Gule Checks into the Hotel Transylvania

 

“You know vampires and the beach don’t mix, right?” Niles Gule asked.

His partner on the Baltimore police force, Mariella Cruz, smiled perkily, her curly black ponytail bobbing.  “I know you won’t bake yourself silly out on the sand like the rest of Maryland as a prelude to skin cancer.  Makes you smarter than the average human.”

“That goes without saying,” Niles chuckled.  “I’m a vampire, after all.”

His comment earned him a scathing look from his partner.

When Cruz screamed at the driver ahead of her, Niles dug his talons into the Fiat’s grab bar and hung on.  Cruz jerked left then right, almost clipping a delivery van as she pulled around it illegally using the shoulder.

“Not a road,” Niles muttered.

Cruz shot him an amused grin but didn’t respond.  Unconcerned that another three feet to the right would plunge her, Niles and Fifi the Fiat into Wight Bay, she tore down the causeway into Ocean City.

Although the summer was coming to a close, Ocean City at night still glowed in neon greens, reds, yellows and blues.  The Ferris wheel on the pier shimmered in multicolored LEDs while boardwalk business signs flashed in yellow and red.  Normally, as fall descended, the crowds would flee for warmer climes, but not that particular night.  The seaside village was abuzz with traffic both on the streets and on the sidewalks.   Sunfest, the beach town’s bookend to summer, was in full swing with craft vendors and musical acts running on two stages over three days.   The festival drew thousands for a final fling in the sand before winter closed in and Ocean City shut down for the season.

“Where am I going?” Cruz demanded when she arrived at Philadelphia Street, the main drag down the center of the island.

“Turn right.  Head for the inlet.”

With a deft spin of the wheel, Cruz sent her powder blue Fiat careening down the three lane street and wove expertly around vehicles traveling at a pace not to her liking—which was any speed less than eighty miles an hour.  Gritting his teeth, Niles hung on.  One didn’t live as Cruz’s partner without learning how to deal with her driving.

He was still trying to figure out what the pair of them were doing in Ocean City in the first place.  Somehow, Cruz had bullied Niles into going to Sunfest for a three day weekend.   How a tiny, hundred pound Latina could bully a six-foot-six Nordic vampire, he still wasn’t sure.  She was a puzzle.

“So explain to me how a vampire who hates the shore could get us rooms on the beach at the last minute during Sunfest,” Cruz asked.  She skidded around a Jeep by using the sidewalk and nearly killed a couple of kids on bicycles.

“I never said I hated the shore.”  Niles winced when Cruz cut too close to the walk, scaring an elderly couple who tossed their ice cream cones and leaped for safety.  “I said the beach and I don’t mix.  I can’t join you for a day of sunbathing and cavorting in the surf.  I’m more than happy to walk with you along the boardwalk at night, though.”

Cruz gave him a wicked look.  “How about cavorting in the surf at night?”

Niles’ lips curved.  “That I could do.”

“How about just some simple cavorting in the dunes?” Cruz wiggled her eyebrows.

“Not a good idea.”  Niles turned his gaze towards the passing scenery.   Crab houses and surf shops whirred by in a blur.  “I’m a vampire.  You’re a human.”

“Are you saying humans and vampires have never cavorted?”

Niles coughed.  “It’s been known to happen.  I haven’t partaken in that particular sport.”

“Not yet.”

Niles kept his face diverted so she couldn’t see how his eyes had begun to glow in soft yellow from just the thought of such cavorting.  He’d known this trip would be a bad idea.  Spending three days in a hotel room with Cruz was begging for trouble.  He might be a young vampire, but he’d lived long enough to know a sexual relationship with Cruz could only end in heartache for both of them.  He was determined to keep them at the level of warmly platonic friends.

Good luck with that, bucko!

Niles pointed to a dark, trash filled parking lot.  “Here.”

Raising a brow, Cruz considered the two story structure.  Its stucco was spray painted with a writhing mural of demonic sea creatures.  Gaping mouths full of teeth threatened to swallow the small humans swimming away in terror.  Its entrance was a giant set of shark teeth, its doorway a shark’s gullet.  Above the door was a neon sign proclaiming Neptune’s Terror, Boardwalk House of Horrors.

As she climbed from Fifi, Cruz gave Niles a quizzical look.  “Are you sure this is the place?”

Niles nodded.  “You said you didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg.  So I pulled some strings.  No complaining.”

Cruz’s face was a study of doubt, but she didn’t say anything as she followed him towards the building.

Ignoring the shark mouth, Niles headed for a small service door at the base of a set of stairs that led below ground.  The stair well was also filled with trash.  A battered, graffitied steel door stood ominously at the bottom.

Niles didn’t knock.  Instead, he tapped on the metal with his talons in a particular pattern.  After several minutes, the door opened, revealing a pit of blackness beyond.

Cruz gripped Niles with trembling fingers when the door closed behind them and left them in near perfect darkness.  She heard movement and harsh breathing.

“Nice of you to bring a snack, Guldendal,” hissed a voice.  “But it wasn’t necessary.”

Knowing the voice of a vampire, Cruz huddled closer to Niles.  She plunged a hand into her windbreaker’s pocket where she’d stuffed leftovers from dinner at Grotto’s and gripped it as if it could save her life.

“This lady is my guest,” Niles said.  “You’ll treat her with the same respect you’d treat a vampiress.”

The strange vampire snorted.

Her eyes adjusting to the dimness, Cruz made out a thin vampire hovering nearby.  He was male, but unlike Niles, was incredibly thin and ill kempt.  He sported blond hair like Niles’ but it hung in unbrushed, oily hanks to his waist.  Boney arms stuck out of a black t-shirt emblazoned with a Grateful Dead skull which his pasty face resembled.  He licked pale lips as he studied the pair.

“You might be an alpha in Baltimore,” the vampire said, “but here, you’re just another vampire.  And if I decide I’ll take that treat as payment for your rooms instead of cash, that’s my choice.”  He stuck out a taloned hand.  “I want the snack.”

Niles stiffened.  Freeing one hand from Cruz, he sought the silver knife he kept on his hip for dealing with his brethren.

Cruz knew how much Niles hated killing his own people.  So few vampires remained in the world because they’d been steadily slaughtered by humans.  If the killing continued, vampires would become extinct.  Good for humans, but a disaster for kind-hearted vampires like Niles.  She couldn’t allow these two to fight over her.

Before Niles could launch his attack, she thrust herself forward.

“I’m not a snack,” she snarled, glaring her hardest at the vampire.  “I’m a guest in your establishment and you will treat me as such.  I’m not afraid of you.”

She heard Niles draw his breath.  The strange vampire reared back, then laughed.

“Well, it’s got guts!” he chortled.  “If you’re gonna chow down on a nice, juicy human, it’s more fun to subdue it first.  Only the best for Guldendal, eh?”

Before Niles could respond, Cruz growled low in her throat.  “I am not food.  Show us our rooms.”

The vampire hissed.  His dark eyes narrowed and began to glow yellow with hunting fervor.  He licked his lips again.  His talons wriggled in preparation for the attack.

Just as he lunged, Cruz pulled her hand from her pocket.  She shoved her leftovers directly into the vampire’s face.  He screeched in pain and reeled backwards, rubbing at his eyes as he howled.  Cruz followed him, not giving him space from the handful of garlic knots she held.  The buttery sauce oozed onto her fingers when she shoved them into the vampire’s face.  With a twist, she smashed them against his cheek where they stuck as a glob of garlicky goodness.

The vampire moaned and foundered against a wall.  “All right!  All right!  Get that harridan away from me!”  Even as he curled into a self-protective ball against the wall and whimpered, he threw a set of keys at Niles.

Cruz stood over the vanquished vampire with her hands on her hips.  “Don’t even think about disturbing us, you maggot.  Next time it will be garlic mace in the eyes.”

Unable to open said eyes, the vampire blindly nodded at her.  “Roger that.  Not a snack.”

