Dead & Dealing

Catching Up

Someone had to invent coffee for vampires.

I used to think that when the sun had set I'd wake up and be fully aware, but I learned early on it was not the case. It was like it was humans. Some could sleep through an earthquake while others shot through the ceiling at the sound of a pin dropping a mile away. When I was human I fell somewhere in the middle and it had carried over into my undead life. I'd wake up without too much effort, but I was, kind of ironic now I think about it, an undead zombie until I had coffee like most of the country. Perhaps, like science suggested, I was unknowingly addicted, but if I had been it vanished when I met HER.

I rose that night like any other. I sat up, noted the lack of enemies with sharped stakes groping around in the dark, and got out of my bed. While vampires don't need to shower per say, most of us enjoy the feeling hot water leaves us and feeling clean. I found it a good way to start the day so speak and so I crossed my room to the door.

"Rrow?"

I looked down and saw Tux staring up at me with huge eyes.

"Good morning to you too." I said.

"Rrow!" Tux began rubbing against my leg.

"Alright." I bent down to scratch behind her ear. "I'll fix something after my shower."

I turned the light on the hallway for Tux before I stepped in the bathroom. I flipped on the lights and ran the water hot as I undressed and tossed my clothes into a pile in the corner. I noted that either I had to make a trip to the laundry room downstairs or I would have to buy fresh clothes in a day or two. I made sure to turn on the radio that sat next to the sink before I stepped in. It was a habit I developed when I was first turned and not cared how long I took or how much hot water I was using. Until Apple released the iPod in about a decade, I couldn't control when or what song played. Luckily, Z100 had settled on one of Micheal Jackson's singles from a few months before and I hummed along as I tapped my foot.

I took my baby on a Saturday bang

Boy is that girl with you

Yes we're one and the same

Now I believe in miracles

And a miracle has happened tonight

But, if you're thinkin' about my baby

It don't matter if you're black or white

I tended to linger in the shower. Regina had always taken pride in her appearance and that was evident in the products she put in her hair. She had conveniently forgotten to take them with her so I decided make use of them. So I used some wonderfully scented shampoo that I followed with something called creme rincer which was french for cream rinse. I finished with a conditioner that, according to label, gave my hair that professional salon look with none of the hassle. For the rest of my body, I just used a bar of Irish Spring soap which according to Doyle was a misnomer.

I shut off the flow of water and stepped out. I must have been in longer than I realized or the water had been much hotter than it felt because bathroom was resembling a sauna with all the steam. I grabbed a towel from the rack it hung on and quickly dried myself. I then threw it around my neck and walked out to let the bathroom air out. I still felt a bit out of it, but hopefully the shock of hot to cold would help. That was of course if the heat was off to the apartment. Since I wasn't sensitive to temperature as I had been, I hardly touched the dial. It could be set at seventy degrees or below freezing for a year and I wouldn't notice until some human pointed it out.

I was sluggishly pondering if the scent of coffee would be enough when I heard a voice. "Dominick . . . . . . ?"

I slowly turned and saw Christine standing in a lavender nightgown.

That was when the previous night's events rushed back to me. Mae had delivered part of my payment for helping Matthew's problem with the Weres which had led to me needing some air because I wasn't sure how Mae and Matthew would handle HER leaving me on my own. I had entered the first movie theater I came across and enjoyed part of what would eventually be called the Disney Renaissance. Then it was on my way back that I stopped and killed a group of men that I think were part of gang called the Latin Kings. They had cornered Christine and since I was unaware of her Shifter status I had thought she was defenseless. It wasn't until I had miscounted how many I had killed and Christine had been shot while in her Shifter form, a Doberman Pincher with undocked ears and tail, whom I thought was just a stray that been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Uh, okay?" I said unable to come up with something more coherent. "Not sure, but really really hoping . . ." I pointed downwards. "Pants?"

She shook her head then quickly looked away.

"Give me second." I took the towel from around my neck and arranged it around my waist. "There!"

She looked and appeared unsure. "Um, it's not much."

"Heh!" I couldn't help but chuckle. "I'm so glad you didn't say that first."

To my surprise, she threw herself at me and I was wrapped in a tight embrace. I wasn't taller than her so her hair tickled when buried face in my shoulder. I smiled and wrapped my arms around her. She felt so warm against my bare skin it was impossible to tell if she running a fever or not, but I didn't care. Finally, some luck. For that brief little moment, I had everything I had ever wanted. Not only was i free, both from my human and undead woe, but I finally had my friend back. If I was honest, I was expecting confusing mixed with fear at best. Who knew it could feel this good to be wrong?

