Atl looked at him as she fished out two tea bags and closed the tin. She grabbed a pad of lined notepaper that was attached to the refrigerator. It had smiley kittens on it. He knew it wasn’t hers; it was probably the relic of a previous tenant. She wasn’t a smiley kitten girl, that was for sure.
“No, man, no, I wasn’t saying, you know. Just … in case, I—”
“I’m a Tlāhuihpochtli.”
That’s not a word he expected to hear. Domingo blinked. “You can’t be. That’s a type of vampire, isn’t it?”
Domingo had heard about vampires. He’d seen the stories about them on the television. He’d read about them in old comic books and graphic novels. He’d never thought he would meet one, not here.
For the first time, he noticed a certain redness to her eyes, as though she had been awake for a long time, as well as dark circles faintly visible beneath her makeup.
“It’s vampire-free territory in Mexico City,” he mumbled.
How’d she gotten in the city? Sanitation should have nabbed her. Those Apostles of Health who were supposed to stop whatever new disease was going around, but who didn’t do jack shit except harass people in the poor neighborhoods. What was it Quinto had said? Something about how the human species was self-destructing at a bacteriological level but sanitation in Mexico was too busy fining people to care. But they would have noticed her, wouldn’t they? And if not them, then the cops.
Maybe she wasn’t a vampire. Could just be a wealthy, crazy girl playing dress-up. But he didn’t think so. He felt he was staring at the real thing.
“I know,” she said, scribbling a number on the pad of paper and holding it up for him to see. “How would you like to not have to work for a whole month?”
Domingo leaned against the wall, arms crossed.
“That’s more like five for me,” he said.
He should have been more worried. He wasn’t sure if vampires really did have mind powers or if he’d simply been lulled into a sense of comfort by the woman’s appearance; either way, he didn’t feel scared. He felt a bit giddy and nervous, but there was none of the true fear that should punctuate this moment. It was a good moment, like that time when he found a new pair of fancy sneakers in a trash bin, box and all.
Atl nodded. “I need young blood. You’ll do.”
“Wait. I’m not going to turn into a vampire, am I?” he asked, because you can never be too sure—and he wasn’t sure of anything. Vampire comic books and shit, they contradicted themselves.
“No,” she said, sounding affronted. “We are born like this.”
The kettle whistled. Atl removed it from the burner and poured hot water into the two cups. She placed the tea bags in the cups and offered one to him, pointing to the sugar.
He grabbed a sugar cube. She tossed six into her cup. Atl’s spoon rattled against the cup’s sides as she stirred.
Vampire. Like in Crypt of Darkness. Something both strange and awesome and intimidating. She was pretty. She had money. She was cool. He didn’t hang out with cool people. He didn’t hang out with much of anyone.
Domingo placed his hands around the cup and took a sip.
“It won’t hurt much. What do you think?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I mean, do I still get to … you know … sleep with you?”
She let out a sigh and shook her head.
“No, and don’t try anything. Cualli will bite your leg off if you do.”
Domingo took another sip. He was disappointed. But then he wondered if he might not get a small kiss as a token of affection. A tiny smile. A brief hug. Any of those things would make him happy. Disappointment turned to hope. And there was, of course, the money. “How do we do this?” Domingo asked, setting down his cup.
Atl removed her gloves. Her fingers were long and beautiful. But the nails were sharp and black. It was not nail polish. These were her natural nails. These were a bird’s talons.
She raised those long hands and placed them on either side of his face. Domingo thought his previous idea about vampire powers might have been right, because he didn’t flinch. He just stared at her as her hair turned into feathers and her hands seemed to grow more talonlike.
She craned her neck.
“Don’t worry, this won’t take long,” she said. “And don’t move.”