Archive for Vampirony

The Shellfish, the Bumbershoot, and the Prodigal Son

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on August 19, 2013 by vampirony

“You do not want to go up there.”

Nick turned his head as he entered the Wintergarden of the Bellevue Hyatt to see Morena at the front desk. Per usual, he had his moment of sheer awe caused by her now-proven deadly combination of beauty and brains. This evening it had been poured into a particularly tight pair of jeans just barely covered up with a low cut black silky tank. He stopped for a moment and blinked. Twice. Then with what he hoped was casual nonchalance, he strode over.

The delay was perceived but credited to their tiff. Morena attempted a meager smile but by the time he’d stopped in front of her, it had slide off. Instead of speaking, he just stood and looked at her, waiting for her to explain.

Her comment was so much easier to explain than her feelings so she stated, “She’s in a real mood. Jesper hasn’t roused yet.”

Nick threw a look behind her at the man at desk she’d obviously been chatting with and tilted a nod. ”Gabe.”

“Nick,” Gabe, a much broader shouldered fellow in a security uniform, gave him a curt nod back before letting his eyes float back to Morena. When Nick didn’t return his attention to her, Morena tossed a look back, then with a dismissive glare, stepped forward to take Nick’s arm and led him away, both of them stepping down into the atrium.

The moment they were out of earshot, Morena dropped his arm and he took several more steps away than was needed. It wasn’t lost on her. In fact, all her senses were tuned on him, awash in relief he’d returned and concerned at the state he was in. Despite his casual appearance in just a T-shirt and relaxed fit black denim, he had a stillness that hinted he was still angry. His face looked haggard and blank with no trace of the easy grin she desperately wanted to see.

“You look tired. Did you get any sleep?”

“Morena, your text said we needed to talk.”

Not at all the attitude she wanted. All business. She’d been determined to give him space to make the choice of whether to come back into crazy vamp land. But she’d been unable to let it be and when by half past midnight Jesper hadn’t snapped out of rigor dormitus and Nick hadn’t given a peep, she’d taken action. Sophie had been pelting her with questions ever since the emotional ire had taken the place of the physical pain and the more details Morena had related about fighting the revenant, the angrier Sophie had become.

“Yeah,” was all Morena could think to start with. “We do.” She shrugged her hands into her pockets. Then, she began to plunge headlong into it because she couldn’t handle it if he walked out the door on her again and here, in the atrium, he hadn’t quite walked back in yet. “When you didn’t text back…”

“Look, I know I said I’d be back soon to check on Sophie, but there were so many things to do. When you texted me, I’d finally wrapped up what I could and was actually sleeping. I figured I could waste time texting you back or just get on my bike and get over here.”

Morena couldn’t hide the puzzlement on her face. This was not the conversation she’d practiced in her head for the last three hours. The one where she did all the talking and Nick stood there brooding over her with disapproval. “Things? What things?”

Nick flashed a smile that was an attempt at the Cheshire cat which came off more like Snarf from Thundercats. “Well, the deli was a mess and the office trashed so I got my bro to get me the name of a contractor so then I had to whip up some specs for modifications like dark rooms, a decent kitchen, a bedroom, and a lot of plumbing rework to allow for a Fire Box. Greg and I figured out—“

Morena folded her arms to cover her surprise. This was the old Nick. Like nothing had even happened. Like they hadn’t even argued. It was pissing her off. She wanted to explain. She needed to apologize. “Who’s Greg?” she asked, sounding rather shrill.

“Oh. Reiterritter.” When Morena still didn’t acknowledge, Nick tried, “The guy that helped us out? Army jacket? Police uniform?”

Morena rolled her eyes. Nick took it as a sign to continue and as he walked her through the finer details of the fire box, the fireproof room that they’d be putting in the basement, she took his arm again and led him towards the elevator. Between Sophie rolling through all the scientific purposes for rigor dormitus and explaining her concern away with all the rationale for why Jesper wasn’t up yet and Nick yammering about this essentially oversized BBQ box, she figured her apology was unwarranted and unnecessary. She stuffed Nick into the elevator and stepped back hard against the wall, her arms folded up to her chin.

He’d been over at the comic book store, which apparently was like the Bat Cave for the Gypsy Twin Irregulars, all day hatching through his fourteen point plan to reconstruct the deli building into their very own VP HQ (Vampire Psychologist Headquarters, he explained), until Lucy showed up and forced him to go home ASAP. But not before assuring him that she would check in on Sophie to make sure everything was OK.

“So have you seen her?”

Morena, stewing in her emotions, lifted her head, “Sophie? Of course I have.”

The elevator dinged at their floor and they both stepped outside. “No, silly, Lucy,” Nick replied.

It was all she could stand. “Silly? You know what’s silly? Me feeling bad and worrying all evening, thinking I needed to apologize to you so you’d come back, that I might have pushed you away just like every other guy in my life. That’s what’s silly.”