"I knew it!" I heard Christine sniffle and I smiled. I knew just how to stop her from crying. "You'd never be so stupid!"

"Hey, hey." I gently rubbed her back to sooth her. "What's wrong? I haven't seen you cry since we saw Bambi freshman year."

"Shut up!" She snapped halfheartedly while sniffling in my shoulder.

"Then next week when we saw The Little Mermaid." I chuckled. "When Ursula stole Eric from Ari — "

Naturally, I got the response I wanted and she shoved me away. If there was one thing I could never forget about her was that she hated when someone insinuated she was one of girly girls that cried at the drop of a hat and wore a lot of pink dresses. Only a chosen few could and live to tell the tale and fortunately I was one of them. Unfortunately, she followed up the shove with a hard slap. I saw it coming, but I was so surprised that it never occurred to me to duck.

"Oookay." I said as I recovered. "Nice to see you haven't changed."

I heard her hand cut through the air and I instinctively caught it. I tried not to smile, but the look of her surprise on her face was priceless. I didn't have much time to enjoy it though. She snarled and drew her arm back to slap with her free hand which I caught just easily as the first. I held onto wrists, but I made sure not to grip her too tightly so not to hurt her.

"Let go!" She spat while tried to free herself. "Let go of me!"

"Calm down." I said. "You might tear open — "

"Ah!" Christine suddenly jumped which I took to mean her wound hadn't closed up completely and she had overexerted herself.

I instantly let go and realized it was a mistake. Her lips twitched into a smile and drew her arm back again. This time I let her actually throw the punch, but this time I grabbed her wrist and turned her around so that her back was against me. Without letting go, I pinned her arm across her stomach. Before she could use it, I held down her free arm against her side. Naturally she struggled to get free, but either she was weak from being shot or vampires were stronger than even Shifters because I found it surprisingly easy to hold her against me.

I also could feel her anger roll off of her in waves like a roaring inferno. I don't mean the kind where people made it blatantly obvious. I could literally feel her anger almost as if it was my own, but it was not my own. It was like there were two people, me and her inside my head. That was when I recalled what Kim had told me about the effects of drinking vampire blood and the bonding it did. I would be able to sense Christine's general mood, which was completely unnecessary, and know when she close which was also unnecessary.

"Now are going to calm down and listen to me?" I asked.

"Fuck you!" She spat.

"If you calm down and play you're cards right, maybe." I said. "We used to be friends. Remember?"

"What friend pretends to be dead for two years?!" She demanded.

"Isn't it obvious?" I was confused. She had to know vampires couldn't stay in their home area. "I had to disappear."

"Why?!" She continued to struggle, albeit with less enthusiasm, and I was still confounded how she didn't know. Vampires couldn't so secretive that even other Supernaturals were unaware of even the most basic rules. "You owed money to Jimmy the Rat?"

"You remember how i was back then?" I said. "I was too scared to take a shower after I saw Jaws let alone get involved with a loan shark."

"Then why?" She tried suddenly with burst of desperate strength, but it did nothing and she relaxed. I guessed she had tired herself out "How the hell did you get so strong?"

"Take a deep breath."

"God dammit, I'm calm." She snapped.

"Through you're nose." I told her. I realized that she had failed to notice the faint glow my skin had along its pale complexion. No doubt she was too shocked at very sight of me she had missed a few key details. "What do you smell?"

"Just soap and way too many hair products." She responded and sounding confused. "Along with hot water."

"Try again." I encouraged and inched my arm, still holding her tight, higher so she could get a good whiff as they say. "Unless Shifters don't have as strong a nose as Weres."

"How did . . ." Christine turned her head as far as she could and glanced out of the corner of her eye for a moment before she bent down sniffed my arm. "Oh . . . god."

That was when I let her go. I sensed something wrong from our slight blood connection. Rather than scream or try to hit me again, Christine dashed right into the bathroom. Hardly a second later I heard her heave into the toilet. I went in to see if she was alright, but I think Henry must have found out where I lived because the door slammed shut. That or, something far more likely, Christine shut the door herself.

"Rrow?" I looked to see Tux staring up at me curiously.

