Psalm of Vampires, Chapter Three

Psalm of Vampires, Chapter Three
Image of man licensed from Adobe Stock; Background image licensed from Adobe Stock; image mashup by author

Trigger warnings: raw language, violence

Chapter Three — Police Procedural

I had dismissed Moreland’s concerns out of hand but that didn’t change the likelihood that things could get messy.

The internet noise from my violin act was growing almost in direct proportion to the social media trendlines of the ice cream parlor killing, which was now a bigger story than the Piedmont Park murder. This meant that a heavy volume of internet noise centered around me. No wonder Moreland was pissed.

Daphne forwarded about ten thousand Instagram posts the next day from various people praising the violin solo. Moreland forwarded about ten thousand and one posts relaying what the Atlanta Police Department was saying about the two killings.

Things seemed manageable until a third killing popped up early afternoon that same day, this one also in Piedmont Park, and this one also in broad daylight.

I texted Moreland as soon as I saw a news item about the third killing, deciding I’d get in front of it by attaching the text, “Don’t even start” to a news post I forwarded to her.

She replied with a spiteful curse, and we were off to the races again.

The cops stopped hiding their concerns. The Atlanta P.D. Facebook post was blunt:

“We want the community to stay calm, but we also want everyone to be careful. Do not go to any park alone. When we say don’t go to the park alone, we don’t mean bring your dog for protection. We mean be sure you go with another person. Bring pepper spray and be careful.”

Another police department post stated that the first Piedmont death had been caused by a knife wound to the neck. This little detail had been left out of earlier reports, which had only mentioned a knife attack. The second Piedmont death was also a knife wound. Specifically, the carotid artery was severed. The cops were now saying that was also the cause of death of the man in the ice cream shop.

I called Charly. “Have you seen the news?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “Our man couldn’t have done this new one. He’s dead.”

“The police are saying our ice cream shop friend died the same way. Basically, a clean slice of the carotid.”

“Really. I didn’t hear that. What do you think?”

“I think I saw a messy scene from the bloodiest ice cream party in history. I have no idea what game the police might be playing. Oh. And by the way? Moreland is pissed.”

“Moreland is always pissed.”

“She stopped by yesterday while I was trying to sleep. Called you ‘that Charly guy.’”


I laughed at that. “I dunno. I told her it would all blow over, but this new killing adds a delta I’m not crazy about.”

“It’s too soon for a copycat killer,” said Charly, sounding worried.

“Right. Can’t be a copycat. The cops only released the news that the first murder was a neck wound today. After the second murder.”


“I know, right?”

At that instant, I got a message from one of the influencers downstairs: “The police are here. Asking for you.”

I was cozy in my bed. I had been surfing and streaming a little from the bed all afternoon. I sure as hell didn’t want to have a chat with Atlanta’s finest. I texted, “Tell them I’ll be right down,” anyway.

“It just got better, Charly,” I said into the phone.

“How so?”

“Cops are here.”


I laughed. “Why do you think? The influencers are making too much noise?”

“Do you want me to come over?”

“Sure, let’s make it easy for them,” I said. Charly laughed. “If they give me too much trouble, I’ll just add to their carotid artery severance count.” Charly was silent. “Kidding. I’ll call you later.”

“Be safe,” said Charly.

“Tell that to the cops,” I replied. Charly sighed as I tapped off the call.

I tried to think about how I could be my most flamboyant self. I didn’t want the police for one moment to think they were dealing with someone they would consider normal. I ran to the wardrobe room across the hall and found a long, pink feathered shawl and some slacks with pink and black polka dots. I didn’t need a shirt because I was able to wrap the shawl around my upper body. I grabbed a mandolin from the music room.

As I descended the stairs, I strummed an oldie, “Mandolin Wind.” There were some influencers at the bottom of the stairs sipping juicy-looking booze drinks. “Dude,” one of them said. “The mandolin, too? Whoa! Hey, guys, listen to that.” I smiled as I found the last steps. One of the women approached me and pushed open my shawl enough to expose a pectoral muscle and rub it as I neared the door to greet the police, who were inside glaring with a pair of stern looks.

