When he looked inside he saw a ghost in a shadowy land, and he figured that men were mostly smoke and mirrors. Many had grand self-images, a handsome guy in a tailored suit perhaps, impeccable as far as manners and behavior went. But images are illusions, many selfish and hungry thoughts are on the surface most of the time. The higher side of man never sees much life at all, but then neither does the creature. Tonight it was the creature's turn to be loose.

A bright disc of moon was rising and the ghost gained a cloak of chill night and pink flesh. Rancid odors were on the air in the back streets, but it was a faint copper scent of blood that widened his nostrils. He stopped and stretched like a cat. Now he was alive, above the darkness, no longer a confused and clouded mortal. He had nerves with more crackle than radio waves, and he was totally aware of the reality that was his being. Of self-images and mortality, he had none, and his life did not require them.

A final sprinkle of blood-red from the greenhouse sun was dusting the tops of the buildings, and he strode down an alleyway, following the scent. Truly, there had never been a better hunting ground than this concrete jungle. Pinnacles and towers, it was a never-ending castle - perhaps decayed here in its lower portions, its dungeons, but rich with the beat of life.

At the end of the alley, he saw a dream. It was snakes-and-ladders luck. Her skin was pale, aglow from pheromones. Silver from the moon edged her dirty-blond hair. Both her jeans and top were faded and tight to the point where they followed her curves like a second skin. And they were voluptuous curves; she had everything to the point where anything more would be overkill.

In another alley, not far away, another woman was like a dream, but she was her own dream, and when she looked inside, she saw a mighty female warrior. She knew that a woman had a tiger and a lady inside. A lot of her life was a vision of what she wanted to be, and perhaps one day she'd realize that years had been spent chasing an ideal and not criminals. As a young woman, she never saw much of herself, too many hopes got in the way. And of many reasons for being in the back streets, the real one was one she didn't know about. Like all teens, she was running the tiger, 'cause when the tiger gets out he doesn't think, he lives.

She could've been a young prostitute, or out to score some dope, even a runner or a member of one those new-fangled girl gangs. But what she was was a guardian angel, a kid of fifteen in a red beret, supposedly looking to stop crime. Her reasons didn't matter, because regardless of the reasons, sooner or later we all are caught in those alleyways - running the tiger.

The vampire mesmerizer was almost mesmerized, such a knockout was this voluptuous blond. She lifted grease-stained arms from the open hood of her station wagon, and his breathing strengthened to a sigh of desire. Startled, she turned, but the sight of this handsome man calmed her. The disturbed look left her face and she stepped forward to meet him.

Confidently, he left the shadows - a tall man wearing a dark suit. His hair was neatly trimmed. A single pearl was in his left lobe. He had a sensuous mouth, the full sort that says kiss me without the lips ever moving. A glow of gold was in his eyes.

The angel had gone as far as her legs would take her; she slowed, then halted and caught her breath. As she continued around the corner she saw something that almost made her gasp, quickly she ducked into the shadows beside a wooden garbage box.

If it was prostitution, it was the weirdest sort she'd seen yet. The blond woman was throwing herself at the guy like an animal, kissing him everywhere on the face and neck. In one lusty moment, she tore off her top, displayed breasts that were slick with sweat and neon, smiled wickedly and went after him again. This time seizing his crotch with her left hand.

They half turned around as she continued to rage at him sexually. The angel felt outrage, disgust and morbid interest mix in her mind as she watched the woman's shameless actions. Then she caught a glimpse of his eyes, flashing with gold, and she knew it couldn't be prostitution.

He bared his fangs and the angel froze, nearly whimpering in fright as he took the woman's hair and moved to bite. A warm whisper of sucking blood came to the angel's ears, and she found herself full of fury. She had no pity for the gently moaning woman. Then her legs loosened and she bolted and ran for her life down the alley.

Tonight the full moon was making business for the angels. No sooner had she gone three blocks and stopped than she witnessed another crime. There were two other people on the street - a little boy standing beside an empty black Caddy, and a pervert with his fly open approaching the boy.

She carefully scanned the tinted windows of the Caddy until she was sure no one was inside. Looking back to the pervert she noted that he was big, greasy haired, tattooed, with a thin foxlike face that was twisted into an expression of deceit.

She wanted to blow her whistle, but her lungs were on fire from too much running. She couldn't dash for help with legs as weak as wax, and for sure she couldn't wrestle this guy down.

As the guy stepped up to the kid, she picked up a chunk of brick. He hadn't seen her so she waited to see what he'd do. He didn't bother trying to lie at all, he simply moved in for the snatch. As he grabbed the kid, she threw her piece of brick and caught him square on the temple. And while he was reeling from the blow, the kid sank his teeth into his hand.

It was just enough for the snatcher, he howled and fled into the night.

The little boy was crying now and leaning against the car like he was trying to hug it. The angel walked up to him, taking note that he was a cute kid, about six, wearing a colorful T-shirt, blue shorts and runners.

She put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "It's okay, the bad man's gone," she said softly.

"Are you sure?" he said, choking back his tears.

Just as she was about to answer a shadow rose up behind her.

"The bad man will never come back," a man said.

The angel spun around, and her eyes filled with fright as she recognized the vampire.

"Oh-no!" she said.

"Daddy!" yelled the little boy as he brushed past her and seized his leg.

The angel remained frozen as the vampire looked at his son. A moment later, his deep-blue eyes fell on her, and he searched her boyish face like he was trying to find a secret in it. "Good job, angel. You can go now," he said.

"I want to be an angel too," the little boy said, showing fangs.

She didn't wait for an answer. The kid would never be an angel. Turning, she fled. Power was in her legs like she'd drained just a little from the vampire. And she didn't want the power for stopping crime anymore; she'd seen too much on the back streets and was no longer an angel. Yet even with her innocence gone, she found she could still run the tiger.

------ The End -------