The Bloodsuckers, Episode 36: Assault and the Law

Scott breezed into the city courthouse Monday evening, humming tunelessly to himself.

“Evening, ladies,” he said cheerfully, waving the folder in his hand at the two women who worked in the office behind bulletproof glass.

“Hi,” one of them replied—her voice oddly muted through the window’s speaker.

“Hey, if Scott’s here, that means it’s time to go,” the other said with a note of excitement.

Scott went right on humming as he went through the side door that lead to the courtroom.

“Hey, Shirley.”

Shirley’s face lit up when she saw him. “Hey, baby, how are you?”

“Fine and dandy.” He reached for the clipboard hanging on the wall before she could offer it to him. “Wow, only one case?” he asked, as his eyes skimmed over the docket.

“Just one.”

“That’s hardly worth walking down here on a cold night.”

“That’s the truth.”

Scott’s eyes narrowed as he read the docket. “Domestic assault?”

“Yep.”

Scott wrinkled his nose in disgust, then hung the clipboard back on its nail by the door—his good mood suddenly gone. He knew it was his ethical duty to try to get his client a decent deal, but his ethical duty warred with his moral compass which said let the bastard go to hell. He couldn’t tolerate wife beaters or child molesters.

He started into the holding room where defendants were kept—under the stern, watchful gaze of Brad, the vampire guard—but he stopped at the threshold.

“You!” he gasped.

The man sitting in the orange plastic chair looked up at him, wary, but confused; he clearly didn’t recognize Scott.

But Scott remembered him: he was James Stanley, the abusive ex-husband of one of his vampire clients. And the reason why Scott remembered him was because he personally beat the shit out of the man and threatened his life. It was the only way to get him to stop harassing his ex-wife. The current laws didn’t provide any protection for vampires. No one cared if people like Mrs. Stanley were verbally abused or hit, since vampires healed wounds quickly and couldn’t be killed.

“You my lawyer?” Stanley asked, squinting suspiciously at Scott.

“No,” Scott said, turning on his heel and walking out of the room.

Scott made a beeline for the judge’s bench. The courtroom was usually thinly populated, since few defendants required night court at the city level, but tonight the entire place was empty, save Judge Smithwick, the bailiff, and Mark Pritchett, the D.A. Mark was leaning casually against the bench, chatting with the judge.

“…had a ten-point buck dead to rights,” Mark was saying, as Scott walked up, “and it was the day before the season opened.”

Judge Smithwick shook his head. “Ain’t that a pisser? But, that’s the way it goes.”

“Yep. And, of course, Jerry never saw him again.”

“Of course.”

“Your Honor…” Scott said, politely trying to wedge his way into the conversation.

“What can I do you for, Scott?” he replied. Ever since Scott had kept a vampire from jumping the bench and hurting—if not killing—him, Judge Smithwick had been very friendly towards Scott.

“I, um, just wanted to let you know, I have a conflict of interest and can’t represent Mr. Stanley.”

“Really?” the judge asked, looking surprised. “What conflict?”

“I was retained by his ex-wife.”

“In what kind of case?”

“Well, she came to me because he was stalking her and threatening her, and then, after she became my client, he beat her up.”

“Oh, lovely,” Mark said darkly.

“Considering Mr. Stanley is here for domestic assault, I don’t think I’d do very well representing him, since I’d be the first to believe he’s guilty and needs the book thrown at him—specifically at his head.”

“Yes, well, that does sound a bit prejudicial.”

The bailiff stepped closer. “Your Honor, the defendant got held over from day-court; he’s not a vampire. They just couldn’t do him there because… I think he’s the prosecutor’s cousin, or something.”

The judge sat back in his chair with a sigh. “Is there anyone else working nights we could call in to do this?”

Mark shook his head. “No, nobody but Scott that I’m aware of.”

“Well, we’ll just have to continue his case until I can find a victim—I mean a volunteer who will stay late and represent Mr. Stanley.” He waved Scott and Mark away. “We’re done for the night.”

“Thank you,” Scott said, turning away.

Mark fell in step beside him. “Hey, you can bill for tonight—just so you know.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Do your claim like you normally would do, bill a couple of tenths of an hour for docket call—since you had to walk all the way over here—and when it asks for conviction, note that it was continued and there’s a choice for “withdrawn,” which is what you want to use. You can use that anytime you’re appointed to someone, but you don’t get to finish the case.”

“Gotcha.”

Mark looked at Shirley, who was standing outside the holding room. “Well, let’s call it a night.”

“We done already?”

“Yep. Put this fine gentleman back; Scott has a conflict and can’t represent him.”

“Ah.”

“Mr. Stanley will have to wait until the judge can volun-tell someone else to do it.”

Brad started to escort Stanley out of the room before Mark could even finish his sentence. Clearly he didn’t want to waste any time sitting around the courtroom.

As Stanley walked past, Scott couldn’t help but look at him with ill-disguised loathing. If he was up on a count of domestic assault, he was hitting someone other than his ex-wife. Even if he was afraid to do anything to his ex, he obviously wasn’t above hitting some other woman.

Scott had a half-a-mind to pop him in the chops as he went by.

Stanley glanced at him and away, then did a double-take, stopping in his tracks.

“Don’t I know you?”

Scott felt his stomach knot up a bit—funny how it did that, even though it didn’t work anymore—but he played it cool. “You might have seen me around town. And I’ve been on the news before.”

Stanley squinted at him, as if he wasn’t sure if he should believe Scott. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Or, you probably saw him in court, since he represented your ex-wife,” Mark added, oh-so-helpfully.

“He wasn’t my wife’s lawyer,” Stanley sneered. “That was an old guy—Tom something-another.” Then he squinted at Scott again. “You her lawyer now? What she need a lawyer for?”

“That’s between me and her.”

Stanley pursed his lips. “She hired someone to break into my house and beat me up.” He looked suspiciously at Scott. “You know anything about it?”