The police were wearing suits: A young Black man and an older white guy with a bald head and a small tuft of white hair under his chin. He was burly with a heavily pockmarked face, like a middle-aged TV wrestler who had successfully endured fighting his way through his middle years. His dark gray suit jacket was too snug. It barely fit.

The Black guy was thin but looked in shape, too, and was almost twice as tall as the white guy. His suit coat was too baggy. I wanted to ask them to switch suit coats for the betterment of humanity.

I set the mandolin on a nearby table and ushered the two cops out of the foyer into the well-appointed living room before they had a chance to introduce themselves. The Black guy was carrying a satchel and nearly swung it into a blue and white Qing dynasty vase as he entered the room.

“What can I do for you on this fine afternoon?” I asked. I made sure they found comfortable seats on a couch across from the home’s Érard grand piano. I sat on a velvet Victorian parlor chair next to them.

“You’ve heard about the knife attacks recently?” asked the white guy.

“Yes, of course.” I looked into the foyer, where people were cavorting. “They have, too. You wouldn’t know it, huh?”

“What is this place?” asked the Black guy accusingly.

I pulled out my phone and pulled up an Instagram home page of Fang HQ and handed it to him. “This,” I said.

He shook his head while he looked at it and turned his palm up in the universal language that says, “What the hell?”

“Anyway,” I said. “What can I do for you?”

The Black guy rolled his eyes as he handed my phone back to me.

“I’m Detective Garrison,” said the guy who looked like a wrestler. “And this is Detective Owens. We’re investigating one of the murders. You were identified as being at the scene of the crime just before it happened.”

I leaned in toward the nearest officer, Garrison, and said, “Do tell.”

“One of the kids at the ice cream shop,” said Owens. “ID’d you. Said you were there moments before the vic got his throat sliced. Possibly assaulted a police officer.”

I wanted to correct him by saying the victim’s throat wasn’t sliced, but then I remembered that it actually was. Sort of.

“It’s Halloween,” I said. “People masquerade as me all the time. Go to a costume party this weekend. You’ll see.”

Sometimes when I sleep, I feel weird for several hours after I wake up. I thought I heard a buzzing in the room behind me. Sort of like what you might expect a mechanical fly to sound like. I thought I was just feeling weird and hearing things.

“So,” said Garrison. “You’re saying you weren’t there?”

“I don’t even like ice cream. Well, I do. But my body doesn’t.” I took off my shawl. “Does this look like an ice cream aficionado’s body?” I looked at Owens when I said this. The buzzing continued.

Owens wasn’t impressed. “If we never busted a guy because he says he doesn’t like a certain kinda food, we’d never bust anybody. Why the hell are you so blue? Do you dye your skin or something?”

Garrison gave him a cross look but didn’t say anything.

I draped my shawl around my chest and looked behind me for the buzzing sound.

“Are you okay?” asked Garrison.

The buzzing stopped. “I’m fine,” I said.

I wanted to sass back at Owens by saying, “You guys never bust anybody anyway,” but I held my tongue and instead started thinking about who I should find as an alibi.

Charly was an obvious no. I thought about Daphne. No, she’d be terrified at just about every aspect of this. Surprisingly, I decided on Moreland. But she’d resist talking to the police because her skin was so damned red. Plus, she glowed when she was angry. It was a conundrum, but I had plenty of friends. I’d figure something out.

“Do you have anyone who can corroborate your statement?” asked Garrison.

Instead of answering, I said, “You know, Garrison is the perfect name for a detective. If I was making a police procedural movie or TV show, my main detective would be named that.”

“Please answer the question, Mr. Mourning,” Owens commanded.

“You can call me Jade,” I said to him, winking.

“A name, please,” said Owens. “Unless you’d like to go to the station and talk things over there.”

