Flash: Time to Move On

Image courtesy of Geerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bartholomew shook out his newspaper to get the pages aligned for folding, then proceeded to fold it together, slipped the world political section, part B of the Sunday paper, into place and folded the whole assembly in half again. Due to rising cost and slipping readership, he could easily do so where even a single decade ago the weekend paper for the city ran more than two inches. “Karyn, I do believe it is time to move on.”

“Sire?” his manservant, a woman given this day and age, and surprisingly competent for one who never finished formal schooling, inquired.

He smiled, just a hint of teeth, any wider and Karyn usually flinched. While she was willing to work for a vampire to keep roof overhead and food on-table for herself and her three children, she was more aware than most humans he had employed that civilized did not mean tamed. Bartholomew wasn’t feral, but only in as much as he wished to be. Civilization kept hunger at bay better than anarchy.

“I had hoped the unrest would past,” he tapped the paper on his magazine table beside his favorite chair, “but your leadership is just, as the saying goes, pouring gasoline on the fire. One does not fire on civilians and expect them to go away. Not with the barely lethal ammunition they’ve been using and, certainly, not after years of growing disparity in wealth.”

“You’ve seen this all before?” she said more than asked, picking up the newspaper and evening glass for disposal.

He uncurled his right hand and touched the left index finger to the right fingers, starting with the thumb and continuing to the pinky and switching hand before stopping midway. “More times than I care to count. And given that, I think I have learned when it is a good time to leave. America is going to be unhealthy to live in when the Great Experiment fails.” Bart stood, straightening his jacket lines and tugging the sleeves into place.


After three years in his employ, Karyn stood to one side of the door, not leaving until completely dismissed. Something about the vampire indicated he wasn’t done yet. While he didn’t need much in the way of companionship, a bit was required for sanity, or so he had informed her during her first month performance review. She hadn’t realized that termination after the probationary period would be more literal than any other of the make-do jobs she had taken since dropping out her freshman year pregnant. Fortunately he liked her; unfortunately he informed her of his true nature so leaving became impossible. On the third hand, he paid three times anything she made previously, as well as provided an entire wing of his small mansion as living quarters free of charge.

She wondering if moving on meant cleaning up things, things like her. Karyn watched the vampire’s nostrils flare as her fear spiked though she was careful not to move. Desperate as only the lion keeper can be when in the lion’s cage and the door locks behind them, the twenty-six year old searched for a question to remind the vampire he preferred her as a living person and not food, “Great Experiment?”

“Democracy, or more accurate, a federated representative democracy. It’s been surprisingly effective these last two hundred years, but I think the next little bit will be every bit as uncomfortable as the civil war in some locations.” He nodded at the newspaper. “And between the little in-house political coup counting between done between the Mayor and Governor, the out-and-out war between the legislature and the courts, and whatever that petty fool of a reality-show president, and whoever is behind him, this city will be one of the hot spots. Pity, I really like her cobblestone, greenways, and statues. I hope the deliberations don’t destroy too many of them.”

He left the study and waved her to pass him and proceed to the kitchen, following behind her, making the hairs on her neck stand on end. Once in the kitchen, she dropped his archaic newspaper into the recycle bin and moved to wash the crusting droplets out of the glass while he lifted a neon yellow notesheet from a stack he kept there, pulled out a pen, and sat-leaned against a stool on the counter.

“Boat would be best, with the plague going on. If a port delays entry, I can wait it out with proper arrangements.” Bartholomew started writing in a scribble better suited for a quill pen rather than the hundred-dollar, can-write-in-space ball point device he was using. “The Blue Sound can hold another twenty adults after the crew and your family.” He pulled a second sheet out of the acrylic container, this one hot pink. He stopped a moment, pen touching paper. “That is, if you wish to go.”

Karyn put the lone glass into the drying rack, same as every night, not daring to turn around and face him. “My children … will they …”

“Our agreement stands even during travel.”

She sagged against the sink. As he pointed out, when one lives forever money and property has less value than one’s word. Her children weren’t food and were safe, and as long as she kept the secret from them, not required to stay in this dark supernatural corner to the world when they became of age. She traced the veins in the marble surface, considering. Jack turned eleven just last month. His growing curiosity and the secrets the boat will hold.

Or stay.

“How bad do you think it will get?” she asked, still not facing him.

The pen clicked when set down on the kitchen island behind her.

