All of Leon’s senses were screaming in agony just before he opened his eyes and he looked around. He was in what looked like a studio in the front of a room that had but a single chair (in which he was sitting). He must have been slumped but balanced carefully or he should have probably fallen over on his face.
Which likely would have ruined the effect the artist was going for. Said artist was eyeing him and then carefully painting on a large canvass. It was turned away from him, so while he couldn’t see what she was painting, he was obviously part of the subject.
Leon’s lips were dry, and the light, which was almost as bright as a stage light, illuminated him in silvery contrast with the black curtained backdrop. Some part of his mind registered that usually, when there were no houselights but just a single dramatic spotlight on himself, he could barely make out anything else in the room. But right now, he could see a female artist clear as day. She was an attractive red-head with a face like a pixie and a small, up-turned nose. She practically defined the word, “cute”. He’d have called her a kid, maybe just in her teens, but when her eyes flicked back to him, he was suddenly struck that she was a whole lot older than she looked.
She was breathtaking. If he had any breath to take. That in itself was a rather disturbing realization.
As Leon sorted out his senses, he could tell his face and neck still were drenched with his own, dried blood. His shirt was missing and his pants were savaged in a way that revealed lengths of undamaged skin.
The woman held up her hand. “Ah! That is perfect! Right there. Now don’t move. I want to capture this moment. Priceless… utterly priceless…”
Leon froze and didn’t move. His mind was racing a mile a minute however kicked up into high gear and pedaling fast, images and sensations flashed through his brain like watching a flip book: Annabelle Ross, the party, Dottie, Aedan, Henry, the waitress Kasumi, the canyon massacre, Anabelle running, the Chinese guy, Anabelle running and jumping into the warehouse, the phone booth, the dog, inside the warehouse, the dark, the pain… the light.
The images slowed and Leon found himself focusing more and more on the attractive red head as his brain caught up with his situation. He could feel a hunger in the back of his brain but he closed it out. He often did that when he was focused on a project and did want to be bothered with trivial things and right now nothing seemed more important than the woman before him. His attention was like a predator stalking his prey he just wasn’t sure if he wanted to mate with her or eat her as his hunger and the silence grew. The scent of the blood covering his seemed to grow the longer he waited and with it his hunger. Finally he said something using some ventriloquism from his vaudeville days just to hear her voice again, “Did you artistically rip and drape my pants or did you just use what was already there?”
She held up a finger as she concentrating on finishing her work. It seemed to take a frustratingly long time as she dabbed her paintbrush into paint smeared on her pallet and swiftly laid paint on canvas. The soft, swift strokes made a gentle shushing noise as she continued.
Finally, she stepped back and nodded at the painting. With a snap of her fingers a male assistant moved forward quickly and collected her paints, brushes and the canvas itself. Leon was never able to get a look at the work as the assistant carefully carried it away.
While all this had occurred, Leon had a chance to study the woman. There was something intense familiar about her. Like an old lover or maybe someone he once had a crush on back in high school. He was sure they’d never met before.
There was something else, too. He instinctively knew she was a predator. Her pleasant demeanor and fey looks seemed, on deeper reflection, like a disguise a clever hunter might use to draw close to her prey.
She wiped her paint-stained fingers on a towel as she looked at Leon. “Where were we? Oh! You asked about your pants. Yes, I’m afraid I needed to sacrifice them for the sake of the art. But don’t worry, I’ve sent for a fresh set of clothes for you and they should arrive soon. Nice trick, by the way, throwing your voice like that, but really out of style now unless you go for puppet shows. But I’m sure you have a lot of questions. You should ask them. Afterwards, we’ll go have a bite to eat.”
