What do you get when you drop vampires into a noir universe? How about a wild ride filled with doomed lovers, stone cold sociopaths, heroin-snorting hedonistic vampires, a hardboiled PI, a secret lab conducting experiments that would sicken Josef Mengele, blood-splattering ultra violence and drug dealing biker gangs. How about we just call it BLOOD CRIMES.
The vampires in BLOOD CRIMES aren’t supernatural creatures, but instead damaged and severely flawed individuals suffering from a virus that emulates vampire-like powers. At the center of BLOOD CRIMES are doomed lovers, Jim and Carol. Jim’s infected with the vampire virus, Carol isn’t. Jim needs to kill to eat, and he and Carol travel the country finding the most dangerous predatory scum for Jim to feed on. In order to assuage his guilt over killing his victims, Jim further needs to catch these predators in the act of harming Carol so he can rescue her before killing and feeding on them. Carol has her own serious emotional and psychological baggage and she needs this every bit as much as Jim does. Hot on their trail is PI Donald Hayes. Hayes is smart, capable, honest; someone that Lew Archer would’ve probably enjoyed having a few beers with. Hayes has been hired to track Jim down and is beginning to suspect that Jim is a serial killer leaving dangerous bad guys dead in his wake. Hayes’s client is Serena—a beautiful and deadly femme fatale vampire who leads a clan of hedonistic vampires in Manhattan, and is not at all happy that Jim escaped from her compound (hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?? try Serena!). In the shadows of all this is Metcalf, my most sociopathic creation to date. In some ways Metcalf could almost be a twin of Victor Petrenko from Outsourced, but ultimately he’s scarier and more cold-blooded. This cast of characters end up colliding with a vicious drug biker gang in Cleveland for my most violent and highest octane book climax.
This short excerpt shows Jim’s indoctrination into Serena's world after being infected with the vampire virus:
The fever broke. Consciousness seeped in and he became aware of where he was and what was happening to him. God, he hurt. Especially his throat. Fuck, he was hungry.
A familiar woman’s voice, soft and amused, commented, “The butterfly has broken free from its cocoon.”
Blinking, he craned his neck. Serena sat naked on a chaise lounge pleasuring herself. He realized he was naked also, and even in his pain, felt himself growing hard.
She got off the chaise lounge. She noticed his erection and smiled thinly at him.
“The dead has risen from the ashes, I see,” she said in that same sing-song melodic voice he had heard in the club.
He tried to tell her how much his throat hurt, but he couldn’t get anything out other than a rasping sound. She shushed him.
“I know, my pet. You’re so thirsty and your throat hurts so much. Let me take care of everything.”
There was a baby’s bottle sitting on a table nearby filled with a thick congealing red fluid. She brought it to him and placed the nipple in his open mouth. He wanted to be repulsed at the thought of what she was offering, but he drank from that bottle as if his life depended on it. When he was done, he felt better, his throat less raw.
“That was blood,” he croaked out in a low whisper.
“Yes, my pet. How very observant of you.”
“What type do you think?”
At some level he wanted to gag, but at a deeper more fundamental level, all he wanted was to drink more blood. His wrists and ankles were still manacled. As he lay helpless, she crawled on him so that her pubic area pressed against his mouth, then started to fellate him.
He tried not to breathe in that sickly-sweet scent of hers.
He tried hard not to taste her.
Fuck, he wanted to throw her off him.
More than anything, though, he didn’t want her to stop.
He closed his eyes and tried to imagine that it was a different woman than Serena on him. He tried to think of his old high school girlfriend, and that he was someplace else entirely. It didn’t work. All he could think about was Serena and that night in the SoHo nightclub. About her biting him and the intense sickness that came afterwards. He knew he had changed. He could feel the difference in his body. He had seen on waking that he had become leaner and more narrow. He could feel that his head had changed shape. In his mind’s eye he could picture what he now looked like. At some level he knew what he had turned into. The word vampire kept bumping through his brain. He didn’t want to think about it. He tried not to think about it… He tried not to want Serena as much as he did…
Christ, he was hungry. Without even realizing it he had bit the inside of her thigh. It took a lot of effort to break the skin, and he just kept biting down harder, and it made her squirm and suck harder on him. Finally he broke the skin. He licked up the drops of blood that formed from her wound. A violent intense spasm wracked his body. For a long moment he couldn’t breathe. His body became so tense he couldn’t move. Then he started gagging.
