Gule is Clipped

The vampire twitched his lips as he weighed the various options.  That one had extra horsepower but seemed too large.  The machine next to it was electric and he’d heard stories about electric power equipment, none of them good.  Not that Niles Gule knew a thing about power equipment.  He’d lived most of his century and a half in cities where grass feared to grow.

“I guess I’ll take that one,” he said to the man in the orange vest who stood beside him in the Home Depot garden center.

Having no idea he was aiding a vampire buy a lawn mower, the man located the appropriate box with a pallet lifter and took it to check out.  Ten minutes later, Niles was striding out of the parking lot with the box in his arms.  Good thing night had fallen and the store was nearly closed, he thought.  The handful of people leaving stared at him as he carried the heavy box.  What had required a pallet lifter for a human to move, the vampire handled with ease.  He hoped the people who watched him assumed the giant box weighed less than it looked like it should.  He didn’t need the locals shouting vampire! to the world.

He found himself whistling as he ventured along Dundalk Ave in east Baltimore. The night was hot and steamy.  A blanket of thick, tropical air had fallen over Maryland, driving those with air conditioning inside and those without out.  As he jaunted along the avenue, Niles noticed a number of families sitting on their stoops, chatting, smoking, calling to people driving past in the street.  Many stared hard at him.  He knew he didn’t fit the neighborhood.  Tall, athletic, Nordic blonde with brilliant blue eyes, Niles was the epitome of a privileged white man in a neighborhood filled with few Caucasians and even less privilege.

When he arrived at his destination, a neighborhood of tired bungalows with postage stamp yards, he set his box behind a bush and set off in search of gasoline.  The closest convenience store was a High’s off German Hill Road.  Since Niles had never learned to drive, he always walked or took public transportation.  He didn’t mind walking.  He could stretch out his long legs and cover distance in a hurry, never breaking a sweat because even in that steamy heat a vampire never lost his cool.

The long walk meant Niles did not return to his hidden lawn mower until nearly one in the morning.  He broke into the box, using his stubby, filed down fangs to rip open the staples that held it closed, then unfolded the lawn mower and read the directions.  A little gasoline.  A few pumps of the primer button.  Two tugs.  Four horsepower roared to life.

Grinning, stupidly pleased with himself, Niles pushed the lawn mower through the garden gate and onto the lawn of the house he’d targeted.  The night was airless, moonless and dark but the vampire had no trouble seeing the sea of grass that encircled the bungalow.  The stuff was thick and probably four inches tall, too tall for a suburban lawn.  Because it choked the lawn mower, Niles had to walk slowly. That annoyed a man used to covering ground with his long legs.  The work was not the most pleasant, he decided, this being the first lawn he’d ever mowed.  He could understand why people hired services to handle the chore.  But he wasn’t going to stop now that he’d gotten into a rhythm.  He worked his way up the small yard, spun around and came back.  Then up and back.  Up and back.

He cursed when a light flicked on inside the bungalow.  He had about four swipes to go and he could have finished, stealing away into the night as secretly as he’d come.  Alas, his prank had been found out.  He kept mowing as the light over the back door blazed and a figure in a fluffy bathrobe appeared.

“Gule!”  Mariella Cruz hissed the name as if she needed to whisper.  He barely heard it over the roar of the engine.  “What in the name of God are you doing?”

Niles decided he’d better talk to her or she’d be hell to work with on their next shift.  She was his partner on the police force.

He killed the engine and waved at the mower.  “I’m mowing your mom’s yard.”

“I can see that!”  Her hands landed on her curvy hips.  “Why are you mowing the yard?”

“Because it needed to be mowed.”  Niles wondered why she’d asked.  The lawn hadn’t been touched in three weeks.  It really did need a trim.  Just like his fangs.

Cruz tromped towards him, her hands on her hips.  “It’s one in the morning!”

A light came on in a neighbor’s house.

Niles looked up at the night sky and shrugged.  “Yes.”

Cruz shook her head with her hand to her forehead.  “Lord, Gule.  People don’t mow their lawns in the middle of the night.”

“Vampires do.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Yes, well, no one in this house is a vampire, and we all try to pretend like we don’t actually know any vampires.  You’re supposed to be acting like a human, not a vampire.  So stop mowing!”

Niles felt himself deflate.  “I was just trying to help.  A random act of kindness, Cruz.  You said your mom’s mower died and no one in the family had money to buy another one.”

“So you decided to sneak over here and mow it for us?”  Cruz’s lip began to twitch.

Niles nodded.

“In the middle of the night.”

“When else would I do it?”

Cruz grunted.  “When indeed.”

“It was supposed to be a surprise,” Niles said in a sulky tone.  “My gift to your mother.”

“A surprise.”  Cruz drew a mighty sigh.  “Gule!  Half the neighborhood knows you mowed the lawn.  That mower makes enough noise to wake the dead.”

Niles considered the mower.  He honestly hadn’t thought about the noise.  He’d just envisioned Mama Cruz waking up on Mother’s Day to find her overgrown yard nicely mowed by parties unknown.  He shrugged.

Cruz gave him a bracing smile and removed his hands from the handlebar.  Then she popped up on her toes and pecked a kiss on his cheek, startling him.  “You can be so damned sweet sometimes, Gule.  Really.  The thought was wonderful.  The timing, not so much.”

Niles felt a rush of warmth fill his icy heart.  He loved to see her eyes shine.  “I should finish it.”

“No.  No, you should not.”  Cruz pulled the mower away from him.  “Actually, you need to get going.  I’ll tell mom about your gift.  I promise.  But now you really need to go.”

Niles couldn’t decide if he was elated by her kiss or depressed that she was shooing him off before he was done.  The house was now lit up and he could see Mama Cruz peering out the window.  “I hope she appreciates the thought.”

Cruz laughed.  “Oh, she will.  Once she’s done cursing your name to heaven and earth.”

Niles’ brow puckered.  “Why would she do that?”

“Because,” Cruz said, gesturing to the yard.  “You didn’t just mow the yard.  You mowed her vegetable patch.”

 

© Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  Wishing all the mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule Goes Native

The vampire’s eyes gleamed yellow in the darkness.  They winked, like a cat’s, then vanished when he backed into the shadows as a couple walked past hand in hand.  He drew his breath at the smell of warm, living flesh, pulsing blood.  Iron.  He needed that iron.  His body couldn’t store it for future use the way a human’s could.  He could only absorb it by draining a human victim dry.

He quivered with desire as he studied the warmly lighted windows of the little cottage across the street.  He saw his prey moving in the room beyond, a large man whose blood would sate the vampire for a week.  He licked his fangs in anticipation as he envisioned sinking them into that thick neck.  He could already taste the hot blood on his tongue.  Could imagine it sliding down his throat and filling his belly until he bulged like a tick.  The vampire couldn’t remember what it felt like to be sated.  He’d gone years without such a feast.  Starved.

The time for starving was over.

The vampire’s gaze slid along the quiet, residential street, seeking danger but seeing none.  The night was quiet.  Off in the distance traffic hummed on a nearby highway.  Overhead, an airliner roared out of the south as it left Baltimore-Washington Airport.  He pulled the hood of his black jersey over his head to hide his pale hair and face then jogged across the empty street.  He checked again for witnesses who could raise the alarm.  The nearest houses slept tight, not knowing the world’s cleverest predator was working their neighborhood.

A quick check confirmed the cottage didn’t possess a security system.  No motion activated safety lights sprang to life.  He let out the tense breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.  He knew the homeowner didn’t own a dog, just as he’d known the man had no security, because he always did his homework before he hunted a human.  Humans were the most dangerous prey in a vampire’s diet.  No other prey could hunt a vampire the way a vampire hunted them.