It took her a few breathes to notice she’d backed him up against the wall and now, at eye level and pressed up against him, she couldn’t really remember what had made her lose her cool. The sheepish look on Nick’s face didn’t help and she was absolutely sure that wasn’t a pencil in his pocket. Rather, more like a compact umbrella.

No, what was really silly was how she didn’t step away immediately, how there was this wild jangle of sparks all the way through her as she stayed there, realizing the only one being intimidated by physical proximity was her. She eased away from him a little, but not enough to miss his ragged breathing.

“I mean…” She didn’t want to retreat, didn’t know how.

“You were worried I wouldn’t come back?”

It was his incredulous tone that lifted her gaze back to his. The corner of his mouth dimpled into a half smile and for a second it almost looked like he might…lean…forward.

She half-shrugged, taking a step back. One hand pulled the opposite elbow as her shoulders crept up and curled forward as if to hide her face and her embarrassment.

“Uni, I said I’d be back. I meant it.”

She nodded once, because there was no way words could be forced through the clamped garble that passed for her throat. Not when he was still giving her that look, some mix between adoration and affirmation, like he knew he had something on her. That she cared. Fuck, she did care. She was waiting for him to throw that in her face like a well-placed stun grenade.

As if sensing the moment was becoming too much for her, he peeled himself off the wall, breaking enough of the spell so she stepped further back and turned away. When he didn’t make more of the revelation, she relaxed. Even tossed her head back over her shoulder at him to ask a question.

Uni?”

The sheepishness bleated into his cheeks. “Yeah,” he nervously rubbed at his neck. “It was the best I could think up while you were, uh, right there.”

She recognized it for what it was. He’d just given her a nickname. “What does it mean?”

Bashful, but brutally honest Nick was back. “Uni is a word; it means a sea urchin.”

Her face showed her puzzlement, was creeping towards offense.

“I just meant you can be hard and prickly on the outside, but, uh, soft on the inside.”

She absorbed the comment and considered that if it had given by anyone other than the slightly awkward guy who she’d just moments ago backed against a wall and been incidentally acquainted with his not-so-soft parts, she’d likely have been offended. The smile was a reflex, maybe from when she was fifteen, before the world had landed responsibility on her shoulders and let her just be a girl.

She pivoted on her heel. “Well, I guess I’m not the only one that can be hard on the outside.” Before her courage left her, she began to walk away, her cheeks flaming at her own boldness.

She heard him swear to himself, “Shit, you noticed that.”

She spun around, grinning now, “Oh yeah, I noticed.” But had turned back around and was heading back down the hall before her teasing could catch up with her. By the time Nick met her at the open doorway, he’d wrestled with his own discomfiture and had thought up an appropriate comeback intended to pierce a little deeper into the soft spot he’d just uncovered. Something about Uni being quite tasty.

But when Morena turned her head back to him, hand on the handle of the open door and raised a finger to her lips for silence, the flirtatiousness was long gone, replaced by the warrior on high alert. He took hold of the door so she could step in and quickly survey the room. After the quick tour, she returned to the doorway to his questioning face.

“What is it?” Nick asked, not noticing anything out of place in the quiet room.

“It’s Sophie,” Morena answered. “She’s gone.”

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I’d been in the middle of rereading my inventory of Jesper’s injuries for maybe the twentieth time, trying to cross-reference it against known lethal vampiric allergies when I realized something. The longer Jesper didn’t break out of rigor dormitus, the more angry with him I got. In recollection, it was obvious that while he seemed to shrug off silver, something in the cabling that Skovajsa had used to tie him to the scaffolding had made him unable to tear through them. After a few dismal attempts to identify it, I felt fairly certain it was optical cabling and therefore likely filled with silica. Glass.

Could Jesper be allergic to something as pervasive as glass? It was terrifying. I’d heard on the news how someone had smashed through a window at the penthouse floor restaurant in the wee hours of the morning. A singe shard of that stuff might kill him? Then why the hell was he fighting a Carpathian pretender!?

Without him here to rail against, it was exasperating. What if some of the slivers of glass had gotten embedded into his skin before he converted to rigor dormitus? Would that make him unable to transform back out? If I could remember exactly where he was cut by the cabling, perhaps we could drill the glass fragments out. So back to my inventory and I sketched out a body, drawing in the injuries I remembered.

Forcing away the memory of his chin, I stuffed my face in one of my older notebooks. Without the Memento which I’d given over to Nick, I couldn’t complete much in the way of full identification. Although I tried hard not to question why Nick was still AWOL, especially since the moment I’d even prodded at her about it, Morena had stormed from the room. Too much drama there but I was trying to deal with my own shit. And having a 3000 pound marble-frozen vampire constituted a significant amount of shit.

Tante. Tante, come to me.”

“Maurice?” My head perked up and when I looked around the room, I realized I was suddenly on my feet. The blood rushed to my head and I swooned against the desk.

“I need you to come to me.”

Before I could even wallow in the pain it caused, I was up again and walking toward the door. The pain meds were not strictly speaking meant to cover all that I had to do to follow his call but I did it and several minutes later, I was outside, limping across the roof towards his shadowy figure.

