Bite Me: A Love Story Chapter 3


3. The Samurai of Jackson Street


When he first arrived in San Francisco, Tommy Flood had shared a closet-size room with five Chinese men named Wong, all of whom had wanted to marry him.

"It's horrible-like being packed into a take-out box of Kung Pao chicken," Tommy had said, and although it wasn't like that at all, and Tommy was just trying to use colorful language which he felt was his duty as a writer, it was very crowded and smelled strongly of garlic and sweaty Chinese guys.

"I think they want to pack my fudge," Tommy had said. "I'm from Indiana, we don't go for that kind of stuff."

As it turned out, the Chinese guys didn't go for that kind of stuff either, but were, in fact, very much interested in getting green cards.

Fortunately, only a week later, in the parking lot of the Marina Safeway where he worked nights, Tommy met a gorgeous redhead named Jody Stroud, who rescued him from his confinement with the Chinese guys, by giving him her love, a nice loft apartment, and immortality. Unfortunately, little more than a month after that, their minion, Abby, had them bronzed while they slept, and Tommy awoke one night to find that despite his great vampire strength, he couldn't move a muscle.

"I'd rather be trapped in a take-out box of Kung Pao chicken," Tommy would have said if he could have said anything, which he couldn't.

Meanwhile, right next to him, sharing the same bronze shell, his beloved Jody drifted in a dream-state, a side effect of being able to turn herself to mist, a trick she had learned from Elijah Ben Sapir, her vampire sire. Between the dead sleep of daylight, and the floating in a dream-world, she could endure decades inside the statue. Tommy, however, had never learned how to turn to mist. There had never been time to teach him. So come sundown, his vampire senses came on like neon, and he experienced every second of his confinement with an electric intensity that nearly had him vibrating in his shell-an alpha predator pacing the cage of his mind and shredding his reason. Of course, he did the only thing he could do: he went barking at the moon mad.


He'd have to lick about a mile of kitty-butt to get the taste of meter maid out of his mouth, but Chet was up for it. He raked a couple of hind-leg kicks through the dust that was the meter maid's remains, and headed across the street and into the alley, where he curled up in the dark and set about blunting the human taste.

It was only a little over a month since the old vampire had turned Chet, but already he was losing all sense of his former self. Time was, that he spent his days on Market Street, napping next to William, the homeless man who made his living with a paper cup and a sign that said, I AM HOMELESS AND MY CAT IS HUGE. Chet was indeed very large, and while much of his volume had been fur, he had achieved a weight of thirty-five pounds on a diet of semi-used hamburgers and French fries donated by passersby outside of McDonald's.

Now Chet hunted the night, taking down nearly any warm-blooded creature he encountered: rats, birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, and even the occasional human. At first it had only been drunks and other homeless, and the first time he had drained one, his old friend William, who turned to dust in front of him, Chet yowled, ran, and hid under a Dumpster for the rest of the night and all of the next day. There was no regret, simply hunger and elation of the blood rush. It was beyond the satisfaction of the kill, it was positively sexual, something Chet had never known as a normal cat, as he'd been neutered by the animal shelter when still a kitten. But along with speed, strength, and senses far more sensitive than even a human-based vampire, Chet, like his human counterparts, found that he was physically restored to perfection. In other words, his junk was working.

He found that soon after the kill he desperately needed to hump something, and the more squirmy and wailing, the better. Above the smells of bus fumes, cooking food, and urine-bathed curbs that pervaded the City, he caught the scent of a female in heat. She might be a mile away, but given his newly heightened senses, he'd find her.

A wave of excitement undulated under the fur of his spine, fur that had mostly grown back since the humans had shaved him, mated in front of him, and drank his blood, which served to traumatize his little kitty consciousness before he was turned vampire, and motivated a whole new feeling he'd grown into as a vampire cat: vengeance. For since his metamorphosis, it wasn't just his senses that had expanded. His brain, which before had run a loop of "eat-nap-crap, repeat," was now growing into a whole new awareness, getting bigger, even as Chet grew. He was a good sixty pounds now, and roughly as smart as a dog, where before he'd only been a little brighter than a brick. Dog. The hated. There was dog on the air. Coming closer. He could smell it-them-two of them. And now he could hear them. He arose from his butt bath and screeched like an electrified lynx. In response, the neighborhood echoed with a chorus of yowls from a dozen other vampire cats.


"Steady, fellows," said the Emperor. He laid his hand across the neck of the golden retriever and scratched under the chin of the Boston terrier, who squirmed in the great pocket of the Emperor's overcoat, looking like a frantic, black-and-white, bug-eyed kangaroo mutant.

