Gule Has His Heart Broken

 

The bundle of blood red roses stuffed under his nose made Niles Gule sneeze.  He was a vampire, with a vampire’s sensitive ability to smell, so carrying two dozen long-stemmed red roses into the precinct was torture.  He hadn’t realized he was allergic to the things.  His blue eyes watered as he sneezed again.

The woman at the front desk gave him a look.  “Maybe I need to see some ID,” she joked.  “Can’t see your face behind all that.”

Niles peered around the bouquet and gave Miranda Gonzalez his most brilliant smile, which melted her instantly.  She was a lady in her late fifties, divorced twice, and desperate for a new man.  She’d always watched Baltimore’s resident vampire with hungry eyes, not aware he was a vampire.  He realized her longing gaze was just that, longing.  She knew better than to hope she could capture the attention of an apparently handsome young man in his twenties.  She had no way to know he was actually more than a century old.

He set the bouquet with its crystal vase on her desk then offered her the second object he’d been juggling.  A large red heart of candies.

Miranda’s eyes grew huge.  “You brought these for me?”  Her voice squeaked.

Niles glanced around the office, seeing vases of flowers, boxes of chocolates, balloons and cards scattered about.  Valentine’s Day, or in the case of the night shift, Valentine’s Night, had been generous to most of the people he worked with.  He’d known, however, Miranda would go without.  He knew how it felt to be ignored on such days.

“I did.”  He gave her an elegant bow, sweeping his arm before him as he’d been taught in Boston when Queen Victoria reigned.  “You work so hard and no one seems to appreciate it.  So I’m offering my appreciation.”

Miranda oozed boneless into her chair.  Her face was dazzling, stunned, wondrous, beautiful in its aging way.  “Thank you, Detective.”

“My pleasure.”  He pretended to tip a non-existent hat and sauntered on.

Officer Krewelski whistled as Niles passed his desk.  “Hot stuff, Ghoul!” he jibed.

Officer Cooksey, a small, fat, balding man, scowled.  “It doesn’t mean anything.  Damned Ghoul is gay.”

Niles shot little Cooksey a hard glare from his blue eyes which immediate shut the little man up.  He didn’t bother to correct Cooksey, however.  There was no point.  Cooksey was a hopeless bigot who’d decided long ago the tall, elegant vampire had to be gay.  Only gay men were allowed to be tall and elegant, apparently.  Niles no longer tried to change the man’s thinking.

If he thought at all, Niles grumbled.

He dropped into the chair at his desk and considered the messages written on pink slips piled on its always neat surface.  Tips about the robbery of a supermarket in East Baltimore.  A possible lead on a Fell’s Point break in.  A detective from Jessup returning his call about a stolen vehicle.  Mundane stuff.

His partner, Mariella Cruz, popped a vase of flowers onto her desk next to his and fluffed them.

“Dechamps came through,” Niles commented.  He leaned back in his creaky chair to study first the flowers, then his partner’s glowing face.

“He never forgets a holiday.”  Cruz swept aside the mess on her desk to make room for the card.

“Or his secretary doesn’t.”  Niles couldn’t keep the waspish comment in check.  Malcolm Deschamps was Cruz’s current beau.  A power broker in Baltimore, he was an attorney for the rich and famous.  Some said he also worked for the mob.

Cruz stuck her tongue out at him.  “You’re just jealous because no one sent you anything for Valentine’s Day.”

Niles considered his empty desk.  It was devoid of anything personal.  Other desks held pictures of family, shots from vacations to distant lands, strangely warped coffee mugs in neon colors made by children in nursery school.  His desk held nothing.  Not a single clue into the man behind the job.

“Vampires don’t celebrate the day,” he said.  He tapped the end of his pen on his blotter.  “And no human is going to send me anything.”

Cruz’s face fell.  She blinked rapidly then turned her attention to her computer screen.

“Not true!” Miranda’s voice sounded triumphant as she approached his desk with a vase of carnations and a small square box wrapped in red paper.  “Someone remembered you.”  She placed the objects beside the stunned vampire.

Cruz’s eyes perked up as she studied the flowers.  “Well, well!”  She propped her elbow on her desk and her chin in her hand.  “Gule’s got a secret admirer.”

Niles shot her a look as he pulled the card from the flowers.  Opening it he read:  To my darling in remembrance of a New Year’s Eve I’ll never forget.

His eyes narrowed and grew yellow with anger.  Tossing the card aside, he unwrapped the box to find chocolate from the Fudgery.  He recoiled as the warm, enticing smell tickled his nose and begged him to dive in.  Turtles, no less!  As if he’d touched poison, Niles shoved the box at Cruz.

“Get that away from me!” he exclaimed.

Cruz frowned as she accepted the box.  “It’s just chocolate, Gule.”

Niles wasn’t going to explain to her what chocolate did to a vampire.  He’d only eaten the stuff in quantity once.  On New Year’s Eve.  He’d binged on turtles, not realizing chocolate worked like a narcotic on his system.  He woke from a drug induced haze three days later, naked in a cheap hotel on the Jersey Shore.  With only his nemesis, Jonas Williams, for company.

“Williams!” he shouted, spinning around in his chair to find the prankster.

Williams sauntered in from the men’s room, looking innocent.  “What?  I thought you’d appreciate my thinking of you.  It was such a special evening.”

Niles snatched the box from Cruz and threw it across the room.  He hit Williams.  Chocolate turtles flew in every direction.

Williams howled with glee.

“That wasn’t very nice,” Cruz complained.  She turned pained eyes to the vampire as he snorted and focused on his messages.  “You’re such an ass, Jonas.”

Williams grinned and headed for the coffee machine.

Cruz reached across the desk to grasp Niles’ hand.  “I’m sorry.  That had to hurt.”

Niles jerked himself free and shrugged.  “Not important.  I’m used to his abuse.”  He kept his eyes on his work.  Started typing.  Short, staccato stabbings of the keyboard.

Cruz studied him then quietly rose.  Niles paid no attention.  He had work to do.  Crimes to solve.  Criminals to prosecute.  He was there to do a job, not socialize.

About a half hour later, Cruz returned.  She silently placed a cupcake with a red heart decoration beside his keyboard.

Niles flicked it a glance then returned his eyes to his computer screen.  “That wasn’t necessary.”

“It was,” she said.  “We’re not all assholes, Gule.  Some of us love you.”

He paused in his typing.  His eyes sought hers.  She smiled.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Gule.”

 

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

Super Gule!

Niles Gule winced as the crowd roared and people jumped out of their seats.  A burly man with his face painted red and black bumbled into the tall, lithe vampire, nearly sending him to the ground.  Niles balanced himself and his cardboard carton with difficulty then shoved back at the over-exuberant fan.  All around him pandemonium broke out as Atlanta gained 28 to 9 against the heavily favored New England Patriots.  The Atlanta fans were ecstatic.  The New England fans stunned.  This Super Bowl would go down as the upset of the century.

Niles soldiered on down the stairs until he found his row.  He then edged sideways in front of people who continued to hoot and holler about the shellacking the northerners were taking from the southerners.  A woman bopped him in the ear with her elbow as she jumped up and down waving a giant foam finger.  He cursed and glared at her with his piercing blue eyes.  At first she looked ready to pop him with her first, but when she took note of his handsome face and corn-colored blonde hair, she instead stood mesmerized.  He smiled politely and continued down the row.

