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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Happy Hearts

It had nothing to do with the ambiance: there was only so much that decaying motifs of birds done in lead-based paint could do for someone. It had everything to do with the fact that the slots were so tight and the odds of winning at any of the table games were abysmal.

Roland managed to hitchhike his way back to Vegas every three years or so just to lose his money at the Happy Hearts. It made him feel invigorated on some level to know that here was a place where he would absolutely lose, where his charm and unnatural luck meant nothing to anyone. He liked sitting at the tables and watching couple shuffle through, beaming with drunken glee at the prospect of being married, conveniently forgetting that the glow in their cheeks was from the alcohol and not from true love.

He had been sitting at a poker table for a good two hours, keeping both the glass of Jack in front of him and the sleepy looking dealer company while they absently shuffled cards back and forth and Roland shoveled out more and more of his money onto the green felt. A server dressed in a very half-assed attempt at a cupid costume shuffled by and handed Roland another glass without him asking, and he nodded to her silently in thanks.

Apart from him, the dealer and Cupid, there were only two other people in the casino: a drunken frat boy whose friends had dumped him there for safe keeping while they took hookers out to Cirque du Soleil, and a stereotypical card shark in rattle snake skin boots who played the slot machines like a man driven to madness.

The door opened and another couple shuffled inside, but this time the whole dynamic seemed different. The man was almost dead, and Roland could smell the stench of toxins surging through his blood like so many thick slugs trailing through the mud. He was coming down hard from a cocaine-fueled night of debauchery and had to be held up by a tiny Nancy Spungen wanna-be who stank of cheap whiskey. They stood in front of the desk that barred the way into the neon-lit wedding chapel and argued quietly for a few minutes before they erupted into shouts. The whole of the tiny casino’s attention was riveted to the two of them, so much so that Roland had to gently clear his throat so that the dealer would returned his focus to the game.

Finally, the man shouted something indistinct, of which only a few choice expletives could be deciphered, and slammed the front door behind him, staggering off like a jellyfish onto the strip. The girl yelled something after him, and sank down against one of the walls, quietly crying. After she’d been there for a few minutes, Cupid gently told her that she needed to either leave or spend some money so the girl stood up and stumbled into the casino proper and set herself down at one of the slot machines, staring blankly at the flashing lights without making a move.

Roland lost another hand and he smiled to himself with satisfaction. He was about to shell out more money when the dealer fixed him with a stern look, “I’m about to say something that I never, ever thought I would have to say. Sir, are you cheating…in order to lose?”

The vampire blinked at him with a look of injured innocence and shook his head, “No, I’m just bad at this.”

“No offence, but no one is that bad. Seriously, I’ve even been trying to give you some friendly tips and you are still getting murdered. Now, I don’t know what your game is and I generally don’t mind the casino such a pay-out, but I’m starting to think you may be working towards something.”

“I’m serious, I just haven’t played this before.”

“Okay, I’m going to walk you through this hand,” the dealer set out the cards and Roland looked at his hand with feigned bewilderment. The dealer carefully talked him through the best moves he could make based on the cards sitting on the table, and with a song in his heart, Roland lost two hundred dollars.

The dealer stared at him with the sleepy look gone entirely from his eyes, “Get out.”

“What? Why?”

“You are depressing me, please just get out.”

“Can I finish my drink?”


Roland sighed, downed the liquor and wandered out onto the stoop, the whiskey burning in his stomach like an ulcer. He sat down on the curb for a moment to consider his options when the door bumped shut behind him and the smell of old cigarettes and booze wafted through the air around him.

“You got a light?”

Roland looked over at the girl from the casino and shook his head, “It's a nasty habit.”

“I know. Do you have a light or not?” her makeup was smeared down her face and her dyed black hair was a tangled mess on the top of her head, but the face beneath the smoky eyeliner was beautiful in a train-wreck sort of way. She plopped down next to him on the curb and hugged her knees.

“Um…” Roland rifled through his pants pocket and finally grabbed a matchbook that he’d taken from a bar outside of Reno, “I have these,”

She nodded her thanks and pulled a cigarette out of a box wedged in her bra and carefully lit it with shaky hands. After a few seconds, she turned to look at him and sniffled, “You homeless or what?”

Roland laughed, “In a way, I guess. Why do you ask?”

“Well, you are wearing a Hawaiian shirt and I’m sure you haven’t washed your pants in weeks. And your hair.” she smiled at him weakly.

Roland laughed, “I cut it myself. What do you think?”

“It is hideous.” she scratched her neck and she suddenly looked very young, “Where you staying?”

“What’s your name?” Roland asked, a perplexed laugh on his lips.

“Boudi.” she glared at him, challenging him to make fun of her name, “It’s short of Boudicea. My parents were hippies.”

“I’m staying motel a little ways from here, Boudi. Why?”

“You have any plans?” she asked, and Roland could tell that it was a loaded question. He stared at her for a while and let out a long breath.


            Boudi’s lips tasted like ashes and cherry lip balm, and Roland couldn’t quite tell if he liked them or not. The two of them surged down the hallway of the seedy motel where the vampire was staying, her fingers tearing at his clothes wildly and her teeth finding his throat over and over again.

            He fumbled for the key while kissing her deeply, somehow managing to find the lock while pinning her against the wall, moaning slightly as her legs encircled his waist and all one hundred and fifty pounds of her was suspended from his frame. The door exploded open and Boudi barely waited for them to hurry inside before she tore off her shirt and pants. Roland closed the door behind him and was instantly pulled to the tiny bed.

