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Authors: Lynda Hilburn

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Crimson Psyche

BOOK: Crimson Psyche
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Crimson Psyche

Lynda Hilburn

 

Copyright 2014, 2015 Lynda Hilburn

Digital Edition published by Lynda Hilburn

Cover design by
Damonza

Digital formatting by
A Thirsty Mind Book Design

All rights reserved. No part of this book, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews, may be reproduced in any form by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The scanning, uploading, and distributing of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the copyright owner is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Chapter 1

“Welcome back, Denver! Carson Miller here, host of
Wake Up, Denver!
, WOW Radio’s top-rated talk show. We’re continuing this week’s theme of whacked local celebrities. Is it just me, or is Denver crazier than ever?” His laugh sounded like a rusty chainsaw.

What the hell? Whacked local celebrities? I agreed to come and counsel his listeners!

“I’ve got self-proclaimed vampire psycho — oops, I mean vampire psych
ologist
— Dr. Kismet Knight in the studio with me today. She’s ready and willing to answer all your bloodsucker questions. Give us a call. The phone lines are open. Welcome, Dr. Knight.” He gave a wide, tobacco-stained smile.

“Thanks, Carson.” I spoke into the microphone on the long folding table in front of me. “I’m happy to be here.” Barely catching myself before I tacked a question mark onto my response, I adjusted my headphones and peered around at the unexpectedly low-tech, dungeon-like studio.

Piles of newspapers, men’s magazines, CDs, DVDs and promo flyers fought for supremacy against empty pizza boxes and Styrofoam coffee cups. Fast food bags overflowed the trash can. The pleasant decor and posters of contemporary talk-show personalities on the walls in the outer office hadn’t prepared me for the primitive reality of Carson World.

As he read an ad for an auto parts store, I inched my microphone further away from his, noting the long cord curling at the base of the stand in case I needed to put even more space between us, and scanned the electronics in the engineer’s booth. Not only was the equipment modern, but through a glass wall I could see yet another studio on the far side of the booth, and even from here that one looked to be state-of-the-art. Why would the station stick Carson in such a miserable hole?

He rotated his head in my direction and wiggled his eyebrows, still talking into the microphone. “Let me start by saying that you look finger-lickin’ good this morning, Doc. Seriously babe-o-licious.” He ran his thick, lumpy tongue slowly around his lips in a horror-film version of what I supposed he thought was a sexual come-on.

Gak.

“Uh, thanks?” I couldn’t quite squelch the question mark this time. I studied his stained, too-small T-shirt and unfashionably torn jeans. His voice, which had sounded pretty sexy through my car radio, wasn’t even close to being an accurate representation of the man himself.

“And now that I’ve eyeballed the merchandise, I’m going to do my best to talk the Doc here into taking off her clothes before the show’s over. Then I’ll post photos on my Facebook page,” he said, laughing at my alarmed expression.

“I don’t think so.”
Oh, great. Another Howard Stern shock-jock wannabe, except fat and bald. What is it with all these talk-radio assholes? Miserable-hole question answered. At least I’ll get a good case-study article out of this experience: Demented, Aging Radio Hosts and Mental Illness.
“We can take that option off the table.” I glanced at the door that led from our tiny sound booth to the engineer’s studio to calculate how many steps it would take me to escape.

“Don’t be so sure, Doc. I can be pretty persuasive when I put my mind to it.” He pointed at the engineer, who hit a sound effects button and filled the airwaves with loud clapping.

Young spectators were visible through a large window, lining the hallway and blocking the exit. They high-fived each other and bumped fists, laughing at something I was obviously not cool enough to understand.

Does he have those fans jammed in there on purpose to keep me from leaving? He probably does. What a creep!

I caught a movement from the corner of my eye and shifted my gaze toward a young male who’d materialized, stepped through the bystanders and sauntered over to stand next to me.

Perfect. A haunted radio station. Just what I need.

The slender man wore a glittery jacket with bulky shoulder pads and sported spiked 1980s hair. He grinned and saluted me with a beer can.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Carson continued, “I have to tell you that it’s a shame we aren’t on TV because Dr. Knight is a feast for the eyes. She’s wearing a clingy black dress that hugs her curves in all the right places. Legs that go on forever. Big blue eyes. And she’s got this great long, dark hair.” He reached out to touch my curls and I smacked his hand away. He lowered his voice and gave it an extra layer of smarm. “It gives a guy ideas, if you know what I mean. Anyway, Doc” — he returned to me — “so what the hell is a vampire psychologist? Are you a vampire?” He laughed and his belly flopped against the table, making the microphone wobble. When he moved, the smell of cigarette smoke wafted from his T-shirt.