“Finally!” Deshawn Jackson stretched out his large hands to take the carton of beer and food from Niles.  “I was starving!  What took you so long?”

Niles blinked at the huge African-American.  “Are you serious?”  He pitched a shoulder at the crowds.  “This stadium is a madhouse.  I had to wait in the beer line for twenty minutes.”

Jackson gestured for him to sit down and stop blocking the view.

“This is epic!” he hooted.  “Atlanta just scored again.”

“So I noticed.”

Niles settled himself next to his co-worker.  He snatched his pair of hotdogs from the carton, discarded the buns and munched on the dogs.

Jackson gave him a hard look.  “They’re better with ketchup and mustard.”

Niles glanced at the bare hotdog.  “I’ll take your word on that.”  He bit deep into his dog.

“Leave it to me to get stuck at the Super Bowl with a freaking vampire,” his companion muttered.

“Don’t complain!  I got tickets.  I could have invited Williams or Cooksey instead of you.”

Jackson chortled.  “I know how much you love those two!  No way.”  He poked Niles with his elbow.  “Besides, this is so much better.  A southern gentleman like me getting to watch my team clean your team’s clock.”

Niles sipped a beer.  “I wasn’t aware I had a team.”

Jackson twisted.  A frown puckered his brow.  “I thought you were from Boston.”

“I am.”  Niles looked down on the field.  “But that doesn’t necessarily make the Patriots my team.”

“Bull crap!  You just can’t stand you’re losing big time.”  Jackson studied the vampire, noting the neat, expensive black frock coat, the cashmere sweater and tailored slacks Niles wore.  Niles was a finicky individual.  He liked to look presentable even at the Super Bowl.  He was never mussed.  “I swear you never lose at anything, Gule.”

Niles lifted a brow.  As he sipped his beer, he murmured, “I have been known to lose on occasion.  On very rare occasion.”

“Well, you’re losing today!”  Jackson sank back into the stadium seat and folded his arms, looking very pleased with himself.

Niles turned his eyes to the game.  It had been a bloodbath so far.  The Patriots hadn’t even bothered to show up to play for the first quarter, leaving Atlanta to run all over them.  Tom Brady, supposedly one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, seemed unable to stop the disaster.  Niles twitched his lips unhappily.  He’d lied to Jackson.  He was a Boston man and a Patriots fan.  He just refused to admit it when his team was floundering on the field like a beached whale.  This whole thing was depressing.

“Too bad you can’t work your voodoo on someone,” Jackson commented.  He plugged his mouth with a French fry.

“Voodoo?”

Jackson shoved him with a shoulder.  “I’ve heard the stories.  Vampires can mesmerize people with just a look.  You use it to hold us hostage until you can bite us.  Like a spider holding prey in a web.”

Niles considered those words.  They were true.  Vampires did indeed use a subtle form of persuasion to make hunting easier.  Strangely, it only worked on humans.  He’d tried it on a cow once and got kicked for his efforts.

The bloodshed on the field continued.  He sighed.  The situation was embarrassing.  New England needed a wake-up call.

Excusing himself, Niles rose and picked his way down to the bottom of the stands.  He used his vampiric voodoo on the ushers at the gate.  They let him onto the field without demur.  Then he wandered along the sidelines, first on the Atlanta side and then on the New England side, looking various players hard in the eye before moving urbanely on.  When he was finished, he wandered back to the hotdog vendor and bought a couple more.

By the time he’d returned to his seat and handed Jackson two more hotdogs, the tide had turned.  New England had scored 31 unanswered points and the score was tied.  For the first time in Super Bowl history, the game would go into overtime.

Niles munched contentedly on his hotdogs, sans bun, while the overtime period played itself out.  New England scored first, winning the game in the biggest comeback in history.

Jackson wailed in pain as the final score flashed on the Jumbotron.  He gripped his Falcon’s hat to his head as if it would keep his brains from exploding.  Meanwhile, Niles fastidiously licked his fingers clean.

“You!” Jackson glared at the vampire.  “You did that!  You voodooized everyone.”

“Two entire teams?” Niles asked innocently.

Jackson’s eyes were narrow.  “I don’t know how you did it, but you did.  Dammit!  We had it won.”

“Just remember Tom Brady is considered one of the best quarterbacks ever.”

“Bull!”  Jackson slumped in his seat.  “You stole my win, Gule!”

Niles shrugged and started to clean up the trash.

“Why can’t you ever simply lose?” Jackson complained.  “Is there some rule in the vampire code that says a vampire can’t be wrong?”

Niles thoughtfully fingered his chin.  “Vampires can be wrong.  I was wrong today.”

Jackson quirked a brow at him.  “Oh yeah?  How?”

“You were right.  Boston really is my team.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  For those of you who are Atlanta fans, I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t let the Pats down.  The entire world is wondering how such a turnaround could have happened.  It seemed like such a mystery.  Well now you know!  Watch some of the footage of the game and you might just catch sight of me working the sidelines.  Post a comment if you find me.  We’ll hold a ‘where’s Waldo’ contest.

 

Gule Is Grounded

“I need to get laid,” Niles Gule grumbled.

“Don’t we all?”  The big, bald, ugly bartender shook his head.  His blood-shot eyes surveyed the tall, elegant blond, not realizing he faced a vampire.  “I’d think a guy like you could land a lady for the night.”  He pointed across the smoky room at a couple of women playing pool.  “Greta over there charges by the hour.”

Niles didn’t bother to correct the bartender’s assumption he could hire a hooker to solve his problem.  He didn’t need just any woman.  In fact, he wasn’t sure he needed to get laid at all.  He was merely speculating.  Sex had saved Bill Murray.  Maybe it would save him.

Although Niles now made Baltimore his home, he’d traveled to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for Groundhog’s Day.  To most of the world, February 2 was just a day like any other, but not so in the little town northeast of Pittsburgh.  Since 1887, its people celebrated Groundhog Day with music, festivals, food and frivolity.   During the fete a domesticated rodent would proclaim when winter would end.  In its early years, the strange tradition passed unnoticed by the outside world, but with the invention of television weather forecasting, the world discovered Punxsutawney and a new holiday was born.

Niles, being one-hundred-fifty-seven years old, had taken part every year since the tradition’s inception.  He’d been a mere twenty-eight years old that first year and stranded by a snowstorm.  He’d joined the party since he’d nothing better to do.   A quirk of humor sent him back every year to relive his lost youth.  This year was no different.  He’d come.  He’d drunk too much, and collapsed in his room late that night to awaken the next day with a tremendous hangover.

And to find himself stuck in the same time loop that caught Bill Murray in the movie.

Like Bill Murray, Niles had tried to escape town by plane, train and automobile, but always re-awoke in the bed and breakfast with the morning television crews crowing about Groundhog Day.   Calling for help from Baltimore hadn’t helped.  No one could arrive in time to spirit him away.  He continued to relive the same day over and over again.

Sleeping with Andie McDowell was how Bill Murray escaped.  Niles’ chin sunk into his fist as he pondered the bottom of his glass of vodka.  No Andie McDowell here now.

Niles knew the existential moral of the movie had been do good works and correct one’s karma.  Except he felt his karma was on pretty firm ground.  True, he’d murdered several hundred people in his youth.  A vampire had to eat after all.  But since his conversion two years ago, he’d shunned killing humans and survived only on beef and pork.  He’d been a good vampire!  He didn’t deserve to be trapped in hell in Punxsutawny PA.