"You're guess is as good as mine." I said. "Though ten bucks says it's the shock."

"Rrow!" She began rubbing against my leg.

"Nice to see you care so much about others. I'll feed you in a minute." I walked to the door and knocked. "Christine? Are you alright?"

"Get away!" She shouted.

"What's wrong?" I tried to turn the knob, but it wouldn't move. "Why did you lock the door?"

"Stay out!" She sounded scared and I could feel her fear. Then I heard a loud snap. "I have a stake!"

"No you don't." I said.

"Yes, I do!"

"You have a broken plastic towel rack." I told her.

"How . . . did . . ." She hesitated. "How did you know?"

"There's nothing made of wood in the entire bathroom." I said through the door. "In fact the only place where you could find something to make a stake would be the kitchen where I keep wooden spoons and take-out chopsticks." I went on. "Now you think you could find a chair to smash, but only chairs in the entire apartment are recliners."

I waited for a response, but she said nothing. I sniffed the air and caught the unmistakable scent of fear. Normally it was as alluring as the scent of fresh blood, but it made me uneasy. She no reason to be afraid. If I wanted to hurt her then it would been easy to do it when I first brought her into the apartment. I'll admit I wasn't expecting a marching parade, but did she really think I wouldn't remember our past together?

"So are you going to come out and talk to me?"

"So you can bite me? No thanks!"

"I already did."

"Bullshit!"

"Lift up the nightgown you're wearing." I told her.

"Nightgown?"

"Yes." I rolled my eyes. "Opposite your doberman tattoo." I paused for a moment for to follow my instructions. "You were shot last night. I carried you here and I had to bite down and suck the bullet out. I used my blood to stop the bleeding and feed you my blood to save your life."

"How do I know you're telling the truth?"

"Wuh de ma!" I muttered under my breath. "Why would I save you and then lie to you about it?"

"How do I know you didn't shoot me?"

"Brilliant!" I threw up my arms in frustration.

"Really?

"Yes. Brilliant impression of an idiot." I growled. "If I had shot you then why would I bother treating you?"

"Maybe you — "

"Wanted to keep you alive so I could possibly torture you?" I demanded angrily. "Then wouldn't I have strapped you down in the bed and left you in your bloody clothes or naked and not risk you waking up in the middle of day and escaping?" I counted to five in my head. "Well? I'm waiting."

"I don't know!" She shouted.

"That's it!" I'd had it. I had helped her, more than most people would do and probably no vampire would for a shifter, only to have her insinuate I had something to with it. "Stay in there all night. Just make sure you lock the door when you leave. I'd rather not hunt down my stuff along with my cat because someone didn't care enough."

I stalked off to my room and slammed the door behind me. I quickly slipped into a pair of boxers and a red tanktop which I tucked into a pair of jeans. I threw on a shirt without really looking at it and tied my shoes in record time even for a vampire. Once dressed, I grabbed another set of clothes for Christine. Her clothes were either too bloody to wear without drawing attention or torn to shreds. She might very well refuse to wear them, but at least couldn't say i didn't offer. She could walk down Broadway naked for all I care.

I went to the bathroom door and knocked. "Are you going to come out?" I waited, but no response. "We both know you're in there. The least you could is talk to me. Am I right in assume that you're just going to stay in there until dawn?"

"Maybe." She said and she actually did a very convincing job of sounding defiant. "Why?"

"Do you have plan?" I asked. "Like catch a cab to Penn Station or something?"

"I'll figure something out." Christine sounded unsure, but she did an excellent job of hiding it in her voice. "Dawn's pretty far off."

"That's true." I agreed. "It's about a quarter to seven now. Sunrise is roughly twelve hours away give or take."

"Okay."

"So remind me. Your plan is to stay in there with a broken towel rack, and no clock now that I remember to know when the sun rises, for twelve hours?"

"Unless I think of something else." Christine laughed nervously. "Like I said, it's a work in progress."

"Well, half a day is plenty of time to think of something." I remarked calmly. "But can I point out something?"

"What?"

That was when I pushed the door down. Well, it was more of shove than a push. It was kind of like a quick jab with both hands, but it got the point across. The hinges couldn't hold the door in place and it came crashing down, splintering along the edges and sending little shards the size of toothpicks into the air. Rather than a blood curdling scream out of a Wes Craven movie, Christine made a surprised yelp.

"That!" I said and walked over the door toward her.. "You forgot even a plain human could do that."

"Stay back!" She hefted what I had guessed, a broken towel rack.

"Here." I threw the clothes at her feet once I was about two feet away from she was flushed against the wall and turned to leave.

It wasn't until reached the door that Christine spoke. "Is that it?"

"Sorry." I said. "But women's apparel is the next floor."

"No. It's not that, but . . ." She sounded calm, but unsure. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." I smiled politely and left.

I walked down the small corridor to the kitchen with Tux doing her best to trip me as she weaved between my legs. Apparently it was only a warning since I made it to the kitchen without incident, but Tux was clear in that I was risking a great deal by making her wait for her meal. I briefly wondered if I should make something for Christine. No doubt she would be quite hungry since I assumed she had slept most of the previous night and all of today. I settled to be safer than sorry and kill two birds with one stone.

I kept small containers of fish stock in the refrigerator if I ever decided t make a sauce for Tux's food or a soup. So I removed two containers as well as the left over fillets I used for Tux's dinner last night along with a handful of green beans, a couple stalks of celery, and a carrot. After slicing and dicing the celery, fillets, and carrots, I set a large pot on the stove and melted a bit of butter. I quickly tossed everything in the butter before pouring the stock over it. I finished by adding a handful of rice before sprinkling a bit of salt and pepper and left it to cook.

"Rrrow?"

I turned to see Tux sitting on the counter sampling the air eagerly.

"I know." I smiled. "I'm sorry, but it's not like we have guest everyday."

"Rrrow!"

"Now that's the conundrum." I teased. "Would you be eating human food or would she be eating cat food?"

I left the kitchen, making sure the soup was at a low simmer, and entered the living room. While I had yet to finish Rocky Horror Picture Show, I decided against tp get some work done first and opened the violin case that was resting against the recliner. I had picked it up at a pawn shop off of West 47th Street in Midtown. It was an impulse purchase along with a few vintage records and the owner had thrown in an old case and a sheet of music. For the past few weeks I always made sure to play for an hour a night. If I did miss a night, like the previous, I tried to play for two hours the next which meant tonight.

It was fortunate that I could already play both the piano and guitar fairly well. Fingering the neck of violin was more or less the same as guitar only smaller. The bow did provide a bit of learning curve when it came to learning to certain notes and chords, but the sheet music the owner had provided had a cheat sheet on the back. It had a very straight forward list of all the notes and their location on the string for first and third position. After that it was simple to play one note at a time and get a feel for each. It had taken me almost a month, but now I could say I was able to play the violin. Granted it was just the one, relatively simple, Irish folk song, but it was start. Perhaps in time I might even compose my own.

I paused after a few minutes to light a cigarette. Normally I would do what I usually did and order take-out and feed on whomever delivered, but I would have to make do. Knowing my luck Christine would use the opportunity to sink a stake in my back. Perhaps I should not have told her where and how she could make a stake in the apartment. As I puffed, I considered I had two options.

I could leave the apartment and seduce some girl in a bar. I recalled I haven't gone to bed with a women since my last night with HER. While I had gone twenty-one long years without the touch of a woman, I had no intention of doing that again. At least not willingly. My other option, provided Christine did not leave until sunrise, would be to forgo feeding tonight and drain a human tomorrow. I had more or less gotten over my hesitation to take a life, but I'd like to avoid unwanted attention. I'd probably head over to East Harlem or Chelsea and find some no name pimp or dealer.

I lost interest with my violin and laid on the couch. I looked up at the ceiling absentminded. I'm not sure how or why, but I began thinking how plain the ceiling was. It had never bothered me before, but I found it impossible to banish it from my mind. Instead, I gave in and my mind's eye toyed with possible images. It seemed sad and pathetic to paint it to look like a sunlit sky and it was redundant to paint it black and carefully arrange the constellations. It was too childish, even for me, to paint the Justice League from DC Comics on one side about to clash with Marvel's Avengers on the other. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel popped into my head and the thought of looking up at Il Divino's masterpiece would be an excellent change. Whatever I decided on meant two things. First, a large amount of time. Second, which was probably more important than the first, I'd have to learn to paint.

"Rrow?" Tux hopped onto my chest and her head encased my entire view.

"Well, when it comes to ceilings," I said. "He is famous for it."

"Rrow!"

"No." I scratched behind her ear. "But I have all the time to learn."

