Dr. Charles Foster had a well-structured face with the creases one expects to have at 50. His chin sported a scissor-cut graying goatee, which stopped near his bottom lip, well groomed around his mouth, and trimmed neatly beneath his hooked nose. He had a full beard at one time; however, one of his female clients once told him that full beards make a man’s face look older and fatter. His bluish-gray oval eyes sat in deep beneath his thick brown eyebrows, and despite his aging, he maintained a beautiful head of hair, also scissor-cut, and feathered back to accentuate the bit of gray blending into his temples. He looked handsome, and felt he looked better, and had more energy than most men half his age.
He said to Annie Prichart, “Hey kiddo is someone here?”
She was an attractive size seven whose white dress clung to her due to the sweat. Per the doctor’s orders, she hadn’t let the air conditioning run during the night, to cut expenses, and it took at least an hour for the offices to cool. She blinked her green eyes tightly, took a deep breath, closed the door behind her, took another breath, then exhaled and said, “A woman out here wants to talk to you; her name’s Iza Cara.”
“Last name, first name, a customer, who is she?”
“I don’t know,” Annie said, “She told me her name’s Iza Cara, and she needs to speak to you. She doesn’t have an appointment, and she’s not one of our regular patients. She doesn’t have insurance either. I asked her, and she blew me off.” She stiffened and caught a chill. “Something’s creepy about her.”
“Creepy?” Charles smiled, “You look spooked.”
“Something about her bothered me. I can’t put my finger on it, but her eyes are strange; beautiful but strange. Her pupils are big, and black, with a little bit of blue surrounding them, instead of white. It’s odd.”
“Well I’m glad you don’t take notice of the little things!,” Charles chuckled. “Should I know anything else about her?”
“She doesn’t talk to me; she turns away when she has something to say; like she has bad breath or something.”
“Maybe she does,” he laughed, “Is she young, old?”
“I’d say she’s your age. She’s real attractive.”
Annie smiled pleasantly with sarcasm, “Yeah, like you….”
”But creepy,” Charles finished her sentence. He patted down his temples. “Show her in, kiddo,” he said, “Show her in.”
Annie opened the door again, and stood with her hand on the knob, “You can come in now, miss.”
A voice snapped, “Thank you,” and the woman came through the doorway. She advanced slowly, using cautious steps, her eyes dark and probing.
She was taller than Charles and stood stiff and upright with firm, lifted breasts and cleavage. Her legs were long and her fingers long with manicured red nails. Her hair was jet black, pulled back straight and tight, then tied back in a single twist, her lips a radiant, glossy red. She didn’t smile, but grinned, and her white teeth glistened under a timid grin.
Charles caught a glimpse of the corners of her mouth: “Fangs!” He pulled his eyes back a bit and pursed his brows and forehead in speculation. He rose from his armchair and casually wandered to the window. He turned the rod to open the venetian blinds. The sun glared on a steamy morning, and the rays bounced off the other city buildings. He squinted at the sun, and then turned to look at Iza Cara. She stared at him cautiously. Charles cocked his head to the right, only inches from the bookcase where a 12-inch wooden stake honed to a sharp point, and a solid mini sledge laid eye-level in front of a row of books.
“There’s no need for that,” She trembled.
Charles turned from the bookcase and faced her. He rubbed his neck, pressing and groping himself until he felt the thin gold chain around his neck. His hand traveled into his shirt to a medallion dangling on the end of the chain.
She inhaled deeply, and then said with a lump in her throat, “There’s no need for that either.”
He didn’t take his eyes off her while walking back to his desk. He sank into his armchair, and then turned and faced her. He smiled without opening his mouth.
“Thank you,” she trembled nervously and balanced herself on the edge of a side chair. Her head twitched in different directions, unable to make eye contact with Charles. “I don’t know where to begin,” she muttered.
Charles rocked back in the armchair. He turned to look at the sun shining outside the window, and then turned to the woman, “You’re a vampire.”
Iza Cara nodded yes but gave no explanation. She glimpsed at the bookcase shelving the stake and hammer. This brought her to feel uneasy, insecure.
Charles wanted to know how she came about to wander the city in broad daylight. Rather than coming right out and asking her, he postponed the issue by using small talk. “Now what can I do for you?”
She swallowed hard and looked at him while trying to rush her words, “Could you…I…I…. I mean.” Then she bowed her head and said nothing. In a deep breath, she half-closed her bedroom eyes and put her palm to her mouth to hide her fangs.
“Don’t worry about covering up your fangs in front of me, lady,” Charles said, “I’m a hematologist. I know everything about blood; human blood, vampire blood. I deal with you bloodsuckers every day.” He nodded and spoke aggressively to show that, despite her beauty, he would not be falling for a vampire’s seductive charm. “So, what brings you here?”
“I need your help.”
“I stopped doing transfusions years ago, lady. We tried everything -- they didn’t work. Vampires get old and die like us.”
“It’s nothing like that. It’s quite a different dilemma.”
“Nothing like that,” she answered, “I realize you are a blood specialist for the aging, but this has nothing to do with that; if you’d let me explain.”
“Then suppose you start from the beginning.”
“The beginning is hundreds of years ago,” she sighed.
“I don’t have that much time,” Charles grinned, trying to use humor to lighten up, “Let’s shoot straight. First, tell me how you manage to come out during the day. I’ve had run-ins with you people a million times, but always after sunset. Second, why me; why did you come to talk to me?”
The vampire’s lips trembled. She mashed her fingers together, “I don’t know where else to go,” She said, “You are Doctor Charles Foster, right? I am in the right place, am I not?”
“I understand you were the man who killed Ludwig Sheer, the vampire, the serial killer.” Iza Cara again glanced at the sharpened point of the wooden stake, and the mini sledgehammer on the bookcase shelf. “Is that what you used?”
Charles nodded, “That’s what I used.”
She swallowed hard, and at the same time, rubbed her chest where her heart may be located.
“The police caught up to him,” Charles said, “My intern and I finished the job.”
Iza Cara was afraid to make eye contact. She looked around the office before finally settling on the doctor.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe here,” he said.
“Your secretary doesn’t approve of me. I can tell. I have a daughter the same age. At times, she doesn’t approve of me either.”
“Annie?” Charles used his thumb to point to the door. “Annie doesn’t approve of anybody. She’s a cautious young lady; doesn’t trust anybody. Except for me. She says she’s always got my back.”
Charles grew tired of the idle chat. “You didn’t come here to tell me about my secretary. Now, fill me in, what do you want?”
Iza Cara’s eyes welted. She no longer felt self-conscious about Charles seeing her fangs. She no longer felt insecure about being a vampire in the company of a notorious vampire killer like Doctor Foster. “It’s my daughter, Tessa,” she sobbed, “She’s with an evil man.”
“Is your daughter, Tessa, a vampire also?”
“How old is she?”
“She’ll be twenty-five later this week.”
“And you’re saying the man she is with is an evil man? Is he a vampire also?”
Charles used his legs to roll his armchair towards her. He sat on the edge and leaned forward. He studied her dark eyes and the tears building on their edges. “They’re real,” he took a deep breath.
Iza Cara wiped her eyes with her bare index finger.
“Tell me,” Charles said, “You and your daughter are vampires, and you’re telling me the man she’s with is evil. Right now I’m on the outside looking in; you’re all evil.”
“We’re not all evil,” She defended herself.
Charles rocked in his armchair once again, and ran his tongue across his bottom teeth, and said, “It depends -”
“He wants to kill during the day,” Iza Cara interrupted him, “He wants to live day and night, go wherever he wants day and night, and he wants to kill, and he wants to create an army; an army of Vampires who will feed day and night.”
Charles rose from the chair, went to the window again, and squinted at the sunshine. He turned to Iza Cara. “How does he intend to do this?
“It’s….it’s all very complicated,” she stammered.
“Does he have a name? Have you ever met him?”
“Dimitri Alexander. I met him years ago.” Iza Cara put her palms to her eyes, “He frightens me so.”
