Thursday, November 06, 2003
“I - didn’t mean to call them vampires. That’s not the right word. I don’t think there is a right word.”
“But you said vampires.”
“I know what I said. I’m saying now, I didn’t mean vampires. I just - you wouldn’t understand.”
“Well, son, it’s your job to make me understand.”
”They’re killers. Evil. They murder without remorse or conscience.”
“Like serial killers?”
“No! A serial killer is human. These - aren’t.”
”They look human.”
”They’re not. They’re - powerful. Fast. Strong. Deadly.”
”But they look human?”
“Yes. They look human.”
”Do you stake them? Use Holy water?”
“I told you, they’re not vampires!”
”Calm down. So you don’t stake them?”
“No. I - guess you could. I don’t know if that would work, though.”
”What does work?”
“You saw what happened to that thing.”
”A single bullet to the head. Close range. That’s gotta be messy.”
”It was necessary.”
“To keep it from killing anyone else.”
”How do you know he would kill someone else? Did he tell you?”
“Not a ‘he’. It’s not human. And no. It didn’t tell me. You just know because - because that’s what they do. They kill.”
”So you killed it.”
”To stop it from killing anyone else.”
”So - you’re a vigil ante.”
”No? Son, you took the law into your hands.”
”This isn’t the law. This goes beyond the law. The law couldn’t - The law wouldn’t . . .”
“So you shot it in the head.”
”Someone shot it in the head.”
”A wound that would easily kill a human.”
”I don’t know. I’ve never killed a human.”
”Surely you could guess . . .”
“Yes, the wound would have killed a human.”
”So, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m having trouble grasping this concept. He - it - looked human and died from a mortal wound, and yet, despite all evidence to the contrary, you want me to believe he - it - wasn’t human?”
”That’s the truth, whether you believe it or not.”
“You realize you don’t exactly have a leg to stand on, right son?”
”You don’t sound like you care.”
”I’ve done what I’ve agreed to do. The rest isn’t important.”
”You agreed to help kill him?”
The steel back door of the Blue Moon swung open with a loud groan of protest, slamming back against the chipped brick wall with a shuddering bang. The foot used to kick it ajar stepped down into the alley now, followed by the man to whom it belonged. His hairnet and stained apron easily placed him as a kitchen worker; he lugged along two industrial-sized bags of garbage, one in each hand.
Dropping one to the littered pavement that ran between the two tall buildings, he held the lid of the dumpster up, swinging in one bag of garbage, then another, grimacing against the stench that wafted out on the heavy, warm air.
With a soft gagging noise, Norris dropped the lid back down and turned to go back into the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron as he went. He jumped, surprised to see a figure now standing beside the open door.
“Mara,” he greeted, once he’d recovered from the surprise.
The woman was short, lucky to even break five feet, yet her limbs all seemed too long and gangly for her body, giving her the eternal look of a prepubescent teen, just hitting their first growth spurt. Her boyish hair cut - short black strands chopped off unevenly, did little to age her appearance. It was only because of the depth of her eyes that he would place her in her early twenties.
She nodded hello, then jerked her head towards the open door, whence the clanking of dishes and the sizzling sounds of fatty meat being pressed to a grill could be easily heard.
“Hungry?” he guessed, breaking into an easy grin, as he hopped back up the little step and stood balancing on its rounded edge.
She nodded, yet stayed to the side where those inside would be unable to see her.
“Just a sec then.”
With that, he disappeared into the kitchen, his hollered greetings and instructions to the other busboys carrying over the other white noise of the kitchen. It was only a few moments before he returned with a chipped plate, loaded up with half-eaten sandwiches and hamburgers.
“Thanks,” she managed, reaching for the plate and protectively wrapping her whole lower arm around it, holding it close to her body.
He remained in the doorway, watching her with curiosity as she made her way into a sheltered corner between the dumpster and the opposing building. There, she crouched down, balancing the plate on her knees and quickly cramming mouthful after mouthful in.
“If you don’t slow down, you’ll choke,” he chided jokingly, to which she only looked up at him, attempting a small smile but unable to even fully close her mouth due to the sheer amount of food within.
He lapsed into a thoughtful silence then, idly watching her eat; staring without meaning to, but she didn’t seem to mind, if she even noticed. His mind was elsewhere, reflecting back on the events of a few nights prior. He could feel the familiar twitch in his chin, signalling the oncoming attack of tears, and shook his head to force them away, quickly drawing himself back to the real world.
