Gule Faces His Worst Fear

Okay, Gule, you can do this.

The vampire drew a breath and willed himself to keep walking.  When his feet slowed, he uncharacteristically stumbled.  He cursed.

It’s for a great cause.

Determined to complete the mission he’d set for himself, Niles Gule marched on towards an unassuming residential building in a mundane, carefully manicured suburb of Baltimore.  Cars whisked by along Wilkens Avenue, their headlights stabbing the vampire’s delicate vision and forcing him to keep his gaze on the sidewalk.  All was quiet and serene.  The neighborhood was a safe one lined with single and twin homes on one side of the street and a medical complex on the other.  No reason for a vampire to be afraid.  And yet Niles was terrified.  Completely and utterly terrified.  Still, he kept walking.

A few more steps took him up the walkway that led to a shop inside an unassuming gray and white house.  He shuddered as he passed the neat sign proclaiming Rheb’s Candy Company, in business since 1917.  It was, he thought wryly, almost as old as he was.

Pulling the door open, Niles stepped inside then froze, petrified. The rich, luscious, evil smell of warm chocolate bathed his quivering nose.  He immediately began to salivate as he inhaled that incredible aroma.  To a vampire it was more intoxicating than the smell of blood.  Impossible.  And yet, once Niles had tasted that confection of perfection, he was hooked.  A chocolate junkie.  He craved it like he craved blood.  Like an addict craved drugs.

He walked straight into it’s den.

Rheb’s Candy Company made specialty chocolates in a vast assortment.  Truffles.  Creams.  With nuts and without.  Dark chocolate, milk chocolate or mixed.  Made on the premises in the same house where the founders Louis and Esther Rheb first started creating their own recipes in the basement.  A long, red counter displayed a bewildering number of candies, nearly all in chocolate.  Pretty boxes, ribbons and stuffed toys decorated the walls, offering buyers the chance to add some bling to their gift purchases.

Niles drew his breath and demanded his quaking bones obey his will.  He marched to the counter.

The lady gave him a smile that faded when she saw his stark white face and brilliant blue eyes glittering too brightly.

“May I help you?” she asked.  She sounded worried.

Wordlessly, Niles nodded.  His hands were clenched in his pockets, his talons digging deep into his palms.  He planted his fangs into his tongue to keep from salivating all over the store.

The woman gestured towards the chocolates.  “Is there something in particular you’d like?”

Again, Niles nodded.

The lady waited, looking more concerned.

Niles knew he couldn’t stand there frozen all night.  He gulped, sucked in a great gasp of air and blurted.  “I’d like to build a tower of chocolates.  Four boxes.  And I want to pick each piece that goes in them.”  He pointed a shaking finger at a set of bright red, satin boxes.  “Those please.”

The woman continued to eye her tall blond customer strangely, but she selected a set of matching boxes and set them on the counter to fill them.  “What would you like to go in them?”

Niles proceeded to torment himself by selecting one individual piece at a time which he requested through clenched teeth.  A number of truffles, some caramels, and orange creams in the lowest box.  Cherry cordials, chocolate covered marshmellows and pretzels in the second.  An assortment of nut clusters for the third tier.  And chocolate hearts for the top.

While Niles stood like a frozen statue, the saleswoman weighed his order, stacked the boxes and tied them in a pyramid using red chiffon ribbon.

“Would you like a heart card to go with it?” she asked.

Once again, Niles nodded, unable to speak.

After the lady added the card and tallied his purchase, Niles threw more money at her than the chocolates cost, snatched the bag and fled the store.

He tumbled out onto the sidewalk, gasping for air as if he’d run a marathon.  Gathering himself together, he straightened, smoothed his hair and suit coat and glanced around, hoping no one was out walking that chilly February evening to see him acting like an idiot.  Then, holding the bag of chocolates as far as his long arm could extend, he headed for the bus stop.

On the bus, he shoved the luscious smelling bag under the seat in front of him and planted his feet against it to keep himself from lunging for those boxes himself.  Then he spent the ride back to center city counting anything he could think to count.  Most humans weren’t aware that vampires suffered from arithromania, or the obsessive need to count objects.  But the legend is true.  Count von Count of Sesame Street  was the first vampire to actually come forward and admit his disability.   Niles was fortunate that he was a dyslexic arithromaniac so he had developed numerous coping skills to avoid obsessive counting.   That night, however, to keep his mind off his purchase, he gave in to the compulsion to count.  The task kept him sane until he arrived at the precinct.

Striding to his desk, Niles noted the assortment of Valentine’s Day observances scattered around the room.  Jackson’s wife had given her husband a huge coffee mug painted with red hearts which the officer dutifully used to sip coffee for one night only.  The switchboard operator was cooing over a bouquet of flowers from her boyfriend.  And Officer Cooksey, cullinary sprite for the department, flitted around the room dropping off homemade heart-shaped confections of lemon and sugar to every single person on shift that night.  Including Niles.

As he settled into his seat, Niles made note of his partner, Mariella Cruz, fussing with her own Valentine’s gift, an enormous heart-shaped box of candy and a huge crystal vase of three dozen perfect red roses.  She inhaled deeply a scent that Niles considered cloying.

He gestured with a talon.  “Malcolm Deschamps came through, I see.”

Cruz shot him a smug smile.  Her hands fluttered around the roses.  “Indeed he did!  Not like any of you Neanderthals thought to do something nice for the ladies of the department.”  She gave Officer Williams a scathing glance.

Williams grunted, unperturbed.  “I’ve done my stint with women.  I’m on the wagon.”

Cooksey piped up, affronted.  “Hey!  I gave you a lemon tart!”

“Yes, you did.”  Cruz corrected her error by pecking the strange, chubby man on the cheek.

She gave Niles an arch look.

Without a word, Niles lifted his bag and placed it on her desk.  He then turned his attention to his computer and started typing.

With a cry of delight, Cruz dove into the bag and removed the tower of chocolates.

“Rheb’s!” she exclaimed.  She undid the ribbon and peered into each box.  She gasped as she tried to catch Niles’ gaze.  “These are all custom assortments.  Did you pick these out yourself?”

Keeping his eyes on his screen, Niles nodded.  “Every.  One.  Myself.  In person.”

Williams snorted.  “Nice try, Ghoul.  You’ve been outclassed by Dechamps.  Again.”

Niles kept typing.

Cruz held the smallest box to her heart as she gazed at Niles in wonder.  “You know how difficult it is for Niles to face chocolate.  He’s addicted it to.”

“Tell me about it!”  Williams moaned.  “I’m the guy who bailed him out of a New Jersey jail for running around naked the last time he indulged himself.”

Niles growled low in his throat but willed himself to say nothing.

Cruz punched Williams then scampered around the desk so she could plant a kiss on Niles’ cold cheek.

“I know what it meant for you to do that,” she whispered in his ear.

Still Niles typed.

She turned her scathing look at Williams.

“Sometimes,” she said, “There’s more to a gift than the object given.”

Williams made a rude gesture with his hands.

Sniffing, Cruz strutted around the big man and happily popped a cherry cordial in her mouth.

Niles kept typing.  But he couldn’t hold back his smile.

