My name is Bill Norville, and I’m a lawyer. My next birthday will be my 59th, and I’m the managing partner at Melton, Norville, Jennings & Johnson in Martintown, North Carolina. That’s a large town or small city in the western part of the state, in the mountains northwest of Charlotte, rubbing up against the Tennessee line to the north. We have 25 lawyers, making us pretty big for our area, but tiny by national standards.
I have a wife named Denise, who is still a looker at 54, and a daughter, Alice, who looks like her mother and will get married next spring, possibly bankrupting me in the process. My future son-in-law is all right, even if he did go to Duke.
My legal assistant is a vampire, if I have my folklore right. Anyway, she is some kind of mutant, or throwback, or something. She’s about 25 feet from me right now, pounding a brief into her computer.
And I’m afraid of her. Not for me personally. You see, I’m too old for her. She only sucks the life out of young men. But if she ever started on me, for any reason, I’d be a goner real fast. That’s not a pleasant thought, even if she is pretty and sexy and actually a nice person, mostly.
I view death the way I think of watching a NASCAR race. Everyone says you ought to do the latter once, and it’s common knowledge everyone has to do the former at least once. But I don’t see why there’s any hurry to do either any time soon. And I’m not really afraid for me, anyway. At least not much. It’s just that I don’t know who she might seize on next.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve often reflected how vividly I remember the important days in my life. I remember the day I left the South Carolina low country for college, the day I finished law school, my first day at the firm here Martintown. I remembered the day I met Denise, the day of my first trial (a pretty painful loss), and the day I was asked to be managing partner.
But I don’t remember the day Jenny Jackson came to work at Melton Norville. Or rather, I remember it, but not as particularly significant. She didn’t scare me then. That came later.
The firm was short a legal assistant. Jack Melton’s assistant had quit, again. Linda Franklin, our practice manager, wanted me to give up my assistant to Jack. That was no small thing. Betty had been my assistant for 15 years. I knew her. She knew me, and what I wanted out of an assistant.
But Linda was insistent. "Jack’ll just run off somebody new, again. But Betty can handle him," she said.
Linda was probably right. Not much bothered Betty, and she’d done some work for Jack Melton before. But still, I would be giving up a good assistant.
I remember that discussion, truthfully, better than I remember meeting Jenny. It was a cold February morning, two years ago. We were sitting in my office, and Linda, who has managed our office for years and has been a friend of Denise since high school, was sitting in my office watching snow spit outside through the window behind me. I didn’t want to be convinced.
"And you want me to take on a training job?" That didn’t sound like fun.
Linda said, "You can handle it. And you need Jack’s support on renting the additional space. Besides, I think you’ll like the one I just interviewed."
Getting Melton’s support on the space issue clinched it. We needed to rent more space from the bank before they decided to use it themselves and close off our growth. So I relented, and agreed to talk with Linda’s prospect.
Jenny turned out to be tall, blonde (but not naturally), slender, pretty with a wide mouth, blue eyes and up-tilted nose, and appeared to be in her late twenties. I found out later that she was a good ten years older than that, but I took her for about 28 at the time. She was pleasant, well dressed, and seemed eager. So we took her on.
After a rough couple of weeks, she settled in and made a good assistant. She had never worked in a law office before, but she learned fast. Within a few months, she even took on some paralegal duties. I liked her work, and working with her. She proved to be smart, inquisitive, energetic. She liked to read mysteries, and I lent her some books.
I still didn’t know much about her. I learned she was divorced, and lived, evidently alone, in a modest apartment out in the country away from town. She had a fifteen year old daughter who lived with her father somewhere in Pennsylvania, and who looked, from her pictures in Jenny’s cubicle, much like her mother. Jenny said she had grown up in Pennsylvania, somewhere close to Philadelphia; but her parents were retired and now lived outside of Martintown in a nice split level close to the lake, where her father had a boat. They evidently gave her money, since she drove a BMW convertible that, although old, her assistant’s salary wouldn’t buy and her former job as a bank teller wouldn’t have paid for.