Tux suddenly whipped her head to the sound of metal clicking on metal. I figured the soup had begun to boil and the steam was trying to force the lid from the pot. I laughed as she sniffed the air curiously. She really had a one track mind when it came to food. Then again, I suppose it was the same for me in a way.

"Alright." I sat up and she hopped into my lap. "It should be — "

Christine was frozen like a deer in the headlights. I suspect that while I contemplated how I might paint the ceiling, probably retreating into myself like vampires did, she must have crept into the kitchen. She had probably figured she'd take a risk and try to cut through the kitchen to the door giving me a wide berth and holding her breath so I wouldn't hear her.

I tried not to laugh when she snatched the wooden spoon that I had used to stir the soup from the counter. I did manage a smile when she held it like a stake though. Now that my mind wasn't otherwise occupied, I could head her breathing and just faintest hint of a heartbeat which meant hers was racing.

Tux didn't seem to mind or care and leaped from the couch to the counter across from the stove. Christine just stared at her in confusion. I watched and resisted the urge to laugh while Tux switched her gaze between Christine and the soup. It was her way of telling Christine to serve her. It seemed Tux had been more than patient and hoped this new creature would be honored to cater to her every wish and whim.

"Rrrow!"

"Uh?" Christine switched her gaze to me for a moment then back at Tux. "Hello?"

"Rrow!"

"There goes one theory." I said. "She's hungry." I motioned behind her. "Her bowl is next to that big pot by the ladle. Just turn off the stove and fill her bowl. She'll take care of the rest."

To my surprise, Christine did exactly what I said. The entire time she always made sure to keep an eye on me. I sensed she had calmed down significantly, but she was still weary of me. Her emotions felt to be in a bit of turmoil. It only made sense. After all, she had woken up in a strange place after nearly dying from a gunshot wound. Even if she couldn't fully remember there was discovering she was alone in a vampire's lair. Then add to the fact that said lair, which sounds both cliche and pleasing at the same time, belonged to a vampire she had known well when he was human and had believed to be dead for the past two years.

I noticed she had changed into the clothes I gave her. I had grabbed the clothes in anger without looking or caring. Now I saw she was wearing my old Flash shirt. It was just a red shirt, a bit faded from years of use, with a a bright yellow lightning bolt over a white circle on the chest. It would become a well known symbol thanks to when The Big Bang Theory came to television in about fifteen years, but 2007 was a bit of a wait.

"Thanks." I said. "She can be annoying when she wants to be."

"Sure." She forced a smile.

"Can we talk?"

"About?"

"Well, you just found out a close is friend isn't dead. At least not the way you thought. I just found that a close friend could turn into a Doberman while I knew her." I shrugged. "Or we could we talk about Bill Clinton's foreign policy. Personally, I don't think we should give Russia sixty billion dollars to help them rebuild. I mean where is that money coming from?" I asked absentminded. "Even if he raises taxes for those making $200,000 a year to 35 or 36 percent, I don't think it'll be enough."

"Okay, I get it." She rolled her eyes at me. It was a start. "Nice to see that smart mouth didn't die with you." Then she covered her mouth and gasped. "Oh my god, Dominick, I am so sorry. I didn't mean it."

I laughed. The last time I saw her without her usual bravado and her playful attitude was during one of our rare visits to Manhattan. I had been tagging along while she visited possible colleges when she bumped into a one William Martin Joel or known better as Billy Joel. Unfortunately Billy was had just purchased a New York City staple from a cart on the corner, a hotdog with mustard and sauerkraut. Long story short, Billy ended up smelling like sauerkraut for a portion of the day and a large mustard stain on his shirt. Both Billy and I tried not to laugh as apologized at the speed of light while trying to wipe his shirt clean.

As for her remark about my smart mouth that was just what Christine brought out in me. Ask any women, or man for that matter, what they want in a person. Chances are funny is going to come up. I noticed and tried to bank on it, but I didn't get too far. Truth be told, after being insulted and ridiculed all throughout school one tends to grow a thick hide and come up with a few yourself. While I never had the courage to actually retaliate, due to the fact I could not physically back up my words, I never hesitated to use them when Christine was around and metaphorically score some points.

"Relax." I assured her. "Just sit down." I winked. "I promise I won't bite."

"That's not funny." She frowned.

"Noted." I motioned to the armchair across from me. "Now if you please."

