February story


  I saw Adele in her white dress and pearls with a fancy clasp that she was wearing in front where it sparkled against her skin.
  I knew I shouldn't be admiring anything about Adele.  But it was hard to keep my eyes off that heart-shaped face, those bright eyes, that full mouth.
  "New necklace?" I asked.
  We were dancing, being careful to keep some distance between us, playing it as though dancing with her was part of my job.
  "They're real genuine came-out-of-an-oyster pearls," she said. "The diamonds in the clasp are real, too. He's starting to push me."
  My stomach did a clutch. Maybe Adele wasn't my girl, but I was working on it. And I didn't have any good ideas how to change the situation.
  Those pearls had cost plenty. Hammer always wanted everyone to know he was a big spender. That's all Adele meant to him, a showcase for his cash. He had a wife somewhere but she was as old as he was, not that that mattered. What mattered to the mob was to keep their families well separated from their business. The Capone crowd weren't friends. They were gangsters tied to Capone and they spent their evenings hanging out at the club where I worked. It was their second home.
  They talked too loudly. They kidded and insulted. They brought their current girlfriends and let their cronies see what success could buy them.
  On Sundays they did the same thing for the neighbors, marched the family to church, showed off the kids in their fancy clothes and the wife in her big fur coat and her diamond rings.
  I could understand their pride of ownership of the family.
  Somehow I missed the pride of girlfriend part. I assumed it was easy come, easy go.
  Eleanore had warned me.
  "Kid, dance with the girlfriends and give 'em a treat, but never dance more than one dance with the same girl."
  Eleanore was the club's songbird. She'd been there since Prohibition started in 1920 and the private clubs opened where you had to know a password to get in. In Chicago Al Capone and his rival, Bugsy Moran, made their fortunes supplying the illegal liquor.
  Eleanore made good money. She had her own dressing room and long breaks between appearances. She had a voice like dark chocolate. It slid through a man's soul. She also had her own gangster who owned the club and draped her in jewelry and every man in the place knew it and knew how to dream about her without actually approaching her.
  Me she treated like a kid brother so that was okay.
  "Dom, honey," she told me more than once, "when you dance with Adele, don't go letting your hands stray. Or your eyes, either. Understand?"
  I did and didn't. Adele wasn't actually Hammer's girl, not yet. He was a big lug who earned his name. Adele was a hat maker and really clever with a needle, but she got paid by the piece and times were slow. Like everyone, she had weeks when she couldn't come up with the rent for the room she shared with another girl in a boarding house. To make ends meet she starting coming around to the club with a couple of her girlfriends. They'd get men to order them drinks which were supposed to be expensive liquor but were really cold tea and me and the other waiters knew who was who. We filled their orders. The bartenders split the cost of their fake drinks and saved the money for them.
  That's as much as I could do for Adele.
  So I stuck with Eleanore's rules and danced once each evening with Adele and when my back was to Hammer, I'd let my eyes meet hers and I'd smile at her and she'd smile back and I'd squeeze her hand and maybe rub my other hand very gently up her spine and maybe let one finger touch the satin skin above the edge of her dress.
  "Getting fresh, big boy?" she'd tease.
  "Will if I get the chance," I'd kid back. I could smell the perfume in her soft dark hair and it made me a little crazy.
  Sometimes her face would go scared and I'd know Hammer was watching so then I'd twirl her away from me and maybe do a fancy dip. When the song ended, I'd take her back to her table, nod to Hammer, and turn away to dance with one of the other girlfriends before it was my time to go onstage. The girls all liked to dance with me. I wasn't any heartbreaker but I was a great dancer.
  Eleanore wanted long breaks between songs. She liked to go to her dressing room and put her feet up.  In between, to keep the customers from getting restless, I'd do one of my tap dance routines on stage. I didn't get paid.
  "You should," Eleanore told me. "You dance as well as any professional."
  Maybe so but jobs were scarce and I made good tips as a waiter. I didn't want to get tossed out on my ear. The pay for entertainers was better, of course, but tap dancers were hanging around every club to get work. I was twenty. I had all my life to get rich. For now I was glad to make enough to cover the rent at a rooming house.