If she had a love life, she didn’t talk about it.
So, in June, at the firm’s summer picnic, I was a little surprised when she showed up with a man. And that’s when the story really starts.
The firm had rented a picnic area at a marina off the nearby lake for the day, and as usual, our lawyers, assistants, and paralegals were all over the place. Some had their kids out on the lake riding inner tubes or waterskiing. Some were sunbathing. A fair number of the male lawyers were at the marina bar drinking beer and watching baseball on television. Several of the women were walking around the marina looking at the boats. The day was sunny, warm but not too hot. A fine day for an outing.
Denise and I were at a small table with an umbrella. I was attacking a hot dog with onions, cole slaw, and mustard, washing it down with a Red Stripe. Denise sipped a white zin in a clear plastic cup, and tried to adjust a floppy hat so the breeze off the lake wouldn’t blow it away.
As I’ve said, Denise is older now, and carries a few more pounds, but these are attractively distributed. Her dark hair is cut shorter than it was when we were married, but whatever gray is well disguised. Her eyes are bright green even behind her reading glasses. I am fairly well preserved myself. I visit the gym regularly. But Denise has always been technicolor to my black-and-white.
At the time, she was fussing about how she was going to avoid sunburn, having become convinced that the sun is the bitter enemy of all mankind, a brute that is determined to age women and to give us all skin cancer.
She was interrupted by a voice behind her: "May we join you?"
I looked up from my messy hot dog to see Jenny Jackson, all legs in tight short shorts, except where her pull over blouse showed cleavage obviously propped up by technology, long bleached hair blowing behind her, and her left hand resting on a hairy forearm.
The hairy forearm belonged to a fairly unmemorable young man, well built but several inches shorter than she, with longish, greasy brown hair, dressed in a clean but stained golf shirt, worn blue jeans, and still more worn tennis shoes. His face, where not hidden by drugstore sun glasses, was round, tanned, and marked by a few old acne scars. Without saying a word, his presence screamed "redneck."
"This is Truman," Jenny gushed. "He works for a client."
As it turned out, Truman was 25 years old, and indeed worked for a client. He drove a garbage truck for the city of Martintown, and lived in a garage apartment next to his parents’ home. His sole passion, other than Jenny, was, based on what little conversation we could get from him, drag racing at the local speedway. He also collected comic books. The latter, at least, was mildly interesting. (I had been a childhood fan of Spiderman myself.)
But Jenny carried the conversation, such as it was. She was bubbly, and in fact seemed so deliriously happy that I wondered if she had been hitting the rum punch at the bar at bit too hard. The two left, doubtless so he could immerse himself in either her or motor oil, after only a sandwich and a cold drink.
"That," Denise sniffed when they had gone, "was weird. She’s twelve years older than he is."
It was, indeed, weirder than she knew.
I asked Linda about it the following Monday. "Oh, yes," she confirmed. "Jenny has been seeing Truman for a few months now. She likes them young, but honestly, you’d think she’d set her sights higher."
All innocently, I ventured as much to Jenny later that week.
"No offense intended," I said as I placed revised interrogatories in her cubicle, "but a smart gal like you could manage someone better."
Jenny stiffened. "You mean you want me to get an old man with money," she said. "Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I want… more than that from a man."
"Well, sure," I said. "But maybe someone your own age, someone secure you can respect…"
"Bill, no one tells me what to do." Her blue eyes softened. "I know you mean well, but I know what I want. And I don’t want an old man."
I shut up.
And Jenny seemed to do well for the next several months. If anything, she looked younger. She laughed a lot at the office. I forgot my advice. Or at least shoved it back in my mind.
Then came the office Christmas party.
