Gule Goes Under the Boardwalk

Vacation on the east coast of the United States often equaled a trip to the beach.  New Yorkers to Long Island.  Pennsylvanians to the Jersey shore.  Virginians to the Outer Banks.  Niles Gule, being a vampire, loved the beach but avoided the usual hotspots.  Instead he selected a place few people visited.  Niles Gule liked Asbury Park.

The town had suffered during riots in the sixties and had never recovered.  Whole blocks of what should have been expensive, ocean-front property stood abandoned.  The shell of a hotel stood half built, its loose metal banging fitfully in the steady winds off the ocean.  The Wonder Bar still remained, a fragment of the town’s once vibrant past, its painting of Tilly smiling creepily.  Further down Ocean Ave stood the famous Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Jon Bon Jovi got their starts.  Some new construction had finally begun to perk up the ocean front, but the town was a far cry from both its own glittering past and the liveliness of other Jersey shore towns.

The solitude suited Niles.  As a vampire, he couldn’t sunbathe on the beach.  Indeed the idea of being fried by the yellow orb that humans worshipped made him shudder.  So when he came to the shore on vacation, he came out at night.  Long after the sun set and most of the sun worshippers had gone home, the tall, blond vampire strolled the deserted boardwalk and considered the shops secured for the night.  Crime was still rampant in the area and few people dared walk either the boardwalk or the beach after dark.  But Niles wasn’t afraid.  Although he carried only his silver knife, humans could do little to harm him.  So he strolled alone through the darkness, the salty sea breeze plucking at his carefully trimmed blond locks.  His eyes, exquisitely designed to see in the dark, read the signs in the shop windows and he chuckled at the tacky slogans on t shirts.  His personal favorite was “I’m here for the blowjob.”

New Jersey.  Nothing, if not classy.

When he’d had his fill of the shops, he headed onto the beach.  The night was clear without a moon.   Mars rode red just above the horizon, muted by the sea mist that rolled ashore with the breeze.  The sea was calm, its waves shushing in an endless rhythm that soothed the vampire’s soul.  He’d always loved the sea.

On that summer night, as Niles sauntered barefoot along the beach, the cool water washed up over his ankles, soaking his jeans to his knees.  He chased shells through the foam, picked up driftwood and found some sea glass.  Jingling his finds in his hand, he wandered back to his towel and sat down with a sigh.  He liked the peace and yet, he felt loneliness lurking in the dark corners of his soul.  He yearned for someone to sit beside him on that beach, to laugh at his silly shell collection.  To kiss him under the stars.

Unless he surrendered to taking a vampiress lover, it was not to be.

A shadow flitting along base of the boardwalk caught his attention.  He watched as what resolved into a middle aged black woman slipped between the piers that held up the boardwalk.  Her furtiveness perked his curiosity and he watched her, knowing she could not see him the way he could see her.  She stopped at a place where the sand had been scooped into a trough, peered around nervously, then crawled into the low, dark hole, dragging a plastic bag behind her.

Niles considered the hole.  Considered the woman’s stealth.  Considered the torn, dirty bag stuffed with belongings.   Homeless, he thought sadly.  Living under the boardwalk.  He wished he could help but doubted she’d want his interference.

With a shrug, he turned back to watching the ocean.

Through the mist a man approached, walking along the beach towards him.  Niles again watched, seeing the man as clearly as if the beach lay in sunlight.  Once again, due to the darkness, the human didn’t notice him.

Niles tensed as the man drew closer, not liking the look of the fellow.  His clothes were rough, his bearded face wearing a snarl.  Like the homeless woman, he edged the boardwalk as if trying not to be seen by anyone walking above.  He approached the entrance through which the woman had disappeared and ducked inside.

Once again, the vampire sighed and turned away.  Another homeless person.

A scream from under the boardwalk sent Niles scrambling to his feet.  He raced to the hole and peered inside.  Dim, uncertain light flashed in the spaces between the pilings as if a lantern was swinging wildly.  Niles heard scuffling and another scream.  Drawing his knife and planting it between his teeth, Niles crawled in.  Snaking on his belly, he worked all the way to the concrete seawall.  There he found the nest the woman had made as her home.  The man had attacked her.  He’d crawled on top of her and was clawing to free her of her clothes.

Spitting out his knife and grasping it in his hand, Niles crawled into the space.  He could stand because the ceiling in the little hole was loftier than the crawl space.  He yelled and brandished the knife.

The man froze.  His feral, red-rimmed eyes gleamed like fire in the dim light of the single Coleman lantern.

“Get out!” he growled.  “I got this one first.”

The woman spat and clawed.  She tried to kick her attacker but the thick clothes both she and the man wore got in the way.

Niles didn’t waste any time.  He reached out with long, white taloned fingers and grabbed the man by the collar.  With an easy tug, he lifted the man off the woman and dropped him to the sand in front of him.  The woman scrambled away to huddle against the seawall.

Her attacker wasn’t finished.  “You sonofabitch!” he yelled.  His grimy hands scratched at Niles’ aristocratic face, its beauty seemed to enrage him further.  Niles easily avoided the attack and raised his knife.  Its blade gleamed in the uncertain light.

“That don’t scare me none,” the man chortled.  He drew a Bowie knife twice the size of Niles’ smaller, more delicate weapon.  “Size matters!” he laughed.

Niles decided he’d had enough.  Allowing his anger to bloom through his cold veins, the vampire’s eyes shifted from their brilliant blue to a smoldering yellow and then to the hot, burning red of fury.  He opened his mouth to reveal his fangs, long now since they’d not been trimmed in over a month.

The man recoiled in horror.

“Yes, size does matter,” Niles hissed.  “When one is speaking of fangs!”  He lunged forward.  “Time for dinner!”

The man howled and scrambled backwards into a piling.  Niles marched towards him, deliberately leaving the way out open.  The man was no fool.  He took it.  He bolted around the snarling vampire, fell to his knees and scurried so fast through the hole he left a cloud of sand in the motionless air behind him.

Shaking his head, Niles allowed his anger to bank down so that his eyes returned to their normal blue.  He sheathed his knife.

“Are you all right?” he asked the woman who sat curled up in the corner trembling.

Her eyes were white orbs staring out of the dark skin of her face.  She barely nodded her head.

Niles studied the home she’d made for herself.  Her bed was blankets spread over the sand.  A pile of packing crates served as her dresser.  Her sole light was the hissing lantern.  What amazed Niles the most, however, were the sheets she’d hung for walls.  She’d painted them.  In black line drawings against the tattered and stained background she’d invented an entire house.  One wall showed a bed piled with pillows.  A second had a dresser with a window where the sun perpetually shined.  The third held a mirror with a drawing of her face wearing a quirky, sad smile.  And the last portrayed her door.  If he allowed his imagination to roam, Niles realized it did indeed almost seem like a home.

“I won’t harm you,” he said, keeping well back from her.  “I’m not what I seem.”

She pointed with a shaking finger.  “I saw the fangs.  Vampire.”

Niles nodded.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” he asked.  He knew better than to offer money.  “Anyone I can call for you?  Family perhaps.”

“I ain’t got none.”  Her voice was bitter.  She clutched her clothing tighter.  “I don’t want no damned vampire in my house.  Get out.”

Niles winced.  Even to a homeless person with nothing and no one, he wasn’t wanted.  Not that he was surprised.  Sadly, knowing he could not help her any more than she could ever help him, Niles dropped to his knees and crawled from the nest.  He then sat down on his blanket on the beach to watch the stars wheel through the night sky and ponder the meaning of it all.

When dawn drove him from the beach, the lonely vampire still didn’t have a clue.