His pale, delicate hand clutched his knife, nervous yet eager.  He didn’t want to kill the man with the knife.  That removed the pleasure of dropping his victim with a strong bite to the neck.  It reduced him to a human murderer, not a vampire on the hunt.  But he’d lived a long life, been a successful hunter for more than a century, by being cautious.  He chose his victim, studied it, stalked it, and prepared for a fight.  This particular man would not go down easily.  The vampire knew that for a human, the man was quite strong.  Knew this kill would be difficult.

Because the night was warm, the cottage’s windows stood open, nothing but thin screens between the vampire and his prey.  He shivered with excitement and his yellow eyes glowed as he readied himself for the attack.  He forced himself to move with caution, however.  He slid up to a window that faced the gloomy side yard.  The house next door was dark, indicating its inhabitants were asleep.  No worries from that quarter.  The vampire scented the air for danger.  No one outside at that hour.  His prey was in the front room.  The aromas indicated the man was drinking beer and eating pizza.  Sensitive ears caught the sounds of a baseball game on television, barely audible over the drone of the air conditioner of the house next door.

With a quick flick of his wrist, the vampire slit the window screen free from its aluminum frame.  Holding the knife between his pale lips, he pulled his lithe, agile body into the window, angled his long legs through the opening and lowered himself inside.  Like most predators who hunted by stealth, the vampire could stalk without making a sound.  He advanced into the house.

His heart was thundering.  The cold blood raged in his veins.  He swallowed the sea of saliva that filled his mouth in anticipation.  He crept on his toes towards the front of the building.

The blaze of light from the room beyond stung his eyes.  He cursed.  Why couldn’t the damned man turn off the lights while he watched TV?   That was a kink in the plan the vampire hadn’t expected.  He steeled himself against the glare, narrowed his eyes, and slipped into the room.

“Evening, Ghoul,” the homeowner commented.  He glanced up at the vampire, showing no fear at being confronted by a piece of darkness in his own living room.

“You knew I was coming?”

The man tossed the piece of pizza he’d been holding back into the open box where the remainder sat oozing fat into the cardboard.  “I didn’t know but I’m not surprised.”  He jerked his head towards the other room.  “You owe me for a new screen.”

Niles Gule brandished his fangs.   He hissed his anger.

“Put those away,” the homeowner ordered.  He shot a cold, hard look at the vampire from his gray eyes.

“I came to kill you, Jonas.”

Jonas Williams, officer on the Baltimore police who worked every day beside Niles, calmly picked up a revolver that had been sitting on the coffee table next to the pizza.  He waved it at the vampire.

Niles sneered.  “I’m not afraid of guns.  It’ll hurt but I’ll still kill you.”

Williams glanced at the gun, then the vampire.  “No, it’ll stop you cold.  Silver bullets.”

Again Niles hissed.  He should have known.  Williams was a conniving, scheming man who planned for everything.  Including Baltimore’s resident vampire turning on him.

“You gave me that human blood,” Niles complained.  “Made me want more.”

Williams grunted.  “I didn’t force you to take it.”

“Spoken like a drug dealer.”  Niles fought to keep himself from lunging at Williams.  He wanted the man’s blood, but even more, he wanted to strangle the human who never ceased to torment him.

“You can just buy the stuff, you know,” Williams said.  Keeping the gun in one hand, he munched on his pizza with the other.  “Drug addicts sell it all the time.”

Niles knew that.  Many vampires survived in modern society by purchasing blood from those desperate for money.  He’d always refused.  Drugged blood made for a drugged vampire.  He hated the headaches heroin gave him.

“Is the craving really that bad?”  Williams tilted his head as he considered his guest.

Niles nodded.  “I knew I shouldn’t have taken even that one taste.”

“And yet you did.”

The vampire sighed with a pain that seemed entrenched in his soul.

Williams motioned to the sofa.  “Have a seat.  I’ve got some steak in the fridge you’re welcome to have.”

Niles started.  “Seriously?  You knew what that blood would do to me?”

Williams nodded.  Then he grinned.  “Brought you crawling after me intent for more, hopefully pre-warmed and fresh.  In case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy having you dance at my whim.”

“Why?”  The word grated from the vampire’s lips as he sank into a chair.

“Because you’re too damned perfect.  Perfect hair, perfect face, perfect teeth.  Never aging.  It’s not fair.  So, to even the score, I torment you.  I’m the stone in your otherwise perfect shoe, Ghoul.  Always will be.”

Niles glared at the human then rubbed his face tiredly.  Already the bloodlust was diminishing.  The noxious smell of pizza drove it away.

Williams shoved a can a beer towards him.  “Have a cold one.  Enjoy the game.”  He lounged comfortably on the sofa, a slice in one hand, the gun resting on his lap in the other.

Niles sipped the beer and turned his eyes to the television.  In silence the two individuals ignored each other as the night wore on and the Orioles won the game.  Niles never did visit the fridge.

As he rose to leave, he said, “Be careful jerking my chain, Jonas.”

Williams lifted a brow.  “Because?”

“Because I might not choose to let you go next time.”

“Next time?”

Niles’ blue eyes glittered.  “Never forget I’m a vampire.”

Williams chuckled.  “Oh no!  Never that.  And Ghoul?”  He waited for Niles to look back.  “Never forget I know what you are.”

Niles bared his fangs.  “Touché.”

Williams waved his gun.  “Touché.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

Gule Takes Part in a Bloodless Coup

 

“I’m serious, Ghoul!”  Baltimore police officer Jonas Williams poked his vampire co-worker with a massive finger.  “You owe me.”

Niles Gule leaned back in his chair and lifted a supercilious brow.

Williams’ grey eyes narrowed.  “I saved your life in New Jersey.”

Niles scoffed.  Williams had saved him from mortal embarrassment but he’d hardly saved the vampire’s life.

“You’d still be naked in the Point Pleasant drunk tank if I hadn’t bailed out your ass.”  Williams punctuated each word with another poke of that blasted finger.  “She’s not that bad, really.”

“Then you date her!”  Niles planted his elbow on his desk and stared at his computer screen, hoping Williams would get the message.

“I’m dating her sister!”  Williams huffed and slouched against the vampire’s desk.  Around them the precinct buzzed with change-of-shift activity as the day crew headed out and the night shift began.  “Evelyn is very protective of Myrtle.  She hates leaving Myrtle home alone while she paints the town.”

Myrtle.  Niles chewed on that name, not liking the taste of it.  Who would name their kid something so awful?

Williams wheedled.  “I told Myrtle all about you.  Blonde.  Blue eyes.  Tall.  Good looking.  She’s really excited to meet you.”

Niles’ eyes widened.  “Did you explain that I’m a vampire?”

Williams shrugged.  “I didn’t delve into details.”

“I’m not dating Myrtle just so you can bag her sister, Jonas.”

Williams’ protest was cut off when their boss, Sergeant Tan Lo, appeared at Niles’ desk.  The diminutive Asian nodded briefly to Williams before handing Niles a call-sheet.  “Got a robbery.  You and Cruz get on it.”

Niles’ partner, little Mexican-American Mariella Cruz, snatched up her car keys.  “Where at?”

“American Red Cross,” Niles read off the call-sheet.  “Mount Hope Drive.”

Cruz marched for the doors.  “Out by Pimlico.  Let’s roll.”

“Cooksey and I will be right behind you,” Williams said.

Cruz waved breezily but never slowed down.  Niles followed in her wake.

After twenty harrowing minutes of Cruz’s suicidal driving, the pair arrived at the Red Cross service center.  When Cruz tore into the parking lot and squealed to a stop, throwing Niles into the dashboard, he gave her a hard stare then smoothed his hair and straightened his tie.  She grinned and popped out of her Fiat, leaving Niles to unfold his long, lithe body from the tiny vehicle.

