Gule Gets Wet

Sometimes humans bewildered vampires.

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

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

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

Go swimming in the Chesapeake in the dead of winter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlike Cruz, Cooksey didn’t come up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No!”  Williams kicked with his feet.

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

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

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

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

Including Cooksey.

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

Jackson and Williams high-fived each other.

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

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

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

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

Fun.

He considered his expensive, Bastian suit, now destroyed.

Humans had a strange idea of fun.

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

He managed to grin and pretend he was thrilled.

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

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

Sometimes humans bewildered vampires.

 

 

© Newmin

 

 

Gule Mourns For His Department

Conversation in the meeting room was subdued.  A handful of staffers and police officers were shocked by the revelations but many weren’t.  Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore and detective consultant for the police department’s night shift, was dismayed by the lack of surprise he saw.

A major story had broken over the city.  Seven police officers who’d served in a high-profile gun unit had been indicted on federal racketeering charges.  They were accused of running what amounted to a criminal mob organization.  They’d used their badges to rob innocent citizens, often simply mugging people and laughing because they knew they couldn’t be arrested.  After all, they’d probably thought, if the victim called the police, he’d be calling his own attacker.  Not content with simple thuggishness, the group had falsified expense reports, took vacations that they charged to the department, and made fraudulent overtime claims.  All this while the Justice Department was investigating Baltimore for violating civil rights.  The crimes were epic in scope.  That they’d continued for so long meant many others had to know and yet had remained silent.

The blue line, Niles thought.  One never crossed it.

To our shame.

The chief of police had called the meeting to bolster his people.  He described the situation and praised the handful of individuals within the department’s investigative wing who’d helped bring down the perpetrators.  He reiterated that the criminal behavior exhibited by the ring was beyond the bounds of human decency and he was gravely disappointed in himself for failing to stop it sooner.  He asked that all the honest, hardworking officers of the force keep their chins up and be proud of the fine work they did.  Don’t, he said, allow a handful of bad actors to destroy all the good work the rest of you do.

“There’s gonna be a ton of shit coming down,” Jonas Williams murmured after the chief left the room.

Niles nodded.  “The pep talk was nice but let’s be honest, others had to have a clue.”  His vivid blue eyes darted around the room where uncomfortable officers avoided looking anyone in the eye.  “This isn’t the end of it.”

His partner, feisty little Mariella Cruz, was shaking her head.  “I feel like a freaking idiot!  I didn’t know.”

Williams, a huge man in his fifties, gave her a shrug.  “You just joined the team, Cruz.  I’ve been here for fifteen years.”

“Did you know?” she asked, her dark eyes wide.

Williams folded his arms and gazed out the window at Baltimore sparkling in the night.

“Did you?” Niles pressed.  He’d heard rumors but nothing he could have acted upon.  He was ashamed he hadn’t pursued his suspicions.  Maybe this pain could have been avoided.

Jackson kicked the vampire’s foot.  “Don’t go there, Ghoul.”

“Why not?”  Niles rounded on the black man.  “If he knew something, he should have reported it.”

“I didn’t know anything!” Williams snapped.  He glared at Niles, daring him to continue.

Cruz pressed her forehead into her hands.  She shook her head, her satiny black hair waving in its thick pony tail.  “I can’t believe this.”

“There’s nothing to believe,” Jackson insisted.  He gave Williams a bracing look.  “He didn’t know.  None of us did.”

“How can you be so certain?” Niles demanded.

Jackson glared.  “Because I know.”

Williams’ partner, Walter Cooksey, was white faced.  Niles feared the little, fat, bald man was going to be sick right there in the meeting room.

Being a vampire with icy hands, Niles knew better than to touch him.  He did lean close.  “Are you going to be okay?”

Cooksey swallowed and blinked rapidly.  He nodded in a frantic fashion then hung his head.

Cruz sank into her chair.  “You both knew!  Jesus!”  She turned worried eyes to her partner.  “Did you?”

