Gule Meets Prince Charming

Niles Gule winced once for the flash of lightning that stabbed his delicate eyes and a second time for the boom of thunder that followed.  Being a vampire was often uncomfortable.  The world’s weather could assault him in a way no human would understand.  That night as he stood under an awning and God let loose over the state of Maryland, Niles wished for the thousandth time he wasn’t a vampire.

The Clifton Park golf course appeared in lurid shades of green each time the sky crackled with lightning.  Rain sheeted down, swamping the carefully tended links and running off in torrents.  A river spewed into the tent in which Niles stood and puddled around his feet.  His eyes squinted against nature’s light show while the moist breeze tried to muss his neatly groomed blond hair.

Niles was annoyed.  This particular crime scene didn’t need his talents.  His team from the Baltimore PD was dealing with the aftermath of a wedding gone wrong.  A couple had rented the golf course for their wedding, perhaps hoping the views of all that green might bring a lifetime of happiness.  Sadly, it wasn’t to be.  The groom’s mistress crashed the wedding, the bride punched her and a first rate bar brawl then ensued when relatives from each side dove in to defend their various interests.  When the remains of the wedding cake cleared, seven people had been injured.  Two people had broken noses, and one a broken finger.  An old lady had landed in the punchbowl and nearly drowned before someone pulled her out.  A gentleman, Niles used that description lightly, had been stabbed with the cake knife while his opponent was having a groom-ectomy.  The little statue of the groom was being tenderly removed from a place in his body where it didn’t belong, having been shoved there by an irate relative from the opposing side.

All in all a damned fine show, Niles thought as he gazed at the remains of a wedding that would go down in the history books.

Shaking his head, Officer Williams settled with a sigh beside his vampire teammate.  “Some people should not be allowed to breed,” he muttered.

Niles lifted a brow but didn’t reply.  At the rate he was going, Niles doubted he’d ever have the chance.

He frowned when someone tugged on his trouser leg.  He looked down to find two children around the age of eight standing beside him.  He didn’t recognize them.

“Mister, can you help us?” the girl begged.

Niles never dealt with children so he didn’t know what to say.  He blinked.  “I can try.”

The boy pointed across the fairway at a huge oak tree near the pin.  When lightning flashed, it appeared as a looming shadow at the end of the green.

“Our cat is trapped in the tree.”

Niles continued to blink.

“He’s going to get hurt!” the little girl mewed.  “He’ll get struck by lightning!”

Niles glanced at Williams who shrugged.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Niles answered.  “He’ll come down when the storm is over.”

“But lightning strikes trees!” the girl complained.  “Our teacher told us so!  Charming will be killed.  Please, please!  Can you get him down?  You’re tall.”

Niles frowned.  “Are you guests of the wedding?”

The boy shook his head.  “No.  We live over there.”  He pointed to the border of the golf course.  “We were chasing Charming when he ran up the tree.”

The girl tugged again.  “Please!  You have to save him!”

Niles again looked at Williams.  The man raised his hands to ward off the suggestion.

“I ain’t going out in that.  I could get struck by lightning!”

Niles scowled.  “Do you think I’m immune?”

Williams shrugged.  “Dunno.”

“I’m not!”

Niles sighed.  He considered the two expectant, worried faces staring at him.  Considered the distance to the tree.  Sighed again.

“All right, fine.”  He handed his suit jacket to Williams who grinned at him.

Knowing there was no point in running because he was going to get soaked whether he walked or ran, Niles set off across the fairway.  Lightning crashed and he flinched, expecting it to fry his innards at any moment.  Didn’t people get struck on golf courses?  Weren’t the places epicenters of electrical malevolence?  Yet he walked on, the rain streaming into his eyes and his shoes.  His feet sloshed.

He reached the tree.  Sure enough, there amongst the branches clung a wet, shivering tiger cat.  It meowed mournfully.

Because Niles couldn’t reach it from the ground, he had to climb.  Then he stood on a branch and reached for the cat.  Thankfully, it didn’t run.  He grasped it firmly, tucked the wet ball of fur under his arm and with only one hand carefully made his way to the ground.  Then he trudged back across the fairway.

One particularly vivid bolt of lightning had Niles ducking.  He crouched on the balls of his feet as the bolt struck the very tree where only moments before he’d been climbing.  He heard the sizzle and smelt the burning wood.

Jesus, that was close.

He sprinted for the tent.

Skittering to a stop on the flooded dance floor, Niles proffered the soaking cat with a grin of triumph.  The creature mewed like a poorly played bagpipe.

The little girl raced forward.  Then she stopped with her mouth hanging open.

“That’s not Charming!”

Niles offered the cat to the boy.

He shook his head.  “Nope, not Charming.  Sorry about that.”  He looked at his sister.  “Maybe he went home after all.”

To Niles’ dismay, the two children took off, continuing their search for the missing Charming in greener pastures.

Williams studied the soaking wet vampire holding the complaining cat and burst out laughing.

Niles glared.  “Not funny, Williams.”

“Oh yes it is!”  He considered the cat.  “What are you going to do with it?”

Niles lifted the cat to look it in the eye.  It wore no collar or identification.  It seemed thin, its fur bedraggled.  He suspected as he cradled it in his arms and it settled against him with a purr that it might be a stray.  He certainly wasn’t going to just let it loose in a storm.

He felt something stir in a heart he kept under tight lock and key.  Something within wriggled and moved.  Filled him with warmth.  He’d been alone for one-hundred and fifty-seven years.  Maybe it was time he wasn’t alone anymore.

Smiling at Williams, he held the cat tight.

“I guess I’m going for cat litter.”

 

© 2016 Newmin

Guleicon

“Am I imagining things, or did a group of vampires just walk by?”  Niles Gule leaned towards the window, looking down at the world below.

His partner, Mariella Cruz, waved a disinterested French fry.  “Do you mean the bunch down there in the black cloaks and bad wigs, or the three sexy ones in fishnets and pancake makeup who just sat down behind you?”

Niles twisted around, unable to keep himself from trying to see what she poked her ketchup covered fry at.  Sure enough, at the table directly behind him, he saw a group of curvaceous ladies in spandex and fishnets, their faces painted white, plastic fangs in their mouths.  One of them caught the tall, elegant vampire staring at them with wide blue eyes.  She smiled.

“Hey, good looking,” she said with a wink.

Niles blinked to clear his vision of the false vampire vamps and turned back to Cruz who grinned.  She watched him expectantly and said nothing.

Niles crooked a brow at her.  “Ok, I give up.  Why are people wandering around the Inner Harbor dressed like vampires?”  Niles corrected himself.  “Tacky, awful, facsimiles of vampires?”  He gestured at the group outside who were walking towards the Pratt Street Pavilion.  “We don’t look like that.”

Cruz’s grin deepened.  She chomped her fry, licked her fingers clean then started twirling a curl of her black hair idly.  Niles could see she was enjoying his outrage.

Niles gestured at the public stage that spread out below them in the dying light of a summer’s evening.  “It’s not Halloween.  Why is everyone wandering around pretending to be the most God awful stereotype of my species?”

“Because Balticon is in town.”   Another fry disappeared between Cruz’s luscious red lips.  She left him dangle for one more long moment before she relented.  “It’s a science fiction convention, Gule.  People dress up like their favorite characters.”  She waved across the restaurant.  “See?  Over there?  Captain Cantankerous.”

