Gule Finds Life is Taxing

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Niles Gule’s eyes, normally a brilliant blue, smoldered yellow when they read the notice.  Being a vampire, his gaze could be icy, but he was not as heartless as his brethren.  He’d lived too many years amongst humans to remain aloof, so that wintry blue could soften if he let it.  When he grew angry, however, the color shifted.  The brighter the yellow, the angrier the vampire.  His eyes that evening glowed like a bonfire.

“That sonofabitch ratted me out,” he complained.  He thrust the paper at his partner, Mariella Cruz.

Lifting a quizzical brow, the perky little Latina accepted the notice.

“You’re being audited by the IRS?”  She handed the paper back.  “I guess into even a perfect life a little rain must fall.”

Although Niles adored his partner, he couldn’t stop from curling his lip to brandish his fangs at her.  “This isn’t funny.”  He sat back in his chair and muttered curses in Vanapir.  “It’s Williams.  Payback for my April Fool’s prank.”

Cruz shut down her computer.  As she gathered her purse from a drawer, she said, “That’s what the two of you get for playing games on each other.  They ratchet up.  One of these days, someone’s going to get hurt.”  She huffed at the sight of the disgruntled vampire.  “Come on, Niles!  It’s just an audit.  Man up and deal with it.”

Niles shot her a heated glance.  “It’s not that simple.  I don’t have a social security number.  I’ve never filed a single tax return.  I’m not in their system at all.”

Cruz shouldered her bag.  Tapping the notice, she said, “then I suggest you come up with something in a hurry.”

Annoyed at her cavalier attitude, and enraged at Williams’ joke, Niles snatched up the notice and followed her from the precinct, wondering all the while how he would weasel his way out of this latest predicament.

 

The Internal Revenue Service held forth in Baltimore in the George H Fallon Federal Building, a nondescript concrete bunker on Hopkins Plaza within walking distance of Niles’ apartment on Lombard Street. The vampire squinted at it from behind nearly black sunglasses while he fought off yawn after yawn.  In typical bureaucratic style, the agency didn’t bother to understand he worked the night shift.  His appointment with Raymundo D Colon-Santiago demanded his appearance in person on a Tuesday at 2pm.

The guards at security whisked Niles through with relative ease given he carried only his cell phone and tablet computer.  Then they directed him to the elevators and the tenth floor.

That far above the city the space echoed with awesome silence, all extraneous noise being consumed by the piles of paper that inhabited the building.  Niles’ sensitive ears picked up the soft trill of distant phones ringing, the whoosh of the air handling system, and the buzz of quiet conversation, but the floor was amazingly hushed.  Even the carpet muted his footfalls as he navigated the maze of corridors until he found the audit department.

Like most Americans, Niles envisioned the IRS as a giant inhuman machine manned by bookish gnomes that saw even less daylight than a vampire.  He expected Raymundo D Colon-Santiago to be small, elderly and nearsighted.  When the man rose from behind the conference table and extended his hand to greet his next auditing victim, Niles was forced to reassess.  Raymundo was as tall as Niles and thin, but the silk of his white dress shirt spoke of taut muscles hiding below.  His skin was the warm brown of walnut, his hair black, lustrous and neatly shorn in a fashionable cut.  He didn’t wear glasses and didn’t have a pocket protector full of pens.  His handshake was strong, firm and challenging.

He didn’t flick an eyelash when his warm hand met the vampire’s icy one.

“Have a seat,” he said, motioning to a chair in the conference room.

Niles sank slowly into an uncomfortable, wire and plastic device while Raymundo lounged in a padded leather seat.

“So, Mr. Gule,” he opened.  “We appear to have a problem.  I’ve done some digging and come to the conclusion that you’ve never filed a tax return.  Ever.”  His dark eyes swept over Niles, calculating age and socioeconomic status.  “I would assume a man of your years and apparent wherewithal must have received some type of taxable income over the years.  Would you care to explain?”

Good old Raymundo had hit the problem head on.

Niles had been born in 1858 in Boston of aristocratic parents.  During his many decades of life, he’d traveled the world and accumulated a level of wealth that allowed him to live comfortably.  He’d come by none of it honestly, he was ashamed to say.  Before arriving in Baltimore only a handful of years ago, Niles had lived the life of a typical vampire.  He’d slept through the daylight hours in dark holes far from prying human eyes, only emerging after the sun went down.  Then he’d begin hunting for his next meal.  Which was generally human beings.  After he’d killed someone and consumed their blood, he rifled their pockets and stole whatever they possessed.  Being smarter than most of his fellows, Niles eventually learned that wealthy, elderly, lonely people made great targets.  Too frail to fight off a vampire, their disappearances often going unnoticed for days, they were perfect fodder.  He would search their houses for hidden valuables.  Ultimately, he learned the fine art of stealing their identities and all their investments.  He’d done well over the years.  His portfolio was the envy of his financial planner.  None of it had ever been on the IRS radar.

Until now.

Niles had spent the last three days trying to come up with a plausible explanation for great wealth without income.

“I inherited money from my parents overseas,” he said.  “I live off their investments in Switzerland.”

Raymundo tapped his fingers on the table.  “That’s nice.”  His sharp gaze didn’t flinch nor did his face give his thoughts away.  “You reside in the United States, correct?”

Niles nodded.

“You’re a citizen, I presume?”

Not seeing much point in denying that, Niles replied, “Yes.”

“Then it’s my duty to explain to you that you must report income from all sources outside the U.S. This is true whether or not you receive a W-2,  a 1099 or a Swiss equivalent.”

“Oh.”  It was the only word Niles could think to say.

Raymundo continued, his face impassive.  “Failing to report foreign source income is a crime, Mr. Gule.  You could face serious consequences if we determine you have unreported income or undisclosed foreign financial accounts.  These consequences can include not only the additional taxes, but also penalties, interest, fines and even imprisonment.”

Niles swallowed.  He didn’t like the sound of that.

Raymundo spread his hands.  “Is there anything you’d like to tell me, Mr. Gule?”

Niles scratched his chin.  Trying to wriggle out of of the foreign investments idea would just make him look bad.  And it was the best lie he could come up with.  The rest were worst.  That left him no other choice but to use his nuclear option.

He fixed his eyes firmly on Raymundo’s.  He softened his gaze and sent mesmerizing messages across the tiny gap between them.  All vampires possessed the skill to bewitch their prey.  He could fill Raymundo’s head with all sorts of ideas, including forcing the agent to forget he’d ever heard of Niles Gule.

Raymundo gazed steadily back.

“Mr. Gule?”

Niles blinked.  It wasn’t working!  What the hell?

He doubled down.

Raymundo glared back.

Realizing he was losing the battle of the batting eyes, Niles pulled his last and final trick.  He bared his fangs, letting them drip saliva onto the tabletop.

Still, Raymundo held his ground.

“I’m a vampire!” Niles exclaimed, growing frustrated.  “Fear me, damn you!”

Raymundo lifted his chin.  “This is the IRS.  We don’t fear anything.  Even vampires.”

Niles slumped, stunned.  “Seriously?”

Raymundo lifted a brow.

Niles tried a simple smile.  “What do you think I owe you?”

Raymundo faked an equally quick smile.  “Failure to file a return suspends the statute of limitations.  Therefore, regulations allow me to recalculate your income from the first time you failed to file, which would be the first year that the federal income tax was enacted in 1913.”

