IN A SLEEPY CORNER of Eudora, off to the south, the residents of a recently built housing development were rising along with the sun, unaware that a monster was in their midst.
Thomas, a vampire not by birth but most certainly by choice, slunk along the rooftops of the newly built homes, leaping from one house to another in relative silence and ease. The suit he wore, a formfitting body suit that covered every inch of him, allowed him to go about undetected. It was made from a special fiber that had been hand woven by mystics to trick not the eye, but the mind. Anyone walking along the sidewalk of this lazy suburb would be able to clearly see Thomas as he moved about on his shady business, but thanks to the spells layered into the fabric, the image the eye recorded is processed by the brain and then treated with the very same ‘nothing to see here’ attitude that your average beat cop throws around on the outskirts of a grizzly traffic accident.
The girl Thomas followed plodded along a sidewalk so clean that it was almost white. She paid no attention to her surroundings, lost as she was in the screen of her smart phone. She meandered more than walked, moving toward her goal lazily as the crisp morning air ruffled the curly brown hair around her shoulders.
She was too old. Thomas had seen that right away. She was thirteen if she was a day, but this was the girl Brone had chosen, so this was the girl Thomas would take. Brone would only have himself to blame if she wasn’t the right age.
The thought made Thomas smile beneath the woven mask. He and his brother were alike in many ways, but unlike Alexander, Thomas did not believe that Brone was the savior of their people. In fact, he did not harbor much respect for Bertram Brone at all. Yet, because of Alexander, he would do Brone’s bidding. For now.
Thomas jumped from the roof of a two-level home, built to look identical to every other house on the block. He landed silently in a crouch on the front lawn, ten yards from the girl who had yet to lift her head long enough to see where she was going. He moved with the speed and grace of a cheetah on the hunt and was soon walking directly behind the girl, matching her stride step for step.
She was so close he could reach out and touch her.
He continued to follow her for two blocks as she made her way to school. He’d been doing the very same for five days now. Her routine hadn’t changed once over the entire week.
Though classes didn’t start for another hour or so, Thomas had learned that the girl—he’d not bothered to learn her name—met with a group of friends before school to smoke out behind the wood shop. The friends would miss her when she did not arrive, but by then it would be too late for them to do anything about it. Once he had her, she’d never be seen again.
Thomas produced a thin sheet of cloth made from the same material as his suit and unfolded it as he walked. The entire sheet was enough to cover an average sized person from head to toe, hiding them from public eye.
With the sheet in one hand he reached back into his suit and found the hypodermic needle he’d had sewn into the inner lining next to his heart. He pulled the cap off of the needle with his teeth and moved in closer to the girl.
Thomas took one last quick look around to ensure there was no one else about and then threw the sheet of spell-woven fabric over himself and the girl. She began to scream almost immediately. He grabbed hold of her, keeping her still, and plunged the needle into her neck. She’d wilted before he’d had he plunger completely depressed.
Thomas crouched and wrapped the girl in the blanket, making sure nothing of her remained exposed. Then, throwing her over one shoulder, he set off to the north and the van that waited.
The van had been made up to look like a typical plumber’s van. A logo to an actual plumber in Kansas City—Paul the Plumber Man—had been painted on the side. Thomas had parked the van in the drive of a home he knew to be vacant. He opened the side door to the sound of his cell phone vibrating in the built in cup holder in the dash. He sighed impatiently, dumped the girl to the floor, climbed up into the van and closed the door behind him. Anyone watching would have seen the door open and close by itself, but Thomas wasn’t worried. Any such report would be dismissed as foolishness.
The phone continued to vibrate against the sides of the cup holder, a sound he felt to be considerably annoying. He pulled himself into the driver’s seat just as the phone went silent. He sighed again and looked at the display. It had been his brother, Alexander. Thomas pulled the mask from his head and used his thumb to touch the redial option.
That’s when someone tapped on the driver’s side window.
A man in coveralls stood just outside, a confused look on his face. Thomas touched another option on the phone, disconnecting the call, and glanced in the rear view mirror, finding another van parked behind his.
