Niles Gule winced once for the flash of lightning that stabbed his delicate eyes and a second time for the boom of thunder that followed. Being a vampire was often uncomfortable. The world’s weather could assault him in a way no human would understand. That night as he stood under an awning and God let loose over the state of Maryland, Niles wished for the thousandth time he wasn’t a vampire.
The Clifton Park golf course appeared in lurid shades of green each time the sky crackled with lightning. Rain sheeted down, swamping the carefully tended links and running off in torrents. A river spewed into the tent in which Niles stood and puddled around his feet. His eyes squinted against nature’s light show while the moist breeze tried to muss his neatly groomed blond hair.
Niles was annoyed. This particular crime scene didn’t need his talents. His team from the Baltimore PD was dealing with the aftermath of a wedding gone wrong. A couple had rented the golf course for their wedding, perhaps hoping the views of all that green might bring a lifetime of happiness. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The groom’s mistress crashed the wedding, the bride punched her and a first rate bar brawl then ensued when relatives from each side dove in to defend their various interests. When the remains of the wedding cake cleared, seven people had been injured. Two people had broken noses, and one a broken finger. An old lady had landed in the punchbowl and nearly drowned before someone pulled her out. A gentleman, Niles used that description lightly, had been stabbed with the cake knife while his opponent was having a groom-ectomy. The little statue of the groom was being tenderly removed from a place in his body where it didn’t belong, having been shoved there by an irate relative from the opposing side.
All in all a damned fine show, Niles thought as he gazed at the remains of a wedding that would go down in the history books.
Shaking his head, Officer Williams settled with a sigh beside his vampire teammate. “Some people should not be allowed to breed,” he muttered.
Niles lifted a brow but didn’t reply. At the rate he was going, Niles doubted he’d ever have the chance.
He frowned when someone tugged on his trouser leg. He looked down to find two children around the age of eight standing beside him. He didn’t recognize them.
“Mister, can you help us?” the girl begged.
Niles never dealt with children so he didn’t know what to say. He blinked. “I can try.”
The boy pointed across the fairway at a huge oak tree near the pin. When lightning flashed, it appeared as a looming shadow at the end of the green.
“Our cat is trapped in the tree.”
Niles continued to blink.
“He’s going to get hurt!” the little girl mewed. “He’ll get struck by lightning!”
Niles glanced at Williams who shrugged.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Niles answered. “He’ll come down when the storm is over.”
“But lightning strikes trees!” the girl complained. “Our teacher told us so! Charming will be killed. Please, please! Can you get him down? You’re tall.”
Niles frowned. “Are you guests of the wedding?”
The boy shook his head. “No. We live over there.” He pointed to the border of the golf course. “We were chasing Charming when he ran up the tree.”
The girl tugged again. “Please! You have to save him!”
Niles again looked at Williams. The man raised his hands to ward off the suggestion.
“I ain’t going out in that. I could get struck by lightning!”
Niles scowled. “Do you think I’m immune?”
Williams shrugged. “Dunno.”
Niles sighed. He considered the two expectant, worried faces staring at him. Considered the distance to the tree. Sighed again.
“All right, fine.” He handed his suit jacket to Williams who grinned at him.
Knowing there was no point in running because he was going to get soaked whether he walked or ran, Niles set off across the fairway. Lightning crashed and he flinched, expecting it to fry his innards at any moment. Didn’t people get struck on golf courses? Weren’t the places epicenters of electrical malevolence? Yet he walked on, the rain streaming into his eyes and his shoes. His feet sloshed.
He reached the tree. Sure enough, there amongst the branches clung a wet, shivering tiger cat. It meowed mournfully.
Because Niles couldn’t reach it from the ground, he had to climb. Then he stood on a branch and reached for the cat. Thankfully, it didn’t run. He grasped it firmly, tucked the wet ball of fur under his arm and with only one hand carefully made his way to the ground. Then he trudged back across the fairway.
One particularly vivid bolt of lightning had Niles ducking. He crouched on the balls of his feet as the bolt struck the very tree where only moments before he’d been climbing. He heard the sizzle and smelt the burning wood.
Jesus, that was close.
He sprinted for the tent.
Skittering to a stop on the flooded dance floor, Niles proffered the soaking cat with a grin of triumph. The creature mewed like a poorly played bagpipe.
The little girl raced forward. Then she stopped with her mouth hanging open.
“That’s not Charming!”
Niles offered the cat to the boy.
He shook his head. “Nope, not Charming. Sorry about that.” He looked at his sister. “Maybe he went home after all.”
To Niles’ dismay, the two children took off, continuing their search for the missing Charming in greener pastures.
Williams studied the soaking wet vampire holding the complaining cat and burst out laughing.
Niles glared. “Not funny, Williams.”
“Oh yes it is!” He considered the cat. “What are you going to do with it?”
Niles lifted the cat to look it in the eye. It wore no collar or identification. It seemed thin, its fur bedraggled. He suspected as he cradled it in his arms and it settled against him with a purr that it might be a stray. He certainly wasn’t going to just let it loose in a storm.
He felt something stir in a heart he kept under tight lock and key. Something within wriggled and moved. Filled him with warmth. He’d been alone for one-hundred and fifty-seven years. Maybe it was time he wasn’t alone anymore.
Smiling at Williams, he held the cat tight.
“I guess I’m going for cat litter.”
© 2016 Newmin