My standard practice of keeping a suite for dates basically meant that my luck would have eventually run out anyway, but in my defense, the maid had clearly ignored the ‘Do Not Disturb’ to walk in while I fed.
If Yvonne had intruded five minutes earlier, she wouldn’t have seen more than a mediocre blow job. Instead, she dropped an armful of towels and fainted when she walked into my room to see my donor’s blood dripping from my chin.
While I waited for her to regain consciousness, I couldn’t help but think she could make much better money by being an model than a hotel maid… She actually had color and a figure, unlike the ashen emaciated paper dolls who’d become the new preference. Unfortunately, if Yvonne was an aspiring model, she’d probably be told to lose her curves and color her naturally golden hair.
I was sure I noticed the maid’s appearance because of my date… There wasn’t a contest in a side-by-side comparison of the two given that my date seemed to have fallen victim to all of my least favorite ‘beauty’ trends. The ‘Rachel’ haircut with blonde ‘chunks’ in brunette hair, Cleopatra eyeliner and purple (purple) contacts, and a cargo skirt with combat boots that advertised that her legs weren’t built for durability.
I’d only chosen that one because I’d made the mistake of telling Pam I planned to feed from the first thing to flirt with me.
Glamouring and tipping the maid had even proven to be less problematic than freeing myself from my date. She wanted to snuggle and discuss what we would wear to an event I hadn’t invited her to attend.
Six nights later, I returned to the Peninsula with another ‘date’, and just as it played out the week before, the same maid had the misfortune of interrupting my dinner.
Another glamour, another tip, and another annoyed dismissal of another over-confident date later, I ventured to the front desk to ask about the hotel’s understanding of ‘Do Not Disturb’.
Not only was the receptionist apologetic enough to comp my room to me (as though the price of my suite was a factor), but she called the service department to find out that none of the hotel maids should have been providing turn-down service so late…
Curious, but it wasn’t as though a hotel, even one established as one of the best New York had to offer, was immune to the occasional hiccup in operations. Weirder things had happened…
What made me begin to question my choice of hotels actually stepped into the elevator with me when the doors opened on the fifth floor.
Barefoot, mussed ponytail, hotel robe, crocheted blanket in hand… and closed eyes. The little girl didn’t look old enough to be unattended anywhere, let alone a busy hotel, and she smelled as though she’d been created at a bakery… buttercream perhaps?
“Should you be alone?”
She tucked the blanket between the wall and her head and argued, “I’m not.”
“Of course not. You’re in an elevator with a strange man. Where are your parents?”
“My father’s dead. My mommy’s workin’. I’m hungry.”
“And you’re going upstairs to eat? At this hour?” It was nearly two o’clock.
Without opening her eyes, she groaned, “Nosey.”
Her eyes snapped open and she straightened her posture. When she looked up at me, she looked every bit as confused as I expected.
“You sleepwalk, yes?”
She cringed and nodded contritely. “I guess.”
“You stepped onto the elevator on the fifth floor. Is that where you belong? Are your parents there?”
She sniffled, “I… I… I don’t know…”
“You said your father is dead and your mother is working.”
“Mommy’s… a maid…”
“And she leaves you to sleep in vacant rooms while she works to avoid childcare expenses, yes?”
The little girl looked up at me and whimpered… and I was anything but surprised. Pam and I had no shortage of employees who’d skirted propriety when it came to their children. The most galling were the ones who tried to use our addresses to enroll the children in better schools… because people who lived in penthouses on Fifth Avenue sent their children to public schools.
“Do you have a way to contact her or has she thought to have you microchipped?”
“Ummmm… cell phone.”
As I removed my cellphone from my pocket, I offered, “I’m Eric Northman.”
“Becky… Becky Sharp. My mommy’s Rhiannon.”
Nevermind how unfortunate the mother was… “Your name is Rebecca Sharp?”
She almost smiled when she nodded… No older than she was, she seemed completely aware that she had a recognizable name.
“Is your mother Rhiannon Sharp?”
