Archive for vampire

A Few Words About Heroes

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on March 26, 2012 by vampirony

It wasn’t the news of the second vampire attack, the complete shock of seeing the office/deli building trashed, or even the retroactive worry over Nick and Morena taking on what could only be classified as some sort of vampire revenant on their own that thrust me into the first stages of manic depression. It wasn’t even the hours spent in the hospital yet again trying to dodge domestic abuse questions and blood draws. And strangely it wasn’t even the after-effects of the powerful drugs used to keep me sedated and the new drugs fighting the pain and borderline panic.

Nope, it was the memory of a perfect moment being held in perfect calm and feeling the warmth of a perfect smile that was sending me running into the arms of what modern psychiatrists call “denial.” There was a hint of promise in sentiment of last night’s rescue and I couldn’t afford to let these things spin out of control. Every feeling back into its appropriate compartment, I always say. But I was having trouble lining up all the unruly children, making sure they washed their hands, got in line boy girl, and didn’t pull the pigtails of the little girl next to them in line.

But I found myself still checking my watch, counting the hours until dusk, and hating myself for it. And while I hated coming out of the romantic fog to find foundations of the very occupation I had committed years to slipping away, at least I was again focusing on the right things instead of pining away for…what, I didn’t even really know.

This morning, I had let Lucy and Maurice’s mysterious but capable henchman Ritterreitter clean things up, showing more expertise at moving a vampire in rigor dormitus than I felt comfortable with (especially since it was my vampire. Ugh, no no no.) With the help of three workers from Starving Students, he had deftly overseen draping my sleeping marbleized vampire client in heavy tarpaulin and boxing him up in one of the crates from the building site.

Then problem one arose. Morena and I couldn’t agree on what to do with him. Over the phone, she assured me that the Office wouldn’t suffice. (This was, of course, before I had ventured over there to see the devastation for myself.) She proposed shipping him to his condo. Which I was absolutely not going to do with strange henchmen, even if working for my half vampire gypsy twins. Especially since they were half vampire.

So there was only one thing to do. I shipped him to my hotel room. At the time, my heart was all in a flutter with how he’d wake up in what approximated to my bedroom. And I hate myself now for that sentimentality too. I think I was blushing when I signed the shipping papers. Ritterreiter seemed to find it amusing and for a moment, I thought he was going to ask me if he could deliver anything else, with a mighty leer.

And then he did.

“Shall I have an appropriate meal delivered around dusk for you? Perhaps a rare Kobe steak with broccolini and a hearty Pinot Noir? Your, um, cargo is likely to need a good feeding.”

My eyes bugged out. The presumption was there and the red in my cheeks deepened for wholly different reasons. I snapped out a response as I handed him his clipboard.

“That won’t be necessary. He’s not a pet.”

Then the leer turned to genuine surprise. “Oh, my apologies. After the damage he sustained, I just assumed he served you. All quite unnecessary as we had things well in hand.” Before my brain could keep up and ask all the important questions about who he thought he was and how exactly did he fit into all this, he spoke, “Not to worry. We will handle him with kid gloves and have him happily situated in your room at the Hyatt.” Then he turned on his heel and waved to the three helpers, all wearing similar khaki pants and tank tops, “Handle with Care, Crow.” Then they carted the crate over to a furniture truck with a lift. As much as my senses already on overload would allow, they looked rather sullen about the task.

As I watched them load the crate, I felt all energy begin to sap out of me and nausea begin to well up. I covered my mouth with my hand and made a few horrific hacks, part cough part dry heave. I tried to take in a shaky breath. I needed to pull myself together. I needed to get over to the office/deli. The phone call with Morena did nothing but alarm me, even with her assurances otherwise.

“Some ginger ale perhaps, Miss Quinn?”

I blinked but was so far gone as to not be capable of any more surprise so just took the proffered bottle and began to take small sips.

“Banana?”

I blinked my response again and watched as this mysterious henchman peeled the banana down for me with the precision of one acquainted with the finest food service standards. Then, he handed the half peeled banana to me, “Miss.”

“What are you? Alfred Pennyworth?”

He laughed. “Just a faithful servant to the Gypsy Twins. And now, miss, I think we should get you to the nearest ER. Likely more conspicuous than we’d like at this hour but haste is probably in order.”

I paused for a moment.

“No, I need to go with the crate.”

“You have my word it will be delivered with care.” Just then, the furniture truck slowly ambled across the street and into the back alley of Hyatt.

I paused for another moment. “Then I need to go to my office. To look after my friends.”

“They are being picked up as we speak and transported to the hospital, although I hear their injuries are minor. Everything has been arranged. Please let me help settle the rest of your affairs for just now. You need medical attention.” Then he smiled.

I would’ve slapped that smug look off his face if I’d known that he was part of the reason I needed medical assistance. But true to his word, as he was helping me through the ER doors after having changed into a police officer uniform, I spotted Nick striding out towards me.

“Holy shit! What happened to you?” Nick asked, with his usual charming turn of phrase. I ignored it and gave him a big hug.

He didn’t know what to do. “Uh…”

“Just forget I’m your boss for the moment, ok?” I rasped.

He grabbed my arms as he pushed me back to look me over. “Whoa, you sound like Lucy’s Smoking Voice from How I Met Your Mother.” His face had a few brushes but nothing too bad. I smiled. Then I started crying. His voice mail message made it sound like the end of the world had arrived and somehow, he and Morena had made it through. Relief was loosening all the shock from me and tears just fell as Nick led me over to the check-in desk.