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  In these difficult times so full of anger and violence, we could all use a little more love.    When in Baltimore, a visit to Rheb’s Candy Company is a must.  There’s a reason they’ve been in business for one hundred years.  For my more distant fans, they take internet orders!  Check it out.  https://rhebs.com/

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Gule Tries Macaroni Salad

Baltimore police detective Mariella Cruz shook her dark head as she reentered the gas station.  Behind her, the ambulance carrying the wounded attendant pulled away with a shriek of sirens.   The sound made Niles Gule wince.  As a vampire, his hearing was exquisite.  It seldom appreciated human alarm systems.

“What’s Jocco’s status?” he asked, his blue gaze following the ambulance’s curve into traffic.

“EMTs say he’ll survive.”  Studying the blood that spattered the floor behind the cash register, Cruz gestured helplessly.  “Why would anyone do this?  They didn’t even rob the register.”

Niles too was focused on the blood.  Like all violent crime scenes, this one made his nose twitch and stomach grumble.  He survived exclusively on blood and raw meat.  Instinct begged him to drop to the floor and lick up the mess.  Fortunately, he’d snacked on steak before answering the call so he could ignore the rumblings in his gut.

“This was personal.”  He gestured to the tire iron that lay on the floor.  “They wanted to beat him up, not rob the place.  We need to question his friends and relatives.  Find out who had it out for him.”

Being the night shift, Cruz and Niles had been assigned to investigate the robbery at the Eat Here Get Gas quick mart on Lombard Street.  Niles was always in big demand at nighttime crime scenes.  His night vision exceeded the best crime scene equipment, and his nose was second to none.

Cruz pointed at the cameras.  “Damned things weren’t hooked up to a recorder.  No video.”

Niles considered the little store.  Along with gas, it sold snacks, chilled products, car supplies and sodas.   His nose twitched a second time as a foul smell struck him.  With a puckered brow, Niles slowly picked his way through the aisles, sniffing and studying.  Cruz remained by the register, watching him circuit the store.

When he returned to the register he crooked a long white finger at Cruz.

“Follow me.”

Lifting a brow, Cruz fell into step behind the vampire as he headed outside.  The frigid night was biting.  A sprinkling of snow swirled in a light wind.  Due to a lack of street lights, Cruz flicked on a flashlight for which Niles had no need.  With a full moon behind the clouds, he could see the world as clearly as a human could see in daylight.  Although a faint cover of white crystals dusted the ground, he saw no tracks.  The breeze wiped them away within minutes.

“Where are we going?”  Cruz eyed the dilapidated buildings slumbering in darkest night.  Forced to take two jogging steps for every one of Niles’ long, sweeping strides, she was panting.

“We’re tracking our prey.”  Niles continued forward without hesitation.  He kept sniffing and watching the ground.

“Prey?  We aren’t eating them, Gule.”

Niles grunted a laugh.  “Too bad.  These are really stupid people.”

“How do you know that?”

“Trust me.”  Niles took a left turn down a side street.  After several minutes of chilly walking, he turned right into an alley.  He never slowed his pace.

Cruz kept up, trusting her partner knew what he was doing.  “How does this cold compare to Maine?” she asked to pass the time.

“It doesn’t!”  Being a vampire, Niles was more tolerant of cold than humans, but even he found his three week vacation in Maine too frigid for comfort.  He was glad to be back in Maryland and back at work.

“What does a vampire do for Valentine’s Day?”

Niles shot her a quick look.  Interesting question to pull out of the air.  “Nothing.”

“Not sending flowers and chocolate to a sweetheart?”

He snorted.  “I don’t suggest giving vampires chocolate.”  His sole experience with the dangerous substance had ended with him arrested for streaking in New Jersey.

“I wasn’t necessarily thinking of vampires.”

Niles caught the wistful note in her voice.  His lips twitched, threatening to smile.  One thing Cruz wasn’t was subtle.

“Who else would I give chocolate and flowers to but a lady vampire?” he asked innocently.

“Oh.”  She sounded deflated.  “I forgot about your little tootsie pop.  What’s her name?”

“Tara.”  Niles shot her a second look.  “And she’s not my tootsie pop.  She’s a young vampire and a pain in my ass.”

“She sure seems sweet on you.”

“Sweet isn’t the word.  Voracious is.  She’s a youngster.  I’m becoming the territorial lord of Baltimore.”

That caught Cruz’s interest.  “So she’s looking to bag herself a big shot.”

“Something like that.”

Niles didn’t want to discuss Tara, the fifty-something vampire he’d encountered over Halloween.  Having switched alliances from another older vampire to Niles, Tara wasn’t going to let her catch escape her.  Niles knew she planned to ride her association with him to power.  So she’d moved into the apartment next to his and kept watch on him with hungry eyes.  She was waiting for her chance because a youngster didn’t force an alpha male.  She would lay her sticky traps in his path and hope he became ensnared in them.  Niles’ job was to avoid becoming entangled.  He needed to convince her to give up blood drinking, find an honest job, and move to some other country.  Afghanistan sounded good.

“Don’t encourage her,” Cruz stated.  “No chocolate or flowers.”

Again Niles’ lips twitched.  “Noted.”  He glanced at her.  “Expecting any for yourself from anyone?”

“Of course!”  Her voice was unnaturally high pitched, the little liar.  “Malcolm’s taking me to the movies.  I fully expect flowers.”

“Hmmm.”  Niles allowed himself a knowing smile.  It hid, however, a pang to his heart.  He hated that she dated the supercilious, arrogant attorney.  She deserved better.  Malcolm was too. … obnoxious… for her.  She needed someone with integrity.  With teeth.

He chose to ignore the way his tongue traced over a growing fang.

With a gesture, Niles indicated caution.  He edged forward slowly towards his destination, an open carport.  Inside two young men sat warming themselves beside a barrel flickering with flames.  They were chortling about how they’d plastered Figueroa.  That little bastard wouldn’t dare come sniffing after their little sister a second time.

“Nice,” Cruz whispered.  “Beat the hell out of someone who wants to date your kid sister.”

She radioed for assistance and they waited until a patrol car rolled up, lights off.  With two uniforms alongside them, they trapped the young men inside the carport, cuffed them and read them their rights.

Holstering her weapon, Cruz watched as Niles knelt beside the barrel.

“How did you know they were the perps?  Or where to find them?”

Niles rose, holding an empty plastic container.  “Basic detective work.”

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.  “It was some sort of vampire voodoo, wasn’t it?  You could track their heat signature on the ground.”

“No.”

“Smell their blood on the wind.”

“No.”

“Sense psychically where they were.”

Niles chuckled.  “No.”

Cruz lightly punched his arm.  “Ok, give.  How did you track them here?”

Niles extended the container.  “Macaroni salad from the Eat Here Get Gas.  They must have been hungry.  They left a trail of the stuff the whole way here.”

As Cruz gaped at him, he chuckled.  “I told you they were the stupidest criminals on earth.”

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  This isn’t the first time someone felt the urge to indulge as they fled their crime scene.  Check it out:  http://www.meadvilletribune.com/cnhi_network/new-york-robbers-tracked-by-trail-of-macaroni-salad/article_4adebead-aab9-53e5-a1e0-7dd83d122f54.html

 

Gule is Miserable

Life, or in the case of a vampire, undeath, could often be uncomfortable.  Sometimes even downright miserable.  Which was how Niles Gule described his emotional state that wintery evening.  Baltimore’s vampire sat in on a sagging, flea infested couch with his long legs propped on a battered, cheaply made coffee table.  His brilliant blue eyes were fixed on a jar of beach pebbles near his feet.

