Under Cover of Daylight

Yes, Friday Fictioneers is still in swing this week, but I found inspiration from the headlines that grabbed my muse’s attention instead. Perhaps I’ll have a 100-word story for this week’s photo prompt later, but until then, enjoy this 110-word tale and the photo I found that seems to fit.

Deborah Tilley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Deborah Tilley [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Under Cover of Daylight

 

“A tanning salon?” Lauren was incredulous. “I suppose that’s one way for a vamp to remain undercover.”

 

“This isn’t a single vampire.”

 

Lauren nearly spit out her coffee. “What?”

 

“It’s a ring. We’re sending you undercover to assess the situation while I set up a team to complete the sting.”

 

“But . . .”

 

“A vamp in South America developed a sunlight protection system a few years back. It’s a lacquer, applied like a spray tan. We learned about it during the 2014 World Cup.”

 

“The World Cup? You mean Luis Suarez is . . .”

 

Michael leaned forward. “Lauren, you need to start letting go of your preconceived notions.”

 

Disclaimer: The above story is entirely a work of fiction. To the best of my knowledge, neither Luis Suarez, any of his teammates nor any of the players he has bitten are actually vampires. For details on what really happened, click here.

Belling the Cat

As hinted at earlier, this is the first in a new series I’m calling “Flashes of Awareness.” I’ll post a page with details on that soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the story and stick around a while when you get to the end. There’s a great surprise waiting for you in the real world.

 

Photo courtesy of Todd Foltz, copyright 2014

Photo courtesy of Todd Foltz, copyright 2014

Belling the Cat

Ronald pulled into the driveway Thursday evening primed for a domestic fight. That afternoon, his husband had sent a text, “Got off early. Taking the cat to Vivian’s.” Ronald couldn’t stand that cat, so he should have been glad Jeremy had found a way to get rid of her. But did Vivian have to be involved?

The cat was really just a stray. Jeremy had taken her in just before she gave birth, and he had dutifully found homes for her three kittens. After they were born, the cat refused to stay indoors. Jeremy had taken her to the vet to be vaccinated and spayed, and she would show up regularly at the patio door to be fed. Jeremy doted on the feral thing. Now he had found some drag queen who loved cats. Ronald had a mind to suggest that both Jeremy and the cat move in with Vivian.

Upon entering the house, Ronald found Jeremy in bed with the cat guarding him like a police dog. He lay still, scarcely breathing, his face pale as paste.

“What the hell happened to you?” Ronald snapped, approaching the bed. He jumped back as the cat hissed and threatened to attack. Jeremy’s eyes opened slowly.

“Oh dear, what happened?” Ronald’s tone softened.

“The afternoon excursion didn’t go as planned.”

“I gathered that.” Despite concern for his husband’s health, Ronald’s disdain for Vivian and that stupid cat still had him itching for a fight. A low growl from the feral ball of teeth and claws lying next to Jeremy indicated that he was about to get one.

“It’s okay, Kitty. Hush now.” Jeremy stroked the cat. “Calm down. I’ll tell you all about it.”

It took Ronald a moment to realize that Jeremy was directing that final statement toward him. “I’m going to pour myself a drink. You want anything?”

“Water—with lemon.”

Ronald left and returned with two glasses—water for Jeremy, a gin and tonic for himself. Cautiously eyeing the cat, he placed the water on Jeremy’s nightstand. Slipping off his shoes, he crossed to the opposite side of the bed and slid in. Safely away from the hostile guard cat, he propped Jeremy up against a pair of pillows.

“It appears that Vivian is more ‘Queen of the Damned’ than Drag queen,” Jeremy began, self-consciously fingering a gauze bandage on his neck.

Ronald felt the rage rising in his throat. “What did you do?” Ever since the two had met Vivian at the drag show in Kansas City Jeremy had been taken with her.

“Nothing.” Jeremy looked hurt. “I arranged for her to take the cat. She has a couple acres out on County Road YY past the old dairy—plenty of room and very little traffic. I figured you’d be happy to be rid of the cat.”

“Okay, so what happened?”

“She lives in this horrid hovel—all shuttered up. I thought I was in the wrong place. When I rang the bell, she called for me to come in with the cat. I stopped in the entryway so my eyes could adjust, and the cat started thrashing around in the carrier. I set the carrier down, and Vivian came out looking like a hot mess. Next thing I know, she’s biting my neck.”

Ronald’s eyes widened. “Biting? Like a—“ Jeremy nodded.