As Nick did the talking with the desk nurse, I did manage to see one last glimpse of Ritterreitter as he handed a doctor in a lab coat a small bottle, having a very calm conversation as the doctor’s face showed surprise. RR slapped the doctor on the shoulder as the doctor looked over to me, holding the bottle.

Then I was caught up with checking in, trying to remember insurance information, and having the doctor hurry over with a couple of blue smocked orderlies who stuffed me in a wheelchair and tossed an insurance card to the desk nurse.

Yes, Ritterreiter had thought of everything. And I was happy to pass in and out of awareness as the doctor ran blood work, checked my vitals, and then scampered off to consult. During which Nick was able to relate what happened in a very clever manner. He told me about a really bad slasher film he’d seen.

Apparently, the story to the hospital was that I had been the victim of an attempted date rape drugging during a house party. Nick and a friend had interceded when the two culprits had tried to remove me from the apartment. Witnesses had been procured, the police had filled out a report, and now all that was left was to check me out and get me to ID my assailants, who had fled the alleyway once they’d been beaten.

When I’d tried to ask Nick where Morena was, he told me she’d had to clean up and then go chat with the officers doing the investigating before they would need to talk with me. Which they did. As the doctor had given me an IV, I was feeling marginally better just in time to get really pissed. Morena had taken blood. It was obvious when she strode into my private room. She glowed in that preternatural way.

Yes, the romance was dying face first in the dust that was settling. And I was getting a headache by the summation Nick was hitting me with. Trying to fit all the pieces together was going to have to wait until after sleep…like a week’s worth.

Luckily, my throat was only bruised, a few stitches closed the wound in my neck and shoulder, which had already begun to knit closed, and my face, well, purple and green were going to be my colors for a while. Morena waited to harass me about her boyfriend. Nick actually seemed to be high on life, just happy to have made it through their ordeal. I took my pills for nausea, pain, inflammation, and didn’t hesitate to pop the sleeping pill. I was gritting my teeth, feeling arms around me that weren’t mine. I felt stuck in the nightmare of post romantic stress disorder and I needed out…now…before I said something I regretted.

By the time the cops and doctors had finished with me, all the pills had put me in the most wonderful numbness. I pushed past Nick and Morena when the cab drove up and got in without a word. I couldn’t handle words. Words meant feelings. And I couldn’t afford them right now. I just needed to get somewhere to sleep. Yes. Sleep away all these tatters of deeper feelings than I could ever remember having, even for Dan.

I was vaguely aware of the hotel staff helping me out of the cab and something about a message waiting at the front desk. I waved it away and let someone helping up to my room. I barely registered it was Nick, who had somehow managed to get into the cab before leaving the hospital. I didn’t want to see anyone from this place or time. This whole trip had been an awful mistake and when I’d had a proper night’s rest, I was going to pack up and head back to Ohio. Substitute teaching didn’t seem like such a bad gig after all.

The porter helped Nick get me up to my room, which seemed to be on a different floor now. I’m certain Nick didn’t think I was still wily enough to slip through the door and lock it behind me, not letting him in but there it was. These drugs were great. Just what I needed to be numb but just aware enough to get away from everyone and everything. I would’ve snickered if I could.

I stumbled across the huge space. What, they had put me in a suite? Whatever for? I was struggling to get to the bed. All my stuff had been moved, including this huge crate I didn’t remember having and my trunk on which I stubbed my toe in the darkness. I made straight for the alcove that held the bed. Luckily, all the windows had double thick drapes that had been pulled shut. Perfect!

I crawled onto the bed and was just about to succumb to blissful oblivion when I heard a racket back in the main room. The bedroom alcove was only semi-private and so I tossed my head to listen but it was too late. Drugs settled it and for the second time in twenty four hours, I let the wonders of modern pharmacology put me under. My heroes had always been chemists.

Epilogue

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on September 29, 2011 by vampirony

Prague – The Next Night

Valerian awoke out of rigor dormitus, hands still frozen into claws around the bed posts. He had struggled against the dark for the first time in decades and the resulting form had left him half on and half off the bed. It took his body a whole ten minutes to completely convert back to flesh, during which he had the urge to gnaw his own hands off to get free of his granite limbs.

Which was patently ridiculous, he told himself. It would be so much easier to just tear bone and sinew, ripping his arms away from his frozen hands. He came close to screaming in rage to be freed but he forced himself to relax, realizing that having to explain why he was regenerating his hands would create doubt in Conclave that he could ill afford. On top of the fact that it was painful. And would do little to help what had already come to pass.

He closed his eyes and leaned his dark head against the post, waiting, trying not to think the worst. After becoming completely flesh and releasing his hands, he shoved the breath out of his lungs. It kept him from screaming. Instead he drew himself up to full height and drew his robe closed before shuffling towards his writing desk.

The pain all over his body was excruciating, unlike it had been in decades. He could imagine he heard the silver sizzling into his skin. He had to stop halfway to his desk at the arm chair arranged before the fireplace of his bedchamber. It took him a few moments before he realized he was panting with effort, his shoulders drawn down, his hands clenching the damask upholstery. His brow furrowed, not understanding why this night was so different than any other night.

And in the silence and darkness of his bedchamber, he began to imagine his worst fears. That he had not done enough. That Jesper had failed. That this lifetime’s Darcie was dead and it was this absence that made his penance ignite into a hundred and twenty three hot silver flames. He shook his head slowly and lowered it to the chair back. He couldn’t endure another lifetime waiting. He tried to adjust his robe but every movement seemed to chafe the pain to intolerable levels.

