Something about frying pans


Nick arrived home to his parents’ place above their restaurant GoButa in the International District several hours after midnight and sat in bed, reading from the back section of the Memento, what Sophie called the “Vampire Factbook.” The large vellum pages held a small tight script that gave up secrets about familiars, ground tombs that gave birth to newly made vampires, and, most frightening, unbound vampires. Unbound vampires were ones made by mistake and the vampire maker, for whatever reason, was not there to help mentor the newborn into the Vampire world. According to the book, unbound vampires almost always went rabid and wound up causing terror.

Nick shuddered and typed a few more notes into his laptop. The image of the blonde vixen vampire from the bar came into his mind and would not go away. Inspired by that fear, Nick flipped through the pages, looking for hints, tips, tricks, anything on how to actually kill a vampire. Just as he was beginning to get frustrated, he stumbled upon what appeared to be an obituary page. It listed vampires (presumably) and the manner in which they had died.

Beheading, infernos, sunshine, massive blood loss. So the movies are true?

The movies never mentioned vampires with laser beam eyes. Strangely, for as much as gentleman vampire Jesper seemed powerful, he seemed ok. The petite girl Lucy, she was a conundrum. She seemed to not really be one of them. At the same time, the thought of her sucking that blood down creeped him out. He’d never hear that sucking sound and the crinkling of the foil package again without cringing. He wondered where it came from. The blood inside.

Again, the blonde appeared in his mind and he remembered her businessman companion. Nick read the section of Vampire Influence. Twice. Memorized it and then typed it into his laptop. The idea of a vampire “wrecking” his mind, well, he never would have believed it until he’d made eye contact with the blonde vampiress. It was the merest feeling of his body disconnecting from his will and it was scarier than shit. He didn’t want to be a vampire. He was too much the foodie.

Her eyes. Pools of obsidian. And did she make that businessman her food, her slave, one of the unbound? Did she wreck his mind?

By the time the fish monger arrived at the back door of the restaurant, Nick had the kitchen in a frenzy of activity. He stopped kneading yet another batch of soba noodles to sign for the shipment and went back to work, ignoring his elderly parents entering the kitchen and staring at him. His forearms were sore from rolling the dough out over and over but his mind was finally clear.

Cooking calmed him. It was the only thing in this world that he was a natural at, from his earliest years. He first cooked up omurice, an omelette with fried rice, since he’d skipped dinner. Turned out, he wasn’t very hungry. He rolled up his sleeves and got the mill out. He needed to work on something involved, something that wouldn’t go to waste and that would benefit the restaurant.

He started making soba for the next day’s service. After an hour, he felt his worries slip away, if not entirely, at least to the back of his mind. The action of rolling the dough out, folding, and rolling again had a calming repetition that he lost himself in.

Right before the fish monger had shown up, he started working on some sata andagi, Okinawa donuts. The smell of the fryer made him think of all the mornings he’d woken up to that smell, bounding down the stairs to his mother at the stovetop. She would slap his fat fist away from the stove as he tried to sample freshly drained treats.

By the time he’d moved on to pork-filled gyoza, his mother was there, standing just inside the kitchen door, watching. She’d seen him do this before, with a new disappointment, stress, or strife. In the past, a strict word about waste or the mess would be enough to chastise Nick, set him back to rights having exorcised his demons. Her eyes took in the sheer volume of his labor and assessed that no words she knew would quell this, his latest worry. It must be great indeed.

Now she walked over to him as his father started the chores of the morning. She put a hand on his shoulder and handed him an envelope. He wiped his hands on a kitchen towel before taking it. He opened it and removed a check from inside. It was made out to him for more money than he’d ever made in such a short stint, barring, of course, that one summer in Alaska. His mother asked him a simple question.

“For school?”

“Yes, Mom.” He stuffed it into his back pocket and rolled out a few more rounds for filling. But the thought was there, niggling at him. If I live that long.

