Psalm of Vampires Chapter Four

Psalm of Vampires Chapter Four
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Daphne's World

You might have wondered why, as you hear my tale, Daphne never commented on my biology. My incisors, for example, or my bluish hue.

The incisor explanation was always an easy one. I told her, like I tell everyone, that I’m just a biological freak who has ridiculous canines compared to most people, and that I had decided a long time ago to just go with it and sharpen them regularly, almost for fun. Most people believe it, and those who don’t sort of ignore it and forget they ever asked. Daphne got a kick out of it and asked if she could watch me sharpen them someday. I gently told her no. I can only imagine what Longtooth told people. “They’re great for digging?”

My bluish hue is always more challenging to explain. By the time Daphne asked, I knew her well enough to be able to say, “I don’t know,” and that was the end of it. “Doctors tried to diagnose it when I was young, but they gave up,” I had said. Naturally, she felt sorry for me. Because Daphne.

We originally met in New Orleans, not Atlanta. She was a drummer in an all-girls screamo band. In those days she wore seriously distressed leather pants and huge splotches of black eye shadow that angled up the outside of her eyes. When I met her, she was wearing a black leather vest over a tiny tube top. She was sexier than the word.

I was playing sax in a blues club just down the street from where she was playing on Conti Street. The dark club was so humid that night that it felt like it was raining inside. The door had been left open to lure tourists to the music. I noticed a statuesque Asian woman in the front sitting alone at a table with her palms up under her chin staring at me relentlessly under thick fringe bangs that seemed an inch longer than they should have been.

It’s impossible not to respond to that, so when my set was over, I walked over to her and sat at her table. “That’s mad,” she said. She moved her hands off her chin to the table. Her angled face finished with a jawline that you could have inserted into a funnel, so pointed was her chin.

I was used to compliments about my music. I’d been playing various kinds of instruments for more than fifteen hundred years. “Thanks,” I said.

“No, no, I mean it, it’s not… I’m not sure how to say it. But it’s not just that you can riff a sax. It’s like, you invented the sax. And your distinctive style. Like nothing I’ve ever heard.” Then she introduced herself. I did the same. When she sat, she didn’t look tiny the way most humans did to me. She was tall sitting down, and when she stood up later, I figured her to be at least six feet tall. Probably more.

We didn’t talk much at first. I sometimes came over to her club to listen to her, even though her music gave me a headache, and she’d come over and listen to me. She was a hell of a drummer. When she hit the drums, she bobbed her head angrily but happily, if that makes sense, even back then.

She was a joy to be around. But I had no interest in sex with her at the time, nor a relationship beyond friendship. I have spent much of this century in a sullen mood, sad that our species is on the verge of extinction, with no suitable partner to carry on my lineage. When I met Daphne, I was consumed by darkness. She lit me up. I think it took me until the time of the Piedmont killings to realize just how much.

people walking on streets
Photo by mana5280 / Unsplash

We started clubbing together into the wee New Orleans hours. We danced and talked and walked around the city. She was unafraid of New Orleans’ notorious crime, but I think she knew that most crimes in the party districts happened to tourists who had trouble walking late at night without stumbling into light posts. I also learned during one of our walks that she could take care of herself. She had studied two kinds of martial arts: Taekwondo and capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that she said made her a good dancer.

One day during our last months in New Orleans, she challenged me to a martial arts duel after I told her of my expertise in karate and jiu-jitsu. I knew a local gym owner, so I paid him a princely sum to let me have a key to the place so that Daphne and I could engage in combat after the gym was locked up for the night. That was the first time her scent drove me wild. She nearly had me beat, and there was a moment when her sweating body was lying on top of mine. I was nearly compelled to crush my canines into her neck, so strongly did her erotic pungency assault my senses.

