It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blogs. This week’s prompts are:
I’ve finally finished the Griselda story, only putting me two weeks behind schedule. My own fault, but I admit the Pronoun mess threw me for a loop. I’ve recovered now, and am back to it – Smashwords and it’s partners were good enough before, and they’re good enough now.
Anyway, when we left off, Griselda had ordered a new human guard dog from Harry because her current human, Sergei, had been fraternizing with the enemy …
Griselda was barely inside when the phone rang. Sergei made a point to ignore it, and with a hard look at him she snatched it up. “Hello?”
“That is who you called, isn’t it?” she snapped. Who did they expect? Cinderella?
“Um…Hello. This is Brantley, in the Executioner office. The, uh, the council has requested more information regarding your request for a new vehicle. If you could come and fill out-”
“Are you serious?”
It took him a moment to find his track again. “Um…Yes? Sorry, I’m just following orders.”
She muttered a curse word under her breath. “Fine. I’m on my way.” Then she hung up before he could reply.
She stormed out in a swish of red satin, and made her way to the Executioner office. She drew up short inside, eyes flicking over the occupants. Beldren and Zuri stood at the desk, handing over paperwork.
“No, uh, trouble, then?” the guard asked them.
Zuri, stocky with a shock of black hair that stood at odd angles, grunted a reply, but Beldren, tall with a blonde ponytail and features that some women might call lovely, replied coldly, “Everything is in the report. We have better things to do than stand here.”
The blonde turned on his heel, then spied her. He slowed his pace as he passed her, but headed to the hallway, Zuri behind him.
Alone with the guard, Griselda stomped to the desk and grabbed the paper he offered. “What do they want to know?”
“They, uh…” The guard rifled through a pile of papers and stopped at a pink one covered in handwritten notes. “They want an itemized list of everything wrong with the vehicle that warrants it being replaced.”
“Why don’t they ask the mechanic?”
“They, uh, they did, and he said that it just needed a minor repair.”
“The idiot!” She smacked the desk and the guard jumped. “Never mind. I’ll go talk to him myself. When do they need this returned?”
“Um…I’d guess as soon as you can. They won’t look at it again until tomorrow, though.”
She didn’t bother to reply, only huffed out of the office to find Beldren and Zuri loitering in the corridor. Seeing her, Beldren straightened and tugged at his coat. His green eyes showed an appreciation that his carefully masked face hid.
An appreciation she wasn’t looking for.
“Do you want something?”
Beldren hesitated, and finally turned on a smooth smile. “I heard you’ve been harassing our resident annoyance.”
“You mean Verchiel?” When he nodded, she narrowed her eyes. “And where did you hear that? I understood you’d just returned.”
“We got back an hour ago, had to do the paperwork,” he added with an eye roll.
“That still doesn’t explain who told you.” It was Bren, wasn’t it? Damn. She should have known it was only Senya that held him in line.
“The pest himself.” Beldren fought a smile. “They sent him out again while we were working on our reports, and he made a point to call his little guard dog and tell her specifically not to rile you up ‘any more’. I can only assume the story behind that conversation is amusing.”
“Not so much amusing as annoying.” She eyed Zuri, who hulked to the side, conspicuously silent. He’s always silent. Like he’s processing everything, cataloging it, and privately plotting.
Plotting to get all of us.
When nothing more came, Beldren pressed, “I imagine his little mongrel has done the same thing to your guard dog as the last one did to Bren’s?”
Bren had mentioned having to punish his for fraternizing. “Perhaps.”
“It was a shame,” Beldren added. “That he had to go to such lengths to keep them apart.”
Such lengths? Bren had made it sound like a onetime incident. With some Executioners she’d do better to pretend she knew what he meant, but not with Beldren. “Oh?” she asked innocently.
As she expected, his green eyes lit with the joy of passing on information. “Oh yes. They had quite an affair, I hear. So much so that she turned up pregnant. That’s when Verchiel quietly disposed of her and got this newest one. Bren’s dog wanted to follow, even tried to escape to find her. I have an… acquaintance who was in the hospital wing with her human when Bren brought his dog in. She said he’d beaten the human nearly to death, and demanded the healers do something. Not that there was much for them to do except set the bones and wrap him in gauze.”
Griselda kept her surprise to herself. How had she missed this?
“Of course, the guard dog made a full recovery, as you’ve noticed, no doubt with healthy dose of vampire blood to speed things along – humans do heal so slow – and now he’s happily lurking at his master’s feet, where he belongs. Have you tried that?”
Griselda blinked. “Tried what? Beating him to death?”
“Well, that could work, too, but I meant giving him blood. Forging a loyalty bond. I did with my newest and haven’t had the slightest trouble.”
Zuri coughed loudly, and Beldren arched a golden eyebrow. “Care to share what you’re choking on?”
To Griselda’s surprise, Zuri seemed to be fighting a smile. “Is it the loyalty bond, or that he prefers a more masculine partner?”
Beldren sniffed. “Even if he did, Verchiel would try to seduce him, himself. No. It’s the loyalty bond.”
“If you say so,” Zuri muttered, his dark eyes still dancing.
“Anyway,” Beldren said crisply. “That’s my advice. Of course, you’re welcome to ignore it. Everyone else does, usually to their detriment.” The look he gave Zuri said his friend was guilty of this. “If I were you, though, I’d destroy that one, and forge the bond with the replacement right away. Verchiel and his mongrel aren’t the only ones to watch out for. Migina has that little piece, and have you seen Ark’s newest? No doubt trained to seduce.”
Hmmmm. “I didn’t know he had a new one.”
“Oh yes. Just last week. I think you were out at the time. I don’t know what prompted the replacement, except he’s taking a page from Verchiel’s book.”
“Luckily, it won’t do any good where your guard dog is concerned,” Zuri muttered.
Beldren rolled his eyes. “You’d do better to worry about your own, Zuri.”
“He’s fine. And loyal,” Zuri added with a touch too much emphasis, his eyes on Griselda.