In that brief time, she’d finished, and was now standing before him, holding out the plate to return it. He was surprised to find her staring at him now, head cocked to one side, eyebrows raised just slightly.
“It’s nothing,” he said quickly, automatically, as he reached for the plate, but she didn’t stop looking at him in that way.
“You better go, before Moony catches you here.” His voice was soft, yet still dismissive. Still, she didn’t move, holding her pose with a practiced ability to stay perfectly still.
“Go on!” he said, voice raising now, becoming angry. “I said it was nothing!”
Some of the noise nearest the door stopped, and an older man’s voice called out to him, “Cartier!”
He turned, yelling back into the kitchen that it was nothing, and when he looked back to the alley, she’d gone, leaving no trace of ever having been, aside from the empty plate he held in his hand.
Night had fallen now, as the back door of the diner swung open again, and Norris Cartier emerged once more. The stragglers of their patrons were being ushered out of the front door, and Norris was thankful that his job, at least, did not involve having to convince the old cat lady from the next block over to return home to her cats. What she saw in spending all day, every day, from open to close, sitting in a run down greasy spoon like this was beyond him.
He turned up the collar of his recently acquired leather coat, surprised to find that such a chill night had followed the close day. At least the cooler air cut down on the stink in the alley, he thought to himself with a wry chuckle.
Putting his helmet upon his head, he started for his scooter, leaning up against the spray painted brick, near the mouth of the alley. He dug his keys out of his pocket, staring longingly at the Harley Davidson logo keychain he used to hold them together. Some day he’d buy a real bike. Some day he’d quit this job. Some day, some day, some day life would be better. But that day wasn’t today, so he just hopped on his scooter revving the engine a few times and sighing at the pathetic whine it gave, rather than the throaty growl of a hog.
“Nice ride,” a familiar voice spoke beside him, startling him into overgunning the engine. The moped shut down with a shudder as he whirled his head over to look in her direction.
“Mara,” he breathed, looking startled.
“Didn’t mean to scare you,” she said with a shrug, turning to go.
“No, it’s all right. I just - what are you doing here? There’s - I can’t get you food now. We’re closed. If you’d come a few minutes earlier…”
She waved a hand to cut him off, shaking her head. “It’s not food. Just - wanted some company. But - never mind. It’s fine. I should be getting to work, anyway.”
“Work?” He hadn’t realized she had a job. He couldn’t figure why she’d come begging for handouts at their back door if she pulled in a salary. Even minimum wage would afford her three meals a day at the front door of the Blue Moon. The food might not be good, but it was cheap; Norris was still glad he’d convinced Moony to refrain from putting that on the sign over the door, though.
She just shrugged, and started off, back into the darkening night.
“Really, it’s fine. You want to go for coffee?” he called after her, causing her to stop and turn back to face him warily.
“My treat,” he offered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a handful of change.
“Where?” she asked, still not coming back any closer, but not moving further away either.
“Uh - there’s a place just around the corner.”
She shook her head. “Starbucks.” She spat the word as if it were a curse.
“Um,” he said, looking a bit lost. “I - guess I could open the diner back up for a bit. I’ve - got the key.”
She seemed to consider this, then nodded, starting back towards the steel door that opened onto the alley.
“Not that one. The front door,” he said with a bit of a laugh, as he turned his scooter off properly and got off of it.
He let her in first, following her inside, and re-locking the door behind them. Nodding for her to take a seat on a stool by the counter, he flipped a switch, bathing the dingy place in a pale, yellow light. He set his helmet down on the counter, as he headed behind it, pulling out two coffee cups, and after checking them for lipstick stains, filled them with the lukewarm coffee that had been left to chill on the cold element.
After dropping a few coins in the cash register, he set hers down in front of her, nudging forward the milk and sugar before returning around to the customer side of the Formica counter. But she choose neither, idly swirling the oily coffee around in her cup before chugging the whole load back in one gulp.
He raised his eyebrows, looking surprised again as she set the empty cup down on the surface again. Looking at his own drink with distaste, he then offered it to her, and she took it and chugged it back in the same manner.
‘Thanks,” she said again, now looking around at the restaurant, turning her stool slowly to view the full 360.
“Yeah, no problem. So, uh - what made you … I mean, why did you want to get coffee?”
She shrugged, then spun on her stool again, this time faster, then faster still. He couldn’t help but laugh.
- posted by Deborah @ 7:16 AM
Copyright 2003 - debbo