“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” the small, fat balding man murmured as he sat like a garden gnome in the midst of the forest. A light snowfall had accumulated on his purple Ravens Christmas hat, enhancing his gnomish appearance.
“And I’ve miles to go before I sleep,” finished the vampire who stood at his side.
The brief exchange, the first words the two men had spoken in the past hour, surprised Niles. Just as Walter Cooksey continued to surprise the vampire.
Niles switched the rifle he held from one shoulder to the other then leaned his back against the rough bark of a tree. His breath puffed steam into the icy air though he couldn’t see it. Although the day was overcast with intermittent flurries, the light was bright enough to blind a vampire. Niles hated being outside in daylight. Being a nocturnal creature, his colorless skin suffered radiation burns and his brilliant blue eyes couldn’t tolerate full sun. That wintery afternoon, deep in the woodlands of Maryland, he wore thick, black sunglasses to protect his delicate vision. Fortunately, the day was dark enough he could venture out without a hat, so his carefully coifed blond locks shimmered, the sole spot of color in an otherwise colorless landscape.
“I didn’t know you read poetry,” the vampire commented. He desperately wanted to develop some sort of relationship with Cooksey. Not that he desired to be friends, but he hated that Cooksey viewed him as a freak.
Cooksey grunted. “I don’t. I just know that one.” He peered up, up, up and the vampire looming over him. “Figures you would.”
Niles lifted a brow. “Why would you say that?”
The little man laughed. “Reading poetry is such a froufrou thing to do. Ya know. Gay.”
Niles bit his tongue. His co-worker suffered from the misconception that the tall, elegant vampire was homosexual. Because, Niles thought in disgust, only gays could be tall, elegant and carefully dressed.
The Gay Vampire.
Sounded like a Hollywood movie.
“Catching anything yet?” Cooksey asked.
Niles scented the air, his only purpose for being there. He was under no illusions about Cooksey inviting him on this journey into the back of beyond. The little man needed his skills. Specifically, his incredible sense of smell.
Cooksey was deer hunting, but not using the usual method. He owned no tree stand. He possessed no camouflage. He didn’t even own a rifle and had borrowed Niles’ sporting gun.
Niles glanced at the rifle in his hands. Cooksey hadn’t even bothered to borrow the rifle. He’d borrowed the vampire who owned it and brought both on his deer hunt. Niles was expected to smell the deer, which he could easily do when one was in range. Then Cooksey would shoot it, or at least that was the plan. So far no deer had come close enough for Niles to smell it. Niles suspected Cooksey had picked the only patch of woodland in all of Maryland that didn’t have a resident deer population.
“This is hopeless!” Cooksey sighed. He rubbed his mittens together and stared gloomily at his steaming breath. “We’ve been here for hours. Does it always take this long?”
“I have no idea. I’ve never hunted deer before.”
That earned him a despairing moan from his companion. Cooksey planted his head in his hands and rocked like a baby.
Niles knew Cooksey was totally out of his element. He’d only been goaded into participating in the national hunting pastime by Krewelski and Williams, two of their fellow police officers on the Baltimore PD. They’d convinced Cooksey he wasn’t a man until he’d killed his own deer. Now a bet was on the line, one hundred bucks for the biggest buck. Knowing he had no chance on his own of killing a fawn, let alone winning the buck bet, Cooksey decided to cheat. Upon learning Niles hunted, he dragged the vampire with him on this trek.
He’d neglected to ask just what Niles hunted.
“So what do you hunt?” came Cooksey’s voice, muffled by his mittens. He still held his head in his hands.
“Mostly quail and pheasant.”
“Oh, God! I should have known better! That’s what gay people hunt.”
Niles sighed and forbade himself from conking his companion on the head with the rifle. “No, it isn’t. It’s what Victorian gentlemen hunted in the 1880’s, which was when I learned to hunt.” He smiled fondly, remembering those days when life possessed a gentle grace since lost to the bustle of the modern world. Sometimes he regretted his longevity.
Niles decided to take pity on the little man. He was chilled from standing around in the woods doing nothing, tired because he was up past his bedtime, and growing hungry. Not a good thing considering the only food available was the human crouched at his feet. Even as his stomach growled, the vampire gazed at that warm bundle of blood and muscle and started salivating. The craving to plant his fangs into Cooksey’s fat neck was growing as his hunger grew. Eventually it would become overwhelming and he’d either act on the impulse or flee headlong into the woods, seeking a squirrel. Neither idea was palatable.
“I’ve got an idea.” He grasped Cooksey by the arm and raised him to his feet. “Come on.”
Together the pair marched out of the woods, the snow crunching crisply under their feet.
The precinct buzzed with activity Monday evening as the night shift got underway. Niles nodded greetings to his co-workers as he sauntered to his desk and pulled up his list of open cases. On the desk opposite, his partner, Mariella Cruz, gestured hello but kept her phone to her ear while she jotted notes on her blotter.
Krewelski and Williams stormed in like a pair of bumbling St Bernards. Both giants, their voices boomed over the general drone of conversation.
“… think you’ve won it,” Williams was saying as he handed a cellphone to Krewelski. “Where did you find it?”
“State game lands up in New York.” Krewelski was beaming.
He flashed his phone with the photo of him holding up a dead eight point buck.
“All I found was a couple of four pointers,” Williams moaned. “Weren’t worth taking the shot.”
Williams handed over the envelope with the prize money. “I guess this is yours.”
“How do you know Cooksey won’t win?” Niles asked.
Both Krewelski and Wlliams howled.
“Are you kidding?” Williams belched. “Cooksey’s aint never even been in the woods.”
As if hearing his name, the aforesaid Cooksey appeared, his face flushed from the cold but his pale blue eyes shining. Without saying a word, he thrust his phone at his two tormentors.
“Thirteen points!” he exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”
Williams’ face was a portrait of disbelief. He snatched the phone and stared at the picture of Cooksey holding up the head of a giant buck. With a snort of disgust, he handed it to Krewelski.
“Where did you find that monster?” Krewelski demanded.
“Not too far from here, actually,” Cooksey chirped. He grinned at Niles who smiled back.
“Maryland doesn’t grow them that big!”
“Does too!” Cooksey squeaked.
“I don’t believe it!” Williams complained.
“The Ghoul can vouch for it,” Cooksey insisted. “He was there.”
When all eyes turned on him, the vampire nodded. “I was indeed.”
“I wanna see that head when you get it from the mounters,” Krewelski demanded.
Cooksey flicked a glance at Niles who nodded.
“Sure.” Cooksey grabbed the envelope from Krewelski, thrust his nose in the air and strutted away, leaving his two astounded co-workers gaping in his dust.
Cruz leaned towards Niles to whisper, “There hasn’t been a thirteen point buck shot around Baltimore in decades. How did you do it?”
Niles chuckled. “A friend landed it in the forties. Had it mounted on his wall.”
When Cruz gestured she didn’t understand, he added. “Photoshop cures all.”
Cruz fought not to laugh but couldn’t help herself. “You’re evil, Gule. Pure evil.”
Niles grinned, allowing his fangs to show. “What do you expect? I’m a vampire, after all.”
© 2017 Newmin