Niles Gule folded his arms and tilted his head as he considered poor Marrensten’s problem. The elderly vampire hovered nearby, fretting, twisting his viciously clawed fingers together and clicking his fangs on his lower teeth. The staccato noise of this bad habit irritated the younger vampire.
“It was an accident,” Marrensten explained in the Home Tongue, a high-pitched, screeching language that pained human ears.
“English!” Niles hissed. Not that any humans were within hearing distance.
The two vampires stood in the lush backyard of some suburban home in west Baltimore. A nice place, Niles thought, as his eyes swept the darkness, having no problem even at midnight making out the swimming pool with spa and waterfall. The home’s former owner had been wealthy judging by his choice of outdoor décor. Solar powered lights followed the curving walkways while tiny LEDs in the trees had the look of fireflies. A thick, manicured lawn stretched into the darkness. Two acres, if Niles was any judge.
“He’s dead!” Niles snapped. “Drained bloodless.” He turned his brilliant blue eyes on Marrensten. “By you! Do you care to explain how that could be construed as an accident?”
The second vampire had the grace to study the grass.
“If it means anything to you, he was in the midst of a nasty divorce,” Marrensten offered in a hopeful tone. “Wife and kids left him. Rumor has it he was suicidal.”
“So that makes it okay?” Niles hated how his voice even in English was rising to a high pitch.
Marrensten heaved a huge sigh.
Niles wanted to catch the little vampire between his claws and strangle the life out of him. He was strong enough to do it. Old Marrensten was an original. One of the few remaining vampires who’d arrived on Earth in the Vanapir ship over one thousand years ago. He’d not thrived in his new environment however. He was small, thin, spindly. Tall, lithe Niles at only one-hundred-fifty-seven years old looked like a linebacker compared to the old man. Niles could crumple the ancient vampire into a ball and use him for basketball practice.
But he didn’t. Because vampires honored their elderly. Niles knew of only four originals still alive because humans had killed the rest. So silly old Marrensten had nothing to fear from the virile young vampire beside him. Not that Niles would let him know that.
He flexed his claws, causing Marrensten to gulp. “I agreed to let you to live in my territory under one very simple condition, Marrensten.”
“No consuming humans,” Marrensten said dutifully.
Niles gestured to the mess at his feet. “This is not part of the agreement. Nor was it an accident.”
Marrensten nodded. He blinked up at the taller vampire with his deep, brown eyes as if he could charm compassion out of his fellow. If Niles had been any other vampire, Marrensten would have found out just how little compassion any vampire felt. Fortunately for the old man, the one vampire lord he’d crossed was the only one with something akin to a heart.
Niles shook his head as he considered the problem. He didn’t want to turn Marrensten over to human justice because the only sentence for a vampire was death regardless of the crime. Nor would he kill the old man himself. He decided to scare Marrensten out of his wits so that he never broke his vow of abstinence again. He bared his teeth and allowed his eyes to turn red. He screeched a hunting cry in Vanapir that nearly flattened Marrensten into the grass. The poor old vampire quaked and held his hands out to ward off the attack. Niles flexed his claws and raised his hands in the typical attack posture. He lunged at Marrensten.
The little vampire was too terrified to run. He simply crumpled at Niles feet and mewed piteously, awaiting his fate. Niles raged over him, swearing in English, German and Vanapir, then kicked him a few times for good measure. When poor Marrensten was a quivering pile of jelly, Niles raked him across the face with his claws, raising a pair of white slashes, then banked down his anger. He took a few deep breaths and stepped back.
Smoothing his hair, Niles considered what remained of the homeowner. “Explain to me again how he got into this condition?”
Marrensten remained sitting in the grass at Niles’ feet, his face ghostly in the dark.
“I caught him on the lawn chair. He was stone cold drunk so it wasn’t hard.”
Niles could well imagine. Marrensten wasn’t strong enough to hunt down a human male in the prime of life. He had to catch one at a disadvantage.
“Then… after…” Marrensten gestured.
“You drank the poor soul bloodless,” Niles finished, flashing him an annoyed look.
“I thought I’d better dispose of the body. No evidence.”
“So you thought cremating him in his fire pit would be a good idea?”
Niles sighed. The fire pit was a disaster. It wasn’t large enough to hold a human nor would a fire be hot enough to completely consume a body.
“So what did you do?”
Marrensten’s gaze flicked away. “I… um… well… the bones were still there.” He flapped his hands to show his unhappiness. “I had to get rid of them.”
“And?” Niles was pondering the mess on the lawn.
“I thought the best way to get rid of the bones would be to grind them up.”
Niles fought to keep from groaning. “What did you use, Marrensten?”
“The guy’s lawn mower.”
Niles closed his eyes and shook his head. That explained the strange pall of ash and dust that was strewn across the beautiful lawn. Niles could still see bits of bone here and there, black where it had been charred, white where it had been chopped by the mower.
“I don’t suppose it was a riding mower?” Niles asked.
Marrensten shook his head.
“Jesus, God!” Niles swore. He swore some more when he saw the lights of police vehicles headed their way. “Neighbors must have called the cops, Marrensten. There’s a burn ban right now because of the drought, you idiot.”
“Really?” Marrensten blinked in surprise.
Niles pointed. “Beat it! Now!”
Marrensten jumped to his feet. “What about you?”
“I’ll handle the police.” Niles shoved his hands into his coat pockets and strolled towards the front driveway as if he hadn’t a care in the world. He heard Marrensten scramble for safety behind him.
Niles waited for his fellow police officers to arrive. To his annoyance, Williams and Cooksey had pulled the call. Williams, a giant man of Polish descent, swaggered as he came around his vehicle, his gray eyes surveying Niles suspiciously.
“What are you doing here?”
“I heard the call.” Niles gestured to the back yard. “I put out the fire.”
Williams strode around him. “Where’s the homeowner?”
“I believe he killed himself. Threw himself into the fire pit. Rumor has it he was suicidal.”
“Threw himself in a fire pit?” Williams’ voice betrayed his disbelief.
As the big man threaded through the elaborate gardens, Niles followed. When they reached the fire pit, Williams considered it, noting the bones that were clustered at the bottom. Scratching his head, he muttered something.
Niles continued to smile as Williams strode onto the grass.
“What’s all this ash?” he demanded, kicking it around with his toe.
“I believe it’s called lime,” Niles offered. “Put on grass to make it grow.”
Williams shot him another look. “Not that I believe this,” he said, “but I’m calling it in as a suicide. For the moment.”
Niles breathed a sigh of relief.
Williams pointed at the grass. “Why would some guy do this when he knew he was going to kill himself?”
“Does it work?”
Niles considered the ashes on the grass.
“Oh yes. I think the grass is going to be nice and thick this summer.”
© 2017 Newmin
Niles comments: I apologize for the delay. Apparently my biographer was asleep at the keyboard and failed to post my adventure in a timely fashion. He’s been reprimanded and is spending the day in a corner pondering his sins.