Tag: vampires (page 1 of 4)

Bloody Streets Sample Chapter

I’ve been getting more and more mental momentum to get more writing done. I’m planning updates to my Patreon page. I’ve been carving out time for both Monday storytelling/art-making posts here and forward progress on my longer novel project and revising my shorter novella, the sequel to Cold Iron. Titled Bloody Streets, I’ve had a “final draft” sitting collecting metaphorical dust for a few years, now. Revisiting the draft, it’s clear to me that, while it might have been “final” back then, it certainly isn’t ready for consumption quite yet. It’s close, but it needs a bit more work. Still, I think it’s going to be a good follow-up to Cold Iron. You can read that novella by picking it up from Amazon or other sources (for now), and as for the sequel… well, here’s the first chapter. Enjoy.


Church of Saint Mary the Redeemer, Green Street and 5th, Philadelphia

July 1st, 2020, 12:21 am

Murdered nuns. Not something you see every day.

Morgan Everson had left her coffee in the car. The scent of it was unlikely to help her nausea.

Cops from other precincts kept onlookers from walking by, too far to get a good shot on any phone or tablet cameras.  The wind was coming at Morgan from behind, meaning the street was being spared the smell of death. In front of her, Doctor Leminovsky knelt by the scene, latex-gloved hands gingerly pulled dark fabric away from one of the slain nuns.

“Never seen someone have quite so violent a crisis of faith.”

“We sure it’s a someone, Lem? Not some animal?”

“I just got off the phone with Bowman.” Next to Morgan, Seth Fasil tucked his phone into his pants pocket. “All of the zoo’s animals are accounted for, and no domestic animals in this area are bigger than a bull terrier.”

“There’s no way a pit bull did this, not even an abused or rabid one.” Lem sighed and shook her head. “I’ve never seen a weapon in human hands do something like this, either. Even axe murderers leave cleaner wounds than these. It’s like they mauled by a big cat, or maybe gored by a bull. Ever seen what happens to a bullfighter who isn’t that good at his job? It’s not a pretty sight.”

“Neither is this.” Morgan moved the circle of her flashlight over the bodies. “Any other evidence of big animals?”

“Last rain was a week ago. We’ll be lucky to get many paw prints around here.” Seth was looking, in spite of his observation, his own flashlight prowling through the grass. That was Seth in a nutshell: aware of the problems but unwilling to give up. It was clear he hadn’t lost a bit of his cop instincts. The angry scar on Seth’s neck, just above his collarbone, reminded Morgan of Seth’s reason for joining the city’s Special Homicide division in the first place, and the means by which he’d come to their attention.

“It could have been an animal.” Lem rubbed her forehead on her wrist, away from the latex. “But without tracks or other evidence, I won’t be able to tell you much.”

“The animal theory does have another hole in it.” Seth’s voice was lower than usual. Morgan turned to look at him, and her eyes followed the beam of his flashlight. On the stone wall of the church, red letters stood out even as the blood used to paint them ran in rivulets down grooves of mortar.

LIAR

Morgan glanced over her shoulder, making sure any onlookers were still out of range or sight of the message. She approached, tying her auburn hair behind her head before pulling on gloves of her own. Seth produced a small evidence vial and a cotton swab from the kit he’d brought to the scene, and Morgan slid the swab against the blood. Sealing it in the vial, she walked back over to Lem.

“Probably a match for one of the victims.”

“I’ll be sure to let you know.” Lem dropped the vial in her bag and shook her head again. “I don’t know, guys. Something stinks about this other than the entrails.”

The medical examiner waved over her assistant, who carried the body bags. Morgan removed her gloves and walked back over to Seth. They were out of earshot of most of the collected professionals in the courtyard, but Morgan looked over both of her shoulders, just to be certain, before she spoke.

“Are we thinking wolves?”

Despite her circumspection, she still went for the abbreviated term for the most obvious suspect, rather than actually using the entire word ‘werewolves’. Seth frowned, just a bit, not wanting to give away what they were discussing to any onlookers. He didn’t look at Morgan. He’d taken a photo of the word on the wall, and was examining it on the screen of his phone.

