TPP Christmas 2013 Short Story: The Game

The Game by Chris DeFazio

The Game, a short story by Chris DeFazio

The hulking vampire sloshed through the frigid, December night making his way across the Griffintown section of Montreal. Although not affected by the cold, at times, he found the near constant, November through April snow in his hometown somewhat annoying.  This was one of those times.Distracted, he bumped into a human passerby who demonstrated a fine holiday spirit saying, “Watch it, you big oaf!”

The vampire smiled, shook his head and replied, “Merry Christmas.”

That stiff doesn’t know how lucky he is tonight.

He was frequently amazed most humans that he walked freely amongst, never had a clue as to what he really was, and never considered that death had just passed right by them.

Oh, there was the rare occasion when one of them would shoot him an odd look, going pale and suddenly deciding to cross the street or duck into a storefront.  He thought such instances were probably the result of some rudimentary form of telepathy or the like, but it was nothing solid. After all, how could he exist? Vampires were just fairytales.

He scanned the dark, ill lit streets, eyeballing the smattering of people out at this hour. They’d be easy pickings for him, but fortunately for them, he had other business to attend to, other prey.

He made his way to Mountain Street and stood outside the small brick building where he knew they were. Even though up on the third floor, with his vampire hearing, he could easily catch their conversation.

He smiled.

Despite his near-giant stature, he noiselessly glided up the dark, creaky stairway. He perched outside the door, lightly resting his hand on the doorknob.  He closed his eyes, took a deep cleansing breath, and flung the door open shouting, “You bums!”

Just as he planned, the effect was catastrophic.

Diamond Joe’s mouth formed a perfect shocked “O” as playing cards flew out of his hand. Marcel jumped and jittered, spilling a beer across the already beer-soaked table. But Bernard, Bernard won the prize by falling over in his chair and crashing to the floor with a loud thump.

Only Sully didn’t react, but then again, Sully hardly reacted to anything, and never to such antics. And tonight, he looked so thin and so pale that it seemed he couldn’t possibly have had enough energy to mount a response, even if he were taken off guard.

The vampire threw back his head and roared with laughter.

Bernard picked his blubbery frame off the floor. “Oh, very funny, Squid. I could’ve cracked my head open!”

The Squid laughed even louder as Marcel chimed in. “And you owe me a beer, you idiot. You’re such a jerk.”

“Oh, come on,” Squid answered getting himself under control. “It was just a joke. You should’ve seen the expressions on your faces.”

“Expressions, huh,” Diamond Joe wheezed out through a cloud of cigarette smoke that seemed to perpetually surround him. “How’s this for an expression?”

He flipped Squid the finger and went on. “You made me drop a full house.”

“Oh please, Joe” Bernard said re-settling his bulk into his chair. “You haven’t had a full house since 1985.”

“More like 1975,” Marcel added.

“The hell with the lot of you,” Diamond Joe coughed out. He was smiling.

“All right, if the comedy routine is over, do you mind if we play?” Sully said tonelessly. “You’re late as usual Squid and high stakes poker is no fun with only four.”

The Squid took his customary seat. “I’m not sure if a fifty cent limit qualifies as high stakes.”

Sully shrugged and shuffled the cards as Bernard chimed in. “Well excuse us, Squid. We can’t all be rich bar owners like you.”

“I don’t know about rich,” Squid shot back. “With a bunch of welshers like you for customers, I can barely make ends meet.”

Marcel smiled. “He’s right about that.”

Sully dealt the cards. “Okay, here we go. Seven card stud, anything opens, black deuces wild.”

The Squid peaked at his hole cards and groaned internally seeing a seven, ten unsuited. His first up card was even worse, a three, but he bet the limit anyway. “Fifty cents. Hey did you guys get my Christmas card yet?”

Diamond Joe rolled his eyes. “I call. Of course we got it, like two weeks ago. You’re the only guy I know who sends out his Christmas cards on November 30th. What’s with the picture anyway? Like I want to see your ugly mug?”

