The older woman turned and smiled. Across the crowded bar, he was sure that she had smiled at him. Not wishing to be unsociable, he smiled back. After all, she wasn’t that old, probably in her mid-thirties, thought Jack Martin as he sat at the end of the bar, sipping his beer.
Jack was enjoying himself. He had completed his six-month internship at Backdoor Productions, and they had offered him a salaried position. Jack had started college, unsure of what he wanted to study. It was during his studies that he found he had an interest in writing and film production. Although his school had a limited course selection of this area, Jack had made the best of it. He now had a half-completed story, which he was adapting to a screenplay.
He was drawn back from his reflections by the bartender who placed a full beer next to his almost empty glass. He looked at the bartender as if to say he didn’t order another beer. The bartender smiled, “It’s on the lady at the end of the bar.” Jack looked back down at the end of the bar and saw that she wasn’t sitting there anymore.
“Do you mind if I join you?”
Startled, he turned to find the woman standing next to him.
“No…Please sit down.” He gestured at the empty stool next to his. She moved with a natural grace as she slid onto the seat. Jack was taken back because up close; he thought she was lovely. He thought for a second that this woman must have been drop-dead gorgeous in her youth.
Smiling, she held out her hand, “Gabriele.”
Taking her hand, “Jack Martin,” he replied.
Smiling seductively, “So Jack Martin, what brings you here?”
Jack, a tall, handsome young man, with dark hair and a light beard, responded, “Just a little celebrating, I was offered a job today.”
She leaned forward, appearing interested, “Good for you. What is it, you do?”
“I work for an independent film production company. I’m going to be involved in editing and story development.”
Her eyes and smile were captivating, “That must be fascinating work. Do you deal with any notable industry people?”
He smiled, wanting to impress her, “I spoke with Tarantino the other day about a project he is involved with.”
She sat back, “It must be exciting to be at the threshold of a career, with your life ahead of you.”
“Yeah, I guess it is; I didn’t think of it in that way.”
He found himself growing more interested in this woman, “What do you do for a living?”
Her face clouded and he thought he had somehow said the wrong thing. She glanced momentarily down at the bar and took a sip of her drink.
“Well, Jack, I guess I don’t do much of anything. My husband died a couple of years ago, and he left me quite well off. I travel, and for the time being, I’m living in Manhattan.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t want to…”
She took his hand, and he could almost feel a pleasurable wave of emotion pass through him. He caught his breath as he squeezed her hand. He was pleased when she returned his grasp.
“Would you like to grab a booth? I find this stool a little uncomfortable.”
He rose perhaps a little too eagerly, “Sure, we can get a booth.”
She slid catlike off her stool, and for a second, their bodies touched. Again, Jack felt a warm wave pass through him.
Opening her purse, she placed a twenty-dollar bill on the bar.
“Why don’t you get a pitcher of your favorite beer? I’ll find us a booth.”
He turned and tried to get the attention of the bartender.
Paying for the pitcher, he scanned the bar and saw her in a booth near the corner, away from the restrooms.
Feeling good, he walked towards her, wondering where this night might take him. He thought of the stories he had heard of older, wealthy women who kept younger men, supporting them, and using them for their pleasure.
He placed the pitcher on the table and began to move towards the seat across from her.
“Jack, wouldn’t you like to sit next to me?”
He stopped, as if unsure as to what she said.
“Sure, yeah, I’d like that.”
She slid further into the wall and out of the light. Jack sat, and for the first time, he noticed her perfume. It was the most alluring scent he had ever experienced, momentarily overcoming him.
She smiled, “Is everything alright, Jack?”
Seated next to her, “Yeah, it’s just your perfume. I’ve never smelled anything like it. What is it?”
She smiled demurely, “It’s called Calyx, it is formulated to work with your body chemistry, and so it is different for every user. I’m glad you like it.”
She leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek.
Leaning back, she casually placed her hand on his thigh.
“So, did you study film in school?”
He wanted to tell her everything. She had this manner about her where she seemed to be interested in everything he said. He told her of his early studies and his lack of interest in college. He told her of his closest friends and what they were studying. He told her of his home on Long Island, where he lived with his parents. He didn’t fail to notice that she had moved closer to him. She was truly captivating.
Across the bar, a man sat alone, appearing to read the New York Post as he sipped a beer at the bar. The newspaper was merely a ploy, as he was aware of everything that was happening within the bar. He was especially aware of Gabriele sitting in the corner booth with young Jack Martin.
He picked up his smartphone from the bar and texted a short message. Waiting for an acknowledgment, he then placed his phone back on the bar.
A couple came over to him.
“Would you mind moving over so we can sit together?”
Without looking up, “Sorry, I’m waiting for a friend.”
The guy looked at him, “Yeah, I’ll bet you are.”
The seated man looked up at him, every aspect of him menacing.
The woman pulled on her friend's arm, “Come on, Bobby; we can sit elsewhere.”
The man replied, “Yeah…sorry, I didn’t mean anything.”
The seated man returned to his paper, “No problem, have a nice night.” The couple quickly moved away from him.
Back at the booth, having told Gabriele most everything about himself, Jack was asking about her.
“Well, as I’ve mentioned, I am very comfortable financially. I’ve found it very rewarding to sponsor young men at the start of their careers.”
Jack’s interest shot up.
“What do you mean, sponsor?”
She began to rub his leg gently.
“Well, I know many influential people in many industries. I help by introducing them to my protégé, and I fund any expenses they might incur, such as travel, studies, or in your case, film equipment.”
Jack felt like he was dreaming.
“What would someone need to do to qualify for your generosity?”
“My only requirement is that they succeed in their endeavors and that they keep me apprised of what they are doing.”
Jack felt as though he had just won the lottery.
Sitting back, he took a sip of his beer. He noticed that Gabriele hadn’t touched her beer.
“I’m sorry; did you want something else instead of a beer, perhaps wine?
She smiled, “thanks, but I’m not that thirsty. I’m just happy to enjoy the company of a young man like you.”
“Okay, if you say so,” he took a couple of gulps of beer.
The watcher at the bar continued to read his paper. Without appearing to look up, he watched as Gabriele sat with the young man. It was easy to see that the young man was falling under her influence. It didn’t help that he was drinking.
“Hey, Jack, whatcha hiding in a booth for,” a voice called to him.
Jack tore himself away from Gabriele.
“Matt, Rich, I thought you guys were working late.”
The taller one, Rich replied, holding up his watch, “Yeah, you see the time?”
Jack looked at his watch, where the hell did three hours go?
“Aren’t you going to introduce us?”
“Oh yeah sorry, Matt, Rich, this is Gabriele.”
Smiling at them, “A pleasure to meet you,” Gabriele responded.
The two smiled, replying in unison, “Likewise.”
Matt spoke, “We’re going to meet the crew at O’Farrell’s, would you like to join us?
Jack looked at Gabriele and then back at his friends.
“Maybe, we’re going to stay here a while longer. I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”
Matt nodded, “Sure, no problem, we’ll see you later.”
His friends made their goodbyes and departed.
Jack turned back to Gabriele.
Jack looked at her a little confused.
“For what,” He asked.
She smiled that killer smile of hers, “For not leaving me to go off with your friends.”
Jack smiled back at her, “That would have been rude.”
She gave a gentle laugh, “It’s easy to see you come from a proper home.”
Taking another sip of beer, he nodded, “Yeah, my parents are good people.”
Jack stared at her, noting the sexy styling of her blond hair, the gentle contours of her face, her piercing green eyes, and her killer smile.
“Where did you say you were from?”
“I didn’t say,” she chuckled.
“I was born in Italy.”
He looked at her, confused.
“Forgive me for saying, but you don’t look Italian.”
Nodding, “I get that all the time, my parents were Danes. I just happened to be born in Italy. They were living in Italy as part of a trade mission.”
Jack nodded, “So what… are you an Italian citizen?”
A brief look of sadness crossed her face.
“No, I became a naturalized citizen of this country a long time ago.”
She looked at her watch.
“I have an early appointment tomorrow. Perhaps we can share a taxi, and after you drop me off, you can meet your friends for that drink.”
Jack felt a sharp sense of disappointment at having to leave her.
Smiling, she said, “Why don’t you let me out and I’ll go across the street to hail a cab. I don’t want the bartender to think I’m a professional, engaging a young man in his establishment. Give me a couple of minutes and then follow me out, okay?”
Jack shrugged his shoulders, “Sure, I’ll hit the restroom and be right out.” Jack let Gabriele out of the booth, and he headed for the men’s room, as she made her way out of the bar.
The watcher at the bar pushed his money towards the bartender, “I’m out of here.” He quickly made his way out of the bar before Gabriele reached him.
As she approached the door, Gabriele stopped by where the man had sat and looked about for a second. Shaking her head, she continued out of the entrance.
Jack came out of the bathroom and scanned the bar, seeing that Gabriele had indeed left the premises. He worked his way through the crowd towards the exit. Walking out onto the street, he saw Gabriele across the street. She hadn’t been able to hail a cab yet. He looked both ways and began to cross the street towards her. As he approached her, she began to back away, moving toward a darkened alley.
Jack was confused, “Is everything okay?” He called to her.
She was now out of sight. Jack quickened his pace towards her.
As he approached the alley, a voice came from behind him.
“If you enter that alley young man, you will not leave it alive.”
Jack whirled about, “Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me. Who the hell are you…are you a cop?”
The man shook his head, “No, I’m with the church.”
Jack was momentarily confused, “What are you…a priest?”
“No, I’m not a priest,” he responded.
The man continued to approach Jack. Standing before him, the man was taller than Jack, who was six, two. The man was physically intimidating; his entire presence radiated power.
Jack spoke, “What did you mean I wouldn’t leave the alley alive?”
Without answering his question, the man placed his hand on Jack’s shoulder. He gestured towards the bar.
“Why don’t you stand in front of the bar?”
Feeling an overwhelming instinct to obey this man, Jack walked back toward the bar. The street in the meatpacking district was quiet; there was no traffic. The man turned his attention back towards the alley where Gabriele had disappeared. He calmly walked towards the alley.
Standing at the entrance to the alleyway, he closed his eyes as if concentrating. A smile crossed his face. His prey was still in the alley.
Smiling, he called out, “Gabriele, it’s been a long time. Why don’t you come out and make this easier for both of us.”
In the alley, at hearing his voice, panic gripped Gabriele. They had found her again, and so quickly. She thought she had done so well in hiding her trail. She should not have been surprised; the Palmieri Group was nothing, if not relentless.
The group bore the name of its founder, Antonio Palmieri, the Archbishop of Milan, Italy. In 1650 he had been taken by a vampire. That vampire was a woman who had loved him, but he had chosen his faith over her. That woman was Gabriele. Palmieri had gone on to found the group which bears his name. He had taken young men devout in their faith, and being a scientist, he had been able to infuse some of the abilities of vampires into them, minus the blood lust. Their mission was the complete eradication of vampires. The man standing at the entrance to the alley was Sebastian, their leader.
On the rooftops adjoining the alley, men moved silently towards the alleyway. They held what appeared to be small fishing nets. Gabriele, worked to calm herself, which was essential for her if she were to focus her abilities and to escape this trap. She now realized that her feelings in the bar had been correct. There had been a group member in the bar, as she prepared to take the young man. Silently cursing herself for not realizing it, a new fear blossomed in her, accepting that Sebastian wasn’t alone.
She looked up, scanning the edges of the roofs looking for signs of activity. Her conclusion was evident; there would be other men moving to throw those damn electrical nets down on her probably. While they wouldn’t destroy her, they would disable her, allowing them to capture her. For a moment, she thought of seeing Antonio again, but she quickly banished the thought from her mind. She would not confront Sebastian directly; he was too strong.
Her incredibly acute hearing heard movement on the roofs above her. Whatever she was going to do now was the time. She looked about the alley for a weapon, hoping that she was correct about their tactics. She picked up a long piece of wood as the first net rained down on her. As the capture net reached her, she caught it with her stick, and in one fluid motion, she hurled it at Sebastian. He moved faster than imaginable to avoid it as a second net came from the alley, which managed to strike his arm, momentarily stunning him. Gabriele leaped from the alley flying over Sebastian’s reach.
Standing in front of the bar, Jack watched the scene unfold before him. Gabriele landed in the middle of the street, and for a second, she stared at him. Jack felt both compassion for her and fear of her, for her face now radiated an evil that was beyond his ability to describe. The action grew increasingly unreal as men jumped from the roofs of the buildings landing on their feet, seemingly unhurt.
Recovering, Sebastian was quickly on her as the two of them again rose off the ground and slammed into the building next to the bar. Jack could see the two of them struggling to gain the upper hand. The men from the roofs moved in securing the area. As some people came out of the bar, they ushered them back in claiming to be members of law enforcement.
It was at that point that a police cruiser came around the corner with its lights flashing. Someone in the bar had called saying that a man was assaulting a woman. Distracted for a second by the approaching police cruiser, Sebastian turned his head, allowing Gabriele to strike him with all of her strength. Freeing herself from his grasp, she began to fade into a smoky mist and rise above the gathering crowd into the night.
The police car pulled in front of the bar, and the officers got out.
“Okay, who made the call here, who was getting assaulted?”
A young woman stepped forward and spoke.
“She was right over there just a moment ago,” as she pointed to Gabriele’s last location. The cop looked in the direction.
“Well, where did she go? Was she injured?
The young woman and the expanding group were silent.
The young woman spoke again.
“It was that big guy, dressed in black that attacked her. He’s right over there.”
The group turned as she pointed again. As before, no one was there.
The cop looked at his partner and raised his eyebrows.
“Okay, let me get this straight. A big guy dressed in black attacked a woman, and they were beating the shit out of each other, and now they’re gone. Am I missing anything here?”
A guy who had watched Jack and Gabriele, saw Jack standing a short distance away. He had seen Jack sitting with Gabriele. He addressed the cops.
“Hey, wait a minute, why don’t you talk to that guy. I saw him sitting with the woman for a while. They seemed close.”
The cops looked at each other with the senior officer shrugging, as if to say why not. He called out to Jack as he walked over to him. The other officer began to usher the remaining people back into the bar and off the street.
The cop approached Jack.
“Well, what about it, did you know this woman?”
Jack stared at the officer, still awestruck over what he had seen.
The cop looked into his eyes, “Hey, are you okay?”
Jack caught himself, “Yes, I’m all right officer.”
“Okay, what’s your name?”
“Did you know this woman?”
“I met her tonight; she bought me a drink. She said she was a wealthy woman looking for young men to sponsor.” Jack felt immediately stupid, saying that. The cop writing his incident report looked up at Jack. Looking at his partner, he smiled.
“She and I were going to share a cab after I dropped her off; I was going to meet some friends at O’Farrell’s. I came out of the bar, and she was across the street, and she backed up into that alley. That was when this big guy came up and told me to get lost, and then the two of them fought, and then they were gone.”
The cop writing the report looked at his partner.
“What do you think; her boyfriend or her pimp?”
The other cop nodded as he shut his notebook.
“Look, you look like a nice kid, why don’t you call it a night and go home. I’m going to forget this happened, and I’ll take your name out of my report, okay?”
Jack nodded, “Thanks, officer, I’ll do that, goodnight.”
Jack began to walk quickly towards the avenue down the street.
He wanted to be away from this place.