Cruz humphed and turned triumphant eyes to Niles.  “Shall we?” she asked, gesturing to the keys.

“Remind me not to make you angry,” Niles said in a bewildered voice.

Cruz nodded.  “Trust me, I will.”

Of that, Niles had no doubt.

Clutching the keys, he led her up to the top floor where the hotel rooms overlooked the beach.  As they walked, Cruz wormed her arm through his and hummed happily.  She’d battled a vampire and won.  Using only her wits and determination.  At that moment, Niles knew he was lost.  He could fight the attraction between them but he knew in the end who would win.  The only one who never surrendered.

Cruz.

 

© 2018 Newmin

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Gule Learns Some Colorful Spanish

The entire team stood dumbstruck.  Even Jonas Williams, thirty year veteran of the Baltimore PD and a man of conservative principles, gaped.  Detective Dejon Jackson, a giant black man, made a fist and seemed prepared to punch something before he reconsidered. His partner, John Krewelski, sputtered incoherently, his face turning such a deep purple, Niles feared he would suffer a stroke in the street.  The vampire, less offended than the rest of his fellows, folded his arms and tilted his head to take in the entire wall, which was, he decided, something of a masterpiece, depending upon your point of view.

“What in the name of God were they thinking?” Niles’ partner, Mariella Cruz breathed when she finally found her voice.

“I’m not sure a person of that persuasion actually thinks,” Niles replied.  He bent his back to see all the way to the top of the wall.  He wondered how anyone had reached that high.

Williams and his chubby little partner, Officer Walter Cooksey, having responded to the scene of the crime and feeling out of their depth, called both sets of detectives to tell them of their find.  No one believed them but at Williams’ insistence, the four detectives pulled themselves away from burglaries and arson to see what the fuss was about.  So there they all stood outside Rosenstein’s Jewelry Store as darkness descended upon Baltimore confronting what had to be one of the worst offenses they’d ever faced.

The crime was pretty simple.  Someone had painted graffiti across the height and breadth of the jewelry store’s side wall, a space forty feet long by two stories tall–an expanse of unbroken painted brickwork that just begged for someone to ruin it.  Solomon Rosenstein had fought a perpetual war against spray painting miscreants for close to twenty years, repainting his wall every time anyone desecrated it.  But this time, he’d decided he needed to call the police.

Because of what was written there.

“They didn’t leave a single ethnic group unscathed, did they?” Williams said with awe in his voice.

Niles shook his head.  “Nope.  I don’t believe they did.”

On the left side, the mural portrayed swastikas and a frighteningly well rendered vision of a concentration camp with “Heil Hitler” and “Death to Jews” scrawled beneath it.  Next came a picture of a wall with sombrero-wearing monkeys clambering over it and border patrol agents firing rifles at them.  Then came caricatures in black face hoeing fields and a chain gang in orange jumpsuits.  Beneath that was written, “ah, the good ole days!”   Asians were skewered next, tiny figures in conical hats laboring over rail ties while a cowboy trampled them with his horse.  Italians were depicted as mafiosos.  Catholics as pedophiles.  Muslims rounded out the tableau, showing robed people setting bombs around churches.

“I’m surprised they missed the Boy Scouts,” William jibed.

“That is beyond repulsive.”  Cruz slapped her hands against the wall and clawed it with her fingernails as if she could pull it down with her bare hands.  “You were right to call us, Jonas.  This isn’t just a property crime.  This is…. This is…”

“Heinous?” Niles offered.

The feisty Latina glared at him.  “You’re too polite.”  She spun off into a series of curses in Spanish that burned Niles’ ears even though he didn’t understand a single word.

Williams planted his beefy hands on his hips.  “Ya know where I stand on this whole immigration thing.  Illegals need to be punted right back to where they came from.  But hell!  This is stepping over the line even for me.”

Krewelski continued to flap his mouth like a beached fish.  “Some of my relatives died in the Holocaust,” he said.  “We can’t just let this go, people.”

“Who said we are?”  Niles gestured to Cooksey.  “Talk to Rosenstein.  He might have seen something.  And ask about security cameras.”  He turned around and slowly scanned the street, using his night loving eyes to seek out other security cameras.

“Over there.”  He pointed.  “I’ll track down the owner.  See if they caught anything on tape.”

Cruz hadn’t stopped swearing.  Knowing what a hot tempered little pepper she was, Niles laid a gentling hand on her shoulder.  “We’ll find who did this.”

With a jerk, she freed herself.  “It’s getting worse.  People think writing this crap is acceptable.  UMBC had a rash of racist drivel scratched into bathroom walls.”

“Someone threw a rock through a synagogue window,” Krewelski added.

“Someone burned a cross on someone’s lawn over in Mondawmin,” Jackson offered through gritted teeth.

“Well, I’ve had enough!”  Cruz darted before Niles could catch her.

She raced to her car, threw herself in it and boiled down the street, leaving the team standing on the curb gaping.

“Do we follow her?” Cooksey asked.

Williams rolled his eyes.  Grabbing his partner by the shoulder, he started for the front of the store.  “Let’s talk to Rosenstein.”

“What’s she gonna do?” Jackson asked.  The whites of his eyes flashed in the street light, indicating his concern for Cruz.

Niles shrugged.  “When she’s that mad?  Blow up a city block?”  He stared after the disappearing taillights but he could do nothing to stop her.  “I’m checking on that security camera.  Why don’t you and Krew canvass the street?”

The group scattered to question anyone they could find.  Niles was in the midst of reviewing video tape from the electronics store when he heard tires squealing in a way that could only signal Cruz’s return.  Worriedly, he hastened back to the mural to find the rest of the team also gathering.

Cruz flounced out of her car and popped the truck.  She marched towards her co-workers with her arms full of white cloth which she dumped at their feet so she could go back for another load.  As the men bent to discover the fabric was coveralls, Cruz returned toting paint rollers on long poles and a big bucket of paint.

When she shoved a paint roller at Williams, he squawked.  “I’m in uniform!”

Wordlessly, she shoved a coverall at him.

Finding five men staring at her, she drew herself up to her full, frightening five-feet-four of raging Latina and snarled, “Get dressed!”  Her dark eyes burned in her livid face.  “That mural offends every one of us.  Look at us!  We’re a Jew, a black man, a Polack, a Hispanic and a fool.”  Ignoring Cooksey’s squeak of protest, she looked Niles up and down then added, “And a vampire.”  Drawing her breath, she puffed up with pride.  “We are America.  And we’re cleaning up this mess.”

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  It’s Election Day.  As Cruz so eloquently stated:  We Are America.  We need to clean up this mess.

Image result for VOTE

 

 

 

 

 

Gule Takes a Nap

Vampires feared few places on this earth.  Since they enjoyed a life expectancy of a thousand years or more, graveyards, mausoleums and haunted houses were mere curiosities.  Vampires lurked in them not because of some ghoulish attraction to death but simply because humans avoided such places.  In the war between the species, vampires had lost.  Now they lived a ghostly existence in the empty spaces humans had abandoned.

Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore, found himself in the unusual situation of feeling uneasy as he stepped inside the gracious Victorian mansion alongside his friend Gail.  Not that the building itself was the cause of his discomfort.  It was a testament to a time when craftsmen took pride in creating elegant, sculpted spaces.  The double front doors were mahogany with inlaid stained glassed panels featuring brilliantly colored floral arrangements.  The foyer was graced with a soaring ceiling and a sinuous stairway curving around half its diameter.  Giant sprays of cut flowers perfumed the silent space.  At the cloying scent of star-gazer lilies, Niles sneezed.

Gail gripped his arm to steady herself when a somberly suited gentleman approached them on soft-soled shoes.  His name tag pronounced him Brad.

Niles refused to shake hands with Brad, not because he was a snob, but because his hands were the cold of death and frightened the average human.  He merely bowed his head regally and said, “We’re here to discuss caskets.”

