Blade, Shin, and Crystal all headed for the Cavern after the sun had set, with the fullest intentions of having a meal, but also getting a feel for the employees and clientele. They all sported conservative clothing for the event, and that made Blade feel naked. Normally, he wore his flak vest lined with silver steaks, sliver rifle slugs for his sawed-off, and his silver glaive, as well as his silver/steel alloy sword. He also normally wore his black military pants and jump boots. However, he had to be more discrete, and he just wore a black turtle neck, gray sport jacket, black trousers and wing-tips. Still, he took his glaive and a special .50 cal Desert Eagle with the garlic rounds under his jacket, because he wanted to take his chances. There were about 12 tables for au fresco dining, and a neon sign that said, “Open 24 Hours!”
They went in to see that there was seating for about 40 more, a coffee and soda bar, and a small stage. It had a cave-like feel to it, but it still felt welcoming, with soft and pleasant lighting, and soft jazz playing over the MUZAK system. The place was about a quarter full, but it looked like they were just cleaning up from the dinner rush. Crystal then said, “Wow—a real hell hole, isn’t it,” sarcasm oozing out of every word. She had expected something else, (because she had not yet gotten the full details,) but she figured that it was a place that one could bring their family. One thing that caught them was the bats on the ceiling. There were not as many because they would be out hunting at that point, however, some looked like they were in there already hibernating. It was odd that they were not dropping guano. The captain came up and said, “Table for three tonight?”
Blade just nodded, and she handed them three menus and tried to sit them in the middle, but Blade insisted on something near an inner wall so that he could see all that was going on around him. Blade still had his sunglasses on, and they served three purposes. He was indeed a dhampir, they acted like a blue tooth for him to Shin when need be, and they also can tell him the body temperature of those upon which he gazed. If this was a haven for vampires, he could not see it, because everyone emitted a 98.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature, save for Crystal, that let him know they were working. To start to look around, Crystal said she was not hungry, (for food, anyway,) and she just went up to the coffee bar. Standing behind it was an oriental woman who looked about 21 years old, wearing owl-eyed glasses, and a pretty black dress and gray apron marked with the restaurant logo. She gave Crystal a smile, and said, “What can I get you, dear?”
Crystal noticed the teeth, and that she had canines slightly longer than normal people would sport, but she also emitted body head, as Crystal’s infrared sight showed. Crystal said, “Do you have tea lattes?”
“Oh, absolutely,” said the woman, “They’re the best in Manhattan!”
“Same claim as every kiosk in Washington State!” said Crystal with a smile.
“They never used real Japanese teas,” answered this woman, “We don’t use powders.”
“I notice a slight accent,” said Crystal, “but your English is very good.”
“Well, I am originally from Japan, but I managed to get dual citizenship. However, the English is due to my husband.”
She then pointed over to the back where he sat with an oriental man and three kids. As she pointed, she noticed the ring on her right hand, and it matched the one that Blade had described. Crystal had all she could to contain her surprised when she saw it, and she said, “He sounds interesting. Are those your kids?”
“The twins are his and mine,” answered the barista, “but the girl is my niece.”
“I’d like to meet them,” said Crystal, to which the barista had a curious look, as if she were asking why with it. “Oh, I’m sorry,” said Crystal, “I just thought I’ve seen him somewhere before—never mind.”
“Do you have a table,” asked the barista, to which Crystal asked in return, “What was your name?”
“Yuriya Tachibana Makka,” she said, “My husband said that he liked my last name so much, he wanted me to keep it.”
Crystal smiled at that, and she said, “Now that was sweet! Oh, I’m seated there.”
“I’ll bring it to you!”
Crystal came back and she said, “If there is a ‘Clan,’ this place is covered with them. Look at their hands.”
They all took a good look, and about 2/3 of the people in there had those rings. “Either they’re real brave, or real stupid to be so open,” said blade. The waitress came up and she took their orders, she also having the same ring, and the same teeth, but a touch longer than what Yuriya sported. She also had a body temperature as well. “Either they’re some kind of fetish club, or they’re the most unique vampires I have ever seen,” said Shin.
