The foul smell nearly knocked Niles Gule to the floor. Reeling, the vampire shoved his nose into his sleeve as the confused Chinese fishmonger ripped open a package revealing coils of fresh sausage. He complained in rapid Cantonese to a younger man Niles assumed was his son and gestured at the sausage.
“I don’t know, pop.” The younger man shrugged. “I didn’t order it.” He considered the package’s address. “It’s for Chou’s restaurant, although why they’d order kubasa sausage is beyond me.” He sniffed. “Whoa! Garlic!”
Niles, being a vampire, had known the sausage was suffused with garlic before anyone opened the package. Were he not desperate for information, the smell would have driven him from the fish market. Instead, Niles stood his ground near a table laden with fish staring at him google-eyed. They didn’t smell much better than the sausage.
Old Zhou, the market’s owner, complained in Cantonese about youth, the Canadian postal service, or maybe the phase of the moon, then trundled away. Young Zhou tossed the sausage onto the ice table and considered Niles.
“So who are you looking for again?” he asked.
Niles sighed. He’d left Baltimore and crept illegally into Canada seeking a man who had no name. Who only emerged from the shadows to feed on the blood of innocents. A man who didn’t want to be found.
A meager trail of clues had led Niles to the vibrant corner of Dundas and Spadina streets in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown. The journey had not been without peril. Entering the country illegally made travel difficult, however the bigger problem had been his fellow vampires. Niles had invaded their territories, the boundaries of which were fluid and invisible. When he’d run afoul of a female in Montreal, he’d avoided entanglement but announced his presence in Canada. The local vampires couldn’t be happy their brother from Baltimore was on a jaunt north of the border. Niles was gaining a reputation as a territorial lord, a vampire to be feared, respected and where possible, challenged. His appearance outside his home turf created a firestorm.
The tall, blond vampire studied Zhou. “A man about my height. With pure white hair. Looks to be in his sixties. Distinguished. Might be using the name Gaston.”
Zhou gave him a hard look which told Niles he knew the man. Niles saw calculation in Zhou’s dark eyes then he glanced away and shoveled ice over his fish. “Could be anyone.”
Niles considered the shop. It was late. Closing time. “He’d come about now.” He allowed his blue eyes to harden. “You pay him protection money, Zhou.”
The lad jerked but kept working.
“He’s the capo of his own unique mafia,” Niles went on. “You pay to keep him from eating the people of Chinatown.”
Zhou was saved from answering when a group of four men entered the shop. Even through the overwhelming stench of kubasa, Niles’ sensitive nose scented vampires. They weren’t after Zhou who quailed behind his tables of fish. Their angry yellow eyes fixed on Niles.
“Welcoming committee?” he asked pleasantly. His fingers toyed with his silver knife.
“You’re off your playground,” growled the leader, a lithe, dark haired man.
“Just hunting up an old friend.”
Yellow eyes turned red as anger became rage and the vampire prepared to attack. “These hunting grounds belong to us.” He sniffed in Zhou’s direction and licked his lips.
Niles subtly shook his head, ordering the lad to freeze. If he ran, the vampires’ hunting instincts would overwhelm them and they’d leap. Zhou didn’t have a chance. Only Niles stood between him and death.
He spied gloves the fishmonger used to handle ice. Casually, Niles drew them on.
The lead vampire took that as Niles’ preparation for a fight and his eyes narrowed. He grinned and flexed his claws. “This should be fun,” he purred. “Eliminating the notorious traitor Gule.” He flicked his wrist and a silver switchknife appeared in his hand.
Niles grabbed a clamp used to hold labels to the fish and pinched it on his nose.
The four vampires charged, knives out, one aiming for Zhou while the other three tackled Niles.
“What do I do?” wailed Zhou brandishing a cleaver.
“Lose the cleaver,” Niles growled, earning himself a stunned look.
Setting his knife aside, Niles grabbed a sausage link. “Hit them with the kubasa!”
Zhou stood blinking, his mouth hanging open.
Niles stepped aside as the first vampire reached him. He swung his sausage link into the vampire’s face. The casing gave, spattering aromatic meat into the man’s eyes and mouth. The vampire screeched as the garlic burned him. Niles kept swinging his battered links, spewing bits of garlic sausage in a reddish shower. Zhou broke from his trance, saw Niles was winning and grabbed a link for himself. Using an overhand blow, he struck his attacker on the head, splashing sausage over the vampire’s shoulders. More howls filled the fish shop.
Niles’ first sausage disintegrated. He grabbed another and struck the third vampire in the chest and face. The stench of garlic was so strong it seeped through the clamp on his nose. Niles wheezed but kept swinging. The floor became slippery with sausage guts, like some horror movie. All the vampires were gasping, Niles included, but he was the more determined. He held his breath and pummeled his opponents. Slowly he and Zhou worked the group towards the door.
It opened to admit a well-dressed gentleman. He took out a handkerchief and pressed it to his nose but he didn’t flee.
Niles and Zhou grabbed the last of the sausage links and drove the vampires from the fish shop. The four ran howling into the night.
Niles collapsed beside the door, tearing the clamp off his nose so that he could breathe the frosty night air. Zhou flopped onto a stool nearby.
“You do like to make a mess, Niles,” the new arrival commented as he considered the devastation. A slurry of sausage covered everything, filling the shop with the aroma of garlic.
“You know each other?” Zhou demanded.
The elegant man barely smiled as he nodded his snow-white head. “Indeed Master Zhou. This is Niles Gule, vampire lord of Baltimore.” He considered Niles. “You’re a bit far afield.”
Niles fastidiously picked sausage from his clothing. “I was looking for you, Gaston.”
“So I heard. Loudly.” The vampire named Gaston lifted a mocking brow. “What brings you to Toronto?”
Gaston barked a soft laugh. “It was a few weeks ago.”
“Not in the US.” Niles raked his hair clean. “I thought I’d spend the holiday with my family. Happy Thanksgiving, dad!”
Gaston pursed his lips, fighting back his smile. “Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. You can stay for dinner.” He glanced at the mess of the Zhou fish shop. “Just don’t bring any sausage.”
© 2016 Newmin
Niles comments: Not that I’m a fan of the stuff, but I’m told Canadians really love their kubasa sausage. They even hold an annual festival for it. (I swear humans hold a festival for everything!) Check it out next time you happen by Saskatchawan.