Gule’s Territory is Invaded

“Looks like we’ve got a vampire problem,” pronounced Officer Jonas Williams of the Baltimore PD.  Holding a cloth to his face to cover the stench, he stood over a pile of dismembered bodies that buzzed with blow flies and oozed bodily fluids towards his feet.

“Ya think?” choked Sergeant Tan Lo, commander of the night shift.  The little Asian’s face was white as he considered the gory tableau.

The group of police officers stood in an abandoned building in East Baltimore.  Night hung gloomily over the city as an autumn storm spit cold ran.   Blustery winds whipped spent leaves through the air and whirled them down like giant brown snowflakes to pile in crinkly drifts against dilapidated buildings.  Few people braved the streets, probably a good thing, if vampires were afoot hunting for food.

The room where the officers found the cache was rank with the stench of decomposition.  In the darkness of the unelectrified building, death lurked like a living thing, flitting as a shadow at the edges of sight.  The crazed lighting didn’t help matters.  Flashlight beams shot around like lasers as the officers flicked them nervously, trying to catch what hid in the shadows.  The red, white and blue of patrol car lights slashed through openings between the boarded up windows.  The walls were a crazed tapestry of multicolored graffiti, most of it dealing with death. The space stank of urine, smoke and the rotting flesh of the seven victims piled in a corner.

“Get the Ghoul up here,” Williams commanded a rookie who cowered in the back of the room and fought to keep from vomiting.

The Ghoul was Baltimore’s resident vampire hunter, Niles Gule.  He arrived, tall, slender and ghostlike in the doorway but hesitated before joining his co-workers.  His pale, aristocratic face blanched even whiter than its normally corpse-like pallor as his blue eyes studied the mess.

“Vampires?” asked Lo.

Niles swallowed hard before he dared to enter the room.  His hesitation gave him the air of deliberation.  Not that he was deliberative.   He was shivering with hunger.  All that blood sang to his vampire soul.  He longed to drop to the floor and suck every drop from the boards, then gnaw on the white arm that stretched towards him as if in supplication.  But he’d taken a vow of abstinence.  He’d turned his back on his heritage and thrown his lot, for better or worse, with humans.  He could not act on his instincts.  He could not.

The vampire licked his lips and commanded his blood cool.  He could see his visceral reaction offended his co-workers.  Their eyes darted nervously as they watched him struggle with his inner demons.  They knew him, trusted him for the most part, and yet, did not.  When faced with the horror of his species’ feeding habits, they recoiled.  Though he understood it, the reaction saddened him.  Reminded him how he’d never be one of them no matter how hard he tried.

Gulping down the lust for blood that tore through his mind like a hurricane, Niles clinically studied the pile of bodies.  The savagery of the murders, the dearth of blood, the terrified expressions forever emblazoned on the pale faces told Niles these people had been murdered by vampires.  The difference between a pile of bodies left by a human serial killer and a cache left by a vampire was the stark bloodless appearance of the people and the surgical precision of the dismemberment.  Vampire fangs punctured jugulars and sucked most blood from the body.  To get the remains in small capillaries, vampires used their razor sharp talons to rend their victims apart.  They then sipped from the severed limbs.

This particular cache was only partly consumed.  The blood was gone and the limbs had been sucked dry, but the vampire hadn’t finished his meal.  Human bones were rich in marrow which was rich in iron.  Vampires needed that iron.  The one who’d killed these people would return to harvest the marrow at his leisure after the horrid, shrieking need for blood had been sated.  Marrow, Niles knew from personal experience, was dessert.

While he pretended to study the cache with disinterested eyes, Niles calculated.  Seven adults.  More than any single vampire required to survive.  This smelled of a hunting flight.  A group of vampires aggregating around an alpha and hunting as a pack.  His territory had been invaded.

“A flight did this,” he finally said to Lo.  His hand tightened on the haft of the silver knife he carried specifically to remove his brethren from the world.  His blue eyes focused hard on his co-workers.  “I’ll take care of it.”

No one contradicted him.  Combating vampires was his job.  And this was vampire business.

Infuriated on so many levels, Niles stormed from the scene.  One or more unknown vampires was working his turf.  Something Niles could not allow.  He was becoming an alpha himself, a vampire strong enough to force all other vampires into subservience.   Because Niles had allowed only two vampires to reside in his territory, his reputation for holding all of Baltimore to himself was garnering him the title of alpha.  That he had no flight of weaker vampires to aid him only made his reputation grow in the community.

And yet someone had dared to hunt his lands without his permission.  He was furious they’d stolen in under his nose.  He would find them.  They would either leave of their own choosing or he’d kill them.  It was that simple.

As Niles stepped outside into the circle of police cars and watched two rookies stringing yellow police tape around the scene, the wind tore at his short, blond locks and sent his suit jacket flapping.  He swept his gaze along the benighted alley that flickered under the glow of failing street lights.  A handful of locals hovered nervously in the background, their eyes flashing, their voices low and murmuring.  They knew, Niles sensed, that vampires had returned to Baltimore.

The wind blowing a woman’s long brown hair captured his attention.  Narrowing his eyes which could see exquisitely in the dark, Niles studied her and found she was studying him.  She was a youngish, white woman, wearing a dark pantsuit and woolen coat which she clutched to her throat against the raw wind.  She stood alone, away from the locals and Niles knew by the expensive clothes, she didn’t live in East Baltimore.

She raised her cellphone as if to dial then aimed it at him.

With a vampire’s rapid reflexes, Niles spun away as the flash added its white light to the disco display from the patrol cars.  Vampires could be photographed but LED flashes brought out the pallor of their skin and made them look translucent in photos.  He’d appear as an animated skeleton in any picture the woman took.

“Detective!” her voice called.  “May I have a word with you?”

Niles knew a reporter when he saw one.  He avoided them like daylight.  This one he’d seen before.  She’d been hovering around several of his crime scenes over the past month.  Stalking him, he decided with a curse.  The last thing he needed was publicity.

Determined to lose the woman, he slipped between the milling officers and ducked down the street.  His strides settled long and sure as he hurried away.

He momentarily brandished his fangs when he heard the woman yelling for him and he increased his pace, eventually leaving her behind.  He didn’t slow until he knew he’d lost her.  Deep in thought, he allowed East Baltimore to swallow him, not noticing the bright orange and purple of Halloween decorations swaying in the wind.

A flight of vampires was hunting his lands.  A press reporter was hunting him.  His hands stuffed into his pockets, his shoulders bent against the wind, Niles Gule sought safety in the darkness.  Maybe if he walked far enough, he could outrun his demons.

© 2017 Newmin

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For Gule by Owner

Niles Gule twitched a supercilious brow as he considered the elderly vampire simpering in front of him.  Marrenstan was ancient, more than a thousand years old, and none of those years had treated him well.  Unlike Niles who at a spritely one-hundred-fifty-eight was tall, well-muscled and lithe, Marrenstan was pale, thin and sickly.   He was also the most timid vampire Niles had ever met.  At a mere five feet tall, poor little Marrenstan was dwarfed by the six-foot-three Niles.  On that dark night, on a lonely patch of empty wilderness somewhere in the midst of Maryland, Marrenstan looked like a ghostly mist in the moonlight.

“You want my advice?” Niles’ brow puckered.

Marrenstan nodded, clicking his fangs against his lower teeth in a nervous habit that annoyed Niles.  His long, white talons rattled as he fidgeted.

Niles was, in essence, Marrenstan’s lord.  After settling in Baltimore and taking a vow to never consume human blood again, Niles had chased out virtually every vampire in the city, which had been awash with them before his arrival.  He tolerated a handful to remain within his territory but only if they promised to obey the rules.  No hunting humans.  They could consume human blood only if they found a volunteer to offer it or they bought it from a blood bank.  Marrenstan had managed to abide by the rules and so lived unmolested in the city, protected by his lord and subservient to him.

