Jason was strictly nocturnal, his life an endless round of night clubs, dark streets and immorality. Until one year ago, he had been studying philosophy at a London university and if you asked Jason why he dropped out, he would find it hard to explain, but it was to do with taste and the pursuit of truth.
Not any more.
After he had lived life on the other side, he could never go back. The other side was like diving into cool water on a scorching day. An initial shock, but afterwards everything so clear and real. Living on the other side had initially sated his primeval urges, but drugs and women no longer kept the devouring hunger at bay. He needed more, and something about his look betrayed his insatiable need.
“Your name Jason?” Her voice was rough from too many cigarettes and hard living.
He could only see her outline against the garish lights, but the little he could make out was enough. The nightclub music pounded through his body, exciting his senses to snapping point.
“Who wants to know?” he shouted back, moving up close.
Instead of replying, she walked towards the exit. The blasts of red light offered her silhouette to him until the excitement grew unbearable. He followed, a dog after a bitch in heat, curious, hungry. Outside, the air was a cool damp caress, soft on his fevered skin. He was about to call out to her, telling to stop when a man spoke.
“I’ll pay you five hundred.”
The man stood in front of car headlights, but Jason could see that he was big and well spoken, the voice authoritative.
“Legal?” Jason asked, his face screwed up against the light. He hoped it would not be.
“You don’t need to know.”
“What’s the job?”
A pause. “I want you to follow someone. She works nights, like you. I want to know what she’s up to. That’s all, to start with.”
“Half now,” Jason said, testing.
The man held out a brown envelope. “There’s two hundred and fifty and everything you need to know. Be here tomorrow, same time. If you do well, I’ve got a bigger job.”
“Wait – is it dangerous?”
The man smiled. He climbed in the car and reversed fast down the alleyway. Jason caught a glimpse of something lean, expensive and silver under the streetlights. Tyres shrieked.
He left the club a couple of hours later and walked back to his apartment through deserted alleyways, kicking at empty cans and takeaway boxes. Once inside, safe behind the deadbolts he lay back in the cream leather recliner and tore open the envelope. He tossed the bundle of notes on the glass table without bothering to count, and looked at the two sheets of paper. One of them was a list of locations and he knew most of them well. Nightclubs and bars the inexperienced would be wise to avoid.
The other was a photograph of a girl with tattoos.
She looked to be in her early twenties, with features that were almost Asian, her eyes almond-shaped and slanted, pale skin, many tattoos. Silvery hair, dark streaks. Those lips – they set his pulse racing. Poutingly full, with an enticing gap full of promise. The photograph looked like it had been taken in a nightclub. The girl with tattoos was wearing a skimpy mini-skirt and top, not much else that he could see. Her eyes had caught the flashlight and gleamed red. He stared at the photograph, memorised the face, tossed the paper on top of the money. The sun was beginning to rise and a grey light crept across the room. Jason was asleep before the first bird began to sing.
Jason awoke in the early evening, spending an hour on the phone setting up illicit deals for the night, put on his leather jacket, checked his stubble was the right length and set off. He did not find her until late. He leaned against the bar, watching the way she moved on the dance floor. A space had developed around her as the other dancers stopped to watch. She danced as if the music was not just inside her, but part of her being. She seemed to be wired up to the speakers, and every move made him want her more. Her sexuality was like a disease, spreading to every man around and eyes gleamed with a feral light as they stared.
The girl with tattoos turned, shaking her body seductively, and he could feel energy lance between them. Her eyes momentarily caught his but Jason turned away, glancing at her in the mirror over the bar, and she knew he was watching. She was dancing for him now but he said nothing, made no move. He followed her around three clubs watching her toy with men, teasing and rejecting them, shopping. At three a.m. she clicked her heels from the last nightclub and headed for a taxi, accompanied by a tall black man with a shaved head. Jason made his way to the meeting place and waited.
“Hello, Jason.” The car headlights cut into Jason’s eyes as he turned to look at the man. “What did she do?”
Jason told him.
“That’s unfortunate. Do you want to do some more work for me?”
Jason’s instincts warned him against it, but he needed the money and he wanted the girl more. “Sure.”
Jason walked to his apartment, fixed himself a coffee and tore open the envelope. This time there was a lot of money and he did not need to count it. He put his hand back into the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of paper, on which was written ‘Take her home. Do not let her go with anyone. Don’t touch her. Do not go into her apartment. She will ask you.”
The girl with tattoos was already at the club when Jason arrived, and so he settled down with a vodka coke, watching her in the mirrors on the wall. She drew a lot of attention, dancing suggestively in a black skin-tight body suit – latex or similar – the light reflecting off her curves, laughing as she moved between couples, drawing hostile stares from the other women. Jason turned away to order another drink and when he turned back she was next to him. A breast brushed against him and it felt electric.
“He asked you to watch me.” Her voice was soft, not English. “What did he say?”
Jason pushed back his streaked hair. “Only to make sure you were okay, to get you home.”
The girl with tattoos laughed. “Alone.”
“Yeah. Alone,” he agreed.
She ran her hand around his neck. He could feel her long nails crease his skin, then her lips brushed his ear. “OK, Jason. That’s your name, isn’t it? Come and dance with me, then you can take me home.”
Any contact with her made him burn up. He followed her onto the dance floor. At first it was intoxicating, but he soon became self conscious as the other dancers stopped to look. When he stepped back from her, she continued to dance alone until a man stepped forward and moved against her. Jason warned him. The man looked tough, but the girl pushed him away and turned to Jason.
“Come on. Do your job.” She took his hand and he led her from the club.
Outside, it had been raining and wet pavements flickered under the neon. He waved down a cab and they jumped inside. As soon as they were seated together, she was upon him in frenzy and he lost all sense of time. When the cab arrived at her address, Jason fought to calm himself and control the lust hazing his mind.
“Are you coming in?”
He shook his head. “Sorry.”
The girl with tattoos drew back her top lip in an animal snarl. “Bastard. Useless bastard.”
Jason recoiled in surprise at her fury. “Look, I get paid for this. At least tell me your name.”
“Carla.” She almost spat the words at him and ran to the door.
Jason felt tired. It was three a.m. again and the rain was coming down hard. He took the cab back to the club, and was already waiting in the alley when the long silver sports car glided in. The lights were left on as usual, pinning Jason against the wall. He heard the door slam, steps approached then the man spoke.
“You passed the first test. Here’s the final assignment.”
He held out the brown envelope, and Jason took it reluctantly. It was heavy this time. Before the man turned to leave, Jason stopped him.
“Who is she?”
The seconds ticked by. “She’s death.”
Before Jason could ask him more, the man turned away, walked to the car. Jason dragged himself back to his apartment. He looked at the brown envelope and contemplated throwing it away, but the bulk of it told him that there was a lot of money this time. He threw the envelope unopened on his coffee table. It landed with a dull clunk.
Jason woke up at midday, and watched the news over coffee, but then he saw a face that he recognised. “…was found murdered last night,” droned the newsreader.
Curious, he picked up the brown envelope and emptied the contents on the floor. The gun seemed strangely light in his hand. He released the magazine. It was loaded with bullets tipped with black. He ejected one and tapped it with his nail. The weapon was slim, made of some lightweight grey alloy. He studied the sheet of paper. Six words.
Kill her. Or we kill you.
Jason poured himself a whisky, and looked out the window. It was dusk, streetlights a dingy orange. A storm was brewing, the skyline flickering with distant lightning, thumps of thunder. He started to count the money. £5000 this time, half now, half later. Jason lay back and toyed with the possibilities, wondering how much a life was worth. He had been seen with the girl, but so had others. If he did the job quickly at her place, no one would know. He could be back at his own apartment in good time. His conscience was overwhelmed by hunger. He realised that he wanted to kill and he wanted blood. He had no choice.
Breaking into her apartment proved to be easier than expected. A ground floor window was not closed properly. Jason climbed in quickly and shut the window behind him. Inside, the rooms were unusual. They looked almost unlived in, apart from the bed with its black satin sheets. The bathroom was empty, nothing in the medicine cabinet, no make-up, no towels. In the kitchen, same story. Empty fridge, empty larder. He sat down in the living room, wondering about what kind of person she could be, and waited. The sound of a key in the lock woke him. He moved silently, taking position behind the door but the girl with tattoos did not enter the room. He cursed and peered around it. She was following someone into the bedroom – a man. He waited, his palms slippery with sweat, wondering what to do. What difference would another killing make?
Then he heard it.
The sound was halfway between pain and pleasure, somehow animal. Jason smiled appreciatively but the smile froze when he heard the other sound – the hiss of a snake, but too loud. Not human. The moan was changing to something liquid. Without thinking, Jason ran into the room, gun raised.
Carla was sitting with her narrow back to him, long legs astride a naked man, head lowered, thrusting. The man’s limbs dangled lifelessly. This was not making love. It was feeding.
As he squeezed the trigger, she was inexplicably in front of him, her hand a band of fire around his wrist. He could feel her nails drawing blood as he looked at her.
“Hello, Jason. Come to kill me?” The girl with tattoos let go of him, laughing.
He looked into her eyes and they were mesmerising, drawing him close, her touch burning hot. She pushed him on top of the dead stranger and was on him, ripping open his trousers. Her breath panted against the skin of his neck and then the hissing began and when she sucked the warm liquid from him it was better than sex. He closed his eyes and gave himself to her.
When Jason awoke, everything was changed. He had no appetite for food or drink. The tiled floor was not cold against his bare feet, he could not feel himself breathing. At the same time, he could hear a barrage of noise coming from all directions. It was if the walls separating the apartment from the others had been dissolved away, and he even could smell the body warmth of the inhabitants. Only then did he start to feel the hunger and it ate at his insides like acid as saliva gushed into his mouth. He walked into the living room to find her sitting in front of the fire and she was still naked.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel alive.”
The girl with tattoos laughed, mouth wide. Eyes slitted, cat-faced. “That’s amusing,” she replied, purring.
“I have a job to do. The man-”
She stroked his face. “I want you to kill him, for me. Use the gun.”
“Who is he?”
“He pays the weak and foolish – dispensable people – to kill my kind.”
“Your kind?” She rose, and kissed him on the mouth. “Our kind.”