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  I’m thrilled to tell everyone that Rheb’s Candy is 101!  How amazing is that?  Imagine a family company surviving nearly as long as me?  They’re celebrating this Friday, June 15.  For those of you in the Baltimore area, visit them for free hot dogs and drinks from 11 am – 1 pm and lots of prizes.  Alas, it’s during daylight so I will probably be sleeping.  But you can go and stuff yourself silly on some of the best chocolates in Maryland.

http://www.rhebs.com

 

 

 

 

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Gule Stalks the Devil

Niles Comments:

I am sad to inform all my followers that my biographer, Mel, lost her mother yesterday after a long illness.  For anyone in the Lancaster, PA area, a memorial will be head for a grand lady next Wednesday at 11:00 am at Landis Homes.  Safe journeys, Mom!

 

Detective Mariella Cruz grunted when she kicked the tire of her little Fiat.  Her partner, Niles Gule, watched as she threatened to rip the hood off the vehicle and feed it to the dead.  She seemed convinced there were dead people all around them, hidden in the darkness that loomed menacingly alongside the road.

Niles was just grateful to unfold his long, lean body out of that microscopic car.  He felt bruised and battered having tolerated Cruz’s insane driving on the long ride from Baltimore.  A few minutes standing in the dank, whispering woods of New Jersey came as a relief.  He shook out his legs and shoved his hands in the pockets of his large frock coat.

“I don’t suppose you know anything about cars,” Cruz muttered as she popped the hood and peered inside.

Niles leaned in, seeing far more in the frigid darkness than she could.  Even with his exquisite night vision, the sinuous coil of pipes, wires and tubes was a bewildering puzzle.

“Once upon a time I knew how to start them,” he said.  “Crank the handle until the engine makes noise.”

Cruz straightened and stared.  Then sighed.  “You never learned how to drive?”

“Yeah.  Back when cars needed to be cranked to start.”

She slammed the hood shut in frustration and considered their predicament.  The car had died at the worst possible point in their journey, in the heart of the Pine Barrens along Route 72.  The last bit of civilization they’d passed had been Mayo’s Half Way House about two miles behind them.  What lay ahead was an endless sea of forbidding forest.  Niles was a city-raised vampire.  He didn’t much care for wilderness.

“I guess we have to walk,” Cruz sighed.  “We won’t find road service at this time of night.”  She glanced at her watch.  “Dammit!”

“I’ll let Tom’s River know we won’t be picking up Bukowski tonight.”  Niles tapped his phone.

The two detectives had been sent to New Jersey to pick up a witness to a murder.  The old man couldn’t drive and refused to take public transportation which necessitated the road trip.  To the middle of nowhere.

Niles didn’t fear darkness or a hike.  He set off, walking slowly so that little Cruz could keep up with his sweeping strides.

The darkness gathered around as they ventured the lonely stretch of road.  No traffic passed them.  Only an endless sea of dark woods spread out, silent and watchful.  Niles lifted a brow when he found Cruz glued to his side.  His lips twitched but he said nothing.

The scream startled them both.  Niles flinched.  Cruz nearly jumped into his arms before she caught herself.  The sound came from the nearly impenetrable pinewoods.  Cruz unholstered her gun then indicated Niles should lead the way since he could see in the dark.  More screams rang through the forest along with a high pitched shriek that sounded terribly familiar.

“Vampires?” Cruz asked.

Niles didn’t know, but it certainly sounded like a vampire call.  He dove into the woods, shouldering through the thick Scots pine and clawing oak branches.  The sound of a battle came from ahead of them.  A woman was screaming.  A dog barked.  A man yelled.  And something eerie shrieked again.

Niles and Cruz exploded onto a lawn carved out of the woods.  In the light that spilled from a bungalow’s front picture window, Niles saw a heavy-set woman thrashing the air with a broom.  A young man danced in the darkness at the edge of the yard with a cell phone in his hand.  He yelled that he wanted to get a picture.  A little Jack Russell terrier had been snatched up by some sort of predator and was yipping as it hung from the creature’s claws.  It was the creature that shrieked whenever the woman hit it with the broom.

“What is that?” Cruz demanded.  Her gun waved as she tried to decide if she should shoot the thing or not.

“It’s a Jersey devil!” shouted the youth.  “Don’t shoot it.  We need to capture it.”

Niles studied the creature as it danced and wove, trying to escape with its meal while the woman smashed it with her broom.  It was about the size of a ten-year-old child with charcoal colored skin.  Its dog-like head held shining white teeth and red glowing eyes.  It had two arms with sharp claws and a pair of bat wings that flapped madly as it tried to take off.  It hopped around on cloven hooves.  When Niles and Cruz burst on the scene, it turned its baleful red glare at them and screeched again.

The sound was not Vanapir, the home tongue of the vampires, but it certainly sounded like it.  Niles screeched back.  The creature blinked then hissed.  Niles suspected it understood him.  Another strike of the broom ended the battle.  The devil released the frantically clawing dog and bounded towards Route 72.  The youth chased it, trying to get a photo.  The woman dove for her dog.

While Cruz checked out the woman, Niles ran after the devil and the youth.  The devil was incredibly fast.  It took flight and soared towards the far side of Route 72.  A roar shook the night as a giant semi appeared on the road.  It plastered the creature on its front grill without a shudder and charged on, never knowing it had just made road kill of a Jersey devil.

The youth came to a stunned stop and stood panting at the side of the road.  “Are you kidding me?” he demanded.

Niles stopped beside him.  “I think it’s dead.”

The youth tilted his head.  “Ya think?  Dammit!  I wanted proof devils were real!”

“Well I’m not chasing it.”  Niles pointed at the now dark, deserted road.  “At the rate that rig was running, it’s almost to New York City.”

Disgusted, because for all the excitement, the youth hadn’t gotten a decent picture of the creature, he stormed back to the house to see to his mother.  Niles followed.

Cruz and Mrs. Shroeder were sitting on the porch tending to cuts on the terrier.  Niles judged it would survive its strange encounter.

“I can’t believe we had an actual Jersey devil right here in the yard and I didn’t catch it or get a picture.”  The youth flopped next to his mother on the stair.  “No one’s going to believe me!”

“I’m not sure I believe it,” Niles commented.  “Maybe it was a large bird.  An eagle or a crane.”

Cruz gave him the stink eye.  “That was no bird, Gule.”

“Are you saying it was some sort of mythical monster?” Niles demanded as he loomed over her in the darkness.

“Maybe.”  She stared out at the black night.  “I’m not sure.”

Niles folded his arms.  “All of you need to settle down.  There’s no such thing as mystical monsters.”

Cruz’s stink eye hardened.  “It made a strange sound.  Like a vampire.”  She didn’t say what she wanted to, that Niles and it could converse.

“Maybe it was a vampire,” Mrs. Shroeder said.  “In its bat form.”

Bat form?  Niles looked down at his long body and wondered how it would ever transform into a bat.

Cruz continued to glare.  “Gule?  Any comments?”

Niles was thoughtful as he indeed did wonder why the devil sounded so much like a vampire.  And why legend claimed vampires could transform into such things.

“Gule?”

Niles decided to deflect the question.  He laughed quietly.

“Really, Cruz.  Get a grip.  Next you’ll be telling me you believe in vampires!”

 

©2016 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Rheb’s Candy Company is celebrating it’s 101st anniversary!  It’s nearly as old as I am, and that’s saying a lot, especially for a small, family owned business.  Patricia Harger writes to say:  Rheb’s Candy would like to invite Niles to come celebrate with us on Friday, June 15 for our 101st birthday. Free hot dogs and drinks from 11 am – 1 pm and lots of prizes.  If you’re in the Baltimore area, please stop by, get a dog and eat some chocolate!  I’m not sure I can make it.  It’s during daylight and chocolate will abound.  Not the best scenario for a chocoholic vampire.  But you humans, enjoy!  http://www.rhebs.com.

Gule Strikes a Pose

Niles Gule was in heaven as he sunk his fangs into the lusciously raw steak oozing bloody goodness onto his plate.   When his waiter, Brent, sailed past, Niles thrust at him the ramekin of chimichurri sauce that came as a condiment with the steak.  The green goo’s foul stench of garlic was enough to put a vampire off his feed.

