Morning in the Vineyard

Morning at the Vineyard

A story from Juliette Kings

Andrew didn’t remember much when the door opened with blinding light waking him from his sleep, much less the voice that said “You aren’t dead.”

“Of course I’m not dead.” Andrew lifted himself up on his elbow and looked around at the bedroom.

“You were so cold. We couldn’t hear your heart.” A slim woman with long slightly graying hair stood near the bed.

“That’s what all the girls say.” No response. “That was a joke.”

“Oh. Ha ha ha. Good one.” Uncomfortable laughing.

There was the taste of blood in his mouth, but not his own. It must have been a Hell of a night. He looked at the woman again. She was pretty but not young, standing there in a flowing sundress and pretty light summer sweater. Nice. This would be fairly easy staying here for a few days, but he would still be cautious. Sometimes the most easy ones turned out to be the most dangerous.

Andrew started to get up and realized he was naked under the sheets.

“Your clothes were soaked and also covered with blood. We thought about calling the police but my husband Ian said to wait until morning. My husband Dennis said the same. I don’t agree with them. We should have called the police as soon as we found you.”

“Where was I?”

“In the vineyard, face down in the dirt. Your car was in a ditch with four flats and the front end smashed in. We pulled it out.”

The Tesla. Quiet and fast and expensive. Then he thought about what she said. “Husbands? You mentioned two husbands.”

“We practice polyandry. Two husbands, one wife, one family. It isn’t legal or common or accepted by most people but…”

“I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it works for you.”

“It does.”

She took a stack of clothing, jeans, a shirt, etc, from the top of the dresser and gave it to Andrew. “Clean clothing. Breakfast will be ready in about a half hour. And we’ll discuss who you are and why you’re here and where all the blood came from.” Then she turned and left the room.

What a night. The fog started to clear from Andrew’s brain. He staggered up out of the bed and closed the window shades. Damn sunlight. Looking in the mirror the reflection looked back showing a well built man with alabaster skin, long chestnut curls flowing down his back, a classically handsome face and hazel eyes the color of the blue green southern seas. His mouth twitched showing fangs. He quickly gained his composure and hid the teeth and rubbed his tired eyes.

“Shit. What the crap happened to you Andrew,” he said to himself. There was wine, a lot of wine. There were women. There was a guy named Brant and his friend Chet. There was the girl Ginger…she had AB + blood, Chet had O. Oh no. Why didn’t he remember? And how’d he end up face down in the middle of a vineyard? Zinfandel. He knew what kind of grapes they were.

Taking a 3 minute shower, he towel dried his long locks, pulled on the clothes the woman had left him and went down the stairs. He could smell food cooking and coffee. He gripped the banister to prevent himself from throwing up everything inside of his stomach. He’d over done it for sure, blood and wine. Wine and blood. Sex too but that was  a blur. Food might do him some good.

In the kitchen were two men and the woman, along with half a dozen kids in who ranged from about 8 to 17.

He looked at the men. A large blonde man who looked like a former football player introduced himself as Ian. Dennis was shorter with the look of a History Professor or some sort of thing like that. They called the woman Carrie. One big happy family.

Ian poured Andrew coffee and welcomed him. They all welcomed him. This was getting creepy. Then again, Andrew was the Vampire, but he was sitting in the home of a farmer and wine maker and her two husbands and six kids. It was weird. But hey, he decided to make the best of it.

They made small talk. He thanked them for taking him in. Carrie put plates of eggs and fried tofu and toast and fruit and bacon and mushrooms on the table.

The teenage girls thought Andrew’s hair was great and asked him if he was in a band. He smiled minus fangs. He must have had at least five cups of coffee.

“Last night I thought you had some nasty scratches on your face,” mentioned Ian.

“I, uh, heal fast.” Andrew said that then wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He healed fast because he wasn’t like them. He took the blood and energy of regular normal people and in return, he made them feel good – like a rush that would last at least a week. Well, if he liked them and made a connection.

“Where’d all the blood come from? Except for the scratch on your face you didn’t have a mark on you.” As Carrie said that she gave him a long cold look.

“Blood? On me? I guess I drank too much. Too much of everything and threw up. I don’t know. My friends drank a lot and someone was doing some sort of recreational drugs or maybe prescription pain killers, I’m not sure, but I over did it. Listen, I’m so sorry about this and I really appreciate your hospitality. I’ve imposed on you. I wish there was something I could do to pay you back. Let me know.”

