Hell in High-Heeled Shoes

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The first thought that ran through Nick’s head when Irina’s grandmother went flying across the deli, smashing into a wall, and shaking the whole building was whether the old lady would leave a dent. It was a terrible thought and as she fell to the floor, whimpering in pain, Nick’s taxed brain added insult to injury with the thought, The Iron Curtain has fallen.

It was an infantile response to complete and utter fear. In this case that fear took the form of one recently deceased Oksana dressed in her tattered tranny outfit with gold strappy heels and boy, did she look pissed! She also looked jacked, blonde hair going every which way, her skin was mottled and gray, and her eyes cracked and red, like she’d just done a week of all-nighters or some not-so-legal substances. Or both. And she was filthy, like she’d just crawled through a garbage dump on her hands and knees.

Uh-oh. She had literally picked up her grandmother by the shoulder and thrown her some twenty feet across the room. This wasn’t Oksana anymore. This was something else. Emphasis on the thing.

“Not good,” Nick swore to himself. “Irina! Wait!”

Irina had already started to move around the counter towards her grandmother, catching Oksana’s attention. Oksana made a step towards Irina when her grandmother struggled to her feet, grabbing something out from underneath her shirt. Her voice was strong as she addressed Oksana in Russian, holding her silver Orthodox cross out in front of her. That seemed to enrage the creature formerly known as Oksana and she jumped at her grandmother, grabbing at the cross. When her hand closed around it and hissed as the flesh burned, her grandmother straightened her bearing, full of fervor as her words pounded through the room. Nick thought she looked a lot like Hopkins playing Van Helsing.

Oksana shrieked, letting go of the cross, and slapped her grandmother, propelling her over the display case into yet another wall. The silver chain holding the cross broke and the object dropped to the floor, still smoking.

“Baba!” Irina cried and for an instant, looked down at the little cross. It had fallen just a few feet from her.

Nick saw what was in her mind and shouted, “Irina, no, leave it. Get out of here!”

He needn’t have bothered to warn her. Oksana tilted back her head and let out an excruciatingly horrifying bellow that made Irina step back against the counter and cower under its ledge. Nick crouched too, hands over his ears. But as he looked at Grandmother Iron dragging herself across the floor with arthritic hands, blood soaking her head scarf and dripping into her eyes, he knew he had to do something. He’d been separated from Irina when Oksana barged past him from the back of the deli, knocking him down, taking them all by surprise. He somehow needed to get them both out of here. Or fight back.

Oksana had a fit of rage, grabbing the cash register from the counter just above Irina and throwing it through the front window, then smashing the glass of the display case with a kick. Ah God, what was he going to fight that with? He looked up above him at the wall of decorative Russian art, which included a heavy looking brilliantly painted paddle looking thing. He didn’t have time to think but he did anyway. He was scared as Hell. But he saw Irina, hands pressed against her ears more in denial than sound, tears streaming down her face as her beloved older sister wrecked the restaurant. Yeah, he had to do something, alright. Something crazy.

He jumped up and grabbed the wooden paddle from the wall and just as Oksana turned back toward him, he gave out a rebel yell and smacked her as hard as he possibly could in the face with the paddle. It split in two and he dropped it as the impact blooded her nose but otherwise did nothing but make her go quiet.

And this was why Nick never resorted to violence. “Uh….,” Nick stammered taking a step back.

Oksana’s face broke into a maniacal smile as two very jagged, incomplete looking fangs snapped down in her mouth. Her eyes went a milky white and Nick stepped back, tripped over a table, crab walked backwards on hands and feet, all the while an ominously calm Oksana stalked him.

Oh, this was so not how he wanted to go out. “Irina, get your grandmother out of here!”

Irina looked frozen in place, her head finally raised, hands still held near her head but her grandmother was by her side now, tugging at her arm. Irina and Nick shared a look, one of sheer terror as both of them knew what would happen next. Irina’s grandmother shoved her into the kitchen and Nick’s eyes moved back to Oksana, looming over him.

Her fangs looked funky, rotten, like the rest of her seemed to be. Her eyes looked more zombie-like than vampire-like. And Nick realized how ridiculous that thought was as she grabbed at the front of his shirt to haul him up. It didn’t really matter how fresh a vampire she was. She was still going to make a feast of him and drain him dry. He hoped.

The entire side window exploded in a shower of glass, a human sized projectile launching at Oksana and smashing her back into the far wall. Nick fell back to the floor, head too slow to catch the movement as Oksana suddenly flew back the other way across the room, landing awkwardly in a mess of tables and chairs.

Morena’s dark hair was flying all around her and that one-of-a-kind moment he thought he’d had at The Mystic was duly repeated. She saved him…again. He could get used to this.

But first, he had to duck a table that Oksana threw wildly about. Morena just phased out of the way. It was the only way to describe her movement; one moment she was in one place, then a blur, the next in another place. Awww, man, she hadn’t gone vamp too? Nick pushed away the certain depression that would come from that reality and hopped up into a crouch.

“Nick, call Jesper. Now.” Morena tossed him her phone and went after Oksana. The two women began a girl fight of epic proportions and on top of all the other bad thoughts and reactions he’d had this evening, this one topped them all. He stood there, Morena’s phone in his hand, her orders clear in his head, with his mouth agape, watching as she scuffled with Oksana.

She ducked Oksana’s swipe unnaturally fast, spinning into a round house kick to the solar plexus that again sent Oksana to the wall. Then, she was just standing there, fists raised but side turned away from Oksana, her eyes meeting his.

“Nick!”

He snapped out of it. “Yeah!” He glanced down at her phone, ducked as a chair flew past Morena towards him. Her phone was locked. He raised his head to ask her for her password when he saw her do an amazing arm block, then twist Oksana off balanced into the display case, head first. Oksana shrieked and Nick decided Morena might be a tad preoccupied.

“Well, how complicated can it be?” he asked no one and typed the four digits to the The Mystic’s street address in and watched the phone log in. “Awright!” he celebrated to himself and was about to look at her call history when a message popped up. It was from Jesper. He pushed a button to dial immediately but it went to voice mail. Like everyone else’s had done all flipping night. “Dammit! Voicemail!”

Morena lifted her head a smidge at the news, only a split second distraction but Oksana wrapped her arms around Morena and flipped her up and over, down onto her back. Oksana tried to finish the move with a stab kick from her stiletto heel but Morena had rolled away. It was like watching brute force fight a fully trained fighter. So much different than the fight at The Mystic.

But Nick could tell that Morena seemed to be slowing down or tiring or both. He raced along the wall keeping Morena between him and Oksana, trying to dial again when the damn email reminder popped up again. “Damn!” he swore but clicked to read it anyways, scanning the message. “Holy shit! We need an axe!” He dialed Jesper’s number again.

“What?” Morena shouted, her and Oksana taking a moment to rest and measure each other up.

“Or maybe a cleaver?” he thought to himself, having chopped through a few chicken necks in his day. As he was about to dart to the kitchen, Morena had made another move, feigned high and struck low, kicking Oksana in the gut. Morena grabbed Oksana by the shoulders and pushed her into the shattered display case, food and glass scattering everywhere.

Nick wanted to run into the kitchen but he couldn’t take his eyes off Morena, couldn’t abandon her, not for a second. While Morena leaned over Oksana, Oksana was smiling, grabbing onto each of Morena’s arms and forcing her up and back and then, for good measure, squeezing her elbows until both of them let out a sickening pop. Morena screamed and Oksana threw her like a rag doll to the floor. Then, she kicked Morena in the face with her heel, an angry red scrap welling up across Morena’s face where the heel had cut her.

Nick held the phone to his ear while he watched Oksana turn back in his direction.

Leave a voice mail for Jesper Bretton after the tone.

