Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Vampire Bureau


The Vampire Bureau
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Stefan watched the boy as he approached the yellow house. Decorated in gaudy ornaments, the porch light brightly lit the door, displaying a witch in garish orange and green colors. Stefan hid behind a tree, just out of the reach of the encroaching glow.
The boy, plump for someone so small, struggled to keep up with the rest of the children, his short, stubby legs sticking out beneath the sheet serving as his costume.

“A ghost, boooo hoooo,” Stefan said, his voice so low, the surrounding crickets wouldn’t have heard. How he tired of these games. The boy’s scent carried to him, causing his stomach to rumble a little louder than he would have liked. A bird sitting on the branch, unaware of Stefan, who had been standing so still he could have been one of the plastic figures peppering the lawns of the neighborhood, took off, startled by its sudden proximity to danger.
“Never worry,” Stephen grumbled, “it’s not your blood I am after. I would have to be far more starved than I am to find the little nourishment you would provide, palatable.
Stephen’s eyes never left his prey. The boy was slow, which took the sport out of the game, and probably dimwitted. The other children looked to be the kind who would have a sporting chance at survival, though even that was unlikely. He nearly said damn it all to the rules, his legs itching to spring from his hiding place and gather the children in his arms. He could be gone before the first trick or treat bag hit the ground. Their blood smelled more appetizing than the ghost boy’s. He could only imagine what kind of in-breeding might have gone on in Stubby’s family gene pool.
The Vampire Bureau would be on him before he had the first child drained. They had gotten rather testy lately, insisting all un-dead abide by the treaty they had negotiated with the government. The idea of a treaty being signed between the living and dead seemed ludicrous, but it had happened and all because a few of his kind had gotten greedy. Even then, the existence of vampires might have gone unnoticed, if not for the special task force the government set up to investigate Supernatural happenings around the world.
“We should have wiped them out,” Stefan grumbled, his belly protesting his delay to action.
The argument for a treaty had been sound though. They could have wiped out the human population, but in doing so, would have wiped out their food supply. They could have enslaved the living, but again, that would have meant trusting them not to revolt during the daylight hours, when they would be otherwise incapacitated. The treaty assured the government would leave the general population unaware of their existence, so long as they abided by rules.
Rules included blood banks and plasma stored in refrigerators, nursing homes and aged blood of the dying, the forgotten elderly lying in beds, neglected by the staff and ignored by their family. Rules didn’t allow for the draining of children, whose blood was fresh, pure of the toxins that would pollute their blood stream as they grew older; alcohol, drugs and sex with unprotected prostitutes, all served to make the blood a little less savory.
The group of children reached the front door and rang the bell. A woman answered, feigning fear at the gruesome creatures standing outside her door.
“Oh my, what do we have here? A witch, oh my, oh my… and Frankenstein and a werewolf, oh look at you, aren’t you a little doll.”
The princess smiled, holding out her bag, threatening to reveal a scarier side if the woman didn’t drop in a treat. The woman obliged, after insisting everyone follow the inane ritual of singing out their request.
“Trick or Treat,” they all echoed and the woman dropped her bribe into each bag, insuring her house would not be assaulted with rotten eggs and toilet paper. Last in line was the ghost, who stumbled over his feet in his rush for the door.
“My, but aren’t you a scary little guy,” the woman chuckled, dropping a chocolate bar into the proffered bag. The ghost mumbled a thank you and turned to join the rest of his group, who had already moved on, parents and all, confirming what Stefan had already suspected. The boy was a straggler, no more a part of the group than Stefan would be if he suddenly decided to join the group of parents. 
Stefan had tried the year before to blend in with a group, hoping perhaps for an invitation into one of the homes after the evening was over. He was sure he had heard once that these humans threw costume parties and played such games as bobbing for apples pin the fangs on the vampire. He’d thought about how much fun it would be if a real vampire showed up and played a game of his own.
If there was a party, he never found out. All parents have a warning signal inside, warning of danger. Most have learned to suppress it, dismissing their fears as silly and superstitious.  Stefan had given a friendly, “Hello,” having trailed a lone child to the group. They parent’s had looked him up and down, glancing at the boy, who was dressed in rags, with a fake hobo beard painted onto his face.  Stefan had at first thought the hostility emanating from the group came from the sense of danger built into all mankind and if he put on a pleasant smile and exchanged pleasantries with them, their anxiety would pass.
“So… are you, um, Eddie’s father?” 
The question had come from a young woman whose blood, oddly enough, smelled as though it was void of many of the addictive substances that tainted the taste for him. Stefan had looked at the woman, confused for a moment and then realized she was referring to the hobo. After a long pause, he answered, “Yes.”
