“Am I imagining things, or did a group of vampires just walk by?”  Niles Gule leaned towards the window, looking down at the world below.

His partner, Mariella Cruz, waved a disinterested French fry.  “Do you mean the bunch down there in the black cloaks and bad wigs, or the three sexy ones in fishnets and pancake makeup who just sat down behind you?”

Niles twisted around, unable to keep himself from trying to see what she poked her ketchup covered fry at.  Sure enough, at the table directly behind him, he saw a group of curvaceous ladies in spandex and fishnets, their faces painted white, plastic fangs in their mouths.  One of them caught the tall, elegant vampire staring at them with wide blue eyes.  She smiled.

“Hey, good looking,” she said with a wink.

Niles blinked to clear his vision of the false vampire vamps and turned back to Cruz who grinned.  She watched him expectantly and said nothing.

Niles crooked a brow at her.  “Ok, I give up.  Why are people wandering around the Inner Harbor dressed like vampires?”  Niles corrected himself.  “Tacky, awful, facsimiles of vampires?”  He gestured at the group outside who were walking towards the Pratt Street Pavilion.  “We don’t look like that.”

Cruz’s grin deepened.  She chomped her fry, licked her fingers clean then started twirling a curl of her black hair idly.  Niles could see she was enjoying his outrage.

Niles gestured at the public stage that spread out below them in the dying light of a summer’s evening.  “It’s not Halloween.  Why is everyone wandering around pretending to be the most God awful stereotype of my species?”

“Because Balticon is in town.”   Another fry disappeared between Cruz’s luscious red lips.  She left him dangle for one more long moment before she relented.  “It’s a science fiction convention, Gule.  People dress up like their favorite characters.”  She waved across the restaurant.  “See?  Over there?  Captain Cantankerous.”

Niles let his gaze wander around the Irish pub themed restaurant, seeing the various odd costumes he hadn’t noticed before.  “What’s the snow queen in the white fur with the Texas longhorns on her head?”

Cruz shrugged.  “Dunno.  Freya, Goddess of the Ice Horde, I think.  I don’t read that stuff.”

Irritated, Niles jabbed his incredibly rare steak with the point of his knife.  “Vampires do not wear black capes and fishnet stockings.”

His partner made a circle in the air with her pickle.  “I’ll bet you’d look cute in fishnet stockings.”

Niles growled and bared his filed down fangs at her.  She laughed.

“Seriously, Gule?  You’ve never heard of these conventions before?  They’re a big deal.  I think William Shatner was in town for this one.”

“The guy who can’t act?” Niles asked.

Cruz slapped his hand gently.  “Now!  Now!  Don’t say that too loud or someone will go Klingon on you.”

With a snort of disgust, Niles dropped his knife with a clatter and turned his attention to the world below.  In the public amphitheater a clown was performing tricks for tips from the crowd.  Vendors hawked goods from carts around the edges.  The sun set molten behind the spikey skyline, ushering in the blessed dark.  The vampire sighed with contentment.

He and Cruz had met for dinner before starting work as detectives for the Baltimore Police, night shift.  They knew they had a long night ahead of them dealing with Lenny the Brute’s ongoing car theft situation and they’d decided they needed to be fortified to deal with it.  Since Niles, being a vampire, only ate meat, and basically raw meat at that, Baltimore possessed only a handful of restaurants offering something he could stomach.  Tir Na Nog happened to be one of those restaurants.

“Did you just see that?” Cruz half rose out of her chair to peer down below them.

Niles followed her gesture and saw a boy he guessed was about ten years old slipping his hand into the back of the vending wagon directly below where they sat.  From the second floor restaurant with its huge windows, Niles and Cruz had a panoramic view of the activity on the plaza.  He watched, stunned by the brazen boy, as the young man lifted box after box of toys out of the back of the wagon and shoved them in his backpack.  Niles glanced to the front of the wagon where the owner was selling her wares to a paying customer.  Moments later a girl joined what Niles supposed was her brother, stealing additional toys.

Niles leaped to his feet.  “You’ll have to get the bill.  I’m getting those kids.”

Cruz didn’t have time to respond.  Niles dashed out of the restaurant, down the spiral of outside stairs and shoved his way through the crowd of tourists.  By then the cart owner, a young woman with long blond hair, had discovered she was being robbed by two youngsters.  She grabbed the girl by the arm but the boy darted away.  He vanished into the crowd of onlookers videotaping the event on their cell phones.  To Niles’ surprise, the little girl, who he judged to be around 12, slugged the blond in the face and escaped.

The vampire gritted his teeth.  He shouted to the blond that he was police and would catch the thief as he ran past her.  She was already on her phone calling for help but nodded that she’d heard him.  Niles twisted and dodged through the crowd, the child having the upper hand since she could avoid pedestrians better than he could.  He was taller, however, with longer legs.  When he hit an open patch, Niles poured on the speed and rounded on the girl, stopping her in her tracks when he landed in front of her.

“Damn, you run fast for an old guy!” she panted as she hung bent over and caught her breath.

Niles wanted say something about being over a century old and still able to outrun the little brat but he bit his tongue.  He snatched the backpack with its stolen merchandise then took her arm and led her back to the toy wagon where two of the bicycle patrol had arrived.  Along with Cruz and numerous tourists, Niles gave his account of the theft and reported that the girl’s younger brother was also involved.  He told his story while eyeing the girl with disgust.  Did they really have to start so young?  What was wrong with people these days?

“Well that was an exciting start to the shift,” Cruz commented once they’d finished and were walking towards her car.

Niles nodded absently.  When she made two more random comments but he didn’t respond, she stopped and gazed pointedly at him.

“Is that also part of Balticon?” he asked, his eyes on the crowd.

Cruz looked around but only ordinary people in average tourist garb wandered about.  “What?”

Niles pointed.

Cruz considered the four people who were eating ice cream and pondering the harbor.  Her brows went up.  Then she burst out laughing.

The four tourists wore black t shirts with vampire teeth on them.  Beneath the teeth the shirts read Thanks for lunch, love Niles.

She couldn’t stop herself from laughing.

“It’s not just a sci fi convention,” he muttered as he followed her to Lombard Street.  “It’s the freaking Twilight Zone.”


© 2017 Newmin


Niles comments:  Lest you think I make up these stories, let me assure you that they are true.  The above crime took place in the Inner Harbor on Saturday 5/27 when Balticon was in full swing at the Renaissance.  The blotter note is below.  I also didn’t make up that people were wandering around in black vampire t shirts.  Seriously… how could anyone make this stuff up?


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