Mr. Smith had been keeping the lamps lit in the lighthouse tower for over twenty years. As he usually did in the evenings after checking on the lamps, he walked around the railing at the top of the tower, taking in the air, the ocean, and the night. When he looked down he saw a couple on the rocky beach below him embracing. This wasn’t the first time he’d caught couples looking for privacy, nor was it likely to be the last. He picked up his lantern and climbed down the stairs to shoo them away.
He opened the door at the bottom of the tower and his light fell directly on the man’s face. Caught off guard, the man looked up at him, fangs out and blood on his lips. He looked frightening and angry. Blood was clearly visible on the neck of the girl in his arms, Mr. Smith recognized her. She was one of the barmaids at the Cask & Cleaver. She seemed to be in a swoon and hung limply in the man’s arms.
The man growled, and Mr. Smith felt the vibration all the way to his toes. Courage wasn’t one of his virtues, and he turned and ran back into the lighthouse. He quickly locked and barricaded the door.
“Shiite.” Jacob Alexander said aloud after the old man had run back into the tower. He could hear the locks turning and a chair being dragged in front of the door. With a sigh for the inconvenience, he turned his attention back to the girl in his arms. He made sure the puncture wounds were closed and his lips were clean. “Millie,” the girl looked up at him, “Millie, go home. You only remember that we walked on the beach and that I kissed you.”
The girl smiled her eyes dreamy. “Will you kiss me again?”
“Of course I’ll kiss you again. I’ll come to you again soon. But you must keep our meetings secret.”
“Yes, secret. Our secret.”
“Good girl, now go straight home, Millie, and go to bed. You’ll see me again soon.”
Jacob watched until the girl was at the top of the path away from the beach before turning his attention to the lighthouse. The ground level door had been blocked. He looked to the top of the tower and grunted, it would be a stretch but he could make it, and it would certainly get his message to the keeper. He crouched and gathered his powers and leaped to the top of the tower. It was a near miss; he had to scramble a bit and grab the railing, but he was the only one who would know and he wasn’t going to tell anyone. It was easier to jump down from a height then up.
He could hear the man’s heart beat speed up as he walked slowly down the stairs, deliberately letting each step echo throughout the tower.
At the bottom of the stairs the man cowered against the locked door, too afraid to open it and run. He was old, but not ancient, and he smelled of tobacco and sweat. The thought of putting his mouth on the man was repugnant. Fortunately there was another way.
“You saw too much, Mr. Smith.” Jacob remembered the man’s name mentioned in town. He kept his voice was low, calm, and threatening. “I was careless, and now we have a problem.”
“I--, I promise I won’t say anything, Mr. Alexander sir.” Jacob wasn’t surprised the man recognized him; it was a fairly small town. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“I don’t want to hurt, you Mr. Smith, and I don’t want to kill you either.” The lighthouse keeper blanched. “But I can’t have you telling anyone what you saw.” Mr. Smith stammered again that he wouldn’t tell that he would forget what he saw and so on. Jacob used the skills he’d learned in several centuries of living to order the man to sit down. Mr. Smith obeyed without turning his back on the menacing vampire.
Jacob looked around the shabby room and found what he was looking for; a coffee cup was upside down on the drain board by a bucket of dirty soapy water. He took the cup and set it on the table before the frightened man. “Roll up your sleeve Mr. Smith.”
While Mr. Smith shakily rolled up his sleeve Jacob took out his key ring and removed the small folding knife he kept on it. The blade was only about an inch long, but it was very sharp. He handed it to the man, who took it in his fingers as though it were a live scorpion.
“Fill the cup Mr. Smith. Fill the cup with your blood and swear your loyalty to me. Then I’ll know that you will not betray me.” And he would too; drinking the blood from a cup would make a one-way bond, enough to alert him if Mr. Smith decided to talk, but it would not allow him to directly influence his thinking like it did for Millie and his other victims in the area.
With shaking fingers and a few false starts, the old man managed to cut an inch long incision inside his forearm. The red drops that quickly started filling the cup seemed to be brightest spot of color in the room. The sight and smell held Jacob’s attention and made his fangs extend. To control his victim without actually biting him he needed to control himself. Fortunately, he had centuries of practice.
Though it had started quickly, the blood flow stopped before the cup was half full. The vampire waited unmoving until the man made another shallow cut beside the first. When the cup was full, Jacob picked it up quickly and drained it while it was still warm. Mr. Smith gagged but quickly covered his revulsion by pulling an almost clean handkerchief from his pocket and pressing it over the cuts.
As the blood entered his body, the old man’s thought opened up to him. Fear, fascination, and confusion were close to the top. Jacob reached deeper into the man’s mind to see that he was greedy and lazy and, luckily for Jacob, more concerned for his own life than the life of a girl he scarcely knew.
He would have to come back tomorrow and reinforce his fear, Jacob thought, but with the right combination of bribe and threat the man would stay quiet. Perhaps it had been a lucky night for him after all. He would have to return every few weeks to renew the bond, but it also gave him another source of blood, one that managed correctly could last several years instead of only months.
“If you even think about telling anyone what you saw tonight, I will know. Do you understand?” Mr. Smith nodded, not taking his eyes off of Jacob. That wasn’t good enough “Say it Mr. Smith, say it aloud.”
Mr. Smith swallowed. “I won’t tell anybody anything about you Mr. Alexander.”
“If you do, I can make your death long and painful. Do you believe me?”
“Remember that.” With one hand Jacob moved the heavy chair from the doorway and broke the locks open. He turned back one last time to the frightened man. “Keep the knife, Mr. Smith, you will need it again.” He let himself smile for the first time since his meal had been interrupted. It made him look like a charming harmless young man and that frightened the lighthouse keeper more than if he had bared his fangs.
Satisfied, Jacob walked back up the path to town. The evening was still young and there was live music at the bar tonight.
Back at the lighthouse, Mr. Smith found the half full bottle of brandy he kept hidden behind the sink and drank the rest of it.