“Maurice?” I couldn’t stop the panic in my voice. I hadn’t had any contact from the twins, just their surrogate Mr. Reitterritter and he had also gone dark. If anything more had happened to the twins, I couldn’t deal with it. I hobbled toward him only to stop up short as, in an inky burst, he appeared right in front of me.

I grabbed his arms, “Are you ok?”

He smiled in a pained way. “Fine. It is you who are unwell.”

I was gasping for air, whatever motivation had seen me to this point, adrenaline mixed with the last of my pain meds fled me completely and I doubled over to breath, clutching at him. “You said…you said you…needed me.”

This sense of warmth and welcome emanated from him as he wrapped arms around me to support my weight. It lessened the pain a little but I could at least look up and him and open my eyes as he raised my chin to look up at him.

“I needed you to come to me. Of your own free will,” he spoke distinctly, so I might understand.

But I didn’t understand. “But why?”

He shook his head gently at my confusion. He brushed strands of hair that clung to my sweaty face away with his thumb and forefinger, tucking the hair behind my ears. “Because, Sophie, you have become a danger to yourself and I need to keep you safe.”

As my ire was about to rise at his impertinence and I was about to ask him what he meant, his gentleness won me over, his fingers felt soft and cool against my fevered cheek, his arms reliable, strong, his whole frame contracting around me to hold me close. Somewhere deep in my brain, doubtless in a prim British accent, I shook my head, knowing that such influence on me was impossible. But not so. One other vampire had held me in sway…

“Maurice, I don’t…” I suddenly exhaled from the sheer weight of doubting him.

“Relax and trust in me. I will do you no harm.” His words lulled me, freed me from all the responsibilities throughout all of time and I blinked into sudden awareness, as he tilted my head back, his thumb gently brushing the corner of my mouth as he bent his head and kissed me.

I thankfully don’t remember much after that, although for some reason, he felt it necessary to keep that moment, the one in which he’d bent to his will, in my memory. And as much as I tried, as much as I heard the distinct snap of a rule against a desk and the rustle of skirts, I couldn’t find anything distasteful in that memory. It wasn’t the best kiss I’d ever had. But it wasn’t the worst either.

Awareness came back as I realized I sat, my legs to my side, on the rooftop. Maurice sat there next to me, not touching me but not shrinking away either. I realized that he’d made this decision himself as I couldn’t sense Lucy anywhere nearby. This was between him and me. And there was no regret in his shoulders nor did he seem pleased with himself. It had simply been his will. The force of his will.

“Please, do not be angry with me.”

But he was still my Maurice.

When I found my throat was free of constriction to speak, I came into complete awareness that I no longer felt pain anywhere. I was certain all cuts, bruises, strains, sprains, all of it would be gone now. And while that made some sort of sense to me, I needed to know his reasoning, needed to understand what this new Maurice had done and why. This new, more powerful, more controlled Maurice.

“No. I’m not. You made sure of that. I’m not sure how but you have. But it would help, for later, to know why you did it.”

He turned his head to me and I saw him for the first time, not a boy clutching at the awkwardness of his manhood, but a man, firmly in control of his abilities and committed to his beliefs. Whatever gentle feelings he still held for me were there but he was no longer at the mercy of them. He decided where it all fit and it all fit rather nicely.

“Sophie, you were damaged beyond what your doctors knew. For your own safety, you needed to be healed. And after last time, I needed to insure you allowed me to help you.”

I noted his new usage of this lifetime’s name. I would never again be his Tante. I nodded my head in acceptance. He smiled and let me see for a brief moment that somewhere in him, my acceptance denoted approval, which he did still want. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea that he would’ve done it whether I approved or not.

“Some lives are drawn together forever.”

My brows drew down. Something in how he said it sent a flutter through my consciousness and I distinctly heard a tea pot clatter. A memory threatened but I slapped it away.

I felt his hand again on my arm. “Sophie?” I nodded and he helped me to my feet.

“I’m alright.”

He nodded as he looked down at me. Then, he opened his mouth to ask something but paused. There was a question there but his eyes showed compassion, maybe pity, I’d never seen directed at me before. But then he closed his lips and gave me a meek smile. He reminded me so much of that whisper, a presence so recently felt, one that had saved me from the Taint, the kind of presence that was creeping from the shadows back into the light. But the recollection wouldn’t come and he stood there apart from it, his own self, a man molded out of his uniqueness and his duality.

“What is it?” I asked him.

He looked out over the night. “A storm is coming.”

“What kind of storm?”

He didn’t look at me when he said, “The legendary kind.”

We didn’t talk more. I went back downstairs and dodged the inevitable questions from Morena and Nick and noticed as I swept by the desk, that Nick had returned the Memento and it flipped furiously to that page that I dreaded as if to warn me that yes, some lives are drawn together. Forever.

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Favors in Fur

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by vampirony

As the Lufthansa flight from Munich made its descent into LAX, the passenger in 41A pulled his scarf down from over his nose and was thankful the moon was only in first quarter. The smell from the dinner cart had set his innards quivering and it was only through sheer force of will and a rather tight weave of fabric that he hadn’t bolted from his seat.

