Gule for Sale

Since vampires were universally loathed by humans, Niles Gule was left with the hard work of rehabilitating his species’ reputation single handedly.  His brethren had waged war against humans for a thousand years, killing them, drinking their blood, terrorizing them on dark and stormy nights. Of course, the carnage had gone both ways.  Humans had stalked, staked, crucified and sunburned hundreds of vampires over the centuries, leaving vampires justified in their rage.  Niles, in his naïveté, being a youngster of only one-hundred-fifty-eight years, was on a crusade to end the dispute.  Vampires weren’t required to hunt and kill humans nor were humans required to hunt and kill vampires.  If vampires simply stopped munching on their neighbors, peace could reign over the earth, unicorns would cavort in forest glades and rainbows would embellish the sky.

Well… in a young vampire’s dreams it could happen…

Which explained why Niles had volunteered for the annual gala dinner to raise money for children’s charities being sponsored by the Baltimore Police and Fire Departments.  He considered his service one small step of vampire kindness towards humans.  Not that anyone in the crowded ballroom had a clue the tall, elegant, Nordic man selling raffle tickets was a vampire.  Niles didn’t advertise his racial makeup.  He preferred to do what earned him scorn by his cousins; he tried to pass as human.

That evening he wore his evening best, a custom tailored Tom Ford black suit and jacket paired with a Jerry Garcia How Fine purple tie and a Rolex watch (stolen from someone at some point in his past life).  His corn colored hair was short and neat and like all vampires, he was clean shaven.  His brilliant blue eyes cut a swathe through the room, devastating most of the women, and a goodly number of the men.  His sultry expression won him not only melting come hither looks from the ladies, but an astonishing haul of money in his ticket pail.  He merely cruised up to a gaggle of ladies dressed in iridescent sequined gowns, smiled provocatively, and asked if anyone wanted to buy something.  He was astonished by the creativity of the women’s suggestions.  He had no idea humans were so… inventive… when it came to sexual innuendo.

The event was fleecing the well-heeled of Baltimore at an incredible rate.  While Niles picked pockets selling fifty-fifty and raffle tickets, a silent auction was garnering bids for bottles of wine, weekend spa treatments and tickets to Orioles games.  When he cruised past the table and glanced at some of the bids, Niles’ eyes widened.  Many a charity’s sponsor would go home happy that evening, he thought.

In the second ballroom, laughter erupted in waves followed by the rat-a-tat patter of an auctioneer.  The high stakes prizes were for sale in there.  Original artwork.  An antique car.  Cruises to Europe.

When he sold his last ticket, Niles cut through the throng and approached the business end of the room where the Ladies’ Auxiliary were holding forth managing the evening’s program.

Juliette Fountaine’s gorgeously painted eyes swept up at his arrival and her ruby lips curved into a welcoming, licentious smile.  “Niles!  How’s it going?”  She adjusted her normally high pitched voice into something throaty just for him.

Niles set the pail of money on the table.  “I’m sold out, Mrs. Fountaine.  They picked me clean.”

The woman’s dark eyes brushed down his long, lean form.  “I suspect they enjoyed it,” she murmured.

Niles’ lips twitched but he maintained his urbane expression.  “Probably.”

She flicked a burgundy painted claw towards the auction room.  “Since you’ve done your duty, why don’t you enjoy the fun?  Might be something you’d like to bid on.”

With a nod, Niles accepted his dismissal from service and sauntered into the auction room.

The space was filled with people eating canapés from small plates, sipping wine from crystal glasses, chattering and laughing.  Niles slipped through the crowd, nodding and smiling to people he knew, accepting lascivious looks from some he didn’t, until he arrived near the stage where the auctioneer stood.

Julia Fountaine, Juliette’s sister, draped in a black velvet gown, stood atop the stage as she brandished a microphone and exhorted the crowd to bid high.  Niles stopped, surprised to discover just what was for sale.  A huge, brute of a man in evening clothes who was, incongruously, flushed red to his neck.  A whisper to the lady next to him told Niles the man was a fire fighter who’d been strong-armed into putting himself up for sale.

Laughter continued as various ladies bid on the poor gentleman who gracious grinned and displayed his muscles.  When the final bid was called, he breathed a huge sigh of relief and leapt from the stage to disappear into the crowd.

“Who’s next?” Julia asked, scanning the crowd.  “Come on, fellas!  It’s for a good cause.”

Niles flinched when an arm grasped his and shoved him forward several steps.  He whirled around to find Jonas Williams, his co-worker on the police force, grinning like an idiot as he used his bulky body to push the more slender vampire into the spotlight.

“Mr. Gule!” Julia crowed, extending her hand to grab Niles’ before he could snatch it away.  “Now here’s a gentleman worth bidding on ladies!”

With Julia clutching his hand, Williams shoving him from behind and the entire world looking on, Niles found himself on the stage blinded by spotlights.  His eyes immediately watered.  He could see nothing except that blaze of light and the shifting shadows of the crowd around him.

“What service are you offering?” Julia asked him.

“Excuse me?”  Niles couldn’t even get her face to focus.

“We can’t sell you, Mr. Gule.  That would be illegal.”  Julia’s voice purred as if she liked the idea anyway.  “So you need to offer a service that the ladies can bid on.”

Niles stood dumb, having no idea how to answer the blatantly provocative request.  Finally, he burbled the first thing that came to mind.  “I can detail a car.”

“There you go, ladies!”  Julia laughed.  “Mr. Gule will wash, wax and detail your car.  For a small fee.  Open up those wallets.  Let’s bid.”

Still blind, Niles stood on the stage while Baltimore’s wealthiest ladies bid on him.  He was grateful vampires couldn’t blush otherwise he would have been redder than the poor fireman who’d preceded him.  The bids were yelled gleefully and laughter raced around the room as women fought over the chance to buy the gorgeous man for a day.  He tried not to hear some of the suggestions about services he could provide beyond a car wash.  He wanted to die right there.

“Sold!” Julia announced.  “For five thousand, three hundred dollars to the lady in red.  Congratulations!  And thank you.  The March of Dimes will really appreciate your gift.”

A woman’s hand grasped Niles’ and eased him from the stage.  As he blinked to see, Niles wondered why his buyer was being so solicitous of him since whoever she was couldn’t possibly know he was a vampire and blinded by the spotlights.  An arm curled around his waist and helped him through the crowd.

Finally his eyes cleared and Niles found himself gaping at his own partner on the police force, Mariella Cruz.

“Cruz?  You bought me?”

She grinned.  “Yeah.  Fifi needs a wash.”

Niles was about to ask how the little Latina, who struggled to aid her giant Mexican American family’s finances could afford such an outrageous bid.  Then his eyes fell on Williams.  Niles knew that although Williams was a low paid police officer, he’d inherited from a rich aunt and could afford such extravagances.  His nemesis’ gray eyes were twinkling.

“You!” Niles growled.

Williams nodded.  “Yep.”  He elbowed the vampire and wiggled his eyebrows.  “I thought I’d help the two of you out.”  He pressed his hand to his chest.  “Call me a fool!  I’m a firm believer in true love.”

He chortled as he walked away.

Niles found himself standing alone with Cruz.  Her dark eyes sparkled as she gripped his arm.

“Come on, Niles,” she murmured.  “You owe me a night’s service.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

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Gule Salutes an American Hero

 

The whistle of tree frogs created a symphony in the murky darkness.  Whirring chiggers provided a base beat so that the jungle hummed to its own unique, primeval music.  The occasional call of a night bird added a staccato rhythm and sent eerie chills running along the vampire’s spine.  He was out of his element here.  Slipping through the thick foliage, tripping over writhing tree roots, twisting his ankle on mossy stones were all alien to him.  And yet he kept moving steadily forward, following the mental map he’d memorized.

He placed each step with care.  Although he wore rubber soled shoes and the ground was primarily sodden leaf molder, he moved cautiously, determined steal through the forest undetected by those equally determined to find him.  He made a difficult target.  His long, thin body was sheathed in black from the top of his blond head to the soles of his feet.  He’d even blackened his hands and face with paint.  Only his brilliant blue eyes could give him away in the darkness.  Yet they were his greatest asset.

