This is coming along much better, though I'm running out of steam on the trailing paragraphs. Too much tell. Not enough show. But it's getting there ... one word at a time.
A hard rain pounds Atlantic City as I stand under a rusted metal awning and wait for the evil little fucker to make his nightly visit to the screamo bar across the street. It's too early in the evening for his arrival, so I take the time to scan the streets for other potential meat scrambling through the city. My thigh-length black leather jacket is zipped to my neck. I keep my eyes low and face averted so humans don't see my face – porcelain white and pale as a scream – my black hair loose around my shoulders.
The rain is relentless, and it lashes both the streets and the crowds of nightlife seeking shelter and a euphoric release from their lives. Atlantic City doesn't have quiet nights. Gamblers and hookers, tourists and punks: they all flood the streets at night, looking for a score. A quick fuck. A needle. A bag of cash, or a sucker. The streets of AC are garish with graffitied walls and casino neon flashing come-hither messages like fuck-me dolls. Huddled under umbrellas, the passing crowds are as mushrooms scurrying into casinos, pawn shops, strip clubs, bars and restaurants.
Some of the steady stream of passersby keep to the streets and sidewalks instead of ducking into a building, as the night is steamy with the day's leftover heat, despite the rain. I don't give a fuck about the weather one way or the other. Dead flesh doesn't suffer the elements.
I love Atlantic City, and I've hunted here off and on throughout much of the last six decades. The city has a low profile, because crimes that would be national news anywhere else are kept off the media's radar by sleazy politicians greasing palms with cash, drugs or prostitutes – sometimes a combination of all three. Those same politicians talk about the rebirth of the city and the changes made possible by gambling and the wealthy Middle Eastern and Asian tourists. But what the politicians really do is jam as much cash into their pockets as fast as they can, fucking over the island neighborhoods and screaming poor-mouth when the actual decline of the city does make the news.
In the light of day, Atlantic City looks like a war zone. Not that I venture into sunlight, but my current lair is in just one of a dozen abandoned buildings that blight the south side of the island city.
At night, Atlantic City's glitzy exterior of neon and multi-billion dollar casinos masks the grime that lies just below the surface. Mobsters and slavers made the city their home long before gambling was legalized in the 1970s. Indeed, slavers continue to use the city as a port of call for the sale of under-aged boys and girls.
Just beyond the neon lights and casinos is Atlantic City's famous Boardwalk, where whores, drug addicts and schizophrenics live under the planks, fighting and fucking beneath the feet of tourists and teenagers. Occasionally a body turns up. But most times the city's population of ghouls take care of the corpse before anyone notices the stench.
Ghouls are necessary to a city like this one. Smarter than zombies and more efficient than werewolves.
But the best part of Atlantic City is the number of disposable teens that stalk the night streets with sneers and baggy pants. The former is a result of the bravado of perceived invulnerability. The latter slows the little shits to a pants-yanking shamble. Many of Atlantic City's youth are cheap, wanna-be gangsters who know fuck-all about real life and death. They're the kind of punks who brag about guns and murder and their plans to one day move to the Big City, where they'll be players, with plenty of whores and drugs in easy reach. These little thugs beat and rob tourists, rape girls and boys in back alleys, and fight endlessly over perceived territory violations.
They are the kind of scum that the police would just as soon quietly disappeared.
And I'm the vampire for that particular task.
There's an uneasy truce across the nation between the authorities and vampires. We're an open secret in most police departments and military installations. A necessary evil, some say. Extra soldiers to combat the scum in the general population. So long as we're careful about who we devour, vampires are not harassed.
I eat people who won't be missed, folks that no one really gives a shit about. Atlantic City has plenty of humans that meet that criteria. The city is a shoal for bottom feeders and shit-pickers. Penniless hustlers are everywhere, and I could live here forever on just a few square blocks of humanity.
But I don't, and it's because I take care in finding the perfect meal. Like most vampires, I'm selective about who and what I eat, yet that has to do more with flavor than worries about discovery.
I don't typically take the flotsam of Atlantic City – the schizophrenics, homeless, or prostitutes. Don't get me wrong. I'll drag a bag lady off her shopping cart and suck her dry in a heartbeat, if that's what it takes to get me through the night. But that's not my normal style. I tell myself that the homeless and whores are probably tough and gamey, but the truth is that even though they're humans that would be easily missed and forgotten, bums and hookers are just too innocent to have any real spice.
The cops wouldn't mind at all if I took a few schizos off the street, or waylaid a drug-addled prostitute. But there's more than blood to a meal, and I'm not talking about fucking.