What did the existential karma want from him?

“What it wants from all of us,” the bartender commented, jerking Niles from his brooding.

Niles frowned.  “Excuse me?”

“You asked what the existential karma wants from you.”  The bartender planted a beefy, tattooed arm on the glossy bar and leaned towards Niles.  The vampire flinched at the smell of tobacco smoke that hung like a cloud over the man’s massive body.  “Existential karma demands atonement.”

Niles blinked, trying to process that this hulking man was giving him a lesson in transcendental theology.  “I don’t think that’s the answer to my problem.”

The man gave him a disparaging look.  “I can tell you, laying some chick ain’t gonna do it either.  If you’re stuck in the muck, which I suspect you are, you need to get your karma right.”

Niles’ blue eyes slid around to room.  “Do you have lots of people come here stuck on a karma trip?”

The man shrugged.  “It happens.”

Looking the man over, Niles found it hard to believe the bartender could resolve a cash shortage at the end of the night let alone cosmic harmony.  “You advise them how to get out of it?”

Another shrug.

Niles snorted.  He spun his glass around.  Considered.

“Okay.  I’ll play.  What if I’ve tried to atone for the things I’ve done?”

The bartender stabbed him with a finger.  “There’s your problem.”

“Huh?”

“You tried.”

Niles felt his brows rising.  “When a man has as much blood on his hands as I do, washing it off takes time.”

“Seems to me you have an infinite amount of that.”

Niles twisted on his stool and surveyed the bar.  Outside the day was proceeding just as it had time and again for the past twenty loops.  As a vampire, his life was almost unlimited.  As a vampire stuck in a time loop, it promised to be eternal.  He was stuck in an eternal hell.

“So I’m stuck in this town until I wash the blood of several hundred people off my hands?”

The bartender surprised him by grasping him by the hand and turning it over.  The vampire’s long, slender fingers were pale white, the claws clean and neatly trimmed to hide their murderous purpose.

“Open your mouth,” the bartender commanded.

Startled, Niles bared his teeth.  They were smooth and even, like human teeth.  He suffered a great deal of pain once a month to have his mouth defanged by a dentist.

“You certainly are making an effort, I’ll grant you that.”

Niles’ eyes narrowed as he studied the bartender.  “Who are you?  How did you know I was a vampire?”

He received another shrug.  “I’m many things,” said the enigmatic man.  “Right now, I’m a bartender and I’m listening to some spoiled, prissy jerk moan about his woes, which,” he said spinning a fat finger in the air, “aren’t really all that earth shattering.”

“I’m not spoiled or prissy!”  Niles reared back and jerked his hand away.

Another of those disbelieving looks.

Niles felt himself deflating.  His only hope of escaping Punxsutawney appeared to be this bartender but the man clearly didn’t like him.  “So what am I supposed to do?” he asked.

“Fix your karma.”  An annoyed tone entered the man’s voice.

“I’m trying!”  Niles caught himself.  “No, really I am.  You know what I mean.  I’ve sworn off killing people.  I’m working with the police to help others.  I volunteer where I can.  What more can I do?”

The bartender looked at him hard.  “If you need me to tell you, you can’t do it.”

Niles swore.  He swung around to leave but knowing what he faced stopped him.  He sat with his back to the bartender mutinously.

“Karma isn’t what you do, it’s who you are, Niles,” the bartender stated softly.

Niles whirled around.

The bartender gave a gap-toothed smile.  “Yes, I know who you are.”

“So what is a vampire that spent his life murdering people to do to erase the stain on his soul?”

“You make the changes you can make,” the bartender said.  “And then, when you’ve done all you can, you forgive yourself.”

Niles blinked, finding his eyes threatening tears.  Forgive himself?  For all he’d done?  Was it possible?  He didn’t know, but like everything else, all he could do was try.

The bartender seemed finished with Niles.  He ducked to pull a bottle from a low shelf.  When Niles stood to look over the bar, he found the man had vanished.  He sat back down with a thump, winded.  Then he looked out the window, past the Miller Lite sign, and noticed a snow squall painting the town white.

Niles smiled.

It hadn’t snowed on Groundhog Day.

 

 

© Newmin

 

 

Gule Evermore

Explain to me again why we’re here?” police officer Jonas Williams complained as a bitter wind plucked at his thick, salt-and-pepper hair.  Flurries skirled down his neck.  He shivered not just from the cold but the location and the company.

“We’re going to catch the Toaster!” Walter Cooksey insisted.  The much smaller man was tucked into the windbreak his larger partner created for him.  He, too, was hunched against the cold with a knitted Ravens hat covering his balding head.

“Why’s the Ghoul here?” Williams jerked his head in the direction of the Baltimore PD’s dedicated vampire hunter, Niles Gule.

The vampire hunter was hard to see in his black Victorian-style frock coat.  Barely visible was his neatly shorn blonde head.  Being a vampire, the cold didn’t bother him, although he did wear the coat and wool scarf for effect.  No sense broadcasting he was a vampire if he could help it.

“We need his eyesight!” Cooksey insisted.  He rubbed his gloved hands together gleefully.  “I’ve been after the Toaster for ten years.  I’ve finally got the weaponry to catch him.”

“Is there something illegal with midnight toasting?” Niles asked.  He stood with his arms patiently crossed, his blue eyes scanning the church yard for signs of illegal activity.  Well, more illegal than what they were doing, which was trespassing.

“No!”  Cooksey snorted.

“Breaking into church graveyards is,” Williams growled.

The three men stood in the dark depths of Baltimore’s Westminster Presbyterian Church and Burying Grounds in the center of the city.  The night was January 19th, Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday.  They were huddled near the wall of the church, using a large mausoleum for cover as they kept watch on the white stone cenotaph that marked, not the great writer’s final resting place, but a temporary gravesite where he’d been interred before he was later moved.  The monument, adorned with a carved raven, stood in a corner of the yard, not far from the busy traffic of West Fayette Street.

They were there because Cooksey wanted to put to rest once and for all the identity of the Poe Toaster. This person, everyone assumed it was a man, had been stealing into the cemetery on January 19th since at least the fifties.  He would toast to the legendary writer with Martell cognac, leaving the bottle behind along with three carefully arranged red roses supposedly in honor of the writer, his mother and his wife.  No one really knew who the Poe Toaster was although several people had claimed the title over the years.

“I don’t understand why anyone would toast a writer who’s been dead for a century,” Niles commented.  “Hell, if he was still alive he’d be older than me!”

“Remember him personally, do you?” Williams growled with a sharp look at the vampire.

Niles smiled in the darkness, his white face and blue eyes almost aglow in the dim light from the street.  “Actually, I do.  Met him in Boston.  Odd fellow.  Had a drinking problem.”

“Now who does that remind me of?” Williams wondered.

Niles lanced him with those sharp eyes then turned his attention back to scanning the church yard.

Williams complained, “Why would anyone do this, on a night like this?”

“Poe was a great writer,” Niles replied.  “Created a whole new genre of fiction in his day.  I have a collection of his works.  One of them signed by him.”  He arched a brow when his two companions stared.  “What?  A vampire can’t enjoy horror stories?”  His smile grew sly.  “Maybe I gave Poe some of his ideas.”

Cooksey shuddered.  “Whoa!  That’s not something I needed to know about you.”

Niles laughed and slapped the little man on the shoulder.  “I’m reformed, remember?”

