Gule Gets a Manicure

 

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.

Gule Learns Diamonds Are Forever

 

“I take it blizzard conditions don’t bother you,” Mariella Cruz complained as she clutched her scarf tight to her throat and waited for her partner, Niles Gule, to open the door to the Bangor police station.

Niles considered the frigid Maine evening.  Flurries battered his cheeks, striking like icy arrows.  The wind tried without success to ruffle his neatly shorn blonde locks.  Cold, yes.  Blizzard conditions, hardly.

“I’m a vampire,” he commented.  “Born in Boston no less.  Winters don’t bother me.”

Cruz touched his cheek with the back of her hand.  Her fingers burned compared to his cold skin.  He closed his eyes, savoring that soft brush of warmth before she jerked her hand away.  Niles sighed and willed his wayward heart to stop thumping.  Such heat is not for you, he reminded himself.

Cruz seemed as startled by their brief touch as he.  She gathered her wits quickly, however, and charged forward in full Cruz style.  “I’m Mexican.  The only snow we have in the home country will get you arrested.”

Niles swallowed the pain in his chest and pretended to smile.  He allowed her to lead the way.

An efficient hum hung over the station.  Someone was talking quietly on the phone taking down particulars about packages being stolen from mailboxes.  An older man complained that his car had been stolen, only to be told he really needed to lock it up next time.  A woman was hanging a notice on the bulletin board describing the latest Most Wanted.  For murder.  In California.  Niles suspected Bangor didn’t need to worry about the LA Strangler coming their way.

He rested his arm on a filing cabinet.  An American wood duck, stuffed but amazingly lifelike, stared at him with beady eyes.

Cruz waved a large envelope at the first uniformed woman she encountered.  “Detectives Cruz and Gule from Baltimore here to pick up evidence.”

The woman smiled.  “Yes.  We’ve been expecting you.  Hold on.  Let me find TC… Sergeant Cotton.  He’s handing the problem.”

Niles lifted a brow as he glanced at Cruz.  “Problem?”

Cruz shrugged.

TC appeared, a formidable silver-haired man, looking relieved.  He extended his hand and shook Cruz’s.  Niles kept his hands in his pockets.  Upsetting one human with his cold skin was enough for the night.

“Welcome to Bangor,” TC said.  “You came a long way.”

Cruz nodded.  “All in a day’s work.”  She glanced around the small station that was the epitome of what Baltimore’s precinct was not, clean, quiet and orderly.  Baltimore dreamed of a world like this.

She and Niles had been sent north to pick up evidence related to a murder in the city.  A deal over stolen property had gone bad, leaving two men dead and another in prison awaiting trial.  The deal had been some convoluted affair between the three men in Baltimore and someone in Maine who remained unidentified.  The two detectives had been tasked with retrieving the contested property.

“I’m glad you finally came,” TC commented.  “It’s been a pain dealing with this.”

Cruz had only briefly scanned the paperwork before setting out on the journey north. “I’m not sure why.  It’s just diamonds.”

TC gave her a hard look.  “Diamonds,” he repeated.  He sounded dubious.

“It is diamonds, right?” Niles asked.  He didn’t like the vibe he was receiving from TC or the lady officer.  They were shooting looks at each other.

TC grabbed a parka embroidered with the Bangor Police Department logo on it.  “Yeah, it’s diamonds.”  As he passed the desk, Niles’ sensitive hearing caught what he muttered to the woman.  “Southerners.”  The woman rolled her eyes.

Cruz and Niles were forced to follow when TC headed for the door.

“Haven’t you been keeping them in the evidence locker?” Cruz demanded as the trio plunged into the frigid night.

“Nope.  Wouldn’t fit.”

Through the dark and flurries, Niles tried to catch Cruz’s eye.  He had a bad feeling about this.

TC led them to a patrol car and opened the door.  “Get in.  It’s a bit of a drive.”

Now Cruz did stare hard at Niles.  As he slid his tall, thin form into the vehicle he gave her an encouraging look.  He was, after all, a vampire and she was armed.  He had no doubt the two of them could take down the seemingly honest looking Mainer if they needed to.

TC settled into the driver’s seat and drove off at a pace so sedate it had Cruz gripping the seat in frustration.  Niles, who’d suffered eight hours of Cruz’s maniacal driving north, breathed a sigh of relief.

“Certainly is a different world up here,” he commented.

TC nodded.  “Yep.  Relatively peaceful and quiet.  The way we like it.”

After almost twenty minutes they’d passed out of the small city and were moving through dark countryside.  To Cruz it appeared as impenetrable black, but Niles was able to watch as small New England cottages and picturesque farmettes passed in the dark.  The car rocked when they turned onto an unpaved lane.  Ahead of them lights gleamed from a farm house and barn.

TC pulled up and climbed out.

Niles uncoiled himself and rose, then offered his hand to Cruz.  She hesitated, then took it and got out of the car.

TC strolled to a fence and waved.  “Diamonds.”

Cruz stopped cold.

“Please tell me your night vision is better than mine and I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.”

Niles leaned against the fence.  “Ok.  My night vision is better than yours and I’m not sure what it is you think you’re seeing.”

“Please tell me that’s not a reindeer!”

Niles tilted his head as he considered the giant animal dozing in the middle of the paddock.  It was the size of a horse but it had huge antlers on its head.  “Ok.  It’s not a reindeer.”

“The paperwork said diamonds!” Cruz complained.

TC nodded.  “And that, folks, is Diamonds the racing reindeer.  He’s pretty famous.  A champion.”  He eyed them curiously.  “What do you expect to find in Maine?”

“I expected diamonds,” Cruz moaned.  “Our stolen property is a reindeer?”

“Yep,” TC commented.  “I take it you didn’t read your paperwork.”

Cruz sighed.  “Didn’t look past the word diamonds.”

“Sucks to be you,” TC said.

