By Carl R. Merritt


Larry LeQeuet felt exhausted as he strolled up to the old mansion on the outskirts of town.  His job of being a census taker required him to canvass every house in the Moore's Lake area to ensure the occupants had already submitted the forms by mail, or else take the information himself.  As a result, his feet were killing him.  A little over fifty years old, he should have considered all the walking this job required before applying.  If he had done so beforehand, he never would have filled out the application.  Preferring instead to spending his days sitting around the house and letting his wife bring home the paychecks, Larry was just glad that this part-time job would only last for a few more weeks.  After that, it was back to the life of television, lounging in his old recliner, and waiting for his wife to return home from her job at the automobile parts factory.

Damn, April anyway for making me go out and find a job! he swore to himself.  Where is it written that men should be the ones to make a living?

Taking into consideration that it was already dark, Larry decided to make this mansion his last stop for the day.  Tomorrow he would pick up where he left off and hope . . . pray . . . that most of the occupants would be home when he knocked on their doors.  If not, he would have to make a return trip as he was doing now with this out-of-the-way mansion.

Not finding a door bell, Larry used the knocker and gave it three good wraps.  The old wood sounded solid, thick.  Larry had already noticed the lack of a television antenna, or any cables running to the mansion other than electricity.  He had also noticed the boarded up windows.  If it wasn't for the fact that his data indicated that someone actually lived here, he would have thought the place to be vacant.  Who would want to live in an old joint like this? he wondered.  Hell, it's almost a full mile from the city limits and there's no neighbors around at all, just a lot of farmland.  What the hell does the wife do all day while the husband's at work . . . stare out a damned window and just watch the grass grow?

Seconds passed and there was still no indication of anyone being inside.  Larry listened carefully for the sounds of footsteps of maybe an inside door closing, but heard nothing.  Cursing at his bad luck, Larry had just turned to leave when the door opened.  Expecting to see some old man or woman, or possibly even someone on a wheelchair answer the door, Larry was nearly in shock when he turned back around to gaze upon the intense beauty of a young lady.

Looking to be about twenty to twenty-five years old with long, black exotic hair, she was the most beautiful woman Larry had seen in his life.  She was dressed in what Larry assumed to be her around-the-house wear - a set of old sweats.  Seeming every bit to be the type of woman every man dreamed about, all he could do was gape down at her gorgeous body.

In a voice so soft, it could have been almost a whisper, the woman asked, "Are you going to stand out there all night, Larry, or would prefer coming in and having a drink while you go over the questions for the census?"

His mind was so captivated by this lovely woman, it never occurred to Larry how she knew about the census, or for that matter . . . how she had known his name.  Almost in a daze, he entered the mansion and began to look around.

The entry room was huge, with a ceiling at least thirty feet high.  The room was spotted with furniture that looked to be about fifty years old, however, it was all in perfect condition and very expensive.  None of the highly-polished wooden chairs had as much as a scratch, and not one of the upholstered furnishings had shown the least amount of wear in the fabric.  In short, everything he could see was old, but looked to be in brand new condition.

"How long have you lived here, ma'am?" Larry asked, trying to sound as if he actually cared about his job and not just ravishing this young beauty.

"Not long.  About two months," she replied.  "I just moved here from California.  By the way, my name is Athena."  Noticing how her guest was ogling her, Athena waiting a moment for effect then added, "I'm going to change out of this outfit into something a little more fitting for the occasion.  With a man like you, I don't want to appear as if I'm a homeless derelict.  Don't worry, Larry, I'm sure you'll be pleased with my next outfit.  I call 'em my work clothes.  While I'm gone, go to the bar over in the corner and fix us both a drink.  Make mine a whiskey sour and then meet me in the den.  It's the first doorway you'll come to down the hall.  I'll be back before you know it."

Larry was already making plans on how he was going to bed this young woman even as he watched her strutting towards what he assumed was her bedroom.

But first were the drinks.

Going over to the small bar, he first poured himself a strong shot of whiskey and gulped it down.  After pouring a second one for himself, he began to make the whiskey sour for Athena.  He made it extra strong.

Carrying the drinks in one hand, Larry headed for the den, his only thoughts being those of all the ways he would enjoy this woman.


Athena entered the den wearing a thin, black leather halter with gold chains around the edges, and a pair of black leather slacks that were so tight, they looked as though they were sprayed on.  They had large cut-outs along the sides of the legs that revealed well-developed muscles as she walked.  To top it off, Athena had on knee-high black leather boots, with thick laces and seven inch stiletto heals.

She said these were her "work" clothes, Larry remembered as he sat on the couch drooling.  Dressed the way she is, Athena must be a hooker!  Damn!  This is gonna be easier than I thought.  I just hope this gorgeous dame don't charge me an arm and a leg for this!

Athena was watching Larry as she entered, and suddenly smiled as if she was hiding a secret.  She said, "I must look like a real tramp to you, Larry.  But I assure you, I am not a business girl."

