The average vampire loved America’s shopping malls.  They were often open late, especially during holidays.  Usually filled with lots of good game to hunt in the form of children and young adults, plus the occasional senior citizen.  Parking lots tended to be dark.  A vampire could find decent hunting if he could cull the odd straggler from the herd.  Niles Gule, having abstained from consuming humans, generally avoided malls, unlike his brethren.  Inside they were brightly lit, which hurt his sensitive blue eyes.  The steady blast of music from so many different sources made him dizzy.  Being hit on by single women annoyed him.  So except to venture into a high-end men’s store to refresh his wardrobe, he didn’t visit them often.

Which was why he found his current assignment bewildering.  The Buzinski family was back in Baltimore to testify in a robbery trial.  They’d brought their daughter Julia with them from Philadelphia and left her in the care of the vampire, not knowing he wasn’t human.  The last time Niles had watched over the young lady, she’d painted his claws in a hundred jewel tone colors and spangled them with glitter.  He’d indulgently tolerated her then.  As he was indulgently tolerating her now.

Her dark eyes sparkled as she sipped a caramel frappe from a straw while around them the line at the Starbucks counter grew ever longer.  Niles fingered a cardboard cup of black coffee and pondered what to do to keep his companion occupied.

“I vote for Macy’s,” she said as she noisily finished off her drink and popped out of her chair.  “Clothes!”

A fond smile curved the vampire’s pale lips.  One thing he’d learned was that beauty and Julia went hand in hand.  She’d already cleaned out the cosmetics counter at Penney’s.  A bag resting at Niles’ feet proved that fact.

Nodding his agreement, he rose his towering six foot six inches and ushered her from the store.

Twenty minutes later, the girl was winding through the circular racks of clothes in Juniors, picking up item after item and tossing them at Niles to carry.

I’ve become a valet, he thought as the pile grew ever larger.  Sounds like a TV show.  The Vampire Valet.

After she’d skimmed something from every rack, Julia raced for the fitting rooms.  Niles followed more slowly, wondering how the girl’s human parents kept up with her.  Even with his vampiric strength, he found escorting Julia exhausting.  After relinquishing his burden so that Julia could try on her finds, he lowered himself onto a cushioned bench outside the fitting room, leaned against the wall and closed his eyes against the glare.

“Ghoul!”  A familiar voice jarred him from his pleasant reverie.  “What are you doing in the girl’s department?”

Niles cracked open an eye to find one of his most hated co-workers standing before him.  And in typical Williams fashion, the man was immediately belligerent.  Niles refused to allow the man to put him on the defensive, however.  He went right on the attack himself.  “Evening, Jonas.  What are you doing in the girl’s department?  Looking for your next date?”

The giant police officer gestured at his uniform.  “I’m working.”

Niles waved at the fitting rooms.  “I doubt you’ll find hookers in there.  A couple of the older teens are probably the right age to date you.  Fifteen pushing fifty.”

“I don’t date teenagers!”  Jonas planted his fists on his hips.

“Coulda fooled me.”

“That’s easy to do, Ghoul.”

Niles gestured go away.

Williams surveyed the store.  “We received a report of suspicious activity in the mall.  Someone claimed to see an assault rifle.”

“Terrorists?” Niles asked, sitting up,

“Maybe.  Or some nut with a gun.  You know how it is these days.”

Niles did indeed.  Who could not?  If they read the news.

“Seen anything?”

“Not so far.”  Williams heaved a giant sigh.  “Probably a false alarm or a nervous Nellie snooping into stuff that’s none of her business.”

The vampire held his tongue rather than take Williams to task about the value of tips provided by ordinary citizens.  Perhaps if more spoke up, violent episodes of guns in malls could become a thing of the past.  Williams grunted something inaudible then proceeded on his sweep through the mall, leaving Niles to wait.

Niles pondered Williams’ concern and reviewed his adventures with Julia.  The cosmetics counter, Starbucks and now Macy’s.  He didn’t recall seeing anything out of the ordinary but then he hadn’t been looking either.  He wondered if remaining at the mall was a good idea.  Then, remembering her over-protective parents, he decided the better part of valor was to leave as soon as Julia had finished in the dressing room.

He murmured appropriately each time she modeled an outfit, having no idea what was considered fashionable among the young.  When he’d been a teenager, boys wore knickers and girls bonnets.  All the while, he tapped his toe, watched for trouble in the store and grew impatient to leave.

Finally Julia made her purchase, a pink sundress with silver glitter.

Niles grasped her hand and didn’t let go when she tried to pull free.

“Humor me,” he said.

They started the long walk towards the east entrance.  Although Julia wanted to visit a handful of additional stores, Niles protested his feet were tired and that her parents were probably waiting for her.  He kept her walking quickly towards the exit.

The sound of shots popping froze Niles in front of a sporting goods store.  Knowing that sound, he picked Julia up by the waist and slipped into the store’s front display area.  He ducked behind a cage holding basketballs and motioned for Julia to stay low and silent.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“Trouble.”

Niles heard shouting then footsteps coming towards them.  Someone ran into the store and stopped on the far side of the display where Niles and Julia were hiding.  Peering between basketballs, Niles saw a crazed individual in a greasy mechanic’s uniform wielding an automatic rifle.  The vampire’s eyes widened.  Even a vampire didn’t survive being shot by one of those.  He gestured at Julia to remain quiet and still.

To his dismay he saw her little hand worming in the plastic bag, causing it to crinkle.  The man with the assault rifle heard the noise, twitched and started towards the display.  Just as he swung around the end of it, Julia found what she was looking for.  With a shriek, she threw her left hand up while her right hand pulled the lid from the container she gripped.  A cloud of face powder blasted the man in the eyes.  He coughed and swore.  Niles leaped up, grabbed a baseball bat from the display and with a swing that would have made the Great Casey proud, nailed the man in the face.  He went down with an oof.

“We got him, Mr. Gule!”  Julia was on her feet and dancing around, proudly displaying her empty container of face powder.

“We sure did,” Niles replied with a smile.

The thunder of feet announced the arrival of Williams and five other officers of the Baltimore police with weapons drawn.  Niles grinned at them, still holding his bat on his shoulder.  He slipped his free hand around Julia’s back.

“Stand down.  We got him.”

Williams’ face was worth the scare.  He stared open mouthed at the tiny Asian girl and towering blond vampire, then the man with the assault rifle out cold on the floor.

“You sure did,” he said in a breathless voice, holstering his gun.  As he bent down to cuff the suspect, he muttered, “Maybe I need to rethink dating teenaged girls.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  The world needs to congratulate my dear friend Julia.  She’s graduating!  Way to go, honey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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