“They’re usually pretty quiet. We’ve had an actual case with them… what, once, since I came on board?”

Morgan nodded, looking around again and brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes.

“And that was due to some greenhorn bloodsuckers deciding to take a joyride across the bridge. There’s a reason vampires aren’t welcome in Camden, and why we avoid it like the plague. If that pedestrian hadn’t been involved…”

“Isn’t Camden technically out of our jurisdiction?”

“We’re Special Homicide, Seth… anything around here that goes bump in the night is our jurisdiction.”

“And last time, they brought the perpetrator to us, before we’d even saddled up to cross the bridge ourselves.” Seth flipped back through his notebook. “There was a note tacked to the guy, from someone named ‘Pickett’. Asked us not to cross the bridge, either.”

Morgan frowned. “I wouldn’t count on them being that helpful twice. Not if this was some sort of hit or message.”

Seth nodded, then frowned for a moment as his fingers swiped at the screen of his phone.

“Any other problems with that thing?” Morgan let a change of subject take her mind off of the scene.

“I think I’m getting the hang of it.” He turned the device over in his hand. “Still hard to believe I’m basically holding a personal computer. Did you know portable phones used to be the size of bricks, and computers once filled entire rooms or floors, constantly monitored by dweebs in sweaters?”

“I think it was mentioned in school once or twice.”

Seth shook his head. “Technology marches on.” He tucked the phone into his jacket. He’d left the leather in his Firebird and was wearing a more stately if somewhat dated blazer on the job. Morgan smiled. So far Seth’s clothing seemed to be coming from thrift sources and other second hand sources. She reminded herself that she wanted to take her partner shopping. Just because he was essentially from the 1980s didn’t mean he had to dress like it.

Producing her own phone, Morgan took one more shot of the victims as Lem and her assistant began to close the body bags. Once the photo appeared, Morgan sent it to Neil Parkhurst, who would feed the photos into their secure datacore and dig up more information on his end. As the phone processed the images, she looked up at Seth, who was standing by the fence that separated the grassy courtyard of the church and its attached living quarters from the street. He was studying the fence, examining the metal closely.

“If it works the way I think it does, we can definitely rule out certain parties.”

Morgan nodded. The church was old, and the fence had never been replaced. The less iron was worked by human hands and methods, the closer it was to pure, or ‘cold’ iron, which Morgan had learned was repulsive to vampires. Myths of vampires being unable to walk on holy ground were likely tied to the presence of cold iron fences and gates. The savagery of this new murder was not beyond them, but looking at the wrought iron that bound the courtyard within the confines of the church around it, Morgan felt more and more that the fence had been vaulted by something even more savage, even more unhinged; something worse than a vampire.

They continued to work the scene. They marked and photographed the patches of blood and gore strewn around the courtyard. Seth kept searching for abnormal footprints, and Morgan scoured the bushes for bits of fabric or any other evidence. What little they found was bagged, labeled, and taken back to the district house. Neil’s skills at evidence analysis kept anything related to vampires from going to other CSUs, and thus limited the number of people aware of the creatures. If there was one thing on which Morgan agreed with the likes of Bethany Engelherz, it was the fact that people would not take wide-spread news of actual vampires roaming around terribly well, let alone werewolves. The cover story protecting Marshall Thorne, CEO of Comcast and the local Baron, said he had an atypical blood-borne condition that kept him on a nocturnal schedule. Others reported the condition, to try and transition into their night lives, but sooner or later, one of them would run afoul of Morgan and Seth. And then after that…

“I think we’re done here. Let’s go talk to the priest.”

Morgan looked up, unaware that she’d been daydreaming. Well, nightdreaming if you wanted to be technical about it. She followed Seth into the church. It was solid stone, showing weathering here and there, but there was something implacable about the building. The sanctuary had a high, vaulted ceiling, complete with stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and statuary in the corners, each one holding a different angel. Morgan didn’t go to church that often, but this was an impressive one, and as intimidating as it was in its size and eerie as the echoes were within its cavernous space, she felt a little more at peace within it.