“Sending a pic is all the rage now,” Squid answered. “What do live under a rock?”

“I’m out,” Bernard said. “That was Fenway right? Who was that guy with you?”

“A friend of mine from Boston,” Squid replied. “Yeah, it was Fenway. We caught a Red Sox game. Boy did they get shellacked.”

Marcel folded, and Sully said, “Raise fifty. I liked the picture. You looked good in it. And considering that face of yours, that’s saying something.”

The Squid was taken aback. In the eighteen years Sully had never paid him, or anyone else a compliment, as far as he knew.

“You mean it?” Squid asked.

“Sure I mean it. Don’t be such a dope.”

Squid smiled. “Wow, after that I’m gonna have to fleece you less than usual tonight.”

The chorus of poker stiffs let out a protracted “Whoaaaaa.”

Sully smiled. Another rare event. “We’ll see about that.”

The game settled into its usual easy rhythm, a rhythm that had been established over the years by a group of men who were comfortable in each other’s company. Cards were dealt, beer was drunk and the money ebbed and flowed in fifty-cent bites.

As far as Squid knew, none of them had an inkling that he was a vampire. And if they did, he wasn’t sure that they’d care, or even mention it for that matter. They weren’t the best of friends, didn’t really know that much about each other, but they were poker buddies. They’d been playing once a month without fail for eighteen years and that had to count for something.

It counted quite a bit for the Squid.

“Hey, numbskull, you’re bet. Wake up,” Marcel barked out startling Squid from his reverie.

They all had a laugh at his expense as he tossed a quarter into the pot.

They never seemed to notice that he hadn’t aged. Maybe it was because he was stuck at forty-five forever, and now they’d caught up to him in age, and some had even passed him. But again, maybe it was because they didn’t care.

Vampires can alter their appearance slightly, aging themselves. But it took a lot of effort, and experience. At about two hundred and forty years old, Squid was still a relative baby vampire, and not very good at aging himself.

At one point, he tried using make up, but that was a total debacle, so he quickly gave it up. That left him with hunching over a bit and pretending to walk stiffly. But half the time he forgot, so he quit doing that as well.

Though he probably would never have the guts, he envisioned telling them he was a vampire at one of the games. In his mind’s eye he could see them pausing for a moment, silently assessing him, and then one of them, probably Sully, would say, “Who cares? Deal the cards.”

The game petered out at about two a.m., as usual. Squid guessed a whopping total of thirty dollars might have exchanged hands. But this kind of poker was never about the money. It was about the companionship. It was about the game.

Squid was the last to leave and Sully walked him to the door. “You shouldn’t have made that crack about fleecing me, Squid. I really kicked your butt tonight.”

Squid smiled. “You’re telling me. Next month at Bernard’s, right? I’ll see you there.”

“You know it,” Sully said.

~~~

The Squid waited in a dark corner of La Fontaine Park, but not for long. The wait never seemed to be very long on Christmas Eve. She was petite and bundled up with a huge ski parka and a scarf. She bent into the wind, hunching her shoulders as she scuffled along through the wet snow. What she was doing out at almost midnight on Christmas Eve, Squid didn’t know, and he didn’t care. She would serve his purpose tonight.

He took a last drag of his Camel, and flicked it into the snow as he started out at a nonchalant, but measured pace that would soon intercept the young woman.

She looked up, far sooner than she should have, terror plastered all over her face, her brown eyes wide.

He ambled up to her thinking, She’s one of the ones who somehow know, know I’m a monster.

She stood staring up at the giant of a man, paralyzed by fear, unable to run, unable to even scream. The Squid casually lit up another Camel and exhaled a wind-whipped cloud of smoke.

He smiled. “How you doing? And Merry Christmas by the way.”

The young woman gulped, but didn’t respond.

Squid went on. “I’m all for a white Christmas and everything, but this weather we’re having lately is a bit much, don’t you think?”

Her shocked-wide eyes somehow got wider, and her lips moved, but no words came out.

Squid shrugged. “You know when I’m about to do what I’m about to do, I usually say good eeeeevening, like from some old Dracula movie. But I never do that on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is always serious business for me.”

The girl managed to stammer out, “What . . . what do you want from me?”

Squid tossed away another dead Camel. “Really, nothing at all. I have something for you though. It’s an early Christmas gift, but maybe not that early. I think we may’ve just eked by midnight.”

“But I’m Jewish,” the girl said.

Squid chuckled. “Doesn’t matter. Hey, what’s your name anyway?”

“Emily,” she replied.

“Really?” Squid said. “I had a goldfish named that once.”

“What?”

“Never mind,” Squid replied. “Well Emily, Merry Christmas.”

In a flash he scooped her into his arms. She screamed and kicked at him. Although his telepathy was good, he didn’t try to muddle her mind with it. He needed her wide-awake.

Squid bit her deeply over her carotid artery and her scream turned into a screech. But it was quickly stifled by his giant-sized hand clamping down over her face.

Her blood gushed into his mouth and the Squid drank down her red life as tears ran down his face.