We always rent a house for the firm holiday party. It’s one of those big heirlooms the present owners rent out for wedding receptions and the like most of the year, and make available for holiday parties at Christmas. The firm has food catered, and hires a bartender and a small jazz band that alternates between soft jazz and Christmas carols. Everyone’s invited.
I was standing in a corner, nursing a scotch and soda, discussing a new case with one of our young associates, when Linda walked up to me.
"Have you seen Truman?" she asked abruptly.
I didn’t make the connection. "I don’t even remember Truman. I was just a baby when he was president."
Linda rolled her eyes. "Jenny’s Truman. He looks awful."
And he did, too. Jenny had cleaned him up. He wore a jacket and tie. His shoes were shined. But his face, never particularly striking, was thin and drawn. There were crow’s feet at his eyes, and a touch of gray in his hair. In contrast, Jenny was radiant. Her hair shown. Her skin glowed. One would have thought Truman at or over 40, and Jenny the twenty-something. She talked a lot about their New Year’s trip to Charleston. He said little, but stood sipping a beer. They left early, again.
As the party wound down, Denise and I did a slow dance to the jazz band, and then headed toward the bar for a nightcap. There we found Linda, standing with a glass of white wine and a puzzled frown.
"Did you talk with Jenny?" she asked.
"Not much. Why?"
"She told me she was going to get rid of Truman."
"Well, it’s about time," Denise interposed. "That roughneck isn’t suitable for her at all."
Linda shook her head. "It’s not that. On that, I agree with you. It’s what she said."
You have to understand. Linda Franklin is sort of the den mother for the whole staff. She has lots of opinions and concerns about all of them. So her fretting over one of them was not the least bit unusual. But I swallowed the teaser anyway, and asked, "So what did she say?"
"That she was afraid she’d used him up."
"Well, he looked it," said Denise. "He looked older than Bill."
"Ah," I said, "it’s just the endless sex. You’re invited to use me the same way, darlin’. I’ll die happy."
With that remark, we dropped the subject.
But after that, we never saw or heard about Truman again. Well, she did tell Linda she had kicked him out. That was news. I hadn’t known he had moved in.
Later, months later, I was moved to call city hall to see what had happened. I knew the human resources director.
"Oh, he moved to Hickory," I was told. "He said he had to get away from some woman before the sex killed him." By then, it made sense.
Months passed. Most of my time was occupied with client and management issues. Jenny did her usual good work. Truman was forgotten.
But by May, she was moping. She lost weight. Always slender, she became painfully thin.
I called her in one day and asked if there was anything wrong.
"Oh," she said with a wan smile, "nothing at work. I just need a man."
"Well, remember what I told you. Try to find one somewhere other than redneck bars. All you’ll find there is rednecks."
"But that’s where the young guys hang out."
In June, she made an appointment for me with her mother and father.
They proved to be an attractive, pleasant couple about ten years older than me. Jenny looked much like her mother. They wanted to revise their wills, for which I had to refer them to another partner, and asked for advice on how to title a condominium they wanted to buy for Jenny.
At the end of the conference, Jenny’s mother turned back from the door. "I wish Jenny would give a good man a chance. She never has. Can you help her?"
"I’m sorry, that’s not my job description. But if she asks for my advice, I’ll give it."
"She dropped her husband, you know, and doesn’t keep up with our granddaughter. She said Gary was too old for her. But he’s her age. He looks older, though. I called him about getting her back. We always liked him. He said the funniest thing. ‘I don’t have enough left in me for Jenny.’"
"It’s tough, Mr. Norville, not to understand your own daughter."
It turned out my future son-in-law came to work for us that summer. Of course, I didn’t know it when he showed up in July for his internship. But Dennis managed to meet our Alice and one thing led to another. By the time he left to return to Chapel Hill to complete law school, and Alice left for her final year at UT, Alice had his ring. Denise and I were okay with that. Still are.
But there was a Jenny incident in the process.
