Emily lifted the sparkling pink case of her iPhone and checked the time under the streetlight. Within seconds, she finished tapping out a text message to her boyfriend, telling him of the delay with Melissa but that they were still coming tonight. The sound of bicycle tires approaching on the paved road pulled her attention away from the phone, and she watched the looping pattern of the bike’s wheel reflectors glide closer as she stood on the lonely suburban curbside.
With a sigh and roll of the eyes she recognized it was Sam Sherman coming out of the darkness. She looked back down at her phone as his chubby legs in cargo pants stopped peddling and brought the bike to a stop beside her with his Chuck Taylor high-tops.
Sam stood straddling the bike; asthmatically catching his breath in the cool autumn air as Emily quietly checked her Facebook feed.
“Are you alright, Sam?” she asked without looking up.
“Yeah! I’m good!” he panted after another gulp of air. “Are you? I mean… they still haven’t found that freshman girl and—”
“—I’ve only been here a few minutes. I’ve got my phone and a ride coming,” Emily’s face and eyes remained transfixed on the smartphone screen in her hand while she confirmed she still had Sam’s Facebook account blocked.
The double-chinned teen nodded, pulling an errant strap of this backpack into alignment over his t-shirt. Sam knew Emily was lying; he had been watching her stand there for thirty minutes with the binoculars now tucked inside his pack.
“Oh, okay… Um, I can hang with you until your ride gets here… if you want?”
She looked up at Sam. The thin blonde was just as pretty now in her red skirt and cardigan as she was in the blue and gold of her cheerleader’s uniform. Running a finger through her hair, Emily opened her mouth to speak but said nothing before the headlights of a car turning the corner illuminated the pair on the sidewalk.
An old 1995 Dodge Neon came to a rattling stop in front of Sam, and Emily immediately walked away from him. “I’m good! That’s my ride!”
The mauve car idled beside the curve, its headlights causing Sam to squint. Shielding his eyes from the light with an open palm, he looked at the driver who stared back at him behind her thick framed glasses, bangs and long straight hair.
“Hey, isn’t that the new girl?” he asked as Emily opened the front passenger door.
“Yeah. Melissa,” she said slipping into the car. “See you Monday, Sam!”
“Oh. Um… Okay!” Sam pulled his bike up onto the sidewalk and got out of the way as the rattling old beater shifted into gear. The dark-haired driver gave him a last look as she drove off, and not knowing what to do in her gaze, he gave a timid wave that made her smile.”
As soon as the vehicle was a streetlight away, Sam opened the exterior pockets of his black cargo pants with the tear of Velcro. His thick hands quickly removed the sticky patches of black electrical tape he had prepared earlier and slapped them over the headlight and reflectors of his bicycle. Before the car was out of sight, he pulled around and began to follow.
Sam was pretty good at shadowing people and staying out of sight at this point, but he hadn’t planned on having to keep up with a car. Already breathing heavy and cursing the failure at parallel parking that kept him bike-bound, his thick thighs did their best to peddle fast enough to keep the Dodge in sight. Huffing and puffing, the only motivation that kept him going was the thought of the blood. The tactile memory of it on his hands. On Angie Brewer’s clothes, and splattered on the stairs of the abandoned basement he had dragged her into.
He knew the hunger wouldn’t rest until it was sated, and the teen’s eyes were locked on the red taillights of the car escaping his sight with a hunter’s determination.
“Who was that guy?” Melissa asked glancing over at Emily in the passenger seat.
“Oh, just some freak from school,” she said sending a text to her boyfriend on the glittery pink iPhone.
“Is he a creep or something?”
Emily looked at the thumbs-up symbol Roy had texted back acknowledging her message that they were on their way. “No. He’s just… weird. But not like a stalker or anything. He was riding by and just wanted to know if I was alright.”
“Well that’s sweet, given everything that’s happened. Figures that my Dad would move us to be safe from the city and the day I start school a girl goes missing.”
Emily put the pink phone into her purse. “Maybe Sam’s just awkward, but Roy’s the jealous type… He would tear him apart if he thought he had a crush on me or something.”