Across the table, his partner on the Baltimore PD, Mariella Cruz, grinned then popped into her mouth a succulent piece of braised short ribs smothered in chocolate sauce.  Niles found keeping his focus on his steak difficult with the wondrous smell of chocolate wafting across the table.

When a bus chugged past, Niles breathed in the choking exhaust to clear his mind of chocolate.  Because that incredible substance was the bane of his existence.  Vampires and chocolate did not mix well.

“Any plans for your night off?” Cruz asked, reaching across the table to scarf up the vegetables her vampire partner refused to eat.

“I’m meeting a friend.”  Niles glanced along the sidewalk, knowing Gail should be along any moment.

The two police detectives were enjoying a quiet meal together at one of Niles’ favorite restaurants, the Points South Latin Kitchen on Thames Street.  They’d nabbed a table on the sidewalk where they could enjoy the soft evening air and watch the Fells Point night life get an early start.  The night was surprisingly balmy and all of Baltimore had turned out to enjoy that burst of warmth.   The food was rich, plentiful and exceptional, the wine a fine accompaniment, and the company a pleasure.  Niles sighed in contentment.

The sight of Gail Mancha scurrying towards them drew Niles’ attention.  He rose and gave the woman a graceful bow.  Being a vampire with ice cold skin, Niles avoided shaking hands.

Gail was tiny compared to the towering six-foot-six Niles.  Although her gray hair gave away her age, her eyes always sparkled and she possessed a contagious youthful energy.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

Niles had already paid for dinner so he could leave any time.

Cruz raised her eyebrows.  “What are you up to?”

Gail grinned.  “Mr. Gule offered to assist me in one of my hobbies.”  She beamed up at him.  “He likes my work.”

Niles coughed and gave the little woman a hard look.  To Cruz, he said, “I volunteered to help her on an art project.”

Cruz watched studiously as Gail tugged Niles from the table.  “Come on.  We’re late.”

Niles needed only one stride to Gail’s three as she hastened along the sidewalk.  While she did, she dug a bag out of her purse and handed it to Niles.

“Payment for tonight,” she said.

Niles darted a glance around, but no one noticed the exchange as he shoved the bag into his pocket.  Although Gail looked like the average, middle class lady, she was an aficionado of fine weed which she grew in her yard in suburbia.  As he sauntered on, Niles didn’t consider that his partner was an experienced police detective who noticed everything.  Including the furtive exchange.

The pair arrived at an average brick colonial on Register Street where a sign proclaimed Madame La Roux’s Art Emporium.  Classes and workshops daily.

Inside was a typical art studio filled with battered tables spattered with paint, chairs arranged in a lecture pattern, books and supplies filling the shelves.  Statues of wood, stone and bronze were sprinkled about as were stacks of canvasses both filled and blank.  A dozen different styles of art graced every free inch of wall.  A studio space held easels with blank canvasses in a circle around a dais in preparation for the night’s class.

The room was filled with a variety of people togged in aprons smeared with every color of paint imaginable.  They were youthful and elderly, male and female, and of every race.  They were settling behind easels and mixing their paints in preparation for the activities to come.

Gail led Niles to Madame La Roux, a supercilious looking woman who flicked her gaze over him.  She gestured to a couch set on the dais.

“You’ll be here, Mr. Gule.”

Niles glanced at the couch, then the artists, then Gail.

“Am I posing?” he asked dubiously.

Gail smiled.  “We needed a model for tonight.  I thought you’d be perfect.”

Niles considered his Perry Ellis business suit custom tailored to his tall, lithe form.  “I’m not dressed for the part.”

La Roux tittered.  “Of course you aren’t!  Please undress and strike a pose, Mr. Gule.  Tonight we’re studying the male nude.”

Niles knew vampires’ pale skin couldn’t blanch white.  But he did feel the world spin out of control.

“Nude?” he squeaked.  His blue eyes darted to Gail.

The little lady grinned as she dropped an apron over her head.  “Yes.  Did I forget to tell you?”

Niles stabbed her with his eyes.  “You might have.”

La Roux plucked Niles’ jacket from his shoulders.  “No need to be shy, Mr. Gule.  I can already tell you’re an excellent example of the male form.  Perfect for tonight’s class.”

Niles wanted to explain he’d been raised in Victorian Boston.  From a line of aristocratic vampires who didn’t appear nude in public.  The thought was horrifying.  And yet twenty pairs of eyes waited expectantly.  Gail sat at a front easel with her paint brush in hand.  Her eyes positively gleamed with excitement.

Niles looked skyward.  Anandal, forefather of all vampires, how do I get out of this?

La Roux wouldn’t take no for an answer.  In a whisker, she’d stripped him of most of his clothes, tutting him about his shyness.

“Come now,” she said in encouragement.  “You really are perfect.  No reason to be embarrassed.”

With a defeated sigh, Niles gave up and removed the last of his clothes, then sat down on the couch.  La Roux settled him in a pose that was at least vaguely chaste and the class began.  Niles forced his mind to wander in distant fields rather than fixate on all those eyes focused on him.  He told himself they were only interested in capturing some aspect of his form, maybe a muscle.  Or a toe.   Maybe.  If he was lucky.

His attention returned to the room when he heard murmuring.  His eyes flew wide.  Cruz had followed him.  She stood as shocked as he, staring at him with her large, luminous dark eyes.  She and La Roux spoke, she proffered some money and suddenly she was at an easel, paint brush at the ready.

For the first time in his long life, Niles wanted to sink into the floor.

Two hours passed painfully until La Roux ended the torture.  As the students accepted her comments on their work and cleaned up their spaces, Niles raced to cover himself.

Gail turned her easel around to show Niles his portrait.  Niles winced.  Amazingly anatomically correct.  He dreaded seeing Cruz’s work.

His partner’s eyes danced as he approached her.

“I had to discover what you were up to,” she said.  “You were so secretive about it.”  Her smile was seductive.  “Now I know.”

“I don’t normally do this,” Niles muttered.  He gestured to her easel.  “What did you paint?”

Cruz’s smile was blinding.  “I’m not an artist, Gule.  So I decided to focus on your most beautiful and sexy feature.”

Niles groaned and sensed somehow a vampire had just managed to blush.

With an impish grin, Cruz turned her canvas.

Niles couldn’t help but return the smile and think Oh, Mariella, you know me too well.

The painting was of his upper face.  Two brilliant blue eyes gazed at their inspiration, clever, sexy… and just a trifle embarrassed.

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

Niles Comments:  Cruz allowed me to post the picture she painted.  What do you think?  Did she get me?

Eyes

 

Gule is Widowed

When the seventh person failed to return, Niles Gule finally noticed.

The vampire was seated at a dining table elegantly set with china and silver that clinked to the train’s gentle rock.  An endless tableau of fields scrolled past in the darkness as the train chugged towards New Freedom.  Conversation flowed as twenty passengers enjoyed a steak dinner – Niles’ favorite! – during a break in the entertainment.  Hia Lo sat with him.  The perky young lady was the eldest daughter of his boss, Sergeant Tan Lo of the Baltimore Police.  When Hia’s date cancelled due to hepatitis, Niles agreed to fill in.  He was a safe date.  Lo knew he’d never touch his boss’s daughter.

We make quite the pair, Niles thought, nudging aside the vegetables on his plate.  He was tall, blond and Nordic while Hia was tiny, dark and Asian.  She was twenty-one, Niles one-hundred-fifty-eight, young for a vampire but ancient compared to Hia.  She bubbled with personality.  Niles suffered from typical vampiric reserve.  A wise vampire kept his distance if he wanted to survive in human company and Niles was wise.  Going vampire on people generally caused unpleasant results.