‘I always wondered what you looked like,” one of the men said, turning towards him. “Surprised you managed to stay sober for the evening.”
While Stefan was trying to figure out how to respond, another father said, “Maybe we should show him how we deal with men who like to beat kids.”
Amused, Stefan realized they were angry because of who they thought he was, not because of what he was. He tried to salvage the night, but Eddie’s father was apparently a worse monster than any vampire could be and eventually he faded away, watching until the opportunity arose to take the child. The blood had not been as satisfactory as he had hoped. There are some things done to children that can taint the blood of even the innocent. He felt perhaps he had done the child a favor.
The ghost, encumbered by his small legs, hurried down the steps after the other trick or treaters, calling out a tiny, “Wait for me.” They either didn’t hear him, or as Stefan suspected, didn’t care and continued on without the boy. Hurrying his pace, he ran to catch up, not seeing Stefan until he stepped out in front of the child. Startled, the ghost nearly stumbled over the vampire, juggling his bag, which bore the image of a grinning Jack O’Lantern, in an attempt to keep from spilling his contents. He failed. The boy and the chocolate contents went sprawling across the sidewalk while Stefan pretended to be horrified.
“Oh my, here, let me help you.”
Stefan bent to help the boy pick up the spilled candy. Nervous eyes peered out of the sheet while the blood, oh the sweet blood, teased his senses, calling to Stefan to take one little bite. A low rumble trembled in the back of his throat, the sound startling the boy, who pulled his hand back as Stefan’s fingers grazed the back of it. His teeth ached, longing to break the delicate skin promising so much pleasure. Nearly in a trance, Stefan hesitated… he could do it and no one would know. The damn Vampire Bureau and their nosey paranormal agents would never know it had been him.  Childish voices pulled him from his reverie. Coming down the block, only a few houses away, was another group of Trick or Treater’s. Had they seen Stefan with the boy, could they give a description? These were dangerous times for being a vampire.
No, Stefan decided. Shadow surrounded him and his prey and at the moment they went unnoticed, but it wouldn’t be long before the little monsters were there. He needed to act swiftly.
“It seems your friends have left without you.” Stefan smiled knowingly at the boy.
“I… I can catch up with them.” His voice shook, betraying his nervousness.
“I bet you can,” Stefan laughed, winking. “But why should you? They think you’re slow, but I bet the never heard the story of the Turtle and the Hare.”
“Slow and steady wins the race.” The boy laughed, though fear still tinged his breath. Stefan tried not to breathe. Gads, he was hungry. A year of drinking approved blood had taken his toll. If he didn’t get something fresh soon, he wouldn’t be responsible for what happens.
“Yes and in this case, bigger and better candy. I know someplace handing out the King sized candy bars, not these tiny bite sized things which leave you wanting for more.”
“Where?” The boy’s voice shook with excitement.
“It’s a few blocks from here. Come with me and I’ll show you.”
“I don’t know…” Beneath the ghost sheet, the boy’s eyes divulged a war. He wanted the candy, but leaving with a stranger… he peered over his shoulder at the kids heading their way, then past Stefan at the children leaving him further behind with each house they visited.
“Imagine how jealous they will be when they see the amount of loot you collect… and the size. They’ll think twice before ever ignoring you again.”
“I guess… if it’s not too far.”
“We can take a shortcut. Follow me.”
Stefan took off, running through the backyard of the yellow house and into the connecting yard. Glancing over his shoulder, he smiled, relieved to see the boy following him. How he wished for simpler times, to be able to grab a child off the streets, sometimes right out of his mother’s arms. Those were the days. Now he had to play silly games to keep from being exposed. Vampire Hunters lurked in every town.
“How much further?” The boy huffed along behind Stefan, his small legs scurrying to keep up. Stefan wondered if the boy was borderline diabetic. He wasn’t overly fond of the sticky sweet blood, but beggars can’t be choosers.
“Just around the corner.”
Stefan had a lair set up on Spring Street. The dilapidated neighborhood was frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers, along with a variety of vermin. These low lives were approved for Vampire consumption and he could drink to his fill, as long as he cleaned up his mess after. The VBI didn’t want to have to send in someone to destroy evidence of vampire activity and they couldn’t guarantee the police would turn a blind eye, if too many homeless and undesirable turned up dead.  The blood of these creatures was repulsive, as was their stench. The few times he had resorted to drinking from them, thinking it had to be better than refrigerated blood that needed warmed in the microwave, his stomach had cramped and his skin burned from the diseases they carried. If he hadn’t already been dead, he’d have died from the multitude of illnesses killing off the human race.
His lair provided privacy though. He could take his time draining the boy, he could even keep him alive for a week or more, if he rationed the blood. 
“It’s over here.” Stefan pointed to a gray house, located on the corner of Spring and Vine. The porch steps were crumbling, threatening to swallow anyone who dared tread the rotting wood. A red eyed rat peered out from underneath, sniffing the air.