Niles let his gaze wander around the Irish pub themed restaurant, seeing the various odd costumes he hadn’t noticed before.  “What’s the snow queen in the white fur with the Texas longhorns on her head?”

Cruz shrugged.  “Dunno.  Freya, Goddess of the Ice Horde, I think.  I don’t read that stuff.”

Irritated, Niles jabbed his incredibly rare steak with the point of his knife.  “Vampires do not wear black capes and fishnet stockings.”

His partner made a circle in the air with her pickle.  “I’ll bet you’d look cute in fishnet stockings.”

Niles growled and bared his filed down fangs at her.  She laughed.

“Seriously, Gule?  You’ve never heard of these conventions before?  They’re a big deal.  I think William Shatner was in town for this one.”

“The guy who can’t act?” Niles asked.

Cruz slapped his hand gently.  “Now!  Now!  Don’t say that too loud or someone will go Klingon on you.”

With a snort of disgust, Niles dropped his knife with a clatter and turned his attention to the world below.  In the public amphitheater a clown was performing tricks for tips from the crowd.  Vendors hawked goods from carts around the edges.  The sun set molten behind the spikey skyline, ushering in the blessed dark.  The vampire sighed with contentment.

He and Cruz had met for dinner before starting work as detectives for the Baltimore Police, night shift.  They knew they had a long night ahead of them dealing with Lenny the Brute’s ongoing car theft situation and they’d decided they needed to be fortified to deal with it.  Since Niles, being a vampire, only ate meat, and basically raw meat at that, Baltimore possessed only a handful of restaurants offering something he could stomach.  Tir Na Nog happened to be one of those restaurants.

“Did you just see that?” Cruz half rose out of her chair to peer down below them.

Niles followed her gesture and saw a boy he guessed was about ten years old slipping his hand into the back of the vending wagon directly below where they sat.  From the second floor restaurant with its huge windows, Niles and Cruz had a panoramic view of the activity on the plaza.  He watched, stunned by the brazen boy, as the young man lifted box after box of toys out of the back of the wagon and shoved them in his backpack.  Niles glanced to the front of the wagon where the owner was selling her wares to a paying customer.  Moments later a girl joined what Niles supposed was her brother, stealing additional toys.

Niles leaped to his feet.  “You’ll have to get the bill.  I’m getting those kids.”

Cruz didn’t have time to respond.  Niles dashed out of the restaurant, down the spiral of outside stairs and shoved his way through the crowd of tourists.  By then the cart owner, a young woman with long blond hair, had discovered she was being robbed by two youngsters.  She grabbed the girl by the arm but the boy darted away.  He vanished into the crowd of onlookers videotaping the event on their cell phones.  To Niles’ surprise, the little girl, who he judged to be around 12, slugged the blond in the face and escaped.

The vampire gritted his teeth.  He shouted to the blond that he was police and would catch the thief as he ran past her.  She was already on her phone calling for help but nodded that she’d heard him.  Niles twisted and dodged through the crowd, the child having the upper hand since she could avoid pedestrians better than he could.  He was taller, however, with longer legs.  When he hit an open patch, Niles poured on the speed and rounded on the girl, stopping her in her tracks when he landed in front of her.

“Damn, you run fast for an old guy!” she panted as she hung bent over and caught her breath.

Niles wanted say something about being over a century old and still able to outrun the little brat but he bit his tongue.  He snatched the backpack with its stolen merchandise then took her arm and led her back to the toy wagon where two of the bicycle patrol had arrived.  Along with Cruz and numerous tourists, Niles gave his account of the theft and reported that the girl’s younger brother was also involved.  He told his story while eyeing the girl with disgust.  Did they really have to start so young?  What was wrong with people these days?

“Well that was an exciting start to the shift,” Cruz commented once they’d finished and were walking towards her car.

Niles nodded absently.  When she made two more random comments but he didn’t respond, she stopped and gazed pointedly at him.

“Is that also part of Balticon?” he asked, his eyes on the crowd.

Cruz looked around but only ordinary people in average tourist garb wandered about.  “What?”

Niles pointed.

Cruz considered the four people who were eating ice cream and pondering the harbor.  Her brows went up.  Then she burst out laughing.

The four tourists wore black t shirts with vampire teeth on them.  Beneath the teeth the shirts read Thanks for lunch, love Niles.

She couldn’t stop herself from laughing.

“It’s not just a sci fi convention,” he muttered as he followed her to Lombard Street.  “It’s the freaking Twilight Zone.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Lest you think I make up these stories, let me assure you that they are true.  The above crime took place in the Inner Harbor on Saturday 5/27 when Balticon was in full swing at the Renaissance.  The blotter note is below.  I also didn’t make up that people were wandering around in black vampire t shirts.  Seriously… how could anyone make this stuff up?

 

Fox 45 WBFF Baltimore

Get up to date crime maps for the Baltimore County Region. Helping you fight back against crime. Read More…

Theft – 6XX E PRATT ST, BALTIMORE, MD

LARCENY. Neighborhood: Inner Harbor. District: CENTRAL

600 BLOCK OF E PRATT ST, Baltimore, MD US

 

T Shirts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule Finds Beauty in Ugly Places

 

Niles Gule arrived late to the game.  Being a vampire, he’d waited until the sun set before venturing out to Dundalk on the southeast side of Baltimore.  The night was unusually warm for winter, in the mid-fifties, which allowed for an outdoor game of basketball on the tarmac court of the local elementary school.  About twenty kids between the ages of ten and seventeen played three different games simultaneously under the auspices of the Baltimore Police Department’s Police Athletic League.  Several of Niles’ night shift co-workers had arrived before him.  Being human, they could brave the weak winter sun of the late afternoon.  Deshawn Jackson had coaxed the group to come out.  He was a family man, a father of five, who championed any endeavor that supported children.  Williams and Cooksey, two more officers on the night shift, had been strong-armed into playing.

A fight broke out between the various teams as soon as they laid eyes on the tall, lithe vampire.  Not even knowing he wasn’t human, everyone wanted him on their team.  Eventually, however, the team that claimed him discovered that being tall didn’t mean elegance on the basketball court.  Not that Niles wasn’t agile and athletic.  He was.  He worked out several times a week at a local gym so he was sleek and toned.  And being a vampire he was stronger than the average human.

The problem turned out not to be Niles per se, but rather the lighting.  The courts were bathed in the yellow sulfur glow of overhead vapor lights.  Unfortunately, they were positioned so that they beamed into his face whenever he wanted to take a shot, blinding him.  His performance was not epic by any standards.

Williams, a huge man of Polish descent, who was tall, muscular and athletic, eventually hooted the vampire off the court.

“Sit down, Ghoul!” he chortled, giving the vampire a hard shove with his shoulder, sending Niles dancing to the sidelines.  “Watch how real men play ball.”

Niles folded his arms and lanced Williams with his brilliant blue gaze.  “Let me know when a real man shows up, Jonas.”

Even in front of all the children, Williams shot him the finger.

Undeterred by being rejected, Niles sauntered to a bench and settled with his long legs stretched out before him.  A young lady with a forlorn expression sat there watching the game, her chin planted in her fist.  Niles studied her.  She was short and round.  She wore thick glasses that gave her an owlish appearance.  Her clothing looked like it had originally been worn in the nineteen seventies.  Niles suspected he’d known the designer at one time.  Even her jeans had butterfly patches on the knees.

He popped open a can of soda and sipped it.  Then he offered a second to the girl.