We had been flipping each other around like rag dolls, and there she was on top of me when she planted a kiss on my lips. Her tongue was a furious force that found its way around mine as she slammed a palm onto the mat, sighing and panting as her other hand struggled to pull off my tight black shorts. I surprised myself by splitting the shoulder strap of her red sports bra with both my hands like I was tearing a piece of paper, accidentally exposing my strength as she was exposing my loins. I did the same to her spandex shorts, ripping them in half from behind. “What are you doing, you crazy nut?” she laughed. “How am I supposed to walk at night with nothing underneath? I ought to kick your ass for that,” and her lips and tongue took mine like she owned me.

This was a few months before one of New Orleans’ big hurricanes. We both decided to leave New Orleans after the hurricane hit, but first, we helped rebuild two houses. I had stayed in the city during the hurricane because it was excellent feeding weather, but she evacuated. When she came back, the storm’s devastation made it almost impossible to not stumble into an opportunity to offer someone assistance. So, we helped an old woman who lost her home in Metairie, and, for good measure, we offered to help her next-door neighbor, too. We rounded up some funding, played a few gigs to round up some more, and put together a small crew to rebuild the two houses.

people standing near body of water during daytime
Photo by Tommy Munoz / Unsplash

Then we both decided to go to Atlanta. We didn’t go together, really, although we did fly out together. She had a ton of friends in Atlanta, and I had a few, too, so we drifted apart for several months. I occasionally wondered if I ever did or said anything to upset her since our arrival in Atlanta, but she never acted upset. We never laid claim to each other, either. It was the classic friends-with-benefits relationship.

Our separation, I finally decided, was organic. It just happened, the same way that we eventually drifted back together later. Everything with Daphne is that way. Comfortable. No stress. Many humans have a toxic combination of self-love and self-hate that makes them almost impossible to enjoy, but Daphne is humanity’s one connection I know of to whatever angels exist in this universe. I sometimes have suspected her of actually being one, for real.

The good in her is so pure that it made it almost impossible for me to talk to her about the killings. By the time we met early in the morning after Ice’s murder, I assumed she knew about it, despite her personal news blackout policy.

We sat at a small round table in a dark corner of Koolio Pink’s, a coffee house on Monroe near Piedmont Park. Daphne was wearing a grey knee-length sweater over brown yoga pants. The sweater’s sleeves nearly covered her hands. It wasn’t a date, but I wore her favorite black Nehru shirt anyway, along with a pair of tan hemp pants.

She was carrying an iPad with her, probably because her grey corduroy purse was about the size of a baby’s sock.  You could have swung a bowling ball around with the gold-colored chain it was attached to. “So this is gonna sound crazy,” she said. “But I want to watch a recording of Z’s last moments on earth. With you.” Yep, she knew.

“Why?” I asked, realizing at that moment that she must have known about it when I had messaged her the previous night to meet me.

She sounded sad but determined. Focused. “Because we are going to find a clue who did this. Together, you and me. We are a kick-ass team, you and me. Everything we do works. So. We do this. You in?”

“I’m in.”

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“This is just our first time,” she said, her happy voice returning as she flipped open the pink, decal-splattered cover of her iPad. It wasn’t her happy, happy voice, but it was a happier voice than a moment before. “But we’ll look at it again and again. But first, I am asking you as a friend to let me meet as many of your friends as you can, and you meet as many of mine as I can because you know what?”

“I’m about to find out,” I smiled sheepishly.

“Whoever did this knows one of us.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because what I saw last night looked personal. And, somehow, this guy knew that Z would be in the park, right? I mean, well, you’ll see. The recording shows it happening only at about six minutes in. That’s six minutes after Z got settled into his chair. This guy was waiting for him.”

“Meaning he probably knew Ice, but not necessarily one of us.”

“I dunno, Jade, maybe. But our circle of friends is pretty connected. Let’s be open-minded about every possibility, K?”

I nodded. Then I surprised myself by taking her hand and kissing it. Embarrassed, I let it go and put her hand back on the table. “I think that’s the one spot on my body you’ve never kissed,” she giggled. She looked into my eyes. “Do you think this is the same guy who killed the dude in the ice cream shop? God that was so weird. I mean, it has to be the same guy, right?”