He paused, holding his breath, when his sensitive ears picked up the tramp of footsteps fifty feet away.  Kneeling, he remained motionless, his nose scenting the unique, spicy aroma of five humans.  Garlic lovers, no less.  All the more reason to despise them.

He waited as the group passed by, never realizing how close they’d come to an encounter with the ultimate predator, a slayer of humans.

When they passed beyond range of his hearing, the vampire rose and stole forward, keeping low.  Along the ridge that was his landmark, he made his way towards his objective.  More scenting of the air told him he was close.  The acrid stench of unwashed humans curled the hairs in his nose and made his eyes water.  His pale tongue licked lustrous fangs hungrily.

Unsheathing his knife, he began the dangerous descent down the ridge towards the lights glimmering through the foliage.  The closer he drew to the compound, the harsher the smells grew.  Humans, lots of them.  He could feast well if he chose.

And yet, the vampire ignored the first human he encountered.  He could have jumped the guard and drained the small man bloodless in an instant had he chosen.  But he did not.  Because he sought more valuable prey than a prison guard.  He held his breath until the guard moved off, then he was a shadow sliding towards the compound.  He leaped the water-filled ditch and hovered beside a barbed wire fence, caution born of centuries making him wary.  A set of nippers made quick work of the wire.  He slipped through first one fence, then a second and finally a third.  Death had arrived inside the compound.

Vampires possessed exquisite night vision, which was the reason he’d been chosen for this mission.  While the floodlights on poles blinded him, he could easily see movement in shadows.  He crept along those shadows, working between metal roofed hunts and guard shacks where he heard voices speaking a language he didn’t know.

He found his target where his intelligence had told him it would be.  A small hut that stood somewhat apart from the others.  While the bigger huts possessed electric lights and fans to cool the people inside, the target hut did not.  The other huts had radios and televisions playing music alien to his Western ears.   The target hut was silent and dark.

But it was not empty.  The vampire’s nostrils flared at the scent of ripe humans.  Ten of them.  He could pick out each one by their unique tang.

He crawled the last fifty yards on his stomach to avoid the guards who stood at the door, pausing frequently when they turned at the slightest sound.  He reached the wall of the hut, edged along it to a small, open window then with an easy jump, pulled himself inside.

His sudden arrival startled the hut’s inhabitants.  They sat up in their bunks but he immediately put his finger to his lips.  His Anglo features, even painted black, were enough to silence them.  He was the first Westerner they’d seen in several years.

“I was sent to get as many of you out as possible,” he whispered.  His eyes scanned the group.  “Are you healthy enough to travel five miles on foot?”

A tall, lanky man wearing the grungy remains of an American aviator’s uniform rose from his cot.  Although he must have been startled to encounter a vampire sent to free him, he held his composure.

“Six of us can travel, but the other four have malaria.  They’re too weak for a trek.”

The vampire hissed his displeasure.  “My orders are clear.  Only those that can keep up are to come.  Trying to move the sick or injured will only endanger the rest of us.”

The aviator, who appeared to be the ranking officer amongst the group of Americans, gestured to his fellows.  “Fer, Swindle, Bud, Lee… you should go.  You’re in the best shape.”

“What about you, John?” the man named Fer whispered.  “You’re good to go.”

The aviator shook his head.  “Someone’s got to stay to watch out for the rest.  They need someone still standing.”

One of the men too weak to rise whispered, “You’ve gotta go, McCain.  Don’t be a hero.”

McCain shushed him.  To the vampire, he said, “I’m staying.  Get these others out of here.”

The vampire blinked brilliant blue eyes at the aviator.  “Are you sure?”  His briefing had told him the Lt. Commander had been held the longest in Hoa Lo.

When McCain nodded emphatically, the vampire accepted his decision.  There wasn’t time to argue.

Although he was loath to touch a human, he nevertheless extended his hand.  “You’ve got my respect.”

McCain’s lips curled into a vague smile.  He shook the vampire’s hand firmly, then withdrew, frowning at the icy touch.  “And you mine, whoever you are.”

The vampire didn’t respond and McCain knew not to press him.  Collecting his flock, the vampire moved to the window and climbed out.  One by one the prisoners followed him into the jungle to slip through the darkness towards freedom.

“That was a moving service,” Mariella Cruz said, wiping her nose with a tissue.

The whispered words jarred Niles Gule from his reverie.  Blinking, he focused his attention forward.  He and Cruz stood towards the back of the Naval Academy Chapel where America’s hero, Senator John McCain, was being honored in a private ceremony.

Niles didn’t respond to Cruz’s comment.  He might be a vampire, but that didn’t mean he didn’t possess a heart to grieve.  And grieve he did.  For a man he’d always held in high regard.  For a man who could have been released from hell yet deferred to allow his fellow Americans to go before him.  For a man who’d dedicated his life to serving his country first as a soldier and then as a leader.  While Niles hadn’t always agreed with the man’s politics, he respected McCain’s determination to work for the good of his country.  They didn’t make many like that anymore.

The service had ended.  Niles offered Cruz his arm and led her from the chapel.

The feisty Latina’s satiny eyes shimmered with tears.  “I can’t believe you received an invitation to this service,” she whispered.  “I had no idea you knew Senator McCain.  Or that he knew you.”

Niles shrugged.  “We only met briefly,” he said.  “I guess he never forgot.”

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  We’ve lost something special.  Something that we might never find again.  You might agree or disagree with some of the choices John McCain made in his life and his political decisions.  But I hope you can agree that the man was a hero in every sense of the word, regardless of the fact that certain people have tried to tear him down.  He always stood up for what he believed in:  his fellow soldiers, his family, his country.

To honor him, take his place.

Stand up for all that this country has always represented: inclusiveness, community, that incredible American warmth that all the world is in awe of.

We are better than this.

 

Gule and the Search for the Elusive Bottom Biscuit

Vampires liked fairs.  Not for the same reasons that humans did, of course, the food, the games and the rides.  No, vampires enjoyed such festivals because most ran until long after dark, which meant sun-hating vampires could still take part.  Plus, all those tasty humans milling about in large herds made for excellent hunting opportunities.

While chubby, balding police officer Walter Cooksey sniffed the air and exclaimed hungrily about funnel cakes, Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore, drew in the heady aroma of excited humans.  While Cooksey’s giant partner Jonas Williams drooled at the sight of a sausage and pepper sub, Niles licked his fangs at the sight of a fat, white butt sticking out of low rider blue jeans.

“Why do they wear their pants like that?” he asked, extending a talon towards a large woman wearing yoga pants that covered only half her derriere and revealed a thong too skimpy to hold such abundance.  In his opinion, she was mooning the world.

Williams ran his gray gaze down the over-dressed vampire who’d come to the fair in his standard business suit, crisp white shirt and Jerry Garcia tie.  “Because they can.”

Mariella Cruz, Niles’ Latina partner, laughed.  “You should be awed.”  When Niles cricked an eyebrow at her, she said, “It’s a rare sighting of an arctic white whale.   They only migrate occasionally.  We should all stand in awe of its sublime beauty.”

Williams snortled.  “Beauty, my ass.”

Cruz’s dark eyes twinkled.  “I don’t know.  I haven’t see it.”  She arched her brows suggestively.

“And you won’t, neither.  At least not in public.”

Cruz pretended to pout.

Cooksey was too busy slavering over the smells of fried food.  “Why are we here?” he asked.  “These smells are killing me.”

“The fair needs addition security,” Niles said.  He stood unaffected by the aromas from the food trucks.  He was the only one of them actually watching the crowd.  “We’re supposed to be keeping an eye out for malefactors, not whale watching.”

The rumble of Williams’ laugh resembled an earthquake.

Cruz propped her hand on her hip.  “I have to say, this is one of the more boring duties they’ve shafted us with.”

“Only if we let it,” Williams replied.   Now his eyes were twinkling.  “If we’re stuck watching these lowlifes, we can at least make a game of it.”

“In what way?” Niles asked.  He never trusted Williams’ crazy ideas.  Somehow, he always wound up at the butt end of the Polack’s jokes.

“I suggest a challenge,” Williams offered.  “A scavenger hunt.”

Cruz scowled.  “What?”