“Uh, yeah, Jesper. This is Nick. We’re all going to die now. Hope you and Sophie survived. Nice knowing ya.” He then threw the phone at Oksana while he backed against the far wall.

Oksana again stalked him. What the Hell did she see in him anyways? Maybe it was what he got for playing hard to get the other night. If it was possible, she looked even more gruesome, bordering on ghoulish as she stepped just up to the counter. That was when the skateboard flew in from the kitchen, tripping her and causing her to fall on the floor.

Irina suddenly appeared from behind the counter, her face strangely calm.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Irina spoke quietly.

Nick had no clue what was happening but he jumped on Oksana. It might not be worth much but he knew he needed to hold her down. And then Morena jumped on top of him, grabbing Oksana’s arms as she flailed. Irina was then adding her meager weight and pressing the cross she had scooped up from the floor into the back of Oksana’s hair. Her hair smoked and burned and she shrieked in fury, trying to get free.

“Baba, now!” Irina shouted.

Grandmother Iron emerged from the kitchen, holding a small axe in her hands, mumbling in Russian and then, swinging down hard, she spat, “Move!”

At that point, Irina jumped off and Nick and Morena both turned their heads away. It took Grandmother two hard whacks with the axe during which blood splayed all over but Oksana’s head separated from her neck and her body stilled.

Grandmother panted heavily but didn’t waste time. She picked up Oksana’s head by her smoldering white hair and turned back to the kitchen. A few quick words in Russian to Irina and Irina picked up the necklace again.

Nick and Morena, blood splattered, still laying over Oksana’s corpse on the floor, watched with eyes wide first as Grandmother shuffled into the kitchen and then as Irina put the necklace around the stump of Oksana’s neck and bowed her head in prayer, lips mumbling the words. Meanwhile, Nick heard the oven door open and then slam shut moments later.

“Oh, Hell no!” Morena said.

Irina’s head jerked up. “Grandmother explained. We have to burn the head now and then the rest of the body to ashes. You cook, Nick. How hot do you think we need the oven?”

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With a Little Lemon Twist

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on July 17, 2011 by vampirony

“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.

Wine and Dine on Her

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on July 17, 2011 by vampirony

As nerve-racking as first dates are, I wasn’t holding a lot of sympathy for Skovajsa at present. The floral bouquet was making me sneeze and the wine was anything but a drinkable vintage. His demeanor was on par with some snooty playboy who wasn’t getting his fair share of adoring attention.

Oh, and the fact that he’d broken into my room under some romantic pretense and after receiving a not-so-favorable reaction had resorted to force and at present he held me down on the bed to smell at my hair, wasn’t endearing me too him to him much right now either.

“It’s impolite to address me in that way,” he spoke without a shred of anger or feeling, as if he was reading cue cards for some hack version of Romeo and Juliet. “I came to offer you my special bond. You should be honored.”

Then again with the smelling. Slowly, from the base on the left side of my neck, up past my earlobe, around the crown of my head, and down the other side. Vampires and their heightened senses dictated no need for this kind of scrutiny so I had no idea what he was up to. I just hoped to heaven that this strange sense I had, that Jesper was or had just been here with me, would not be something he could notice.

“Excuse me if I’m reading more into your actions than your gifts.”

He jerked back, staring at me. Since I had his attention and he looked a little like a scolded child, I figured I’d push it.

“A woman prefers not to be pawed at!” It took every ounce of my thinking mind to not slam my free knee into his groin, a move so instinctual and yet fatal in this instance, that I had to bite my lip. I was flexing my wrists against his grip but only to keep the blood flowing. Any direct resistance would trigger him into fight mode. And there would be no way back from that.

He released my hands and sat upright. His face looked mildly confused and he pursed his lips.

“I brought flowers.” His attempt at explanation.

I didn’t trust him so kept my position on the bed. I wanted to rub the feeling back into my hands but putting them together would make it easier for him to control me if he went feral again.

“Yes,” in my most stern school teacher voice. “And with no greeting, no explanation of how you came into my room, startled me and attacked me, unprovoked.”

He shook his head once and, like some ancient punch card machine, he calculated his mistake. “I brought you jewels.”

“Irrelevant while I’m still pinned to the bed. May I ask you to control yourself and get off my person?”

With vampire speed, he moved to stand just next to the bed. But it seemed like he paused, like he’d meant to go farther but something grabbed his attention. He looked down at the bedside table where the phone off the hook was beeping. He carefully picked it up and put the receiver back in its cradle.

“I have disturbed your sleep,” he said softly, his back turned to me as he crossed slowly to the other side of the room.

I sat up carefully, not taking my eyes off him. He was in some state, anxious, fang-happy, on the edge. But his shoulders were slumped, as if his intentions had been shattered. He stooped to pick up the flowers that he’d dropped when he lunged at her. He’d trampled the lilies.

I sneezed.

He turned toward me. “You are allergic to the flowers.”

“No,” I paused to rub my nose. “Actually, the pussy willows.”

Skovajsa stepped to the door, which hung ajar from him forcing it open. He opened it long enough to throw the entire bouquet out the door and then stepped back, turning to me.

“Thank you,” I said quietly. It seemed very strange that the one item out of all the ones florists might use in a bouquet that I was allergic to would be one that ended up in his offering. I touched my lips, which still tingled. I wish I could remember my dream and more importantly, why the room felt like it did when Jesper’s presence was around. I almost thought if I whispered his name, he might hear me. I bite my lip again. That was sure to enrage Skovajsa, who seemed to be calming down.

He gave me a determined look that made me think “Uh-Oh” and stepped to me, hand reaching into his jacket. In a swish of supernatural movement, he was on his knee before me, holding out a rectangular jewelry box.

“Forgive me. I have misbehaved. I had meant to shower you with gifts so you might see how much I desire you to join me.”

He flipped open the box, as eager as a schoolboy, but even I had to marvel at the creation inside. Not that I was warmly impressed. It was a stab of icy fear that a man with resources to acquire something obviously so expensive and so unique would’ve set his sights on me. It was a prelude to the kind of ownership that was absolute and completely devoid of any semblance of familiarity with me.

“You are of great value to me, Sophie Quinn. You should be with me.”

This is the part in most romance novels where the heroine tossing all care to the winds and recognizes that all was done for love, all should be forgive, the sins of the past were the forgotten under the spell of adoring admiration and undeniable sexual chemistry. Of course, in most romances the heroine was exquisite in form, wily of spirit, just in need of someone to love her completely, no matter what.

The only thing Skovajsa loved about me was my wealth of knowledge about vampires. The thing he truly cared about was his own safety and he would kill anyone and steal anything to safeguard it by becoming more powerful.

“You say nothing to my proposal?” His brow furrowed.

My eyes narrowed. He had backed me into a corner and there really wasn’t anything I could say that wouldn’t wind up with him killing me. So I might as well put a name to his doubt.

“Vasa Skoda.”

He took it like a slap. The lid of the jewelry box snapped shut and he was on his feet, his eyes hurt, his brain percolating. “What did you say?”

“Vasa Skoda. It’s your name. Your real name.”

He shook his head violently. “No.” He backed away, into the breakfast cart. “No.”

For the first time, I saw a hint of humanity in his eyes, a hint of fear. I had to take advantage of this opportunity. It would be the last I would get to try and pry him open. I flipped off the bedcovers and stood up in my sock monkey jammies and tank top.

“You are Vasa Skoda, Yugoslavian by birth, born sometime in the 1930’s,” I spoke with certainty, taking a step toward him with each bit of information I revealed. “You were a failed actor, model, who moved to Italy to try and become famous.”

“You lie! You know nothing about me. I am Skovajsa! I was blood brother to Vlad Dracul.” There was a note of panic to his tone.

“You were not. Vlad Dracul was never even a vampire. I have that on good authority. Dracul is a reference to the Order of the Dragon, a Christian group founded to defend Europe against the Ottoman Empire.”