Hia was chattering about nursing school.  Niles feigned interest but in truth he was bored.  He’d agreed to accompany Hia only at Tan’s request.  The man didn’t want his daughter wandering into another state alone.  What did the Marylander think would happen?  The people of Pennsylvania ate visitors?  Not good for tourism.

While he listened to Hia with half an ear, Niles allowed his attention to drift.  The Northern Central Railway had been modified for a special fundraising event, a mystery train ride and seated dinner.  The theme was Abraham Lincoln’s funeral.  The train followed the same path that the historical train had taken to carry Lincoln first to Gettysburg for his famous address and two years later his body after his assassination.  Actors in period costume re-enacted Lincoln’s staff and family.  The mystery involved which actor was an escaping rebel conspirator.

The actors retreated to the forward car, leaving the guests to enjoy their deserts.  Most were women on a group tour having a whale of a time.  Boisterous bursts of laughter periodically erupted from the various tables.  More than once Niles caught the ladies shooting looks in his direction.  Some were speculating about the odd pairing of youthful Asian and older, brooding Anglo.  Others were admiring.  Niles, like all his vampire brethren, attracted appreciative looks.  He knew he could turn on his vampiric charm and lay waste to the entire train.

Or not.  He had enough problems with the females he’d left in Baltimore.

“Where’s everyone going?” Brenda, the group leader, asked frowning.  She’d begun to notice that the dining car was steadily emptying.

Niles gestured.  “To the car behind us but they never come back.  I think the restrooms are eating people.”

Brenda considered her flock of ladies, their safety apparently her primary concern.  Niles saw her counting them.  All accounted for.  For now.

A lady named Gina placed her napkin on the table.  “I for one need that restroom.”

Brenda continued to frown as she stood.  She was worried.  Why were people disappearing?

Niles felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as his vampiric sixth sense warned something wasn’t right.  He rose gracefully.

“Allow me to join you,” he said, proffering his most appealing smile.

It was devastating.  Gina might have melted into the floor if Brenda hadn’t kept her upright.

Niles excused him to Hia then walked through the rail car.  The sway played havoc on his towering height.  The shorter Brenda followed directly in his wake while Gina took up the rear.  At the conjunction of cars, Niles used his unusual strength to slide the door open, stepped across the divide then opened the door to the next car.  Brenda stayed with him while Gina hesitated at the crossing.  She was the smart one.

Niles stopped dead.  Brenda plowed into him.  He caught her with a backward sweep of his hand and held her with a grip that caused her to cry out until he softened it.

The reason for the disappearing people stood before them.  Seven vampires had claimed the rail car and were killing anyone who entered.  Blood spattered the seats and pooled on the floor, a terrible waste, Niles thought before he strangled his bloodthirsty instincts under control.  Several bodies were scattered about as vampires fed on them.

The closest vampire hissed and flexed his fangs at the interlopers.  Niles, not willing to reveal himself to Brenda, swallowed the impulse to bare his own.  Not that it would have helped.  After his latest trip to the dentist for a trimming he had no fangs to brandish.

Niles knew trying to turn these vampires to more peaceful dining would never work.  Their sensitive noses would tell them he was a fellow vampire but one who hadn’t consumed human blood in years.  He was the enemy.  The renegade who thought his people should live in harmony with humans.

As a group they snarled “Traitor!” in Vanapir then leaped.

There were too many for Niles to fight.  He pushed Brenda backwards until they were at the doors.

“Go back.  See if you can lock the door!”

The brave blonde scuttled without question but couldn’t find a locking mechanism.

“What now?” she yelled over the sound of the train clanking.

Two vampires leaped on Niles.  Another tried shoving a silver knife in him.  He staggered backwards under the weight, spun himself around and threw them off.  He knew he would lose this fight given their numbers.  He needed an escape.  A glance at the coupling gave him his answer.

“I’m uncoupling the cars!” he shouted at Brenda.

He crouched and reached for the lever.

“You’ll be left behind!” she exclaimed.

Niles knew he didn’t have a choice.  The vampires wouldn’t stop.  His hand fought frantically with the lever while another vampire jumped on his back, biting at his neck.  When he bucked it off, it fell to the side and disappeared under the train.

The lever clicked.  The forward car attached to the engine pulled away, leaving the vampire car behind.

“Jump!” Brenda yelled.  She extended her hand, her long blond hair flying wildly.

It was a hell of a leap.  No human could have made it.  But Niles wasn’t human.  He rid himself of another vampire, gathered himself and jumped.  Brenda caught his hands but he fell short of the car.  His feet dangled, knocked about by the concrete rail sleepers.  Brenda groaned as his weight threatened to pull her down with him.

Then another hand appeared to grasp him around the wrist.  Another clenched the collar of his jacket.  And another had his lapels.  As a unit four women hauled Niles up until he caught his feet on the coupling and pulled himself to safety.

Never one to allow himself to appear mussed, Niles hastily smoothed his hair and settled his Italian jacket.  Then he considered the four women who stared at him in amazement.  He was just as amazed at them.

“Did I see what I thought I saw?” Gina demanded.

Niles nodded.  “Yes, I believe you did.  Thank you, ladies, from the bottom of my heart.”

Brenda beamed, proud that her flock had come to the rescue.

Niles puckered his brow.  “What are you ladies, wonder women?”

The entire group laughed.

“No!” Brenda chuckled.  “But close.  We’re widows!”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  I owe those lovely ladies my life.  Thank you to Brenda, Gina, Deb, and Pat.  Brenda is the proud owner of Widow Voyages, a travel company for those who’ve lost their life partner.  If you’ve lost your partner, maybe a Widow Voyages trip is for you.  You can see the upcoming trips here:  https://brendaleefree.com/widow-voyages/.  The New Freedom Railroad offers trips most weekends, including special trips for fall foliage.   If you’d like to return to the days of my youth, visit http://www.steamintohistory.com/ to see what they’ve got on their schedule.

 

I hope all my readers had a safe and wonderful Memorial Day.  Please thank a veteran for the freedoms you enjoy today.

 

Can you believe I’ve reached my 100th episode???  What should we do to celebrate?  Send me your thoughts and suggestions–Niles

 

 

Gule Is Justified

“I don’t know how you managed this, Gule, but it is so cool!”  Petite, dark-haired, dark-eyed Latina Mariella Cruz popped onto her tiptoes to plant a kiss on the vampire’s cool, white cheek.

Niles Gule turned his soft blue gaze on his partner and smiled.  “It wasn’t so hard.  I’ve been a horseman my entire life.”

Cruz looked stunning in a cocktail dress of the purest white to contrast against her cocoa skin.  She wore a wide, flat hat tilted at a jaunty angle and even though they stood on grass, she toughed it out with high heels.  She would not come to a party filled with such illustrious guests looking anything less than perfect.  Around them milled a goodly number of the Beautiful People, television and movie stars, athletes, and billionaires.  Although the weather was atrocious, no one was letting heavy fog and torrential rainstorms dampen their day.

This was Preakness Day, one of the biggest sporting events in Baltimore’s year and the middle jewel of American horse racing’s Triple Crown.  Niles, who knew Bob Baffert, trainer of the favorite Justify, had scored tickets to the event from the generous Arizonan as well as an invite to his special party in a giant tent set up in the infield.  While the common man was either getting soaked standing outside or crushed together in the grandstand, the people at Baffert’s party sipped champagne and nibbled on canapés as they waited for the day’s main event to start.

Niles wasn’t indulging in the canapés, most of which highlighted the Crab Cake Capital of the World’s signature food item, Maryland blue crab.  He stuck to sipping a Bloody Mary (without actual blood of course) and watching Cruz’s face glow brighter than the sun.  Speaking of which, Niles peered out the side of the tent and stifled a yawn.  He was out well past his bed time and was thankful the day was one of the murkiest on record.  He hadn’t needed the hat, sunscreen and ultra-dark sunglasses he wore to survive the day.

