The first shot of pain hit him between the eyes followed by a general throb throughout his head. Niles Gule kept his eyes squeezed shut and willed the pillow to stop hurting him. His head rang like a hollow bell. Over and over, lancing pain from eye to eye then ear to ear. He’d never encountered such pain in his life. Even his teeth hurt.
And what was that blasted noise? A relentless surge ground into his brain like a surgeon’s drill driving the vampire insane.
He sensed motion in the room. That terrified him. Vampires slept alone. A person in the room meant danger, death. Against the pain, he forced his eyes to crack open. A strange room slumbering in twilight met his bleary gaze. A motel room and not the sort Niles would choose. A vampire, after all, had his standards. This room smelled of dust and mold. Cheap prints were screwed to the wall. Where a television had once hung, only an empty mounting bracket now remained. Niles winced, wondering what sort of creatures inhabited the beds in such a place. He also wondered what the hell he was doing there.
More motion sent his blue gaze darting across the room. A figure sat in a rickety chair, feet braced on the battered little desk, an iPad propped against the wall streaming a football game. Niles recognized that thick neck and dark hair in a severe military cut. Jonas Williams, his nemesis.
Niles sat up, intending to rend the human to pieces but the pain that stabbed him in the face blinded him and he groaned, alerting Williams.
The man twisted in his chair. “Oh, back from the dead are we?”
Niles glared at him. “Where am I?”
“Point Pleasant New Jersey.”
Niles collapsed against the pillow then moaned as his head rang from the blow. “How the hell did I get to New Jersey?”
“That’s a good question.”
Niles cracked an eye at Williams, wondering what deviltry the man had been up to this time. He and Williams, fellow officers on the Baltimore PD, had been trading pranks for the better part of year. Williams generally got the better of his vampire enemy. This situation smelled of Williams’ handiwork.
The last thing Niles remembered was being on duty working New Year’s Eve in downtown Baltimore. On vampire patrol. They liked to come out on holidays when humans were in the streets after dark. New Year’s was prime hunting season. While Niles had taken a vow to abstain from eating humans, his fellow vampires had not. He considered Baltimore his territory. He would defend its people at all costs.
“You apparently tied one on, Ghoul.” Williams’ hazel eyes studied the vampire without gloating or malice.
“I most certainly did not!”
Williams shrugged. “Suit yourself. I know you have a drinking problem.” When Niles bristled, he raised a hand. “I’m not saying I blame you. Must be hell living for an eternity alone. Hated by everyone you know, vampires and humans alike. I get it. Really I do.”
Niles glared, anger turning his blue eyes yellow. Yes, he had a drinking problem. No argument there. But he hadn’t been drinking on duty. He would have remembered. And never in his one-hundred-fifty-seven years had he ever suffered from a hangover regardless of how much he drank. This was not alcohol.
“What did you do to me this time?” he growled. He cast about for his clothes. Nothing.
Williams sighed. “I didn’t do anything, Ghoul. Seriously.”
“Then how did I get to a cheap motel on the Jersey shore?” Niles realized the droning sound was the constant crash of the sea on the beach. It never relented.
“Don’t know.” Williams turned off the football game, spun in his chair and looked at Niles earnestly. When he realized Niles’ glare wasn’t relenting he said, “You went missing on New Year’s Eve. It’s January third by the way. Never called in from your shift. Sergeant Lo got worried. Eventually he issued a missing persons report on you. Imagine my surprise when my cousin found you.”
Niles groaned. Not another ubiquitous Williams cousin! Niles swore there were already Williams cousins colonizing the moon.
“He works for the Point Pleasant sheriff’s department,” Williams continued. “Apparently you were arrested running buck naked along the boardwalk screaming about alien invasions and a vampire apocalypse. Took three officers to take you down. They assumed you were on PCP given how strong you were. They threw you in the drunk tank until you sobered up.”
Niles stared. He simply stared.
Williams’ expression remained bland, his voice without expression. “When I got the call I decided to spare you the embarrassment. I came myself to bail you out. Brought you here.” He gestured at the motel room. “You’ve been out cold ever since. I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up.”
Niles ran his hands through his short, blond hair. His headache was easing and his vision had cleared. He again searched for his clothes but the motel room was empty except for himself and Williams.
“Where are my clothes?”
“Another good question.” Williams tilted his head. “What happened, Gule?” He frowned as he considered the vampire staring back at him blankly. He sighed. “Let’s put our cards on the table shall we? I don’t much like you and I know you hate me. That said, this,” he gestured to the room and Niles’ scruffy appearance, “isn’t you. One of the reasons I can’t stand you is because you’re always so damned perfect. Perfect hair, perfect teeth, Italian clothes. No man should be allowed to look as good as you do especially given your age. You’re never mussed, fussed, disturbed or shaken. So… what the hell happened?”
Niles shook his head slowly. Motion still caused his temples to throb.
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Even thinking was painful. Niles closed his eyes. “I was at the Inner Harbor at the Calvert Street Pavilion. Crowd control for the fireworks display. The lights and sounds are irritating so I moved into the pavilion for the duration of the show.” Niles frowned as he tried to remember. “I was at the Fudgery. Watching the kids making the fudge. It smelled delightful.”
Niles opened his eyes. “The girl at the counter offered me this little chocolate thing. She called it a turtle.”
The stoic Williams’ face vaguely twitched. “Yeah, chocolate, caramel and pecans. Love those things. I didn’t think you ate anything except blood.”
“I don’t. Except, at Christmas, the Cruz kids introduced me to chocolate chip cookies.” Niles’ eyes brightened. “I like those!”
“So what happened after you ate the turtle?”
Niles tried to remember. “They were incredible. I bought a pound of them to munch on for the rest of the night. I honestly don’t remember anything after that.”
“Oh lord!” Williams shook his head as he fought not to laugh. “I guess that answers that.” He rose and loomed over Niles. “I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Niles demanded. He didn’t want to be left alone in that ratty motel room without clothes or means of escape.
“I’m going to get you some clothes!” Williams was shaking his head. “Figures, Gule. Only you.”
“Only me what?” Niles lifted his chin in affront.
Williams huffed. “You really don’t know, do you?” When Niles shook his head, Williams laughed. “Gule! You’re a chocoholic!”
© 2016 Newmin
Niles Comments: My experience overdosing on chocolate didn’t go so well, but that doesn’t mean it has to for you! Chocolate! Wondrous stuff! I fully intend to continue to enjoy it, just in moderation from now on. When you’re in the Inner Harbor area, check out the Fudgery and watch the folks hand making chocolate on a marble table in the middle of the Calvert Street Pavilion. Fun stuff!