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    Sample Excerpt 

Drawing Dead

A never-before published Vampire Files tale
Featuring Jack Fleming!

This 5000-word tale was originally a chapter in The Devil You Know, but in the end it worked better as a stand-alone short story.

Drawing Dead, eBook Edition, VampWriter Books,
copyright 2011, by P.N. Elrod


Chicago, March 1938

Long journeys are as complicated for vampiresóor at least this vampireóas they are for regular people. You have to figure out food, shelter, and hope your luggage arrives on time and in the right place. In my case I would be in the luggage, another complication. Since my change from normal human to blood-swilling creature of darkness I tended to avoid travel.
       Vampire. Yes. Thatís how I spell it. Look it up in the dictionary, but donít believe everything you read.
       Iím a bloodsucker, but I am polite about it. No leaping out of alleys or seducing damsels for me, not while the Union Stockyards has cattle pens. Before leaving town to see to my errand in New York, Iíd stopped there and drink my fill, which would cover my needs for the next few nights.
       There were no direct lines running from Chicagoís LaSalle Street Station to Long Island, necessitating a changeover at Grand Central Terminal. Iíd be in the baggage car of the Twentieth Century Limited for most of the trip, specifically inside a large trunk, only it wasnít so roomy once I was stuffed in along with clothes and a bag of my home earth. Uncomfortable and boring, but you canít beat the privacy. I could afford a sleeping compartment, but didnít want to wind up being a problem for a day porter. Post-sunrise, Iím literally dead to the world, which alarms people should they find my body. Of course, they get even more agitated when I unexpectedly wake up, so itís best to just keep out of the way.
       A porter charged in with a trolley and swept my trunk away, shoving it in next to a mountain of similar items being efficiently loaded into the baggage car. I slipped off, glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention, took a bead on the trunk, and vanished.
       Hurtling forward in a straight line, I blundered into something that was the same size and shape and tried to sieve in. Whatever Iíd found was packed solid with no room to materialize. I slipped out, fighting claustrophobia, and felt around, but it was hopeless. Those porters were fast. I gave up and clung to the top of something else, riding it into what I hoped was the right car. A man bawled directions on where it was to go. I drifted free, my weightless, formless self bumping gently against the ceiling, and went semi-transparent to get my bearings.
       Just enough sight returned to allow me a faint glimpse of my target below. Anticipating problems, Iíd slopped a big X on my trunkís sides and top in white paint the night before, and the precaution paid off. I went invisible and dove in before the next load buried my refuge.
       Re-formed again and safe, my rump on a flat bag of home earth and knees crowding my ears, I half-listened to the rowdy racket outside. Strangely, I didnít feel closed in; it must have been the presence of my home soil. During the day I needed it next to me so I could truly rest, but Iíd never considered that it might have a general calming effect at night. Donít ask for explanations for the why of it, because I donít know. So long as it worked I had no complaints.
       For something to do in the pitch darkness I fished out a quarter and practiced rolling it across my knuckles. That was possible to do by touch alone, though I dropped the coin more often than not. The magician whoíd played at my club and taught me how had made it look easy.
       I had a flashlight and plenty of magazines, but it was too cramped for reading. After a weary wait I heard rumbling followed by a solid slam and clank, signaling the carís wide door was shut. Not long afterward the train began lurching eastward, taking it slow until we cleared the city.
       When the click-click, click-click of the wheels on the rails and the carís rocking steadied, I vanished and eased out of the trunk. It took a few minutes to feel my way to a clear spot to materialize.
       More pitch blackness, I used the flashlight. The place was as Iíd expected, noisy, cold, and loaded with crates, bags, and trunks. I couldnít see mine from here, but Iíd find it again. If nothing else the soil itself would draw me in the right direction.
       Thinking about it, that was a little creepy.
       I made my way toward the passenger area of the train. To avoid trouble Iíd bought a regular ticket. It was easier than dodging the conductor all night.
       The lounge was crowded, but I found a chair, pulled two magazines from my coat pocket, and settled in for adventurous distraction courtesy of Street and Smithís The Shadow. I couldnít always catch the radio show, but two new stories every month almost made up for it. I had both January issues, bought but unread. Which to read first? The Crystal Buddha was the earlier story, but The Hills of Death had a more interesting cover with a motorcycle cop bursting through a map covered by the Shadowís red silhouette. I opted to be chronological and took on the Buddha tale to find out why The Shadow found it necessary wave one of his .45s at a startled man in a green turban.
       A waiter or porter or whatever you call them when on a train asked if I wanted a drink. I ordered water and tipped a quarter just to show I wasnít cheap. Having a glass at hand might keep him from bothering me again. Water was best, no one minds if you donít drink it. Order coffee and you have to keep turning down a fresh hot cup every ten minutes.
       ďTraveling far?Ē a man in the next chair asked.
       People hate a reader. They canít stand when someoneís not also bored. They interrupt, want to know what youíre reading, if itís interesting, and then discuss what they like to read. At some point in the encounter theyíve ceased being bored and suddenly you are, thoroughly.
       I gave discouraging grunt, not looking up. Hell, we were all headed toward New York, wasnít that enough information?
       My neighbor moved off to find someone more sociable. The bar did a brisk business and enough conversations were going on elsewhere in the car to allow me and Lamont Cranstonóonly he seemed to be Kent Allard in this oneóto get on with the plot.
       It didnít last. Just as The Shadow was about to make his first appearance, someone tapped my shoulder. I looked up, annoyed, into the cheerful, open face of a natural-born grifter.

 

 

Continued in the P.N. Elrod Omnibus