Scott affected his best wide-eyed, innocent look. “No. I haven’t heard anything about that. Someone beat you up?”

“Yeah. I kinda think it was a vampire, cause the guy was real strong.” He looked Scott up and down. “You a vampire?” he asked warily.

Scott was starting to sweat… or, at least he would have been sweating if he was still capable of it. “Yes, but I’m hardly the only person in town who—”

Stanley took a step closer to Scott, but Brad tightened his grip on Stanley’s arm, keeping him from getting too close. Still, Scott was closer to him than he wanted to be.

“He was about your height,” Stanley said, interrupting Scott.

“Are you trying to imply—”

“About your build, too,” Stanley said, talking over Scott again.

Scott’s mind raced, trying to figure out what to do that wouldn’t look guilty. If he was innocent, what would he do if some strange man suddenly started accusing him of a crime?

He tried to look confused, but pitying—as if Mr. Stanley wasn’t in his right mind.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never beat up anyone in my life.” He laughed—rather convincingly, he thought. “I was always the nerd in school.”

He pushed past Stanley, signaling an end to the ludicrous accusation. He and Mark were almost out the door when Stanley’s parting words hit him in the back like a punch.

“I know it was you! One day, you won’t be able to hide behind your suit and—”

The door to the courtroom shut behind Scott, cutting off Stanley’s words.

Scott didn’t say anything as he left the building. He stopped in the front plaza, though, while Mark took a moment to light a cigarette.

“I can’t believe anyone still smokes in this day and age,” Scott said, keeping his voice light and teasing, as if Stanley had never happened—just one more crazy inmate to brush off with hardly a notice.

Mark leaned back against the metal handrail leading up the steps. “If you want my advice, counselor…” he said slowly.

“I know… mind my own business,” Scott chuckled.

“Well, that, too. But actually, I was going to tell you….” He glanced around, but there was no one out on the darkened streets. “If you’re going to do things that are, um, extra-judicial,” he said, leaning forward to whisper to Scott, “you need to practice lying.”

“Lying?” Scott asked, trying to sound surprised.

Mark scoffed. “Scott, you’re a terrible liar—like most honest people.”

“And what do you know about it?”

“I’m a prosecutor; it’s my job to spot lies.” He grinned and took a drag from his cigarette. “That, and I’ve taken classes on lie-spotting. You know—study the movement of the eyes, body posture, tone of voice—that sort of thing.”

“Ah.”

“And you definitely looked like a man who was cornered.”

“Well, it’s not every day that a man is accused of beating someone up. You ought to know that even innocent people can start to act guilty when they’re accused.”

“Yes… to some degree. But all of that is superficial; if you know anything about spotting lies, you can tell a nervous innocent person from a nervous guilty person.”

“And you’re saying I looked like a nervous guilty person?”

“Yep.”

Scott was annoyed—genuinely. “Anything else, counselor, or is my interrogation over? I have work to do.” He started to turn away, but Mark reached out and caught him by the sleeve of his jacket.

“Hey, don’t get mad. I’m just giving you a warning… as a friend.”

He leaned down and stabbed his cigarette out in the ashtray by the steps. “Cops can spot that sort of thing, you know—at least the good ones can. You don’t ever want to be on the wrong end of an interrogation.”

Mark made like he was going to walk Scott back to his office. Scott still wasn’t sure what to make of Mark’s warning—whether he truly wanted to be helpful or if he was trying to get him to confess.

“I’ve got some books on lie-spotting,” Mark continued. “I’ll lend them to you. It’s good stuff to know—there’s nothing worse than being surprised in court with the fact that your client is a liar.” He glanced at Scott. “I used to be a defense attorney, too, you know.”

“Ah.”

“I speak from experience.”

They turned the corner and crossed the deserted street; downtown Clarksboro—which was strictly a business district—was dead at night.

“And, like I said, I think you should read it so you know what not to do when you lie. And practice in a mirror.” Mark glanced at him. “That’s not only good advice for when you plan on doing something and lying about it afterwards, but it also helps you in the courtroom—gives you a good game face. Being a lawyer in a jury trial is like playing poker; you don’t want to reveal your hand. You never want to look surprised, or like you’re randomly fishing—you have to look like you know what’s going on at all times, and, what’s more, like you have secret information that no one else has. That’s what makes witnesses sweat on the stand—wondering if you really do know what they know.”

“That sounds more like a prosecutor’s thing than a defense lawyer’s thing.”

Mark laughed and clapped Scott on the back. “Oh, you have much to learn about the law, grasshopper.” Noticing Scott looking at him with confusion, Mark continued. “See, you think that your client is the only guilty party in the room. But, in reality, the witnesses the prosecutor puts on the stand are almost always just as guilty—either because they’re co-conspirators or just because they’re low-lifes in general. You can win a case simply by proving all of my witnesses are untrustworthy. You don’t have to prove innocence; I have to prove guilt. And if no one believes my witnesses, then I have no proof of guilt.”

Scott nodded thoughtfully, seeing where Mark was going.

“It’s like chess,” Mark said. “There are two ways to win: offensively, by defeating your opponent, or defensively, letting your opponent defeat himself.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Scott said, as they stopped outside the front of his building. It was the only one on the block that was lit-up.

Mark seemed in no hurry to go. In fact, despite his advice on keeping a poker face, Mark looked rather curious.

“So… beat up his wife, huh?”

“Am I allowed to say?”

Mark shrugged. “Why not? He’s not your client.”

Scott sighed and leaned back against the gold-painted brick. “She came to see me the first time because he was stalking her and threatening her. Then, one night, she came in here beat up—black eyes—both of them—busted lip, bleeding nose, head wound.

“I took her to the police department to file a report, but they said they couldn’t do anything—oh, unless he damaged her property. He could rearrange her face all he wanted to, but there was no crime in that. But if he broke down her door, they could get him for trespassing.” The injustice of it still made Scott’s blood boil.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Mark said incredulously.