“Can I help you?” he said once he’d rolled down the window.
“I was about to ask you the same question,” the man in the coveralls said. A patch on his breast proclaimed him as Al with Al’s Plumbing and Heating. “I wasn’t told that the contractor was using Paul, you trying to snake a job out of me?”
“I just stopped to use the phone,” Thomas said. “I don’t like to text and drive.”
“Well you stopped at my site, buddy boy,” Al said.
“Yes, I’m aware. If you’d like to move your van, I’d be happy to leave you to it.”
“I don’t know you,” Al said. “I thought I knew all of Paul’s guys.”
“I just started today.”
“Oh yeah,” Al laughed. “Paul’s starting his guys out alone these days, huh? Me, I ride with a new guy for a day or two before I let him loose on one of my jobs.”
“Yes, well . . . I’ll be on my way.”
“Paul pick up some new uniforms?” Al said, stepping closer to the van. “I mean, that’s a pretty odd getup you’re wearing there, I almost can’t see it there against the seat.”
Thomas reached out, took the plumber’s neck in one hand, and before Al could even register what was happening, wrenched the man’s head to the side in one quick motion. The plumber’s neck snapped with an audible pop and he went limp, the only thing stopping him from dropping to the cement was Thomas, who still held tight to the man’s neck.
His phone, still resting in the cup holder on the dashboard, began to vibrate again. Thomas ignored it and let the plumber drop to the driveway. Opening the door, he slid out of the van and lifted the body of the plumber, throwing him over one shoulder the same as he had done with the girl just minutes earlier.
He stowed Al in the back of the man’s own van, and finding the keys still in the ignition, moved the van into the street, parking it along the curb a few houses down.
The phone still vibrated, banging away at the sides of the cup holder, when Thomas pulled himself back in behind the wheel. He grunted and snatched up the phone, seeing that it was, once again, his brother.
He tapped the screen with his thumb.
“Yes,” Thomas said. He held the phone out before him, using the speaker phone option.
“You’re late,” his brother said.
“There were complications.”
“Brone grows impatient.”
“Brone can rot,” Thomas said.
“You should not speak so of Bertram Brone,” Alexander said. “He has done much for you and I.”
“He has done nothing we could not have done for ourselves, brother. You hold him in too high a regard.”
“Where is the girl?” Alexander said.
“I have her, but as I said, there were complications. She’s too old, for one.”
“She is the girl Brone bid you to fetch, no?”
“It is her.”
“Then her age matters not. Bring her in.”
“I had to kill a local,” Thomas said. “A plumber, he was becoming curious.”
“Where is the body?”
“In his van, parked at the curb a few houses down.”
“From your extraction point?”
Alexander did not reply, instead Thomas could hear him talking to someone who must have been in the room with him, but he could not make out what they said. Thomas waited.
“Leave it there,” Alexander said after a minute. “We will send someone to collect both the van and the body.”
“He will surely be missed,” Thomas said.
“That is no longer your concern. Bring the girl in. We have to meet with Lemonzeo soon.”
“Since when do we make deals with humans,” Thomas said. He clutched the phone so tightly that the screen cracked. “I don’t like getting into bed with humans, much less a man like him. He has no honor.”
“We need Lemonzeo,” Alexander said. “We have to be free to move forward without any outside interference if this enterprise is to succeed. I don’t like it much either, but Lemonzeo can help remove those impediments to our progress without anything coming back on us.”
“I understand the logic,” Thomas said. “This human better prove to be worth the money Brone is throwing at him.”
“He will,” Alexander said. “Brone has every confidence in the man.”
“That does not provide me with any comfort.”
“Look,” Alexander said. “If Lemonzeo doesn’t work out, you can be the one who kills him.”
“I’d like that,” Thomas said. “I’d like that a lot.”
“Bring in the girl,” Alexander said.
“On my way.”
Thomas clicked off, disconnecting the call, and tossed the phone back into the cup holder. He fantasized about what he’d do to Lemonzeo if given the chance, unaware as he did so that he laughed aloud as he drove through the quiet Eudora neighborhood.