Jack sat by the fire. He’d traded in his funeral black for flannels, a bomber jacket, and a sniper rifle that looked more at home in Baghdad and not the bricked-up mountain cabin he'd picked for our sleeping quarters. Moonlight filtered through the single prison window by the time I found the liquor supply.
I handed him an unlabeled bottle. "Cool duds. You going native?"
He ignored me, staring at the door as he filled a dirty glass and drank the whole thing down in one go, and I returned to the stack of legal briefs we were supposed to review for tomorrow's public hearing, a formality his father's death had tossed our way.
I hummed to myself, balling up a piece of paper and lobbing it at his ear. He rubbed his face in exhaustion.
"Fine. You get one question."
I tapped my fingers. How old are you? Were you born a vampire? Who killed your father?
"What do people taste like?"
"Like you'd expect."
"Do they taste bad?"
"That's two questions."
"No one's done that in years, we keep livestock..."
I let the silence stretch, waiting him out, sucking a piece of ice from my drink and crunching it down to snow.
He looked over his shoulder. "When you're scared. That's how they like it."
"Are you supposed to be scary?" I poured myself another shot and watched the back of his head.
"Don't leave the house tonight."
A log fell in the fireplace and sparks spiraled upward as he fingered the bolt action. He drank directly from the bottle this time. "Something scary."
I dreamed of walking through an empty house much bigger than this one, my footsteps echoing in rooms so vast the ceilings rose into darkness, and awoke on the floor with a bottle in one hand. A few papers had fallen off the counter. I turned to the source of the footsteps in my dream, the door banging softly against the wall, and Jack’s empty chair.
A jar rolled across the porch, some winged thing bumping against the inside of the pebbled glass that stopped until I got within six inches and then moved out of reach again. “Cool.”
I grabbed a flashlight, put back the butcher knife and opted instead for a machete, and followed the jar down a deer path thru the trees. Moonlight only thickened the shadows around me.
The cabin was long out of sight and I was still wasted when the jar picked up speed and vanished over the lip of a ravine. My flashlight sputtered once and died. I fished a cigarette out of my coat, leaning the machete against a rock and waiting for my night vision to return.
I watched smoke coil thru my fingers. With any luck, nobody would show at tomorrow's hearing and I'd be back in the land of cable news and hot showers before dinner. Jack was interesting but...
A square of light came on at the bottom of the ravine and something moved in front of it, huge and awkward as a bear. Had someone built a house down there?
"I told you to stay inside."
My flashlight picked that moment to come to life and Jack's shadow flickered against the trees.
I blew out smoke. "Okay fine, we can go." I crushed my cigarette and felt down around the ground. The machete was missing. "Hey Jack did you...?"
But he was already several paces ahead and I glanced back at the ravine, the light winking before going out entirely, a secret assurance that it would be waiting for me.