by Diana Corbitt
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
“You didn’t think about that, did you, Ozro?” I sprang to my feet, hands clenched. I was screwed. That stupid little hippy had ruined my life.
If I had a stake, I would have stabbed it through his chest. Instead, I just yelled, “No, you just thought, ‘Hey, Tyson’s struggling with his pitching. Maybe I’ll run down there and turn him into a vampire. That’ll make things all better.’”
Ozro followed me as I paced the room. “Well, didn’t it? Your contract is up at the end of the season. The way you were throwing, you’d be traded for sure.”
“Yeah, but who cares if I can pitch better if I can’t go out there to do it! Have you got ADHD or something?”
Ozro turned me around to face him. “You’re right. I didn’t think it all through, but don’t worry, I’ll come up with something.” He sat back down on the La-Z-Boy and stared at the blank screen of my sixty-inch TV for at least five minutes.
While he stared at the TV, I stared at Ozro.
Then, without a word, he took off down the hall towards the bedroom.
After a minute or two, his words floated back to me. “Don’t worry, Tyson. I’ve got this.”
“Don’t worry?” I looked down at the forgotten baseball in my hand. Without knowing it, I’d squeezed the thing into a clump of leather, yarn and cork. I carried the mess into the kitchen and tossed it in the garbage. It was my career we were talking about. How could I not worry?
Out of habit, I opened the door to the refrigerator. Inside was mostly just condiments, along with five eggs, a package of bacon, three beers, and two styrofoam take-out boxes. From the bedroom, I could hear the sound of drawers sliding open, one after the other. What the hell was he doing in there?
I was still staring into the refrigerator when Ozro returned, all smiles. He peeked over my shoulder at the food. “You should probably clean that stuff out before it goes bad. Keep the beer and mayo for appearances’ sake.”
I slammed the door shut and the refrigerator banged into the wall behind it. “So what am I going to do in the first innings, Ozro... when the sun is still out? Did you find the answer in my sock drawer?”
“Actually, it was in the closet.” Ozro grinned and held up a black and green ski mask.
“Just till the sun goes down, then you can take it off. This one here is temporary, like a prototype. The team will get one custom-made for you, team colors and everything, gloves and sunglasses too.”
“You’re serious? I’ll look like a Mexican Wrestler. Everybody will laugh at me.”
“No, they won’t. The fans will love it. In a month they’ll be selling Tyson Manworthy masks alongside those big foam hands and tee-shirts. Fans will eat it up, you watch.”
I slumped against the refrigerator door. “You’d better be right.”
“I know I am.” Ozro tossed the mask onto the counter. “We have some time before you have to be at the park. Anything you want to do?”
* * *
It took a bit of convincing, but after some instructions and a lot of promises, Ozro let me go on my first hunt. I chose the alley behind my apartment. A week ago there was no way I’d have stuck a toe out there, especially after dark. Now I belonged to it. With a black hoodie and dark glasses hiding my face, I lurked in the shadows waiting for the right victim to cross my path. Talk about a change in lifestyles.
After a couple of minutes, I heard voices: a group of women out on the town. The smell of apples and vodka reached my nose long before they passed the alley. I leaned against the wall, checked my watch, and waited.
A few cars drove by. After a bit, the sound of footsteps came to me. I tensed, ready to pounce. It was a woman, and I smiled. Not only was she alone, she was cute and smelled like peaches. Probably some sort of businesswoman by the cut of her charcoal blazer and tight, black skirt.
In a flash, I was on her. In less than that, I’d pulled her back into the alley, already drinking her blood. Ah, she was yummy, better than Smitty for sure. Did people taste better if they were good-looking? I looked forward to testing my theory.
As this was my first solo flight, I was a little nervous. I’d never killed anyone before and I sure wasn’t going to start now.
As I drank, I ran my fingers through her long, strawberry-blonde hair. So pretty.
Ozro’s warning came back to me, and I got back to business. Focus on her pulse, the power behind each heartbeat. You’re going to have to pull out soon... soon... but not yet.
“Hey! What the hell are you doing to that girl?”
I looked up. The guy was big, at least six-foot-six, and he was coming right at me. I let the girl’s head drop, and she fell back against my arm, a rag doll, her eyes closed. Even to me she looked dead. At least she wasn’t covered in blood. Ozro had straightened me out on that.
