Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post 1, Chapter 1 continued.

Catch up! Go read post 0

It was a remarkably clear night outside, the stars and moon bright lit his way to Julian's old saab. Bruce was constantly amazed at the poor choices that the undead made in terms of transportation. He pictured the call to AAA by his ghostly acquaintance, and the subsequent comedy of errors that as likely as not would end in the death of some poor tow truck driver.

Bruce was a big believer in reliable, tinted, cars. The Volvo he owned was about as reliable a car as he'd owned, and a part of him pined for the horses that dominated his mortal transport. He also owned a Honda touring motorcycle, as the gear you could wear as a motorcyclist made day trips possible for his kind. You can cover every centimeter of the body and nobody would bat an eye.

Bruce had dressed as a devout Muslim woman for day trips by car, but he hadn't done that in some time. Muslims got pulled over a lot lately.

Bruce pulled Tangie's carrier out of the passenger side of the car, and brought it back inside the office. Tangie was giving a low, pathetic howl, and was clearly not having the best of times.

"Come on back into the exam room, Julian...we'll take a look at her in there. When did this start?"

"Last night. She came in sometime after midnight, when I went by her bed, she had vomited a bit and was pretty lethargic, so here I am."

Bruce manipulated the cat, turning her about, running his hands up and down and around her.

Indicating the cat's underside, just above her stomach, "Uh, Julian, did you notice this cut? Looks like she ran into another cat or something. One of yours?"

"Nah, they get along, let me see that. Ew...that's a bad one. Definitely not one of mine, I keep their claws trimmed."

Bruce marveled at the mental feat of a revenant staying corporeal long enough to clip a uncooperative cat's nails. "Well, I think she'll be alright, I'm just going to give her a shot and you some pills to take home. Can you handle giving her a pill once a day with her food?"

"Yeah, I think so, I've got a new friend."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you know why I hang around ,right?"

"Yeah, cause of that insurance thing....wait, what was it?"

"Sort of that, yeah, Its complicated. Will Tangie be alright then?"

"Yeah, just keep up with the pills. Use it as further incentive to stick around, alright Julian?"

"Sure, Bruce. Everyone thinks we revs are dilletants, don't you?"

"Yeah, pretty much, Jules."

"Well, thanks. How much do I owe you?"

"Ah, lets head out to the front desk and find out."

They put Tangie into her carrier and went out front and settled up. Bruce loaded Tangie into Julian's car for him, figuring that the less time Jules spent corporeal would be better for the drive back to his house, nothing could be worse for that cat than Julian losing it at 80 miles per hour halfway home on route 50.

"Thanks Bruce, you're the nicest vampire I know."

"Yeah, Yeah, just take care of those cats."

"I will."

Julian drove off. Bruce looked up at the moon. It was such a clear night, not a cloud in the sky, stars shone bright. It reminded him of skies from before the modern age of smog. Bruce vowed to put some time in with his telescope In the coming weekend.

Bruce, as might be imagined, didn't have many friends among the mortal. It got complicated fast. It's just too hard to explain why some things are the way they are for vampires. The real problem is that mortals are just too... mortal.

Bruce headed back inside, a sense of ennui fell over him. He missed mortality, or just maybe he missed mortal relationships. The established undead were boring in a lot of ways, those that learned to live a long time undetected were mostly subdued individuals, loners and introverts, but Bruce was these things only out of a desire for survival. He wanted to do all those things that the reckless newly undead did, but he actually wanted to continue living, he just wished there was more to it. Countless decades of life took their toll, especially when friends were few and far between.

Maybe that's why he did the vet thing, for the same reasons that ghosts haunted, werewolves howled at the moon and other vampires fed on the living, Bruce helped out animals. He derived a lot of base joy from it, and it brought him in contact with mortals, even fleetingly, and their life tended to effuse him with memories of his own mortal time.

While this may make it sound like Bruce regretted his immortality, he didn't, he loved the life of the mind that he was able to enjoy, when he was so motivated he was able to study a subject deeply, whether it was a foreign language, a science or even a vocation. Bruce had, in his long history, been a locksmith, a auto mechanic, a high energy physicist and a regular doctor, although the latter had caused so much thirst that he opted for radiology and then opted out of the profession altogether. The level of human contact that he enjoyed in the veterinarian's office was dangerous enough, let alone a job that involved actual physical contact.

Bruce had learned medicine out of a desire to learn a bit about his own physiology, but he determined that the science needed to advance a bit more before he'd be able to help with the different problems that come along with vampirism that caused him so much inconvenience along with his longevity. What was it about him that made blood so damn useful to maintaining his mortality. Why if he didn't get a certain amount of human blood every year did he start to feel, in his very bones, the onset of the cumulative years of aging?

There had been some speculation on the different undead oriented websites (disguised as porn sites, naturally, with pop-ups waiting to pounce on the unwitting) that there were some advances being made in the quest for a drug or treatment to allow a vampire to go out in the full sun without accompanying pyrotechnics, but as far as Bruce knew, there was nothing that could be done about that. So he huddled indoors or under vast layers whenever the sun shone upon the earth.

