ABNER LEMONZEO BEGAN HIS day with a hundred push-ups and a hundred sit-ups. It was a habit he’d gotten into while incarcerated. Actually, it was the one good thing he’d taken from the whole experience. Thanks to prison he was in the best shape of his life.
Following the exercises he hit the shower, and remained there until the water went cold. The freedom of being alone in the shower was something he’d never take for granted again. Not anymore. Back in prison a shower was something you did quickly. You got in and you got out. You also had to focus more on who was around you then getting clean. It was a nerve wracking affair.
Once well and fully soaked, Lemonzeo would, weather permitting, air dry on the veranda. Living out in the country as he did, he didn’t need to worry about neighbors being offended by the lack of clothing.
As he sat and let the air do its thing, he sipped on hot coffee and smoked a thin cigar. Normally, under such circumstances, Lemonzeo would be feeling good. Pretty darn great, to tell the truth. But not this morning. This morning Lemonzeo was more than a little anxious.
He had made what he thought was a necessary, yet risky decision yesterday morning. He’d agreed to help to kill Norman Oklahoma for a group of vampires in return for a substantial cash donation toward his various enterprises. Which, he could admit to himself, were not all completely legal. He’d figured it was easy enough promise. After all, he’d already sent a man to kill Oklahoma.
Not a man, exactly.
So he made the deal, thinking that Oklahoma was already dead. He’d have made it anyway; the deal was going to help him get back on top. To get back all that he’d lost when he’d been locked away.
And really, it had all seemed so simple. Kill Norman Oklahoma. One man. What could be so hard about that?
But then something had gone wrong. Norman Oklahoma had survived. Lemonzeo had hired one of the best, the Walrus, yet Oklahoma lived. Not only that, he had come to visit with Lemonzeo and got into it with the very vampires Lemonzeo had gotten into bed with.
The two vampires, Thomas and Alexander, were anything but happy when they’d left the Pub yesterday morning. Not that he blamed them, but in reality, it wasn’t his fault. He’d bought the best. But the best, it turned out, hadn’t been good enough.
Thankfully Thomas and Alexander didn’t make the decisions. They had a boss just like anyone else.
That’s who worried Lemonzeo.
Would Brone continue to fund him after this? The purpose behind killing Oklahoma had been to keep him from discovering that vampires had taken root into Eudora. And now, well, that cat had been pulled from the bag kicking and screaming. He had another meeting with Thomas and Alexander later this morning to discuss, he supposed, that very thing.
Sufficiently dry he adjourned to the bedroom to dress—shorts, t-shirt, no shoes. Soon he was in the kitchen scrambling eggs. A little salt, pepper, a few pats of butter. The key was to whisk it all with the eggs until they were blended smooth. Lemonzeo had always felt that his scrambled eggs were the best around.
As he was plating the eggs and toasting the bread, his assistant, Jenner, entered the kitchen. Jenner carried with him one of those electronic tablets that Lemonzeo could never figure out the use of. What was wrong with a little black book and a pencil?
“Good morning, sir,” Jenner said, swiping and tapping at the screen.
“Have a seat, Jenner and I’ll plate you up some eggs.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jenner said. “I would be happy to share your table with you, but I’m afraid I’ve already eaten.”
“Well then,” Lemonzeo said, sitting with his own plate. “That just means more for me.”
It had been the same every morning since Lemonzeo had been released from prison.
“Tell me what’s going on in the world, Jenner,” he said as the two men sat together at his kitchen table.
“The Brotherhood of Minos is still poking around,” Jenner said.
“Still? Talk about your inflated sense of self. What are they doing?”
“Looking for converts, I believe. More men to join their cow cult or whatever it is they worship.”
“The Bull God,” Lemonzeo said.
“Of course,” Jenner said, swiping at the screen of his tablet.
“The Walrus has been taken to a facility in Denver,” Jenner said, reading from the tablet.
“I regret using him,” Lemonzeo said. “But his references were impeccable.”
“I have to admit that I continue to find this Norman Oklahoma quite curious,” Jenner said. “The Walrus is a formidable opponent. For Mr. Oklahoma to have walked away unscathed, and twice no less… Curious.”
“The man does have an annoying habit of surviving,” Lemonzeo said. “What else do you have for me?”