“Don’t need it,” she said.  Her voice was thick with the accent unique to Dundalk.  “I never get to play enough to work up a sweat let alone get thirsty.”

“Why not?”

She turned her head, myopic eyes blinking at the vampire beside her.  “You really are blind, aren’t you?”

Niles tilted his head.  “I suppose in a sense I am.  Certainly under these conditions.  What makes you say that?”

She gestured at herself.  “Look at me.  Would you put me on a basketball team?”

Niles ran his eyes over her.  He didn’t see anything particularly wrong with her.  “Sure.”

“Bull.”  The girl planted her chin in her fist again.  “I’m short, fat and ugly.”

“Wow, that’s pretty harsh.”  Niles sipped his soda.  “It’s also untrue.”

She snorted.  Then she twisted her head and narrowed her eyes.  “How would you know?  Look at you!  You’re gorgeous!  Hollywood like.  What are you doing in Dundalk anyway?”

“I work for the Baltimore police.”  Niles turned the soda can idly with his long fingers.  “I’m here to play basketball.  And my looks, obviously, have nothing to do with my ability to play the game.”  He nudged her lightly with his shoulder.  “The same holds for you.”

“Tell them that,” she muttered, giving a dark look at the other kids darting around the court.

“You need to tell them that.”

“They won’t listen to someone like me.”

“Someone like what?”  Niles tilted his head to look her in the eye.

“Someone short, fat and ugly.”  The girl seemed to sag deeper into the bench.

Niles continued to play with his soda can while he considered her words.  Something dark stirred deep in his soul, something that belonged with the night that swathed the court.  He could smell the girl’s anger.  Vampires were an angry people.  The scent of human anger raised the vampire in him.  His body shivered.

“You don’t know what ugliness is,” he said.

“No, you don’t!”  She sat up straight and glared at him.  “You with the blond hair and pretty eyes.  Half the girls fainted when you walked up.”

He shifted so that he faced her.  “And that makes me beautiful?  I beg to differ.”

She made a face while she mouthed I beg to differ.  “People like you haven’t got a clue.  Life is handed to you on a silver platter.  People fall all over themselves to be with you.  You don’t even realize how easy it all is for you.”

Niles watched the game in silence while he mulled her words.  She was only a child; he guessed she was thirteen. She had no idea the ugliness of his early years, or the pain he endured every night upon waking up, alone and virtually friendless.  Some nights his instincts screamed for him to slip into the darkness and hunt down the nearest human, rip its throat out and suck it bloodless.  Some nights he woke quivering, half in hunger and half in terror he’d act on that hunger.  He was vampire trying to change his stripes.  Some nights he thought the pain of loneliness and fear would kill him.

He didn’t realize his emotions had turned his eyes yellow until he glanced at the girl and found her staring.  He suspected his face had twisted into a mask of anger and self-loathing.  He certainly wasn’t beautiful when his true colors appeared.

“Wow, that’s like… wow!”  The girl wasn’t afraid.  She was fascinated.  “How do you do that?  Make your eyes change color?”

Niles looked away to hide them and willed himself to calm down.  “It’s not something I’m proud of.  It’s not a pretty thing.”

“No, it sure isn’t.  But it’s cool all the same.”

Niles’ lips twitched as they tried to smile.  He nudged his chin at the game.  “Can you play basketball?”

She nodded.  “I’m really good, actually.”

Niles’ smile turned to a grin.  “I’ll bet you are.”

He rose and gestured for her to come with him.  “Let’s show them, milady,” he said with a grand bow.

“Show them what?”  The girl popped off the bench, delighted by his gallantry.

Niles’ face shifted back to blue eyed and beautiful.  “Let’s show them how ugly people play basketball.”

 

© 2017 Newmin

Gule at the Bat

The average vampire loved America’s shopping malls.  They were often open late, especially during holidays.  Usually filled with lots of good game to hunt in the form of children and young adults, plus the occasional senior citizen.  Parking lots tended to be dark.  A vampire could find decent hunting if he could cull the odd straggler from the herd.  Niles Gule, having abstained from consuming humans, generally avoided malls, unlike his brethren.  Inside they were brightly lit, which hurt his sensitive blue eyes.  The steady blast of music from so many different sources made him dizzy.  Being hit on by single women annoyed him.  So except to venture into a high-end men’s store to refresh his wardrobe, he didn’t visit them often.

Which was why he found his current assignment bewildering.  The Buzinski family was back in Baltimore to testify in a robbery trial.  They’d brought their daughter Julia with them from Philadelphia and left her in the care of the vampire, not knowing he wasn’t human.  The last time Niles had watched over the young lady, she’d painted his claws in a hundred jewel tone colors and spangled them with glitter.  He’d indulgently tolerated her then.  As he was indulgently tolerating her now.

Her dark eyes sparkled as she sipped a caramel frappe from a straw while around them the line at the Starbucks counter grew ever longer.  Niles fingered a cardboard cup of black coffee and pondered what to do to keep his companion occupied.

“I vote for Macy’s,” she said as she noisily finished off her drink and popped out of her chair.  “Clothes!”

A fond smile curved the vampire’s pale lips.  One thing he’d learned was that beauty and Julia went hand in hand.  She’d already cleaned out the cosmetics counter at Penney’s.  A bag resting at Niles’ feet proved that fact.

Nodding his agreement, he rose his towering six foot six inches and ushered her from the store.

Twenty minutes later, the girl was winding through the circular racks of clothes in Juniors, picking up item after item and tossing them at Niles to carry.

I’ve become a valet, he thought as the pile grew ever larger.  Sounds like a TV show.  The Vampire Valet.

After she’d skimmed something from every rack, Julia raced for the fitting rooms.  Niles followed more slowly, wondering how the girl’s human parents kept up with her.  Even with his vampiric strength, he found escorting Julia exhausting.  After relinquishing his burden so that Julia could try on her finds, he lowered himself onto a cushioned bench outside the fitting room, leaned against the wall and closed his eyes against the glare.

“Ghoul!”  A familiar voice jarred him from his pleasant reverie.  “What are you doing in the girl’s department?”

Niles cracked open an eye to find one of his most hated co-workers standing before him.  And in typical Williams fashion, the man was immediately belligerent.  Niles refused to allow the man to put him on the defensive, however.  He went right on the attack himself.  “Evening, Jonas.  What are you doing in the girl’s department?  Looking for your next date?”

The giant police officer gestured at his uniform.  “I’m working.”

Niles waved at the fitting rooms.  “I doubt you’ll find hookers in there.  A couple of the older teens are probably the right age to date you.  Fifteen pushing fifty.”

“I don’t date teenagers!”  Jonas planted his fists on his hips.

“Coulda fooled me.”

“That’s easy to do, Ghoul.”

Niles gestured go away.

Williams surveyed the store.  “We received a report of suspicious activity in the mall.  Someone claimed to see an assault rifle.”

“Terrorists?” Niles asked, sitting up,

“Maybe.  Or some nut with a gun.  You know how it is these days.”

Niles did indeed.  Who could not?  If they read the news.

“Seen anything?”

“Not so far.”  Williams heaved a giant sigh.  “Probably a false alarm or a nervous Nellie snooping into stuff that’s none of her business.”

The vampire held his tongue rather than take Williams to task about the value of tips provided by ordinary citizens.  Perhaps if more spoke up, violent episodes of guns in malls could become a thing of the past.  Williams grunted something inaudible then proceeded on his sweep through the mall, leaving Niles to wait.