“We’ve got to buy you a bigger car,” he grumbled as he shook out his legs and straightened his back.

Cruz laughed.  “Hell no!  I like my little Fifi and I love watching you get in and out of it.”

She turned her back and never saw the stink-eye Niles sent her way.

He froze when he read the sign above the door.  “This is a blood bank?”  His voice squeaked.

Cruz’s black ponytail flew as she glanced over her shoulder.  “Yeah.”  She hesitated when she saw Niles’ blue eyes widen.  “Are you okay with that?”

“Someone robbed a blood bank?”

Cruz shrugged.  “Apparently.”  She ushered him inside.

The two detectives were greeted by the center’s director.  As they interviewed the woman Williams and his partner Cooksey arrived to assist the investigation.  The director told them someone had broken into the center and absconded with several hundred units of blood.  Interestingly, the thieves had been particular, selecting only negative blood types.

“It’s a problem,” the director complained.  “Negative factor blood is rarer than positive regardless of the type.  I just pray no one needs negative factor blood before we can restock.  We’re calling all our volunteers to donate.”

Cruz glanced pointedly at Niles.

“It’s sweeter,” he murmured.  The thought of all that sweet blood made his mouth water.

“So we’re talking vampires?”

Niles nodded.  Knowing his brethren were up to their old tricks rankled.  Every time he thought he’d rid the city of the vermin, more crept back in.

The director led them into the refrigerated storage room.  Niles took only two steps inside before he staggered to a halt, using the wall to keep himself upright.

The room had been ransacked.  Blood was stored in gray cabinets labeled with blood types and dates of donation.  Most of the drawers hung open, their contents thrown about.  Dozens of the plastic bags used to hold blood lay scattered.  The floor was awash with congealing blood from units that had been crushed under foot, making the floor a skating rink of red.  The smell of iron and copper was overwhelming.

“Whoa!” the director exclaimed as Niles wilted.  She tried to grasp his arm, but Cruz beat her to it.  “Vasovagal reaction, I suppose.”

Cruz nodded without correcting her.  Niles wasn’t suffering from shock at the sight of blood.  His reaction went much deeper than that.

“So much blood,” Niles whispered.  He couldn’t stop the smell from making his head spin or his saliva from stealing out of the corner of his mouth.  A rampant desire to chug a unit whole flooded him.  His entire body quivered with longing.  He’d been without blood for so long.  Two years!  And it was in abundance just begging to be taken.  His shaking hands extended to grasp a bag.

Cruz held it down.

Williams appeared at the doorway.  His gray eyes summed up the situation in a heartbeat.  His giant paws clasped Niles by the shoulders and he strong-armed the vampire out of the storage room.

“He’s a lightweight,” the big man explained to the director as he shoved Niles ahead of him.

Williams assisted Niles to a desk.  The vampire perched against it and rubbed his face.

“That was intense,” he murmured.

Williams checked his color.  Seeming confident that his co-worker would recover, he said, “I’m going to help Cruz.  If you start feeling better, check the security tapes.”

Niles drew a deep breath as he nodded.  He continued to lean against the desk while he waited for his heart rate to settle and his blood to stop raging, his head to clear.  When he felt he could act in a professional manner, he did as Williams suggested and checked the security tapes.  He discovered that the intruders had disabled every camera.

Unable to assist any further, Niles waited outside in the darkness.  Eventually, Williams sidled up to him.

“Tough night?” he asked.

Niles grunted.

Williams’ saturnine face looked ghoulish in the harsh light of the parking lot.  “If you’re interested, I made a withdrawal for you.”

His eyes widening, Niles looked down at the object Williams pulled from under his jacket.  It was a unit of whole blood.  Type AB negative.  The sweetest kind.  Niles was drawn to it like a child to candy.  Once again his mouth watered.  His claws uncurled to sneak towards that bag.

“Not so quick!” the police man said, jerking the unit away.  “You have to pay for it.”

“You stole it!”

Williams shrugged.  “With that mess?  They won’t miss one more unit.”  He grinned and jiggled the bag.

Niles’ body lurched towards it.  Williams skittered backwards.

“Do we have a deal?” he asked.  “Myrtle for the blood.”

Niles glared at his nemesis.  Williams looked like a heroin dealer knowing he had a junkie on the leash.

“You don’t have to sleep with her.  Just take her out a couple of times.”  Williams let the bag sway back and forth just out of the vampire’s reach.

Niles hated himself for desiring that blood so badly.  But he hadn’t indulged in years.  Just one taste.  One little taste.

“Deal!”  He snatched the bag and hid it in his coat.

Williams grinned.  “I’ve got you now, Ghoul,” he chuckled as he sauntered away.

The vampire grimaced.

He’d just sold his soul to the devil.

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  Give blood.  Not for my sake.  For yours.

 

 

Gule’s Next Bite

Sergeant Tan Lo of the Baltimore Police Department gestured for Officers Jackson and Krewelski to fan right.  He sent Officers Williams and Cooksey to the left to control the perimeter.

“Be careful, folks,” the diminutive Asian warned his troops.  “This guy’s armed and dangerous.  Keep in contact.  I’d rather we didn’t shoot one another.”

His warning earned him a baleful look from Williams before the giant man plodded into the darkness, little Cooksey in his wake.

Lo held back his biggest weapon in the search until the perimeter was secured.  Niles Gule stood waiting for the signal to proceed.  Half the night shift had been called out to the Grasmick Lumber Yards east of Baltimore.  They were trying to capture an armed robber who’d held up a liquor store, shooting the owner in the process.  The man had fled to the lumberyard, an excellent place to hide given the business was tucked under Interstate 695.   Shadows lurked under the overpass and around every pile of lumber.  At that time of night, the business was closed and little more than wasteland surrounded it on all sides.  The robber knew he had only to wait the police out then slip into the darkness never to be found.

Being a vampire, Niles felt no terror of the darkness.   Unlike human eyes, his blue eyes saw the world in differing shades of black and gray.  He noted a mouse fleeing as Jackson stomped towards the outer fence and a piece of newsprint drifting in the breeze.  If he squinted, he knew he could read it.  He didn’t bother however.  His task was to use his incredible eyesight to locate a killer.

“All right, Gule,” Lo said.  “We’ve got the yards surrounded.  You and Cruz head in.  Hopefully you can simply find him.  If not, maybe you’ll flush him out and he’ll run.”

Niles nodded to his partner, little feisty Mariella Cruz who was chomping to start the search.  He had to grab her arm to hold her back as he moved cautiously forward.

“Just because I can see in the dark doesn’t mean this guy can’t surprise us and shoot one of us,” he warned.

Cruz scowled but slowed her step to match his.

Together the pair moved into the lumberyard.  Cruz held her service pistol ahead of her but Niles went unarmed except for his silver knife.  He wasn’t licensed to own a firearm and as a consulting detective felt he should obey the law.  Being a vampire, his knife was all he needed.  He was stronger than a human and wounds that would kill a human merely made life miserable for him.  He was hard to kill.

“Is there a reason we’re being quiet?” Cruz whispered.  “Aren’t we trying to flush this guy out?”

Niles snorted.  “Not everything can be resolved by charging in with guns blazing.  I’d rather he didn’t just shoot us before he flushes.  I don’t feel like being in pain tonight and I certainly don’t want you getting killed.”

Cruz grinned, her olive-complexioned face aglow in the dark.  “Niles!  You care!  That’s so sweet!”

His sharp eyes caught movement near one of the concrete pillars that held up the overpass.  Niles gestured for Cruz to stay on the right side of the pillar while he circled around to the left.  He leaped.

The suspect was too frightened to shoot.  He saw a vampire lunging out of the darkness, fangs gleaming in the dark, and he shrieked like a little girl.  Then he ran.

