Blood & spirits, p.1
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       Blood & Spirits, p.1

           Dennis Sharpe
 
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Blood & Spirits


  BLOOD & SPIRITS

  DENNIS SHARPE

  Booktrope Editions

  Seattle, WA 2014

  COPYRIGHT 2014 DENNIS SHARPE

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

  Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

  Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

  No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

  Inquiries about additional permissions

  should be directed to: [email protected]

  Cover Design by Shari Ryan

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.

  PRINT ISBN 978-1-62015-595-0

  EPUB ISBN 978-1-62015-616-2

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2014922268

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  COVER

  TITLE PAGE

  DEDICATION

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  QUOTES

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  MORE GREAT READS FROM BOOKTROPE

  For Erin McGavic -

  You took Veronica,

  held on to her tightly,

  and never let go.

  I can’t thank you enough.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  To all the people who helped me make this book as good as could possibly be.

  Angela, Becca, Britton, Carrie, Doug, Karson, Lesley, Nikki, Roger, Ryan, the other Ryan, Shawna, Tammy, Ian, Mitchell, Theresa, Teresa, and countless others who’ve helped me, pushed me, or said the hard things I didn’t want to hear.

  I thank you for reading drafts, and re-reading drafts, editing advice, and just being cheerleaders and drinking coffee with me in the wee hours of the morning when I needed it, as well as making me see that some things just aren’t as important as I make them.

  Special thanks to Krystal, Samantha, and Shari… simply the best there are to work with.

  Seriously, and with much love, thank you all.

  "The fair girl went on her knees and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal... I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the supersensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there."

  - BRAM STOKER

  “I have an idea that the phrase "weaker sex" was coined by some woman to disarm some man she was preparing to overwhelm.”

  - OGDEN NASH

  PROLOGUE

  THE YEAR IS NINETEEN FIFTY-THREE. The sky is a deeper blue, and the world is generally a better place.

  A little girl plays on the grassy front lawn of a small house on Summit Drive. She has a cute face and a winning smile, even if she does tend to be a little overly plain tomboy. Her red hair is in pig-tails, and her shorts are rolled up to keep them from being as dirty as her mud-coated legs. She is a happy child.

  A dark sedan pulls up in the driveway, and a man in a well-pressed uniform gets out, puts on his hat, and makes his way to her front door.

  She stops playing to look at his uniform and marvel at how much better it looks than her daddy’s.

  The officer talks to her mommy on the porch for a moment, but she can’t hear what they’re saying. A feeling of dread comes over her as her mommy leans against the doorway, crying. Whatever it was must be horrible; her mommy doesn’t ever cry.

  Everything unravels for the little girl. From that moment on, nothing can ever be the same.

  She goes to daddy’s funeral in the most beautiful dress she’s ever seen; this gorgeous thing given to her to cover the ugliest loss of her life. Everything that has been her world quickly disappears. Her only memories of a normal life will all be from before the age of eight.

  ***

  My body jerks up to a sitting position as the tight muscles of my limbs spasm. Instinctively, air forces its way into my tightened lungs, the panic ebbs, but calm refuses to replace it. Another nightmare, but not just any bad dream. My memories had come back to haunt me.

  The year is 2012. I keep reminding myself of that as I ease back down into the reassuring pillow top, already beginning to drift off again.

  Kathy, that little girl, was me once upon a time. She was small and weak before Jules found her. He took her in, changed her, and gave her strength.

  He killed Kathy. What he left was Veronica. He made me.

  I have no regrets.

  CHAPTER 1

  I’M TOLD IT’S AN ODDITY that I still sleep. It only comes in short bursts, no more than forty-five minutes at a time. Most others with my condition -- and I have only known a handful -- tell me they don’t sleep anymore. Some of them haven’t in more than five decades. I can’t imagine the hell that must be. Even in my brief moments of rest, I still dream and in that I find relief. Even if the dreams aren’t what I like, they are still an escape.

  The soft thickness of my comforter envelops me as I relax back into bed. Before I’m completely awake, my mind begins to unfold, opening to the world around me. In the distance, the fog is rolling in off the river, dense and blanketing, its vaporous fingers right there on the edges of my consciousness. The night is cool, and the last lights of the dying day dance across my ceiling, reflected from the crystals hanging in my window. The light tinkle as they sway into each other is a reassuring sound; the beautiful prisms they cast, a blessing. Not one night comes that I don’t wake to thank Jules for having the windows in this house ‘treated.’ I can actually see the sun, even if I can’t be out in it.

  I am now completely aware for miles around me. I’m awake, and not even grudgingly so. Not tonight. He’ll be here soon. I look forward to it and fear it all at once, but I ask myself ‘why dwell on what we can’t change?’