This was becoming a problem. Fuck it, I thought. “Moreland. Contact my friend Moreland.”

They asked for her contact details, which I reluctantly provided. Garrison stood up, then Owens. “Thank you for your time,” said Garrison as I stood up. He strode past me. Owens followed him and made a point of bumping his shoulder against me as he walked past. I gave him a good sniff.

After they left, a streamer named Raygun approached me and held his hand out. There was a tiny something in his palm. I couldn’t tell what it was. “Meet Wallace,” he said as if making introductions.

I strained my neck to peer closer into his palm. The thing in his palm looked like a large bee. “Hi Wallace,” I said. Raygun had been in my bed a couple of weeks ago, so I remembered him fondly.

“Wallace recorded everything,” Raygun said. “Livestreamed the interview. Didn’t you, Wallace?” Wallace flew out of Raygun’s hand and buzzed around the foyer, crashed into a wall, recovered, then flew out the open door. I closed the door, grumbling about letting real bugs in. “Hope you’re cool with that,” Raygun said, a little late.

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A lot of people might have cared. But this is life as a streamer. If you don’t like someone recording what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong business. I didn’t care, so I clapped Raygun’s shoulder and said, “Sure,” and started to make my way back up the stairs.

“Wallace is modeled after Megachile pluto,” said Raygun with a loud voice over the rest of the influencers milling about and partying.

I was on the second step of the stairs. I turned around to look at Raygun. “And Megachile pluto is?” I asked. The party seemed to be expanding, spilling outdoors and into the room where I had been questioned. The front door opened again, revealing a couple of giggling girls wearing bikinis stumbling in.

Raygun beamed. “Biggest bee in the world. It’s also known as Wallace’s giant bee. I know, I’m sooo clever. Anyway, Wallace, he’s a little smaller. The real deal is about the size of your thumb. I can’t believe those dumb cops didn’t notice him though.”

“Really,” I said. “Where are these bees found?”

“Indonesia. The last one was supposed to have died back in the eighties. But they saved the species when they found a few flying around a few years ago.”

Like us, I thought, thinking of my kind. But people wouldn’t be trying to save us. I laughed at that. “That’s pretty awesome. You should post some info about that and add it to the livestream recording.”

“Dude, great idea.”

I smiled, turned around, and started climbing again.

I only made it about halfway up the stairs when Moreland called. Moreland never calls. She just shows up like she did the previous night. I acted like nothing had changed when I answered. “’Sup?”

“You know all the times I’ve told you that your belief in God is bullshit?”

“Umm, yeah?”

“I was wrong. There is a god, and he put you on this earth to torture me.”

“That’s a bad thing?”

“In fact,” she continued. “I believe that is the entire reason for God’s existence, too. And no, I will not be your alibi, and thanks for asking first.” She ended the call. Apparently, she had seen Wallace’s camerawork.

I contemplated this as I reached the top of the stairs. Why, I wondered, did she think I would have asked her first? I would have been much better off if she had been surprised by the police with their questions. She works best during impromptu moments. She’s an extremely capable liar, and she would have wanted to keep our little worldwide family of vampires as far away from police inquiries as possible.

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She would have eventually stumbled her way to an alibi for me. Now, I’d have to find a way to convince her that it was in her best interests to do so. Luckily, there are worse things in the world than having sex with Moreland.

By the time I reached my bedroom, another development occurred. A small crowd was gathering at the Atlanta P.D. headquarters, according to links I was receiving, protesting what they called “Streamer Harassment.” The reason I knew about it was that Moreland was the one forwarding the links, accompanied by a middle finger emoji in each case.

The good news for me was that at least I didn’t need to worry about what might happen if things barreled out of control. The ice cream shop feeding had developed a life of its own and was springing babies out of its young womb.