I obviously knew it wasn’t, but I couldn’t go there. I said, “Circumstances say it ought to be,” which wasn’t a lie.

Daphne tapped her iPad a couple of times and scooted her chair next to mine while she positioned the tablet for us both to see. Ever since our fight match, her scent always drove me wild, but Longtooth’s brief description of her demise made it more intense now. I could almost feel the salt of her blood in my incisors. Our predatory instinct is our dominant trait, and as Ice Game Z was pulled by his head off the camera by the same gloves that I had seen hold the shirt with the bloody smiley face, my blood rushed through me to the point where I thought it would burst through my arteries and splatter everything around us.

The hands grabbed his head in such a way that one gloved finger appeared to be piercing each eye as the murderer yanked Ice’s head. Ice had been joking around and smiling just before that. When the killer grabbed his face, knocking off his hat, Ice looked astonished for a moment before the fingers dug into his eyes, then Ice’s lips pursed in an extreme manner, like a fish trying desperately to kiss aquarium glass that is just beyond its reach. His arms flailed as he was pulled, trying to swing blindly at his tormenter. The violence ended with the heels of his feet kicking over the chair as they left the view of the camera.

“Fuck,” said Daphne.

“Yeah, fuck,” I concurred. “I haven’t seen this. Haven’t wanted to.”

She took my hand. “We need to keep watching it until we’re numb to it so we can do this.”

“Do what?”

“Find the guy.”

“Daph, I love your fortitude. Your courage, too. But isn’t this what a modern police force is designed for?”

“Not American ones. I don’t know about other countries.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but I had a reasonable guess in my head. I tapped a few things into my phone. AI queries. “They solve about half of all murders,” I said.

“I guess that’s more than I thought but still. What if Z is in the wrong half?”

“Okay,” I said. “I told you I’m in. And I’m in.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“I didn’t know you were so close to Ice.”

“We had a thing at one time. When we first got to Atlanta. I guess that’s why maybe you and me didn’t hook up so much for a while. But you and me weren’t like that, right? I mean, a couple?” She was staring a hole through me.

“Please, please don’t worry about that or my feelings,” I said. “This is Ice we are talking about.”

When she nodded, a tear popped out of one eye. She slid her sleeve against it and said, “We got to be such good friends later, you know? Me and Z, we couldn’t be a couple. I don’t know why. I mean, I didn’t love him like that, and, well, I don’t know how he really felt, to be honest. I think he might have wanted more. I don’t know. But he never resented me for it if he did. He was…”

“…Like you,” I said. “He was kind of an angel, wasn’t he? Never got mad at people, loved everybody.”

More tears, more sleeve. “Ya.” She was silent for a moment before saying, “Thank you for that, that’s sweet.”

It has been people like Daphne and Ice over the last few centuries that have turned me into who I am. When I was young, I had no qualms about overfeeding and leaving a body to wither and die. It’s not a good idea to feed that way, but if it happened, I didn’t care. But I started meeting people like these two. There aren’t many of them, to be honest. But there are enough that it seems wrong to randomly feed on people, even if all it does is immobilize them for a few minutes and snatch ten minutes of their memory so that they never know what happened. That’s why I started looking for more deserving prey.

“Did you know he was a big-time mage on WoW a couple years ago?”

“I didn’t even know he played, to be honest,” I said.

“Was a guild master, famous for killing barren chats. Hated chat trolls. If you can imagine him hating anybody. Anyway, they’re having a funeral for him there. Some guild. I don’t know which one. I don’t play anymore. But even though he hasn’t played for a couple of years, they’re doing an in-game funeral for him. Someone is going to post a video on YouTube with highlights of his best days on WoW. They’re gonna call it ‘Z does World of Warcraft.’”

“There’s a Fortnite funeral scheduled for him, too,” I said.

black samsung android smartphone displaying man in blue suit
Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

“Do you know what Z is?” she asked.

I shook my head. “I never asked him,” I said.

