Marko fiddled with his Honda, absently popping bright pink bubble gum, while Paul paced back and forth in front of the bikes, lost in a world of his own, as he absently picked tufts off a stick of cotton candy. Dwayne had taken up a perch on the boardwalk’s railing; he sat astride it, one long leg dangled over the seaward side, while the other rested upon the worn top, and David casually leant up against a post, eyes ever watchful as he smoked a joint.
Crowds of people milled around them, oblivious to the pack of killers that lounged only feet away. Upon first inspection, the Lost Boys were nothing more than another gang of bikers. Those who were unfortunate enough to see the other side of these young men were never left alive to inform anyone otherwise.
Paul stopped mid pace and glanced down the boardwalk, looking at the tattoo studio a few doors down; it’s blood-red neon sign lit up the wooden boards beneath the front windows, making the ground look like it was bathed in blood.
“I want a tattoo,” he announced suddenly to the rest of the boys.
Dwayne rolled his eyes in exasperation, Marko sniggered, and David shook his head sadly. “Don’t be so stupid, Paul.”
His brow scrunched up in confusion. “What? You can’t stop me, David,” he accused.
“Idiot,” Dwayne muttered under his breath.
“Paul, come here,” David commanded.
The blond raised an eyebrow in response, and David beckoned him closer with a gloved hand.
“It’s my damn body,” Paul grumbled indignantly as he walked over to his leader.
“I know,” David responded coolly; he couldn’t believe that the youngster could be so foolish.
Paul stepped up next to him and looked out over the beach and rolling waves below; his stubborn nature kept him from meeting David’s gaze. “You’re not my fucking father, you know,” he growled.
David sighed heavily; every so often Paul would test his patience to its limits and push at his boundaries. “Genetically no, but it was my blood that turned you, Paul, never forget that. Put your hand on the rail.”
“Put your hand on the rail, Paul.I want to show you something,” David whispered menacingly.
Paul’s eyes flicked to Marko and Dwayne, who were both watching the power play closely. Their faces were both blank; there was no help to be had from either quarter. He looked back to David, then glanced down at the rail, and slowly placed his hand palm down upon it. “Happy now?” he asked waspishly.
“Very,” was David’s sudden reply as he drove his pocket knife straight through the back of Paul’s hand, pinning it to the wood beneath.
Paul let out an almighty howl, and David clamped his hand over his brother’s mouth to silence him; it would not do to alert Max to this little interaction. “Can I take my hand away?” he questioned.
Paul nodded, gasping in pain as David released his hold on him. “What the fuck did you do that for?” he shrieked in rage.
“Watch,” David demanded, as he pulled the knife free, causing Paul to hiss though his teeth. “What do you see, Paul?”
“A fucking hole in my hand, that’s what,” he retorted, as he waved the blood splattered appendage in front of David’s face.
David snatched at his hand, and scrubbed the blood away with the edge of Paul’s jacket. “And what do you see now?”
Paul inspected his hand closely. “A healing hole in my hand?”
“Exactly. And what is a tattoo?”
Dwayne snorted. “It’s a tiny wound, you moron. Your body would heal an injury that small in seconds, and within hours the skin would have regenerated to the point that the ink would have been forced out of your body, giving a whole new meaning to the term temporary tattoo.”
Paul looked crest fallen. “So you mean… that I can’t… Shit, this sucks! But I always wanted a tattoo, just never had the money.” He stamped his foot and pouted. “This is so unfair.”
Marko howled with laughter at Paul’s comical outburst. The guy cracked him up, he really did. He loved Paul like a brother, but sometimes the kid could really be dense. It wasn’t Paul’s fault; he’d only been a vampire for around ten years, which in their world, equated to being a toddler, it was just that he’d never been that bright to begin with, and certainly wasn’t getting any better with age.
With a pop of his gum, Marko wiped a single pink tinged tear of laughter from his face and smiled up at Paul. “Think of it was a very cheap price to pay for the life you lead, man.”
“But I want a tattoo,” Paul whined.
Yeah Paul behaved like a toddler alright, Marko thought, as a flash of red caught his attention. He glanced down the boardwalk and bit back a chuckle as he homed in on the color again; it belonged to the tank top of a young woman in black leather pants that had just emerged from the tattoo studio on a cigarette break. It was the same girl from last night; the one they had left stranded on the bluff at 2am in dense fog. Maybe things were about to get interesting. “$500 says that Paul finds someone to ink him,” he announced suddenly.
