No amount of coffee could help Austin Durant out of his funk. Everyone knew Austin as a history professor and restorer of historic buildings. Only a few knew he was also a vampire hunter.
A visit to his Grammy usually cheered him up. Grammy always knew what to say. He fixed her a plate of Christmas cookies he’d baked the day before and drove over to her house. He told her he’d be there in the morning with muffins, but he needed his sleep.
“Sorry I’m late Grammy,” said Austin. “I got a call last night about a job. I had to take it.”
“What kind of job? Teaching? Construction? Vampire hunting?”
“Vampire hunting. I hate doing this around the holidays Grammy, but it was bad. I couldn’t say no.”
“You look like crap. What happened?”
“Since the pandemic lock-downs in February there have been a lot of similar suicides. It is always some guy who lives alone. It is always someone who is depressed and hurting.”
“Go on,” said Grammy. “Tell me about this vampire.”
“She finds them on dating aps.”
“What’s a dating ap?”
“It is a computer program, an application where people post photos and information so they can meet.”
“Sure, usually, but not always. Anyway, she goes online…”
“On her computer?”
“Yes, on her computer. She finds guys who are lonely and alone. Then she goes to their house for what the victim thinks is going to be a hot night with a hot girl. A day, or week later, the guy is found in the bathtub with his wrists slit. It is clearly a suicide due to loneliness or whatever.”
“You want a beer?”
“Sure. Sometimes she stays and has sex with them then kills them. Other times she just kills them. The worst thing is… she goes on Facebook…”
“I have a Facebook account.”
“Right, she goes on their page pretending to be the guy right before she killed him and talks about being depressed and lonely. She talks about not wanting to spend Christmas alone. She pretends to be the guy she just killed. Then she fills up a cooler with his blood, puts him in the tub, and turns on the water so whoever finds him assumes all of his blood went down the drain.”
“She sounds like a creeper to me. Did you kill her?”
“Yeah, I did. I got in contact with her. I asked if she wanted to hook up and had her meet me in that house over on 37thI’m doing the restoration on.”
“What did she look like?”
“Gorgeous. She had on a tight red dress and a Santa hat no less. But there was no life in her eyes, and her skin had that sort of chalky dry look a lot of them get if they haven’t fed for a while. I told her I wasn’t looking for anything except sex. She was fine with it. I took her to a bedroom and killed her, for a second time.”
“I held her down and cut out her heart. She didn’t have much blood in her so, you know, there wasn’t much of a mess.”
“So why are you looking like you lost your puppy? It isn’t like she had a soul.”
“I checked in her purse. Her name was Sandy. She was born in 1960. I looked her up. She disappeared in 1981. It was always assumed she was murdered considering the amount of blood found in her bedroom. December 13, 1981, she lost her life, and her soul. The thing I killed wasn’t her, but it carried around her wallet for thirty years.”
“I hope you hid the body.”
“She kind of dried up and looked like she’d been dead for, well, thirty years. I took her to a field and called the police with a burner phone. Forensics will show she has been dead since the day she vanished.”
“Her family will be sad, but relieved. Believe me, I’ve been through this more times than I want to think about.”
“Grammy, I don’t know why this one hit me so hard. It wasn’t like she was the kind of vampire we don’t kill.”
“Speak for yourself young man.”
“Ones with a soul. They’re not all ghouls without substance.”
“So they tell you.”
“So you’ve told me.”
“I’m not dissing on your cold blooded friends. I’ve got vampires of my own. I bet you didn’t know that. That’s right, you just think I’m a crusty old lone vampire hunter. Let me tell you a story. Bring me another beer too. Did I ever tell you how I met your Grandpa Joe?”
“No, you did not.”
“Well, I’ll tell you now. It was December 23, almost Christmas Eve. I was driving down the road and almost hit a young woman walking along the edge. Holy crap balls, she was wearing a torn party dress with her coat over her shoulder, and tears in her eyes. She said her boyfriend had dumped her on the side of the road when she broke up with him. So I took her home. No big deal.
The next night I was sitting in a bar. It was 1950 but it wasn’t all June Cleaver and all of that bull shit. Some of us had lives. I was twenty one and a free American so I thought I could do whatever I wanted to do. I was also one bad ass vampire hunter by then. God damn I could pick them out no matter how hard they tried to hide from me. There I was sitting at the bar chatting up a couple of nice young fellows, not really looking for trouble. You know Austin, even then I was hunting more than my share of vampires. Sometimes a girl just needs a night off. You know, cute blue collar guys. When this man comes in an sits next to me. I can feel the cold and believe me it wasn’t from the open door.
Damn, if he wasn’t the best looking thing I’ve ever seen outside of a movie theater. He looks at me with big brown eyes, then those eyes start to turn dark. If I hadn’t been in a public place I would have either run or jumped his bones then killed him.”