“The Z is for Zafran. His name was Zafran. The name has something to do with a flower in his native language.”

“Sounds about right,” I said.

“I don’t remember what exactly. Okay,” she said, straightening up. “Round two.”

We watched it five more times. “The only clue is those stupid gloves,” she said after we finished. “No voice, no body, nothing.”

I couldn’t tell her that Charly and I had a sniffing date to visit the scenes of the latest crimes with our noses the way we did the first murder. In retrospect, that hadn’t gone well, but Charly, too, knew Ice. We were determined to hunt for clues.

“Wait,” said Daphne. “Wait.”

I wasn’t going anywhere, but I was holding back my usual snark for her sake.

“Let me go back to the very beginning.” She replayed the video and then paused it. “Look. You can just barely see the arm at the top of the picture. It goes away fast.” She was replaying the bloody shirt scene. I could see it, but it wasn’t distinct. The gloves ended at the top of the screen, but you could just barely make out an arm at the top edge. The arm appeared to be covered by a tight, black sleeve of some kind that extended beyond the wrist into the glove. “Maybe it’s some weird sun angle?”

I shook my head because I didn’t know what she was referring to.

“Look,” she pointed. “It’s like, a really soft glow against the inside of the sleeve. It looks like it’s coming out of the glove or something. Just barely because the glove is so tight, but through that one little, like, cave between the glove and the skin, you can see it. So weird.”

It was barely discernible, but it was there. A faint, bluish orb faintly splashed the sleeve near the edge of the glove. When Daphne fast-forwarded one second, the orb was gone. “I mean,” she said. “Who makes gloves that glow from the inside?”

“Gotta be the sun.”

“Maybe but maybe the killer is wearing something on his finger or something that glows. A ring or something.”

The glove was too tight for that, I thought. Some vampires glow, I was tempted to say. Daphne would have told me to stay focused. But what if I told her the truth? What would she say? What if I told her, and was able to prove it to her? Would it terrify her? Of course, it would. But if I really wanted to help her, she needed to know. It seemed unfair to leave the most important part of the equation out of her reach.

“Well,” I said. “It’s not much. But it’s better than what we had a half-hour ago. Why don’t you stop by the estate later and you can meet some of the crew?” She had been there plenty, but never specifically to meet people. Her interaction with most of the people at my place was usually a casual one involving a few hellos as she made her way to my bedroom or studio.

“It’s always happening there, huh?” she said. “Even now?”

“It’s been a bit subdued since Ice got killed. Everyone’s pretty upset. He kind of lived there, although he was never there. If that makes any sense.”

“That was Z. The world was his home.”

“You know, I never asked you how your rave was.”

“I’m glad you didn’t. It might have made me mad. You know, given the circumstances.”

“I’ve never seen you mad.”

She looked at me with a loving look. Then, she took my hand and kissed it almost exactly like I had kissed hers moments ago. “I don’t know who we are, Jade,” she said, releasing it. “I mean, sometimes it feels like we are a couple, you know?”

I nodded. She continued. “I don’t want to talk about it now but maybe we someday should? Unless you’re just okay with things like they are. I mean, I am too, but all this happening with Z makes me appreciate that time is fleeting. Everything we care about can disappear in an instant.”

“You make my heart sing, Daph. Always have. But I’ve got some skeletons in my closet.” Talk about an understatement.

“I know, Jade. I wasn’t born yesterday.” She kind of was born yesterday in my timeline, but I didn’t say anything. She shrugged. “We all do. All of us. But the thing is, no matter how much we love somebody, we still make more skeletons, even while we are trying to love each other.”

“We’re all a bunch of skeleton-makers.”

“Yep,” she smiled. “Sometimes I think we tend to work harder to make those skeletons the more we love someone because we’re so sure we’ll screw it all up that we end up getting out the brew and potions to satisfy fate.” She pretended to mix potions on the table as she looked at me and smiled. “Time to make skeletons!”

I covered her hands with mine. “Stop that. The idea is to make them by mistake, not on purpose.”