Brad’s pale gray gaze flicked to Gail.  “Mrs. Mancha?  My condolences on the loss of your uncle.”

Little, gray-haired, diminutive Gail forced a quaking smile and blinked nervously.

Turning, Brad led them soundlessly through the whisper quiet mansion, past grand salons and intimate parlors decorated in tasteful muted colors.  Everything was so perfectly bland, so perfectly perfect, it set Niles teeth on edge.

“I hate funeral homes,” Gail muttered.

Niles grunted a laugh.  He heartily agreed.  The silence, pervading smell of beeswax and flowers, and the odd eternal sadness of the space weighed on his soul.  He couldn’t wait to get out of there.

He hesitated upon entering the casket showroom.  The space was just as carefully appointed as the rest of the mansion but instead of pieces of 19th century furniture, caskets marched one after another along the wall like parked cars.  He saw big ones and little ones, caskets made of dark woods and light, and even some in rose bronze.  He shuddered to think of the cost of one of those.

The entire idea of putting a dead body into such a contraption escaped the vampire.  When a Vanapir died, his relatives cremated him and used his ashes to make jewelry so they could keep their relative with them for eternity.  Not that vampires died very often.  Mostly humans killed them and when that happened, the relatives never got the body.

“Wow, these are expensive!” Gail breathed as she walked down the line.

“We do have some for the budget conscious,” Brad murmured.  He gestured to a second room.

Still gripping Niles’ arm for comfort, Gail poked her nose into the budget room.  Then, unable to help herself, she started laughing.  The budget caskets were made of paper.  And recycled paper at that.

“It looks like a tissue box!” she giggled, her nerves overcoming her.  “I can’t put Uncle Ted in something like this. The family would kill me.”

Niles tilted his head as he studied the caskets.  “Oh, I don’t know.  Uncle Ted can spend eternity reading the New York Times.”

Gail swatted him and returned to the main room.

After she’d decided on a mid-priced oak unit, Brad asked her about the size.  The version she’d picked came in small, medium, large and extra-large.

Gail pressed her fingers to her lips.  “I don’t know!  Uncle Ted was a tall man.”  She considered one casket then another.  “I don’t want to waste money buying the bigger one if he doesn’t need the extra headroom.”

Brad’s wooden smile never wavered.  He offered her no help.

Gail’s eyes ran down Niles’ tall, elegant form.  “He’s about your size.  Which one fits you?”

Niles lifted a surprised brow.  He considered the caskets.  “I’ve never actually bought a casket, Gail.  So I couldn’t answer you.”

Gail lifted the lid.  “Climb in.  See how comfortable it is.”

Niles’ blue eyes widened.  He stared at Gail.  He stared at the coffin.

“Oh, all right!”  With a shake of his head, he clambered into the coffin and stretched out.

“How’s the fit?” Gail asked.

Niles wriggled his feet.  He just barely fit.  “Fine.  This size is good.”

Gail beamed.  “Let me close it to make sure.”

Niles started to protest but she closed him up.  In the blessed darkness which was soothing to his night loving eyes, Niles found himself relaxing.  The satin cushioning really was comfortable, he thought, rutching around.  He settled the pillow behind his head and closed his eyes.  The silence was wonderful.  No wonder vampires were reputed to sleep in coffins.  He could see himself buying one for the peace and quiet.

Settling his hands on his chest, Niles dozed off.

He awoke, startled at the muffled sound of voices from beyond his coffin and wondered how long he’d drifted.  A glance at his Rolex told him only twenty minutes had passed.  Gail, apparently, had forgotten him.

Niles was just about to open the coffin when someone outside opened it for him.  A gray haired lady peered in.  Her eyes widened and she shrieked.

Before Niles or the funeral director could act, the poor woman keeled over like a fallen tree.  The funeral director choked and stumbled backwards, his hand to his heart.

Hastily, Niles scrambled from the coffin in time to catch the man before he joined his customer on the floor.  Having a vampire’s strength, he easily held the large gentleman upright and beat his back to encourage him to breath.

At the cries of alarm, Gail and Brad raced into the showroom.

Gail’s eyes widened when she saw the woman on the floor and Niles holding up the funeral director.  “Oh my gosh!  I guess I should have let you out!”

Niles eased the director to a chair and fanned his face.  “I knew it wasn’t a good idea,” he said.  “I can see the headlines now.  Vampires are rising at the Chatman-Harris Funeral Home.”

Even the implacable Brad had gone pale.

“Tell you what,” Niles offered.  “Forget all this and I’ll buy one of your damned caskets.”

Brad remained frozen, his face ashen.

Niles pointed at the rose bronze.  “That one, for God’s sake.  The most expensive in the place!”

Niles knew the minute his words permeated Brad’s brain.  The man suddenly came to life and a smile beamed from that preternaturally dour face.

“Yes sir!” he chirped, commission dollars dancing in his eyes.  “We aim to please the living and the dead!”

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  Tomorrow is Halloween!  I wish all my fans a Gulish night!

Gule Finds a Match Made in Heaven

Niles Gule frowned at the text message.

So looking forward to dinner tonight!

“I’m having dinner with someone?” the vampire murmured, his brow puckered.

“You are?” Mariella Cruz’s dark eyes studied her partner sitting at his desk.  “Gotta hot date?”

Niles twitched a supercilious eyebrow at the perky Latina police detective.  “Not that I know of.”  His brilliant blue eyes stared at the text as if it would answer his questions.

“Who’s it from?”  Cruz rutched in her chair to try to read it.  Anything for a distraction.  Phone canvassing Baltimore for witnesses to a robbery wasn’t her favorite hobby.

“I don’t know.  It’s a computer address, not a name.”

“Sounds like a scam.”  Disappointed, Cruz returned to her list of people to call.

Officer Jonas Williams peered over the vampire’s shoulder.  With his mouth full of burrito, he grunted, “That’s a Match.com text.”

Cruz’s attention shot back to her partner.  “You’re on Match.com?”  Her voice rose octaves in disbelief.

Niles scowled, affronted that anyone would think he needed an online dating service to land a woman.  Pshaw!

Williams pointed with his burrito.  “Well, that’s a Match text.  I know because…”  He reconsidered and shoved the burrito into his mouth.

Cruz’s eyes glowed with a combination of curiosity and jealousy.  “Come on, Gule.  Give.  Are you looking for a date?”

Niles snorted.  He tossed the phone onto his desk.

Williams gave Cruz a sly wink.  “It’s from Match.  I’m telling you, the Ghoul is on the prowl.”

“I am not!”

Niles threw his pen at Williams.  The big police officer took the hit and grinned as he headed for his desk.  Stuffing his burrito into his mouth to free his hands, Williams slammed his fingers against his keyboard.

Mirroring him, Cruz started typing.  Across the room, Detective Krewelski picked up on the fever and he, too, was searching.

“First one gets dinner paid by the rest of us!” the detective hooted.

Niles spun as fingers hit keyboards throughout the precinct.  “What are you doing?”

“We’re finding your profile on Match.com!”  Williams spit burrito as he chortled.

“This is so going to be good!” Krewelski laughed.  “What do you suppose a Ghoul puts in his profile?  Loves long walks in cemeteries?”

“Has a passion for blood sports!” Williams added.

“Keeps a bat as a pet,” little Officer Cooksey kicked in.

Cruz started to add her thoughts to the list, but a slap of Niles’ hand on her desk stopped her mid breath.

His long, slender body shaking with indignation, Niles leaped to his feet.  “I am not on Match.com!  Stop it!”  He waved at his coworkers.  “Right now!  Stop it!”

Eyes were feverish.  Gazes were focused.  Niles had never seen such intensity in the room.

“You people should attack your jobs with the same ferocity,” he complained.

“Yeah, we should,” Krewelski chuckled.  “But this is just too good to pass up.”

“Got him!” Williams shouted.  He pumped his fist.

Like rats to an open dumpster, everyone raced to crowd around Williams.

“Yep, that’s our Ghoul!” Krewelski said.  “Nice picture!”

