"But I am Mireille."
"And I am Millar. Pleasure. We'll keep chatting horror once I've pissed," he said, swaying, the last gin making his legs rubbery. Patting a finger on her mouth, he stumbled off in what he figured was the route to the restroom. A moment later he passed her again, still dumbfounded, on the actual path to the toilet.
In the darkness, denizens of the tavern murmured low wonder about the man's bravery. For centuries it had been known that the Talons & Hook, on the Thames, was the hunting grounds of none other than the queen of all nosferatu. Though not the first to hold the title, her crown had been worn since Columbus first voyaged. By many accounts the Inquisition itself had been her doing, a clandestine means to procure blood without suspicion. Her visits to Talons & Hook had begun sometime in the late 1700s and continued to the present. As a result , the place had grown into a watering hole for all manner of nightmare realities. However, when Martin Millar passed the place all he saw was a glowing neon sign advertising beer.
Satisfied by the sign's implication, he shuffled his way to the door, throwing it open with such force it banged off the wall and closed in his face. Bellowing a swear that made some of the lower demons tremor, he entered more gently, if not steadily.
Intrigued by the brazen, albeit flawed, entrance, Queen Mireille instantly decided her meal would be the hot blood of this recent arrival. She watched him take a seat square in the middle of the bar, his back audaciously turned to the crowd. Most of the other patrons preferred the shadows and corners, rarely daring to sit along any line with the front door. (Decades of foolish demon slayers had made such seats precarious. It wasn't uncommon for a werewolf to be sipping a beer only to have the front door burst open and some fool or another come flying in, spraying bullets coated in all manner of foul smelling herbs. The wounds wouldn't last, but the stink would endure.) The bartender, one of a long line of descendants from the first owners, took Millar's order skeptically. Most mortals who ventured within were either looking for some creature to which they'd been indentured -- willingly or otherwise -- or left within a few moments.
Martin Millar had no sense of his surroundings and no notion of the tavern's reputation. He'd arrived in town the day before yesterday. His wife had called while he was away on business to tell him she'd be packing her things. When he got home he could expect to find the house empty, save for what she was willing to concede as his, and that her mind was made up, the end was here. He'd drifted off the A40 somewhere in the midst of their conversation (conversation may not be the right term since Millar didn't use a single word during the whole exchange, just grunts and uh huhs.), blanked for an extended period, and finally come to a stop in the Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Knowing nothing about the town, he stopped at the first place that looked like a hotel, which was able to direct him to actual lodgings, and spent the better part of the last three days drinking.
Having recently been ejected from another pub for throwing flaming Drambuie at a couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Millar stumbled the streets and alleys till he happened across the Talons & Hook front entrance.
When the lady took a seat next to him he couldn't help laughing.
"What?" she said, spreading her most seductive smile.
"Nothing. I'm sorry. You just look like such a cliché."
"Pardon?" The smile vanished.
"My cousin is goth, but you put him to shame. He's more concerned with Victorian styles, not this whole vampire thing."
"What makes you think I'm a vampire?"
Millar rolled his eyes, "Please. Look. Lets start over. My name is Martin Millar." The introduction out, he felt the need to pee.
"And I am Mireille."
And so on and so forth, as previously related, till Millar returned from the bathroom.
Smiling, a slight up turned corner of the mouth, Mireille said, "You really don't know who I am."
"Are you on television? I don't watch the thing. It hurts my face... brain... what have you."
"No, nothing of the sort. I'm, what you might call, a local legend."
"Well then, there you have it. As I'm not a local..." he made a gesture suggesting she complete the thought on her own, then signaled the bartender for another drink.
"That's on me, George," Mireille said.
"Thanks. Don't expect recipikation."
"Perhaps I'm not thirsty for gin."
"OOO," Millar remarked jokingly, holding up his hands in mock terror. He made a cross out of two fingers and held them towards her, "Back. Back I say."
Mireille couldn't help chuckling. It was Millar's turn for an unavoidable grin.
"You do have a lovely smile."
"Are you sure I can't buy you a drink?"
"Why not? George, my usual."
Nodding, George went over to a small cooler beneath the bar. From it he produced a crystal decanter and filled a champagne flute with thick red liquid. When the glass was set before Mireille, Millar said, "Remy Red?"
