The drinks were tasting worse than usual.
Not that Thea really enjoyed drinking that swill they bottled up and passed for blood -- in dives like this, she really had no choice, even if she preferred the real thing -- but Tru Blood really left a bad taste in her mouth this time. Her face scrunching up in an expression of disgust, the black-haired vampire pushed the bottle away from her, rolling her eyes.
Maybe it wasn't the drink after all. Maybe it had more to do with the self-righteous wannabe mayor who's all-too-mortal mug just graced the HD screen, talking about how he and he alone could fight off the vampires. The louse had called Thea and her ilk practically every name in the book -- monsters, leeches, parasites, creatures, menaces -- yet she couldn't bring herself to feel insulted.
If anything, Thea appreciated the honesty. Besides, she already knew what she was; she didn't need some pretty boy in a tie telling her.
Still, if this Thurston creep actually wound up as mayor, she knew that would be bad news for the undead. Particularly given his apparent fondness for that church. Uppity little God freaks who really thought they could take on the vampires with nothing more than a Bible and poor excuses for weapons. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic ... and occasionally effective.
How those bastards got to Leon, she'd never know.
Finn stepped into the gleaming, custom-fitted kitchen of his home and spotted one of the female vampires who occasionally frequented his home. Someone or other always extended an invitation, and the sheriff didn't care enough to revoke it. There were always different vampires coming and going, along with their human pets. There wasn't anything in the place that he couldn't replace, if stolen, and he felt secure enough with the guards around him.
"If you had wanted something more ... substantial, you need only have asked," he told her, his face remaining expressionless for the moment. "I pride myself on being a good host. There's a girl, for instance, in one of these bedrooms waiting for someone to feed from her. She's a bit fang-marked, but it's still better than that." He motioned to the red bottle in her hand.
Thea's smile was knowing as she leaned back with her elbows against the counter. Her black tank top matched her hair almost perfectly -- which was almost as entertaining a thought as the fact that all she had to do to get it was kill the lady trying to help her at the store. Not that anyone would find the little redhead, since Thea made sure to chop her up into bits and plop the remains in a nearby dumpster.
Waiting for the store to close was a bit annoying, though.
"Might have to take you up on that offer," she said. Thea had never actually spoken to Finn, the Sherrif of what was known to some as Aera 2, yet she didn't really find herself in awe. Sure, Finn was in a position of power and influence relative to most of the other undead, but he was a vampire, like all the others. Maybe just ... a little smarter.
Cheers and manly yelps came from another room. Thea rolled her eyes again. Okay, Finn was a lot smarter.
"What're you gonna do?" she asked, nodding in the direction of the TV. "Y'know, about Li'l Cheney?"
Finn took a bottle of B positive from the SubZero fridge. Despite his own proclamation that the beverage was below average, he had no desire to mingle with the humans at the moment. He took the cap off the bottle and tossed it deftly into the trash before placing the synthetic blood in one of the stainless steel microwaves. "What I said earlier was more of a placating statement than anything. Yes, I'd love nothing more than to kill him and all the humans who congregate in that wretched excuse for a church. But I have to go about things much more delicately. I don't want to get us all slaughtered. War has never interested me."
The sheriff turned to Thea, and a small light of interest had entered his gaze. "What do you think we should do?" Whether he would take any bit of her answer into consideration was debateable. Finn wasn't one to surround himself with advisors and PR people. He was one of the more unpopular sheriffs because of it.
Thinking of stuff like that was never really Thea's cup of tea. Not because she wasn't smart -- one had to have some brains to live as a thief, pulse or no -- but when it came to matters such as strategy and politics, the vampiress really didn't have it. Still, the sherrif had asked her opinion, so she figured it best to at least try to offer her perspective.
If nothing else, it was a sign of respect. Thea didn't often show respect, but she'd heard horror stories of what happened to vampires who disrespected sherrifs. Suffice it to say, Thea didn't want to wind up as someone's wallpaper.
Especially if she wasn't killed first.
"Well," she began, pausing to give herself more time still, "what if we found a way to get the Fellowship to turn on him? They seem like they're pretty tight -- like Catholic priest and 8-year-old boy tight -- and since he condones what they do, I'm thinkin' he just might be one of them ... he just won't admit it.
"I'd like to see the guy face-down in the river, but no one says we have to be the ones to do it."
Finn smiled slowly as he removed the warm bottle from the microwave and took a contemplative sip. After three years, he still didn't feel right drinking without his fangs, but they often clinked annoyingly against the bottle if he bared them. He set it on the granite counter. "I'm sure you're aware of those humans who like to steal our blood and sell it to others, as a drug of sorts? V dealers, they like to call themselves."