Niles slapped Cruz on the shoulder.  “You can handle the reindeer.  I’ve got to make some calls.”

Cruz scowled.  “Why do I have to handle the reindeer?”

Niles couldn’t keep the grin from his face.  “Isn’t it true, diamonds are a girl’s best friend?”

Cruz tried to punch him but Niles danced out of the way.

He extended his arms.  “Never let it be said I didn’t give you diamonds, Cruz!”

Her hand went to her weapon.  “Ok, now that deserves a response!”

Niles laughed and started flipping websites on his cell phone.

“What are you looking for?” Cruz demanded.

Niles chuckled.  “Rental companies.  To paraphrase a famous movie.  We’re gonna need a bigger car.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

Niles comments:  The Bangor Police Department has the best Facebook page I’ve ever read.  Warm, funny, yet providing important information to the people they serve.  The department is a credit to the profession and a heck of a lot better at this social media thing than a certain vampire will ever be.  Follow them and the great conversations with people from all over the US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gules and Turtles Do Not Mix

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.”

“And?”

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!

http://www.fudgeryfudge.com/

Gule’s Gift

The average vampire slept lightly because they lived amongst humans determined to kill them.  Although he was grievously wounded, Niles Gule, being a vampire, remained aware of his surroundings.  So when he heard the stealthy patter of feet in the room, he fought to waken.  Instincts screamed.  Danger!  Danger!  You’re being attacked.

Although he knew he should be in a safe place, his will to survive jarred him awake bare seconds before the attack hit.  Three small bodies landed on him, shooting rays of pain from his torso.  He struggled to free himself of the cocoon of blankets but it was too late.  He was pinned, pummeled and squished by a pack of squirming children.

“Uncle Niles!” Little Luz shook his cheeks to wake him.  “Get up!  It’s Christmas!”

With a groan, Niles turned onto his back to stare bleary eyed at his tormentors.  Little Luz was five years old, dark-eyed and rosy cheeked.   Carlos was raven-haired and broad shouldered even at the age of seven.  Angel was the devil of the trio.  His brilliant green eyes forever twinkled with mischief.  Niles suspected he’d led the charge into the room where the vampire slept.

Niles had spent Christmas Eve in Mariella Cruz’s bed in the little ranch house in Baltimore after he’d been shot during a robbery at a liquor store.  Being a consultant for the police department, he’d reported the robbery and the murder of the store clerk.  Being a vampire, he’d immediately fled the scene.  A wounded vampire oozed clear gelatinous goo not blood.  He’d be revealed as a vampire.  If those who answered the call weren’t friends, they’d kill him.  Few people suffered vampires to live.

He’d collapsed in a small park where he lay in the cold darkness, waiting for the rising sun to kill him.  Fortunately, he’d left a trail of bloody footprints a blind man could follow.  Cruz, his partner, hearing the call of an officer down, had abandoned her party preparations and raced to the scene.  She’d tracked him to the park, called for assistance from Williams who knew Niles was a vampire, and together they shoved him into her car.  She’d brought him home against his protests then tended to the wound, bound him up, and ordered him to stay in bed until she decided he could rise.

Which was why he had awoken Christmas morning with her niece and nephews jumping on him.  The tiny ranch house was bursting with Cruz’s.

“Get up, Uncle Niles,” Luz chirped.  “Santa came!”

Groaning, holding a hand to his bandaged ribs, Niles sat up.  Cruz’s ultra-frilly bedroom drowsed in predawn twilight.  Angel pounded on his shoulders to wake him.

“Shssh!” Niles whispered when he realized the house was silent.  The adults hadn’t yet risen, not surprising given they’d been up until midnight dealing with an injured vampire.  “Let’s not wake everyone.”

The three children tugged on his arm, dragging him from the bed.  When he swung his legs over the side he realized he was naked and hastily grabbed a sheet for cover.  The three children kept pulling.  Niles doubted he’d be able to sleep given the throb in his side, so he stripped the sheet from the bed and wrapped it around his waist.  Once all his bits and pieces were safely tucked away, he allowed his tormentors to tow him into the living room.

The children threw themselves to their knees before the glittering tree and started sorting through brightly wrapped packages.  Still not totally functional, a barefoot Niles lowered himself into a chair.

“Can we open them?” Angel asked, shaking a box in silver paper.

“No!”  Niles gave him a reproachful look.  “Your parents won’t appreciate missing out.  Put that down.”

Angel scowled.  His calculating look told Niles he might ignore the warning, but another hard look from the vampire’s blue eyes made him set the package aside.  The boy drew a huge sigh and looked petulant.

Niles knew he had to keep the children occupied or they’d wake the entire house.  Shoving himself to his feet, he trundled to the kitchen, found a tray, plates and glasses, filled them, and returned to the living room.  He set the tray on the floor.

“Milk and cookies,” he said.  “Breakfast.”

The children dove in.

Her eyes wide over the rim of her glass, Luz asked, “Aren’t you going to have any?”

Angel handed him a glass.  Niles sniffed it and shuddered.  Even the smell was awful.  Then Carlos extended a cookie and Niles felt bound to accept it.  He fingered the bit of bread and sugar.

“Don’t you like cookies?” Carlos took a giant bite of his.

“They’re chocolate chip!” Angel garbled with his mouth full.

Niles considered the cookie.  Eyed the kids who stared back at him expectantly.  Well, you’ve always wanted to be human, he thought.  He took a miniscule bite.  The taste was alien.  He couldn’t describe it, but it wasn’t unpleasant.  He let the bit roll around his mouth until it disintegrated.  He smiled at the children, deciding maybe cookies weren’t such a bad thing.  He took another bite.

The three were growing restless again.

Niles spied a chess set made of carved quartz.  To keep the children occupied, he set it on the floor.

“What’s that?” Angel asked suspiciously.

“It’s a chess set.  A game.”  Niles noted the look of derision on the boy’s face.  “It’s like Game of Thrones.”

That sparked interest in the lad.  Eagerly the three children gathered around as Niles wove a tale about the origins of chess, of ancient battles and medieval princes.  The three sat around him rapt.  Then he explained the rules and challenged them, three against one.  It was on.

An hour later, Niles looked up when he heard a faint, strangled sound.  Mariella Cruz stood in her bathrobe watching the group huddled on the floor around the chess set.  Her eyes were wide, her mouth half open.

Niles decided it wasn’t every day Cruz woke up to find a naked vampire playing chess with her relatives on the living room floor.  He smiled and ate another cookie.  Her mouth dropped.

“Join us?” he asked, waving to the floor.

Cruz nodded, dazed, and dropped beside him.  She touched his forehead.

“Are you all right?”

Niles focused on the board.  The trio had his queen on the ropes.  “Couldn’t be better.”

“You’re teaching them chess?”

Niles nodded.  “Game of Thrones version.”

Her hand found his shoulder and squeezed.  “You’re a miracle, Gule.”

He flashed a dazzling smile.  “No, just a vampire.  Thank you for bringing me here.  I’ve always wanted a real Christmas.”

Cruz glanced at the tree and its array of gifts.

“I’m sorry there aren’t any for you,” she murmured.

Niles allowed little Luz to crawl into his lap.  Her wriggling made his injury ache but he didn’t care.  He wrapped his arms around her and held her against his chest while he tried to protect his queen.

“Don’t be sorry.”  His hands tightened around Luz as he smiled at Angel and Carlos.  “There is a gift for me under this tree.  It’s the finest gift I’ve ever received.”

 

© 2016 Newmin

Gule’s Night on the Town

Niles Gule was alone on Christmas Eve.  Although the vampire stood in the midst of a street party, he was alone.  Although his long, white-nailed fingers clasped his wool coat tight to his throat, he was cold.  A festival atmosphere filled the air, yet Niles didn’t celebrate.  Because he was alone.

After suffering through a long afternoon of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story”, Niles fled into the streets of Baltimore to find solace amongst strangers.  He possessed no family that would gather around the Christmas roast, no hoards of young relatives slavering to rip into presents under a tree.  Although he’d been invited to the Lo family Christmas by his boss, Sergeant Tan Lo of the Baltimore PD, Niles felt uncomfortable impinging on the family’s celebration.  He felt they deserved to enjoy this particular holiday without his ghastly presence.  His partner, Mariella Cruz, also offered to absorb him into her Feliz Navidad festivities, but again, Niles refused.  That family, too, didn’t need a vampire lurking in dark corners while they ate food he couldn’t eat, spoke a language he didn’t know, and enjoyed traditions that were alien to him.

Not that Niles was against Christmas.  He wasn’t.  He liked the joy and wonder that pervaded the air, the spirit of giving and camaraderie.  To take part, he purchased gifts for his co-workers’ children.  He strung lights and pine boughs around the balcony of his apartment on Lombard Street.  He watched the parade of decorated boats in the harbor each year.  He tried to fit into the sparkle and glitter.  Unfortunately, vampires weren’t glittery people.

Since he had nowhere to go, Niles volunteered for duty Christmas Eve, freeing others to be with their families.  He was on call, his cell phone in his pocket in the event of a vampire apocalypse or other tragedy.  Otherwise, he was free to roam.  So he did.

His feet had brought him to 34th Street where once a year the Miracle on 34th Street recurred.  Since 1947 the owners of the Victorian townhomes converted the one block stretch into a Christmas paradise.  Every house was decorated.  Lights hung over the street with mistletoe and elves dangling.  Festive music blared, blow up Santas waved and a herd of reindeer pranced in tiny front yards.  Enterprising children sold sodas to hungry visitors.  Due to the number of people, the street was closed to traffic.   The Miracle was a giant outdoor block party with the City of Baltimore as its guests.

Niles sauntered through the crowds, vaguely smiling at the joy surrounding him.  God, he wished he weren’t alone, he thought as he wended between laughing families.  The winking lights blurred his vision and the smell of fried food was irritating.  The jangle of music was harsh to his sensitive hearing, causing him to pull his knitted scarf over his ears.  Eventually, the sounds, smells and gaiety robbed him of sanity and he fled into the darkness of the surrounding streets.

Alone.

Niles ventured the night unmolested.  Even the trolls who prowled in shadowy corners knew better than to mug the tall, silent vampire.  His pain turned his eyes yellow.  They glowed with enough satanic gleam to terrify the hardiest criminals.

Flashing lights piercing the darkness made Niles wince.  The lights, however, were a beacon.  A liquor store.  Grimly happy because the one thing that soothed his tortured soul was alcohol, Niles headed straight for the vodka aisle.

No sense wasting good vodka on a bad drunk, he thought as he considered the cheap stuff on the floor.  He knew he’d get totally reeling drunk.  He hoped he’d be so plastered he wouldn’t mind spending Christmas alone in an empty apartment, facing centuries of loneliness.

As Niles bent to grab a bottle, the doorbell rang, indicating another soul had come for his tiny bit of Christmas cheer.  Niles debated one fifth, then decided perhaps Christmas deserved a two-fer.   He grasped two Heaven Hill vodkas marked down to 99 cents.

The barked command to freeze caught him by surprise.  His startled gaze checked the aisle.  Who was out to kill him on Christmas Eve?  He saw no one but heard scrambling.  Rising on his toes, Niles peered over the top of the shelf, not too difficult given his imposing height, and studied the checkout booth.

A huge man in a hoodie brandished a shotgun at the clerk tending the register.

“Empty it now, old man,” a gruff voice demanded.  “Or I’ll empty this into you!”

The old clerk’s shaking hands scrambled in the register.

