Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Vampire Crimes


I've added Vampire Crimes to both the Kindle and Nook stores, but it's going to take at least a day before they show up there. In the meantime over the next couple of weeks I'm going to put the first 3 chapters up on my blog, but they're long chapter chapters so I'm going to be breaking them up into pieces. I have no doubt that anyone who has read and liked Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer or Outsourced is going to love this book. Originally I wrote this to be part of a 5-book series, and I'm going to need your help. If you read Vampire Crimes and like it, make some noise about it. Add a review to Amazon, B&N, www.kindleboards.com, and anywhere else you can talk it up. If enough readers find this book, I'll be able to write more Vampire Crime novels, but I'm DEFINITELY going to need your help in spreading the word.

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Here's the first part of Chapter 1:


The Door’s Riders on the Storm was playing on the car radio and for a few blessed seconds Jim closed his eyes and let the music roll over him.

How long had it been since he heard that song, or even The Doors, for that matter? Years. Probably the last time was before he got infected. Since hooking up with Carol the two of them would usually have on a 90s alternative rock station—that was the kind of music she liked; her favorite groups Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and if she couldn’t find one of those stations, she’d either tune in a hip hop station or plug in one of her Kurt Cobain CDs, sometimes Green Day. It didn’t much matter to him. He put her through enough as it was, and if she could find some comfort and peace of mind from her music he was all for it.

With his eyes still closed, the line about a killer on the road brought a sick smile to his lips. Was his own brain squirming like a toad? It sure as hell felt like it. It had been a rough day so far. He had stretched things out and had gone too long between feedings, and now it hurt so bad he could barely sit still. The bright sunlight didn’t help; it made him feel like he was on fire, even with his dark shades and baseball cap pulled down to his eyes. He tugged at the cap, trying to pull it down still further, and sunk lower in his seat, drenched in sweat. It surprised him that he still had any fluids left in his body. He sensed Carol looking at him. He knew she was worried about him and had put on a classic rock ’n roll oldies station to try to keep his mind off of his illness—even though she claimed it was because all they had in Cleveland were classic rock stations, blaming it on their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But they weren’t even in Cleveland yet, still traveling east on Interstate 90, about forty miles outside the city.

Groaning inwardly, he opened his eyes a crack and shifted his gaze towards Carol and noticed her knuckles squeezed white as she gripped the wheel. He was always amazed at how small and delicate her hands were. His gaze moved upwards. She looked so deep in thought, her concern about his condition wrecking her face. He tried smiling at her. She moved one of her hands to grip his and gave him a squeeze.

“I never should’ve let you wait this long,” she said.

“I’ll be okay.”

It hurt just talking, his voice soft and hollow and rattling emptily in his throat; the sound of a saw pulled loosely over metal.

She shook her head, the skin tight around her mouth, her jaw pushed forward.

“I shouldn’t have let you do this,” she said. “Look at you. You’re so sick you can barely sit up.”

He cleared his throat, and again told her that he’d be fine.

“You’re going to feed tonight,” she said. “I’m not letting you push this out another day.”

There was nothing but strength and determination in her voice. He didn’t argue with her. He knew it wasn’t safe to wait any longer. Already he could feel himself slipping into this crazed state of consciousness, part hallucinations and part animal fury. It would only last for a few seconds, but he had a sense it was going to get worse if he didn’t feed soon, and God knows who he might feed on if he lost control altogether.

Carol let go of his hand to get a better grip on the wheel. It constantly amazed him that she loved him as much as she did. How could someone as wonderful as her love a monster like him? There was no mistaking that that’s what he was, at least what he had become since his infection. Before the infection he was a good-looking guy; six-foot, 190 pounds, dark complexion, muscular, a hardness about him from his time in the Army, along with a constant five-o’clock shadow. The infection dramatically changed his physical appearance. Zero body fat and his muscles lengthening and becoming tough and sinewy. It also lightened his complexion, his hair now white, and his skin becoming smooth with no beard or mustache to worry about. His weight had dropped significantly also, now at 140, and his body becoming lean, cat-like; even his head had changed shape, becoming angular, kind of like the elves in the Lord of the Rings movie. His teeth didn’t change, though, he didn’t develop fangs, but he was still a monster—what else would you call a creature that looked mostly human but needed to subsist on human blood?

