The Right Shade of Brown
A short story from the
Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price
By W. J. Onufer
“…Did you have to kill him?” Hadley asked the other Vampire.
Most of the time it wasn’t necessary for a Vampire to kill a Human, while taking their blood.
That other Vampire saw the sexy high-heeled boots come into view, as they stopped next to the dead Human on the ground. It’s a woman, he thought. He looked up at her as he knelt over the lifeless form beneath him. Blood dripped from his mouth and down his chin in his feeding on this man. He didn’t care that the average Vampire wasn’t usually that messy. That kind of behavior was a cliché of what Humans thought Vampires acted like. But at that moment, he was that cliché.
It’s...her, he thought. The boots are nice. She wears them well. Damn sexy. Brown. No. More of a reddish-brown. They match her red hair. It’s a nice brown. But it’s not…the right shade of brown.
“Hadley?” he asked, as if he were in a mind fog. “Is that you?”
Yes. Hadley Price, he thought. How did she get here? I didn’t sense her approach.
“You’re getting sloppy, Louchenzo,” she said in stern tone. “Leaving dead bodies around with fangs marks on their necks doesn’t exactly help keep the secret of our existence from the Humans.” She paused. “I know Rochelle’s death has hit you pretty hard. But you need to get your act together when you go out to feed.”
How long would he mourn the loss of her? Hadley wondered. Vampire time is not finite. They had time. Lots of it. Hadley had heard stories of Vampires whose heartache over a lost love had driven them to the point of insanity – and beyond. When Vampires bonded, it went way beyond the most passionate love affair of Humans. If that bond was severed, the survivor was left traumatized. There were stories of Vampires who took decades of celibacy to recover from such tragedy.
It seemed a bit excessive. But if I were to lose Nathan, Hadley asked herself, how long would I mourn? If Nathan were taken from me, a century of morning would not be excessive. And no other man would share a bed with me in that time. The lack of Nathan in my life would certainly have me flirting with madness.
But Louchenzo was already in it. Insanity was teasing him over the brink. Whenever he reached out to touch Rochelle, she wasn’t there. She was gone. Dead. Never to return. Nothingness invaded the space where the Vampire Rochelle Moreau used to be. The space that only the woman he loved could occupy. The damned nothingness.
How does one fight something that isn’t there?
But if one is a Vampire, one can kill Humans. It could happen by mistake. As an accident. Through negligence or sheer indifference. Or on purpose. As Hadley stood, looking down on him and his victim, the Vampire Louchenzo Kincade wasn’t sure how this murder happened or what his intentions were. But the result was obvious.
Maybe it was the brown suit the man wore. It was a nice brown color. But not quite…the right shade of brown.
“Yes. Of course,” Louchenzo said.
He was still a bit disoriented. He had just killed a Human. But the weight of that deed was over-shadowed by the misery of life without Rochelle.
“You’re right, Hadley. I am getting sloppy in my feeding habits. I put all of our kind at risk of discovery by the Humans. Please forgive me.”
“I’m not with you at this moment to hear your apology,” Hadley said. “You need to straighten up and watch yourself when you seek a drink of the red.” She paused. “It’s a good thing I found you.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a good thing I found you and one or more of the Hunters…didn’t. They really don’t like it when Vampires kill Humans.”
“Hmm…Yes. The Vampire Hunters.”
When she spoke again, her lecturing tone softened. “Rochelle was a wonderful woman who loved you passionately. She was a proper lady and a discrete Vampire. You must miss her terribly.”
“I do,” Louchenzo said. “We were looking forward to celebrating our centennial anniversary.” He paused. “I miss her, Hadley. I miss the shimmering brown of her beautiful hair. And the same color of her soft, warm flesh. I miss how she wore the brown color in her clothing to match her hair and skin. And no matter what she wore, it was always…the right shade of brown.”
Hadley didn’t quite know how to respond to that. Was he making some sort reference to him being Caucasian and Rochelle…not? No. He was talking nonsense, the gibberish of the mentally unstable. But Hadley was determined to be kind with him in the heartache of losing his lover.
“Just be careful,” she said.
Hadley knew nothing she said would ease his pain, calm his mind and sooth his shattered heart. Even saying that time will heal all wounds would be empty words and not give him anything to hold on to. Time would make things better, but he was not ready to hear that.
“I’ll call you in a couple weeks to see how you’re doing.”
“Okay. Thanks, Hadley.”
As Hadley walked away, Louchenzo took out his blood flask and his dagger. He would contact his Loyal Human Servant to have this body removed and disposed of. No Humans would find the corpse with the fang marks on its neck. And he realized that, if Hadley had not paid him a visit and given him a reality check, he probably would have neglected that clean-up.
Before he did that, Louchenzo stabbed his dagger across the fang marks, to further slice open the jugular. He took the cap off the empty flask and put the open end to the bloody wound. Between feeding on this Human man and his fangs severing that neck artery, the man bled-out. Bled-out…to death. There wasn’t much left to fill his flask. But there was some and he did collect what he could in that container.
Most Vampires carried a blood flask in the event that acquiring fresh blood was problematic. Or if they just wanted a quick nip. They found it amusing that they could do that in public, in plain sight of the Humans.