Niles scowled but the crowd wouldn’t let him in to see.

Cruz read aloud.  “Adventurous Night Owl seeks Dark Lady.  Likes long moonlit strolls and classical music.  A real Renaissance man.  Prefers Shakespeare to television.  Old heart longs for company.”

When she turned, her eyes probed his.  “Sounds like you.”  Her voice had a wispy sound of disappointment.

Niles gestured at the screen as if by waving at it, he could make it vanish.  “I didn’t put it there.  Someone’s using my identity.”

Williams frowned.  “Who’d be stupid enough to steal a vampire’s identity?”  His gray eyes shot towards his partner, little Cooksey who lifted his chin in affront.

“I don’t lie on dating sites,” he insisted.  “Well, except about my height.  And my hair.  And my weight.”

Williams continued reading the posting.  “Your mysterious lady, Maineax, says you’re meeting her at the Capitol Grille at eight.”  He glanced at his watch.  “Better get moving, Ghoul.  You don’t want to disappoint the lady.”

Krewelski’s face screwed up with distaste.  “She calls herself Maineax?  Better watch yourself.  She might be even weirder than you.”

With a sign of exasperation, Niles stuffed his cellphone in his pocket.  A part of him wanted to ignore the whole, ridiculous situation because he was certain his co-workers were setting him up for a practical joke.  They were specialists at it.  But Cruz had never taken part.  If she was in on it this time, it would be a first.  As his gaze passed over her, he saw worry and hurt in her dark eyes.  No, she wasn’t in on the joke.

The night was warm and sultry as Niles stepped onto the street.  The murky smell of the Inner Harbor ran as a somber thread behind the more vibrant aromas from the many restaurants in the city.  As typical for a pleasant evening, a steady crowd of pedestrians and traffic filled the streets and sidewalks.  Horns beeped.  People laughed.  And a vampire strode swiftly amongst them, unnoticed in his dark suit.

The Capitol Grille was a swanky joint near the Inner Harbor.  Its décor was lush and understated with the vaguest flavor of Art Deco.  That night, it was packed.  People filled most of the club chairs clustered around small round tables.  The elegant bar was surrounded by both seated and standing patrons.  The gentle drone of post-work conversation filled the space while deals were finalized or days autopsied.  As Niles entered, a group of smartly dressed businesswomen, who were well into happy hour, burst into riotous giggles but he couldn’t determine why.  Men high fived when the Orioles scored on the big screen TV and one ordered a round for the bar.  More cheers ensued.

Before the host could seat Niles, a familiar face emerged from the mayhem.

“Peg?” he asked, not expecting to see the Mainer in Baltimore.

“Niles!”  Although Peg held a glass of wine, she managed to throw her arms around him.  “So glad to see you!”

“What are you doing in Baltimore?”  Niles allowed her to draw him to her table where she was inexplicably waiting alone.  That surprised him.  Peg was a silver-haired vivacious sixty-something with more energy than many women half her age.  Her spunky attitude meant she was always surrounded by friends.

“Even a Maine girl needs to escape the snow,” she said.  Her eyes twinkled.  “What are you doing on Match.com?  I couldn’t believe it when I saw your picture.”

Niles accepted the seat she offered.  “I’m not.  Someone created a profile without my permission.”

Peg’s face fell.  “Really?  Dammit!  I knew it was too good to be true.”

“I suspect Jonas Williams.”

Peg thought about the name.  “The guy who’s always tormenting you?”

Niles nodded.

He frowned when his sensitive ears picked up the sound of teeth clicking.  It was barely audible in the loud drone of conversation, but he knew it instantly.  He twisted to look around and sure enough, another familiar figure appeared from the crowd.

The individual who approached their table was beyond ancient.  He might have once been tall but was so bent over he faced the floor.  His hair was as silver as Peg’s but while hers was chopped in a fashionable bob, the arrival’s hung to his waist.  His skin clung to his fragile skeleton the way a wet tarp clung to a pile of garbage.  When he stopped at the table, he clicked his fangs against his lowers, a nasty habit Niles detested.

“Marrensten?” he nearly shouted.  “It was you?”

“It was me what?” the decrepit vampire asked, blinking up at the much younger Niles.

“You used my name and picture to pick up women?”  Niles felt his voice rising without his volition towards the high pitch of the Home Tongue.

Marrensten shrugged, not looking the least embarrassed.  “Yes.”  He gestured with his white talons at his bony body.  “I had to attract attention somehow.  Who’d ever agree to date me?”

Peg snatched up her purse.  “Not me!”

Niles winced at the look of disappointment that filled poor old Marrensten’s face.  The poor old vampire couldn’t help he was over a thousand years old.  And pathetic.  And homely.  If a vampire could cry, Niles suspected Marrensten might have started.  His dark eyes grew shiny.  Because vampires respected their elderly, Niles felt horrible that Marrensten was hurt, even if it was his own fault.

As Niles sought words to soothe the old soul, one of the drunken businesswomen staggered over.  She threw herself at Marrensten and burst out laughing.

“Come on!” she said, dragging the little vampire back to her clutch of friends.  “Help me win a bet.”

Niles started to protest, but Marrensten cut him off.  “Women are women,” he insisted, happily allowing himself to be kidnapped.  “I’ll take what I can get.”

Peg chuckled as Marrensten was swallowed up by the gaggle of women.  “All’s well that ends well,” she laughed.

Niles scratched his brow.  “I suppose.  But what now?”

Peg rose and slipped her hand under Niles’ arm.  “I was promised a date with you,” she said.  “And I’m getting what I paid for!”

 

 

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

Gule Dials 911

“Are you going to live?” Mariella Cruz asked her partner, the vampire Niles Gule.

Blinking bloodshot eyes hidden behind blacked out sunglasses, Niles muttered some sort of reply.

To his consternation, Cruz took her eyes off the road to study him.  Her expression was grim.

Being a vampire, Niles normally wore an ashen complexion, but on that drive north through the mountains of Pennsylvania, he was somewhere between ghostly white and bilious green.  His head spun and his stomach roiled, leaving him to lean limply against the car’s passenger side window and pretend to watch the autumn foliage flash by.   He was so nauseous and weak, he didn’t notice Cruz break every traffic law known to man.

The third member of their party, Walter Cooksey, sitting in the back seat, wasn’t so lucky.  The plump, balding police officer gripped the grab bar with white knuckles as Cruz charged up mountainsides and dove down the slopes at one-hundred miles an hour.  The roads picked through the Appalachians in a serpentine, creating lots of opportunities for Cruz send them all plunging to their deaths into misty valleys.  Cooksey looked nearly as nauseous as Niles after five hours of suffering from Cruz’s wild driving.

Yet somehow, Cruz’s little powder Fiat Fifi delivered them safely to the microscopic village strangely named Slippery Rock.

Few people had any reason to visit the town several hundred miles north of Pittsburgh.  It hadn’t taken part in any important historical events.  No one famous had been born there.  It possessed no valuable resources.  What placed Slippery Rock on the map was a quirk of fate and literally the throw of a dart.  When Pennsylvania decided to open public universities, the decision was made to spread them widely across the large commonwealth.  To assure fairness, darts were thrown at a map of the state and where the darts landed, a university was born.  Thus Slippery Rock became home to a state university.

With a squeal of tires, Cruz zoomed into a parking lot near the football stadium.  People walking through the lot leaped for their lives as she barreled around in search of an open spot.  When she found one, Cooksey let out a moan of relief and collapsed into a puddle of his own sweat.  Niles blinked blearily behind his sunglasses and wished he was anywhere but in Pennsylvania.

“Last stop!” Cruz chirped.  She popped out of Fifi and charged around to open the door for Niles.

The vampire slowly unfolded himself, bones aching with every movement.  Once he was upright, he leaned against Fifi and fought not to vomit.