“I’m considering purchasing real estate.”  Marrenstan’s pallid face lit up, his watery brown eyes showing the vaguest gleam of life.  “I’d like your opinion.  I don’t want to get taken by some sharp-talking realtor.”

The younger vampire hesitated.  Niles had never owned real estate.  He’d been on the move most of his life.  From the city of his birth, Boston, to London and Paris, working for the Allies in Germany during the war, and time in New York before arriving in Baltimore, he’d never stayed in one place long enough to warrant buying property.

“You’re rich, so I figure you must know something about investing.”  Marrenstan gazed hopefully up at the taller vampire.

Niles sighed.  Yes, he was a wealthy man, primarily because during the late 1800s during the railroad boom, he’d killed a man who’d been scamming people.  Niles had claimed the man’s ill-gotten fortune then invested it in a little known enterprise called The Tabulating Machine Company.  Many years later it would grow to become IBM.  Niles still lived off just the dividends from his investment.

He rubbed the nape of his neck.  “Okay, Marrenstan.  I’ll help for what it’s worth.”  He studied the benighted road and the dark woods that encroached upon it, wondering where in the world Marrenstan had found to invest his money.

A harvest moon rode the October sky, raking through a veil of noctilucent clouds that gave an eerie cast to the night.  Although Niles could see perfectly in the darkness, especially with such a bright moon, he saw nothing in the surrounding area that could be described as an investment property.  Behind them stood thick woodland, tangled with bracken, empty and abandoned.  Before them lay former farmland, long gone to weeds.  Small trees had sprouted over the years.  Their dried leaves rattled in the breeze.  An owl hooted, low and soft, adding to the haunted feeling.  Niles felt like he was a million miles from civilization.

To Niles’ surprise, Marrenstan plunged into the overgrown field, tromping down dead milkweed stalks and thrusting aside wild rose canes with his spindly arms.  Annoyed that he would get burrs stuck to his Tommy Hilfiger suit and mud on his Gucci shoes, Niles nevertheless followed him through the brush.  After several minutes of bushwhacking through the forlorn emptiness, the pair stepped into an open space where once lawn must have existed, although now it was a sea of long grass gone dormant for the season.

A cast iron fence encircled the space which kept the encroaching wilderness at bay as if fighting off an attacking army.  In the middle of it stood a monolithic stone building perhaps twenty feet square and one story tall.  Once it must have been magnificent white marble, but now it was discolored with age, tired, lonely and forgotten.  Long streaks of black ruined its side and thick moss grew lushly on the peaked roof.  The iron door, rusted to a dusty reddish brown, was flanked by half columns carved from the marble, also black with mildew.  Niles sensed tremendous age and decades of sad neglect in that tiny field.  No one had been here for a long time.

Until now.

A human stood waiting for them, folders tucked under one arm, perky smile plastered on his face, his eyes darting nervously and yet trying not to.  Niles estimated him to be in his late forties, short compared to a vampire, and nearly bald.   He was dressed conservatively in a dark suit, white shirt and understated tie.  The word businessman was written all over him.

With forced geniality, the man thrust his hand towards the two vampires.  “Greg Jean.  Pleased to meet you.  So glad you could come out to see the place.”

Niles considered the ruin.  Above the door, carved into the marble was the name Cinister.  How appropriate, he thought.

“This is the investment property?”  Niles couldn’t keep his voice was rising.

Marrenstan nodded eagerly.

In search of a sale regardless of the clientele, Jean gamely marched through his sales pitch.  “It’s a family mausoleum, over one hundred years old.  Historical.  A minor skirmish during the Civil War took place right here.”  He gestured to the wilds beyond the fence then slapped the mausoleum.  “Quite solid.  Roof is in excellent shape.  Foundations are good.  The property has access to electric power, water and sewer capability, and a natural gas line at the road.  It comes with fifty acres of prime farmland just waiting for the right touch to bring it to life.”

Niles froze to keep from gaping at Jean.  He saw nothing prime about that rocky stretch.  Nor had anyone else or it would have been farmed.

“The views are spectacular,” Jean plowed on.  “During the day, of course.  Good access to 83.”

If one has a jeep, Niles scoffed.

“It’s a bargain, really.  The family has moved away and doesn’t want it anymore.”

Nor does anyone else.  Niles bit his tongue.

Marrenstan trotted to the mausoleum door and peered inside.  “It’s nice and dark in there,” he said, his voice echoing.  “Great place to sleep during the day.”

Niles nodded wordlessly.

“Bodies are long since disintegrated so there’s no smell,” Jean offered.  “What more could anyone want?”

Niles considered the offer.  Meanwhile an excited Marrenstan surveyed his new home.  Niles considered the asking price and ran his eyes down some of the terms.

“Owner eats the closing costs,” he said.

Jean nodded, his face sweating and yet looking as cold as ice.  “Yes, sure.”

Niles sensed an opportunity.  “And the taxes through the end of the year.”

“You got it.”  Jean looked ready to agree to anything just to get out of there.

Niles decided to keep going.  “You cut your fee to 3%.”

Jean stiffened.  Then he found his footing.  “You’re pressing your luck.”

Niles wordlessly brandished his fangs hoping to scare up a good deal.

Jean’s eyes narrowed.  He gritted his teeth.  “Not happening.  You can threaten me all you want but that’s off the table.”

Niles shrugged.  He knew he’d gone too far and he respected the human for standing his ground against a vampire.  Two vampires.  In the middle of nowhere.  The man had guts.

“Ok, deal.”  He extended his hand to shake Jean’s.

Marrenstan reappeared, his white face aglow with happiness.  “Is it mine?” he asked.

Niles nodded.  “Enjoy it in good health, Marrenstan.”

Jean was already bolting from the field.  With his long legs, Niles easily caught up with him and fell into step beside him.

“Are you going to kill me?” Jean asked.

Niles lifted a brow.   Then he chuckled.  “No.  I’m going to congratulate you.”

Jean gave him a startled look.

“Sixty thousand for that disaster?  You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Jean.”

 

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  I’ve had the honor of working with Greg Jean on another property sale.  He’s great to work with and does indeed drive a hard bargain.  So if you’re in the market for real estate in the south central PA area, give him a call or visit his website at:

www.yorkhgproperties.com

Meanwhile, I’m going to take a nap in Marrenstan’s mausoleum.  Cold and dark.  Ah, heaven!

 

 

 

 

InnaGuleadavidda

Niles Gule simply couldn’t understand his partner’s excitement, or why half the inhabitants of a small island held a daily party at sunset.  The vampire and Mariella Cruz, on a week’s leave from the Baltimore PD to aid victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida, had found themselves in Key West.  They’d dragged Cruz’s elderly aunt to safety from her beach front trailer (currently out to sea somewhere near Bermuda) then helped move refugees back to their island homes in the Keys.  This was the last day of their adventure.  Tomorrow, they needed to return to Baltimore where, their supervisor told them, evil events were afoot that needed their attention.

Cruz, a rambunctious Latina with more energy than sense, had insisted the party at Mallory Square was not to be missed.  How she knew this when she, like Niles, had never been to Key West, he didn’t know, but she was determined to join in.  So, dragging her reluctant vampire colleague with her, she arrived at the westernmost point of the island where indeed a party was in progress.

Squinting against the brilliant sun, which, contrary to legend didn’t vaporize him, it merely gave him an intense sunburn, Niles trailed Cruz through the raucous crowd of artists, musicians, dancers and tourists.  Food trucks pumped out a plethora of aromas while the various clubs around the square pumped out a variety of music, though most of it was that strange gumbo known as troprock made famous by Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney.  Cruz bought herself dinner from one of the carts, but Niles, a strict carnivore, found his stomach roiling at the smell of grease in the air.  He’d squirreled away a couple of raw steaks in the minibar at his hotel he could munch on later.  He just hoped the maids didn’t poke into the fridge and wonder what the heck the tall, pale, blond man in room 312 was doing hoarding raw steak.