“It’s the same thing I think,” she said. I had never seen her sad. I wanted to find a way to punch through her sadness, but I knew she’d need to experience it. “Anyway, I’ll stop by your place in a few hours or so?”

“Okay,” I said. “Don’t eat. I’ve got some butternut squash soup with your name on it.” I didn’t, but it was one of her favorites, and I knew where I could get some.

“I’ll love that, thanks.”

We both stood up from the table and went outside. We gave each other a long, expressive, unforgettable, soulful hug. Neither of us wanted to let go. Finally, she did. She hit my chest with her fists. “Now I know why you told me to be careful yesterday before the rave.”

“I didn’t want to say anything about the other kill…” At that, she put her index finger on my lips. “Shh. I know. You’re sweet. I’m glad you didn’t.” She stood on her toes and I bent down so she could kiss my cheek. Then she grabbed my shoulders and turned me around and gave me a push. “See you soon!” she said in her somewhat happy voice.

I used my phone to hit up Charly next.

“I know we said we’d hit those spots today, but I went late last night,” said Charly, referring to our sniff date. “Nothin’.”


“Not one interesting scent. Just Ice. And maybe some little kids from before. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they’re not our culprits. And at the other murder scene, nothing. No human scent at all.”

I told him about the video. I told him about the faint glow on the wrist. I didn’t make a big deal of it with Daphne, but I knew what it was the moment I saw it.

“There aren’t a lot of glowers,” said Charly. “Your friend Moreland is one.”

“Yeah, our friend Moreland is one.”

“Honestly, I can’t think of any others that are still alive.” The Longtooth clan was said to sometimes glow, but I hadn’t seen it.

“Yeah,” I said. “Look. She’s surly, but not in that way.”

“It would explain why I couldn’t find a scent,” said Charly. Vampires seemed to be biologically prohibited from detecting each other’s scent.

“Moreland has been screaming at me for two days about so flagrantly exposing myself to human society. It doesn’t make any sense that she’d start in on humans like this. Moreland is a lot of things, but she’s not a hypocrite.”

“She’s not. But maybe something else is at play. What do you know about Ice? Could he have any history with Moreland?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it. But I guess we need to find out. Besides, we’d need a connection to the other victim, too.”

“Leave no stone unturned, brother.”

“Kinda what Daphne is saying.”

“Shit, bro, what are you saying to Daphne?”

“Chill. She was tight with Ice. We were only discussing the killings.”


“And that she wants to meet every single person Ice knew and I know and solve the crime.”

“Oh, hell no.”

“What am I supposed to say to her, Charly? She loved the guy.”

“Well. At least she’s a good kid. Just, you know, be careful. It’s not as difficult to discover our true nature as we’d like to believe.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“Moreland knows it. There are lots of us, not you, not me, but lots of us, who would cheer to see humans destroyed. Those of us left, anyways.”

“Well, if they go, we go.”

“Good point.”

“We need their DNA. If we had known that seven hundred years ago there’d be a lot more of us.”

“The Port of Messina Incident,” sighed Charly, referring to the spread of bubonic plague caused by an Italian vampire priest who purposely infected twelve boats at an Italian port in the fourteenth century. To this day, humans blame rats. Which is fair, I guess. Monsignor Antione was certainly a rat. He knew he was sick with the plague, which had infected him when he was bit by a Wurdulac in Crimea.

We called it the Blood Plague because it was one of the few things that could kill us. Dying vampires infected by the plague were easily recognized by people who knew what to look for, because, invariably, black blood would ooze out of our eyes before we died. There were almost as many dead vampire bodies all over Europe in those days as there were humans. But whereas it took humans only half a day or a day to die, vampires could live for weeks carrying the plague.