It was the only explanation for why his awareness had not picked up the intruder and left him so vulnerable.

“I’d expect you’d be toasting in celebration rather than striking such a mournful pose, Valerian.”

Valerian exhaled, raising his head carefully. It was his just due after certain failure that the executor of his penance would return on this night to bring it all to an end. But he would not meet his end without dignity. He stood up tall, straightened his robes with just a tightening of his lips in complaint, and turned to face his enemy just as the heavy door to his chamber was pushed shut.

“And why would you, Emmerick, after all these years not allow me a moment to mourn the loss of our most dearest and special lady? Or do you still deny how much I care for her?”

The man known as Emmerick, the feared vampire hunter, didn’t look like much to be feared in his current form. A round face etched with lines, sandy blond hair receding back from his brow, wiry to the point of skinny at an advanced age of nearing fifty, he wore desert fatigues, a weathered brown leather armor-plated vest covered with various short knives, and combat boots. He leaned against the wall, one thumb hooked in an empty slot on his bandoleer, the other hand casually leaning a sawed-off shotgun against his shoulder. But his eyes, deep-set and suspicious, were what caught Valerian’s attention. The vampire hunter’s brows rose up in surprise.

“You don’t know, do you?” Emmerick spoke, just a hint of his British accent coming through.

Valerian fought for his regal bearing and refused to be caught unawares in conversation. But he couldn’t keep his shoulders from slumping for the barest moment. The image rose suddenly in his mind, as it always did whenever he and Emmerick met. Darcie’s lifeless, headless form across his lap, her head rolling across the wooden floorboards.

He blinked away the tears, summoning the death, the preternatural state that would isolate him from all feeling. It only worked on him for moments but perhaps long enough to see him through this.

Emmerick smirked, shifting uncomfortably before pushing himself away from the wall to approach Valerian. The vampire let him amble about him, wondering whether he should suffer this indignity. But why not, he wondered. I’ve lost her, again. What else matters?

“Dear God, it’s touching really. You still love her.”

The accusation shattered the calm completely and he snarled fully fanged. “I will not be mocked by you! Nor let you mock her memory, at this dark hour.”

“Relax, Vampire Lord,” the sardonic words fell out of Emmerick’s mouth. “Your golden boy did his job. She’s still alive.”

All Valerian could manage was to blink. Emmerick stepped to one of the damask chairs in front of the fireplace and draped himself in it, leg over the arm, shotgun grazing the floor. Valerian bent his eyes to the floor, stunned. But centuries of being hunted, tortured by the hunter did battle with his deepest desire and sparked his angry mistrust.

He was on Emmerick in a breath, clawed hand wrapped around his neck, choking him in the chair.

“Do NOT mock me…with your…lies!”

Instead of the battle Valerian expected in retaliation, Emmerick held up his hands, letting the shotgun fall to the floor. It caused him to loosen his grip but not move his hand.

“She’s alive and well, mate. And rid you of one of your own wastrel spawn. Not without quite a mess to clean up.” When Valerian’s hand loosened enough, Emmerick brushed it aside.

The relief in his voice went unchecked, “She lives.”

Emmerick nodded. “She had a lot of help. A motley lot of it, in fact.” Valerian showed no sign of listening as he walked over to the facing chair and sat, hands gripping the armrests. His face, still fanged, grimaced as the hiss and smell of burning flesh accosted him.

“Still, the simple fact of it is, she has the most to thank from your lackey, your scribe.” Emmerick considered his words carefully, watching keenly as his accounting seemed to make the Vampire Lord more troubled than happy. “So I suppose in a very indirect but not so insignificant way, you saved her.”

Valerian recovered his calm. The image of Darcie’s head on the floor receded to be replaced with the oddest vision, a mimosa glass. He could almost taste the orange.

“You understand what that means?” Emmerick asked, almost accusing.

Valerian’s head remained titled to the floor as he settled ice blue eyes on his foe, “That you cannot blame me for her death again?”

Emmerick laughed, frustrated. “You’re serious.” Then he roused himself out of the chair, sweeping his leg back over the leg and leaning forward. “Your penance. It’s over.”

Valerian cocked his head to the side, fangs growing.

“God, you are daft. What, you think the talismans just started to hurt tonight for no specific reason?” Emmerick stood up, whipping one of the short knives from his vest with his right hand. Valerian stood as well, claws out ready to fight. “I’m not here to fight you, dammit! Drop the robe and see for yourself.”

Valerian took a moment, his brows drawing low over his radiant eyes. But he unfastened the robe and let it fall away. His chest and back were covered in sizzling sores, silver pieces that looked like wheels that seemed to be pushing out from under his skin, some of them had already made it to the surface and fell from him as the robe fell away.

In a moment, all the silver wheels were falling to the rug, clattering over the stone floor. Emmerick stared in awe as in just a few moments, the hundred and twenty three silver wheels that he had personally buried under Valerian’s skin as penance for the murder of his friend, one for every year he’d had to visit, had fallen away and the remaining sores smoked quietly.

Hands still outstretched, Valerian marveled at the results. The pain was gone. He felt years younger. It might take him time to regenerate but he would heal from the damage eventually. He could hardly believe that Emmerick would honor their ages old arrangement. His cynical eye challenged the vampire hunter.

“What? You think I’m going to try and kill you now after your greatest hour?” Emmerick shook his head. “Pathetic, really.” He stuffed his knife back into his vest. “Guess I won’t be needing to dig them out. Shame, really. I was kinda looking forward to that.”