He’s making sure I know he’s protected – just when he’s found out I may not be. It was an unallowable situation, one that made the decision for her. Sergei would have to be replaced, if nothing else because the others had lost faith in him. A human guard dog was like a padlock; it only worked if the would-be thief believed it worked. A lock only kept out people who thought, “This is locked, so it’s impossible to get through.” Once a thief knew he could just cut through it, the lock did no good. Just as a disloyal guard dog did no good.
Even if he’s only perceived to be disloyal.
“For our sake, I hope you’re right,” Griselda said breezily. “You never know what lurks underneath, in the murky corners of their mortal minds. Unless you’re Ark or Jamie, of course. But then whisperers don’t just know, they can control them.”
Beldren looked around the corridor, as if checking for eavesdroppers. “Yes. I’ve thought of that. What stops Jamie from tampering with them? Surely not a sense of honor. At least Ark can’t control them, he’s only a dream stealer.”
“True, but that’s dangerous enough. Still, I’m sure you’re both fine, with such loyal dogs.” She hoped her smile held the touch of sinister she intended. “If you’ll excuse me? It seems I have a meeting with a mechanic.”
Beldren gave a little bow, and sent her off with a wink and the words, “Of course. And should you find yourself available this evening, I have an open schedule.”
I bet you do.
The mechanic wasn’t excited to see her, but when she pushed him against the wall and threatened to rip his heart out, he finally gave her a list of “potential problems” with the roadster. “I have it running,” he snapped, pulling his shirt straight. “And I stand by my original statement: it doesn’t need replacing.”
Griselda scoffed. “Yes it does, and it’s not the only thing.” She glared the warning. “It would be a shame if our lead mechanic’s heart ended up skewered by some bizarre shop accident.”
“Isn’t it lucky I’m careful?” he asked, though she saw concern crinkle the corners of his eyes.
She dropped her list off at the office, and headed back to her apartment. Sergei was closeted in his room, probably taking nap. At least he’d be well rested in case Zuri or Beldren decided to try anything.
I hope Harry finds that replacement quickly.
The council didn’t bother to make a ruling the next day, so when Griselda was called to the office for an assignment she refused. “I don’t have an automobile.”
The guard behind the desk fidgeted nervously. “The, uh, the report said that your vehicle was functioning.”
“I’m not driving that…that lemon!” She was pretty sure that was the modern term. Or was it orange? Without waiting for correction, she pushed on, “You can tell the council I will leave the citadel only when I have a reliable automobile, and not before.”
The guard groaned and checked a clipboard. “It looks like Migina is in.”
“Beldren and Zuri are,” Griselda added.
“Yes, but they want a, erm, a woman.” He gave a nervous sort of grimace and dialed the phone. “Hello? Executioner Migina?”
Griselda left before she could catch the rest of the conversation. Not used to being in the citadel for more than a day at a time, she wasn’t sure what to do. They were putting in a cinema in the public area, but she didn’t think it was open yet. She’d already fed. She wasn’t interested in shopping. It was too late for television; the human’s programming ended while the night was still young.
A book seemed a good option, so she headed to the citadel’s library to emerge some time later, three novels tucked under her arm.
Near the executioner block she saw a familiar figure. Migina moved with the grace of a predator, her long black braid thrown over her shoulder. Dressed in men’s pants and boots, she was nearly as tall as Griselda, and probably a hundred years older.
The Executioner drew up and eyed Griselda disdainfully. “I suppose I should thank you for dumping your assignment on me.”
“Talk to the lesser council. They have yet to approve my request for a new vehicle.”
“Then drive the old one,” Migina snapped back. “Never mind. I don’t have time for your argle-bargle. I have an assignment to go on. I was home for a whole two hours. Wouldn’t want to get too cozy.”
Migina swept off down the corridor, leaving Griselda to glare after her. What the hell was argle-bargle? Was it an Indian word – or from whatever race Migina was supposed to be?
It’s probably some kind of insult.
“I’m sure your guard dog will be happy to keep Franklin warm for you,” she shouted after the retreating vampiress. When Migina spun, fury in her eyes, Griselda amended with a smirk, “I mean keep your den warm for you.”
Migina’s mouth worked, but then she scoffed, and stormed away without rebuttal.
That’s what I thought.
Griselda found Sergei vacuuming. She walked past him without comment, and shut herself in the bedroom. It really was a shame that she needed to replace him already. He’d just finally learned how to keep a clean house.
The next evening, Griselda stopped in at the café for breakfast. The waiter half forced a couple out of their table in his rush to seat her. She took the seat, still warm from the previous occupant, and ordered a glass with cinnamon.
She waited, hands folded in her lap, and blue eyes watching the other patrons. Vampires hunched in little cliques, drinking and talking. She was suddenly hyper-aware of the empty chair across from her, of the way other guests’ eyes would move toward her and then dance away, as if they were afraid to make contact.
Well they should be. I’m an Executioner for God’s sake. I could kill them with a thought.
And as an agonizer, she could, too, or at the very least make them wish they were dead. If only she’d gotten the mind reading abilities that usually came with such a gift…
“Not all gifts are the same, child,” Malick had once told her. “Though you do not read minds, your ability to cause pain is one of the most focused I’ve seen in an Agonizer. With time, and luck, perhaps you will find yourself in the next evolution.”
But still an evolution without mind reading, she reminded herself glumly.
“-with your friend.”
Griselda’s attention snapped up and she saw the waiter standing next to her table, motioning a vampire to the empty chair. And not just any vampire. It was-
“Philip.” A fellow Executioner, he’d been promoted from greater guard the same time as she had, when the Hand of Death and the Tormentor left. But that did not make him her friend.
No matter how good looking he is.
And he was good looking, with black hair and intense chocolate colored eyes; the kind of eyes that seemed to stare right through you – or right into your future. To a well-developed demon eye, they were the same thing.
Philip gave her a heartbreaker’s smile and took the empty chair with a flourish. He rattled off an order, and the waiter hurried away, as if hounds were chasing him.