The priest was in a small room behind the front of the sanctuary, beyond a tiny dressing area where several robes hung in a closet to one side. Dressed in a black shirt with a priest’s collar and faded jeans, he talked animatedly into a phone as Seth and Morgan walked in. Morgan knew enough that the man was speaking Italian, and using a very formal and roundabout way of addressing people, but other than that she quickly got lost. She kept telling herself she’d be brushing up her language skills, but somehow she never quite found the time.

Seth put his hands in his pockets as the priest wrapped up his call. Morgan had noted, on a previous investigation into a couple young vampires gone AWOL, that Seth could assume that nominally casual pose and still look intimidating. Maybe it was the way the gold flecks in his jade-green eyes reflected the light, or maybe it was just an effect he had on vampires who knew of him and what he had done to a member of their secret police.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Detectives. I’m Father Michael Jacobson.”

Morgan shook his hand. “I’m Morgan Everson, this is Seth Fasil. We’re sorry for your loss.”

“Not as sorry as I am. Sisters Florence and Gwendolyn were very active in our outreach to the homeless. Two fewer sisters ministering to the poor and neglected means more people will drift without assistance.”

Seth produced a small notebook and clicked his pen. Morgan had to smile a little. All the years of innovation since he’d last been a cop, and he insisted on doing things the old-fashioned way. “Let’s start right there. Do you know of anyone among the homeless who would want to hurt either of the sisters?”

“I didn’t know many personally, I’m sorry to say. I do know that those I did speak to held them in high regard.”

“Could we get the names of the ones you spoken to?” Morgan felt her phone vibrating in her pocket. It was the third time that night, and like before, she ignored it. “It would really help us.”

“Of course.” The priest began listing names and basic descriptions of several destitute people, as well as his numbers for the church and his cell phone. Seth diligently got it down on paper. Morgan took the opportunity to check her phone. The first voice mail was from last night’s date. The second, a message from her mother. The last one was from Bethany Engelherz.

If there was one person on the face of the planet Morgan didn’t want to talk to, it was Bethany. On a basic level, dealing with powerful vampires felt like spending time in a tiger paddock with a fresh, raw steak around your neck. Even if they weren’t interested in eating you right then, they still wanted to get a piece of you. Bethany, in particular, was a thorny issue for Morgan. Not only was she powerful, and an attorney on top of it, Bethany’s actions in sparing Morgan and Neil from a vicious if ill-advised vampire attack meant that Bethany felt entitled to call on Morgan whenever it suited her. Normally, it was to check on the status of cases in progress. But they’d wrapped their last fang case two nights ago. What was she on about now?

With nothing to say to last night’s date, Morgan decided to let the attorney wait, and stepped out to return her mother’s call, rather than listening to the voice mail.

“Morgan? I’m sorry to call so late, did I wake you?”

“No, Mom, I’m working.” Morgan’s mother knew that homicide detectives worked all hours of the day and night. She didn’t know Morgan worked with denizens of the night almost exclusively. The existence of vampires was not a widespread fact, and both the vampires and mortal authorities tried to keep it that way, to avoid panic. “What’s going on?”

“I thought you should know your father’s here.”

Morgan’s blood turned to ice and then immediately boiled before freezing again. “When?”

“Just a half-hour ago. He said they kept moving his flight around.”

Bullshit. “Can I talk to him?”

“Sure, sweetie.” There was hesitation in the elder Everson’s voice. She knew there was tension between father and daughter, but had never imposed upon the situation. “Here he is.”

Morgan waited, perhaps a heartbeat or two, before the voice of a man with millions of miles under his feet and more than a few encounters with cigars and booze in his throat came on the line. “Hello, Morgan.”

“Hi, Dad.” She swallowed. “Moved your flights around, huh?”