Valerian dropped his arms to his side, assessing the man that he had once called friend. “I guess I have that to be thankful for that as well. Would be a pity if your knife had slipped.”

Emmerick shrugged and flipped his foot, sending the shotgun up and into his hand without having to lose eye contact with Valerian. “Yeah, pity. The life you saved today just might have been your own.”

With that, Emmerick headed to the door without once seeming to blink or take his eyes off Valerian. He listened for a moment at the door before opening it.

“Emmerick.”

His brows rose in response.

“Thank you. Thank you for watching over her.”

“It’s the least any of us can do. Not that she’s ever made it easy.”

Valerian nodded once in acknowledgement and let Emmerick, friend turned foe, who had killed more vampire kind than anything else had throughout all his lives, leave without issue. He was still reflecting on what this ending might mean to his horror, the bargain struck long ago protecting all his kind in retribution so long as he agreed to take his penance. He was still wondering if the silent war was over when a throng of his people, led by Aubry and Xi, stormed the room, looking for the intruder.

symbol_infinity-color

He knew he wouldn’t have long to wait for her after he left Valerian’s stronghold and she didn’t disappoint him. After all these years, while he’d endured various incarnations, deaths and rebirths, she had remained timeless, ethereal, beautiful …and deadly. He’d long ago lost the last of his illusions that she was anything but the most savage of their kind.

And yet, he still remembered back when he’d found her crouched behind the desk in the office, tremulous half-smile with large doe eyes. She’d been hiding from her father, wanting so much to be with him, to be part of all his business, to understand him, and yet deathly afraid of him.

She’d been vampire made young, a product of an isolated and naïve youth. An orphan, desperate for a family, a victim of a wayward kindness. Technically, it wasn’t Valerian who had made her but Valerian’s spawn, a sloppy and unkind poet who thought more in concepts than in real people. He’d chafed under Valerian’s leadership and eventually parted from the horror. His death had been a kindness to her as Valerian had sought her out, found her, rescued her from desolate abandonment, and brought her up as one of his own.

It was one of things that had stayed Emmerick’s hand back when things had gone bad; Valerian’s now predictable kindness, loyalty, and stewardship of his own. He may not have begun that way but he had gathered as many of them as he could find and brought them under his roof and his protection.

The figure, cloaked and hooded, stepped quietly along the cobblestones of the Charles Bridge. The summer sky was clear, the white electric lights along the bridge casting a bright blue hue to the roofs of the towers above. At least she’d done him the decency of not using her powers to appear out of nowhere, giving him ample time to quit his musings and adjust his thoughts.

He’d chosen the place carefully. He wanted to know where he stood now that one bitter story had folded to a peaceable end. This lifetime’s body was a head shorter than the first time they’d met, the top of her hooded head about even with his chin. Even with the cloak, she cut a diminutive figure, the oval opening of her hood showing her perfectly heart-shaped lips above a sharp chin.

Her lips partly slowly, fangs peaking out, distracting him as she spoke.

“You left in quite the hurry.” Her French accent was still intact.

He dreaded this. Had been dreading it for at least the last two years, when her true feelings had become increasingly clear. It was about the same time as he realized she’d been using him, that she thought of him only as a tool for exacting her own revenge. He didn’t like to disappoint her. Things had just worked out that way.

“It’s over. He paid his debt. He saved her.” He shrugged. There really wasn’t anything else to say. He didn’t even feel a shred of anger anymore. He hadn’t for a long time. And he hadn’t felt anything since he realized what he meant to her. He’d have to find another salve for the emptiness of his own immortality.

Her head lifted enough so that the evening light grazed the bottom of her eyes, making the green of her eyes unnaturally bright in comparison. “But he has to be punished.”

He turned to her, struggling not to reach out, instead stuffing his hands in his pockets. “But he has, Croix. You didn’t see him tonight. I think he actually is jealous of his boy, the one that saved her. He can never go back and change the past. He knows that. But he regrets it.”

She snarled, turning her head away. “They should be made to suffer for what they did.”

“Croix, luv, you told me yourself, she didn’t want it and he overreacted. He was her guinea pig what with all those tonics; it’s perfectly reasonable to think that played into it. But whatever. He’s endured hundreds of years of torture by my own hands and borne it without a word, without a whimper.”

Her head slowly swung back. He had a sense she wasn’t listening.

“He did it for you.”

She snorted, sarcastically. “He’s never done anything but for himself.”

“No, he struck our deal so that I wouldn’t kill him and all the rest of his horror.” He stared down at her, watching, waiting for a sign that she understood. “That includes you.”

She tilted her head up to look at him. Her green eyes caught him off-guard, soft, glistening. “Even me? You wouldn’t hurt me, Baka.” She gripped his arm, beseeching. “I know you would never hurt me. You are good and true. You’ve always done right by me.”

The man he had been, the one who had trusted those green eyes before, would’ve done…had done everything he could for her. But none of it had satisfied her. And now he wondered, with Valerian’s reaction clear in his mind, if he hadn’t indeed let her lead him in the wrong.

“Baka. Listen to me. He is a monster. He will continue to commit crimes. You cannot let that pass. You must do something!”

He shook his head. When he said nothing, she dropped her head and he could almost hear the tears falling. Soft tears trailing down ivory cheeks. He took in a quick breath, resisting her influence, and turned his head up to the statue above him. She could be subtle but he still didn’t want to think she’d been twisting him on purpose. Not when she was so obviously upset.

“Do you know this effigy?” he asked her.

