Short Story Sunday: The Box In Dave’s Basement

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him.

Coffee with the crossword puzzle, and a little bit of fresh air sounded good. Then Dave, who lived three houses down called to him as he waked by, “Hey, Austin, there’s something weird in my basement. Take a look.”

Austin was both a history professor and a general contractor specializing in historic restorations, so of course he’d check it out. Dave lived in the oldest house on that street, built in 1888. It was a fantastic small Queen Anne, painted shades of blue and cream.  Dave led the way to the back of the dark space to an oblong box.

“I was measuring the room and moved away some lumber that had been here since I moved in and found this,” said Dave. “It looks like a coffin. Do you think I should call someone?”

“Let me take a look. I’ve found these before,” said Austin, taking out his penknife. He slid the knife around the edges of the box to see if there was a latch or any loose spots.

Then all Hell broke loose. Two men, dressed in long black coats, carrying guns and large knives appeared at the door.

“Hey,” yelled Dave. “Get the fuck outta here. I told you guys to stay away from my house. I’m calling 911. I warned you.” Then he turned to Austin. “The bastards were out last week. I told them…”

The men moved closer. Dave continued, “Out NOW.” Dave was a medium sized silver haired average family guy his mid fifties, with some sort of upper management job with the Department of Water Resources. His wife was wife away on a girl’s weekend. His kids were away at college. He’d been working on making the basement into the ultimate man cave over the past few weekends. He wasn’t in the mood for Vampire Hunters.

“Damn it. I said GET OUT you crazies,” Dave yelled.

“Just let us have the box,” said one of the men, a tall shaggy haired guy with some sort of unidentifiable accent.

Austin took a step forward, getting between Dave and the vampire hunters. “No can do guys. You have to go.”

The other man, a bald guy with huge shoulders pointed a gun at Austin and Dave. “Move aside gentlemen.” He then shoved them out of the way and with a swift kick popped open the box.

Inside was the perfectly preserved body of a woman in an old fashioned lace dress. She looked as though she was made of fine leather. A bunch of dried roses were in her hand.

The shaggy haired man lifted a huge wooden stake. Dave and Austin both yelled, “NO.”

Dave jumped on the back of the bald man. Austin knocked the shaggy haired man out of the way.

Suddenly a blinding flash of light and a blast of cold air knocked them to the wall. Two more men appeared at the door, also in black but without the coats. One carried a knife, and the other a whip. The smiled, showing fangs.

“Holy shit,” whispered Dave.

The vampires grabbed the men in the black coats by the scruff of their necks, like small children, and threw them back out into the sunlight. One of the vampires uttered a string of long strange sounding words, and the vampire hunters ran down the street.

The woman in the coffin sat up, and moved her head around.

“Stiff neck?” Austin asked.

She looked at him, surprised. Then she smiled with a slight show of her own fangs. “Yes, thanks for the concern. How long did I sleep?”

“From the looks of your dress, maybe ninety years,” said Austin.

“I guess I missed that party then,” she said with a slight laugh.

“This is too weird,” said Dave as he got up, and crossed the room. He turned on the overhead shop lights and got a good look at his company. “You mean to tell me you’ve been in that box for ninety years?”

The woman just blinked against the light. The two Vampires stood out of the shadows.

“Hey, Austin,” said one of them. “I thought that was you.”

“Pierce,” said Austin. “I had no idea you were a vampire. Small world. Dave, this is Pierce, he guest lectures for me sometimes on nineteenth California government issues.”

“And this is Max, he…”

“Max,” said Austin as he held out his hand. “Good to see you. Thanks for helping out.”

“Austin,” said Max.

Dave looked at the Vampires then laughed. “Pierce. I know you. You were teaching American History at UC Berkley in the late 70’s. I took a couple of classes from you. You look like you haven’t aged a day. How old are you?”

Pierce smiled and shook Dave’s hand. “I’m 171, but who’s counting.”

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him. “You’re all welcome to come.”

The woman’s name is Lily. She had a lot of catching up to do so Dave gave her a pair of jeans and a shirt out of his wife’s closet, and they all headed out for coffee.

That’s all.

~ end

First published here in 2016

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Storm

Storm

I never realized that the high rise downtown held the Federal Courthouse, art, poetry, and historic displays. There are also incredible views, even in the storm. Yes, I was there yesterday afternoon.

Even with the Federal Government shutdown there is still almost no parking to be found on the downtown streets. I finally found a spot near the old rail yards. The old rail yards is a yet to be developed area that used to be, well, rail yards. Old brick building still stand waiting to become trendy and useful again. Acres and acres of land waits for something, or maybe nothing. I’d like to see just a big park. Tracks still go out in all directions.

The active rail station is also near by taking commuters to the Bay Area and to far off places. I’d say exotic but only because it sounds more fun. Right now taking the train from Sacramento to Reno is the only way to go. I think the highways are closed this morning due to snow. If they aren’t closed it is painfully cold and slow. Over the past 24 hours the snow has come down not in inches but in feet. Dozens of feet.