He crouched away from me, his hand grabbing for the antique wine bottle. It seemed to be a talisman to him and, with it in hand, he straightened and took a step towards me. “I am Vampire!”

The force of his Vox shattered all the mirrors in the room and sent me to the floor. I didn’t stay there for long as he quickly grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the bed.

“You would slander me. You would deny me!”

With one hand around my chin forcing my mouth open, he flipped the stoppered top of the wine bottle open and began pouring what I knew to not be wine into my mouth. I seized my throat muscles shut, held my breath to try and prevent the liquid from getting down my throat but it didn’t do any good.

With a familiar flash of consciousness that harkened me back to the winter of 1885, a red searing pain cut through me, flooding my consciousness with all twelve prior lifetimes as they tried to exert themselves against the vampiric flood. I screamed as my head felt about to explode with the strength of thirteen enraged personas, tearing at the influence of the vampiric strain.

It was a familiar strain. I’d felt this before; the force of immortality trying to rip me asunder and staple me back together with rusty velvet ties. It was Valerian, his blood. His oppressive figure appeared in my mind, just as he had stood over me when an accidental taste had given us both a glimpse into what would come. Tearing at my hair, screaming at the burning with my mind, there had been no room for him in me. There was no room for him here, years later. But he pushed on anyways, his blood in wine format summoning his dark, demands of complete surrender.

The sisterhood of my lives formed ranks again to try and fight him but with only one new recruit and her fighting every thread of memory she had of him, they would be no match. It was a tapestry hallway in my mind, skirts of different ladies shuffling around each other, clustering together to protect the most essential part of my soul while the rest of me lying naked, shivering on the floor while Valerian approached.

He kneeled down to me, his hand brushing the hair pasted with sweat to my face. “No, no, no….”

The skirts stilled and then suddenly rustled as a figure stepping through them, tailored pants in short ankle leather boots. The figure stopped just behind me and kneeling Valerian looked up to see…himself.

“You cannot have her.”

The other Valerian, the one brought here by the Taint nodded and caressed my cheek. “She needs me. She is injured.”

“Fine,” my guardian Valerian spoke. The skirts of my past lives gathered behind him, each putting a hand on him to feed him energy. “You may go wherever you need to heal her, except beyond this door. You will not speak to her sisters. You will not dredge up any memories. And when she is healed, you will go, entirely.”

The tainted Valerian smiled fiercely. “She will need protection. She has always needed protection.”

A dark eyebrow rose. “Oh? I don’t know, ladies. I think we’re doing quite well, don’t you think?”

Heads of different styles and colors nodded. The taint of Valerian burst into a red flood and washed all through the hallway but parted around the back doorway, crashing into the carpet, completely absorbed. The pain continued but I felt the Guardian Valerian clasp hands with Darcie and the pain ebbed to an ache. I started to feel my body again, pushed gently back to reality by a young shepherdess I didn’t quite recognize.

Just as my mental redoubt was shoring up, Skovajsa chuckled in a pleased way, producing four fearsome, uneven fangs. Coming back to that was as jolting as waking up in the first place.

“No one denies me!” he snarled and tore into my neck.

Well, then, there’s nothing for it, Sophie dear. Knee to the groin then.

It was Darcie’s voice. I had never realized she did have a distinct voice until just this moment. Her accent reminded me of Maggie Smith. Wasn’t she in that one Mystery show? I launched my knee into Skovajsa’s groin only to have my suspicions realized. The man had no balls to speak of and my knee hit his pelvic bone hard. Ouch! Great.

The kukri, Sophie. Call to it. The accent this time was Indian, from the mountains, English not natural to her.

I didn’t have to call to it. I’d kept it close. Under the pillow. All I had to do was grabbed for it but I couldn’t reach and my consciousness was starting to fade as Skovajsa’s hand gripped into the opposite of my neck. Damn!

Just as another persona swelled up, Skovajsa jerked up and spat my blood out. I’d never see that happen, realized I wasn’t seeing it happen from within my body at all. I floated just above and watched my body racked by seizure, Skovajsa still holding me down, the wine bottle forgotten on the bed, soaking into the bedcovers.

The Taint and Skovajsa’s bite had caused me to jump out of my body. My other lifetimes were taking turns inside to try and get me free. I’d have to ponder over how it was possible later but the pain was a smidge less although I still couldn’t breathe yet. Skovasja was still choking me. But he suddenly staggered away from me, lifting the bottle to his lips and drinking down all that was left.

Somehow I recognized that whatever protection Taint Valerian offered might have extended into my blood. Or maybe it had been whatever had rendered me unconscious might have somehow altered my blood chemistry too. I wasn’t able to string the thoughts together to figure it out. Whatever it was, it meant he couldn’t feed from me which, in this case, meant he probably couldn’t convert me.

Universe 2, Vampire Psychologist (via her Super Secret Friends) 1

A sudden scent of jasmine and gardenia tugged at me hard, propelling me back into my body. I was dimwitted for certain but this nameless persona stretched my hand out and grabbed the bag the Kukri was in. Her strength suddenly faded as my skin contacted the metal but there was one last thought she shared.

“Jesper. Help us.”

I couldn’t know if it was she or I that breathed it but Skovajsa, eyes now red with fresh blood, raised his arm and smacked me in the face with the wine bottle. Before I could crash into anything, he’d already snatched me up.

“You will tell me everything. You will guide me towards the power I seek. And you will be my vampire bride.”

With that, he crashed us back through the hotel door, out a fire exit at the end of the hall, and jumped across the rooftops until he landed in a construction site across the street. Amazingly, I’d managed to keep the knapsack with the Kukri. Furthermore, the sky seemed to be lightening up with the dawn of a Northern summer sky.

Universe 2, Vampire Psychologist 3

The odds seemed to be stacking up for me. I just needed to somehow survive the next half hour. The prospect of which was absurd. However, a soft voice reminiscent of the scent of flowers assured me I wouldn’t be alone for long.

The Price of Tea

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on July 12, 2011 by vampirony

The smashed tea pot was Chinese, from Yixing, thousands of pots of tea brewed into the pot until the purple clay had so absorbed the flavors that one need only add water to get the flavor. It was a terrible waste. Not that either Valerian or I cared in that moment as his fingers brushed through my tousled hair.

The office was tucked into a far corner of the laboratory, a converted warehouse where our scientific and paranormal research could be conducted with no interruption from curious neighbors. The added benefit of the warehouse was that while it had been boarded up tight so no light could leak in, steam machines roared to produce the electricity that ran through the building, casting a wondrous orange glow around. Valerian often said it made me look like I wore a halo.

After another long embrace, our skin damp and clinging together, he laid back on the small cot, arm tightening around me. I nestled against him, head on his chest, hand in his, catching my breath. The pot on the floor seemed to catch both of our attention simultaneously. I heard him chuckle, the movement shaking his chest and me along with it.

"Well, another splendidly failed experiment. But admittedly, if all failed experiments ended like this, I will have to adjust my success criteria."

As much peace as I felt right now, I had worked very hard to try and synthesize the right dosage of juice and tea. His seizure was both unexpected and intense. I hadn’t know what else to do but push him onto the cot and try to hold him down, pushing a wooden dowel into his mouth to keep him from choking. The panic I’d felt was gone now but the memory of the failure was profound. I pushed myself up, looking down at him.

"Yes, but how do you feel, Val?" I caressed his face, the cuts around his lips already healed where he’d struggled against the dowel. My fingers traced his lips.

He raised one inky eyebrow at me. He could do that."You ask me that after what we’ve just done?"

My hand moved to his chest. I asked, exasperated, "You feel no relief at all? I was certain adding the lime juice in that concentration would have a calming effect. Lind’s work with scurvy in the Royal Navy seemed to be so promising."