“I thought this Toaster dude gave up a couple years ago.”  Williams shifted weight to keep his toes warm.

“Supposedly,” Cooksey replied.  He continued to eagerly watch the darkness.  “Some old guy claimed to be the Toaster and said he was retiring but that someone else would take over.  That person has.  Sorta.  He’s not as diligent as the old one.”  He fumbled with his camera clumsily with his gloved hands.  “Whoever he is, I’m getting his picture.  Keep those radar eyes peeled, Ghoul.”

Niles didn’t bother to explain to Cooksey that his night vision was such that he could read a newspaper on a moonless night.  The cemetery appeared as a black and white photograph.  He had been entertaining himself by reading the epitaphs all around him.  While Cooksey couldn’t see his hand in front of his face, Niles could count the bits of trash blowing about.

“I’m going for a spin around the yard,” he commented.  “Maybe our Toaster is lurking on the other side of the wall.”

“Keep hidden!” Cooksey hissed.  “We don’t want to spook him.”

“As if he hasn’t heard us chattering this whole time,” Niles replied urbanely.  He dropped a dark hat over his blonde hair to hide it then slipped into the darkness.

Twenty minutes later, he’d worked his way back to where Cooksey and Williams still huddled next to the mausoleum.  He slid up behind them and stood leaning over them as they waited, their eyes fixed on Poe’s cenotaph.

“This is a waste of time,” Williams complained.

“The night’s not over yet!”  Cooksey insisted.

Niles realized they hadn’t noticed his return.  He moved close and in what would have been a whisper to a vampire, said boo! in the home tongue.  The sound screeched.  Both Williams and Cooksey leaped for the heavens.

“Dammit, Ghoul!”  Williams hit the vampire with his fist.  “Not cool!”

Niles suspected Cooksey had wet his pants.  “Ooh, I hate you!” the little man moaned.

“Until you need my night vision.”  Niles leaned against the mausoleum.

“It’s not much good!” Cooksey complained.

Niles shrugged.  “Oh I don’t know.  You asked me to keep watch for the Toaster.  You didn’t say what I was supposed to do when I saw him.”

Cooksey gasped.  His eyes flashed to the cenotaph.  There, sitting innocently at its base were a bottle of cognac and three roses.

“Dammit!”  Cooksey raced to the spot and whirled around.  But the Poe Toaster was gone.

“There’s always next year,” Niles offered.

Now Cooksey punched him.  In total frustration, the little man marched for the street, cursing stupid, arrogant vampires.

Williams considered the cognac.  “Strange how he came just when you went missing, Ghoul.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Also strange that the Toaster disappeared for the handful of years when you weren’t in Baltimore.”

Niles headed after Cooksey.  “Stranger things have been known to happen.”

“They say this tradition has been going on for almost a century,” the officer added as he followed.  “Almost as long as you’ve been alive.”

Niles gave him a quick wick.  “Next you’ll blame me for the Loch Ness Monster.”

“Oh, I’m blaming you for a lot of things, Ghoul,” Williams murmured.  “A lot of things.”

Niles laughed.  He did not look back.

© 2017 Newmin

Niles comments:  Poe was a pioneer in American fiction who focused on mystery and tales of the macabre.  He embraced the short story format at a time when short stories were rare.  Credited as the inventor of the detective story, Poe was also an early adopter of the science fiction genre.  Sadly, he lived a troubled live and died under mysterious circumstances that echoed much of his writing.  So come to Baltimore and toast to Poe’s grave.  You have him to thank for my existence.

Gule Learns to Spell

 

“Since when is dudebro a word?” Niles Gule demanded.

The vampire and his team from the Baltimore PD night shift sat around Walter Cooksey’s kitchen table playing Scrabble©.  Niles’ Mexican-American partner Mariella Cruz sat on his left, his nemesis Jonas Williams on his right.  Martin Krewelski and Deshawn Jackson sat across from them while Cooksey fussed over the array of food he’d set on his counter.  They were all drunk.  Cooksey had invited the team to his tiny bungalow for beer, food and football on a bleak winter’s evening.  They’d started with beer, then Cooksey broke into his stash of bourbon and things went south from there.

Niles hadn’t planned on attending the little bash.  Cooksey wasn’t his favorite person.  The police officer was convinced his colleague wasn’t tall, elegant and exquisitely groomed because he was a vampire.  No, it was because Niles had to be gay.  After two years, Niles finally surrendered to Cooksey’s delusions.  He was gay.  Even if he lusted after his luscious partner Cruz and vampires didn’t actually come in a gay variety as far as Niles knew.

Williams had talked Niles into attending.  Unbeknownst to Niles, Cooksey was not only an idiot he was also an incredible cook.  No one, Williams insisted, ever rejected a meal from Walter Cooksey.  When Niles protested that he only ate raw meat, Williams told him Cooksey could whip up something to suit even a vampire’s vile palate.

He’d been right, Niles thought as he eyed his empty bowl.  Cooksey made ceviche for him.  Beef with a mysterious mix of spices that made Niles drool the length of his fangs.  Cooksey was a culinary genius.

Williams flourished his cellphone at Niles.  “Right there in the urban dictionary.  Dudebro.  A man who uses the words dude and bro in the same sentence on a regular basis.”

Niles snatched the phone and read the entry.  “We’re allowed to use slang?”

Jackson laughed, a deep, rolling bass of a laugh.  “This is urban Scrabble©, Ghoul!  If it’s in the dictionary, it’s allowed.”

Through his drunken haze Niles tried to process the idea that these people played Scrabble©.  He’d always considered it a literary sort of endeavor.  Words like quaternary or xyst.  Not dudebro.  The team, being thoroughly wasted, had become raucous and played words Niles didn’t know existed.

Cruz chortled as she placed her tiles.  “Yolo!  Triple score on the Y.”

Niles rubbed his brow.  “What’s a yolo?”

Cooksey shook his head in disgust as he placed a tray of crab cake canapés in front of his guests.  “It means carpe diem in street lingo.”

“Why don’t they just say carpe diem then?”

Cruz snorted.  “That would require street thugs to speak Latin.”

Niles wanted to say even though he didn’t speak Latin he knew carpe diem but his head spun too much.

Jackson whooped and pounced.  “With Williams’ D, I get dankrupt.”  He slid his tiles into position.  “87 points.  Take that suckers!”

Niles’ brow puckered.  “Do I want to know what that means?”

Jackson grinned brilliant white teeth.  “To be out of weed.”

Niles sighed.  He pondered his tiles, dreading placing his next word.  It sounded so… normal.  “Pat.”

Sounding like a pig, Cruz snorted a second time and almost fell out of her chair.

Williams shook his head.  “I thought you were the smart one, Ghoul.”

“Apparently not!”

Cooksey peered over Williams’ shoulder to reach his tiles while he offered white truffle mini cheese quiches to his guests.  “Hoar,” he said, placing his tiles.

“That’s not how it’s spelled!” Krewelski complained.

Now Niles could scoff.  “It’s a kind of frost, you idiot!”  He blinked at Cooksey.  The man was a simpleton with the papers to prove it.  And yet, he’d just hauled that one out of his ass.  Once again, Niles had discovered a hidden aspect to the bizarre little man.

Cooksey beamed, pleased that one person understood his genius.  He handed Niles the quiche plate which the vampire hastily passed to Jackson.  The smell was atrocious to his sensitive nose.