Ian gave him a pat on the arm. “We know what it is like to be different.”

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you?” Dennis asked as the kids all looked on.

Andrew brushed a damp lock of hair out of his face and suddenly felt a little warm. “Yes, but…”

“How long have you been a Vampire?” Carrie was asking now.

“I’ve always been one. My parents were Vampires. Um, I was born just down the road from here. October 22, 1851.”

The children were transfixed.

“We don’t have a problem with Vampires. Some food might settle your stomach Andrew,” said Carrie. “And you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. We found your phone and called your sister. She’ll be here in a couple of hours.”

This was all too strange for Andrew. He’d spent the past 100 years or thereabouts avoiding families and any kind of normal human lives. Years had passed traveling, and performing and enjoying wine and women and wild nights. But now he sat with a nice family with no pretenses. And rarely had he ever met humans who knew or even knew about real Vampires. It was so unusually weird.

I sing opera,” he said to the kids. “Mainly opera but I can sing just about anything. Just got back from Patagonia and learned a bunch of folk songs. I can do metal too. That comes naturally.”

“I can imagine you do a great power ballad,” Carrie said with a smile, then she told the children to leave the room.

Andrew had to smile. This as so weird but he could get used to this. He looked at Carrie’s golden brown eyes. A positive blood, just like his. She’d make a good Vampire, or even just a snack.

He thought about his sister. It had been forever since he’d seen her or her children. It would be nice. More than nice. Maybe she’d get another husband too. He might suggest it. He smiled. That would be funny.

“What happened to my friends? Did you see any of them?” Andrew looked from Dennis to Ian then to Carrie. “Did they say where they went?”

Carrie looked him in the eye as Dennis and Ian flanked her side. “We buried them in the garden behind the carriage house.”

“Don’t worry,” said Dennis “Nobody ever found the other bodies we’ve buried, so they won’t find your friends.”

Andrew took another gulp of coffee and hoped his sister would arrive soon.

And that was the entire truth just as my brother Andrew told it to me

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Lighthouse

Lighthouse

A story I’ve told before. I will tell it again tonight.

1880

He’d been found in the ocean, wearing a formal jacket with tails and clinging to the top of a grand piano. Underneath the man was a large gray wolfhound.

The captain of the ship that had picked him up said that he didn’t seem to remember much, or maybe did not want to remember. The dog, named Delilah, wouldn’t leave the side of her master.

At first they thought it was a ship wreck but it ended up being a complicated and strange mystery. The ship, a 200 ton brigantine had left Port of Talcahuano, in Chile three months before the mysterious man had been found in the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. Not a soul was on the ship, except the Captain who’d been found with a gun in his hand and what looked like a fatal self-inflicted bullet wound in his head. The life boats were still on the ship, as well as a cargo of wine and explosives, and the personal belongings of the few passengers and crew.

A break in an unusually strong and violent series of storms allowed them to dock and drop the man on the piano lid and his wolfhound off at the home of the lighthouse keeper’s family.

The lighthouse keeper checked in on the man who was sleeping in his guest room, dog curled by the bed. He could tell the stranger was wealthy by the quality of his clothing, the expensive watch and ring, and the formal refined way he’d spoken. His locked trunk had been recovered from the abandoned ship and now was at the foot of the bed.

The stranger said his name was Maxwell. He told them to call him Max. The first night there he’d drawn exquisite pictures for the light keeper’s wife of palm trees, and of beautiful women in fashionable dresses, and native women of South America with unusual hats and full colorful skirts. Over brandy he told them that he was 31 years old, born in 1849 when his pregnant mother had come out with his father for the California Gold Rush. Now he resided in San Francisco.

“What is your occupation? “The lighthouse keeper’s daughter Jayne asked the stranger,  fully well expecting him to say he was involved in a rich family business, or lived off of the wealth of his forebears.

He looked at her with hazel eyes, that she would have sworn were dark brown earlier that evening. “I am in law enforcement of a sorts, like detective, or a marshal. I seek out those who are particularly evil. I had apprehended a ruthless and violent fiend in South America and was on my way home. Unfortunately on the ship…” he paused and glanced up for a second, then back at the family of the lighthouse keeper. “On the ship I found myself taken by surprise and overwhelmed. It is a story I will tell you later, but now I must sleep, or I’ll end up under the table here.”

