“Venom,” Reyna told him.

“Excuse me?”

“Vampire venom. Saliva sounds way too scientific. Also…gross. I’m really going to make venom a thing.”

Washington laughed. “Venom it is.” He leaned forward and made a note in his chart. “Anyway, a few new diseases, however, have sprung up in the last hundred years that affect vampires both physiologically and cognitively. The most prevalent is called cogitare anemia. Have you heard of it?”

Reyna shook her head. “No. What is it?”

“Humans are the carriers like mosquitos carry malaria. It does not affect them except that it appears like they have regular anemia with a deficiency in red blood cells. But in vampires…” Washington shook his head. “Here, take a look. This is what happens to vampire blood that comes in contact with a human host infected with cogitare anemia.”

Reyna leaned forward with interest despite herself. She pressed her eye to a microscope and watched the interaction as the two were combined. Her eyes widened with shock as the perfectly normal vampire blood seemed to shake and tremble against the invasion of the new blood.

“Whoa. What the hell kind of reaction is that?” Reyna asked, pulling back.

“What you’re witnessing is the deterioration of the antigens on the blood. Antigens are markers on the surface of red blood cells that invoke an immune response and are what determines your blood type. There are 342 different known antigens in a person’s blood. The most common are the Rh antigen, which you either have or you don’t, and the ABO antigens.”

Reyna leaned back against the counter. “So, this disease destroys antigens in the blood cell? If a person is A negative or B positive, and it rips that away…what does that mean for the vampire?”

“Excellent question! If a vampire no longer has a blood type, then they can no longer drink from a blood type match.”

“Oh God,” Reyna whispered in horror as realization dawned on her. “They revert back to how they were?”

“Worse, I’m afraid. Without a blood type match, the disease effectively eliminates the ability for higher thinking and continues the animalistic tendency of my brethren. But if it goes untreated, the red blood cells can further deteriorate so that any blood they ingest in an attempt to eat will be rejected. Like when blood from a transfusion is rejected. And while the vampire is frantic for food, they seek out more people to eat and pass the illness back onto the human.”

“It’s passed from vampire to human. Does it pass from human to human?”

“Yes. Though we’re not entirely sure how as there are no symptoms in humans, which makes it more difficult for us to deal with. It is like men who carry the HPV disease with no signs and then spread it to women who can then get cancer. And this is the blood disease that has been circulating so effectively throughout the city.”

“What does that mean for the population?”

Washington frowned. “There are more rogue vampires on the loose, more humans are getting attacked, and the disease is spreading like a plague. I haven’t seen anything so widespread in decades.”

Reyna’s head swam with all the new information. A plague. A vampire-induced plague was spreading through the city. It seemed impossible.

“And there’s a cure?”

“We’ve found a way to stop the deterioration of the red blood cells. Thus, new blood cells would have to be created and a safe blood supply would need to be acquired to keep everyone safe, but we’ve never had an outbreak like this.”

“It sounds…engineered.”

“How so?” he asked.

“It sounds like someone is trying to drum up hysteria in the population. Like when the recession hit ten years ago, it was prime picking for Visage to look like a savior. No one bothered to look more closely because we were in such dire straits. A plague, this blood disease, sounds like a similar issue.”

“That is an interesting theory. It would fit with the intensity with which the disease seems to be spreading. Especially considering that we have a cure.”

“So…someone is keeping them from being treated?”

“It’s a possibility.” Washington drummed his fingers on the counter. “Well, thank you for your insight. It is always nice to have another person to bounce ideas off of.”

“You think he’s planning something, don’t you?” Reyna asked intuitively.

“William is always planning something.”

“But it’s related, right? Did he engineer this disease for his purposes?”

“I really do not know. Right now, I am hoping to find a cure for those vampires who were not fortunate enough to get treatment early. Also, I would like to find out if there is an indicator I’ve missed in the human blood so I can begin testing a way to stop it at the source. Maybe if I had a sample of your blood…”

“No,” Reyna said immediately.

“It would give me a basis of comparison,” he finished.

“Absolutely not.”

“Miss Carpenter, you can be of value here.”

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