Serena had rolled off him.
“If it was only that easy,” she said, sighing. “We can’t feed off of infected blood, my pet.”
She waited until he stopped gagging. Then caressing his cheek, asked, “Are you feeling better now?”
Jim nodded, his face contorted into a tight grimace.
“Good. You can bite me all you want. I like it. But if I bleed, don’t lick my blood. It’s not good for you.”
It didn’t take much effort on her part to bring back his erection. And then she was back to what she’d been doing, although with more excitement. Right before he was about to climax, he could feel the violence of her being ripped away from him. He opened his eyes and saw that Metcalf had a grip of her long black hair and was pulling her off the table.
“You son of a bitch!” she swore at him as she tried to pull free. Metcalf let her fall to the floor.
“Me?” Metcalf asked, grinning, although his eyes were as dull as sand. “For Chrissakes, Serena, can’t you even show an ounce of self control? You know full well we have an indoctrination protocol.”
“Asshole,” she spat.
She rubbed her head gingerly before grabbing a robe lying nearby and covering herself.
Metcalf’s eyelids lowered as he turned to her. She noticed it and moved over to the chaise lounge. Avoiding his stare, she told him to get on with his indoctrination.
She didn’t bother to respond, instead curled her fingers on her right hand and studied her nails. Metcalf turned his attention to Jim. He sat down on the edge of the table Jim had been manacled to, and pulled a stiletto knife from his belt. He let Jim get a long look at it.
“This is an incredibly sharp knife,” Metcalf said, admiring it. “You’d be amazed at how sharp this really is and what it could cut.”
Even though he knew what the answer was going to be, Jim couldn’t help himself from asking Metcalf what he was going to do with the knife.
“Only a demonstration,” Metcalf said. He looked bored as he ran his thumb along the edge of the blade. “If my skin were like any normal person’s my thumb would’ve been sliced open to the bone. But it’s not. And you’ve probably noticed you’ve changed also, am I correct?”
Without waiting for a response, Metcalf spun around and plunged the blade into Jim’s chest, and kept pushing downwards until the knife was buried. Jim stared dumbly at it. A low creaking noise escaped from him, then his body jerked into spasms. His back arched as if ten thousand volts were being shot through him.
“Right through the heart,” Metcalf said. “Hurts like hell doesn’t it? If you were normal you’d be dead now. But you’re not. And if you want the pain to stop, you’ll figure it out.”
Jim strained frantically against his chains. One of them snapped, and with his hand free, he pulled the knife out of his body.
“You fucking asshole,” he forced through clenched teeth.
Metcalf got a laugh out of that. “Only proving a point, guy,” he said. “My demo takes a hell of a lot less time than trying to convince you about the changes.”
Serena rolled her eyes. “My dear, Metcalf, I think you do this little demonstration of yours because you’re a sadist. No other reason.”
Any amusement Metcalf had been showing dried up quickly. He glanced impatiently at Jim and ordered him to break himself free of his other chains.
“You’ve got ten seconds to get off that table before I repeat my demonstration.”
Jim snapped the chain restraining his other wrist, then broke the chains attached to his ankles. He pushed himself off the table by the time Metcalf had counted to nine, and stood wobbly for a moment before regaining his balance.
“Why aren’t I dead?” he asked. The searing pain that had been slicing through his chest was now more of a dull ache. He found himself able to talk more normally again. “You stabbed me through the heart. What the fuck have I turned into?”
“What do you think?”
Half under his breath, Jim muttered the V word.
That brought a grim smile from Metcalf. “For your information, that’s a dirty word around here, but no, not in the classic supernatural sense. Thanks to Serena, though, you have been infected with a virus that mimics some of those legends.” He glared at Serena, his mouth shrinking to a small slit. Serena appeared not to notice. She had picked up a file and was nonchalantly sharpening her blood-red painted nails. Metcalf’s eyes dulled as he turned back to Jim. “That’s it for questions. Put some clothes on and follow me so we can finish your indoctrination. I don’t have all fucking day.”
The knife wound had already scabbed over. Only a scar the size of a quarter had been left behind. A pair of khaki draw-string pants and a matching color tee shirt were folded next to the table. Jim slipped them both on. They were several sizes smaller than his normal size, and they hung loosely on him. Metcalf waited impatiently. Serena looked up from her nails to eye the way he looked in the clothes, and licked her lips.
“Where the fuck am I?” Jim asked.
“The place you’re going to spend the rest of your life. Just shut up and follow me.”
The windows in the room had been painted black, as they were in the hallway Metcalf led Jim through. From the layout, the art deco decorations and the antique elevator that they stepped into, Jim’s thought was that this was a converted turn-of-the-century hotel. He had to guess they were still in Manhattan. With the windows darkened and only artificial light filtering through the hallway and rooms, he had no sense of time. It could be midnight or noon for all he knew. He couldn’t shake this image in his head that they were in a large coffin.
Metcalf had them get out at the basement level, and before too long they were stepping into hell. Emaciated men and women sat in cages, each looking withdrawn and defeated. The scene could’ve been snapshots from a Nazi concentration camp. Jim felt a sickening horror as he looked from face to face. None of the captives were able to meet his eyes. Metcalf casually explained that these were the cattle pens.
“What the fuck do you mean by that?”
Metcalf raised an eyebrow at his tone. “I’m giving you this one warning,” he said. “In a few minutes I’ll be making it clear to you what will happen if you raise your voice to me again.” He waved a hand toward the cages. “And before you act all high and mighty, didn’t you think about where the blood came from that Serena fed you earlier?”
Jim shook his head.
“No. There’s no way I could’ve imagined something like this.”
“What did you expect then? That we turn on our faucets and blood pours out instead of tap water? Sorry, guy, it doesn’t work that way. But I’ll tell you what. If you’re so offended by this, you don’t have to drink the blood we milk for you. You can starve if you want—”
“I don’t get it. Why human blood?”
Metcalf smiled cruelly. “You want to try eating something else, you name it, sport. Steak, pizza, chocolate, anything you want, and I’ll get it for you. We’ll see how well you do with it. But all that’s besides the point. This isn’t why I brought you down here.”
Metcalf continued to the opposite end of the room where he unlocked a door and beckoned Jim to join him, a grim smile showing as Jim approached.
“This is my private lab. If you’re smart this will be the only time you get a chance to see it.”
Metcalf turned on the overhead lights. The inside of the lab was a chamber of horrors. What at first looked like grotesque armless mannequins cut off at the waist turned out to be living beings. Some were chained to the walls, others had spikes driven through their shoulder pinning them to tables. A few were sliced open as if they were in the midst of being dissected, but even these were still alive. They all seemed to be in agony.
“I use this lab to study the limits of our infection,” Metcalf said, his lips pursed with amusement as he observed Jim’s reaction to the room and its inhabitants. “It serves other purposes as you can probably guess. There’s one thing in particular here that I’d like to show you.”
He brought Jim to an empty area at a lab table between two of the dissection experiments. Jim caught the eye of one of the partially dissected vampires. It mewled softly to him before looking away.
“Any idea what this is for?” Metcalf asked.
Jim couldn’t keep himself from nodding.
“Yeah? Let’s hear it.”
Jim started to answer him, closed his mouth.
“Superstitious, huh?” Metcalf asked. “You’re afraid to say it? Okay, I’ll say it for you. This spot’s reserved for the next resident here who pisses me off.”
“It looked to me like Serena was doing a good job of that.”
A glaze fell over Metcalf’s eyes. “She has her privileges, but you sure as fuck don’t. If I were you I’d watch my mouth. Understand?”
Something about the way Metcalf was staring at him told Jim he was seconds away from being made one of his experiments. As shaky as he was feeling he knew he’d have no chance against this vampire. Maybe if he was feeling stronger and had a knife, he’d have a shot, but not now.
“Yeah,” Jim said, his eyes shifting downwards and away from Metcalf.
“So what did you learn here?”
“Don’t piss you off.”