"I already know everything you know, kid." The voice sounded scratchy and distorted in Forrest's ears, an already hoarse and menacing whisper turned to a sepulchral growl by the dull, pounding headache that greeted him as he gradually surfaced from unconsciousness. Shifting position only made him aware of additional discomforts--stiffness in his arms from holding the same enforced pose, agonizing pressure against his wrists where they were bound, a lump at the base of his scalp that reminded him of the explosion of pain that came out of nowhere just before he collapsed into unconsciousness. "The only question I have is who you've told."
Forrest looked gingerly around for the source of the voice, but his eyes registered only darkness. As his brain slowly began to process the information of his senses, he realized he was wearing some sort of an opaque fabric hood, cinched lightly around his neck with a band of elastic fabric to keep it from falling off. Instinctively, he reached up to remove it before the painful tightness around his wrists reminded him that his hands were bound behind his back. He tried to rise, only to find more ropes trying his ankles, calves, and knees to the chair he sat on. "Whuh?" he mumbled, unable to hide his dazed bewilderment. "Wha's this, I, I don't....?"
"You know what this is. Don't try to lie to me, kid, or I'll give you the look, know what I mean?" The hood was whipped away, filling Forrest's world with blinding light that sent daggers of pain stabbing through his eyes into his still-aching head. He blinked, trying to force his vision to adjust, but the dazzling brightness was aimed directly at his face and the rest of the room was shrouded in darkness. It was impossible to see the person whose low, raspy voice came to him from the shadows. But Forrest didn't have to see him to know exactly who he was. A numb pit of despair settled into his stomach, a sick certainty settling over him that he wasn't going to get out of this room alive.
Still, he tried to put on a brave face. "The notes for my story are all stored in an electronic dropbox," he blustered, raising his head and looking at where he assumed mob boss Antony Voronin was standing. "If I ever go more than seventy-two hours without accessing them, my computer automatically emails the contents of that dropbox to the editorial desk of my newspaper, as well as seven other papers around the country and the organized crime reporters at CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox News. If you think you can--"
The rest of his speech was cut off by a yelp of terror as a blur of motion sped past him, faster than his dazzled vision could possibly follow, smacking his chair backwards so quickly that he barely had time to register he was falling before he realized that he'd been caught. He looked up, suspended at a forty-five degree angle, to see the delicate, androgynous features of a Caucasian man of indeterminate age staring down at him. "Kid," Antony snarled, his lip creasing in thinly-veiled contempt. "Don't bullshit me, okay? I can fucking smell it when you lie. Who knows what you know?"
Forrest's mouth opened and closed in stunned incomprehension. Voronin was something of a man of mystery, the trail of his past ending somewhere in the tangled thicket of immigration and citizenship records that marked his movement between Estonia, Bulgaria, Italy, Canada and the United States. Although his name suggested Russian ancestry, Forrest hadn't even come close to finding out his parentage, let alone his exact age and place of birth. But even if he was as young as his appearance suggested, the speed with which he came hurtling out of the darkness and the casual strength he employed to knock Forrest back in his chair was staggering. No wonder nobody in the Mafia wanted to talk about him. A guy like this didn't need threats to keep his lieutenants in line.
Voronin raised the chair back into a vertical position and dusted Forrest down politely. "Look, kid," he said, his voice softening into a smoky murmur, "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt anybody. Believe it or not, I'm actually a pretty decent guy once you get to know me. I know you probably look at me and think, 'Oh, he's a monster, oh, he's some kind of throat-ripping psycho,' but I'm really just like anyone else. A businessman trying to make his way in the world. And killing journalists? That's bad for business."
He laid a companionable hand on Forrest's shoulder, fixing the seated man with a cool stare in his russet brown eyes. "What I'd really like to do is tell you to just drop this story. Nobody's going to believe it anyway--really, what I'm doing is a public service to you and your reputation as a journalist. But if you've collected evidence, if you've told someone what you know... that could make things a little messier. It leaves some loose ends for you to tie up, people you might need to convince that you were a little, y'know, doolally." The slang struck Forrest as odd, despite his terror; he'd spent months with directional mics pointed at wiseguys, and none of them had used the word. Probably nobody did outside of old-timey movies.
"And I'm a meticulous guy," Antony continued, cupping Forrest's chin with an almost gentle grip. "I'm going to want to make sure that the job's done right. I'm going to want to keep an eye on your friends, your... confidantes. Just to be certain that they believe you." Forrest could hear the hints of a New York accent in the mob boss's voice, and beneath that... Russian? Hungarian? It was almost impossible to tell, even after months of listening in on his conversations. "It doesn't mean I'm going to hurt anyone. It just means that this is kind of a delicate situation, you know? I value my privacy. I don't want people finding out about my personal affairs and jumping to the wrong conclusions."