He appreciated that the day was overcast.  Although the old canard of vampires vaporizing in sunlight was a medieval construct, it was true his body wasn’t designed to function in sunlight.  He’d receive terrible radiation burns if he stood in beneath a blazing sun with bare skin exposed.  As it was, he wore an Australian stock hat to protect his blond locks, Nordic face and pale ears.  A silk scarf protected his neck while long sleeves and trousers covered the rest of him.

“Why are we in Slippery Rock Pennsylvania?” he asked.

“Cooksey’s nephew is graduating.”  Cruz pulled a knapsack from the trunk that contained her survival supplies.  Beer, popcorn and other snacks as well as a portable DVD player.  “Since he doesn’t own a car, I volunteered to chauffeur.”

Cooksey, still reeling from the wild ride, kept his hand to his stomach.  “Remind me to consider the ramifications next time, Ghoul.”

Feeling as terrible and Cooksey looked, Niles grunted.

Cruz didn’t allow their attitudes to dampen her spirit.  “Ready?”

Niles wished his partner could see his baleful glare from behind his glasses.  “Why am I here?”

Cruz grabbed his arm and tugged him towards the stadium.  “Because you got bitten by an enchanted werewolf then tried to cure yourself by drinking wolf hair and binging on chocolate.  You’re lucky Brenda called me to check up on you.  I found you face first in the carpet of your hotel room.  You might have died.  I certainly couldn’t leave you there like that.  So I’m your nursemaid for the day.”

Niles shot her another evil glare but didn’t fight her as she propelled him towards the auditorium where the graduation was being held.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, keeping a tight grip on his arm.

Niles admitted he was starting to recover.  The chocolate binge left its typical hangover but the ringing in his ears was diminishing.  Meanwhile, he wasn’t consumed with an insatiable desire to gobble up children, which was the enchantment the werewolf placed on him.

“I think I’m going to live,” he said grudgingly.  “And I think the wolf hair worked.”

His words put a brilliant smile on Cruz’s luscious red lips.  Lips that just demanded to be kissed.

Yep, I’m feeling better, Niles thought.  That made him walk straighter

Cooksey trotted ahead of them.  When he spotted a strange art display, he diverted towards it.  Planting his hands on his hips, he tilted his head to consider it.

“What do you suppose that is?”

The installation consisted of an angular stone base with a flat top.  Jutting up from it were two curved metal beams between which hung a metal circle with the number 93 in the middle of it.

“Looks like a class gift,” Cruz commented.  She was too busy shepherding Niles to bother with an art installation.

Cooksey beamed up at the number above him.  “I graduated in 93,” he said.  With that, he clambered up onto the platform, using the various stones as toeholds.   He stood with his arms akimbo, his feet planted wide, looking like a short, chubby superman surveying his domain.

When a pair of students walked past Niles and Cruz, Niles noted the angry glares they gave Cooksey.

“Best get down,” he said.  “You’re insulting the artwork.”

Cooksey wriggled a finger.  “Not until you take a picture of me.  I want to send it to mom.  Remind her of when I graduated college.”

Another student staggered to a stop, gaped at Cooksey open mouthed, then stormed on, muttering.

“Just take his picture already,” Cruz complained, also noting the increasing sense of fury coming from the people who walked past.

Niles fished his cellphone from a pocket and hastily framed a picture.  Cooksey puffed out his chest and looked off into the distance, Mighty Mouse on his planet.

“Ok, get down.”  Cruz held out her hand.

“Yes, get down already!” a young man wearing sweats with the school logo shouted.  “Don’t you have any respect?”

Cooksey landed heavily then straightened, a gnome come down to earth.  He remained puffed up with price.  “Of course I do.  I respect the class of 93.  I was one of them.”

The student huffed.  “If you were, then you’re dead.”

Cooksey’s brow puckered.  He considered the sculpture, then the student again.  “Why’s that, dumbass?”

The student threw back his shoulders.  Niles guessed he was an athlete of some sort because he was huge.  He glared at little Cooksey with complete disgust.

“Everyone died on 93,” he said.

Cooksey continued to look confused.  “Huh?”

Only then did Niles put the pieces together.  With a groan, he grabbed Cooksey by the arm and hauled the little man away from the structure.  He smiled his apology to the student as he hustled for safety.

“Hey!” Cooksey complained, wrenching himself free of the vampire’s grasp.  “What is wrong with everyone?”

Niles was now giving the little man the same glare as everyone else.  “You’re being disrespectful, Walter.  That isn’t an art installation or a class gift.”

Twisting around as he was dragged forward, Cooksey studied it.  “What is it then?”

Niles rolled his eyes.  “It’s a memorial.  The base is a pentagon.  The two towers are the Two Towers.  And the 93 is for Flight 93, you idiot.  You were dancing on a 911 memorial!”

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

Gule Howls at the Moon

“Are you sure this will work?” Niles Gule demanded.  He was grumpy, in pain, and didn’t care that he sounded surly.

“Don’t know.”  His perky blonde driver gave him a beaming smile.  “Can’t hurt to try though, can it?”

The vampire bared his fangs in annoyance then turned his blue gaze out at the forest.  He sat in the passenger seat of Brenda’s van as she drove through the winding hills of Lancaster County, PA in the falling darkness.  He still nursed his injured hand against his chest.  It throbbed with every pothole they hit.  Three days ago he’d been bitten by an enchanted werewolf under the control of a witch named Bessie McGill.  Since that day, Niles had found himself struggling to remain focused on his job as a consulting detective for the Baltimore Police.  He couldn’t allow the fact that he was a vampire to stand in the way of his work.  He was trying to be a good vampire.  An upstanding citizen vampire.

Getting bitten had changed that.

Now Niles was consumed with a desire to eat children.  He knew Bessie had cast a spell over him because he’d never lusted after children before.  Adults yes.  Children, however, were little more than a snack.   Yet now, Niles found himself envisioning biting into scores of children.  He shuddered each time it happened, gripped himself with every ounce of his strength and remained by force of will on a child free diet.  The cravings were Bessie’s doing.  She’d enchanted him with that wolf bite.  Made him desire what she desired.  He didn’t want to know why.

“If you aren’t sure, why are we doing this?” He glared at Brenda, knowing he was being nasty to someone just trying to help, but unable to stop.  An injured vampire was a cranky vampire.

Brenda shrugged.  “It’s a saying.  Hair of the dog that bit you.  If you get bit by a werewolf, you need to swallow its hair to remove the curse.”  She patted the thermos that sat between them.  “I’ve got some hot chocolate so you don’t gag getting it down.”

Niles groaned.  “Why not bourbon?”

“No alcohol on the sanctuary grounds.”  She said it so brightly, he wanted to smack her.   “I’ve got marshmallows and Hershey bars too.  We can make smores at the bonfire.”

Niles felt his mood brighten.  Chocolate!  Vampire heroin.  If he was going to be miserable, enchanted and in pain, he could at least be high doing so.

Brenda pulled into the Wolf Sanctuary of PA behind a line of other vehicles.  They parked in a field, Brenda retrieved the lawn chairs and her pack of munchies, and they set off for the wolf cages.

The Wolf Sanctuary was located on 80 acres of woodland in the remote north end of the county.  The facility was a shelter for wolves and wolf-dog hybrids that had lost their homes, usually by being relinquished from private owners.  Because these animals couldn’t be returned to the wild, the sanctuary took them in.  Over 30 wolves called the sanctuary home.  They lived in several packs that roamed fenced territories to keep them separated.

To finance the expensive operation, the family offered guided tours during the day.  Once a month they held a moonlight tour around the time of the full moon.  When Niles discussed his werewolf bite problem with Brenda on Facebook, (Yes, Niles has a Facebook page.  Check it out.  You can talk to him), she remembered the tale of the hair of the dog.  And thus the trip in the dark of night to the sanctuary with her injured, irritable vampire in tow.

After Brenda set up a small camp area near the raging bonfire, she gestured to the sanctuary.  “There they are.  32 wolves.”

