After Dark (The Vampire Next Door Book 2)

This book is a work of fiction; all characters, names, places, incidents, and events are the product of the author's imagination and either fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2014 Rose Titus. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the publisher.

 

Bathory Gate Press

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Granbury, Texas

 

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After Dark

 

Vampire Next Door #2

 

 

Rose Titus

She had called in sick once again; she felt as though she really had to. She had awakened crying again in the middle of the night. Crying and wondering if maybe she would be better off dead.

Behind her were the howls of screaming children, laughing, playing, begging their parents for more money for candy. She looked away. She couldn’t stand to look at children any more. Or hear them. They, too, were not in school when they should have been.

And she turned back to the panther in the small cage; she leaned over the rail that forced people to keep at a safe distance. He was asleep in the warm California sun; the golden light revealed the leopard patterned spots hidden under his charcoal darkness. He was a beautiful creature. It was so sad to see him live confined by iron bars and sleep on a slab of concrete amongst his own excrement.

Laura drifted to the tiger cage. There were two, in a concrete pit, the tiger and tigress. They also slept in the sun, but had some grass, a lot of dry sand, and a concrete wall painted in a jungle scene, all for the natural habitat look.

She half wondered if she should climb the iron rail that ran the edge of the tiger pit and drop herself down. It could be easy. It didn’t appear difficult to climb, and she might be made unconscious by the fall, not feel a thing, and then it would swiftly be over.

But she didn’t have the courage to finally do it.

So instead she pulled her sketchpad from her heavy and disorganized tote bag and began to draw one of the big golden and black cats; she remained in that position for hours, standing, holding up her sketchpad, drawing the tigers, and trying to forget the never-ending pain in her soul.

Shortly before dusk she left the zoo to return to the cold loneliness of her apartment.

 

On Friday morning Sky left yet another telephone message asking Lina for the hundredth time to go to the beach because “you really gotta have a tan!” She erased it quickly and laughed. Sky’s face was as rough as old leather after so many decades of worshipping the sun, but Lina knew that she would be in much worse condition after such torture, within minutes. Poor Sky, perhaps she did mean well, if only she really knew.

“If she knew, she would not bother to even ask you such nonsense,” her husband said sleepily from the bedroom. It was now dusk, and she usually woke up first. “Or perhaps if you told her she would finally leave you alone for good?”

No. She would tell Sky that she needed to work. Keisha would cover for her, as always. Thank God for Keisha.

She took a sip from her heated mug and gazed out the window at the red golden sunset over the dark ocean, the sea turned to a liquid fire as the day ended. She would leave soon, because Keisha wanted to be home earlier.

“Lina, about your little friend Sky,” her husband grumbled.

She went for her purse and took out her car keys. “Look, I know she’s extremely irritating.”

“And she has not paid the rent for four months in a row. Not that it’s unusual for her, but it would be nice if she did.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to her as soon as I can.”

“How soon?”

“Alex, she is very sensitive.”

“No. She is just strange.”

“You’re right. She is. Look, I’ve got to go.”

Lina’s metallic blue ‘75 ‘Vette sped out of the driveway, heading quickly to the town’s shopping district.

Sky was strange. Alex was damn right. He was soft hearted at times, and let his tenants get away with slow payment, sometimes.

But Sky was irritating. And so tremendously self-absorbed she would never realize it. A child of two very lost hippies that drifted across the country eventually ending up in California to live on the beach in a tent and never officially getting married, she still burned incense and Alex wondered what other kind of smoke might fill her apartment’s atmosphere. She was a strict vegetarian and constantly was interrogating Lina about her diet, accusing her of not “looking healthy.” At times she truly understood why Alex couldn’t stand her.