She raised her head, looking straight into his face. She was disappointed and it turned her heart-shaped mouth into a fierce line. He was completely immune now to her gaze, mostly immune to her voice. She thought that was all there had ever been between them, her vampiric powers as influence. As he waited patiently, he wondered how he in his male weakness had feed the creature she had become.

Her eyes narrowed. “Should I be?”

“St. Adalbart. You want to know what makes him so significant?”

Her hand slide away and she stepped back from him. “No, but I’m sure you are about to enlighten me.”

“He was the Bishop of Prague before circumstances forced him to flee. He then went on to become a missionary in Prussia where, as the story goes, he ran afoul of the pagan locals and was executed. He was canonized several years later.” She shrugged, uninterested, so he continued. “Adalbart had reportedly offended the Prussians because it was tradition for missionaries to cut down trees, the very trees that the people held sacred. Oak trees.”

“So?” her delicate shoulders shrugged but the tension there did not relent.

“He was participating in Iconoclasm. Like the Muslims scratching the eyes out of drawings in the rock churches of Gorem or the Reformation riots in the Seventeen Provinces burning other effigies in 1566. Ideological destruction of faith. But here’s the really interesting part of the story, the part not revealed in dogma. Those forests were sacred, alright. For werewolves.”

He stepped to her. “So you see, the Prussians were doing Adalbart a favor after they discovered that in his iconoclastic furor, he’d wound up being bitten by beasts he sought to deny and threatened to be turned into one himself, one so wholly contrary to everything he had been or done in his life.”

She pursed her lips. “You’re not going to kill him, are you?”

Emmerick sighed. “No.” And he began to walk away. But as an afterthought, he threw her one more thought. “Better the Devil you know.”

She cursed him under her breath. When she’d finally made up her mind to kill him, he’d vanished from all her senses. It was uncanny how he as a man, merely a human man, could do that. But it didn’t matter. Things had already been set into motion. It really would’ve been better if Emmerick would’ve deigned to be the instrument of Valerian’s death.

But she already had a workable back-up plan. She stared up at St. Adalbart. She had no idea if the story Emmerick had told her was true. Or even if it meant that he had finally deduced what had happened underneath the warehouse all those one hundred and twenty four years ago.

Darcie had left and Valerian had gone dead inside without her. And now they must both pay for the love that they both had let die. And for the daughter they had both denied.

“I will punish you, Sophie Quinn. And no South American vamp boy toy will save you this time.”

Getting the Hang of Things

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 19, 2011 by vampirony

“Now, you wanna talk right now?”

We were swinging from the cabling that Jesper had managed to wrap his injured arm around. His left held me tight against him as we dangled about six floors up from the bottom of the shaft. I was certain that the high powered UV lights were still glaring on the first floor and now that the sun had come up, I had no idea how vulnerable Jesper was.

“Well, do you have somewhere else to be at present?” He asked as the tendons in his shoulder tore audibly. “And it is important.” He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was bleeding, burnt, and hanging floors above UV lights that could seriously damage him. Not to mention that, with Skovajsa’s chamber damaged, I didn’t know of any place out of sight to stash him for the day. Or when his Rigor Dormitus would set in.

But I also noticed, with his face so close, the faint hairs that sprouted from his chin, red-gold whiskers that grew before my eyes. And his eyes had shifted color yet again, from the jasper red to a more familiar hazel that was very pleasing. His hair too, a strawberry blond. I must’ve gripped his arm around me because he gently tightened his grip.

“But you’re so injured,” I protested.

“Who, me? Naw, just a scratch…or two.” Suddenly, the skin over his shoulder seemed to percolate and then his arm popped back into his shoulder socket, raising us up a few inches. “Oh, see. Already on the mend.”

My hand went to his chest. “But…it’s full sun up. We have to get you inside.”

His smile warmed me like a sunbeam. “But we are inside.”

I didn’t really have anything to say to that and finding words at the moment, looking up at him like this, words just weren’t forming. At least, not ones that made any possible sense. What had happened with that other vampire, I didn’t need to think about right now. What I’d drank didn’t matter, the injuries didn’t hurt, even the voices of my past personas were blissfully silent, except for a few whispers that made me appreciate his lips curved in that smile.

Those lips straightened suddenly as I watched and he became serious.

“Now, Miss Quinn,” he began, getting my attention with his formality. “In light of much conversation this evening, I’ve given it due thought and have decided I no longer wish to employ you…well, you’re fired.”

My head shook. “What? What?!” I stammered, unable to draw together my thoughts. “Whatever for?”

“You are obviously a dedicated professional with high moral and ethical standards.”

Uh-oh. I didn’t like where this was going at all.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want that to get in the way of getting to know you in a more personal way.”

“Huh?”

His shoulder snapped, the socket cracking under the strain. He was becoming heavier, his cells converting as its daily defense mechanism. As the flesh started to tear, I pointed. “Jesper!”

“Oh bother.” He looked at his shoulder and then back down at me. “Can you put your arms around my other shoulder? I am going to lower us down but I must ask if I can drop you some feet down. I’m not sure what that blinding light down there will do to my fair complexion.”

“Yes, oh, please hurry, Jesper.” I laced my hands around his other shoulder and he used the other arm to repel down the rope and jerked us to a stop a floor up. He wrapped his bad arm around the cable again and looked at me.

“This will hold us for a bit. Now, you’re sure you can handle the drop?”

I didn’t know, didn’t care. I didn’t want body parts to start ripping off of him, especially if he went into rigor. I nodded vigorously.