He could tell I was disappointed. "I cannot tell if it’s the antiscorbutic….or if it’s you that effects the change."

I blushed before catching all he said. “So you do feel something!” I was excited. He had never before admitted that my silly experiments with what I had deemed sun-starvation had any impact on his vampire self. I was beaming with feminine pride when I leaned over him. "Hmm, perhaps if we didn’t work so hard at confounding the results of said experiments, we could isolate the change agent."

But there was a difference in his kissing after some tea, whether he admitted it or not. His lips were softer and while his mouth sought more, his arms more insistent, it was more to persuade, to intoxicate me into loosening my laces, sliding fabric gently aside so he might touch me more. So while it hadn’t really been my intention to make him into a more tender lover by curing his sun-starvation, I felt the full benefits of it.

With the slightest pressure of his hand cradling my head as we kissed, I felt him push my face gently up and away from him, his eyes boring into mine. I was pleased with myself. His eyes searched mine but still, I hadn’t unlocked that look although I’d begun to see it more and more lately.

Instead of the open emotions that had roamed his face more often, a mask of appraisal clouded his brow. "My darling girl, you need a man you don’t need to fix."

I rolled my eyes. Crossing my arms over his chest, I commented in a huff, "We all need fixing in some measure." My fingers played with the buttons of his undone shirt.

His large cold hand covered both of mine. Again, with the eyebrow. "You’re not ever going to cure me of vampirism, Darcie. It is what I am and where I belong."

I hated when we talked about this, his vampire world. He had worked hard to keep it so separate from me from the beginning. I knew he had a vampire family, what he called a horror. He told me he kept me away from them to protect me. They were unruly, his brood. "Whatever made you think I was trying to cure you of that?" Still not looking him in the eyes.

"I know you. And I know that as much as I treasure these fleeting moments with you, I will never satisfy you.” He lifted my chin, forcing me to look at him. “I am not what you are searching for. And no matter your skills, you cannot fashion me into whatever it is you seek.”

It was just like him to completely misunderstand my efforts and to put a damper on my accomplishments. Whether there was any truth to his words was irrelevant. It was more a matter of the change in his demeanor that he seemed to be fixating on how I thought of him as vampire than it was my wish to change that about him. It was his very vampiric nature that made me feel I could help him, that I was uniquely qualified to find him some balance.

My lip must’ve been sticking out as I pouted because he lifted his head and used his tongue to caress that lip away from the other so he might enjoy another deep kiss. And when he did such things, I forgot all my cares and in some dark part of my heart, I began to fear the day when I couldn’t help him anymore. His fingers brushed my throat until his kisses lead there too and I felt a jolt flow through me remembering his teeth sinking in and the feeling of eternity clawing out of me. I wondered if his fangs would appear now as they often did when we engaged in our scandalous behavior. I waited for him to bite me.

But this was not that day as he sighed, completely satisfied, and sunk back against the cot. “Although, I confess I will miss it when you cease your efforts." His arms wrapped even tighter around me, his hand cradling my head as I relaxed against his chest. Listening to his relaxed breathing and feeling not the warmth exactly of another human being, but instead the strength and electricity that moved all through me wherever his body touched mine. And at this point, there wasn’t much in the way of clothing left between us.

I caressed his chest, my hand moving lower. I didn’t want him to be anything but his best self. But at what point this dark angel would find me lacking, keeping me separated from the world that was his, that he surely ruled, now that was another matter entirely.

"Then perhaps we should endeavor to not make these attempts so brief. Fleeting moments indeed. You’ve made me a ruined woman in appearances, Val. You might as well ruin me completely. Again."

And my heart hammered as we once again put anatomical pursuits ahead of scientific ones.

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My heart beat like the sound of the hoof beats that approached the tent. At any moment we could be found out. The caravan, while it had been travelling for days and had orders to leave our cart and our tent allow under strict order of the Sultan, was now a long way away from Kostantiniyye. But the hooves stilled and so did any doubt that it was the horses and not the fingers stroking just there below my veil that caused my heart race.

“Jesper! Shhh!” I complained, trying very weakly to still his hands.

“Indeed, shhhh,” he murmured and caught at my mouth. I gave into him completely as there was nothing for it. Even if we were disturbed, his growing abilities to charm the intruder would have them leaving the tent wondering why they’d come, even as they saw us here, my sitting in Jesper’s lap on the rug and pillows with my veil unwound around us, my red hair tumbling down.

His charm wasn’t the only ability in which his cock sure attitude was apparent. He’d boasted just this morning that he’d spent the full afternoon under the scorching sun helping the captain of our expedition to find water. But I wasn’t currently concerned about his divining besides how his hands, one still wrapped in bandages, managed to remove my salvar trousers with little assistance from me.

I pulled my lips away, “Jesper.” There, I said it. Now I had no idea why, his hands moving to push my tunic over my head. When he’d swept into the tent after his nightly sojourn, it had been most of the day since I’d talked with him, and we both seemed particularly needy tonight. As the tunic came over my head, so was I over any hesitation, pushing him back against the rug. He hummed in appreciation for my newly found enthusiasm.

It wasn’t fair. He’d come in perfectly naked and yet I still had yards of fabric between us that I struggled with. I never hated our palace garb more than now. He seemed oblivious to my frustration, just enjoying how I was moving against him in trying to free myself.

“All day without you. All day without you in full sun and not able to share it with you until now.” He marveled, his mouth finding a particularly sensitive crease in my neck.

I couldn’t help but smile as he helped rid me of the last stitch of fabric. “Mmm, Kemal would not have appreciated it much if this was how we celebrated your first midday sun.”

Jesper’s warm amber eyes glowed as he looked up at me playfully. “No?”

“No,” I shook my hair out over him and he cupped one side of my face with his good hand. I put my hand over his and then pulled his other bandaged hand up to look at. The Sultan might indeed be benevolent in most cases to this strange visitor from the North, but there were limits to his patience. The dropping of the Valide Sultan’s favorite tea set, smashing it to bits by his reckless fit, had brought a severity that had surprised me.

“Oh, something else for you to see.”

I looked at him confused as he unwrapped his hand, showing four perfect fingers and one thumb, the skin tan and new. He turned his hand in front of me so I might fully appreciate it. Two days ago, back at the Palace, I had wrapped his hand myself after his smallest finger had been amputated to protect the rest of his charred fingers.

I touched his hand, grasping it in both of mine. I pressed it to my lips, smelling none of the decay from two days ago. I met his eyes, “It has regenerated? This is amazing.”

“You still believe I am no demon?” His eyes held a doubt. It was the old one, the one that he would not, could not let go of.

“My heart, you are no demon. You are one of the Djinn. Sacred,” I kissed his thumb. “Kind,” another kiss. “Noble, wise, immortal.” Each finger, I kissed in kind, until he cupped his hand behind my head and drew me down to him.

It wasn’t until much later, as I held him and watched him dozing, that I felt the fear growing. If the Sultan knew that his strange Northman who had wandered out of the forest to save him from a runaway horse was capable of such miracles, what would he do? Would he see him as the sacred Djinn and revere him? Or brand him an Ifrit, an evil demon, and cast him into some ritual sacrifice?

Or worse, would the Sultan, upon finding out that a guest at his palace, an emissary, was taking liberties with one of his wives, however married for political and intellectual convenience, seek greater retribution than a burned hand and a chopped off finger?

I clutched him, partially rousing him so that he wrapped his overly warm body around mine to stave off the evening chill. Hours spent under the fierce Persian sun now emanating from him like he was some smoldering star. I whispered it to him and the kisses that followed did much to reinforce my thought. I would have to write it in his book. He’d like that.