David looked over at him in confusion. “He’s not going to a studio, Marko.”
He nodded in agreement. “I know, but still, $500 on Paul getting a tattoo.”
“Are you nuts?” Dwayne commented.
Marko just grinned. “Pretty much, and I’ll bet $1000 if he can get one that lasts longer than a week.”
His leader looked at him like he was crazy, and obviously intent on throwing money away. “Fine, you’re on.”
“Shake on it?” Marko asked.
David pulled his knife again and made a small gash on his right palm, then handed the blade to Marko, who did the same. The two vampires pressed their hands together, sealing the deal, and Marko backed away smirking. “Don’t even think about getting out of this one David; we have witnesses.”
Paul seemed unaware of the deal, and was still gazing at his rapidly healing hand, yet Dwayne watched the interaction with interest, knowing that Marko was up to something. And then he too saw the young woman outside the tattoo parlor, and instantly figured out just what the curly blond was up to. He slid from the railing and smirked. “Excuse me, gentlemen.”
With a jingle of chains he prowled down the boards and stepped up to Gwen. “Enjoy your walk last night?”
She nearly choked on a lung full of smoke as she scowled up at him. “What the fuck do you want? Come to rub my face in it, have you?”
“No, merely enquiring after your stroll last night.”
He reached out and rubbed his finger over a patch of black ink, tracing the twisting designs that graced her left arm. “Can’t I even-”
Gwen batted his hand away. “Get your hands off me,” she gritted out as she dropped her smoke to the floor and stubbed the butt out viciously with the toe of her boot. “Go find someone else to play games with, arsehole.”
Dwayne raised his hands in surrender, and backed away. “I won’t keep you from your work,” he replied.
The young woman glared. “No, you most certainly won’t,” she declared as she tossed her long hair over her shoulder, and marched back inside the shop.
He smirked at her retreating form. She was a tattoo artist then, he concluded; Marko was definitely on to something here. Maybe he could help Marko out with his bet, and they could split the pot in half.
He walked back over to the rest of the group. David stared at him in silence, some unreadable emotion swirling behind his icy blue eyes, and Marko winked at him. This was going to be fun; David was a sore loser.
“You think she’ll go for it?” Marko quizzed, as he stood in the darkness of the alley that ran down the side of the the tattoo shop.
Dwayne shrugged. “Who knows? We’ve got nothing to lose, well possibly $1000…”
Marko chewed on his lower lip. “David’s suspicious.”
“David’s always suspicious, man.”
“Yeah, but he thinks that we’re up to something. He’s got that look.”
“You sure it’s not indigestion?” Dwayne asked innocently.
Marko coughed loudly and smacked himself on his chest. “Shit man, you just made me swallow my gum! Now I’ll have to go kill another cheerleader to get some more.”
“Marko, you can buy all the gum you want when we pocket $500 each. Just chill, dude.”
“But what are we going to say to her? We’ll have to tell her something; otherwise she won’t be able to come up with a solution. If she doesn’t know that he’s a vampire, then how can she work out how to make the ink stick? It’s a lot of money we’re talking about, Dwayne.”
“Hey, you made that damn bet in the first place, I thought that you knew what you were doing?”
“Great, just fucking great, you dipshit. Crap, there she is.”
“What are we going to do?” Marko wailed.
Dwayne frowned; the girl was mad at them. What did you do when women were pissed? “Okay, just follow my lead, and no laughing,” he threatened Marko.
The pair stepped out of the shadows, following Gwen down the boardwalk. She stopped suddenly and turned around, her eyes going wide as she spotted them. “You can both just fuck right off, you hear me?” she growled.
The boys stopped about ten feet away, and Dwayne took a couple of steps closer to her. “Look, we’re sorry, okay?”
“Sorry? You stranded me in the middle of fucking nowhere, at two in the bloody morning, and now you say that you’re sorry? I could have walked off that damn cliff, been attacked…”
Dwayne raised his hands in surrender for the second time that night. “I know, which is why we’re sorry. It wasn’t our fault; David calls the shots, not us.”
“So if David told you to walk off that damn bluff, you’d what, just step right off, huh?”
Dwayne shook his head slowly while trying to come up with a way to placate the angry woman. Shit, it was supposed to be easier than this. He’d never been good at apologizing, even when he was human. His harsh upbringing had beaten any ounce of remorse of his body, and now, being a vampire, he simply saw little need to ask for forgiveness for any of his actions.
