He pulled the curtain shut when he heard the women’s voices.

“Malcolm!” Gravia sounded drunk. “Malcolm, there’s a body -“

“Lower your voice, you cow.” Lenka’s voice was wobbly, too, but she was at least still clear enough to think.

Malcolm stepped out of the wagon and saw them. Still in their performance clothes, they leaned into each other, unsteady. Their faces were smeared with blood, blood that dribbled down in rivulets and streaked their fronts in red.

“Malcolm, there’s a body.” Gravia’s exaggersted whisper was practically as loud as her stage voice. She burst into giggles. Lenka elbowed her in the stomach.

“You can’t eat men that have come to the show drunk,” Malcolm kept his voice even. “If they’re drunk, you get drunk -“

“We know.” Lenka kept her eyes low, a touch of shame in her voice.

“But we aren’t sorry.” Gravia spit the words at Malcolm. “If you don’t feed us —“

“I feed you when I can ensure we don’t create a problem for us to solve.”

“You feed us when you want us to worship you. To owe you.” Gravia was now face to face with Malcolm. “We aren’t your dogs. We decide when we are fed.”

In a second, Malcolm’s thick hand was locked around Gravia’s throat. The ingratitude of children, he thought. And the messes they were prone to make. If they’d gone into town and killed some drunk. If they’d left him where it would be easy to find him. If they’d been seen, crowing and laughing covered in a stranger’s blood, there’s be questions. And police. And inquiries. And trouble.

And trouble is unwelcome when you feed on human flesh.

“Let her go.” Lenka didn’t beg. Her voice sounded bored.

“She’s messy.”

“She’s also barely 220 years old. Don’t waste your energy. She’s not mortal until she’s at least 500.”

Lenka was right. No squeeze would be enough. And if he had to spend his energy, there was apparently a body to take care of.

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