“Ok, grab a hold of my wrist and I’ll lower you down. Roll when you land.”

He was true to his word and after some movements that looked a lot like Cirque du Soliel, the drop was only about eight feet. I did as he asked, rolled and was running to shut off the lights as quickly as I could. I was back in a moment but he had already jumped down.

"See, I’m perfectly fine." Then he collapsed against the wall. He looked up at me meekly. "Ok, so maybe I’m not a morning person."

He then went into full blown Rigor Dormitus before I could utter a word of thanks for saving me, a word of annoyance at his firing of me, before I could hug him for everything he had done for me. As his body composition hardened, he took on the form of a beautiful red marble, the most incredibly sturdy, but heavy, form of Dormitus I’d seen.

“Aww, shit!”

“Good morning, ma’am. Looks like you could us some assistance. May I present you with my card?”

The short man was dressed in a security uniform and brandishing a flashlight. But the card he handed me was that black and white of the Gypsy Twin Irregulars, this one some German name that translated to Knight Rider. Lucy and Maurice’s group. I would have to get them to tell me everything about this evening but only after we got Jesper back home. Something told me that this man knew exactly how to do that.

“And by the way, you dropped this,” he held up the Kukri.

Jesper sat in a very pensive way but his eyes had been looking at me. I kneeled to him, caressing his marble cheek. “Getting to know me in a more personal way? Well, maybe I’ll let you fire me after all.”

I noticed that Jesper’s phone was buzzing in his jacket pocket so I fished it out. One message from Morena. I pressed a button and listened to the message but it wasn’t Morena, it was Nick.

“Uh, yeah, Jesper. This is Nick. We’re all going to die now. Hope you and Sophie survived. Nice knowing ya.”

Why Vampires Should Wear Sunglasses

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , on July 19, 2011 by vampirony

I never said I was Nolan Ryan. But the Kukri sung through the air at the same moment that the sun broke through the morning clouds, falling on both vampires. Skovajsa caught the ancient weapon up high and, as I had a split second of Awww, shucks, the sunlight reflected from its blade directly into his eyes, searing them. He shrieked as his retinas exploded in flame.

In Jesper’s case, flames seemed to erupt from him as he wrenched forward, taking the whole scaffolding with him, the cement mixer falling through the plywood floor, which cracked and split.

As I watched the entire temporary floor crash away, I first saw Skovajsa fall through into the void, then Jesper, freed from the wiring, seemed to levitate and then flew at me like some comic book hero, his jacket on fire, his hair too, grabbing me around the waist with his left arm, and broke for the elevator shaft. He turned so that he was the one who slammed into the wall, but as we fell, the flames had been smothered.

And as pleasant as it normally might have been to be in his arms again, I didn’t enjoy the falling part and when he finally threw his bad arm around the cable and caught us, we jerked suddenly, and his grip tightened around me.

“Uff!” I exclaimed. Jesper made more of a yelp but then went strangely silent. Inside the shaft, we were protected from the sun, at least, for the moment.

Then, Jesper spoke, his voice strained, “Are you unharmed?”

I nodded, not sure I could speak. I was looking out across the floor at where I had been standing and there was only air there now and some steel beams. The fall would’ve been about an eight floor drop.

“Sophie?” he asked, more strongly.

I looked up and his face was right there, just above mine. And my chest constricted in a way that I wasn’t ready to deal with just yet. But I felt glad, very very very very glad, to be here with him.

“You can answer me?” He pushed, a little anxious.

“Yes,” my voice came out raspy. “Yes, I am unharmed.”

“Good,” he smiled, relieved. “Because we really should talk.”

How Not to BBQ

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

The smell from the oven was so god-awful, that Nick, Morena, and Irina decided to drag the rest of the body outside before the people started milling about and burn it in the dumpster. The sun was just starting to threaten to break through the clouds.

“You know, I read in the Memento that the best way to get rid of a vampire is with sunshine,” Nick said, walking backwards dragging the arms.

Morena gave him an exasperated look, holding up the feet. “Shouldn’t we not be in close contact to the body if it’s going to incinerate like that?” Her arms had already healed but all the rest of her amped up abilities had gone and she was left feeling like she’d done an obstacle course…in Pakistan…in June.

They both dropped the body in the middle of the back parking lot.

“Uh…”

The sun broke through and a hissing noise issued from the body. Irina stepped back immediately.

“Nick?” Morena spoke, alarmed.

Then she jumped him, taking him a few feet from the body and to the ground as the body exploded into ash. As Morena rolled off of him and he sat back up to see the smoking remnants that looked more like asphalt in a cul-de-sac after Fourth of July, he smiled.

“See! I told you so.”

And Finally, Diagnosis

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

The knapsack with the Kukri had slipped from my hands as we landed just in front of the empty elevator shaft on the top-most floor. If you could call it a floor with its mostly bare beams covered in sheets of plywood as a makeshift floor, with scaffolds on either side, filled with tied stacks of rebar, one of them with a cement mixer that looked way too heavy to be positioned there. I looked down into the shaft and apart from wire cable running its length, there weren’t any pieces of the elevator there yet.

It made perfect sense for Skovajsa to own a building in progress; he could oversee the construction and insert anything into the specs that would help him as a safe house. It would be his fortress in the making, maybe even his bachelor pad to lure back unsuspecting victims. With or without my interference, he and Jesper would find each other; two vampires in such close proximity could not play nice.

If dawn was coming, there was only one logic place that Skovajsa was going. He jumped us down and when we hit the ground floor, he let me go, causing me to I collapse to the dusty ground. I cried as I landed on my hip, scrapping up my leg.

Well, I guess there goes the last shred of manners.

I was about to try and push Darcie out of my head when Skovajsa snatched my arm, and began to drag me to another room. This construction site was the great shell of a condo complex and I’d noticed that the front of the first floor facing the street had already been completed. A wine shop. Likely another front business of Skovajsa’s. He’d turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, rat bastard.

We moved to a back room with a strangely covered floor. Skovajsa’s head darted around the room, sniffing. Something was wrong. The floor looked a tractor trailer had just groomed it.

“What…is…THIS?!” His voice was near panic as his shoe brushed aside the layer of wood chips. If I hadn’t been in such pain and unable to feel half of my face through the bruising, I would’ve smiled. Not just any wood chips. Cedar. One of the most ancient and deadly woods for Old World vamps. Especially the youngsters.

If he was angry at the changes to the floor, there was only one word for his reaction to the opening to the floor cellar with its doors broken off their hinges: Livid. He actually threw me towards the entrance as some sort of release of his rage. Needless to say, I was prepared and landed with my arms out in front of me to break my fall. But I stayed on the floor. My head peered over the threshold down the cellar steps as he flew down into the darkness.

My eyes adjusted and I saw it was only about ten steps down, not very deep, not a tall enough chamber that he could even stand but inside, there was nothing but rubble. The broken remnants of a rather large, thick, cement structure. It looked like a jackhammer had been at it and quite recently for the amount of dust still hanging in the air.

“No! NO!” Skovajsa bellowed and as if on cue, strong lights from the ceiling of the chamber switched on, blinding him.

That was when I saw it, right at the top of the stairs, glinting under the power of the UV lights. My infinity amulet, wrapped in a single black ribbon. Lucy. I looked around the chamber that had been Skovajsa’s coffin and realized that they had destroyed and booby trapped it. He would never be able to seek sanctuary here again.

Ma petit ange. The short, stout old aunt I had been clucked in my head.

This time, despite the pain, my mouth curved in a smile as I picked up the amulet a split second before Skovajsa sped out of the blinding room, grabbing my arm with one hand, the other arm shielding his eyes. Each successive room we entered in his retreat lit up like a spotlight with those same UV lights and he shrieked in cold fury the entire way.

At the bottom of the shaft, he made a power leap and flew up from the strength of it, past the other empty floors until reaching the top, where he was snatched out of the air. One moment, I was flying up with him, the next I was watching him smack into a concrete pillar across the floor from the safety of someone’s arms.

As stunned as I was to see Skovajsa go flying, I was even more stunned as I turned my face up to see Jesper holding me, his hair flaming auburn and windswept, his eyes the color of jasper. I blinked and felt that dark presence of Valerian, the one that had protected me from the Taint, take weary steps down into the recesses of my mind as all twelve previous versions of me thrilled to see this new savior.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.

My mouth moved but no sound came out. We both heard a menacing growl to which he gently set me down, stooping quickly and handing me the knapsack.

“You dropped this,” he announced before his fangs dropped, not the elegant thin ones but an entire mouthful of short, sharp teeth, like a snake.

Jesper raced across the plywood floor and charged full force into Skovajsa preempting an attack. He grabbed a hold of the Carpathian and slammed him back against the same pillar, which cracked. Jesper took a hold of the rebar behind Skovajsa and began to bend it around him as he struggled. Skovajsa laid him completely out with a right handed slap and then proceeded to simply rip the rebar right out of the concrete to free himself.

Jesper got up again only to have Skovajsa attack him first, driving the piece of rebar right through his shoulder. Jesper screamed. Skovajsa had been aiming for the heart but Jesper had turned just in time. He grabbed Skovajsa by the collar of his expensive suit and stabbed him in the abdomen with the end of rebar sticking out. The speed surprised Skovajsa who backed up a step as Jesper had to take a breath to recover. He took a few short, deep breaths before he yanked the rebar out and threw it aside.

Blood was now pouring out of both Jesper’s shoulder and Skovajsa’s belly but the latter only smiled. His hands had grown into gnarled claws and he swiped at Jesper, who whirled away but a little too slow. Skovajsa swiped at the back of his neck and again at his back, tearing deep into his flesh. Jesper arched his back away then spun around, grabbing Skovajsa in a tight grip. As he grappled him, he squeezed and Skovajsa snapped his mouth full of fangs at him.

Jesper jerked his head away, which relaxed his hold enough to let Skovajsa get an arm free. With that hand, he grabbed Jesper’s injured shoulder and wrenched it. Jesper screamed and his arms fell away. Skovajsa kept hold of the arm and twisted, the sound of bones cracking so terrifying that I wanted to cover my ears. Jesper fell to his knees, but Skovajsa still had his arm.

I dug out the Kukri and felt the metal come alive in my hand. My Indian past life roared up, whispering some ancient incantation that I had no idea how related to this weapon that seemed to know me. I was beyond caring about that. Jesper was in trouble. My fingers tightened and I stepped forward to do I know not what.

Skovajsa raised his other claw to swipe at Jesper’s throat when Jesper swung his head around to look up at him. His hair to seem to catch fire for an instant and I knew what was coming.

Neilza!” Searing rays burst from Jesper’s eyes, sending a burning Skovajsa staggering back into a pile of plywood. The plywood scattered, some dropping over the edge and down into the construction site below. The scaffolding just behind the pile also tottered precariously. Skovajsa slapped at himself as his expensive silk clothes burst into flames.