Williams held up a finger.  “No, it will be fun.  Since Cooksey’s so hungry, we’ll scavenge for him.  I challenge everyone to find…”  He rubbed his chin while he considered.  His eyes drifted over the fair grounds with its glittering rides, clanging games and shifting crowds of families.  “… bottom biscuits.”

“What?” Cruz repeated.

“Bottom biscuits.”  Williams nodded.  “See if you can dredge some up.”

Niles considered the fair grounds.  “How do you know any are here?”

Williams nodded sagely.  “Oh, they’re here, all right.  I’ll bet a hundred bucks on it.”

“Deal!” exclaimed Cooksey who was always on the prowl for spare cash.  “What do they look like?”

Williams grinned.  “I’m not going to tell you that.  You just have to find some and bring them to me.”

Cooksey accepted the challenge with his usual fervor.  Calling his co-workers losers, he charged into the crowd to start searching the food trucks.

Cruz moved off more slowly.  “Why do I suspect this is a snipe hunt?”

Williams protested.  “It isn’t.  Bottom biscuits do exist.  I swear.”

Cruz walked backwards away from him.  “So what are we supposed to do?  Buy one?”

“Nah!  I don’t want you to ruin your diet, Cruz.  Just take a picture if you find some.  First one to bring me one wins.”  Williams leaned his back against the wall of the EMT stand and folded his arms.

Niles studied the policeman’s face.  “This is a trick, isn’t it?”

Williams placed his hand to his heart.  “Moi?  Pull a trick on you?  I’m hurt.”

Niles rolled his eyes.

“Seriously, Ghoul. “  Williams pointed at the fair.  “Bottom biscuits are out there.  You just have to find them.”

Shaking his head, the vampire decided to allow Williams his little game.  At a sauntering pace, he stepped into the flow of traffic and drifted with the tide.  An apt analogy, he realized, when he found himself behind the artic white whale as she wriggled towards a funnel cake truck.

What was it about humans, he wondered, that they dressed in such inappropriate clothing?

Deciding he would never understand, Niles wandered around the fairgrounds in search of the elusive bottom biscuit as well as keeping a lookout for trouble and pickpockets.

A tent offering English tea cakes caught the vampire’s eye.  Ordinarily, he would have no interest in the sugary treats proffered by such establishments, but given Williams’ challenge, he decided to at least try to find some biscuits.

The hot, flustered Englishwoman running the stand shook her head as she handed a bag of scones to another customer.  “Never heard of such things, dearie,” she said.  “Don’t sell them m’self.  How about an Eccles cake?”

His stomach roiling at the pastry she thrust towards his nose, Niles recoiled and escaped.

Deciding perhaps a more traditional American baker might carry the product, Niles used his towering height to peer over the crowd surrounding a truck that proudly proclaimed in red glowing signs Fried Dough.

How utterly revolting, he thought.

His eyes scanned the sample wares stacked on trays at the truck’s windows and found elephant ears, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, and cinnamon churros but no bottom biscuits.  Interesting.

Suspecting he’d been sent on a snipe hunt after all, Niles abandoned the search and proceeded through the grounds as an officer of the law.

Eventually, his rambling circuit brought him back to the EMT station where Williams stood chatting with a cluster of medics and fair police.  Just as Niles approached, Cruz appeared looking flustered.

“I’ve looked everywhere,” she complained.  “Not a bottom biscuit to be found anywhere.  Did you have any luck?”

Niles, his gaze focused on his cell phone, shrugged.

Cooksey huffed as he lumbered up at a jog.  He scowled.  “I couldn’t find any either!”  He scowled at his partner.  “Admit it.  You made it up.”

Williams’ cool gray gaze turned to Niles.  “Well, Ghoul?  Are you also giving up?  Admitting defeat to a superior intellect?”

Niles coughed then collected himself.  Smoothing the front of his jacket, he turned blue eyes glittering with mischief at his nemesis.

“I never admit defeat.”   He held out his phone.

Williams leaned in and squinted.  “Ah, dammit!  You found a pair.”

Niles nodded.  “You owe a hundred bucks.”

“Where did you find some?” Cruz demanded.  She was on her tip toes trying to see his phone.

Niles gestured vaguely towards the Tilt-A-Whirl.  “I found a couple over there.”

“Let me see!”

Cruz snatched the phone and scowled.

“Oh, for the love of Santa Lucia,” she complained.

Turning the screen towards Cooksey, she gave Williams a scathing look.  On Niles’ phone was indeed a photo of bottom biscuits.  After Niles had looked the term up on the internet and knew what to look for, they weren’t hard to find.

The photo was of the backside of an overweight woman wearing shorts far too short to cover her nether regions.  The delicate white curve of two gluteus maximus hanging out from the shorts filled the screen.

“Bottom biscuits,” Niles explained.

He shook his head as Williams exploded in laughter.

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  It’s fair season again.  Always a joyous time of year.  Get out there, everyone, and eat yourself sick on cheesesteaks, fries and funnel cakes.  And while you’re at it, see if you can track down a couple of bottom biscuits.  Definitely a sight you will never forget.

 

Gule is Driven up a Wall

Police detective Mariella Cruz couldn’t keep herself from twisting around to stare at the vampire sitting beside her in the close confines of her little Fiat, Fifi.  Her luscious red lips opened to mirror the surprise in her large, dark eyes.

“How is that even possible?” she demanded.

Said vampire, Niles Gule, shrugged his elegant shoulders.

“You’re one-hundred-fifty years old!” the perky Latina exclaimed.

Niles raised a delicate, taloned finger.  “One-hundred-fifty-eight.”

“And you’ve never been inside a Walmart?”

“What can I say?  I’ve never needed a fifty pack of cheap cotton jockeys.”  Niles frowned at the thought.  “I suspect they ride up.”

Shoving her car keys in her pocket, Cruz said, “Well, I’m going in.  Mom needs her prescription.  Coming?”

Niles considered the parking lot.  Although an early evening sun set as a golden orb on the horizon, the place was packed.  The closest space Cruz could find was a long hundred yards to the front door.

“Consider it a learning experience,” Cruz prodded, sliding out.  “Sun’s almost gone.  You’re safe.”

Niles knew he was safe enough from being fried by the earth’s fiery star but he wondered about the people in the lot.  A group of toughs in torn black t-shirts and ratty jeans gathered around a light pole and eyed shoppers the way sharks pondered baby seals.  A Hispanic couple had begun arguing as they loaded a big screen TV into a van too small to hold it.  Niles didn’t speak Spanish but he could tell when two people were approaching blows.

Ignoring the sexual taunts from the school of sharks, Cruz barked something that sounded like knock it off in Spanish to the squabbling couple and marched for the store.  Trailing behind her, Niles gave the sharks a hard look from his brilliant blue eyes, earning himself derision from people who didn’t appreciate Italian tailored suits.  The group only backed off when he allowed his annoyance to flash his eyes yellow.  Not even prowling sharks challenged an annoyed vampire with glowing yellow eyes.

Once inside the store, Niles gazed about curiously, having heard about Walmart but never visited one.  People darted about in a dizzying whirl, yanking on small children, yelling at infants to stop crying, urging their elderly to move it along.  Employees in blue vests pretended to manage the chaos but patrons ignored them.  Shoppers used their carts as rams to clear a path of anyone who stood in their way like a bunch of cars in a bumper car alley.  Niles flattened himself against a towering stack of Diet Coke to keep from being run over by one such hurried shopper.

Cruz made a beeline for the left side of the store where a giant sign proclaimed Pharmacy.  Fearlessly, she slammed past marauding shopping carts and wailing children.  She used her elbows to deflect a couple of loitering men who stood in her way.

Niles followed more slowly, staring around the store with wide eyes.  He’d never envisioned such a place.  Stuff was piled everywhere.  Massive walls of candy blocked access to the twenty checkout lanes.  Stacks of six-packs offering every non-alcoholic beverage known to man created a maze that slowed traffic.  Even small appliances like hair dryers and toasters stood cluttering the walk ways, causing shopping cart pileups.

Deciding perhaps the better part of valor would be to remain where he was until Cruz returned, Niles selected the wall of Coke as his safe harbor.  From there he could watch the checkout lanes for Cruz on the way out.  He folded his arms and simply watched the show.

