Randy by nature. That was always the joke at school. Everyone knew about Randy. What is it they say? Those who protest too much? Always on at Swotsy because she was good at football. Always too keen to wrestle with Joe. Now, watching them take positions again, Randy's hand shook on the trigger.
Daisy stubbed out her cigar and flicked a coin over to Kitten. She slipped it into the Wurlitzer by the bar knowing just which song Vi and Joe would want. It was their tune.
A reverent hush fell on the bar as they began to move. Joe's graceful, unearthly strength, Vi's feline flexibility. They circled one another like panthers. As Vi performed a triple flip across the bar-room floor, Joe caught her easily in his arms, her smooth caramel thighs wrapped round his waist. Her head rested for a moment on his shoulder - cheek against collarbone, parting lips, darting tongue over aching canines. As Violet blinked it was like she could see the blood coursing in Joe's jugular only a couple of centimetres from her mouth. Ultra-violet that's what the women called her. If you ever needed to find a vein, Vi was your girl.
'I love you Violet,' Joe whispered hoarsely as he spun around and around. She knew this was the time for her to lean back into the twirl, fling her arms back away from him when every cell in her body hungered for him. Her thighs tensed. Something else - the woman, not the hunger in her, surfaced. She looked at him, her pupils fathomless and black. 'We can leave, just you, and me, and James, it's not too late ...'
'It is Joe.' As she straightened up, and the room revolved around and around them, blurring and spinning, she whispered, 'it's too late for me.'
'No,' Joe tightened his grip on her. 'My mission. Your father's mission ...'
'Jack?' Vi's eyes snapped open.
'He's not your real father Vi. I found out a couple of years ago. He was Special Ops, just like me, but he's been under cover right from the beginning. This goes back centuries Vi. This time we have a chance to catch the big man himself. Jack loved you like a daughter,' Joe whispered in her ear as they caught their breath before the big lift. 'But there was a switch. Bitsy and Gideon ...'
'Gideon Stone? He was my father?'
Joe glanced quickly at Randy to check he still stood at the other end of the bar. As he turned away from Vi, backing towards Randy, one leg swung lazily behind the other. 'Jazz hands!' he hissed. Vi, stumbling, began to shimmy.
'Only biological,' Joe whispered as they grapevined. 'He hoped, as a Dwarf Prince ...'
'You know, like the Romany's have princes?'
'I had no idea ...' Vi slipped her arm around Joe's muscular waist and they span together, his arm around her, his beautiful face smiling sadly down at her.
'He hoped with pure dwarf blood he'd put an end to this curse, this hunger that has plagued women for centuries ...'
'The hunger?' Vi bluffed.
'Eternal youth,' Joe's eyes narrowed. 'Women will spend anything on face creams, that's how the Monsieur came to hear about the Creme de Nain - the dark face mask, the extraordinary beauty of the women on this part of the coast. He had no idea what he had started. Women will do anything ...'
'You have no idea,' Vi licked her lips. As they danced, she could smell him, his warm tanned skin like a perfect crust, like creme brulee, and beneath the hot sweet blood.
'Vi, look at me.' Joe cupped her hand in his face. The routine was reaching its climax. 'I know.' She hissed, baring gleaming fangs. Part of him wanted her to bite him then. Then he would be with her, and she with him, and he would be just like his father Bill. Bill, who had brought all of this trouble here after he picked up a lone traveller one night on his run north from Suffolk to the Irish ferry. Monsieur he called himself. An Eastern European. Just passing through. Transyllvania, originally, he said. Bill picked up hitchhikers all the time in his lorries. A bit of conversation helped to pass the time, he said.
Like the stars in the heavens falling into alignment, the hunger of Bill's passenger, and his mother's fabled beauty recipes using Irish bog mud (some called them spells, but not to Bill's face) met in a coastal seaside town of circus folk famed for its warm radioactive waters.
'I know what you are Vi. I know what my father has done to all the women in this town ...'
'Go!' she hissed. Her eyes were like pinpricks now, the irises glowing emerald green. 'He's just a pawn. It's the Monsieur you have to stop. He knows what women will do to preserve their beauty. If the secret Creme de Nain goes into worldwide production, mankind is doomed and vampires will rule the earth, just as the books have warned. Save mankind, Joe.' For a moment, he saw the girl he had never stopped loving, heard their laughter in the backyard, felt the warm summer air embrace them as they danced together one last time. 'Save yourself, save our son. There's a boat coming at midnight to take the next boatload of dwarves to safety.'
'Why? Why do you still save them?'
'It was a promise to Gideon, just before the dwarf catcher ... Randy,' Vi glanced over Joe's shoulder, 'killed him. It's too late for us. The women of this town are doomed to eternal beauty, but in exchange we take only what we need to survive - dwarf cats, hamsters ... Bill still thinks the nuns are catching people ...'
'No,' Joe shook his head. 'He's a monster.'
'We all are,' Violet tossed her hair. To Joe as he began to back away from her for their final lift, she had never been more beautiful.
'I love you Joe,' she whispered. 'Swotsy will help you. Take our son, you must get away tonight. James is the real key, don't you see? Second generation. He is the end to the hunger.'
Joe shook his head. 'I can't leave you.'
Violet tilted her head, a sad smile playing across her lips, her arms outstretched to him as he backed away. Joe stopped a couple of paces in front of Randy. It was like he could feel the barrel of the gun between his shoulder blades. 'Go,' she mouthed, as she ran towards him. Joe braced himself, ready to take her in his arms one last time, to lift her free. But the moment his strong hands touched her stomach, felt the muscles flex beneath his fingertips he knew she had something else in mind.
Vi used Joe's arms like a vaulting horse, flipped over and kicked Randy hard on the side of the head just as he pulled the trigger. Vi took a bullet for Joe. But it wasn't a silver bullet, unfortunately for Randy. As she crumpled to the floor, she shook her head, touched her wounded heart, licked her fingertips. At the scent of fresh blood, every woman in the bar turned towards him. Randy's eyes widened in horror as the gun fell to the floor, spun towards the door and landed at Bill's feet ...