His second flight on an airplane followed his first one this morning when he’d booked a last minute flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Los Angeles, following a rumor. It couldn’t be true. He hoped to Hell it wasn’t true. He straightened in his immovable seat, the worst on the plane, the ticket agent told him. He barely noticed, pulling the newspaper out of his jacket pocket. It was rumpled and turned to a back page of the Entertainment section. Amongst the theories of why a certain sitcom starlet hadn’t been seen for weeks, believed to be hidden away in rehab, or some cosmetic procedure, or eloped to Mexico with her producer boyfriend was a picture of the starlet’s home, accosted by the paparazzi and the police who had been called in due to a scuffle.

While the photog who’d snapped the shot probably never intended it, the camera found her walking along the wrought iron fence line bordering the house, the collar of her short mink coat pulled up around her face, hiding most every significant detail that would call her out. She was just another leggy blonde in sky high heels in LA, albeit with a horrible sense of fashion in the middle of summer. The lack of bling on her fingers as she clenched the collar around her face, trying to blend as an innocent bystander, only made the tattoo above her ring finger that more prominent against the white fur.

From the distance the shot was taken, it almost looked like a smudge on the lens from the print but he knew it. Knew it as well as the one on his own hand, hiding under his fingerless mitten. A tree, an oak to be exact, branches and roots forming a circle. His had the leaves intact, still in full green and rippling in some unforeseen breeze. The skin itched under the mitten and he rubbed at it.

It was part and parcel of the overall sense of unwell he’d come under the moment he stepped on the plane and the further from ground the plane had risen, the worse he’d felt. Still, nothing compared to the pit in his stomach as he thought of what it could mean to have her here, at the house of the famous starlet. Especially with that starlet missing, at least from the glare of the media’s watchful eye.

He peered out into the lights of city in wonderment. He anyone slept with all this artificial light, he couldn’t fathom. But he had always been a simpleton, not needing for much, not demanding much, not happy but content to stay in the mountains, show a few tourists around the forest surrounding the old monastery, continue to help the monks with the grounds.

The plane hit the tarmac hard and he yelped, the sound muffled by the scarf and the rush of the air helping to break the steel bird. The bile rose in this throat, threatening to break loose, but he clenched his eyes shut and stuffed the fingers of his left hand under the mitten on his right, brushing across the oak tattoo. With that, a sense of calm came over him and he heard birds, smelled the musty forest, and could imagine the earth beneath his feet.

Only a little while longer and he would stretch his legs. He collapsed back into the seat back and looked down at the paper in his lap. He could still be wrong but with the calm of the tattoo came the sensation that she was close, closer than he’d felt for a while. He removed his left hand from the glove, mindful she might sense him too and he was not willing to announce his presence before he understood the rationale.

To the best of his knowledge, she had last been in Cairo, exploring the vast archeological heritage and seeking answers of her own for what they all had become. Before Cairo, it had been Vilnius, Warsaw, and Vienna. The last postcard after Vienna was her complaint that she could no longer stand the cold and she would be moving south through Venice. But she hated water. Well, the ocean. She feared large bodies of water after years living in the woods. She’d left a message for him that she had panicked and jumped a freighter for Egypt. There, she hoped to find answers.

So what was she doing in LA? It couldn’t be good. After all, all of them knew the cause of their state and the reason for their abandonment. It was the same type of creature that the media now scrambled for photos of from just outside a starlet’s palatial fortress in the Hollywood Hills. Vampire. And if he knew anything about his fur-enshrouded sister, she wasn’t in the neighborhood for the view.

“Sir, you can disembark now.”

The flight attendant brought him back to the present and he collected the small satchel from the overhead bin and a small leather book. It felt good to hold it again, especially when his thoughts were full of such dread. He would need it on his journey as he feared he would never make it back to the monastery again.

When his feet finally touched pavement, he breathed a sigh of relief. The city was hot, stuffy, loud, smoggy; everything he hated. But he was on the ground. He moved quickly through the endless parking lot, stuffing the book into the satchel and over-tightening the strap over his shoulder until the bag dug into his chest. When he reached the fence that marked the edge of the airport property, he took a look around and sniffed. At this edge of the parking lot, there were lots of shadows and few cars. And it was deserted.

He rolled his neck and sprinted toward the fence which he took in one easy leap as the man that had been sitting in 41A traded flesh for fur and sprinted out into the hot Los Angeles night, satchel bouncing along with him.

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“Did you get them?”

The blonde woman in the fur coat stared past the hooded figure smoking at the railing, transfixed and simultaneously terrified by the view. She took an involuntary step back, clutching her coat closed, the branches of her own oak tattoo devoid of leaves.

Rolling her eyes, Bellecroix stubbed her cigarette out and approached. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s just salt water.” She stood in front of the blond and gave her a once over, her lips pursing in distaste. “I expected more from a born hunter.”

“I got you what you wanted.” The blonde handed over a CD.

“Good,” a syrupy smile crossing her features, Bellecroix took the CD, turning it in her hand. “And you left no trace?”

“None that a human could tell.”

“What about an inhuman?”

The blonde bristled. She still didn’t like how little she knew of this creature’s game but the promise had been given and so far, she had delivered. The Shining One lived and she knew where. For the prize of dispatching one of the undead and planting a few items, she would reveal just where he dwelled.

“By the time they get to the scene, it should be cleared.”

Bellecroix raised her eyebrows but nodded wistfully.

“Seems such a great favor you’ve done me. Are you sure you don’t want more? I could throw in a few more…treats you might like. Good for hunting.”

The blonde growled low. “I only want one thing from you. And if you break your word, the only trace they’ll find of you is a mess of blood on that white carpet.”

“Tut tut tut, unlike others of my kind, I keep my promises.” Bellecroix passed the blonde a packet. When she opened it, the blonde found a plane ticket for the next morning to someplace called Seattle. She raised her eyes to the vampiress to find her gloating. “I assume that this meets with your approval?”

“If he’s there, yes. We’re done.”

The blonde turned on her heel and walked out, bypassing the two armed heavies at the door that she could’ve ripped to shreds in seconds flat. As she passed them, one opened the door for her and offered to call her a cab. She politely declined, noticing the thick Latin accent and skin tone much darker than his other brethren. She hadn’t been aware they bred them south of the equator.

After the door had closed behind her, Bellecroix smiled widely, like the canary that had outsmarted the cat. But as quickly as the smile appeared, it faded. “Oh, no, sweetie, I’m not finished with you quite yet. But you’ll know when I am.”

She pulled her hood down and stared at the glass of the sliding door until her image materialized. The antlers were growing in nicely. She strummed her pearls and thought that a creamy silver wolf coat would make a lovely addition to her wardrobe.

What You Can Buy for a Penny

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by vampirony

At half past ten, Nick gave up on the idea of sleeping in his comfy bed in his parents’ house as reward for a night full of mare. He kept flipping over onto his side and scribbling notes on what needed to be done to fix the office up. As he’d left Bellevue, he’d seen the police cording off the construction site next to the Hyatt. Something about some pretty extensive vandalism, bordering on criminal.

The only thing criminal was the fact that he couldn’t sleep for all the notes rolling around in his head. Sidekicks apparently don’t get to rest easy; always more kicking to do. He let out a mighty groan and got up out of bed, bracing his elbows on his knees, head in his hands. He didn’t need to count the twelve pages of notes he’d taken, the last of which read: “Find fire department rated architect to construct fireproof room.”

Sophie couldn’t expect all her clients to be as well behaved as Jesper, who no one was really saying what had happened to. He was in that wooden crate, probably in some gargoyle form like Lucy had been. As grotesque a form as it might be, Jesper had saved Sophie’s life and that made him good peeps in Nick’s book. It touched a nerve, the way he’d come to her aid, and while Nick was grateful his new boss with her substantial payroll wasn’t out of commission, it gave Nick a pang.

He grabbed his notebook off the nightstand and wrote: Flowers for Morena. Then he promptly scribbled it out. What do you get for the perfect woman who dispatched a vampire with you? Flowers seemed trite or presumptuous. And either way, he’d either offend her by treating her like a girl or pick the wrong ones.

Flowers were a trap, anyways. It was never about the thought. It was always execution and Nick already knew his execution stunk. He was barely able to control his staring around her, he had not a single action star move in his whole body, his only redeeming qualities were his ability to duck on cue and to read and retain ancient books full of crazy. While Morena’s martial expertise didn’t exactly emasculate him, it did put him in a rough spot of how to get her attention in a good way. Food wasn’t something that she took much notice of, his bike, well amateur hour there. Clothes weren’t a strong motivator for her either judging by her own attire. The only thing he seemed to do to make her smile was crack jokes and make self-effacing statements.

He sighed. Girls always liked the guy that made them laugh but they never wanted to be with that guy. But there was no way he was going to ever be able to do more of that Frog Brothers, Death Dealer crap they’d done last night. Not without fainting halfway through.

No, the best he could hope for was the sidekick, but not Robin or Shadowcat or even Rick Jones. He didn’t have the nerves for that. But he could make vichyssoise. Red and green was not his style but tails and a perfectly cooked beef wellington? He could aspire to that.

Look out, vampires, Sophie just got her Pennyworth.

Now, if he wasn’t going to sleep all day, he might as well go see a man in a fatigues jacket about a fireproof room.

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Somewhere along the line although he couldn’t place it, Nick remembered mention of some comic book store in connection with Lucy. And that henchman of hers would likely be a daytime guardian of hers, wouldn’t he?

Nick made Fremont by noon and had to knock on the door for ten minutes before he heard bolts snap, chains crackle, and a final latch pop and the corrugated metal door swing open revealing the disheveled mastermind of their deliverance blinking bloodshot eyes up at him.

Nick’s smile withered under acid glare.