Cruz’s gasp brought his attention back inside.  Her long red fingernails dug into his arm.  “Isn’t that George Cluny over there?” she squeaked.

Niles considered the tall, handsome gentleman speaking with one of Justify’s owners.  “Yes, I believe that would be him.”

Cruz almost melted into the floor.  Tossing back her rum and coke with a single shot, she stiffened her spine, threw up her chin and said, “I’m going in.”

Niles chuckled.  “Good luck!”

Having no desire to mingle with the rich and famous, Niles remained by the side of the tent out of the way.  From there he could watch the grandstand and the crowds of people in the infield.  He could also keep tabs on the status of the upcoming race on the big screen TV set up nearby.  He’d placed a trifecta for Justify, Good Magic and Quip.  So far, even if he won, he wasn’t looking at much of a payout.

Shoulda thrown a longshot in there, he thought.

He frowned when his sensitive hearing caught yelling from somewhere nearby.  He could discern no reason for the commotion.  The Sir Barton Stakes had been run and the winner crowned.  Now the entrants for the Preakness were being readied in the saddling shed.  No action was taking place on the track.  When the yelling rose to a crescendo and began to sound alarmed, Niles decided that as a police officer he needed to act.

He waded out into the mist and slipped through the crowd that milled around the tents in the infield.  The yells grew louder and sounded more violent.  Niles wondered where security was then chastised himself.  With a crowd of almost 135,000 to keep in line, track security was stretched thin.  He kept moving towards the ruckus.

Most of the infield crowd had been drinking.  Some folks were falling down drunk, others had merely reached the obnoxious stage.  One tried to pick a fight with Niles when their shoulders collided, but all Niles had to do was grasp the man’s arm and dig his talons in deep and the man scurried backwards in fright.  The vampire plunged on into the melee.

At last he came to the center of the fray.  Two men were brawling.  First one threw a punch then the other while the crowd cheered them on and placed bets.  Shaking his head, Niles stormed into the middle of the match and tried to separate them.  One threw his next punch and caught Niles on the chin.  Stunned, Niles shook his head to clear his vision.  Meanwhile the second man leaped towards him.  Instinctually, he kicked the man aside.  The first man roared and with superhuman strength, grabbed Niles by the waist and thrust downwards, taking both of them to the ground.  Niles landed in a pit of gooey golden mud.  His assailant landed on top of him, planting the vampire’s back firmly in the mire.

Cursing, Niles tried to fight back but realized he was alone.  His adversary had risen and was laughing heartily at the sight of the elegant man plastered in mud.  Niles looked around and realized too late the mud bog was a mosh pit.  Several other individuals had been wrestling in the mire and were coated in mud.

His fellow combatant held out his hand.  “Good one!” he laughed.  “Wouldn’t have expected someone in a suit to join in.”

Niles forced a fake grin as he shook hands with his fellow wrestler.  “Hmm… yes.”  He considered the state of his Tommy Hilfiger custom fitted suit which was soaked with mud.  “Gotta keep the dry cleaner happy.”

“Your dry cleaner’s gonna choke.”

His new found friend slapped him good naturedly on the shoulder as he marched away.  Picking mud from his face and hat, Niles slogged back towards the Baffert tent.  Dimly he heard the crowd roaring, but this time he guessed the Preakness was underway.  The sound rose to a crescendo and he heard the announcer boom Justify had won, giving the chestnut colt two jewels of the Triple Crown.

Bully for you, the vampire groused.

As he reached the tent, Baffert and company were heading out to the winner’s circle.  The silver haired trainer stopped cold at the sight of Niles trudging towards him.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

Niles shrugged.

“You’ve got more mud on you than my jockey and he just rode a horse race in the slop!”

Through the mud, Niles smiled.  “Yes,” he replied, flicking more mud from his arms.  “And he won a prize for his troubles too.”

© 2018 Newmin

 

Lest you think I make these things up.  Someone caught me after my debacle.  It’s enough to make a vampire bare his fangs.  Grrrr.

MudNiles

Gule Goes Out at Midnight

Niles Gule had never figured out how he’d become a cat person.  For the one-hundred-fifty-nine years of his life, he’d been unencumbered by animals save for owning a riding horse.  Yet somehow, a vile-tempered, supercilious alley cat had wormed his way into the vampire’s life and apartment in Baltimore.  The pair of fanged predators developed an odd, distant and yet warm relationship.  Leonardo the cat hissed every time he saw Niles, and Niles the vampire lovingly hissed back every time he saw Lenny.  Why the relationship worked, Niles couldn’t say.  But it did.

Midnight was not Lenny.  The sleek, black, well-fed, well cared for domestic short hair purred contentedly in Niles’ arms as the vampire stroked his back.  He tried to bop Niles’ chin with his head but was stymied by the cone of shame he wore around his neck.  Poor Midnight was recuperating after he’d taken one for the McDougall team.  A week ago he’d been minding his own business, dozing on the family’s back patio, when the neighbor’s pitbull broke loose, chased Midnight twice around the house, then treed him in the back yard.  To the family’s horror, the dog had jumped for Midnight, caught him and pulled him from the tree.  The dog shook the cat like a toy and nearly killed him.  Fortunately for Midnight, his mom Karen had screamed like a banshee, bringing her husband and the neighbors running.  Working together they’d freed poor Midnight but not before substantial damage had been done.

Now Midnight sported not only the cone of shame but shaved legs, a badly mauled tail and severe injuries to his face that required additional surgery.  He was not a happy cat.

When Niles arrived for a late supper with the McDougalls, Midnight had come in search of emotional support which Niles gladly gave him.  While Scott and Karen set up the patio table where they would dine under the summer sky, Niles snuggled with Midnight who swooned happily in his arms, accepting the gentle stroking.

“I suspect you’ve used up two of your nine lives, my friend,” he murmured to the cat.

Midnight purred and tried again to bop Niles’ chin.  Instead, he scraped the vampire’s face with plastic.

Karen hustled into the house with an exasperated look.  As she passed Niles, heading for the kitchen to fetch plates, she muttered, “Damned dog!  Can you hear him barking?”

Niles could indeed hear the pitbull in the neighbor’s yard.  The animal had started growling when Karen appeared to light the tiki torches.  With each passing minute, the sound grew angrier. Midnight stiffened in his arms as the barking raged from the darkness of the neighbor’s yard.

“Is its name Cujo?” Niles asked.

“Charlie,” Karen answered, heading back outside with plates.

Midnight dug claws into Niles’ suit jacket but didn’t find flesh.  Niles continued to stroke him.

Both he and Midnight froze, clawing each other, when the chaos broke.  Karen screamed.  Scott yelled.  Plates smashed.  Then came horrific snarling and barking from directly outside.  Startled, Niles raced to the glass doors and looked out on the torch lit patio.  To witness a horrific scene.

The small, round table was overturned.  Plates and glasses lay shattered in a glittering carpet across the patio.  Cujo had broken his tether.  Freed, he bounded between the yards then raged at the couple with snarling, bared teeth, standing between them and the safety of the house.  Scott leaped onto a small retaining wall and desperately tugged his wife up beside him.  Cujo lunged and snapped, catching the leg of Karen’s pants and ripping off a piece.  She shrieked and would have climbed Scott if she could have managed it.  Scott kicked at Cujo to protect his wife but the dog would have none of that.  He snarled white, flashing teeth and attacked Scott’ tennis shoe.  He caught it.  With a vicious tug, he wrenched the sneaker free, thrashed it violently, and sent it flying into the darkness.

The couple was screaming bloody murder but no one came from the neighbor’s house.  Although Niles had an intense dislike for dogs, and they an even bigger dislike of him, he knew he had to act.  Without thinking, he raced out the patio door, still clutching a terrified Midnight who’d sunk his claws into Niles, searching for China.

At first, Cujo ignored the vampire, but when Niles yelled, he turned.  Red eyes filled with rage glared in the torch light.  The dog’s lips curled up to reveal his long, white canines.

