I make a point of not interrupting someone’s meals, especially the vampire I protect. Why she won’t respect my dinner time, I’ll never know. Tonight, her text arrives just as I’m putting last night’s chicken into the microwave. I only have time to twist off a cold drumstick and send it up one jacket sleeve while my stump finds the other. I chew the meat while driving, tossing the bone out the window. Camilla’s in Tom Sawyer Park which closes in an hour, giving me a glimmer of hope there’ll be no witnesses to whatever transpired. I find her in the parking lot, wiping blood from her chin.
“Look, Daniel, before you say anything, I was starving.”
My eyes fix on the only other car, a Corvette convertible. “Is he in there?”
“I put him in the boot, or whatever you Yanks call it. I figured you might have trouble lifting him with, you know, just the left.” A sidelong glance. “You’re welcome.”
I look around for anyone on foot. “You had ten pints before you left the house. How could you be starving?”
“I don’t know, maybe I’m bored because someone moved us to Lewisville.”
“It’s Louisville, and blood is a lot cheaper here.” I lower my voice as we approach the candy red car. “Did anyone see you?”
“That would’ve resulted in more bodies.” She adopts a cheery tone. “Thankfully, we have just one. Bit of a gusher though.”
I shine a light on the blood covering the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and dashboard. “It’s like a Jackson Pollack. Fiona was never this messy.”
“You don’t work for her anymore.” She folds her arms. “And I like Jackson Pollack.”
“Should I repeat our agreement? I raise money to buy blood and you don’t kill anyone. We don’t need police sniffing around.” I open the trunk and see a man in a polo shirt and plaid shorts. He looks 35, maybe 40.
“Oooh, feel that.” Camilla leans her torso against the fiberglass and runs her hands over it. “I want this car.”
“This car is a crime scene. We have to ditch it.”
“Not we.” Her eyes scan the eastern sky which is just beginning to change.
I check my watch and swallow the bitter truth: I alone will have to make this go away. I take out the man’s wallet.
She sidles up. “Make it look like we robbed him. Clever.”
Camilla’s been watching a new police show. Maybe it’s an old one, those procedurals are all the same. Thirty seconds in, someone finds a body. After the first commercial, detectives arrive and we learn about the deceased. Ten minutes later, something threatens to derail the investigation which leads to the climax. A pithy observation follows, and the show ends just as you empty your glass. The wallet opens and my thumb lands on metal. Oh God. Please, no. I inhale sharply, preparing myself for the worst. Flashlight in my teeth, I look down. “Fuck me.”
“Should I repeat our agreement?” Camilla groans as her hands encircle her belly. “I’m too full anyway.”
“You killed a cop.”
I stare at her, flashlight dangling like a cigarette. Finally, I remove it. “Cops never give up when one of their own…OH JESUS CHRIST.” I slam the trunk and turn away, gathering my thoughts. Camilla is just a few months old, but Fiona warned me she was born reckless. I close my ears to her rambling:
“Is that what I think it is? Cool.”
It would be best to bury the body far away from the car, but we’re running out of night. I could set the car on fire with the body inside but that would attract attention. Just now, though, I remember a quarry lake 30 minutes from here. All I’d need is a decent slope where I could roll the car into the water. Maybe I’ll find a cliff to push it over…
I whip around to see smoke curling up from a pistol. Camilla can’t stop laughing at the hole in her left hand. “I shot myself.” Her excited eyes meet mine. “Coppers back home don’t carry these.”
“Give it to me.”
“No, it’s mine now.”
“You have no need for a gun.”
“We’re in America.” She waves it in front of me. “Everyone needs a gun.”
“Camilla, I need you to give that to me.”
Her face moves right up to mine. “You’re not the boss.” She pushes the barrel into my ribs. “I am, remember?”
“If you kill me, you’re on your own.” I stare back. “Think you can survive?”
Our standoff lasts several seconds. Finally, she grins, exposing sharp canines. “You’re right.” She turns and walks away. “You’re always right.” She tosses the gun in the bushes. “Have fun with this mess.”