“Whaddaya want? We’re closed.”

Nick realized that he must’ve woken the poor guy up but still, he didn’t expect to be completely unrecognized. “Hi, I…well…I’ve been thinking of some mods…and after this morning…I thought maybe…”

The guy widened his stance. “Oh, right. This morning. Yeah that was, like…” he rubbed his eyes before crossing his arms, “Six hours ago. Not like anyone would want to reward himself with sleep after that perfectly executed campaign.”

“Yeah I suppose not.”

Nick got the glare loud and clear.

“Look, kid, I’m sure you went home and cried on your huge pillow and then couldn’t sleep because you were too scared but trust me, it’s better to start with sleep in the daytime for this to pass over. My advice? A couple of shots of Nyquil and some chamomile tea and you’ll be in lala land.” The guy yawned and then began shutting the door, “Geez, civilians.”

Nick grabbed the edge and cut his hand. “Ouch! Just gimme a chance. I have a whole list. I want to be better prepared next time.”

That perked the guy up. “Next time? What makes you think there’ll be a next time?”

Nick had to stop and think. Because the book had a ton of other entries? But he wasn’t about to tell this guy about Sophie’s journal. So he settled for: “Things always come in three’s, right?”

The guy raised an eyebrow. “You already had three vampires last night.”

“Not three bad vampires.”

The guy took in a deep, thoughtful breath before exhaling it out of his mouth hard. “Alright. I suppose I could take a look at this list of yours. If you’re so intent on sticking your nose in it.”

“Great,” Nick said, and made a step forward only to meet the guy’s hand flat on his chest  holding him back.

“Not so fast. Give me the list. I don’t have time for garlic necklaces or Super soakers filled with Holy Water.”

Nick handed his twelve page vampire preparedness manifesto over and watched the guy purse his lips, nod, and then laugh in something more of a cackle. He was even more stunned when Ritterreiter stretched out his hand and shook his, “Come on in. You can call me Greg. And this list is wicked.”

A Few Words About Heroes, Pt 2

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , on April 8, 2012 by vampirony

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“I don’t care if you think it’s a bad idea. We’re sticking together. I’m not losing anyone else today.”

Morena strode into the room determined. It was one thing to be ignored at the hospital, ignored in the cab, but she would not be denied, treated like she didn’t just put her life on the line. Or her blood, rather.

“Oh, there you are.”

Sophie was out hard on the bed. Even when Morena went to shake her awake, she just snored. Morena stifled a curse. There had been a look on Sophie’s face when she’d first walked in with the detectives. Blank, jealous shock.

She gave Nick a nod and then pointed to the sofa. “You take that one. I’m sure it pulls out.”

“Look, I get it. It looks like Irina and her Grandmother split town and you want to keep an eye out. But I want to sleep in my own bed after taking a horrendously long soak in a tub. And clean clothes. And mom’s dumplings.” Morena seemed to be eyeing the furniture and how best to move it. The thought was confirmed when she started pushing at the back of the couch. “Hey, can you just relax for a second?”

In between grunts to move the huge upholstered beast, she spoke, “What would help me to relax is if you help me move this and then check all the doors again.”

“No.”

The simple rejection of her request got her attention and she stood and faced him. Where was the scared kid from just hours ago who looked like he was pissing his pants? Replaced by this guy who’s face was split by a smile he tried to contain but ended up with an even more goofy look. She put her hands on her hips, stuck one hip out.

“What?”

Nick gave one incredulously laugh. “Just stop for a second. We just killed the bad guys. Both of them. Without even knowing there were two of them. I’ve never been so terrified in my life and now, man, now, I just wanna get out in the sun, go hug my parents, and eat like it was the end of the world…and we stopped it. We won!”

She shook her mane once.

Nick gestured to her. “And you look like you’re ready for an assault from zombie hordes of Resident Evil. You know, that couch would work better as a barricade.”

She tossed her head to look. Hmmm, not a bad idea.

Nick laughed, “I can’t believe you just considered that.” He took a few steps over. “Do you ever bring it down a notch? I mean, you kicked the shit outta a vampire. And we offed her. We survived. We’re alive and practically unscathed. Can’t you just enjoy that for a few?”

But what happens next? What else is out there? What are the ramifications of their actions? They need to report back to Sophie, needed to assess who these people were that helped move Jesper, needed to fortify their position and plan for the next assault.

“Jesus, can’t you just relax for a few measly minutes? You’re getting me all nervy again.”

No, she didn’t do relaxed. She didn’t even have a weapon to clean, which often took her mind off things. Her face remained blank. What was left to do?

Nick sighed heavily and took a few steps over. “Look, I appreciate this.” He meant to gesture to the soldier of badassness that she was but it looked more like a wave. “I mean, you saved my life back there. But right now, I don’t want to think about anymore death, or vampires, or any of that. I’m fucking ecstatic to be standing here and I want some unagi. And probably a beer. Maybe a shot.”

She just kept staring at him. She had been in this with him but right now, the utmost thought in her mind spilled out of her tongue from the dissonance in their reactions.