A robbery?  Seriously?  Niles sighed and set down his bottles.  He wasn’t armed beyond his silver knife, useful for vampires but not much else.  His hand immediately slid to his cell phone as he sank to a knee behind the shelves.   Within seconds he’d texted the dispatcher, informing the police of the robbery.

He wanted remain merely a witness, but the clerk’s cry of pain sent him slipping along the aisle.  He peered around the corner to find the robber had grabbed the clerk by the wrist.  The burly man hauled the clerk over the counter and flung him to the floor.  He raised a booted foot to smash the clerk’s face.

Niles yelled to divert his attention.  The robber staggered back, his twitching hands aiming the shotgun at this new surprise entrant in his drama.

“Beat it!” he shouted.  “I’ll shoot you.”

Niles raised his empty hands to show he was unarmed.  “Take it easy.  Just grab the money and go.  No need to hurt an old man.”

“You don’t know shit!”  Saliva spattered the robber’s cheek as his hands tightened on the gun.

“The police are on their way,” Niles said calmly.  He remained frozen with his hands in the air.  “Best get running.”

The robber’s red-rimmed eyes flicked towards the clerk then up at Niles.  Niles saw him calculating.  Too late, he realized what the man was thinking.  Leave no witnesses.  The man fired down at the clerk, hitting him in a spray across the back.  The clerk jerked then lay still.

Niles cried out in horror and leaped but even a vampire can’t outrace a pump action shot gun.  The robber pumped and fired.  The spray hit Niles in the side, blasting a massive wound from his ribs to his hip.  Niles went down, writhing in pain, smelling the stink of sulfur.  As he hit the floor he heard the robber’s feet scrambling.  Silence descended.

Through the searing pain, Niles’ found his cell phone.  He dialed the precinct.  To the dispatcher he gasped, “Man down, Fortuna Liquors.”  His nerveless fingers lost control of the phone and it clattered onto the tiles.

For what felt like hours, Niles lay in the slowly spreading pool of blood from the clerk, his own consciousness flickering.  Instinct screamed.  Get up!  Get up!  You can’t be found like this.

As a vampire in a world that hunted his kind, Niles knew he had to move.  Drawing every bit of strength in his long body, he dragged himself to his feet and staggered from the store, leaving a trail of bloody hand and footprints behind.

The dark cold called to him.  Niles lurched along the street until he came to a small park.  There the last of his strength gave out and he collapsed onto the frosty grass.  Closing his eyes, he gritted his teeth through wave after wave of pain.  Let the healing be fast, he muttered into the darkness.  Because in a few hours the sun will rise.  If its pale rays found him unprotected, they would desiccate his delicate skin and things would get really ugly.

Niles lay in the darkness, willing his body to work its magic, wondering if he even wanted it to.

He heard the bells ringing midnight.

Merry Christmas, Gule.

 

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

 

Niles Comments:  While my experience on Christmas Eve hasn’t been the best, I do recommend visiting the Miracle on 34th Street.  This street party is graciously hosted by all the families of the block.  Visit to see the sights, meet the people and enjoy the festival atmosphere.  And thank the hard working families who put on this show for your enjoyment year after year.

http://www.christmasstreet.com/

 

 

 

 

Gule Gives His Heart Away

 

When every male head turned simultaneously, Niles Gule’s did as well.  Officer Jonas Williams of the Baltimore PD, who stood beside him in the crowded ballroom, let out a wolf whistle totally inappropriate for the occasion.  Little Walter Cooksey, half the height of his partner Williams or the tall, lithe vampire, pranced on his toes to see what had everyone transfixed.

“Who’da thunk she could polish up so nice,” Williams commented.

Niles found his brilliant blue gaze caught as his own partner on the force, Mariella Cruz, sailed into the Christmas party with all the aplomb of a Hollywood siren.  The luscious little Mexican wore a floor length gown of ruby red beaded from neckline to hem.  Although, Niles thought, to call anything on that dress a neckline was a stretch.  The dipping front revealed a good bit of curving pale skin between her breasts where a ruby pendant rested, demanding to be noticed.  Spaghetti straps left her curving brown shoulders bare, allowing jeweled earrings to brush across them like a caress.  She’d twisted her mass of thick black hair into a ball at the nape of her neck and covered it with a net glittering with sequins.  The woman sparkled and not just because of her finery.  Her dark eyes glowed.

“She can’t be our Cruz,” Krewelski complained.  “Since when has the little spitfire been hiding that under her pant suits?”  His comment earned him a slug from his chubby wife Veronica.

‘That’ was a wealth of curves fit for a Formula One race.  Niles had always known his partner was a curvaceous creature, but the lines of the dress hugged every one of them.   He found himself mesmerized.

As, apparently, did every other man in the ballroom.

Deshawn Jackson’s wife grabbed her hulky husband and steered him towards the buffet.  Cooksey’s date — Niles suspected she was an escort — draped herself over her small, fat client to distract him.  Williams, who sported a stunning blonde Russian on his arm, made no effort to appease her.  He stared his fill.

“Who’s she with?” Niles asked as a tall, elegant man in black handed Cruz’s wrap to an attendant.

Williams’ gaze flicked from the equally tall, elegant vampire, also in black, to the man who led Cruz into the gathering.  “That would be Malcolm Deschamps.”  When Niles lifted a brow, he added, “Senior partner at Deschamps, Briggs and Waterman.  Defense attorneys for the rich and famous.”

Niles felt his icy heart sting.  Cruz looked so radiant on the arm of her dashing escort.  They were the most striking couple in the room.  While Cruz looked warm and cuddly, just begging to be snuggled, Deschamps was cool and supercilious.  Every thread was in place, his shoes immaculately buffed.  His dark hair, a match to hers, was carefully trimmed and dusted with just the right touch of gray to make him distinguished.  His eyes held a certain condescension for everyone in the room.  Niles hated him on sight.