Jenny had taken to Dennis. When he wasn’t seeing Alice after work, Jenny would invite to drop by the local pub for a drink. She always made sure he had secretarial support for his assignments. She dropped by the spare office we’d given him to chat often.
I had to speak with her a time or two about not being late with my assignments while she was taking care of Dennis, but on the whole I approved. Jenny’s spirits improved. She got some of her glow back. And Dennis was working pretty hard on a discovery project we’d given him, keeping some late hours, and Jenny’s attentions lifted his spirits. So it was mostly good.
But it ended on a somewhat sour note. In August, Linda gave a little dinner party for Dennis and Alice at her home, inviting Denise and me, and Jenny, too, because Jenny had Dennis had got to be such friends. That was a mistake.
Jenny shamelessly and artlessly gave Dennis, who is a tall, dark-haired, fine looking young man, all her attention, chatting him up about everything from work projects to sporting events. Dennis didn’t help by letting her do it.
Alice, who has both her mother’s looks and her mother’s tendency toward trenchant opinions, fumed. If Jenny noticed it, she didn’t care. She was glowing again.
Well, I heard about it from Alice, and so did Dennis.
"I do not like that woman," Alice told us. "She is a slut."
"Well, hardly that," I said, "but I don’t think she can help herself when she’s around young men."
"Well, she can’t have mine. I know she wants him, but she better not…"
"Better not what?" I asked.
"She’d better not try to seduce him," Denise interrupted. "You do have office rules about that sort of thing, don’t you? Well, be sure you enforce them."
But I didn’t have to. Dennis came to my office the next day, and said that Jenny had called him later that night to come by her new condo. He assured me he’d begged off. I offered to take the matter to Linda, and he asked me not to do so, because he had handled it, and was leaving anyway. But the time he returned the next summer, he and Alice would be married, or close to it, and it would all wash out. I decided he was right.
And then he said something I didn’t find remarkable then, but remembered later.
"You know, Mr. Norville, I really like Jenny, but I couldn’t handle her even if she weren’t so much older. She tires me out."
"Tires you out?" I was afraid I was about to hear something I’d prefer not to know. "How, exactly?"
His brows knitted in thought. "I can’t explain it. But after I’ve had lunch with her, I’m just tired. I think if I spent more time with her, it would be worse. But I can’t explain it. I really can’t."
And so the summer ended.
You must understand that up to this point, I simply thought Jenny Jackson a good employee who was also a rather odd and troubled young woman. None of what had happened made me think she was anything else.
Then came the fall of last year, and the entry of Jerry Garver. And everything became clear.
I first heard about Garver one Monday morning in September when I couldn’t find Jenny. It turned out she was in Linda’s office. Later Linda told me Jenny was gushing about some guy she had met over the weekend at Larry’s.
I grimaced. If there was a rougher place than Larry’s Bar & Grill in WNC, I wasn’t aware of it. "I told her about what she’d find in redneck bars."
"That’s what she said. She’s afraid to tell you about him because of it. She hasn’t told her father, either. She’d afraid you won’t approve. But she says this one is very nice. She said he used to be one of the top builders in Marion, but lost everything in his divorce."
"I never heard of him. And I’ve heard of most builders. Where does he live?"
"She says he rents a trailer in Helms’ Mobile Mansions. You, know, the trailer park on the hill down around Nebo. He’s doing that so he can pay his child support."
I shook my head. "Sounds like one of nature’s noblemen, all right."
"Bill, she wants us to meet him." Linda’s eyes held a plea. She really was loyal to her staff.
"Not at Larry’s. We can have her bring him somewhere else after work."
A week or so later, we had Jenny bring Garver around to the bar at the Plaza Hotel in Martintown after work. Linda and I went, and I had Denise join us.
Garver was clone of Truman, but about ten years older (still younger than Jenny). Like Truman, he was shorter than Jenny. His hair was dark with a sprinkling of gray, already. He was presentable in a rough and rugged way, with a hooked nose that might have been broken.