“You look unhappy, Zelda, dear,” Philip said as he leaned back in his seat, long fingers drumming lightly on the tabletop.
“I didn’t invite you to join me,” she replied stiffly.
“No, but our dear waiter is under the impression that wearing matching necklaces makes us friends. Remember when we used to be friends?”
The innuendo in his voice sent warm shivers down her back. She remembered a time when they’d been…something. Perhaps not friends, but bedfellows. When his hot hands had slid over her naked shoulders and down to-
She pushed the memories away and forced her face neutral. “Vaguely.”
“I could refresh your memory, if you’d like? You could come back to me den, admire the art on my wall. I have a new print of Picasso’s La Douceur we could imitate. I have a couple of hours before I have to leave for Cincinnati to deal with a rogue. That should be plenty of time.”
She’d seen his art collection, and though she didn’t recognize the name pf the painting he mentioned, she could guess it would be something erotic, just like the others. “No thank you. I have my day planned out.”
“Really? I heard you were stuck here until the council approved a new car? And since your guard dog’s gone off the rails-”
She ground her teeth together. “Just who told you that?”
“Beldren might have mentioned it when I talked to him earlier. He warned me to keep a tight rein on my own, that Verchiel and Ark’s humans were on a seduction crusade. Ark’s I believe, but Verchiel’s is too…too child-like for most men to find attractive. Like a doll. A real man doesn’t want a child’s play thing in his bed. Migina’s guard dog on the other hand, have you seen her? She’s exquisite. And she tastes delicious.”
He broke into laughter as the waiter appeared with their glasses. He dropped them off and hurried away, leaving Philip chuckling.
“I suppose you’ve had her,” Griselda commented with no interest.
“All three of them, though Verchiel’s is too cumbersome to make for a repeat visit.” He studied her frown. “You can’t tell me you haven’t sampled at least one of the guard dogs? Not even your own?”
Griselda took a long draw from her glass before answering, “Not in a sexual way, no.”
“You’re missing out. Seriously while Migina is gone you should pay a visit to her den. I know you prefer men, but once the blood starts flowing, they all taste the same, and she has a repertoire of talents you can’t imagine.”
“And I’d rather continue not imagining them, if you don’t mind. I have my standards. They’re low, but I have them.”
“Too good for a human lover?” Philip smirked. “They have their place, you know. You can break them without repercussion, if the mood strikes. And you may like to pretend now, Zelda, darling, but I know the mood does strike you.”
Griselda drained her glass in a single long gulp, and stood. “The only thing I feel like striking now is you. Have a lovely trip. Good luck to the rogue. May he take your heart.”
She stormed through the café and out, hands fists at her sides. Philip always did that to her; left her confused, angry, fumbling for a decent comeback. Whether it was their brief history, or just his smoldering presence, she didn’t know, but she didn’t trust him as far as she could throw him.
As if to make her night complete, she ran into Verchiel just inside the Executioner block.
“Good evening!” He said cheerfully.
“I thought you were gone,” Griselda snapped. After Philip, she didn’t have the patience for this.
“I’m back now. I hope Valerie didn’t cause you any undo stress in my absence.” He batted his eyes innocently.
“If you mean your stupid human, then no, she’s been too busy in someone else’s bed to bother Sergei. Probably Philip’s.”
A frown flickered over Verchiel’s face, to be quickly replaced by his usual clown-ish smile. “So she’s moving up to seducing Executioners now? Good for her.”
Griselda scoffed. “If you believe a word Philip says. He’s as full of lies as everyone else.”
“That’s not very nice,” Verchiel said. “And especially about your fellow Executioners! We’re like a family-”
“A family that’s waiting to stab one another in the dark, you mean?”
“A royal family then,” Verchiel said cheerfully. “The things they do to get the throne…it makes us look angelic.” He turned suddenly serious. “Though in all honesty, what has anyone really done? It isn’t as if you’ve bene attacked in your sleep.”
“Not yet, but I expect to be, thanks to you and your whore.” Verchiel looked ready to argue, so she added, “Everyone knows Sergei has been compromised by your bitch in heat. It’s only a matter of time until someone realizes this is their chance and takes it.”
Verchiel cocked his head to one side. “Do you really think Philip, or Migina, or Zuri, or Senya would sneak into your room and cut your heart out. Really?” He paused. “Okay, maybe Senya, but the others…”
Griselda scoffed. “Of all of you, Senya’s the one I suspect the least. Bren calls her blunt and tactless, but I call her honest. At least you know where you stand with her, unlike the others, who speak with honey one moment and venom the next. Especially you. Your smile doesn’t fool anyone. The broader it is, the more devious the thoughts behind it.”
“I will say you have a point about Senya, but as for the rest…If that’s how you want to view the world, I guess that’s your choice. If you don’t mind, I have an appointment with the lesser council to pick out a new vehicle.”
He started past, but Griselda grabbed his arm and dragged him back. “A new vehicle? Are you serious? I put in for one days ago and am still waiting for approval! How did you get it?”
He tugged loose and shot her a wink. “If you want a new one, the best thing to do is total the old one. Preferably mid-assignment. They’ll approve the new one as fast as they can, so you can get back out there and get things finished up.” He tapped the side of his head. “Just a little bit of deviousness, there. Ciao!”
He headed through the door, leaving her to stomp back to her apartment. It was ridiculous that he’d be approved that way! Surely the council could see through him – see the trick – and refuse him.
Except they didn’t.
Griselda woke the next evening, wrapped in a gray cloud. She dressed and ordered in breakfast. Unfortunately, she’d finished all three library books, so when the television went off air for the night, it left her with nothing to do but stare at the carpet and try to ignore Sergei’s sulking presence.
“If I could go to the sixth floor,” he began, but she cut him off.
“And fraternize with God knows who? No. You’ve done enough. I’m surprised Beldren or one of the others hasn’t barged in and killed us both already.”