The action was a replica of the vampire threat display and instinctually Niles responded by baring his own, much larger fangs at Cujo.  That and the sight of Midnight in Niles’ arms set the dog into an uncontrolled rage.  He lunged at Niles, teeth ready to rend and destroy.  Midnight hissed and dug his claws even deeper into Niles.

Niles yelled but this time, because he was unprepared, he did so in the Home Tongue of the Vanapir.  This high pitched shriek was nearly inaudible to humans.  It was well within the range of canine hearing, however.

Cujo hesitated.  He stood with his hackles raised, his teeth out and quivering.  His eyes remained fixed in a death stare at Niles.  Niles returned the glare with one of his own from his brilliant blue eyes.  He, too, stood with bared fangs and growled low in his throat.  Cujo’s throat rattled, a sound like an earthquake rumbling from his chest.  Niles narrowed his eyes and growled back, as low as a vampire could go.  Cujo.  Niles.  Cujo.  Niles.  It was a Mexican standoff.

Midnight had had enough.  He yowled and in an attempt to leap somewhere, anywhere away from Cujo, he sunk he’s claws to the bone.  Niles shrieked in pain, hitting the highest, loudest note a vampire could hit.

Cujo’s eyes widened.  His growling stopped.  Fear flickered in red-rimmed eyes.  When the vampire’s shriek continued to tear through the darkness, Cujo reached his limit.  With a terrified whimper, he fled.

Instinct sent Niles chasing behind him, still screaming like a maniac and clutching a freaked out cat to his chest.  He ran like a berserker at the dog, sending Cujo sprinting for home with his tail between his legs.

When he hit the property line, Niles stopped and stood panting.  Cujo was long gone.

With a satisfied sniff, Niles turned back to the McDougall house.  As he walked back, he pried one claw after another free from his epidermis and tried to calm Midnight down.  By the time he reached the house, Midnight had eased his claws and Niles could breathe again.

“What happened?” Karen demanded, climbing down from the wall.  “Did you get him?”

“I chased him off.”  Niles considered the neighbor’s house.  There was no sign of Cujo.  “I don’t think he’ll be back.”

“My patio!” Karen wailed, considering the disaster that had been dinner.

“It’s replaceable,” Scott said, putting a comforting arm around his wife’s shoulders.  “I’ll get the broom.”

While the couple put their patio in order, Niles took Midnight inside and sat with him on the couch.

“I think that went better than expected,” he said to the cat.  “That dog will never bother you again.”

Midnight smiled the secret smile only cats and a few rare humans knew.  He bopped Niles’ chin.  He again scraped the vampire’s chin with his cone.

The vampire didn’t care.

 

Midnight – Post Event

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Gule Battles His Own

Niles Gule hadn’t come to London looking for a fight, but before he’d even presented his arguments for saving humans to the international council of vampires, Tristental was in his face, demanding his death.  Nine of the twenty vampires in the Victorian drawing room hissed and extended their talons, expressing their agreement.  Niles was in big trouble.

Hating to do it, he drew his silver hunting knife to hold his brethren at bay.  Tristental recoiled.  Others moaned. Some placed their sleeves before their faces in a pose reminiscent of Bela Lugosi, not to be vampirical, but just to breathe.

Silver was a deadly poison to the Vanapir.  But a few possessed an ability to tolerate it.  Luckily for Niles, he was one of those few.  He swept the blade in an arc, keeping his fellows away.

“I didn’t come to kill or be killed,” he growled.  “Merely to talk.”

The tall, elegant, white-haired vampire who stood near the fireplace hadn’t moved.  His blue eyes twinkled at the sight of nine vampires being held off by one holding a silver knife.

“Everyone, please take two steps back and a deep breath,” he commanded.  Even his voice held a hint of humor.

Hissing and complaining, the others obeyed.  They had to.  The vampire by the fireplace was Gastondal, one of the most senior vampires on the planet and an original.  Over one thousand years ago, the nomadic Vanapir had stumbled across Earth, valued the iron content to be found in its animal life, and landed with the intention of feasting for centuries.  When they’d consumed all the planet’s resources, they would build new ships and spread into the galaxy like a cosmic virus, seeking new worlds to destroy.

Unfortunately, events hadn’t gone according to plan.

The native human population turned out to be sentient as well as violent, well-armed and more territorial than the Vanapir.  A war erupted between the two species which the Vanapir were steadily losing.  Most of those vampires who’d landed with the ship had died in the conflict.  Gastondal was one who’d survived.  Because he was cautious and clever.  Now he was one of only seven remaining originals who knew where the Vanapir ship was hidden.  Without it and the manufacturing plans and equipment it carried to build copies of itself, the Vanapir were trapped on Earth.  No vampire could afford to anger Gastondal.

Merridisten was equally ancient.  The thousand-year-old lady with silver hair swept up in a bun atop her head, watched her younger cousins battle each other with an amused smile.  Like Gastondal, she was a survivor and knew better than to war on her own kind.  Humans had done enough damage obliterating her people.  She didn’t need to help them.

“Sit down,” she said.

Grumbling, they backed away, but none sat.

Merridisten patted the red velvet settee beside her.  “Come… Niles…” she paused before using his human name.  “Sit beside me.  No one will harm you in my house.”  Her voice danced with the lyrical accent of a noblewoman of Britain.

Niles opted to remain standing.  He kept his back to the door so no one could leap at him from behind.

Pursing her pale lips, her blue eyes shimmering, Merridisten said.  “Do stand, Niles.  And tell us of your proposal.”

Niles glanced at Gastondal, knowing he had if not an ally, at least someone who wasn’t a committed enemy.  “I’ve given our history a great deal of thought,” he began.  Immediately, he saw the eyes of the younger vampires rolling.  “What we do isn’t ecologically sustainable.  We consume planets.  Lay waste to their life forms then move on.”

“What’s wrong with that?” demanded Tristental.

Niles lasered him with a piercing blue gaze.  “I’ve heard you complain about the complete disregard for the planet the humans have.  Paving farmland, felling forests, despoiling their seas.  You speak like they’re penned animals too stupid to realize they’re filling their cage with manure.”

“That’s what they are!” Tristental insisted.

“And so are we.”  Niles paused to allow his words to sink in.  “We aren’t any better.  We merely work on a larger scale.  We despoil the galaxy the way humans despoil this planet.  I find both visions equally abhorrent: the Earth stripped of plant life and covered in cities, its seas sterile, its skies filled with smoke.  And the galaxy stripped of all life, left bare but for Vanapir ships scavenging among the stars, hoping to find the one planet they haven’t denuded.  Eventually turning on each other and cannibalizing their brothers because there’s no food left.”

A dark haired, female vampire possessed of too big a nose and too little chin, huffed.  “You would dare to compare us to humans?”

“Yes!” Niles snapped.  “And I find us wanting.”

His words drew hisses from his cousins.

“Explain yourself,” Merridisten commanded.

Niles looked each vampire in the eye in turn.  “Humans are destructive, without a doubt.  But they have one characteristic that will save them.  They allow their foolishness to carry them right to the very edge of oblivion.  They look down and decide that’s not what they want and they pull back.  They recalculate and hastily change course.  Decades ago, they nearly destroyed the ozone layer.  Now, due to their course correction, it’s healing again.  They’re warming the planet with greenhouse gasses.  Just as it’s reaching the tipping point, the cry is raised.  Save the planet.  And they will.  I have no doubt.  A century from now they’ll have solved the warming problem and started some other ecological disaster.  It’s what they do.  And every time, they learn from their mistakes.”  He gave his fellows a disgusted look.  “Do we?”

He thought he might have struck a chord in Gastondal and Merridisten, but not the younger crowd.  Tristental howled with derision and leaped.