“There?” The boy sounded doubtful.
“Yes, yes… King sized candy bars, all you could want. Come, come….” Stefan motioned for the child to follow him, but he had come to a stop, standing there, staring at the vampire.
“Don’t you want your candy?”
“I think…” the boy hesitated… “I think maybe I should go back.”
“I would prefer to do this inside,” Stefan said, his voice hardening, “but we are alone here.”
Stepping back, the boy dropped his bag.
“It’s too late to run.”
The boy just stood there, staring at Stefan. Something in his stance had changed. Confused, the vampire tilted his head, trying to figure out the conundrum. The child should be shaking with fear, making the blood even more appealing. Instead, he was posed as though ready for a fight. Stefan sniffed the air, his eyes widening as a new scent assaulted his nostrils.
Reaching up, the boy, who no longer smelled delicious, pulled off his sheet.
“You aren’t…” Stefan nearly gagged, the last traces of the child’s blood disappearing. A breeze blew by, bringing with it the musty scent of the dwarf. The taste lingered on his tongue.
“You tricked me!” The vampire shook with fury.
The dwarf laughed, his elf like ears trembling. “Funny how your kind always wants to scream entrapment when you are caught breaking the law.”
“I didn’t break any law.”
“You tried to eat a child.”
Stefan’s eyes narrowed. “What child? I only see a wannabe fairy creature and last I looked, you weren’t on the list of forbidden foods.”
“Don’t be asinine, Stefan… yeah, I know who you are. We’ve been watching you ever since you took that boy last Halloween. One of our agents made you when you tried to blend into a group of children she was guarding.”
Stefan thought back, remembering the woman who had first spoken to him. Now he realized why her blood had smelled pure… she wasn’t human.
“Why didn’t you come after me then?”
“No proof it was you and the police assumed it was the boy’s father. We decided to show some patience. We knew you would try it again this year.”
“So… what are you going to do? Fine me… stick me in a dungeon?”
“Sorry, no.” The Dwarf reached over his shoulder, drawing a sword out of a sheath strapped to his back.
“So that’s it… I’ve been marked for death.”
“You’re a wild card, Stefan. Vampires like you will expose the paranormal community to the human’s.”
“Would that be so bad?”
“Yes. They have driven the fairies to the brink of extinction, without even realizing what they are doing. If they knew we existed… if they had any kind of a clue, they would panic and destroy us all before we could do anything to stop them.”
“Or we could destroy them.”
“That argument has been buried, Stefan, the treaty signed. And we have other creatures who have been abiding by the rules… some even hungrier than you.”
Stefan’s eyes widened, the image of the sea witch who thrived on vampire blood, coming to his mind. The mythical creature was the reason the undead couldn’t travel over water. Then there was the Day Walker, a creature that blended in with man-kind, but lived off vampire flesh. This monster sent them into hiding during the day, not the sun as legend believed.
“You would feed me to one of them?”
“They obey the rules.”
Baring his teeth, Stefan hissed at the dwarf. He was a vampire after all, he could take a puny, pint sized creature. At least that’s what he wanted to believe. The truth was, this creature, though small, was a trained agent of the VBI. He knew how to kill a vampire and he hadn’t been starving for the better part of the year. Nothing dwarves ate was off limits.
Sizing up the situation, Stefan decided it would be best to leave. He knew a werewolf who specialized in creating new identities. He’d get a fresh start, maybe go to Ohio and live for a while. No one would think to look for him there. He turned to run, expecting speed to be on his side and found himself facing the dwarf, who was faster than he looked.
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be.” The dwarf raised the sword. Stefan turned again. Again, he found his path blocked by the annoyingly spry dwarf.
“Doesn’t Santa Clause need you back at the North Pole?” Stefan hissed. He would have to fight. Striking out with his fist, aiming for the agent’s throat; he hit empty air. Twirling, he kicked out with his foot, hoping to catch the creature by surprise. The dwarf tapped him on the shoulder, laughing as he flipped over his head. He held his sword at the ready. Rounding the top of the Vampire’s head, the dwarf swung his sword. Already in the motion of kicking, Stefan leaned to the right, intending to avoid the blade but ending up instead, finding the ground rising up to meet him. The sword swung down, reaching between Stefan and the pavement, then upward and into his neck.
Stefan’s head sailed through the air. Unlike in the movies, there was no blood. You have to have a beating heart to bleed. His head landed at the bottom of the porch steps and Stefan found himself staring into the eyes of the rat, still sniffing around for food. Then his eyes glazed over, death overtaking the vampire once and for all.
“Hey, scat!” The dwarf kicked the rat away from the vampire’s head and dropped it into the Trick or Treat bag. Then he rolled the body into the bushes. A clean-up crew would be along later, but he would take the head with him. It was always best to keep them separated.
“Not bad, for a nights work,” he thought. Opening his cell phone, he called in the location of the body, and then took off for Market Street. He had a werewolf to take care of and when he finished with him, he needed to help with the zombie roundup in Town Square. Donning his sheet once again, Dorn sighed happily. He enjoyed his job and Halloween was always a busy time for agents of the V.B.I.

