As I’ve said before, I don’t usually write locations. With my fiction, I’m never bold enough to include the pathetic fallacy of location. Partly this is because I believe locations can be perceived as living and breathing characters, and if my interpretation of that character isn’t the same as yours, then the read is destined to be disappointing. Partly this is also because I don’t feel sufficiently secure in my skills to effectively recreate a location with words alone.
But that’s not to say I haven’t done it.
In The BloodLust Chronicles, a trilogy of stories about three vampire-fighting sisters, I had my central characters tour a triptych of European capitals: Rome, Paris and London. This involved a large stretch of the imagination as I’ve only ever visited one of these capital cities. However, as I’ve never encountered any vampire-fighting sisters, and I was willing to write about them, I figured my imagination was ready for the challenge.
Below is the opening passage from the second of the BloodLust Chronicles: Hope.
Hope Harker knew there was always a price to be paid.
She sat in the manager’s office, uncomfortable in her croupier’s uniform of a skimpy basque over fishnet tights. Her ankles ached from the punishment of the high stilettos while the low cut top made her feel as though her breasts were ready to spill free from their restrictive cups. The high line of the crotch, and the fact that so much of her pert bottom was on public display, left her feeling cheap, nearly-naked and exceedingly vulnerable. But she knew those drawbacks were the price that had to be paid if she wanted to complete her business management degree at one of the most prestigious casinos on the Champs Elysées: Hope knew there was always a price to be paid.
The problem was: she also knew the price would always be higher than expected. Her business management degree was a good example; the course fees were exorbitant; the study texts were complicated; the hours were long; and the work experience on the floor of a Paris casino was demanding and mostly thankless. But she was beginning to realise that the price was much higher than the sum of those parts. The highest part of the price was the discovery that she was working for a certifiable lunatic.
Todd Chalmers put a match to his cigar and settled back in his chair. He hadn’t bothered to turn on the office lights and their conversation was lit by illuminations from the Champs Elysées shining through the louvre blinds. The smoke from his cigar leant an atmosphere of film noir to the room and Hope thought they were just short of a saxophone playing sultry blues to complete that image. She studied him warily, not sure if she was meant to laugh, agree or run screaming for help. The noises of music, money and merriment were a faraway drone at this height in the building but Hope could hear them clearly enough in the thick silence that rested between her and the casino’s owner. Diplomatically, she fixed him with an understanding expression and said, ‘Let me see if I understand you correctly.’
Todd Chalmers smiled and raised his whisky glass in an encouraging salute.
He looked chillingly normal and, if she hadn’t just heard the lunacy he had been spouting, Hope could have believed she was having a rational discussion with a sane human being. ‘You’re telling me that my sister, Faith, was a virtuous vampire hunter.’
‘You say she defeated a four hundred year old vampire, but has since been turned into a vampire herself.’
Chalmers nodded again. ‘That’s what I’m led to believe.’
‘And you think the newly established leader of this same coven is now looking for me?’
‘You seem to have understood everything I said,’ Chalmers grinned. ‘Do you have any questions?’
Hope thought about her answer then nodded. She sat in the chair across from his desk, ankles folded as demurely as her uniform would allow, hands clutched tight together and resting in her lap. A part of her wanted to pull at the low neckline of the basque and conceal herself from Chalmers’s salacious leer but she knew that would make her look like she was intimidated and she didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. ‘Yes,’ she said eventually. ‘I’ve got two questions. Are you on prescribed medication? And why haven’t you been taking it?’
Chalmers’s smile slipped a notch. ‘I don’t think you appreciate the gravity of the situation…’
Hope stood up. She looked resplendent in the uniform, her narrow waist accentuated by the basque and her breasts appearing plump and desirable as they threatened to spill from their restraints. The fishnets hugged her shapely legs and defined the muscular curves of her calves and thighs. ‘I think you’ll find I do appreciate the gravity of the situation,’ she assured Chalmers stiffly. ‘You’re a drunkard with a sick sense of humour and you thought it would be entertaining to scare the exchange student with spooky vampire stories.’
‘Faith has been changed into a vampire. She’s been sired by a vicious bitch called Lilah and now Lilah is looking for you. I can train you to defeat her but you need to listen to what I’m saying. You need to do everything I…’
Hope wouldn’t allow him to finish. She held up a silencing hand and shook her head. ‘The guidelines of my business management degree state that I don’t have to tolerate practical jokes and horseplay. Unless you have some real business to discuss, Mr Chalmers, I think I should get back to the floor.’ She didn’t give him the opportunity to reply. It seemed more sensible to turn her back on him and flounce out of the office.
But, all the time she was worrying about the price she would have to pay for dismissing him so rudely. Todd Chalmers owned the casino and was regarded as a ruthless and powerful man. She knew there would be a price to pay and, as she closed the door on him, she fretted that the price would be excessively high.