Don’t do it, Gule.   BeachPebbles2

Those nasty little blue and white stones weren’t what they seemed.  His nose, exquisitely tuned to parsing scents, quivered at the rich aroma of chocolate coming from the jar.  The stones were actually candy.  A Maine specialty.   But chocolate and Niles didn’t mix well.  The last time he’d indulged in the delicious, vicious substance, he’d found himself arrested after he’d gone on a naked hallucinogenic rant through Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

“I’m not helping you,” he growled at his supposed captors.

Todd, the chief miscreant, glared back.  “You have to.  We need you to help us convince Stephen King to write our story.”

Niles stared up at the ceiling and drew a huge sigh.  “He’s not going to write your story.  The world is full of frustrated Goth youth wanting their tales of woe and abuse heard.”

“Eff off!” Jonathan snapped as he shot Niles the finger.  He flipped a hank of his artificially dyed black hair out of his pallid face with a studied head toss.  “I don’t even think you’re a real vampire.”

Niles couldn’t hold back the snarl that bared his stubby fangs.  He wanted to tell the five lads his fangs were short only because he kept them filed so he could pass as a human.  But he didn’t because he’d decided these five were some of the stupidest human beings on the planet.  They had to be.  First they’d kidnapped the Duck of Justice from the Bangor Police Department which triggered a furious response from the police.  Then they’d tried to trade it for Niles, the only known vampire police officer in America.  Fortunately for them, the police had been desperate to get their duck back and had eagerly tossed the vampire to them, leaving Niles as the group’s ersatz prisoner.  Not, he thought, that he couldn’t simply strong arm an escape out of the dingy little apartment they rented over a barn on a farm outside Bangor.  He felt, being an officer of the law, he ought to do something to rein in this band of nose-ringed hooligans.

He fastened his piercing blue gaze on the group of young men.  “I’m a police officer.  I won’t help you break into King’s house.”

“Fine!”  Todd flipped his own long black hair out of his face in a move Niles decided was de rigeur for Goths.  He snatched up his coat.  “Come on, guys.  We’ll just have to do it the hard way.”

Niles watched in alarm as the group dragged on outerwear.  When he rose to stop them, Jonathan pulled out his secret weapon, a jar of crushed garlic and wielded it like a sword.  Niles hissed at the stench and backed away.

The group headed for the door, Jonathan coming last using the garlic as a shield.  Niles let them go, curling his lip in a sneer when the young man set the open jar in the doorway just as he pulled the door shut.  Moments later, Niles heard the engine of their Thunderbird roar to life and they were gone.

Cursing, he strode to the door and kicked the jar of garlic aside.  When he stepped outside, he looked out across a frigid night with flurries skirling around.  Almost a foot of new snow covered the landscape.  As he stood leaning on the stair railing, Niles calculated how to stop the Gothic posse before someone got hurt.  But he didn’t have a vehicle and he couldn’t drive.  Walking all the way to Bangor was out of the question.  The fireworks would be over long before he arrived.

The snort and stamp of a horse caught his attention.

In an instant, Niles was down the stairs and into the barn.  A gentle-eyed gray mare whickered and kicked the wall of her stall, asking for dinner.

“Sorry, gal,” he murmured as he searched for a bridle.  “You and me have an appointment with a horror writer.”

He hastily tacked her up and threw himself aboard, then put his heels to her.  She responded with a grunt and trotted from the barn.

Close to an hour later, Niles jogged into Bangor, earning himself lots of strange looks from drivers trying to understand why anyone would ride a horse in the dead of winter on a dark, snowy night.  He simply smiled and poured on the charm, earning himself rapturous stares from the women and annoyed glares from most of the men.

After obtaining directions for King’s house by riding his mare through the drive thru at the nearest Dunkin Donuts, Niles found himself trotting down West Broadway Street.  He located the house easily enough.  The structure was fitting for a man who wrote horror.  A Victorian mansion with two towers and a scrolling front porch, the property was surrounded by a protective wrought iron fence.  The gate, Niles noted in amusement, looked like a spider web.  Two gargoyles watched over the entrance.

Sliding off his mare, Niles studied the property.  A quick survey told him the posse had scaled the fence on the right side.  With his perfect night vision, Niles could see the tracks of the buffalo herd through the snow leading towards the house.  Lights were on.  Someone was home.

Niles knew he had to act.  Deftly, he climbed the fence, dropped to the far side and slogged through the snow to the house.  A look in one of the windows revealed two of the Goths pacing in agitation in the den.  Niles slipped through the French doors the posse had used to gain entrance, scaring the two lads half to death.

“Where’s the rest of the Dalton gang?” he demanded.

His face even whiter than normal, Bill pointed upwards.

Niles stabbed the pair with a long finger.  “Stay put if you don’t want to be in any more trouble than you are now.  I do bite.”

Bill gulped.  Vinny blanched.

Niles headed upstairs.

He found Todd and Jonathan in King’s bedroom.  To his horror, Niles saw they’d cornered the author.  Somehow, they’d wrangled King to the bed and tied him up so he was forced to listen to their literary pitch.  King’s eyes darted with a mixture of fear and hope as the vampire entered the room.

Todd whirled.  “Don’t interfere!  We aren’t going to hurt him.  We just need him to hear us out.”

Niles grunted.  He turned towards King.  Pulling his ID from his coat pocket, he said, “You’re saved.  I’m with the Baltimore police.”

“Baltimore?” King squeaked.

Niles shrugged.  “We fight crime wherever we find it.”

King looked like he didn’t know what to believe.

The flicker of a television screen caught Niles’ eye.  King had been watching a movie before he’d been interrupted.  Kathy Bates screeched at James Caan.

Niles’s brow scrunched.  “Isn’t that Misery?” he asked King.

King rolled his eyes.  “Yes.”

Niles turned back to Todd with a gesture.  “Well, finish up your pitch.  Because once you’re done, I’m having you arrested.”

“Aren’t you going to arrest them now?” King demanded.  He pulled on his bindings.

Niles sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Nah, not yet.”  He pointed to the screen.  “I haven’t had the chance to see this one.”

KingHouse

© 2018 Newmin

Gule Gets His Ducks in A Row

Tension gripped the group.  Fingers sat poised on triggers.  Sergeant TC Cotton of the Bangor Police Department held his breath as a group of Kennebunkport police officers in flak jackets stole forward, lights glinting off their night vision goggles.  They were the best special ops team north of Portsmouth, Chief Craig Sanford of Kennebunkport insisted.  Trained by the US Secret Service who frequented the harbor village when former President Bush came to visit.  You never knew when a seaside tourist resort might be attacked by foreign commandos.  Cotton, being out of his jurisdiction, had no choice but to trust him.

Niles Gule, vampire, and the subject of this ridiculous affair, stood leaning his back against the weathered boards of the Clam Shack waiting for someone, anyone, to come to their senses.  At his feet lapped the icy waters of the Kennebunk River.  The stench of fish and seaweed perfumed the frigid winter night, causing the vampire to curl his lip in annoyance.  He watched with no small amusement as three of Kennebunkport’s finest crept stealthily towards the Matthew J Lanigan Bridge in the center of town, their guns primed, their goggles leading them through the black night.  Niles, being a vampire, had exquisite night vision, albeit in black and white.  But no one had asked for his assistance in this endeavor.  He was being held back by Cotton because, the police said, his tall, lanky form and bright, corn-colored hair made him such an obvious target.  Their opponents would spot him from the far side of the bridge.