“They said that since we can’t be killed or permanently injured, then there’s no threat against our lives, so there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Mark shook his head. “Un-fucking-believable.”

“I’ve been shot—let me tell you, it hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. And it’s still scary as hell when someone’s shooting at you. Just because we’re indestructible doesn’t mean we don’t feel pain and fear. We have a lifetime of conditioning—millennia of evolutionary conditioning—that tells our brains to be afraid, especially when pain is involved.

“Mrs. Stanley—despite being a vampire—acted like any other victim of domestic violence: she was scared, embarrassed, and in pain.

“It’s not right that he can beat up on her just because she’s a vampire. We’re not punching bags that just anyone can use.”

“I agree,” Mark said firmly.

“I hope you prosecute the hell out of him. He obviously won’t quit hitting on women.”

“Despite a lesson on why he shouldn’t?” Mark asked, perking a brow.

“So it would seem,” was all Scott would say, before heading into his office.

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 35: Now It’s a Party

Scott wasn’t sure what time it was, but the night seemed to have taken on a different feel. It was darker—not in the literal sense, but as if there was an undercurrent of something mysterious and a little scary in the air. Three o’clock in the morning often felt like that. After all, it wasn’t called “the witching hour” for nothing.

Or it could just be that he was somewhat drunk—Roger having thrust a second extra Bloody Mary on him when he went back downstairs—and he was dancing on the back patio under the black lights and randomly oscillating strobe light, surrounded by people who were bizarrely-shaped, with strange ghoulish faces which looked all the weirder because of the lights and the low-level fog that swirled around their knees. It was very surreal.

Or he was very drunk. Come to think of it, that might have a lot to do with it. Although he felt he had to give credit to Michael and Ariel’s party-planning skills. They knew how to set the mood.

Josie had ditched her accident paraphernalia—and Scott had lost his tie and jacket… somewhere—he thought maybe on the couch in the rec room—and she was dancing with him. Her skin was a dark tan under the black lights, but every few seconds, a white light would flash across her face, making her skin look ghostly-white and making the scratches and bruise-makeup on her face stand out in sharp contrast.

Scott thought there was a hard look in Josie’s eyes as she danced with him. It could have just been that she was drunk, too—or else, she took her bumping and grinding seriously—but coupled with her makeup, it made her look like a tough-as-nails woman. A survivor.

Was it strange he found that a turn-on?

His ex had always been so straight-laced and boring. Of course, he had always been a boring stiff, too, but he didn’t want to be.

Now he had a woman with some fire to her and it was exciting. His whole damn life was exciting. How ironic: he had to become undead to truly come alive.

He found himself holding Josie tight against his body, his face buried in her neck. He shouldn’t have been hungry—he had had enough blood between his two drinks to last him nearly two days—but he felt himself craving Josie. He wanted to bite her more than anything. He didn’t really want the drink—just the bite—just the feel of his teeth sliding into her skin.

After a few minutes of his necking, she pulled away. But there was something mischievous glittering in her eyes as she took his hand and pulled him away from the dance floor.

“Where are we going?” he asked, as she led him up the stairs. Away from the loud, techno music and mass of pulsing people, he felt as if he was in a fog. There weren’t many people left in the house and it seemed darker and strangely quiet.

“Upstairs,” she replied mysteriously.

“Ya think?”

She chuckled, but didn’t reply.

She led him away from the dining room—which looked pretty picked-clean—and up another flight of stairs. The upper floor was dark and silent. There was only one door in the hallway which was slightly ajar and had a dim light coming from it; it appeared to be a bathroom. The rest of the doors, though, were closed.

“Michael said they locked the rooms they didn’t want people in,” Scott whispered to Josie, when she stopped outside the last door.

“Yeah, I know.” She reached up, standing on her tip-toes, and felt along the trim framing the top of the door.

“What are you doing?” he asked, totally confused.

“Ha!” she said triumphantly, pulling something down. It was so small, Scott couldn’t see what it was, but it must have been some sort of key, because Josie used it on the knob and opened the door a few seconds later.

“I don’t think we should go in there,” Scott said, continuing to whisper. “They locked it for a reason.”

Josie put the key back over the door. “And we’re going to lock it back,” she said, pulling Scott into the bedroom with her.

True to her word, she locked the door behind them.

“Josie…” Scott started to argue again.

She put her hand in the middle of his chest and pushed him back until he ran into the side of the bed and was forced to sit down. “Scott, this isn’t my first party at Michael and Ariel’s. How do you think I know where they keep the key?”

She pulled her sweater off over her head. The sight of her breasts in a black satin bra almost shut him up. Almost.

“So… I’m not the first man you’ve seduced at your brother’s house?” he tried to ask casually, but his eyes were riveted on her as she kicked off her shoes and began to unfasten her slacks.

Let the panties match the bra. Let the panties match the bra, he prayed.

“Oh, you’re definitely the first,” she smiled, sliding her pants down over her hips.

Thank you, God!

“I normally just stay the night if I’m too drunk to drive,” she continued, stepping closer to him. He reached around her, feeling the smooth satin of her panties over her ass. “I didn’t expect you to be too drunk to drive us home tonight,” she added.

He grinned up at her. “Yeah, well… things happen.”

“I kind of like it.”

“I kind of like it, too.”

She began to unbutton his shirt. “So… does it bother you? Staying the night at my brother’s?”

“I don’t mind.” She pushed his shirt back, over his shoulders, and he pulled it off for her. “Do you think they’ll mind?”

“No. My brother loves me and he’d never want me to drive home drunk—or ride with anyone who is drunk. He’d much rather I stayed the night.” She began to unbutton his pants.

“I meant… this,” Scott said, standing up, so his pants could slide from his waist. “Do you think they’ll mind this?”

“If we’re quiet, they’ll never know,” she whispered conspiratorially.

He kicked off his shoes and pants, grinning back at her. Suddenly, she shoved him down onto the bed and climbed on top of him. In the dim light light coming through the sheer curtains, he could see her reach behind her back to unhook her bra.