Niles had to admit he would have enjoyed the party had the sun not been shining.  Unfortunately, the whole purpose to the event was to watch the only sunset over the sea that could be viewed from the east cost of the United States.  So when Cruz tugged him to the edge of the square where the Gulf waters lapped against the wall, the vampire held his hand up before his eyes and squinted at the setting sun.  The giant orb of blazing yellow seared his skin but fortunately was weak enough at that point in the day that he didn’t smoke.  Not, he thought, that these people with their crazy clothes, or in some cases, lack thereof, would probably notice a smoking vampire in their midst.  They were having too good a time.

He admitted the view was spectacular as the sun slowly sank beneath the horizon.  Cruz wanted to catch a glimpse of the green flash which supposedly came at the very moment the sun disappeared beneath the waves, but her sigh of disappointment told him it didn’t come.  He wasn’t able to see a thing.  Even the final fraction of that ball of light blinded him.

“Well, it was worth a try,” Cruz said.  She tugged on his arm.  “Let’s go.”

Still blinking spots, Niles stumbled after her, grateful she’d grasped his forearm.  He might have gone down otherwise.

“Where are we going?”

Her chuckle was warm and sensuous and it moved things in the vampire’s soul.  He wanted to wallow in that warmth which was so alien to his cold, sterile existence.  Everything about Mariella Cruz was warm and cuddly and begged for him to …

Mind back on business, Gule.  She’s your partner and can never be anything other than that.

Clearly Cruz had another destination in mind because she headed east down Duvall Street.

“We’re not going back to Aqua, are we?”  Niles protested.  He’d already been to the drag theater where the owner tried to convince him to perform his “vampire act” on stage.

Cruz’s laugh sounded sly.  “Oh no!  We’re going somewhere much better!”

After a few minutes, Niles’ eyesight cleared and he was able to walk on his own.  Cruz continued forthrightly on until they faced a white building with a balcony around the second floor and a fringe of palm trees on the roof.  The first floor held an English style tavern named The Bull written in black letters against the white.

“One cannot visit Key West visiting the Garden of Eden,” Cruz insisted as she dragged Niles inside.

As they passed through the bar, Niles wondered why.  Seemed like the average Key West watering hole to him.  Cruz didn’t stop, however.  Up the stairs she went until they came out onto the roof.

This was dance club under the stars.  A warm breeze whispered through the palm fronds, barely discernible above the thump of the music.  A crowd of people were dancing.  Others sat at the bar and talked.  A circle of people ringed the parapet, holding their glasses as they watched the dancers.

“Ok, it’s another club.”  Niles looked around, wondering what made this particular spot so important.  To have the stars overhead as their ceiling was pleasant but it didn’t account for Cruz’s excitement.

“This place is famous, Gule.”  Cruz propped her hand on her hip.  “Innagoddadavida?”

Niles blinked.  “Geshuntheit?”

Cruz burst out laughing.  “It’s not a sneeze.  In the seventies, Iron Butterfly came here.  The lead singer got so trashed when someone asked him where he’d been, he said innagoddavida.  In the Garden of Eden.  The band named an album after this place.”

“Huh.”  Niles still wasn’t impressed.  He hadn’t cared much for heavy metal music.  He’d still been adjusting from swing to the Beatles.  Iron Butterfly had been too far a reach for him.

Cruz’s luscious lips curved into a smile.  “You really don’t know about this place, do you?”

As Niles shook his head, she pointed to the bartenders, two young ladies in their twenties who were… dear God!  Topless!

Niles froze, his blue eyes captured by the girls who were raking in tips from the men at the bar by the fistful.  When he forced his gaze away, he realized the place was clothing optional.  An older couple, who had nothing to flaunt, danced near the bar.  Other, younger people were scattered around topless.  Several were buck naked but painted to look like mermaids.  While most of the clientele was dressed, perhaps a quarter were in some state of dishabille.

Born in Victorian Boston, Niles had never lost his dated mores.  Appearing in public nude was just not done.  As he started to protest, his eyes flew wide.  Cruz tossed her shirt into the air, followed by her bra.

The vampire allowed himself one brief, enjoyable look before he sputtered in horror, tore off his jacket and threw it around her.  At first Cruz must have thought he was joining the fun until she saw the look on his face.  Then she tried to squirm free of his grasp.  Niles was a vampire, however, with a vampire’s outlandish strength.

“Not on your life!” he hissed, pulling her around so that his body hid hers from the crowd.  “You are not prancing around without your clothes on, Cruz!”

She continued to squirm, torture to the vampire.  “Why not?  Loosen up, Gule.  It’s just for fun.  You look incredible naked.  Give the crowd something really fantastic to gawk at.”

Niles managed to snag her shirt with one hand while he hustled her towards the exit with the other, all the while keeping his jacket around her.  The bra, he decided, was lost to the crowd.

“A lady does not appear nude in public,” he protested.  “Only one man should see you like that.”

Cruz stopped on the stairs and took back her shirt, donning it at his glowering look.  “And who would that be?”

“Your husband!”

She gave him a sly look.  “I don’t have a husband.”

Niles shoved her ahead of him down the stairs.  “As soon as we get back to Baltimore, I’m finding you one.  For the sake of my own sanity!”

© 2017 Newmin

Garden Of Eden Key West

 

Garden Of Eden Key West

Gule in the Spotlight

Sometimes a vampire wished he couldn’t see in the dark.  Like tonight.  As the little caravan drove west along A1A, Niles Gule winced at the devastation he saw on both sides of the highway.  Hurricane Irma had trashed the Florida Keys from Largo, through Marathon, all the way to Key West.  The emerald waters of the Gulf were littered with sunken boats.  Piles of them rested on the shore.  Debris from buildings lay scattered everywhere and palm trees had been shredded.

And yet, Niles knew the destruction could have been worse.  The islands had taken a direct hit by a Category Four hurricane but still they remained.  He was amazed that only an estimated one quarter of the buildings on Key West had been destroyed.  Some had survived almost unscathed.  Given the strength of the storm he would have expected more damage.  Fortunately, the millions of residents had fled to the mainland for safety, so loss of life had been minimal.  Now the reverse migration began as nervous locals made the long, heartbreaking drive through the Keys towards home.

Niles was passenger while his partner, Mariella Cruz, drove the rented van packed with household belongings.  A native of Boston who made his home in Baltimore, Niles had never been to Key West.  He’d never planned to visit the island, given vampires weren’t into the sun and sea lifestyle, but since he’d come to Florida on a mercy mission to drag Cruz’s elderly aunt to safety in Miami, he was available when he got another call for help.  This time his old friend, Dani Hoy, could use some extra muscle moving back to her home in Key West so he volunteered himself and Cruz as a moving crew.

Dani drove ahead of them, leading the way, while Cruz stayed hot on her tail and complained about the slow pace.  Niles had warned his crazed partner that the driving would be slow given all the damage still cluttering the roadways, but Cruz never drove any slower than ninety, so the forty-five pace Dani set was sending her over the edge.

He sighed with relief when they turned onto Duval Street and picked their way around palm fronds and bits of wood because here Cruz couldn’t drive fast or complain about it as she had the entire ten hours since the mainland.  The scene they encountered was bad and yet not as awful as Niles had expected.  Whole areas of the town were still dark where power had yet to be restored.  Building debris was piled everywhere and many of the houses were boarded shut.  One, a charming B and B, stood racked to one side as if another stiff wind would blow it over.  Dani had gotten lucky.  Her end of the Old Town was on some of the highest land on the island, a whopping eighteen feet above sea level, and it had weathered the storm better than the newer, low lying areas.  As if, Niles thought, eighteen feet made a hill.  Her apartment building had suffered only minor damage and the lights were on all along the street.  Even the Aqua nightclub was open.