And what a show it was.  A man in fatigues argued with a customer service rep about returning an item.  The line behind him of twelve others was growing impatient and Niles feared a brawl might erupt.  A toddler broke loose from its mother and, with its toy shopping cart, bolted for freedom out the front door.  The poor beleaguered mother dropped her purchases in the middle of the aisle and sprinted to catch her wayward offspring.

The best entertainment, however, was the small woman wearing bulky black clothes.  As Niles watched, she grabbed a five pound steam iron and stuffed it into her pants.  Amazingly, no one noticed.  Still more amazingly, she continued stuffing irons into her clothing until she had five tucked away.  How she managed, Niles couldn’t imagine, but she merely looked fat when she was finished.

Since he was a police officer, Niles felt he needed to act.  He approached the woman slowly while he scanned the area for someone in security.

The woman glared at his approach, silently daring him to say something.

“I saw what you did,” Niles said, keeping his voice calm and his body language non-aggressive.

The shoplifter wasn’t impressed with his demeanor, his expensive clothes, or his towering height.  Her face grew cold and determined.  She launched herself at the vampire full bore, intending to plow him down and escape the store.  She collided with him, her head butting into his stomach.  Niles oofed at the blow and staggered backwards but hung on, not allowing her to escape.  A man, probably the woman’s accomplice, dove for Niles’ shoulders.  Niles spun around like a bronco, trying to buck off the man on his back and the woman clutching his waist.  He couldn’t see.  A fist punched him in the jaw.  The woman’s elbow got him in the crotch.

Spinning on the glossy floor, Niles and his two passengers stumbled into the Celebrate Summer! display.  First they took out the table with its bright green umbrella, then the faux tiki bar collapsed, sending up a cloud of raffia and scattering plastic margarita glasses across the floor.  When another young man leaped into the fray, the four tumbled backwards into the wading pool with a splash.  Niles landed on his back in the pool, the man trapped and sputtering underneath him, the woman splayed on his stomach, irons pressing into both of them and threatening to end a vampire’s hopes of offspring.

By that point, security came running.  One by one, they pealed the combatants off one another until a soaking wet Niles stood glowering at the three malefactors.  His good silk suit was ruined.  Fortunately, his Jerry Garcia Liquid Torso 8 tie had survived unscathed.  Thank heaven for small miracles.

Before security could arrest Niles along with the band of shoplifters, Cruz arrived, flashed her badge and explained Niles was an off duty police officer trying to assist.  The chief of security believed her and after thanking Niles, told them they were free to leave.  He probably wouldn’t need them as witnesses because the entire affair had been caught on camera.

Shaking her head, Cruz considered her wet, bedraggled vampire.  “Okay.  I agree.  You and Walmart are not a good combination.”

“Ya think?”   Niles rung out his jacket in disgust.

With his dignity dented and his pride punctured, the vampire hastened swiftly from the store.

Rather than suffer the shift ahead with her partner’s nose out of joint, Cruz drove him home so he could change into dry clothes.  When he returned to the street, he was surprised to find police officers Jonas Williams and Walter Cooksey standing beside Fifi and talking to Cruz.  Williams was holding out his phone and bending over with laughter.

As Niles approached, Williams lost it.  He nearly collapsed to the pavement, he was laughing so hard.

Lifting a supercilious brow, Niles glared at each of his coworkers in turn.

“Ok, out with it.  What’s up now?”

Williams had turned purple and gasped, unable to answer.  Cruz was fighting to keep a straight face but not succeeding.  That left poor Cooksey to offer the explanation.

“Congratulations, Ghoul,” he chirped, brandishing his phone.  “You’ve made today’s People of Walmart.”

 

© 2018

A Policeman and His Vampire Walk into a Bar….

“You have a drinking problem, you know.”  Baltimore Police Officer Jonas Williams pinged his fingernail against the vampire’s tumbler of bourbon before taking a sip from his beer bottle.

Niles Gule’s brilliant blue eyes studied the golden liquid in his glass, fascinated by the abstract shapes it made slithering around the ice cubes.  He circled the glass a few times, watching bourbon shift into an endless variety of forms, then tipped it back to enjoy the last swallow.

Setting the tumbler down and giving it a gentle shove with a long, taloned finger, he shot his companion a look.

He lowered his voice so that the patrons at Max’s Taphouse couldn’t overhear.  “Vampires cannot become alcoholics.”

Williams slanted him a look.  “I didn’t say you were an alcoholic, Ghoul.”  He pinged the empty glass again.  “I said you have a drinking problem.”

Lifting a supercilious eyebrow, the vampire dinged his talon against William’s bottle.  The sound rang sweet and clear.  “Says the man with a beer in his hand.”

Williams patted his beer.  “I do indeed enjoy a cold one on my days off.  But I can take them or leave them.  You drink hard liquor and you drink it hard.”

Niles scoffed and fought down the desire to brandish a fang at Williams.

The two men had never been friends.  Indeed, sometimes their relationship came close to open warfare, yet somehow they managed to work together.  Perhaps because each respected the other’s professionalism.  Williams would rescue Niles from a scrape, not because he liked the vampire, but because that’s what fellow officers did for each other.  And Niles would rescue Williams for the same reason.  The situation was complicated, but they made it work.

That evening, the two were off duty.  Niles had wandered down to Max’s in Fell’s Point because as a vampire on the wagon, he didn’t have much to occupy his time.  His fellow vampires were heading out for a night of hunting.  Humans preferably.  Dogs, cats and other assorted urban wildlife if humans weren’t available.  Niles had vowed never to consume human blood again.  So he suffered.  Hunger pangs.  Insatiable cravings to sink his teeth into a soft, white neck.  And loneliness.  Incredible, soul crushing loneliness.

Which was why when Williams appeared in the bar, Niles made room beside him.  Any port in a storm.

“My drinking is my issue,” Niles grumbled.  He knew Williams was right.  He did drink too much.  Sometimes to kill physical pain because human analgesics didn’t work in his alien system.  Sometimes to simply escape the misery of his life.  Tonight was one of the later variety.

Williams heaved his shoulders as if surrendering.  “It is.  But…”  He started tearing the label from his Heineken.

“But what?”

Another shrug.  “Sometimes your coworkers worry about you.”

Niles drew his breath.  Those words were as close as Williams had ever come to saying he cared about his vampire coworker.  Studying the big, burly man as he rendered the label into tiny, shining bits, Niles decided not to press him.

“Tell my coworkers I appreciate the thought,” he said.

He received a grunt in reply.

Niles planted his chin on his fist and allowed his gaze to drift around the bar.  Max’s was an upscale tavern with a dining area frequented by both tourists and locals.  It was not the sort of place one normally went to drink off one’s woes.  Unless one was a sophisticated vampire with standards.

“Is that why you tracked me down tonight?” he asked.  “To discuss my drinking problem?”

Williams took another swig of beer.  Setting down the bottle, he turned his gray gaze on his companion.  “No.”  Being a direct fellow, he dove right in.  “About you rolling around in the hay with Cruz…”

“I didn’t roll around in any hay!” Niles stiffened and his eyes surveyed the area as if expecting half the bar to have overheard.  “She asked me to guard her back while she went berry picking in the woods.  So that’s what I did.”

Williams nodded sagely.  “And that’s how you got her lipstick on your mouth.  Berry picking.”  He shook his head.  “Never heard it called that before.”

Niles hissed, the sign of an annoyed vampire.  “Ok, so I kissed her.  But that’s all.  It was just a kiss.”

Oh lord but how it wasn’t just a kiss!  Niles’ partner, Mariella Cruz, was warm and feisty and soft and curvaceous in all the ways a vampiress was not.  Niles had been fighting the attraction he felt for two years.  Suddenly, last week, his fragile control had snapped.  When she flirted too close to the sun, she’d burned them both.  Niles had slammed her up against a tree trunk and plunged his tongue into her mouth.  He could still taste her, sweet from her berries, and so moist and hot.  Vampires were cold creatures.    Cruz was the antithesis of cold.  She burned.  And when in her presence, Niles was burned by her.

