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Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste

I'm going to buddy up with Echo Cian and do a combo-story, does that mean we get 2x word count together or do you want us to do two separate stories with the same two characters?


One's a beat cop-turned Vampire who can't let his last case go, the other's the aging Hunter who owes him his life, and a stake through the heart.

Together, they fight crime!


Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste


One's a beat cop-turned Vampire who can't let his last case go, the other's the aging Hunter who owes him his life, and a stake through the heart.

Rattus Nobiles
2399 words

The driver of the pickup was an old man in a green overcoat, thin grey hair tied back in a loose ponytail. His passenger was black-haired, black-clad, and his otherwise handsome face was the shade of a well-groomed corpse against it all.

Caleb glanced to his right, noting the way his friend was staring blankly at the stars outside. “Alright Kris, enough bullshit. What’s eating you?”

Kristof turned his head into profile, and no farther. “There’s another Strigoi victim in the paper.”

“What’s eating you, not the local sorority sisters.”

He fidgeted with his collar, pushed hair out of his face, sighed, and finally got on with it. “I had a girl over last night. Wasn’t serious. Just...casual. We were watching TV.” He laughed without humor. “She got a nosebleed. A loving nosebleed.”

Caleb winced. “Do I need to keep an eye on the obituaries?”

“I didn’t bite her,” Kris snapped, finally facing him. “But I...wanted to. She must have seen the look on my face. Freaked out. I left her with the tissues. It was…” He tried to find words, but gave up. “Enough. Can’t stop thinking about it.” He avoided meeting Caleb’s eyes.

Ever since the night Kristof saved his life, Caleb had wondered when - not if - he’d put a stake in his friend’s heart. Kris’d been a good man, once, and the fact that he was still trying to be one even as an undead monster had earned Caleb’s respect, and AA experience. “Shouldn’t bring ‘em home. Too easy to let your guard down.”

Kristof’s head thunked against the window. “It’s exhausting. Don’t think I counted on that. ‘Mind over matter,’ they say.” He exhaled slowly. “But it’s done with.” A pause; he gave a halfhearted chuckle that managed to sound guilty. “Won’t be hearing from the Strigoi for a while, at least.”

“Vampires aren’t our problem tonight.”

He shot Caleb a wry look. “Some aren’t, anyway.”

“You’re your own problem.”

There’d been a story in the paper about the city’s attempts to reopen the old subway. The project had been plagued with bad luck, everything from flooding to unexplainable collapses. It was too unusual not to check out. The truck pulled to a stop one street from their destination, and they headed over.

The construction site was empty; not even a floodlight watched over the traffic cones. The railing leading downstairs was gone, the stonework crumbling. Caleb retrieved a maglight from his duffel bag and started down the plywood ramp that had been installed for the workers.

Kristof, meanwhile, reached the bottom in a single leap. He held motionless, but all either of them heard was a drainpipe dripping somewhere. “If there’s something here, it’s a lot further in,” he said.

“Showoff,” Caleb muttered. “Go on then, I’ll follow.”

Half of the platform had been rebuilt, and the heavy equipment was still there. A pump was running, but a couple inches of standing water still coated the tracks. Kris was nimble enough to walk on the thin strip of concrete above; Caleb resigned himself to slogging through the slime.

Everything stayed quiet until something furry burst out of a drainpipe next to his foot. It squeaked and ran off when he kicked it, and he dropped the flashlight. The tunnel went dark. “drat rats.”

“Hang on, thought I saw…” There was a loud, wet thud as Kris tossed something onto the tracks. A moment later, the light bobbed back out of the slime. Kris handed it to Caleb, and dropped something else on the slab of concrete he’d thrown down as a stepping stone: Three rats, stuck together by their tails with some kind of semi-opaque greenish goo. “Smells like blood,” Kris said, uncertainly. “But…not quite?”

“Ah, poo poo. Rat-king.” Caleb reached into his coat for a knife. “If you tie rat tails together and kill them, you can cast a curse of that nature. These were drowned, see?” He used his knife to poke one’s bloated belly. “That’s where this flooding came from. Good news is, you can remove the curse if you cut the knot.” And he did so, freeing the bodies from their tails and then hacking at the remaining tangle until it disintegrated.

The water in the tunnels hissed and evaporated, leaving them completely dry.

Kristof stared. “That’s a weird thing just to drive development out of tunnels.” He grimaced. “And cruel.”