Niles scowled.  “Hell, no!”  He lowered his voice.  “I might be a vampire but that doesn’t mean I don’t have scruples.  I don’t rob people.  I don’t falsify reports.  And I don’t lie to cover it up when other people do.”

“No, you just kill and eat people,” Williams growled.

Niles’ blue eyes momentarily flickered yellow with anger.  He took several deep breaths to control himself.  “Go ahead.  Attack me, Jonas.  Make yourself feel better.”

“Will you both just stop it!” Jackson hissed.  “We can’t afford to fight amongst ourselves.”

“Defending the indefensible is what got the department into this mess!” Cruz insisted.

Williams drew his breath.  He let it out with a wheeze.  He stared each member of the team in the eye.  “Look.  I didn’t know anything.  I’d heard stuff.  I suspected things.  But I didn’t know!”

“You should have spoken up.”  Niles shook his head in disgust at Williams and himself.

“That’s easy for you to say, Ghoul!”  Williams snorted.  “You don’t consider us your friends, your brothers.”

Niles flinched as if he’d been hit.  “I resent that, Jonas.  I’ve bent over backwards to fit in.  But right now I’m not sure I want you as a friend or a brother.”

Williams’ gray eyes flashed like a storm cloud.  “Then it’s a good thing we’re neither, isn’t it?”

“Stop it!” Cooksey popped onto his feet.  He was so short the action did little to stop the argument so he waved his arms.  “I can’t stand this.”  He glared around the circle.  “We’re a team, remember.  We take care of each other.”

Williams folded his arms and half turned his back.  “Everyone but the Ghoul, I’m thinking.”

“Even the Ghoul,” Krewelski said quietly.  “He’s probably the most honest one amongst us.”

Jackson laid a huge hand on Williams’ shoulder before the man leaped at Krewelski.  “Jonas, stop.”  His deep voice rumbled like the ocean.  Like Cooksey, he swept the circle with his dark eyes.  “Cooksey’s right.  We need to hang together.  All of us.  This thing could get ugly.  When it does we may have no one but each other.  Remember that.”

Williams huffed then subsided.  He seemed to deflate.  He sat staring out the window bleakly.

Jackson looked pointedly at Niles.  “Are you one of us, or not?”

Niles didn’t know where to look.  At a disgusted Cruz who seemed ready to simply quit, a fervent Cooksey who nodded at him to agree, a confused Krewelski or Williams’ defiant back.  Finally, he made his decision.  He sighed.

“I’m one of you.”

Jackson slapped his shoulder then stomped off to get some coffee.  Cooksey smiled.  Krewelski shrugged and headed for the men’s room.

Cruz shook her head.  “We’re gonna burn in hell, Gule.”

Niles nodded.  “Probably.  But we’ll burn together.”

She snorted and suggested they get to work.

As he followed her to their desks, Niles wondered just how far the disease had spread.  And what he could do about it.  He finally decided there was nothing he could do.  He was one of them.  In for a penny, in for a pound.

The blue line, Niles thought.  One never crossed it.

To our shame.

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  The arrest of the seven officers has shocked and saddened me.  The saying is true.  Power corrupts.  We must all remember that the vast majority of police officers in this country are dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us safe.  We cannot allow the actions of a few to destroy the faith we place in our men and women in blue.

7 Baltimore Police Officers Charged In Racketeering Conspiracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule: Anti-Dentite

Few things could frighten a vampire.  After all, they dealt in human terror and bloodshed on a daily basis.  In his younger days, Niles Gule had brutally murdered hundreds of people without a qualm.  This situation, however, caused the vampire’s long, lithe body to quiver.

“A dental convention?” he demanded to his partner, Mariella Cruz of the Baltimore PD.  “Someone just had to murder someone else at a dental convention?”