“Oh, shit!”

The smile that curved Raymundo’s lips became genuine.  “An appropriate response.  You’re going to owe a shit ton of taxes, Mr. Gule.  Today’s my lucky day!”

Wilted, Niles considered his options.  Conning Raymundo was off the table.  Niles doubted he’d succeed in killing the fellow and getting away with it.  That left him with few alternatives.

Finally, heaving a sigh, he asked, “Do you have a payment plan?”

 

(c) 2019 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  It’s Tax Due Day!  Have you filed your taxes?

If you need assistance in meeting your tax obligations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is here to help.  Visit VITA for information about services in your area.  https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

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Gule Strikes a Deal

Niles Gule wasn’t superstitious.  He tended to believe only what he saw with his own eyes.  Which was ironic really, when he thought about it.  Because he was a vampire, a creature of legend himself.  That night, however, as he took one slow, cautious step after another down the creaky, wooden stairs, he admitted he was spooked.  The clammy basement was lit with only a single bare bulb hanging from the rafters.  Its feeble light left the remote corners glowering in sullen shadows.  Since Niles’ eyes were exquisitely designed for darkness, that bulb blinded him.  The space was menacing.  Water dripped.  The rough stone wall felt slimy beneath his hand.  The air hung dank and thick as if saturated with not just water but the spirits of the dead.

According to local legend, that basement was a nest of restless spirits.  So many ghosts were said to inhabit the ancient farmhouse that no one could tolerate living there.  One prior owner had supposedly gone stark raving mad and run from the place buck naked one winter.  The Dunkelberger farmhouse was cursed.  Everyone knew it.

Everyone except Niles’ partner with the Baltimore Police, Mariella Cruz.  She’d been anxious to purchase a house of her own to escape her boisterous, overly protective family with whom she’d been living since her return to Baltimore.  When she found the quaint house listed at an amazing price, she leaped.  Inspections were clean.  Her mortgage approved.  All was good.  Until she slept in the house for a week.

Windows slammed inexplicably.  Doors creaked.  Furniture shifted.  Cruz had even tolerated dishes flying from the kitchen cabinets and hitting her.  What had finally driven her out was the black form that stalked her and breathed on her neck.  Then came the voice telling her to get out.  Like Satan himself, she whispered to her co-workers as she shivered in fear.  Most laughed, but not Niles, who knew legendary things existed.  Certainly he did.  If vampires could creep from the shadows to feed on human flesh, ghosts couldn’t be far behind.

Unfortunately, Cruz had invested her savings in the house.  She couldn’t just walk away.  So she called on her partner to rid the house of its ghosts.

I’m still not sure why everyone thinks I qualify, Niles muttered.  Every time something spooky arises, they thrust me into the fire.  What am I, he wondered.  The ghostbusters?

Something flitted past him.  It wasn’t a cobweb.  It moved and shifted.  Niles flicked his keen gaze around the space.  Made out a diaphanous mist drifting nearby.  He drew his breath as a shiver skittered down his spine.  The mist evaporated.

Another cloud formed.  This one vaguely took the shape of a person with a face within the vapors.  It stared with huge mournful eyes and opened its mouth as if to scream but Niles heard nothing.  He stood frozen, his heart hammering, as the spirit silently wailed then disappeared.

Niles drew his silver knife.  Useful for vampires.  Not so useful for ghosts.  At least he didn’t think so.

“You need to leave,” he stated with more confidence than he felt.  “You’re not welcome here.”

A dark form detached from the shadows.  Oozed past him.  Niles recoiled as an icy breath caressed his face.  He shuddered, revolted by an intense smell of rotting flesh.

He tried shouting.  “Get out!”

It ignored him.

Niles’ tertiary sense, an inner sixth sense that could perceive obscure energies, shrieked as the thing drifted near him.  His instincts told him it wasn’t of this earth.  He couldn’t kill it.  But it, he realized in sheer terror, could kill him.

Instinctively, Niles bared his fangs in self-defense.

“Vampire!” a voice from the depths of hell chuckled in his ear.  “I fear you not.”

Niles didn’t doubt that for a moment.  His tertiary sense told him he faced a demon that had created an opening from its world into this.  A vortex of power spun around it like water down a whirlpool.  The souls of those who’d died in the house were trapped circling the drain until they finally fell into oblivion.  That power wanted to absorb the living as well as the dead.  Cruz.  Him.  Niles could feel it pulling on his soul to drag him in.  He steeled himself.  Resisted.  His fangs flexed.  His hand tightened on the knife.  He would not surrender.

“What will it take to make you leave?” he demanded.  His body trembled from the struggle to beat back the demon.

“Nothing!” whispered the voice from hell.  “I claim this place. I claim you.”

Niles sought a place of safety within the maelstrom.  Even through the confusion, his thoughts turned to Cruz.  Warmth flowed in, filling cold voids created by the demon.  Gave him the strength to pull away.  He clung to the thought of her upstairs.  Waiting.  Worrying.  About him.  The only human on earth who did.

He broke free.

Drawing a deep breath, Niles considered.  The demon was too powerful and had claimed that house for too long.  Centuries probably.  It would be impossible to evict.  So what of Cruz?  She’d lose everything if she walked away from the house.  Unless the demon evicted her.

“I’ll make you deal,” he said to the darkness.  “One you can’t refuse.”

His answer was an amused laugh.

Moments later, the deal done, Niles retreated.  His sharp hearing caught a popping sound and a whoosh.  The prehistoric oil furnace caught fire then exploded.  A broiling wave scorched Niles as he raced for the stairs.  Demonic laughter followed the flames.

Niles flashed upstairs and without breaking stride, grabbed Cruz who’d been waiting for him.  He dragged her out the front door.  When the house exploded, the blast threw the pair to the grass.  Niles covered Cruz as best he could as burning lumber rained around them.  Then all fell still except the pop and crackle of the fire and a distant, disembodied laugh.

“What the hell?” Cruz demanded, sitting up.  She stared first at what was left of her house then Niles.

“Trust me on this one.”  Niles briefly closed his eyes to shut out the pain he saw on her face.  “We’ll buy you another house.”

“My house!”

“I’ll take care of it.”  Niles shot a glance at the smoldering ruins.  “There’s no way you could live there.  A demon was nesting in the basement.”

“So you blew it up?”

Niles shook his head.  He heard the sounds of sirens approaching.  “No, it blew itself up.”

Cruz blinked.  “The demon?  Why?”

“Because I asked it to.”  He slumped exhausted.  “With the insurance money you can buy a new house.  One without a demon in the basement.”

Cruz gave him a long, hard look.  “Not that I’m sure I believe a demon just blew up my new house, but… how did you convince it to do that?”

Niles glanced uneasily at the house.  “I made it a deal it couldn’t refuse.”

“What?  What sort of deal?”

Niles refused to say.  He rose and helped her to her feet.  Then he turned his back on the house and the demon, still hearing its laughter as he walked away.

 

© 2016 Newmin

Gule Strikes Out

For certain events, the nightshift of the Baltimore police department loved having a vampire on retainer.  Niles Gule’s incredible eyesight was useful for surveillance work and he was often employed to search for evidence in the dark.  His delicate hearing, five times more sensitive than a human’s, could be drafted to listen to distant conversations like a living electronic bug.  One of his most prized abilities, however, was his inhuman strength which far surpassed that of his co-workers.