~~~

Squid sat in the cold snow waiting. The girl came around slowly. He’d nearly had enough time to smoke away his entire deck.

She was dreamy at first, not sure where she was, but then she remembered and bolted upright. When she noticed Squid sitting next to her she screamed. She tried to get up and run but he casually caught her arm and pulled her back down to him, covering her mouth once again.

She panted and moaned through his hand, and her eyes looked as if they might fly out of her head. But after a time, he was able to calm her, at least somewhat.

He said, “Look, I’m not going to hurt you anymore. I just want to talk, that’s all.”

Her eyes were still in a full-fledged panic above the huge mitt of his hand and he was sure she’d scream the minute he released her, so he added, “I know you’re going to scream, but what good would it do? You really don’t have much of a choice, now, do you?”

The panic eased back a bit. Her baby browns took on another look, resignation, just the response the Squid wanted. He smiled, and took his hand from her mouth.

Emily did not scream.

She reached up to her neck and Squid said, “Nope. No wound. I healed it. Your scarf’s ruined though. Sorry.”

Emily fished around her neck for a while longer, and then stopped.

“Am I . . .” she asked.

“Dead?”

She nodded sharply.

“Nah,” Squid replied. “Just fainted.”

“Will I . . .”

“Change?”

The same jackhammer nod.

“Uh-uh,” Squid answered. “I’d have to drain you dry for that, and I barely took a unit before you went lights out.”

“What do you want from me?” she whispered out.

Squid smiled. “Asked and answered your honor, nothing. I just wanted to give you a Christmas gift, and I have . . . your life. You see any other time of year and you’d be dead meat, but not tonight, not on Christmas Eve. And believe me, it’s no easy thing to do, like this I mean. You see I didn’t even mess with your mind, to make you doubt what happened.

“So I’m going to leave you alive with your memory intact, and you could run off and tell anyone you want. But they’d all think you went off the deep end. Doesn’t matter anyway, it’s a necessary part of my little Christmas celebration. I need you aware.

“And let me tell you, others like me would not appreciate what I was doing here. And if Adrienne ever found out, she’s the mayor by the way, she’d probably banish me, or maybe even worse. She’s hated me for centuries.”

Listening to the Squid’s little speech, Emily appeared confused, in a kicked-in-the-head sort of way.

“You’re insane,” she said.

Squid laughed. “Without doubt, but it doesn’t change what happened here tonight. But my gift isn’t a one-way street, Emily. I figure you owe me now.”

Emily cringed at the comment, and tried to slide away from him. Her expression said it all. “How stupid I was to think he’d let me go. Fun and games are over. He’s going to kill me now.”

“What do I owe you?” she asked reluctantly.

“Two things,” Squid began. “First don’t go crazy or anything like that. I know this is pretty screwed up, but there’s a lot of weird stuff out there that most normal people never have the bad fortune to run into. Trust me on that one.”