Cruz shrugged as she ducked under the police tape that surrounded the crime scene near a display booth featuring invisible braces.  “It happens.”  She glanced over her shoulder then hesitated when she saw the vampire’s utterly white face.  Being a night creature, Niles was normally pallid.  Today he was positively ghostly.  “Is there a problem?”

“I hate dentists.”  Niles ran his tongue over his ever-growing fangs.  In order to pass as a human, once a month he visited Dr. Luca Delorento, the only dentist in the city brave enough to defang a vampire.  Since Novocain didn’t work on his biology, Niles suffered the procedure without painkillers.  He usually spent his dental day totally smashed on vodka until the pain receded.

To be surrounded by dentists, dental equipment, sales people brandishing plastic teeth, tooth brushes. Yikes!

The murder at the convention center had taken place just at the start of the night shift, which meant Niles and Cruz, being the night shift detectives, had pulled the case.  While Cruz worked with the crime scene processors, Niles was tasked with questioning witnesses.  Of which there were hundreds, none of whom saw a damned thing, or so they claimed.  The convention floor was a sea of sales booths pitching every dental device and product imaginable.  Through that sea swam schools of dental professionals collecting freebies the way blue whales trolled for krill.

In the ever swirling pool of people, Niles circulated, asking for details of individuals’ movements.   Everyone was willing to talk, but no one had anything to say about the dead guy.  The victim was a sales person peddling a fancy laser system for whitening teeth.  An obnoxious individual according to most and a frequent annoyance on the dental convention circuit.  Niles had a hard time finding sympathy for the poor soul.

The strange feeling of a hand slapping him on the shoulder made him jump.  Humans never touched vampires.  Even though few knew Niles belonged to that species, some deep instinct warned people not to touch him.

“I’m surprised to see you here, Mr. Gule!” Dr. Delorento’s voice boomed even through the babble of the crowd that surrounded him.  He winked a twinkling eye at the vampire.  “I didn’t think you cared much for my profession.”

Niles planted a polite smile on his pale lips.  “Forgive me, but I’m not fond of it.”

The doctor laughed then his brow puckered.  “You’re growing out again.”

Niles wiped the smile from his face to hide his always growing fangs.  “I’ve got another week.”

A strange light started to burn in Delorento’s eyes.  He grabbed Niles by the arm and hauled him down the aisle.  “Fortune has smiled on me.  You’re perfect for this lecture.”

Ever urbane, Niles would never cause a scene.  He demurred as he was dragged behind the doctor.  “Dr. Delorento, I’m here to investigate a murder.”

“Yes, well, Faherty is dead and no one’s gonna miss him.”

Niles tried to protest not just being kidnapped, but the dismissiveness of the dentist, but Delorento chugged on.  He tugged Niles to a small stage in front of several rows of chairs which were filled with dentists.  A young, Japanese woman addressed the crowd.  She paused in the middle of her lecture when Delorento motioned to her.  She bent down and listened then straightened.

“We are lucky to have an actual example of Yaebaism here in the hall tonight,” she said brightly.  “Mr. Gule, will you come up on stage please?”

Niles resisted Delorento’s shove.  “I don’t think…”

“Oh, come on!  Just smile for the crowd and nod at whatever Dr. Yoshimura has to say.”  He patted Niles shoulder.  “She came all the way from Japan for this lecture at my request.  It’s harmless, I swear.  You owe me.”

Niles gave him a hard look but couldn’t really argue the point.  He did owe Delorento a lot.

The lady beamed as he stepped onto the stage.  He loomed over her by almost two feet.

Yoshimura asked Niles to smile.  Reluctantly, he did so, revealing the stubs of his fangs growing out.  They weren’t fully formed yet, and so looked juvenile rather than fierce.  Still he hated showing them off.

“Mr. Gule has obviously had the treatment done,” Yoshimura explained.  “You can see his pronounced canines which give him a vampiric look.”