So that was why, on a Sunday afternoon in early spring, his team on the night shift hauled the vampire from his bed and demanded his participation in an annual event, a softball game pitting dayshift versus night.

Groggy and ill-tempered, Niles trudged to the bench beside the park’s diamond and glared up at the brilliant blue sky through his blacked out, wrap-around sunglasses.  To survive in daylight, which vampires could do if they were careful to avoid radiation poisoning (that whole vaporizing thing was a Hollywood confection), he’d slathered on several layers of SPF 75 sunscreen to his face, neck and hands, and plunked an Orioles ball cap over his blond locks.  While most of his teammates wore shorts and t-shirts in deference to the warming weather, Niles wore jeans and a tight fitting, long sleeved black tee.

His partner, the feisty Latina Mariella Cruz, whistled at the sight of him.  “Looking good, Niles!  Nice to see you out of a suit for once.”

Niles’ reply was a desultory wave.

Jonas Williams, Niles’ perpetual enemy, stuck the little lady in the ribs with an elbow.  “I’ll bet you’ve seen him out of his suits quite a few times.”

Cruz scowled at the giant officer and kicked his shin.  “Show some class, Jonas.”

Williams’ smoky gray eyes flicked over the vampire’s lean, well-developed physique.  “I wish you’d wear a poncho or something.  You’re making the rest of us look bad.”

“Speak for yourself!” chortled Maher of the dayshift.  He was built like a 1960’s Ford Mustang, all sleek, muscled and well defined.  His tight shirt hid little.  Swinging his arms to warm them up, he added, “We’re going to mop up this field with you night owls.”

That set the dayshift hooting in derision.

Little, balding, overweight Cooksey arrived, toting the all-important cooler of snacks which he set on the bench next to Niles and the three coolers of alcohol.

His appearance filled the dayshift with glee.

“You hooters don’t stand a chance,” goaded Vilicashvili, a daylight detective.  “I’ll bet Cruz can’t hit a ball and good luck with Cooksey making it to first base.”  He winked at his fellows.  “He’s never made first base in real life.”

Cooksey’s head jerked up at the jab and Niles saw his face fall.  The vampire scuffed his foot against Cooksey’s.

“Ignore them.  They’re idiots.”

Niles earned himself the figment of a smile from his little co-worker before Cooksey consoled himself by rooting through his cooler of gourmet treats all of which he’d created.

Williams grabbed Cruz before she could start kicking the dayshift.  He puffed up to his full, imposing six-four and glared at the chuckling officers.

“I’d be careful what you say about Cruz,” he warned.  “She’s whacked a lot balls in her time and it ain’t pretty.  She can kick your ass from here to Cleveland.  And Cooksey might surprise you.”

His comments earned more howling and throwing smack.  He waved them away with a disgusted gesture.

Cooksey gave him a grateful smile.

While the opposing sides taunted each other, Niles took the moment to reach into his back pocket and withdraw the one contribution he’d brought to the game.  His rum jumbie bottle with its resident impish spirit.  He needed to unload it onto someone else to free himself from its plague.  Having a jumbie attached to one made life miserable because the sprite constantly played pranks and when it was hungry, it bit its master’s ankle.  Niles’ legs felt like hamburger.  With a sly grin, the vampire slipped his jumbie bottle into the mix of beers, lemonades and ciders.  All someone had to do was accept the bottle and open it then he’d be free.  Free!

The game commenced with the nightshift at bat.  Niles remained on the bench and watched as their lead batter, Deshawn Jackson, stepped to the plate.  His bat cracked when he hit the ball on a line drive for third.  He charged into second base before dayshift fielded the ball.  Next up was Filmore who fouled out, then Hernandez who whiffed every pitch to the howls of everyone.  That brought them to Cooksey.

The little man’s face was a study in fierce determination as he stood clutching the bat in a white knuckled death grip.

“Give him an easy one,” shouted Vilicashvili to his pitcher.  “Nice and slow.”

Barton, the pitcher, scoffed and fired a fast ball.  To everyone’s amazement, Cooksey bunted.  Then he was off, charging like the Pillsbury Doughboy for first.  Niles had seen little Cooksey run so he knew the dude was quicker than one would have thought.  Cooksey reached first while Maher fumbled with the ball near home place.  Meanwhile, Jackson frolicked to third.

Cruz was next and earned hoots and cat whistles as she sauntered to home plate with a bat in her hands and her ass wriggling provocatively in skin-tight clam diggers.  She flipped her thick, black ponytail over her shoulder, narrowed her eyes and assumed the position.  The fire in her gaze told Niles that, as usual, she wasn’t taking any prisoners.

“This time I’ll be nice,” Barton said.  He pitched a slow ball.

That was a mistake.  Cruz bolted forward into it and smacked that ball for the sky.  With a yip of glee, she sprinted for first while Cooksey trundled to second.  Jackson knew better than to move because the ball came down only feet from third base.

“You’re up, Ghoul!” Williams declared, slapping Niles on the shoulder.

Niles gave his nemesis a cold look as he rose.  He gestured to the cooler.  “Why don’t you grab a cold one, Jonas?” he offered as he headed for home plate.

Commanding himself not to look at what Williams picked, Niles strolled to the plate with long, casual strides.  He picked up the bat and considered it.  Vampires didn’t play baseball, but he knew what to do.  The bigger problem was the sunlight.  Even with his dark glasses, Niles squinted to see in the glare.  The world appeared washed out and little shards of light stabbed his delicate vision.  He wasn’t sure he’d be able to see the ball.

Barton warmed up his arm and pitched.  Niles couldn’t see so he didn’t swing.

“Oh, please!” yelled Vilicashvili.  “Whaddaya want, Gule?  It handed to ya?”

Niles gripped the bat tighter.  He swung at the second pitch but missed.

“Steeerike!” shouted the umpire.

Both teams howled.

He tried for the third pitch and nicked it but the ball popped into the bleachers.

“Foul ball!” shouted the umpire.

“Just goes to show, good looks don’t mean good hits,” jibed Maher.  “Those fine muscles don’t do you no good if you can’t connect with the ball.”

“Maybe it’s not balls he’s looking for!” Cruz shouted from second.  She wriggled again suggestively to make her point and earned wolf whistles for her effort.

Niles chose to ignore the taunting.  Drawing his breath, he steeled himself for the next pitch.

Concentrate.  Be the ball.

Barton pitched.  Niles swung.  The bat connected with a startling crack and the ball went sailing.  And sailing.  And sailing.  Out of the ball field towards the playground a block away.

While the dayshift stood with mouths agape, Niles trotted around the bases, shooing his three stunned co-workers ahead of him.  He didn’t crow when he crossed home plate.  He merely nodded to the folks cheering for him and headed back for the bench.

He found Williams standing there holding the rum jumbie bottle.

Niles caught his breath.  Of all the people, could he have actually dumped it off on Williams?  On his enemy?

Williams gave him a scathing look.  He grabbed the vampire’s icy hand and slapped the bottle into it.

“Nice try, Ghoul.”

Niles cursed under his breath.

“I’m not that dumb,” the giant Polack said.

He added with a grin, “Steeerike!”

 

© 2018 Newmin

Gule is Tied Up for a While

Another day, another ringing headache, the vampire thought as he rose groggily to consciousness and rubbed his temple where a goose egg swelled.  The last time Niles Gule had awoken from a head bashing, he’d found himself on a garbage scow trolling Baltimore’s Inner Harbor along with the rest of the refuse.  Some enterprising garbage scowman had thought to cash in on his lucky strike of sweeping a vampire out of the bay.  He’d taken a pipe wrench to said vampire’s head, sending Niles back to oblivion.