"Cat! Cat! Cat! Cat! Cat!" barked Bummer, with a spray of doggie slobber across the Emperor's palm. "Cat! Murder, pain, fire, evil, cat! Can't you smell them? Everywhere! Must chase, chase, chase, bite, bite, bite, let me go you insane, oblivious old man, I'm trying to save you, for the love of God, CAT! CAT! CAT!"

Unfortunately, Bummer only spoke dog, and while the Emperor could tell that the Boston terrier was upset, he had no idea why. (Anyone who translates dog knows that only about a third of what Bummer said actually meant anything. The rest was just noise he needed to make. Human speech is about the same.) Lazarus, the golden retriever, having battled vampires on and off for the last two months, and being steady by nature, was much calmer about the whole thing, but despite Bummer's tendency to overreact, he had to admit, the smell of cat was tall in the air, and what was more disturbing, it wasn't just cat, it was dead cat. Dead cat walking. Wait, what was that? Not cat-cats. Oh, this was not good.

"He's right about the cat," Lazarus ruffed, nudging the Emperor's leg. "We should get out of this neighborhood, maybe go over to North Beach and see if anyone dropped a beef jerky or something. I could sure use a beef jerky. Or we can stay and die. Whatever. I'm good with it."

"Easy, men," said the Emperor, alert now that something was amiss. He knelt down, his knees creaking like rusted hinges, and as he looked around, kneaded the spot between Bummer's ears as if he were readying to make doggy-brain biscuits. He was a great, woolly, thunderstorm of a man-broad shouldered and gray bearded, fine witted and fiercely loyal to the people of his city. He had lived on the streets of San Francisco as long as anyone could remember, and while tourists saw him as a raggedy, homeless wretch, the locals viewed him as a fixture, a rolling landmark, a spirit, and a conscience, and for the most part, treated him with the deference they might pay royalty, despite the fact that he was a raving loon.

The street was deserted, but a half a block away the Emperor saw the three-wheeled cart of an S.F.P.D. parking enforcement officer, stopped behind an illegally parked Audi. The cart's rotating yellow caution lights chased themselves around the surrounding buildings like drunken, jaundiced Tinkerbells, but there was no officer in sight.

"Strange. It's long past time when a meter maid should be working. Perhaps we should investigate, gents."

But before he could stand, Bummer leapt out of the Emperor's pocket and made a beeline for the cart, trumpeting himself into the charge with a staccato barking fit. Lazarus took off after the black-and-white fur-rocket, and the old man ambled along behind, as fast as his great, arthritic legs would carry him.

They found Bummer on the far side of the Audi, snorting and snuffling inside an empty police uniform, and covered with a fine gray powder. The Emperor's eyes went wide. He backed across the sidewalk and stood against the fire door of one of the industrial lofts that lined the street. He had seen this before. He knew the signs. But when he had seen the old vampire and his companions board an enormous yacht in the Bay over a month ago, he thought his city rid of the bloodsucking fiends. What now?

There was a crackling static noise from the police cart: a radio. Call it in. Alert his people to the danger. He rolled to the cart, fumbled with the door catch, and reached for the microphone.

"Hello," he said into the microphone. "This is the Emperor of San Francisco, Emperor of San Francisco, protector of Alcatraz, Sausalito, and Treasure Island, and I'd like to report a vampire." The radio continued to crackle and distant voices ghosted through the ether, uninterrupted.

Lazarus padded to the old man's side and barked furiously, "You have to push the button. You have to push the button." Unfortunately, while the noble retriever understood English, he only spoke dog, and the Emperor did not get the instruction.

"Button! Button! Button! Button!" Bummer barked, springing up and down in front of the police cart. He scurried around to the door and jumped in on the Emperor's lap to show him.

"Yeah, that helps," growled Lazarus sarcastically. Golden retrievers are not a very sarcastic breed, and he felt a little ashamed and, well, catlike, using that tone of voice. "Okay. Button! Button! Button! Uh-oh."

"Button! Button! Button! Uh-oh, what?" barked Bummer.

A short ruff from the retriever: "Cat."

Lazarus boiled out a low growl and laid his ears back against his head.

The Emperor saw two of them: cats, coming down the sidewalk toward them. But they didn't look quite natural. The light from the police cart was reflecting back from the cats' eyes like red coals.

A screech, there were two more coming across the street. Lazarus turned to face them, snarling now. A chorus of hisses from behind. The Emperor looked in the rearview mirror to see three more cats stalking from behind.