“No, Carson, I’m not a vampire.” I scooted my chair and microphone even further away from the host, tilted my head and attempted a professional smile while I focused on his ridiculous question.
If he only knew
. “I’m a psychologist who works with the subculture of individuals who believe they’re vampires. Or who want to be vampires. People seeking meaning through role-playing and exploring the dark side of themselves — the unknown — and by flouting society’s ideas of good versus evil.”

“Wow, Doc, that sounds pretty sexy,” he oozed. “Are you saying that Denver has a lot of these people? These ‘pretend vampires’?” He reached one of his hands out toward me, making grabbing motions.

I shoved it away, giving him the evil eye.

This moron’s not going to rattle me. I’m here for the listeners.

He waved three fingers at the engineer and a chorus of “Carson! Carson! Carson!” burst from the speakers. Then, while the voices raved, he laughed and pointed to the microphone, expecting, or maybe daring, me to continue my interview despite his obnoxious behavior.

I glanced at the studio clock on the wall, imagining pushing my way through the crowd at the door and regretting the fact that I’d agreed to be a guest for an entire segment. In retrospect, I definitely should’ve done more research to determine which media appearances would actually help my career, which ones had disgusting hosts, and which shows just wanted to exploit the fact that I’d been involved in a heavily reported serial murder investigation — a case dubbed the
vampire murders
— six months earlier. Who’d’ve guessed finding blood-drained bodies would generate so much interest?

Carson sliced his finger across his neck, signaling the engineer to stop the chant, then said, “Hey, Doc, wasn’t somebody killed in your office a while back?”

“There was a death, yes, but I’m sure your audience would rather have me address their personal issues as we agreed.” I stared at him until he smirked and pointed to the engineer, who pressed another button on his console, unleashing the sound of a roaring crowd.

I wasn’t about to discuss the death in my office. Very few people knew the truth: that the perpetrator had been a mentally defective vampire, diagnosed with what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, and whose rotted corpse finally sloughed off his immortal coil a few weeks ago. Those select few who did know included one Denver police lieutenant, one cocky FBI agent, a bunch of vampires, a half-undead psychologist colleague, a transgendered hypnotherapist and me. Everybody else believed the cover story about a mortal perpetrator.

’80s Guy bent close to Carson and waved his hands in front of the oblivious host’s face.

I’ll just ignore the Billy Idol clone, and he’ll get bored and go away.

The sound effect stopped again, leaving empty air, and after a moment Carson realized and jumped back in. “It seems the Doc here needs more coffee — she’s a little slow on the uptake this morning. Okay, so let’s go to the phones. Studio lines are open.”

He gave me an innocent smile and shrugged, as if to say I shouldn’t hold him responsible for his radio persona. I notched up the ice content in my glare and pushed my chair back a couple more inches.

Maybe he’s off his meds. Or he has mad cow disease.

The studio phone had two rows of buttons and all of them were lit up and blinking. He pressed the closest one.

“You’re on the air. Give us your first name and your question for the luscious Dr. Knight.”

“Hello? Dr. Knight? This is Susan in Aurora. I want to know if you’ve ever worked with any
real
vampires?”

Why, yes, Susan. I actually chopped the head off one, was locked in a coffin by another, met the most famous bloodsucker of them all, and have sweaty, wild, and crazy sex regularly with yet another. Nope. Better not say that.

“That’s an interesting question, Susan.” I settled into my counseling mode while tracking Carson out of the corner of my eye. “Why do you ask? Do you think vampires are real?”

“Not exactly, but I guess I wish they were real.”

“Hmm. Why do you wish they were real?”

“Well, it would just be so cool to be with a guy who could read your mind and who could make you live forever — a guy who would want to be with you all the time. A guy who wouldn’t cheat on me.”

“Ah. It sounds like you’ve had a painful experience with a man recently. A non-vampire, right?”

“Yeah, this tarot reader told me my boyfriend was a psychic vampire. I bet you work with a lot of those, too.”