Anyway, the only parking I could find was about five, maybe six blocks away, over an overpass that went across the old rail yard and tracks. On the wide sidewalks of the cheerfully designed urban bridge were homeless structures made of shopping carts, blankets, tarps, and bicycles. Across the way, and below, under more underpasses, and along walls were more homeless staked out in small groups of two or three, waiting out the storm. They’re just waiting out life. Just waiting.

I walked over the bridge, bundled up in my wool coat with my big blue umbrella. Within about a half minute I was soaked. My pants were soaked. My feet, through my boots, were soaked. Granted my boots are Doc Marten’s but they’re a heavy canvas. I should have worn my leather boots. My coat was soaked.

Ghosts stood on the bridge, on the side with the two homeless forts. They looked at me with blank eyes that stared out of gray holes in their heads. Two wore baggy suits and looks contempt. A woman in a long dirty blue dress with a bustle stood alone. Three Chinese ghosts huddled with quilted coats and  long pigtails.

I walked on. I hate ghosts. A gust of cold wind hit my face along with about a gallon of water. A ghost stood in front of me. She wore a sort coat, open with a short orange dress underneath. Her feet were bare. Long dark bangs skimmed the top of her eyes.

“Are you here to feast on the almost dead below?” She pointed down to the homeless camps. “Will you take them?” She pointed to the blanket and tarp fort across the street by the bus stop.

I tried to walk on but she followed me making hissing noises. I stopped despite the storm.

“There are already Vampires down there but I am not like them. Let me be,” I said.

“They will be found dead and cold, and nobody will know,” said the Ghost.

“Not because of Vampires,” I said and walked past the Ghost.

I know the kind of Vampires who are down there. They too live on the streets, or roam the streets then after feeding go back to the cold dark places they call home. They take what they need – blood and nightmares.

I am not one of them.

This morning I’m watching my cat, his fur wet, drinking fresh water from a bowl. My dog is curled in her bed. There are no Ghosts in sight, not yet.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This was first published here in 2017 but it applies to 2021 – maybe even more.

While Angels Sleep – A Visit to the Historic Sacramento Cemetery

There is a quiet beauty about historic cemeteries that I can’t always put into words. So many lives ask to be remembered and stories beg to be told, or maybe not. Earlier this week (10/27/20) my daughter Clara and my friend Amelia joined me in a visit to the historic Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. We’ve had no rain so many of the usual flowers and grassy areas are dry and brown, but it does little to take away from the beauty of the place.

I’ve posted about this cemetery in the past. At the end of the post I’ll share links of those posts and posts about other cemeteries and graveyards I’ve shared, and a map of where you can find the historic Sacramento Cemetery.

Click on any of the images below to get a larger expanded view.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Cemetery/Graveyard Links on Vampiremaman.com

The Quiet Beauty of the Dead (Sacramento)
City of Angels: Colma, California
Mountain View, California
Folsom, California
Little Willy
Florence Italy

Short Story Sunday: A Night at the Crest

A Night at the Crest

Dallas Andrews was performing at the old Crest Theater in Sacramento. Jonathan Ward’s soon to be ex-girlfriend Beth told him that this guy was hot. Andrews could actually communicate with the dead. Dallas Andrews said angels walked among them. He claimed to see angels all around him 24/7.

Andrews was the darling of the clairvoyant, medium, mysticism, aura generating followers of spiritual awakening. He had been featured on most major network and cable television stations. He did radio shows, graced the covers of magazines and now was packing in full houses on a nation wide tour. He followed in the footsteps of Casey and Nostradamus. His book was on the best selling nonfiction lists.

Jonathan had tried to talk Beth out of it. He told her the guy was a fake. He told her that all of these guys were fakes, but she insisted. She told him it would be fun and enlightening.

“It would be fun and enlightening to stay home and watch The Wizard of OZ,” he replied, but she wasn’t going to budge.

Jonathan Ward, founder and editor of the West Coast Review, was 5’10 with broad shoulders on his medium build. He was in good shape for someone his age, which appeared to be somewhere in his mid 40’s. According to his drivers license he was forty-six. His sandy brown hair had soft grey streaks at the temples. His eyes were framed with long thick lashes. His prominent nose was straight and narrow, but it fit with his oval face. He was good looking enough to get noticed by women but not enough to stand out in a crowd, unless one noticed his almost unnerving pale ice blue eyes. He had almost a perpetual and too quick of a smile. “Always amused” is how he was often described.

His companion Beth McAllister was knock down drop dead gorgeous and she knew it. Aside from her occasional bizarre and childish fascinations with freaks like Dallas Andrews, she was also brilliant. Well, most of the time.