"How . . . uh, what makes you think I thought of you like that?"

"Most men are the same, Larry.  There are a few exceptions, but not many."  Athena sat next to Larry and accepted her drink as she rested her hand on his upper leg.  She took a small sip, smiled as she noticed how strong it was, then set the glass down on the coffee table.  Foolish man, she thought.  He thinks he has to get me drunk!  Moistening her upper lip with her tongue, she asked, "Do you enjoy having fun, Larry?  Or, would you prefer it if I just do my thing to you right away?"

"Go right ahead and do your thing, baby.  I can't wait!"

A look of evil lust in her eyes, Athena smiled and moved to sit on top of Larry's lap, facing him.  His drink spilled in the process, but neither cared.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and slowly lowered her mouth to his, giving him a kiss that had every fiber of his being stirring.  He thought he was in Heaven.

But not for long.

Suddenly, Larry's tongue felt like it was probing a pair of needles inside Athena's mouth.  Shocked, he tried to pull away, but found Athena holding on to him with inhuman strength.  The next thing he knew, he felt a terrible pain in his lower lip as the beauty whipped her head back to scream.  It was a shriek that could have sent shivers through a statue . . . an animalistic howl that threatened to shatter his eardrums.

With the insufferable pain in his lower lip, Larry closed his eyes and grimaced.  He tasted his own blood and all of a sudden he was terrified.  When he finally opened his eyes, his horror took on new meaning.

Athena was changing, transforming into something hideous.

A set of sharp horns were slowly growing from her forehead, just below her hair line.  Behind her, Larry could see a set of leathery wings were also starting to grow, getting larger and larger with each passing moment.  In addition, the muscles in her chest and shoulders were becoming more pronounced, as if they were now needed to support the wings.  But all that was not what worried Larry the most . . . it was her teeth.  Two very sharp looking canine teeth were now protruding from Athena's full lips.  It was then that the census taker knew what was happening.

Larry LeQeuet was in the arms of a female vampire!

"Yes, mortal!  I am a vampress!" she said in a voice coming straight from the depths of Hell.  "If you had been a real man and had not succumbed to your trivial needs of lust by entering my domain, you would have lived to see tomorrow!"

With Athena's evil smile, Larry could see blood . . . his blood . . . dripping from her canine teeth.  They were now over an inch long with points as sharp as razors.

Forgetting about the pain in his lower lip, Larry began struggling in earnest, fighting for his very life.  Balling his right hand into a fist, he struck her hard in the face.  He had put every last ounce of strength into the blow, but it was in vain.  All it did was make Athena laugh.

Talons that had formed on the tips of Athena's wings suddenly dug into the soft flesh of Larry's back.  When the vampress pulled her wings back, the hooks embedded themselves deeper and held him in place as she raked his face and chest with razor-sharp fingernails.  Blood was now running freely down Larry chest and abdomen, causing Athena to go into a feeding frenzy.  From that moment on, the evil vampress was no longer under any sort of self control.  No thoughts guided her actions.  No reasoning behind her movements.  Her only goal now was to feed.

Grabbing the mortal by his tattered shirt, she threw Larry onto the floor and quickly pounced atop his chest.  He tried to scream, but it was quickly cut off when Athena put four fingers inside his mouth and clamped down on his jaw.  With a quick jerk, she ripped the lower part of his face completely off.  There was now nothing but a mass of oozing blood and torn tendons between his nose and his neck.  Mercifully, Larry passed out at that moment and never felt Athena's two needlelike teeth sink deeply into the soft folds of his neck.

Ten minutes later, there was nothing left of Larry's corpse except a few bloodless piles of disemboweled organs and broken bones scattered about the floor.


*  *  *


Captain Long was at his desk going over paperwork on a string of missing persons when he heard the phone in the outer office ring.  It was getting late and he yawned, barely able to keep his eyes open after being awake for over thirty-six hours.  When the phone stopped ringing, he listened while his secretary answered the call.  It wasn't but a few seconds before she came running into his office.

"Cap, I think you better get this one," she said, a worried look on her face.  "It's about another missing person."

Damn it!  That's the third one in Moore's Lake this week!  Anxiety in his voice, he picked up the phone and said, "This is Captain Long.  Who am I speaking to, please?"

"My name is Mrs. April LeQeuet.  I'm calling about my husband, Larry.  It's late and he isn't home yet!  He's never out this late.  He's... "

"Now hold on, Mrs. LeQeuet.  I've got some questions for you.  First, where was your husband the last time you saw him?"

"This morning, as he left for work!  He's the new census taker in Moore's Lake!  His job is to go from house to house to make sure people have sent in their census forms!"