It was then that the younger vampire next to him stepped into the fray, and tried to fix the ever crumbling confrontation. “Look, can we buy you a drink, dinner even?”
Gwen’s shoulders slumped slightly in defeat and she shrugged.
Marko smiled his literally killer smile and batted his eyelashes, trying his best to seem innocent and none threatening. “Please?”
Dwayne bit his lip to stifle his laughter. Marko had the coy act down pat, and Dwayne had to wonder if the younger man would ever really change. It had been a long time since he’d first seen the blonde’s act, as he’d plied his trade as a rent boy in a rundown neighborhood in New York. The young man had men eating out of his hand, with his boyish charms and pretty face, and both Dwayne and David had known instantly that Marko would fit right in with their family.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts and went back to watching Marko attempt to charm Gwen.
She shook her head slowly. “I’m not so sure.”
Marko looked crestfallen. “You don’t trust us, do you?”
“No, not at all.”
“Let us make it up to you; you can even pick the place. I feel awful for what happened last night.”
Gwen narrowed her eyes at him. “Okay, enough! What the hell do you two want from me?”
“We just want to-”
She cut Marko off. “If you want to buy me dinner and a few beers, then the least you can do is be truthful with me.”
Marko turned on the charm again. “What makes you think that I’m lying? We’re just trying to be nice, girl.”
“Very trying,” she muttered as she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and stuck one between her lips.
Dwayne stepped forward and sparked his Zippo, offering her a light. She stuck the tip in the flame and took a deep drag, the cig flaring to life. “I just want the truth, guys.”
“Aren’t you a little young to be this cynical?” Dwayne asked solemnly.
Gwen shrugged again. “Maybe, why do you care?”
“Merely an observation, doll. Look, we need to ask you for a favor, so just let us buy you some food and a couple of drinks, okay?”
“A favor?” She asked suspiciously.
“It’s worth $300 to you, plus whatever you’d charge for your time.”
“Shit, that’s not what I meant, girl,” Dwayne muttered, feeling like he was digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole he was standing in.
Marko laughed. “Look, just trust me when I say that it concerns nothing more than your day job.”
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“You know Paul, right?”
Gwen nodded. “How could I ever forget?”
“He wants some ink,” Marko explained.
“Well just tell him to come down to the studio,” Gwen stated.
“Look, if he’s afraid of needles then you can tell him that it’s not an issue; I’ve dealt with loads of people like that over the years.”
Dwayne looked to Marko, who seemed to have no idea how to explain the problem. “No, not that, more that it’s kind of a sensitive topic,” Dwayne offered.
Gwen rolled her eyes. “Fucking hell, he won’t be the first guy I’ve had sat in front of me with his pants around his ankles while I’ve tattooed something tasteless on his cock.”
Marko shuddered. “What, why? That’s just so wrong that I don’t even want to think about it.”
She looked really confused now. “Okay, so just what is his problem then?”
“Can we discuss it over dinner?” Marko pleaded.
The young woman shook her head. “I must be fucking nuts,” she muttered. “Sure, lead the way.”
“Our bikes are parked over here,” Dwayne said, as he gestured towards the other end of the boardwalk.
“If you think I’m getting on a damn bike with either of you, so you can dump me in the arse end of nowhere again, then you’ve got another thing coming!”
Dwayne growled. “Look, we’re not gonna try anything. The only place that’s open at this time of night is out of town, so unless you’d like to walk out there…”
“Fine, I’ll just call a cab,” Gwen retorted.
Shit, she better be able to ink Paul, Dwayne thought. “Okay, you can take my bike.”
Gwen laughed. “So you can abandon me again?”
Christ, she was difficult. “You can keep hold of the keys. Deal?”
Finally she relented. “Okay.”
Marko hooked his arm through hers and towed her along the boards until they reached the bikes, where Dwayne dutifully handed over the keys. Gwen straddled the Triumph, and jumped slightly when Dwayne climbed on behind her. “What, you think I want to be seen on that piece of crap two nights running,” he joked as he gestured towards Marko’s ride.
Gwen laughed, and he felt the tension ease from her body slightly. She looked at him over her shoulder as she gunned the engine. “I still don’t trust you, Dwayne.”
“I know; you’re a very smart woman, doll,” he whispered to himself.