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Lady Antinov had a headache. Faye and Henrietta had been supplying her with medication from the drugstore, as Tyrol Tabs appeared to work on her vampiric migraine.

Henrietta was worried. “We need a second opinion.” She bit her lower lip slightly. “She’s never had a headache last this long before.” She picked up her purse. Looking from Antinov to Faye, then back to Antinov, Henrietta steeled her resolve.

Lady Antinov opened one eye. “I agree. Take Faye, I’ll be fine until you return.”

Henrietta nodded. “Come on, Faye. We got this.”

Faye nodded back. “Okay, I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Dusk having fallen, Faye hopped in the passenger side as Henrietta buckled in.

“Where to? Faye asked.

“To see an old friend of Lady Antinov’s.” Henrietta turned on the ignition.

“Literally?” prompted Faye.

“Yes, literally.”

Henrietta pulled off from the driveway. Forty minutes and some music later, they pulled up to the abandoned St. Louis State Hospital and Asylum. “It was about time for you to meet Doc,” Henrietta shared with some finality.

“Doc?” Faye tilted her head. “Couldn’t we have just performed a séance?” She knew Doctor Luxe by reputation only, but what a reputation it was! A doctor during the height of the nineteen-teens, his papers on “The Change” were smattered throughout her coursework as a resource for understanding and treating those going through a partial Vampire Turning.

“I think Doc is a bit of a homebody. We could perform a seance, but it’s rude to ask someone who has stationary rounds and responsibilities to make house calls. Haven’t you heard of Ouija boards going wrong?” Henrietta climbed the steps to the front with Faye in tow. “Doc Luxe is on the fifth floor and as there are no living humans left at the hospital. Unless some fearless squatters have moved in, we don’t have to worry about the old invitation wards on the doors.”

The older vampire motioned to the ancient Latin that was engraved in the stonework.

“It’s beautiful,” said Faye, reaching to touch it. It began to glow and stretched out electricity towards Faye’s finger.

Henrietta snatched Faye’s hand back a few inches. “It’s deadly. Stick close to me, Faye.”

Faye swallowed, then nodded.

They entered without incident, the door unlocked from previous entries. As they passed through, the words failed to glow or cast them back.

Inside the dark reception room, it fluttered to life after a few moments for their vision to adjust to the low lighting.

At the concierge desk, a young man slipped in and out of focus.

An aide walked down a hallway with a troubled patient plagued by imaginary bees. The waiting room was filled with various shades and ghosts. A poltergeist grumpily picked up a chair and waved it around while two security guards sought to calm him down and soothe him.

Henrietta flashed her hospital badge from her job as a night nurse at Sir John’s Hospital. “Consultation visit with Doctor Luxe. He’s… not… expecting us.”

The man steepled his hands, and spread them wide. “The doctor is on his daily rounds. Chronic wing. Difficult cases. He should be near Mr. Menendez right this moment, and just before Nana Loren. Don’t venture off the 5th floor.”

“Why?” began Faye, who caught a sharp look from Henrietta. “Oh, I mean… is the elevator in service?”

“Oh, hun,” Henrietta shook her head. “No electricity has been piped to the hospital in years.” Henrietta guided her friend to the stairway and they began their ascent.

Passing the third floor, they walked through a mumbling spirit in the stairwell.

“Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” he said in a nasally Bronx accent. A chill crossed Faye’s entire form. Henrietta apologized and steered Faye ahead of her.

Once on the fifth floor, they visited the nurse’s station, largely looted of information, but a helpful aide wandered by and escorted them to Nana Loren’s room.

“I know it is difficult, but take it day by day and we will get you moved on,” said the doctor.

“Oh, I know. But as long as I am happy and remembered by you, I intend to stay where I am.”

They shared a tender ghostly kiss, and Henrietta cleared her throat. Doc and Nana turned.

“Henrietta! What a pleasure to see you again!” Doc smiled widely. “And who is this young lady?” Doc indicated Faye, who waved a bit.

“I’m Faye. I’m Lady Antinov’s newest protégé. Doc, she needs your help.”

Doc put on a serious face. “Oh my. You musn’t wait a moment. Nana, I’ll be back this evening.” Doc straightened up and left through the wall.

“Oh my,” Nana said. “He only does that when he’s in a hurry,” she said to Faye. Henrietta was already walking next to Doc in the hallway when she caught up to them.

“…And that’s the trouble, Doc. She can’t see a local doctor unless I call in a favor from my boss, yet again, which I don’t want to do,” Henrietta finished up.

“It could be deterioration.” Doc Luxe looked concerned. “Subpar sustenance could be at fault.”

“She switched back to full human and some demon ichor,” said Faye helpfully.

“Oh. OH! The effects of demon blood have not been fully tested in vampires of Antinov’s vintage,” Doc said while pacing the hall.

“So that means she…” prompted Faye.

“…Has withdrawl symptoms,” said Henrietta, finishing the sentence.

“Right,” agreed Doc. “Only I would say it’s more comparable to a very bad hangover.”

“Of course,” said Henrietta. “How do we fix it?”

Doc walked them to the staircase, but not before giving them a chance to get into the laboratory room on the fifth floor. He directed them to a secret supply of Codenine Tyrol to help Antinov through the worst of it, with instructions to ease down and back to normal Tyrol Tabs by two weeks.

“Now that the worst of the pandemic is over we can help her find new resources for hunting,” said Henrietta as they got back in the car to head home to Crimson Tears.

“Demon Blood. Never even once,” Faye said.

“Never once,” affirmed Henrietta.

V. Buritsch

A freelancer, fiction writer, podcast listener, fantasy reader who sometimes remembers to write for herself on occasion. She has a BA in English and Management, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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