He’s too tall for her, the vampire thought with a sniff, and too… oh…. Just too… perfect.

He must have spoken because Williams murmured, “Now you know how it feels.”

Niles lifted a brow.  Williams lifted one right back.

“You came alone?” the man asked, noting that nothing female circled in the handsome vampire’s orbit.

“Yes.”

“A good looking man like you?”  The giant policeman studied Niles.  “I’da thought you’d be crawling with women.”  He wriggled his fingers.  “All that vampire charisma.  Voodoo stuff.  Can’t you mesmerize a woman just by looking at her?”

Niles hissed, darting a glance at Williams’ date.  “Exnay, Jonas!”

Williams waved.  “Who her?  She doesn’t speak a word of English.”  He grinned.  “She understands Polish though.  Polish kielbasa.”  He winked and made a lewd gesture.

Niles scowled.  He resented that he was the only male there alone.  Even little Cooksey had bought himself company for the night.  Niles knew he could have done as Williams suggested, use his vampire charm to entrap any female he wished.  When he hunted humans years ago he’d employed that skill.  Made trapping dinner easy.  He was not, however, going to use the power of persuasion to wrangle a date.  He wasn’t that desperate.  Was he?

The DJ sifted from background jazz to bluesy dance music.  Couples drifted onto the dance floor, Cruz and her Adonis included.  Niles tossed back a Champagne as he watched the dancers sway to the beat.  Even Cooksey and his bimbo were on the floor.  Niles was surprised to find the little man was smooth as he spun his lady of the evening amongst the police officers who’d arrested her a few times.  Cooksey never ceased to amaze.  As soon as Niles thought he’d gotten to the bottom of Walter Cooksey, the man managed to surprise him anew.

Williams’ didn’t dance.  He considered Niles.  “So why didn’t you bring a date?”

Niles grunted.   “Who would I bring?”  He lowered his voice.  “I’m a damned vampire!”

“What about that little cookie who moved in next door?  She’s a vampire, isn’t she?”  He twitched his brows. “She’s a hottie.”

Niles scowled.  “She’s a third my age.”

“I hear she’s got it hard for you.”

He earned himself a disgusted gesture.

Yeah, Tyra the fifty-something vampire had it hard for Niles.  He was, after all, becoming the territorial lord of Baltimore and she wasn’t a fool.  If she hitched her wagon to Niles Gule, she could go far.  Most female vampires killed to land an alpha male for a mate.  Another reason to stay away from the ladies, Niles thought glumly.  He didn’t need Vampira Tyra killing them.

Three glasses of wine later, Niles felt only slightly better.  He mingled and poured on the vampiric charm to a gaggle of older women.   They were safe company.  Niles wasn’t interested in them and although they found him pleasant to look at, none would proposition him with their husbands nearby.

Niles turned when a hand touched his arm.

“Let’s dance.” Cruz demanded.  She didn’t wait for Niles’ approval.  She hauled him onto the dance floor, spun him around and clasped his shoulders.

Niles heart melted.  While his entire body went stiff with both the shock of holding her in his arms and the pleasure of all that softness pressing into him, his heart fell helplessly into her little hands.  She smiled, her eyes shining.  He got his rhythm and soon they were sweeping across the floor in step with The Girl From Ipanema.  A bossa nova so fitting for Cruz.  She was a fine dancer, as was he.  The crowd opened to watch them.

When the dance ended, Niles and Cruz stood pressed together, both breathing a little harder than the dancing required.

“We’re under the mistletoe,” she whispered.

Niles nodded, mesmerized.  He dropped his head and gave her the chastest of kisses, a brief touch before pulling away.  He watched with intense pain and jealousy as Malcolm Deschampes reclaimed her with a snarky look at Niles.  He forced himself to smile politely to his rival, a man far more fitting for Cruz than a vampire.

William’s heavy hand fell on his shoulder.  “It’s painful to watch.”

Niles nodded in silence.

“Get her a really great gift, Ghoul,” he suggested.  “Win her from that over-paid weasel.”

Niles blinked.  “If I didn’t know better I’d think you liked me, Jonas.”

The big man shrugged.  “You grow on people.  Like a fungus.”  He poked the vampire.  “A gift, Ghoul.  A really nice one.”

Niles watched as Cruz headed with her escort towards the buffet tables.

“Already done, Jonas,” he murmured.  “I’ve given her the most precious thing I own.”

 

 

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

Gule In Candyland

The woman who answered the door was not what Niles expected.  She was short, round, and silver haired, wearing a brilliant floral cotton dress and an equally brilliant smile that revealed her dentures.  Her pale blue eyes twinkled even when Niles’ partner, Mariella Cruz, flashed her Baltimore Police badge.

“May we come in?” Cruz asked, flicking a confused glance at Niles.

Bessie McGill flung the door wide and with a flourish ushered the two officers into her small, cheerful bungalow.  Officers Williams and Cooksey remained outside the white picket fence that separated her garden from the street.

Niles didn’t need to study Bessie’s parlor to know what it contained.  The smell of peppermint, cocoa, and butterscotch assaulted his finely tuned vampire nose.  Overly fussy furniture and massive glass jars of candy filled the room.  Atop the grand piano stood pedestal jars containing caramels, peppermints, sour balls, and licorice.  A menagerie of sugar glass animals marched across the mantle above her well-used fireplace.  Chains of sour drops hung like Christmas decorations from the stair railing.  The riot of colors in iridescent hues was painful to Niles’ sensitive eyes.

Cruz edged close and muttered, “I feel like I’m investigating my own grandmother.”

Niles also lowered his voice.  “I don’t have a grandmother.”  At her quirked brow, he asked, “Are you saying you don’t want to pursue this lead?”

His partner vacillated.  “I don’t know.  Seems like we’ve invaded the North Pole.  Maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Your call.”

Cruz considered then dove in.  She smiled at Bessie.  “We’re investigating the disappearance of five children from the area.”