So he retired for the night. That was two days ago. He still slept as quiet and cold as death, but not dead. The dog lay by the foot of the bed thumping her tail whenever anyone came near.

A storm raged outside. The weather didn’t allow anyone to go get a doctor. His wife assured him that the man called Max just needed to rest. It made sense considering the man had been clinging to a piano lid and floating in the freezing ocean for days before he was picked up.

Despite the storm Lighthouse Keeper’s wife climbed up a ladder to fix a shutter that was almost ready to fly away with the wind. As she reached the window the ladder fell and she crashed to the ground below. All went black except the feeling of being carried inside.

Max put her down in a large chair by the fire and took her broken arm in his icy hands. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. She could feel his hands heat up and warm her wrist. The pain turned to numbness. She opened her eyes and could see a look of pain on his face, then he smiled and kissed her forehead.

“You’re arm is still broken, but the bones have started to mend enough for you not to need a splint.”

“You? You healed me,” she said.

“Yes. It is a gift. Keep the knowledge to yourself or people will think we are both insane.” He then touched a forming bruise on her forehead, making that pain, along with the bruise go away as well.

During the night the storm broke up. Sunshine came out between the clouds. Jayne convinced Max to walk down to the docks to pick up some fish for the night’s dinner.

She held his arm as they strolled along the road.

“Your glasses are so dark. I noticed your eyes turned from hazel to brown when we went outside,” said Jayne.

“My eyes are sensitive to the sun. I have three younger brothers, and a younger sister. Two of them have eyes that do the same as mine, that is change color,” he said, then changed the subject. “Do you like living here Jayne.”

“I love my family. I love the ocean. I don’t being in a small town with nothing but fish and lumber. I’d like to see more of the world before I’m expected to find a husband.”

“Do you want to be married Jayne?”

“Maybe,” said Jayne, “I can move to Utah and take two husbands. Women can vote in Utah and Wyoming. Why not here?”

“Because men are ignorant and barbaric my dear Jayne. They’re afraid that if you vote you’ll be smarter and more just than they are. The don’t want to give up their power to someone who might do a better job. By the way, men of a certain faith may have more than one wife but I do not believe a woman is allowed two husbands in Utah. You would have to go to Tibet for that.”

Jayne laughed. “To be truthful, even one husband would be too many for me right now. I don’t need anyone to own me right now.” She tugged on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“How am I different? I’m just like any other man.”

“You healed my mother’s arm. You survived almost a week in the icy ocean’s water hanging onto a piano top with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dog. Your eyes change color. Your skin feels like ice. You are unbelievably attractive. I am stating a fact about your looks. But I only want your friendship. Even with the oddness I like you. I feel as if we have been friends for a long long time. Where are you really from Maxwell? Who are your people?”

He smiled and took off his glasses. His eyes were hazel again. “Where I come from men and women are equal. We live quietly. We live honestly among each other. What I am about to tell you will sound strange, but we live on the edge between life and death. We walk in the world of sunlight, but also walk in the land of the shadows and do not fear death or God.”

“I would like to go there with you. I would earn my way. I could be a lady detective.”

“It is not easy to live in my world Jayne.”

“No world is easy Max,” she said then smiled and pulled the comb out of her hair letting it blow in the wind. “Do you have a sweetheart at home?”

Max hesitated then spoke. “There is a woman I have a strong connection with, but I will never love her.”

“Is she married?”

“No. It isn’t like that. We met when I was at the University. So was she, which is odd unto itself. She knows my thoughts. She knows my desires. But she is not the one. What about you Jayne?”

“I was engaged to a man who knew neither my thoughts or desires, and had no intention on learning either. He thought I belonged to him body and soul, not in the way of love, but as property to be owned and controlled. He was jealous to the point of rage if I would speak with another man. He was even jealous of the boys I teach at the school and demanded I quit my teaching job. I would rather die than live a life where someone else controlled my body, my thoughts, my job, and my every whim. That is why I am no longer engaged to him.” Then laughed and ran to the end of the pier and let the wind blow through her hair and laughed some more.

Max marveled at the way she was so free thinking and full of life. He saw so much death and sorrow in his line of work that now with Jayne he felt renewed. She was sunshine in his dark world of shadows and night.