That incident had driven him to drinking to forget.  Because a relationship between a vampire and a human was doomed.  Someday Niles might lose control of his ravening hunger and sink his fangs into Cruz, killing her.    Or, because he was so much stronger than her and vampires tended to be violent when they mated, he could injure or kill her accidently.  At best, they might carry on a relationship for a while, but eventually Cruz’s life span would work its evil magic.  Her hair would gray and her skin wrinkle.  Her eyesight would weaken and her joints ache.  She’d grow old and die.  But Niles would remain just as he was, young, and vibrant and strong.  Could she tolerate a lover who never aged?  Could he tolerate watching her grow old and die?

The whirl of his thoughts was bewildering.

“Can you and a human…”  Williams swirled a finger.  “.. you know… can you?”

Niles kept his eyes on his empty glass.  “Yes.  It’s been known to happen.  Humans find vampires alluring.  It wouldn’t result in anything, though.  We’re biologically incompatible.”

Williams gave him a hard look.  “Can’t you find a lady vampire to entertain you?  Must you toy with Cruz?”

Niles drew a sigh.  “Yes, and no.  I could have a lover any time I like.  Tyra, my neighbor, has been angling for that for a year now.”  He held up his hand to forestall Williams’ question.  “But I don’t because it wouldn’t work.  We could have sex, sure.  We have.”  He gave Williams a quirky look.  “But that’s all it is.  A physical joining.  Pardon me, Jonas, but I want more than that.  I want… I don’t know.”  He shook his head miserably.

“A soul mate?” Williams asked.  He sounded skeptical.  “Is that possible?  Do you have a soul?”

Niles shrugged.

“So find your soul mate among the vampires,” Williams pressed.  “Leave Cruz alone.”

“It’s not that easy.”  Niles flicked bits of label with a talon.  “I’m becoming an alpha, Jonas.  A territorial lord.  It’s not something that happens with humans.  The Vanapir don’t elect leaders nor is the job inherited.  Certain vampires just have the right… I don’t know… cachet…  Eventually, if the fates allow, that individual becomes an alpha.”

“And?”

“And alphas mate with alphas.  Or I should say, for an alpha to agree to join into a long term relationship, it would be with another alpha.  Anything else doesn’t feel right.”  Niles gave Williams a despairing look.  “I can’t explain it, Jonas, but being with Cruz feels right.  She draws me in the way a female alpha would draw me in.”

Williams’ face froze.  “Are you saying she’s a vampire?”

Niles’ eyes widened.  “No!  Not at all.  Far from it.  But she has that same cachet, that fire, that I find irresistible.  And she’s not fighting me off.”

Williams grunted.  “No, she’s pretty much throwing herself at you.  Has been since day one.”

Unable to respond, Niles flicked another label bit from the bar.

Williams pushed his empty bottle away and slid from his stool.

“Look, Ghoul, all I’m saying is, you’ve got a lot of issues.  Vampire.  Blood sucker.  Drinking problem.”  He said this making air quotes.  “I don’t want Cruz hurt.”

“I don’t want her hurt either.”

Williams nodded gruffly.  “Good, then we understand each other.”

Niles, who had not moved from his stool, lifted a brow.  “We do?”

Williams nodded.  He poked a fat finger into the vampire’s chest.  “We do.  You hurt her, Ghoul, and I’m coming after you.”

Although he admired the man’s dedication to protecting a lady and a coworker, Niles couldn’t let the challenge pass.  “How so?”

Williams patted his pistol.  “I got silver bullets with your name on them, Ghoul.  Just give me the reason and I’ll introduce you to them.  Capisce?”

Niles considered the weapon.  Then Williams’ hard gray glare.

He nodded.  “Capisce”

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

Gule Tastes Raspberry Kisses

“Maybe I should go first,” Niles Gule suggested to his partner as she waded into the dense underbrush.

“Why?”  Mariella Cruz swore when a bramble caught in her thick, black ponytail.  A battle ensued, the little Latina versus Rubus idaeus with the thorny plant coming out the victor.

Smiling indulgently, Niles used his long, delicate fingers to untangle the dark mass.

“Because I’m a vampire,” he said, freeing her.  “Ticks don’t like vampires.”

She ignored him and as was her wont, stormed ahead, uncaring that the brambles clawed at her jeans and raked her arms.  She used her stout boots to trample stands of milkweed as she pressed into the urban jungle.  Niles followed, his hands crossed casually behind his back while he watched her struggle.

“The manly thing to do would be for me to go first,” he tried again.  “I could beat the bushes for you.”

She snorted but kept going.  Niles reminded himself that when Cruz got an idea into her head not even God stood in her way.

“Why am I here?” he asked.

She twisted around.  “To protect me from vicious animals.  Copperheads and bears.”

Niles lifted a brow.  “There hasn’t been a bear in these parts for at least a week.  And I’d be useless to defend you from a snake unless calling 911 counts as help.   Besides,” he added when she glared at him.  “I’m the most dangerous animal in these woods.”

That caused the little woman to turn around.  “Why would you say that?”

Niles gestured to the woodland, a scrappy bit of Mother Nature struggling to survive in the greater concrete jungle that was Baltimore.  “I’m a vampire, Cruz.  You’re out alone in the woods with a vampire.”

She lifted a finger.  “But a vampire who’s sworn off drinking blood.”  Her eyes narrowed.  “You are still on the wagon, right?”

Niles held up his hand.  “Scout’s honor.”

“So you’re not dangerous.”  Her ponytail bobbed as she trampled another milkweed.

“I wouldn’t say that.”  Niles’ voice softened to a purr.

She must not have heard him because she floundered towards her objective with a cry of success.

“Basket, please,” she commanded, not turning around.

Niles extended the basket he held.  He adjusted his weight onto a single leg and stood waiting comfortably while Cruz fought with the brambles and picked sticky red berries from thorny plants.

“What are these things?”   Niles studied the berries as the basket filled.

“Wineberries.”  Cruz crouched low to get some near the ground.  “They’re an invasive species from China but very tasty.”

“What do you do with them?”  Niles sniffed them then stretched his arms away from himself.  He didn’t care for fruit.

Cruz was happily picking, becoming more scratched as she proceeded into the patch.  “I make jam and pancake syrup.  Muffins.  Cakes.  Good stuff.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Niles muttered.

For another hour as the sun sank behind the trees, Cruz picked while Niles kept watch for errant bears and attack scorpions.  Eventually he figured out his purpose.  She was in a remote area that had been abandoned.  They tripped over trash and discarded tires in the brush, and both half expected to stumble across a body or two hidden in the bushes.  She’d been nervous to enjoy her little hobby in such a place alone.  Who better than a vampire to watch her back?  Niles smiled fondly and stood guard.

The fall of darkness ended her endeavor.  With a happy grin, she consulted the basket which held probably five pounds of berries.  Enough, she declared to make jam.

“And no bears,” she added with a grin.

She picked a berry out of the basket and savored it.  Then offered one to Niles.  He politely shook his head.

“Oh, give it a try, Niles,” she wheedled, holding it close to his lips.  “Just one bite won’t hurt you.”

“But it might hurt you,” he said, unable to stop himself.

She stilled and stared at him breathless, perhaps aware that she stood alone in the depths of the woods with a vampire.  A suddenly moody vampire.  A vampire with a strange flickering light in his blue eyes.

At the panic he saw flush her face, he forced a smile and accepted the berry from her fingers.  It was well-named, he decided.  It had a distinct winey flavor.  Not bad, actually.

Her fingertips remained against his lips.

Niles felt the change come over him at that warm touch so different from a vampire’s.

“You’re asking for trouble,” he murmured.

She nodded, appearing unable to pull her hand away.

With a groan, Niles abandoned his self-control.  He dropped the basket and grasped Cruz around the waist, lifting her so that he could kiss her properly.  Then he propelled her backwards until she slammed up against a tree.

“Sorry,” he murmured.  “Vampires tend to get violent when they mate.”  He shifted his mouth to deepen the kiss.

Cruz responded by wrapping her legs around his hips to take some of her weight.  Not that she needed to.  She weighed nothing against a vampire’s strength.

Niles allowed himself to wallow in the beauty of possessing her if only for a moment.  The warmth of her skin and the sweetness of her tongue begged him to abandon all thought and take her there in the woods.  Only vague sanity prevailed as he pulled away and set her down.

