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 “The Lady Arachne has successfully proven her innocence in case suspecting her of being an abomination. Her lineage has been traced back to ancient Greece and will hereby be recognized as noble. On behalf of the council, I would like to apologize for any emotional or social distress we may have caused to Lady Arachne.”


“Get in, we’re going shopping.” Ruby declared, rolling down the car window.

“Why does that sound familiar?”

Ruby had pulled up to the apartment building at almost the exact moment Jo had walked out. She was a little concerned as to how the redhead knew she was leaving, but those were questions for another time.

“We’ve got a charity ball this weekend. I think we’ll be able to cause a scene.”

“How did you even get invited? I thought you were banned from events in West End?” Jo asked, sliding into the seat next to Ruby.

“Oh I am. I’m technically going as Viktor’s plus one, of course, the host doesn’t know that. You and Emerson are basically just illegal cargo.”

“Oh boy, an upgrade.”


Shopping with Ruby turned out to be more like playing dolls, only Jo was the doll. They’d driven for quite a while trying to find a place that sold decent clothes. There weren’t many of those in the slums after all; no one really had a need for party attire.

“Jo stop pretending you have cleavage, you can breathe you know.” Jo let out the breath she’d been holding, a little flustered. “Yeah, you’re a little flat for that.”



“So what’s the deal with this Arachne woman anyways? She was in some big scandal recently right?” Jo asked, sipping her coffee. Ruby raised her cup to her lips, taking a slow sip before lowering it to the table.

“People started suspecting she was an abomination. There weren’t any others like her, so they accused her. It took a long time, but they traced her lineage, found out what she was, and dropped the charges. She’s hosting a charity ball, the one we’re going to. I’m hoping she’ll be at least a little bit sympathetic.”

“Somehow I doubt it.” Jo sighed, slumping back into the seat. “Feel like I can’t trust anyone in that circle.”

“I know.” Ruby stated, voice disturbingly calm. “Someone killed Mathias and I intend to find them.” She was white knuckling the mug now, hand deathly steady.

“What’ll you do if you do find them?”

“I’ll put them through hell worse than anything Dorothy could ever do.” Jo had known that would be the answer. Still, it scared her. Ruby scared her. She wasn’t a purebred, but she was strong, ancient powers flowing through her veins. Vampires had always been notoriously wolves in sheep’s clothing, beautiful and elegant; beneath it all they were savage, bloodthirsty. It was their nature. Jo knew that better than anyone else.


“Hey, you home?” she heard Emerson’s voice through the door as he knocked.

“Yeah, I’m here.” Jo swung the door open with a creek, allowing him in.

“How ya holdin’ up?”

“A little less soggy this time, thanks.”

“Ha ha.” Emerson fake laughed, to which Jo snorted. “How’s Ruby doing after the whole” he made a kind of flailing gesture with his hands “thing.”

“You mean being shunned, probably for good, and banned from, well, everything, I think?”

“Yeah, that.”

“Eh, she’s as determined as ever.” Jo shrugged.

“What about you? You weren’t too thrilled about this whole thing at the beginning as I recall.”

“I don’t know really. I mean, let’s be real, I don’t have much to lose, but I guess it all freaks me out. It’s just so much.” Jo fell back onto the couch, curling in on herself.

“I feel ya, don’t think I’ve ever seen things like that before. It’s a whole different world.” Emerson nodded, sitting next to Jo.

“Honestly, I’m more worried about Ruby.”

“Well, yeah, she’s got a whole fortune to lose.”

“No, not just that, I mean, that’s bad, but I’m worried about what she’s going to do.” Emerson stared at her, raising an eyebrow. “She’s hell-bent on finding Lord Mathias’ killer, swears she’ll put ‘em through hell.”

“I’d probably want the same, if I was her at least.”

“I get that, totally, but it’s just, she’s dangerous. You know she is. She’s a highblood vampire, so she’s got the juice to do some damage to pretty much anything, and, need I reiterate, she’s a vampire. They’re unpredictable, dangerous.”

“I feel like you’re not in any position to be assuming someone is ‘unpredictable and dangerous’. The bitten aren’t exactly well renowned for being in control of themselves.” Emerson’s voice had gone cold, words hissing out like a snake. Jo stared at him in shock.

“Are you saying you believe that? You believe that I could snap at any moment and rip you and everyone else apart?” She’d stood up now, volume rising shakily.

“I don’t know Jo, because that’s what you’re saying about Ruby.”

Jo felt all the fight drain out of her at once. She fell back onto the couch. “Oh my god, I’m just like them.”