The gentility of the grip suddenly became firm, almost painful. "So talk," Antony snarled in tones of icy menace, glaring down at Forrest with those deep brown eyes that seemed almost red in the harsh light. "Or I'll use the look to get what I need." Forrest had heard Voronin talk about 'the look' a few times over the course of his semi-legal surveillance, bringing it up in the context of troublesome rivals and inconvenient people who'd subsequently disappeared. He assumed it was some sort of Mafia slang for torture, murder, torture that ended in murder... that sort of thing. But it was hard to be sure. Nobody else used the term.
Slowly, haltingly, he spoke around Antony's grip. "I'm not afraid of you," he said, summoning up a steel in his voice he didn't really feel. Deep down, he was scared shitless by the mob boss; Forrest knew all too well about the people who crossed Antony Voronin and wound up bleeding out in some secret torture chamber before their pale, lifeless corpses were found floating down the Hudson River. But he also knew that if he named any names, he'd be as good as signing their death warrants--for all that Voronin talked about being a reasonable man, Forrest had no reason to believe that he wouldn't cut a bloody swath through Forrest's friends and colleagues to keep his illegal activities a secret. "You do your fucking worst, I'm not saying a goddamn thing."
The mob boss let out an explosive snort of laughter. "Oh come on, kid, you and I both know that's a load of crap! You bought all those books, right? You know there's nobody who can fight the look once I hit them with it. Oh, sure, the ones who resist aren't good for much afterwards--they wind up eating bugs, talking all funny about 'Master' this and 'Master' that, all that shit. I don't want to do that if I don't have to, it'll look suspicious. But here's the truth. Once I get you lost in my eyes, kiddo, you're mine. Forever. And you'll tell me everything I want to know."
Forrest's brow furrowed as his terror was slowly replaced by genuine confusion. "Eating... bugs?" he asked, bewilderment shading every syllable. "Like... like Renfield in 'Dracula'?" He'd been reading a lot of vampire novels lately, part of his research for a screenplay he was writing that he was firmly convinced would never see the light of day despite his boyfriend's encouragement, but he never thought that his newfound expertise in the lore of the undead would come up in this particular situation. It was so bizarre and incongruous that Forrest entirely forgot to be afraid for a moment.
And Antony's response was even more ludicrous. "Well, yeah," he said, his own face reflecting an almost comical degree of perplexity. "It's the look. The hypnotic stare of the vampire. You know, like in all those books and movies you've been buying when you didn't think anyone was watching you. I don't know how you found out, kid, but you better tell me who else knows before I turn your brain to fucking pablum, okay?" He tried to keep his expression menacing, but Forrest's incomprehension had clearly left him rattled.
That incomprehension was slowly fading, to be replaced by utter disbelief. "Wait, wait, wait," Forrest muttered, his eyebrows raising in surprise and astonishment. "You're trying to tell me you're a fucking vampire? Like, 'I vant to drink your blood' vampire? Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee and all that shit? Are you serious?"
"Hell yes I'm serious!" the mob boss snarled, giving the chair a bone-rattling shake. "What did you think this was all about?"
Forrest's eyes had widened to the size of saucers, his eyebrows creeping halfway up his forehead in bemused amazement. "I was doing a story on your Mob ties!" he said, unable to keep the defensiveness out of his voice. "You're the fucking head of the New York Mafia, responsible for millions of dollars a year in illegal revenue! You're, you're the fucking biggest crook in the entire state, what else would I be writing about?"
Forrest couldn't believe what he saw next. Antony Voronin, head of the New York Mafia, responsible for millions of dollars a year in illegal revenue, the biggest crook in the state, smacked his own forehead like a character out of a sitcom. "Chyort vozmi!" he snapped explosively, the word slipping out in a growl of frustration. "Kid, you thought I fucking cared about that? I own three out of four judges in this town! The mayor calls me 'sir'! I got every major elected official in the state in my pocket! They owe me favors all the way up to the White House! Why would I fucking worry about you telling someone I was a fucking mob boss?"
Forrest couldn't help himself, he snapped right back. "Well, why would you think I thought you were a vampire?" he asked, suddenly furious at the absurdity of the situation he found himself in. Dying to protect his loved ones from a murderous Mafioso was one thing, but dying because of some bizarre misunderstanding by a man who thought he was a mythological creature? It was an insult from fate.
"You bought all the vampire books!" Antony shouted, red-faced with frustration.
"I was writing a screenplay!"
"You went to Eastern Europe to research my family history! You asked to see my birth certificate!"
"I was trying to see how you got your start in the Mob!"
"You visited the Vatican on your way back and got a vial of holy water!"
"It was a gift for my grandma! She's a devout Catholic!"
"You followed me to all those restaurants! You listened to every conversation I had with the waiters about my 'garlic allergy'!"
