Matthew clicked off the lights and carefully closed the door. The sign on the door said ‘East & West’ in bold letters, and underneath, in smaller print, it said ‘Antiques & Collectibles’. The Manhattan store fit snuggly on the border between Little Italy and Chinatown.
“Another day without an incident,” Matthew said to himself with a smile. “Keep it up and I might be able to pay my rent this month.” He rattled the door to be sure it was locked, turned the collar of his coat up against the wind, and walked off whistling Jingle Bells.
The man across the street, who stood in the shadows of the night, watched every move. When Matthew disappeared into the crowd, the man looked again at the body at his feet. The card he held had the symbol of a simple circle with three squiggly lines that came out of the top of the circle. The man now knew what that symbol stood for. The man had also met the owner of the East and West and he now knew something special about her. The thoughts moved slowly, sluggishly through his dead brain, but after a while he smiled. He imagined what might be in that hole-in-the-wall shop.
Anna Lee slipped out of the taxi in front of her antique shop, one of a million nondescript places in New York City. It kept her afloat financially, and allowed her to pursue the artifacts and special pieces that most of the world had forgotten.
Anna picked up her duffle and slung it over her shoulder. She picked up her large, square but very thin case by the strap handle and started toward the door to the stairs that would take her up to her rooms above the shop. The big, thin case she carried looked like an artist’s case that might hold canvas, palate and paints, but the ancient Chinese inscriptions on the outside of the box suggested something else.
Anna paused and stared before she figured out what was wrong. A light got left on in the back of the shop, one that should not be on. Maybe Matthew left it on when he closed up, she thought. That was not a problem. She would just go in and turn it off. She fumbled for the keys in her purse and eventually found them under some tissues. She opened up, but did not get past the entrance. She stopped. She smelled something and immediately bent down to open her big, square, thin case.
A person was going through the jars that Anna kept hidden behind the counter. Anna did her best to sneak up close enough to stop the person quickly, but did not succeed. The person must have smelled her in return when he turned and let out an unearthly scream. He swung a fist at Anna’s head. Anna ducked, swung back and connected with the hip bone where it sounded like something broke. The person shrieked again and kicked out. This foot struck home and Anna found herself flung back into a glass case that shattered. Luckily, her thick winter coat absorbed the broken glass. She rolled free as the person tried to leap on her, heedless of the glass shards. When it bent down, Anna swung from the floor. The half-spear with the axe-like head swung true and the person’s head fell to the floor.
Vampires have a peculiar smell. Anna always likened it to the smell of lavender and death.
Anna got out her phone. She told Matthew he was going to have to get the cabinetmaker in the morning. She left a message on police Detective Tomlinson’s phone. “The rash has broken out again.” The mortuary picked up.
“The usual cremation?”
“Yes, the fires of Hell,” Anna said, and she looked at the business card taken from the vampire’s pocket. It was George Marcos, that nice tourist from Ohio she met recently in the gallery in Soho. It did not take much to put it together. She hated to leave New York, but Tomlinson had a whole staff trained to deal with this kind of outbreak. She did not know about elsewhere. She fingered the plane ticket she took from the vampire’s pocket. It was a ticket to Columbus, Ohio.
Emily is going home for winter vacation…to Columbus Ohio. You know, she could use a rest after first semester. Stick with the holiday chapter…be sure to come back tomorrow, wednesday and Thursday for The Elect, Freshman Year.