ESMEE -Thirst For Blood

By Victor Wright


Chapter 1 – The First to Go

 

The thirst…the unbearable thirst overwhelmed her thoughts, and the scent of what would quench that thirst filled her nostrils, enticing her. She longed to draw upon it, to drink of the delightful elixir.


Vengeance held her back.


The woman’s chest heaved as she panicked, but sympathy and forgiveness did not befit her sins. “You cannot make me do this!” Jack hissed violently.

Esmee hissed back, bearing her deadly fangs. “I can, and you will! You cannot escape from this, Jack. You’ve brought it on yourself.” In a fit of rage and no longer able to bear her thirst, Esmee lunged forward and buried her fangs in the woman’s throat, finding the thickest pulse point and letting her heart pump fresh, warm blood into her mouth. Esmee moaned as her pain was sated, her need fulfilled, and a heady pleasure swept over her.


The woman – Rachel – screamed and struggled against her at first, but as Esmee drained the life force from her body, her limbs grew heavy, and her form went limp in Esmee’s arms. So thirsty! But she must stop. She must not bleed the woman dry. There was greater purpose to come from this. She withdrew, let her fangs recede into their cavities, and gave Jack a sinister smile.


He shook with fear, horrified by the blood dripping down her chin and the wild look in her eyes. Esmee had seen her image in these moments, reflected in the dark glass of a pub door or a still puddle in the alley, and she knew how it must affect a human mind, even one as twisted as Jack’s. It pleased her to see him blanch as she leaned toward him. “Now, it’s your turn.”


“I won’t do it!” he insisted, though his voice quavered.


Esmee lunged at him, her fangs coming out again, and she challenged, “You coward! You can kill from a distance, but you cannot do it by your own hand when it stares you in the face! I will not allow you to run and hide again. You are sick, and the only cure for you is death or this. I dare you to defy me!”

He jutted his chin forward as if to defy her, but he quickly withdrew. She grabbed his wrist none too gently and forced the knife into his hand. She motioned to the nearly lifeless woman, using her finger to draw a line over her throat from ear to ear that crossed over the miniscule holes her fangs left behind. “One nice, long, deep slice, Jack. That’s all it takes. Make sure it crosses over my mark and that it goes deep enough to finish her.  You wouldn’t want another ‘Belle-de-nuit’ turning into a monster like me, would you?”


That proved to be motivating enough for Jack to come forward, his hand shaking; he pressed the tip of the blade just below Rachel’s right ear. “That’s it, now, pull it across, Jack.” A whistle sounded in the distance, and Esmee gasped in a dramatic show. “Ha! You should hurry. The constables have already caught up to us.”


He glared at her. “You’ll go down for this, too, you know.”


“That is where you are wrong, Jack. I will be gone in less than the space of a heartbeat, Jack, leaving you to the wolves. And they are quite hungry, I assure you.” Finally, the man who ruined her life, who took away her family and her home, would pay the price. “Do it!” She demanded.


With a furious motion, Jack slit Rachel’s throat, using a single stroke that covered the wounds Esmee left behind. It was done now, and the Peelers would arrive and arrest Jack any moment. “You had better start running, Jack, if you want to at least make the Peelers work for your capture.” Before he could protest or attempt to stop her – a gesture that would have been a waste of energy – Esmee leapt from the ground, latching onto the side of the stone building and climbing with inhuman speed and agility to the roof, throwing herself over the ledge and finding a dark shadow in which she could hide to watch Jack be handcuffed and carried away.


This was the perfect plan. Should he get caught now, Esmee would have to find another way to finish devouring the group of prostitutes who had mistreated her almost as effectively as Jack himself. But if he escaped, she would continue to bring him with her and feed until each victim nearly ran dry, letting him end each life one by one until he was caught or they were all finished.


Only then would she accept who she was. What she was. And she would become a solitary beast in the shadows, like Marcellus.