"Quick, Lazarus, in the cart. Up, boy, in the cart."

Lazarus was spinning now, trying to watch all of the cats at once, warning them off with bared teeth and bristled hair. But the cats came on, baring their own teeth.

"Come now," said the Emperor into the microphone.

Something landed hard on the roof of the cart and Bummer yelped. Another thump and the Emperor looked back to see a large cat in the bed of the cart, coming up on two legs and trying to claw around the back window. The old man pulled the door shut. "Run, Lazarus, run!"

Lazarus caught the first cat in his jaws and was shaking it furiously when the rest fell upon him.


"There's nefarious shit afoot, Foo," said Abby. "Bring portable sun and fry these nosferatu kitties before they nom everyone in the 'hood."

Steven "Foo Dog" Wong had no idea what his girlfriend, Abby, was talking about, and it wasn't the first time. In fact, much of the time he had no idea what she was talking about, but he had learned if he was patient, and listened, and more important, agreed with her, she would mercilessly sex him up, which he liked quite a bit, and occasionally he got the message. He used the same strategy with his maternal grandmother (without the sexing-up part), who spoke an obscure, country dialect of Cantonese, that sounded to the uninitiated like someone beating a chicken to death with a banjo. Just wait, and all would become clear. This time, however, Abby, whose tone ran from tragically romantic to passionately dismissive, was sounding much more urgent, and the patience gambit wasn't going to work. Her voice in his Bluetooth headset was like having a malevolent fairy bite his ear.

"I'm in the middle of something, Abby. I'll be home as soon as I finish up here."

"Now, Foo. There's a herd, or flock, or a-what do you call a bunch of kitties?"

"A box?" Foo offered.


"A fucktard of kitties? Okay, sure, that could be it. A pride of lions, a murder of crows..."

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"No. You fucktard! There's a bunch of vampire kitties about to eat that crazy Emperor guy and his dogs right outside on the street. You need to come save them."

"A bunch?" Steve was having a hard time getting his head around the idea. He'd only recently gotten his head around the idea of one vampire cat, but a bunch, well, that was more. He was just a couple of months away from having his master's in biochem at age twenty-one-he wasn't a fucktard. "Define a bunch," he said.

"Many. I can't count them because they're stalking the golden retriever."

"And how do you know they're vampire kitties?"

"Oh, because I drew blood samples from them, ran it in that centrifuge thingy of yours, prepared some slides, and looked at the blood cell structure under a microscope, duh?"

"No, really," he said. She was flunking high school biology, there's no way she prepared blood slides. And besides-

"Of course not, you douche nozzle, I know they're vampires because they're stalking a golden retriever and a homeless fuck who's hiding in the vaporized meter maid's cart. That's not standard kitty behavior."

"Vaporized meter maid?"

"The one Chet ate-sucked her to dust. Come now, Foo, turn your sunbeam full-on and get your luscious ninja ass over here." Steve had rigged the hatchback of his tricked-out Honda Civic with high intensity UV floodlights, which he'd used to flash fry a number of vampires, thus saving Abby and, for the first time in his life, having a girlfriend and someone who thought he was cool.

"I can't come right away, Abby. The sun lights aren't in the car."

"Oh my fucking God, there's some little old guy with a cane coming out of the alley. Well, he's toast. Fuck!"




"Oh fuck!"

"What? What? What?"


"Abby, you need to be more specific."

"It's not a cane, Foo, it's a sword."


"Come now, Foo. Bring the sun."

"I can't, Abby. My car is full of rats."


The Emperor watched in horror as the cats leapt onto the back of his noble captain, Lazarus. The golden retriever shook himself violently, dislodging two of the fiends, but they were replaced by two more, and three more leapt on top of them, nearly bringing Lazarus to the ground. But they weren't pack hunters, and as each maneuvered for the throat, another attacker was pushed off, his claws shredding both predator and prey as he fell.

Blood splattered the windscreen of the police cart. Bummer bounced around inside the tiny cabin, barking and snorting, and throwing himself against the glass, covering everything with angry dog slobber.

"Run, Lazarus, run!" The Emperor pounded on the glass, then pushed his forehead against it as he tried to squint back tears of anguish and frustration.

"No!" He would not do it. He would not watch his companion slaughtered. Outrage filled the ancient, boiler-tank of a man and condensed to courage. He was fighting the door latch when half a cat hit the side window and slid down trailing gore.