A lump began to form in the pit of the captain's stomach.  He had already heard enough to know that this latest report matched a certain criteria for Larry LeQeuet's name to be added to the growing list of missing persons.  While he listened to the rest of the report, Long knew he could have written it down without the woman on the phone saying another word.  The M.O. was all too familiar.  For one thing, all of the missing persons had one thing in common - they all had jobs which required visiting different houses on a daily basis.  Also, all the missing persons where white males, ages ranging between early twenties to middle aged.  At fifty-one years old, this latest victim was the oldest . . . so far.

Having received all the information that he required, Captain Long thanked the woman, and promised to do everything possible to find her husband before hanging up the phone.  After jotting down a few more notes on the report, he then yelled out to his secretary, "Get me Charles Peterson!  I don't care if he's dead drunk, or which woman he happens to be with.  I want him in this office in fifteen minutes!  The same goes for Sergeant Baker and Officer Marcia Lewis.  Fifteen minutes!"

There was s string of murders going on within the confines of his city - the captain was sure of it.  Furthermore, he was bound and determined to put it all to an end as quickly as possible.  After listening to Mrs. LeQeuet's report, he now thought he had a way to start.


*  *  *


"But, Cap!  It's nine o'clock at night!" Sergeant Baker protested.  "What's the people gonna think when we start banging on their doors at this hour?"

"It doesn't matter what they think, Sam.  It's our job to protect the citizens of Moore's Lake, and that's what we're going to do.  Now, all of you, listen up.  This may be our first good lead.  After I called you all in, I had a few minutes to call my buddy over at the census bureau.  He's the boss there and a control freak.  He likes to know what his people are doing every minute of every day.   According to the reports Mr. LeQeuet had been turning in on a daily basis, he seemed to have been working a pattern when he canvassed the town.  From what I can determine, he should have been working the outskirts of town today, the northern side.  So that's our target area also."

Captain Long walked over to a map of the city which was pinned to a wall.  Using a finger to point, he said, "Sam, you and Charles hit the farm houses here, here and here.  Best guess is that there will be about twenty of 'em for you to hit.  They're pretty far apart in that area.  Marcia and I will team up and hit the houses in these three areas.  We're trying to pin down the last few houses that Mr. LeQeuet canvassed before he went missing on us.  Ask plenty of questions and take plenty of notes.  We'll all report back here and compare those notes when we're finished.  If this works, we'll have a good place to start our investigation for real tomorrow morning when we're fully staffed.  Any questions?"  When no one said anything, the captain said, "Then let's get started.  I wanna get a little bit of sleep tonight.  Tomorrow's gonna be a busy day."       

Captain Long heard someone grumble a lewd remark, but he couldn't tell who it was.  Probably Marcia Lewis, he thought.  If anyone has a right to bitch, it would be her.  She has guard duty down at the tomb starting in about four more hours.


*  *  *


Captain Long and Marcia only had three more places to hit in their assigned area, one of which was an old mansion, which everyone thought to be deserted, located about a mile outside the city limits.  They decided to go there next.

"Cap, it's almost eleven o'clock," Marcia said, glancing at her watch as their police cruiser pulled into the long driveway.  "We don't want to be waking anyone up, do we?  We've already hit fifteen houses and not one solid piece of information yet - not a single report matches any other as far as we can tell.  Isn't it about time to call it a night and start fresh in the morning?"

"Concerned about staying awake at the tomb, eh, Marcia?"  The captain glanced in her direction as he turned the cruiser's ignition off.  He smiled when he saw that he had guessed her ulterior motives and said, "Perhaps it's just as well that you're worried about staying awake.  I hear 'ole Abe gives Sergeant Baker one hell of a scare every time the ghoul catches him not paying enough attention to the job."

They both laughed as they got out and made their way to the mansion's front door.

As Captain Long knocked, he asked, "Marcia, have you ever noticed anyone living here?  I thought this place was abandoned years ago."

"Same here, Cap.  If you ask me, it still looks abandoned.  See the boarded up windows over there?"

They both heard the footsteps and waited for someone to open the door.  It was a man who answered.  He was in his early twenties with long blond hair, dressed in blue jeans and a faded black tee-shirt.

"Can I help you?" he asked when he saw the two police officers.

"Hopefully," Captain Long replied, glancing over at Lewis to make sure she had her note pad out, ready to jot down any information they might get.  "We're investigating a missing person's report.  We'd like to ask you some questions."

"I'll try, but I think the person you want to talk to is Athena, the person who owns this property.  I'm the carpenter.  She just hired me a few days ago to help fix the place up.  Look, Athena went to bed a little bit ago and I don't think we should wake her."

"That may not be necessary.  You may know the answers."   The captain was about to start when he noticed a beautiful young woman walking up from behind the man.  She was dressed in a bare-back negligee that had both Captain Long and Marcia Lewis staring.

"Invite them in, Duane.  It's not polite to keep two respectable police officers talking through a half open door."

"But . . . I thought you were asleep," Duane said.  "I didn't want the noise to wake you."