Unfortunately, Jack wore many masks, and he tended to narrowly escape every situation. And now, true to his nature, he ran like a coward, finding a small niche where he slipped through into an abandoned building. Rather than staying to see the coppers and their reaction to the heinous scene, Esmee leapt to the roof of the building Jack had entered, waiting for him to emerge. She saw him creep out the other side and followed him with her sharp night vision. He made his way carefully toward a pub at the far end of the cobblestone street and disappeared inside.


Angry at how easily he had evaded capture – and how easily she knew he would blend in with the crowd inside the pub – Esmee hissed and took cover on her own, finding the shadows and rendering herself invisible as she hurried back to her new home. Another night then - and another chance to force the evil man’s hand.


It was the perfect punishment – create a new kind of monster from the old, and in doing so, cause him to destroy his own source of profit. Jack would never recover from this one. He would suffer with each murder, and in the end, he would rot in a cage, the way he’d turned his mother’s room into a cage and caused her to rot away.




Chapter 2 – Ignorance is Bliss

 

“Did you hear the news about the poor murdered woman? I hear it was a most dreadful death,” Lady Caldwell said, ever the gossip monger. This time, however, Jack’s ears perked to the topic of conversation she chose to pursue.


Aaron Thompson nodded, a scowl on his hangdog face barely notable beneath his saggy jowls. For a thin man, he appeared puffy, and there were times Jack wanted to reach out and rip those flaps of skin right off the man’s face. “Detective Lewis has an unfortunate beat. I hope he’s promoted soon so he can pass on the responsibility of the East End to some less fortunate soul. The coroner’s report supposedly states that the victim was practically drained of blood, by means of her throat being cut. Yet there was very little blood at the scene.  Must have been cleaned up or taken away with the perpetrator - or even murdered elsewhere and the body dumped in the alley.  It takes a deplorable human to do something so wretched.”


Jack scoffed. “You have a bleeding heart, my friend. The victim was a nobody, a prostitute, and she probably stole some bloke’s money and played him for a fool. If you ask me, those women are no better than rats, spreading disease and debauchery. They should be eradicated, wiped out, just like the rat population.”


Lady Caldwell gasped. “Have you no sensitive bone in your body, Mr. Bliss? Perhaps there are better ways to earn a living, but these women are doing the only thing they can to put food on their tables. They can’t escape the danger out there. Why should she be blamed for a man’s sinful actions?”


“Please forgive me if I’ve offended you, Lady Caldwell,” Jack said, his hand to his chest as he bowed slightly to show his sincerity. “I only feel that one who wishes to crawl out of that abyss will find an opportunity to thrive, and those who continue with the tradition of that destitution should not expect better. Whitechapel and all of the East End are disgraces to London, and we cannot be expected to step in and revive the district for fear of the contagion.”


“There you have a point, Jack,” Aaron agreed looking at Lady Caldwell. “My man here, Jack Bliss, should know. He once suffered from poverty as a young child, but he is a self-made man who thrives in our society. There is no excuse to settle for life without sanitation or civilization. We can all achieve greatness, if we put our minds to it. To Jack Bliss, and his brilliant insight!” He held up his glass in a toast, and the others cheered.


Jack grinned, but that had been a close call. He could not risk exposure and would have to assure no one every suspected his involvement in the murder. Or in his own personal business.


Damn Esmee! And damn the monstrosity she’d become. That demon creature was not the girl he’d brought to London, and whether she had transformed, been possessed, or been eaten by the demon he’d seen in that alley, she wanted to wreak havoc and push the blame on him.


So, he’d drawn a knife across the poor woman’s throat. Esmee had been the murderer. The woman was already as good as dead when he’d done the deed. And the loss was negligible. His girls were dispensable. There were plenty going around, and he could pick up two more to replace the one he’d lost.

But it mattered. He’d created an image in London, one even better than that he’d worn like a nice suit in France. And there, he’d been a god. What more could he ask for than to be elevated beyond that in the midst of high society in London? He was revered, and his mastery at disguise aided him. All he needed to do was maintain that image, and to do that, he had to avoid Esmee and her thirst for revenge. He was sure he could evade the authorities and their curious minds.