The Doors Riders on the Storm ended, and the next song up was The Stones Sympathy For The Devil. The timing of that made him laugh weakly, his insides hurting like hell as his body shook. Sympathy for the devil, huh? How about any sympathy for him, not that he deserved any, at least not with what he has had to do to survive. If he hadn’t met Carol, he probably would’ve found a way to end his life—not that it would’ve been easy with what the virus had done to him, leaving his muscles and tendons as hard as steel and his skin close to bulletproof, and causing this weird kind of super immunity where his vital organs would regenerate on injury.

Before meeting Carol he had thought long and hard about what he would have to do to kill himself if it ended up that way. Explosives, maybe, but then again they could just blow off his limbs and leave him still alive. A guillotine with a sharp enough blade might do the trick; or if he cut himself open and pulled out his heart and made sure no tissue was left behind to regenerate into a new one. Those had seemed like his best bets. Later, days before meeting Carol, he learned first-hand that shoving a hand grenade down a vampire’s throat did the job just fine, but that was something discovered on the spur of the moment. Since Carol, he had put those thoughts out of his head and accepted that he would spend his life traveling aimlessly from city to city feeding when he had to. Nothing else was possible anymore. He cared too deeply for Carol to leave her, especially knowing what it would do to her.

A few final wheezes of laughter shook him, then with his teeth clattering he hugged himself tightly trying to shrink his body from any exposure to the sun. Thin lines showed along the edges of Carol’s mouth as her concern for him deepened. She reached over and caressed his neck.

“I hate seeing you like this,” she said.

“I know. But I’ll be okay.”

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to wait until tonight.”

“I’ll be able to.”

She paused for a moment, her eyes growing dim as she stared off into the distance.

“You can feed off of me,” she said, her voice barely above the engine whine of their ’88 Chevy Nova.

“Please, don’t bring this up again.”

She bit her lip, tried to smile.

“I want you to,” she said. “We should go through this together.”

“It’s not going to happen. So stop it, please.”

Jim’s hand shook as he reached over to turn the volume higher on the car radio and at the same time end the discussion. Carol’s cheeks puffed up, obviously frustrated, but she took the hint and dropped the subject. The station played a set of Leonard Cohen songs, and after Hallelujah ended, Carol turned off the radio. They rode in silence for a few minutes before she mentioned that she liked those songs and asked who the artist was. Jim told her the name of the musician.

“We’ll have to find some of his CDs,” she said. “Very cool voice. Even though it sounds like he’s got something stuck in his throat. And those lyrics, wow. It sent a chill down my spine.”

“Yeah, I’ve been a fan for a long time. Him and Dylan are the two best songwriters of the last forty years. It’s good to see the old dude get rediscovered.”

Carol made a face. She wasn’t a fan of Bob Dylan, which always mystified him. He couldn’t imagine anyone not being a fan. They drove in silence for another few minutes, the lines along Carol’s mouth deepening as her eyes shifted sideways and she caught a glimpse of him. Jim could only imagine what he looked like sitting there pale and shivering, his clothing soaked through with perspiration.

“Will you be okay if I stop someplace to eat?”

“Sure.”

“I wouldn’t be asking except I think I might pass out if I don’t get some food.” She gave him a sad smile. “Unlike you I can’t put off eating for twelve days.”

“Well, it’s not as if I ever really eat anyways…”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean,” Jim said. They’d been on the road six hours since having left Springfield, Illinois at the crack of dawn. Carol didn’t understand why they had to drive to Cleveland, why he couldn’t feed there, but Jim wasn’t having any luck finding what he was looking for in Springfield. Chicago, while closer, was out. He had already fed there too many times as it was, and had to be careful about drawing suspicion to what he was doing. Cleveland would have what he needed. “First place we see we stop at. You need a break, lady,” Jim added.