Thank God, indeed.

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 34: It’s Going to be Fein

Scott and Michael’s conversation was interrupted by a slight buzzing sound. Micheal jerked up, looking startled, then he fumbled with something under his shirt. A moment later he came up with a cell phone.

“Oh, damn,” Michael said, “it’s the hospital.”

“Got to go in?”

“Yeah.” He clipped his cell phone back on the elastic waistband of his scrubs. “Sorry to cut out on you.”

“I think you have more important things to do.”

“I have a home theater in there,” Michael said, jerking his thumb towards the hallway that lead off the game room, “and Roger is about to show something vampirish. If you want another drink, get him to make you one. There’s dancing out there,” he said, pointing out the back door, “or you can go upstairs to socialize. Or just sit here and drink. Whatever you like. We lock all the rooms we don’t want people in; everything else is fair game.”

“Thanks. I might try to find Josie.”

“Good luck,” Michael said doubtfully. “I told you, she’s like a cat; you won’t find her unless she wants to be found.”

Scott spent another couple of minutes nursing his drink; once he got used to it, he rather liked it—it was like having a real drink again—but it had to be taken in measured doses. Then he got up and, taking his drink with him, he went upstairs to see if he could manage to find Josie after all.

He couldn’t tell, but it looked like there were even more people in the house than before. Then he realized there was an upper deck outside the dining room and there were people flowing in and out the back door onto it.

He wandered into the living room. Some people turned to look at him—eyes roving up and down, assessing his costume, trying to figure out what he was—and a few gave him a slight nod or smile in greeting, then went back to their conversations.

He was just starting to ease his way around the room—dodging angel and fairy wings, trailing gowns and robes, devil tails, and an assortment of other costume paraphernalia—when Josie called out to him.

“There he is now. Scott!”

He looked up and saw Josie waving to him from one of the arm chairs in the corner. There was another woman perched on the arm of the chair. She was wearing a loose, low-slung Greco-Roman gown with what appeared to be a brown, stuffed parrot perched on her shoulder. Her blonde hair was piled high on her head and curled into ringlets,

After a few more feet of delicate maneuvering, he was able to reach them.

“Hey,” Josie said, “where have you been?”

“Downstairs talking to your brother. And having a drink,” he said, showing her the glass.

“What sort of drink?” she asked, looking at the glass in confusion.

“An extra bloody Bloody Mary.”

“How can you make a Bloody Mary extra bloody?” the blonde-headed woman on the arm of the chair asked.

“Well, for starters, you make it with real blood,” Scott replied.

Josie smiled a little. “My brother made that for you?”

“Yeah. He’s got a friend who’s a vampire, and they perfected it together. Which I’m rather glad for; Michael said he made Roger sick the first time they tried it.”

“Speaking of siblings,” Josie said, “this is my nerdy little sister, Becca.”

He offered his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Becca.”

She shook his hand absentmindedly; her eyes were busy roving up and down his body. “Turn around,” she commanded.

Scott shot Josie a perplexed look, but she was just smiling. He slowly turned around 360 degrees.

“He does have a nice ass,” Becca told her sister.

Josie grinned, looking rather proud.

“I feel like a piece of meat,” Scott said, feeling a bit put-out. He wasn’t sure he like Josie’s sister knowing so much about him or their private life.

“Oh, like you never look at women and evaluate them in your head,” Becca retorted.

“Yes, but ‘in my head’ is the important part.”

“I’m just being honest,” she said with a shrug.

“I told you my sister has no tact,” Josie said. “No people skills at all. I’m not sure if that comes from staring into a petri dish all day, or if she stares into a petri dish all day because she has no people skills.”

“A little from column A, a little from column B,” Becca said matter-of-factly, as if her lack of social skills didn’t bother her at all.

She looked Scott over again. “So, what are you supposed to be?”

“He’s my bloodsucking lawyer,” Josie replied. “For my slip and fall claim.”

“Ah,” Becca said. Either she didn’t get the joke or she didn’t find it particularly amusing.

“And you are…?” Scott asked.

“Athena, Goddess of wisdom.” She reached up and petted the stuffed bird on her shoulder. Close up, Scott could tell that it was an owl, not a brown parrot. “And this is Bebo,” Becca added.

“I vaguely remember him from Clash of the Titans.”

Becca gave a little sniff, as if that wasn’t completely acceptable, but she would tolerate it nonetheless.

“Is Michael still downstairs?” Josie asked.

“No, he got called into work.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” she replied. “Have you met Ariel?”

“I haven’t met anyone but Roger, the undead pathologist.”

“The undead pathologist?” she asked, looking at him in confusion. Then realization dawned on her face. “Oh, Michael’s friend.”

She started to get up. “Let me introduce you to Ariel, at least.” She couldn’t seem to get out of the low arm chair, and Scott quickly offered her his hand.

She took it, letting him pull her to her feet. “I hope I’m never really injured,” she said. “I can’t move wearing this stuff; imagine how much worse it would be if I was in pain.”

She snaked through the crowd. “Excuse me, can I get through there?” she asked a pirate, leaned against a closed door.

He jerked away, as if the door was suddenly hot. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry.” He eyed her medical devices with something like pity.

“No problem,” Josie replied, opening the door and slipping inside. Scott nodded his thanks to the pirate, and followed Josie through.

They were in a kitchen which seemed to be made of nothing but granite, cherry cabinets, and stainless steel appliances. Scott had to stop himself from whistling. He had seen such kitchens in home magazines that he flipped through, bored, in doctor’s waiting rooms, but he had never thought a real person owned such a kitchen.

The far wall was solid windows, which, at night, just darkly mirrored the gleaming kitchen, but they promised a lovely view during the daylight.

“There she is,” Josie said, spying a woman who was busy pulling something out of a built-in oven. Another women carefully situated a hot pad on the counter, so the pan could be put down.