But wasn’t that the point?  Niles drew a heavy breath and folded his arms.  The whole purpose of this exercise was to trade him, the only known vampire police officer on the planet, for a stuffed duck.  A group of Goths had stolen Bangor’s icon, the Duck of Justice, directly from under the department’s nose and demanded a real vampire in trade for it.

So here I am, waiting to be traded for a duck.

Niles wished he smoked.  This night called for a cigarette.  Or a drink.

With perfect clarity, he watched the stealth team scurry between a fishing shack and an art store like cockroaches through a benighted kitchen.  To him, the scene was surreal.  How could anyone fail to see those black shadows, smell the sweat of their fear even over the stench of the river, hear their rubber soles slipping along the docks?

Humans!  Niles sniffed.

He could see their quarry just as clearly as he could see the swat team.  A group of five individuals wearing black sweat suits were clustered on the far side of the bridge, hunkered against the wall of Saxony Imports for cover.  Niles studied them, seeing nothing dangerous about them.  Five young men, probably in their twenties, with no weapons and a dead duck.  As he watched the swat team steal ever closer to them, he decided the Goths themselves were dead ducks.

The problem for the police was the bridge.  It was open ground without a stitch of cover.  Even in the dark of night, that stretch of tarmac was a death trap for anyone trying to cross into Gothic territory.  They could get pelted by sardines or hit in the head by knick knacks purloined from Saxony, for God’s sake!  This was a dangerous endeavor.

Niles watched with a raised eyebrow as the police settled themselves in cover position, one man each at four different points with sniper rifles trained on the Goth side of the bridge.  Then Chief Sanford raised his bullhorn.

“All right.  We’re here,” he announced.  “We’ve got what you want.  Return the DOJ before anyone gets hurt.”

Niles winced as all around the harbor lights flicked on in darkened windows.  He saw faces peering out at the ordinarily sleepy harbor town.

One of the Goths stepped forward, holding the DOJ out over the side of the bridge.

“Do anything stupid and the duck takes a swim!” a young, quavering voice yelled.

Sanford made a placating gesture with his hand.  “Now, now!  Let’s not do anything hasty.  We’ve got your vampire here.”

He turned towards Cotton and waved for Niles to come forth.

With a snort, Niles shrugged off Cotton’s grasp and strode confidently forward, unfazed by the darkness or a bunch of unarmed hoodlums holding a stuffed duck hostage.

“You know the duck is dead, right?” he asked Sanford when he arrived at the chief’s side.

Sanford glared.  “Don’t joke about the DOJ, Mister!  I’m ready to go to the mat for that duck.”  He signaled his team.  Niles saw fingers tighten on triggers.

“Oh, for God’s sake!” Niles exclaimed.  “It’s a stuffed wood duck!”

That was the wrong thing to say.  Niles saw the men around him bristle with anger but no one said anything.

The Goths must have seen him, not that he was hard to miss.  Niles stood over six feet tall.  That evening he wore his camel colored overcoat and silk scarf.  His pale face, blue eyes and blond hair made him shine like the moon.

“Prove you’re a vampire,” the kid with the duck demanded.  He continued to hold the DOJ over the water, threatening to drop it.

Niles rolled his eyes.  Taking a step forward so that he stood under a street light, he bared his fangs.  They were on the stubby side because he kept them trimmed but hopefully they were enough.

“You call those fangs?” the kid yelped.  “Paleeze!  I’ve seen better fakes at Halloween Haven!”

Niles scowled, affronted.  A vampire’s fangs were his pride and joy, his sense of self.  The saying in his community was that the length of a vampire’s fangs indicated the length of a vampire’s….

Sanford cut off his thoughts.  “He’s genuine.  We’ll trade him for the duck, as promised.  Place the duck on the bridge.  Gule will cross over and we’ll take the duck.  No one gets hurt.”

The kid with the duck looked back towards his fellows for confirmation, then, receiving it, inched forward onto the bridge, always keeping the duck hanging over the water.

With a disgusted sigh, Niles started forward slowly, his hands extended to his sides to indicate he was unarmed.  Which technically wasn’t true because he was never without his silver vampire hunting knife.  But these idiots didn’t know that.  Following the standard Hollywood script—because he decided that was the appropriate protocol in such a situation—Niles strolled across the contested no man’s land, aware he was pinned from the back by people armed with sniper rifles and from the front by people armed with nose rings.  He tried to act nervous but had a hard time holding in his smirk.

“Give me the duck,” he demanded of the kid threatening the embalmed DOJ.

The kid eyed him warily.  Everyone held their breath.  The DOJ hung in the balance.

Niles forced a fake smile, revealing his fangs a second time.

When the kid still hesitated, Niles lost his patience.  With a single stride, he reached the kid.  A sweep of his long arm snatched the DOJ from the lad’s grasp.  That set off the Goths.  With a wail, the group launched themselves at him.  Five youths piled on him so fast, he couldn’t react.  He went down onto the pavement with a grunt, the DOJ flipping from his hand.  While he wrestled with a squirming pile of arms and legs, he vaguely saw a swat team member steal up, rifle primed.  But instead of aiding the downed vampire, the man snatched up the DOJ and scuttled for safety.  Niles heard the all clear call from Sanford and he knew they were going to abandon him.

Damned humans.

© 2018 Newmin

 

The DOJ is examined after its rescue

 

Gule is Just Ducky

“The situation is serious,” a deep voice stated over the phone.  “We need you to come in immediately.”

Niles Gule, vampire of Baltimore, gazed balefully out Peg’s front window at the snow storm that had engulfed the state of Maine.

“It’s snowing,” he said, feeling inane for stating the obvious.

A moment of silence met his comment.  Then.  “Yeah?  What’s your point?”

Niles flicked his brilliant blue glance at his friend Peg.  Pressing the phone to his chest to mute it, he asked, “Would you mind driving me to Bangor?”

Peg, a platinum-gray, spunky widow, glanced at her front yard buried in two feet of snow, then at the vampire who’d been staying with her for his winter break.

“What for?” she asked in that direct, no-nonsense way Niles had grown to love.

“A duck has gone missing.”  Niles made a face to show he didn’t understand what that meant.  “The Bangor Police are upset about it.”

Peg gasped, her eyes flying wide.  “The Duck of Justice has gone missing!  Oh my gosh!”  She grabbed her parka.  “Well, don’t just stand there!  Get moving!”

Niles hadn’t even pulled his coat completely on before she shoved him out the front door.  As he climbed into her silver minivan, he asked, “Do I want to know what the Duck of Justice is?”

Peg threw her minivan in gear and, snow flying, sped from her little driveway.  “It’s a cultural icon!”

“But what is it?” Niles complained.

“It’s the mascot for the Bangor Police Department.  It appears in all their Facebook photos.”

Niles fingered his chin while he watched the deep pinewoods of Maine scroll past as Peg steered them slowly but confidently towards the state capital.  Although conditions were nearly whiteout, numerous vehicles were still on the road and Peg chugged along behind a lumber truck, secure in its wake.

“Why would this Sergeant Cotton think I have anything to do with a missing mascot?” he wondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” Peg chirped.  “But we’re going to find out!”