Bessie settled her ample behind against the back of the overstuffed chintz sofa and waited.

“Your neighbors tell us all five of the missing children came here for candy.”

Bessie smiled brightly.  “I’m sure they did.  All the children within walking distance visit me for candy.”  She waved at her house which looked more like a Victorian candy store than it did a residence.  “I adore children!  I keep all this purely for them.”

Niles considered her substantial girth and questioned that assertion.  He lifted a brow.  Bessie looked him in the eye and he saw the challenge.  Just say it.  I dare you.  He blinked, startled by the aggression.  Then the look was gone and Bessie was a sweet old grandmother again.

Cruz looked conflicted.  The little Mexican-American normally took no prisoners.  If she scented anything she didn’t like she would be on it like a woodchuck on a log.  Unfortunately, the benign space offered her nothing.

“Would you mind if we looked around?” Niles asked.

When Cruz raised her brows, he shrugged.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Bessie’s smile didn’t waver.  “Of course not, dear!  I have no idea what you think you’ll find, but you’re more than welcome.  I have nothing to hide.”

“Does anyone else live with you?” Niles asked as Cruz wandered into the kitchen and he circled the parlor.

“No.”  Bessie sighed.  “I lost my third husband ten years ago.  I never had any children.  That’s why I offer the neighborhood children candy.”  Her smile returned and her face softened.  “They treat me like their grandmother.  They’re such sweet dears.”

Niles frowned.  For some reason the way she spoke bothered him.  He sensed she used a code only he should understand.  Unfortunately he didn’t.

Bessie gestured to a jar of red hots.  “Have some if you like.”

When Niles politely refused she frowned.  “Don’t like the hot stuff I suppose.”  She pointed around the room.  “I have something for everyone.  Even some exotic items.  Candy lips, maybe?  Licorice worms?  How about candy blood?”

Niles froze.  He stared at her as she blithely peered back at him.

Cruz returned and eyed him strangely.  Niles suspected his ordinarily pallid face had gone totally white.

“I’d like our officers to look around if that’s all right,” he stammered.  He wanted a better search.

Bessie nodded.  “Certainly.”

Williams and Cooksey sounded like a herd of buffalo as they stomped inside.  Cooksey headed upstairs while Williams took the basement.  Niles decided to try his luck.  His hand trailed over Bessie’s desk as he skimmed the mail piled on its surface.

Bessie watched curiously as Niles flipped through the stack of envelopes.

“What exactly are you looking for?” she asked.  “Maybe I could help you find it.”

Niles shot her a glance but kept reading.

“I assume it must be about with those lost children,” Bessie continued.  “You can’t possibly think I was involved in their disappearances.  I love children.”

Cruz’s dark eyes flicked between the two people.  Her puckered brow indicated she sensed the unspoken conflict brewing.  “We’re concerned because all of them came here.”

“As did probably another fifty children who didn’t disappear,” Bessie replied.  She appeared undisturbed by the police wandering through her house.

Williams ascended from the basement.  He shook his head.

“Nothing except cobwebs and spiders.”

Cooksey’s feet thumped as he descended the stairs.  “Nothing upstairs.”

Bessie smiled.  “No clumps of discarded children’s clothing?  No charred bones in the oven?”

Niles jerked.  Cruz frowned.  Their gazes met over Bessie’s head.  Niles tried to send a message but Cruz wasn’t getting it.

“Well, thank you for your time.”  Cruz offered Bessie her hand.

Bessie gave a firm shake back.  “Glad to be of help.  If I hear anything I’ll call you.”

Williams and Cooksey looked longingly at the candy.  Bessie grinned and offered a bowl of butterscotches.  Both men took fistfuls as they tromped out the door.

Cruz waved off the candy as she patted her hips.  “Thank you, no.  Always have to watch the waistline.”

Bessie nodded.  “I understand.  Have a good day now.”

Cruz apologized for intruding.  As she slid past Niles, she muttered, “What a waste of time.”

Niles inclined his head as he made his exit.  “Thank you, Mrs. McGill.”

Bessie followed him to the door.  Her hand touched his arm just before he moved out of reach.  “Do come back when the children are here, Mr. Gule.  You’ll see just how I treat them.  Like they were my very own.”

“I don’t care much for children,” Niles murmured uncomfortably.

Bessie beamed.  “Then you must come back.  I’ll show you just how sweet they are.”

Niles blinked.  “Excuse me?”

Bessie’s smile grew darker as she backed into her home.  “Oh, come now, Mr. Gule.  Don’t be coy with an old witch.  You like a good child as much as the next vampire, don’t you?”

Niles stiffened.

“I’ll look forward to seeing you next time I have guests.  We can enjoy them together.”  Bessie cackled as she closed the door.

 

 

© 2016 Newmin

 

 

Sweet and Sour Gule

 

The foul smell nearly knocked Niles Gule to the floor.  Reeling, the vampire shoved his nose into his sleeve as the confused Chinese fishmonger ripped open a package revealing coils of fresh sausage.  He complained in rapid Cantonese to a younger man Niles assumed was his son and gestured at the sausage.

“I don’t know, pop.”  The younger man shrugged.  “I didn’t order it.”  He considered the package’s address.  “It’s for Chou’s restaurant, although why they’d order kubasa sausage is beyond me.”  He sniffed.  “Whoa!  Garlic!”

Niles, being a vampire, had known the sausage was suffused with garlic before anyone opened the package.  Were he not desperate for information, the smell would have driven him from the fish market.  Instead, Niles stood his ground near a table laden with fish staring at him google-eyed.  They didn’t smell much better than the sausage.

Old Zhou, the market’s owner, complained in Cantonese about youth, the Canadian postal service, or maybe the phase of the moon, then trundled away.  Young Zhou tossed the sausage onto the ice table and considered Niles.

“So who are you looking for again?” he asked.

