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Toxic #32: Sometimes An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks

Oct 22, 2014

Kim was still laughing over her lame joke about my clothes when the bell over the door jingled. I slunk sideways, figuring it was a good time to slip away, but stopped two inches from the chest of her new customer. One of Rorbauch’s friends.

Or at least I figured it was one of his friends. It was one of the fanged wonders from my first trip to the Dragon, anyway, and his eyes had a sheen that matched the soul of a South American despot.

Kim went from laughing to prim shopkeeper so fast she must’ve had a “change mood” switch. “Welcome to Tarot’s Way. Feel free to look around. Just don’t play with the black crystals unless you’re going to buy them, okay? It’s a pain in the butt to get fingerprints off obsidian.”

She squatted down behind one of the displays and started shoving things around on the shelves. It was better than her riffing on my shirts more, but frankly? Unless she was digging for holy water, whatever she found wouldn’t do her much good. Not if Fang Boy was hungry, and judging by his rumbly tummy, he was.

I muttered, trying not to look the vamp in the eyes. “Why do I kept attracting the undead to me like flies to crap?”

Fang Boy leaned in, bringing with him the waft of unwashed frat-boy laundry. “Excuse me?”

I sighed. It would serve Kim right if I took off and let him chew on her, but no. She was clueless. And mostly harmless. Leaving her alone with a vampire jonesing for some organic Type O wasn’t going to happen. Which meant I was going to have to do something I’d sworn I’d never do again—piss off a vampire.

I tucked my books into my backpack. “Glen, right?” I hadn’t been introduced to him or anything, but Vincent had gone over his habits, along with his blissfully absent partner, Matilda’s. They were a nasty couple, sick beyond words. And that was coming from someone who’d watched “Hostel” without losing her lunch.

“Are you talking to me?”

Kim was still in her own little world, searching for whatever in the display case. “If you have the munchies, you’d do better at one of the bars. The college kids should be stumbling in to get good and drunk by now.”

Glen’s eyebrows rose. “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

“Sure. Okay. My friend is a little anemic is all.” I leaned in and whispered, “The bulimia really messes up your red cell counts. Just thought you’d want to skip the watered-down Kool-aid.”

I fiddled with my earring as the vamp blinked, casually taking it out and palming it. “Hey, Kim? I’m gone.”

She popped her head up long enough to say, “Oh, okay. I’ll bring it in tomorrow.” She dove back down into the display case, humming an Enya song.

Bring it? What was she talking about? Ignoring her, I jabbed the point of my earring into my palm. Then I headed for the door, my hand gliding over Glen’s jacket. The small red smear it left was shocking on the yellow nylon.

Glen froze. I bailed. My plan, lame as it was, was in motion.

My heart raced like a rabbit on crack as I stepped outside. I’d just given a vampire an invitation to bite me. I was insane. And apparently hated myself. Not to mention that my dad was meeting me at the entrance to the parking garage behind the Commons, which meant getting myself through another alley to get to the safety of his car. An alley like in New York. With me playing Pied Piper to the vampires again. If I survived I was going to have a long talk with myself about my love of doing stupid things. I was also going to have to evaluate my ability to think under pressure.

The shop door opened behind me, the little bell loud in the deserted night. And it was deserted; the kids playing tag had disappeared, dragging along their parents. The college kids were nowhere to be seen. I was alone except for the vampire, who in my opinion hadn’t stayed stunned by my blood smear long enough.

He wasn’t hurrying, at least. My blood would lead him to wherever I went. He could take his time. I was betting on him being cocky and doing just that. I was also betting on my dad being at the entrance to the parking garage. I ran through the alley as fast as I could—much shorter, cleaner, and narrower than the one in New York—only to come out into the first floor of the garage, empty except for one beat-up, empty Volvo and a ripped plastic bag.

Best laid plans and all that.

I ran. I had no idea to where. It just had to be somewhere the vampire wasn’t. I didn’t make it halfway across the garage before he grabbed me, though. As he spun me around to face him, I fumbled in my coat and found the iron marker Vincent had given me.

My grin died before it formed. The stone did nothing. I held it up to his face, but it was nothing but a rock. There was no glow. No magic. No freaking instructions.

Glen laughed. “Is that your idea of a weapon?”

I swore, going from terrified to pissed. I wasn’t going to end up with a squashed skull again. Not this time. This time things were going to end things differently. Otherwise I’d wasted all that time being tutored by Vincent when I could have been watching movies.

I lowered the rock. I had to not panic, not let the fear and the memories of New York and the stone cold terror of prey recognizing a predator shut down my brain. The marker didn’t work. Vincent had said it would stop anyone with any sense. So maybe the problem was Glen had no sense.

I smiled a New York smile, familiar to anyone who’d been out in certain sections of Brooklyn later than they should. Glen might not have sense but he did have a nose. And I was pretty sure even vampires would react if their nose got cracked.

I palmed the rock. Glen’s eyes narrowed. And as he blocked my swing, exactly like I’d hoped he would, I kneed him in the family jewels.

© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.



Toxic: Installments