The general tone of the precinct was calm, controlled chaos. As Niles Gule, detective consultant for the Baltimore Police and resident vampire, entered, his brilliant blue eyes saw nothing unusual. Detective Jackson shoved a suspect into an interrogation room. Two uniformed officers struggled to plant a young man into a chair. Even though he was handcuffed, the wiry individual fought them with grim determination. Detective Krewelski tried to soothe an elderly mother whose son had been killed in a drive by, offering her tissue after tissue as she sobbed beside his desk. Officer Williams ate a burrito. His fellow officer Cooksey peered myopically into a computer screen and pecked intermittently at the keyboard, getting nowhere.
Typical night at the office.
Niles’ partner, Mariella Cruz, had beaten him in and was on the phone. She motioned that he shouldn’t make himself comfortable so he stood listening as she noted details of a jewelry store burglary.
“Looks like Lenny the Brute is up to his old tricks,” the perky little Latina said, hanging up the phone. “His gang of thieves loves smash and grab.” She snatched her coat as she rose. “Let’s check it out.”
After a ten minute, hair-raising ride with Cruz at the wheel of her little Fiat, the detectives arrived at Finklestein’s Silversmiths near the fort. As he unfolded his long, lanky form from the tiny car, Niles gazed at the shop askance. The front windows were smashed. Glass glittered like ice on the sidewalk. But that sight wasn’t what dismayed the vampire. Cruz didn’t notice his hesitation. In her ever ebullient way, she plowed straight into the store, brandished her badge and demanded to speak to the manager. Niles trailed reluctantly behind.
Cruz did all the talking as she questioned the manager about the security system, possible video footage, suspicious activity and questionable employees. Niles remained silent, rigid and uncomfortable, his gaze studying the merchandise that hadn’t been stolen.
When she finished, slapping closed her notepad, Cruz considered her partner with a frown between her brows. “Ready to go?”
“Whenever you are,” the vampire murmured.
Noting his ashen pallor, whiter than even his normal ghostly white, she assessed what had caused it. All around them silver gleamed under bright lights. Silver pendants and charms. Handmade rings and necklaces. Entire tea services, pots, mugs and platters of silver.
Niles smiled wanly. “Yes, oh. Fortunately, silver is less toxic to me than to most vampires. But even I find this much unnerving.”
Cruz shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. Wasn’t thinking.” She gave him a shove out the door.
Never one to allow an uncomfortable silence to stand in her way, Cruz consulted her notes as she headed for the car. “Lenny’s been hanging out at La Piazza lately. Let’s see if we can find him.”
Into the car Niles compacted himself and away they went at ninety miles an hour. La Piazza was a trendy restaurant on the north side of the city. They arrived towards the end of the dinner hour. Once again, Cruz marched into the place like she was raiding it for illicit alcohol. Niles followed grudgingly.
While Cruz spoke with the hostess, Niles’ dark loving eyes swept through the space. As soon as his eyes landed on Lenny the Brute at a table near the back, the hulking lug spotted the blond and pale vampire looking for him. Knowing Niles on sight, he didn’t wait for the two detectives to find him. He bolted.
“The kitchen!” Niles said.
Together, he and Cruz sprinted for the kitchen. Niles slammed on the brakes when the overwhelming miasma of garlic struck him. While his eyes watered and he struggled to breathe, Cruz raced after the Brute who was out the back door in a flash. Planting a linen handkerchief to his nose and mouth, Niles followed but couldn’t keep up. By the time he got the back door, Cruz returned, bumping into him as he went out.
“Lost him,” she grumbled. “What happened to you? You can outrun anybody.”
Niles still blinked tears. He coughed and drew a deep breath of cool night air. “The atmosphere was a little thick in there.”
Cruz poked her nose into the kitchen, sniffed then turned a quizzical look at the vampire.
“Garlic!” Niles growled.
Planting her hands on her hips, the Latina screwed her face in annoyance, though at the Brute or her partner, Niles wasn’t sure. Before she could say whatever was on her mind, her phone rang. Taking the call, she nodded and said ok a couple of times. Then, “we’re on it.”
Thumbing off the call, she stomped along the alley to reach the front of the restaurant where the Fiat awaited. “Got a call about a theft at St. Margaret Mary. Lo wants us to check it out.”
“No rest for the weary,” Niles murmured.
Across town they zoomed, cutting off cars and sending pedestrians fleeing. Cruz slammed to a halt in the church parking lot and popped out of the car. Niles moved more slowly, not just because unkinking his limbs from the little Fiat was a struggle but because he was not a fan of churches.
Cruz was on a mission, however, and into the granite monolith she strode, Niles straggling behind. The apse was silent and dark. Only a handful of lights from the ceiling high overhead lit the space at intervals. But Niles could see perfectly. Row upon row of pews marched towards the altar where a huge cross looked down upon them.
Niles swallowed. The wives tales that vampires could be repelled by a cross were just that, tales. Crosses didn’t actually repel vampires. The Vanapir had simply developed a hatred for the symbol because the most ardent hunters of their kind had been church officials. For almost a thousand years, the Catholic Church and the Vanapir had been at war. Niles was distinctly uncomfortable entering his enemy’s lair.
Cruz found the church secretary waiting for them in an office. Flipping open her notepad, she blasted the man with questions about the theft. She surmised the loss of some silver plate was probably an inside job since no one had found indications of a break in.
Another frown burrowed between her brows when she realized Niles was yet again silent.
“What’s wrong now?” she asked.
Niles pointed above his head. “Church.”
Cruz’s dark eyes looked up, seeing the cross on the office wall.
She hastened through the rest of the interview, thanked the secretary, and headed out. This time, Niles kept pace with her.
“Anything else on our list tonight?” Niles asked. He just wanted to head back to the precinct and do some computer work.
Cruz glanced at her notepad. “One last thing. We should check with Elmert’s TV and Appliance about that car theft last week. The owner was going to pull his security video of the front door.”
With a sigh, Niles followed her back to Fifi, stuffed himself inside and hung on while Cruz took them to Dundalk. The TV store was a throwback to the fifties. It still even did repairs. Crawling out of the car, Niles’ face finally lit up, after that long, tiring night. Cruz gave him a curious look.
“What’s up now?” she asked.
Niles’ couldn’t stop his grin as he pointed to the huge sign filling the window.
It said “Huge Plasma TV Sale!!!”
Cruz thought about it. Then she laughed.
© 2018 Newmin
Niles comments: As you can see, my visit to the appliance store was caught on video. Below is a screen shot to prove it.