  As for me dancing with the girlfriends, for most the customers that added value. It kept their girlfriends from whining at them to dance.
  The club had  an okay dance floor in front of the stage, surrounded by tiers of tables. The piano player was called Sugartime and I never knew his real name, but between him and the man on horn, they could back up Eleanore with sob songs and me with jazz and they could keep the music going in between. During those breaks in the show they turned down the stage lights and had a mirror ball spinning. It shot out reflected light that glittered through the constant cloud of smoke.
  We had had our dance that night, me and Adele, with our fingers twined and our eyes locked.
  We'd done a lot of whispering, trying not to move our mouths. Once I'd managed to dance us behind the hat check stand and I'd done a quick kiss on her pretty lips.
  Adele said, "Watch it, buster," and then she gave me a quick kiss back.
  We knew better than staying out of sight for more than a minute. I whirled her back onto the dance floor. Maybe I was grinning too much. I couldn't help it, not with Adele's kiss warm on my mouth. The expression on Hammer's face when I returned Adele to his table was nothing at all, not a hint of what he was thinking. He had about as much expression as a brick wall. Usually he smiled at Adele. I should have been suspicious.
  A girl named Libby, little blond fluff who'd been stepping out with a thin nosed guy called Rabbit for the last few months, whined at him, "Come on, honey, you never dance with me."
  I started to move away to take orders from the next table when Rabbit reached out a long arm and caught me. "Hey, kid, twirl her around till she's dizzy."
  She giggled her way into my arms. People at the next table glared at me, but they were nothing more than people. They weren't part of the Capone crowd. If I ignored Rabbit to wait on them, one of us would end up with a split lip and it would probably be me. I held out my arms to Libby and danced her around the floor. She did a lot of oohing and cooing, said things like, "Make your fortune, honey, and then come looking for me."
  "I'll never be rich enough for a high class girl like you," I said because I knew that's the kind of talk she wanted.
  Those gangsters knew less about romancing their girls than I did and they were all twice my age.
  I went from fox-trotting Libby to serving a tray of drinks to a table to waltzing Tricia to doing a quick onstage tap to carrying another tray, all the time thinking that as soon as Eleanore showed up I'd duck out to the alley for a break and a smoke. That pearl necklace had me worried. Adele was right. It meant trouble.
  She was something else, our Eleanore, black sequins from her throat to her toes, her face a mask of white powder, her eyes shadowed by long, heavy lashes, and her hair piled on top of her head and held in place with diamond studded combs. She was all makeup and jewels, perfect as a portrait and I wondered what she really looked like away from the lights. I'd never seen her in daytime. Or had I? Had I passed her on a sidewalk and never guessed the lady with the plain face beneath a neat little hat and every other inch of her hidden in a wool coat and cotton stockings and low-heeled shoes and white gloves, was the glamorous Eleanore?
  Soft fingers touched my hand. I glanced around, expecting one of the other girlfriends and regretting I hadn't moved faster toward the alley door.
  "Dominic," Adele said. "I have to get out of here now." Tears shone in her big brown eyes.
  It wasn't the smartest thing I ever did. But I did it. Even if I'd stopped to think about it, I still would have done it.
  I pulled her into my arms for a hug. And then I remembered we were in view of the tables and so I turned the hug into a dance step, twirling her slowly, moving back, moving closer, while we whispered to each other.
  "What's wrong, Addie?"
  "He's mad at somebody. Something bad is going to happen. I heard part of it but I don't know what it means. I need to get away."
  "What can I do?"
  Her voice was as soft as snowflakes falling. "Take me home with you?"
  If she'd asked me to lie in the street and let her walk over me, I'd have done it. But take her home? "I live in a rooming house. One room. I'm not allowed to have guests. Believe me, I'd be happy to sleep on the floor and let you have the bed. If  I could. I can't."
  "Oh no." She squeezed my fingers. "I shouldn't have said anything."