Hours later in the quiet of the night, the wind died own, and the moon hung in a thin crescent in the sky. Max walked along the beach with his dog Delilah. The taste of fresh blood and wine was in his mouth and the cold comfort of the night had settled into his soul. Delilah ran ahead, then the dog started to bark. Ahead of him Max saw a bloody figure crumpled on the rocks. His heart sank. It was Jayne.

Max picked her up and carried her home. He knew what had happened. She’d gone out to look at the stars and was attacked by a man she’d jilted. She’d spoken briefly about it when they’d walked earlier in the day. She had turned away the advances of a hot headed man who wanted her as his own. In the afternoon the man had walked past them, giving Jayne a look like a mad dog when he saw her holding Max’s arm.

He put her on her bed as her parents and brothers gathered around. As still as death, and as cold as the sea, they watched life drained out of her.

Jayne’s mother put her hand on Max’s arm. “Can you heal her, like you healed me?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do she will never be the same, not like she was before. She won’t be crippled or lose herself, she will be… she will be like me.”

“Save her, then find the man who did this to her,” said the Lighthouse Keeper.

“You do not know what you ask,” said Max.

“You put a spark back in her eyes I have not seen in ages. Please save her if you can.”

“Let me be alone with her and she will not die.”

In the morning a man’s body washed up on the beach. It looked as if dogs had torn out his throat. His face was a mask of fear.

Two weeks later Jayne kissed her family good-by and went with Max on the next ship to San Francisco.

2017

Max stood in his living room with a glass of wine in his hand as he looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. He couldn’t imagine getting tired of it. He glanced over to see Jayne, wearing a short black dress and looking gorgeous as always, coming towards him. He kissed her cool cheek. She smiled with just a touch of fang showing.

“Are you staying with Pierce tonight?” Max asked.

“Of course I am. I take it Mehitabel is staying here,” said Jayne.

Max glanced at a small pretty woman across the room. He suddenly thought of what he’d told Jayne about her so many years ago on the walk to the docks. Odd that when he was out in the ocean, clinging onto a piano top of all things, he had thought of Mehitabel. He might ask but he was never sure what she would say. No, he wouldn’t ask, he’d just wait to see what would happen, but he was sure she’d stay.

“I’m sure she’ll stay,” he told Jayne.

They talked for a while longer, about work, about friends, and about how the sunset sparkled on the ocean. Max wasn’t always one for words, but he knew that Jayne knew that they’d always be friends. Maybe even before they had ever met.

Then Jayne laughed. “I still can’t believe you were clinging to a piano lid.”

And Max had to laugh along.

~ End

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Nailed to the Floor

We had seen her wearing a veil to cover a bruised face. We could smell blood where her skin has split open from his blows. We had seen her wince from cracked ribs that hid underneath a tightly laced corset.

On a winter night when I was small, my brothers Aaron, Val and I walked down a dark muddy street for no reason other than to get out of the house. I was six, Val was seven, Aaron was a mature eleven (almost twelve.)

At the time the Civil War was over, Lincoln had died, and Andrew Johnson was president. That year the first Civil Rights bill would be passed, the ASPCA was founded, and the James Gang committed their first train robbery.

Closer to home, both Mark Twain and Bret Harte were writing for the Sacramento Union Newspaper. Construction was everywhere due to flood control efforts. Reuben Clark, designer of the state capitol, died in the Stockton Insane Asylum. And three Vampire children saved a life.

We didn’t go out thinking we’d rescue someone. Our parents had gone to a fancy party. Even in those days, in the winter of 1866, there were parties put on by those in society.

One night, for a few hours we were no longer under the watch of our parents or two elder brothers. We were free to roam the streets as we wished.

We came upon a new house built in the Italianate style. We knew who lived here. It was the woman with the veil, who smelled of tears and blood.

Aaron lifted me to the window so I could see in. On the floor a woman was crouched. I could see the moonlight reflecting off of the silk of her dress. Folds and ribbons swirled around her. She moved her head and cried out for help in a small weak voice.

The back door was open. It was after midnight so not a soul was awake except the woman on the floor. Silently we made our way to the front of the house and found the room she was in.

Aaron grabbed a candelabra on a table and the candles lit. My brother showed early talents for creating fire out of nowhere. Not all Vampires can do that but family caries that trait. It comes in handy.

On the floor in a dress of burgundy and gold crouched a woman. She looked to be in her mid twenties. Her brown hair was still up in complicated curls set with ruby and pearl clips. She looked up at us with fearful eyes, then realized we were just children. Bruises were forming around her eyes. Then we looked down to her hands.