“Aren’t we all.”

Jo watched as Emerson disappeared through her doorway.


“He probably just needs some time to cool off.” Ruby’s voice crackled through the phone.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Jo sighed out half-heartedly. She wasn’t really sure she believed that.

“You sure you can’t tell me what all this fuss is about?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” She scoffed. She didn’t need both her friends getting pissed at her, one was enough.

“Alright, just make sure you two sort all this out by the weekend, we’ve got that charity ball.”



The clinic walls had been scrubbed off, but the faint remnants of the graffiti still stained the structure. Jo had already been checked in and was in the process of having a tube shoved into her nose. Some people went a little mad when the blood infusion began; it had become common precaution to administer small doses of sedative. Jo had only experienced hunger rage once before, back when she was first turned, and she wasn’t too keen on going through that again, so however humiliating the practice was, she supposed she was thankful.

“Hun, have you been eating enough?” the nurse asked, reading over her charts. “You’re losing weight pretty rapidly you know.”

“Still stuck between jobs.” Jo mumbled, voice coming out a little nasally. “Gotta ration and all that.” The woman scribbled something on the charts, nodding sadly.

“I hear you hun, just make sure you don’t let it get too bad, gotta keep you healthy.”

“Miss Harley, you’ve got a visitor.” Another nurse stopped at the doorway, giving a warning knock to alert them of her presence.

“I wasn’t expecting anyone?” it was more a question than a statement.

“Well, let me finish my charting then you can send ‘em in.” the first nurse rattled off, waving the other away. She spun back around to the table, where she made a few quick notes on her clipboard before rising to her feet. “You’re all set miss Harley, I’ll be back to check on you in thirty, kay?”

“Of course, thank you.” Jo offered a smile, though she supposed she probably looked a bit ridiculous with the sedation apparatus shoved up her nose.

“Hey.” Emerson’s voice was soft, like he was afraid of scaring her. Or like he was talking to a dangerous animal.

“What’re you doing here?” asked Jo. She wasn’t really sure what she meant. Why are you talking to me? Why did you show up at the clinic instead of waiting ‘till I was home? Or maybe: Why did you wait ‘till I was vulnerable to have this conversation?

“Sorry, I just, uh, I wanted to talk about the other night.”

Jo rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I got that. Why now?”

“Figured I’d wait ‘till you couldn’t get away.” He shrugged. Her laugh was bitter.

“Wanted to wait ‘till I was all chained up to tell me I’m an idiot?” she kicked her leg a little. The metal cuff holding her to the hospital bed rattled.

“No, I mean, yeah kinda, but also not really?” He didn’t sound very sure of himself. “Just, I’m sorry I walked out. We should’ve handled it then so that it didn’t drag out like this.”

“You don’t say.” Jo was really going to have to stop the eye rolling. It was getting to be a bit much.

“But what you said, it wasn’t okay Jo. I get that you know Ruby a hell of a lot better than I do, but you weren’t talking about Ruby, you were talking about vampires.”

“I know.” She took a breath. She was not ready to have this conversation, not even a little bit. “Look, I know I’ve got some unresolved issues when it comes to vamps, and I get what I am, believe me. I know I’m closer to vampire than human, and I know there’s no going back. The thing is, I’m here because of a vampire. I’m here in this clinic, chained to a bed with a needle in my arm because some vampire got hungry and decided to pick up his meal on the side of the road. He didn’t care who I was, he didn’t care that I was only fifteen, and he didn’t care what would happen to me after he drank his fill.” Emerson looked like he was about to say something, offer condolences or comfort, whatever it was he had to give, but she cut him off. “I was bitter, and I was angry, for a long time. I hated that man, and I hated everyone like him. When Ruby and I roomed together in school it was tough. I wanted to hate her, but I just couldn’t. Sometimes I forget. I forget that they’re people too, and I forget that they aren’t all just starved animals. I know it isn’t okay. There’s no way to justify it, but it’s engrained into me. It’s this voice in my head that won’t shut up, and sometimes I forget that it isn’t right. I just listen, and I relay whatever that hatred in me wants me to.”

Silence fell between them. There was a feeling in the air, like something had shifted. Maybe they’d come to some sort of agreement. Maybe that silence was enough of an answer for Jo to know she was forgiven.


“Jo, I found something.” Ruby had called about fifteen times in the past hour, and only now had Jo seen it. She’d been flipping through the classified with Emerson again and had totally lost track of her phone.

“Dude, you’ve called me fifteen times, how important is this?”