"Nonsense.  I wasn't asleep yet when I heard them closing their car doors."  Athena dismissed him, then looked towards the captain and asked, "What's on your mind, officer?  Am I under arrest?"  With that, Athena held out both her wrists as though she was submitting herself to be handcuffed.  Dressed in the ultra thin negligee, she looked very vulnerable poised in that manner.  It was enough to make the blood boil in Captain Long's veins.  He suddenly had visions of reaching out and grabbing this adorable woman, a sensation that was totally new to him.  Never before had he ever had the impulse to mix pleasure with duty.  Seeing the affect she was having on the captain, Athena smiled.  Somehow, it made her appear menacing . . . wicked.

Catching on quickly, Marcia intervened.  "Ma'am, are you familiar with a man by the name of Larry LeQeuet?  He works for the census bureau."

Athena took a few seconds to consider the question before answering.  While she appeared to be thinking it over, her gaze feel upon first Captain Long, then Marcia.  Her stare was hypnotic, almost able to penetrate a person down to their very soul.  "Not that I remember," she lied.  "Anyway, I always send that information out by mail.  There's no need for me to go down to the bureau."

Fighting to take control over his emotions, Captain Long said, "You wouldn't have had to go down to the census bureau to see him, ma'am.  His job was to canvass every house within the district to ensure everyone had mailed in their forms.  Has anyone been around to do this?"

"No one has been here except Duane, Captain."

"What do you do for a living, ma'am?" Marcia asked, not affected in the least by Athena's charms.  "And may I have your last name for my report?"

"I run an Internet business, Officer.  My office is right here in this house.  And I have no last name.  You can check my records down at City Hall if you'd like to verify that."

"Rest assured, ma'am, I will."

Athena wanted this interrogation over in the worse way, but there was something else she wanted even more.  She looked at the captain and said, "You know, you could send this young woman on her way and stay for a drink if you'd like.  I know it's late, but it's not like I have to report to an office or anything at any certain time tomorrow morning... "

The captain once again had to fight to control his desire for this lovely woman.  There was just something about her that defied explanation.  Sure, Athena was beautiful, but she somehow managed to transmit her sex appeal simply by staring into a man's eyes.  As much as the captain wanted to agree to stay for the drink, his morals gave him the inner strength to say, "No, thanks, Athena.  Maybe some other time.  Right now, Officer Lewis and I have a job to do and must be on our way.  Thank you for your time, ma'am."  Then, without giving Athena the chance to change his mind, Captain Long grabbed Marcia by the elbow and headed for the door.

After they were gone, Athena went to the den and gave some serious thought to Captain Long's character.  She knew the captain was one of the few men she had met in her life that could withstand the powerful mental persuasions she had forced upon him.  Athena was very much aware of something else also.  She wanted that man -  not to feed upon, but to make into a creature like herself so they could spend the rest of eternity together.

For the first time since her captivity with Vince, the master vampire, Athena was in love.

Frustrated, Athena used her immortal mental abilities to call Duane into the room.  While she waited for his arrival, she relaxed and allowed her body to change into its true form -  that of a vampress.  By the time Duane had arrived, her horns, teeth, and wings had fully transformed.

The instant Duane arrived in the room, he knew exactly what Athena wanted.  After being her slave for over two years, he had grown very accustomed to her needs.  Athena could either be the most loving and sensual creature in the universe, or else the biggest bitch mankind has ever known.  It all depended upon her mood.  Right now, he suspected that Athena was going to be a real bitch.

"Correct," she said, looking at him with eyes that made her meaning perfectly clear.  "And I'm afraid this is going to be a little rougher on you than usual."

Duane sighed.  He knew what was about to happen for he had been through it many times.  As he hung his head in submission, he began walking over to her.  He was her absolute slave, and must fulfill her every desire.  He had no other choice if he wanted to remain among the living.  "Yes, ma'am," he replied.


*  *  *


Marcia was dead on her feet when she relieved Marc Lamas of guard duty at the entrance to Darlene's cavern.  All she wanted to do was sleep, and had no idea how she was going to last the six hours of boredom until Jake Anderson took over after daybreak.  After Marc had left, she took out a fashion magazine and started going through it, flipping through the pages in hopes of finding something interesting.  Coming to the last page, she had seen nothing that might have kept her mind occupied, and she threw the magazine on the floor.

Now what? she wondered.  Only five and a half hours to go . . . and not a damned thing to do except try to stay awake.

"You can pick that magazine up off my cavern floor if you're that bored, Marcia.  I know this is only an old cave, but Abe, Gail and I have to live here, you know."

Spinning around, Marcia was surprised to see Darlene, the benevolent and very beautiful vampress who she was supposed to be guarding, along with her demented cousin, Gail . . . also known as Vampra.  Marcia was overjoyed.  Now she would have someone to talk to during her shift.

"Darlene!  Boy, am I ever glad to see you!  I thought you would have been out partying all night again with Bret!"