Niles sighed.  He’d left Baltimore and crept illegally into Canada seeking a man who had no name.  Who only emerged from the shadows to feed on the blood of innocents.  A man who didn’t want to be found.

A meager trail of clues had led Niles to the vibrant corner of Dundas and Spadina streets in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown.  The journey had not been without peril.  Entering the country illegally made travel difficult, however the bigger problem had been his fellow vampires.  Niles had invaded their territories, the boundaries of which were fluid and invisible.  When he’d run afoul of a female in Montreal, he’d avoided entanglement but announced his presence in Canada.  The local vampires couldn’t be happy their brother from Baltimore was on a jaunt north of the border.  Niles was gaining a reputation as a territorial lord, a vampire to be feared, respected and where possible, challenged.  His appearance outside his home turf created a firestorm.

The tall, blond vampire studied Zhou.  “A man about my height.  With pure white hair.  Looks to be in his sixties.  Distinguished.  Might be using the name Gaston.”

Zhou gave him a hard look which told Niles he knew the man.  Niles saw calculation in Zhou’s dark eyes then he glanced away and shoveled ice over his fish.  “Could be anyone.”

Niles considered the shop.  It was late.  Closing time.  “He’d come about now.”  He allowed his blue eyes to harden.  “You pay him protection money, Zhou.”

The lad jerked but kept working.

“He’s the capo of his own unique mafia,” Niles went on.  “You pay to keep him from eating the people of Chinatown.”

Zhou was saved from answering when a group of four men entered the shop.  Even through the overwhelming stench of kubasa, Niles’ sensitive nose scented vampires.  They weren’t after Zhou who quailed behind his tables of fish.  Their angry yellow eyes fixed on Niles.

“Welcoming committee?” he asked pleasantly.  His fingers toyed with his silver knife.

“You’re off your playground,” growled the leader, a lithe, dark haired man.

“Just hunting up an old friend.”

Yellow eyes turned red as anger became rage and the vampire prepared to attack.  “These hunting grounds belong to us.”  He sniffed in Zhou’s direction and licked his lips.

Zhou shuddered.

Niles subtly shook his head, ordering the lad to freeze.  If he ran, the vampires’ hunting instincts would overwhelm them and they’d leap.  Zhou didn’t have a chance.  Only Niles stood between him and death.

He spied gloves the fishmonger used to handle ice.  Casually, Niles drew them on.

The lead vampire took that as Niles’ preparation for a fight and his eyes narrowed.  He grinned and flexed his claws.  “This should be fun,” he purred.  “Eliminating the notorious traitor Gule.”  He flicked his wrist and a silver switchknife appeared in his hand.

Niles grabbed a clamp used to hold labels to the fish and pinched it on his nose.

The four vampires charged, knives out, one aiming for Zhou while the other three tackled Niles.

“What do I do?” wailed Zhou brandishing a cleaver.

“Lose the cleaver,” Niles growled, earning himself a stunned look.

Setting his knife aside, Niles grabbed a sausage link.  “Hit them with the kubasa!”

Zhou stood blinking, his mouth hanging open.

Niles stepped aside as the first vampire reached him.  He swung his sausage link into the vampire’s face.  The casing gave, spattering aromatic meat into the man’s eyes and mouth.  The vampire screeched as the garlic burned him.  Niles kept swinging his battered links, spewing bits of garlic sausage in a reddish shower.  Zhou broke from his trance, saw Niles was winning and grabbed a link for himself.  Using an overhand blow, he struck his attacker on the head, splashing sausage over the vampire’s shoulders.  More howls filled the fish shop.

Niles’ first sausage disintegrated.  He grabbed another and struck the third vampire in the chest and face.  The stench of garlic was so strong it seeped through the clamp on his nose.  Niles wheezed but kept swinging.  The floor became slippery with sausage guts, like some horror movie.  All the vampires were gasping, Niles included, but he was the more determined.  He held his breath and pummeled his opponents.  Slowly he and Zhou worked the group towards the door.

It opened to admit a well-dressed gentleman.  He took out a handkerchief and pressed it to his nose but he didn’t flee.

Niles and Zhou grabbed the last of the sausage links and drove the vampires from the fish shop.  The four ran howling into the night.

Niles collapsed beside the door, tearing the clamp off his nose so that he could breathe the frosty night air.  Zhou flopped onto a stool nearby.

“You do like to make a mess, Niles,” the new arrival commented as he considered the devastation.  A slurry of sausage covered everything, filling the shop with the aroma of garlic.

“You know each other?” Zhou demanded.

The elegant man barely smiled as he nodded his snow-white head.  “Indeed Master Zhou.  This is Niles Gule, vampire lord of Baltimore.”  He considered Niles.  “You’re a bit far afield.”

Niles fastidiously picked sausage from his clothing.  “I was looking for you, Gaston.”

“So I heard.  Loudly.”  The vampire named Gaston lifted a mocking brow.  “What brings you to Toronto?”

“Thanksgiving.”

Gaston barked a soft laugh.  “It was a few weeks ago.”

“Not in the US.”  Niles raked his hair clean.  “I thought I’d spend the holiday with my family.  Happy Thanksgiving, dad!”

Gaston pursed his lips, fighting back his smile.  “Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.  You can stay for dinner.”  He glanced at the mess of the Zhou fish shop.  “Just don’t bring any sausage.”

© 2016 Newmin

Niles comments:  Not that I’m a fan of the stuff, but I’m told Canadians really love their kubasa sausage.  They even hold an annual festival for it.  (I swear humans hold a festival for everything!)  Check it out next time you happen by Saskatchawan.

http://en.destinationcanada.com/content/travel_story_ideas/kubasa-king-sausage-festival-saskatchewan

Gule Flees the Country

 

Niles Gule loved opera.  Live performances had been the main entertainment available to a young, inquisitive vampire growing up in the 1800’s.  On that November evening as he stood in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Niles would have enjoyed catching the evening’s performance of Rigoletto, but he was on a mission.  Niles was fleeing the country.