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The suckiest part of waking up out of a dead faint is the disorientation and the general sense that nothing is right in the universe. And I didn’t want to wake up. I couldn’t remember if I’d dreamed or recollected but whatever it had been, my lips still tingled from it.

So imagine my disappointment when I finally sat up in bed, hand to my pounding head, to see Skovajsa sitting there at the edge of my bed with flowers and a bottle of wine.

“Fuck!”

His brow furrowed.

“I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

He didn’t bother to nod. Universe 2, Vampire Psychologist 0.

Time to Galvanize

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , on July 11, 2011 by vampirony

At around 4:30 AM, a light on Alex the night guard’s panel went red, drawing his attention. An elevator door alarm on the twelfth floor corridor had been triggered. He leaned forward, reaching towards the 2-way but instead picked up his cell phone sitting just beside it. He flipped it open and pressed a series of numbers.

As the call rang through, a haze seemed to be filling the camera view right in front of the elevator door but nothing else could be seen. The call picked up and he spoke, “It’s Sidewinder. Yeah, we got that alarm, just like you said. No fire alarm, just the elevator door. What would you like me to do, sir?”

“Nothing. Reset the alarm. If anything else happens, in the hall, of course proceed with protocol. But anything in the room, leave it. We’ll take it from here.”

Alex paused. They’d had to do a bit of jerry rigging to move guests from that particular wing, stating that there was a maintenance request and upgrading them to better rooms with restaurant comps. Cindy, one of the front managers, hadn’t wanted to do it but the footage of her getting horizontal with the new chef on top of a conference table after hours convinced her otherwise.

“Sidewinder, do you read? Leave the situation alone.”

“Yeah, ok.”

“Follow protocol on all other matters, except the room and guest in question.”

“Yeah, yeah, ok. I’ll monitor and will call if anything more happens.”

On the other side of the phone, just across the street, tucked into the shadows at the base of the construction site for the new condo complex, a short, nondescript man in a green fatigue jacket with German eagle crest on the sleeve lowered a pair of binoculars with a hint of a smile.

“That won’t be necessary, Sidewinder. We’ve just pressed Play. Ritterreiter out.”

The man known as Ritterreiter hung up his cell, lowering his binoculars and tucking them into his coat and pulling out a flashlight. Turning it on, he picked up crowbar that was leaning against the finished foundation wall and made his way away around the side of the structure. The first several floors of the structure had been completed, even to the point of having the beginnings of a wine bar almost ready for retail.

The top ten floors above were a different story, an organized mess of steel beams, rebar, plywood platforms, and concrete mixers wrapped in a bow of orange plastic safety fencing. A yellow industrial crane towered over it all, American flag flying proudly over the months of work yet to complete the new condo/retail space.

Out of the old was arising the new. Wide vistas of flat concrete space were being replaced by towers of glass and steel. The Bellevue skyline had been and would be permanently home to a nest of cranes as the city refactored itself from sleepy downtown host for local computer entrepreneurs to entertainment mecca for the jetsetter trophy families of the rich and digitally minded.

Ritterreiter came around the corner to a parking lot with a lone truck and checked the sky. The black sky of the Pacific Northwest sky was feeling its first twinges of dawn. Night was ending and monsters were in play. As he lowered his gaze, two hooded figures came out a side door of the construction site, dragging a jackhammer.

The two figures loaded the jackhammer into the back of the truck and threw him a wave. He smiled, taking his cell phone back out.

“My finger is on the button.” He dialed and put the phone to his ear.

The Problem with Technology

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 11, 2011 by vampirony

Skovajsa, after a quick bite to eat to settle his nerves and improve his color, arrived at the Hyatt crisp and fresh from a quick toilet. He made his way calmly through the Wintergarden, perfectly tailored in a charcoal suit with maroon silk shirt and matching silk tie. He carried the bouquet of flowers under his arm and a very ancient looking wine bottle in the other, shifting the bottle under his arm as he pushed the elevator call button around four AM.

He stifled a smile as he shifted his weight. He was actually a little nervous, his feet tapping in anticipation as he balanced from side to side waiting. It had been a very long time since he’d been this close to such a boon and he’d never paid this much care to his approach. Sheer strength and ferocity usually got him exactly what he wanted. This wine and dining approach was all new to him.

He pushed the button again, tossing a casual, caustic glance at a maintenance man on a ladder just opposite him. Those beneath him didn’t deserve much more notice than that. He jumped slightly when moments later, the maintenance man as at his shoulder, his music blaring from his headphones.

“That one’s not working.”

Skovajsa recoiled, shifting the wine bottle away from the man. He wore just a non-descript gray one piece with a belt full of tools dragging him down into a stoop. His short cropped hair was mussed, and stood up on a side.

“That elevator?” The man pointed. He waited as if Skovajsa would address him. “Isn’t working.”

“Oh.” Skovajsa quickly moved around the little maintenance man to another set of elevators, pushing the button with haste.

“Um, don’t know if you want those either.” The man called to him.

“Why? It works, doesn’t it?” Skovajsa fired back, stepping inside quickly as the doors opened. The man waved as if to say more but it was lost to Skovajsa as the doors slide shut.

The maintenance man put hands on his hips, as his headphones blared R.E.M.’s “End of the World.” He looked at the elevator labels to read “15 – 21 Floors.” It wasn’t a music player connected to his headphones that he lifted up, but a cell phone. He punched a few keys.

“Yeah, he’s on his way up. Oh, it’ll take him a bit; I rigged it to go straight up to the top floor no matter what button he pushes. You still babysitting?”

On the other end of the line, a young man with silvered temples and wire framed glasses looked down the length of the bar at the blond man in the sunglasses who sat nervously waiting, listening intently to his ear bud although not having spoken a word into it. “Yeah, I’ll try to keep him distracted but he sure looks like he’s about ready to jump through that phone.”

“Whatever, Mordecai. Ritterreiter was clear. We leave that one alone.”

“Awrighty, Chain. I’ll do a smoke screen. Should confuse the other one to avoid any random encounters.” With that the bartender hung up the phone, pulled a box out from under the bar, and walked over to one of his regulars, sitting right next to the blond Viking. “Hey, Billy, have you tried these new White Star cigars?”

After which point, Billy took the proffered cigar and lit up, after being assured that he wouldn’t get in trouble for lighting up. The Blond man didn’t seem to notice anything around him, just gripped the phone he had sitting on the bar lightly. It was hard to tell with those sunglasses. After a few moments of smoking up the bar, the bartender wandered over to Sunglasses.

“You know, the bar officially closed a few hours ago. But I took pity on you; you looked like you had woman trouble.”

Jesper didn’t even turn his head to acknowledge the voice speaking to him. He wasn’t actually sitting there listening to the bartender, who decided to pour himself a tall glass of water and begin to spin some tale of marital woe.

Jesper’s consciousness was sitting in a chair across from Sophie’s bed, listening to her breathing, training his senses on anything nearby that felt or smelled or sounded Vampire. Which was why he smelled the twinge of bloody decay mixed with some musky cologne and the fragrance of lilies and roses before the elevator door alarm went off. He stood up walking towards the door to the hotel room.

Back at the bar, the bartender paused his story when he heard the cell phone in Sunglasses’ hand chirp.

“Hey, buddy, think your phone battery is going dead.”

His warning fell on deaf ears.

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“Jesper?”

Jesper’s head swiveled to the bed. Sophie was still asleep, under the covers, but her sleep became troubled. She shifted, her arms stretching out, reaching around a pillow. He paused but the smell would not be denied. His sense of smell was the worst of all his sense when he projected which meant the Carpathian had to be close.

When the elevator alarm sounded, he sped to the door, but paused before going out. He turned back to the bed. He could take her, now, run. Get her to safety. Fly her away from here, to Morena. Why had he not enlisted help from Valerian? He felt the nerves knot together his stomach as he put his hand on the door knob.

