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2: Troubles of a Small Town

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Sheldon White, the Sheriff of West Harbour, felt more than heard his daughter, Clarice, barge into his office.

He looked up from the stack of files in front of him and just as he had expected, her expression was that of absolute lividity. The twenty five-year old clearly wasn’t pleased. “A good evening to you too, Clarice.” He smiled anyway. “Come to give your old man a good night kiss?”

The slim brunette was in no mood for jokes and she showed that by the slamming the piece of paper which she had previously held in a death grip on the desk; right on top of the files. “Can you explain to me what in the world this is supposed to mean?” she asked.

The sheriff took one glance at the paper- not that he needed to, actually- and gave a long sigh. He knew exactly what the content said and that it was never going to be well-received, least of all by the firebrand who now glared at him from where she stood. “Look, Clarice, the Mayor thought that it was-”

“He sold Festningen!” she cut in, shouting for whomever may care to hear. “And to a foreigner too.”

Sheldon sighed once again. It was obvious there he was nothing he could say in that moment that was going to help the matter and so he kept quiet.

Deflated, Clarice dropped unceremoniously into a chair opposite him. “Dad, how could you have allowed this to happen?” she asked.

“Gummy bear, I don’t exactly have the power to not let it happen,” he replied, shrugging a little to show his helplessness.

Thing is, apart from being just a concerned resident- and right now, a really angry daughter- Clarice White was West Harbour’s top legal representative. Due to the town’s small size, she handled and assisted the town in all kinds of law, which included mortgage law that involved the sale of the heritage castle of the town Festningen, which the mayor had strictly instructed Sheldon not to tell Clarice about before he sold it and for good reason too.

Clarice would never have agreed to the castle being sold; no West Harbour local would; and although the mayor didn’t exactly need her or any other person’s approval to initiate and complete the sale, they would certainly make him feel like he did.

“I’m so sorry that Festningen has been sold, Clarice," Sheldon said after a while, "but I have to admit that I’m not entirely sad to see it go." The sheriff quickly raised his hand before he was interrupted. "True, the castle had been a point of attraction to the outsiders for a very long time in the past; but nowadays, people just aren’t that into it anymore. Without the profits, its upkeep has become a burden to the administration. Besides, this new owner, Michael Holger, the Mayor assures me that he’s a good man.”

“Dad, a politician will tell you that a polar bear is good if it had money.” Clarice scoffed.

“Be careful with your words, Gummy bear,” Sheldon returned immediately. “This isn’t just the Mayor of West Harbour you’re talking about here, you know. He’s also your uncle Ben.”

Although Clarice had never behaved like it, Benjamin Crawford, the town’s mayor, was actually a younger brother to her mother Denise. From what she'd heard, the two had been very close when they were young; and even extended to include her father Sheldon who was best friends with Ben and later married his sister- Clarice’s mother- Denise.

Unfortunately, the relationship fell apart after Denise died fourteen years ago in a flood that almost washed away the whole town; she had actually died saving a dog from drowning. It was very great loss and one that neither men seemed able to bear. Sheldon poured himself into his work as an officer and Ben took to politics; both of them making great strides in their respective paths but losing one another in the process.

Clarice grew up in the midst of that rift and although both men did try to change it, she never really got to liking her uncle Ben very much.

“You should have taken to politics instead of him all those years ago,” she said, sighing, “at least, you wouldn’t be making all these wrong decisions and selling the town’s most prized possession.”

“Clarice, there's nothing else to be done about it,” he said to her. “Just accept it and move past the trouble.”

“No.” Clarice snatched up the sale contract as violently as she had put it down and made for the door.

“And where are you going to?”

“To the castle, of course,” she replied as she walked out the door. “Mr. Holger’s about to realise that his first purchase in West Harbour was a very erroneous one.”

Sheldon gave another long sigh as the door shut behind her. He knew from the start that she was an headstrong young woman; and he kinda loved her for it. But the can of worms she was about to open wouldn’t end well for anybody, he could just feel it.

Knowing fully well however that she wouldn’t listen to whatever thing he said, he decided to settle for, “Good night to you too, Gummy bear.”

The sheriff’s thought turned to Michael Holger, Festningen’s new owner, as he tried to return back to the stack of files on his table still waiting to be finished. He could only pity the poor man; he had no idea what was coming for him.

Michael sat down at the head of the long dining table as the candelabra burnt low and a classical music streamed out of the old gramophone he had discovered in the corner of the room.

Truth be told, the ancient vampire took no pleasure in such frivolities; they were so mortal and he was anything but. But the situation felt like it warranted it and so, he indulged it.

Despite the fact that he had an army of chefs whom he’d hired from a top-notch culinary arts academy in France working in the kitchen just adjacent to the dining hall, the only thing that Michael allowed on his table was an aged bottle of Spanish red wine. Of course, it wasn’t that he couldn’t have ordered for the feast to be served; he’d certainly seen enough supernaturals delight themselves in the delicacies to give it a good try. But he felt that was just another way of playing mortal; and he wouldn't bring himself do it.

Mortals were weak, fragile, very short-lived. He’d rather face the hordes of hell than pretend to be like them.

But Michael’s refusal to be served dinner didn’t all stem from his dislike of mortals. Truth is, he’d already had dinner earlier that night; a waitress who had just clocked out of work.

In his defense, she came onto him first; apparently, she had a thing for rich, muscular men. At first, he had refused her as he never liked his meal to be so easy to catch; he felt it spoiled the thrill of the feed. But knowing fully well that he couldn’t afford to be picky, especially in a small town like West Harbour, he took what he found and enjoyed it to the best of his abilities.

Of course, he refrained from killing her; he could’ve but he didn’t. Michael was in West Harbour to get away from pesky attentions and the killing and draining of a mortal would certainly have piqued the curiosity of beings both normal and supernatural. So, he compelled her to return to return home to rest afterwards and forget all about the encounter of the night.

Unfortunately, all evidence of his feed couldn’t be easily erased as that being that the girl would probably wake up a little anemic the next morning. But that wasn’t going to be very problematic as the mortals themselves had already done a good job of conjuring up a number of reasons for anemia over the years that excluded vampires.

So, feeling good and on top of the world, Michael took a sip of the drink in his hand; and that was when it reached his senses. The sound of an engine- a car had just entered and packed in his compound- the click of heels as their owner walked across the gravel to the front door, and the scent of rose-fragrant perfume.

A woman had just arrived at the doorsteps of Festningen that night and she carried with her the smell of an aura the ancient vampire was all too familiar with; trouble.

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