Vampire Games (Chapter One)
Except I knew this was a client at the door. And clients paid the bills.
I reluctantly clicked off the show, set aside the Windex bottle and rag I had forgotten I was holding, and headed for the front door. As I did so, I instinctively reached up for the pair of Oakley wraparound sunglasses that were no longer there. My next conditioned movement was to check my arms and face and hands for sunscreen – which wasn't there, either.
Wasn't there, and wasn't needed.
That is, not since I'd donned the emerald medallion two weeks ago. A medallion that had literally changed my life. A medallion that, curiously, no longer existed.
Two weeks ago, shortly after watching my first sunrise in seven years, I had reached down for the medallion, only to discover it was missing. Left behind had been a disc-shaped burn in my skin and the empty leather strap that had been holding the medallion.
Fang had thought my body absorbed the medallion. I had thought that sounded crazy as hell. Fang had reminded me that a skin-absorbing medallion was actually one of the least-craziest things to happen to me in seven years.
Now, two weeks later, there still remained a faint outline of the medallion on my upper chest, seared into my skin.
I'm such a weirdo, I thought, and settled for reaching up and checking on my hair. Since mirrors were still out of the question, I had become a master at feeling my way through a good hair day. At least, I hoped they were good hair days.
As I stood before the front door, a lingering trepidation remained. After all, sunlight had been my enemy for so many years.
You can do this, I thought.
And I did. I opened the front door wide as sunlight splashed in. Brilliant sunlight. Splashing over me, but my skin felt…nothing. I felt nothing, and that was the greatest feeling of all.
No searing pain. No gasping sounds. No stumbling around and covering my eyes. No shrinking like a monster from the light of the day.
Such a weirdo.
Maybe. But now, not so weird.
Today, I was wearing torn jeans and a cute blouse, a sleeveless blouse, no less. Most importantly, I wasn't wearing multiple layers of clothing or one of my epic sunhats. Or satellite dishes, as a client had once called them.
It was just me. And that felt good. Damned good.
The man standing in the doorway was smaller than I expected. He was wearing a Chicago Bulls tank top and basketball shorts and high-top sneakers. He looked like he might have just stepped off the courts or raided a Foot Locker. The detailed tattoos that ran up and down his arms – and even along his neck – seemed to tell a story about something, although I couldn't puzzle it out at first blush.
"Russell?" I said.
"That's me," he said softly. "You must be Ms. Moon."
He dipped his head in a way that I found adorable. The dip was part greeting, part submission, and partly to let me know that he came in peace. We shook hands and I led him to my office in the back of my house, passing Anthony's empty room along the way. Well, not entirely empty. A pair of his white briefs sat in the middle of the floor, briefs that had seen better – and whiter – days. I reached in and quickly shut the door before my client got a good look at the mother of all skid marks.
Superman had Lex Luthor. Batman had the Joker. I had Anthony's skid marks.
Once safe in my office, I showed Russell to one of my client chairs and took a seat behind my cluttered desk.
"So, what can I do for you, Russell?" I asked.
"Jacky says you might be able to help me."
"Jacky, the boxing trainer?"
"Yes," he said.
"Jacky say anything else?"
"Only that you are a freak of nature."
I grinned. "He's always thought highly of me. What kind of help do you need?"
He looked at me. Straight in the eye. He held my gaze for a heartbeat or two, then said, "Somebody died accidentally…except I don't think it was an accident."
I nodded and did a quick psychic scan of the young man sitting before me. I sensed a heavy heart. Pain. Confusion. I sensed a lot of things. Most important, I did not sense that he was a killer.
"Tell me about it," I said.