Niles was after him in an instant.  He grabbed the guy’s shoulder to stop him.  Their momentum rammed them into a large pile of aging lumber that had been left out in the rain too long.  The pile shifted, its rusted metal bands giving way.  It collapsed.

Cruz arrived with her pistol at the ready.  “Don’t move!  Hands up!”

The suspect jerked himself free of Niles who let him go, knowing he wasn’t running anywhere.  When the vampire tried to right himself, a stabbing pain froze his foot.  He took a bad step.  The leg refused to hold him and he went down.  Cruz yelled again at the suspect who tried to use the vampire’s collapse as cover to run.

“Move and I’ll shoot,” she warned.  “Drop the gun.  Drop it!”

As he writhed in pain on the ground, Niles saw the gun land next to his nose.

His leg felt as if it was encased in ice.  He couldn’t feel his ankle anymore and soon his knee was growing cold.  Cruz held the suspect still with the gun in one hand while she radioed for help with the other.  Niles lost feeling in his knee, then his hip.  When his chest froze, his vision failed.

Niles came to with a start, his entire body wracked with pain.  He fought against hands that held him until Lo’s voice broke through the panic.

“It’s me, Niles.  Relax.”

Niles panted as he fought through a wave of icy pain.  As it relented his vision cleared and he could breathe again.  His leg was still on fire but now he could move it.

“What happened?” he asked.

Lo’s brow creased.  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.  Cruz said you just collapsed.  Is this something vampires do?”

Niles slowly sat up.  Cruz and Jackson supported his shoulder until he was able to gesture that he could remain vertical on his own.

“I don’t know what happened.  I’ve never felt that sort of pain in my life.”  He ran a hand through his short blond locks.  “That’s saying a lot too.  I’ve been around for a while.”  He bent to touch his ankle.  The fire in his leg was easing but there was one spot on his ankle that felt as if it had been shot.  He eased up his pant leg then rolled down his sock.  A pair of brilliant red spots, close together, was centered over a ruddy bruise on his otherwise pasty ankle.

“Looks like a spider bite,” Jackson said, peering at the wound.

“What sort of spider could down a vampire?” Lo asked.

Niles gingerly touched the bite then regretted the action.  His entire foot throbbed.  He could feel it swelling in protest from the bite.

“What happened to our suspect?” he asked

“We got him.”  Lo was more concerned about his vampire than his suspect.

Jackson flicked a flashlight around the area.  He played it across the pile of lumber that had collapsed.  There between some of the boards was a bit of webbing.  In the middle of it sat a large, black spider, wriggling its forelegs at him.

“Holy crap, it’s a black widow!”  Jackson jumped backwards.  He glanced at Niles.  “What happens when a vampire gets bit by a black widow?”

“Nothing good,” Niles grumbled.  He wasn’t sure he could stand.  He rolled his ankle and put weight on his foot.

“Apparently it’s not deadly to you,” Cruz said, giving his shoulder a squeeze.  “Thank God for that.”

“But what about the spider?” Jackson asked.  When Niles gave him a hateful look, he said, “No, I mean, what happens to a black widow that bites a vampire?  Your blood aint normal, Gule.”

The four police officers stared at the spider.  It stared back with its million eyes.  Then it flicked what seemed like a finger at them, chittered evilly, and marched off.  Moments later the entire pile of lumber shifted as the spider pushed it out of its way.

Jackson’s wide eyes looked at Cruz.  Cruz looked at Lo.  Lo looked at Niles.

Without a word, the four people ran.

 

© Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Black widow spiders are nothing to laugh about.  My dear friend Peg was bitten by one a week ago.  Fortunately, she’s recovered but more spiders are out there.  They are native across the entire United States and most of southern Canada.  They like to hide inside structures like barns, piles of wood, and yes, houses.  Something that makes even a vampire shudder!

 

Image result for range of the black widow spider map

Gule is Crabby

The setting sun painted the horizon purple, orange and red when it sank beyond the sea of reeds.  The oar locks creaked as Walter Cooksey steered the little boat along the mud flats.

Niles Gule, being a vampire, appreciated the sun retiring.  He detested being abroad in daylight.  Only now that darkness crept near could he comfortably travel with his fellow police officers to the tidal flats of the Chesapeake Bay.

In search of crabs.

Why would a vampire do such a thing?  This thought wandered through Niles’ mind as he sipped a beer and watched the reeds slowly scroll past.  He had no interest in crabs because vampires didn’t eat seafood.  They sucked blood from humans and gnawed on their bones.  Niles, having taken a vow of abstinence, lived exclusively on land-based proteins like beef, pork, or venison.  When he agreed to go crabbing he knew he’d give his two companions his catch.  So why had he agreed to spend the weekend setting crab traps with Williams and Cooksey?

Because, Niles thought, taking another sip of beer, they’re the closest thing you have to friends.  He considered the odd couple, Williams younger, huge, dark-haired, then Cooksey aging, fat and balding.  What a pair.

Williams commanded Cooksey to stop.  The chubby little man shipped his oars and tossed the small anchor over the side with a plunk.

“Bet I’ll get more than you,” Cooksey boasted as his watery blue eyes studied the darkening inlet with the wisdom of an experienced crabber.

“You’re on.”  Williams rocked the boat as he stood to collect his traps.  “What’s the stakes?”

“One week’s pay and a case of beer.  Good beer.  Not that cheap shit you always buy.”

Niles glanced at his bottle of Bud.  No argument there.

“Can I get in on the bet?” he asked, desperate to be friends with these two humans determined to hate him.

Williams rolled his eyes but Cooksey grinned.  “Absolutely.”  When he noticed Williams’ scowl he protested.  “It’ll be like taking candy from a baby!  What does a Ghoul know about crabbing?”

“Nothing.” Niles adjusted his long legs in the confines of the little boat.  “Yesterday was the first time I ever set a trap.”

Cooksey chortled.  “There’s a skill to this, Ghoul.  It takes intelligence to bring home good crabs.”

“So you’re saying I’m guaranteed to win then?” Williams quipped.

Cooksey whacked his partner with a bumper.  “I’ve been crabbing these waters since I was a kid.  I’m winning this bet.”

Williams hauled his traps up hand over hand.  One by one the cages appeared, murky water running off them in sheets as he pulled them into the boat.  By now the sun had faded.  Cooksey lit a Coleman lantern and counted the crabs Williams dropped into a bucket.

“Twelve.  Huh!”  Cooksey scoffed while Williams rebaited his traps with more chicken then sent them over the side.

“That’s not bad!” Williams protested.

Now it was his turn to take the oars.  He moved the boat along the inlet to a second arm where Cooksey had set his traps the day before.  He dropped anchor, then Cooksey fished his collection of crab traps from the bay.  Niles held the lantern as the little man counted.

“Fifteen!”  Cooksey did a little dance in the middle of the boat, almost sending the lot of them overboard.  He pointed a finger at Niles.  “You’re going down, Ghoul.  Get ready to cough up a week’s pay.”

Niles shrugged.  “I can afford it.”  He would surrender his paycheck if it convinced these people he wouldn’t eat them.

Williams gestured to the oars.  “Your turn, Ghoul.  Put your back into it.”

Niles shot the man a cool glance before he took the seat between the locks.   He was a vampire, with a vampire’s incredible strength.  One pull sent the boat flying.  Williams nearly pitched overboard and Cooksey yelped as he grabbed the lantern.

“Shit, Ghoul!  This ain’t a race,” Williams growled.

Niles smiled, his eyes glowing yellow in the lantern light.  He saw Williams shiver and cursed his damned eyes.  The convex shape of his iris directed light to his retinas which gave him excellent night vision.  But it also added an unearthly shimmer to his gaze that made humans nervous.

