By the time, the train pulled into the station, and Lauren wound her way down the stairs and out onto the desolate stretch of York Street, the sun was only a pale yellow sliver of warning slipping fast below the darkening horizon. She didn’t like being out after dark—no one did these days—but she needed the job, and so here she was hurrying past empty storefronts, abandoned cars, and long-gone ironworks factories untouched by Brooklyn’s gentrification boom. It was July in the city, the heat bullying in its humidity. In the distance, the half-lit towers of the Farragut Houses rose like an ugly Lego attempt. She glanced at the tiny ad in her hand: Part-time assistant needed for Angelus House. Good pay and flexible hours. There was an address scribbled on the side, an address she’d been given over the phone when she foolishly booked the appointment for eight-thirty, an address she was now trying desperately to find even as her gut told her it was madness to be walking unprotected at this hour. A torn page from a newspaper scuttled along the sidewalk and got caught on her foot. BLOODLUST SICKO KILLS AGAIN read the headline. Lauren shook it from her shoe and hurried along.
Angelus House occupied a corner on one of Vinegar Hill’s cobblestone streets next to a litter-strewn, weed-choked lot surrounded by a rickety fence. It had been a small Victorian hospital that overlooked the Brooklyn Navy Yards at one point, but now tinted-glass privacy windows, thick iron gates, layers of graffiti, and heavy vines obscured its former limestone glory. Lauren buzzed, and when no one opened the heavy security door, she walked around the side looking for a usable entrance.
“You one of them, huh? You one of those freaks?” A dark-haired guy in a Knicks tank stepped out and dropped into a karate stance, brandishing a spray-paint can.
She screamed loud and high, which sent the guy running. A second later, a door banged open, and there was a guy offering her his hand.
“Are you okay?”
Golden. That was the word that popped into her mind. With the glow of lower Manhattan shining behind him, he appeared like a golden god, his long pale hair falling in thick waves to his shoulders. “Do you need help? What are you on?”
“What? N-nothing!” she said in a shaking voice. “There was a guy. He was spray painting something on the fence over there. He took off when you came out.”
The golden one scanned the empty lot, scowling. “What are you doing out here? It’s not safe after dark, and this is private property.”
“I came about the assistant’s job,” she said, showing him the ad still clutched tightly in her hand. “I have an appointment for eight-thirty. But nobody answered the buzzer at the front door, so I came back here. I’m Lauren.”
“Oh. Jeez. Sorry. Sometimes nobody gets to the buzzer. That’s why we need an assistant. Come on in. I’m Johannes.”
Lauren sat across from Johannes the Golden Boy in a drab chair in a cheerless square of an office with only one dim banker’s lamp for light. He turned a pen end on end while asking her a series of questions: Was she proficient on a Mac? Did she mind answering phones and filing? Would she be willing to run errands during her shift—go for food or supplies that they might need? Did she understand that this was a place for troubled teens and that she might see and hear things that were kind of rough? Was she discreet? Did she spook easily?
She answered yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no.
He stared at her. He had deep brown eyes flecked with gold, which seemed to burn in the lamplight. “So tell me what you know about Angelus House?”
“I know you’re the last hope for the toughest addiction cases. You take in homeless teens, runaways, kids from the projects, the ones everybody else has given up on.”
He stopped playing with the pen. “Why do you want this job?”
Lauren stared at the ceiling and wondered how much she should tell him about herself. About the last three years. Her sister Carla.
“I just graduated from high school. I need a job, and I’d like to give back somehow.”
He glanced at her flimsy resume that mostly consisted of part-time retail jobs. “No college plans? No rushing off to Gimme Gimme You or something?” She thought she saw a hint of a smirk on his face.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Somewhere else. It was uncomfortably cold in the room. The air chilled the sweat on her neck and made her want to go outside into the heat again. “I have no idea.”
“You’re really honest.” Golden Boy stared at her, and she couldn’t begin to know what he was thinking. Had she blown it? She must have blown it. “Congratulations, Lauren,” he said, giving her a beautiful smile. “You’ve got yourself a job.”
Johannes insisted on walking her to the subway in the dark. It had begun to rain a little, which only made the humidity worse. “Great. Just what we needed. Our own hater.” Johannes pointed at the wall where the tagger had come back to finish his work. Over the Angelus House insignia of a lone winged knight, the words Los Vampiros had been sprayed in red paint, and the letters dripped like blood.