“I won’t go crazy,” Emily said evenly.

Squid gave her an assessing look. Now that she wasn’t scared out of her mind, she looked like a tough little cookie.

“I believe you,” he said.

“What’s the second thing?” she asked.

“Ah, I thought you’d never ask,” Squid said releasing her arm. He gently took Emily’s hands in his. “Now I don’t know you from a hole in the wall, and aside from your name, I don’t anything about you, or your life. You might be good, bad or ugly, or you might be Albert freaking-Schweitzer for all I know, but you’ve got to promise me one thing. No matter where you’re starting from, you’ve just got to promise me to be better. Somehow, make your life better. Can you do that Emily?”

Emily looked evenly at the Squid. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but one thing her could tell, she was at peace.

She replied, “Yes, I can do that.”

Squid smiled and released her hands. “That’s great, really great. Okay, then, you can go.”

Emily stood immediately, but then paused, looking down at him for a moment. It was as though she was hoping he’d disappear and prove this entire interlude was nothing more than a dream or a hallucination.

The Squid however, did not disappear. He sat in the cold snow idiotically grinning up at her.

Finally, she turned and began to walk away.

“Oh, wait. One more thing . . . no two,” Squid called out after her. Emily stopped and turned back to him. “You’ve got to promise never to walk through deserted places like this alone, late at night. What we’re you thinking girl?”

“I promise,” she answered. “What’s the second thing?”

Squid smiled. “Merry Christmas.”

He thought he might have seen a flicker of a smile on Emily’s lips before she turned and melted away into the night.

Squid felt quite good about this year’s ritual. It’d gone very well, maybe the best ever and he’d been doing it for over a hundred years. He finished off his Camels and started on the walk back to his apartment.

Now would come the hard part, the fast.

He’d started that part of his Christmas celebration only twenty years ago. But it was only last year that he’d completed it successfully, nearly dying in the process.

He would take no blood between Christmas and the New Year, none at all. Although not religious, in his former life he’d been Irish Catholic and he thought of the fast as his peculiar vampire lent.

He could here his mother’s voice asking him in Gaelic, “Now what are you going to give up for lent this year, Nealy-boy?”

His piping ten-year-old voice rang through his mind. “Blood, mommy. I’m giving up blood!”

The image always made him smile.

Most would consider such a fast impossible for a vampire as young as Squid, a vampire who required blood, and a fair amount of it, on daily basis. But most, really didn’t know the Squid. Although outwardly appearing casual and lax, even about important issues, he was capable of great concentration and success when determined. Squid was tremendously determined when it came to his fast.

When he’d first begun, he barely made two days, jittering into a perfuse sweat and pacing the floor of his apartment even before he hit the twenty-four hour mark. He cried over his victim of December 26th that year, but at least he hadn’t taken him on Christmas.

He tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, eating to excess, drinking to excess and nothing worked. In the end, all that was left was his grim determination.

A few years, later he stretched it out to three days, and then five, and finally, last year he’d made the entire seven. At the end he was so weak and debilitated, he was barely able to drag down the geriatric victim he was lucky enough to stumble across on the New Year. By that time, he’d looked like a stooped old man himself.

Aside from the psychological need, without blood, a vampire, and especially a young vampire, will start to have tissue breakdown within thirty-six hours. The skin sags and wrinkles, the muscles atrophy, the hair greys, whites and falls out, quickly leaving behind an emaciated, horrible crone.

By the time the seven days were up, Squid lost nearly half of his body mass, his hair was snow white and scraggly, and his bones seemed to no longer want to support him, bending his normally ramrod straight posture. Just getting down the back stairs of his apartment had winded him and tripled his pulse.

Many who were acquainted with the Squid thought he was the most “human” vampire that they knew, thought it was just the way he was, thought it all came naturally to him, and it was natural to a degree. He was an affable fellow.