From the solidity under his shoulders and the cool dampness of the air, Niles surmised he was no longer on the scow and the space was dark enough that he could open his eyes.  Doing so revealed that his kidnapper had transferred him to a basement.  Sitting up and still rubbing his aching head, Niles decided the filthy, moldy space was an upgrade from the garbage scow.  At least his kidnappers had kept his vampirishness in mind when choosing his prison.  Or, he thought dourly, this was just the best they had.

As Niles settled his shoulders against a cinder block wall, he assessed his situation.  His once beautiful Armani suit had reached the end of its useful life.  It hung limp from its drenching in seawater and splotched with grease from the tumble through the garbage scow.  The smell ranged from piquant rotting vegetables to aromatic dead fish with just the right touch of fecal perfume to finish it off.  Niles fought the instinct to gag.

Wiggling his toes, he noted his feet wore only bedraggled socks.  A glance at his Rolex revealed two things:  Rolexes and water didn’t mix and his wrists were shackled.

Hell!

Niles jiggled his chains.  A pair of them was attached to a ring embedded in the concrete slab.  Niles couldn’t imagine what use they might have had before they were impressed into service as vampire trapping equipment, but they were certainly stout enough.  Although he possessed the extraordinary strength of his species, several tugs confirmed Niles wouldn’t be simply strong-arming his way out of this one.  His arms flopped to his side as he sighed.

His movement must have alerted his captors because Joe, the garbage scowman, trotted down the wooden steps with a spring in his step and a gleam in his eyes.  He came armed with a cell phone and stopped just beyond the reach of the chains.

“You’re awake!”   Joe grinned and fiddled with his phone.  “Great!  I figured no one would believe it if I videoed you lying there like a corpse.  You looked like a wax dummy.”

Niles lifted his brows in affront but said nothing.

A slice of panic froze the vampire’s heart as that camera lens turned in his direction.  Niles wasn’t exactly a vampire in hiding, but at the same time, he didn’t broadcast his biological status to the world.  A handful of humans knew what he was, tolerated his presence and kept his secret.  Given that humans and vampires had been at war with each other for over five hundred years, with humans winning, Niles preferred to keep a low profile.  The gleam in Joe’s eye, coupled with a cell phone and video camera, indicated Niles’ bedraggled countenance would soon be gracing computer monitors from here to Vladivostok.

A shimmer of shadow rummaging in a corner of the basement caught Niles’ eye.  Gumby, his ever-present Jumbie, had stuck with him through his dunking.  He tried to will the sprite into attacking Joe, but Gumby had a mind of his own.  He continued happily searching the basement for whatever it was that gave a Jumbie pleasure.  Niles growled at the impudent imp before turning his attention to saving himself from his predicament.

With Gumby not offering to help, Niles was left with one option.  He turned a radiant smile on Joe just as the man got his video rolling.  Grabbing Joe’s gaze with his brilliant blue eyes, Niles sent thoughts of confusion at his captor.  Joe’s attention locked and Niles had him.  Using the talent of mesmerization that all vampires possessed, Niles coaxed Joe into lowering the phone and tossing it to him.  Niles caught it and immediately smashed it.

The sound woke Joe from his trance.  He shuddered when he realized he’d been tricked by his vampire.

“Jesus!”  He ran his hand over his eyes as he stumbled backwards.

Niles smiled, deliberately allowing his fangs to show.  “You wanted a vampire, foolish human.  This is what happens when you toy with us.”  He chuckled, lowering his voice to a deep roll.  He put all his acting talents into casting himself as the quintessential vampire of lore.  Dark, brooding, and nasty.  In the dim light of the basement, he imagined he made a fearsome sight.

Trembling,  Joe staggered to the foot of the stairs.

Niles rose and spread his arms out, extending his claws and baring his fangs in full attack posture.  He lunged, his chains rattling.

With a squeak of terror, Joe bolted up the stairs.

Niles’ body jerked when his lunge brought him to the limits of his chains.  Leaning against them pulling at his wrists, Niles nevertheless snickered with pleasure.

Too easy.  Humans are such cowards.

The shackles cut into his skin, forcing him to back up to relieve the pressure.  With a scowl, he rubbed where they chafed and considered how to remove them.

A crash told him Gumby was still trundling around.

“Here, Jumbie!  Jumbie!  Jumbie!” he sang.  He held his hands out as if he had a treat in them.  “Come here, little Jumbie!”

Gumby sent a pile of baskets rolling across the floor.  Niles had an impression of a chubby back end clambering into a pile of boxes and disappearing.

Useless Jumbie!

Niles sat down and planted his chin on his fist to think.

Hours ticked by.  At least Niles assumed they did.  His Rolex couldn’t tell him.  Gumby came and went, getting into trouble wherever he traveled.  He spilled a container of Christmas ornaments, sending glittering shards across the floor.  Then he shorted out a portion of the fuse box.  Next, he flicked on a spigot so that it dripped steadily.  Tap!  Tap!  Tap!  Niles groaned his annoyance.

Eventually, Niles’ stomach began to growl.  The sensation told him that not only had a great deal of time passed, but that he might be in luck.  If he was hungry, Gumby probably was too.  As if on cue, the vaporous sprite appeared from behind the furnace and tottered towards Niles.  He immediately sank his sharp little teeth into Niles’ ankle to inform the vampire that he wanted his dinner.

“Listen to me, you little shit,” Niles hissed.  “If you want to eat something other than my ankle, you need to help get me out of here.”

The shadowy shape exuded frustration.  He bit Niles again.

“Stop that!”  Niles tried to kick the Jumbie, but Gumby was more shadow than reality.

Niles rattled his shackles.  “You’re good at breaking into things.  Find something to open these.  Then I’ll take you to a banana warehouse and you can eat your fill!”

He sensed a spark of interest from Gumby.  The shadow trotted off.

Niles’ sharp ears heard the sounds of footsteps and humans speaking from the floor above.  Nervously, he glanced at Gumby.  “Move it along, little guy,” he urged.  “They’re coming to get me.  If they do, you’ll never get bananas again.”

Gumby dumped some tools off a shelf.  Niles commanded himself to have patience.  The footsteps drew closer.

A glint of light on metal preceded the Jumbie as he trotted back.  He carried a paperclip.

Trying to keep his heart from throbbing out of his chest, Niles held out his wrists to allow Gumby to jimmy the locks.

The door to the basement opened.

“You’ve really got to see this!” an excited Joe gushed.  “You won’t regret the money.  I promise.”

Gumby freed the lock.

Niles leaped to his feet, ready to do battle with whomever Joe brought to his prison.

Feet tromped loudly on the wooden stairs.

Niles extended his claws and prepared to leap.

A large, dark shadow made the turn at the bottom.

Just as Niles started to lunge, he slammed on his brakes.

“Williams?” he gasped.

Jonas Williams, a fellow police officer on the Baltimore PD, huffed at the sight of the vampire in full attack mode.

“Stand down, Ghoul,” he muttered. “You know I ain’t afraid of that shit.”

“How did you get here?”

Joe, still standing on the stairs, darted looks between them.

Williams shrugged a shoulder at Joe.  “When someone posted they had a living, breathing vampire for sale on Craigslist, I figured it must be you.  You’re the only vampire that’s missing at the moment.”

