With a Little Lemon Twist


“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Mordecai. I will handle this.”

Mordecai looked up to see Billy, the drunkard spirits distributor that was new to this area and nursing a broken heart and a thirsty liver, straighten up in his seat and swivel toward him. At least, that had been where Billy, fifty-five, grey to balding, paunchy, shabby old tan suit too tight around the middle, had been sitting. In his place, a younger, dark-haired but pale looking man tapped his cigar ashes into his glass and stood, placing the cigar back into his mouth.

“Huh?”

As the stranger unfolded out his chair, his clothing seemed to transform before Mordecai’s eyes, the suit reshaping to maroon with blue stripes, the fabric growing an expensive sheen as it stretched and fitted to exact tailoring as the stranger walked over to where the vampire lay prone and panting.

Mordecai looked down at the vampire as he tried to push himself up. Was his hair a little less blond? Earlier, it had almost been platinum, like Monroe. The stranger paused just above him, stogy in his mouth, and removed a case from his inside jacket pocket. His dark eyes glared disgusted at the figure struggling on the floor as he handed Mordecai a card, one side white, stating in black lettering:

Gypsy Twin Alchemistry: Spirits & Potables

Thomas Darnell, Purveyor & Proprietor

As he turned it over, Mordecai could make out a glossy black ribbon embossed over the black matte background, the recognized symbol of the Irregulars. His eyes flew up to the stranger.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. I didn’t know it was you.”

“Nor were you meant to, Mr. Mordecai,” Mr. Darnell answered, placing the case back in his jacket. “For your own protection. And as to that, I must ask you to leave now as I handle this…snag.”

Mordecai paused, caught up in the moment. The actual head of the Irregulars. Well, one of them. One heard stories about the woman, she seemed more accessible even as it was clear that she shared top responsibility in all endeavors. But the elusive man behind the curtain? No such sightings existed, at least documented ones. This was he and Mordecai was seeing him, face to face.

But something was happening to his face, as if it was melting from memory before his very eyes. The shatteringly dark eyes were no more. The handsome pale face, the dark hair…wait, what was the color of his hair…was there hair? Hair of what? Mordecai wondered why he was still here, so late. He had delivered the cigars and that was that.

“There’s a good man, Mr. Mordecai. Perhaps we shall renew our acquaintance at a later time.”

Sam Samuelson, Mordecai as his MMORPG persona, shook his fuzzy head and walked out of the bar, muttering about being late and wondering if his wife would be upset that his night out with the boys had been longer than expected. The elevator seemed to open to him as if by command and Chain, the elevator repair man and earlier the state trooper, gently grabbed Mordecai’s arm and pulled him into the car.

After the elevator had closed, Thomas Darnell, once known to a very very dear aunt as Maurice, kneeled down to the fallen vampire with an unsettled rage that he could barely suppress. He grabbed at Jesper’s face, turning Jesper’s chin towards him and blew cigar smoke into his face. The smoke held strong notes of cedar and oak and after inhaling a face full of it, some of the red in Jesper’s eyes faded.

“You will remember this night as the one in which we all saved Sophie Quinn,” Maurice spat.

Then, Maurice grabbed Jesper by the back of the neck and hauled him up to his feet. Jesper was blinking rapidly but still conscious, although still quite ill. Maurice shook him to keep his head from lolling. He grabbed across the bar, and produced a lemon. Using his short sharp fangs, he tore a strip of peel from the lemon, juice squirting out. His own eyes brightened to a dark blue as he shoved the naked lemon into Jesper’s mouth.

Jesper’s head shot up and after he swallowed, his eyes flew open, red eyes turned to glowing amber as his whole body convulsed. His hand grabbed at the fruit and squeezed more into his mouth as Maurice dropped him to his feet, seeing that he could now take his own weight. As Jesper devoured the fruit, Maurice swayed slightly and bent to a knee to keep steady.

Breathing heavily, he picked up the Jesper’s sunglasses. Then, bracing his hand on his thigh, he stood again, spreading his feet to support himself. He wouldn’t show this creature his weakness. When he met Jesper’s gaze, Maurice felt the rage recede, replaced with wonder.

Jesper’s hair had changed to a dark auburn, his amber eyes had turned back to red, the texture of jasper. Lucy had been right: this was no ordinary vampire. But Maurice saw a will there that he had not expected. As Jesper turned to go, Maurice held the sunglasses against his chest to stop him.

“You could barely best Lucy. You cannot hope to defeat a Carpathian in combat, even blood doped. We’re just keeping her away from him.” Maurice paused to take a shuddering breath, his pallor turning green. He slipped “We’ve taken care of the rest.”

“I am Vampire!”

The sound of Vox echoed through registers that no mortal could hear and both vampires looked around for the source. Then they settled eyes back on each other.

“Go!” Maurice said but Jesper didn’t wait to be bidden; he was already running through the restaurant at human speed, senses reaching out, trying to find another clue. The view from the restaurant was amazing, almost a full 180 degrees fully lined with windows. He could see the change in the night sky. He needed to hurry. He needed something more to go on.

At the other end of the restaurant, there was no smoke and his senses could clear. Oh now he smelled him, smelled the Carpathian. He was so close. Jesper put his hands to the glass on the south side of the restaurant. The lemon had cleared away all the cobwebs as well as some of his vampire strength. It didn’t matter. A conscious vampire was worth more to Sophie than a comatose one.

“Sophie, I’m here.”

Then he heard it, the faint drag of the vowels, the smell of jasmine in his memory, a voice from an age ago.

“Jesper. Help us!”

West side. He flew to the windows along that side of the building but didn’t have to wait too long. In a moment, he saw the Carpathian, carrying Sophie across the roof top, vaulting over to the construction site, up high on one of the unfinished floors. His vision focused in, like slides on a presentation, closer, clearer, until he could see the Carpathian, a struggling Sophie held in one arm. She clutched at something that dropped from her hands just before Skovajsa stepped into the open shaft that would become an elevator and disappeared, obviously going to ground.

He took a few steps back from the window and then launched himself just as he pitched a Vox scream at the window, shattering it. Arms outstretched, he took flight, gliding through the brightening sky like a bird aflame on a mission to save the one he could not save before, for a chance to do it all over again, to fix his fate, and finally be the hero.

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Lucy raced into the bar side of the restaurant to see Jesper race past her. She through her gaze to her brother and watched him sink back against the bar.

“Maurice!” She put her arm around him as he shook. “What happened?”

“C poisoning. I’ll be alright.”

“What about Sophie?”

He shook his head. “It’s out of our hands. We’ve done everything we could to prepare.”

“The sun is coming. We need to go.”

Maurice let out a cry of rage, slamming his fist into the bar before nodding, letting his sister whisk them both away in a flight of crows. This was one game that they had played to within stalemate. The final positions were being set and a new piece had just entered the board. He had risked it all, years of anonymity, years of hiding away to put this piece in play. He hoped for his sister’s sake and for Sophie’s, his call had been a sound one.

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