“Something like that.” There was a pause, and then his voice became distant. “Diana, can you get me a glass of wine? Whatever you have in the house is fine.”

He’s sending her out of the room. She waited. She hated waiting for her father to speak to her alone. It never ended well.

“You know I can’t talk shop with your mother in the room.”

“Why are you here, Dad?” She got right to business. Other children or family members might doubt Charles Everson’s involvement with shady corporations or government agencies as a security consultant, but Morgan knew better. She had access to his criminal records. A friend at Interpol had helped her fill in a lot of blanks, a lot of days and weeks unaccounted for, a lot of missing, silent years.

“I’m here because you’re in danger.”

That, Morgan scoffed at. “I can take care of myself.”

“I don’t doubt it, Morgan, but I’m here all the same. I take it your mother doesn’t know who you really go after at one in the morning.”

What? No. No way. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Deniability. I’ve taught you well.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I learned how to be discreet all on my own. It’s easy when you don’t have family to talk to.”

He paused. “Morgan, I didn’t come here to pick a fight with you. I can be in Philadelphia first thing in the morning.”

“Don’t bother. I’ve got things under control here. Worry about Mom. She hasn’t seen you in over a year and she’s been a mess since Mark died.”

“I know. I’ll stay here as long as I can. But I’ll keep an ear out for…”

“No, Dad. Just… just stay there. Take care of Mom. She needs you, even if she won’t admit it.”

“Redirecting on me, Morgan? I guess I deserve that.” She listened to him take a deep breath. He wanted to say more. “Look, just know I’m here, all right? Call if you need me.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” She took the phone away from her ear and ended the call without looking at it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Is Mark the name of last night’s beau?”

She jumped, turning to find Seth at the top of the stone stairs outside the church entrance. Morgan had walked down them while talking to her father. She looked down at her phone.

“No. His name was Leonard. And he works way too much.”

“You’d have that in common.” Morgan’s head snapped up, scaring away Seth’s smile and bringing concern to his eyes. “Come on, I’m kidding.”

“I…  Mark was my step-dad.  My mother filed for divorce when I was about ten. My dad wasn’t home that often, and…”

Seth blinked slowly. “I understand, you don’t have to say any more. I’m sorry for your loss.”

She smiled a little. “Thank you. It was six months ago, but Mom is still pretty wrecked over it.”

“Hey, if you want to call it a night, I’m fine with that. This is heavy stuff in and of itself, and we just wrapped the case with that vamp from Portland, you had a bad date last night…”

“It’s ‘heavy’, is it? Does that make it hard to hold?”

Seth gave her a look that wasn’t entirely pleasant. She couldn’t help but smile.

“Still a man of the 80’s, after all.”

“Next thing I know, you’ll be reminding me that we’re not at war with the Russians.”

“You’re the one who gave the stink-eye to the guy running that hot dog stand, not me.”

“I know Siberian prison tattoos when I see them.”

“That doesn’t automatically make him the enemy, Seth!”

“No, but it does make him suspicious.” He sipped his coffee casually, and Morgan held up her hand and turned away, trying to hide her widening smile.

“I think I’ll take you up on your offer. I need to sort some things out at home.”

“Good. Take your mind off of the case a bit. We’ll catch up tomorrow.”

She nodded. “Thanks, Seth.”

“Hey, it’s what partners do. Just get home safely.”

Morgan left the scene, and as she drove home, her thoughts was less with the dead nuns outside of the Redeemer and more with her father reappearing after years off of her radar. Once she got home, Morgan headed into her apartment, cracked open a fresh can of food for Nike, and unlocked the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet next to her desk.

Rather than keep data on her father digitally, she maintained hard copies of photos, articles, and snippets from files she had acquired one way or another. As much as her friend at Interpol and the occasional delve into her mother’s basement had helped her figure out places Charles Everson had been over the years, what he did day to day still eluded her. What he had said to her now begged the question: did his globe-trotting and mysterious ‘consultation’ profession have something to do with vampires, or something else that went bump in the night?