"I've heard of them," Thea answered, folding her arms over the counter. "Don't know much about them, though."
Thea got out a lot, but it wasn't like she had her ear to the ground. She was too busy enjoying the fact that she was immortal, and using the inherent benefits to help her career as a burglar. Stealing things and getting away was a lot easier now that she was a lot harder to kill and could just snap a guard or cop's neck if she needed to. Of course, that also added the hassle of covering up the murder, since not doing so would call undue attention to her and the rest of her ilk -- something else that would upset Finn.
The vampire lowered his voice. Others would be able to still hear him if they were in the vicinity, but as long as the majority in the living room weren't listening in, that was all he cared about. "I've been told a rumor -- perhaps a baseless one, or perhaps not -- that our Mr. Thurston has sold or is currently selling V. Now, I don't know why, nor do I particularly care. The part I care about is who he's getting it from. I don't think another human would be supplying it to him. So if he did have a deal with a vampire, or vampires plural ... I'm sure the Fellowship, and the general public, would just love to hear about it."
Finn took another long drink, feeling the hot, metallic liquid slide down his throat. "And then I would take him to the Magister. He's always so much more ... creative with his punishments."
The smile on Thea's face grew. She knew exactly what Finn was getting at -- shaming a politician for his associations in the middle of a campaign was as tried-and-true as a stake to the heart ... so why should this time be any different? Adam Thurston was obviously basing his campaign on anti-vampire rhetoric; if there was proof that he was selling vampire blood as a drug, that would seriously undermine his message.
And possibly get the Fellowship of the Sun to turn on him. A win-win-win for the vampires of Chicago.
In a way, Thea hoped the Fellowship wouldn't kill him. The idea of watching Magister have his way with the politician was just too juicy. Thea's body was practically tingling at the thought.
"I'd like to think," she said, "that he's not stupid enough to have these vampires he's dealing with on his payroll. Convenient for us, but really retarded on his part."
The vampire finished off the bottle and wiped his mouth. "Unfortunately, he isn't stupid. Politicians know ways around everything. They've done things that even we wouldn't do to each other. Betrayal and lies are daily routine for them. No, it will take a lot of digging to find the vampires who are supplying their blood to him. Perhaps even an undercover source ... either way, it will take planning; I can't do it all alone." Here, he looked at Thea meaningfully.
"Of course, the ones who have helped him will be punished, as well. I once saw a vampire having his fangs removed with pliers on the Magister's orders, all because he fed on another's human. I've never seen anyone punished for supplying V before. It should be quite illuminating."
Thea shuddered at the thought of having her fangs removed with pliars. If nothing else, it reminded her how much she hated going to the dentist as a kid. Still, she had to admit it was a pretty effective punishment, as far as vampires went. She wondered briefly if it was possible to drain all the blood from a vampire's body and not kill him ... if so, that would be a fitting punishment for whichever bloodsucker was pushing V.
Thea held on to that thought, though. It just felt like a discussion for another time.
"I can help, if you want," she offered with a shrug. "Not like my planner's overflowing. When I'm not snatching purses or stealing flat-screen TVs, I'm pretty much bored."
Finn laughed quietly. "You want a flat-screen television? I have twelve of them." He shook his head, as if he had just heard a very funny joke. "I don't usually condone what you do as a means of supporting one's self. Petty thievery, it just seems so ... unbecoming. There isn't much dignity in it. But I'm also an ardent supporter of cultivating one's talents ... and I've heard quite a lot about yours. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, to be notorious when you're such a young vampire. But for now, we'll call it good.
"And if you're bored, then perhaps I could extend a challenge to you. Steal me something that belongs to Adam Thurston. I want him to know what it feels like to have a piece of himself in the hands of others. And do make sure it's something that will be missed."
Grinning, Thea pushed off the counter and got back to her feet, sliding her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. "What can I say?" she offered with a shrug of her shoulders. "Old habits die hard ... even if you're already dead."
She gave Finn's request a moment's thought. She wasn't trying to decide whether or not to do it -- Thea knew already that not doing what a sherrif asked was a pretty lousy idea -- but just how far she'd take this particular challenge. She'd have to stake out Thurston and the places he frequented first, get a good idea for what would really rile him up if he lost it.
If nothing else, it should prove to be fun. Thea was used to taking things, but never with the intent of actually getting to someone. The added emotional element only made her personal tingle intensify.
"No worries," she added, her crimson lips turned into a sideways grin. "I'm your girl."