“Damn!” she whispered, touching her lips.  “You don’t do things by halves, do you?”

Niles backed away.  “I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

She grinned and snatched up her basket.  “No.”  Her eyes sparkled.  “I like a little fight in my man.”

Niles started to protest that he was not her man, but she overrode him by telling him they needed to leave.  They were going to be late for the shift.

Wordlessly, Niles followed her from the woodland back to the car, all the while considering what he’d just done.  He’d taken a step he’d fought months to avoid.  Kissing the woman he was starting to love.  A vampire and a human.  Not a workable combination in his opinion.  Thus his determination to keep her at a distance.

Unfortunately, he thought as he climbed into the passenger side of her little Fiat, Mariella Cruz was not a woman to take orders from anyone.  She’d set her sights on him and would continue to press her advantage every chance she got.  Niles just wondered if she understood what it meant to take a vampire as a lover.

She hummed as she drove the handful of miles to their precinct, occasionally shooting him looks from the side of her eyes.  But she said nothing.  Niles stared out at the city, wondering what he was going to do now.  She was drawing him in like a vortex swallowing water.  He was losing his ability to hold himself back.  Only disaster, he thought, would come of this.

Cruz carried her basket of berries into the precinct and tucked them in the refrigerator to keep until end of shift.  Then she wandered into the main office area.

Niles gritted his teeth when his least favorite person greeted the two of them with a grin.

Giant police officer Williams lifted his brows at the sight of them.  “You two have enough sticks in your hair to infer you were rolling around in the woods.”  To prove his point, he lifted a small leaf from Niles’ blond locks.

Niles raked his hands through his hair to smooth it.  “Cruz wanted to pick berries.”

“Sure she did,” Williams drawled.

Niles shot him a hateful glance.  “She did.”

“And did they taste good?” Williams asked, his eyes wide with feigned innocence.

“Yes.”  Niles dropped into his chair and considered his messages.

Williams leaned over him.  To the vampire’s surprise, he flicked a finger across Niles’ mouth and pondered the bit of red on his fingertip.

“Interesting,” he murmured, wiggling that finger as he studied the color.

“Those berries are the exact same color as Cruz’s lipstick.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Gule Goes to Bat

Niles Gule drew a heavy sigh seeing the pink message slips scattered across his obsessively neat desk like a Pepto pink tree had dropped its leaves.  He scooped them together and made a careful tower, all corners and sides matching.  Then he flicked on his computer and logged in.  As his email updated, he watched the counter on the bottom flipping by first in tens, then hundreds.

“Three hundred and seventy-four messages?” he complained.  He rubbed his forehead.  “I need a vacation.”

Police officer Jonas Williams wearing the black uniform of the Baltimore Police was lounging nearby, reading a newspaper and slurping coffee.

Hearing his co-worker’s complaint, he shot the vampire a look.  “Didn’t you just get back from vacation?”

Niles’ partner, Detective Mariella Cruz, stormed in like the whirlwind she was.  Niles slapped his hand over his organized pile of messages to keep the backwash of her arrival from sending it spinning into space.  She flopped into her chair in the desk beside his.  Her dark eyes shimmered as she smiled.

“Welcome back!  How was your vacation?”

Niles shrugged.  He started sorting the pink slips.  “Fine.”

Cruz leaned towards him suggestively.  “Do anything fun?”

Niles didn’t look up from his messages.  “Not particularly, no.”

“Where’d ya go?” she asked in a sing song voice.  She’d been trying to pry that information out of him for the two weeks before he left and was apparently not giving up now that he was back.

“Nowhere in particular.”

Niles should have known better than to try to elude his questioner.  Cruz was small and feisty.  Having her on the trail of information was like having a Chihuahua grabbing at your ankles.  Chihuahuas never gave up and neither did Cruz.

She must have made a face at Williams to garner his aid because he set his coffee cup aside and lowered his paper.  “What’s the big mystery?” he asked.  “Where does a vampire go on vacation?”

Niles fluttered a slip at Cruz.  “Got a lead on the Mondawmin stabbing.”

Cruz snatched the slip from his long delicate fingers and set it aside.  Then she frowned.  She grasped his hand before he could snatch it away.

“What did you do?” she breathed, studying his cold, pale hand.  She ran her warm fingers across the back.  “You’re all cut up.  Almost shredded.”

That drew Williams’ attention.  He bolted over.  Cruz held up Niles’ hand to show off the damage.

“And your face!” Williams added, flicking a finger at a new scar along his temple.  “You were cut there, and there… and there!”  He pointed to freshly healing wounds on the vampire’s nose, cheek and chin.

Niles jerked away.  “It’s nothing.  Vampires possess excellent cellular regeneration.  Far superior to humans.  I’ll be right as rain by the weekend.”

“That’s not the point!” Cruz protested.  She refused to give back his hand.  She clutched it between hers, forcing him to either let her have it, or possibly injure her by retrieving it.  He decided to let her have it for the moment.  “Why do I suspect if we could see the rest of you, we’d find more injuries?  Did you fall down a mountain?”

Niles couldn’t hold back a bark of laughter.  She’d guessed a little too close for comfort.  Trying to avoid the question, he focused on another message slip.  “New York City returned my call about that mail fraud case.”

Cruz tightened her grip.  Her twinkling eyes lost their sparkle as she grew more serious.  “Stop it, Gule.  What happened?  Where did you go and how did you get hurt?”  She gave his hand a shake when he refused to look at her.  “Come on, Gule.  We care about you.”

“Did you take a trip to Europe?  Tangle with a Van Helsing?” Williams asked.

Niles rolled his eyes.  “No and no.  There’s no such family as the Van Helsings, Jonas.  Abraham Van Helsing was just a character that fool Stoker made up to sell books along with a litany of other ridiculous ideas about vampires.”  He shook his head with a snort.  “Vampires should have targeted him before he published that rubbish.”

“Nice try, Gule,” Cruz warned, “but you aren’t filibustering your way out of my question.  What happened to you?”

Niles tried to glare her into submission but those dark eyes stared right back, unblinking.  When he conjured up some anger from the depths of his cold soul and allowed his eyes to shift towards yellow, she scoffed and tugged harder on that hand.

“As if you’ll scare me with that!  I know you too well.”  Her gaze hardened.  “Out with it!”

Niles considered his next ploy.  He brandished his fangs in a typical vampire threat display which only made Cruz laugh, much to his consternation.

“And I’m not afraid of those, either.”  She tugged on the hand again.  “Now, you’ve got me worried.  What’s going on?  This isn’t like you.”

“You may as well fess up, Ghoul.”  Williams whacked him with the newspaper.  “You know what she’s like.  A piranha. She’ll keep at you until you’re nothing but bones.”

Drawing a great sigh, Niles slouched in his chair.  “Ok.  Fine.  I went caving and had a little accident.”

“Caving?” Cruz repeated.

“Yes.”  Niles gave his two human companions a sharp look.  “You asked what vampires do on vacation.  They go wandering in caves.  Dark.  Moist.  Generally human free.  What’s not to love?”

Cruz frowned.  “So what happened?”

Niles shrugged.  “I slipped.  Fell.  Banged myself up.”  He finally snatched his hand from her.  “It’s no big deal!  Can we get back to work?”

With a huff, he turned his back on the both of them and buried his nose in his email.  He would say nothing more.

Williams loomed over Niles’ desk, watching him with a thoughtful expression.

Without looking up, Niles flicked a hand at him.  “You may go now.”

The police officer considered the hand with its quickly healing injuries.  Then he glanced down at his newspaper.

“No shit!” he murmured.

“What?” Cruz asked.

Niles refused to respond.

“You still standing by your assertion that vampires can’t transform into bats?” the big man asked.

Niles stiffened.  He started typing as if he could will his two pests to go away.  “It’s not an assertion.  I cannot transform into a vampire bat.”

Williams remained silent, staring at him.

With a strangled cry of frustration, the vampire leaped to his feet and stormed away to discuss a case with Sergeant Lo.

Cruz turned her questioning gaze to the officer.  “What was that exchange about?”

Williams shrugged.  “Dunno.”

He set his newspaper on the desk in front of her opened to one of the inner pages.  It was The National Inquirer, a rag that mostly published stories of the ridiculous, impossible and bizarre.

Cruz turned it towards her.  As she read the bold headline of the outrageous story, her mouth fell open and there it stayed.

 

Vampire Saves Thai Soccer Team!

 

In a secret meeting with the divers tasked with rescuing a group of boys from a deep cavern, Thai officials admitted the boys would never have been found if authorities hadn’t received assistance from a helpful vampire.  According to one of the divers who attended the meeting, the head of the search operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn admitted they’d nearly given up trying to find the boys when they turned to an unlikely ally.  A vampire.  The vampire agreed to transform into a bat and search the cave system using its innate sonar capability.  Said Narongsak, “We’d never have found those boys if we hadn’t turned to the one individual who could make it all the way to the bottom and back without getting lost.”

 

Cruz pursed her lips as Niles retook his seat behind her.

“Fell in a cave?” she repeated.

Niles flicked a glance at the newspaper.  He considered it with his brilliant blue eyes, then waved a taloned finger at it.

“You should know better, Cruz.  You can’t believe a thing those scandal sheets publish.”

“No?”

Niles shook his head.  “No.  They might have you believing in something silly one of these days.”

He turned his attention to his keyboard and began typing.  “Like vampires.”

 

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

 

 

 

Gule Loses His Head

“Ok, so that’s just weird.”  Baltimore Police officer Jonas Williams gave his radio a strange look when the call ended.

With a grunt of annoyance, he wrapped his half-eaten burrito in its waxy paper and stuffed it back in the paper take-out bag.  He rose from the picnic table.

“What?” asked Detective Mariella Cruz who continued munching on her taco.

The two uniformed officers, Williams and Cooksey, had stopped to grab a bite to eat before starting night shift.  Detectives Cruz and her partner, the vampire Niles Gule, had joined them.  Cooksey was snarfing down an enchilada while Niles picked the meat out of a taco salad.  He despised vegetables.

Williams gestured at the radio.  “Some idiot decided to rob a medical transport van.  Why would anyone do that?”

Niles froze with his fork halfway to his mouth.  “Uh oh.”

His human coworkers all turned accusing eyes on him.

“Uh oh?” Williams repeated.

Niles immediately tossed his taco salad into the nearby trashcan and rose, fastidiously wiping his mouth with a paper napkin.  “I think we should tag along, Cruz.”

Giving her partner a hard look, Cruz shoved the last of her taco into her mouth and mumbled something inaudible through the mash.

“Do you think it’s vampires?” Williams asked as he marched for his patrol car.

Niles said nothing.  He wouldn’t accuse his brethren of poaching on his turf until he had proof.  But as Williams said, who would rob a medical transport van?  The units carried organ donations from one hospital to another and generally didn’t have anything valuable to the casual thief.  But to a vampire…

Tucking himself into Cruz’s tiny Fiat, Niles grasped the grab bar and hung on as the little Latina ricocheted through traffic, terrifying everyone who dared share the road with her.

Hot, sultry darkness hung like a blanket over the Johns Hopkins University campus with its balls of light stamped at even intervals along paths and roadways.  Not far from the emergency room entrance stood a white van with the caduceus painted in blue and red on its side.  Two people in uniforms milled near its open back doors.  Even from a distance, Niles could make out their frantic gestures and body language.  Neither would get too close to the van.

“Looks like vampires,” Cruz said as she also studied the activity.

Niles unsheathed his silver knife.  Its blade gleamed evilly in the passing street lights.

“Let me handle this,” he said.  “Vampires are my problem.”

“What if there’s more than one?”

Cruz stopped several yards from the van next to where Williams had parked his patrol car.  The big man and his little partner stood waiting for them.  Niles knew Williams wouldn’t voluntarily take on a vampire if the city’s resident rat catcher was available to handle the job.

And that’s what I am, the vampire thought with a sigh.  An overhyped rat catcher.

Niles allowed his piercing blue gaze to pin his partner.  “One vampire or fifty, leave this to me.  It’s my job, remember?”

Cruz shrugged.  She unholstered her Glock and changed ammunition.  Niles caught the smell of silver.  Silver bullets, for the putting down of silver-hating vampires.

Niles shuddered.  While he’d been hired by Baltimore to rid the city of its vampire infestation, he strove wherever possible to avoid killing his brethren.  Vampires were growing scarce.  The war between them and humans had taken its toll on their numbers and sometimes Niles could go months without encountering a fellow.  He didn’t want his species obliterated.  He merely wanted the war to end.  Vampires could live peacefully with humans.  He’d proven it by swearing off the tasty treat they provided.  He simply stuck to less appetizing fare like beef and pork.  So rather than kill them, he either dragged a vow of abstinence out of them and allowed them to remain in his territory, or he drove them off.  Only once a year or so did a vampire force him to commit murder.  He loathed those instances.

Readying himself for the fight, Niles narrowed his eyes and allowed them to glow yellow in warning.  Seeing that, Williams cringed but Cruz merely tightened her grip on her Glock.

“No!  No!  Stop!” yelled one of the EMTs as Niles and Cruz surged towards them.

The man held his hands to his head in a gesture of horror.  His partner stood behind him, using him for protection, and peered out from around the bigger man.  He, too, shouted at whatever was happening inside the van to stop.

“We need those!” the EMT complained.  “Oh!”

A cooler was tossed from the back of the van.  It bounced and rolled off into the grass.  The second, smaller EMT raced to collect it.

Deciding he faced a single vampire, Niles dove forward, knife leading the way.  He reached the van doors and stopped.

A single, diminutive vampire was trashing the contents of the van.  He pulled down another cooler and popped it open, peered at the contents, then shoved it away to move on to the next one.

Niles immediately recognized him.  Only one vampire in Baltimore was so short and stooped over with age.  Only one was so painfully thin with pale hands graced with razor talons.  His white hair hung as a ghostly shroud about his shoulders and his face wore more years than the Sphinx of Egypt.  Marrensten, the two thousand year old vampire and bane of Niles existence.

“Marrensten!”  he growled, lowering his tone to convey his displeasure.  “Get out of there!  What do you think you’re doing?”

Marrensten froze, a cooler between his hands.  His pale gray eyes startled wide as did his mouth from which two meager, yet dripping, fangs protruded.

“Guldendal!”  Marrensten’s stance lost its frightened stiffness.  While he conjured an answer, he chattered his fangs against his lower teeth in a nervous habit that drove nails into Niles’ head.

With a snort of disgust, Niles sheathed his knife.  He’d have no need of it here.  He could take Marrensten with his bare hands if he needed too.  But he wouldn’t harm the pathetic little vampire.  Because Marrensten was an original.  He’d come with the Vanapir space ship that brought vampires to Earth, and as such he deserved respect.  Niles could yell, stomp and carry on, but he would never lay a hand on the dear old soul.

“Get down,” he ordered.  He wondered how he was going to get the little guy out of there with five angry humans looking on.

“I’m hungry!” complained Marrensten.

Niles gave him a hard look from his brilliant blue eyes.  “Get down.”

Marrensten clutched the cooler to his chest.  “Not without something to eat.”

“I’ll buy you a steak dinner!”  Niles glanced over his shoulder to see where his coworkers were.  They still waited, watching the conversation.

Marrensten shook his head like a small child.

Niles held out a hand as long, delicate and taloned as Marrensten’s.  “Give me the cooler.”

Again, Marrensten shook his head.

When Niles lunged forward to grab it, Marrensten gave a high pitched shriek and tossed the cooler out the door.  He then sprang after it.

Niles wasn’t quick enough.  Marrensten landed on his feet.  The cooler had broken open and a human head rolled on the pavement.

With a cry of dismay, Niles scrambled after it, but again little Marrensten had quickness on his side.  He raced for the head and kicked it like a soccer ball.  Weaving in and out of traffic, the vampire put on some moves worthy of the World Cup as he dodged Niles, and the five humans, all of whom tried to grab that head.  A delighted gleam filled Marrensten’s gray eyes as he kicked it around Cooksey, trapped it anew, then sent it spinning towards the darkness beyond the parking lot.

Cruz took a flying leap for the head but landed in the grass empty handed.  With a chortle, Marrensten ran over her, his little feet doing a quick tap dance on her back, before he raced into the darkness to find his head.

Niles stopped at the edge of the parking lot.  He was not going to race around Baltimore playing soccer with Marrensten and a human head.  Instead, he helped Cruz to her feet.

“Are we going after him?” she asked, brushing grass off her knees.

“I’m not.  It’s just one head.  Let him have it.  There’s really not much meat on it anyway.”

Cruz blanched and made a face.  “He’s going to eat it?”

“He’ll try.”  Niles assured himself that she was unharmed.  “But the real eating’s inside.  He’ll have to crack the skull open to get to the brains.  I don’t know if he has the strength to do that.”

“Okay, that’s an image I’ll have a hard time losing,” Cruz complained.  “We can’t let him do this, Gule.”

With a growl, Niles surrendered.  He trudged into the night in search of Marrensten.

Given his exquisite night vision, Niles had no trouble tracking down his quarry.  He found the little vampire tucked up near a culvert, chortling over his prize.  He was so enraptured with the thought of food that he didn’t even notice Niles until the younger vampire loomed over him.

“No human snacking!”  Niles plucked the head from Marrensten by its hair.  “I’ve told you a hundred times.”

“But I’m hungry!” Marrensten wailed.  His talons wriggled to take back the head.

Niles held it away from him.  “I’ll sign you up for Omaha Steaks.  Go home.”

The little vampire chattered his fangs.  He frown unhappily.

Rolling his eyes, Niles marched back to the transport van, head swinging as he walked.

When he handed it back to one of the EMTs, Williams shook his head with a laugh.

“Gives a whole new meaning to the word deadhead, doesn’t it?” he quipped.

 

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

 

 

 

A Vampire, A Policeman and A Fool Walk Into a Bar…

“I’m really worried about him, Ghoul.”  Officer Jonas Williams’ voice warbled, conveying his concern.

Niles Gule decided his co-worker must really be upset because the big Polack gripped his arm and yanked the vampire along the street.  Not that Williams was one to give away his feelings.  Sometimes, Niles wondered if Williams felt anything at all.  Today, Niles didn’t doubt.  Williams never touched him except in dire emergencies, as if Niles’ vampirishness would somehow rub off on him.

“What’s Cooksey done now?” Niles asked.  He referenced Williams’ partner on the police force, Walter Cooksey, the department’s resident idiot.

“I dunno.  He won’t talk to me.”  Williams’ disgust rang loudly in his voice.

The two men hastened along a street in one of East Baltimore’s seedier neighborhoods.  Although midnight was fast approaching and the street was poorly lit, neither man worried about being robbed.  Williams wore his uniform with his service pistol on his hip.  Niles, tall, thin and ghostly pale, wore his silver vampire hunting knife prominently as well.  Plus, if any of the sketchier individuals looked at him wrong, he allowed his brilliant blue eyes to flash pale yellow in warning.  Few humans were willing to take on an annoyed vampire glowing yellow eyes.

“What did he say that triggered your panic?”  Niles asked.  He was glad of his long legs.  Williams was a huge man who could hustle when he wanted to.  Niles had to stretch out his stride to keep up with the officer.

“He didn’t.  That’s what bugs me.”  Williams darted a pointed look at the vampire from his gray eyes.  “What happened up in New York?”

Niles choked back a cough and pretended to have trouble speaking.  He’d promised Cooksey he’d take the tale of New York City to his grave, which was saying a lot given if he lived his full lifespan, he’d remain silent for another thousand years.  Cooksey had made his wishes clear.  The one person he desperately didn’t want told was his partner, Jonas Williams.

“He had issues at his family reunion.”  Niles kept his answer deliberately vague.

“Huh!”  Williams didn’t bother to hide his annoyance.

What Niles refused to tell his co-worker was that Cooksey’s trip to New York had ended in disaster.  At the coaxing of his relatives, Cooksey visited a specialty delicatessen to purchase some extra spicy TNT pepperoni.  The refrigerator in his hotel room was out of order, forcing Cooksey to leave his room window open and the meat on the bedside table.  A flock of seagulls, catching wind of the explosive gift, descended on the room.  Hours and pounds of meat later, their delicate digestive systems rebelled and a guano fest in the room resulted.  Cooksey was banned for life from the Doubletree Manhattan.

In desperation, Cooksey called on the one person he knew who could lay hands on enough cash to bail him out of his New York Minute.  Niles gave not only the cash but his promise to the miserable little man that he wouldn’t reveal the smelly details.  Cooksey knew he could never live down the ribbing he’d take from his partner.

“He’s been avoiding me since he got back,” Williams grumbled.

“How did he manage that?” Niles asked.  “The two of you patrol in the same car for eight hours.”

“Amazing, ain’t it?”  Williams pulled open the door of the Glass Door Lounge on Fayette Street.

The lounge inhabited the lower floor of an old rowhome that now stood alone on its corner with only a tired second hand computer supply store as a neighbor.  Niles knew he was out of his zone the moment he stepped through the door and found a dozen eyes checking him out.  The clientele that night was predominantly African American.  The disdainful looks they proffered said they made the two Anglos out for cops the moment Niles and Williams entered the bar.  A large man wearing a FUBU shirt rose threateningly, warning them he wasn’t going to take any foolishness from the police.

Williams, being just as big, snorted at the threat display and stomped past the man.

Niles, more delicately built and armed only with a knife, proceeded more cautiously.  He gave FUBU man a polite smile and murmured something about not being there to cause any trouble.  His words did nothing to soothe the local.

Williams gestured into the depths of the murky, neon lit space towards a pathetic form huddled at the bar.  There sat Walter Cooksey, nursing something out of a high ball glass and talking to a man next to him.  Instead of directly approaching his partner, Williams swatted Niles in the chest and gestured silently to a nearby table.  The police officer and his vampire took seats within hearing distance of Cooksey.

“I just want to hear what he’s nattering about before I confront him about his drinking.”   Williams murmured to keep Cooksey from noticing him.  “If you won’t tell me what’s going on, maybe I’ll learn it the old fashioned way.”

“By eavesdropping?” Niles asked.

“It’s call good police work, Ghoul,” Williams growled.

Niles lifted a brow but didn’t answer.  He ordered a ginger ale from the waitress, earning himself a look of derision, then sat quietly waiting for Williams to take action.  With his excellent predator’s hearing, Niles could clearly make out what Cooksey was saying.  It made for painful entertainment.

Cooksey was well into what Niles suspected was his third or fourth drink.  His voice was slurred and he patted his hand on the table multiple times to make the same point over and over.  His friend, or at least closest listener, was a man slouching on the next stool, his arms folded on the bar, his face planted in his arms.  The man was an obese Hispanic fellow wearing a plaid, flannel shirt.  The cuffs of his blue jeans were muddy and frayed, speaking of a man who worked hard for a living.  He had a peculiar smell that Niles immediately recognized.

Cooksey kept nattering at the man even though he didn’t respond.  Niles agreed with Williams’ description of Cooksey’s speech as nattering because it really was.  The little, bald police officer, wearing civvies, rambled about his derelict father and his ailing mother living in a nursing home in York, Pennsylvania.  Then he talked about the price of living and trying to keep up with medical expenses.  When he wandered into a diatribe about the people who hated the President, a man Cooksey had voted for and idolized, Niles waited for some sort of response from the Hispanic.  Because surely mention of a man who’d declared war on an entire class of Americans would arouse some kind of response from a member of said class.   The Hispanic, however, didn’t react.

Williams snuffed in annoyance.  “I can’t hear a damned thing with this blasted music.”

Niles’ blue eyes considered the jukebox pumping out the latest release by Pusha T.  Not something the classical music loving vampire would normally choose.

“I can hear him just fine.  He’s complaining about the state of the world.”

Williams thumped his fist on the table.  “Jesus HC!  I just wanna know what happened in New York.”

“Well,” Niles sighed.  “You won’t find it by listening to those two.”

The big policeman gave Niles a hard look.  “Why not?

Niles gestured with his nose towards the Hispanic.

“Cooksey doesn’t realize it but he’s been talking to a dead guy for the past hour.”

 

 

 

© 2018 Newmin