She spent more than an hour poring over the file, the Siamese cat occasionally making a plea for attention. Finally, when she could barely keep her eyes open, she wandered towards bed, Nike directly behind her, curling up beside her human as the detective drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Movie Review: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

It may be hard to realize for some young folks these days, but vampires didn’t always sparkle. Nor did they collectively get obsessed with a particular young woman who happens to have really tasty blood or a particular smell. The roots of the vampire tale go deep, and one of the earliest tales to reach a mass market was a novel by Bram Stoker. It’s served as the core for a lot of stories since its publication in 1897, and my favorite adaptation thus far is the 1992 film helmed by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, concretely entitled Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

The year is, in fact, 1897, and solicitor Jonathan Harker is being entrusted with the job of a lifetime. His colleague, a man named Renfield, has gotten locked away in bedlam, and it falls to Harker to do the last bit of paperwork to secure the real estate acquisitions of an influential but eccentic Romanian businessman. Harker says good-bye to his fiancee Mina and heads to Transylvania to meet his client, the reclusive Count Dracula. Dracula welcomes Harker with warmth and hospitality, but when he sees a photograph of Mina among Harker’s effects, he suddenly becomes… something else. When Dracula goes to England to claim what’s his, he not only draws Mina and her circle of friends into his perilous life, he attracts the attention of one Abraham Van Helsing.

Before I get into the characters, which are the true pulsing heart and hot blood of Dracula, I want to talk about how Coppola put this movie together. The first word that springs to mind when I consider the film is “sumptuous.” While some more modern tales opt for a washed-out aesthetic, colors have a tendency to pop off of the screen and elements like shadow and camera movement are used excellently. Some portions of the set design and establishing shots feel informed by an earlier era of creature features, and the film boldly shuns most modern special effects techniques, adding even more to the feeling of cinematic nostalgia. Monstrosity and the powers of the night are achieved through Oscar-winning makeup, sound editing and costume design, brought to life by a mostly excellent cast.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures
“Come in, come in. Stay a while. Have a drink.”

I maintain that Gary Oldman is one of the best and perhaps most underrated actors of his generation. He has an impressive range and natural charisma that informs just about any role he adopts. His Dracula makes full use of both of these aspects, as he goes through many fascinating and sometimes disturbing changes over the course of the film. He is the magnetic center around which the rest of the film revolves, and his work here is truly impressive. Anthony Hopkins is no slouch, either, and counters Dracula’s outright alien nature with a very human and determined Van Helsing. The stiff and somewhat staid performances of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder as Harker and Mina can be off-putting at first – in fact, Reeves is often called out for “ruining” the movie – but what I like about these initially wooden portrayals is that they show us the sort of people to whom Dracula was introduced by Bram Stoker over a century ago.

In Victorian times, the roles of men and women in terms of sex and sexuality were extremely strict and defined. Not everyone subscribed to this, but the common thinking was that men were almost constantly poised to take advantage of the women around them, and women thus subjected to such lusts would essentially transform from ladies of innocense and purity to insatiable, wanton women. Thus sex contained an element of fear and terror, something against the enlightened individual must always be on guard, and Stoker’s novel takes that juxtaposition to a natural conclusion, personifying these elements in the vampire. Bram Stoker’s Dracula preserves this in that the film’s luscious visuals and content often walk a fine line between the erotic and the macabre. The effect is, not unlike the character himself, hypnotic and seductive, drawing us into a world that feels ancient yet familiar, and refusing to let us go.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures
It’s amazing what a jaunt outside of the castle can do for you.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula does have some flaws, including a couple missteps in pacing and storylines that can make the plot feel a touch crowded, but its energy and presentation balance these elements out and the casting and direction push the film into an even more positive category. Dracula as a character can be difficult for an audience to sympathize with, but Oldman’s performance demonstrates how to pull off such a feat. The film, like the character, is a noble and passionate if somewhat cursed and depraved relic of yesteryear, and is all the more charming and seductive in an age of sterile CG and lifeless characters, to say nothing of some of the pretenders to Dracula’s throne. He is the unquestionable and ultimate lord of darkness, and Coppola’s vision of his story remains one of the finest vampire movies ever made.