"Perhaps," Mireille said, a coy look on her face.
"You play it to the hilt. I'll give you that." Millar stirred his drink with a finger. Mireille sipped her beverage. The two chatted for a moment, the usual pleasantries. Millar did his best to avoid the topic of his wife by lying, claiming he was in town on holiday.
After a while:
"Well, I've always been partial to Hotspur F.C."
"Hotspur? You mean Tottenhem?"
"That's the one. You?"
"I was raised Chelsea, but I've got to say, I lean towards Arsenal... though I'll never admit it, family and all that shit."
Nodding, Mireille said, "I know what you mean."
"Siblings or kids?"
"Both, in a way I suppose." Her head cocked to one side, a thought popping up and out of her mouth, "You know what? It's been a long time since I had a casual conversation."
"I'm serious, Martin."
"So am I."
She gave him a playful shove and said, "It's just that there's usually an... oh what's the word."
"A purpose," he said, hoping to help her thought along, "Conversation is intended to get you somewhere instead of being relaxing."
"Indeed." Mireille agreed, signaling George for another round all around. Once their glasses had been filled Mireille raised hers to Martin, "What shall we drink to?"
"I like that."
And the two clinked glasses.
The bullet ripped through her face flying with a hiss past Martin's ear. He heard it pass as warm blood sprayed his face. He felt what seemed to be small stones bounce against his face as pieces of Mireille's skull flew at him. Time slowed. He watched the flute fall from her hand, spinning as it fell, spilling its contents across her left leg then the floor. It shattered in a sparkling array of crystal fragments, each piece a varying shade of crimson. He saw the smile still spread across her face, the glaze that dulled her eyes instantly, and he could even look through the hole where her nose used to be... see the man in the doorway holding a smoking pistol, a well built individual in his forties with thinning hair and wearing a pair of horn rim glasses. Slight hints of garlic hung on the trail of the bullet. Mireille crumbled to the floor.
Martin didn't know he could shatter a glass with one hand. But he could. He didn't feel the shards stabbing into his palm.
From the doorway the man continued firing wildly into the bar. The occupants scattered in all directions, but Martin was the only one who went towards the shooter. Ignoring the pain, he formed a blood dripping fist and rushed the man. Punching and tackling in the same motion, Martin drove the man to the ground. The shooter clapped Millar on the side of the head with his pistol, but all it did was inspire a vicious blow from Martin. One, three, nine times he punched the shooter in the face. Registering the glass in his palm, Millar switched to a brutal series of hard slaps, raking the shards across the man's face.
He heard Mireille's voice in a soft calming tone.
He hated his mind for the tricks it played with his ears.
He hated his wife. If she hadn't... maybe Mireille wouldn't have been in that seat... he wouldn't have to lose another woman, another chance to -- It was real wasn't it? He'd at least not felt so empty talking with her, and now this man had ripped it all away, drained him entirely once more. He hated living in the hollow.
A hand gently grabbed him by the shoulder, "Martin," Mireille's voice again. This time he paused, turned sharply to see the speaker. Millar felt chilled to the marrow. There she stood, Mireille, her face whole. Blood still stained her dress but no other sign of the wound persisted.
"You guessed it the first time."
Mireille smiled, "Vampire."
"Right... right." Millar's eyes stared off, unfocused. Somehow nothing he saw registered any longer. Like he had vision but no way to make sense of the input. Without looking at her he asked, "So you're okay?"
"It stung, but I'll be fine."
The man beneath him gurgled. Looking down at the bloody mess he'd made, Millar said, "What about this guy?"
"I think you fucked him up pretty good."
"Well, he did shoot you."
"Though I don't think it's as bad as I thought."
"I guess not."
Millar got to his feet. He asked what they should do about the shooter, but Mireille told him not to worry. George would handle it.
"Right... right." Martin nodded, his eyes still unfocused. He turned towards the tavern door, "I think I need a drink."
"Mind if I join you?"
"I could do with a bit of relaxation."
"Then we shouldn't sit near the door."
"You know you smell like garlic."
"Ugh! Don't remind me."
The door closed behind them, and the night continued.