“I’d like to see PETA take on a cabal of warlocks, but it’s probably up to us,” Caleb said. “If that’s even what this is. Could be, but there’s a lot of things know this kind of trick. And I don’t know what that green poo poo is, but look what it did to my knife.” It was pitted and streaked like it’d been dipped in acid.

Kris looked down at his hand, but he’d only touched a bare tail. “I heard about some group against the expansion. I thought they were environmentalists worried about the impact on the waterways. But now I wonder…”

“Could be they paid something to take care of the problem, could be something that lives down here’s bein’ territorial.” Caleb tossed the useless knife over his shoulder. “Keep a nose out for anything else like that.”

Kris nodded. “I’m keeping my senses open. Just-” He hesitated. It didn't really need to be said. But he said it anyway. “You be careful, too.”

“I have more careful in my left pinky finger than you do in your whole undead body,” Caleb said, starting forwards through the dry tunnel. He didn’t make it ten feet before stumbling on an uneven piece of track. “Not a drat word,” he said under his breath.

Kris snorted overhead.

The tunnel got rougher, until the tracks were broken to uselessness and rusted through. “Something here,” Kristof eventually reported from the walkway. Caleb saw nothing but a wall, until Kris smashed through it with one kick. He gave Caleb a hand up off the tracks, and they found themselves standing at the edge of a massive room ringed by candles, their light barely reaching the center.

But the platform at its center had its own light from a brazier that illuminated a huge, writhing rat-king. Blood smelled so strong that Caleb coughed on it. Kristof’s pupils shrank to pinpricks. “Human,” he said tonelessly. “Old. Fresh. Rats.”

“Stay with me, kid,” Caleb said, but he was staring at the rat-king. He’d never seen one that big. poo poo, he could count fifteen at a glance, and that was only part of it. The brazier had a latch and chain that would dump the burning coals on top of them. “Looks like someone’s getting ready for a barbeque. Guess that’d get the city to give up.”

A robed figure entered from their left, quietly reading a chant from an old handwritten book. He held a bronze chime in one hand that he rang every few words. The rats squealed at his approach.

“We can’t let him finish the ritual,” Caleb said, shaking Kristof’s shoulder. The vampire’s eyes came back into focus with effort, and he wordlessly vanished into the shadows.

The old hunter raised the Smith & Wesson that he’d inherited from his own grandfather. “Hey, ugly!” he yelled, making sure the man’s attention focused on him. “Step away from the rats!”

The figure turned. Wild white hair and a tangled beard obscured his features. He hissed at Caleb like a snake, snapped the book shut and jangled the cimes. The candles flared; the shadows twisted into strange shapes.

“Goddamnit, don’t start that poo poo!” Caleb shouted, unloading half a clip in the cultist’s direction. He winged him in the shoulder, and the bells fell out of the man’s hand and bounced out of reach. Their final ring sounded when they landed against a human bone.

Kristof materialized in midair with an inhuman shriek as something forcibly flung him away from the brazier. He hit the ground curled around himself and gasping. His skin looked burnt. Light shimmered across the altar, and glinted off the previously invisible shape of an engraved cross.

“That’s what I get for working with the damned,” Caleb muttered. “Alright Kris, you take ugly, I’ll save the squeakers!”

Kristof staggered to his feet with a dazed look, pressed a hand to his head and shook himself. He scooped up a rock and pulled his vanishing act again.

Caleb ran for the platform, up the steps, his knees protesting their age. The cultist pulled a ritual knife from his belt and slashed at him as he came level; Caleb only barely managed to sidestep. He couldn’t risk shooting; hitting the rat-king might trigger the spell. But his thrice-blessed machete was a decent alternative. And he had backup.

A rock smashed the platform inches from the cultist’s foot, shattering into powder and fracturing the stone. Kris cursed loudly from his perch on a mound of dirt halfway across the room, and wound up for another pitch. The cultist abandoned Caleb and stumbled to the other side of the platform, trying to put the rat-king between himself and Kristof.

The next rock kneecapped him from behind.

It took a second for Caleb to realize that Kris was aiming low for the same reason he’d switched to his machete. While the cultist was down, he ran for the altar; but there was no way to move the tangle of animals without getting devoured, and trying to lower the brazier would just put the fire closer.

The cultist grabbed for his legs, knocking him over. Caleb turned and kicked the man in the face hard enough to shatter his nose, but he held on, oblivious to the pain, and drove his knife into the back of Caleb’s calf. “poo poo!” he yelled. He flipped over and grabbed the edge of the platform with both hands, pulling himself over and tumbling down to the dirt floor in a painful heap. The cultist came with him, still holding on to his leg, raising his knife for another attack.