Bruce went into the storeroom in the back of the building and hauled some sacks of dogfood onto the cart, which he then wheeled into the front, near the scales. He stacked them neatly and considered how many large dogs he had come to treat in the short time he had been at the job. Large dogs used to be ananthema to him, but he'd come to some kind of cosmic agreement with them. Bruce suspected that they knew him to not be threatening to them or their mortal owners in some instinctive way, but either way he was happy it was true. Nothing is more disturbing to the undead than agitated animals, their humans tend to pay attention to that kind of activity. Which could lead to problems for said undead person.

One kind of animal that couldn't calm down around the undead was the ferret. Luckily these were illegal in California and were so damn spastic that their owners commonly didn't connect their agitation with any sort of external macabre influence.

As he stacked a second load of dog food, the phone rang. He went over to the desk, sat down and looked at the called ID. Aw crap...

"Kinsey Veterinary, Dr. Napoleon speaking."

"Bruce, damnit, I know you have caller ID there."

"Yes, I do. What do you want Radu?"
"They didn't tell you? Bacci is hurt. ", then to the cat, "There, There Bacci, stay still, we'll get you fixed up."

"Oh, was that Bacci? Fine, I'm here now, come on in."

"Alright, I'll be there in 5 minutes, anyone else hanging around? I mean, any mortals?"

"Nope, you're clear, or they are, depending on your point of view."

"Man, you're never going to forgive me of that, are you, I said I'm sorry."

"Whatever, just bring the cat in, I'll take a look."

"Kay, I'll be right in."

Hanging up the phone, Bruce sighed thinking of what a pain Radu had become in the short 9 months since he'd arrived in town. His endless scrabbling for free meds (for the cat) and blood (not for the cat) from the dispensary was pretty annoying to Bruce. Bruce worked hard to maintain his work and not nick (too much) blood and such from work. Don't shit where you eat and all that, something Radu didn't seem to understand.

After taking a few minutes to clean up the exam room, Bruce did a quick check of his email, deleted some spam and made a short list of chores to do for the day shift. It was just another regular night for Bruce. Bruce had a copy of Vet Practice News and a computer textbook he was working through in his satchel for the slow periods that were inevitable on the night shift.

Radu walked through the front door, wearing a floor length leather coat over his white t-shirt and black jeans and boots. Bruce thought he looked a bit cliche in that getup, but Bruce suppressed a giggle as Radu was carrying a purple cat carrier with flower stickers affixed to it. It kind of ruined the whole undead cool guy thing that Radu had going on. Radu had to be newly immortal, but it was impolite to ask about such things. He knew that the newly immortal vampire women tended to like the traditional goth getups, so he understood such fashions in a young vampire, obvious as they were.

"Bruce! How's it going man!"

"Good Radu, so what's up with Bacci? Bring her in to the examination room." Bruce indicated the one he had just cleaned.

"You'll see, I think a dog got to her or something." They walked into the room

Bacci didn't look good, she was faily limp and had a blood stain running down the side of her ribs, it had clotted, but it was clear that she had lost a good amount of blood.

"Hmm, looks like she got into a fight alright, pass me that electric razor would you?"

"Sure, here you go."

Bruce poured and rubbed some disinfectant over the wound and then shaved the cat's orange fur where it had been attacked. He pulled the light over. The cat was exhausted enough that its protest to such undignified treatment was limited to a pathetic mewl.

"Radu, look thought this."

"K, hmmm. That looks pretty familiar."

"Doesn't look like a dog, does it."

"So , please tell me, who is the Mother fucker who's feeding on Bacci. I'm going to kill and eat that motherfucker myself, to hell with the compacts, I'm gonna drink some vamp blood...."

"Calm down, Radu...I could be wrong, I'll have to take a sample and look at it before I can say for sure, but it does look like we have a problem here in town, hell this is how I find half the undead in the county, Bacci'll be okay, I'm just going to give her some plasma to help her out."

Radu's eyes looked expectant.

"And, no, none for you, dammit, get your own."

"It's expensive."

"Only if you order the good stuff, stick with pig or goat blood, it's almost the same. Save the good stuff for the holidays."

"Easy for you to say, you have money."

"You would too, I told you I'd teach you how to save...compound interest does amazing things for our kind, you know that.", Bruce gathered the apparatus for giving Bacci her treatment to replace her lost blood.

"Yeah, but I don't have any now, so how am I going to save for later."

"You had enough to buy that coat."

"I stole this coat off a dead man."

"And how did he get dead?"

"Aw, man, cut that shit out, it wasn't here. I know you don't want that shit going down here. It was in Reno. You think anyone cares about who dies in Reno? They couldn't film a CSI there if they wanted too, no one would watch it. It would always have the same plot. Some redneck got his throat 'cut' , no suspects."

"You better watch yourself, you're gonna make it hard on the rest of us."