"We were partying . . . at Gothorama . . . that is, until Captain Long asked for Bret's help in some matter about an hour ago.  I have no idea what it was all about.  All I know for sure is that we were entered in a dance contest, and we were winning before Bret had to leave."

"I'll bet I know why," Marcia said.  "I'd say it has to do with all the missing people in Moore's Lake over the last couple of months.  The captain is stumped on this case and he's looking for help anywhere he can find it.  Since Bret used to be a cop, I'm thinking the captain hopes Bret may have some ideas."

Curious over the matter, Darlene used her mental powers to probe Marcia's mind to find out all she could about the case of the missing people.  If Bret had to be called away from a dance contest on account of it, Darlene at least wanted to know why.

At first, the images in Marcia's mind didn't bother Darlene.  They were simply of people at the police station and those of average mortals she had interviewed with the captain.  But then, Darlene picked up on the image of Athena . . . a creature like herself whom she was very familiar with . . . a vampress so evil, so diabolically monstrous . . . she could easily make Gail -  even in her wildest moments as Vampra - look placid in comparison.

"Marcia!  Call the captain on your radio!  Get him over here.  Now!"


*  *  *


"Aww, there's no way!" Captain Long said.  "Athena is a wonderful little gal.  You can tell that just by looking at her.  She may be somewhat oversexed, but there's no way in hell she's a hideous vampire."

"That's what she wants you to think, Captain.  That's the mental image of herself that she planted in your mind," Darlene argued, knowing full well that no matter what she said, it would probably do no good.  The will of a vampire is very strong, and the mind of the average mortal just couldn't cope with the mental powers of someone as strong as Athena.

"Darlene, no one 'planted' anything inside my head!  I've been a cop for most of my adult life, and I sure as hell should know by now when someone is lying to me.  That girl was telling the truth when she said she knew nothing about Larry LeQeuet."

"Captain, if I wanted to, I could give you a mental suggestion right now that would make you think you're a pink flamingo!  Trust me, in this instance, you can't trust your powers of reasoning.  Your thoughts have been compromised!  You just have to have faith in what I'm telling you!  And what I'm telling you is this - that woman is as evil as they come.  I know that to be the truth because I used to live with her when Gail and I were under the control of Vince!"

"Then let's go see her tomorrow night," the captain suggested.  "Let's make sure this is the same woman you lived with all those years ago.  I'm sure it can't be, but let's just go out and make sure.  All right with you?"

"Captain, I'll go with you, of course, but there's one thing that you have to know.  Athena is a very powerful creature.  Her powers are far beyond those of mine.  There's a chance, a good chance, that she'll want to feed upon you.  If that's the case, there's no way I'll be able to stop her, Captain.  No way at all."

"I'm sure your intervention won't be necessary, Darlene.  Like I said, I can't believe Athena is a vampire for one instant.  I'll tell you what, if you're afraid, I can go by myself."

"No, I think it would be a good idea for me to tag along, sir.  I'll meet you at the station a little after dark and we'll go together."

Darlene thought again of the images from Marcia's mind and was plenty worried.  She knew that if things got rough, her own immortal powers would be no match for the powers of the other vampress.  For years, Darlene had been hearing rumors of a queen vampire, a creature so powerful, so evil, that no one could stand up to her.  Darlene was sure now that Athena was this evil queen, and that she had somehow used the powers of the underworld to enhance her own abilities.

What did I just get myself into? Darlene wondered.  Athena and I never did get along, not even when Vince ordered us to stop our endless bickering and fighting...    We were always at each other's throats . . . more or less an even match.  But now, with Athena's extra powers and strength, she'll kill me the instant she has a chance! 

Darlene knew she had to put her fears aside and come up with some sort of plan.  It was the only chance that she and Captain Long had of surviving.


*  *  *


A short time after her romp with Duane, Athena was starving.  Unlike the average vampire, she could sometimes go without a meal for up to three days at a time.  It was a necessity she had been forced to acquire after the death of Vince.  However, with any extreme physical exertion, as in making love to her slave, she needed to replenish her energy . . .replenish it with fresh blood.  It didn't matter that she had already fed upon the blood of Larry LeQeuet that evening, she needed to feed again, and before the dawn broke.

So, after changing into her "work" clothes, she used her gigantic wings and flew off into the night.  Her destination . . . Moore's Lake, the residential areas.  If there were mortals to be found, it was there, she reasoned.

As she flew, she also figured that finding her prey on the streets might be a good thing after all.  After reading the minds of Captain Long and Marcia Lewis, Athena realized she had made a serious error.  Since arriving in Moore's Lake, she had refrained from searching for food at night, instead preferring to lure unsuspecting mortals into her mansion.  Little did she realize that a mortal with a quick mind like Captain Long would see the pattern.  Athena knew it wouldn't be much longer until the captain devised a way to put the pieces together.  She had placed a mental block inside his mind to prohibit this, however, she didn't hold much faith that it would last for any great length of time.  She was hoping that her new methods of attaining blood would prevent the captain from giving the pattern serious consideration.

