Miss Elegance took out a slim dark red leather folder embossed with a gilded crest from a desk-drawer and opened it. She picked up a fountain pen and looked up at me expectantly. "Name?"
"Greta Rosalind Schultz." I replied crisply.
She wrote it down and looked up: "Date of birth and current address?"
"12th December, 1962; Number 4, Darlington Crescent."
"Mmmm..." She looked up at me - "I though you were older..."
"Yes, I have that effect on people..." I replied with my best charming smile.
She looked confused, and ticked a few boxes on the forms. "Education?"
"A levels. Secretarial course..." She hummed again and frowned.
"Right. Ms Schultz, here is what the Vermilion Club does for its members: we will provide you with quarters in the club house of which you may avail yourself whenever you wish - but you cannot bring or receive non-member visitors. You will receive a generous allowance from the club which will be deposited in your bank account monthly (if you have your IBAN with you I will do the transfer now). In short - the Vermilion Club provides material comfort and financial security for all its members."
"That...That's wonderful...But the rates? You know, joining fees, contributions?"
She smirked. "Ms Schultz, the Vermilion Club is richer than many small oil-producing Nations, and we take care of our own. When the time comes for you to change identities in order to hide your longevity, we will provide documents and facilitate the transition. When you wish to retreat temporarily or retire from the world, you may do so. The Crimson Convent provides shelter for the members who become weary of the strife and stress of immortality."
Wonderful. "What are the rules," I asked. "What's the catch?"
"None, really. You may not expose our existence to mortals, let alone to the media. Killing is frowned upon, but since feeding accidents DO happen, you call us and we send in a Cleaning Crew to dispose of the left-overs. You must also attend regular meetings with your peers for group therapy. If you have trouble adjusting, your sponsor will recommend individual treatment. Now - if you will sign the non-disclosure agreement and provide the name of a mortal beneficiary for your Death Benefits Insurance, you can see Dr Bernette straight away for you physical and briefing on health and reproductive issues."
I leaned over the desk and filled in Sheila's name and contacts, then signed at the bottom of the page. I fumbled in my purse and found my banking details and added them on. Throughout all this Donnie had stood still as a statue, stripped of his fidgets by the cool woman behind the desk.
"I'm afraid I didn't catch your name..." I said to her. "The distraction and excitement of the moment..." She hadn't bothered to introduce herself, and she had the grace to look discomfited.
"Deidre Glastonbury." She smiled with practised charm, "My 12th identity, I am one of the founding members of the Club."
12 lifetimes. She was old, very old. I nodded as if it was all quite normal. "Why you don't look a day over 40!" I exclaimed.
She drew herself up: "I was 32 when I was turned." She raised an elegant bejewelled hand to her silver hair and patted it. "I am now preparing to move on to my 13th."
"Oh! Of course!" I nodded knowingly and kicked out at Donnie's skinny shanks. "So, Donnie, shall we leave Ms Glastonbury to her duties and go see the doctor?"
"Excellent"" Ms Glastonbury nodded relieved approval. "Here are your forms and your contacts. This is the Emergency Number for 24/7 service and rescue. I hope you will enjoy immortality as much as I have, Ms Schultz."
We walked out of her office and back into the hushed cathedral-like hall. "The doc is this way," Donnie said, "He's a nice man - a scientist and he's been studying our condition for centuries. He will explain everything so much better than I ever could!"
"Our condition...Being a Vampire is a condition?"
"Oh yes. Quite a complex symbiosis with a virus that Doctor B says originally evolved from an Ebola-type Hemorrhagic Fever many hundreds of thousands of years ago."
"Ebola?" I practically shrieked, "You gave me a deadly contagious disease?"
Donnie looked scandalised. "It's not contagious, or there would be millions of Vampires, you know. It's infectious. I injected the virus when I bit you. We have to infect someone deliberately. That is why we have fangs..."