Niles blinked.  “You answered the ad?”

Williams nodded.  “Paid two grand for you, Ghoul.”  He turned to go.  “Come on.”

“But why?”  Niles stumbled in Williams’ wake.

The giant man didn’t turn around.  Forcing Joe to walk backwards, he headed up the stairs.  “Because poor Cruz is beside herself.  She thinks you’re dead.  I can’t stand that girl sobbing on my shoulder for another minute.”  He glared over his shoulder.  “I might do something I’m gonna regret.”

Niles knew the burden Williams bore. He carried a torch for the feisty little Latina, same as Niles.  Although he detested that Niles had come up the winner, he nevertheless stood by Cruz’s choice.

“Thank you, Jonas,” Niles said quietly.

Williams shoved Joe out of the way and proceeded from the house. “Just make sure you pay me back,” he sighed.  He gestured to his car waiting by the curb.  “Tell me the bank and I’ll drive you there right now.”

Gratefully, Niles climbed into the passenger seat.  As he buckled up, he said, “I don’t keep my money in banks.  There’s someplace I need you to take me first.”

Williams shot him a look.

Niles shrugged sheepishly.  “You gotta find me a banana warehouse.”

 

© 2019 Newmin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule is in the Dumps

What in the name of all that’s living and dead is that smell?

The vampire hacked to rid his lungs of the hideous funk, but that only filled his mouth with the foul taste of rotten fish.  He nearly vomited.

What had happened to him?

The last thing Niles Gule recalled was battling with a rival vampire on the Promenade on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  He’d lost.  Given the throbbing at the back of his head, Niles presumed he’d taken a hit to his skull, which probably explained his faulty memory.

Fearing to open his eyes, Niles attempted to ascertain his whereabouts using his other, predatory senses.  First, an inventory of all his faculties seemed in order.  Arms?  Check.  Legs?  Check.  Head?  Still foggy and therefore questionable.  His face radiated heat.  The skin on his cheeks and hands felt crispy.  Sunlight!

With a groan, he flopped himself on his stomach to momentarily escape the deadly rays while he calculated the damage.

He lay on a soft, spongy surface that shifted with every movement.  At times, it poked him painfully until he rearranged himself to find relief.  His clothes were soaked and stuck to his cold skin like a wetsuit. It stunk, too.  Like bilge water.   So much for Armani, he thought in despair.  His shoes were gone, as was his knife.

Since using his nose was out of the question given the miasma of decay he inhaled with every breath, Niles admitted he had no other choice but to look around.  He cracked open his eyes only to have them blinded by spangling sunlight, its motion never ceasing.  He slammed his lids shut.

Okay, Gule.  Man up.

He forced his lids open again and was assaulted by blinding sunlight dancing on water followed quickly by a spate of tears.

With his hands to his eyes to cut the glare, Niles sat up.  The pile beneath him shifted again and belched waves of foul stink into the air.  The world had developed a gentle roll during his blackout.  And a soft rumble that rattled every inch of him.

I’m on a boat.

Niles peeked between his fingers.  He sat smack dab in the middle of a pile of garbage which was sitting on a boat in the middle of the harbor.  The movement he’d felt was the sway of the boat on the waves.  The rumble was the engine chugging away.

The pile moved.  Niles flinched, envisioning a foul garbage monster munching on the floating pile of filth; then he realized he was riding on the skimmer barge that collected trash from the harbor as it trolled around the bay.  When a new load filled the boom, it shoved earlier arrivals onto the barge’s deck.  Niles decided he must have been skimmed from the bay like the rest of the garbage.

Great.

“Holy shit!  It isn’t dead!”

The voice startled Niles.  Still blinking tears, he tried to triangulate direction.  In a blur, he saw two large shapes floundering towards him across the top of the garbage pile.  He raised a hand to wave.

“Careful, Joe,” warned one of the men.  “It’s a vampire.”

“Yeah,” said Joe with the sound of glee in his voice.  “How cool is that, Kev?  I thought we had a gold mine in just a dead vampire’s body!  Imagine what we could make off a living vampire!”

“They ain’t living, dumbass!” Kev complained.  He was the blurry shape that held back warily.  “Vampires are dead people come back to life.”

Niles tried to smile, but that just revealed his ever growing fangs.  “Hi, guys.  I appreciate the lift from the bay.”

“It speaks English!” chortled Joe.  He danced, his feet sinking into the goo with each tromp of his garbage encrusted boots.

Niles lifted his nose in affront.  “What language would you expect?”

“I dunno.”  Joe hesitated five feet away.  His hands clutched a large pipe wrench like a bat.  “Romanian?  Aren’t you things from Romania?”

Niles lifted a supercilious brow.  “Not all of us.  I happen to be from Boston.”

“Boston!”  Kev snorted his disgust.  “A toff vampire. Figures we’d catch us a toff vampire.”

The insult stung Niles to the core.  He toiled daily to keep himself neat, pressed and orderly, something most vampires struggled to do given their propensity to suck the blood out of people. And make a mess doing so.  Was there anything wrong with being an aristocrat from Boston who cared about his appearance?

Still squinting, he tried to smooth his ruined suit jacket, but silk weave and seawater didn’t mix.  His expensive, Jerry Garcia tie flopped like a spent leech against his chest.

So much for trying to raise the reputation of my species.

“What’s it doing out in sunlight?” Kev asked.  “Don’t vampires vaporize when the sun touches them?”

Niles groaned.  “No!  We don’t!  We just get majorly sunburned.”

He grimaced when he saw his hands.  His pale skin was blotched with white spots where the sun’s radiation had scorched his epidermis. He could only imagine the horror his face had become.  Judging by the searing heat and pain from his cheeks, he suspected some of his skin was ready to peel off in sheets. Too much more blazing sunlight reflected off the water and he would become a shriveled, crispy corpse amidst the garbage.

He squinted at the boat, looking for shelter.  “Can I get out of the sun in your wheelhouse?”

Kev continued to eye him from a distance, fear painting his face white and covering it with a sheen of sweat.  Joe, the braver of the two, continued to study Niles while his hands gripped the pipe wrench.

“You’re awfully polite for a vampire,” he complained.

A frown burrowed between Niles’ brows.  “A vampire can’t be polite?  As you noted, I’m a toff from Boston.”

“He’s trying to fool us,” Kev insisted.  He wriggled a finger at Niles.  “That vampire voodoo shit.  I’ve seen it on Vampire Diaries.  Get away from him, Joe!  He’ll mesmerize you then suck you dry.”

Niles scowled.  “I’m on the wagon.  I haven’t touched a human in years.  Listen…”

Joe wasn’t listening, however.  His blue eyes burned with an infernal light.  “This is so cool!  I’m gonna be famous.  First dude to capture a real, honest vampire.  I’ll put him on YouTube.  I’ll be rich!”

Niles raised a hand.  “Now, wait a minute…”

But Joe wasn’t waiting for anything to intercept his dreams.  He charged Niles and with a mighty swing of his pipe wrench, conked the vampire across the temple.

Niles went down like a felled tree.

This time, he didn’t get up.

 

HarborSkimmer

 

© 2019 Newmin

 

 

Gule’s Lost in a Fog

Like most major cities, Baltimore seldom slept.  These days, the little city by the bay was seldom even quiet.  Sadly, its streets often rang with gunfire, earning itself the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of the US.  That fact kept the police department hopping every night.  Its detective squad was stretched so thin trying to cover every homicide, it had little time to tackle other crimes afflicting the Crab Cake Capital of the World.