Athena was still thinking about all this when she arrived in the residential section of Moore's Lake.  Far below, she could sense the mortals as they slept in their nice warm beds.  Folding in her wings, Athena dove, losing altitude at an incredible rate.  Within moments of first starting her decent, she was perched atop the roof of the town's fire chief.  Athena had no interest in consuming his blood, for he was old, nearing retirement age.  However, the chief's nineteen year old daughter was also in the house, asleep in her bed, lost in some dream about sandy beaches and playing in the surf.  As Athena entered the house, she began making plans on how she could make the girl's death as agonizing as possible.  Her teeth began to grow in anticipation of the meal.


*  *  *


Cathy, lost in her dream, was unaware that Athena was standing directly over her bed . . . watching her.  The beautiful vampress stared down at the young girl, trying to decide exactly how to end her life.  There was no need for this, of course.  All a vampire required was blood to sustain its existence.  However, a vampire as evil as Athena took great pleasure in not only feeding upon the blood of mortals, but in the actual deaths as well.

Making her decision, Athena started to put her plans into action.  She knew the first thing she needed to do was take care of the other family members.  Cathy was sure to scream and they couldn't be allowed to wake up and interfere - certainly not be allowed to call the authorities.

Entering the master bedroom, Athena silently crept towards the bed of Cathy's parents.  She read their thoughts as they slept and discovered that the man was the more heavier sleeper.

He dies second, Athena thought.  If his wife is the one to wake up at the slightest sound, she must go first.  With a hand over the woman's mouth to cover any screams, Athena silently sliced the artery in her throat with her sharp talons.  Blood splattered as the woman fought against the inhuman strength of Athena.  But as her brain shut down from lack of oxygen and blood, the old woman eventually became still.  The vampress released her, knowing that within moments the wife would be dead.

Next was the old man, the Moore's Lake Fire Chief.  His death was more gruesome, but still as silent as that of his wife's.  With a vicious blow, Athena hit the chief in the throat to make a possible scream difficult.  While the old man struggled for air, Athena sat atop his knees and used her hands to pin his arms to his sides.  Watching the horror in the man's eyes, Athena slowly lowered her head so that the tips of her horns was just piercing the skin of his lower abdomen.  Then, with no sign of remorse, she viciously jerked her head forward, driving her horns deep within the man's intestines.  Gasps of air was now escaping from the chief's throat and Athena knew it wouldn't be long before he was able to scream.  Quickly, she jumped to the side of the bed and put a hand over the man's mouth to keep him quiet.  Still watching the fear in his eyes, Athena used her free hand to enter the cavity in his stomach she had made with her horns.  She began to slowly remove his entrails, watching the pain and fear on the chief's face as he saw himself slowly disemboweled.  Athena groaned in pleasure as the man's torment came to a climax right before he eventually passed out.

Knowing the chief would never regain consciousness before he bled to death, the evil vampress turned and headed for the daughter's bedroom.  It was time to feed.  Athena smiled as she envisioned the pain Cathy would have to suffer through before her inevitable death.


*  *  *


The following evening, Captain Long and Darlene were in a squad car nearing the mansion.  Since first arriving at the police station, Darlene had tried to reason with the captain, even used her own mental powers in an attempt to undo Athena's mind-control over the unsuspecting mortal.  But it was no use.  Captain Long was unwilling to even consider the possibility that Athena was actually a vampire, or even that she may be the one responsible for all the disappearances in Moore's Lake.

As they pulled into the long driveway, Darlene went over the plan she had just recently cooked up.  It involved the help of someone else, and she wasn't too sure the other party could be counted on.  No promises had been made, just a little, "I'll see what I can do, but I have other priorities."  Deep down, Darlene knew she would be foolish to count on anyone else's help.  No, this is between me and Athena.  This is something I'm gonna have to do myself.

Captain Long got out of the squad car first and walked around to the other side to get the door for Darlene.  As she got out, he again noticed her choice of attire and asked, "I didn't ask before because I figured it was none of my business, but now my curiosity is getting the better of me, Darlene.  Why the long cape and hood?"

"I can't answer that question, Captain."  Darlene hated being rude to her friend, but there was nothing she could do about it.  She had the town's people to think of first.  The hooded cape was part of her plan if the person she had asked for help actually showed up, and if she explained to the captain, Athena would read his mind and the whole plan would be shot to hell.

"Well, okay.  But it seems like kind of a strange thing to wear," the captain said as they made their way to the door.

Darlene's immortal heart started pounding faster as Captain Long knocked on the door.  She knew the kind of reaction she was going to get from Athena the moment the door opened, and for the first time in years . . . she began to tremble in fear.  When the door opened, she was surprised to see it wasn't Athena after all.

"Captain Long," a young man said.  He was dressed in coveralls, and had bruises and small cuts over his face.  "Won't you both please come in.  I'm sure Athena will be happy to see you."