A long, worrisome drive through the raging storm brought them at last to the small city of Bangor and its diminutive police department.  Niles recalled visiting it a year ago with his partner, Mariella Cruz, when they’d come to pick up stolen evidence being held by Bangor.  He recalled the quiet, peaceful charm of the station, so at odds with the rough, loud, abrasiveness of Baltimore’s center city precinct.  While such a quiet life possessed an allure, Niles decided he would be bored without the constant turmoil working for Baltimore provided to his otherwise staid and boring life.

As Peg pulled into a recently plowed parking space, she glanced at her passenger.  “Have you ever considered learning to drive?”

Niles shrugged.  “The thought has occurred to me, but I figure I’d have a hard time coming up with believable documentation.”  He gave her a wicked smile, allowing his fangs to show.  “No birth records.”

“Huh.”  Peg popped out of her minivan.  “The crooks don’t let that stop them.”

Swallowing the smile, the tall, lanky vampire followed his widow into the station.  They were directed to an office where TC Cotton, keeper of the Bangor Facebook page, and the DOJ, was stationed.

He rose and shook Niles’ hand.

As he sank into a chair, Niles looked around, seeing nothing that should involve him.  “Why am I here?”

Cotton flicked a photo at the vampire. A North American wood duck, most likely dead and stuffed, stared back at Niles with beady red eyes.  A bright red balloon was tied to its neck.

“I received that in my email,” Cotton explained.  “Along with a ransom demand.”  He turned to his computer screen.  “Apparently, Stephen King was supposed to make an appearance at a local bookstore, but due to illness, failed to arrive.  Some of the fans who’d waited in a line a half mile long in subzero temperatures were…well… I’d say upset, but that doesn’t really do their frustration justice.”

Niles sat blinking at the officer.  He waved his hand in a circle.  “And?”

“The rowdy group is a Goth club.  They claimed they were actual vampires and King would be a fool to refuse to meet with them.  They had stories they wanted him to convert into books.  Make millions.  You know the drill.”

The vampire simply stared at him.

Cotton plowed on.  “So King, being a man with some sense of humor, told them if they could prove they were genuine vampires, he’d meet with them.  Of course, they can’t prove it because they aren’t, but that never stopped anyone.”

Niles continued to stare at Cotton.  “And that involves me how?”

“Some of these folks decided to take matters into their own hands.” Cotton sighed.  “Since they need a genuine vampire with them to meet King, they decided to trade for one.  It’s Maine.  It’s winter.  They have too much time on their hands.  Somehow, we still don’t know how, they broke into the offices here, staged that picture for their ransom demand, then stole the DOJ.  They’ve agreed to trade him for you, Detective Gule.”

“Me?” Niles stiffened with affront.

“You are a vampire,” Cotton said.  “And a police officer.  We heard you were in Maine.”

“How do you know either of those things?” Niles ran his tongue over his fangs, wondering if they’d gotten so long he was showing again.

Cotton scowled.  “We may be the back of beyond up here, but we do read the internet.  Including your blog.”  He gave Peg a bright smile.  “Nice to meet you, Peg.”  He turned back to Niles.  “So, we of the Bangor Police Department have decided that we’re going to trade you to the King fans so they can take you to meet with the author and we get our DOJ back.”

“That’s outrageous!” Niles blurted.  “What gives you the right to make such a decision?  Don’t you think you should have consulted me first?”

Cotton gestured the complaint away with a wave of his hand.  “Hell, no!”  He stabbed his index finger into his desk as he leaned forward with a steely-eyed glint.  “We’re talking the Duck of Justice here, Detective Gule.  A vampire or the DOJ?”  He scoffed.  “It wasn’t even close.”

© 2018 Newmin

Actual ransom photo of the Duck of Justice with its red “It” balloon.  How this happened remains a mystery.  Just one of many from the great state of Maine.

Gule Goes to Pot

“This is your definition of a beach day?” Niles Gule complained as he pondered the Maine coastline.

Peg nodded.  “Yup!  This is a beach day in Maine.  Pretty good one too.  The sun was out today.”

Niles shot the native a nasty look.  Being a vampire, he wasn’t particularly fond of the sun.  Fortunately, that golden orb of death was disappearing beneath the horizon behind them, leaving a panorama of deep purples, reds and blues over the ocean.

Niles loved visiting the shore, so when, on his vacation to Maine, Peg offered him a day at the beach, he’d happily agreed, not considering what a beach day in January meant above the 45th parallel.  The air temperature had risen to a high of -7 at midafternoon, chilly even for Maine.  But the kicker was the howling wind which gusted up to twenty miles an hour and dropped the windchill to -28.  Cold even for a vampire.

Peg was bundled for the weather.  In her knitted wool hat with its stiff bill, down parka, scarf, gloves and duck boots, she belonged on the cover of Maine Fisherwoman.  All she needed was a lobster pot to complete the picture.

She’d brought Niles to the seaside village of Wells which was closed up snug against the winter blast.  Signs swayed in the wind in front of surf shops and ice cream emporiums shuttered for the season.  The wind blew lonely veils of snow along the street, piling it up in deep drifts at the foot of buildings.  Most of Wells hadn’t even been shoveled out of the last storm which had dropped a foot of new snow on the village.

“I’m going out,” Niles said, grasping the door handle.

Peg raised a brow.  “I’m proud of you.  Even a dedicated Mainer isn’t going out in this.”

“You promised me the beach,” the vampire grumbled.  “I’m getting my beach, polar vortex or no polar vortex.”

“More power to you.  I’m staying in the car.”

The wind snagged Niles’ silk scarf and sent it fluttering around his pale face as he faced the onslaught.  His boots crunched in the icy snow.  Floundering through a drift, the tall, lithe vampire struggled to where the wind and tide had left frozen sand clear of snow.  There he stood with his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat, the wind clawing at his corn-colored locks and his face slowly freezing.

Before him the Atlantic roiled.  As brilliant a blue as his eyes, the sea churned with white foam that blew onto the beach and froze into fantastic shapes.  The air was so bitingly cold the saltwater was boiling.  Ethereal clouds of steam rose from the frothy waters and drifted like ghosts across the bay.  A crazed lobsterman, chugging past in his white fishing boat, appeared as a vague shadow against the sea smoke.

The coldest day of the decade, Niles muttered.  And she brings me to the beach.  He wondered what plans Peg had in mind for the promised “lake day”.  Ice fishing probably.

Niles enjoyed the view for a few minutes and snapped some pictures to show to his friends in Baltimore, felt his feet turning to ice, and decided to return to Peg’s warm car.  As he trudged along the smooth, gray sand he watched two young men running along the beach with a yellow lab yapping at their heels.  Niles cringed and moved closer to the surf to allow the offending animal to pass him by.  He and dogs did not get along.

Something caught the dog’s attention and sent it crawling onto a pile of boulders jutting into the bay.  At the very edge it started tugging at something in the rocks.  Its owners called for it to return to the safety of the beach but it wouldn’t let go of its prize.  In the dimming light of sunset, Niles squinted to make out what the dog had found.  Something made of bright red fabric.

One of the men edged onto the boulders which were slippery with ice and seaweed.  When he reached the dog, he grabbed its collar.  Then he shrieked.