“Time for some complex math,” Williams stated as he boldly shoved three tiles onto the board.

“Since when is sex math?” Niles demanded, looking at the little word.

Williams grinned.  “Sex has always been math.  You add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the legs and hope you don’t multiply!”  He howled drunkenly and slapped Niles hard on the back.

Cruz rolled her eyes.   Then she started laughing.  “Oh lord!  Niles!”  Using William’s S she put the name on the board.

“I’m not sure I want my name associated with Williams’ mathematics,” Niles grumbled.  He played the word font and got howls of derision for his lack of creativity.

Around the table they went, Jackson playing strugglebus, Krewelski swapping tiles, Cooksey spending all his vowels on zoeae and Cruz getting a good score with marry.

When Niles got stuck, Williams peeked at his tiles and pointed out meh.

“Is that a word?” Niles asked.  He wondered how he’d survived supposedly speaking English for one-hundred-fifty-seven years and yet had never obviously learned it.

Williams shrugged and said “Meh!”

Cruz snortle laughed.  She twisted when she heard the beep of a car’s horn.  “That must be Malcolm.  He said he’d pick me up.”  She smiled.  “He doesn’t want me driving drunk.”  She added her last letter E to the board, grabbed her coat and hastened for the door.  “Good thing too.  Because I’m trashed.”  She giggled inanely, swayed, and plowed into the door frame.

“Lightweight!” Williams yelled.

Niles watched as Cruz stumbled into the arms of her new boyfriend, Malcolm Deschamps.  The tall, always composed attorney caught her with a displeased smile then assisted her out with only the briefest nod to the men.  Niles’ sensitive ears overheard him chastising her for her unseemly behavior as they made their way down the walk.  He sighed.  His heart hurt.

“God I hate that guy!” Krewelski commented.  “Such an ass.”

“He could have said hello,” grumbled Jackson.

Cooksey seemed deflated that the elegant man had turned his nose up at the tray of micro-filets wrapped in bacon he offered.  Niles thought poor Cooksey looked like a wounded puppy and suspected he didn’t look much better.

He found William’s gray eyes studying him.  “It’s not so bad,” the big man commented.  “Don’t give up.”

Niles gestured.  “I’m a vampire.  She’s not.  It’s not to be, Jonas.”

“You sure?”

Niles lifted his brows.  “Pretty sure.”

“I’m not.”

When Niles scowled at him, Williams gestured to the board.  “You might just want to keep your mind open, Ghoul.”  He slapped Niles on the shoulder and sauntered off to find the bathroom.

Niles looked down at the board.  Within a crosshatch of words surrounded by some of the most vulgar expressions ever known to the English language lay the last three words Cruz had played.  Niles felt his heart stop then start to thunder.  Before anyone else could read them, he bumped the board with his hand to jumble it.  Only he and Williams knew what Cruz had played.

Niles

Marry

Me

 

 

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  For those of you who know me well, I’m addicted to Words With Friends©.  Give it a whirl!  Maybe you’ll become addicted too and we can spend an evening together learning the most obscure words in the English language.  I’ll be looking for you.

 

 

Gule Gets a Manicure

 

Niles Gule, police consultant and resident vampire of Baltimore, tilted his head at the odd request from Miss Julia Buzinski.

The young lady gazed at him with a voracious twinkle in her eye.

“Okay,” he agreed although he wasn’t certain what he was agreeing to.  He’d been assigned to care for the girl while her parents reviewed a lineup of suspects related to a robbery they’d witnessed.  He thought that meant he and Julia would sit around and chat.  The girl had other ideas.

Julia beamed.  “Hands flat on the table.”

Lifting his brows at her imperious voice, Niles did as the eleven-year-old girl demanded.  He spayed his delicately fingered hands on the conference room table.

As was typical of all vampires, his fingers ended with long white claws rather than nails.  Many vampires sharpened them into weaponry strong enough to slash clothing and rend skin.  Once upon a time, Niles had done the same and used his claws for self-defense and hunting. Even after he swore off consuming humans and stopped sharpening his claws they remained formidable.

The fearsome spikes didn’t frighten Julia.  She gleefully squealed and placed her kit on the conference room table.

“You have to stay very still or you’ll ruin it,” she said, giving him a hard look with her dark, satiny eyes.

Niles nodded solemnly.

The vampire still didn’t understand children or know how to treat them.  So he just treated them like miniature adults.  They seemed to like it and were attracted to him.  Niles always found himself caring for human children, a situation he found bewildering but humorous.  Julia was no different.  She apparently liked him.

The Buzinski family had journeyed from their home in Philadelphia to Baltimore first for business then a little tourism.  Unfortunately, they’d witnessed a mugging on Pratt Street which entailed their return to the Crab Cake Capital of the World to view suspects in a lineup.  Mom and Dad didn’t want their daughter exposed to that nastiness, so Julia was left under the vampire’s watchful eye, never knowing they had a vampire for a babysitter.  Not that Niles was dangerous.  He hadn’t eaten children in years.

Niles had expected to idly relax while Julia played games on her cellphone.  A simple if boring duty.  He could catch up on email.  Snack on some beef jerky.  Maybe take a nap.  That idea ended as soon as the young lady laid eyes on his hands.  Her beautiful dark eyes almost exploded with excitement.  The kit was out and she was off.

The stench that rose from her supplies almost knocked the vampire to the floor.  His sense of smell was ten times as acute as a human’s so the vapors from the chemicals burned his eyes.  He gritted his teeth, forced a smile and tolerated the abuse as Julia worked her magic on him.

Through the glass window, Niles saw Sergeant Tan Lo and Officer Jonas Williams return with Melanie and Ken Buzinski in tow.  They conferred for several minutes and Lo’s face sagged.  He gestured towards the conference room.

When the trio arrived, Niles asked, “Didn’t go well?”

Lo shook his head.  “They didn’t get a good look at the guy.”

“He was dressed as a woman,” Ken complained.  He waved his hands in the air.  “Big hat, feather boa, high heels.  The whole nine yards.  I honestly thought he was a woman but Mel insisted he was a guy.”

“He was a guy, Ken,” his wife insisted.

“Well he was a really good looking woman!” Ken laughed.

Lo sighed.  “Maybe we should redo the lineup with everyone dressed in drag.”

Officer Williams, who lounged nearby, gestured at Niles.  “Why don’t we put him in the lineup?” He looked Niles up and down.  “You’d look great in a feather boa, Ghoul.”

Niles, tall, thin and elegant, had tolerated the aspersions to his manhood for a year.  He bared his teeth at Williams, promising revenge to come.  Just not in front of a family with a young daughter.

“Why can’t I view the lineup?” Julia asked.  “I saw him too.”

Although her parents started to protest, Niles turned to the girl and laid a hand on her shoulder.  “Did you get a good look at him?”

Julia nodded.  “Uh huh!”

Ken and Mel tried to stop him, but Niles decided Julia was up to the task.  He gestured to Lo who shrugged and agreed to let Julia have a go at the lineup.  The entire group headed through the precinct to the room where the lineups took place.  Niles stood directly behind Julia with his hands resting lightly on her shoulders as she faced the glass.

“I’m sure you know what to do,” he said.

She nodded solemnly.  “Pick out the bad guy.”

Niles chuckled.  “Exactly.”