But now they were away from the cross. And Kristof struck like lightning, slamming the full weight behind his pounce straight to the cultist’s chest with an elbow strike. Sternum and ribs snapped loudly. His arm seized, digging the knife into Kris’s shoulder; and then fell limp.

Kris crouched there for a long moment, breathing harshly through his mouth. He straightened slowly from being anywhere near the man’s throat and pulled the knife out of his back. “You’d think,” he rasped, “he would have thought to bless this, too.”

“Can’t bless somethin’ used for unholy sacrifices,” Caleb said, wincing as he tugged his pant leg up to survey the damage. He was bleeding badly enough to need stitches. He reached into his coat for a patch bandage; there’d be time to care for it properly later. “One more scar for the road.”

Kristof was very still. Caleb heard a sniff overhead. Then Kris had shoved him to the ground, and he found himself staring into eyes dilated almost to black pools: the look of a predator seizing its prey. No recognition. His fangs flashed for Caleb’s throat.

But Kris froze when he contacted skin. A shudder ran through him, a strangled sound escaped his throat - an internal war between instinct and reason. He felt a prick of something sharp against his chest.

“This how we go out, Kris?” Caleb whispered. The stake was wedged between them. If the vampire pressed in for the bite, he’d impale himself. But he’d take the hunter with him.

It was sudden, but not that surprising; the stench of blood had overwhelmed him to distraction since they found the room. Rebounding off a holy barrier had rattled him worse. It was at least understandable for his nature.

Slowly, his fangs retreated from the pulse that must seem like a fresh spring to a man dying of thirst. With a whimper and a lurch, he flung himself away from Caleb and sprawled on the ground, nearly choking from the effort.

Caleb let go of the breath he’d been holding and sat up. “Almost gave me a goddamn heart att-” He stopped mid-sentence. The cultist was missing.

No, not missing - up on the platform, reaching for the brazier’s chain. “Son of a BITCH!” He staggered to his feet, but there was no time. “Kris!”

He was answered with a noise somewhere between a hiss and a growl as Kristof unsteadily rose, caught hold of Caleb, and all but threw him onto the platform. The machete clattered to the stone beside him a second later. And another rock nailed the cultist’s hand as his fingers brushed the chain.

Caleb grabbed the machete, wedged it under the edge of the tabletop and pried it up. The stone slab popped loose from the wooden mooring and started to tilt. The rats squealed as the cultist caught hold of the chain despite Kris’s sniping and pulled. Caleb fell back, shielding his face with his coat sleeve as the blazing embers dumped all over the platform, but the rats had fallen the other way - directly onto the cultist himself.

His screams drowned out their angry squeals, then cut off in a gurgling cry.

“Well,” Caleb said, turning his head so he didn’t have to watch. “That’ll do.”

Kristof stood motionless as adrenaline faded. He opened his mouth, but changed his mind, or couldn’t find the words he wanted. He dropped his head. His voice was shaky. “I didn’t mean…”

“Forget about it. I’m too old to do this poo poo by myself anymore. Wasn’t for you I’d be…retired.” He spat to one side.

Kris managed a weak smile and didn’t bother to voice that if they’d met like this, he would have been retired anyway. They both knew it. Instead he studied Caleb’s wound from a safe distance. “Let’s just get the gently caress out of here and have that looked at. Am I going to have to carry you to a hospital again?”

The magic that bound the rats together was fading, and a dozen pairs of beady eyes watched them from the ruined table. Caleb tried to put weight on his leg but it wouldn’t take it. “I could at least use a shoulder to lean on.”

Kristof offered a hand to help him back to the ground. “Think I can manage that.”

Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste

In for the prompt.

oh, and thank you for the crit Jitzu!

Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste

999 words

“No wind, Captain.”

Kimball’s report was the same as it had been every morning for the past fortnight. The sea was calm as glass, reflecting a merciless sun, and the mainsails hung slack. There wasn’t even enough of a breeze for the Union Jack to show her colours. The storm that had driven the Annalisa before her for the five days prior had been a time of sleepless panic, but Captain John Harding was starting to wish he were still trapped in the maelstrom. Anything was better than this calm.

“Drop the water ration to a quarter,” he said, though he’d been taking quarter rations himself for days. He was starting to imagine how the noose would feel. Would his neck break first, or would he dance on the rope? They blamed him for trying to outrun the storm, but waiting would have meant months in port, half a world away from home.

