Grumbling, I went into my study and to the handy wall safe and pulled out a clean cell phone from the pile stored next to my numerous passports, credit cards and a stack of good, old-fashioned, spendable cash. I had learned over the long years that survival at times was just a matter of anticipating catastrophe as if my life, such as it was, depended on it. Because it honestly did. Sticking the new phone onto a charger, I didn't bother calling my service provider as it was what is commonly called a 'burner phone.' To those just waking from a coma or something that's a phone paid for with cash; usually it was for temporary use or for other sorts of criminal enterprises. After purchasing the cell phones, I had automatically loaded my normal phone list and stuck it in the safe for the proverbial rainy day. I picked up two or three new cells a year along my travels just for such a 'day' and once my world stopped spinning, I'd download my fave apps and switch services according to my location and needs. I hated doing it, but Jason's talk about a new clean-up crew in town wasn't to be ignored lightly. Sometimes it paid to listen to my darker paranoid instincts. No matter what the era, I'd developed a few self-preservation habits that had saved my ass on multiple occasions.
My brain was rushing from one scattered thought to another, interlaced with a few muddy memories of last night's play time. Bob was the man dropping in pieces from the treetop as near as I could recall. He'd been the alpha in his little lopsided triangle of chaos. The half dozen or so faces were beginning to pop back into my memories. First thing I recalled was that I'd been tired and bored after a long week of dealing with contractors and sub-contractors. My current house was in a neighborhood undergoing some major upscale growth. Street parking was limited, and more and more houses were being used for those obsequious and illegal short-term rentals. Adding the tourist drawn to the quaint homes and upscale bars in the area easily accessed by Uber, Lyft and trashy scooters -- that were being rented hourly and littering the landscape with the casual disregard for rules or manners -- I found myself getting edgy. It wasn't safe for me as my anonymity was becoming compromised and too many bloggers and self-appointed celebrities "influencers" were recording their every second of existence and it wasn't becoming too easy to remain unknown in the background from a human's personal public diary.
Normally I would've just sold my house and moved on to another city, but I wasn't ready to give up on the banquet available in the town. San Diego wasn't as aware of her size like Los Angeles. If you went to LA or San Francisco it was expected to be a city while San Diego clung to her past as a port city of unremarkable size with none of the hostile urban areas that were readily reported by the other cities on the West Coast; delusional, but it was the image the mayor gave to the rest of the country. Watching the news, I was familiar with the layout of the less renewal friendly hoods and looked carefully when I figured it was time to relocate my base of operations.
With this in mind, I'd picked out a new house further from active downtown that was in a more transitional, as some call it edgy, neighborhood for my next home. That meant remodeling and enhancing what most people would have seen as a money pit, as there wasn't much chance of the area growing rapidly; the invisible, under-reported, gangs were still fighting for turf with automatic guns and knives, depending on their identity. Knowing I'd paid too much for the house, even though it fit my desires, I had to suck up some games to get what I wanted. To my disgust, the contractors and sub-contractors thought I was an absolute idiot and were all trying to gouge me on my remodel. That each one was asking more than other contractors for bids on my house hadn't helped. From what I could tell, it was like they had a shared list of automatic price increases for stupid basic jobs.
I was growing more and more frustrated by questions like, "Bethany, surely you've thought how appealing a sunken tub could be after a long day?" Sunken tubs were ridiculous not to mention excessive in a small home. It jacked up the plumbing, electric and remodel by thousands of dollars. Not even going into the whole Southern California's perpetual water shortage. Once or twice being asked such inane questions or heavily pushed suggestions, I could have dismissed but in the past week I'd been harangued by six different contractors or their sub-contractor offering to do the work off the books for cash. The sunken tub just was one of the many upgrades being heavily suggested to me. Like anyone buying into this neighborhood expected the lifestyles of upscale wealthy Hollywood sorts -- yeah -- no!
So, I wasn't in the mood to be bugged when I wandered into a bar near my current home. I'd been there maybe once or twice in the past few months just to decompress before heading home. I liked to grab a hot snack without having to talk much -- loud crowds were quite the feast for me. Fog was creeping up and down the streets with some coastal drizzle making it damp and uncomfortably empty. I'd walked inside without pausing to sense the number of patrons. The usual bodies were missing. Yeah, don't tell me, that should've been a major clue there was something amiss, but I was mentally raging at the crappy day and not being my usual paranoid vamp. My bad. I knew damn well when my world was going sideways there was always room for more. And by 'more' I mean everything odd, crazy and wrong.
The usual bartender was slammed and the bar back was an absolute waste of skin with zero intellect and the grooming habits of the local homeless. The scents wafting off the guy were stomach-turning for humans, and increased vampire awareness didn't help in any manner dilute the stench. Catching one of the few waitresses on the floor was impossible at best, and none were anywhere near me to suggest much of anything via my vampire skillset. At that point I really should've turned my exhausted ass out of the tawdry pub, but as life is prone to twist and turn erratically this night was no exception. A burly, flannel man slammed into my side dousing my leg with draft beer. Naturally he immediately set to assigning me blame for his stupidity.
"Fucking bitch! You knocked my beer out of my hands. What the hell is your problem?" As I was currently wearing said beer, I took a second to shake my leg before lifting it rapidly kneeing him in his pathetic twigs and berries. He doubled over swearing and my knee completed the motion connecting solidly with his chin now conveniently nearby waiting for my direct answer.
"Not a bitch and you spilled on me. Get out of my way." I was now done with the bar and in no mood to play. Unfortunately, flannel man wasn't alone. Now his buddies circled us like mongrel dogs looking for a way to tag in and get a piece of me. Really stupid move on a good day -- it had not been in anyway one of those for me -- I spun snatching a nearly empty long neck beer from a table top snapping it on the edge with a tad more than human strength shearing off the bottom, leaving me with a jagged weapon perfectly explainable if later viewed on the bar cameras or one of the many cell phones now raised and pointed directly at me running, as if I was paid entertainment provided by the bar. I heard a gasp from one of the guys recording me. He was less than a foot from me and not looking in the least inclined to help. He was more focused on pushing buttons while toggling on his device and setting up the best angle for his shot. I am pretty sure that I gave out a growl. Hell, I knew damn well that I growled.
One of the men circling me shouted, "Bob! This bitch nutted Fred! What should we do?"
Fred wasn't dead. Sheesh, overreact much? No, I wasn't stupid enough to say that aloud but my body language kinda shouted it for me. Again, bad day. All of my self-preservation instincts were screaming for me to get the hell out of there before it became one of those epic bad days, I'd experienced more than once, but hell to the no it wasn't to be. Bob growled unseen from a crowded area deep inside the bar, "Fuckwits, can't you handle anything?" My 'Spidey' senses were now yelling for me to make a rapid escape rather than escalate. The four flannelled friends tightened ranks while yanking Fred off the floor. Five to one -- I'd had worse odds -- but in a crowd of stupid people too busy trying to get footage of the encounter for their social media lives complicated matters. I really hated the current world and missed the good old days of illusion and delusion tools of my kinds trade. I hated to be filmed in any manner. Despite the legends and movies tall tales about vampires we are in the visual spectrum and range. We just blurred on the edge at times, which wasn't really noticeable in the grand scheme of things if we took it a step further and fanged out and tore out visceral and body parts for the camera. Our speed wasn't even remotely human, but people dismissed it easily as it didn't mentally work inside their worldview. And so yeah, I was royally fucked given the number of voyeurs capturing the action on their readily available cell phones. Damn stupid millennials. Not a single one put down their phones to see if they could help. I growled a bit louder in frustration. Fuckwit number two, I automatically assigned temporary numbers as I didn't have his name, had called out to Bob now shook himself like the nasty dog he was and chuckled. "Guys, she's ours, it seems. Wanna take her outside and play?" The answering laughter was creepy and promised pain.
I wasn't being asked but told. I really hated bossy morons with a red-hot passion. I mentally marked him as the last to kill. They had worked together before was my immediate take away as they closed the space between me and them instantly. I wasn't their first rodeo, but once out of camera shot, I planned on being their last. The fool closest to the door flipped back his coat to show me a large knife stuck into a sheath and nodded to the bottle. Fuckwit number three hissed, "Lose the bottle, babe or Jack here will make you bleed." Oh happy, happy joy, joy a man who named his weapons. Growling, I let the broken bottle fall to the floor. Not a single by-stander bothered to slow the sea of flannel kidnapping me in plain sight. The bartender hadn't lifted his head to see past all the thirsty patrons and was clueless about my arrival and my unintended hostile departure.
The door was opened to a heavy foggy night and quickly they pushed me out into the night. The echoes of our nearly choreographed exit were muffled by the thick, marine layer of fog. A mixture of damp air with a healthy measure of drizzle thrown in for good sticky air. Ah, the joys of living on the coast embraced my departure as if part of a plan, not one I approved but alas I wasn't really being favored by any of the gods past or present at the moment. The guy, Fred, that I'd kicked in the balls was coming around and moaning while regaining his footing. He was swearing out his pain and again tossing around his favorite name for me 'bitch' -- that really was starting to get on my last nerve.