“Huge.” There was a sound of shuffling from the other end of the line. “So, I was doing some digging into Lady Arachne, and I found something big.”

“Well get on with it then.”

“Lady Arachne was hanging out in some rough circles about a month before Lord Mathias was murdered. She was talking to some pretty dangerous people, including some mob and gang members.”


“I think Lady Arachne was trying to hire an assassin.”

“That seems like kind of a stretch Ruby, besides, what would she have to gain from his death? They weren’t directly linked.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. See, turns out, Arachne wanted absolutely nothing to do with the integration Lord Mathias was fighting for, sorry about that by the way, I may be tossing you into a lion’s den this weekend. On top of that, Arachne had been getting a little too close for comfort with some of Mathias’ business rivals. It she was in with them, then with Lord Mathias out of the way, they’d have a huge foothold in the upper class markets.”

“So you think it was a business thing?”

“Possibly. Of course, she loathed Mathias, so I can imagine a little money would’ve easily enticed her into getting him out of play.”



“How do people wear this stuff? Seriously Ruby, how?” Emerson groaned for possibly the thirtieth time, but no one was counting anymore. Ruby was beyond the point of responding, opting to roll her eyes instead.

“Until you have to wear heels and a pound of makeup, I don’t want to hear it.” Jo snapped, stomping out of the bedroom, still shoving her earrings in.

“We’re not getting into this now.” Ruby interjected, stepping between them for effect. “Just shut up and hurry up, we’re going to be late.”

“How are you even getting us in?”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it covered.”


“Ruby, you’re nuts. You’re absolutely bonkers.”

“I told you I had it covered.”

“I didn’t think that meant jumping the fence!”

Jo hauled herself over the fence, swinging her leg over and hooking her feet into the links, heels in hand. She tossed them down, Emerson grabbing her rather unceremoniously by the waist to help her down. “Hey, I got us in, didn’t I?”

“Ruby, you’re finally here!” another voice broke in. Viktor’s ghostly pale face was suddenly prominent amidst the night. Jo wasn’t quite sure when he’d gotten there. Vampires, man. Wild.

Viktor linked his arm with Ruby’s, giving a little laugh as the strode towards the entrance. Jo and Emerson did the same, pretending they hadn’t just sacrificed their dignity by flopping over a fence to break into a party.

This one was much like the last, though the décor was decidedly more ornate. Lady Arachne certainly hadn’t skimped on the gold trim. It was kind of an eyesore to be frank. A dark skinned woman slithered past them, her long, snakelike body twisting hypnotically as she moved. Emerson stared after her. Jo elbowed him. His eyelids were heavy and sad when he looked to her. She smiled softly at him, bumping him a little with her shoulder in a way that she hoped came off as reassuring and not violent. That woman was like him, much the same, yet her life had undoubtedly been jarringly different.

“Ruby,” an overly sultry voice greeted. It was kind of grating, really. “I thought your invitation had been lost.” That was apparently code for “you weren’t invited” but Jo wasn’t about to say anything. The woman before them was a sight to see. Her face was thin, forehead obscured by Bettie Page style bangs. Beneath her wide, bug like eyes were another set of smaller ones. Her hair was slicked into a bun, her waist cinched to almost nothing. Her lower body split into eight spidery legs, each covered in fine little hairs, stepping delicately across the tile floor.

“Oh, it must have, lucky for me, my dear friend Viktor offered to bring me along.” Ruby smiled. The four eyes narrowed at her.

“Well, that was awfully kind of him, but I do recall stating it was a plus one, not,” she stared them up and down “a plus three.”

“Oh go find someone else to bother.” another voice cut in on the conversation. This one was familiar. “These folks here are dear friends of mine, and I’ll gladly discuss their presence with you in private if you so wish.” Dorothy swayed into their midst as her tone darkened. If Arachne was stupid enough to agree to that proposition then really there was no saving her. She backed away, legs scuffling a little.

“Of course, Dorothy. My apologies.” Arachne had scuttled a few feet from them now, and was making to turn around. “I do hope you enjoy your evening.” And with that, she was off.

“See, I’m not all bad.” Dorothy gave a wink before disappearing into the crowds, a dark blur following her.

“You two stay with Viktor, I’ve got some business to attend to.” Ruby was gone in a heartbeat, fists clenched, gone in the direction Arachne had vanished to.”

“She’s going to get us all killed.” Jo muttered, staring after her friend.