“Calm down. You know it takes three bites to turn a person. But I think she might have drained me dry if the cat hadn’t managed to release the latch on the carrier. She went straight for Vivian’s face. This little lady’s pretty vicious.” Jeremy affectionately scratched the head of the feline, who was now curled up on his lap, still eyeing Ronald with suspicion.

“And then?”

“That’s when things get a little fuzzy.  I lost a lot of blood. Vivian must have disappeared into her hovel, and next thing I knew the cat was back in the carrier. I put her in the car, found a handkerchief to wrap around my neck and managed to drive home. I don’t remember much of the trip.”

Ronald sighed. There was no sense fighting tonight. “I’m glad you’re alright. Sounds like I need to make some calls—get a team to take Vivian out of the picture before she skips town. Meanwhile, we need to give that cat a name.” Ronald smiled at Jeremy. “I think we should call her ‘Buffy.’”

Flashes of Awareness

Did you fall in love with the stunning cat photo at the top of this post? The cat’s real name is Dillar. Like Buffy in the story, Dillar is a rescue cat. At the time of this posting, unlike Buffy, Dillar hasn’t yet found her furever home. Photographer Todd Foltz took her picture for the Kansas City Kitty Cat Connection, a cat rescue organization in Kansas City’s Northland. If you want a pet that will be forever grateful to you, please consider rescuing an animal from the Kitty Cat Connection or from another organization in your locality.

Although cats have a reputation for being aloof and standoffish, they can be affectionate and devoted, much like the cat in this story. My oldest cat, whom I rescued from a local park when he was a small kitten, can tell anytime that I am feeling ill, and he always sets up a guard post to keep an eye on me until I’m feeling better.

Both of my cats were rescued, and our baby, Frida, was adopted from Sharon Jones, one of the amazing foster moms that works with the Kitty Cat Connection. Click here or the link above to learn more about the great work that she, Todd and others are doing.

Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes

“Seriously?” Gwen gazed skeptically at the printout of what was obviously a scam email. “People fall for this?”

Her partner nodded. “Our subject has used it effectively in the past.”

“Recent past?” Gwen’s skepticism wasn’t waning.

John nodded and opened his mouth, then closed it again.

“I know, I know. I give people too much credit.”

“Really, you do, Gwen. Not everyone has a high IQ. Even those that do will believe what they want, especially when they’re desperate.”

Gwen sighed. John was right. Still, she couldn’t understand how some people could be so stupid. “You are a finalist in this year’s $4,000,000 sweepstakes,” the email read. “A dinner to be held in your honor will take place at 8:00 in the evening on March 15. Come celebrate and learn if you are the lucky winner. Only finalists are invited. Must be present to win.” The email went on to give directions to a remote address and provide further congratulations to the potential winner.

“Beware the Ides of March,” Gwen muttered, rolling her eyes. She enjoyed her work as an investigator, but she didn’t enjoy saving people from situations that they could avoid given the tiniest drop of common sense.

“Look, the intel is pretty clear. This must be an old, experienced vampire. I, for one, give him props for figuring out a way to lure prey to his lair without raising alarm. We think he’s been operating this way for about 30 years, switching from snail mail to email about five years ago. He does his research, only targets loners who are down on their luck. As far as we can tell, he has nearly an 85 percent conversion rate.”

Gwen shook her head in disbelief and rolled her eyes again. “Oh, come on, Gwen,” John chided. “An 85 percent conversion rate! There’s not an ad agency around that can get close to that. This vamp’s a marketing genius.”

“Do you want me to take him out tomorrow night or bring him in so you can get lessons in marketing?”

John ignored the snide remark and sashayed out of the office, leaving Gwen to review the intel before the sting.

Gwen’s disdain for the general public grew as she reviewed the case. Since 1987, solitary members of the community had been lured to collect prizes of cash. The vampire never invited more than one finalist to his home at a time,  and Gwen had to admire the undead’s ingenuity. After all, it had taken the agency nearly 30 years to catch up with him.

***

The next evening, Gwen headed toward the rendezvous undercover as Harriet Snodgrass. She wore an ill-fitting floral dress that looked like something from the sale rack at Goodwill, bright red lipstick and heavy blue eye shadow.

Gwen felt a growing respect for this particular vamp. She honestly believed he was doing the world a favor with his chosen MO—like a bottom feeder whose job it is to clean up after the rest of the inhabitants in a the pond. “We’ll see how tonight goes,” she whispered to herself.

