I cheerily whistled to the tune of “Bleeding Love” as I walked into the ice cream parlor. There were a couple of empty yellow tables in one side of the room, while a rainbow-colored bar stood in the right. A Miley Cyrus song was distastefully playing from the old-fashioned jukebox. The walls held cartoon paintings so colorful the store felt like a drunk artist’s workshop.

    “Hello, minions,” I said, taking a seat on one of the bar stools. The guys sat there with dejected looks and paper banana splits for hats. In response, they shot me a look that either meant they wanted to shred me to pieces, or they wanted to eat me for dinner.

    Let’s just say I was more comfortable with the second thought. These were powerful, ah, “henchmen”, and I wouldn’t want any of them to turn against me.

    “Will, you were kidding when you told us we’d work here permanently…right?” Chris said. Chris was the youngest among us five, but we all treated him as an equal because of his genius. He managed almost all of our resources, including our information banks, connections, money, and of course, our guns.

    I regarded him with my amused expression, which I knew ticked him off without fail. “Why would I joke about that? This place is the perfect headquarters for us. I mean, who would suspect a couple of miserable waiters to be the finest killer vampires to ever live?” I chuckled. “Plus, it costs so much less to keep this place up compared to the mansion.”

    Vincent, my hand-to-hand combat specialist, leaned on the bar with a dreamy look in his eyes. “Ah, yes. The Eastport mansion. How I miss the indoor swimming pool and the Lamborghinis and the mortal butlers.”

    “Yeah, the butlers you always had for dinner,” Michael said curtly. He was a seven-foot-tall ex-football star/present expert chef who bested all of us (well, all of them) in wielding medieval weaponry. Give him a sword and he’ll break down a wall like he had a bomb.

    “Oh please, at least I wasn’t contenting myself with pitbulls.”

    “I didn’t have a choice! You always got to the butlers first.”

    “Guys, I don’t think it’s the best time to argue about your diets,” Alex interrupted. Like a panther ready to strike, his body was tense and his eyes narrowed to slits. “Somebody’s coming.”

    That was Alex’s gift. He sensed mortal and supernatural presences, as well as their intentions and their strength. “Finally! It’s been a week since our last assignment. What’s our visitor’s aura?” I asked.

    Alex shifted uncomfortably. “He’s powerful. I mean, really powerful. I think he’s from as far as the Seventh Circle. He also reeks of death. If I’m not mistaken, he does need us to do him an errand.”

    Vincent unconsciously started flexing his fingers. “What target a demon that strong might want to pass on to us, I’m not eager to find out.”

    After around twenty minutes of waiting, the visitor did come. Now, if there’s anything you need to know about vampires, we have extremely sharp senses. And this stranger, did he overwhelm us. Just as Alex said, the man positively smelled like a corpse at least a millennium old. The grating of his bones convinced me this was quite unpleasantly accurate. He was wearing a black bowler hat and a matching coat. His boots were caked with slimy muck that smelled suspiciously of blood…the kind that boiled in the river of Phlegethon, which lay in the Seventh Circle of Hell. Beneath his bowler hat glowed two orange orbs for eyes. Next to his immeasurably strong presence, the ice cream parlor seemed to shrink into a wisp of reality, like there could be no warmth in the world; there was only death.

    Trying mightily not to pinch my nose as I approached him, I greeted, “Welcome, demon. We are the brothers of Dis, the sons of the vicious. Who are you, and what service might we render you?”

    He laughed with a low, raspy voice. “Ah, you are as forthright as I have heard, William. I will respond with the same frankness: I am Likkan, a demon of the Seventh Circle. I come here in behalf of my master, whose identity I can’t reveal. He needs you to pick up a 14-year-old girl from the Demesne Airport at 2:00 PM tomorrow. She has to be at the Pullman Paper Company by 2:30 PM. After that, I will immediately meet you with your payment of 800 thousand dollars.”

    I blinked at Likkan, expecting him to say he mixed us up with the less important assassin vampires and then apologize for the inconvenience. I mean, I’m not bragging when I say we’re the playmakers in this game. We were the best, and the people who came to us gave us the most difficult targets. We had sacked some president’s soul in Purgatory, prevented a terrorist from bombing the Vatican City (yeah, we vampires recoil from priests, but business is business), and nearly killed Hades when he tried to take over Hell.

    It was a decent price for such a small task, though, and we needed the money. The Council of Vampires recently raised the taxes of the assassination businesses to 40 million dollars each year. So I merely sighed disappointedly and replied, “Very well, Likkan. We accept the assignment.”

    “Wonderful,” Likkan said. There was a hint of grim satisfaction in his voice, like he was keeping something terrible about the mission he had given us. “Here is an envelope containing all information you will require about your target. I expect you to accomplish this assignment flawlessly; my master does not tolerate any kind of failure.”

    I snorted. “Don’t worry, Likkan. We can handle a kid as easily as we can slay beasts.”
    He laughed, and the room grew much colder.

    “We shall see, brothers of Dis. We shall see.” With those ominous words, he turned around to leave. He stopped at the last minute and said, “Oh, and I’d like to have a Coke float to-go. Here’s a hundred dollars; you can keep the change.”