Niles Gule and his partner, Mariella Cruz, police detectives on the night shift, were on the street wishing they could solve some simple arson case or bring a burglar to justice, any job that would keep them indoors that night.  Because although neither spoke about it, both felt something evil lurking in the atmosphere as they stood at the corner of Pratt and Lombard trying to visualize the logistics of a drive by shooting.

The streets were eerily quiet as if the city had withdrawn into itself for protection.  A thick fog had risen over the murky waters of the Inner Harbor and now sent diaphanous tendrils slithering through the alleyways.  Street lights and signs glowed as diffuse, fuzzy balls, casting no useable light on the pavement.  The clammy mist deadened sound so that the detectives didn’t hear cars approaching and didn’t see their headlights until the vehicles were almost upon them.  The chug from the ubiquitous water taxis seemed to come from everywhere and yet nowhere at all.

“This is starting to creep me out,” Walter Cooksey complained.

The fat, balding officer manned the Do Not Cross tape to deter any curious visitors.  No one, however, was curious that night, not even reporters from the Sun.  They’d arrived, grabbed a few photos, received the standard no comment from the detectives, and bolted for happier climes.  Even the television crews hadn’t stuck around.  They’d filmed a perky blond explaining about the latest murder in downtown, packed up and sprinted for their van as if terrified.

Standing over a gun shell marker, Cruz shivered and wrapped her arms around herself.  “What is it about tonight?” she asked.  “Something doesn’t feel right.  Are you getting that, Gule?”

Intent on constructing a mental picture of the crime scene, Niles was using his exquisite night vision to triangulate the numerous shell casings scattered about.

“Hmm.  What?”

Cruz huffed and looked to Williams, another uniformed officer working the scene. “Do you feel it?”

Jonas Williams was a giant of a man with huge shoulders and a paunch that inched outwards with each passing year.  He feared nothing.  Tonight, his face looked pale in the mist, his eyes unusually bright.

“Yeah.”  He scratched his head with its short, peppered dark hair.  “Is anyone else smelling what I’m smelling?”  He scowled and coughed.  “Damn!  It’s like someone died or something.”

Niles straightened and gave his co-worker a hard look.  “A little decorum please?  Someone did die here.”

Williams pressed his sleeve to his nose.  “No, not that.  The body’s on the way to the morgue and it wasn’t here long enough to stink.”  He waved the mist with his free hand.  “I mean this…. Whatever it is.  Can’t you smell it?  I thought you could smell anything.”

Niles dragged his attention away from the shell casings.  With a frown, he scented the air.  His predator’s olfactory sense, superior to anything humans possessed, could indeed capture odors no human could.  He flinched when he caught what had his compatriots screwing their faces up in disgust.

Rotten flesh.

Although he was a vampire who survived on blood and raw meat, Niles found the stench as off-putting as his co-workers.  Like most of his brethren, Niles preferred fresh kill.  This stink was vile and growing stronger.

“What is that?” Williams demanded.

Becoming nervous, Cooksey left his lonely post on the sidewalk and edged closer to his giant partner.  Without a word, he drew his service pistol.  He wouldn’t hit anything. His hand visibly quaked.

A shudder ran through Cruz, driving her to seek protection from Niles.  Like the others, she was armed with a standard issue Sig Sauer while Niles stuck with only his trusty silver hunting knife.  And yet, as the sense of wrong grew stronger, she felt safer with him than standing alone in the fog.

Her fingers gripped his arm.  “What’s happening?”

Niles had never seen Cruz frightened.  She was a fiery ball of energy who leaped first and asked questions later, if ever.  She charged when others fled.  He could feel her trembling through his sleeve.

“I don’t know,” he murmured.

He wished he could ask Gumby his jumbie to scout the area, figuring he could put the mischievous sprite to good use, but as usual, Gumby was getting into trouble.  He’d crawled into a dumpster and was happily tossing cardboard around.  The smell was not coming from there.

Niles’ brilliant blue eyes swept the dark streets, seeking the threat, while his sensitive ears and nose scanned for trouble.  The fog muted even his excellent vision, nearly blinding him, while it diffused sound, making triangulation difficult.  He was left with only one sense left, scent. The murky atmosphere amplified rather than masked odors.  The smell of rotten flesh carried a familiar tang hidden behind the stench.  His body stiffened instinctively.

Drawing his silver knife, Niles murmured to Cruz, “Stay here.”

The vampire should have known better.  Cruz waited for no man.  Seeing the glint of streetlight on his knife, she drew her pistol and trailed on his heels.

The black maw of an alley opened to the left.  The foul odor grew overwhelming in the tight confines.  As he stepped into that cramped space, Niles’ pale hand squeezed his knife hilt; he cursed his lack of vision.  He wasn’t used to being blind. Cruz bumped against his back.

His feet tangled in something.  Niles went down with a surprised cry.  He landed with a thump on something wet and sticky.  The aroma of warm blood overwhelmed his nostrils and a rush of lust filled his mouth with saliva.  Cursing, he rolled away from the pile of what felt and smelled like butchered meat.

Cruz flicked on the small LED light she carried on her keychain.  It stabbed a meager beam through the thick fog, revealing the gutted and dismembered man Niles had tripped over.

“We’ve got another corpse,” she said.  “Gule, are you okay?”

“I think Gumby tripped me,” Niles grumbled, unwilling to admit he’d stumbled in the dark. Such a thing was impossible for a vampire, or at least a vampire’s ego.

“Gumby’s over there.”  Cruz flicked her light to the right where for just an instant, a small shape shimmered before vanishing.  Niles swore he heard a chuckle.

Cruz’s indrawn breath and the way she raked her small light around the alley told Niles he hadn’t imagined the chuckle and that it hadn’t come from Gumby.  He scrambled to his feet, flicking blood and gore from his hands.

The chuckle came again.

“Vampire,” hissed a voice from the darkness.  “Who keeps company with his food.  How charming.”

Both Niles and Cruz froze.  The LED light flicked here and there, finding nothing.

Cruz’s hand gripped Niles’ arm.  “There’s another vampire here.”

Niles nodded.  “We disturbed his meal.”

“I’ve finished,” said the strange vampire from the darkness.  “Enjoy my leavings.”

“To hell with that!”  Niles’ territorial instincts flared.  He lunged at the darkness with his knife, hoping to hit something.  He struck nothingness.

An ear shattering screech filled the alley.  Niles cringed at the vampire’s distress call.  Cruz yelped, covering her ears.  Then Niles heard scuffling.

Niles darted towards it, jabbing blindly with his knife.  A thin, high pitched voice cursed in Vanapir, the shriek driving Cruz backwards while Niles dove forwards.  He collided with a tall, slender body and they both went down.  In a tangle of punching arms and kicking legs, Niles tried to stab his adversary, but the vampire shoved a boot in his face.  An elbow to his ribs cut his breath.  Then came the sounds of more cursing.  As the unknown vampire floundered to his feet, he slammed Niles into a wall, temporarily stunning him.

Niles collapsed to the pavement.  Through the throbs to his head, he heard his competitor kick at something then race away.