“Because I’m in love with Valerie? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“I said shut up!” Griselda shouted, even though she knew she hadn’t said it. “You’re driving me insane,” she muttered. “Being stuck here is driving me insane. I need an automobile and an assignment!”
She stormed out, leaving him with a scowl.
In the Executioners’ office, the guard cringed behind the desk, his eyes everywhere but her. “I-I’m sorry, but the council denied your request. You have the right to appeal.”
Griselda slammed her fist into the desk. “Why did they deny it?”
“I-I don’t know. They, uh, they didn’t say, only that it was denied. I’ll, uh, get you the appeal paperwork.”
“Yes, do that,” she bit off angrily. How the hell had Verchiel been approved – and so quickly – when she’d been denied yet again?
Probably because he’s a low level whisperer. Or because he’s a man.
Either one was possible.
With the paperwork in hand, she stopped at the library for a new book. Among the rows she recognized a familiar dark head, long hair pulled back in a sloppy bun. She didn’t need to see his face – or the medallion around his neck – to know it was Jamie, a fellow Executioner.
Though she avoided him, he ended up in line behind her at the checkout desk.
“Griselda,” he said with a polite nod.
“Jamie,” she returned.
“I hear you’re having trouble with your vehicle.”
Yes. Because everyone hears everything. “I’m planning to appeal their decision.”
She doubted that he meant it, but made a noise that sounded like “thank you”.
“If you want to win your appeal, the best way is to appear cooperative,” he added.
“Yes. I’ll get right on that.”
He shrugged. “Not that you want advice, but refusing to accept an assignment-”
“I’m not refusing to take assignments, only refusing to ride in that…that death trap of a roadster! What happens when it breaks down – again – and this time leaves me stranded hours from civilization and shelter? Shall I just burn up in the sun, waiting for help?”
Jamie kept his tone even, “I doubt that would happen. There are very few stretches of land that uninhabited anymore.”
She rolled her eyes as she handed her book to the librarian. “Then risk your life in it and I’ll take your vehicle.” He only blinked at her and she sneered. “That’s what I thought. Have a good day.”
Then she swished out, the book clutched to her chest like a shield against stupidity.
She marched back to her apartment and locked herself in her bedroom; the only safe place from the others. She wasn’t sure how many more days she could take of this – of running into every Executioner, or their advice and comments.
I need a goddamn automobile before I kill someone!
It was later that evening when Sergei knocked on Griselda’s bedroom door. “You have a call from someone named Harry.”
Griselda stuck the bookmark in and laid the novel aside. Had harry procured someone so quickly? He’d acted like it might take weeks.
“He usually comes through faster than he says he will.”
Apparently Bren was right. That made for a change.
She lifted the receiver form the cradle on her nightstand. “Griselda here.”
“Executioner?” Harry’s voice came back. “I have the package you ordered. If you’d care to come pick it up and make payment?”
It felt a little like prostitution, but she reminded herself it was more like buying a pet – such as a dog. Yes. Just purchasing a soulless animal. “Where do I meet you?”
“On the sixth floor…let’s say the recreation room, shall we? In twenty minutes?”
Griselda agreed and hung up. Though it was ridiculous, she thought Sergei looked suspicious as she walked past him. There was no way he could know that she was replacing him, no way he’d know what his fate was to be.
It’s your own fault. If you’d just kept to yourself.
In the corridor she found Verchiel , like a bad penny intent on ruining her day.
“Just who I was looking for!” he said cheerfully.
She tried to dodge around him. “I don’t have time to mess with you. I have an appointment.”
“Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Verchiel said. “You’re planning to replace your human?”
She stopped and turned back to face him. “And how do you know-” she broke off when he tapped the side of his head. Of course. Though not accomplished, he was a dream stealer of sorts. “What does it matter to you?”
“Well, it seems if you’re replacing – Sergei, isn’t it? – then you won’t need him anymore.”
“Obviously,” she snapped. “I really am in a hurry. If you could cut to the chase?”
“How would you like to sell him?”
She choked on the suggestion. “Excuse me? Sell him? To who? You? Hardly! He knows things I’m sure you’d find useful.”
Verchiel shook his head. “Anything he knows I can find out. From you.” He tapped the side of his head again.
“Then what do you want him for?”
“Let’s say breeding purposes. He and Valerie make a fine pair, don’t you think?” She scoffed and he added, “I’m willing to trade for him.”
Griselda scoffed. “Trade what?”
The redhead jingled a set of car keys. “I mentioned that I got approved for a new car? Give me Sergei, and it’s all yours.”
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Just what kind of vehicle is it?”
“A Hudson Hornet, painted black. Brand new.” He jingled the keys again. “It’s not really my kind of car, you see.”
“And just what will you drive if I take it?”
“I’ll manage. I have enough in the bank I can buy my own outright. Maybe a racecar, for fun. Anyway, what do you say?”
She tried to calculate various scenarios in her head. What could Verchiel really be up to? Why would he really want Sergei? The breeding excuse was thin at best…but the automobile would end her stalemate with the council and get her out of there before she went insane.
“Fine. He’s yours.”
She snatched at the keys, but Verchiel pulled them away. “Not so fast. Once I have him, you’ll get these.” He jingled them again. “Not that I don’t trust you, but…”
“Fine,” she snarled. “Go get him and his belongings, and leave those.” She leaned down, so that her fangs flashed close to his face. “And if you cross me…”
“You’ll send your new guard dog to kill me in my sleep?” Verchiel suggested. “How scary.” Before she could react, he grabbed her hand, pumped it up and down, and then disappeared in a blur of speed, tossing back, “It’s great doing business with you!”
Griselda shook her head. “Idiot.”
Not well versed with the sixth floor, it took Griselda a couple of tries to find the meeting place. Stuffed with couches, a pool table, and a television, she understood the name recreation room. What she didn’t understand was why they were meeting there.