His mom said nothing, just put on her apron beside him and started to package up his excess of energy. When she opened the back door to start with the deliveries, she started to discover a tall, dark haired woman standing there.

“AY!”

Morena grimaced, putting her hands up. “Sorry.”

The sound drew Nick’s attention and he threw a look over his shoulder, rolling pin still working. When he saw Morena, he whirled, angry. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

His mother began to chatter at him in Japanese and he responded back, equally upset. He stormed over, arguing with his mother whose eyes kept darting from Morena to her son. She finally wandered away in a huff, still mumbling, and then sent a final volley back at him as she went through the kitchen door.

Nick threw his head back Morena’s way. The calm he had labored for hours to achieve shattered.

“Didn’t mean to frighten her,” Morena said.

“What is the matter with you people? Don’t you know it’s rude to just show up at someone’s house?”

Morena looked, for a moment, like she was about to get her own dander up but she swallowed it. “I’m sorry. I thought we might talk.” Then, her eyes went past him, assessing the state of the kitchen, before returning to his upset face. “I couldn’t sleep either.”

All anger fled out of him. She was some Amazonian warrior goddess in black heels, battle hardened and able to dispatch a room full of thugs with her pinkie toe and a beer stein. If she, of all people, couldn’t sleep after that night, what nightmare was he really living in?

“Come on in,” he spoke as he turned and went back to the table where gyoza waited to be filled.

Morena stepped gingerly into the room, her heels making no sound on the concrete floor. Her eyes roved what he had done and she watched after he began spooning a ground meat mixture onto round dough, one by one, following up by folding the dough over and sealing them up.

“How did you find me?” Nick asked while he continued his work, as if it were an afterthought.

“Oh, I have some friends still in the force.” She stared at the table, her face impassive but her eyes watching.

“So let me guess, you searched out the Sakaki’s that own restaurants in International District?”

She looked up at him. “No, I had them run your plate.” She seemed aloof and nonchalant.

He stopped working and looked up at her, his lips pursed against another harsh comment. He struggled with it for a moment and then, thinking of the terrors he’d already witnessed, the danger he’d likely already subjected his family too, he let loose. “This is my home. More importantly, it’s my parents’ home. And their business. Their livelihood. You shouldn’t have invaded their privacy, and mine. It’s…” he struggled for the word. He remembered what the vampire had said about tricking a vampire. “Rude.”

He met her eyes and found a flaw in the impenetrable nature of her gaze.

“I was worried about you.”

Nick, caught off guard, took up a towel and began to wipe his hands. He let his mind think all sorts of things about trickery, deceit, wrecking. But he couldn’t hear it in her tone. He looked up at her again as she sighed, her gaze falling to the floor.

“I’m worried about both of us,” she said. “I haven’t slept well in days.”

“Well, he’s your boyfriend; surely you knew all of that stuff already.”

Her face went all quiet. “No.”

Nick considered her for a moment and then took up a pan of the gyoza. He walked over to the large refrigerator, opened it up, and slid the gyoza pan on one of the open racks.

“And he’s not my boyfriend. That’s…over.”

He turned back to her, closing the fridge. Did she look forlorn? Afraid? Regretful? Fooled?

“Well, in that case, I recommend we both have plenty of questions to ask him tonight when we go back. After, of course, we both get some rest.”

She lifted her gaze to him. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking except to guess that neither one of them could step out of this now if they tried. He might be a coward and inept at fighting and, well, just an overall nice guy in a wicked world, but if he needed to interview a vampire in order to learn how to protect himself, then that what was what he’d do.

She nodded, with a half smile on her lips after a moment and began walking to the back door.

“I do have a question for you.”

Morena stopped her exit, turned back to him. He looked sheepishly around the kitchen, the piles of gyoza, the oodles of noodles, and a huge pot of soup stewing.

“Do you suppose Vampires eat real food? I expect we’ll have extras for tonight.”

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