He went to his trunk and found Emily’s locket. The single blonde curl of her hair looped around his finger like the ring he’d given her. He only hoped he hadn’t left her with child on their last night. She was still young enough to remarry, if he hadn’t.

“John,” Kimball said, too upset to stand on propriety. “You can’t stay in here.”

“I know.” He found his jacket, and started to prepare himself.

“Borden died last night.”

So that was it. Borden was too well-liked for his death to go unanswered. “Should I prepare a few words?”

Kimball shook his head. “They dumped him over the side at dawn.”

Borden was injured during the storm when a spar came down. Rot set into his leg before anyone could tend to it. Sawbones took it off at the knee once the calm set in, but it was too late.

“None of them wanted to wait for season’s end,” Harding said bitterly. Even now he didn’t believe he’d made the wrong decision. Bad luck and worse weather had left them in this predicament.

“It was your order to set out,” Kimball said. “Everyone knew the risks, but we trusted you to lead.”

The Captain was quiet.

“You’d best hurry unless you want to hang in your smallclothes.”

Harding reached for the flintlock pistol on his desk but something in Kimball’s eyes made him set it down. He’d never been a violent man, and it wouldn’t change anything. “Do I get any last words?”

“As you like.”

He thought about what to say. He could curse them all to hell. Beg for mercy, as pointless as that might be. His threats would be as empty as his promises had been. He tucked Emily’s curl into his breast pocket and adjusted his hat. “I’m ready, then.”

Kimball led him out of the cabin, as he always had. The entire crew was waiting on the deck for him. The sun beat down on their tired, gaunt faces. Half-rations for two weeks had taken weight off even the swarthiest. Harding knew he looked as haggard as the rest of them, and he felt a pang of regret, and a brief moment of clarity.

It wasn’t their fault that he’d never see Emily again. It was his.

Hans grabbed him by the arms and dragged him towards the mast. The rope was waiting, the pulley that would send him skyward to kick the air under the flags. It was rougher than he’d imagined, tight against the skin of his throat. They paused, as Kimball had promised, to let him speak his piece.

“Borden was a good man,” he said, removing his hat and looking up at the cloudless sky. “You’re all good men, and I failed you. I’m sorry.”

The Union Jack stirred slightly. Harding’s eyes bulged. “…wait!”

The pulley snapped; the rope went taut.

Kimball, god bless him, had followed his friend’s eyes and seen it too. And as John Harding soared upwards he pointed and gave a shout. “Wind! There’s a wind, boys!”

Hans jerked the pulley the other way, and the rope went slack. The still kicking Captain fell back to the deck like a wounded sparrow. It was a miracle he didn’t break both legs on the landing.

“John!” Kimball dropped to his knees and rolled him over, loosening the rope as quickly as he could. No one helped him. But no one moved to stop him either.

Harding wheezed and choked and spat blood from where he’d bit his tongue. Air, he couldn’t get any air! Like the empty sails, his lungs were useless. And then, like the sails above him, they filled again with a single great gasp. The ship creaked like the bones of an old man as it moved for the first time in ages.

“Wind…” His voice was a croak that could barely be understood.

“Aye,” Kimball said, trembling with emotion. “That there is, Captain.”

“No,” Harding said. He pressed his hat, which he’d never let go of, into Kimball’s hands. “…Captain.”

Kimball looked up at the rest of the crew, still in shock. They were all watching to see what he’d do. He made his decision, and held the hat up like a trophy. “If someone else wants this, say so or hold your peace.”

For a while no one answered.

“There’s another storm coming, Captain.” Hans finally said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder. In the west, black clouds were building with alarming speed. It looked worse than the last. “If Harding wants to promote his first mate, as he’s indisposed…”

Captain Kimball didn’t hesitate to make his first order. “Back to full water rations, and put the kegs out to catch the rain!” A half-hearted cheer went up in answer.

He picked his friend up and half-carried him back to the cabin. Harding grunted a question, and Kimball gave a tired laugh. “Why mutiny when there’s a chance to get home? They can always hang both of us later.”

“Good man,” Harding managed.

“Save it for when we see London.”

Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste

Oh fine gently caress it IN for taters.

I have comicon this weekend so you're going to get some QUICK AND DIRTY taters though.


Oct 18, 2006

Cat of Wealth and Taste

Prompt: “Man agonizes over his potatoes.”
Flash Rules: “Quick and Dirty”
Tuesday: +50 words for any of the listed keywords (ameliorate)

The World's Largest Potato
976 words

“Can you describe the vegetable in question?” the cop asked Marcus, nodding at the empty display stand.