Movie Review: Hellboy – Blood & Iron

I’m not sure what it is about tales of the occult and the supernatural that fascinate me so deeply. It could be the notion that the things that go bump in the night are more than just settling houses and gusts of wind; that right in front of us, just out of sight and barely beyond our reach, is a world full of wonders, horrors, secrets, and history both enlightening and terrifying to behold. What’s especially interesting are those who choose to, as some would say, “bump back”. Characters like Abraham Van Helsing, the Ghostbusters, Sam & Dean Winchester, and a demon child raised by American soldiers and scientists in the 40s who goes by the name Hellboy. Mike Mignoal’s creation has been in two feature films after many graphic novel appearances, and he’s also been animated. Available on Netflix, Hellboy: Blood and Iron is one of those animated adventures.

Courtesy New Line Cinema

Hellboy was summoned by the Nazis to win World War 2. Instead, he was found by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm and raised normally, or as normal as a boy can be when he’s red-skinned, bears a tail, and has a right hand that’s made of stone. Bruttenholm and others gathered around the boy, and formed the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or BPRD. Today, the BPRD is a subsidiary of the government, and one of its government friends wants the BPRD to check out a supposedly haunted house. Despite the assignment apparently being a publicity stunt, Professor Bruttenholm convinces Hellboy and his friends Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman to accompany him to the house, saying nothing of his memories of a vampire hunt from his youth.

The style of the characters and their surroundings are most definitely inspired by Mignola’s dark graphic novels. Shadows are long, darkness is deep, and moments of horror are surprisingly chilling at times. That said, some of the animation feels a little choppy, even in comparison to some television series. The occasional dip in quality can strain the immersion of the audience, but it’s never enough to fully break it. Some of this can be chalked up to stylistic choices, and the overall quality of the presentation doesn’t suffer, but it’s enough to warrant a mention. Those more interested in the art composition than the story or characters may find it hard to ignore.

Courtesy New Line Cinema
Even vampires need a spa day.

However, I think most people interested in Hellboy: Blood & Iron would not be checking it out for its artwork. The appeal of Hellboy tales, regardless of their venue, lies in the characters. Hellboy himself has a down-to-earth attitude and general sense of snarky self-awareness that makes him very endearing and defies his demonic appearance. Abe works as an intellectual foil to “Big Red”‘s more straightforward “punch it until it behaves” mentality, Liz Sherman has a good relationship with the big guy, and for all of his strength and devil-may-care attitude, Hellboy pretty much dotes on Professor Broom. The fact that their film cast counterparts appear as voices is a huge help, as well: It’s hard to imagine Hellboy at this point being portrayed by anybody but Ron Perlman.

The other major pillar holding up this and many other tales of Hellboy is the storytelling. The tale is well-paced, operates several facets at once, and does not short-change any of its characters. Even minor roles are shaded to provide depth and nuance, the myths have a good feeling of authenticity, and the nature of the threat feels appropriate given the protagonists involved. I do want to avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that whole the characters are the focus of the story, the story itself is still interesting enough to justify the film’s running time.

Courtesy New Line Cinema
They’re here to help. Believe it or else.

Stuff I Liked: I’m a sucker for myths of the old world, incarnations of old gods, and protagonists willing to punch both of them in the face. The diversity of the BPRD crew is appealing in and of itself. The multi-faceted nature of the threat is interesting, as wel.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: The artist kept adding what felt like an extra line to the noses of some characters. It was more an odd annoyance than anything else. Some of the animation felt a bit choppy.
Stuff I Loved: A fantastic cast of interesting characters voiced by talented people with good chemistry. That should sell it in and of itself, if you ask me.

Bottom Line: Hellboy: Blood & Iron is a story worthy of its predecessors. Its run time may be short, at just over an hour, but its packed with good character moments, a balanced mix of action and terror, and more than its share of humor. I would definitely recommend it.

Flash Fiction: The Last Saloon

Courtesy Fotopedia

After an unfortunate false start last night, I re-rolled for Chuck’s flash fiction challenge “Another Roll of the Dice“. The new rolls gave me the “Grindhouse” genre, with the elements “a troublesome dog” and “a hidden compartment”.


The road stretched out into the inky darkness, pierced only by the headlights of the purring 1960 DeSoto Adventurer plunging into it. Deke knew he had to get out of town, and fast, before the law came down hard on him. It didn’t matter that the bullets they took out of the poor guy were all silver; they’d see it as murder, not the supernatural pest control that it was. Still, a wife (well, widow now) and kids were safe, as was their town, and they’d never have to fear a full moon again.

Zeke perked up from his place in the passenger seat, looking out the window. Deke put his foot on the brake, just a little.

“What is it, boy?”

Zeke’s tail thumped the leather seat, and he began to pant. He was excited by something. Long years on the road had taught Deke to trust the bull terrier’s instincts, and he pulled into the saloon parking lot. The Adventurer rattled to a stop, and Deke stepped out, followed quickly by the dog. Deke looked down at Zeke, his hands on his hips.

“Can I count on you to stay on the porch?”

Zeke cocked his head to one side.

“Yeah… I thought so. Just don’t be a menace, okay? Be nice.”

Zeke responded with a short, upbeat bark.

Inside, the saloon was lit mostly with neon lights. Pool balls clacked on their table in one corner. Deke found an empty table near the back wall and sat where he could see the rest of the saloon. His waitress, tall and curvy with long dark hair, walked up moments later.

“Get you something to drink, sugar?”

“A cold bottle of beer, miss, if you don’t mind.” He put a few bills on the table, and she took them to the bar. Deke had to pull his eyes away from what her hips were doing to focus on the rest of the saloon. His thumbs tapped the buckle of his belt idly, and he took a deep breath.

You’re just keyed up from the werewolf fight. Calm down. It could just be a seedy bar.

He heard the bikes outside moments before the riders entered. Three men, all broad-shouldered under their leather jackets, and a woman walked right up to the bar. Deke’s waitress returned, and he could see her smile was a bit less natural this time.

“What’s your name?”

“Rachel.”

Deke smiled. “That’s a good and lovely name, for a good and lovely lady. Rachel, what can you tell me about the foursome that just walked in?”

Rachel glanced nervously at the bar. “It’s best if you don’t ask.”

Deke leaned forward. “If it’s trouble, I might be able to help.”

Rachel took another glance, then leaned over to whisper to Deke. He tried to ignore how she looked.

“They tore up a lawman who came ’round here a few months ago. All he did was ask about a few missing person cases. Next thing you know…”

She shook, visibly. Deke laid his hand on her wrist, the silver rings on his first and third fingers catching the neon lights.

“Outside there’s a white DeSoto. I want you to go and open the passenger side door, then the glove compartment. Don’t do anything else, and do not get in the car. Do you understand?”

“Not… really.”

He smiled. “It will be all right. Just trust me.”

“Rachel!” The bartender’s bellow was unpleasant. “Flirt on your own time!”

Biting her lip, Rachel nodded at Deke, then dropped off her tray as she said she was taking a break. Deke watched the bikers more closely. The moon was still full, and their arrival was on physical vehicles. That narrowed the possibilities considerably. He finished his beer, stood, and approached the bar to hear what was being said.

“I’m telling you,” the female biker was saying to the bartender, “now that the furball’s gone, there’s nothing to stop us now. His territory’s ours for the taking.”

Deke whispered a quick prayer, then tapped the closest biker on the shoulder. “Pardon me.”

The burly man whirled, clearly ready for a fight. Deke’s fingers flicked the clasp of the hidden compartment on his belt, and the vial dropped into his hand. His thumb popped the tiny cork, and a snap of his wrist put the contents in the biker’s face. The hissing was immediate, and the biker fell back, screaming.

