Chapter 8 Page 63
Posted May 31, 2024 at 05:54 am

Thank you so much for your patience while I let my wrists rest and took my time with this page! I am doing much better and still taking things easy. Paranatural is funded by its Patreon; it goes without saying I couldn't keep up an effort like telling this story if I couldn't take breaks, and the Patreon makes that possible. Thank you for your support, it's everything to me! I also wanted to say, I only catch flashes of fanwork and enthusiastic comments because I make a point of not seeking them out, but my partner's shared a few things with me lately, and I can't express enough how appreciative I am that you all let my little world and its characters into your hearts. Thank you so much for reading! I will see you all next week :)



        Gage’s blood ran colder than its usual ice-cold. Paige handled the talking when they met with Davy Jones. She’d always kept her schemes to loosen his grip on the trio concealed, beneath his notice, at the darkest depths of Davy’s deep disinterest. Here Gage was, though, alone with all her secrets and their sire’s full attention.

        “H-heh, um. S-sorry, uh, Mr. Jones, I—”

        “Take a breath, son,” Davy interrupted, knowing full well that he couldn’t. “I’ve seen folks less stiff and formal at a funeral. Inside the coffin, even!” He grinned. “But we’re years past that sort of ceremony, aren’t we? Call me Davy.”

        The words echoed like sonar through his body; Gage had no choice but to obey. He was compelled to be friendly with his horrible boss, a situation far too supernatural for any normal working human to relate to.

        “S-sure thing, uh, Davy. Heh heh. Well—”

        Davy caught Gage’s sleeve as he tried to depart. That he’d used his right hand was a small mercy for the fabric—Davy’s claws were just as fearsome as his hook.

        “Tonight’s a celebration, son. I won’t stand to see a single minion moping!” He spun Gage around the long way, in a graceful pirouette. “Once bitten, twice shy, is that it? Well, you’ve got nothing to be scared of. You’re hardly fresh enough for seconds.” Davy chuckled to himself—someone had to, if Gage wouldn’t. “What’s got you stressed? You can tell old Davy. Money trouble? Girl trouble? Scheming to betray me?”

        Gage’s beady eyes went just as wide and as easy to read as a pair of CD-ROMs.

        “...Why you little snake!” gasped Davy, stepping back in stunned surprise.

        Gage gulped, frozen in place.

        “Frankly, son, I didn’t think you had it in you... but it IS girl trouble, isn’t it?” Davy beamed. “I should know better than most that heartache needs no heartbeat! Ahh, eternally young love!” He elbowed his thrall like an overbearing uncle at a Christmas party. “So who’s the lucky Lilith? Paige? Or what’s-her-name, the smaller one—Hot Topic?”

        “N-no one’s lucky. I—” Gage was too flustered to be grateful that Davy was probing a subject less sensitive than sedition, or the fight with that mascot at Jackpot Junior’s, or Ritz. “Paige thinks I’m frickin’ slime...”

        “What, is that all? Why, the last time a woman called ME slime, I married her!” Davy’s eyebrows bobbed like a ship on the sea. “Love can bloom between a man and his archnemesis, believe me. There’s certainly been stranger bedfellows in this town than two bats of a leathery feather.” He clapped Gage on the shoulder, satisfied he’d solved his every problem. “Just be YOURSELF, son. Women love confidence. And teen girls love teen vampires—market data doesn’t lie!”

        “...Paige isn’t like other girls, then,” Gage sulked, forgetting himself and his audience in the throes of his angst. “A vampire’s the last kinda guy that she’d fall for. She doesn’t even like herself.”

        Davy cocked an eyebrow, crossed his arms, and leaned back against the sink, which was made from priceless marble smuggled out of ruins in Rome.

        “Now hold on just a moment. What’s with all this mirror-punching and self-loathing?? If there’s anything I’ve tried to instill in my spawn besides bloodthirst and obedience, it’s a sense of pride in who they are.”

        A skeptical sneer slipped through Gage’s restraint before he could remember who it was that he was dealing with. He shuddered as Davy’s face fell, and Gage stepped back as he stepped forward.

        “...Fair enough,” Davy oozed through a penitent pout. “I wasn’t the role model I am today when I recruited your little clique, was I? Perhaps I made a bad impression—one that’s lasted unaddressed. I’ll admit, I am ashamed of our first meeting...”

