Once Charlotte was back at her house she parked the car in the garage, just like normal, and emptied the trunk into the black garbage bags inside her trashcans, not quite so normal. She now had four of the five trash cans full with the stolen loot. She didn't use them for anything, but they had come with the purchase of her house. The problem was she couldn't figure out a way to throw out perfectly good and unused trashcans without attracting attention. The reason that they had never been used was she didn't entertain or do much at home. The other remaining trashcan was the one she put to the curb periodically with trash she snagged from the back of the nearby quick stop store. Vampires don't exactly generate tons of refuse. Considering her limited dietary needs and lack of most sorts of consumer spending, she had to occasionally go outside to make her trash appear like everyone else in the neighborhood had sitting at the curb for the weekly pick up. Dumpster diving at the local stop and go market was a quick fix, but she always felt tainted by the experience. Thankfully she hadn't been caught. That would have been too embarrassing and definitely resulted in perfectly necessary deaths from such a discovery.
Not that Charlotte had much to do with the twits in her area. She had her yard maintained by some landscaper so nobody around would be able to remark on how she kept up her yard. She couldn't give a damn what was planted but the woman to the east of her seemed to find whatever the gardener planted to be in some way remarkable. Whenever she walked out to get the mail, Penny, the curious neighbor, would put her nose out and ask her where she got whatever shrub or tree that was new in the yard. No matter how many times she explained she used a service Penny couldn't or wouldn't get it through her head that Charlotte didn't have a clue about greenery. Nor did she care.
There were a few folks who really tried to be friendly neighbors over the years and it took some work to keep them from prying too deeply. Her alleged job was a buyer for a clothing company and part of the job was importing some new lines now and then she had to travel out of the country for business. So that was her explanation for her odd hours and her not being seen for weeks at a time: it was all due to work-related travel. Over the years folks had stopped leaving flyers on her doorstep inviting her to the nearly monthly cook outs and gatherings. She doubted they served her liquid of choice. At least not willingly; besides Kenyon would have killed her had he found out she was draining the locals. That was a major rule in vampireland.
Nobody would really notice she had left right away. She hadn't had mail delivery in years. The mail drop stop in the nearby mall had boxes for rent and would ship any critical bills or packages for an over-inflated price. That was one of the only bills she ever paid promptly. At times she paid their bills months in advance to safeguard her privacy and continuing service. Getting the local United States post office to not deliver mail was a battle well worth the time and aggravation. She could and did come and go as she pleased.
She fought another case of the giggles. She still couldn't believe she actually pulled it off. She had been assigned to watch the various known vampire stalkers and slayers over a year ago and she had begun to notice the banking pattern. She had been watching them for patterns and connections to vampires -- nothing more. It had taken six months to find out when and who got what sorts of money. Somehow she had completely forgotten to keep Kenyon in the loop. She really was a bad servant. Something to do with Kenyon only being a tad older than her and they both had been raised in the same family of vampires made her more than a bit reluctant to take orders from him.
Hell, she could still remember his squeamishness at disposing of his meals completely. That was long before the sort of forensic labs that littered the world now. You buried a corpse it stayed dead and gone. Not dug up in middle of the building of another unnecessary local strip mall and of course later making the nightly news. That whole incident was still pissing her off. The man hadn't been exactly the kindest human around; he was a lawyer after all! So his death became this huge news story complete with nightly calls from local crack pots claiming they saw something -- which they hadn't but it didn't stop them from making the nightly news. After death lawyers apparently could become saints rather than the true sinners most of them were. At least all the ones Charlotte drained were cut from the same nasty bolt of cloth.
Afterwards the Powers That Be in vampireland thought Charlotte needed a keeper and sent her into Kenyon's little house of horrors. Since she had no desire to end up as one of those missing women on the back of a milk carton she complied with the command. Not that Kenyon was understanding in any way about her slight difficulties. Instead he was ever so snotty about the whole thing. Hell, it was just like being a human again and having a big brother. Same crap different day. Or century, whatever. Charlotte shuddered and looked at the filled trashcans. That made her grin again.
Before she closed the trunk she pulled out the box she had full of the various security tapes from the past few nights. Charlotte needed to have a video tape barbecue in the next hour or so. Carrying the box she walked inside her house from the garage which went into her laundry room. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark room and she set the box on top of the washer beyond the laundry room there was a slight glow. It was only a little after midnight and her automatic light timers were on in the living room. That was a good thing because it then reminded her she had more to do before she could flee. Nodding she began her mental checklist of what she absolutely needed to do before she could escape. Definitely she had to remember to retime the lights for her out of town pattern. She would have to water the hanging pots on the back porch because it had been so warm and she got a lecture from the gardener every time she killed the stupid things. Distracted by all she had to do she was startled when she heard a knock at the front door.