“Holy water,” the woman said, looking Deke up and down. He smiled, and he heard Zeke barking outside.

“I had a feeling. You lot always squabble with werewolves over good hunting grounds.”

She lunged for him, and he stepped back, but not far enough to avoid having his shirt clawed open. His silver cross spilled out into the air, and the trio still standing stepped back. Zeke bounded into the bar, grabbing one of the bikers by the ankle in his powerful jaws. Deke grabbed a nearby chair and smashed it against the bar. The one unfettered male biker came at him, fangs out, a deadly undead missile. Years of training and less than favorable scraps put Deke on his back, a shard of wood aiming up. The improvised stake found its target and the biker rolled away, grabbing the wood protruding from his chest.

“Zeke! Fire!”

The dog let go of the ravaged throat of his victim and shot outside. The female hissed, stalking Deke as he stood.

“You won’t leave here alive, holy man.”

“Who said I was alive in the first place?” Deke pulled at the hole in his shirt, showing the scars across his chest. “One of your kind killed me a long time ago. God brought me back to make sure your kind never rules the earth.”

“I’ll send you back to your god right now.”

Zeke returned, a can of lighter fluid in his jaws, his tail wagging. Deke smiled, producing his matches.

“Ma’am, with all due respect, I think you’ll be getting to where you’re going first.”

Cold Streets: Sneak Preview

Courtesy Rolls Royce

In lieu of the usual flash fiction challenge, as Chuck is setting up a rather interesting one for next week, here’s a sneak preview at the opening to Cold Streets, sequel to the novella Cold Iron which is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the e-reader of your preference. Enjoy.


He probably thought he was going to get lucky. What he got was bitten.

Bethany savored the taste of him as she sat beside him in the back of her limo, her hands on his shoulders and her fangs in his neck. He offered no resistance, made no discernible noise. As much as Bethany enjoyed the occasional meal being fully conscious of the razor’s edge between pleasure and pain provided by her bite, she didn’t have the time to make this hapless businessman acquainted with the benefits of her friendship. A little special secretion dulled his senses better than a whole bottle of the cheap whiskey he’d been pounding at the bar. She could taste it in his blood, and as much as she detested bottom shelf swill, there was something deliciously decadent about a bit of sleaze like this.

She didn’t want to kill him. Not that she had any sort of sympathy for this type of corporate human, it would simply be too much of a mess. She slowly drew her fangs out of his skin, flexed her tongue to coax a little more of the sour-tasting saliva into her mouth, and licked his wounds. They closed slowly, leaving him disheveled and disoriented, but physically unharmed. His dizziness and hard-on would fade, but he’d have no specific memory of what she did to him.

She kicked open the slightly ajar door of the limo and pushed him onto the sidewalk. His unfocused eyes tried to fix on her. She blew him a kiss and slammed the door.

“Drive.”

The limo took off into the street. Bethany leaned back and sighed. The feeling of warm, live blood moving through her veins never got old. Humans had a saying about sex being like pizza, in that it was very rare for it to be truly bad, and in her mind, Bethany equated feeding to both things. She could eat pizza, even if she got nothing from it, and sex still had some benefits, but neither of them did what fresh blood could for her. Her eyes closed and she languished in the feeling, the vitality, letting it electrify her limbs and invigorate her senses. She loved how the blood made her feel, how it compelled her to fight and fuck and feed even more, how even a sleazy lowlife like that one could make her come alive.

“You have a little on you.”

Her eyes opened and she looked towards the front of the limo. The divider was down between her and the driver, and he’d adjusted the rear view mirror to look at her. She saw his hazel eyes gazing at her, and caught a glimpse of herself. The businessman meal had clumsily unbuttoned most of her blouse, her long red hair was a little disheveled, and splotches of red were showing on her chin and collarbone. She reached for a towel near the miniature bar on one side of the limo, dabbing at the blood until it was gone. She sat back and fixed up her blouse and hair.

“Thank you, Alex.”

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