Vampire Games (Chapter Twenty-seven)

It was late.

I was at home, looking into Allison's allegations. Unfortunately, there was no video of the charity fight anywhere. That would have been nice to see. The karate champion in question was Andre Fine, and he was generally recognized as the best in his weight class, holding various titles and many degrees of black belt. Apparently, he was the baddest of the bad.

I found his website and studied his many pictures. I also found many YouTube video clips of his fights. He was, from all appearances, lightning fast, and tended to really hurt his opponents. More than one went down and stayed down.

I sat back and rubbed my eyes out of habit. Truth was, they didn't hurt. Truth was, they never hurt and I had perfect vision. Especially after a day like today.

When I had consumed fresh human blood.

Human blood from a more-than-willing donor.

The small amount that I had indeed consumed from Allison's finger was more than enough to sustain me for a day or two. Human blood has that effect: long-lasting and filling. Even small amounts of the stuff went a long way.

I thought of Allison again, a woman who loved to have her blood consumed. And I mean loved to have it consumed. And here I was, a woman and vampire who knew the benefits of human blood. The supernatural, unparalleled benefits. It was hard not to see that this could be a match made in Heaven.

Or, more accurately, in one of the outer rings of Hell.

Andre Fine. He looked like a tough dude. He knew how to punch. How to guard. He seemed to have an almost supernatural grasp of what his opponent would do next. From the footage I saw, no one had gotten close to him. No one had hurt him, and all were beaten – badly.

Except, he didn't strike me as something supernatural. He wasn't a particularly big man, and, according to Kingsley the Buttface, I now knew that werewolves actually grew in size as time went on. Kingsley himself had started out as a much smaller man, which made me wonder how big Kingsley would eventually get. Or, if there was a capping-off of size.

Then again, maybe I didn't care, at least, not about Kingsley.

But I did care. I did care that he had cheated on me, and it was all I could do to not drive over there, kick his door in, and then kick his face in.

But he had been set up.

So what?

Easy excuse.

Jerk off.

Perhaps Andre Fine was a new werewolf, then, not yet old enough to achieve the bigger size. Kingsley, after all, possessed such quickness and strength. But Andre Fine was slight, even. He was, in fact, often smaller than his opponents…although clearly faster and stronger and more skilled.

I shifted gears, and within a few minutes, I had all his personal information in front of me, as well. I now knew his last three residences, including his current one in Malibu. He was single, no kids, and had an interesting rap sheet. He'd spent time in county jail for beating a man nearly to death in a barroom brawl. His hands were registered as lethal weapons, so the fight was considered a felony. He also seemed to like to beat up his various girlfriends. Three different complaints from three different women. No arrests, warnings only. I looked up his birth certificate, and confirmed that he was not an immortal who had lived hundreds of years, although he certainly fought like an immortal. He was thirty-four.

Still, how could a single punch have an effect a month later?

I didn't know. But I knew someone who might. I picked up my cell and called Chad Helling, my ex-partner with HUD. He answered on the second ring.

"Better?" he asked.

"I like being a second-ring kind of gal," I said.

"You do realize we're not partners anymore, Moon Shine," he said, using one of his trillions of nicknames he had for me. "I'm not obligated to pick up at all. In fact, my life would be a lot easier if I just let your calls go to voicemail."

"Then why don't you?"

"I said my life would easier."

"So that means you still love me."

"No, I love Monica. I put up with you."

"Good enough," I said.

"So, how can I plunder the government's resources for you this time, Sunshine?"

"Not the government's resources. Your gray matter. I'm calling to pick your brain. I need your expertise."

"In beer?"

"Fighting," I said, knowing that Chad Helling was an amateur MMA fighter.

"Sometimes they're one and the same," he said.

I rolled my eyes. I told him about my case and about Allison's theory. And to my complete surprise, Chad didn't laugh immediately, which is what I had expected.

When I finished, he said, "Andre Fine is a bad dude."

"That's what I gathered."

"No, I mean a bad dude."

"Okay, you lost me," I said.

"I mean, the guy is legendary in the fighting community. Not only is he the reigning karate champion, but he has been for the last five years in a row."

"But why is he legendary?"

"Did you catch the part about being champion for five straight years?"

"I did," I said. "But I also noted something else in your voice."

"Geez, Moon River, I can't keep anything from you."

"Nope. Now, out with it."

"Okay, here's the dope.""Dope?"

"It's like the new catch phrase these days."

"Fine. Give me the dope."

"Ugh."

"Ugh what?" I said.

"Doesn't sound right coming from you. Sounds too mom-ish."

"Well, I am a mom. Now tell me what you know or I'll shove my mommy sneaker up your ass."

"Now that's the Samantha Moon that I remember."

"Chad…"

"Right. Fine. Look, some of this isn't easy to talk about. I mean, it's kind of crazy, actually."

"Crazy, how?"

"You know about Bruce Lee, right?"

"Sure," I said. "Kung fu guy?"

"Well, he was much more than just a kung fu guy, but yeah, him. Anyway, he died of cerebral edema caused by pain medication. A bad reaction, you know? He died at age thirty-two."

"So what about him?" I asked.

"In 1985, Black Belt Magazine stirred up some controversy when it suggested that Bruce Lee had, in fact, been killed by a dim mak."

"Dim mak?"

"Death touch."

"Of course," I said.

"You might laugh but there are lots of fighters and martial artists out there who think the dim mak is real."

"And how might one die from a dim mak?"

"That part isn't so easy to explain. But it has something to do with stopping life flow or life force, or what some call prana."

"Did you just say prana?"

"I know. New Age-y, woo-woo stuff. But think of it as the opposite of acupuncture, which encourages the flow of energy through a body."

"And the dim mak discourages the flow of energy?"

"That's the theory."

"On Google, do I just type in death touch? Or touch of death?"

"Like I said, Moon Glow, you can laugh, but there are many who believe it's real – and a few who claim they've seen the dim mak in action. And those who are reputed to have the skill are given a wide berth."

"Let me guess…" I said.

I could almost see Chad nodding his squarish head over there on his side of the line. "Yes," he said. "Andre Fine is one of those who's reputed to know the dim mak."

"Lucky him," I said.