The Vampire Bureau is one of 14 stories included in Jezri's Halloween Nightmares.

A collection of 14 stories, perfect for the Holiday, along with bonus material. Collection includes, The Bainbridge Witch, The Vampire Bureau, Ol’ Jack, Witch’s Brew, The Dress’s Curse, Retribution, Trapped, The Dragon’s Claw, Hide and Seek, A Prank Gone Too Far, Temptations, Dare, Ageless and Reverie, A Graystone Manor Short.

Bonus Material gives you free sample reads of Progeny, The Second Wave: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale, Blood Lust and Undead Ahead, a collaboration of stories by Lisa McCourt Hollar and Jeffrey Hollar.
Available on Amazon, BN and Smashwords.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Society Stereotypes and Ray Rice: A Mini Rant



Mini rant: Why does McDonald's have to do boy toys or girl toys? Why do they have to add to the gender stereo type? The other day I bought Caleb a Happy Meal. The toys are NFL action figures or Little Pet Shop. He wanted Little Pet Shop. So before the cashier could ask, I said, "He wants the pet shop toy... the turtle if you have it." When we opened his Happy Meal, he had an NFL toy. So I took it back up and exchanged it, explaining when I did that not all boys like football and not all girls like cute animal toys.

In fact, if a little girl wanted an NFL toy, no one would bat an eye. If she wanted to play with a truck, no one would bat an eye. Because people think tom boys are cute. And they are. I had one. She grew up to be a well adjusted adult who doesn't take crap from anybody.

 Caleb plays with a mix of toys. He loves dinosurs, trucks, zombies and teenage mutant ninja turtles. He also likes dolls and other so called girl toys...because what, boys aren't allowed to learn to be nurturers too?

 And what is the purpose of this rant? Because after I got him the correct toy, another little kid informed him boys aren't supposed to play with girl toys.

I suppose it's not McDonald's fault. Society is what has ingrained this into us. We tell boys not to cry, not  to play with dolls. We tell them they have to be rough and know how to fight, and shame them if they don't fit the stereotypical male role. And then we end up with men that abuse women, and even when they get caught on video, there are people that think it's no big deal and make excuses for them.

Now I don't believe that this is typical behavior of most men... in fact the men I know are appalled by this behavior, but perhaps if Ray Rice had ever played with dolls he wouldn't have grown up to be a wife beater. It's just a thought...more dolls, less guns (although Caleb plays with those too,) and little less stereotyping.

By the way, Caleb did get the toy he wanted. It wasn't a turtle with a cowboy hat, like we first thought, but a lizard with a cowboy hat. Turtles and lizards... I wonder if they have to face stereotypes as well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reawakening

I must apologize for my absence lately. I've been busy isn't a good excuse... but... but... I've been busy. And I think you, or at least some of you, will be excited to hear that I have finished my novella, Marked, now retitled as Reawakening. I don't have a publishing date yet, but it is currently going through edits and the cover is done! Isn't it gorgeous?!

The cover is designed by my daughter, Sarah Sprague, who has designed several of my children's books. Reawakening is planned as a 5 book series... at least, and next up is Reverberations. I can't wait to see what she does for that cover!