Knowing he’d never catch the rival vampire, Niles remained prostrate, waiting for his head to stop throbbing.  Meanwhile, he heard the playful patter of Gumby’s little feet as the imp trundled away, oozing glee from every invisible pore.

Cruz’s light flicked.  “Are you okay?”

Niles sat up.  His eyes swept the alleyway, what little he could see of it.  The second vampire was gone.

Gumby sat like a lump beside the dead human, plucking at bits of flesh and flinging them playfully about.

Niles rubbed his sore head while he considered that incongruous image.

“Cruz,” he said.  “I think we’ve got a problem.”

 

 

© 2019 Newmin

Gule Goes Live

“Good evening,” said the handsome, blonde man to the camera.  “I’m Dan Abrams.”

Abrams stood beside a tall table at which sat two other men. He gestured to his companions.

“Tonight, as always, joining me in the studio are crime reporter Tom Morris and Sean Sticks Larsen of the Tulsa PD.  We’ve got seventeen cameras in five jurisdictions across the country bringing you the action.  Welcome.  This is Live PD.”

Abrams paused to allow the production crew to run the show’s title leader, a collage of police officers and canine units tackling suspects.   When the cameras returned to him, Abrams continued.

“Diving right in.  Let’s go to South Carolina where the Richland County sheriff’s department is following a reckless driver.”

The screen filled with grainy images from a patrol car’s dash cam.  In the darkness ahead were the red taillights of a small car weaving through traffic on a major highway.

The voice of sheriff’s lieutenant Danny Brown explained the situation.  “We’ve got a Fiat, Maryland plates, driving erratically.  I’m pulling them over.”

The car ahead appeared to ignore the police car behind it.  It weaved through additional traffic at an unsafe speed.  Brown stayed on its bumper until, finally, it slid onto the shoulder and came to a stop.

A cameraman followed Brown as the lieutenant marched for the Fiat.  Brown leaned into the open window.

“Let’s see some ID,” he ordered.  “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”

The driver said something that the mikes didn’t pick up.  Whatever it was startled Brown because he leaped backwards and drew his gun.

“Out of the car!” he yelled.  Immediately, fellow officers from additional units swarmed the Fiat.  “Keep your hands where I can see them!”

A small, curvy Latina popped out of the car, waving frantically.  “Settle down!” she complained.  Her hand scrambled beneath her jacket.

“That’s a gun!”  Brown’s hands tightened on his weapon.  “Ease it out real slow, ma’am.”

“I’m a police officer,” the woman snapped.  She placed a pistol on the roof of her car.

“Passenger, exit the vehicle!” yelled one of Brown’s colleagues.

In response, an amazingly tall, thin, blonde man uncrumpled himself from the tiny car and rose, keeping his hands in front of him.  His suit jacket and tie fluttered in the breeze.

“I’m a police officer,” the woman insisted, growing heated.

“Just do what he says, Cruz!” commanded the passenger.

He stood quietly while two officers patted him down.  They stepped away with a long knife in a steel sheath.  They placed the weapon on the Fiat’s hood.

“Any more weapons we should know about?” Brown demanded.

An officer tried to frisk Cruz, but she danced away from him.

“Knock it off!”  She challenged them with narrowed eyes and a pointed figure.  “If you’ll give me two seconds, I’ll show you my badge.”

Once again, she tried to put her hand inside her suit jacket but Brown was having none of that.  He leaped for her.  Given his size compared to hers, in seconds he had flattened her against the Fiat and scrambled to grab her hands.

“Cruz!”  The passenger started to move, but three pistols pointed at him made him think again.

To the officers, he said.  “We really are detectives from Baltimore.  May I remove my identification from my jacket, please?”

No one answered him.  Brown had clipped one half of his handcuffs to Cruz but she fought him like a wild cat.

“You’re making this worse, Cruz,” the passenger grumbled.  “Stop fighting with them.”

“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna get cuffed by some hicks in Dixie,” she proclaimed.  “Gule, they’re only doing this because I’m Hispanic.”

“They’re only doing it because you’re fighting back.”

“They aren’t cuffing you!”

“Because I’m not arguing with them!”

The officers crowded around Gule to keep him away from the Fiat because now he was beginning to sound heated.

“If we search the car, are we going to find anything?” Brown asked, having gotten the cuffs locked.  He stood Cruz up.

“Yeah, a lot of fast food wrappers,” Gule replied.  “We’ve been driving all night.”

“If you’re Baltimore police, why were you speeding and weaving through traffic?” Brown demanded.

Gule rolled his eyes.  “She always drives like that.”

“Not in South Carolina, she doesn’t!” Brown snapped.

The camera shifted back to Abrams in the studio.  He was grinning.  “So this is a different one.  Baltimore police getting stopped by Richland County sheriff’s officers.  Not something we’ve seen before.  We’ve got to take a break.  We’ll be right back!”

After ads for toothpaste, emu oil, pillows and three different prescription medications, Abrams was back.

“This is just amazing!  Let’s go back to Richland County where officers there stopped what purported to be two police detectives from Baltimore.  Things have gotten wild.  Let’s watch.”

The camera angles jolted crazily as the operator leaped around.  Images of police cars, the Fiat, officers and the suspects flashed about in confusion.

Someone yelled.  “What is that thing?”

“It’s got me!”

The camera caught a wildly spinning image of Lieutenant Brown kicking and fighting a small, dark cloud that appeared to have grabbed his leg.

“Gumby!” yelled Gule.  “Knock it off before we all get arrested.”

The camera caught Gule’s face in clear detail in the midst of his shout, including two long, curving fangs.

“Jesus!  It’s a vampire!”  This was from the camera man.

A gun went off.  Gule ducked.

As officers swarmed around in panic, the vampire crab walked around the Fiat.  The camera steadied even as its operator backed away.  It caught Gule easily breaking the handcuff chains with a gentle tug from taloned hands.

“Did you see that?” the cameraman huffed into the mike.  “Tell me you saw that!”

Meanwhile, Shep, the canine brought out to subdue the situation, was snarling at the black cloud which now trundled towards it.  Shep barked and snapped.  The cloud attacked him.  The dog yelped and ran, dragging his handler with him.

“We’re under attack!” yelled Brown into his radio.  “I repeat!  Officers under attack!”  A pause.  “I don’t know by what!  It’s invisible!”

Gule spun Cruz towards the driver’s side door.  “Get in the damned car!” he shouted, shoving her in.

He threw himself up and over the roof of the car.  He landed lightly on his feet and crammed his tall body into the Fiat.  Before he’d even gotten the door closed, Cruz hit the gas.  A spray of gravel pelted the camera as she tore away.

Officers continued to scatter into the night.  Every time they tried to regather, something unseen appeared to bite their ankles, leaving them dancing.

The image returned to the studio.  Abrams, Morris and Larsen sat watching with their mouths hanging open.

“I’m not sure what just happened,” complained Morris.  “I mean, what was that?”

“Did I see a vampire?” Larsen asked, sounding winded.  “Am I losing it, or was that a vampire?”

Abrams, ever in command as the host, drew a deep breath.  “Well, it was certainly exciting.”  He extended his hands in an expression of what-the-heck.  “I’m guessing someone was playing a prank that got out of hand.”

“Way out of hand,” emphasized Morris.  He pointed at the camera.  “Kids, don’t do that.  You could get shot.”

Abrams wiped his brow.   “It’s a tape Richland will be reviewing for quite some time.”

“I don’t think so,” Larsen replied.