Still, Harry seemed at home, wearing a new suit and a fanged smile. On the couch next to him sat a young woman of maybe twenty-two. Mousy brown hair hung limp, and giant eyes shimmered with unshed tears. Her hands were pulled behind her back, probably tied at the wrists. She wore a torn dress, dirt knees peeking out from under the full skirt.
Harry swept to his feet, the fanged smile growing wider as he bowed. “Executioner Griselda. I believe this will fit your requirements?”
She looked over the trembling human. “I wanted a guard dog, not a trembling puppy!”
“Ah, but the fiercest guard dog was once a pup, was it not?” Harry smiled. “I believe she has potential.”
Griselda rolled her eyes, but moved past him to examine the girl. She lifted her chin, forcing the teary eyes to meet her own. “You! What’s your name?”
“Stand up, Linda.”
The girl tried, but without her hands, she fell back. Griselda caught her shoulder and pulled her up. Shorter than she was, she was of medium build, not too thin, but not fat. Meaty, her grandmother would have said, with child bearing hips but very little to feed the babes with.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Griselda demanded.
“I…” She looked to Harry, and her face crumpled as her eyes shifted back. “No. I really don’t. I don’t understand-”
“Would you rather go home?” Griselda pressed.
“I…Not home but…I…my husband…I have nowhere to go.” The tears dripped down her cheeks, growing torrential as she sobbed. “They’ll put me in prison.”
“prison?” Griselda gave Harry a sharp look. “Who will put you in prison?”
“The…the police. But he deserved it. He…he deserved it.”
At another sharp look, harry finally relented. “Our dear girl murdered her husband in cold blood; shot him in the heart.”
“He deserved it!” Linda sobbed. “They all deserve it!”
“Who?” Griselda asked.
“Men!” Linda choked on her tears and snuffled her nose with a disgusting liquid sound. “They’re all the same. They’re full of sugar lies and cotton candy dreams, but then they have too much to drink, and they want to show you who’s boss, and maybe you can take a little of that, until you catch them with their secretary, and then…and then…”
“And then a bullet to the heart,” Griselda finished. She reached behind the girl and pulled the rope free. “Thank you, Harry. I believe she’ll do just fine.”
“There is a little matter of payment. Two hundred dollars should do it.”
Griselda stiffened at the price. Two hundred dollars, for a human? They were running around out here for free; thousands of them! She could wait and…and…and she’d already traded Sergei off to Verchiel. If she refused to pay, it would leave her defenseless – leave Verchiel with an opening to sneak in and cut her heart out.
And if he knows I’m defenseless, the rest will too. Nothing stays a secret here.
“Fine. I assume you prefer cash?”
With the transaction complete, Griselda led Linda down to the Executioner block. The woman seemed caught between terror and perverse excitement at the prospect of serving vampires. It was a fascinating mixture.
“This is my den,” Griselda announced as she unlocked the door.
She led Linda inside. Sergei’s absence stood out like a missing tooth, and she left her new acquisition alone to check the bedroom. Sure enough, it was cleaned out, with no sign that the human had ever been there.
She spun for the doorway when the glint of something metallic caught her eye on the dresser. She snatched up the car keys like a prize. Verchiel was many things, but at least he’d kept his word.
Clutching the keys, she headed back to her new guard dog. Hopefully by this time tomorrow she’d be on the road, and Linda would be settled in, ready to defend against both man, woman, and vampire, even if that meant putting a bullet through their heart, just like she had her husband.
As she said, they’re all alike, and they all deserve it. The secret it to get them before they get me.
- Kinda looks like Axle Rose. 2. three faced 3. triplicate 4. trio 5. kind a looks like a Duran, Duran album cover, too. 6. Impressionist or whatever 7. I don’t know all the fancy art terms because I don’t like most of the movements. 8. I know cubism, but this ain’t it. 9. Kinda looks like Picasso (also in blog). 10. in gray scale. 11. shades of gray. 12. though I don’t think there’s fifty shades of gray there. 13. See what I did there? 14. sisters 15. triplets 16. There are weird noises here. 17. I swear someone just shouted “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie!” but no one is awake except me. 18. I bet it’s some of Jonathan’s voodoo 19. Makes as much sense as my guesses this week. 20. It’s just to abstract for me, I guess.
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where martien gives us prompts to use in our weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:
Ecrits Blogophilia Week 37.10 Topic – Lost in a Maze**BONUSES:Hard (2 pts) Include a quote from your favorite movie from the 80’sEasy (1 pt) Mention something you love to cook
I should have finished the Griselda story, but I am in a short story funk – lost in a maze with no way out, so to speak. Publishing a story on Amazon and setting the price for free was pretty much impossible – to get the price “matched” (the only way to make it free without going exclusive to Amazon and earning one week of free promo days), you had to upload the book to other retailers, set it to free there, send the proof of this to Amazon, along with some cookies, and hope they’d match it. Okay, you don’t really have to send cookies, but without them you get a nasty reminder that price is up to them to set.
Anyway, enter Pronoun, a publishing platform that distributed to Amazon and allowed you to make your book/story free. It’s thanks to pronoun that I’ve been able to put those short stories on Amazon for free – well yesterday they announced they’re closing. Books can no longer be published through them, and in January any books through them will be gone – so I will have to republish through Amazon, meaning I’ll lose my free status because Amazon will want me to charge at least $.99 for them.
So, no more stories on Amazon. But, enough of my complaining, time to move on to the photos! To quote The Pirate Movie:
Away to the ship and hoist up that chain doodad!
No, Sam. Just disappointment.
Disappointment in Pronoun aside, I posted the trip to the train last week, so here are some photos from the train ride. What fun!
And now for guesses!