"I've been listening to every conversation you've had for the past six months! I was a lot more concerned about the heroin shipments you were bringing in through that phony trucking outfit than I was with your diet!"
"Then why did you ask them for the recipe for the garlic chicken, huh?"
"BECAUSE I LIKED IT!"
Both men halted, panting, for a long moment. Then Antony laughed.
"You know what, kid?" he said. "I actually believe you. Ain't that a thing, huh? Here I was thinking that you were going to be trouble, the first real trouble I had in almost four hundred years. And all it was, was a big dumb coincidence. You didn't know shit until I fucking told you. How goddamn wild is that? I been keeping this a secret from my wife, from my capos, from that dumb fucking kid I adopted, and here I just blurt it out to you because I thought you already knew. Life's a pretty damn funny joke, ain't it?"
Forrest suddenly didn't know what to do, what to say. His life stretched into darkness beyond this moment; it seemed suddenly, exhilaratingly possible that he might live through this after all, if only he said and did the right things to placate this obviously delusional sociopath, but he had no idea what the right thing to say actually was. He settled on a vaguely enthusiastic, "Um, yeah, sure!" in the hopes that Antony would consider the whole thing too silly to do anything as brutal as murder someone over.
Voronin shook his head in resignation. "Damn strange," he said, sounding almost wistful. "Still, that leaves me with a big problem, kid. Like I said, I don't want to whack a journalist. It's the quickest way to get bad publicity, and I'm the kind of guy who likes a private life. But it's not like I can just let you go, can I? Not with you knowing what you know. Maybe you do some digging, maybe you just tell a funny story to your pals one night in the bar off the record, but sooner or later word gets out. And then I'm fucking fending off wooden stakes every goddamn day." He sighed.
"Okay, only one way to do it and that's through it, right?" Antony grabbed Forrest's curly brown hair tightly and pulled his head up to face his in an inescapable grip. Forrest couldn't even wriggle. "Now kid, I'm telling you, don't try to fight it if you want to keep anything left in that head of yours. This ain't made to be subtle, you know? It's made to stun my prey. I'm pretty good with it after almost six hundred years, but it's still a lot easier to go too hard than too soft. You fight it, and you'll be lucky if you remember your own name, let alone anybody else's."
Forrest was just about to ask what the older man was talking about when suddenly Antony's wine-red eyes narrowed, revealing slitted pupils like a cat's. Forrest inhaled sharply, the force of the vampire's will striking him like a blow and leaving him frozen physically and mentally. He could feel the power flowing through him, and despite himself he struggled--it was instinctive, the understanding of a prey animal that death was nearby and stalking him. But his resistance was pathetic, weakened by the subconscious fear that he would only doom himself by fighting. Within moments, it was overcome.
Antony's features became even more handsome, his pale skin taking on a seductive glow that made Forrest's cock instantly harden in his trousers. The menacing power in those broad shoulders became smooth, sensual strength, the kind of virility that made Forrest imagine himself wrapped up and held in those muscular arms and caressed into obedient bliss. The helpless journalist found himself pressing against Antony's grip, trying to bare the soft pink flesh of his neck as a sign of... submission? Devotion? Desire to be consumed? Any of those. All of them. Whatever his Master wanted.
Oh god. Oh fuck. He had a Master. Forrest had a Master now, and although a part of him was terrified by the possibility that he'd damaged his mind through his momentary resistance, doomed himself to plummet ever deeper into submission until he broke on the rocky shoals of the vampire's hypnotic power, a larger part of him reveled in the thrill of obedience to such a perfect, potent creature. Antony was so majestic, so beautiful. All Forrest could imagine now was worshiping him, loving him, fulfilling his will in every way. His cock throbbed, his balls churned. Tiny grunts of lust and devotion escaped his lips, and he knew he was forever owned by the depths of those slitted eyes.
"Th-thank you, Master," Forrest heard himself whisper through a fog of desire, but the real world seemed faded and inchoate compared to the beauty of his undead lord. He wanted nothing more now than to serve, to keep his Master's secrets and assist with his desires. Forrest came with an explosive moan, his cock spurting without any stimulation save for the hypnotic power that filled his empty mind, but he barely even noticed. The deeper ecstasy of submission to the vampire's will felt so much stronger than any climax ever could.
Antony broke eye contact, and Forrest wanted to beg him to stare deeper, push harder, shatter his mind completely with the force of his inexorable will. But he understood. He served his Master best with his devotion concealed, with his slavish obeisance hidden behind a veneer of the man he once was. He couldn't raise suspicion, not after he'd already very nearly ruined everything. But Forrest lived in hope. He could dream about that gaze, and give his Master everything he could of his mind and body. And perhaps someday in return, his Master would fix that slitted gaze on him again and break him the way he truly deserved.