Niles pondered Williams’ concern and reviewed his adventures with Julia.  The cosmetics counter, Starbucks and now Macy’s.  He didn’t recall seeing anything out of the ordinary but then he hadn’t been looking either.  He wondered if remaining at the mall was a good idea.  Then, remembering her over-protective parents, he decided the better part of valor was to leave as soon as Julia had finished in the dressing room.

He murmured appropriately each time she modeled an outfit, having no idea what was considered fashionable among the young.  When he’d been a teenager, boys wore knickers and girls bonnets.  All the while, he tapped his toe, watched for trouble in the store and grew impatient to leave.

Finally Julia made her purchase, a pink sundress with silver glitter.

Niles grasped her hand and didn’t let go when she tried to pull free.

“Humor me,” he said.

They started the long walk towards the east entrance.  Although Julia wanted to visit a handful of additional stores, Niles protested his feet were tired and that her parents were probably waiting for her.  He kept her walking quickly towards the exit.

The sound of shots popping froze Niles in front of a sporting goods store.  Knowing that sound, he picked Julia up by the waist and slipped into the store’s front display area.  He ducked behind a cage holding basketballs and motioned for Julia to stay low and silent.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“Trouble.”

Niles heard shouting then footsteps coming towards them.  Someone ran into the store and stopped on the far side of the display where Niles and Julia were hiding.  Peering between basketballs, Niles saw a crazed individual in a greasy mechanic’s uniform wielding an automatic rifle.  The vampire’s eyes widened.  Even a vampire didn’t survive being shot by one of those.  He gestured at Julia to remain quiet and still.

To his dismay he saw her little hand worming in the plastic bag, causing it to crinkle.  The man with the assault rifle heard the noise, twitched and started towards the display.  Just as he swung around the end of it, Julia found what she was looking for.  With a shriek, she threw her left hand up while her right hand pulled the lid from the container she gripped.  A cloud of face powder blasted the man in the eyes.  He coughed and swore.  Niles leaped up, grabbed a baseball bat from the display and with a swing that would have made the Great Casey proud, nailed the man in the face.  He went down with an oof.

“We got him, Mr. Gule!”  Julia was on her feet and dancing around, proudly displaying her empty container of face powder.

“We sure did,” Niles replied with a smile.

The thunder of feet announced the arrival of Williams and five other officers of the Baltimore police with weapons drawn.  Niles grinned at them, still holding his bat on his shoulder.  He slipped his free hand around Julia’s back.

“Stand down.  We got him.”

Williams’ face was worth the scare.  He stared open mouthed at the tiny Asian girl and towering blond vampire, then the man with the assault rifle out cold on the floor.

“You sure did,” he said in a breathless voice, holstering his gun.  As he bent down to cuff the suspect, he muttered, “Maybe I need to rethink dating teenaged girls.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

Niles comments:  The world needs to congratulate my dear friend Julia.  She’s graduating!  Way to go, honey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule is Clipped

The vampire twitched his lips as he weighed the various options.  That one had extra horsepower but seemed too large.  The machine next to it was electric and he’d heard stories about electric power equipment, none of them good.  Not that Niles Gule knew a thing about power equipment.  He’d lived most of his century and a half in cities where grass feared to grow.

“I guess I’ll take that one,” he said to the man in the orange vest who stood beside him in the Home Depot garden center.

Having no idea he was aiding a vampire buy a lawn mower, the man located the appropriate box with a pallet lifter and took it to check out.  Ten minutes later, Niles was striding out of the parking lot with the box in his arms.  Good thing night had fallen and the store was nearly closed, he thought.  The handful of people leaving stared at him as he carried the heavy box.  What had required a pallet lifter for a human to move, the vampire handled with ease.  He hoped the people who watched him assumed the giant box weighed less than it looked like it should.  He didn’t need the locals shouting vampire! to the world.

He found himself whistling as he ventured along Dundalk Ave in east Baltimore. The night was hot and steamy.  A blanket of thick, tropical air had fallen over Maryland, driving those with air conditioning inside and those without out.  As he jaunted along the avenue, Niles noticed a number of families sitting on their stoops, chatting, smoking, calling to people driving past in the street.  Many stared hard at him.  He knew he didn’t fit the neighborhood.  Tall, athletic, Nordic blonde with brilliant blue eyes, Niles was the epitome of a privileged white man in a neighborhood filled with few Caucasians and even less privilege.

When he arrived at his destination, a neighborhood of tired bungalows with postage stamp yards, he set his box behind a bush and set off in search of gasoline.  The closest convenience store was a High’s off German Hill Road.  Since Niles had never learned to drive, he always walked or took public transportation.  He didn’t mind walking.  He could stretch out his long legs and cover distance in a hurry, never breaking a sweat because even in that steamy heat a vampire never lost his cool.

The long walk meant Niles did not return to his hidden lawn mower until nearly one in the morning.  He broke into the box, using his stubby, filed down fangs to rip open the staples that held it closed, then unfolded the lawn mower and read the directions.  A little gasoline.  A few pumps of the primer button.  Two tugs.  Four horsepower roared to life.

Grinning, stupidly pleased with himself, Niles pushed the lawn mower through the garden gate and onto the lawn of the house he’d targeted.  The night was airless, moonless and dark but the vampire had no trouble seeing the sea of grass that encircled the bungalow.  The stuff was thick and probably four inches tall, too tall for a suburban lawn.  Because it choked the lawn mower, Niles had to walk slowly. That annoyed a man used to covering ground with his long legs.  The work was not the most pleasant, he decided, this being the first lawn he’d ever mowed.  He could understand why people hired services to handle the chore.  But he wasn’t going to stop now that he’d gotten into a rhythm.  He worked his way up the small yard, spun around and came back.  Then up and back.  Up and back.

He cursed when a light flicked on inside the bungalow.  He had about four swipes to go and he could have finished, stealing away into the night as secretly as he’d come.  Alas, his prank had been found out.  He kept mowing as the light over the back door blazed and a figure in a fluffy bathrobe appeared.

“Gule!”  Mariella Cruz hissed the name as if she needed to whisper.  He barely heard it over the roar of the engine.  “What in the name of God are you doing?”

Niles decided he’d better talk to her or she’d be hell to work with on their next shift.  She was his partner on the police force.

He killed the engine and waved at the mower.  “I’m mowing your mom’s yard.”

“I can see that!”  Her hands landed on her curvy hips.  “Why are you mowing the yard?”

“Because it needed to be mowed.”  Niles wondered why she’d asked.  The lawn hadn’t been touched in three weeks.  It really did need a trim.  Just like his fangs.

Cruz tromped towards him, her hands on her hips.  “It’s one in the morning!”

A light came on in a neighbor’s house.

Niles looked up at the night sky and shrugged.  “Yes.”

Cruz shook her head with her hand to her forehead.  “Lord, Gule.  People don’t mow their lawns in the middle of the night.”

“Vampires do.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Yes, well, no one in this house is a vampire, and we all try to pretend like we don’t actually know any vampires.  You’re supposed to be acting like a human, not a vampire.  So stop mowing!”

Niles felt himself deflate.  “I was just trying to help.  A random act of kindness, Cruz.  You said your mom’s mower died and no one in the family had money to buy another one.”

“So you decided to sneak over here and mow it for us?”  Cruz’s lip began to twitch.

Niles nodded.

“In the middle of the night.”