When both Morris and Abrams stared at him, he said:

“Ain’t no police department wants to admit they lost a vampire, a ghost and a cute chick.”

 

 

© 2019 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  I’ll admit it.  After this event occurred (of which I am not proud), I decided to watch the episode and now I’ve become a Live PD fan.  There’s something mesmerizing about it.  And something terribly telling.  Probably 80% of the occurrences on the show entail either drinking or narcotics.  We police are aware of just how corrosive the opioid addiction is in this country.  We’ve got a lot of pain tearing our country apart.  We need to understand why.

Meanwhile, watch some Live PD:  https://www.aetv.com/shows/live-pd?cmpid=paidsearch_&ef_id=XH5leAAAAMcmN1oZ:20190409103515:s

Foolish Gule

Seeing police officer Jonas Williams’ shoulders slump as if the world had dropped an I bar on his back drew a faint smile to the vampire’s pale lips.  Niles Gule, detective consultant for Baltimore, wasn’t a cruel individual, especially given his species, but he wasn’t particularly genial either. He was fully capable of revelling in his enemy’s misery.  He and Williams had what most of the night shift called a bromance between frenemies. Some nights, they could tear out each others’ hearts. Others, they defended their coworker to the death.

“Bad news?” Niles asked, taking a sip of bad, departmental coffee heavily laced with pig’s blood to make it vaguely palatable.  He sat at his desk organizing paperwork at the end of the night. Dawn would soon arrive and send him fleeing for the safety of home.

Williams’ hands quivered, causing the paper he held to rattle.  The fifty-something officer, a giant of Polish extraction, heavy-set and going gray at the temples, heaved a sigh that sucked half the air from the room.

“It’s nothing.”  

Niles tilted his head.  “You sure? I’m sensing otherwise.”

The officer’s head snapped up.  Gray eyes, the color of a winter sky, pierced the distance between the two men.  “Go to hell, Ghoul! Since when have you ever cared about my life?”

Niles raised his brows.  “Just trying to be helpful.”  He flicked a pale, taloned finger at the paper and envelope Williams held.  “You’ve been staring at that letter for almost ten minutes.”

Williams snorted something inaudible and slammed his hand against his thigh.

“Maybe I can help,” the vampire offered.  “I am good for more than just murdering my fellow Vanapir.”

“It’s just a stupid financial problem,”  Williams grumbled. “Freaking taxes!”

“Federal, state or local?”

“Does it matter?”  His next sigh bellowed his barrel chest.

Niles finished off the last of his coffee, hit his computer’s off button, and rose, pulling his suit jacket over his shoulders.  “It’s been a long night. Let’s get something to drink.”

A startled look widened Williams’ eyes, then he sagged.  “Yeah. I could use one.”

Briskly taking command of his wilting co-worker, Niles led Williams from the precinct and headed towards the Inner Harbor.  Eschewing the tourist places lining the water, he sought out Duda’s Tavern, a small, neighborhood bar that drew mostly locals.  At that time of early morning, the place was quiet and mostly empty. Niles selected a table far from both the bar where the two could talk undisturbed.

After Williams ordered a Scotch and Niles vodka, Niles gestured to the pocket where Williams had stuffed his letter.

“What is it?” he asked.

Williams scowled.  “Why all the interest?”

Niles shrugged.  “Because, believe it or not, I do worry about you.”  His white finger wiggled a line in the air. “You aren’t in the best physical condition…”

William’s growl rumbled.

“Well, you aren’t.”  Niles plowed on. “You work in a high stress job.  Live alone. You’re a heart attack waiting to happen.”

“Says the vampire with the perfect physique.”  Williams planted his elbow on the table and sucked down a huge gulp of Scotch.

“Can’t help it, Jonas. All vampires run thin.”

Silence.

“Gonna tell me about the letter?” Niles prodded.

With a grunt, Williams dug the crumpled ball of paper from his pocket and slammed it on the table.  

Niles carefully smoothed it, noting the IRS logo on the envelope.  Pulling the letter from inside, he determined it was a notice.

“Failure to file.  Under reporting of miscellaneous income,” he read aloud.  “Oh, this is a good one, fraudulent taxpayer identification number.”  He flipped to page two. “Taxes owing $253,124.58. Plus penalties and interest $307,687.92. Wow. That’s a lot to swallow.”

Williams’ gray gaze sliced him.  “It’s obviously a mistake. I don’t make a hundred grand in a year.”

“Even with your inheritance?”  Niles knew Williams had a cache of money he’d received from his aunt that allowed him a certain level of freedom.

“Hell no!”  Williams swallowed some more Scotch.

Niles pointed to the TIN number.  “Is this your social? Maybe someone stole your identity.”

“It’s correct.  Everything on that paper is correct.  Except I didn’t make no damned two million dollars and I didn’t use a fake ID to file my returns.”  Williams’ stabbed a fat finger at the notice. “It’s fucked up.”

“What are you going to do?”

Yet another massive sigh.  “Gotta go down to the damned IRS office and bitch.  Someone made one hell of a mistake.” Williams shook his head wearily.  “Like I’ve got time to fool with those numbnut desk jockeys. It’ll probably take months to get this straightened out.  Five trips down there. Filing paperwork. Affidavits. Photocopies. Jesus.”

Niles sipped his vodka.  “Sounds like an annoyance.”

Williams’ brows hit the ceiling.  “Annoyance? Haven’t you ever dealt with the IRS?”  He caught himself and rolled his eyes. “Of course, you haven’t!  You ain’t legal.”

Niles shrugged.  “I’m off the IRS radar at the moment, yes.  I prefer to keep it that way.” At the quirky look Williams gave him, he added, “how do I explain a hundred years of stealing from the wealthiest families in America and Europe?  I’ve got necklaces from Tzarist Russia. Paintings from Monet’s studio in Giverny. Carnegie’s bonds. Queen Victoria’s bracelet. Kinda hard to come up with a reasonable explanation for my collection.”

“Shit!”  Williams sunk into his chair.  His chin nearly hit the table.

“Maybe it’s not so bad,” Niles offered.

Williams grunted.

“Maybe you’ll clear this misunderstanding in a single day.”

“It ain’t a misunderstanding, Ghoul!  It’s a joke!”

“Yes, it is.”

Williams growled and bared his teeth like a vampire, knowing how Niles hated that.

Niles finished off his vodka and set the glass down.  Rising, he nudged the notice closer to Williams. “You might want to take a harder look at it,” he said as he left the table.  “Consider the date.”

Williams didn’t give the  vampire the satisfaction of reaction.  He waited until Niles had disappeared out the door before snatching up the letter.  He read it a second time, more closely than he had at first. That’s when it dawned on him.  He closed his eyes with a groan.

The letter was dated April 1, 2019.

“You sonofabitch,” he muttered.

And plotted his revenge.

 

 

(c) 2019 Newmin

Niles comments:  Apparently, most of you didn’t get Mel’s joke yesterday.  It was April 1!  No, I was not arrested.  How could you imagine I’d tolerate that humiliation?  Please!

 

Niles Has Been Arrested?

Greetings all,

I don’t normally use this space to directly speak to Niles’ readers, but this has me so disturbed, I have to write.  After I read this article in today’s newspaper, I panicked and tried desperately to reach him, but Niles isn’t answering his home or cell phone.  If anyone has been able to contact him, please let me know.  I’m really worried about him.

Thanks,

Mel Lee Newmin

 

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