“It’s a potato,” his son, Billy, tried to answer for him. He’d been doing a lot of that, recently.

Marcus bristled. “It’s not just a potato! It’s the world’s largest potato! And someone stole it!” He shoved a postcard into the cop’s hands that featured a detailed picture of the spud. A proud and smiling Marcus stood behind it with his thumbs in his overall straps. It was very large, (for a potato.)

“I’m sure it means a lot to you, Mr. Simmons.”

Marcus nodded vehemently. “I think it was those bastards up the road with the world’s largest pickle. Maybe they wanted to get rid of the competition. You should check there first.”

“Dad, the pickle’s been gone for years,” Billy said, shaking his head.

“We’ll go ask around,” the cop said, heading back to his motorcycle. “If we find anything we’ll let you know.”

“That potato’s our entire livelihood!” Marcus called, but the cop had his helmet on and in a few minutes he was just a spec on the horizon.

Billy watched him fade into the empty fields with hungry eyes. He scuffed his shoe in the dirt and shoved his hands into his pockets. “It doesn’t have to be,” he said, finally. “I got my online degree now, and a few job offers. We could move to the city.”

Marcus ignored him and stomped back into the gift shop. The police didn’t understand how important this was. He’d have to do his own investigating.

He went behind the counter and tapped the keys of an ancient PC, which ran the single security camera that watched over the potato. The grainy video played on the monitor again. The clear plastic brick that housed the oversized vegetable was definitely there until just before 12:00AM. Then, the clock in the upper corner skipped ahead to 12:23, and it was gone.

“I think someone’s tampered with this footage!” Marcus exclaimed, as the bells over the gift shop door chimed to announce Billy’s entrance.

“That camera is almost as old as I am,” Billy said. “Look at the day before yesterday, or the day before that. It does the same thing every night.”

Marcus checked, scratching his beard. “It does, and at the same time too. How long has it been doing that?”

“Three or four years now! I’ve told you about it before. You said not to worry about it.”

“It’s still a clue,” Marcus decided. He headed back towards the door. Billy was standing in front of it. He looked like he wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Finally he shook his head and stepped aside.

The empty plinth stood where it always had, ever since he’d built it when Billy was just a little boy. He remembered hammering the post into the hard ground and screwing the bolts into place. Those were missing, not broken, which was odd.

“It wasn’t a prank,” he said, when Billy joined him again. “You’d need a drill to get those bolts loose. It was too heavy to carry, too. You’d need a cart. And something to sweep the tracks away-”

“I asked Marie to marry me,” Billy blurted out, interrupting him.

“You what!?”

“She said yes,” Billy said. He sounded more like a man announcing a funeral than his own wedding. “So I’m not going to be running the gift shop anymore.”

Marcus was at a loss. Billy had been running the gift shop since he was old enough to be trusted with the till. “I always thought I’d leave this place to you, and you could raise your own family here.”

“I know.” Billy looked back at the shop and the dusty parking lot. “I put a lot of years into this place too, but look around! We haven’t had a single customer all day.”

“Well of course not, there’s no potato to come see!”

“No one knows that yet!” Billy yelled. “I found the books, Dad. You can’t ameliorate the losses we’re operating at.”

“It’ll turn around. There’s been dry spells before.”

Billy shook his head. “Not this time. Not since they put that new interstate freeway in. No one comes down this road anymore.”


“It was a potato, Dad! The novelty wore off years ago. I hear it’s not even the world’s largest anymore.”

“Then why’d someone go to the trouble of stealing it?” Marcus argued. “No point in stealing something unless it’s got value.”

Billy threw his hands in the air and stomped away, tired of fighting with him. Marcus didn’t know what to do. He tried to imagine living alone and couldn’t. He tried to imagine running the gift shop alone and couldn’t, even if by some miracle the potato was found. He sat down on one of the visitor benches and put his head in his hands.

He’d discovered the potato on his farm, back when he’d had one, almost ten years ago. His wife, back when he’d had one, loved it so much she had him cast it in resin to preserve it. He even called Guinness to confirm that, at the time, it really was the world’s largest recorded potato. Now even that had been taken from him.

He headed back inside, where Billy was polishing the counter to work out his anger. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “Maybe this is a good time to start over.”

“You mean that?” Billy asked, looking up.

With a heavy heart, Marcus turned the sign on the door to ‘Closed’. He went upstairs without saying anything more.

A pickup truck pulled up in the lot outside. Billy dropped the cloth and ran outside to give the driver a kiss through the open window.

“You were right about everything,” he whispered.

Marie just smiled.

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