“Well,” Jenner swiped at the screen a few times. “Speaking of Norman Oklahoma. A girl, Maggie Keaton, was abducted last night. The Police, along with Mr. Oklahoma, are looking into it.”
“Another girl taken?”
“Yes,” Jenner said. “But this doesn’t seem to be connected to the other abductions. They were all children. Maggie Keaton is a grown woman.”
“Do we know who took her?” Lemonzeo said. “I don’t like kidnappings. I especially don’t like them happening in my town without my knowledge.”
“I’ll continue to make inquiries,” Jenner swiped the screen again. “Your meeting with the vampires is in an hour.”
“Yes, yes,” Lemonzeo said. “Not a meeting I am looking forward to. They didn’t leave happy yesterday.”
“After the way Mr. Oklahoma treated the two, I don’t blame them.”
Lemonzeo smiled. “He sure took them down a peg or two, didn’t he?” Then he laughed.
“He did at that,” Jenner said. Not smiling. The man never seemed to smile.
“You’ll be there again, yes?” Lemonzeo asked. “At the Pub, during the meeting?”
“As always, sir.”
Lemonzeo didn’t like it when Jenner called him ‘sir’. He’d been trying to correct it for some time now, preferring that the man call him Lemonzeo, or even Bud. But nothing had changed, and he’d given up trying.
“Okay then,” Lemonzeo said. “I’ll get dressed.”
Thirty minutes later Lemonzeo and Jenner entered the Pub from the rear entrance.
Lemonzeo took his normal seat at the back booth while Jenner went behind the bar to make a pot of coffee.
Soon the coffee was made and Lemonzeo sat sipping at a hot mug as Jenner retired to the back room. Unlike yesterday morning, rock music played loudly from the Pubs sound system.
Lemonzeo loved rock music. Bands with flash. The bright colors, the screeching guitars. Bands with ripped up jeans, leather, spandex, and wild times.
Hair bands. That’s what they were called nowadays. Back then, when they were top of the charts, they were just called heavy metal. Sure, maybe glam metal. But hair bands? He found the term offensive.
He’d kept the music off yesterday out of respect. It was the first meeting with the vampires. He didn’t know what music they liked.
Now… well, what did he care now? They were either going to kill him or they weren’t.
If they were, he might as well have some of his favorite songs bouncing through his head when he went.
The Pub had two obvious cameras mounted in the ceiling. One to catch people as they came in and out of the front door, and the other to capture those sitting at the bar. The other eight cameras were so cleverly blended in with the decor that they were nearly invisible. Much more so for the four that were pointing at that back booth.
The back booth was also wired for sound. Whenever Lemonzeo held a meeting in that booth, Jenner could sit in the back room and watch and listen. Regardless of how loud the music from the stereo was, Jenner was able to hear every word spoken in that one booth.
Of course, Jenner didn’t actually record anything, only a fool would do so, but he’d watch, listen, and wait. He was there to provide advice, maybe step in if things got too hot. Lemonzeo hoped that wouldn’t be necessary. Jenner had shown in prison that he could handle himself. In fact, after some of what he’d borne witness to, Lemonzeo knew no more dangerous a man. But then, they weren’t dealing with men today.
Lemonzeo had worked through half of his coffee when the vampires walked in. Alexander and Thomas. The twins. That was good. Had Brone sent anyone else, or come himself, Lemonzeo would be worried. He hoped that by sending the twins again, Brone was showing that he wanted their relationship to continue.
That or he wanted to give the two vampires the opportunity to kill him themselves. Lemonzeo tried to relax. Like the old commercial used to say, never let them see you sweat.
“Does the music need to be so loud?” Alexander said as the two sat. Thomas didn’t speak. He only scowled.
“Yes,” Lemonzeo said. “Yes it does. Think of it this way. If anyone comes in, they won’t be able to hear our conversation. Besides, I like it.”
“Do not play us for fools, Lemonzeo,” Alexander said. “We know your man Jenner is listening to our conversation in the other room.”
“Hey,” Lemonzeo said, spreading his hands and shrugging his shoulders. “A guy has to protect himself. Surely you understand that.”
“We do,” Alexander said. “Which is the only reason we allow you to do so.”
“How generous of you,” Lemonzeo said, failing to mask the sarcasm.