“How does your daughter know this man? Did she go with him or did he kidnap her? I need particulars lady.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t know.” She rubbed her temples.
Charles turned quickly, “You’ve got to know something. You came here to talk to me -- so talk. And if you have nothing to say -- then leave.” Charles took a short look at the bookcase again, “I can always catch up to you later.”
The vampire’s eyes welted again, “You don’t understand, Doctor Foster.”
Charles exhaled through pursed lips, “Then talk to me. I may surprise you.” His frown disappeared. He bent, and leaned forward into her, his lips almost touching her fangs, “I’m a good guy you know. I’m not the crazed vampire killer you’ve heard about.” He walked away and returned to the comfort of his armchair.
Iza Cara swallowed hard. She rested her feet flat on the floor, ready to stand. She stared into him shortly before finally opening up, “Have you ever heard of the Sunbottle Stone?”
He shook his head “No” and gave her a sharp glare of concentration, which pressed her back in her chair.
“The Sunbottle Stone is why I, my father, and my ancestors for hundreds of years, are able to walk the Earth in the sunshine, lead normal lives, work, live in harmony with humans, and be a productive part of society.”
“Blood; what about blood.”
“Minimal,” Iza Cara answered, “And if you must know, I, like my ancestors for centuries, have never taken a human life. I eat the same foods you do.”
“So what about this stone you’re talking about; what is it?”
“It’s a living organism from the blood of my ancestors. They kept it in a hollowed stone for centuries, and only they drank from the Stone. We have passed the Sunbottle down from generation to generation within our own family blood; no one else is allowed to drink from the stone.”
“That’s a lot of juice,” Charles laughed, “How much did they have?”
“The Stone is only six inches long and has a small top also made of Stone. The organism itself is yellow in color. The organism is asexual.”
“Asexual? It can reproduce itself.”
“Yes; because the inside of the stone is damp with the organism, it reproduces and fills the Stone. The organism is infinite; the Stone will never empty.”
“Where is this Sunbottle now?” Charles asked.
“I was the last to use it more than twenty five years ago.”
“So you took a swig of this bottle and then put it on a bureau or something. What happened to the bottle?
“The elders send a messenger. They take and keep the bottle, and deliver it when it’s time. I don’t know where they go.”
Charles circled his desk while he thought. “Let me get this straight. This messenger delivers the stuff, and then after you take a shot of it, he takes it back with him, right?”
“And next in line is your kid.”
“Yes, my Tessa.”
“Obviously this Alexander guy knows she’s going to get this stuff, and he wants it.”
“Yes, you’ve got to find her; find them.”
A playful, muffled conversation between Annie Prichart’s voice and a man’s voice came through the closed door.
Iza Cara used her hands to wipe the tears swelling in her eyes. Her breath shortened as the door opened.
The man who opened the door stepped in and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me.”
Annie remained at her desk and yelled, “I said you were busy, but of course -- he doesn’t listen.”
The young man excused himself once again, and then backed out.
“It’s okay, Kyle,” Charles told him. “Come in. Iza Cara, this is Dr. Kyle McClendon, my intern.”
Kyle stepped into the office. He turned to look at Annie, and then shut the door. “Well, I’m not a full doctor yet,” he said shyly, “I do hope to have my own practice someday.” He shook Iza Cara’s hand politely and didn’t notice her teeth. He was medium height, solidly built, thin in the shoulders, thin in the neck, with a childish face with black, tight finger curls. He was apparently Annie Prichart’s age, which explained the constant playfulness between them.
Once again, the door opened. Annie poked her head into the room. “Does anybody want coffee?”
“Only if you put your finger in it to sweeten it up,” Kyle said.
“Sorry cornball,” Annie laughed and closed the door.
“I’m sorry, Iza Cara,” Charles said, “Would you like a cup?”
“No thank you,” she answered.
Kyle gasped lightly at Iza Cara’s fangs. He hurried towards the bookcase.
The lady vampire fidgeted; she wanted to get up and run.