What I wanted at that moment more than anything was a dose of Daphne. She was the spirit world’s answer to chaos and malcontent. For reasons completely beyond my understanding, I was unable to bring myself to call her. I sat on the crunchy leather chair Moreland had sat in the previous night and sighed.

This hadn’t happened to me in a long time. Nervous about contacting a woman? And Daphne, of all people? She was so sweet that the worst thing I could imagine her saying to me was, “Love ‘ya!” after declining to see me. In other words, nothing to be afraid of. But I was frozen anyway.

The only solution I could think of was to call my friend Longtooth in London. He had inherited his clan’s name when his father was killed by vampire hunters shortly after he was born.

He came from a breed of vampires who had exceedingly long incisors, which resembled those of a sabretooth tiger much more than my considerably more modest canines. The paternal head of the clan always passed his name on to his son if he died, which didn’t happen often. Because, you know. Vampires.

The extreme visibility of their long, arching front teeth made it exceedingly difficult for them to interact with humans, which was fine with Longtooth, who was wildly antagonistic toward humanity. He was born in the Middle Ages, so he was still young. He lived with a small coven near Brixton Market in London, where they usually fed on people who lingered too long after the market stalls were shut down for the evening. Despite Longtooth’s disdain for humans, the victims rarely died.

He was the perfect person to talk me out of whatever was going on with Daphne. I needed the voice of the ultimate anti-human.

His solution was simple. Ask Moreland to turn her.

“Oh, come on,” I said. “You know Moreland can’t do that.” I reminded him that Moreland had never produced proof of her claims regarding her abilities. “Moreland is full of more shit than the entire London sewer system. Besides, Moreland is rarely inclined to do me favors.”

“Well, then quench that desire of yours,” he said in a Cockney accent. “Feed on the human wench till she goes limp. Hell, you should do it as part of your act. Your viewers will think it’s a beautiful love story, and since nobody believes in vampires in this era, they’ll just create a half billion silly posts about it on their foul internet.”

“Hell, no,” I said.

“She’s going to die very soon, anyway. If her lifespan was on a vampire calendar, you wouldn’t be able to mark it off for want of space. It would be a tiny sliver and…”

“… I get it, and no.” I should have known better.

“Good God, please don’t tell me you’re in love with a feeding tube. Look. What’s the very best possible outcome for such a depraved romance?”

This was about the time I remembered that during the last decade or so, a conversation with Longtooth was nearly impossible without him quoting a movie — made by humans, I would often remind him.

“You will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality,” he said on cue, quoting Elrond’s speech to Arwen regarding her lover Aragorn’s drift into old age while Arwen retained her youth. Longtooth had always insisted that the elves in the Lord of the Ring movies represented vampires, even if that wasn’t the case in the books.

“The right thing for both of you is for her to sacrifice herself to your longings,” Longtooth continued. “Your true longings are not for the trite sexual dalliances you two engage in once in a while. Or that ghastly thing called human love.

“None of that can satisfy you. It is biologically impossible for it to. Your true longing is to feel the force of her life course through your veins as you draw every milliliter of her blood out of her body while she scratches and slams her fists against your back, her body twisting in that delightful mix of terror and thrill. You know this, Atticus. Deep inside, you do. That is why humans are on this earth. Why have so many of us forgotten that simple truth?”

The simple truth that I hadn’t discussed with anyone, especially Longtooth, was that I wanted to procreate. Daphne was not a fit. Vampires could only impregnate humans in silly movies. I needed to find someone of my kind. To say that the number of fish in the sea was tiny would be an understatement. Our race was nearly extinct.

Only a few thousand survivors were left, and we all mostly knew each other, even if we didn’t necessarily like each other. The bond of extinction forced us into an unwritten law that dictated that there should be no violence against one another. But there were no potential mates for me.

I recognized, as I was listening to Longtooth’s sermon, that the impossibility of procreation with a human was the reason I didn’t enjoy having these feelings for Daphne. Longtooth was correct that there was no future for us. He just had the reasons wrong.