Blade said, “I’ll opt for club, because, if they were vampires, they may have recognized at least me, or wondered why Crystal was with me.”
“Well, the barista’s husband is back there,” said Crystal, “Maybe he knows something.”
That was all Blade needed to hear. He was already up and going to where he sat. Just as he got to his feet, the blonde-lavender haired girl came into the room, but seemed to appear out of nowhere. There did not seem to be any doors back in that area, and he found that odd. However, that girl—Anjou—spotted him, and she knew him from her hunts, as well as her activity with Die Kaiserenhand. She then just took a seat at a table next to Jean-Claude and began to read her Bible. Blade spotted that, and found that very odd for a vampire fetish club. He found it even odder to see the large man also reading a Bible, as the kids seemed to be pouring over the homework. The girl suddenly spoke up and said, “I just can’t seem to isolate the variable.”
The Japanese man chimed in and said, “Its linear algebra—the most basic algebra there is! What’s wrong?”
He then leaned over to help, and he laughed, saying, “Karin had so much trouble with this when she was about your age!”
That really caught his attention. Mickey then stopped and looked like he was noticing something, and then he looked up to see Blade approaching. “Um…Dad, we have company.”
Jean-Claude looked up, looked a touch surprised, but then affected a friendly grin. Jean-Claude knew that, if he meant trouble, he would not have looked so casual. Jean-Claude then said, “Can I help you, sir?”
“Pardon me,” said Blade, “I was just curious about this place. It’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I find it quite interesting.”
Jean-Claude then said, “What would make you think I know about this place?”
“I had to guess that it was so, considering the kids there doing homework, and your wife over there mentioned you,” said Blade.
“She mentioned me in relation to this place?”
“No, but I kind of guessed. The kids doing homework in a restaurant and everyone seated while not eating anything kind of tipped me off.”
Jean-Claude laughed and said, “You’re a natural born detective! You should work for New York’s Finest!”
“Too restricting,” said Blade, “Let’s just say I’m a private investigator.”
If Jean-Claude had not guessed that this was Blade, (in that his look and aura gave him away,) he might have been worried that someone from Amayah had gotten too curious. Jean-Claude played it off and said, “So, am I under investigation?”
Blade grinned, but no matter how friendly the grin was, it still affected seriousness to it. “No,” responded Blade, “I just read an article, and I wanted to investigate the food.”
“I think that’s coming right now,” said Jean-Claude, pointing over his shoulder to Blade’s table. Blade also recalled something interesting on the menu, and he then said, “I noticed that there was no alcohol on the menu.”
“That’s because Karin doesn’t serve it,” answered Jean-Claude.
“Don’t you think that will kill business?” probed Blade.
“Hey, if Ray Kroc could do it, she can,” responded Jean-Claude, to which Blade nodded, and he went back to his table.
Blade sat down and began to eat, and he was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. Shin said, “Hey, if we didn’t have your suspicions, I’d come back just for this! I never have seen such an international menu: American, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, French, and Italian.”
Blade did not say anything, because he was not much for small talk. Blade then said, “That was him.”
Crystal then responded, “I assume your talking about him?” as she hiked a thumb over her shoulder. “You mean the defensive end back there,” asked Shin, to which Blade nodded. “Dude, he’s huge!” said Shin in awe.
“If he’s some household’s hit man, he sure looks the part,” added Crystal.
“I can’t say it doesn’t serve him well,” said Blade, slowly savoring the meal, (and it was very good!) Shin could not help but notice this, and he said, “I have never seen you take your time on a meal like that before.”
Blade just gave him a frustrated look, and said, “You act like I have no social skills!”
“That’s because I rarely see you anywhere you needed to use them!” said Shin sarcastically. Crystal then said, “Okay, so we know that’s him. What’s next?”
Blade pondered for a few seconds, and he said, “I don’t know. Nothing seems right. They know of the vampire world, but none of them are vampires as far as we know. They have long canines, but no vampire we know show them unless enraged or they need to feed. They have to be some kind of dental appliance, but they look natural. Still, there has to be more to them because of the way they fought those vampires last night. However, if they were just human, this place would have been burned to the ground by now.”
Blade tapped his fork against his upper lip for a moment or two, and then he said, “We’re coming back later. We’re going to check this place out.”
“The only way in other than the elevator is either the roof or the sewer,” reminded Shin, and Blade just said, “Whatever we have to do, we have to do it.”
Anjou made her way over to Jean-Claude as Karin was coming out of the kitchen, things now having settled down enough to leave things to her assistant chefs. Karin sat down after she noticed Blade and his friends finishing dinner. “He’s starting to get curious,” said Karin.
“It’s about time,” said Jean-Claude, “I practically took out an ad in the New York Times to get him here!”
“I’m surprised he didn’t ask a lot of questions,” stated Anjou.
Mickey looked at Blade as he left, and said, “I don’t think he knew how to react.”
“This world is so new to him,” said Sheila, “He’s only known the undead world.”
“It’s hard to make new friends sometimes,” said Kannon, seeing things as a nine-year old might, “I mean, if you don’t know much about someone, it’s hard to talk to him.”
Kenta thought, and said, “I’m betting he still does not believe in what he was told.”
“It was for a good reason why our ancestors hid,” said Anjou, “It was not only from humans that did not understand, but from the undead world over here. Indeed, hunters and the undead alike would have hunted us down.”
“Grandmamma talked of that,” said Karin, “But it was only from the perspective of the few undead she knew. She said that undead become blood addicts, and that includes their version of pure bloods. The biggest problem is that most get this god complex, especially those that had been turned. Because they understand what it was like to be weak, they strive to be as powerful as powerful. Their pure bloods understand this clearly, and that is what they call ‘the taint.’ Because they had once been human, it hangs off them like a dead limb, or like a phantom pain from a missing limb. Their pure bloods don’t feel that at all, and don’t have those burdens, which is why they think themselves superior to all others, and feel they should rule the word. It’s just that they are more subtle about it.”
Mickey then said, “They have no clue what they mess with in us. If great grandmother was ever to get a hold of them, look out!”
As if that were some kind of spell, the phone rang. It was a local number, so Karin said, “The Cavern Restaurant and Coffee Lounge, Karin Usui speaking—would you like to hear about the specials or make a reservation?”
“Do you have any love laced type O on hand?” said a familiar female voice.
Karin brightened and said, “Grandmamma!”
“I’m surprised you didn’t say, ‘Moshi, Moshi,’ when you picked up,” said Elda, “I thought old habits died hard?”
“I probably would have if it had been your number,” responded Karin, “But it’s a local number.”
“That’s because I’m at La Guardia, angel,” answered Elda.
Karin inhaled with joy and said, “You’re here? When did you arrive?”
At that statement all three of the kids cringed, and Kannon put her face in her textbook, saying, “Oh, great!”
Jean-Claude said, “Hey, what’s wrong? She loves you kids to death!”
All three said at the same time, “That’s what I’m afraid of!”
Out of the phone, they all heard Elda say, “I heard that! Um…is our place still ready?”
“Anytime you want it,” said Karin, “How are you getting here?”
“Don’t worry,” said Elda, “Victor is getting a car, and we’ll be there in about a half hour.”
“More like two hours, grandmamma,” laughed Karin, “This is New York City we’re talking about!”
“Leave it to Victor,” Elda came back, “If the Politzi in Germany, or the cops in Tokyo can’t catch him, New York’s police don’t stand a chance! Why are you here?”
“Victor has some information,” answered Elda, “And he knows what you face. His insight will help you.”
“We look forward to seeing you,” said Karin, and she hung up. Anjou just said, “The undead pure bloods are in for an unpleasant time.”
Jean-Claude then said, “I would also think that he’s going to be back to snoop around. Anjou, can you be ready for that?”
Anjou just smiled.
By 2 AM, Blade and Crystal were back, while Shin stayed in the headquarters. They were making their way back to the area to investigate the area. They went to the rooftops in hopes to enter that way, but there was a problem. They came back down, went to the corner, and in a split second, they were facing the other way, walking back down Central Park West. Shin then said, “Blade, where are you going? You’re going the wrong way.”
Then the two of them turned around, went back to the corner, and what seemed like a second later, they were past where they should be, as if they had turned the corner and kept going. Shin could not understand. “Blade, you went up to it on the roof, walked away, walked on the street and did an about face, walked past it as if it were not there and kept going. It’s right there!”
They turned around to look, but when they did, in what seemed like a split second, they were back down Central Park West. Shin was bouncing his forehead off the monitor, and said, “Blade, stop messing around!”
“I’m not messing around!” Blade snapped back, “We have to be in the right place. A whole building just does not disappear!”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘DISAPPEAR’?” Shin shot back, “Its…right…THERE!”
Blade stopped and told Crystal, “Focus on where that thing should be and walk towards it.”
She did so, and then Blade was shocked when she stiffened and walked like a machine around the corner. Blade focused on the sidewalk and caught up to her, but no matter of cajoling could bring her around until they had passed where the building should have been. Blade said, “Yes, its there, but we are not being allowed to see it! They were expecting us!”
“Well, you DID practically announce yourself!” reasoned Shin.
“How are they doing this is a greater concern,” said Blade, “If they don’t trust us, and possess a power we know nothing about, the building might as well not be there.”
Blade cursed under his breath, and said, “We’ll have to catch him when the place opens for normal hours, that is, if we are still welcome.”
With steam still pouring out of his ears, they went back to the Bronx.
Charlotte was now talking to Marcus Draco, and she was both understandably frustrated and nervous. Amayah had once been a house at odds with Cathong. Now Cathong was no more, all the pure bloods but she was no more, and she had nowhere to go. “You must be enjoying this, Marcus!”
“On the contrary, dear Charlotte,” Draco said in return, “Things have changed greatly. There are only two houses left. Had this been normal business, I might have cheered, but this thing is greater than any rivalries that had existed. Certainly, wanting to be the only house left would have been desirable to me, but how this has happened does not give me peace about that. There has been a systematic effort to exterminate all the vampires, and it has actually been succeeding, and worse, by a force that is not vampire! The survival of the vampire in general is at stake here, and household rivalries mean nothing now. Of course, I’m in charge, but you on the council would be a huge plus. House Cathong was once the most powerful, and indeed we equaled you, but you had more knowledge of just what may be hunting us, and that knowledge would be a benefit to us. I just thought Blade could have this kind of success.”
“That is because it’s more than blade, you idiot!” she snapped. Even thought he was now her benefactor, she did not care to be too careful how she responded to him. She was older and smarter, and if she played her cards right, the council would recognize this and depose him in favor of her. She knew he would not try to harm her, because indeed her knowledge was valuable, and the council would never have tolerated that. Draco then said, “Could you enlighten me?”
“There is another factor out there,” she said, “There were seven others that showed up and destroyed the rest of the house. They knew what they were dealing with, and they moved and acted like vampires. Their leader was a juggernaut! He killed Lars, and actually got his jollies by drinking his blood before taking his head!”
“Could it be another household forming from the remnants of the others?” asked Draco.
“Impossible,” said Charlotte, “Blade—and whoever has been helping him—have been too thorough. The only undead here in New York are your house. Worse, they are like ghosts: the come and go as they please, seeming to vanish into the ether when you blink. We have our suspicions about that building at Central Park West, but whenever we go to it, it is as if it is not there. It is insanity! We’ve given up trying to find it.”
“An emergency meeting of the council is taking place soon,” said Draco, “Maybe with all our heads together we can resolve this. We must hang together.”
Charlotte got a cute smile on her lips and said, “To quote Ben Franklin, ‘We must indeed hang together, or most certainly we shall all hang separately.”
Draco then provided her with a new man—he was a Samoan named William Palau. He had long hair in locks, a beard, stood 7’4” tall, and weight 408 lbs.—all muscle! He bowed, and said, “In my country, we are taught to treat our elders well. Anything you want, and I shall be sure it is done.”
She smiled, thinking to herself, “He’s better than Lars!”
She then told him, “Fresh and young—I’m hungry William, and I hope that we can have enough to share.”
William smiled back and said, “With pleasure milady! Let me show you to your room.”
As she left, Draco let out a sigh, indeed wondering if there was anything they could do, they did not even know where to start.