“Don’t worry,” Charles said, and put both his hands up at the same time; one motioning Kyle to stop going toward the bookcase, and the other to motion Iza Cara to stay seated. “Nobody moves.”
“So what’s going on?” Kyle asked. He looked at Iza Cara. “She’s a vampire. Do you trust her?”
Charles said, “Her daughter Tessa seems to have gone off with a man named Dimitri Alexander. Have you ever heard of him?”
Kyle shrugged no. “Do you trust her?”
“In some odd way.” Charles turned to Iza Cara. “When was the last time you heard from Alexander or your daughter?”
“Last Thursday,” she answered, “He wants to know where the Sunbottle is, and said he will let my daughter come back to me if I tell him where it is. I’m supposed to meet him tonight.”
“What’s a Sunbottle?” Kyle asked.
“It’s an ancient formula that vampires drink,” Charles answered, “They can come out during the day and lead normal lives, like Iza Cara here.” Charles reached and took her hand. “Is he holding your daughter hostage?”
“Maybe we should follow her,” Kyle suggested.
Charles looked over his shoulder at his intern. “And you’re asking me if I trust her?”
“No,” she gasped, “He may hurt my daughter. He’s already killed my grandfather. He would do anything to drink from the Sunbottle.”
Charles used his note pad “What’s this guy look like?”
“Oh, he’s around forty years old, your height, and pale. He has Brown hair and bushy eyebrows. He’s a loud man with an irritating manner. He grates on my nerves. The daylight nearly left him disfigured; he has terrible scars on the left side of his face and his left arm. One look at him and you could see violence steaming out of every pore.”
Charles scribbled on the pad and didn’t look up. “What color are his eyes? Are they like yours?”
“No, they are black and filled red with blood.”
“Oh yeah, he sounds like a lot of fun,” Kyle injected and puffed through pursed lips.
“How about his build; is he big, small, fat --?”
“Athletic,” Iza Cara answered, “He has broad shoulders and carries himself like a military general.”
Charles stopped writing. “What time are you supposed to meet him tonight?”
“Eight o’clock, in front of the Landings.”
“Does he think you have the Sunbottle?”
“He knows I don’t have it. He expects me to tell him where it is. I want my daughter back, and I don’t even know if she’s going to be with him.”
“Do you know where it is?” Kyle asked.
“It’s kept by the elders; my ancestors. I have no idea where the stone is located right now. Any one of them can be harboring the bottle.”
“All right, Iza Cara, I’m going to contact my friends on the police force, they’ll make sure they’ll have a man there. To make it….”
“Dr. Foster, could either you or Dr. McClendon?” She clasped her hands together, “Could either of you look after this meeting personally? I feel more comfortable with you, and I’m afraid what might happen to my Tessa. Please. I’m afraid of Alexander.” She removed five one-hundred dollar bills from her purse and nervously placed them on the desk. “Is this enough?”
Charles took four bills and gave them back to Iza Cara. “A doctor’s visit only cost a hundred bucks.”
Kyle pocketed the hundred-dollar bill. “Ms. Iza Cara, rest assured I will look after this meeting myself.”
“Thank you, oh thank you Dr. McClendon,” she shook his hand and then took Charles’s hand, and repeated, “Thank you.”
“How could we get a hold of you?” Kyle asked.
“I’m staying at the Landings,” She answered, “Off Barrow Street near the docks in Elizabethtown.”
Charles walked Iza Cara from his office to the outer office. Annie attached a client information form to a clipboard and gave it to him. “Are we doing a file?” She asked.
Charles waved the clipboard away. “That’s not necessary,” he said. He opened the door for the vampire. She thanked him and left. Charles shook his head to clear his mind. He smiled at Annie, “Whew,” he sighed, “That woman’s got some issues.”
Kyle had made himself comfortable behind the desk when Charles returned to his office. “Well?” Charles grinned.
Kyle smiled, “If she weren’t a vampire, she’d be your type.”
“Yeah, she’s a looker,” Charles agreed. “I have two things to say,” he smiled, “One; “You be careful tonight, and two; get out of my seat.”