The suspect and a group of volunteers lined up in the room beyond.  Since none was dressed in drag, Niles knew discerning which one had been in finery several weeks ago would indeed be difficult.  Not to Julia, however.  She immediately poked the glass.

“That’s him.  Number three.”

Lo started.  “Are you sure?”

Julia nodded.  “Absolutely.”

“Honey,” Ken said, “How can you be so certain?  He doesn’t look anything like the man we saw.”

Julia nodded vigorously.  “Yes he does!  Look at his hands!”

Lo ordered number three to raise his hands and present first the front and then the back of them to the watchers.  Niles blinked.  There they were.  Ten beautifully manicured and painted fingernails, each one a work of art.

“Those are the nails I saw!” Julia insisted.  “Really nice work, too!”

Lo glanced at the district attorney who’d remained silent at the back of the room.  “Can we ID someone on fingernail polish?”

“If the witness was an expert in it, maybe,” the woman stated.  “But fingernail polish can be changed.  Or two people can have the same design.”

“No way!”  Julia insisted.  “Those are special.  You need just the right kit to get those patterns.  And all the colors.  I recognize the blue and red checkerboard with the yellow flower.   He’s the guy.”

Lo considered the girl who nodded fiercely to convince him.  “Can we call her an expert?” he asked.

The DA shrugged.  “I’m not sure that would fly.”

To his chagrin Niles had to lift a hand.  “I think we can call her an expert.”

When everyone stared at him, the embarrassed vampire brandished his fingers.  There for all the world to see were a flurry of multicolored patterns, including harlequins, checkerboards, flowers and celestial signs.  Each one a work of art.

Williams couldn’t help but hoot.  “Are you sure you weren’t the mugger?” he jibed.

Julia glared daggers at the big police officer.  “I did his hands!  That’s my work!”

The DA considered the girl.  Considered Niles’ elaborate nails.  Shrugged.

“Yep,” she said, “the girl’s an expert.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  Today is a very special day.  It’s Miss Julia’s birthday!

Happy birthday, sweetheart!  May you have almost as many birthdays to come as a vampire.

Gule Learns Diamonds Are Forever

 

“I take it blizzard conditions don’t bother you,” Mariella Cruz complained as she clutched her scarf tight to her throat and waited for her partner, Niles Gule, to open the door to the Bangor police station.

Niles considered the frigid Maine evening.  Flurries battered his cheeks, striking like icy arrows.  The wind tried without success to ruffle his neatly shorn blonde locks.  Cold, yes.  Blizzard conditions, hardly.

“I’m a vampire,” he commented.  “Born in Boston no less.  Winters don’t bother me.”

Cruz touched his cheek with the back of her hand.  Her fingers burned compared to his cold skin.  He closed his eyes, savoring that soft brush of warmth before she jerked her hand away.  Niles sighed and willed his wayward heart to stop thumping.  Such heat is not for you, he reminded himself.

Cruz seemed as startled by their brief touch as he.  She gathered her wits quickly, however, and charged forward in full Cruz style.  “I’m Mexican.  The only snow we have in the home country will get you arrested.”

Niles swallowed the pain in his chest and pretended to smile.  He allowed her to lead the way.

An efficient hum hung over the station.  Someone was talking quietly on the phone taking down particulars about packages being stolen from mailboxes.  An older man complained that his car had been stolen, only to be told he really needed to lock it up next time.  A woman was hanging a notice on the bulletin board describing the latest Most Wanted.  For murder.  In California.  Niles suspected Bangor didn’t need to worry about the LA Strangler coming their way.

He rested his arm on a filing cabinet.  An American wood duck, stuffed but amazingly lifelike, stared at him with beady eyes.

Cruz waved a large envelope at the first uniformed woman she encountered.  “Detectives Cruz and Gule from Baltimore here to pick up evidence.”

The woman smiled.  “Yes.  We’ve been expecting you.  Hold on.  Let me find TC… Sergeant Cotton.  He’s handing the problem.”

Niles lifted a brow as he glanced at Cruz.  “Problem?”

Cruz shrugged.

TC appeared, a formidable silver-haired man, looking relieved.  He extended his hand and shook Cruz’s.  Niles kept his hands in his pockets.  Upsetting one human with his cold skin was enough for the night.

“Welcome to Bangor,” TC said.  “You came a long way.”

Cruz nodded.  “All in a day’s work.”  She glanced around the small station that was the epitome of what Baltimore’s precinct was not, clean, quiet and orderly.  Baltimore dreamed of a world like this.

She and Niles had been sent north to pick up evidence related to a murder in the city.  A deal over stolen property had gone bad, leaving two men dead and another in prison awaiting trial.  The deal had been some convoluted affair between the three men in Baltimore and someone in Maine who remained unidentified.  The two detectives had been tasked with retrieving the contested property.

“I’m glad you finally came,” TC commented.  “It’s been a pain dealing with this.”

Cruz had only briefly scanned the paperwork before setting out on the journey north. “I’m not sure why.  It’s just diamonds.”

TC gave her a hard look.  “Diamonds,” he repeated.  He sounded dubious.

“It is diamonds, right?” Niles asked.  He didn’t like the vibe he was receiving from TC or the lady officer.  They were shooting looks at each other.

TC grabbed a parka embroidered with the Bangor Police Department logo on it.  “Yeah, it’s diamonds.”  As he passed the desk, Niles’ sensitive hearing caught what he muttered to the woman.  “Southerners.”  The woman rolled her eyes.

Cruz and Niles were forced to follow when TC headed for the door.

“Haven’t you been keeping them in the evidence locker?” Cruz demanded as the trio plunged into the frigid night.

“Nope.  Wouldn’t fit.”

Through the dark and flurries, Niles tried to catch Cruz’s eye.  He had a bad feeling about this.

TC led them to a patrol car and opened the door.  “Get in.  It’s a bit of a drive.”

Now Cruz did stare hard at Niles.  As he slid his tall, thin form into the vehicle he gave her an encouraging look.  He was, after all, a vampire and she was armed.  He had no doubt the two of them could take down the seemingly honest looking Mainer if they needed to.

TC settled into the driver’s seat and drove off at a pace so sedate it had Cruz gripping the seat in frustration.  Niles, who’d suffered eight hours of Cruz’s maniacal driving north, breathed a sigh of relief.

“Certainly is a different world up here,” he commented.

TC nodded.  “Yep.  Relatively peaceful and quiet.  The way we like it.”

After almost twenty minutes they’d passed out of the small city and were moving through dark countryside.  To Cruz it appeared as impenetrable black, but Niles was able to watch as small New England cottages and picturesque farmettes passed in the dark.  The car rocked when they turned onto an unpaved lane.  Ahead of them lights gleamed from a farm house and barn.

TC pulled up and climbed out.

Niles uncoiled himself and rose, then offered his hand to Cruz.  She hesitated, then took it and got out of the car.

TC strolled to a fence and waved.  “Diamonds.”

Cruz stopped cold.

“Please tell me your night vision is better than mine and I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.”

Niles leaned against the fence.  “Ok.  My night vision is better than yours and I’m not sure what it is you think you’re seeing.”

“Please tell me that’s not a reindeer!”

Niles tilted his head as he considered the giant animal dozing in the middle of the paddock.  It was the size of a horse but it had huge antlers on its head.  “Ok.  It’s not a reindeer.”

“The paperwork said diamonds!” Cruz complained.