Niles was caught off guard.  He raised his knife too late and only nicked Tristental on the arm.  The vampire retreated with a snarl of pain.  Others rose and extended their talons.  Eyes glittered.  Fangs began to ooze saliva.

“I’ll not kill you unless you force me,” Niles growled, edging towards the door.  “I don’t want any more blood on my hands, red or clear.”

The hissing grew louder as courage spread between the vampires.  They knew he couldn’t stab them all.

Merridisten rose elegantly and stood watching but didn’t interfere.  Gastondal was texting someone, not paying any attention.

So much for familial help, Niles thought, despairing of his father ever understanding his wayward son.

He bared his fangs and screamed in the Home Tongue.  It was the Vanapir battle cry and it temporarily stalled the advance.  He was an alpha after all, and young, and the son of an original.  He’d killed more than twenty vampires to attain his position.  He was not to be taken lightly.

The group charged.  Niles retreated, slashing his knife to hold them back.  Then he dashed for the door.

He fled down the gaslit hallway for the front door.  He slammed through it without stopping and leaped down the stairs four at a time.  The young Goth vampire on lookout shouted in surprise but let him go.  His feet hit the pavement just as Tristental and the others boiled through the door behind him.

London fog cloaked the city.  Niles didn’t know which way to run.  Tristental was a local.  He’d chase Niles down and probably kill him.

Someone whistled.

Niles saw a cab standing at the curb.  The cabbie waved for him.

Without considering how a cab could be waiting, Niles threw himself in the back seat and demanded he be taken to Heathrow.  The cabbie, an average human Londoner, nodded and put the cab in gear.

As they pulled away from the vampire house, Niles looked back to see his father standing at the open door.  He raised his cellphone and wiggled it, telling Niles he’d called for the cab.

“Rough night amongst the vampires?” asked the cabbie in thick Cockney.

Niles’ lips opened in surprise but he didn’t answer.

The cabbie grinned via the rearview mirror.  “It’s all right, guvna.  Me and Gaston ‘ave us an agreement.  I’m ‘is driver when ‘e’s in town.  ‘e’s a good swell.”

“You know he’s a vampire?” Niles asked.

The cabbie laughed.  “Right I do, mate!  Says ‘e wonts t’ learn bout us.  Says ‘is son is a fan of ‘umans and ‘e wonts ‘im to be proud of ‘im.”

Niles settled into the leather seat and breathed easier.

Yes, he thought as the cabbie drove him to the airport.

Gastondal’s son is proud of him.

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Gule Goes to Court

The slap of the vampire’s feet on pavement was instantly swallowed by the dense fog.  Street lights glowed like balls of amorphous gas as he passed, his strides not as steady as he would have wished. Even with his exquisite night vision, Niles Gule couldn’t see his hand in front of his face because of the fog.  He didn’t know London.  He absolutely didn’t know it socked in with its world famous murk.

Traffic on a nearby thruway swished but he couldn’t make out their headlights.  Only the sound carried through the city.  The neighborhood through which he walked was silent, the majority of its inhabitants bundled in their beds.  Only the night creatures were abroad, stray cats, prostitutes, people out for no good, rats and vampires.  Lots of vampires.

The average tourist had no idea London was the capital of the Vanapir empire on Earth.  When the Vanapir, alien nomads who wandered from world to world in search of food, first arrived somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the locals hadn’t taken well to their chosen lifestyle.  Sleeping all day and prowling all night in search of people to kill.  The war between the species had raged hot, eventually driving the Vanapir out of Romania in a Diaspora not discussed in history books.  They spread out across Medieval Europe, settling in places where they could blend in.  A huge number had found London more welcoming than other more violent locales.  And so they’d stayed.

Niles’ lineage derived not from the Vanapir of London, but farther back, through France and Germany.  His parents had, like so many Europeans of the Colonial Period, taken passage on a boat headed for the New World to make their way in the Americas.  His father still resided in Toronto.  Niles, born in Boston, had settled in the Crab Cake Capital of the World, Baltimore.

He was a long way from home.

Niles sensed that distance as a niggling worry ever present in his chest.  Vampires were territorial creatures.  Most gravitated into an orbit around a powerful alpha individual who staked out hunting grounds and tolerated the presence of weaker vampires so long as they obeyed his or her edicts.  When Niles settled in Baltimore, the city was awash in vampires with no strong alphas to control the unruliness.  Mayhem, and lots of dead humans, resulted.  To stem the tide of vampiric murder, the police department hired Niles to clear the place of his brethren and he’d done so with alacrity.  Unknowingly, by his success, he’d transformed himself into an alpha.  Baltimore was his territory.

Instinct begged him to flee back to the safety of that city on the bay.

Tomorrow, he promised himself, continuing his walk.  This visit to London needed to succeed.  Then he’d bolt for home on the next flight to America.

He smelled his destination long before he saw it.  His sensitive nose picked up the cold, moldy smell of vampire coming from ahead of him.  Just where he’d expected to find it.  He glanced at his cellphone with its map of London and the blinking point that indicated his destination.  You have arrived, it said.

A soft hiss and a high pitched chirp greeted him as he approached the Victorian era house tucked into a long row of similar buildings.  A vampire lounged with his back to the bricks.  The lookout’s traditional welcome call was designed to weed out humans trying to crash the meeting, as if any sane human would do so.  If Niles didn’t know how to respond, he’d find himself eaten.  Niles returned the chirp.  The vampire, a lanky, ill-kempt younger individual with long black hair, a tight-fitting tshirt and Goth piercings studding his pallid face, gestured languidly for Niles to head in.

Up the stairs Niles trod.  Before he could touch the door, it opened and he was ushered into a space that flickered with gaslight.

Not keeping up with the times, he thought with a disparaging sniff.  He was over a century old, yet he stayed current with human social trends.  His apartment in Baltimore was electrified.  He had wifi.  And a Facebook account.

More vampires lurked in the dark hall.  They greeted the new arrival by flashing their fangs.  A Vanapir social display.  Longer fangs meant a more powerful vampire.  Niles had deliberately allowed his to grow so when he returned the greetings, he saw eyes widen and fear gleam in red-rimmed gazes.  He smiled.  He was proud of his long, lustrous teeth.

He was directed to a parlor at the end of the hall.  This space reeked of Victoriana.  Heavy velvet drapes protected occupants from prying eyes.  Gas lamps with shades fringed in crystal beadwork provided pools of light that left much of the room in darkness.  The furniture was heavy and upholstered in somber colors.  All of it looked mighty uncomfortable.

Twenty vampires were arranged around the room.  Some were seated, others standing.  The smell of rotted blood assaulted Niles’ nose and he flinched from it.  He’d grown accustomed to the sharp scent of human sweat and the florescence of the colognes they doused themselves with.  He’d forgotten what standing among the Vanapir smelled like.

Death, he thought.  Vampires smelled like death while humans smelled like life.

An exchange of bared fangs granted him entrance to the group.  Although his brethren treated him with the distant superciliousness that was typical for their kind, Niles remained wary, ready for the attack.  Because these were all alphas, territorial lords like him.   The room vibrated with dominance clashing against dominance.  But unlike Niles, these vampires consumed humans while he’d taken a vow of abstinence.  Most Vanapir despised him for his stance.

A tall, thin white-haired vampire, wearing dress slacks and a blindingly white shirt starched so perfectly its pleats could cut flesh, turned brilliant blue eyes on the late arrival.

“Everyone, this is Guldendal.  From America.”

Heads turned.  Guarded eyes studied him.  Niles kept his expression chilly, his chin lifted, allowing them to draw their conclusions.  I am an alpha, he reminded himself.  A terribly young alpha compared to these folks, but nevertheless the lord of an entire city.  Even if it was a little city.

A woman with shimmering silver hair swept up in Gilmore Girls style, ran swept her blue gaze over Niles.  He noted curiosity and a hint of approval in that look.  He sensed great age in her, and not just because her clothing denoted the 1920’s.

“You don’t use that name any longer, I understand.”  Her voice was clipped, proper upper crust British.

Niles bowed imperceptibly.  “I prefer my human name.  Niles Gule.”

“Human!” sniffed a distinguished man with black hair and dark brown eyes, a stark contrast to his pale skin.  His accent was French.  “So it’s true.  You’ve turned.”

Niles nearly laughed.  To be turned was what humans called the ridiculous Medieval myth that vampires could turn humans into the undead by biting them.

“I’m simply trying to blend in,” he said.  His eyes flicked around the room. “Aren’t we all?”

A shorter, rather ugly woman leaned forward in her chair.  “Only so that we can survive!  These creatures!  Pah!”  She jerked her head as if she could banish the entire human race from the planet.  “Always inventing better ways to kill.  First bows and axes.  Then flintlocks.  Now drones and nuclear weapons.  How’s an honest vampire to make a living amongst such bloodthirsty animals?”

Once again, Niles choked a laugh.  True, humans were a violent lot.  But bloodthirsty?  Coming from a vampire?

A middle-aged vampire bared his fangs.  “I say to hell with this freak and to hell with humans.  Let’s kill them all!”

Two others shrieked in the Home Tongue, agreeing with him.

The white-haired vampire standing near the fireplace lifted a languid hand.  “Please, everyone, please!  I invited Guldendal here to present a proposal, not to denigrate him.  Guldendal has a solution to the Vanapir-human dilemma.”  He gestured to Niles.

Before Niles could speak, the dark-haired vampire hissed in his face.  “I’ve heard the tales, human lover.  You’ve thrown your lot with those things.  Forgotten who you are.”

“Kill them all!” yelled the ugly woman, her fist in the air.  “Kill them all!”

A blond vampire lunged at Niles.

Niles backpedalled and drew his knife.

The battle to save humanity had begun.

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

Gule Wins the Prize

Ordinarily, inviting a vampire to one’s overnight stakeout has advantages.  After all, vampires possess exquisite night vision.  They see the dark hours in shades of black and white.  Their carefully honed hearing, designed to seek out unseen prey, can listen for whispered conversations.  Their catlike ability to merge with shadows offers many opportunities for covert police work.

Those advantages were lost, however, when lights flashed and bells clanged.

Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore, was being driven to distraction.   Strobe lights stabbed his delicate blue eyes.  Rapid gunfire from the shooting range assaulted his ears.  When a group of kids popped a huge balloon at the horse races, he physically flinched.  No, he silently grumbled, stakeout on a Maryland Shore boardwalk left much to be desired.

“Suspect sighted at the Tilt-A-Whirl.”  A disembodied voice came over Cruz’s radio.

Eager to move away from the shooting range, Niles gestured for his partner, Mariella Cruz, to wing right while he moved left.  The two police detectives were hunting a man wanted for multiple car thefts in Baltimore.  Maryland State Police had tracked Johnny “HopHop” Rabinowski to Ocean City.  Baltimore sent Niles and Cruz to assist in the take down and bring HopHop home.

Because he towered over everyone on the boardwalk, Niles kept his eyes on HopHop as the cretin strolled along, stuffing a chili-dog in his face.  The glow of carnival lights bathed HopHop’s swarthy face in red, yellow and green.  Niles saw him watch a knot of teens laughing over the giant flamingo they had won.  Saw HopHop toss the chili-dog and bolt when he realized two OC officers were silently trailing him.

Niles lunged after him.  Being closest to HopHop and blazing fast on his long legs, Niles tore through the crowds.  He saw HopHop leap down the stairs that led to the beach and he grinned.  Should be easier to catch the felon without a crowd to contend with.

Unfortunately, Niles was a city born vampire.  As soon as his feet hit the beach, he stumbled, his height now a burden rather than an advantage.  He righted himself but HopHop had a good lead on him.  Niles saw the man fleeing down the beach.  Cursing, the vampire gave chase, his feet sluggish in the dry sand.  He diverted towards the hard, wet sand near the surf then let his feet fly.

HopHop tried to shoot at him over his shoulder but the angle made aiming impossible.  Niles gritted his teeth and charged him down.  Before the man could pop off any more shots, possibly wounding one of the couples strolling on the beach, Niles threw himself at HopHop.  They went down and rolled through the surf.  Sputtering, Niles came out on top but before he could grab his quarry, a massive wave barreled into him and sent him spinning, coughing seawater and sand from his lungs.  The wave swept HopHop in the opposite direction.  The man beached then scrambled to his feet.  He was running again.

No wonder they call him HopHop the Rabbit, Niles thought as he dragged himself soaking wet and covered in seaweed out of the water, to watch the man scamper back to the boardwalk.  The guy could bolt like a rabbit.  HopHop bounded up the stairs and vanished into the crowd.   Niles chased after him.  He leaped the stairs three at a time, but the crowd of people streaming along the boardwalk plus the wildly flashing lights of the fried butter wagon blinded him.  Niles swore.

Cruz appeared out of the chaos.  “You okay?” she asked.

Niles twitched his ass.  “Who decided swimming at the beach was pleasurable?  I’ve got sand in my shorts!”

Cruz looked serious but her lips twitched at the sight of the bedraggled vampire, his Italian suit plastered with sand, his hair mussed with a piece of green slime threatening to eat his head.

“Most people wear swimwear before they take a dip.  Or go nude.”

Niles shuddered.  “I can’t imagine where the sand would go then!”

Cruz’s eyes grew dreamy.  “Oh, I can.”

He eyed her sharply.  “Wouldn’t that hurt?  Like sandpaper?”

Cruz nodded.  “Yep.  But sometimes, a little sanding is just what a person needs.  You should try it, Gule.”

Niles scowled.  “I can’t imagine!”

Her dark eyes flicked over the normally composed vampire who was anything but at that moment.  “No, I don’t suppose you could.”   She rose on her tiptoes to scan the crowd.  “Where did HopHop go?”

Niles didn’t need to rise onto tiptoes to see his quarry trying to be nonchalant as he sauntered along the edge of the boardwalk away from the police presence, most of which was farther to the north but heading in their direction.  For a brief instant his eyes caught HopHop’s and the two men stared at each other.  Realizing he’d been spotted again, HopHop bolted.

Niles decided he wasn’t chasing the Rabbit a second time.  Instead, he glanced to his right, saw the shooting gallery with its air rifle, and grabbed the weapon.  With an easy wrench, he freed it from its chain, earning himself a cry of protest from the carnival worker who manned the booth.

“I’ll give it back,” he growled.

Taking two steps into the center of the boardwalk, Niles sighted down the barrel at the fleeing HopHop.  He made sure he had a clean shot then took it.  He hit HopHop in the tuckus, causing the man to howl and miss a step.  Niles pulled the crank for a second shot and fired again, this time hitting HopHop in the knee.  The man stumbled as he hopped on one foot then went down.

Cruz had her cuffs out as she ran for the downed man.  Moments later she’d taken him into custody.

A crowd of onlookers burst into applause as Cruz brought her man back to Niles.  Meanwhile the Ocean City Police arrived to take command.

“Nice shot,” Cruz said as she relinquished her prisoner to a Marylander.

Niles handed the air rifle back to the carnie.  “I used to hunt quail.  It was quite the gentleman’s sport in Boston at one time.”

“A century ago!” she laughed.

Niles’ smile faded.  Yes, he was old.  Sometimes she made him feel very, very old.

The carnie grunted at him.  Niles found a giant stuffed animal shoved into his arms.

“You win!” the carnie said.

“I wasn’t playing,” Niles protested.

The carnie laughed.  “Oh yes you were!  As bad as these guns are, I’m surprised anyone could hit the ocean with them.”

Niles extended the animal and gazed at it balefully.

Cruz burst out laughing.

It was a huge pale-faced Count Chocula.

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Is this honestly how you people see vampires?  I mean, really?

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