 

Image result for google images of key west hurricane damage

“Good ole Conchs,” Dani laughed, using the name for a native Key Wester.  “They never let a night go by without a drink.”  She brushed a lock of her light brown hair from her face and stretched tiredly.  The day of travel and midnight arrival exhausted her.

Niles worked the kinks out of his long legs and considered the street.  In any other small town, especially after a crisis, the place would be sleepy and quiet.  But not Key West.  A couple of drunken locals staggered down the sidewalk on the far side of the street, while neighbors sat on their front porches and chatted.  Niles heard music and laughter emanating from Aqua and saw two men wander out its main door.  A lighter flashed, briefly illuminating a face then Niles smelled cigarette smoke.  A gentle, tropical breeze skirling over the island wafted the scent away.  When a couple strolled past the nightclub, the men approached them with offers, trying to coax them inside.  The pair laughed but continued on their way.

“Let’s get to this,” Cruz said, rubbing her hands together and contemplating everything crammed into the vehicles.  “I don’t need to be up all night moving stuff.”

“We work the nightshift,” Niles said.  “What’s the rush?”

The perky little Latina gave him the stink eye.  “We do have to get back to Baltimore, Gule.”  She grabbed a bag.  “Let’s go.  Time’s awasting.”

Dani and her boyfriend Chris started unloading their music equipment.  That left Niles to handle the heavy stuff.  Fortunately, being a vampire, he possessed incredible strength and was able to muscle the large trunks and suitcases into the apartment with relative ease.  Back and forth the four people worked, unloading the two vehicles and carrying items into the house.

“Hey!”  Niles yelled when he saw a large, tattooed man snatching a box from Dani’s car.  “Put that down!”

He sprinted from the house to chase down the thief.

The man was either stoned or drunk because he didn’t run.  He swung the box into Niles’ face, catching the vampire by surprise.  Niles stumbled backwards into a camellia bush and became tangled in its branches.  The thief flung the box at him.  Its corner hit Niles in the mouth, splitting his lip.

Before the vampire could disentangle himself from the bush, he heard a high pitched yell and saw Dani running from her house.  In her hands she held one of her guitars in the air as if she was going to hit the man with it.

“No!” Niles yelled.  “Not the guitar!”

Dani froze.  The thief whirled around and started towards her, a long knife appearing in his hand.

Niles clambered free of the camellia and considered drawing his knife.  But he didn’t want a knife fight in the middle of the street.  He threw himself between the man and Dani to protect her.  Then he used the only other weapon he possessed.  He bared his fangs and screeched in the home tongue of the Vanapir.  The high pitched sound, almost too high for a human to hear, nearly flatted the thief.

The man staggered backwards, his eyes wide as he stared at the two long, white fangs dripping so close to his face.  He screamed and ran.

Niles caught Dani’s hand and gently took the guitar from her.  “Please don’t kill another guitar on my account,” he said.  “I can’t afford to keep buying you equipment.”

Dani’s face unfroze and color came flooding back.  “Yeah,” she laughed, sagging into him.  “Sorry.  My jewelry’s in that box.”

The man who’d been trying to talk people into the Aqua raced across the street.

“That was incredible!” he gushed.

Dani grinned.  “Just call us the Justice League.”

“No, not that!” the man exclaimed.  He pealed Niles free from her grasp and started dragging him across the street.  “Those teeth!  They’re incredible!”

Niles pressed his pale lips tight, horrified he’d flashed his fangs in a public street.

“It’s not what you think,” he murmured.

The man kept pulling Niles until they reached Aqua.  “I think it’s perfect!”

Too much the gentleman to struggle, Niles found himself dragged into the nightclub.  Where he discovered just why his appearance, and his fangs, would be so popular.

“You’ve gotta get on stage!” the man insisted.  “The audience will go wild over a vampire act!”

A horrified Niles began to struggle.  There was no way he was getting up on that stage.

Because Aqua was a drag club.

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  I have nothing against the hard working stars of the Aqua.  It’s just not something I have a need to do.  Wishing Dani and Chris well on their return home.  May the sun continue to shine brightly over Key West.

Gule Takes a Bow

Niles Gule couldn’t imagine a more humiliating situation.  The vampire sat on a folding chair in a high school gymnasium while his partner, Mariella Cruz, patted zinc oxide on his face.  Jonas Williams fidgeted with the elaborate black wig he’d perched atop Niles’ corn-colored hair.  Every time Niles moved, he swished because he was swathed in three Japanese kimonos of heavy brocade silk.  A properly tied obi encircled his waist.  Its pouf forced the tall, thin vampire to sit ramrod straight while final preparations were made to his appearance.

As a geisha.

Could there be a more inappropriate person, Niles wondered.  He was, after all, a six-foot-three, blue-eyed blond, pallid vampire with the look of a Norwegian biathlete.  His tormentors couldn’t even find kimonos to fit him.  His were too short, revealing his chalk white ankles in a way no proper Japanese lady would have accepted.

Niles gazed at his feet.  They were shod in white socks with the big toe encased in its own little finger to accommodate the thong of his sandals.

“How am I supposed to walk?”  He stood and shuffled his feet.

“You aren’t,” Williams replied.  “Geisha are exquisitely beautiful, not functional.”

“That would describe you, Ghoul!” Williams’ partner, Cooksey exclaimed.  “Exquisitely beautiful and not very functional.”  He howled at his own joke.

Niles didn’t.  For two years, he’d suffered from Cooksey’s incorrect assumption he was gay.  Being made up as a geisha just reinforced the man’s idiotic fantasies.

The four police officers were taking part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  Various organizations fielded teams that would walk around a track continuously for twenty-four hours.  It wasn’t a race.  No one won.  Except people suffering from cancer.  It was simply a fun way to raise money for a good cause.  When the Baltimore PD night shift formed a team, Niles volunteered.  He desperately wanted his coworkers to view him as one of them because they often looked at their vampire askance as if expecting him to bite someone at any moment.

That’s when he ran into trouble.

The Miss Relay Contest.

The event sponsors entertained the audience and walkers by staging a drag contest where men dressed as women and vied to raise the most money.  The team leaped at the thought of turning the tall, elegant Niles into Ru Paul.  However the contest took place during daylight and Niles’ delicate skin and eyes weren’t designed for an earthly day.  This was not an impediment, his intrepid coworkers decided.  They simply needed to determine how to keep Niles alive in daylight.  Which raised the suggestion of zinc oxide to protect his skin.  Which conjured up the vision of a geisha.  And thus was Madame Vampire Butterfly born.

Niles winced as he toddled outside on those silly little sandals.  Not just because the late afternoon sun stung his eyes but because looking so ridiculous stung his ego.  He would never live this down.  Which was saying a lot.  He was a vampire.  He’d live five hundred years if the fates allowed.

Determined to tough it out, Niles joined his fellow contestants.  He wasn’t, he decided, necessarily the most ridiculous.  A silver-haired gentleman was dressed as a cheerleader, his knobby white knees blinding in the sunshine.  A hulking dude wore a tutu, his bulging muscles threatening to split the seams of the sequined pink dress.  The best looking was the pair of vice cops wearing slinky miniskirts, padded bras, high heels and flowing wigs.  They actually made good looking women, Niles thought.  He knew who was going to win this contest.

As the contestants hit the field, the crowd yelled for their favorites.  Miss Cheerleader raced into the stands to demand donations.  The ballerina stalked to the end zone to work the crowd there.  The two vice cops worked in tandem, one pretending to arrest the other then collecting money to bail her out.

That left Niles feeling totally out of place.  Not an unusual situation.