After a few minutes, they arrived at where Niles’ had set his traps the day before.  Because Cooksey insisted on secrecy for his treasured crabbing spot, the three men had each gone out alone to set their traps.  Only because of a shortage of skiffs to rent had they come out together to empty the traps.

Cooksey considered Niles’ location.  “You can’t catch anything here!  The water’s muddy and shallow.”

Niles shrugged.  He shipped the oars and dropped the anchor.  Then, to the surprise of his companions, he jumped over the side.  He landed up to his knees in brackish water.

Cooksey howled.  “You don’t have a clue how to crab, do you, Ghoul?”

“Do you need the lantern?” Williams asked.

Niles raised a supercilious brow.  Night had fallen.  The two humans could see nothing, but to Niles the world existed in clear black and white.  He could see the bank of reeds and the small ribbon he’d tied to one to indicate where he’d placed his bait.  He kicked around with his feet until he hit it.

Steeling himself against the revulsion of putting his hands in that awful water, Niles bent down and grasped his bait.  With a heave, he tossed it into the boat.

Williams and Cooksey both yelled and scrambled backwards, almost tumbling from the boat as the dead body landed between them.

“Shit, Ghoul!  You used a dead person?”  Williams stared in horror at the corpse covered in crabs.

Niles pulled himself into the boat and fastidiously wrung the water from his trousers.  “Sure, why not?”  He counted.  “Thirty-six.  I win.”

“Jesus!”  Williams’ eyes were white orbs.

“Did you kill him?” Cooksey asked breathlessly.

“Of course not!”  Niles scowled.  “What do you think I am, a murderer?”

Their aghast silence answered him.

“Well I’m not!”  Niles huffed with affront.  “He was a homeless guy.  Died of a heart attack.”

“You don’t use people as bait, Ghoul!” Williams yelled.

Niles pointed to all the crabs covering the body.  “It worked.”

“Sure did!” Cooksey exclaimed.  He started pealing the critters from the body and dropping them into the bucket.

“You aren’t going to eat those are you?” Williams demanded.

Cooksey blinked.  “Crabs, Jonas!  They’re crabs!”

“They ate some dude!  He’d got no eyes, Cooksey!”

Cooksey looked mutinously at his partner.  “Crabs are crabs, Jonas.  It’s not their fault a vampire baited them.”

Williams looked ready to use Niles as bait next.  Grumbling, he jumped into the rowing seat, pulled the anchor and set them moving.

“What now?” Niles asked.

“We have to get this guy back and officially log him as a dead dude,” Williams grumbled.  “Although how the hell we’re going to explain it I’m not sure.”

“He had a heart attack crabbing,” Niles offered.

“Oh lord!”

Cooksey giggled.

“What will you do with the crabs?” Niles asked.

Cooksey beamed.  “Crab fest at my place!  Who’s in?”

Niles and Cooksey looked at Williams.  The man’s face had turned several shades of green.  But now he was looking at the bucket of squirming crabs.

Slowly he raised his hand.

“In,” was all he said.

 

© 2016 Newmin

Gule Makes No Bones About It

 

Niles Gule folded his arms and tilted his head as he considered poor Marrensten’s problem.   The elderly vampire hovered nearby, fretting, twisting his viciously clawed fingers together and clicking his fangs on his lower teeth.  The staccato noise of this bad habit irritated the younger vampire.

“It was an accident,” Marrensten explained in the Home Tongue, a high-pitched, screeching language that pained human ears.

“English!” Niles hissed.  Not that any humans were within hearing distance.

The two vampires stood in the lush backyard of some suburban home in west Baltimore.  A nice place, Niles thought, as his eyes swept the darkness, having no problem even at midnight making out the swimming pool with spa and waterfall.  The home’s former owner had been wealthy judging by his choice of outdoor décor.  Solar powered lights followed the curving walkways while tiny LEDs in the trees had the look of fireflies.   A thick, manicured lawn stretched into the darkness.  Two acres, if Niles was any judge.

“He’s dead!” Niles snapped.  “Drained bloodless.”  He turned his brilliant blue eyes on Marrensten.  “By you!  Do you care to explain how that could be construed as an accident?”

The second vampire had the grace to study the grass.

“If it means anything to you, he was in the midst of a nasty divorce,” Marrensten offered in a hopeful tone.  “Wife and kids left him.  Rumor has it he was suicidal.”

“So that makes it okay?”  Niles hated how his voice even in English was rising to a high pitch.

Marrensten heaved a huge sigh.

Niles wanted to catch the little vampire between his claws and strangle the life out of him.  He was strong enough to do it.  Old Marrensten was an original.  One of the few remaining vampires who’d arrived on Earth in the Vanapir ship over one thousand years ago.  He’d not thrived in his new environment however.  He was small, thin, spindly.  Tall, lithe Niles at only one-hundred-fifty-seven years old looked like a linebacker compared to the old man.  Niles could crumple the ancient vampire into a ball and use him for basketball practice.

But he didn’t.  Because vampires honored their elderly.  Niles knew of only four originals still alive because humans had killed the rest.  So silly old Marrensten had nothing to fear from the virile young vampire beside him.  Not that Niles would let him know that.

He flexed his claws, causing Marrensten to gulp.  “I agreed to let you to live in my territory under one very simple condition, Marrensten.”

“No consuming humans,” Marrensten said dutifully.

Niles gestured to the mess at his feet.  “This is not part of the agreement.  Nor was it an accident.”

Marrensten nodded.  He blinked up at the taller vampire with his deep, brown eyes as if he could charm compassion out of his fellow.  If Niles had been any other vampire, Marrensten would have found out just how little compassion any vampire felt.  Fortunately for the old man, the one vampire lord he’d crossed was the only one with something akin to a heart.

Niles shook his head as he considered the problem.  He didn’t want to turn Marrensten over to human justice because the only sentence for a vampire was death regardless of the crime.  Nor would he kill the old man himself.  He decided to scare Marrensten out of his wits so that he never broke his vow of abstinence again.  He bared his teeth and allowed his eyes to turn red.  He screeched a hunting cry in Vanapir that nearly flattened Marrensten into the grass.  The poor old vampire quaked and held his hands out to ward off the attack.  Niles flexed his claws and raised his hands in the typical attack posture.  He lunged at Marrensten.

The little vampire was too terrified to run.  He simply crumpled at Niles feet and mewed piteously, awaiting his fate.  Niles raged over him, swearing in English, German and Vanapir, then kicked him a few times for good measure.  When poor Marrensten was a quivering pile of jelly, Niles raked him across the face with his claws, raising a pair of white slashes, then banked down his anger.  He took a few deep breaths and stepped back.

Smoothing his hair, Niles considered what remained of the homeowner.  “Explain to me again how he got into this condition?”

Marrensten remained sitting in the grass at Niles’ feet, his face ghostly in the dark.

“I caught him on the lawn chair.  He was stone cold drunk so it wasn’t hard.”

Niles could well imagine.  Marrensten wasn’t strong enough to hunt down a human male in the prime of life.  He had to catch one at a disadvantage.

“Then… after…”  Marrensten gestured.

“You drank the poor soul bloodless,” Niles finished, flashing him an annoyed look.

“I thought I’d better dispose of the body.  No evidence.”

“So you thought cremating him in his fire pit would be a good idea?”

Marrensten nodded.

Niles sighed.  The fire pit was a disaster.  It wasn’t large enough to hold a human nor would a fire be hot enough to completely consume a body.

“So what did you do?”

Marrensten’s gaze flicked away.  “I… um… well… the bones were still there.”  He flapped his hands to show his unhappiness.  “I had to get rid of them.”

“And?”  Niles was pondering the mess on the lawn.