            She laughed as she stripped off his pants and shirt and stopped suddenly, staring at the scar that ran from his shoulder to his thigh, “Oh my god, what happened to you?”

            Roland blinked free of the aroused haze that that clouded his eyes and pulled his mind back to the present, forcing himself to stop staring at her pulsing aorta like a starving man. He breathed out, “What?”

            Boudi set a long fingernail on his shoulder and traced his scar downwards. Her light touch made him shiver and he held her to him roughly and set his lips against the skin of her throat, pulling at the flesh so roughly that he could smell the blood rush to the surface as it bruised.

            She murmured, “How did you get that scar?”

            “War.” Roland said around her throat.

            “You were in Iraq?” She asked, and Roland could feel her skin get slightly warmer at the thought of him being a soldier. She straddled his hips and kissed at his scar.


            “Uh…” she pulled back and stared at him carefully, trying to gauge his age, “Vietnam?”

            “War of the Oranges.”

            “What?” She laughed carefully, trying to judge whether he was joking.

            “Yeah. Got a bayonet to the chest.”

            Boudi snorted and gave him a playful shove, “Don’t lie.”

            “I’m not.” He reared up and grabbed her around the waist, spinning as he did so that she was on her back and he was smiling down at her, his eyes focused on the blood pumping under the skin, “I followed the First Consul Bonaparte into battle mostly because my little village was part of his territory claimed by conquest,” he pulled off her bra and kissed at her sternum, “I went up against a Portuguese soldier, one of de Godoy’s. He got the upper hand and hit me in the jaw with his rifle. While I was on the ground, he slashed at me with his bayonet. Damn near killed me.” He kissed down her chest to her navel and ran a tongue around her belly button.

            She blinked at him for a second as her mind fought to think around her arousal, “Wait, Bonaparte? Like Napoleon?”

            “Exactly like Napoleon.”

            She laughed, “You don’t look French…or like two hundred years old.” her laugh split off into a moan as he kissed her hipbones.

            “I’m not French, and I’m not two hundred years old. I’m German, but during the Reign of Terror my town became part of France. And I’m two hundred and thirty seven years old, actually.”

            She thought for a second and then gave him a playful slap, “You are so full of shit.”

            “What, you don't’ believe that I’m German?”

            “That is probably the only part I did believe.” she rose up on her elbows and stared down at him in fascination as he kept kissing around the outside of her thigh, “What are you, third? Fourth generation?”

            “I emigrated directly from Wolgast. I’ve just been here a while.”

            “Can you speak German?”

            “It’s my first language, but it’s not very sexy in bed,” he laughed and added in his most velvet voice, “Sie sind die sexiest woman. Ich möchte meinen weg mit dir.”

            “You’re right,” she gasped as he moved up to her neck and kissed her, “That isn’t sexy. Can you speak French?”

            “Yeah, but that’s sort of cliché.”

            “I like French.”

            “Fine. Je tiens à détruire votre vagin avec amour.”

            “Yes! Like that! I like that! What did you say?”

            Roland smiled shyly, “It’s actually really rude. The German was more romantic.”

            She pushed him so that she was on top of him and whispered into his ear, “However you got it, your scar is still sexy.”

            “You like scars?”

            Boudi gave him a cat-like grin and whispered, “Do you scare easily?”

            “I have seen everything, I promise.”

            “Okay, well how about this? Do you know what vampirism is?”

            Roland froze, his entire body stiffening as if there were an electric current running through his spine. For an instant, he wondered if he’d been too open with his past, as buried under humor as it had been. He considered her throat for an instant, wondering if she would scream if he drained her right there or if he should simply snap her neck. Either way, if she’d worked out what he was, there was no way she was leaving the room alive.

            “Well? Do you know what it is?”

            Roland managed to mutter, “Yes.”

            “I’m really into it,” she pulled away long enough to pick her pants up off the floor and fish something small and shiny from the front pocket.

Roland relaxed slightly when he realized that she hadn’t been talking about him and then tensed up all over again when he saw that she was holding a razor that was neither sharp nor clean.

She crouched on top of him and whispered, “Can I cut you?”

Roland had been in some weird and ironic situations in his past, but this topped it all. He stared at her warily, “Sure. What are you going to-“ he was interrupted by the sharp, hot seep of pain along his hip bones as the razor parted the skin as easily as a butter knife against a brick.

The wound cracked open and before he had a chance to warn her against it, Boudi’s tongue slid over the wound and she swallowed a thick mouthful of his blood. He winced and prepared himself for what would inescapably happen next.

Boudi’s eyes opened wide and she sank backwards onto her haunches as her pupils dilated to an impossible width. Images and flashes of light were exploding through her brain as the incredible potency of his blood surged through her. No human drug on Earth could simulate the laser show going on inside her cranium and, after a few moments of foaming and writhing, she fell onto the carpet, as still as stone.

Roland rubbed his brow and leaned against the headboard, the wound on his hip already pulling closed. His blood, like the blood of all his kind, was lethal to humans. First it provided a psychedelic aneurism that racked the victim’s brain with every sensation known to man, and then they simply died.

He stared at the floor as Boudi’s body grew cold and the neon Vegas strip lights turned the walls a depressing shade of pink. 

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