“I’ve enjoyed the lively energy that is America, but their version of chaos is fairly unique so my best guess is more speculation. I expect Sarajevo level disruptions in some major cities such as we are in, especially the port cities.” The chair creaked. “The biggest issue is which way the despot-to-be in the White House is going to fall. I don’t know if the bright mages, the dark wizards, one of the lycanthrope clans, or one of the other supernaturals have their claws in him, or if he is this damaged all on his own. It’s not a vampire coven, no style.”

“There…there…are others.” Karyn spun, her blond bobbed cut swinging out before settling against her front cheeks, the hair short in the back.

“Of course.” Her employer picked up his pen and clicked it, giving a small pleased smile at the ease of its use, lips upturned but sealed against the fangs which didn’t fully retract during the first hour of wakefulness. “Vampires do like tyrants and closed cultures, as do most of those behind the veil except for the Bright Mages who love the attention, so a change toward that isn’t unexpected. Disappointing though. I’ve so enjoyed the open world and all the innovations. I had hoped things would remain open for a while longer. Europe looks good, and India and Africa are beginning to wiggle that way. South America is a lost cause; we won’t seek a port there. At least we are on the correct side of the continent for Europe.”

He pulled out his phone and typed a quick text.

After sending, he glanced up, his eyes bleeding slightly red from their normal brown “I’ll need 20 people for snackage, plus a 90-day supply.” He picked up the pen and started scribbling. “If you choose not to go, make it 22. I would like one of them to be your ex in either case.”

“Why on Earth, do you want that?”

“In case I need to kill someone. The others, they will need passports but illegals are okay. Healthy. A few other children are allowed, some playmates for yours.” His eyes turned bright red in a flash. “None of the others are to know.” The chocolate brown returned. “You will be able to talk to the skipper and the other three members of the crew about my special needs. Be respectful, they can jump into the ocean and leave us whenever they want.”

“What are th—”

“Weresharks, so respectful is good.” Bartholomew had a short shadow of something before clearing.

Her left hand gripped her right side at her waist, and her right hand reached for her shoulder. “Weresharks.”

“Not very edible, and their bite is deadly but not diseased. Their nature requires a few decades on land every century or two.” He shrugged, pushing the pink note with a list of instructions to her and pocketing the yellow one. “I befriended Fikret in Greece, and since then his clan keeps my ships during their two-leg times. A win-win situation, as you would say. They stay safe and near the water, and I have sailors who read the capricious ocean like the back of their fins.”

His phone beeped. “Ah, Gursel is Captain at the moment. If I remember proper, he would be about three thousand years old. The rest look like in their first few centuries.” His finger swiped a few times, reading the information quickly.

“Three thousand?!?”

“Sharks live a very long time.”

“But … you are five hundred. That’s old for a vampire.”

“In America. Not in Europe, and definitely not in China.” Bartholomew tucked his phone back into his back pocket. “Fikret remembers when Byblos was first settled. Took his third human wife from a timber seller there; dragging her to the depths with his spells and leaving her husband for dead. Said she smelled like cedar, even years later. Best I can figure, he is somewhere about seven millennium. And he is the fifth in line for his clan head.”

“Fifth?” Karyn licked her lips “And there are four on the ship as well. That’s a lot.”

“The weresharks have the whole ocean to themselves, except for a few seals.” That strange expression crossed the vampire face again. He was uncomfortable, maybe even a little scared. “Most clans run to the thousands.”

“So there are tens of thousands of them, much more than vampires.”

“More like tens of millions, and more than the rest of the human-form supernatural combined.”

Karyn blinked. What were the non-human-form supernatural? The rabbit hole was getting deep, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know any more. “We’ll go. I got the kids passports when you visited the Council.”

“Splendid.” He moved to leave. “And don’t forget your ex.”

Bartholomew had been displeased when she had shown up with a swollen eye and bruised arms during Christmas because she had refused to give him access to the children or money to party. She almost felt sorry for Pete, if he hadn’t knocked her up at fifteen and knocked her around until he got arrested for dealing. Pity none of the big charges stuck, so he was only locked up for five years It was enough time for her to find her feet and most of her self-esteem, but not enough time … never enough time … to completely escape him.

She never had brought anyone to Bartholomew specifically to be killed before. But maybe in this time of crisis and chaos, it was time to move on.

(words 1,878; first published 8/30/2020)