I held my phone down for her to reach the keys so she could dial her mother’s cell for me.
She’d just answered when the elevator doors opened on the 19th floor.
“Yes. Who’s this, please?”
She had a southern lilt like the maid who’d interrupted me… It didn’t really matter that Rhiannon had been wearing Yvonne’s uniform in the grand scheme of things, but it might have explained why the fit wasn’t as frumpy as the other maids.
“Eric Northman. I found something that belongs to you wandering the halls. I’m staying in room 1914…”
I passed the phone to little Becky Sharp and led the way to my room while she mewled, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I was sleep-walkin’.”
Once the door to my room was unlocked, I moved a chair to hold the door open and waved to invite her inside…
The open door… Richard had planted the seed with hours of ranting about new hospital policies concerning male doctors and female patients. I wasn’t in the mood for another ridiculous scandal.
Given that the child and her mother hadn’t continued their conversation, I offered, “I don’t insist that you come in, but I’d rather you stayed where I can hear that you’re safe until your mother arrives.”
Rhiannon finally said, “Becky, just stay by the door. I’ll be right there.”
“K. Sorry, Mommy…” Becky gave me an apologetic look as she offered to return my phone to me. “I’m sorry, mister.”
“Don’t be. You’re much less trouble than my father was when he used to sleep-walk… He’d scare the dogs into bed with me and my siblings. We’d wake up covered with drool and the stench of whatever they’d eaten the night before… You said you were hungry when you were still asleep. You’re welcome to raid the minibar while you wait for your mother.”
She giggled and looked towards the kitchenette. “Thanks…” She wrapped her little blanket around her shoulders as she explored. “Was he clumsy… or just big like you?”
“Both. He’d stagger around the house, stepping on everything in his path while my mother and grandmother made sure he didn’t light anything but his pipe on fire. He tried to walk through a few snowstorms naked. He was bested by a bull because he tried to milk it once. He never made that mistake again.”
She giggled again, squatting in front of the small refrigerator and asked, “From New York?” while she perused the contents.
“Sweden. Where are you from?”
“Louisiana…” She stood with a sandwich and a small can of ginger ale, and returned to the chair holding the door open. “Well, Mommy is. I was born in Florida… Thanks. Mommy makes fun ‘cuz I really would eat in my sleep.”
“You’re very welcome. I’d offer to turn the television on for you, but I doubt there would be anything suitable for children at this hour.”
She nibbled her sandwich and shrugged. “Probably some stuff, but I’d have to search f’rever… You got kids?”
“No. Do you?”
She snickered, “I’m too young to have kids.”
“What about pets?”
“Nope… I want an owl though.”
“An owl? Aren’t little girls supposed to want kittens and bunnies?”
“I could feed those to my owl… Ever hear of falconry?”
I chuckled, “Outgoing and adventurous… Is your name really Becky Sharp, or is it just a very fitting alias?”
“Mommy says she’s named after a stupid song, so she named me after the girl from Vanity Fair ‘cuz Becky Sharp didn’t have it easy, but she didn’t waste time feelin’ sorry for herself either. She never stopped trying to improve herself or her situation.”
I pulled a chair over to join her and asked, “And what would you have been named if you had been a boy, I wonder?”
She groaned, “Edmond… I lucked out, bein’ a girl. That name’s f’ugly as all get-out. I get it- Edmond was all ‘embrass mon cul if you think you can keep me down’… I even like Monte Cristo, but Edmond’s a funky name and Mommy said she wouldn’t have budged and done Edward.”
“I imagine you’d think Edmond is less f’ugly if you were a boy.”
She covered her mouth to stifle a quiet belch. “S’cuse me… You could be right… You always been Eric?”
“Aside from a few nicknames, yes.”
“Mommy calls me Kiwi sometimes. What’cha got?”
“My older brothers called me ‘runt’ for a while…”
She covered her mouth when she laughed, “Nuh-uh!”
“They were a few years older… eventually I grew to be the tallest in the family.”