But the greater truth was that he lived in dire fear of completely losing his humanity. He worked desperately to hang on to it even though he knew he was doomed to failure as years marched on and the corpses continued to pile up. Like a trickle of water will eventually grind down a granite mountain, century after century of killing would eventually wear away every last bit of his humanity.

Associating with humans as much as possible, by running a bar and having a poker group helped. Something as routine as sending out Christmas cards even made him feel better about what he was.

But as his first century passed, the guilt over killing started to fade. The nightmares that once had been his constant companion, abruptly stopped. This would have been a relief to most, but not Squid. It panicked him. It made him feel he was truly becoming a fiend.

To him, the greatest and most ironic horror of being a vampire was that he was still himself. He was still Neal O’Sullivan, the Squid, and not some heartless, killing ghoul. Day in and day out he lived among the humans and night after night, he murdered them to survive, and somehow, had to come to terms with the dreadful dichotomy. If that wasn’t a textbook definition of a living hell, he didn’t know what was.

Soon after his guilt started to fade, he began his tradition of sparing a victim on Christmas Eve, and soon after that, he began his fast. It might seem silly, even useless to an outside observer, and maybe it was. But somehow it helped him to hold on to his last shreds of his humanity. When he lost those, he truly would be a monster.

Not even his closest friends knew of his torment. Well, maybe one suspected. His dearest friend down in Boston who’d turned him all those years ago. He was over two thousand and even though he had similar problems of his own, he was a perceptive one.

Maybe someday I’ll tell you, Chrissy, Squid thought. Maybe someday.

Despite his burden, Squid was never one to be dour, and most would describe him as one of those annoying people who always seemed to be in a good mood. Considering it was Christmas, and the evening’s festivities with Emily, Squid was in especially good humor.

Just as he cleared the park he broke out singing Jingle Bells in a loud voice. The song sounded as if it was being sung by a wounded bull moose, basso, discordant and way off key.

High on the list of the Squid’s many distinguishing and redoubtable characteristics was the fact that he was completely tone deaf, and didn’t seem to know it.

~~~

Squid navigated the dark streets of Montreal’s Plateau area, cutting through a January blizzard on his way to Bernard’s apartment, and the monthly game. After two weeks of nightly blood, he’d nearly regained his pre-fast appearance. The only tell tale signs that remained were a bit of grey at his temples, and a slight limp from some left over pain in his knee. The pain reminded him of the horrible arthritis that had nearly killed him back in the 1760s, back when he was still human.

He decided that his startling entrance of last month, although quite entertaining for him, had been soundly underappreciated, so he chose the more conventional route and knocked on Bernard’s door. The evening’s obese host led him to the table in the dining room, where Marcel and Diamond Joe were waiting.

“Hey, where the hell is Sully?” Squid quipped. “Being late is my job. He ought to know that by now.”

The only response was the groaning protest of the unfortunate chair that Bernard plopped himself into.

Squid looked around the room. Diamond Joe, almost unbelievably wasn’t shrouded in his usual cloud of cigarette smoke, and unbelievably, he didn’t make a wisecrack at his comment. Marcel clutched a beer and stared out a storm-rattled window into the bleak, winter darkness.

Squid turned to Bernard. “Where’s Sully?”

Bernard didn’t answer with a where, he answered with a what. “Leukemia.”

Squid closed his eyes and lowered his head.

“Oh damn,” he whispered.

By the time he looked up, Diamond Joe had struck up a smoke.

Thank God for that, Squid thought.

“Is he dead?” Squid asked.

“No, he’s home. But he’s damn close,” Diamond Joe wheezed out.

Marcel picked up the tale. “He must’ve been sick for a long time. None of us knew it. Sometime last week he passed out on the street, ambulance took him to the hospital. That’s when they diagnosed him. He refused treatment and everything else they had to offer and signed himself out.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Squid asked.

“We only found out a couple of days ago, and we knew you’d be here tonight,” Bernard answered. “The only reason I found out is he called me for a ride. He didn’t have any money on him and they wouldn’t let him go unless he had a ride. The stubborn mick was too proud to take a handout for a cab.

“I made him tell me what it was all about. Told him I wouldn’t take him home if he didn’t. So he did, and you know Sully, he wouldn’t say crap if he had a mouthful. But he told me, as flat and detached as always. Like he was talking about someone else. At the end, one tear ran down his cheek. He didn’t cry or anything like that, just that one tear. Man, for me, that was the worst.”

Bernard ended his monologue with a hitching breath that was uncomfortably close to a sob. Diamond Joe suddenly found his hands fascinating to look at and Marcel quickly turned back to the window, as Bernard cleared his throat.

Squid got up.

“You’re going to see him aren’t you?” Marcel asked.

“Yes,” Squid answered.

Diamond Joe asked, “You want us to come?”

“No, I’d rather go alone,” Squid replied. “Looks like you three are gonna have to play pinochle tonight.”

“You’re coming next month, right?” Bernard asked, looking and sounding afraid.

Squid smiled down on him. “You know it.”