“Thank you,” Ariel said to the woman helping her.

“Do you want me to put these out?”

“Please. They should be cool enough in about five.”

Josie walked up to the dark-haired woman as she was pulling off her oven mitt. It was one of those new-fangled ones made out of some sort of heat-resistant rubber.

“Hey, Ariel.”

Ariel looked up, then startled; she looked like she didn’t know whether to smile or be concerned. “Josie… is that your costume, or did you get hurt?”

“Costume.”

Ariel finally smiled. “So what are you supposed to be?”

“Plaintiff. And this,” she said, grabbing Scott by the sleeve and pulling him closer, “is my bloodsucking lawyer. Please, direct all further questions to him.”

Ariel burst out laughing. “Oh, I love it!” she gasped between breaths. She had to call in a few other women who were helping put food out on the dining room table.

“Come here and meet my sister-in-law!” She gestured first to Josie, then to Scott. “She’s the victim, and this is her bloodsucking lawyer.”

The other women just smiled politely.

“It’s funnier if you know that he really is a lawyer. And a vampire, too,” Ariel explained.

Slowly, comprehension dawned on the other women’s faces, and they began to laugh.

Ariel turned back to Scott and Josie. “So, how’ve you been?”

“Pretty good. And you?”

“Busy, but I can’t complain.” She smiled up at Scott. He immediately recognized the look of a woman who was attractive and knew it. And she was not ashamed to use that to sell.

“Has Josie told you what I do for a living?” Ariel asked.

“Here it comes,” Josie whispered to Scott.

He chuckled. “Yes, she did.”

“We’re holding a benefit dinner in Nashville this spring,” she hinted.

Scott tried to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction; he wasn’t sure how much the plates cost, but he was almost positive that they were currently out of his budget. “I was asking Josie if you ever took books.”

“Yes, we have a book drive a couple of times a year.”

“I can see if my daughter has any she’s outgrown.”

“I’ll sign you up for our newsletter, then you’ll know when we’re doing things.”

She’s slick, Scott thought to himself.

“So, have you met Mommy and Daddy Fein yet?” Ariel asked.

“No,” Scott replied.

“I thought I’d let him get a toe in the water first,” Josie said. “You know… see that most of my family is fine.”

“Well, I think all of your family is ‘fein’ dear,” Ariel said with a smirk. “Except, of course, those of us who married in. Then we’re Feins in name only.”

Josie grimaced. “You and the puns.” She glanced at Scott. “Ariel never met a pun she didn’t like. She’s sharing them on Facebook all the time.”

Ariel just shrugged, looking unrepentant.

Scott looked at Josie. “I think everyone in your family has now warned me about your parents—within the first five minutes of meeting me. Do they not like anyone?”

“They’re actually good people,” Ariel answered for Josie. “They’re extremely generous and Janelle is very active in the community. And Steve is probably the best cardiologist in town.”

“They just don’t like Gentiles—at least not the ones who try to marry into the family,” Scott added, matter-of-factly.

Ariel grimaced apologetically.

Scott glanced at Josie. “You know, a part of me wishes that your parents were here. I feel like I’m ready to do battle.”

Ariel smiled at him. It was genuine, as if she had decided to like him. “Well, there’s always Hanukkah. Normally, Janelle hosts a night just for the family—since we’re already doing a large holiday party here for all of our friends—but I’ll offer to host the family night, too. That way you’ll at least be on neutral turf. And they won’t have the right to refuse to invite you or throw you out.”

“I don’t think a holiday is the best time for that kind of introduction,” Josie quickly interjected. She sounded worried.

“Better than going it alone,” Ariel argued. “They might behave themselves in front of witnesses.” She smiled at Scott again. “And Michael told me that he likes you. He’ll take your side if they get too nasty.”

Scott felt touched. He wished someone in his immediate family had taken his side. His cousin Darren was with him, but he was too distant from Scott’s mother to have any influence. Besides, with Darren being a vampire, she wasn’t going to like being around him anymore than she would Scott. What mattered most was having humans who would stick by you.

 

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 33: Doctor Death

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.”

“Ah.”

“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.”

“Thanks.”

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.”

“I see.”

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.”

“Likewise.”

“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.”

“Ah.”

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.”

“True.”

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?”

“Yes, please.”

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.”

“Wow.”

“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.

“Better?”

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?”

“Would you?”

“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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“What’s that?”

“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

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 32: The Bloodsucker

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.

“Yep.”

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

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 31: A Come to Elijah Meeting

Scott was in his office—for once reviewing the documents Josie had given him in a timely manner—when she came in, interrupting his rare bout of concentration.

“Okay, I don’t want to hear any excuses out of you,” she said.

He looked up, perking a brow. “What have I done?”

“Nothing yet. But you’re not allowed to get out of doing it.”

“Doing what?”

She sat down on the edge of his desk. “Going to my brother and sister-in-law’s Halloween party.”

Scott felt his mouth go a little dry. “Meet… your family?”

“Just them and my sister; my parents aren’t the Halloween-party types.”

Scott had to admit he much preferred to meet Josie’s siblings without her parents present. Josie had told him that her siblings would be okay with him—her brother had even been in a mixed relationship for a while—but she promised her parents would hate him. It was they who had ultimately driven her brother, Michael, to break up with his Gentile girlfriend. As he had ultimately ended up marrying a Jewish girl, they could count themselves doubly triumphant. They would surely mount such an attack against Scott, reasonably confident of victory.

“Well… I guess I have to meet them sometime…” he said reluctantly.

“Yep, you do.”

Scott suddenly chuckled. “Nothing like meeting the vampire on Halloween.”

“I had already thought about that,” she said with a grin.

“What should I go as? I mean, it’s too easy to go as a vampire; I think I should go as the opposite, just for the contrast. Something like… the Easter bunny.”

She laughed. “Actually, I had thought about you going as a rabbit—but as the Monty Python one.”

“That’s nae ordinary rabbit.”