TC nodded.  “And that, folks, is Diamonds the racing reindeer.  He’s pretty famous.  A champion.”  He eyed them curiously.  “What do you expect to find in Maine?”

“I expected diamonds,” Cruz moaned.  “Our stolen property is a reindeer?”

“Yep,” TC commented.  “I take it you didn’t read your paperwork.”

Cruz sighed.  “Didn’t look past the word diamonds.”

“Sucks to be you,” TC said.

Niles slapped Cruz on the shoulder.  “You can handle the reindeer.  I’ve got to make some calls.”

Cruz scowled.  “Why do I have to handle the reindeer?”

Niles couldn’t keep the grin from his face.  “Isn’t it true, diamonds are a girl’s best friend?”

Cruz tried to punch him but Niles danced out of the way.

He extended his arms.  “Never let it be said I didn’t give you diamonds, Cruz!”

Her hand went to her weapon.  “Ok, now that deserves a response!”

Niles laughed and started flipping websites on his cell phone.

“What are you looking for?” Cruz demanded.

Niles chuckled.  “Rental companies.  To paraphrase a famous movie.  We’re gonna need a bigger car.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

Niles comments:  The Bangor Police Department has the best Facebook page I’ve ever read.  Warm, funny, yet providing important information to the people they serve.  The department is a credit to the profession and a heck of a lot better at this social media thing than a certain vampire will ever be.  Follow them and the great conversations with people from all over the US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gules and Turtles Do Not Mix

The first shot of pain hit him between the eyes followed by a general throb throughout his head.  Niles Gule kept his eyes squeezed shut and willed the pillow to stop hurting him.  His head rang like a hollow bell.  Over and over, lancing pain from eye to eye then ear to ear.  He’d never encountered such pain in his life.  Even his teeth hurt.

And what was that blasted noise?  A relentless surge ground into his brain like a surgeon’s drill driving the vampire insane.

He sensed motion in the room.  That terrified him.  Vampires slept alone.  A person in the room meant danger, death.  Against the pain, he forced his eyes to crack open.  A strange room slumbering in twilight met his bleary gaze.  A motel room and not the sort Niles would choose.  A vampire, after all, had his standards.  This room smelled of dust and mold.  Cheap prints were screwed to the wall.  Where a television had once hung, only an empty mounting bracket now remained.  Niles winced, wondering what sort of creatures inhabited the beds in such a place.  He also wondered what the hell he was doing there.

More motion sent his blue gaze darting across the room.  A figure sat in a rickety chair, feet braced on the battered little desk, an iPad propped against the wall streaming a football game.  Niles recognized that thick neck and dark hair in a severe military cut.  Jonas Williams, his nemesis.

Niles sat up, intending to rend the human to pieces but the pain that stabbed him in the face blinded him and he groaned, alerting Williams.

The man twisted in his chair.  “Oh, back from the dead are we?”

Niles glared at him.  “Where am I?”

“Point Pleasant New Jersey.”

Niles collapsed against the pillow then moaned as his head rang from the blow.  “How the hell did I get to New Jersey?”

“That’s a good question.”

Niles cracked an eye at Williams, wondering what deviltry the man had been up to this time.  He and Williams, fellow officers on the Baltimore PD, had been trading pranks for the better part of year.  Williams generally got the better of his vampire enemy.  This situation smelled of Williams’ handiwork.

The last thing Niles remembered was being on duty working New Year’s Eve in downtown Baltimore.  On vampire patrol.  They liked to come out on holidays when humans were in the streets after dark.  New Year’s was prime hunting season.  While Niles had taken a vow to abstain from eating humans, his fellow vampires had not.  He considered Baltimore his territory.  He would defend its people at all costs.

“You apparently tied one on, Ghoul.”  Williams’ hazel eyes studied the vampire without gloating or malice.

“I most certainly did not!”

Williams shrugged.  “Suit yourself.  I know you have a drinking problem.”  When Niles bristled, he raised a hand.  “I’m not saying I blame you.  Must be hell living for an eternity alone.  Hated by everyone you know, vampires and humans alike.  I get it.  Really I do.”

Niles glared, anger turning his blue eyes yellow.  Yes, he had a drinking problem.  No argument there.  But he hadn’t been drinking on duty.  He would have remembered.  And never in his one-hundred-fifty-seven years had he ever suffered from a hangover regardless of how much he drank.  This was not alcohol.

“What did you do to me this time?”  he growled.  He cast about for his clothes.  Nothing.

Williams sighed.  “I didn’t do anything, Ghoul.  Seriously.”

“Then how did I get to a cheap motel on the Jersey shore?” Niles realized the droning sound was the constant crash of the sea on the beach.  It never relented.

“Don’t know.”  Williams turned off the football game, spun in his chair and looked at Niles earnestly.   When he realized Niles’ glare wasn’t relenting he said, “You went missing on New Year’s Eve.  It’s January third by the way.  Never called in from your shift.  Sergeant Lo got worried.  Eventually he issued a missing persons report on you.  Imagine my surprise when my cousin found you.”

Niles groaned.  Not another ubiquitous Williams cousin!  Niles swore there were already Williams cousins colonizing the moon.

“He works for the Point Pleasant sheriff’s department,” Williams continued.  “Apparently you were arrested running buck naked along the boardwalk screaming about alien invasions and a vampire apocalypse.  Took three officers to take you down.  They assumed you were on PCP given how strong you were.  They threw you in the drunk tank until you sobered up.”

Niles stared.  He simply stared.

Williams’ expression remained bland, his voice without expression.  “When I got the call I decided to spare you the embarrassment.  I came myself to bail you out.  Brought you here.”  He gestured at the motel room.  “You’ve been out cold ever since.  I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up.”

Niles ran his hands through his short, blond hair.  His headache was easing and his vision had cleared.  He again searched for his clothes but the motel room was empty except for himself and Williams.

“Where are my clothes?”

“Another good question.”  Williams tilted his head.  “What happened, Gule?”  He frowned as he considered the vampire staring back at him blankly.  He sighed.  “Let’s put our cards on the table shall we?  I don’t much like you and I know you hate me.  That said, this,” he gestured to the room and Niles’ scruffy appearance, “isn’t you.  One of the reasons I can’t stand you is because you’re always so damned perfect.  Perfect hair, perfect teeth, Italian clothes.  No man should be allowed to look as good as you do especially given your age.  You’re never mussed, fussed, disturbed or shaken.  So… what the hell happened?”

Niles shook his head slowly.  Motion still caused his temples to throb.

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Even thinking was painful.  Niles closed his eyes.  “I was at the Inner Harbor at the Calvert Street Pavilion.  Crowd control for the fireworks display.  The lights and sounds are irritating so I moved into the pavilion for the duration of the show.”  Niles frowned as he tried to remember.  “I was at the Fudgery.  Watching the kids making the fudge.  It smelled delightful.”

“And?”

Niles opened his eyes.  “The girl at the counter offered me this little chocolate thing.  She called it a turtle.”

The stoic Williams’ face vaguely twitched.  “Yeah, chocolate, caramel and pecans.  Love those things.  I didn’t think you ate anything except blood.”

“I don’t.  Except, at Christmas, the Cruz kids introduced me to chocolate chip cookies.”  Niles’ eyes brightened.  “I like those!”

“So what happened after you ate the turtle?”

Niles tried to remember.  “They were incredible.  I bought a pound of them to munch on for the rest of the night.  I honestly don’t remember anything after that.”