“I have more pants like them back home they are unimportant, I was just trying obey you and not move my lips so you could capture your subject. Questions yes I have a few. The most important one I can think of right now is are you married because I have never been as captivated by anyone before in my life. I can not stop staring at you. Ha, puppets, I once built a stage for Burr Tillstrom, I think he still uses it in his show. Sorry my brain is spinning, did I tell you how attractive you are? You must hear that all the time. If we are going out I should probably clean this blood off me. I am ravenous and you are ravishing. We make a pair. Will you go out with me? I should probably wear a shirt too.” Suddenly, Leon’s mouth clicked shut his eyes closed and and when he opened them he seemed more focused. Sigh, “Sorry about that I do not know what is wrong with me. I feel like I have been drugged but all my senses seem so alive. I could hear his heartbeat when he came and took the picture away but I can’t hear yours or mine so I am guessing I am dead but I feel so alive.”
A cute little smile flickered to life on her face while she listened to the somewhat manic Leon. “I’m not married and you do need to eat, so yes I will go with you to hunt down someone to eat. I made you, after all. It’s only fair I show you the ropes of being what you are.
“Though I’d hoped you might ask my name before attempting to court me.” She sighed as if disappointed. “Oh well. My name is Maureen Tanner, by the way, owner of the Tanner’s Stars talent agency. I had been trying to reach you about some work before your unfortunate demise but your answering service never seems to now where you are after sundown. And yes, your perception is quite good. Andrew is in fact quite alive. But he’s mine — no snacking on him. We’ll get you someone else.”
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet. MMMM Maureen, “Leon said savoring the name. “Does that make me Leon Tanner then? Talent Agency? You have work for me then, had work for me then? It was a busy couple of days and I was a little freaked out after the zombie attack. Wait, did you say snacking ON him?” Leon made a smacking sound like he was tasting something, then he breathed deeply. “I do not need to breath. I do not have a heart beat. The smell of blood is making me hungry.” The pieces clicked into place and suddenly Leon was shocked into stillness. “Perhaps you would tell me what happened at the warehouse after I passed out and how I became a vampire my lady.”
“There’s my bright new Childe!” Maureen said, obviously pleased. “We found you dying. For all intents and purposes, dead. Your associate Aeden spoke of a shadowy thing that made you all violently ill, even biting one of you physically, so severely you all collapsed in seconds. It was then my friends and I came to an agreement. Whatever it was that attacked you was a dire threat to us all. We would need the help of the only people that encountered it and survived.
“Well. Sort of.
“So, when I heard your heartbeat slowing, I gave you a taste of my own blood. When your heart stopped a moment later, I willed you to return to me. So in fact, your soul never left, but resides in your body even know. You are different now.” Maureen continued to describe to the shocked magician his relative invulnerability to mundane harm and sickness and his new limitations when it came to sunlight and fire. She spoke to him of his need to feed upon the blood of the living, but to do so with moderation, both to savor the experience, and to avoid serious damage to the vessel. In addition, she impressed upon him the need for utmost secrecy regarding his own condition and those of other vampires he meets.
“We are creatures of the night,” Maureen told him gently. “We are not meant to be dragged into the light of day or the illumination of understanding by the mortal world. To them, we do not and can not exist. Should they all become aware of us, our prey shall unite against us and hunt us down by sheer strength of numbers.
“There is more. Much, much more I will teach you. But not all at once.” She looked him over to see if he was going to pop. If not, she could give him time to absorb what all this meant.
“Well then,” Leon paused, ” How should I address you, do I call you mother or Miss Tanner or something else?”
Maureen laughed. “Miss Tanner will do in public or formal settings. Sire is not the same as mother — I didn’t birth you. But I did bring you into this new world. And in this world, many will stand on formality so I suppose it’s for the best you get used to it, even if I personally support a more liberal view. You can call me Maureen in private.”
“I am honored Maureen. Should I wash before dinner or is it about to get messy? What do we call ourselves, are Nosferatu like the 1922 movie or do we call ourselves Vampires?”
“The first time you feed is always difficult,” Maureen said a little cryptically. “But you should always pay attention to your looks. We are vampires called Kindred and while we can appear in many different guises, you won’t look the monster you truly are. So, come with me and we’ll get you properly dressed.”