He said he was working whatever construction jobs he could get, and told us he was a good handyman if we needed someone. When he opened his mouth, pure Avery County came out, articulate but not particularly literate. He talked being a football star in high school, but "not around here." It was obvious, though, from the way she kept touching his arm, that Jenny was much taken with him.
"What do you think?" I asked Denise on the way home.
"He’s good looking in a rough way, but he’s had a lot of mileage." She paused and frowned. "If she’s not careful, he’ll take her for everything she has."
September passed into October, and Jenny babbled openly, even to me, about the fabulous Jerry. But she started being late for work. When she arrived, she wasn’t as carefully made-up as before. She complained of being tired. She seemed to age before our eyes, and actually looked her age, or older, by Halloween.
And right about that time, she said she and Jerry were getting married at Christmas. Linda and I received the news without enthusiasm, but resolved to be fatalistic about it.
Then Jenny came to me and said her father was insisting she get a prenuptial agreement, and wanted me to draw one. She said she wanted me to do it personally because it would make her parents feel better. Of course I said I would.
I had to meet with Garver. He needed to disclose his holdings and debts. Jenny made the appointment for late one Friday early in November. Garver appeared, dressed in ratty jeans and a sweatshirt, as usual, and very chipper. He looked younger than I recalled. There was no gray in his hair. While earlier he had been a 35 year old who looked older than that, now he could pass for under 30.
I sat across from him taking information. There wasn’t much. He didn’t own anything except an old truck. He didn’t owe anything except child support.
"You don’t like me very much, do you, Mr. Norville?" he finally said in a low tone.
"Eh?" I said, and then decided to tell the truth. "I don’t dislike you, Mr. Garver. But it’s true I don’t approve of you. All of us here are fond of Jenny, and you haven’t had a good effect on her."
"Oh? How so?" I noticed the Avery County accent was suddenly gone.
"Go in there and look at her. She’s tired all the time. She looks shabby. She’s aged ten years in the past month. You have nothing and no prospects. Why should we think you’re any good?"
Garver’s mouth curved in what I thought must be a predator’s smile. "Well, yes, I’ve taken more from her than I intended. I really must be more careful if she’s to last at all. But she’s such a challenge, and I responded. Careless of me."
"I’m afraid I’ve no clue about what you’re talking about."
The carnivore’s smile widened, showing teeth that had been yellow before, but now were white.
"No, Mr. Norville, I expect you don’t. But I’ll tell you. Jenny doesn’t know what she is, but I do, because I’m the same as she is." Noting my raised brows, he leaned forward.
"You would call me a vampire."
"Oh, come now. Don’t talk nonsense."
"It’s not nonsense, and you don’t really believe it is, do you? Surely, you’ve noticed the change in dialect." Garver’s sardonic smile held no trace of the redneck grin he had affected before.
I was interested in spite of myself. "I believe you’ve been lying about who you are and what you are," I said in my best mild cross-examiner’s voice. "But I don’t believe you’ve been drinking my assistant’s blood."
Garver snorted a laugh. "Who says we drink blood? And I don’t know what we are myself. Or how many of us there are. Or why we are. I found out for myself, quite young, and there are those of us who can… take life… from others. I don’t know how. I just know that I can. And I know it’s better not to draw attention to yourself.
"No one pays much attention to a country boy from Hawkins County. He can take what he needs, fade away when he needs. I learned that the hard way."
"Tell me more."
"About?" Garver was evidently enjoying himself. He leaned back in the straight-backed chair across my desk from me and crossed his legs.
"Well, for starters, why you are sharing this with me?"
"Because you won’t be able to do anything about it. Jenny won’t believe you. Nor will anyone else. It amuses me to frustrate you."
I was damned if he was going to buffalo me. "If you’re such a big-time vampire, what about the two kids and the ex-wife in Marion?"
He hesitated, as though in thought. "You know, I really did like that one. She was quite something to look at when I found her. I made her last for a long time. And it will be interesting to see if the boys inherit my talents. I’ll keep paying the child support long enough to find out. But it was time to move on. She was starting to wear out no matter how easy I was on her. And I needed more. Much, much more. Anything else you want to know?"
"You said Jenny is like you." My tone was an accusation.
"Oh she is. Quite a natural talent, really. No clear idea of what she is. All subconscious. No such talent in her parents of course. We must be a recessive mutation–I’ve read a lot about it, but still know little myself.
"I didn’t know she was like me when I let her pick me up. Later that evening, I felt her trying to take from me. And I let her, for about a week. Long enough to get her hooked. Then I started taking back. But, as I say, I fear I’ve overdone it. I’ll have to ease up. For now. We’ll be married soon.
"I’d suggest you be careful around Jenny. She might decide to take from you."
He raised his hand as I started to protest, and snorted again. "Oh, Mr. Norville. We don’t take just during sex. It’s only the best way. And the most fun."
He rose from his chair. "Go ahead and finish the prenup. She won’t sign it, I promise. I’ll get her to put it off." He sighed. "It’ll be nice to be comfortable again for a while. Did you know? House trailers are cold."
He paused at the door. "Oh, by the way, your wife is a nice little piece, for her age. My congratulations. But don’t worry. I’ll leave her alone. I think."
"Get out, damn you!" I was on my feet.
"Just leaving, I assure you." And he did.
What did I do? Well, first I walked outside and sneaked a forbidden cigarette. Then I came back and finished the prenuptial agreement. I gave it to Jenny, and told her to bring Jerry back to sign it. She never did, of course.
I checked Garver out on line, and at the courthouse at Marion. I found he was supposed to be from Alabama, had a North Carolina driver’s license, and a contractor’s license (revoked). His wife had obtained a divorce on the ground of inappropriate conduct and was awarded custody of a modest house in Marion, and custody of the kids.
That was it.
Did I tell Jenny? I did not. Did I tell Denise? Not immediately.
I told Linda. She said she believed Garver was a fake, but didn’t believe for a moment he was any sort of vampire. Surely I didn’t, did I? I said no.
But I wasn’t sure what I believed. So I did nothing, and the days inexorably passed toward Thanksgiving and the expected visit of Jenny’s daughter Erin, now 16. Jenny had arranged for her to come down and meet her new soon to be stepfather.
I did speak with Jenny once or twice. I asked if she was sure she wanted to go through with the wedding, and suggested she ought to know Jerry better. But she was adamant, said she loved him, and knew all she needed to know.
And she seemed to rally during those November days. She gained weight, lost her pallor, seemed to look younger again. Was Garver "easing up," as he’d said? Maybe even giving back, for a while? The thought crossed my mind, more than once.
Erin arrived the day before Thanksgiving, and Jenny brought her to the office to meet us all. Erin was a bright, intelligent girl, nearly as tall as her mother, and already even prettier. Her athletic young body was growing into a woman’s. I wondered what Garber would think of that.
I found out.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Jenny didn’t come to work. She didn’t call Linda, as she was required to do. And when Linda called, she didn’t answer.
Then, about ten that morning, I got a call. It was from Jenny’s father.
"Mr. Norville, I need your advice. It’s important." His voice was hard, flat with suppressed emotion.
"I’ll do my best. What’s it about?" But I knew it concerned Jenny, somehow.
There was a sob, then, after a moment, the cold, flat voice resumed. "It’s that bastard Garver. Jenny caught him with Erin Saturday afternoon."
"Intimately?" I choked.
The sob again. "Yes. And… and the poor little thing is sick. She couldn’t fly out yesterday. She just sleeps. It’s like she’s been… drained. And when she wakes up… she asks to see him."
I heard a deep breath over the phone, then Jenny’s dad resumed: "I want to kill him. But want to know whether to press charges or just let the son of a bitch go away. He promised Jenny he would."