Pulling up to the address, Gwen quickly took note of her surroundings. All was quiet. A Lincoln Continental with deeply tinted windows sat in the drive. She thought about how Harriet would feel at this moment—certain that her luck was about to improve, that a change of fate lay just around the corner. The intended victim would have been right about the change of fate, but it certainly wasn’t the change she would have expected.

Gwen took a deep breath and exited the car. The stillness of the evening sent an unfamiliar chill down her spine. She shrugged it off as she walked up to the door of the sprawling estate. Just before she pressed the bell, a deep voice startled her. “Forgive me for not receiving you personally. Let yourself in. It’s unlocked.”

The agent pulled open the heavy oak door and stepped into the foyer. The voice came again. “Please, make yourself comfortable. Dinner will be served momentarily.”

The evening was proceeding differently than Gwen had imagined. She began to feel nervous and to wonder if her plan would work. Where was her host? The disembodied voice seemed a bit overly dramatic.

Suddenly, Gwen felt a strong hand grasp the back of her neck. Unfamiliar fear gripped her heart as she began to struggle for freedom. As she thrashed about in an effort to pull her stake from its holster, her attacker let out a cry. She toppled forward when the grip on her neck suddenly released. Catching herself, she spun around to see John standing above the fresh pile of dust, a stake in his right hand and a crucifix held aloft in his left.

“Wha—you—why?” Gwen sputtered. She hadn’t called for backup on the job, hadn’t planned for it, hadn’t wanted it.

“After your reaction yesterday, I wasn’t sure this was a job you were up to. Good thing I came along. Looks like you might have been the main course.”

Gwen reddened. She wasn’t sure what made her the most furious—that John hadn’t trusted her to get the job done or that he had saved her life. He would be completely insufferable after this.

Preying for Others

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers for June 6.

The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt.

Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create.

My piece this week weighs in at exactly 100 words.

 

Copyright Douglas M. Macilroy

Copyright Douglas M. Macilroy

 

Preying for Others

Ben’s stomach growled. His hunger was growing, and the former police chief knew but one way to sate it. The urge to prey on others came as a mental shock to the man once known for his integrity.

Most distressing was his lack of guilt—indeed, of any emotion—over the killing. Suicide by sunbeam wasn’t a desirable option, so the vampire searched for another remedy.

The thought struck with surprising clarity—why not prey on predators? Ben powered up his laptop and entered the chat room under the profile “CheerGirlMadison.” In under an hour, he had his dinner invitation.

Believers

Just a little ad hoc vampire story to add to my growing collection.

“A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar.”

“Aw, c’mon, Will. Enough already with the jokes featuring our worst enemies.”

“You scared, James?” Pete sauntered over to the bar. Will rolled his eyes at James. “I once spent—“

“—three hours staring down the evil eye.” Will and James completed the sentence for their inebriated companion.

“So, you’ve heard the story before.” Pete settled onto a stool. “Get me another bloody Mary, would you, Will?”

Will began mixing the drink. “Our worst enemies, eh, James?”

James nodded. “Don’t you agree, Pete?”

“Well, they can do some damage; that’s for sure.” The veteran vampire opened his shirt to reveal a scar in the shape of a Star of David. “Of course, the evil eye and the star aren’t as easily turned into stakes as a crucifix is.”

“I’d consider an atheist to be a worse enemy than the believers,” Will posited.

“Oh, no, I’d take on an agnostic any day. Those that don’t pray make pretty good prey by my way of thinking.” Pete took a swig of the drink Will placed in front of him.

“I said ‘atheist’ not ‘agnostic.’”

The other two looked quizzically at the bartender.

“Atheists don’t believe in anything—makes them pretty hard to touch.”

“Never thought about it like that,” mused James.

“Agnostics don’t know whether or not they believe in anything,” Will continued. “Makes them a lot easier to handle than atheists or believers.”

Pete nursed his drink a while longer while Will cleaned up behind the counter. James fiddled with a paper napkin—boredom was the common denominator for this undead trio.

“Alright, you two. Closing time. Scram—before the sun comes up and makes anthills out of you.”

Pete and James paid their tabs, collected their jackets and shuffled out into the pre-dawn darkness.

Will poured himself a drink and, forgetting to lock up, settled down to read the latest Anne Rice novel. His guilty pleasure provided a good way to wind down after a long night’s work, and he soon nodded off in his chair.

A couple hours later, three visitors arrived. Just before the sun’s rays diminished him to a pile of dust, Will awakened to see a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into his bar.

Bellwether

I’m only one day late in posting my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for May 16.

The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt.

Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create.

My piece weighs in this week at 96 words.

Copyright Sandra Cook

Copyright Sandra Cook

 

Bellwether

The hired car slowed to make passage for several dozen sheep dawdling across the road.

“What are we doing way out here?”

“You’ll see.”

“There’s nothing to see but sheep and a couple farmhouses.”

“See that old manse on the hill?”

Leigh nodded.

“The owner never comes out before sunset. Every three months or so he throws a week-long party. Afterwards, local sheep farms always report missing livestock. A few bodies are found—usually drained dry of blood.”

“So, the owner’s our mark?”

“No. He’s the bait. We’ll stake out the guests at this month’s party.”

Smooth Operator

By Krzysztof Biegański, Polska, Kbiegan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Krzysztof Biegański, Polska, Kbiegan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sorry to be sending you away again so soon, but I need you on a flight to Key Largo tomorrow.”

Lauren stared at the director. The timing wasn’t an issue, but the location was. “Where?”

“Key Largo.”

“For a white collar assignment?” Lauren looked skeptically at Michael. After three years as her director, he knew working for the white collar division of the FBI was merely a cover for her specialization.

“Your subject,” Michael pushed on, sliding a folder toward her across his desk, “is James MacDonald. Or Geoffrey Miles. Kevin Fischer. William Eberstark. Tyler Schwab. Take your pick. In FBI circles, he’s known as the “Smooth Operator.”

“Smooth Operator? Like the Sade song?” Lauren’s eyebrows shot up.

Michael nodded grimly. “He’s been visiting locations from the song for the past 30 years. Showed up in LA in 1985 using an MO we hadn’t seen before, although I’m guessing he was no rookie even then. Ten years ago agents in Chicago were closing in, but he slipped away. We’ve heard rumors of his activity in several northern cities. Then he headed south along the eastern seaboard. We’ve pinpointed his arrival in northern Florida and need a team in place when he gets to the Keys.”

“But—are you sure?”

Michael nodded again. “A cocky move on his part, but don’t let this one fool you. He’s as likely to slip through your fingers there as anywhere else.”

Lauren picked up the folder and flipped through it. “When do I leave?”

“Your flight departs from Andrews at 6:00a.m.”

Again, Lauren looked quizzically at her director. Had he lost his mind? Sending her on a mission in Florida and planning for her to arrive in broad daylight? At least he wasn’t having her fly out of BWI. Her equipment would never make it through airport security.

***

The plane touched down at a private airport in Key Largo. Lauren hired a car and drove to Azul del Mar,  where the Smooth Operator purportedly had made reservations for the coming week.

At the concierge desk, Lauren introduced herself as a federal agent investigating Medicare fraud. The clerk stalled until Lauren produced her badge, then allowed her access to the guest records.

Within a couple of minutes Lauren located the information she needed—a guest planning to check in tonight with specific request for blackout shades on all windows in the suite.

“Looks like I had the wrong intel,” Lauren commented to the rattled clerk.

On her way back to the car, Lauren encountered a groundskeeper. “You should change into your bikini now.”

“The yellow polka dot one?”

The groundskeeper nodded and escorted her back to the rental car. “Drive over to the Marriot. Leave your car with the valet there and check in. Then walk back to Azul del Mar. I’ll have the cabana ready.” He opened the car door and sent her off with a friendly wave.

At sunset, Lauren returned on foot. She had exchanged her workday attire for beach clothing, including a tropical romper custom designed to conceal her weapons. Crossing to the back of the resort, she located a cabana just outside the Caribe suite. A quick assessment of the entry options revealed that the groundskeeper had left the garden door to the suite unlocked. The Smooth Operator wasn’t likely to arrive before 11:00p.m., and his signature crime always took place at midnight. Lauren settled into the cabana to wait.

About 11:15, Lauren heard a car turn up the drive. As its occupants headed up the front walk to check in, she positioned herself just outside the garden door. A few moments later, the couple  entered the suite. The woman was obviously drunk. The man, less inebriated, swatted her bottom playfully. “Slip into something more comfortable, my love.” The woman, a weekender slung over her shoulder, made her unsteady way to the bathroom. The man, his back to the garden door, began flipping through musical selections on the entertainment system. Lauren saw her chance. She slipped into the room, and as the first notes of Sade’s “Smooth Operator” filled the room, the vampire known by the same name succumbed to Lauren’s stake.

E Strings

The busyness of Holy Week is passed. I’m slowly recovering after losing my dear Aunt Lizzy last week. Hopefully we’ll be returning to regularly scheduled programming shortly. In the interest of such pursuits, it’s time for . . .

Friday Fictioneers for April 25.

The challenge: Write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt.

Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create.

My piece weighs in this week at exactly 100 words.

Copyright Bjorn Rudberg

Copyright Bjorn Rudberg

E Strings

“What was that? You trying to get us killed?”

“What? We got the vamps.”

“No thanks to you.”

“Seriously? I dealt the first blow.”

“With a Taylor guitar.”

“And I was about to finish him off.”

“Finish him off? Because blunt force trauma is effective on vampires? All you did was destroy a perfectly good guitar. Did you even attempt to use your stake?”

“Of course. Vamp number two knocked it out of my hand.”

“After you alerted him by whacking his friend over the head.”

“Well, excuse me for living. I can’t stand listening to the undead sing karaoke.”

Since this week’s prompt features actual people that may or may not be recognized by others, although I do not know them myself, please note that the preceding flash is entirely a work of fiction and any similarity to actual events is purely coincidental. In other words, the men portrayed in this picture are not, to my knowledge, actual vampires or vampire hunters.

Reflections of a Soul

This work in progress is inspired by a prompt at The Writer’s Hangout, a LinkedIn group. Find me over there and join us if you’d like to play along.

 

Cyle gazes intently into the mirror on Dymphna’s nightstand, searching for the one thing he knows he will never see again. As vain as he is ambitious, the now-ageless bishop misses his reflection more than he misses his soul. He adjusts his powdered wig and runs a hand along his smoothly shaven chin. Grooming without the assistance of a reflection has become the bane of his existence.

Refusing to be discouraged by minor setbacks on this fateful night, Cyle turns away from the mirror. He focuses instead on the prize at hand. Dymphna will soon be his for all eternity.

***

Cyle initially experienced the deadly sin of lust when he first laid eyes on Dymphna. The ambitious priest had just become the youngest bishop in Ireland, and his devotion to Christ was never more apparent to his devout flock. Dymphna, attending the cathedral with her father, unknowingly seduced him with her virginal innocence and wholesome beauty.

After mass, Cyle made a point of speaking with her father in order to learn all he could of the nobleman’s affairs. He had no hope of effectively seducing the maiden who had enraptured him, but he could no sooner forget her than the sun could refuse to rise.

Lust for Dymphna sank deep into the bishop’s heart. He fasted with greater fervor, and his anguish was perceived by those within the diocese as purity and holiness the likes of which they had never before seen.

When the plague of darkness spread into His Grace’s domain, Cyle chose the unthinkable option. To save his flock from the vampire’s curse, he would sacrifice his soul. In so doing, he would secure his own immortality as well as his eternal damnation. After the sacrifice was made but before he fled to other shores, he would secure the object of his fascination and make her his own.

His Grace bargained with the vampire to leave the devout in the bishopric alone,  to taste no blood here but his own. Three feedings were required to complete the sacrifice. The first feeding, like a bride’s first union with her groom, left Cyle tender but with a new sense of awareness. On the vampire’s second visit, the bishop swooned almost immediately. At the third feeding, the vampire drank deeply. When the dark one removed its fangs from the bishop’s neck, a sense of euphoria rushed over him. The soulless existence suited him well.

***

Only now, as Cyle waits to take hold of his prize, does any feeling of regret come over him. He wonders what Dymphna will think of his appearance and laments his inability to behold his own reflection and to address any blemishes he might find.

Although he has no knowledge of the profound change that has come over his countenance since the final feeding, he fears his mere presence in these chambers might frighten the Dymphna. He had hoped to seduce her subtly. The rustle of skirts in the corridor commands his attention. He sits quietly on a low bench at the foot of her bed, waiting.

Dymphna enters the room and lingers for a moment at the nightstand, where she adjusts the pins in her hair before turning to see Cyle seated on the bench. To his surprise, she doesn’t seem startled by his presence.

“I’ve come to hear your confession, my child,” Cyle intones, unable to mask the lust dripping from every syllable.

“I confessed to Father O’Malley at the local parish only yesterday, Your Grace.”  Dymphna’s casual innocence serves only to further excite the corrupt bishop. He rises and moves toward her, then reaches to caress her cheek.

Cyle’s manhood swells in anticipation of the consummation of his worldly desires. His lips part, and he leans toward his love’s neck, failing to note the object clasped in her right hand. Pushing him back, Dymphna raises the crucifix. He scarcely has time to note the spike whittled into the bottom of the cross before she sinks it into his heart.

“For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” The timeless words ring out as the bishop’s form disintegrates beneath Dymphna’s steady hand.