“She’ll be fine.” Viktor waved off her worries. “Let’s go sit somewhere, I’m not too fond of the stares we’re getting, suppose Dorothy will do that to a crowd.” They followed him to a grouping of tables, much like the ones they’d been at before, sitting themselves down among the other people who wanted nothing more than to leave.

“So, how did you and Ruby meet?” Emerson asked, attempting conversation.

“Ah, we met through Mathias. Ruby wasn’t always too well liked in these circles. I helped make sure people gave her some respect.”

“Are you two, uh,” Emerson fumbled over his words, making sporadic hand gestures to try to get the point across. They really weren’t making it any clearer.

“Romantically involved?” Viktor interjected. Emerson nodded sheepishly. Jo bit back a laugh. “No, Ruby and I are good friends. I’ve got a girl waiting for me.”

“Oh? I wasn’t aware you were seeing anyone.” Jo spoke up. She’d done a bit of reading on some of the big names, Viktor being one of them. The last known romantic partner he’d had had been back during the war.

“Well, I suppose our situation is a bit, ah, peculiar. She and I, we met back in the forties. She was human, I was very much not. Even disregarding that, she died young, during the war, but I promised I’d find her when my time came. I feel it won’t be long now, but I’ve got to get things cleaned up a little here before I go.” Jo nodded. Most vampires, especially those of higher blood concentration, were of the belief that death was not to be feared. The length of their lifespans meant many were more than ready when their time came.


“Can I help you, Ruby?” Arachne stopped, still facing away from her. She’d followed the other woman down a dark hallway, void of guests. She’d made no effort to silence the clicking of her shoes as she walked. She was not afraid. She was to be feared.


“Care to elaborate?” the woman had turned over her shoulder now, face somehow looking more monstrous than it had in the ballroom.

“Would you mind explaining to me,” Ruby sauntered around her, keeping a safe distance without inching too far. “why you were looking into hitmen?”

“That’s all you want to know? Please, you know good and well I’ve got plenty of enemies.” Arachne’s words came out as a scoff, voice still as grating as ever.

“Oh no, I’m not surprised in the slightest.” Ruby stopped, twirling a blade in her hand. “What I’d like to know, is why you had Lord Mathias murdered.”

Arachne eyed the blade, glinting in the soft lighting. Her answer had not come soon enough, as Ruby dove for her. She wasn’t pinned for long, slamming Ruby’s head against the wall. “Highblood or not, you’re still far weaker than I, Ruby. You know that.” She hissed out, blind rage overtaking her. She wasn’t the only one, as Ruby struggled in her grasp. One of her legs shot out and the knife went clattering to the floor. A tendril of webbing shot out, ensnaring the weapon and pulling to her. She held it tight in her hand, cold, black eyes staring into Ruby’s green ones. Arachne’s face had split itself apart, revealing the pincers that had hidden themselves in her flesh. She dragged the blade along Ruby’s throat. “You never should have come here, Ruby.” The vampire struggled against her, thrashing about violently, spitting out curses. “Mathias should have left you on the streets of London where he found you. No matter what you are, no matter how much money you have to your name, you’ll always be a maid, and nothing more. You can’t escape that Ruby, so stop trying.” Arachne raised the knife. “I happen to like things the way they are.” She slammed it down on Ruby’s skull, the blade lodging itself in the skin of her cranium. “Stop trying to change the world Ruby.” She stepped back, letting the redhead crumple to the floor. Ruby let out a weak gurgle, blood pooling around her, pouring from the break in her head. “Just so you know, I didn’t have Mathias killed.” Arachne crooned. “God, I wish it had been me though.”


“I feel like people are staring at us more.” Emerson muttered, cheek squished against the hand he was propping himself up with. “We’ve been sitting for almost an hour.”

“Well what else do you propose we do? We’re just supposed to stay out of the way until Ruby gets back and stirs up more trouble.”

“Go dance, you two,” Viktor gave them both a gentle shove “I’ll let Ruby know where you are if she comes back.”

“Do you actually know how to dance?” Jo asked, cocking a brow to Emerson.

“Not in the slightest.” He groaned, sinking lower in his seat.

“Relax,” Viktor laughed “hardly anyone here does, I think.” His words were whispered like they were some kind of secret. “You can get away with pretty much anything as long as it isn’t too distracting.”

Jo turned back to Emerson, who stared at her expectantly. She shrugged, rising to her feet. “Gotta kill my feet somehow.” Emerson took her hand, walking her out to the floor like they were regal.

