Niles Gule, police consultant and resident vampire of Baltimore, tilted his head at the odd request from Miss Julia Buzinski.
The young lady gazed at him with a voracious twinkle in her eye.
“Okay,” he agreed although he wasn’t certain what he was agreeing to. He’d been assigned to care for the girl while her parents reviewed a lineup of suspects related to a robbery they’d witnessed. He thought that meant he and Julia would sit around and chat. The girl had other ideas.
Julia beamed. “Hands flat on the table.”
Lifting his brows at her imperious voice, Niles did as the eleven-year-old girl demanded. He spayed his delicately fingered hands on the conference room table.
As was typical of all vampires, his fingers ended with long white claws rather than nails. Many vampires sharpened them into weaponry strong enough to slash clothing and rend skin. Once upon a time, Niles had done the same and used his claws for self-defense and hunting. Even after he swore off consuming humans and stopped sharpening his claws they remained formidable.
The fearsome spikes didn’t frighten Julia. She gleefully squealed and placed her kit on the conference room table.
“You have to stay very still or you’ll ruin it,” she said, giving him a hard look with her dark, satiny eyes.
Niles nodded solemnly.
The vampire still didn’t understand children or know how to treat them. So he just treated them like miniature adults. They seemed to like it and were attracted to him. Niles always found himself caring for human children, a situation he found bewildering but humorous. Julia was no different. She apparently liked him.
The Buzinski family had journeyed from their home in Philadelphia to Baltimore first for business then a little tourism. Unfortunately, they’d witnessed a mugging on Pratt Street which entailed their return to the Crab Cake Capital of the World to view suspects in a lineup. Mom and Dad didn’t want their daughter exposed to that nastiness, so Julia was left under the vampire’s watchful eye, never knowing they had a vampire for a babysitter. Not that Niles was dangerous. He hadn’t eaten children in years.
Niles had expected to idly relax while Julia played games on her cellphone. A simple if boring duty. He could catch up on email. Snack on some beef jerky. Maybe take a nap. That idea ended as soon as the young lady laid eyes on his hands. Her beautiful dark eyes almost exploded with excitement. The kit was out and she was off.
The stench that rose from her supplies almost knocked the vampire to the floor. His sense of smell was ten times as acute as a human’s so the vapors from the chemicals burned his eyes. He gritted his teeth, forced a smile and tolerated the abuse as Julia worked her magic on him.
Through the glass window, Niles saw Sergeant Tan Lo and Officer Jonas Williams return with Melanie and Ken Buzinski in tow. They conferred for several minutes and Lo’s face sagged. He gestured towards the conference room.
When the trio arrived, Niles asked, “Didn’t go well?”
Lo shook his head. “They didn’t get a good look at the guy.”
“He was dressed as a woman,” Ken complained. He waved his hands in the air. “Big hat, feather boa, high heels. The whole nine yards. I honestly thought he was a woman but Mel insisted he was a guy.”
“He was a guy, Ken,” his wife insisted.
“Well he was a really good looking woman!” Ken laughed.
Lo sighed. “Maybe we should redo the lineup with everyone dressed in drag.”
Officer Williams, who lounged nearby, gestured at Niles. “Why don’t we put him in the lineup?” He looked Niles up and down. “You’d look great in a feather boa, Ghoul.”
Niles, tall, thin and elegant, had tolerated the aspersions to his manhood for a year. He bared his teeth at Williams, promising revenge to come. Just not in front of a family with a young daughter.
“Why can’t I view the lineup?” Julia asked. “I saw him too.”
Although her parents started to protest, Niles turned to the girl and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Did you get a good look at him?”
Julia nodded. “Uh huh!”
Ken and Mel tried to stop him, but Niles decided Julia was up to the task. He gestured to Lo who shrugged and agreed to let Julia have a go at the lineup. The entire group headed through the precinct to the room where the lineups took place. Niles stood directly behind Julia with his hands resting lightly on her shoulders as she faced the glass.
“I’m sure you know what to do,” he said.
She nodded solemnly. “Pick out the bad guy.”
Niles chuckled. “Exactly.”
The suspect and a group of volunteers lined up in the room beyond. Since none was dressed in drag, Niles knew discerning which one had been in finery several weeks ago would indeed be difficult. Not to Julia, however. She immediately poked the glass.
“That’s him. Number three.”
Lo started. “Are you sure?”
Julia nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Honey,” Ken said, “How can you be so certain? He doesn’t look anything like the man we saw.”
Julia nodded vigorously. “Yes he does! Look at his hands!”
Lo ordered number three to raise his hands and present first the front and then the back of them to the watchers. Niles blinked. There they were. Ten beautifully manicured and painted fingernails, each one a work of art.
“Those are the nails I saw!” Julia insisted. “Really nice work, too!”
Lo glanced at the district attorney who’d remained silent at the back of the room. “Can we ID someone on fingernail polish?”
“If the witness was an expert in it, maybe,” the woman stated. “But fingernail polish can be changed. Or two people can have the same design.”
“No way!” Julia insisted. “Those are special. You need just the right kit to get those patterns. And all the colors. I recognize the blue and red checkerboard with the yellow flower. He’s the guy.”
Lo considered the girl who nodded fiercely to convince him. “Can we call her an expert?” he asked.
The DA shrugged. “I’m not sure that would fly.”
To his chagrin Niles had to lift a hand. “I think we can call her an expert.”
When everyone stared at him, the embarrassed vampire brandished his fingers. There for all the world to see were a flurry of multicolored patterns, including harlequins, checkerboards, flowers and celestial signs. Each one a work of art.
Williams couldn’t help but hoot. “Are you sure you weren’t the mugger?” he jibed.
Julia glared daggers at the big police officer. “I did his hands! That’s my work!”
The DA considered the girl. Considered Niles’ elaborate nails. Shrugged.
“Yep,” she said, “the girl’s an expert.”
© 2017 Newmin
Niles Comments: Today is a very special day. It’s Miss Julia’s birthday!
Happy birthday, sweetheart! May you have almost as many birthdays to come as a vampire.