“When else would I do it?”

Cruz grunted.  “When indeed.”

“It was supposed to be a surprise,” Niles said in a sulky tone.  “My gift to your mother.”

“A surprise.”  Cruz drew a mighty sigh.  “Gule!  Half the neighborhood knows you mowed the lawn.  That mower makes enough noise to wake the dead.”

Niles considered the mower.  He honestly hadn’t thought about the noise.  He’d just envisioned Mama Cruz waking up on Mother’s Day to find her overgrown yard nicely mowed by parties unknown.  He shrugged.

Cruz gave him a bracing smile and removed his hands from the handlebar.  Then she popped up on her toes and pecked a kiss on his cheek, startling him.  “You can be so damned sweet sometimes, Gule.  Really.  The thought was wonderful.  The timing, not so much.”

Niles felt a rush of warmth fill his icy heart.  He loved to see her eyes shine.  “I should finish it.”

“No.  No, you should not.”  Cruz pulled the mower away from him.  “Actually, you need to get going.  I’ll tell mom about your gift.  I promise.  But now you really need to go.”

Niles couldn’t decide if he was elated by her kiss or depressed that she was shooing him off before he was done.  The house was now lit up and he could see Mama Cruz peering out the window.  “I hope she appreciates the thought.”

Cruz laughed.  “Oh, she will.  Once she’s done cursing your name to heaven and earth.”

Niles’ brow puckered.  “Why would she do that?”

“Because,” Cruz said, gesturing to the yard.  “You didn’t just mow the yard.  You mowed her vegetable patch.”

 

© Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  Wishing all the mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gule Goes Native

The vampire’s eyes gleamed yellow in the darkness.  They winked, like a cat’s, then vanished when he backed into the shadows as a couple walked past hand in hand.  He drew his breath at the smell of warm, living flesh, pulsing blood.  Iron.  He needed that iron.  His body couldn’t store it for future use the way a human’s could.  He could only absorb it by draining a human victim dry.

He quivered with desire as he studied the warmly lighted windows of the little cottage across the street.  He saw his prey moving in the room beyond, a large man whose blood would sate the vampire for a week.  He licked his fangs in anticipation as he envisioned sinking them into that thick neck.  He could already taste the hot blood on his tongue.  Could imagine it sliding down his throat and filling his belly until he bulged like a tick.  The vampire couldn’t remember what it felt like to be sated.  He’d gone years without such a feast.  Starved.

The time for starving was over.

The vampire’s gaze slid along the quiet, residential street, seeking danger but seeing none.  The night was quiet.  Off in the distance traffic hummed on a nearby highway.  Overhead, an airliner roared out of the south as it left Baltimore-Washington Airport.  He pulled the hood of his black jersey over his head to hide his pale hair and face then jogged across the empty street.  He checked again for witnesses who could raise the alarm.  The nearest houses slept tight, not knowing the world’s cleverest predator was working their neighborhood.

A quick check confirmed the cottage didn’t possess a security system.  No motion activated safety lights sprang to life.  He let out the tense breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.  He knew the homeowner didn’t own a dog, just as he’d known the man had no security, because he always did his homework before he hunted a human.  Humans were the most dangerous prey in a vampire’s diet.  No other prey could hunt a vampire the way a vampire hunted them.

His pale, delicate hand clutched his knife, nervous yet eager.  He didn’t want to kill the man with the knife.  That removed the pleasure of dropping his victim with a strong bite to the neck.  It reduced him to a human murderer, not a vampire on the hunt.  But he’d lived a long life, been a successful hunter for more than a century, by being cautious.  He chose his victim, studied it, stalked it, and prepared for a fight.  This particular man would not go down easily.  The vampire knew that for a human, the man was quite strong.  Knew this kill would be difficult.

Because the night was warm, the cottage’s windows stood open, nothing but thin screens between the vampire and his prey.  He shivered with excitement and his yellow eyes glowed as he readied himself for the attack.  He forced himself to move with caution, however.  He slid up to a window that faced the gloomy side yard.  The house next door was dark, indicating its inhabitants were asleep.  No worries from that quarter.  The vampire scented the air for danger.  No one outside at that hour.  His prey was in the front room.  The aromas indicated the man was drinking beer and eating pizza.  Sensitive ears caught the sounds of a baseball game on television, barely audible over the drone of the air conditioner of the house next door.

With a quick flick of his wrist, the vampire slit the window screen free from its aluminum frame.  Holding the knife between his pale lips, he pulled his lithe, agile body into the window, angled his long legs through the opening and lowered himself inside.  Like most predators who hunted by stealth, the vampire could stalk without making a sound.  He advanced into the house.

His heart was thundering.  The cold blood raged in his veins.  He swallowed the sea of saliva that filled his mouth in anticipation.  He crept on his toes towards the front of the building.

The blaze of light from the room beyond stung his eyes.  He cursed.  Why couldn’t the damned man turn off the lights while he watched TV?   That was a kink in the plan the vampire hadn’t expected.  He steeled himself against the glare, narrowed his eyes, and slipped into the room.

“Evening, Ghoul,” the homeowner commented.  He glanced up at the vampire, showing no fear at being confronted by a piece of darkness in his own living room.

“You knew I was coming?”

The man tossed the piece of pizza he’d been holding back into the open box where the remainder sat oozing fat into the cardboard.  “I didn’t know but I’m not surprised.”  He jerked his head towards the other room.  “You owe me for a new screen.”

Niles Gule brandished his fangs.   He hissed his anger.

“Put those away,” the homeowner ordered.  He shot a cold, hard look at the vampire from his gray eyes.

“I came to kill you, Jonas.”

Jonas Williams, officer on the Baltimore police who worked every day beside Niles, calmly picked up a revolver that had been sitting on the coffee table next to the pizza.  He waved it at the vampire.

Niles sneered.  “I’m not afraid of guns.  It’ll hurt but I’ll still kill you.”

Williams glanced at the gun, then the vampire.  “No, it’ll stop you cold.  Silver bullets.”

Again Niles hissed.  He should have known.  Williams was a conniving, scheming man who planned for everything.  Including Baltimore’s resident vampire turning on him.

“You gave me that human blood,” Niles complained.  “Made me want more.”

Williams grunted.  “I didn’t force you to take it.”

“Spoken like a drug dealer.”  Niles fought to keep himself from lunging at Williams.  He wanted the man’s blood, but even more, he wanted to strangle the human who never ceased to torment him.

“You can just buy the stuff, you know,” Williams said.  Keeping the gun in one hand, he munched on his pizza with the other.  “Drug addicts sell it all the time.”

Niles knew that.  Many vampires survived in modern society by purchasing blood from those desperate for money.  He’d always refused.  Drugged blood made for a drugged vampire.  He hated the headaches heroin gave him.

“Is the craving really that bad?”  Williams tilted his head as he considered his guest.

Niles nodded.  “I knew I shouldn’t have taken even that one taste.”

“And yet you did.”

The vampire sighed with a pain that seemed entrenched in his soul.

Williams motioned to the sofa.  “Have a seat.  I’ve got some steak in the fridge you’re welcome to have.”

Niles started.  “Seriously?  You knew what that blood would do to me?”

Williams nodded.  Then he grinned.  “Brought you crawling after me intent for more, hopefully pre-warmed and fresh.  In case you haven’t noticed, I enjoy having you dance at my whim.”

“Why?”  The word grated from the vampire’s lips as he sank into a chair.