Melissa furrowed the brow above her glasses. “That’s… rather drastic. Are you really cool with that?”
“Oh, Roy’s got a temper sometimes, but he’s really an angel!”
“I’ll take your word for it. Sounds like you’re really into him.”
Emily smiled distantly as she watched the ‘Welcome to Summersvale’ sign pass by. “I am. I can’t wait for you to meet him tonight! He’s one of those guys you just have to meet in person.”
The dark haired driver smiled in the brown motorcycle jacket that was a size too large for her. “I get it. I’m just saying weird can be fun. I’ve been called weird too… Weird means some depth that you can sink your teeth into, you know?”
“What do you mean?” Emily said turning from the window.
“I don’t know. Maybe Sam’s a nice guy and he’d like to see a movie or—”
Emily burst out laughing and Melissa winced at the sharp guffaws. “Are you serious?! One date with Sam Sherman and the whole school will be talking about it!”
The passing houses outside of the car gave way to night-shrouded fields and trees as Melissa turned down a side road. “Maybe I am serious.”
The blonde’s amusement subsided and she looked at Melissa in the rolling shadows. “Please tell me you’re kidding?”
The young driver turned on the car’s high-beams and flashed a winking grin towards her passenger. “Maybe I’m just weirder than you.”
“I’d say,” Emily replied with a smirk, “But whatever. Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you…”
“I won’t,” Melissa nodded. “Are we getting close to the fire pit?”
“Yeah, the turn is coming right up.”
“There isn’t going to be any, um, drugs or drinking or sex is there? My Dad just let me have the keys back from the last time I was grounded…”
“There might be a few beers, but it’s a campfire, not a rave.”
“I’ll check it out, but I’m really not into—”
“—Pull in right over there,” the fair, lean girl said tapping on the passenger window.
Melissa depressed the brake pedal in her hiking shoes, slowing the old car down gently with a vibrating groan. She squinted at the noise before trying to assuage Emily with a pained smile. Every squeak and rattle of the tired jalopy reminded Melissa that it was several years older than she was. They entered the weedy dirt road with a series of bumps, and after a minute of slow driving she parked the car by itself in a small clearing.
“There’s nobody here,” she said looking over to Emily while the car idled. Its headlights revealed nothing but pine trees as far as she could see before switching them off.
“We’re here first, maybe?” Emily replied pulling out her phone again. “Roy said he would meet us here with the others…”
Melissa turned the keys in the ignition and the engine fell silent with a patter. “How late is this going to go if it isn’t even started yet?”
“Let me send another text… Maybe it got called off?” The blonde tapped out her message and sent it in a matter of seconds before unbuckling her seatbelt.
“Where are you going?” Melissa asked as Emily pushed the car door open with a rusty squeal.
“I’m at least going to look at the stars! They’re beautiful out here!”
“Awesome,” Melissa grumbled pulling the keys out of the ignition after the door closed. “Next time I’m trying my luck with the bicycle guy.”
Stepping out of the car, Melissa felt the growing chill of the cloudless night. She was grateful that her father had let her borrow his brown leather jacket after the cat had coated her fleece hoodie with hair at the last minute. Even ill-fitting on her frame, it was warm as she closed a button and watched her breath become a cloud of mist.
Emily heard the car door close behind her and smiled looking up into the night. “Come see Melissa! We have a great view of Draco right now!”
“Is he fighting Harry Potter?” the spectacled girl quipped adjusting the oversized jacket on her shoulders.
“No… He’s next to Ursa Minor.”
Melissa smiled at Emily’s response. Jangling the keys that swung from the keyring cylinder in her hand, she found a worn fob button in the dark and pressed it.
“There’s a trail through the woods that’ll take us to where they’ll light the fire,” Emily said as the car’s locks snapped shut. “It goes past a run-down graveyard on the way.”
Having exactly enough space in the pockets of her fitted jeans for a stick of gum, Melissa plunged her keys and both hands into the pockets of her dad’s motorcycle jacket instead. Tucking her fingers against the warmth of her waist, she felt the pointed edges of the stainless steel charm hanging on the tip of the cylinder. The six pointed star had moved from one set of keys to another since she was a child, and the young woman these days found the stout metal symbol mostly gave her an added sense of security when walking though dark parking lots.