Even without the smell and the elevator alarm, he could sense the Carpathian approaching. It was time.

Except, his hand suddenly wasn’t on the doorknob anymore; it was around his cell phone. He started.

“Hey, take it easy, fella. I tried to warn you.”

Jesper stood, feeling suddenly ill. The call had been disconnected and he had been snapped back into his skin. Without forethought, the transition produced ill effects that he termed Projection Sickness: dizziness, weakness, in some cases vomiting…fainting.

He reached a hand across the bar and grabbed the bartender in a panicked grip. “What happened?”

“Erk, I tried to tell you. Your phone died.”

Jesper swayed against the bar, the edges of his awareness blurring, fraying. “No,” he mouthed, hand still around the bartender’s neck but now slackening.

“Say, you wanna call her back, you can use my phone,” the bartender added. He dragged a desk phone over and dialed, without asking for the number. “I’m getting a busy signal.”

Jesper slid along the railing of the bar, and then toppled over, hitting the floor taking a stool with him. His face smacked hard into the wood but the pain helped him cling to awareness. No, he couldn’t abandon her to her fate again .

“Sophie,” he moaned.

The bartender came around the bar and looked down at the vampire at his feet. Then he used his own cell phone only to have it go directly to voice mail. “Come on, Greg, get off the phone!”

Possession is Nine Tenths

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 7, 2011 by vampirony

Nick returned from a longer than expected shopping trip with bags full of goodies and proceeded to show Irina that the difference between pierogi and gyoza was a matter of language. After all, dumplings were dumplings, boiled, fried, or steamed.

And no offense to her Russian grandmother, which he discovered was actually Georgian from the city of Tbilisi, but her piergoi was crap. Boiled and tasteless, it might serve perfectly for wartime peasant folk without much access to anything but staples…but for the more adventurous and less ethnically sensitive Bellevue crowd, any food had to have the name of authenticity with a decidedly fusion blend.

By the time he was done with them, the pierogi had taken on a chipotle-infused mutton and oozed like more familiar soup dumplings. When bidden by the smell Grandmother Iron Curtain ventured out from the office, pushing Nick out of the way as she fished one onto a spoon and surely burned her mouth sampling it.

Her face screwed up, flushed, and just as Nick was certain she was going to slap him upside the head, she grabbed him in a fierce hug and streamed rapid-fire Russian in his ear. Stunned, Nick was just getting his balance back when she quickly released him, shoveled ten of the doughy pockets into a bowl and retreated back behind her calico curtain.

Irina laughed heartily, “You reminded her of home.”

“I hope in a good, pre- or post-Communist way,” he joked and scooped two platefuls for himself and Irina and then sat down at one of the Formica tables in the restaurant proper to eat. After a few moments where they both greedily slurped up the pierogi, Nick asked, “Your family been here long?”

“My parents moved to America when Oksana was just two, right after the Soviet Union fell, in ‘92.”

Nick smiled. He’d meant here as in the deli but obviously, it was a story she wanted to tell. He played along, his interest piqued, “Isn’t it a little odd to leave Mother Russia when it had finally become free?”

“Free? Yes, for the mobsters and criminals. Not for simple people with not a lot to pay off the gangsters.” Irina looked down at her plate. “Grandmother used to tell us stories, how it was better with the Communists because at least they had a predictable system of corruption.”

“Still, you were able to leave.”

“My parents were athletes. When the system fell, there went their support. So when they could, they moved over and brought Grandmother back a few years later when I was born.”

Nick chuckled, hooking his thumb back toward the office. “Oh, so it’s your fault.”

Irina laughed, a wide smile with a gap toothed smile that reminded him of Madonna. “Sure, blame it all on me.” Then, she turned suddenly serious. “Grandmother is the best. She took care of Oksana and me when our parents died.”

“How…?”

“Car accident.”

“Ah, gee, sorry.”

“Maybe because I never knew a life without her, I just was used to Grandmother. But she and Oksana, they always fought, even when she was little. I think she was embarrassed about Grandmother and her peasant, folk ways.” She sighed. “Grandmother warned her to stay away from Him.”

Something occurred to Nick just then and he stood, grabbed his messenger bag. Irina watched him silently as he dug into the bag and fished out the rental documents for the office space. When he found what he was looking for, he asked, “This guy, Shishka? What rubbed your Grandmother the wrong way about him?”

Irina shuddered. “Big shot. Fancy clothes, cold, looks down on us. Grandmother thought worse.”

“Like worse how?” asked Nick, holding up the rental paper.

Irina hunched over her food, fork pushing a pierogi around the plate. “She called him upyr.

“What does that mean?”

She shrugged, “Bad man. It’s silly.”

“Victor Bella, that’s your landlord, right?” Nick put the rental paper down on the table in front of Irina, pointing to his typed name on the listing.

She shook her head. “I’ve heard that name but that’s not what she called him.”

“Your grandmother?”

She looked up from the paper, confused, “No, Oksana.”

Nick let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. It all made sense now.

“Let me guess. She called him Skovajsa.”

Irina nodded, dumbly.

“You want to tell me again what upyr means? It isn’t bad man, is it?”

Whether Irina didn’t answer because she didn’t want to believe it or whether she could see that Nick knew it to be true, Nick didn’t know. But he did know what happened to her sister. He grabbed his phone out of his jacket, dialing Sophie’s number only to have to leave a voice mail.

“Hey boss? We may have a teensy problem. You know the office? The one I just retrofitted for your clients? Well, it happens to be owned by one of your clients. And you’re not going to like which one.”

Even an hour later, Nick was still trying to convince Irina and her Grandmother that they needed to pack up immediately. He had to use, as his last straw, the story about how he’d seen Oksana chewing on that guy’s ear in Jerry’s. Irina still denied it and was refusing to translate things that Nick was saying to her grandmother when the Iron Curtain stepped right in front of Nick with a week old newspaper.

She spoke to him, gesturing to the picture.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Bah!” Grandmother spat. She threw the paper at Nick and went back into the office. A zipping sound could be heard and as Nick pulled the curtain aside, he saw that Grandmother had a small suitcase out and was packing. She came out a few moments later and cleaned out the till of the cash register.

“What is it?” Irina asked, confused.

Nick stepped to Irina, showing her the photo of the businessman under the headline which read: Missing Business Man Found Mauled. She shook her head as she read it.

“Now do you believe me?” Nick yelled. He dialed his phone again, this time getting Morena’s cell number. Again, it went straight to voice mail. “Morena, it’s Nick. Where the Hell are you? I got a situation here. Call me back.” He hung up. “Dammit, where the Hell IS everyone?”

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Morena was wondering the same thing at that moment. It had been so much time she’d made it through the recorded life and times of Sophie Quinn…twice. She’d been mildly surprised that Sophie had been married so many times.

She’d tried everything she could think of to break through the door, the lock, the hinges…but nothing worked. And her cell didn’t get any signal. She’d watched the battery drain to almost nothing.

For lack of anything better to do, she’d started reading through a few magazines left in the room. She scoffed at the article about simultaneous climax and found herself nodding at the article about Marrying Mr. Wrong. It made her think of Jesper. She forced her mind to other things. Then she lay down on the exam table and while her brain turned over and over what might be happening, she nodded off.

It was early morning , 3:30AM by her watch, when her phone chirped, the battery finally giving due notice of impending shut down. She started, surprised she’d slept at all. She’d had the strangest dreams, red rivers of blood flowing down from Jesper’s shoulder as she clawed her fingernails into his flesh.

There was nothing for the cell so she turned it off. Just as she did, she felt the room rock violently.

“What the Hell was that?” She went to the door and started banging on it anew. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she strained for a second to listen just as the floor rocked again, almost as if something had hit it.

“Shit!”