Williams gave him a shove.  “You’ve got to work the crowd, Ghoul.  Show some leg and beg for money.”

Niles’ loyal partner Cruz patted his arm.  “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

Niles spread his arms.  “Do you think I want to look like this?”

She tilted her head.  “You look cute.”

“I look like a cross between Rutger Hauer and Midori Ito!”

Cruz’s face softened.  “I think it’s brave.”  She jerked her head in the direction of her coworkers.  “I know they’re razzing you, but it’s all in fun.  We only torment the people we love.”

Niles considered his ridiculous get up.  “This is love?”

Cruz kissed his white cheek.  “Yep!  Go get ‘em tiger.”

With a sigh, Niles did as tradition demanded.  He engaged the crowd, asking them to support his pathetic cause.  Most did, probably out of pity.  He couldn’t move very fast in those silly sandals so he couldn’t cover ground like the bouncy cheerleader, nor did he have a partner like the vice cops.

I’m doomed, he sighed.

When the hour was over, the emcee totaled the donations by contestant and announced the winners.  Niles listened as she worked her way up from fourth place to first, naming off those he knew would do well.  The vice cops came in second.

“And in first place,” the emcee said, pausing for effect, “with an amazing two thousand, one hundred and forty dollars, Niles Gule representing the Baltimore Police Department.”

Niles gaped.  Cruz squealed and pulled him to the podium to accept his sash as Miss Relay.  He stood stunned as his coworkers gathered around to congratulate him.

Then it was over.  Niles had had enough.  The sun was stabbing him in the eyes and he wanted the zinc off his face.  Tottering on his sandals he beelined for the gymnasium.  To his surprise, Williams fell into step beside him.

“There’s no way I won that contest,” Niles stated.  “I didn’t collect that much money.”

“Yeah, you did.”  When Niles pinned him with a blue-eyed stare, the man shrugged.  “You got one really big donation from a single person.  Two thousand bucks.”

Niles stopped.  “How do you know?”

Williams turned his face skyward.  “Because maybe I’m the one who wrote the check.”

Niles blinked.  “Why would you do that?”  He’d never considered Williams wealthy or a friend.

Williams gave him a hard look.  “Because I know how much you hated doing it.  But you did it anyway.  For us.  Because you want to be one of us.  That means something.”

When Niles said nothing, Williams threw his arm around the vampire’s shoulders and started towards the gymnasium.  “I can’t say as I like you, Ghoul.  Sometimes you give me the creeps.  And you’re too damned snotty for my tastes.  You’re a freakin’ vampire.  But you’re our freakin’ vampire.  And no one…” he gave Niles a slight shake, “no one is allowed to make fun of our vampire.  Except us.”  Williams poked Niles in the chest.  “If you tell a soul what I just did, I’ll plant a silver knife in your heart.  Got it?”

Niles nodded.  “Yes, Jonas, I think I do.”

Williams grunted and sauntered off, looking quite pleased with himself.

Niles returned to the gym.  Under the hideous, melting makeup, he smiled.

Because he felt the love.

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  We vampires don’t suffer from cancer, but you folks do.  The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is a great event.  Take part if you can or just come out to watch the fun.  It’s for a great cause.   Just don’t expect to see me there next year.  Once was enough for me!

If you look hard enough, maybe you can find me:

Relay for Life file photo

Gule is Blown Away

A gust of wind snatched the hat from Tia Juanita’s head and sent it rolling down Becker Street.  At the old woman’s cry of dismay, Niles Gule gave chase and captured the errant object before it escaped for good.  With a smile the tall, blond vampire returned it to Juanita and suggested she hold it until she was inside.

Gale force winds from Hurricane Irma were pummeling the tiny Florida town of Sparks perched on the edge of the vast Everglades swamp.  The average wind speed had been fifty miles an hour with gusts up to one hundred hitting frequently.  A hard rain battered the group as they huddled together for protection on the short walk from the parking lot to the shelter.  Ever the gentleman, Niles used his long, slim body to protect Juanita and her wheelchair while her niece, Mariella Cruz, pushed her inside.

“This is why we don’t wait until the last moment to evacuate, Tia,” the little Latina growled as she sloshed through the rain.  She was drenched to the skin.

Juanita muttered something about not needing to be sent to a shelter.

“It’s a Cat Four!” Cruz exclaimed.  “On a direct line for Florida.  No, you weren’t going to ride it out in your trailer!”  Her dark eyes looked up at Niles for support, blinking wetly.

All he could do was shrug.

Volunteers inside the shelter held the door open as Cruz maneuvered her aunt inside.  Niles followed, juggling the old woman’s bulky luggage.  Dripping a river onto the linoleum floor, the trio was steered down the main hallway towards the gym.

Struggling with the cumbersome bag, Niles huffed behind Cruz, wondering where in the mayhem they would find a place to settle.  The gym brimmed with families.  Cots were set in precise order and most were already filled.  The space rang with voices in English and Spanish, the high pitched yells of children and lower grumbles of parents trying to control them.  Niles picked his way through the bedlam behind Cruz until she found an open space to bivouac.

Neither Niles nor Cruz, his partner on the Baltimore PD, should have been in Florida on that or any other day.  Certainly not with a Category Four hurricane barreling at them.  Unfortunately, Cruz’s aunt Juanita had refused to evacuate her trailer near the beach.  When frantic calls from neighbors begged the northern branch of Cruz’s to send someone to pry the old lady out of her deathtrap, Mariella volunteered to beard the dragon in her den.  Niles had no intention of allowing his partner to face a hurricane without backup.   He’d joined her on the trip south.  So there they were, a soaking wet, mad as hell Latina, her curmudgeon of an aunt looking waspish, and the elegant, if dripping, Nordic vampire.  It was a hell of a thing.

Juanita scowled at the commotion in the gym.  “How am I supposed to sleep with this going on?” she complained.

Cruz’s brows rose to the ceiling.  “You’re half deaf, Tia Juanita.  You won’t hear it when the storm rips the roof off this building.”  She huffed at her black bangs that stuck to her wet forehead and turned martyred eyes to Niles.  “It’s you and I who won’t get any sleep tonight.”

Niles glanced around the gym.  It was filled with families setting out camping gear, sleeping bags, and radios.  Five different styles of music mixed into an ethnic jumbo unique to America.  A group of children were playing basketball at the far end, causing mayhem when their missed passes sent the ball rocketing through some family’s carefully arranged picnic grove.  Crashes and complains were the result.

“Probably not,” the vampire commented, slicking his short blond hair flat against his head.  “But it won’t be the noise keeping me awake.”

He twitched his nose at the smell of so much iron in the air. Salivated.

Blood.  Warm and waiting.  A feast if he wanted to grab it.

But he couldn’t.  He’d taken a vow of abstinence.  No biting humans.  He considered the meager vittles he’d rescued from Tia Juanita’s trailer.  Crackers, peanut butter, and pudding cups.  Not exactly his favorites.  He sighed.  So long as the storm raged, he was going hungry.

Cruz flicked her wet clothing with disgust.  “I’m going to find something to dry off with.  Can you watch Tia for me until I get back?”  Her scowl darkened.  “She might try to run for it.”

Niles laughed.  “She can’t outrun me.”

While Cruz disappeared in search of a bathroom, Niles regarded her elderly aunt as the tiny woman fussed over her few belongings and grumbled.

“Dragging an old woman out of her own because of a rain storm,” she muttered.  “Picking her up bodily too!”  She shot Niles a hard look.  Then her harsh scowl softened and a twinkle gleamed in her cataract clouded eyes.  “Although, if a woman’s got to be slung about by a man, he should be one as fine looking as you.”

Niles smiled but said nothing.

Juanita grew agitated again.  “Where’s Buttons?”

Niles looked around with his brow puckered.  “You need buttons?”

“No!”  She hit him with her hand.  “My cat.  Buttons.  You did get the cat, didn’t  you?”

