The vampire’s eyes gleamed yellow in the darkness.  They winked, like a cat’s, then vanished when he backed into the shadows as a couple walked past hand in hand.  He drew his breath at the smell of warm, living flesh, pulsing blood.  Iron.  He needed that iron.  His body couldn’t store it for future use the way a human’s could.  He could only absorb it by draining a human victim dry.

He quivered with desire as he studied the warmly lighted windows of the little cottage across the street.  He saw his prey moving in the room beyond, a large man whose blood would sate the vampire for a week.  He licked his fangs in anticipation as he envisioned sinking them into that thick neck.  He could already taste the hot blood on his tongue.  Could imagine it sliding down his throat and filling his belly until he bulged like a tick.  The vampire couldn’t remember what it felt like to be sated.  He’d gone years without such a feast.  Starved.

The time for starving was over.

The vampire’s gaze slid along the quiet, residential street, seeking danger but seeing none.  The night was quiet.  Off in the distance traffic hummed on a nearby highway.  Overhead, an airliner roared out of the south as it left Baltimore-Washington Airport.  He pulled the hood of his black jersey over his head to hide his pale hair and face then jogged across the empty street.  He checked again for witnesses who could raise the alarm.  The nearest houses slept tight, not knowing the world’s cleverest predator was working their neighborhood.

A quick check confirmed the cottage didn’t possess a security system.  No motion activated safety lights sprang to life.  He let out the tense breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.  He knew the homeowner didn’t own a dog, just as he’d known the man had no security, because he always did his homework before he hunted a human.  Humans were the most dangerous prey in a vampire’s diet.  No other prey could hunt a vampire the way a vampire hunted them.

His pale, delicate hand clutched his knife, nervous yet eager.  He didn’t want to kill the man with the knife.  That removed the pleasure of dropping his victim with a strong bite to the neck.  It reduced him to a human murderer, not a vampire on the hunt.  But he’d lived a long life, been a successful hunter for more than a century, by being cautious.  He chose his victim, studied it, stalked it, and prepared for a fight.  This particular man would not go down easily.  The vampire knew that for a human, the man was quite strong.  Knew this kill would be difficult.

Because the night was warm, the cottage’s windows stood open, nothing but thin screens between the vampire and his prey.  He shivered with excitement and his yellow eyes glowed as he readied himself for the attack.  He forced himself to move with caution, however.  He slid up to a window that faced the gloomy side yard.  The house next door was dark, indicating its inhabitants were asleep.  No worries from that quarter.  The vampire scented the air for danger.  No one outside at that hour.  His prey was in the front room.  The aromas indicated the man was drinking beer and eating pizza.  Sensitive ears caught the sounds of a baseball game on television, barely audible over the drone of the air conditioner of the house next door.

With a quick flick of his wrist, the vampire slit the window screen free from its aluminum frame.  Holding the knife between his pale lips, he pulled his lithe, agile body into the window, angled his long legs through the opening and lowered himself inside.  Like most predators who hunted by stealth, the vampire could stalk without making a sound.  He advanced into the house.

His heart was thundering.  The cold blood raged in his veins.  He swallowed the sea of saliva that filled his mouth in anticipation.  He crept on his toes towards the front of the building.

The blaze of light from the room beyond stung his eyes.  He cursed.  Why couldn’t the damned man turn off the lights while he watched TV?   That was a kink in the plan the vampire hadn’t expected.  He steeled himself against the glare, narrowed his eyes, and slipped into the room.

“Evening, Ghoul,” the homeowner commented.  He glanced up at the vampire, showing no fear at being confronted by a piece of darkness in his own living room.

“You knew I was coming?”

The man tossed the piece of pizza he’d been holding back into the open box where the remainder sat oozing fat into the cardboard.  “I didn’t know but I’m not surprised.”  He jerked his head towards the other room.  “You owe me for a new screen.”

Niles Gule brandished his fangs.   He hissed his anger.

“Put those away,” the homeowner ordered.  He shot a cold, hard look at the vampire from his gray eyes.

“I came to kill you, Jonas.”

Jonas Williams, officer on the Baltimore police who worked every day beside Niles, calmly picked up a revolver that had been sitting on the coffee table next to the pizza.  He waved it at the vampire.

Niles sneered.  “I’m not afraid of guns.  It’ll hurt but I’ll still kill you.”

Williams glanced at the gun, then the vampire.  “No, it’ll stop you cold.  Silver bullets.”

Again Niles hissed.  He should have known.  Williams was a conniving, scheming man who planned for everything.  Including Baltimore’s resident vampire turning on him.

“You gave me that human blood,” Niles complained.  “Made me want more.”

Williams grunted.  “I didn’t force you to take it.”

“Spoken like a drug dealer.”  Niles fought to keep himself from lunging at Williams.  He wanted the man’s blood, but even more, he wanted to strangle the human who never ceased to torment him.

“You can just buy the stuff, you know,” Williams said.  Keeping the gun in one hand, he munched on his pizza with the other.  “Drug addicts sell it all the time.”

Niles knew that.  Many vampires survived in modern society by purchasing blood from those desperate for money.  He’d always refused.  Drugged blood made for a drugged vampire.  He hated the headaches heroin gave him.

“Is the craving really that bad?”  Williams tilted his head as he considered his guest.

Niles nodded.  “I knew I shouldn’t have taken even that one taste.”

“And yet you did.”

The vampire sighed with a pain that seemed entrenched in his soul.

Williams motioned to the sofa.  “Have a seat.  I’ve got some steak in the fridge you’re welcome to have.”

Niles started.  “Seriously?  You knew what that blood would do to me?”

Williams nodded.  Then he grinned.  “Brought you crawling after me intent for more, hopefully pre-warmed and fresh.  In case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy having you dance at my whim.”

“Why?”  The word grated from the vampire’s lips as he sank into a chair.

“Because you’re too damned perfect.  Perfect hair, perfect face, perfect teeth.  Never aging.  It’s not fair.  So, to even the score, I torment you.  I’m the stone in your otherwise perfect shoe, Ghoul.  Always will be.”

Niles glared at the human then rubbed his face tiredly.  Already the bloodlust was diminishing.  The noxious smell of pizza drove it away.

Williams shoved a can a beer towards him.  “Have a cold one.  Enjoy the game.”  He lounged comfortably on the sofa, a slice in one hand, the gun resting on his lap in the other.

Niles sipped the beer and turned his eyes to the television.  In silence the two individuals ignored each other as the night wore on and the Orioles won the game.  Niles never did visit the fridge.

As he rose to leave, he said, “Be careful jerking my chain, Jonas.”

Williams lifted a brow.  “Because?”

“Because I might not choose to let you go next time.”

“Next time?”

Niles’ blue eyes glittered.  “Never forget I’m a vampire.”

Williams chuckled.  “Oh no!  Never that.  And Ghoul?”  He waited for Niles to look back.  “Never forget I know what you are.”

Niles bared his fangs.  “Touché.”

Williams waved his gun.  “Touché.”



© 2017 Newmin