Not that he didn’t adore the US.  He did.  He just couldn’t stand the place during the annual insanity that started every November.

Thanksgiving.

All across the country family and friends were eating themselves sick on roast turkey and watching football games.  Everyone except Niles.  Because Niles, being a vampire, had no family and few friends.  He knew he could have accepted the gracious invitation from Sun Lo, his boss’s wife, to join the Chinese-American family in some Asian infused turkey, but Niles didn’t eat poultry.  Or potatoes.  Or much else for that matter.  Niles ate steak.  Raw.

Nor did he like being reminded that he was essentially alone.  His co-workers bolted from Baltimore to reunite with their families, Williams to New York, Cooksey to Pennsylvania, Krewelski to Florida.  Niles’ partner Cruz invited him to her Mexican style turkey fiesta but he couldn’t stomach turkey tacos and he refused to eat like a vampire in front of her family.

So he was fleeing to Canada.

The Haskell was an anomaly, a library and opera house deliberately built across an international boundary.  The opera stage stood in Canada, the seats in the United States, making the Haskell the only opera house in the US without a stage.  The line painted on the floor ran straight through the library’s reading room.  Patrons were expected to leave via the door through which they had come.  And most probably did.  Niles, being a vampire, didn’t have a passport or any other form of government ID so he needed to sneak into Canada.  Thus his trip to the Haskell.

In his search for the Canadian entrance, Niles had wandered into the reading room.  He was standing near the information desk when an elderly woman approached looking desperate.

“Can you help me?” she asked in a tremulous voice.

Niles, ever the gentleman, gave her a polite smile.  “I will if I can.”

“I’m looking for the Google book.”

Niles puckered his brow.  “The Google book?”

She nodded.  “I need to find a pharmacy.  I think it’s on Elm Street but I’m not sure.  My niece said I could find a map in the Google book.  I’ve looked all over the library but I can’t find it.”

Niles’ lips twitched as he fought the urge to smile.  Instead, he graciously led the woman to one of the computer stations.  His long, elegant fingers flicked over the keys as he queried Google for pharmacies in Derby Line.

He pointed at the screen.  “Right there.  It’s on Maple, not Elm.  Just up the street from here.”

As the woman gushed her thanks, Niles noticed a young man in dark clothing carrying a black tote slip into the reading room almost as if he didn’t want to be seen.  Niles watched him disappear out the back in the direction of Canada.  He decided to follow.

The youth was a shadow in the darkened hallway.  Niles studied his furtive behavior and felt the hairs stand on the back of his neck.  The youth was up to no good.  Niles increased his strides.

The foul aroma of thermite stopped the vampire in his tracks.  Niles’ eyes widened as he realized his sensitive nose detected incendiaries coming from the tote.  Startled, he yelled.  The young man shot a frantic look over his shoulder, saw Niles taking long, rapid strides in his direction, and bolted.  Niles raced after him.

The teen skittered through a crowd entering the opera house on the Canadian side, garnering protests from the smartly dressed patrons.  He didn’t care.  He was through the door and gone.

A hulking man in evening clothes grabbed Niles as he tried to bully his way through the crowd.

“Hey!” the man demanded.  “What’s going on?”

Niles kept moving.  “That young man has a bomb!”

The crowd shrieked.  People shrank from Niles like he had the plague, leaving his way clear.  He raced through the door.  He saw his quarry disappear into some woods.  Niles gave chase, the opera patron at his side.

“What’s going on?” the man growled.

Niles pointed at the shadow ahead.  “That kid has thermite in his bag.”

They charged into a small wood that edged a stream.  They crashed through the underbrush, following the sounds of the youth.  Niles heard a cry then a splash as the youth landed in the stream.  In two strides, his pursuers caught up with him.  Niles and his companion didn’t hesitate jumping into the stream and wading after their quarry.  They each caught the youth and hauled him back to the bank.

Wordlessly, they marched to the road where street lights revealed what they’d caught.  While Niles held the youth, the man searched his tote and found enough thermite to torch the Haskell.  A crowd from the opera house gathered around, gasping as the man dropped the incendiaries onto the grass.

“Thank you,” he said to Niles.  “You may have just saved the opera house.”

Niles shrugged.  When his companion flashed a badge, Niles realized he was a member of the RCMP.  Niles decided it was best if he said as little as possible.  After all, he was an American vampire trying to sneak into Canada.

The youth refused to answer questions.  Using a woman’s scarf his captor bound his hands.  The officer’s temper was on display when he turned his attention to Niles.

“And who exactly are you?”

As Niles considered various lies, the silver haired old woman he’d helped came forward.

“He’s with the library, Harold.”  She beamed brightly at Niles.  “This lovely young man helped me find the Google book.”

Harold at first frowned then chuckled.  “Yeah, okay, Mrs. O’Hanranhan.  You run along now.  You’re out awfully late.”

Mrs. O’Hanranhan patted Niles on the arm and tottered off.

Harold motioned Niles could go.  “Thank you again,” he said as he asked his wife to call the station for assistance.  “I’ll need a statement tomorrow.  Will you be at the library?”

Much as Niles hated to lie to the police, he nodded.  Then, finding himself ignored, Niles faded into the darkness.  He rubbed his brow in relief as he started down the street.  Unbeknownst to everyone, the real illegal alien strolled unhindered into Canada.

 

© 2016 Newmin

Niles Comments:  The Haskell Free Library and Opera is a cultural treasure I recommend visiting.  Catch a tour of this remarkable testament to the peaceful alliance of two great nations, enjoy a read then stay for a live performance.  The schedule can be found at http://haskellopera.com/events/

Have a happy Thanksgiving eating all that nasty turkey.  I’ll pass.