Niles sprang towards the natural jetty and picked his way across the boulders following the same trail as the man.  When he arrived beside the man and his dog, his exquisite eyesight immediately saw what had so upset the dog and its owner.  A body lay crammed into a crevice in the rocks.  The dog was tugging on a red windbreaker.

“It’s a dead guy!” the young man exclaimed, his face ashen.

Niles nodded.  “Agreed.  Pull your dog back.  We’ve got to call the police before the tide comes in and washes him away.”

“The tide’s probably would put him there in the first place!” his companion complained, still wrestling with his dog.

Noting the well-washed cuts and bruises on the dead man’s face, Niles suspected the assessment was correct.  The body had been in the icy waters for a while.

The dog growled again.  When his owner used all his strength to pull the animal back, the dog finally released its hold on the jacket.  Then he spied the vampire who was studying the body, his tongue absentmindedly sliding along his ever growing fangs while he considered if he had enough cell service to call for help.  A wave roared over the boulders, soaking the body and spraying spume over Niles’ elegant wool coat.  The dog growled again.

Niles gave it a hard stare.  That set the dog snarling and lunging.  Its owner couldn’t hold onto it with wet hands and it leaped for Niles’ throat.  The vampire fended it off with his arm but slipped on the ice and tumbled backwards.  His head hit the rocks with a crack.  He saw stars, felt the bone-jarring cold of the water, then nothing.

 

Something was bubbling.  The air was hot and steamy.  Niles cracked open an eye to find he was back at Peg’s house lying on her couch.  Across the room, the Mainer was humming while she tended to a boiling pot that steamed like the ocean.

“Am I dead?  Or dreaming?” he asked.

Peg smiled and gestured with her wooden spoon.  “Neither.  You’re just half drowned.”

Niles realized he was more undressed than dressed with a fleece blanket thrown over him to keep him warm.

“What happened?”  He rubbed the back of his head which throbbed unhappily.

“You went for a swim!”  Peg laughed.  “Not exactly the right day for it.  Cracked your head on some rocks.  I had to call emergency services.  Fortunately, that young man waded after you before you floated out to sea.  I thought letting them take you to the hospital was a bad idea, so I brought you home.”  She looked him up and down.  “I guess vampires have hard heads.”

Niles nodded then regretted the action.

“Well, all’s well that ends well,” she said, puttering around her kitchen.  “That fisherman who went missing a week ago has been found.  That’s the man you found out there.  You’re alive and kicking.”  She peered at him quizzically.  “Or as alive and kicking as a vampire is capable of being.  And we’ve received a free dinner.”

Twitching the blanket around him, Niles sat up.  He frowned.  “What do you mean, we got a free dinner?”

Peg chuckled and pointed at the huge, steaming pot.  “Courtesy of you!  When that man pulled you from the water, a few things were clinging to you.”  At Niles deepening frown, she burst out laughing.  “Only in Maine can you fish for lobsters with a vampire!”

 

© 2018 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  Yes, indeed!  I went to Maine over the Christmas break!  Not the brightest idea, I must say.  I don’t think the temps ever broke zero for the three days I was there.  And I refuse to discuss drivers in the state of Connecticut.  Suffice it to say, I’m going to avoid that state in the future.  For those of you (probably all of you) who’ve never seen sea smoke, below is a photo of the Point Nubble lighthouse surrounded by smoke.  I’d never seen sea smoke before either.  Even a vampire can learn new things.

 

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Queens of the Niles

The vile miasma of garlic scorched the vampire’s throat.  His eyes watered.  When the waitress set a basket piled high with garlic bread in front of him, he gripped his chair and closed his eyes, telling himself he could withstand the assault.  He was becoming human after all.  Wasn’t he?

“Are you all right?” Brenda asked.  She grabbed a piece of bread and munched, savoring a flavor only a human could love.

Niles Gule felt his stomach roil.  Gritting his teeth, he forced a smile to his pale lips and hoped his blue eyes hadn’t turned yellow.  They could do that when he felt sick.  He hadn’t fooled Brenda.  She moved the bread basket to the far end of the table.

The vampire had attempted the impossible.  He’d dared to enter that emporium of torture, masochism and evil in the center of Baltimore known as Amicci’s Italian Restaurant.  The little place had a funky flair with eclectic art and a modern bar.  That evening the atmosphere was heavily perfumed with the smell of garlic and olive oil.  Niles didn’t mind the olive oil.  The garlic was making him gag.

He sat at a table with three ladies, widows he’d met on a trip over the summertime.  Brenda, Deb and Pat had agreed to come to Baltimore for trivia night at Amicci’s only if Niles accompanied them.  They weren’t afraid to be out after dark in the city.  They weren’t afraid to be out with a vampire.  No, they were afraid of facing trivia night without their secret weapon, Niles Gule, who’d lived through most of the decades any trivia night could cover.  To make the event special, Amicci’s was running a Gothic Night.  Patrons had painted their faces white, outlined their eyes in black and wore clothing Morticia Addams would have approved.  Vampires were de rigeur for the evening.

Oddly enough, blue-eyed blond, Nordic Niles with his carefully tailored Saville Row suit, didn’t fit in at all.

“What’s our team name?” Deb asked.  “Don’t we need a team name?”

Brenda tapped the answer sheet with her pen.  “We do.”  Her eyes pondered the ceiling then a brilliant smile filled her with light.  “I know.  Queens of the Niles!”

Niles propped his chin on his fingers and gave her a disparaging look.  “Please don’t let that get around.  If my co-workers in the Baltimore PD find out, I’ll never hear the end of it.  They think I’m a queen already.”

Deb dared to pat his cold hand.  “You’re a queen to us, Niles.”

Niles rolled his eyes and took a large swallow of beer.

The first question read by a blond with a microphone cut through the hubbub of the crowd.  “What do all bats do when they leave a cave?”

Brenda looked disgusted.  “What kind of question is that?”

Pat snorted.  “I think they fly.”

Niles chuckled.  “No, they turn left.”

Brenda frowned.

Niles tapped the paper so she wrote that answer down.

“Do you know that from personal experience?” Deb asked.

Niles snorted.  “No.  I gave up bat transformation in my youth.”

He’d meant it as a joke, but the women seemed to think him serious.  He decided not to explain.

“What is the legal requirement for anyone interested in dueling in Paraguay?” the blond woman with the microphone asked.

Niles heard complaints from the tables nearby.  No one, it appeared, knew the answer to that one.

When he saw his three ladies gazing at him expectantly, he sighed.  “Duelists in Paraguay have to be registered blood donors.”

The women howled and Brenda scribbled.

Pat clicked her wine glass against Deb’s.  “I told you he was a gold mine.”

“Sssh!” Brenda hissed.  “Next question.”

“What common word today was once considered foul speech in 1880s England?”

“Oh for the love of God, come up with a sports question!” an overweight man wearing a Raven’s shirt shouted.

Niles’ three widows turned to their vampire, knowing he’d lived through the 1880s.  He sighed.  “Pants.”  When they blinked at him he repeated himself.  “Pants was considered a foul word back in the day.”

Brenda almost fell out of her chair she was laughing so hard.  She scribbled that word down.

When the question, who sued the restaurant chain Cheeseburgers in Paradise for copywrite infringement, Niles was stumped.  His ladies stared, refusing to believe he didn’t know Jimmy Buffett.  He shrugged.

When he said, “Sorry, I don’t do cooked food,” the trio laughed.