“Because you’re too damned perfect.  Perfect hair, perfect face, perfect teeth.  Never aging.  It’s not fair.  So, to even the score, I torment you.  I’m the stone in your otherwise perfect shoe, Ghoul.  Always will be.”

Niles glared at the human then rubbed his face tiredly.  Already the bloodlust was diminishing.  The noxious smell of pizza drove it away.

Williams shoved a can a beer towards him.  “Have a cold one.  Enjoy the game.”  He lounged comfortably on the sofa, a slice in one hand, the gun resting on his lap in the other.

Niles sipped the beer and turned his eyes to the television.  In silence the two individuals ignored each other as the night wore on and the Orioles won the game.  Niles never did visit the fridge.

As he rose to leave, he said, “Be careful jerking my chain, Jonas.”

Williams lifted a brow.  “Because?”

“Because I might not choose to let you go next time.”

“Next time?”

Niles’ blue eyes glittered.  “Never forget I’m a vampire.”

Williams chuckled.  “Oh no!  Never that.  And Ghoul?”  He waited for Niles to look back.  “Never forget I know what you are.”

Niles bared his fangs.  “Touché.”

Williams waved his gun.  “Touché.”

 

 

© 2017 Newmin

Gule Takes Part in a Bloodless Coup

 

“I’m serious, Ghoul!”  Baltimore police officer Jonas Williams poked his vampire co-worker with a massive finger.  “You owe me.”

Niles Gule leaned back in his chair and lifted a supercilious brow.

Williams’ grey eyes narrowed.  “I saved your life in New Jersey.”

Niles scoffed.  Williams had saved him from mortal embarrassment but he’d hardly saved the vampire’s life.

“You’d still be naked in the Point Pleasant drunk tank if I hadn’t bailed out your ass.”  Williams punctuated each word with another poke of that blasted finger.  “She’s not that bad, really.”

“Then you date her!”  Niles planted his elbow on his desk and stared at his computer screen, hoping Williams would get the message.

“I’m dating her sister!”  Williams huffed and slouched against the vampire’s desk.  Around them the precinct buzzed with change-of-shift activity as the day crew headed out and the night shift began.  “Evelyn is very protective of Myrtle.  She hates leaving Myrtle home alone while she paints the town.”

Myrtle.  Niles chewed on that name, not liking the taste of it.  Who would name their kid something so awful?

Williams wheedled.  “I told Myrtle all about you.  Blonde.  Blue eyes.  Tall.  Good looking.  She’s really excited to meet you.”

Niles’ eyes widened.  “Did you explain that I’m a vampire?”

Williams shrugged.  “I didn’t delve into details.”

“I’m not dating Myrtle just so you can bag her sister, Jonas.”

Williams’ protest was cut off when their boss, Sergeant Tan Lo, appeared at Niles’ desk.  The diminutive Asian nodded briefly to Williams before handing Niles a call-sheet.  “Got a robbery.  You and Cruz get on it.”

Niles’ partner, little Mexican-American Mariella Cruz, snatched up her car keys.  “Where at?”

“American Red Cross,” Niles read off the call-sheet.  “Mount Hope Drive.”

Cruz marched for the doors.  “Out by Pimlico.  Let’s roll.”

“Cooksey and I will be right behind you,” Williams said.

Cruz waved breezily but never slowed down.  Niles followed in her wake.

After twenty harrowing minutes of Cruz’s suicidal driving, the pair arrived at the Red Cross service center.  When Cruz tore into the parking lot and squealed to a stop, throwing Niles into the dashboard, he gave her a hard stare then smoothed his hair and straightened his tie.  She grinned and popped out of her Fiat, leaving Niles to unfold his long, lithe body from the tiny vehicle.

“We’ve got to buy you a bigger car,” he grumbled as he shook out his legs and straightened his back.

Cruz laughed.  “Hell no!  I like my little Fifi and I love watching you get in and out of it.”

She turned her back and never saw the stink-eye Niles sent her way.

He froze when he read the sign above the door.  “This is a blood bank?”  His voice squeaked.

Cruz’s black ponytail flew as she glanced over her shoulder.  “Yeah.”  She hesitated when she saw Niles’ blue eyes widen.  “Are you okay with that?”

“Someone robbed a blood bank?”

Cruz shrugged.  “Apparently.”  She ushered him inside.

The two detectives were greeted by the center’s director.  As they interviewed the woman Williams and his partner Cooksey arrived to assist the investigation.  The director told them someone had broken into the center and absconded with several hundred units of blood.  Interestingly, the thieves had been particular, selecting only negative blood types.

“It’s a problem,” the director complained.  “Negative factor blood is rarer than positive regardless of the type.  I just pray no one needs negative factor blood before we can restock.  We’re calling all our volunteers to donate.”

Cruz glanced pointedly at Niles.

“It’s sweeter,” he murmured.  The thought of all that sweet blood made his mouth water.

“So we’re talking vampires?”

Niles nodded.  Knowing his brethren were up to their old tricks rankled.  Every time he thought he’d rid the city of the vermin, more crept back in.

The director led them into the refrigerated storage room.  Niles took only two steps inside before he staggered to a halt, using the wall to keep himself upright.

The room had been ransacked.  Blood was stored in gray cabinets labeled with blood types and dates of donation.  Most of the drawers hung open, their contents thrown about.  Dozens of the plastic bags used to hold blood lay scattered.  The floor was awash with congealing blood from units that had been crushed under foot, making the floor a skating rink of red.  The smell of iron and copper was overwhelming.

“Whoa!” the director exclaimed as Niles wilted.  She tried to grasp his arm, but Cruz beat her to it.  “Vasovagal reaction, I suppose.”

Cruz nodded without correcting her.  Niles wasn’t suffering from shock at the sight of blood.  His reaction went much deeper than that.

“So much blood,” Niles whispered.  He couldn’t stop the smell from making his head spin or his saliva from stealing out of the corner of his mouth.  A rampant desire to chug a unit whole flooded him.  His entire body quivered with longing.  He’d been without blood for so long.  Two years!  And it was in abundance just begging to be taken.  His shaking hands extended to grasp a bag.

Cruz held it down.

Williams appeared at the doorway.  His gray eyes summed up the situation in a heartbeat.  His giant paws clasped Niles by the shoulders and he strong-armed the vampire out of the storage room.

“He’s a lightweight,” the big man explained to the director as he shoved Niles ahead of him.

Williams assisted Niles to a desk.  The vampire perched against it and rubbed his face.

“That was intense,” he murmured.

Williams checked his color.  Seeming confident that his co-worker would recover, he said, “I’m going to help Cruz.  If you start feeling better, check the security tapes.”

Niles drew a deep breath as he nodded.  He continued to lean against the desk while he waited for his heart rate to settle and his blood to stop raging, his head to clear.  When he felt he could act in a professional manner, he did as Williams suggested and checked the security tapes.  He discovered that the intruders had disabled every camera.

Unable to assist any further, Niles waited outside in the darkness.  Eventually, Williams sidled up to him.

“Tough night?” he asked.

Niles grunted.

Williams’ saturnine face looked ghoulish in the harsh light of the parking lot.  “If you’re interested, I made a withdrawal for you.”

His eyes widening, Niles looked down at the object Williams pulled from under his jacket.  It was a unit of whole blood.  Type AB negative.  The sweetest kind.  Niles was drawn to it like a child to candy.  Once again his mouth watered.  His claws uncurled to sneak towards that bag.