Monsignor Antione, knowing he’d die within a couple of weeks, wanted to kill as many humans as he could while he was still alive, so he fed on dozens per hour on the ships and surrounding areas while they sat at port. If he had to, he’d vomit so that he could feed on more. It wasn’t common knowledge that the plague was lethal to vampires. Vampires had generally proven to be immune to human disease. Monsignor Antione understood his fate because he was a Wurdulac hunter and knew what he was getting into. The word of Antione’s actions spread among vampires, and others began to participate, unaware that they were participating in their own demise.

Humans are not the only creatures tethered to mythologies. Vampires in the fourteenth century thought they could live on the blood of other mammals, so they spread out across Europe to destroy as many humans as possible, using the plague as a bioweapon, thinking, I guess, that they could live off squirrels. One bite per village was enough for the plague to erase a village in a matter of days. The discovery of such an easy way to kill a bunch of humans was catnip to many vampires of that era. The official death toll by historians is something like 100 million, but in truth, the death toll was more than 200 million. Nearly half of them were vampires. One day, perhaps I will tell my story of those years.

Even worse, the plague continued to spread among vampires long after it petered out among humans. Lost to history is that many fourteenth-century humans discovered the truth about vampires, and as a result, an endless reign of persecution began that only halted because humans decided killing each other on a mass scale in the twentieth century’s two world wars was more fun.

Eventually, we were forgotten and became the myth we are today. But vampires like Longtooth never forgot our shared history. Moreland sometimes seemed to have sympathy for Longtooth’s cause.

“But here’s the thing,” said Charly. “Moreland can’t destroy the human race on her own no matter how many she kills. There are just too many of them now, and almost none of us. She could be just having a little of what she calls fun.”

“Defending Moreland at any time of day is not exactly something I relish. But like I said, she’s not a hypocrite. And she’s never thirsted for the destruction of the human race, Charly. Not like our friend Longtooth.”

“Anyone can be a hypocrite if there’s a tactical reason for it. We gotta check out Ice. See if they knew each other. Maybe it’s personal. Or if Ice knew another vampire we aren’t thinking of or don’t know. Just because it’s a glower doesn’t mean it’s Moreland.”

“Daphne would be very helpful for this,” I said.

“Don’t even.”

“Daphne knew Ice better than I did.”

“Doesn’t matter. She can’t know.” Charly was stern.

“If I told her, she’d just think I meant I’m part of some kind of club. She could find out if Ice knew others in the club.”

“No, Atticus.”

“Fine, but I can still have her snoop around and ask her to let me know about anybody unusual to her world.”

“Define unusual to Daphne. She’s a free spirit.”

“That’s just it, right? If she runs into anything she considers unusual, that could be a clue.”

Charly laughed. “Look, I don’t know this girl aside from what you’ve told me. Met her a few times, seems like I said, a good kid. But we both know that all humans are dangerous.”

“So are all vampires, Charly. You proved that in the ice cream shop.”

“I have a rapacious appetite. Scumbags bring out my wrath.”

“Speaking of scumbags, what if the ice cream scumbag wasn’t the killer of the first victim?” I asked.

“He was. If he didn’t kill her, he assaulted her. Her scent was all over his apartment. Oh.”

“What?” I asked.

“Maybe the glower finished the job.”



“The ice cream dude didn’t have to die, then,” I said.

“He was a scumbag. No loss.”

“Charly, I have to say this.”


“They may have been dating.”

Charly laughed. “You saw that guy. Talked to him for a minute. Who’d date him?”

“You said to leave no stone unturned. That’s kind of a big stone.”

“I’ll go back to his apartment. Look around.”

“Cops will have it cordoned off. Be careful.”

“I won’t have a problem feeding off a cop or three. They’ll never know what hit them.”

“Be nice. Leave some for others.”

I tapped off the phone and took a ride share to a nearby health food co-op to buy some butternut squash soup. I was excited to see Daphne again already. But not for the reasons you might think. I decided it was time to tell her about my world.

Chapter One can be found here
Chapter Two can be found 
Chapter Three can be found 

Thanks for reading! You can buy Psalm of Vampires on Amazon (under my real name, not my pen name). Kirkus Reviews says, “Get it!”