The ladies handled two questions about television then came: “Name the vampire at the center of a Rhode Island vampire flap of 1892.”

Again three pairs of human eyes fixed on Niles.  “Mercy Brown,” he said without thinking.  “I remember it well.  Really had my people in a stir.”

Brenda’s pen raced.  “We are so going to win this!”

“Come on!” complained the Raven’s fan.  “No one knows these questions!”

Deb giggled.  “We do.”

“Give us a sports question!” yelled Raven.

The blond with the microphone smiled and sashayed up to him.  “You’re in luck.  The next question is a sport’s question.  This trotting horse won so many races and became so famous in 1866 that his image became the standard found on weathervanes to this day.  Name that horse.”

The Raven thumped his beer stein so hard on the bar it sloshed over himself and his companions.  Cursing, he stormed for the men’s room.

Niles sipped his own beer as he watched the man leave.  “He needs anger management.”

Brenda poked Niles.  “Do you know the name of the horse?”

Niles barely needed to think.  “Dexter.”

“Is there anything you don’t know?” Pat demanded.

“Yeah, who Jimmy Buffett is!” chortled Deb.

Brenda was too busy writing.

“Last question,” said the blond.  “If all the iron in the human body was collected together it would make how big a nail?”

Groans met the question from all over the bar.

Niles couldn’t help but roll his eyes.  “These are just too easy,” he complained.

“For you!” Brenda laughed.  “Some of us don’t live and breathe weird blood trivia.”

“So what’s the answer?” Pat asked.

Niles considered what he knew of human anatomy and his personal lust for the iron it carried.  He held out his hand to imagine weighing it.  “I’d guess about a 3 inch nail.”

“Good enough for me!”  Brenda laughed as she jotted that down.

They handed in their answer sheet then Niles’ girls brought each other up to speed on how parents were doing, gardening tips and the state of the Dr. Phil show.  Niles blithely drank his beer and tried not to breathe all the aromas.  The bread was gone so that made life better.  But now Niles was growing hungry thinking about blood and iron.  He tried not to lick his lips when he looked at the ladies.

The blond was ready to announce the winner.  She started with last place and worked her way up.  “Finally,” she said, “with a perfect score!  Queens of the Niles!”

Brenda, Pat and Deb burst out laughing.  Brenda even jumped off her stool to give Niles a hug.

“Our secret weapon,” she said.

The bartender arrived carrying their winnings.   To each of them he gave a box.  The ladies all cooed over their prize but Niles nearly fell off his stood to escape it.

The box contained a garlic baker.

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Anyone who knows me, knows I love trivia!  If you’re into it too, give me a call.  I’m available evenings.

 

 

079 Gule Strikes it Rich

The whirl of noise and lights should have been annoying, but somehow the casino’s machines sounded soothing even to a vampire.  For the first time in his long life Niles Gule was in Atlantic City aka Las Vegas, New Jersey as he called it.  Not that he’d had any reason to avoid Sin City.  He was a vampire at all, and the vampire code of conduct was silent on gambling.  It was silent on pretty much everything.  Murder, blood -letting, and theft were considered de rigeur in the vampire world.

He was there as the guest of his partner, Detective Mariella Cruz.  She’d won a free weekend at the Taj Mahal then surprised Niles by inviting him to join her.  These impromptu trips were becoming a habit with her and Niles could sense the sharks swimming around him.  She was circling, ever closer, intent on landing her man.  Niles wasn’t doing much to fend her off.

Cruz chortled and danced in a circle when her slot machine spit out a cupful of quarters.  Niles watched with a fond smile and pretended a few dance steps in support.  Niles wasn’t a gambler.  He considered the activity a waste of money but he appreciated the free drinks.  As soon as the scantily clad waitresses laid eyes on the tall, elegant blonde with his piercing blue eyes, they fell all over themselves to serve him.  He’d been indulging in vodka tonics most of the afternoon.  He wasn’t sure if the casino spun of its own accord or because he was drunk.

Cruz held out her hands as quarters cascaded from them.  “Jackpot!”

“So I see,” the vampire murmured.  He took another sip of his drink.

“You really ought to try it,” she prodded, scooping the quarters into a plastic pail.

“I’m having a grand time simply watching you.”

She hesitated at the warmth in his normally cool voice.  Then smiled brilliantly.

“I thought vampires had the power of voodoo,” she said, gesturing at the machines.

Niles shrugged.  “We do in a sense.  We can mesmerize other living things if we put our minds to it.”  He patted the slot machine.  “It’s not living so I can’t work my magic on it.”

Cruz shot him a hard look.  “Have you ever worked your voodoo on me?”

“No.”

She continued to eye him then accepted his terse reply.  She gestured at the casino.  “What’s the point of having a vampire’s voodoo magic at my command if you can’t use it to help me?”

Niles lifted a brow.  “Is that why you invited me along?  You’re using me?”

Cruz laughed.  “Absolutely!  What can you do for me?”

Niles considered the casino.  They stood next to the doors that led onto the boardwalk where a stormy afternoon tossed snow at a broiling sea.  An ocean of slots surrounded them.

“Best bet would be the poker tables,” he said.  “I can influence the other players.”

Cruz beamed.  Clutching her plastic pail, she headed for the poker rooms.

Just as Cruz stepped into the main aisle, Niles heard a woman shriek.  Near the dollar slots a lady waved frantically.  A dark shape barreled towards Niles.  A man plowed into Cruz and sent her spinning, coins flying in all directions.  He dashed past towards the doors without apology.

“He stole my card!” the woman yelled.

Niles knew regular casino patrons could purchase gaming cards.  They deposited money on the card then as they won or lost the value was added or deducted from the card.  The little bits of plastic were as valuable as cash.

He checked that Cruz was all right as she scrambled to collect her quarters then bolted after the thief.  He charged through the glass doors onto the boardwalk and was blasted by spitting salt water and a biting wind.  His quarry was in a dead run up the boardwalk.  Niles launched after him.  With a flying leap, he tackled the felon who squawked in protest.

Niles wrenched the card from the man’s hand.

“Not cool!” he said.

He heard the rumble of feet on the boardwalk.  Niles looked up to find a pack of huge, dark-clad men wearing mirrored sunglasses descending on them.  He noted spiral cords behind ears that indicated these men were wired for sound.  All had ID badges marked casino security.  One had a gun drawn on him.

Niles raised his hands and proffered the gaming card.  “I stopped him.  Don’t shoot!”

The brute in charge snatched the card.  Two of his compatriots hauled Niles to his feet while three more took control of the thief.  Niles found himself forcibly marched to the Taj Mahal surrounded by hulking men who rivaled him in height but outweighed him by tons.  In the bitter cold he decided to hold his protest until they went inside.

The group headed straight for the back offices.  Niles was thrust into an opulent space while his two captors took up position at the door with stoic, unmoving faces.  He didn’t know what happened to the thief.

Niles studied the office.  A huge desk was surrounded by video feeds from the casino floor.  He saw Cruz being interviewed by security in one of them.

The door opened and another dark-clad, ominous looking man stormed inside.  His pig-like eyes considered Niles as he settled behind his desk.

“That was a damned stupid stunt,” he growled.  “Did you think you’d get away with it?”

Niles jerked at the implication that he was party to the theft.  Carefully he drew his identification and laid it on the desk.  “I’m a consultant for the Baltimore police.  When I saw that man stealing a gaming card, I chased him.  I I’m not a thief.”