- everything but the kitchen sink 2. home away from home 3. all the comforts of home 4. there’s no place like home 5. over packing 6. I kinda want one but I could never deface a vintage suitcase like that 7. I’d buy one someone else made, though 8. vacation home 9. beats a motor home 10. hideaway 11. tiny house 12. dollhouse 13. perfect for pixies 14. welcome 15. come for the tour 16. open house 17. why is there no kitchen? that’s the best part of a doll house 18. living out of a suitcase 19. home is in the heart – or the suitcase 20. I’m out
And we had a great time also! 😀 And of note: those buckeyes are delicious. He is NOT exaggerating 😉
Last night I had two wonderful visitors come to visit me at my apartment: my friend and fellow writer Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog quite a bit, especially in the comments, and her husband Charles, who were passing through Central Ohio on a trip to West Virginia, and made a point to stop by.
I’ve been blogging and Facebooking and tweeting for over six years, so I’ve had plenty of time to make friends with numerous other writers, Joleene among them. Unfortunately, the distance between me and all these other writers often means we’re confined to online interaction. So when an opportunity to visit comes up, I get really excited (and a little nervous) and look forward to meeting them. And last night, I finally got to meet Joleene in person.
Joleene and Charles…
View original post 781 more words
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:
I should finish the Griselda story. Instead you’re going to get some cheesy photos. Well, I say cheesy, but they’re kind of pretty in my opinion. I might be biased about it, since I took them and edited them and what not.
As for the pics, you might be expecting a little bell, book, and candle from me, or maybe photos of some body in the woods – or any body, anywhere for that matter. I will say that though the ride produced some good pics, it was not so fun. It wasn’t mean time, or anything, but there were sick kids, and, well… let’s end it there. The train ride afterwards was great, though, and the trip back was fine, so that’s what matters. Of course, we all agreed we’d like to go on another ride, but what I’m dying to know is: when?
These are the only images I’ve managed to edit yet, though rest assured there are literally thousands of them left to do. So a lot to look forward to, huh?
And now for guesses:
- Strange Magic. 2. Something wicked 3. in the woods 4. Hocus Pocus 5. The Worst Witch 6. The Craft 7. The Witch 8. Blair Witch 9. The Love Witch 10. Practical Magic 11. Love Potion Number Nine 12. waiting for the coven 13. Crimson witch 14. Black magic woman 15. Witchy woman 16. season of the witch 17. cast a spell 18. double double toil and trouble 19. fire burn and cauldron bubble 20. Happy Halloween
It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. This week’s are:
We’re on the road….
I took lots of pics… apologies but the gallery feature is not working 😦
We stopped in Mt. Pleasant for food
And visited hubby’s step dad for awhile, then stopped at Burlington where a nice guy in the gas station told us they now had Sonic.
Then we made it to Peoria where we got a room
And now back to it!
Have a sonic kinda day!
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:
I’d hoped to finish this story this week, since I will be wayward bound next week on a trip to West Virginia (don’t worry, I’ll still blog, but no story writing time) However, I didn’t get this finished because I’m not sure where it’s going.
Last week we met Griselda, whose car broke down, and whose human guard dog has been visiting with another Executioner’s human on a romantic basis. Tsk Tsk.
When she woke the next evening, she found that Sergei had unpacked her bag. A stylish dress lay draped over her vanity chair. Red, with a small waist and long full skirt meant that ended midcalf. Though catalog and store shopping had recently become popular – there was even a new boutique in the citadel’s shopping area – Griselda was rarely able to buy clothes that fit right. Taller than average, pre-made clothes were usually too short for her. Not that she couldn’t make her own – shed been sewing for herself since she was a child. Still, the idea of being able to just pick something up and drop it on was appealing.
And this should fit. The lady who’d worn it had bene tall, too. She’d had dark hair secured with a clip, shiny shoes, and a matching handbag. And she had made an excellent meal the previous night.
Before the damn automobile broke down.
Griselda put on the myriad of support garments expected of a woman – fewer than the last decades had seen! – and slipped into the dress. She had to breath in deeply to zip the back, but otherwise it was a perfect fit.
She turned this way and that in the mirror, and gave an experimental twirl. The silky skirt flared, then fell back into place when she stopped. The small waist was all right for standing, but she suspected sitting might be an issue. Maybe she should pull out one of her old corsets?
She heard movement in the next room, and abandoned her fashion to investigate. Sergei moved between the furniture, pouting and pretending to dust.
“I left the red dress on your vanity,” he said petulantly, eyes on his task. “I wasn’t sure if it needed laundered or not. I imagine they’ll be an extra charge for it since it’s a dry-clean item.” He looked up and stopped. “Oh. You’re wearing it now?”
She glanced down at the garment, then back at him. “And why not?”
“A cocktail dress is an odd choice for the daytime.” He snickered, flicking the feather duster uselessly.
“If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it, human.”
“Excuse me, master.” His bow seemed mocking.
She crossed to him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt before he could react. “Yes, I am your master, and forgiveness is something you’d be well placed to beg for.”
She shoved him away and swished for the door. “Is Verchiel home?”
She could hear the frown in Sergei’s voice. “How should I know?” A hard look from her, and he relented. “He was on an assignment yesterday, but Valerie thinks he’ll be home tonight.”
“Good. I plan to have a chat with him. I’ll be back.”
Wisely, Sergei kept his mouth shut.
Griselda stopped first at Verchiel’s apartment. After several short, angry knocks, his guard dog opened the door. Dressed in some kind of overlarge night dress, one slim shoulder was exposed. Her long dark hair was unbound, and her china doll face wore no makeup, not that she needed any. With milk skin, her dark eyes were a better contrast than lipstick could ever offer.
“Yes?” she asked, with the right amount of reverence and timidity. As if it had been practiced a hundred times.
It probably has.
“Where is your master?”
“Master is on assignment.”
Griselda tapped her foot impatiently but the human only blinked large liquid eyes. “And when will he return?”
“Master should return soon.”
It wasn’t much, but it was enough. “When he gets here, tell him Griselda wants a word. Understand?”
The girl nodded. Griselda turned to find herself confronted with a short vampire. Red hair stuck up at odd angles on top, and fell to brush his shoulders. Violet eyes were just as weird, as was the perpetual grin he wore.
It was Verchiel.
“Zeldy! Are you looking for me?”