“Sophie,” Jesper called, pain and fatigue etched into his voice. “Get out of here!” He struggled to his feet.

The sky was getting lighter and another real fear hit me. I needed to get Jesper to shelter and right now, but there was nowhere to go. Dangerous vampire, rising sun…this was not good.

Skovajsa grabbed Jesper from behind and crushed him, bones creaking and popping, causing my eyes to tear up from the punishment Jesper was taking. It was obvious he couldn’t defeat Skovajsa who’d lost all semblance of humanity from his face. He was all vampire now.

He tossed Jesper aside like a ragdoll and laughed, his clothes still smoking. He was indeed burned, flesh crisped all over him but it did not impede him. He approached Jesper slowly, now seemingly at a point where he felt Jesper was no match for him.

Copil. What wonderful powers you possess! But you cannot think you can defeat me.”

He picked Jesper up, slamming him up against the scaffolding, slashing at his throat, blood beginning to pump out of him. Then, in a blur of speed, Skovajsa tied Jesper up in electrical cabling then grabbed Jesper’s chin in his clawed hand.

“You cannot heal when you cannot feed,” Skovajsa spat.

Jesper was bleeding from back, neck, head, shoulder, chest, his right arm hung nearly disconnected from his shoulder, a large gaping wound right above his heart. But they all oozed rather than bleed as uch as they should. It had all seemed to take place in slow motion but the entire fight had lasted nothing more than a minute, before I had finished taking a full step forward.

The movement drew Skovajsa’s attention. “This? This is what you would have over me?”

“Sophie, Sophie, get out of here,” Jesper panted, still struggling against the wiring, his left arm flexed and pulling. I couldn’t figure it out, why he couldn’t break free. Perhaps he was too weak.

Skovajsa punched him full in the face before walking calmly toward me. He clasped his hands together, like a schoolmaster or a priest before disciplining a child. “Now you have disappointed me enough, Sophie. You will submit. All of your knowledge, I will have it. After I make a snack of this rather mundane specimen. I’d had such high hopes for him but I obviously overestimated his specialness.” He stopped in the middle of the floor, spreading his arms wide like some player on a grand stage. “You will make me the most powerful vampire that ever lived!”

“Stupid little man, vampires aren’t alive. And that, that would be very bad for my business, betraying my clients. Not to mention bad karma.” I gripped the Kukri behind me. The sun was creeping up. I could feel it. The birds were chattering away sensing it too.

He dropped his arms. Suddenly, he’d rushed over to me, gripped me by my hair, forcing my head to look up. “As if you have a choice.”

That was when I saw it. The cement mixer. It jostled a bit as Jesper struggled to get free. Skovajsa twisted my head the other direction, taking in his bite handiwork from earlier.

“You still deny me? Have it your way. Such a nuisance that your blood is undrinkable. I so hate to waste a meal.”

The twist to my vision revealed something else. The other scaffolding. It seemed to be damaged by the impact. If a little more force was applied, oh, say like from some rolls of safety netting that were stacked just behind it, maybe it would teeter over.

He thrust his face into mine. “It’s so much easier for you to die in complete futility.”

Crazy thoughts, that some Rube Goldberg machinery would work its way to topple both scaffolds, manage to free Jesper, and allow him to get free while crushing Skovajsa. Futility indeed. Much easier to try and cut Jesper loose.

I looked Skovajsa dead in the eye. “Vasa Skoda, there are no refunds on treatment.”

He growled at me, striking me, sending me to the floor.

“You ruin it, the pleasure of killing you. You do not fear death.” He tossed a look back at Jesper. “But perhaps you just need the right incentive.” He walked a few steps, pausing to take in the sky. “I tire of this. If this one tried to save you, perhaps you would bargain for him.” Skovajsa strode over towards Jesper.

“Sophie, the Kukri. Do it now!” Jesper cried.

When I got my senses back, I caught Jesper’s gaze. His arms were burned red from fighting at the cabling but as we held that look, he started to speed up his breathing, shoring up his strength. He tilted his head back, started a primal groan that seemed to reach back through the ages.

“Skovajsa, the sunrise!” I called.

He paused but then turned, a little too nonchalantly saying, “You really think a few week rays of light would wound me?” He rushed over to Jesper, turning his head, exposing his neck. “Will you forfeit his life as you would your own just to keep your secrets?”

I stared open-mouthed. The truth was I hesitated. Maybe I would.

Skovajsa shrugged, “Very well. I’ll end him and gain his power, however meager it might be.” He then leaned into him for a bite. That one moment, everything cleared within my troubled soul. Yes, it was wrong to kill. It was wrong to take violence in hand and veer from the path. But it was also wrong not to fight for the weak, the poor, the impoverished… the injured. They deserved our stewardship, our protection, and…our love.

“Wait!”

Skovajsa turned his head as if he fully expected my interruption.

“You have a better offer?”

“More a diagnosis.”

Skovajsa looked curious, at least. Jesper had stored up his energies and was about to release it.

“You were made from the Taint, a wine infused with vampire blood. And you’re sun-starved, like many vampires before you, including the one whose blood tainted you.”

He shook his head, fully dismissive of my expertise. “And treatment?”

I gripped the Kukri hard in my hand as I stood. “Well, you’re also a fucking prick and unfortunately, there is no cure for that.” I drew back my arm and pitched the Kukri at him, willing it to take whatever course it might to save our friend.

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?”

symbol_cleaver-color

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.

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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.

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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.

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.