The man glanced at the ID then flicked it back with a finger.  “Convenient.”

“What’s the problem?  Why am I here?”

“Because I’m not happy about what happened!”

“Nor am I.”

“It won’t be repeated,” the man added as he cracked his knuckles and glared at Niles.  “You’ll make sure it doesn’t, won’t you?”

Niles pondered the unspoken threat behind the man’s words.  He suspected the group intended to break his legs and felt a rush of heat as he calculated how to escape the room with all his bodily functions intact.  As a vampire he could take two or three men, but not the five that surrounded him.

“I am sure it won’t recur,” he said, turning his blue eyes on the nearest guard.  He caught the man’s gaze and held it.  Started working on him.  “I certainly won’t be involved.”

“Like hell!” said his captor.

Niles frowned, his concentration broken.  “I’m sorry?  You want me to rob your customers?”

The man snorted.  “No!”

He must have seen Niles’ look of bewilderment because his swarthy face broke into a smile.

“Hell no!  We’re offering you a job, Mr. Gule!  You’ve got a future in casino security!”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles Comments:  Welcome to 2018!  I wish all my fans well in the coming year.  Stay warm.  Watch out for each other.  Remember, we’re all in this together whether we like it or not.

Gule Gives Kisses by Candlelight

Niles Comments:  Today’s story is my Christmas gift to three of my favorite ladies Peg, Lis and Agnes.  I hope you enjoy it.

To all my readers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Huge flakes of snow softened the edges of buildings, walls and fences.  The season’s first major snowfall blurred lights and cast an ethereal mist over the rolling farmlands of southern Pennsylvania.  Riding in the passenger seat, his talons clawed into the armrests, the vampire, Niles Gule, wondered yet again where his crazed partner was taking him.

Because Niles didn’t drive, Mariella Cruz sat behind the wheel.  Ordinarily, she was a crazed maniac who loved to speed, peal around corners and generally terrify her vampire co-worker who’d never acclimated to her rambunctious style of driving.  That night, however, given the weather, she was being cautious and tore along the back roads of PA at the posted speed limit, still far too fast given the conditions, but sane for her.

She hadn’t told him where she was taking him, only that she’d wanted to give him a gift for Christmas.  Since he was the wealthiest person she knew yet lived frugally, she struggled to find gifts for him.  She’d decided on an experience rather than an object this year.

Niles noted the well-lit sign as Cruz fishtailed her little Fiat into a driveway.  Hans Herr House 1719.

“The oldest house in this county,” she explained.  She shot him a brilliant smile, white teeth flashing.  “It’s even older than you are!”

Niles chuckled.  “That’s saying a lot.”  He was, after all, one-hundred-fifty-eight years old.

A line of luminaries cast a gentle glow along the snowy driveway which curled around to a parking lot in front of an older, but not ancient building aglow with electric light.  As he unfolded himself from Fifi, Niles tucked his silk scarf into the throat of his charcoal wool coat and looked around.  Beyond the Victorian era farmhouse stood a second, far older building.  Spotlights splayed against its side to reveal heavily mortared gray field stone and a steeply pitched roof.  Tiny windows glazed blackly out at the wintery night.

“This is my gift?” he asked as he took Cruz’s arm to lead her to the farmhouse.

Cruz nodded.  The knitted wool cap she wore on her thick, black curls was already dusted with snow.  “This experience is.”

Frowning, she brushed snow from his neatly shorn, corn-colored head.  “Aren’t you going to be cold without a hat?”

Niles again chuckled.  “No.  I’m a vampire.  We don’t get cold.”

“Lucky you!”  Cruz stamped her feet to remove the snow.  “I’m already cold and we haven’t even started.”

“That’s because you should be in Mexico,” Niles laughed.  “Warm seas.  Palm trees.   Hideous, brilliant sun.”

Cruz joined in his laugh as he opened the door for her.

The experience, as she’d called it, was a candlelight tour of the Colonial Era homestead.  Built long before any major towns existed west of Philadelphia, the Herr farm had been at the very edge of civilization at the time.  Passed down through the Herr family, the homestead eventually ended in the hands of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society which continued to maintain it as a museum.  The Christmas candlelight tour was just one of many seasonal events held at the site.

Charmed to be immersed in a world much like his childhood, Niles hopped into the historic Conestoga wagon the tour used to transport guests.  Cruz snuggled up against him tightly for warmth as a tractor pulled them around the property, stopping first at the Long House.  Jumping down, Niles grasped Cruz by the waist and easily deposited her on the ground as if she weighed nothing.  Then, taking her hand, he followed their guide into the Long House.

This was a replica of a lodge home that would have been typical of the Native Americans who called the eastern woodlands their home before Europeans arrived.  The lodge was like a Quonset hut made of tree trunks and bark.  Inside a fire burned, keeping the place smoky but warm.  Niles set Cruz ahead of him so that she could warm herself while a guide explained how up to thirty Native Americans in family groups might have lived inside the lodge.

The next stops on the tour were a visit to the sheep barn, complete with two curious black-faced sheep and a root cellar beneath the main house.

The last stop was the Hans Herr House itself.  The one and a half story building retained all its Colonial charm.  The first floor held three rooms, a small, cramped kitchen, the central meeting and living space, and the master’s bedroom.  Children would have slept on the second floor.

As he stepped inside, Niles breathed in the scent of herbs and wood smoke.  The house with its foot thick masonry walls was cozy against the wintery night.  The tour group packed together in the kitchen where a re-enactor described how flax was processed into thread which was then woven into fabrics.

The tour ended in the meeting room.  This room, delightfully warm due to the fire in the hearth, drowsed in the light of fifty candles, giving the space a mystical air as if the group really had left the modern world.  A volunteer handed out lyrics for Silent Night, written in German, which was the language the Herr family would have spoken.  Clutching Cruz to his side, Niles joined the chorus, easily singing in German which he’d learned during World War II.  His voice was a rich baritone and Cruz stopped to stare up at him in wonder as he led the singing.  When the group sang the second verse in English, Cruz joined in again, although for fun she sang it in Spanish.  As the voices faded away, everyone stood in silence, absorbing the beauty of the night in that magical place.

As they trailed out of the house and walked to the blacksmith shop where volunteers offered hot chocolate and a bonfire, Niles kept Cruz at his side.  He handed her a cup of the chocolate but took coffee for himself.  Chocolate and vampires were a potent mix.  He then stood staring at the fire while Cruz warmed her toes with the blaze and her innards with her chocolate.

“So did you enjoy my gift?” she asked.

Niles’ smile was enigmatic.  His blue eyes flickered yellow not just due to the firelight but due to the emotions he felt.

Without a word, he took the chocolate from Cruz’s hand and set it on a nearby fencepost.  Then he pulled her into his arms.

“I am beyond charmed,” he murmured, his voice growing husky.  “It was the second best gift anyone has ever given me.”

“Only the second best?” she breathed in complaint, captured by those mesmerizing eyes as the yellow grew stronger.

Niles nodded.  He bent his head and stole his kiss.  Cruz didn’t refuse him.  Her mittens crept around his neck, drawing his tall frame down as her tongue tickled his.

Pulling slightly away, he smiled tenderly.  “That, Mari Cruz, was the best gift of all.”

 

 

© 2017  Newmin