Niles’ blue eyes swept over the facility, his night adjusted eyes seeing clearly in the dark.  He noted the tall, chain fencing that encircled each enclosure.  Hordes of visitors packed up tight to those fences to take pictures and gawk at the animals while volunteers patiently answered questions about the wolves.

No, they aren’t dogs.  They don’t like people the way dogs do.  In the wild they would eat deer, moose or elk, but at the sanctuary they ate whatever local butchers were willing to donate.  Most nights they ate better than the volunteers.

The vampire studied the wolves.  The majority was gray wolves, but some timber wolves and hybrids were mixed in.  The animals milled about working the hierarchy of the pack.  They ignored the humans ogling them.

“How do I know if one of them is a werewolf?” Niles asked.

Brenda shrugged.  “I don’t know.  You’re the…” She caught herself before she blurted out vampire.  “… expert on magical creatures.”

“I guess I’ll go find myself some hair of the dog,” he muttered.

Leaving Brenda to warm herself beside the fire, Niles trudged up the hill towards an area of the facility cloaked in darkness.  Just to be sure no one bothered him, he gave hard stares at every human he saw, willing them to ignore him.  He seldom used the vampiric ability to mesmerize prey anymore.  He considered it humiliating to hypnotize humans, but just this once he made an exception.  When he had everyone turned away, crooning about the beautiful the full moon, he agilely climbed the fence and dropped into the enclosure.  He found some wolf fur on a branch where they’d scratched their backs.  He grabbed it, shoved it in a pocket and raced back to the fence.

He heard the wolves too late.

One snarled and leaped.  Niles jumped for the fence and gripped the top of it.  The wolf snagged him by the pant leg.  Kicking to free himself, Niles used his incredible strength to pull himself to the top of the fence, dragging the wolf with him.  In frustration, he bared his fangs at the wolf.  The wolf glared back and doubled down on its bite.  Niles cuffed it across the nose and gave his leg a shake.  The wolf snarled one last time then let go.  With a grunt of annoyance, it trotted back to its pack.

Niles scrambled over the fence and dropped to safety.

The vampire limped back to the bonfire where Brenda had her toasting sticks and hot chocolate ready.  She took the tuft of fur from Niles, and stirred it into the thermos, all the while eyeing his shredded pant leg.

“Don’t say it!” he growled, throwing himself into a lawn chair.

Brenda didn’t say a word as she handed him the thermos.  Then she retrieved her toasting stick from the fire and made a smore out of the toasted marshmallow.

Niles closed his eyes as he savored the sweet hot chocolate running down his throat.  He was in such bliss he didn’t notice the clod of fur until he choked on it.  He got it down with difficulty.  Then Brenda handed him a smore.  With a sigh of contentment, he munched on that, knowing he shouldn’t.  Brenda made him three more and he finished off the entire thermos of chocolate.  When the folk singer asked for people to sing along, Niles warbled with the best of them, the chocolate hitting his blood stream and making him giddy.

When the sanctuary closed, a tolerant Brenda assisted Niles to his unsteady feet and led him to the car.  He missed hearing the wolves howl at the moon.  He missed the long drive to the motel.  He missed Brenda wishing him good night.

He didn’t know if the hair of the dog worked.

And he didn’t care.

He fell face first to the carpet.

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  The Wolf Sanctuary is a great place to visit.  The moonlit madness nights are really enchanting.  After visiting the wolves when they are their most active, visitors can sit around the blazing bonfire, toast marshmallows and sing.  When you leave, pause by your car and wait.  When all the people have gone and the world has come quiet again, you’ll hear them.  The wolves howling at the moon.

Enchantment!

 

https://wolfsanctuarypa.org/

 

 

 

Gule Gets His Fur Ruffled

The scene was indeed gruesome even for a vampire.  Said vampire, Niles Gule, who worked for the Baltimore police department as a detective, studied the mess with a pained expression on his aristocratic features.  His blue eyes, designed for night vision, swept the woods for evidence while his team waited behind him.  No one would approach the body until Niles had finished his survey.

Not every police department had the luxury of employing a vampire.  Baltimore used its personal vampire extensively on crime scenes such as this, a body found in a remote patch of forest in the middle of the night.  Before the coroner approached the body, before the crime scene technicians performed their magic on the surrounding area, the police allowed their vampire to survey the scene and indicate evidence before it could be trampled in the dark.

He pointed to the left.  “Some bits of clothing over there.”  His eyes swept to the right.  “Running shoe under the bush.  Bones there, there, there and there.” As he pointed, he drew his conclusions.  “Arm, finger, scapula, jaw.”

His boss, Sergeant Tan Lo, stood at his side.  “Ripped to pieces.”

Niles nodded.  “I believe that’s what our witness claimed.”

Officer Jonas Williams, a giant of a man who stood nearly as tall as the vampire, huffed.  “He claims it was a werewolf.”  His voice oozed with disbelief.

The hunter who’d called in the body protested.  “I’m telling you want I saw.  It was a werewolf.”

“How do you know it was a werewolf?” Williams demanded.  “Maybe it was just a normal wolf.”

“We don’t have normal wolves in Maryland,” Lo said.  “We don’t have abnormal wolves either.”

“We have coyotes!”  Little Officer Cooksey offered his opinion in a high-pitched voice.

“It wasn’t any damned coyote!”  The hunter stomped the ground with the butt of his rifle.  “I’ve been hunting these woods for twenty years.  I know what a dog or a coyote looks like.  This was a man who transformed into a wolf.  I watched him.”

“What happened to his clothes?”  Niles looked around.  “If a man transforms into something, he’s gonna leave his clothes behind.”

“You would know!”  Williams scoffed.

Niles knew he was referring to the myth that vampires transformed into bats.  He didn’t bother to correct Williams.  It wasn’t worth the effort.

“I saw a werewolf!”  The hunter spat.  “It went that way.”

The hunter stabbed a finger off to the left.  Then he turned it upwards as he walked away.

Niles’ sensitive ears caught the sound of rustling in the underbrush.  His eyes glimpsed a low dark shape dash away into the darkness.

“Hell! There it goes.  I’m on it!”

Before Lo could open his mouth to protest, the vampire launched himself after the fleeing shape.

Niles’ body flushed with hunting fervor as he sprinted through the undergrowth after his prey.  His cold blood sang in his ears and he felt a primordial urge to howl in Vanapir.  He hadn’t hunted like this in years.  If he was indeed on the trail of a werewolf or a normal wolf for that matter, it was fair game for a vampire.  He would catch it.

The thing he chased raced over a hump then down into a shallow ravine with a muddy run at the bottom.  It ran up the next slope.  Niles stumbled when from out of the darkness a large wooden sign simply appeared in his path as if it had grown out of the forest floor.  He swore it hadn’t been there a moment before.  It read:

 

Niles Cabin Trail > 0.9 Mi

 

The vampire’s ordinarily cold body iced over.  The werewolf was gone but the sign was there, lost in the depths of the forest for no known reason.  Niles unsheathed his hunting knife.  This was no longer a werewolf hunt.  Someone was taunting him, playing a game.  Moving ahead more cautiously, Niles kept his eyes sharp for movement or ambush.  Yet the woods were calm, leaves fluttering lightly in a gentle breeze.

He came to a stop when the remains of a stone cabin reared out of the darkness.  He sensed great age in the mossy stones.  The area around it was overgrown with trees, which made him think it had been abandoned for a century or more.  Perhaps for as long as he’d been alive.  His long, white fingers tightening on his knife, he stepped towards it.

The door stood as a black hole, beckoning him inside.  He sent the knife in first then followed it.

The wolf leaped at his hand, clamping its teeth hard into his white flesh.  Niles yelled and ripped his hand free then stabbed hard with his knife.  The wolf shimmered for but a moment before it vanished.  Niles stood panting, his hand oozing clear blood, as he waited for another assault.

“It’s not every night a lady gets a visit from a vampire.”  The warm, feminine voice made Niles leap.