It had to be Penny from next door. She was the only one nosey enough to watch her drive into her garage in the middle of the night. Charlotte had been keeping some odd hours lately with her safety deposit box liberation scheme. There must have been something new planted in the yard Penny wanted to quiz her on at length. The knocking was persistent and she could hear Penny's voice calling out, "Hello?" Like she didn't already know Charlotte just got home?
Giggling, an impish impulse ran through her. She stripped off her clothes, after all they did have a few pesky splatters of blood from the one night watch man. He was still alive but damn, he was a bleeder. The clothing was tossed into the washer automatically and she dumped in some soap and hit the wash cycle. Such behavior was pretty automatic after all the years. Unfortunately it wasn't unusual to have to strip when getting home so she had a robe hanging on the back of the door. Wrapping the silk full-length robe tightly around her body she ran her fingers through her hair, making sure there hadn't been some blood droplets she missed at the bathroom in the bank. Now that she was indecently presentable she called out, "Just a minute." A quick glance in the mirror in the bathroom assured she wasn't sporting a huge swath of blood on her face. Charlotte grinned at her tousled reflection. She had the look she wanted. It always amused her that folks thought vampires had no reflection. Hollywood strikes again.
Satisfied she had the appearance she was aiming for she walked quickly to the front door. There had been one more series of rapping that was more demanding. Penny was not a patient person, Charlotte figured. So while clutching the top of her dressing gown with her right hand she opened the door with her left. Her placement of her hand had been intentional. Between the bottom of her hand down to her waist the silk was tantalizingly gapping just a mere sliver. Her skin glowed white in the full moon lit doorway. It was a bright evening and Penny was in fact waiting ready to hammer another fierce tap tap on her door.
The sight of Charlotte framed in the doorway wearing dark purple silk with a peek of alabaster skin had Penny's mouth gaping open in shock. Usually she caught Charlotte between the curb taking the trashcan down or back up and Charlotte would be in work attire. Business suits or somewhat business-casual clothing was what Charlotte wore outside the house. Penny didn't know where to look. Charlotte pushed a bit of her naughty girl persona to the front and watched Penny begin to blush. My, my, Charlotte thought, it appears little Penny here isn't nearly as sophisticated as she likes to pretend.
"Is there something wrong?" Charlotte carefully yawned letting the silk work slowly over her with the feigned yawn and accompanying stretch. Penny was still taken back by her casual attire and glimpses of skin.
"Well, I can wait until you find something to wear," she was aiming for the high ground, but her quickened breathing gave lie to her uninterested tones. Charlotte momentarily felt bad that she would be leaving her neighborhood so soon. Penny had some depths she hadn't even realized. Rarely did she play so close to her home but damn the excitement and fear rolling off Penny was tempting. Penny was afraid of what she was thinking about Charlotte. Charlotte knew damn well what Penny was thinking and it made her want to torment her neighbor so much more.
"Don't you worry about me. I'm more than comfortable enough. So what do you need?" Charlotte led Penny into her foyer. Penny's eyes were now huge. She had never been invited inside before and Charlotte figured with her little vacation plans she might as well toss the bitch a bone.
Waves of need were rolling off Penny that had nothing to do with what she had come over pounding on the door to ask. Charlotte supped on the fears and desires. Penny was dressed in a matching sweat suit that had never seen any sweat. She had color coordinated her running shoes to the pastel pink nightmare she was sporting and it was all Charlotte could do to not fang in just on the principle of the matter. She pushed down that thought and smiled without fangs waiting for Penny to stop gawking.
"God, Charlotte, is that a real Cezanne?" Penny was goggling at the painting in the living room. Charlotte was shocked she even knew who Paul Cezanne was much less could identify one of his paintings.
"Get real, Penny, I just bought the oil reproduction online." Charlotte dismissed the woman's intense scrutiny of the oil.
"I could swear it was real! I was an art history major in college, you know." Penny said while leaning in for another glance. Oops, Charlotte never figured Penny was more that a trophy wife for the unseen husband who also resided next door.
"It's the frame. I paid more for that than the picture. So what is it you want?" She slid a hand on Penny's arm redirecting her away from the painting.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-08-07