He didn’t believe anyone important had seen him in the East End last night, or on the streets to and from the sickening area. Several times he’d managed to make the trip before without drawing attention to himself. This would merely be an obstacle to overcome. At least, that’s what he told himself as he mingled at the party Aaron held to celebrate his promotion at the bank to manager.


Of course, his secondary concern would prove far more daunting to resolve, under the circumstances. He had been so close, and now, he needed to devise a new plan, one which concluded in the same objective but came to fruition by traveling a different road. What road would bring him to the end result he did not yet know. But Jack had worn a number of hats over the years, been a hundred different men. If he could change roles so easily, he could definitely switch directions and find his way to success.


“Why, Mr. Bliss, why do I find you in a corner, alone?” Jack was pulled out of his thoughts and turned toward Clara Scott as she approached him with a smug, teasing smile. Her blond hair was plaited and formed a crown around her head, leaving the creamy white skin of her face, shoulder, and bust exposed to Jack’s appreciative gaze. Her corset showed off a waist he guessed was already so small he could wrap his hands around it and pushed her bosom up to create a deep crease of cleavage. The rich, soft material of the dress – dyed a deep blue –set off her eyes and fell to brush the floor, the embroidery at the bottom a flourish of fleur de lis.


He grinned back, his heart pounding in his chest as he sniffed her perfume, a floral sweetness that left him heady. “Ms. Scott, how are you?” he greeted, bowing properly and taking her hand to kiss it.


“I’m well, Mr. Bliss, but you have not answered my question. Why have you chosen the solitude of the corner rather than the company of the fine men and women around you?” Her tone was teasing, but it still bothered Jack.


But he was the master of disguise, and he showed none of his concern. “I merely stepped away for a moment to catch my breath, madam. I do not socialize as often as I should, and there are times when I am overwhelmed and must take a moment for recovery. That is all.” He smirked and shook a finger at her. “I might ask you a similar question. Why, Ms. Scott, are you in this corner, speaking with me, rather than mingling with the crème de la crème of London society?”


She clasped her hands behind her back and blinked, giving him wide, innocent eyes. “I simply came to inquire after you. And to my knowledge, you are the crème de la crème.” She took a step closer and in a staged whisper added, “And the widower Mister Hall believes me to be fine marriage material. I have done with evading his pursuits tonight. I am weary and felt the need to disappear for a moment.”


They laughed together, and Jack found himself curious as to how much money the heiress had. Her father had considerable wealth before he passed, and Clara had no brothers or sisters. Perhaps pursuing this avenue would help him until he could determine a new means by which to secure the current wealth in limbo.


“In that case, Ms. Scott, allow me to be of assistance. Would you care to take a walk outside, in the gardens and perhaps to the fountain?” He held out his arm in offering.


Clara curtsied back. “Why, Mr. Bliss, I believe such a walk might be mutually beneficial, as well as entertaining. How rewarding an idea you have!” She folded her gloved fingers around his elbow, and he escorted her outside, refreshed that he may have found a temporary solution to his woes that he might actually enjoy in the interim.

 



Chapter 3 – A Mother’s Love

 

In her dreams, Esmee’s mother lived. Esmee wore dresses fit for a Princess, had the face of an angel, she could tilt toward the sun and feel its warmth seep into her skin, and ran through the gardens with her beautiful mother as they both laughed. She roamed the house happily and greeted a father who twirled her in the air and kissed her forehead, telling her how much she had grown, even if it had only been a day.


All this love and happiness flashed through Esmee’s head as she slept in the tomb to which Marcellus had introduced her, the empty tomb once occupied by a wealthy man’s remains. It happened over and over again, and in the end, everything crumbled to dust around her, and she awoke screaming her rage and hunger as the sun set below the horizon.


So many memories and yet she couldn’t recall them clearly in the dark. Her sight was clear, and she could see for miles when there were no obstructions, but Esmee had trouble retaining even the most recent recollections when she awoke. And now, she sniffed the air, desperate for a drink to satisfy her hunger and eager to hunt. There! To the left.