She nodded, smiling thinly. A few miles down the road they spotted a roadside diner and she pulled into the parking lot. Jim was shaking badly as he hobbled from the car to the diner’s entrance, his vision blurred, his feet unsteady. Carol moved quickly to his side so he could lean against her. Outside of a blonde heavyset cashier chewing gum and a middle-aged waitress with a Led Zeppelin logo tattooed on her neck, there were maybe ten other people scattered along the counter and in booths. All eyes turned to Carol and Jim as they walked in. The cashier stared at them and popped her gum.

“Miss, is your boyfriend sick?” she asked.

“It’s nothing contagious,” Carol muttered, annoyed.

“I don’t know about that, Honey.” The cashier hesitated as she looked Jim over more carefully. “To me he looks like he’s got something pretty bad. Maybe it would be best if he don’t come in here. It wouldn’t be fair bringing him into a public restaurant, not with all the other folks we’ve got eating here now. Honey, they shouldn’t have to worry about catching what he’s got.”

“I’m standing right here,” Jim said in a soft whisper. “It’s not as if I can’t hear everything you’re saying.”

The cashier continued to ignore him while offering Carol a false sympathetic smile.

“Why don’t you have him wait in your car while you order some takeout. How would that be, Honey?”

Carol’s face darkened. “I think instead we’ll just sit at that booth over there away from everyone. How would that be, Honey?”

She led Jim as she took a step forward. The cashier moved quickly to block them. The waitress moved also and looked like she was ready for a brawl, her hands planted firmly on her hips to show off large forearms. A couple of truck drivers at the counter stood up and also took an uneasy step towards them.

“Miss, why don’t you just make this easy for everyone. You don’t want the police being called, do you?”

Jim could sense the violence growing in Carol. Her hands were clenched at her side, thin veins revealing themselves along her neck. In another few seconds she’d be flying at this woman who outweighed her by a good eighty pounds. That was the thing with Carol, she was as fiercely protective and loyal as they came. Even though she was five foot one and maybe ninety-five pounds when soaking wet, she’d go at them like a hellcat. Using what little strength he had left, he pulled her away and forced her through the entrance door and outside.

“Don’t,” he pleaded.

“Fuck them. Who the fuck are they to tell you you can’t go in there?”

“Babe, it’s not worth it. I’m going back to the car. You go in there and get something to eat, okay?”

She was too furious to talk at first. Sputtering, she forced out, “How about I just throw a brick through their front window!”

“Babe…”

“Or better yet, how about you slaughtering all those fucking assholes in there! While you’re doing that I could cook myself something on their grill, and we could both be eating together.”

“Babe…”

“Why not?”

“Come on. Be serious. I’m not going to do that.”

She was steaming, her dark eyes hot and angry. “That fat cow bitch. She’d deserve to have you rip her throat out. She probably thinks you have AIDS. The bitch.”

Jim smiled thinly. “Maybe she thinks I have the bubonic plague. It doesn’t matter. You go back in there and get yourself something to eat. I’ll wait.”

“Fuck them. We’ll find another place.”

She stumbled, dizzy, her eyes losing focus. This time Jim helped her steady herself. Hesitantly, she brought a hand up to her temple.

Jim gave her a patient smile. “Any place we go is going to be the same. You need to eat. I’ll be fine.”

Carol looked like she wanted to argue, but she also looked hungry and very pale. She suffered from hypoglycemia and her stumbling and dizziness were a clear sign she needed food badly. Jim thought he could hear her heart palpitating. She didn’t have time to start searching for another place to eat—there was no arguing that, so she relented, first walking him back to the car to make sure he made it okay, then heading back to the diner. Jim closed his eyes. Lowering his forehead into his hands, he felt the cold clamminess of his skin. Even though it seemed to him like he was burning up, his skin was so damn cold to the touch—like he was a month-old corpse. His skin always felt that way. He wondered how Carol stood it.

(Chapter 1 of Vampire Crimes to be continued)

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