This is a paranormal novella that includes Vampires, witches, werewolves, spirits and even an angel... I think it's a fun book, yet has an element of terror to it.  Here is a blurb from the book:



 It started On New Year’s. I was working at my new job, The Corner Shop. It wasn’t as though I had anything going on; no boyfriend, no family, no friends… which is how I liked it. No one to tie me down, no one to complicate my life, and I was happy. Really, I was. Who needs people anyway? So if anyone tells you I was miserable they would be wrong.

The Shop, as most of the regulars affectionately called it, held an odd array of items. There were the usual things that you might need, milk, a few grocery items, beer, which was in high demand tonight –and cleaning supplies. There were also a few unusual items as well. Earlier this evening I had come across a shrunken head in the back room, which would have seemed out of place, except that I knew my grandmother had owned a shrunken head at one time.  I wondered if this is where she had found it. I would never know for sure, she had passed away a month ago, just two days after my 19th birthday.

I missed her. A lot.  She was my grandmother and had raised me after my parents died in a car accident. I was three at the time and I barely remember them. She spoiled me too. Until she was gone, I never gave a thought to how the bills were paid. So now I had a job and a small apartment a few blocks away.

Some of my fellow employees tried to pull me into the festivities. They were celebrating in the back room, waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square. I was up front just in case a customer came in.
“Francine, the store is empty, no one is going to come walking in while we’re in the back and even if they do, there’s a bell.”

I looked up to find Joseph standing next to me. He might have been good looking if not for his one fatal flaw. He was gorgeous in that way a lot of girls liked - blah. And blond, yech. Maybe if he grew his hair a little… tried that bad boy look. As it was, he looked like he was fresh out of high school, where as I looked like a high school drop-out.

Joseph wiggled his eyebrows at me. I just stared at him, unmoving. He had a crush on me… why, I don’t know. I’d done everything I could to discourage him, but still he persisted. I could see the disappointment in his eyes when I refused; I think he was honestly hoping I would kiss him at the stroke of midnight. Blah! 

“Leave her be,” Debbie said, pulling Joseph to the back. Speaking of the type of girl Joseph appealed to - Debbie is blond, with long hair that falls just past her shoulders. I’m sure she spends hours getting it to shine like it does. She was wearing a pink shirt which went against company policy, but who was going to tell? The only manager assigned to work tonight was Carl and he was already drunk in the back. How he still had a job was a mystery, since he was always drunk, but Penny, the owner of The Corner Shop, seemed protective of him. I could understand why. He was seven years older than me, but he seemed more innocent than even Joseph. I was drawn to him, but in a sisterly way. He had tight curls and nerd glasses. I was sure he had once been the kid on the playground everyone picked on. 

Debbie shook her head, letting me know she didn’t approve of me. She’d disapprove even more if she knew I’d been spitting in her coffee. Behind her, Carl called out that it was almost midnight. Debbie took Joseph’s hand and pulled him to the back. I went back to work. Or I tried to. The ball was dropping, I could hear them counting down in the back… ten… nine… eight… and I was doing my level best to ignore them while I straightened up the aisles, making them look presentable for when the drunken idiots came in - and they would. Seven… six… five… four…. A chill went through my body. My Grandmother would say someone had walked over my grave. A silly thought, but I was suddenly filled with a sense of dread. I looked around. No one was in the store, but… three… two… one!

Everyone was cheering and clapping, which is why I didn’t hear the bell, or at least that’s what I told myself. There’s a mirror in the corner, angled so you can see the back of the store from the front and I glanced up just in time to see Joseph and Debbie kissing. Okay, it was more like Debbie kissing Joseph while he flailed around trying to get away. Why did I feel… jealous? No, it wasn’t jealousy, but I was uncomfortable with it. Turning back to the shelf I’d been straightening, I was startled to see someone else was in the store.

He stood there watching me and I watched him back. His eyes were dark, brooding. His hair hung in his eyes so they were hard to see, but what I did see, I liked in a morbid sort of way. Images of making love to him on a bed of black roses in the middle of a graveyard came to mind. Like I said, morbid. There’s a reason people steer clear of me.

The world stood still in those few moments. My heart was beating loudly, blood rushed to my head and the room spun. I thought I heard someone call my name. The sound of glass breaking brought me back to the room. I shook my head to clear it, Mr. Gorgeous still stood across the aisle, but now he was looking at the ground. I’d dropped the packet of glass Christmas ornaments I’d been dusting off.