She took off, skirting tombstones and leaping bushes with such speed she created her own wind. She could run twenty times faster than she had in her previous life, and she covered the distance between predator and prey in seconds, launching herself at the man who pushed the wheelbarrow down the dark alley. He didn’t even have time to scream, to register what hit him, and Esmee tore at his throat, burying her teeth deep into the throbbing artery and ripping it open so the blood spurted into her mouth in large gulps.


Another animal attack. That is what they would say about this one, and Esmee couldn’t think beyond that as she fed. Only when she finished and came up for air, clawing the lifeless body to assure there would be no questions, was she able to put away the beast and use her brain. The two rarely connected beyond instinctual drive, and she needed both if she wanted to seek her revenge.


She swiped at her mouth and chin with the back of her arm, letting the blood soak into her long sleeve. She no longer cared about her clothing. She could easily replace it, if she wanted. She would merely sneak into the house when all the women were out and take a few things. Or crash through a storefront window and find something new to wear, the sort of dresses that would make her seem more like these other women who walked the streets and begged for business.


She shivered. It was over, but Esmee would never forget, and even when Jack was dead or imprisoned, she would not forgive, for she could do nothing to rectify what he had done to her, even now. Death was too kind for someone like him.


Someone was coming. She could hear the footsteps gaining, and she sniffed but turned away from him, choosing rather to scale the building. In one leap, her fingers dug into the brick mere inches from the top and she used her strength and speed to leverage herself up, throwing her legs over the edge. Crouching in the shadows, she gazed down at the body she’d left behind; glad she’d so easily found a meal untainted by the filth and contamination of this hovel.

When she finished her mission, she would go to Marcellus, have him teach her to live again as a lady, so she could find a place to sustain herself where she didn’t have to worry about blood that was tainted or tasted of consumption or plague.


The woman’s stench floated up to her as she bent over the man. She was infested with the disease that ran rampant in this part of London. As she screamed, Esmee darted across the roof of the building and leapt to the next. The coppers would arrive momentarily, and since she knew fewer of them suffered from the rot of the neighborhood, she couldn’t risk being drawn to them to feed more.


Besides, she would have another body for them by the end of the night, as well as a murderer, if she succeeded. And if she didn’t, she had eternity. She wasn’t hurried, and that gave her one more element she could use against the man who had ruined her and his harem of females who simply followed his orders without question.


Esmee jumped from one roof to another, crossing the district until she came to her favorite place, a little cove in the corner she’d built for herself to settle into on top of the building directly across from where she’d been held captive from the moment she arrived in London. She watched intently as the women came and went, tucking money here and there out of sight. These women chose to sell their bodies to make ends meet, and they chose to live in rooms barely big enough for two with six and seven other women.


They chose to obey Jack.


But Jack was not Esmee’s master. Truly, he never had been, and now he certainly could not compare to Marcellus. And unlike Jack, Marcellus did not keep her as a slave. The night she met him was the first clear memory she could recall.


She’d been cold, so cold, and shivering, the other bitches not allowing her inside until she found one more punter. The streets were empty, a storm coming, and she couldn’t find anyone, no way to make the money she needed to get back into the warmth of the small flat, much less to earn herself a spot close to the fire. Esmee knew she’d get a beating for spending the money she’d already made, but still she offered it to three different innkeepers for a night.


But all of them turned her down, and as the wind blew harder, her stomach ached for a bite to eat. Giving up hope, she found a place in the doorway off an alley behind a building to huddle out of the cold, and she cried. She sobbed, knowing this would be the end of her, and she sang to herself through her tears, a tune her father had used as a comfort when she was a small child and her mother sang to her later.


Rain fell in sheets and Esmee crawled further back into the doorframe, saving herself the worst of the torrent so only her feet were wet and frozen. It lasted only a few minutes, but the cold was bolder, freezing now, and the wind remained unforgiving. Still, she sang, closing her eyes and pretending she was back home.