“I do come across a lot of psychic vampires.” I stared over at Carson. “They’re everywhere. For listeners who might not know what that is, a psychic vampire is someone who feeds on the emotions and energy of others, psychologically speaking. We all know people who suck on our energy, who manipulate and control things to their advantage. We can’t make them stop trying to feed on us, but we can take ourselves off the menu. We can create healthy boundaries for ourselves, so that no one can drain our energy without our permission.”

Carson leaned into his microphone. “Hey, Doc, why would people give permission for some psychic vampire to feed on them?”

I glanced toward him, keeping my expression neutral. “Well, sometimes we don’t realize we’re dealing with a psychic vampire until they’ve already stuck their psychic fangs in our necks. They can be very clever, manipulative — extremely self-absorbed. We’re bespelled before we even realize what happened. Or sometimes a person with inadequate boundaries, or maybe a poor self-image, unconsciously invites a predator into his or her life. Psychic vampires sense the vulnerabilities in others and they prey upon them. They go from one victim to another, feeding and draining. Isn’t that right, Carson?”

“How would I know, Doc?” He frowned, pursed his lips. “Are you saying that
I’m
a psychic vampire?”

Duh.

“Whatever gave you that idea, Carson?” I smiled and batted my eyelashes.

Okay, so my Inner Bitch is alive and well.

“Well, I want my listeners to know that I’m not any kind of vampire, although I wouldn’t mind doing a little sucking on various parts of your bodacious bod, Doc.”

I gave him a bland stare.

What an idiot.

He smirked and punched another button on the telephone. “You’re on the air.”

“This is Crystal, Dr. Knight, and I’m calling because I have terminal cancer and the doctors say I only have a few months left to live. They’ve done everything they can. I’m only twenty-four, Doctor, and I don’t want to die. I want to live at least a normal number of years. If I can find a real vampire to bite me and turn me into one of them, will my body be cancer-free?”

Shit. They never taught this stuff in ethics class in graduate school. Do I tell her the truth, that yes, her body would be cancer-free, but she’d be the walking dead? Or do I pretend that the vampire thing is a fantasy and just let her die? Which is better, dead or undead?

“I’m so sorry you’re sick, Crystal. According to vampire legend, if a vampire brings you over, you no longer have a mortal body, so, yes, you’d be cancer-free. But you’d also be dead. Since there aren’t any real vampires available at the moment to ask” —
Hey, that’s true, they’re all dead ’til sundown
— “I do have a medical suggestion for you. My office phone number is on my website. I’d like you to call me so we can discuss options. Will you do that?”

“Sure. I don’t think it’s going to do any good, but why not? I’ll call you later today. Thanks, Dr. Knight.”

Ah, Crystal, be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.

“That’s great. I’ll talk to you then.”

Carson edged closer to his microphone, making loud sniffing and sobbing noises, pretending to cry. “Gee, Doc, that was heartbreaking, wasn’t it? I wonder if she’d be willing to have some hot sex before she bites the dust? Could you ask her when she calls you?”

’80s Guy punched Carson in the head.

Beyond the glass, his spectators jumped up and down, slapping high-fives again.

My face twisted with disgust and he chuckled. Apparently he’d wanted to see how far he could push me, but for what possible purpose? There was something very foul about Carson Miller. Lucky I was trained to handle mental defectives.

“Keep those calls coming in, Denver.” He clicked the next flashing button on the phone. “You’re on the air with the succulent Dr. Knight and the humble Carson Miller. Speak now, or forever hold your... whatever.”

“Hi, Dr. Knight! This is Amber. Me and my girlfriends are cosmetologists, and we’re listening to you at our hair salon, along with our customers. We think you’re cool.” Clapping and cheers sounded in the background.

Carson slumped back in his chair, a wicked grin on his fat face.

“Thanks, Amber.” I put a smile in my voice. “I appreciate that. How can I help you?”

“Well,” she began, her voice breathy, excited, “we’re rabid vampire fans. We read every vampire book that comes out, and there are lots of vampire romances these days. Why do you think women get aroused by the idea of having sex with a vampire? I mean, aren’t their bodies cold and hard like statues? How arousing is that?”

I chuckled. “Let me begin with your first question. I think women are intrigued with the notion of having sex with vampires because vampires are extraordinary. They’re immortal, and they desperately need the woman’s blood in order to exist. Imagine being needed that intensely: that’s a pretty powerful metaphor, don’t you think?”

Be still, my heart...

BOOK: Crimson Psyche
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