first aid. All just a ruse as to get me more confident and play into his hand more easily.
“I have a condition.” I said. He had no reason to even consider it. “I want five minutes alone with Lionel to talk. No foul play, I promise, beside I can’t even stand, I’ll give you the sword in exchange.”
Coil stared at me, there was a hint of curiosity in his eyes. He remained immobile for a moment before coming closer. “Alright, granted.” He extended a hand and I handed the sword at him, forcing him to get closer to my level. He gripped the blade and I let it go. He walked out slowly and closed the door. If his hearing was anything like mine, he’d hear everything, but being alone gave me a little bit of confidence. "Lionel, you may speak the truth freely until I come back."
“So… Lionel… Can I ask you something?”
“You may. " He said, still attending to my wound, dutifully. His hands were firm and methodical, I had the feeling he had some experience doing this.
“How is it working for Coil?”
He remained silent, he stopped for a moment and his gaze met my eyes. “In all honesty? It’s a mixed bag of blessings and curses. He didn’t lie about taking care of us, last week he’s flown in the best obstetrician in the country for my wife’s delivery. Maya isn’t three days old and she already has a thick college savings account. Not once did he refuse a request for off time.
But at the same time, we all know we’re working with something beyond us. We can’t, and I mean physically can't, tell anything to our families or friends. Some of us are doing this only for the remote possibility of becoming like him, but the chances seem… slim at best.” His words gave me another important clue; vampires could control people’s behavior. Which begged the question of why he didn’t just do it on me.
“He doesn’t make people into vampires?”
“He doesn’t tolerate others in his territory.”
“There aren’t any other vampires in Emerald Bay?”
He laughed. “There aren’t any in the state of California. His domain encompass the whole of it.”
Wow. I really hadn’t picked on some small fry...
“Then there’s the less human things we do. Or that Coil does. Last month we had to fight a shifter, put three of us in the hospital, we had to empty a half-dozen P90 into it until it stopped moving then we had to finish the job with fire axes. But then there’s Coil’s feeding habit… Which I really shouldn’t talk about, I’d better not think about it. You on the other hand have a chance to play in his league. So yeah, that’s kind of it. If you want to be normal and safe, I’d take prison. If you can handle to horror this life comes with, you know what to do…”
The door opened, with Coil coming back into the room. “Time’s up.” He walked back to his chair.
Lionel stopped his treatment, the wound sewn closed. “It should be heal within the day, Mr Abendroth’s thing is a miracle worker. The stitches will dissolve by themselves.” He whispered.
“What will I be doing if I work for you?”
“Well, first you’ll be training. You were fairly impressive for someone fighting only by instinct and the innate skill that come from the blood, but not quite ready to face the world. You’ll learn more about our world and when I judge you ready, you’ll be one of my emissaries as well as one of my important hunter. Should you acquit yourself well and survive, within twenty to thirty years, I’ll ‘die’ tragically and you’ll inherit my estate which you’ll safeguard for the one or two decades until I return as your Cousin or long-lost son with Sebastian Coil being nothing but a memory.
Whenever you are not working, you can amuse yourself in any way that does not contradict my interests; go to school, fall in love, ready sappy romance novels and whatever girls your age enjoy.”
“That sounds easy… And too good to be true.”
“This world is cruel, uncaring and full of things one would prefer not knowing. This will not be a walk through the park. You will get hurt, you will lose people close to you and the mortgage on your soul will only grow bigger. But you will be rewarded. Just remember this: Everything has a price.”
“Alright…” I tentatively stood up. My leg was well enough to carry me, but I felt a pressure in the wound. I wouldn’t try to run.
“What about my mom? What do I tell her if I’m going to be doing all these weird things at your beck and call.”
“Officially, you’ll be put on retainer as my personal assistant. Which will allow me to transfer funds and properties to you.”
“Alright…” I had a tendency to resort to that word when I didn’t have anything to answer. “I’ll work for you.”
For the first time, Coil showed a strong emotion as his mouth formed a victorious grin. He knew I’d accept it, I didn’t have a choice.
“Excellent. It’s getting late. Lionel, if you’d please escort the lady out, have Mr. Shinoda bring her home. Oh and please, give her my usual employment package with two-fifty. Miss Lauren, I expect you to be here tomorrow by eight in the afternoon. Do not make me wait.”
“Of course sir. Miss, if you’d please follow me.” Lionel said.
I did. walking slowly behind him, he adjusted his pace as to not lose me and we walked through the hallway, then down the service stairs that I hadn’t managed to find and into the basement. We came face to face with a thick reinforced door where he punched a number in the keypad adjacent to it and it opened sideways. The inside of the room was a large metal plated vault filled with numbered deposit boxes.
He went to number 17 and opened it. It contained a small package which he gave me. At his prompting, I opened it and reveal the content. It contained a small satellite phone with numbers a set of keys, a folded map with addresses marked and a wallet with cards; debit, credit and membership cards to business around the city, private clubs and the like.
“The phone is preprogrammed with numbers to Mr. Coil’s office, to myself, to Mr Jones’ and his strike team and to our three dedicated drivers. The keys and the map are to our safe houses around town, you’re free to use them, but do not compromise their safety. You may use the money as you see fit, but credit usage must be justified.” He explained, like he’d done so dozens of time before.
“Fifty-thousand dollars, they’ll be in your account by sunrise. You nip is currently the default 5555, feel free to change it. Lastly, the membership cards will allow you access to the city’s underworld, and should you need it, the boardwalk’s security will ignore you, I recommend not abusing that last fact”
This was more money than I’d ever seen… Not that I’d ever handled more than eighty dollars… And I was apparently cop-proof now...
“Alright, let’s get you home.”