Her hands were nailed to the floor.

“My feet,” she whispered.

Aaron pushed her large skirts aside to see that her feet had also been nailed to the floor.

“My husband did this to me. Help me.”

Aaron started to pry away the nails. He told Val and I told help hold her so she wouldn’t fall. I remember getting blood on my hand. I couldn’t help but taste it. I was only six so the temptation was too much.

Aaron held her face in his hands and sent healing cold through. Then he asked, “Where is he? Where is your husband?”

“You are Samantha’s children. Your parents were at the party. They suspected. I should have…” she said, then trailed off, looking at us with tears running down her  face.

“Why did he do this to you?” That would be Val asking. He was only seven but I could feel the anger growing in him.

“I told him that I was going to leave him. He demanded to know if I had a lover. I told him no. Then…then he said he would never let me leave, and he nailed me to the floor.”

Aaron went upstairs to find the husband. Val stayed by the woman with his skinny little boy arm around her. I followed Aaron.

A man lay on the bed. His handsome face was calm without guilt or shame. Aaron blew a cold breath over him.

The man opened his eyes to find two children standing over him. We’d made our eyes go black and our fangs were out. He screamed and then we tasted blood.

No, of course we didn’t kill him. But he did go insane. Maybe because of us. Maybe not. His wife was able to get a divorce. She had the floor refinished and a few years later married a man who was filled with joy and happiness. He was a man who loved her rather than owned her.

Aaron watched her and looked out for her for the rest of her life. She lived until 1941. It was a long and happy life with her second husband and children. The scars on her hands and feet eventually faded, but her beauty and the joy she brought to the world did not.

Our parents never scolded us for our behavior. They were too appalled by what had been done to the young wife. They’d suspected something was wrong. A lot of people had suspected but had never reached out. It wasn’t polite. Plus we were Vampires so we were always cautious when dealing with people of the warm-blooded variety.

It is always easy to look the other way. That is the beauty of children is that they don’t. They look. Children LOOK and listen. They also learn from what they see – much more than any grown up can imagine. It is sad that so many people forget those feelings they had as children and the memories of an unexperienced mind.

I drove by that house yesterday. It had been beautifully restored. Looking through it in the rain made me think of cozy reading in a window seat. It also reminded me of that night and the young woman who’d been nailed to the floor.

There are all sorts of nails both physically and mentally that people use to hurt others.

I don’t know what else to say. She married my future husband’s younger uncle. We are still in touch with a few of their descendants. They’re cool about having Vampires in the family. We’re cool. No puns intended.

If you know someone who might be in an abusive relationship please reach out. Vampires are rare, so you can’t always count on us to be there to help.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Lucky Me

“I took the bus from Los Angeles to Sacramento. At the station I saw an old chum of my brother’s from High School. He said he’d give me a ride, but then he got fresh. I wasn’t going to, you know, I have cash to pay for gas. I’m not… so he dumped me here. I figured if I walked…”

“Get in. You’ll be safe. I promise,” he said. It had just started to rain. “I have a house by the lake. You can stay the night. Where are you going?”

“Reno,” she told him. “I have a teaching job waiting for me. It starts in two weeks.”

He found out she’d left a short abusive marriage. Out of the fire into the frying pan. She was too trusting of people, all bright eyed and perky, even after being left on the side of the road by a creepy pervert.

“I’m Val,” he said holding out his hand.

“Eve,” she said. “Your hand is colder than mine. You’re freezing.”

He smiled. She felt safe for the first time in a long time.

“Val. I like that. Is it short for Valentino?”

“Valentine.”

“I like that better,” said Eve.

They drove for another half hour to a large cabin by the edge of a lake. Cabin was an understatement, this was a 3,000 square foot luxury home.

“Go change,” Val told her. “I have something to show you.”

She went into one of the bedrooms, feeling as if she’d been there before.

When Eve returned, in drawstring pajama pants and a comfy sweatshirt, she found Val sitting on the couch in the main living area with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him. A glass of red wine was in his hand.

“I feel better. Thanks for picking me up again,” said Eve, as she sat down next to Val.

“It’s what I do Eve. Did anyone else pick you up this week?”

“A couple from San Francisco picked me up on Thursday. I had them drop me off in Truckee. Oh and last Saturday a trucker picked me up. He was hauling a load of furniture to Salt Lake City. I went all the way to Reno with him. Nice guy. He told me about his wedding plans. What did you want to tell me?”