  "Would money help? I've got my tips in my pocket, maybe twenty bucks worth."
  She shook her head. "Don't worry. I'll be all right."
  Her face went dead scared. Before I could stop her, she slipped away from me and did a wide circle of the dance floor before turning back toward Hammer's table.
  I ducked out through the alley door. The alley was dark and empty. The air was icy and smelled of coal smoke. When I leaned my back against the brick wall I could feel the winter cold through my jacket. What I needed was time to clear my head and figure out what to do. She was scared of Hammer and I didn't blame her. Handing him back the necklace could end her up dead. So could calling a taxi and heading home. If he was figuring on pressuring her in the next day or two, she needed to get out of Chicago.
  Great plan except I knew she didn't have any relatives to go home to. She'd told me that much about herself. And it wasn't as though she was my girl. I couldn't say, "Let's move to another town, you and me, and maybe get married?"
   We'd reached the stage of an occasional kiss. I could have gone on kissing her forever but I didn't know how she felt about me. When she was hustling drinks Adele flirted with everyone at the club. That was before Hammer started noticing her. Maybe I was just one more guy to her, nothing more.
   I pushed a cigarette between my teeth, leaned down and cupped my hands around the match flame to protect it from the Chicago wind. The match never reached the cigarette. A beefy hand pushed a silver lighter between me and the match and the lighter flame caught the end of my cigarette. I tried not to flinch. I did the deep inhale and let smoke drift slowly out the side of my mouth. It earned me a few seconds to plan my reaction.
  Looking into the man's face, I recognized him. A hanger on, one of the crowd who played second fiddle to Capone's mob. "Thanks." I managed a one word answer without letting my voice shake.
  "You the kid called Dominic? Hammer wants a word with you."
  Nodding was the best I could manage. I took another drag, let it burn its way down and back up my throat, and then followed him inside. If I'd thought I could outrun a bullet I might have taken off.
  Instead I followed the stooge all the way to Hammer's table. Adele wasn't there and I was relieved. Maybe she'd thought of someplace else she could go.
  "Dominic, right? That your name?" Hammer asked. His voice was as flat as his face, no hint of what was going on in his head.
  "That's right," I said.
  "Yeah, I've watched you tap dancing, kid. Here's the deal. I've got a friend opening a new club. He's looking for entertainers. I mentioned you and he said you should come around."
  When I stared without speaking, he added, "Bigger bucks than you make here, kid. You interested?"
  Eleanore had told me the same thing, that I could make more money on stage than carrying trays. What she hadn't been able to tell me was where I could get a job. Sure she was the boss's woman. And about the time she asked for favors for me, he might not like it.
  A lot of stuff went around in my head. I suspected Hammer's offer was tied to Adele. He must have seen her find me for a second dance. Maybe he figured that if I took a job in a different club, that would be the end of me seeing her.
  My reason for taking a job would be a lot different. If I worked someplace else and could bring in steady pay, I could maybe afford an apartment. And then who knew? Maybe I'd be able to help the girl. Was I falling in love? No, I wasn't falling. I was already there.
  It was 1929 and I was twenty years old and the girl of my dreams needed my help and if I had more cash in my pocket maybe I could do that. Maybe I could save her.
  "That's real good of you, sir."
  "Okay, kid. Here's what you do. My friend is auditioning tomorrow. He's working out of a warehouse this week while his club gets decorated. You free tomorrow?"
  "Tomorrow's fine, sir. I have to be back here by six tomorrow afternoon, though."
  "He's doing tryouts in the morning. Don't be late."
  "No, sir."
  He told me the time and address and I spent the rest of the evening worrying about who'd be playing the music for my audition or would I have to dance to my own humming? I am not a singer. I'm great at keeping the beat but I sing off key. Would that matter?
  When I saw Eleanore in the hallway behind the stage, I told her about the chance Hammer had offered me.
  "A new club? Where is it? What's the owner's name?"
  I felt like an idiot. "Don't know. Around here, I guess. At least, the auditions are in a warehouse a few blocks from here. The club could be someplace else."
  "Strange I haven't heard about it. I wonder who? They're a bad lot but they have the money," Eleanore said more to herself than to me. She added, "Dominic, if this is on the level, it could be a break for you. You have the makings of a great performer. But keep your eyes open with these people."
  "Maybe you should come with me," I blurted. I could use a little backup, maybe advice about which routine to do.
  "I wish I could, dear. Unfortunately I have appointments all day tomorrow. New dress, new song, a new show for St. Valentine's night. We're expecting a big crowd."
  The hallway was dark enough that she couldn't see me blush. What was I thinking? I sounded like some little kid wanting to hide behind his mama. I tried to smooth over my dumb request. "I'll be here early to help."
  She gave me a wave over her shoulder as she hurried up the stairs to the stage.
  The place was packed and I spent the rest of the night rushing between tables. My mind spun with plans as I tried to decide which of my routines to use and what to do if there wasn't a piano player at the tryout.
  There were a couple of scares with a doorman and a bouncer running backstage to the boss's office. That usually meant they suspected a raid. I'd been caught in a couple raids and sat in jail until the next afternoon when the club's lawyer bailed me. If that happened tonight, I'd miss the audition. As I rushed an order to a table I glanced over at Hammer's table and saw it occupied by a new group and did that mean Hammer knew about a raid? Wouldn't be the first time they'd been set up by Bugsy Moran, then got tipped off and did a fast flit, leaving the rest of us to deal with cops and customers.
  Over by the hat check stand I saw Adele pulling on her coat. She was with a couple of her girlfriends. She gave me a wave and a smile and then left.  The Capone gang must have had a job to get to. That meant Hammer wouldn't be bothering Adele tonight.
  Whatever the problem with the bouncer and the boss this time, it didn't end in a raid and I got back to the rooming house in time to catch some sleep.  Nerves kept me awake until almost dawn when exhaustion dropped me into a deep sleep. I woke up groggy, checked my clock and saw I was running way late. I did a dash through the bathroom down the hall, found an almost clean shirt in my closet, and ran top speed down Clark Street toward the 2100 block. I did wonder if I'd find there was no such address and that the whole story of a new club looking for entertainers was Hammer's idea of a joke.
  I slowed down across the street from the address to catch my breath, straighten my jacket, brush my collar, pull out my comb. It couldn't be smart to walk in looking overeager and out of breath like some rube.
  The building didn't look like much. It was about the size of a garage and had a name on it in faded paint. It was part brick, part wood, with windows streaked heavy in dust, nothing anyone could see through.
  An auto pulled up, big long expensive one, and three men got out. They wore business suits. Were they the men opening the new club?  As I stepped back into the shadow of a nearby building, they turned and looked up and down the street, then walked into the warehouse. They had that tough look that meant gangster. All right, that's who controlled the speakeasies and smuggled the liquor and as long as Prohibition lasted, that's who I had to deal with if I wanted to work.
  Maybe there were more people inside. I didn't know. What I did know was that the next arrival was a black Cadillac touring car. Chicago police. I could see the siren and the rifle racks. Four men got out and two were in uniform. I stayed put in the shadows, figuring maybe they were bent and doing a deal with the new club owners. One of them turned to check the street. I didn't know his name. I knew his face. I'd seen him at Hammer's table at the club and what was he doing dressed up like a Chicago cop?
  The whole situation was beginning to smell. After the cops went through the door, I hurried across the street and ducked along the side wall of the warehouse, planning to do some eavesdropping. Maybe the cop costumes were part of an act to control job applicants. With an open call there would be a line around the block. I hadn't seen anyone else coming down the street. If this was private, there might already be a few dozen people milling around inside. There should at least be a lot of talking going on.
  I leaned against the wall and listened.
  The world exploded.
  It could have been fireworks or a busted gas line or anything, but what it was was gun shots, a lot of them. There was that rat-a-tat-tat that meant machine gun. I heard it, didn't believe it, stayed standing near a closed door. Any fool would have flattened himself to the ground. Any fool but me.
  Shots made it through the door and through me. I felt fire burning in my chest. My mind went numb and I slid slowly down the wall, trying to grab it. If I stayed here they'd come out and find me, whoever they were. I'd been set up by Hammer. That much I knew. I was supposed to be inside that warehouse getting killed right along with whoever else was in there.
  Around me everything turned to shadow shapes. With my hands on the wall I pulled myself upright and staggered around to the back of  the building. I dragged one foot after the other and made my legs keep moving.
  I was a dead man walking, step after step, refusing to fall, until I made it past buildings, across an alley, around a corner, and finally to an empty lot where the weeds were waist high. There I collapsed, face down. I tried to roll over. Couldn't. My body stopped but my mind kept going. Blood was seeping out of me. I could feel it soaking into my shirt and through my coat and pooling warm and wet on the icy ground.
  Smoke and lights and Adele, those were my thoughts as I lay dying. I saw her in her white dress and pearls, the real kind, with a diamond clasp that she wore in front where it glowed against her smooth skin. I remembered her satin fingertips touching my hand.
  From far away I heard the noise and shouting, people running down a nearby sidewalk. It went on forever, cars screeching down alleys, sirens wailing. I drifted in and out of consciousness, vaguely aware the sky was going darker. Or this was dying, this slow descent into the black.
  "Be careful." Those were the last words I remembered. Eleanore's warning. Eleanore's low voice. I heard her in my mind. And I felt Adele's hand touching my face, brushing back my hair. Had she ever done that? In my dreams, yes, I think I'd dreamed about her touching me that way.
  Her light voice said, "He's here! Hurry! He's alive! We need to get him to a hospital."
  Strong fingers pressed against my throat. Eleanore said, "It's too late. He's dying."
  "No! No, he mustn't! It's my fault! Please help me. We need to find a doctor." Adele's voice went on and on and I heard Eleanore telling her to be quiet and Adele begging and I wanted to tell her it wasn't her fault. She was crying and finally Eleanore said words that made no sense to me.
  "All right, dear, help me and we'll take him to my place. I will do what I can."
  I felt strong hands roll me over. Lift me up. Arms went around me, supporting me. I couldn't help at all. I managed to open my eyes enough to see tears streaming down Adele's sweet face. Above her was the night sky. I'd been in that weedy lot all day lying on frozen ground. My mind went in and out. I was aware of being put in a car and taken out again and carried up stairs and stretched on a bed.
  Adele leaned over me. Her face was a blur. I tried to say her name but my mouth wouldn't work. And my eyes wouldn't stay open. I lay in darkness listening.
  "Can you save him? Will he live?"
  "I'll try. I can't promise. Go into the other room. There's nothing I can do with you here."
  A door opened and closed.
  I felt Eleanore's breath on my ear. She whispered, "Dominic, I don't know if this is what you want. I wish you could tell me. That girl may not be getting what she wants, either. Ah well, life is full of risks and I did promise her I would try."
  Pain continued to circle through me. I could hear myself moaning. I tried to stop. A brave man wouldn't moan. The women deserved better. I didn't want them to know I was suffering. I tried to be quiet but the moaning continued. And then it stopped. Everything stopped. I felt it. I felt my breath stop, and the pain, and for a second I felt my heart stop. It did a heavy  thump inside my chest and then it stopped.
  Eleanore leaned over me, her hand on my face turning me toward her. She whispered my name before she pressed her lips against mine. I was surprised by the coldness of her mouth.
  I couldn't move or speak or anything at all other than lie there feeling her kisses.  A lightness spread through me and then warmth and then an unspeakable joy.
  Her hands turned my head and her cold mouth pressed against the side of my neck.
  My last memory was of the sound of the door opening. And of Adele screaming.
  I woke free of pain but aching with hunger. When I opened my eyes, Eleanore was there.
  "Are you hungry?"
  All I could manage was a gasp.
  "Of course you are," she said.
  She pressed her wrist over my open mouth. Heat and liquid flowed down my throat. It spread through me. Warmed me. Comforted me. Strengthened me. I found myself sitting up and gathering her into my arms.
  Laughing, she pushed away from me. "I do believe you'll survive, but you're hugging the wrong woman."
  I stuttered an apology.
  She put a fingertip over my mouth to stop me. "We have more important things to discuss."
  Lowering her hand, she pressed a handkerchief against her other wrist and that's when I saw small drops of blood on the cloth.
  "What have I done? Did I bite you? Oh sweet Lord, how could I?"
  "No, no, I cut my wrist myself. Now do hush, Dominic, and listen to me. Do you know what a vampire is?"
  Until that moment I had believed vampires existed only in fiction. They were as real as Burrough's Martians, figments of creative writers' minds. I stared at her, at the whiteness of her skin and the slender delicacy of her hands and then I remembered drinking her blood. Drinking her blood. Blood had been the liquid that flowed through me, making me warm again.
  "Eleanore, what am I?"
  "The same as I am. You died and I brought you back. Would you have preferred to die?"
  Outside her apartment the city roared past, cars and streetcars and people shouting in the dark of night. From the next room I heard sobbing.  Later there would be time to find out what I was. Right now all that mattered was Adele.  "What will happen to her?"
  Eleanore shrugged and gave an odd laugh. She called out, "Come in here, Adele."
  Poor Adele, she looked almost as pale as Eleanore except for the bright flush high on her cheeks. Her eyes were red with weeping.
  She ran to me and held out her arms, as though she was going to hug me. Instead she fell to her knees beside the bed and hid her face in her hands. "I didn't know, Dom, I didn't! I never realized, I never meant --"
  "Oh, do stop the wailing, Adele. What's done is done. He won't expect you to stay around. You can catch the next train."
  "Catch a train? Why?" I asked.
  "Because Capone's boys ambushed Moran's boys in that warehouse. Moran will want revenge. The club is an easy target. And Hammer almost succeeded in including you in the death count. If Moran doesn't catch us all first, Hammer will be looking for you and Adele."
  "All right. We'll all leave town."
  "Umm, it's not exactly that simple," she said and then she explained to me the effect of daylight on a vampire, rather along the lines of tossing a match into a pile of dry straw.
  Adele let out a little shriek and clapped her hands to her mouth. But she didn't leave. She stood there pretty as a picture, her hair a mass of windblown waves around her heart shaped face. I wanted to hold her and stroke her and tell her everything would be all right. But it never would be.
  Trains ran day and night. However, as Eleanore explained, we could hardly count on getting off a train before sunrise, hiding for a day, boarding the next train at sunset, and so forth. The stops weren't planned for vampires. We'd be between towns at the wrong times.
  It was time for me to admit to myself that I had to let go of the only girl I'd ever loved. I said to Eleanore, "I need to give Adele enough for a ticket. I have about twenty bucks on me."
  Eleanore unbuttoned the collar of her dress, reached in and came up with a small roll of bills that she held out to Adele. "The faster you leave the safer you'll be, dear. I can give you the name of a friend in St. Louis. She'll help you find work and a place to stay."
  Adele, who had always seemed so gentle, turned an angry glare on us both. Next she would stamp her foot, I thought. I was wrong. Instead she shouted, "No! I am not leaving without Dominic. We go together or we don't go."
  There had been stories in the papers about the women on board the Titanic who refused to leave their men. That's the look she had. If I couldn't leave Chicago, she would stay. And Hammer would find her. I didn't have a lifeboat to offer.
  I asked, "Eleanore, could we hide in the sleeping compartments on the train? Are the curtains heavy enough to keep out light?"
  "Those sleeping cars have beds that pull down from the wall. The porters fold them up during daytime."
  "Could we travel in a trunk?"
  "And be tossed around with the luggage?"
  We argued back and forth, trying to think of a solution. None sounded possible until Eleanore snapped her fingers.
  "Wait! I know a coffin maker."
  Adele and I looked at each other, thinking Eleanore must be going mad.
  "I would, wouldn't I, the same as you might know a furniture maker. Bedroom furniture. I don't actually like coffins but I have friends who swear by them. I could have two coffins loaded on the train for shipment to my friend in St. Louis and we could sleep in them during the day. They are always light proof when closed. The problem is there won't be time to get the locks reversed. They are built with locks on the outside but no way to lock them from the inside. Nothing would  prevent anyone from lifting a lid."
  "I could lock them," Adele said. "From the outside."
  Eleanore and I stopped talking and stared at her.
  She gave a shrug. "I could come with you on the train and before dawn we could all go to the baggage compartment and you two could get in the coffins and I could lock them shut."
  "Could you? And you wouldn't be afraid?" Eleanore asked.
  "No more than you." That stubborn chin jutted out. "After all, I will be the one with the keys."
  Eleanore gave her a searching glance and then she turned to me. "If this is the way we are going to play it, why stop at St. Louis? Why not go all the way to San Francisco? No one will be looking for us there."
  "And you have a friend in San Francisco," I guessed.
  "I have wanted to join him but couldn't think how to do it. If you trust Adele with your life, I'm willing."
  I gave Adele the smiles I'd had to hide when we danced in the club. And then I pulled her into my arms and gave her a few kisses. Her eyes flew open. And then snapped shut. And she crumpled in my arms.
  Clinging to her, pressing her face into my shoulder, I stared over her head at Eleanore. My panic must have been obvious.
  She gave an airy wave of her hand. "That's the second lesson, right after warning you about daylight. Unless you've fed recently, your kisses will put a girl to sleep. It prevents her from feeling your fangs sink into her neck."
  "My fangs!" I ran my tongue across my teeth and merciful Heaven, I had fangs. "I am not going to sink them into Adele!"
  "That's wise," Eleanore said. "You don't want to use your lover as your main food source. She'd be dead within the year. Your third lesson will be how to hunt."
  Perhaps it was as well that Adele had fallen into a deep sleep. We left her on the bed while we went off to visit the coffin maker. He assured us he could have the coffins on the next night's train. What he couldn't do in that amount of time was reverse the locks. He didn't seem surprised by the request. Apparently vampires were among his steady clientele.
  When we got back to the apartment, Adele was still asleep.
  "Time for a hunting lesson," Eleanore said.
  I tucked the bedspread around Adele and left a note on the nightstand saying we'd be back soon. I would have kissed her but I was afraid I might put her to sleep indefinitely.
  We had another two hours until dawn, time enough, Eleanore assured me. We went back out into the freezing night. What she taught me was that a vampire needs two or three donors a night, with a light feed from each. They sleep, dream, wake up happy with no clear memory of why they are happy. Or a vampire can stick to one donor and end up with a dead body to get rid of. As I positively did not want to ever do that, I paid attention to all her instructions. It was an unusual Valentine night.
  We both slept away the day in Eleanore's apartment while Adele did a list of daytime chores. She took the roll of bills and bought our tickets on the train scheduled to leave an hour after sunset and then she shopped for valises. She packed one for Eleanore and left the other two empty. We had agreed it would be risky for her to return to either of our rooms. Hammer might have one of his flunkies watching.
  "We can sell that horrid necklace in San Francisco and buy ourselves new clothes," she said. "And have rent for a real apartment where we can have our own Victrola and dance whenever we want."
  That answered the big question in my mind. I wasn't the only one in love. And now that I'd been on a hunt and wasn't hungry, I was able to wrap my dream girl in a hug and go right on kissing her until Eleanore reminded us we had a train to catch.
  The three of us boarded the train and found the luggage car and located our coffins and tried the keys to be sure they fit.
  Adele tucked them into her purse.
  We spent the night in the lounge car holding hands. I made a lot of conversation to cover up the things I wasn't ready to say. Because at some moment in the future I would have to explain to the girl of my dreams about my need for hunting. I would have to tell her about kissing strange women who meant nothing to me.
  Maybe the time to tell her would be after we were in San Francisco and she no longer had the coffin keys.

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