“Oh lord!”  Williams shook his head as he fought not to laugh.  “I guess that answers that.”  He rose and loomed over Niles.  “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” Niles demanded.  He didn’t want to be left alone in that ratty motel room without clothes or means of escape.

“I’m going to get you some clothes!”  Williams was shaking his head.  “Figures, Gule.  Only you.”

“Only me what?”  Niles lifted his chin in affront.

Williams huffed.  “You really don’t know, do you?”  When Niles shook his head, Williams laughed.  “Gule!  You’re a chocoholic!”

© 2016 Newmin

Niles Comments:  My experience overdosing on chocolate didn’t go so well, but that doesn’t mean it has to for you!  Chocolate!  Wondrous stuff!  I fully intend to continue to enjoy it, just in moderation from now on.  When you’re in the Inner Harbor area, check out the Fudgery and watch the folks hand making chocolate on a marble table in the middle of the Calvert Street Pavilion.  Fun stuff!

http://www.fudgeryfudge.com/

Gule’s Gift

The average vampire slept lightly because they lived amongst humans determined to kill them.  Although he was grievously wounded, Niles Gule, being a vampire, remained aware of his surroundings.  So when he heard the stealthy patter of feet in the room, he fought to waken.  Instincts screamed.  Danger!  Danger!  You’re being attacked.

Although he knew he should be in a safe place, his will to survive jarred him awake bare seconds before the attack hit.  Three small bodies landed on him, shooting rays of pain from his torso.  He struggled to free himself of the cocoon of blankets but it was too late.  He was pinned, pummeled and squished by a pack of squirming children.

“Uncle Niles!” Little Luz shook his cheeks to wake him.  “Get up!  It’s Christmas!”

With a groan, Niles turned onto his back to stare bleary eyed at his tormentors.  Little Luz was five years old, dark-eyed and rosy cheeked.   Carlos was raven-haired and broad shouldered even at the age of seven.  Angel was the devil of the trio.  His brilliant green eyes forever twinkled with mischief.  Niles suspected he’d led the charge into the room where the vampire slept.

Niles had spent Christmas Eve in Mariella Cruz’s bed in the little ranch house in Baltimore after he’d been shot during a robbery at a liquor store.  Being a consultant for the police department, he’d reported the robbery and the murder of the store clerk.  Being a vampire, he’d immediately fled the scene.  A wounded vampire oozed clear gelatinous goo not blood.  He’d be revealed as a vampire.  If those who answered the call weren’t friends, they’d kill him.  Few people suffered vampires to live.

He’d collapsed in a small park where he lay in the cold darkness, waiting for the rising sun to kill him.  Fortunately, he’d left a trail of bloody footprints a blind man could follow.  Cruz, his partner, hearing the call of an officer down, had abandoned her party preparations and raced to the scene.  She’d tracked him to the park, called for assistance from Williams who knew Niles was a vampire, and together they shoved him into her car.  She’d brought him home against his protests then tended to the wound, bound him up, and ordered him to stay in bed until she decided he could rise.

Which was why he had awoken Christmas morning with her niece and nephews jumping on him.  The tiny ranch house was bursting with Cruz’s.

“Get up, Uncle Niles,” Luz chirped.  “Santa came!”

Groaning, holding a hand to his bandaged ribs, Niles sat up.  Cruz’s ultra-frilly bedroom drowsed in predawn twilight.  Angel pounded on his shoulders to wake him.

“Shssh!” Niles whispered when he realized the house was silent.  The adults hadn’t yet risen, not surprising given they’d been up until midnight dealing with an injured vampire.  “Let’s not wake everyone.”

The three children tugged on his arm, dragging him from the bed.  When he swung his legs over the side he realized he was naked and hastily grabbed a sheet for cover.  The three children kept pulling.  Niles doubted he’d be able to sleep given the throb in his side, so he stripped the sheet from the bed and wrapped it around his waist.  Once all his bits and pieces were safely tucked away, he allowed his tormentors to tow him into the living room.

The children threw themselves to their knees before the glittering tree and started sorting through brightly wrapped packages.  Still not totally functional, a barefoot Niles lowered himself into a chair.

“Can we open them?” Angel asked, shaking a box in silver paper.

“No!”  Niles gave him a reproachful look.  “Your parents won’t appreciate missing out.  Put that down.”

Angel scowled.  His calculating look told Niles he might ignore the warning, but another hard look from the vampire’s blue eyes made him set the package aside.  The boy drew a huge sigh and looked petulant.

Niles knew he had to keep the children occupied or they’d wake the entire house.  Shoving himself to his feet, he trundled to the kitchen, found a tray, plates and glasses, filled them, and returned to the living room.  He set the tray on the floor.

“Milk and cookies,” he said.  “Breakfast.”

The children dove in.

Her eyes wide over the rim of her glass, Luz asked, “Aren’t you going to have any?”

Angel handed him a glass.  Niles sniffed it and shuddered.  Even the smell was awful.  Then Carlos extended a cookie and Niles felt bound to accept it.  He fingered the bit of bread and sugar.

“Don’t you like cookies?” Carlos took a giant bite of his.

“They’re chocolate chip!” Angel garbled with his mouth full.

Niles considered the cookie.  Eyed the kids who stared back at him expectantly.  Well, you’ve always wanted to be human, he thought.  He took a miniscule bite.  The taste was alien.  He couldn’t describe it, but it wasn’t unpleasant.  He let the bit roll around his mouth until it disintegrated.  He smiled at the children, deciding maybe cookies weren’t such a bad thing.  He took another bite.

The three were growing restless again.

Niles spied a chess set made of carved quartz.  To keep the children occupied, he set it on the floor.

“What’s that?” Angel asked suspiciously.

“It’s a chess set.  A game.”  Niles noted the look of derision on the boy’s face.  “It’s like Game of Thrones.”

That sparked interest in the lad.  Eagerly the three children gathered around as Niles wove a tale about the origins of chess, of ancient battles and medieval princes.  The three sat around him rapt.  Then he explained the rules and challenged them, three against one.  It was on.

An hour later, Niles looked up when he heard a faint, strangled sound.  Mariella Cruz stood in her bathrobe watching the group huddled on the floor around the chess set.  Her eyes were wide, her mouth half open.

Niles decided it wasn’t every day Cruz woke up to find a naked vampire playing chess with her relatives on the living room floor.  He smiled and ate another cookie.  Her mouth dropped.

“Join us?” he asked, waving to the floor.

Cruz nodded, dazed, and dropped beside him.  She touched his forehead.

“Are you all right?”

Niles focused on the board.  The trio had his queen on the ropes.  “Couldn’t be better.”

“You’re teaching them chess?”

Niles nodded.  “Game of Thrones version.”

Her hand found his shoulder and squeezed.  “You’re a miracle, Gule.”

He flashed a dazzling smile.  “No, just a vampire.  Thank you for bringing me here.  I’ve always wanted a real Christmas.”

Cruz glanced at the tree and its array of gifts.

“I’m sorry there aren’t any for you,” she murmured.

Niles allowed little Luz to crawl into his lap.  Her wriggling made his injury ache but he didn’t care.  He wrapped his arms around her and held her against his chest while he tried to protect his queen.

“Don’t be sorry.”  His hands tightened around Luz as he smiled at Angel and Carlos.  “There is a gift for me under this tree.  It’s the finest gift I’ve ever received.”

 

© 2016 Newmin