Lina used to really like Sky, but in the past few months she had become increasingly more abrasive, in a well-meaning sort of way. Sky always claimed that she was being helpful. “I know what’s really wrong with you! You need to eat more salad—I never see you eat vegetables. And garlic is so good for you. A little a day can help you live longer! Why Lina, I never see you eat vegetables, in fact, I never even see you eat.” She would go on continuously, interrogating her as to why on earth she was always so pale, why she did not go “out in the fresh air more, and get some sun!” And she would flash that bright bleached smile of hers in Lina’s direction, that bright white smile bursting out from her burnt dark parchment face. It almost hurt to look into it. And as well as that she often questioned Lina’s personal life, especially her relationship with Alex. “Is that cold fish any good? For anything, I mean?” But Sky had a continual parade of different casual male friends walking through her life, none of which lasted more than several weeks.

“Oh God,” she hissed out loud. “Alex is right, she is strange.” She parked her Corvette in the alley by her store and hurried in.

“Keisha, I tried to get here as soon as I could.”

“Yeah? You’re friend called again, you know.”

“Oh hell.”

“Don’t worry, honey. I told her you were out buying supplies. That one seems to work.”

“Keisha, you are my savior.”

Keisha laughed quietly and pulled her oversized black leather purse out from under the counter. “Gotta pick up my kid.”

“Sky keeps calling because her latest project is to convince me that I need a tan, so I should spend a day at the beach, with her.”

“Yeah, girl? You need a tan as bad as I do!” and she headed out the door.

“Thanks Keisha.”

When Keisha left some customers drifted in. Lina asked if they needed any help with anything, but they said they were just looking. Business was moderately good during the late afternoon and evening hours. People were returning from the beach, going out to the nightclubs and discos and restaurants, or just wandering in and out through the shops to entertain themselves. She hired Keisha to manage the store during the day, and it remained open until late at night.
Illusions
was the name of the shop; she created hand-painted silk shirts, jackets, and T-shirts, painted scarves and sold some of the simple jewelry Keisha made at home. It was fun, and it made a small profit. And she was glad to have Keisha to manage for her during the day.

The phone by the cash register rang. She shuddered at the sudden noise. Who could it be? She hesitated. Alex never called unless there was an emergency. It had to be.

“Oh, hello Sky. Say, I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“I’ve been trying to get you all day long!”

I was asleep, like I always am, silly useless woman
. “Yeah, I know, but Alex is worried that—”

“Lina! You must! Now! Begin to do! Something! About! Your life!” She continued on, but Lina closed her ears, and simply stopped listening.

“About the rent, Sky. Alex wanted to know—”

“You need to get more in touch with yourself! For a happier you! You need to get in touch with your true feelings about your Inner Self. You need better relationships!”

Oh God. What the hell kind of mind altering group therapy or drug was she doing now? Lina wondered. Sky was the follower of a local character who called himself a Life-Healer. She read the brochure that Sky had forcibly given her. For a three hour one night session that cost only $599.99, you could “erase all negative influences from your childhood and from your past relationships.”

“Look, I said it once. I don’t believe in open marriages. Okay?”

“Lina! Lina! It is not spiritually healthy to close yourself off to life’s other possibilities!”

“Now look, Sky, do you have enough to pay the rent? You can tell me. It’s okay, just tell me, we can work something out.”

“You need help with getting rid of all your negative energy, Lina. You need more yang and less yin.”

“Now look—”

“Concentrate, Lina. Feel the positive psychic energy I am sending to you radiating in waves.”

“I feel like I’m getting irritated. Just because I face reality doesn’t mean I’m not happy.”

“You are vibrating with negativity and bad energy!”

“Look! Just snap out of it for once, will you? And talk normal. Talk about the rent, okay, so we can work something out, ’cause we don’t want to have to—”

“You need to locate the true source of the dark energy that surrounds your life!”

“Okay, I know you can’t stand Alex, but stop implying—”

“When and how and where did you last make love?”

“It wasn’t in the front yard at dawn, for the whole waking neighborhood to see and hear. Now stop asking personal questions.”

“I knew it. My psychic ability told me so. You have a deep rooted problem in your relationship!”