“The graveyard is very old, if you want to see it,” Emily said still looking skyward. “I’ve only ever been there in the daylight… I bet it’s creepy at night.”
Puzzlement washed over Melissa’s face as her left hand touched a square box in the pocket opposite of her keys. “I’ll pass; it sounds like the start of a bad horror movie.”
“Yes, but it’s always so peaceful—”
“—Oy vey dad!” Melissa groaned looking at her hand and the black leather cube that she had pulled from the jacket.
Emily spun around on her heals. “Um, what?”
“It’s nothing!” the dark haired girl said stuffing the small box and attendant strap of the shel yad tefillin back into the pocket. “It’s just that my dad would forget his head if it wasn’t on so tight!”
“Oh. Okay.” Emily chirped back with a smile returning to her painted lips.
Melissa only needed to walk a few paces on the crunching gravel before she was standing beside the petite blond. The sophomore was average in height, but with Emily’s forehead bobbing near the level of her chin, she felt momentarily tall next to the junior grade student. Emily pointed out the constellations for several minutes to her, and Melissa was surprised as she learned that her reluctant lab-partner was a cheerleader and astronomical hobbyist.
And she apparently liked hanging out in graveyards as well. Pushing up her glasses and looking past the pine tree-tops towards the stars, Melissa smiled pondering if maybe they could be friends.
The distinctive blip of a Facebook notification chimed directly behind her. As Melissa’s smile melted to wide-eyed concern a rough, masculine voice cursed their luck.
Emily tuned and looked past her with a blissful grin. “Roy!”
A pair of hands slammed down on Melissa’s shoulders from behind and she was yanked backwards. Then with a putrid smell, a throaty hiss rushed past her ear. Melissa screamed at the noise, swinging her fist past her temple where the bridge of someone’s nose bit into her knuckles. After the snap of breaking cartilage, she felt her attacker’s face recoil through the strands of her long hair.
She struggled against the vice-grip that swung her about like a toy. Panicked and thrashing, Melissa sent an elbow flying into the side of the unseen attacker. The impact of her adrenaline fueled blow sent a wave of pain through her arm as it struck corpulent flesh and ribs, evoking a foul-smelling grunt even as she remained grappled.
“Hold her!” an ominous voice shouted behind her ear.
The struggling girl’s terrified eyes watched Emily nod with euphoric calm before she reached for her. “Please don’t fight. Roy wants to make you an angel, like he is.”
Melissa kicked the lithe teen in the stomach and knocked her to the ground. “Fuck you! Let me go!”
“I know it’s scary,” Emily wheezed regaining her breath where she lay in the dirt. “But he’s giving you the gift of eternal life! He says that he will share it with me too in time!” The blond pulled herself up from the ground still bearing an enthralled smile as Melissa renewed her struggle against Roy’s iron grip.
“Grab her legs, you idiot!” Roy’s voice commanded like a creaking door from behind the grappled sophomore. “I’ll be pissed if have to spoil her!”
Melissa was swung hard to the right by her assailant, whipping her head so fast that her glasses sailed into the darkness. Yet even with her vision blurred and full of motes she saw Emily regain her footing and rush towards her. Her arms still free, Melissa dove a hand into her pocket and withdrew a fist clenching the grey cylinder on her keyring.
Emily was just beyond the reach of Melissa’s arm as she popped the sealing cap of the aerosol container and squeezed a face-full of pepper spay into her tranquil eyes and smile. The agonized wail of the girl followed almost instantly, before she fell over blinded and writhing.
“Damn your spirit! Now I’ll have to break you!” the unseen Roy growled while Emily cried and rolled on the gravel.
Melissa felt her feet leave the ground, hoisted aloft like a child as the grip on her shoulders and clavicles increased to a crushing pain that threatened to fracture her straining bones. Without leverage to struggle against the doom compressing her, she caught sight of a ruddy, bloated hand with ragged fingernails. Gasping and desperate, Melissa gripped the steel charm amongst the keys and thrust the stout star at the back of Roy’s hand.