He whirled to find a tiny woman almost as round as she was tall sitting on what had once been a hearth.  He recognized the steel gray hair, the dark beady eyes.  The round form.

“Bessie McGill!”  The name came on a breath

“Niles Gule!”  She motioned to the cabin.  “Welcome to your cabin.”

“It’s not mine.”  Niles’ eyes darted around, expecting an attack but uncertain from where.

“Oh, but it is!  I made it especially for you.”

Niles shivered, sensing the magic this woman could weave, magic that surrounded the cabin and made it corporeal.  He’d encountered Bessie before, at her house.  A lovely little cottage designed to capture children so that she could eat them.  He’d hoped never to encounter her again.

Niles gestured back the way he’d come.  “The werewolf didn’t exist, did it?”

The woman cackled.  “Yes and no.  The man was killed by a werewolf, it’s true.  But it was merely a phantasm.  He tore himself to pieces fighting off a figment of his own imagination.”

“Aided by you.”  Niles didn’t hide the contempt from his voice.

She swept her hand before her in a parody of a bow.

The vampire gestured to the ruins.  “Just as you’ve conjured this in my mind.”  At her nod, he bared his fangs, stubby though they were, and hissed at her.  “To trap me I presume.”

“To entice you to me,” she purred.

“Why?”

“I have need of a vampire’s skills, my love.”

Niles’ body quivered at the endearment, sensing the magic in even her words.  “No.”  He fought to spit out that one simple word.  “You’ll not enchant me.”

“I already have, Niles.”  The witch’s dark eyes danced merrily.  She waved her hands and the cabin vanished.  Niles found himself alone in the deepest woods, no cabin, no werewolf and no Bessie McGill.

He raised his head and yelled at the sky.  “I won’t do whatever it is you want!”

“Oh yes you will!”  The voice fluttered on the breeze like the leaves.

A rush of panic set his heart racing.  Niles suspected she’d already cast her magic upon him.  He stared at his hand that pulsed with pain from the wolf bite.  He swore.

“I’ll find a way to break the spell, Bessie!”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll try,” laughed the voice.  “I do love a smart vampire.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Gule Hits the Bricks

Young Josh Mendenhall’s face was nearly as white as his newly inherited client’s when he ushered the vampire inside.  As that vampire, Niles Gule, entered the opulently appointed waiting room, he wondered if he’d erred in setting up this meeting.  Josh’s father had been one of the few humans in Baltimore to know Niles’ secret and had clearly passed the word to his son upon his retirement.  Suspecting the reception he’d receive, Niles had brought his partner on the police force, perky little Mariella Cruz along with him for moral support.   Josh’s.

Cruz glanced at her watch.  “Will this take long?  I’ve got a hundred things to do tonight.”

Niles sighed.  Cruz ran at only one speed, the speed of light.  She’d damn near killed the two of them on the drive to Federal Hill.  Now she was tapping her toe and fidgeting.  He had an urge to smack her.

“It’s usually an hour.”  Niles glanced at Josh for confirmation, but the young man stood pale and silent.

Cruz huffed as if Niles had just dumped the weight of the world on her shoulders.

With an urbane smile, Niles turned to Josh.  “Pleased to meet you.”

Josh gulped.  His hands darted into the pockets of his chinos, then out to fuss with his tie, then back to his pockets.

Niles offered the poor beleaguered soul a way out.  “I don’t normally shake hands.” He wriggled his fingers in the air.  “Humans find my icy handshake unnerving.”

“And maybe those talons,” Josh whispered.

Niles considered his long, white talons.  They made his hands look elegant in his opinion.

With a second nervous gulp, Josh ushered his client into his inner sanctum, a large office lined with bookshelves and filing cabinets.  A sleek computer monitor stood sentinel atop the enormous mahogany desk.  A miniature bronze replica of the Merrill Lynch bull glared across the tooled leather surface.

Josh plunked into his chair behind the desk.  His hands fretted with each other since there was nothing on the desk to play with.

“Well… yes… um… my father explained the situation, Mr…”

“Gule,” Niles replied with a gentle smile.  “Niles Gule.”

“That you are… well… that you’re apparently a vampire.”

Niles smiled.  “I don’t bite.  I promise.”

Josh flinched.  Beads of sweat appeared on his brow which he hastily wiped off with the back of his hand.

Niles decided to help the poor lad out.  “Listen, Josh.  I’m not going to attack you.  Or turn you into a vampire, or transform into a bat, or any of that medieval nonsense.  Your father was my financial planner.  As you can imagine, given my life expectancy, I need a lot of financial planning.”

Josh drew a deep breath to calm himself.  The smooth demeanor of the financial professional fell over him as he did so.

“I’m like any other client,” Niles added.

Josh shot him a look.  “Well, not really!  I mean, seriously, Mr. Gule.  We don’t have financial planning models that go out a thousand years.”

Niles chuckled.   “We’ll work with what you’ve got.   Your job is to explain to me why enjoying my retirement in a thousand years is more important than enjoying life now.”

“Are you alive?” Josh squeaked.

The chuckle continued.  “Definitely.”  Niles settled into his chair.  “And once you’ve convinced me to prioritize my future retirement sometime in the year three thousand, you can also explain why I should believe anything you say, because if you were such a great financial planner, you’d be retired by now.”

Josh bolted upright.  “I’m twenty-six!”

Niles’ smile deepened.  “You’re an infant.”

Deciding he’d had enough fun with the young man and Josh was, if not comfortable, at least not in sheer terror of him, Niles dove into questions about his portfolio of ill-gotten gains from his misspent youth eating people and stealing their money.  The hour went by quickly, with Josh explaining the current economic situation—steady—and his outlook for the future—lots of potential inflation if the tax cuts and tariff wars escalated.  He recommended some changes which Niles duly accepted.

When they finished, both men rose and Josh extended his hand automatically.

With a wry smile, Niles returned the gesture, shaking Josh’s hand.  Josh shuddered at his cold touch, but smiled bravely and thanked Niles for having confidence in him.

Cruz popped out of her chair the moment Niles appeared in the waiting room.  Without a word to Josh, she grabbed Niles by the arm and hauled him to the door.  Then she trotted down the outside stairs and jogged to her car.

Knowing to delay would frustrate her, Niles hastened after her and folded himself into her tiny blue Fiat.

With a squeal of timing belts, Cruz pealed from her parking space and darted into nighttime traffic.  She was soon sailing along much too fast down residential streets towards center city.  Niles gripped the grab bar and hung on.

As they were whizzing down Key Avenue, something crashed hard into the passenger side window, frightening Niles half to death.  Broken glass sprayed over him followed by a brick landing in his lap.

“What the hell?”  Cruz slammed on the brakes.

Without considering if any traffic was coming, she leaped from the car and raced along the sidewalk, seeking the miscreant who’d thrown the brick.  Niles quickly followed her, carrying the brick in one hand and brushing his suit clean of glass with the other.

Cruz found a boy of about ten standing beside a derelict warehouse with bricks strewn around its crumbling feet.

“Did you throw that brick?” she demanded.

Niles expected the boy to lie but he didn’t.  His eyes flashed in the glow of a nearby street light.  “Yes, ma’am, I did.”  His proper speech surprised Niles.

“We’re cops!” Cruz snarled.  “You could have killed us.”

“I didn’t mean to!”

Niles touched Cruz’s arm to keep her from launching herself at the boy.  “Why did you throw the brick, son?”

The boy sniffed and rubbed his nose with his sleeve.  “I needed someone to stop.  I’ve been trying to flag down a car for an hour but no one would stop!”

Niles’ stance softened.  “Why did you need a car to stop?”

The boy sniffed again.  “Because of my brother.”

When he saw the looks of confusion on the adults’ faces, he pointed.  Niles noted a black mound along the curb.  It moved restlessly.

“He fell out of his wheelchair,” the boy continued.  “I’m not strong enough to get him back in it.”

