“PRESTON!” I enter the door of my old apartment unit as I scan the room for the incompetent ghost. The apartment unit, purchased more than 40 years ago was a piece of investment I bought back when the Spice District was still considered the ritzy part of San Myshuno. Now it’s in shambles, just the way I intended.
“Doc! You got my text!”
Preston manifests himself at the dining table, eating something that looks like an old sausage.
“Where is Dominica? I thought I told you to keep an eye on her!” I look around and realize I forgot my suit at Salvi’s.
“She’s been kidnapped by those Fengs, has she?”
“I knew I shouldn’t have let her go off on her own! Blast!”
“Calm down, Doc. Let me finish.”
I take a seat at the table to calm down and see Park doing the dishes.
“She told me that she needed to rescue some guy named Andre; one of her friends, I heard.” Preston briefs me with the situation as I see Park wiping his hands on a kitchen cloth.
“And she did this without my consent? Reckless child! You should have stopped her!”
“We tried to, Doc.” Preston refers to himself and Park. “But she won’t have any of it; Andre’s one of her pals after all.”
I take a deep breath, further calming myself down but still anxious about how she will be able to protect herself from Feng goons armed with anti-vampire weaponry. I call her number on my phone but hear a ringtone coming from the adjacent room.
“She left her phone here. Was in a hurry after all.” Preston comments as I cancel the call.
“Do you at least know where she went?” I ask Preston.
“She say, she go to Fashion District.” Park answers for him as he takes a seat.
“The Fashion District?” I manage to smirk upon hearing Park’s reply.
“What’s with the smirk, Doc? And why isn’t Tony with you?”
I manage to laugh, knowing that the precaution I made earlier was not made in vain.
“Before coming here, I sent Antonio over to the Fashion District to do a bit of reconnaissance work. We’ll meet him there tomorrow.”
“Isn’t it unsafe for him to go alone with a city full of vampire-slaying Feng gangsters?” Park asks me in Koguryeon. “I mean, we had to come to San Myshuno in a group for safety.”
“It is a calculated risk.” I reply in Koguryeon. “But a former local like him should be able to hide safely during the day.”
“Doc, I can’t understand a thing!” Preston complains.
“Park is just concerned about Antonio’s safety, Preston. By the way, how did you find out Dominica left?”
“Her next-door neighbor and friend told me. Goes by the name Avery. She said she’ll be coming back to talk to you.”
And then as if on cue, a knock on the door. Preston gets up from his seat to answer.
“What do ya want?” Preston asks before opening the door, trying to act tough.
“It’s me again, Preston. Is Dominica’s father here?”
“Oh, Avery! You’re in luck. He’s back.” Preston opens the door and lets in a woman with short hair.
But there’s something off about her.
I get up from my seat to receive the guest. I smell something repulsive as she approaches me. That unmistakable scent is coming from her.
“Good morning, sir. You must be Dr. de Guzman.” I look at my watch and see that it is almost four in the morning.
I look at the woman in front of me from head to toe, sizing her up. And then a minute of silence.
“A ghoul.” I cross my arms and look at the female ghoul with disgust.
Ghouls. Flesh-eaters, carrion scavengers, and graveyard diggers. Liars, swindlers, and dishonorable rogues. They take the most undesirable jobs in the supernatural world since they are despised by every kind of supernatural, even fairies. And fairies are kind and patient beings.
“First my daughter runs off without my permission and now I find out that this Avery friend of hers is a ghoul. Have you come to beg for severed fingers to munch on?”
“You can insult me all you want just because I’m a ghoul, but Nicky’s my friend and I want to help her.”
“Avery here also tried to talk Nicky out of it earlier but she remained unconvinced.” Preston tries to vouch for the ghoul in front of me. “Sorry Avery, the Doc has a bad history with ghouls.”
“It’s okay, Preston. I don’t mind.” the ghoul says as Preston lets her sit down. “But that guy’s a ghoul, isn’t he?” the Avery ghoul looks at Park, who looks puzzled.
“But I not ghoul.” Park replies.
“A fairy then? Or a werewolf?”
“Park here is probably the most unique supernatural of all!” Preston exclaims.
“Yes, he’s foreign.” I comment as Preston laughs. A rare moment when Preston and I jest together. The joke seems to fly over Park’s head as he looks confused.
After a quick laugh, I shake my head, still eyeing the ghoul with caution.
“You might as well tell me why you’re here, ghoul.” I order the ghoul to speak. “There are only a few more hours till sunrise so make it quick.”
“I know where your daughter went, Doctor.”
“The Fashion District, I already know.” I reply with impatience.
“Yes, Doctor. But do you know the specific address?” the ghoul replies while I admit that I overlooked an important detail.
“We were about to get to that, but since you’re already here, you might as well tell us.”
The ghoul takes out a pen (which she probably stole) and writes down the address on a small piece of paper and passes it to me.