“You’re just young.”

He shook his head, his eyes getting big for a second, and then he responded, “Wow. Yeah, throw that one out. I’m young alright. Young enough to still want to savor the fact that in the course of twenty four hours I saw my life flash before me AND get to tell the tale. I’ve got a family to go home and hug. I suggest you go do the same.”

When he couldn’t think of anything more to say, he waved his hand again and walked toward the door. She spun to watch him go.

“We can’t just leave her.”

Nick paused with his hand on the doorknob. When he looked back at Morena, he wasn’t sure if his fatigued mind that was so high on life at this moment was tricking him into thinking she was talking more about herself than Sophie.

“She’s not going anywhere. Doc said she’d be out for hours. Plug in her phone and go home. I’ll check in on her later. Oh, and plug your phone in too.”

When Nick walked out and shut the door firmly, Morena got the sense that he meant much much later. If he came back at all. He had a family to think about. Maybe after seeing what he had to lose, he would decide that a young man didn’t need this in his life.

Morena felt very sad by that thought and couldn’t grapple with why. She looked back down at the couch she’d been trying to move. Did she really think a fully fledged vamp couldn’t just throw this about the room like a Lego block?

She came around the front of the couch and sat down, feeling very rigid and ill at ease with the angle and depth of the sofa back. She wasn’t sure what she should do next but going home seemed irrelevant. There were no hugs to be found there. The only hugs she’d had lately were from the creature in the crate straight in front of her. Jesper. She wondered what he looked like in there but as it was sun up, she wasn’t about to open the crate to find out, even in the darkened room.

With her long legs, she felt like the couch was going to swallow her up, butt first. So she swung her legs up onto it, twisting and laying back, her head on the armrest. Then, she shifted a pillow under her head instead to be more comfortable.

What to do now? Well, there were so many questions. So many things to still clean up. But the reality was Morena couldn’t leave Sophie to wake up by herself and think poorly of Morena. That look on her face at the hospital when she’d walked in. She knew that look. She’d been staring at it in the mirror for weeks.

But something had changed last night and now that she had the time to think on it, she realized that she wasn’t jealous any more. She sincerely doubted that Jesper had been aware of the other threat and yet, she remembered his words. She would never forget them.

Nick. You need to make sure he’s safe. Watch over him.

Maybe Jesper had had an inkling that things could go sideways. Sounded like the text message he’d sent on decapitating a vampire was more instructions on the inevitable instead of a back-up plan. He’d sent her, vamped up, to protect Nick. He trusted her that much. It had been a long time since Morena had allowed herself to be close enough to anyone to be trusted like that.

And in hindsight, she’d delivered. The edge of her mouth ticked with urge to smile. Jesper had trusted her with protecting Nick and she had done just that, even though he hadn’t known it would mean facing another vampire. After he had apparently defeated his opponent. But she had managed it anyway. She’d fought the bitch and, with a little help, she’d won.

Now the smile was spreading over her lips. Maybe Nick was on to something about this strange euphoria after a brush with Hell. In the past, when she’d been in combat, or on protection detail, there was always some jackhole superior to report to, and paperwork, God she had hated the paperwork. There was always someone questioning her tactics, her approach, her execution, did she need to spend so many rounds, just how many perps had she engaged with, why had she pursued, why had she not pursued?

What gave her the right to disobey direct orders? So many friggin’ questions every time. So she was always too busy to just be grateful, to just thank her preparation, her discipline, her lucky stars even that this was not the last time, not her swan song.

Sure, she’d had some questions to ask and answer at the hospital. But the carefully constructed story around the truth of their injuries was easy and all too plausible. It gave her a moment’s pause and froze the smile on her lips. She hated calling in a favor. Favors tended to bite you on the ass when you weren’t prepared. She’d been burned by a favor that had been called in and called in badly.

But she realized she hadn’t really had to bend things all that much. Sophie was a friend visiting from out of town. While at the hotel, she’d met a guy. He wasn’t a good guy. He took her to a party. A bad party. She’d wanted to leave. He wouldn’t let her. He made her drink something. Nick, a good guy serving at the bad party, figured out how bad things were and he and a friend tried to get her out of there.

She really hadn’t spun things too falsely and as the detectives had begun to nod their heads affirmatively, she suspected this was a pattern they’d seen. The story had been Nick’s idea. She’d have to find out where he’d gotten it from. But from there, the two detectives, one an old friend of her uncle’s back in the day, and the other, a guy she’d dated briefly before leaving Seattle to join the diplomatic service, hadn’t needed much more evidence or more prodding. They bought in that a bad thing had happened to a good person and they went to do the right thing. They were the good guys trying to do right by a good person.

Sophie was a good person. The way she’d started crying after hugging Nick at the hospital kept replaying in Morena’s head. And then there was the look. It was more of a cascade, that look in her eyes when Sophie had looked up to see Morena striding in, not a blemish on her face. At first, there was shock. Nick was standing there just finishing up the ending of the slasher film “Bad Russian BarBQ.” Then, as Sophie’s eyes moved and took in how Morena moved without a hint of injury, there was the revelation. Her eyes widened. Then they narrowed and she’d looked away.

