“Oh, good Lord!” Mariella Cruz moaned as she careened her tiny, powder blue Fiat into the parking lot.
The perky little Latina slammed on the brakes, throwing her six-foot-six partner, Niles Gule, into the dashboard. The blond vampire cursed as he gripped the grab bar to keep from being tossed out the window when the Fiat spun to a stop.
After righting himself, pulling his knees out of the dash, and smoothing his suit jacket, Niles considered what had upset his easily frazzled detective partner. They’d skidded into the middle of a parking lot surrounded by woodlands. The overhead lights cast circular pools of amber glow onto the tarmac, revealing chaos in all directions. A modern, angular building stood in front of them, lights blazing even at midnight. Niles caught glimpses of people scurrying about inside. He felt as if an anthill had been stirred with a stick.
Popping out of the car, Cruz flicked her thick, dark ponytail off her shoulder, stiffened her spine and prepared to take control of the situation in her usual, no-holds-barred manner. More slowly, Niles unfolded his long, lean body, which had never fit well in the Fiat, shook the kicks from his legs, and considered the problem.
He got no further than thinking, hell, what a mess, before a barking dog raced past him in a sprint for the woods. A woman dashed after it, yelling “Bongo! Bongo!” The pair clipped the vampire, sending him spinning against the Fiat.
Muttering invectives, Niles straightened and tried to determine what in the name of heaven was going on. Before he could do so, however, he found himself gritting his teeth when he spotted uniformed officer Jonas Williams sauntering towards him through the pandemonium. The giant man’s grin could illuminate the parking lot.
“If it ain’t the Ghoul!” Williams chortled. He planted his ham-like fists on his hips as he considered first the vampire, then the disaster. “This is gonna be good!”
Niles scowled. He brushed invisible dirt from his suit as he decided how to proceed.
Not a simple question. The nightshift of the Baltimore Police Department had been called out to a break in at the Maryland SPCA just off the Jones Highway in north Baltimore. However, the perpetrators hadn’t been after money, of which the SPCA had little. Instead, they were apparently animal rights activists who threw open all the cages and set the animals free. Three patrol cars had responded to the emergency. Officers scurried here and there rounding up escapees. Jonas, being the most senior officer on site, elected not to join in the chase but instead directed his men, not that much directing could go on with dogs, cats, rabbits and assorted other creatures bolting for freedom.
Ignoring it all, Cruz marched into the building.
Almost tripping over a man trying to catch cat, Niles followed her. Although his night vision was exquisite (he was a vampire after all), he knew better than to chase after loose animals. Most found his unique biology off putting and didn’t like him. He didn’t think running around after frightened cats would be helpful.
Not that entering the building turned out to be any better. Dogs were still loose inside the offices. A Great Dane lumbered towards him as he closed the door. It stood nearly as tall as him, all gapping mouth, loose jowls and slobber. Niles yelped and backed to the door when the dog bounded to a stop in front of him and started barking.
“Knock it off, Little Kitty,” yelled a man talking to Cruz. “Sit!”
The dog ignored him.
Little Kitty! Niles stared the huge dog in the eye. Who were they kidding?
“Nice Little Kitty,” he said, trying to smile.
Wrong thing to do.
His smile revealed his ever growing fangs. The dog flinched. Its eyes narrowed and it began to growl deep in its throat. When it bared its canines at Niles, the vampire was instinct bound to snarl back. That set Little Kitty barking, snarling and snapping. Then, to the vampire’s dismay, a huge black shadow appeared next to the Dane. Although shorter than Little Kitty, this dog was a big, beefy mound of fur. The Newfoundland woofed, flashing white teeth which set off the Dane further. More barking ensued. Niles couldn’t stop himself from flashing his own teeth back at them.
“Stop teasing the dogs, Gule!” Cruz complained when she found the source of the commotion.
Niles was plastered against the door, surrounded by two of the largest breeds of dog on the planet. When he tried to ease around them, a third dog joined the fray. A Chihuahua grabbed his pant leg and with a high-pitched snarl started to tug. Between the big dogs growling in his face and the little one dragging at his leg, Niles almost went down.
With a huff, Cruz stomped up, grasped the Newfoundland by the collar and pulled it back. “Gule, we don’t have time to play with the dogs.”
“I’m not playing!” Niles snarled, darting to put a desk between himself and the dogs.
The SPCA volunteer grabbed the Chihuahua. Holding the writhing, snapping demon from hell, he said, “They’re not normally like this. The break in is scaring them.”
Niles wanted to say something about which part of the equation was more scared than the other but bit his tongue. Straightening his clothes for the third time that night, he considered the volunteer who glared at him like he’d assaulted a baby.
“Friend of yours?” the volunteer asked Cruz, muzzling the Chihuahua with his hand.
Cruz gave a brittle smile. “Worse, Mr. Myers. He’s my partner. He and animals don’t always get along.”
To punctuate her comment, the Newfoundland woofed and tried to jerk free of his collar. Cruz hung on.
“That’s an understatement,” Bob Myers chuckled. He backed away with his angry Chihuahua as if Niles was more apt to attack it than it was to attack him.
Not appreciating the nasty vibes Myers and Cruz were sending his direction, Niles sniffed.
“Seems to me you can handle the questioning,” he said, edging towards the door. “I’ll just head outside and help with the roundup.”
Cruz lifted her brows as she struggled to keep Tiny the Newfoundland from leaping for her partner’s throat. “What do you think you can do to help?”
Niles shrugged. “I don’t know. But whatever it is, I’ll be more useful out there than in here with Cujo and company.” His hand found the doorknob and he backed outside.
Drawing a breath of relief, the vampire enjoyed the arms of night wrapping around him once again. Then a man raced by chasing a cat. Wanting to be of some use, Niles sent his night-adjusted eyes sweeping the parking lot, seeking an animal that either didn’t attack vampires or that he could control once he caught it. He was a long time looking.
Eventually, after most of the loose animals had been rounded up, Niles finally found success. With a cry of glee, he spotted his quarry. A jog across the parking lot nabbed him his prey which he proudly returned to the SPCA building.
Niles shouldered his way inside where Cruz was reviewing the security tapes with Myers. They both blinked when he entered, his prize held proudly before him.
“Caught one!” he said.
“So you did,” chuckled Myers.
Smiling, he took Ferdinand from the vampire and gently placed the tortoise in his cage.
Cruz busted up laughing.
© 2017 Newmin
Niles comments: I’m not much of an animal lover, as this tale shows. But that’s no reason why you can’t help out rescue organizations. They always need supplies, funding and volunteers. Bob volunteers by walking dogs. What can you do to help?