“Whatcha doing?” Tony asked
“Just killing my darlings, sweetie peach,” Mom answered.
Still typing on her keyboard, she turned and smiled over at him. Tony was used to her magic and weirdness.
“Can I have a juice box?”
“Have a glass of milk and grab me a beer.” Mom returned to the soft glow of her screen.
Tony made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Carefully he cut them into perfect crustless triangles, arranged the sandwiches on two plates, grabbed a six pack of beer and tiny house carton of milk. Tony juggled everything into the living room where his mom was writing her novel at the cluttered dining room table. Dinner and four beers later, Mom walked to bed with the last two beers. Stretched under the dining room table re-reading In a Glass Darkly, Tony drained his juice box and wondered if Mom would let Bill take him hunting this year.
What do you call a group of vampires? Tony thought. A pride of lions, yes. A murder of crows, bit over the top. But is there a term for groups of animals no one believes in. Aching, his taut muscles yearned to move. But he knew better. During his daytime rambling, Tony had seen the biggest concentration of hand written “Stay Away” hobo signs in the Tin Corridor, the city’s sector of old canneries and warehouses. Relentless he circled the building shells finding only sex workers and junkies. The look in his eyes kept Tony safe from trouble, the look in his eye and mare’s leg strapped to his thigh. Then Tony noticed the bar’s sign Carmella’s painted in black and blood red and smiled. Through night vision googles he watched that bar’s sign now. A Killing of Vampires that works, he thought. He watched the infrequent liquor deliveries. He watched more people go in then came out. He watched the frequent flyers and followed them home. What he saw tonight made Tony’s chest squeeze. The sunshine surprised him. Tony had sat motionless for hours, drowned in memories. Stiff, he climbed down from his perch on the fire escape and walked back to his room to plan.
Sharp and sweet, the air smelled of coming rain. Shifting his already damp balls, Tony pondered what was the old man’s problems if he should have just gone hunting with Caleb and the Chunk instead. He scratched and make a slight moan.
“If you’d rather make noise than get meat for the season you could’ve screwed off with your nimrod friends,” Grandpa Bill said.
Used to the old man’s magic and weirdness, Tony laughed out loud. “Okay Mighty Hunter, two can play this game. What’s wrong?”
Tony could smell despair and embarrassment from Grandpa Bill mingle with the smell of yet to fall raindrops.
“I have cabin fever. These Pennsylvania winters are getting too hard for my bones. My friend Paul went West and I’m going to join him in Cali.”
Tony listened to the tone in his grandfather’s voice as images of unpaid bills and foreclosure notices drizzled down his mind’s eye.
“Sounds great. Swimming pools and movie stars.” Tony could sound lighthearted too. “I could join after graduation.” Their shoulders brushed in the tiny camouflage box. The rain began to fall. The warmth of the forest ground struck by the first raindrops rose around them.
“I’m going to miss…” Tony paused as Grandpa raised his rifle at the approaching buck.
Silently, Tony followed the old man up the alley. Bill had taught him the first rule of not being seen is make sure not to be followed. He felt the eyes on his back. He knew they were closing in. He knew this was a trap. The old man was carrying a heavy sack on one shoulder. Tony let himself be led into a blind alley. Dropping his back pack at the alley entrance, Tony drew out his pistol crossbow. He leveled his weapon at what was left of his grandfather’s back. Musky rage filled Tony’s nose. Angry animals always make mistakes. He clicked the detonator without looking back. Flames and screams overwhelmed the scent of their rage. The old man dropped his grisly sack of leftovers and whirled. Tony shot the arrow. Straight through his not beating heart, the old man was pinned to the alley’s brick wall. They both howled.
At Carmilla’s a fast acting fire added to the rosy glow of the coming dawn. Raindrops smoldered on the bits of vampire left from the firebomb. Tony watched Bill until the sun’s ray turned his grandfather’s body to ash. He watched until the ashes floated away on a river of tears. Petrichor, the smell of earth after a fresh rain, brushed against Tony’s shoulders and was gone.