“I am going to kill someone!” Mariella Cruz’s knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel.
Not before I do, Niles Gule thought as he leaned away from her in the passenger seat, trying to put some distance between them.
The pair of Baltimore City police detectives was stuck in a traffic jam on 95 south of the city. While most of the population of Baltimore-Washington was rising for their day, the two detectives were trying to get home at the end of night shift. They’d become mired in the jam of the century. According to news radio, a chicken truck had overturned ahead of them, spewing hundreds of chickens who raced around like… well… chickens loose on a highway. 95 was a parking lot from Ridgley’s Cove to 695. Cruz and Gule had gotten stuck on the bridges. The Patapsco River shimmered below them in the dim light of a new day.
“I knew I should have gotten off at 295,” Cruz grumbled as a pair of chickens raced past going much faster than they were. She sat up, chin high, and tried to look over the traffic that surrounded them as if she’d find a way through the disaster if she looked hard enough.
“You might as well relax,” Niles said with a sigh. “We’re stuck until they catch all those chickens.”
She glared at him, her dark Latina eyes flashing fire. “This isn’t funny, Gule. I’m off for a week starting tomorrow. I’m not spending my vacation stuck on a highway bridge!”
Niles raised his brow but said nothing. Cruz was a maniac at the wheel on the best of days. Stuck in traffic she became a raving lunatic. She couldn’t even sit still in the car. She kept twitching in her seat as her nerves drove her to move.
Niles, meanwhile, felt like a tuna in a can. Fifi, Cruz’s little powder blue Fiat, was not designed for a six-and-a-half foot tall vampire. He was tired of his knees pressing into his chest. Worse, the sun was rising. Niles gritted his teeth, knowing he was going to fry. Vampires and sunlight did not mix.
Cruz opened her door to peer out then closed it again.
Finally, Niles had had enough. He grabbed her arm with his long, white taloned fingers and gave her a shake. “Stop it, Cruz! Before you drive me to kill someone. You!”
His sharp tone froze her. Her dark eyes stared at him, shock making her speechless. He never spoke harshly to her. He couldn’t. Not to the woman he was hopelessly falling in love with. But today, her nervousness, the impending sunrise, and the chickens had driven him over the edge.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” she mewed.
Niles cursed and turned his face into the window, uncaring that the sun was now burning it. He hated that even his own partner questioned his determination to remain on a human-free diet. The thought made his heart hurt. He closed his eyes as sunlight made his skin itch.
“Gule?” She rattled his shoulder. “Gule? You’re smoking!”
Niles turned back to her. “It’s sunrise, Cruz. I’m a vampire.”
“Oh, God!” Cruz looked around even more frantically. “We’ve got to get off this bridge!”
“Good luck with that!” As he gestured at the sea of vehicles, he realized his hand was burning.
Cruz wasn’t the sort to sit around as her partner was vaporized. She threw Fifi into gear and hit the gas. Niles yelped and grabbed the door handle as she jammed her little car between the delivery truck ahead of them and the motorcycle beside them. Ignoring the cyclist’s yell, she forced her way onto the small bit of concrete between the bridge railing and the travel lane. Niles found himself staring down at the swirling waters of the Patapsco directly below him. He felt sure they would fall.
“Jesus, Cruz!” he complained, now leaning towards her as if his weight could keep them from slipping to their doom. “What are you doing?”
“Getting my vampire out of here.” She said this through gritted teeth. She was leaning forward into the wheel, her eyes steely as she plotted a course off that bridge.
Niles, too, was gritting his teeth, but for totally different reasons. She’s gonna take us both over the side, he thought, looking down. “I’m a vampire, Cruz. It takes a lot to kill me, but trust me on this one. If you dump us into the bay, I really will drown. I swear I will.”
She snorted. “I’m not dumping you into the bay.”
As if to prove her point, someone on foot ahead of them threw himself in front of her car. She slammed on the brakes, pitching Niles into the dash, even though they were only going five miles an hour. Cursing, she poked her head out the window and yelled at the guy who’d interrupted her high speed dart to freedom.
“Get out of the way!”
The man brandished a gun at her. “Give me your purse, wallet and any jewelry. Come on! Let’s go!”
“You’re robbing us?” Cruz’s voice squeaked in surprise.
The man nodded, his gun bobbing with his head. “Yeah. Traffic jams are great places to rob people. You can’t go nowhere. And no cops. Now shut up and cough up!”
While Cruz sputtered, Niles pulled his wallet from his back pocket.
“You aren’t going to let him rob us, are you?” she demanded.
Niles shot her a look from his brilliant blue eyes before turning them towards their tormentor. He flashed his badge. “We are police, you idiot.”
A snide smile curved the man’s thin lips. “Sure ya are. And I’m the tooth fairy. If you don’t cough up, I’m shooting you.”
Niles fought to roll his eyes. “Ok, fine. We’ll do this the hard way.”
Because he didn’t own a gun, Niles only traveled with his silver vampire hunting knife. He was incredibly quick with it. In the flash of an eye, he drew it and flicked it at the robber. It hit the man in the wrist that held the gun. The man yelped, the gun flew up in the air, and fired, killing a chicken that was frantically running through the traffic. Cruz leaped from the car, grabbed the man and plastered him up against Fifi’s hood while Niles raced around from the other side. He slapped cuffs on and just for his own satisfaction, wapped the man’s face into Fifi’s hood once for fun.
“Get in the damned car!” Cruz insisted as the risen sun singed Niles’ face. “You’re going to vaporize.”
Niles wanted to tell her that vaporizing vampires was a myth. He would merely suffer horrendous radiation burns until he finally died. But she was busy forcing the robber into the back seat. He retrieved the chicken that had landed on the hood, climbed in and turned his face from the death pouring down from the skies.
When Cruz had gotten her criminal belted in, she climbed into the driver’s seat and started inching forward again, this time holding her badge out the window to keep anyone from complaining about her illegal tactic.
“Police!” She shouted. “It’s an emergency! Coming through!”
Niles would have laughed if his burning face didn’t hurt so badly. He sat with the chicken on his lap and watched as his mad partner broke every traffic rule in existence to get them off the bridge. Meanwhile, a dead chicken oozed warm, red blood onto his hands.
“Why did you grab the chicken?” Cruz demanded.
Niles shrugged. “I don’t know. Dinner?”
He lifted his bloody hand to his mouth and savored licking it clean. The man in the back seat choked.
Niles half turned as he finished cleaning his hand. Then he opened his mouth in a wide, vampiric grin to brandish his fangs.
“What some?” he asked his passenger. “Tastes like chicken.”
The man fainted.
© 2017 Newmin