She struggled to remember what it looked like now, but Esmee remembered the comfort it brought. And when a male voice began to sing with her, she’d believed she was already dead and had been given a chance to sing one last song with her father. But the cold continued seeping into her bones, the wind bit at her toes, and an unfamiliar hand touched her shoulder.


Coppers. It had been her conclusion. But as she stopped singing, resigning herself to her fate, the deep voice told her, “Vengeance can be yours.”


And it would be, Esmee knew as the last of the women from her flat stepped out in search of a shilling for the pleasures that lay between their legs.  Now was her chance, and she practically floated from building to building until she landed on the rooftop of her former residence, perhaps the worst on the block in terms of repair. But from here, she didn’t even have to go down to street level. She merely stepped to the side of the building her old room was on and dropped down quickly to the floor below.


The window was open, and Esmee latched on and threw herself inside, quickly finding the trunk where all the dresses were kept. It was, as usual, a disaster spread out, taking up half of the space in an already cramped environment. She suddenly realized how difficult it would be to carry several dresses to her tomb and decided that, at the moment, she would simply tear the ruined dress she wore at the moment from her shoulders and don another. Soon enough, she would find a way to live without sleeping in the graveyard amongst the truly dead.


Since her thirst had taken hold, Esmee ceased to care how she looked, ceased to feel anything at all except rage and a desire for blood. Now, she craved a more stable existence – she could not call it a life, as she would never again walk in the daylight or find a husband as the women spoke of. She didn’t blame Marcellus for this. The gentleman had done everything in his power to save what was left of a girl who had become a poor wretch.


She blamed Jack. And she would show him suffering beyond his wildest imagination.


She lashed out with a loud roar, sweeping her hand across the trunk and slashing through several dresses. She left gouges in the wooden box, her black, pointed nails and long, sharp teeth appearing as her fury encompassed her. She lost control for that moment, and then she reined it in. She didn’t care about the damage. This wasn’t her home now, and she could just steal what she needed elsewhere. Even if she had to kill someone, she refused to come back to this place again. It was no skin off her back.


Something in the trunk made a sound like a bell, and then another. It stopped, but the two notes rang loud in Esmee’s ears, and they triggered something in her mind that had her immersed completely. Her curiosity drove her forward, and as she heard two more tinkles, she hummed them softly, trying to figure out what exactly she heard.


Esmee dug into the trunk, and at the bottom, she found a small porcelain music box. No one in this flat owned this beauty. It must have been stolen recently. Otherwise, one of the horrible women would have sold it for money by now. It was quite valuable, Esmee knew.


She opened it and twisted the key to wind it, and it played a familiar tune. Where had she heard this before? Yes, that was it. This was one of her mother’s favorite tunes. She’d had a jewelry box that played the tune, and Esmee and her mother had made up words to it hundreds of times before dissolving into uncontrollable fits of laughter.


Lady Annabella, her mother and the most beautiful among all the women in France.


In the world, as far as Esmee had been concerned as a child.


Rage poured through her again as she saw her mother’s withered face and body, lying in the bed and helpless. It would have been unjust had it been natural, but Esmee knew now that her mother should never have died. She should still be thriving and attending parties and occasions where she could eat, drink, and be merry.


For that matter, Esmee should have been at court, considering her marriage options and perhaps entertaining proposals. Now look at her.


Resolving that she would forget those memories tomorrow, after she’d slept, Esmee took the music box in her hand and threw it against the wall, where it smashed and the shards flew all over the room. Let them think they had been robbed. Esmee had never chosen this life. She wanted her mother’s love back. And these women, who claimed to care for her like mothers, had done nothing but hurt her, warped her mind and bruised her body and soul. Esmee wanted them to look over their shoulders for the rest of their short lives as much as she wanted that for Jack.


Now that she had dressed, Esmee could roam the streets if she liked, merely avoiding her former captors until she was ready to drag Jack, fighting tooth and nail, behind her to serve justice to one of them and let Jack finish the job.