She needed to get downstairs. NOW. Her vision focused and, as she grabbed a side of the frame with each hand, she felt this surge of pure, unadulterated power boil from within. She kicked out at the door, convinced she was going to get through it even if she broke her damn leg.

The door buckled in where her boot splintered it and the force was so strong, the lock popped out off the frame. Stunned with herself, she stood there staring. Her leg hurt like hell and some strange part of her brain realized that she had fractured her thigh but blood was already swelling there, healing her.

“Sonofa…” She didn’t waste any time. She hobbled out the doorway just as the building shook again, this time the sounds of crashing and glass shattering urging her on.

DJB: Kiss and Tell

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 23, 2011 by vampirony

When I first caught a scent of the Carpathian early in the evening, I had followed it out to the street expecting that a fight would ensue. I found myself facing yet another new condo complex under construction just across from the Hyatt. If its originality was already marred by just advertising luxury condos, it looked like a wine bar was nearing completion on the ground floor. Imagine, a wine bar in Bellevue. I’d have turned up my nose if I hadn’t been actively sniffing with it.

But after that first very strong whiff, the scent faded and I was standing there for far too long being buffeted by toxic car fumes. Unable to ascertain its direction further and unwilling to hunt it down, I’d taken up watch back in the Wintergarden, grabbing a magazine.

At first, waiting was a blessing. It meant I had more time to assimilate the bounty from my blood gorge the night before. I could feel my cells bathing in it. It made me feel strong, fast, nimble, lethal. In other words, I felt little like my normal self. I was a terrible vampire, in the traditional sense, and I had plenty of time sitting in the Wintergarden, surrounded by the vacuous space of modern hospitality architecture, to rue my decision of not letting Valerian help.

I wondered if my pride and anger had gotten the better of me and, in doing so, would be the worst for Sophie. Stretching out my senses, I tried to hear her, feel her but we were not that acquainted yet, not in this lifetime. When she was my Helene, I could discern her heartbeat as if it were the thundering of hooves from miles way.

I pushed those thoughts away before they dragged me back into reverie. Here I was, spoiling for a fight I did not want to have, impatiently wanting to see Sophie. But did I want her to see me like this, blood gorged eyes, barely controllable fangs? Maybe not.

After a mind-numbing article about Marrying Mr. Wrong and a rather more intriguing one about six ways to simultaneous climax that I intended to file not too far back in my mind, I really needed to see Sophie. I realized I fit too horribly close to the first article to even spare a hope of the second. When last we’d talked, we’d argued…in Turkish. The time before, I had run out of her office after collapsing in her lap. I wasn’t having a very good run.

And now that I recognized her, now that I remembered bits of our past together, it pained me even more. Not to mention the fact that I was depending on some security guard and my own limited vampire senses to let me know if Sophie was in danger.

By midnight, I’d worked myself into such a fuss, that I had to get up and stretch my legs. And then I just happened to walk past the elevator for her tower when the doors opened. And then I just happened to get into the elevator with someone else going to the twelfth floor. When we stopped on that floor, an odd thing happened.

“Oh wait, I forgot they moved me to a suite, guess they are doing some work on this floor. Ha ha. Sorry, buddy.”

I paused for an instant as the young man pressed the button for the 21st floor. But then I stuck out my hand to catch the door just as it was sliding shut. The man gave me a strange look.

“Beg your pardon, I just got my new room key from downstairs,” I slipped out the door without another look. No need for expending any extra Vox.

As I stood in the hallway, I realized how quiet the floor was. The man had been right; there seemed to be no guests on this floor. Save for one. I heard a faint slow heartbeat, a woman’s heart, toward the very end of the hall and I headed towards it.

I didn’t know what I would say. I should apologize. Shouldn’t I? I should tell her I would make it ok. I would tell her about the Taint, break the Conclave confidence. Then she would know why I needed to do this. She would understand.

As the room numbers counted down, I realized that she would not understand, she would not condone, she would not give up on her principles. I fervently hoped that somehow, this situation would be out of my hands. But I knew what I had to do. I had to protect her and hope for the best.

I knew her door from the sounds of her heart beating and her breathing just inside. I saw an evening paper lying there pushed partly under the door. When I picked it up, something fell out. It was a business card, with one black side and one white. On the white side, there was a single black symbol: a tied satin ribbon. On the other black side was the phrase written in white letters: “Gypsy Twin Irregulars.”

It made no sense to me so I pocketed the card and got out the card key Morena had given me. I breathed in first and knocked softly, head listening. Her breathing was even, uninterrupted by my knocking. I slipped the key in the door, watched the lock sensor light turn green, and turned the handle, pushing the door open.

There was a breakfast cart in front of the bed and the lamp beside the bed was on. Sophie lay on the bed partially obstructed from my view by the cart, outside her covers, in a heap. She was fully clothed so I stepped inside, softly closing the door.

“Sophie?”

Again, her body gave no response and I cautiously approached the bed. There was something in the way she lay that looked unnatural, like she’d fallen face forward unintended. I sat on the bed beside her, brushing her hair away from her face. Her mouth was open, pressed against the bedcovers. A sort of worry quickly overcame me but I was gentle when I grabbed her shoulders and drew her back against my shoulder. Her head lolled to the side and I used my hand to turn it toward me, all the while the sense of concern growing. Her heartbeat remained constant throughout.

I smelled around her head, her hair, and finally her mouth and something quite off struck me. A medicinal smell. Somebody had drugged her. Maybe even a poison. My head turned toward the food cart and the most obvious choice was the champagne glass, completely drained of its contents. I reached over and picked it up, putting it to my nose. Orange juice and champagne but no hint otherwise. I would’ve tried to taste it but there was nothing left.

I set the glass and looked at her again, lying limp in my arms. I laid her carefully back on the bed, warring with myself over what to be done. Her heart rate was solid…but I didn’t know if that would last. Had someone meant to knock her out or poison her? There was only one way to tell.

I leaned forward, both hands braced alongside her head, and kissed her. I couldn’t taste anything from her lips so I took liberties and opened her mouth, tongue exploring the tastes. The sweet taste of citrus made my eyes shock open with light for a moment and I lifted my mouth from hers. I couldn’t taste any poison and I immediately felt guilty. I’d wanted to do that but had not envisaged our first kiss with her unawares.

My hand turned hers over in mine, my thumb moving over her wrist, feeling her pulse. As if I needed any more assurances that she was fine. Drugged indeed, but nonetheless fine. Perhaps she’d taken something herself. Not that I believed that. The drug had obviously hit her suddenly.

But what kind of a lout was I? Under pretenses of protecting her, I had snuck into her room and then, worst of all, taken advantage of her. No, this wasn’t what my Helene deserved.

But she wasn’t my Helene. I did not know her like I had known that other version of her from years ago. And she did not know me. I was a perfect stranger who barked at her in a foreign tongue and collapsed into her lap. I claimed to want to protect her but here I was invading her privacy. I rose, tucked her carefully under the covers, pulled them up over her, took one further liberty brushing her hair carefully aside, then stood looking over her.

Would she know to call me for help? Would she even need help?

I picked up the receiver on phone by her bed. It took me a few moments to understand how to dial out, but I pressed the numbers and heard my cell ringing. I took my headset out of the pocket and put it on as I heard the call connect through. I then set the receiver on the nightstand. If something happened inside the room, I could hear it and be here straight away.

I gave her one more long look.

“Next time, Sophie Quinn, you will ask me to kiss you.”

I left her room then, slipping the card key in my pocket in case of the most dire of circumstances and headed back to the elevator to wait in the lobby. I pressed the down button and when the elevator opened, it was the same young man as before.

“You look like she said no,” he spoke.

“Huh?”

He smirked. “You know, the bar on the 21st floor is much better than the one in the lobby. Closer too for catching an elevator in case she calls you back.”