Beth chattered away as they entered the lobby of the Crest Theater. Her stiletto heels clicked on the floor. Jonathan always thought of it as her mating call. He slid his hand down over her perfect behind. She promptly slapped it away. “Who do you want to contact?” she asked.

“Judy Garland and Billie Burke.”

“No, it has to be somebody you knew.”

“There are no dead people I want to talk to.”

“Maybe Dallas can contact your parents or your brother.” She said gently.

“They have unlisted numbers”

“You aren’t funny.”

“Bitch.” he whispered then kissed her on the mouth and led her to their seats.

As they made their way through the crowd his eyes met a well-dressed, slightly handsome, thirtyish man in the lobby. Jonathan was sure it was a plant; someone sent by Andrews to listen in to the conversations in the lobby. “My brother was blown to bits in Afghanistan. Pass that one on to your boss.” The man looked calm but Jonathan knew he’d unnerved him.

The restored art deco movie palace was the perfect place for the grand show of bullshit he would witness tonight. The lights dimmed. A woman in a long green dress played a traditional Irish harp on the corner of the stage. At the other corner was a plainly dressed woman signing for the deaf.

“I bet there isn’t one deaf person in this theater.” He said to Beth. She rolled her eyes at him and squeezed his hand. The lights came up on the stage. The crowd cheered. Jonathan sat back with his arms crossed, glaring at the stage.

Dallas Andrews walked causally onto the stage dressed in a white silk shirt, cream colored tie and matching cream colored dress slacks finished off with tan Italian loafers with tassels. He was in his mid-to-late thirties with wavy dark hair and boyish good looks. He smiled sweetly at the audience showing off perfect dimples, practically glowing with goodness and concern.

“How innocent, how angelic, how phony,” thought Jonathan.

The audience clapped until Andrews blushed on command and told them to stop. Jonathan glanced at Beth. She was transfixed. He had lost her, to Dallas Andrews, at least for the next hour.

The man in white told his story with all the passion of the finest bard or worst televangelist, depending on one’s point of view. It was all bullshit about dead friends and relatives who’d ended up with tragically only to “speak” to Dallas through his new found gift.

Dallas ended his touching life story with “We can all be at peace with those we love who have passed over. I knew at that time I had to help others to find that peace and end the pain and worry.

It is a selfish thing that we expect the dead to contact us. It isn’t easy for them. But I’m trying to make it easier, as their go between. I channel. I am the messenger. I am merely a vessel to bring the message of love from the other side.”

Jonathan said nothing as the audience sat transfixed. He jotted a few notes then put his pen away. The night might not be a complete waste of time if the timing was right.

Andrews proceeded to ask questions of tearful audience members who wished to hear from departed loved ones.

“I’m hearing from Mary, Martha? I also see black and white. A nun. A policeman.” Andrews said in the most gentle and concerned voice.

“I can’t fucking believe this.” Jonathan swore under his breath. The people around him glared. He ignored them.

They heard from a dead son killed in a car accident, a recently departed grandmother, a young wife who died from cancer, a career Army officer killed in Iraq. Jonathan’s heart broke for those who came looking for answers and the hope of any small comfort. He took notes while Beth wiped tears from her face.

After about 90 minutes Andrews opened up for questions and answers. When called on, Jonathan stood up with his usual amused smile. “Be nice” Beth whispered.

Dallas Andrews saw a familiar face. He knew who the middle-aged man in the expensive black suit and distracting ice blue eyes was. Then he noticed the incredibly beautiful brunette sitting next to him. Dallas smiled sweetly at Beth, catching her off guard. She smiled back then blushed. With any luck he’d she’d be at the reception afterwards and after that in his suite at the Hyatt Regency across the street.

“Yes, you had a question.”

Jonathan addressed the clairvoyant. “You actually see angels? Show me who the angels in this room are?”

Dallas smiled and nodded “You won’t be able to see them. They are spirits who reveal themselves to me, but they are here, all around us. Open your heart and you’ll feel their presence.”

Jonathan didn’t like the answer “Tell me Mr. Andrews, are your angels from heaven or are they from someplace else? It’s often hard to tell the difference.”

The room hushed. Dallas Andrews was obviously annoyed by this man. “I sense you have a troubled soul.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Jonathan replied in disgust.

Andrews gave a sympathetic smile and help out his hands, palms up. “Let me try to help you find out where your demons come from.” His voice was soothing as if talking to a troubled teen.

Jonathan almost laughed. “Oh you’re good. You’re very good. Mr. Andrews, where I come from we have words for people like you. A few that come to mind are liar, con man, cheat, and oh yes, more importantly sinner.”

“What is your name?” asked Andrews trying to keep his composure.

“You know perfectly well who I am,” thought Jonathan. He smiled at the man on stage. “Jonathan Ward, West Coast Review.”

Dallas Andrews pointed at Jonathan then put his finger to his chin. He smiled again. “I thought I recognized you. You’ve seen with your own eyes, heard with your own ears the news I’ve brought to these people tonight. Mr. Ward, humor me for a moment. Think of someone you’ve lost. Your parents were from Alaska. They died in a plane crash, you and your siblings survived. Would you like a message from your parents?” he asked raising an eyebrow at Jonathan.

Beth took Jonathan’s hand. He gave it a quick squeeze and let go. Parents my ass. “Why should my dead mother contact you, a stranger, when she could contact me directly?” he asked.

Dallas toned down his voice. He turned up the gentleness and compassion. “You block out the passage for her to travel with your negativity.”

Jonathan only glared. “You found the information about my mom from the bio on my web site. You’ve been following my stories for the past year.”

“You must have great pain in your heart” replied Dallas in a comforting voice, as he put his own hand over his heart.

“How do you know my mother is really dead or even has a soul?” Jonathan shot back sarcastically.

“I speak with the angels.”

“Really? You not only see, but you also speak with angels? That is truly amazing.”

“It is a gift, a blessing.”

“It’s a lie,” said Jonathan calmly as Beth sunk lower in her seat.

Dallas Andrews smiled sadly “Ladies and Gentlemen, this reaction is common from skeptics. There are angels all around us.”

“Show me.”

“There’s one right next to you.”

Jonathan ignored the comment. “Dallas, do you believe in God?”

“Of course.”

“Do you believe in hell?”

“I believe in the intrinsic goodness of all mankind. So, no, Mr. Ward, I don’t believe in hell.”

“You will Dallas, believe me you will.”

Dallas lifted his chin in defiance. “Is that a threat?”

“No Dallas, it isn’t a threat. It’s a statement of fact.” 

“What in your opinion is hell, Jonathan?” asked Dallas slowly and deliberately as if he was ready to pull out the big guns.

“I’ll give you a tour,” Jonathan thought to himself. He wasn’t going to take the bait. “I’ve seen enough. Good night Dallas. Don’t forget to check out next week’s issue of the West Cost Review for the end of this riveting story.” Grabbing Beth’s hand, he started to make his way to the back of the theater. Beth stopped and turned back.

“Just like Lot’s wife.” He whispered in her ear.

She pulled her hand away and hissed “Asshole.” He stopped by the exit door and faced the stage.

Dallas Andrews had already started to have a violent seizure. Then he started to scream and fell to his knees holding his head in his hands. Soon he’d feel pain like he’d never felt before. It was an ugly way to end the evening, but the man had to be stopped. Jonathan couldn’t kill, but he could do an amazing amount of damage to the living. Maybe, with any luck, Dallas Andrews would get the message and change his ways.

Jonathan smiled slightly and narrowed his eyes “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Amen.” He said quietly to nobody in particular.

Beth looked at him with wide eyes.

He scowled at her “What? Don’t look at me like a frightened cat. I told you he was a fake.”

“Jon, we can’t just leave.”

“Sure we can. There isn’t anything we can do here except be in the way.” He took out his phone and dialed 911. “My name is Jonathan Ward. I’m at the Crest Theater on K Street. Sacramento. Dallas Andrews is having some sort of attack. Horrible convulsions. Oh my gosh, I think he passed out. Please, he needs help. I’m not sure…there’s a doctor or someone up on stage with him now.” He paused “Yes…you’ve had other calls…help is on the way. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Beth stood in shock. “Oh no, oh no.” she whispered, her eyes still on the stage.

“Let’s go darling.” Jonathan told her grabbing her arm like a vice and practically dragging her out of the theater. She passed a few of her wide-eyed friends, but he didn’t let her stop. She’d be blabbering all night to them about poor Andrews. He wondered how someone as smart as Beth could be so gullible and stupid when it came to crap like this.

They walked across the Capitol Park to his car. Beth was livid.

“We should have stayed. I bet you made him have an aneurism with your stupid questions. I can’t believe how rude and mean spirited you were to him. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.” She tried to stop him but he kept walking.

He gave her a disgusted look. “I was rude and mean spirited? At least I was telling the truth.”

“No, if he dies it will be your fault.”

“How will it be my fault? Should I have asked for his medical history before I asked him any questions?”

She grabbed his arm. “Aren’t you concerned at all?”

He stopped and pushed her hand away. “Tell me why I should be concerned with a fraud like Andrews? Enlighten me?”

Beth was livid. “Dallas isn’t a fraud. What I saw tonight was real.”

This was going nowhere. Jonathan changed his tone. He ran his hands down her arms and gently took her hands. “Dear sweet Bethany. It wasn’t real.”

“You never respect anything I say or feel.” She cried trying to pull her hands away. “What about his visions from his cousin and dead girlfriend? He couldn’t have been making that up.”

Jonathan held on tight. “His cousin Joyce died when he was two years old. Andrews had seen her once. And there was no girlfriend Patty. She was a girl in his dorm who died of leukemia. They knew each other but they never went out.”

