Josie’s brother, Michael, lead Scott through the house. To the left, there was a set of glass French doors which opened onto a large, plush-looking living room. It was lit with black and red lights and strings of blue and red twinkle lights. It was also filled with people, standing, sitting, talking.
The hallway lead into the dining room, which also opened into the living room. The lighting there was a bit brighter: orange bulbs and twinkle lights.
The large table—which would comfortably seat a dozen people—was loaded with black platters stacked with food, many in goulish designs.
Scott noticed someone pick up what appeared to be an index finger and give it a sniff. Then he looked around and, seeing Michael, called out to him. “Hey, Doc, what is this?”
“What does it look like, Stan?”
“A finger. You’re not bringing your work home with you, are you?”
Michael laughed. “No. It’s a sugar cookie with a sliver of almond for a fingernail. I think there’s a little dusting of cinnamon on it, too.”
“Ariel found the recipe for it in a magazine. Isn’t it good?”
“Looks like a real finger,” Stan confirmed.
Michael lead Scott around the corner, to a set of basement steps. They had to stand back for a moment while a couple of hot women came up the stairs. The blonde woman in the lead was wearing a very skimpy nurse’s outfit that put all of her assets on display. Behind her was a woman in a black bouffant wig and an Elvira gown, which likewise had her attractively displayed.
They were chatting as they came up the stairs—Elvira complaining that the dress was ‘a pain in the ass’ to walk in—when the blonde looked up and noticed Michael and Scott at the top of the steps. “Hey, Michael,” she said with a grin.
“Hey Anna. I see you dressed to your occupation tonight, too.”
“Oh, but I’m bad Nurse Turner tonight.”
“I bet you are.”
“This is my friend, Stacey,” she said, gesturing to Elvira behind her. “She works in Billing.”
“Hello, Stacey. Welcome to my House of Horrors.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile. “You have a really fabulous home.”
“Come back in December for our holiday party; it looks more normal then.”
“Thanks, I might do that.”
“Help yourself to food,” he said, gesturing back to the dining room. “There’s cokes and non-alcoholic drinks in there, too, on the sideboard.”
The ladies passed by them, and Scott had to remind himself to not watch as they walked away; he needed to be on his very best behavior around Josie’s brother. But he noticed that Michael didn’t have the same qualms.
Michael noticed Scott look at him, and he grinned sheepishly. “As a doctor, I’m in the habit of always diagnosing people. That’s why I watch them.”
“Ah.” Scott started to follow Michael downstairs. “You know, as a lawyer, I’m in the habit of constantly sniffing out bullshit.”
Michael’s laughter echoed off the stairwell. “I would think, as a lawyer, that you would be in the habit of constantly making up bullshit.”
“You have to make it to understand it.”
The basement looked to be a man’s playground, with a large, open room that featured a black leather sofa and two matching recliners, a plasma television, a pool table, and two antique pinball machines. There were some people playing the machines, and the pinging, clacking, and blooping of the machines almost overwhelmed the thump of the techno beat which seemed to be coming from nearby.
There were numerous model airplanes hanging from the ceiling of the rec room and many pictures of them on the walls. It wasn’t easy to identify most of them, though, because, like the rest of the house, the basement game room was darkly-lit with black lights. They were only briefly illuminated by the flashing lights of the pinball machines.
In one corner of the room—under red lights—was a large bar with every shape of glass imaginable hanging above it or in an overhead cabinet. Behind it was enough bottles of booze to supply a small pub.
There was a zombie behind the bar with a martini shaker in his hand.
“What’s up, Doc?” he asked.
“What’s that?” Michael asked, pointing down. “Did you lose a finger?”
The zombie-man looked down, then he laughed, realizing he had been taken in. “More like I dropped some brains,” he replied.
Michael began working behind the bar. “Roger, this is Scott Cunningham.”
Roger the Zombie offered his hand. “Nice to meet you, Scott.”
“Scott is an attorney down in Clarksboro. He’s my sister’s boyfriend.”
“Ah, the vampire,” Roger said with interest.
Michael put a glass on the counter. “I don’t know what’s more ironic: a bloodsucking lawyer or an undead pathologist.” He noticed Scott looking at him in confusion. “Roger is a pathologist,” he explained. “He performs autopsies.”