Louchenzo would not drink the blood he had just put in his flask. Even with his sanity in question, he would not break the Vampire taboo of consuming the blood of the recently dead.
But that was not the only reason why he didn’t drink it.
When he got home, he went downstairs to a secured door in the basement. He unlocked it. On the other side of that door was a refrigerator. He opened it. The shelf racks were removed. There were only two things inside: two five-gallon buckets with a top on each. One was filled. The other, nearly filled.
With Human blood.
He poured the blood from his flask into the one that needed topping off.
True to her word, Hadley called Louchenzo two weeks later.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hi, Louchenzo. It’s Hadley.”
“Hey, Hadley. Is everything okay? Do you need me for something?”
A couple years ago, Hadley had gathered a small army of Vampires to deal with a particularly nasty outbreak of zombies. Those walking corpses presented no danger to Vampires. They were, however, a serious threat to Humans. Vampires are very protective of their only source of blood. Louchenzo was in that small army.
“No,” Hadley said. “Nothing like that. I’m just calling to see how you’re doing.”
“Better,” he said. “I’m trying to keep busy.”
He does sound better, Hadley thought. Two weeks ago, when I saw him, he was in his own little world. It was as if I wasn’t even there. And that strange talk of…the right shade of brown. Whatever that is. But now, he’s alert and more present. He’s making progress.
“I’m doing some home fix-it work,” he said.
“Don’t you have people who can do that for you?”
“I do. But this is a project of my own. Keeping busy, ya know?”
“You’ll have to tell me how that works out.”
“I will. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction a couple of weeks back. I was sort of out of it.”
What Hadley didn’t know was that Louchenzo had killed four more Humans in his nocturnal activities in the two weeks since they were face-to-face. He was harvesting blood in a quantity that was much more than what he needed to drink to survive. He was very careful to bring in his Loyal Human Servant to deal with the bodies. They would never be found. Human law enforcement would log missing person reports. It happened all the time. It wouldn’t be until there were ten, maybe fifteen such reports in a short period of time that they would notice any pattern. But before that happened, Louchenzo would have enough blood to fill the second of the two five gallon buckets in his basement.
In spite of Hadley’s optimism, he was still very much out of it. He was faking it quite well, but he still lived in his own little world.
A world without Rochelle. The love of his life. The woman with the beautiful brown hair and the lovely mocha skin. Louchenzo was a Caucasian Vampire who, obviously, never went out in the sun. He was Vampire white. The contrast in their skin colors, when they made love, never failed to thrill him, even after almost one hundred years. It thrilled him, not because it was brown flesh, but because it was her brown flesh.
“You sound better,” Hadley said. “You have a home fix-it project. So I’ll leave you to it.”
“Thanks, Hadley. I’ll see you later.”
Yes, he thought. I do have enough to finally get to that home fix-it project.
Painting the rec room downstairs.
He had already done the prep-work. When he descended to the basement and entered the rec room, he saw the dropcloths on the furniture and pool table and on the floor. The baseboards and door frames were masked with tape.
He had his pan and roller to bulk paint large, flat areas. And he had a couple of paint brushes for the trim and corners that the paint roller couldn’t get into.
Let’s get to it, he thought.
Louchenzo went to the secured refrigerator, unlocked it and took out one of the buckets of blood. After the lid was removed, he dipped a paint brush and applied it to the trim and corners. Once that was done, he poured the blood into the pan and used the roller to bulk-apply it to the larger flat areas.
With all four walls now a bright red, Louchenzo stepped back to look at his work. It doesn’t look quite right, he thought. It needs to dry. And yes, it will need a second coat.
It didn’t occur to him to take a sip of that blood. He wasn’t like a baker who might take a taste of the frosting while preparing a cake. All the red in that bucket was, after all, the blood of the recently dead. Even an insane Vampire didn’t break such a taboo.
The next day, Louchenzo went back down stairs to the basement to see the result of his work.
“Yes! I got it right!” he said to the empty room. “For you, my love!” He both laughed and started to cry at the same time. “All for you, my beautiful Rochelle! All for you!” The tears overtook the laughter. He fell to his knees and wept. “Why did you leave me? Why did you have to die? God damn it, Rocky! Why? I miss you so much…”
He reveled in the small consolation that the Vampire Rochelle Moreau would have approved. No. She wouldn’t have cared for the bright red when the walls were freshly painted. But she would have kissed him and hugged him and laughed in the pure joy of their love, because he did get it right.
Now that the blood had dried, those walls were…
The right shade of brown.
About the author
W. J. Onufer
Warren Onufer a.k.a. W. J. Onufer has been a lifelong fan of science fiction and Vampire fantasy. His first full-length novel, Beckman’s Folly: Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price was published in the fall of 2015. And now with the new full-length novel, Torch, the Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price saga continues. Warren’s professional history includes employment in commercial radio and as a movie reviewer for The Entertainment Review Magazine. He is the co-host of the Grace and the Author Podcast and a contributing writer and contributing voice talent for the popular online audio drama, The Byron Chronicles. Warren is a coin collector and a knife collector. And of course he haunts libraries and bookstores on a constant quest for the old and the new in books of all genres. He lives with his three imaginary Vampire friends- Hadley, Nathan and Svetlana -in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
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