March 01, 2011

Hard Day's Knight: The Black Knight Chronicles, Vol. 1

By John G. Hartness © 2011

Chapter 1

I hate waking up in an unfamiliar place. I’ve slept in pretty much the same bed for the past fifteen years, so when I wake up someplace new, it really throws me off. When that someplace is tied to a metal folding chair in the center of an abandoned warehouse that reeks of stale cigarette smoke, diesel fuel and axle grease - well, that really started my night off on a sparkling note.

My mood deteriorated even further when I heard a voice behind me say “It’s about time you woke up, bloodsucker.” I mean, seriously, why do people have to be so rude? It’s a condition, like freckles. I’m a vampire. Deal with it. But we can do without the slurs, thank you very much.

“Go easy on the bloodsucker, pal. I haven’t had breakfast” was what I tried to say. But since my mouth was duct-taped shut, it came out more like “Mm mmmm mm mmm-mmmmmmm, mmm. Mm mmmmmm mmm mmmmm.” My repartee was gonna need an assist if I was going to talk my way out of this. Of course, if my mysterious captor had wanted me dead, he’d had all day to make that happen, but instead I woke up tied to a chair. I tested my bonds, but I was tied tight, and whatever he had bound me with burned, so it was either blessed, and he was devout, or it was silver. My money was on silver. The true believers are more the stake them in the coffins type than the kidnap them and tie them to chairs type.

“I think, bloodsucker, that since I’m the one with the stake, I get to call you whatever I want. And you, as the one tied to the chair with silver chains, get to sit there and do whatever I say.” My captor moved around in front where I could get a good look at him. I knew him, of course. It’s never the new guy in town who ties you to a chair; it’s always that creepy guy who you’ve seen lurking around the cemetery for a couple weeks. The one that you’re not sure if he was there to mourn, or for some other reason. And of course, it was always some other reason.

I’d seen this guy hanging around one of the big oak trees in my cemetery, near the freshest grave in the joint, for a couple of weeks. I never thought much of his wardrobe until now, but in retrospect he was wearing almost stereotypical vampire hunter garb. Black jeans, black boots, long black coat, wide-brimmed black hat. Christ, I bet he owned the Van Helsing Blu-Ray. I swore then that if I ever got the chance, I was eating Hugh Jackman’s liver. No, we don’t usually eat people, but liver’s liver, and I was pissed. I had been caught and trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey by a skinny twenty-something who watched too many bad vampire movies.

This kid was white, about twenty-three, with mousy brown hair and looked like he played too much Call of Duty instead of getting a job. His skin was paler than mine, for crying out loud, and I’m dead! His clothes hung loose on his scrawny frame, giving him a scarecrow look about him, and either had an asthma inhaler in his front pocket or was happy to see me. God, I hoped it was an inhaler.

“Mmmm mmmmm mm mmm mmmm mm mm mm?” I asked, which was supposed to be more of a what do you want me to do type of query, but my mouth was still taped shut. The kid reached forward and ripped the tape off, taking a layer or two of skin with it. “OWWW!” I yelled, straining against my bonds. “You little rat bastard, I swear to God I am going to drink you dry and leave your body on the lawn like…like an empty bag of flesh!”

I admit, my similes need some work.

“I don’t think so, bloodsucker. I think you’re going to do anything I tell you to, or I’ll just leave you tied up there to starve.” He had a point there. It’s not like there were very many people who would miss a vampire, and I hadn’t yet figured out how to get loose from whatever silver-lined bonds he’d created.

“Alright, what do you want?” I asked. Might as well find out right now if he wanted something simple or...

“I want you to turn me,” he replied. The look of hope on his face was a little pathetic, really, but there was a determination there that was disturbing. This was not going to be easy.

“No.” I wanted to get the short and simple part out of the way first, then we could move on to the lengthy explanations.

“Why not?” Wow, from zero to whiny little bitch in .4 seconds. If I’d ever had any thoughts of actually turning this scrawny little zit-farm into a vamp, they would have just evaporated.

“Because I don’t turn people. Because this life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because you’d miss all those romantical sunsets you probably write maudlin poetry about. Because it’s not fair to the ecosystem to add another predator. Because we don’t really sparkle. All of the above. None of the above. Pick a reason, kid, any reason you like. I’m not turning you.” I started to look around for another way to get out of this mess, but it didn’t look good for our hero. Or at least my hero, and it’s my story.

For a skinny little gamer-geek, he’d done a good job tying me up. I guess that’s another thing we can thank the internet for - unlimited access to fetish porn has improved the knot-tying ability of men who can’t get dates. I couldn’t exactly see my hands, but by straining around, I could see that my ankles were tied to separate legs of the chair with those plastic zip-ties you get in the electrical aisle. I could see a silver necklace wound around each tie, and by the way my wrists felt, he’d done the same thing there. The chair was the standard metal folding type, the kind that gets sacrificed in countless professional wrestling matches. So I was pretty well neutralized. The silver sapped the strength from my arms just by the contact, and I couldn’t get enough leverage with my legs to do anything useful. I looked up to try and Jedi mind trick my kidnapper, when I noticed two things – one - he was wearing polarized sunglasses, which was a neat idea, although ultimately useless against my mental abilities, and two – he was crying.

“You have to turn me!” He wailed, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I’m running out of time and this was the only thing I could think of to fix it!”

I couldn’t believe it; I was actually starting to feel sorry for the guy. “Okay, kid. Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong and I’ll see if I can help?”

“No one can help, but if I were one of the Undead I could help myself.” I swear I could actually hear him capitalize undead.

“You know that’s kinda my job, right? Helping people that can’t help themselves. Kinda like the A-Team, without the Mohawk and the van. Reach into my shirt pocket and grab a business card. I promise not to bite you, and as you know we Undead cannot tell a lie.” Total bull, but I’ve often found with people dumb enough to romanticize the whole vampire thing that a little mendacity goes a long way. He reached into my pocket and took out a business card. It had my name, James Black, and cell phone number under a logo that said “Black Knight Detectives, shedding light on your darkest problems.” Neither the company name nor the stupid slogan was my idea. And I prefer Jimmy.

“You’re a detective?” I nodded. “And you think you can help me?”

“Well, I can’t really know that until you tell me what your problem is. So why don’t you untie me, and we can talk about this like a pair of reasonable people?” I put a little mojo into my eyes, and he started towards me with a pair of wire cutters in his hand. And that’s when things went to hell.

John Hartness is a writer from Charlotte, NC. He's the author of Hard Day's Knight.

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