        A flash of fangs in the dark. A wounded, cornered animal, starving, soaked in its own black blood. They fled, thought they’d escaped it... but one bite each had been enough. Gage felt cold nerves tingle in the pinprick scars concealed beneath his collar.

        “All that nastiness is in the past, though, son. The future’s bright for men like you and I... because it’s bleak for Mayview!” He looped an arm around his thrall. “Picture it! A vacation destination where the nightlife never ends, safe from the sun and stake-happy zealots! No vampire will have to stalk the shadows for their next meal, mark my words, or rely on drip-fed handouts from the hospital. Blood money, my boy, that’s the currency of tomorrow! They’ll pay rent and fees and tribute—WE’LL collect.” Davy gave Gage a hearty shake. “What do you think YOU’LL be in a world like that, hm? I’ll tell you what you’ll be, young man: a top commodity.”

        He turned his thrall to their reflections, and two empty suits stared back.

        “Not slime... and not a monster,” Davy whispered through a grin, “but a successful man like me.”

        Gage gazed at the mirror in a rattled, slack-jawed stupor. His own cheap tuxedo was nothing like Davy’s... but what else made them different? He’d seen Davy at his lowest, crawling in the dark, desperate for blood. If fancy clothes had made the man that used to be a beast like THAT, why couldn’t he be more than he was right now too?

        “...Of course, that’s the reward that awaits a loyal member of my crew,” said Davy, sweeping in like noxious gas between his minion and the sink. “I need everyone on board, you see, or this ship just won’t sail! So if you or, say, that fiery redhead you’re so fond of... find yourselves drifting from the course I’ve charted, letting that pesky self-hatred turn to envy and resentment, even contemplating MUTINY”—he produced a business card with a sudden flourish—“let me know. I’d like a chance to make my case—a better offer. There’s no sense blaming the captain for bad weather.”

        Gage took the card in swimming silence. Davy knew. Davy knew that he was hiding something. He knew about the fight at Jackpot Junior’s, or—or Paige’s brand new rich girl pet. All that cheerful we’re-in-this-together junk was just his way of tightening the noose. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. HE hadn’t defied Davy. Why should Paige’s plans get HIM in trouble?! It wasn’t FAIR—

        “...Relax, son. I won’t command whatever’s got you squirming out of you. Though I’ve always said—fifteen men on a dead man’s chest? He ought to get that kind of burden off it...”

        Gage jumped, looking up at Davy with a face more pale than ever. The ageless monster smiled back.

        “No, no, I won’t push you! Goodness me, I’m such a gossip. Keep your secrets, they speak to your character! Clearly you’ve got loyalty in droves, young man, if it’s kept your lips sealed in the face of a THREAT like me.” His eyes flashed gold. “I’d like to earn it for myself. Properly. If you ever get tired of your unrequited investment’s meager returns... invest your loyalty in ME, hmm? Like I said, I’ll make a better offer. With me, for one, you’d be an equal partner, not some...
worthless, ugly object of disdain.”

        A bead of cold sweat fell from Gage’s clenched jaw to the floor. His eyes followed it down to Davy’s business card. Gage closed his claws around it, grit his fangs... and tucked it in his pocket.

        “...I’ll await your call with bated breath,” Davy slithered through a grin. “It’s the only kind I’ve got!”

        Ordering the secrets from his thrall, secrets that he’d so easily bluffed to the surface, would
have been a boorish waste. Perhaps Paige, off his radar until now, had naive designs to betray
him... but she was still useful, not yet a true threat. This was the better investment. Keeping your enemies close always was. He’d have to figure out this weird kid’s name.

        Suddenly, a fateful flush echoed up to the ceiling.

        Across the bathroom, Mayor Hijack’s bisected balance had finally failed him, and he’d slipped from the perch where he’d frozen at Cody’s command. Even vampiric reflexes hadn’t been enough to catch him before it was too late—he’d caught himself upon the toilet’s handle first.

        Each and every undead eye snapped, fierce and startled, to the source of the sound. Mayor Hijack pointed two accusatory fingers at himself.

        “What’s this now?” Davy pondered. “And here I thought this was a place for private business.”

        His hook scraped against the stalls as he stalked over to investigate.

        Cody sighed and shook his head. He should have known this plan was doomed from its inception. He placed the goldfish, and what little hope he had left, into Mayor Hijack’s hands... then stepped out from the stall alone, before his dad could see his co-conspirator.

        “...That’s my line,” Cody said, and Davy’s cunning grin collapsed.