It’s after seven when I get home. Camilla went to bed an hour ago. Everyone else on our street is scurrying to work or wherever normal people go when the sun comes up. In the kitchen, I pour myself a scotch, noting my alarm goes off in two hours. That’s when I’ll place my orders with hospital workers who steal blood for us. Before my nap, I walk down the corridor and turn the handle to Camilla’s room to make sure it’s secure. I always have the bolt installed on the inside to protect my employer when they’re most vulnerable. To her credit, Camilla always locks it. So maybe there’s hope. When I return to the kitchen, I see a letter from Rome on thick, faded stationery:
How’s life in the New World? Is Camilla behaving herself? Despite her wild ways, I remain confident you’ll guide and protect my progeny during these difficult early years. I just hope she’s paying you enough. Speaking of money, I’m enclosing a check which should help with surprise expenses. I do hope you’ll return to me someday. My current guardian possesses a fraction of your expertise.
All my best,
The check is for $10,000, not much in our world. Still, it might be enough were I to abandon my duties and fly to the Equator where the sun shines twelve hours every day. I think about fleeing every time I remember my agreement with Camilla: four fucking years. No doubt, she’d risk everything to find me. Fiona, ever more cautious, would send human assassins, though she knows most lack my experience. I reckon I could hide for months thanks to secret deposit boxes filled with cash, false passports, and gold. I’m still calculating my chances when I hear Camilla:
I turn and see her door cracked open. My eyes immediately go to the window shades to make sure they’re down. “Yeah?”
“Can we talk?”
I walk to her room and see a teary eye staring out. “What’s wrong?”
“For being… difficult.”
“I’ll forgive you. Eventually.”
She sniffles. “It’s just that I’m so unprepared.” Her eyes roll. “That’s obvious to
you but I’m finding it hard to adjust to… this.”
“Fiona said it took her a few decades. Try to get some sleep.”
This is new; Fiona always slept through the day. “Want some B positive?”
“No. What are you drinking?”
“Whiskey. You wouldn’t like it.”
“Can you sleep with me – just for a little while?”
“I know it’s not part of our agreement.”
“I’ve never slept with…”
“A monster like me?”
I sigh. “You’re not a monster.”
“I just need someone to hold me.” An icy hand takes mine. “Please?”
I let her lead me in. We face each other for a few seconds — she in silk pajamas, me in jeans and a button-down shirt – before she lifts the covers and slides in. I remove my shoes and lay down next to her.
The last time I did this, many years ago, I had two arms and one grew numb. Now I see how one arm can be a benefit. I press my chest against her back and feel her relax.
“Please don’t leave.”
“You want me to stay all day with you?”
“You can go once I’m asleep. Just don’t take off permanently. I don’t know what I’d do on my own.” Both her hands press mine against her chest. “God, I hate being so dependent.”
“Everyone depends on someone.”
“Oh yeah? Who do you depend on?”
Stumped, all I can utter is, “Touché.”
She turns her body, eyes searching mine. “Don’t you ever miss having a family? Friends or relationships?”
“I’ve… forgotten all that.”
“Me too. I have no memory of who I was.” She points to her chest. “But I feel this latent connection — almost like a phantom limb. Sorry.”
“It’s all right.” I hesitate. “Fiona mentioned something about you being engaged when she found you.”
“You see? It all makes sense. I was part of something whole. I long for that.” She fingers my collar. “What’s keeping you from…?”
Her eyes search mine. “From being whole.”
My mouth opens but the words die before reaching my lips.
“You’re always there for me.” She places a hand on my chest. “Just tell me what you need so I can be there for you.”
Next evening, I’m reading the news, swiping at my tablet, when something catches my eye: a story about a body, drained of blood, found near the riverfront. Enraged, I push open her door and hold up the tablet. “You did it again.”
She’s in her closet, topless, sifting through dresses. “Hello, that door still means something. What do you want?”
I step in. “Someone sucked a body dry last night. It’s all over the news – we’re exposed.”
“I didn’t do that.”
“Then who did?”
She’s smiling when she faces me. Then she kisses my cheek. “Congratulations — we’re parents!”
“It’s a miracle.” Still smiling, both her hands take mine. “Remember that copper in the sports car?”
“The one you killed, and I dumped in the lake?”
“I’m calling him Logan. Hope you like the name. He’s living nearby.”
My breathing becomes shallow as I grab her arm. “Are you saying you sired that cop?”
“We sired him. We had sex and he and I drank each other’s blood…”
“His name was Officer Jared Brown and we got into bed after you killed him. Sex isn’t even part of the process.”
“I don’t remember the order — I don’t know how this works — but aren’t you happy? We have a son.” She tries to move and notices my grip on her arm. “Let go.”
“Walk me through it. You were together in the car, and you drained him. When did you give him your blood?”
“I can’t REMEMBER.” Her breasts swing as she yanks herself free. “Really, I thought you’d be happy – at least for me. I didn’t think I could sire someone.”
“Camilla, listen: You brought a being into this world that neither of us can protect…”
“We brought him into this world.”
“…and once the police catch him, they’ll start looking for others.”
“But you can teach him to survive – like you’re teaching me.”
“I can barely keep you out of trouble.”
“That right there – that tone. Use it to keep him in line.”
“STOP ACTING LIKE I’M HIS FATHER.”
Blood pools in her eyes as her body shakes. “What’s happening?”
“I signed up for you alone – not any bastards you create.”
“So, we’re back to our agreement. How convenient for you.”
“There’s nothing convenient here. Now I have an even bigger problem to fix.”
Her eyes narrow. “What does that look like?”
“It starts with an address. Where is he?”
“You stay away from him.”
“Try to stop me.” Before I exit, I turn around. “Still standing there? You just proved my point.”
“You’re not ready to be a mother.”
“Get.” She points toward the door. “Out.”
I point at her before I leave. “New rules are coming when I get back.”
“GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE.”
Finally, something I agree with. Fiona’s check is still in the kitchen. I pocket that as I head for the Go Bag under my bed. I open that and feel for my Beretta, a trophy from a battle that seems ages ago. I release the magazine and let it fall on the table. Regular bullets. Reaching into the bag again, I find the other mag containing wood-tipped rounds. One through the heart is all that’s needed. With my lone hand, I stand the mag on the table and slide the pistol down until I hear it click.
Twenty minutes later, I’m walking past the Belle of Louisville steamboat with the gun barely concealed behind my belt. I’m testing that TV trope that says a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. Up ahead, I see discarded police tape littering the ground by a low viaduct. Ducking my head, I crouch forward, peering through a thermal imager, making sure to check behind the concrete pylons. A dirty tarp catches my eye; it’s piled in a corner with a few large rocks to keep the edges down. No further proof needed – he’s nearby. Backing out of the cramped space, my eyes catch the rainbow lights of the pedestrian bridge half a mile away. Even after midnight, I count a handful of people walking back from the Indiana side. It’s a perfect hunting ground – especially when the lights go out as scheduled at 1am. I check my watch and start running.
I’m on the ramp when the bridge goes dark. Through my thermal imager, I see a lone figure above walking toward a straggler. He’s wearing the same shirt and shorts but this time he’s 28 degrees. He glances down, making eye contact, and I see him struggle. He knows I’m there for him, but the oncoming woman is such an easy target. Consumed by hunger, the two-day-old continues his pursuit.
I quicken my pace, determined to render mortal this thing Camilla hoped would live forever. No doubt, she’ll come after me once reality sets in that “our” child is dead. Reckless as usual, she’ll disregard her safety and the universe will respond; there’s a reason most vampires die in their first year. What a shame she won’t last. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll miss those emerald eyes that flash from fury to innocence in less than a second. If we hadn’t argued, I might’ve learned to live with her unpredictable nature. Now I’m stuck with the memory of her slender figure, the weight and feel of each breast, and the smell of her hair. The way she tasted.
This is all my fault. I broke the second rule of guardianship with Camilla and am about to break the first with the one she created. Despite these crimes, I cling to the hope that Camilla and Fiona will let me go so long as I keep quiet. After all, I made a career out of helping them cheat death. Don’t I deserve to spend my remaining years in peace, as a fugitive? Yeah, like that would ever happen. As dawn approaches, the rational part of my brain knows I’ll be dead in a week. So, it really is a question of who gets to end my life. For the first time, I see mortality as a gift, one that will release me from facing up to what I’ve done. Nevertheless, if I must die, so too will this monster who’d keep on killing night after night because no one is left to civilize him. My pace quickens as I yell “Police!” and direct the woman to retreat.
Growling, the spawn of Camilla turns to face my raised pistol. “You’re not like any cop I’ve seen.” He licks his lips.
Oh, the irony. My finger curls around the trigger. “Time to die again, Logan or Officer Jared or whatever you call yourself. This time, stay dead.”
Dan Klefstad is a longtime radio host and newscaster. His latest novel, Fiona’s Guardians, is about humans who work for a beautiful vampire named Fiona. The book was adapted by Artists’ Ensemble Theater for their Mysterious Journey podcast. A short film adaptation is currently in pre-production with a release date in 2024.
Dan is currently working on the sequel. He now writes in Louisville, Kentucky.