“Just a second, I’ll be right with you.” I pulled the girl into a seated position against the wall. Her skirt had ridden up high on her thighs, and, nice guy that I am, I pulled it back into position.
Using my super speed, I met him halfway down the alley, and in seconds he was mine. I watched, fascinated as the giant strained against me, a roped calf, eyes like golf balls, veins bulging. I controlled whether he lived or died. It was intoxicating. Why not drink him, too? The girl was small, and anyway, I needed the practice.
As I drank, I considered my theory. Sure, this guy tasted fine, but not nearly as good as the girl, and different from Smitty, too. Did cultural background make a difference? How about blood type? Team affiliation? This one had on a blue Cubs jersey, did that matter? I would ask Ozro when I got back to the apartment.
Drunk with power and engrossed by all the new questions, I had allowed myself to drink longer than I should have. I searched for a pulse. It was weak, but better than none at all.
What the hell am I going to do now?
I reached for my cell, but stopped when I remembered Ozro and I hadn’t exchanged numbers. Oh damn oh damn oh damn...
A deep voice brought me back to reality. “Hey, asshole, let go of Hector!”
Three men had entered the alley. Like Hector, they were all dressed in Cubs gear. My apartment was a few blocks from Wrigley Field. It was one of the reasons I’d picked it, and it was common for ticket-holders to park their cars in one of the cheaper lots down the street and walk from there to the park.
One was easy, maybe even two, but three was another story. I let Hector slide to the ground and stood up. Since I wasn’t sure what to do, I did nothing.
The new arrivals stepped closer, surrounding me. They must have stopped at more than one bar on their way to the yard, because they reeked of beer. If I’d been on my toes, I’d have smelled them from a block away. God, I felt stupid. I hoped the darkness would keep my identity a secret.
“Holy... it’s Tyson Manworthy!” Mister Observant was pretty big, but nothing like the one behind him. He was a Beast, at least as tall as the first guy and twice as wide.
Things were getting complicated.
Moving on legs the size of tree trunks, the Beast brushed past the other two. “Let’s kick his ass, guys.”
The smallest, still bigger than me, picked up a broken two-by-four. “Yeah, then we’ll take his picture and post it on YouTube.”
I readied myself for the fight, hoping my new strength and speed would be enough for them, but just then, a gust of wind blew down the alley, lifting a sheet of old newspaper into the air. As the three men watched the paper flutter to the ground, Ozro, moving at a speed that only a vampire could see, slammed one into the wall, knocking him unconscious.
The Beast he popped in the jaw, dropping him to the pavement like a massive sack of laundry. Once I got over my shock, I took hold of the third man and whacked his forehead against the side of the dumpster. Now I had five bodies to deal with.
I looked at the short, ponytailed man in wide wonder. “Ozro, am I glad to see you. You read my mind, right? Knew I needed help?”
Ozro smacked me in the back of the head. “No, that’s another one of those stupid urban legends the humans made up. I followed you. You didn’t really think I’d let a rookie like you hunt all by himself, did you?”
I shrugged, embarrassed at how badly things had worked out.
Ozro patted me on the back. “No worries. Just help me get these people out of sight. The last thing we need is another Curious George coming back here to join the party.”
Between the two of us, we soon had all four men, as well as the pretty lady seated side by side against the wall of the building.
“Sorry for being such a pain, Ozro. Should I have dragged the girl further back into the alley?”
“Obviously. Guess you got excited, huh?”
I would have blushed... if I were still alive.
“Oh, it’s my fault. I should have explained to you about not hunting where you live. Your apartment is right there. Couldn’t you have gone a few blocks before you grabbed one?”
“I’m sorry, Ozro. I feel like a dope. Now what do we do?” I pointed. “I kind of got carried away with that guy there.”
Ozro stepped closer and sniffed. “Well, at least he’s still alive. Open up your arm.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Take your finger nail and open a vein. If he’s going to survive, he needs vampire blood.” Ozro glanced down the alley and pushed me aside. “Like this, watch.”
To my surprise, instead of cutting his own arm, Ozro grabbed mine, and using his thumbnail, he tore a two inch hole into my wrist.
“Oh, stop being a baby.” He held my arm over Hector’s open mouth, and we watched as the blood dripped slowly into it. In a few moments, Hector was coughing and sitting up, a dazed toddler woken from his sleep.
