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The Devil to Pay
The pill is small, so I decide to be cool like people in movies and pop it in my mouth without a drink. When I swallow, the pill sticks to the back of my throat. It’s not big enough to block my air, but I’m full-on gagging and hacking when I see a guy in a white shirt and tie duck past my window, open the rear door, and let himself into the backseat.
“Hey,” I croak, “you’re just in time to pass me that soda at your feet.” Which doubles in heavily-accented snark-talk for Who and/or what the hell, random guy?
But he’s not bilingual, so he only searches at his feet and passes up to me a half-empty bottle of soda. After a drink, I cough out: “Sorry, I wasn’t ready just then to host a mugging. But I’m good now.”
“Um,” he says, unsure, “okay, I think I might have made a mistake.”
“It’s true, I’m not a hooker.” In the rearview I can see a pristine wedge of blonde hair above pleasing green eyes. But very concerned eyes. Haunted, even.
He says, “I thought you were trying to take me.”
“Again, not a hooker.”
“But there’s no room back here to take somebody. I can’t even sit down. Are these all your clothes?”
“It’s laundry day,” I lie. “And let me get this straight. You were afraid I might be here to take you away in my car, and so…you got into my car?”
“Yeah, but I was going to do this.” He jabs a gun into the back of my neck. His voice is shaking. “Now look to your left. See those guys?”
“Wait, you were going to do this, or you’re actually doing it now?”
“Just look!” He quickly adds, “Please.”
“Well, since you said please…”
“You see them?”
I do. Up ahead, just beyond the light of the blue street lamp, stand two tall figures, deep black silhouettes against a lighter black night. They appear to be facing us. Just watching. “Yeah, I see ’em.”
“Can you call them off?”
“Hey, remember that one time when you were saying you might have made a mistake about me?”
“I know, but now I figure maybe even vampires gotta have laundry day, right?”
I take another look at him in the mirror. He’s sweating. Eyes darting. His aggression is coming from fear, not anger. I know he’s human, because I can’t feel any underworld in him, and I definitely would feel something from this close.
“And now I figure,” he says, “that when I say vampire and you say nothing, that tells me that maybe I didn’t make a mistake.”
“Could be I’m just speechless because I think you’re a crazy person. Or I could be waiting for you to look at me in the rearview mirror…” His eyes go to mine in the mirror. “…so I can use my Dracula mind-control powers on you.”
He quickly turns away and digs the gun deeper into my neck. Ow. “You might be supernaturally fast, but can you dodge a bullet?”
Human. White shirt and tie. Knows about vampires… “You’re from Washington?”
“Washington state? Is that a vampire thing? Makes sense. Lots of rain there, not much sun.”
Okay, I’m going to shut up now. This guy’s either the world’s greatest bullshit artist, or he’s just a human who found out way too much, and those two shadows under the streetlight really are vampires, in which case they’ll either wipe his mind or kill him.
“I’m Detroit PD, Homicide,” he says. Not the bullshit artist, then. Nice knowing you, guy. “Two days ago I’m assigned to a hooker from Corktown, and there’s no—”
“When you say assigned, you mean she’s dead?”
“I mean, her body was found with her throat ripped out, only there’s no blood at the scene, because there’s no blood in her body. Like it’s been sucked out.”
He eases up on the gun. “Right? Is that what you think?”
“I’m saying that’s what you think.”
“I don’t think, I know. Just like I know you’re either a hooker or a vampire, and probably both.”
“Try neither, and definitely not a hooker.”
“Yeah, you said that already. Very first thing when I got in your car was ‘I’m not a hooker.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, is your name also Methinks?’”
“Methinks, Methinks! It’s like a famous internet meme or whatever, and she protests too much about the thing that’s obviously true. I’m not a hooker, I’m not a hooker! Then why are you sitting out front of Dario Machlin’s apartment?”
“Dario? You’re here for Dario?”
“You tell me.” He pulls the gun away, and my shoulders can finally relax. After another glance at the shadow figures—yep, still there—he takes a breath, collecting himself. “Vampire or not—”
“Hooker or not.”
“—you have to know something. Last night you got into Underworld, which I’m pretty sure is a hangout for vampires. And you came home with Dario Machlin. You stayed all night.”
“What, so you’ve just been spying on us? Did you peek through his window at any time last night? Because you could have learned some things your girlfriend will appreciate.” I put the car into drive.
He flinches. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking us around the block. Unless you want to have a chat with those guys?”
He sucks in a breath when he sees that the shadow figures are now on the move toward us. As they pass beneath the light of the street lamp, I recognize them, and yes, they are vamps, and yes, my night just got shot to hell.
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