“You will walk softly around us, Lemonzeo,” Alexander said. “Now turn the music off.”
Lemonzeo frowned. Still, he produced a small remote from his pocket, clicked a button, and silenced the music.
“You failed to kill Norman Oklahoma,” Alexander said. “Brone is displeased.”
“Oh, come on,” Lemonzeo said, leaning back, his arms spread out on the back of the booth. “How was I supposed to know that the Walrus wasn’t up to the task? He’s the real deal, even you admitted to that.”
The two vampires looked at each other, then back to Lemonzeo.
“Yes,” Alexander said. “It is true that we were taken aback by the creature’s failure. But no matter, Brone has decided to leave Oklahoma alive for now.”
“What?” Lemonzeo leaned forward. “Alive? But—”
“Oklahoma is now aware that vampires dwell in his town,” Alexander cut him off. “If more attempts are made on the human’s life, and he survives, he will look into the matter, and the last thing we want is him snooping around.”
“So our partnership is dissolved then?” Lemonzeo asked.
“Not at all, Mr. Lemonzeo. You are still of use to us.”
“So you’re still going to back me,” Lemonzeo leaned back again. “Help me get my stuff back?”
“Of course. As we said yesterday, helping you helps us.”
“Good,” Lemonzeo said. “I’ve already started making plans.”
“Tell us about them.”
Lemonzeo told the two vampires about the bookie in Desoto, the gambling den.
“You do not disappoint,” Alexander said. “That is a good plan. A good first strike. You hurt Klein and make more money. We approve.”
“Peachy,” said Lemonzeo.
“More than that,” said Alexander. “We can also offer you assistance.”
“My brother will accompany you on this endeavor,” said Alexander.
A look of surprise flashed across his brother’s face which then dissolved into an even deeper scowl than the one he’d been previously projecting.
Lemonzeo tried not to smile.
“I don’t think your brother likes that idea,” Lemonzeo said.
“Do not think to speak for me, human,” Thomas said.
“Thomas will accompany you, though he will take no part in the actual job. Not unless he needs to.”
“So he’ll be there just to make sure I do what I’m told?” Lemonzeo said.
“Well,” said Lemonzeo. “I can appreciate the honesty, truly I do. But I am a man of my word. Without your word, you got nothing.”
The vampires just stared at him.
“I’ve given you my word,” Lemonzeo continued. “I’ve taken your deal, I don’t need a babysitter. No offense,” he said, looking at Thomas.
“My brother goes,” Alexander said.
“No,” Lemonzeo said, tired of being pushed around. “He’s not wanted.”
Before Lemonzeo could say any more, the table that had been between himself and the two vampires was suddenly missing. It was sailing off to the left, and then Thomas was there in the space that the table had occupied just moments before. Thomas growled and opened his mouth to reveal a set of needle-sharp fangs. He took Lemonzeo by the lapels and pulled him close.
But Thomas hadn’t been able to move Lemonzeo more than an inch or two before Jenner was there behind him. Jenner took Thomas’s shoulder in one hand and tugged as if he was simply opening a door.
Thomas flew backwards, landing hard on a table in the middle of the room.
Alexander was up like a shot, but one look from Jenner gave him pause.
“You,” Alexander said with a rasp. “You’re a—”
“You will return the table back to where it was,” Jenner said, cutting him off. He spoke softly, as if he was bored.
Thomas rose, his face like storm clouds. Yet, he retrieved the table, lifting it in one hand, and placed it gently back between the two booth benches.
“Now,” Jenner said. “Sit.”
The two vampires sat. Jenner, however, remained standing.
“We will honor our side of the deal,” Jenner said. “And we will do it alone. As has already been said, Mr. Lemonzeo is a man of his word. Your Mr. Brone would be displeased by your disrespect. Were he to learn of what you tried to do here today—”
“No,” Lemonzeo said. “It’s okay.”
After what he’d just witnessed, seeing the vampires put in their place, gave Lemonzeo an idea.
“I’m beginning to think that maybe we should take Thomas along with us. I mean, having a vampire in my back pocket might just come in handy.”
Lemonzeo smiled and took the small remote from his pocket and, with just a couple of clicks, returned the music to its former volume. The two brothers could only frown.
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