The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Darkly Romantic Mystery

By: Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall

PART ONE

Death

NEW YORK CITY

September 14, 2001, 11:30 P.M.

"I cannot believe one person is worth this much trouble." She leaned forward and tapped her clove cigarette into the ashtray.

Julius patted the back of her hand. The scented smoke irritated his sinuses, as she was well aware, but he smiled frigidly through the haze of it and through her pettiness.

"Elita, my dear, jealousy is so unbecoming."

"Julius, I have known you a great number of years, too many perhaps." He maintained his smile but it failed to reach his eyes.

"And you know," she continued, "I have nothing but respect for your judgment." She paused long enough to measure the effects of her remarks but no change was visible on his pale countenance. She shrugged her shoulders, a delicate motion. "Why not simply take her and be done with it? Why make such a fuss out of it?"

"Fuss? You have adapted well to the clichéd words of this era, my dear." His expression abruptly changed and, smooth as the velvet texture of his words, he leaned forward, drawing her close with a fierce stare. His voice reverberated with buried passion.

"I wonder, Elita, how you can question me at all. You, of all people, should fathom the importance of blood. In her veins run two thousand years of royalty. The first family And with it, the power of the uncreation. Our people will have their due, and I shall be the one who gives it to them. We will honor the past by seizing the future." He smiled slightly, almost a grin, as he leaned back into his chair, and luxuriantly sipped a cognac.

"This," he waved futilely, setting the cognac quietly on the table, "this centuries-old diaspora will end. The Adamites have had their chance. We have let them play their little games and live their little lives in the sun. We have hidden away from them as if they were to be feared." He paused, savoring the taste of his own words.

His voice dropped to a low, soft growl, a mesmerizing tone. "That is about to change. I caution you, lovely Elita, it would serve you to be on the winning side. I would miss you," he added, "should you take it upon yourself to make some misguided effort to turn back this tide."

He stopped her hand in mid-air as she moved her cigarette toward her lips. "My dear, I have seen the future and the future is Lizzie Vaughan. Are we clear on this?"

She nodded sullenly and stood. As she did, every man in the bar stopped to study her: the pale skin, the silky, black hair falling to her shoulders, the cling of the dress to her narrow hips, the erotic strength flowing from her. Women turned too, wondering what had abruptly ended the flirtatious chatter of their men. Elita, aware of the eyes but heedless, ran her fingers through her hair, arranging it behind her ears to reveal her slender throat. Bending toward the table, she stubbed out her cigarette and brushed at imaginary lines in her skirt as she straightened.

"Oh yes, we are clear. Far be it from me to stand in the way of your machinations. As if I could. Elizabeth Vaughan. What a tedious name. Now, if you'll excuse me."

He tilted his head in agreement, his dark lips forming a dismissive but appreciative smile. Elita turned and walked toward the door. Pausing by the bar, she laid her hand on the shoulder of a young man sitting alone. Leaning close to him, her lips brushing against his hair, she whispered in his ear. He nodded vigorously, gulped at his beer and slammed the glass down. Quickly he stood, a vacuous smile on his face as he marveled at this turn of extraordinary luck. With eyes mocking her young victim's adoration, she gently twined her arm around his waist. Smiling triumphantly over her shoulder at Julius, Elita disappeared into the night, her hips swaying, her conquest in obedient tow.

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