“I thought the best way to get rid of the bones would be to grind them up.”

Niles fought to keep from groaning.  “What did you use, Marrensten?”

“The guy’s lawn mower.”

Niles closed his eyes and shook his head.  That explained the strange pall of ash and dust that was strewn across the beautiful lawn.  Niles could still see bits of bone here and there, black where it had been charred, white where it had been chopped by the mower.

“I don’t suppose it was a riding mower?” Niles asked.

Marrensten shook his head.

“Jesus, God!” Niles swore.  He swore some more when he saw the lights of police vehicles headed their way.  “Neighbors must have called the cops, Marrensten.  There’s a burn ban right now because of the drought, you idiot.”

“Really?”  Marrensten blinked in surprise.

Niles pointed.  “Beat it!  Now!”

Marrensten jumped to his feet.  “What about you?”

“I’ll handle the police.”  Niles shoved his hands into his coat pockets and strolled towards the front driveway as if he hadn’t a care in the world.  He heard Marrensten scramble for safety behind him.

Niles waited for his fellow police officers to arrive.  To his annoyance, Williams and Cooksey had pulled the call.  Williams, a giant man of Polish descent, swaggered as he came around his vehicle, his gray eyes surveying Niles suspiciously.

“What are you doing here?”

“I heard the call.”  Niles gestured to the back yard.  “I put out the fire.”

Williams strode around him.  “Where’s the homeowner?”

“I believe he killed himself.  Threw himself into the fire pit.  Rumor has it he was suicidal.”

“Threw himself in a fire pit?”  Williams’ voice betrayed his disbelief.

Niles shrugged.

As the big man threaded through the elaborate gardens, Niles followed.  When they reached the fire pit, Williams considered it, noting the bones that were clustered at the bottom.  Scratching his head, he muttered something.

Niles continued to smile as Williams strode onto the grass.

“What’s all this ash?” he demanded, kicking it around with his toe.

“I believe it’s called lime,” Niles offered.  “Put on grass to make it grow.”

Williams shot him another look.  “Not that I believe this,” he said, “but I’m calling it in as a suicide.  For the moment.”

Niles breathed a sigh of relief.

Williams pointed at the grass.  “Why would some guy do this when he knew he was going to kill himself?”

Niles shrugged.

“Does it work?”

Niles considered the ashes on the grass.

“Oh yes.  I think the grass is going to be nice and thick this summer.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  I apologize for the delay.  Apparently my biographer was asleep at the keyboard and failed to post my adventure in a timely fashion.  He’s been reprimanded and is spending the day in a corner pondering his sins.

 

 

Gule Gets Into the Swing of Things

Hotel bar surveillance had to be among the most boring duties Niles Gule was expected to undertake.  Because he was on duty, he couldn’t drink so he nursed a glass of ginger ale and pretended to be a businessman whiling away his off hours.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  For something to happen.  Police officer Jonas Williams was also under cover, tending bar.  He’d volunteered when he’d learned Niles had been loaned out to vice for the night.  The big man considered watching Niles stake out hookers hilarious so he jumped at the request for additional officers.

He was occupied at least, Niles thought.  The bar had a steady stream of patrons both at the bar itself and throughout the room.  Additional people came and went from what appeared to be a convention in one of the hotel ballrooms.  People with name tags would drift into the bar, place an order, eye the various individuals sitting around, and drift out again, usually alone, but sometimes not.

Vice.  Niles muttered into his ginger ale.  Ridiculous.  He was a vampire.  With the keen instincts of a top predator.  With the exquisite eyesight of a night hunter.  But instead of working murder investigations, the Baltimore police had him working a prostitution sting.  It was humiliating.

Williams leaned over the bar as he pretended to take another order from Niles.  “Seen anything with those laser-like eyes of yours?”

Niles snorted.  The bar was well lit.  Vice didn’t need a vampire’s eyesight on this job.  He suspected what they’d really wanted was his looks.  Niles, like most of his vampire brethren, was tall, lithe and handsome.  His blond hair shimmered with golden highlights.  His blue eyes gleamed like a Montana sky.  And unlike most of his fellow officers on the Baltimore PD, Niles was a wealthy man who always dressed the part.  That evening in his role as a businessman, he wore a custom tailored Saville Row suit of black with a cream silk vest and navy tie.  His Italian leather shoes were carefully polished and his gold cufflinks winked in the lights.  Unfortunately, however, no hookers had hooked him.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Niles sighed.  He planted his chin on his fist.

Williams’ gray eyes twinkled as he winked at Niles.  “Maybe not.  Here comes something.”  He backed away and pretended to clean a glass.

A stunning blond glided up to the bar.  Like most of the others who’d come and gone, she wore a name tag that declared My Name is Jane.  Instead of ordering anything, however, she flicked her hazel eyes up down Niles’ long form and twitched her ruby-red lips.

“Well hello, handsome,” she murmured.  Her voice was rich and deep like a Hollywood siren of the nineteen fifties.  “A pretty thing like you shouldn’t be alone.”

Niles smiled encouragement.  “No?  Got any better ideas?”

Her smile deepened.  With a delicate hand manicured with jewels on each nail, she placed a small circlet of multicolored charms beside Niles’ glass.  As she turned away, she ran her finger across his cheek.  With a seductive saunter, she swayed out of the bar.

“What the hell was that?” Williams demanded.  His eyes were staring at that luscious derriere as it shimmied into the ballroom next door.

“Not a hooker,” Niles replied, fingering the charm.  He wondered what it meant.  The woman had seemed to think he’d understand.  “She’s part of that convention.  I don’t think hookers have conventions.”

“If they do, I want to be invited!”  Williams’ eyes were round orbs.  “Maybe it’s an escort’s convention.  High priced hookers.”

“She didn’t offer up a price.”  Niles flicked the charm with a finger.

Williams considered the charm.  “A couple of those people from the ballroom have been handing those things out.  What are they?”

Niles shrugged.  He toyed with the beads while he pondered possibilities.

The night went on.  People left the ballroom, usually in groups of two or three, and headed for the elevators.  Others, generally single, came into the bar.  Some offered charms seemingly at random before wandering back to their convention.  One, a stunning black gentleman wearing golf togs, also left a charm next to Niles’ glass after he’d ordered and received a rum and coke.  He winked as he turned away.

“I feel like we’re in the Twilight Zone,” Williams muttered.  “These people are giving me the creeps.”

From the occasional chatter on the radio, Niles assumed the man in charge of the sting operation was growing annoyed.  Around two in the morning he finally called a halt to the sting.  With a grumble, Williams tore off his mic and apron then rounded the bar to flop next to Niles.

“That was a waste of a night.”  He downed a glass of club soda to wash away his disgust.

When Williams jerked, Niles turned.  Another man had wandered into the bar from the ballroom.  Niles blinked when he realized it was Williams’ partner, Walter Cooksey.  The little, balding man wove through the tables, eyeing the few people who remained.  When he saw Niles and Williams, he froze.  His pudgy face went white and he stumbled.  Niles half rose to help him, but Cooksey grabbed a chair and righted himself.  Plastering on an insincere smile, he cruised up to the bar.

“Fancy meeting you here!”  His voice sounded falsely cheerful.  His eyes narrowed.  “What are you doing here?”

Williams waved a disgusted hand.  “We volunteered for vice.”

“Vice?” Cooksey’s voice was a squeak.

“A prostitution sting,” Niles said.  “With no results.”

The little man eased and his smile grew less tremulous.  “Oh well.  That explains it.”  He blinked when he saw the two charms next to Niles’ drink.  His dark eyes shot up to capture Niles’ blue ones.

“You?” he whispered.