I’ll admit that when Longtooth described her potential submission in detail, it thrilled me. I began to curse myself for confiding in him. Longtooth was the kind of vampire who would do it for me if I wasn’t willing to do it myself, so I immediately realized that I had just put Daphne in danger.

After we finished talking, my concern grew because I realized that the buzzing crowd in the background behind Longtooth’s phone voice didn’t have English accents. They sounded American. I wondered where he was.

I called Daphne. “Jade!” she said happily.

“Hi, sweetie,” I said. “What are you up to?”

“Getting ready for a rave. I’m wearing a real dope skirt.” She snapped a selfie and sent it to me. It was a ruffled black skirt decorated with little plastic skulls.

“Are you trying to turn me on?” I laughed.

“It’s Halloween almost, gotta do the mood. And ya, maybe also that. Do I need to work to turn you on or does it just happen?”

“I haven’t thought about it. What’s the right answer?”

“You know what the right answer is.”

“Your rave. Where is it?”

“The Gringo Palace.”

“Never heard of it.”

“You’re not supposed to, I think. It’s a warehouse near the airport. You won’t find it on Google Maps,” she giggled.

“Why do they call it The Gringo Palace?”

“It’s owned by a gringo? I dunno, Jade,” she laughed. “I bet you were a most inquisitive boy.”

“It was so long ago I can’t really remember,” I deadpanned. She couldn’t understand how true that was. My photographic memory was a little tattered from events two thousand years old.

“I hope I age half as well as you, old man,” she said sarcastically since she thought I was close to her age. You won’t, I thought sadly.

“So why you calling, old timer?” Another thing about her: Sometimes her voice sounded like a song that had slipped through time purposed only to touch parts of me that had long ago forgotten about such moments.

“I dunno,” I said, thinking that this is how human teenagers must feel. “Do I need a reason?” I came so close to saying that I wanted to just hear her voice that I wanted to slap myself in the face as hard as I could.

“Hell no,” she replied happily. “Betty says hi,” she said, snapping a pic of her friend, who was dressed as Betty Boop.

“That is not a scary costume,” I said.

“Either is mine, even though I have skulls on my skirt. I hope you’re doing something fun tonight.”

I couldn’t tell her the truth about why I was planning to relax in the evening. Daphne paid so little attention to the news that General Sherman could have come to Atlanta through a time portal and burned the place to the ground again and she wouldn’t hear about it.

“Well, I think, believe it or not, I’m just gonna chill. Maybe stream a little.”

“It has to be a scream stream,” she said.

Don’t worry, it already is, I thought. “Hey, thanks for all the violin promos you slammed against the Insta crowd,” I said.

“You’re welcome, boo. I did TikTok, too. Hey, people liked my drumming, too. I was so happy. I was so focused on making you famous that I forgot about me, but people noticed.”

“Of course they did. Your drumming was sick.”

“People want us to do it more. Some are saying, why not do a full show?”

“Yeah, I saw that. We know one song together,” I said through a laugh.

“We’re good together, though, right? I mean, I dunno. If you don’t want to it’s cool.”

“I do. We will. Let’s at least jam together. If we feel like we can get a show out of it, then we will. Cool?”

“Can’t wait. I feel like I should ask you if you want to rave with us but it’s girls’ night out.”

“You’re sweet for just saying that much. Will they let you stream or snap pics while you’re there?”

“I don’t know yet. Maybe not. They’re very secretive.” She whispered that last part.

“Ah, don’t worry about it. People should be allowed to have fun without recording every second of it.”

“Yeah, but you know the saying — if there’s no video it didn’t happen.”

“That would be the idea of no pictures on the part of your mysterious warehouse.”

“See? That’s why I hang out with you. You’re just so damn smart.” I knew she was joking around, but it still gave me a chill. I was now trying to figure out when this started. Not our friendship, but the turn I was feeling. And that was it, wasn’t it? I was the one who was getting turned. Such irony. Maybe Longtooth was right. Maybe I needed to put this matter to bed. But the very idea of it made me a little sick.

“Well, gramps, when should we get together again?” She loved sticking to themes once she found one.

“Text me after you recover from your rave?”

“Ya, that works.”

“Oh, and hey, be careful out there.”

“Why?” she laughed, and then she disappeared from my phone, sending me a short video of her waving and blowing me a kiss.

I got off the big leather chair in my bedroom and walked down the hallway, which I called Ando Hall, named after the Japanese architect whose firm designed the house. The bright white hallway, lined with framed anime art, curved slightly away from my bedroom toward three other rooms. The hallway ended at one of those rooms, which was the studio where I did my livestreaming.

The heart of my streaming studio consisted of a massive white desk curving around my chair. Six large monitors that were always on, day or night, relaying other peoples’ streams, or maybe a live concert, were positioned by telescoping round poles attached to the desk’s edges. This was not the kind of desk you moved around the room.

The walls of the room were decorated with movie posters, anime, a charcoal drawing of the face of Jesus laughing, and an authentic Dali painting. I scanned all six monitors to see if there was anything worth paying attention to.

One of the middle monitors was usually tuned to a Twitch account named Ice Game Z, who kept his livestream going twenty-four a day, even if he was asleep. You’d be surprised how many people watched him sleep, maybe because they thought he might wake up and tell a joke. The streaming comments never stopped, whether he was gaming, traveling, or sleeping.

Ice Game Z streamed from hundreds of locations, but his studio was right here, downstairs, at Fang HQ. He could easily afford his own home, but he didn’t want to buy one because he traveled so much that he didn’t see the point of his own pad. “My crib is the world,” he’d say whenever the topic came up.

He was mostly a Fortnite player, but during the last year or so he hardly gamed at all and spent most of his time streaming funky travel videos, sort of like Anthony Bourdain with darker skin, a Nigerian accent, and a weird, extreme hatred for brownies. He was also funnier than all the comedians I’d seen over the years combined.

His stream showed him setting up shop outdoors on the edge of a lake. He usually traveled alone but people frequently congregated to his location, so he rarely remained alone for long.

His shaking camera showed a few sideways angles of scrambled views of grass, then the lake, then the sky, then, finally, as he stabilized the camera onto its tripod, the lake again. He unfolded a portable camping chair, then disappeared from the camera’s view.

The camera turned again as he repositioned the tripod until it faced a small cluster of trees. Sometimes the camera caught only his body as he manipulated the tripod. Then he appeared in the camera’s view with the camping chair and sat down, grinning broadly.

Ice Game Z always wore a Rasta peak visor hat that nearly covered his eyes. The visor and the top half of the hat’s peak were black, the rest yellow. It was his trademark. He wore loose-fitting drawstring brown trousers and a white T-shirt. I turned on the sound of his stream.

“Here I am,” he said in his Nigerian accent. “As you see, I am at Piedmont Park, and I am very alone here.” He looked around, then made a fake scared look on his face as he covered his open mouth with one hand.

“Oh no!” he laughed. “Behind me is the big bad forest.” It was just an isolated copse of trees. “And on the other side, the lake. The lighting is better this way though.” He laughed again. “So I show you the trees.

“We are told by the authorities that it is not safe to be here alone. But you see, I will not transfer ownership of this fine public domain to thugs and murderers. I will not cede our lands to them. I shall remain here until I say it is time for me to leave. I may stay here all night. I may leave in an hour. I shall decide. A man with a knife shall not decide whether I stay or whether I shall go. This is my home and this is your home.

“You may join me if you wish. We shall make a crowd. But then I will not be alone. And you see, I wish to be alone so I may make my point about being alone here.” He laughed boisterously. He was a gregarious man who sometimes laughed after almost every sentence. Especially when he was nervous.

I needed to pee, so I stood up. Even though he couldn’t see me, I used one hand to salute Ice for his bravery, assuming he’d be joined soon by about a hundred of his fans. Then I headed for the bathroom.

When I got out of the bathroom, I got a text from Longtooth. “Hope everything ok,” he wrote. “Appreciate you confiding in an old friend. Hope I wasn’t too harsh. Ttyl.” Longtooth wasn’t an apologist. I wondered if someone had stolen his phone. Then, of course, I realized that not many people can steal a phone from a sabretooth vampire.

I sat down on Ando Hall’s curvy white bench that people frequently bumped into at night because it was the same color as the wall. I sent a text thanking Longtooth. I considered asking if he was well but instead shrugged off his mood as a rare moment of grace.

Since it was getting close to dinner time, I ordered some food. I was missing Daphne. I wanted to call or text her, but instead, I sat on my right hand and closed my eyes in frustration. She was out with her friends, anyway.

The muffled laughter and occasional screams of delight were getting louder downstairs as hip-hop music started to blare from the speakers.

My plans for the night, to chill and be alone, were so out of the norm that I felt discombobulated. At a bare minimum, I usually live-streamed at night or gamed with people. But I had decided earlier in the day to remain free of society and maintain a solitary existence throughout the entire evening. This wasn’t going to be easy. I was unsettled and antsy. I was bored.

Downstairs began to sound like a major party. I was so not in the mood for that. The influencers downstairs started blowing my phone up, probably wanting me to join them.

One after another sent me a message as I sat feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t even know the cause. Daphne? Boredom? I had no idea. I ignored the messages and scrolled through my music library thinking maybe I should just lie down in the bedroom after dinner and listen to some music.

I settled on an old favorite, Beethoven’s Fifth, but I skipped the beginning because I hated it, and started in at the third movement because I loved the crescendo that started about four minutes in. I set the music app to start playing at the third movement and headed back to the studio to check on my crazy Nigerian friend and see if anything else interesting was happening in the streaming world.

When I sat down to look at his stream, his camera was still focused on the tree cluster, but his chair was empty and flipped over. His visor hat was upside down, off to one side. The emojis on the streaming comments looked like a rolling set of alarms.

The scrolling comments on the left side of the screen were short: “OMG” and “Ice!!!” One said, “Get help!” Another said “911.” None of them said anything about what they had witnessed.

I looked at my phone. One of the messages, instead of saying “Get down here,” like an earlier one that I had interpreted as a plea to party, said, “Get down here NOW! Help!”

Instead, I called the sender, a woman named Veronica. She answered, “Were you watching? Did you see?” She was hysterical.

“See what?” I knew she was referring to Ice, but when people are excited, they interrupt you when you’re trying to say something, so I let her take the lead.

“Ice. I mean, somebody took him, or something. I dunno. We don’t know. Nobody knows what’s going on. But…” she started sniffling. I heard her draw a breath. “You didn’t see?”

I reported my previous couple of minutes to her.

“Oh my God. That’s. He was…so he was sitting in his chair, you know? We had him on the video screen down here but the sound was off because we had music going, you know?

“And he was just talking and somebody made a joke that his mouth seemed like it was perfectly in sync with the rapper. Like it was really cute and an accident. And then a bunch of us looked to check it out, and then, and somebody, goddammit I don’t know, it’s like these two gloved hands snatched his head and just dragged him off camera.

“His whole body went flying backward like some giant from a movie pulled him off his chair. We could see his feet disappear after his chair got knocked over. It’s just all so fucked up.”

I was watching his now quiet stream; quiet from a video cam standpoint, but still visually loud from a screaming emoji standpoint. While I was listening to Veronica finish her story and ask what we should do, a white T-shirt was presented by two gloved hands to the camera with a huge smiley face painted in what, I knew, was blood. The blue-gloved hands made the shirt with its bloody smiley face dance silently in front of the camera. Then the video went dark, and the music downstairs came to a sudden stop.

Chapter One can be found here
Chapter Two 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!”