“He might have loved her. He might have cared for her.”

“No Beth, the guy is a liar and a fraud.”

“You don’t know that.”

““Listen to me. Remember the first time you saw the trunk that belonged to May Woosley, in the Sacramento History Museum? You were on a field trip with your nephew’s 4th grade class.”

Beth blinked, her voice turned shrill. “What are you talking about?”

“Let me jog your memory. May died in 1879. She was just a little girl. On the advice of a clairvoyant, like Andrews, her mother sealed a trunk full of May’s belongings in the wall of their home. Mrs. Woosley spent the rest of her life searching for a message from her daughter because she’d listened to the words of a con-artist rather than listening to her own heart for healing. The trunk wasn’t found again until 1979. When you saw it in the museum you cried. You went home and cried all night for the little girl and her family.”

“How did you…that was five years ago, before I even met you. I never told you about that.”

“You didn’t have to. Beth, don’t you see. You knew Mrs. Woosley was lied to. Dallas Andrews lies to people too.”

A tear rolled down her cheek. She backed away. “How do you know these things? You always know things.”

“I observe and I guess a lot.” He wiped the tear away and kissed her. “See, you aren’t as tough and shallow as you pretend to be.”

The fog had rolled leaving the night air with zero visibility. He took her hands and wrapped the car keys around them. “You’re driving.”

She took the keys knowing full well that he was practically blind on clear night and completely blind in the night fog.

“Could you even see Dallas Andrews on the stage.”

“I could see enough. Let’s go.”

“If you could have seen his face.”

“I saw his face clear enough to know every single thing he said was a lie.”

She adjusted the seat and glanced over at him. “You’re such an asshole.”

“Just drive.”

“Where are we going?”

“Your house.” Her house was closer and he wouldn’t have to drive her home in the morning.

“You expect me to let you…”

“I love you Beth. Nothing, including your faith in a charlatan like Dallas Andrews, is going to change that. Not now, not ever.” He took her hand and whispered, “You are my soul. And despite the fact that you drive me absolutely crazy, I need you.”

Another tear rolled down her cheek as she drove in silence.

When they got back to her house and made love to her like she was the last woman on earth. She asked him again about the long thin scars on his back. He told her for the 100th time that he didn’t remember how it happened. It was during the plane crash when his parents died way up in the Alaskan wilderness, hundreds of miles from anyone. So final. So tragic. It made for a good story, even thought it wasn’t true.

Beth’s amazing body was as fake as the con man he’d just put down. Beautiful store bought breasts, a dazzling smile of the best veneers money could buy, cheek implants and a slightly smaller and straighter nose than nature had given her, violet colored contacts covering her hazel eyes, the trendiest hair colorist in town, a sprayed on tan, artificial nails and a toned body thanks to grueling sessions with a sadistic personal trainer named Bruce. Jonathan thought wistfully that there was an entire generation of American men who had never felt a real female breast.

The sad thing was that at thirty-eight Beth would have been lovely without most of the work. At least her heart was real, despite her tendency to be shallow and superficial.

He knew he scared her. The only reason she kept him around was for the great sex and his political connections. What a joke – there were no real “best” connections in Sacramento or anywhere else for that matter.

Jonathan knew the best people to know where those brilliant folks who stayed away from the media limelight, away from the cultural and political wanna-bees. He often thought, “Give me the rocket scientist next door over those who claimed they partied with Arnold and Jerry, or knew the more influential elected officials and developers at the state capitol. Give me my own friends; the mom who writes historic romance novels, the high school science teacher, the master gardener and the emergency room doctor. These were the people who really know what it is like to be alive and human.”

The next morning the fog had been replaced by a grey drizzle of rain. He left Beth’s in his silver Jaguar XJR, heading off to the airport to pick up Lorna. A few years his senior, she was a golden haired, blue eyed living Barbie doll. She lived in Malibu with a view of the ocean. Tapped into the spiritual rhythm of the ocean, she fit right into the affluent new age lifestyles of her neighbors. They had to be some of the most entertaining and shallow people he’d ever met.

“Where’s the hybrid?” asked Lorna

“Dropped it off for new tires.” He thought of Lorna and her unrelenting social conscience – knew he should have driven the hybrid, then shrugged it off. This weekend he wanted style not substance. In a few hours all the substance he could ever want was going to be shoved down his throat.

“We’d better not break down. What are you listening to?” she asked in disgust when he started up the car.

“Metallica.”

She turned it off. “Have you heard today’s news yet?”

“No. I’m clearing my mind today. No radio. No TV. No newspapers. No Internet. No phone.”

“Tell me what happened last night?”

“Beth broke up with me. She said I was too intense. I recall she used also used the words weird, asshole and insensitive. Lots of tears so I think there is a good chance she’ll take me back.”

Lorna grabbed his wrist like a vice. “What happened with Dallas Andrews?”