“Not so quick!” the police man said, jerking the unit away.  “You have to pay for it.”

“You stole it!”

Williams shrugged.  “With that mess?  They won’t miss one more unit.”  He grinned and jiggled the bag.

Niles’ body lurched towards it.  Williams skittered backwards.

“Do we have a deal?” he asked.  “Myrtle for the blood.”

Niles glared at his nemesis.  Williams looked like a heroin dealer knowing he had a junkie on the leash.

“You don’t have to sleep with her.  Just take her out a couple of times.”  Williams let the bag sway back and forth just out of the vampire’s reach.

Niles hated himself for desiring that blood so badly.  But he hadn’t indulged in years.  Just one taste.  One little taste.

“Deal!”  He snatched the bag and hid it in his coat.

Williams grinned.  “I’ve got you now, Ghoul,” he chuckled as he sauntered away.

The vampire grimaced.

He’d just sold his soul to the devil.

 

© 2017 Newmin

 

 

Niles comments:  Give blood.  Not for my sake.  For yours.

 

 

Gule’s Next Bite

Sergeant Tan Lo of the Baltimore Police Department gestured for Officers Jackson and Krewelski to fan right.  He sent Officers Williams and Cooksey to the left to control the perimeter.

“Be careful, folks,” the diminutive Asian warned his troops.  “This guy’s armed and dangerous.  Keep in contact.  I’d rather we didn’t shoot one another.”

His warning earned him a baleful look from Williams before the giant man plodded into the darkness, little Cooksey in his wake.

Lo held back his biggest weapon in the search until the perimeter was secured.  Niles Gule stood waiting for the signal to proceed.  Half the night shift had been called out to the Grasmick Lumber Yards east of Baltimore.  They were trying to capture an armed robber who’d held up a liquor store, shooting the owner in the process.  The man had fled to the lumberyard, an excellent place to hide given the business was tucked under Interstate 695.   Shadows lurked under the overpass and around every pile of lumber.  At that time of night, the business was closed and little more than wasteland surrounded it on all sides.  The robber knew he had only to wait the police out then slip into the darkness never to be found.

Being a vampire, Niles felt no terror of the darkness.   Unlike human eyes, his blue eyes saw the world in differing shades of black and gray.  He noted a mouse fleeing as Jackson stomped towards the outer fence and a piece of newsprint drifting in the breeze.  If he squinted, he knew he could read it.  He didn’t bother however.  His task was to use his incredible eyesight to locate a killer.

“All right, Gule,” Lo said.  “We’ve got the yards surrounded.  You and Cruz head in.  Hopefully you can simply find him.  If not, maybe you’ll flush him out and he’ll run.”

Niles nodded to his partner, little feisty Mariella Cruz who was chomping to start the search.  He had to grab her arm to hold her back as he moved cautiously forward.

“Just because I can see in the dark doesn’t mean this guy can’t surprise us and shoot one of us,” he warned.

Cruz scowled but slowed her step to match his.

Together the pair moved into the lumberyard.  Cruz held her service pistol ahead of her but Niles went unarmed except for his silver knife.  He wasn’t licensed to own a firearm and as a consulting detective felt he should obey the law.  Being a vampire, his knife was all he needed.  He was stronger than a human and wounds that would kill a human merely made life miserable for him.  He was hard to kill.

“Is there a reason we’re being quiet?” Cruz whispered.  “Aren’t we trying to flush this guy out?”

Niles snorted.  “Not everything can be resolved by charging in with guns blazing.  I’d rather he didn’t just shoot us before he flushes.  I don’t feel like being in pain tonight and I certainly don’t want you getting killed.”

Cruz grinned, her olive-complexioned face aglow in the dark.  “Niles!  You care!  That’s so sweet!”

His sharp eyes caught movement near one of the concrete pillars that held up the overpass.  Niles gestured for Cruz to stay on the right side of the pillar while he circled around to the left.  He leaped.

The suspect was too frightened to shoot.  He saw a vampire lunging out of the darkness, fangs gleaming in the dark, and he shrieked like a little girl.  Then he ran.

Niles was after him in an instant.  He grabbed the guy’s shoulder to stop him.  Their momentum rammed them into a large pile of aging lumber that had been left out in the rain too long.  The pile shifted, its rusted metal bands giving way.  It collapsed.

Cruz arrived with her pistol at the ready.  “Don’t move!  Hands up!”

The suspect jerked himself free of Niles who let him go, knowing he wasn’t running anywhere.  When the vampire tried to right himself, a stabbing pain froze his foot.  He took a bad step.  The leg refused to hold him and he went down.  Cruz yelled again at the suspect who tried to use the vampire’s collapse as cover to run.

“Move and I’ll shoot,” she warned.  “Drop the gun.  Drop it!”

As he writhed in pain on the ground, Niles saw the gun land next to his nose.

His leg felt as if it was encased in ice.  He couldn’t feel his ankle anymore and soon his knee was growing cold.  Cruz held the suspect still with the gun in one hand while she radioed for help with the other.  Niles lost feeling in his knee, then his hip.  When his chest froze, his vision failed.

Niles came to with a start, his entire body wracked with pain.  He fought against hands that held him until Lo’s voice broke through the panic.

“It’s me, Niles.  Relax.”

Niles panted as he fought through a wave of icy pain.  As it relented his vision cleared and he could breathe again.  His leg was still on fire but now he could move it.

“What happened?” he asked.

Lo’s brow creased.  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.  Cruz said you just collapsed.  Is this something vampires do?”

Niles slowly sat up.  Cruz and Jackson supported his shoulder until he was able to gesture that he could remain vertical on his own.

“I don’t know what happened.  I’ve never felt that sort of pain in my life.”  He ran a hand through his short blond locks.  “That’s saying a lot too.  I’ve been around for a while.”  He bent to touch his ankle.  The fire in his leg was easing but there was one spot on his ankle that felt as if it had been shot.  He eased up his pant leg then rolled down his sock.  A pair of brilliant red spots, close together, was centered over a ruddy bruise on his otherwise pasty ankle.

“Looks like a spider bite,” Jackson said, peering at the wound.

“What sort of spider could down a vampire?” Lo asked.

Niles gingerly touched the bite then regretted the action.  His entire foot throbbed.  He could feel it swelling in protest from the bite.

“What happened to our suspect?” he asked

“We got him.”  Lo was more concerned about his vampire than his suspect.

Jackson flicked a flashlight around the area.  He played it across the pile of lumber that had collapsed.  There between some of the boards was a bit of webbing.  In the middle of it sat a large, black spider, wriggling its forelegs at him.

“Holy crap, it’s a black widow!”  Jackson jumped backwards.  He glanced at Niles.  “What happens when a vampire gets bit by a black widow?”

“Nothing good,” Niles grumbled.  He wasn’t sure he could stand.  He rolled his ankle and put weight on his foot.

“Apparently it’s not deadly to you,” Cruz said, giving his shoulder a squeeze.  “Thank God for that.”

“But what about the spider?” Jackson asked.  When Niles gave him a hateful look, he said, “No, I mean, what happens to a black widow that bites a vampire?  Your blood aint normal, Gule.”

The four police officers stared at the spider.  It stared back with its million eyes.  Then it flicked what seemed like a finger at them, chittered evilly, and marched off.  Moments later the entire pile of lumber shifted as the spider pushed it out of its way.