Val turned to the laptop. “Your body was found last week by some Cal Trans workers getting the road ready for winter. They found your suitcase. There were also two other young women, both killed and dumped within a couple weeks of you. Both disappeared from the Sacramento Gray Hound station in October of 1987.”

“What about Tom?”

“Tom Turner was arrested last night. He wallet was found under the body of one of the other women. He’d also kept souvenirs. Your purse and heart shaped locket were found in his house.”

“Wow. I didn’t know about the others. Oh Val. Thank God it is over. What happened to the other two women?”

“They didn’t stay,” Val said turning back to the computer. “After the bodies were found reports came in of a hitchhiker in a red leather jacket, with long blonde hair. She’d been seen on the highway for the past thirty years.”

“You know, I don’t remember when I go out at night. Not until they drop me off.”

“I know Eve. It’s ok.”

“I’m glad they arrested the sick bastard.”

“So am I. If you’d told me his name earlier I would have taken care of him myself.”

“I didn’t remember it until now. Val, do you think I’ll go out again?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think I’ll move on? I guess see the light?”

“I can’t answer that, but you know you can stay here as long as you want.”

“I saw some other ghosts out tonight. They’re so lost.”

“Donner Party folks?”

“How’d you know.”

“They’re always out there.”

“What if you go away? Will I have to wonder around with them?”

“I won’t go away. I’ll always be here for you Eve.”

“Lucky me being picked up by a Vampire.”

Val smiled. “Lucky you.”

An Angel or A Devil? A True Crime Mystery.

An Angel or A Devil? A True Crime Mystery.

On a cold December morning in 1859 the bodies of a man and a woman were found on the banks of the American River, near the town of Folsom, California.

Walter and Mathilda Carlson, a couple in their late 20’s had been gruesomely killed during the night and left for the coyotes and turkey vultures.  Mathilda’s eyes had been either poked out and taken by her murderer or eaten by scavenging animals. Her neck was broken with obvious great strength. Walter was a good twenty feet down the beach. He was naked except for his red socks. He’d been beaten badly with signs of broken bones in his arms and legs. A gaping hole in his chest showed an empty place where his heart, now missing, had once been. On his face was an expression of horror even the most skilled undertaker couldn’t remove. 

The men who removed the bodies and the Sheriff all said they saw a figure in the woods, perhaps dressed in white, or maybe gray, watching them as they worked. One of the men went to question the witness, but they vanished like a ghost in the morning fog.

The Carlsons had come to town only six months before their murder. He was an attorney. She was a caring mother of two young children, aged one and three years. The Carlsons also cared for Walter’s younger sister Lena, who was said to be insane.

Walter Carlson also had a brother, Charley, who lived in San Francisco. At one time Charley and his English friend Cornelius Jones had been business partners with Walter. As they told the Sheriff after the murders, on the night Walter and Mathilda left San Francisco, Cornelius had planned on asking Lena for her hand in marriage. Neither Charley or Cornelius knew where Walter had taken Lena. Cornelius was sick with grief.

When the Carson family arrived in Folsom they settled in quickly. Walter was a welcome addition to the community. The beautiful and charitable Mathilda was adored by all who met her. 

Lena worked with her brother and sister-in-law. She was an odd young woman who walked with a limp and wore and eye patch. Her face might have been pretty if not for the constant look of overwhelming sadness, and the cropped dirty hedgehog like hair that spouted from her scalp. 

Walter Carlson was quick to tell everyone she insane. They didn’t have the heart to put her into an asylum. Besides, she was a hard worker and if they kept her under control she could be a great help with the babies. All who knew Mathilda said she was a saint for giving a home to her crazy sister-in-law.

One night one of the Irish workers in town said he thought he saw two figures outside of the small one room building Lena stayed in. One looked like an angel spreading its wings and the other like a dog with a long tail, until it stood up upon two feet and looked like a demon. It was foggy that night, so it might have been men passing by and stopping to take a break, or to see if they could get a look at the crazy woman locked in the shed. 

A few days later, in the rubbish pile behind the Carlson’s shop people found books of the writer Edgar Poe, Charles Maturin, and Oscar Wilde, with Lena’s name written inside each book in her neat fine handwriting. Carlson said the books put wicked and carnal thoughts into his sister’s head. 

