It Is Always Three O'Clock in the Morning

Episode 5: Bela Lugosi's Dead

Music: Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

A woman gazes out across a dark crowded club. She waits, the music vibrating in her bones. Yet over this thudding, she feels the rapid beating of her heart. She is looking for someone, hunting for someone who is also hunting. The fear is almost overwhelming, but she is too close to death to let that stop her.

Elsewhere

It’s an hour before midnight, and Angel quietly slips into his family’s home. He slowly lifts up the kitchen window, careful to keep the fire escape he’s standing on from groaning too loudly. Sliding over the windowsill and into the kitchen, he looks through the dark at the common room of the grimy apartment he used to share with his mother and two younger siblings. In the corner of the living room is a small table covered in candles and pictures of saints, a place of devotion for Angel’s mother. Creeping across the room, he draws a wad of cash from his coat and puts it down on the table, knowing his mother will find it in the morning.

He pauses for a moment to stare down at the sacred spot, when there is an audible click and light pours out into the living room from his mother’s bedroom. She stands in the doorway, silhouetted in light that blinds Angel from seeing her face. But even though he can’t see her face, her voice betrays her confusion and shock. “Angel? What.. But you’re.. I saw you…” Angel stumbles backwards in likewise shock, and the words fall out of his mouth at a rapid pace, “Mama! No, you don’t, I’m sorry, it’s not, you don’t understand…” They continue in this fashion, Angel’s mother making plaintive cries for explanations or understanding, and Angel telling her she cannot understand, that she must forget this, that he must not be here anymore.

“Wait!” His mother cries. He pauses. “I don’t know what’s happened to you,” she continues, “But a man came to me last week. He asked us many questions, and told us you were in trouble. I told him that you were, well, that you were gone. It was awful. But he told me… that if I saw you, to give you this.” She hands him a card, which he pockets. “He made it sound like you were messed up with bad people. But, Angel – I saw you… you were dead. I saw you die. People don’t come back from that. They either go to heaven with Jesus, or to hell with the Devil. Where have you gone, hijo?” Angel replies, “Mama, no, just – just pretend I was never here. You won’t see me again. I’m leaving. I’m – I’m sorry,” as he steps toward the window. He escapes, leaving her with a wad of cash and unanswered questions.

On the street below, Angel steals a glance at the card in his pocket. It’s a business card for a private investigator named Harold Jackson. On the back, scrawled in ink, is the message “Angel, Call me – Harry” and a phone number different from the one on the front. Pausing at a deserted street corner a few blocks away, Angel pulls out his cell phone and dials the number on the back. The phone rings for what seems like an eternity in the cold night, before a sleep-addled voice picks up: “Hello?” Angel testily says, “This is Angel. Who is this and why have you been bothering my family?” The man on the other end introduces himself as Harry, and says that he knows Angel is in trouble, that he’s in trouble with some very dark forces, and that he can help. Angel is angry and isn’t having any of this, and tells the P.I. so, but tells the detective he’ll give him what info he can if the detective promises to never fuck with his family again. The detective, sounding slightly shocked, agrees to this, and they agree to meet at the Off-Shift Diner a few days later.

Later in the night, Angel stalks across Central Park, hunger gnawing in his gut, worse than it has been in days. He joins Anthony there, as they’re to meet Cherise Maxwell, a doctor in the hospital looming through the trees to the east and Annete’s ghoul, to help them “solve” the blood heist. Anthony has been wandering the streets this evening, contemplating the task set before him by Arianne, his sire. The doctor arrives right on time. She’s punctual, but jumpy and nervous. She claims to have nothing to tell about the blood heist, and especially about the missing video tape (the one documenting Angel, Anthony, and Penny having committed the heist). Suspecting she is hiding something, Anthony sweet talks her, with Angel’s impatient growling as counterpoint.
She finally agrees to help – but only if they pay her with a pint of blood. They hesitate, unfamiliar with what Cherise is proposing. She says, “What? You know how this works, right? Your kind feeds people like me blood, your blood, and it’s like heroin and sex all in one. And in return, we do your shit work. Yeah?” Anthony looks at her for a moment before replying, “Well, we may be a little new to this, yes, but. Um. Don’t you work for Annete?” Cherise shrugs, “Yeah. But still. You gonna pay up or not?”

At this, Angel’s patience is over, and he snaps at the ghoul, an animalistic anger in his eyes and his voice as he lashes out at her for trying to negotiate over something they could just take from her. Anthony tries to hold it together, but soon the freaked out Cherise and the two Kindred are shouting at each other. Anthony, having had enough, wills the stolen blood in his veins to command: “SPEAK,” he intones to Cherise. Finally, the answer comes out in a babbling stream. Dr. Maxwell was approached by someone or something else, another monster but of a different kind, who offered her lots of blood to give up the tape. Whatever the vampire-thing is, it lives in the attics of the hospital, and has no face, like a dressmaker’s mannequin. She just calls it, “The Ghost.” And it’s got their tape. She’s sorry, she says, sorry she didn’t tell them before. But that’s the whole truth. And… could she still get that pint of blood?

Anthony sighs, and takes some pity on the poor woman. He agrees to give her the blood, but before he heads to the hospital to have it taken with an IV, he pulls Angel to the side. “You need to get yourself together, man. You look terrible. Have you been feeiding?” Angel stares at him, “That’s none of your business. I can take care of myself, thanks.” And he wanders off into the middle of Central Park.

Angel wanders for a while, able to focus on little else than the maddening craving knifing through his guts. His dead guts. After a while, he spots a couple of guys under a streetlamp, one emaciated guy handing over money and getting a small package in return. Angel slips off the main path, and trails the addict whose feeble heartbeat he can hear loud as thunder. Creeping along, he missteps, a breaks a branch under his foot. The addict turns back, spots him behind the bushes, and goes “fuck” under his breath and he takes off down the path. Angel dashes through the bush onto the path, and sprints after him.

The addict’s adrenaline and terror allow him to keep pace with Angel for a good while, and strangely as they run Angel finds himself invigorated in turn. It’s unfamiliar, but he feels strong and alive. Predatory. He draws out the chase just a few moments longer, relishing this feeling, before grabbing the addict by his shoulders and throwing him the ground. Angel leaps on top of him, and ignores the man’s cries of “Why? Why me? I didn’t do… ” as he lowers his mouth to the enticing neck, full of life and vigor and freedom. He doesn’t just bite, he gnaws and gnashes and feeds in glorious exultation. By the time he pulls up, his face and the front of his shirt are drenched in blood, and the man below him his breathing slow, shallow ragged breaths. The light in his eyes is dimmed, and Angel recognizes that there is no living through this for the addict. He takes the man’s fate into his own hands, literally, and snaps his neck. Feeling alert and satisfied, Angel wanders back through the woods to find Anthony again.

They meet up where they separated, and the newly slightly drained Anthony stares agog at Angel, covered in red-brown stains and liquid blood. Angel stares back: “What?” As he wipes his mouth on his sleeve, then licks it. They then proceed, despite this bizarre tableau, to debate how to approach the Ghost in the hospital. Anthony is unusually reticent, anxious about owing a favor to yet another powerful entity. And Angel is surprisingly active, urging action now, that regardless of how it falls out they have to do something now to get this tape and save their own asses. Anthony seems somewhat convinced, but they both hesitate for a while, staring up at the looming hospital, unsure of exactly what they’ll find there.

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