Griselda bit back the desire to slam him into the wall. “It’s Griselda, to you.”
He gave a sweeping mock bow. “My apologies, Mighty Griselda. Now what can I do for you?”
“You can keep a tighter leash on your dog.”
Verchiel scratched his head. “Hmmm. A dog? I don’t own a dog. I mean, I could file the paperwork and get one, but they’re kind of inconvenient indoors like this. Where would he pee?”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He paused to look baffled. “I’m standing in the hallway…just coming back from an assignment…I’m talking to you-”
She cut him off. “Do you think you’re being funny?” He grinned and she snapped, “I don’t need you to be funny. I don’t want to be entertained, I want this situation resolved! If you won’t do something then I’ll go to Ark – or Malick!”
Verchiel sighed, and then suddenly drew up, his face serious. “Go inside, Valerie.”
The human, who’d been hanging in the door, nodded quickly and disappeared inside. As the door shut, Verchiel turned his attention to Griselda. “What are you claiming she’s done?”
“I’m not ‘claiming’ anything. She has done – and you know damn well what it is. I don’t want to see – or hear about – her being near my guard dog, or I will report both of you and demand that she’s destroyed.”
Verchiel’s eyes narrowed and he rubbed his neck. “Why do you care? Are you jealous?”
She gaped at the implication. “Of course not! But he is my property. His job is to guard my den – and me – from the rest of you. How can he do that if he spends all of his time preoccupied with fucking your bitch in heat? I’m not stupid, Verchiel. You have her seducing everyone’s guard dogs so you can use it to your advantage. One day she’ll come to my door while I’m asleep. Sergei will let her in and, the next thing you know, my heart will be on a plate and Greneth will be writing a requiem for my funeral.”
“You really think that’s what’s going on?”
“I know it is. You might be able to fool Beldren or Zuri, but I’m on to you. You want to kill the rest of them in their sleep? You go right ahead, but try anything with me and I’ll cut off your head and nail it to the wall. Are we clear?”
He held up his hands. “Ooooo. Scary!” He dropped them, and his featured hardened. “I’m not afraid of you, Griselda, any more than I am the rest of the Executioners. And I don’t need to use Valerie to infiltrate your dens. If I wanted to kill you, I’d do it in the hallway, not in the middle of the day, but don’t worry, she’ll stay away from your pet.” He cocked his head to one side. “I just wonder if your pet will stay away from her?”
Griselda scoffed. “He doesn’t have a choice.” She leaned down, pressing her face close to Verchiel’s. “See that you keep your end of it, or I will have her put down.”
She turned on her heel and stormed away, the cocktail dress swishing with each angry step. She reached her own door, hand on the knob, when a voice called, “Zelda!”
She looked up to see Bren, hands on his hips as he surveyed her. “I heard you had some automobile trouble?”
“You could call it that.” She stepped away from the door and lowered her voice. “Your guard dog. Has he been fraternizing?”
Bren’s face darkened. “With Verchiel’s mongrel, you mean? Only once. I took the skin off his back, and he’s stayed away since.” His scowl twisted into a grin. “Having trouble with yours?”
She hesitated. She trusted Bren only because Senya controlled him. But how far did her control extend? “Perhaps.”
Bren moved closer. “Take my advice. Remove a few toes, or a finger or two, and he’ll straighten right up.”
“And then he’d be…defected.”
Bren blinked. “I don’t think that’s the word you want. Impacted maybe?”
“Weakened,” she snapped. “What good is an injured guard dog?”
He shrugged. “Do what you want. You could always put him down and get a new one. There are several humans working on the sixth floor. One of them would probably be happy for the promotion. Though I’d be careful which you choose. Rumor is you-know-who frequents a few of them for recreational purposes.”
Griselda wrinkled her nose. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Bren stepped back, and his voice sprang back to normal. “Have you fed yet? I was on my way to the café.”
“Out. A week or two. You know how it is. Ready?”
She wasn’t sure she trusted Bren without Senya’s leash, but what could he do in public? Jam a dagger between her ribs? Even he wouldn’t get away with that.
Ark probably could.
With a nod, she followed Bren out of the Executioner block and into the public area of the citadel. The café was brightly lit and decorated to resemble a sidewalk café, with wicker chairs and crisp white tablecloths. Plants hung from hooks around the wall. Murals were painted like a cityscape, complete with a blue sky overhead.
Bren flashed his necklace at the attendant just inside the door. The vampire rushed to find them an empty table, bobbing his head as he stumbled through a welcome speech.
Bren smirked. “Relax. We’ve been here before.”
The attendant bobbed a final time and hurried away, promising that a waiter would be along any minute.
Griselda looked toward a menu board painted in pink and blue. It listed different glass sizes and add ins.
“I’m thinking…spearmint,” Bren said. “You?”
“That sounds fine.”
“We could get a pitcher then?”
She shrugged it off, and let him order. As the waitress bustled off, Bren leaned back in the chair. “I’ll go up to the sixth floor with you, if you want.”
Griselda toyed with the napkin. “It would mean training a new one.”
“True, the training is a pain, but better to know your dog is loyal than have one who lets the enemy in.”
She flicked her blue eyes to his face. “What an odd way to phrase it. The enemy.”
He shrugged. “If we didn’t have enemies, we wouldn’t need locked doors and guard dogs in the first place.”
“True. I just find it…interesting. We’re supposed to be part of an elite team, working together, and instead we need guard dogs to stop us killing one another in our sleep. It’s like a fractured coven, who’s been together so long they’ve lost any affection and feel only hate.”
“I wouldn’t say I hate everyone,” Bren replied.
She leaned her elbows on the table and surveyed him. “Then tell me who you feel affection for among the Executioners – who you trust with your life.”
He scoffed and waved it away. When she continued to stare, unblinking he muttered, “I-I don’t know.”
“Not even Senya?” Griselda asked with mild surprise.
The waiter appeared before he could answer. He deposited the pitcher, and two tall glasses. With a flourish he filled them, then asked if there was anything else.