Niles caught his breath.  In the race to reach the trailer, throw things into suitcases and hustling the old woman out of the place before it took flight, he only vaguely recalled something about a cat.

“You left Buttons behind?”  Juanita screeched in a tone that would have suited a native Vanapir speaker.  “Oh!” she wailed, her arthritic hands to her forehead.  “Oh!  My poor little Buttons!  How could you!”

Niles stared at the woman in horror.  Excuses wouldn’t cover it.  Nothing, frankly would cover it.  Niles considered the view out the window.  Rain was flying horizontally across the parking lot in a gray veil.  He could barely see the parked cars parked.  A piece of plywood went flying.  The storm was reaching its zenith.

Still, there was nothing for it but to do what he’d come to Florida to do.  Save on old lady.  Because Juanita was getting ready to charge back out into the storm to save her cat.  Niles forced her to sit on the cot.

“I’ll get Buttons,” he said.  “I swear.  Just stay here!”

Cursing his stupidity, Niles headed to the doors.  Although the volunteers begged him not to leave, Niles threw up his arm and raced into the night.

 

Cruz paced nervously, jumping every time the lights blinked as the power threatened to give out.  She was hoarse from yelling at Juanita for sending Niles back into the storm.  Night had fallen over the town of Sparks as Irma raged full fury around the civic center.  Leaks in the roof created pools throughout the facility, but people were reasonably safe and dry as they huddled together to wait it out.  Juanita had fallen asleep, damn her.  Not a care in the world.

Cruz gripped her arms as she paced again.  Three hours.  He’d been gone three hours.  He wasn’t a superhero.  He was just a vampire.  Vampires could get killed in hurricanes.  Couldn’t they?

The insane howl of the wind tore through the building when the front door opened to admit a bent over human form, totally soaked and battered.  Cruz stood frozen, waiting for it to unravel itself.  Slowly, majestically, it did so, to reveal a long, lean, pale and ghostly vampire.  Holding a giant wad of pissed off black fur.  Buttons.

Cruz exclaimed and raced across the gym to throw her arms around Niles.

“God, you had me scared!” she complained.  She cupped his wet face with her hands, noting the bruises on his cheek and a cut on his forehead.  “Are you all right?”

“I took a couple of hits,” he grumbled.  He held out the cat.  “But I got Buttons.”

Cruz relieved him of the cat and led him towards the Cruz family campsite.  His steps were shaky and he collapsed when he reached the wall.  Cruz worriedly set Buttons next to Juanita where he immediately curled up and started cleaning himself.  Then she turned to the vampire.

Spreading his trench coat open, she discovered why he was so weak.  A piece of wood had struck him in the ribs, nearly running him through.

“You’re in luck, Gule,” she said as she eased him flat and worked to remove the stake.

“How so?” he whispered.

“God has terrible aim.  He missed your heart by three inches.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  I hope everyone escaped the storm safely.  Objects and homes can be replaced but lives can’t.  My dear friend Dani Hoy was forced to flee from Key West with what she could cram in a car.  I am thankful she’s safe and well.  Both Irma and Harvey have brought pain and destruction to many families.  Please consider giving to the American Red Cross during this time of tribulation.

 

https://www.redcross.org/ns/apology/disaster_homepage.html

More comments from Niles:  As Brother Jim noted, another great place to include for donations is United Methodist UMCOR
100% of money’s goes to the victims.

The denomination pays for the employees. the website is www.umcor.org

 

Gule Smells Something in the Air

Cedmont was the sort of place a man with a family might dream of finding if he desired a quiet, suburban house away from the madness of the big city.  It was a middle class neighborhood located northeast of Baltimore City with large Victoria style homes on substantial lots.  According to everything Niles Gule had read about the place, it was known for its sense of community and low crime rate.

Not tonight, however, the vampire thought as he unfolded himself from his partner’s tiny, powder blue Fiat.  Niles, like all his vampire brethren, was a tall man, standing at six-foot-six.  Mariella Cruz, his partner on the Baltimore PD, barely topped out at five-four.  But what the little Latina lacked in height, she made up for in bustle and energy.  She popped out of the car and was heading for the porch of the two story bungalow before Niles had untwisted his long, lean body from the car.

The street was well lit and neighbors were still about on that sultry summer evening.  Niles nodded to a woman with a stroller and ducked aside when a man with a Pomeranian walked by, the little rag mop on the end of its leash baring its teeth and growling at the vampire.  Niles knew better but couldn’t resist baring his own fangs and growling back.  The Pomeranian went wild, but its owner simply dragged it on and Niles got the last laugh.

Other neighbors were mingling in the street and complaining about the burglary.  In their neighborhood!  What was the world coming to?

A looming presence even in the twilight, Niles followed his partner to the subject house, his corn colored locks shimmering in the glow of the street lights.  When he reached the arbor that protected the bungalow’s front garden, he frowned.  An odd fragrance perfumed the night air.  Sultry and beguiling.  Familiar and yet not.  His sense of smell was stronger than that of humans so he noticed what Cruz did not.  She tromped up the stairs without pause while Niles had to duck his head to clear the massive columnar bushes that framed the arbor.  They were happy creatures, he thought, thick, green and pungent as he swished between them.  Whoever lived here was a great gardener.

He heard the argument before the door even opened.  A woman was begging her husband to leave things be.  He shouldn’t have called the police.

The door opened, spilling warm golden light onto the porch.  Cruz had to bend backwards to look up at the man who answered it because he was almost as tall as Niles.  The woman at his side was a petite thing with shoulder length silver hair and wide glasses.  She was fluttering at her husband’s side nervously.

“Mr. and Mrs. Mancha?” Cruz asked, consulting her notes.  “You reported a burglary?”

Mr. Mancha nodded while Mrs. Mancha continued to fuss.

“It’s not really important,” she insisted.  “Just a broken window and some electronics taken.  No harm done.”

Her husband looked down at her like she’d lost her mind.  “They smashed a window, Gail!  And took my TV.  Damned straight I’m reporting it to the police.”  He stepped aside.  “Come in.”

Niles and Cruz exchanged glances as they entered the bungalow.  Niles stiffened and allowed his eyes to scan the front hall for signs of danger since the couple was acting so strangely.  Gail Mancha continued to flit nervously while her more stoic husband marched into the front parlor.  He pointed to a window that faced the side yard.  It had been smashed and its screen ruined.

“Since you took your damned time getting here… three days!” Mr. Mancha grumbled, “I cleaned up the mess.  Got a new window on order.”

Cruz signaled Niles with a flash of her eyes to look for evidence while she questioned the couple.  Niles often found himself doing double duty as detective and CSI since his senses were keener than a human’s.  While Cruz questioned the couple, he wandered to the window and studied the damage.  Smashed from the outside.  Screen looked like it had been punched in with a fist.  Excusing himself, he went back out the front door and down into the yard.  Once again that wonderful, rich smell assailed him and he studied the plants that ran riot in the garden.  Not being a gardener or into vegetation, Niles had no idea which of the many blooming plants was giving off that heavenly scent but he wished he knew what it was.

Circling around to the side of the house, Niles studied the grass and plantings by the window.  Because three days had elapsed since the break in, his hopes of finding evidence was slim, but he looked away.  The grass showed no sign of being disturbed.  The mulch against the house precluded footprints.  The window itself was within easy reach of the ground and the numerous bushes gave plenty of cover to a burglar.  The house next door had no windows on that side.  But he would question the homeowners anyway.  They might have seen something.

Niles returned to the parlor to find Cruz wrapping up her interview.  Her dark eyes sought his.

“Nothing to be found outside,” he reported.

“Of course not!” exclaimed Mr. Mancha.  “It happened three days ago!”

“Now, now!  Stop that!”  Gail Mancha patted her husband.  “They’re just doing their job.”  She turned her bright blue eyes on the detectives.  “I thought calling you would be a waste of time.  There’s really nothing to find here.  We don’t know who did it and I’m sure they’re long gone by now.”

Cruz closed her notebook.  “Nevertheless, it’s important to report it.  If nothing else, for the insurance report.”

Gail was already fluttering at her visitors to shoo them out of her house.  His eyes wide, Niles allowed the tiny woman to drive him through the front door, down the steps and out towards the street.

“You don’t need to come back,” she said, waving them off.  “Just send us an email or something.”

Cruz huffed and marched through the arbor then out to her car.

Niles moved more slowly, trying to determine what had the little woman so upset.  When he stopped in the middle of the arbor, Gail totally froze.  Niles hesitated.  The longer he stood there the more nervous she got.  That smell was back, almost overwhelming him.  He grasped a branch of the bush that framed the arbor and sniffed it.  That was the source of the smell.

Niles looked back at Gail.  She didn’t appear to be breathing.

He ripped off a branch and studied it.  Even in the darkness, he recognized the sharp, pinnate leaves.  His eyes widened as he stared at Gail.  She smiled weakly.

“Safe trip,” she offered.

Niles tore off a couple more branches from the giant marijuana bush and shoved them into his inside jacket pocket.  Then he put his finger to his lips before turning away from Gail.  The woman nearly collapsed from relief right there in her garden.

As Niles tucked himself into the Fiat, Cruz scowled at him.

“That was weird.  Ya think she was hiding something?”

Niles considered the lush bushes framing the arbor right there for all the world to see.

“No, Cruz.  I don’t.  I don’t think they’re hiding a thing.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Congratulations on your retirement, Gail!  It’s been a pleasure to know you.  You’re one of my most fervent fans and I’ll miss chatting with you about my adventures every week.  Hopefully, you’ll keep in touch.  Use the comment button to leave me notes.  I’ll be looking for them.  As for your dirty little secret:  I have to admit, you shocked me. I wasn’t expecting you of all people to be growing marijuana.  But I promise I’ll keep your secret.  No one will ever know… except the two hundred people who read this blog….

 

Gule in Black and White

Certain human belief systems remained a mystery to vampires, the one under discussion being a prime example.  Niles Gule, vampire and consulting detective for the Baltimore Police, rubbed his aristocratic brow while he wrangled with the various opinions he confronted.  Some of the night shift had met for dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse to celebrate Krewelski’s divorce.  Niles’ partner, Mariella Cruz, sat beside him munching on a hamburger.  Uniformed officers Jonas Williams and Walter Cooksey sat beside her respectively, gorging on delmonicoes, while officers Krewelski and Jackson rounded out the table enjoying chicken and a vegetarian dish.  Niles, being a vampire and a strict carnivore, had chosen the rarest prime rib the restaurant could legally provide.

“You gonna eat those breadsticks?”  Cruz pointed her fork at the two offending bits of vegetable matter pushed to the edge of Niles’ platter.

Niles didn’t respond.  He merely transferred the vile objects to her plate.

At the avaricious gleam in Cooksey’s eye, Niles forked over his green beans and nudged his salad towards Jackson.  He carved into his steak and savored the bloody juices pooling on his plate.

“I don’t get what all the fuss is about,” Williams complained.  He sat back in his chair and patted his large stomach contentedly. “He just spoke the truth.”

Cruz gave him a hard glance from her dark, Latina eyes.  “Ignoring the flip flop, which takes the matter to a whole other plane, he showed his ignorance about what happened.”

“And that he’s a racist,” added Jackson, stabbing the air with his fork.  A green leaf waved.

Williams scowled.  Niles knew what the man would say if he dared to voice his opinion.  Damned tree hugging liberal.

“It wasn’t about that!”  Williams thumped his elbows on the table, making the water glasses clink.

“Then what was it about?” Cruz demanded.

“Heritage!”  Williams lifted his big chin.  He was a massive man in his fifties, and a lifetime police officer.  He was also a conservative with certain ideas about his rights as an American.  He poked the table with a fat finger.  “I think we should leave Robert E Lee’s statue alone.  He was an important historical figure.  Yeah, he fought on the losing side but he was a great man.  He changed this country.  I don’t see why we’re suddenly trying to pretend a decade of our history didn’t happen.  It did!”

“People find those statues offensive,” Jackson growled.  He was as big a man as Williams, and as black as Williams was white.  While they both agreed on the subject of gun ownership, it was the only subject on which they agreed.

Williams made quotes in the air.  “People!”  His tone expressed his disgust.

“Don’t go there!” Cruz warned.

Niles sat bewildered by the conversation.  As a vampire, he stood outside human society and watched with the eyes of a bystander.  “Can someone explain to me why this topic has you so stirred up?”

When everyone at the table stared at him, Niles spread his hands.  “What?  I honestly don’t get it.  You’re all humans.  Same genetic structure.  Same basic faculties.  Just some of you have darker pigments than others.”

His words made Cruz smile and she patted him on the arm.  “God love you, Gule.  You are so right.”

Williams scowled.  “No, he’s not!  He’s a damned vampire.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Cruz shot back.

Jackson also looked with scorn at Niles.  “You have no idea, Ghoul.  You with your lily white face, blue eyes and blonde hair.  You’re a walking advertisement for the alt right.”

Niles’ eyes widened.  “Excuse me?”

“Don’t call Gule a racist,” Cruz insisted.  “He’s the only person at this table who’s colorblind.”

Niles used sipping his wine to cover his confusion.  The conversation revolved around the protests in Charlotte between rightists, including members of the KKK and other neo-Nazi organizations, and some counter protestors.  One protestor was dead, several others were injured, and two police officers had died when their helicopter malfunctioned.  All over the scheduled removal of a Confederate statue.  Niles didn’t understand the connection between a statue, Nazism and killing people.

Williams huffed.  “I’m saying the statue is history and should stay.”

Krewelski held up his hands to ward off the next barrage from Cruz and Jackson.  “Ok, let’s agree that the man has a right to that opinion.  I personally can’t disagree.  We shouldn’t be trimming our historical record simply for the sake of political correctness.  That said, how can you defend running a car into a bunch of people?”

“I can’t!”  Williams looked disgusted.  “And I don’t.  I’m just saying that they had the right to be there to protest the removal.  Those tree huggers got in the way and got pounded.”

“So the fact that they got in the way makes it all right to kill them?” Niles asked.

Williams raised his brow.  “Anyone with half a brain should know not to push people.  I say those counter protesters pushed too much and got burned for it.”

Cruz dropped her head backwards and stared up at the ceiling.  “You’re missing my point.  Our fearless leader tacitly condoned the attack, backpedaled when his advisors warned him he was in the wrong, then turned around and reaffirmed his original statement.  He proved everything I’ve been saying for months.”

“The man’s a racist,” Jackson insisted.

Krewelski’s face was pensive as he pushed a bit of chicken around his plate.  “I don’t follow how what he said makes him a racist.”

Cruz straightened.  “He said there were many sides to the issue.  Implying what the alt right did was ok.”

“There were many sides!” Williams insisted.

Niles hated to get between the battling sides but he did anyway.  “There were only two sides at the protest, Williams.”

He earned himself a glare from his nemesis.

“Even if you believe that,” Williams said, “which I don’t… it still doesn’t make the man a racist.”

“Condoning neo-Nazi behavior by insinuating protesters were in the wrong makes him one in my book,” Jackson stated.

Cruz nodded.

“Bull!”  Williams shot back.

Little quiet Cooksey had spent the evening eating his steak and watching the volleys like a spectator at a tennis match.  He finally put his knife down, looked his team in the eye one by one and said:

“I know I’m not the smartest guy here, but I do know what my mother always told me.  Do right by people.  Regardless of where they come from, the language they speak, the religion they follow, the clothes they wear, do right by people.  Because God isn’t going to judge them on what they do when you treat them badly.  He’s going to judge you for what you do to them.”

He looked his partner hard in the eye.  “You know I’m conservative.  But even I have to draw the line somewhere.  And here’s where I draw the line.  This country didn’t lose thousands of lives fighting the Nazis just to let that evil thrive and grow here.  No sir.  And I am not going to stand silent while uneducated Neanderthals beat up and kill innocent women because they mistakenly think that somehow they’re going to reverse history and bring back a white, Euro-centric US.  It’s not going to happen.  It’s wrong.  Anyone condoning such behavior is wrong.”

Williams started to open his mouth to protest but to everyone’s shock, Cooksey slammed the table with his hand.

“It’s wrong, Jonas.  So shut up.”

Niles glanced around the table, seeing everyone staring at the little man wordlessly.  Cookey turned back to his steak and started eating again.

Niles patted his arm.  “God love you, Cooksey.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  I try to stay out of human politics and generally forbid my biographer from doing so as well.  But some things just have to be said.  I fought the Nazis in WWII.  I don’t want to do it ever again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule’s Day in the Sun

Vampires and sunlight do not mix.  Although many of the legends surrounding the Vanapir people were just that, legends, the fact that vampires reacted badly to sunlight was not one of those.  Niles Gule, a vampire who’d made his home in the Crab Cake Capital of the World, usually slept during the day and only rousted himself as the sun set.  Summertime for the vampire was what winter was for sun loving humans, a time of hiding out for three-quarters of the day.  So the fact that Niles set his alarm five hours early and dragged himself out of bed while the sun still blazed was an unusual occurrence.  Like the events promised for the day.

He didn’t leave his lair until he was thoroughly prepared to meet the sun.  He wore his standard custom tailored suit over a crisp, white silk shirt with a Jerry Garcia Red Room #35 tie carefully tied at his throat.  Only the best touched a vampire’s skin.  Over that he layered a trench coat even though the weather app on his phone indicated Baltimore was sweltering in the 90s.  He wrapped a scarf around his neck, plunked a wide brimmed hat onto his blonde head and hid his brilliant blue eyes behind wrap around shades that turned day into night.  He finished his preparations by slathering a coat of SPF 75 onto the scraps of skin that weren’t covered.  Thus girded for the day, Niles set out from his apartment.

His long strides took him quickly to the Inner Harbor where the Maryland Science Center was holding an eclipse fest to watch what the media had dubbed the Great American Eclipse 2017.  Baltimore was only scheduled to see 80% coverage of the sun, but that didn’t mean people couldn’t come out for a party.  Any excuse not to work on a Monday, Niles thought.  Maximum obscurity was scheduled to hit around two-thirty in the afternoon.  Niles didn’t want to miss it.

He arrived at the Science Center only a half hour before the show started.  No sense losing too much sleep just to stand frying in the sun.  Numerous people gave him odd looks given his bundled appearance on such a hot day but no one said anything.  Had they dared to ask, he’d simply say he suffered from porphyria, a skin disease that affected humans, causing them to burn in sunlight.

A whistle rent the air and Niles turned to find his partner, Mariella Cruz and his nemesis, Jonas Williams, leaning against a railing and munching on hotdogs.  He glanced towards the street to find a food truck parked nearby doing a bang up business from the eclipse gawkers.

“What pried you loose in midafternoon?” Williams asked.  His pale gray eyes considered the vampire who looked dressed for a blizzard not an eclipse.  “Have you got enough clothes on?”

Niles shot him a look that Williams wouldn’t be able to see through the glasses.  But he did it just the same.

His pretty, voluptuous partner, Cruz, held out her hands to greet him, though he kept his firmly planted in his pockets to shield them from the sun.

“You shouldn’t have come out.”  Her dark eyes held reproach and yet happiness to see him.

“I thought vampires vaporized in sunlight,” Williams added.

Niles hissed, darting a glance around to see if anyone had overheard Williams.  He didn’t advertise the fact that he wasn’t human.  Only a handful of people knew he was a vampire.  The crowd, however, was too busy staring up at the sun and jabbering about the coming celestial event to pay any attention to a handful of off duty police officers.

“Vampires do not vaporize,” he growled.  “We’re nocturnal.  Our skin never evolved the melatonin that provides protection to human skin.  I won’t turn into a puff of smoke.  I’ll just get severely and painfully burned.”

“Too bad,” Williams grunted.  He sunk his teeth into a hotdog.

Again Niles glared at him and again, Williams blissfully didn’t see.

The vampire’s stomach grumbled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten in almost a day.  An overwhelming desire for blood surged through him, causing him to salivate and fidget his tongue against his fangs.  Williams’ meaty neck was so close.  So inviting.  Its sheen of sweat wafted a salty perfume towards the vampire.  He opened his mouth, striving for that throbbing carotid, his fangs glistening.  Williams’ eyes widened.  He swatted Niles with the back of his hand, jarring the vampire from his pleasurable dream.

“Get a dog, Ghoul!” he barked. “Don’t make me punch you.”

Chastened, Niles drew back and trudged to the hotdog truck.  He ordered three dogs and on the way back to Cruz and Williams, tossed the buns in the trash.  As he sank his fangs into the first of the hotdogs, he grimaced.  Processed, over salted pork just didn’t compare to fresh, warm human blood straight from the artery.  He shoved another dog into his mouth before his thoughts could take flight a second time.

The crowd started to cheer as the sun’s light dimmed.  Niles settled beside Cruz to watch as the sky changed from an azure blue to a slate color.  Then it began to darken as the glaring sun disk grew smaller and smaller.  The crowd hushed as the moon’s shadow continued its march, swallowing the sun until it was a fraction of its normal size.  The light continued to dim until the harbor had the appearance of an overcast afternoon.  Even at nearly 80% obscurity, the sun’s power was so great that 20% of it could light the earth clearly.

While virtually everyone turned their special glasses to the sky, Niles joyfully shed his hat, sunglass, coat and scarf.  Laughing, he spun around in a circle, turning his face to the sky for the one day of his long life when he could stand outside in the sun and be human like everyone else.

Cruz grinned.  Seeing that, he grabbed her hands and whirled her around with him.

Then his sharp eyes caught motion and Niles set Cruz away from him.  With a grunt of annoyance, he swatted Williams and pointed.

“Pickpockets.”

Williams took off his eclipse glasses and squinted.  A group of teens was moving through the crowd that stood transfixed watching the sun.  Only a vampire’s keen eyesight could catch them rifling pockets and slipping hands into purses.

“Figures,” Williams complained.  He stomped off to apprehend the thieves.

The sun continued to brighten as the moon passed across its face.  With a sigh, Niles snatched up his hat and scarf and bundled himself up again.  Just before he slid the glasses over his face, Cruz reached up on her tiptoes and pecked a kiss on his cheek.

“Your eyes are lovely in sunlight,” she murmured.

Niles’ pale lips curved into a smile even as his heart ached.  This would be the only day she’d ever see them in sunlight.  The reality of what he was, so far removed from what he wished to be, crashed over him like a wave.  He replaced his glasses as his eyes began to water, said his goodbye to his partner and made his lonely trek home.

The vampire’s only day in the sun was over.

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  I hope everyone had a chance to see at least some of the eclipse yesterday.  For those lucky enough to see totality, I envy you.  Hopefully everyone watched safely with appropriate eye protection or watched one of the many telecasts and streams available on the news channels.  I stand amazed and in awe of our wondrous universe.  Although I am a vampire and hate the sun, I realize what a beautiful creation it is and how lucky we are to live on this incredible world.  May we all learn from the day: We are tiny creatures in a huge universe.  If we can’t get along with each other, how will we ever get along with what’s out there?