Niles fingered the charms while he considered how to respond.  Vampires could entrance humans with just a look when they wanted to.  Niles ordinarily forbade himself from using that dastardly little trick but just this once he decided the situation called for it.  He allowed his eyes to grow warm and a sensuous smile to curve his lips.  “Maybe.  Thinking about it.”

Cooksey stammered.  He blinked rapidly.  Unable to speak, he stumbled from the bar.

Niles watched as the little man didn’t return to the ballroom.  Instead he raced for the lobby doors.

“What the hell was that about?” Williams demanded.

Niles continued to play with the charms, his smug smile still in place.  He decided he couldn’t tell Williams.  Poor Cooksey had enough problems without his partner knowing he was a member of a swinger’s club.  Niles cringed at the thought.  Little, fat, balding Cooksey.  A swinger.  Egad!

He picked up the charms and tossed them in his palm.  “It’s a game, Williams.  He who has the most charms at the end of the night wins.”

Williams frowned.

Laughing, Niles climbed from his bar stood.

He handed Williams the charms.

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  I’d like to give a shout out to Jane for revealing the secret of this little club.  Perhaps next time, lovely lady?

Gule Meets a Fox in Sheep’s Clothing

The soulful baying made Niles Gule wince.   Because the vampire’s hearing was more sensitive than a human’s, the foxhounds’ din rattled his brain but he didn’t mind.  Nor did he mind the cold snap in the air or the pale sun that bled faintly pink through a cloudy sky.  As a vampire, he should have been asleep during daylight, but he’d risen early.  He wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

A foxhunt on a cloudy day.

Heaven.

Niles suspected his co-workers in the Baltimore PD would be shocked to know he engaged in foxhunts.  It wasn’t a hobby he admitted he enjoyed.  He didn’t need any more ridicule from officers who already thought him effete as it was.  Nor did he desire to explain why he hunted even through his physical pain.  Contrary to popular opinion, vampires didn’t vaporize when exposed to daylight.  They merely burned.  Their skin had not evolved protective pigments so any exposure to sunlight resulted in extensive radiation burns.  To survive, Niles wore wrap-around sunglasses to protect his brilliant blue eyes and slathered his pallid face with several coats of sunblock.  Fortunately, traditional foxhunting attire covered the entire body, so he didn’t need to worry about burning his arms and legs.  Even his short, blond hair was covered with the black velvet riding helmet that was required for the hunt.

That afternoon, Niles had joined Iron Bridge Hounds for a day in the countryside.  He’d learned to hunt as a young vampire in New England in the 1870’s.  Although the sport had faded from its former glory, it continued to survive in Maryland, much to the vampire’s delight.  The state hosted seven hunts and land owners willing to allow horsemen on their property.

Niles rode a boney dun horse named Marvel who was anything but.  The gelding had an attitude he aimed at other horses and his rider.  His mouth of steel allowed him to ignore the bit.  Niles loved the nasty tempered beast.  His sour attitude seemed fitting for the cold and wet of winter.   At that moment, his ears were pinned and he flashed his teeth at a mare that moved too close.  Marvel’s expression was all vampire.  Teeth and rage.  Niles patted him fondly.

A pack of black, white and tan foxhounds milled, eager for the afternoon to start.  An elderly gentleman in tweed kept the pack under control while the group waited for the Master of Hounds to arrive.  Twenty other riders sat aboard their horses sipping coffee to keep warm.  Being a vampire, Niles didn’t notice the cold.

Bethany Montgomery ranged alongside.  She was a rapacious forty-something divorcee desirous of marrying again.  Preferably someone tall, rich and handsome.  Someone, she seemed to think, like Niles.

“Niles!” Her flaming red mouth wore a brilliant smile.  “It’s wonderful to see you.”  She gave him a reproachful look.  “You really should join us more often.  You know what they say about all work and no play.”

Bethany didn’t know Niles was a vampire who could only ride on cloudy days.  He used his work as an excuse.  “Duty calls, Lady Montgomery.  The criminals of Baltimore never sleep.”

She tittered at the word lady.  Niles used it deliberately.

She laid her hand on his arm.  “I’ve having a luncheon tomorrow.  I would be ecstatic if you could come.”

Niles placed a gloved hand atop of hers, hinting at an intimacy he didn’t feel.  “Unfortunately, I’m working tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll be sleeping.”

“You don’t have to sleep alone,” she offered.  “I could cancel my luncheon.”

Niles allowed a roguish gleam to flicker in his blue eyes as he shook his head.  “Alas, I think not.”

Bethany pouted.

Niles looked around.  “What are we waiting for?  Where’s Milton?”

She gestured.  “Helping some new fellow.  Just joined.  Big dollars and all that.”

Niles lifted a brow.  “I’m surprised you aren’t welcoming him to the fold.  Is he single?”

Bethany’s look turned wicked.  “Now, Niles!  Are you becoming jealous?”  When he didn’t answer, she gestured with her crop.  “There they are.”

A pair of riders approached.  Niles recognized Milton, the Master of Hounds.  With a stab of shock, he also recognized the second man.  Malcolm Deschamps.  The tall, thin man was dating Niles’ partner on the Baltimore PD, Mariella Cruz.  The two men had developed an immediate dislike for each other.  They were too much alike and a woman each desired stood between them.  Stags in the forest understood the emotions the two men felt.

Malcolm recognized Niles immediately.   His ebony eyes ran down Niles’ form, seeking a flaw in the vampire’s appearance.  There was none.  Not a scuff on a well shined boot.  Not a hair out of place.  Just as the same could be said for Malcolm.

“My word, the two of you look alike!” Bethany gushed.

Two sets of eyes, one black as night, one blue as a summer’s day, stared at her.

“I meant your general form,” she recovered, gesturing to both men’s long, slender bodies.  “In hunt attire, you look quite the thing.”

Ignoring Niles beyond a vague nod of his head, Malcolm rode to the front of the group.  The Master of Hounds gestured, the huntsman blew his horn and the hounds took off, baying with delight.  In a mass they broiled across the countryside, sniffing for prey and howling at scents.

Niles felt no need to curry favor near the front of the pack.  He settled towards the back to enjoy Marvel’s rolling canter and the wintery landscape scrolling by.  The hounds scrambled beneath a fence.  Marvel launched himself over it.  Niles flexed and landed cleanly.  They cantered on.

As the group swept through a pinewood, Malcolm pulled his mare alongside Marvel.  The man glanced at Niles with a wicked gleam in his eye.  Then he reined hard, plowing his horse into Marvel.  The big roan stumbled.  As he dropped to a knee, Niles flew over his head and landed in the trees.  Malcolm reined in and feigned concern.

Brushing himself off, Niles tramped after Marvel who’d stopped as soon as he lost his rider.  He wasn’t going to expend one ounce of extra effort if he didn’t need to.  Niles was grateful.  He didn’t have to chase the beast.

“Bad luck, eh what?” Malcolm commented, affecting an English accent.  He kept his face bland.

“Not as bad as yours,” Niles replied as he remounted.

Malcolm frowned.

Niles sidled Marvel alongside Malcolm’s mare.  The female flicked her ears back, not liking the dun.  He didn’t like her much either.  He pinned his ears and bared his teeth.  As the mare tried to dance away, Marvel lanced out with his teeth.  He landed a solid bite to her flank.  She whinnied then bucked.  Malcolm tried to hold on, but Marvel went after him next, grabbing him by the breeches.  Niles heard a tremendous rip then Malcolm went flying with a giant hole in his backside.

Niles allowed Marvel to finish off the mare with another bite.  That sent her fleeing for her life, reins and stirrups flapping.  Then he settled Marvel and smiled politely down at a huffing Malcolm.

“Bad luck, eh what?” Niles asked.

Malcolm glared at him.