I stood there stunned while the elevator doors slide shut. Then I pressed the button up and waited for the next elevator.

Every Plan Has Its Loose End

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by vampirony

The walk from the Hyatt over to the office only took Morena twenty minutes and it gave her plenty of time to think. And she really wished she had brought her gun. But she realized her gun was a crutch and she needed to unlearn what she’d learned about how to fight if she was ever going to hold her own against a vampire.

She recollected how Lucy and Jesper had fought and the speed alone had been insane. Before she’d even recognized an action, the two had moved on to a parry and another block. Super speed super sucked for humans to have to deal with. She wasn’t sure how a kukri was supposed to counter that.

As she approached the building from the back of the lot, the first thing she noticed was a cluster of crows around the dumpster making an insane racket. She didn’t see Nick’s motorcycle as she bounded up the stairs. At the landing, she paused with her hand on the doorknob, turning back around to look back down at the dumpster. The birds were calling up to her in perfect unison. It creeped her out.

It was no wonder. It looked like some kids had been having some fun roughing up the dumpster. It had been flipped over on its side and there were quite a few holes punched into the bottom. It was hard to tell more but the ground just there looked like someone had dug something up. She couldn’t see much better; the streetlight right over that part of the parking lot was out.

Crows? Really? When there’s a dangerous vampire that Jesper is probably fighting right now? She shook it off and went through the front door of the office.

The office was dark but something immediately felt off.

“Nick?”

She stepped lightly over the wooden floor, stopping at the desk to flip the lamp on. That was when she noticed a sliver of light from the doorway of one of the examination rooms down the hall. She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out her Asp. Her gun might be her crutch but she wasn’t stupid to not carry anything at all.

With a flick of her wrist, the Asp snapped open into a 16” black chrome baton and she slowly headed down the hallway.

“Nick?”

She got to the slightly ajar door, took a breath, and then kicked the door open, blocking the entrance, eyes darting around the room. There was a small exam light on but the room was empty. She listened quietly for a moment and then, hearing nothing but crows squawking, she relaxed. She spotted a folder sitting open on the exam table and entered the room to take a look.

It was a collection of papers that looked like Sophie’s case notes. Instead, it was some sort of timeline that looked like a record of her life. Correction, lives. Morena picked up the folder and began to read, marveling at the concept that anyone could really reincarnate, let alone remember their pasts.

She shook her head. She certainly didn’t want all that baggage to drag around. She had enough in this lifetime.

Just then, the door slammed shut and Morena jumped. She quickly crossed to the door but when she turned the knob, the door didn’t open. It was locked. A shiver went up her spine and started her scalp tingling.

“Nick?” She knocked on the door. “Nick, are you out there?”

She was quiet for a second but couldn’t hear anything. She wrestled with the doorknob and then, unsuccessful, pounded on the door, “Is anyone out there?”

She got her cell phone out and say that there was no signal in the room. She recalled Nick being particularly proud of being able to fulfill some of the stranger requests in the exam rooms, like no wireless coverage, virtually soundproof, lightproof. It was meant to hold vampires and keep them safe. As she walked around all corners of the room and still no signal, she realized it was going to keep her in too.

She continued to pound on the door in futility for about five minutes but was already silently cursing one important point: Nick was good at his job.

“Shit! Nick!”

Birds of a Feather

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on June 21, 2011 by vampirony

Nick pulled in front of the Deli a little after 8PM. It was earlier than dusk but with the late Mariners game versus the Blue Jays, Nick wanted to skip the fray of traffic before it got into a frenzy. He figured he’d clean up some of the last remaining paperwork about the office rental and call his career as a real estate agent done. After shutting off the engine and removing his helmet, he heard some other sort of frenzy, angry birds squawking unusually loud. It was coming from behind the building.

He went around back towards where the office stairs were and saw what the ruckus was. A collection of crows had taken up residence at the dumpster and were whooping and squawking loudly. The dumpster had seemed to have seen better days, it looked dented and the ground underneath looked like it had recently been roto-tilled. He shrugged, figuring the birds were just fighting over territory, although, they didn’t seem to be attacking or addressing each other.

In fact, they seemed to be in some sort of solidarity and as he watched the separate crows all started vocalizing at the same exact time, creating some sort of crow chorus. Weird. There was a crash, like a bottle shattering back around front and, worried that someone had backed into his bike, he ran around the front.

It was the girl from the Deli and her grandmother. The grandmother had been carrying a grocery bag and it had split open, a jar crashing on the pavement. Both the girl and her grandmother were carrying too many bags apiece to do anything but set their burdens down to try and assess the damage.

Nick flipped his messenger bag behind him and trotted over to help. Within a few minutes, he and the girl had hefted all the bags inside the Deli, letting the grandmother head grumbling towards the back towards the small office, her hand to her head, without even acknowledging Nick’s help at all.

As Nick dumped the bags on the counter, the girl turned to him, suddenly shy. “Thank you for your help. It was most kind.”

“No problem,” he trailed off, at a loss.

“Irina.” She tucked her hair behind her ear, suddenly bashful.

“Nice to meet you. Again. I’m Nick.”

She averted her eyes, starting to remove items from the grocery bag. “I know,” she said quietly.

Nick had a hard time believing this was the same girl that had given him such a hard time just a few weeks before. Even more surprising was how her grandmother, aka the Iron Curtain, had transformed. He could just see through the hallway into the back room where she had put her leg up on a stool, took an embroidered handkerchief out of her sleeve, and put the cloth to her eyes.

“Is your Grandmother ok?”

Irina followed Nick’s gaze and then walked to doorway, pulling a curtain into place. She approached him slowly, arms wrapping around herself. “Grandmother is very upset. My sister Oksana has been missing for several days.” Irina sniffed and rubbed at her nose with her sweatshirt sleeve.

A sick feeling moved through Nick’s stomach. He swallowed. “Your sister? Oksana? Was she blonde, tall, short skirts?”

The hopeful face that jerked up to look at him looked familiar and confirmed his suspicions. “You’ve seen her? Where? When?”

Nick felt his mouth go dry. How do you tell a teenage kid that you suspected her older sister had joined the ranks of the undead? However small those ranks might be? Or not? Nick wasn’t sure what to say so he opted for the truth. “Sorry. It was a week ago, over at Jerry’s.”

“Oh,” her face fell. “She used to go out all the time but she’d always come home. Sometimes, she’d wake me and tell me who she met, who’d flirted with her, crazy stories. She is always struggling to fit in here in America, to not feel so much the outsider. Drives Grandmother crazy, that she is giving up her heritage to be someone she’s not.”

Nick nodded. He’d heard that argument before. “It’s not easy being first gen.”

Irina met his gaze and understood him. “But it all got worse when she saw him. After that, she seemed almost possessed to break with us.”

“Him?”

Irina pulled at the cuff of her sweatshirt. “Shishka. Our landlord. You know him.”

Nick remembered that when the Landlord had gotten mentioned before, the girl and her grandmother had become afraid. He regretted the deception.

“Look, I don’t really know the guy at all. I was just trying to show the office.”

Irina kept pulling at her sleeve. Nick worried that she’d clam up now that HE had been mentioned. She had started to gnaw on her lip so Nick took a peek into the grocery bag. “I don’t see any beets for the borscht.”

“Chjort! Grandmother told me I’d forget.”

Nick smiled, “Look, why don’t I ride down to the market and pick some up?”

Irina looked undecided. “No, that is too much. I can go.”

“Come on, it’s a ten minute trip on my bike. Besides, don’t want you wandering around alone out in the dark.” He could see she was teetering on agreement. “I’ll come back and we can have some pierogi.”

She turned thankful eyes up to him. “But I don’t really know how to cook.”

He was already heading for the door. “Don’t you worry. I know my way around a kitchen.”