  A soft breeze blows across me as I slip out of my bed, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. My mind recognizes the sensation as a chill, even if my dead flesh can’t feel as it once did.

  Rubbing a hand down from the base of my skull, in a futile attempt to warm myself, I open the lid to the old steamer trunk Julie brought up from the basement today. She aired out everything in it while I slept, and the interior smells as though she even put some of my perfume on a few of the choice garments. I breathe in deeply and can feel the corner of my mouth turns up slightly. Time may have dulled Jules’ scent, but it’s still unmistakable, mingled in with the fragrance in the clothing.

  Clothes have always held memories for me. The crimson silk of a dress drops down over me and it’s as though his eyes were on me again. The mirror reveals the garment to be no more out of place, for its slinky cut or lack of length, than it did when I first wore it a lifetime ago, when I could still remember being a girl. I first p
ut it on in front of him and twirled around to raise the hem, hoping to entice and astonish with my feminine wiles, foolish enough back then to believe that because I loved him, a creature like him was even still capable of love.

  I’ve learned from his example and years of my own mistakes – emotion is a weakness to be managed.

  Yet, here I am, slipping into this dress that I haven’t worn since he left, simply because I know he’ll remember it.

  Stepping out into the thick evening air, the raw power of the river hits me with the force of a freight train. Even from this distance, the power is unmistakable. Tonight, though, it has an odd feeling, as though it were restrained.

  Standing still with my eyes closed, I concentrate and listen to the pulse of the water rolling heavily over the rocky bed, feel the lapping, almost angry waves against the shoreline. I don’t know why closing my eyes helps me bond to my surroundings, it just always has. It must be another facet of my insanity.

  I’ve never met someone with my affliction that was as sane as they had been when they were alive. I wasn’t ever all that sane, either, but I’ve grown more detached as time has gone by. Too often these days, I feel like a spectator. Maybe that’s just my coping mechanism. My therapist would love to know about this fabulous train of thought. Prick.

  As I enter the garage, it occurs to me that I’ve only got two cars at this house. Frank was to take Julie back to town with the Charger this afternoon to keep up the appearance that everything was normal. I’m certainly not taking my old Volkswagen Beetle to go bar hunting, so the flat black Eclipse will get a workout tonight. I hate this car, but she’s been fast enough to outrun a lot of demons I didn’t feel like facing.

  Pulling out of the driveway, I already wish I’d stayed at the other house today. The drive into town is only thirty minutes, but I’m tense enough tonight and don’t need the wait. Telling myself that I needed to be here, for safety’s sake, only makes me feel more upset at my fear and lack of control.

  Six months ago, I’d have talked to Lucy; she’d have taken the edge off. If she were here, though, I’d have had no need to contact Jules. Now I get to feel like a failure and look like one, too.

  The tires scream as I kick the car almost sideways, narrowly avoiding a deer. My lack of focus is getting worse. As much as the idea repulses me, tonight I’m actually going to have to go look for food instead of letting it come to me. I haven’t had to do that in years. On one hand, it’s a fitting start to the night, but on the other, I had really thought I’d outgrown eating out.

  I always forget how much sensory input I lose when I spend time around all the steel and pavement. The dark moonless drive down rural roads is a blessing, putting me more in tune with the land, at once one with the leaves on the trees, the bats overhead, and the rocks around the base of the roadside.

  The sound of the insects in the high grass is comforting. Their flittering finds my ears even over the engine noise. They are mine as much as everything else here; as much as I am a part of them. It took more than twenty years to reach this level of awareness, and I’m still not foolish enough to believe I’ve mastered it.

  I used to be able to spend time expanding my mind. I used to do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do lately. Everything has devolved so fast and I’m still reeling.

  The past year I’ve been so caught up in the life of a dead girl, I’ve dealt with little else.

  Rachel died eighteen months ago at the ripe old age of eight; I met her after that. She was hanging around the Jefferson House, where my girls work. If she hadn’t picked that place to haunt, I doubt I’d be in the mess I’m in now.

  The town springs up slowly. Houses begin to sit closer together, then nearer to the road. Side streets appear, and businesses start to intersperse among the spider web of tight residential development, obviously undertaken with no real planning or forethought. Then, at last, the glow of the streetlights tells me I’m back where I’m in control. This is the town I run, inside and out. Or I did.

  Passing the street that leads to the Jefferson House, it takes will not to turn. I want to check up on things, but personal priorities come first, and I have to trust Julie has everything well in hand.

  The dulcet tones of a southern rock cover band blare from six blocks away, tingling my eardrums. The music is louder than usual. It should be a fun night, or at least a packed house. Either way, I’m content.

  The transmission voices its complaint as I downshift onto the access road. I’ll never really like this car, but she does get from A to B more quickly than most. I still wish I’d driven something nicer tonight, something with a top I could put down. But, in the end, the car I’m in is the least of my concerns right now.

  The lot isn’t full yet, leaving plenty of good spaces, but rock star parking wasn’t really a concern of mine to begin with. This just means that after I eat and pick him up, I should be able to get back here to a manageable crowd.

  If I’m lucky, he’ll want to be social tonight. If not, then I’ll be too busy to make it back here at all. I really want to show him that the biggest part of my life is still under control, so he won’t only see the little girl that has to call him in as her savior. Again.

  Why do I need so badly for him to be proud of me?

  As I cross the parking lot, the lingering scents of sweat, cheap beer, and longing hang heavy in the air already. This might be a little too easy. Though catching a fresh meal has never been really what I’d call difficult. That’s why the small town, Midwestern life suits me; I usually get what I want and rarely have to work that hard to have it. Hopefully, years of having my food delivered hasn’t left me too out of practice.

  Someone sees me coming and opens the door and holds it for me. That’s the thing about being a regular in a small town rural bar – you are a known commodity, more or less. This helps and hurts when you have to hunt for food where you also gather socially. Like a balancing act. Some are good at it; some are not. Those who have been less than good at it around here, I’ve had to deal with. No one pisses in my pool even once and gets to do it again.

  There’s a big cowboy at the end of the bar, a couple bikers near the pool tables, and a few burly construction workers at a table. After only the briefest pause, my route is clear in my mind. The first taker is my next victim. I really love playing this game. Maybe I’m not so rusty, after all.

  I don’t get the chance to make it very far. As I pass the bar, in my peripheral vision, the dark brown of the cowboy hat moves in my direction.

  “Now this is why I came out tonight. A good looking girl in tight fitting dress!”

  The booming words come projected from the stout bear of a man standing at the end of the bar, undressing me through his beer goggles.

  The cowboy it is; he’ll make a full meal.

  I do my best to fake a blush, while acting interested and offended all at once. Pretending to care what men think is an art. It takes moments to learn, but lifetimes to master. I’d like to believe I’m an expert.

  I walk over to him, smiling but with my eyes downcast. “My name’s Veronica. Who are you, handsome?”

  He puffs up in his detail-stitched denim shirt, pushing out his barrel chest in a vain attempt to hide his well-tended gut. He’d be fairly good looking if he didn’t obviously take such pride in how good looking he thinks he is.

  “They call me Buck, and if I could I’d like to do a lot more than buy you a drink,” he slurs slightly at me.

  He motions to the bartender for another round and I do my best to blush again, this time giving a halfhearted laugh at his insipid comment.

  “Here ya go, darlin’.” He hands me a Jägerbomb and tries to force it to my lips. “Bottoms up, baby!”

  He reminds me why I live in a small town; this corn-fed hick really thinks he’s irresistible. Well, who am I to disappoint? I down the drink like a good girl going bad, exhale deeply, and lean over into him, letting my neckline plunge as it was designed to do. As old and tired as this da
nce is, I really do love his eyes on me. Some things never change.

  “Now, that was worth it, wasn’t it?” he asks me proudly. “Buck won’t steer ya wrong.”

  “We can go somewhere more private if you’d like…Buck,” I whisper softly in his ear, pulling back almost as slowly as the wicked grin spreads across my face. His perverse smile hides nothing. I have him now – hook, line, and zipper.

  Money changes hands as we exit the bar. I laugh a little out loud while remembering the lack of faith I’d had in my abilities. I try to lead him to my car, but he’s intent on going to the alley behind the building. I try to convince him, sliding my hand slowly down over the large oval belt buckle with his name on it. But he’s convinced the alley is what excites him, and I don’t want to take the time to change his mind, so I follow along.

  It begins subtle and playful, but it’s clear that’s not what he’s in the mood for. He pushes me down onto my knees in a matter of seconds, quickly wrapping a hand in my hair and beginning to jerk my head back and forth violently.

  He couldn’t hurt me if he tried, so I let his game continue on his terms. Using my mouth like a cheap sex toy is a bit insulting, I guess, but I don’t need to breathe so I’m not gagging or choking. As always, I’m here to get what I need, and so I’ve gotten used to allowing them what they need. I look at it like my public service, or my good deed.

  I could just take what I want and be done, but that generally leads to more problems than I want to deal with. I’ve even grown bored with the games of superiority and subservience. I let them feel dominant, and powerful. It’s the least I can do, really. Besides, the heightened state of arousal makes them taste better, even if most of them could use a lesson in hygiene.

  It’s been so long since I did this in public. It might even be a little exciting if I weren’t so anxious, or if Buck were more attractive.

 
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