“It’s got nasty, big, pointy teeth,” Josie mimed.

Scott laughed.

“But I think we should save that one for next year. I have an even better idea for both of us.”

“What?”

“You’re to go as a lawyer.”

“That doesn’t sound the least-bit amusing.”

“It will be with me there.”

Scott waited, but she didn’t explain herself. “And… what are you going as?”

“It’s a surprise,” she said with glee.

“So… I’m just supposed to dress like I do everyday and let you be the comedy relief?”

“That’s it exactly,” she said, looking pleased he had caught on.

He shook his head a little, then looked back at the Final Order she had drafted for him. “It’s your family, so we’ll do whatever you think is best.”

“You make it sound like you’re going to a funeral.”

“I might just be—the death of our relationship.”

She looked at him seriously. “Would… would you dump me if you don’t like them?”

“Not at all,” he hurried to say. “But you said they’ll hate me and try to drive me off.”

“Only my parents.”

“So meeting your siblings will just be the first nail—not the final nail—in the coffin?”

She sighed. “I want you to be prepared for what’s going to happen, but at the same time… I don’t want you to hate my family before you’ve met them. I mean… they’re good people.”

“So long as you date someone they approve of.”

“What are you going to do when Clarice starts bringing boys home to meet you? Are you going to be okay with them, or are you going to look at them with suspicion and tell her that she can do better?”

“I don’t know,” Scott admitted. “Although knowing me, I’ll never think anyone is quite good enough for her. But if they’re not good enough for her, it will be because they’re not smart enough or ambitious enough or don’t treat her like she’s gold; I’m not going to hate them out of hand for their faith or their race. I’m not going to tell Clarice she can only date white boys who are nominally Christian, but not too religious.”

Josie frowned, looking shamed. “It’s not the same when you’re a Jew,” she said quietly. “We wouldn’t have survived all this time if we weren’t picky about marrying within the faith. It’s what’s perpetuated our culture and kept us alive as a people, even when we didn’t have a country of our own.”

Scott leaned back in his chair. “So why are you dating me? Can’t find a nice Jewish vampire?”

She looked utterly perplexed, as if she had never considered the question. “I like you,” she said simply.

“But that’s not enough, is it?” he pressed. “I’m sure plenty of Jews and Gentiles have liked one another in the past—even loved one another. But that’s not enough.”

She looked startled. “You know what, I think I might have been wrong.”

He took a deep breath, steeling himself. “About us?”

“No, about you and my parents. Maybe ya’ll have more in common than I thought; certainly you seem to think alike.”

Scott was thoughtful for a moment. “I guess… I guess I need to know where you really stand. The fact that I’m not a Jew is a problem for your family because they think you should stay inside your faith. But you don’t have a problem with me being a Gentile… why? Are you not religious?”

“No, I am. To a certain degree, anyways. I mean I go to synagogue at least once a month, keep the holidays, keep sort of kosher.”

“Sort of?”

“I don’t keep separate sets of dishes, and I don’t eat only kosher-slaughtered meat—I couldn’t afford it, even if there was a place around here that sold it—but I don’t eat anything that’s forbidden: no pork, shellfish, or meat with dairy. I think of that as kind of a bare-minimum level of kosher.”

“So you are a religious Jew?”

“Well, to be a religious Jew means to be really observant—Orthodox—and I’m not that.”

“But you’re not secular.”

“No, I’m… a liberally-religious Jew, I suppose you could say.”

“And liberally-religious Jews don’t worry about marrying Gentiles?

“Some do. Maybe even most.”

“But you don’t mind it?”

She perked a brow. “Why, were you planning on asking me to marry you?”

“Not tonight, but I’m not fooling around with you just for the hell of it.”

Josie looked totally floored.

Scott leaned forward. “I’ve told you I became a lawyer because I didn’t want to be a victim anymore. Maggie took everything from me and I never want to be helpless again. If you’re with me, then I’ll take on your family. They won’t drive me off. No one is ever going to take the things I love away from me again.

“But if you’re not serious—if you’re planning on dumping me if things start to get too serious between us—then I’m not going to put forth any effort with your family. I don’t want to put up with whatever it is they do, just to have you turn around and tell me, ‘You know, Scott, I really can’t get around the whole not-a-Jew thing.’

“If you’re with me, I’ll walk through hell for you. If you’re not, we’ll just fuck around until things get uncomfortable, then you can go back to just being my assistant. Or not. Just give me two weeks’ notice if you want to leave so I have time to find someone else and make the switch. I have no idea where you’ve put all my files and stuff.”

Josie sat in stunned silence for a long minute. Scott started to become uncomfortable, as he feared she was using the quiet time to make up her mind about him, once and for all.

Slowly she slid off the desk and walked around to him. She surprised him when she knelt in the floor in front of him and put her arms around his waist. “That… that was the… the….”

“What?” he asked, when she didn’t finish. She looked like she was having trouble finding the right words.

“I think that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” she finally said.

Scott was startled. “An ultimatum is romantic?”

“I don’t think it was an ultimatum. But that’s not the part I was talking about anyways.”

“Which part were you talking about?”

“The part where you said you wouldn’t ever let anyone take me from you—that you would walk through hell for me.”

He leaned closer and cupped her face in his hands. “I really would, you know,” he said quietly.

“I know,” she whispered back. “And that’s what makes it the best thing I’ve ever heard.”

“So… will you take me, Gentile that I am? Unkosher as I am?”

She nodded.

“I mean, I’m okay if we don’t work out for other reasons,” he added, “but just promise me you won’t dump me because I’m not a Jew. There’s no excuse for doing that when you’ve known it from the beginning. That’d be like dumping me because I’m a vampire.”

“I promise,” she said solemnly. Then she smiled. “You’re not the only stubborn person, you know. I’m willing to fight for what I want, too.”

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 30: Bowled Over

I promised that the series would be coming back from its sabbatical.

Happy Hanukkah!

Clarice was beside herself with excitement when she came tumbling down the stairs Friday afternoon. Scott barely had time to brace himself as she jumped into his arms.

“Hey, Daddy!”

He kissed her cheek. “How are you today, Princess?”

“Fine.”

He put her back on her feet. “How was school today?”

“Fine.”

Po was jumping up and down, trying to lick everyone. Clarice giggled, kneeling in the floor to pet him. “Did you miss me, Po?”

“He definitely misses you when you’re not here,” Scott replied. “He doesn’t want to play with me like he does you. I think he likes running around with you more than anything.”

“Well, I’m going to be here all weekend!” she said brightly.

“I know. Po’s going to love it.” He patted her on the shoulder. “I want you to get a start on your homework now.”

The light left Clarice’s face like a cloud passing over the sun. “Now? On Friday?” She sounded scandalized.

“Yes. I don’t want to leave it until Sunday. Besides, I have a treat for us later tonight. You might as well use your time to do your homework.”

The sun came out again. “What kind of treat?”

“You’ll see in a little while,” Scott said, smiling mysteriously. “Get your homework done so we can go.”

“Can I have something to eat first?”

Scott pointed to a shelf near the table. “I got some peanut butter crackers for you. And there’s some juice upstairs in the fridge. Do you remember where the kitchen is?”

She nodded.

“Go up and get you some.”

She ran up the stairs with youthful exuberance and returned a couple of minutes later with a Capri Sun. “That ought to hold you until dinner,” Scott said. “Now, get your work done so we can go out.”

She went to her room and diligently sat at her desk, mixing graphite and orange cracker crumbs on ruled paper. Po ran around a little while, excited, but when he saw that Clarice wasn’t going to play with him, he jumped up on her bed, curled up, and watched her.

Scott sat on the couch in the living room and watched the evening news. Occasionally he would get up and check on Clarice, keeping her on task and helping her where necessary. By the time Josie came down the steps a few hours later, Clarice’s homework was done.

Scott watched as she put it all away in her backpack. “Now, doesn’t that feel good?” he asked her. “It won’t be hanging over your head all weekend, so you can just relax and enjoy yourself.”

“Yeah,” she agreed with a smile.

Josie stuck her head around the door. “Ya’ll ready to go?”

“Yep,” Scott said.

“Where are we going?” Clarice asked eagerly.

“You’ll see,” Scott said, still being mysterious.

Scott had purposefully left his calendar free so he could have the evening with Clarice. In fact, he had told Josie to alternate his calendar so he worked Friday nights when he didn’t have Clarice and Sunday nights when he did. It had slowly but surely gotten around town that Scott was the only lawyer that operated after normal office hours, and his business had really picked up—and mostly from human clientele. It seemed many people were willing to overlook the fact that Scott was a vampire, so long as they didn’t have to miss any work to meet with him.

They got into Scott’s SUV and drove towards Columbia. The sky in the west still had a tinge of green on the horizon, but the blackness was overtaking it.

“So, where are we going?” Clarice asked again. It was the same game she played at Christmas: constantly asking just to see if she could catch someone off guard.

“You’ll see,” Scott repeated. He was an old hand at the what-did-you-get-me game.

Josie just chuckled.

Twenty-five minutes later, they pulled into the lot of a neon-lit building, glittering and flashing in the night.

“What’s this?” Clarice asked, looking up in open-mouthed awe.

“Can’t you figure it out?” Scott asked, a little surprised. He thought the big white bowling pin, outlined in red lights, was a bit of a giveaway.

“A bowling alley?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Are we going bowling?” she squealed.

Scott got out of the car. “Well, we didn’t come here just to watch.”

Clarice scampered around him and Josie as they crossed the lot—running ahead, then back again.

Josie whispered to Scott. “She looks like Po.”

He laughed, taking her hand in his. “I was thinking the same thing.”

She glanced down at their hands. “Are we being obvious?” she asked, still whispering.

“Might as well. Everyone in town seems to know. Besides, Clarice already figured it out. She asked me if you were my girlfriend.”

“Did she? What does she think about it?”

“She likes you.” He grinned. “After all, who wouldn’t?”

Josie laughed. “Scott, you’re just so….”

“What?” he asked, when she didn’t finish.

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “Not like anyone else I’ve dated, that’s for sure.”

He grinned and held open the door for her.

The lanes were dark. Overhead, the ceiling had long tubes of colored neon, and they were cycling through their colors in sync with the music blaring over the speakers. There were lines of white lights along the gutters of each lane that were running up and down and flashing. The pins had light shining down on them—so you could at least see what you were aiming at—and knocking over any of them made red lights around the opening flash.

Clarice was hopping up and down and pointing out everything, as if Josie and Scott couldn’t see it for themselves. “Oh, look at that! Lookee there! This is the best thing in my whole life that I’ve ever seen,” she declared with solemn awe.

Josie and Scott both laughed.

“Hey, guys!” a voice called out over the music, the thunder of the lanes, and the other overstimulated children.

Scott waved as Darren pushed through the crowd.

“Hey, good to see you,” Scott said, offering his hand. Darren clasped it, but pulled him closer into a one-armed hug.

“How have you been?” Darren asked, pulling back. Scott could tell by the serious tone of his voice that he wasn’t asking casually; he wanted to know how Scott was handling his father’s death.

“I’m alright,” Scott said. He spent as little time as possible thinking about his family. He tried to pretend it was like before—they were all still around, but just avoiding him. For all his insistence that the surviving members of his family were dead to him, he didn’t like thinking that he would never actually see them again. Instead, he was just ignoring them, as they had been ignoring him.

Darren offered Josie his hand. “Josie, it’s nice to see you again.”

She smiled. “It’s nice to see you again, too.”

Scott reached out and drew Clarice to his side. She took a moment to focus her eyes on the person in front of her.

“Darren, this is my daughter, Clarice. Clarice, this is my cousin, Darren.”

Darren smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Clarice. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Are you a vampire like my Daddy?” she asked bluntly.

“Yes,” he replied, unashamed.

“I thought so. I could see your teeth.” She went back to looking around in wonderment, clearly not bothered by Darren’s undeadness.

“I’ve already got us a lane,” Darren told Scott. “Want to get some shoes and join us?”

“Sure.”

“Number nineteen,” Darren said, pointing at the opposite end of the building. “Next-to-the-last one.”

Scott took Clarice by the hand and half-dragged her over to the shoe counter, which was brightly lit with normal lights. The man working behind it was clearly a pro, because he pulled shoes out of slots with one hand—hardly glancing at the size marked on the cubbyhole—and sprayed returning shoes with disinfectant.

“What size shoe do you wear, Clarice?” Scott asked.

Clarice’s eyes went wide, surprised by the pop quiz. “Um… I don’t know.”

The man behind the counter gestured impatiently. “Let’s see her shoes.”

Clarice hurriedly pulled off her sneakers and put them up on the counter. The man didn’t look inside for the size. Instead, he held one shoe up, eyed the sole, then pulled out a pair of bowling shoes and handed them to Scott.

“Try those.”

Scott sat down with Clarice in a nearby chair and helped her into her shoes.

“Those feel okay?” he asked.

She nodded.

He got up again and got his own pair. Josie was already in hers.

Once all the shoes had met with approval, the man popped their regular shoes into the vacant cubbyholes. “$7.50,” he told Scott.

Scott pulled out his wallet and handed the man a ten. It vanished into the register and $2.50 materialized in his hand. “Thanks and have a good night,” the man said, with all the emotion and voice inflection of a computer. He became animated suddenly, though, when he spotted something happening in the darkness.

“Hey, you kids!” he shouted, pointing. “I’ve told you to stay off the tables. I catch you up there again, and you’re out of here!”

“We need to get something to eat,” Josie said, speaking into Scott’s ear as they snaked their way through tables and groups of wild children.

Scott stopped and pulled out his wallet, handing Josie another ten dollar bill. “Do you want to get something for you and Clarice?”

“Sure,” she said, sucking the bill from Scott’s hand as fast as the shoe guy. “Come on, Clarice.”

“Can I have pizza?” Clarice asked, skipping to Josie’s side.

“Yes, if they have some,” she replied, taking Clarice by the hand and heading towards the blinding lights and greasy smell of the snack bar.

Scott made his way through the darkness to the other end of the alley and found Darren sitting at a table with his wife Patty. Patty was having a hamburger.

“Hey, Scott!” Patty said brightly when she saw him.

Scott leaned down to kiss Patty on the cheek. “Hey, Patty. You’re looking beautiful, as always.”

She laughed. “I credit the mood lighting.”

“I think you look beautiful all the time. Especially when you’re standing next to Darren,” he teased.

“Just what are you saying?” Darren said, looking up at Scott with a mock frown on his face.

Scott took a seat. “Nothing. You’ve got a face that your mother loves.”

“Look who’s talking, Mr. Clean.” Then he glanced around. “Speaking of looking like someone’s pity date, where’s your gorgeous other half?”

“She and Clarice are getting something to eat.”

Darren leaned closer, suddenly looking serious. “So how are things really?” he asked quietly. On the opposite side of the table, Patty leaned in as well.

“Okay,” Scott replied. “My business is doing pretty good. Good enough to pay the bills, anyways.”

“That’s good.”

“How’s your mom doing?” Patty asked.

Scott’s face darkened. “I don’t know. I’m not talking to them right now.”

“Ah,” Darren said, full of understanding.

“Is that your doing or theirs?” Patty pressed.

“I suppose you can blame me, but I’m certainly not the one who started it.” She nodded knowingly.

Josie and Clarice joined them a moment later. Josie was carrying a tray with their food; Clarice was gliding at her side.

“These shoes are fun,” Clarice said, attempting to pull off an ice skater’s spin while Josie unloaded their food on the table.

“Careful,” Scott said, making a grab for her. “You’re going to knock something over.” He managed to wedge her into a chair.

“Why do we have to wear those shoes?” she asked.

“Because they have special bottoms that keep us from messing up the floor. The floor is very expensive and has a lot of wax on it. That’s what makes it slippery so the balls will roll down them better.”

“Ah,” she said, before digging into the slice of pepperoni pizza Josie had put down for her.

Josie had a plate of chicken fingers and french fries for herself. She was just dipping a piece of chicken into a tub of sauce when Darren asked the dreaded question.

“So, Josie, what do you do for a living?”

Josie didn’t miss a beat. “I’m a paralegal.”

Darren glanced between them. “Oh, is that how you two met?”

Josie nodded, taking a bite of her dinner. It might have ended there, but for Clarice. “She’s Daddy’s secretary,” she said with a certain amount of triumph.

The bowling alley suddenly seemed a lot quieter. Then Darren burst out laughing. It was so infectious, even Scott had to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

“Oh, I see,” Darren finally managed to say.

Clarice looked up at Scott, solemn. “I haven’t told Mama. She asked if you had a girlfriend, but I told her I didn’t know.”

Scott felt even more awkward than he had before. “It’s not a secret,” he assured Clarice. Not anymore, anyways. “But it… might hurt your mother’s feelings if she knew. So it’s probably better if you say you don’t know.”

Clarice nodded wisely, then went back to eating her pizza. Scott felt a little disjointed, as he always did when suddenly Clarice spoke with the insight and wisdom of an adult. Did all children have such flashes of brilliance, or had living through the divorce made Clarice more sensitive to other people?

Darren looked at him with pity, then cleared his throat. “So, Scott, you want to warm up the lane while the ladies finish their dinner? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been bowling since I turned, so I don’t know what my strengths are.”

“I haven’t been bowling in ages,” Scott said, standing up. “I’d be rusty regardless.”

Darren clapped him on the back, and the two of them went to pick out bowling balls.

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee