Whimpering and struggling in the unnatural sleep that Borza had brutally forced upon him, Mickey Kostmayer lay on the large dusty bed. His dreams were muddled and full of disturbing images. He could feel himself ripping and tearing into bloody flesh. At first he was intoxicated by the taste and sensation, then he was dizzy and sweating, as his stomach heaved and he vomited. Blood - there was so much blood.
With a cry, Mickey opened his eyes and looked around him. He was confused. The last he remembered clearly, Borza had him pinned against the wall and there had been the sound of breaking glass.
Something other than his own nightmare had awakened him now. It had been a familiar voice, a cry of terror or of pain, that much he knew. His senses were working overtime and he was assaulted with sounds, sights and smells that were familiar and also alien to him. He still couldn't think clearly. The room looked different, it was brighter as though his eyes had adapted more readily to the dim moonlight. The sound of waves, beating against the shore outside, was too loud and battered his now ultra sensitive hearing.
He sniffed the air, there was a scent of something. The smell was so strong and exciting that he could almost reach out and touch it. Sliding off the bed, Mickey was assailed by a momentary dizziness. Shrugging off the feeling of weakness, he went to the door and opened it.
The stairs were exactly where he knew they would be and the scent was stronger here. He didn't think to question how he could follow a scent or the evidence of his other enhanced abilities as he descended to the lower floor.
To Mickey, the once gloomy house was now perfectly illuminated. He had no difficulty seeing Borza crouched over the still figure on the couch. McCall! Mickey saw with shock. He had McCall! It must have been his friend's cry that woke him.
There was a part of Mickey that wanted to help his friend and mentor but there was another part, a darker part that wanted to taste his essence. That darker side knew instinctively how satisfying it would be to sink his teeth into warm flesh, how intoxicating the taste of hot, sweet blood would be. A hunger unlike anything Mickey had ever known before gripped him and he moved closer to the figures on the couch.
Even though he had made no noise, Borza turned from McCall's limp body, his mouth still bloody, to face him.
Caught up in the spell, Mickey murmured, "I thought you would save some for me," his voice was low and husky.
With a flash of annoyance, Borza rose and stalked towards him. He pinned Mickey with his gaze, exerting his control over him. He spoke harshly, "Patience, young one. Patience. Your chance will come."
Evidently pleased with what he saw, he lifted a hand to stroke Mickey's neck once more. For the first time Mickey became aware of the pain there and the sensation of blood oozing slowly down his neck.
Borza circled until he stood behind Mickey then he pulled him back against his broad chest. He tipped Mickey's head back until it rested against his shoulder. Unable to resist him, Mickey stood quiescent, waiting.
"I have chosen well," Borza spoke with delight, "we three will enjoy the most interesting diversions for a very long time." Mickey flinched as he felt a sticky tongue touch the weeping wounds in his neck.
Borza murmured, "To complete the transformation you must die, but never fear you will be reborn. I will lead you both to more and greater powers than you can possibly imagine."
Borza sank his teeth into his neck again and what was left of Mickey's true self cried out in terror. With every second that passed he could feel himself being subjugated, growing weaker. His resolution was slipping away with his life's blood. Mickey made once last attempt to resist, but he was too weak. He hated himself for his weakness.
It was so seductive - the power of Borza's voice and the sensation of his blood draining from him as he Changed. Mickey moaned, whether from pleasure or pain he wasn't sure, as he gave himself up body and soul to the evil incarnate in Alex Borza.
Inside Robert's head, he heard moaning, the moaning of a friend, a comrade - someone to whom Robert had made an oath - his partner. Robert fought the blackness and cold surrounding him, because he had to. It was his job. With great effort he managed to pry open his eyelids.
The sight before him filled him with astonishment and disgust. Mickey was slumped against Borza. His head had been pulled back leaving his neck exposed and vulnerable. Mickey moaned again as Borza continued to feed.
He watched aghast, as the life was sucked from his young friend. Robert began to be aware of a feeling of hunger that spread over him, of a terrible need to feed upon such a dish. Robert gasped, more out of horror for what he felt, than for the obscene act being performed in front of him.
The profound hunger swept over him again and he began to be aware of the scent of blood in the room. It was a smell so sweet, so tempting, that Robert nearly licked his lips in an attempt to savor the air. The lust to throw Borza aside and partake in the feast that he could almost taste, welled up in him.
No, McCall! He suddenly railed against the desire, berating himself. Remember who you are and what you stand for. By God, you will not succumb to this nightmare. This madness must be vanquished. Now! Immediately!
He suppressed his emotions and pushed himself to a sitting position. He was weak, almost too weak to make himself be heard, but he saw that he must call out to his friend. Mickey must be made to fight, to rage against this creature who at this very moment was taking his life away, who was killing him sip by sip.
"Kostmayer!" he called, his voice a weak whisper, "fight him man!"
Nothing, no response from the young Company agent whatsoever. Robert took a deep breath, anything he said must be supported and fortified by his resolve, if it was to be heard by his spellbound partner.
Rising weakly from the couch, Robert stood at attention and added the emphasis of command to his voice, "Kostmayer, listen to me, you must fight him."
Borza looked up at Robert and grinned as he removed his teeth from Mickey's neck. He licked at the blood that dripped there. "Go, go to your new brother," he whispered into Mickey's ear. Mickey pulled away and opened his eyes as if waking from a sweet dream.
Robert took an involuntary step back in shock, the eyes glowing back at him were not Mickey's. They shone with an infernal light that frightened Robert more than anything he had seen that evening.
It was apparent that Mickey was changing before his very eyes. If he didn't do something soon the transformation would be complete and he would never be able to bring Mickey back. If that were the case, Robert promised himself that he would protect the soul of the man he called his friend. He would the destroy the thing that Kostmayer had become. He wouldn't let Mickey spend eternity as a monster.
"Mickey - turn away from him, don't let Borza destroy you," Robert commanded.
Mickey snarled and Robert was shocked to see fangs where his canine teeth had been. With more than his usual feline stealth, Mickey drew closer. Robert knew he was running out of time - he had to think of a way to get through to his protégé. He circled warily, trying to keep an eye on Borza at the same time as he watched Mickey.
Borza was smiling," Yes, my friends, you feel the closeness of the Change, don't you?" He chuckled, "How good it is to watch you both experience the first urgings of the bloodlust. Wait until the transformation is complete. This is just a small taste of the things that are to come."
Mickey lunged towards Robert - moving faster than Robert believed possible. Robert backpedaled quickly, hoping to get some distance between them. He saw the staircase and headed for it. Mickey reached him before he could get there, knocking him down. Robert scrambled back up to his feet, looking for a way, anyway, to stop Mickey.
Mickey attacked again with lightning speed, and without thinking Robert sidestepped him. Mickey hurtled into a large wooden bookcase splintering it into several large pieces and sending dozens of volumes flying around the chamber. Robert could see that Mickey wasn't thinking about his actions; he was reacting instinctively to the impulses provided by the Change.
Frighteningly sure-footed, Mickey came back to his feet. This time his approach was more calculating, his attack better timed. With a snarl, Mickey leapt and bore Robert back onto the couch, pinning him there, his teeth going unerringly for Robert's neck. Robert knew that the blood he had lost to Borza was proving to be a serious handicap, but the bulk of his attention was taken with trying to keep a blood crazed Kostmayer at arms length.
Robert was fighting to the best of his ability, but something was pulling at him to permit Kostmayer to get closer. He was trying to keep himself rigidly in check, never allowing his control to waver, but pangs of hunger were now calling him. This close to Mickey, Robert caught the beguiling scent of fresh, living blood on Mickey's skin, and for an instant he was claimed by instincts he couldn't repress. Robert found himself reaching for Mickey's throat.
Then Borza laughed loudly, evidently finding their battle of wills and strength wonderfully amusing.
That laugh threw Robert's iron self will into action. With renewed determination, he held Mickey's reaching mouth away from him. "Mickey - it's me, Robert. You don't want to do this," he urged.
For an instant Robert saw Mickey's eyes change and instead of the monstrous red glare there was just Mickey - alone and frightened. But before Robert could take advantage of the moment, the man he knew had been banished to the darkest depths once more.
Then, Robert remembered the cross in his pocket - Mickey's cross. All the while, struggling to keep Kostmayer from fastening his teeth on his neck, Robert slipped his hand into his pocket. "Mickey, look," Robert whispered as he pulled his hand up in front of the younger man's face. "The cross. Your cross." Robert pressed the blessed cross against Mickey's cheek.
Mickey stopped dead and Robert saw a number of emotions play over his pale features. Robert saw pain and then relief as the glow left his eyes and Mickey was himself once more. He took the cross into his hand and stared at it.
In a moment, the blood lust glow returned again to Mickey's eyes, but Robert could see that it wasn't as strong as before.
Knowing he had to capitalize on Mickey's brief instance of lucidity, Robert spoke sharply, "Mickey, you are a soldier, a professional. I did not train you to give in to the enemy. You are not the type of man to be so easily defeated. No, Michael you're stronger then that. You are made of sterner stuff!" Robert's eyes blazed into Mickey's.
Mickey's own strength of will appeared to re-surface then, and as understanding washed over him, he loosened his grip on Robert and nodded. Finally, he was human once more.
Using the instinctive communication that had developed between them over the past year, they let go of each other and moved together, picking up large shards of wood left from the broken window frame and the shattered bookcase.
Once again in charge of their own wills, Robert McCall and his partner Mickey Kostmayer turned to face the vampire Borza. They were filled with determination to bring down the enemy.
Borza abruptly realized that he had lost control of the situation and leapt for them, diving toward his newest hoped-for acolytes. Robert and Mickey moved - permitting him to place his body between them. Without a moment's hesitation, one from the front and one from the back, both men plunged their pieces of wood into his cold, evil heart.
With a resounding scream composed of fury, indignation, and wrath, Borza fell writhing to the floor. His large body and proud lion-like head blazed with a hot fevered light. His form began to cave in upon itself, his fleshless mouth roared curses at them. In moments, the vampire had withered and shriveled until it was little more than a thin layer of black ash upon the old, dusty carpet. It finally lay silent.
For a moment the two men stared at what was left of Borza. Then the adrenaline rush ebbed, and Mickey crumpled. The massive blood loss he had sustained was taking its toll. Robert fell to his knees, his own consciousness fading. But pushed by his stubborn nature, he made his way over to Mickey's side. "A moment to rest is all I need, my friend."
Mickey, pale and weak, managed to look at Robert and nod. Robert half-smiled back.
"No need to worry," Robert whispered, " I'll get us to help." And then he fainted.
Mickey sat at the opened window, letting the cold October air wash over him as he remembered. They had stayed in that black, bare hellhole for twelve more hours, neither of them strong enough to even sit up.
Mickey looked over at Robert who had been silent all through Control's telling of the story. Control only knew the official version of the adventure, and Mickey could see that Robert was remembering what had actually happened, just as he had spent the last hour reliving it again. They had vowed never to repeat what they had really gone through.
They had tended to each other as best they could throughout those terrible hours as they had both slipped in and out of a deep fathomless sleep. They had huddled together, trying to keep each other warm. In their more lucid moments, they managed to fashion a good cover story to use as their official Company report.
Finally, after their bodies had replaced some of the lost blood, they had made it to the car, shaking and breathless. Only Robert's will and Mickey's anger had allowed them the energy to drive to the nearest town. Mickey had been out cold and Robert fading in and out when he stopped the car on the main road. They were found there and rushed to the local hospital. It took three days for them both to return to full consciousness.
Control was so wrapped in telling the tale and Scott so enraptured by the story that they didn't notice his and Robert's pained expressions.
"Yeah," Control continued. "It was part of the official report. After a violent fight when Borza tried to puncture Mickey's throat, he ran out of the house into the early morning sunlight and went totally mad, screaming that he was burning up. Both your father and Mickey's reports say that they shot him and he fell off a nearby cliff."
"Wow!" Scott shook his head in amazement, "did you ever do an autopsy? Did you know find out if he had that disease that people who think they are vampires have? Kind of like a sensitivity to sunlight?"
Control smiled behind his hand, "No we didn't, because we never found the body."
"Whaaa??" Scott's eyebrows were raised so high that they were hidden in his bangs. He looked around the room at the others there. "Maybe he didn't die! Maybe he's still alive!!"
"No!" Mickey shouted. He stood up and walked over to the couch. "He's dead. I shot him and your Dad shot him. No one lives with those kind of wounds."
"Maybe he survived the bullets! Maybe he was a real vampire! He found a place to hide till night and then he got away!! - Right?" Scott was thrilled with his idea.
"No," Mickey repeated. "I know he died. I saw him fall off the cliff and into the sea. We both did. He's dead. Okay?"
"But," Scott looked smug. "Why didn't you find a body? Huh?? Explain that!"
"Scott," Control said, "we didn't even start to look for the body for over a week. You have to remember, your father ripped his leg open climbing over the gate to the estate. He nearly bled out from that. And Mickey was badly injured and lost a lot of blood when Borza tried to kill him
"Scott," Robert said softly, "it was all we could do to get ourselves to a nearby hospital. We were in no shape to climb down a cliff and look for a body. As it was, it took us nearly a week to recover from our wounds before we were able to report to Control."
Control shifted his position on the couch to look at the young man in the devil costume. "The local authorities did look into it later, and assured us the Essex coast has very strong tides, the body was surely swept out to sea." Control sighed. "And furthermore, there has been no sighting or evidence, nor hide nor hair of Borza for all this time, for over a decade"
"Dead! That bastard is dead!" Mickey growled, "and I'd do it exactly the same again."
Scott, for the first time, really looked at his father and Mickey. "I'm sorry Mickey. It sounds like you both had a pretty rough time, being badly hurt and all."
"They were both in the hospital for a month then. Getting transfusions and trying to fight off some sort of blood poisoning they both developed." Control suddenly laughed, "It was years before the jokes and teasing stopped at work." He smiled at Scott, "You know - going after a self proclaimed vampire and then needing blood transfusions?"
Robert stood up, put on his tuxedo jacket and went to the closet to get all of their coats. Control finished his drink, and said, "Many of our associates still say that McCall and Kostmayer have unnatural abilities, given to them by the 'vampire'. After all, they both are damned good at the job."
"Here is your jacket, Control. Clarence is here with the car." Next, Robert passed over his friend's overcoat. Just then a car horn began to blast outside on the street.
"See?" Control laughed as the men prepared to leave "How did you know the limo had arrived?"
Robert looked annoyed, "It's nine o'clock. Clarence was told to be here at nine. He sounded the horn of the car. That's how I knew he had arrived. Simple deduction. "
"No," Scott said suspiciously, "you knew the limo was here before I heard the horn honk!"
Control went to the door and opened it, "He always does that. It's a gift. Robert always knows when transportation is coming. He also can see nearly invisible booby traps." He made a let's go motion out the door with his hands. "Let's get a move on. The ladies warned us not to be late."
Robert walked out the door, "I do believe I like your lady. She certainly seems to know how to handle you and make you obey," he smiled at Control.
"You don't know the half of it, old son," Control patted Robert's back as they exited the apartment with Scott following them.
Mickey crossed to the window and locked it. He had turned off every light in the apartment and was about to slam the outer door shut when he heard Robert's irate voice from downstairs.
"Blast! I forgot the bloody door prize. Scott run up and get it for me. It's in my study."
Mickey went to the study, picked up the package and was walking back to the door, just as Scott made it back to the pitch black apartment.
"Don't worry, Scott. I've got it. I've got it!" Mickey called out. He was smiling until he saw Scott staring at him, mouth gaping, eyes wide and ashen faced.
"What's with you kid?" Mickey laughed derisively. "Afraid of the dark are you? Scared of skeletons?"
Scott started to gasp, "Your eyes were glowing Mickey." Scott's voice had a touch of hysteria, "I saw them. In the dark room. I saw them. They were glowing."
Mickey took a quick breath, and a look of anger passed fleetingly over his face, then disappeared into a smirk. "Yeah, right Scott," he said laughing, as he walked out the door "you can try and tease me about the vampire thing, but you'd better not start in on your Dad. If I remember correctly, you're trying to get a car out of him for your next birthday. Take it from me. If you ever want to see this year's model, you'd better not try that kind of thing on him." He turned away from Scott who was still clutching the doorframe. "Come on kid, the ladies are waiting!"
Mickey started to run down the stairs and, by the time he joined Control and Robert in the limo, he had been able to completely control the harsh red glow that still sometimes burned in his eyes.