"I haven't killed in years man. This coat came off of someone else's kill."

"Maybe the same one feeding on your cat."

"Hey man, don't dis my cat. Bacci is a good cat."

"I'm not, I'm just trying to point out that people don't like it when their loved ones get eaten anymore than you do."

"Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Will Bacci be okay really? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure, just give her a little bit of time. Keep her here with me and pick her up tomorrow. She'll be pretty tired and cranky for the next few days, so just try to keep her near food and her litter box and she'll be okay. Also, she's going to have to wear the plastic protector for a couple of weeks until the wound heals."

"Okay Doc."

"One other thing."

"Yeah"

"Keep her indoors till we find out who did this, she won't survive an attack like this again."

"Yeah Doc, sure.", Radu almost looked sad about the state of his tabby.

Bruce showed Radu out.

"Okay, stay out of the sun."

"Sure man. I will, you too."

Bruce went back into the examination room, the cat was sleeping on the stainless table, the fluid dripping slowly into her. Bruce knew it would take an hour or so before he could move the cat into the kennels, so he went out front, locked the door and grabbed his magazine, knowing that anyone who came could hit the doorbell and he'd come right out.

The cat woke up when he moved his chair over to the cabinet, "Okay Bacci, just take it easy, it's Dr. Napoleon.", Bruce gave the cat a little scratch behind her ear, "You'll be alright."

This seemed to satisfy the cat, who fell promptly asleep.

Bruce took in the exam room, the office had been built in the 1970s and it had that feel to it. Lots of exposed wood paneling, linoleum floors and built-in Formica cabinets. The business was a little rocky, if you looked close you saw an old building that was way overdue for maintenance, Bruce had looked at the books ,the business wasn't losing money, but it wasn't making a lot either. He thought that Dr. Kinsey was considering retirement, which was troubling as Bruce really liked the job and the town and everything that went with it.

Which made the thought of a new vampire feeding on cat's in his domain all the more troubling.

After an hour had passed, Bruce put a scratch protector around her neck and moved Bacci into the kennels. After that the night passed without any other incoming patients. Bruce's shift ended at 6am, well before sunup this late in the year, so he had the luxury of avoiding the motorcycle gambit.

The clock read 5:30 when a car pulled into the parking lot outside. It was the bosses car. Bruce wondered what was up, he wasn't due to be in until much later. He saw him pull his case out of the backseat and walk up to the door. Bruce met him, unlocking the door and ushering him inside, out of the chill night air.

"Hey Tom, what's going on?"

"Hey Bruce, how are things going tonight?"

"Good. Two patients, one recovering from a fight in the kennels and one sent home with some pills, all the night work has been done. What's up, is Penny sick or something?" , Bruce was worried, not for Penny but how he'd deal with the sun issue should he have to cover her shift. Being a Vampire kind of sucked that way.

"No, she's fine, she'll be in , but I wanted to talk with you. Come on back into my office."

Bruce locked the door, he'd heard that exact tone many times in his many decades, he was about to be let go. Bruce followed Tom into the back room and sat down opposite his desk.

"What's up Tom."

"Well Bruce, I don't need to tell you how tight things have been around here, I'm afraid I can't afford to offer 24 hour intake anymore...."

"And since you can't afford intake, and since I do said intake..."

"Yeah, I'm afraid I have to let you go. It's really too bad, you do such a nice job, but we're fully staffed in the daytime and I can't really ask them to leave. You were never really interested in the daytime shift, and they see most of the work here...."

"I know Tom, its okay, I've seen the books too. I know how things are going. It isn't as if the town needs two all night animal clinics. The one on Mississippi Camp road is probably seeing weak demand as well. I should have seen this coming."

"Now Bruce, I want you to know that I'm happy to give you a solid recommendation wherever you want to do, you've done good work and have kept the place in fine shape, I just can't afford you anymore. I'm probably going to sell the place this year anyhow, and it has to be in good financial shape before I can do that, you understand , don't you?"

The poor guy was taking this way harder than Bruce was. "Sure Tom, I totally do, don't worry, I have some family money, I'll be fine until I can find another job. I was thinking of going back for some large animal training," he lied, "but its okay. When do you want to make this effective."

"Well, I'll give you two weeks severance, but I'm shutting down the overnight practice immediately."

"Keep the money Tom, use it to spruce the place up, I'll be fine. This was a good job.", Tom looked as if he was about to cry. Most people can't handle firing people, Bruce knew. "I really enjoyed it, but I'll find another."

"Thanks for taking this so well Bruce, you're a real good guy, you know."

Bruce left Tom's office and collected his things and put on his jacket. The barest hint of sunlight was taking the sky from the dark black of night to deep dark velvet blue.

Bruce Napoleon, Vampire Veterinarian, pulled his Volvo away from the side garage of the all night emergency pet care center where he used to work, alone, on the night shift.

Keep Reading! Chapter 2 awaits...

(written November 3rd. 4394 words total, 3678 of which count.)