“Let go, do you want me to wreck the car? Where did you hear about Andrews?”

“NPR, Morning Edition. CNN. Fox. LA Times.”

“Was my name mentioned?”

“They said that in the process of being interrogated by you, Andrews had a violent seizure. He is now is now seeing visions of hell and keeps mentioning your name.”

He changed the music to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. 

“Funny guy that Andrews. I heard the story on the way to the airport. Didn’t realize Dallas Andrews was so popular.” He said giving Lorna a wink. “Grab my phone, it’s in the glove box. Check my messages.”

Lorna’s beautiful mouth turned into a slight smile as she listened to the messages. Jonathan thought it was almost a snarl. “You have twenty two messages. The first three are from your office, CNN and Beth. She’s hysterical. The rest seem to be people wanting to talk to you about Andrews.” They headed down Hwy 50 towards the hills. “What are we going to do with you Jonathan?” she asked rubbing his neck with her left hand.

“Don’t do anything with me” he answered quietly. “Just let me do my job.”

They went up the hill towards Sutter Creek, to Ruth’s Ranch as he always called it, for the annual, get our heads screwed back on, clear our brains, find peace, drink a lot of great wine and solve all our problems retreat. He was looking forward to it. The past few months had been a major drain on his mental and emotional resources.

Jonathan looked over at beautiful golden Lorna dozing in the seat next to him. She was his older sister, his mentor, the one who kept him grounded. He imagined her with a halo and beautiful wings spread out in shining glory. Then he wondered if she was sleeping with her new best friend, a plastic surgeon named, Dennis O’Brian. Denny, as she called the man was nice enough, but suddenly Jonathan felt like he wanted to beat the crap out of the guy if he ever touched Lorna. Then he’d torture him and flay off his skin leaving him a quivering mass of, well, whatever. He had to stop being so protective of his sisters.

Jonathan’s mind skipped back Dallas Andrews. He felt sick to his stomach. It had been unpleasant business, but somebody had to do it. After all it wasn’t easy being angel.

Delivered To Your Door

Delivered to your door…

I looked at the muscular, almost beautiful, naked body on the bed and the folded up sheriffs’ uniform on the chair. The badge seemed to sparkle saying “look at me, look at me.” A white and pink orchid flower was behind his ear.

Holy crap, this wasn’t how I’d planned on starting out my week.

I was three years old and he someone throwing me up in the air and I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe.

His hands are warm and I cling to him to put my ear next to his chest and hear his heart. I hold him tight feeling the heat radiate from his body. I keep laughing. He is so different from everyone else I know.

Thirteen years later, he takes my hands, I laugh. Then my best girlfriend says “He’ll marry me and I’ll be his wife forever.” No way would she get the most handsome man in the world to marry her. I laughed in her face and everyone yelled Happy New Year. Someone lit up lights to spell out 1865. We were in California and in love with men we have silly school girl crushes on. Who cared about the war? We were safe.

I woke in a cold sweat, on the back deck, my book on the ground, the cat staring at me. I heard my son’s voice.

“Mom, Uncle Val is on the phone.” My son Garrett stood at the sliding glass door holding my phone out at arms length.

My brother Valentine, thirteen months my senior said I have to come right now. It was an emergency. Nobody else could come. None of our three older brothers could make it. Everyone else had suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.

I arrived at the farm house, my two teens in tow, slamming the door as hard as I could when I got out of the car.

I’m usually pretty calm but I lit into my brother when I saw him walking towards us. “Nobody ever consults with me. I’m the one with the kids and the husband and my own business. I’m on fucking call 24/7 for everyone in this family and nobody ever asks me what I want or need. Nobody.”

“Are you done?” Val asked this in an uncharacteristically sarcastic tone.

“No. What is going on?”

My brother scowled at me and shook his head. “Why are you yelling?”

I went into the house leaving him in the yard. I could hear my son saying “Bad day to mess with my mom.”

Dealing with the sick and elderly is something we do. We do it for love or obligation or family bonds or whatever the reason it is usually on autopilot fueled by guilt and frustration. I’m so saint but sometimes I want to play that saint card so much it hurts.

Eleora stood at the door in a yellow bikini top and a tie-dye skirt, her brown curls done up in red bows. She fluttered around then kissed me on each cheek. Tellias gave me a big hug. He was wearing a green shirt with yellow parrots embroidered on the back. A patch on the front said Dave in large script letters. His white blonde hair was pulled back with a green ribbon.

They look like they’re 19 or 20 years old but they’re ancient – two of the most ancient Vampires known. They were pioneers and founders of the Modern Vampire movement. It is hard to see them like this. It literally breaks my heart.

Steel guitars were hissing away on a scratched up old record playing on a wind up phonograph in the corner.

“We can’t find the car keys,” said Tellias.

“We’re being tropical tonight,” said Eleora as she danced around and put an orchid flower behind my ear.

I was ready to scream. “Again? Where did you last have them?” I asked slowly and calmly.

“If we knew that we’d be driving,” said Tellias, as he took the ribbon out of his hair and shook it out on his shoulders.

“We’d take a road trip to Montana and Maine and Michigan and Maui!” Eleora sang as she danced around again.

“How long have the keys been gone?” I asked.

“Two or three weeks. Val won’t let us use his car,” Tellias said.

“He says we drive too creatively,” Eleora giggled.

“Yes, he said we drive too creatively,” added Tellias.

“Creatively,” said Eleora, this time more seriously.

“Creatively. That was a nice way to put it,” I said more to myself than to the Elders. “What about food? Is Val bringing you food?”

Tellias patted my hand. “Val has been a darling but we like delivery. We call and they come to the house. Amazing. We should have done that a long time ago.”

Delivery? What in the world were they doing? I looked at the hanging chandelier in the entryway. “Nice fixture. Is it new?”

“A couple of nice men came and installed it,” Tellias told me. “It should last for years. The old one was fitted for gas and ugly. Remember?”

“We had them for lunch,” Eleora proudly told me.

“You shouldn’t do that. They’re help,” I told them.

Eleora just smiled. “We liked them Juliette. We wanted them to stay.”

“Are they still here?” I asked not knowing if I wanted to know the answer.

Tellias answered this time. “No, they left. Then we called the County Sheriffs and asked them to come out. We said someone tried to break in. Eleora sounded scared. They sent two good-looking strong young men right to our door.”

“Right to our door. Good looking healthy young men,” Eleora echoed.

I glanced out the window and saw the black and white car on the side of the house. Oh no.

“Where are they?” I asked trying not to panic.

They both looked to the ceiling. I ran up the stairs.

In a bedroom done in high Victorian style, I found a golden haired well-built man face down and naked on the bed. His uniform was neatly folded in a chair. He was alive but in a deep sleep. The name badge was Murphy, as in Officer Murphy.

Another handsome muscular young man was in the next bedroom over, shirtless on his back, asleep. I noticed a wedding ring on his finger. The name badge on his shirt had the name Garcia. His sleeping eyes moved a little under long dark eyelashes.

I called down the stairs. “How long have you had these guys here?”

“Since yesterday. We jammed the GPS on their car.”

I sat down on the top step, almost in tears. They couldn’t find their car keys but they could jam a GPS signal. I thought about the guy with the wedding ring. His wife must be sick wondering where he is.

In most popular novels ancient Vampires are powerful creatures of the night. In my life they are silly creatures that forget all rules about consequences or right and wrong. They act like senile teenagers, with occasional flashes to the wise, powerful leaders they once were.

Tellias sat down next to me. “We thought about keeping them for a while. Then you and Val wouldn’t have to worry about us.”

Eleora slid down on the other side and stroked my face with a cool hand. “Why are you so upset? Everything will be fine. It always is.”

We dressed the nice handsome patrol officers and positioned them in less provocative poses. An hour later another patrol car and an ambulance arrived. Two officers had become ill with an unexplained illness. Not knowing what to do a young couple took them in to their home. All was well. The officers recovered with no memory of what happened. Both mentioned an overwhelming calm and sense of well-being. Imagine that.

Tellias took my hand, like he did when I was a child. “Juliette, my dear child, we weren’t going to turn those young men into Vampires. You know we wouldn’t do that.”

“I just worry about you two,” I told him.

“You care too much for those Regular Humans,” said Eleora. “You have to distance yourself.”

“I’m married to a man who used to be a Regular Human,” I said quietly, but ready to scream.

Tellias squeezed my hand again. “And if it wasn’t for Eleora and me he would be dead.”

I went back to the bedroom where the married officer had been. Years ago my husband lay in that bed, a phantom between two worlds, that of the humans of the light and those of us who favor the dark. An unwanted conversion that had turned those warm hands cold forever, but given me…

“Mom?”

I looked over to kids standing next to me. A 14 year old daughter and a 17 year old son. They shouldn’t have to see all this, but I don’t believe in sheltering them. I never have.

I guess I should do my famous parenting blogger bullet points but there is no point in this story. It is just one of those things, on one of those nights.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

First posted in 2013. If figured since we’re all getting so much take-out and delivery these days that I’d post it again.

Short Story Sunday: The Alley

Taking a short cut through a downtown alley wasn’t always like it was in the movies. He’d rarely witnessed crimes, or found dumped bodies among the dumpsters and rats. The smells were close to death but not quite. Urine and sun roasted garbage were the aromas of the night. No night-blooming jasmine for this short cut.

Walking along he wasn’t afraid. There wasn’t anything to fear except maybe stepping on something disgusting he’d have to scrape off of his shoe later. But then he saw her standing at the end of the alley.

Had she been a cat he would have taken her home, or found her a forever home, but she was not.

“Hi Val,” she said in a girlish voice. She sounded like she was maybe twelve instead of twenty eight.

“Nikki. You look good.”

She looked good for Nikki. Val hadn’t seen her this clean, well, maybe ever. She’d been homeless on and off for the four years he’d known her. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in a dress. Even through the bad teeth, unhealthy chalky skin, and the constant fidgeting he could tell she’d once been pretty.

“My cousin Josh took me shopping. Got me this dress, and the sweater. Do you like it. The sweater is sort of like lace, all light like, for the summer. First new clothes I’ve worn in maybe six years.”

“Are you living somewhere?”

“I have my own room in the back of Josh’s building, out by the alley so I have, like my own private entrance. I have a bathroom too. The toilet is in the shower because it is really small. Sometimes when I take a shower I just pee on the floor over the drain. I always laugh because the toilet is right there.”

“What are you doing out here?” It was 3:00 am. He knew why she was out.

Nikki crossed her arms and leaned from one foot to the other. “Just doing some business, you know.”

“Looking for a fix?”

“Maybe, and a little romance.”

Val knew she traded sex for drugs. She kept talking.

“Um, Josh won’t let me bring guys home. I can’t do drugs, drink, or smoke at my room. Those are his rules. You know, I do stuff for him like clean up in the back, mop up, dishes, take out the garbage, and stuff. Maybe I’ll get to cook or work up front one day. He said if I work hard he’ll pay to get my teeth fixed. Ramon said if I go back to school he’ll help me too.”

Val knew Ramon, the high school kid who was headed off to U.C. Berkeley. Nice kid who wanted to get a degree in mathematics and change the world.

“You should go home Nikki. Forget the fix. You look so pretty tonight. Don’t waste it on some creeper. You don’t need to get high,” said Val.

“Maybe if you’d turn me into a Vampire I wouldn’t need it. If you turned me into a Vampire I’d stop hurting all the time. I’d be pretty again.”

“You’d die Nikki.”

“Better than living my life.”

“Don’t say that Nikki. Never say that.”

She looked down at the ground, then leaned up against a parked car. “Tell me a story Val, about when you were my age.”

He’d been telling her stories to get her mind off of getting high, or having sex with anyone she could in exchange for the next high. If he could keep her up until the sun came up then she’d be safe from the evils of the night.

“In 1886 I was twenty eight, same age as you are. My sister and I were in London. Jack the Ripper was in the news. We were at a party…”

“What was she wearing Val? Tell me what your sister was wearing.”

“A cream colored silk dress adorned with purple roses, millions of ruffles and a huge bustle in back. Her hair was piled high on her head in curls all done up with pearls and ivory combs. She danced for hours with a wealthy handsome son of a Duke.”

“Did she drink his blood?”

“Of course she did.”

“Did she make love to him?”

“In a way he would never forget, or get over. He’d never fall out of love with the mysterious woman he’d danced with all night.”

Nikki hugged herself as Val continued to tell her a half true story, embellishing it with more romance than reality.

He walked her home, and kept her talking until the first light of the morning started to show in the sky. “Be safe Nikki. Listen to Josh and Ramon. They’re looking out for you. They care. I care.”

He kissed her cheek with his cold lips.

“Why don’t you ever drink my blood Val?”

“You know why Nikki,” he said.

“I’d do you good Val. I’d make that cold blooded…” She continued with a crude and explicit, sexual description of what she would do to him if he’d only take her home to his house, or even behind one of the dumpsters in the alley behind her building. He turned and walked away from her feeling sad, and disgusted.

Two days later Nikki was found dead in her little room, wearing one of her new sundresses. She’d had unprotected sex with at least three different men that night. She’d died of an overdose of a cocktail of drugs too lethal for most people to imagine.

Before Josh opened his restaurant for breakfast Val stopped by to give him his condolences. Josh shook his head. He’d done everything he could to help Nikki.

“She was always a lost soul. So much talent. Aw man, she was so beautiful once. She just got in with the wrong guys, one right after another. They took everything from her. But she wouldn’t listen to anyone,” Josh told Val, wiping his eyes.

Ramon stood listening then said, “Nikki could have so much hope. Just yesterday she was telling me she wanted to go back to college. She wanted to live. Then she went on again about her friend who was going to turn her into a Vampire, and she’d be young and pretty again, and live forever. She said she was in love with this guy, this Vampire. It was creepy. She was nuts. Sorry Josh, but…” His voice trailed off as he wiped a tear off of his face.

Val wished them the best. That afternoon he made a large donation to a local women’s shelter. Over the past one hundred and fifty nine years he’d seen many lost souls. One slutty little druggie shouldn’t have bothered him so much. Nikki was nothing to him. Then again, she could have been everything to someone if anyone other than Josh or Ramon had cared.

Had she been a stray cat he would have taken her in. Had she been clean he might have taken her forever.

~ End.

 

Tangled Tales

 

First published here in 2016. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman