Anywhere, USA: The Case of the Bloodsucking Beasts of the Night

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The New Official (Unofficial) Hometown Protectors

Two days following the wholesome destruction of the Silver Furrow Bloodsuckers Association, Jules and Elliot returned to the ranger station for another day of medium-to-light labor. During their short respite, Elliot managed to convince Katherine that the events which transpired under Odesian’s watch were the outcome of their own fault in not listening to instructions, and that they actually really enjoyed themselves. He struck at his mother’s soft spot, and employed the old “If this experience has taught us anything, it’s that it’s not enough for us to simply love nature, but that we must in fact respect it as well” routine. Needless to say, she was in a much better mood that Thursday morning when she pulled into work than she had been the day before. She even gave a friendly wave to Odesian as he sat at the picnic table, watching the park come to life for a new day.

He returned the greeting with an informal salute, and was pleasantly surprised when the kids broke away from her and came over to talk with him.

“I take it she ain’t mad at me anymore, huh?” the old man asked, as the kids joined him at the table.

“Nah,” Elliot said. “Technically it was an accident—at least as far as we’re concerned—and I told her that. And technically you never did say we were allowed to go outside, and I told her that, too. For Jules she said the trauma was enough of a punishment; I got an extra hour of chores at home for the rest of the week. I think that’s a fair price for the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Hey, I could’ve been killed,” Jules said, but with a lightness that showed she was only jesting.

“Yeah, you could have, but you didn’t. That makes it fun.”

“I’m just glad you two are alright,” Odesian replied. “I never meant for any of that to happen. I should have told you how dangerous this place is when I first met you; maybe I could have kept you out of it.”

“Well don’t you dare apologize,” Jules said. “Not only did you save me from those Alpha-holes, but you also saved me from becoming one of them, too. And look: nobody’s even the worse off for any of it. My arm kills, and you’ve somehow turned Elliot into an even bigger nerd, but otherwise it all turned out just fine.”

“Yeah,” Elliot added. “You yourself even took on a dozen vampires single-handedly and came out unscathed. I’d say you did a pretty good job looking after us. And sucking out the vampire blood like a poison? I—I didn’t even know that was possible, and I’ve played like…all the games. How’d you know to do that?”

“Just something you learn when you live in a place like this as long as I have,” Odesian replied. “It’s really nothing to get worked up over. Just try to stay out of any more trouble, eh?”

“I don’t know if we can promise that,” said Elliot, “but we’ll definitely agree that we heard you say it.”

“Speaking of trouble: there aren’t more things out there like that, are there?” Jules asked. “Monsters, I mean.”

“A monster’s only a matter of perspective,” Odesian answered. “But yes, there are many more things out there to be afraid of. Vampires were just a small piece of Silver Furrow, and honestly, in terms’a the number of folks gone missing, they weren’t even that dangerous. There are evils in that forest of unimaginable scale; things that make vampires look like ants at a picnic. I’ve been trying to protect this place my whole life, but let me tell you: cut off one evil, and another is sure to rear its ugly head.”

“Woah, your whole life?” Elliot said, in wonderment. “Dude, please tell me you’re some sort of monster hunter.”

“You can put it that way, I guess. But I kinda prefer the nickname the rangers gave me: Steward. I look after the park and its people and try to keep them safe from anything that threatens to harm them. If that means monsters, well…Let’s just say it usually means monsters.”

Elliot lit up like he had just struck pop-culture gold. “Aw—no—frickin’—way!” he shouted. “This is it—right here: this is the best day of my life.”

“You’re not gonna faint, are you?” Jules teased him. “Or should I say swoon?”

“Shut up—you think this is cool, too.”

“Ehh.”

Ignoring that, Elliot said, to Odesian, “You are like…everything I ever dreamed of…No, wait—that’s weird. This, this is like everything I ever dreamed of. This is my world; I freakin’ live for this. I gotta shake your hand, man.”

Elliot extended his hand—a small but meaningful gesture—and Odesian gladly received it…Or he would have, had there not been some invisible force preventing them from coming in contact with each other. Elliot thought it was a joke for a second, until he realized the old man wasn’t pulling his hand away; it was being pushed away. Elliot pulled his own hand back, and a distressed appearance came over Odesian’s face, as if he had been caught in yet another falsity. Elliot looked at his hand, then pressed it against his chest, remembering something he had tucked inside his shirt. He reached under his collar and grabbed a string off his neck, pulled it over his head.

“I almost forgot to give this…give this back,” he said vacantly, handing Odesian the cross necklace.

Odesian looked troubled, but didn’t say anything. He just took the necklace and stared at it. Jules, having not witnessed the original transaction, asked, “What is that? Why are you wearing a cross?”

“Odesian gave it to me,” Elliot explained. “It was so the vampires couldn’t touch me.”

“So what does that have to do with…ohhhh…Ohhhhh! Oh—don’t tell me you turned yourself into a vampire…Did you?”

Odesian clasped the necklace and poured it into his shirt pocket. “It was the only way,” he said. “You can’t get rid of the curse, but you can trade it. Those are the rules.”

Jules buried her face in her hands and shouted in irritation, not at him, but at herself for making him do something so stupid and unfair. “Why would you DO that?” she asked. “I can’t…I can’t believe you’d do that to yourself. WHY? I mean, please don’t think I’m not incredibly grateful, but why?”

“Like I said: I protect this place and the people in it. I’m the only one who understands what’s going on around here, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m responsible for every time something supernatural happens. If I had shot that damned vampire a second earlier instead of giving him a chance to surrender, you never would have been bitten in the first place.”

“That’s bogus!” Jules shouted. “You can’t blame yourself for that. Heck, maybe if I had punched his friend in the face a little harder when I had a free hand he never would have even tried. See, I can make silly excuses too, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t deserve this!”

“Please, I assure you it’s not nearly as bad as you might be thinking,” Odesian replied. “Yes, I need to drink blood every few days to avoid a crippling pain, but the good news is it doesn’t have to be human blood. I’m sure you haven’t met him yet, but one of the Jim brothers runs a pelt and meat business here in Anywhere. He does all the hunting and trapping himself, and I told him I’d give him a couple extra bucks to start saving the blood for me; he doesn’t even care why. The side-effect of this is that I don’t get full powers: no transformation, no super healing, no claws, no flying. Just the teeth, and those are hardly noticeable. I just need to make sure I never eat garlic with a silver fork for dinner. It’s really nothing to feel bad about, Jules.”

Well when he put it that way, maybe it wasn’t the end of the world. Jules thought he would have to be killing nameless drifters every day for the rest of his life, but this wasn’t that bad. “Well…okay…” she said. “But that blood money’s coming out of my allowance… (And that’s something I never thought I would say).”

“Mine too,” Elliot said. “What kind of brother would I be if I didn’t help my sister pay her blood money?”

“Ok, we’re gonna stop using the word ‘blood money’ now,” Jules demanded.

“Really, this isn’t necessary,” Odesian told them.

“Yes it is,” Jules stressed. “It’s literally barely a step above the least we can do. You’ve gotta let us have it.”

“Alright, alright,” Odesian relented, “we’ll figure something out. The first jar was free, anyways.”

“It still just isn’t fair,” Jules asserted. “How have we managed to screw up so colossally in just our first few days here? I wish there was some other way we could repay you.”

“Just keep up the good work, huh? Keep helping out around the station, keep helping out around the park; that sort of thing. Do that and we’ll call it even.”

“Alright,” Jules said, still feeling bad. “I guess we can do that. Come on, Mom’s waiting for us.”

“Well, wait a minute,” Elliot said, suddenly having—what in his mind was—a brilliant idea. “What if we helped you?”

Odesian didn’t quite catch his drift. “In such a way as to…?”

“Fight monsters!”

Jules perked up. Even she kind of liked the sound of that.

“Hey yeah! We could help you deal with Silver Furrow’s monster problem! That’s perfect! A little bit of paying off our debt and lotta bit of revenge.”

“Uh—hold on there…” Odesian tried to say, but the kids weren’t listening.

“With your awesomeness,” Elliot said, “my skills, and Jules also being there, we could be an unstoppable monster slaying force. You said you’ve been doing this all your life; well maybe together we can finally make Anywhere safe after all that time.”

“Hey, guys—this isn’t up for…”

“And the first order of business,” Jules said, “is to find those fairies and smush them under our shoes.”

“Ok, well, they are sentient beings, so you can’t just…”

“And then maybe we can find a dragon to slay, too,” Elliot said. “I’ve always wanted a shield made out of dragon scale.”

“I don’t actually recall there ever being…”

“No, we should tame a dragon,” Jules suggested. “That way we can ride it around like our own private jet.”

“What are you…? NO—guys, stop—now!” Odesian stood up from the table and loomed over them. “This isn’t some club you can sign up for! What I do is serious business—dangerous business—and no business for you two to get yourselves involved in! I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I cannot have a couple of kids helping me defeat the supernatural.”

Jules was not amused, neither in the fact that he thought they couldn’t handle it, nor in the fact that he thought they were asking. “First of all,” she said, “we’re gonna need to stop it with the ‘kids’ thing; we’re teenagers.” She looked at Elliot, then back at Odesian. “Well, I’m a teenager; he’s an idiot, but still.”

“Yeah!” Elliot said. “Oh—wait…”

“Second of all,” Jules continued, “if you don’t already know: you’ll learn very quickly that we’re not that easy to get rid of. You may as well just give in now. And come on, it is a pretty dope idea.”

It was, and even Odesian knew he needed some help if he was to vanquish all that Anywhere had in store, but he also realized it would be much too dangerous for a couple of untrained city kids, and the only life he was willing to risk in order to save others was his own. So instead of agreeing, he said, “Absolutely not. I cannot—with a sane frame of mind and in good conscience—allow you to put yourselves in any further danger.”

“But we can…”

“Help,” is what Elliot was going to say, but Jules interrupted him. “Fine,” she said, and nothing more.

“Fine?” Elliot asked. “What fine?”

“Fine,” Jules repeated. “I’m conceding. He doesn’t want us to join him? Fine. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Now I know you’re joking.”

“I also get the feeling you’re not speaking straightforwardly here,” Odesian said, suspicious of her motives. “What’s your play?”

“No play,” Jules said. “If we can’t slay monsters with you then that’s that. Come on Elliot, we’ve got work to do.” She grabbed his arm and dragged him away, but he protested.

“Work to do?” he said. “But…”

“Yes,” said Jules, interrupting him again, “work. It’s a lot of work starting a club from scratch.”

“What club?” Elliot asked.

“What club?” Odesian echoed.

Jules stopped briefly and spoke over her shoulder. “Well, I just figured if we can’t be a part of your monster fighting club, we’ll have to start our own.”

And they continued walking away. But Odesian was on the hook. “I told you: it’s not a club!” he shouted after them.

“I know, first rule of monster fighting club—yadda, yadda,” she shouted back. “We’ll just start our own club with no experience, no tools, no knowledge…I’m sure we’ll be fine. Maybe we’ll even let you join.”

“That’s not going to work! You’re bluffing!”

“Nah, it’ll be easy. We’ll just walk out into the woods directionless and alone and run into something eventually. Hope we don’t diiie,” she sang. Then she whispered to her brother, “Don’t look back.”

They entered the station and the door shut behind them. Odesian sat down and grumbled. “Crafty kids,” he said.

Then, in his head, “You asked for it.”

On Katherine’s side. Her parents were Ashkenazi, and they raised her under the principles of Reform Judaism. She and Mark, however, allowed the kids to figure it out for themselves.

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