While she was clearly nervous, she sat down. I sensed that she didn't view me as an immediate threat, but I was still a potential one which I suppose was true as far as vampire/shifters meetings went.

"So that do I call you?" I asked playfully. "Now that I know you and Chrissy are the same person and all."

"How did you know that?" She asked.

"I've had some time to think and realized that for reason or another, I've never seen you in the same place." I began counting on a hand. "The first time I met Chrissy, your dad said she was your dog and how you two were practically inseparable. Then there was the time you had the flu and I came over to drop off homework. Chrissy wasn't in the yard or in the house. I should have noticed that time you invited over for a barbeque. Your parents were there and an uncle, but not a single hair of Chrissy" I paused. "Need I go on?"

"Yeah." She nodded. "I'm Chrissy. I take after my mom. Dad's a Were, but she's a Shifter." She paused. "Well, she's more of a Weredog than a shifter."

"Meaning she can only change into a dog." I concluded. "While you can choose any animal you want."

"How did . . . how the hell . . ." Christine just stared. "How did you know that?"

"I didn't." I told her. "You just told me." I sat up and leaned forward. "You corrected yourself saying your mother was a Weredog instead of a Shifter like you. Since Werewolves can only turn into wolves, I assumed that a Weredog could only turn into a dog." I motioned to her. "Now you didn't correct me when I called you Shifter because that's how you see yourself. Based on all that, and the fact Shifter is short for shapeshifter, I guessed you have a bit more versatility." She just kept staring. "It was just a guess."

"And, uh, when did you put that together?"

"I'm not sure." I pause to think for a moment. "About the time you said the word Weredog?"

"Okay." She tactfully changed the subject. "So how did . . ." She waved up and down at me. " . . . this happen?"

"Do you remember the last time you saw me?" I asked. "A girl invited to party in the city."

"Yeah?" Then her eyes went wide for moment and I knew the other shoe had dropped. "Oh my god."

"Yeah." I picked up my cigarette case and lit one. "Imagine it from my end."

"I'd rather not."

"Me too." I puffed and relaxed as my hunger had subsided a bit. I held out the case. "Want one?"

"No thanks." She looked slightly confused. "Since when do you smoke?"

"Well, it's not like I have to worry about cancer." I moved an ashtray on the table closer to me. "Plus, I'm hungry."

"Hungry?" She repeated and her heart could practically be heard down the block. "Like right now?"

"Yes, right now." I tried not sound insulted. "But that's what these are for."

"How?"

"See how they're slightly pink." I handed her one to examine. "I drip blood into the tobacco and let them dry overnight." I blew out puff of pink smoke. "Actually, I lay them on windowsill and let them dry in the sun while I sleep. I still have to feed, but they help curb my appetite."

"You always were creative." She shook her head in disbelief. "My god, Dominick. How is this even happening?" She motioned to the whole apartment. "All this time instead of being killed in a drunk driving accident, you've been living it up barely train and cab ride away." She continued and I sensed she had to get it out or go insane. "I went to your funeral for god's sake. Me, Eric, James, Mike, Juan, Rob, Matt. We all couldn't believe you were gone." Then demanded. "Forget about your friends. What about your family? Your mother, brother, and your fath — "

"Hey!" I snapped before she could finish that particular "F" word. "Don't. You. Fucking. Dare!"

"Do you have any idea what you put them — "

"It wasn't my choice!" I shot up to my feet. "I didn't go around asking for this to happen." At least not the way things turned out. "You have no idea how terrifying it is to look your murderer in the face as she literally sucks the life out of you only to wake up in a coffin three nights later to find out that your life is over! No more food, no more sun, and the knowledge that if I even went within a hundred feet of a human I'd kill them because I couldn't control myself." I felt my fangs run out. "All I wanted to do was go back home. Instead I spent the next year unable to walk out the front door thanks to a few words!"

"I-I-I'm s-sorry." Christine backed up into the arm chair at the sight of my fangs, but I was too angry. Did she really think that I jumped at the very idea of being forced to end innocent lives that I causally tossed aside my previous life? "I d-didn't know."

"And you wanna know what really fucked up part was?!" I growled. "Little by little, without me noticing until it was too late, I began to forgive her. Then need her. Like a pathetic little puppy, I couldn't stand it when she left and a few hours felt like days. No matter what I did to distract myself — read, watch television, play the piano — I'd be lucky if I could go fifteen minutes without glancing at the door because I thought I had heard her voice."