The pointed edge of the charm plunged deep into red, swollen flesh before an inhuman bellow out of all proportion to the injury echoed through the trees. Melissa felt Roy’s grip unlock as he recoiled and dropped her. Holding onto the keys as her only weapon, the symbol was yanked out of his foul hand with a trail of acrid smoke and a sound like hissing acid.
Melissa’s heels hit the ground, and she nearly tripped over Emily who still screamed and rolled in the dirt with burning agony. Sidestepping the blonde who begged her angel for help behind the clenched palms covering her face, Melissa swung herself around and stumbled backwards as she finally faced her attacker.
He was monstrous and rancid in the starlight, a bloated and balding figure with ruddy skin stretched so tight that it split and tore in patches. Roy stood clutching an injured left hand that still smoked even though his heaving breaths and animal hissing produced no mist in the cool air.
“You, BITCH! ” he said looking up from the wound and locking his gaze on Melissa ten feet away. His eyes were sunken, dark pools around hungry red pinholes that flared like embers.
The dark-haired girl took a step backwards while Roy gnashed out a ravenous growl displaying his fanged canines. As he hunched and watched her every movement with predatory intent, Melissa straightened an arm that still shook with adrenaline and pressed down hard on the pepper spray trigger with her thumb. The aerosol hissed and the stream of irritant hit him square in the face. Melissa held the trigger depressed, hosing the head of the malevolent figure as he stood barely moving.
Twenty seconds later, the canister sputtered empty and Melissa watched its residue dribble off the man’s chin having no effect whatsoever. But he remained rooted in place for some reason, his red eyes adamantly transfixed on her.
“Roy! Roy!” Emily cried out thrashing and blind where she lay. “She’s terrible! She doesn’t deserve your gift like Angie did!”
“Put it away and I’ll let you live,” the fiend growled over Emily’s sobbing pleas.
Cold fear inched over Melissa as the supernatural presence continued to glare at her. Then her hindered vision finally noticed the monster’s gaze was not locked on her, so much as it was on her hand. On the Star of David that dangled from the bottom of the empty pepper spray container.
“Holy… shit…” she gasped between gulps of air.
“Yes, yes it is…” Roy responded with a cold rasp. “A pointless symbol of a covenant and God long abandoned.”
“You’re lying,” Melissa said looking up to meet Roy’s unnatural eyes with conviction. “Because you don’t think it’s pointless… Do you?”
“Fucking bitch. If my idiotic puppet could manage to steal a gun, I’d just shoot you right now!” he scowled back.
Emily wailed at the monster’s words. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry my angel…”
Roy glared at Melissa unmoved, then flashed a disturbing smile. “How long do you think you can stand there before you tire, Jew-bitch? An hour? Two? She’ll recover soon, and I can do this for days! ”
“I’ll try my luck!” Melissa shouted back thrusting the Star at him.
The bloated man crouched and grasped a handful of the earth before him. “Then I’ll see how many thrown rocks it’ll take to break a bone!”
Melissa saw her car and an opportunity to escape directly behind the fiend. With his eyes off her for a second, she dashed forward and to the left. Roy leapt with a roar, but her move was a feint and he tackled empty air before belly-flopping into the dirt. With athleticism that she had never displayed before on the lacrosse team, the girl had dodged right and now sprinted towards her vehicle.
Roy’s hand snagged her long hair with the strength and speed of a tiger’s paw. Melissa’s head was yanked backwards with a choke before Roy slammed her back first into the ground. The impact knocked the keys from her grip, and as she lay stunned and winded the corpulent monster thrust all his weight on top of her.
“I love a spicy meal!” he shouted hauling her towards his fangs and putrid breath.
Sam Sherman’s bike rounded the turn on the weedy dirt road and he nearly skid and fell. Having abandoned any attempt at stealth after the sound of the first scream, the heavy teen pedaled as hard and as fast as he could knowing that no one else was around for miles to hear the cry. Seconds later he cleared the trees and saw Emily’s angel leaning over the struggling dark-haired driver that had picked her up earlier.
He kicked his heels backwards, slamming the bike into a break and jerking it sideways amid a spray of dirt and rocks. His sneakers skidded across the gravel before he let go of the bike and let it slide out from under him. It crashed with a bang into the rear of Melissa’s car while she tried in vein to force Roy off of her and dodged a bite to her jugular.
Roy turned and faced the noise. “What the fuck?!”
Sam tried to maintain his balance after his dismount but failed, falling onto his hands and knees with gravel biting his palms. The monster’s look of surprise became one of anger as Melissa watched trapped beneath him.
“What’s happening?! Somebody tell me what’s going on?!” Emily whined in the background as Melissa saw a panting Sam haul his backpack off by its shoulder strap five yards away.
He yanked the top zipper open with such speed and haste that he tore it off the compartment. Reaching inside the backpack, he tossed aside a cardboard shoebox lid in a bare second. Then, as Roy shifted his weight above Melissa and prepared to lunge at the young man, Sam withdrew a water-balloon and hurled it at him.
Roy wasn’t expecting the attack and barely had time to close his hateful eyes before the balloon nailed him in the head and burst. Both he and the girl trapped beneath his bulk were drenched in a gush of grey liquid that assaulted their senses with the pungent smell of concentrated garlic mixed with a metallic odor. Melissa used a free hand to wipe the repugnant concoction from her eyes with no further effect, but above her Roy howled in utter agony and jumped to his feet. The bloated flesh of his face boiled as if covered in acid, and he let forth a stream of obscenities before staggered blindly backwards.
“Angel? Oh my angel!? Are you hurt!?” Emily cried out as Roy blundered about as incapacitated as she now was.
Melissa rolled onto her side just in time to see Sam pull a second object out of the backpack and scramble to his feet. “Get out of here!” he shouted lunging past her and yanking the sheathe off the machete in his hand.
Sam wasn’t sure if his mixture of powered silver and garlic juice would have done anything at all when he threw it. But as he raised the weapon above the doubled over fiend and aimed for the nape of his corpulent neck, the teen knew his hurried research was now vindicated.
“This is for Angie, you son-of-a-bitch!” he shouted sweeping the machete downward.
Roy lashed-out with the deceptive and supernatural speed that hid within his swollen limbs, catching Sam’s arm with the machete by the wrist. The long fingernails of Roy’s other hand clamped onto his throat and lifted the two hundred and thirty pound young man off his feet. The monster’s face still hissed and smoked, an ear dissolved and the bony socket of a glowing eye exposed.
“I’m going to tear you apart!” Roy spat out as he began to crush Sam’s larynx in a fit of rage.
The monster gave a fanged smile as the teen struggled, and was taken completely by surprise when Melissa dropped a leather loop over his head like a garrote. Holding the ends of the tefillin in both hands, she placed her foot into the small of Roy’s back and pulled the loop she had made with her father’s phylactery taut.
Sam fell onto his backside with a gasp as Roy let go of him and clawed with ragged nails at the prayer object that smoked and burned his flesh. The fiend would have bayed in pain if the blessed leather containing verses from the Torah had not rendered him into a gagging silence. Melissa pulled back with all her weight and strength on the tefillin, and Sam watched the monster’s neck flare with fire as the straps cut into it. Despite all his strength, Roy was powerless to remove the strap as it set his fingers ablaze at the slightest touch.
“Stop it!” Emily screamed in absolute panic behind Sam. “You’re hurting him! I can feel my Angel dying!”
The stout young man pushed off of the ground, abandoning his blade to grab one end of the tefillin. With his hands locked above the leather cube containing Hebrew passages, Melissa switched her hands and strength to the opposite end of its strand.
“Don’t stop!” Sam shouted as he purposefully fell to the ground. His weight and strength combined into a deadly leverage well-matched with Melissa’s determination. While Emily let out a tortured, ear-splitting scream, the teens felt the leather straps slide a little longer. Then there was a snap as the loop in the tefillin disappeared, and Melissa fell to the ground beside Sam.
Emily fainted, and the sudden absence of her hysteria left an unsettling silence before something hit the ground and rolled to the side. Sam and Melissa turned around, both panting from the struggle, and watched Roy’s decapitated body stumble mindlessly forward. Its smoking palms grasped at the empty air where its head should have been before it fell over inanimate.
