On the Saturday before Halloween—on the night of Josie’s brother’s Halloween party—Scott got dressed in the navy blue suit he wore to court. He wore a white shirt under it and his most utterly boring tie—a blue one, the same shade as his suit, with tiny diagonal white stripes across it. Josie had asked for it specifically.
Scott still didn’t know why she wanted him to dress like a lawyer, but she had some plan for their joint entrance. It wasn’t his to reason why; it was just his to do or die. Or just do; he still wasn’t capable of dying.
He was looking at himself in the bathroom mirror—thank God he still had a reflection—wondering at what point he had become a middle-aged stuffed-shirt, when Josie called from the top of the stairs.
“Hey, Scott, are you ready to go?”
“Sure,” he said, flipping off the bathroom light. He picked up his keys from the nail beside the stairs and went up the steps.
“Do I need anything else?” he asked as he joined Josie.
She glanced over him. “You look perfect. I have a briefcase for you out in the car.”
He noticed that Josie was boringly dressed as well. She had on a black sweater set, gray dress slacks, and patent-leather flats. But then he noticed she had a white bandage wrapped around her right ankle.
He looked up at her to say something, then saw she had some scrapes on her face and an eye that was threatening to turn black.
“Josie! Did you fall?” he asked, gently reaching for her.
She laughed. “No, silly, that’s part of my costume. The rest of it is in the car.”
“Are… are you going as my victim?” he asked nervously. He didn’t like playing into the stereotype of violent vampires; he didn’t find it funny.
“Yes, but not in the way you think,” she said mysterious, a gleeful smile on her face.
“I wish you would tell me what we’re supposed to be.”
“Oh, just wait for it. Now, come on, we’re fashionably late, but I don’t want to be annoyingly late.”
Reluctantly, he followed her out, locking the office door behind him.
They took her car to Nashville. As they drove through the west side of the city, Scott noticed the posh condos giving away to new and historic old-money homes.
“What does your brother do for a living?” he asked as he looked out the window. He had never seen so many gas lamps before. You must have made it when you could afford gas lamps lighting your driveway.
“He’s a pediatric oncologist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.”
It took Scott a moment to digest the jargon. “He works with kids who have cancer?” he translated.
Scott was thoughtful for a few minutes. “And I thought being a lawyer was occasionally a depressing job,” he mused.
“He says that it will probably wear on him eventually, but right now he likes it. He says… well, you should ask him about it. He has an interesting way of looking at it.”
“What’s his wife do?”
“She’s the fund-raising director for a Jewish charity that provides books to low-income children and establishes libraries in small communities where there’s not a public library. She is usually gone four days a week, traveling all over the country to give talks and host charity dinners.”
“That sounds kind of rough.”
“She loves it; she loves the travel. And my brother has his schedule worked out so that he works four twelve-hour shifts at the hospital, so they have three days together. Ariel feels like they have more time together that way—three whole days instead of a few hours here and there. And given that my brother almost always works overtime every day, they wouldn’t even have those few hours together in the evenings anyways, which means they’d only see each other two days a week.”
“Sounds like a pretty good system,” Scott admitted.
Josie drove them into the super-posh Belle Meade community and turned off the main road. A couple of blocks over, she turned into a gated driveway, complete–Scott noticed—with gas lights on the gate.
Josie drove slowly up the driveway, but didn’t make it far before encountering cars parked on either side. She parked behind the last one on the right. “Looks like there’s a big turn out tonight,” she said, as she cut the engine and turned off the lights.
“Is there usually?”
“Oh, yeah. I think anybody who’s not working at the hospital tonight will be here.” She laughed. “If you were ever going to have a heart attack, this is the place to have it.”
They got out of the car.
“Synagogue is the second best place to have one,” she added. “There are plenty of doctors there too, plus you can get prayed for.”
She opened the back door of her car and bent over, rummaging around in the backseat. Scott went to stand beside her, and she thrust an old-fashioned, hard-sided leather briefcase at him. “This is for you,” she said.
He took it. “What’s in it?” he asked, thinking he heard something sloshing around in it.
“Just some junk papers and files for looks. Oh, but I did put some of your business cards in there. Feel absolutely free to hand them out to anyone who’s interested. We are not above networking at any time.”
“‘We’ as in your family, or as in Jews in general?’”
“Yes.” She laughed. “Oh, and as a warning, Ariel will pump you for money at some point tonight. It’s like she spends so much time fund-raising, she can’t quit.”
“Well, it does sound like a good cause.” He watched as Josie started to put on stuff, but he couldn’t figure out what, exactly, it was yet. “Does she only take money, or do they want actual books? Clarice might have some that she’s outgrown.”
“I think they prefer money, but they do hold book drives at least twice a year to collect used books. I’m sure Ariel will tell you all about it—whether you want to know or not.”
Josie straightened up and shut the car door. Scott could finally see that she had on cervical collar. Her left arm appeared to be in a cast, and she had it positioned in a sling around her neck. In her right hand she held a cane. “Ready, Mr. Cunningham?”
“O-kay,” he said slowly, starting to get an inkling of her costume idea.
They walked together up the driveway—no ordinary concrete for it; it was paved with pea gravel and trimmed in red brick. They were nearly to the top before Scott got a good view of the brick house hiding in the shadows of the old trees. It was easily a million dollar house.
He suddenly felt very poor—almost as poor as when he had been sleeping in his car and hiding from the sunlight under a tarp.
The wind was blowing cool, rustling and rolling leaves across the driveway, when Josie—suddenly limping and leaning heavily on her cane—stepped up to the front door and rang the doorbell. Hidden nearby was a speaker playing a typical Halloween soundtrack with wind, moans, rattling chains, creaking doors, and the occasional scream. But under that, Scott could hear the distant thump of techno music.
A moment later, a man wearing green scrubs, a stethoscope, and a surgical head covering—in what appeared to be Spongebob print—opened the door.
He looked at Josie for a moment, blinking in surprise. “Did you get hurt and not tell me?” he finally asked.
“Yes, I had a slip and fall,” she said casually. Then she turned and gestured to Scott. “Michael, I’d like you to meet Scott Cunningham, my bloodsucking lawyer. He’ll be representing me.”
It took Michael a moment, but then he burst out laughing, all but doubling over with it. Josie’s laughter mixed with it, and even Scott had to grudgingly chuckle. He ought to have known that Josie, the English major and writer, would make a multi-layered joke.
“Get in here, worm,” Michael said, when at last he caught his breath.
Josie grinned at him, then fixed her face in a mask of pain, hobbling in, looking as if she could barely walk.
Michael put his hand out. “Scott, nice to meet you; I’m Michael. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“I’m sure,” he said, shaking Michael’s hand.
Then Michael smiled at him and stepped back, holding the door wide open. “I, Michael Fein, owner of this house, do hereby invite you in.”
“Thank you,” Scott said, chuckling, as he stepped inside the darkened foyer, lit only with a black light. “I see you are going as yourself, too,” Scott said, gesturing to Michael’s scrubs.
“Actually, I’m on call tonight. I have a patient who’s going downhill fast; I don’t expect her to last until Monday. There’s nothing left that I can do but talk to her family when the time comes.”
Scott felt stunned—speaking of real life and death in the middle of a party celebrating and caricaturizing it. It was surreal.
Michael seemed to notice he had made Scott uncomfortable, and he slapped him on the arm in a friendly way. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.”
“Aw, now you have to try my extra bloody Bloody Mary some time tonight.”
Scott perked a brow. “An extra bloody Bloody Mary?”
Michael grinned. “Yeah, come on and I’ll make you one. It’s getting rave reviews from my undead colleagues.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee