The car was a mid-sized sedan. Basically a nondescript vehicle with nothing on it that was memorable to later identify the make or model. It screamed government. The medium sized man who was getting out from behind the wheel was wearing business casual with a decent haircut and predatory gleam in his eye. Most humans would have been happy to see what appeared to be such an upstanding Good Samaritan come to their aid. But the vampires by the side of the nearly deserted road weren't either -- happy or human. There hadn't been another vehicle on either side of the highway for a good ten minutes.
Seeing the tableau of vampires frozen by the roadside the man called out, "What seems to be the trouble?"
The BMW was parked behind the motorcycle Kegs had used to chase them down when he flagged them over to the side of the road. The traffic was nearly nonexistent so deep into the evening. They were a good half hour from the city and stars could be seen scattered in the purple-black evening sky. The newcomer was unexpected and unneeded by the vampires. His car was off the highway but too close to the BMW to suit any of them.
"Nothing's wrong," Charlotte elected to speak knowing how humans reacted to both of her companions. A really big menacing-looking biker and a really big menacing-looking black man -- she knew well how it looked. Since she could see a bulge on his ankle she assumed he had a gun nestled in the small of his back also. He was definitely broadcasting a cop of some flavor. Since he didn't have a partner she was guessing rogue from some alphabet soup agency. Most of the suits came in pairs as part of the rules and regulations for intimidation and government control. He wasn't intimidated walking up to a group of strangers in the least. No scent of fear drifted to them.
The man didn't acknowledge her reply but looked directly into Toby's face and asked, "Are these two bothering you?"
Color her surprised -- she was being taken as the bad guy. Then it dawned on Charlotte she still had her hand on Kegs' arm and they were next to the motorcycle while Toby wasn't too far from the BMW. Money did speak louder than words. She wondered if he got a sniff of the blood-drenched clothing yet and it dawned on her that the air conditioning had masked and chilled most of the smell during their drive. Only vampires and the rare human would be able to smell the dried blood now on Toby's clothing.
Toby shot them a smile and turned back saying, "Thanks, sir, but I'm fine. I was stopping to see if they needed help."
Suspicion chased across the intruder's face and he attempted to look disinterested but they all could feel his heart rate jump just a bit.
"No worries, then I will be letting you all get to your business." He turned as if to head back to his car. With a fluid motion he pulled a gun from the small of his back, naturally, facing the trio he said, "Oh, but first let me have your wallets and jewelry."
Charlotte laughed wholeheartedly and said, "I don't give my jewelry up -- just ask my friends."
"No, she likes shiny objects," Kegs was chuckling softly and she saw a flash of fangs in his smile. There was nothing like a stupid human to lighten the mood.
The man shook the gun at them as he snarled, "I'll give her a shiny bullet right between her pretty eyes."
"No, thanks, I've had one of those before. They're a total bitch to heal." She freed herself from Kegs' side and watched the other two vampires adjust to mirror her stance.
"Stupid bitch, I have the gun." He wasn't used to resistance when he brought out the gun. The look of confusion was nearly priceless.
"So what. I have fangs." She grinned and watched the man back pedal towards his car door. Toby beat him by seconds. His smile was also enhanced with his lovely fangs, and the well-dressed man started to figure out that this wasn't the golden opportunity to rob some strangers he'd thought. Charlotte had to love when predators became prey -- she always got a kick out of it. Humans mistakenly thought they were so high up on the species chain.
"You know what you are?" Kegs asked as he'd closed the distance with vampiric speed to join Toby in boxing the man in between them.
"I'm the one with the weapon," his voice wasn't nearly as strong as before and in a quicker movement Charlotte stepped up and removed the handgun.
"And now you aren't." She twirled the gun on her finger and handed it over to Kegs. She didn't much care for guns as a rule. They ruined the fun of the chase and pumping of fear in the air. Impersonal mostly, since vampires preferred more hands-on killings, yet they did have their uses. She just didn't think shooting him would be much fun.
"That makes you dinner." Kegs had a feral grin and anger burning in his eyes. He shoved the stranger's gun into the small of his back. He was tired of being pushed around and run from one crisis to another. This human would help take the edge off his growing temper.
All three crowded the man. He wasn't nearly as cocky now that he didn't have his gun to threaten them with and he was obviously out numbered. He'd yet to comment on the teeth but it couldn't have escaped his notice. It wasn't like they planned on letting him leave.
Bravado and the strength of having years of bullying humans sparked in the man's eyes and he bit back, "Fuck you. Dinner. What the hell are you people cannibals?"
All three of the vampires chuckled.
Toby answered, "We aren't cannibals. We don't tear bits of you off and swallow the gristle and meat. Granted you humans are little more than a food source to us. But not how you think -- well for the most part. But you're more along the lines of fish in an aquarium. Entertaining at times and can be used in many ways. You have any children?"
Horror etched the man's face. Not at the idea of being a possible food source, but the idea of having children. The vampires felt the ripple of disgust run through his body. No need for them to dip into his gutter of a mind. It was plain for them all to see that his heart was black and tainted. They all knew that it wasn't the first time he'd come to deal death to total strangers but it was going to be his last time.
"Glad to know your gene pool won't be carried into the future generations by some miniature hellions of your pathetic sperm," Toby laughed into the man's face. The mortal's face was bright red -- flushed with anger but he wasn't stupid enough to try anything.
"So had you spawned your child would probably have had an aquarium to watch with delight and naturally being one of your progeny would also torment the fish, unnoticed, deep in the night. Human parents often give their kids these chores and responsibilities." Charlotte smiled knowing where he was going with this analogy. Toby really was eloquent when the mood suited him. She knew he was delaying dealing with the human because of her. She smiled, happy she was causing him concern and conflict. It meant he wasn't ready to kill her quite yet.
"The nature of children being -- with their easily distracted minds -- that the day or two would come when the child would forget to feed their fish. Perhaps put in water not properly cleaned. Or just be too busy and generally neglect the fish. It happens. Every now and then a tank goes belly up. And you, as a parent, simply flush and restock while your child plays. The fish are interchangeable pretty much to a child. Any notice would be fleeting and easily explained away. The child doesn't care where the entertainment comes from and fish hold little mystery or complexity." Toby smiled and nodded to Kegs.
Kegs laughed and said, "And dude, you are little more than a fish to me. We don't care what kind of fish you are, and we are perfectly happy flushing you if need be. There are always more little fishes out there, you know."
Fangs forward Kegs didn't cloud the man's mind in any way but simply tore into his throat. The vampire's ripping and drinking was swift and merciless. The man struggled, but surprisingly didn't scream or shout. His strength was useless against the vampire but he gave it a damn good try. Toby and Charlotte grinned at each other while watching the life pulse out and down Kegs' throat. The man, whose name they never bothered to ask, to the vampires was indeed little more than a flushable fish in the human pond.
Finishing, Kegs dropped the body saying, "Hmmm, tastes like chicken." His sarcasm was appreciated by Charlotte if not by Toby. Toby was still brooding a bit about the Council and Charlotte.
She couldn't tell what Toby was thinking. His face had that shutdown look and his eyes had gone back to the far off distant stare of deep thinking. She was in no hurry to push his decisions, given one of the options wasn't something she wanted to do. She really liked being a vampire. Somehow she didn't think death would suit her.
Not one to give up a perfectly good opportunity to make some quick change, Kegs liberated the contents of the man's pockets while stuffing him in the sedan's trunk. He flipped open the thick billfold and said, "Our robber's name was Jackson Randolph. Whoa, check it out, the fucker had two sets of fake IDs one set with John Ransom and another with Jed Rudolph so I'm just guessing which name was his. He liked his basics with the initials JR, so hell, they all may be fake."
Toby nodded and asked, "So was he a cop?"
"According to the various documents he has he's the local police, state police and also federal police." Kegs said drolly. He had been a confused man -- given his obvious identity crisis.
"I'm guessing he's a grifter of some kind." Kegs said as he began counting out the cash. "A really well paid one at that. I am up to three thousand dollars and there are still plenty of hundreds left. Won't even guess at the credit lines on all these bits of plastic but at a glance he seemed to have had some serious assets."
"Probably all stolen," Charlotte added while Toby continued to ponder his situation. She tossed Kegs her Zippo lighter saying, "I figured you'd need to burn something tonight. This seems like the perfect opportunity. The car has cloth seat covers." Kegs grinned. She'd pegged his desires correctly.
"And how will the body torched in the trunk play out?" He was already flipping the lighter and dancing the flames across his hands. Most vampires feared fire but he always had an affinity for the element. Kegs had told her once that fire had been his friend since as far back as he could remember and that being a vampire hadn't changed that any.
Laughing Charlotte said, "You think he left many friends?"
"Dunno and don't care." Kegs agreed with her assessment.
He went to the side of the road and pulled some dry brush to start the fire. The various kindling went into the mix and within five minutes was prepared to torch the car.
"Toby, you going to let me take Charlotte back?" He'd yet to light the fire but once he did, they'd have no more than ten minutes tops before the carbeque would be fully engulfed. Vampires could heal all sorts of damage but the heat from a good car fire usually proved fatal and given their close proximity collateral damage wouldn't be unlikely.
"I can't, Kegs. But I won't harm her." Toby pronounced. Charlotte didn't turn cartwheels because she caught the vague wording of his promise.
"Toby, will you protect her?" Kegs had picked up the nuances.
He sighed deeply and said, "I will."
With that reply Charlotte felt something break free inside her. He wasn't going to turn her over to the Council. Kegs nodded and swept his hand towards the BMW. Toby went to the passenger side and opened the door for Charlotte.
"Gee, I don't get to drive yet?" She didn't know where they were headed, but knew with Toby defending her she'd get there in one happy vampiric piece.
Once they got back on the road she turned around in her seat to watch Kegs light the human's sedan on fire. He caught her gaze and sketched her a wave. The grin on his face stayed in her mind as they drove out of sight. No matter where Toby was taking her, she knew she still had friends in the wings. She knew that coming adventures could be nothing but fun with the vampires she had in her life. Looking over at Toby she said, "I guess you need to figure out where to hide now. I have a locker full of treasures just a few hours further out of town. What say we hit that first?"
Toby laughed and said, "Why the hell not?"