“Oh, come on Austin. I was young once. Don’t think you’re the only one who has rolled in the hay with vampires. Stop interrupting me. So, I asked him what he wants. His eyes turn a hazel green and I almost swoon, but then get my wits because that is what vampires do. They seduce like nothing else. Damn. I resist. He smiles. Then he thanks me for giving his daughter a ride home the night before. His daughter. Before then I didn’t even know vampires have children.
Then he says, I know you’re alone this Christmas. You want people to think you’re tough. You’re a vampire hunter so your blood should be as cold as mine, figuratively speaking. You’re alone. Your man dumped you for a woman you considered a whore. Your family is all gone. You’re too proud to reach out to any of your fair weather drinking buddies.
Before I could tell him he didn’t know what he was talking about, even though everything he said was the truth, he handed me a card.
And there was an address. It was the same beautiful home I’d dropped his daughter off at the night before.
Come over later tonight, he said.
What do you mean by Poet? I asked. I wasn’t nice about it either. Who the hell puts Poet on their business card?
He leaned in close to my ear and said, it means exactly that.
I nearly froze to the bone, but damn it he was attractive in a way I couldn’t explain. I was drawn to him, not in a romantic way, but in a warm way, like going to a Christmas party with Champagne and really good chocolates, and you’re wearing the perfect dress, and it looks damn good on you. I’d already killed nearly three dozen of the blood sucking ghouls in my short life, but this was different.
You’re different Thomas Kent, I said to him.
He smiled without a hint of fang. I have a soul, he said. In fact, I have two souls.”
Austin squinted at his Grammy. “You didn’t know there were different kinds of vampires?”
“Not back then. Like that girl you saw last night. She was nothing but a shell. But Thomas Kent never lost his soul, but holy bat shit the man was still a vampire. I’d never encountered one of them before. By them I mean his kind.”
“Did you go to his house?”
“Of course I did. If you get an invitation from a vampire it isn’t always the best idea to turn it down. I would have killed them all if they’d shown any aggressions. Don’t look surprised grandson, I was the best there was back in the day.”
“I know you were Grammy.”
“I went to the house, which is in a beautiful part of town, you know where it is. I got up to the front door and looked at the card to see if I had the right address. It had been raining the night before and I just dropped the girl off. It was the damndest thing. As I stepped up to the front door the address vanished off of the card. Completely vanished.
Some stiff man in a dark suit, I think he was the hired help butler kind of guy answered the door. I wanted to call him Count Orlok but held my tongue. Thomas Kent came up to me with his hands out and let me into the room. His daughter stood by the fireplace as beautiful as any living woman. The most wonderful Christmas Tree I had ever seen was there, decorated all in silver and gold. The place was beautiful, not the usually dusty creepy vampire lair I was used to. I would have lived there.
Then Thomas takes me aside and says to me it would be so easy to turn you from vampire hunter to vampire tonight. I know you like what you see.
Then he smiled at me flashing a hint of fang. I was ready to pull out my dagger, when just like in some stupid movie, the doorbell rang, and the butler brought in a tall young man. He had that cute boyish look with dimples and light brown hair that was just a little too long. The guy wasn’t a vampire, that was clear. He put out his nice warm hand and introduced himself as Joe.”
Austin stopped her. “Grandpa? That was how you met Grandpa?”
“That was your Gramps. He had no idea vampires even existed. He had no idea there were people like me who roamed the streets at night keeping everyone safe from ghouls and shadows.
Later that night, after wine and a lot of interesting stories, Thomas spoke to me in private. He thanked me for helping his daughter and told me he’d always have my back. He said I will be your vampire. If you help a vampire it will always be there for you.”
Austin raised an eyebrow. “Did he? Was he always there for you?”
“I don’t know. I never saw him again after that night. I married your Gramps three month later. Damn I miss him. It has been ten years and it feels sometimes like he died yesterday.”
“I miss him too Grammy. I miss him every single day.”
“I gotta ask you Austin. Do you have your own vampire?”
“I think I have a few.”
“Good to know. Still if I were you I wouldn’t trust them too much.”
“I never put down my guard Grammy.”
“Good. You know what else?”
“They have the prettiest Christmas trees.”
“Good to know Grammy. I’ll keep that in mind the next time a vampire invites me over at Christmas time.”
They had another beer and Austin took a nap on Grammy’s couch. Her old cat curled up by his side, keeping eye open, only as the cat of a vampire hunter will do.
On the way home that evening Austin thought about Sandy and how difficult it must have been for her family never knowing what happened to her. He smiled thinking of my own family, and of his own vampires. Like his family, they watch his back. And as their human he watched theirs.
Instead of going home he stopped by his on and off girlfriend Elizabeth’s house. Grammy was right about the Christmas Trees. Elizabeth’s was spectacular covered with glass ornaments shaped like every sort of animal and sea creature on earth.
Later as they cuddled on the couch watching LA LA Land for the 4th time he kissed her cold lips.
“Will you be my vampire Elizabeth?”
“I’m already your vampire Austin.”
“Good to know. Love you baby.”
She nuzzled his neck, nipping him with her teeth. “Love you too. Merry Christmas.”