Entering, Darlene looked around as she waited for the inevitable.  Noticing the taste in furniture, she surmised that Athena was doing pretty well for herself.  I wonder how she gets her money to afford all this? Darlene wondered.  Does the bitch rob banks, or does she just pick the pockets of her victims after she kills them?

"Duane, will you tell Athena that we'd like to see her?  We're here on official business," the captain told the young man.

"That's no problem, sir.  She probably already knows you're here anyway."  Duane then took off to find his master.

After they were alone, Long said, "That's the live-in carpenter, Darlene.  I understand he was hired just a few days ago."

Having already read the young man's mind, Darlene knew better.  "That's Athena's slave, Captain.  He's been with her for years, and she uses the poor man every chance she gets," she explained.

"Oh, come now, Darlene.  You can't honestly expect me to believe that in this day and age there are such things as sla... "

The captain stopped when he noticed Darlene's expression.  She had been looking in the direction Duane had taken when he left the room, and the beautiful vampress now had the look of horror plastered to her face.

Athena had just entered the room.  This time, the captain was surprised at her outfit - a black leather halter with golden links for trim, black leather slacks that were so tight they looked as though they were a part of her, and knee-high leather boots.

"Captain Long!  What a nice surprise!  What do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"  Shifting her eyes to Darlene, she added with her thoughts, And you, bitch . . . what are you doing here?

I've come to stop you, Athena.  You've been killing the people of this town.  I can't allow that to continue.

"We've come to ask you a few more questions, ma'am," Captain Long replied, trying not to show his interest in her attire.  "It won't take long.  If you've got a few free minutes, we can finish this and be on our way."

You can't stop me, bitch.  No one can.  I now have all the dark powers at my disposal and they are almost limitless.  If you try to intervene, I'll destroy you.

Captain Long had noticed that Athena was not paying attention to him.  Her stare had been fixed on Darlene since entering the room.  "Athena, did you hear me?  I said we've come to ask you a few questions."

I'll not only stop you, but I'll see to it that you're planted in a grave, Athena.  Your time on this Earth has to come to an end sometime . . . and that time is now.

Then prepare for an end to your own pitiful little existence, Miss Goodie-two-shoes!  By the time I'm done with you, you won't even...

"Athena, if there's something I should know about... "

The powerful vampress was tiring of Captain Long's constant interruptions.  She did not want to kill the man on account of still wanting to turn him into a vampire, but he was becoming annoying.  Shifting her gaze in his direction, she sent a mental command to his brain that instantly put him in considerable agony.  The captain instantly fell to the floor . . . writhing in pain.

Now, Darlene, where were we?


*   *   *


Captain Long found himself on what he thought to be a strange new planet in some far away galaxy.  He had no way of knowing that in reality, he was still in Athena's mansion.  All his senses were telling him that he was being tortured on some alien world by beings so grotesque, they nearly defied description.  Thick vines had him bound by the arms between two exotic trees hundreds of feet in the air.  Creatures with leathery wings were flying all around him, spitting an acid-like substance in his direction.  Each time the substance made contact with his skin, it felt like it was burning right through to the bone.  To make matters worse, every time the wind blew, the alien trees swayed, causing them to separate.  He was slowly being ripped apart and burned alive...

The captain couldn't help it . . . he screamed for mercy even as his rational mind told him it would not be forthcoming.


*   *   *


The two beautiful vampires were at each other's throats.  Just before Athena had attacked, Darlene just barely had the time to remove her cape to reveal her own style of clothing - a one-piece, backless, leather jumpsuit.

Both outfits were remarkably well-suited to the needs of the two vampresses.  Backless, they allowed their wings to form without tearing apart any clothing.  Being made of leather, they were also very rugged, a feature both vampires were very happy about at the moment.

Their wings fully transformed, both Darlene and Athena were in-flight, flapping around the huge room, clawing at each other and trying to embed a poisonous wingtip into the other.  Here again, the benevolent vampress was faced with a dangerous disadvantage.  Whereas Darlene's poison was merely a mild sedative that worked only on humans, the poison that Athena carried in the barbs of her wingtips was extremely powerful.  Darlene estimated that if she got struck by those barbs two or three times, it would be all over for her.

You should never have come here, Athena told Darlene with her mind.  After I feast on your blood, I will become even stronger!

Who said anything about you feasting on my blood, Hornhead? Darlene asked, managing to maneuver herself a little above Athena, forcing her closer to the floor.  If I have my way, the only thing you'll be feasting on for the rest of your life is your own pitiful ego.  Darlene's intentions were to fight Athena on the ground so the odds would even out a bit.  Athena's wings were too large, too powerful for Darlene to hold any hope of survival in-flight.  When she saw Athena's feet touch the floor, Darlene folded in her wings and lunged, trying to grab the evil vampress by the throat.