Jackson’s wide eyes looked at Cruz.  Cruz looked at Lo.  Lo looked at Niles.

Without a word, the four people ran.

 

© Newmin

 

Niles comments:  Black widow spiders are nothing to laugh about.  My dear friend Peg was bitten by one a week ago.  Fortunately, she’s recovered but more spiders are out there.  They are native across the entire United States and most of southern Canada.  They like to hide inside structures like barns, piles of wood, and yes, houses.  Something that makes even a vampire shudder!

 

Image result for range of the black widow spider map

Gule is Crabby

The setting sun painted the horizon purple, orange and red when it sank beyond the sea of reeds.  The oar locks creaked as Walter Cooksey steered the little boat along the mud flats.

Niles Gule, being a vampire, appreciated the sun retiring.  He detested being abroad in daylight.  Only now that darkness crept near could he comfortably travel with his fellow police officers to the tidal flats of the Chesapeake Bay.

In search of crabs.

Why would a vampire do such a thing?  This thought wandered through Niles’ mind as he sipped a beer and watched the reeds slowly scroll past.  He had no interest in crabs because vampires didn’t eat seafood.  They sucked blood from humans and gnawed on their bones.  Niles, having taken a vow of abstinence, lived exclusively on land-based proteins like beef, pork, or venison.  When he agreed to go crabbing he knew he’d give his two companions his catch.  So why had he agreed to spend the weekend setting crab traps with Williams and Cooksey?

Because, Niles thought, taking another sip of beer, they’re the closest thing you have to friends.  He considered the odd couple, Williams younger, huge, dark-haired, then Cooksey aging, fat and balding.  What a pair.

Williams commanded Cooksey to stop.  The chubby little man shipped his oars and tossed the small anchor over the side with a plunk.

“Bet I’ll get more than you,” Cooksey boasted as his watery blue eyes studied the darkening inlet with the wisdom of an experienced crabber.

“You’re on.”  Williams rocked the boat as he stood to collect his traps.  “What’s the stakes?”

“One week’s pay and a case of beer.  Good beer.  Not that cheap shit you always buy.”

Niles glanced at his bottle of Bud.  No argument there.

“Can I get in on the bet?” he asked, desperate to be friends with these two humans determined to hate him.

Williams rolled his eyes but Cooksey grinned.  “Absolutely.”  When he noticed Williams’ scowl he protested.  “It’ll be like taking candy from a baby!  What does a Ghoul know about crabbing?”

“Nothing.” Niles adjusted his long legs in the confines of the little boat.  “Yesterday was the first time I ever set a trap.”

Cooksey chortled.  “There’s a skill to this, Ghoul.  It takes intelligence to bring home good crabs.”

“So you’re saying I’m guaranteed to win then?” Williams quipped.

Cooksey whacked his partner with a bumper.  “I’ve been crabbing these waters since I was a kid.  I’m winning this bet.”

Williams hauled his traps up hand over hand.  One by one the cages appeared, murky water running off them in sheets as he pulled them into the boat.  By now the sun had faded.  Cooksey lit a Coleman lantern and counted the crabs Williams dropped into a bucket.

“Twelve.  Huh!”  Cooksey scoffed while Williams rebaited his traps with more chicken then sent them over the side.

“That’s not bad!” Williams protested.

Now it was his turn to take the oars.  He moved the boat along the inlet to a second arm where Cooksey had set his traps the day before.  He dropped anchor, then Cooksey fished his collection of crab traps from the bay.  Niles held the lantern as the little man counted.

“Fifteen!”  Cooksey did a little dance in the middle of the boat, almost sending the lot of them overboard.  He pointed a finger at Niles.  “You’re going down, Ghoul.  Get ready to cough up a week’s pay.”

Niles shrugged.  “I can afford it.”  He would surrender his paycheck if it convinced these people he wouldn’t eat them.

Williams gestured to the oars.  “Your turn, Ghoul.  Put your back into it.”

Niles shot the man a cool glance before he took the seat between the locks.   He was a vampire, with a vampire’s incredible strength.  One pull sent the boat flying.  Williams nearly pitched overboard and Cooksey yelped as he grabbed the lantern.

“Shit, Ghoul!  This ain’t a race,” Williams growled.

Niles smiled, his eyes glowing yellow in the lantern light.  He saw Williams shiver and cursed his damned eyes.  The convex shape of his iris directed light to his retinas which gave him excellent night vision.  But it also added an unearthly shimmer to his gaze that made humans nervous.

After a few minutes, they arrived at where Niles’ had set his traps the day before.  Because Cooksey insisted on secrecy for his treasured crabbing spot, the three men had each gone out alone to set their traps.  Only because of a shortage of skiffs to rent had they come out together to empty the traps.

Cooksey considered Niles’ location.  “You can’t catch anything here!  The water’s muddy and shallow.”

Niles shrugged.  He shipped the oars and dropped the anchor.  Then, to the surprise of his companions, he jumped over the side.  He landed up to his knees in brackish water.

Cooksey howled.  “You don’t have a clue how to crab, do you, Ghoul?”

“Do you need the lantern?” Williams asked.

Niles raised a supercilious brow.  Night had fallen.  The two humans could see nothing, but to Niles the world existed in clear black and white.  He could see the bank of reeds and the small ribbon he’d tied to one to indicate where he’d placed his bait.  He kicked around with his feet until he hit it.

Steeling himself against the revulsion of putting his hands in that awful water, Niles bent down and grasped his bait.  With a heave, he tossed it into the boat.

Williams and Cooksey both yelled and scrambled backwards, almost tumbling from the boat as the dead body landed between them.

“Shit, Ghoul!  You used a dead person?”  Williams stared in horror at the corpse covered in crabs.

Niles pulled himself into the boat and fastidiously wrung the water from his trousers.  “Sure, why not?”  He counted.  “Thirty-six.  I win.”

“Jesus!”  Williams’ eyes were white orbs.

“Did you kill him?” Cooksey asked breathlessly.

“Of course not!”  Niles scowled.  “What do you think I am, a murderer?”

Their aghast silence answered him.

“Well I’m not!”  Niles huffed with affront.  “He was a homeless guy.  Died of a heart attack.”

“You don’t use people as bait, Ghoul!” Williams yelled.

Niles pointed to all the crabs covering the body.  “It worked.”

“Sure did!” Cooksey exclaimed.  He started pealing the critters from the body and dropping them into the bucket.

“You aren’t going to eat those are you?” Williams demanded.

Cooksey blinked.  “Crabs, Jonas!  They’re crabs!”

“They ate some dude!  He’d got no eyes, Cooksey!”

Cooksey looked mutinously at his partner.  “Crabs are crabs, Jonas.  It’s not their fault a vampire baited them.”

Williams looked ready to use Niles as bait next.  Grumbling, he jumped into the rowing seat, pulled the anchor and set them moving.

“What now?” Niles asked.

“We have to get this guy back and officially log him as a dead dude,” Williams grumbled.  “Although how the hell we’re going to explain it I’m not sure.”

“He had a heart attack crabbing,” Niles offered.

“Oh lord!”

Cooksey giggled.

“What will you do with the crabs?” Niles asked.

Cooksey beamed.  “Crab fest at my place!  Who’s in?”

Niles and Cooksey looked at Williams.  The man’s face had turned several shades of green.  But now he was looking at the bucket of squirming crabs.

Slowly he raised his hand.

“In,” was all he said.

 

© 2016 Newmin