Jo had never danced like this before. She’d been to a few-very few-parties back in school, but even then, she’d mostly been sat on the couch waiting for her friends to stop drinking so she could take them home. This was different. This was the prom dream she’d had growing up. She didn’t go to prom. The transitionary school she’d attended after being bitten didn’t have one, and she wasn’t allowed back to the human district. This was a life she never got to have.

Then there was the topic of Emerson. She wasn’t quite sure where they stood. They were friends, sure, but they’d been on a date, technically. She wasn’t really sure if that qualified, since she hadn’t been aware it was a date at the time. Her feelings towards Emerson were still up in the air. She’d long ago abandoned hope of a “ride off into the sunset” moment. It felt like that part of her had been shut off, like gears that hadn’t been used in years were slowly starting to turn again, shaking loose the dust and cobwebs.

Emerson was haphazardly copying those around them, keeping his hand awkwardly on Jo’s upper back. He was barely touching her, skin barely grazing hers. She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not gonna infect you, ya know.” He gave an uncomfortable laugh, finally solidifying the contact. Jo smiled to him. Maybe it wasn’t quite time to have all that feelings stuff figured out. It would probably be a good idea to overthrow the government, or do whatever it was they were planning on first.

All at once, all movement stopped. A hushed whisper spread over the crowd, all eyes turning on a dark shape, slowly making its way across the room.

“Oh my god.”

“What is it, I can’t see?” Jo whined, stretching up to try to get a look at whatever was causing such a fuss.

“Oh my god.” Emerson repeated. “It’s Juliet Strange.”

The woman was tall and toned, dark hair falling elegantly down her back. That wasn’t what caught Jo’s eye though. The rattling of metal followed the woman as she walked. Around her neck sat a heavy metal collar, chain dangling and wrapping around her shoulders, two more extending to cuffs on her wrists.

“Who is that?” Jo whispered, pulling Emerson off to the side.

“You’ve never heard of her?” he asked, looking at her like she was the crazy one. She looked at him as if to say “duh”. He sputtered a bit, glancing back to the woman, and then to Jo again. “She’s human. The only human to live on our side.” He was still looking around nervously.

“Get on with it, we don’t have all night.”

“Her parents hunted rogue monsters. They had her living with someone they suspected was killing people to investigate. They didn’t know what he was, and they didn’t have solid evidence, so they sent her undercover as a maid to keep tabs on him. She found out the man was an angel, but her parents died before she could report back to them. She didn’t have anywhere to go, so she stayed. Her and the angel fell in love, according to the stories, and the other angels didn’t like that. It wasn’t allowed. Her and the angel hunted together, and rumors started spreading about the girl and her pet angel. The other angels went after them, telling their brother he needed to put her in her place. She was a lesser being in their eyes. When he refused, they bound her with unbreakable chains, shackling her and chaining the collar to the angel’s wrist. Still, they hunted, learning how to live with the limitations, learning how to use them. A year’s time passed, and the angels came back. They killed her lover in front of her, and left his body chained to her.”

“What happened to him? How did she get free?”

“I cut off his hand.” The voice was hard and slow, no pretense of elegance interlaced with the words.

“Oh my god.” Emerson choked on his words. Jo elbowed him.

“So,” the woman, Juliet, raked her eyes over them. “It’s you two.” Her smile was small, and a little hollow, but there nonetheless. “Care to finish my story?”

“Uh, I’d rather not, if you don’t mind, maybe you could, ah-“ She laughed a little. Jo was beginning to understand the hollow tone was always there.

“After my lover was murdered, I hunted down his killers. Nowadays I believe they call me the ‘Slayer of Angels’.”

“You’ve not been seen in years, why would you come out now, if you don’t mind my asking?” Emerson still sounded like he was walking on eggshells. Jo wasn’t entirely sure why. She was the “Slayer of Angels”, not the “Slayer of Unidentifiable Snake Boys”.

“I heard someone was turning this circle upside-down, couldn’t resist seeing these pompous leeches get what they have coming.”

“Congratulations you two, you’ve brought out the world’s most dangerous women, nice job.” Dorothy cackled, shoving her way into their conversation yet again. “Looks like you’ve got more than you bargained for backing you huh.”

A shriek cut them off.

“Oh my god.” This time, Jo understood.

Dragging herself across the floor, feet twisting as she walked, was Ruby, knife dangling from her hand. Her head was split open, blood pouring down her face, rusty clumps drying in her hair. Arachne looked to be the most horror-struck.

“Oh, I’m not gonna just change your word, I’m gonna rip it apart.” She spit out, blood dripping from her lips, fangs bared in a wicked grin.

Submitted: October 17, 2018

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