A man in the front row raised his hand.  “Why would anyone deliberately change their teeth into fangs?”

“It’s a fashion statement,” Yoshimura said.  “In Japan prominent canines are considered young and hip.  Among Australians it’s become something of a fad.  Since youngsters can’t shock us with tattoos and piercings anymore, they’ve come up with yet another way to make themselves stand apart.  I think it’s important that the dentists of the US be aware of this trend and nip it in the bud.  Having one’s mouth deliberately destroyed is a waste of money.  Patients face a lifetime of improper bite alignment that can lead to TMJ and other painful problems.  And frankly, it’s hideous.”

Niles turned his vivid blue eyes hard the lady.  She didn’t back down from her statement, however.  She gave his look right back at him.

“Then there’s the cost of correcting the mess after it’s been done,” she stated.   “Self-mutilation is never a good decision.”

“I’m going to mutilate someone,” Niles grumbled.

Thereafter, he suffered the indignation of having a half dozen dentists examine his supposed self-mutilation while he plastered a frozen smile on his face.

“That’s gonna be a mess to fix,” a dentist commented.  He handed Niles his card.  “Call me.”

More dentists huddled around.  Niles found himself in what amounted to a house of horrors to a vampire.  Finally, he decided he’d taken enough.  He allowed his anger to turn his eyes yellow and he roared, brandishing his stubby fangs.

“Enough!”  He glared in a circle at the dentists who scampered backwards in fright.  “If one more person sticks their nose in my mouth, he’s going to discover what I can do with these!  God, I hate dentists!”

Unable to retain a serene appearance, he pushed himself through the crowd and stormed off, in search of the sanity of a murder investigation.

“Talk about over sensitive!” one of the dentists grumbled at his back.

“What does he expect when he mutilates himself?” another asked.

“He’s an anti-dentite!” complained a third.

“He’ll be back in twenty years when it’s not such a fashion statement anymore,” commented a woman.

Dr. Delorento chuckled.  “Oh, he’ll be back sooner than that.  Trust me.  A lot sooner.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Gule Finds He’s Not Alone

 

 

A hand slithering along his thigh caught Niles Gule completely off guard.  The vampire glared as a handsome twenty-something African-American slid alongside him to feel him up.  The man smiled.  His eyes glimmered with promise.

“I’m taken,” Niles stated.  He hoped his disapproving tone would drive his assailant away.

“Aren’t we all, sugar?” the gentleman responded.  “Doesn’t mean two boys can’t have fun.”

Niles considered the environment in which he stood.  The Hippodrome throbbed with a heavy base beat while a soulful woman belted out lyrics he thought might be “hurry home” or “curry comb”.  He wasn’t sure.  He hadn’t adjusted from symphonic music to the Beatles, let alone hip hop.  This new stuff utterly confused him.

The dance club was awash with brilliant lights in red, green, purple and blue.  Several hundred people packed the dance floor and bobbed in unison to the beat while the DJ in his booth pranced like a pony.  Niles, with his excellent night vision, could make out every face, count every link of the chains on each man’s neck and even read the track number of the CD from clear across the room.

When the hand groped towards areas Niles considered off limits, he reacted with gut instinct.  He bared his teeth, revealing his growing fangs, and let out a high pitched keen that pierced his assailant’s ears.

“Lord have mercy!” the man said, backing away.  “I’m into kinky, but not that kinky.  Nuh uh!”

Officer Cooksey, acting as a bartender, leaned over the bar.  “Was that the signal?”

Niles fought to keep from groaning.  “No,” he muttered.  “Just some horny guy looking for action.”

Cooksey grinned.  “Did you mention you really suck, Ghoul?”

