The World Builders Writing Club is a diverse group of aspiring authors who meet once a month and showcase some of their work on the Free Library blog.
Please enjoy this first look at a new work-in-progress by one of our writers and share your thoughts in the comments.
Fangs to Flesh
by Tamoul Quakhaan
Somewhere just ahead a car door slammed, a man cursed, and a woman's high heels clicked an agitated beat against the concrete as she stormed down the busy sidewalk. A few paces behind, hidden in the crowds, Abel could see her: slender back rigid, shoulder-length black cornrows bouncing and hips swaying. She was fussing under her breath, calling the driver a "perv" and "slime-ball". Abel chuckled, sounds like she’s met up with my older brother Kane. He followed her, never quite coming abreast or attracting her attention in the glass fronts of the electronic stores, boutiques, or restaurants along 11th and Chestnut streets. The woman’s arms were prevented from swinging by a load of books clutched to her chest. Every now and then a few would slip and she would pause to adjust them.
Abel indulged in one of his favorite pastimes, a game where he challenged himself to guess the occupation of his meal donor. This one was wearing a well-tailored business suit: light textured fabric, pale gray against warm toast colored stockings. Her stride was fluid, muscles supple, and her posture spoke of high self esteem.
Not a secretary then, he mused. Secretaries didn’t get paid enough to cover her expensive leather brief case or the matching Italian leather heels. A court reporter, maybe a paralegal or a financial analyst? Abel’s mouth watered as he ran his tongue over his extended eye-teeth. There was just something about Kane’s businesspeople that added extra flavor of their blood. All that wheeling and dealing was like adding salt and spice on home fries. I have that on good authority, the taste of spicy fries. Perhaps, if he could get a glimpse of her books, he might get a clue without cheating on the rules he'd set for himself.
Rule #2: no mind reading. Where was the fun in that? The hunt became slaughter without equal footing, and Abel had never loved butchering his sheep.
Instead, Abel raised one long dark finger and drew a line from her left shoulder across to her right, and then made a forceful downward motion. Her books hit the pavement.
"Oh, for the lov’ah God!"
The woman threw up her hands in surrender, then stooped to gather up her books, giving Abel a pleasant view of long, brown thigh. "This just isn’t my day."
Abel moved forward with unnatural swiftness, his eyes taking in the titles at a glance. What the hell!? He didn’t know any of these authors.
"Are you alright, Miss?" His eyes met hers; and as he scooped up her books all thoughts of her as a meal stepped right out into oncoming traffic and perished.
"Fine," she quipped. Her voice was a subtle mix of tenor and alto with a hint of West Indies flavor. "Thanks."
He couldn’t help it. He stared. She had liquid caramel eyes over a classic African nose, and lips that did naughty things down his spine without his having to think about it. And when she turned on that nervous smile, thoughts of her withering on his bed threatened to ramp up the fire in his blood.
"Could I have those back now?" She sounded impatient.
"Are they new?" Abel debated returning the books. He couldn’t find grounds to retain custody and reluctantly handed some of them over. "I don’t recognize the authors," he explained, his left hand shooting out to support her left elbow as she rose. Old world manners kicking in.
The woman adjusted her armload and gave Abel a speculative glance before offering a reply: "They’re ARCs –you know? - uncorrected manuscripts."
"Ah, you work for a publisher," he mused. No wonder I didn’t know the authors, they’re newbies.
She shook her head, cornrows swinging, black with reddish-brown highlights.
"No, I’m the owner. Furious Publications, Inc."
"Uriel," Abel lied as he extended his hand, "Adamson. I write for the Inquirer and you are-?"
Shifting the books to rest in the bend of her left arm, the woman offered her right hand. "Mahdi," she announced. Her smile widened as he brought her fingers to his lips. "Amahdi Fury."
Abel grasped a handful off the top of her stack, added them back to his and gestured, indicating that she led on. Mahdi easily matched his long stride.
"Thanks, I really should get one of those rolling thingies."
Abel gave her an apprising look as he stepped to her right, placing himself between her and the curb. Another bit of old world nonsense, but what the hell, that’s who I am. Still, that didn’t keep him from enjoying the modern world’s best toys. "Nice wardrobe but no laptop," he asked teasingly.
Mahdi shook her head. They were passing a music store and the title track from the movie Art of War, the Betrayal, blasted into the street. Three doors down the level dropped enough for her to respond.
"Have you seen what they’re asking for one of those? A tablet’s on my to-do list. Not that I’d get an iPad. An Android’s just as good, open source, and easier on our budget. Furious is just taking baby steps. The wardrobe is pure Marketing and PR."
She paused to indicate a store front with a snarling wolf logo painted black inside a mist shrouded full moon. Terra cotta colored vertical blinds stood partially opened allowing the world a peek into the well lighted interior. The reception area was spartan but elegant, green with potted trees and flowers.
"Home sweet home," she muttered, reaching for the remainder of the books in his arms.
Rule #3: no use of supernatural persuasion. Having to work for a donation kept the process from becoming boring. Each donor required different incentives. Not that I’d want to consume her in that fashion!