One day in late November a number of people overheard a heated discussion between Mathilda, Walter, and Lena.

“An angel of God will smite you down and then send for the Devil to come take your soul. Just you see,” wailed Lena.

“You’ll burn in Hell girl just for saying that. You are nothing but a filthy harlot,” Mathilda shot back.

“And you will be judged for harming a kind and gentle man who has done nothing but bring good to others,” said Lena. Some who heard this thought there were tears in her voice and down her face from her one good eye.

“You let him defile you,” said Walter with a voice full of hate and judgment.

“I gladly allowed Cornelius love me. I wanted him to love me. I love him and he loves me in turn. He wanted to marry me,” said Lena who was not weeping.

“No respectable man would have you Lena. You worship sin and are nothing but a child of Satan,” said Mathilda.

“Our parents should have drown you at birth,” said Walter, who then slammed the window of his office down, and drew the curtains closed.

Later Walter told several friends in confidence that he thought his sister was involved in Devil Worship.

Lena was rarely out of the sight of either her brother or sister-in-law. When she was alone it was because she was locked up in a small building behind the Carson’s house. One day she managed to get out on her own and get a letter to the post office. She said it was to her brother in San Francisco and that it must be sent. The Post Master thought nothing of the letter, until Walter came bursting into the post office the next day demanding the letter back. By then it was too late. The letter had already been sent.

The next morning Walter and Mathilda were found dead on the banks of the American River.

The babies were found crying in the Carlson home. Lena was locked in the filthy shed behind the house.

Suspicion fell upon Lena, but there was no way such a small woman could have committed such a violent crime upon two people who were obviously healthier and stronger than she was. 

On the third day after the murders Charley Carlson and Cornelius Jones came to claim the bodies and take custody of Lena and the Carlson’s small children.

It was then that the truth about Walter and Mathilda came out.

While they were all living in San Francisco Mathilda had sent spies to watch Lena and Cornelius. Lena had gone with Cornelius to his home one afternoon. They made love without the knowledge that someone had been watching through the window. This event was reported back to Mathilda who then reported the event to Walter. 

Walter confronted Cornelius and told him that his sister would never be allowed to marry a half Jewish Englishman of questionable parentage. 

Walter then sent two men to beat Cornelius to within an inch of his life. The next day Walter and his family were gone, taking Lena with them. 

Before they arrived in Folsom, Walter and Mathilda held Lena down and cut off her hair. Next they gouged out her eye with a sharp knife. They then beat her until she was broken and bleeding. Until the day she died she walked with a limp due to their cruelty. They told her that no man would be tempted by her again. They told the people of the town that she was crazy and sick. Anyone could see that just by looking at her. 

The murderers were never found. Charley and his wife adopted the two babies. Lena and Cornelius were married and lived a long and happy life together. 

To this day some people say that it was both an angel and a demon who worked together to save Lena. The angel took them down and the demon took their souls to Hell. Some say through the morning fog they can still see the shadows of a winged figure and a man with a long thin tail walking along the riverbank. 

Or it could have been a madman traveling through. We will never know.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Note: Over the years, always in December, there have also been sightings of a beautiful woman with no eyes walking along the edge of Lake Natoma, where the American River flows deep underneath between the dams, her skirts dragging along the edge of the water. It is said she cries for the babies she’ll never see again. You never know what ghosts you’ll see on cold December nights. You never know. 

Short Fiction: Play Date

The last day stuck in his memory.

Josh had left the meeting and work for the day. He needed to think. 

Coffee and avocado toast. He’d found a seat by the window. Four hours of negotiations on the acquisition. 

His phone dinged quietly with a text from his sister Kitty. She’d started the seedlings for her summer garden. It was only March but it was time for her. Every year he’d go to her house and help her can salsa and a myriad of other wonderful magical things she’d fit into Mason jars. Then they’d go on her deck where they’d drink beer and eat chips and salsa, and talk about everything, and nothing at all. She’d always pin her hair up and wear dangling earrings.  Her laugh was infectious. He had needed that laugh after all of his meetings that morning. Jake would call her later.

Right now it was an exhausting and shitty day.  Nobody was happy. Nobody would listen. He’d had an intelligent well thought out plan. It was a cluster fuck of already made ignorant opinions. Nothing was backed up with facts or experience. 