Roger poured the martini into two glasses. “And, like yourself, I am among the undead.”
“Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?” Michael said with a smile.
“Yes, but I wasn’t a lawyer when I turned,” Scott said. “I went to law school afterwards.”
“What did you do before?” Michael asked, curiously.
“I was a manager at a car factory.”
“Management,” Roger said with a feigned shudder. “That’s a bloodsucking occupation, too.”
“I think you meant back-stabbing,” Michael corrected.
“Regardless, blood is spilled.”
Michael poured the glass full of a thick liquid; in the dim, red light, it was hard to tell if it was actually red or some other color.
“You making an extra bloody Bloody Mary?” Roger asked, eyeing the glass as he plopped a couple of olives in the martinis.
“Yep. Want one?”
Michael pulled down another glass.
Roger picked up the two martini glasses. “I’ll be back in a few.” He went around the bar to the sliding glass door and tried to juggle the glasses while opening the door. Scott hurried to open it for him.
“Thanks,” Roger said, although his voice was nearly drowned out by the techno music. Scott peeped out, as Roger disappeared into the crowd. It looked like there was some sort of patio under an upper-story deck, and it had been closed in with black walls. There were a few black lights overhead, and a white strobe light oscillated drunkenly, flashing light randomly over the mass of people dancing. There was even a dry-ice fog machine producing a low-level fog that made it look as if no one had legs below the knee.
Scott shut the door, dampening the music. “How many people are here?” he asked Michael, as he returned to the bar.
“I haven’t a clue,” Michael said, as he poured the viscous liquid in another glass. “Last year we made and ordered enough food for a hundred people and it was all gone before the night was over. We upped it to two hundred this year.”
“Ariel and I don’t get to socialize much because of our work schedules. When she’s home on the weekends and I’m off, we just want to spend time together and rest, you know? She spends most of her time living out of hotel rooms and airports, and I work sixty hours a week most of the time.
“So we throw a few parties every year and invite people over—family, friends, co-workers, friends-of-friends. It’s our way of being social, plus we get to meet a lot of new people. I had never met Roger until he showed up here one Halloween… oh, three or four years ago. Now he’s one of my best friends. I’ll go down to the morgue and visit him if I’m not really busy. His patients can afford to wait on him,” he added with a wry grin.
Michael picked up a bottle of clear vodka, adding a generous splash of it to both glasses. He rummaged around the counter for a moment, before pulling up a couple of sticks of celery. He used one to stir up each glass well, then he finally handed the entire concoction to Scott.
“One extra bloody Bloody Mary.”
Scott picked up the glass, cautiously sniffing it. The scent of vodka was strong, but not so strong that he couldn’t clearly smell blood, too.
“Extra bloody,” Scott muttered with a smile. Michael leaned on the bar, grinning at him.
Scott raised the glass in a salute to him, then took a sip.
It was much stronger than the alcoholic blood he had gotten from Gus, the French chef. He put the glass down, bracing himself against the counter as his stomach roiled. He wasn’t sure if he was going to be sick or not.
“Did I make it too strong?” Michael asked, looking concerned. “I made Roger hurl the first time I made it. I’ve been tinkering with how much vodka I put in it, so now he can drink it, but maybe he’s just gotten used to it.”
Scott’s stomach slowly settled back down. “I’m okay,” he said.
“Here…” Michael said, pouring more blood in the glass until it was filled nearly to the top. “That’ll water it down a bit. Or… whatever. You know what I mean.”
Scott smiled a little, then took a more cautious sip. The alcohol wasn’t quite as strong and his stomach didn’t protest nearly as much.
Scott nodded. “Yeah.”
“Sorry, I should have gone lighter for your first.”
“I didn’t even know you could do this,” Scott said, taking another small sip. “I’ve had alcoholic blood before, but that was from a person who had drank alcohol before being bled.”
Michael looked surprised. “I never thought about doing it that way. Huh,” he said, sounding impressed.
A moment later the low thudding beat roared to life as Roger opened the patio door. Fog swirled around his ankles as he shut it behind him.
“Hey, Roger, did you know you can get alcoholic blood if you bleed a person after they’ve been drinking?”
Roger looked thoughtful for a moment. “Makes sense.” He walked over to the bar and pointed to the other glass sitting there. “Mine?”
“Yeah,” Michael said, pushing it towards him.
“I wonder how it compares to this?” he asked, taking a measured sip.
“Much more mild,” Scott said. “And smooth. It doesn’t hit your stomach like a rock.”
“Does it taste like real alcohol, though?”
Scott considered it. “You can tell it’s alcoholic, but no, it’s not like real alcohol. Not like this.”
“Sounds interesting, but I think I’ll stick to this.” He looked at Michael. “What’s on in the theater?”
Michael looked at his watch. “Um… I think Frankenstein is almost done.”
“Want me to change it out?”
“What should I put on?“
“Anything you want—or whatever everyone else wants. I have a stack of stuff by the projector.”
“I’m feeling in the mood for something… vampirish, I think,” Roger said, patting Scott on the back as he walked past.
“I’ve got the original Dracula in there and the one with Gary Oldman, and the original and remake of Nosferatu, and… a bunch of other stuff; I can’t remember it all.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Roger said, wandering off down the hallway with his drink in hand.
Michael watched him go. “Roger was a hard drinker before he turned,” he told Scott in a low voice. “He used to be able to drink anyone under the table and stay sober. It was kind of eerie. Now he can’t really drink—not much—and I think he misses it.” Michael looked at Scott. “Someone told me he wasn’t like that before his wife left him.”
“If I knew I could drink like this,” Scott said, gesturing to his glass, “I would have been doing it after my wife left me, too.”
Michael leaned on the counter again. “Do you mind me asking what happened?”
“She couldn’t handle me being a vampire,” Scott said simply.
“Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t think vampires would be my sister’s thing, either, but sometimes she’ll surprise you. Growing up, she always walked around with her nose in a book and used big words to show off her superiority. Somewhere, though, there must have been a secret stash of vampire romances,” he said with a grin.
“Or maybe I’m just an awesome person,” Scott retorted.
“Well, there is always that,” Michael conceded.
Scott looked around. “Speaking of Josie, have you seen her since we got here?”
“Nope.” He laughed. “You must not have taken my sister to any parties or out shopping if that surprises you.”
“Because she and Becca both can disappear into a crowd like smoke. You’ll be talking to one of them, thinking they’re behind you, but you turn around and find there’s no one there. They’re like cats; they show up again when they want to be found.”
Michael’s face sobered. “Has she warned you about our parents?” he asked in a low voice.
“Yeah, I’ve heard all about them,” Scott replied, taking another sip from his drink. It was starting to agree with him more. Or, rather, his stomach was starting to disagree less.
Michael got a beer out for himself, popped the cap off, and poured it into a beer glass. “I dated a girl in college who wasn’t Jewish and they had an unholy fit about it,” he warned Scott.
“Yeah, I heard about that, too,” Scott admitted.
Michael looked sad. “I probably shouldn’t say this… but… I think I could have been happy with Tristan.”
He took a drink, then looked at Scott. “Don’t get me wrong; I love my wife dearly. But… I think I could have been happy with Tristan, too, if we had gotten the chance.”
“Did you break up because of your parents?”
“Yeah. They were really horrible to her and I didn’t think it was fair to subject her to it. And I had to listen to them anytime I went home. It just wore me down. We just both decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.”
“Josie and I have already talked about it,” Scott confessed, “and I told her I wasn’t going to let anyone take away what I love ever again. My ex-wife took my daughter away from me for two years. She took my dog, too, and my house—everything. I didn’t have anything to my name but my car and some of my clothes that I got out of the trash. Never again. I’m never going to be anyone’s doormat again. I cut my own family off because they treated me like a second class citizen; if your parents push me, I’m not going to be afraid to tell them where they can put their opinion. They will not take Josie from me.”
Michael looked at him critically for a long moment, as if sizing Scott up. Then he lifted his drink to him. “You’re a better man than me if you can pull it off,” he said. He took a drink, then licked the foam from his lips. “But you know, Jews aren’t called a stiff-necked people for nothing.”
Scott smiled. “But I have an advantage there.”
“I have Josie on my side.”
“A stiff-necked woman if ever there was one,” Michael agreed with a laugh. “The two of you might just manage it. Although the body count is going to be high.”
“Well, I am a vampire,” Scott said with a smile. “There’s supposed to be a body count.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee