The Thirteenth LordM.T. Murphy
Chapter 2 - Ruprecht
“Crazy looking sideburns?” Joseph knew he was hesitating way more than he should. “No. Doesn’t ring a bell, mister. Sorry.”
The customer, who said his name was Ruprecht, smiled and shrugged. “It was worth a shot.”
Joseph held his breath. The man Ruprecht was looking for was unforgettable. The red-eyed freak left a hundred dollar bill as a tip with the explicit instruction not to mention him to anyone. Ever.
Ruprecht seemed like an honest guy. A nice guy. He was fortyish, with sandy brown hair that was stylishly arranged, but almost due for a trim. Not dashingly handsome, but not homely either. His distinguishing feature was a British accent, which instantly made him stand out like James Bond in the downtown El Paso restaurant.
“Help me out, here, Joseph. I rarely smoke cigars, but I’m in a victorious mood this eve. What’s good?”
Joseph pointed to the Davidoff Aniversario specials on the cigar menu. “If you only smoke one cigar, I’d go with this one. It’s our most expensive cigar, but it’s worth it.”
Ruprecht leaned forward, handing the menu over. “Would you steer me wrong, my son?”
Joseph laughed. “I guarantee it will be the best cigar you smoke all year.”
Ruprecht nodded. “All right then. I trust you. Bring me one.”
He retrieved the cigar from the humidor in the back and helped Ruprecht trim the end and light it.
The man let out a coughing laugh. “That is good. How much do I owe you?”
“Twenty seven after tax.”
Ruprecht placed the twenty seven dollars on the table.
Joseph gathered up the cash. “Thank you, sir.”
“Wait a moment.” Ruprecht placed a hundred dollar bill on the table and took a slow drag off the cigar. “I have a question for you, my son.”
Joseph’s eyes locked onto the bill. “I’m listening.”
“Do you remember,” Ruprecht placed another hundred on the table, “the man with ridiculous sideburns,” and another, “red eyes that almost seem to glow,” and another, “and jagged, pointy teeth?” A fifth hundred joined the stack. “Please, take your time if you need to.” The man rested his hand on top of the money.
Joseph let out the breath he’d been holding. He placed his fingertips on the edge of the stack of bills. “Maybe I was mistaken when I said I hadn’t seen him.”
Ruprecht smiled and removed his hand.
Joseph snatched up the cash and stuffed it into his pocket. “Look, I didn’t want to say anything, but that guy was crazy. He smoked half a box of Rembrandts Irish cigarillos and drank us out of Irish whiskey and Scotch. When I told him we were out, I swear it looked like his eyes were glowing red and his teeth got a little longer. I think he would have killed me if we’d been out back in the alley or something.”
Ruprecht nodded. “Was there a woman with him? Concentrate. She will have made it difficult for you remember her.”
“I don’t think so.” Joseph gasped as the memory popped back into his head. “Wait a minute. Yeah. There was a woman. Gorgeous one. Pale, with black hair. Jesus. How did I forget her?”
“It’s all right. She has that effect on people.”
“But how did she do that?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Joseph!” Ruprecht snapped. His own eyes flashed with golden light, but returned to normal an instant later. He calmed himself and spoke again. “Joseph, I need you to concentrate.”
“Who the hell are they?” Joseph asked, his voice growing weak.
Ruprecht leaned forward and Joseph also moved in closer. “The less you know, the better, but unless I catch up to them soon, people will die.”
“Where are they going?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t say.”
“She bit you, I see.”
Ruprecht grasped his forearm, stroking two barely visible marks with his thumb. “I doubt you remember yet, but I see the mark. It heals remarkably fast when they let you live. She left an image in your mind for me.”
Joseph closed his eyes and his world shook like he was on a ship in the middle of a storm. A memory of a house in the desert came to him. It was a house he had never been to or seen. He opened his eyes and found Ruprecht with his eyes closed, resting his face on the two marks on his arm. He snatched his arm away. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I think you need to leave.”
Ruprecht smiled. “My apologies, Joseph. You have done a good thing, my son. Your sacrifice will be well worth it.”
Joseph stood up straight. “Sacrifice?”
Ruprecht waved his hand as if to brush away the word. “Forget I said that.”
Joseph’s eyes glazed over for a moment, then he replied. “Okay.”
“Good. Joseph, I feel like you and I have become old chums in the time we have spent together, tonight. Can I ask you a personal question?”
“What do you fear the most?”
Joseph opened his mouth, but no words came forth. His eyes met Ruprecht’s and his will to speak disappeared. The two fiery discs stole his will. A presence violated his mind, turning over memories and pilfering every thought he held sacred. He wanted to scream, but his body was paralyzed. Instead, his mind screamed for him: “I don’t want to be alone.”
Then it was over. He blinked and looked around. The restaurant crowd laughed and ate. If anything out of the ordinary had happened, they hadn’t seen it. Ruprecht finished his cigar and placed the cash for his untouched drinks on the table.
Joseph felt like he had been talking to Ruprecht for quite some time, but he couldn’t recall a single word.
“Um…how was everything?”
“Excellent,” Ruprecht replied with a smile. “Take care of yourself, Joseph.”
“You too. See you next time.” Deep inside, a voice was screaming in Joseph’s head. He was not sorry to see the man go.
Ruprecht crushed out the cigar and left.
Joseph refilled the drinks for one table full of guests, then recited the evening’s specials for a newly seated group.
Ruprecht stood in the darkness next to a dumpster behind the restaurant. He reached his arms out to the side, forming a lazy “T” shape. “You deserve better than this, Joseph. I’d have rather you lived, but I can’t have any loose ends.” His form became transparent as he rose a few inches off the ground.
A black seam split down the air behind him. The seam widened, becoming a circular door. Dark, scaly tendrils reached through, dancing like smoke in the darkness.
Ruprecht pointed into the air around the restaurant. Floating holes opened at the entrance and at each window. For a moment, there was only silence. Then, a faint sound started. It was like the trickle of a small stream. The sound grew louder. Tentacles burst out of each opening, crashing through doors and windows.
Ruprecht ignored the screaming and confusion. His prize would come soon enough. In seconds, his patience was rewarded as the fear and horror of the dead and dying washed over him. He feasted on it as the nightmarish tentacles ripped and broke the flesh of those trapped inside.
In less than a minute, no living soul was left in the restaurant. A fire broke out in the kitchen. Soon it would spread and destroy most of the evidence before anyone realized something was wrong.
“That is enough,” Ruprecht said.
The dark gates narrowed. Tentacles quickly slithered back into their dark hell, dragging pieces of their grisly meal with them. Once the portals had closed, Ruprecht drifted back to the ground and became solid again.
He frowned at the blackish-red stains on the street outside the burning building. His pets had been sloppy.
Ruprecht was quite pleased to have received two very valuable things: one delicious meal of terror and a destination.
“Lucifera, I cannot wait to see you again,” he said to the empty alley. “And I must leave this dreadful town. It simply reeks of werewolf.”
The vampire lord known as Ruprecht the Horror strolled away to the west on the newfound trail of his targets.