Morena needed to explain. She felt certain if she did, Sophie would get it. Why it mattered so much, she didn’t know.

Shit if she didn’t. Even though they’d been in different parts of the city, they had all fought the worst kinds of creatures last night. They were comrades now, compatriots. That kind of experience forged a bond. Sophie’s vampire class, her honesty, and her tutelage had saved Morena’s life and allowed Morena to save others. To be the hero again. It had been a long, long time since she’d felt like a hero. And maybe this time, she’d truly deserve it. She’d work harder this time, she wouldn’t lose focus, and she’d always, always remember who had her back.

She was rubbing her aching leg as she dozed off, the marrow deep in her bone pulsing, working overtime to repair the damage done when she’d kicked the door. That moment when she felt useful, needed, determined, and able, that feeling and the joy of being alive eased her into dreamless sleep.

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.

Prologue – Through the Wilds

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , on February 12, 2012 by vampirony

He awoke with a start. He lay on the floor of a leaf-strewn forest, the pine boughs thick above him, nearly blocking out the stars. His body was naked and cold, almost numb and yet burning. He sat up. Looking over himself, his skin was littered with fresh scars that itched. He rubbed at the puckered skin over his wrist only to see it smooth out, lose its discoloration, the scar vanishing before his eyes.

Flexing his right hand, it seemed not of his own body, like some alien, new thing that didn’t quite fit at the end of his arm. Taking a moment, he realized there were parts all over his body that felt out of sorts with other parts of him, as if these bits and pieces had not always been one.

A breeze rustled the rust colored leaves around him. Autumn. Had he been running for so long? All he could remember was the running away. Not where he’d come from nor where he was going to. Not his name or age or family. No personal thing about himself could he recall. He was trapped in a living nightmare of pain, terror, and endless repetition.

His eyes darted around the forest, trying to discern anything from his surroundings that could answer what his addled memory could not. The woods were thick but the trees did not entirely blot out the sky. Just above him, pieces of a full moon reflected white light into his widening eyes. For a moment, he was mesmerized, the light suddenly washing clean all the corners of his mind, all the dread, the doubt, the anger, the fear.

He let his lids fall shut, hoping to hold in the white light, letting it build in his mind until it churned from a pure white into a glowing pale yellow, harkening back to its source, warming him from the inside. But before he could let the light complete its orbit, taking him back to day, back to a place and time he felt safe and he understood just who and what he was, a single howl split the night open again.

They were back and with that single sound, the previous night’s events ambushed him. Teeth and snapping jaws, drool, hot breath, and blood. So much blood. As the memories of his nightly ritual returned, more joined in the call for the hunt and he remembered what came next. They would surround him, trip him with their extended claws, and he would roll into a ball on the ground. Their collective jaws would snap at him as he fought them off, kicking, punching, screaming, biting and clawing in his own right. He had managed to break a leg or two, wrestle one to the ground, poke out an eye of another, but there was always another to take that one’s place.

And always, the wolves would bite at his flesh, slashing open his back, his side, blooding gushing out of his wounds. He would shriek in pain but finally, they would clamp their jaws around an ankle, an elbow, a wrist. Then shaking their mighty heads, the wolves would tear him literally limb from limb, eating him bit by bit until he lost consciousness. Only to awake whole again. But it always started with the running.

He jumped to his feet, putting the sounds of howling and barking at his back, ready to begin again what was written as the skein of his fate. He took a single step forward but something stayed his other foot. The foot felt odd, like all of his other discombobulated parts, but underneath it, he felt a connection into the earth. Something under his very feet reached up into him, keeping him rooted there. The ground seemed warmer than before, like he’d been running south toward some more temperate land. There was a scent to these trees that roused some wisp of a recognition that sped away with a heavy breeze.

The barking and yipping drew closer and still he could step no further. He lifted his foot up to see what lay underneath, what was impeding his flight, what familiar thing was fighting back his fear. Under the white light of the moon, he saw flecks of mica in the sand that dusted his sole.

Behind him, growls heralded that the wolves had caught up to him. He set his foot back down, twisting the ball of it into the cold sand, feeling its energy feeding him strength. Then, with great deliberation, he turned toward the wolves.

This night, on this ground, he would take one of them with him and have his own feast.

Season 3: What Ends in Fire

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , on February 12, 2012 by vampirony

The Grey Wolf tore the fledgling into pieces. He sprinkled the pieces with the water of death and they instantly grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life and the fledgling shook itself and flew away with the she-crow, safe and sound. The Grey Wolf then sprinkled the pieces of the body of Tsarevich Ivan with the water of death and they grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life, and Tsarevich Ivan stood up, stretched himself and said: “How Long I must have slept!

“Yes, Tsarevich Ivan,” The Grey Wolf said, “and thou wouldst have slept forever had it not been for me…”

– Russian Fairy Tale