“I was a big baby, and Mommy’s little. Kiwis lay eggs half the mamas’ size… I weighed eleven pounds and had to be hatched.”
She nodded. “And Mommy weighs 118… I was late-late. I guess I’m lucky Mommy doesn’t call me Jumbo or something.”
I agreed, “Kiwi makes a much more interesting story, in my opinion,” just as the elevator doors opened in the hallway.
In spite of the fact that little Becky Sharp was in the company of a stranger, she didn’t seem interested in the visitor to the floor… nor did the girl seem disappointed that the elevator hadn’t delivered her mother, but a drunk businessman and his date.
And she whispered, “He’s too drunk to get his money’s worth.”
She might as well have been reading my mind, but the comment had enough shock value considering the source that I actually laughed.
My little companion finished her sandwich and soda, and then seconds, while politely carrying on conversation, only leaving her seat to accept my open invitation to raid the minibar again…
Even though she seemed excited over her discovery of bonbons, she balked as she used her teeth to open the packaging…
She set the little box on the table next to me and seemed hurried as she walked towards the door.
“Uhhhh. Mister… I think I should…” Instead of continuing, she darted into the hallway, calling back, “Thanks for the sandwiches, but I gotta go.”
I wasn’t about to allow a seven-year old to run into New York City, even if we were on the stretch of Fifth Avenue where she’d be immediately detained by the fashion police.
As I followed Becky, I explained, “I’ll be your shadow until you’ve been reunited with your mother…” She frantically began pressing the button for the 11th floor. “Why are you suddenly so troubled?”
“I just…” Even as the elevator doors were closing, Becky was still abusing the control panel. “Ever get the feeling something bad’s going on?”
Absolutely, but I wasn’t a little girl, traipsing about in nothing more than a plush robe and bobby socks.
Her leg shook as she watched the floor numbers light up, and as the car slowed at the 11th floor, I could hear a struggle.
Muffled whimpering, grunting, gasping… slight bumps and knocks that suggested one party to the struggle was restrained tightly.
When the elevator doors opened, the service cart near the end of the hall where the noises were coming from was more evidence of Becky’s intuition.
I had to catch the girl to keep her from bolting for her mother… and as tiny as she was, she still put up an impressive fight to get away from me.
“You’ll wait out here. It’s safer.”
She scowled at me and demanded, “Go then! GO!”
I only paused at the door damming the struggle for a moment before there was a pained plea for help… and it was immediately followed by the sound of a loud slap.
The first thing to be seen when I walked in was a woman standing frozen with blood pouring from a bite in her neck and a blank expression on her face.
I didn’t see Becky’s mother until I passed the donor and turned the corner…
Sprawled over a coffee table with her maid’s uniform torn open…
My entrance didn’t as much as slow down the bastard raping her, or the vacuum he had on her wrist.
He didn’t even seem to notice that I’d thrown him until after he’d landed on the other side of the room…
But by then, Becky had put herself in the game.
I couldn’t say I was surprised that she didn’t stay in the hallway as told. The girl didn’t have any reason to trust me to help her mother.
What surprised me was how quickly she moved… gripping the wood molding from the doorframe as she ran into the room…
And staking her mother’s rapist before he was completely aware of the situation.
She. Fucking. Staked. Him.
The cute little sleep-walker who giggled when she belched.
That. That was what surprised me.
Nevermind that she didn’t seem to care that she’d been covered by a nearly volcanic burst of Vampire bits.
She scowled at the Vampire’s remains as they slid down the wall.
I probably could have pondered little Becky Sharp for a while if it hadn’t been for the sudden shrill being released by the donor… the woman had been released from her stupor when the Vampire controlling her was ended… I had to catch her to keep her from running down the hallway nude and bleeding.
I couldn’t have cared less about the putrefying asshole that shouldn’t have been released into society… I’d heard Rhiannon saying ‘no’ from the elevator. Francesca wouldn’t have the slightest bit of sympathy for him or his Maker.