"Hope you’re inviting me in," he said.
She studied him again, a concern for safety tug-of-warring with her innate politeness. Abel had overcome that reaction before. Grasping the door knob, he gave it half turn, eased it open, and lifted a dark eyebrow in question.
"Oh, what- da hell," she muttered soto voce, and with a nervous smile stepped past him. "Com’on in. Want coffee? After lugging those, it’s the least I can do."
Abel held the door open with his foot, gave himself a low fist pump once her back was turned, and stepped inside.
Kane glared at the four men seated around his shimmering crystal and chrome boardroom table. They were his; his children umpteen thousand generations removed. They shared nothing in common; neither fashion, nor language, nor national origin. What they did share was a scythe shaped mark on various but visible areas of their flesh, and an expression of dread, of wanting to be anywhere else but here. On any other day Kane might have found that mildly entertaining, but not today. Today the boredom was cresting and he was about to go insane –again. That’s where his personal "horseman" came into play. He desperately needed diversion.
War, famine, pestilence and death; oh my. Or was it Politics, Economics, FEMA and the Military? Every hundred years or so the names changed. He paused in mid step (he had been pacing the royal blue carpet) and folded muscular arms over his body-builder chest.
"What do I pay you for, Paulo?" he demanded in flawless Italian.
Paulo flinched. "Signori?"
Kane cocked his head, a signal that he was waiting, but he didn’t speak again.
"To manage your investments," Paulo, his economic advisor, responded with a nod.
"Wrong answer," Kane snapped. Turning, he stalked over to the bank of plate glass windows that held the city of New York on 24hr display from the 43th floor. After taking in the view for several moments, he continued without turning. "Bradford, care to give it go?" This time he used English, a London accent.
Deputy Mayor Bradford took a deep breath, sat up straighter and opened with: "produce results."
"Not even close." Kane groaned, and pinched the bridge of his wide nose with thick, dark fingers. "Clear out your offices, you’re both fired." No, report to the mail room. Maybe you’ll know what do down there. He spoke the order silently, mind to mind. After the shock cleared from their faces both Bradford and Paulo bolted for the double oak doors and disappeared without a word of protest. Kane could almost smell their relief; can you spell Thanks Giving?
The third occupant at the table refused to squirm. "Same question?" He asked in Arabic.
Kane nodded impatiently, turning to cock a bushy eyebrow.
"To relieve your boredom," The military man stated confidently.
Kane graced at the last man with a wicked grin. "He’ll do, Ntwalah. Now go find me two more."
The fourth man, a Kenyan, nodded. The command was again mind to mind and the African rose gracefully, departing in silence.
"Now for a chance at a new car and a corner office:" Kane continued in a Bob Barker personification. "What do you have for me today, Sharif?"
The young Arab lifted a folder from his lap and slid it to Kane across the table top. "Abel was sighted in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia to be precise. No reports of bloodless bodies as usual, but my operatives are all over it."
Kane flipped open the folder and perused the data. Inside was a photo copy of his brother’s application for employment at a local newspaper, several articles by his brother for said rag, a number of candid photos of Abel at night clubs, restaurants and loitering on street corners. He was about to slam the folder shut when one of the photos caught his complete attention. It was a snapshot of Abel holding open the door of a store front for a very interesting looking young woman. Now there’s something to write about, he mused. If his brother was up to his old tricks, this young woman would be his next victim. Nothing gave Kane more pleasure than throwing a monkey wrench in Abel's well laid plans. He tossed the folder back to Sharif. "Get the jet. We're going to Philly."
"I’ll make all the a…" one glance at his boss and the rest of the sentence died. "Right, I’m on it." Gathering up the folder, Sharif strolled from the room.
Of course, he’d make all the arrangements. That was another reason Sharif still had a career. Kane turned back to the window with a smile. How long had it been since he'd crossed swords with his pain in the ass brother? Why couldn’t the blood-sucking leach lay down and stay dead like a good little worm? Bad enough that God had cursed Kane with terminal boredom, but to have Abel knocking about – having fun and preying on Kane’s descendants - that was more than he could stomach. It was also the most excitement he might find in this century. If nothing else, Abel never failed to provide a lively chase. So, why Philadelphia? And who was the woman? Kane leaned his sweat damp forehead against the air cooled glass and closed his eyes. He could still see her face. There was something compelling about her, beyond the physical good looks and tasteful outfit. She was one of his, alright. No doubt she had the mark somewhere on her luscious person. Too bad. He hadn’t taken a bride in a hundred years. The current state of morality didn’t require such formality just to "get laid." That was a good thing too. Kane never seemed unable to hold on to any woman for long. They soon learned that his charm was surface deep and then all the money in the world (after a year or two) couldn’t save the relationship. Besides, that was probably a good thing- what with his inability to age and all that. But somewhere out there was that single soul able see past his faults and willing to redeem his sin. That was another good reason to get between Abel and that woman. Kane grabbed his sweater off the back of his empty chair, fist clenching the material as he headed for the door. Was she the one?