“I’d offer you a ride, but I’m sure you’d refuse to ride pillion,” Niles commented.  “So I’ll wish you an enjoyable walk home.”  He turned Marvel in the direction the others had taken.

“And just so we’re clear,” he added over his shoulder to his fuming enemy.  “Stay away from anything I claim as mine.”

His blue eyes hardened with warning.

“Anything.”

 

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  Fox hunting is alive and well in Maryland.  No foxes are killed any longer.  Instead members can engage in a 200 year old tradition outside in the fresh air, enjoying camaraderie and excitement.  Howard County Iron Bridge Hounds offer a number of events for the equestrian including cross country hunts, team challenges and fund raisers for charity.  Check out their website and if you live in Maryland, join the fun.

 

http://hcibh.club/

 

Gule Gets Wet

Sometimes humans bewildered vampires.

Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore, blinked sleepily as a pale winter sun rose over the Chesapeake Bay and he watched as another strange human festival got underway.

He adjusted his wool scarf against his neck to protect it from the sharp wind that blew off the water and yawned because he was up past his bedtime.  Around him milled hundreds of people braving the cold morning, sipping hot coffee or strong alcoholic drinks and waiting for the event to start.  They were dressed in outfits that puzzled the vampire.  Some shivered in simple bathing suits totally inappropriate for the frigid day.  Others wore Victorian bathing gear, clown costumes, or Viking attire.  Several were all but naked and had painted their bodies in bizarre colors.  One elderly gentleman with a large paunch wore only a loin cloth.  Niles avoided that view as best he could.

Some of the crowd rambled around the edge of the bay at the Sandy Point Park beach.  Others had what Niles considered better sense and were huddled inside the Ram’s Head Ice Lodge, a tent set up for the event.  About half the group was made up of brawny men in ridiculous getups while the other half appeared to be their friends and relatives, dressed warmly against the chill wind, laughing and taking pictures of the idiots who were about to do the inexplicable.

Go swimming in the Chesapeake in the dead of winter.

Having lived amongst humans for more than a century, Niles knew something about their anatomy.  They were warm creatures who loved to bask in the sun.  They dreamed of Caribbean vacations on tropical islands and complained mightily about cabin fever during the long, dark days of winter.   So the reason why they were deliberately choosing to swim in icy water had escaped him.

“Explain this to me again?” he asked his partner, Mariella Cruz.

The feisty little Mexican-American danced to keep warm.  She was wearing what Niles considered an offensive attempt at vampire attire, not that he didn’t love the effect all the same.  She’d attempted to cover her luscious curves with a black lace body suit that hid nothing, especially her ample chest and cute little legs.  Over her shoulders she’d draped a black satin cape with deep purple lining.  She’d scraped her black hair tight to her head and let it fall in a long, graceful ponytail down her back.  White theater makeup turned her complexion pallid and she’d lined her eyes in smoky gray.

As if, Niles thought, any self-respecting vampire would appear in public dressed like that.

He glanced down at his own appearance.  In deference to the cold he wore a chic, camel colored coat with a chocolate hued scarf knotted at his throat.  Beneath that he was Michael Bastian from top to toe.  GQ all the way.

No black satin or skin-tight lace here, he thought.

“It’s the Polar Bear Plunge!” Cruz explained.  She huddled against officer Jonas Williams to keep warm.  “We all jump in the water and freeze for five minutes to raise money for police, fire and ambulance companies.”

Niles lifted a brow.  “I’m not sure how all of you risking your lives raises money.  Or why anyone would agree to do it.”

“It’s fun!” She poked him with a bare toe.

“Don’t bother to explain it to a Ghoul,” Williams grunted.

The big officer looked equally ridiculous in vampire garb.  He, Cruz, and the rest of the Baltimore PD’s nightshift had volunteered to jump in the bay.  They’d chosen a vampire theme and named their team the Ghouls.  Niles found his lips twitching.  He couldn’t decide if he was honored they’d named the team after him or outraged because they looked so tacky.  Was that really how they viewed his species?

Little, aging, bald Cooksey bulged out of his spandex vampire outfit in all the wrong places.  He looked like someone had let Batman out of the nursing home.  He cupped his cold hands to his mouth to warm them.

“I don’t understand why the one person who isn’t bothered by the cold isn’t joining us.”

Niles gazed at him urbanely.  “Someone has to hold the towels.”  He lifted the bundle he carried.

The conversation was cut off by the sharp blast of an air horn.  The crowd bolted, the brave, the excited and just plain crazy diving into the frigid waters first while the timid merely dipped their toes.  Niles remained with feet planted firmly in the sand as he watched the crowd cavorting in the shallows.  The Ghouls bounded into the water like a rambuncious pack of Labradors after a toy, laughing and splashing each other as they howled about the cold.  Williams, being the tallest, grabbed Cruz around the waist and waded chest deep into the water then dunked her.  She came up sputtering and pounded him with her fists.  Jackson, a huge African-American, decided that looked like fun.  He swept a squawking Cooksey up in his massive arms and marched out equally far.  Then he dumped his burden into the water.

Unlike Cruz, Cooksey didn’t come up.

“Cooksey?”  Williams started wading around, fanning the water as if he could find his partner by pushing the bay aside.  “Cooksey!”

The rest of the Ghouls grew agitated as they milled around, trying to find the little man.

With a stab of panic, Niles remembered Cooksey wasn’t a strong swimmer.  Were there currents in the bay?  Could they be sweeping little Cooksey out to sea?

He pushed through the crowd of people fleeing the water after their dip until he reached the edge.  His height allowed him to watch as his team desperately searched for Cooksey.  Still the man didn’t appear.

Swearing, Niles tore off his overcoat and scarf, then his suit coat and tie.  Finally, he toed off his boots and sprinted into the water.  The cold bit into his legs but it didn’t pain him the way it would pain a human.

Arriving in the deep water where the Ghouls were frantically searching, he asked, “Any sign?”

“No!”  Williams kicked with his feet.

“Damn!”  Niles spun around, trying to look into the murky water which was now broiling with sand the team had stirred up.  “Where could he have gone?”

“Don’t know,” Williams grunted.  He flashed a look at the vampire.  Something flickered in his gray eyes.  With both huge paws, he shoved Niles by the shoulders under the water.  “Maybe you should look below, Ghoul!”

The sudden dunking startled the vampire.  Panicked, Niles struggled free of Williams’ grip, swam a few feet away and surfaced.  Shaking his blond head clear of sand and water he cursed his nemesis.

To find Williams laughing.  To find the whole team laughing.

Including Cooksey.

Niles wiped his face clear then stood totally soaked, water dripping from every pore, as his team howled at his expense.

Jackson and Williams high-fived each other.

“Score one for the home team!” Jackson laughed.  He slugged Cooksey, nearly knocking the little man back into the water.  “Good job, Cooksey!”

Niles glared at the group.  “Funny!  Very funny!”

Williams grinned and slapped him on the shoulder.  “Yes, Ghoul.  It was.  We couldn’t go swimming as the Ghouls without you, could we?”

Niles studied his ruined clothing.  Lord, how he hated to be mussed! He turned annoyed blue eyes on his team to find them all waiting to see his reaction.  Cruz especially looked appealingly at him, begging him to join in the fun.

Fun.

He considered his expensive, Bastian suit, now destroyed.

Humans had a strange idea of fun.

He twitched his lips in annoyance while he considered how to react.  They’d extended an olive branch.  Asked him–no forced him–to join in a human experience.  How could he refuse their offer?

He managed to grin and pretend he was thrilled.

Laughing, they gathered around him and cavorted like children.  Dunking each other.  Dunking him.

Niles tolerated it like an indulgent parent.  Not that he understood.

Sometimes humans bewildered vampires.

 

 

© Newmin