Neither of said a word for a bit. I was reeling back my anger. I knew it it wasn't her fault, but dammit for the good it did either of us. Christine was recovering from both my outburst and trying to imagine what I went through. I could feel the swelling mass of emotions. Shame for accusing of abandoning my family and loved ones. Anger and hatred for the one that caused it along with a slight desire for revenge. Then there was the fear at the very base of it. Try as she might, she couldn't shake the instinct she was in the presence of predator. If vampire were in tune with their instincts then Shifters and Weres were probably as well.

"W-w-where?" She said finally while I sank back into my chair.

"What do you mean where?" I was caught off guard, but I motioned to HER room. "In there. The room where you woke up."

"No," She said. "I mean where is she?" She hesitated for a moment as if to see I was going to attack before went on. "I don't much about vampires. Dad says there haven't been a lot vampires on Long Island for the last hundred years and even then you apparently don't share a lot of information"

"Your point?"

"Isn't the vampire that turns a human have to stick around for a while?" She asked. "To teach 'em and stuff?"

"And you think she's not going to like that not only I rescued a shifter, but someone from my human life." I paused to choose how much exactly I wanted to tell her. "If you're scared she'll hurt you then you can relax. She's not here."

"But she's coming back?"

"Eventually." I said. "But not anytime soon."

"When?"

"Not sure." I admitted. "But not tonight."

"So you have the apartment to yourself?" She made a nervous smile.

"Yes, but I had to promise not throw a giant party." I smiled gently. "And I'm not suppose to have any girls over. On the other hand, she did me plenty for pizza."

"Oh my god, that reminds me." She looked around the room. "Can I use your phone?"

"What for?"

"I have to call my boss."

"I know this New York and people are shot everyday, but I think he'll understand that you need some time to recover." I reached for another cigarette. Christine must have had more of blood than I thought. "You might just want to tell them you ate some bad chicken. I'm not an expert on gunshot wounds, but yours won't look fresh."

"That and there won't be a record." She added. "Hospitals have to report gunshot wounds to the police. Though it wouldn't be the first time some paperwork disappeared."

"So you have people in place at the hospitals and the police." I concluded. "It makes sense once you think about it. Shifters and Weres have bad luck everyone else."

"How do you keep doing that?!" She demanded, but I sensed she was more amazed than angry. "What's with the Sherlock shtick?"

"Elementary, my dear Christine!" I teased as I slipped into a British accent. "I know your father was an officer when you were a child. Since the general public is unaware of the existence of Weres and Shifters and your father couldn't have been the first and only Were to become one, I can deduce that a system was set in place for that exact reason. Now you can't be the first Shifter to become a doctor of some sort so something similar must have occurred in the hospitals." I made a small dramatic bow and dropped the accent. "As for the whole Sherlock bit, I can't really explain it. Things just line up for me in way that makes sense in my head." I shrugged. "I had no idea I was even remotely right until now."

"Um, okay." Christine looked like she didn't know what to make of what I said. "So can I use your phone?"

"Sure." I pointed to the kitchen. "It's on the wall over there."

She got up to use the phone and began to think. Part me of wondered if I should tell her that even among vampires I wasn't normal. She had already caught on, if only an inkling, that I was more intelligent than she remembered. While she might that chalk up to not spending time together in two years for now, I would either be forced to tell her or she would figure it out herself. I briefly considered why it would matter in the slightest to me whether or not if she knew. It wasn't like I could read her mind or see through her clothes with X-ray vision.

My thoughts were interrupted by Christine and whomever was on the other end, presumably her boss. I know it was rude to eavesdrop, but that was the curse of vampire hearing. You wouldn't believe the stock secrets I heard whenever I hailed a cab on Wall Street being yelled into cellphones in countless languages.

"I'm sorry, ." Christine said. "But I lost my pager."

"And your cellphone?" said a gruff male voice, Dr. Laurie I assumed.

"That too."

"Have you tried your boy toy's bedroom?" The good doctor asked.

"What?!"

"Two reasons why you wouldn't show up to work without calling." Dr. Laurie explained. "Too much booze or too much sex. Since you don't sound hungover that pretty much narrows it down."

"I — "

"Just get over here."

"Alright."

"And pick up some coffee." I heard the sound of papers being ruffled. "It's going to be long night and you're playing catch up."

"Yessir!"