I mastered myself, and let the professional take over. "Do you want to put Jenny and Erin through a prosecution? Can they handle it?"
"I really don’t think they can. There’s no question of a marriage anymore, of course." I couldn’t help but feel relieved. "He told Jenny he’d just go away if no charges were pressed. But…" The poor man choked again. "He’s asking for money."
"How much?"
"A thousand dollars."
I thought quickly. Ordinarily, someone who did what Garver had done would, and should, have the book thrown at him. But I didn’t trust him, or Jenny, or even the teenage girl if he hung around.
I guess, at that moment, for the first time, I believed–really believed–that something paranormal was going on with Garver. Not only could he not be trusted, but no one he’d touched could, either.
"Pay him," I said into the mouthpiece. "You don’t want to keep him around another thirty minutes. Believe me, you don’t. Something worse is liable to happen. But make him promise to stay away from Erin and Jenny."
"Can you put that in writing?"
"I can, but in this instance I don’t think it’s necessary. I think he’ll move on."
And so it was done. Garver left. Two days later, Erin flew back to Pennsylvania, and Jenny returned to work. She cried in Linda’s office. And in mine. She moped about the office for a while. But it didn’t last long.
By the week before Christmas, she was hitting the bar scene again. I didn’t say anything to her this time.
And not long before Christmas, while working at home on an arbitration award that was due in a few days, I had another telephone call.
"Mr. Norville." It was Garver.
"What do you want?"
The voice was light, mocking. "Why just to thank you for your good offices in getting my thousand dollars. I’ll need it to pay my child support while I get my feet on the ground. I do want to keep up with those boys.
"And one good turn deserves another. I thought you ought to know. I spoke with Jenny before I left. I told her what I am, and what she is. I explained it’s just as well we can’t be together, and told her I was so sorry I sampled Erin. I wouldn’t have, you know, if I hadn’t been trying to go light on Jenny.
"So now she knows. She has some idea of how to use her talent properly. Now take care of her at the office, won’t you? And, oh, I’d try not to tempt her, or make her mad."
"Listen, you–" But the line went dead. I saved the number on caller ID and had it traced. It turned out to be from a pay phone in Nashville.
My legal assistant is a vampire. She comes to the office every day, chipper and perky and efficient. She flashes big smiles when she brings me papers. She again looks younger than she is.
We never talk about what she does, or whom she sees when she walks the cocktail lounges at night. I’m afraid to ask, and I’m afraid of her.
But she came in my office the other day, said she needed to talk with me, and shut the door behind her when I agreed.
"You know what I am, don’t you?" Her smile was warm and frightening.
I nodded.
"I’ve learned a lot working for you," she said. "I’m grateful."
"A lot about what? Surely not…"
Jenny laughed out loud. "Oh, not about my own talents. I finally figured that out for myself." She hesitated. "Oh, that asshole Garver helped some. But I mean about employment law. Somebody can’t be your paralegal without picking up quite a bit of it."
"I don’t understand." I was genuinely puzzled.
Jenny sat across from me, crossed her legs, leaned forward and clasped a knee.
"What I want to say is this. No one here has anything to be afraid of. Everyone at the office is off limits, as far as I’m concerned."
She held up a hand when I opened my mouth to protest. "Don’t bother to deny it. I’m sure you have been a little afraid. But you shouldn’t be.
"But what you should know is this. I identify as a vampire. I am a vampire. I am a minority. I may have a disability. A good lawyer can argue I do.
"I want the firm to know that if anything happens to my job, it will be discrimination. I’ll sue."
I told you I was afraid of her.
More in SciFi/Fantasy…
by Paul Taylor
Flash fiction that’ll stay with you.

by Pierre Comtois
The graveyard shift at a newspaper is rarely this eventful.
In honor of Mr. Harry Reid, who clearly knows exactly what it is to be a black man.