“No I don’t. He seems cold because he can’t stand you. It’s your self-absorbed and domineering attitude. Now. Are you going to pay the rent, or do we—”

“Oh, Lina. I will not take this verbal abuse!” She hung up abruptly.

“Oh hell,” she hissed. “She gets loonier every damn day.”

Yes, Alex was cold and aloof at times, but he had a right to be irritated. Sky would often come unannounced. Last week she barged in and saw him drinking what she believed to be red wine, and told him he had a dependency, and that she could get him help. Alex threw her out.

Now she owed four months’ rent. Was she making these accusations to punish them both?

Alex was right. “Those people” were all pains in the neck, he would often say, with a sarcastic tone. “Worse pains in the neck than any of us could ever achieve.”

She felt her anger rising from deep within her soul. It was a nice clear night, perhaps she would close up early, and drive to the beach, just walk by the ocean, and listen to the timeless rhythm of the sea. And forget Sky.

If it was possible to forget her.

Sky befriended her two years ago when she moved into one of the apartments in the building that she and Alex renovated. At first, she seemed friendly, but Lina always felt there was something not quite right.

Somehow Sky seemed to always want to charge into her life to “help” her, even when she assured her that things were “just fine.” Sky imagined Lina to need all sorts of improvements, changes, new diets, new goals, and so on.

Lina wanted to shout at her to be quiet, to leave her alone to enjoy her own life, but Sky would continue on lecturing on how “repressed” she was. And she was so damned intrusive.

For a living Sky did psychic readings for tourists in a tent on the streets near the beach. She also sold herbal teas and handmade trinkets. Perhaps it wasn’t profitable lately? But then Sky also worked part time at a day care center, so she did have income. Could she only be refusing to pay rent because she disliked Alex?

 

Alex drifted slowly through the back door to step down into the darkened entrance to the well-kept old building’s lower levels. On the upper floors there was an exclusive restaurant that catered to the wealthy and sophisticated; below, on the ground level there was a dance club, which attracted a completely different crowd of people—many with spiked purple hair. But under the dance floor, underground, there was served another kind of people. This dining area was not well known to many above ground.

He surveyed the area. A few tables were empty, but most tables had one or two people sitting and talking. And there she was, in the corner, alone, waiting for him. His sister Alexandra looked up and nodded to acknowledge him. He went to her table and sat down. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes,” she put her fine crystal glass down. “Jim Ellison left a message on my answering machine. I was surprised to hear from him after so long a time. He said, ‘I know you’re asleep but I’ve got some shocking news’.”

“What is it?” he knew that Jim called everything shocking, incredible, amazing, mind-boggling. That was his profession. He wrote for the tabloids, the ones that reported on flying saucers and Bigfoot.

“So, I kept calling, and finally got him,” she sighed. Alex noticed that she sighed a lot lately. “Says he’s got something he wants us to see. Well, you know, the business he’s in, he’s always looking for unusual things, searching the web for news of the odd.”

“Has he finally captured the sasquatch?” he smirked. He did like Jim, but also enjoyed having a laugh at his line of work. That was how they met. Jim had been allowed to do “an article” for his so-called newspaper, the kind of tabloid newspaper people picked up in the supermarket checkout line and took home to read just for fun. The article was titled “Civilized Vampires Come Out After Dark.”
It was agreed by the community to allow him to publish it because no one believed anything in that sort of newspaper anyway.

“No, he hasn’t captured the sasquatch, and he hasn’t had a ride in a flying saucer either. He thinks he may have found more people like us.”

“Really? How? Someone write the editor of that cheap paper? “

“No. It’s… well, you know how some colleges have magazines that students write for? I guess nowadays they’re all online. Jim searches the internet for anything he could use, and he found this article by a college student on the East Coast. It’s a story about vampires, but not the movie kind. The characters in her story, they are very much like us, Alex. Living, breathing… and all the rest, stop aging after thirty, and then gradually lose tolerance for the sun, live to be about three hundred. He told me over the phone about it. I haven’t seen it. I asked him to send it, but he said he might be travelling through, so he might come by and drop it off. “

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