By the time I’d glamoured the donor to bathe and wait in the bathroom, Becky had taken the sheet from the bed and covered her mother…
Rhiannon’s pulse was weak, and the wounds in her wrist and cheek were hardly losing blood at a trickle… the amount of blood on her thighs was more disturbing than anything else.
Becky sniffled, “He almost drained her, stupid slow elevator.”
“You knew she was being attacked?”
In spite of the calculated assault that ended a Vampire, Becky’s childlike demeanor returned as she nodded, lifting herself to kneel over her mother on the coffee table.
“Mister… she needs to… can you take her to a hospital?”
“If your father is dead, where will you stay while she’s in the hospital? She’s lost so much blood, she should be transfused.”
Her heart was struggling to pump what little blood she had left… giving the woman Vampire blood to heal her wounds would have to wait until she’d been topped off.
She began smoothing her mother’s hair back and gulped. “Uhhmmm… I’ll go to a group home while they try to contact my grandmother. Michelle won’t get here in time for a next step. Mommy will leave the hospital when she wakes up.”
She sounded as sure of that as she’d been when she told me about her name.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed Francesca while I searched the room for evidence…
Wallet, luggage, computer…
While I waited for Francesca to answer, Becky offered, “He was just passing through… Business… pirated video game systems or something.”
How the fuck did she know that?
Francesca answered, “I should have known they were up to something. What did my darling boys do this time?”
“I’m actually calling on business.”
All amusement left her voice. “Then what can I do for you?”
“I’m at the Peninsula. I brought a donor here… I found a small girl wandering the halls, sleep-walking… I contacted the mother, who’s a maid here, and the child and I were simply waiting for the maid to retrieve the child… We found her in room 1142. Francesca, the maid was attacked. Raped and nearly drained. She needs to be transfused…”
Francesca gasped, “I’ll be there immediately!”
Before I could thank her, Richard asked, “What do you need? Where should we be?”
“It’s just the two of them. They need to be sequestered until the mother’s health allows for glamouring… Go to my place. They’ll stay there.”
Without arguing or questioning me, Richard offered, “We’ll see you there. Mother’s already left.”
As I slid my phone into my pocket, I asked, “Can I contact anyone for you? Should I call your grandmother?”
She sniffled, “Michelle’s probably too drunk to find her phone.”
“Another family member then? A friend? After what happened to your mother, she’ll probably want to-”
“It’s just us. Always. I’m her best friend. She’s mine.”
I couldn’t decide if that was dismal or beautiful.
“Your father’s family then? Someone who can make decisions for you while your mother is unconscious.”
Becky practically hissed, “My father didn’t give Mommy any choices either.”
When Becky began moving Rhiannon, trying to give her some modesty, I shook my head. “Leave her, Becky. I called someone… She needs to see how your mother was treated.”
“Yes. How do you know about Vampires?”
“We just do… I… I don’t like this… She looks like… Like a body in a TV show.”
As standard as it was to leave a scene as undisturbed as possible… Francesca would understand… or at least forgive me…
It really was bad enough that Becky had to witness any portion of the scene.
I caved, lifting Rhiannon from the coffee table and moving her to the sofa, posing her as modestly as possible…
And I might as well have moved Becky with her mother… The girl had scurried behind me and settled onto the sofa at her mother’s feet.
Since she already knew what I was, I offered, “She’s weak, but she’s just unconscious. Her heart is still beating. I’m not ignoring her. I know she’ll be taken care of…”
“And you said ‘transfuse’. She’s gonna get back some blood, right?”
“But not by doctors.”
I shook my head and corrected, “A doctor will see to the procedure.”
“A Vampire doctor?”
“A Vampire trained to treat Humans.”
“Should I send someone to your home to fetch some of your belongings?”
Becky nibbled her lip and shook her head. “We don’t… Our stuff’s downstairs.”
“You’ve been staying in the hotel?”
Becky shrugged and mewled, “Here and there.”
Here and there?
