To Talk With A Panther

As we drove into town, Joe and I talked about or weeks and discussed about the drainings. He informed me that a mother of one of the children who were killed questioned how many others were also dead. Jack was the one to inform her that a handful of corpses have been found. Feeling the need to tell others she started handing out flyers to other parents, warning them to have knowledge of where their children are at all times.

After parking we walked a few blocks to get to Colombo. The cool night air sent a chill down my back as we walked silently side-by-side to the bar. The streets weren't as bustling as they usually were. Still, there were a lot of people walking up and down the sidewalk. When we reached the bar, Joe told me to stay close to him so I just grabbed hold of his hand.

"Can I help you, sir?" A pretty, teenage, brunette, human girl asked Joe as we reached the entrance.

"Yes, is there a back booth for two available?" Joe asked.

"Yes, there is,” She grabbed two menus from underneath her stand and began walking towards the back of the room. As Joe and I followed the girl to our booth I examined the bar.

The bar looked more like a club then a bar: all around the room were booths and tables packed with people talking and laughing. I could barely make out any of the faces of the people standing 2, 3 feet away from me. There was a modern looking bar with various liquors on display and a couple of men preparing drinks with names only a fluent alcoholic can pronounce. Over a dozen people were sitting at the bar, drinking and talking. In the center of the room were couples dancing to the music being playing over the sound system. I wasn't familiar with the song that was playing.

When we reached our booth, the girl placed the two menus on top of the table and asked if we'd like anything to drink.

"Water please." I requested. The girl took out a notepad with a pencil and scribbled down what I wanted.

"I'd like a glass of Taltsu." Joe requested rather casually. Taltsu, I thought, that must be a brand of bottled blood… I wonder what type. After writing down Joe's order the girl walked away towards the entrance of the bar.

"What is Taltsu?" I didn't hold back from asking Joe what he ordered to drink.

"Bottled animal blood," Joe smiled at me and then turned his head and scanned the room. "I stopped drinking human blood a long time ago, if you’re wondering... There are a lot of shifters here tonight. You can smell the different scents if you really try." With this indirect suggestion from Joe, I focused on scenting out the shifters present. I could smell a few weres, a couple of birdie scents, and a handful of cat scents. One of the cat-like scents I'd smelled before. The scent was a mix of dirt, sweat, fur, and burnt wood. The combination was strangely sweet.

"Why did you start drinking animal blood?" I asked trying to get myself to sniffing in the scent. It was just so intoxicating, so intense. I wanted to find out who the scent belonged to so badly but held back the temptation. I could wait to find out...

"I switched about forty years ago after a close human companion of mine was found drained, and murdered. She was so young, so vulnerable… After that, I forced myself to stop drinking human blood." Joe looked at me with the gloomiest yet loyal face I'd ever seen.

"How old are you, Joe?"

"I'm 341 years old."

"How old were you when you were turned?"

"I was 32 years old when I was turned."

"Your sire still around?"

"I had a feeling you were going to ask me that," He grinned and I smiled at him. "No, she's dead. She committed suicide in 1956 at the age of 674."

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