The look Niles shot his fellow police officer should have slain the man where he stood.  He wanted to slice Cooksey into pieces but knew the man wasn’t worth the effort.  Instead, he returned his attention to his purpose in the night club.  He was doing a job for which the Baltimore PD had found him exquisitely suited.  Night surveillance in low light areas.  An informant had told the police a high level dealer would be at the club that night and would use the dancing to cover a major transaction.  Niles was stationed at the central bar with a clear view of the doors.  His job was to signal when Lenny the Brute entered the club.  An easy gig.  Lean against a bar and study every person who entered.  Unfortunately, the Hippodrome was frequented by much of the city’s gay population and Niles was a tall, blonde, stunning man.  Half the clientele had been staring at him.

Officer Williams, pretending to be a waiter, shot him a glance, seeking direction.  Niles shook his head.

A change in scent twitched Niles’ nose.  As a supreme carnivore, a Vanapir could discern each individual human he met simply by smell.  The Hippodrome was awash with enticing odors of blood, sweat and testosterone.  The spicy gumbo made Niles’ body ache with a hunger he refused to satisfy.  No humans was his mantra.  Ever.  Some days humanity made keeping that stance difficult.

Sensing a danger he didn’t understand, Niles abandoned his surveillance of the door and allowed his eyes to wander over the crowd.  He caught a familiar scent to his left.  Knew the person to which it belonged.  Couldn’t place a name or face to it however.  Immediately thereafter he caught another, stronger smell.  Cool and crisp it contrasted profoundly with the rich aroma of humans.  A vampire was in the club.

Niles gestured to Cooksey behind the bar.  Alert.  Something was wrong.

The familiar human smell focused into a name.  Marcus Williams.  Jesus!

Niles located Officer Jonas Williams’ new location too late.  Marcus, his estranged cousin, had found the undercover policeman.  In the uncertain, wildly flashing light, Niles saw the gun.  Knew Marcus was ending his feud with his cousin right there.

Niles couldn’t reach his fellow officer through that crowd.  He therefore resorted to the only other trick in his arsenal.  He screamed.

A human scream in the hot, pulsing atmosphere would have barely registered, but a vampire scream cut at such a high pitch that it ripped human ear drums and tore a hole through the cacophony of sound.  As if a bomb had been dropped, the entire club winced and the dancing stopped.  The DJ slammed his hand on the control board, instantly cutting the music.  A gunshot rang through the silence.  People screamed.  Pandemonium engulfed the Hippodrome.

Niles fought through the crowd of maddened humans racing away from the gunfire.  From the corner of his eye he saw Cooksey bound over the bar with his pistol drawn, following Niles.  Shoving people aside, Niles plowed towards the Williams cousins.  Jonas Williams had been hit in the arm by his cousin’s first shot.  Now he was fighting for his life, trying to wrest the gun from Marcus.

Niles threw himself into Marcus’ back.  The man stumbled and Jonas spun away.  Cooksey was on Marcus, wrenching the gun free.  Niles scrambled for the man’s hands and caught them.  While he held the wildly flaying Marcus, Cooksey slapped handcuffs on him.

“You okay?” Niles panted at the wounded officer.

Williams nodded, holding his right hand to his bleeding left arm.

Niles swallowed and fought down the sudden rush of lust at the sight of all that blood.

“So much for catching Lenny the Brute,” Cooksey complained.

His partner glared then turned to Niles.  “Thanks.  I’m sure that noise, whatever it was, came from you.  Saved my life.”

Niles shrugged.  “No problem.  Just doing my job.”

Now that his team was safe, Niles hastily surveyed the disaster.  Most of the crowd had bolted.  Baltimore PD officers were securing the scene and ushering the remaining bystanders out of the building.  Niles eyes sought the vampire he knew had been somewhere in the club but found nothing.  The scent, too, was gone.

Sergeant Tan Lo appeared looking hot and flustered.  “What a disaster!” he complained.

Niles nodded.  “It’s worse than you know.”

Lo lifted his brows.

“We’ve got another one, Sergeant,” Niles said grimly.  “There’s a new vampire working Baltimore.”

 

© 2016 Newmin

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.