Bren dismissed him, and they drank their breakfast in silence. Griselda inhaled the minty scent, and thought of her childhood home, and her grandmother’s herb garden. The memories were blurred by time, and over bright with sunlight, but she could still feel the warmth that had shone in her grandmother’s eyes; a warmth that had bene extinguished far too soon.
“I might trust Senya.”
Griselda looked up sharply. “What?”
Bren set his empty glass on the table and fixed her with an irritated stare. “You asked if I trusted Senya. I said I might.”
She suppressed a smile. “I suppose that’s something.”
They finished their breakfast and, though her mind wasn’t made up, headed upstairs. The sixth floor was a mix of humans and vampires, including human only areas. Though Griselda failed to see the point, the vampire government had human emissaries, and they didn’t like being close to the monsters if they could help it.
She followed Bren to a restaurant. The heavy scent of cooking meat overpowered the smell of the occupants’ blood and made her think of bodies burning – the official approved way to dispose of vampiric corpses.
They stopped just inside the door and he scanned the customers. With a frown, he shook his head and motioned her out and further down the hallway. A recreation room wasn’t what he was looking for, and neither was an exercise room.
Bren made a low noise in his throat. “Where is he?”
“Who?” When Bren didn’t answer, she pressed, “I thought we were looking for a human replacement?”
“Of course, but we’re not going to recruit one ourselves,” Bren snapped back. “Don’t you know how it works?”
She didn’t reply. All of the guard dogs she’d had so far had come from outside, found while she was on assignment. She had no idea how it was done in the citadel.
Bren took her silence as an admission of ignorance. “To procure a human, one sees Harry, as he’s calling himself now. You tell him what you want – male, female, snack, dinner, play toy, sex partner , whether you plan to let them live or kill them – and he finds what you’re looking for.”
Griselda arched a suspicious brow. Was Bren in the habit of procuring humans? For what? The way he’d casually tossed out play toy and sex partner made her wonder.
They checked a few other places, and circled back to the restaurant. Bren stepped inside, and gave a triumphant cry. “You!”
A short man with a mustache looked up from a glass of crimson. Dressed in a light sport coat and button down shirt, his hat was perched on the table near his arm.
“Ah! Sir Executioner!” The man stood quickly and gave a half bow. “And madam, my apologies for not recognizing your office immediately. My mistake. How can I help you tonight?”
Griselda touched the silver medallion that hung around her neck, three circles intertwined. The emblem of the Executioner, and a piece of jewelry that no doubt looked odd with her dress.
Bren surveyed the diminutive figure with a grunt, and dropped into a chair. “Zelda needs a new guard dog.”
“Of course, of course.” The man smiled, showing a set of sharp fangs. “What does the lady have in mind?”
Griselda straightened her full skirt. She had no love for humans, but even so this seemed strange. Like ordering a sofa. “I’d like a female.” She thought of the casual way Bren had mentioned snacks, sex, and play toys. When a human drank vampire blood they created a bond – a bond that would trump their loyalty to her. “One who hasn’t been preyed upon.”
The man gave a small cough. “That is quite a request, my dear. I’ll have to have someone in the field procure a new recruit. That will be expensive.”
Expensive? Did he expect her to pay? The other humans had been free!
“She’s good for it,” Bren said dismissively.
“Of course.” Harry lifted his hat and tugged a notepad out from under it. He unclipped a small pencil form it, licked the tip, and offered her a full smile. “What specifics do you have in mind? Age? Height? Build? Appearance?”
It is like ordering a sofa.
“I don’t care,” she snapped. “So long as she’s young enough to train, but old enough to defend herself.”
“Mid-twenties?” Harry suggested. “Late teens is more popular, but they can be emotionally fragile if you’r eplanning to keep her for a time. You are planning to keep her?”
“Yes!” Griselda cried. “I want her as a guard dog.”
“Right, right. That curious arrangement you Executioners have at the moment.” Harry scribbled on his pad. “I assume virginity isn’t important? It’s extra, you see.”
“Of course it’s not important!”
“Mmhmm. All right, I’ll get the men on it. It might be a day or two, if that’s all right? I can send a message to…” he trailed off meaningfully.
“Griselda,” she said stiffly.
“Good, good. Executioner Griselda.”
Bren rolled a pepper shaker. “How much is it going to cost?”
“I can hardly negotiate the price when I don’t know how much work it will be to procure, now can I?”
Bren snorted. “No, I’m sure you can’t.” He stood and leaned over the table, his face close to Harry’s. “See that it’s reasonable, hmmm?”
Harry smiled serenely. “Of course, of course. I’m always reasonable.”
“Right.” Bren rolled his eyes and motioned Griselda after him. She glanced back to the short man, then followed. They were both quiet until the elevator doors had shut.
“He usually comes through faster than he says he will.”
Griselda tugged at her skirt. “You’ve used him before?”
“Of course. Where do you think my guard dogs come from?”
“I assumed you caught them yourself.”
Bren chuckled. “I don’t have time to mess with that. Let Harry handle it.”
The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and the doors swished open. A harried guard rushed inside. At seeing them, his face lit up. “Sir, Master Malick requires you.”
“See what I mean?” Bren asked with a smirk. “Who has time to hunt?”
The elevator stopped at the third floor. Griselda thanked Bren for his help, and disembarked, leaving him and the guard to see what the ancient master in the basement wanted.
She paused at the door to her apartment and sniffed. She could smell Sergei inside. Alone for a change.
No doubt Verchiel’s mongrel is busy tending to her master.
No story next week, but you’ll get the end of this the week after I hope.
And now for guesses:
- vintage 2. retro 3. shiny 4. back in the day 5. antique 6. classic 7. red racer 8. race 9. drag race 10. chrome 11. happy days 12. cruisin’ USA 13. on the strip 14. roadster 15. gas hog 16. need for speed 17. rebel without a cause 18. ready to rumble 19. low rider 20. little red corvette