The teens scooted away from the headless corpse without standing until they both found their backs pressing against the side of Melissa’s car. There they sat on the cold ground for a good minute, staring at the aftermath before them and catching their breath.
Finally, Melissa turned to Sam. “Did we… Did we just kill a fucking vampire!?”
“Yeah,” Sam nodded.
“You followed us? You knew this was going to happen and didn’t say anything?!” Melisa yelled narrowing her eyes on him.
“I knew you were in danger! I’ve been following Emily around for weeks since what happened to poor Angie Brewer!”
“What?! Who do you think you are?! Batman? Why didn’t you call the cops?!”
“Oh yeah! That would go over great!” Sam said rolling his eyes. “That’s right officer, the varsity cheerleading captain is working with a vampire and he’s the one that killed the missing freshman. I’ll take you right to where I hid Angie’s body, but keep in mind that I had to mutilate it to keep her from rising as an undead…”
Sam’s sarcasm dissolved the anger on Melissa’s face. “Alright, you’ve got a point. A good one.”
Sam smiled and shrugged. “Well, it is pretty crazy.”
“What about her?” Melissa said looking towards Emily’s unconscious body. “Is she one too?”
“No, she’s just his thrall.”
“He was… controlling her mind,” Sam said turning his gaze to the blonde as well. “I don’t think she’s bad, or even understood what he was making her do…”
“That’s… a nightmare,” Melissa said shaking her head and feeling regret over injuring Emily.
“Most of what I have found says that with the vampire gone, thralls can recover.”
The girl turned to Sam. “I, hope so… How do you know all this?”
The beefy necked teen scratched his head. “I was working on a genealogy project and taking pictures in the Old Clapson Graveyard down the trail here when I found one of her notebooks. It looks like she met her ‘angel’ out there… or he found her. It read like fan-fiction, but the blood on the pages looked real. I almost just gave it back to her the next day, but then Angie Brewer disappeared. I followed her notes and found her body right where she said they would stash it—”
“—And you didn’t call the cops right there thinking she was a psycho, because? ” Melissa said shaking her head.
Sam’s eyes became dead serious as they looked into hers. “Because then Angie tried to kill me.”
“Good God… Okay I get it now…”
Sam nodded. “After I fought her off with the spade I found in the shed, and removed her head with it, I knew nobody would believe me. So started learning everything I could about vampires, real ones, for the last two weeks while following Emily around to catch the blood-sucker. I only ever caught a few glimpses of the bastard before tonight…”
Melissa reached out and touched his shoulder. “Sam, you’re awesome. And either the bravest or craziest guy I’ve ever met… And you saved me.”
“Um… thanks?” the young man said as they both jointly smiled. “What you did with that tefillin was absolutely badass too! He would’ve ripped my head off if you hadn’t done that, so we’re even.”
“You can thank my dad for that. It’s his.”
“Cohen, right? The new rabbi at Beth with the Harley?”
Melissa was taken aback. “Yeah… how’d you—”
“—Samuel Sherman, nice to meet you,” he said offering a big palm covered in shallow cuts from his falls. “I had my bar mitzvah at Temple Beth.”
“Oh!” she said sliding her hand into his and shaking it. “I’m Melissa, Melissa Cohen.” The girl continued shaking his hand longer than necessary, smiling as she thought of her good fortune to be saved by the only vampire hunter her father wouldn’t object to her dating. Sam didn’t mind.
“Do you need a partner?” she asked with her hand still grasping his. “I mean, I have like a million questions right now and—”
“—Uh, sure,” he said with a squeeze of surprise that Melissa could feel in his grip. “I’m going to need help with, um, burying the body… That guy’s going to weigh a fucking ton… And the head needs to be burned…”
“Okay,” Melissa agreed as they both maintained seamless eye contact. “And do you like movies?”
“Do you like… girls?”
“Y-yes.” Sam replied finally ending their ongoing handshake without letting go.
Melissa looked down at their hands still grasping one another. “Good.”
(c) Jason H. Abbott – August 1, 2015