With Bated BreathMature

Dmitriy stands, curses filling the night air with puffs of condensed breath.

I remain still, not even my hand trembling. The small silver cross grasped tight in my hand, my eyes fixated on my fist.

“What need does a whore have of a cross?” Dima laments. His strong voice drips a dark concoction of spite and sadness.

Although my body was still, calm, my voice defied it. “Can’t we just toss it, remove it from her person?” It’s a slim hope, but a hope nonetheless.

“No, you eejit.” The whisper conveyed his inner howling. “Taking away the symbol doesn’t rid her of the protection.”

I open my fist to reveal the soft glint of the silver, and my eyes trace it over and over. Such a simple thing, but with so much power. Not real power, no, it wasn’t an artefact of sorts or anything.

But it implied power, the very form acting as protection for the poor girl. The pendant pronounces the power of God, a warning to those who would do its bearer ill. Belief is a mighty thing. But belief doesn’t necessitate discipleship, as even the Devil knows of Christ, and shudders and sways in fear.

“So we just leave her, then?” My voice betrays my inner qualms, though I know there is not much choice. I stand slowly, knees creaking after being locked for so long in the cold. “We’ll hit a blood bank, Dima.”

He sighs, probably disappointed with the situation. He was so looking forward to the fresh nectar, straight from the flower. Not the stale solutions offered behind closed doors and piles of paperwork.

An idea surfaces in my mind, something that I had never dared try before.

“Have you heard of Krasnaya’s?” I ask. He looks up, and the glint in his eyes tells me all I need to know. “Let’s head there, then. I’ve never been, but it’s supposed to be a nice place.”

I had only ever heard snippets of its secrets. It was a club, and had a full bar as well. Everybody knew that, though. The whispers spoke of a special menu, a drink list exclusive to select guests, bringing the Bloody Mary cocktail to new levels. Surely it is illegal in both courts, but I have my father’s name behind me now; his estate, his resources, and his bounty of favours.

A roguish grin spreads across my friend’s face as he realises my serious intents. “Kostya, I didn’t think you the type?”

“Neither did I,” I whisper, barely audible. “But tonight is a new night, and my first night as patriarch of my family.”

His grin grows, revealing again the sharp incisors that are our trademark.

“And such an occasion deserves more class than a bitch from the streets, don’t you agree?”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself, Dima.”

We walk off, leaving behind us the girl, her acursed cross, and gentle clouds of condensation, bated breath released in laughs and bellows.

The End

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