~~~

Although quite a ways, it didn’t take Squid long to get to Griffintown. It was stormy and dark and he used every bit of his vampire speed to make the trip. The lingering pain in his knee seemed to have given up the ghost.

He entered Sully’s unlocked, dark apartment. The smell of urine and vomit and death was overpowering. Squid followed a dim light to the bedroom door and pushed it open.

Sully didn’t just look bad; he looked skeletal lying on the bed, his eyes closed. For a moment the Squid thought he was too late, but then, the dying man took in a short congested breath, and coughed his eyes open.

He smiled at Squid. Squid smiled back and sat in the rickety, old chair next to the bed.

Sully coughed again and cleared his throat. “Wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. But the way I’m feeling, I’m glad you didn’t wait. You’re missing the game though, aren’t you?”

“Didn’t feel very much like playing tonight. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“What’s there to tell?” Sully answered. “Nothing anyone could do anyway. It’s just a crummy hand. Too bad I can’t fold it for a half a buck and get a new one. But I’m stuck playing this one to the end, Colm old buddy.”

“Colm Callaghan’s not my real name, Pete,” Squid replied. “It’s Neal, Neal O’Sullivan.”

“Really?” Sully said. “I wish you’d told me that before. We might be related or something.”

Squid laughed. “Yeah, maybe so. But I think you’d have to go pretty far back to find the connection.”

“I suppose next thing you’re gonna say is the Squid ain’t your real nickname either,” Sully replied. “I’m not sure my heart could take the shock.”

“No, that name’s totally legit.”

Just like him, Squid thought, No reaction to me having an alias and he doesn’t ask a damn thing about it.

Squid shook his head smiling.

“What’s so funny?” Sully asked.

“Nothing. Just you being you I guess.”

“Well I’m glad I could make you laugh,” Sully quipped. “But if you don’t mind, all this yammering got me tuckered out. Thanks for coming, but I’m feeling pretty bad. And I really don’t want anyone sticking around, if you know what I mean.”

In the brief time Squid had been in the apartment, somehow Sully seemed to have grown thinner. His breath was coming out in short pants, and with his vampire vision, Squid could see the pulse in his neck beating along like the wings of a sparrow, thready and irregular and topping out at over 140.

Sully didn’t have much time.

“I know what you mean,” Squid answered. “But you sure you don’t want me to stay?”

Sully answered between breaths, “Sure I’m sure.”

Squid stood. “Okay. I’ll be back tomorrow, Pete.”

Sully’s smile was small and wry. His eyes were too bright. “You do that big fella, you do that. Looks like you’re gonna have to find another sucker for the game.”

The comment stopped Squid in his tracks. He hadn’t thought about that, not consciously anyway. As stupid as it was, standing there in the presence of a dying man, Squid found himself worried about the game.

I mean it wasn’t as if they could just magically find an instant replacement for a game going on eighteen years. Someone who’d fit right in with the flow of it and not completely screw it up. Someone who wouldn’t mind Diamond Joe smoking like a chimney, or Marcel’s constant bellyaching or Bernard breaking wind like a mule; someone who’d appreciate the Squid’s very unique sense of humor.

No, that sort of search could take years, or more than likely, would fail altogether. And what was the alternative, a poker game with only four players? A four-player game was totally worthless, and a sure fire death knell.

And their little game was way more than just a game, wasn’t it? It was a relationship. And even more that that, it had all the best components of a relationship, with none of the negatives.

They saw each other once a month, plenty in the Squid’s book. They drank, check, they smoked, check, they ribbed each other, and nobody got pissed. Well, even if they did, it didn’t last very long.

There were no arguments, no relatives, no date nights, no alimony, no nothing! It wasn’t just a relationship; it was the perfect relationship! Squid wouldn’t let the game die, he couldn’t. His fragile human side had no interest in taking that sort of hit. It screamed for him to act.

The Squid turned back to Sully. “You know I’ve been thinking, all these years and we never exchanged a Christmas gift. Cards yes, but never a gift.”

Sully tried to laugh, but it came out a cough. “You’re one jolly joker, Neal. Helluva time to come up with that one.”

“Comedian of the year, that’s me,” Squid said looking around the room. “Hey, you got a suitcase or two in this rattrap? I’m not sure how this is gonna go with your leukemia and all, but if things work out, we’ll have to get out of town for awhile.”

“What the heck are you talking about?” Sully asked looking baffled. “If you didn’t notice, my traveling days are pretty much cooked.”

Squid looked down at him wearing a dead serious expression. It was one Squid hardly ever wore. “Answer the question. Suitcases.”

“Okay sure, I’ll play along. Back closet, two of ’em.”

“Great, that’ll make things go smoother,” Squid replied. “This is kind of dopey of me you know. You’re supposed to run this sort of thing through the mayor, paperwork, evaluations, all that. She’s one nasty piece of work though. She’d just say no anyway, and we’re nearly out of time.”

A spasm of coughing shook Sully to his core. When he finally caught his breath he said, “Didn’t realize you were rubbing elbows with the mayor. But last time I checked, she was a he. Name of Tremblay as I recall.”

Squid smiled. “Doesn’t matter. We can talk about that later. But about that Christmas gift, I’ve got if for you, right here, tonight. We’re well into January, so I know it’s late, but it’s a Christmas gift just the same.”

Sully favored Squid with a look he hardly ever wore. He looked amused. “And to think I didn’t get you anything. I guess it will have to wait to next year.”

Squid laughed. “That’s pretty good, Sully . . . pretty good. You ready?”

“Can’t wait,” Sully shot back.

Squid walked to the bed, bending over it. He took Sully’s head in his hands, and like any good Quebecois would, even the Irish ones like Squid and Sully, he kissed both his cheeks.

Squid remained there, nose to nose, smiling at his friend.

Sully smiled back. “Not much of a gift.”

“No, but this is,” Squid said. “Merry Christmas.”

Squid bit into Sully’s emaciated neck, unleashing his cancer-ridden blood in a torrent. He drank it down in huge gulps.

Sully, not being prone to over-reaction, or reaction of any kind, for that matter, didn’t make a sound.

Afterwards, the Squid waited.
__________________________________________________________
About the author: Chris DeFazio is a practicing ER doctor and physician assistant educator who lives in the Boston suburbs with his family. “The Game” provides a brief glimpse into the life The Squid (aka Colm Callaghan, aka Neal O’Sullivan), of one of the characters in DeFazio’s, A History in Blood, the first in a series of novels revolving around the colorful life of Titus Acilius, the Roman legionary turned modern-day vampire.

“…an absolutely outstanding read”—InD’Tale magazine

A History in Blood is available in digital format through major online retailers with the paperback out March 2014. Look for news of the second title, Just Plain Blood coming later in 2014!

You can connect with Chris DeFazio online at Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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