While Cruz looked sheepish, Niles dropped the brick, strode to the fallen child, lifted him easily, and carried him to the wheelchair that waited on the sidewalk.  The brother was developmentally disabled and unable to speak, but his brother thanked Niles profusely.

“We can give you a ride home,” Cruz offered.

The boy shook his head.  “We live just up there.”  He assured himself that his brother was okay then set off pushing him towards home.

Cruz stood watching them with chagrin on her face.  “Okay, that was a life lesson.”

Niles nodded.  He picked up the brick and pretended, gently, to knock Cruz upside the head with it.

“Sometimes you need to remember to slow down, Cruz.  Or fortune will hit you upside the head to remind you.”

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

 

Gule for Sale

Since vampires were universally loathed by humans, Niles Gule was left with the hard work of rehabilitating his species’ reputation single handedly.  His brethren had waged war against humans for a thousand years, killing them, drinking their blood, terrorizing them on dark and stormy nights. Of course, the carnage had gone both ways.  Humans had stalked, staked, crucified and sunburned hundreds of vampires over the centuries, leaving vampires justified in their rage.  Niles, in his naïveté, being a youngster of only one-hundred-fifty-eight years, was on a crusade to end the dispute.  Vampires weren’t required to hunt and kill humans nor were humans required to hunt and kill vampires.  If vampires simply stopped munching on their neighbors, peace could reign over the earth, unicorns would cavort in forest glades and rainbows would embellish the sky.

Well… in a young vampire’s dreams it could happen…

Which explained why Niles had volunteered for the annual gala dinner to raise money for children’s charities being sponsored by the Baltimore Police and Fire Departments.  He considered his service one small step of vampire kindness towards humans.  Not that anyone in the crowded ballroom had a clue the tall, elegant, Nordic man selling raffle tickets was a vampire.  Niles didn’t advertise his racial makeup.  He preferred to do what earned him scorn by his cousins; he tried to pass as human.

That evening he wore his evening best, a custom tailored Tom Ford black suit and jacket paired with a Jerry Garcia How Fine purple tie and a Rolex watch (stolen from someone at some point in his past life).  His corn colored hair was short and neat and like all vampires, he was clean shaven.  His brilliant blue eyes cut a swathe through the room, devastating most of the women, and a goodly number of the men.  His sultry expression won him not only melting come hither looks from the ladies, but an astonishing haul of money in his ticket pail.  He merely cruised up to a gaggle of ladies dressed in iridescent sequined gowns, smiled provocatively, and asked if anyone wanted to buy something.  He was astonished by the creativity of the women’s suggestions.  He had no idea humans were so… inventive… when it came to sexual innuendo.

The event was fleecing the well-heeled of Baltimore at an incredible rate.  While Niles picked pockets selling fifty-fifty and raffle tickets, a silent auction was garnering bids for bottles of wine, weekend spa treatments and tickets to Orioles games.  When he cruised past the table and glanced at some of the bids, Niles’ eyes widened.  Many a charity’s sponsor would go home happy that evening, he thought.

In the second ballroom, laughter erupted in waves followed by the rat-a-tat patter of an auctioneer.  The high stakes prizes were for sale in there.  Original artwork.  An antique car.  Cruises to Europe.

When he sold his last ticket, Niles cut through the throng and approached the business end of the room where the Ladies’ Auxiliary were holding forth managing the evening’s program.

Juliette Fountaine’s gorgeously painted eyes swept up at his arrival and her ruby lips curved into a welcoming, licentious smile.  “Niles!  How’s it going?”  She adjusted her normally high pitched voice into something throaty just for him.

Niles set the pail of money on the table.  “I’m sold out, Mrs. Fountaine.  They picked me clean.”

The woman’s dark eyes brushed down his long, lean form.  “I suspect they enjoyed it,” she murmured.

Niles’ lips twitched but he maintained his urbane expression.  “Probably.”

She flicked a burgundy painted claw towards the auction room.  “Since you’ve done your duty, why don’t you enjoy the fun?  Might be something you’d like to bid on.”

With a nod, Niles accepted his dismissal from service and sauntered into the auction room.

The space was filled with people eating canapés from small plates, sipping wine from crystal glasses, chattering and laughing.  Niles slipped through the crowd, nodding and smiling to people he knew, accepting lascivious looks from some he didn’t, until he arrived near the stage where the auctioneer stood.

Julia Fountaine, Juliette’s sister, draped in a black velvet gown, stood atop the stage as she brandished a microphone and exhorted the crowd to bid high.  Niles stopped, surprised to discover just what was for sale.  A huge, brute of a man in evening clothes who was, incongruously, flushed red to his neck.  A whisper to the lady next to him told Niles the man was a fire fighter who’d been strong-armed into putting himself up for sale.

Laughter continued as various ladies bid on the poor gentleman who gracious grinned and displayed his muscles.  When the final bid was called, he breathed a huge sigh of relief and leapt from the stage to disappear into the crowd.

“Who’s next?” Julia asked, scanning the crowd.  “Come on, fellas!  It’s for a good cause.”

Niles flinched when an arm grasped his and shoved him forward several steps.  He whirled around to find Jonas Williams, his co-worker on the police force, grinning like an idiot as he used his bulky body to push the more slender vampire into the spotlight.

“Mr. Gule!” Julia crowed, extending her hand to grab Niles’ before he could snatch it away.  “Now here’s a gentleman worth bidding on ladies!”

With Julia clutching his hand, Williams shoving him from behind and the entire world looking on, Niles found himself on the stage blinded by spotlights.  His eyes immediately watered.  He could see nothing except that blaze of light and the shifting shadows of the crowd around him.

“What service are you offering?” Julia asked him.

“Excuse me?”  Niles couldn’t even get her face to focus.

“We can’t sell you, Mr. Gule.  That would be illegal.”  Julia’s voice purred as if she liked the idea anyway.  “So you need to offer a service that the ladies can bid on.”

Niles stood dumb, having no idea how to answer the blatantly provocative request.  Finally, he burbled the first thing that came to mind.  “I can detail a car.”

“There you go, ladies!”  Julia laughed.  “Mr. Gule will wash, wax and detail your car.  For a small fee.  Open up those wallets.  Let’s bid.”

Still blind, Niles stood on the stage while Baltimore’s wealthiest ladies bid on him.  He was grateful vampires couldn’t blush otherwise he would have been redder than the poor fireman who’d preceded him.  The bids were yelled gleefully and laughter raced around the room as women fought over the chance to buy the gorgeous man for a day.  He tried not to hear some of the suggestions about services he could provide beyond a car wash.  He wanted to die right there.

“Sold!” Julia announced.  “For five thousand, three hundred dollars to the lady in red.  Congratulations!  And thank you.  The March of Dimes will really appreciate your gift.”

A woman’s hand grasped Niles’ and eased him from the stage.  As he blinked to see, Niles wondered why his buyer was being so solicitous of him since whoever she was couldn’t possibly know he was a vampire and blinded by the spotlights.  An arm curled around his waist and helped him through the crowd.

Finally his eyes cleared and Niles found himself gaping at his own partner on the police force, Mariella Cruz.

“Cruz?  You bought me?”

She grinned.  “Yeah.  Fifi needs a wash.”

Niles was about to ask how the little Latina, who struggled to aid her giant Mexican American family’s finances could afford such an outrageous bid.  Then his eyes fell on Williams.  Niles knew that although Williams was a low paid police officer, he’d inherited from a rich aunt and could afford such extravagances.  His nemesis’ gray eyes were twinkling.

“You!” Niles growled.

Williams nodded.  “Yep.”  He elbowed the vampire and wiggled his eyebrows.  “I thought I’d help the two of you out.”  He pressed his hand to his chest.  “Call me a fool!  I’m a firm believer in true love.”

He chortled as he walked away.

Niles found himself standing alone with Cruz.  Her dark eyes sparkled as she gripped his arm.

“Come on, Niles,” she murmured.  “You owe me a night’s service.”

 

© 2017 Newmin