"The Human Resources Department must have field day with that guy." I said once Christine hung up and sat down. "If that's how he speaks to the nurses."

"That's how he is." She sighed before she scowled at me. "And what are you doing listening in?"

"Couldn't help it." I pointed to me ear. "Sensitive hearing, remember?"

"Oh right." She stood slowly. "Laurie's an ass, but he's harmless."

"Still, I never thought I'd live to see the day you let someone speak to you like that." I smiled. "Although, I suppose I didn't."

"Funny." She said dryly.

"I try." I responded. "Don't tell me your still planning on going back to work after being shot."

"It's not work exactly." She put a hand over her hip. "He doesn't pay me. I'm his apprentice."

"This isn't the Middle Ages." I frowned. "Doctors, or anyone really, don't have apprenticeships anymore."

"Officially, I'm a hospital secretary." She explained. "But unofficially, I'm his apprentice. I follow him and his team around, participate in differential diagnoses, get some real world experience."

"And get the coffee and doughnuts."

"Yeah, but it's a huge honor." She offered. "It's like playing college baseball and then Babe Ruth calls you up out of the blue to be his bat boy during the World Series."

"I think I get it." I said. "Just replace Baberuth with Batman, bat boy with Robin, and World Series with The Justice League." Then I remembered something. "Oh, and playing college baseball with mall cop.

"Whatever." She rolled her eyes. "The point is it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from one of the best."

"And are you sure you'll be fine?" I asked. "You were just shot hardly twenty-four hours ago. My blood might have saved your life, but I'm hardly two years old. I've been shot before and it took me a bit to recover."

"You were shot?!"

"Long story." I said. "Short version, yes, but I had blood to speed things up. You can't exactly do that."

"I'll be fine." She insisted.

"Which hospital?"

"Bellevue."

"Hold that thought." I got from the chair and went to the phone. "I need to check something."

I reached the phone and dialed Barnabe's number. There was something I needed and Barnabe seemed like the best to ask. It rang three times and then the answering machine picked up. I checked my watch and saw it would be strange for a normal tailor shop to be open, but I couldn't be the only nocturnal client of Barnabe that might need to reach him.

"Gregoire's." said Barnabe via the answering machine. "While I or my skilled staff would love to help you look your very best, we are sadly unavailable. Either leave message or please try again later." Then came the beep for me to leave a message.

"Barnabe, j'appelle pour vous remercier pour votre récent chef-d'œuvre. Nos superviseurs ont adoré." I said in french in case Christine overheard. I might not have a problem knowing where I lived, but Barnabe might. I also couldn't risk anyone listening to the message. Barnabe would know the sound of my voice. "Je voulais aussi poser —"

"Vous faites un bon nom pour vous-même, Ductor." said Barnabe teasingly. "To what do I owe the honor?"

"I was wondering if you knew any dry cleaners." I continued in french.

"Dry cleaners?" He repeated. "What have you done now? You've hardly had the coat for more than a few months now."

"Nothing that warrants a new one." I said smoothly. "I just need a place that stays open a bit later than normal and knows how to get tomato stains out."

"Tomato stains?" He asked suspiciously.

"I was in the mood for Italian last night." I explained. "And some stray ragu got on my coat, if you understand what I mean."

"I understand." Barnabe chuckled lightly. "It happens to the best of us, but do be careful in the future."

"If you know any near Bellevue, I'd appreciate it."

"May I ask why?"

"Sally the coroner and I have plans for tonight." I told him. "I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone, so to speak."

"Very well." Barnabe agreed. "I just so happen to know one that caters to our needs."

"Merci." I said once Barnabe gave me the information I needed. "I'll tell them you recommended them."

"That should be enough for them not to act carelessly." Barnabe offered. "But if you wish to be safe, I suggest you use your new moniker. It carries great weight."

"I'll consider it. Goodbye and thank you, Barnabe."

"Jusqu'à la prochaine fois, mon ami." Barnabe said and we hung up.

I returned to the living room and picked up the blood stained coat I used to hide and carry Christine to the apartment.

"There's an old leather jacket in the last room at the end of the hall. It was snowing last night and it still might be cold outside." I told her. "While you're there, there's an old black sweatshirt in the bottom drawer of the dresser. I'd appreciate it while I refill Tux's bowl and grab my keys."

"What are you talking about?" Christine asked.

"I'm coming with you."

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