It was a ruse.  Athena had intentionally let herself be forced to the floor, and the moment Darlene was close enough, she spun and pierced Darlene's right shoulder with a poisonous barb.  The needle-sharp tip hit just above Darlene's collarbone and drove itself clean through.  Jerking herself free, Darlene cried out in pain and rolled on the floor, trying to distance herself from the evil creature.

How much of that venom can you handle, bitch? Athena asked, slowly walking toward her prey.  The little bit I just gave you won't be enough to kill you, but I'll bet you'll be feeling pretty woozy in a few moments.  You might even pass out within a minute or so...

Getting to her feet and backing away, Darlene knew Athena's prediction was no exaggeration.  Already she was becoming light-headed as she tried to stop the flow of blood with her left hand.

If you surrender now, your death will be quick.  But if you insist on continuing...

Glancing over at Captain Long, Darlene knew surrender was not an option.  If Athena won this battle, not only would the sadistic vampress make herself stronger by feasting on the blood in Darlene's dead body, but the captain's life would also eventually be forfeit.

But on the other hand, with the venom running through Darlene's veins, the help she had wanted not showing up, and the captain writhing in pain over in the corner, victory didn't really appear to be an option either.

On the verge of passing out, Darlene felt herself being picked up off the floor.  Forcing her eyes to focus, she saw Athena holding her by the front of her jumpsuit.  Darlene also saw one of Athena's talons getting closer and closer to her left eye.

This lunatic from hell is going to puncture my eye and inject the poison directly into my brain!

Correct, bitch.  You'll be dead before you hit the ground.  And I'm going to do it slowly, so you feel every bit of the pain!  Athena was set to ram the barb through Darlene's eye when she heard a noise behind her.  She instantly recognized the noise.  It wasn't the sounds of Captain Long's screams, but footsteps.  Dropping Darlene and spinning to face the new challenge, she was amazed to see that it was the captain.  Somehow, he had fought through the mental images running through his mind, and found his way back to reality.  Worse, he had torn apart one of her wooden chairs and made a stake, and was on the brink of ramming it through her heart.

"You . . . you can not . . . can not force your thoughts on me any longer."  Then, with every ounce of his strength, Captain Long drove the stake towards Athena's heart.

"Fool!" she shouted, slapping away the stake.  "Do you think you can approach me without me knowing it?"  Disgusted at the futile attempt, Athena backhanded the captain and sent him sprawling across the room.  Hitting his head against the far wall, Captain Long fell to the floor unconscious . . . blood running from a long gash in his forehead.

Athena turned her attention back to Darlene and saw that she had taken the time to crawl a few feet away.  You're terrified, aren't you, little girl?  Did you think you could run away and hide?

The evil vampress began walking toward Darlene again when suddenly there was a flash of light.  Just as quickly, a barrier of pure cosmic energy appeared between the two vampires - a shield that prevented Athena from reaching her prey.

Darlene, her hopes soaring, spun her head around to see her friend.  "Abe!  You did show up!"

"PREPARE YOURSELF," the ghoul said.

Knowing what was about to happen, Darlene quickly crawled the few feet to were she had thrown the cape.  Her head spinning, she curled herself into a ball and covered herself from head to toe with the large garment.

"Abe, now!"

The ghoul, seeing that Darlene was safe, began to transform himself into the same pseudo sunlight that had once been helpful in the capture of Vampra months before.  An instant later, the entire room was lit up as though it was soaked under a noon sun.

Athena screamed under the barrage.  It was an inhuman sound that could only have come from a vampire that had gotten trapped in the sun and was about to burst into flames and perish.

However, before the vampress incinerated, Abe quickly transformed back into his ghoulish self.

Athena was laying unconscious on the floor.

"Abe, you saved my life!" Darlene shouted in joy.


Darlene thought about that for a few seconds, and began trembling.  "It was too close, wasn't it?"


Another long moment of silence was broken by Darlene saying, "Abe, please . . . make everything right."


*   *   *


It was dark...

It was cold...

There was a pain that just wouldn't go away running through his head...

And a voice.  He heard a voice that somehow seemed far away . . . and very familiar . . . singing a lullaby.

The mind is such a fragile thing, he thought.  One moment you're sane, the next . . . you've lost it and you're hearing angels...

Captain Long slowly fought his way back to consciousness to discover he was laying on a bed inside Darlene's motor home.  Next to him was Darlene.  She was laying on her side, propping her head up with her arm.  She was smiling at him.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Cap," she said, her smile growing even wider.

" long was I out?"

"Only about a half hour.  Once Athena was subdued, Abe whisked us back here, and used his powers to fix us both up."

"Athena!  Where is she?"

Darlene took a few minutes to explain to the captain all that he had missed.  She finished with, "Right now, Abe is holding Athena inside his tomb until he can decide what to do with her."

"What to do with her?!  Kill her, that's what he should do!  Drive a stake through her evil heart!"




The End


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