Credence Chapter 1

Credence Chapter 1

                Spike lit his first cigarette of the day and inhaled deeply - watched the smoke coil up towards the ceiling from his position flat on his back in bed.  He felt...all right today.   He held his hand up and checked his nail - he kept one on his right hand clean of polish - and noticed with satisfaction that it was almost free of the white striping and ridges that had marred it for so long.  

                *Getting better.*

                He smoked slowly, letting the tensions of sleep ease out of him.  Not a bad day, all together.  The sheets were twisted but not shredded.  The bedside table was intact.  He wasn't hurt anywhere, and his mouth didn't taste of blood.  So, an easy day.  He leaned sideways and stubbed out the cigarette, then pushed himself slowly upright.  Still a little weak, a little dizzy.  A persistent shakiness that wouldn't go away until a couple of hours after he'd fed.  He shuffled across hardwood and scattered rugs to the bathroom and turned on the shower, letting it run good and hot.  There was a greyish metallic powder dulling his skin that was chalky and very fine.  He could taste it in his mouth, under the smoke, and it wasn't pleasant.  He uncapped the bottle of whiskey that was on the tub edge and took a long swallow, washing the taste down but not quite away. 

                *Better after I eat.*  He got into the shower and scrubbed - strong soap full of cloves and mint and verbena - strong enough that he could smell it most of the night - taste it in his sinuses and drive out the lingering taint of rotting tin.

                *Fucking bastards.*   He shampooed his hair and rinsed it and then stood under the spray for long minutes, just letting the warmth sink in.   He felt cold a lot - more than he ever used to.  It would pass, when he'd fed.  But for now the near-scalding water was nirvana, and he'd made sure this place had a hot-water heater that would shame most hotels.  And a tub that could double as a small pool for extended soaks on those days when the breeze of the Sound was chill and full of rain.  

                He reluctantly turned the water off after twenty minutes and got out - dried off and fixed his hair, gong for 'spikey' tonight instead of slick.  It just felt like a *heh* spikey kind of night.   He pulled on jeans and wife-beater and a black shirt of heavy Marseille silk; raised black on black stripes that felt good under his fingers.  Had to look good for work.  Touch of kohl, barest trace of color to his lips.  He was still just a little...white, around the edges.  Vivian said his mouth disappeared some nights when he was feeling off, so please 'tart up' until he was well. 

                *Anything for you, Vivian,* Spike thought, smiling to himself.  Brush of teeth, quick polish of his boots and he was ready.  It was nearly six, the sun down fifteen minutes or less.  He grabbed his duster and shrugged it on - loaded lighter and smokes into the breast pocket, and then weapons in various other pockets.  Straight razor, Bo shuriken, an ASP baton in its belt holster that, as a civilian, he wasn't supposed to have.  Sometimes he just wanted to hurt something, and these were all good for that.  What was left of his tips from the night before - close to two hundred dollars - went into his jeans pocket.  A quick glance around the flat and he left, locking the massive sliding door behind him and pulling the steel mesh of the freight elevator door down.  It was locked on his floor, making his underground lair almost impregnable.  He hummed happily to himself, a little Alice Cooper to start the night off right.  

                Up and out, into a chill, clear night.  Near to freezing, and he hugged his duster around himself and walked briskly down the street, heading for Pioneer Square and the homeless shelter near there.  He was feeling too shaky to hunt down something strong - tonight he'd settle for some junkie - get the blood and the drug, and be feeling fine by the time he got to work.  He lit up a smoke and grinned.  It was going to be a fine night.

                The Union Gospel Mission was crowded - it always was, on nights like this, when the sea air carried a bit of the Arctic in it.   The overflow had spilled out into the street and surrounding alleys; skinny old men and blowsy old women and tattered kids all huddling and milling and generally trying to survive another below-freezing night.  The Mission would feed anybody, but the beds were limited and Spike watched for someone who was getting fed but not staying.  Watched the coming and going with a casual eye, smoking under an awning across the street.  A lot of what left were the hard-core street folk; those that lived in the Underground or down around the Piers and wouldn't stay in a shelter for any reason whatsoever.  And a lot of those were sick - too sick to appeal to Spike.  Or too crazy.  But there was another kind of person who wouldn't stay overnight, either.  Demons, who often found it uncomfortable or dangerous to be around humans that long, or young ones who were too full of bravado or drugs to know what was good for them.  Or those that had someone waiting for them - someone too ill or too afraid to venture into the shelter at all.  Those he watched, and finally saw a likely one.  A boy - well, just barely.  Worn jeans and work boots, a knit cap pulled down tight over his head and the hood of his sweatshirt over that, obscuring his face with shadow.  Under the too-large folds of the dirty zip-up Spike could tell he was fairly muscled still, and that promised a good feed.  Spike flicked his cigarette away and faded back, waiting for his chosen meal to get close enough.  As the man walked by - hard, purposeful stride, head down, bag of food swinging from one fist - Spike caught a familiar scent.  He took a deep breath, mouth open slightly, and then grimaced.  Werewolf.  The scent was so strong he couldn't tell if this man was the were-creature of if he was somehow connected to it, but either way that was too much for Spike to handle tonight.  He snarled silently, irritated at his state.

                *Better all the time.  I know that, and Wrxl says it's so.  Just have to be patient.*   Spike hated being patient, but he had learned something, eight months ago.  Something he'd never forget.  So he let the man go by and set his sights instead on a girl - buzzed short hair and tattoos showing on her hands, jail-house stuff.  He arranged himself for effect - made a small noise of appreciation when she sauntered by.  She checked - looked him over and grinned.  She smelled of sex and meth and dirt and very faintly of blood, and her eyes were a strange, pale color that gave her the look of a lunatic.   She tasted absolutely delicious.

                When Spike got to work the club was already busy - Saturday night, after all.  The dungeon was full, the dance floor was packed, and the 'special' rooms upstairs were all occupied.  Spike got a shot of whiskey and turned his duster over to the care of the coat-check girl, then did a round.  Everything was relatively quite, although there were two Army boys upstairs, and he made a note to keep an eye on them.  They might just need a little seeing-to, later.    He came back downstairs and went into the office to say hello to Vivian.  She was on the phone as usual, hissing something in a demon dialect Spike didn't quite understand.  She grinned when she saw him.  Vivian was a vampire as well and she only hired demons - but she catered to humans.  Spike liked her.  He lit up and smoked while she finished her conversation and hung up.

                "So, Spike - you're looking good."

                "Feeling good, Viv.  Anything I should know?"

                "There's a group from Belgium coming in this evening, late.  Going to rent out the suite for tonight and tomorrow.  Shouldn't be any problems, but I'd appreciate if you'd keep an eye out.  Otherwise - some soldiers here tonight."

                "Saw 'em," Spike said, and ground out his cigarette.  Viv understood about the soldiers.

                "You're always so discreet about them, I'm sure I need not say anything...?"  Viv's eyebrows lifted into a gentle arch and Spike leaned forward over her desk, getting close.

                "Now, Viv.  You know you don't have a thing to fear, love."  He gave her his best sardonic smirk, and she laughed.

                "I know, Spike.   Wrxl's about somewhere, have him take a look sometime tonight."

                "Right, I'll do that."  Spike stood back up and sauntered out as Viv's phone rang.    The DJ tonight was a very young vamp who liked European techno-pop just a little too much, and Spike winced as his ears were assaulted with the dolphin-like range of the singer for Aqua.   He did another round, snarling at Justin up in the DJ booth.   Justin just laughed and segued into something vaguely Indian but equally appalling and Spike went away upstairs to give the Army boys the once-over again.  They were sharing a room and a cute little Ting demon, and he hoped they'd try something before they left. 

                *Fuck it.  They don't even have to try anything.  I'll see to 'em before they get too far, one way or another.*  There was an Army post nearby - an hour away or less - and soldiers came to the club fairly frequently.  And when they did, and Spike was feeling up to it, he followed them.   He'd found a place in the Underground, far off the beaten path of the tourist tours.  A place where the soldiers could scream and no one would hear them.  Spike grinned, heading back downstairs for another shot, the girl's meth-tainted blood fizzing through him and boiling any lingering shakes away.  He had to find Wrxl, have the demon give him the once-over.  He felt good tonight - better than usual - and he was pretty sure he was almost back.  Almost healed.