On the way home a ladder had fallen from a utility truck, hit a car a few places ahead of him on the freeway.  The next thing Jake knew a woman was holding his arm and they were both covered with blood. 

His arm was broken, his face was bruised and cut, his entire body felt like he’d been beaten with a baseball bat then thrown off of a cliff.  His car was totaled.  Stitches went from his left ear down his jawline to his chin.  Three pins or screws or something was now holding his arms together. The headaches lasted weeks. 

The woman went to the hospital with him. She held his hand. Her name was Scarlet. The last thing he said to her was, “make sure someone feeds my cat.”

It was the last day before everything shut down. 

At home he didn’t need a car. He couldn’t have driven anyway for the next few weeks. Using a keyboard was almost impossible with two hands. If he had to go out he could take an Uber or Lyft. Food could be delivered. Cat food and litter could be delivered. No problem. 

Zoomie the gray tabby kitten was delighted to keep him company.  Unfortunately his girlfriend had moved back in with her ex the day he got out of the hospital.

By April a new car had been delivered and now had almost eighty miles on it. He wasn’t going anywhere. All work was at home. At least work was going well and keeping him busy. He’d hired three people he’d yet to meet in person.  A woman named Emerald had been cleaning his house since he’d come home with the broken arm.

By June the depression rolled in so he would put Zoomie in a backpack or in his harness and go for long walks.  By July his sister was canning without him. His brother and parents had driven down to see him a few times. It was always great to see them. They begged him to come up and stay with them but he was too busy with work. He’d bake cookies for Emerald to bring home to her husband and kids. 

At the end of July he could pull his hair back in a ponytail. He’d started working out again. Zoomie was getting huge.  

One morning on Facebook he saw where a friend of a friend posted something about a dog. My brother passed away. His dog Daisy needs a home. Daisy is a sweet five-year-old German Shepard/Lab mix. She is well trained. We don’t want to take her to a shelter.

Without thinking more than five minutes about it Josh called the number. A man answered. He said his neighbor would drop off the dog.

A few hours later he got at text. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy.

Daisy stood wagging her tail and wiggling with happiness. A pretty brown haired woman wearing a sundress held Daisy’s leash. At least he thought she was pretty. Her eyes were pretty above the mask.

She introduced Daisy to Josh, then said, “How are you Josh? Do you remember me?”

He couldn’t quite place her.

“I was in that accident when you broke your arm. I was in one of the other cars. I’m Scarlet. Do you remember me?”

“Oh, wow. Scarlet. It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too. You look good. Thank you for the nice letter and the flowers,” then she laughed, “and the toilet paper.”

In September Josh cleaned out the texts in his phone and found Scarlet’s message. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy. Right now Daisy was at his feet snoring with Zoomie curled up at her side.

Outside the smoke from the fires made it unhealthy to walk. Josh put on music and danced while playing with Zoomie and Daisy. Then he pulled his hair back and attended Zoom meetings, trying to look like he was normal.  He noticed how the scar on his face showed up, not so much ugly or disturbing but interesting. 

There were Zoom calls with work and friends. His family stopped by once a month. A few friends came by. Josh talked to his neighbors. The world was opening up. It wasn’t the world where he’d stop for coffee and avocado toast when he wanted to think. This was a world of protests, and weirdness, hate, and mean politics. But in his own bubble it was a world of people who’d reached out. It was a world where he treasured each phone call and guarded visitor. It was a world where Zoomie and Daisy were his own tiny family with their own habits and secrets.

One Saturday right before Halloween he received a text. Hi. Do you mind if I bring my dog Crystal over? She and Daisy used to be great friends. In fact, they’re sisters from the same litter.  I thought it would be fun to have a play date.

Josh thoughtI could use a play date too. 

Then he texted back,That would be awesome. Bring Crystal over anytime.

Opening and closing his hand Josh still felt a little bit of numbness and a little ache.  He’d be fine. It would be more than fine.

~ end

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Note: I’m just fooling around with some ideas for much larger and more detailed stories. As we all stay at home, worry about the election tomorrow, and think about the well being of those we care about we’re still side tracked by other challenges. Fortunately good things still happen. This might get worked into my 2020 NaNoWriMo project. You never know.

Have fun. Stay creative. Stay safe. Wear your mask. Vote. Check in on those who might need extra help both mentally and physically. Hug your kids. Kiss a Vampire. And keep checking back for more silly stuff.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Photo by Carlos Mossmann on Pexels.com