I licked my wrist and the gash disappeared. “So what’s next?”
“I’m not going to do anything, but you are. You’re going to persuade these people they didn’t see you. You know how to do it. You watched me persuade Smitty last night.” He pushed me forward.
I squatted down beside The Beast and whispered in his ear. “Wake up.” I patted the man’s stubbly cheek. “Come on man, wake up.” Dark eyes fluttered open, and I held them with my gaze. “What’s your name, big guy?”
“Yeah, tell me your name.”
The man looked up at me with childlike awe. “My name is Cesar.”
“Cesar, you didn’t see me here tonight.”
“No, I’m nobody. You didn’t see me. What you did see was a very pretty girl.”
Cesar grinned. “I like pretty girls.”
“Yes, you do, Cesar, and you stopped that pretty girl with strawberry-blonde hair and pulled her into this alley. You and your friends said some very inappropriate things to her, didn’t you?”
“Yes, we did.” Cesar’s head bowed. “We said bad things.”
Ozro squatted down beside me, eyebrows raised. “Where are you going with this?”
I grinned back and continued. “You touched her too, all of you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“I am ashamed of myself.”
“And that pretty, little girl beat the crap out of all four of you, didn’t she Cesar?”
Cesar scowled. “Yes, she did... All four of us.”
“But you don’t blame her for it, right?”
“Hell, no. We were...”
“Yeah, we were inappropriate.”
“That’s right. You deserved it.”
Ozro stood up and scratched his head. “Well, that’s a new one.”
As it turned out, I was pretty good at this. “Now you just sit there, Cesar and think about that while I talk to the others, okay?”
“And who am I?”
“You’re nobody. I don’t see you.”
* * *
It turned out that Ozro was right. Becoming a vampire was the best thing to ever happen to my career, and Blake Borcher, the Cubs Manager, was my biggest fan.
One night, in San Francisco, I sat slouched in the corner of the dugout while Andy Montoya pitched. Andy wasn’t doing very well, and Borch called me over.
I took the empty spot beside him. “What’s up, Borch?”
“Tyson, I just want to make sure you know how proud I am of all you’ve accomplished here lately, especially with your allergies and all.”
I pulled the hood of my red Cubby sweatshirt up over my head and shoved my hands into my pockets. The temperature was in the low sixties and breezy. Although the cold no longer affected me, I liked to keep up appearances.
“Thanks, Borch. I really appreciate that. I’ve been working hard.”
“I know you have. Why, in your last five games, you pitched four shutouts and only allowed one run.”
I nodded and a smile crept across my lips. On the night I let the Rockies have their one run, I gave it up on purpose. Not that it mattered, since by then the Cubs had already scored five of their own. Ozro had said it wasn’t smart to be perfect all the time.
Borch couldn’t say enough about me, and I let him talk. “And that’s not even counting your record, a hundred and five point three miles per hour... Jesus, no wonder they drug-tested you.” Borcher shook his head, a wide smile crossing his face. “The way you’re pitching, I wouldn’t mind having a few more just like you. Is that allergy of yours contagious?” He laughed, deep and gravelly.
I smiled. Finding out they were going to drug-test me had freaked me, but unlike my little problem with the sun, Ozro had actually planned for it.
He’d been right about the mask, too. Even here in San Francisco, I spotted at least a dozen. In Chicago, I would expect fifty times that, easy.
We watched in silence as the ball passed between our first baseman’s legs and the Giants scored their fifth run. It was only the third inning.
Borch sighed. “You know the Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945.”
“And they haven’t won it since 1908.”
“That’s right.” Borch leaned over and pulled the red, white and blue mask from the pocket of my sweatshirt. “It would be nice if these other guys had your problems.”
I grinned. He was right. Except when I was pitching, we lost a lot of games.
I stood up. “Well, who knows? Maybe my condition is contagious.” I walked over to the railing and looked into the seats behind home plate. There, in the first row, sat Ozro. These days, he followed the team to every game; I always set him up with the best tickets. It was the least I could do. Ozro still wore the Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops, but at least the ponytail was gone.
It took no more than a second before Ozro looked my way, waving and smiling.
Since we weren’t allowed cell phones in the dugout, I raised my hand to my ear, miming the sign for “call me.”
Ozro nodded and turned his attention back to the game.
Borch was right. The Cubs did need more players like me.
Copyright © 2014 by Diana Corbitt