The door handle snapped off in his hand and he threw it to the floor of the cart. Bummer immediately attacked it and broke a tooth on the metal. Through the haze of blood spray, the Emperor could see another figure in the street. A boy-no, a man, but a small man, Asian-wearing a fluorescent orange porkpie hat and socks, tight plaid trousers that looked as if they'd been teleported out of the 1960s, and a gray cardigan sweater. The little man was brandishing a samurai sword, bringing it down again and again on Lazarus in quick snapping motions, but before he could cry out, the Emperor saw that the sword wasn't even grazing the retriever's coat. With each stroke one of the cats fell away, beheaded or cut in half, both halves squirming on the pavement.

There was no spinning, no wind-up or flourish to the swordsman's movements, just grim efficiency, like a chef chopping vegetables. As his targets moved, he pivoted and stepped just enough to deliver the cut, then snapped the blade back and sent it to its next destination.

The weight and fury removed from his back, Lazarus looked around and whimpered, which translated to: "Whaaa-?"

The swordsman was relentless, step, cut, step, cut. Two cats came at him from under a Volvo and he quickly retreated and swung the sword in a quick, low arc that approximated a golf stroke and sent their heads back over the car to bounce off a metal garage door.

"Behind!" the Emperor warned.

But it was too late. The low attack had thrown the swordsman off-a heavy-bodied Siamese cat launched itself from the roof of a van across the street and landed on the little man's back. The long sword was useless at such close range. The swordsman arched in pain, even as the Siamese clawed its way up his back. He spun, then threw his feet out before him and fell hard on his back, but the Siamese took the impact and dug its fangs into the swordsman's shoulder. A half-dozen vampire cats came scurrying out from under cars toward the struggling swordsman.

Lazarus, his fur matted with blood, caught one of the cats by the haunch and bit to the bone. The cat screamed and squirmed in the retriever's jaws, trying to claw his eyes. The others fell on the swordsman with fang and claw.

The Emperor threw his shoulder against the Plexiglas door of the police cart, but there was no room to move, to gain momentum, and while the entire cart rocked and went up on two wheels under his weight, the door latch would not give. He watched in horror as the swordsman writhed under his attackers.

The Emperor heard a steel fire door hitting brick and light spilled across the sidewalk and into the street. Out of the doorway ran a thin, impossibly pale girl with lavender pigtails wearing pink motocross boots, pink fishnet stockings, a green plastic skirt, wraparound sunglasses, and a black leather jacket that looked studded with glass. Before he could warn her, the girl ran into the street and shouted, "You motherfucking kitties need to step the fuck off!"

The vampire cats attacking the swordsman looked up and hissed, which translated from vampire cat, meant: "Whaaa-?"

She ran right at the swordsman, waving her arms as if shooing birds or trying to dry some particularly stubborn nail polish and screaming like a madwoman. The cats turned their attention to her, and were crouching, readying to leap, when her jacket lit up like the sun. There was a collective screech of agony from the vampire cats as all around the street, cats and cat parts smoked, then ignited. Burning cats made for the alley across the street or tried to hide under cars, but the thin girl ran after them, darting here and there, until each ignited, then burned and reduced itself first to a bubbling puddle of fur and goo, and finally, a pile of fine ash.

In less than a minute, the street was quiet again. The lights on the girl's jacket went dark. The swordsman climbed to his feet and fitted his orange porkpie hat back on his head. He was bleeding from spots on his back and arms, and there was blood on his plaid pants and orange socks, but whether it was his or the cats' was impossible to tell. He stood before the thin girl and bowed deeply.

"Domo arigato," he said, keeping his eyes at her feet.

"Dozo," said the girl. "Your kitty-slaying skills are, if I may say so, the shit."

The swordsman bowed again, short and shallow, then turned and trotted across the street, down the alley, and out of sight.

Lazarus was digging at the Plexiglas door of the police cart with the pads of his paws, as if he might polish his way through to release his master. Abby scratched his nose, nearly the only part of him not covered in blood, and opened the door.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey," said the Emperor.

He stepped out of the cart and looked around. The street was painted with blood for half a block, punctuated by piles of ash and the occasional charred flea collar. Parked cars were sprayed in red mist, even the security lights above several fire doors were speckled with gore. Acrid smoke from burning cats hung low in the air, and on the sidewalk greasy gray ash spilled out of the sleeves and collar of the parking officer's uniform.

"Well, you don't see that every day," said the Emperor, as a police cruiser rounded the corner, the red and blue lights raking the building.

The cruiser stopped and doors flew open. The driver stood behind his door, his hand on his gun.

"What's going on here?" he said, trying to keep his eyes on the Emperor and not look at the carnage that surrounded them.

"Nothing," Abby said.

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