“Are you homeless?”
“How long has your particular caravan been in New York City?”
“We were in-”
She looked up at the door to the room a split-second before there was a knock as Francesca announced herself.
As always, Francesca appeared perfectly kempt… as though she hadn’t just darted through thirty blocks of midtown Manhattan.
She shrugged off her coat and sighed, “Where is the poor thing’s child?”
“With her… You were given the Cliff’s Notes version.”
Her eyes widened, but as I stepped out of her line of sight, she cringed. “Little angel, look at you…” She walked towards the sofa slowly, shaking her head. “My name is Francesca.”
“Are you the doctor that’s gonna transfuse my mom?”
“No, but your mother will be cared for.”
I handed the Vampire’s identification to Francesca and offered, “The girl is Becky Sharp, Francesca. Jeffrey Laettner’s victim is Rhiannon Blanchard. They’re new to New York.”
Francesca nodded and asked, “Details?”
Before I could begin, Becky started, “I sleep-walk. Mister Northman found me in the elevator and woke me up to call my mom. He took me to his room and let me eat sandwiches while we waited for Mommy to finish this room. I got a bad feeling something…” She shivered and continued, “He followed me and told me to wait in the hall… but… When I heard the Vampire hit the wall… I thought there was a fight or something… I came in and staked him.”
Francesca’s eyes bulged, so I nodded towards the doorframe that was missing its molding and explained in Monegasque, “She knows what we are and how to end us. She moved with impressive accuracy. She still hasn’t acknowledged that she’s covered in Vampire. She smelled like a bakery when I found her, but now she smells like the sandwiches she ate while waiting.”
Becky snorted, “I’m right here.”
Right there… at the feet of her raped and drained mother, covered with the blood of the Vampire responsible, arguing etiquette with Vampires as though we weren’t all still bracing ourselves for the Revelation.
Francesca nodded. “Of course you are, dear. Who is your mother’s supervisor? I’ll need to be sure she isn’t reprimanded for not finishing her shift.”
Becky’s eyes widened, but she didn’t seem as though she was trying to remember the supervisor’s name… more like she hadn’t been expecting a complication of some sort.
I offered, “I’ll see to it myself, if you prefer, but after a Vampire was murdered, we need to make sure your mother isn’t implicated in his disappearance.”
“Uhhmmmm… Mister Northman…”
“Mommy doesn’t really work here.”
“Then why is she wearing a uniform?”
“Uhhmmmm… Because… Well… tips… She does turndown service for tips…”
Then she should have called it a night when I put three bills in her hand.
Francesca sighed, “She wasn’t expecting to have so much difficulty finding work?”
Becky shook her head. “That’s not it… she… uhmmmm… It’s a long story…”
Rather than argue with a little girl whose mother had just been violated, Francesca and I waited… staring back at Becky. She was a clever enough girl that she should have known she wouldn’t have gotten away with that.
Becky eventually rolled her eyes and moved to kneel next to Rhiannon, lifting the corner of her sheet to reach into the pocket of the ruined uniform.
Becky began neatening a fistful of bills… thousands of dollars…
“Mommy was still pregnant with me, working at a motel in the middle of nowhere… Mommy called it an ‘adultery drive-thru’… When people get caught, the first thing they do is throw cash at you… The nicer the hotel, the more people are willing to pay… and… well, when you come to a hotel this nice, there’s extra stuff… like business meetings at the restaurants…”
And the added bonuses from interrupting Vampires while they fed.
Becky shrugged. “Women pay more. It’s funny ‘cuz they don’t want to lose their meal tickets. We snow-bird… Miami in the summer, and New York in winter.”
Francesca asked, “Does she have friends that help her?”
Becky shook her head. “It’s just us.”
I’d already known that would be her answer, but I was beginning to realize there was more to it than ‘just us’.
Maybe it was because I’d seen a seven-year old move like a bolt of lightning to strike down a Vampire, but there was definitely more to Becky and Rhiannon than meets the eye.