“A penthouse unit? This is probably a rich target she’s after.” I look at the address written in fine cursive. Penthouse 2704, 27th floor, Ichiban Kireina Tower, Fashion District.
“Not just any rich target. This penthouse is owned by a Feng.” the ghoul says as she now piques my interest.
“The one you wanna go after is Cherry May Feng. Youngest daughter of San Myshuno Mayor Victor Feng and business tycoon Cynthia Feng.” Just like what Salvi said. This Cherry is the one we’re after.
“Damn, that is a big target.” Preston whistles as I agree with him. Looks like my daughter and I are both after Cherry Feng.
“But why go after this Feng?” I ask her to get more information and dribble my fingers on the table once, remembering what Salvi told me about Cherry May Feng.
The ghoul gives me the same information Salvi gave me about our target and other things that I already know. Knowing my daughter, she must have given this some thought. The only thing she did wrong is that she did not tell me she wanted to go alone.
“Reckless child.” I say to myself again, thinking about Dominica. I then address the ghoul. “Although you are a ghoul, I must thank you for sharing that piece of information. It has been most helpful.” I thank the ghoul out of courtesy. A proper gentleman vampire must never forget to express gratitude, even in front of a ghoul.
“You and Nicky seem to be really close.” Preston speaks to the ghoul. “Are you part of her crew or something?”
“I’m quite curious myself.” I chime in. “Why is my daughter friends with a ghoul like you?” I ask while raising an eyebrow.
The ghoul becomes a bit teary-eyed and doesn’t speak for a moment but manages to say something.
“Preston is right about me being part of her gang. I work as her informant. It’s my side job apart from being a personal trainer at a 24/7 gym. The fitness industry doesn’t pay much.” she explains as I notice her muscular forearms.
“I became Dominica’s personal trainer at the gym at one point. She caught me in the act one night eating a co-worker of mine who was notorious for catcalling the female gym-goers. The prick didn’t get fired even after numerous complaints.”
“And then you became friends with Nicky.” Preston adds.
The ghoul shakes her head and continues her story. “That co-worker of mine died of a heart attack in the office and had no family, so I decided to eat him. When Nicky saw me eating, she asked if she could have the blood, so I obliged. Many things happened after that, and we became inseparable gym buddies.”
“I have another question, ghoul.” I ask after she says her last sentence. “What is my daughter’s relation with this Andre?”
“Andre’s our safecracker. He’s also a member of Don Salvatore’s House.” she explains. “He was also one of the first few friends she made when she came to San Myshuno.”
“And given that Andre’s a fledgling, Nicky might have met him when he was still human!” Preston comments.
I just nod at the ghoul’s story. She does not seem to be as repulsive as the other ghouls I’ve met in the past, but I still remain distrustful. But looking at it from a broader perspective, this is just how vampires and ghouls co-exist. Vampires drink the blood, ghouls eat the corpse. It has always been like that.
After she refused the wad of simoleons I tried to give her, Preston plays the gentleman and sees her off. I then realize that it’s almost sunrise and see that it’s starting to get bright outside.
“Park, I trust that my coffin has already been prepared in the other room?” I ask Park in Koguryeon while I see Preston close the sun-block curtains in the room.
“Yes, Doctor. I placed the soil you gave me under the sheets. All ready for your slumber.” Park replies as I look forward to sleeping in my coffin.
“The two of you should also get some rest. We have a big night ahead of us.” I tell Preston and Park as they finish closing the curtains.
“What about the A/C, Doc?”
Fixated on the messages in my phone, I just nod and hear the air-conditioning start to hum from somewhere. It’s expensive, but I don’t want to get slow-roasted in my coffin during a San Myshuno summer day.
After deleting the spam messages from my inbox, I see Antonio’s text that came in an hour ago.
I’ve arrived in the Fashion District. Best way to get here is via Line 4 and Line 6 of the Metro. Make a transfer at Huntington. Staying in a capsule hotel near the shopping mall right when you exit the station. One residential tower here is heavily guarded by men in black suits. Might be what we’re looking for.
A capsule hotel? Maybe the vampire lounge I referred him to was raided. Sleeping in a capsule hotel is like sleeping in a morgue, but made human-friendly. I reply with the address that the ghoul gave me and that we’ll be going there first thing tonight.
That ghoul had better not screw around with us.
I walk up to my coffin and lie down. Before closing my eyes, I send Dominica a text.
You haven’t been replying to my messages, but I hope you can read this one. Tell me if you’re going out on your own next time. You know how worried I get if I don’t get immediate replies from you. If things get too rough, fall back and hide. We’re coming for you. Love you. *heart* *bat*
I struggle with finding the right emoji and press send. With that, I close the lid on my coffin to get some rest.
But then I remember that she left her phone here. Blast!
Hours later, I feel my phone vibrate. It’s already around six in the evening. I check the message that arrived from Antonio.
There’s too many of them outside, Doc. I can’t leave the hotel.